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Memories Are Made of This

Chapter 12 – The Master Plan

 

 

 

A group of sprites stood in bay twelve of the Principal Office. Of all the things it had lost, the ship bay was in reasonable condition and suited the needs of the group. Del Centro was shaking hands with a remarkable sprite. In all his seconds and minutes of the bugs raiding his system, he had never known of someone who made such a spectacular recovery.

Until he met Dot Matrix.

Her family, nor her friends seemed very surprised about the healing process the young Command.Com had gone through. They thought it to be as natural as the second itself. Del could only smile in pleasure. He had been worried about Dot and her family. He had lost his own family to those disgusting creatures.

To see another family destroyed by them was not his wish and he was so glad that she had made it through. He now saw her and her group off for their journey back home.

“I can’t begin to thank you, Del.” Dot replied, shaking the sprite’s hand.

“Thank me?” Del questioned, laughing at the sentiment. “It’s me who should be thanking you. I don’t know how you managed to it, but you’ve saved my system.” He got quiet, his face looking solemn. “Thank you for coming, Dot.” he continued. “You have no idea how happy I am that you’re all right.”

“I share the same thought.” Dot joked. She put her arm around Kit, who had been standing next to her. Ever since she had been given the antitoxin, the boy refused to leave her side. “I’ll battle back, don’t worry.” she replied. “I just hope you’ll be able to put this system back to where it once was.”

“We’re lucky, that’s for sure.” he said, looking around. “Don’t worry. I’ll have this place back before you can say, ‘The system that stays together, works together.'” Dot laughed at the joke.

“Hey!” Mouse called from the side of Ship. “Y’all know I ain’t one for long goodbyes, so let’s move ’em out!” The hacker then walked up the plank and into the body of the ship.

“That’s our cue, Kitten.” Dot said, looking down at Kit. The boy smiled and held out his hand to Del.

“It was certainly nice meeting you, Sir.” he said, as Del took his offered hand and shook it.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Son.” Del said, leaning over to talk to the boy. “You’re a marvelous boy. You make your parents proud.”

“We certainly are.” Dot whispered, looking at her son.

The trio again said their goodbyes and then mother and son boarded their transportation home. Bob clapped Del on the back and shook his hand. “If you need anything, anything at all…”

“I know who to call, Guardian.” Del laughed. He motioned towards the ship, where Mouse was waiting for Bob. “Go on.” he said. “I don’t think she’s gonna wait any longer.”

Bob said a final goodbye and boarded. Mouse smiled at the Command.Com before going inside. Del waved a final time as the ship began to raise and lift into the sky. A portal opened and Ship went right on through.

“Be careful, my friends.” Del whispered as the portal started to close. “Be very careful.”

 


 

Hexadecimal flew through the skies of Mainframe. She could see the little binomes on the street looking up and pointing as she flew towards the Principal Office. She got a slight rise at knowing she could still cause fear among the people of the system, but she also had a pang of sadness. After all she had done to help them, save their puny little system, they still treated her as an outcast. It didn’t matter if Bob had healed her and she had an icon now, she would always be a virus to them.

Hex shook off the pain and continued her flight to the P.O. She had to see Phong right away. She had been observing things in Mainframe and something had come to her attention that the acting Command. Com needed to know.

Flying overhead, she noticed Ray and Sabrina right in front of her. She liked that surfer. Apparently so did the hacker. Hex and Mouse were not best friends, even after everything they had been through. At least Dot gave her the time of second. Whenever she had it.

She tolerated Sabrina though, despite her lineage.

The girl was tough and smart like her mother, but had a temper to rival that of her father’s. The girl and the little boy, Bob and Dot’s son, were the exceptions. They treated the virus with respect, even if their families did not. As to whether or not either child liked the virus wasn’t the point to Hex. She hoped they did like her of course, but if they didn’t…well, they were certainly hiding the fact. “You hoo!” she called, waving her hand in the air.

Ray and Sabrina stopped and turned to see Hex flying right at them. “Hello Miss Hexadecimal.” Ray replied, giving the ex-virus a smile. Ray had heard and seen some of the stuff Hex could do and he wasn’t about to get the girl riled up.

“Aren’t you the gentleman!?” Hex cooed, sliding up next to Ray.

“Hey, Hexy.” Sabrina replied. “What’s processing?”

“Oh, I was just heading over to see Phong.” Hex replied, making eyes at Ray.

“You got something?” Sabrina asked.

“I may have some…information to discuss.” Hex said, coolly.

“Then you won’t mind coming back with us then.” Sabrina said, glaring at the virus.

Hexadecimal glared at the child before continuing on her route towards the Principal Office. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you how to respect your elders?” she called behind her.

“No.” Sabrina said, as she and Ray caught up to the virus. “They also didn’t teach me how to share either.” With a wink, the girl pushed her zipboard faster, making a game out of who could make it to the P.O. first.

The three soon reached the front doors of the domed building and headed straight for the command center. Phong was already there, waiting for them. “I have good news my friends.” he said, addressing two of the sprites that walked in. “All is well in Turic.”

“That’s wonderful, Phong.” Ray replied, a smile on his face.

“Does this mean everybody’s coming back?” Sabrina asked, excitedly. When Phong nodded, she exclaimed in happiness and hugged Ray tightly. She was about to hug Hex, but stopped and said to Phong, “Hex has to tell you something.”

“I’ve been watching things in my looking glass, old sprite.” Hex replied, walking past him and leaning on the front console. “I’m sure you know the binomes are getting…antsy.”

“I’m aware of that, yes.” Phong replied. “And I believe we have a problem.”

“The natives are starting something?” Sabrina asked.

“Precisely,” Phong said. “And I believe I know the culprit behind this.”

“Well, who?” Ray asked.

“Cyrus.”

“Cyrus?” Sabrina asked. She had heard the name and the deeds he had done. She thought the little weasel had left Mainframe. “That little grease monkey who worked for Megabyte? What the Net is he doing back here?”

“Starting trouble, young sprite.” Hex answered. “But if Phong gives me the word, he won’t be trouble any longer.”

“We will wait for our staff’s return before we take action.” Phong said, whirling out of the room. “It will give the people heart that their Command.Com is safe and sound.”

“What about our little buggy problem, mate?” Ray asked, following the sprite.

“That too will wait until their safe return.”

“Phong…”

The wise, old sprite stopped and turned. “We must first make sure Dot and the others are all right.” he said, sternly. “To do anything before that would be rude and very uncalled for. Is this understood?”

“Yes, Phong.” came the responses.

“Good.” The sprite again turned and headed off. “We will meet them in bay five.”

 


 

Turbo sat at his desk in his office at the Guardian Academy. The Prime Guardian let out a sigh, as he leaned back in his chair. Looking at a screen in front of him, he watched as the blips representing more systems were turning black, a sign that they were permanently offline.

The bugs had taken their toll. But on a happier note, more systems were coming back around, picking up the pieces that had been their life and home. But he was still troubled. He hadn’t heard from anyone who had been sent to Turic, but he knew the situation. He had heard from a contact there that worked in the medical unit.

The system was on the brink of collapse.

More victims were coming in.

The Command.Com of Mainframe was attacked by a soldier.

There was no more antitoxin.

The group sent to help was falling apart and the anger seemed to be turned on one sprite.

Turbo didn’t even have to guess as who the contact was referring. Cadet Daniels, of course. Turbo had heard this complaint a thousand times before, from different systems the cadet had been to.

Turbo had talked to the lad, told him to be a bit more sympathetic, more compassionate, but it all fell on deaf ears. Back in the old seconds, Daniels would’ve been out for his behavior. But Turbo had always looked the other way.

He felt pity and sorrow for the boy.

Turbo had known Kalyle’s parents. They were good people. Kind, caring. But when the bugs came to Delphi, they ruined the system, deleted all that stood in the way. Including Carter, Voyetra, Linx, and Tommy Daniels.

Kalyle had been devastated and why shouldn’t he? His family was now a memory. Since that time, Kalyle lived in a shell, protecting him from any kind of emotion. When he saw it being displayed, he immediately would turn away, disgusted. The boy was a shell of his former self.

And now, the Mainframers trapped in Turic were converging on him. Turbo knew he’d be hearing from one of them before this was over. The Prime Guardian felt sorry for the boy. Maybe it was jealousy. A jealous and broken heart knowing he couldn’t have any special times with his family anymore. And it looked like Bob wouldn’t have that luxury either. Dot was surely a goner.

A bug sting is one thing, but attacked by a soldier? She wouldn’t come through. And that meant neither would Mainframe. Turbo had learned something about Mainframe long ago. They stuck together and the loss of one, no matter how big or small, was felt by all.

The system would surely fall apart at the news of her death.

Apparently, the cracks were beginning. There was no way Bob could bounce back from this. And certainly not Dot’s brothers. The elder Matrix boy was already slightly unstable, the loss of his sister could push him over the edge. Enzo had just graduated. He would be just as bad as Kalyle Daniels when he started his life as a full fledged Guardian. Turbo sighed again. He wish he could know something more of what was going on.

“Turbo…”

A vid window’s appearance to his right alerted the prime that his thoughts would have to wait. He already knew who the person on the other end was and what they wanted.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“Not at all, Bob.” Turbo replied, looking at his friend.

Turbo was slightly disturbed to see him though. The blue Guardian looked haggard, worn, just plain… old. Older than his youthfulness would suggest at a different time. Stubble lined his face and dark bags had formed under his eyes. He looked tired, but happy. Almost relived.

“What can I do for you, Bob?” Turbo asked.

“I need to talk to you.”

“Is Dot okay?”

Bob smiled. “So you’ve heard what’s been going on.” he said, eyeing the P.G. “I’m not even going to ask how you know, but yeah. She’s okay. She’s recovering, but she’ll be back to new once we’re home.”

“Thank the User.” Turbo breathed. “I had been really worried for a…”

“Turbo, we have a problem.” Bob interrupted, his smile disappearing and his face completely serious.

“Bob, I already know what you’re going to say.” Turbo said. At the confused look he was given, the Prime Guardian continued. “I know he’s a handful, Bob. And I’ve given him warning after warning.”

“You could always…”

“Kick him out of the Collective?” Turbo finished. “I have threatened him with that, yes, but I can never go through with it. I can’t explain it, Bob. He’s not…he’s not as…fortunate as you are.”

“Explain that, could you?” Bob asked, sarcastically.

Turbo sighed. He didn’t want to make excuses for the cadet, but… “I knew his parents, Bob. They were good people. Wonderful people. And they’re gone now, along with Kalyle’s two brothers. I don’t know, Bob. He’s not as…lucky as you, I guess. He can’t go home to a family like you can. His brothers are never going to play football with him and his son. Maybe it’s jealousy, I don’t know. I just know deep down, he’s a good kid.”

Bob studied Turbo’s face for a moment. “Turbo,” he started. “You of all people know what I’ve gone through, what my family has gone through and what my friends have gone through. We’ve defeated three, count them, three viruses, I’ve survived the Web, my brother and sister in law have survived game hopping, my wife has survived the psychological torment by a power hungry, demented virus. We’ve survived games, Web creatures, Web Riders, infected guardians, infection by a super virus, and now we’re going up against big, nasty, scary bugs.”

The blue guardian paused a nano to let his words sink in.

“After all of that, don’t get give me some sad sob story about a kid who doesn’t have a family anymore.” Bob continued. “You want to hear a real sob story? How about this? Once upon a time, there was a loving family by the name Matrix. One second, Dr. Matrix blew up their home system, leaving his children, Dot and Enzo, all alone in the sister city of Mainframe.

“All was going good. Dot had some businesses, Enzo was in school, they even got a guardian, namely me. Everything was coming together. Enzo even found a little friend with whom he could play with. Then one second, a big bad Web creature came into town and brought his little friends. Bob made a huge error of judgment by teaming up with the local viruses. They in turn sent Bob to the cold, dark, dank Web. Then, they set about to try and destroy the system.”

“Bob…”

“But there was hope. Little Enzo Matrix had been made a guardian and was going to defend his home. Unfortunately, the power hungry virus had other plans and tried to shoot the boy’s confidence down. Just when Enzo was getting his confidence back, he, AndrAIa, and their dog lost a game. Using their icons as game sprites, they were able to live and then began to game hop in order to find their way home. I can’t begin to tell you the stories I’ve heard so far on what they had to do.”

“Bob, if I said anything to…”

“Back home in Mainframe, Dot was a mess. She had lost her brother, her only living relative, and the sprite she loved, and now she was about to lose her home. She fought and fought, but in the end, it was a losing battle. But then, the sprites she lost came back and helped defeat the evil power hungry virus. Just when happiness was going to reign, they get dragged into a battle for the Net. An evil super virus wants Bob cause he can make portals and stuff like that.

“So she infects all of Bob’s guardian friends, including his teacher, his mentor Turbo. This is where you come in. While trying to fight against her, Matrix, AndrAIa, Mouse, and Mike the TV are infected by her. And then she comes to town and infects all of us too! And to top it off, she nearly deletes me! But oh, the story doesn’t end there! Wanna hear some more?”

At this time, Bob’s voice had risen from his quiet, discreet whisper he had used to open the vidwindow to Turbo. By now, he could be heard as far as the bridge, where Mouse and Matrix were. A look to Matrix told him he had better go and investigate. Mouse had done some remodeling while she and Ray had been out touring the Web and subsequent Net.

She had added at least three small rooms with mattresses and a few cots were kept in the closet, just in case. When Matrix got to the small hallway, he joined the crowd that had already gathered. Dot was leaning against the door jam, with AndrAIa sleepily rubbing her eyes next to her.

All attention was turned on Bob and someone on the other side of a vid screen.

“Just when things get settled down and calm, who shows up, but our old friend Megabyte. He’s out for revenge and guess who his targets are? My wife and her brothers. Wonderful, huh? And then, just when things get settled down again, we’re right back in the thick of things with a bug problem. Aren’t we so lucky?”

Turbo looked at this sprite that was before him. He had never seen Bob so angry before and certainly this kind of rage had never been turned on him. The Prime Guardian had over stepped his bounds, he knew. “I’ll have a talk with him, Bob.” he replied, stoically. “After this problem has been taken care of.”

“Thank you so much for your help.” Bob replied, sarcastically.

He closed the vidwindow and turned to see a crowd gathered behind him. “Everything all right?” Matrix asked, hearing the last tid bits of conversation. Though Matrix hadn’t seen the victim of Bob’s anger, he could tell after the last sentence the sprite must have been Turbo.

“Everything’s fine.” Bob said, stealing a glance towards Dot.

“Okay people, show’s over.” she said, ushering Matrix and AndrAIa back to where they had come from.

“But Dot…”

“No buts.” Dot said, sternly, squashing any hopes for a debate. AndrAIa yawned and went back to bed. Matrix hesitated, looking between his sister and brother before shrugging and heading back to the bridge.

“Shouldn’t you be lying down?” Bob asked, putting his hands behind his head.

“I’m fine.” Dot replied, walking over and putting her arms around his waist. They stood for a nano before she asked, “So what’s wrong, Angel? I’ve never known you to get so upset about something.”

Bob sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he looked down at her. The brown eyes that usually held laughter and happiness in them were now sad and withdrawn. “Don’t you ever get tired of fighting, Dot?” he asked.

“I mean, if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Megabyte, Hex, games, Web creatures, the Web itself, games as a life, Megabyte, Hex, then Daemon, then Hex, then Megabyte again.” He pulled her closer and rested his cheek on her head. “I almost lost you. Again, no less.”

“What do you expect, Guardian?” Dot asked, looking up at him, a thin smile on her lips. “To ride off and live happily ever after?”

“Yes!” Bob exclaimed, slightly insulted. “As a matter of fact, I did expect that.”

“You’re a hopeless romantic, Bob.” Dot giggled. “It really is cute.”

“Fine.” Bob replied, sarcastically, feigning hurt. “Make fun of my plight.”

The two chuckled at the small joke and continued standing in the hallway. “You’re right, Bob.” Dot said, resting her head on his chest. “I am tired of fighting. I don’t enjoy it one nano and I hate doing it, but sometimes we have to in order to live out the happily ever after. Besides, we can’t let this overshadow the good times. We’ve had some wonderful times together and I certainly don’t regret any of that. Anyway, it comes with the territory. You certainly didn’t become a guardian just to get the girls.”

“Well, actually…”

Bob rubbed his chest from where Dot had hit him. “I got you, didn’t I?” Bob said, wincing in pain. That really hurt! Dot smiled and giggled as he started coming after her.

“Stop!” she shrieked, as he tried to tickle her. “You’re going to wake everybody up and Mouse is going to be so mad.” The two laughed and settled down. “Let’s get you to bed.” Dot said, opening their door. “You look horrible.”

“Thanks, sweetie.” Bob muttered, sarcastically.

 


 

They were on the move.

They had gotten the word to move on to their destination. They had destroyed this system enough, but it was more of the fact that their prey was deleted. They could take their revenge while the others stayed here. So they moved. They staged one last attack, sending the workers out to the slaughter house, while the soldiers moved through the portal to their last system ever.

They would carry out Daemon’s revenge.

 


 

Gavin sighed in relief.

Dot was okay and they were on their way back to Mainframe.

Capacitor had just finished his conversation with Mouse aboard her own vessel, where he had heard the good news. Dot was recovering and up and about. They were now heading back to Mainframe on Ship. Gavin told Mouse of his own situation. They were indefinitely stuck in Symmons while repairs were made to fix the holes in the Saucy Wench.

“Holes, did you say?” the hacker asked, giving the captain a suspicious look.

“Aye Lass.” Gavin replied, nodding. He took notice of her look that confirmed his own suspicions. “It’s a miracle we got this far, says the mechanic. We could’ve been in some real trouble if we hadn’t.”

“I bet.” Mouse agreed. In a hushed tone, she asked, “What do you think made those holes in your ship?”

“I’ve been a sea dog as long as I’ve lived.” came the reply. “And I’ve seen a lot of things that took my breath away and even shook my beliefs to the core, but this…would ye think me crazy, Lass, if I said I suspect sabotage?”

“Not in the least.”

“Then sabotage it be.” Gavin said. “Now, the person who done the sabotage, now that be the question.”

“Got any ideas, Sugah?” Mouse asked.

“Aye Lass,” Gavin replied, nodding his head. “I have me own suspects. And I have a feeling the showdown will take place in Mainframe.”

“I got the same feelin’, Honey.”

Gavin thought back to that conversation. It was true. He knew he would find the suspect and/or suspects in Mainframe, but for now, he worried about the condition of the system itself. He was sure the citizens were getting in an upheaval about Dot’s condition, even if Phong had shielded them from the whole truth.

Gavin turned to watch the mechanic working on the ship. The crew had gone into town for more supplies and a well needed stay over. He would have to find them in order to report the good news.

He just hoped the good news wouldn’t turn bad.

 


 

It was a long awaited homecoming.

The friends and family met in ship bay five. Hugs and kisses went around to the returning heroes and it was extremely wonderful to see that everyone was intact and seemed to be all right. Phong hated to spoil the moment. It was a happy one indeed. Dot seemed to be her old self, which meant the staff and the system would not be falling apart. Sabrina and Ray had made it out of the game alive, so things would still run smoothly.

If only their luck could be the same.

“Follow me, my children.” Phong replied, heading back into the building. “There is still much we have to do.”

The returning group looked at each other before following the old sprite to the command room. Kit and Sabrina trailed slightly behind, Kit wanting to know what had been happening so far. “Things are not processing well in Mainframe, Kitten.” the girl whispered to her cousin.

“These bugs are coming out of the woodwork and we still got games to beat. And worse yet, the boys in the lab haven’t found anything in Grandpa and Grandma Matrix’s work to get rid of these things. And…” The girl put her hand on Kit’s arm to stop him. “We got a blast from the past of trouble.”

The two children soon joined the adults in the room, as they looked at the overheard screen. It looked like a map of some kind of the surrounding areas around Mainframe. The systems that were offline were black dots and those that clung to survival or were bouncing back were red. Mainframe was in the center of it all as a green dot.

“As you can see, more systems decline as we speak.” Phong was saying.

“There’s gotta be something more we can do.” Enzo said, breathing hard. He hated knowing that other families were suffering worse than his had. But they had been lucky.

“There is.” Kalyle replied. “Delete these things.”

Kit was trying to ignore the conversation around him. He was looking up at the screen. There was something interesting about it, but he couldn’t tell exactly what it was his processor was telling him. “Hey, what’s this?” he asked, pointing up to the screen.

“Well, Kitten me boy,” Sabrina replied, throwing an arm around him. “In most circles of the systems, we call that there a map.” Kit made a sarcastic laugh as he removed his cousin’s arm from his shoulders.

“This, young Christopher, is a map of the surrounding area around Mainframe.” Phong replied. “Mainframe is in the center, as the green dot. Sadly, the systems around us have either suffered a system crash and no long process or have suffered from the creatures we now try to combat.”

Kit peered curiously at the screen. There was something there that was important, but he just couldn’t see it. “Sabrina, look at this.” he said, his eyes not leaving the screen. “What does this look like to you?”

Sabrina looked up at the screen. “Um…a big screen with a map on it?” she asked with uncertainty.

Kit let out an annoyed sigh. “Besides that.”

“Dots on a big screen with a map on it.”

The boy rolled his eyes. “Look harder.” he said. “See if you see the same thing I see.”

“What is it that you see, Christopher?” Phong asked, also looking at the screen.

“I don’t know, Phong.” The boy said. “Like a pattern of some sort. Sabrina, do you see it?”

“No.”

This time the boy let out an exasperated groan. “Are you even looking at the map?” he asked. “Come on, Bri, think! Use your head. There’s gotta be something you see.”

“Ugh, Kit, I don’t know!” The girl exclaimed. “I see dots on a screen with a map! Dots going round and round…” Sabrina stopped mid sentence as she too finally saw something of interest. Kit just nodded.

“Well, what is it you guys see?” Enzo demanded.

“It’s all the systems around us.” Kit said, eyes still glued above. “Something about them…”

“All the systems around us have been hit by bugs.” Sabrina replied. “It’s almost as if…”

“They were coming towards us.” Kit finished in a whisper. The fuzzy logic that had plagued him now made sense to both children. Every system that surrounded Mainframe had been hit by bugs and either damaged or destroyed.

The bugs were enclosing around them. Both children looked at each in other in shock and awe. “Dude…” they breathed, knowing the full extent to the bugs’ plan.

“Of course!” Kalyle surmised. “What a master plan! Daemon sicks her buggie friends on every system just to get to you guys. I should’ve known from the start! Now the only question is why.”

“Maybe they’re looking for you.” Sabrina shot back. She had been Cadet Daniels free for almost a cycle. To have him back only annoyed her. “In fact, it seems to me, that everywhere you go, bugs turn up. Now maybe they just like hanging around you. I mean, you do have a tendency to ‘bug’ people. Maybe they just miss your company.”

Kalyle pointed an accusing finger at the girl. “You better watch what you say to me, little girl!” he said. He had had enough of this system. He should’ve known the bugs were coming this way.

“You want a piece of me, Cadet boy?” Sabrina asked, ready to take on the obnoxious cadet. “Bring it on!”

Kit almost laughed out loud. Despite the fact that she was half the size of the young sprite, she could probably take him. The child was only 0.8 and thought she could take anyone in fight. All except her father because of the height difference. But Sabrina had convinced herself in a few more hours, she could take the renegade, too.

“Now is not the time,” Phong replied looking at Sabrina. “Nor the place.” he addressed to Daniels. “We have more pressing matters to attend to.”

The wise sprite made his way to the counsel table and waited for the others to join him. Before going down, Matrix stopped the young cadet and left him some parting words. “That was three.” was all he said before taking his seat at the table. Phong looked at the sprites assembled.

“It is a good idea, Dot, for you to address the system to let them you that you are all right.” Phong said. Dot nodded in understanding. “It has come to my attention, thanks to Hexadecimal, that our problems will escalate unless action is taken.”

“More problems than the bugs?” Mouse asked.

“More problems than you can shake a stick at, Love.” Ray replied.

“Cyrus is back.” Sabrina said.

“Cyrus??” A trio of sprites exclaimed in unison.

“What’s he doing back here?” Matrix growled.

“Hey Daddio, I just report the news.” Sabrina said in defense. “I don’t investigate it.”

“The girl is right.” Hexadecimal said, standing next to Enzo. “One of Megabyte’s followers is stirring the pot, as you’d say.” The ex-virus let out a cackle, which made Enzo jump a little.

“Divide and conquer.” Kit said.

“Precisely.” Phong agreed. “In Dot’s absence, Cyrus’ presence only added to the worry the people had.”

“Turning the people against me.” Dot added. She rolled her eyes. “Perfect.”

“Does it seem to you like we’ve been let out of a major plan?” AndrAIa questioned.

“Yeah and with us playing the patsy.” her daughter answered.

“Well, what’re we all gonna do?” Mouse asked. “Hopefully we’re not gonna sit around feelin’ sorry for ourselves.”

Dot smiled. “No way.” she said. “We’re gonna put a stop to all this with a master plan of our own.”

“No one does a plan like my mom.” Kit boasted.

“Number one, we have to make sure the defenses of the system are secure.” Dot continued. “Make sure the CPUs know what we’re up against and that nothing, and I mean nothing, comes through this system without my knowledge.”

“Leave that to me, Dot darlin’.” Mouse grinned.

“Second, I want a report from the lab. Whatever they’ve got so far will have to tied us over for a while. Most importantly, I want a huge amount of antitoxin ready. Whatever we have left can go to another systems.”

“We’ll see it’s done too!” Kit volunteered.

Dot smiled. Her attention turned to the recent news. “Lastly, we got a pest to squash.”

“Leave that us.” Enzo replied with a smirk.

“Okay.” Dot sighed. “You all got work to do. Bob, Phong, you’re with me.”

“Um…hey. What about me?” Kalyle asked.

You…” Dot started. She certainly didn’t want to keep the man out. He was after all their link to this. “You stay out of trouble. Better yet, why don’t you make a report for Turbo?” Dot smirked. “I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.”

Kalyle looked at the Command.Com in confusion as she and the others left for their various tasks. The cadet decided to take the young business tycoon and leader up on her offer and headed for his quarters. As he walked down the hall, he wondered what the smirk was for.

They probably already reported him to Turbo. The cadet sighed. It wasn’t like he’d be kicked out. He had gotten bad reports before and nothing had happened, but this time could be different. It wasn’t a secret that Guardian 452 was Turbo’s favorite student and that the Prime Guardian had done some things to destroy that friendship.

Like trying to delete the system Bob lived in.

Kalyle couldn’t understand why Bob would be mad. It was protocol after all, certainly he understand that, but perhaps his time in the Web had gotten rid of all guardian logic and sense. The young cadet couldn’t even understand how that Matrix had made it through the Academy. He was as bad as Kalyle himself. And that Enzo certainly didn’t have a back circuit. They’d let anyone in the Collective these seconds.

Daniels certainly didn’t have a problem.

 


 

The lab technicians had a small memorial for their fallen colleague. His small, binome body had been brought by the M.U.s too late. He had deleted before they even got inside. None of his superiors could understand why he hadn’t stayed in the Principal Office, especially at the millisecond he left. It was late and dark, surely the young binome knew the risk.

But in his death, his colleagues discovered something.

By sheer luck, the binome’s console was still on the file he had been looking at the night before. One superior had seen the same thing he had. A very unorthodox idea, to say the least, but at this stage, it was all they had. They had gotten a vidwindow from the two small sprites saying their work needed to be bumped up, but that the work they had so far would have to do.

The bugs were coming.

The superior, a one binome named Focus, had a strange plan of his own. What if they could use the nullification experiment to their advantage? The accident that had destroyed the Twin City could be used to destroy the bugs. Could that be possible? Was there a way the doctors’ mistake could be the salvation to the system of Mainframe? He would need to discuss it.

“Is that even possible?” Kit asked.

The two children had gone to the lab as asked and were talking to Focus. “I’m not sure.” the one replied. “It is after all, a theory. I will need to discuss this will the Command.Com and the staff, of course, but it could work.”

“We don’t have time for could or should.” Sabrina insisted. “We need a would, as in this would work if we had this.”

“I know this is a long shot.”

“Try a very long shot.” Sabrina muttered.

“Well, if you have a better idea, young lady, please feel free to tell me.” the one said with authority.

“Of course this is gonna work.” Kit replied, smiling at the one binome.

“Chris…”

“I have complete confidence in my grandparents’ work.” the boy continued. Looking at the one, he said, “I have no doubt you will explore this to the best of your abilities, Dr. Focus.”

The one looked surprised at the level of confidence the boy had. A trait he had gotten from both his parents. “Why, thank you, Christopher.” he replied, returning the boy’s smile. “I can see you may have a future here with us.” Sabrina rolled her eyes.

The two children left the lab and headed back towards the command room. “Okay, Lan, what’s the big file?” she asked, walking backwards in order to talk to him. “‘I have complete confidence in my grandparents’ work.’ That was totally out of the blue and I think you used it to get some praise from the boys in the lab.” Kit stopped in his tracks and looked at his cousin.

“You’re turning into your father second by second, you know that?”

“And what exactly does that mean?” Sabrina asked, steadying herself for a brawl.

“I meant what I said, Bri.” the boy replied. “I do have confidence in our grandparents’ work. What happened was accidental and the Twin City was just that. An accident. Anything could’ve happened. We just don’t know what. I’m getting a little tired of the doubts that run rampant in this family. Would you believe my father and uncles didn’t even think Mom would make it?”

Seeing the shock on Sabrina’s face, he continued. “Yeah, that’s right. My own father, your father, and our uncle didn’t think Mom would actually come through. Even Mouse, who’s supposed to be her best friend, had lost hope, but not me. Not me.”

The two stood in the corridor, each not saying a word. “Okay, okay.” Sabrina relented. “Let’s say this thing works. What happens to our parents and Enzo?” Kit shrugged.

“I don’t know.” he sighed. “They…”

Kit stopped when he saw the expression on Sabrina’s face change. He was about to ask what was wrong when he heard a hiss come from behind him. Turning his head quickly, he saw something slightly larger than a worker bug, standing only a few feet away from him. Another hiss came from behind Sabrina and two more large workers stood. As the two children stood back to back, they could see about four more bugs approaching them.

“Oh boy.” Sabrina replied, nervously. “This is bad.”

“Very bad.” Kit agreed.

 


 

The alley in sector 31 was always teaming with destitute binomes, having one too many drinks at Al’s and being kicked out of the establishment. It was in the alleyway one small binome was trying to find somewhere to hide. Things were not going good. It was fine and dandy when Dot Matrix had been out of the system, but Cyrus had seen the hacker’s ship and heard the group had returned. He hoped he could have one last plan before…

“Well, well, well.” he heard from behind him. “Look here, boys. It’s our old friend, Cyrus.”

The one binome started to shake as he slowly turned around. He had been right. At the entrance of the alley stood three adult sprites and they did not look happy. Well, actually, they looked way too happy to see him. “Cyrus.” Enzo spoke, giving the binome a smile. “It’s been a while.”

“Now when was the last time we saw you?” Matrix asked. “Oh, that’s right. Before that nasty business with Megabyte and Megaframe.”

Cyrus laughed nervously. “Has it been that long?” The one binome was in some considerable trouble. “What…um…what can I do for you?”

The three sprites came closer to the binome, each having their own way of making him talk if need be. “You see, Cyrus,” Enzo started, walking up to the binome. “We’ve been hearing…” the young cadet smashed in a nearby box with his fist. “…rumors.”

“Rumors?” Cyrus asked, his shaking continuing and his voice hitting the high register.

Matrix removed Gun and shot a trash can behind the one. “Vicious rumors.” he replied.

“About our sister Dot.” AndrAIa replied, pretending to clean off her trident. “You do remember Dot, don’t you?”

“Tall, green, very lovely looking girl?” Cyrus asked, offering the group a scared smile. “Yes, I seem to recall her. How is she?”

“Fine.” Matrix replied, examining Gun for a bit before looking at the binome. “Just fine. As we were saying, there are these…rumors flying around about Dot and we know you’re usually in the business of… rumors, so we thought…”

“I had nothing to do with this!” Cyrus exclaimed, raising his hands in defense. “Honest!”

“Hey, calm down.” AndrAIa said, gently. “Stay frosty. You’re getting all worked up and nervous…”

“I…I…”

“Hey Cy, we understand.” Matrix said.

“You…you do?” asked the binome.

“You’re a victim.” Matrix continued. At that, the binome gulped.

“A victim…of circumstance.” Enzo replied.

“Uh..yeah…yes!” The binome exclaimed, nodding in understanding. “That’s me! A victim of circumstance.”

“And we understand that.” Enzo said. “That’s why we want to…help you.”

Cyrus gulped again, afraid of what these three would do. He wasn’t exactly their favorite person in the Net, not after what he had done to them, but perhaps they were forgiving. He had noted that in the past. They were very forgiving. “But…I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.” he said, trying to be sincere.

“Boys,” AndrAIa started, looking at both her companions. “I have a feeling Cyrus isn’t being very truthful with us.”

“Cyrus, I gotta say I’m very…” Enzo knocked over a nearby can while the three advanced on the one. “…disappointed with you.”

“We really hate…” Matrix started, while shooting at a cardboard box laying at Cyrus’ feet. “…when people aren’t very truthful with us.”

“Okay, okay.” the binome relented. “I saw an opportunity to maybe get out of the system. I don’t know if you’re aware, but the people of this system have been worried sick.”

“I bet.” AndrAIa muttered.

“I was just doing a little damage control, that’s all.” Cyrus looked up at the three. They seemed to believe him. And it was slightly the truth. He certainly wasn’t going to tell them he was getting paid for the disturbance. “You’re not going to hurt me, are you?” he asked, meekly.

“Oh, we’re not going to hurt you.” AndrAIa replied, turning as though she was leaving. Seeing a very familiar and welcomed figure, she bent down and called to him. “Frisket, come here, boy!” Standing, she looked over her shoulder at Cyrus, who was trying to see why the trio was smiling at him suddenly.

“You remember Frisket, don’t you?”

“Frisket?” the binome asked, uncertain.

When AndrAIa moved, the big red dog looked at the binome and growled. Frisket certainly remembered Cyrus. The little binome gulped as Frisket came closer and the trio started to leave. “Um…” he stuttered, his eyes going back and forth between the oncoming dog and the leaving sprites. “Where’re you going?”

“We’re gonna leave the two of you alone so you can get reacquainted with each other.” Matrix replied from the alley entrance.

“No…wait!”

As the trio left the alley, they could hear Cyrus saying, “Nice doggie. Nice doggie.” The three laughed and Enzo called to Frisket, “Don’t come home late! You know how we worry.” The three chuckled as Frisket got a new toy for the second.

 


 

“Okay, boy wonder, how do we get out of this?”

Sabrina and Kit stood back to back as the bugs started to approach them. The two were trapped between the oncoming beasts, with no where to run. Kit knew this could be the end of them at any moment, but he remembered his promise. He promised he would get these bugs if it was the last thing he did.

“Simple.” the boy replied, taking a fighting stance. “We’re gonna kick their bitmaps.”

Sabrina looked at her cousin incredulously. “Uh, Mainframe we have a problem here.” she said. “And just how are we going to do that?”

“You have a special talent, don’t you?” Kit asked, a mischievous look in his eyes.

“But you told me not to use my nails!”

“I told you not to use them when Daniels was around.” Kit grinned. “And he certainly isn’t here now.”

Sabrina turned back to the bugs coming towards her with a smile on her face. “All right, you wingless freaks,” she said, also taking a fighting stance. “You wanna play? Let’s play.”

The two children got ready, while the bugs formed their own plan of attack. Just when it seemed like no one would move, a worker made his. Using its hind legs as a spring, it jumped towards Kit. The boy had seen the maneuver and quickly shot it down with an energy beam.

The workers took the distraction to try and combat the youngsters, but these weren’t ordinary children. Each of their parents had fought in more than just physical wars. They had endured a lot of heartache along the way and made sure their children would not have to experience that.

So each child was taught some level of hand to hand combat. Sabrina had inherited her mother’s paralyzing nails and knew had to use them as a weapon. Kit, though still new to the use of his powers, had just come from a controlling session with his father. After the incident with his mother, Bob wanted to make sure Kit knew how to use his powers, something he and his wife had neglected to teach the boy until now.

Every time a worker came at them, Kit or Sabrina would shoot it down, scaring the remaining bugs. They had never seen anyone fight back and actually stand a chance at defeating them. What kind of system was this?

“I can’t delete these things, Kit!” Sabrina shouted, shooting a nail towards an oncoming worker.

“A paralyzed bug is better than a live one!” Kit replied, shooting two bugs simultaneously.

When all was said and done, seven bugs lay on the hallway floor. “So what do we do now?” Sabrina asked, surveying the work.

“First, we tell someone about this.” Kit said. “These bugs didn’t just show up for the Net of it. Second, we find out where their nest is.”

“Good luck.” Sabrina said, scanning the area for any more unwanted visitors. “We’ve been over this system a thousand times.”

“Then we’ll go over it again.” Kit replied, sternly. “They’re coming from somewhere and I refuse to except ‘out of the blue’ as an answer.”

“I go, you stay?” Sabrina asked.

“Yeah.” Kit nodded. “I’ll be able to handle the ones you got if they wake up, but hurry. I just learned how to control this, it doesn’t mean I’m a pro.”

Sabrina gave him a final smile, before making her way to the command room. Kit stood ready for anything else that would come his way. He hoped she would find help quickly. He had lied to her. He couldn’t possibly take on any more bugs period. His aim had been off with some and he had completely missed others.

If his cousin hadn’t been here, who knows what might have happened. He looked around at the bugs on the ground. He didn’t want to be in this situation again, but if it happened again ~Oh User forbid!~ he wanted to be prepared, much better than he was now. This was twice he had been faced with bugs unprepared, but had gotten away by the grace of the User.

Not again.

 


 

Dot was already talking to someone when her brothers and AndrAIa walked in, laughing at the scene they had just left. Dot and a one binome walked towards her office, passing the trio as they entered. “We can talk in here.” she was saying, opening her office door and letting the binome enter. “You two in my office.” she continued, addressing both Enzo and Matrix. The two sprites looked at their sister and then each other in confusion, each with a look of “what did we do?” on their faces.

The brothers shrugged, said goodbye to AndrAIa, and followed Dot inside. The Command.Com closed the door and walked around to her desk. “Boys, I want you to meet Dr. Focus.” she said, indicating the one. “He’s one of our head technicians in the lab. Dr. Focus, my brothers Enzo and Matrix.” The three exchanged a greeting.

“So what’s the file?” Matrix asked, still confused as to why he and Enzo were in the office.

“Yeah, Sis.” Enzo agreed. “What’s up?”

“Dr. Focus has an idea on getting rid of the bugs.” Dot replied, taking a seat on the edge of her desk.

“Great!” Enzo exclaimed. “Quick, what is it?”

Focus cleared his throat before addressing the two. He had just had a long talk with Miss Matrix about her brothers’ tempers. He certainly didn’t want to witness that. “It wasn’t I that discovered the source,” he started. “It was a lower colleague of mine. Anyway, he struck something that I have incorporated with my own ideas.”

“And that idea would be…?” Matrix wondered, already bored by the doctor’s ramblings.

“The idea is to use your parents’…experiment of nullification reversal in order to stop the bugs.”

The silence that followed made the doctor uneasy. He could tell already that the two did not like the idea what so ever. “You see,” he continued cautiously. “We’ve looked back into your mother and father’s work on nullification and we think that perhaps if we use the same technique they used, maybe with a smaller dose, we can combat the bug problem.” More silence. “What…what do you think?”

“You’re joking, right?” Enzo asked. “I mean, you have to be joking.”

“Dr. Focus, if my brothers and I could discuss this for a moment, perhaps you can give us a detailed explanation a little later?” Dot asked, sweetly. The doctor nodded and slid past Matrix to get to the door and left.

“You can’t be serious about this.” the renegade told her. “This is random, Dot.”

“Yes it is.” she agreed. “It’s also the only plan we got so far. Look, I didn’t want to make a decision without the two of you here.”

“How nice of you to include us this time around.” Enzo remarked sarcastically.

“Let’s not start this again.” Dot groaned. “I think we’ve had enough fighting in the last two or three cycles to last a lifetime.” The three were silent for a bit.

“So how is this supposed to work?” Matrix asked, sighing. He didn’t like it. Not at all.

“Something about Mom and Dad’s formulas from the experiment.” Dot reported. “Dr. Focus can give us a better understanding of it all, but generally, he thinks whatever caused the Twin City explosion might be able to destroy the bugs.”

“That’s a big ‘what if’, Sis.” Enzo said, shaking his head. “If this thing doesn’t work…”

“I know, I know.” Dot sighed. “Believe me, I don’t want to go through that again. But what choice do we have?” To Matrix, she asked, “Are you aware our children were cornered in the hallway by a group of bugs after they left the lab?”

“What?” Matrix exclaimed. “Is Sabrina…?”

“She’s fine.” Dot said. “So is Kit. Their talents come in handy sometimes.” she smirked, a grin on her face. “Still…that was close. Right here in the Principal Office. Way too close.”

“We don’t have any idea of where they’re coming from?” Enzo asked.

“No sign as of yet.” Dot sighed, leaning back on her arms. “I don’t like this idea any more than the two of you do, but it’s the only solid thing we have.”

“We got a lot to lose if this doesn’t work, Dot.” Matrix said, staring at his sister.

Dot lay flat on her back on the desk, looking up at the ceiling. “I know.” she whispered. Looking up, she asked, “Have I told you guys how much I love you?”

“It’s a little early for the sentimental thing, don’t cha think?” Enzo asked.

“Yeah.” Matrix grinned. “You’re supposed to wait until we’re at the last leg of the battle, then tell us how much you care.”

“Ugh!” Dot groaned, dropping her head back down. “How do we put up with you?”

“You mean you and Bob?” Enzo asked.

“I mean me, AndrAIa, and Alex.”

“It’s our likable charm.” Matrix said.

 


 

The Mainframe staff was once again assembled in the command room, with a Dr. Focus at the head of the table. Kalyle was the last one to walk in, his cocky demeanor drastically reduced from before. Bob smirked upon seeing the cadet. Maybe Turbo had a talk with the lad after all. Dot stood to face the gathered sprites.

“First of all, crisis has been averted.” she said. “Gave a nice little speech to the people of Mainframe, even had it out on the front steps. Things are going good. So far. Now on to business.” Turning to the one binome, she said, “This is Dr. Focus. He has an idea on getting rid of our…problem.”

“Thank you, Miss Matrix.” the binome said, bowing slightly. “As I discussed it with Miss Matrix and her brothers, I believe we have a way of combatting the bugs. After studying the works of both Dr. James Matrix and his wife, Dr. Patricia Matrix, we’ve concluded that their experiment on nulls and nullification may hold the key to this.”

“You’re joking, right?” AndrAIa asked.

“I’m completely serious.” the binome scoffed. “The boys and I have worked hard on this problem and I think we have arrived at a soultion.”

“Tell them the plan, Doctor.” Dot sighed, not wanting the small binome to go off on a tangent.

“Yes, of course.” the doctor replied. Switching on the over head screen, a display of the Matrixes’ work was shown. “This is the last known work of the doctors Matrix. We think, by using a smaller amount of the formula made by Dr. Matrix and adding that to a concentrated amount of energy, the bugs would no doubt be destroyed within contact.”

“You mean like a mini bomb?” Sabrina asked, confused.

“Something like that.” Kit replied. “You see, if the energy mixes with the formula, it should create the same reaction it did in the Twin City, thus causing the bugs to implode when the formula hits them.”

“Right.” Sabrina nodded. “Like a mini bomb.”

“My question is, how’re we going to inject a thousand, maybe even a million bugs with that little formula?” Ray asked.

“That’s the part we haven’t figured out.” the doctor said, sheepishly. “If we could find a way to harness that energy without causing damage to the person who’s in contact with it, we’d have our answer.”

“What we need in this matter, is outside help.” Phong said, nodding his head. “An old read-me says ‘one plus one makes eleven’.”

“Huh?” Kalyle asked in bewilderment.

“He means in unity, there is strength.” Kit responded, using an old read-me saying Phong had taught him.

When Kalyle still looked perplexed, Sabrina rolled her eyes and said, “Two heads are better than one, basic!”

“Phong’s right.” Dot said, standing. “We’re going to need all the help we can get. Kalyle, get in contact with Turbo again, tell him I need to speak with him ASAP. How’re the shields holding up?”

“Full power, Dot honey.” Mouse replied.

“Good. Dr. Focus, how long do you think you’ll need for this plan of yours?”

“User knows, Miss Matrix.” the binome said honestly. “But I’m sure we can get something together in a few seconds.”

Dot blew out a breath. “We don’t have that kind of time.” she said, desparately thinking of a plan of her own. “I want an entire sweep of the city. Anything suspicious, I want brought to my attention. Also, I want notification of anyone or anything leaving or coming into this system, even if it’s a candy wrapper blowing in the wind.

“Next, I need a couple of watch guards to stay alert at night. These bugs are smart. Smart enough to know they could strike if our defenses are down. I’d rather not wait for a fight, I’d rather take it to them. Anything out of the ordinary, I want to know about it.”

The group knew Dot well enough to know when she wanted action done. The group left the table and set about getting some work achieved. Bob stayed behind, watching the others leave and his wife pacing in front of him. “Something wrong, dear?” he asked, grinning at her.

Dot stopped her pacing to look at him. “No, everything’s just dandy. Thanks for asking.” she replied, bitterly and started up pacing again.

Bob stood up and began pacing with her, trailing behind and moving out of the way when she quickly turned around. “You think this plan’s gonna work?” he asked, still following her. He was unprepared when she suddenly stopped, causing him to run into her back. Hearing her sigh, he quickly wrapped his arms around her waist.

“It’s the only one we have, Bob.” she said, leaning her head back and resting it on his shoulder. “I think it could work.”

“You’re not sure?”

“The doctor who’s in charge of the idea isn’t even sure.” she sighed. “What do you think, Bob?”

“I think we’re overdue for a vacation.”

“Ha ha.” Dot giggled, turning in his embrace. “No, really. What do you think?”

“I agree with you.” he said, kissing her forehead. “This is the only plan we got. We can’t just delete these things over and over again. Especially when more come after we’re done. We have to end this, here and now.”

“I totally agree.”

Dot went silent, thinking of something the doctor had said. “You’re planning something.” Bob said, looking down at her. She smiled up at him and delivered a kiss to his lips.

“I think I have a way of getting all that energy in one place.”

 


 

They were coming.

Their plan had worked so well. They had cut off whatever help those in Mainframe could afford to get. They would now go into the system and join with those that had been stationed there.

They would never see it coming.

 


 

Hexadecimal laughed and laughed. The ex-virus had been laughing since Dot and Bob had summoned to see her in the Principal Office. What an utterly, yet plausible, ridiculous plan they had. They wanted her to harvest enough energy to destroy the bugs. How incredibly funny.

“Oh, the two of you are so cute!” she cackled in between breaths. “And what makes you think I would actually help you?”

“Cause if we get destroyed, you get destroyed.” Dot said sternly.

Bob sighed. This rivalry between them was much worse than the Dot/Mouse thing. “Ladies, please.” he said, trying to calm both parties. “Listen, Hex, we need your help. It’s obvious that Daemon got the last laugh in this, but if we can stop them from taking over, we might have a chance at getting rid of these things once and for all.”

“So your plan, Guardian, is to somehow inject me with some formula I’ve never even heard about?” Hex asked suspiciously.

“Actually, Hex, it’s not my plan.” Bob replied, putting an arm around Dot’s shoulders. “It was Dot’s.”

“Big surprise.” the ex-virus muttered.

“Look, Hex,” Dot said. “It’s gonna take a few seconds before our scientists can come up with something to put all this energy in. I just kinda assumed…”

“Well, you do know what happens when you assume, don’t you dear?” Hex asked impishly.

“Hex…” Bob warned.

“I’ll take care of the bugs in my own way, in my own time, thank you.” The ex-virus started to leave, but turned back to face the two sprites. “They are coming you know.” she said seriously. “They may be here before you are fully prepared. I suggest whatever plan you have is moved up, for anything is possible.” With that, she was gone.

Bob and Dot looked at each other in concern. They didn’t like that warning. Not at all. They weren’t sure when the bugs would be arriving and they certainly didn’t know how nor did they know if they had their own nest in Mainframe. The situation only gave more questions, but rarely any answers. The plan they had set in motion was all or nothing.

They couldn’t afford to lose.

Down the hall in the P.O. laboratory, Kit was watching as the techs started work on the formula that would hopefully save them or at least give them some time. Kit thought it was fascinating. He loved science since he was younger and now, he knew where he had gotten that love from.

Mom was a business sprite by trade, maybe even design. Dot had told him his grandmother had dabbled and had been successful in business. That’s how they had gotten a small portion of Mainframe.

Kit had thought about his family tree for the longest time. He had always felt a little different than the rest of his family. He wasn’t guardian material, but by the mere fact he was Bob’s son almost entitled him that he would be some second.

But Kit didn’t want that.

He couldn’t see his Dad being anything else but a guardian. The same was true with Matrix and Enzo. And maybe Sabrina one second. They were the guardian types. They thrived on adventure and living on the edge. Kit was too much like his mother. He liked planning for things, keeping organized.

The boy was also learning something about one’s codes during this whole thing.

It was in his father’s codes to be a guardian, just like it was in his mother’s codes to be a leader and a business woman. Kit felt his codes were telling him to be a scientist. He had been thinking about it for a while now, going into science when he got older.

For the longest time, he couldn’t understand why that was. It seemed he had his choice of either guardian or business man, but scientist didn’t seem to be an option. Not until he learned more about his grandparents.

He guessed some of their codes were in him. They had to be. It was the only thing to explain the desire to want to work in the lab, do what he was watching right now. There was something exciting about science, knowing that one second he could discover something that would make a difference to those in his system…it made him proud to think he could do that.

But would his family think the same? This experience had taught him that the old wounds his mother and uncles felt when the Twin City blew up still surfaced every once and awhile. He didn’t want them to think that he was planning on doing something so bad, but he did have confidence in his grandparents. He knew they hadn’t done it on purpose. They had been trying to make life for those nullified in a game better.

Besides, Dr. Focus had said he did have a good future in science.

Back in the war room, Enzo had opened a vidwindow to the Guardian Academy, more precisely, to his girlfriend’s dorm room. “We’re in a bind.” he said, sighing. The young guardian had actually understood Phong’s original read-me file lesson for the second. They needed all the help they could get.

“Turbo already told those of us who went on the recon trips to go and scan the systems again.” Alex replied, leaning back in her chair. “As much as I’m honored to do this, this is going to push my graduation back. But…a guardian’s got to do what a guardian’s got to do. How can we help?”

“Ask Turbo if you guys can swing by here any time soon.” Enzo said. “Just in case.”

“Will do.” Her expression softed and she smiled. “And how are you, Scooter?” she asked. “You seem a bit reserved.”

Enzo sighed. “I hope this is over soon.” he said, blowing out a breath. “We got this plan that may or may not work involving my parents’ experiment. The same experiment that destroyed our home…User, I hope this works. I can’t lose another home, you know?”

“Stop worrying about the past so much.” Alex replied. “You know and I know your parents did not blow up the Twin City on purpose. They were trying something that obviously didn’t work. It doesn’t mean you have to lose faith in them or their success.”

“I’ve always had faith in my parents!” Enzo exclaimed, insulted that Alex would think otherwise.

“Have you?” she asked, knowingly. Enzo started to say something, but then stopped. “I know their deaths hurt you, Matrix, and Dot, but you can’t let their one very big mistake cloud everything they ever meant to you.”

Enzo didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to believe it had gone that far, but in his heart, he knew it had. He and Matrix were so young when it happened, they barely remembered their parents, but the exact moment and everything after the explosion was etched in their minds like it had happened yesterday. That one moment had covered up anything he still remembered from being a child.

“I’ll talk to Turbo about coming by, okay?”

Enzo merely nodded, his thoughts elsewhere.

“Are you going to be okay, Enzo?” she asked.

“Yeah.” he said, nodding. “I will be once I have a talk with my brother and sister.” He looked up at her and smiled. “I’ll be fine. Be careful on those return trips.”

“I will.” she said. “I love you, Scooter.”

“I love you, too.” he grimaced. “I’d love you more if you wouldn’t call me that.”

“You like it and you know it.” she said, blowing him a kiss. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Alex out.”

 


 

The next second, all seemed quiet. The early morning milliseconds went as they always had. The binomes and few sprites left from the Daemon relocation got up and headed off to work and/or school. The system seemed to be running fine so far. In the Principal Office, things were quiet and tense. Dot stood at the front console looking at the overhead screen. It showed a serene system, one at peace. Bob and Phong stood on either side of her, also looking at the screen.

Sabrina, Mouse, and Enzo were playing cards at the table. Sabrina threw a glance at Kit, who sat on top of the table, reading a book. The girl rolled her eyes. Only her cousin would actually be studying on a second off from school.

She still couldn’t believe Aunt Dot had let them stay home for the second and the fact that her Dad had agreed was even more surprising. Ray stood against the wall, his baud leaning up next to him, his arms folded across his chest and he appeared to be having a short nap. He and Mouse had been up all night looking for any signs of a nest, with no luck still.

Matrix couldn’t stand still, so he and AndrAIa had gone down to hang out with the CPUs in the hanger. As Chief of Security, Matrix liked being near the CPUs anyways, especially in a situation like this. AndrAIa just liked knowing her husband wouldn’t do anything crazy. Hack and Slash had actually talked Mike the TV into watching the twins and Chip in Phong’s office. Mike, of course, was promised an exclusive story if he did this, so the little set agreed. Hack and Slash were now stationed outside the Principal Office doors.

Sabrina sighed in boredom. It was so quiet. She looked over at Kit and asked, “How can you be studying at a time like this?”

The boy waved her off, mumbling, “I’m not studying, I’m reading.”

“Well, duh.” she huffed. “What’re you reading?”

Looking up, the boy merely said, “Something of importance.” then turned back to his book.

Nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be happening. Dot felt she had gotten out bed early for absolutely nothing. She yawned, feeling like going home would be so wonderful right about now. She closed her eyes, feeling Bob’s arms around her waist, pulling her to him. She rested her head on his shoulder, yawning again as sleep started to take over.

Sabrina was feeling the same way. She was rarely up this early unless something exciting was taking place. This was hardly the exciting thing she had in mind. Leaning back and stretching, she watched as Mouse won another game and threw her cards down. The hacker chuckled, blowing a kiss towards Enzo, who just shook his head. Something caught the girl’s eye, making her turn back to the over head screen.

“Did you guys see that?” she asked, looking intently at the scene before her.

Dot was immediately awake. “See what, Sabrina?”

“It might’ve been nothing, but…”

Something did seem to fly past the screen as Sabrina talked. “Sir!” Specky exclaimed. “There seems to be a build up of energy entering the system!”

“That’s impossible!” Mouse exclaimed, standing from her chair. “Nothing gets in this system without my say so!”

Kit slammed his book on the table. “A hidden file command.” he said, jumping off and running towards the door.

“A hidden file command?” Bob repeated.

“That’s how they’ve been able to stay out of sight.” Dot mused. “Spam it! Thye’ve been under our noses the whole time! We have to act quickly. Specky, try to pinpoint where exactly they’re coming from, Mouse help him make sure no one else gets in here. Phong, bring up a window to Matrix and AndrAIa. Enzo, meet them over in the hanger and for User’s sake, be careful. Bob…”

“I’m with you. No buts.” the guardian replied.

Kit tore out of the war room, with Sabrina trailing behind him. “Kit!” Bob yelled after him. “Where’re you going?”

“To the lab!” the boy shouted back, tearing down the hall and turning a corner. Sabrina took off after him, interested in knowing what exactly the boy had in his processor.

“Christopher!” she called after him. “Wait up!”

 


 

The CPUs were in the air in no time, but it wasn’t just workers they had to worry about. The workers they had almost destroyed, but it was the soldiers that were bigger and stronger. To them, the unit cars were nothing more than annoying flies. Their job was to destroy the system like it had destroyed their mistress.

Matrix and AndrAIa had been cornered in front of the hanger as they let CPUs out. Some workers were still inhabiting the system and had gotten the word to stop those on the ground. The pack seemed to get bigger every time the two sprites shot some down.

“We can’t stay in here!” Matrix shouted over his gun blasts. “I say we make a break for it!”

“I agree!” AndrAIa shouted.

The two took off down an alleyway. They hoped they could double back and get their bikes, but they soon found that way was blocked. Not breaking stride, they headed the opposite way, with a horde of bugs behind them.

 


 

“I can not believe these bugs are so smart…”

Mouse had been voicing her complaints ever since she heard about the hidden command. The hacker couldn’t possibly believe that these disgusting things could be so very smart to initiate a hidden file command and enter the system under the scanners. Not possible.

“Believe it, Mouse love.” Ray replied, looking on screen. He could see the bugs now, flying and battling with the CPU units. But there were three sprites he didn’t see that worried him.

“Dot, I have a vidwindow to the lab as we speak.” Phong replied, whirling over to the young sprite. “Dr. Focus tells me everything will be ready shortly.”

“Great.” Dot said, looking up at the screen. She didn’t see Matrix, Enzo, or AndrAIa anywhere. “Where is Hex?” she asked herself.

“Don’t worry.” Bob said, rubbing her arm. “She’ll come through. I know she will. She had better.” That last part was made under his breath.

A window popped up in front of Dot, a worried Enzo on the other end. “Dot, they’re not here.” he said, frantic.

“Who’s not there?” his sister asked. A sudden realization hit her. “You mean…”

“I can’t find them anywhere.” Enzo replied. “I was hoping you guys had seen them.”

Ray grabbed his baud and started for the door, telling Dot he would go look for them. “Be careful, Ray.” she said, as he passed her and left. Turning her attention back to her baby brother, she said, “Don’t worry, Enzo. Ray’s coming.”

“He’d better be prepared.” He said, looking around him.

“What do you mean by that?” Bob asked.

“I seem to have an audience.” Enzo said, getting ready for anything. “I’ll talk to you later.” He closed the vidwindow.

“I’ll portal over there and give him a hand.” Bob said. He turned to go, but was stopped by Dot’s hand.

“Bob…”

Looking at each other, a silent conversation passed between them. A promise that had been made so long ago, still could be heard in each other’s head. This time, like so many others when danger had threatened the system and their lives, the promise was heard. It rarely changed.

Come back to me.

“I promise.” Bob said, knowing the concern that lay in his wife’s heart. Forming a portal, he left the war room and his love.

 


 

Kit skidded in front of the door to the lab, threw it opened and faced all the scientists. “I have a plan.” he declared, breathing heavily. Sabrina ran into his back and looked at him. “The bugs have been using a hidden file command in order to trick the sensors into thinking they weren’t here.” the boy continued, walking over to Dr. Focus. “But they’re here now. And I got a plan.”

“Then tell us, Christopher,” the doctor replied, smiling at the boy. “What’s this plan of yours?”

“You still need a way to contain all that energy?” he asked.

“No, actually.” the doctor said, picking up a small dart. “We were able to construct small darts that would be able to hold the energy and the formula without causing harm. But the real problem is how to get these in the bugs in order to destroy them.”

“Leave that to me.” Kit said, grinning mysteriously.

 


 

The CPUs were in a losing battle.

Even though they well outnumbered the soldiers, the soldiers were still faster and stronger. Several cars had dropped from the sky, even as soldiers were being destroyed. They couldn’t hold on much longer though. Even if the officers survived the air battle, there was still one on the ground to contend with. It seemed every area had been covered.

“They seem to be all over the place!” Algernon replied, dodging an oncoming soldier and shooting it with his gun.

“This could be the big one, Sir!” Binky shouted, shooting two soldiers coming at him.

“That just wouldn’t be cricket, Binky.”

In the hanger, Bob and Enzo battled with their own bug problem. It seemed these bugs had been lying in wait for them. A horde had almost overtaken Enzo before Bob stepped from the portal and shot bugs the young guardian didn’t even know were coming.

“Thanks.” he called over his shoulder, his keytool blasting a few more.

“No problem.” Bob replied, quick energy blasts being delivered to three coming his way. “Your sister would never forgive me if I let something happen to you.”

The two managed to delete the majority, the rest scurrying away and trying to find some dark shelter within the hanger. “Let’s forget about those guys for now.” Bob said, looking around. “Our biggest problem are those soldiers. Let’s take care of them and seal the bugs in here.”

Enzo nodded and left through the opened door. Bob was able to seal off any exits the bugs thought about escaping through and followed Enzo outside.

Where Kit had gotten the idea, she wasn’t sure, but Sabrina knew better than to doubt his word.

The two had managed to get past Hack and Slash at the front door and began racing towards the Diner. They had hoped to reach Baudway and the Diner and contact everyone in order to tell them the good news. Kit had gotten to the weapons supply and brought a handful of dart guns. The hope was if everyone had at least two dart guns, they would able to destroy the vast majority of soldiers that fly in the air.

The only problem was the dart guns only held about six darts.

But Kit had said at least some would be eleminated, that was the point. Whatever they could do to limit the vast size of the threat they faced, it was a small victory at best. The lab boys quickly got about to making a more lasting and effective way of destroying the bugs.

After loading up as many darts as the children could dare hold, they raced out of the Principal Office. Using zipboards would’ve gotten them spotted by the soldiers, so they opted to run, darting through alleys and in between buildings.

Stopping in an alleyway close to the Diner, the two rested. How they were going to actually summon everyone to the Diner was a large task, but they had to do it. “So this is gonna work, huh?” Sabrina asked, trying to catch her breath.

“Think about it this way,” Kit replied, bent over and huffing. “If it doesn’t work, we’re in a lot of trouble. Besides, there’s only so much our powers can do, right? If you’ve noticed, the CPUs aren’t doing so hot and it’s only a matter of time before my Dad runs low on energy, Matrix’s gun loses power, and Deco taps out. These bugs can only be knocked out for so long. With these, we can at least get the upper hand.”

“I hope so.” Sabrina said, hearing hissing coming towards them. “Because we might have to use them ourselves.”

Looking up, a small army of workers stood in their path. “Oh, not this again!” the boy exclaimed, shaking his head. There was no way the two of them could take on a group this size and they couldn’t afford to use the dart guns in fear of wasting whatever chance they had. “Sabrina, I don’t want to alarm you,” he started, staring at the advancing bugs.

“It’s a little late for that, thanks.” Sabrina muttered, sarcastically. “We’re in some trouble here, aren’t we?”

“I’m afraid these bugs have our number.”

Each child take up a fighting stance. They weren’t going to just give up, they would fight to the bitter end. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be theirs. “Abast there, you scurvy dogs!” came a cry from above. Several gun blasts quickly eleminated the danger the two children had found themselves in. Looking up, they saw the most welcomed sight.

“Gavin!” both shouted, joy rising from their lungs.

“Would ye care for a lift, me kiddies?” the captain asked, removing his hat and bowing.

“Captain, you have no idea how happy we are to see you!” Kit said, jumping into the car, with Sabrina right behind him.

“Sorry for the delay.” he said, motioning for Mr. Andrews to take her in the air. “Me crew and I were broad sided in another system, but don’t worry, Lad. The calvery is coming.”

Ray scanned overhead, barely missing the swooping soldiers that were coming after him. Banking hard, he caused two to crash into the side of a building. He zapped about three and used his baud to knock out one.

He dived into an alleyway, at least five soldiers following him. They weren’t falling for any tricks this time. Whatever kind of evasive manuever Ray tried, they kept on him, pushing their speed faster in order to pass him. Just when one almost had him, it was hit with a dart.

The pain caused the bug to cry out and suddenly he fell behind and exploded. The other bugs were quite surprised, each crying out for their fallen member. Ray too was quite shocked. Looking over, he spotted a car with Kit, Sabrina, Mr. Andrews, and Capt. Capacitor in it. It was Kit who had taken the shot.

“Need a hand, Ray?” Sabrina asked, smiling over the side. She tossed him a dart gun and waved goodbye as the car lurched forward.

Matrix and AndrAIa had been running through alleys, trying to escape from their pursuers. Every time they thought they had lost them, they heard the loud, familiar hissing from behind and the running started again.

Gun’s energy cell was running very low and Matrix couldn’t afford to waste any of it playing hit or miss with these things. They were still running when they heard a whistle from above them.

“Sabrina!” they both exclaimed, seeing their daughter hanging out the side of a car.

“Hey to you too, folks.” the girl grinned.

“What’re you doing out here?” AndrAIa demanded.

“Why aren’t you in the Principal Office?” Matrix asked.

“Look, I came to give you guys a hand, all right?” she said, shaking her head. Parents were so weird sometimes.”Here, catch!” She threw two guns down to them, which they each caught.

“A dart gun?” Matrix asked, looking at the thing in his hand. “How is this supposed to help?”

“Daddy, stop asking basic questions.” Sabrina chastized. “You’ll have a use for it, okay? Just trust me on this.”

The car drove off, with Sabrina waving goodbye to her parents. The two looked at each other in confusion, before the hissing got louder. Turning to face the herd, AndrAIa replied, “I hope she’s right about this.”

Kalyle Daniels stood in the middle of Baudway, watching as soldiers started to swarm around him. He would have venegance today. Unseething his sword, he slashed at everything that came towards him, revelling in the sounds of pain that echoed through the area.

Every bug he deleted felt wonderful to him, made him stronger, happier. He was doing this for all those systems that had been lost, for those families that had lost a loved one, most of all, he did it for his family.

He ignored the rumblings of the car that pulled up next to him. “Get away from me!” he shouted, taking out three more bugs.

“Hey man, we’re trying to help you out here!” Sabrina called, shooting a soldier and causing it to explode.

“Leave me alone!” the cadet cried. “This is my fight! I don’t need your help!”

“We shouldn’t even be helping after what you’ve done!” Kit exclaimed.

In a burst of fury, Kalyle destroyed every soldier that flew around him, slicing them in half or in pieces. Afterwards, he stood, breathing heavily. An evil, gratified smile came to his lips, his dreams coming true. The occupants in the car sat and watched as the young sprite stood there among the fading bodies of his victims, silently laughing to himself.

“That guy is one chip short of a functioning motherboard.” Sabrina replied.

Most of the soldiers had been destroyed and the few workers that strayed were quickly put somewhere where they couldn’t do any harm. The lab techs were quickly devising a way to rid the system of their presence and any nest they could find. Mouse was able to over ride the hidden file command and went in search of the nest.

Imagine the surprise when it was discovered two nests had been in Mainframe.

One not far from the Principal Office hanger and the other in the darkened alley behind Dot’s Diner.

The second was too close for comfort, the way Bob saw it.

Turbo’s recon teams got there around clean up time and it was nice having a larger group scanning for other potential nests. The scientists were able to create an insecticide in order to rid themselves of the bugs they had trapped. But the gas was toxic to those it came in contact with, so special masks and suits had to be worn when using. It was the only way to be sure the bugs would surely die.

Kalyle Daniels would be able to leave when the recons left. He wasn’t surprised when only Bob came to see him off. When he had called Turbo, the Prime Guardian told him they would be having a very long talk in his office once he returned to the Guardian Academy.

And after that, he’d be on suspension for how ever long Turbo deemed fit. At any other time, Kalyle would’ve huffed about such a thing happening, but this time he was ready to take anything. He had avenged his family’s murder. Anything he got now would surely lessen in comparasion.

Bob stuck out his hand, but Kalyle just smirked. “Trying to be gracious, 452?” he asked.

“I’m simply saying thank you and have a safe trip back.” Bob said through gritted teeth.

“You don’t have to.” Daniels replied. “I did my job, you did yours. Let’s call it even, why don’t we?” The young cadet turned to go, but stopped. “Don’t ever lose your family to something as disgusting and horrible, 452.” he said. “You have no idea what it’s like.”

With that, the cadet formed a portal and was soon out of Mainframe.

 

 

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