By: Silver Tiger

All the characters here, naturally, are copyright Mainframe Entertainment. No profit is being made off of this, know the drill. Although I doubt it will ever come to it, I ask them not to sue.



Ah, I see you're awake. Splendid. There's a large bump on your head and your nose is bleeding and not to be discouraging but that gash on your arm isn't going to heal anytime. Still, it could be worse couldn't it?

Oh yes. VERY polite of you to snarl and brandish a knife at me. What have I ever done to you? It's not my fault the cave you were hurtled into was mine. It can't be my appearance that upsets you though, I doubt you can see through shadows.

Yes, I DO have a very good reason for being in them, thank you very much. You're a most aggressive sprite, you know. Still, I can't help but be impressed. You nearly killed the creature before it ripped the head off your companion. Too bad for it that the thing never realized your friend was wearing a self-detonation device. Mind you that, heh, *has* solved *your* problems. Temporarily.

Don't look so defensive. I wasn't talking about MYSELF there. I'm rather hurt... I meant transportation and medical assistance and so on. Why must people always instantly assume the worst of me?

Really? You think it's my voice? Hmm. Sarcasm or no, that's a good point. By the way, I don't believe we've exchanged names-I, am Megabyte. And you are?

Interesting name. So, fellow exile (or so I assume), what DOES bring you here to my lonely little corner of the Web?

Well. This DOES happen to be *my* cave, as mentioned. THAT gives me a right to at least inquire about your present circumstances. Were you a thief? Hacker? Despot ruler perhaps? User knows I know about the LAST one...

Something worse? I'm rather intrigued. You could at least tell me where you hail from.

The Supercomputer! Why, what a coincidence! I've had some... interest in that place for a while. Can you perhaps... get back there?

Feel free to answer any second now.

Hrmp. Just my luck. The only sprite I meet in Net knows how long and you're completely unsocial.

What do you mean "You can't go back"? Why not? "Daemon?" That's hardly and answer, dear boy.

What do you MEAN she's... infected... the...


Oh- terribly sorry to startle you like that. I just can't seem to stop it sometimes. If your mouth is open any wider, your jaw is going to fall off, by the way. Must you STARE like that? It's not as if the wall was THAT thick. So the Supercomputer is- taken. The news was simply unexpected, that's all.

I used to be able to control actions like that much better, you know...

So how many guardians have been infected? ALL of them? What, even the Prime Guardian? He HAS? This is most... distressing news.

What? Well, if you'd like to see me so badly, come HERE and look at me. I've no desire to play host to someone who's behaving quite rudely. No one has any grasp of manners anymore.

I suppose I could come out, now that you've asked more nicely. Although that "please" sounded a bit strangled to me... but are you sure you'd like to see? Very well then, I've warned you.


You can stop retching now.

You know, tentacles are perfectly NATURAL here. And they're just from the ridge on my back-almost cape like, *I* think. Of course, the hooked barbs on the end ARE rather disturbing but one gets used to it.

You're actually taking this rather well! The last sprite I talked to started screaming (although not for long) and it was most unpleasant.

Excellent question- no, I don't THINK the Web-creatures can get into here, although there are so many species and sub species I'm not positive. I do try to stay as far away from them as possible.

I heard that! Look, the degration isn't THAT least my face is still intact. YOU try fighting off a Web-creature when there's a gash in your side and your ankle is snapped and your lifelong dream has JUST BEEN RIPPED AWAY FROM YOU-

I did it again. Honestly it really DID use to be much easier to keep in check. My, ah, temper you see. It's a viral thing-

No need to pull a gun on me, good sir. I merely said that- oh *I* see. It's this viral prejudice again, isn't it? This is most unfair. So I'm a virus. Did that matter a few moments ago to you when you DIDN'T know? Yes, granted a few members of my species haven't always acted rationally but is it just to take it out on ME? Do put that down. I happen to know you've run out of ammunition. I checked while you were unconscious, you see. Good. You're almost as jumpy as a guardian.

Ah. So THAT'S why you're so ashamed of the state the Supercomputer has fallen into. No wonder. Oh- how did I know? Your face turned an interesting pastel shade. And that bulge in your coat pocket must be your keytool. This also explains the bigoted view you have of virals... the stuff they feed you in schools is horribly distorted. Proof? Do you REALLY think an organization dedicated to wiping out viruses would paste in a txt. book "Viruses on the whole aren't as bad as popular culture has painted them"? If governments DID tell the truth, they wouldn't be in such positions of absolute power as they are now, I can assure you. How would *I* know?

Heh heh... heh.. ha ha HA! HA HA HA-

(Gasp) Oh I'm sorry... it's just been so long before anything as amusing as you has come along... heh. Ha... no, trust me, I know VERY well what it's like to be in a position of influence and power. Oh yes. What's it like? Your face had a mildly hungry look on it when you asked that... been passed over for promotions lately, have we? Degenerating into swears doesn't really become you by the way but I'll take that as a yes. It gives one a heady, giddy sort of feeling at first and then it settles down into a satisfying constant hum... I can't really describe it properly. The best way to experience it for yourself would be narcotics perhaps. Seeing as your chances for improvement are, shall we say, rather low right now?

Oh don't snarl, it wasn't as if *I* infected your precious Supercomputer... became open to thousands, millions of new worlds... ruled the Net...

What do you MEAN I get a strange look on my face when I start talking about the Supercomputer? ORGASMIC?! I *BEG* your pardon! You needn't be THAT crude! I admit I have a more than academic interest in it but...

Fate seems to have stuck me with a companion who holds a morbid, risqué sense of humor, hasn't it?

While we're on the subject of Fate and your arrival, why *were* you banned?

Running away from Infection. In THEORY it could work if you've been gone for a long time. You have? And you claim the Hacker was good enough to delete your records from there? A stroke of luck for you then, if it works, but Hackers are a fickle bunch believe me...

How do I *know*?


Oh all right, I'll stop it.

Tell me, have you ever heard of... Mouse?

Ah, you grimaced! Why then you have! What a coincidence! The woman has been thoroughly unprofessional and backstabbing in all the time I've known her. Although I'll admit I *did*... alter our agreement first but she should have expected it. I actually can't believe she DIDN'T, poor idiot. Oh? I just shrank her down to molecular size and had a servant insert her and a ship carrying a neural linking machine into the energy-flow of the local guardian who accidentally gave him to a small local sprite instead. Why?

Do you often give people looks like that?

Anyhow, to make a long story compressed, I double-crossed her, she double-crossed me, we were even. Or so you'd THINK. The intolerable sprite had to double cross me AGAIN by CHANGING THE BLOODY PORTAL CODE- if you'll excuse me I have to take a few deep breaths. (breath) Ah, there we go. Which is why I'm stuck here. I had just opened a portal to the... Net... when she changed it to the Web. EXTREMELY unsporting of her. Fair's fair, after all.

Why did she do it? You have a knack for picking the painful questions... it's a long, tragic story. Care to hear it? I assure you, you won't have any other real form of entertainment while you're waiting to heal.

Ah, you will. You can be quite reasonable after all! Perhaps I've misjudged you. But enough of that...

The system I came from was called "Mainframe". It wasn't large or terribly up to date, but my Programmer saw fit to insert me onto the Word Processor that was downloaded to the city. I quickly, much to my credit, infected a large portion before the defenses kicked in. Ah, my first was wonderful. The power, the GLORY- I'm sorry I went off track again there. Anyhow, I managed to set up a fairly stable empire, tried to expand a bit-needless to say the natives were not exactly thrilled at the prospect at my ruling them. I have no idea why.

I wouldn't have been a *bad* ruler you know. It's never been my intention to gain control of a system just to destroy it. Their lives would be BASICALY the same- perhaps a *bit* more military... but apart from that it'd be just like a change in From the way *they* reacted though you would have thought I'd announced my goal in life was to painfully torture them all to death.

There WAS that unfortunate time where my psychotic sister (she's one of those energy-throwing chaos viruses- I'm sure you know the type. Utterly random.) happened to destroy quite a bit of the city. And the day she snapped HAD to be when the system was under my rule- completely not my fault but of all the luck... sigh. Hmm? Oh, I'll tell you about MY rule later. We're not quite there yet.

Anyhow things were going wonderfully when a new sprite arrived- *Bob* the guardian to be precise. A description? Blue skin, silver hair, brown eyes... yes he said, "I don't think so." He used that catch phrase in school too? Why am I not surprised? Small Net, isn't it? Were you friends? Ah, I assume that eye roll was a no. "Dorky" IS a phrase that fits him, yes.

You know, for a guardian you're half-sane at times. You can stop glaring, I meant it as a compliment.

So- Bob. What can I say about him? High clockspeed, resourceful, brave in a foolhardy way... and UTTERLY annoying. *Every* single plan or attempt to... expand blocked by him CONSTANTLY. I was even fair to him- I *offered* him a position in my rule. It would have worked out perfectly. As much as I hate to admit it NOW, we... worked well enough together when forced to.

If only he'd accepted. If only I'd have gotten COMPETENT underlings. In fact, if only the User had wiped him out in a bolt of energy, my life would have been so much easier. And *I* would have been the one you were currently running away from instead of... *Daemon*.

Hmm... if you clutch your arm a bit tighter it's going to cut off circulation. But that's what you want to stop the blood flow, isn't it. Me? *Help*? I'm a virus, not a physician. So sorry. Look at it this way, the story will help take your mind off the pain.

One cycle, due in the end to the mercenary nature of Mouse, a portal to the Web was created in Mainframe. There was no possible way for the sprites to win by themselves, so Hex and I reluctantly helped. Hexadecimal is my sister. You know- the random one.

While Bob was busy organizing the system's defenses, I thought up the most *exquisite* way to get rid of him- oh you'll like this. I built the hardware to close the Web and we mounted it on a platform. I added a little extra feature to it. A small capsule to be precise. When he LEAST expected it, I clamped a hand over his mouth, crushed his keytool and threw him in. And he *didn't* *expect* *it*. I swear he'd forgotten about me in all the frenzy of battling the invaders. Not about to give up an opportunity like this I launched him into the Web. You should have seen his face! The way he screamed! Oh it was spectacular... afterwards the portal was shut, effectively closing us off to the Web (and also the Net- Mouse hid Mainframe's location.) THEN my REAL reign began...

I'll wait till you've finished coughing up energy though. I think the WORST of it is over. Why don't you simply use your keytool? Perhaps the bump on your head is worse than I thought.

Oh- it's still charging after that battle. When will it be finished? Soon? Ah, good. I wouldn't want my only company to pass out yet, now would I?

Anyhow, Bob had transferred the guardian protocol to a young sprite who tried to defend the system before being nullified in a game along with his friend. Or... so I thought. Due to his sister, they managed to hold the defenses for a while. In fact, they erected a Firewall around my sectors until my sister, even more emotionally unbalanced because of her captivity- didn't I mention it? She would have blown up the system so I had to, ah, well, restrain her. She would have impeded take over of Mainframe otherwise. And for her own good, of course. Unfortunately Hex broke free and not only decimated the Firewall but my tower, the Tor, as well! And then... well hordes of nulls running rampant through the city would be a frequent occurrence. She could control them somehow mentally. Fortunately the Principal Office was still functional so I took up residence there and for a while... it was mine.

Oh User it was glorious. The people in the city under control, all bowing to *me*...

I simply shivered because of the draft. It's chilly in here.

My rule continued for a while. Dot, now, and Mouse led a futile resistance for a while then fled underground. They struck periodically but never had much hope. Then one cycle Bob and his... friends came back.

Your keytool is charged by the way. It's beeping. I know you're not deaf, I was merely pointing it out.

He had apparently found some pirates and other renegades to help him out of the Web. And interestingly enough the *boy* and his friend were there too. Yes, they'd found some way to travel games. She was a game sprite and when they converted her icon it left her with some unusual abilities.

I honestly don't know *why* Bob didn't report her. Should he have? Not informing the Prime guardian is a punishable offense... I *see*. Perhaps he was worried they'd dissect her or something to that effect. He always was a soft touch.

Getting back to Mainframe or as it was known by then, MEGAframe...Bob quickly rejoined up with his friends. There was a bit of... *unpleasantness* and they reinvaded the Principle Office. And...

Well they sent me to the Web.

I am NOT leaving anything out! Why did you say *that*?

...I'll admit that there were a few bits I skipped over but they're of no narrative consequence. Yes, it's how I got the gash in my stomach.

I don't care to dwell on it.

Because I failed? BECAUSE I *FAILED*?

THEY are the ones who are dead right now! I engineered a system crash should anything happen to me- the city is nothing more than a memory now. If I couldn't have Megaframe, NO ONE could.

If I couldn't...

My claws? Well... one pair was... disabled by a weapon made of game code. What happened? It shattered. That's all! I'm simply rubbing them because they hurt. User they hurt... they shouldn't anymore... why do they hurt? Why can't I... his face... just before he almost stabbed me, the bastard... why didn't he? I can't figure out... Why couldn't I kill him... how.. he won... how did he WIN? HOW COULD THAT BOY HAVE WON? Impossible! It didn't happen. IT COULDN'T HAVE! NO! IT DIDN'T, THE SYSTEM WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MINE! NOW IT'S GONE, ALL GONE, ALL I HAVE LEFT IS MYSELF BUT I DON'T EVEN HAVE THAT POWER *IS* MY SELF WHAT ELSE DO I *HAVE*, DON'T THEY *UNDERSTAND*?! USER IT HURTS OH IT HURTS IT BLOODY HURTS IT *BURNS*-

Oh... damn.

I'm... perfectly alright now. That just... happens sometimes. Not often. Really. I haven't gone random. I can handle this...

You're trying to sneak out- I wouldn't do that. There are creatures out there much more lethal than the one you just fought.

Well. That's my story. Charming one, isn't it? And now all I have is a CAVE and... *well.* Possibly YOU.

You DID notice the infection creeping up on your arm, didn't you? Nasty yellow veins slowly growing... it's rather grotesque. It appears Daemon has you after all.

Heh. You should see your face- you look as if you're about to weep or scream. All that effort, your friend dead for nothing.

I didn't mean it nastily. Tsk. Trying to get up to hurt me will gain you nothing. You're almost healed-why ruin things *now*? However... there IS a way to keep you out of her clutches that I was *just* about to explain when you started.

Yes, I'm serious.

Of course, it's possible! You simply have to detach your PID and give it... to me.

Oh, come now! You can either be infected by the virus who hurt you, who destroyed your home and family, who ruined your life (my this sounds familiar actually. I wonder why?) whom you apparently loathe. Did your companion happen to be close to you? I *see.* Yes. Surely you wouldn't let your friend's memory, your friend's DEATH go to waste? Someone who died to fight off Daemon- wouldn't it be a shame if she infected you after all that?

Look at it this way- I need... help getting out of here. And YOU need to escape from her infection to FIGHT her, no? What do you think I'M going to do, simply watch her take over what I've most desire ALL MY LIFE?


Think this over quickly while her hold on you is still weak. What could be more painful that ripping away what she most loves? What could hurt her more, what could agonize her nights and days worse than taking back what she struggled so hard to win?


I know, you see. I've been there.

Just hold out your PID...


The End