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Part 6

"I'm sorry, okay? It's just... yeah... I know, I know..."

Damien rolled his eyes as he stared at the blank 'sound only' screen in front of him. "Everything happened like we planned... yeah, apart from that. It'll crush him - probably Mainframe as well..."

The shadows seemed to be where he spent most of his time nowadays, and he was personally glad he'd gotten out of that 'situation' back in Mainframe when he did - but his boss thought differently. "Yeah, they looked pretty cosy... What do you want me to do now?"

Damien wasn't sure he wanted the answer to that.

 

 

 

Hazy. Everything was hazy in front of her eyes, and she really didn't want to wake up. Already Dot could feel her senses relaying pain signals as she woke up properly. As she became more aware of her surroundings, she could hear Bob's hushed voice from a different room and another voice she couldn't place.

"She kept saying she was cold - again and again," Bob's anxious voice filtered through from the next room, causing Dot to feel a pang of guilt at making him worry.

"It's part of the shock. Don't worry, Guardian, Ms Matrix will be fine in a second or two. She just needs to rest and recuperate." The other voice assured him, then they must have moved further away as their voices faded.

Dot looked around her, the fogginess in her head relenting slightly and slowly realised that it was Bob's room. The energy blankets felt so warm and so safe - she was tempted to them closer around her and go back to sleep. But with the now silent apartment as her only company, she wasn't so sure she felt as safe anymore. She'd never been claustrophobic, but just then the panicky feeling was coming back and the bedroom walls seemed to be moving inwards....

Dot shook her head to rid herself of the emotions, pushing back the sheets. Getting up and steadying herself as her head spun, Dot felt a twinge in her neck and noticed there was a large bandage over the gnash on her shoulder. She realised it must have had stitches and shivered, immensely relieved she hadn't been awake for that.

There was a soft wood-on-wood sound of the front door being closed quietly just as Dot opened the bedroom door, meeting Bob halfway as he appeared in the hallway.

"Hey, you're awake! How do you feel?"

"Better." Dot replied with a smile as he closed the distance between them, placing his arms round her shoulders. "Thanks for bringing me back here."

"I know how much you hate the infirmary - Mouse explained it." Bob said gently as Dot circled her arms round his waist and closed her eyes.

They stood there for a little while, neither wanting to break the comfortable silence.

"Bob?"

"Yeah?"

"What happened back there? Did he… did Damien get away?" Dot asked slowly, although she already knew the answer.

Bob’s arms tightened around her as he answered: "We couldn’t find him, Dot. It was like he just disappeared – the sensors couldn’t detect any trace of him being in the system at all." He turned his head slightly to lay a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Damien won’t come back, but if he does I won’t let him anywhere near you, okay? I’m not letting you out of my sight."

Dot smiled into his chest in reply, and the silence returned.

"You want anything? Energy shake? Java?"

Dot pulled back slightly to look at him at the last part, a teasing smile on her face.

"You make Java?"

"'Course. Probably not up to the diners' standards but hey, Java's Java, right?"

"If its that bad, I'll make some."

"No way, Dot… You're not going anywhere near that kitchen tonight."

"I can pull rank on you, Guardian." Dot teased, tapping a forefinger against his chest playfully.

"You can try... " Bob grasped her hand as she made a move for the kitchen. Dot smiled and held her hands up in defeat, then placed herself back in his arms.

"I love you." She whispered, revelling in the comfort and warmth of his embrace. Bob pulled back to look her in the eyes, gently moving an ever-present lock of hair from her forehead.

"I love you, too." He replied as he bent to kiss her.

<<<<<<<<<<WARNING: INCOMING GAME>>>>>>><<<<<WARNING: INCOMING GAME>>>>>>>>>>

"Typical."

"Duty calls." Dot replied.

Bob pushed back her fringe again affectionately. "Will you be okay to stay here?"

"Yes. I'm fine, Bob. Really - I am." Dot smiled in an effort to make him believe her, then kissed him goodbye.

"I'll be back as soon as I can - promise." He told her solemnly. "You go back to bed and rest, okay? I’ll send a message to the Principal Office and get some people down here."

"You'll miss the game," Dot warned, deliberately avoiding giving an answer to the deal. Bob recognized the tactic immediately, making a face before creating a portal and stepping through it with a wave.

Dot smiled and shook her head. He could be so sweet, especially when he was worried about her. She knew sometimes she could get irritable with him trying to protect her all the time.

‘But its nice to be cared about,’ Dot concluded finally. ‘Besides, look what happened when I had to defend myself...’ She shivered, turning in a circle to scan the living room nervously. Suddenly Bob’s apartment – usually so warm and friendly - felt cold and lonely, causing the claustrophobic feeling to settle over her again. There was no way she wanted to stay there on her own, which, she scolded herself, was silly, but she headed for the door, deciding the Principal Office was as good a place as any.

Dot saw the purple cube of energy just as it slammed to the ground over in G-Prime when she stepped outside. The violet energy seemed to light up the entire city, and could have easily been mistaken as a breath-taking sight had it not been for knowledge of the danger the game-cube held. She sighed. Mainframe was forever in danger – even without viruses around every corner, something would turn up for the team to battle or outwit.

Thinking about the excuses she would have to dream up should she come across any of her friends, she barely noticed the sky darken to an almost-black colour until an all to familiar tone sounded.

<<<<<<<<<<WARNING: INCOMING GAME>>>>>>><<<<<WARNING: INCOMING GAME>>>>>>>>>>

It was then that Dot snapped out of it. Immediately looking up at the sky to see the descending game cube, she saw the cube falling a bit faster than normal, but not too far from where she was. Wondering if she was dreaming this, she looked from the purple mass of energy stabilized in Sector G-Prime, then again to the cube descending from the sky. Two games?

Dot decided it wasn’t the right time to be rationalising the event. Weighing up her options, she came to the decision that loosing a sector of the brand-new system was not something she wanted to risk. Hoping against hope she could handle a game on her own, without Bob, Matrix or AndrAIa to help her, Dot watched as the purple energy engulfed her. The dizzy, disorientated feeling she always got when entering a game, felt different, almost… heavier, like it was hard to stay awake. Thankfully the feeling passed as she took in her surroundings.

The world around her was almost entirely dark; the only light seemed to be coming from streetlamps placed too sparsely apart to be any help to traffic or pedestrians. There were enormous buildings surrounding her, all looking a glassy black in the shadowy night.

At least it wasn’t cold. It wasn’t really warm either; in fact it was only a slight breeze that gave any indication she was even outside. As far as she could tell there was no one around – but Dot wasn’t sure that was such a good thing, especially considering she had no idea whatsoever how to complete the game, or even the type of game it was.

“Reboot!”

Dot found herself dressed entirely in shiny black leather and noticed immediately that her trousers were a little tighter than she would ever dare wear by choice. Her hair was almost exactly the same, and she realised she was now armed with revolvers strapped on her belt at either side. A stinging pain shot down her arm from her shoulder as she moved her hand across one of the revolvers- it was the tight leather halter digging into the bandage on her collarbone. It was only then that Dot actually looked at her wrists properly, seeing the broken skin and heavy bruising. She shivered. Not exactly what she wanted to be thinking about alone in a game.

Dot had hoped the game would get less mysterious after rebooting, but she still didn’t know anything about the game. Another problem was the way the buildings seemed to be identical to one another, and there was no sign of life anywhere at all. Moving towards the nearest ominous-looking building, Dot looked for some sort of identification as to what the skyscraper was used for. Finding nothing, she cupped her hands above her eyes to peer into the all-glass front of the tower. The glass was either tinted or one-way, so Dot couldn’t see any of the inside at all, only her own reflection.

Spinning in a slow circle, Dot began to feel very helpless against the game, especially since she had yet to see another sprite in the cube. She was having serious doubts as to whether or not it was even a normal game anyway- after all there had been two game cubes. Going from one tower to the next, Dot tried to look in each, but found the same problem at each building - no clear glass to see through. She already felt as though she’d been in the game too long to be wasting so much time, and it was hard to imagine how she could win a game without any idea how to find the User.

Suddenly the quiet was shattered, as three men appeared about a block away from her, apparently drunk from the noisy shouting Dot could hear from where she was standing. A strange feeling of anxiety began to form in her stomach when she turned to look down the street at the sprites, who hadn’t noticed her yet. Exactly on cue, the tallest of the men turned and looked straight at her. His penetrating stare seemed strange compared to the drunken stupor he had been in moments ago.

Alarm bells were going off inside Dot’s head, screaming at her to run for it. Just as she was about to turn and run, putting the feeling down to the capabilities she downloaded through rebooting, she saw the tall man and his two companions change into three black suited men in shades. It was like a bizarre version of rebooting, except without the green column of light.

Dot sprinted off as fast as she could in the opposite direction, immediately hearing the men race after her. Although she was surprised at how fast she was running, her pursuers still seemed to be gaining steadily on her. Buildings and streets rushed past, and she tried running down streets and alleyways in the hope of loosing the men chasing her. Sparing a quick glance behind her, Dot realised it hadn’t worked, they were still after her and she was beginning to panic. From what little information she had received when she rebooted, Dot knew she couldn’t face them- although she didn’t know or understand why.

Now running down a small street, and still not having seen anyone apart from those pursuing her, Dot spotted an alley and rushed down it. It was winding left and right for a while, which she was partly grateful for, as she seemed to have escaped the men. Still she kept running, although slowing to a jog, wanting to find somewhere to hide before stopping.

Suddenly a bullet ricocheted of the wall, barely missing her side. Several others followed it, coming from the darkness and the maze of alleyways surrounding her. Picking up her pace again, she ran into the nearest alleyway, praying for a doorway or somewhere to get off the street and out of sight. Instead she was met with a long alleyway that wasn’t lit at all, so she cried out when she almost ran straight into a wall as the alley made a sharp turn. Still unable to see behind her, Dot found herself at a dead-end with nowhere to hide. The wall was too high to climb and there was no windows or doors to get through. Backing up against the wall and glancing round desperately, her mind wondered back to the alley in Mainframe when Gigabyte had cornered herself and Bob. She closed her eyes, thinking helplessly:

‘How do I get myself into these situations?’

All of a sudden there was a noise in the darkness to her right, and someone grabbed her, a hand covering her mouth and moving her towards the side of the alley.

“Sssshh. It’s okay,” a voice whispered in her ear, one that sounded strangely familiar. Dot kept quiet, the man guiding her quickly to a door she was positive hadn’t been there before. Once through it, she saw the door disappear completely, even in the dim light.

“What the…?”

“Dot?”

“Matrix?” Dot suddenly placed the voice. “How can you be… here?”

“I could ask you the same question!”

Part 7               Back to Fan Fiction