Chapter 13Shedding tears in Cyberspace

Specter sometimes had thought about how it would be like being inside a computer or even a computer network. Seeing it with is own eyes was a breathtaking experience, now that he actually was in Cyberspace. He didn't know what to do next, so he decided to look around carefully. He seemed to be floating high above a complex and bizarre looking conglomerate of lines, boxes, numbers and other things impossible to describe. Unfortunately, he didn't know what to make of them. So he ended up thinking for himself:

“So this is Cyberspace? Weird. I wonder how Hard Drive did get along with all that stuff?”

After he had stared at the scene for a while longer he thought:

“I wish this could be more like the real world. Like objects being houses and methods being people living in there. Then I could just walk around and find my way through, somehow.”

Suddenly the structures were changing and started to come closer to Specter. A moment later he stood on something what could be described as a virtual street. Silhouettes of houses had been placed next to the streets and inside of them he could see the silhouettes of kats walking or sitting around. Some of them seemed to be very busy working on something. There were labels with names attached to the houses. Specter read some them and realized that these were file names. Suddenly he understood what had happened:

“I can shape the look of Cyberspace by my own will. That's fascinating!”

He walked through the city which he had just shaped with his imagination and looked for a building or a complex that represented the program controlling the bombs. It didn't take long for him to realize that the city he was walking through was Sally. A cold shower ran over his neck and shoulders. He wasn't sure if he should jump for joy or being scared looking at what he and his colleagues had been created.

As he continued walking through the streets of Sally City he felt lost. But as he recognized more and more of the code and its connections, the easier it was for him to get along. Suddenly, he remembered that Razor told him that he would have 15 seconds to stop the countdown. Having no idea how time flies in Cyberspace he was afraid that he was already too late. He had the feeling that at least one hour had passed since his arrival. So he started to get nervous and desperately searched for some code which he could use to determine the time. Finally he got near a building which had the label 'Timer' on it. He entered and searched it until he found an office with the label 'GetDate' attached next to its door. Inside the office there was a male kat staring at a screen that floated in the air like a holographic display showing a lot of zeros and ones. Although being a programmer Specter was too nervous to make any sense out of this bit- code. So he decided to start talking to the kat:

“Hello?”

As the kat didn't respond at all, Specter walked closer to him. “Can you hear me? Do you understand what I'm saying?”

The kat still didn't respond. Now Specter stepped even more close to him and started waving his hands right before the kat's face. That didn't help either. So he tried an even more drastic approach by grabbing the kat. Specter's hands just went right through the body of the kat like it was a ghost. This was the moment when Specter realized that it was him who was a ghost, a ghost in the machine.

“Stranded as a specter in my own creation... how fitting.” he thought for himself. “But there must be a way to interact with this world somehow. Otherwise Hard Drive never would have acquired so much power over this place.”

He sat down on the floor and started to think about it: “Okay, I was able to shape Cyberspace to make it look more like my world, but whatever I do it still follows its own rules. This is code, so I guess I should handle it like I would be sitting in front of my computer. But how can I interact with it without having a keyboard?”

Suddenly, he had an idea: “When I am able to shape Cyberspace by my own will then I should be able to execute code that way too.”

So he thought: “timer = new Timer(); timer.GetDate();”

Suddenly the kat turned towards him and looked deep into his eyes. Then Specter heard a voice in his head telling him the date and time. For a short moment Specter got excited, but then he realized that he also needed to know the time when he had entered Cyberspace. He swore silently and tried to remember the last time he looked at a clock. Suddenly the image of a clock hanging on a wall in the server room at Megakat Tower came into his mind. He remembered that he had seen it just before he had transformed into a flash of energy. As he concentrated on this image in his mind he was able to see the clock's hands. With this information he was finally able to calculate the approximate difference and came to the conclusion that probably less than a second had passed since his arrival. Specter was amazed that being in Cyberspace for about an hour seemed to be taking only a few microseconds in the real world.

“So I have almost all the time in the world. That's a relief.” he thought and calmed down.

“Now I have to find the code that triggers the bombs, but where could it be?”

Although he knew now that time was passing very slowly he stormed out of the building. Once outside he started looking for something suspicious in Sally City. It felt for him like hours searching for a clue. Getting more and more depressed as he didn't find anything he reached the borders of the city. From there he saw the void of Cyberspace which felt strange and somehow even terrifying to Specter. But this sight wasn't entirely unfamiliar to him. People who are working on games are always confronted with the place where their imagined worlds are limited to, where there is only empty space to find. The void.

Specter suddenly noticed something that looked like a gateway leading to a freeway which seemed to go beyond the horizon. He decided to get closer to it and when he was there it turned out to be a freeway indeed. Lots and lots of vehicles were passing by. Some of them drove from the city to the unknown beyond the horizon and some others came back from there in return.

“This must be a connection to another system and my mind shaped it into a freeway.” Specter thought. “If this freeway leads to the server in Dark Kat's secret hideout, I'd still might have a chance stopping this madness once and for all.”

So he started walking besides the freeway. After a short while he thought: “Although time passes quite slowly in this place it would take much too long to get over there in time. There must be a way to speed this up.”

Then he had an idea an started smiling. He focused on a spot in front of him and a moment later a virtual match of Razor's Cyclotron emerged from the void. Specter sat down on its saddle and started the engine. He leaned forward and accelerated. When he was on the road he thought: “What would I give to see Razor's face now.”

Being a ghost he didn't have to watch the other vehicles driving along the freeway as he just drove through them. After being on the road for quite some time the ride was getting rather boring. It seemed to him that it took forever until another gateway showed up. The label said 'Doomsday Server'.

“That's exactly what I'd expect from a looney like Dark Kat.” Specter thought. “I hope this is the real thing and not a hoax.”

So Specter steered the Cyclotron over to the gateway and left the freeway behind him. A short time later he arrived at another virtual city. Although he was an experienced programmer who was able to dive into code which he hadn't written himself, it was quite a challenge to get familiar with this one. He felt lost again like a stranger in a foreign city. He assumed that his travel from Sally City to Doomsday City had been taken a few seconds in the real world. So he decided that it would probably be best to find another 'Timer'-building first. While searching for it he also looked for buildings that might have something to do with the bombs. Riding on the Cyclotron was a big help for Specter, because it allowed him to travel through Doomsday City much faster than on foot. He wished that he would have thought of that sooner when he was walking through the city he had build himself. Finally he found the building he was looking for. Once there, he stepped off his Cyclotron and went inside. Now that he knew what he had to do it was easy to get an update on the time. He had 12 seconds left.

“Should be plenty enough.” he said to himself. “But what should I be looking for now?”

He went outside again, put his helmet off and leaned against his Cyclotron. Then he closed his eyes, formed his right hand to a fist and slowly moved it up to his forehead. He remained in that pose for quite some time until suddenly a thought came into his mind which struck him like a lightning bolt.

“If Dark Kat is using a countdown to trigger the bombs, this code will probably be also accessing the timer.” he explained to himself, getting excited.

He pushed himself off the Cyclotron and started taking a closer look at the 'Timer'-building. It didn't take long for him to notice that numerous lines were placed underneath the building and the streets, leading to some other buildings. Specter had already noticed them before, but didn't knew what their purpose was. Now he recognized them as wires carrying information from one building to another. White glowing and pulsating balls of energy were moving through these lines. The ones leaving the 'Timer'-building and going to the other buildings moved in a regular pattern, so it was a bit more easy to keep track of them without getting confused with the ones running through the other lines. Specter put his helmet back on, jumped onto the Cyclotron and started the engine. He followed the lines one by one. After a few unsuccessful attempts which lead him to buildings that had nothing to do with the bombs he arrived at a building which looked very suspicious. Its label showed some gibberish instead of a name and he couldn't see what's going on inside. Specter parked the Cyclotron in front of it and stepped over towards the entrance. As he tried to get in, he walked right into a force field which seemed to be similar to bulletproof class in the real world. At least that's what Specter concluded after he had fired a few missiles from the Cyclotron at it.

“So this is a private club, eh?” Specter asked loudly. “That figures. It must be the building I'm looking for. But how do I get inside?”

Specter leaned against the Cyclotron and did his thinking pose again.

“If I get out into the real world it would be a lot easier for me to hack my way into this. But I'm sure, Dark Kat hasn't left his server unguarded and even if he has I wouldn't have a chance to hack it in time, having less than twelve lousy seconds left. I wouldn't even have the tools I'm familiar with. Damn it!”

He quickly turned around and gave the Cyclotron a fierce kick. Realizing what he'd just done he thought: “Good thing, that this is not the real one. Razor would probably kill me for that.” He placed his arms on the bike's saddle and bedded his forehead on top of them.

“Why must it be so difficult?” he asked himself. “Why can't I just get outside and do this like I normally would? This is so depressing. I wish I would have the right tools at least.”

His last statement suddenly triggered an idea in his mind. “Wait a second... If Hard Drive had his hands on this system then it might be possible that some of his stuff is also stored on these machines.” he figured. “This might be a shot in the dark, but it's at least worth a try.”

After he had enough strength to carry on, he got back on the Cyclotron and started searching Doomsday City for something that Hard Drive might have left there. He didn't get disappointed as he found a couple of buildings in the outskirts of the city whose names sounded familiar to him. It were the tools that Hard Drive and he had been developed when they were working together. He realized that they were much more complex now than they were in those days. Specter had no doubt that Hard Drive had been busy extending and improving them. He hoped that they would proof useful in his current situation.

“That's terrific!” he said joyfully. “Hopefully, Hard Drive hasn't turned everything upside down after we've parted.”

He quickly entered the central building of the complex and searched for a way to use the hacking tools. His search ended in a room in which a gigantic screen floated in the air and a large chair stood right in front of it. The chair looked like it would belong to a commanding officer of a spaceship in a science fiction movie. The lights in this room had been dimmed.

Specter approached the chair and after admiring it for a moment he sat down on it carefully. As he leaned back and placed his hands on the armrests of the chair the lights in the room suddenly lit up with a humming sound as did the chair itself. Circuits emerged from inside the chair and seemed to be growing towards Specters hands and neck. Being terrified, Specter screamed and jumped out of it. Then he turned around and looked at the chair while he moved a few more steps away from it. The circuits were now shrinking back until Specter couldn't see them anymore. The lights were dimmed again and also the chair wasn't lit anymore. Specter took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. When he was able to get a clear thought again he looked around and tried to understand what he had just witnessed.

“Okay,” he started explaining to himself. “This chair seems to be some kind of interface device which tried to connect itself with me. When I jumped out of it, the connection process was stopped. So, if I stay in this chair I might be able to access the tools.”

Then he asked himself: “But will it let me go again, once I'm connected with it?”

He stared at the chair for a while longer. Suddenly he shrugged his shoulders. “I guess there is only one way to find out. And what do I have to loose? If I don't do anything, Megakat City will be blasted into oblivion and I wouldn't be surprised if this includes Dark Kat's server room as well. If I sit down here, there is at least a chance that I get access to that mysterious building. If the chair doesn't let me go I only have to wait until the countdown reaches zero.”

Then he closed his self-explanation as he asked himself: “Well, what am I waiting for?”

Specter sat down in the chair again and tried to relax while the circuits emerged again and reached out for his hands and neck.

Specter sat down in the chair again and tried to relax while the circuits emerged again and reached out for his hands and neck. - Illustration by Jan Rathje

Specter sat down in the chair again and tried to relax while the circuits emerged again and reached out for his hands and neck. - Illustration by Jan Rathje

He suddenly noticed that they were actually going into his body like dozens of little needles. Specter felt very uncomfortable, but at least it didn't hurt. Once the connection process had been completed the big screen lit up and showed Doomsday City from above. Specter learned quickly that he could navigate and zoom through the map simply by using his mind. So he started looking for a familiar spot from which he could navigate over to the building that denied him access. As he found a spot it was straightforward for him to find it. Once there, he selected the building using his mind again. The view changed into a closeup perspective of the building and numerous options were displayed. Specter noticed that these options represented algorithms which could be used to hack into a system or specific parts of it. He also recognized some of them which he once had developed himself. Specter took a deep breath and relaxed for a moment.

“Now, let's see what this building is made of.” he said and started concentrating again. In order to break down the building's security he selected numerous combinations of algorithms. After a few dozen attempts he found a combination which seemed to be working as it wasn't repelled immediately. Specter leaned back and said:

“Hopefully this works... and fast. I probably won't have enough time for another attempt.”

While he was waiting for a response from the hacking tool, he navigated over to the 'Timer'- building to see if he can request the time remotely. It worked and he got a response.

“Ten seconds. Not much time for a successful hacking attempt.” he mumbled to himself and wondered if it was possible for him to sleep until something happens.

As soon as he had finished this thought he blacked out. When he woke up again he felt like he had been slept for days. He looked at the screen on which a message was being displayed and a beeping sound was played. It said: 'Attempt successful.'

Seeing this, Specter suddenly got energized. He took a closer look at the building he had hacked and saw that its interior was now visible. Inside one of the rooms he saw a console with a button that had been labeled 'Abort'.

“This must be it!” he shouted. “Let's see if I can operate it from here.”

Specter tried to press the button using his mind and another message was displayed: 'Error: Illegal call of a private method from another class.'

“Okay. I guess I have to get over there and push the button myself.” Specter figured. “How much time do I have?”

He checked the 'Timer'-building once again.

“Three seconds. At least, this is not a cliche-time.” he joked to himself. “Let's see, if I can get out of this chair.”

He carefully lifted his hands from the arm rests and his head from the chair's back. He felt that the circuits were retreating from his body. Again, this felt very strange to him. When all of them had left his body he stood up, turned around and watched how everything shut down again. Then he left the building and drove over to the hacked building.

This time there was no barrier holding him off from entering it. A few moments later he stood in front of the console with the 'Abort'-button on it.

“Well, I guess it's now or never.” Specter said and pushed it.

A moment later he heard a voice in his head: “Countdown aborted!”

“That's good to hear.” Specter commented.

Then the voice continued: “In order to restart the countdown use the StartCountdown- method.”

“Oh, this is just great!” Specter shouted disappointed. “In other words, Dark Kat or one of his idiots can restart this nightmare again as soon as they notice that something went wrong. I have to do something fast if I want to prevent them from doing this.”

He left the building and went back to the control room inside the hacker tool's complex. He looked at the chair and sighed. Then he sat down and let the circuits connect with his body once more. He browsed through the available options and stopped at 'Clean sweep network'. He sighed even deeper than before, since he knew that selecting this option might be dangerous for him while he was still inside the system. It also meant that he would destroy everything what mattered to him. He hesitated and drifted away with his thoughts while he was staring at the letters saying 'Clean sweep network'. Suddenly he came back to his senses, raised his eyelids and said:

“If this is the verdict for what I have done, then so be it.”

He selected 'Clean sweep network' and immediately disconnected from the system. He assumed that he wouldn't have much time until everything would be cast into the void. So he ran out of the building as quickly as he could and jumped onto the Cyclotron. He knew that he'd probably be a dead kat if he would leave Cyberspace at Dark Kat's server room. So he decided to travel back to the servers in Megakat Tower.

He took the shortest way back to the gateway from where he came from and witnessed how the buildings around him crumbled down and faded away. Not knowing if the deletion process would also erase him he drove as fast as he could. When he had reached the freeway he gave himself a moment to take a deep breath. But he knew that he wasn't out of the woods yet. He looked back and saw a glowing sphere following him. He assumed that this was the deletion directive send to the servers inside Megakat Tower. He remembered how much time he had to spent in order to get over here from there. So he sincerely hoped that he wouldn't go crazy with that dangerous looking thing on his tail the whole time while he was on the freeway.

Being driving into one direction all the way back made him feel even more uncomfortable. After a very long ride he finally saw the gateway to his destination. He left the freeway and a short time later the buildings of Sally City appeared at the horizon in front of him. The glowing sphere was still on his tail like he had expected and when it had reached the city it exploded into countless little sparks that flew into the buildings which started crumbling and fading away like the ones in Doomsday City. Tears appeared in Specter's eyes as he realized that this was the last that he would ever see of his own creation. He didn't know that it was possible to shed tears in Cyberspace, but now he did. He looked back at the disappearing buildings and shouted:

“Forgive me, Sally. I wish there had been another possibility. Farewell.”

It was hard for him to stop looking at Sally City, which was doomed to be cast into the void. But he finally managed to focus on what was laying in front of him. Then he realized that he had no idea how to get out of Cyberspace and so he suddenly got nervous.

“How do I get out of here, damn it?!” he shouted.

He tried to remember what had happened when he had arrived in the first place. He recalled that everything was abstract and far away until he started shaping the place by his own will. So he tried to stop thinking about this being a city. But it didn't work out.

“This isn't a real city. I know that, damn it! Why can't I break free?”

He looked behind him and saw that there wasn't much left of Sally City anymore and the Sparks were not far away from him.

“Maybe I need to get some distance to break free.” he guessed.

So he looked at the emptiness above him and concentrated on a certain spot like he did when he created the Cyclotron. This time he created the virtual similar of the Turbokat which emerged directly above him. Once the creation process had been completed the jet came down towards Specter and opened its hatch to release a hook which Specter attached to the Cyclotron. As soon as the hook had been attached, the Cyclotron was pulled up and a few moments later Specter found himself inside the cockpit of the Turbokat. He grabbed the joystick in front of him and tried to stop imagining the code as a city. He looked back and was relieved to see that the small fractions of the code that hadn't been erased yet looked like as they did when he had first arrived in Cyberspace. He turned the Turbokat around and stopped the engines. Then he witnessed how the last parts of Sally were cast into the void and then there was nothing left to look at. Specter took a moment to put himself back together. Then he looked around the cockpit.

“I guess I have to get rid of you as well, if I want to get out of here.” he said to the virtual Turbokat.

The Turbokat immediately disappeared and Specter was floating in the void once again. He closed his eyes and thought: “Exit.”

The next thing that happened was that Specter was being in midair in the middle of the server room of Megakat Tower, feeling that the laws of physics were suddenly applied to him. In other words, he simply fell down onto the ground.

Feeling tired and weak he contacted T-Bone and Razor with his last strength:

“T-Bone, Razor... I think I've stopped the countdown... Now, get over here and get me out, will ya? I'm so... exhausted...”

He fainted away before he could hear T-Bone's response:

“Affirmative Specter. We get to you as soon as we can. Specter, do you copy? Specter?”