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Part 1

Somewhere deep within the Principle Office in the center of the city, he watched as the young woman stared at three vid windows showing the latest seconds' reports. Not a movement of her nimble green fingers escaped him as they worked across the windows, her violet eyes captivated him as they scanned past each report, her bright red lips called to him as she bit them in concentration.

He couldn't stand it any longer. That was it, she had to be HIS!

He worked his way through the corridors around to the other side of the room where her back was turned, with any luck, and a lot of patience, she wouldn't even know what hit her. Slowly, he stepped out into the room she was working in, it was quiet so he had to be careful. He crept as silently as he could to reach his unsuspecting prey, one step after the other, inching forward. Suddenly she raised her head as if she had heard something. He couldn't run or he would surely be heard, so he held his breath helplessly, and listened as his heart pounded. After a moment though, she lowered her head and went back to work, and the hunt was on once again. As he got closer and closer, his mind raced with thoughts of what he was going to do to her once he caught her (there were so many possibilities!). At one point, he had to stop himself and calm the anticipation within him, he couldn't afford to make a mistake. He continued on at the same slow pace until he was so close he had to struggle to contain his laughter, the ultimate prize would soon be his, and only his! One more step, and he could take her. Then, without a warning, his arms lounged for her waist, his teeth went for her neck....

 

From outside, Hack and Slash were busy arguing if they were the same rank which of them outranked the other, when they heard Dot scream.

"Uh, oh!" Hack started.

"Dot's in trouble!" Slash finished.

They burst through the doors with every weapon that they both had (which was considerable) primed and ready to fire.

Dot Matrix screamed again, for the second time in as many nanoseconds, seeing their weapons pointed directly at her. Though they were actually pointed at someone standing right behind her.

"WHOA! Easy there!" shouted Bob, with his arms around Dot's waist. Even before he spoke, a force field bubble flew up around them both, just in case Hack and Slash were feeling a bit too trigger happy.

"Oh, it is you, Bob." said Hack.

"Oops, we almost blew you up," continued Slash.

"That would be bad."

"Yes, that would be very bad."

"Then Dot would really be mad at us."

"That she would."

Dot gave a deep sigh, 'Not really,' she thought, giving a sidelong glare at her (former) beloved who lowered his shields. "I think I can handle it from here, boys, thank you."

After a moment's silence, "Um,... Slash?"

"Yes, Hack?"

"I think she means us."

"Oh....then I believe we should leave."

"Yes! Yes we should!"

"After you."

"Oh, no. After you."

"I insist."

"You mean it? Why thank you, Slash."

"Anytime Hack ol' buddy."

As the two of them argued over who would have the honor of leaving first, Bob just shook his head and went back to blissfully nibbling Dot's neck, and murmuring incomprehensible little things in her ear. She waited until they were gone and then gave Bob an elbow to the ribs.

"Ow, hey!"

"What do you think you were doing? You scared the highlights out of me... Twice!" she hissed at him, though she still couldn't keep the laughter out of her eyes, or the humor from her voice. After being apart for so long, anything he did was a blessing to her.

He cringed back a little, he was waiting for that. "Oh, I'm sorry Dot." he told her as sincerely as possible, "I didn't mean to scare you that much! I was just being playful."

"Then why don't you go find Enzo, Bob? I'm busy." She was the COMMAND.COM now, after all.

The tenderness in his voice surprised her again, "Well, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but if you really want me to..."

She looked up into his big, expressive, dark-amber eyes, the love he held in them for her shone through like flashing neon signs. What she really wanted was to jump up and throw her arms around him and kiss him as though it were for the first time all over again. She remembered the first time she had met him, those eyes had taken her by surprise by triggering a surge of emotions she had never known before. She hadn't expected to instantly know everything there was to know about him, but in that one moment she had seen his honor, compassion, and integrity, his unpredictable personality, lightning quick mind, and selfless courage.

But now, as she gazed into those same eyes, she knew that those virtues had over time been tempered by just a hint of patience, wisdom, and nobility that only intensified what she had originally felt. His horrible experiences in the Web had made him into a more wonderful man than she could've ever hoped for, which said something for his strength as well. "Oh, Bob, I wish you could stay, but I do have work to do." She settled for a kiss on the cheek for now. "I'll make it up to you later!" she whispered to him.

He held her close and nuzzled her for a few moments more. "I'll make it up to you, too," he promised, as he kissed her back, then, reluctantly, turned and left.

Dot watched as he walked away wishing like hell that he could stick around, even just to keep her company, if only they could find a way to keep their digits off each other. She giggled inwardly at this thought, if either of them had known before that they would be so good together....

......nope, they still would've denied it!

Oh, well she figured. In any case, she wasn't going to stay here long herself. She had to get to Beverly Hills to talk with a few new business associates, so she clipped her organizer to her belt and headed outside too.

Bob took off on a zip-board towards the diner, which was where Enzo was most likely to be. Once he got there, he noticed Frisket blocking the entrance as usual, so he figured either Enzo or Matrix was inside. With a quick scan he realized that it was indeed young Enzo, which would make risking a run-in with Frisket worth it. Bob silently tried to step over him, but was stopped with a growl.

"Missed you too." said Bob. He wasn't worried, though, he simply created a portal to the other side of the Diner's doorway and resisted the urge to turn and say "HA!"

No sooner had he materialized when he heard a young voice shout "BOB!!", so he flew his arms out wide and, with a big grin, happily shouted back "ENZO!!" as the boy tackled him.

On the floor, Bob couldn't stop chuckling (he loved this kid!) while Enzo, sitting on Bob, kept rambling on, "Wow-Bob-your-new-powers-are-SO-cool-could-you-teach-me-how-to-make-portals-like-that-I-could-really-use-that-to-get-out-of-math-class..."

"I don't think so." Bob interrupted him with a wicked grin, "But, I could teach you how to do this...." And suddenly, he jumped up and flipped Enzo over and started tickling him frantically and pretending to beat him up.

Enzo screamed with laughter in between things like, "HEY!" "NO FAIR!" "YOU CHEAT!" "AH!" "HELP!" "I'M TELLING!" "LEMME GO!"

"No, no, no!" Cecil tracked up in front of them, "Zis iz zupposed tu bee a quiet dineeng eestablishment, not a wrestling ring! You are deestaerbing ze payeeng customarez!"

By now, Bob had Enzo in a headlock and they both looked up at him with glares of disappointment. "You never let me have any fun," said Bob, as he released the boy. "C'mon, Enzo, let's take this outside."

Just as they got up, though, they heard an all too familiar ring, along with the voice saying "WARNING: INCOMING GAME. WARNING: INCOMING GAME."

Bob looked up to see where it was going to land, Beverly Hills, he realized. Then he turned toward Enzo saying "Sorry, bud, we'll have to finish this later. Stay here." as he took off at a run out the door.

From inside the diner all they could hear was, "AH!"-- *THUD*-- GRRRRR!--"Uh, oh....", as Bob tripped over an unsuspecting Frisket.

 

Dot heard the warning as well, and was now VERY sorry she had sent Bob away because the game was directly over her now. If no one else made it into the game she would just have to take care of it herself. After the game descended, Dot found herself in a rather large bedroom. She couldn't help but marvel at the game's level of detail, everything from the tiny engravings in the back of the silver hairbrush on the huge vanity, to each brushstroke on the paintings in the corner made by someone named 'Picasso'. This was obviously the room of someone very high class.

'Why don't I have a room like this?' she wondered, only half-seriously.

Well, enough gawking, she decided, and she hit her icon and rebooted. She then looked down at herself and was shocked! No longer was she her normal green color, now she was a kind of pale peach-tan. What an odd skin color, she thought. Turning to face the vanity she saw in the mirror that her hair was a light copper color and her eyes were now green.

On the other hand, the red gown she was wearing was the most stunning thing she had ever seen, let alone wore! It was accentuated with lace and sequin patterns over every inch of it. The detail on it was even more impressive than the scenery. (And it didn't look half bad on her either.)

Then she remembered that this was a game, and that she had to win. She had no idea if any of the others had made it inside. If not, it was up to her and she wasn't going to let this sector down. Since the room left her no clue as to what kind of game this was, or of the User's objective, she opened the door slowly, and carefully began exploring.

 

Bob scanned the game while limping down a corridor, he had just barely managed to get away from Frisket and port himself over before the game landed. He suddenly stopped as he sensed Dot within the game. He started to panic, if anything happened to her, he wouldn't know what to do, or how to live! He had to find her!

What he had to do was calm down. Dot's a big girl, she's proven that she can take care of herself. But he couldn't help it, he loved her! (it felt so good to finally be able to say so!) And he didn't know this game, he'd never seen the likes of it before, didn't know how dangerous it was. He decided to reboot and find out.

Before he could, though, two game sprites burst through a door into the corridor from what sounded like a loud party. An adult male and a female, obviously a couple, laughing and holding hands. Bob realized they were AI game sprites, like AndrAIa. He didn't know where they were heading, (he had a pretty good idea though.) but they were wearing simple clothes, and they even looked a little drunk. They continued down the corridor away from him and, still laughing, turned the corner and disappeared.

"Oh....kay!" he said to himself. These games kept getting weirder all the time...not that there was anything wrong with that! But it certainly made things more interesting!

He rebooted before anyone else could interrupt him, and took one look down at himself. "Eugh! What an ugly color!" he said as he examined his hands, which were now the same pale peach-tan as the two game sprites he had seen. His hair was now a dark brown, and he too was dressed in an easy outfit. 'Oh well,' he thought, 'there's nothing I can do about it now. Let's get down to business'

Speaking of businesses, he realized, what was Dot doing in Beverly Hills?

 

Dot wandered through the corridors and rooms, still impressed at the lavish details. There didn't seem to be much danger at all since all of the game sprites, AI she had figured out, were just strolling through and talking to each other. All of them were dressed as high-class ladies in gowns, and gentlemen in suits, some of the gentlemen even tipped their hats to her in greeting as they passed her. What was most interesting about them, was that they all had roughly the same skin color as she now had. It would have been nice, she thought, to have a little variety at least, perhaps some browns, or a bit of reds, maybe a splash of yellow here and there. As it was, the only variation was a difference in hair color, and that too seemed somewhat limited.

What really troubled her, was that she still had no idea what she was supposed to do here, she didn't even know where to find the User, or if she'd even recognize him if she saw him. Again, Dot wished that Bob was there, he would know what to do, otherwise, she felt like she was just wasting time.

She wandered until she found a doorway out of which she could see what looked like sunlight. She walked through and was surprised to find herself on a floating city, a ship on a huge body of water. From the balcony she now stood on she could look down on the deck of the largest, most amazing boat she had ever seen, it seemed to stretch out forever towards the back. With a brisk wind in her face, she stood and tried to take in her surroundings.

Bob knew exactly what he had to do, he just didn't like it. First and foremost, he had to find Dot, if he was right, and there was no doubt at all, then everyone here was in incredible danger. If he was going to do this, and he had no choice but to, then Dot had to be with him. There was no chance he was going to make her go through this alone, and even still, he was terrified for her safety.

He had somehow managed to find the top deck and was searching through the people for her. How was he supposed to find anyone, he wondered, when everyone looked the same! He knew he wouldn't find her in her usual gorgeous jade skin and violet eyes, but they would need to blend in to win this game. He was also beginning to feel out of place here, on his way up through the decks the game sprites had changed from simple passengers to high-class citizens who were now giving him odd looks. They couldn't afford to be spotted by the User, or for any of these game sprites to let him in on where they were, but he would risk just about anything to find Dot right now.

Then, he found her, standing on a balcony looking out on the ship. He would have recognized her no matter what she looked like, just by the way she stood. The way her delicate hands rested on the railing in front of her, the warm and caring expression on her gentle face, and her head held high with a proud and undeterrable spirit in her eyes, all of the things he had always loved about her. But she was so beautiful in that moment, that even if he had never met her before, he would have instantly fallen in love with her right then and there.

He took an eager step towards her, when a hand reached out and grabbed him by the shoulder and started pulling him away. "Alright, you! Back down to the lower decks where you belong!"

"No, wait!" Bob told the game sprite in the uniform, "I need to talk to someone!"

"Yeah, right! I'm sure you have a lot of appointments to keep." he responded with a hint of sarcasm.

Bob was considering beating him off and escaping; he couldn't afford to lose Dot again. But he also couldn't afford to make a bigger scene than he already was, so he calmly allowed the officer to drag him away, he found her once, he could find her again.

"What do you think you're doing?!" they heard behind them, they both turned to see an angry Dot. "How dare you! Let go of him this instant!" she said in her most demanding tone.

The officer turned pale with horror so fast Bob almost burst out laughing, "Um.. uh,.. y-yes ma'am. of-of course ma'am. my deepest apologies!" he stuttered as he released his hold of Bob, tipped his hat to the two of them, and ran away as fast as he could.

Dot Matrix to the rescue! Bob thought to himself, as she practically ran into him, almost knocking him over Enzo-style. "Oh, Bob, you did make it through!" Dot murmured as she held him. She hadn't realized until now how worried she had been, unable to figure out this game. But now that he was here, she knew they were safe, she always felt safe when she was with him. She suddenly pushed away from him -- only enough so that she could reach up and kiss him just as quickly.

Although a bit surprised, he nonetheless returned her kiss, he pulled her to him once again as he savored the feel of her body against his. After what seemed like a heavenly eternity their kiss ended, and Bob allowed himself a few nanos more to simply hold her in his arms, relieved that they had found each other on such an awesome ship. But as he looked at the other passengers, who were apparently appalled at their little display, he realized that they didn't have much time.

"Dot," he said quietly, interrupting her own reverie, "we have to find a place where we can plan out this game."

"Do we have to?" she sighed

"Do-ot." he called.

"Okay, okay. Um...I know of a place." So she took him by the arm and led him back to where she had just come from. Along the way, Bob noticed that the passengers were indeed very segregated, the high-class people in the upper decks with the lower-class towards the bottom. Fortunately most of the Binomes caught in the game seemed to be hanging out with the rich folk. But he wondered why he and Dot were playing such different game characters, all of the others were still looking at him as if to say 'What is THAT doing here?'. Dot didn't seem to mind, though, she walked proudly alongside him like he was wearing a tux of pure gold.

Back in "her" room, Bob was just as amazed as she had been when she had first seen it. "This is amazing!" he was saying, "None of the lower decks have such beautiful details, I've never seen anything like it! And that dress...!" he told her.

"I know!" she replied as she turned to show him. "But this corset is killing me!"

"You've got a corset under there?" this game was even more complex than he thought. "Why? It's not like you need it," he added.

She gave him that dreamy look he'd been aiming for. Well, in that case, she secretly thought to herself, would you mind helping me...never mind. "So, tell me about this game." she requested instead.

"Right," he sighed as his face fell, as if what he knew disturbed him greatly, "The User is an international operative who received an anonymous tip that someone is going to sabotage this ship, and make it look like an accident."

"And we're the saboteurs?" she asked. That didn't sound too complicated. "Well, what kind of sabotage are we talking about?"

"The total kind, I'm afraid." he answered. "What we have to do, is basically sink the RMS Titanic, and everyone on it," he then looked down towards the floor, "including ourselves."

 

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