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The Return of the Guardian



By: Dark Tigress




From the eyes of Mouse

I've watched her slowly fall apart. The happy woman I knew and loved like a sister has slowly been lost to the tragedies of life. Ever since they left, she just lost her hope of anything. She isn't happy anymore. Her eyes are dimmer and her face is paler. Her frame is thinner and her humor is gone.

I watch as she lays on the cot, trying desperately to sleep. I wish all the pain would leave her. I'd even take it on for her if it was possible. She needs him so much.

I guess she'll never let go of the hurt. And I understand that. But I wish she could. The hurt in her eyes is still there when some stupid CPU or binome says "If Bob were here," or "Enzo." I can see how much it hurts her to talk about them. She doesn't want to accept that they're really gone. I can understand that too.

From the eyes of Dot Matrix

I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of games. I'm tired of trying to tell myself they're out there. Tired of Mega-jerks stupid plans. I'm just tired.

I can't take this anymore. I just can't try do it any more. My body aches all over. My head is throbbing all the time and my back is coiled in tight knots. But my heart hurts most of all. I feel weak and angry. My insides are churning and I can't eat much anymore. I just think of Bob's warm smile and of Enzo's childish grin and the lump in my throat makes me choke on my food.

My warrior form has become such a regular thing to me; I barely even remember what my old outfit looks like. I have learned to be comfortable in leather, finding its strength a nice thing to have. I like the way it smells like victory and the way nobody gives me any bull when I'm in this. It's a good feeling to know I have control of something. But every now and then a CPU will say, "If Bob was here," and I just feel my heart ache again. Mouse will begin to yell at the CPU, and that helps. I don't know what I would do without her. Sometimes I think she's the only thing keeping me here. And then there are Hack and Slash. They are a great lift to my heart. They're so protecting, so sweet. Even when they don't have a chance, they try. I love them like lost strays that have nowhere else to go.

I have made a decision. When this war is over, I am going to lose in a game. I want to go like he wanted to. Die a warrior's death. Anything to stop the ache in my heart and the pounding on my head. I'm just too tired to keep going.

From the eyes of Bob Austin

 I miss her so much. The pain is even worse now. As Matrix, Ray, AndrAIa, and I watch the ruins smoke, I feel a great burst of pain in my stomach. I then hear a click in my head. "The diner!" I have to find out if she's all right. The diner is where she'll be, right? Right. I speed away, Matrix calling behind me. But I'm deaf to his voice. I have to find Dot!

From the eyes of Dot Matrix

I can't keep crying. That is what I decide every morning. For some reason, I still do. I do it when I am alone. For I always thought that weakness is best kept to oneself. If I show it to the outside world, there goes my admiration and the believers in my work and our success. I will always cry to myself.

I do this now. It's late at night, so I have nothing to worry about. I throw the bolt on my door and collapse on my bed. I hug my pillow and reach over to the night table. A photo that no one knew I had is now in my hand. When Bob first came to Mainframe, we were photographed at our first victory.

His arms are around my shoulders, and his head is resting on top of my left shoulder. He's smiling, hugging me tightly. I am leaning back against him, smiling in relief and joy. Enzo is playing with Frisket at our feet, holding the dog from attacking Bob. I feel tears fill my eyes again and I bury my head in my pillow, sobbing silently. The picture flutters from my hand, probably falling under a desk or the bed. I let my mind drift. Maybe I can fall asleep...

From the eyes of Bob Austin

It's gone. The diner, her beloved diner, is gone. I can't believe it. I spent some of the best times of my life. I had seen her for the first time in there. And now it's gone. I feel a very deep emptiness fill me. Matrix knows better than to come after me. I have the rest of the evening to sulk. I walk into the alley nearby and look for a warm corner of grate. I find one and lean up against it, my eyes remaining open in sorrow.

Something flutters into my face, leaving the grate. I pick it up. My eyes grow wide. The picture Phong took. A picture of us after our first game. Dot is letting me hug her. I kept this picture under my pillow when I was still home. And when I went to see Megabyte to discus a pact against the web, I gave her this picture, telling her that I would come back and we'd take a better one.

I listen at the grate. There! I heard it again! Someone down there is angry and yelling. Someone with a southern accent. I struggle, but finally succeed, lifting the grate up. I slip in, sliding down the shaft, stopping to look into the grates as I pass. Mouse? She standing there, yelling at a bunch of CPU's. "Ah want the defense system repaired with in the cycle! We won't be able to survive another attack unless ya ahre able to repair it now!" They jump to work. I would knock, but I'm not interested in her at this point. I'm interested in the owner of the almost silent sobs I can hear with my sensitive ears. They're somewhere at the end of this tunnel who is in great pain and sorrow. Maybe they can tell me where they got this picture - I hear a groan and a creak. The metal gives way below me, dropping me into Mouse's room. There is the sound of several guns packing and I open my eyes.

I stare right into the business ends of about 40 guns. I gulp and hold up my hands. "Geez Mouse! I come in peace and all that jazz!"

Mouse steps out from behind the bunch of binomes and looks at me. It takes a few micros for my identity to sink in and she gasps. "Bob?"

I nod. "Hey Mouse."

From the eyes of Mouse

I look down at the figure at my feet, a feeling of awe filling me. I feel my mouth break into a grin. "She's gonna love this!" I grab him and yank his arm, pulling him towards Dot's room. I hug him, then whisper. "Ah don't know how ya got here, or why yah survived. But she needs you more than ever." I see a flicker of hope come into his eyes and I smile. I step past him and knock at the door. "Dot? Yah decent?"

A moment later, a moan comes from within and a creak is heard as someone gets up. The door unlocks and Dot opens it, her eyes still closed with sleep. "I'm always decent Mouse. Just more so at certain times than others." She leaves the door open and climbs back in bed, lying on her stomach so she can bury her face in the pillow. "What's the problem?"

I smile and take Bob's hand, keeping him slightly behind me. "Ah got a suprize for ya honah."

Dot moans. "I'm not in the mood Mouse."

"It's ah really good one..."

"Mouse I just had a 29 micro day. I'm in no mood for surprises."

"Then what ah ya in the mood for?"

"Sleep. Just leave it on the chair or something. I'll pick it up when I get up."

I shrug. "If you say so honah." I leave Bob and Dot alone, allowing them some privacy. I close the door.

From the eyes of Bob Austin

I look around the room. It's painted white, looking rather sterile and cold. The walls are bare, the desk covered in maps and scrolls of information and plans. A pair of black boots are thrown carelessly on the floor, forgotten and scorned. On the night table, a discarded book lies, a pair of reading glasses on it. An old bedspread on the bed, a form curled up under it. I smile and look at her form, so peaceful on the bed. I sit down on the chair by her bed and brush a strand of hair away from her face.

She sighs and grumbles, "I thought you'd left."
"Mouse did." She hears my voice and sighs unhappily, pulling the covers over her head. "You're not real." She says this as if it was an everyday thing, not even sounding depressed. I make an odd face. "You really think so?"

I sigh and smile softly. She turns away, a sad and pained look on her face. I look at her for a nano second, then climb onto the bed with her. She sighs. I blow in her ear. "I'm real..."

"Dreaming. I'm dreaming." I kiss her neck.

"Come here often?"

She shivers. "Fine, it's a hallucination brought on by stress and pain."

"Pain? Let me kiss it and make it better." She's silent, then pulls the bedspread back an inch and opens one eye. I lay eyes upon Dot's beautiful irises for the first time in over an hour. I smile, realizing how much I had missed those eyes. She eyes me suspiciously, sitting up and crossing her arms over her chest.

"You're a ghost. This is all a paranormal experience, and as soon as I touch you, you'll be gone."

I rolled my eyes and smile. "Try me."

She looks at me, letting the covers fall down to her waist. "I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt, and say that you aren't a dream. How ever, if you mysteriously vanish during the middle of this, I will personally go to the web, hunt your ASCII down, and kick it from here to the Super Computer. Deal?"

I smile and lean over her, pressing my lips to hers softly, then more heatedly.  We break away after about a milli, and she looks up at me with eyes of shock and amazement. "Deal."

"It's really you..."

"Told ya it was."

"And you're alive!"

"Last time I checked."

She grins and lunges, wrapping her arms around my chest. She's pulled an Enzo move, and it's effect is the same. I fall back onto the floor and she clings to me. "'re alive!"

I grin and hug her tightly. "Yes, and I'm not going to leave." She grins and I hug her tightly. User she feels so good in my arms... Why can't we stay in this position forever?

From the eyes of Dot Matrix

He's alive, he's alive, he's alive! A mantra sings in my head and I hug him tightly, allowing the reality to sink in. I'd love just to stay like this for the rest of eternity, and from the look on his face he'd love to do the same. I snuggle into him and breathe his scent in. He's real... User, thank you!

But, as always, our happiness isn't forever. A knock comes at the door and we look up. I sigh and rise, helping him to his feet as well. "Come on. Time to entertain the image of the fearless ruler and the protector."

"Do we have to?"

"Considering the fact that everything will crumble if we don't, yeah."

"How fun."

I smile ruefully and kiss his cheek. "Thems the breaks. Now come on." I open the door and we step out, hand in hand.
Oh and Megabyte? I just got a serious caffeine boost. I'm not tired of fighting anymore. Now, all I wanna do is kick your slimy bitmap. I can take whatever you throw at me. And I'll throw it back with compound interest. You're goin' down Mega-jerk!
Why will you go down, you ask?

Because I am Dot Matrix. of System Mainframe. You mess with me, you mess with my Guardian. You won't come out of it breathing. That's a

The End

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