Memories Are Made of This
Chapter 9 – Jetball Wizard
The grand total was at fourteen. That’s how many bugs the staff and citizens in Mainframe had discovered and they weren’t any closer to finding out where they were coming from. Currently, Ray and Sabrina were looking at system reports coming from all over the city. Two spotted in Wall Street, four reported near or in Floating Point Park. The only comfort they had was the bugs were just workers, but it didn’t make things easier.
Phong was no where to be seen, having gotten an emergency call from AndrAIa in Turic. Ray didn’t like the sound of it. Mouse had taken off like a shot after a few micros and something in the surfer could feel something horribly wrong had happened. What or to whom, he didn’t know. Phong had taken the call in his office and all knew when Phong wanted to be alone, he’d get what he wanted.
“Ray, whadda think happened?” Sabrina asked quietly, eyes surveying a screen in front of her. “In Turic, I mean.”
“I’m not sure, lovey.” Ray replied, putting a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder. “But what ever it was, Mouse went to find out and keep everyone sane.”
“Mouse? The sane one?” the girl joked, laughing a bit. Ray chuckled at the joke as well, giving her a small hug. “Everyone’s fine, I bet.” she continued, a sad smile on her lips. She sighed after a while and looked up at Ray. “Kit’s over there.”
Ray’s face went from shock to anger to realization. He knew something wasn’t quite right. “I knew something was missing, but couldn’t put my finger on it.” he replied, chuckling in spite of himself. “Don’t worry, Lovely Lady, I bet his folks discovered him and punished him rightly so, I might add. He’s fine, I’m sure.”
I hope they all are.
The waiting room was quiet. Three heartbroken sprites sat in the empty room, one leaning against the door jam, a second laying on the hard, cold bench, a third sat numbly at the table. The news was not good. Dot lay in a makeshift bed, all the equipped ones filled to capacity with the injured or worse cases. Dot had arrived too late.
There was no more antitoxin.
Bob sat by her cot, quietly talking to her, hoping against hope she would be okay. “Everything’s gonna be okay, Dot.” he whispered, brushing a strand of her hair from her eyes. She was hot to the touch, a brushing of a finger would hurt the person touching her. “We’ll get some more antitoxin and…”
“Give it to those who need it.” came the raspy reply.
“Like you, baby.” Bob said.
“Bob, the needs of the many…”
“Outweigh those of the one.” he concluded, sighing. “You’ve been hanging around Phong for too long.”
A weak smile came to Dot’s lips. “I don’t just go to the Principal Office to work, you know.” she joked. She coughed a few times before settling down, wincing as she did. “Bob, I’m hot.” she moaned.
“Sure are.” he smiled, his finger tracing the outline of her face.
“Flatterer.” she quipped, closing her eyes and smiling.
Bob grabbed a wet cloth he had gotten from the Command.Com, Dell Centro. The guardian hadn’t seen him for quite a while. The story he had gotten was a bad one. Turic was a small system, so not many doctors were there, which made treating every victim of an attack almost impossible. When they brought Dot, Centro told them truthfully that Dot would be on a waiting list.
Mr. Andrews had contacted him and had delivered the antitoxin. Centro immediately delivered it those that had a high priority. Unfortunately, the supply they brought was not enough. Since contacting Mainframe, there had been almost an influx of victims. They had hopefully saved some, but more were still hanging on to a mere thread and Dot was rapidly joining them. He just hoped Phong would send more help.
They were going to need it.
“We’re in some trouble here, Phong.”
As soon as they reached the Principal Office, AndrAIa quickly brought up an emergency vidwindow to Mainframe. She quickly told the wise sprite their situation and couldn’t help noticing Mouse in the background. The hacker was gone from sight though when she heard Dot had been attacked. Phong’s normally happy face was replaced with one of worry. He was extremely worried, not just for Dot’s welfare, but that of her brothers.
“Tell me, AndrAIa,” Phong said, after listening to the crisis in Turic. “How are the Matrix brothers taking this?”
“Not very well, obviously.” AndrAIa said, confused as to why he would even ask.
Phong sighed, shaking his head in sadness. “I am worried for them.” he said. “This might be too much for them to take. If anything should happen to lessen Dot’s chances…” his voice trailed off, closing his eyes as if to block out a painful memory.
“Phong, I’m not sure I understand your meaning.”
Phong looked at the game sprite and sighed once more. “AndrAIa, it is imperative that you watch Matrix and Enzo very closely until Dot is fully healed.” he said. “If anything were to seriously happen to her…” the old sprite again shock his head and sighed. “Perhaps I should start from the beginning.”
“That could be good.” AndrAIa said, crossing her arms.
“I’m not sure if Matrix or even Enzo remember that time.” he started. “They’ve tried so hard to block out the whole incident. It began the night of the Twin City disaster. Both brother and sister were shaken up, as you can imagine, but as the seconds dwindled by, I started to take note of how each kept in their pain. Dot, working as though to distance herself from the event. Enzo, just keeping it bottled in. It nearly destroyed him…”
The little sprite had been sitting in the corner for who knows how long. He had started to lose track of time and sense. He just stared at the wall. Enzo was tired and his bitmap was sore for sitting for too long, but no matter how he tried, he just couldn’t get up. Realization was starting to hit him now. The blast from the Twin City had deleted his parents. He and his sister were now orphans. He had overheard some binomes talking to Phong earlier. They thought he hadn’t them, but he had. He and Dot were now the only sprites in the system. All his friends were gone. He was completely alone.
He wasn’t sure when it happened exactly, but something in his processor snapped. He ceased to be Enzo Matrix. He was suddenly falling through a black void, the only light coming from what he could see through his eyes. The body was now just a shell of what had been Enzo David Matrix. Enzo landed on the hard ground, surrounded by darkness everywhere. For a little sprite, he was scared like crazy. He didn’t know where he was or how he had gotten there. Stray tears were starting to flow from his eyes.
He didn’t hear the voice at first, his small cries and sniffling distracting him. “Enzo…” it came again. Enzo turned and saw his parents beckoning him towards them. The small sprite wiped his eyes and stared wide eyed. It looked like his parents, sounded like his parents…was this a dream of some sort? The two stood in a doorway and behind them was a green field of grass. The sun was shining and he could hear birds singing.
“Come with us, Enzo.” said his mother, waving him closer.
“But…but Phong said…” the boy stuttered, wiping more tears from his face.
“Come on, son,” James said, proudly. “Come be with us. Everything’s going to be okay.”
Enzo was at a crossroad. He knew this place couldn’t be real. In real life, his parents were gone. But here, they were very much alive. Enzo didn’t have to think twice. He ran towards his mother’s outstretched arms and hugged her. Then the three entered the beautiful place, the door closing slowly behind them…
Phong’s thoughts drifted away from the damage reports to the small boy that had been sitting in the corner staring at the wall. He had been there for a second and a half, no movement what so ever in all that time. Phong was beginning to get increasingly worried for the lad. Enzo was very young and something like this could only do damage to his frail senses. He looked over at the boy’s sister, who was busy talking to the binome in charge. Dot too was greatly affected, of course. Though she was older, she seemed able to cope and move on, but Phong knew this was only to mislead those around her.
It was time for the brother and sister to take a break.
“Dot,” the wise sprite interrupted, whirling over to the young girl. “You have done enough already. Please, let this tragedy be handed by those in the Principal Office.”
“But Phong,” Dot protested. “Things have to be done. Cleared away. We still have to make a complete body count…” her voice trailed off.
“Please Dot, all these things will be taken care of.” Phong said. He then turned to the binome in charge. “Would you excuse us?” The binome nodded and went back to his surveying work. “Dot, I am growing very worried about your brother.” he continued in a hushed whisper. “He has not moved from that spot in over a second. I feel he is under a great deal of suffering, as are we all.”
Dot sighed. She had been trying to block that horrible moment from her processor. In doing that, she had surely neglected her kid brother. “You’re right, Phong.” she said in defeat. “I’ve just…”
“I understand, my child.” Phong replied, putting a comforting hand on the girl’s arm. “It is time to tend to your other family member. It is written, in times of tragedy, the family unit is stronger. Don’t let the fact that your parents are no more separate you from the family you still have.” Dot thought through Phong’s words, nodded, and walked over to Enzo.
“Hey you.” she said, kneeling by her brother. “I’m sorry for not paying attention to you, Enzo. We shouldn’t let the fact that Mom and Dad are gone break us apart. We gotta look out for each other now.”
Dot didn’t receive an answer. She sighed, thinking Enzo was giving her the silent treatment. “Enzo, I really am sorry for the way I’ve been acting.” she said. “I wanna make that up to you. I think we should talk, don’t you?” Still no answer. Dot put a hand on his shoulder and noticed he didn’t flinch. That’s when she noticed his eyes hadn’t moved at all since she had been there. “Phong!” she cried, gently shaking Enzo.
The sagely old sprite whirled by. “There’s something wrong with Enzo!” Dot was now forcibly shaking her brother. She stopped long enough for Phong to examine the boy. He placed two fingers near the boy’s neck and checked his appearance. “Oh dear.” he murmured, suddenly realizing the urgency of the situation. “Call the med unit right away.” he ordered Dot, who looked as though she was about to cry.
“Enzo’s stopped breathing.”
AndrAIa looked at Phong in shock. “I had no idea any of that happened.” she whispered.
“As I said, I doubt Matrix or Enzo even remember the incident.” Phong replied. “Luckily, we were able to save him, but to this second, even I am not sure what exactly happened. That is why it is important to monitor both brothers’ activities. To lose Dot and then her brothers in one quick microsecond would be unbearable.”
“Tell me about it.” AndrAIa replied. “Don’t worry, Phong. I’ll keep a close eye on both. I’ll let you know if there’s anything more on Dot. AndrAIa out.”
Kalyle stood outside the Principal Office, checking for anything that could come up. Turbo will hear about this, he repeated in his mind. They could be hunting down bugs right now, but nooooo. We have to take care of Dot. Dot has to be okay. Ugh! Don’t they understand what kind of trouble is coming as long as she’s even barely alive?
Sometimes Kalyle couldn’t understand sprites. Everything that seemed logical and things that should be done were replaced with mind messing emotions. Sure, the cadet felt bad that Dot had gotten caught, but hey. People told her not to come, but she did anyways. Not his fault if she deleted.
The cadet sighed, not sensing anything, not getting anything from Crover. Had the bugs gone into hiding? Maybe…probably planning something as he stood there. Bugs were incredibly smart, despite everything they were.
That soldier that attacked Dot must’ve known she was a Command.Com, which meant their being in Turic only prevented them from saving Mainframe. Pity though. He never did find the answers to some of his questions. Oh well. He had a job to do and that was to end this menace as soon as possible.
Kalyle turned to look at the Principal Office entrance. He really didn’t want to be in there anyways. He had seen enough of death in his lifespan. He may be used to it, but it didn’t mean he had to see it. Besides, the Mainframe sprites seemed to be mad at him.
Go figure. That’s gratitude for ya.
He didn’t need to come to Mainframe; Turbo basically made him come. He just hoped they wouldn’t have the same spammed problem, though he knew they probably were. He wouldn’t be surprised if the whole bug thing started in the basic system.
KD sighed once more. Now was the time to see that kid in action.
Gavin hated leaving. He hadn’t felt so bad since AndrAIa had been bitten by that Web creature so many hours ago. At the time, he figured that nothing would make him sadder than to lose AndrAIa before they reached Mainframe. He knew if she was lost, Matrix would be lost as well. But luckily, their Guardian had come back and saved her and Gavin figured he would never have to go through something like this again.
Nothing would pain him more if they lost Dot Matrix. She was more than just a business partner to him. She was a friend, a true friend who had shown her true colors more than once in the hours since he had met her. She was a sprite he admired. Not too many sprites were like her.
It wasn’t just a matter of respecting her, Dot Matrix commanded respect. It was though you had no choice but to respect the spirit that she had, respect the decisions she made, rather they be right or wrong. She was a sprite who commanded respect, deserved it, and often got it.
Gavin shook his head sadly. It would be a horrible shame for them to lose her. And not to just him and the crew, but also the family she would leave behind. Having to tell young Christopher that his mother had been attacked by a bug was the worse thing he had ever done. And it wasn’t just a bug, but a soldier, the deadliest of them all. Once you had been attacked by a soldier, there really was no hope.
And the fact that Dot was the Command.Com only meant the Queen probably knew of her fate and would come and get the last scraps. Gavin had seen a bug or two in his life and knew the Queen was a fate worse than deletion itself. The look on the boy’s face told the captain he knew what would happen if Dot wasn’t treated with antitoxin.
Gavin hated to leave, but he had a job to do.
Now that Turic had used all of the antitoxin from Mainframe, someone would need to go back and get some. The Crimson Binome and the crew of the Saucy Wench took it upon themselves to do the task. To lose Dot…Gavin again shook his head. He couldn’t even imagine what would happen if the lass didn’t make it.
Her family couldn’t cope.
They would surely go offline, he knew that to be true of Matrix and Bob. There would be vengence, that was for sure. The crew of the Saucy Wench would make sure of that. But that would have to wait.
The Crimson Binome had a job to do.
Mouse flew as quickly as she could in Ship. She was trying her best to stay calm. Dot is going to be all right. She’s going to be all right. She knew it was a bad idea for Dot to go to Turic, but that sprite was so stubborn! Mouse kicked it into high gear and passed through the first portal. Of course Dot’s going to be all right. Why wouldn’t she be?
Mouse had to make it to Turic.
A middle aged sprite stood in the hallway, blowing a tired breath from his lips. He was relatively tall, with black hair and dark eyes. He was a medium blue, which was the mood he was feeling right now. Command.Com Dell Centro had been a busy sprite since the attacks began.
He had lost his system, his people, his family to a bunch of ugly, overgrown viruses. That’s who they would be to him. Nothing could cause this much destruction and this much pain and be something other than a virus. But as Dell had come to understand, there was a being so malicious, so deviant, so cunning, so cruel, so heartwrenchingly cold that could out double deal a virus in a snap.
That being was a bug.
And now their only hope of survival lay in a makeshift cot at the end of the hall. He had heard of the incredible Dot Matrix and wanted the pleasure of meeting her some second, but not like this. Definitely not like this.
True, they had brought antitoxin with them, something Turic didn’t have, but the demand outweighed the supply and now more sprites and binomes were being brought in, Dot Matrix being one of them, and there was no hope in sight. Her husband had said their friends had gone to get more and would be back, but it would probably take a while and that was something these people didn’t have.
Dell started to walk the long corridor back to the makeshift waiting room that had once been a Java meeting place for the staff. He purposefully walked slower, not wanting to go in there. Not wanting to see the dejected looks on the Matrix family’s faces. The Guardian Bob had introduced everyone slightly, Dot’s brothers had been the first to ask the questions and the first to be angered to learn Dot was on a waiting list.
That Matrix fellow had scared him silly. His wife, AndrAIa he believed was the name, had calmed him down a little and had offered her services as soon as she made a call back home. The other young lad, a guardian cadet Bob had said, seemed disinterested in the life or deletion situation.
But the worst, oh the worst person to come in was Dot’s son. The boy was just that. A boy. Dell had a son just his age before all of this and to see the panic stricken look on his face when he ran into the room was sad. Dell felt horrible at not treating Dot first, but he had so many people that needed help first.
Ironicly, the person who felt the same way was Dot herself. The Command. Com insisted that the others would be treated before her. After all, they were first in line. As he neared her room, he wasn’t thinking about her as the leader of a remarkable system, but as a mother. A mother with a young son and newborn twins he had heard.
Dell prayed to the User their friends would make it back in time.
Phong was worried. More worried than he had been in many minutes and hours. Hearing the news from AndrAIa was distressing. Dot had been attacked by a soldier. There was no more antitoxin. Knowing the past occurance with Matrix, he was sure the sprite wouldn’t be able to take it if something happened to his sister. With that in mind, Young Enzo wasn’t safe either.
The old sprite whirled about his conservatory. Usually during times of stress, he would retreat here and think, reflect on happier times or to just smile at the trees and plants that lined the walls and floor.
The current situation abroad did little to ease things that were happening at home. The lab had been successful, yes, at using Dr. Matrix’s papers and getting the antitoxin. But as to getting rid of the horrid things, even James Matrix was at a lost.
Phong remembered a time when bugs were just pests, annoying things that would turn up every once in a while. Something harmless, but had now grown very sinister. As far back as Phong could remember, there hadn’t been a bug in Mainframe until just recently.
Strange, he thought. He would have to go back and look over James’ work again. The young scientist and his wife had been to many systems and had seen many things before arriving in the small system of Mainframe. The old sprite wondered if James kept his journal during these trips. They could provide an exceptional amount of information.
It could also hold the key to Dot’s life and the extermination of bugs.
AndrAIa located Matrix almost immediately.
He was leaning against the doorframe, eyes closed, arms crossed in his normal brooding fashion. She made a quick check for Enzo and found him sitting and yawning on the nearby bench. She wasn’t sure if he would go down the same path Phong had told her about, but she wasn’t going to take any chances. AndrAIa saw Kit sitting at a table all by himself, head cast down, fingers tracing imaginary outlines on the surface. She’d have to have a talk with him later.
Right now, she had to stop her husband from entering some scary place she had only heard about.
AndrAIa walked up to him and looked up. Her mere presence caused Matrix’s eyes to open and stare down at her. “Care to walk me outside?” she asked, looking up at him. Matrix looked at her, an almost haunted look in his eyes.
He remembered the last time he felt this bad, felt on the verge of a system crash…correction. Another system crash. Without a word, he heaved himself from the wall and started to walk towards the door, with AndrAIa right behind him.
They went out the back way, where a small ramada was once set up. Only one bench was left standing, the one in which Matrix and AndrAIa sat. Matrix took the bench, while AndrAia hoped up on the table next to him.
“I guess asking if you’re okay would be pointless, huh?” she asked. When he didn’t answer, she continued. “She’s going to be okay, Enzo, you have to believe that. But right now, I’m really starting to worry about you.”
After a while, Matrix answered, “He told you, didn’t he?”
AndrAIa looked at him in confusion, though she had an idea of what he was referring. Matrix looked up at his wife. “Phong.” he said, seeing it clearly in her eyes the wise sprite had indeed told her.
“He didn’t think you’d remember anything.”
Matrix sighed and turned to face forward. “There’s some things I don’t remember.” he said.
“What was it like?” AndrAIa asked. “Could you tell me about it?”
“I don’t exactly remember what happened…” he started. “I had been staring at the wall for what seemed like seconds after…you know. And then…I just…I just slipped away, I guess.” He paused for a nano, almost being brought back to that second.
“It wasn’t scary or anything. I mean…I was scared at first, of course, but…it didn’t last long. I don’t even know how long I was out. I just remember waking up in the medical unit with Dot sitting next to me in a chair.”
“What happened?” asked AndrAIa.
“Apparently, I caught a virus, I think the Melissa or the HD one. Anyway, if things had gone normally, I would’ve had a check up, gotten some medicine for it, and bingo. I’d be okay. But because I was so quiet those seconds, I just…the official report is I lost consciousness and stopped breathing due to the virus attacking my code. I was in the M.U. for like two cycles. It was weird. I just remember waking up in the medic bed with Dot next to me.”
“So the virus caused a hallucination, you think?”
“Maybe.” Matrix said, looking down. “I don’t think so though. It seemed so real.”
AndrAIa slid down to sit next to him on the bench and put a hand on his shoulder. “Real or not, I don’t want to lose you. Promise me you won’t think about Dot’s condition. She’s going to be okay, Enzo. You’ll see.”
I hope you’re right.