A Mainframe Summer’s Nightmare
Chapter 2 – The Arrival
Three figures ran around the corner and down the hallway. Behind them could be heard gun shots and shouting. The three figures turned another corner and raced down the hall. They finally found a bunker in which they could hide. The three were dressed the same: tan military pants, black shirts, and black berets.
“At what point…did we lose…all control here?” Enzo asked, trying to catch his breath.
He, Matrix, and AndrAIa had run into some problem with the User during this military desert storm game. All they had to do was kill the User before he stole weapons from the artillery they were hiding in. But it soon became clear the User was stopping at nothing to get past them.
“Okay,” Matrix replied, also trying to catch his breath. “We need a plan. We need a plan of some sort.”
“Where’s Dot when you need her?” AndrAIa asked.
“I think if we hide in this bunker for a while, we can think of something to outsmart that dumb user.” Enzo said.
“Okay, genius.” Matrix said, sarcastically. “Got a plan?”
“I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” Enzo sat for a while, casually looking over his shoulder for a sign of the user. After about a nano, he snapped his fingers. “I got it!” he exclaimed.
“Shh!” hissed AndrAIa and Matrix in unison.
“You want the user to hear the plan before we do?!” said Matrix.
The user, wearing Army fatigues, crept through the building looking for the three sprites he had chased. The building was quiet – too quiet – and that made the user jumpy. He peered around the corner and noticed the bunker. He smiled, knowing full well he had won the game.
“C’mon stupid.” Matrix muttered to himself. He could see the user approaching the bunker, but he’d be ready for him. He certainly hoped this plan worked. But, if there was anyone besides Bob he trusted more with a plan, it was Enzo. He just wanted to hurry this thing up.
The user crept up to the bunker, aiming his M-16 down inside it. He fired and continued until he was out of ammo. That’s when he noticed his prey was not in the bunker. “Shame you had to waste all that ammo,” a woman’s voice said behind him. The user turned around and was faced with the three sprites he had chased.
“Shoulda saved some.” Matrix replied. He grinned as the three raised their automatics and fired at the user.
The purple cube rose, leaving Matrix, Enzo, and AndrAIa on the ground in G-Prime. “I do love Desert Storm games.” Enzo replied, smiling. The three started to head back to the Diner when a vidwindow stopped them.
“Hey.” Dot said, seeing the three. “How was the game?”
“Alphanumeric, as always.” Enzo replied.
“We were heading back to the Diner.” AndrAIa said.
“Do you guys mind stopping at the P.O. for a nano?” Dot asked.
“Sure, Sis.” Matrix said. “Everything’s alright, right?”
“Everything’s fine.” Dot replied. “I just want to see you guys really quick. Won’t take long. Besides, maybe you can calm your daughter down.” The last comment was made with a smile.
“I knew there was a catch.” AndrAIa said, jokingly. “We’ll be there.”
They started to head off to the Principal Office. “You know,” AndrAIa said, unable to stop the joke at that. “She may look like me, but…”
“She has my temper.” Matrix finished. He rolled his eye at her. “Yeah, yeah.”
The three made their way into the main office and quickly spotted Dot. “We’re back.” Enzo announced, strolling in like he owed the place.
“Enzo!” cried a small sprite. The boy came running over and started pulling on Enzo’s shorts. He was blue, like Bob, but had Dot’s violet eyes. “Howwasit?Howwasit?Howwasit?Huh?Huh?Huh?” came the blurted question or questions.
“What? What? What?” Enzo countered.
The small boy rolled his eyes, as if Enzo had just asked the most basic question in all of Mainframe. “The game, silly.”
“Oh.” Enzo said, in understanding. He knelt down to try and be eye level with the boy. “It was great.” he said, all the excitement and enthusiasm he felt as a boy coming back at him. “We were totally surrounded by like… 50…no 75, no 100 troops! Just closing in on us!”
Everyone else in the room just rolled their eyes. Enzo tended to exaggerate games for his niece and nephew.
“Troops to the left of us, troops to the right of us! It was pretty sticky for a while.”
“Wow.” Christopher Lan, nicknamed Kit, could always be expected to completely surrender to anything Enzo said about a game. He was the same way after he pestered Bob for a few nanos.
“Enzo.” Dot said, trying to bring the young sprite back into the real net.
“Mooom.” Kit whined. “He’s in the middle of telling a story.”
“Yeah.” Enzo said, grinning up at his sister.
“He’s in the middle of making up a story, you mean.” Matrix muttered, picking up Sabrina and kissing her cheek.
“Quiet you!” Enzo shot back.
“Some other time, Kit.” Bob interjected. “Did you forget we have company?”
“Oh yeah.” the boy said, sadly. He had almost forgotten. “Sorry Enzo.”
Enzo, too, looked dejected by this news. Then he got an idea. “Hey! The Diner? Later?” he asked. “It’ll be your downtime story!”
“Pixelicious!” The boy cried, hugging Enzo.
The boy let go and Enzo remembered something Bob had said earlier. He quickly stood up. “Hey,” he asked. “Did you say we have company?”
“Yes,” AndrAIa giggled. “And in the time it took you to make up a story for Kit, the rest of us have already met her.”
“Her?” Enzo asked. “Well, I haven’t met her.” Enzo folded his arms in a classic pout. He then heard a familiar laugh.
“You’ve only known me for four hours.” said the voice.
When Enzo looked up, he saw Dot move out of the way to reveal a beautiful sprite behind her. She had tan skin, medium brown hair, and the most incredible dark blue eyes. She was about Dot’s height and weight and had a gorgeous smile.
Enzo was dumbfounded at first, seeing the girl. But he quickly regained his composure when the girl hugged him.
“Alex?” he asked, awkwardly returning the hug. Alexandria Hewlett bent her head back and smiled at Enzo. The two had met about four hours ago, while at the Academy, though Alex was a semester behind Enzo.
“Alex?” Enzo asked again, still trying to regain his senses. “What…what’re you doing here?”
The girl laughed and brought a smile to Enzo’s face. He so loved the way she laughed. It reminded him of AndrAIa’s laugh. “Silly.” Alex replied. “My uncle lives in Mainframe. Remember? I told you about him.”
“I thought you were spending the summer with your Dad.” Enzo said.
“Something came up, so I’ll be spending part of the summer here, and the other with my Dad.” Alex replied.
“If you need anything Alex, I’m sure Enzo wouldn’t mind helping you out.” Dot said, giving her brother a smile.
“Yeah.” Enzo said. “I mean, no, I mean…” Enzo took a deep breath and then gave Alex his best smile. “I wouldn’t mind at all.”
“Great!” Alex said. “I’m heading over to my uncle’s now, but is there somewhere I could you later?”
“There’s the Diner.” Bob volunteered.
“Dot’s Diner. Fastest food in all of Mainframe!” Dot boasted.
“Yeah.” Enzo said, nodding. “We’ll meet at Dot’s and I can show you around.”
“Okay.” Alex said, heading for the door.
“Enjoy your stay in Mainframe, Alex.” Dot said, as Alex opened the door.
“Thanks.” Alex said. To Enzo, she replied, “I’ll see you later.” She then left.
Yep, Enzo thought. Better and better.
Enzo walked into the Diner and headed straight for the bowl of energy bars sitting on the bar counter. He grabbed three and had devoured two of them before reaching the booth that contained four sprites. “Enzo,” Dot said, watching her brother down his third energy bar. “You’re spoiling your dinner.”
“I can’t help it if I’m hungry.” Enzo said, sheepishly, before eyeing the plate of fries that AndrAIa and Matrix were currently munching on.
“Hey!” Matrix cried, seeing Enzo steal about three of his fries.
“Pretty good.” he said, chewing on one fry. He looked around and realized something was missing. “No ketchup?”
AndrAIa passed him a plate that was covered in ketchup. Enzo looked at the plate and then at Dot. “What happened to…?”
“We ran out.” Dot replied. “Do you think you could…?”
“I will buy ketchup cups.” Enzo replied, dipping the fries in the plate.
Alexandria walked in and quickly spotted Enzo. She always could. She had Enzo Matrix radar from the day they had met. “There you are!” she said, walking over to the group. She looked around at the new surroundings and said, “Hey, nice place.”
“Well, it is the fastest food in the Mainframe.” Enzo said matter of factly. You’d think he actually owned the Diner. “Also has the best things to offer.”
“I bet.” Alex replied, giving Enzo a teasing smile.
Enzo cleared his throat a couple of times, obviously embarrassed by the show of affection she was giving him in front of his family and all. He did manage to get out, “In…in food, I meant,” before turning red.
“So,” Alex said, trying to shift things away from her obvious crush. “Are you ready to show me Mainframe?”
“Enzo’s the best tour guide to have, Alex.” Matrix said, throwing his brother a compliment. His reward was the smile Enzo threw back at him and his confidence rising a bit.
“Oh yeah?” Alex asked, somewhat jokingly. “Are you sure you won’t get lost?”
“Are you kidding?” Enzo smirked, leaning on the table with his hand. “I know this system like the back of my hand.”
What Enzo failed to realize, at the moment he leaned over, was the fact of where he had left the plate of ketchup. His smile finally faded when he realized his mistake. He removed his hand and gave Alex a nervous chuckle, before taking the napkin AndrAIa had passed to him.
“Look, I’m going to go get an energy shake.” Alex said. “I’ll meet you outside.”
“Okay.” Enzo watched the girl walk over to the bar. He then turned back around to see four smiling faces looking right at him. “A guardian’s job is never done.” He said, trying desperately to change subjects. When that didn’t work, he continued. “You know, doing homework, studying game techniques…”
“Showing pretty girls around your home system.” AndrAIa replied.
“…showing pretty girls around my home sys…” He stopped when he realized he had walked into a trap. “That is not a job, AndrAIa,” he said, in his best authoritative tone. “That’s a perk.”
“I so loved perks.” Bob said, making Dot and AndrAIa giggle. Enzo took the ribbing in stride. He knew this would happen sooner or later.
“If the Binome Gallery will excuse me, I have to escort a fellow guardian through the system of Mainframe.” With one last smile, Enzo left the Diner to show Alex around.
“This is beautiful, Enzo.”
Enzo and Alex had zipped and walked through different sectors in Mainframe, but nothing appealed to Alex more than Floating Point Park. The two of them were sitting on the wall overlooking the channel.
“When I was a little kid, I used to come here and think sometimes.” Enzo replied, still fascinated with the stream as he had been hours ago.
“What did you think about?” Alex asked, turning to look at him.
“A lot things, really.” Enzo said, still looking out. “Like homework or life or something basic like that.”
“I don’t think that’s basic at all.” Alex said, sincerely. Enzo turned to look at her. He always thought she was beautiful, gorgeous. She was the only woman he would have ever thought could sway his thoughts from AndrAIa. But she had done it and from the first day they met.
He had met a lot of girls while at the Academy, but none like her. He was still harboring a slight crush on AndrAIa, who had by now become his sister-in-law. It wasn’t the same as when he was a little sprite of 1.0, he had spent enough time with Matrix and AndrAIa, especially after Christopher was initialized.
He had actually lived with them for a while, before he came to the Academy. He compiled up and realized that even though he was Enzo Matrix, he was the second Enzo Matrix and AndrAIa clearly loved the first one.
Any feelings she had for him were from when she and Matrix were kids his age. She still saw him as the little sprite who thought he was tough and was a guardian, but was really a scared little kid. But that’s the Enzo she fell in love with, so there was really no competition.
But he loved AndrAIa, as a friend and now as his sister, who he could talk about things with. The more the three of them hung out, the closer they got. He was convinced no other woman would replace AndrAIa in his heart. That is until Alexandria Hewlett walked in the door.
He was floored instantly and when she sat next to him in technique class, he was on Cloud 9. She was smart, pretty, funny, everything AndrAIa was, but more so. He wasn’t sure what he was thinking when he asked her if she wanted some company during lunch.
And he sure wasn’t thinking when he volunteered to show her around the Super Computer, a place he had only been in for a semester. But she had said yes to both things and they had become best friends after that.
He told her everything about himself, including his older self Matrix, which she thought was random and alphanumeric at the same time. And she in turn told him everything about herself. He found himself quickly developing a crush on her, one of many secrets he was now sharing between Matrix and AndrAIa through email. He loved everything about her. The way she smiled, the way she laughed, the way she said his name.
“Enzo.” The shaking of his shoulder brought Enzo back into reality. Alex was staring at him, a confused look on her face.
“What?” he said, sounding like he had just emerged from a dream.
“I said, I should probably be getting home soon.” she repeated.
“Oh!” he said in comprehension. “Sorry. Guess I stopped processing for a nano.” He gave her a nervous laugh, her favorite to hear. “C’mon then.” The two jumped off the wall and zipped back towards the Kits sector, where Alex’s uncle lived.
“You know,” Enzo said, walking Alex to the door. “We’re practically like neighbors. My brother and sister are only a couple of apartments down.”
“Wow,” Alex replied, tugging on one side of his vest. “That’s pretty alphanumeric, huh?”
“Yeah.” Enzo said, gazing down at the hall carpet. “Um…Alex…I was…wondering, if you weren’t doing anything later…um…if maybe…I don’t know…you maybe would want…”
Enzo finally looked at her to say, “But you don’t have to! You can tell me to spam myself if you wanted, though I really hope you wouldn’t do that cause I think that would be awfully mean of you and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it and it would probably hurt…”
“Enzo!” she replied, laughing at his cute ramblings and pulling him closer to her. “Are you asking me out?” she asked, lifting herself up slightly to ask the question then setting back down.
“Well…um…does it…sound…like I’m…like I’m asking you out?” Enzo stammered, but resting his forehead against hers.
“Oh.” Enzo tried to hide the smile that was coming to his lips. “Well…um…then…let’s say I was…would…would you…would you like…?”
“Yes.” she said, though it was covered by a laugh. She put her arms around his neck and whispered against his lips, “Is 8 okay?” Enzo simply nodded, afraid to cave in to the idea of kissing her. “Then I’ll be ready at 8, okay?”
Again, Enzo nodded.
“You’ll be here? Of course you will, huh?”
She could’ve asked him to storm the P.O. and he would do it. Right as Enzo’s will power gave out and he leaned in for a kiss, she disengaged from him and went to the door. Enzo quickly recovered from falling flat on his face when he heard her giggling.
“Goodbye, Enzo.” She went inside and closed the door. He smiled as he thought about the wonderful night awaiting him.
Enzo was still getting ready when he heard Matrix and AndrAIa enter the apartment. Great. Now he’d have to get past four adults and two small sprites. He looked at the clock and relaxed. It was way past Bri’s downtime. She was probably out before they even got to the door of the apartment. He had already told Kit his promised downtime story and the boy was out cold.
Enzo splashed more aftershave on his face and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked nice: a button-down, collarless white shirt, black slacks, black socks, and shiny black shoes. He slicked his hair back once more and grabbed the long stem rose that was laying on the sink. He cut the lights and peeked out the bathroom door.
No one was in the hall, but he could hear talking in the living room. This was actually perfect in a way. The four of them having a romantic night out, which means he probably would’ve left anyways. Now his only problem was how to get out without having to go through the Spanish Inquisition.
Errands, he thought. I’m running errands. He waited until the noise and laughter deleted, then made his way out.
“Well, I’m leaving!” he said quickly, hoping to make it to the door before the questions started.
He heard a whistle and then heard Matrix say, “Don’t you look nice?” He stopped and turned to face them. They were sitting on the couch and looked like they were going to watch a quicktime movie.
“Where are you off too all dolled up?” AndrAIa asked.
“Just…running some errands.” Enzo replied, hoping he wouldn’t be staying here long. “Bob, you said I could use the car.”
“Sure.” Bob reached into his pocket, pulled out the keys, and tossed them to Enzo, who caught them with one hand.
“You’re a little overdressed to be running errands, don’t ya think?” Matrix asked.
“Well…well at the Guardian Academy, they teach you to always go out looking your best. No matter what it is you’re going to do.”
This is going pretty well, Enzo thought. This is going better than I expected. Now as long as I don’t get a bad break.
“Who’s the rose for?” AndrAIa asked.
“Excuse me?” Enzo replied.
“The rose.” she repeated. “Who’s it for?”
Well, there’s the bad break.
“Um…” Enzo started. He stared down at the rose, trying to think of something to say. “It’s for Phong.” he finally said. “You know, he does so much for us and everything and I don’t think we’ve really shown him how much we appreciate him, so I decided to get him this.”
“That’s logical.” AndrAIa surmised. “Cause you know, when I think of Phong I immediately think of roses.” Both she and Dot started to giggle slightly.
“They were out of the other flowers.” Enzo explained.
“Really?” Dot asked knowingly.
“Yeah.” Enzo said. “When I got there, they only had roses left.”
“My, that is a coincidence.” AndrAIa said.
“Yeah. Every other flower was gone.”
“Wow.” AndrAIa replied. “And it’s not even Valentine’s Day.”
“Yeah!” Enzo said, hoping this would the last thing he needed to explain. “That’s…that’s what I told the guy. In the store.”
The room was quiet for a while, before Enzo replied with his first line of the night. “Well, I’m leaving!” He said, heading for the door. “Oh,” he said turning around. “And just so you don’t worry, I’ll go see a movie.”
“Don’t force yourself, Enzo.” Bob replied, giving the lad a smile.
“No, no.” he said. “I’ll go see a movie. I’ll even see two movies.”
“Enzo, you don’t have to…” Dot started to say, but was interrupted by Enzo.
“Now, I insist on seeing a movie. So the four of you can have all the time in the net to watch movies or whatever. I’ll just do some errands and see those movies. Bye now. Stay Frosty.” Enzo quickly shut the door before any other argument or question could be asked. He took a deep breath before smiling and heading out to Bob’s car.
Meanwhile, the two couples were settling down to watch a movie. “I wonder where Enzo’s taking Alex for their date.” Bob wondered aloud.
“When I think of Phong, I immediately think of roses,” Dot smirked, causing her and AndrAIa to start laughing again.
“Well,” Bob said. “He’s either on a date or going random.”
“I say he’s on a date.” Matrix said, putting his arm around AndrAIa. “But I won’t count out random.”
Enzo stopped the car right in front of the stairway leading up to Alex’s uncle’s apartment and leaped out of the car. He ran up the stairs and skidded to a stop in front of her door. He calmed himself and raised his hand, but before he could knock, the door opened to reveal Alex. Enzo’s mouth dropped when saw her. By the code, she was beautiful. She wore a deep blue dress, one to match her eyes, and her hair hung about her shoulders.
“Hi.” she said, cheerfully. Enzo wanted to say hi or at least mention how incredibly beautiful she looked, but all that came out of his mouth was air and something like sounded like ‘hi’ in the back of his throat.
“Is that for me?” Alex asked, gesturing towards the rose he held in his hand.
Enzo made the same unvoicable sound as he looked down at the rose and back at her. Like a robot, he extended his hand in an offering gesture. She giggled, taking the rose in one hand, his hand in the other, pulling him close and kissing his cheek. Finally the energy liquid rushed back to Enzo, causing his face to turn red in a blush, but also allowing him normal speech patterns.
Or at least he hoped.
“Ready to go?” she asked, closing the door behind her.
“Yes.” he said, the answer coming out as a whisper. She giggled again, took his hand, and led him down the hallway to the exit.
At least Enzo hadn’t completely lied. He and Alex did end up seeing a movie, a Dalt Wisney flick called The Lady and the Binome, a cartoon that was being re-released as an anniversary gimmick. Normally Enzo wouldn’t have gone to see to it. It was a cartoon and worse, it was a romantic cartoon. No spilled energy, no deletion (except for a null that was deleted by the binome) other than that, pure girl stuff.
But Alex wanted to see it and that’s all it took for him to buy two tickets. It had been a great evening. Dinner, a movie, and even a stop to go jetbowling, a sport Enzo loved. Before taking Alex home, Enzo had remembered about the ketchup cups (how could he forget after the incident earlier!?) and bought three packs of 100 cups.
“I had a wonderful time, Enzo.” Alex replied, as he walked her to the door.
“Me, too.” he said. “Sorry about having to make the stop for ketchup cups. I promised Dot I’d get some.”
“It’s okay.” she said, smiling at him. “Besides, maybe it got me back for beating you in jetbowling.”
“Just so you know and never forget, I let you win.” They stopped in front of her door and Alex put her arms around Enzo’s shoulders.
“I really did have a good time, Enzo.” she said, staring into his eyes. “If I had known you were this much fun, I would’ve spent all my summers in Mainframe.”
“Ha, ha.” Enzo replied dryly at her little joke. He leaned his head lower so he could rest his forehead against hers. “It’s getting late.” he said. The urge to kiss her had been plaguing him all night. Actually, the urge had plagued him for three hours!
“I know.” she whispered, her eyes closed, obviously wanting him to kiss her good night. He touched his lips to hers, hoping to just give her a quick peck and tell her good night, but when she returned the kiss, he deepened it and she didn’t complain. When it was over, the two shared a sigh of gratification.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for hours.” Enzo whispered against her lips.
She smiled and said, “Me too.”
“Can I see you tomorrow?”
“Of course.” she replied, playing with the little braided tail that hung from his hair.
“Maybe we can go jetbowling again.” Enzo said, noticing for the fifth time that night that she smelled really really good. “And this time, I won’t go so easy on you.” They both chuckled at the joke.
“Goodnight, Enzo.” Alex said, stealing a kiss before going inside.
Enzo was enjoying this summer more and more. He stood outside the door for a few nanos, before heading out towards Bob’s car. It seemed like minutes before Enzo pulled in front of the Diner. He had purposefully driven slow, still smelling Alex’s perfume in the car. He reached over, grabbed the ketchup cups, and headed for the door.
Just as he reached it to punch in his code, a strange sensation came over him, as though something was watching him. He quickly looked at his surroundings and in a flash, the feeling was gone. He shook his head, jokingly saying that Alex’s kisses were making him random.
He opened the door to the Diner, closed it and locked it. He laid the three bags of ketchup cups on the counter before hopping over it. He brought the cups into the kitchen, placed them in the cabinet where they belonged and then headed downstairs to the apartment. He opened the door slowly and quietly and closed it behind him the same way.
He leaned against it, thinking of Alex and the kiss they shared and he would’ve been content to stay there, hadn’t a voice asked, “So how was it?”
Enzo turned to see Dot still on the couch. The living room was still dark and he had to adjust his eyes before really realizing that Dot was talking to him.
“How was what?” he asked.
“The movie you saw.” she said. Enzo moved away from the door to stand in front of Dot.
“Fine, fine.” he said, glancing around the room. “Where’s Matrix and Dre?”
“They went home minutes ago.” Dot replied, smiling.
“You didn’t have to wait up for me, you know.”
Dot left the couch and put her hands on Enzo’s shoulders. “It’s habit.” she said. “So, did you and Alex have a good time?” Before Enzo could deny such a happening, he saw Dot’s knowing smile and smiled back.
“It was alphanumeric, Dot.” he replied. “I can’t even begin to describe it.”
“Well, describe it to me tomorrow.” she said, turning the boy and pushing him to his room that he was sharing with Mike. “It’s late, so don’t wake Kit.”
“I won’t.” he kissed his sister good night and closed the bedroom door. Indeed Kit was out like a light, so Enzo tiptoed to his bed. The bed would soon be Kit’s when he got older, but until then, Kit certainly didn’t mind being roommates with Enzo.
Enzo quietly removed his shoes and socks and then rebooted into a shirt and boxers. He removed his icon and placed it in his cabbie hat before removing the shirt. He climbed into bed and looked up at the ceiling. He could still feel Alex’s lips on his as he drifted to sleep.
The uneasy feeling he had at the door to the Diner was quickly replaced by the feelings he had for Alex.