Al's Waiter's note: This is my first attempt at fanfic, so bear with me. I've always wondered what happened to Matrix and AndrAIa during the time that we never see. Other people probablly have written about this same topic, but this is how I see it. This fic is Hanako Breithaupt approved.
1-1-0-1 = 13 (Just remember this for later)
Summary: Enzo and AndrAIa have just left Mainframe after losing the game. After several hours, they finally get out and find themselves in the System of Power Grid.
Nano second: second
Micro second: hour
An Eye for an Eye
written and re-editted (spring '00) by Al's Waiter
(takes place between the episodes 'Game Over' and Icons)
The User advanced towards Enzo as he changed his icon into game sprite mode. As the User did its finishing move, a tear appeared in Enzos left eye. Not because his right eye hurt, but, because of his heart ache.
"Game Over....The User Wins...."
The female voice of Mainframe seemed to echo inside Enzos head as the tear rolled down Enzos cheek and onto the ring floor.
"Warning... Incoming game....Warning... Incoming game...."
The robotic male voice announced to the entire system as a figure on a zip-board raced towards the purple cube while others fled from it. His short, cobalt blue hair waved on each side of his pure white face. His jet black eyes scanned the entire sector. His new keytool on his silver wrist guards, he wore proudly on his arm and he loved his new sky blue uniform. He was fresh from the Guardian Academy and new to this system.
Guardian Rom had told all the inhabitants of Power Grid to either work hard in the game or stay out of it. Most choose to stay out, to avoid getting nullified. Rom liked it better that way, it made it easier for him to win the game.
When will the User ever stop inputting games every minute? he thought to himself. Youd think that the User loves them!
Just as Rom got beneath the game cube, it slammed onto the ground level. When the game materialized, he saw that he was in a floating arena with stained-glass windows all around him. Rom looked at his wrist. "Desktop! Game stats!" And the key-tool clicked and wurred in response as it turned into a tiny screen and displayed the games information.
Tournament style fighting game, huh? No Problem! Rom thought to himself. But then as he read on ... Wait a nano... five OPPONENTS! The User only has to beat five opponents?! And theres twelve opponent to choose from... Rom made a face. Perfect! He thought sarcastically. Just perfect! and Im the only sprite in the Game! Then he got an idea. If I dont reboot right away, I could choose my character in the middle of the game. Rom, youre a genius!
The windows began to light up in sequence as the User began to choose its character. The light stopped on the Angel window as the game announced in a deep voice, "Angel"
This shouldnt be too hard. Rom said to himself.
Then the User began to pick Its first opponent.
Enzo looked at the stained-glass window that AndrAIa and Frisket were behind.
I wonder what system were in, he thought. Far from Mainframe no doubt. He winced from the pain that once was his right eye, and grit his teeth. He was still mad at himself for loosing the game. Now they were just two small sprites and a dog lost in the Net. He was also mad at himself for failing Bob.
Bob had given Enzo the responsibility of protecting Mainframe. Enzo wasnt even in Mainframe now. How can you protect a system if youre not even in it? he thought sadly to himself. If the User picks me, and if I can defeat it, well finally be out of this game. I'll beat this User, even if it deletes me!
Enzo had seen a lot of binomes try and defeat the User during the time he had been stuck in the game. None had been successful. I cant always depend on anyone in any system to win the games for me. Before Bob came to Mainframe, no one knew how to beat the User. Maybe it's like that in other systems. I guess Im on my own. Enzo concluded.
AndrAIa looked at Enzos window. Poor Enzo. She thought, I hope hes OK. and AndrAIa felt a tear fall down her cheek. She had never cried before. She was a warrior and didnt usually show her emotion. She quickly wiped it away and patted Frisket on the head. Frisket had been trapped in the window with her, and he was glad of the company. He didnt know exactly what was going on, but he knew something terrible had happened. He looked sadly at AndrAIa and whimpered.
The User had defeated Its first opponent with a little difficulty, and began choosing Its second. The light stopped on Enzos window. Enzos figure came out of the window the game announcing him; "Matrix!" Alright, Enzo thought Lets do it!
Rom looked at the game sprite that was the Users second opponent. He was dressed in a yellow and black uniform with his mouth and the top of his head covered. Small black leather spikes poked out of his boots and while he fought the User, green streaks followed his blurred appendages. But he was awfully short! All of the game sprites that hed ever seen had been as tall or even taller than himself. This should prove to be very interesting. he mused and waited for his turn. Then his eyes opened wide in amazement. This game sprite good! He might not even have to reboot or fight at all.
Round one to the game sprite and round two began.
Rom sat down for the first time in a game. Hed seen game
sprites fight before but they had always never had given the User
any real trouble. They were mostly there to stall the User, maybe
stop it for a short time, but this game sprite was winning.
Just as the game sprite was about to pounce on the User for the last time. It stopped... touched the left side of its chest... something moved and then it jumped... landed hard and....
The game cube shot up into the sky and is was gone as quickly as it came. Rom turned to go to the Principal Office, when he saw two young sprites, a girl and boy, and a dog standing in the game sector. Ive never seen them in Power Grid before.
The girl sprite had her arm around the shoulders of the boy, who was gently holding his right eye. They looked about to be around the age of 1-1-0-1. Then Rom took a second look at the boy. He is wearing a Guardian uniform! Hes a young cadet!
As Rom walked towards them, the dog, who was red and yellow, looked at him and started growling. The girl patted the dog on the head. "Easy Frisket" The dog stopped, looked at her and whined.
Rom knelt down beside them. "Im Guardian 694 of the system of Power Grid. State your names and functions." he said quietly.
The girl looked up at him. She had orange skin that was marked with pale white stripes in places, her hair was a beautiful aqua-green with a starfish on the left side of her head. Her clothes and earrings consisted of seashells and other marine objects, and fins protruded out of her shins. But Rom loved her eyes. They matched her hair but they sparkled like newly formatted emerald gems. Then Rom looked at her left arm. She had a small crossbow strapped to it. Why would such a beautiful, young sprite need a weapon like that?
The young sprite smiled at him, and pointed as she introduced. "My name is AndrAIa. This is Enzo Matrix and his dog, Frisket. Our format?...Enzos a Guardian, and Im a game sprite."
Then Rom looked at Enzo. He worn the navy uniform of a first level Guardian. His skin was bright green and he had a mass of short, dark green, layered hair. The only eye that Rom could see, which was his left, was a deep, dark purple. He was shaking his head, still holding his right eye. "No..." he whispered quietly "No..."
"Well, AndrAIa, Enzo and Frisket - Welcome to the System Power Grid!" Rom smiled "Is there anything I can do for you?" he asked.
"No, thank you." Enzo replied a little louder. "No one can help us. No one. Not even Bo..." and Enzos voiced trailed off.
Changing the subject, "Enzo, what happened to your eye? Is there something in it?" Rom inquired.
"I dont want to talk about it." he murmured and turned his head away from Rom.
"No, really. Let me look at it." and Rom reached over to turn Enzos head back.
"NO!" Enzo said almost shouting. "We dont need your help! I dont need your help!" and he pulled out of Roms reach.
Rom backed up, surprised at the sudden anger of the young sprite.
AndrAIa look at Rom then at her companion. "Enzo, hes just trying to help. Hes not going to harm us. Hes a Guardian like you and Bob. Hes here to help."
Enzo was shaking his head again. "I know AndrAIa, but, Im not a Guardian." he said in almost a whisper. "Im not."
AndrAIa turned her head to one side with a curious look on her face. "What in the Net are you talking about?! Of course you are a Guardian! Bob made you..."
"NO!" he replied sternly. "I an not a Guardian!! A real Guardian would have won that game. A real Guardian would have protected Mainframe from Megabyte. I didnt do any of those things! I dont even have a working keytool! Glitch is broken! I can't call myself a Guardian. Not now, not ever. Im logged off. End Guardian Program! Quit without saving!" Then he finished in a sad, hushed whisper, "...without saving anything...." and he put his head in his hands and said nothing else.
AndrAIa looked at her sad friend in silence.
As for Rom, his head was trying to scan what he had just heard. ...he LOST a game?!... and they arent nullified?!... Things werent networking. But... Mainframe?!...Glitch...?!...Bob...?! Could it?... Rom shook his head. No... it couldnt be...! He bent forward. "Enzo," he said very quietly. "You lost a game?!"
Enzo winced. "Dont rewind it and play it back for me!" he uttered, "but, Yes I did lose a game."
"But," Rom stammered. "If you lost a game, why werent you nullified?"
"Its a long text file, and I dont want to talk about it right now. Maybe later." Enzo stood up, covering his eye.
"Alright," Rom said as he smiled,
placed his hands on his knees and pushed himself up. "I
dont know what exactly happened to your eye, but I do know
that it may need extreme medical help. Ill take you to the
Principal Office." Looking at his keytool, "Desktop.
Medical Patch!" and out popped a small roll of soft gauze.
Rom gingerly placed a few strips over Enzo's right eye.
"There." he said and he turned and looked at AndrAIa
and Frisket. "And youre welcome to come along as
The Principal Office was a large, flat, circular structure with two large rectangular doors, but AndrAIa couldnt see any windows throughout the entire building. Just like Mainframes Principal Office... she noted.
As the four walked through the enormous doors, they were greeted by a kind looking binome. "Rom, who are these young sprites? They do not appear to be from Power Grid. Are they registered?"
Rom smiled at the binome and introduced the travelling trio. "Surge, these are visitors to our system. This is AndrAIa, Enzo Matrix and his dog, Frisket. Enzos eye needs to be examined in the Medical Lab. Its hurt very badly."
The binome nodded and began to walk in the opposite direction from where he had just came. "Follow me!" he shouted over his shoulder.
AndrAIa looked at her surroundings. The long halls seemed to go on forever, the tall walls loomed on each side of her and the high ceiling stretched over her like a low, narrow, bleached sky. Suddenly AndrAIa felt uncomfortable. She wasnt used to tight spaces. Before she had met Enzo, she had been in an adventure game 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis'
She had never been is a confined area there. Never until, during one game, before the User could shoot her and erase her for the Hundredth time, She had been rescued in a fish shaped sub. Following her programming, she prepared to attack the green-skinned interloper. After she extended her nails and growled at him, he began to talk to her, relieved that she was alright and not hurt. Seeing that he wasnt a threat, she began to speak back to him. Soon they were talking like old friends. Enzo was telling her all kinds of stories about himself, his friends, his dog, about the games hed had won and about his home. AndrAIa had loved the stories and wanted to leave the game to see all the wonderful things. But how?
Then she got the idea of placing a back-up of herself on Enzos icon. The next thing that she remembered was appearing in front of Enzo, outside of the game.
Life in Mainframe was more complicated than she thought. When she finally got used to the same routine of waking up, going to school, learning, coming home, doing homework and going to bed, the trouble with the Web started. That trouble had caused Enzo, Frisket and herself to be here instead of her new home of Mainframe.
AndrAIa frowned and looked at Enzo. His right eye was covered by a patch provided by Roms keytool, and his left eye was downcast with a sad look to it. She put her hand on his shoulder, assuring him without using words that he wasnt alone. That they both missed Mainframe and that shed always be there for him.
Enzo jumped a little, jerked out of his own thoughts and looked at AndrAIa. Her face looked at him worriedly. He gave her a weak, reassuring smile. "Thanks AndrAIa." he said softly. The hand on his shoulder disappeared and reappeared, swinging at AndrAIas side as she walked. Enzo turned his head forward and stared at the floor as they walked down the long hallway.
Rom looked down at the two quiet sprites. He didnt know much about them yet, closer to nothing, but he could tell the had been through a lot, even at their age.
Enzos face, young as it was, had a tired, sad, worn-out look to it, like he had lost his whole world. AndrAIa, on the other digit, looked alert, ready to dive in the next challenge.
Then something occurred to Rom. He recalled something that she had said earlier. She had said that her format was game sprite. Roms brow furrowed. Was that possible? Game sprites cant leave the games... can they?
The long hall curved right ahead of them but Surge turned a sharp left in front of two large doors. They opened electronically and as he walked in the room, he was greeted by several green binome doctors with pink face masks around their necks.
Enzo looked at the doctors. The ones in Mainframe had always been pink with green face masks either over their mouths or around their necks. It was strange to be in a different system where everything you knew was switched around.
Surge walked up to one of the doctors, pointed to Enzo, said something and they both nodded.
Enzo suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eye, and he announced this to everyone with a small, whispered "Ahhhh ow...!"
A doctor motioned to Enzo to hop on an examining table. Enzo looked at AndrAIa and cautiously walked towards the binome. He sat down and looked around the room, nervously. The florescent light bounced off the walls making them appear to glow. There were several high and low examining tables on either side of the room against the wall.
The doctor got on a step ladder and climbed up to Enzos eye level. A second doctor handed him a organizer. He typed something onto it and looked at Enzo. "Name?" he asked.
"Huh? Wha?...oh. Sorry" Enzo looked at the floor and began to swing his legs. "Matrix. Enzo Matrix."
The doctor nodded and typed down the new information into his organizer. "Compiled system: Power Grid." and he looked at Enzo to confirm his assumption was correct.
Enzo shook his head. "Um...no. Mainframe. The system of Mainframe."
This answer surprised the doctor. He hadnt expected the young sprite to be so far away from his home. "Alright," the doctor said slowly "Format?" and he looked at Enzos uniform, expecting only one answer.
Enzo looked at AndrAIa and Rom. He scratched the back of his neck. "Uh, I...have no format." he said finally.
This made the doctor fall off the step-ladder. Enzo then looked at AndrAIa. He saw that she had to stop herself from laughing out loud. Enzo smiled too.
This is too much! The doctor thought as he got up. Not from this system; that means hes far away from his home. No function. It seems to me that all he has is his name.
AndrAIa watched Enzo from across the room. It was good to see him smile by himself. He had hardly smiled since he lost the Game.
Then AndrAIa noticed something for the first time. Enzos Guardian uniform had shrunk quite a bit or he had grown while in the Game. It wasnt that noticeable yet, but now that she actually looked, she found that his suit was getting tight and the material around the zipper was very stretched. AndrAIa covered her mouth and stifled a laugh. Enzo looked so funny. Well have to go shopping. She thought.
She had gone shopping once before with Dot. Course, Dot had owned half of every store that they had gone to. She had watched Dot try on ten different formats of shoes and three different outfits. It looked fun!
Enzo had stayed home and did homework. He said he didnt like shopping. Now he has to go. AndrAIa giggled to herself.
Rom looked at her from his position of leaning against the wall. He smiled kindly at her and bent towards her. "What is it, AndrAIa? Whats so funny? Medic fell off the ladder a nano ago." he whispered. AndrAIa pointed at Enzo and explained her discovery.
Rom looked, laughed and nodded. "Yes, youre right." he chuckled. "He does need new clothes." Then he looked down at AndrAIa and beamed. "But hes not the only one."
AndrAIa looked down at herself. She hadnt noticed before in all the excitement, but her shoes felt small and the bottom of her shorts were a little ripped at the seams.
When she was in the game The Lost Treasure of Atlantis, everything had always restarted, AndrAIa included. She had never needed new clothes, because she had never grown before. She smiled shyly at Rom and bit her lip. "Yes...well..."
The binome doctor, Medic, examined Enzo and typed his observations down for two whole miro-seconds.
Enzo let out a deep sigh. He was tired of looking left, right, up and down and also having the doctor 5 cm away from his face. His bitmap was numb from ditting still for so long and his eye was hurting badly.
Finally, Medic climbed down from the examining table and consulted the other doctors.
Enzo watched all the binomes shake and nodding their heads as they talked among themselves. I wish I knew what they were processing. he thought.
After several nanos, Medic stepped toward the waiting sprites. "We have scanned and examined Enzos eye to the best of our ability and..." the doctor paused uncomfortably. He frowned, and cleared his throat. "Enzo Matrix of the system of Mainframe will never see again out of his right eye..."
"What?!" AndrAIa exclaimed. "What do you mean hell never see again with his right eye?!"
Frisket began to snarl at Medic.
Enzo was in shock. Never?!
Medic gently calmed down AndrAIa while another doctor comforted Enzo.
"Please," Medic replied in a soft, resuring voice. "I didnt finish. If you will allow me to...?" he looked at AndrAIa.
AndrAIa backed up. "Sorry," she apologized "I wont do that again."
Medic nodded, sternly. "Thank you. As I was saying, Enzo will never see again out of his right eye without help." he finished his original sentence. "His eye is too damaged to even begin to operate. But," and his face lit up. "But, since we are in almost constant contact with the SuperComputer, we receive all forms of prototypes and we are asked to test them."
Enzo raised his head from his hands. "So what does that have to do with me?"
Medic turned to the young, sad sprite. "I have a special prototype for finding and locking onto wanted targets. It suppose to be networked with a gun, but I think there can be a few adjustments. Only if its alright with you Enzo." he finished.
Enzo hopped down off the examining table and walked towards AndrAIa. She looked at him sadly. "Are you going to do it Enzo?"
Enzo slowly shook his head and said in a voice that only she could hear. " I don't know." He looked down at the floor and sighed. "I wish Dot was here. She always stayed with me when ever I went to the doctors."
"I with you Enzo. I'm not Dot But I can stay with you if you want." She put her hand on his shoulder.
Enzo nodded. "I'd appreciate it, AndrAIa. Thanks."
Rom looked at the young green sprite. Poor guy. Young and far away from his home. Now he gets the news that he'll never see the same again. Rom felt sorry for him. He watched the two sprites to each other in hushed whispers with Frisket in between them. He couldn't make out what they were saying. Just as well. They need some privacy
A few nanos had past by, when Enzo stepped forward and spoke. "I don't know it I should go through with this operation, but I'd like to process the idea a little longer." he announced.
Medic smiled and nodded his head. "Of course, young sprite, but just in case that you decide to test it, I will prepare the prototype for you."
A satisfied grins spread across Enzo's face. "Thank you." he beamed. "Thank you very much."
"Alright. Now that that's done..." He said as he pushed himself away from the wall and walked toward Enzo. Rom placed a new, fresh patch on Enzo's now useless eye. "You three look like you could use a byte to eat. And..." he looked at AndrAIa and winked. "...New clothes. But first lets go access some fast food."
Fast food... Enzo frowned. He was very hungry, he couldnt cancel that feeling, but the thought of eating fast food in anywhere besides Dots Diner almost made him lose his appetite, But he nodded and smiled at Rom. He felt so homesick for Mainframe, and its seemed as far away. Would he ever see it again? Then Dot's voice popped into his head. 'Uh-uh, Enzo. Delete that thought!' She had said this when he had been the only Guardian of Mainframe, and thought he was much too young to defend the city. Later, after proving himself in the Game 'Malicious Corpses', Dot was willing to give him a chance. She had encouraged him to do his best and to very work hard. She believed in me, I can do no less.
At that finishing thought, Enzo managed a small smile and looked at AndrAIa.
She was smiling and talking to Rom about Power Grid, finding out new information that might be useful to them. Enzo looked at the young Guardian, who was trying to answer AndrAIas eager questions. He reminded Enzo of Bob in many ways: he was caring, friendly, brave, and very willing to go out of his way for others.
Enzo had admired all of those formats in Bob and now in Rom. Then, Enzo thought. Were all Guardians like that? Even thought Enzo didnt consider himself a Guardian but still had the Guardian protocol, would he be like that? Would it automatically come or would he have to work at trying to be that way?
The four walked up to a small store with the label 'Fastie Mart' on it. Frisket stayed outside while the other three walked in.
It was a small, square store with rows of shelves full of packaged energy-bars, power-drinks, energy-biscuits, milk, power-silicon chips and there were racks full of read-me files on any and every topic imaginable, from the latest Sprite Fashions, to comic bytes, Latest Software and Hardware and Newest and Deadliest Games straight from the Supercomputer. Enzo and AndrAIa looked around them with their mouths and eyes opened wide. Neither of them had seen a place like this ever.
Rom smiled at the two young sprites, picked up a Game Read-Me file and walked up to the counter. A light blue tin robot was wiping the counter with a multicoloured ripped flag.
"Hey, WNF! Hows business today?" Rom asked smiling.
WNF looked at Rom and replied in a monotone "Cannot find Success file."
Rom laughed. "That bad, huh? Listen, can I have three energy-squashies please? Oh, and some dog chow too. I have three hungry visitors." He said leaning over the counter.
The blue robot moved extremely slowly, reminding Enzo of Als Diner in Level 31 of Mainframe. Enzo decided that Al moved faster than WNF. Finally what seemed to be like micro-seconds, WNF had filled out Roms order and was adding it up on a calculator.
"4 1/2 units" WNF said in the same recorded voice Enzo had heard earlier.
Rom opened his wallet, brought out the change, picked up the bag and headed for the output.
Enzo quickly walked up to the robot and asked, "What does WNF stand for anyways?"
The robot slowly lifted his head. "Windows Ninety...."
WNF was interrupted by the system voice announcing another game, while the entire sky turned purple. Enzo quickly ran outside.
Rom groaned. "Not again!" He handed the bag to AndrAIa. "Here. Take this. Enjoy! I wont be long." He pulled out his zip-board and raced away toward the descending cube.
Enzo looked at AndrAIa and Frisket. "Should we?"
AndrAIa thought got a nano-second, then nodded. "We should!" Both took out their zip-boards and flew away with Frisket not to far behind on the ground.
AndrAIa still had the 'Fastie Mart' bag in her hand. She turned to Enzo. "When will we be able to have our drinks?"
Enzo shook his head. "I dont know. Well have to wait and see." They made it under the cube just as it landed hard on the bottom level.
Rom looked around him at his new surroundings. "Well, Desktop," he grinned. "I dont think were in Power Grid anymore."
The new game, that had literally fallen onto him, began to take shape. Rom saw that he was in the middle of a clearing with trees surrounding him. The sky was the same deep blue as his hair and was dotted here and there with small, white, fluffy clouds.
This is nice! he mused as he admired the beauty around him. He was about to talk to Desktop when...
Glitch! Game Stats.
Rom whirled around and saw three familiar faces. Two belonging to two young sprites, the other to a red and yellow dog.
Rom walked up to the visitors of his system. Enzo. AndrAIa. I thought I told you to stay in front of the Fastie Mart until the game was over. he said, slightly annoyed.
Enzo looked up from Glitches little screen. Were here to help you.
Enzo, games arent for small sprites...
Im not a small sprite! he protested. Ive been in that last game at least for three hours. Ive learned a lot in that time from others mistakes. The others that are now nullified! Whether you accept that or not.
Rom sighed. What am I going to do with him? He took a deep breath. Alright, fine but follow my lead. I dont want you going on your own.
Enzo looked disappointed but knew it was for the best. He nodded.
Both Guardians look at their keytools to learn the rules of the game. Oh, I know this game. Rom exclaimed. Order and Take Over. Simple. ReBoot! he shouted as he double clicked on his icon. His blue Guardian uniform transformed into a grey army General's uniform. Pleased to see that he was the leader and not Enzo, he smiled, relived.
He turned to the young teenaged sprites. Come on guys, lets beat this User!
Both of the teen sprites smiled. Enzo bent down on one knee and double clicked on his and Friskets icon. AndrAIa did the same. After the blue light had faded, Enzo and AndrAIa looked down at themselves. Both sprites wore a pair of light blue jeans, light grey T-shirts a pair of sporty high tops and a white baseball cap on, backwards. AndrAIa smiled. It felt good to be wearing clothes that fit.
AndrAIa had short blond hair and peach skin, though her eyes hadnt changed colour. They were still the normal aqua.
Enzos dark green hair had turned jet black and the very front of his hair stuck out of the back hole of the hat. He looked cross-eyed up at the hat and wished that is was red. He looked at AndrAIa and grinned. At least you didnt get a bike this time.
AndrAIa giggled as Rom looked on. Alright, lets get started. This is our piece of land to build on. Ill go measure to see if we have enough room.
Rom began to walk away when AndrAIa stopped him. Must we build on this beautiful land?
Rom looked down at her understandingly. If we want to win the game, yes, we have to. He said gently.
Her eyes saddened as she looked around the clearing. She nodded slowly and allowed Rom to proceed.
When she looked back at Enzo, he was staring down at Glitch on his arm. He glanced up at she approached him.
AndrAIa, he paused. I cant do anything with Glitch. I can only do game stats, thats it. What am I going to do? He sighed deeply.
She looked at her friend, her face full of concern. Dont worry. Maybe you can ask Rom later, but right now, we have a job to do.
Enzo nodded in agreement and the two sprites, accompanied by a large black dog, followed Rom.
The collection truck was busy gathering the crystal tiberite that was sticking out of the ground. The refinery was changing the glowing rock into its purest form, to be used in may ways: source of energy, fuel for their trucks, money and a cleaning agent for the woodland creatures.
More and more troops were being recruited and more tanks were being shipped in.
The four new constructed buildings gleamed in the sunlight. The white brick looked beautiful with the aqua dome and trimmings. AndrAIa stood, admiring them in silence. She had been at amazed at how quickly the game had constructed them in such a short time.
Rom had measured out the plot of land for each structure and almost immediately, the game began building. Now they were complete and already in use.
Apparently Enzos and AndrAIas job in the game was that they were re-programmers - a key role in the game. Their job was to, somehow get to the Users base, sabotage the computers, re-program them and essentially take over the base. Rom and Enzo were working on a plan at that very moment.
AndrAIa was still carrying the bag that Rom had handed to her when the game had arrived. The bag itself had changed from a paper bag to a kacky green shoulder bag. She opened the flap and peered inside at the contents.
The Fastie Mart cups had also changed into three thermoses and the small package of dog food had changed into a metal can with the label Quarties and Bytes.
She lifted out a thermos, twisted the lid and stared down at the liquid inside. It smelled sweet, whatever it was, so she poured some into the lid that now served as a cup. She took a sip and puckered. It was really cold against her teeth. She swallowed and felt it move down into her stomach. She smiled pleasantly and took another sip. She was enjoying her drink so much, that it took her several nanos to realize Enzo standing next to her. She quickly swallowed, smiled and offered Enzo his thermos. Enzos stomach rumbled as he reach out to take it from her.
Rom rounded the corner of the refinery and spotted the two. Alright Programmers, time to attack the User. Phase 1 of our plan, he explained to AndrAIa, is already going into action. We know where the Users base is, thanks to Desktop. We also know that the User is slowly building up troops, but, Its also using up all the resources for other buildings and accessories that It doesnt need. The User is aiming for points. I dont consider points important in this game. Actually, points arent really important at all. The Users forces are small in comparison to ours and that is going to be its downfall. Ill place the Captain in charge and have our troops attack the base while we get in the backdoor. Rom began to draw a map on the ground to show AndrAIa visually what he was talking about. Theyll attack from all sides except the East side - thats the side that were going to get both of you in. Well make our way to the Control Room Centre, and take over the Users computer, therefore, winning the game. He finished with a smile.
AndrAIa nodded. Sounds like a straight forward plan. She was still getting accustomed to plans, but, they served better than what she used to do, which was completely random.
Alright, Sprites! Move out! Rom shouted loud enough voice for the Trooper Game Sprites to hear. The men moved in a large, orderly formation, with jeeps, tanks, and dirt bikes moved faster along side.
Rom jumped into a passing jeep and reached out to help Enzo and AndrAIa into the back seat. Enzo accepted Roms offer and was pulled into the vehicle. Frisket jumped, unaided, after his master. AndrAIa looked at Rom, then looked around, ignoring his hand.
Rom ordered the driver to stop and put one foot out of the jeep. AndrAIa, whats wrong? he inquired.
If its all the same to you. She replied. I was wondering if I could drive a dirt bike.
Enzo looked at her with a peculiar smile on his face. What is it with you and bikes?
Rom shook his head, smiled and pointed across the way to a dirt bike without an owner. AndrAIa jumped in excitement and ran happily over towards the vehicle. The bike was slightly too big for her but she didnt care. She climbed onto the camo-painted bike and revved the engine. A satisfied grin appeared on her face as she stepped hard on the excelluerator and bolted forward towards her data sprite friends. When it almost looked like she was out of control and going to crash into the jeep, she turned sharply and came to a complete stop inches away from causing a huge explosion that would have deleted them all.
Rom cautiously opened up his left eye to find out what happened and what didnt. He had clenched his eyes tightly when he saw AndrAIa racing towards him. Seeing that he was out of danger, he opened both eyes and looked around. There was AndrAIa with wide, smug grin pasted on her face, sitting on the bike, inches away from his leg that he had stuck out of the door just moments ago.
Enzos head appeared slowly from the back seat. When he saw AndrAIa and the giant smile she wore, he smiled, shook his head and rolled his left eye; the patch still covering his right one.
Rom sighed and looked ahead at the troops, who were still marching towards the Users base. He looked at AndrAIa, Ready to go now? he asked. She nodded and slowly moved the bike forward, in full control, to Roms relief. He sat back in the jeep and ordered the driver to move forward and catch up to the marching horde.
Halfway to the Users base, Rom ordered the entire company to stop and called the Captain over. Rom told him not to attack the unprepared base until after receiving transmission from him and to wait just out of sight of the User. The Guardian gave clear instructions to cover all the tanks, jeeps and dirt bikes with branches from the trees and bushes around them. If the User did an overall look at the grounds, It would only see trees and not an entire army ready to attack; thats what Rom wanted.
The Captain of Roms army nodded in agreement, saluted the General and marched away to fulfil the orders of the higher officer.
Next, Rom took Enzo and AndrAIa aside and reviewed the plan quietly. Now, the three of us are going to go north-east through the woods and towards the east wall of the Users compound. We have to move quickly. Lets go! Enzo nodded and jumped out of the back of the jeep, while AndrAIa climbed down off the bike. Both teenaged sprites stood unsteadily on their feet and tried to regain their balance.
Rom quickly nodded at the Captain and then he took off into the darkened forest.
AndrAIa, who had just stopped her legs from vibrating, grabbed Enzos arm, nearly yanking him off his feet, and rocketed after the quickly disappearing Guardian.
Enzo, suddenly feeling very tired, allowed AndrAIa to pull him along, dodging trees and shrubs, trying to keep up to the faster sprite. Then he heard a bark sound behind them. He looked back and saw Frisket running behind them, his tongue hanging out of his mouth and enjoying the brisk jog. Enzo smiled slightly and turned his head back just in time to miss smacking into a tree trunk. How far do we have to run? He wondered. Not long I hope. I dont have good endurance. Hmf, Thats one thing I have to work on.
Enzo and AndrAIa were bent over, gasping for air while Rom was peering through the trees towards the Users base. Are you guys alright? he called quietly over his shoulder.
Yeah... fine! Enzo panted out. Just... fine! AndrAIa wasnt able to answer.
Good. Now is the time to go underground! Rom reported as he looked at Desktop.
What?! Enzo stood straight up in surprise. What do you mean underground?
Rom grinned mischievously. What I said, I meant. Desktop: drill mode! The key-tool beeped and morphed into a large ground drill. Rom took the two handles and turned on Desktop/drill. Pretty soon there was a large hole in the ground and Rom had disappeared into it. Frisket, Enzo and AndrAIa looked down into the black hole, trying to see anything within the black void.
Come on! a voice inside the hole called out We dont have all second! Weve got to hurry!
Frisket looked at Enzo and cocked his head to one side. Go on, boy. Enzo encouraged his faithful friend. Frisket whimpered and jumped into the black hole. AndrAIa and Enzo looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and jumped in one after the other. The hole wasnt too deep and they landed safely without hurting themselves. The two sprites followed the sound of the drilling sound because they couldnt see it.
Enzo looked down at his left wrist-guard, where Glitch was resting. Would Glitch be able to shine a light? Any kind of light? Glitch...light. Glitch beeped, clicked then shone a bright light into Enzos eyes. Enzo squinted because of the blinding light, then grimaced at the sharp pain from his right eye. It took several nanos for him to adjust to the light and then took a look at Glitch. It hadnt transformed, it had just...turned on. Enzo smiled and directed the light towards the drilling noise.
Uh...Enzo? Rom called from the end of the tunnel. Could you aim that light to the ground? I cant really see if its reflecting off Desktop.
Sorry. He apologized and moved the beam of light to the dirt slightly ahead of him.
See Enzo, AndrAIa spoke. Glitch isnt totally broken. He probablly still has lots of uses. She replied optimistally.
Enzo only smiled and the two walked down the tunnel in silence.
The constant rumbling and the cracking of rock being drilled suddenly stopped and began a harsh metalic scraping sound. Everyone in the tunnel hurriedly covered thier ears to protect them from the horrible noise, except for Frisket, who just cringed and whined.
Desktop! Stop! Rom shouted over the racket. The scrapping ceased as the giant drill transformed back into a tiny key-tool, able to fit on a Sprites arm.
Enzo shone Glitch onto the metal obstacle. It was definitly wall. The drill has cleaned much of the dirt in front of it in a large circular shape; large enough to cut a hole and crawl through. It was the Users base.
Weve hit the Users basement. All we have to do is cut through this wall, make our way to the Control Centre, which is on this floor as well, and were basically home-free. Rom grinned as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
Enzo rolled his eye and said teasingly. Oh, is that all?! Why dont we ask the User to sit down go to sleep while were at it? Oh, dont get up. Were just taking over your base. Nothing big or anything. You just sit there and drink your whatever-Users-drink and we wont be long.
Rom playfully glared at the young Guardian. You be quiet. Were doing fine so far. It cant be too much harder. Desktop: cutter! The keytool changed slightly into a flat, circle with sharp spikes poking out its sides. It cut a doorway within wall and returned to the safety of Roms wristguard. Rom pushed the door and let it CLANG to the floor.
Rom, the guards might have heard that! Why did you do that? Enzo said whispered forcefully.
Weve made enough noise already. Rom said looking inside the base. If they havent heard us yet, they wont hear that. Desktop: enemy locations. He paused while he searched the small radar. The coast was clear. No one had heard them yet. What luck! Desktop: contact the Captain. Captain, we are now in the base. Begin the attack in five minutes. General out.
Minutes?! What do you mean minutes? I thought wed... Enzo began panicking.
Whoa, Enzo! Ill explain later, just not now. We dont have time.
They moved silently down the corridor listening for any sound of danger. Rom was consentrating on Desktops screen, watching them get closer to the Control Centre and the count down to ground zero. There! Rom pointed. Theres the Control Centre. We have one nano til the battle starts.
Just then, Friskets ears pricked up and he began running down the hall and around a courner. Frisket! No! Enzo said quietly but firmly. Get back here! When Frisket didnt return, he added, Youll miss chasing the User... Still, the dogs didnt re-appear. Enzo had lowered his head in frustration, when his ears caught sounds of shouting, growling, gun shots, snarling, and a cry for help. A guard tore around the courner and ran with Frisket close behind. The guard ran past the trio of tresspassers without hardly acknowledging they were there. His only goal was to get away from that mad wolf.
He didnt completely succeed. Frisket had caught up to him and his jaws slamed down onto the guards pants. There was a loud RIP!, a yell and a guard ran away from a dog, who was happily holding a gray rag in his mouth. Having saved his master from the potential threat, Fristket stopped running, turned around and troted back to show his prize.
Suddenly, the base rocked and shifted with a loud explosion. The attack! Rom exclaimed. Its started! Now that theyre temporarily distracted... and Rom crashed through the double door. Alright, User! Its time to end this game!
The User spun around to face the intruders. The Users face was solum and cross looking. He had a scar on his right check and scowl pasted onto his lips. He grabbed his gun and fired at AndrAIa.
AndrAIa leaped out of the way just in time, but the Fastie Mart bag wasnt so lucky. The bullet hit a thermos, penitrated the metal and passed right through the container. It did the same with the other two Thermoses plus the can of dog food. The bag bursted into a fine powder and disinigrated. The thermoses and dog food fell, cracked in half and spilled its contents on the floor.
Roms eyes flashed with anger. A scowl mirroring the Users formed on his face. I paid for that you low life, no good, basic buffered killer!!! No one deletes my food and gets away with it; not even a User! Rom pounced on the User, followed by an excited Frisket.
AndrAIa, are you ok? Enzo called as he dodged a punch from a guard.
Im fine, Enzo. Just get to that computer. I can hold the guards. She said as she tripped one that was charging her. She poked his neck with a finger nail and he quit moving. She quickly moved to the next one who was running towards her, ready to grab her.
Enzo had to act fast. He headed for the main computer and inserted a floppy disk. The base shook again with the external assault. His teams logo appeared on the large computer screen. Enzo typed in the code to activate the program and pressed ENTER.
The program began to process the request. Enzo turned around to see how his friends were fairing. The guards were dropping left and right around AndrAIa and Rom was sitting on the chest of User, punching with all his might. Frisket was gnawing on the Users leg.
Enzo looked down at himself. He wasnt very tall or very strong. He had a keytool that hardly worked and only one eye. I need something to protect both AndrAIa and myself while were lost in the Net... I cant do it like this. Wait... that prototype! I could have the operation and I would be able see, as well target with it... if they give me a gun that is... Enzo was begining to get excited, but then he thought Bob. Would he want me to do this? Maybe I should really think this over. Enzo turned to the computer to see the screen say: Enter password: Enzo typed the password and pressed 'Enter'.
The computer screen turned a bright aqua colour and the computer replied, Take over complete.
The Game cube was out of the system like a bullet out of a gun. Rom looked down at his young charges. He had to admit, they knew a lot about Games, but still they had a lot to learn.
He smiled Great job, guys. And you too, Frisket. Now that the User deleted the food that I bought, a small scowl flashed on Roms face but instantly disappeared as he continued, Well go get some real food!
Enzo and AndrAIa nodded. They were both starving. A loud deep rumble sounded from Frisket. AndrAIa looked at him sternly. She was about to scold him when Enzo interrupted.
Its okay, AndrAIa. I think that was his stomach.
Everyone laughed and followed Rom to a restaurant.
A full and happy red and yellow dog peered into the large square window at the trio of data sprites sitting inside. Rom, Enzo and AndrAIa were just finishing a large meal. Enzo looked out the window with a far off look upon his face. Frisket barked at him, snapping him out of the dreamy state and made him smile. Enzo waved at his faithful companion and turned to the others. Frisket lay down in the parking lot beside the restaurant to take a nap.
AndrAIa took her last bite of green cilicon chips. Thanks for the lunch, Rom. It was wonderful! she said as she finished chewing. It has been minutes since weve had a meal like that.
Rom beamed. It was my pleasure. Besides, how could I be a good Guardian if I let you two... pointing to Frisket and Frisket go hungry? Not a very nice one, thats what. He smiled and looked at the two teen sprites sitting across from him. He didnt know much about him. Maybe this was the perfect time... He searched his memory-banks for a question to ask. Finding one, he looked at AndrAIa. AndrAIa, when you were introducing yourself and Enzo when we first met, you said your format was game sprite. How is that possible?
Understanding his confusion, AndrAIa smiled knowingly. Well, Enzo and I just met about three hours ago, but we were in the game for most of that time. Were just new friends, but were best friends. Her smile grew as she looked at the green sprite. We met in a game. The... Lost...Treasure of... Atlantis, she said slowly, trying to remember. Enzo rescued me from the User. Enzo blushed slightly. We started talking and had a great time getting to know each other, but Enzo didnt know that I was a game sprite. He thought that I was from his home system, Mainframe, and had just never seen me before. When the User was about to win, I downloaded a copy of myself on Enzos icon and hoped that my experiment worked. I put Enzo into an escape-pod and shot him to beat the User to the treasure.
Yeah, but you paralysed me when you did that. Enzo pointed out. Something that I dont want to go through again.
Well, as you can see, AndrAIa said to Rom. My experiment worked and Im out of the game. I love it, but theres so many new things Im still not used to. She finished.
Rom nodded and spoke out, But if youre a game sprite, how can you Reboot?
It was then that AndrAIa gave Rom a close look at her icon. I can change my icon to ReBoot. She clicked on her triangular icon, with the letters AI on it, and to Roms astonishment, it changed into the reconizable round reboot icon. She clicked again and it transformed again to its original triangular shape.
Wow! Rom exclaimed quietly. He had never seen anything like that before. The Guardian Academy hadnt shown him anything like that before either. Then turning to Enzo, he said, Enzo, you werent willing to tell me what happened to you before you came to Power Grid. Now that were friends, would you want to tell me now? You still dont have to if you dont want to, but Im willing to listen.
Enzo looked at him, considering his offer of listening to his not so distant past. It was still fresh in his mind and it hurt to think about it, let alone talk about it. Maybe it will help to talk about it, though. Get it out in the open. He thought. He looked at AndrAIa beside him, who reached out and held his hand in a silent encouragement. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly and began his tragic tale.
It all began when I... sorry, we were in that game... you know the one; the tournament fighting one. I won one round, then the User beat me in the second round. It was one-all and it was up to me to win because it was the final level and both AndrAIa and Frisket were in another window, so they couldnt help at all. Thats when the User... he stopped, unable to continue.
Its okay, Enzo. You dont have to tell me. Rom replied, putting his hand on the young sprites shoulder.
Enzo shook his head and Rom removed his hand. No. I have to get this out. He took another deep breath. Thats when the User did... this. he said and pointed to his right eye.
Rom cringed. Im so sorry, Enzo. I had no idea.
Thats not all. Like I said before, I lost the game. The User won. Lost it.... he rested his forehead on his right hand and fell silent.
But why werent you nullified? Rom queried.
AndrAIa answered this question. Because his icon works the same as mine. He can change to game sprite mode as well. Frisket too!
Roms eyes opened wide. It all made sense now. Thats how they arrived in Power Grid; with the game. Then he looked at Enzo, who was close to tears. Now, Ive made him upset. Ive got to make him feel better, somehow... I know.
Enzo, youve been to the Guardian Academy, correct?
Enzo shook his head. Never seen it. I was training from home.... his voice broke on the word home.
Well, let me tell you about when I was there. I had this amazing teacher. He taught Game Strategy 101. It was my favorite class. Not only was he my teacher, he was one of my best friends.
Enzo looked up and listened to Rom. He wiped a tear that had began to roll down his cheek. Sounds so nice.
He tutored me when I needed help in any class. Hed always listen to me if I had a problem. He became my hero. Ever since he left to defend a system, Ive really missed him. Its my goal in life to be like him. Now I strive to treat others the way he would. I think to myself, What would Bob do? and I answer myself...
Enzo sat straight up and looked intently at Rom. Bob? As in, Guardian 452? he interrupted.
Rom looked at Enzo, a strange look in his eye. Yeah...how do you know him?
Enzos face beamed. He came to Mainframe! He was our Guardian! Then despair clouded over his face. But hes in the Web now. Megabyte shot him into the Web.
Roms face turned even whiter. The Web? No one said anything for several nanos. Then Rom spoke up. Im sure Bob would have found a way to survive. He taught a giant class Game Strategy. If he can survive that, he can survive the Web. he joked. But seriously, Im sure hes fine.
Enzo nodded solemnly, as Desktop beeped and Surges face appeared on the tiny screen. Rom, the prototype has been prepared for... he said glancing down at a clipboard ...one Enzo Matrix. We are ready for him whenever he wants to look at it.
Rom thanked Surge and ended the transmission. Ready, Enzo?
Enzo looked at Glitch and AndrAIa. Yes. Im going to do it. Ill have the operation. Im a little scared but I know both of you will be there for me. He said as he stood out of the booth.
Sure we will, Enzo. AndrAIa responded.
Lets go. Rom said gently as all three stood to their feet.
The three sprites flew silently to the centre of the city. Enzo's stomach tighted around the undigested meal. He had felt fine ten nanos ago, but the closer they got to the Principal Office, the more nervous he became. Was he doing the right thing? What would Bob think?
They walked into the examining room and were greeted by Surge and the head doctor, Medic.
The greeting was warm but solem. The small group walked quietly to the back room towards a small, round table. On the table were the instruments for the operation, including a shiny, gold sphere. Everyone crowded around the table as Surge picked up the gold ball and presented it to Enzo; who took it gingerly from the binomes' hand and carefully looked at the object.
At first glance, there wasn't much to it. The artifical eye just seemed to be a polished golden sphere. It wasn't heavy either. Turning the innocent looking ball in his palm, Enzo found an interesting marking etched into the clean, cool surface. The marking was in the shape of a stylized 'M'. What was really odd was that there was an identical marking on the other side of the eye, only this one had several othe small lines surrounding the 'M'.
"That's the targeting scanner," Surge explained. "It has a direct link to the gun."
Enzo smiled to himself. His gaze returned to the artifical eye. It didn't seem so innocent any longer - rather, it ws a welcome aide to help see AndrAIa and Frisket safely through the games, the web to find Bob and hopefully, back to Mainframe. M? "What does that M stand for?" Enzo asked.
Surge smurked "Mercenary. It was designed for a mercenary but it works for anyone." he chuckled.
"Mercenary," Enzo's voice was quiet and thoughtful as he looked again at the prototype. Enzo grinned at the thought.
Rom behind him laughed softly. "It could stand for Matrix. In fact, I think it was designed for Enzo more than anyone else. Enzo needs an eye; a prototype eye is created. Enzo's last name is Matrix; the prototype has an 'M' molded into it. Maybe you should go by the name 'Matrix' now."
"Hey. That's right Rom." AndrAIa exclaimed excitedly. "That's pixelatious!"
Enzo's smile disappeared as he handed the sphere back to Surge.
AndrAIa put her hand on Enzo's shoulder. "Are you sure about this, Enzo?"
"I think so. We have no way to defend ourselves in the Net; Glitch is broken, Dot and Mouse aren't here to help us. We're going to be on our own for the most part. Except for the occational friend." He said as he glanced up at Rom, who smiled calmly. "Plus, Bob's out there in the Web and I have a promise to keep to Dot. He needs our help to get back." Enzo decided, "Let's do it!"
AndrAIa smiled, took the starfish out of her hair and held it in her hand for Enzo. "Here, take this. I'm probably not allowed to be in the operating room with you but you can hold this and think of me. You can also know that I'm thinking of you at the same time."
Enzo too it and held it tightly in both hands. "I will, thanks."
Medic stepped forward. "Are you ready, young sprite?"
Enzo nodded, "Yes sir. I'm ready."
"Follow me, please." the head doctor replied softly as he began walking toward a side room off the operating room.
The two sprites and Surge watched Enzo, following Medic, walk into the room and the electronic door shut behind them. Frisket lay on the floor and refused to be moved.
Rom took AndrAIa gently by her shoulders and guided her to the exit. "He'll be okay AndrAIa. He's in good hands."
The game sprite wiped an unseen tear from her cheek. "I know Rom, I know. I just..." AndrAIa's voice wavered with emotion. "I just care for him so much. I know he is well taken care of, but I can't help but worry." As the doors shut behind them, AndrAIa let out a deep sigh.
Rom knelt down on one knee and gave AndrAIa a warm hug. "He's going to be fine. No need to worry." As Rom let go, he got an idea. "Hey, I know," his voice was soft as he spoke. "Why don't we go do a little shopping for you and Enzo to get your mind off matters? Both Enzo and yourself need new clothes, right? Let's do that now and have some fun."
AndrAIa's face slowly grew a smile and she nodded. "Ok. That sounds like a good idea." Then both sprites walked out of the Principal Office towards the market.
AndrAIa's eye's sparkled with delight as her gaze jumped from shop to shop. She and Rom stolled down the pedestrian only street. Binomes stopped what they were doing and stared at their Guardian who was accompanied by a young female Sprite. AndrAIa didn't notice; she was too preoccupied with the Market Place. Suddenly, AndrAIa's eyes widened in excitement. She grabbed Rom's arm and pulled him to the left, into a tiny shop.
The small shop was a jewelry, filled with every accessory imaginable. AndrAIa looked in the glass cases at the beautiful gems. Then she saw something that made her heart leap into her throat. There, right infront of her was a sliver, gem-plated sanddollar necklace and Sprite hair piece, that was also a sanddollar, to go with it. She hadn't seen a sanddollar since 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis'. It was obviously for special occations and for AndrAIa, it brought back both good and bad memories upon seeing it. "Oh Rom..." she whispered. "I've never seen anything like this before. It's much more than pixelatious. It's magnificent!"
Rom walked up beside her. "That is beautiful.... It would look great on you." AndrAIa blushed.
The binome behind the counter cleared his throat to get the Sprites' attention. "May I be of assisstance in any way?" he asked in a deep English tone.
"Oh...?" AndrAIa looked up, slightly startled and backed away from the display case. "No, sorry. I was just looking."
"Then I am afraid," said the binome "that you will have to leave if you are not perchasing an item. I am sorry."
AndrAIa's face fell as she looked at Rom, and headed for the output. Rom shook his head disapprovingly at the binome and followed the young female sprite.
"How could he be so mean, Guardian?" AndrAIa asked after they had walked in silence for several nanos. "I just don't understand."
"Neither do I, AndrAIa." Rom sighed. "Some people are just like that, and they're everywhere you go." They continued to walk down the street, when Rom saw a wardrobe up-grade shop. "Hey AndrAIa, why don't we go in here. They might have something that you would like."
The clothing shop was larger than the previous one, and had a more friendly atmosphere. A very cheerful binome female greeted them.
"Why, hello Guardian. What can I do for you today?"
"Hello Stitch. I don't need anything for myself today. I'm here to help my young friend," he said gestering to AndrAIa, who was already looking at many tiny screens displaying varieties of outfits.
Stitches, was a slightly plump, cheerful binome with sparkling green eyes and large hoop earings. Her short, red hair was curled neatly and stayed tight to her cubed head. She smiled kindly at AndrAIa and walked towards her.
As the binome aproached, AndrAIa turned around to face it. The clothing store owner studied AndrAIa's appearance and features very closely and walked all the way around her, drinking in every detail. "Crouch down, my dear." she instructed. "Don't worry, I won't byte." she winked.
AndrAIa did as she was told and the studying continued. Stitches put her hands under AndrAIa's chin and gently began turning her head.
"My dear," the binome said as she let go. "You are very beautiful. "AndrAIa blushed and smiled shyly.
"Now, let's see..." the woman began thinking out loud. "...Orange skin, aqua eyes and hair..." Stitches began typing the observations into a tiny organizer. "...Looks very nice in blues and greens..." then she looked up. "Tell me, my dear, what style of clothing would you like to purchase? Loose fiting?"
AndrAIa considered this for a nano, then shook her head. "No thank you. I would like to stay with the type of clothing I'm wearing now, please." Then her eyes fell upon her crossbow on her left arm. Concidering the possible dangers that she and Enzo might face on the Net, her weapon didn't seem to be enough protection any longer. What was she going to do about that?
"Miss," AndrAIa began. "Would it be possible to get an upgrade of a larger weapon than this?" she asked as she lifted her left arm slightly.
"But, why would you want one, Hun? Power Grid is a very safe system; you don't need a weapon at all."
AndrAIa shook her head. "I'm not sure that Enzo and I are going to stay in Power Grid for longer than we have to. We have to find Mainframe."
"Well, Darling. I'll see what I can find that might suit you." Stitches looked back at the organizer and began pressing more buttons. The binome smiled pleasently when she finally came to a product that pleased her. "You'll like this. I guarentee it, but I'm not going to tell you what it is yet. It's going to be my surprise," and she typed it in. "Okay, now we wait a few nanos for the organizer to give us several options to choose from." She said as she layed it down on the counter.
"Oh!" Rom snapped his fingers. "Enzo! He's another young sprite that needs new clothes, Stitch. I almost forgot."
AndrAIa looked up at Rom and remembered one of the reasons why they were shopping; to get her mind off of Enzo's operation. She lowered her head in silence.
"He's a young sprite, about the same age as AndrAIa," Rom said, describing Enzo for Stitches. "Green skin, um..." he replied as he looked around the room looking for the colour of Enzo's face, and upon seeing a uniform of a word processor binome that was close to the colour, he pointed at it. "Like that. Dark green hair, purple eyes.... Oh!" Rom stopped and looked at AndrAIa. Several tears had begun to trickle down her face as she stood motionless in the middle of the store. Her shoulder length hair hid some of her face, but not enough to hide her emotions. "Oh AndrAIa, I'm sorry." He said apologetically.
AndrAIa shook her head. "No, it's all right. You didn't mean it." She said as she wiped the tears from her face. "I'm just so worried and I wish I knew he was ok." She sniffed and quietly walked to the back of the shop and looked at other outfit screens.
Stitches looked at Rom. "What was that about?"
Rom sighed, "The sprite that I was describing to you is in surgery at the moment. He lost his eye in a game and is testing out a proyotype for Surge. Also, right now, AndrAIa and Enzo are lost in the Net, and they have no idea where their home is and how to get there if they did.
"Oh the poor young dears." Stitches sympathetically glanced at the teary AndrAIa. "I do hope that they make it back home." Then Rom continued to describe Enzo to her, for a new set of clothes.
AndrAIa stood near the back of the shop and wiped the few tears that had been rolling down her cheeks. Why was she crying? She knew deep down that Enzo was alright and this was the best for him. She sat down on a small stool and looked down at her shoes. Enzo's been really down lately and being really hard on himself. Maybe this will help him get back to his old cheerful self.
Someone calling her name snapped AndrAIa back the reality. She looked towards the voice and saw Stitches gesturing to her ot return to the front of the shop. AndrAIa stood up and joined her near the cash counter. Stitches handed her the organizer that had just finished analizing the given information and now displayed four different pictures of AndrAIa wearing different outfits.
Everyone of them AndrAIa liked; the colours were her favourite and the styles were very nice. The first one, was close fitting and it was also made of the same scale-like pattern that she was currently wearing. The top was a tank top cut short at the bottom of the ribcage. The shorts were the exact same design that she was currently wore; spandex-type that stopped right above the knee. The shoes were also the same as well, just a few sizes larger. Around the model's upper arm was a bracelette of sorts that didn't close; just spiraled around twice then stopped. AndrAIa really liked that feature.
The other outfits were basically the same except for various sleeve length, pant leg length and a variety of shoe and boot styles.
As she looked at the four pictures, she found that she liked certain things from each selection. "Is it possible to choose different items from each picture?" She inquired to the binome, who was waiting for the final verdict on her decision.
"Why of course, dearie" Stitches giggled as she walked around to see AndrAIa's waredrobe changes.
"Ok, I like the cut off tank top and the long pants," she said as she pointed to each item. Stitches nodded and listened to the young sprite. After AndrAIa was finished, the woman binome too the organizer from her and put all of the choices onto one model to show the sprite what it would look like.
When the game sprite saw the final froduct, her face light up and she clapped her hands together in delight. "I love it!"
Stitches nodded knowingly and put her hand out. "You like it? Is this what you would like?"
"Oh, yes please!" AndrAIa gasped happily.
"Ok my dear, I'll need your icon for just a nano."
The smile disappeared from the young sprite face as she protectively covered her triangular icon. "What for?"
"Don't worry, Sweetie. I just have to download the clothing onto it and I'll give it right back. That's all."
AndrAIa looked down at her icon, knowing how important it was to her very exsistance. The slightest tamper with her PID and she could be in real danger; it could even result in her complete deletion. She took off her icon carefully and gingerly handed it to the binome. The woman took the small triangle and looked at it.
"Oh, the outfit organizer can only takes circular icons."
"Of course. I forgot." AndrAIa apologized as she reached out and clicked once on her icon. Immediatly, her icon changed into the black and white rebooting one.
Stitches mouth dropped open in surprise as she stared at the round icon. She quickly shook her head and placed the tiny object into it's spot on the organizer. The circle glowed with a pale white light for a nano-second, then faded away without any indication that there had been any exchange of information. The binome seperated the icon from the organizer and handed it back to the owner. AndrAIa thanked Stitches, relieved to get it back in her possession. She put it back on her belt and waited. Nothing happened.
"What do I do now?" the young sprite asked.
"Why Sweetheart? Haven't you done this before?" the elderly binome inquired slightly concerned. Surely a sprite her age would know what to do for a clothing up-grade.
"No, ma'am, I haven't" AndrAIa said plainly.
Rom walked back toward the young shopper. He had been slowly walking around the store, waiting for AndrAIa to finish. "Just double click on your icon."
AndrAIa looked up. "That's it? I don't have to say anything?"
"Nothing what-so-ever." Rom smiled. "Just double click your icon and the up-grade takes care of itself."
AndrAIa glanced down at her icon. Everything was so different to her; life in the games was so easy. AndrAIa didn't think that she'd ever get used to it all.
She double clicked her icon, and after she did, her clothes were transformed from the outfit that she had recieved in the game where she originated, to the new clothes that she had just picked out.
The cropped off tank top fit wonderfully and her new minurature boots didn't hurt her feet and she also had a new pink starfish in her hair; courtesy of Stitches. She smiled, pleased with the result of her choices. Then she noticed something on her hip, attached to her belt.
It seemed to be a small, white rod with coral-blue spots. It was sturdy and built from a strong, metallic material. AndrAIa looked at it curiously. She unsheathed it and held it in her hand. It was a little heavy, but nothing she couldn't manage. She applied some pressure and the rod expanded to a length about one and a half times her own height. It did so with great speed and made a metallic swishing sound.Her hand gripped halfway between the ends. The end of the rod had split into three ornate blades. It was a beautifully crafted trident but despite its elegance it was a very powerful and deadly weapon. She squeezed the handle deliberately again. The trident retracted back to the rod-like state. She placed it back on her belt and joyfully hugged the kindly old binome.
"I'm glad you like it dear. Now for your friend. Do you think that you would the clothes for him?" Stitiches asked quietly, as to not upset AndrAIa again.
"I guess so." AndrAIa nodded. "I think I can do that."
"Ok, dear. Let's begin."
AndrAIa walked into Enzo's hospital room where he had been transported to recover and recoperate from his operation. She walked quietly to his bedside as to not to wake her friend, who was sleeping peacefully. Pulling a chair over, she sat down quietly and watched Enzo's silent breathing. The right side of Enzo's head was badaged snug to his head and he wore a white t-shirt and shorts that hospital staff had given him.
AndrAIa leaned over and gently touched Enzo's cheek. She was releaved that he was safe and well. She sat back and relaxed in the back of the chair.
It had been a long day and she was getting tired. She was about to close her eyes, when she glanced at Enzo's hands. He was tightly holding on to something, even in his sleep. She leaned foward again to see what it was, when she reliezed that it was her old star fish that she had given to him. He had held on to it during the entire operation. AndrAIa's eyes slowly filled up with joyful tears. She sniffed as she looked again at Enzo's face.
"I love you, Enzo Matrix." she whispered to the sleeping sprite.
Enzo's left eye fluttered slightly and opened. He looked around then turned to face AndrAIa. He smiled weakly and spoke in a husky whisper. "I love you too, AndrAIa."
AndrAIa reached out, took hold of Enzo's hand that was on his chest and squeezed. Enzo, weak as he was squeezed as tighly as he could back to his young friend. "You should get some rest, Enzo. You need your strength." AndrAIa spoke quietly.
Enzo nodded. "You also look like you've had a long day. You need to sleep too."
AndrAIa smiled sweetly and layed her head to rest on Enzo's chest, while he closed his eye, and soon both of them were sound asleep.
Two cycles later, AndrAIa was playing with Frisket in the public park near Rom's apartment. She threw the small ball and watched as the red and yellow dog chase after it. She sat down on a park bench slowly to take a short rest just as Frisket came running back with the ball in his mouth. She removed the ball from his mouth and scratched the top of his head.
"In a nano, boy. I just have to sit for a while."
Frisket nodded, wagged his tail and sat down patiently on the green grass next to the bench.
AndrAIa rolled the small rubber ball in her hand as she sat quietly.
Enzo's eye was healing very well, after the operation and had been learning all of the different functions of the prototype from Medic. The gun that the prototype was networked was as long as Enzo's thigh and very light in weight.
Enzo's favourite function of the prototype of electronic eye, was the targeting and locking onto objects, only to shoot them and cause them to explode into thousands of pieces with the gun that it was networked to. He wasen't perfect at it but he was getting better; he was actually hiting his choosen targets at the CPU enforcers training centre.
Also, AndrAIa was taking lessons onto how to work to use her new trident. She was surprised at how many different uses it had, but being a game sprite, she learned very quickly.
Rom hadn't been able to take Enzo to get his waredrobe upgrade during the past two cycles, because the Guardian had been too busy mending tears and keeping the city save for it's inhabitants. Enzo had just continued to wear the white clothing that the hospital had temporarily given him. Rom was finally taking him today to get his clothing upgrade that AndrAIa had picked out. She hoped that Enzo liked what she chose for him. They should be back soon.
She put her hands on her knees and stood up. "Ready Frisket?" she asked her speachless companion. Frisket looked at her and stood up excitedly. AndrAIa took the rubber ball in her hand and threw it as far as she could. The large dog ran quickly after it.
I wonder how Enzo and Rom are doing? she thought as Frisket returned with the ball for the hundreth time.
Enzo placed Glitch on the counter of the waredrobe-upgrade shop and watched Rom use Desktop to cut Enzo's Guardian sliver wrist guards in half. Rom said that they soon wouldn't fit Enzo's wrists, but they were critical protection for a defender of a system; Guardian or not. As Rom finished cutting, the wrist guards came off like a cast. Enzo picked one up and looked at it. It wasn't too heavy and it was very smooth on the inside. He handed them to Stitches, who walked to the back of the room to resize two halves and melt the other two for him. He picked up his icon, placed it back on his chest and double clicked.
Enzo looked down at his new clothes. The black shirt he wore had short sleeves and conformed to the shape of his torso and upper arms. His pants were a dark navy colour and they disappeared into his black, shin high boots that laced up to the very top. His hands were now contained in a pair of tight leather gloves that had their fingers removed to protect his palms from slight damage. Enzo smiled pleasently. Then he saw something that he didn't understand. The tops of shoulders on the t-shirt were the guardian patened epaulettes and on his knees were 'the ever popular' knee-pads of a official Guardian. Enzo looked at them curiously.
"Why do I have these?" he asked, indicating the soft yellow padding.
Rom smiled. "Because you still have the Guardian code within your PID, whether you like it or not. You still have the need to 'mend and defend' systems and all the people in it. Once you've received the guardian badge of office, you can't get rid of it."
Enzo nodded. "So, I'm stuck with the code. That's fine by me."
Stitches came back with two halves of wrist guard and handed them to Rom. "Turn you arms so that your palms are facing down." he instructed to Enzo. The green sprite did as he was told and Rom placed a partical guard on each arm, then tied them on firmly to his forearms. "It's not too tight?" he asked.
Enzo shook his head no, then asked what they were doing with the other halves.
"We're melting them down to make a belt for you. As you can see, Glitch can't sit on your arm any longer with the leather straps, so were going to make you a special belt just for Glitch. Keytools can only sit on a certain metal called 'tiranium', so, we can't just use any metal." Rom explained. "By the way," he added. "AndrAIa picked out your clothes. I think she did a great job."
Enzo looked down at his clothes again. "AndrAIa got these?"
Rom nodded. "Just for you."
Enzo didn't speak for a nano. Rom put his hand onto Enzo's shoulder. "You like her, don't you?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. Enzo blushed slightly and nodded. "I've got an idea." Rom said knowingly. "After we finish your belt, I'm going to take you somewhere."
Enzo and Rom were walking back to the Guardians' apartment, when Enzo heard Frisket bark to his left. He turned and saw AndrAIa playing catch with his four legged compainion.
Rom looked as well, then nudged Enzo's arm. "Go on."
Enzo looked back at the older Guardian with a look of gratitude on his face . "Rom, you're the best!" he said softly and began walking towards AndrAIa.
As Enzo approached, AndrAIa looke up and smiled. Enzo smiled shyly as he walked closer.
"Do you like your clothes, Enzo? I picked them out for you." AndrAIa greeted him.
"Yeah. I really like them. Thank you." Enzo's voice was soft as he pulled a small, black velvet box from his new belt made of a chain and held it out for AndrAIa to take. She picked up the box and slowly opened it. When she saw what was inside, she gasped.
Inside was the sanddollar necklace and hair piece that she had seen in the jewelers when she and Rom had gone shopping. Tears slowly began to fill her eyes as she looked up at Enzo, who smiled shyly in return.
"Thank you." she whispered and she reached over and hugged his neck, while Enzo hugged her waist.
When AndrAIa opened her eyes, she saw Rom standing in the distance and it made her smile. She knew that Enzo couldn't have afforded the necklace but it was really from both of the male sprites that she had grown to care about.
The two young sprites let go of each other and looked at Frisket, who was just standing beside them, wagging his tail. Enzo helped put on the new necklace and AndrAIa put her new starfish on the right side of her head and placed the sand dollar on the left.
"You look beautiful, AndrAIa." Enzo said, holding both of her hands in his own. Their faces moved closer together when...
"Warning...Incoming game... Warning...Incoming game..."
From where Enzo and AndrAIa were standing, both could hear Rom's shout of frustration as the cube began to decend on the park area. They both laughed, because they knew that the User of this system would input a game every minute on schedual and Rom was getting tired of that.
Rom ran up to them just a nano before the cube landed on the green grass.
The trio of sprites looked around them. They were in a darkly lit, moist hall made with large brown blocks. Down the hallway was a door with large bars perpendicuar to the floor. Down the other way, the tunnel ended ended abruptly with a large opening to a body of water that was muddy and with a slight odor.
"Glitch: Game stats." The keytool clicked and transformed into the tiny viewing screen.
Rom waited paticently while Enzo read the stats aloud. "Ok, guys. We're on the second last level of a game called 'Tremor'. The User has to make it through this level to get to the Boss and finish the game."
"Ok, lets see what we get to work with." Rom reached up to his icon.
"ReBoot!" all three sprites shouted simultaneously.
All three sprites were transformed from their coloured clothes to bland brown, clothes and accessories. Each were wearing dark brown commando boots, camo pants and light tan tanktops. Each had different types of ammuntion straped to belts or bandoliers. Enzo and Rom's hair was cut millitary style and dark brown, nearly black. AndrAIa's was cut short as well and tied back with a small black wire.
After looking at each other, the three sprites looked down at themselves.
AndrAIa was now strapped to a very large rocket launcher that was almost the size of the entire trunk of her body. The shells for the rocket were the size of her upper arm and very heavy.
Rom held in his left hand a giant chainsaw that was the length of his arm and on his belt was a small pistol that would hold a maximum of 8 shells at a time.
Enzo didn't receive any weapon, which was fine with him. He was content to use his own gun.
The three sprites, plus one black dovermen walked toward the barred door in search of the User, while Rom began telling Enzo the few functions that Glitch could still perform.
Shots rang out as the active shells bounced off the walls of the maze of hallways and couridors. The sprites hid just out of reach of the Users' speeding shells and fired back around the courners when they could. Rom and AndrAIa were on one side of the doorway, Enzo and Frisket were on the other.
Frisket just stood beside his master, ready to defend him when it was necessary.
"This is useless!" Enzo shouted over the racket. "We can't do this forever. The User has one more life left after this and we're eventually going to run out of ammo."
Just then, the User began to take a suicide run towards them, shooting with all It's might. One of the shots just missed AndrAIa's rocket launcher and landed too close for comfort for the small group.
When Enzo saw AndrAIa's hair get slightly singed by the explosion, something inside him burned with rage. He stepped out into the hallway where the User was charging him is a desperate act to win.
"Enzo! No!" Rom shouted after him.
Enzo's prototype eye rotated until the 'M' that was carved out was visable, turned right sideup and glowed red as it targeted the User. The gun shook in Enzo's hand as he fire a shot at the User. The User staggared then disappeared, returning to the beginning of the level to start over.
AndrAIa's jaws dropped in amazement.
Rom's shocked expression turned into a pleased smile. "Nice shot Enzo! I don't think even I could have done that."
Enzo let out a long breath and walked towards AndrAIa. "Are you alright?" he asked softly.
AndrAIa nodded. "I'm fine Enzo. You were terrific. Bob would be so proud of you." She said and she stood and kissed him on the cheek, then she pulled away and had a stern look pasted on her face. "But you almost got yourself deleted! Promise me you'll never do that again." She scolded with a small glint in her eye that meant that she was joking more than being serious.
Off in the distance, Rom heard the gun fire from the User and it was getting closer with every moment. "We have to get a move on." He motioned the younger sprites to follow him.
Enzo and AndrAIa walked a little ways behind Rom as he checked all of the courners for the game sprites.
Enzo looked at AndrAIa. About a cycle ago, they had decided to leave with the next game that arrived. They haden't told Rom about this yet. But this was not a very charming game to stay too long in and they both were having second thoughts about it. There was always a chance that they would get stuck in the game and never be able to get out.
"Enzo," AndrAIa whispered quietly. "We have to chance it. This even might take us to Mainframe. If it does and we miss it, we might never find our way back."
Enzo concidered it for a nano then nodded. "You're right. This might be our only shot. We have to tell Rom. Rom," he called. The older sprite turned around. "AndrAIa and I have decided to leave with this game. We really appreciate all that you've done for us the past two cycles and we wish that we could repay you some..."
"No need to Enzo. I enjoyed doing it. Besides, any friend of Bob's is a friend of mine." He smiled. "Oh, but there is one thing that you can do for me."
Enzo's left eye brightened. "What? Just name it."
"Find Bob. Get him out of the Web and find Mainframe. That's what I want you to do for me. Oh, and one more thing," he said as he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the small read me file on Games that he had bought at the 'Fastie Mart' store. "I think you need thins more than I do for now."
Enzo took it from Rom and hugged him. "You're Alphanumeric, Rom. We'll never forget you."
"I certainly hope not. Now change your icons and let's finish off this User, ok?"
Both AndrAIa and Enzo nodded sadly and clicked their icons once. Enzo bent over and did the same to Frisket's. All three icons morphed into the triangular icons of an Artifical Intelignet game sprites.
Down the hall, they could hear the heavy breathing of the User. Enzo held Frisket back, even though he knew that Frisket would just start up again with a new game; he didn't want to see him being shot twice in his life time.
AndrAIa tapped Rom on the shoulder. "Before we leave with the game, I'd like to say good-bye..."
"Why say good-bye? I'm sure will see each other again. Never think that we won't." Rom grinned. "Ok, on the count of three well hit the User with all we've got. Ready?"
With two nods, Rom started counting "One... two... three!" and three sprites jumped from behind the wall where they had been hiding and began pelting the User with death blows from their weapons.
When the User was almost finished Rom turned quickly and shook Enzo's hand. "Good luck, AndrAIa, Frisket and Enzo Matrix. I hope you find your home."
Enzo shook back. "Thank you Rom. I hope to find you again some day."
"I bet you will." Turning to AndrAIa, Rom added. "AndrAIa, the User is all yours."
She looked sadly at Rom, said goodbye with her eyes, then at the User as a cruel smile spread across her face. "Game over, User!" She raised her rocket launcher and fired her last shell right into the Users gun barrel. The barrel exploded and left no trace of gun or User.
AndrAIa and Enzo quickly waved their last goodbye and held each others hands.
Rom watched the game cube with his new friends, who had downloaded into it, leave. "I hope you find Bob..." He smiled, "and say 'Hi!' for me." Then he remembered something. Crashes! I forgot to tell Enzo about game time. Oh well. As he turned to go back to his apartment to have a good sleep, a red portal opened behind him and a small, slim female figure jumped out. Rom whirled around to face the interloper of system, "State your name and function!" he demanded.
The trespasser was a tall female with black, smooth skin and bright green eyes, which seemed to pulsate with every heartbeat. Her hair was a very deep magenta and her clothing was a tight navy suit with a green trim that match her eyes. Rom had to admit, she was very beautiful.
A cruel smile spread across the woman's face, showing small, white sharp teeth and she extended her pure white nails. "My name is Daemon. My function... Super Virus... to infect everything and everyone....and that includes you!" As she finished speaking, she leaped over Rom to distract him, and she placed her hands on his icon, as if to demonstrate her function to infect.
Rom screamed in pain as he felt the viral influence begin to flow into his programming. He was in so much pain that he dropped to his knees. His body seemed to cease functioning, because he couldn't move to fight off the virus and perhaps save at lease something of himself. In vain, he fell to the ground, writhing in agony.
Finally, after a several nanos, Daemon left go of Rom and stood back to admired her work. "Now," she replied with a satisfied smile on her face. "Where is Guardian 452? He was right here a few nanos ago."
Rom looked up at the virus, "Guardian 452 is not here! He never was!" he spat.
The smile disappeared from the virus' face. "What do you mean he's not here?!" Daemon sounded peeved. "Of course he's here! My censors detected him!"
"Well, your censors are wrong, virus! He was never here and you will never find him!" The veins in Rom's temples pulsated green at the same rate at Daemon's was as he tried to keep his head clear. His programming was slowly changing to meet the desire of the Super Virus' design.
Daemon smiled again and stared at the sky with a dreamy look. "Oh, I'll find him, my little Guardian follower. I've already taken over three quarters of the Super Computer and it won't be too long before all of the Guardians in every system will be following me." She let out a little laugh as if she remembered a joke she had heard a long time ago and still found it funny.
Rom looked at the sky at the very spot where the last game cube had disappeared. Rom's head was spinning. Now Enzo, I really wish you luck, not only for your self but for you to save the entire Net. You'll need it. You have to find Bob. You have to save... Mainframe. You have to... save the... Net. You... have to... save... me... then everything around Rom went black.
Note to readers: I've been thinking of writing a sequel to this fic that takes place either right after this story or a season IV fic. If you have any ideas that you think might be helpful, please e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.