By Gary McGath
Copyright 2008 by Gary McGath. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fan fiction. All trademarks, references to published works of fiction, and allusions to familiar characters are for purposes of entertainment or satire only. This is not a commercial work and is not offered for sale.
Rom and Hugh jumped in alarm, but were relieved to see it was only a zombie at the door.
"It's fortunate you're still here," said Hermioport. "I know now what happened."
"Genie is down there. I can show you how to get there. But first put these on." She handed each of them a pair of cardboard eyeglass frames with pink plastic in them.
She looked around the room. "There is no computer here. You don't have to put them on yet. Put them on if you might come in sight of a computer." Looking at the volume on the table, she said, "Good. You found the book."
"It was hidden in the floor," said Rom. "Is it good for something?"
"It is the key." She turned the fragile pages to page 243. Its only content was a geometric diagram portraying a shape which was physically impossible. Viewed from one perspective, it had three pegs extending from a base, yet at the same time it had only two.
"The sign of the blivet," Hugh said with a trembling voice. "It's said that if one truly understands this symbol, one can transcend three-dimensional space, crossing over directly from one point to another."
"Hold on, Hermioport," said Rom. "You seem to know a lot all of a sudden. Why are you showing up with 3-D movie glasses and expecting an old book to be here?"
"The game," she said. "It put Semicolon into a coma, as well as Justin. It is why Genie is missing."
"Droll Time Plot can put people into a hypnotic state and make them carry out instructions. If it failed, it knocked them into a coma. If it were any stronger, it would have killed them."
"But how did it do that?" asked Hugh.
She answered in a tone even more ominous than her usual one, "The Blue Screen of Death."
"But that's a trademark weapon of $DARK_LORD!" Rom exclaimed. Hermioport nodded stiffly. "Then what's happened to Genie?"
"The game must have controlled her. If it did, she might do things without knowing afterwards."
"How do you know this?" asked Rom.
"I suspected from Genie's behavior. I began playing the game. It couldn't hypnotize me, Since I am already a zombie, and the Blue Screen of Death had no effect on me for the same reason. But it was telling me to come here and find the Mathematicon."
"Then find the blivet on page 243, and line it up to be perpendicular to all four walls."
"Well, first, that's impossible, and second, it doesn't sound like a good idea to do all the things the game was trying to make you do."
"There is no other way into the Chamber of Encryption."
"Let's try it, Rom," said Hugh. "It may be the only chance to save your sister."
Rom acquiesced silently, and Hermioport fiddled with the book on the table. Impossibly, she got it into a position where the blivet appeared to be pointed directly toward or away from all four walls at once. There was a grinding noise, and the previously opened floor slid away to reveal an ascending staircase.
"Is it possible to stand on that thing?" Rom asked.
"There's only one way to find out," said Hugh, stepping onto it.
"Put on the glasses," urged Hermioport. He reluctantly complied. Hermioport followed, and then Rom, also putting on his glasses. As if in a drawing by Escher, they ascended into the chamber below them. The glasses gave a pink tint to everything, making the scene unreal, even complex.
As they ascended, they saw that the room was illuminated by a great eye on a pedestal; it was a meter in diameter and glowed, dimly illuminating the room. The Eye of Tripoli.
Hugh and Rom turned on their flashlights again, and they could see Genie lying on the floor at the far side, unconscious. Next to the Eye, connected to it with a cable, was a laptop computer, its screen dark.
The Eye rotated to look directly at them, and a voice came from the computer. "So, we have visitors!" The screen lit up. It looked to Rom and Hugh like a uniform washed-out mauve.
"We've heard that voice before!" said Rom.
"Lord Petitmol!" Hugh confirmed.
"How can you still be -- oh, I see. Very clever with those glasses," said the computer. "It doesn't matter, you're too late anyway. I now control the Eye of Tripoli."
"What are you?" asked Hugh. "Lord Petitmol died a year ago."
"Hugh Packard," said the voice. "I know you. Yes, I died in my physical form. I don't know how. But I downloaded a copy of my mind into a computer, to be disseminated through software if I no longer returned."
"Really, how dense are you? 'Droll Time Plot' is an anagram of 'Lord Petitmol.'" The screen changed from the useless Blue Screen of Death to the introductory screen of Droll Time Plot. The time machine, which represented the game advisor, filled the screen. Then it changed shape to Lord Petitmol's symbol, the Paper Clip of Doom, grinning evilly at them.
"Wait," said Hermioport. "The anagram is wrong. 'Droll Time Plot' has an extra 'L.'"
"Is there? Well, so there is. What does it matter now? With my improved computer mind I wouldn't make that mistake now. The game let me influence the weak-minded, like the girl over there. She stole the Eye of Tripoli and brought it here."
Hugh thought of the verse in the Mathematicon. The game was a strange attractor, indeed. "How did an eleven-year-old girl defeat its alarms and carry it here?"
"That was fortunate. She was able to acquire a Plot Device. It made things much easier for her."
Rom groaned. "The Plot Device from the Ford Prefect!"
"But she did that months ago," said Hugh.
"I needed time to keep growing in power, as more people played the game. Soon I'll remove the distribution restriction and copies will be sent all over the Internet! And by controlling the Eye of Tripoli, I can rewrite all the standards it enforces to Petitmol standards! So you see, Hugh Packard, I will control all the computers in the world!" The paper clip laughed insanely.