Data beamed them out of that world. They reached the new one the same way as the others. But Dino noted that both of them took longer than usual for their avatars to fully materialize in the new world, and that Data’s vest remained in rough detail. Data was catching his breath.
They were surrounded by a dense forest. In the distance they could make out a few huts and a farming village further on. On a hill overlooking that farming village they saw a castle protected by tall spires. Dino also noted a few fairies and nymphs passing them by. A few balls of bouncing fur also passed beside them, stopping for a moment to check them out before moving on.
“What’s this place called?” Dino asked.
Data was breathing heavily. “I…I…If I remember right, it’s called Fantasy Journey, an animation based on a role-playing game…”
Further explanation was interrupted as Data’s eyes rolled upward and he fainted, Dino barely catching him.
He was not sure what exactly he was to do, but he realized that things were pretty bad, worse than Data Fix was letting on.
But they had landed in a country road, and within a few moments a person wearing a dark robe with white wings passed. The person stopped in front of them. “I sense that your friend is in great trouble,” the winged and robed individual said.
Dino raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that rather obvious?”
“If you can carry your young friend, I have a hut nearby, and herbs to help heal his wounds,” the mage offered.
Dino doubted how much help that would be, but he lifted the boy onto his back. He heard the crackling of pixelation and phasing along with slow labored breathing while they quickly made their way to a small thatched hut.
The mage opened the door to his dwelling, and Dino lay the boy down on a straw bed near the door. The mage took a bottle down and made the boy smell the contents to no effect. The mage also laid a hand that delivered a warm glow to Data’s head, but the glow only passed THROUGH the boy’s head in pixels.
Dino heard the panicked female voice from the mobile again. Data! Data Fix! Respond! Respond!
But Data Fix was now out cold and pixelating more than usual. Dino grabbed the mobile. “Data Fix can’t come to the phone right now, can I take a message?”
“What do you mean, he can’t answer the transceiver?” the panicky female answered him. “Where is he? How is he? Where is Haya?”
“Sorry, who’s Haya?” Dino asked.
“The person controlling that avatar – the explanation will take too long,” the female replied. “Is he alright?”
“No. Tell me what to do.”
“You have the dimension transceiver, yes? Type in 157 and come here.”
“What about Data?”
“He’s in a safe place?”
“More or less.”
“Hurry and come here, then. We’re running out of time.”
Dino looked at the panel on the mobile phone/dimension transceiver. In many respects it was the same as any other mobile phone, with a numeric keypad and a menu button. But all other buttons on the panel involved functions he was not familiar with. He pressed the numbers and waited. In a few seconds he saw his arms and legs pixelate and fade. Then everything grew blank, as before.
When he came back to his senses, he found himself in what seemed like the computer laboratory of a high-technology computer college in a future dimension. Cars still plied the highways, and planes still dotted the skies. But the cars made no noise, and the planes were the public transportation of the time. Students came in and out of various buildings, armed with actual books or PDAs similar to the one Data Fix had.
Which reminded him. He was in this unusual computer college because of Data Fix.
Someone took up his left hand, where Data had placed the wrist watch. It was a young lady, just a little past 20 years, wearing tight pants and a looser school uniform on top. Her hair was bound up by a knitted headband.
“You’re the jumper?” she asked.
“Come with me.”
The two sprinted to a room at the end of a long hallway. She stopped at a door with the label “Study Hall 6”.
“You won’t like what you see,” she warned.
“I came here because you wanted me to,” he replied.
She opened the door.
Dino was overwhelmed by the sounds of beeps and bleeps and buzzers. The room was filled with monitors and machines, yielding various lines and numbers. They were all attached by various wires to a teenaged boy with blond hair, lying unconscious on a school clinic bed. Dino walked nearer to the boy. He looked too much like Data Fix.
“His real name is Haya,” she told him. “I’m Jana. I’m supposed to be his thesis partner.”
“But isn’t he…aren’t you…”
“I’m the average age. He’s an advanced student. At thirteen, no less.”
“He’s JUST thirteen?” Dino exclaimed. “Working on a thesis?!”
But the wave patterns on several of the monitors began to move even slower. Jana hastily raised a receiver and spoke into it. “Data! Data! Respond! Please!”
Unfortunately Dino raised the mobile phone. He had the dimension transceiver. Jana bit her lip.
“I brought you here so you can see what’s really happening. I was hoping you could help make him come back,” Jana explained.
Dino took in the whole scene once more, and took a long look at the boy on the bed, whose head was connected by wires to a desktop version of the dimension transceiver. “How long has he been in a coma?”
“He’s in deep REM,” the young woman clarified, “and he’s been like that for two months already. Straight.”
“No food, no water?”
“Except for that,” and she pointed at a set of overhead intravenous fluids, “nothing.” Dino saw a small teardrop fall. “His body is at its limit, being in this dream state for so long. You’ve seen the EEG waves. They’re starting to slow down. He’ll soon fall into a coma if he’s not pulled back. If he goes there, it will be hard, very hard, to get him back.”
“But he put himself into this dream state?” he asked.
“He invented the whole jumper system, that little genius,” she sighed. “You’re here because we’re using an illegal connection to a dimension portal. Then, he’s using that dimension portal to get into animation alternate worlds.”
The wave patterns slowed some more, and the other monitors were bleeping. Jana came closer to the boy at the bed. “Haya? HAYA! Stay with me, Haya!”
Dino raised the mobile again. “You’ve told me enough. I’m going back. Tell me how. I’ll talk sense into him.”
“From which area did you come from?” Jana faced a set of monitors and a large keyboard.
“I haven’t seen it before…I think it’s called Fantasy Journey?”
“Area 733, category 12, year 1998,” Jana typed in the coordinates. “Please, bring him back.”
Dino nodded, as he dematerialized.
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