A Mainframe Summer’s Nightmare
Chapter 3 – The Nightmare Begins
Enzo woke up in a black void. How he got here was a mystery, seeing as when he fell asleep he was still thinking about Alex. “Hello?” he called. He received no answer. “Okay.” he said, half expecting to see penguins and talking bunnies appear. Then that strange feeling came over him again. The feeling that he was being watched. An ever present sinister feel, the feeling that he was in grave danger.
“Hello?” he called again, a bit nervously than the last time.
“Welcome to my home,” came the voice. It was deep and it seemed to ooze evil.
“Who’s there?” Enzo asked. Then came the laughing. The bellowing laughter that surrounded the entire void Enzo was now trapped in. “I gotta get out of here.” Enzo whispered to himself.
“There’s no escape, Boy!”
Enzo stopped cold, recognizing the voice. He shook his head, almost sure this was a big mistake. That’s when he saw the glowing red eyes staring back at him. Those same glaring red eyes that had haunted his dreams only hours ago.
The same glowing red eyes that haunted Matrix.
“Oh no.” Enzo said, not really sure he was seeing what he was seeing.
“Oh yes!” The figure was right in front of Enzo now. His blue metallic body was now silver and he looked big and more powerful and worse, even meaner.
“It can’t be!” Enzo replied, scared out of his wits.
“Oh, but it is.” Megabyte replied.
“No.” Enzo said, shaking his head clear. “You’re deleted. I…we…Matrix deleted you!” Enzo quickly went to reach for his icon, only to discover it gone from the place above his heart.
The evil virus laughed again, causing Enzo to cover his ears. “Do you think the two of you are different, Boy!?” he asked, grabbing Enzo by the neck and picking him up in the air.
“Do you really think I care about the difference in age between you two? I said I would exact my revenge, Boy, and it doesn’t matter to me if you or that so called brother of yours goes first.” Megabyte pulled back his other arm, the claws growing from his hands were very steel and looked very sharp.
“No!” Enzo cried. “Enzo! Help!”
Matrix had been walking in this black void for what seemed like minutes and minutes. Right now he was trying to figure a way out. That’s when he heard someone call his name.
He looked to his right and saw the door he had been searching for and from the sound of it, it sounded like Enzo was on the other side. “Don’t worry, little bro.” Matrix said to himself as he rushed to the door. Before he could even put his hand on it, a burst of fire came hurdling towards the door and pushed him back. “What in the net…?” Matrix turned and his eye nearly popped from its socket.
“Oh no.” he said, seeing the beast. The same beast who plagued his nightmares for hours upon hours. The same fiery beast he couldn’t escape from, whether in reality or a dream.
“Matrix!” Enzo struggled to get away from the virus, but the more he struggled, the more pressure Megabyte put on his throat. “No one can hear your screams, Boy!” the virus cackled as Enzo squirmed to become free.
Matrix could hear Enzo calling for him, but right now he had his own problems. Zaytan, the beast that had plagued his every thought since losing that fateful game hours ago and the beast who had taken his eye, was bearing down on him. Instinctively, he reached for Gun only to be disappointed when it wasn’t there. He thought maybe he could Reboot into something that could save both him and Enzo, but when he went for his icon, it was gone. Matrix slid down the wall behind him as the beast approached.
“I’ve come for your other eye.” the beast replied, in a demonic tone and placed laughter behind it. All Matrix could do was close his only eye and wait for the pain to cease.
Enzo could feel himself become dizzy as Megabyte’s grip tighten around his throat. “Oh no, Boy,” the virus replied. “You’re not going to go that easily.” His claws came down and ripped through Enzo’s chest. The pain was intense and he closed his eyes, as energy flowed from his body. In the distance, he thought he could hear Matrix screaming as well.
Enzo woke up with a start. He was sitting up in bed, head in his hands, trying to slow his breathing and heart rate. “Enzo, are you okay?” He looked over and saw little Kit looking up at him from beside the bed. Evidently his screaming had awoken him.
“Yeah. I’m fine.” He said, between breaths.
“Enzo?” Dot called, opening the door to the bedroom. She was instantly alarmed at what she saw. Enzo sat in bed, his knees to his chest, arms wrapped around them, and his head resting on his arms. She quickly hurried over and sat down beside him.
“Enzo, are you alright?” she asked, putting her hand on his shoulder. She applied some pressure when she realized he was shaking.
“I’m fine. I’m fine.” he said, obviously trying to slow down his breath. When he looked up her, she could see water on his face. She wasn’t sure if he had been crying, sweating, or if Kit had thrown water on Enzo to wake him.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked again.
“Yes, I’m fine.” he replied, as he moved his head frantically looking for something. He reached over her and grabbed his hat that was sitting on the nightstand. He grabbed his icon and gave a heavy sigh of relief. “I’m fine, Dot.” he said, seeming to calm down a bit.
“I’m fine. You can go back to bed.” He was about to tell Kit to do the same, but he saw the boy already in bed and probably once again sleeping.
“If you’re sure.” Dot said. The young sprite nodded repeatedly. “Okay.” she gave him a kiss on the cheek and then left the room.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” That question came from AndrAIa. She had been awaken by Matrix’s screams and finally his quick breathing. He was sitting on the side of the bed, his head in his hands, and trying to recover his breath.
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” was his quick response, though she could obviously see he was not fine. She sat behind him and rested her head on his shoulder.
“Nightmare?” she asked. She knew him all too well.
“Yeah, yeah.” he said, his fingers rubbing his temples on either side of his head. “A nightmare.”
“What about?” she asked.
“Oh, you know,” he said, trying to make a joke out of the situation. “Giant man eating bunnies.” He chuckled a bit at the explanation. AndrAIa noticed he ran his fingers lightly over his bionic eye. He then quickly moved his hand to his chest, more specifically his icon.
Finding it there on his t-shirt, the large sprite seemed to relax a little, or at least his shaking stopped. With his eye still closed, he asked, “Do you…do you think that um, do you think…?” Before he could finish his thought, a vidwindow popped in front of them.
“Enzo…” said the breathless youth. “Hi AndrAIa. Did..did I wake you?”
“In a sense, yes.” she replied, sarcastically. “But you personally, no.” That’s when she noticed his strange behavior. He was shaking and already dressed. Like Matrix, he had his hand over his icon protectively and he looked slightly pale.
“Enzo, are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m fine.” he replied, quickly. “Look, can…can I come over…for…for a little while? I promise I won’t make it too long.”
“Sure Enzo, you can come over.”
“Thanks.” he said. “I’ll be right over.”
“No.” Matrix said, finally speaking. “I’ll come there and pick you up. Stay put, okay?”
The youth nodded in agreement. “Matrix!” Enzo called, as Matrix rebooted in his regular clothes and starting putting on his boots.
“Yeah.” came the gruff reply.
“Be careful. Okay?”
“You just stay there, okay?” Matrix said, in a more soothing tone. “I’ll be right over.” He closed the vidwindow and returned to getting dressed.
“I’ll go with you.” AndrAIa said, starting to get out of bed, but was stopped by Matrix’s “No!”
He put his hands on her shoulders, as though to steady himself from falling over. “No, no,” came a softer reply against her neck. “We’ll be okay. I’ll be back in a nano.” He kissed her forehead before leaving the bedroom.
Matrix was there in half a nano. He unlocked the door to the Diner and found Enzo sitting in a booth, head on the table. “You ready?” was his first question.
“Yeah.” Enzo said, slightly startled by Matrix’s entrance. Matrix wasn’t surprised that Enzo didn’t have anything on him. He had bought duplicates of just about everything: toothbrush, toothpaste, combs, deodorant, so he could keep one set at home and one set at his and AndrAIa’s.
“Did you…?” Matrix started, gesturing towards the kitchen.
As if knowing his question, Enzo replied, “Yeah. I left a note.”
Matrix nodded and the two left and locked up. They got in the car, but didn’t immediately go back home. They just drove around the system of Mainframe, just driving. In silence. Without looking at him, Enzo already knew the answer.
“You had it too.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement to which Matrix nodded. “Zaytan?” Enzo asked, already knowing what the answer would be.
“Yeah.” Matrix kept driving, finally slowing and stopping at Floating Point. He looked at Enzo, who was staring out at the water.
“Megabyte.” he answered, not needing to be asked. The two just sat there, in the car, sitting at the park. The two didn’t really need any words between them. They knew they had two different nightmares, but they were connected somehow. Like two halves of the same dream.
They continued to sit, not thinking about the dream, but trying to calm themselves down. Even as Matrix started up the car and headed for Kits sector, both may have seemed calm, but they were both rattled and frankly scared out of their wits.
“How did your date with Alex go?” Matrix asked, trying to lighten the mood a little.
Enzo looked at him, a little annoyed and surprised by the question. “Does everyone know about that?”
“Hey, I was all for the ‘you-going-random’ thing.”
Matrix and Enzo finally returned to the apartment in the Kits sector. The two walked through the door and weren’t completely surprised to see AndrAIa sitting on the couch.
“I’ll be back in a nano,” she mocked. Both Enzos tried to explain, but were stopped by AndrAIa, who had gotten up and placed her hands on one of each of the sprites’ cheeks.
“I’m not mad.” she said, seeing the looks on their faces. “I’m just worried, that’s all. Are you sure you two are okay?”
The two nodded solemnly. AndrAIa leaned over and gave the two a giant hug and was quietly surprised when they hugged her back fiercely. It wasn’t a ‘sorry for being late’ kind of hug. It was more like a ‘we’re holding on to you for dear life’ kind of hug. The two let their grip slack a little.
“You gonna take the couch tonight?” AndrAIa asked Enzo, who nodded tiredly. “You know where the pillows and sheets are, right?” Again, Enzo answered her with a nod. “Okay.” she said, giving the youth a smile. “Just don’t wake up Sabrina or you’ll have to put her back to sleep.”
Enzo released her and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Thanks Andri.” he said, before heading down the hallway to get his bedding material.
He hardly ever calls me that AndrAIa thought, but let it quickly slide when she realized Matrix was still holding on to her. “Are you alright?” she whispered in his ear, running her fingers through his hair.
“I love you, Angelfish.” he replied somewhere from her shoulder.
This was a rare night indeed. First Enzo is calling her by a nickname he rarely uses and now Matrix. She only smiled at the events. “I love you, too, Sparky.” she said, giving him a quick, but loving kiss on his lips. “Let’s get you to bed.”
She grabbed the green sprite’s hand and led him down the hallway to their bedroom, only stopping for AndrAIa to plant a kiss on Enzo’s cheek, as he came past them with a pillow in his hand and a blanket over his shoulder.
“Goodnight, Guardian.” she replied, pulling Matrix along behind her.
The next day, Matrix, AndrAIa, Enzo, and Alex went circuit racing. Or at least AndrAIa and Alex went circuit racing. Matrix and Enzo sat on a bench by the track. The two felt low-res after the nightmares they had and didn’t really want to be there, but the girls had insisted, saying they needed to do something to take their minds off of things.
“Well, Alex,” AndrAIa said, as the two women walked over to the guys. “You’ve beaten me twice today. I think that’s enough winning for you.”
Alex had noticed that neither Matrix or Enzo seemed to look quite right. “Are you guys okay?” she asked, mostly to Enzo.
He looked up at her, shades covering his eyes and replied, “Fine. Just fine.”
“Hey, let’s head over to the Diner, huh?” AndrAIa said, seeing the look on Alex’s face. She figured she and Enzo should talk. She walked over to Matrix and extended a hand to him, which he tiredly took and with her help, stood up.
“We’ll meet you guys there, okay?” She pulled Matrix to the side, gave him a quick hug, before getting on her zipboard and waiting for him. He followed suit and the two left.
“Enzo, are you sure everything’s okay?” Alex asked again, sitting next to him. He didn’t seem to be himself today. He was unusually quiet and seemed to be offlined about something.
“Everything’s fine, Alex!” he exclaimed, a little harsher than he would’ve liked. He was just getting tired of people asking him that.
“Look, Enzo, if this is…if this about last night and when…when I kissed you…” Alex’s voice trailed off slightly.
Enzo leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. “This has nothing to do with you.” he said, gently. “Last night was wonderful. It really was. Listen, Matrix and I…we just…we just need to think about stuff, that’s all. It’s something only we can work out. I’m sorry for making you think that…that I don’t enjoy having you here. Believe me,” he stopped and kissed her again, this time for a longer amount of time.
“If I knew how much I’d enjoy that, I would’ve insisted on you coming here more often.”
This made a smile come to Alex’s face and she hugged Enzo tightly. “I’m just worried about you, that’s all.” she said.
“I know.” he said, softly. He pulled back to look at her. “Look, don’t worry about me, huh? Matrix and I just have something we need to think about. By ourselves. We just need some downtime, that’s all.” He kissed her forehead before standing. “Race ya for an energy shake!”
Matrix woke with a start. It had happened again, though this time it seemed as though he and Enzo had switched dreams. Tonight, he had been face to face with a bigger, stronger, deadlier Megabyte. And Megabyte had given him a warning, saying there would be no peace for him and Enzo. That he was back, bigger and badder than before and the Matrix brothers were the first people on his hit list.
He wasn’t just going to make them suffer, like he did out in the Web. He wanted to torment them. Torture them. And this was just the beginning. “I’m coming for you, Boy,” he had said.
The sentence rang in Matrix’s head, seemingly growing louder and louder until Matrix finally sat up in bed, causing AndrAIa to wake up beside him.
“Sparky?” she whispered, seeing him sit up next to her. She ran her fingers up and down his back, hoping to calm him. It did some good, as he laid back down. “You’re sharing the same nightmare, aren’t you?” she asked.
Matrix shook his head, bringing her closer to him. “It’s not the same dream.” he replied tiredly. “It’s like…two halves of the same dream.” AndrAIa looked at him for a minute, before laying her head on his chest. After a while of silence, Matrix asked quietly, “Don’t leave me, okay?”
“It takes more than that to get rid of me, Lover.” she quipped.
“I’m serious.” She listened to his tone of voice change. She hadn’t heard him be so frightened before, not since they were lost in the games. “Don’t leave me.” he said, holding her tighter.
“I won’t, Enzo.” she said. “I won’t ever leave you.”
“You mean they’ve been like this for a solid week?” Bob asked the question in confusion. He, Dot, and AndrAIa sat in a booth near the large window at the Diner. Bob had noticed Enzo and Matrix weren’t quite themselves, but he didn’t think it was that serious. Until now.
“I mean,” AndrAIa said. “I think we’ve all gotten used to the fact that when one of them is low-res, the other is too, but this is really ridiculous. I’m really starting to get worried.”
“So they’re sharing a nightmare?” Bob asked.
“Like before?” Dot asked.
“No. I don’t know.” AndrAIa confessed. “I asked both Matrix and Enzo about it and…well, they both said the same thing. They’re having two different nightmares, but they’re connected somehow. Like two halves of the same dream.”
“Two halves of the same dream?” Bob asked, quizzically. “Both Matrix and Enzo said that?”
“I’m very worried.” Dot said, a look of concern on her face. “You know Enzo’s been sleeping on the couch? He’s doing his best not to wake up Kit, but sometimes I don’t think he’s sleeping at home!”
“I don’t even think they’re sleeping at night anymore.” AndrAIa said. “They’ve opted to sleep during the day.”
“This is really random.” Bob replied. “They haven’t had a nightmare for hours! Then all of a sudden, one nightmare offlines them both? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“You know what else is weird?” AndrAIa added. “Have you noticed a game hasn’t dropped since then?”
Before the group could continue, Alex walked through the door and headed for them. “Have you guys seen Enzo?” she asked. She was obviously upset. “We were supposed to go jet bowling today and I haven’t seen him.”
All Bob did was point past her to an occupied booth.
Enzo and Matrix were dozing in a booth across the way. Enzo had his arms on the table and was using them as a pillow. Matrix was stretched out in the booth, one arm resting on the table, the other resting on the back of his seat, and his head leaning against the window. Alex looked at the sight in slight horror and definite annoyance.
“What is going on with them?” she asked, as she took a seat next to AndrAIa.
“That’s the same question the three of us have asked,” Dot said. Her features took on a look of determination. “And quite frankly, I’d like to know this instant.” Dot signaled her waiter Cecil over to the booth, with the intention of having him go over and wake the boys up, but apparently she didn’t need that.
In an instant, Enzo woke with a start, causing Matrix to wake and pull Gun from his side, scaring a few of the customers. “It’s me!” Enzo cried, trying to calm Matrix down. “It’s me. It’s just me.”
Matrix looked at his surroundings a bit, before putting Gun away. The two then took deep breaths to calm themselves.
“Oh boys!” They heard Dot’s voice from the other side of the Diner and she didn’t sound happy. “Could I see you over here for a moment?” Yep. Definitely not happy. The two looked at each other, before reluctantly and tiredly walking over to the booth where she was.
“Enzo!” Alex said. “Where’ve you been?” Enzo stared at the girl for a moment, as if trying to remember something.
“Were we supposed to do something today?” he asked.
“Enzo, we were supposed to go jet bowling today!”
“Oh yeah.” the sprite said, stifling a yawn.
“You guys, this is becoming very serious.” Dot said, addressing the Enzos. “Now, I want you to sit down and…”
Suddenly a vidwindow featuring Phong popped at the table. “Dot!” he cried. “I must see you all at the Principal Office at once! It’s of great urgency!”
“Alright, Phong.” Dot said, slightly disappointed that her previous task would have to wait. “We’re on our way.” She closed the vidscreen and proceeded to stand.
“Maybe the two of you should stay and catch up on your sleep.” Bob said, hoping the two green sprites would get some rest.
“I am Chief of Security, Bob.” Matrix replied, rather defensively. “Enzo is a Guardian. I think we have every right to be there.”
“I’m not stopping you, Enzo.” Bob said, putting his hands up. Matrix just stared at him before heading for the door, Enzo right behind him.
The group arrived at the P.O. in silence and were greeted by Phong, who immediately saw something wrong. “What’s the problem, Phong?” Matrix asked, half asleep and with his arms folded across his chest.
“My children, I sense there’s a cloud over you all, but I will skip it in this instance to tell you something of greater importance.”
“Well, what is it, Phong?” AndrAIa asked, clearly interested.
Phong opened a screen in front of the group. The screen was of sector 34, near the area that used to be the Tor. The only thing that stood there was a large shed of sorts.
“I’ve detected a tear that has formed over the area of the Tor.”
Matrix and Enzo quickly perked up upon hearing this news. Enzo quickly looked at his older self, who didn’t move. Just stared at the screen.
“I’ll go and close it.” Bob said, nonchalantly.
“Closing it is a simple matter, my child,” Phong said, zipping around the office to another screen. “The problem is something was detected coming through the tear.”
Enzo gripped Matrix by the shirt at the mention of the something coming through the tear. They did not like the sound of that.
“But Phong, don’t you need a portal in order for anything to come through?” AndrAIa asked, seeing the looks on Enzo and Matrix’s faces.
“Usually that is true, AndrAIa,” Phong replied. “But this time it’s something very odd. Our scanners detected something coming in, then it was gone. And then it returned, but now it is gone again.”
“Maybe there’s something wrong with the scanners.” Alex supplied.
“Perhaps.” Phong commented.
“It’s not the scanners.” Matrix said, coming out of a long silence. When Enzo grabbed him, he had sensed it too. They knew exactly what was wrong.
“What?” Dot asked.
“It’s not the scanners!” He repeated, more forcibly than the first time he had spoken. “It’s…”
Before he could continue, Matrix was hit with a sheering pain in his mind and so was Enzo, causing him to stagger into Alex. The screaming of the two caused the others to group around, trying to find what the matter was.
“Enzo!” cried Dot. “What it is? What’s wrong?”
The only sound the boys could hear was that of Megabyte’s laughter. “Oh my yes, Miss Matrix.” he sneered. “What is wrong indeed. I told you, Boy, I’d be coming for you and now I’m here. It’s unfortunate that only the two of you are aware of it.”
He began to laugh as more pain echoed in the Matrix brothers’ minds.
“As I told you, Boy, your suffering will be my reward. After I’ve ridden myself of your…presence, I’ll come after everyone you love and take this wretched system and destroy it. This is just the beginning, Boy. Your constant pain will be my constant pleasure. Until then, let me leave you with a little present.”
Megabyte opened his palms and a glowing red energy come from them, seemingly blasting through the brothers minds, causing Enzo to fall backwards, landing semi-conscious on the floor. At the same instance, Matrix fell to his knees, holding his head in his hands. He was crunched over, doing his best to make the pain go away.
“I will summon the medics!” Phong exclaimed, bringing up a vidwindow. By the time the medic crew arrived, both Matrix and Enzo were unconscious.