Professor Polymorphism placed the map on the table and held down the corners with some books. Sunny grinned and immediately leaned over the table, eyes wide and trying to absorb every detail of the map.
The map showed a large landmass in the center, covered with lines showing the borders of various lands. A scattering of islands was on the western edge of the landmass and there were fanciful designs in the corners. Everything on the map was labeled in Javalandian, but Sunny could see that the region in the center was decorated with some semicolon art. "Is that Javaland?"
"It sure is!" Professor Polly pointed at the region to the east of Javaland. "That's Pythonia, and to the north we have the Republic of C++. And some of the more notable islands to the west are Pascal, Perl, and Fortran. But you don't need to worry about any of that."
Adelia made a face. "Yeah, we went to Pascal once, and it seemed like everyone's favorite colors were blue and yellow. And some people talked in all-caps, like they were shouting at us! I think Javaland is a much better place."
Sunny laughed. "Okay, noted."
"Javaland is indeed a wonderful place." Professor Polly grew serious for a moment. "Our little… issue… hasn't interfered with that so far. But still, it'd be best to find the errors' descriptions as quickly as possible, before that changes. Has Robert provided you with any details?"
Sunny shook her head. "I tried running a program earlier, and a rather unhelpful error popped up. Robert said the descriptions were stolen, but how does that even work?"
Professor Polly tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Well, we're not quite sure either." She pointed at a few towns on the map of Javaland. "There are various error guardians stationed around our land. They make sure programmers have all the information they need to fix the errors those guardians are in charge of. But recently, the words describing the errors have been slipping off whatever scrolls or screens they were stored on."
"Yesterday I saw some errors flying like birds!" Adelia piped up. "One description was even flapping its red text like wings." She demonstrated by tucking her hands in her armpits and flapping her arms.
Professor Polly nodded. "Across Javaland, these error descriptions have physically escaped their bindings and have been seen heading here." She placed her finger on a triangle on the map. "Spaghetti Code Mountain."
Sunny hummed thoughtfully. "That doesn't sound too scary. ‘Spaghetti' is a lot less intimidating than ‘doom' or some unpronounceable fantasy name."
Professor Polly shuddered. "Oh, believe me, something doesn't need to sound scary to be scary. Spaghetti code is an absolute nightmare. The disorganized structure, unnecessary lines of code everywhere… Ugh, it gives me a headache just thinking about it."
"Oh." Then perhaps Spaghetti Code Mountain would be an appropriate end goal for Sunny's quest. She could be like Frodo! Except instead of destroying a ring she was going to investigate errors, and for some reason everything here worked in code, and instead of hobbit or dwarven or elven buddies she had a robot… Anyways. "How do I get there?"
Professor Polly tapped a little illustration of a curved-roof building on the map. "Parentheses Town, where we are right now, is here." She moved her finger upwards to a drawing of a boxy building. "Variable Village is a little to the north, and from there, you can follow the Conditional River to the Loop Factories." Sunny squinted at the river. It looked like a tree, with branches running down a mountain range and joining up with the trunk, which twisted towards Variable Village. Then the professor pointed at a doodle of a little train, which ran on a curvy path throughout Javaland. "The Array Train runs nearly to the foot of Spaghetti Code Mountain."
Sunny's eyes sparkled. She'd been a bit taken aback by all the coding at first, but this was more like it! There was a clear path laid out for her quest, and although she'd no doubt get distracted by side quests or something along the way, she liked having a plan. "Wonderful! When can I start? Can we go now? Robert, are you done charging?"
The robot beeped in complaint. "I'm only at seventy percent."
Professor Polymorphism raised an eyebrow. "And are you really that eager to rush into this, Sunny? I know Earthlings are supposedly summoned here to be heroes, but it'll be a hard journey for even an experienced adventurer."
Sunny grinned. "I don't doubt it! But don't worry, Professor. I have the power of plot on my side." She briefly considered striking a heroic pose, but decided it would be too much.
Adelia giggled. On the other side of the room, Robert sighed wearily and said, "I'll be done charging by the morning. Professor Polly, would it be alright for Sunny to stay the night here?"
"Of course, dear!" The professor rolled up the map and started organizing some of the books into a stack again. "If you'd like some bedtime reading, these reference manuals are wonderful." She placed a thick green book in front of Sunny, then plopped an even larger red book on top. "Much more effective for falling asleep than counting parentheses, if I do say so myself. Do try to read the first few chapters before you fall asleep, though."
Sunny looked at the books. She knew knowledge could be just as handy as a sword sometimes, but this sounded an awful lot like homework. Still, she nodded and added the blue and white book to the stack.
As Sunny lifted the stack and tried not to trip over anything, Professor Polly led the way through the right archway. Once Sunny had gotten the stack into a stable position, she glanced at the decorations and photographs on the walls. They must have all been recent pictures, because they showed Professor Polly in a series of brightly colored dresses with Adelia on her lap, wearing the same indigo blanket cape. Neither of them seemed to have aged from the time the pictures were taken.
The ceiling and floor were decorated with repeating patterns of semicolons, curly braces, and square braces. Sunny wished she could sketch them in her notebook, but she didn't think she could manage that without dropping the stack of books.
Finally, the professor stopped in front of a plain green door and opened it to reveal a small bedroom. Sunny smiled gratefully at the professor, then deposited her books on a desk in the corner. She sighed, eyed the books determinedly, and started reading.