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Aftermath: Daemon's Chosen
By:
LadyBard

Chapter 5 - Intrigues

The present

"Enzo?"

Enzo looked up from the console. He hadn't heard Dot come out of her office, since he was so into updating the system database. "What's up, sis?"

"I've just been called to Sector 1004. Emergency labor relations meeting. Sweetie it's almost time for the kids to come home, could you --?"

"Sure Dot."

"I'd rather have you with me --,"

"I know," Enzo didn't need to say more. Despite his reassurances in the lift at DeCrypt Enterprises that second, Dot was still nervous. She had tried to be with her children as much as possible. After Dot had told Bob about DeCrypt's subtle threat, Bob had begun a discreet investigation into the industrialist's background. So far, there had been lots of rumor and innuendo concerning DeCrypt's business practices, but nothing provable.

So everyone had been pitching in to make certain the Lan children arrived home safely. If Enzo wasn't picking them up, AndrAIa was along with her daughter. No one was certain how long it would go on but for now, the family was playing it safe and of course, the children had no idea of what was happening.

The grade school they attended was in New Lost Angles. No matter how often Enzo visited the newly revitalized island, he was still impressed at how different it looked, since the construction had began. Even Hex's Lair had gone through immense changes, now being surrounded by a high wall and an infamous patch of greenery known as Hex's Garden. No one, but no one, entered Hex's Garden unless they were very brave or very random.

School was just letting out when Enzo arrived. He leaned against a nearby data tree and watched the door as myriads of grade-schoolers tumbled out. From here, he would go to the day care center to pick up his niece.

Just as he caught sight of his nephew a sensation of icy fingers along the nape of his neck hit him without warning. Enzo straightened away from the tree. Quickly he scanned the surrounding area, but saw nothing and no one out of the ordinary.

So why did he feel like he was being watched?

But a nano later, his attention was drawn elsewhere.

"ENZO!"

And in classic style, six-hour-old Kieran Lan subjected Enzo to a flying tackle.

"Hi Enzo! What are you doing here? Where's mom? Is she busy? Are you going stay with us? Are we having pizza? Guess what I did today? Hey why were you looking around?"

Enzo reached up a ruffled the mop of silvery curls, "Okay, let's see if I can answer all of those questions. Picking you up, at a meeting, yes, yes, if you want to, what and no reason."

Kieran chuckled, "You're funny Enzo."

Enzo lifted him off of his chest and stood. "So you want pizza?"

"Yeah, can we?"

"Sure squirt. Let's go pick up your sister okay?"

"Okay," Kieran said. "You're doing it again."

"What?"

"Looking around."

"Sorry Little Man," Enzo knew he could never tell his little nephew why. Would he even understand?

Their next stop was the day care center. Kieran dashed ahead and into the building and Enzo not wanting to let him out of his site, followed quickly. Kieran was chatting with some of the older siblings of the center attendees. He was safe enough with all the mothers around and within reaching distance.

"Hello Enzo."

Enzo turned and smiled nervously at the young teacher, "Hi Phyllis."

"Eve is ready," she gave him a grin that made Enzo squirm. She was in her twenties so Enzo was hard pressed to understand why she was interested in him. One of the other teachers carried his four-hour-old niece into the room.

"Enzo!" In a perfect repeat of her brother, little Eve held out her arms and Enzo lifted her into his.

"Key, let's go," Enzo smiled, "Have a nice evening Phyllis."

"You too, Enzo."

"I didn't tell you what I did today," Key said as they walked. "Well teacher made us pick someone to do an art project and I drew clay."

Enzo assumed he meant he had picked working with clay and was assigned a partner, "Who are you working with?"

"Oh some girl. I don't like it though. Girls have cooties."

"Hey!" Eve protested.

Enzo decompressed his zip board and waited for Key. His nephew had recently learned to ride one and was allowed only with supervision and only at certain heights.

"Hang on Eve," Enzo said as they started away. "Girls don't have cooties." Enzo had to smile inwardly for there had been a time when he thought girls had cooties as well. "You'll feel differently in a few hours."

"No I won't, girls are yucky."

"Your mother's a girl. Your aunts, AndrAIa, Mouse and Melissa are girls. So is Aunty Hex."

"They're not girls, they're old women," Key said matter-of-fact.

Enzo had to fight to keep a straight face, "Better not let them hear you say that."

"Why? It's true isn't it?"

"They're women, not old women," Enzo said.

"Okay," Key said, "Anyway, do you think we could stop by Aunty Hex's gallery and get some clay?"

"Sure squirt," Enzo said, "She'll be happy to see you two."

"I'm hungry Enzo," Eve muttered around her thumb.

"Well let's get something that tastes better than your thumb okay?"

"'Kay" Eve said.

Hex's Gallery was adjacent to her Lair. Despite that, her gallery did surprisingly well. The trio had to slip past a tour just beginning. Adjacent to the lobby was the art store and gift shop.

"Hello!" Hex suddenly appeared.

"Aunty Hex!" Key rushed to her and threw his arms around her and Eve struggled out of Enzo's arms to do the same.

"Afternoon Hex," Enzo smiled.

"And what brings you here my love?" The Chaos Virus gave him a toothy grin.

"We need to purchase clay and food," Enzo said. "Don't ask me to explain."

"I won't my pretty one," Hex smiled. "Then let's find what you need." She turned back to the kids, "I've just made some biscuits. You can have as many as you want." Hex lifted Eve into her arms and they started for the gift shop.

As Enzo was about to follow the feeling came again, of eyes scrutinizing him. Enzo turned.

He was standing by the entrance. Enzo had never seen him before. He was dressed in a rather nondescript fashion. He was tall and lean with metallic gold skin and even at the distance from which he observed Enzo could sense he was someone to be reckoned with. Enzo stared, unable to look away from the piercing gaze.

"Enzo love, are you coming?" Hex's voice brought him out of his trance.

"What?" Enzo glanced at Hex, but when he returned his gaze to the door the man was gone.

"What?" Hex's eyes glowed dimly, "What is it?"

"I --," he wasn't certain if he should say anything. After all strangers to Mainframe were common now. "I just saw someone he was a stranger. You know we're supposed to be careful."

"Surely he won't try to harm my precious ones?" Hex said. "Not unless he wishes to be blasted into pixels."

"Still, I'm going to see what I can find out about him. He may be still here. He was dressed in a white shirt and brown pants with black boots. His hair and face was metallic gold."

"I'll find him love," Hex smiled again, "You take the precious ones into the back and let them have some biscuits."

And with a flash Hex was gone. Enzo led Key and Eve into the gift shop.

***

What a peaceful system, it was the first though Raven had when he cast eyes on Mainframe. Although the system was alive with people and commerce, there was still a -- serenity about it. A pity he was here to disrupt it.

The precautions they had taken to guard against strangers entering their system were impressive, but passable, if one knew how. He had no trouble entering and his ship was far offshore, cloaked and ready for a hasty departure. He had taken a rocket cycle inland.

Procuring a room at a comfortable hotel, Raven took some time to choose and prepare the devices and weapons he would utilize. The mercenary took meticulous care of his weapons. While he cleaned his laser pistol he thought of the cover he would use so as not to arouse suspicion. Raven had many personas.

Changing into the most unremarkable clothes he owned, Raven exited the hotel and moved among the citizens of Mainframe. He took careful notes on where the Principal Office was located, the CPU headquarters and the military base. He took some time exploring the Bookmark Tower as part of a tour, slipping away every so often and rejoining the group when someone questioned him, feigning that he had gotten separated from the tour. An annoying little T.V. named Mike scolded him every time he returned. Raven had to fight not to take him apart piece by piece.

He learned that Dot Matrix was in some type of meeting and her brother was on his way to pick up the children. Information was way too easy to obtain. So after some searching, he finally tracked them to the grade school, then followed them to the day care center and finally, the art gallery.

Raven had been mildly shocked when Enzo Matrix had spotted him but not overly concerned. He had been more concerned in the stunningly beautiful virus that had appeared out of thin air. By the description he had of her, she could only be Hexadecimal. It was she whom he'd have to be careful of. He was relieved her sister wasn't present. Dealing with two viruses would have been way too much.

He moved away, taking time to explore the gallery. Many of the works caught his interest and he resolved to purchase one if he had the time. It was then that he decided on his cover. An art collector, a position of which he had vast experience. He slipped into a room decorated entirely in blue and featuring many works from paintings to sculptures depicting a young Prime Guardian, before he had been granted his position.

A light scent suddenly tickled his nostrils. Like vanilla or orchids and suddenly there was a flash of light and a white mask and she was standing before him.

Very few things shocked Raven into immobility and silence. But at the sight of her close up Raven found he had lost both the power of movement and speech. She was without a doubt the most stunning creature he had ever laid eyes on. An exotic beauty, she was walking art herself, exuding a transfinite power.

Her smile brought him from his admiring haze. "Is there anything I can help you find, golden one?"

A ghost of a smile graced Raven's lips, "You are the proprietor of this establishment?"

She tilted her head to the right and tapped the edge of her mask with one slim finger, "I am. And who might you be, my love?"

Raven reached for her hand and brought it to his lips, "I am called Laroux."

"You realize that's a virus name, don't you?"

"Of course," Raven said, "It sounds dashing doesn't it? Lends an air of mystery? You look like a woman who favors intrigue."

"There are a lot of things I favor," she smiled.

"And what is your name, lovely one?"

"You know what my name is," her eyes glowed dimly. "I'm sure you'll tell me yours in time."

Raven raised an eyebrow, "Madame Hexadecimal?"

"I know why you're here," Hexadecimal said.

"To buy art."

Instantly, the mask twisted to become a grotesque jesters grin, "Don't toy with me little man! But then again perhaps you should, I do love a challenge although I am seldom bested."

"I can imagine," Raven said. "But I am truly interested in buying art if you wouldn't mind giving a private tour?"

Her mask reshaped to normal, "Very well, I'll play your game, but be warned, I can be very creative when it comes to winning."

"Indeed," Raven said, wondering what he had gotten himself into.

***

Now isn't this rich? Hexadecimal thought. He's here for a purpose. I certainly hope it's not to hurt my precious ones. It would be such a pity to destroy such a fine example of a sprite male.

Hex couldn't say she had been bored. Since becoming a business-virus, she had been extraordinarily busy. Yet lately she had found herself yearning for some thing more. She wasn't certain what.

Intrigue, she thought with an inward smile, yes, I'm sure you will supply me with much amusement.

***

Seven hours into the past

 

 

The ringing of the vid-phone brought Dot out of her deep slumber.

"Now who in the net could this be?" She muttered reaching blindly for the control pad on her nightstand. Bob's face in the vid window was the last thing she expected to see.

"Dot I'm sorry to wake you."

Dot was instantly alert, "Bob what's wrong?"

"I need your help. Could you meet me at the archives in ten? I'll explain when you get here."

"All right, I'm on my way."

After the window closed Dot quickly climbed from bed and donned her regular jumpsuit. She moved quietly through the apartment and approached Ronnie's bedroom. Not wanting to wake the baby, she slipped inside and moved towards the bed. She reached out and gently shook Ronnie's shoulder, "Ronnie?"

"Hmm Dot?" Ronnie looked up, "What's wrong?"

"I don't know. Bob just called and has some sort of emergency. He wants me to meet him at the archives. I just wanted to let you know, could you watch Enzo?"

"Oh sure," Ronnie said, "I hope it's not serious."

"Yeah," Dot said, "So do I."

***

Bob was waiting for her at the entrance to the Mainframe Archives.

The two binomes who pulled guard duty stood at attention and saluted when Dot approached.

"Sir, Ma'am," they said in unison.

"Sorry I had to wake you Dot," Bob said. Dot could see the fatigue that claimed him in his face and they way his body slumped.

"And when was the last time you slept?" Dot asked as they approached the archives entrance.

"Can't now," Bob said, "Something terrible has happened in the Super Computer."

"Where are the others?"

"Still there," Bob said.

Dot spoke her name into the security system, "Start talking Prime Guardian."

As the two moved down the corridor Bob began to describe the events of the second. Dot was horrified to learn of the murders and didn't blame Bob one bit for not wanting to rest until he came up with some substantial clues.

"So what is it that you wanted to see?" Dot asked as she activated the control panel. The vid-windows floated around them in perfect alignment.

"The final confrontation," Bob said. "When our remaining forces battled the remainder of Daemon's Armada."

"What are we looking for?"

"I'm not sure yet," Bob said. "Let's have four angles. Program one window to move one nano per frame."

Dot keyed in the instructions and the vid-windows came alive with scenes of the last battle.

"I told you when I was at the meeting, Matrix and I sensed a viral presence," Bob said, "But there were no true virals among the prisoners."

"No," Dot said. "Of the fifty or so prisoners we took, all were infected sprites and binomes. Some were released to their families, but we still have a great many here. I was hoping the Collective could assist with them."

"Don't worry, we'll deal with them as well. But I want to speak with wait a nano the third vid-window, there, rewind."

The scene on the window was a close-up of the foredeck of one of the enemy war ships. At least a dozen fighters were maneuvering around the blasts of the massive cannons. Several flashes of white light appeared at irregular intervals in certain spots on the screen.

"Go a nano per frame," Bob said. "What are those lights in the background?"

"Escape pods," Dot said, "All were present and accounted for though. Most of our prisoners were making their escape in that manner but were either captured or destroyed, some by their own army."

"And we can account for all the pods on the war ships?"

"According to Mouse's report we can."

"So we know they didn't escape that way."

"Bob what do you think is going on?"

"I'm still not sure," Bob said. "Was Ashar the only true virus you encountered?"

Dot shuddered at the mention of the viral general's name, "Besides Nemesis, yes."

The Guardian went silent for a time. "You're certain Nemesis is deleted?"

"Oh yes, according to Mouse."

Again, Bob was silent and for so long that Dot began to worry. The Command.com turned to the window again and frowned. She suddenly realized what Bob was seeing, or not seeing. Something was wrong with the picture.

"Wait just a nano," an idea occurred to Dot and she began to furiously program instructions.

The picture rewound again and this time, the window triangulated the movements of each fighter.

"Good idea," Bob said and the two observed the scene once more.

Their ships converged on the enemy, the battle ensued, the escape pods were launched and the window again computed the actions of each of their fighters. Dot opened another window and the information was displayed before them.

"I'll have the computer search for anything unusual. Irregular flight patterns, damage to the fighters and how many of our fighters are accounted for." Dot said. "This will take a few nanos."

Surreptitiously, Dot observed Bob. He was exhausted, she could tell, and she was going to make certain he got a good nights downtime.

When the information was compiled, Dot scanned the screen quickly, and sighed at the numbers, "All the soldiers we lost the surviving families have been notified."

The number was staggering and like the first time she had seen it, tears welled in Dots eyes. They had won the war but at what cost? Then she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and she turned and gave Bob a slight smile.

"Cross reference the last known location of each of the missing fighters and calculate their flight patterns," Bob said.

"I see," Dot did so.

A few of the fighters clearly abandoned the battle much to Dot's disgust. The computer followed their movements as they made their escape.

"Wait, there!" Bob suddenly pointed. "Magnify that area." Bob pointed to the left hand corner of the vid-window

Dot did. "Wait, that's one of ours isn't it?"

"Yes, but where is it going? The other fighters all went in the opposite direction."

"We can calculate its present course and how far it would have to go to a civilized system." Dot's fingers moved furiously over the keypad. "Let's see, if it remained on its present course with no variations --,"

Dot turned to Bob. She didn't need to say it, it was right before them.

"Melissa came on the war ships," Bob said. "We need to have a talk with her in the morning."

"It is morning," Dot said quietly.

"So it is," Bob smiled.

The opening of a vid-window disrupted the mood, "Bob? Dot?" Phong's face appeared, "Please go to the Principal Office Infirmary right away."

"What is it Phong?" Bob asked.

"Matrix, Mouse and Ray are there. They have had a run-in with some disreputable people at the Super Computer."

"Oh no," Dot said. "We're on our way, Phong."

***

Dot halted at the door to the waiting room. She was sick with worry but couldn't help the smile that tugged at her mouth when she heard Mouse's tirade.

"I told you sugah, I'm fine, stop fussing over me!"

"Hold still!" Nurse Six scolded, "We have to get some ice on that eye before it swells shut."

Mouse continued to grumble.

Bob asked, "What happened?"

Dot's eyes then fell on Matrix. Her brother sat in a corner away from the others. Apparently, he had chosen to treat his own wounds for he was holding a roll of gauze over a cut on his bicep. He was also sporting several other cuts and bruises and a busted lip.

"That's quite a shiner Mouse," Bob was saying and for a moment, Dot's attention turned to her hacker friend. That's when she noticed Mouse's black eye.

"You should see the other guy, sugah."

"Indeed," Ray muttered. Of the three, the surfer apparently suffered the least amount of injury.

"Now tell me how this happened?"

Nurse Six approached Dot, "He insisted on treating himself," she said of Matrix. "He won't let me near him."

"Let me try," Dot said. Nurse Six handed her some fresh bandages, antiseptic and an ice pack.

Dot strode briskly over to her brother but always kept a portion of her attention on the other occupants of the room.

"Well we found out just how powerful Crack was, sugah, but he didn't do it alone," Mouse was saying.

"People were terrified of him, mate," Ray said. "I mean I've seen virus lords with less power than Crack had."

Dot knelt in front of Matrix, "We should check to make certain you don't need stitches for that."

"What?" Matrix looked up seeming to notice her for the first time.

Dot was hard pressed to mask her reaction. Every time she saw his face it reminded her of how much her brother had suffered. Not just what he had went through at the hands of Daemon, but his time in the web as well. Lynx was right about one ting, Enzo had told her next to nothing about that and she had not been there to protect him. It had been her decision to let him go into the games and it had cost him his childhood. Dot knew she'd never forgive herself for that.

"Let me have a look at that sweetie," Dot smiled at him.

"I'm fine," Matrix said gruffly.

"Don't argue," Dot reached for the roll of gauze.

"I'll do it myself Dot," Matrix turned away, "I don't need your help okay?"

His words were like a slap in the face, "No," Dot managed a half-hearted smile, "I guess you don't anymore."

"Dot --," Matrix turned to look at her. Neither sprite realized the room had gone silent.

"Matrix?" The uncomfortable silence was broken by the appearance of AndrAIa. "What happened?"

No one replied at first, then Bob cleared his throat, "Trouble at the Super Computer." Bob went on to explain what had happened.

AndrAIa stepped around Dot and knelt before Matrix.

"Let me have a look at that."

"It's nothing AndrAIa."

"Silly sprite, you're bleeding all over the place."

"Geez can't people stop coddling me?" Matrix said, "I said I was fine."

"Don't give me that 'angsty' stuff, Matrix."

Dot sighed and turned away.

"Like I was saying, sugah," Mouse continued. "Crack was just a two-byte lackey. It was whoever was pulling his strings that had the real power."

Dot stepped beside Bob and he smiled slightly at her. His arm went around her waist and Dot sighed again at the measure of comfort it brought. Bob had said Matrix was just scared and embarrassed but still Dot wondered what her brother was thinking.

"But who did this to you?" Bob asked.

"I'm getting to that, sugah." Mouse said. "When we went asking around, somebody suggested we go out to this place, one of the pre-fab buildings they use like a warehouse. They said a group's been meeting."

"It was a trap," Bob said.

"Yeah, we figured as such but we thought we could handle it," Mouse said. "Didn't think there'd be that many though."

"And after I told you to be careful," Bob scolded.

Mouse pointedly ignored him, "Anyway, one of them starts threatening us and lets it slip that whoever was pulling Crack's strings will get us."

"So we have to find out who the puppet master is." Dot said.

"What'd you two find out in the archives?" Ray asked.

Dot took out her organizer and opened it, accessing the file detailing the flight patterns of their ships. "We found that four of our ships left the scene. Three seemed to be going into the same direction but one well see for yourself."

"There are several systems it could have gone to," Ray said. "It's hard to tell since it went out of range."

"Let me guess," Mouse said, "The largest system in its flight path with no variations would be the Super Computer?"

Bob sighed, "You know of Melissa's power? Attaching to things?"

"You think another virus has that power and maybe attached to this ship?" Mouse asked. "Or maybe managed to hijack it?"

"Either way, it's a possibility."

"Then we need to talk to Melissa," Ray said.

"In the morning?" Mouse asked.

"It is morning," Bob said. "Better make it now. We know Nemesis is deleted --,"

"That's for sure, sugah," Mouse smiled.

"But who else was on the lead ship?"

"Look you two go talk to Melissa and we'll see what we can get out of the prisoners in the detention center." Mouse said.

"You'll do no such a thing," Bob said. "The first thing you're all going to do is let Nurse Six finish treating you then get some downtime."

"Is that an order Prime Guardian, sir?" Mouse smiled.

Bob sighed, "Would you obey it if I said yes?"

"Nope."

"Didn't think so."

"I'll do it," Matrix said. "I think I can get better results anyway no offense, Mouse."

"You're in worse shape then she is," Dot said.

"Like I said, I'm fine."

"I'll keep an eye on him Dot," AndrAIa said, "Some body has to keep him in line."

"Mouse, did you manage to restrain any of the people who attacked you?"

"Yup," Mouse smiled proudly. "Dom has them locked in the storage rooms at the factory, but we needed you to authorize their transport. Of course when Phong saw us, he insisted we get fixed up."

"Then when you're all 'fixed up' and have gotten some downtime, return to the S.C. and question them. I'll be along later to give you the authorization. Then I'd like for you to return to the factory and assist Dom in getting a new Security force together." Bob smiled when Mouse opened her mouth to voice what he knew would be a protest, "That's an order Constable."

Mouse snorted.

"Matrix and AndrAIa, meet us at the Principal Office when you've finished questioning the prisoners here," Bob turned to Dot, "You sure you want to come along?"

"Let you go to Hex's Lair in the wee hours of the morning alone?" Dot said. "I don't think so."

***

Hexadecimal gazed with a smile into her mirror at Bob and Dot's approach.

"Now won't this be interesting," the Chaos virus smiled.

Bob was calling to her and with a wave of her hand, both sprites appeared before her.

"Good evening Hexadecimal. Did we wake you?" Bob asked.

"Of course not," Hex smiled, "I seldom sleep."

The java table laden with biscuits and a tea set appeared, "Tea and biscuits anyone?"

The two sprites moved nervously over to the couch and sat down. Hex watched amused as they squirmed and fidgeted. How she loved that reaction in sprites and binomes.

"Now what brings you to my Lair at this hour?"

"Actually Hex," Bob said, "We needed to talk to Melissa."

Hex leaned back and gave her intrigued face, "And why is that? I may not need to sleep but she certainly does."

"It's important Hex. We need to know some information about Daemon's Web Armada."

"Whatever for? My mother's deleted, her armada destroyed, what more do you need?"

As Bob explained the happenings in the Super Computer, Hex leaned forward intent. She was especially interested in the murdered sprites and binomes and the condition they were in. She supposed that Rose Norton was right about it being a viral infection, but she'd have to actually see it to be certain. "Hmm, fascinating," Hex mused when Bob finished speaking. "Very well, wait right here."

Hexadecimal stood and teleported into Melissa's room. Her little sister was sleeping peacefully and Hex took a nano to simply look at her. How pretty, how perfect, Hex thought. This wonderful beautiful being in her life, something to fill that hollowness left by Megabyte's deletion.

"Awaken my love, we have guests," Hex said.

She awoke immediately and yawned, "Hi Hex."

"Bob and Dot need to talk to you," Hex floated over and sat on the bed and marveled at her tiny charge.

"What for?" Melissa asked.

"Oh something about the lost web armada. Sprites do go on about unimportant things. I suppose we'll finally have to straighten things out. Do you feel up to talking to them now?"

"All right."

Hex teleported them both back to the throne room.

Hex lifted Melissa onto her lap, "All right, ask your questions."

"Melissa," Bob began, "Something has happened in the Super Computer and we think you may be able to help us with it." Bob gave a brief, less graphic description of what had happened.

"But how can I help?" Melissa asked afterwards.

"Well," Bob said, "I told you about how some of our ships are unaccounted for, we wanted to know if you're aware of any other viruses that have your ability to attach to things."

"Not that I'm aware of," Melissa said warily, "Why would you want to know that?"

"We think a virus may have attached to one of our escaping ships and fled to the Super Computer. Rose Norton said what happened to the sprites and binomes was some type of viral infection."

Hex felt Melissa tense. The Chaos Virus turned her sister to face her, "What is it, love?"

Melissa had a look of sheer terror on her face. She turned her head back to Bob and Dot, "Are you certain?"

"Well we're not certain," Bob said. "Rose says she has to run some more tests. What is it Melissa?"

But Melissa turned back to Hex, her eyes wide and glowing softly. "It can't be!"

"We'll have to find out for certain, my love."

"What?" Bob said. "What is it?"

"There were two other viral assassins on board the lead ship," Hex said. "We were under the impression that they were deleted."

"What? Why didn't you say so?" Bob demanded, then quieted as Hex's mask twisted and her eyes went aflame.

"Do calm yourself, Prime Guardian," Hex said. "We didn't feel it was important since they were gone."

"How can you be sure they were gone?" Dot asked mildly.

"We questioned the prisoners," Hex said simply.

Bob looked ready to say something but Dot clamped her hand on his wrist, "I see," the Command.com said, "And they said these two virals were deleted?"

"Yes," Hex said. "They said the bridge of the lead ship was completely blown away. They said there was no way the two could have survived."

"Would you be able to sense them if you were near them?" Bob asked.

"Of course, my love," Hex said.

"But it can't be them!" Melissa shook with fear, "It can't be!"

"Ssh, my love," Hex pilled her closer, "You know I won't let anyone hurt you."

"Why is she afraid?" Dot asked, gently.

"She is afraid of Chaos," Hex said.

At Dot's puzzled frown, Hex explained in an exasperated tone, "Chaos is a wild virus who delighted in tormenting her. She needn't worried though. If Chaos comes near her, I will deal with him."

"The other one is called Quicksilver," Melissa whispered, "They were companions of Nemesis."

Bob's eyes went wide, "Then that means if they know Mouse deleted Nemesis -- ,"

"Then Mouse is in danger too," Dot said.

"Hex," Bob said, "Would you be willing to go to the Super Computer with us tomorrow and examine these bodies? Will you be able to tell if this is a viral infection?"

"I'll be able to tell if it's a viral infection," Hex said, "But not if it's Quicksilver or Chaos. It's not like when I sensed you had turned viral, Bob."

"What?" Dot said, "You knew about that?"

"Oh dear," Hex said, "I suppose I shouldn't have said that. Well yes, I sensed the viral side but only because he had my mother's aura on him. Without something of that nature to focus on, I won't be able to tell if where Chaos and Quicksilver are."

"I can have a discreet system wide search done," Bob said, "We don't want to cause mass panic. It will take some time, since we're so understaffed but it will be done."

"Bob," Melissa said quietly, "I can tell you if it's Quicksilver or Chaos's handiwork. I would just have to study the bodies."

Dot and Bob exchanged a glance, "No, Melissa. It's too horrible. You're too young --,"

"No!" Melissa straightened away from Hex. I can do it. I know I've seen much worse. I can help you too. Please?"

Neither Bob nor Dot looked too favorable with the idea.

"Well Hex, what do you say? Are you willing to allow Melissa to do this?"

"If she feels it's something she must do, then yes."

"Then later today, I'll come for you," Bob said.

"Can Enzo come with me?"

"Um well all right," Dot said. "We can keep him from actually seeing."

Bob stood and Dot followed, "Then we'll see you in a few milliseconds."

Hex teleported them out, then teleported Melissa back to her bedroom.

"What if it is them Hex?" Melissa asked as Hex pulled the blanket over her.

"Then we shall merely destroy them, my love, the solution is quite simple," Hex kissed her on the cheek, "Go back to sleep. I've told you I won't ever let any harm come to you."

Hex stayed with Melissa until she fell asleep again, then teleported back to her throne room to plan and prepare.


Read Chapter 6 | Back to Aftermath: Daemon's Chosen