Sunny pointed at the portal with a shaking finger. "It– it–!" She caught her breath and grinned. "I bet it was because of your character growth! Maybe you finally accepting being stuck in Javaland showed how you were able to, uh, adapt or something!"
Jasper hesitated, then took another step towards the portal. "Or maybe this world just has a sense of humor. Just when I've decided to stay here and travel the world, it lets us go home."
"Well, whatever it is, who cares? You said it– we can go home!"
"A portal?" Robert floated towards the kitchen. "Well now, would you look at that." He raised his eyebrows at the iridescent sheen in the air. "Congratulations."
Sunny still wasn't quite sure what they'd done or how the portal had appeared, and it seemed almost too good to be true, but for once, she ignored rule #6: When something seems too good to be true, investigate it. She turned to Robert and was startled to feel a pang of sadness. "I… I guess this is goodbye." Sunny gave the robot a half-smile.
Robert nodded slowly. "Make good use of your coding skills when you return." He offered an arm slab to Sunny, and Sunny shook it solemnly. Robert coughed, then said, "You weren't a bad hero, you know. I mean, you were always willing to learn, and something has to be said about your tenacity."
Sunny cracked a smile. "Wow. Was that an actual, genuine compliment from Robert? Never thought I'd see the day."
"Don't let it go to your head." Robert chuckled. "Well then… Goodbye, and I hope you have a nice, coding-filled rest of your life."
Sunny made a face, but waved goodbye to Robert. She turned to Jasper and said, "I hope you enjoy your adventures here. And thanks for the burger."
Jessica floated up, and Sunny said her goodbyes to her as well. Then she took a deep breath and stood in front of the portal with all its swirling colors.
She'd be seeing her family soon! And she could live out her days happily now that she'd had an actual fantasy adventure. Yes, she was set for life.
With that bright thought in mind, Sunny stepped forwards.
And bumped her head against an unforgivingly solid surface.
"Ow!" Sunny stumbled backwards, clutching her forehead. "What–" She stared at the portal. Had she aimed wrong and walked into the wall instead?
Sunny poked the portal, but her finger didn't go through. She walked around to the other side, but no luck there either. The portal was like a sheet of steel hovering in midair.
Sunny could've screamed in frustration. "Why isn't this working?" she huffed.
Jasper reached a hand out. His fingers slipped through the portal just fine. Sunny goggled at him.
Suddenly, a piece of paper popped into existence at their eye-level. Jasper reached out and grabbed it. "It's… an instruction manual."
"Huh?" Sunny frowned.
Jasper read aloud, "Portal usage in three easy steps. Step 1: use this product to travel from Earth to this world. Step 2: successfully complete your quest. Step 3: use this product to travel back to Earth. You'll return to the same moment you left."
Sunny sputtered. "B-but we did all that! How do I get to step three?"
Jasper squinted at the paper. "Footnote 1: this portal may only be used by Jasper."
Sunny threw her hands up in the air.
"Footnote 2: if, for any reason, you do not want to use the portal at this time, you may say the code words, 'Goodbye world' and the portal will transform into a more portable form. Repeat the code phrase to be able to use the portal again." As soon as Jasper said, "Goodbye world," the portal's shimmering colors became concentrated at its center. A moment later, a shimmery rubber duck was sitting on the floor of the kitchen.
Jasper stared at it. The rubber duck stared back. "Yep, this world has a sense of humor."
Sunny was also on the floor, slumped against a counter. She groaned, "I should've followed rule 6 instead of getting my hopes up." She let her head fall into her arms.
Jasper picked up the duck and examined it, then glanced back at Sunny. "I'm, uh, I'm sorry this portal didn't work out."
Sunny just moaned in response. How much longer would she be stuck here? For thirty years, like Jasper? Would she slowly forget her previous life and become accustomed to this world of code? She slid down the counter until she was practically lying on the floor.
"You mentioned that you had some more ideas for getting home, right?" Robert mentioned helpfully.
"Nothing that I really thought would work," Sunny muttered.
"It couldn't hurt to try, could it?" Robert frowned. "Wait, why am I cheering you up? What happened to your overly-optimistic attitude?"
Sunny draped an arm over her eyes and declined to respond verbally.
The other three looked at her in concern.
Finally, Jasper spoke up again. "I have an idea, although I don't know if it'll help… It's just… well, if your quest was to find the source of the errors, perhaps it goes further back than me."
Sunny shifted her arm so she could glance upwards.
"Hold on a second." Jasper stepped back into the room with the crates and books and reemerged with A Guide to Dark Coding Magicks. He displayed it to the ambassadors and Sunny. "This is what I used to summon the errors."
Sunny removed her arm completely and shifted to a sitting position. "I remember seeing that book."
Jasper flipped through it, then handed it to Sunny. She grasped it by a corner (it was still giving off malicious vibes).
"I found it sometime during my travels, washed up on a bank of the Conditional River. Might be worth some research."
Sunny slowly stood up. She gazed at the black cover and spiky gold letters. "Thanks…" Bit by bit, she could feel her spirits lifting. This seemed like a promising lead. And as a hero, she was duty-bound to investigate any potentially evil sources of magic, right? Even– or especially– if they were related to coding.
Sunny dragged a nearby crate over and set her right foot on it, then held the book aloft and stared dramatically into the middle distance. "I, Sunny, self-proclaimed hero of Javaland, do hereby swear to find the source of this book of dark coding magicks. I shall succeed in my quest or be doomed to a fate of an eternal existence in Javaland!"
"'Doomed' is a bit strong…" Jasper muttered.
Robert shushed him. "Don't ruin her moment."
After an appropriately long time, Sunny stepped down from her hero pose. "Okay, Robert. Ready for part two of this adventure?" She winked.