Memories Are Made of This
Chapter 10 – Tension Mounts
The Mainframe lab was all hustle and bustle that night. After hearing the news that Dot Matrix had been attacked, the focus on the destruction of their bug problem was upped. Phong urged everyone to keep the news of Dot’s condition to themselves, not wanting to add another problem to their already large one.
The scientists were working as quickly as possible. They had achieved success when Dr. Matrix’s works showed a cure for a bug’s sting. But it had been written in theory and the lab techs did everything they could to change the product into something they could use right now.
But the solution they were missing was how to get rid of the bugs entirely. Every work that both doctors had been investigating was looked in to and studied carefully. Scientists from the Super Computer had been brought in to study and help on whatever they could. So far, it looked as though James Matrix’s work had just been theory and conjecture.
The Matrix siblings weren’t gonna take that well. One lab technician was re-reading something that Patricia Matrix had worked on. He was tired and slightly hungry. He had been in there all afternoon, reading and re-reading, and so far all he was getting was a sore bitmap and sleepy eyes.
He was about to call it a night when something he read interested him. He re-read the paragraph and had an odd, but yet plausible idea pop into his head. It was random, but perhaps it could work. He quickly got up and went to go find his superior. With any luck, this new discovery could drive the bugs out of the system.
The techie went through the Principal Office and had no sign of his superiors. Figuring they must have gone home, the little binome decided he would turn in too. His apartment wasn’t far, so instead of taking precautionary procedure, the tech ventured out from the doors of the Principal Office.
He could see his apartment building not far away and proceeded to walk towards them. Phong had been nice enough to offer everyone living quarters in the P.O., just to keep the staff and such safe. Most of the lab decided they needed to be outside and away from work if they were to get any ideas on this thing and politely turned the System Administrator down.
Phong though had insisted Sabrina, her brother, and cousins stay in the Principal Office with Ray, Hack, Slash, and himself. He was saddened that Mouse had left so abruptly and was quickly enraged when he learned Kit had also left, on the Saucy Wench with his parents.
After that, all bets were off that anyone else was leaving.
The lab tech looked about Mainframe on his walk home. He hadn’t been here long, but he liked it. It was a nice place to come and start a family or so he had heard. He liked everyone and vice versa. His mind drifted to their problem at hand.
It seemed like every time they took care of one bug, two more would show up in its place. Rumors were going around and Phong had quickly been able to squash as many as he could, but one thing was for certain.
Dot Matrix, the Command.Com, and her companions were taking way too long to deliver some antitoxin.
The binome tech could understand the terror that was starting to grip the city. A few small workers were turning into more and more and just yesterday they had deleted a baby soldier. Now that was scary.
The more he looked at it, there had to be a nest here, but where? Where were all these bugs coming from? The surfer had gone out twice looking for one and hadn’t found any. He wondered if perhaps…
A strange noise stopped the binome in his tracks. Looking around he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, so he continued on his way. He began thinking again, when something definitely louder caught his attention. Spinning around, he didn’t see anything behind him.
The binome was sure something was out here with him. Oh, how he wished he had let someone know he was leaving. The night was quiet once again, but the tech didn’t move a muscle. He figured if he just stood there, whatever it was would go away. He heard some rustling from the right and decided he would go left.
He didn’t even get the chance to move.
Dot was not doing too good.
Turic had more patients than they had realized, causing an extreme back load of people, including Dot. Bob sat in the chair next to her bed, watching as she slept or at least he hoped she was sleeping. She had drifted off sometime after their last conversation and a horrible feeling kept coming to the guardian that it was the last one they would ever have.
Bob let out a tired sigh and noticed the door opening. A familiar head peeked in and looked around. “Come on in, you guys.” Bob replied, knowing immediately who the next visitors would be. Sure enough, Matrix, followed by Enzo and Kit, walked in and stood next to the guardian.
“How is she, Bob?’ Matrix whispered, kneeling beside his brother in law.
“She’s getting worse.” Bob replied, solemnly. “And I don’t need a doctor to tell me that. Just look at her.”
The four were silent for a while, the only sound being Dot’s shallow breathing. “We just can’t sit around here all night.” Kit said, holding back what ever tears felt like falling. “What’re we gonna do?”
“What can we do?” Enzo asked. “The only hope now is that Gavin and the Wench got back to Mainframe or at least to another system that might possibly have any antitoxin. And even that’s a long shot!”
“Well, we just can’t let Mom stay here!” Kit exclaimed, wiping at his eye.
“Maybe we can move her.” Enzo suggested. “Get her back to Mainframe.”
“Man, you know that’s not gonna work.” Matrix said. “Dot wouldn’t have a chance getting back home in her condition.”
“Oh like she’s got a big chance right now.” Bob muttered. “Face it, guys. We’re stuck.”
“This coming from Mr. I-don’t-believe-in-the-no-win-situation.” Matrix growled.
“Don’t fight.” came a small whisper.
The boys turned to see Dot, eyes still closed, but lips moving. “Hey you.” Bob said, leaning near her. The trio also got closer, it was so hard to hear her.
“Don’t fight.” she repeated.
“We’re not fighting.” Matrix said, grinning slightly.
“Just a slight difference of opinion.” Enzo joked, glad to see his sister was coming around.
“Are you okay, Mom?”
“Sure.” Dot said, the hint of a smile on her lips. “Never better.” She opened her eyes slowly and saw her four favorite men near her side. “You’re having a party?” she asked.
“Sure.” Bob said, brushing a finger against her cheek. “You’re invited. Guest of honor type thing.”
“Alphanumeric.” came the soft reply.
The boys hated seeing her like this. This wasn’t even the Dot they knew and loved. This was a shell of someone who’s energy was fading fast. And there was nothing they could do. As Matrix had stated, moving Dot would be just as risking as leaving her here. Either way, as Bob had put it, they were stuck there.
Kalyle didn’t bother to knock, just barged in unannounced. He felt slightly awkward at having disturbed what was probably the family’s last goodbyes, but there were a lot worse things to deal with.
“Thank you for knocking.” Kit replied, sarcastically, not even bothering to turn around to see who the intruder was.
“Sorry for interrupting.” Kalyle said, closing the door behind him. “I hope you guys can hurry this up. We have real trouble right now.”
Matrix glared at the young cadet. “The last thing I’m going to do is hurry up. Especially for a snot nosed, little basic null like you.”
“I’m touched by your kindness.” the cadet murmured. “But seriously. While the four of you are in here waiting for her to go up to that big system in the sky, we’ve got bugs converging on this place as we speak. Maybe not now, but trust me.”
Kalyle paused to give an evil glare to Dot. “They can smell a Command.Com a mile away.”
“You know, I’ve had just about enough of you.” Bob replied, trying to keep his anger in check.
“Oh, have I insulted the big bad Bob?” KD taunted. “I would hate for you to be upset with me.”
“Watch it.” Matrix grumbled, his hand instinctively going to Gun.
Within nanos, four guardians were in a heated argument. And it didn’t look as though any of them were going to back down from their personal feelings. Kit hated arguments, especially at a time like this.
How could these guys be so selfish? His mother lay dying before him and they were arguing. He turned to look at Kalyle. He was saying something about him, but Kit wasn’t paying attention. He was trying to block the whole argument from his ears.
He hated this guy. As soon as he had come to Mainframe, things went from bad to worse. His powers! That’s what he was talking about! Now how in the Net had he discovered about them? Probably from doing something sneaky, Kit mused. And right now, that cadet was trying to put him on the front lines of an all in out bug war.
“You must be nuts.” Enzo said with disdain.
“Look,” Kalyle said. “The boy has some real talent. I bet he could clear up this problem like that. If it wasn’t for people like you…”
“People like us?!” Bob exclaimed. “That’s my son, you’re talking about, Cadet!”
That was it. Kit had had enough of this guy and his constant talking and complaining and insults. He could just feel his anger welling up inside him. His family always told him he had the famous Matrix temper and how he should take up some hobby whenever he got upset. Well, that was fine and dandy when he was at home, doing homework, but now…all he could think about was how to get Kalyle Daniels.
He wasn’t sure what exactly happened, just that it was like he was back in his mother’s office, face to face with that bug. His anger just over took him. There was a flash and suddenly Kalyle was pushed back against the wall. Enzo grabbed the boy’s shirt, pulling him behind his leg.
Kalyle was not going to be happy and that was all they needed right now.
“We’ve been all over this stuff. If they’re here, they’re doing a good job of hiding out.”
Sabrina had never Ray so angry before. In fact, she had never seen Ray angry in her whole life. It just wasn’t him. It was like her dad smiling. Something had to be very very wrong. It was bright and early in Mainframe, though you really couldn’t all that happy about it about.
One of the lab techs had disappeared last night and no one could find him. Worse yet, two more reports came out from Beverly Hills, of all places. Ray and Phong had been talking about the problem when she entered into the command room.
“Ah, good morning, young one.” Phong said pleasantly, forcing a smile on his face.
“What’s processing, boys?” she asked, coming over to stand next to them. “And don’t sugar coat it for me. I know there’s a problem and I know it’s big, so don’t insult my intelligence by telling me everything is hunky dorey in our little system cause I won’t buy it.”
The two sprites looked at the girl, clearly surprised. Not by the fact of her very frank morning greeting, they had come to expect that from her. She was the daughter of Matrix and AndrAIa after all, but by the clear fact she knew so much that was going on.
“Can’t keep anything from you, huh?” Ray asked, laughing in his own way.
“You are much too smart for your age, Sabrina.” Phong replied, a genuine smile on his lips. “You are correct. We do have a problem. What am I saying? We have more problems than we can deal with!”
“Half the staff is gone and now Mouse has bailed too.” Sabrina said, nodding. “And that only tops off the fact that Aunt Dot’s been attacked and the city’s getting anxious. Wonderful way to start the morning, huh?”
“Our big problem is these buggies are popping up everywhere and we can’t even locate where they’re coming from!” Ray exclaimed.
“I hate to undermine your leadership and all…” the girl started, afraid of speaking the possibility everyone was trying to avoid. “But have you checked the Principal Office?”
“The scanners would’ve picked something up.” Ray said.
“Besides, we’ve done three sweeps already and there’s nothing to indicate that everything is or has been in the Principal Office that could cause a threat.” Phong added.
“Great.” Sabrina mumbled. “So we’re flying blind. Not to mention we still got games to beat. I can tell you right now I wish Frisket were here. Even Kit. At least I could have some company.”
“You leave the games to me, little lady.” Ray said, firmly. “The last thing we want is for you to get lost in one. Your dad would delete me for sure!”
“Good idea, Ray.” Sabrina said, sarcastically. “Nothing says intelligent like going into a game without knowing what you’re doing. Face it. I’m your guys’ Glitch. Without me, you’re up a data stream without a paddle. I’ll totally be careful. And I’m prepared for the worse case scenario, which won’t happen by the way, but I am prepared.” She gave them a smile. “It pays to have Matrix as your dad.”
“Though the thought is grim, you are right, my child.” Phong said. “We don’t have the sprite power right now to assign certain tasks, so we’ll have to do what we can. Our top priority is maintain the system’s confidence that we are handling this situation properly, even if Dot isn’t here.”
“Next, find out where these bugs are coming from.” Ray supplied. “I’ve already got Hack and Slash looking after that. I’m gonna join them in a bit.”
“Make sure someone gets to the games.” Sabrina added. “That’s my department. I promise I won’t go in alone.”
“Well, I guess all arrangements have been made.” Phong replied. “Let’s hope that Mouse has arrived in Turic and that Dot will be coming back.”
Mouse had arrived in Turic and was surprised at how far the system had deteriorated. She found the Principal Office and strode inside. She hadn’t heard much of AndrAIa’s conversation with Phong, she had been on her way out after she heard about Dot. So, she was interested in the way things looked to her as she walked into the makeshift waiting room.
AndrAIa and Matrix sat on the bench by the wall, the renegade’s head resting on his girlfriend’s shoulder. The scene was touching and a little odd. The two had been close since they were children, but they had never been the types to do a lot of outwardly affection, unless something exciting or terrible was up.
And right now, this was not a happy moment. Enzo and Kit sat at the table, apparently playing a game of cards. Every now and then she noticed AndrAIa take a glance at the boys, specifically towards Enzo, almost trying to read his thoughts and expression.
Kalyle Daniels sat in a corner, holding a hand on his chest. He looked like he was slightly in pain and he was giving evil glares to all three boys. Mouse wondered what had happened to him.
Probably got on Matrix’s last nerve, she thought with a smirk. Served the boy right. The hacker hadn’t had a good feeling about the cadet since he had gotten to Mainframe. Everything about him didn’t settle right with her and apparently he was making more enemies in Turic than he had in Mainframe.
The one person missing was Bob.
Mouse didn’t even have to guess as to where he was. She noticed the hallway through the opened door and guess the room across was where Dot was. She looked at AndrAIa for a silent confirmation and got it when the game sprite nodded.
Mouse strode through the door and up to the closed door across the way. Knocking softly, she waited for a greeting and opened the door when she heard Bob’s “Come in.”
The hacker was shocked to say the least when she saw Dot. The sprite looked horrible and that wasn’t even the word Mouse could come up with it. If there something worse than horrible, that was Dot Matrix at the moment.
Mouse couldn’t even believe it, but she was definitely seeing it. Dot was getting paler by the look of it and her fever was getting higher by the nano.
“Hey Mouse.” Bob said, not taking her eyes away from his wife.
“Hey yourself, blue boy.” she responded. “How’s our leader girl?”
“She’s not doing so good.”
“She’ll be all right.” Mouse said, putting a hand on the guardian’s shoulder. “This is Dot Matrix we’re talking about. Nothing keeps this girl down.”
Bob gave a tired smile.
“You’re looking old there, Guardian.” Mouse joked. “Have you gotten any sleep?”
“Thanks for the compliment.” Bob said, sarcastically. “And no I haven’t. Too worried. Hanging out with Dot too long, I guess.”
“Can’t tempt fate, can ya?” Mouse gave a sly smile. “You, get out of here and get sleep. The Mouse is here, so go away now.”
Bob laughed a little, the first time he had actually laughed since they had gotten here. He gave Dot a kiss on her forehead, patted Mouse’s shoulder, and went outside, closing the door behind him. Mouse took Bob’s place in the chair and proceeded to watch over Dot. The hacker had to smile a little.
In all of her hours, she’d never thought she’d get so attached to one place and the sprites in it. She had always been on her own, even when she was a child. She didn’t rely on anyone for help, she could help herself.
But ever since she stepped in Mainframe, she felt connected, even if the first time had been working for the virus Megabyte. But Bob had been in the system and she felt a twinge of loyalty to the guardian. After all, he had shown compassion even when he arrested her for breaking into the Super Computer archives.
He was the only one who had treated her like a person instead of a criminal. It was funny. At the time of her arrival, she and Dot had been vying for Bob’s affection. But Mouse could see right through the facade Dot had around her. The hacker knew Dot had a torch for the guardian and vice versa.
Even after Bob had been sent to the Web, Mouse could’ve left at anytime, but didn’t. She saw what Bob’s departure had done to Dot, not to mention Enzo, who had now become the system’s only defense. And worse yet, only two people believed in Enzo’s abilities as a guardian.
Two people compared with the rest of the system who didn’t, including the very people he was working for in a sense. And Megabyte wasn’t helping as long as he had that snake Cyrus working for him and against Enzo. They seemed to have things underhand, until that fateful second.
It had been devastating to lose Bob, but losing Enzo had pushed Dot over the edge. They always knew they was a risk, but they never imagined it could actually happened and to someone like Enzo.
Just as he had gotten his confidence back, to lose a game and trap AndrAIa, Frisket, and himself in the games…well, Mouse understood why Matrix was Matrix. No one could truly understand except AndrAIa, of course, but Mouse had a pretty good idea.
Mouse looked down at Mainframe’s leader. Incredibly funny. With the way the two women had started, no one could believe they would end up as best friends. Dot was the closest thing to family Mouse had ever known, everyone in Mainframe was. The hacker couldn’t have imagined that she would get so attached to a little system so much.
Must be getting soft, she thought with a smirk. To Dot, she said, “Hang in there, Dot. Don’t go skipping out on us. That’s my job, remember?”
Mouse sighed. She didn’t know what would happen if Dot deleted. If that happened, Mainframe might as well be doomed.
Bob had pulled Enzo, Matrix, and AndrAIa aside after he was sure Kit and Daniels were asleep. Especially Kalyle Daniels. The young guardian cadet had now overstepped his bounds and there was nothing the Mainframers could do. They still needed him with this bug problem and Bob was certain he wasn’t going to let the cadet handle this on his own.
“I just talked to Del Centro, the Command.Com.” Bob said, sighing. “The news isn’t good. There’re still more binomes and sprites coming in and no antitoxin. She’s fighting it some way. I’m surprised she’s still holding out.”
“But how?” Enzo asked, not liking the news at all. “I thought you said a person can only last for a certain amount of time.”
“I know, I know.” Bob said in defeat. “I don’t know how she’s doing it, she just is. Thank the User for that. If she can hang out for a little longer…”
“Bob, we don’t got that kinda time!” Matrix exclaimed.
“Shh!” Enzo and AndrAIa said in unison.
“You guys, we can’t stay here.” AndrAIa insisted. “Remember, we have our own problems in Mainframe, and it isn’t looking too good either.” AndrAIa began to tell them the problems Phong had mentioned with bugs now springing up in their system as well.
“Great.” Enzo muttered, leaning against the wall. “We’re down here and the bugs are over there. How very convenient.”
“Well, we can’t do anything right now!” Bob said. “I’m not about to ruin whatever chance Dot has to get better. You guys can go back and help out. I’ll stay here.”
“No way, Bob.” Matrix said. “Enzo and I aren’t leaving Dot here. Not til she’s better.”
“I gotta stay too, Bob.” AndrAIa said, truthfully. When Bob looked at her in confusion, she added, “I have my own reasons. Besides, Phong asked me to.”
“A stalemate.” Bob reasoned. “And I know Kit’ll refuse to leave as well. And Mouse just got here…” The guardian sighed and crossed his arms. “You guys are really stubborn, you know that?” he asked, with a touch of humor in his voice.
“Must be hanging out with Dot a lot.” Enzo said, a sad smile coming to his face.
The four stood silently in the hallway. They were at an impasse. One hand was Mainframe’s new bug problem that seemed to be getting worse as they stayed in Turic. But the other hand was Dot, laying critical in a cot in a room down the way. Neither one of them wanted to leave.
Bob understood Enzo and Matrix’s need to stay, but was confused at AndrAIa explanation. Phong had asked her to stay, but why? As much as Bob wanted someone to go, they all wanted to stay. The Mainframe way. Always looking after each other.
But what about the system itself, which seemed to be in the worst danger possible?
Bob could only hope Dot could hang on for a little longer.
The alleyway was the perfect to hide. No one hardly ever came through this way, especially now. The plan was working and working well. They would take this system like they had the others and best yet, no one was suspecting anything yet. They couldn’t be found, their nest laying right in front of the them to see, but hidden so very very well.
Daemon had made sure they were prepared for what might happen if they didn’t succeed, but she knew they would. It was perfect. A very clever plan from a very clever virus.
And it didn’t even start after she had been deleted and the Net and the Guardians had been cured. It was hours before the first wave went out. Just the workers, then moving up to the soldiers, and finally the queen would enter the system and take the Command.Com.
Bugs weren’t as basic as sprites and binomes thought them to be. They had a hierarchy with their own rules and regulations, but with one common ground rule. Destroy. Taking over a system helped build their population.
With the Command.Com safely captured by the queen, the herd could find other systems that would help in their survival. A populated system meant food and areas that they could reproduce in. As soon as a system was about to crash, the herd would leave to find another fresh system.
The super virus Daemon had given them a task in order to help spread her infection through the Net. In the last scenario, the one where she would be defeated, they would be her revenge. Even through death, Daemon would have a lasting legacy and a last laugh.
And she would get her revenge on systems who tried to stop her. Bugs had to be the hardest things to hit a system and the hardest to get rid of. Even if an initial attack was stopped, they would always be there…lurking.
It didn’t matter if Daemon was gone, she would still overpower the Net. That was her function and she would have it carried out, even if she couldn’t do it herself.
It was only a matter of time before this system would fall as well.