“What was Alvin looking for?” I ask quietly, not even sure he can hear me above the sound of the rain.
He sighs. He heard me. He definitely heard me. But he obviously doesn’t feel too proud about it.
“Billy?” I press on.
“It’s a backup,” he answers with a large exhale. “A backup for Miss Nile’s system.”
“The thing which gave Miss Nile all her power, the thing I used which got us into all this mess, I made a backup of it before I destroyed it.”
“Look, I wanted to destroy it, I really did. But do you have any idea of what it’s like to have this kind of power?”
“No, I don’t,” I answer flatly.
“Right, but if you did, you’d know how impossibly addictive it can be. And I had it. I had it all. I didn’t even realize what all I could do until we met Miss Nile and then suddenly I was going to give it all up? I couldn’t do that. So I made a backup. The servers were all still there, I simply removed the software Miss Nile was using to access them. But I backed it all up. On one disc. Well, a flash drive actually.”
I’m still unsure how to respond. And then a thought hits me like a brick wall.
“But how did Alvin know you made it?”
I can tell he’s stalling, not wanting to give the answer he was going to have to give.
“How in the world did Alvin know you made a backup? And more importantly, if he had this device, why would he need it?”
“Well,” Billy begins slowly. “The truth is, it was all kind of his idea.”
“Look, I didn’t do it for him, but he was the one who came up with the plan. When I initially realized what was going on, I told him about it, seeing as I thought he was a guy fighting on the right side of things. I told him about Miss Nile and about the power and everything.”
“What?” I ask again, my voice cracking.
“Look, this was almost two weeks ago, I thought he was the good guy!”
“If this was two weeks ago, how did he know about the backup?”
“Well,” he stammers, “because it was kinda his idea.”
There’s a silence. I’m stunned. I don’t even know how to respond. Sure, I used to think Alvin was the good guy as well, but still–What if Billy never told him? Would Alvin have even tried to capture us in the first place? Would Cyrus…
“And so, Alvin needs this backup because the device he got off Miss Nile isn’t powered without it?”
“Right. Without the backup, he doesn’t have any access to the systems. The device utilized a series of authentication patterns which aren’t valid anymore. This backup is a direct image of the original system itself.”
“And so, if he knows you’ve got the backup, what does that mean? Doesn’t that mean that what I just did, ditching the device, did nothing?”
“Well, not exactly—”
“Or maybe none of this matters because you’re planning on becoming the new Miss Nile? Is your plan to use all this ‘addictive’ power to–”
“No,” Billy answers confidently. “Once this is over, once my plan works out, I’m going to destroy it all. The entire system. Not just the access, but the computers and the tech which powers it all. I’m going to wipe it off the planet.”
“Isn’t that what you said last time?”
“Yeah. And because of me, my brother is dead. I have to live with that mistake. But I’m not going to make it again.”
“But you’re using it now.”
“Not for long. I’ve got one more thing to take care of and then…then it’s over.”
I can’t wait anymore. It keeps saying it’s almost done, but it has been at ninety-two percent for three hours now. It’s got to be locked up, right?
I can try to cancel out of it, hope that it doesn’t brick my computer, or I can continue to wait.
But I can’t wait. I have no idea where Eve is, or what’s going on.
I have to find her. I have to help her.
The worst that could happen is that a few extra files aren’t copied over, right? Maybe a couple of READMEs or nonessential system files? It’s highly unlikely any of the core system components aren’t installed yet. Well, I guess this is just restoring a direct backup, there’s no telling what order it reinstalls everything at, but since I’ve only got eight percent of the restore left to go, it couldn’t be any of the big files…Could it?
I hold my hands over the keyboard, my fingers flexing as I urge them to make a decision. I’ve never been all that willing to take risks with my electronics. I always make sure to safely eject external drives, even though I’ve turned off write caching for all removable media. I have an anti-static shield available for whenever I have to open something up. Heck, I make sure to clean out my fans at least once a month. So, I’m not being overly dramatic when I say this is terrifying. But something is locked up. And I’m sitting here hoping it resolves itself while Eve is out there on the run from Alvin and who the heck knows who else.
I take a deep breath and quickly hit the CRTL and C buttons on my keyboard. I hold my breath and peek out through one eye to see what happens.
The answer is nothing.
The screen doesn’t even flicker. It simply continues to tell me how far away from being able to help Eve I am. A terrible eight percent away.
Okay, so maybe the handler function has been altered. Again I take a deep break and this time press CTRL and BREAK.
And again, nothing happens.
The computer is definitely frozen.
I take yet another deep breath before finally laughing at myself for the stupid ritual I’m enacting.
“Just get it over with,” I say to myself as I yank the flash drive out of its USB port.
Again nothing happens.
“Well, I’ve come this far,” I say, resolved to my intentions. I hold the power button until the lights go off.
“Here goes nothing.”
I press the power button again and the lights turn on. I watch as the screen flashes a series of text telling me all systems are testing fine. And then, as it tests the hard drive, it pauses.
“Dangit, I knew the file system was going to be corrupted!” I groan to myself just before the text flashes away and the computer resumes booting.
I let out a small little cheer before staring at my screen intensely again. The splash screen for the operating system is up, an image of something resembling a hut, which is The Agora’s logo. There is a banana rotating around the logo, indicating that the operating system is doing something, running through startup tasks, mounting hard drives, and all the other basic operating system stuff.
And then my computer jingles. It’s a faint, cute sound. Almost like wind chimes. But it’s the most majestic sound in the world.
Go to Chapter Forty