The Daemon Conflict
Chapter 14 - A Little Victory
As Dot descended the stairs into the War Room, she halted just above where Enzo sat with Melissa.
"Talk about deja vu," Dot muttered. Dot wasn't certain what to make of Daemon's daughter. It was uncomfortably obvious that the two were growing fond of each other. Unless Melissa was more devious than any of them thought and somehow Dot didn't believe so.
Dot continued down the stairs, thought about saying something, and decided against it. She instead approached the map where Phong was scrutinizing Floating Point.
"Any activity from the enemy, Phong?"
"None at this point, my child, the refugees are still being brought in."
"Any word from Mouse?"
"I'm afraid not."
"They'll make their move soon," Dot said, "it's been too quiet. We need Mouse here."
And again, as though the mercenary had heard her, the outer door opened, and Mouse strode in.
But all eyes were on the commanding figure that halted at the head of the stairs.
"Turbo," Melissa stood.
"Melissa," Turbo descended and stood before the child virus, "It's good to see you. Are you all right?"
Melissa lowered her eyes, "I - she's in the infirmary. I'm sorry Turbo, I had to do it."
"I understand Melissa, let's hope she's okay," Turbo smiled slightly. "Enzo?"
"So it's true, there are two of you now."
"Yeah," Enzo turned away.
Turbo finally continued down the stairs. All eyes were on him as he approached Dot.
"Ms. Matrix," Turbo inclined his head to her.
Suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed. Here was the man who had caused so much pain and suffering, or at least was a party to it. Here was the man who had betrayed Bob's trust. The change was profoundly felt. Anger, pure and simple.
"Turbo," Dot said his name bitterly. Then Dot did something she would never consider doing to anyone but the man who had helped to ruin so many lives.
Dot drew her hand back and slapped Turbo across the face.
No one reacted or spoke. Even Phong remained silent. Only Melissa and Enzo seemed shocked. Mouse's face was impassive. An uncomfortable silence filled the room. After a few moments Turbo spoke.
"I guess I deserved that."
"That and more," Dot hissed.
"I'm sorry," Turbo said. "I know I don't deserve it but, well I'd like to ask your forgiveness."
"Maybe," Dot said, "It's going to take some time."
A sensor went off, breaking the silence that followed. Phong moved to his workstation. "It would seem that we have activity at Floating Point, the enemy is mobilizing."
"This is it, people," Dot said. "I hate to do this, but we may have to risk lowering the shields to lure some of the fighters this way."
"I don't understand, hasn't Ashar used the guns on Ravage yet?" Turbo asked.
"We have a device that enabled us to disable their weapons but we don't know how long we'll be able to hold out," Dot said. "With this device, we can control the smaller ships by hacking into their systems through their own frequencies and signals. We then keep them from regaining control by changing and encrypting said signals. We're hoping we can grab a few Death Strikes and aim them at the Ravage."
"Upgrade level idea," Turbo said.
"Well Dot, guess who's callin' us," Mouse smirked.
"Ashar," Dot turned to Turbo, "Do you want to be here?"
"Oh yeah," Turbo said. Then the Prime Guardian groaned and pressed his hands to his temples, "then again."
Dot saw the pulse of sickly yellow. "Are you all right?"
"It hasn't been so bad since leaving the S.C.," Turbo said, "but sometimes it flares up."
"Turbo?" Melissa approached, "Bend down. Maybe I can do something again."
"Put Ashar through, Mouse."
The vid-window came open and at first, fury was etched on Ashar's face, which instantly changed to surprise. His icy glare fixed on Turbo, completely ignoring the others in the room.
"I take it by your presence there, Turbo that Nemesis is dead," Ashar hissed.
"She is." Turbo said.
"I deleted the viral witch," Mouse said.
Ashar didn't even spare Mouse a glance, "Melissa, your life is forfeit. Your mother would not punish me for deleting you because you are a traitor. It is a task I will enjoy."
"You leave her alone!" Enzo yelled.
As with Mouse, Ashar ignored him, "Ms. Matrix." Ashar nodded at Dot and lifted his hand.
"Dot!" Mouse suddenly cried, "Weapons are powering up on the --,"
A massive explosion rocked the very foundation of the Principal Office. Dot was thrown to the floor as the lights flickered. Alarms were sounding all around. Dot felt a pair of strong hands gripping her by the shoulders. Turbo was helping her up.
"What in the net --?"
"Ravage's main cannons." Turbo said. "One more hit like that and we're done for."
A groan came from the direction of the workstation. Mouse climbed to her feet. Enzo and Melissa helped Phong up. "Confirmed. Looks like they finally cracked my code."
"Damage report? How are the shields?"
"Shields are at seventy-five percent," Phong said. "Reports are coming in, no serious injuries."
"Ashar calling again," Mouse said.
"Mouse," Dot said, "How fast can you access the fighter codes?"
"Well - ah --," for the first time since Dot had met her, Mouse seemed uncertain, "a few nanos, if we're lucky."
Dot closed her eyes and muttered a silent prayer to the User. They had pressed their luck so many times. "Begin preparations. I have an idea to get a fighter near us. Put Ashar through."
The vid-window opened, "As you can see Ms. Matrix, we have rectified the problem with our weapons. One more hit and your shields will fail. Surrender now, and you'll be treated mercifully."
Dot laid both palms on her work station, her face set in a grim mask, "Very well, General Ashar. We surrender."
Dot ignored the exclamations of surprise from those within the room.
Ashar's eyes narrowed, "What sort of trickery is this?"
"No trickery," Dot said. "I don't want to see any more innocent people hurt. I do have one condition for our surrender."
"You are in no position to --,"
"Hear me out," Dot said, "I merely want to guarantee the safety of the Principal Office staff. I'll take a transport alone if you send two fighters to escort me to your ship."
"Very well," Ashar nodded, "It will indeed be a pleasure to have you aboard Ravage. I'm almost sorry this battle is at an end. You were quite the worthy opponent."
"Yes, well, we'll drop the shields and I'll await the escort."
"As you wish," Ashar closed the connection.
There was a few nanos of silence before Mouse said, "Sugah, I hope you have a plan."
"Well Mouse, you're about to get your fighters," Dot said. "Phong, I need the shields to maximum by the time the fighters arrive. Signal all CPU's and have them assemble in attack formation before the Principal Office as well as Ray and Gavin's ground troops."
"Dot, that's not going to give me much time, if they decide to fire --," Mouse said.
"That, my child, is why we need the shields up." Phong chimed in.
"Raise them the moment you have control of the fighters. Also at that exact moment contact our troops and have them attack. No holding back. With the shields up, we may have time to take out Ravage."
"But Dot," Enzo stepped forward, "with the shields up, that means you'll be trapped outside."
"I know sweetie," Dot said gently.
"But what if --?"
"It will be all right, Enzo."
"With all due respect, Ms. Matrix," Turbo broke in, "I'm sure you've figured out what a snake Ashar is. If you're caught out there --,"
"What choice do we have?"
"We do have a choice!" Melissa came to stand next to Enzo, "Let me go out and face Ashar."
"I can challenge Ashar to a duel. I can beat him, I know I can."
"Absolutely not!" Dot said, "It's bad enough I sent Enzo into games, I'm not sending you against Ashar."
"You're not sending me," Melissa said, "I'm volunteering."
"Dot," Melissa said, "I am Daemon's daughter. Ashar should be bowing down to me. I can defeat him." "Melissa, you may have the power, but you can't defeat him alone."
"She won't be alone," Enzo said, "I'll go with her."
"No, end of discussion."
"You really can't stop me you know," Melissa lifted her chin defiantly.
Dot regarded her silently for a nano, "No, I really can't."
"Dot," Mouse said, "the fighters are approaching."
"Have a transport standing ready." Dot said, "Melissa I can't order you, I can only ask you. I won't allow Enzo to go, and he'll be here worrying about you if you leave, let me do this my way."
"I don't want Enzo to be sad if you're deleted," Melissa said.
"But I won't be deleted," Dot reached down to the laser pistol strapped to her leg, drew it and checked that it was powered up before replacing it. "Mouse you have the comm."
Dot knelt before Enzo and hugged him, "I'll be back little brother, I promise."
"At least let me go with you, Dot," Turbo said. "I - I need to help."
"I already told Ashar I'd be alone," Dot said.
"Oh he won't object," Turbo said. "Not when he can get at me."
"No, stay here and help Mouse," Dot said, "Please."
"Take care my child, may the User be with you," Phong said.
"You watch yourself, sugah," Mouse said.
"Just make sure everything goes as it should," Dot managed a reassuring smile, although she didn't feel the least bit safe.
* * *
Dot piloted the transport beyond the hangar doors. It reminded her of the time her and Bob had to escape G-Prime after Dot's bid to free the people of the sector. She had told Bob she was on a mission then and she was now.
The two fighters hovered a few kilometers in front of her. Dot slowed the transport, hoping to coax the fighters to come to her.
"Come on Mouse," Dot muttered.
According to her instruments the shields were still down, which meant Mouse hadn't taken control of either of the fighters yet. They were definitely in range.
"Enemy transport," the message came from one of the fighters, "You will follow us to the warship Ravage, where our lord and master General Ashar will accept your unconditional surrender."
"Come on, Mouse."
"Transport, do you read?"
"Yes, I read you," Dot replied, "I'm having trouble -- adjusting my instruments." "You will follow us, now!"
Dot powered up the transport. She checked her sensors, which revealed that the remaining forces of enemy fighters were approaching, which didn't surprise Dot in the least. They all knew Ashar would double cross them. Dot moved the transport forward.
And the shields went up.
"Yes!" Dot raised her fist in the air.
The two fighters before her halted in mid air. When the enemy forces were within range the captured fighters turned and opened fire on their compatriots. At the same instance, the Mainframe fighters opened fire and the ground cannons blazed. Pandemonium ensued. The enemy fighters, completely caught off guard, began to drop from the sky like fiery comets. Then more of the enemy ships turned on their brethren, increasing the confusion.
Several shots smashed into the hull of Dot's transport and she decided she was long overdue to get out of the line of fire. She started her descent, when an alarm within her vehicle sounded and the transport went into a steep dive. Dot fought the controls with all her strength, yet the ground continued to rush at her, while flaming debris rained down around her. At the last possible moment the transport leveled out, but the landing was hard. The transport bounced several times before starting a side-ways skid, then flipped over. The harness, which held Dot to her chair, tightened, and she could only hold on as the monstrous vehicle flipped twice before coming to rest on its side.
Dot thought she might have passed out for a moment. It was semi-dark within the confines of her vehicle, a weak light filtered in through the windows, but she was able to unlock the harness by feel. She slid unceremoniously out of her seat, and crawled to the rear, where she knew the weapons locker was stored. The door was ajar; thank the User. Dot to selected a laser rifle and five grenades for her belt. She also chose a flare gun and finally strapped a dagger to her boot.
A manual override switch was set near the rear doors and Dot used it now to free herself from her makeshift prison.
Above her, the skies of Mainframe were filled with fiery explosions. A shadow loomed over her and Dot knew it was the Ravage converging on the Principal Office. There was panic in the streets around her, but there was little she could do about it. Those he saw she ordered to take cover but no one paid her any heed. She was alone, on the battlefield with no one to help her but she wasn't about to go down without a fight.
* * *
When Mouse saw Dot's transport go down it took all of her concentration not to cry out in anguish. The fate of Mainframe was in her hands.
She had the two fighters and her fingers flew across the workstation keyboard, her eyes intent and glowing, her lips set in a thin line. Codes and signals and counter-signals were sent through her workstation, into the machine and the information was fed back to her. Once she had control of a ship she hacked in, made the necessary changes, then encrypted all of her files, not that she thought the fighter pilots would be able to figure out what she had done in time.
Now she caught two more fighters in her trap and set them on their comrades.
"Mouse!" Phong's voice seemed very far away, "The Ravage is approaching!"
Time was running out. She had to find her way into the computer system of the Death Strikes -
There! She caught one, like a fly in a spider web. She fed new instructions into the onboard computer and received a reply. She caught another and did the same, then aimed both ships at the Ravage.
She received a signal that Ravage's guns were powering up. Mouse grabbed one of the fighters and flung it like a child's toy in the path of the blast, knowing it was futile. The shot tore through the fighter and slammed into the shields, sending a shock wave through the P.O. once more.
"Shields at sixty-three percent!" Phong cried.
"All lead ships, attack the Ravage, now! Full guns." Mouse shouted.
Another blast, another quake.
"Shields at forty-four!"
"This is Fleet Captain Diode," Mouse barely registered the voice, "We've sustained heavy damage, there is a breech in our core, explosion is imminent. We've lost gravitational control."
"Principal Office, we're done for, but by the code, we're not going down without one last shot."
For the first time, Mouse looked up from her console. The Diode ship was moving into the line of fire, placing itself between the Ravage and the Principal Office.
The Ravage fired, the shot punching a hole through the hull of the Diode ship. A large section blasted away in a torrent of orange fire.
"Spamit!" Mouse slammed her fist onto her workstation top. Slowly, ponderously, the Diode ship turned.
"Covar, Irina, get your ships in there now! Cover the Diode ship!"
"No - stay clear!" Came the barely audible message from the ship and Mouse realized what their captains were going to do.
"The ship's core," the flame-haired mercenary whispered as they watched the Diode ship make its final journey. The Ravage was attempting a hard to starboard turn, but it didn't move fast enough. The Diode ship slammed into its side.
The resulting explosion sent molten debris flying and shook the foundations of the Principal Office one last time.
Then the Ravage with an almost lazy indifference began to dive.
"Clear the sector!" Mouse screamed, "All ground troops to the crash sight!"
The occupants of the Principal Office stared in horrified fascination as the Ravage came down. By the grace of the User, it stayed aloft long enough to clear the city limits but slammed into the outer wall near the harbor. It plunged into the Data Sea and a massive wave struck at it like a serpent. The ship came to rest half submerged in the water. Several explosions blew out various sections of the hull.
At the sight of their lead ship being defeated, what little fighters remained turned and fled, only to be pursued and destroyed by the remaining fighters and CPU's.
Cheers and screams of triumph erupted within the War Room and all through Mainframe, but Mouse knew it wasn't over yet.
"All units report!" Mouse called, as the cheers died down, "All available units to Sector 1000, immediately! Spamit, we've got to find Dot!"
* * *
Dot had never prayed to the User that much in her life but when she saw the Ravage begin its maddeningly slow descent she hoped by all that was good that it didn't crash in a populated sector or destroy any buildings. She didn't think it possible but it had stayed aloft long enough to clear the city limits and crash into the Data Sea.
She wanted to be happy. She wanted to believe it was over and they had won, but she knew it wasn't the case. Above, their fighters engaged the last of the enemy and there was no guarantee that soldiers hadn't escaped the lead ship. Her first priority however, was to get back to the Principal Office.
* * *
"I'm coming with you."
"Absolutely not," Turbo strapped on the dagger Mouse had given him.
"I can sense any minion of my mother," Melissa said, "Besides, as I said to Dot, you really can't stop me."
"And I want to make sure Dot is okay," Enzo said.
"Mouse," Turbo said.
"Now look, sugah --," Mouse began.
A vid-window opened to show Ray, "Mouse?"
"Ray? Honey, where are you?"
"We're bringing Gavin in, he's been injured."
"Oh no! How bad?"
"We don't know."
"The medical teams are ready and waiting," Mouse said, "Sugah, we can't locate Dot and she's not answering her comm."
"Ruddy web," Ray muttered, "As soon as I get Gavin in, I'll go back out."
Mouse turned her attention back to Turbo, "You go search near the sector the transport went down."
"Mouse, what about us?" Melissa said.
Mouse sighed, "You can sense an infected person?"
"Dot'll have my skin but - Turbo take them with you. Now you two do what Turbo says, understand?"
"All right, come on," Turbo strode out.
"I should be out there to," Mouse muttered, she wondered how Dot did it. Her admiration for the Command.com increased to the nth power.
* * *
Dot pressed herself against the wall of the building and pulled the pin out of the grenade with her teeth. She rolled it down the street towards the enemy transport, hoping it didn't carry any prisoners. The explosion was satisfyingly loud, after the deathly silence that had fallen, once the fighting ceased. The air was filled with an expectancy of what was to come, or at least that was the feeling that seemed to surround Mainframe's Command.com.
Dot smiled and moved back into the shadows.
She was close to the P.O. There was only that annoying open space between her and safety. She was loath to leave the shadowed protection between the buildings. She didn't see any of the enemy about but still she was concerned. Well she couldn't stand here all day.
Suddenly she caught sight of Ray, streaking across the sky and she knew she'd never have another chance.
"Ray!" Dot started out into the open and screamed when a pair of massive arms wrapped around her torso and violently hauled her back into the shadows.
* * *
Turbo piloted the rocket cycle over the rooftops of Mainframe. He glanced to his right and allowed himself a smile of respect for the little sprite and virus that flew beside him. The younger version of Enzo Matrix piloted the cycle with almost expert skill.
Turbo sighed as his eyes beheld the destruction. He needed to do this. He needed to vindicate himself some way, for everything.
The remaining ships were now searching each sector. The Web Surfer Ray Tracer was headed for the docks to see if anyone had survived the crash of the Ravage.
"Turbo!" Melissa suddenly called from her perch behind Enzo, "I sense someone."
Her eyes scanned the area, "Down there! It's nearby, but there are others."
"Stay sharp," Turbo descended to where she had indicated and the second cycle followed close behind.
* * *
Dot struggled ineffectively against the iron grip that held her. One arm continued to hold her around the waist and the other had lifted to place a hand over her mouth to smother her screaming.
She realized she wouldn't escape this way and decided to conserve her strength.
They finally halted at the end of an alley and her captor turned her around to face him. At the same time he painfully shoved her against the building wall. Her belt and weapons were removed and discarded.
"I congratulate you, Ms. Matrix," Ashar's face was a grotesque picture of bruises and bleeding wounds. His smile was jagged and broken. "No one has ever defeated General Ashar of Daemon's Armada. You are quite an impressive woman."
Even during his speech, Dot's mind was working. She was several hundred yards from the alley mouth and if she called for help, she doubted anyone would hear or if they did, she doubted they would come to her rescue.
She then examined Ashar for any weak spot. Her first thought, go for the groin, but she doubted he'd feel anything through his body armor. The only vulnerable spot was his face and throat.
Ashar suddenly struck her across the temple. "Pay attention woman, and stop trying to find a way to escape me."
Pain exploded within Dot's skull followed by a wave of dizziness. She raised a hand in feeble defence as Ashar leaned over her and pulled her roughly to her feet.
"You are a formidable woman, Dot Matrix," Ashar moved his face close to hers.
Dot pulled away from him raked her fingernails across one of the open wounds. Ashar screamed and released her. Dot smashed the palm of her hand into Ashar's nose. The viral's head snapped back and for a moment, Dot hoped.
No, Ashar was grinning evilly at her again, "Very good, Ms. Matrix. You shall make a fine soldier. We will escape this system and build an army elsewhere, you and I."
Dot swung again, hard, but Ashar took her by both wrists and shoved her so hard against the wall, the air rushed painfully from her lungs.
The viral general shoved his face next to Dot's, "I will have Mainframe and you Ms. Matrix."
Ashar extended his claws and drew one delicately down Dot's cheek. Dot flinched against the searing pain. Blood pooled from within the cut.
"But first, I must punish you."
His claws drew bloody lines down Dot's face. Dot squinted her eyes shut and bit hard on her lower lip, refusing to cry out.
"And now --,"
Ashar sliced through her body armor ripping the material away at her shoulder. When the realization came to her as to what he was trying to do, nausea welled within her stomach. With a scream of protest, Dot struggled in earnest, fighting and clawing to no avail.
Ashar raised his hand to strike her a final time.
The viral general straightened away from her and turned to stare down the alley.
"Turbo," Ashar growled, and then smiled at the Prime Guardian's approach.
Dot's relief quickly became apprehension when she saw Melissa and Enzo behind him.
"No! Enzo, Melissa, stay back!"
Ashar wrapped his clawed hand around her throat and slammed Dot's head against the wall. Pain exploded once again and Dot felt her legs give way.
"No," Dot moaned as Ashar advanced on Turbo and the blackness enveloped her.
* * *
"Dot!" Enzo screamed and rushed forward.
"Get back!" Turbo yelled at him.
"Well what do we have here?" Ashar smiled, "Two little traitors come to face their executioner?"
"Ashar I always knew you were the scum of the web," Turbo continued forward.
Ashar drew his sword, his smile completely random. "I am deleted now, but I have every intention of taking you with me, Turbo."
Turbo heard a sound behind him, like a low hum, but he dare not turn to investigate it.
"And there is Melissa," Ashar said, "Daemon's disgrace. A pathetic weakling who believe she can defeat me with her feeble power."
The searing heat of the energy ball made Turbo flinch. It slammed into Ashar's chest. The sword flew from Ashar's grasp and the viral stumbled back, but righted himself quickly, "Going to allow a little girl to fight for you?"
Turbo chanced a glance behind him, "I said get out of here! Get help!"
Turbo heard Ashar coming for him and he turned as the viral reached him, "Copeland --,"
Ashar barreled into Turbo, lifting the Prime Guardian off his feet and throwing him several yards away.
"Stop!" Melissa screamed. She fired bolts of energy at Ashar but the viral came for her despite them. Melissa screamed as Ashar grasped her by both wrists with one hand, lifted her up and tossed her aside. Enzo gave a cry of rage. Turbo warned him away, but Ashar grabbed him by the collar and lifted him up.
"Freak," then Ashar threw the little sprite aside as though he were nothing.
"Copeland, containment field!" Turbo raised his wrist but nothing happened. "Having a problem with your little toy, Turbo?"
Turbo stared at Copeland with a rapidly increasing panic, "Copeland?"
His keytool spoke to him.
"I see," Turbo muttered, "Well I suppose she did what she thought was best. Then I suppose this is goodbye my friend."
Turbo turned back to Ashar and beckoned him with both hands, "Come on you sorry son of a null. No power or little tricks, just you and me."
"As you wish," Ashar said, "I will teach you the true meaning of pain, Turbo."
"Shut up and fight."
Ashar swung first, which Turbo dodged and delivered a sharp jab which smashed Ashar's nose to splinters. Blood spurted and Turbo drove a fist into his stomach.
Ashar laughed and charged Turbo again; lifting him up and carrying him back to slam him against the wall. Turbo slammed both fists against Ashar's ears. The virus released him and cried out in rage. Turbo repeated the attack, driving Ashar against the wall and drove his fists into Ashar's face until it was a bloody mess. Turbo stepped back, and kept his fighting stance. Ashar slid down the length of the wall, leaving a bloody trail.
A glint of steel caught Turbo's eye. The sword. Turbo went for it and lifted the wicked-looking weapon in his grip. "Stand up!"
Ashar struggled to his feet and spat out blood, his voice was thick, "So you'll delete me now."
"No," Turbo said, "I'm no murderer, but you'll come along with me and face judgment."
"Stupid ASCII," Ashar muttered, "You should have deleted me when you had the chance, for I shall delete you."
Ashar raised his hand and the thorny tentacles shot from his knuckles, and wrapped themselves around Turbo's throat. The Prime Guardian cried out in agony and Ashar pulled him forward. Burning pain as the poison seeped into his body and drained him of strength. Turbo knew the end would come swiftly and he had to act now. Even as the thought came to him he felt his limbs deaden and his fingers grew numb around the sword hilt. The heavy weapon dropped from his hands. Ashar's smile was a grotesque thing.
Gathering the last of his strength, Turbo reached into his belt, drew Mouse's dagger and sliced through the tentacles. Ashar's scream of agony carried far above the rooftops. Turbo then plunged the blade upwards into Ashar's throat clear up to the hilt.
A thick wet sound bubbled from Ashar's throat before the general pitched forward, his body dissolving before it hit the ground.
Prime guardian Turbo looked around as his sight faded. Across the alley, Dot Matrix stirred. Turbo started forward, then his legs crumpled and he crawled to where the Command.com lay.
"Dot," he seemed unable to form the words.
Her eyes opened and she squinted against her obvious pain, "Turbo?"
The Prime Guardian lay back and stared up at the azure sky. He wasn't quite through yet, "Dot?"
"Turbo?" was leaning over him. "You're going to be all right. I'll get you to the infirmary."
"No," the light was fading. "The children."
"Yes, I know."
"Dot," he took her by the arm, "Tell Bob --,"
Her saying she forgave him was the last thing he heard before sky faded to darkness.