|The Reality Bug|
|Other Territories||Zadaa, Second Earth|
|Published||September 1, 2003|
|Pages|| 384 pp |
(first edition, paperback)
|Number in Series||4|
|Preceded by||The Never War|
|Followed by||Black Water|
This article is about the book. For the virus see The Reality Bug (virus).
— Blurb on the back of The Reality Bug
Plot (in Veelox)
Bobby goes to the territory of Veelox with his friend and Traveler from First Earth, Gunny. They encounter Saint Dane, and eventually become surrounded by 4 other holograms of him, in order to confuse the Travelers and allow the actual Saint Dane to escape to a territory called Eelong. He then meets the Traveler from Veelox, Aja Killian, in Rubic City, a deserted city very similar to Second Earth that is almost empty, except for a large, black Lifelight Pyramid looming over it.
Aja tells Bobby about Lifelight, explaining that it is a virtual reality simulation where players can choose to live in whatever "jump," or fantasy that they like. Lifelight operates by taking the dreams and thoughts out of players while still governing them by the rules of reality. Aja gives Bobby a demonstration by putting her control wristband on Bobby's head, which projects a hologram of Bobby's pet dog, Marley.
She takes Bobby through a tour of the Lifelight pyramid- showing him the phaders (people that monitor the Lifelight jumps) and the vedders (people who take medical care for the Lifelight jumpers). Bobby becomes amazed and enters a jump for twenty minutes, where his basketball team is absolutely invincible.
Aja tells Bobby that since almost everybody in Veelox is in Lifelight, nobody takes care of their actual reality- food cannot be grown and the territory will crumble. She tries to stop this by installing the "Reality Bug," a virus designed to modify the Lifelight jumps to be less-than-perfect (it extracts your good dreams and your fears, according to Aja), and Bobby enters a jump. This time, all his opponents are taller than him, his coach gets a heart attack, and he gets dizzy and ends up with a bloody nose.
However, because Saint Dane also modified the bug, the virus has been far more powerful than intended. Jumps have been diluted so much, and people are beginning to die in Lifelight. Then, Bobby and Aja decide to contact Dr. Zetlin, the creator of Lifelight, because he is supposedly the only one who can remove the virus. However, Dr. Zetlin is also in a Lifelight jump.
Luckily, Zetlin is in the Alpha Grid, which can be brought online independently from the rest of Lifelight, but it is not easy to let him exit the jump. Bobby goes to Zadaa and convinces the Traveler of Zadaa (Loor) to help him as well. Aja plans to enter Dr. Zetlin's jump to get the source code from him.
However, Lifelight malfunctions and they are taken into an "Old West" jump instead. They meet Saint Dane inside the jump and then get out. Aja takes Bobby and Loor to Dr. Zetlin's jump, where Zetlin lives as a 16-year old boy who calls himself the "Z." He resides in the Barbican which can stand upright or on its side. They ask the "Z" for the origin code, which turns out to be "0." Aja enters the code, and finds out that it has been sabotaged by Saint Dane. They encounter a physical form of the Reality Bug (a black shapeshifter), and as it chases them around, they successfully remove it. When they leave Dr. Zetlin's jump, all of Lifelight becomes shut down.
Later on, there is a ceremony honoring Aja and Dr. Zetlin gives a speech about how "corrupt data" (the Reality Bug) had infected the grid causing Lifelight to shut down. Veelox is pretty much resurrected, with people getting used to actual reality, when Dr. Sever, who is actually Saint Dane in disguise, announces that Lifelight shall go back online. Everyone scrambles to get back into Lifelight, and Saint Dane wins for the first time.
Plot (on Second Earth)
It started off with Bobby going into Veelox with Gunny, and Mark and Courtney going to a school, called Davis Gregory High. The book explains about Mark and Courtney's life with Bobby Pendragon, before Bobby became a Traveler. As before in The Never War, Mark wanted to become an acolyte alongside with Courtney. After a day of school of Davis Gregory High, they got an address from an acolyte.
- Robert (Bobby) Pendragon- The 15-year-old Lead Traveler (and Traveler from Second Earth) in this book.
- Aja Killian- The Traveler from Veelox. She is a senior phader (one of the people who monitor the Lifelight jumps).
- Loor- a Batu warrior and Traveler from the territory of Zaada.
- Gunny- the Traveler from First Earth. He eventually follows Saint Dane to Eelong.
- Saint Dane- the antagonist. He is also disguised in this book as Dr. Kree Sever, the prime director of Lifelight.
- Dr. Zetlin- the creator of Lifelight.
- Courtney Chetwynde- Bobby's friend in Second Earth, later his acolyte
- Mark Dimond- a science nerd and Bobby's best friend in Second Earth, later his acolyte
- Tom Dorney- Press Tilton's old acolyte who made Mark and Courtney acolytes at the end of the book.
- Evangeline- Acolyte of Aja Killian and adopted aunt.