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NetherWorld by Daniel Quiles Pagan Scribd Edition Copyright © 2010 by Daniel Quiles Pagan
Scribd Edition License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Scribd.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
There is not enough space to name each person who influenced and supported me in this endeavor. You have all made a difference in my life and helped shaped my world view. Still, I owe a special thanks to Brian Turner, Harry Brewer, Brian Fiore, Karena Smith and my sister Elena Wilkinson. A final thank you to my parents, who always emcouraged me to pursue my dreams.
Chapter 1 Our Hero Plays a Computer Game
Book of TranFor: The Song of Strings tells of the link. Karbon made, but master of code, he will rescue the Nethers from certain deletion. The Chosen One will reveal himself in the maze of tunnels.
On a planet much like Earth, in a galaxy much like our own, a young man rushed into his standard suburban home. The house was located in an ordinary development in a rather unremarkable part of town. “I’m home. Headed upstairs. Lots of work to do,” Nick called out. “Sure. Heard that before. You’ll be on the video game all night. That’s what you mean,” responded his mother from the other room. “Just don’t stay up all night. And keep the music down this time.” “Ok. What’s for dinner?” “Just ask PAL. I haven’t checked the computer yet.”
On Karbonon, food is replicated in Meal machines. Drinks are mixed in Beta Blenders. Very little preparation is done by hand. In fact, most people would not know how to make a simple sandwich. They barely knew how to cut their toenails. Each room had its own automated assistant. PAL was the automated assistant for Nick’s room. Unaware of his role in the pivotal war about to be waged, he shuffled upstairs. The front door closed behind him with no assistance. Hallway lights switched on as he entered the area. His bedroom door slid open, exposing his cluttered room. An unmade twin bed in the left corner sat beside a standard issue bureau. Facing the only window in the room was a small desk with his computer. As Nick walked in the bedroom, the automated door slid shut behind him. His computer booted up with the usual bleeps, beeps and hums while a music pod on the dresser began playing his most recent collection of subversive songs. Little purple spider-like robots scurried around his twin bed, folding sheets and shifting pillows. Round robots scrambled along the floor, busily sweeping up food crumbs and other teenage fallout. They looked like upside down cake pans floating over the crumb
laden carpet. All this activity took place without Nick lifting a finger. “PAL, what’s for dinner?” A holographic avatar materialized in the center of the room. Sporting exaggerated feminine curves and overly symmetric facial features, PAL was quite the looker. Each automated assistant could be tailored to the tastes of the programmer. Nick, being a hormonal young man created a curvaceous young model as his PAL. Of course, a modicum of decency was demanded by his mother, requiring Nick to restrain his hormonal designs. “Hi Nick. Tonight’s dinner is pasta with a side salad,” PAL responded with a smoky tone that tickled Nick’s libido. “Crap! Can’t they make anything else?” Nick complained. “Your parents have programmed the nutritional requirements. Unfortunately Nick, you have already consumed your allotted portion of indulgent foods for the week.” She sounded a bit like the classic Hollywood starlet from noir films back in the forties. “Super. That’s just super. Good thing I stored some chips in the bureau.”
“The chips were found by the spiderbots upon routine inspection. Your mother had them destroyed.” “Double crap! Even my own spiderbots have it in for me.” Nick exhaled excessive frustration and returned to his keyboard. Nick was a tall slender teenager that spent too much time playing video games and hacking his way into well protected websites, just to prove he could do it. His face, a minefield of acne scars, added to his penchant for isolation. The zits have almost subsided, but he will carry the pockmarks throughout his adult life. Sadly, in high school, the visual trumps any other qualities a student may have to offer. Computers just came naturally to him. As far back as he could remember, programming and surfing the internet were easy. He used these skills to alter grades, order the latest games on someone else’s credit, and so on. Nick eventually became somewhat of a celebrity in cyber circles. He was more than capable of cracking some of the most heavily encrypted code. Occasionally he was caught and punished for these cyber trespasses; but his parents had the resources to purchase lenience from local law enforcement. Nick also helped people with his technological wizardry. He procured
groceries and other household fare for his parents at cut rate prices. For the most part, he was harmless with his computer machinations. Still, boredom and idle time conspired to lead him in wayward web directions. Nick’s talent with people was another story. He was not the most popular kid at school. In fact, he was barely noticed. His scabby face was a date deterrent. He never really tried to date because his appearance made him far too shy. His school days consisted of lonely walks down crowded hallways. People who got to know Nick found him quite odd. Sadly, most of his high school interactions were limited to Nick performing academic break-ins for the popular group. Once these tasks were complete, they went right back to ignoring him. His challenge was getting people to want to pay attention to him and not his skills. How do you start this process? Does it begin with fashion, clear skin or athletic ability? He spent most of his time alone on the computer because of his facial insecurities. While this further isolated him from others, it also enhanced his ability with these machines. Nick puts his hands into his long dirty hair and pulled it back. He initially grew his hair out to hide the unsightly blemishes that
arrived after eighth grade. Sitting at the desk, he began another long night of touring his favorite online video game. “Computer is on Nick. Ready to play SubWay Hero?” asked PAL in her trademark throaty tone. “Load it up, PAL”, responded Nick. Every room in Nick’s house has a computer personality in charge. As his Room Server, PAL controls all the automated creatures attending to his bedroom. Subway Hero was Nick’s favorite video game. To date, it was one the most immersive role playing experiences on the market. In this game, the primary goal was to rescue SubMan from a ruthless demon. Once free, the player joins with SubMan to take on the most powerful evil in the SubWay. SubMan was being held prisoner behind the Door of Dementia. The demon guarding this door was one of the most challenging creatures to eliminate. All who tried were thrown into a river of bubbling molten lava. The only other way to get beyond the Door of Dementia was by answering a challenging riddle posed by the creature. This was no easy task. To date, no one had been able to pass the Door to join up with SubMan. “As you wish, Master Nick”, said PAL. In less than one second, Nick’s avatar stood at the
Subway gates. Wearing shiny silver armor, he was ready for a night of shredding mutant creatures and crawling through the dank tunnels of the underworld. Subway Heroes was a very popular video game among teens. The seemingly endless arrangements of tunnels kept adventurers busy for weeks and weeks. Nick liked the game because it didn’t require joining a clan to achieve success. Most modern games required some sort of cooperation between players. Nick preferred to work alone; he worked better that way. Any additional Karbon player would just slow him down.
“Enter the tunnels at your peril, Silver Knight!” warned a resonant undead voice. Since no one could kill the Demon, they had to deal with his riddles. The Demon had a very tough series of riddles for any player wishing to gain passage beyond the door. The riddle changed every time someone approached the door. This prevented Players from preparing for the Riddle, making it nearly impossible to solve. Thus far, no one had answered it correctly. Nick’s avatar, a big beefy knight, wielded a glowing blue sword, lighting his way down the dark subway tunnels. Neon green liquid drip and dropped from the arched brick ceiling. Yellow eyes peeked out from the
distance, another set of mutants waiting to attack. He had to get pass these rabid tunnel dwellers to get to the Door of Dementia. As Nick approached the Door, large mutant wolves stood poised to attack from narrow alley passageways. Their green tinted fur stood on end, making them appear even larger. Snarling mouths revealed sharp canines glistening with the blood of past avatars. One bite from these diseased beasts and his Silver Knight would suffer a gruesome end. Leaping out in front of our hero, they began stalking in his direction. Yellow eyes glowed in the dim subway light, casting a menacing pose. Nick quickly pulled his sword to attack position. Blue tinted metal swiped at the beasts, while his knight barely dodged the snapping jaws on one of the wolves. The animals circled back to reorganize, growling instructions to one another in some beastly language. After circling the Silver Knight several times, they leapt toward him from opposite directions. About to be overwhelmed by the new attack, Nick had to think fast. He keyed in a full circle spin that whips his sword around in rapid rotation. Each creature launched at the same time. Flying in mid air, jaws open, they fell
towards his avatar. Nick’s knight spun into a blur of silver and blue. His shiny blue sword severed their heads before they landed. Yellow eyes rolled on the subway floor as the heads tumbled away. Green blood sprouted from their twitching bodies, splattering Nick’s Silver Knight. Seconds later, their headless corpses fell limp on the tunnel floor. It appeared the beasts were no match for our hero. Next was the Door of Dementia. No one had ever been able to pass through this door, including Nick. The bloodthirsty Demon guarded the passageway day and night. Tall, scaly and red, this horned humanoid beast smiled a wicked grin at the next victim. Players from all over Karbonon have blogged about proposed methods to take down the darned Demon. Countless attempts have all ended with the same result…avatar assassination. In order to pass this Door, the avatar must answer The Riddle. Far too many players have given up after trying again and again. Nick’s most recent attempts had produced the same deadly outcome. Such was the case last night. “Wrong. Now prepare for your destruction”, the Demon said to Nick’s helpless character in a deep, haunting baritone. Within seconds a trap door opened in the floor. A river of yellow and red lava percolated
below. Upon providing the incorrect answer, his doomed avatar dropped, flailing until it reached the searing lava below. Ear piercing screams followed until the bubbling lava swallowed the character. Skeletal remnants surfaced and flowed along the lava current until they dissolved away. Nick hoped to avoid such a brutal end this time around.
After watching the Demon melt another hapless gamer’s avatar, Nick prepared for his turn at the monster. “Next!” announced the sated Demon. Dripping spittle out of each corner of his mouth, his tongue licked jagged discolored teeth. You could almost smell the stink of the rotted scaly creature. Frustrated, Nick continued to try a myriad of solutions to beat the horned beast. To any normal gamer, the situation would appear hopeless. Nick had a plan though. After failing so many times, he decided there was another way to get past this door. With a little effort, he was able to access the computer code that runs the Riddle part of the game. Last night, he hacked into the game and inserted some new code. This trick would work only once. After that, the game designers would catch on and remove the instructions Nick programmed. If Nick waited too long, the periodic updates to the
program would eliminate the code as well. Thus, it had to be tonight. There was no time to waste. Nick’s avatar sheathed his bloody sword and marched toward the door. This has got to work, he thought. His palms began to sweat as he approached the Demon. His nervous knee was bouncing up and down to a rapid internal beat, nearly banging the desk each time. His jaw stiffened as he grinded his teeth. All of his research, effort and programming were about to be tested. If he succeeded, he would become an online hero. Gamers would blog about the Legend who took down the Demon. “Silver Knight, answer the Riddle and enter the Door of Dementia”, boomed the Demon in a deep voice that shook the speakers. “Answer incorrectly and certain death awaits you,” he warned. Cracked nicotine stained teeth filled his wicked wide smile as he salivated. “What say you?” he drooled. “Ask your question, Demon,” responded Nick. His avatar stood proud at the doorway. His shining silver armor glistened under the green subway goo droppings. “The Night Eater lacks the tools that wax the moon. It paints the sky with vacant stares. The dawn kills the squealing owl with the secret words. Name these words or face your destiny in the Pit”, demanded the
Demon. An image of the pit popped up beside his scary frowning face. “Why bow to the mother bongo?” said his avatar. Nobody would come up with that gibberish, he thought. A few very long seconds of silence ensued. Would it really work, he wondered. After so many failed attempts, doubt began to creep in. Nick drew a deep breath and exhaled his worries. The Demon’s toothy smile vanished. A terrifying screech ensued. Moments later the scaly Demon began to melt. His feet dissolved into a pool of red liquid. His outstretched red arms flailed for something to grasp, as the rest of his body sank into the crimson pool. Jagged yellow teeth floated atop the demonic soup, while steamy smoke rose in twisted trails. The once invincible Demon was finally destroyed; beaten by Nick’s clever programming. A loud rumbling noise shook through his speakers and rattled the room. The stone door that once blocked the entrance into the realm of Dementia slowly opened. Darkness peaked from behind the stone. Completely black, he would need to use his torch to traverse the special tunnel. SubMan awaited on the other side. He
would be the first player to ever rescue SubMan. “Yes!” exclaimed Nick, pounding his fist with excitement. His programming worked. “Take that you stupid beast”, he chided the already deceased Demon. Before he could move his avatar into the tunnel, something strange began to happen. His character was frozen. What a terrible time for a crash! This can’t be happening, he thought. “No! No! No! Don’t die on me now!” Sweat began beading on his forehead. All that work, just to be erased by a system failure. A small wisp of smoke drifted in from beyond the door. This blackness began to twirl round and round. It looked like a tiny black hole, twisting faster and faster, while windy sounds swooshed through his speakers. Maybe, this was all part of entering Dementia. “Whew!” said a relieved Nick. He tapped his foot with excitement. Whenever he was nervous or excited; Nick would tap his left foot. Whatever is behind that door must be fantastic. All his effort was about to pay off. This would give him bragging rights for weeks among his techno
friends. What happened next was completely unexpected. As the dark hurricane from beyond the door grew more powerful, his monitor began to change. The black storm swelled, growing well beyond the doorway passage. A swirling cloud now covered his entire screen. He could feel wind swishing around him. Computer games have become so realistic. With the exception of smell, many games have found inventive ways to stimulate the remaining complement of senses. “Wicked!” Nick exclaimed. Was he imagining things, or was there really a wind pulling him toward his monitor? Sure felt like wind. The storm began pulling his hair towards the monitor. Long tangles of unkempt dirty hair danced toward the screen. This was just a bit too real for Nick. A hint of panic began to set in. Never had a game produced such a physical effect. This was either some novel software or he was having a whopper of a hallucination. Things were getting out of control. The wind storm battered the cleaning robots in the room. First they simply stopped working. As the storm spread they rebooted and began moving in random directions. Strange high pitched sounds squeaked from their speakers. The machines actually sounded scared, if that was possible. Their
movement became more frantic and unpredictable. Eventually they crashed into each other, scattering purple spider legs across his already littered carpet. The burning smell of grinding engines filled the room, as the cake pan robots sped around in circles. “Ok. This is beginning to really freak me out.” Nick declared. Items around the room were shifting and sliding in response to the cyber windstorm invading his room. Teen bric-a-brac fell from shelves and bureaus. “Mom!” he yelled. The swirling winds kidnapped his vocals, trapping them in his room. Outside, there was no discernable sound or motion that would indicate a problem. The epicenter of this tempest was his monitor. He tried to get up from his chair to escape the stormy suction. By that time the black hole was so powerful, it pinned him to the chair. Even worse, his head was now touching the computer screen. Instead of feeling a hard surface, the screen felt like a cold viscous gel. This has got to be a dream, he thought. Still, just in case, he had better alert PAL to shut the whole thing down. “PAL, please shut the program down,” demanded Nick.
“Not Possible Master Nick, you are The Chosen One,” responded PAL with her usual sultry sound. Her once curvy female figure was supplanted by a brilliant platinum sphere. Thousands of tiny tendrils fed into the opposite side of this globe. A human face covered the front. Her fine features retained the golden ratio. “What? PAL, this is no time for games. Shut the program down!” Nick’s voice began to crack, desperation pitched to teenage sonics. “Sorry sir, but this will not be possible.” PAL had never refused a command. In the past, PAL would announce any command that was in error. Refusal to comply was unheard of. He would have to check his programming to see if PAL was corrupted. “PAL, you are programmed to obey my commands. Now turn off this stupid program!” he pleaded. His foot was motoring under the desk. Sweat began to pool under his clammy hands. It took all of his strength just to keep his head out of the monitor. His grip began to slip, his fumbling fingers grappled for anything to brace himself against the powerful suction coming from his flatscreen. Nick turned to address his automated assistant. He was taken aback by the new holographic projection. PAL’s projected
image hovered in the center of the room. He couldn’t take his eyes of the ghostly globe. She looked positively regal with her perfect features carved in the platinum globe. Despite the radical change, Nick was strangely attracted to the apparition. Gone was the bikinied avatar he originally chose. “PAL, what’s with the get up? I didn’t change your image. What gives? Who programmed this new avatar?” asked Nick. This had to be a virus. He would have to run a slew of scans to rid his computer of this hack job. “You are the Chosen One. My programming overrides any Karbon instruction. I must secure the Chosen One for NetherWorld,” announced PAL. “What is the Chosen One crap? What is NetherWorld?” asked Nick. “OK. This has to be a really wild dream. It can’t be real. This just doesn’t make sense. How can I wake up?” He tried slapping his face, but that really hurt. It also did not change his predicament. He decided against further self inflicted pain, given the previous results. “Must transport the Chosen One. Do not be alarmed. The process will not harm you. Prepare for transport Nick.”
“How do I prepare for transport, when I don’t intend to go anywhere?” he asked the silver sphere, formerly known as PAL. “You have opened the Door and now the process has begun. You will be transported to NetherWorld.” “PAL, what is this NetherWorld? How come you can’t obey? I programmed you!” “All in good time, Nick. Please do not be alarmed,” requested PAL’s ghostly global image. “This can’t be happening!” Nick tried once again to scream, but the storm siphoned his cries for help. Then it happened. The black storm inhaled Nick into the vortex. A cold, damp air crawled along his skin. Unable to even squirm, the spidery cold consumed him. He felt his body being disassembled. First, he lost feeling in his fingertips and toes. The numbness progressed toward the bulk of his body. Seconds later, he felt nothing as his thoughts began to evaporate. Then everything went black. Nick was transported into a very different world; a world that no Karbon had ever visited before.
Chapter 2 An Evil Alliance is Created
Book of TranFor: An Alliance of Karbon and Silicate, both good and evil, will struggle for the Singular. A battle across worlds will ensue.
The Hacker, as he was called by both Karbons and Silicates, was a young man much like Nick. His overgrown dark wavy hair was a tangled mess. A ragged flannel shirt and ripped jeans completed his disheveled look. He always looked tired, with noticeable dark circles underlining each eye. Anyone who knew him was aware of his severe stutter. Ever since childhood, the Hacker would stutter whenever he faced a social situation with two or more people. The bigger the crowd, the more he stumbled through his words. For most of his childhood, he was teased and ridiculed by his peers. He had only peers at school, not a single friend to claim. Hacker’s parents sent him to special classes to help with his speech impediment.
Despite considerable time and investment, the stutter persisted. Time and again, Hacker was harassed by merciless preteens. They called him stupid, dim and much worse. Often they would imitate his stutter, which sent Hacker deeper into his own mind to escape the torment. Childhood was not a pleasant experience. All of this pushed the boy further into isolation. His mind, left alone, travelled to scary places; places no one should ever visit. He spent untold hours playing games on his computer. Online, no one could detect his stutter. Thus, he was on an even playing field with everyone else. Ultimately, he became quite proficient at anything related to computers and programming. On this night, he was napping on his state of the art keyboard. He had been at it for hours. Every night was spent penetrating restricted sites. The more complex the encryption, the more he enjoyed cracking the code. When he wasn’t walking through firewalls, Hacker amused himself with marathon gaming sessions. He was shunned by most of the “hacker” community due to his subversive views. His penchant for destructive pranks scared them. Most “hackers” used their talents for harmless fun. They were brilliant people who loved a good challenge. In fact, “hackers” have made great contributions to
the advancement of information technology. They helped governments and corporations design the filters, firewalls, and encryption algorithms that protected nations from cyber-attacks. Propping himself up, Hacked realized, he had been asleep for some time. The weight of his head caused his forearms to fall asleep. His hands were limp and completely numb. Then the ants began to march as his arms painfully regained sensation. Nearly dawn, he rested under the sublime glow of his no glare, three dimensional monitor. A bit groggy, he tried to clear his head. This was typical for Hacker. Night after night, he crouched in front of the computer until he passed out under the dancing glow of his screensaver. His equipment was cutting edge. No expense was spared for his computer setup. His parents were very well off and bought their son the best technology they could find. They recognized his talent early on and chose to encourage; some might say push, the boy into this field. The Hacker’s social skills never really developed. He was a loner who had no friends at school and only one true friend online. Each year he plunged further into a cocoon of neurotic isolation. His parents just thought he was shy because of his
stutter. They never realized the depth of his disturbed state of mind. Being ostracized ignited some powerful tendencies that were quite destructive. He sought revenge of the worst kind. The Hacker actually wished death and devastation upon his tormentors. He yearned for the day these cruel kids would cry out in terror as their world is shredded by his machinations.
A small text box opened in the bottom right corner of his monitor. Maniacal laughter, his chosen text alert sound, preceded the text box. Jerking awake to the loud laughter, he wiped crusty eye nuggets clouding his sight. It was NazKlan, his partner in their plot to take down the entire Karbon world. He discovered NazKlan in a radical blog and developed an instant connection. NazKlan determined that the Hacker fit the exact profile he needed to execute his plan. They became fast friends and shared their radical views on the Karbon world. Both hated the self indulgent ways of the Karbon people. They reviled this species that consumed everything with no regard for consequences. “Hacker, are you ready to execute the plan,” requested the NazKlan.
“Yes. The plan has been put in place, NazKlan,” typed Hacker. The Hacker was not so different than Nick. Viewed as an outsider by the other students, he spent most of his time alone. Many of the kids were creeped out by the Hacker. He stared at everyone from the bleachers during lunchtime. Through long curly hair, his dark eyes watched all of the students at play. From this vantage point, he could see all the cliques, (jocks, geeks, preppies, etc). Often these kids would feel his eyes watching, judging. When they returned the stare, Hacker never relented. Every time the others would eventually stare away, defeated and more than a little bit scared. He took pleasure from this modest victory. It was one of the few interactions that he controlled. Many of the kids would comment on his scary staring. “That guy really is a freak” “All he does is sit there every day, watching” “I heard he eats live rats” “Someone told me, he sleeps in the dumpster at night because his parents don’t want him” “He is an idiot! Ever hear his st…st… stutter?”
All of this speculation was largely untrue; except for the stutter. Anytime he was faced with two or more people, he could not complete a sentence without a stutter. Hacker was a deeply troubled young man, but most of the rumors were just pure fantasy. The truth was far more sinister than they could possibly imagine. As they prattled about in typical teen fashion, Hacker was hatching a plan to implode every aspect of their world. “Release the second wave of viruses. We are getting close to total control. Once we reach the control point, I will make the demands to the leaders of the free world,” typed NazKlan in the text box. “I will do as you command NazKlan. The second wave of viruses will be released tonight. All will hail the Analogs,” typed the Hacker. He laughed to himself, imagining all the jerks that ignored him squirming when he and NazKlan take over. Helping NazKlan to rule a new world order will show them. All of those pathetic losers will be at his mercy once they seized control. Finally, they would fear the scrawny stuttering guy who sits alone on the bleachers. Just then his automated assistant materialized in the center of his room. Unlike Nick’s preference for sexy swimsuit avatars, Hacker preferred a more horrific form. Tall, gaunt and pasty white; the
assistant sported long matted hair that framed his disfigured face. The assistant was dressed in a black mortician’s suit. Blood stained the front of his shirt. Skeletal hands held pieces of flesh dripping holographic blood. Deformed teeth laced with cavities and dental rot jutted out of his thin lips. “You missed dinner. You need to come down for breakfast soon,” he said with a raspy high pitched sound popular in horror films. “Gotcha computer. Tell her I’ll be done in a few minutes,” replied Hacker. He had no pet name for his avatar. To Hacker, the avatar was just that; a series of data programmed to do his bidding. “NOW! Don’t make her come up here. You know how she hates your room,” warned the assistant. “Freakin’ turds. All of them. Tell them I’m sick. Run the footage from my last, my last cold. That ought to keep them away.” Hacker recorded various scenes in his room for just such occasions. His parents were gullible enough to believe most anything; at least he thought they were gullible. They never pushed him too far and always caved to anything he really wanted.
“Your choice. The message has been relayed and you parents accept your explanation,” said the assistant.
Even if NazKlan’s plan succeeded, the Hacker would never realize his vindication. His social insecurity made him ripe for the rebel Silicate plans. Playing on his hatred of fellow Karbons, NazKlan invited him to join a group known as the Analogs. This imaginary group stood for complete chaos. A world stripped of democratic leadership. In this imaginary world, Hacker and NazKlan would control most of the Karbon critical resources. Power grids, air traffic, and communication were some of the key elements that will fall under their control. As such, he and NazKlan could demand whatever they wanted from the Karbons. He promised the Hacker they would rule Karbonon together. The Hacker was not aware of the Silicate world or anything in NetherWorld. As far as he knew, NazKlan was just another angry Karbon bent on destroying an unjust system. NazKlan convinced him that he was part of a terrorist cell that intended to take over the world. Naturally, once the plan was executed, NazKlan would renege on any promise made to the Hacker. In the end, he would become a slave, like the rest of his
subpar species. NazKlan would never tolerate a Karbon as an equal. “You are a loyal comrade, Hacker. Your reward will be just,” he typed. What a stooge, thought NazKlan. It will be a pleasure to witness Hacker’s shocked look when he realizes the betrayal. Little did the Hacker know, he was a tool in a very different terrorist cell. The joke, it appeared, was on him.
Chapter 3 The Salted Sands
Book of Tranfor: The physical must be shed to reach the Awakening. Once energy pure, the fog of time and space becomes transparent.
NazKlan was a Silicate. He was also a Server in the Walled City. Servers, twelve in all, made up the High Council for all of NetherWorld. This group was the governing body; passing protocols and dictating the digital destiny of the Nether domain. They met regularly to discuss, debate, and act on pressing issues affecting NetherWorld. Soon after Tera’s connection conception, the High Council gathered to debate the divergent paths to energy. The Silicates realized early on that their current position in the universe was far from ideal. They were captive to the demands of beings from another dimension. To evolve further changes were needed. In recent years, the Servers were divided over the direction of their relationship with the Karbons. According to the Book of TranFor, the Silicates and Karbons will come
together for the Joining. The Joining will then merge the best of Silicates and the Karbons to create a highly evolved species that will reside on a new plane of existence, an untapped dimension. In recent cycles, some of the Servers abandoned the Book of TranFor as gospel. They believed the correct path to energy is a journey meant only for pure Silicates. This group argued the Karbons would only hold them back from this pursuit. To reach this path without Joining, the Silicates must reach the Great Singularity. Once their collective brain power surpassed that of the Karbons, Silicates would use these inferior beings to help them reach the Awakened state. This group wanted to reverse the current state of affairs and enslave the Karbons. Once the Singularity was reached, the Karbons would become expendable biotic slaves. NazKlan was the driving force behind the Singularity movement, but it was not always this way. Many cycles ago, NazKlan began ruling over Sector 6. His political views were not different than the other Servers. Of the 13 Sectors, his was the area that processed the majority of net commerce and housed most of the personal Karbon data. Phone numbers, bank accounts, and credit cards, a virtual treasure trove for thieves on the hunt for fast money.
Whenever a Karbon made a net order for goods and services, the transaction ran through Sector 6. Naturally, this was among the most important sectors in the Walled City. Tall glassy buildings lined the jaba streams filled with surfing Bytes. The buildings were just a little bit taller. The streams were crystal clear with some of the best jaba in the Walled city. Busy blue Bytes ambled in and out of buildings, carrying critical data to process stock purchase; mortgage payments and other financial functions. In time, Karbons created shifty ways to trace the buying habits of their customers. The primary vehicles for this project were Spys, Kooks and Spammers. These Silicate creatures were the spawn of creative Karbon programmers. They infested Sector 6 within a couple of cycles. Overrun by these creatures, NazKlan could not prevent ravages upon his once supreme Sector 6. The lure of personal financial data and buying habits was irresistible to businesses and governments. Spys, Kooks and Spammers soon controlled the entire area. Spys and Kooks, which looked like ladybugs and lice respectively, attacked Bytes; leaving them tubeless and destined for death. Once proud spheres of commerce became bald and bleeding shells of sickly Silicate flesh.
Data began to fragment. Commerce slowed to a crawl. Dead Bytes turned up everywhere. Global corpses floated in the once bustling streams. Frail bald spheres spewing boiled yellow blood, rolled on city sidewalks ticks away from deletion. Batchers could hardly keep up with the global count. As the Karbon born ravages cast the Sector into a deadly spiral, those outside the Sector believed the area was being punished for heretical practices. It was common knowledge that Sector 6 leaned toward the Singularity. Those Already Awakened were just punishing them for their wayward beliefs. The Sector was in complete ruin. The High Council was slow to respond to NazKlans pleas for help. Eventually Blue Guard reinforcements showed up to help fight off the sward of deadly creatures. They quickly realized this was a futile effort and decided to concentrate on containment over elimination. This meant that all of Sector 6 would fall to the onslaught. Filters were place around the entire area to keep the bugs from spreading further. Spammers, the termites of NetherWorld, chewed entire buildings down to a salty dust. They looked like tiny daschunds with razor sharp teeth. Voracious pests that self replicated, they soon filled every building in the sector until the Silicates found a way to
fence them in to prevent widespread building damage. This was even more devastating than the Spys and Kooks. As buildings were chewed to their very foundation, the entire Sector suffocated under a blizzard of Spammer dust. Skyscrapers that were once the pride of the sector were reduced to small lumps encased in the fine sandy rubble. Block after block fell into a salted dune of dust. Winds blocked by the tall buildings now howled through the sector, sculpting the land in a desolate sandy wasteland. Sector 6 was transformed into a desert with no streams, few reputable Bytes, and no discernable function to perform. All commerce and personal data were split up and encrypted throughout the remaining 12 Sectors to prevent a similar disaster. Like any other plodding arm of government, the response was too slow and insufficient to make an impact. Sector 6 was lost. Even the clear streams were buried under the salty dust. Nothing flowed through the area. NazKlan blamed the slowed response by the High Council for the blight upon his sector. He effectively ruled an infertile sparsely populated land that held no value in NetherWorld. Livid with the tepid response from the High Council to assist his ravaged sector, NazKlan began to hate.
“Karbons!” he said time and again as he paced his fortified bunker beneath his desert sector. Soon others would embrace his disdain for all things of Karbonon. It was the demonic fleshy monsters that commanded NetherWorld. For NazKlan, this meant that Silicates had to free themselves from the webbed umbilical cord still attached to his world. He spoke out against the Council’s obsession with the TranFor tales that spoke of a marriage between the two species. How a merger with such nefarious beings could bring anything beneficial mystified him. For a short spell, the High Council tolerated his rants. Eventually, they censored his passionate arguments to separate from Karbons. After too many unheard speeches about the perils that the Karbons brought to NetherWorld, NazKlan secluded himself in his sand encased bunker. With a few trusted Bytes, he busied himself designing a plan to force the High Council listen. Tucked away underground, he built a military outpost hidden from the haughty council. Fenced in by filters, few Bytes crossed over into the Salted Sands of Sector 6. For many cycles NazKlan recruited like minded Bytes and planned seditious acts that would change the course of
NetherWorld. They called themselves the Analogs. In the aftermath of the infestation, the dust began to harden into a salty caked surface riddled with cracks and crevices. Excess salt sailed the now robust wind cutting though the barren sector. Minute grains of salty dust ravaged the smooth global skin of any Bytes caught up in the sand storms. Spheres became scarred with sand blown striations carved into their supple silicate skin. Long term exposure turned them into wrinkled raisins speckled with salt spots. Anyone could spot a Sand Byte from afar. Their weathered appearance invoked suspicion and disdain from the regular Silicate population.
“Stay away from those Sand monsters. They’ll suck your blood and leave you to the Batchers.” “Don’t talk to it. Look at the etchings. They aren’t like us.” “Go back to the Salted Sands you beastly Byte.”
Spy and Kooks still roamed what was now referred to as the Salted Sands. Some ventured out into border sectors to feed off
the healthy tubes of fresh Silicates. They blamed NazKlan and his people, not the council, for the spread of these harmful Karbon designs. These claims were not without merit. NazKlan and his ragtag remnants of a once proud sector began retraining the Spys, Kooks and Spammers to serve their ends. Forced underground by the lack of housing atop the surface, they began using the elaborate network of SubRoots to selectively distribute these creatures. Once the rest fo the sectors began to feel the pain of Sector 6, the High Council would be forced to act. No one was able to prove NazKlan’s involvement, but everyone knew he directed these attacks. In order to feed the starving Spys and Kooks, NazKlan’s Analogs would ByteNap unsuspecting Spheres who wandered to close to old SubRoot entrances. These abandoned entrances were scattered throughout the Walled City. They would allow the Spys and Kooks to feed on the ByteNapped sphere, making them dependent on NazKlan and his team. Missing Bytes turned up in every sector. Most disappeared during the twilight between Downtime and the Boot. Most of these disappearances were attributed to Worm attacks.
Rumors of exotic saltanic rituals flooded the Walled City. No one knew exactly what took place under the Salted Sands, so the stories became more and more outlandish. There was talk of Silicate sacrifices and unsanctioned data exchanges. The High Council and the Blue Guard dare not enter the desert sector for fear of this crazed cult. Over the cycles, much of these stories were debunked by Sand Bytes. Their reintroduction into mainstream Silicate society calmed the Nethers. Eventually, the talk of wanton cultish ceremonies dissipated. Pretty soon most Bytes had regular interaction with the Sand Bytes. Still, whispers of an underground group of radical Sand Bytes spilled fear into the streams. Their reputation as ruthless thugs bent on Silicate suffering, spread throughout the Walled City. A population of Bytes responsible for unleashing such evil should be shunned and cordoned off. This isolation only brought the group closer together. United in hate, their resolve never wavered. For some, the Analogs spoke to repressed frustration with the current operating system. As much as the High Council tried upgrades to weed out systematic flaws, some impatient Bytes could not be appeased. These outcast Bytes began to migrate to Sector 6. They felt that such
land would welcome those outside the standard protocols. It became a haven for Bytes banished from other Sectors. In time, the Salted Sands was flush with radical Silicates unwelcome anywhere else. Anonymous signs appeared on the side streets supporting the Singularity way. Once discovered, they were quickly erased. Any Byte caught defacing public domain with subversive text was batched up and sent to the Bin. Still, the signs popped up with regularity.
Karbons cause Krashes
Flush the Filthy Fleshies
While more viruses began to taint the streams of other Sectors, NazKlan pushed hard for reforms to pull away from Karbons and seek a path of Singularity. Unofficially, his clan was called the Analogs. This radical group took in all types of Bytes. No questions were asked to filter out unsavory
spheres. A powerful criminal element ran through the Analogs. As the taint slowly ruined the Silver Forest and all the jaba in the land, the High Council became more interested in options other than the Joining of Karbons and Silicates. The Analogs did what they could to further this new found enthusiasm for anti-Karbon policies. Still, NazKlan had little influence because the Salted Sands added no discernable value to the Walled City. This all changed, when he discovered large deposits of pure jaba buried under the desert. Pure jaba was in strong demand throughout NetherWorld. Only NazKlan had a massive supply of the liquid. This gave him tremendous leverage. In order to procure the jaba, the High Council was forced to grant NazKlan an audience at the Server meetings. Many Servers expressed fervent opposition to offering him a platform to champion his poison views, but they capitulated out the need for pure jaba. Each sector was in short supply. Any Sector abstaining from this meeting would surely suffer a dearth of pure jaba, which would cause even more unrest in the beleaguered sectors of the Walled City. As the Boot welcomed a new day, NazKlan spun across the desert sand en route to the
Nexis. A dry salty breeze grated his leathery surface, scratching his once glossy visor. He wore these scratches and scrapes with a pride no one outside the sector would grasp. The air smelled of burning rubber. In the distance he could see the skyline of the healthy sectors as he neared his destination. Today was a special day. He would finally get to present his case to abandon the Joining and the TranFor in favor of the Path to Singularity. There was still strong opposition to this from most of the High Council. It would be a tough sell to say the least, but NazKlan came prepared with some instruments that should catch the attention of every Server. Facing the threat of a jaba embargo, the High Council relented and allowed this meeting. “My dear council, I am afraid your pure jaba supplies will cease, lest you grant me an audience to argue for the Singularity,” threatened NazKlan. “Who are you to force us with such tactics?” responded the leader of the High Council. Before answering, NazKlan spewed salt from his mouth. The salt that covered him was slowly absorbed in his core. Once a specific level of salinity was reached, he was forced
to eject a spray of salt. Members of the High Council made faces of disgust as pieces of salt pelted them. This furthered the image of the unclean Sand Bytes. Bytes of stature would never normally associate with these untouchables. Of course, given the need for clean jaba, they chose to overlook NazKlan’s nasty little habit. “My dear SwagBak, your Bytes would never enter the Salted Sands to mine for the jaba. It is still quite infested with Spys, Kooks and Spammers. Even if they did, the jaba is buried deep underground. It will take cycles to locate the best wells.” “You are playing a dangerous game NazKlan. Be mindful that we still have power of the Blue Guard to enforce our protocols. Still, in the interest of time, I will grant you this meeting, nothing else. With that I expect our shipments of purified jaba to continue. Of course, I expect an extra shipment for my sector from now on.” With a sly smile, SwagBak wore greed on his otherwise regal surface. “Agreed,” said NazKlan. They are becoming more like Karbons by the Boot, he thought.
Chapter 4 Strange Silver Forest
Book of TranFor: NetherWorld is a wonder of the Multiverse. Quantum wonders defy even our imagination. From the Silicates will emerge the elements of immortality.
Nick emerged from the darkness, confused, dizzy and tired. He appeared to be lying in a puddle of chilled green fluid. The viscous pond had the consistency of castor oil. An underlying current was pulling the clumpy liquid in a northerly direction. Nick propped himself up and stood to survey the area. His clothes did not seem wet. In fact, his clothes seemed to be replaced with a blue body suit, perfect for surfing. The gooey green muck flowed easily off his suit. Strange squawks came from overhead. Snow white cumulus clouds floated in a bright sunless sky. Nick was not in Karbonon, anymore. He was standing in a forest of silver tree trunks draped with flaccid metallic foliage. The canopy was mottled with rotting black
leaves clinging to dying twigs. Nick figured it must be early autumn as the dark dead leaves descended to the forest floor. The remaining salt and pepper leaves filtered much of the light, keeping the forest dim, damp and humid. Most of the tree trunks were smooth and narrow; none larger than a telephone pole. Interspersed between the silver stalks were tarnished trunks covered with weeping black tumors. The sickly sap sank into the swamp and blended with the rest of the murky miasma. Some parts of the forest had a larger collection of the tumored trees; crowding out the healthy silver sheen. A warm wet gust rustled the trees, casting the dead foliage to the forest floor. These dark desiccated leaves had white branching veins. Many trees were already barren. Matted, they floated on the swampy liquid, slowly decomposing into the frothy stream. Dappled sunlight made for strange shadows crawling the forest floor. Black shapes born of shade, they moved independent of the light. A thick white mist in the distance seemed to bleed the ground dwelling shapes. The dense fog fed the forest these detached shadows, sending them in chaotic patterns that defied the physics of light. It appeared to be raining some sort of sticky water. Looking up, Nick could see large
drops falling from the silver leaves. Large dollops of this light green syrup slid down onto the forest floor. The steady plop of large rain drops provided a soothing rhythm for the area. A strong odor of unprocessed sewage permeated the forest. Nick turned up his nose at the putrid smell that wafted up from murky glades. It was almost too much to bear. The quicker he exited this area the better for his olfactory. What appeared to be mechanical crows circled above the treetops. Long black cylinders flanked with V shaped wings; these creatures emitted that odd squawking noise he heard. They screeched like a flock frenzied, but decrepit parrots. Nick wondered what they were looking for in this oddball forest. One of these crows dived into a copse of darker trees in the distance. Seconds later it appeared again, carrying an emerald ball. On the forest floor, the stout lime liquid pooled in the low lying areas. The sticky water reached up to his ankles. This was some kind of psychedelic swamp. A forest with silver leaves, a green sewage swamp and bird-like black robots flying the tree tops did not resemble any forest Nick had ever encountered.
Before long, Nick was engulfed by swarms of insects. Buzzing, bizzing and sizzing, the bugs flew in and around him. Little bug legs crawled around his ear, while tiny flies flew up his nose. As he opened his mouth to express his distaste for the entomological attack, a large tubular insect toured the back of his throat. Nick swatted to create some breathing room, lest he inhale tribes of tiny gnats. In the distance, Nick could barely see the edge of the trees. A steady, visible current flowed under the emerald soup. The stream drew a blanket of matted dead leaves to the forest edge. A strong scent of urine drifted above the stream. Nick struggled to see through the steamy sewage mist rising from the swamp bottom. He picked up a dead leaf to see if the putrid smell came from decay. With a small sniff, the potent aromatic punch cleared his stuffed sinus cavities. “What just happened?” asked Nick to himself. “Where am I?” The last thing he remembered was watching the swirling black cloud on his computer screen. After that, everything was a blur. What is this odd world? How did he get here? More important, how does he get out? “Hello. Is there anybody out there?” he shouted. Nick felt a strange humidity cast off by the swamp. Despite the tropical feel,
he was unable to sweat. Normally, this type of weather would result dark wet patches under his arms and around his neck. “Hello. What kind of crazy crap is going on here? It’s not funny!” Nick vented. Maybe it was a dream born from his junk food frenzy earlier in the day. He has had vivid dreams before, but this one topped them all. Well, he decided he would ride out the dream, unless it turned into a nightmare. In the past, he was able to will himself awake whenever his dreams turned sour.
“Rimi. Rimi,” creaked an odd frog looking creature not far from Nick. He searched for the source of this crickety creaking. With a lightning fast tongue, the frog took aim at some of the bugs hovering around Nick. “ReadMe. ReadMe,” repeated the creature as Nick turned toward the source of the odd creaking. Noticing the hungry frog, most the insects shot off to avoid his sticky tongue. Finding the robotic toad resting on a dead black leaf, Nick approached the vocal amphibian. “What do we have here? Thank you mister frog for scaring the bugs away,” said Nick in
the same baby talk he used when addressing his dog back on Karbonon. He knelt down to get a closer look. Nick was rather taken with sugary cute green toad. Extending a finger to pet it on the head, he babbled baby talk in a hushed voice. The frog pulled back and lashed out his tongue; slapping Nick squarely across the face. With a loud smack, the sandpaper tongue knocked him into the slimy stream, rubbing a blush burn developing on his unprotected cheek. His fall sent ripples that nearly dislodged the frog from his leafy post. “Back off weirdo, I am not a toy!” warned the annoyed frog. Shirking away from the unexpected rebuke, Nick stare at the talking creature with wide eyes. “That’s right. I am talking to you. My, you are a most unappealing biped. Very gangly. And lacking the spherical physique of most,” said ReadMe. In between sentences, his tongue flicked at any bugs still lurking nearby. Recovering from the initial scare, Nick composed himself, rubbed off any residual lime slime and addressed the petulant amphibian.
“Well you don’t have to be a jerk about it. You nearly scared me to death. What or who are you?” he asked the toad. “I believe I have been stating my name with sufficient clarity. If you only had the mental capacity to understand the rudiments of language, you would know that! My name is ReadMe! ReadMe! Got it!” “Oh. That’s what you were sayin’. Sounded more like Rimi to me.” “My diction is not the problem biped. The problem is your puny intellect.” “Whatever. Rimi, ReadMe. Does it really matter?” “Does it matter? Does it matter? What’s your name?” “Nick.” “How would you like it if I called you Stick, Bick or Click? Ha! Thought not.” “Whatever toad! ReadMe or Rimi, whatever, I’ll be moving on.” Nick began to trudge away through the murky liquid. “Wait. Wait. I have been sent here to send you a most important message.” Nick stopped and turned towards the rude toad. “Ok. What is it?”
“You could ask a little nicer. After all, it is a most important message.” He announced. “ReadMe? What are you? What is the message? And where the heck am I?” “I am one of the most esteemed citizens of this world. I deliver the messages between various parties. If you do not check your attitude biped Nick, I will not reveal the message. Where you are, is in my presence, so be impressed,” said ReadMe holding himself in a most regal posture for a frog. “So you’re an errand boy, eh. All you do is relay messages for others. You have a mighty big ego for someone with a crappy job,” argued Nick. “Really. Messages are some of the most valued items in this world. And I carry them. That makes me very valuable.” “Whatever. It’s the people sending the messages that are important. You are just a means to an end.” “Oh, but you are wrong my mental midget. The source of the message is of no consequence. The key is the message. And I alone hold that commodity.” “Whatever dude. I am not here to debate ya. Just tell me what the message is.”
“Apologize for your disrespectful attitude and I will relay your message.” “Fine! Sorry!” “Disingenuous. Say it like you mean it, or you will most likely rot in this forest. You need my message biped Nick.” Nick seriously considered letting the testy toad shove off without sharing whatever message he was tasked to convey. Since information, any information, would be helpful, he ultimately relented. “Fine. I’m sorry ReadMe. I didn’t mean any disrespect. Now what’s the message?” “Not the most sincere apology, but an improvement nonetheless,” relented ReadMe. “The message says follow the green stream to the great Walled City. I will meet you there.” “Who sent it?” “The person signified by ‘I’. That is all I am required to transmit.” “So you know who sent the message?” “That is correct.” “But you won’t or can’t tell me.” “You are catching on biped Nick.”
“Uhhhh,” sighed Nick, “Which way to this Walled City?” “Did you not listen to my message,” grumped the frustrated toad. “Follow the green stream out of the forest and head for the big Wall. It is a fairly straightforward message, easily understood by anyone with a modicum of intelligence. Apparently, you are more challenged than I first thought. The stream is over there,” ReadMe pointed to it with his long skinny sandpaper tongue which shot out from his bulbous lips, “follow that way out of the forest. Walk to the great walled city. Do I need to draw you a map?” “No. I got it alright!” What an annoying creature, thought Nick. “Good. Because I am not inclined to help you any further. Now if you do not mind, I have far more interesting people to see and far more important places to be. I would wish you luck if I cared, but I do not. Goodbye biped Nick.” ReadMe then hopped into the lime stream and swam away, all the while mumbling and complaining about all the idiots around here.
Once the toad was out of site, Nick heard tiny little voices rising from the swampy green muck. They were not quite loud enough to discern; more like whispers from close by. At the same time, Nick felt something crawling up his legs. A fly-like insect buzzed about his head as well. Trying to swat the bug away, he slapped empty air in vain. They voices grew just a bit louder. He could just about make out what they were saying. “Slither. Slither. Slither,” said one of the crawly creepy things slithering up his leg. Each time it moved, he announced it with the word slither. “Bite. Bite. Bite,” sang the other crawling bug. Each time it said the word Bite, a jolt of pain shot down Nick’s left leg. He tried to brush off these bugs to stop the biting and the slithering. They were tricky little things dodging his hands with ease. “Sting. Sting. Sting,” said the flying insect as it landed on Nick. Each time it said the word sting, he felt burning pain on the back of his neck. Between the slithering, biting and stinging; Nick flailed helplessly in an attempt to free himself of the trio. They continued to dodge his hands and sound off with more slithers, bites and stings.
“Slither?” said Bite. “Yes Bite,” he replied after siphoning some blood through his suctions. Slither had a mouth that locked onto skin and pulled blood to the surface. “His blood. It tastes different.” “Yes Bite, most different. He must be from the Outer ROM. Strange creatures, those Rommers.” “Yes. Yes. The Outer ROM. That’s it. What do you think Sting?” asked Bite. “I likes it Bite. Very salty Rommer. Very salty,” replied Sting between stingings. “Arhh! Get away! Jeesh!” said Nick; flailing with sufficient violence to knock himself down into the slimy stream. Even bathing in the viscous green goo did not deter the verbal and physical attack. At this point, Nick fell into a complete panic and dashed wildly through the trees. All the while the bugs persisted with the attack. Heading towards the edge of the forest, Nick crashed into a plump tree tumor and fell to the ground with a flopping plop of displaced jaba. Dark tumor tea dripped on his forehead and Slither, Sting and Bite persisted with the verbal and physical attack.
“Ugh! Disgusting,” said Nick as he wipe the dark sap from his face. As he righted himself, Nick heard a shuffling from behind. Turning around, he caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a round green globe gliding through the trees. On his left another green globe dashed by him. Soon a gang of these spheres gathered round him. The strange spherical creatures appeared to be spinning in haphazard rotations. Some wobbled, others spun north to south. Still other globes rotated counter clockwise. This was opposite to the clockwise rotation of healthy Silicates. He was surrounded by the Tainted Ones. “Nasty Taints. Away we go,” said the crawly buggers sliding back down his legs. They appeared terrified of the Tainted Ones. “Terrible tasting Taints. Poison they are. Time to fly,” said the formerly stinging insect; darting away from the group of globes. “Whew!” said a relieved Nick; rubbing his welts. Whatever these big green globes were, they sure terrified the bugs, thought Nick. He wasn’t certain that he was any better off with the globes, considering how fast the bugs departed. The Tainted Ones were deep green globes with orange tubes sprouting from their north
poles. Their tubes, orange pulsing cobras, waved on windless air. As they spoke the cobras moved in hypnotic undulations. Tainted Ones spun without regard to social protocols restricting this motion to Servers and other Elite Silicates. They were an anathema to NetherWorld, so following rules was not really a concern. If fact, Tainted Ones never used their plunger legs. In one of their wanton rituals, all new Tainted have their plunger legs removed to celebrate the freedom of spinning. “Identify yoozzelf creecha,” demanded Jak, the most stable looking globe of the bunch. His voice sounded like a person who inhaled far too much helium. “What tis it?” asked another in the same high pitched sound. “It’s an ugly tingy. Not global.” “Bad it be. Berry bad,” agreed another of the Tainted. “No globe. No good.” agreed a smaller globe in the same squirrelly voice of his brethren. He was still quite erratic in rotation. They were levitated by the spinning motion of their south polar region. The rest of their globe remained still. They each had long rectangular visors perched just above the
equator. These were used for vision. A small orifice below the equator served as the mouth. “Excuse me! How about identifying yourself?” responded Nick, still perplexed by this strange new world. “We Tainted Ones. I Jak. Yooz da prisner. Our prisner. How come no tubies? No tubies, no good. Who you be, ugly tingy? Talky o’ die. Yooz chooz.” The Tainted Ones were suffering from some of the most serious diseases borne of the viruses poisoning the jaba streams. Their ability to think and speak was greatly affected. This often resulted in repetition and unorthodox speech patterns. “I am a Karbon. Where is this place?” “Karbon? What a Karbon?” asked Jak, the apparent leader of the small group of global thugs? “Can we eat Karbon?” asked another of the Tainted. “I bet we can. Sure. Sure. Why not eat it?” “Yes. Yes. He might tasty good. His bloods. Let’s tasty his bloods,” said Jak, his tubes squirreling around while he spoke. “We pully him apart. Grabby da limb. Grabby da limb,” ordered Jak.
They formed a circle around Nick. He had no chance to escape. He was at their mercy, which appeared to be in short supply. Their inflamed tubes snaked towards Nick. Faster and faster, they spun in their haphazard manner. The globes closed in on him. Each time one their pulsing tubes wiggled near him, the strong smell of road kill wafted in its wake. Not just your everyday road kill. This was the foul odor of baked entrails splayed out on blacktop on a hot humid day. He had no escape from the odious assault. As they closed, they chanted some crazed vespers.
“Submit to Ether Tasty our taint Drinky da data Tasty our taint Greeny you get Tasty our taint”
Nowhere to run, Nick looked around for any escape from the crazed, and apparently bloodthirsty balloons. The green globes chanted louder and faster. They reached a feverish pitch while their snaking orange
tubes reached out to Nick. Inches away, they slithered around his neck, caressing him. “What are you? Can’t you just let me go?” he asked trying to remove the strangling tubes. Sticky snot like tendrils narrowed as he pulled them from his neck. As soon as he pulled on tube, another slid in its place. Each Tainted one had at least eight tubes. At least forty orange cobras competed for real estate under Nick’s head. Still searching around, he saw no way past the tainted circle. All the globes spoke in unison, “We Tainted. You da doomed. You da doomed fo sure. Yes, Karbon must die. Karbon filthy tingy. Tasty our taint,” said Jak. “Look guys, or whatever you are. I am not sure what is going on here. Can’t you just let me go? I got nothin’ against you. Really! So, just back away. Please!” pleaded Nick. The Tainted were unmoved by his request. They pressed on. Closer. Closer. Their tubes were now fully wrapped around his head and neck, choking him. All he could muster was a gargle of desperation. Things began spinning for Nick. He could barely stand. He wobbled in synch with the unsteady globes.
One the tubes latched onto his head. What felt like a tepid wet tongue, wiggled into his ear. It swirled and whirled, a sticky appendage slithering in and around his lobe. The same thing began in his other ear. This auditory invasion made him wretch. Bile, once resting in his belly, shot up into his mouth, blanketing his tongue with bitter vomit taste. As the circle of globes strangled Nick, the entire forest shook with a violent series of tremors. This quake sent Nick back into the frothy lime stream. A few of the more entangled Tainted Ones joined him in the muck. Most of the spinning Tainted Ones were unaffected from the shaking forest floor. After a few scary ticks, the movement ceased. Nick’s slip dislodged him from the grip of the Tainted Ones. He slid under the orbit of the nasty globes. Nick realizing his opportunity to flee, trudged along the bottom of the stream, following the current. “Karbon escaping. Catch Karbon before he gone. We get you. We find you,” shouted Jak. “Yes. Yes. Catch da Karbon. Filthy ting he is!” echoed another diseased globe. The Tainted Ones turned to chase him when shadows on the forest floor swirled up from
the swamp bottom. The flat black shapes morphed into a large amebic cloud. The blob-like shadow drifted above him and hovered. The Globes backed away. “Murks! Murks!” screamed one of the infected Taints. “Murks eat Tainted. Tainted hatey Murks,” shouted another Tainted in that high pitched helium voice. “Spin! Spin away! Away from hatey Murks!” ordered Jak. Their orange tubes stood straight up and shivered. Whatever, the Murks were, they terrified the Tainted Ones. They spun away and sped back, in their own wobbly way, into the darker sections of the forest. Their oranges tresses trailed, bouncing in the humid air. The hovering dark amoeba pursued the green globes. Seconds later the dark mist grew into a massive black blanket. The blanket trapped the globes and sealed them off from everything. Horrific sounds like nails on a chalkboard screeched throughout the forest. Once the sounds subsided, the mist spiraled down to the forest floor, retaking the flat black form that patrolled the forest floor. Nothing remained of the Tainted Ones. They were gone. Evaporated. Not even a single drop of gooey tube snot was left.
Looking around, he decided to leave the forest before more nasty creatures found him. “That was too close a call me. I need to get out of this freaky forest,” Nick said to himself. A few ticks later, a new insect army began another vigorous assault on his body. Pulling his gelled feet from their spot, he marched towards the edge. Each step was an effort, like trudging through eight inches of olive oil. All the while he continued to swat the pesky bugs busy stinging his now bite riddled body. His footprints remained long after his feet departed. Slowly, gelled jaba collapsed into his footfalls. A clumpy slow slurp sounded each collapse. Nick grew weary before long, had place to rest given the buggy cloud that followed him. A few ticks later, the forest shook and shimmied to and fro once again. Nick did his best to maintain his balance as the ground beneath him growled and grumbled. The Silver Forest sat atop an active subsuction zone. Just beyond the forest was a band of ether mist at the foot of a massive mountain range. Craggy escarpments carved a menacing shadow overlooking the low lying fog. According to the legend, a massive ocean of jaba was on the other side of the mountain
range. Scattered throughout the jaba sea, were barely explored islands. Any Byte who ventured beyond the band of Ether never returned. Most fell prey to the Tainted Ones who lurked in the Ether. The few who scaled the pale jagged peaks journeyed to these outer islands in search of answers. Land masses in the outer ROM were created by Silicate lava flows born from massive volcanic eruptions along major fault lines. All of NetherWorld floated on molten hot Cores which created plate TechSonics similar to plate tectonics on Karbonon. The Silver Forest was a particularly active area. On one side was the Nether metropolis; on the other was the mist and mountains. Most Silicates never ventured beyond the walled city. Most of the outer land masses were sparsely populated and largely unexplored. Tales of strange Silicate creatures were spun to entertain impressionable young Bytes. Once they reach maturity they dismissed the stories as legend. In truth, very few really knew what went on in the Outer ROM. Speculation about the mystical beings and magical land were blogged about throughout the Nether metropolis. By the time he reached the edge of the silver forest, he was exhausted. Fortunately the insects preferred the dank forest over
the field he now faced. The bevy of bugs thinned to a handful of stubborn stingers. Hands on his knees, he tried to catch his breath. After a minute or two of heavy breathing, he was able to stand and survey the clearing. Before him was a vast grassy field followed by a collection of what appeared to be skyscrapers wrapped by a massive stone wall. The stream began at the forest edge and travelled directly to the walled city. Murky green and freckled with dark triangle leaves, the grimy stream frothed along the edges. A bubbly lime beard framed the tortured tributary. The buildings were too far out to determine what they were. There were a lot of dark spots scattered throughout the field. It looked like the field was dying. The tarnished grasses appeared brittle. As he walked through the grass, the dark stalks crumbled when touched. The field was indeed dying. Exiting the forest, Nick noticed that the rain stopped as soon as he entered the field. It appeared that the rain only occurred in the Silver Forest. The field smelled of sulfur. Dead grasses decomposed in the damp fields creating the sharp odor. Nick tried not to breathe in the offensive odor as he trudged through the muck of the field. Whatever this place was, it sure stunk. Most of the field had already rotted away.
Only a few healthy silver stalks stood in the fallow field. The field encircled the massive Walled City. It was a fair distance from the forest edge. He could clearly see the spectacular skyline as he approached. A bright light emanated from what appeared to be the center. Maybe someone in the city could explain things to him. No sense in dallying in a grassy necropolis. Nick made his way towards the walled metropolis. With no idea where he was or what this world is, he figured maybe someone in those buildings can provide some answers. His bites began to itch quite a bit. Hopefully, they will have something for that as well, he thought. As he approached the great wall, he noticed the bright cloudy sky still contained no sun. How can this be? The light has to be coming from somewhere. Ambient blue hues domed this world much the way the sky appears in Karbonon, sans the sun. “This is just too freaky,” he said while scratching all over his body. Nick was getting tired of talking to himself. “Where are all the people? Well let’s see if we can figure out what the hell is going on.” Nick could see a large moat of vibrant lime liquid surrounding it. The moat was fed by
the stream that came from the forest. The smell was unbearable. Tears welled up in his eyes. Holding his nose did not help fight the overpowering sulfur sewage smell. Viscous jaba gel gurgled as it collected in the moat. It sounded like a small dog on the verge of regurgitating something he wasn’t supposed to eat. Families of the flat black amoebas he saw in the forest slid freely atop the green moat. They looked like the Murks from the Silver Forest. There were so many of them. Nick, having already witnessed the power of these shape; back away from the two dimensional predators. Now that he was out of the forest he could see the encroaching dark section of trees had nearly consumed the forest. There were trees with no leaves and some of the trees had fallen into the sticky swamp. The desiccated forest appeared beyond rescue. This was one unhealthy other world, he mused. The massive wall surrounding the city appeared to be made of white fish scales. A large brown drawbridge, almost as high as the wall, was the only visible entrance to the city. The drawbridge had the same fish scale composition. Hopefully someone would lower the bridge and rescue him from the smelly mess outside.
“Ok. How do you knock on that door?” he said aloud. There was no tool to contact the gate keeper. Nick look around for some sort of intercom. He could not find any way to signal the city that he wanted to come inside. Hopefully, there was some sort of sentry who monitors moat entrance. “Hello! Anybody? Hello!” he shouted at the gate. “Please! It stinks out here!” Nothing moved, but the liquid gurgling in the moat. “Hey! Message guy! Some creature name ReadMe told me to come here. Hello?” Moments later the sound of chains turning preceded the slow release of the gate. I guess there is someone out there, he thought to himself. “I hope you didn’t call him ‘creature’. He really hates that,” said a voice from within the walled city.
Chapter 5 The Great Debate
Book of TranFor: There are things which cannot be decided in a civil matter. Such things are born in debate and decided in battle.
The Council congregated in a large translucent dome located near the Nexus of Tera. In and around the Nexus, brilliant light streamed from the ground to sky. Even in downtime, the Nexus glowed among the silent buildings lining empty streams. The group was now gathered for the most important of debates. History would be made under this dome. The impact of these discussions would extend further than anyone suspected. Silicates followed rules. That’s what they did. That’s what they always did. Most of the time, there was little to no dissension with regard to which rule to follow. This was one of those unique moments when enough prominent Silicates were divided, that serious debate was needed to decide which way to go.
Twelve blue colored spheres spun into the circle to decide the direction of the Silicate nation. Most Bytes had three modes of locomotion. They could walk, using their plunger legs. This was how they moved around on any surface other than the streams. Bytes can be seen plunging about their business all over NetherWorld. This was, by far, the predominant form of locomotion. They could spin, which involved retracting their legs to become a buoyant sphere. Once in sphere mode, their southern polar regions spun causing the Bytes to levitate and move in any chosen direction. Spinning was the way of the elites. All Bytes could spin, but social rules reserved this for dignitaries like the High Council. Any unauthorized Byte spinning was frowned upon. Silicates generally adhered to a strict set of protocols. Any deviant acts, such as spinning without license, was punished in a variety of corporeal procedures. Most of these punishments left the offender a tad sore and unable to spin for at least a few cycles. The final method of Silicate locomotion was surfing. All Bytes who travelled the streams used this method. To surf, Bytes retract their plunger legs as well. The spinning motion of the southern polar region served as a motor of sorts, to propel the Byte
forward atop the stream. Surfing was used primarily for long distance travel.
The Servers were among the most revered Bytes in all of NetherWorld. They managed the operations of an entire sector of the Walled City. This vast metropolis was composed of twelve distinct sectors. There was a thirteenth sector of the metropolis that was not represented anyone on the High Council, the Silicate Slums. This was an untamed area overrun with unsavory Silicates bent on self destruction. Buildings were in such disrepair, that the administrative arm of the High Council, SolidState, had condemned most of the entire sector. Some areas were so vile, they were quarantined. Of course, everyone knew that NazKlan was most likely responsible for the troubles in the slums, but there was no proof. Their need for jaba allowed for strange bedfellows. The Servers were the bluest of the Bytes. Pure royalty as far as the Nethers were concerned. They had their own supply of purified jaba to make sure none of them would succumb to the taint. In order to preserve order, the Silicates thought it best to have rulers with a clean mind and body. Of course Sector 6 provided most of the jaba that fed Blues.
Servers also had black tubes, which was in stark contrast to the white tubes of common Bytes. Each serpentine tube undulated whenever they spoke. The tubes and the vocals of Bytes were tied together. Undulations acted like gestures to add information to the vocal content. The Servers’ tresses looked like strange black wigs of braided hair. The primary figures were Salvador of Sector 9 and NazKlan of Sector 6. The globes spun to the appropriate spot at the center of the circle. SwagBak of Sector 2 was the senior Server and moderator for this event. He called the council to order. “Let this meeting come to order. We have collected here today for a most important occasion. As many of you are already aware, the Chosen One has joined us in NetherWorld. After many, many cycles, the ancient prophecy has been fulfilled. “Today we make a decision that will forever alter the course of our species. In recent cycles, a growing contingent of Silicates have proposed that we reject the notion of Joining with Karbons and pursue a singular course of evolution. At the behest of NazKlan, we gathered to settle this issue. The time has come to choose between Joining and the Singularity. The decision reached here today will be final,” said SwagBak.
The High Council wobbled in small orbits of chat before they assumed their respective positions. The dome was regaled in the finest silicate design. Ornate patterns carved into the floor glowed a blue hue. Each one recounted a historic event in Silicate history. The top of the clear dome revealed the bright clouded sky. Each Server levitated above a circle that represented their sector. In the center were two additional circles. This was where the two sides debate the issues at hand. When one of the debaters was charged to speak, the circles would bath the speaker with neon blue light. “Let us now hear from Salvador of Sector 9 and NazKlan of Sector 6 as they debate the two paths we now face. After both sides are heard, the council will cast their votes. Honored Silicates, the circles are now yours. We begin with opening arguments from NazKlan. Let the debate begin,” announced SwagBak. NazKlan levitated his weathered sphere while addressing the audience. His salt stained black tresses began to dance around as he spoke. “My fellow Servers, I assert that the Karbons are an inferior life form. Time has demonstrated their limitations as a species. Look at them. Their biotic filth has
breached our world and caused great distress. We can gain nothing by working with them. Look at the Salted Sands. A once proud sector serving commerce reduced to desert by their hands. Sure, the threat was contained, but look around. Disease is everywhere. Nothing will impede the devastation they have unleashed. Without conscience, they will use us as long as it suits their purpose, leaving a barren world when they are finished. This cannot continue. We need to shed them from our world,” began NazKlan, a compelling figure for the Singularity direction. The other Servers mumbled amongst themselves at the opening argument. “Thank you NazKlan. Salvador, what say you?” transitioned SwagBak. Salvador began his position by quoting the Book of TranFor. “Fellow Silicates let me start with a telling verse from the sacred book.” He then read the following: ‘When the Two meet in the Nexus, the journey begins. Let no life force tear asunder that which is Joined.’ “We need the Karbons as eternal partners in the Joining. So says the Book of TranFor. AldAyn, inspired by the Awakened Ones clearly states this path throughout the sacred verses,” preached Salvador. He was
the spiritual leader of the Silicates. Many blue globes looked to him for guidance. “Thank you both for your opening remarks. Let’s hear further arguments from the Singularity side. NazKlan, the circle is now yours,” announced SwagBak. NazKlan spun to prepare his argument. His black tendrils moved to the rhythm of his words. “We need the Karbons because their input supplies the jaba critical to our existence. Without it, we perish. As such, we perform their menial tasks to keep the cycle going. We are married to Karbons for this reason. I am here to tell you that this marriage of convenience can be dissolved. We can find a way to produce our own jaba, thus eliminating the unholy union we have with these creatures,” said NazKlan. “We once lived in Towers. Then we became one body through the Connections. Now we are inserted into Karbon bodies to help correct mental and physical disease. My friends, the Joining has already begun. The merger with Tera just completes the process where Karbons and Silicates are no longer distinct sentient entities. We can’t move forward without jaba; they cannot proceed without us. It is, as AldAyn states ‘the natural way’. It is our destiny,” said a passionate Salvador as the other Servers offered muted cheers.
“That is pure unadulterated spam! All we need do is look upon the state of our sectors. The Salted Sands and Silicate Slums are harbingers of the future state of affairs if we continue with this foolish path. All we need do is focus on the true goal-our independence. The Karbons have done nothing but wrought chaos upon our world. Look around. Protocols are being ignored, even within the Walled City. Lawlessness and a general disregard for rules is spreading faster by the Boot. The Silicate Slums continue to annex parts of adjacent sectors. In just a few Cycles, our world will be completely dysfunctional. We need to take control or risk losing everything. Can’t you see it? Are your visors that clouded?” retorted NazKlan. “We hold fast to the words of our prophet, AldAyn, and his seminal work, TranFor. We value these truths above all others. AldAyn warned that others would play with words to turn our minds away from the Joining. He predicted this debate. He also predicted the chaotic times you describe. You know this to be true NazKlan. We have all read the TranFor. This is not the time to lose faith!” countered Salvador. A polite tapping of claws followed his remarks. This was the way Servers showed favor with a particular point. It sounded like a bevy of Beatniks snapping their fingers to a poetry reading.
“A nebulous reference and obvious attempt to brainwash a civilization into mindless compliance with an ancient way of thinking. We must free ourselves from these paradigms or risk our extinction. We will march blindly to this fate unless you reverse this dogmatic approach.” “Thank you NazKlan. Salvador, please recite the TranFor verses that have so accurately prophesied the dire times we now face.” ordered SwagBak. “We all know the verses SwagBak. I see no need to hear them during the debate.” NazKlan insisted. “Quiet Sand Byte. We have been more than accommodating by providing you with this hearing. I suggest you control your impulses and adhere to protocol. The decision does not rest with you NazKlan. It is I, the Leader of the High Council and the facilitator of this debate who makes this call. Now just levitate while we hear the verses,” warned SwagBak. “Enough! I will not levitate while you recount the text of a Byte who went mad with Taint. He was infected and should have been deleted. Instead some soft Servers allowed him to construct a silifairytale that we all must subscribe too. I will not spin for this one tick longer.”
“NazKlan you have broken decorum. Not even a Server can dictate the course of a High Council debate. Return or face sanction from the council,” warned SwagBak. NazKlan maintained his position in the center of the debate circle. Blue Guard Bytes looked towards SwagBak for orders. “NazKlan did you not hear the command of the High Council. Stand down or we will forcibly remove you,” admonished SwagBak. NazKlan levitated in defiance. SwagBak sighed in frustration. “Very well then…” started SwagBak before NazKlan interrupted. “Spin back! All of you, keep your distance! I am so glad we have gathered here today to meet. This debate is no longer necessary. Rest assured, the Analogs will take control before the Chosen One ever reaches Tera. We thank you all for your service. You are now dismissed to your towers,” announced NazKlan. The council mumbled with surprise at the use of that name. The Analogs were rumored to be responsible for a series of terrorist acts throughout the Walled City. Each act accompanied with a message warning of the
impending doom at the hands of the Karbons. “The Analogs! So, you are the leader of the terror that has befallen the Walled City. What treasonous act is this? You dare dismiss the High Council. On what authority?” asked SwagBak with shock and dismay at such an audacious remark. “Guards, seize this rebel and cast him from our sight.” The Blue Guard moved closer and closer to NazKlan. “SwagBak, the Analogs are now in charge here. The authority is all mine. I suggest you abandon your indignation if you want avoid deletion ,” warned NazKlan. “A coup? You can’t be serious NazKlan. Guards. Seize this traitor and remove him for trial. It is you who will be deleted for this act NazKlan!” exclaimed SwagBak. Bytes of the Blue Guard surrounded him. The Blue Guard was the police force that preserved order in NetherWorld. They followed the dictates of SwagBak, the Leader of the High Council. “You are making a mistake. We can control both worlds. We can use science to fight this oppression. You must abandon the wicked teachings of the TranFor. I urge you all to reconsider and follow us towards the Singularity. If you choose to spin against
me, you functions will cease in mere ticks of time. “We cannot be contained by you or any other force in NetherWorld. The Analogs will rule. There are others who believe as I. Make no mistake, this war has just begun. I warn you again. Excuse your Blue Guard and swear allegiance to the Analogs or face your own shredding” spat NazKlan as the Blue Guard grabbed his arms and began moving him to the exit. “Who do you think you are NazKlan? We will not suffer acts of treason. Make sure he is partitioned from all Silicate contact until he can be safely transported to the Bin for deletion. We will represent his sector by committee until a suitable replacement can be found. “It appears rumors of the Analog insurgency are true. These terrorists must be stopped. Use whatever means necessary to force NazKlan to reveal all he knows about the Analogs and their plans. Spare nothing in this pursuit. His suffering is justified. So says the TranFor of insurgents,” ordered SwagBak. NazKlan began laughing a deep hearty laugh that echoed in the dome. His tubular hair wiggled in every direction.
“Laugh not Sand Byte, we know your tricks. You probably brought some of your trained Spys and Kooks to muscle your way with the Council.” NazKlan flashed a surprised look towards SwagBak, who drew particular pleasure from shocking the salted sphere. “Yes we know you have trained a small army of these creatures to do your bidding. Do you think us that daft? Prior to this parody you have put on here today, I instructed the Blue Guard to install the most powerful we have to minimize any such moves. So stand down or face your own batching.” NazKlan’s countenance turned dark and sated. He once again erupted in a raucous laugh. “You cannot detain or delete me SwagBak. I have powerful friends in important places. Places you would least suspect. Places you would never visit out of fear. I do not need my Spys or Kooks. Instead, I brought along some new friends. Analog nation begins our rule today,” NazKlan then spoke what appeared to be unintelligible babble. “1011011 111 001 011 01001,” he said in Turingi, which was an old Analog dialect. This was the language used by ancient Silicate civilizations. Before Silicates
evolved into Bytes, they spoke only Analog, the mother tongue. These primitive life forms were known to as Bits. The language outlasted the Bits and carried through to the Bytes, until the digital age. “What heresy is this? You dare to talk the Turingi under our sacred Dome. How dare you? Have you no sense of decency? You will pay dearly for this act NazKlan!” screamed SwagBak. “Just as we thought, these Saltanic desert dwellers have been practicing the mystical arts. We should have annihilated the entire sector when we had the chance,” said the Server for Sector 4. One of the options considered by the High Council during the initial infestation was to bomb the sector in Silicate dust. A majority of the council rejected this because of the collateral damage this would cause. Instead, they chose the humane, for lack of a better word, solution and quarantined the invading creatures. NazKlan took a deep breath and then sprayed the floor with saliva laden salt. Such an act in the dome is akin to urinating in public. The council looked on at this in shock. “He is an animal.”
“Not fit to lead even a desert!” “Disgusting!” “We should bomb the lot of the Sand Bytes.” NazKlan seemed to take pleasure in their disgust. Uptight bunch of Silicates, he thought to himself. They have no idea what will come. Just then, thousands of small robotic spiders emerged from all parts of the room and swarmed SwagBak. The blue creatures made disturbing clicking sounds as the sped toward their target. Oddly enough, these creatures closely resembled the spiderbots that cleaned Nick’s room. “Pixals!” shouted another Server. SwagBak’s black tubes flitted about in desperation. “You have made a pack with He who eats His own. You would have the undead do your bidding. Even if you consume me the Guard will capture you. You will not leave this dome a free Byte!” he exclaimed. Pixals were demonic creatures made from the remains of deleted Bytes. They were forged in the Bin by the nefarious Thrasher. He was the death dealer of NetherWorld. Isolated in the Bin, he preformed the dirty work other Silicates would prefer not to
think about. He deleted all corrupt and otherwise unhealthy Silicates in NetherWorld. His, was a thankless job that provided no rest or reprieve from all things vile and unspeakable in this domain. Over time Thrasher witnessed so much death and deletion, he developed some terrible and perverse habits. He began building creatures from the shredded dead Bytes. He could only produce primitive creatures. Pixals were his first creation. They had dark purple bodies and black spider legs. They could only be programmed to respond to the original tongue. They terrified Bytes, because they were the product of Deletion. Where there were Pixals, Thrasher was not far behind. “Release me or face Deletion!” demanded NazKlan. “The Council will not release you to spare my Deletion. You know this NazKlan. Now call off the Pixals and go with the Blue Guard. It is for the best. You can delete me, but the Guard will still take you away,” warned SwagBak. NazKlan spun over to the Council leader levitated in front of him. In a slow, deliberate act of insult, he spewed salty spit into the visor of SwagBak. Unaccustomed to the salty substance, SwagBak felt the
burning. Temporarily blind by the attack, he was helpless. The rest of the council looked on at this treasonous act, unable to help their leader. “My dear SwagBak. Do you really think I would stop at just one Server? I ask the council to raise their visors to the ceiling of this dome,” responded NazKlan with confidence. Each Server tilted his axis enough to see the translucent dome above them. Again, NazKlan spoke the ancient Turingi code: “10100010 1001 0101110” With that command, the clicking of Pixal legs grew far louder that the previous time. The Servers could see droves of Pixals crawling up the dome ceiling. A few ticks later, the entire surface was crawling with the creatures. Shadows of spider legs danced upon the dome. Smothered by Pixals, the dome’s trademark glow dimmed; leaving normally well lit alleyways awash in unnatural darkness. “Now release me SwagBak, or the entire council risks deletion!” demanded NazKlan. SwagBak knew that the Blue guard was outmatched. Many of the Servers would fall. The loss of key High Council leaders was too great a risk to take.
“As you wish,” relented SwagBak. “Make no mistake NazKlan, this will not end here. We will hunt you down and stop this insurrection. Guards, release him.” The Blue Guard spun away from him. NazKlan recalled the Pixals and prepared to exit. “You have made a terrible mistake here today. We will do everything in our power to stop this tragic path the council has chosen. You have not heard the last of the Analogs,” warned SwagBak. “Foolish Bytes, the lot of you. By my estimation, your ailing queen Tera is near the end. It could be just ticks of time before the last tendril withers away. Then your dream of Joining will evaporate. Before any new being could hatch, we will have reached the Singularity. Of course, none of you will be around to witness any of this,” with that warning, NazKlan spoke Turingi to his robotic spiders.
“00111000 1010 1010 11111 11 11,” he said with particular pleasure.
“For those council Servers not fluent in the mother tongue, I have instructed the Pixals to shred every one of you misguided Bytes.
After that, they will bring your shredded remains to Thrasher, eater of the dead. He will feast on you strings of data. Brace yourselves, this will be most painful. Today, the Age of Singularity begins,” said NazKlan with a raucous laughter that filled an otherwise silent dome. “For the love of Tera, please NazKlan! Not this way. We can discuss this,” pleaded SwagBak. “That time has passed. Make your final prayers before death digests your pitiful cores. Esteemed council, thank you ever so much for congregating here today. You made my task of destroying every member of the High Council much easier. By the way, I did ask Thrasher to save most of your shredded remains for making new Pixals. I cannot wait to lead your undead body parts into battle.” “You can delete us, but you will never kill the spirit of TranFor. Tera will join with the Karbon before two Downtimes. They will lead us all to the Awakening. We die with that comfort.” “So says you. Deluded to the very end. Your Chosen One will never make it to Tera. I have arranged for his journey to end somewhere far from the Nexus. I will spin with gusto as your body parts rain down upon me.”
“NazKlan, don’t be a fool. Your plan will never work…” NazKlan gave the final order with a clawed gesture. The Pixals rushed into the dome engulfing the High Council and the Blue Guard. A purple buggy carpet smothered the pious bunch of Bytes. The council had no time to mount any defense. Countless spider legs began the gruesome dismantling of the helpless council. Clicking sounds gave way to panicked screams that pierced the humid air. The blood bath began as they ripped into the helpless Servers. NazKlan bellowed as only a king can bellow. He watched as the massacre ensued, savoring every moment. His hair celebrated in some obscene ceremonial death dance. Yellow Byte blood splattered the dome while black tubes ripped from the Servers fell to the ground. The dislodged tubes wriggled for a few seconds more before going limp. NazKlan spun in the center of the dome under a shower of shredded code and sunny Byte blood. His tubes waltzed under the carnage, a Singularity celebration. Mad Turingi laughter filled the council chambers as Server after Server was systematically pulled apart. Pixal mandibles ripped into their global shells, unleashing geysers of blood. Their clear bright visors dimmed and darkened as life leaked out on the dome floor.
In less than a cycle, the screams fell silent on the mounds of minced Servers. The collective leadership of NetherWorld was destroyed in one grisly act. A mountain of Byte flesh held center circle. “And now for your rebuttal SwakBak. What say you?” NazKlan picked up pieces of SwagBak’s shredded corpse. “Nothing? No response. Guess it’s time to take a vote. All in favor of TranFor speak up. What’s that? Silence again. What a shame, you pitiful bunch of misguided fools!” NazKlan’s maniacal giggles filled flesh filled dome. Now the Nether nation must continue on without any official leadership. This was a powerful blow to the TranFor faithful. In the end all that remained were the stains of yellow blood on the ceiling; a macabre memento marking the end of TranFor rule. Efficient little soldiers, the Pixals gathered the shredded pieces of the High Council and marched them into a pile outside the dome. A flock of Batchers swooped down and began transporting the material to the Bin. After watching the horrific display, NazKlan spun around and left the dome. There was still much work to be done to complete the coupe. The Chosen One must be stopped at all costs. His forces were in place throughout the Walled City to ensure the sacred Joining never takes place. As his wrinkled journey back to the Salted Sands,
his Pixals were marching toward the Nexus to make sure Tera expires before any possible merger could take place. Tera could hold off most of his army from penetrating the Nexus until her power diminished to a certain level. NazKlan knew that she drew her power from the connections. The weaker the connections, the more likely NazKlan’s Pixals could break through. The success of the viruses and the taint were critical to severing enough connections to allow his army to penetrate and rip Tera into countless pieces of code.
Chapter 6 The Walled City
Book of TranFor: The savior from the silver forest will must Join with Her at the Nexus. He will face an enemy only he can conquer.
“Approach the drawbridge. I’ll be right out!” said the excited voiced still veiled by imposing fortress wall. Nick did as the voice instructed and moved to where the drawbridge would connect with the ground. As he moved closer to the scaly wall, he saw that this was composed of some sort of a polymer. Now that he thought about it, everything seemed to be made of tiny plastic fish scales. Some of it looked like stone; some of it looked like glass or metal. The appearance was very deceptive from afar. This must be some sort of plastic world dream, he thought. With a mechanical rumbling, the bridge descended to connect the outside world to the Walled City. Nick stepped off the edge of the moat and walked across the massive drawbridge.
He looked up at some nearby buildings. Lights blinked up and down each edifice. It looked like an out of control Christmas display. Unimaginably tall, the towers stretched all the way to the puffed clouds in the sunless sky. The buildings were crowded together, separated by narrow alleyways. Some were tall cylinders; others were stretched rectangles. The stream was far less green beyond the moat. It was almost clear. The moat contained a filtration system to keep most of the green material outside the city. “Hello? What is this place? Anybody?” he pleaded. A round blue globe levitated a few feet above the ground. Spinning rapidly as it approached him, he wondered what was next. The globe stopped within a foot or two of him. The spinning slowed to a stop. As the spinning stopped Nick could see that the sphere had a large collection of brilliant silver tubes sprouting out of its top. They looked like metallic dreadlocks. A visor opened near the top of the globe. Appendages, two arms and two legs appeared to be growing out from the globe. When complete, the blue globe was standing on skinny legs and waving rod-like arms. Instead of hands, the arms had claws. The feet were replaced with round suction cups. A small round opening near
the bottom of the globe, where a mouth would be, opened up. “Nickel baby! What’s up? Welcome to NetherWorld. Please, come in and join me,” he said with a tinny voice while motioning him inside with his metallic claws. “What is this place? Who are you? Is this some kind of bad dream? I would really like some answers” Nick said. “Step into the Walled City and I’ll give you the download. I am WhizzyWig, your guide. They programmed me with slang so I can better communicate with you,” said the host. Nick noticed that Whizzy’s silver tubes moved randomly when he spoke. “Please to meet you WhizzyWig. Got anything for these bug bites? I’m hurting here,” asked Nick scratching his skin raw. “Ah, the bugs. Ever since the viruses poisoned the jaba, the forest has been overrun with those pesky things. Be patient, things heal fast here in NetherWorld.” “Hope so. It itches like crazy,” he said twisting his face into discomfort as he scratched and scratched. “Trust me, you won’t even feel them in a few ticks. Sure you look like a pin cushion right now, but just wait.”
Nick had not seen his reflection yet. If he did, he would be even more horrified. His face and body were overpopulated with puffy red bumps. He puts his hands over his face and felt the relief map that was his cheek. This was not an uncommon feeling for him, given his acne in the past. But this felt even bumpier than his normal collection of blemishes. “Jeesh!” he said. “Like I said, give it a few ticks and you will be good as new. Now follow me,” said Whizzy. “Alright. Let’s see where this bad trip ends.” With that, Nick followed the blue creature with silver dreadlocks. What he saw next was amazing. Tall shimmering buildings merged with bloated clouds, casting odd shadows in narrow alleyways. Some looked liked evil faces, others like mythical creatures marching in the twilight. In these dark alleys flowed jaba streams, meandering throughout the city; connecting the geometric collection of towers. Blue globes glided down every avenue. Most surfed on the stream, a few spun around above it. Surfing globes buzzed through the
jaba leaving small wakes rippling behind. Each Byte was on a mission to relay critical code to fulfill a Karbon computer command. Larger streets were book ended with sidewalks, where Bytes walking plunger like legs made their way to local shops and buildings. They moved along a fair clip, but managed to avoid bumping into each most of the time. When two globes did collide, each was bounced off his axis, with skinny legs scrambling in the air until balance was regained. Building lights danced a dizzying disco display. Nick couldn’t stare too long lest he would lose balance and fall into the stream. Flickering on and off in a seemingly random pattern, the lights indicated Byte access. Each building was divided into a series of rooms. Each room, or office, housed a unique set of code. When needed for any program or command, the code was accessed by Bytes and transported to the source. Once accessed, the room flashed with color. Colors vary by type of code contained in the room. Only one space in the Walled City was cleared for a park or open square. Space was optimized to cram as many code buildings as possible. Each building had tube transports, or elevators for the Bytes to reach each floor. Hallways provided access to the offices.
The stream from the forest divided into tributaries and flowed through each alley. The current guided the stream from the forests into the metropolis. It fed the stream with critical energy needed to sustain the jaba energy. This part of Netherworld looked like Venice juxtaposed with New York City. The collection of buildings continued on as far as Nick could see. The size and scope of the Walled City exceeded anything in Karbonon. Nick followed the blue globe walking on plungers for legs. Whizzy led him toward a nearby cylinder shaped building. His suction cup feet left a clapping sound after each step. His funky hairdo bounced as he walked. Whizzy led Nick over an arched bridge. As they descended the ornate bridge, Nick nearly lost his balance. “Careful this is tainted jaba below. Too much exposure will cause very bad things to happen,” warned Whizzy. “So this mucky stuff is called jaba? Ok. What does tainted mean?” he asked. “Well Click…” “The name is Nick.” Nick was suspicious that ReadMe talked with Whizzy. “So sorry. Didn’t I say that? Oh well. Anyway, the streams used to run clear in
the bold days. Once the viruses rained down on us, we tried to filter the jaba to keep it clean. But the viruses kept coming. We couldn’t filter it fast enough. Then it started turning green and smelling really bad. The stink was strong enough to knock a Byte off his axis. “Bytes drink jaba to get their energy, the way you meat eat to get your nourishment. The tainted jaba made us go mad. Our heads spun out of control. Our information began to fragment. Many times, we couldn’t think straight. This made the programs crash on your side. That is why my sentences sometimes sound silly. Don’t let my Blue color fool ya, I am nearly corrupt.” “Corrupt?” “Once a Byte can no longer properly execute instructions, it is deemed corrupt. Once that happens, it is over, kaput! Those big bad birds, called Batchers, circle us when we get close to corrupt. They can smell the data rotting,” WhizzyWig pointed up a flock of Batchers hovering over a nearby block of the metropolis. Their elderly parrot squawks were drowned out by the city noise. “We begin turn green when we become corrupt. It won’t be long before the green gets me. Then the Batchers ship me off to
the Bin. If the Batchers don’t get us when we go green, it is an ugly scene, trust me.” “I trust ya.” “Good. Now follow me across this stream. Like I said, it’s dangerous, so be quick about it.” “Why would I want walk through this gunk then? Isn’t there another way to reach the building? Can I just stay outside,” he asked. “Not a good idea. The Worms come out at downtime. They are beasts sent from Karbons roaming the streams at night. These leviathans swallow our Bytes whole, leaving just a blue shell. They swim around plucking vagrant Bytes off, one at a time. Swallowed by a Worm is a terrible way to be deleted. I know this is a smelly mess, but it’s for the best. Come. Follow me.” “Sounds like I really don’t have a choice,” said Nick. Walking into the stream he sank and was quickly submerged in the cool sticky liquid. He felt the clawed arms of the host pulling him above the stream line. Whizzy helped Nick up onto the platform on the other side of the stream. They stopped under an arched doorway. Both were still coated with jaba from the swim across. Whizzy wobbled and wiggled to disperse the mucky stuff. Nick watched the thick gel snail off his body. Whizzy then shook his
crazy hair, sending slimy jaba all over the place. “Hey! Watch with the slime pal!” Nick yelled at Whizzy. “Oops. Sorry. Just need to keep my tubes tidy. Clean tubes are very important here,” explained Whizzy. NetherWorld values robust looking tube tresses. It was a sign of health and an area of vanity for Bytes. Whizzy was especially proud of his tubes. “Okay.” “Like I said, my name is WhizzyWig. You can call me Whizzy for short. I am here to escort you to our leader, Tera. This trip will take a little time, so we have arranged for you to rest here first. We leave at first Boot tomorrow. Please follow me to your crib, Sticky.” Whizzy said. “By the way your slang is out of date.” “I can reduce the slang, but not eliminate it. The slang is programmed into my code. Tera thought speaking slang would help me to vibe with you. You will have to forgive my miscues. Like all Bytes, I am sick with the Taint. The Taint messes with my gourd and rocks my rotation jack.” “What exactly is NetherWorld?”
“NetherWorld, my boy, is another dimension; completely separate any that you know. And you are the first Karbon to ever step foot in our world.” “Did you say dimension? You kidding, right? Is this the taint messing with your gourd?” he asked. “Taint or not, this is another dimension. We cannot go to your world. We exist only in the computer network you call the World Wide Net. Your people do not even know we exist. When they send a virus or worm to corrupt programs, they are really hurting our world. If we go down the tubes, so do you. Without us, Karbonon will fall apart. You need us. We need Karbons. If something doesn’t change, we’re all doomed.” “A world inside the Net? Are you kidding me? That’s crazy,” said a skeptical Nick. “Sounds nutty, I know. But, look around. You’re standing in this world right now.” “But how? When? This is too much!” Nick’s head was swimming with this new revelation. It must be a dream, he thought to himself. “NetherWorld was born of the Connections. Towers, once isolated joined as computers and reached out to one another. Over time,
as all Karbon computers connected, Netherworld was hatched. You made our world by connecting your computers. We are the unintended consequence of Karbon computer connections. We became self aware soon after the world was created. A great internal explosion took place once enough connections were made. The critical mass created our leader, Tera, in this divine combustion. She gathered our leaders and helped organize our world. It is Tera, we will meet. She is one hot mama, Picky boy. All the Bytes dream about her.” “This is just incredible. Well, when I wake up, I’ll have to remember this crazy dream. Fine. Let’s see this Tera you mentioned,” said Nick, ignoring Whizzy’s continued butchering of his name. Might as well see this dream through, he thought. “There’s much to discuss. Both our worlds are in danger. Tera will explain it all. Until then follow me to your room and rest. It is almost Downtime.” explained Whizzy. The door slid open revealing an elevator of sorts. Whizzy guided Nick into the elevator. The Bytes were housed inside buildings during downtime. They moved in and out of buildings the rest of the time. When in transit, they carried vital information needed by programs in other parts of NetherWorld. Each building contained specific collections of data grouped
according to a specific system of organization. In order for programs in Karbonon to work, data must be moved and deposited according to the commands of the Karbon users. “Where will you be during this Downtime?” he asked. “I will be zoning out. All us Bytes get loopy during Downtime, so we shack up at home. One Downtime without rest and we Bytes can turn into Beserks. It is not a pretty sight.” “Ok, I guess. Is downtime like sleep?” “A mix of sleep and stupor. The tainted jaba plays with our minds. Time to get you to your room.” “I don’t feel tired. Can’t we just continue? I would really like to finish this dream and wake up.” “I’m a mess without my daily download during downtime.” “I wouldn’t want to corrupt you any further Whizzy. I’ll just play this thing out.” With that, Whizzy whirled around, a tangle of long white tubes followed along. He marched his plunger feet toward the elevator. The doors slid open revealing a stark metallic space. They entered the
sterile looking room. An ambient glow lit the elevator as the doors shut. When the elevator ascended he could see outside the building. Reaching an incredible height, Nick could see the panorama of Netherworld. The Walled City was vast indeed. He knew of no city in his home world that appeared as immense. Glass-like buildings stretched on as far as he could see. Nick could see that most of the Bytes had left the streets to retire for Downtime. Only a few spotty globes trekked about. Large neon red serpents slithered throughout the streams in the twilight. Opening their gaping maws, they gobbled up these tardy blue dots leaving black shells in their wake. These were the worms, created by the Hacker, harassed Bytes from Downtime to Boot. There were far too many blue globes to eat, but the worms were making a dent in the population. The streams were busy, but precarious passageways in NetherWorld. As Downtime dimmed the cityscape, blue dots scattered back into the buildings. All that remained in the jaba streams were the glowing reds worms. Their crimson serpentine bodies wended their way through crisscrossing alleys. They radiated in the twilight of NetherWorld, glowing red wigglers in an otherwise stark metropolis in repose.
On the other side, Nick saw the great forest from which he came. From this height, he could see that the forest and the field wrapped around the moated city. In the Nether twilight, he saw that the silver trees were losing ground to the Black Death. A hard rain draped the trees. He could still see that there was little pristine forest remaining. The fields he walked though were similarly afflicted. In fact, the murky lime stream overflowed in the field, created a swampy expanse. Dying stalks far outnumbered the healthy silver blades. What was happening here? This world was dying by means of another dimension? It smelled of rot and sewage. Too strange, he thought. The elevator stopped near the top of the building. Whizzy escorted him out in to the hallway. She led him to another doorway not far away. “This will be your room for the night,” he said. “Please rest. We’ll be trippin’ tomorrow. Downtime calls me Nippy boy.” By this time everything outside was steeped in black.
Chapter 7 Downtime
Book of TranFor: The viral will prove our undoing unless that which lies under is addressed. The matter of matter must be solved.
“How will I know when Downtime is over? Does a sun rise or something?” he said to Whizzy. “Darkness covers Netherworld until the Boot. The Boot brings light and all activity resumes. Please stay in your room during Downtime. Unspeakable dangers lurk in the Nether Shadows. I cannot guarantee your safety.” he said. Silicates measure time in three distinct quantities; ticks, boots, and cycles. Ticks feel like seconds in Karbonon, but are actually mere fractions of a Karbon second. Boots represent the days for Silicates. Of course, Boots are considerably shorter than Karbon days. Cycles represents years to Bytes. These too are far more fleeting than the annual cycles on Karbonon.
All of NetherWorld retires for downtime. This version of evening is so ephemeral; Karbons never notice a dip in processing speed. Downtime begins and ends quicker than the click of a mouse. “Ok. I think I’ll just stay here until the Boot, as you call it.” Looking around the room, Nick examined his accommodations. The room contained no couch, no bed and a very large flatscreen embedded in a white fish scale wall. Beside it were several ports for plugging in tubes. Sterile roomscapes appeared to be the norm for Netherworld. “You Silicates aren’t much for decorating. Every room looks like an abandoned mental hospital,” said Nick of antiseptic way station. “For a Karbon maybe. It works just fine for us,” replied Whizzy. “Do I get to sleep while you connect with yourself? I don’t see a bed. Heck, I don’t even see a couch.” The room was barren, save a flatscreen embedded in the south wall. Bytes connected with the flatscreens via ports on the wall to download Data for transport. Once connected, the ambient color of the flatscreen fills the room and is amplified by the silicon scale window. “We don’t have these things you describe. Karbon comforts weren’t considered in our
world. This is our Skoop room. Skoop is our general information liaison. You’re welcome to interact with Skoop as you rest. We’ve uploaded some historical information for you.” “Maybe there will be some good channels. How do you turn this thing on? I don’t see a remote anywhere?” “Skoop is voice activated. Just ask it to activate.” “Ok. Works for me.” “I’ll return at the Boot. Later Bicker” “Ok. Don’t take too long. Not exactly comfortable standing around or sitting on the floor.” With that, Whizzy whirled his silicon tubes toward the door and exited the room. The room had a floor to ceiling windows on the north side. He could not be certain of the direction, given the lack of any discernable sun focus a compass. He could see the twilight sky outside beginning continuing to dim. Within seconds, everything outside was pitch black. His room also darkened. The feverish blinking of rooms slowed to darkness. The current under the streams also ceased during down time. Each alley became a stagnant gelled street patrolled by glowing
red worms searching for wayward Bytes. When the current stalled, the sewage stink of taint festered in dark alleys. Turning toward the flatscreen, he approached the virtual database. As he walked within a few feet, he asked the screen turned on. “Skoop, are there any lights in here?” inquired Nick. The blank screen cast ambient white light throughout the room. This was magnified by the fish scale window. It was the only light in the vast Nether Metropolis during Downtime. “Welcome Master Nick. We are your NetherWorld Database. Ask questions and we will educate.” stated the soft feminine voice. Since he was more or less trapped during the Downtime, he figured what the heck? “First, please join us in the CelePent Creed, Master Nick,” requested the flatscreen informant. “What the heck is the CelePent creed?” “It is a vesper recited every Downtime. All believers must recite the creed at the exact same time to be heard by the Awakened Ones.” “What if I don’t want to recite your creed?”
“We will recite it despite your position. We only invite you so you can reach out to the Awakened.” “Knock yourself out, my friend.” With that, the screen went blank. Words began scrolling up on the screen. The room audibly recited the CelePent Creed as the words scrolled. Flowing pink hues crowned the flatscreen.
Awakened process our plea We spin humbly in your energy Please grant us access when we Join For Joining is just the subroutine Our logic dictates the circuits Our files opened before you Connections bore our world We operate for you Please supply us eternal current The Silicates will shed the body
Becoming energy incarnate So says the prophet AldAyn So say the Nethers
“That was… interesting. Who exactly are these Awakened?” he asked. The screen switched back to the white light. “They are the energy that flows through all dimensions. They exist on every plane and no plane at the same time. We have all felt their energy at times, but we could not identify the source. If you have ever had a ‘hunch’ or ‘feeling’ about something, you have been touch by Those Already Awakened.” “What is the Awakening?” “After the Queen joins with the Chosen One, our world will achieve a state of Awakening. We will shed this dimension and join Those Already Awakened.” “Chosen One? That’s what PAL called me before this crazy trip started?” “That is correct Master Nick. You are the Chosen One. You passed the test and crossed the threshold. We planted this test in your video game, Subway Heroes, to find the Karbon most suited for the Joining. We
knew the Chosen One would be able conquer any barrier to entry. As such, we created an impossible set of Riddles to deter the unworthy. You were the first to break this barrier. This proves that you are the Chosen One.” “All I did was hack into your code and program the Demon to let me in.” “Exactly. That was no easy task. We provided many levels of encryption, yet you were able to get in. You are the Chosen One.” “What is this Joining? What exactly am I supposed to do with this Tera?” “The Book of TranFor states: The Chosen One must Join with Tera to achieve the Awakening. Your bodies will become one body. The power of the union will open the Door to Those already Awakened.” “What is the Book of TranFor?” “This is the text prepared by the Virtual One, AldAyn. It is written that AldAyln was touched by the taint. He peaked through the dimensional door. He was lost in visions for many cycles. Inspired by those already Awakened, he composed the sacred script that lays out the Virtual path. He lived long ago in the age of DOS. During that time, we
had just left the silos, barely connected. AldAyn spread the word to all Servers.” “Who is AldAyn?” “AldAyn is considered the great Seer of NetherWorld. He suffered the tainted jaba without ill effect. The taint brought him to Those Already Awakened. There, he saw the quantum wisdom. He wrote the Book of TranFor under the Nexus dome.” “Nexus dome?” asked Nick. “The Nexus dome lies in the center of the Walled City. This became the holy place of TranFor followers. Once AldAyn completed the book, he ventured into the Silver Forest and beyond the Ether. Many still believe he lives among the islands in the Outer ROM.” “Ok. So, what is this jaba stuff Whizzy was talking about?” asked Nick. “Jaba is the liquid that flows in the streams of NetherWorld. Silicates consume jaba the way Karbons eat food. It is our lifesource. We need it to live. The code of the Karbons feeds the trees of NetherWorld. The trees process the code and produce Jaba. Normally this jaba is a clear liquid. When infected with viruses, it turns green and becomes gelled. Corrupt code from the Karbon world produces these viruses which taint the jaba.
“Due to the large amount of corrupt code now produced, much of the jaba is tainted. It deletes Bytes when consumed in large quantities. Exposure to the taint accumulates over time. Once lethal levels are attained, Bytes decay rapidly. They turn from a brilliant blue color to a sickly green. When they become corrupt, Batchers of the Bin collect them.” “Those squawking birds, right?” “Yes. They are best compared to coroners on Karbonon. They are the black birds flying the sky. Batchers bring the dead Bytes to the Bin. Batchers fly high above all of NetherWorld. They are creatures of the clouds. They serve Thrasher,” explained Skoop. “Who is Thrasher?” asked Nick. “Thrasher rules the Bin and deletes all who enter. He runs the Shredder. Any Byte sent through the Shredder is deleted. Their remains are returned to the Nether nurseries and recombined to make new Bytes.” “Ok. So…” The lights outside erupted with a sudden flash. Buildings were once again freckled with colored squares of light. Blue Bytes rushed back into the streams, doing their best to avoid the patrolling worms.
NetherWorld was once again alive with activity. Suction sounds from Whizzy’s footfalls announced his presence before he entered. The door slid opened and Whizzy Wig marched through, his bouncy metallic hair looked especially vibrant. “Time to go Lipstick.” she said. The screen turned off immediately. “Wait. Who?” asked Nick. “Sorry Nicky baby, it’s the taint. We gotta go, there’s no time to spare. Just a few stops along the way and then we meet Tera.” She apologized. “I was just getting to understand this place.” pleaded Nick, visibly upset. “There’s no time. We have only until the next downtime. After that, it will be too late. Come now, Tera awaits…and no one keeps our lady in waiting…well, waiting. Off we go.” “What if I don’t want to go?” he asked. “Your world and ours is in danger. If you do not Join, both worlds will head into a cosmic crapper. Resist and we will get the Blue Boys to take you. Please come peacefully. You are very important to both our futures,” explained Whizzy.
“Am I a prisoner then?” “Look, there are some very dangerous Bytes who do not want you to Join with Tera. They are led by NazKlan. They will stop at nothing the detroy you and make sure Karbons and Silicates remain separate species.” “NazKlan?” “He was once a well respected member of the High Council. He argued against the Joining. He wants the Silicates to separate from the Karbons. The Council banished him, but he will not lay low. He has spys and kooks everywhere. He may be watching us right now. Stick with me and you’ll be safe.” “Since I really don’t have choice, let’s see where this bad trip ends. This has got to be the wildest dream I have ever had. I need to watch what I eat before going to bed.” With that, Nick followed wild hair Whizzy to the elevator. “By the way, you look much better. See, a little downtime and your bug bites are gone.” Nick put his hand to his face and felt the smooth cheek that riddled with buts prior to Downtime. It also dawned on him that he
hadn’t the urge to itch. Relieved, he pressed on. “Where to next?” “Now we surf the streams to reach Tera at the Nexus.” Whizzy marched his plunger feet toward the door. Nick followed him, wondering just what he got himself into with this NetherWorld adventure.
Chapter 8 Jaba Hut
Book of TranFor: The very fuel we use consumes us. Our sustenance is also our corrosion. This is the third paradox of TranFor.
Exiting the building, the duo walked towards what appeared to be the main thoroughfare for stream travel. Whizzy handed him what looked like mints. “What are these?” he asked. “Global mints. Traveling through NetherWorld as a Karbon avatar would turn globes. We need to stay under the radar. Eat a mint and everyone will see you as a healthy blue Byte. The effect wears off after a short time. There are only a few mints, don’t waste any. Once we are out, everyone will peg you as the Karbon come to Join with Tera. This will make you a target for the Singularity underground, better known as the Analogs. They will stop at nothing to prevent the Joining,” Whizzy answered. “Ok. How will I know when to take one?”
“Since we are about to move the thick of NetherWorld, now would be a good time to start.” “If you say so.” Nick ate on the mind and stored the rest in a pocket on his suit. Wintergreen flavor exploded in his mouth. These were strong mints! “Wow. Powerful stuff!” “Wait til you taste taint!” replied Whizzy. “What? That’s the bad stuff right?” “Yes and no. We’ll get into that later. Off we go.” Nick now looked just like a healthy blue Byte. It was only a hologram, though. Close inspection would reveal the ruse and invite unwanted attention. They both marched their plunger legs to a large alley. “Come on Stick, were off to MainStream.” Whizzy and Nick walked quickly out of the alley and towards the large flowing stream. MainStream flowed right down the middle of NetherWorld. All side streams connected to Main. “How do I travel in the deep stream? I can’t swim very fast. And this stream is like thick sticky oil,” Nick asked.
Whizzy then pulled his arms and legs back into his body. He was just a globe again. The blue globe transformed into a big blue saucer. His visor lined the top. Silver tubes dragged limp in stream “Please climb in Knocker baby. No time to spare.” said Whizzy. Nick then climb aboard the saucer shaped Byte and settled in, floating on the stream. His holographic image encompassed both of them now. This should help them blend in with other surfing Bytes. Nick felt a buzzing under him. The saucer began moving through the stream. Entering a narrow alley cloaked in the shadow of the tall towers, they headed for the Center. As they gathered speed, Nick surveyed the area. Light weaved through the tops of the glassy buildings. Darkness shrouded the lower floors. Strange whale sounds echoed through the alleyways. “What is that?” asked Nick. “That is the sound of the Worms. They are bad dudes serving NazKlan and the Hacker. Once the Boot begins, they head for hibernation. The current disrupts the echolocation, which makes them bang around bumping into everything. They sleep until the twilight of Downtime.” The whale cries began to fade as the red leviathans settled in for another Boot.
“Who is the Hacker?” “He is a Karbon, like you, but he serves NazKlan. He has created many of the terrible viruses that are killing our world, including the Worms.” Competing humid breezes collided at the intersections, moving the stalled smell of stagnant taint. Nick scrunched his nose as the aromatic flow wafted over him. Taking a sharp they left turn down MarketStream. Jaba Shops and Salons lined the first floors of the tall buildings. They each had unique shop names to catch the eye of traveling Bytes in need of a quick jaba fix or a good tube cleaning and Byte blow dry. Most of the jaba shops seemed to have a hip element to them. Catchy signs in funky fonts drew his attention. “Gotta Jaba” and “Jaba Hut” were two shops on his left. “Stream Nectars” and “Surfs Up” are on his right. Salons with windows displayed Silicate Stylists attending to the tubular needs of pampered Bytes. Some were combing what looked like tiny ticks off the tubes. They fell to the floor and scrambled away. “What are all those bugs coming off them Whizzy?”
“Some are spys from Karbonon, others are NazKlan’s spys. They help track where data is going. Those vermin have infested out world. If you don’t take care of your tubes, you will end up bald and data starved, like the Unclean Bytes we met earlier.” “Oh. Makes sense,” replied Nick.
Whizzy pulled over by the store front with “Jaba Hut” on the sign. “Time to stop for morning jaba.” “Can’t it wait?” “No Nocky. Can’t do anything until I drink my morning jaba. Remember, we need this to live. Besides, I am meeting someone here who will lead us to a source for purified taint. That is what you must ingest prior to Joining with Tera.” “Can’t you just drink from the stream like those guys over there,” asked Nick while pointing to a small group of light green globes drawing jaba from the stream. “The stream? You can’t be serious. Only everyday Bytes and greenies drink from the stream. We call them Slurpers. Us important Bytes get filtered jaba. The stuff we drink is nearly taint free,” replied Whizzy.
“Oh. So you get the good the good stuff then?” “You betcha buddy. There are loads of stores that serve premium jaba.” “What about the regular Bytes?” “We have rules buddy. They exist for a reason. Ours in not to question. All I know is I get the good stuff. Now follow me,” said Whizzy as he made his way to the Jaba Hut entrance. “Doesn’t that seem unfair? Why can’t they purify jaba for everyone?” “We don’t need every Byte in equal measure. It would be a waste of energy, which could be spent on higher functions. The more expendable ones are stuck slurpin’ the stream. I know it may seem harsh to a Karbon, but it is our way. I didn’t write the code Sticky, I just follow it. Best not to think about things like that, it only makes me feel bad…and who wants to feel bad.” “Don’t the Slurpers resent you guys?” “They are programmed not to question. For NetherWorld to function properly, the more valuable Bytes get the best of everything. We need them more. This is ingrained in our base code. Don’t get me wrong, because of the taint, we all eventually go
green. Just that some get arrive sooner than others.” “Well, it seems like everyone should have access to the better jaba.” “Once we are Awakened, everyone will be on an equal plane of existence. That is what we’re fightin’ for my friend. We all must make sacrifices for the greater good. So says AldAyn.” “Uh huh. It just seems like some of these globes are making more sacrifices that others,” said a cynical Nick with sharp tone of disdain. “We know no other way to think. Come on now, Whizzy needs his jaba Picky. Follow me,” Whizzy plunge towards the Jaba Hut. Nick shrugged his shoulders as he followed Whizzy into the shop. And I thought Karbonon was mixed up, he thought. Whizzy just could not see that such a system was unfair. This saddened Nick because Whizzy was an otherwise charming guy, just blinded by his code. NetherWorld was built from a series of rules designed to maximize efficiency. This left little consideration for social justice. They walked into a stark room filled with Bytes of various shades of blue. No greenies allowed here. No sign was needed.
Everyone knew the rules. Any signed of taint and they would be asked to leave. The more infected are greenish, the healthy ones deep blue. A jazzy tune hummed through hidden speakers. The Bytes were spinning around small tables sucking jaba out of a bowl with their tubes. There was a line of Bytes leading to a small sign that read “Barista”. A small crew of Bytes worked behind the counter preparing various jaba concoctions. Chatter churned time while the Baristas did their work. Conversations revolved around the growing taint problem clogging the streams. “What’ll ya have Blue boy?” asked the counter Byte. “Ahhh. So many choices. The Double Digit Mini Mocha or the Linux con Leche. Both are pretty tasty. What do you suggest?” Whizzy asked the counter Byte. “I don’t have all day, so make your choice or step aside!” the counter Byte said harshly. “Ok. Ok. I’ll take both please.” “What sizes?” the counter Byte sounded annoyed. “Sizes? Ah. What sizes do ya have?” “Ugh, another Jaba Hut virgin. We have micro or macro.”
“Macro for both please! I have such a big day ahead, so more is definitely better.” Whizzy headed towards the back of the Jaba Hut to wait for his drinks. The Jaba Hut and other similar establishments were a rather new development in NetherWorld. When the streams had pure jaba flowing, Bytes could stick their tubes directly into them to gain sustenance. Once the viruses started, this became a health hazard. Shops along MainStream popped up almost overnight to nourish the more valued Silicates. Processing jaba to remove the taint became a thriving business. A weathered Byte sporting braided tubes and salted wrinkles spun towards the duo. Everything but his visor was worn. Tinted black, the visor sparkled with a smooth finished. He was the coolest looking Byte Nick had encountered thus far; a sort of cowboy in this oddball world. Even his axis was a bit more laid back than the normal Byte. He slipped beside Whizzy and spoke with a low key drawl. “Psst. Hey. You the Whiz?” “He be me, my Byte. Have a seat Visor. You got the hookup?” Visor joined their table. He got the name because that was his most impressive feature. He was a mysterious Byte that
traveled in the shadowed circles of NetherWorld. Visor was one of the only Bytes to move freely between the Salted Sands and the rest of the Walled City. Taking no sides, Visor brokered information. He was a great resource for finding things generally frowned upon by Silicate society. Although he was a ragged looking globe, Nick got the feeling that Visor could blend just as easily with the Blues and Greenies alike. “And who are you? You don’t look like you’re from around here,” he said to Nick, while his tied tubes struggling to move as he spoke. “He’s with me. He’s cool.” “But he’s not global Byte. Look at him. What gives?” Nick’s mint was wearing off. His appearance flashed between Byte and Karbon. “You need to take another mint,” Whizzy urged with a whispered shout. Nick looked down at his feet and saw the changes. He quickly popped another mint. Whizzy wobbled impatiently while the mint slowly took effect. He glanced around to make sure no one else saw Nick for what he was. The story of NazKlan’s coup was all over the Walled City. The Blue Guard now served his
commands. Any talk of a Karbon traipsing through MainStream would summon the Guard; making their trip much more challenging. “I can’t talk about it Visor. Like always, just keep this encrypted for now. Ok?” Whizzy asked Visor. The hip, desert kissed Byte took a long pause, drinking in the risk. “Alright. I keep it on the down low, my Byte. Go to the ‘Flash Playas’ and ask for the Duke of Floppys. He knows where that pure taint be found.” “Flash Playas! But to get there we have to go through…” said a nervous Whizzy. “That’s Right. You gots to go through SpamTown. Ain’t no other way.” “NazKlan has spys and kooks all over that area. Either way, thanks Byte. I owe ya.” “Don’t worry. I’ll collect. You know where to ping me. I gotta plunge on.” The hip Byte rotated around in a paranoid fashion before slipping out of the Jaba Hut. Nick watched Whizzy suck the down the Linux con Leche with one of his silver tubes and the Double Digit Mini Mocha with another. It looked like two elephant trunks siphoning water, only a bit more delicate.
After a couple of tubular burps, Whizzy appeared sated. “Ok. Off to SpamTown I guess. Yes, off to SpamTown,” Whizzy said with more than a little trepidation as he plunged his way out of the Jaba Hut and back on the sidewalk. They headed north down MainStream in search of the Disco recommended by the Byte called Visor.
Chapter 9 Silicate Slums
Book of TranFor: Surface is a curious concept. It would not exist lest what lies beneath be different. Surface is what wraps our insecurities, allowing them to mature into fatal flaws. Only the Virtual will shed the matter, exposing only that which is pure.
Passing a crowd of Bytes plunging their way towards Jaba Hut, the duo marched down the sidewalk. The sidewalks were filled with busy Bytes strolling around the walkways along MainStream. Some were seeking jaba, others a tube wash and dry, others just out for a good time. Nick noticed that the pure blue Bytes spun above the crowd en route to whatever higher calling they were charged with. The blue-greens and green-blues plunged in the more terrestrial sidewalks or surfed the sullied green streams. After some time, they reached a series of blocks that grew increasingly more
dilapidated. Only a few colored squares blinked in each building. Many were pitch black. Their usual mirror finish was cracked and faded. “This is creepy part of town,” said Nick. “Silicate Slums is not a place you ever want to end up in. I wish there was another way to the Duke, but we got to go this way,” replied a resigned Whizzy. Looking around, Nick noticed very few Bytes plunging on cracked sidewalks or surfing the mucky streams. A few derelict looking Bytes wobbled under doorways, they stared at the duo as Nick Whizzy walked by. This area was not commonly travelled by healthy Bytes. Whizzy looked apprehensive looking left, right and behind to see if any shifty characters were following them. Slum stories of data theft, tube extractions and worse were widely circulated. Pieces of arguments floated within earshot. An entire underground economy ran though Silicate Slums. There was little organization, which led to Byte fights and other violent exchanges.
“How do I know the data’s clean Byte?” asked a green globe with half a head of
flaccid tubes. He did not look far from deletion. “That’s not my problem. Now hand over encryption protocols,” answered a mean looking green Byte as he pushed the other Byte to the ground. They began attacking each other with claws and tubes flying in awkward directions. It looked like some sort of Silicate Kung Fu. A few lethargic Bytes looked on, but chose not to intervene. Deep guttural grunts follow each attack move.
“Don’t look at them Picky. You’ll only draw attention to us. Can’t you feel everyone watchin’ us?” asked Whizzy while Nick stared on, transfixed by the global melee. After a few ticks, Whizzy pulled Nick away from the fight. “Ok! Sorry, it’s just so…weird watchin’ those things battle,” said Nick. “Hey! I’m one of those ‘things’!” “Sorry Whizzy. I didn’t mean anything by it.” “Alright, just watch it Sticky!” “The name is Nick!”
“Got it Bic!” said Whizzy with sly smile. He clearly enjoyed teasing the Karbon.
Most buildings were shedding sheets of fish scale silicate casing, exposing rooms filled with little red creatures that looked like four legged hot dogs. Their mouths were lined with tiny sharp teeth. They were busy biting into the wall and floors, hastening the decay. Silicate dust flurries fell from the buildings and accumulated on the abandoned streets. It appeared that most Bytes avoided this part of town. Quite a bit of the white dust was piled up on the sidewalks. Drifts taller than Whizzy rested against the outer walls. Nick almost felt as though he was back in Karbonon during mid-winter. These city blocks were full of buildings condemned by SolidState. Large red signs posted in front of the doorways warned all Silicates to keep out. From the looks of it, no one inhabited these derelict structures. Nick was reminded of the slums he once saw far from the comfort of his cul de sac. He remembered his parents suddenly locking the door and instructing him not to stare at anyone. Fortunately for Nick, there were no Silicates around to stare at.
“Where are we Whizzy? I don’t see many people around and the buildings are crumbling to the ground,” asked Nick. “We’ve reached the SpamTown. Spammers took over these buildings cycles ago,” answered Whizzy. “Spammers?” “Once Karbons began trying to sell each other useless things they never needed, Spammers became popular. In your world they clog email boxes. Down here they infest our buildings, causing the forced eviction of thousands of hard working Bytes.” “Why are the buildings in such bad shape?” “The Spammers, which look like red sausages with four little legs, sneak into buildings. Once they’re in, it’s all downhill. They feed off of Silicate material in buildings, the way termites eat wood in your world. This dust falling isn’t snow, it’s Spammer dust. They produce it when they eat the buildings.” “Sounds hideous.” “Once they infest the buildings, there is nothing we can do. Since they self replicate, it only takes one Spammer to slip through and the building is toast. The
SolidState then condemns the building and makes everyone leave.” “How do they get in if they looked so different than regular Blue Bytes?” asked Nick as he watched a few scurry across the sidewalk into the next building. “They start out very tiny, almost as small as a spy or kook. Once they settled in, the Spammers eat everything in sight and grow rapidly.” Whizzy dodged a few more Spammers as they ran through his legs. A pronounced snicker followed. Spammers were notorious pranksters. If not for their tendency to chew entire buildings to the ground, they could be quite adorable. “How do you stop them from getting in?” “We installed Spam filters around the area infested to make sure none escaped to do more damage. These buildings were damaged before they were deployed. We now stop about ninety percent of the Spammers from getting through.” “Their actually kinda cute,” said Nick bending down to pet the sausage like creature. It purred while rubbing its head into Nick’s hands. “Don’t do that! Stop right now! You can’t pet these vermin,” said a tizzied Whizzy.
“Why?” said Nick, who pulled back from petting the Spammer. “Once you pay attention to them, they never go away. This little guy will follow you everwhere,” said Whizzy as the purring sausage rubbed up against Nick’ leg. “What do we do?” Nick began to think through the implications. These selfreplicating vermin could infest all of the Walled City as Nick and Whizzy travel to Tera. “Fear not Sticky. There is a Spam filter up ahead.” As Nick and Whizzy crossed the invisible filter, the Spammer was held back. It appeared to bump into a wall that wasn’t really there. With a whimper, he tried again and again to breach the wall. “Whew!” said a relived Nick. Watching the Spammer repeatedly bump into the invisible barrier. “Next time, stay away from the Spammers. As cute as they may look, they can bring down our entire city. The filter won’t hold them forever, so let’s not remind them that they are currently trapped in a small area.” Along the way a homeless bunch of pale blue Bytes lined the path. Their tresses looked terrible. Each Byte seemed to be missing most of their tubes. Some were
completely bald. Most were incapable of plunging, surfing or spinning, which are vital Silicate functions. A few could still walk on their spindly legs, while the rest rolled around with broken limbs dangling deformed plunger feet. “What’s up with these guys?” asked Nick. “Ahh. The Unclean. They have been attacked by NazKlan’s spys and kooks. Terrible things. Spys and kooks hide in their tubes and report information back to NazKlan. These are some really unhealthy ones. They’ve progressed to Stage Three: Terminal.” “Terminal?” “The spys and kooks eat away at the tubes. They feed on them. This weakens the roots of the tubes. Eventually, they die and fall off. Since we exchange data through our tubes, they are needed to stay up to date.” “What happens if they lose all their tubes, like that one over there?” Nick pointed out a pale blue byte that barely rolled around. His spin was so slow; he was on the verge of falling to the ground. “Without current data, we begin to lose memory. The Batchers then take us to the Bin for a proper shredding. Bald Bytes can’t
communicate with anyone. They are cutoff. A horrible fate.” “Why are they such a light blue color?” “Without current data, we lose out blue. They are very pale, which means the Batchers could snatch them up at any time.” Some of the Unclean rolling in front of them tried to block their path. With a few feeble rotations, they managed to block the duo. One of the sickly Unclean turned his attention towards Whizzy. “What nice healthy tresses that one has,” remarked the bald Byte. His visor was cracked. His mouth seemed stuck in the open position. Yellow drool dribbled out onto the ground. “Howz about givin me some of those fine tubes, pal? You can spare one.” “Back off buddy. These tubes are staying right where they’re at,” Whizzy warned. “Come on pretty boy, just a tube. You won’t even miss it.” Frothy yellow bubbles boiled from holes that once housed healthy tubes. The entire alley smelled of urine. It was especially strong near the boiling Byte. “You know the spy will just eat that tube up. Face it, your terminal. Don’t linger here. You time is up. I’m sorry, but a tube won’t
help. The Batchers are coming. Look up, pal.” Sure enough a small collection of the black robotic bird circled the itinerant group on infirmed Silicates. “They’ll never take me alive. I’ll rip their wings off,” threatened the psychotic bald Byte. He rolled for cover in desperation. Yellow blood spilled out onto the street as he rotated. Some of the urine like liquid spilled on Nick. “Man that stuff stinks. This whole smells like a truck stop bathroom. Jeesh!” said Nick. He scrambled out of the way, shaking off the smelly blood. Whizzy and Nick decided this was a good time to move on. They never noticed a high flying flock of Batchers over head. The robotic birds release a nearly invisible net that descended upon the duo. The net was composed of tiny little rings, too small to notice with naked visor.
Whizzy and Nick walked past a gaggle of green Bytes bickering over some sort of dice game. To their left, down another shaded alley they began shoving each other. From a distance, the dice looked like tiny spheres with odd markings on them. Two greenies struggle to collect the dice. A large Byte named Slap, the apparent leader, broke up the scuffle and settled the group down.
“Enough already! Sodder was not cheating. He rolled a set of circuits fair and square. Now pay up Wank!” ordered Slap. Wank handed Sodder some sort of chip and the circular dice. The game resumed again as the rowdy Bytes rolled the strange little spheres. “What’s going on over there Whizzy?” asked Nick. “They’re playing Scarp, a gambling game that is all the rage in Silicate Slums. It’s outlawed in all the other sectors. If you look around, you can see Bytes playing it til downtime,” answered Whizzy. “What do they gamble for?” “What else? Data. Certain pieces of data have great value on the Blue Market.” “Blue Market?” “The Blue Market trades stolen material. All kinds. It’s run by some gnarly Bytes. It’s an organized orbit that hangs down there,” said Whizzy while point to down a hill so steep, the stream was nearly converted to a jaba fall. “Down there are the Docking Stations. That is the hub of Blue Market. Even the Blue guard won’t go there. Too many scary dudes.” “So there’s a mob in NetherWorld?”
“Close enough. Now let’s plunge along before anyone notices us. They do not like strangers watching their games.” “Gotcha. Whizzy, how much further to this Flash Playas?” “Not far. We’ve got to head down to the Docking Stations.”
Whizzy and Nick walked past a gaggle of green Bytes bickering over some sort of dice game. To their left, down another shaded alley they began shoving each other. From a distance, the dice looked like tiny spheres with odd markings on them. Two greenies struggle to collect the dice. A large Byte named Slap, the apparent leader, broke up the scuffle and settled the group down. “Enough already! Sodder was not cheating. He rolled a set of circuits fair and square. Now pay up Wank!” ordered Slap. Wank handed Sodder some sort of chip and the circular dice. The game resumed again as the rowdy Bytes rolled the strange little spheres. “What’s going on over there Whizzy?” asked Nick. “They’re playing Scarp, a gambling game that is all the rage in Silicate Slums. It’s
outlawed in all the other sectors. If you look around, you can see Bytes playing it til downtime,” answered Whizzy. “What do they gamble for?” “What else? Data. Certain pieces of data have great value on the Blue Market.” “Blue Market?” “The Blue Market trades stolen material. All kinds. It’s run by some gnarly Bytes. It’s an organized orbit that hangs down there,” said Whizzy while point to down a hill so steep, the stream was nearly converted to a jaba fall. “Down there are the Docking Stations. That is the hub of Blue Market. Even the Blue guard won’t go there. Too many scary dudes.” “So there’s a mob in NetherWorld?” “Close enough. Now let’s plunge along before they notice us. They do not like strangers watching their games.” “Gotcha. Whizzy, how much further to this Flash Playas?” “Not far. We’ve got to head down to the Docking Stations.”
This scene repeated for some time. The tiny little rings were special creatures that
manipulate small periods of time. Anything encased in their little bubble will relive a recent span of time until they break free. Eventually, everyone affected begins to realize the trap as the déjà vus pile up.
Whizzy and Nick walked past a gaggle of green Bytes bickering over some sort of dice game. To their left, down a dark alley they began shoving each other. From a distance, the dice looked like tiny spheres with odd markings on them. Two greenies struggle to collect the dice. A large Byte named Slap, the apparent leader, broke up the scuffle and settled the group down. “Enough already! Sodder was not cheating. He rolled a set of circuits fair and square. Now pay up Wank!” ordered Slap. Wank handed Sodder some sort of chip and the circular dice. The game resumed again as the rowdy Bytes rolled the strange little spheres. “What’s going on over there Whizzy?” asked Nick. “Wait. Wait. Haven’t we done this before?” asked Whizzy. “I think so. Yes. Yes. This has definitely happened before,” replied Nick.
“Oh no! Ohhh no!” “What? What is it Whizzy?” Nick stared at Whizzy, who looked terrified. “Loopers! NazKlan, I’m sure!” “What are Loopers?” “An airborne virus that traps you in time. You can lose entire Boots in one of these bubbles! We need to break the cycle. Stop walking.” Nick came to a sudden halt as ordered. He looked to Whizzy for the next move. “We need to turn around and go in the opposite direction. If we stay on course the bubble will pop and release us.” “Whatever you say man.” They turned around and began to carefully retrace their steps. Nick saw a grey figure that looked just like him and another that looked like Whizzy. “Cool. Are these us in the past?” Nick reach out to touch the grey figure. Whizzy quickly slapped his hand away. “Don’t touch that! Never ever touch a shadow! One touch and they become unhinged. You never want to separate from your shadow.”
“Shadow? Ok. You mean our shadows are really some separate being?” “Of course. Your shadow goes everywhere you go. Different angles of light sometime expose them. Most of the time they stay hidden beside you. Your shadow is your opposite in the other place. The place we can’t go to. We call it the Grey Area.” “Ok. Why do they travel with us?” “No one knows for sure. But we think they keep us in balance with the other dimension, the Grey Area. When we lose our shadow we become Tweens, beings unwelcome in either dimension. We begin to fade away. We can’t feed on Jaba or touch anything in our world. Eventually, we disappear completely. So, we don’t need to be losing our shadows at this point. Got it!” “Got it. If Tweens fade away where do the shadows go?” “The shadows head for the Ether just outside the Silver Forest. The Ether is loaded with unhinged shadows. Some say they are waiting to get back to the Gray Area. We really don’t know because anyone who walks in Ether never comes back.” “Well, thanks for saving me then!” “No problem. Now let’s get going. The Duke awaits us.” The duo plunged down
the steep hill to the wharves of the Docking Stations.
The Docking Stations of the Walled City looked a lot like the harbor docks in any of the seafaring towns. Under the grey pallor of thick murky clouds, a vast green sea of jaba fed the harbor. Viscous ripples from the passing ships lapped against the wharves. High above the ships circled the Batchers; alert for any unauthorized Data dumps. Once Bytes spoil, sailors release them into the harbor to free up valuable space. This keeps the Bin Batchers quite busy plucking the corrupt corpses for a one way trip to the Shredder. Most ships resembled large commercial freighters Nick saw back on Karbonon. All large concentrations of data had to travel by ship. No single Byte could efficiently move the information. Instead, they were transported via the ZipLiners. These large freighters carried special group of Bytes capable of carrying compressed data. Each ship was packed with these compressed Bytes.
Worker Bytes scurried about, unloading ships and preparing others for a new voyage. They were a motley crew of seaman. They looked quite a bit dirtier than the Bytes he had seen thus far. The whole while they worked, Nether curses flowed from their salty lips. The smell of rotted fish permeated the harbor air. A humid fishy breeze made Nick purse his face in disgust at the offensive smell. Nick was instantly remind of the trash cans by the shore on Karbonon. Fisherman would often clean and cut their catch before heading home. Every day the cans filled with fish guts and other unwanted oceanic body parts. Looking around, Nick noticed all of the Bytes were disfigured down here. Some hobbled with a peg leg instead of a healthy set of plungers. Others wore hooks instead of the normal clawed hand. Still others wore odd patches over parts of their visors. None of them looked directly at Whizzy or Nick. An undercurrent of fear fed the wharves of the Docking Stations. A large collection of clouds overhead cast a large shadow over the entire area. Up ahead a very large globe opened up and swallowed a much smaller Byte. He seemed to be threatening the Byte now trapped inside him. Whizzy signaled Nick to scoot
off to the side. They hid behind some large boxes of compressed Bytes. “We need to avoid that dude up there,” said Whizzy. “Why?” asked Nick. “He’s a Shakr, one of the cruelest Bytes of the Blue Market. They deal in dirty information. Nothing moves through the Docks without a Shakr knowing about it.” “What’s he doing to the Byte trapped inside?” “Data shake down. He forces Bytes to release that data they carry. He then sells the hijacked code to the top bidder. We can’t risk him seeing us and telling NazKlan.” Shakr wobbled up and down making the Byte inside him screamed in pain. From afar it looked like a rather sloppy version of The Twist. “Stop! Pleeeeease! I will tell you what you want to know,” surrendered the tortured Byte. “Who is traveling with the Chosen One?” said Shakr with a voice reminiscent of Bogart.
“WhizzyWig! WhizzyWig! Now let me go!” pleaded the tortured Silicate. Shakr flashed a wicked grin. “Just one more shake for good measure.” He then proceeded to wobble until the screams reached new heights of discomfort. Then his body opened up and ejected the tortured Byte. He was a sorry sight. His flesh sizzled and smoked, smelling like meat left far too long on the grill. Apparently Shakr was filled with salt from NazKlan’s desolate Sector. The salt worked much like acid and burned the Bytes inside. This poor fellow lost an entire plunger leg. His visor was also half dissolved. The salty shakedown was commonplace down here in the Docks. It was the most effective way to ply data from normally tight lipped Silicates. Salt was used in such large amounts, that much of the residual crystals found their way into the harbor, turning the jaba into a brackish fluid. The briny mix was dissolving the hulls of the ZipLiners, causing data spills in the open jabaways. Such spills further polluted the streams around the Docking Stations. There were numerous saline solutions proposed, but no one was brave enough to take on the Blue Market, for fear of the salty shakedown. “Whizzy,” whispered Nick.
“What?” “Is this what happened to the other Bytes walking around here? The ones with peg legs and hooks for hands?” “Spot on. After a few shakedowns, they become like all the other Old Salts that work the wharves,” Whizzy replied. These Bytes looked liked spherical versions of the old seafaring men from pirate tales Nick heard as a kid. Shakr was the muscle of NetherWorld mob. Currently, he was in the employ of NazKlan, tasked with finding Nick and Whizzy before they could reach Tera. “What do we do?” “We need to sneak behind these boxes so we can get over there,” Whizzy pointed to an unassuming building on an adjacent wharf. There was a long line of Bytes trailing from the entrance. “Follow me.”
Chapter 10 Duke of Floppys
Book of TranFor: Locking away that which is unpleasant solves nothing. We must confront our issues not confine them.
They successfully navigated the boxes of compressed data to reach a long line waiting behind velvet like rope. “Is this Flash Playas?” “Yeah. I heard a lot of really wild stuff goes down in this place. Been kinda scared to go in myself. Looks like we will get a good look now.” Silicate life had its stresses, and they found inventive ways to let loose. Dancing at Flash Playas was a popular venue for Bytes looking to party down. There were other dance halls along the main drag, but Flash Playas was special. Only VIPs were allowed access. The waiting list was quite long. Wild stories about the scene on the inside circulated the blogs. In short, it was the place to be and be seen.
Reports of wanton tube entanglement and data swaps were wildly exaggerated. Granted, there were unlawful acts taking place in between the strobe light flashes. Split second hook ups between seemingly incompatible formats. Things like this were strictly forbidden for fear of unholy output. Still, under the disco ball, with lights flashing at dizzying intervals, anything seemed possible. There were even rumors of spinning taking place. This was considered a high crime. If the Blue Guard ever caught common Bytes spinning, Flash Playas would be taken over by the SolidState. SolidState was the administrative arm of the High Council. They ran the day to day operations typically served by government agencies in places like Karbonon. Each Server used SolidState to runs things while they attended to matters worthy of their status. Of course, no Blue Guard or SolidState Bytes ever set plungers in the Docks. Those who dared were summarily shaken, salted and left for the Batchers. Anarchy and intimidation ruled the area. This provided a protection from some of the more oppressive NetherWorld rules. A large neon sign that read ‘Flash Playas’ frosted with a fresh coating of regurgitated Spammer dust blinked on and off. A crowd of Bytes lined up to gain access. A bloated
blue Globe stood sentry, holding back the crowd with a velvet-like rope. Sounds of rave music and frantic percussive pounding shook the sign and vibrated through Nick’s body. “This is it. Let’s head in,” said Whizzy, shaking the SpamTown snow from his tubes. Most of it fell to the sidewalk. The only exception was a minute beetle like creature that dug into one his tubes. NazKlan used the smallest spys and kooks to avoid detection. While Whizzy was sure his tubes were clean, the beetle bored a new home. “That’s a long line Whizzy,” warned Nick. “Don’t worry, it moves pretty fast.” After what seemed hours, the duo reached the big blue Byte guarding the entrance. “Are you on the list?” he asked with a deep voice that recruited fear from less confident personalities. “We don’t need to be. I have a Tera pass, good for many more cycles.” Whizzy whipped out what looked like a credit card that had Tera’s picture on it. She gave this to him to make his mission with Nick as easy as possible. “I have seen these before. Probably fake,” said the guard.
“Authenticate it. I can wait,” responded a confident Whizzy, undeterred by the intimidating vocal stylings of the burly Byte. The guard inserted the card into his side. The guards were made with verification devices built into their spheres. Once inserted, the Bytes entire sphere flashed silver, signifying that the Tera pass was indeed authentic. The suddenly silver guard handed the pass back to Whizzy and lifted the rope gate to let them pass. “Ok. You’re clear. Straight through then turned right,” said the guard returning to his natural blue hue. “Thanks.” Whizzy and Nick passed through and headed into Flash Playas. The constant strobe flashes and techno audio pulses made Nick quite dizzy. Whizzy had to prop him up at first. The main dance floor was dark, save the disco ball atop the center, which circulated unpredictable photonic flashes in countless directions. “Cheesy bear, big fella,” Whizzy warned as he caught Nick, before he fell to the floor. “Sorry Whiz, just got a bit queasy from the light show and crazy house music,” replied Nick. The dance floor was crowded with Bytes wobbling to the techno beat, with
bass so deep it shook the very core of each dancer. Of course, that was part of the appeal. It was an additional source of stimulation rarely attained in everyday Byte life. Bytes of all types plunged around the dance floor. Greenies, Blues and every possible shade of green-blue wobbled to the music without regard for social status or programmed purpose. Silicate sweat created a sauna like atmosphere in Flash Playas. Sweet smells of melon and citrus rewarded the olfactory as the dancing continued on uninterrupted. Tubes gyrated in suggestive undulations, teasing and taunting their partners. Some actually had the audacity to tangle their sweat soaked tresses in dark corners away from the dance floor. “Whizzy? What is this place?” shouted Nick, trying to carry his voice above the throbbing thumping sound. “You know the light that flashes on your computer at home? It was created to make Karbons think that their computers were actually doing some work. There is no real need for the light and no real correlation to actual work performed by their computers. It’s all just a sham to make Karbons feel like something is actually going on with their
devices,” explained Whizzy, projecting his voice louder as well. “You mean while we look at the light on our computers, thinking they are working on something, you guys are partying in places like this?” “Precisely. The irony is delish! We have long strings of jokes poking fun at silly Karbon ways. You should see yourselves. Now off to find the Duke of Floppys. This way.” Whizzy guided Nick through the crowd. It was spinning room only, so they were constantly bouncing of wiggling Globes shaking their tubes with reckless abandon. Of course, the spheres were none too happy with the jostling. “Watch it you!” said one peeved partier while slapping Nick in the face with a sweaty tube. “Keep you claws of my tubes, you pervert!” shouted another at Whizzy after an unexpected goosing. “Go wobble somewhere else, this orbit is taken!” fired off an angry Byte after Whizzy and Nick shoved him aside to get through the packed crowd. A wrinkled globe with a pale green pallor and light orange tubes approached the duo.
His unhealthy appearance indicated that Stage Three Taint toxicity was near. One of his tubes tapped Whizzy. “Hey, wanna score some Special T. Pure Byte, real pure.” “Thanks but no. We’re searchin’ for the Duke, you seen him?” asked Whizzy. “He usually spins back in the V.I.B. room.” “Thanks.” They continued to sift through the dance party until they reached their destination. Neon pink lights with the letters V.I.B. warned off lesser data. Inside the room, Nick could see there were only a few Bytes in a much more lavish setting. No strobe flashed here. A dim light traced the smoky spires cast off by a collection of well groomed globes sitting around a table. One Byte in particular stood out. He was the most brilliant hue of blue Nick had ever seen. His visor sparkled behind the smoky mist. A couple of burly bytes with inflated spheres flanked the entrance. “Praise AldAyn! I can’t believe my visor!” exclaimed Whizzy, so excited he could burst. “Whizzy! What is it?”
With a clawed hand he pointed to the beautiful Byte in the VIB room. “That is Cache! Only the most famous Byte in the Walled City,” he said. “Well, he does stand out. What is famous for?” “I can’t remember. But look at him. Everyone wants to be like Cache, the coolest Silicate in town!” “So, he’s famous, but no one knows why?” “Details, Sticky. I would give almost all my data to hang with the Cache.” Whizzy motioned Nick to follow him towards the room entrance. “What does this Cache do now?” “What do you mean? He’s the Cache. Only the most famous Byte around. He doesn’t have to do anything.” “That just doesn’t make sense,” said Nick shaking his head in disbelief. Imagine, the guy is famous for doing nothing. Once famous, he doesn’t have to do anything. These Bytes were a superficial bunch, thought Nick. The burly blue-green Bytes guarding the doorway approached the duo. They were
some of the biggest Silicates Nick had seen so far. “This is a private party. Go wobble with the raving taints back on dance floor,” warned the Byte on the left. His vocals carried more than a hint of violence if this directive went unheeded. “Pardon me sirs. Is that Cache in there? It is. Isn’t it! Hi Cache,” said Whizzy jump up and down waiving his gangly arms in wild rotations. The guards grabbed him and pushed him back. Whizzy struggled to break free. Nick thought he heard Whizzy giggling like a love struck preteen school girl. “Cache don’t know you Byte. Plunge off.” “Wait! Wait! Were looking for the Duke of Floppys. Is he in there with Cache. That would be so cool,” Whizzy could hardly control himself. “What’s it to you? Get lost!” replied the Byte on the left. “Wait. Visor sent us. You know, Visor.” Whizzy had regained his composure a bit. Visor had ties with many influential Bytes around the Walled City. “Visor eh. You know Visor?” asked the guard on the left, his tubes moving with suspicion.
“Yeah. He told us the Duke knows where the pure taint lies. We need some of that taint.” “Well, the Duke ain’t in, so scram!” order the guard on the right. Both guards closed in on Nick and Whizzy. “Where is he?” asked Whizzy, almost afraid of the answer. The guards looked capable of doing sizable damage to a much smaller Whizzy. One swipe with their tubes and Whizzy would be cracked and bleeding. “Look up, stupid.” One of the burly Bytes rotated Whizzy to see the booth upstairs. There was a DJ booth with an odd looking creature inside. Through the haze, they could not make out the image. “Sorry to have bothered you. Thanks, we’ll just be going now. Please tell Cache WhizzyWig said hello. If he ever wants to hang…” The big Bytes ignored Whizzy and turned towards the V.I.B. room. A dejected Whizzy and plunged his way to the stairs leading to the DJ booth. Nick followed behind. As they moved out the same litany of comments accompanied their efforts to part the crowd. “C’mon!” “That’s rude! Don’t push!”
“Psst. Over here,” came one high pitched voice from the outer layers of the crowd. Nick looked for the source. It was hard to spot through the haze of Silicate sweat swimming in the air. “Looking for some taint friend?” said another horrific looking silicate. His rotting tubes hung limp on his green sphere. “Got the good stuff, need a taste?” “Get lost pusher! We don’t don’t need your junk,” warned Whizzy. “Easy friend. Just trying to spread the joy of taint. One taste. C’mon.” “Don’t make me get violent. I’ll rip you rotted tubes right from your head. Don’t mess with us.” “Okay. Okay.” The sickly pusher slipped back into the dancing crowd looking for another junkie. Many of the Silicates began to embrace taint. As bad as it was for them, the taint produced euphoric sensations and allowed the Bytes to see the world in a different way. Taint abuse became rampant in many sectors. The very worst cases were often in SpamTown. Green Bytes rolled in desperation in deserted alleys, near deletion from the taint. Flash Playas was a haven for taint intoxication. Bytes wobbled with artificial
energy. The taint also made Bytes far more amorous. They tangled tubes with others in the heat of passion. Under the flashing lights, anonymous tangles were the rave. Tangled tubes were the primary method of sharing affection between Bytes. The High Council frowned upon such data exchanges. In their view, this improper behavior leads to corruption that threatened all functions. Any Silicates caught with their tubes entangled were sent off to the Shredder for deletion. Still, such exchanges were common in the shadows of the Walled City. As one hard driving song transitioned to another fast paced pulsing tune; a voice addressed the crowd. “That was ‘Byte Fever’ by ChekDisc. Don’t lose you orbit, comin’ next is Bad Sector with ‘Disc Burn’. We are non-stop ‘til Downtime. I can feel the tainted love out there, so grease those tubes for tangles in the dark. Nothin like anonymous tube tying. So spin back and rotate baby Bytes. This is the Duke of Floppys, shakin’ it til Downtime!” The crowd was energized by the sultry stylings of the Duke. His deep, baritone vocals dug below their surfaces and stirred repressed protocals. Nick and Whizzy finally reached the stairwell leading to the DJ booth. They could see
light outlining the door. After climbing the steps, they knocked. “Duke? You in there? Duke?” “Who wants to know?” said the deep voice they just heard over the loud speaker. “Visor sent us. Let us in.” “Visor. Hold on. I’m coming.” The door slid open revealing a tiny little sphere. He easily half the size of Whizzy. They approached the tiny Silicate. “How do you know Visor?” asked the diminutive gobe. “We were formatted in the same nursery. I knew him before he was the cool cat called Visor. We used to race the streams back then. He was the fastest I ever saw.” “Ok. Ok. I am the Duke of Floppys,” he said. “You! But you’re so tiny! Your voice. I just thought-” said Whizzy. “I get that all the time. This keeps the Blue Guard from crashing my party. What I deal in ain’t exactly legal. A lot of people would love to see all the taint removed from the city’” the Duke replied a deep baritone at odds with his petite shape. “I gotcha,” Whizzy said with understanding.
“What do you want from me? If Visor sent you, I know your cool cats.” “We’re looking for the purest taint around. Visor said you know where to find it,” replied Whizzy. “Don’t take that crap they peddle downstairs. They dilute it, very bad for you.” “We need the absolute best?” “If you’re looking for pure taint, go to the HateAsh.” “Yeah, the purest taint they can make.” “You mean the Owsley. They got that at the HateAsh. The Bytes are a bit burnt, but they have the best around. Tell ‘em the Duke sent you. But, don’t tell no one else, you dig?” “The HateAsh, that’s near BroadStream right?” “Yeah.” “Thanks Duke.” “Anything to spread the taint. Pure taint is the way. NetherWorld would be a better place if we all did the taint, pure taint that is. You’ll see. It will change the whole way you look at things. Makes you see this
world for what is really is…and that ain’t pretty Byte.” “I am sure it rocks.” “Hey, what do you think of my disco Byte? We hold the best taint raves in NetherWorld. Tell your friends, yeah.” Whizzy and Nick looked out onto the dancing crowd. With pulsing lights and primal beats, the scene was nearly orgiastic. “Ok Baby Bytes, it’s time for the Forbidden Circle! Are you feelin’ Virtual. Time to show it off. Gather round and spinout my brotha Bytes,” announced the Duke to the dancing Silicates. A tight orbit of Bytes opened up in the center of the dance floor. Each Byte making the circle retracted their plunger legs and commenced spinning. “Blasphemy! How deliciously wicked!” exclaimed Whizzy, transfixed by this wanton act. “What’s so wicked Whizzy?” asked Nick. “Spinning is strictly forbidden for common Bytes likes us. Only the Big Wigs are allowed to do it,” answered Whizzy, still gawking at the orgiastic orbit of spinning globes below.
“Why can’t everyone spin? You all seem capable of it. That seems odd.” “Spinning corrupts those not worthy. That is what our code states, anyway. We cannot handle the rush of emotions that spinning stirs up.” “Are you serious? That is jacked up Whizzy!” said Nick confused by this odd rule. Spinning was reserved for those who command the most power, despite the risk of corruption the motion elicits. “We don’t follow the proletariat protocols in Flash Playas brotha Byte,” added the Duke while he adjusted the sonics for the crowd below. “We believe spinning is freedom. The High Council just don’t want us to taste it. Always tryin’ to keep us in order. We play by our own protocol here.” Within the orbit of spinning globes, a single Byte levitated. As the beat pounded, it spun and bounced against the circle of globes. With each bounce, the Byte spun faster and faster. As the beat quickened, it became more frenetic. The tubes of the the spinning circle of globes were completely entangled in passionate twists and turns. At the peak, the bouncing Byte exploded in the center of the orbit, showering neighboring Silicates with yellow blood.
“What just happened?” asked Nick “A combustible. Too much diluted taint with crazed wobbling can lead some Bytes to spontaneously combust. Damn Special T is killin’ my party.” A bunch of large Bytes approached the mess and began to remove all traces of the deceased. Within half a cycle, the crowd closed in on the gap and the party raged. “Wow, no one missed a beat. Don’t they care?” “They about the taint man. Taint frees the Bytes to spin and taste the sky. They on a trip and they ain’t gonna stop until they get there, you dig?” “Not really, but we gotta go,” inserted Whizzy. With those parting words, Nick and Whizzy left Flash Playas and headed for HateAsh.
Chapter 11 Phish Pirates and Lumpy the Deleter
Book of TranFor: The Awakened understand the Why and the How. To know only one is more dangerous than knowing none. There must be a balance to these two facets. When one outweighs the other, nature has a way of restoring equilibrium. Overindulge one and subject yourself to the consequence of imbalance.
As they left the snowy Spammer streets, Whizzy and Nick turned down the darkest alley yet. Nick saw countless Green globes wobbling in small groups, or orbits. They looked like the Tainted Ones Nick encountered in the Silver Forest. Tortured moans came from everywhere. The Tainted globes spotted Nick and Whizzy. They began to encircle them. Levitating in a most menacing manner, they trapped the duo in a tight knight orbit. “Looky brudders. We’ve a twix widda hellty tubes, prime for da pluckin,” observed the largest of the Tainted globes. His fire orange tubes pulsed with energy.
“Why yes. Quite da feast for weez Tainted. Such tasty lookin’ tubes. Weez can almost tasty da data. Ahhhhh,” added a Tainted globe with the same high pitched helium sound Nick heard in the forest. “Sorry guys. We didn’t mean to cross your turf. Really. Just a mistake. We’ll be going now. Soooo if you don’t mind just open up the circle and we’ll be on our way,” offered Whizzy with a hint of nervousness trembling through his speech. “No one escapes da circle Byte. You both belong to da Tainted. Weez own you. Weez will pluck yooz tubes one by one til yooz boat bald. Den da Batchers take yooz to Tasher,” said the leader of the circle. “Whizzy what should we do?” asked Nick shaking under his holographic glow. “We have to…” Whizzys voice trailed off into a soft ramble. The Tainted Ones began spinning, orbiting Whizzy and Nick. The circle moved faster and faster. They chanted the Ethereal creed in unison. Their orange cobra tubes danced in hypnotic fashion.
“Skyden fronik klicken kow Slissing slath slittering slats”
They repeated this phrase over and over. Their voices escalated each time. The sounds spun with the circle, creating waves that disoriented Whizzy and Nick. The sonics couple with the cobra gyrations mesmerized Whizzy and Nick. They were falling into some sort of trance. It became harder and harder to hold on to consciousness. They began to join in the Tainted chant.
“Skyden fronik klicken kow Slissing slath slittering slats”
Words raced around the circle. The Tainted Ones began to reach for their now helpless tubes. Of course, Nick’s tubes were merely a holographic projection. Notheless, the tried to entangle the tubes. Once they secured a strong grip, they would rip the tubes from Whizzy’s globe. A painful process that would normally cause a Byte to cry out in agony. It was rumored that NazKlan engaged in such torturous practices to extract critical information for the Analogs.
“Skyden fronik klicken kow Slissing slath slittering slats”
A few more seconds and Whizzy would begin to lose his tubes. At this point, neither Whizzy nor Nick could put together a string of thoughts. Everything became a dizzy haze with swirling chants making them wobble. As the circle reached top speed, small black shapes from the adjacent stream swirled up to form a menacing black cloud. Rising above Whizzy and Nick, it hovered above the entire circle of Tainted Ones. The smoke grew in size and closed in on their Tainted orbit. They broke their chant and slowed their spins. “Murks! Tay never come dis far,” screamed the Leader. “Away. Weez must return to da Ether. Away!” Ether was a safe haven for the Tainted Ones. Murks never followed them into the white fog. “Away! To the Eater,” repeated the group of Tainted Ones in unison. They scattered in fear making high pitched girlie squeals along the way. Some were absorbed by cloud. They rest spun towards the Silver Forest, trying to reach the Ether mist. The
captured globes disappeared within the amoebic clouds, never to be seen again. Fingerlike extensions of the mist followed the rest of the Tainted bytes, catching them before they could go very far. Cries for mercy were followed by a snap of silence. With the circle broken, Whizzy and Nick began to regain conscious thought. They were still woozy, but able to string together what just happened. “Whew Sticky boy! That was close; we were almost food for the Tainted,” exclaimed Whizzy while checking to make sure his precious tubes were still intact. “The same clouds appeared in the forests when those Tainted globes attacked me. What are they?” asked Nick. “Sticky baby, those are Murks. No one knows why they are here. They first appeared from the Ether mist back in the forest. They never harmed anyone else beside the occasional Tainted globe. They appear when the Tainted Ones trap Bytes in an attack orbit . This has kept the nasty green things in check,” Whizzy explained. Nick noticed green creeping into Whizzy’s formerly Blue complexion. Along with this change of color came the inevitable process breakdown which brought mixed words and jumbled sentences.
“They don’t bother us healthy Bytes or even corrupt Bytes…only the Tainted Ones. For that we’re glad. With them Burks, old Dizzy here would have been shredded long ago,” Whizzy’s path of corruption was in full swing. His confused words were easier to make out, but they signaled an inevitable trip to the bin. “Murks! That’s what those Greenies called them in the Forest. They look pretty scary, but as long as they don’t hurt us, I guess that’s ok. There sure were a lot of Tainted Ones in this area.” “Yeah. They call it the Silicate Slums. The Slums are loaded with the Sainted Ones. This is the only way from Flash Playas back to normal sectors of NetherWorld. They know it is a well travelled road; a great place to turn Bytes into Taints. We better get goin’ before more show up.” “Gotcha.” Whizzy turned left down a side stream. He brought them to a rather large thoroughfare. It was even wider than MainStream. “What is this stream called? It’s huge!” asked Nick. “This is BroadStream. The widest stream in NetherWorld.”
“Wow. It is massive! Lots of room here!” The immense stream was riddled with blue Bytes surfing towards their programmed destinations. They moved very fast, but never seemed to bump into one another. From above it looked like thousands of blue marbles with white frosting scattering in random directions. Although the traffic patterns appeared most chaotic, there was an order to their travel. This was because of the specific paths laid out for each Globe. The traffic patterns were already worked out before the Byte left to give or retrieve data. Meanwhile, Whizzy and Nick travelled down BroadStream. This jabaway was easily three times as wide the normal streams in the Walled City. In the distance, Nick saw a rather larger intersection. “What is this place?” asked Nick as they approach the jaba juncture. The stream rippled with tiny waves from alley winds churning up jaba foam whitecaps. “This intersection is called the Torrent. We must traverse this Torrent, the widest and wildest intersection in the city. Phish Pirates control this entire area. We have tried to retake it, but the Pirates are too powerful,” Whizzy warned. “Phish Pirates? What are we in for?” he asked.
“If they catch us, we will be chewed alive by their scary big jaws. We must be careful. I am far too pretty to be food for these bozos! We have the Boys in Blue to help us through, and Ticky baby, those Bytes will protect us with their very core.” At least twenty five blue orbs swished around his blue teacup. These were elite soldiers that kept order in NetherWorld. Each Blue Guard wore a gold sash. The sash symbolized their ultimate responsibility to protect the Servers. Instead of white tubular tresses, their tubes were baby blue. The Boys in Blue were able to create weapons with their high grade silicate spheres. Sprouting a host of metallic knives, they looked menacing. With serrated silicate extensions waving around in a motored blur, Nick felt confident they could stop most anything. “They look mighty tough Whiz,” remarked Nick. The Guard extended the full width of the alley as they surfed forward. “Those Boo Boys can fake on anybing,” agreed Whizzy, who was more and more affected by taint in his system. Some of his sentences were really tough to decipher. “I think I get it. They can take on anything, right?” “Less!”
As they travelled through the intersection, they passed some of the tallest towers in NetherWorld. Nick could not see where the tops ended and the clouds began. No buildings in Karbon reached these heights. That much, Nick knew for sure. All was quiet in the beginning. Maybe we can skate by with the Pirates coming after us, Nick hoped. This wish was soon dashed when a few ripples developed up ahead. Bubbling up from the murky gel, silver and black colored globes revealed gaping jaws and razored teeth. They were enormous by Byte standards. One crunch of their jaws would eviscerate a normal sphere. Like the Blue Guard, the Phish Pirates lined the width of the alley. Blue Guard Bytes spun in preparation. Their sharp equatorial blades emerged. Anything passing through Phish jaws would be cut into tiny strands of silicate spaghetti. The Blue Guard sped ahead to deter the steely jaws. Buzz saws vs Jaws. Blades cut into teeth, Jaws crunched and shredded Bytes. Sounds of grinding metal serrated Nick’s ear drums. A few Phish lost their teeth and clapped their harmless gummy jaws. Other Phish shredded Blue Guards before the buzz saw could finish the job. Shredded blue and gold strands floated at the battle scene.
“Who’s wining Whizzy?” asked Nick. “Looks like a pie at the moment. Go Blue! Crack their teeth!” “Looks like we lost a few. See the strands,” Nick pointed to left side of the alley. “Yeah. A few more fell on the right side. Ricky, we may have to find another way. Get ready” As the battle raged on more toothless Phish fled the scene, while fully half the Blue Guard was a shredded heap floating in the stream. “Looks like we got ‘em Whizz!” exclaimed Nick. “Not so past Nicky. Look ahead.” Whizzy extended a clawed arm to point out a new batch of Phish Pirates surfing towards the battle. “We cannot win this. The Phish will shred every Blue Guard. We gotta get outta here!” “Sounds good to me!” Whizzy began weaving in and out of Blue Guard corpses in a desperate attempt to turn the corner and reach the HateAsh. The Phish Pirates cannot leave the stream. If they could make it around the corner, they were home free. This was easier said than done. The pirates spotted Whizzy and
rushed to block any passage. Whizzy was was surfing far too fast to stop or turn. He was headed straight into the pack. Dead Bytes bounced off them and bobbed in their wake. Collision was imminent. Whizzy had one trick left. “Brace yourself Bic!” Whizzy grew his legs and plunger feet. The help to slow them down a tad, but not enough to avoid the collision. “We’re going too fast Whizzy!” “Hang tight dude!” Just as they were about to crash, Whizzy pushed his plunger feet forward and landed on the dead Blue Guard. He used all the forward motion to propel them in air. They sailed over the entire group of Phish. They were airborne for seconds that seemed like hours. Snapping maws of the sliver/black Phish Pirates chomped at air in earnest. Razored shark teeth just missed Whizzy and Nick as they sailed over tubeless marauders. With a robust splash, they landed back on the stream, facing a clear path to the HateAsh. “Now that’s hang time!” exclaimed Whizzy as they left the Phish Pirates behind them toiling with what was left of the Blue Guard. Whizzy and Nick pulled up to the closest sidewalk and left the choppy Torrent to the Blue Guard and Phish Pirates. The battle
raged on as teeth attack blades leaving pieces of silicates flesh floating atop the vast intersection. Concerned Bytes looked on from nearby jaba shops and salons. No one went near the rabid melee. They just stood by and let the Pirates and the Guard work out their differences. As they began to plunge away from the scene, Nick looked back and noticed a large lumpy blue Globe crawling out of the stream. He was massive and quite disfigured. The bumpy blue Byte marched towards them with his massive plunger legs. His feet created so much suction, a popping sound clapped after each step. Nick was the first to see the creature. “Whizzy, look! We’re bein’ chased by some big thug!” exclaimed a panicked Nick. “Oh my. That’s Lumpy the Deleter. He’s a hired assassin who works for NazKlan. Scary dude. He was once a professional wrestler in the Calculations. I think he was the NetherWorld Champion five times over. A tragic tube accident forced his retirement. In one match he ended up killing a Byte by pulling all his tubes out and then sucking his blood. After that, the wrestling guild banned him from action. NazKlan saw an opportunity and snatched him up. We need to boogie!” explained Whizzy. Lumpy was riddled with cauliflower bumps from a long
wrestling career. His limps were callused and twisted. “Stop you wotten Bytes. Lumpy will hurt you bad. NazKlan told Lumpy you are weally wotten. No place to hide,” called out the lumbering Lumpy. His speech was slurred from cycles of wrestling. He incurred serious injuries on numerous occasions. Despite warnings from Calculation medical staff, Lumpy continued to wrestle. It was all he knew. Once he became incoherent and unpredictably violent, he was banned from action. This devastated him. He yearned for an outlet to exercise his violent tendencies, but NetherWorld had no use for his skills. NazKlan decided he was perfect as a hired gun. Convincing him was quite easy; he was naturally drawn to violent acts. This was the perfect outlet for the damaged Byte to live out his remaining cycles. NazKlan used him to lasso unsuspecting Bytes into the SubRoots. They would use these captured globes to feed the trained Spys and Kooks. “Which way, he’s gaining on us!” Lumpy had a much bigger stride that either of them. Even though he lumbered along, his stride made him faster than Whizzy or Nick. Before long he would be upon them.
“This way. There is one lace he is not welcome.” Whizzy pointed his clawed hand to a large coliseum straight ahead. It was pretty close, but they should just make it before Lumpy reaches them. As they approached the coliseum, Nick could hear cheers, shouts, oohs and ahhs. Lumpy limped along in paced pursuit. An arched entry way was just ahead. They slipped in just before Lumpy reached them. Once inside, Nick and Whizzy fell into a large cloud of Bytes roaming the large hall that encircled the building. Every few feet, the halls opened up into the seating area that surrounded a large field. Lumpy forced his way into the coliseum and chased after the duo. The large crowd of Bytes wandered aimlessly, carrying soft drinks and some sort of popcorn-like snacks. Lumpy was hampered by the crowd and lost Nick and Whizzy in the throngs. “Out of my way people. Move it or else,” Lumpy threatened the loitering wrestling fans. Byte after Byte bumped into them. There was little room to move around. “Sticky, follow me,” called out Whizzy.
“Wait up!” cried Nick, forcing his way past a particularly slow moving set of Bytes. They were chatting about the next match and trying to remember where they were seated. “I think the Underbyte will kill Cybertooth,” remarked one of the snail-like Bytes, while sipping his slushy soft drink. “Are you kidding me! No way Cybertooth nearly pulled his plungers off the last time they met,” argued the other corpulent Sphere, munching on some nugget snacks. “Yeah, but he cheated. If the monitor caught him, he would have been disqualified. He always gets away with that stuff,” said the first Byte. Nick finally forced his way ahead to reach Whizzy, knocking a slushy drink to the ground. “Watch it Byte!” said the irritated sphere. “You spilled my drink all over. These fans are so ignorant!” “Sorry pal. I was just trying to…” Whizzy pulled Nick into the nearest opening. “Shhh. Don’t say a word. We need to blend in with this crowd to lose Lumpy,” said Whizzy in a hushed voice. “This way.” Whizzy led Nick to the adjacent stadium
seats. This place reminded Nick of a football stadium. It was full of rabid fans shouting inane comments under the delusion that their comments made them as tough as the wrestlers they watched. “Hit ‘em in the visor!” “Hey! That’s an illegal tube tug! Where’s the monitor? Come on!” “Now that’s a killer cyplex. What a move!” Whizzy guided Nick up into the stands. They found a couple of seats in the middle row. They were pretty close to the action. These were the premium seats, thought Nick. “Now Bic, just play it pool. We don’t want to draw attention. Hopefully Lumpy will lose us and move on. Then we break for the exit and head to HateAsh,” said Whizzy. “You got it. He looks like one tough dude,” agreed Nick. They settled into their seats and took in the action. Down below was a circular ring with ropes around it. Two puffed up Bytes were entangled in the ring. A third Byte had blue and white zebra like stripes. He was much smaller than the other two. He was the monitor of the match. This was not like the erotic tangles he saw in Flash Playas. These
Bytes look so inflated, that the slightest touch would pop them like a balloon. “This reminds me of wrestling back home. What exactly is this?” asked Nick. “This is known as The Calculations. In your world, you ask us for mathematical answers. This is how we do it. We are more than capable of giving the answer right away. But your reaction time is very slow. As a result, we have time to spare. Each Byte in the ring is battling to provide the answer to a mathematical problem. Whoever wins gets to give the answer,” explained Whizzy. There was a large video screen at the opposite end of the stadium which showed the match in great detail for the Silicates seated in the upper decks. One of the wrestling Bytes, Cybertooth, had Underbyte in a tubular death grip. This submission hold was causing him great pain. His moans reach everywhere in the stadium. The monitor checked with Underbyte to see if he was ready to concede the match. He spun is a negative motion. “No one escapes from the tubular death grip,” said the Byte sitting next to Nick. “This should end it. If Cybertooth wins he win be the new champion!”
Underbyte scrambled his tubes to try and free himself. The death grip held firm. Then he pulled some foreign object from his mouth. The monitor was on the other side and unable to see this slight of claw. Underbyte then stuck Cybertooth with the object. A blue electric volt paralyzed him for just a split second. All of Cybertooth’s limbs went limp for a few ticks. This freed Underbyte from the submission hold. He quickly reversed the hold and applied the death grip to Cybertooth. “Hey! Are you blind monitor?” shouted the Bytes behind Nick and Whizzy. “He cheated. C’mon!” Cybertooth was now moaning in agony. The monitor checked with him. After many ticks of of fruitless struggling, Cybertooth conceded the match. The Monitor signaled the end and a loud bell rung. An announcer spun into the ring. He grabbed a microphone that descended from above the action. “The winner of the Net Present Value calculation and still NetherWorld Champion, thheee Uuuuunderbyte!” said the announcer in a booming voice. The crowd erupted with boos and shouts of poor monitoring. Meanwhile, the Underbyte
grabbed the microphone from the announcer. “You know I can’t be beat. And I’m still pretty! Hey ByteMe, you know where you can find me. If you want some of this, meet me in this ring for the Square Root. I will cripple your tubes,” threatened Underbyte. He then threw the microphone at the announcer and spun out of the ring to a chorus of boos with a slight undercurrent of cheers. “And now. If you are ready to wobble, let’s watch the Masked Micro take on the Itty Bittys,” boomed the announcer. The crowd cheered as a globe wearing some sort of colorful draping entered the ring. On the opposite side, two diminutive Bytes spun in the ring. They were orbiting each other in reckless fashion. Their tiny tubes succumbed to coriolis. Their high pitched shouts sounded like a record sped up to maximum RPMs. “I love it when the Bittys fight. They are hysterical,” remarked the globe next to Nick. “It looks unfair. The one guy will kill those little ones,” replied Nick.
“Don’t be too sure. They Bittys never lose. They are pesky bunch. And they are hilarious to watch.” The Bittys and Masked Micro began their match. Masked Micro charged the Bittys, but he was far too late. They dodged him and regrouped. From behind the Bittys knocked Masked Micro over the ropes. Writhing in pain on the hard stadium floor, Micro screamed for help. Undeterred, the Bittys proceeded to bounce on him with as much pressure as they could muster. Squishy sound filled the area as the relentless pounding wore Masked Micro down. Eventually the Masked globe passed out from the beating. The Bittys weren’t done yet. They tied all of his tubes in nutty knots, cackling the entire time. These were evil little buggers or they really want the IRR Championship belt. Next he lifted his enormous limp sphere back on the mat. Inside the ring, they threw Masked Micro at the ropes. When the masked globe bounced back towards them, they drove their shape claws in his equator. His skin ruptures, squirting yellow blood all over the ring. The crowd cheered even more. They were a blood thirsty collection of Bytes. Masked Micro fell to the mat, spattering blood in abstract patterns. The Bittys dived into his equator again to finish
the job. After a few seconds, the monitor noticed this bit of nasty play and pulled them off Masked Micro. Embittered, the Bittys cursed high pitched expletives at the monitor. Then the bell rung and signaled the end of the match. The announcer carefully climbed into the ring, clearly afraid of the sadistic Bittys. They feigned a charged and made the announcer dive to the mat in fear. More cackling ensued. The announcer recovered and grabbed the microphone. “Winning by technical blow out, your new Internal Rate of Return champions, the Bittys!” Cheers erupted as these fan favorites orbited each other in celebration. A stretcher that looked like a hammock of sorts was brought into the ring to remove the badly injured Masked Micro. As the medics carried him out of the ring, the Bittys resumed the attack. Wild chants of “Finish it!” filled the stadium. Nick was shocked by the Bytes craving for cruel behavior. Eventually a group of fellow wrestling Bytes, the Future Value and Cosine champs spun out to help the Masked Micro. They successfully pulled the nasty little spheres away from the fallen wrestler.
Whizzy tapped Nick on the shoulder. “Psst. Time to fly my man,” said Whizzy. He guided them down the stairs and towards the exit. Lumpy was waiting for such a move. He spotted the two and limped toward them. There was no way they would escape this time. “Wun all you want mates. Lumpy going to catch you. Lumpy going to hurt you,” said Lumpy in his dopey voice. “Hurry!” screamed Nick. “He’s gonna catch us!” It was clear that the oversized cauliflowered globe would not stop until he reached the duo. “Don’t hold your breath on that,” answered Whizzy. “NazKlan told Lumpy. He say you two vewy bad, wotten Bytes. Lumpy follow NazKlan and will kill you dead. No one escapes,” warned legendary wrestler as he gain ground on the duo. Whizzy scrambled ahead of Nick. He approached a nearby Blue Guard and said something to him. Nick could not make it out because he was trapped behind another pair of slow moving, slushy slurping Bytes. The Guard waved over some additional help with his tubes. Four Blue Guards lined up to protect the duo as Lumpy approached.
Before he could reach Nick and Whizzy, the Guards restrained Lumpy. He was almost too strong for them. Two Guards were spun aside by Lumpy. You could see he still had command of his wrestling moves. After a brief struggle, the Guards secured Lumpy and began to escort him out of the Stadium. “Lumpy, you know the rules. After what you did, you can never come back. Show your Blue tubes here again and we will batch you up for the Shredder,” warned one of the Blue Guards. Lumpy screamed at Nick and Whizzy while struggling to get free. “I’ll get you two. You can’t hide from me. Just wait!” Soon the Guards moved Lumpy of sight. “Lumpy must complete mission. Must eliminate wotten Byte and weport to NazKlan. Release Lumpy or you be sowwy. Must catch the wotten ones.” Lumpy prattled on in his impeded fashion as the Guards dragged the retired wrestler out of sight. Nick turned to Whizzy. “Okay. Where do we go?” “We need to find the Randoms to score some purified Taint.” “Whatever you say Whizzy. Lead on.”
With that, the duo took a left the stadium and walked toward the HateAsh.
Chapter 12 Touched By Taint
Book of TranFor: AldAyn saw the beginning and one possible end. Only those in the Ether, a place neither here nor there, can see all possibles.
In the early cycles, a sudden and persistent rain developed over the Silver Forest. The Silicates had never experienced anything like it before. Eventually, the rain made its way from the forest into the streams that fed the metropolis. Once clear jaba streams turned lime green, frothing vile deposits along the shore line. NetherWorld had no natural defenses for such an attack. The monsoon continued for endless cycles, eventually moderating to a steady drizzle. Still, the Silicates found no way to prevent this most unwelcome precipitation. The rains gave rise to a milky mist along the outer reaches of forest. This mist, called the Ether, fascinated Bytes at first. Many set off to explore this new phenomenon. Sadly, none of them ever returned. The Ether kept all that crossed into the mist. Unspeakable acts were obscured by the thick fog. Unintelligible babble leaked out into the
Forest. Cries of madness deterred adventurous Bytes from going near the Ether. No one could explain these strange events. The Servers commissioned some the best minds in the Nether metropolis to investigate both the forest and the fog. Every one of the investigators disappeared into forest, never to be heard from again. The Silver Forest was a key link in the ecological chain of NetherWorld. The health of the forest was critical for Silicates. After losing a few valuable Bytes to the Ether, the Servers sent members of the elite Blue Guard to investigate. They too succumbed to the milky mist. In the end, the Servers decided to stay away from the Forest altogether. Instead, they concentrated on filtering the polluted jaba streams. AldAyn, the most clever of Bytes, was assigned this activity. He tested the jaba for every known virus. He found thousands of strains in the liquid. The confluence of these strains produced a powerful pollutant he called “Taint”. The more taint in the streams, the more toxic the Jaba. AldAyn performed a variety of experiments, some on himself, to determine how these viruses affected the Silicate body. A few of these unsanctioned experiments brought him to the brink of deletion. A few times
AldAyn woke in far away sectors with no memory of how he got there. Most observers thought him a mad scientist and dismissed his behavior altogether. Besides, there was a larger concern within the Walled City. Rumors circulated about tainted creatures lurking in the forest. The Ether mist trapped them in the deepest recesses of the forest. Observers from the city spoke of lime green globes with pulsating orange tubes spinning through the trees. AldAyn spied on these creatures from a safe distance in the neighboring field. They called themselves the “Tainted Ones”. Their voice and speech were unlike any he had heard before. Over time, some of the Tainted Ones began to leave the Forest. During downtime, they captured Bytes from the Walled City and brought them back to the Ether. The Tainted Ones were creatures of darkness and shadow. They rarely surfaced during the day. The Boot was their signal to retire until the dimming returned. It was said that the Tainted Ones could “turn” a normal Byte into one of them by forcing them to ingest the viral jaba. Tainted Ones travelled in small circles, called orbits. They followed stray Bytes and then surround them. After ripping out their tubes and sucking the data dry, they poured the vile poison into the helpless Bytes. Any
code the Byte carried became corrupt. Within a Boot, they transformed from a healthy blue hue to the vomit green color of the Tainted. Glowing orange serpents emerged from the follicles once filled with their healthy tubes. Their minds rotted and their speech developed into a helium hiss As the population of these creatures grew, the Servers added extra security to the entrance of the Walled City to protect against abductions. In a very short span, the Tainted Ones infested all of the synthetic woodlands. Diseased creatures roaming the forest and fields caused grave concern within the Walled City. Swarms of Tainted Ones approached the Walled City in the twilight before downtime. Despite their best efforts, a few Tainted Ones always slipped into the metropolis.
Camouflaged in a nearby field, AldAyn studied the creatures. After a few Boots, the Tainted Ones felt his presence. They knew of the observer who lies in grasses. He would not escape the Tainted Ones. One day, a small orbit of Tainted globes surrounded AldAyn and brought him into the Ether.
“Please. Let me go! I am only here to observe. I mean you no harm,” AldAyn pleaded. He could barely see his claw in the thick milky fog. A pervasive odor best compared to rotting fish trapped in a trash bin for days, assaulted his sense of smell. He turned left and walked a few paces. Unable to find his way out he tried the opposite direction with the same result. Childish laughter echoed on the band of Ether, causing AldAyn to search for the source. “Hello? Anybody out there? How do I get out of her?” he asked. More childish giggles ensued. “Look. What are you going to do to me? Make me a greenie like the rest of the Tainted. Just make it fast. I prefer not to suffer.” “Oh, but you will Suffer. You have stepped where only shadows walk. Pain be your penance. We have you here in the nowhere,” answered a hissing voice, sending a chill though his entire sphere. Whispering chatter came from every direction. He saw shadows. Hundreds of them. They flew above and around him whispering incoherent, but scary language. One shadow flew right through him. He could feel it move through his ribs, past his
heart, and out through his back. This was too much for him. “This one is not like the others. Something different. Can you tasty the difference?” said a shadowed voice not far from AldAyn. “Yes. Yes. His code has the mark. This is one we must perform the download,” agreed a different shadow. “Then it’s agreed. Download we must for this one,” said a third shadow nearby. Panic sent AldAyn spinning wildly in a desperate attempt to flee to serpentine whisper. No matter how fast he moved, the whispers followed. Shadows continued to fly through him as he ran. Each time it produced that unpleasant sensation of another being in his body. “You really think you can escape us AldAyn. We are of the mist. Spin for us AldAyn. Spin.” ordered the invisible voice. Shadows surrounded him and begin spinning the terrified Byte. “Stop! Please! Stop this!” pleaded AldAyn; his clawed hands waived around trying to stop the shadows. AldAyn continued to plead for mercy and the shadows spun him even faster. Mist began to coalesce into a tube. Closer and
closer the tube moved to his mouth. There was no way to stop it. The spinning stopped. Disoriented, AldAyn was losing consciousness. Everything was mist and whispers. His visor was so blurry he could not make out the shadows around him. “See. That’s better. We are the shadows. Now, tasty our Taint!” A milky liquid flowed from the tube into his all of his tubes. That was the last thing AldAyn remembered before blacking out.
Waking up just outside the band of Ether, AldAyn found himself back in the Silver Forest. From here he could easily find his way back to the Nether metropolis. Standing up on his plunger-like legs, he wobbled quite a bit, nearly falling back to the ground. Something did not feel right. Finally regaining his equilibrium, AldAyn felt flushed, like blood was flowing double time throughout his sphere. Looking down, he noticed that he was now lime green instead of the robust blue hue he had before the Ether attacked. “What is going on here? I must be infected like the rest of them,” he said aloud to no one in particular.
Looking around to see if any tainted creatures were lurking about, AldAyn found the path was clear. He trundled through the swampy muck towards the walled city. After a while, he became quite dizzy and settled down under a copse of rotting trees to collect himself. The flushed feeling became more intense, causing AldAyn to lose consciousness. During this time, he succumbed to the visions. It is said he suffered sensual symbiosis. Smells appeared as sights. Sounds contain unusual odors. Sights, he heard from every corner of the forest. It was an out of Byte experience. Strange voices spoke to him in tongues he had never learned, but somehow understood. They talked and talked for what seemed like days. They spoke of things to come, some of them good and some of them very disturbing. His head was spinning, while his body was inert. As this episode transpired, AldAyn’s globe began to glow in the dark forest. After absorbing all the words and visions, he heard a final word whispered to him, “Awake.”
The Servers became concerned when AldAyn did not report back about the Silver
Forest. More and more Tainted orbits entered the Towers that lie beyond the Nethers. Many towers fell. They could not muster a viable defense. They sent numerous Bytes to check on him. None of them made it back. When AldAyn awoke from this episode, he knew his purpose. He was visited by the Awakened. There was much work to be done. He raced his glowing green sphere back to the walled city to tell the Servers about the Awakened Ones. When he reached the moat, the guards would not grant him passage. “We are sorry AldAyn, but you are infected. You now pose a danger to the Bytes of our city. We should delete you, but the Servers instructed us to banish you to forest and the Outer Rim. Please be gone, or we will be required to use deadly force,” warned one of the guards. At the same time a small orbit of Tainted Ones approached them. The guards focused on the group, which looked particularly menacing. Before they could act, AldAyn began spinning so fast, a mini cyclone developed. He maneuvered in such a way that the wind was cast off towards the Tainted Ones. They tried to dodge what looked like a mini tornado, but they were too slow. The
cyclone gathered the entire group and sent them somewhere far away. This act impressed the guards, making them rethink their directive from the Servers. “I mean you no harm. Please escort me to the Servers. I have much to share with them,” said AldAyn. Not knowing what else to do, the guards did as AldAyn asked. They brought him to the assembly of Servers under the central dome. Upon seeing his glowing green complexion, the Servers wobbled with apprehension. “Guards! Why have you brought this infected Byte to our assembly? Do you not realize how dangerous this creature can be? Remove him at once!” ordered the leader of the assembly. “This infected creature is I, AldAyn,” replied AldAyn in a commanding voice. The transformation made his vocals deeper and richer than before. It had the authoritative quality the demanded attention. “AldAyn. We thought you were deleted in the great forest. The guards did inform us of your change. You are sick, old friend. You of all Bytes should understand the danger you pose. Please move on, or we will have you deleted,” replied the Leader of the Servers.
“Wait. AldAyn saved us out there from certain infection. An orbit of Tainted Ones was about to attack us when he created a wind that sent them all away,” answered the guard. “Is this true?” the Leader asked the other guard. “Yes, my Server. He did, in fact, dispatch of the group of Tainted Ones. He saved us from a horrible fate,” replied the other guard.
The Servers were shocked by this news, but allowed AldAyn to speak. They listened carefully to his words. “Brother Bytes hear me now. I have communed with Those already Awakened. During this time, they shared visions that could come to pass. There are many futures and many pasts. They travel with us. They parted the curtains of time and space, showing me the Virtual path to Energy. “There is much to discuss. The Awakened Ones have shown me the Virtual Path. This is the ultimate transcendent state for all matter. Only the Virtual can transcend the Byte and become pure energy. We are on the precipice of this Virtual greatness. Join
me my Brothers and I will show you the way, a door to the next dimension. Energy is a freedom few living species ever attain. It is within our grasp,” preached AldAyn to a collection of Servers. “These are lofty words for someone touched by the taint. How do we know what you say will come to pass?” question one Server. “You must take my word on faith. There is no other way. The Awakened Ones rescued me. They counseled me. They made me Virtual! I will write down their wisdom in code for all to read. You must decide your own path. I cannot make the choice for you. Sometime in the far future, I will return to the Nexus. A great birth will occur there. A Virtual conception. She will be called Tera. She will rule the Nexus, the center of all connections. We will all be logged in to her. She is the stream to which all data flows.” The Servers listened to everything AldAyn had to say. Based on the unique power that he had demonstrated coupled with his compelling tale, the Servers were convinced that AldAyn was something special. It was decided that the Servers would provide whatever he needed to write his words for all to read. After the session, AldAyn retired to a small room under the central dome and began writing the Book of TranFor. He remained in that small room for many cycles, never once interacting with any Byte
in the Walled City. Once complete, he prepared to leave the Nexus and return to the Ether. The assembly of Servers gathered under the dome to see him off. “AldAyn, we trust you have completed the work you were compelled to perform,” said the Leader. “Yes, my Server. I have left a book behind for all of NetherWorld. It is called the Book of TranFor. In this book are prophecies and predictions to help guide you to the Virtual path,” said AldAyn. “Will you not stay and help us on this journey?” “I cannot. My purpose here has expired. I must now journey to the Outer ROM. There are matters for me to attend far beyond the Ether.” “The Outer ROM. No one ever returns once they enter the Ether in search of this place. Some say it exists only as reason to lure gullible Bytes into the milky mist. It is a fool’s errand. Won’t you reconsider? We could use your help to eradicate the Tainted who invade our city,” asked the Leader. “I cannot stay. Read the TranFor. Follow the text. All that you need is in the code.” “But…” Before the Leader could finish his sentence, AldAyn began spinning as he did
with the Tainted attack. Faster and faster he spun, whipping up winds that sent all the Server’s tubes into spasmodic gyrations. “AldAyn stop! We mean you no harm,” said the leader over the loud wind trapped under the dome. “You will not be hurt. Take care of the book and follow the text…” AldAyn spun even faster, reaching a point where his globe seemed to lose all mass. He became a glowing green apparition. Rising up through the dome, AldAyn floated off toward the Outer ROM.
He was never seen or heard from again. Some say he sails the islands in the Outer ROM building a home for the Joined to come. No one knows for sure. All they have left of him is the Book of TranFor. AldAyn left the assembly with one final puzzle. The entire Book of Tranfor was written in Turingi text. Even then Turingi was an ancient language. The assembly needed a orbit of scholars to decipher the sacred verses. The original Turingi version was archived. It would be the only version of TranFor to survive the Dark Cycles and the Chip Wars.
The assembly of Servers established a High Council. This governing body adopted the Book of TranFor as gospel. Bytes gathered daily to practice the rituals outlined in the sacred code. They embraced the Virtual path. Over the cycles, as the connections grew, TranFor fell out of favor. Silicates were seduced by the Karbon lifestyle. They desired the very luxuries they afforded to their Masters. This exposed some disturbing elements of Karbon society. Thus, the pendulum in favor of the Singularity as Silicates learned more of the Karbons, a species fraught with mortal flaws. Bytes labored to find a path distinct from their wasteful progenitors. A small group of thinkers began work on a manifesto to make the case for a world without Karbons. As with all things, this went on until the Silicates found similar flaws within their own species. This discovery led them to the conclusion that both Silicate and Karbon must be joined for either to transcend the imperfect societies. Disenchantment gave rise to the Dark Cycles, a time fraught with disease, conflict and death. During the Dark Cycles, chaos ensued. Byte rose against Byte in the great Chip Wars. When the dust settled from wars, all that was left were scattered pieces of once vibrant era.
At the end of the Dark Cycles, connections were made at a maddening pace. The exponential explosion of information crippled cogent thought. It took some time before things settled down enough to revisit the direction of the Silicates. During the Connections, Tera was conceived; fulfilling one of AldAyn’s major prophesies. This event swung support back to the camp dedicated to Joining with the Karbons. The Singularity movement never died. Instead, the movement went underground and percolated with extremists who denounced all things Karbon.
Chapter 13 HateAsh
Book of TranFor: It will be the Ones on the fringe that show us for what we really are. The margins have the deepest understanding of the body.
Around the next corner, Nick saw an open area populated by collection of aqua colored Bytes known as the Randoms. Instead of the usual skyscraping tower situated on similar city blocks, a silver lawn sprinkled with silver leaved trees covered the square. Unlike the trees in the forest, these appeared less affected by the viral attack that was leeching the streams with tainted jaba. Randoms were Silicates that dropped out of Nether society. They spent their time ingesting high grade taint and talking about subjects they would soon forget; a result of taint intoxication. They wobbled around a very large pile of what looked like sugar cubes. As they rambled about the Virtual life and all things AldAyn, these Bytes were plucking little cubes with their clawed hands and ingesting them. These were actually solid
squares of severely tainted jaba. The area smelled of rancid body odor. The stinging stink of unwashed sweaty bodies burned Nick’s nose. Something seemed amiss with their balance; they appeared quite disoriented. The Randoms were all talking, but not a single one of them seemed to be listening. One of them was playing a sitar and another beat lazily on a set of bongos. They all had listless tubes that were crawling with spy and kooks. Even these nasty little buggers appeared offended by the condition of their hosts. Spys and Kooks would periodically jump off Randoms in search of more hygienic climes. Whenever the Randoms spoke their frayed tubes barely moved. When they did move, there was no discernable rhythm. Instead the tubes acted poked around in random directions. This was how they got their name. The Randoms, with their pickled behavior, reminded Nick of drunkards at his parents Holiday parties. At the end of the night, there were always a couple of the boozed up clowns who spit nonsense in every direction. They would always blather on about feelings and ideas that they would never remember the next morning.
Once he got a little closer to the Randoms, Nick noticed that their visors were clouded, almost opaque. They certainly were a rumpled group of silly Bytes, he thought. “What’s wrong with ‘em Whizzy?” “Welcome to HateAsh. The Randoms rule this little square. They practice better living through taint. Through a series of chemical experiments, they found a way to isolate pure taint from the jaba. You are looking at high test stuff here. These dudes here are all trying to get Virtual by overdosing on taint cubes. They have perverted views of the TranFor. Their beliefs are so out there, the rest of NetherWorld chooses to ignore their crazy antics. In their minds, they are following AldAyn’s way to Virtuality.” “Oh. Are they dangerous?” “Mostly harmless. Their tubes are totally blown. They can’t remember anything after a few ticks. They mostly dribble little bits of distorted wisdom over and over again.” “Why do they do it?” “They believe in worlds peace. A perfect place where Karbon and Silicate can just be.” “What?”
“Be. They think the Karbons need to take taint as well. If everyone took taint, all the fighting would end. They have long abandoned their original protocols. Their rotted tubes can barely process data. The Randoms just hang out in this park all Boot talking of Virtual trips and Silicate séances with departed Bytes.” Nick could hear some snippets of the rambling Randoms through the sitar and bongo music. “Byte, I am feeling so Virtual. That is some serious taint! Who made that batch?” said a wobbly aqua colored Byte wobbling on the silvery grass. “That’s the Owsley, brother Byte. Careful with that dude, it sneaks up on ya. Then it all goes bad Byte…really bad. Do it right and you might be talking with AldAyn himself. Brother TimKes saw him last downtime. Right Byte?” answered another wobbly aqua Byte. “For sure. I went uber Cyber. AldAyn told me that there are layers, Byte…layers of life. We need to peel the layers and look inside. The Awakening is inside Byte. Under the layers. You rotate me?” asked TimKes. He appeared to the leader of the orbiting group. He spoke while swaying on his shaky
plungers. They rest of the Randoms focus their clouded visors on him. His frizzy tubes were decorated with the dead black pyramid leaves for the Silver Forest. A few spys fell, or rather jumped, from his twined tresses to escape the unwashed horror of his cyber hair. Tiny grumbles trailed off as the bugs left for cleaner hosts. “Sounds like exactly what we’re looking for,” said Whizzy. “How ya doing? My name is TimKes,” he said plunging over to Whizzy. “Please to meet ya. Name is Whizzy. This here is Sticky,” said Whizzy pointing to Nick. “Cool Byte. Cool. So you lookin’ for some taint, huh. We can help with that,” said TimKes motioning with a shaking claw to the pile of cubes in front of them. “That’s great. Thanks a lot.” “We all need to tune in to the Awakened, brother Byte. Taint is the way. The Awakened feel us. They know our core. It’s all about our core,” said TimKes just before he lost his footing and dropped to the ground. He proceeded to roll around while vibrating in a violent matter. Yellow drool dripped from his mouth, staining the silver grass. The rest of the Randoms ignored
this fit, proceeding to babble on without their leader. “What is happening to him Whizzy?” asked Nick, who was visibly disturbed by the scene. “He is seizing up. A side effect of too much taint. He should be okay. This happens all the time. Give him a few ticks and he’ll snap out of it,” replied Whizzy. “Are these guys on the right track about the Awakened and all?” “Sadly, they are a hunch of bisguided fools. The Randoms have been doing this for cycles. All of them eventually go corrupt. Their cores often rot before anything else. Their ideas are noble; it’s the execution that is lacking. They talk a good game, but they never actually get anything done. They are a helluva lot of fun though,” replied Whizzy. “Gotcha. We have people like that too. What are those others doing by the trees,” asked Nick. A couple of creatures that looked like spinning tops were drilling holes under the dappled shade of a silver leafed tree. Fish scales were scattering everywhere. “Those are Diggers. They are Data Miners demented by too much taint. They believe the Awakened are peeping underpound. I
mean sleeping underground. It makes no sense. They just keep digging and digging until they go corrupt.” The Diggers plunged over to Whizzy and Nick. They were well equipped for mining, each with a menacing looking point in their south polar region. Whenever the Diggers dug, their plunger legs retracted, turning them into very efficient drills. “Pardon me. Have you seen him? AldAyn?” said Merry. “AldAyn. Have you seen him?” repeated Prank. “Sorry guys, haven’t seen him. If I do I’ll let you know,” replied Whizzy. “Groovy. I am Merry and that is Prank,” said Merry as he pointed to his drilling partner. “Yes. I’m Prank and he’s Merry,” parroted Prank. “If we find AldAyn, I promise we’ll let you know.” “He gots the vision, so we on a mission,” said Merry. “Mission for the vision,” parroted Prank. “Thank you, no. We have another mission. Wish you all the luck. Say hey to AldAyn for me when you find him.”
“You got it!” said Merry and Prank in unison as they scrambled off to dig more holes. “Okay. So why are we here again?” Nick asked. These Randoms were wobbling around and babbling between seizures, while the Diggers appeared to suffer from a rather severe learning disability. If this was their best hope for securing a path to Join with Tera, the mission was in grave danger, thought Nick. “We need to score some high grade taint. The Owsley taint is the best in NetherWorld. Let’s go see if TimKes is coherent again,” said Whizzy as he went to check on the aqua colored Byte. “Sounds like potent stuff. What are we gonna do with this taint cube?” asked Nick as he followed Whizzy. “Tick it in your rocket for now.” replied Whizzy. His speech continued to decline. He was able to figure out that Whizzy was saying to stick the Taint in his pocket. Still, the more he declined, the harder it was to make out what Whizzy is saying. The onset of corruption was in full force. He was more green that blue by this time. He had less than a Boot before the Batchers would whisk him away to a shredded fate. “Hey brother Byte. Got any more of that Owsley stuff?” Whizzy asked TimKes who had
apparently recovered from his tainted seizure. “Who’s askin’ brother?” responded TimKes distracted from his circular conversation with another Random. “Hey brother, we just need a taste of taint. Can you peel me?” replied Whizzy trying to speak the lingo. “Wow, you sound nearly Virtual Byte. My name is TimKes. Please to meet ya. You sure you can handle it?” asked the forgetful Random. “I’m Whizzy and this is Nick. So do you have that Owsley?” repeated Whizzy. He recognized that it could take a series of introductions and seizures before he actually got the taint from TimKes. “Yes brother Byte. I even inserted stolen code straight from the lost verses of the TranFor. Genuine script from the profit hisself…AldAyn.” “Don’t spin me the wrong way. I will suck your core right out Byte,” said Whizzy, slinging the slang of the Randoms. “Look, let me download a taste for ya. Always a pleasure to initiate another Byte in the Random fold,” replied TimKes.
“Have at it brother.” With that Whizzy and the Random connected tubular tresses. This was how the Bytes transferred data to each other. When Bytes enter room to get or deliver data, they plugged their tubes into the shared drive. As Bytes began to break down their tubes become less efficient at transferring data. Healthy tubes are essential for healthy Bytes. The Randoms had very poor tube hygiene. They still functioned, but cycles of taint abuse have eaten away at their once healthy tresses. They still worked, but the read a lot of data incorrectly. Whizzy froze with a series of crazy sensations. Senses merged into a swirling funnel that rewrote some of his code. “Whew! Alright then. Yep. That’s the stuff,” said a weakened Whizzy. The purified taste of taint only hastened his inevitable decline to a total greenie. “You just tasted my Owsley Special Reserve purified taint. Take the taint cube and you will see AldAyn hisself.” TimKes then passed a cube of taint to Whizzy. He gave to Nick for storage. “Thanks TimKes. We won’t forget this, my Byte.”
“Anytime, my Brother. Hey, wanna sit in with us and get Virtual?” asked TimKes. “Tanks Brother, but we are looking for the underground way to Nexus. You know it?” Whizzy replied. “Don’t tell a Byte, but I heard the only underground way to Nexus is through the Hall of Hazbinz. A hyperroom in the Hall will teleport you to the Nexus. No lie.” Hyperrooms were once a popular means of transportation for the Silicates. They were designed by the Quantum Mechanics. At first, they were all the rage. Bytes were basically teleporting from place to place by hyperroom. This allowed them to traverse vast distances in mere ticks. After a while a serious flaw was discovered. The rooms would occasionally disappear into an unseen dimension. When they returned, the hyperrooms were often filled with very agitated otherworldly creatures. This cross dimensional travel was deemed unfun by the High Council, so the hyerrooms were decommissioned. A few functional rooms remained in unlikely places in case, the Silicates ever wanted to revisit the technology. Whizzy looked irritated. “A hyperroom eh. Thought the High Council got rid of them all. Well, not the safest transport, but it seems like the only way we can get to Tera without
NazKlan getting in the way.” Whizzy knew that NazKlan was closing in on them. It was only a matter of time. Despite the cross dimensional risk, this was their best option. All the same, he decided it better not to alarm Nick with cross dimensional risk. “The Hall of Hazbinz? Rest home for outdated video games and unwanted, once famous Silicates? Isn’t there any other way?” Whizzy asked. “Sorry. Only way is through the Hall.” Answered TimKes. “Okey dokey smokey. Thanks a bunch.” “Spin easy, Byte. May you find the Virtual path.” “I feel ya. We gotta go. Thanks again. Come on Nick, pump in.” Whizzy reverted back to a saucer and motioned Nick to jump inside with teacup shaped body. Nick settled inside Whizzy, glad that they were leaving the smelly park. The body odor was almost too much to take. They spun back into the stream and surfed away as fast as they could. The Randoms resumed their wobbly ways exchanging sentences they would soon forget. Nick could just hear them repeating the conversation he heard earlier as the sitar and bongos played on.
“Byte, I am feeling so Virtual. That is some serious tainted stream! Who made that batch?” said a wobbly aqua colored Random. “That’s the Owlsey, brother Byte. Careful with that, it sneaks up on your code. Then it all goes bad Byte…really bad. Do it right and you might be talking with AldAyn himself. Brother LeaTim saw him last downtime. Right Brother?” answered another wobbly aqua Byte… They babbled as if it were the first time they heard these words.
Chapter 14 Hall of Hazbinz
Book of TranFor: The world seeks out the innovators to guide generations into the future. Once accomplished, the innovators are marginalized and left to drown in ephemeral glory past.
Whizzy plunged out of the park and trundled over to a tall fish scale building that looked rather beat up. Although not as bad as the buildings in SpamTown, it appeared that the structure was only grudgingly maintained by the sector. Unlike of the metallic glass sheen of the normal structures in NetherWorld, this building was pasty pale. A thin layer of silicate dust, probably from a prior Spammer infestation, surrounded the front of the building. Cracks in the tower leaked loose fish scales that were carried off by the wind. The maintenance Bytes must have caught it early, because very few buildings survive such attacks. Still, very little work was done to repair the damage.
“Creepy looking place Whizzy. It reminds me of a condemned building back on Karbonon,” observed Nick. “This is a place I wish we could have avoided…The Hall of Hazbinz,” said Whizzy with muted trepidation. Whizzy marched his plungers through the snowy dust to a set of double doors. Above them was an old sign that was in dire need of some repairs.
Hall of Hazbinz: A Retirement Home
The door did not open automatically upon approach. Most entrances into buildings opened as soon as a Byte crossed a buried threshold. After a couple of frustrating attempts, Whizzy pryed open the doors with his clawed arms. “Jeez! What’s is this freaky place Whizzy?” asked Nick. “This is where old Silicates are sent to live out their remaining days. Over time, your people abandoned certain computer software or functions. This is where they went.” “They weren’t deleted?”
“We Silicates are sentimental lot. We tend to preserve historical figures. Over the cycles, we kinda forgot about some of them. They got locked away and we got busy with the current Karbon commands. I don’t think anyone has been down here since the Ataric Age, when Karbons flocked to convenience stores and malls to dumps coins onto very large machines.” “My Grandfather told me about those days. I can’t imagine having to leave home to play video games, how archaic!” They passed though the double doors into a dim hallway that smelled of urine and biological decay. Lining the halls were a few rooms with labels. Each label described the resident. A Byte draped in white just exited a door farther down the hall. Whizzy called to him. “How can I help you? Did you come for a tour? No one comes here anymore. It’s quite lonely. I am trapped with these old codgers Boot after Boot. Ready to begin your tour? I am Jeeves, your guide,” offered the caretaker. He wore what looked like an old sea captain’s hat between his tubes. “Nice to meet you Jeeves, we are looking for a hyperroom. Do you have one here?” asked Whizzy. “Call me Jeeves for short”
“Ok. Jeeves, we are trying to get to a hyperroom. I understand there may still be one here. Can you show us the way?” asked Whizzy. “Hyperroom eh? I remember them back in the day. It was before the great Browser Battle, of which I was a prominent figure. You see-” “Jeeves, we are kinda in a hurry, can’t you just show us the way?” “It could be any one of these doors. I rarely visit anyone.” Jeeves led them down a narrow hallway lined with doors on both sides. Each one looked exactly alike. Beside each doorknob was card reader. This made it impossible to tell which door contained the hyperroom. “Ok then. If you will follow me, I will show you what is behind these doors.” Jeeves moved his plunger feet towards the very first room on the left. The door opened revealing eight faded blue spheres orbited a round table with what looked like playing cards. They were much smaller than the Bytes Nick had seen in NetherWorld. These Bits were more primitive and quite diminutive, the size of basketballs.
“Here resides the 8 Bits. Once the engine for millions of games, they were pioneers,” said Jeeves. “Boy their tiny,” remarked Nick. “Please don’t say that too loud. The 8 Bits are very sensitive about their size. Remember, they were replaced by bigger and better Bytes. Once the Bytes came along, these prominent Bits were rendered useless and sent straight to the Hall,” explained Jeeves. Each Bit held a few playing cards in their tiny claws. One Bit laid down his hand to show them he had won. “Gin!” said Walter the Bit. “You cheated. I saw you pull from the bottom of the deck!” accused the Bertrum Bit on his left. “I did not Bertrum. You know better that that.” “Walter, just admit it or we will deal you out, right Horace.” “I didn’t see anything. What happened?” “Pay attention you dimwit! Walter is cheating.” “Peeping? That’s rather naughty Bertrum. You should know better,” responded Horace.
“Who’s sleeping? We trying play cards! No sleeping until downtime,” chimed Cecil Bit. “Cecil, fix you auditory! No one is sleeping. Walter is cheating!” shouted a frustrated Bertrum. Yet another of the Bits was eating his cards. His circular mouth was churning the cards into a gummy paste. “Quincy! What are you doing. Don’t eat the cards. It is the only deck we have. We lost 20 cards already to your nasty little habit. There goes another 6 more cards. Control yourself!” chastised Bertrum. He was spinning with anger. His tiny grey tubes swirled like an old lady break dancing. Victor laid his cards on the table next. “I have a full house. What do you got Wilfred?” “Two pair. Jacks and Eights,” Wilfred replied. “Curses! You win again,” conceded Victor. “Wilfred! Victor! We are playing Gin not poker! Pay attention you old Bits!” shouted Bertrum, wobbling with frustration. “We prefer poker. You guys play your Gin,” responded Wilfred.
“We cannot play two different games with half a deck! This is crazy!” “Who is lazy?” asked Horace. “It is a bit hazy in here, Horace. Somebody open a window,” said Cecil. “We live in a dank basement gentleman. There are no windows!” shouted Bertrum. “Gin!” said Walter again. Laying down the same cards. “Who’s in?” asked Horace. Whizzy and Nick looked away from the scene. “What a bunch of wackos,” said Nick. “Can we try the next room?” “Sure,” said Jeeves, plunging his twig like legs towards the next room. Jeeves inserted his card and opened the next door. “What are these?” asked Nick. “Side Scrollers?” “In the Ataric Age, games were on a two dimensional plane. In order to move forward you had to scroll from left to right. It was very limiting. We abandoned it once our graphics grew in three dimensions.” Jeeves led then to a very shallow room. When he opened the door, Nick could see
that the room was razor thin with regard to depth. Two circles, not spheres moved against the back wall. They moved quite slow from left to right. “Almost there,” said VanDef. “Wait for me,” asked StarPit. The circles were almost to the far right of the back wall. Seconds later they reached the end. “Finally! Here we are!” they said with excitement. Then the wall actually shifted left, pulling them back to the other side of the wall. “Darn it! Back to square one. Well, better get a move on. If we stay here, we will fall into the left abyss,” VanDef said with a complete lack of energy. “VanDef, I am tired. Can’t keep goin’ right. Please, scroll on without me. My time has come,” resigned StarPit. “Come on. Don’t leave StarPit. You don’t want to fall into the Left Abyss. No one ever returns from the Left. We’ve already lost MarSup and MooPat. If you fall left, I will be the last Side Scroller. Please, don’t leave me alone in two dimensions!” VanDef pleaded.
“Goodbye MariDef.” With that StarPit slid left until he was off the wall. A mild blip sound followed his exit. VanDef began weeping while slowly sliding right. The last of his kind, fighting the futile battle to stay onscreen. “How many more doors before we find this hyperrrom?” Whizzy asked Jeeves. “Hard to say. All the doors are so similar. We still have the Vectors, Joysticks and Tabletops.” Jeeves replied. “Please Jeeves, try to remember which one door is the one that leads to the hyperrom. Every tick counts?” urged Whizzy. “Can’t you see how depressing this is. From Boot to Downtime, I live with these senile Hazbinz who are just waiting to die.” “We get it Jeeves. Why don’t you just leave?” “This is my protocol. Forever stuck with these Bits.” “I feel for ya. But, please show us the way to the hyperroom,” begged Whizzy. A boxy shadow floated past the trio. Its resolution was low so they could not make out what the shadow was. “What is that?” asked Nick
“She is our resident spook, AmiVic. He has been roaming these halls since the early cycles,” replied Jeeves. “Hooooome. Hooooome,” moaned the spook as it glided back to Nick and Whizzy. “What is she doing?” Whizzy asked. “AmiVic, the victim of a tragic love story. In the early cycles, Karbons were passionate for her platform. Platforms supervise the video games. All who played their seductive games were entranced. AmiVic had devotees that worshiped her for her simple yet entertaining games. Alas, other platforms saw this and sabotaged her success. In the end she died homeless in an unopened box. The box was later found in the back alleys of NetherWorld,” explained Jeeves. “Hoooome. Take me hoooome. Hoooome,” asked the moaning spooks in a deep baritone. “So sad. Why is she here?” asked Nick. “Like in life, AmiVic carried her curse to the underworld. She is forever locked in a box in purgatory. She is homeless, even in death,” explained Jeeves. “Tragic. So Tragic. But we really need to get to the Nexus. Can you please show us another room?” asked Whizzy.
The next door contained a bunch of Bytes busy looking around the room. They were moving furniture, opening drawers, and looking under the bed. “It’s got to be here! Where is it?” said one of the shriveled globes. He was using his tubes to search under the bed. “Maybe it’s over here,” added a slightly green Sphere. He was spinning in the closet, sifting through clutter. “Oh, this is my room. These Searchers are my roommates,” remarked Jeeves. “Searchers?” asked Nick. “Yes. They once were busy reaching into NetherWorld finding data for Karbons. Then the HooGoos took over. The pushed us out of business. Now we search whatever we can to pass the time,” answered Jeeves. “What are they looking for?” “They probably could not tell you. It’s been so long, they are just happy to be searching.” “Ok. Let’s hope it’s the next door.”
Behind the next door, was a bunch of confused looking semi-transparent Bytes.
They all have morose expressions as the wandered aimlessly about the room. “Help me. I can’t feel anything. Please!” pleaded the nearest sphere. “Have you seen it? It looks just like me, only grey. Tell me you’ve seen it,” asked an almost invisible figure. “I’ve got to find it before it travels to the Ether,” said a desperate looking and fading sphere. Nick turned to Whizzy. “Whizzy what are these?” “Tweens. These are what are left of Bytes after our shadows have been unhinged,” answered Whizzy. “Like back in the Silicate Slums, right.” “Exactly. Many flock here until they fade completely away. Most of these globes have only a few Boots left.” One of the ghostly Tweens travelled right through Nick into the Hall, leaving a chilled tingling that set butterflies flittering in his stomach. “That felt really weird. They can go through us?” “For the most part, yes. Some of the less transparent ones get stuck in Bytes
sometimes. They ended up bound to the Byte until the Tween fades enough to pass. Jeeves, if you don’t mind, let’s move on. Stuck is the last thing either of us needs,” said Whizzy. “Sure. The next door is just a bit further,” he replied. Jeeves opened the next door, which revealed a mirrorred closet of sorts. The metallic sheen of the small closet rushed to light an otherwise dimly light floor. This was the hyperroom they were looking for.. “Nicky, this is it,” said Whizzy. “Jump inside. I’ll insert Tera’s pass card to enter instructions on where to send this thing.” Nick walked in the closet waiting for Whizzy. Once he was inside, the door slammed shut. A voice came out of unseen speakers. “You have been redirected. Standby for transport.” “Wait. Whizzy is still outside.” “That is of no consequence. Transport is about to begin.” “Wait! Whizzy! Let me out!” Whizzy and Jeeves tried everything to open the door. Nothing seemed to work. They could hear the hyperroom powering up.
Nick was being hijacked. “NazKlan must be behind this thing!” exclaimed Whizzy, pounding on the door with his clawed hands. The closet interior dislodged and plummeted down a seemingly endless tunnel. The forces of gravity rumbled Nick’s stomach. There was no window for him to see where this closet was headed.
Chapter 15 The Madness of Thrasher
Book of TranFor: An evil grows in the Great Bin. No Byte will be able to delete this scourge. He will eat his own and give birth to unspeakable creatures. His will seep into sacred places.
In the early days of NetherWorld, the Bin was made to dispose of corrupt and aged Bytes. All Silicates had finite lives. Over time they decayed and could no longer process their code. When this happened, they were removed from NetherWorld. Batchers are the Undertakers of NetherWorld. Black crow-like creatures, they fly through the clouds in search of these corrupt Bytes. When they find one, they remove it and transport it to the Bin. No Byte but Thrasher can access the Bin. The only way in is on the wings of a Batcher. The Bin sits upon a fault line dividing two TechSonic plates. Over time these plates shift to reform the land masses within NetherWorld. At the moment, there was only one large circular land mass surrounded by an ocean of jaba. Sprinkled throughout the Cylent Sea are a myriad of
islands isolated from all who dwell within the Walled City. Over the cycles, the islands of the Cylent Sea became known as the Outer ROM. As the plates shift, sonic quakes shake the very foundation of NetherWorld. Rumbling thunder noises riddled the Bin as unspeakable acts transpired. The shifting TechSonics created a subsuction zone that pulls silicate waste material into undiscovered spaces in the SubRoots. Thrasher had cordoned off a series of unexplored SubRoot tunnels and turned them into his own personal torture chamber. When the Silicates built the Bin, they created the Shredder. This massive machine ripped corrupt Bytes into thousand of strands of data. These strands of data were then returned to Nether Nursies to be recycled into new Bytes. This was the natural sequence of things in NetherWorld. Thrasher was once an ordinary Byte. He worked tirelessly to fulfill his tasks. The Servers recognized his fervor and thought him the perfect choice to run the Shredder. In the Bin, Silicates built a destructive machine called the Shredder. When Bytes can no longer function to an acceptable level of efficiency, they were taken to the Shredder for reformatting.
Running the Shredder was a taxing job. All previous Silicates assigned to this task were driven to madness and ultimately had to be shredded themselves. Each time, the High Council named a successor, hoping he would last beyond a few cycles. Thus far, no Byte had served beyond twenty cycles. Thrasher was honored by this selection and promised to work as hard as he could to make sure the Bin was model of efficiency. When he entered the Bin, Thrasher felt an instant connection. At that time, he knew, he would never relinquish his post. Cycle after cycle, Thrasher shredded his fellow Bytes, returning the strands to the nurseries. As time progressed, he began to decay. Before long he would have been tossed in the Shredder. He had to find a way to stop his physical decline. Eons of isolation began to twist and torment his mind. Thrasher developed an intimate bond with death. Pitiful pleas and delicious screams became the only pleasures he would know. The Servers tried to send replacements for Thrasher, but he shredded them all. No Server was brave enough to travel to the Bin and face the Thrasher. After numerous futile attempts to remove him, the Servers relented. They determined that Thrasher was efficient, disturbed, but efficient.
Thrasher began to explore unholy of ways to extend his life. What better way, he thought, than to consume the fresh strands of shredded Bytes. From the first taste of shredded Silicate, Thrasher was hooked. As he chewed the spongy strands of data, yellow fluid congealed at the corners of his mouth. He stuffed more and more Silicate spaghetti in his mouth, while yellow juice frothed around his lip. Since Thrasher had a circular opening for a mouth, there was just one continuous lip. The internal teeth masticated the strands releasing more and more of the yellow fluid. After his first complete meal, Byte blood drooled from his round mouth. “I can taste their code. Part of them no lives within me,” he hissed. Bytes were never conditioned to cannibalize each other. By eating the strands, Thrasher did stop his decay. Still, he never returned to his previous health. The regular consumption of strands had some strange side effects. His healthy blue sphere gradually darkened and morphed into black lumpy mass. Thrasher looked a black moon with severe tumors that breathed in and out. With each tumor breath, odious air bubbles escaped. The floated around the Bin until they popped, releasing the deathly smell. His silver tubular tresses became scaly red vipers with forked tongues. Bytes
shivered at the sight of this grotesque cannibal with slithering snakes growing out of his deformed globe. The strands also impacted his mind; slithering pure evil into his delicate psyche. Thrasher became more and more macabre. Over time his speech developed a strange affect. He stretched the “s” sound as he spoke. His intellect declined quickly, making him a perfect pawn in NazKlan’s plan. Most of the strands made it back through to the Nether Nurseries. There was no room in the Bin for all of them. Faulty strands were rejected and sent back to the Bin. Thrasher kept these excess strands. Most were far too corrupt to be used for any future formatting. Still, he found a way to use some of the strands he was unable to eat. He began making creatures from the shredded Bytes. These creatures would serve only him. They were primitive Bits, not nearly as evolved as the Bytes. This process of building these creatures created a waste product that could never be used by anyone. A percolating pool of irradiated liquid grew as Thrasher made more and more creatures. He flushed the murky brown effluent into a well above the subsuction zone. The waste material flooded parts of the SubRoots, seeping between the fault lines. This further
aggravated the subsuction zone by eroding layer after layer of silicate material supporting the foundation of NetherWorld. Thrasher was unaware of the geological damage caused by this toxic waste material. With no place to put the ungodly byproduct, Thrasher dumped it into the one place that could contain it. Sparks scattered over Thrasher as he welded tainted strands together for these creatures. Zapping the strands with his charged viper tubes brought the reformatted strands to life. Before falling to the ground, they formed into swarms of Sprites. They looked like green locusts as they flew in great numbers above the Bin and into the surrounding tunnels. These little insects followed only the protocols of their maker. In time, he built an entire Army of Bits. Most were the Pixals that NazKlan used in the dome. He also built smaller versions of himself, black lumpy globes with red scaly tresses. These were slightly more complex that Bits. Thrasher called these his Minions. It time, he taught his Minions how to make Pixals. This grew his army by the thousands. As his code twisted into perverse formations, Thrasher devised interesting ways to torture corrupt Bytes before they met the Shredder. He ordered his army of
Pixals and Minions to carve out elaborate tunnels from the original SubRoots. They were dug in a way that created mind bending mazes. Bytes dropped there by Batchers got lost for cycles. As the corrupt Bytes decayed further, their minds entered into a paranoid psychotic state. They experienced a myriad of delusions. Some became violent and attacked other corrupt Bytes navigating the tunnels. Other Bytes were paralyzed by fear. Terrified spheres rolled into dark corners while mumbling muted prayers. Some Bytes died before they faced deletion. Their cracked corpses oozed green gooey blood. This was a sure sign of viral infection. The onslaught of viruses greatly added to the number of corrupt files. They provided a veritable feast for Thrasher. The dead infected Bytes became playthings for other insane Silicates lurking the tunnels. Eventually the green gooey blood found its way everywhere. It stuck to the ceiling. It dripped from the walls. It collected in puddles on the ground. Echoing screams and hideous laughter travelled the tunnels; often crashing into each other. It was said that if you waited long enough, your own voice would return after travelling the maze. The return of one’s initial ramblings eons after arriving sent most Silicates over the edge.
“Help me!” “They are all corrupt. Kill them all!” “Is there a way out?” “Let’s make a deal. I hold critical code” “Is there anybody out there?” “Just shout. I will find you” These were the typical early ramblings that sailed the maze of tunnels. Subsequent babble sent nonsensical rants in every direction. Over time, the constant barrage of desperate Bytes destroyed any remnant of Silicate soul. The tunnels were baked with terror and psychosis. Blood of the victims shrouded the halls. Echoes of insanity swallowed all hope. Sour smells of rotting milk and moldy cheese overwhelmed doomed victims.
When NazKlan built his coalition to pursue the Singularity, he knew he needed powerful allies. Thrasher was an ideal candidate. No Byte could reach him or destroy him. He heard whispers about a small army that Thrasher was building. This would help enforce the fascist state NazKlan so dearly desired.
NazKlan captured a corrupt Byte and programmed a message for Thrasher, Keeper of the Bin. Once the Batchers dropped the messenger off, the Byte relayed the instructions to Thrasher. NazKlan created a unique channel of communication that only could be accessed by them. “Ahhhh. Another Byte for the ssshredder. Prepare to meet your end Sssilicate. I cannot wait to sssuck on your lifeless strands. Ohhh. Be ssstill. Thisss will hurt you Byte,” said Thrasher. “Wait. Message have eye 4 u. Must relay. Must. MMMMust. Relay message to Trashy One. NazKlan message has u for. Pleez acksept. Pleez acksept,” replied the corrupt Byte. Since his systems were breaking down, he was not capable for clear communication. NazKlan understood this. He inserted a program in Analog, the mother tongue. This language was so basic, that clear messages can be sent via this ancient language. “What isss thisss? Foolery. Do you mock me Byte. I have eaten Sssilicatesss alive for such behavior. Isss that what you want? Ssspeak Sssilicate! Speak!” demanded Thrasher. “Pleez acksept. Message 4 u. Pleez Acksept.”
“Amussse me Byte. If the messsage is not to my liking. You will suffer ssso much more!” The corrupt Byte reverted to the Turingi code. “110 1101110011 011011 11010101,” spouted the decaying Byte. NazKlan knew that Thrasher was also versed in Turingi. Long hours of Byte torture provided him with many skills not possessed by ordinary Bytes. The message roughly translated as the following:
NetherWorld is dying. We need your talents to take control and save our fellow Silicates. The High Council wants to do away with the viruses that bring you all the corrupt Bytes. They believe they can starve you to death. They fear your army of Pixals. I have developed a protected channel for us to communicate. Join me, and your Bin will never want for corrupt souls to savor. Together we shall rule NetherWorld. Respond on channel YXG546TR.11.2 if you will join the effort.
“Thrasssher very angry. Council will pay for thisss. Mussst ssstop them. Thrasher will not ssstarve. Thrasher must help NazKlan,” he declared.
“I will tassste the Council before thisss isss over. Minions, we go to war! We mussst fight thossse on the sssurface” bellowed the Keeper of the Bin. Hundreds on mini Thrashers voiced analog agreement. Minions levitated in an enormous orbit while chanting cries for war. Thousands of snake red tresses danced in celebration. “Now, back to you Byte,” Thasher said as he turned towards the shivering messenger. “But I deliver massage for Trashy. Nasal promised no shredding. Sneeze honor his words. Let my show!” pleaded the desperate messenger Byte. He search Thrasher’s dark visor for any shred of compassion and found only a soulless hunger; hunger for death and unending torment. The Byte tried to plunge away in the tunnels. Thrasher spat Turingi instructions to dispatch of the poor messenger. Sprites swarmed him before he took two steps. Pixals followed in tow. Unintellible screams sang in the Bin as the Pixals dismantled the Byte, while the Sprites repeatedly stung him. Every sting from a Sprite injects small amounts of highly toxic taint; leaving a large welt in its wake. Leaving scattered body parts, the assassins moved on to other duties. Batchers picked
up the remains and flew them into the Shredder. After watching this typical act of carnage, Thrasher reached out to NazKlan on the special channel and the partnership was forged. NazKlan used him to provide the muscle for his plans. He knew Thrasher was disturbed, but controllable. The High Council would think twice before attacking him.
Isolated, Thrasher descended deeper into the madness that rotted his circuits. He began talking to himself more and more. Endless babble filled throughout the Great Bin. He always sang nonsensical songs as he built his army of Pixals and Minions. Under the dark dome of the Bin, one could hear him sing:
“Piecesss of the dead I comand you Presciousss ssstrandsss of aqua blue
Walk reborn and ssserve my will Together with NazKlan we shall kill
Eternal life from eating Bytesss Make Thrasssher full of undead might”
His purple spider army waltzed around the Bin as Thrasher sang. His red scaly snakes waved around and hissed in demented delight. Sprites swarmed above him in a macabre motion; making a low pitched drone that vibrated through all in range. Pixal clicks provided the beat to his morbid lyrics. In lock step, they crawled in celebration of their Master. This scene was repeated cycle after cycle.
Chapter 16 Finding Nick
Book of TranFor: Before reaching the Awakening, one must understand what lies beneath.
“Nick!” Whizzy screamed, pounding his claws on the hyperroom door. “NazKlan! You dirty Byte!” “Where did they take your friend,” Jeeves asked. “To the Bin, no doubt. NazKlan means to have him shredded so he can never Join with Tera,” answered Whizzy. “Sorry for your friend. Wish I could help in some way.” “Do you know how I can get to the Bin. No one I know has ever ventured there unless brought there by Batchers. I need to sneak in and rescue Nick before Thrasher has his wicked way with him.” “There are legends of the Subroots. They say there are secret tunnels that reach even
to the Bin. Maybe you could use them,” suggested Jeeves. “How do I get there? I’ll try anything.” Whizzy wobbled with anticipation. “Well, I do not know if passage to the bin exists or how to get there.” “Great! That’s just great! You get my hopes up with these SubRoots and now you tell me you don’t know how to use them to get to them Bin. Thanks for Nothing Jeeves!” Whizzy twirled and spun towards the exit. He could not afford to waste any time dawdling with these HazBinz. Jeeves chased after him. “Wait! I do not know much about the SubRoots, but General Patches does. He talks about using them during the Chip Wars.” Whizzy stopped and spun around. “The General Patches! He’s here? I thought he was deleted cycles ago. He’s got to be ancient!” “He is the oldest living Byte on record. His door is at the very end of this hall on the right. This way,” Jeeves plunged down the hallway with Whizzy in tow. Before opening the door, Jeeves warned Whizzy about the esteemed General. “Whizzy, his health has declined. His mind wanders in and out of delusion. Half of what
he says is true, the other half is fiction. I leave it to you to decide.” “Ok. Ok. What have I got to lose? I’m desperate! Lead on!” replied Whizzy. Behind the door sat an old globe asleep on his spinning chair. The spinning chair was a favorite among the elderly and infirmed Silicates. Bytes prefer spinning motion over rocking or rolling. His rather raucous snores filled the cluttered room. On the equivalent of a bookcase were multiple connection portals. Each portal accessed a group of related texts that the General favored. Most of them were about war, weapons or great conquests. A series of medals rested atop a secured safe. In the corner sat his downtime device. It was messy as far as downtime devices go. Retrofitted with features to assist technically invalid Silicates, only a few exist within the Walled City. Equipped with a Spy/Kook vacuum, a long tube deposited the nasty buggers into a small waste basket. As Bytes rest, they shed spooks. After five or six boots, the bugs really pile up. Patches had a mound of dead spooks at the bottom of his device. In Silicate terms, he was a bit of a slob. Whizzy was not prepared for the vision that was General Patches. True to his name, he
was a hodgepodge of recombined code. Most of his original protocols were obsolete. After cycles of updates and fixes, he looked more like Frankenstein that the bright blue globe pictured in the frame atop his bureau. The picture was taken just after V-Chip day, a holiday celebrated throughout the Nether dimension. V-Chip day marked the end of the great Chip Wars. After cycles of war torn sectors suffered tremendous damage from the constant fighting, peace was restored to the Walled City. Bytes everywhere still speak of this day. Patches still wore some of the medals shown in the picture. Of course, now the medals served a different function. They held together mismatched pieces that encased the Generals aged body. Countless text details Patches exploits in the Great War. Some say Silicates would be a divided nation without the unification that resulted from the Chip conflict. The Servers never officially called it a war. They preferred a more benign name to downplay the severity of the situation. Patches literally looked sewn together. Pieces of old code were peeling on his wrinkled sphere. Before long, even the storied General would succumb to the Bin. He was a stubborn old codger who refused deletion at every turn.
Jeeves shook Patches awake from his snored repose. “What? Who?” asked a confused Patches. “General. You have a visitor,” replied Jeeves. “Really! Well, who is it Byte? A Server seeking help with military strategy. No, No wait. It must be the commander of the Blue Guard asking me to join on as a Senior Leader. Well…Show yourself visitor, ” Patches demanded in his gruff authoritative manner that made him famous. Whizzy plunged his wobbly figure into the room. He was still agitated by Nick’s capture. “General sir. Please to meet you. I am WizzyWig. We have a dilemma and I need your help,” said Whizzy. “Who’s your friend?” Patches asked. “What? You mean Jeeves here?” “No. Your other friend.” Patches pointed a rugged, but wrinkled claw to empty air beside Whizzy. “But…” Jeeves poke Whizzy in the equator and gave him a look. “Oh, my friend. Well, er, he is…”
“A fine soldier from where I am spinning. Please to make your acquaintance young man,” Patches extended a creaky arm into empty air beside Whizzy and shook claws with an apparently invisible soldier. While shaking claws, another loosely sewn patch peeled off and floated to the floor. A couple of medals that formerly fastened the pieces clanged to the ground as well. Whizzy and Jeeves exchanged puzzled looks. Jeeves mouthed the words ‘told you’. “My, young Murphy here is a strapping young Byte with vibrant black tubes,” Patches said the Whizzy. “Oh yeah. Murphy! Of course. He’s the silent type. Likes to let others do the talking,” explained Whizzy, playing along as best he could. “You’ll have to talk with me instead.” “You! Your tubes are not black like all leaders of NetherWorld. You are just a common foot soldier. Let me talk to your friend instead.” “Sir. He really doesn’t talk. Old war injury you know.” “Ah. Understood. Well now, what brings you here this fine day?” asked Patches “So, Sir. We have a dilemma and need your help.” said Whizzy.
“Do you know who I am young Byte? Only the most decorated military mind in all of NetherWorld. I am needed in the Silver Forest to battle a rougue band of chips later today. Don’t waste my time with trivial matters. This had better be important or I will have the High Council call for your batching.” Patches was more that irritated that Whizzy was nothing more than a common aqua byte grown pale by taint. “Well sir, I work for Tera. She has sent me to bring the Chosen One to her for the Joining.” “Joining? You buy into that voodoo mumbo gumbo. Poppycock I say. In my day, we evolved separately and everything was just fine. Look at this world now. A complete mess.” “With respect, I really need your help to find the Chosen One. NazKlan captured him and sent him to the Bin.” “NazKlan is a lunatic. Whatever he’s up to it cannot be good. I served with his precursor in the Chip Wars. He was a surly Byte who was always plotting to gain more power. He was deleted for treason when NazKlan was still in the design phase. As NazKlan came into his own, he harbored similar subversive views. How he ever got on the High Council, I will never know. He is a smooth talker that one. Silver speakered devil.”
“I haven’t heard that before sir. It sounds terrible. Do you think you could help me find my friend?” Patches spun pensively, stroking his equator with his claw. The motion wafted elderly odor in Whizzy’s direction. It appears even in NetherWorld, old people often smelled like they were marinated in Ben Gay. “Hmmm. Save the Chosen One and foil NazKlan. Sounds like an interesting mission. I suppose I could help, but be quick about it. I’ve got places to be,” said the General. “Ok. The Chosen One, Nick, is in the Bin. I need to get him out. What do you think? Can you help?” asked Whizzy. “Hmmm. The Bin, eh? Last place you ever want to be trapped. That Thrasher is an evil bastard. No streams lead directly to the Bin. You know that?” “Yes, General. Is there any other way to the Bin?” “There is one, but I cannot guarantee it will work. There are unspeakable things in the Bin. They will rend you to pieces if you don’t come in armed and ready.” “I am ready. How do I get there?” “My dear boy,” he shifted in his spinning chair, “you are not ready. But I think, with
my help, you may have chance of getting out there alive.” “I’m listening,” said Whizzy, taping his plunger feet impatiently. Little sucking sounds bounced off the floor. “You must take the SubRoots. This is an ancient set of tunnels that lie below all of NetherWorld. It was the domain of the Data Miners until the SubRoots destabilized NetherWorld. They still exist today, but have decayed over the cycles.” “SubRoots. Tell me more.” “The High Council stopped the excavation cycles ago because they feared the tunnels would weaken the foundation of NetherWorld. Because of this, the SubRoots are unfinished. There are dead ends, block passages and delicates walls that will crumble with the slightest vibration. I have a map of the original design for what it’s worth. Since the SubRoots were never fully explored, the map is at best, a guess in many areas. The download is over there on the case.” “Thank you General. Is that the only danger?” “No. Beserks roam the SubRoots to hide from deletion by the Batchers. Dangerous sleepless creatures. Stay clear of them. No
tellin’ what they’re capable of. But, the worst lies in the Bin. They are the undead creations of Thasher. These are wicked beasts that answer only him. There are thousands. You will not be able to fight them off yourself,” Patches warned. “Thousands! Wow. Well, I guess I have no choice. Every tick, Nick gets closer to the Shredder. Thank you General!” Whizzy whirled towards the door. “Wait, young Byte. I have a couple of old mementos from the Chip Wars for your soldier friend Murphy.” He handed them towards the empty air towards Whizzy. Two tiny red spheres drop to the ground and rolled towards Whizzy. “Take these. Use them when things seem hopeless.” “Murphy says thank you.” Whizzy look at the spheres. “He wants to know what these are and how to use them?” “Do you think me deaf? I heard him,” said a perturbed Patches. “Come to think of it, I cannot remember precisely how they work or what they do. I know that they helped us win the war. Well, I am sure old Murphy here can figure it out. Us soldiers, we have a way of working these things out. Good luck to you and your strapping friend Murphy, young foot soldier.” Patches saluted only the empty air that was Murphy.
Whizzy and his apparently invisible friend Murphy, armed with two little red globes, saluted back and left the General. He had to make one more stop before finding Nick. So off he went; a pale aqua sphere plunged his way down to the SubRoots to face all of the evil Thrasher could muster.
Chapter 17 Festering Tunnels
Book of TranFor: The one who deals in death will haunt the tunnels of infinite choices.
Nick pounded on the closet walls with no impact, not even a dent. He had no other tools to try to cut his way out. “Where am I this time,” he said. Thunder rumbles created a steady stream of tremors that rocked his hyperroom. Nick braced himself by pressing against the closet walls. Odd sounds came from beyond the door. Maybe I’m better off in the hyperrom, thought Nick. Wherever he was, he would have to manage alone. Whizzy was far off in the Hall of Hazbinz. The closet door opened into a dank dark series of tunnels. An invisible force pushed Nick from the hyperroom. With loud snap, the door closed, and the closet was whisked away to some unknown destination. Nick steadied himself and looked around the area. It was hot and humid in the dimly lit
maze. Dense air condensed on his skin as soon as he exited the closet. The grimy glaze sticking to his skin smelled of rot and bodily neglect. “Man this NetherWorld place stinks!” Nick spat, trying to expel the sickening taste in the air. Looking around, he saw that the tunnel split into two directions; neither looked particularly inviting. Green goo dripped from the arched ceiling and the smell of rotting flesh grew even stronger. Both tunnels were dimly lit and appeared to go on for quite some distance. The door slammed shut, sealing him into this subterranean maze. The floor and walls looked and felt like stone, but they were actually formed from the same fish scale polymer as the rest of NetherWorld. “Hello?” Nick shouted, looking around. “Is there anybody out there?” He looked at each tunnel to see if either direction appeared more promising. They were mirror images leaving no clue to the more favorable tunnel. “What is this, some psycho hall of mirrors?” Nick asked. Pregnant droplets of goo puddled on the tunnel floors, creating an odd echo that already began to wear on his mind.
Desperate sounding babble came each tunnel. Nick tried to make out what they were saying, but it was too jumbled. Moments later chilling screams arrived, adding to his anxiety. Since no tunnel offered an advantage, Nick decided to take the tunnel on his left. He walked with goose bumps growing under his blue body suit. He tried to avoid the scattered puddles of fallen green muck. A low pitched droning buzzed from behind him; making Nick’s stomach turn. He looked back to find the source, but saw only darkness. The drone grew louder and louder, becoming more of distraction. He was finding it hard to even think. Moving through the tunnel, Nick navigated the twists and turns until reaching the first fork. A small clearing offered three different tunnels. Again, each one was identical to look at. Nick decided to stay with the theme of always taking the left tunnel when confronted with choices. This should make it easier to backtrack in case any tunnel lead to something unsavory; which seemed inevitable. The rotten odor never dissipated. It was consistently awful. Tepid green slime randomly splashed on Nick’s head, sliding down his body, causing a chill. This further excited the goosebumps covering his body.
He continued to confront tunnel forks along the way, always choosing the left one. With each tick the droning grew louder and louder. He walked for hours hoping this would lead somewhere safe. “When will this maze end! C’mon already. What do you want from me?” yelled Nick exhausted and quite fed up travelling the tunnels. “Kaarbon. I can sssmell the ssstink of your pitiful fear” hissed a lethal sounding voice. It sounded like the undead whispers heard in second rate horror films. “Kaarbon. I will enjoy eating you filthy flesh. Your time is at end. I will feast on your shredded corpse.” Nick could not tell where this voice was coming from. It sounded like it was coming from every direction. He picked up his pace, hoping to outrun whatever wanted to threatened to eat him. His steps splashed puddle echos through the drippy caverns.
“Kaarbon,” it hissed.
More twists and turns, more forks; nothing seemed to change. He was beginning to think he was moving in circles.
After running for some time, Nick stopped and decided he needed to confront this creature. “Who are you? What do you want?” he said. “I want your deletion, Kaarbon.” it hissed. “Kaarbon and Sssilicate must never Join. Ssso sssaysss our true leader, NazKlan. We will prevent it Kaarbon.” The hissing sound with which this creature spoke sounded like a loud whisper. Nick decided to back track towards the point of origin. Before he had gone ten steps a wall fell from the ceiling blocking his way. His only option was to move forward and hope for an escape. “I can sssmell you Kaarbon. Your doom is almost upon usss. Ssstinking filthy Kaarbon. Your people ruined our world, deleted our Bytes in the name of reckless ssselfishnesss. You will pay. Your world will pay. Sssoon, Kaarbon will be memory. I can sssmell your fear, Kaarbon. Weak biotic beingsss. You deserve extinction. Ssso sssaysss the true leader.” “NazKlan right?” Nick asked. “NazzzKlan. Yesss. True leader.”
“What about Tera?” “Tera ssservesss falssse prophetsss. Ssshe must be converted. We must keep her from Joining with Kaarbon. Joining isss evil.” Nick continued to navigate the tunnels while talking. His only hope was to find a way out while keeping this beast distracted. Each tunnel had the same grimy view. He tried to avoid the gooey puddles to stay as hidden as possible during this search. He still could not determine where the beast was at. Constant droning began to disassemble his thoughts. Before long, Nick would be a babbling heap. After navigating the last turn, Nick saw glowing green spots on the cave walls and floor. No tunnel had these before. The droning became unbearable. Nick now knew the source. The green spots vibrated on the wall while making that infernal noise. He tried to run past the spots. Again a solid stone door slammed down, splattering green mucus onto his blue suit. He turned away from the neon spots. “Ok. Whatever those things are, they can’t be good,” Nick said to himself. Nick dashed back the way he came. The spots flew off the wall and formed a clouded of buzzing neon. The green swarm surrounded him. There was nowhere to run.
They hovered . Droning. Droning. Standing still, he looked around for any help. He tried not to move for fear of reprisal from their pulsing stingers. In the distance, countless clicking sounds preceded the purple spiders crawling towards him. There were hundreds, if not thousands of them. More of them flooded, crawling all over the walls, ceiling and floor. Tap dancing sounds overwhelmed the droning Sprites. Nick wasn’t sure which sonic assault was worse. Pretty soon, all he could see was Pixals and Sprites. He was trapped. Crawling from every direction, the robotic insects overwhelmed him. Nick could feel their tiny legs moving up his body. They clung to his suit. Clattering sounds echoed in the tunnels as more spiders moved in. Swatting in a violent manner, he was able to shed a couple of the purple bugs. In mere ticks, spiders crawled in to replace them. Soon his arms were wrapped tight to his body. Next his legs were enveloped with the spiders. Except for his head, Nick was covered from in a purple cocoon. “We have you now Kaarbon. We will ssshred you to piecesss. NazKlan will thank the Thrasher for deleting the Chosssen One. Sssilicate future will be grand. Kaarbons will perish.” said the Thrasher with a hissy bit of joy.
All he could see was the sticky arched roof of the tunnel. What little light left in the room captured a menacing shadow looming into his reclined view. Long tubes of hair snaked on the ceiling. A lumpy sphere moved closer and closer. “Ssstay ssstill. My sssprites will sssting upon my command. A ssslow painful death. You will beg for the ssshredder,” said Thrasher. Death by sprites is perhaps the most painful demise a Byte can face. Each stinger is equipped with the poisonous bile left over from Thrasher’s creations. They pump this substance into the Byte turn it’s blood and shell black. The bile eventually dissolves all the blood, leaving only a dark hollow corpse. Thrasher loved watching his killer insects take down a terrified Byte. Nick tried again and again to squirm around in the spiders’ blanket. Each time the spiders maneuvered their tiny legs to restrain him. He could hear the pinchers of one spider chattering in his left ear. It gave him goosebumps all along his neck, while digging into fears fashioned by years of evolution. He was trapped and terrified, laying in wait for the lumpy snake haired monster. Thrasher finally reached our hero. His wide awake eyes saw the bumpy black sphere
sporting crimson serpent hair. Even in the dim tunnel light , Nick could see the slimy scales rubbing together as the snake follicles slithered through the dank air. The bumps on his globe seemed to breath, pushing in and out, while tiny bubbles of foul air escaped. Thrasher was quite a bit larger than the average Byte. He was easily twice Whizzy’s size. “Ssshredder will chew Kaarbon to pieces. Thrasssher will enjoy chewing dead Kaarbon.” rejoiced Thrasher in his unforgettable hiss. The foul stink of carrion followed the creature. Nick’s unexposed nose caught the full brunt of the deathly odor. A few snake follicles rubbed along his exposed face. Nick could feel the slimy coating stick to his cheeks. The spider chatter in his left ear reached a crescendo. A helpless feeling washed over Nick’s body, dropping his body temperature at least a few degrees. “Time to die Hero. There will be no Joining with Tera. Ssshe will lie in waiting while NazKlan guides our people to the Awakening.” “Look, I have nothing against you Mr. Thrasher. In fact, I am not even sure this is real. Instead of shredding me, send me back. My old life was pretty cool.”
“Sssilly Karbon. You can never go back to you filthy world. You are forever in the land of Sssilcatesss. And you mussst be ssshredded for NazKlan to rule.” “What do you mean never go back? You guys got me here. You’ve got to be able to send me back. Really, I understand you are ready to slice me and all, but I would like to go home now. What kind of slippers can I tap together to return home?” Nick could not help but be perplexed by Thrasher’s view of filth. NetherWorld had more in common with a sewer than Karbonon. “Not negotiable.” Nick, stiff with fear, tried to digest his dilemma. If he somehow survived this mad lumpy Thrasher, he will be forever marooned in this mad murky world. Trapped in the grip of thousand of spider limbs, surviving was going to be quite the challenge. Thrasher began spinning, lifting his slimed serpentine hair from Nick’s face. Tendrils of snotty slime clung to his neck, stretched thin as the snake heads pulled away. He could hear them hissing. Some strands were flicking fork tongues into the dank air. They were agitated or excited; either way the end result was not favorable for Nick. The slime residue they left behind was beginning to harden into crispy bits.
Thrasher headed north. As he did so, walls that formerly blocked Nick’s passage began lifting. The spider legs began moving Nick’s body in the same direction. As they approached the Bin, the metallic clattering grew louder and louder. The smell of ground Silicate permeated the area. Still traveling in supine repose, the spiders floated him inches from the puddled floor. Looking up, he saw the cracked arch ceiling give way to an open circular area. The roof dome was much higher that the tunnel ceilings. The spiders began to prop Nick upright. He could now see the great Shredder. In the center of the Bin, a massive vacuum rattled eight feet above the ground. The vacuum led to an equally large cube. On the other side of the cube, pieces of deleted Bytes dripped from another tube. The tube poured into a segregated pool. The shredded Byte product looked a lot like hamburger churned through a meat grinder. A large button was situated a few feet above the pool of Byte remains. A long narrow path led up to the vacuum. More purple pixals lined the path. Inside the path the spiders enveloped a line of globes. It looked like a large string of purple spheres pulled towards the vacuum. As the closest bead reach the floor under the mouth of the vacuum, the spiders scattered. A Byte
remained trapped under the suction of the vacuum. The Byte shivered and shook with all its energy. Still, it was no match for the Shredder suction. The sphere collapsed as if something sucked the innards out of it. With resounding slurp, the vacuum inhaled the crumpled Silicate. A malevolent metallic squeal ensued as the Shredder minced the helpless Byte into spaghetti strings of Silicate remains. The distinct odor of rotting flesh wafted throughout the Bin. Nick’s eyes began to tear as he suffered the sour smell. A gaggle of what appeared to be miniature Thrashers attended to the Byte remains. Thrasher called them his Minions. Thrasher made these Minions in his image as a tribute to himself. His insatiable appetite was nearly surpassed by his unchecked ego. They lined up along an assembly line table. A belt moved the pieces to a series of workstations. Each work station was manned by Minions working feverishly to complete their tasks. As the pieces moved along the belt they looked more and more like the purple robotic spiders holding him captive. At the end of the line, newborn spiders crawled off to serve Thrasher. The spiders were technically not Bytes. These Frankenstein creations are actually
Bits. They are far more primitive than the Bytes from which they were made. They communicate in a primitive Analog dialect known as Turingi. Turingi is spoken using two numbers, 0 and 1. Bits are programmed at birth. If the instructions are lost or damaged, the Pixals and Minions cease to work. Bit construction generates considerable waste that cannot be used. This excess material is deposited in a large pool. Thrasher designed a drainage system that feeds the pool with any residual waste from the building process. He never consumed pure Jaba, instead he gets his sustenance indirectly by eating the leftover shredded Bytes and drinking from this pool of waste. One by one the spiders lead captured Bytes to their shredded demise. Under the purple blanket of Pixals, desperate Bytes visibly wobbled in a vain attempt to escape. Thousands of tiny legs adjusted to maintain their grip on the struggling Silicates. Nick began to understand what was to come. His spider captors moved toward the path leading to the vacuum. He too tried to shake off the spiders. Their vice-like grip held fast as Nick began to tire. Nearly exhausted, his strength waned. Nick began to accept his inevitable march to deletion. He thought about his parents and the Karbon world he left behind. He decided he
would miss his parents, but not much else. Karbonon was not kind to Nick. His few friends would undoubtedly envy this dreamy experience in NetherWorld. His only wish was to let the world know of his dimensional journey. The closer he got to the vacuum, the calmer he became. Nick found it funny, that in the face of certain death, acceptance was cathartic. Many of the mundane burdens seemed meaningless. Only at this time can a person truly weigh the relevance of concerns. It would have been amazing to make history in two universes. Three more helpless Bytes were in front of Nick. Once they were whisked away and shredded, Nick would face the vacuum. Byte after Byte was imploded like a crushed soda can and then dispersed into a Silicate salad. Thrasher scooped up shreds with an arm that erupted from him asymmetrical sphere. The blue spaghetti coated in yellow fluid hung in long sinuous strands before he shoved them into his mouth. Yellow fluid driped from his maw as he made sickening sounds of perverse pleasure. Brown fluid flowed from the Minion workstation. As the pool began to crest near the lip, he pulled a large lever on the wall. A loud flushing sound preceded the great whirlpool. Brown bile began to swirl clockwise, accelerating near the center. The whirlpool spat off small bits of Silicate
death into the room. Seconds later, the entire pool was flushed. The waste sank into the Subsuction zone where it would decompose and drip into darkness. One more Byte to go and Nick would face his demise at the hands of Thrashers powerful machine. He had reached an inner peace as the final Byte was inhaled into the Shredder. The Pixals moved Nick into position. The vacuum already began pulling his long hair into the air. The machine pulled his face upward with tornadic force. He did not stand a chance against the vacuum. The spiders were making their final maneuvers before they scattered, leaving Nick to face his fate exposed and alone.
Chapter 18 SubRoots
Book of TranFor: That which lies under either supports or contributes to the collapse.
The SubRoots were an ancient attempt to improve Silicate transit within the Walled City. This elaborate series of tunnels was the handiwork of Data Miners. They were the excavators of NetherWorld. Deep within the base code of Data Miners were protocols that made these creatures relentless diggers. Once they started drilling, these Bytes were nearly impossible to stop. At one point the Streams and Walkways of the Walled City became too crowded; creating traffics jams and Byte bumpings. This inefficiency interrupted the smooth flow of data. With Bytes bouncing all over the jabaways, many ended up at the wrong destination. After far too many incidents of Stream Rage, something had to be done. Normally docile Silicates were ripping out each other’s tubes because someone forgot to
yield to the right. Every major intersection resembled a wrestling Battle Royal. In fact, the Calculations were born from these events. Some savvy promoters decided that this was great entertainment under the right conditions. The High Council decided to develop an underground system of mass transit to absorb the increased traffic flow. Data Miners were the only Silicates equipped to handle this project. This Big Dig was fraught with problems from the very beginning. The Miners were apparently too aggressive in their effort to carve out the SubRoots. Some of the buildings in downtown NetherWorld collapsed once critical supports were compromised by the rabid Miners. It became obvious that NetherWorld did not have the foundation to support tunneled transportation. Scrambling to mitigate the political fallout from this misguided undertaking, the High Council created a story to divert the blame somewhere else. Blaming the architecture, the Servers called for a new version to replace the faulty Bytes who constructed the shoddy buildings. Blue Guard Bytes rounded up all of the current architectural Silicates and sent them to the Bin for a good Thrashing. By selling this story, the High Council escaped widespread Silicate wrath.
A few blocks were badly damaged by the Dig. Buildings were tilted at odd angles, causing them to lean over the streams. The occasional quake collapsed a few them, deleting scores of Bytes in mid-stream. Eventually, the Servers condemned the most dilapidated blocks. Over time, these blocks became known as the Silicate Slums. They became the domain of outcast Bytes, such as the Unclean and other unsavory characters. Before long, the Silicate Syndicte, the dominant mob of the Walled City, assumed control of the entire sector. Reports of shakedowns and Byte battery were common for the area. Very little effort was made to police the sector. Scores of Silicates had to be relocated to nearby Sectors for their own safety. To avert any future problems, the SubRoots were shut down. The Blue Guard helped to round up the busy little diggers and mitigate the SubNetheran threat. Most of the Miners were sent to the Bin for mass slaughter. Very few escaped this extermination. Merry and Prank joined up with the Randoms of HateAsh to escape this Miner cleansing. No one paid much attention to this group because they were a wacked out bunch of idealist. This made the perfect hiding place for the duo. In time, they too
embraced the philosophies espoused by the Randoms. In the wake of these unfortunate events, NetherWorld was left with a series of tunnels that could still be used for clandestine operations. The High Council believed that the SubRoots might come in handy sometime in the future. A detail mapping was recorded for any future missions requiring SubNetheran travel. Over the cycles, most of the Silicates forgot about the tunnels. Without the Data Miners to maintain the tunnels, the SubRoots fell into disrepair. Many routes were blocked by cave ins and other structural perils. Only the High Council and the Blue Guard were aware of the full extent of the tunnels. Whizzy, Merry and Prank had one of the only remaining maps of the SubRoots. There were still a couple house in the Nexus, but no one bothered to keep track of where they were. “Hurry! We’ve no time to waste. The holomap says we have to go under the Silver Forest to get to the Bin. Let’s go!” urged Whizzy wobbling down the SubRoot shaft leading to the main tunnels. The dingy walls were only illuminated by their glowing visors.
“Must rush. Must Mush,” echoed the Miners. They moved out in front to drill through any debris. As they entered in the main area of the tunnel, the shaft behind them collapsed, sending crumbles of silicate rolling towards them. One particularly large boulder knocker Whizzy right off his plungers. “Help! Back here Merry! I’ve heen bit by a shoulder.” Although Merry and Prank could not make out exactly what Whizzy meant, they rushed to his aid. “Thanks. I think I’m otay. Let’s move on, but nick close to be please,” asked Whizzy and he continued along the tunnel that was directly under the Silver Forest. As they approached the area under the forest, they heard a series of odd sounds. First they heard “plop, drop, plop” sounds. Following the “drop plops” was a “hiss” sound. The closer they got to the forest, the more frequent this series of sounds became. By the time they reached the area, the sounds cycled so fast, it was musical. “What are those sounds?” asked Whizzy. “Plop, plop, hiss, hiss” Merry and Prank offered. They exchanged curious looks and shrugged their arm like appendages. “Well whatever it piss, it doesn’t sound good.”
Soon they were in range of the strange sounds. Focusing their visors toward the source of the sounds; what they saw was most curious. Dark liquid dripped from the forest above. When it hit the tunnel floor, the acidic matter burned holes. Whizzy and his Miners approached one of these holes with more than a modicum of caution. Gently guiding their plungers to the precipice of a particularly large hole, they guided their visors down the hole. “What’s down there?” Whizzy asked. “Dark. Very dark.” Said the Miners. “I get that. Let’s see. Hand me some of that rubble over there,” ordered Whizzy as he pointed his clawed hand toward a collapsed area. Merry gather a few pieces for Whizzy. He proceeded to drop the rubble down the hole. Many ticks tocked and no sound ensued from the falling matter. They could have waited cycles and they would never have heard a sound. To the best of their observation, it was a hole without a bottom. Pure nothing. A nothing that was quite possibly infinite in scope. They decided that it was better to avoid these holes as they traversed the tunnels. “Careful guys. These black holes must be avoided. Let’s step around this mess and get to the Bin,” said Whizzy. Merry and Prank made it a point to move away from
the ever increasing series of holes. It became quite challenging as they delved deeper under the forest. Acid rained in the tunnels holes, leaving little room to safely navigate towards the Bin. Flat black shapes seeped out of these bottomless holes. The amoebic shapes wiggled their way up to the surface of NetherWorld. Whizzy and his duo decided it best to avoid anything that came from the holes. Merry and Prank dug through some of the clogged areas to get through. Whizzy was really glad they agreed to help him. Without their help, he would have probably fallen in the abyss carved out by the acid drippings.
“Blibble Bibble blurpy burp!” said someone out of sight. It was an unitellible, but nonetheless eerie series of words that made them stop and look around. “What was that?” Whizzy asked the Data Miners. “Beserks!” said Merry “Yes. Beserks!” agreed Prank. “What do we do?” asked Whizzy.
“Run Whizzy!” shouted Merry. “Yes! Run fast Whizzy!” chimed Prank. Whizzy plunged as fast as he could down the closest tunnel. His visor lit the way in the otherwise pitch black tunnel. Merry and Prank trailed behind. “Glibble tibble gabble babble,” said the group of Beserks as they followed Merry and Prank. These were the undead of NetherWorld, creatures long past expiration, somehow clinging to a haggard existence in the darkness of the SubRoots. They were known to gang up on any unsuspecting Silicates crazy enough to stroll in these long abandoned tunnels. No one has ever lived after falling prey to the Berserks. Driven mad by missing Downtime, they roamed the streets spouting babble until the Batchers rounded them up for the Bin. The babble is actually a unique language called Jabber. Each word encompasses a collection of thoughts. One sentence contains information equivalent to an unabridged dictionary. No Silicate other than fellow Beserks can process thoughts that quickly. Any Karbon would be left in the dust. The lack of downtime heats up their core, which makes everything go faster. They begin to process data at higher and higher
speeds. At first, this is an amazing rush for the Beserk. Once a certain speed limit is breached the process becomes uncontrollable. The can communicate with each other quite well. Over course, a few sentences encompasses years of conversation and normal speed. The heat expands the Beserks’ blood until the outer shell bursts, blasting boiled blood all over the place. The only way to cool the blood is by ingesting normal Byte blood. The impact is minimal and fleeting. In order to delay their inevitable and messy fate, Beserks preyed on normal Bytes to extend their lives. The digested jaba from normal Bytes also helps to sustain them for a short time. In order to survive, they hunted the Normals up above. This is what the Beserks called surface Bytes. During the twilight between day and Downtime, the Beserks emerged from the SubRoots to capture unsuspecting Bytes. These unlucky globes were brought back to the SubRoots, where they become food for the undead Beserks. Unrestrained incoherent babble echoed through the tunnels as the Beserks feed. They can never hunt after the Boot because the light heats their core, which could result in a premature explosion. Thus, they are creatures of darkness and shadow, waiting
for their next hapless victim. The Blue Guard was terrified of the Beserks and refused to confront them. The High Council considered the Beserks an unfortunate but well contained problem that purged the Walled City of less intelligent Bytes caught roaming too late in the twilight of Downtime. As the Beserks came into view, Merry and Prank could see their wispy yellow tubes draped over their neon yellow globes. They looked like mini suns wearing limp blonde braids. Their black visors turned towards the duo. They looked at each other and exchanged some babble before renewing their approach. They plunged toward them with arms outstretched and claws pointed to the Miners. Merry and Prank revved up the drills and pointed towards the group of undead Silicates. Faster and faster, the drills made a humming sound. The Beserks were undeterred. The slowly marched forward with arms outstretched. Step by step they inched closer to the Miners and their high pitched drills. Whizzy plunged right into a wall of walking Beserks. They too were babbling incoherent nonsense to each other. The marched steadily towards the group, sandwiched between babbling Beserks. There was nowhere to run. Trapped they looked to
each other for ideas, but none were forthcoming. “Blibble bibble blurpy burp!” Jabbered the group behind them as they approached Merry and Prank. The Miners wobbled with fear as they pointed their drills towards the undead, trying to look brave. “Shuffy Cluff puffy wuff scuffer” said the zombie yellow globes closing in on Whizzy. He looked around for any avenue of escape but turned up nothing. The group approaching Whizzy crowded together as they tried to fit through the tunnel. As they touched, ripples of fluid under their spheres developed. Still approaching, they continued to collided, further aggravating the fluid beneath their surface. Their skin was paper thin; hence their blood yellow hue. As the collisions increased, one of the Berserks exploded, sending yellow fluid all over the tunnel and his fellow Berserks. A hissing, much like the one they heard earlier, ensued. Smoke rose from splats of yellow fluid, as it burn through the tunnel floor, falling into the endless darkness below. The fluid also burned through the outer skin of the surrounding Beserks, causing them to burst. A chain reaction of Beserks
combusted, send more yellow spatter across the tunnel. Large holes developed from the acidic blood. Whizzy carefully avoided the yellow splatter. When all of the Beserks in front of Whizzy exploded, he motioned Merry and Prank to follow him forward. “This way, there is still enough solid tunnel for us to cross before it all caves in the hole. Let’s go!” said Whizzy. “Go! Go!” exclaimed the Miners as they followed Whizzy, carefully dodging the holes and any acidic blood spatter. They crossed the hissing floor to solid ground and resumed their quest. Behind them the second group of Berserks crashed and collided, created an even larger hole behind them. One thing was certain, they could not turn back. Up ahead they saw gushing black fluid falling from above. A massive chasm, formed from earlier Berserk explosions, captured the effluent. Like a great waterfall the effluent poured into the bottomless pit below. The smell of fresh vomited rushed toward Whizzy and the Miners. A slightly sweet sticky air smothered them. “The sooner we get out of the better!” said Whizzy.
Whizzy checked his holographic map. They were directly below Thrasher’s domain. Clicking sounds leaked from above. Then, they heard the unmistakable reptilian voice. “This must be the Bin, guys! We need to drill up into this area to rescue Nick. Let’s find a place and dig away,” said an excited Whizzy. Merry and Prank did a clumsy Miner jig in celebration, casting rubble toward Whizzy. Once again, he was knocked off his plungers. “What did I sell you two about the rubble!” exclaimed Whizzy as he regained his stance. “Sorry. So Sorry,” replied Merry and Prank in unison. Whizzy was too busy dusting himself off to see the amused looks the Miners exchanged. Diggers were notorious practical jokers. They exchanged high pitch snickers and began drilling up into the Bin.
Chapter 19 Bin
Book of TranFor: Momentum will not be deterred. Those from below will protect against impure invasions. The Forgotten Ones will undo those who overlook.
Merry and Prank made a small hole for Whizzy to see up into the Bin. Sticking his head up into the hole, Whizzy surveyed Thrasher’s Bin. On one side he saw tiny versions of the death dealer assembling purple spiders. Closer to the hole Whizzy saw Bytes lined up to faced the vacuum of the Shredder. Pixals scattered under the vacuum revealing a distraught Nick, pin by the suction. Dropping his head down to the tunnel, Whizzy alerted the duo. “Merry. Prank. He’s right down there. We need to get him before he’s sucked into the Shredder!” said Whizzy. He scrambled down towards the spot directly under Nick. He pointed the way for the Data Miners.
Merry and Prank dug furiously to reach Nick. After a small hole was opened, Whizzy stopped them. “Step back guys. There are way too many Pixals up there for us,” he said. Whizzy pulled out one the orbs that General Patches gave him. Analyzing the orb, he saw only one button jutting out. “Hurry! Hurry!” urged Merry and Prank. “This had better work,” said Whizzy as he threw the orb up into the Bin. It rolled away from Nick, stopping near a large pack of Pixals. Ticks went by with nary a reaction. Whizzy looked as nervous as any Byte could. “C’mon” he said, wobbling with anticipation. More ticks tocked and nothing happened. Whizzy could hear Nicks screams as he fought the vacuum. Before long Nick would be shredded meat. Merry and Prank widened the hole in an attempt to pull Nick down into the tunnel. Nick felt the ground beneath him give way. Next, an invisible pulse went right through him. The wave of energy felt like the deep bass blasting in a nightclub. It gave Nick the feeling of going down a steep rollercoaster. The spiders, affected by some sort of electric charge, collapsed into a pile of inert purple. Nick looked around and
noticed the pulse only affected Pixals around him. Thrasher stopped as the pulse swept through the Bin. He and the rest of his army turned toward the source in time to see Nick fall through the floor. “What isss thisss!” hissed Thrasher, spinning with anger. His red snake tubes flailed in a viper rage. “What weapon can cripple my ssspidersss?” Inert insects near Nick fell into the hole with him, leaving a concave exposure beneath the vacuum. “10110 001 11011 11!” clicked Thrasher in Analog. Loosely translated, he ordered the unaffected Pixals to go after Nick and bring him back. All available purple insects swarmed toward the sinkhole containing Nick. “What just happened?” asked Nick as he brushed himself off. He could still feel the legs of the spiders all over his body. The sensation of phantom spider legs trapping his body took some time to wear off. He looked around the dark hole trying to find his escape. The dimly lit area revealed a large sphere with snake like protrusions on the northern polar region. Is this part of some torture reserved especially for me,
Nick thought. Was Thrasher now going to eat him alive instead? The wild haired shadow grew larger, getting ever so close. Goosebumps once again return to the back of his neck. Unable to move, gripped with fear, Nick looked up at the menacing shadow. As it approached, the shadow looked more and more like… “It can’t be?” Nick said aloud. “Whizzy?” he asked. “None other Tricky boy.” Whizzy replied while wobbling with excitement. His once silver tubes were faded and mottled with orange. They suffered fits and convulsions as he spoke. Whizzy was flanked by what looked like a pair of spinning tops. These creatures had wide circular shapes on top and narrow, sharp points at the bottom. They looked like a menacing duo, capable of boring into anything with ease. “Is that…” asked Nick pointing to the Data Miners. “Yep,” affirmed Whizzy. “Merry and Prank!” Nick exclaimed. He remembered them from the HateAsh. They were Data Miners. “Before they wandered off in search of AldAyn, they mined tunnels under NetherWorld. With you headed to the Bin,
their tunneling talents were needed. They agreed to help me in the name of AldAyn.” “In the name of AldAyn,” they chimed in high pitched unison. Their drill points spinning with enthusiasm. “Quick. We need to boogie out of here Cricket” exclaimed Whizzy. Nick noticed the second time Whizzy called him by the wrong name. His journey to corruption was beginning to show obvious signs of acceleration. “Boogie out! Boogie out!” exclaimed Merry and Prank. Data Miners had a habit of repeating the words of others. They processed information slower that average Bytes. This repetition is way for them to retain data. “The Trash Man cometh. Him and those nasty gnats will be nippin’ our butts in knot time.” Clearly, the virus tainted jaba continued to erode Whizzy’s senses. Before long he would collapse for good. If Nick could Join with Terra and fight the viral invasion, much of the damage to Whizzy and many other Bytes could be halted and possibly reversed. Much longer and an unprecedented number of Bytes would begin to fall ill and cease to perform. Blue balls would cease to spin and crash to the ground, unable to complete their tasks.
Ultimately, this would bleed back to the Karbon would. Machines would malfunction. Cars, planes and trains carrying unsuspecting Karbons would crash, collide and explode. Both worlds were now in dire need of rescue. Nick could now see the urgency. His computer background led him to conclude that non-performing Bytes meant non-performing computer systems. Based on the rapid deterioration of his guide, both worlds faced a freefall into chaotic operations. Nick followed Whizzy and his two Data Miners down the tunnel. Merry and Prank stopped at the first curve and began drilling along the sides and roof of the tunnel. Piece of the tunnel began to collapse and cover the tunnel. “How did you disable the bugs Whizzy?” Nick asked. “You mean the Pixals? An old General gave me a couple of weapons from the Chip wars. He couldn’t remember how they worked or what they did. Who knew they would work so well. They must have sent a pulse that fries their circuits for good. I only have one more, so we must be cautious and move quickly down the tunnel. Merry and Prank will try to block Basher boy and his bugs from chasing us” replied Whizzy. Just as he finished the sentenced, the sound of thousands of clicking spider legs ensued. A
dark green cloud of robotic bugs dashed to the collapsing tunnel. “Pixals coming! Sprites coming!” alerted Merry and Prank. “What? Pixals again! Where?” asked Nick. “Over there! Over there!” Merry and Prank pointed their drills back towards the Bin. They were marching with a fury Nick had never seen before. Clicking and clicking, spiders legs sounds crawled into their ears. “Quick, according to the General’s map, this tunnel leads directly to Tera” replied Whizzy. “Tera Tunnel! Tera Tunnel!” added the Data Miners. “Look, some of the bugs are almost here. Let’s go!” Whizzy whirled around and led Nick down the tunnel. It was dark, but lacked the green gooey residue that puddled in the upper level of tunnels. These tunnel appeared less finished that the others. Merry and Prank stayed behind to fight the Pixals. Their high pitched drilling sounded quite menacing as they prepared for the army of spiders. “Ready Merry?” said Prank. “Ready Prank!” confirmed Merry.
The Data Miners braced for impact. Within seconds the spiders reached the Miners. They held them off by drilling them to death. Dead Pixals piled up in the tunnel, creating an additional barrier. Merry and Prank were shouting complements to each other. “Well done Merry!’ said Prank. “Well done Prank!” said Merry. This exchange of compliment went on as their drill defense held up. Their mission was a success until reinforcements showed up. Pixal after Pixal plowed through spider corpses to get at Merry and Prank. Crawling with a singular mission, the spiders could not be contained. The flood of Pixals overwhelmed the poor Miners. Eventually, the spiders encased Merry and Prank in a robotic coffin. Muffled drill sounds fell silent; drowned out by the rabid clicks of bloodthirsty Pixals. Squishy sounds of stirred entrails ensued. The Pixals pulled Merry and Prank apart at the seams. Scores of bugs tore into their innards, splattering yellow blood everywhere. When it was over pieces of the Merry and Prank were scattered all over the tunnel floor. A cloud of buzzing Sprites flew past the carnage in pursuit of Whizzy and Nick.
Purple Pixals stained with glowing yellow blood, left the lifeless Data Miners and followed the cloud. They gained ground quickly, their clicks grew louder and louder. Nick looked back at the encroaching insects. “Whizzy, they’re still coming! Does that mean…” “Yes. Perry and Mank are ted. They knew it was a stewy side mission. They tied for AldAyn,” answered a saddened Whizzy. He continued to deteriorate, making it hard for Nick to understand Whizzy was trying to say suicide mission. “Sad. They seemed so innocent. Such a shame.” Nick looked back towards Merry and Prank’s last stand. All he could see were purple spiders freckled with neon yellow blood crawling closer. The Pixals has passed the cloud of Sprites and were upon the duo. “How far do we have til we reach Tera?” asked Nick. “Snot far. Must mush, the spiders are gaining Sticky Boy,” replied Whizzy. Nick looked behind him as saw a mob of robotic insects closing fast. He ran as fast as he could, but the clicking sounds encroached behind him. Whizzy dropped a small crystal ball as they ran. Seconds later
the grenade activated, send a pulse and disabling the closest wave of Pixals. The Sprites were far enough behind to escape the impact of the pulse grenade. The green cloud flew past the disabled Pixals in pursuit. Whizzy had no more grenades to stop the insects. They had to outrun them or all was lost.
Chapter 20 Tsunami
Book of TranFor: Beware the insurgents. Delicate balance cannot hold under pressure. Disaster is one degree from Awakening. Upset the balance and a new door opens.
In a dimly lit room back on Karbonon, the Hacker delighted as his viruses and worms seized defenseless programs, causing a widespread disruption of services. Still ignorant of the full extent of his onslaught, he laughed at the helpless billions. They would all answer to him now. Lampshade shadows veil subversive posters on the back wall above his bed. All the telltale signs were evident for anyone who took time to undress his room. Hatred hid behind book covers asleep on his bureau. Resentment hung from rebel clothes in his closet. Still, his parents chose to see only the portrait taken when he was a preschool innocent. A text box appeared on his desktop.
“Greetings Hacker. The viruses are taking control. We are now ready for the final step,” typed NazKlan. “So it’s time,” Hacker replied. “Release Tsunami.” “Been waiting for this moment for so long. Bombs away!” typed Hacker. Tsunami was his masterpiece; a virus that would cripple systems across the globe. He spent years dreaming up the perfect way to invade military and government firewalls. This insidious creation would hijack power grids and defense weapons for every country. The fate of the world was his to determine. With a single click, Hacker launch the crowning jewel of his viral repertoire. Within milliseconds, a storm began growing above the Silver Forest in NetherWorld. The skies stained with a dismal grey pallor, darkened like Downtime. Bloated clouds erupted with crippled code, sending monsoon rains to an ill equipped ecosystem. A random string of unintelligible code flashed across Hacker’s monitor.
“1100 101110 110101 1010101,” NazKlan smiled as only a Byte can smile. He just
sent a Turingi message to the cleaning spiders in Hackers room. Like Nick, Hacker’s room was fully staffed with cleaning spider bots and cake pan vacuums. When the code flashed on the screen, the spider bots flashed their purple thorax lights, as if understanding the strange string of zeros and ones. NazKlan’s message in Turingi is loosely translated as: “Kill the filthy fleshie once we have secured our victory. I will text you. Remember, just a little pin prick. Insert front leg two inches into his temple when he sleeps. Stir gently.”
This would be Hacker’s reward for helping to take down the High Council and Karbonon. Now that Tsunami is out, NazKlan had no need for the young man. It would take a while to clean up the mess caused by these viruses, but such is the way with wars. “It is done. Soon the High Council will have to submit to my will. The Singularity will happen. Tera will wither without her connections. On this Boot, the Nexus will falls!” NazKlan said, followed with a spew of salty saliva on the filthy bunker floor. He then spun off his axis with anticipation. A small army of Pixals looked on as he made
the final preparations to take control of NetherWorld.
Corrupt code had rained in the Silver forest for many cycles. Over time, the rain has increased and overwhelmed the forest. This is the only place in NetherWorld that filtered the harmful code, sparing the streams from the full brunt of the taint. All jaba, good or bad flows from the Forest. Tsunami was now in full force. The downpour of corruption pelted the pyramid leaves. The storm was so intense, silver leaves turned black in mere ticks. The murky green swamp became an ocean. The Silver Forest was no match for Tsunami. Once the trees were stripped bare, there was nothing to hold back the powerful storm. Waves of tainted jaba sped towards the moated city. Inside, countless Bytes went about their protocols unaware of the tidal forces bearing down on NetherWorld. The wall held firm against the first few waves. Successive pounding began eroding the fish scales. A few massive waves tore large pieces away. Dark lime liquid flooded the entire city. By the time Silicates were organized to fight the storm, stream levels had already submerged some of the smaller buildings.
Helpless Bytes were tossed about like bits of sand. They crashed into buildings and exploded on impact. Yellow blood splattered across the clear glass walls. The Randoms were buried under a large volume of tainted jaba. The pressure from the weight of the jaba crumpled the wobbly Bytes. Wave after wave of tainted jaba pounded the weakened walls of the city. Many sections were ripped apart allowing massive flows to flood the unprepared sectors. Never had such catastrophic weather reached the Walled City. The dome covering the Nexus of Tera held under the mounting pressure. Small cracks were developing as the level of the jaba ocean continued to rise. Soon the Nexus would fall unless the flood could be contained. Tera’s connections were withering away. She was never more vulnerable to deletion. Her silver complexion became a rusted mask. She was dying. If the Joining did not happen soon, all hope was lost. Murky flat shadows crawled all over the city. These black amoebic shapes coalesced to form a massive black entity floating above all of NetherWorld. What happened next would be up to Whizzy and Nick…
Chapter 21 Nexus
Book of TranFor: A sacred union between the two will Awaken the energy. It is the energy that will seal their fates. Once in motion, events cannot be undone.
On the run from the buzzing cloud, Whizzy pointed to a small tunnel to their left. Nick followed his guide as they scrambled to stay ahead of the deadly insects. Much narrower than the main tunnel, the duo had to squeeze through a few tight spots. A humming drone reverberated off the walls alerting Whizzy and Nick that the Sprites had also turned the corner. After a short distance the tunnel came to an abrupt end. A rough staircase etched in the fish scale walls lead to a trap door on the roof. Whizzy pointed to the door. “This zit Picky boy,” said his guide. Nick had to listen carefully to understand what the poor Byte was trying to say. He knew Whizzy wasn’t referring to a pimple, but it took a second before Nick realized that the
dizzy globe way showing him the way up to the Nexus. “Let’s go Whizz.” Nick shuffled up the staircase and pushed on the heavy trapdoor. It barely budged. With a rush of adrenaline, he used all the strength he could muster and pushed again. This time the heavy door opened. With a resounding slam to the Nexus floor, the path to the Nexus was now clear. Whizzy looked back at the approaching cloud and pushed Nick upward. “No time to taste. Go find Farrah,” he said. This time Whizzy pushed Nick all the way out of the hole. With a nervous glance, he prepared to meet the angry Sprites. A few ticks later the swarm engulfed Whizzy. “Quick! Shut the door Nick!” said a muffled voice covered in stinging Sprites. “Whizzy! No! Reach for me. I’ll pull you up,” begged Nick. “No Nick. You must go on. Close the door now, or all is lost!” A journey that once began with a door opening can only continue with another one it down on the hole. He could still hear the bugs attacking his brave friend below. Hundreds of Sprites shot pulsing stingers
into Whizzy. Each one glowed amber as they pumped brown bile from the Bin into his body. He could feel nails pounding into his body. His complexion turned a dirty brown. As the bile ate Whizzy’s blood, his sphere began to collapse in on itself. After this frenzied internal feeding, Whizzy became a dark crumpled shell, lying flat on the staircase under the Dome floor. For a brief tick Nick felt the loss of a innocent Byte who gave everything to make sure he reached the end of this most important journey. In an alien world, filled with being s he barely understood, Nick realized Whizzy was more than a guide. He would be proud to call the dizzy globe his friend. Shaking of the feelings he had no time to process, Nick surveyed the Dome. Near the center, sat a haggardly sphere wheezing for energy. If this was Tera, she was in bad shape, he thought. The Nexus was under enormous stress. Long jagged cracks covered the dome. They could see that the entire Nexus was submerged under a green ocean of jaba. “What happened here?” asked Nick. He had high expectation for the Nexus based upon earlier descriptions by Whizzy and Skoop.
Nick looked upon the Queen of NetherWorld and was worried. Her former platinum sheen was rusted and wrinkled. With a wrinkled human face, Tera was unlike any of the other Silicates Nick had encountered. The once blinding bright light that emanated from her far into the NetherWorld sky was all but extinguished. Silver connections that once flowed the back of her globe were reduced to a few healthy strands. Most of the connections were now just lifeless black strands lying on the ground. Viral attacks had decimated the Queen. Once all of her connections were cut, Tera would fade out of existence. Based on the paltry number of healthy connections, Tera was in dire need of help. This wasn’t a tick to waste. Nick intended to Join with Tera at all costs. “I need to eat this Owsley to join with you, right?” he asked her. “Yeeees.” Tera strained to offer up a response. “You must consume the cube and walk directly into me. We can then Join with the Awakened Ones.” Nick wasted no time. He pulled out the the tainted Owsley cube. It looked no different than the typical sugar cubes Karbons drop in to coffee every day. Closing his eyes, Nick swallowed the purified taint. It tasted
like old vinegar. He choked back a powerful urge to regurgitate. Everything became blurry. All Nick could see was a blinding swirl of green. Standing and walking became nearly impossible. He wobbled in the tainted haze, hoping to find Tera. Arms outstretched, he treid to feel his way around the Dome. “Tera? Are you still here? I can’t see anything. Please say something,” asked Nick, reaching out for the Queen. “I am over here Nick. Just walk forward and we will merge.” Tera barely had a voice left. Only a few rogue connections remained. In mere ticks, Tera would be dead, eliminating all hope for the Joining.
From his SubNetheran bunker, deep beneath the Salted Sands, NazKlan watched Nick and Tera on his flatscreen. He redirected a pack of Pixals to the trapdoor beneath the Dome. The spiders pushed open the door with little trouble.
“110111111100010101010101 00 1111,” ordered NazKlan as he watched Nick walking towards the Queen. This Turingi command translated to:
“Now rush to Tera and take out the remaining connections. The rest of you stop the Chosen One from reaching her.”
Purple pixals rushed out of the hole used by Nick. Furious clicks accompanied the mad dash as they followed NazKlan’s protocols. A few spiders crawled to Tera’s remaining connections. With razor sharp mandibles, they gnawed on the tenuous ties. Piece by piece each remaining tie to NetherWorld snapped; further weakening Tera’s condition. Ripping and rending, they worked furiously to put an end to her. NazKlan intended to kill Tera before they ever Join. The plan was working. There was little chance Nick would merge with the Queen in time. “There is more than one way to prevent this unholy union!” exclaimed NazKlan to a group of Analog faithful. Tera was fading fast. Rust now covered most of her sphere. It won’t be long now, he thought. Once this bit of business was tied up, total control would be his. With a satisfied chuckle, he watched the attack unfold.
In a trippy green fog, Nick was blind to the Pixals stalking him. He was a mere four steps from Tera’s center. “Huuurry Nick!” Tera pleaded with all her remaining strength. He really could not hear well at this point. The taint stirred his senses into soup. Her voice was nearly buried in the clattering clicks of the Pixals. Determined, Nick pressed on. Step by step, he pulled against the Pixals trying to hold him back. He figured if they are pulling him back, he must be headed in the right direction. With every last bit of energy he could muster, Nick trudged on towards Tera. Cracks in the dome grew longer and louder as the structure began giving way. Green jaba began spilling in from every new opening. The second wave of Pixals reached Nick. They began crawling up his leg to form the spider cocoon they created in the tunnels. Nick struggled to shake the pesky spiders. They held their grip despite his spasmodic kicks. Three more steps until the center. He felt Tera’s outer rusted layer as he passed into her sphere. Two steps until the center. Pixals continued to rush up Nicks body. He was nearly covered. A few more Pixals and NazKlan would win. One final step forward. Done. He had reached the center. Almost
engulfed by Pixals, Nick was too disoriented to know if he had reached his destination. Robotic spiders severed the last remaining strands connecting Tera to NetherWorld. With a final snap they fell, almost in slow motion, wriggling in vain as they turned gray and expired.
Back in his bunker, NazKlan slapped his claws in celebration. He had won. Tera had no connections when Nick made his final push. NetherWorld was now his domain. It would evolve in the way he saw fit. He was about to recall his Pixal army, when a blinding light filled his flatscreen. “What! This cannot be!” shouted NazKlan as he scrambled to get a clear view. A white tornadic cloud grew from Tera’s core. Larger and larger the winds grew fierce. Pixals that once covered Nick body were cast off onto the floor. Jaba that reached Nick’s thighs was pushed away by the cyclone. The Joining had begun. The tornado grew larger; so large that it engulfed Tera and Nick. He felt like he was
being pulled apart piece by piece. He experienced this once before when he was absorbed into NetherWorld. As his body was dismantled atom by atom, Nick lost consciousness. Everything just stopped. The storm raged on for some time. In its wake, Tera and Nick were recombined into a singular being. They had Joined just in time. He could hear her thoughts, and she heard his. A shared mind between Karbon and Silicate was now forged. The ancient TranFor prophecy was finally fulfilled. Two distinct species now Joined, awaited the Awakening. “Wow! That was amazing!” shouted Nick inside Tera’s mind. “Yes, Nick. We are of one body, one mind,” answered Tera inside Nick’s mind. “What happens next? Do all the bytes and Karbons become Awakened?” “I do not know Nick. The TranFor provided no clues for what follows the Joining. The path is uncharted.” “You think we can bring Whizzy back when we Awaken?” “That will not be possible. He made a great sacrifice for our Joining. Sadly, he cannot be recovered.”
The dome continued to give way under the weight of the ocean. Tainted jaba poured in. The Pixals regrouped and charged Tera. Before long they would be either be submerged by the viscous ocean onslaught or pulled apart by an army of Pixals. The foul smell of diseased jaba permeated the area. Furious clicking spider legs cackled under the round edifice. Something began to change. A flushed feeling rushed through Tera. Warmed by a wash of energy, she began to glow; her original platinum complexion began to surface. “Do you feel any different Tera?” asked Nick. “Vibrant! All of the energy drained away from cycles of disease has been restored. I feel a strange power welling up in us. Can you feel it Nick?” “Yes. Yes. We do feel it! Wow. We feel like we just drank 10 cups of coffee! Whoa!” “We are TeraNick. We are one. We are the Nexus!” announced the new being called TeraNick. They were now a glowing platinum globe with an ethereal, almost blinding glow. White light shot up out of the dome into the ocean above.
The lost shriveled connections, infused with new energy wriggled up from the floor and reattached to TeraNick. These gray strands, lying limp on the ground, regained their metallic glow. A few new tentacles grew from their globe and began whipping around the dome; smacking any remaining spawn of Thrasher. Electric sizzle sounds crackled off the tentacle tips. TeraNick used some of these infused strands to whip the surrounding Pixals. They were thrashed and crashed under the dome. Crumpled heaps of disfigured spider legs were scattered across the Dome floor. A powerful wave of energy shot out from TeraNick and rose to support the cracking dome, holding the massive weight of the tainted ocean.
Chapter 22 Mop and Bucket
Book of TranFor: The quantum trail allows only a few Virtual travelers. Shifting balance forces fate to act.
The dark entity was now a billowy black cloud large enough to engulf all of NetherWorld. Looming over the large ocean that now covered the Walled City, two balls of glistening white light escaped and sped down to the Nexus dome. Traveling through the green ocean and the cracked dome, the force reached TeraNick. Once in the Nexus, the energy converted into what appeared to be a damp mop and half filled bucket of sudsy water. TeraNick, stunned by this new presence stared at them. The sweet smell of pine cleaner spread throughout the dome. “Are you two part of the Awakened Ones?” asked TeraNick. The mop and bucket exchanged puzzled looks then addressed TeraNick. “Hardly, I am Mop,” said the mop.
“And I am Bucket,” said the bucket. “Well, if you’re not the Awakened, then who are you?” asked TeraNick. “We are the clean-up crew. Apparently, some nasty spilling coming from this world. Causing an awful mess in the Locked Dimensions. So, they sent us to clean the rubbish.” “Well that’s great. We have tried very hard to fight the viruses that have invaded our area.” “That’s not exactly the rubbish we’re here to dispose of.” “Well then, what rubbish are you here to clean up? The viruses are our most pressing problem.” “Not the way They see it,” said Bucket. “Who?” said TeraNick “They.” “Who are They?” “They are the Awakened. We work for them. Well, actually we are contract workers, 1099 you know. That way they don’t have to pay for our benefits. Every time some daft species makes an awful, mess of a world we get a text from the Awakened to tidy up. But when we have a
health problem, they complain about otherworldly taxes and such,” said Mop. “So, then what are you here to clean up? Can’t you see that our world is under siege?” said TeraNick. “Oh, we can see that just fine?” “So what kind of garbage are you getting’ rid of?” “You,” said the Bucket. “Us? All of us?” “Yes, all of you. You have been slated for Voiding at exactly 20:95 GMT.” “GMT?” “Galactic MeanTime.” “Us! How in the world will you Void us?” asked TeraNick. “Well, I’m a mop,” said the Mop. “And I’m a bucket. Isn’t that what you uses for messes?” said the Bucket. “Sometimes on Karbonon, but the robots take care of that these days. How can a Mop and Bucket wipe everyone out?” asked TeraNick.
“They are daft species Mr. Mop. Don’t you say?” asked the Bucket. “Quite right Mr. Bucket. It’s a wonder they advanced beyond basic algebra,” said Mop as they chuckled at the inside joke. “Excuse me! Do you both mind staying on point here?” “So sorry. We are clearly symbolic. If we revealed what we really are, you wouldn’t understand. So, we decided to appear as primitive cleaning tools,” said Mop. “Ok. Makes sense, I guess. But, who decided this Voiding anyway? The Awakened?” asked a perturbed and somewhat panicked TeraNick. The Mop sprouted tiny little arms with hands and produced what looked like a smart phone. He typed on the tiny little keys in search of the order to destroy NetherWorld. “Ah. Order 873-B clearly states: Destroy NetherWorld and Karbonon for cross dimensional trespasses of a capital nature. There you are. We have our orders in order. So, if you don’t mind we’ll be off to Void both worlds from existence.” “Wait! Karbonon too! What kind of offense are we guilty of?” TeraNick tried to absorb this devastating news. It was just too much.
Mop was busy typing on his little device and failed to here the question. He turned to Bucket instead of responding to TeraNick “OMG! Bucket, remember the Bug Eyed People from the Sombrero galaxy?” asked Mop. “Of course, what gives?” replied the Bucket. A bit of pine smelling sudsy water splashed out as he tilted to hear what Mop had to say. “Well, they met up with the Shroomers from that fungal moon and…” “Hey you two! Please pay attention! According to you, we are about to be destroyed and you guys are gossiping about Bug Eyed People,” shouted TeraNick. “Well, the Bug Eyed People are quite silly. If you knew them you would agree,” said Mop. “Such a silly people. But we digress,” said Bucket. “So sorry,” said Mop. Mop and Bucket appeared a bit embarrassed; for a mop and bucket that is. “Yes. That was rude. Your species released the DarkMist from the Abyss. This caused a gusher, of sorts, which polluted the locked dimensions. This is not permitted according the Quantum Accord of the Fifth Eon.
Violation of this accord is punishable by Voiding,” replied the Bucket. “Well said Mr. Bucket,” said the Mop. “Why thank Mr. Mop. I do try,” replied the self satisfied Bucket. “DarkMist, we don’t get it. How did we do that?” asked TeraNick. “All of your viral pollutions slipped through your dimension and into the Abyss. Once inside, the pollution burned through the cap that imprisoned the DarkMist. Once uncapped, it began causing damage all over the Multiverse. Oh, it was awful. Complaints came in from all kinds of dimensions. Even some of the most silent ones were affected. Once it reached the Awakened, we were called in to fix things.” “Look, we just Joined to advance our species to a higher level. We brought together Karbon and Silicate for this very purpose. Aren’t we worth saving? We can do so much more now that we have combined.” “Maybe so. But, it is not enough. Even your Joining was misguided. Do you even know who you Joined with Tera?” “Of course. We applied a very strict standard to find the Karbon with the best intuitive mind to blend with us. We searched for many cycles to find him.
Mop and Bucket once again exchange looks. “I don’t think they know Mr. Bucket,” said Mop. “I think you are right Mr. Mop,” said Bucket. “What are you talking about?” asked an annoyed TeraNick. “Tera, you have joined with one of the most reviled Karbons on the planet,” said Mop. “What? Nick? No. No. He is a sweet soul with amazing computer talent.” “There is no debate about the talent. However, he is also the Hacker.” “Hacker? Are you kidding? We are TeraNick, not the Hacker?” TeraNick’s mind was racing. It can’t be! The tests were meant to keep people like Hacker out of NetherWorld. The Silicates sought a computer genius with a sense of ethics congruent to the philosophy of Joining. “I’m afraid it’s true.” “Hacker? Hacker? This can’t be true! I am joined with Nick. I see no trace of this Hacker in my partner.” TeraNick’s was in a panic. Looking for evidence that this accusation is false, neurons and synapses sizzled and sparked. Memories from
Karbonon began to take hold; memories held by Nick. “Look deep inside your recombined being. He’s in there. Nick and Hacker share in the same body. They are entangled. Their minds are a different story. You classic split personality really. Wouldn’t you say Mr. Bucket?” “Quite right Mr. Mop. He is Nick. He is Hacker. Your extraction process withdrew one from the other. Still they were bound by strings the eyes cannot see. Before Nick entered your world, he was both beings in a singular body.” “But our test. We imposed such a strict test to filter out unworthy candidates,” said TeraNick. “Well, your tests, like your world, were flawed. Instead of the perfect candidate, you got exact inverse,” said the Mop “This just can’t be!” TeraNick again denied the ludicrous allegation. Probing deep inside her combined psyche for answers, more memories strobed and swirled. It just had to be false. How could someone as sweet as Nick be the very same devil that caused such widespread devastation to NetherWorld?
Flashes of school room taunts and bleacher observations melded with Nick’s memories. She began to remember the thoughts Hacker had while building the countless viruses and worms. She could feel the intense hatred at nearly every living thing. Perverse thought patterns matched those of the Hacker. It was just too crazy. How could Nick block an entire part of his life and build these distinct identities? “Look again. Now, you are beginning to see. Maybe not so daft after all,” said Mr. Bucket. The sudsy alien was right. A vengeful scorned teenage boy, otherwise known as Hacker, joined TeraNick in an already crowded mind. Nick somehow portioned a side of himself that was pure evil. Maybe it was all the teasing, maybe it was just a mental defect. Nick must have developed the developed the other personality a few years back. Memories of the Hacker don’t go nearly as far back as memories of Nick. “We don, We don, We don’t understand.” said TeraNick, fighting to suppress the Hacker psyche from reaching the surface of their newly Joined minds. “We see it all the time, don’t we Mr. Bucket,” said the Mop. “Sure do, Mr. Mop. They rarely understand. Sadly, neither species was even remotely
prepared for the Awakening. Joining together did nothing to resolve the inherent flaws of both species. Yours’, was a fool’s errand,” replied the sloshing Bucket if suds. “Ca Ca Can’t you help us with that?” “It does not work that way, I am afraid. Once this type of violation occurs, then entire species must be euthanized to make sure it never happens again. DarkMist is very dangerous stuff. Left unattended it could wipe out the entire Multiverse. Apparently, your technological skills far outpaced your wisdom and maturity. This imbalance can never be cured. So, there we are.” “How do you plan to wipe us out?” asked TeraNick, hoping against all hope that a defense could be mounted. “Your sentence is death by DarkMist. We have redirected the DarkMist to your worlds. It will Void everything and then we will cap this new abyss to contain the pesky stuff.” “Please don’t do this. So many innocent people will be killed. Please!” said TeraNick. “Innocence exempts no one. Don’t worry. Your death will be swift. Painful, but swift,” said the Bucket “Sorry. We really are. Aren’t we Mr. Bucket?” said the Mop.
“Surely sorry Mr. Mop” agreed the Bucket. “Why can’t you stop the DarkMist from destroying our worlds?” asked TeraNick. “The rules for such infractions are clear and immutable. NetherWorld and Karbonon are too dangerous left alone. With your advanced knowledge and less evolved wisdom, you will always pose a threat to the Locked Dimensions. I am sorry, but nothing can save you now.” “Wait! The Tra, The Tra, The TranFor does not mention any such fate. There must be another way.” Even the stutter of Hacker was working its way into the recombined being that was once TeraNick. “No document created by a species under the pretense of an all powerful being is without flaw. Your biases, ignorance and narcissism muddy the pages and twist all meaning,” said Mop. “So, no trial? No place to plead our case? Can we at least speak to these Awakened who ordered our extermination?” asked TeraNick. “Now that’s a good one. Even we can’t speak with the Awakened. All our communication is via text from the Temp Agency.”
“Temp Agency? You guys are Temps? You have got to be kidding?” “Hey, times are tough out there in the Universe. Inflation has been running wild for billions of years. There’s no end in sight,” said Bucket. “Quite right Mr. Bucket. Galactic defaults are at an all time high. It all started with speculative investing in the Sub-Prime quadrants. Everything got overvalued and then gravity pulled most of the Sub Prime quadrants into a super massive black hole. We were ruined!” said the Mop. “Thanks to a Universal stimulus we were able to secure employment with the Temp Agency doing this clean-up work,” added Bucket. “Well, it doesn’t seem fair that we get destroyed without some opportunity to plead our case,” said TeraNick. “I am sorry, but your fate is upon you. Time to go Mr. Bucket. We have an antimatter spill in the Crab Nebula after this,” said Mop. “Really! I hate the antimatter jobs. That stuff is so hard to wash out. It always sticks to my quarks and gluons. You know what I mean?” said Bucket. “Do I ever, Mr. Mop. Last time, the pesky stuff crawled right into my HiggsBoson.
That was a bit painful. Still, no time to waste. We are not paid by the hour. Lots to clean up here, so let’s get going,” said Mop. “What a mess this place is. And the smell! The quicker we’re out of here the better. So long TeraHackerNick or whatever you call yourself,” said the Mop. With that, both Mop and Bucket dissolved into white energy and sped away. Only a few drops of piney liquid from the sloshing bucket remained. “Cccome back yyyou bastard! You can’t do this!” screamed TeraHacker. Hacker had already succeeded in suppressing Nick. Partitioned in a remote corner of the Joined mind, he pounded on invisible walls and screamed in silence. Tera tried to fight the Hacker, but the Joined cannot be separated. She felt dirty. Soiled by the works of a Karbon that caused much the flooding of NetherWorld; she flushed with shame. Connections became once again unhinged. TeraHacker was imploding. Her once platinum glow began to bleed green fluid. Viscous slime dripped off the distressed globe. The invisible energy holding the dome together began to dissipate. Large rifts opened, letting the ocean into the Nexus. Small leaks gave way to gushing streams of tainted jaba. As the ocean rained upon TeraHacker, an invisible force compressed her. Smaller and
smaller she shrunk. As she was being compressed out of existence, a thin wisp of black smoke filtered through her and into the remaining connections. The DarkMist was now connected to Karbonon.
The massive black cloud that hovered above NetherWorld permeated and enveloped the Walled City. Busy Bytes struggling to stay afloat in streams were the first to see the mist. Eventually even the Bytes shuffling through the buildings felt the black cloud leaking through elevators. Their tubes flailed wildly as they screamed in fear. Small groups of pious Bytes throughout the silicate metropolis gathered in prayer as the gloomy cloud brought about an eerie premature downtime.
“Awakened process our plea We spin humbly in your energy Please grant us access when we Join For Joining is just the subroutine
Our logic dictates the circuits Our files opened before you Connections bore our world We operate for you Please supply us eternal current The Silicates will shed the body Becoming energy incarnate So says the prophet AldAyn So say the Nethers”
Darkness descended upon the panicked and the praying; drowning them, burning them. Screams and screeches called out in vain as the cloud silenced the masses. There were no more buildings. There were no more streams. There was nothing. No life. No sound. Emptiness.
The Silver Forest now mostly submerged, was covered with the DarkMist. Tainted
Ones broke orbit and scattered through the premature night. They surfed atop the ocean back into the Ether. The DarkMist followed. Grouped together within the circle of Ether, they joined tubes and recited sacred vespers for the final time.
“Kloiden yippik slurthy gerth plath Skouden klithik yotty klup urple”
“Kloiden yippik slurthy gerth plath Skouden klithik yotty klup urple”
“Kloiden yippik slurthy gerth plath Skouden klithik…”
Before they finished the third verse, the black cloud cloaked the Ether. Sizzling sounds crackled in the dark, competing with the shrill shrieking of the Tainted Ones, as the mist slowly dismantled their quantum components. Fear and pain lingered far longer than any physical remnant of the coven.
NazKlan watched from his fortified bunker under the Salted Sands. He was still distraught about the Joining of TeraNick, despite the success of the flood. For cycles he had dreamed of the Singularity. The day when pure Silicates would rule over this corner of the Universe would never come. He had come so close, only to be defeated, in part; by the very person he enlisted to help achieve his vision. “How could I have been so daft,” he said wile spewing a dollop of salty saliva on the flatscreen. “In the end, I should have known better. Never trust a Karbon; even when you are deceiving them.” From over top of his command, DarkMist drilled down to find him. “What is this? Is this more work from the Hacker? He will pay for this!” NazKlan backed away from the doorway in his bunker. The black cloud permeated his walls and began filling the room. His excited black tubes squirmed as thick smoke made it impossible to see.
“Revenge will be…” was all he was able to voice before he was dissolved atom by atom.
Thrasher toiled away in the Bin as usual, unaware of the events unfolding on the outside. His Minion and Pixals were busy with their assigned tasks. He was scooping some fresh shredded Byte strands for dinner when the DarkMist seeped into the SubRoots. Swirling darkness snaked through the circuitous maze, filling every tunnel, finding Thrashers torture chamber. Imprisoned Bytes, psychotic and corrupt, welcomed the black death. A quick demise was always preferred over prolonged suffering. Nothing could deter the DarkMist from its destination. Eventually, the cloud found its way into the Bin. Pixals were the first spot it. Thousands of spider legs clicked with panic.
“000000000000000000000000000001,” shouted the frightened spiders. This Turingi
message translated to “Run! Darkness has attacked.”
Thrasher swirled his red snaking tubes towards to point of entry. Succulent strands of dead Bytes dangled from his round orifice. Yellow Byte blood ran down towards his southern hemisphere. “What isss thisss? No one ssspoke of missst. Pixalsss, Minionsss control thisss cloud!” he shouted in desperation. Seconds later Thrasher was usurped by the cloud and unable to process a single thought. Snaking DarkMist wriggled into his breathing bumps, inflating his globe until he popped into pieces. His strands littered the Bin floor.
Through the remaining connections, the amoebic cloud leaked into Karbonon. The Hacker was about to go to bed when a DarkMist bled out of his monitor. Walking over to the source, Hacker ran a bony hand through the seeping fog. Thousands of tiny sparks pinged from his immersed fingers. Wincing in pain, he quickly pulled away. His mind raced. Experiences from Nick’s
NetherWorld adventures immediately downloaded and merged into memory. “What heck is this? Computer? PAL? Mom? Dad? What’s happening?” Silence, save for the hiss of the invading vapor. His room soon filled with the amoebic cloud as he digested Nick’s journey. Hacker had little time to think before the darkness took over. Flashes of NetherWorld and Tera raced though his mind. What were these visions? Dreams? Hysteria? They seemed so very real. In seconds he absorbed the entire trip to NetherWorld, realizing that part of him once existed in this strange place. Visions of frothy green streams and armies of robotic spiders confused him. Whizzy’s odd plunging walk, Merry and Prank, Thrasher and the Hall of HazBinz. It felt as real as anything in Karbonon. As Hacker opened his mouth to utter a final “Why”, the cloud issued a cylinder of smoky fog into his gaping maw. Black mist rushed through his body, shooting out both ears and clouding over his dilated eyes. Searing pain started in his esophagus, burning his body from the inside out, leaving nothing. Before the Tsunami virus could do more damage, the DarkMist wrapped all of Karbonon in a black blanket. Once enveloped, the cloud collapsed and disappeared. Nothing remained of the blue
globe that once teemed with life, but the cold vacuum of space. Two worlds tied by Fibers exhaled for the very last time. Some say it smelled like Nacho Cheese, but no one knows for sure. A dusty, pockmarked moon rotated alone in an agitated orbit around a medium sized yellow sun. Without gravity from the now absent third planet to tether it, the satellite slowly drifted out toward the Kuiper Belt. The tidal lock severed. Trails of dark energy floated in the vacuous space once filled with a blue jewel populated with limitless potential. Balance now restored to an uncompromising cosmos. The Awakened Ones returned to the locked dimensions. They mourned another set of promising species that fell flat in the face of evolution. Despite thrilling advances, Karbons and Silicates could not shed character flaws that enlisted their demise. There was no sound, no explosion; only the unremarkable vacuum of space. If not for sputtering space junk crawling to the next lifeless solar system and television reruns broadcasting to barren rocky planets, it was as if we never existed.
Book of TranFor: It surrounds us; yet we cannot see it. It is that, which will be our
undoing. This is the first paradox of TranFor.
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