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The switch happened when Karan, the host, sneezed on the screen. It took a while for Rhinorus to realize he was no longer surrounded by his kind, or by the myriad organic individuals. Instead, strange entities he had never seen before zoomed past him in highly organized streams. This irked him for some reason, yet he wondered what they were; certainly not the reds and the whites, because he could recognize them well. The former he ignored and the latter hated him. If he met them now, he would have gladly told them how they were wrong to call him borderline organic. Rhinorus decided he was not that. At least not when compared to these strange cells that whizzed past him, resembling zeroes and ones. Weird. They seemed oblivious of his presence, and this bothered him. Inorganic fools.

Rhinorus knew he needed to find the suitable One soon. Or a Zero. Either would do, time was running out and he was beginning to feel a little uneasy. A fifth of his life was already over. He gathered that the bizarre entities didn’t look like they were made from the usual organic stuff, but he didn’t want to think that would be a problem. This was mostly because two-fifths of his life was gone and he needed to infect one of them soon.

In his stressed state, their speed mesmerized him. He tried to latch onto a one, but was too slow. He tried to latch on a zero and failed. A dozen attempts later, panic engulfed him. It wouldn’t do well to not find a host soon. The next one-fifth of Rhinorus’s life was spent without success, to leech onto the zeroes and ones.With every miserable defeat, his fear of death increased exponentially. When only a little of his life remained, he decided he had to find his way back to Karan.

How do I get out of here? Wherever he went, he was met by streams of horrid inorganic digits. His ego hurt from the quick, offhand manner in which they escaped him, as though ignoring his very existence. These organized streams, he thought, had something unhealthy about them. Unnatural, unreal. He didn’t even have the time to react when one such stream ran straight at him.

The remaining few nanoseconds of his life passed rapidly. Rhinorus’s last memory was of an army of digits that surrounded him with vengeance comparable to that of a white blood cell he’d seen attacking his fellows back home.

———

Bootwrecker snatched the chance when Karan dozed off on the laptop, ear pressed against the keyboard. The ear provided just the right opportunity. Itching for an adventure, he dived right in. He had piggy-backed on others for too long. He was tired of it, of hiding, getting caught every now and then. He didn’t think he was as malicious as he was made out to be, and he wanted to live up to his reputation. Must grab the opportunity.

‘Strange’ didn’t quite sum up what he saw. Bootwrecker was used to hanging out with only two types. Here, there were thousands. Round, shapeless, red, white: all of them dead slow. Easy targets.

For the first time, Bootwrecker had the chance to go against his engineering and choose his prey. He knew he’d be a medical miracle if he managed to infect. This was his golden chance to become more famous than The Y2K. Bah, and he wasn’t even a real one. Unlike me.

Bootwrecker attempted to hide as a bunch of red zeroes bounced past him. They ignored him completely. But they seem so real. Strange. Hang on a nanosecond… wow! They can’t see me! I am invisible. I am invincible! And with that knowledge, he zoomed ahead to explore around a bit. He lurked around the blind spot, trying to make sense of the coloured lights falling on the screen next to him. I see no pixels. Strange hardware. A little further, Bootwrecker found a territory which appeared a little familiar. He could sense some sort of electric pulses zooming beyond the river in which he floated. Wow. That’s where I must go.

The sight that greeted him was beyond belief. Bootwrecker stood on the edge of the river and watched the million waves zoom around in all directions, bouncing off grey stuff, vanishing with a flash. Strange, luminescent waves. Were they even that? He thought he spotted a flicker of something that looked like a photograph in one. Photograph? Oh.

A white, rough, spherical something attacked him in just that happy moment of realization. Damn! Anti-virus software. Where did that come from?? A quick dash to the opposite side of the brain put enough distance between him and the white blood cell. Slow, un-updated moron.

Bootwrecker had a lot of time on hand. He sifted through the thought waves, taking his time to choose the target. It has to be a visual, for most impact.Those seem to be the most intense.

Then he saw it, flashing near the back of the brain.

——

Karan woke up. The screen flashed a message.

‘Unknown Rhin 2005.264.V.04.rwxsuccessfully removed. ‘

He grinned. Vivid memories of close escapes were now just that, memories. Karan stood up and stretched. It was going to be a busy day.

—–

© vaidehi patil 2011

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