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Sin City

 

A minute had gone by in the life cycle of the system of Mainframe with relative peace and tranquility. The return of the virus called Megabyte had offlined the system, more so the staff than anything else. Those who had been the focus of the virus’ revenge and held prisoner in the Principal Office were now feeling the strain of trying to piece things back together.

The group who had been involved in what should have been the wedding of the day were finding it hard to talk to the bride, more so in talking to the supposed groom. Matrix couldn’t ~or wouldn’t~ talk to Bob and he avoided Dot as best as he could. Dot couldn’t bring herself to even look at Bob now, though Bob tried his best to talk to Dot. Whatever happened in the Principal Office that minute ago had changed the sprites once again.

The system administrator had been worried about this since the “second Bob” had entered into Mainframe. Dot was already worried about where she and the “first” Bob were headed and to have Megabyte come in, disguised as the sprite she loved,  and wreck the havoc he did only increased her insecurities. It also helped to increase the guardian’s as well.

Bob had been worried that perhaps Dot saw him in a different light and that their shared kiss on the steps had just been a friendly gesture and not the expression of love as he had hoped. The renegade Matrix had been characteristically silent, something that was starting to worry his girlfriend.

“I’m worried about him, Phong.” she had said. “It’s one thing when he doesn’t want to talk to anyone, but he tells me everything.”

Even Little Enzo, the second coming of the elder Matrix, was worried.

“I know he doesn’t like me, Phong,” he said. “But I can’t help be worried about him. I don’t want him to be low-res anymore.”

The ways of sprites never ceased to amaze and even amuse the wise sprite, but this time he didn’t know if they could bounce back as they always had. Phong was just as worried. Megabyte had really gotten them this time. In a sense, though he was defeated, his plan worked. If he wanted to destroy Mainframe, splitting the main staff was the way to go.

It seemed Megabyte would have the last laugh.

 


 

“Feeling low? Need a pick me up? Try the all natural Herb Garden’s pulley lift! A guaranteed way to pick up your day!!”

Enzo Matrix knew he was having a bad second when Mike the TV couldn’t cheer him up. The boy had been sitting at the Diner’s counter bar for the last millisecond, thinking. Now Enzo was not a reflective sprite, but lately he just seemed to be thinking about a lot of stuff.

This, of course, he attributed to Matrix’s reflective state.

It was weird, but cool in a way, that whenever Matrix was down, he would be too. But it was a definite downer, seeing as he couldn’t ever talk to Matrix. He never came to the Diner anymore nor did Bob for that matter. And Dot was spending more time in the Diner, just to avoid Bob.

Enzo blew out a frustrated breath. He would never figure out adults.

So there he sat, at the Diner, in the same predicament his older ‘brother’ ~and he did think of Matrix as an older brother~ had been in before meeting his girlfriend. Alone and with no friends. That thought alone made him not want to do anything but sit there and brood. What was there to do, anyway? Looking up at Mike, he said, “Okay Mike. Entertain me.”

 


 

AndrAIa sighed, looking down at her work in triumph. She had single-handedly reconfigured all the defense system codes so they would work properly again and most importantly, so the Principal Office staff could actually get into and around the building without the sensors going off.

Mouse would be proud.

The game sprite had been working most of the second, trying to right this latest work of wrongs Megabyte had brought to them. The other load of wrongs she and Mouse were trying to defuse. Little Enzo had been helping too, but as soon as Matrix went offline, so did his smaller counterpart. Now Enzo didn’t want to do anything other than sit in the Diner and watch Mike. AndrAIa’s grin soon turned into a frown. Now that she was done, she would have to go home.

Spam it to Dell.

Matrix was really becoming unbearable to live with and his mood was putting her in a bad one. She was even thinking of taking another room in the P.O. just to be away from him for a little while. The large sprite was just too much for her to handle. Though she couldn’t blame him.

Megabyte and the wedding had hit everyone equally hard, especially the Matrix siblings. Dot wasn’t sure if she could trust her feelings now, Matrix was feeling extremely guilty for letting the real Bob down, while Enzo was stuck in the middle, as best she could figure.

With another sigh, the sprite headed through the corridors of the P.O., dreading the walk that would lead her to her door and the room she shared with her lover. Walking slowly couldn’t curb the arrival at her destination. With a look of sadness on her face, she used her key code to open the door and saw what she feared most.

A clean room.

The place was sparkling, literally sparkling. The bed was made and folded down, the desk cleaned off and tidied, the floor swept, mopped, and if she didn’t know better, waxed. Jpegs and gifs were straightened and hanging nicely on the walls and she definitely detected a hint of lilacs in the air. All in all, the room was perfection.

She hated it.

Walking into the room to inspect, she saw the closet had too be cleaned and tidied and even waxed. She shut the closet door and rolled her eyes. This was just ridiculous. The urge to destroy everything he had cleaned was soon replaced with the feeling of guilt she would have if she did. Raising an eyebrow, she turned when she heard his footfalls outside the door and waited for his smiling face to come waltzing in.

User, he needed help.

Sure enough, the renegade popped into the room, smiling when he saw her. “Hey.” he said, coming over and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Hi.”

Matrix stood back and looked at her. “Something wrong?”

“What makes you think that?” she asked.

“I know you like a read-me.” he smiled.

“Hmmm…” She looked around once more. “I see you’ve been busy.”

“Boy, have I.” he said, brimming like a small boy. Under different circumstances, AndrAIa really would be happy about that. “I cleaned up in here, then I went down to CPU hanger, you know, build up the troops and stuff, and I saw the floor was dirty. So, being the nice guy I am, I cleaned it.

“Which got me started on the CPU cars…I fixed all the mechanical problems, then when I went to go check my bike, take it for a little spin, I found a screw loose. So I took it apart and reconfigured the whole thing. I was gonna work on your bike too, but I figured I would ask first. Besides, we could do it together.”

AndrAIa looked at him. “Yeah.” she said, moving past him towards the small refrigerator. Opening it, she muttered some choice phrase.

“Oh, I also rearranged all the items in the fridge, from smallest to biggest.” he said, seeing the look on her face. “That way we find things easier. Good idea, huh?”

She just closed the door and walked out.

 


 

Dot Matrix was finding it extremely hard to concentrate.

She had been trying to undo the things that…virus had done while in the Principal Office, all the while working out project forms and the like for the Diner. But as soon as she’d start reading something, her mind would wonder back to that second. That horrible second of her wedding. Her wedding was supposed to invoke thoughts of joy, not horror. Not terror. No fleeting thoughts of doubt and guilt.

She had doubted him.

Again.

Three times a charm, isn’t it Matrix? she chastised herself.  Her hopes and dreams of one second getting married to the sprite she loved were over. Simple as that. She knew Bob was trying to talk to her, had been since that horrible, awful time, but she just couldn’t talk to him. Oh, she could be professional, but as far as sitting down and talking, like they used to, she couldn’t. It was too hard.

Seeing him was too hard.

And it wasn’t just his transformation ~though, she should’ve been shot for that right there. She loved him regardless, well except for everything that would remind her of the Web and everything that happened during Megaframe. Basic.~ but whenever they saw each other, he had a haunted look in his eye, a deep sadness that she had given him, she had put him in.

How could she possibly look at him, knowing in her heart, she had chosen someone who was supposed to remind her of happy times. Oh, and happy times indeed it was when Megabyte was revealed.

She had chosen and chosen wrong.

Very, very wrong.

Letting out a sigh of frustration, Dot pushed the files and read-me away from her and stood up. A walk. A walk would be good right now. A walk would clear her head and she’d be out of the office like Phong wanted her to…deleting two nulls with one stone. Perfect.

Walking out of her office, she made small greetings to her staff and told Phong where she was going, ignoring the happy smile he flashed her, and headed outside into the warmth of the new second. She bounded down the steps and began her stroll. But, no sooner had she gotten ten yards, she heard a forgotten, yet familiar voice.

WARNING! INCOMING GAME! WARNING! INCOMING GAME!

Dot looked up at the sky. “Nulls.” she muttered, watching as it started to descend above her. She really should move, get out of the way, but a small voice told her to stay where she was. Remember when games were fun? it asked. No, she thought. Shut up and get in that game. it told her, making sure the rest of her body obeyed it.

 


 

Somewhere in the Principal Office, the read only room to be exact, Matrix’s head popped up from a hidden shelf he had been rearranging. “Dang.” he said, disheartened. “This is really gonna put me behind schedule.” Giving a sigh of defeat, he got up and headed out.

 


 

AndrAIa was just about to venture back to her room in order to get lunch when she heard the call. Standing in the corridor, she looked up and uttered two words she never thought she’d use when talking about a game.

“Thank you.”

 


 

Enzo too heard the call and against his better judgment, he slid off the Diner stool reluctantly, grabbed his zipboard and headed outside, ignoring Cecil’s protest that “Madam would have his little bitmap” if he didn’t come back.

 


 

One blue sprite hurried as fast as he could to make that game. He had been taking a nap, something he was doing a lot of lately, and had suddenly woken up when he heard the game coming. Unfortunately, his tiredness made him a bit clumsy and he had a few hits and misses when it came to leaving his apartment. He barely had time to reach the outskirts of the cube when it hit the ground, barely hearing four sprites ask, “What’re you doing here?”

 

THE ORBS OF ZONDE

 

Four sprites looked at each other, wondering what the others were doing there. “What’re you doing here?” they all asked.

“You are not supposed to be in a game!” Dot and Matrix chastised, though it was Dot to Enzo and Matrix to Dot.

“I was out taking a walk!” Dot defended when she realized Matrix had been talking to her.

“And I…wanted to make sure someone was in the game.” Enzo replied, shrugging his shoulders.

“Hey gang,” AndrAIa interrupted. “Let’s not argue here, okay? Most importantly, there are four us in here, which is good, cause we’re gonna need all the help we can get.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Dot.

“This is the Orbs of Zonde.” AndrAIa replied. “We have to find all seven orbs in order to win and the User is way ahead of us. Luckily though, he hasn’t found any either.”

“So all we gotta do is split up.” Enzo concluded.

“Exactly.” the game sprite said. “I’m going right. Who’s with me?”

“I’ll go with you, AndrAIa.” Dot said.

“No you won’t.” she said, looking over at Matrix. “Next.”

“I’ll go with you.” the renegade replied.

AndrAIa laughed. “I don’t think so.” she chuckled, looking at Enzo expectantly.

“I’ll…go…with you?”

AndrAIa thought about it and then said, “Yes. Yes you will.” She could work on Enzo and Matrix collectively.

“Why does he get to go with you?” Matrix asked, a slight twinge of jealousy in his voice.

“Because I asked him to.” she replied. “Now the two of you,” she began, pointing towards the left and then finally pushing them in the direction when they didn’t move. “The two of you go that way and we’ll each find orbs. Guaranteed.”

Matrix and Dot looked at each other. They did not like this arrangement. Nor did they like this game. “Just be careful, all right.” Matrix said. “This game feels totally off for some reason.”

“I agree.” Dot added.

“Forgetaboutit.” AndrAIa replied, giving Matrix one last push. “We’ll see you when the game ends.”

With that, the game sprite and small boy went off in their direction, while the brother and sister team reluctantly went off in theirs. Enzo and AndrAIa headed off in their direction, simultaneously rebooting as they walked. Their clothes only changed into more casual attire, Dre booting into a blue t-shirt and white shorts, while Enzo seemed to keep his regular dress.

“This is what we get?” he asked, incredulously.

“Kinda 8-bit, huh?” AndrAIa supplied, continuing their walk. “But hey, if we get the orbs then it doesn’t matter, right? You gotta learn to use what you got.”

Their scenery was that of an urban street, with buildings all around. The only thing missing was the people, which both AndrAIa and Enzo found not only odd, but extremely disturbing. The streets were quiet with the exception of them and they didn’t see the User anywhere.

“Andri, I’m going to be completely honest,” Enzo began, looking at their surroundings. “I’m a bit jagged out here. Shouldn’t there be people and stuff around? Where’s the cars and kids and binomes and sprites and stuff?”

The game sprite shrugged, the same feeling washing over her as well. “Who knows, Little Sparky,” she said. “All I know is, we are heading in the right direction. We should find those orbs in no time. I just hope Dot and Matrix can get along for like five nanos in order to find their share.”

 


 

Dot and Matrix, for their part, remained silent as they searched their half of the game’s city. The two hadn’t said anything to each other since entering the game and the silence between them was becoming nerve racking.

“So…” Dot began, just looking for something to say.

“So.”

“How’re things?”

“Things are fine.” Matrix replied. “Real fine. How’re things with you?”

“Great.” Dot responded. “Just great.”

The renegade nodded, also feeling the awkwardness of the conversation and the immediate silence, but he couldn’t help it. He wasn’t sure what he should say to Dot. She had come close to marrying his arch-enemy. And yes, he had been party to the charade as well, but who better to know the sprite and love of your life from a power hungry virus bent on revenge against you and your family but the bride to be? which of course only brought more guilt upon Matrix.

Because he should known, too.

Besides, the best way to keep his mind from the whole thing was to concentrate on this 8-bit game that was giving him jaggies left and right and apparently Dot had felt the same thing. But the two didn’t share their concerns with each other, just continued to walk along the streets.

“All right,” Dot said, stopping in the middle of the street. “That’s it. This is ridiculous.”

“What?” her brother asked, stopping in front of her.

“What?” she repeated in awe. She gestured around them and at their attire, which like Andri and Enzo, hadn’t changed all that much. “This, Enzo. All of this…is just…I don’t even know! I can’t think of a word to even describe how completely and utterly useless this is.”

“I think you might’ve hit on something.” he replied, sarcastically.

“Don’t start with me.”

“What?” Matrix asked.

“If you’re going to give me some big lecture about how I shouldn’t be in here…”

“I wasn’t gonna say that!” Matrix exclaimed. “User! What null crawled up your ASCII and deleted? Besides, just who do you think you are?”

“I’m your sister.” Dot said, standing up to her brother. “And I’m the oldest.”

“And I’m so much bigger than you are.” retorted the renegade.

“Ah yes,” replied the commander. “Full of brawn with very little brain. If you had been thinking, dear brother, you would notice something is definitely not right here. Have you seen the User? Well, of course you haven’t, dipswitch!”

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Exactly what I said.” Dot said. “And don’t even think your little whirly mechanical eye is gonna intimidate me.”

The siblings stood in a stand off, both being too stubborn to back down or apologize. Just when it seemed they could come to blows, Matrix turned his head, his eye adjusting to find what he thought he heard. “What?” Dot asked, annoyed that he even try to walk away during an argument.

“I thought I heard something.”

“Like the User?”

“No, like a marching band.” he retorted. “I don’t know what I heard, Dot. But I’m sure if we went looking for it, we’d find out. Who’s little of brains now?”

“Don’t get so happy,” came the reply. “It’s still you.”

 


 

AndrAIa and Enzo weren’t sure how long they had been walking, but it was apparent they were bored and might be lost. “AndrAIa…” Enzo began to whine. “This is a basic game. I say we just leave.”

“Uh huh.” she said. “And we’ll do that how?”

The boy began to say something, then stopped. Well, of course they couldn’t leave the game. They had to find the orbs of what’s their bucket and then of course, they’d have to go back and find Dot and Matrix, assuming of course they hadn’t torn themselves apart. The boy rubbed his forehead. Thinking about this game made his head hurt.

“Whoa.” AndrAIa said, coming to halt. In front of them seemed  to be a large cavern. In the middle of the street. “That’s a little odd.”

“What?” the boy asked.

The game sprite looked at him. “You…do see the cavern right in front of us, right?”

“Yeah?”

“Isn’t that strange to you?” she asked. The boy shrugged.

“It’s a change of pace and scenery.” he said. “Picks up a slow game.”

Andri nodded. “Well,” she said. “It also holds our fate. Take a guess at where we’ll find those orbs.”

 


 

Dot and Matrix crept around the corner of one building, both on high alert. The noise Matrix had heard had come from around there and now both were convinced they might have stumbled on to the User. But as they checked and rechecked, they weren’t finding anything. Letting out a sigh of frustration, Matrix stopped, put Gun back on his hip, and folded his arms.

“So now what?” Dot asked, to which her brother shrugged. “C’mon Enzo, there’s gotta be something. We’ve been in here for too long already, I think.”

“We can’t get out of here until we find those orb things.” Matrix said. “And even then, we have to make sure Enzo and AndrAIa found their half before this game ends.”

Dot was only half paying attention, noticing a partially opened door that was only a few feet from them. “Hey,” Matrix replied, looking at Dot. “You listening?”

“Was that door there a few moments ago?” she asked.

“What door?”

Dot indicated said door with a nod of her head. “I don’t know.” Matrix said. “I didn’t notice. Why? You think something’s up?”

“Won’t know till we look, will we?” she asked, a smile on her face.

Matrix shook his head, a small chuckle escaping his lips. “You always did like looking for trouble.”

Dot smirked, as they headed towards the door. “You’re certainly one to talk.”

 


 

“I don’t believe it.”

AndrAIa and Enzo had walked into the mysterious cavern, only to come upon three small gems nestled in place up ahead of them. They were white and as they came towards them, they began to glow.

“What an incredible and convenient coincidence.” Enzo muttered. “So, that’s it? We just get ’em and get out of here?”

“There has got to be a catch.” AndrAIa replied, not really believing this was as easy as it looked. Just then, the floor began to shake.

WARNING. GAME CORRUPTION!

The two sprite looked at each other.

“You just had to say something, didn’t you?” Enzo asked, sarcastically.

“This is not good.”

 


 

Dot and Matrix walked into the darkened room, which appeared to be a warehouse of some sort. And it wasn’t really dark. As they walked through, four glowing lights appeared before them.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” Matrix muttered, taking a closer look at the orbs. “Is it me or is this way too easy?”

“Way too easy.” Dot agreed. “Which means there’s a catch of some sort, but hey. Who cares? We get these things, we get out. What could go wrong?”

All of a sudden, the building move, nearly knocking the two down. “What the Dell was that?” Dot asked, once the tremor subsided a bit.

WARNING! GAME CORRUPTION! WARNING! GAME CORRUPTION!

Matrix looked at his sister. “What could go wrong, Dot?” he asked, sarcastically. “That could go wrong.”

“Shut up.”

The ground again began to shake and small cracks started to appear. “Well renegade,” Dot asked. “What do we do?”

“Why’re you asking me?” he asked. “You’re the command.com! Besides, you told me to shut up.”

“Well, un-shut up and think of something!”

“What about ‘full of brawn and very little brain’, huh?” he shot back. “I’ll have you know, that just hurt.” The cracks began to get bigger. “Man, I wish Bob was here.”

“Please Enzo, don’t start.” Dot pleaded. “I think we have enough problems without bringing Bob into the mix.”

“Hey, I was happily cleaning the read only room.” he defended. “I could be knee deep in files right now.”

Another, much larger tremor hit the building, causing debris to fall around them. “I suggest we get out of here!” Matrix shouted.

“What about the orbs?” Dot asked.

Another crash was heard, shaking the building to the very foundation. The orbs, which had been glowing regardless, seemed to be hovering above their stationary. Before Dot or Matrix could see or even comment on the situation, two of the orbs shot forward, one hitting Matrix square in the chest and sending him backwards, the other hitting Dot in the side, sending her down to her knees.

 


 

Enzo and AndrAIa were in a similar predicament, except they were surrounded by hard, sharp rocks. “How’re we gonna get out of this?” Enzo shouted, above the roar of the cave.

“Simple,” Andri shouted back. “We get those orbs, take a flying leap out of here, find your brother and sister, and hope this game doesn’t crash before we end it.”

“Oh, is that all?”

AndrAIa shot him a look before the cavern again began to shake, pieces of rock falling everywhere. “We gotta get those orbs!” the game sprite shouted.

“How?” Enzo asked. “And how’s it gonna help if we don’t know if Matrix and Dot got theirs?”

“We’ll take a random guess!”

“I wish I was in the Diner right now.”

“Yeah, well I wish these shakes would stop, then I could get to those stupid orbs.”

“AndrAIa…” Enzo started, noticing the orbs starting to life up.

“Now, if I could get over there, snatch the orbs…”

“Dre…”

“Not now, Enzo.” she said, trying to think up a plan. “Do some sort of aerial flip, grab Enzo, and dash out the front.”

“AndrAIa, I think you should see this.”

She went over it again in her head. “Yeah, that should work.” she said to herself. Finally turning to Enzo, she asked, “Okay, what did you…”

A small impact hit her side, just as Enzo went sailing past her. Shaking her head, she looked up and saw Enzo on his back, rubbing his chest. “Enzo, you all right?” she asked, going over and giving him a hand up.

“I think so.” the boy replied, wiping off his jeans.

“Let’s split our loses and get the heck outta Dodge here.”

The two went running out into the street and skidded to a stop when they saw Matrix and Dot approach them.

WARNING! GAME CORRUPTION! WARNING! GAME CORRUPTION!

“Are we glad to see you two!” AndrAIa said.

“You guys all right?” Dot asked, doing a quick eye search of their persons.

“Yeah,” Enzo puffed. “But I have a feeling we might not be. What’re we gonna…”

His question was swallowed up as the game started to implode on itself and suddenly began lifting into the air, collapsing on itself mid flight and leaving the quartet in the center of Baudway, in between the Diner and the Principal Office. The four looked at each other in stunned shock.

“Well…” AndrAIa began.

“Whatta trip.” Enzo said, as he started walking towards the Diner.

The four headed off behind the small boy, each feeling slightly strange, but figuring it to be the effects of the game’s condition. None of them thought perhaps they should tell Phong about the incident, after all, they got out, didn’t they?

 


 

Bob paced back and forth in front of the Diner’s double doors, ignoring the low growl he had heard from Frisket. The whole system had heard the game’s warning and he was extremely worried, especially when he thought he had seen Dot enter that game and his suspicious were confirmed when he called Phong and the old sprite hadn’t seen her since she left before the game dropped.

He was still pacing when the group walked towards the Diner. Bob, seeing them, instantly began apologizing. “Dot, I’m so sorry.” he said. “I tried to make it in the game, really I did, but see I kinda overslept and I know that’s my fault and all, I’ve just been so tired lately for some reason, but that’s no excuse of course!”

Dot listened, or at least tried, to Bob’s ramblings. Actually, she was paying more attention to his lips more than anything. The irresistible urge to go over and kiss him was starting to win out, burying the voice of reason under a ten foot pile of dirt. Walking over to him seductively, she looked up at him as he continued to explain why he hadn’t been in the game.

Then, just like that, she grabbed him by the front of his shirt, and kissed him.

Bob, for his part, was stunned to say the least. Of course, it did nothing to stop his arm from going around her waist. When she pulled back, she licked her lips.

“You’re so cute when you ramble.”

She gave a small giggle, before walking into the Diner. Bob stood there, confused. He turned slightly, wondering if what happened had really happened.

The trio that was left, stood there, not really sure what to make of the scene either. “I’m glad they finally got back together.” Matrix said. “We really should get them some sort of ‘you’re together again after that horrible almost marrying the arch enemy virus thing, so we’re incredibly happy for you, for getting back together that is and not the virus thing’ present. Come, Enzo.” he exclaimed, snapping the boy out of his stupor. “There’s things to be done.”

The brothers left, leaving AndrAIa standing there with Bob, who was still in shock.

“Bob, Bob, Bob,” the game sprite said, patting him on the shoulder. “You really should pick your jaw off the ground. Someone might come along and step on it.” And with that, she turned and entered the Diner.

THE SIN’S ALL HERE

 

And from there, the randomness started. When Mouse and Ray come back into the system, returning from a scouting mission, things seemed to be as they left them. Or so they thought. Apparently, four of their citizens had just taken that dive off of the normalcy board. Mouse, always wanting to find adventure, made her first stop the Diner.

Upon entering the Diner, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. She saw Bob, or rather the back of his head, sitting in a booth and turning every which way. When she walked up behind him and laid a hand on his shoulder, he jumped a mile high out of his seat. “Mouse!” he cried. “Oh Mouse, thank the User it’s you. I was afraid you were…her.

“Her who?” asked Ray, as the two new comers sat across from the guardian.

“Dot.” he said, again looking around him. “I’ve been trying to hide from her all second.”

Mouse looked at Bob, then Ray, then back at Bob. “I’m sorry, what?” she asked. “You’ve been hiding from her?”

Bob nodded. “She won’t leave me alone.” he said. “She’s trying to seduce me.”

Again Mouse looked at Bob, then Ray, then Bob again. “You…wait…wait, a nano.” she stumbled. “Start from the beginning, Honey, cause you are not making any sense.”

Bob told her of the dropping game, how he had missed it, and the behavior of the four that had gone in. “So she saunters over and kisses me.” he continued. “And then, when I finally came into the Diner, she called me into her office, closed the door, and jumped me. Literally jumped me from behind!”

Mouse was terribly confused.

“Then she kissed me again.” Bob said. “With tongue and everything! I thought I was going to delete! Thank the User I made it out alive. I’ve been avoiding her since.”

Mouse looked at Bob. Did he just say…? “Bob…” she began, still trying to get a grasp of what he just said. “Let…let me get this straight. The sprite of your dreams, the woman you will marry ~ and you will marry her, Sugah ~ just…I guess ravish…maybe molest, would be right, just ‘molested’ you and you’re…complaining?”

When Bob thought about it, it did seem odd in a…odd way. He had been trying to get Dot to just talk to him and now she was throwing herself at him. It was like a dream come true. “I don’t want that Dot.” he whispered. “I want my Dot.” The guardian sighed. “Something weird’s been going on ever since she got out of that game.” he said. “And it’s not just her. I’ve….”

Before Bob could finish his thought, they heard the familiar sound of a piano riff. “You’re just too good to be true…” came the first line then, “Can’t take my eyes off of you…”

The three turned to see Dot, dolled up in the infamous red gown she had worn for Matrix’s upgrade all of last hour, microphone in hand, and leaning seductively against the counter. A small band appeared behind her, complete with drum set, rhythm section, and horns. Mouse shook her head. “I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before.” she murmured.

Bob was incredibly embarrassed, if not slightly flattered. Dot was singing directly to him, though she stopped to flirt with some of the other patrons, who were just as shocked as he was. Upon the chorus, she sauntered over to him, running her fingers through his hair.

“I love you, baby, and if it’s quite all right, I need you, baby, to hold the lonely nights, oh pretty baby, trust in me when I say…”

Near the end of the first chorus, Dot left the booth occupied by her friends and would-be fiancee, walked back to the counter, had two patrons help her on to the bar counter, where she did the second chorus.

“Oh pretty baby, don’t bring me down, I pray, oh pretty baby, now that I found you stay. And let me love you, baby, let me love youuuuuu….”

“I hope this is on tape.” Mouse said, not bothering to hide the grin on her face.

After the impromptu song, Dot had once again come back over to the booth. “Like the song, Bob?” she asked.

Bob gulped. “It was great.”

She looked over and saw Ray sitting next to Mouse. “Hi Ray,” she said, giving him a sexy smile. “You’re looking hot, as always. When’d you get back?”

“Uh…just today, actually.” Ray gulped, giving Mouse a look.

“I came back too, Honey.” she drawled.

“Yeah, that’s great.” Dot said, quickly, her attention more on Ray than anything. “So Ray…anything new? With you?”

“Uh…”

Just then, AndrAIa walked in, pushing the doors open like an old west saloon. “Yes, yes, it’s me.” she said, smiling. “Please, people, please! There’s enough of me to go around.” She pointed at one of Mike’s camera guys, saying “No flash photography.” Coming to the booth, she address the occupants.

“No, no,” she said. “Don’t get up. I want you guys to continue treating like the same sprite I’ve always been. Forget the fact that my name is AndrAIa…” She then did some super hero pose. “Super Sprite.”

Mouse and Ray looked at her, then turned to Bob.

“She saved a kitten earlier.” he said.

“I didn’t just save the kitten, Bob.” AndrAIa replied, rolling her eyes. “Only one thing stood between that cat and the cold, hard, spine breakin’ ground. And that thing was me.”

Dot nodded. “It was a good catch.” she agreed.

“It was, wasn’t it?” AndrAIa replied. “But I can’t take all the credit.”

“You can’t?” Bob asked, surprised.

“No!” she exclaimed. “I gotta thank Mike and his crew. They caught my good side as I rescued that poor, defenseless cat from the clutches of deletion. Right as that little buddle of fur plunged to….”

A vidwindow popped up in front of them, the smiling face of Matrix on the other side. “Hello darling.” he addressed AndrAIa.

“Matrix,” she huffed. “I was talking.”

“Sorry, but I’m glad you’re there.” he said. “I was actually looking for Dot, but now that I found you, you can come home and see what I’ve done.”

“What have you done?” Bob asked, suddenly very worried.

“You’re just gonna have to see.” And with that, the connection was broken.

AndrAIa rolled her eyes. “He would make me come home.” she sighed. She looked at Dot and asked, “Wanna come with?”

“Sure.” Dot replied. “Just let me change into something a little more…comfortable.” She gave both Bob and Ray a wink, then headed into her office. Within a nano, she was back, dressed in a shot black mini skirt and a tank top. “Ready.” she said, bouncing a couple of times. She then headed out the door.

AndrAIa leaned over to Bob. “Be careful, Bob.” she whispered. “I think she’s advertising.”

 


 

When AndrAIa and Dot arrived at the Principal Office, they noticed several moving vans at the steps and movers going in an out. Following one, he lead them straight to the room AndrAIa was sharing with Matrix. Upon entering the room, both sprites jaws dropped to the ground.

Their shared room was now covered in the finest anything you could ask for. There was a brand new bed in the center, complete with designer headboard made of wood, next to that was a small cascading waterfall. Dot looked around. “Been shopping, recently?” she asked.

AndrAIa back out of the room, still in shock. Seeing her lover at the far end, she headed towards him, but stopped when she passed the center room. Walking back, she saw a very large entertainment center, complete with big screen TV, DVD, and mp3 players. Across from that was a large, reclining couch, to which a small green sprite was attached.

Keeping that little spot in the forefront of her processor, Dre continued her walk. Matrix was checking a list one of the movers had given to him when AndrAIa and Dot came up. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “You made it. I’m so glad you’re here, you wouldn’t believe.”

“You’re right.” the game sprite replied, looking around. “I don’t.”

“I really am glad to see you, Andri.” he said, a warm smile coming to his face.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” he said. He put the same board list in front of her. “I need you to sign this.”

“What for?”

“It’s for the pool table they just installed.” he said, quickly, hurrying off to catch a mover that had gone in the room Enzo was.

“A pool table?” AndrAIa asked, incredulously.

“Don’t you need authorization for that?” Dot asked. “By the Command.Com?”

The game sprite looked at her. “You’re the Command.Com.”

“Oh yeah.” she said. When realization hit, she exclaimed, “Hey!” and took off after her brother, Andri finishing the rear.

They easily located Matrix, who was currently yelling at a mover. “The Ming vase does not go in here!” he was saying. “It needs to be in the sleeping area or else you will ruin the entire Feng Shui of the room.”

“A little help here?” Andri asked of Dot, who nodded.

The commander walked over to her brother, laying a hand on his arm. “Matrix…” she began, but noticed the defined muscles of her younger brother. “My what…big muscles you have.” she cooed.

Matrix looked at his sister. “Not now, Dot,” he said, removing her hand. “I’m negotiating.”

“Enzo!” AndrAIa cried, staring at the little sprite on the couch.

His eyes never leaving the screen, he held up one finger and shushed her. “This is the part where Esmeralda tells Juan she’s pregnant with Jose’s baby.” he whispered.

AndrAIa rolled her eyes. What was wrong with these people? “Matrix,” she said, walking over to him. “What’re you doing?”

“Well, see, Enzo and I were trying to think of something to give Bob and Dot for their ‘getting back together again after that horrible…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Dre said quickly, trying to rush through the obvious. “Back to me and our humble abode.”

“Right.” the large sprite replied. “Anyway, we’re sitting here, watching TV, trying to think up something, when…”

“Whoa.” Dot interrupted. “This was already here?” She pointed at the large screen television.

“Yeah.” Matrix nodded.

Dot looked at her baby brother. “Where did you get a big screen TV from?”

“Can’t talk now.” the boy replied, as he munched on a bag of chips. “Eating.”

“Anyways,” Matrix began again. “We flipped to the shopping network and volia!”

AndrAIa blew out a frustrated sigh. “And we needed all this stuff because…?”

Matrix gave a chuckle, shaking his head in amusement. “Doesn’t our room look so much better now?” he asked. “I even took the liberty of making a house out of these rooms, AndrAIa. This is the entertainment room. Next door is our bedroom, complete with cascading waterfall. Down the hall is the kitchen. It’s like a house. I did this for you, I do it all for you.”

“Well, duh!” AndrAIa huffed. “Who else would you do it for? But I think you might…”

“AndrAIa, come in. Do you read?” came a staticy voice from the tan sprite’s arm.

“I read.” she said, speaking into her watch. “What’s the problem?”

“Well, you told me to tell when something big was happening.” replied the voice. “I thought you’d like to know there’s a robbery in progress in the SC.”

“Yes!” AndrAIa exclaimed. “Just what I need to go national.” To the mysterious speaker, she said, “Thanks, Chief. I’ll try to remember to thank you when I’ve saved all those people. Dre out.”

“Do you think that’s wise?” Dot asked.

“What?”

“Going to the SC and interfering in a robbery?”

“Interfering?” AndrAIa scoffed. “Do you know who I am? I’m AndrAIa…Super Sprite. I think a little bitty robbery ain’t gonna hit me. Besides,” she said, grabbing Dot’s arm. “You’re coming with me.”

“I am?”

“You is.” Giving one last look to the Matrix boys, she said, “We’ll discuss the added rooms when I return.”

 

SAVING PRIVATE JOHNSON

 

 

Bob stood outside the Super Computer First National Bank, along with about several hundred other guardians. The young guardian had been in the middle of a discussion with Turbo, the Collective’s leader, when the call that one Herbert Johnson, a priest at a nearby sanctuary, had just stormed into the First National and had taken hostages. Bob found the behavior very strange, especially when Turbo told him of the sprite’s demand.

All he wanted was a condo in the luxurious system of Bymar.

Bob, wanting to be of assistance, had made a portal to the SC and came face to face with the action. Though it seemed to be under control, the guardian couldn’t help but stay to see how things would end. On top of that, he couldn’t help but begin thinking about the strangeness of the situation, added with his own problems in Mainframe.

As he was considering going back home, a portal opened beside him and out stepped AndrAIa and Dot. “What’re you doing here?” he asked, more of Dot than anyone else.

“Don’t worry, Bob.” the game sprite said. “I’m here. I’ll handle the situation.”

“Like Dell you will.” he said, grabbing the tan sprite’s arm. “Leave this to the professionals, AndrAIa.”

“Bob, hello.” she said, rolling her eyes. “I am a professional.”

“Not in the same sense.”

“So would you like me to do, Bob?” Andri asked. “Just stand here?”

“Oddly enough, yeah.” Bob said, sarcastically.

AndrAIa blew out a breath. “At least brief me on the situation.”

Bob was about to protest, but shook his head. What would it hurt. “There’s a guy in there with a couple of hostages.” he said. “Don’t worry. There’s a negotiator here, so it’ll be taken care of.”

“And that’s it?”

“What more would you do?” he asked.

“Just watch.” she said, and before Bob could grab her, she took off and ran inside the bank.

“Oh great!” Bob exclaimed. “Dot, how could you…Dot? Dot?” Bob looked around him and groaned. Where the Dell was Dot?

 


 

AndrAIa rushed into the bank and looked around. So far, she saw three of the bank attendants sitting in a huddle on the floor. The sprite in question was only a few feet away from her. He was holding another sprite, who seemed to be the manager, in one arm and had a gun in his other hand.

“Hey!”

The pastor turned, pointing his gun at AndrAIa. “Who are you?” he shouted. “What’re you doing here?”

“Whoa, whoa.” Andri said, trying to calm the man down. “There’s no need for that, right? I’m just here to talk.”

“Look, I don’t want to talk.” he said, waving his gun. “I told them what I wanted, now get away from me or I’ll shoot.”

“You wouldn’t do that.”

“Yes, I would!” he screamed. “Now, get away!”

“Please Miss,” the bank manager pleaded. “He’s serious.”

“He’s not gonna do anything.” AndrAIa said, a smile on her face.

“Get back!” the gunman shouted.

All was quiet on the outside of the bank, until one large shot rang out.

“AndrAIa!” Bob shouted through the bullhorn he had snatched from a cadet next to him. “Dre, say something! Are you all right?”

All of Bob’s questions were met with silence. The guardians and the crowd that had gathered outside were silent as silence met silence. Suddenly, five figures moved towards the door. The hostages exited first, with AndrAIa coming behind them.

“It’s okay!” she shouted. “I’m fine! Make sure you check them out, they’ve really had a scare.” she told one of the Med units. “And I think our little hostage taker needs some medical attention. I so kicked his ASCII.”

The crowd began to cheer, as the guardians rushed inside to check on Johnson. The media was soon on the steps in order to interview the game sprite. “Can I ask you some questions?” asked one reporter.

“The name’s AndrAIa.” the game sprite replied, a smirk on her face. “Super Sprite.”

“What made you run in there?” asked another.

“Well, I see it as my duty to rescue those I see as weak as helpless,” she said. “Compared to me of course. You see it all started when I was living in the game Treasures of…”

“She means she likes to play that particular game a lot.” Bob jumped in, covering AndrAIa’s mouth with his hand. “No further questions.”

Keeping his hand over her mouth, he whisked the game sprite off to semi crowded part of the scene, where they could at least talk in somewhat privacy.

“Now, why did you do that?” she asked. “I could’ve gone national.”

“Because you were about to hang yourself!” Bob exclaimed. “We’re trying to keep certain aspects of Mainframe from getting out, remember?”

“Why?”

“Hello!” Bob cried. “The media can and will destroy us.”

“Hey,” she said, her finger hitting Bob’s chest. “Nothing can destroy me.”

“Are you bleeding?” he asked, noticing the blue fluid running down her arm.

AndrAIa looked at herself. “Huh.” she said, seeing the large cut. “Oh my.” She looked and there was indeed a small stream of energy coming from her arm. “Yes, I am. I guess that bullet must’ve grazed me.”

“Didn’t that hurt?”

The game sprite smirked. “Please.” she said. “I can handle anything. No big file.”

“What is wrong with you?!” Bob demanded, rather than ask. “No big file? You almost got yourself deleted! Dre, I have never known you to back down from anything, but I’ve never known you go running into danger either.”

AndrAIa stood and let Bob’s words set in. “It’s not like you.” he whispered.

“No, it’s not.” she said, some realization coming to her. “Bob, I don’t want to alarm you, but I think something very weird’s been going on since that game left.”

Bob rolled his eyes. “I agree.” he said. “Look, let’s go find Dot and get back to Mainframe. I only feel safe there for the time being.”

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know.” Bob said, looking around. When he did spot her, his energy began to boil. There was Dot, shamelessly flirting with one of the young cadets wearing an outfit that drew attention to everything Bob didn’t want other sprites looking at. Marching over to where she was, Bob pulled her by the shirt to be behind his back.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” he demanded of the young sprite.

“We’re were just…” he sputtered.

“Just what?” Bob exclaimed.

“Hey, it’s not my fault your girlfriend was hitting on me!” the sprite defended.

“You ought to be ashamed.” Bob continued. “Not only in the middle of the second, but in the middle of a crisis!”

“I can’t help it if you’re not giving her what she needs!”

Bob’s ire nearly got the best of him before he stopped and pointed at the cadet. “You’re suspended.”

“You can’t do that!” the cadet yelled.

“As a member of the graduated class, not to mention a former instructor, I can do whatever the Dell I want!” Bob shouted. “Now get back to your dorm and start clearing out your stuff.” Turning to the girls, he said, “And as for the two of you, I’m making a portal and you had better be in it.” Picking up Dot and throwing her over his shoulder, Bob did exactly that.

“Damn.” AndrAIa replied to the cadet. “You’re ASCII was chewed out big time!”

“It was her fault.” the cadet fumed.

“Never go against Bob, Guardian 452.” she retorted. “You’re not gonna win. Well, unless of course you’re me, which in any case…”

“AndrAIa!”

“Gotta go.” She turned and hurried into the portal.

The cadet stormed off towards his dorm, mumbling about how the great 452 could always get his way no matter what. Suddenly the cadet was gripped by a sharp pain that quickly vanished. He now had a purpose. He wasn’t about to let that uppity Bob get his way this time.

Not at all.

 


 

Bob stormed towards the Principal Office, with Dot and AndrAIa right behind him. “Bob, are you mad?” asked Dot, causing the blue guardian to spin around as he reached the door.

“Mad?” he asked, out of belief. “Mad? No, Dot. Why in the Net would I be mad, just cause one of my friends nearly gets herself erased by storming into a hostage situation and my other friend practically throws herself onto a Guardian cadet, someone much younger than you and you think I’m mad?”

Dot and AndrAIa looked at him.

“You just seem a little upset, is all.” the Command.Com replied.

Bob groaned and punched in his code. “All I’m saying is that your behavior since that game has just been un…be…liev…”

Bob’s sentence just stopped, as he looked around at all the stuff that now littered the Principal Office’s hallways. The girls too were shocked, seeing as they left the building ~ and though the renegade had bought stuff~ it wasn’t nearly as bad as this.

There was a large grandfather clock standing by the wall, next to a punching bag and various, assumably, empty boxes. There were pinball games off to the side, five incredibly large mirrors, another large screen TV, and two couches.

“Matrix!” AndrAIa yelled.

The large sprite slid his way into the hallway. “Hey, you’re back!” he said, walking towards them. “The Deco collection just came in and it’s to delete for. Come on.” He turned around and was almost beheaded by a binome mover carrying a very large tropical plant.

“Excuse me, hello!” the renegade said, by passing the mover and the plant. “Almost decapitated.”

They followed the renegade into the “entertainment area”, while Enzo had firmly planted himself on the couch and was flipping through the channels looking for something to watch. “What is this?!” Bob exclaimed, looking around in awe.

“Oh Bob, that’s right.” Matrix said, flinging an arm around him. “You haven’t seen our abode yet. Well, this is the entertainment area…”

“Where and how did you get all this stuff??”

“I did some typing, some calling…some negotiating…” Matrix said, mysteriously.

“Define ‘negotiating’.” Bob said.

“All I did was say it would be in the best interest of all if I, and Dot Matrix Enterprises, got this stuff in a timely manner.”

“You threatened?” AndrAIa asked.

“You used my name??” Dot asked.

“I couldn’t wait for 6 to 8 cycle delivery!” Matrix protested. “We need this stuff!”

“You had better have talked to somebody cute.” Dot fumed.

“Guys!” Bob exclaimed. “In case you didn’t notice, something very strange is going on here!”

“How so?” AndrAIa asked, causing a look from Bob.

“Don’t worry.” he continued. “I’ve got Mouse and Ray checking around, looking…”

“Bob!” came the excited voice from the instant pop up. “Honey, you will not believe this. Ray and I searched up one way and down another, and it seems as though our friendly lil game made its way past the SC.”

“Well, what happened?” AndrAIa asked.

“A bunch.” Mouse drawled. “You know the seven deadly sins?”

“The who of the what?” Matrix asked.

“The seven deadly sins.” Bob repeated. “Which does make sense, considering.”

“Are you gonna tell us what they are?” asked Dot.

“Well, I always thought it was some User myth.” Bob began. “Apparently, they are the signs of inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil.” At the looks he received, Bob amended, “It’s basically a paragon of good being brought down by self destruction.”

Another round of looks.

“It’s bad, okay?” he said. “Pride, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed, envy, and anger. It could easily drive whoever’s infected over board.”

“Anyway, Bob,” Mouse interrupted. “Have you read today’s news file?”

“No, why?”

Mouse held up a file and began reading. “Yesterday, one Arthur Peterson was hit by a moving bus, while trying to retrieve a penny.” she said.

“So what?” asked Matrix.

“The penny was across the street.” Mouse said.

“Definitely the act of greed.” Bob said. “And I’m sure our friend Mr. Johnson was suffering from a bad case of envy. Unfortunately, we’ve got one more sin to find.”

“Whadda mean, one more?” asked AndrAIa. “You said there were seven. I only counted two.”

Bob just looked at her. “You’re kidding me, right?” he asked. When he only got looks of confusion, he shook his head in awe. “Hello! The other four are right here! Pride, sloth, gluttony, and lust! Do I need to spell it out?”

“Gluttony?!” Matrix exclaimed, his mouth full of pie. “I don’t over eat.”

“Gluttony doesn’t have to always be associated with food.” Mouse corrected.

“It’s when you over do,” Bob added. “Which you’ve been doing a lot of lately. And that,” he continued when Enzo let out a rather large belch. “Is sloth.”

“A happy energetic boy reduced to a couch tater.” Mouse tsked.

“There is something wrong with this picture.” Matrix commented, staring down at his young brother.

“I’m glad you see it, too.” Bob said.

“You need chips.” the large sprite addressed the boy. “I’ll be back.” He then got up and headed for the “kitchen area”.

“You know,” AndrAIa replied. “I’m glad you brought this to my attention. There’s only one thing for me to do. I’ll have to go out, find that game, and take care of it, once and for all. Once. And. For. All.”

“You are going to do nothing.” Bob said, watching as Matrix re-entered the room, large bowl of chips in hand.

“There ya go, Sprout.” the renegade replied, handing said bowel over to Enzo.

“I’m gonna be thirsty soon.” the boy said, digging into the snack.

“Bob, we could be in some trouble here.” Mouse mumbled.

“You mean more trouble, Mouse?” the guardian asked, sarcastically. “Hoo boy. Tell it to me.”

“There really is no way to rid someone of a sin.”

Bob flew out a breath and looked at his friend. “Great.” he muttered. “I don’t believe this, I just can’t believe this. I mean, I always knew a game could potentially harm us, but this?? This is random, to say the least. Two people are suffering for their consequences, my friends have been infected, there’s still one sin left…and are you actually drinking in the middle of the second??”

Matrix, chilled spirit glass in hand, looked up at his friend. “I was feeling down about this sin thing,” he replied. “So I thought I’d cheer myself up. Bubbly?” he asked, holding out the glass to Bob.

“No.” Bob growled.

Matrix shrugged, then turned to his brother, who lay sprawled out on the couch. “Bubbly, Enzo?”

“Matrix!” AndrAIa cried. “You’re actually offering him alcohol?”

Again, the big sprite shrugged. “What could it hurt?” he asked. For that, he had his glass snatch away. A small binome standing in the doorway stopped the game sprite from smashing the glass she now held over her lover’s head.

“Yes?” Bob asked.

“Um…” the ‘nome began. “Delivery for Mr. Matrix.”

“That’s me.” Matrix said, hopping over the couch. He signed for the delivery and watched as a young yellow sprite and another binome carry in several bouquets of flowers. “How gorgeous!” he cooed, as they walked in.

“When did you have time to order this?” Bob asked, incredulously.

“When I was in the kitchen getting those chips.” Matrix replied. At Bob’s confused look, he said, “I told you I was feeling down.”

“How you doin’?” Dot asked the yellow sprite, her fingers trailing up and down his arm.

“All right, that’s it, time to go.” Bob said, quickly ushering the sprite and binomes out of the room before closing the door.

“What you do that for?” Dot asked, innocently. She walked over and sat on the couch between her brothers, taking the remote from Enzo.

“Hey!” came the protest.

“I was just having a little fun, Bobby.”

“Oh really, Dot.” AndrAIa replied. “Can’t you see your sluttiness is driving this case to Dell before its even began.”

“Sluttiness?” Dot exclaimed, standing and facing the game sprite. “You take that back!”

“Girls, I ordered a boxing ring if you’d like to take this in the ‘sports area’.” Matrix suggested.

“No.” they said in unison.

“Take that back.”

“Make me.”

“Gladly.”

Dot went to reach for the very expensive glass tiger that sat on top of the big screen TV, making both Bob and Enzo jumped from their places. Bob managed to grab Dot and the tiger, while Enzo grabbed the remote.

“What is wrong with you people?!” the boy cried. “You almost broke the remote! Do you what had to be done in order to get this remote?”

“It’s universal.” Matrix piped up. “It works on anything. Only $1,799 credits, very worth it.”

“I’m surrounded by lunatics.” Bob mumbled.

 


 

The halls of the Guardian Academy were quiet that afternoon, as the Super computer headed into night. Most of the cadets were either on maneuvers or out with friends. Well, all except one cadet. This cadet was planning. And hacking. Ever since his reaming by the ‘all mightier than User’ Guardian 452, the cadet had been seething.

Especially when it was his girlfriend’s fault.

It wasn’t his fault if the guardian wasn’t giving the sprite what she needed. He was more than happy to grant that saucy number anything she wanted. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance. Well, if it was trouble the guardian wanted, it was trouble he’d get. And what better way than to get to the source of the problem.

Finding that girl.

 

TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS

“Nothing.”

AndrAIa sighed as she pushed away from the console she’d been looking at for the last fifteen nanos. She turned and her ire only rose. Sitting on a zipboard not far from her was Matrix, one foot in an electric massager and reading a catelogue. Across from him was Dot, reclining in a chair that Matrix had bought, apparently sleeping.

“Keep at it, babe.” Matrix replied, not bothering to look up. “You’ll find something, cause no one’s as good as you.”

“I know that.” she sighed, rolling her eyes. “At least I’m doing some work instead of sleeping.” She gave a cold stare to Dot.

“I’m not sleeping.” replied the commander, her eyes still closed. Holding up a button, she said, “This is a button from that cadet’s uniform. If the movie is as good as the preview…”

“Hey, you have a guy.” Matrix said, standing up and leaning against the zipboard. “I just bought you great gifts for your ‘it’s great to have you back aga…” Matrix’s weight on the board gave way, causing the zip to splash into the water of the foot massager. A small spark emerged, but enough to send Matrix to the floor.

“Oh User!” AndrAIa cried, rushing over. “Are you all right?”

“Wwwwha happened?” he asked, shakily.

“You were just shocked.” Dre said. “Thankfully you didn’t have both feet in the water.”

“Sir ma’am,” said Specky, the office intern and techie. “We have an illegal entry into the system.”

“Who is it?” Dot asked, uncaring about the whole thing.

“It…it appears to be a guardian.”

“A guardian?” all three asked in unison.

“On screen.” Dot commanded.

Specky brought up the guardian in question on the big screen of the command room. There, they saw the cadet from earlier. He was looking around and when he noticed the Principal Office, he began to walk to it.

“Hey, it’s him!” Dot exclaimed, excitedly. She quickly took off for the elevators, with AndrAIa following her. Dot headed all the way to the top of the P.O., to the dome that housed it to be exact. The view was wonderful and you could see the entire city from the height. Running over to the railing, she leaned over and tried getting the cadet’s attention.

“You hoo!” she shouted, waving her arms. The cadet looked up, recognizing the sprite he was searching for. “I knew you’d come and find me!” she continued. “Hey, wait. Why I don’t I come down?” As she said, she leaned just a little too far over. She would’ve been Dot pizza if AndrAIa hadn’t grabbed her when she did.

Unfortunately, Dot paid little attention to her near fatal fall, pushing the game sprite away and rushing down to meet the cadet. She saw him through the glass doors, quickly opened them, and said, “I knew you’d come looking for me.”

“This isn’t a social call.” the cadet growled, grabbing her and placing it behind her back.

“Ooooh…” she cooed. “You’re so rough.”

“You think I’m playing?” he screamed, holding a gun to her chest. “You wanna see rough? I’ll show you rough!” He pushed her away from him, causing the leader to slam into empty boxes. “You got me suspended!” the cadet continued, knocking things over. “You think I enjoyed that?” He pointed his gun at Dot. “You’re gonna pay. And when you’ve paid, Bob is going to pay.”

“Hey, what’s the racket out here?” called Matrix, as he came into view. Seeing the cadet, more importantly, the gun that he carried, Matrix immediately had Gun in his hand. Pulling the trigger, the shot winged the cadet, but to no avail.

It just made him even madder.

The young guardian pointed the gun at Matrix and fired. Dot quickly jumped up, trying to shield her brother. She fell against more of Matrix’s stuff. For the shot, it missed, but sailed past Matrix, hitting the grandfather clock that stood next to him, causing a ricocet. Matrix ducked, but looking up, he saw the pile of stuff Dot had run into created a domino effect. His eyes widened when he saw the stuff begin to fall on top of him.

AndrAIa, finally reaching the first level, gasp as she saw the destruction at the front hall. The cadet’s face was contorted in fear as his gun began turning itself towards him. Thinking quickly, AndrAIa maximized her trident and sent it sailing towards the cadet. It hit his wrist, causing him to drop the ground and fall to the floor, hitting his head on a box that wasn’t empty. Surveying the damage, the game sprite started to rush to aid, but was caught by someone behind her.

“You can’t save what’s lost.” the sprite said. “And believe me when I say Guardian Bob’s gonna be losing a lot.”

With that, a portal opened behind him, and the sprite dragged AndrAIa and himself through it.

 


 

Matrix opened his eyes slowly, his mechanical eye zooming around for any sign of the cadet. It didn’t see the young guardian, but it did see Dot, sprawled out on the floor, unconscious. “Dot?” he called, wincing from pain as he moved the debris of stuff that had fallen on top of him. He pulled himself away from the pile and once again called to Dot.

And once again, he got no response.

Shaking the cobwebs out of his head, Matrix decided to get Enzo. Hopefully he would find Bob with the boy, but if not, at least someone could watch Dot while he found him. Standing quickly, he found himself on the ground immediately and in a lot of pain. His ankle was throbbing and he had many injuries in the past to know his ankle was either sprained or very broken.

He was kinda hoping for the first.

Crawling over to the wall, he managed to pull himself up and steady himself on his good leg. The “entertainment area” was only a few doors down, unfortunately with a bad ankle, it could take sometime to get there. Steeling himself for the long haul, Matrix hobbled down to where Enzo was.

The boy was fast asleep, napping in front of the television. The chip bowl lay empty and abandoned, as were five cups that once held energy shakes, all sitting on the floor. “Enzo…” Matrix called, hopping his way to the entrance. “Enzo, wake up.” A bad move on his part cause the large sprite to topple downwards, knocking over a lamp that was by the door.

Enzo sat up quickly, hearing the noise, and looked over the back of the couch. “Matrix!” he exclaimed, seeing his brother on the ground. Hopping over the couch, the boy rushed to his brother’s side. Before he could speak, a small glow emitted from him, leaving him slightly dazed.

“You glowed.” Matrix said, looking at his brother in confusion.

“Not important.” he replied, shaking his head. “What the Net happened? Are you okay? Should I call the M.U.?”

“Pause and save, Sprout.” the renegade grumbled. “Do all that later. First, you have to get Bob, I’ll call the M.U. I think Dot may be hurt, but I’m not sure.” As soon as he was finished speaking, the large sprite also emitted a glow.

“You glowed too.” his brother added.

“I did?” The boy nodded. “Weird.”

“Hey guys, I heard the commotion and came over to…what the Dell happened out here?”

“Bob!” the brothers’ exclaimed, seeing the blue guardian standing at the entrance to the room. Rushing in, Bob helped Matrix in a sitting position.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Some cadet just waltzed in here and caused havoc.” Matrix replied. “Some of the boxes and stuff in the hall fall on top of me and I think Dot, so I came in to get Enzo in order to find you.”

“Then we glowed.” Enzo piped up.

“I’m sorry, what?” Bob asked. “You glowed?” The boys nodded. Bob eyed them suspiciously before using his Glitch powers to asset not only any injuries, but their mental state as well. He came up with a surprising answer.

“Well, no wonder.” Bob replied. “You’re sins are gone.”

“Huh?” they both asked.

“But Mouse said you couldn’t get rid of sin.” Matrix supplied.

“Well, certainly not in a supernatural way or mysterious means.” Bob concluded. “It must be when your cares and concerns are focused off yourself and on to other people.” The boys looked at the guardian. “Basically, Enzo’s caring more about you caused his sin to dissipate, just like you caring more for Dot caused yours to leave.”

“My ankle doesn’t hurt anymore.” Matrix mumbled.

“You did something to your ankle?” Bob asked.

“Not important.” the renegade replied, standing up slowly. “If your theory’s right, Dot lost her sin by taking a bullet for me. Come on.”

 


 

Dot awoke with a pounding headache. She found herself being helped into a sitting position and a bandage being placed on her head. “Tell me we had a good time at the party.” she mumbled, wincing as her eyes adjusted to the light.

“It was certainly…sinful.” Matrix smirked.

“Oooooohh…” Dot groaned, her deeds under the sin of lust hitting her hard. “Bad things were done.” She looked around at the stuff in the hallway. “And bought.”

“And will be returned!” Matrix promised. “Hopefully.”

“Forget about that for now.” Bob hissed, checking Dot once again for any serious injuries. “Dot, you’re sure you’re okay?”

“I’ll be perfectly fine once this stuff is out of the Principal Office.” she said. Looking around again, this time in confusion, she asked, “Where’s the cadet?”

A small moan from the corner alerted the quartet of the presence of said guardian cadet. Bob and Matrix, weapons ready, approached with caution. Bob knelt down, checking the cadet’s vitals.

“He’s okay.” he reported.

“What happened?” the young sprite asked, opening his eyes and seeing Bob. “You. I was looking for you.”

“Oh, you were, huh?” Bob asked, sarcastically. “Well, now you’ve found me. Wanted to say something?”

The cadet looked around, groggily. “Where’s Petey?” he asked.

“Who?”

“Petey was supposed to find you.” the cadet replied. “That girl saved me.”

“What girl?” Matrix asked, fearing the answer.

The cadet groaned again, shaking his head. “I only wanted to get Bob for what he did. I didn’t think he’d kidnap her.”

“Who?” Matrix demanded, quickly being stopped by Bob from throttling the boy. And just as before with the brothers Matrix, the cadet was relived of his sin. “Matrix…”

The renegade and the guardian looked over to where Enzo stood, a blue trident in his hands.

“AndrAIa…”

“Whoa Matrix.” Bob again stopped the renegade from advancing. “I need you to stay here.”

“What!?” the large sprite exclaimed. “But…”

“Look,” Bob reasoned. “I know you want to find AndrAIa, but what if those sin whatevers are just floating in free space, just waiting to hit you again when the chance comes? You just got rid of one sin. I’d rather not have you be hit with anger as well.”

Matrix knew Bob was right. It had been so easy for the four of them to be hit with the sins in the first place. “You’re predisposed to anger.” the guardian continued. “Hence why I need the three of you to stay. Your current sins were bad enough. Why invite more?”

The three looked at Bob, knowing he was right. “Look, I’ll have Mouse and Ray with me. I’ll be all right.” Turning to Matrix, he said, “And I will find AndrAIa.”


LIVIN’ ON THE EDGE

 

AndrAIa strugged in her confines. “Stopped struggling.” the young cadet told her, as he walked around her.

“Byte me.” came her retort.

“Look, I don’t want to hurt you.” Petey replied. “I’m just doing this as a favor for my friend.”

“Riiiight.” AndrAIa huffed, struggling once more. “The same friend who stormed the Principal Office, assualted the Command.Com of all things, not to mention, helping and aiding in a kidnapping.” She stopped struggling and looked down at her capturer. “When I get out of this, you’re gonna be in so much trouble.”

Pete sighed. He absolutely didn’t want to be involved in a kidnapping, but here he was, with a kidnapped sprite and from the way she had talked, a member of the senior staff in Mainframe. He was only helping out a friend. Then again, he certainly didn’t want to lose his place in the Academy.

“Listen,” he said. “I’m sure your friends are coming to get you. Or at least I hope. Anyways, I’m gonna…I’m gonna be sick, I know it.”

“Hey, I’ll make you a deal.” she said. “You let me go, I tie you up, then I haul you off to the proper authorities, who will then decide your fate.”

“What kind of offer is that?”

“A reasonable one.” Andri stated. “Believe me, you won’t like the alternative.”

“Which is?”

“We sit here like big babies, waiting for my friends to get here, who then take you into custody. Then, my boyfriend and I lay a serious smackdown on your ASCII.”

Pete shook his head. “Turbo is not gonna like this.” he murmured.

“Damn skippy he won’t.”

 


 

Bob and Mouse flew like madman into the Super Computer. The guardian had just wanted to make a portal, but Mouse, wanting to go all out, threw the blue sprite into the co-pilot seat of Ship and flew out of Mainframe like a bat out of hell. The angry cadet had told them he had enlisted the help of his friend to take Dot hostage, so that Bob would come for her.

Then, the cadet would beat the living tar out of the guardian. Of course, that’s not what happened. Pete had taken AndrAIa by mistake and perhaps out of sheer panic when he saw the destruction in the hallway.

Landing Ship not in a bay area, but leaving it hovering over the Academy roof, Mouse and Bob repelled down and entered through the roof door. “I really think we should’ve called Turbo about this.” Bob replied, as he and Mouse found the elevator and headed into the basement, hoping both Pete and AndrAIa were there.

“Now, you know Turbo and I do not get along.” the hacker drawled. “Why in the Net would I need his permission for a rescue operation?”

You know the funny thing about this? Bob thought to himself. This is classic Mouse. She’s not infected what-so-ever.

Hitting the bottom floor and waiting for the doors to open, they could clearly hearing and from what it sounded like, it was definitely AndrAIa. Looking at one another, the two quickly jumped through the doors before they had even properly opened.

“You get back here!” screamed the game sprite. “You get back here and finish what you started, you big wussy!”

Bob and Mouse both looked up, then at each other, and up again. “AndrAIa?” they asked in unison.

“Bob, just the man I wanted to see.” she said, dangling from her bonds. “I demand you bring that boy here and make him finish the job.”

“I’m sorry?”

“He just ran out the back because he’s a little batch!!”

“Uh…” Mouse began, unable to clearly understand the situation. “You just stay there, Honey. We’ll get you down.”

“I don’t need your help.” AndrAIa stated. “I’m AndrAIa, for User’s sake!”

“Dre, I don’t think you seem to understand the seriousness of this.” Bob said, as he and Mouse tried to find a way to reach her.

“What’re you talking about?” the game sprite asked. “I can get out of this.”

“AndrAIa!” Mouse exclaimed. “You’re suspended about 25ft above the ground, hovering over…User, I don’t even want to know what could possibly be in this big vat.”

“From up here, it looks like lava.” Andri commented.

“Lava?” the two exclaimed.

“Like hot, boiling lava?” Mouse asked.

“Where in the Net do you find hot lava?” Bob asked.

“Where ever volcanoes are.” Andri stated.

“We gotta get you down from there!”

“You think this scares me?!” the game sprite exclaimed. “Ha! This boiling vat of lava doesn’t scare me! In fact, I laugh in its face!” Looking down at her impending doom, AndrAIa shouted, “That’s right! I laugh at you! HA HA! In fact, I laugh at danger! HA HA HA!”

Just then, the rope that was used to tie the game sprite’s feet and to hoist her to the vat began to give way. AndrAIa quickly looked up, and said, “Oh, that can’t be good.”

“What can’t be good?” Bob asked, as he and Mouse struggled with a ladder.

Looking down again at the hot lava beneath her. The bravado was slowly slipping away, as it seemed, so was AndrAIa. “Um guys…” she stuttered.

“Hold on, Dre, Sugah.” Mouse said, trying to straighten the ladder against the side.

“Guys, I think I could use a little help here.” As with the others, AndrAIa was released from her sin when her body glowed slightly. And that was the time the rope gave way completely. There were three screams all together and then complete silence. AndrAIa opened her eyes. She was surprised to find herself in a small bubble. Looking over, she saw Bob using his powers to hold her in mid air. His other hand made a portal into Mainframe.

“I’ll see you in Mainframe, Mouse?” he asked.

“I’ll be right behind ya, Sugah.”

 

CONCLUSION

 

“So I guess my asking for help is what saved me.” AndrAIa was saying. The group sat in the med ward of the Principal Office, making sure that the sins they had experienced were gone for good.

“I’m glad, too.” Bob added. “Pride is hardest sin to break. Unlike all the others, where being selfless can be the easy cure…”

“Being selfless and helping others is what builds pride.” AndrAIa finished.

“At least it’s over.” Enzo said. “It bytes we had to give all that neat stuff back.”

Bob slung an arm around the boy’s shoulders, saying, “Ah the high price of gluttony and sloth.” Looking up, he saw Matrix came in and sit down next to his girlfriend. “How did that go, by the way?”

“Well, with some pleading, and some begging, and a little threatening,” Matrix said. “The stuff is returning tomorrow morning, with my wonderful sister’s reputation still in tact.” Dot gave her smile of thanks.

“Aw…” AndrAIa sighed, putting her arms around her lover’s neck. “I’m gonna miss my Principal Office home. You had to give the waterfall back, too?”

Matrix chuckled nervously. “I had no choice.” he said. “It sprung a leak and…flooded our ‘bedroom area’.” Looking at Bob, he asked, “Um…say Bob…”

“Don’t worry bout it, guys.” Dot replied. “I’ll put you guys up in one of the hotels.”

“Gee, thanks, Sis.”

“Well,” Dot continued. “Let’s get out of it. I’m sure there’s stuff we can be doing.” Everyone began to head out, when Dot stopped Bob. “Um Bob…I wanted to say sorry for my behavior and all. That’s certainly not who I am, as you know.”

“I know.” the guardian whispered.

“And I certainly hope…you won’t hold that against me.” she continued.

“I never do.”

There was an awkward silence until Dot blurted, “Bob, do you want to have dinner with me? Tonight? If that’s okay. I mean, if it’s not, it’s fine. You know, I’m sure you have a lot of work…”

Bob stopped her by placing one finger on her lips. “What time?”

“What?”

“What time do you want to have dinner?” he clarified.

“Oh.” she whispered. “Oh! Uh…um…a…uh…milli from…from now?”

“Okay.” Bob whispered. “Your place or mine?”

“What?”

“Do you want to have dinner at either the Diner, your apartment, my apartment, some place else…?”

“Oh.” Dot whispered. “Oh! Uh…um…a…uh…place….I mean, the Diner is…the place where I…the apartment is fine. Mine, I mean. Apartment, that is. For dining. Tonight. Is fine. With me.”

Bob nodded, then began to leave himself, when Dot once again called him back. “Yes?”

“Um…” she started, suddenly embarrassed for calling him back. “See you…later.”

“Yeah.” Again he began to head out and again Dot called him back. Giving her an amused look, he was caught off-guard however, when Dot kissed him. He did have something to smile about afterwards, especially seeing her slightly embarrassed (or flushed, he wasn’t quite sure) face.

“Hey Dot, oh sorry.”

The two broke apart to see Matrix poking his head around the corner. “Yes, Enzo?” Dot asked.

“Sorry.” Matrix apologized. “I was wondering if Andri and I could take Enzo to see a quicktime. Is that cool?”

“Yes!” Dot said, quickly. She cleared her throat and replied, “That’s fine, Matrix. That actually works out…well. Just don’t keep him up all night!”

“We won’t.” came the reply.

Outside, Enzo and AndrAIa stood in the hallway. “Well?” the game sprite asked.

“We got a night on the night on the town.” the renegade replied.

“Told ya.” Enzo piped up.

Matrix chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe how Dot was to get rid of you.” he smirked.

“Yeah right.”

“Oh she was.” he continued. “Practically begging me to take you somewhere.”

“Hello! I was standing right here. I heard no begging.”

“Oh no, no, no. It was her eyes that did the begging. She knew you were outside.”

“Did not.”

“Did so.”

“Did not.”

“I will so go back and ruin Dot and Bob’s evening if I have to go through this all night.” AndrAIa groaned.

 

THE END

 

 

 

Well, hoped you liked. In order of sinful appearance:

Dot ~ Lust
AndrAIa ~ Pride
Matrix ~ Gluttony
Enzo ~ Sloth
Johnson ~ Envy
Peterson ~ Greed
The Cadet ~ Anger

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