The editor nodded again. "Thatís right, Bill. If anything happens to Figment, it will mean the end of inventiveness, spontaneity and creative thinking."
"Donít even entertain the possibility," a little voice piped up from the monitor.
Gates and the editor hurried to the monitor. They were just in time to see Figment alight from a double decker bus in front of Buckingham Palace.
"Mr Figment!" the editor exclaimed simultaneously overcome with worry and relief. "Whatever are you doing in London?"
"Iím not really in London. Iím navigating my way through hyperspace. Right now Iím in a travel plan forum," Figment explained. "When I was catapulted into the world wide web by their ominous gust of wind, I landed in the on line travel brochure, so I mingled with a guided tour to evade them."
"What are you talking about, Mr Figment? Did you receive a blow to the head?" Gates inquired. "Donít tell me youíre buying into all this conspiracy nonsense!"
"Let him speak, Bill!" said the editor. He turned back to the monitor. "Continue, Mr Figment."
"There is a dark side to Hypertext. Iíve caught glimpses of it recently as I was working, but I never imagined Ė pun intended Ė that it had reached these proportionssssssÖ"
At that moment, a London taxi swerved onto the curb, only narrowly missing Figment. "Theyíve found me!" he exclaimed and disappeared from the screen.
"Where has he gone?" the editor asked.
"I donít know," Gates replied. "I have no access to the database. The links are all in Figmentís mind. I do hope he escapes in time."
"Whatís all this talk about a dark side?" asked the editor.
"Iím afraid the little guy is right," Gates confirmed. "Though I had no idea they were involved. It explains everything though. Why we havenít been able to get any further with our research, the missing scientists, everything!"
"Would you care to explain, Bill?"
"Yes of course. You see, unfortunately there are individuals out there in cyberspace who have seized on hypertext as a medium for their unscrupulous, underworld dealings."
The editor raised an eyebrow.
"Violence, pornography, shady deals. Those sorts of things. Although there are relatively few of these individuals spread throughout the web, cumulatively, their evil influence has amassed a force to be reckoned with."
"Yes, but all forms of media are infiltrated by these undesirables," the editor pointed out. "Yet they donít have such power."
"Thatís were the scope and speed that information can be accessed through this medium is a disadvantage. The good as well as the evil can be accessed more widely and rapidly."
"Yes, I see," said the editor. "But what is the source of their power?"
"Theyíve got their hands on Microsoftís top secret research," Figment explained, popping back onto the screen in a boat coming down the Amazon, in a botanistís forum.
Gates turned an unflattering shade of fuchsia. "Why the nerve of thoseÖ" he fumed. "How could this happen? We took all the precautionsÖ"
"Calm down, Bill," the editor advised. "We must stay calm."
Gates took a deep breath and asked Figment to relate what he had discovered.
"Apparently the first scientist you had working on this project, -Professor Radolsky, was one of them. He took the blueprint with him when he ordered the renegade hurricane to suck him into the disk drive through the meteorology forum. They have been working on the technology and are using it to drain the imaginations of web users worldwide!"
"Imagination vampires!" the editor exclaimed.
"To feed their own unscrupulous activities!" Figment added.
"However did you discover this?" Gates inquired.
"I inadvertently stumbled into a Darkside Site," Figment explained. "I quickly read the noticeboard and hightailed out of there."
"Did they see you?" asked Gates.
Figment nodded. "A few of them came after me, but I lost them in the Online Encyclopedia Britannica."
"Good job, Mr Figment!" the editor commended him. Figment blushed. Suddenly his eyes widened in horror.
"What is it, Mr Figment?" asked Gates.
"Theyíre closing the links." Figment replied. "Iíve got to get out of here!"
He promptly vanished from the screen.
Copyright © 1996 Ilanit Tof, All Rights Reserved.
Illustrations by Rhonda Willson, © 1996.