A Mainframe Summer’s Nightmare
Chapter 5 – Between a Megabyte and a Hard Place
Three sprites stood outside of a rather large rundown shed, in Sector 34. “Do you feel it, Enzo?” Matrix asked, as the three approached the shed.
Enzo nodded his head in response. “He’s here.” he replied, looking around the area. It was a dark and disturbing place. The only lights that shown were from nearby businesses and one streetlight.
AndrAIa walked up to the shed, only to find the door securely locked with a complicated door lock. “Well, I hope you boys brought something to get in with.” she replied, looking over her shoulder at them. “The door’s locked.” The brothers approached the door and saw the lock.
“Great.” Matrix mumbled. “Now how are we going to get in?”
Suddenly, the three found themselves in a familiar black void. “Oh no!” Enzo said, panic in his voice. “We can’t be having a dream now!”
Soon, the three could hear laughter, a slow, demonic chuckle that grew louder and louder. Matrix and Enzo instantly reached for their guns, while AndrAIa extended her trident. “Come on, you big tin can!” Matrix called. “Come out and face us!”
“All in good time, Boy.” His voice seemed to echo through the building, but the three sprites couldn’t see him anywhere. “My, my, my.” he said. “Look at what the cat dragged in. I see you’ve grown up, Boy. Tell me, how did you enjoy those games?”
Matrix gripped Gun tighter at the mention of his life game hopping. “I didn’t.” he growled. “And you’re the reason I was stuck in them!”
Megabyte laughed. “Don’t you mean your failure as a Guardian is the reason you were stuck?”
“Back off, Megabits!” AndrAIa retorted. She had worked too hard and too long to get Matrix to believe in himself again to have some two bit virus shoot him down. “You’re just mad that you couldn’t take care of two guardians!”
“Ah, yes. The game sprite.” Megabyte made a low chuckle. “It’s a shame I didn’t realize how pretty you would be all grown up. And a shame you had to stick by a low grade Guardian.”
“You leave AndrAIa out of this!” the brothers cried.
Suddenly without warning, AndrAIa was pushed back through the darkness and found herself outside…
Surrounded by CPUs.
“AndrAIa!” Dot called, running over to her, Bob was not far behind. The two helped the game sprite to her feet.
“Are you okay?” Bob asked, quickly checking for any bruises.
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” AndrAIa said, huffily. She was angry at the fact that the people she loved the most were now left alone to themselves with a dangerous virus out for revenge. She suddenly realized who the people were around her. “What’re you doing here?” she asked, somewhat confused.
“I went to talk to En…Matrix, but he had left and so had Enzo.” Dot said. “I finally tracked down Alex and she said they might here and you’d be along for the ride.” She gave AndrAIa a stern look.
“Dot,” the woman said, coming to her own defense. “I had to come to make sure they were okay. I knew you wouldn’t want them out here by themselves.”
“Well, now they’re in there by themselves.” Bob commented, staring at the shed.
He suspected Enzo and Matrix would get here sooner or later. He just hoped it would be later, but they were in there. With Megabyte. Bob half thought about just blasting the shed with an energy blast, but realized Enzo and Matrix would be in harm’s way and he couldn’t risk that.
“All we can do is wait.” he said. “And hope the guys defeat Megabyte before he defeats them.”
Inside, Megabyte had finally shown himself. He was only a few feet from Enzo and Matrix. His red eyes were glowing with hatred, his silver patched body was shining in the dark.
“Gun, target lock.” Matrix said, raising his weapon at Megabyte. Megabyte just smiled as Matrix pulled the trigger. But just before the shot hit, the virus disappeared.
“Where did he…?” Enzo asked, but before he could finish, both he and Matrix were hit from behind. They fell to the floor, their weapons careening across the room. They rolled over to face Megabyte, who stood over them.
His claws extended and he made an attempt to slash Matrix, who quickly rolled away, Megabyte’s claws scrapping the ground loudly. Enzo kicked the virus in the knee, causing him to grunt and heap over. Enzo then jumped up and hit the virus to the ground. The lad was quickly on top of him.
“Get the guns!” he exclaimed to Matrix.
Megabyte heaved the boy with one hand to a nearby wall. Enzo struck it and struck hard, hitting his head against the metal framing. He slumped down, the room spinning around him. He knew he had to get up, he had to stop Megabyte.
Matrix, meanwhile, had grabbed Gun and tried to do a repeat of his earlier attempt. “Gun, target lock.” he said, as Megabyte came near him. He fired, shooting the virus in the shoulder, then the chest. Megabyte quickly vanished from sight and was quickly on an unprepared Matrix, stabbing a claw into his shoulder.
Matrix’s cries of pain could be heard outside of the shed. Dot quickly turned to the chief officer of the CPUs. “I don’t care how you do it, but get into that shed!” she ordered.
“Dot, I would use an energy blast, but…” Bob started, but was stopped by Dot’s finger on his lips.
“I know.” she said, quietly. “I can’t risk losing my brothers. Not again.”
“Dot, maybe it’s not so bad in there.” AndrAIa spoke up.
She was rubbing the side of her arms. She was trying to stop herself from worrying, but she recognized those screams. Those were Matrix’s screams. She was just so mad at herself for being pushed out like that. If that virus does anything to hurt him, she thought. I swear I’ll…
“AndrAIa, I’m sure everything’s fine.” Dot’s voice broke AndrAIa from her thoughts. She smiled when she felt Dot’s hand on her arm. She knew Dot was just as nervous and scared as she was. I can’t lose them again, Dot thought. Not again.
Enzo had to shake himself out of it. He could hear Matrix firing at Megabyte and he could now Matrix’s cries of pain. Somehow, Enzo had gotten up, found his gun and had fired at Megabyte’s back.
The virus shot forward, releasing Matrix, who held his shoulder. “I didn’t think Guardians would shoot someone in the back.” Megabyte said, standing to face Enzo.
“You’re a special case,” Enzo replied, sourly. He then shot Megabyte again and again until he was out of bullets. The virus didn’t seem to slow, though Enzo could clearly see the energy liquid escaping Megabyte’s chest.
“Out of my way, Copy.” Megabyte said, walking towards Enzo. “My business is with Enzo Matrix. Not his backup version.”
Enzo wasn’t sure what happened. He knew his anger was rising. He had tried all his life to break way from being known as the other Enzo, the Enzo Matrix Copy, the Back-Up Kid, before he knew it, he had charged the virus, pushing him into the wall behind them.
He started to pound on the virus’ chest, causing more damage to the wounds already there. Megabyte howled in pain, but managed to push Enzo back with an energy blast, throwing the sprite against the wall on the other side. Megabyte then used his energy to bring the injured sprites before him. The two hovered a little ways off the ground, both coming in and out of consciousness.
“This little game has been fun.” the virus sneered. “But if you think your torment is over, guess again. This battle may be a draw, but I shall win the war. I could delete you pathetic weaklings now, but I have much more in store for you. Our little game isn’t over, Boy. You’ll know when it ends.”
With that, the virus sent two energy beams at them, blowing them out the shed and crashing into the CPUs outside.
Seconds passed since the battle between Megabyte and the Matrix brothers. Things were still processing, business-wise, but things weren’t quite back to normal. First of all, the nighttime torment of Enzo and Matrix continued, this time growing worse with each passing night. Secondly, the games still weren’t coming.
Lastly, after seeing the Matrix brothers together throughout their torment, it was surprising to see that they now tried to stay away from each other. If one brother was in the Diner, the other was no where near the area. Enzo was never home if Matrix or AndrAIa stopped by. And they were never in the Principal Office at the same time. These events made everyone close to them very worried indeed.
AndrAIa decided she wanted answers, so she stole Matrix away from his Chief of Security duties and took him to Borderline Park, on the other end of Baudway. “How’s your shoulder?” she asked, as they sat down near the small pond.
“Doing a little better.” Matrix replied. “It’s not as bad as it could’ve been, but I’ll definitely live to process another day.” He chuckled at his little joke.
AndrAIa looked at the pond and sighed. She was going to get right to the point. “You know, Enzo,” she said, turning to look at him. “Ever since you and Enzo went in to face Megabyte, you two seem to be…on the outs, I guess I should say. Everything’s okay with you two, isn’t it?”
Matrix turned to face her, surprised at the question. “Everything’s fine between us.” he said. He lowered his head and sighed, turning back to look out at the pond again. “I just think we shouldn’t spend so much time together, that’s all.”
“When did you come to that decision?” AndrAIa asked, in confusion.
The boys seemed like they were getting along so well, especially after the bumpy start they had had. They may have been the same sprite, but they were different. Different individuals, going down different paths of life, that they each had helped the other with. So it came as a complete shock to AndrAIa as she heard what Matrix said.
“I think maybe he’s spending too much time with me, that’s all.” Matrix said again.
“But why, Enzo?” AndrAIa asked, pressing for more information. What had happened in that shed? “You two are so close. The three of us are! You love him, don’t you?”
“Of course I love him, Andri.” the green sprite replied, not taking his eyes off the water. “We’re a family. All of us are. I just…” he paused and took a deep breath before continuing.
“You should’ve seen him in there, Andri. I know we were both a little upset, but…when Megabyte called him a copy, he…he lost it. Just shot him again and again and when that didn’t work, he charged at him, full force. In a way…in a way, I’m proud of him. He never once backed down, but…his temper’s getting as bad as mine. And I can’t let that happen. I can’t let him turn into me.”
“But Enzo,” AndrAIa said, being careful of how she put her arm around him. “You’re both two different people. Everyone can see that. Besides, that temper of yours is a family trait. Passed through generations, I’m sure. Dot has it, you have it, I know Sabrina has it…you can’t help it if Enzo has it.”
Matrix was silent before speaking up again. “It’s not just that.” he said quietly.
“What else then?”
“Those nightmares are getting worse, Andri.” he said, closing his eyes. “They’re not about us anymore.”
“What do you mean?” AndrAIa asked, slightly afraid of the answer.
He turned to look at her and smiled. “Don’t worry about it.” he said, kissing her. “Just know I’m not going to let anything happen to you or Bri. I promise.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek before standing and zipping away.
AndrAIa sat there, thinking about what he had said. They’re not about us anymore. That sentence struck her as odd and frightening. She was now worried, worried for everyone around them. Megabyte had tried to destroy them before. She knew he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
“It’s the Late, Late, Late, Late, Getting Later Later Movie!” exclaimed Mike the TV. “Our feature presentation tonight is, I was a Teenage Bino-wolf!” The small set was prancing about in the living room, trying to get someone’s attention.
On the couch, Enzo turned slowly and gave the tv a cold stare. Enzo had only suffered some mild injuries, including a concussion and was ordered to lay down for a few seconds. “Mike, wouldn’t you like to entertain Kit instead?” the youth asked, staring at the set.
“Where do you think I came from?” Mike asked, jerking his microphone hand down the hall.
“Then go bother Bob and Dot.”
“Don’t even think about it.” came a reply.
The two looked up to see Bob standing in the living room. He was wearing a black robe over his white and blue boxers. “Mike, don’t you have something to cover?” Bob asked, taking a seat on the arm of the couch.
“Citizens of Mainframe need to know.” the set said, thrusting his mic in Enzo’s face. “What about Megabyte? Rumors abound that the big, blue virus is back and wrecking havoc! This reporter wants the scoop from the man himself who allegedly fought the tin can. Enzo, any comment?”
Enzo looked at the tv set before chasing it out into the hallway outside the apartment. He quickly slammed the door shut and headed back to the couch.
“Thanks.” Bob said, grinning. “Our other set was getting a bit jealous.”
Bob looked at the boy who came over and sat next to him, head down, hands brushing away imaginary dirt from the dark purple boxer shorts. “Hey Partner, what’s processing?” the guardian asked, getting up and moving to the other side of Enzo.
“It’s nuttin.” the sprite said, still staring down at the carpet.
“You know, there used to be a time when you could tell me anything, Enzo.” Bob said, gently. “You still can. Nothing’s changed.” The younger sprite continued to sit with his head down, making circles with his toe. “I noticed you and Matrix have been apart the last couple of days.”
He knew it. Enzo knew that’s what Bob wanted to talk about. He was positive Matrix was getting the same lecture from AndrAIa right now.
“Nothing happened.” he said, sighing. “We just needed to process some stuff, that’s all. No big file.”
“I didn’t say it was.” Bob said.
He knew how difficult it was for both Enzos to sit down and talk about stuff, especially things that deeply affected them. But Bob had told Dot he’d find out what was going on between the two brothers. Enzo sighed again, before crossing his arms over his chest and looking up at the ceiling.
“I totally lost it, Bob.” he said after a microsecond. “He called me a copy and I lost it.”
“Matrix called you a copy?” Bob asked, a hint of surprise in his voice.
Enzo shook his head. “Megabyte.” he said. “I’m not a copy, Bob…I mean I am, but I’m not.”
“I understand.” Bob said.
“No, you don’t.” Enzo insisted. “I’m only a copy because of a mistake Matrix did, but I’m a sprite. A real, processing sprite. I’ve done everything I could, with Matrix’s help no less, to be something completely different than what he is. I like to think I’ve done that.”
“Is that what’s bothering you?” Bob asked, still a little confused at the rant he was hearing.
“No,” Enzo said, impatiently. “This isn’t about Matrix. Sure, we’re still the same sprite, but that’s cool. That’s alphanumeric. We know about things that no one could ever understand. He’s my brother and I love him. He’s family. But…deep down inside, I know he’s the real Enzo Matrix. I’m never going to go through the same things he did and in a way I’m glad of that.”
Enzo remained quiet for a nano before sighing and continuing.
“I’m not a copy, Bob. I’ve worked too hard to come from out of Matrix’s shadow. Everything I’ve done, everything I’ll always do is to prove that I’m someone. I may be Enzo Matrix, but I’m not the Enzo Matrix. I’m like a son trying to leave his father’s shadow behind.” Enzo chuckled at the parody.
“Listen,” he said, standing and clicking on his icon attached to his boxers. He instantly changed into his summer clothes. “I’m going out for a while. I’ll be home sometime later.”
“Where’re you going?” Bob asked.
“Around.” the youth said, running a hand through his hair.
“Try not to be home late.” Bob said, watching Enzo open the door. “She’ll have a fit.”
Enzo nodded before stepping out and closing the door. Bob watched the young man leave and decided Enzo was old enough to take care of himself and headed back to bed. He stopped by Kit’s room and saw the boy still up, playing a video game.
“Isn’t it way past your downtime, young man?” Bob asked, causing the boy to jump in bed.
“Oh hi Dad.” Kit replied sheepishly. “I was just…”
“I bet you were.” Bob said, taking a seat on the bed. “Now that you’re done, it’s time for bed.” The boy reluctantly put away his organizer, a gift from his parents last year, and snuggled down in to bed.
“Hey Dad?” Kit asked.
“Are Uncle Enzo and Matrix gonna be okay? I mean, they’ve been totally low-res lately and now they don’t want to spend time with each other.”
“Everything’s okay between them, if that’s what you mean.” Bob said. “They just need to process things for a bit. Away from each other. But I’m sure things will be back to normal soon, okay?”
The boy nodded and then asked, “Did you think the games will come back, Dad? Cause it’s sure been a while since a game hit. Hey, maybe that’s why Enzo and Matrix are so offline, cause a game hasn’t hit! I bet that’s it, huh Dad?”
“Kit,” Bob replied, trying to calm the boy down. “I don’t know when a next game cube will hit. Not that it matters. You’re not to enter one until you’re older. Understood?”
“Yeah, but Dad,” the child insisted.
“Yes, sir.” The boy said, defeated.
“Look,” Bob replied, pushing a piece of stray hair out of the boy’s face. “If you’re good, maybe I can talk Enzo and Matrix into playing a game of jet ball with you. How about that?”
“Really?” the boy asked, an excited grin appearing on his face. “Gee, Pop, thanks!”
“You’re welcome.” Bob said, a smile also gracing his face. “But you have to be good, okay? And all good little sprites get their downtime before fun, right?”
“Right.” the boy groaned. “But I’m not…”
A yawn interrupted the boy’s sentence. Bob pulled the covers up over his son, kissed his forehead, and left the room. Across the hall, Bob could see Dot sitting in bed, vidwindows surrounding her. He went in the bedroom quietly, shutting the door behind him. He then leaned over and moved some of the vidwindows over, so that he was included in the display. Dot was checking figures for various businesses when she came across a familiar blue vidscreen.
“Well hello.” she said to it. “You’re an interesting vidwindow.”
“I’m interactive.” it said, smiling at her.
“Really?” Dot smiled. “What do you do?”
“I give out kisses.” the blue window explained. He then gave her a playful smile. “Want a demonstration?”
Dot giggled as Bob came near and gave her a kiss on the lips. “You’d better save these.” he said, his hand moving towards one screen.
“They’re saved.” Dot replied, giggling as Bob closed the vidscreens around him. “Just as well.” Dot said, putting her arms around Bob’s neck. “You’re the only important one I needed anyways.” She pulled him into a passionate kiss.
“Did you talk to Enzo?” she asked, nuzzling against his neck.
“Yeah.” Bob said. “Everything’s fine between him and Matrix. I just think the experience with Megabyte is starting to take it’s toll on the two of them.”
“I’m worried, Bob.” Dot said, relaxing her grip on him and laying back on a pillow. “What’s Megabyte’s plan for the whole thing? What’s he going to do if he succeeds in driving them both offline? What’s in store for us? It feels like every time things start to go good, something goes terribly wrong.”
“I know, I know.” Bob said, slipping in bed beside her. “I can’t get a point on him. I didn’t even know he was in Mainframe again until that dream we saw. Only three people hold the key to this puzzle and that’s Enzo, Matrix, and Megabyte. And right now I’m afraid the first two will go in alone again and then what’ll happen?”
The two were quiet for some time, until Dot said softly, “I feel like I’m losing them again.” Bob looked at her in confusion. “Enzo and I are pulling apart and Matrix and I are back where we started. I feel like I’ve been replaced.”
“Dot, you know that’s not true.” Bob said. “Enzo and Matrix love you.”
“I know.” Dot said, forcing a tired smile across her lips. “Every time I start getting close to them, I lose them to some evil and I’m replaced by another woman. First with the game and AndrAIa and now Megabyte and Alex.”
Bob started to say something, but was interrupted by Dot. “She’s in love with him. Alex, I mean. You can tell. She’s very protective of him.” She smirked and looked at Bob.”Remind you of anyone?”
Bob smiled and nodded. “AndrAIa and Matrix.” he said.
“I’m not upset, Bob, if that’s what you think.” Dot continued. “I’m glad AndrAIa was there for Enzo. Big Enzo, that is. She’s family and I know Alex will be family some day as well. It’s just that…it’s just that everything I want to know about them both, they’re afraid to tell me.
“I’m their sister and sometimes they’re afraid to tell me things. I still don’t know everything that happened while Enzo was game hopping and now I don’t know what’s going on between the two of them and Megabyte.”
Bob put his arm around her and she snuggled closer to him. “They’re compiling up, Dot.” he said, gently. “But it doesn’t mean they don’t need you. You’re more than a sister to them and you know that. They probably need you more than you think they do.”
“When did you become all wise and knowing?” Dot quipped.
“Well, I don’t hang out with Phong just to play games, you know.” he said, kissing her on the forehead. Bob reached over and turned out the light.
“Maybe I should go talk to Enzo.” Dot said.
“Don’t get jumpy.” Bob said, sitting up. “He went for a walk. There’s four places he could be: Floating Point, Old Man Pearson’s, Alex’s uncle’s place, or Matrix and AndrAIa’s. They’re neighbors you know.”
“Who are?” Dot asked, still worried.
“Alex’s uncle and Matrix.” Bob replied, pulling Dot back to him. “They’re a few apartments apart. Don’t worry.” He kissed her gently on the lips. “Four places he could be.”
“Five if you include…”
“I’m not.” Bob said. “With any luck, he’ll be spending the night at Matrix and AndrAIa’s.”
Matrix laid in bed, staring at the ceiling. He thought he heard Frisket barking at the door a millisecond ago, but he was tired, having woken up from another nightmare. This was deleting him. Tonight it was a nightmare about his family being tortured to death, the night before it was about Dot and Bob being slaughtered. He knew Enzo’s were probably just as bad. He was being tormented by bad things happening to Alex.
Matrix smiled in the dark. Those two reminded him so much of his and AndrAIa’s relationship. That had been the best thing to come with him during those hours game hopping. If he didn’t have her there, he didn’t know what he would’ve done. He had done so many bad things during that time.
Coming home to Mainframe again and finding Bob had pushed those things out of his head, only to come back and haunt him. But then, things started going right. Bob and Dot got married, Enzo had come to live with them for a time, while Bob and Dot were on their honeymoon and fixing up the apartment.
That was one of the best times he had in Mainframe since their return. Having Enzo live with them was great. And even after Bob and Dot came back and he and AndrAIa were making plans for their own wedding, Enzo would spend the night and the three of them had the best times together. And when Enzo went to the Guardian Academy, it was him and AndrAIa who got most of the emails, worries over certain games and combat stuff.
He remembered when Enzo sent the two of them an email about a girl he had met, Alexandria Hewlett. Matrix knew Enzo had a slight crush on AndrAIa. He was, after all, his younger self, but Alex seem to have made him forget about his new sister-in-law. Megabyte couldn’t have picked a worse time to show his ugly face. He just hoped the next time they tangled, he would have the upper hand.
“You’re thinking again.” a voice said, breaking Matrix out of his thoughts. He looked down at the sprite sleeping in his arms.
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he asked, stroking her hair.
“The lack of your tuneful snoring woke me up.” AndrAIa quipped.
She moved her head from his chest and kissed his cheek. “What’re you thinking about now, Lover?” she asked.
“Enzo and Alex.” he replied truthfully.
AndrAIa made a small laugh. “What a bad case of puppy love, huh?” she said.
“Speaking of Enzo,” Matrix said, moving so he could look at her. “I was thinking…maybe Sabrina needs a little brother.”
AndrAIa looked at him. “You know, Lover,” she said. “You have a surprise for me every second. And where exactly did that come from?”
Matrix shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about for a while, I guess.” he said. “This thing with Megabyte has me thinking about a lot of things actually.” He looked at her. “But I’ll put it out of my head if…”
AndrAIa silenced him with a kiss.
“I’ve been thinking about that myself.” she said. “Things have been going great, up to now of course, but still. We’ve been through hard times before and we’ve always come out on top. This is no different.” She laid her head back on his chest. “Besides, we said we didn’t want just one child. I think it would be great if Bri had a little brother or sister.”
She smiled playfully, her hand moving under his t-shirt.
“I’ll…have to have some help making one though.”
Matrix chuckled before pulling her towards him and kissing her passionately. Suddenly, a small scream was heard.
The two instantly broke away and got out of bed, knowing the small voice attached to the plea. They met Enzo in the hallway, coming towards them sleepily. All three burst in to the little girl’s bedroom. There was Sabrina, sitting straight up in bed, her face wet with tears, and outstretching her little pink pajama arms out for her father.
“Daddy!” the girl cried again. Matrix rushed to the bed and picked the girl up.
“What’s wrong?” AndrAIa asked, sitting next to Matrix on the bed. Enzo kneeled down in front of the father and daughter.
“I had bad dream.” Sabrina replied, in between sniffles.
Matrix wiped her tears and kissed the girl on the cheek. “What was it about?” he asked, softly. Sabrina sniffed and made a soft cry before looking at her father. “Come on.” Matrix pleaded. “You can tell me.”
The girl hugged her father and started to cry softly. “There…there was…was this monster.” the girl said.
“What kind of monster, sweetie?” AndrAIa probed.
Sabrina sniffed a little against Matrix’s shoulder before continuing. “He was big and mean and…and blue silver.”
The adults in the room quickly looked at each other.
“What else?” Matrix asked, huskily.
“He…he…had scary red eyes and he said…he said that he was the bogeysprite and he was going to take me away.” The girl burst into tears again, while Matrix tried to calm her down. “Don’t let him take me away, Daddy! Please!”
He moved the girl to look at him and he brushed away the tears. “You know I would never let anything happen to you, right?” Sabrina nodded. “So everything’s gonna be okay. I’m here and Mommy’s here and Enzo and we won’t let that bogeysprite come get you and take you away from us.”
Sabrina seemed to calm a bit, but still looked upset. “Do you want to sleep with Mommy and me tonight?”
The girl shook her head no and said in a tough tone, “Ima big girl.”
Matrix kissed the girl on the cheek, lifted her in the air and laid her back down in bed. AndrAIa tucked her in. “You go back to sleep, okay?” she whispered. Sabrina nodded. “I love you.” AndrAIa said, kissing the girl on the forehead.
“Love you too, Mommy.” Sabrina said, smiling up at her. She even had her mother’s smile.
“Goodnight Angelface.” Matrix said, tickling the girl, who laughed joyfully. “Don’t you worry about a thing.”
“Night Princess.” Enzo said, giving his niece one last tickle.
“Goodnight, Daddy. Goodnight Zo.”
The girl snuggled under the covers and soon drifted off to sleep. AndrAIa and Enzo stayed a little while, watching the girl, but soon turned when they saw Matrix stormed out of the room and back into his own bedroom. They were right behind him.
“That basic son of a null!” Matrix exclaimed, causing both AndrAIa and Enzo to utter a, “Shh!” while Enzo closed the door. “It’s one thing when he’s coming after me and Enzo, but now he’s after my daughter!”
“Matrix, be quiet!” AndrAIa hissed, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “You’re going to wake Sabrina up again!”
Matrix paced up and down the room for a while, before stopping and looking at Enzo.
“When did you get here?” he asked, gruffly.
“I was in the neighborhood.” the youth responded, running a hand through his hair.
AndrAIa just smiled. She knew he was with Alex before coming over. “I didn’t feel like walking back to Dot’s. Besides, I do have a key code, you know.”
“That must’ve been you Frisket was growling at.” Matrix surmised.
“Yeah.” Enzo said, rather embarrassed. “I kinda woke him up.”
“Back to the problem at hand,” AndrAIa said. “What’re we going to do?”
The room was silent for a while, the three sprites trying to think of an answer to their problem. AndrAIa looked between both Matrix and Enzo and decided it was their choice on the matter. “I’m going to check on Sabrina.” she said, standing. She then left the two to talk. Neither said anything for a while, Matrix sat on the bed and Enzo started to pace.
“They’re getting worse, you know.” he said, stopping mid-pace.
“I know.” Matrix replied, sadly, his eyes not leaving the floor.
“Maybe…maybe we shouldn’t handle this problem by ourselves anymore.” Enzo said quietly.
He was rubbing his arm, a nervous tick he got while at the Academy. Matrix looked up at his younger self and studied the young sprite for a minute. “Tomorrow morning we’re going back to that shed.” he said after a microsecond of thought. “Until then, get some sleep, huh?”
“Sure.” Enzo replied, sarcastically. “That should be as easy as falling off an analog.” With that, Enzo headed back to his couch bed, while Matrix continued to sit for a while. He wasn’t about to let anything happen to his family. Megabyte was making it personal now. Very personal.
“You just wait, Megabyte.” he sneered quietly. “The next time we meet will be the last time we ever meet again.”
AndrAIa was, as always, the first one up the next second. She left a softly snoring Matrix in bed, checked on Sabrina, who was nestled down under her covers, and passed a sleeping Enzo on the couch on her way to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of juice before starting the java maker for Matrix.
It was eerily quiet in the apartment. AndrAIa had gotten use to the peace and quiet the second brought, being the first one up in the morning did that to a person, but with the recent events dealing with Megabyte had given the peace and tranquility of the quiet morning a sinister feel, as if while they slept, Megadip was planning for their demise. Despite what Matrix and Enzo said, they did need help in this matter, especially now that Sabrina was another target.
AndrAIa decided she’d head over to the Principal Office after breakfast, which she figured she could go ahead and start fixing. The smells and sounds from the kitchen quickly brought the sleeping Matrixes out of their dreams. Enzo was the first in the kitchen.
“Morning Zo.” AndrAIa replied, turning to see the teen walk through and take a seat at the table.
He half-heartedly gave a wave in response. His hair was tumbled and he looked as though he was just sleep walking, a fact confirmed when he placed his head on the table and continued to sleep. AndrAIa rolled her eyes. Though the two brothers had separate identities now, it was the little things that pointed out they were the same code, the same sprite.
Matrix was the second causality of the morning, making a grunt that sounded like a greeting, before taking a seat at the table next to Enzo. He too quickly placed his arms on the table, then his head, and was back to sleep in no time.
“Are the two of you planning on sleeping through breakfast or are you just going to have the food dreamt to your stomachs?” AndrAIa quipped at the two.
She got mumbled replies from both of them, unsure if they were replies to her little remark or if they were retorts. AndrAIa smiled, pouring a cup of java for Matrix and then getting a glass of juice for Enzo.
“Oh boys,” she said, sweetly, placing both cups in front of each. “You know it’s not polite to sleep at the table.”
Matrix sighed, bringing himself to sit upright in his chair. He gave a yawn before turning to look at Enzo. “Wake up.” he groaned, kicking the younger man in the leg.
The act caused Enzo to bolt up in his seat, looking around alert. When he realized it was only Matrix who attacked him, the boy pushed his older self in the arm. “Stop.” he said, amidst a yawn.
The two began to tiredly hit each other until they heard a loud, “Daddy!”
Sabrina hopped into her father’s lap and hugged him. “What’s a…” Matrix started, but was quickly cut off.
“Daddy, couldIgoandplayoutside? IpromiseIwon’tgetintotrouble. OrIcouldgooverandbotherKit. HehateswhenIdothat, buthelikesmecause we’refamilysoIwaswondering…”
“Whoa, slow down.” Matrix urged, causing AndrAIa to laugh.
“Who does that remind you of?” she snickered. Matrix gave her a slight glare before turning back to their daughter.
“So can I, Daddy?” the girl asked again.
“You’re sure you’re alright?” he asked. “I mean, after last night, I…”
“Silly Daddy.” the girl said, smiling and giving her father a kiss on the nose.
A sudden bark gave the girl a slight distraction. “F’isket!” she cried, hoping off her father’s lap and chasing the big red and yellow dog. Cries of laughter rang through out the apartment as Sabrina and Frisket chased each other around.
Matrix watched them as they got to the living room. The two stopped as Sabrina gave the large dog a hug around his neck. His gaze turned to Enzo, who was also watching the scene.
“After breakfast.” Matrix mouthed, once he got Enzo’s attention. The young sprite nodded slowly, remembering their conversation from the night before.
“Here ya go, boys.” AndrAIa announced as she set a plate in front of each of them. She set two more plates down and called her daughter. “Sabrina, breakfast!”
“I think I’ll take a shower.” Enzo said suddenly, standing up.
“Aren’t you going to eat breakfast?” AndrAIa asked, surprised at the abruptness.
“I’ll eat it in the bathroom.” Enzo replied quickly, picking up the plate and silverware before heading towards his destination.
“Mind if I steal the shower after him?” Matrix asked.
AndrAIa shook her head, looking at Matrix questioningly. Something was going on between those two, but she’d have to wait until later to find out.
Enzo showered quickly and waited for Matrix in the living room while he showered and the girls finished breakfast. Sabrina left with Frisket and was told by her mother to be at the Principal Office in an millisecond, telling Frisket to watch her. She then headed towards the bedroom and was slightly surprised when she noticed Enzo pacing the living room.
He wasn’t dressed in his normal t-shirt and shorts that second. He was wearing black jeans, that were slightly baggy and a black belt. Tucked into his pants was a white muscle shirt, showing off his reward for a daily workout, and finishing off the ensemble were black laced boots, covered by the pants. Absent was his trade mark cabbie hat.
“Don’t you look different?” AndrAIa commented, startling Enzo a bit.
“Meaning what?” he asked, suspiciously.
AndrAIa shrugged, saying as she headed into the bedroom, “I haven’t seen you in a muscle shirt and pants for a while.”
“Oh.” Enzo began to pace again, only stopping to yell at Matrix to hurry it up. Matrix too wore a different look about him that second. He also wore black jeans and black boots, but he chose to wear a dark blue t-shirt tugged nicely into his jeans. After grabbing Gun, he met his younger self in the living room.
“Where’re you two headed?”
The two turned, obviously recognizing the voice. “We’re gonna head over to the P.O. for a nano.” Matrix replied.
“I’m heading there myself.” AndrAIa said, stretching her arms. “Give me a micro to shower and…”
“No!” the men exclaimed, causing the game sprite to jump at the ferocity of the word.
“Dre, we’re only gonna be gone for a nano, maybe a micro.” Enzo said, his voice calm. “You don’t have to go with us.”
“Guys, I’m heading there anyways.” AndrAIa replied, breaking away from her startlement. “We can do something when we’re done.”
“AndrAIa, we’re coming back, okay?” Matrix said, his voice forceful. He didn’t enjoy lying to her, but he didn’t want her near them. Just in case. “We’ll be right back.”
With that, the two grabbed their zipboards and were out the door. AndrAIa knew something was up. She opened a vidwindow and dialed a number. Kit’s face appeared instantly. “Hello? Oh hi, Aunt Andi.” he said, mouth full of food.
“Christopher, don’t talk with your mouth full.” replied Dot, somewhere in the vicinity, but definitely off screen.
“Hey Kit.” AndrAIa said, giving the boy a smile. “Your parents home?”
The boy nodded, apparently taking the time to swallow. “Yeah.” he said, picking up an energy shake and taking a drink. “Hey, are Enzo and Matrix there? Dad said they’d play jet ball with me today.”
“Sorry Kitten,” AndrAIa said, smiling at the grimace Kit made at her nickname for him. “They just left.”
“Oh.” the boy said, his face falling from disappointment.
“Maybe later, huh?” AndrAIa asked, hoping to cheer the boy up.
Kit’s smile was quickly replaced as his father moved into the picture. “Hi Andri.” Bob said, noticing the game sprite. “So you were just gonna talk to her all second and not tell me she called?” Bob asked, turning to his son. There was laughter in his voice, but Bob always made it seem he was serious.
“No,” Kit said, defensively. “I was gonna tell you she called. I can’t help it if we were planning on something. You should always be prepared, Dad. Don’t you know that?” The comment made AndrAIa laugh and Bob roll his eyes.
“That’s definitely Dot speaking.” AndrAIa said, trying to control her laughter.
“I heard that!”
“If I’m not careful, I could have another Dot on my hands.” Bob quipped.
“Hey!” Dot replied, standing behind the two. “Hi AndrAIa.” she said, smiling at her sister. She then went into Mother Mode. “Doesn’t someone need to clean his room?”
“But Dot,” Bob whined. “You said that…Oh!” he said, finally understanding the direction of the question. He pointed at his son and said, “She’s talking to you!”
“No buts, mister.” Dot said. “Room. Clean. Now.”
Kit reluctantly said goodbye to AndrAIa and trudged off to his room. “And no playing games on your organizer!” Dot called behind him.
“How does she know about that?” Kit mumbled surprised.
“Because I’m your mother and I know all!” Dot quipped back.
“How does she do that?” Kit complained, walking into his room.
“Something the matter, Andri?” Bob asked, remembering that she had called.
“Well, no, I don’t think so.” she said, sounding slightly upset. “I hope not. Look, do you guys mind meeting me at the P.O.?”
“Not at all.” Dot replied, curious as to what the circumstances might be.
AndrAIa nodded, then said, “Okay. Give me a microsecond and I’ll meet you guys over there. AndrAIa out.”
The screen closed, leaving Bob and Dot in confusion. “I wonder what that’s all about.” Dot mused.
“I don’t know.” Bob said, sipping on a cup of java. “The only way is to meet her there.”
“Bob, you don’t think…” Dot paused, as if asking the question was difficult. “You don’t think something happened to Enzo, do you?”
“Both of them!”
Bob took Dot in his arms and hugged her. “Dot, both Enzo and Matrix are big boys now.” he said, rubbing her back with his hand. “Besides, AndrAIa would never just sit around and wait to tell us if something did happen. You know that.”
“I know, I know.” Dot said, her head resting on his shoulder. “This whole Megabyte thing has got me worried for them. It would just be a sick twist of fate to finally gotten you all back, just to lose you again to that overgrown power monger.”
Dot for silent, giving Bob a slight squeeze.
“I can’t lose you all. Not again.”
“So just who is this Megabyte guy?”
Alex had arrived early at the Principal Office, hoping to run into Enzo. He hadn’t been himself last night, but then again, he hadn’t been himself this whole entire vacation! Enzo hadn’t really told her much about what had happened with this Megabyte dude, on the account that he wasn’t even sure.
He had just heard stories. Only Matrix knew the full extent and Alex wasn’t quite comfortable at asking the big guy anything, let alone something that obviously haunted his past. So she did what most people did.
She went and talked to Phong.
“My child,” Phong started, whirling about the war room. “The stories about Megabyte are very disturbing indeed, especially to those of us that lived through his villainy.”
“Well, who is he?” Alex asked. She knew she was treading into deep water here, but she had to know. That was her weakness. Curiosity did delete the binome.
“I assume that young Enzo Matrix has told you some things about him.” Phong said, picking up two cups of cocoa and handing one to Alex. “Well, he said that Megabreath was a virus and that he, along with his sister Hexadecimal, caused some problems with Mainframe.”
“Problems is an understatement, Alexandria.” Phong said, his voice growing cold.
Phong remembered the “problems” those two viruses did together, the end result nearly costing all of Mainframe.
“Well, I know that Enzo doesn’t know about what happened during the Web Wars.” Alex said, sipping her cocoa. After the reaction Phong had given her, she was regretting even bringing the subject up. But she had to know. She had to know what sick psycho was playing processor games with her Enzo!
“Ah yes,” Phong said, remembering that time. “Mainframe has come back from that horrible time. Loved ones were lost, but new allies and friends were gained, and we eventually came back to where we had been before.” Alex looked at the wise old sprite in confusion. That really didn’t explain what she had just asked. Phong seemed to sense her confusion and continued.
“But I’m getting ahead of myself.” he said, whirling back to where she sat, cocoa in his hand. “It’s hard for us to speak of that time, you must understand. It seems confusing to one who was not here.”
“I remember what it was like when Daemon was controlling the Net.”
Alex had lost her mother during that battle and swore she would be a Guardian, if not to make her mother proud, but to right the wrongs Daemon had caused. “My uncle came here after the whole aftermath.”
“Many people came here after Daemon was destroyed.” Phong said. Shaking his head, he replied, “But again, we are getting ahead of ourselves. As I was saying, Megabyte caused pain to those in Mainframe. Most of us still had not gotten over the Twin City disaster.”
“Enzo told me about that.” Alex said, solemnly. “He and Dot’s parents were killed in that blast, right?”
“That is correct, child.” Phong said, slightly reliving the horror of that night.
He swore to his friends that he would make sure Dot and Enzo would be taken care of. “I still doubt the Matrix children have gotten over the loss after all this time. But I digress. It was soon after, Megabyte was discovered in Mainframe. His goal was just to enter the Super Computer, but his attempts to try and coerce me into giving him the codes failed countless times. That’s when our Guardian came to us…”
Phong remembered the second like it was yesterday. Straight from a portal, dressed in his Guardian uniform, Robert Lan stepped in the middle of traffic on Baudway. He quickly found the Principal Office and was shocked to learn he was in Mainframe.
“Are you sure this isn’t Omacron?” He asked, shocked to learn he had bumbled his first assignment. But somehow Phong persuaded him to stay on as Guardian and Bob reluctantly agreed, saying he would stay and fix some things then make his way to his scheduled system.
And things would’ve been so cut and dry if he hadn’t met Dot Matrix, owner of several businesses in Mainframe, including her own restaurant, Dot’s Diner. After that, leaving wasn’t in the plan.
“Megabyte threw everything he could at us, but we still defeated him time and time again. That is…until the start of the Web Wars.”
“What exactly happened, Phong?” Alex asked tenderly.
She could see Phong’s mood had changed. Talking about Dot and Bob and everyone made him happy, but certain things, like the destruction of the Twin City and the Web Wars made him sad, angry at times. Alex was pushing and pushing and in the back of her head, she knew she should probably stop. It wasn’t that important, was it? She shook her head clear. Yeah. It was that important.
“It all started with the creature known as Nullzilla.” Phong replied, quietly. “A web creature was sent to Mainframe. Now we know that it was Daemon who sent the creature, but at the time we were unaware…”
Phong had made the robot out of boredom, a slight hobby he’d been taking on. Hey, he was in the P.O. day and night, night and day. He needed a hobby! And with Megabyte trying to take over Mainframe, he figured it couldn’t hurt to have it around. Boy, was he right! When they had learned about Nullzilla, he had told everyone he had a plan of action, a way of separating the nulls from Hexadecimal.
So he got Bob, Dot, Enzo, Frisket, and Mike the TV to suit up and pilot the robot. He wished he had his camera that second. The five looked so cute in their uniforms and AndrAIa was too precious when she suited up and headed out to deliver the secret weapon.
“The web creature then found Megabyte. He and Hexadecimal merged together, becoming Gigabyte. We immediately went into action and separated the two viruses, but the problems were just beginning. A portal was now open from the Web and into Mainframe.
“Our Guardian had a most difficult task. He needed the power and support of the viruses in order to close the portal. No one thought it was a good idea, but Bob took responsibility for the decision. And it cost our Guardian and our system…”
Phong had not been there, but had heard about what happened to Bob. For Dot, seeing the look on Bob’s face as he was thrown into the capsule and sent into the Web deleted her every second for the hour they fought against Megabyte’s tyranny. And then having to tell Enzo, that his hero, his friend had been betrayed by ones that he sought to help drove her pain. Phong had made her Command.Com during that time, knowing she was the right sprite for the job. But he was worried about her.
He had known Dot Matrix for a long time and knew her habits. If she was plagued by problems, she would hide them under a pile of work and work hard and longer than anyone else. This resilience made him proud of her and yet worried for her at the same time. She quickly was faced with more than just Bob’s sudden departure, but now Enzo had the Guardian protocol and she would have to watch as he went into games, with only AndrAIa and Frisket to watch him.
“Everyone was hit hard with Bob’s departure, but none so much as Dot and Enzo.”
“Wow.” Alex said, softly. “Heavy.”
She took a moment to sip her cocoa before asking another question. “So this is basically Matrix we’re talking about now, right?”
“Correct.” Phong said, wheeling over to retrieve another cup of cocoa.
“This is where our young Guardian turned into the renegade you know as Matrix…”
Phong didn’t think Dot could handle anymore surprising news during those first minutes after Bob had left. Enzo, AndrAIa, and Frisket had just entered the game and they all waited in the War Room for the outcome. And then those dreaded words rang out through Mainframe…
GAME OVER: THE USER WINS
The room was silent for a few microseconds, until Dot uttered a quiet, “Enzo…no…” Phong couldn’t believe his ears either. After that, Dot was a work machine. Burying her pain underneath her duties as Command.Com. Her family was now gone. Mouse did manage to talk to Dot and things seemed to be alright for her, but Phong could tell, he knew things were not alright in her processor.
She was blocking the pain, hiding it from the staff and from him. Several times he had caught her crying in her office, saying lack of sleep was making her emotional. But Phong knew. He knew of her heartache and he knew she was slowly losing hope of ever seeing Bob or Enzo again.
“I can not begin to tell you, child, how it feels to see one of your friends slowly delete inside from pain.” Phong was quiet for a few nanos, thinking back to that terrible time in Mainframe history.
“Listen, Phong, if you want me to stop…”
Alex didn’t think Megabyte was that big of a deal. She was quickly learning she was wrong. “No, no, child,” Phong said, shaking his head. He then smiled at her. “I sensed there was a reason for your questions when you came to see me. I think perhaps it’s about young Enzo, correct?”
Alex blushed slightly. “Well, I…” she stammered. “I’m just worried about him, Phong. This whole thing with him and Matrix and Megabyte…I wanna know what this virus has on them, why he’s terrorizing them. I mean, what could they have possibly done to get the thing so mad?”
“That’s an awfully long story, Alex. Are you sure you wanna sit through it?”
Phong and Alex turned to see AndrAIa, Bob, and Dot walking through the door. The question had been asked by Bob as the trio walked in. The three now stood with Phong, looking at the girl.
“I guess I’m a little over my head, huh?” Alex asked, sheepishly.
“No, no,” Dot sighed. “We’re all in the same boat, trying to figure out Megabyte’s agenda. It seems fitting to discuss it in the War Room. Apply titled, don’t you think?” she asked, sarcastically, the comment made more to AndrAIa then anyone else.
“Well Phong,” Bob replied, placing his hand on the wise one’s shoulder. “You’d been saying?”
Matrix and Enzo stood in Sector 34, searching around the shed they had been in several nights ago. Upon opening the shed, they found it was nothing like the bleak blackness they were in on that night. It was an ordinary shed and the lock was broken off.
“Are you sure this is the right shed?” Matrix asked. The two had been searching the shed and were surprised by the simplicity of it.
“Do you see any other sheds around?” Enzo retorted. Both were frustrated and tired. “He’s not here, Enzo.” Enzo replied, walking away from the shed. “We can feel him. He’s not here. What if he’s not in Mainframe anymore?”
“Why would he leave?” Matrix asked.
“We made him look like Swiss processed cheese!” Enzo exclaimed.
He wasn’t happy with the outcome either. Why would Megabyte leave, unless of course he couldn’t come back. “Maybe he deleted from the wounds.” Matrix glared at the young sprite. “Do you really believe that?”
“At this point, I’m not sure.” the young sprite sighed. After the seconds of nightmares and torture, he couldn’t believe after one battle, Megabyte was gone for good. But if he was still here, where was he?
“So exactly what does this Megabyte virus want?”
The five sprites sat around the large counsel table. With the help of Bob, Dot, and AndrAIa, Phong was able to tell Alex the whole story involving Megabyte and the story had ended there. “Obviously, he’s got a grudge against Matrix and Enzo.” AndrAIa said, studying her nails.
“But why Enzo?” Alex asked. “From what you guys told me, Megabreath should only have a problem with Matrix. Why all of a sudden does he feel he has to go after both of them?”
“Megabyte’s funny like that.” Bob said.
It was supposed to be a joke, but the tone of his voice didn’t make it seem so. The four of them telling Alex the history of Mainframe did not put them in a very joking mood. Voices coming from the hall stopped the chatter inside, until the group saw Matrix and Enzo stop in the doorway.
“Having a meeting?” Matrix asked, raising his eyebrow.
“Pity we weren’t invited.” Enzo replied, sarcastically.
He and Matrix made their way over to two chairs in between Alex and AndrAIa. “Where’ve you two been?” AndrAIa asked, a tint of anger in her voice. “I thought you were going to meet me here.”
“Stopped off at Al’s for an energy shake.” Enzo replied, taken aback with the tone from AndrAIa. He and Matrix were not in the mood. “Is that a crime, AndrAIa?”
“Not yet.” She replied, making sure Enzo took note of her poison nails.
“My children,” Phong intervened. “I sense that we all are not in the best of moods, but it is important that we push past that to talk about our main problem.”
“We have a problem?” Matrix asked, placing his hands behind his head.
“Yeah,” Bob replied, sarcastically. “Our order of food from Al’s is way later than it should be.” Bob’s joke was met with an icy stare from Matrix.
“People, please focus!” Phong exclaimed, causing the group to jump.
“Matrix and Enzo, we had been discussing the actions of Megabyte over our history of Mainframe.”
This statement caused both brothers to stare at Phong. “What for?” Matrix asked, defensively. It was rare for anyone, especially someone in this group to ask about the affairs of Megabyte. His arrival back to the system was not something he wanted to discuss.
“I kinda asked about it.” Alex said, quietly, causing Enzo and Matrix to turn and glare at her.
“What for?” Enzo asked, his anger rising. He and Matrix had the situation under control. He hoped. He really didn’t want the others involved.
“I have a right to know, Enzo.” Alex said, shooting the look back at him.
“No, you don’t.” Matrix flatly replied.
“Yes, she does.” Dot replied, causing everyone to look at her. “Just like we’ve got the right to know what’s going on between you two and Megabyte. The nightmares are common knowledge now, as well as that fight the three of you were engaged in. Now, as Command.Com of this system, I have a right to know if a virus who previously caused problems is back to repeat the process.”
The room went slight, waiting for someone to speak. Bob took the step. “Only the two of you can answer that for us.” he said, quietly. Alex knew she had opened a can of nulls. Apparently the Megabyte topic was closer to everyone’s heart than she realized. All she wanted were answers to questions Enzo couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.
“He wants revenge.” Enzo replied softly. “After that, I don’t know. We’re obviously at the top of his list.”
“You and Matrix?” Bob asked.
“The whole Matrix family.” Matrix sighed.
Dot looked in concern at her brothers.
The whole Matrix family…
That included her, as well as Bob and AndrAIa, not to mention their children.
“The nightmares are getting worse,” Enzo said.
“And last night Megabyte started giving them to Sabrina.” Matrix replied.
“Don’t you see?” Enzo asked, his eyes closed, his breathing slowing. “We can’t let you guys get involved. The nightmares aren’t about us anymore.”
The room was again silent.