Robert glanced at the manual Sunny was holding. "Hum. Perhaps the paragraph on incompatible types slipped out when you weren't looking. Weren't you listening earlier? Error descriptions have been escaping their books and flying to Spaghetti Code mountain."
"I-I didn't think you guys were serious…" Sunny waved her arms exasperatedly. "On Earth, words don't just jump off their pages!"
Robert shrugged and offered no further comment on the matter. After a few more fruitless moments of flipping through the manual, Sunny gave up and snapped it closed. For the rest of the ride, she stared at the vehicles passing their cart and wondered how exactly one would go about catching errors. She didn't suppose it was as simple as waving a butterfly net in the air…
Soon enough, their cart rolled to a stop at the outskirts of a village, and the driver swallowed his mouthful of chips. "Here we are. Variable Village!"
Robert thanked him in Javalandian, and Sunny eagerly hopped out of the cart and stretched her legs. Variable Village seemed to be composed of a mixture of boxy houses and shacks connected by rough roads. She saw some people walking down the streets, accompanied by some fluffy creatures. Were they dogs? They looked rather squarish, though… Sunny turned to Robert. "What are those creatures that people are walking?"
"Oh, those are variapets. Like, variables plus pets." He rolled his eyes. "What a lazy name, I know." He started floating down a street to the right. "The error guardian is this way."
Sunny ran to catch up. "Wait, that didn't answer my question! What are variapets? And can I pet one?"
Robert eyed Sunny. "You can try… Well, I'll let Eniac explain more. He's borderline obsessed with them."
"Eniac's the error guardian?" Sunny shifted the backpack higher on her shoulders.
Robert grunted something vaguely affirmative and seemed to float even faster.
"Wow, someone's in a bad mood." Sunny pouted, but followed Robert along a winding path of streets until they reached a small house.
The house was perfectly cubical and above the door was the text, "houseOfEniac." A couple of small shrubs decorated the lawn. As Sunny sketched the building, Robert knocked on the door briskly, still wearing a mildly annoyed expression for some reason. Sunny hoped it wasn't because of anything she'd done.
They waited for a few minutes, but the door still hadn't opened by the time Sunny finished her sketch. Robert frowned. "Let's check the backyard."
The robot floated over to a wooden gate in the fence next to the house and rapped on it with an arm. "Eniac? It's me, Robert, with a guest."
There was silence for a moment, then without any warning, a head of electric-blue hair popped up over the fence. Two narrowed eyes squinted down at Robert and Sunny. "Eh? You're going to rob me of my quest?"
Robert muttered something that sounded like, "I hate repeating myself. Especially when I know he understood me the first time."
Eniac pointed to a blue something in his ear. "Don't blame me, blame the translator."
"A translator?" Sunny looked at the error guardian curiously.
Eniac nodded proudly, his hair flopping around. "Yes, but it's still a work in progress. Right now, it can convert between Java code and Javalandian, but English and Javalandian needs some work. And since I'm testing Javalandian to English to Javalandian, I can't help but mishear things sometimes." He looked pointedly at Robert.
"I see…" Sunny thought for a moment, then decided to try out the speech she'd prepared. "Well, my name is Sunny, and I and my trusted sidekick Robert are on an important quest to retrieve the error descriptions right now. Esteemed error guardian, would you kindly lend us your aid? And perhaps a translator, if you have any extras?"
"Excuse me, I'm not your side–"
Sunny elbowed Robert.
"And we're not retrieving, we're just gathering info–"
Sunny elbowed him a little harder.
Eniac stared at Sunny and hummed for a good thirty seconds. There was a faint yapping from the other side of the fence. Suddenly he ducked his head below fence level again, and before Sunny knew it, the fence was swinging inward to let her and Robert in. Eniac quickly closed the fence behind them.
The error guardian was dressed in bright colors, similar to Professor Polly. His sky-blue suit featured a stripe of lightning yellow and his shoes looked like they'd be golden if the dirt was rubbed off of them. Come to think of it… the rest of his outfit wasn't perfectly clean either. When Sunny looked closer, she could see that the shoulders of the suit were fraying, and Eniac's hair looked a little droopy on the sides. Was this a result of the descriptions escaping? The guardian was rather short as well, although Sunny wasn't sure that could be attributed to the errors.
She bent down slightly and offered her hand to Eniac for a handshake. "Nice to meet you, esteemed error guardian. I'm Sunny."
"Eniac." Eniac shook her hand firmly. "See, Rudolph? Some respect goes a long way." Sunny nodded in agreement. Rule number 13 said to treat all magical creatures politely, lest they blasted you to smithereens or did something equally unpleasant.
"It's Robert," the robot grumbled.
Eniac waved his hand dismissively, then reached into a pocket and pulled out a pair of yellow earbuds. "Here's the translator you asked for, Sunny. This is an older version, but still, please return them to me unscathed."
Sunny nodded and took them gratefully, placing them into her ears.
"So, Sunny, what do you require my assistance with, other than the translator?" To Sunny's delight, Eniac's voice came through in English. She didn't have to rely on Robert for translations now.
"How come you get her name right?" Robert sulked.
Sunny stuck her tongue out at Robert, then smiled politely at Eniac. "I was hoping to learn more about the incompatible types error, as well as what exactly has been happening to the error guardians."
"Ah." Eniac's expression turned sober. "Yes, of course, I can help with that. But first… would you like to watch a performance by my variapets? I find that it's easier to talk about depressing topics after a lively performance."
Sunny glanced around the rest of the backyard and caught sight of a little stage set up in the middle. A couple of boxy variapets were scampering around it. "Oh, I'd love to! I'd appreciate learning more about variapets as well… Robert didn't deign to tell me anything about them."
Eniac tsked sadly. "Robert, how could you? You should never pass up an opportunity to impart useful information to an interested listener."
"Yeah, yeah." Robert floated over to a tree in the corner of the backyard. "Wake me up when you're done. I think a lack of sleep is making me grouchier than usual." He muttered, "It's either that or having to deal with people…" Without any further ado, the robot powered off.
Sunny walked over to the stage and took a seat on the grass as Eniac crouched by the variapets and whispered encouragement to them. Then he stood up and flourished his arms.
"Welcome, one and all, to Eniac and the Variapets' Show Spectacular!"
Sunny clapped enthusiastically.
"Now, let me take a moment to introduce our performers." Eniac gestured to a fluffy green variapet. "This is the one, the only, Ingrid the Integer! She'll store integers greater than you've ever seen before. She'll perform addition and subtraction in a matter of milliseconds. Prepare to be amazed by Ingrid's inspiring, intriguing, incredible acts!" The variapet cartwheeled onto the stage and danced about on little legs. Sunny oohed and aahed.
"Next up, we have Debbie the Double! She'll do everything Ingrid did, but with a twist– Debbie specializes in decimals. Get ready for her double-tastic daring deeds!" A pink variapet joined Ingrid on the stage and jumped up and down.
"And then we have Bobby the Boolean. He'll answer true or false questions faster than you can blink. Boo to boredom!" A variapet that flashed between the colors orange and blue climbed up on stage.
"Finally, we have Charlie the Character. He'll sing the alphabet song!" A yellow variapet rolled onstage. "Don't be fooled by his simple appearance. He can store all kinds of characters too– even numbers and punctuation."
Eniac did jazz hands. "Give it up for our performers!"
Sunny cheered them on. "Woo-hoo!"
"Now then. The show will start with a feat of mathematics featuring Innnngriiiiid!"