The Daemon Conflict
Chapter 15 - Spoils of War
Waking up was agony. Dot wanted nothing more than to let herself fall into blissful unconsciousness, but a nagging sense of urgency kept her from her desires. Dot fought her back to consciousness and when she forced her eyes open, the feeble light of the alley burned them.
There were sounds nearby. Stone breaking and guttural cries. Dot tried to force her vision to clear.
Turbo and Ashar locked in a death struggle, the Prime Guardian seemed locked in an embrace with the viral general. Dot attempted to move and it was agony, so she could only watch in mute horror. Something was wrapped around Turbo's throat and it seemed to be some weird extension of Ashar's hand.
Get up! Dot's inner voice screamed. Get up and help him!
But she couldn't. Nothing seemed to work on her. The darkness was pulling at her again. And then she caught sight of Enzo and Melissa, lying on opposite sides of the alley and she would have cried if she possessed the strength.
Then came the scream of rage. Dot looked back to the two combatants and saw Ashar stumbled away from Turbo. The Prime Guardian jabbed at Ashar's throat with something. The viral general was dead before he hit the ground.
That was it for Dot. She allowed herself a grim smile before she passed out.
"Dot," the voice brought her back once again.
"Turbo?" Dot tried to concentrate beyond the pain in her skull. Turbo laid back and Dot forced herself up and half dragged, half crawled to where he lay. "You're going to be all right. I'll get you to the infirmary."
"No," Turbo's voice was soft, "The children."
Yes, I know."
"Dot," Turbo had her by the arm. Dot saw the light in his eyes dim, "Tell Bob --,"
His grip loosened. His eyes closed.
"Turbo? Oh no, User, no! Turbo I forgive you, do you hear me?"
She saw his lips turn up in a slight smile, the Prime Guardian fragmented into a shower of blue and silver.
"Turbo," Dot muttered. The pain stabbed at her as she tried to stand. It even hurt to draw a breath. She was certain some links were broken. Dot gritted her teeth against the pain and forced herself to crawl to where Enzo lay.
Her brother gave a soft moan.
Dot felt the world fading again.
* * *
She wanted to remain within the cool darkness where the pain seemed only a memory, but again she was nagged with an acute sensation this time, it was that she had left something unfinished. Still she ignored it, wanting to only rest after what she had been through.
Yet the feeling continued to nag.
Where was she?"
The alley, Enzo, Melissa, and Turbo.
Dot struggled awake. Around her the darkness faded and things came into focus. She recognized the infirmary. The soft bed, and the cool sheets. She lifted her hand to her face and felt the bandages there. When she moved back the blanket, her torso was also wrapped. Memories of Ashar's hands on her and what had almost happened invaded her thoughts and she pushed the memories away.
Nurse Six entered the room, "Ah, you're awake! There are bunches of people who are worried sick about you!"
"Where's Enzo? And Melissa?" Dot struggled to rise, but Nurse Six gently held her down
"Both are fine, Ms. Matrix, a few bruises but they'll heal," Six said, "Now you rest up and I'll let everyone know you're all right."
Dot laid back and closed her eyes. For once she was going to listen to medical advice and take a nice long rest. The war for Mainframe was finally over.
She was just dozing off when she heard the door open. Mouse entered, "Sugah, do you know how much of a fright you gave me? Don't you ever, ever, do that again!"
"I won't believe me," Dot managed a smile. "Mouse how goes everything?"
"It's all over, sugah," Mouse smiled. "The enemy's been captured or deleted. We took quite a few prisoners. I took the liberty of sending our remaining forces outside of the system to where the rest of the armada was waiting. We took 'um all out. Daemon's Web Armada is finished."
Dot closed her eyes and laid back. Tears seeped through her closed lashes.
"Dot, what is it? Are you in pain?"
"No," Dot said, "I just don't know how I'm gong to tell Bob."
"Turbo is deleted?"
Mouse sighed, and lowered her head, "Ashar?"
"Deleted as well, by Turbo's hand."
"Thank the User," Mouse muttered, "I'll find out what happened later. I want you to get some rest."
"Enzo and Melissa, Nurse Six said they were okay, but --,"
"They are," Mouse said. "They were knocked around a bit but they're fine. They're more worried about you. When you get some rest, I'll have them come see you."
"Oh Mouse --,"
"Ssh," Mouse covered her with the blanket, "You sleep for once and let me handle things. You've scared me enough this cycle."
Then Mouse, the hardened cocky mercenary did something Dot would never have suspected of her. Mouse lowered her head and gently kissed Dot on the forehead, "Sweet dreams, sugah."
Dot smiled at her and before drifting off decided she should really offer Mouse a permanent position.
* * *
The myriad of flowers that filled Dot's room was nothing compared to the chocolates and other assorted gifts that she received. Again the Comman.com of Mainframe sat up in the bed, glasses propped up on her nose, her organizer in her lap and five vid-windows opened before her.
Enzo came in. He had a bandage on his forehead, but he smiled at her, "What are you doing?"
"Overseeing the clean up and repair," Dot said briskly. "We've got to treat the wounded, begin preliminary rebuilding, prepare for our trip to the Super Computer --,"
Enzo reached over and pressed save on her organizer, then closed the lid.
Enzo then crawled up beside Dot and laid his head on her shoulder, "I was scared Dot. When I saw you with Ashar. You're all right aren't you?"
Physically she was, mentally she wasn't as certain, "I am sweetie."
She knew he was crying, so she tried to take his mind off the subject. "Where's Melissa?"
"With Hexadecimal," Enzo wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, "Dr. Chancery says she's improving and may wake up any second now. Melissa's really nervous about it."
There was a brief pause, then, "You're going away too aren't you?"
"We have to get to the Super Computer," Dot said, "Bob's long overdue to contact us and he may need our help."
"Please let me come with you," Enzo said.
"No, you'll be safer here, besides, Phong will need your help getting Mainframe back online."
"Melissa is going," Enzo's voice rose, "She needs someone to --,"
"Wait a nano, what do you mean, Melissa is going?"
"She says she's going. She says she has to face Daemon herself, once and for all."
"She's not going either," Dot said, "Don't worry, Enzo, I'll talk to Melissa."
"Um - Dot - it's okay, about Melissa I mean? She's not in any trouble?"
Dot smiled, "No Enzo, she's not."
She was gratified at the look of profound relief on her brother's face, "Thanks Dot."
* * *
They allowed her out of the infirmary, as long as she stayed in a wheelchair. Nurse Six volunteered to look after her. So again as Dot was wheeled into the War Room she was greeted with applause.
Mouse was at her workstation but she came down to stand in front of Dot. With a quirky smile, she saluted smartly, "Welcome back, Commander."
Ray was leaning against Baud but he straightened with a smile, "Glad to see you up and about love."
"I must say my child, you gave us quite a scare," Phong rolled to stand before her and placed his spindly fingers on her forearm, "I would suggest you not do that again."
"Now why does everyone keep saying that? Like I deliberately meant to get into trouble." The resulting laughter eased what little tension there was.
"Mouse, status report," Dot said.
Mouse returned to her workstation, "All remaining CPU's and Fighters are accounted for. Unfortunately, our losses were heavy. We're down to two lead ships, seventy-three fighters, twenty CPU's and a little over ninety ground troops, however, we managed to salvage a good deal of the Ravage's systems and weaponry and we have well over fifty prisoners. Extensive damage to Sectors 1001 through 1015. As for civilian casualties --," she broke off, "Well, we don't know for sure, reports are still coming in. A lot of people taken prisoner are still missing. We're searching for as many as possible."
"What about the Senior Staff?" Dot had been to see Gavin earlier and although bedridden, her friend and business partner was already beginning to complain about the infirmary food. Specks was also doing well although quite putout that Mouse was doing his job.
"We're all right as rain, sugah," Mouse smiled at Ray, "but - um - you may want to have those words with a certain girl virus."
"Yes," she hadn't seen Melissa yet, "Where is she?"
"With Enzo of course," Mouse said, "Sugah, I hope you don't mind me saying it but that's the second worse case of puppy love I've ever seen in this system."
"Yes," Dot said. "First AndrAIa and now Melissa. Where do my brothers find such - unusual girls?"
"You needn't worry about Melissa, my child," Phong said, "I suspect she will surprise us all when this is over."
"Why do I get the feeling you know more than you're telling, Phong?"
"Cause he is, sugah, he always is," Mouse replied.
A vid-window opened by Mouse's station and the mercenary was surprised to see Dr. Chancery, "Oh hello Mouse, is Dot there?"
Mouse turned the vid-window to face Dot, "Yes Doctor?"
"Is Melissa with you?"
"Hexadecimal just woke up."
Dot gaped at him, "Did you say, Hex is awake?"
"Um yes, and she's very - upset, could Nurse Six bring you down here, right away?"
"I'm on my way. Mouse, see if you can reach Melissa and ask her to meet us in Hex's room?"
"You got it, Boss," Mouse said.
As Dot was wheeled from the room, she heard Mouse mutter, "There's going to be web to pay."
* * *
Dot knew that no matter how well she prepared herself she would not be ready for what awaited her in Hex's room. She was right.
The Chaos Virus floated in mid air. All around her, objects floated with her. Metal instruments in the room were in the process of melting into puddles.
"What am I doing here?" Hex demanded. "What has happened?"
Dot lifted herself from the chair, "Hex, it's all right, everything is fine."
"Oh Dot," Hex said, matter of fact, "What did I miss?"
Dot rolled her eyes, "Quite a bit."
"Oh well you can tell me later. Did those nasty virals arrive?"
"Um yes, they did Hex and it's over."
"Over?" Hex didn't seem to understand, "What do you mean, 'it's over'?"
"Um, the battle, we won."
"The battle is over? And I missed the whole thing?"
Hex gave a banshee screech and every small object in the room flew out the window. Dot flinched at the far off crash from below and hoped no one had been in the way of the falling objects.
Hex took a calming breath, "Oh well, these things happen I suppose. Now if you'll excuse me, I really should get back to my Lair, I have a million things to do."
Dot sighed, this was going to be harder than she thought, "Well Hex, your Lair isn't in the best condition right now," And then it hit Dot like a laser shot, what would Hex do to Melissa once Hex found out Melissa was the one who attacked her?
"Hex," Dot forestalled any more tirades, "Do you remember anything about the person who attacked you?"
"Oh them, are they still here?"
"Well, yes," Dot said.
"Then I suppose I'll have to destroy them this time," Hex said, "I must admit they were quite entertaining, but then our battle lost its amusement."
Dot sighed, no not easy at all. "What if I were to tell you that the person is here? Now? Would you at least talk to them before destroying them?"
"Talking is so boring, I'd much rather fight."
Dot sighed for a third time, there was no getting around it. "All right Hex, listen to me very carefully, we --,"
The door came open and Enzo stepped in, but halted at the threshold. He looked from Dot to Hex and back again, and a look of discomfort crossed his face.
"Well are you going to come in or not?" Hex broke the silence. "I did so much appreciate the flowers and card."
"Um --," Enzo looked behind him and Dot guessed Melissa was standing just outside the door.
"Well?" Hex's voice took on a demanding tone.
Enzo stepped aside and Melissa stepped into the room.
Hex's eyebrow lifted and her head tilted, her face much resembling her 'mask of being intrigued'. The chaos virus alighted on the floor, her back appendages folded placidly behind her.
The silence stretched impossibly long until finally Melissa uttered those immortal words, "Hi -- sis."
Hex's head tilted the other way. Dot watched closely and held her breath.
Suddenly Hex screamed again, the sound ripped through the silence and had Dot nearly jumping out of her skin. Melissa was suddenly lifted off her feet and Enzo gave a cry of protest as Hex drew the girl-child virus to her and wrapped her arms around her in an embrace. The two virals rose in the air and danced like twin ballerinas. Laughter filled the room before, the ecstatic giggles of a child and the pleased laugh of a woman. Hexadecimal finally set them down on the bed.
Dot realized she had been holding her breath the whole time and gratefully released it at the sound of the two viral's laughter.
"Come on Enzo," Dot said softly. The Command.com and her little brother quietly left the room. Hex and Melissa barely noticed they were gone.
* * *
Although she felt a little bit like a Peeping Tahoma, Mouse watched the scene with a satisfied smile. Being an only child, she knew how important family was. She'd never admit it out loud but the Mainframers had become her family now.
"Ah that was beautiful was it not?" Phong smiled as the vid-window closed.
"Sure was, Phong, I'm glad it turned out that way," Mouse said. "Hmm - now that's strange, sugah."
"What is, love?" Ray said.
"A message is coming in, but --,"
Phong approached his workstation, "I see what you mean, Mouse."
"What is it, old boy?" Ray moved to stand behind Phong.
"This is a long range encryption," Phong said, "This is the method that the resistance used to contact us from the Super Computer!"
"You don't suppose it's Bob, do ya sugah? Maybe they did as well as we did and kicked Daemon's ASCII?"
"I certainly hope so," Phong worked to decode the message, "summon Dot immediately!"
* * *
"We're ready, sugah," Mouse said.
"Okay, play the message," Dot said.
"It was really garbled because there was a lot of interference. We were sent some coordinates that fortunately came through clearly."
"You're sure it wasn't Bob?"
"I'm sorry Dot, honey, no it wasn't."
Dot nodded. Enzo stood behind her as he had taken over pushing her chair. He gave her shoulder a squeeze as Mouse activated the recorder:
"...Mainframe...Dom Markup...needs assistance...AndrAIa requests... Guardian...renegade...captured...Mistress missing...AndrAIa requests your help...meet resistance at coordinates set...come at once...further instruction...Dom Markup..."
"Did it say - Guardian and renegade, captured?"
No one spoke. Phong rolled up to Dot and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"So my nightmares were true," Dot said, "Daemon does have them. Who knows what she's doing to them!"
"Wait a nano, sugah, the message said AndrAIa requested help," Mouse said.
"Yes," Phong said, "Wouldn't that stand to reason that AndrAIa is free?"
"Yes, that has to be it!" Dot said. "She's still with the resistance and needs our help!"
"Then again, sugah," Mouse said, "This could be a trick. A ruse instigated by Daemon to lure us into a trap."
"Yes Mouse, I've thought of that too," Dot said, "But I'm willing to take the risk."
"Then so am I," Mouse smiled.
"Now wait just a darn nano --,"
"Mouse, didn't you tell me that you're finding some very interesting things in the wreckage of the Ravage?"
"Well yeah, but --,"
"We're going to need some powerful weaponry if we're to defeat Daemon," Dot said, "I'm counting on Mainframe's official weapons and tactics chief to come up with some new ideas.
"Your official what?"
"I'd like you to follow us after you complete the salvage operation," Dot said. "I'll also need you to continue with the rebuilding."
"Enzo," Dot went on, "I need you to stay here and help Mouse."
"But Dot --,"
"Also," Dot interrupted, "We've been very lucky so far as no game cubes have fallen."
"Dude! Dot you're right!"
"So we'll still need our Sector Wardens," Dot said.
"Guess that leaves me then," Ray said.
"Ray --," Mouse began.
"I can get them there the fastest," Ray gave his cocky half-smile, "They'll need a guide."
"All right, Ray."
"Dot, what about Melissa and Hex?"
Dot found herself sighing a lot lately, "Hex will undoubtedly want to go, and Melissa with her. If that happens, then Melissa will need you."
Enzo kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you, Dot. I'll go tell Melissa and Hex."
"Sugah, are you sure about that?"
"No," Dot wasn't sure about much anymore. "Let's get started everyone. Bob and Matrix are depending on us, and we have a lot of work to do."