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The Daemon Conflict
By: LadyBard

Chapter 12 - Turning of the Tide

"Casualty report, Mouse."

"We've suffered heavy losses," Mouse smashed her fist down on the consol and grunted with disgust. She wiped the remains of insect away. "The enemy has occupied twelve sectors so far. We estimated over one hundred hostages have been taken.

"The good news is --,"

"There's good news?"

"They still haven't cracked my codes yet."

"Then that's something." Dot said. "How many of our forces remaining?"

"Approximately two hundred."

"And theirs?"

"We estimate, four hundred or so."

"Still twice what we have," Dot said. "Have Ray and Gavin reported?"

"They're on their way with the refugees."

"Have all CPU's and the lead ships fall back to the Principal Office. Prepare to lower the shields on my order."

"You got it."

Dot rubbed the space between her eyes. The more time that passed, the more difficult it was for her to concentrate. And always, Enzo was on her mind. If anything happened to him, she would never forgive herself. To lose him twice would be more than she could bear.

"Dot, honey?"

"Yes? I'm sorry Mouse."

"Message coming in from Ray."

"Put him through."

"We're coming in!" Ray cried over the sound of explosions. "Get those ruddy shields down!"

"Are our ships in position?"

"Almost."

"Power up outside guns! Take out anyone who comes within a sector!"

"Yes Sir, Ma'am!"

Dot cocked an eyebrow at her friend.

"All ships in position," Mouse said.

"Phong, lower the shields."

Transports and foot traffic converged on the P.O., led by Ray and Gavin and his crew. Several enemy fighters came near, only to be blasted from the sky by the ground to air cannons. Dot watched anxiously on the vid-windows, so she (and everyone else present) was totally surprised when a high-pitched whine filled the room. A burst of electrified light appeared before the startled Command.com. It seemed familiar, although Dot was too astonished to give it much thought. It was Mouse who went into action.

"Security team to the War Room, now!" Mouse screamed into the comm. The mercenary drew her katana, leapt over her workstation and landed on the floor within striking distance from the light.

They were in for yet another shock. Mr. Pearson stepped through the doorway. He wore his Codemaster armour and held the whole Gibson Coil Pike clutched in his hand.

"Well what are ye all starin' at?" He demanded. "Help me here!"

His voice broke Dot from her trance and she quickly approached. Pearson handed her two metal strong boxes.

"Pesticide for the bugs," Pearson said, "and the correct hardware for the machine."

"Yes, sugah, it's about time!" Mouse said.

"Mr. Pearson --," Dot began then stammered to a halt when Enzo stepped through the doorway.

"Enzo!" Dot cried. She grabbed her little brother in a crushing embrace.

"You, red-hair, come through and help me, now!"

Mouse gave him a quizzical look, but followed Pearson back through the doorway.

Tears, streamed down Dot's face, "Oh Enzo, do you know how worried I was about you?"

She looked into her brother's eyes and saw - nothing.

"Enzo?" Dot caressed his cheek. An uncomfortable feeling bloomed within her core-com, "What is it?"

Phong rolled up. "Enzo?" He reached out his spindly fingers and touched Enzo on the arm. The little sprite flinched.

"Dot," Enzo's voice was hoarse.

The doorway rippled and Mouse stepped through backwards. Mr. Pearson followed them.

They carried between them, the unconscious form of a little girl.

"What in the net --?" Dot began.

Mouse and Pearson laid the little girl down on the floor.

"That's Melissa, Enzo's friend," Pearson said. "I'm going back to my Dump for a little peace and quiet. Call me if you need me."

"Mr. Pearson, wait --,"

"Look, something happened to the lad. I don't know what, he wouldn't talk. But he needs ye."

Then the old binome stepped through the doorway and was gone.

It was suddenly very quiet in the War Room.

"Hey!" Ray's voice came through the comm, shattering the silence, "What in the ruddy net is going on?"

Mouse rushed back to her workstation, "Shields are down, bring in the refugees. Look, sugah, can you handle this? We have a small problem here."

"What type of problem?"

"I'll tell you when you get here love, just take care of your end of the job." Mouse said, "Medic to the War Room!"

The door opened and two armed Security Guards rushed in.

"It's all right," Dot stood next to Enzo. "Stay outside." The guards nodded and exited.

"Enzo --?" Dot brushed back her a wisp of his hair and to her utter dismay, her brother burst into tears.

"Help her Dot!" Enzo cried as he knelt down beside the girl. Her brother cradled her head in his lap. "Please help her! I don't want her to delete."

"All right, sweetie, we'll do everything we can, I promise. Mouse, do you think you can hold down the fort for a few nanos? Raise the shields the moment our refugees are in."

"You got it boss."

The Medics came in and Dot took control as usual, with her special brand of efficiency, "Take her to the infirmary. She's to have the best of care, understand?"

The Medics loaded the girl - what had Pearson said her name was, Melissa? -- onto the stretcher.

"I want to go with her," Enzo said.

"All right, sweetie, we'll go."

Dot and Enzo followed the medical team out. A thousand questions swirled around in Dot's mind but she held them back. It was obvious Enzo cared about this girl whoever she was. It was a few nanos later that Dot realized with a large measure of concern, that the little girl reminded her of Hexadecimal.

* * *

Enzo sat in the waiting room of the infirmary able to do little more than stare at his hands. He thought he should be mad or scared or something but he didn't feel anything. Shouldn't he be happy to see Dot? Shouldn't he be glad to be safe within the Principal Office?

But he wasn't and he couldn't dredge up enough emotion to care.

Dot's arm tightened around him, "She'll be all right sweetie."

Enzo didn't reply.

"Mr. Pearson said something happened to the two of you," Dot's voice was soft. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Enzo shook his head.

"All right. Tell me when you're ready."

Milliseconds passed. Mouse called to say the refugees were all safe inside and for now, the enemy had fallen back to their base to regroup. The Mainframers were allowed a brief respite.

Finally, Dr, Chancery approached them.

"I'm not even going to ask where she came from," was the first thing he said, "but she could be Hexadecimal's sister."

Enzo took a deep breath, "She is."

"What?" Dot gaped at him.

"Is she all right?"

"She will be but she's very weak. She was exposed to some sort of anti-viral field?"

"Yes."

"I know of an antivirologist in the Super Computer. A Dr. Norton. Too bad we can't contact him. Whatever treatment she received helped immensely."

"Mr. Pearson did something."

"Did he?" Dr. Chancery mused on this for a nano. "Ms. Matrix, I want to try something but I hesitate to as it can be detrimental for Hexadecimal."

"Yes?"

"I want to try a code transfusion. If this little she-viral is Hexadecimal's sister, then it should work. The problem is, I need someone to give me permission to do so and also, it may slow Hexadecimal's recovery."

"I told you she is," Enzo said. "Would Hex be all right? They both would be?"

"They should, unless Hex is in worse shape than we believe. I'm not an A.V., so I can't be certain."

"Dot?" Enzo turned to her.

Dot sighed, "She means that much to you?"

"Yes."

"All right doctor. I'll take full responsibility."

"Very well," Dr. Chancery turned away, "Would you like to come to, Enzo?"

"Please," Enzo said.

"I'm going to head back to the War Room, will you be all right, little brother?"

"I'll be fine, Dot."

"You tell me the moment there's a change, understand?"

"I will," Enzo followed Dr. Chancery down the hall.

* * *

The laughter came at her from all directions out of the darkness. Melissa shuddered at the familiar sound of it.

"Failure!" The voice hissed. "Pathetic, weakling!"

"No!" Melissa yelled.

"You couldn't even follow a simple order! You couldn't even delete your sister."

"I won't do it! Do you hear me? I won't be afraid of you anymore!"

"Little whelp you had best be, you have no power!"

"I do," Melissa felt her claws and fangs extend. She felt infused with a strange power. Her body took on a reddish glow.

"What is this?" The voice said. "What is happening?"

Melissa had no idea where the power came from. It flowed through her, strengthening her. It was wild, untamed.

Chaotic.

Melissa laughed. It was a high cackle that she knew struck fear into the core-com of the taunting voice.

"Don't you know," Melissa hissed in a voice not quite her own, "that Chaos will always triumph over order?"

Melissa sent a red-hot blast into the darkness and the voice screamed in agony. Flames came back at her and washed over her and Melissa laughed at the feel of the energy.

Then she was awake and staring into the eyes of a number six nurse.

"Well, welcome back, little one." Nurse Six said kindly. "We thought you were going to leave us."

"Enzo?"

"I'm right here," Enzo took her hand, "How do you feel?"

"Well," she said. "Enzo, something happened, I had a dream --,"

"Ssh -," Nurse Six said. "Rest now."

"No," Melissa struggled to sit up. "What did they do? How did they cure me? I felt power."

"They did a code transfusion," Enzo said. "You have some of Hex's power in you now."

Melissa pondered the news. "Who said you could do that?"

"I did," Enzo said. "Well Dot gave permission, but I think Hex would have wanted us to."

"How is Hex?"

"About the same," Nurse Six said. "Looks like the transfusion had no ill effects."

"Can I see her?"

"Young lady, you should really rest --,"

"Please?"

"All right," Nurse Six sighed. "We'll get you a wheelchair."

"No need," Melissa climbed from the bed.

"Are you sure?" Enzo held her up.

"Yes."

With Enzo's help, the two made their way down the hall. A CPU was sitting at the door. He stood and looked quizzically at them, but he admitted them into the room.

It was cool and dim in the interior. Hex lay motionless on the bed. Her mask was a blank face. Tubes and wires were connected to various points on her body. She was however, breathing easily, which gave Melissa hope. She walked near the bed, then stood looking at her older sister. The tears came them. The numbness she had felt earlier fled and was suddenly replaced by the unfamiliar emotions of remorse and regret. She felt Enzo's presence beside her, comforting her. When she was able to control her emotions, she kissed Hexadecimal gently on the forehead. "I'm sorry. I promise, I'll make it right."

Melissa turned to Enzo, "I suppose we should go to your command center. I bet your sister has a lot of questions."

* * *

The moment Ray walked into the War Room, Mouse practically tackled him, Enzo-style. The two sprites proceeded to kiss for a full ten nanos.

Dot didn't hide her smile, she did however, keep her eyes on the map. Phong whipped out his camera and snapped a picture, then shrugged and smiled at Dot's raised eyes brow.

"Sugah," Ray said when they parted.

"You don't know how worried I was," Mouse said.

"I have an idea," Ray said. "I was pretty worried myself, love."

Ray approached the consol and saluted Dot. "Ray Tracer reporting for duty, sir, ma'am."

Dot smiled at him, "Welcome back, Ray."

"I hear there's been quite a lot going on since I've been away."

"Like you wouldn't believe," Dot said. "Are all the CPU's accounted for?"

"Yes," Ray said. "Gavin went out to bring in more refugees. I'll join him soon. The enemy retreated to their base. I think they may call for reinforcements."

"Mouse," Dot said, "the device?"

"All ready, Commander," Mouse said, "this may decide it for all of us."

That declaration was met with silence. The War Room door sliding open broke the tension. All eyes turned to the small sprite and viral who entered the room.

"Hi Dot," Enzo smiled.

Dot noticed the little girl stayed behind Enzo.

"Cursors, who's that?" Ray said.

"Everybody," Enzo smiled, "I'd like you to meet Melissa. Hexadecimal's sister."

Again, a tense silence filled the War Room. It was surprisingly Phong who broke it, "Welcome, my child." Phong rolled up to Melissa.

"Phong!" Dot warned.

"It's okay, Dot," Enzo said. "She's my friend."

"I am?" Melissa said.

"It would seem so, young Melissa," Phong adjusted his glasses. "Tell me how you came to be in Mainframe?"

"Um --," Melissa hesitated. "I came with Nemesis."

"You what?" Mouse started forward.

"Mouse," Enzo stepped in front of her.

"You're the other viral aren't you? The one with Hexadecimal's code similarities."

"Yes."

"And you're the one who nearly deleted Hexadecimal."

Melissa lowered her eyes, "Yes, but I'm sorry about that."

"You should be," Mouse said. "Enzo, why'd ya bring her here? Do you realize what she could do?"

"Yes," Enzo said. "And you won't will you, Melissa?"

"I won't do anything," Melissa said.

"How can we be sure?" Mouse said. "For all we know, she could let the enemy waltz right in here!"

"It's good to see you again, Mouse," Melissa unexpectedly said.

"What?"

"I'm glad you got away from Nemesis back in System 998. I didn't think my plan would work."

"Your plan?"

"Yes," Melissa said. "Controlling your ship was pretty good, don't you think?"

"Wait a nano," Mouse said. "The guns on Ship, that was you?"

"Yes," Melissa said. "I infected Ship and fired the guns. It's one of my talents."

For a third time, silence reigned. Mouse and Ray exchanged a long look. Then Mouse slowly approached Melissa and knelt before her.

"Melissa," Mouse said, "I want to thank you for what you did. Nemesis would have carved me up like a Christmas goose if it wasn't for you."

"The Mouse," Mouse went on, "never forgets a favor done for her. She never lets a debt go unpaid. So I'll tell ya this. You want or need something, you just ask me and it's yours. As far as I'm concerned, you're okay."

"Thank you," Melissa blushed. "Turbo said I should help."

"Whoa," Dot interrupted. "Turbo?"

"He was on Nemesis' ship with me," Melissa said.

"Wait a nano," Dot's voice was incredulous. "Turbo's not on the lead ship? Where is he?"

"Far out to sea. He was to wait for us until we both finished our jobs."

Dot bent over the consol, "Where?"

"About fifty kilometers off shore from the Data Dump."

Dot began programming into consol. "Yes, sensors are picking up a ship in that area. Is Nemesis on that ship?"

"She might be," Melissa said. "I don't really know. The last I saw of her was at the Data Dump. She can't leave Mainframe, not with the remainder of the armada right outside the system. General Ashar would delete her on sight since she failed to --,"

"Guess you were right, Mouse," Dot said into the uncomfortable silence. "All right, lets get some CPU's out there --,"

"No," Mouse said. "Dot, let me go. I've got a score to settle with that viral witch."

When Dot hesitated, Mouse said, "Please."

"All right Mouse. Just be careful."

"I'll come with you love," Ray said.

"No," Mouse said. "You're going to be needed here, love. This is something I have to do."

Ray sighed, "All right, just be careful." He kissed her.

As Mouse strode from the room and as the door opened, sounds of a commotion came from outside.

"What in the net's going on here?" Mouse demanded as she stood in the doorway blocking the view.

"I must speak to Ms. Matrix, immediately!" A familiar voice said.

"Why?"

"It's about Daemon's spy," the voice said.

"Mouse," Dot called, "It's all right, let him in."

Mouse stepped aside and Captain Lynx strode in. Mouse gave him a warning look before departing.

"Ms. Matrix," Captain Lynx bowed.

"Yes?" Dot crossed her arms.

"I must speak with you on a matter of great importance in private."

"Whatever you came to say, you can say it right here."

Lynx looked around the room, "Very well, although you won't like what I have to say. You are aware that the escape ships have both been sabotaged? Mine and Syn's?"

"I am."

"Daemon's spy is responsible, although it's not the sprite I thought it was. Then again, he's still probably one of them."

"Wait a nano, what does that mean?"

Lynx sighed, "I was sent to find and apprehend Daemon's spy."

"What?" Dot said, "You mean to tell me you're a spy too?"

"I suppose I am," Lynx said. "My apologies for deceiving you, Ms. Matrix, but I had to be certain you also weren't involved. You see, I was sent here by a faction dedicated to resisting Daemon."

"You're a member of the Resistance? Why didn't you say so? Bob could have --,"

"No," Lynx interrupted. "I am a member of a resistance faction, but not the one you're involved with. Surely you realized that there would be more than one faction again Daemon?"

"Fine," Dot said between clenched teeth, "Whom in the net do you work for?"

"Well we have no official name," Lynx said. "We are citizens from thirty or so of the one hundred and forty odd systems that Daemon has subjugated. We are unofficially calling ourselves the Web Alliance."

"Web Alliance?"

"Yes," Lynx said, "It came to our attention that a spy was operating out of Mainframe and that they would soon be sent to the Super Computer. I was sent here to try and stop that from happening and if I didn't get a chance, another operative was to stop him once there."

"You said the spy wasn't who you expected," Dot said.

"Yes," Lynx said.

"It was Kurt Daverage," Enzo suddenly said.

"How in the net did you know that?" Dot gaped at him.

"Because we battled him when we were in the city. He was leading a detachment of enemy soldiers."

"The young one is correct," Lynx eyed Enzo for a nano. Then his eyes moved to Melissa. "I know who you are, daughter of Daemon. What will you do now? Destroy this place and all of those in it?"

"No," Melissa said.

Lynx turned back to Dot, "Watch this one, Ms. Matrix. You have allowed a wolf into the sheep pen."

"Hey," Enzo stepped forward.

"It's all right, Enzo. I don't care what he thinks of me."

"I do," Enzo muttered.

Lynx ignored them both, "Daverage was the one who sabotaged both ships. I have no idea where Syn is. He escaped during the confusion."

"Cursors and crashes," Dot said. "Enzo do you have any idea where Daverage might be?"

Enzo shot a fearful glance at Melissa. Melissa's face remained impassive.

Dot frowned at them both, "Enzo?"

"Dot --," Enzo began.

"You don't have to worry about Daverage anymore," Melissa said. "I deleted him."

Again, Enzo glanced at Melissa and Dot saw that the emotion was surprise. Either Enzo hadn't known Melissa had deleted Daverage or -

"I see," was all Lynx said to that declaration. "Not surprising."

"My mother would have deleted him anyway," Melissa said evenly, "if General Ashar hadn't done so first."

"Melissa," Dot said, "We'll discuss it later."

"I don't understand, what's there to discuss?"

Dot couldn't remember a time before now that she had been so totally stunned.

"You shouldn't be surprised, Ms. Matrix," Lynx said. "She is Daemon's daughter."

Again, Dot examined the little sprite and virus, searching their faces. Enzo's was pale and Melissa's remained expressionless. Dot had a feeling there was more to the story but she wasn't going to pursue it now. She was interested in knowing just when and how Melissa deleted Daverage, if she had been unconscious from the anti-viral field? Although they had not given her the details, Dot guessed it was Daverage who had infected Melissa in the first place. "We will discuss this later."

Dot turned back to Lynx, "So who else did you think was a spy?"

"I don't think, I know he's one. Web Alliance has been following him for minutes. All reports verify that he is a spy for Daemon."

"Who?"

"You're not going to like it."

"Who?"

Lynx sighed, "Your brother, the renegade, Matrix."

Silence followed the declaration, then --

"Are you random?"

"You can't be serious."

"You're wrong, mate. Deleted wrong."

"Listen to me," Lynx yelled over the protests. "We have proof that he's a spy."

"Lynx," Dot said, "if this is a joke, it's in poor taste. My brother is not a spy."

"How do you know for certain?" Lynx said. "What do you really know about your brother, Ms. Matrix? What has he told you about his life in the web?"

"What he told me was not relevant," Dot wasn't about to tell Lynx that Matrix had told her next to nothing about his journey through the web. There just hadn't been an opportunity.

As though reading her thoughts, Lynx said, "He hasn't told you anything, has he? Of course not. I'm telling you Ms. Matrix, we have eye witness accounts of some of the crimes your brother has committed. All for Daemon."

"You're wrong."

"You have to listen to me or all is lost," Lynx said. "Why else do you think I'm doing this? Do you think I enjoy telling you a member of your family is a traitor?"

"I don't know Lynx, do you?"

Lynx shook his head. "Ms. Matrix, unless you listed to me," he pointed at Melissa, "and incarcerate her and figure out some way to contact the Resistance forces in the Super Computer and tell them to detain Matrix," He took a breath, "all your fighting will be for nothing. Daemon will just take this system like she has all the others."

Dot straightened away from the consol, "Captain Lynx, if you wish to help it would be greatly appreciated, however, know this, my brother is not a traitor. If you can contact your people, we could use their help as well."

Lynx sighed, "My people will have nothing to do with you as long as you refuse to acknowledge the truth. They will definitely not assist as long as she's here." He motioned to Melissa. "Your brother is a spy and a traitor."

"No."

All eyes turned to Enzo.

"I know you're wrong to."

"And why is that young man?"

"Because I'm him."

A confused look crossed Lynx's face.

"You know how I was processed, right?"

"Yes, I've heard."

"Matrix may be a big jerk, but I know he's not a traitor because I'd never do anything to hurt Dot."

"Out of the mouths of babes," Ray muttered.

"Young man, I have watched you," Lynx looked at Enzo, "and I mean no offense by this but you are not like him at all."

"None taken," Enzo said, "but you're still wrong."

Lynx turned back to Dot, "I am resigned to my fate," he said. "I know there's no way off the system now, and I know the enemy will delete me. I can only hope our man at the Super Computer can stop Matrix."

"Who is he? Who is the man," Dot demanded.

"No, I will not tell you. Torture me if you like --,"

"You know we won't do that."

"No, I suppose you won't," Lynx smiled slightly.

"Your people won't come even to save you?"

"No," Lynx, said, "I couldn't even contacted them if I wanted to. You have the machine I was using. The same one Kurt was using to feed information to the enemy."

"We thought perhaps it was Syn, once we figured out what it was for," Dot said.

Lynx laughed, "Syn? You're joking right? However --," He sobered, "I have no idea where Syn may be, but he is dangerous inasmuch as his arrogance and stupidity will get innocent people hurt or deleted."

"What was his plan?"

"Haven't you figured it out?"

Dot leaned against the consol, "Let me guess. Syn gets as many people behind him and when the fighting's over, he comes out looking like a great leader of many, hoping to curry the winner's favor."

"You are as intelligent as you are beautiful," Lynx said.

Dot brushed the compliment aside, "Anything else you want to tell us?"

"Nothing important," Lynx stretched. "I thank you for your hospitality and wish you good fortune."

"Captain Lynx, we could really use your help," Dot said. "We could use another warrior."

Lynx sighed, "I'm no warrior. Just an old web dog. But then again, why not? What would you have me do?"

* * *

Ship cruised over the war-torn streets of Mainframe. No one challenged her as she expertly piloted her craft. She sighed as she looked down to survey the damage.

"We just got this place back," Mouse muttered, "good as new and now look at it."

Smoldering fires dotted several sections. Mouse could see more refugees combing the city streets and transports continuing to round up the innocent. Once beautiful buildings were now piles of rubble. It was hard to ignore.

But she was on a mission.

They had taken out the enemy fighters on the perimeter; however, two challenged her when she hit the outskirts of the city. The skirmish was brief and Mouse was the victor.

Ship streaked over the Data Sea and Mouse did a long-range scan. The ship was still there. She scanned for life forms when she was within range and found there were two. Unfortunately, her being within range to scan meant she was within range of their scanners.

Then she saw it. Her enemy. The ship hovered placidly over the sea. Mouse powered up Ship's guns and a nano later was glad she had.

Two missiles were fired at her, Mouse banked left, and avoided them, and returned fire. The Trouble turned and fled and Mouse was instantly in pursuit.

"Little coward," Mouse muttered, "go on, and run!"

Mouse fired off a few shots, but missed. She pushed Ship to its limits with a muttered apology.

The Trouble made an abrupt turn and Mouse immediately knew where it was going.

"Oh no you don't, you're not going back. I'm not letting you hurt more innocent people." Mouse set the targeting computer, and focused all her attention on her enemy. She squeezed the trigger. The shot slammed into the exhaust port of Trouble and the enemy ship went into a steep dive.

"Yes!" Mouse screamed, "Got you viral witch!"

Mouse watched as the ship leveled out but not soon enough to prevent a rough water landing. Mouse set Ship to hover nearby and watched as Trouble began to sink.

A figure suddenly climbed from the hatch and stood atop the rapidly sinking ship.

"User!" Mouse recognized Turbo. The Prime Guardian waved frantically to her.

"Although you don't deserve this you double-crossing son of a null," Mouse hissed, "I'm going to save your worthless ASCII."

Mouse brought Ship in to a close hover. She lifted the hatch and stood, "Well it looks like you've got yourself in sort a bind, ain't ya Turbo?"

"Are you going to help me or not?"

"And why should I after what you did?"

"Can we talk about this later?" The Trouble lurched and Turbo fell backward.

Mouse grabbed an extra zip board, decompressed her own and flew down to where the Prime Guardian was struggling to his feet. "Here," she tossed him the board.

"Thanks," he decompressed it.

"Where's Nemesis?"

The blast that caught both Turbo and Mouse was the painful answer. Mouse went down hard on her back.

"You will die now flame hair!" Nemesis came, seemingly able to keep her balance quite well. She stood over Mouse, her sword raised.

Mouse bent her knee to her chest, drew her dagger from its sheath and threw.

The blade imbedded in Nemesis' chest. A look of pure astonishment crossed the viral's face. Her sword slipped from her nerveless fingers, before she stumbled and toppled over into the Sea.

Mouse released a breath.

"Mouse, help!"

Turbo was floundering in the water. Mouse crawled onto the wing and extended her hand. It was rough going but with her help, Turbo managed to pull himself up beside her. He spat out water.

"Thanks."

"I shoulda left ya there."

"I know."

Mouse looked around. They were running out of time. Mouse spotted one of the zip boards floating on the water's surface.

"BRB," Mouse said and dove in.

Trouble was nearly submerged when Mouse climbed back on. She tossed the board to Turbo. "Give me a lift soldier?"

Turbo decompressed the board. Mouse climbed on behind him with barely enough room to spare. They flew back to Ship. When they were settled they watched the Trouble as it disappeared below the waves and Nemesis with it. Turbo grunted, "Glad to be rid of her."

Mouse looked at him.

"How'd you know I was out here?"

"Melissa told us."

"Melissa told you? Do you have her prisoner?"

"Um -- not quite," Mouse said. She turned Ship back towards the city. "Maybe you should wait until we get back. This is going to take a few nanos."


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