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Part 8

<<<<<<<<<<<<GAME OVER<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>GAME OVER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The purple energy lifted from the ground slowly, releasing the four sprites back into Mainframe. Bob and Dot were both caught in the explosion just before the game ended, but Bob had pushed her down to take the brunt of the blast. Still lying on top of her, Bob could feel the heat of smouldering metal on his back.

"Bob? Are you okay?" Dot asked, concerned eyes searching his for any traces of pain.

"I'm great, gorgeous. Loving every nano of this," He replied with a teasing grin as he kissed her. Bob shifted so he could gain some balance to pull himself up, and then helped Dot to stand, both still smiling.

"You're impossible." Dot told him with a laugh.

"And proud of it too!" Bob agreed, pulling her towards him in a hug.

"Ow - Bob your back's burning!"

"It's okay, the armour’s just going to need a little repairing." he assured her, grasping her hand to lead her towards Matrix and AndrAIa.

"You guys alright?" Bob called once they were in hearing distance.

"Yeah, no problems." Matrix replied, despite AndrAIa looking critically at a scorch wound on his hip.

"You've got a bit of a burn from that laser there, Sparky." She corrected him.

"Looks like a trip to the infirmary for you two then," Dot announced, steering her boyfriend and her brother towards the waiting CPUs.

"But I don't -"

"I'm fine -"

"Go!" Dot and AndrAIa said together, then laughed at the scowls sent their way as the men did as they were told.

It was almost a micro later when Bob, Dot, AndrAIa and Matrix finally escaped the infirmary. Bob's armour was going to need more repairing than he first anticipated, so he had opted to wear an old academy t-shirt with back-up armour installed into his icon if it was necessary. Matrix had begrudgingly agreed to let the wound on his hip be bandaged by the doctor - who had been more than a little intimidated by the system's former guardian. Dot had also been roped into the infirmary when AndrAIa had spotted her shoulder's white bandages beginning to spot with red, and it turned out that the stitches on her collarbone had torn and needed to be re-applied.

"You two can leave if you like," Dot suggested to Matrix as he stood from the bed after the doctor had finished dressing the wound. AndrAIa had gone in search of coffee for all of them and hadn't reappeared yet.

"It's okay, sis. We'll wait with you," He replied, watching as Dot nodded to him before turning her attention back to Bob, who was sitting close to her on the bed, his right arm round her waist and his left hand on her knee.

"That goes for you too, Bob." she told him, although they both knew he wouldn't leave her to get stitches alone. Bob half-smiled at her in response.

"I'm not going anywhere. Besides, I'm not convinced you wouldn't try to make a run for it."

Even Matrix allowed himself to laugh at that, leaving Dot to look innocently from one to the other.

"Yeah, you would, Dot." Bob answered her silent question with a laugh, squeezing her knee.

"I don't need three babysitters do I? Two would be plenty!" She joked back, defiance in her eyes as she stared back at Bob. He couldn't resist the urge to kiss the smile away. Then they both looked guiltily at Matrix, having forgotten he was there.

"I think I'll go find Andy." He said quickly, moving out the door with a slight grimace of discomfort from the pain in his hip.

"And then there was one." Dot smiled at her boyfriend again as he tried to tuck an errant strand of hair behind her ear.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm -" she started then paused, hesitant to say the usual 'I'm fine'. "I'm trying not to think about it."

Bob caressed her cheeks with his hands on her face. "You're amazing." He told her softly, and then smiled at her confused expression. "You just are."

They fell into a comfortable silence, and Bob moving his hand over her back almost lulled Dot to sleep she was so relaxed, and then the nurse finally appeared.

"Ms Matrix. Guardian." The female binome greeted them politely.

One thing Bob would not have expected was Dot being squeamish with needles, but as he watched her look away immediately and close her eyes tightly he could've laughed from surprise.

"It's not funny, Bob." Dot whispered suddenly, without even opening her eyes.

"She's almost done, babe." He whispered back, resuming rubbing her back in an effort to relax her.

Ten millis later, the nurse had finished and Matrix and AndrAIa had appeared again.

"How about we all head back to my place and order out for food?" Bob suggested as they left.

"Yeah sounds good." AndrAIa agreed. "I vote pizza!"

Several empty pizza boxes and a bottle of red wine adorned Bob's living room coffee table three micros later. AndrAIa and Matrix were cuddled up together on one couch, asleep halfway through the film that Bob was now watching on his own. Dot was behind the couch where Bob was sitting, standing reading a report that had been e-mailed about Mr Mitchell's new business venture.

Bob turned himself round on the couch, resting his arms on the back cushions, and laying his head on one arm, watching her in profile. Her face creased slightly in concentration every so often and she kept shifting her weight from one leg to the other.

"C'mere gorgeous."

Dot looked up and turned round to see Bob looking decidedly tipsy, reaching out for her with his best puppy-dog eyes.

"What?" he laughed. "You think I was talking to Matrix?" He grinned mischievously at her, which made her smile and look over at the sleeping couple who she only now realised were so quiet because they were asleep. Bob grasped her by the waist and pulled her down on to his lap to kiss her. Then folded his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder.

"What was that for?" Dot asked, still smiling. She rested her hands over his on her stomach.

"'Cause I love you."

Something in the way he said it made Dot laugh. "Guardian, have you had too much to drink?"

"Certainly have, gorgeous." Bob kissed her again, which Dot returned and deepened in response. She could see the sparkle dancing in his eyes, making her laugh again - she'd never seen him like this.

"How come you've never had much to drink at parties before?" She asked, not really expecting an intelligible answer.

"'Cause I can't really handle much alcohol, can't you tell?" Bob answered, grinning stupidly again.

"I can tell." Dot assured him, turning around in his arms to kiss him.

It was just after start-up that Dot woke up with a slight jerk, but instantly forgot the dream as the room around her came into focus. Sleeping on the sofa in Bob's living room was a lot nicer than it sounded, she thought ironically. Her back was pressed up against Bob's broad chest, both lying on their sides with his legs entangled with hers and his arms under hers, resting protectively round her waist. With her height she was the perfect size for him to rest his chinon the top of her head. She felt warm and safe, and she definitely didn't want to move.

"Nightmare?" Bob's sleepy voice asked quietly.

"Yeah." She replied, turning round in his arms to bury her head in his chest.

"You want to tell me about it?" He offered gently, moving one hand from her back to her hair, smoothing it down to her bare neck.

"I can't remember what happened. I'm sorry I woke you."

"You didn't. I was just dozing."

"Okay." Dot mumbled drowsily, Bob's hand on her hair relaxing her enough to fall asleep again.

"Think you can get back to sleep?"

"Mmm hmm."

Bob smiled, kissing the top of her head and whispering, "I love you." before finally falling asleep himself.

Two micros later all four sprites were woken by a chirping vid-window.

"If that's Ray I'll kill him -" Matrix grumbled sleepily as Bob disentangled himself from Dot and answered the call.

"Hi Phong."

"Good morning, Guardian. Are you well?" The golden sprite cocked his head to the side in concern.

Bob pulled a hand through his hair and realised he must've looked a bit worse for wear. "Yeah, I'm fine, thanks. What's going on?"

"It seems we are to have a visitor in Mainframe, my son." Phong informed him.

"One of Dot's investing partners needing the red carpet treatment?" He grinned boyishly, earning a look that could kill and a slap on the arm from his girlfriend, who sat just far enough away to not be seen in the vid-window, so Phong had no idea he wasn't alone.

"No, no. But I am sure that will be the case not too far from now. Another day perhaps."

"So who's the mystery guest then, Phong?" Bob asked, knowing how easily Phong could get off the subject.

"Prime Guardian Turbo is arriving later this cycle. He contacted me early this morning, requesting clearance into the system."

"Wow. Is that such a good idea Phong? I don't think Mainframers will be too happy about the guy who tried to destroy the system coming to visit." Bob protested warily.

"He told me he had to see you in person and his stay would be short. I believe Turbo has an assignment for you."

"Great, wonder what I did now." He breathed, then to Phong; "Does Mouse know yet? She won't be pleased - to say the least."

"No, I have yet to call Dot to notify her, then I will inform Mouse."

Bob looked sheepish, knowing how it was going to look to have his girlfriend over at this time of the morning. "Erm...actually Phong, she's right here."

Now it was Phong's turn to look embarrassed. "Oh… ah, may I talk to her?"

Dot jumped up and pushed Bob back on the couch the nano she saw the mischievous look appear on his face, conjuring up some retort that would inevitably embarrass her and no doubt Phong as well.

"Morning Phong. What's this about Turbo?"

Micros later, everyone was situated in the War Room, awaiting Turbo’s arrival. Mouse wasn’t happy that Phong had granted the Prime Guardian clearance, but refused to sit out of the meeting with Turbo, making everyone worry just what the fiery hacker was planning. At present she was explaining his past crimes to Ray, who couldn’t understand the big deal – until the web creature occurrence was explained.

“A web creature? In this system? Ya gotta be kiddin’ me mates!” Ray exclaimed with his usual vibrancy.

“It’s what started the war, Ray.” Dot told him sadly from across the large conference table where they all sat.

“The guardian protocol was to destroy the web creature, no matter what the cost.” Bob added guiltily, smiling gratefully at Dot as she squeezed his hand supportively.

“I was too young to understand at the time, but the creature used life energy to feed on.” AndrAIa put in.

“And I was basic enough to think the Prime Guardian Collective would help us!” Mouse said angrily. Ray immediately circled his arm round her shoulders compassionately.

“It’s not your fault, love. You had good intentions.”

“Yeah, and you saved me and the rest of the Mainframers from that thing.” Dot assured her, and then shivered at the memory.

“I can’t imagine what Turbo wants me to do, I mean I deliberately ignored a guardian protocol so I can’t be top on his list of favourites.” Bob grinned as he thought aloud.

“Will you do it? Whatever Turbo asks you to do?” Dot asked softly, staring at their intertwined fingers on the desk.

“I don’t know. It -”

“A ship has entered the system. Clearance confirmed. It’s Turbo.” Specks announced from where he was stationed by the monitors.

“Send a message to his transport. Tell him to dock in Port 4 of the Principal Office.” Dot ordered, quickly slipping into mode. “Someone go and inform Phong of their arrival.” She added to the rest of the binomes in the room.

“Message sent sir ma’am!”

Dot hid a smile at the title – she still couldn’t convince any of them to just call her Dot.

“Come on, Bob. We better go be the welcoming committee. Could the rest of you stay here for now?”

The enormous super computer ship docked with no trouble, and looked impressive next to the rest of the docked CPUs – with the exception of ‘Ship’, Mouse’s craft. As the door slid open on the side of the massive vessel three figures emerged, Turbo leading with two younger guardians flanking him.

Dot stepped up to greet them, although she didn’t feel like being particularly diplomatic with the people that tried to blow up her home.

“Welcome to Mainframe.”

“I’m pleased to finally meet you Ms Matrix.” Turbo greeted her, but seemed to lack sincerity, turning immediately to Bob, standing beside her. “It’s been a long time Bob.”

“Yeah, I suppose it has.”

“I have an assignment for you. We can discuss the details later, but first I’d like you to meet your new partner. I believe you two knew each other at the Academy.”


Before Turbo could answer the voice of the man in question preceded his appearance as he left the ship. “Hey Bob. Nice to see you again.”

Both Bob and Dot knew that all too familiar voice, Bob moving in front of her even before he appeared.

“What the hell are you doing here, Damien?”

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