A Mainframe Summer’s Nightmare
Chapter 7 – For Deletion Brings Release
The tower was big, even from where she stood. Alex looked around the area for an opening of some sort. The place did give her the jaggies, but maybe this was someone new who just happened to enjoy giving sprites the jaggies. She finally spotted what looked like the front door. The door had a lock and as she thought about how to get past it, the door opened.
Last chance to get some help. She thought. She hesitated and then went inside. The door closed behind her and left her in darkness. Oh boy, she thought, the pit of her stomach filling with fear. Suddenly a light came on, just focusing on her. She was going to call to someone, ask if anyone was there, but she was stopped by another voice.
“Well, well, well,” came the voice. “Our new little friend. Coming to save your little allies, hmm? Well, you’re going to help me more than you know.”
Loud clanging could be heard from the garage. Matrix and AndrAIa were surrounded by various tools and parts on the ground. They were working on an old motorbike that Matrix had discovered sitting in Old Man Pearson’s while he had been looking for Frisket. The outside of the bike seemed to be in good condition, but the riding condition of it had things to be worked on. So that’s where they were. AndrAIa found it to be a relaxing hobby, also a way to keep Matrix from wondering around the city.
“I don’t understand it. Screwdriver.” she said, as she tightened a screw near the front wheel. “How does the Tor suddenly appear? Wrench.”
Matrix sat next to her, handing her tools and parts she asked for. She amazed him sometimes with the things she could do, but then again, that was part of her programming. As an AI game sprite, AndrAIa was probably the most lethal of game sprites. She could learn an enemy’s skills and put them to her own good use. Made a mistake and learned from it. Matrix let out a sigh, remembering the question she asked.
“Hologram maybe?” he asked, handing her a lug nut.
“Maybe.” AndrAIa said, loosing a bolt and replacing it with the lug nut.
“You think he put it there just to intimidate us?”
“Probably.” Matrix replied, using a second wrench to loosen a bolt on the back wheel. “I wouldn’t put it past Megabyte.”
AndrAIa stopped what she was doing to look at Matrix. “You know I don’t like this.”
“What?” he asked, distracted by the back wheel. “Working on the bike?”
“No,” she replied, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “Megabyte and him going after you. I don’t like it, Enzo. Not after the last time. Have you forgot your shoulder’s still healing?” Matrix stopped what he was doing to look at her.
“I should’ve deleted him when I had the chance, Andri.” he said, his cybernetic eye growing red. “Again, one of my mistakes is coming back to haunt me.”
He stood up and walked past her to put his tools away.
AndrAIa just sighed. Here we go again, she thought.
AndrAIa got up, walked over to her husband, and put her arms around his waist. “We’re not going to go through this again, are we?” she asked, resting her head against his back. She felt his body relax as he closed his eyes.
“Believe me, Andri, I don’t want to go back to that.” he sighed, remembering how long it took for him, for them, to get past his insecurities. “And yes, I remember that my shoulder’s still healing.” he continued. “But Enzo’s right. This has got to be the last time we’re bothered by Megabyte. And only…only we can stop him this time.”
AndrAIa’s face scrunched in confusion. “You mean you and Enzo?” she asked.
Matrix didn’t answer at first, then replied, “Yeah.”
Matrix knew deep down inside the battle against Megabyte would be fought by the children of Dr. J and P Matrix.
“You know that bike’s not gonna fix itself.” he joked, trying to bring the humor and fun back to the task.
“Yeah, yeah.” she replied, sarcastically, letting him go and walking back over to the bike. “You think he’ll like it?” she said, admiring the bike.
She was gearing it in the image of her own bike, the one she had taken from Megabyte after he was displaced in to the Web. It seemed ironic to have it now.
“He’d better.” Matrix muttered, walking over to stand next to her. He then turned to look at her, a small grin on his face. “I think he’s spending way too much time with you.” he joked. “He seems to be picking up your hobbies.”
“Look, if it makes you happy, you can mold Sabrina into your image.” AndrAIa replied, sarcastically.
The next second, the gang assembled in the War Room to once again go over certain procedures. Dot, as usual, was surrounded by ten different vidscreens as she surveyed the area around the Principal Office and that of the Silicon Tor. Phong rolled over to her and cranked his neck up so he could see over her shoulder.
“How do things look, my child?” he asked, glancing at one or two vidwindows.
“Everything seems to be normal, Phong.” Dot said. She shook her head clear and muttered, “What am I saying? Megabyte’s back and so is the Silicon Tor. Everything is definitely not normal!”
“Don’t worry, Dot.” Bob replied, putting an arm around her shoulders. “We’ll get to the bottom of this and everything will be back to the way it was. Less stress and no mess, right?” He gave her a crooked grin and she returned it. She could always count on him to bring a smile to her face, especially at a time like this.
Specks turned from his keyboard to speak to Dot. “Um…Commander, sir, we have an incoming message.” The one turned back to his console, then turned back to Dot. “It seems to be coming from the Tor!”
“What does he want?” AndrAIa muttered to Enzo.
“Obviously not to tell us good morning.” Matrix replied, sarcastically.
“Send it through, Specky.” Dot said, also wondering what Megabyte could possibly want now. Specks opened a channel for the incoming message and soon a vidwindow opened in front of the Command.Com.
“Good morning, Ms. Matrix.” Megabyte said, cheerfully. “Lovely second we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Cut the chit-chat, Megabyte.” Dot groaned. “Something must be up, so why keep us in suspense?”
Megabyte responded to her question with a series of tsks. “I would’ve thought your position as leader of Mainframe you’d have a bit more of some manners, but I see I was wrong.” he said.
“What do you want, virus?” Phong spat, his anger now rising.
“Right to the point, hmm, old sprite?” Megabyte jeered.
With a wave of his hand, he replied, “Very well then. I do hate to interrupt whatever crisis you’re handling, but it seems I have something that belongs to you.”
“What?” Enzo asked, suspiciously. “Oh come come now!”
Megabyte laughed. “You don’t expect me to actually tell you! If you can’t figure it out on your own, you’re not the sprites I thought you were.”
“No more games, Megabyte!” Matrix exclaimed. “Just tell us what it is, so we can get it back.”
“Take a guess.” Megabyte continued. “I’m sure you’ve noticed something wasn’t right.” Megabyte started to peer around the group, as though he was looking for something.
“Now, you tell me.” he said. “What seems to be missing?”
The group, uneasy and naturally suspicious, glanced about the room to see what could be missing. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
“Hmmm, I wonder.” Megabyte gloated, scratching his chin as though deep in thought. “Could it be something dealing with Mainframe? Or perhaps one of the citizens is missing. Maybe that’s it. A citizen is missing. Now which one? Hmmm. It’s certainly not one of Mainframe’s ‘heroes’, now is it? Maybe a child is missing…”
Megabyte caught the exchanged glance between Dot and AndrAIa. The look of confusion and anger trilled him. How he longed to that look on the faces of these retched sprites from the prison he was cast in by the very same troublemakers.
“This is ridiculous!” Enzo exclaimed, looking about the room. He turned his gaze back on the virus. “Nothing’s missing, you psychotic freak! You’re just doing this to mess with our processors!”
“Am I indeed?” Megabyte mused. He reached out to grab something from off screen.
“Enzo…” Alex said, struggling against the headlock Megabyte had her in.
“Alex!” the young sprite gasped.
“I have picked the time and the place for our final meeting, Boy.” the virus said, putting pressure on the girl’s neck. “The time will be tonight. The place, the Silicon Tor. And this, Boy,” he said, motioning to Alex. “will be the prize.” The virus laughed. “And speaking of games, Boy…”
WARNING: INCOMING GAME! WARNING: INCOMING GAME!
The group turned to look at the screen that Specks had in front of him. “Tonight the dreams end and the nightmare begins.” With that, the vidscreen closed. The group was still in slight shock.
“The game seems to be landing in G-Prime, Sir.” Specks replied.
“This is the first game since those nightmares started.” AndrAIa whispered to Matrix.
“Well, come on, Cadet!” Bob shouted, running towards the door.
“But what about…?” Enzo started, absently clicking his icon and changing into his guardian uniform.
“We’ll figure something out.” Dot said quickly. “Not now, get to that game!”
Enzo nodded and ran after Bob. The two would have to gun it in order to make the cube. With nanos to spare, Bob and Enzo barely made it underneath the game as it landed.
“So what is this?” Enzo asked, surveying their surroundings.
The two were in lush jungle, with trees galore. There was a slight mist, making the two wet almost immediately. “We’re on the last level of something called ‘The Last Rites’. The User has to get the key to the treasure. We have to stop and kill the User before he reaches the large pyramid straight ahead.”
“Sounds simple.” Enzo sighed. “Let’s get this over with. Reboot!”
The two hit their icons and the shiny wave of change washed over them. When it cleared, both were dressed in khaki shorts and shirts. Bob was equipped with a large rifle, slung over his left shoulder and a small hunting knife in his hip pocket. Enzo had two small hand guns, along with extra ammo strung on a belt around his waist. He also had a small hunting knife.
“I think the best thing would be to split up.” Enzo replied, glancing around their surroundings.
“I don’t like that idea, Enzo.” Bob replied. “The User could easy get one of us…”
“Exactly my point. If we stay together, the User could sneak up on us and delete us both. At least if we split up, we cover more ground and it gives us an equal chance to beat the User.”
Bob didn’t like it, but it did make sense. The last thing he wanted was for Enzo to be left alone in this forest. Reluctantly, Bob nodded at Enzo’s suggestion. “All right.” he said, slowly. “I guess I can’t argue with reason. You go right, I’ll go left. We’ll make a circle to the pyramid.” Enzo nodded and started off in his direction before Bob stopped him.
“Stay frosty, Enzo.” The guardian called out. Enzo smiled, waved, and continued on. Bob shook his head, as he headed off for his own adventure. He just hoped both would come out alive.
He wouldn’t know how to face Dot if neither of them did.
Enzo walked through the misty jungle, keeping watch out for the User and keeping track of where he was. This jungle was odd, to say nothing of weird. It was quiet all around.
The only noise was that of his boots clomping down on the ground. Not even the birds were chirping. Enzo stopped to look around and get his bearings. He could still the pyramid in sight, he wasn’t too far from it. He looked around, wondering if this would be a good time to stop and rest.
“Sleeping on the job, Boy?”
Enzo turned to located the voice. He knew it was Megabyte, no doubt about that. But where was he? Had the virus somehow gotten into the game?
“Oh, look all you want.” the virus replied. “You can’t see me…but I can certainly see you.”
“Where are you, you son of a null?” Enzo exclaimed, turning every which way to find the virus.
All he got for an answer was laughter, that grew louder and louder and more insane in the passing microseconds. Enzo tried to cover his ears, trying to block the sound. He never heard the User come up behind him.
The User, dressed in khaki pants, a white t-shirt, and a leather jacket had been making his way through the jungle. He had gotten all the other items in this game and just needed to get to the pyramid to get the key for the treasure. It had taken the User a good five months user time to get to this level in the game. He had already bought the sequel, but needed to beat this one before he could continue. But he had an obstacle.
One of the many hunters that were after him stood before him in the jungle. He didn’t to notice the User, as he crept up behind him. He seemed distressed by something and had his hands over his ears. No matter, the User figured. It just made his job and quest a whole lot easier.
This would be too easy.
Bob had come to the large pyramid and noticed Enzo wasn’t there waiting for him. This made him extremely worried. If by some chance the User found Enzo before he had, he’d still be able to access the key and win the game, thus nullifying the two of them. Or at least Bob. Enzo might be able to survive just as his brother had, but Bob didn’t want to even imagine that scenario. It would hit Dot like a ton of bricks. He needed to find Enzo.
And possibly the User.
Bob thought for a minute, using his Glitch powers to make a mental map and find where Enzo could be. He headed in the direction Enzo went. Bob walked for a while until he heard sounds in the distance. He stopped and listened. He could hear the sound of talking…but he could only hear one half of the conversation. He continued walking, following the sound of the voice. He recognized instantly.
Bob took off in a run towards the sound of Enzo’s voice. That’s when he heard running coming from in front of him. The User! He could make out a thin outline of the User, but he was too far ahead of him to reach. The User stopped and started to withdraw his weapon. It looked as though the User had found something of interest and Bob didn’t like the looks of it.
It was almost too late before Enzo realized he was in trouble. Megabyte had trapped him with the User. He didn’t even notice the guy until he heard a loud click come from behind him. He turned swiftly around and saw the User standing there, quickly trying to reload his rifle.
Enzo acted quickly, dodging out of the way, and ducking behind a tree. He removed the first of his two guns and started firing. The User also ducked behind a tree, still reloading his rifle as he did. The two began a small war of bullets, each trying to delete the other.
Bob had finally been able to keep up with the User, only to be missed by a bullet coming from the small area the User was now held up in. The guardian figured Enzo had been surprised by the User and was now fighting for his life. But that’s all the time Bob needed. He removed the rifle from his shoulder. From where he hid, he had a decent shot at the User. He readied the gun, took aim and fired.
The User felt a sharp pain coming from his shoulder. He turned quickly to find he was in an ambush. Another hunter had snuck up behind him and shot. The User turned the gun on the second hunter, forgetting that he still had the first hunter to deal with.
The User continued to fire, hitting the trees that surrounded the mysterious hunter behind them. But he couldn’t get a clear shot. The only way he could would be to move him into the line of fire and he was on his last life. He took a gamble. If he could move away slightly, he could kill the second hunter and may be wounded by the first. It was a chance he had to take. He wanted to win this game.
Enzo watched as the User continued his fire, but not at him. He was firing at something or someone that was hiding in the trees behind him. The young cadet watched as the User started to shift his position, moving a small ways form his cover. It wasn’t much, but it gave Enzo the advantage he needed. At this point, he could very easily shot the User and delete him. Taking careful aim at the User’s head, Enzo pulled the trigger of his gun.
AndrAIa knew where to find them. She could hear the grunting from the hall. Phong had given Matrix permission to change this hidden room into a gym. During the restart and the beginnings of the war with Daemon, Matrix would spend millis upon millis in here, training. He didn’t want to fail, like he had with Megabyte those hours ago. Even in the games, he would train non stop, wanting to get bigger, stronger, separate himself from the weak little sprite he had been.
And oddly enough, that little sprite Matrix had been wanted to spend his time in there with his older self. When refugees from other systems came to Mainframe for protection, Enzo had been the target of many fights, some which he lost. Running on the same mentality of his brother, the young sprite started working out and it continued at the Academy.
The game sprite was actually the only person other than Enzo to go in there while Matrix was taking out his anger on the various punching bags that hung from the ceiling. She was the only person he wouldn’t actually hurt. That she knew, only once had Matrix and Enzo come to blows over an illegal entry. But she wasn’t worried. They wouldn’t hurt her.
They were teddy bears.
She stood there, watching as they sparred on the mat in the middle of the floor. Both looked tired and sweaty, she figured they had been in here since Enzo and Bob had come back from the game. They were both convinced in order to match wits with Megabyte, they needed to be as strong as he was.
AndrAIa wasn’t sure if that was the best way. It was obvious Megabyte had merged with a web creature, but what kind was the part they didn’t know and needed to find out. Megabyte was bad enough without now being a dangerous web creature hybrid.
“You know, you guys should probably take a break.” she said, causing the two to stop their activities.
“Have you heard anything?” Enzo asked.
AndrAIa shook her head, sadly. They hadn’t heard from Megabyte since that morning and it was getting late in the afternoon. “Don’t worry, Zo.” she said, giving the boy a smile. “I bet Alex’s giving Megabyte a hard time as we speak.” The cadet smiled weakly.
“She’s like that.” he said, softly.
“Don’t worry, little brother.” Matrix replied, putting an arm around Enzo’s shoulders. “We’ll meet up with Megabreath tonight and we’ll end this once and for all. Nothing’s gonna stop us this time.”
“Have you just completely flipped your motherboard?!”
Dot sat in her office, watching and listening as her little brother ranted and raved about what she had in mind. It was a dangerous decision. She was the Command.Com after all, not to mention a wife and mother. Doing what she was planning could put her in serious jeopardy, not to mention the system of Mainframe. But something told her this was her fight as well and there was no way she was going to miss this.
She was going to meet with Megabyte.
“Dot, Matrix is right.” Enzo agreed. “This…this is random, which is just not like you.”
“Look, I know there’ll be some danger involved…”
“Some danger, she says.” Matrix muttered, continuing his pacing across the office floor. He came to a stop and looked at his sister. “This isn’t your fight, Dot!”
“Yes, it is.” she declared. “True, you may have more of a vivid past with megabyte, but he’s hurt me too, you know. It was Megabyte who made our lives random after our parents were deleted. It was Megabyte who nearly got us all deleted, always trying to get to the Core, to the Super Computer.” She paused, saving the worst deed for last.
“It was Megabyte who shot Bob in the Web.” she said, noticing the look of sadness that washed over Matrix’s face. He remembered that second like it was the second before. “You don’t know what a pain in the ASCII he was after you and AndrAIa lost that game. When he destroyed the Principal Office and kidnapped Phong…that was the last leg of strength I truly had.
“He’d leave little notes on vidwindows for the Rebels to find, asking me how I was doing. If I’d seen Bob lately, if I had gotten a little cage to put your null in, that Phong would like to say hello, but he was tied up at the moment. Megabyte took everything away from me, just the same as you. I say it’s pay back time.”
The brothers looked at their sister in a whole new light of respect. She had always been strong, no doubt, but sometimes her strength went further beyond that of anyone they knew. Megabyte had burdened their lives too many times to count and if they wanted revenge, now was the time for it. “You do realize how dangerous this is.” Matrix said.
Dot smiled. “Danger is my middle name.” she replied.
“Huh.” Enzo smirked. “The things you find out before an epic battle with a two bit virus.”
The three laughed at the joke, each wanting to remember the fondness of the moment. Each knew this was a dangerous task. They had battled Megabyte before, time and time again. The final battle casting him into the Web. But he had somehow survived the ordeal to become bigger and stronger.
Enzo and Matrix had gone up against him once before and lost. This would be the final battle between the virus and the Matrix family. The winner would decide the outcome and fate of Mainframe and that of it’s inhabitants. Only one question remained.
Who would win the battle and the war?
Alex tried to move in her bonds. She sat in a chair, next to the throne of Megabreath, hands tied to the arms, mouth gagged. She mentally kicked herself for walking in to such a well planned trap. She knew this virus was bad news, but noooo. Did she stay away? Nooooo. What did she do? Walked right on in to the lair of a big, mean, scary virus, who was out for revenge on the sprite she loved, his family, and his system.
Smooth move, Hewlett.
“Please try not to struggle.” Megabyte purred from his chair. “It does wear out the straps.”
Alex managed to get some choice words from her mouth, only to be muffled by the gag. And all she got was laughter from her captor.
“You are a spirited one, aren’t you?” he chuckled. He brandished his claws from his hand and held them to Alex’s face for closer inspection. “I hate spirit.” he growled. “That Enzo Matrix had spirit, before he lost that game and wound up away from home. His sister Dot had spirit, before I crushed her hopes and dreams.
“Sent her little guardian to the Web, laughed in her face about her little lost brother. Oh, even Phong had spirit, before I ripped his head from his body and kept it in a jar!” The virus laughed demonically, as though hearing the funniest joke in the Net.
Alex just gulped. This virus was loony. A couple of memory wafers short of the box. Apparently being in the Web for that long period of time made him random with revenge. This was not the place she wanted to be right now.
“Oh, they may have won that battle.” he continued. “They may have sent me to the Web, hoped they wouldn’t see me again. But they were wrong. I swore I’d be back. I refused to be deleted in such a…trivial way. This is my pay back. I don’t even want this basic system. Just the power in knowing I destroyed Dot and Enzo Matrix is good enough for me. I will have my revenge.”
Alex struggled again, until the gag slid from her mouth. “You won’t get away with this!” she exclaimed, glaring at the virus.
Megabyte just laughed. “Oh, but my dear,” he said sweetly. “I already have. I’ll be meeting those infernal Matrixes tonight. I did say you were the prize. What do supposed that little back up copy love of yours would do in order to save you? Hmm? I bet he would something heroic, like charge after me. Do you suppose Dot will join them tonight? I certainly hope so.
“I so wanted to infect Dot. She would certainly be a wonderful asset, but I guess deleting her would be best. Besides, the look on the guardian’s face when he finds his little wifey poo on the ground, flickering in and out…mmmm. Such a tasty thought. And that Enzo Matrix…the original, I mean.”
He chuckled at the last part. “Oh, I must think of something special for him. I think infecting him would be a joy. It would delete him inside, knowing that everything he hates is now in control of his thoughts and dreams. Hmmm…yes. Infection for the Boy. That sounds lovely.”
“What’re you going to do with Enzo?” Alex asked, quietly. “The second one, I mean.”
“Oh the copy?” Megabyte asked, nonchalantly. The virus sat in thought for a bit, thinking of how to dispose himself of the second Enzo Matrix. “That is a question.” he said finally. “He did seem a bit mad when I called him a copy.” Megabyte then turned to his captive.
“Would you be angry if I deleted him?” he grinned.
Alex just stared at him, too angry to speak.
“Tell me, Alex, was it? Tell me, Alex, why should you care what happens to Mainframe? You aren’t from here, are you?”
“No, I’m not.” Alex answered.
“Then why should you be so concerned?”
“I’m a guardian. It’s my job.”
“How cute.” Megabyte sneered. “Are you sure it’s not because of another reason?”
“My Uncle lives here.”
“Does he?” Megabyte asked. “Does he really?”
Alex stared at the virus, a venomous hate rising from her. If it was the last thing she did, she would…
“I wonder if your little Cadet Matrix could save him and you at the same time. I wonder…”
“Leave my Uncle alone!” Alex shouted in fear and hate.
“Oh don’t worry, my dear.” Megabyte oozed. “You’re all the bait I need. In fact, how about I offer you a deal?”
“I don’t deal with viruses.”
“But you’ll like this one.” Megabyte said. “What if instead of deleting your…precious Cadet…I infect him instead. He and the Matrix Boy are brothers, so they say. The three of you will do my bidding.”
This time, it was Alex that smirked. “Me, be a part of your sorry ASCII family? Nuh uh. Ain’t gonna happen.”
Megabyte felt the urge to smack the girl, but calmed himself. “Have it as you wish.” He said, leaning back in his throne. “Just remember that when I deleted that copy in front of your eyes.”
Alex sighed. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t let her curiosity get the best of her, Enzo wouldn’t be in trouble right now. Now, she had gotten him, his family, and his system into this mess and it would cost them their lives. She always said curiosity deleted the binome. Well, now it was going to delete this system and everyone in it. She knew Enzo and Matrix would respond to Megabyte’s challenge.
She had to get out this. She just had to.