nanosecond = seconds
millisecond = minute
microsecond = hour
second = day
cycle = week
minute = month
hour = year
year = 10 years
The room was black, that velvet darkness that comes between midnight and dawn, before the first rosy blush of morning stains the sky but long after the last tint of blue has faded from the evening sky. Even the streetlights that illuminated the street for those sleepless souls that graced the roadway failed to pierce the inky blackness of the room. A single sprite lay in the faint blue glow of an energy bed, turning restlessly as her dreams disturbed her. The blue energy turned her face turquoise in it's gentle glow, but the distinctive short haircut, as well as the picture of a smiling blue sprite with long black-and-silver hair that was signed "XOXO, Bob" proclaimed that the sprite that slept restlessly in the energy bed was Dot Matrix, command.com of system Mainframe.
A pair of thickly black-fringed purple eyes suddenly opened as Dot jerked awake and out of her bed. Her frightened eyes searched the bedroom before she relaxed, raising a shaking hand to her head. The dream had been real-to real. She had watched Bob, the man she loved, fight Daemon...and lose. Dot knew that any fight with a supervirus that was lost would immediately result in the deletion of the loser, so even though she had awoken before the supervirus had deleted Bob, she knew it was the outcome. Releasing a shaky breath Dot slipped out of bed and stretched. She would never be bale to get back to sleep anyway, so she might as well get some work done. It tended to pile up as if by magic, new problems springing up even while she slept.
Sliding into her favorite chair, which was placed in front of a serviceable desk in her room, Dot turned on her desk light and opened her organizer. Information about the latest problems in Mainframe- a report of a binome that had gotten so impatient with the slow service at Al's Wait and Eat that he had started a fight that had destroyed several booth and slowed down the food service even more, if that was possible, and the ever-looming problem of the nulls, homeless now that Lost Angles had not been restored in the restart, a small troop of which had decided to move into the basement of a building in Baudway and needed to be flushed out.
Dot sighed and removed her glasses to rub her tired eyes. Micros for sleeping were already few and far between, but if terrifying dreams had begun to invade her exhausted mind it wouldn't be long before she dropped from exhaustion. Bob and Matrix had been giving her worried looks when they thought she wasn't watching, but she tried to ignore their concerned glances when possible. There was too much to do, between running Mainframe and planning an attack on Daemon, to worry about a lack of sleep. She had managed before and she would manage now. Too much was riding on the balance for her to fret about not sleeping.
Deciding that she wouldn't be able to work out the latest problems without the help of her capable and efficient staff, she slid her chair away from her desk and stood up. Might as well check on Enzo. She opened her door and stepped into the dark hallway. Feeling her way down the hall with one hand on the wall she walked until her searching fingers touched the frame of Enzo"s door. Gently opening the door she peered in at her little brother, only to find him whimpering softly in his sleep and tossing restlessly, just as she had been only millis before. Dot frowned slightly and moved to kneel near his bed before gently touching his shoulder. Enzo shot upright at her touch with a yell, shaking like a daisywheel in a stiff breeze. His eyes searched the room rapidly before lighting on Dot, and he relaxed visibly when he discovered his concerned sister kneeling next to his bed. Dot noticed that although his face relaxed his eyes continued to look frightened, so she gently squeezed his shoulder.
"Did you have a bad dream, Enzo?" At his confirming nod she gave him a brief hug. "What don't you tell me about it? Sometimes it helps to talk, since it makes the dream feel less real."
Enzo took a deep breath. "I was watching Bob fight a gold woman with dark blue hair. I think it must have been Daemon, because he lost." Enzo paused for another breath, not realizing that his statement reaffirmed his hero-worship of Bob by the assumption that he wouldn't have lost to anyone less than a supervirus. "She was about to delete him when you woke me up... Sis? Is something wrong? You're all pale."
Dot's green face had gone white, and she had to swallow several times before she could answer. "I'm all right, Enzo. I just had the same dream earlier, even to Bob losing to Daemon."
Enzo frowned. "Do you think it means something? Like Bob's going to lose to Daemon when they fight?"
Dot gave her younger brother a stern look. "Don't be ridiculous, Enzo. It's just because we've been planning the attack so hard that we're dreaming about what will happen if we lose. Now," she said, softening her tone and beginning to stand up, "Why don't you go back to sleep? A young sprite like you needs his sleep, especially since you have school in a few seconds."
Enzo grabbed her hand, preventing her from standing up any further. His violet eyes, so much like her own but younger and more innocent looked at her in wide-eyed terror. "NO! Please Dot, don't leave me and don't make me go back to sleep! I know that dream will return if I go back to sleep, I know it! Please, Dot!"
Dot wavered for a moment, then gave in to his terrified, pleading look. His fright was unfeigned and she didn't want her little brother to be scared. "All right Enzo, you can stay up. Just don't blame me if you fall asleep in school tomorrow."
"I won't. I'm never going to sleep, not ever again!" If he hadn't still been so frightened Dot would have chuckled at his earnest announcement.
Enzo hopped out of his energy bed and trailed Dot down the hallway, sticking behind her like a worried shadow. Pausing for a nanosecond Dot checked the time on the illuminated clock set on a table at the end of the short hallway. She winced slightly; two micros before dawn. It would be a long day. After a quick consultation with Enzo she decided to call Bob on the off chance that he was awake. Bob was sleeping even less than she was, so it was possible that he was already awake, or even still up. She dialed the vidwindow, and Bob's face appeared. The sagging eyelids and dark circles under his beautiful brown eyes made her instantly regret calling him. She had woken him up during a much needed rest.
"Dot?" Bob rubbed his tired eyes, trying to awaken fully. He had just fallen asleep when the tone of an incoming vidwindow had woken him up, but he knew that Dot wouldn't call unless there was a problem. Usually. "What's wrong? And why is Enzo up so late?" He frowned slightly -- Dot's eyes were slightly frightened looking and her lips were pursed; a sign of tension.
"Bob, have you had... a nightmare? About you and Daemon fighting?" Her tense voice worried him-why was she so worried over a bad dream?
"No, I haven't had any sleep in the past two seconds. Why, did you have one?" He managed to keep the annoyance out of his voice; he was losing precious time that he could use to be sleeping to discuss a dream?
Dot nodded and pulled Enzo toward her to stand by her side in front of the vidwindow. "Both of us did, and it was the exact same dream." She quickly described the duel nightmare, with Enzo adding a few details that he felt she had left out that were important, and by the end of the narrative Bob was frowning thoughtfully.
"That's very strange, Dot. You both had the same dream, even to Daemon looking the same, even though we've never seen her. We'll have to ask Matrix and AndrAIa tomorrow if they had the same dream as well." Bob interrupted himself with a yawn and his eyelids dropped further. "Dot, Enzo, I'm sorry to cut this short but I need to sleep. I'll talk to you at the meeting tomorrow." He closed the vidwindow and collapsed backwards into his energy bed, falling asleep immediately.
Matrix"s huge green fist slammed down onto the long, sturdy table, making the cups of cocoa bounce and rattle, as well as stopping all discussion, which had been his original intention.
"I don't care if it was only a dream! They're too similar to be a coincidence," he growled, his deep voice betraying his agitation.
AndrAIa laid a calming hand on top of her lover's clenched fist. "What else could it be, Matrix? I admit that it is strange that Daemon looks the same in all of our dreams, but it could be just a jumble constructed from prior experiences with viruses. Her hair was the same color as Megabyte's body armor, and that gold color could be Bob's fault." At the sprite in question's surprised denial she aimed an apologetic smile at him. "Sorry Bob, but it might be. Your body armor is silver now, and you're a sort of, um, super guardian, so maybe a supervirus would be gold."
"It does make sense," Dot agree with a nod. "In fact, that's probably what it was. Just our tired minds piecing together an image of the enemy we think about constantly from familiar thoughts, then using our fears to animate the image."
"Yeah, I suppose that's probably what it was." He aimed a sly look at his sister. "Especially since we all know who occupies all of your thoughts, Sis." Dot and Bob both blushed, Dot turning a darker shade of green and Bob turning purple. The others clustered around the table laughed, the tension broken for the moment. Dot glanced at Bob, who sat on her right as the city's guardian, with Dot at the head of the table, her privilege as command.com. Bob gave her a swift, charming grin that still made her heart flip flop, even though she had known him for at least three hours. She suspected he knew what his smiles did to her, which caused him to smile at her all the more, always with the same effect on her heart. Somehow, Dot didn't mind in the least.
"All right everyone," she began once the laughter had died down, "now that we've settled the dream issue, are there any details we've overlooked about the invasion that you thought up last night?"
Heads shook no as she looked around the table -- they had covered everything thoroughly, and now they were ready to invade the supercomputer with the faint hope of destroying Daemon. Deep down, buried in the hope that the fear wouldn't rise to the surface and show in her eyes, Dot thought that they would fail.
Their tiny army of CPUs and sprites had almost no chance of even coming close to the Guardian Academy and Armory that was Daemon's lair, much less taking it over and destroying Daemon, freeing the infected Guardians from their viral master and freeing the entire Net from the imprisonment enacted by the infected Guardians.
"Well then, if there's nothing else to plan, all that's left is personal preparations. Good luck everyone. The known Net is counting on you." Everyone but Bob and Dot stood up and walked out, heading for their homes to prepare to leave. Dot's eyes were closed and she didn't know that she wasn't alone at the table. A tear slipped past her closed eyelashes and slowly slid down her cheek. Bob leaned forward and gently brushed it away with his fingertips and Dot's eyes flew open to look at him with eyes swimming with tears. Bob opened his arms and Dot slid into his gentle embrace, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. He held her gently while she cried, rubbing her back soothingly, knowing that when she was ready she would tell him the cause of her tears. She didn't leave him wondering long.
"Can we win this battle, Bob? Even with the webriders, who I'm still not sure that you can win to your cause, it's still a tiny army, an ant against an ABC. You've all just come back to me... I'm afraid that Iíll lost you and Matrix both and Iíll be alone again." Her worried violet eyes looked into his, and he tried to give her a reassuring look, though those were his fears as well.
"We can win, Dot. An ant can hide in the supercomputer better than an ABC, and go where one of those battle carriers never could. We won't be outright attacking, trying to win a battle by brute force that we would definitely lose. We're going to infiltrate it and assassinate Daemon. We will come back to you Dot, and anyway, you still have little Enzo. You won't be alone while we're gone." Dot's eyes were still worried, so Bob tilted her chin up so that her face was towards his. "If it helps any, Iíll miss you so much while I'm gone that Iíll make sure we delete Daemon as fast as we can so that I can some back and get my welcome home kiss," he told her teasingly, a smile sparkling in his warm brown eyes. Dot smiled back at him, the worry temporarily removed from her eyes.
"I"ll miss you too, Bob. Hurry back to me." He nodded, then moved his head down, pressing a gentle kiss to Dot's lips.
"Warning: Incoming Game." The automated game warning cut through the tender moment and Bob lifted his head to look out the window. Dot detached herself from his arms and gently pushed him towards the door.
"Go on Bob. You need to be in that game. Good luck." He nodded and gently caressed her cheek, then flipped out his zipboard and was gone. Dot looked out the window toward the game cube and frowned. The cube, instead of it's customary purple with streaks white lightening was light pink with flashing blue lights flickering on and off on its surface like fireflies. As it descended she noticed that, instead of detaching from the hole in the sky it had come out of the cube was elongating, remaining connected to the sky no matter how low it descended. Alarmed, Dot threw down her zipboard and jumped on, hurrying after Bob. She and Bob had often worked well together in game cubes, and with such a strange cube descending he would need all the help he could get.
She caught up to him at the site where the Tor had once stood. The game cube was descending far slower than usual, giving Matrix, AndrAIa and Frisket, who had been following behind Dot, plenty of time to get under the cube. The few binomes that had been in the area had already fled, leaving the seven sprites - Mouse and Ray Tracer had been inspecting the land where the Tor had stood and Ray had requested they stay, wanting to test his new icon that he had been given, which would allow him to reboot in the games -- alone under the cube. Bob frowned up at the strange cube, then transferred his gaze to Dot, who had just stopped beside him.
"Dot? What are you doing here? You're the command.com, you should be in the Principal Office."
"I don't like the look of that game cube, Bob. It's pink, the lights are wrong and it's not descending normally. It's totally random, and we work well together. I suspect that you're going to need all the help you can get. Phong can take care of the Principal Office, just this once, until we know if this is a side effect of the restart or not. He ran the Principal Office for years, way before you arrived or I was co-processed." The unsaid thought, that she couldn't sit in the Principal Office worrying while he went into that strange game, was evident in the sudden silence. Bob laced his fingers through hers, holding her hand tightly as they waited. The game suddenly descended in a rush, as though a string holding it to the sky had snapped, dropping over the waiting sprites as it settled to the ground with a resounding boom.
Phong, sitting in the Principal Office, looked at the vidwindow that showed the game cube. The tiny blue lights flickered on the light pink surface of the tall game cube -- which was still connected to the sky -- as it settled, then blinked out as the walls hardened and the game began. "Oh dear..."