The Daemon Conflict
His recovery was slow and painful. For the first few cycles, Bob slipped in and out of consciousness, sleeping in long stretches. Nightmares plagued him, but he endured. He had won. And whenever he regained consciousness, Dot was there, wiping the cold sweat from his forehead after he dreamt and making him as comfortable as possible.
He heard things. Rose saying he was lucky to be processing. His armor had shielded him from serious damage, but it would take a long time for him to recover. Bob already knew he would never have the power he once had, at least not fully. The memory of something teased at his processor. An encounter with two old friends who had given him another chance and of something he had lost, but the more time that passed, the more the memory faded.
But he was alive and he had kept his promise.
* * *
Katiyana was one of the first to come see him about two cycles after his awakening. Bob could now sit up and eat, although Dot continued to assist him. Rose had finally allowed visitors.
"There are things we must discuss," as always she got right to the point. "All the infected Guardians have been freed."
Bob nodded curtly.
"There is much confusion now. I have been attempting to restore order but it is difficult. There is much that needs to be done and many feel much justice needs to be dispensed."
"Has anyone from the High Council survived?"
"No," Katiyana said. "I told you there is much strong emotion within the Collective. Guilt and anger. Some surrendered their sanity. Others decided they could no longer face life."
"User no." Bob whispered. "Do we know who?"
"Yes, although others are still missing. I will see to contacting the families of the deceased," Katiyana said.
"Thank you," Bob said.
"There is something else," Katiyana went on. "There is talk of an uprising against the Guardians."
"Oh User, no." Bob muttered. "We can't let that happen, Katiyana. After all we've been through."
"The Collective needs leadership," Katiyana said. "It needs its Prime Guardian. It needs you, Bob."
Bob bowed his head.
"It was what Turbo wanted." Katiyana sighed, "I'm sorry about Turbo. If I had known what peril he was in at the time I would have never sent the keytools into sleep."
"You did what you had to do. Turbo understood." Bob said.
"Bob," Katiyana continued. "The records have been opened. It's official. You are to be appointed the new Prime Guardian - that is if you wish it."
Again, Bob's eyes closed in deep thought. Prime Guardian, Bob had never in his processing aspired to that title. He had always rather naively thought that Turbo would always be there. Turbo had given his blessing and the Collective needed him. He would not turn his back on them.
"Yes, I will accept," Bob said. "Although my home is in Mainframe, I will perform my duties to the best of my abilities."
"Then as the only remaining high-ranking official of the Collective, you are hereby appointed Prime Guardian."
Katiyana stood. "I take it there are people you'll want to tell?"
Bob smiled at her as she walked out.
"Turbo," Bob whispered aloud. "I'll make you proud of me, I promise."
* * *
Bob smiled at the little green-skinned sprite as he entered the room.
"Hey there, Little Man," Bob smiled and set the bowl of broth aside he had been given. He held out his arms and Enzo ran gratefully into them.
"I was so scared, Bob, when they said you took a bad fall," Enzo said against his neck. "You looked so sick when they brought you in and Dot was crying and I thought - I thought --,"
Enzo's voice broke and Bob knew he was crying, "Don't go away again, okay? Promise?"
"I --," Bob said. "Enzo look at me."
The sight of the boy's tear-stained face filled with admiration, tugged at Bob's core-com. "You're old enough to understand that nothing is definite. I'll try never to leave you, but if I do, know -," Bob sighed, "Know that I love you like your sister does."
Enzo's lower lip trembled and his eyes filled with fresh tears, "I - I love you too, Bob," Enzo wrapped his tiny arms around him again. "Um - Bob?"
"Does this mean that you and Dot are going to get married now?"
Bob chuckled, "You'd like that wouldn't you?"
"Well yeah, sure Bob! You'd be my brother then."
"Then I guess we'll have to won't we? Think you can put in a good word for me?"
"You bet!" Enzo rushed to the door, then turned back, "I knew you could do it Bob. I knew you could defeat Daemon."
Bob leaned back and closed his eyes and smiled.
* * *
Bob had other visitors over the course of the cycle.
Matrix and AndrAIa entered his room early one morning. Dot was feeding Bob breakfast and the Guardian was enjoying every nano of the pampering. Matrix hesitated but Bob motioned him forward and AndrAIa gave him a shove.
"I - um -- Bob - I mean, Prime Guardian, sir -- well I wanted to report and - I wanted to see how you were doing."
"Sit down, Matrix."
The brawny sprite obeyed. He looked close to normal now, as Bob did, as their infection was slowly fading, except for the patch over Matrix's eye.
"How's your eye?"
"It doesn't hurt as much anymore," Matrix said.
After Daemon's destruction, every trace of her presence had been eradicated, including Matrix's eye, which had disintegrated within its socket. The pain had been almost unbearable for the young sprite. Zif was fashioning him a new one but until then he was forced to wear the patch. He didn't mind it though. AndrAIa had told him it added to his, 'roguish good looks'.
"We wanted to congratulate you, Prime Guardian." AndrAIa smiled, "No one deserves it more than you do."
Bob blushed slightly and lowered his eyes, "Maybe."
"What do you mean maybe?" AndrAIa placed her hands on her hips, "Don't you start that 'angsty' stuff Bob, I have enough trouble dealing with Matrix!"
"Hey!" Matrix turned around and gave her a look of mock indignation.
Bob decided he had better head the inevitable argument off while he could, "By the way, you two, thank you for rescuing me."
"I screwed up and nearly got you deleted!"
"Enzo, it's all right. You didn't see me hanging up there, nobody did. You had to defend yourselves when Tentacles attacked you."
I know but --,"
"Enzo," Dot reached across the bed and laid her hands on top of her brothers', "Matrix -it's all right. We've won and Bob is back with us."
Matrix looked into his sister's eyes for the first time since he had been infected and returned her slight smile.
Maybe there's hope after all, Bob thought.
* * *
"You should have seen her, sugah!" Mouse went on and standing behind her, Ray shook his head in amusement. "Dot fired on that portal and the whole thing went up. Took out more of them than I could count."
"So I've been told," Bob gave Dot a stern look and she blushed.
"Uh oh, he's not giving you trouble is he, sugah?" Mouse asked Dot.
"For firing into a portal? Oh no, why should I be upset about that?"
"It worked didn't it?" Dot muttered.
"Yeah, lighten up, sugah," Mouse said.
"Hmph," Bob snorted, "Help me out here, Ray."
"Oh no mate," Ray raised his hands in surrender, "You're on your own. You're not getting me in the middle of those two."
"Thanks a lot, Ray."
"He thinks he's hot chips now because he's Prime Guardian," Mouse said. "Oh yeah, congrats, by the way."
"Better late than never, eh Mouse?" Bob smiled, "So lady, do you want a position on my staff?"
"What? Are you joking? Be in the Guardian Collective? Besides, I've already decided to accept a previous job offer," Mouse smiled at Dot, who looked at first astonished, then pleased.
"What? Dot? You offered Mouse a position?"
"You snooze you lose," Dot said smugly. "Mouse is now our official weapons and tactics chief."
"Well I'll be spammed," Bob smiled, "Congratulations Mouse. Finally settling down?"
"Course not! I'm just takin' this because I've been bored as of late," (Ray gave her an incredulous look) "and this will make a nice diversion."
"Same old Mouse," Bob smiled.
* * *
Visitors came and went daily, much to Rose's annoyance, who kept insisting that everyone leave Bob to get some rest. But actually Bob was more to blame than the visitors. He insisted on daily reports as to the condition of the outside world. Most of this information came from Dot, who couldn't spend as much time with him as she liked since the cleanup efforts were in full swing.
Of the thousand or so Guardians present in the S.C., only a few hundred were present and accounted for. However messages were coming in from Guardians in the outlaying systems, now free of the infection. Some were cries for help as the people rose against the Guardian forces in their confusion.
The Mainframers were spreading the word throughout the capitol of Daemon's destruction and assisting in the cleanup effort. Rose and her new staff were working round the clock treating wounds and combing the city and towns for anyone who needed medical aide. Bob was beginning to feel a little guilty just lying around, although Dot assured him he deserved it after what he had been through.
As for the condition of the Hall, Katiyana had told him honestly (and he had appreciated that) that it was still in horrible shape. A group had to be sent in to eradicate the bugs and clean out the residue from Tentacles. It was a disgustingly arduous task that Bob wouldn't wish on anyone.
Then came the mourning for the dead. Although no one from the command center personnel had been deleted, Bob was saddened to learn that their casualties had been heavy and families hoping for a happy ending were now forced to endure further misery. Bob promised to himself to make it right.
Their troops had been decimated and the damage to the Mercurius extensive. It would be many cycles before the ship would be flight ready. Dom graciously offered his factory and the land surrounding for the continued use of the war-weary Resistance. Irina and Max would remain in the Super Computer until their ships were repaired.
Katiyana had suggested a job for Zif on the new High Council and Bob had agreed, but Zif had refused. He wanted to be a Guardian studying the games and developing new techniques to win them, which was what he had wanted when he applied to the Academy. Bob had sworn him in immediately.
SiRCe also turned down his offer of a Council Position, stating she wanted to rebuild her life somewhere else, as the Super Computer held too many bad memories for her. Bob suspected what the situation was, but out of respect for her, said nothing.
As for the uprising against the Guardians Bob knew the dissention was very real. He often heard the medical staff whispering about it at night when they thought he was asleep. Bob didn't know how much time he had to stop another conflict, so he concentrated on getting better as soon as possible.
Bob also learned that dozens of enemy troops had been taken and were now residing in the Hall detention area and the converted storerooms similar to the ones Bob and Matrix had been held in. He learned from Dot of the enemy prisoners in Mainframe. Well that was another file he would access when the time came.
* * *
Late one night, at the end of the cycle, he had another visitor.
"Hexadecimal." Bob said.
She appeared before him, "So my mother is dead."
"And you deleted her?"
"Then I should delete you. It is my duty to avenge her. Don't take this personally, Bob."
"Do what you feel you must, Hex," Bob said.
The Chaos Virus approached the bed. She laid a hand on Bob's chest and for awhile was silent, "Something is missing."
"Does Dot know?"
"Hex, I don't understand what happened myself, so how could I explain it to Dot?"
The virus chuckled, "I suppose I'll be horribly bored now that this is all over."
"Are you kidding? You have Melissa. Believe me, life won't be boring, ask Dot."
"Hmm," Hex mused, "Perhaps I'll avenge my mother later." Then to Bob's surprise, Hex gave him a kiss on the mouth. Bob accepted it without protest, "I have always wanted to do that." Then she was gone.
Bob shook his head, "That is one strange lady."
* * *
Applause broke out as Dot helped Bob into the command center. It lasted for a good five nanos, while Bob stood, smiling embarrassedly, his face flushed.
Gavin approached and handed him a mug, "Drink up, lad! This is the first time we've had ta' celebrate and ye are the guest of honor!"
Cheers and whistles erupted once again, as Bob drank deeply of the frothy brew.
Dot helped him to a seat; "We have a surprise for you."
"Dot please, I don't think I could take anymore --,"
"Hello, my son."
The venerable sprite rolled towards him. "Hex was so kind as to portal me here but I cannot stay long - why --- what is wrong my son? Why are you staring at me like that?"
Bob frowned at his old friend as a memory flitted just beyond coherency, then Bob shrugged, "I'm just surprised you're out of the P.O."
"As I said, I cannot stay. Specks is seeing to things and he has Hack and Slash to assist him --,"
"Hack and Slash?"
"Yes, I know. I wanted to see if you were well and hope you will be coming home soon?"
"Yes," Bob said. "As soon as we tie up some loose ends here."
"Very well - oh - by the way -- where is Melissa?"
Almost shyly, the little virus stepped forward. She was the only person who had not visited Bob and the newly appointed Prime Guardian wondered if she were embarrassed because she hadn't believed in him. He would find out one way or another.
"You will be staying with Hex in Mainframe?" Phong asked her.
"Yes, Phong." Melissa replied.
"Enzo had made a request of me, but I needed to be certain before I acted," Phong opened his built-in file drawer, rummaged around for a nano and withdrew an icon, "Then you will need this."
"Ooh! How nice," Hex said. "I just love playing dress up!"
"That is for me?" Melissa said. "An icon?"
"When you return to Mainframe I will register you properly -- if you desire."
"Of course she does!" Enzo chimed in, then blushed and looked at Melissa, "I mean, you do, don't you?"
"Yes," Melissa said, "Thank you Phong."
"You are quite welcome, my child."
"You see Melissa," Enzo said, "I told you everything would turn out all right. Like Bob said all you had to have was a little faith. I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I knew that it would turn out like I said and now we can be friends and you'll live in Mainframe and --,"
Melissa placed two fingers on his lips, "You're cute when you babble." And the girl-child virus moved her fingers and gave Enzo a quick peck on the lips.
Everyone in the room stared in speechless shock but none the more shocked than Enzo. When Melissa stepped back his violet eyes grew wide and his mouth opened but the only thing that came out was an unintelligible croak.
"Enzo, speechless." It was Matrix who finally broke the silence, "Now how long have I been waiting to see that?"
"Melissa!" Enzo said when he regained his voice. The room erupted into pleased laughter and Enzo blushed hotly, but the little sprite didn't seem as put out as all that.
Bob thought how glad he was to be among them.
* * *
"Where are we going?" Dot asked him for the nth time. She had a million things to do at the command center and now her love had pulled her away, making some excuse about needing her to help him with some 'things'. He had literally dragged her outside and coxed her behind him on a zip board.
"You'll see," Bob said cryptically. "I will say this - you and I haven't had any time alone since I returned and besides, you needed a break. You've got a lot written on your disk, pretty lady."
"Yes," foremost in her mind were the two Enzos. She had missed one brother growing up and now it seemed his young counterpart was growing up as well. Although the peck had been innocent, it was an uncomfortable reminder to Dot that her little brother would not be little forever.
Dot almost didn't realize it when they descended into the forest and landed near the pond that had served as their emergency water supply. "This is nice."
"Um hmm," Bob smiled and he pulled her to him and kissed her.
"We're going home tomorrow." Dot said. "I can't wait."
"Neither can I" Bob smiled at her. "Things are going to be difficult for us over the next few minutes. We might not get to see each other as often."
"I know," Dot sighed. "Not to mention that there will be trouble from all directions. You've got a daunting task ahead of you, Prime Guardian."
"You know that title sounds so nice coming from you," Bob held her tight. "You'll be with me."
"Always." Dot breathed against his mouth and then she kissed him.
* * *
The Mainframers stood a short distance away in the clearing where the ships once again had landed and were undergoing repairs. Their forces would remain there until the ships were fully operational, then make the journey back. For now, the Senior Staff would return home temporarily. Hexadecimal prepared to create a portal as Bob still wasn't up to full power and Rose had expressly forbidden him to do it. Dot was giving last minute instructions to Dom.
"We should be back in a cycle," Dot said. "Continue with all clean up and repair operations and contact me ASAP if you have any questions or concerns. And Dom --,"
"I think we're going to make a great team. I never thought of having my own confectioner's company."
"Yes, I believe so, too." Dom smiled.
Dot saw Katiyana and SiRCe coming towards them. "You know, SiRCe has some fine leadership qualities. Perhaps you can convince her to stay in the Super Computer and assist you."
Dom blushed scarlet. "That would be nice."
The portal opened behind them, "See you in a cycle." Dot said.
Katiyana approached Bob; "I'll hold everything down within the Capitol until you return."
"Thank you, Katiyana, for everything."
"No," Katiyana embraced him, "Thank you. You sacrificed much and you saved us all."
Dot moved next to Bob and the two stared with happiness at the sight of Mainframe within the portal.
"The most beautiful thing you've ever seen, isn't it?" She asked him.
"Not as beautiful as you," Bob replied
"Oh very nice, you're getting good at that."
Matrix and AndrAIa were the first through. Mouse and Ray followed. Enzo helped Melissa inside.
"Well come on you two!" Hex said. "I can't keep this open forever!"
Bob sighed and slipped his arm around Dot's waist and gave it a squeeze, "Let's go home, sweetheart."
"I couldn't have put it better myself."
* * *
It was a familiar scene; the cheering masses greeted them again when they arrived. Mainframe was truly safe as last. Bob and Dot once again surveyed the scene of celebration but this time, their thoughts were on a different line.
"I hope we're worthy of this," Dot said. "It's far from over. There's still a lot that needs to be done."
"Yes," Bob whispered. His thoughts turning to his new title and all the new trials they faced.
"But we'll be all right Bob."
"I know we will." The Prime Guardian turned to her and drew her against him and kissed her.
"For now," Bob said. "I'm just glad we've come home."
You know it is necessary to add the obligatory afterward. First off, I wanted to say how much fun it was writing this work (and how hard, time consuming, and frustrating) but nothing good is ever easy. I hope everyone who has read this enjoyed it. I hope I captured the essence of ReBoot and all its marvelous characters. As previously stated I had fun writing it, and I'd love to hear your feedback, or if you want to contact me just to talk ReBoot that's fine too. Email me at LadyBard@email.msn.com or you can ICQ, MSN. Yahoo or AOL Instant Message me.
There are also people I must mention here and I think they deserve hearty thanks for their assistance. Julia Cat, Daemon (Meghan Wilk), Meighan Birrell, and Charisma, for allowing me to showcase my work on their wonderful sites. And to Hanako (distant rumble of thunder) for all her opinions and criticisms, which were an immense help, as well as Dan Green for his opinions and thoughtful insights on the Enzos.
But to coin a phrase from Mike the TV, "But wait, there's more!" Look for the sequel to Daemon Conflict, tentatively titled, "Aftermath: Daemon's Legacy" (may change). It will pick up where the story left off an alternate between a few months and about seven years from Conflict and tie up all the loose ends. Stay Frosty everyone!