The Worlds Beyond: Part 1

"Hey Jake! Ready for that multiplayer game yet? C'mon, try out your new modem already. I haven't really played anything for a while."

"Sure, just let me finish the game I'm playing now."

"Whatcha' playing?"

"That fighting game between all those demons and gods, you know the one."

"O.K. Did you talk to Kevin?"

"Not really. I phoned an hour ago, but he said he was busy doing something. Too bad, I really want my game back by now."

"Yeah, well. That guy gives me the creeps. I swear, he's done some really illegal stuff on that computer of his."

"Like you haven't?"

"Hey, nothing that's serious enough to make the cops come out or anything. I just don't like him."

"Is that because of his.. uh... interest in you?"

"Gee thanks for reminding me, Jay."

"Sorry. I've gotta hang up now. Phone you later."

"See ya."

Jill hung up the phone and brushed away her brown hair from her face. "Ah, privacy," she muttered, listening to the quiet in her house.

Her family had gone for four days. She wasn't legally supposed to be home alone (she was 14) but her parents both were needed at some political meeting or other (nothing too serious, they had assured her) and simply couldn't hire a babysitter for her.

Well that was fine, as far as she was concerned. Jill had the whole place to herself. And the babysitter probably would have called her "Jillian", instead of Jill. She HATED that. Only her parents called her Jillian. But they were gone.

Grinning, she leaned back in her chair and started up her computer.

* * *

A sea.

Blue, purple, and green, glowing gently, a white wash of energy passing over it from time to time.

A city.

Pieces of it torn apart by a horrific war that has left the inhabitants bewildered and lost.

A wall of fire.

Burning and pulsing, entrapping an army, its flames like nothing ever seen on Earth.

A tower.

Huge and red and gold, looming menacingly in the evening sky.

A figure.

Metallic blue, green and red, and not happy looking at all.

* * *

"What do you mean, he's still alive?!" An angry voice reverberated through the Tor. The owner of the voice (which is a deep, intelligent sounding, and slightly English accented voice) was currently debating whether to kill the two mechanical henchmen cowering in front of him right now, or use them for cannon fodder.

"Well, you see..."

"That is..."

"He kind of..."

"Sort of..."

"Ran off..."

"No he didn't, you let him..."

"Um, no I didn't..."

"What we're trying to say is..."

"Enough!!!" The two figures cowered at the sudden outburst. "Hack, Slash..." the unidentified figure said, suddenly icy calm. "You are to be sent to the front line. Go there and wait for the next time we break through."

The babble of voices broke out again. "But BOSS!"

"That's where all the guns the Mainframers have will fire!"

"We'll be deleted!"

"Erased maybe!"

"What do you mean maybe?"

"Well, I..."

"Hack! Slash!" he yelled again, then again switched to that calm tone of voice that invoked sudden dread in the listener. "I meant now."

"Yes, boss." they both chanted forlornly.

"So long, Mr. Megabyte."

"Been nice knowing 'ya..."

They left.

Megabyte sighed, leaning back in his chair. "Well, at least that's one problem solved." He glared at a vidwindow showing a game cube. "Now what about this one?" The "Guardian" was inside. The propaganda had been working well against the child until his sector became trapped in the Firewall. He still couldn't believe the boy had pulled it off. Oh well. There would be time later to deal with him.

Now, he needed to wait until Hexedecimal was well enough to try opening the Firewall again. Not that the last time had gone smoothly. Without leadership, binomes weren't the most capable of soldiers. They hadn't even fanned out during the last attack! This had been pointed out, quite effectively by the burning wreckage, to the rest of the army. The same mistake would not be made twice.

The gamecube flickered once on the vid-window. Megabyte watched it half-heartedly, hoping he would hear those words that would mean a certain nuisance would never bother him again...

"Game over." Ah well, maybe next time... "User wins." The virus sat bolt upright, staring at the game in delight. "Game over. User wins."

The cube left with a flash of light, destroying a chunk of the city. The virus chuckled, then threw his head back and laughed, wondering how the Mainframers would take the news of their second "Guardian" being lost to them.

* * *

"Enzo... no..." a sob escaped. "NOOOO!"

The scream was head in the Principal Office. It reverberated through the room, much as another scream had before it, when another friend had been lost to them.

This time it had been more than a friend. It had been a brother.


No one said anything. They couldn't. There was nothing to say.

"NOOOOOOOOO!!!" Dot Matrix slumped back in her chair and cried.

* * *

"Yes! I won!" Jake said, a huge grin on his face. "Finally! I've always wanted to beat this game! And I got my name in the top ten list too!" Jake reached over to phone up Jill.

* * *

"What's happening out there now?" a voice asked.

"Uh..." said the nervous guard while the doctor checked on the containment unit in the background. "Well, Ms. Decimal, the boy Guardian lost the game. He was... nullified."

"Enzo?" A grief-stricken mask popped onto her face. "Oh, how very sad. I always liked him. And his dear little friend, the game sprite, what was her name again?"

"AndrAIa, Ms. Decimal." the guard replied.

"Too bad." she shook her head, then her happy face appeared. "But this means we can get this whole silly conquest thing my brother seems so bent on over more quickly! That's good news at least."

She then simply stared off into space. The zero binome slid up to the doctor.

"Hey," he whispered furiously, "Are you done yet?"

"Just let me check her energy levels one last time..."

"Well, hurry!"

"Ach, fine! There, I'm done." he said, tapping a few buttons. "Let's get out of here!"

The two binomes quickly left. Hexadecimal sighed. "Such rude guests." She said sadly, shaking her head. "Honestly, no one has any manners anymore. Too bad. Perhaps I'll teach them some when I get out..." she started humming a tune to pass the time.

* * *



"Child, we must talk."


Phong sighed. It had been two seconds since the User had won. Dot had stayed in her room that whole time. "Dot, I must tell you..."

"Phong, I know what you're going to say. You're going to say something like. "There's still hope," or "he's a Guardian, I'm sure he thought of something." Well he's NULLIFIED Phong. He's DEAD. My l-little brother is-" Dot started to choke on her words.

"We did not find any nulls."


"The med teams were right there, and saw no nulls when the game cube... left."

"N-no could have run off..."

"Mouse is scanning the sector. We managed to download and save some of the game stats for her to look at. She says that there has been no record of any nullified sprites so far in the data."

Dot stood up, tired-looking. "So far? Phong, look, I don't need to hear this right now. I don't need any "hope" stories, O.K? I have a job to do."

With that, she left. Phong sighed. If only the User knew what sort of chaos he brought into their lives...

* * *

"Guess what! I won that arena game! And you thought I'd never beat it, Gil."

Jill rolled her eyes. Gil (the same way you pronounce fish gill) was Jake's and her friends nickname for her.

"It's about time, Jay." she said, calling him by his nickname.

"Anyhoo, ready to play?"

"Yeah sure. Is your CD popped in?"

"Hmm? Yeah, it's right..." she open up her CD drive. "somewhere..." she finished lamely as she saw the drive was empty. "Uh oh. I lost it."

"Great." Jay replied, rolling his eyes. "Phone me when you find it."

"Don't worry, it won't take that long."

"I might as well pass the time sharpening my Quake playing skills, then."

"What, hoping to be good as me someday?"

"Stop rubbing it in."

"O.K, O.K. But you know, you might start to get good at it if you tried pulling a few all nighter Quake tournaments some time."

"Yeah right! As if my mom would let me! And I could never stay up that late and play. You are such a fanatic."

"Not denying it!" Jill said cheerfully, hanging up.

* * *

"Warning. Incoming Game."


"Yes Phong?"

"You don't have to do this."

"Yes I do."

"Warning. Incoming Game."

"Child, if you are only doing this for revenge against the User, then I must advise against it. It's impossible. The User doesn't physically exist in our world. The game figure is merely its avatar."

"Tell that to my brother. Oh, sorry, he's a null, he won't understand."

"Child, you don't have to go into the game. Mouse has been working on the data."

"Yeah, for a minute."

"And Megabyte has tried to break through twice already. We need you here, Dot."

"And let a sector of the city be destroyed? No thanks. Phong, I'm sorry but I've got to go."

"Warning. Incoming Game."

"Good luck, child."

* * *

"Herr Doctor?"

"Yes, your worshipfulness?"

"Are you positive this will work?"

"Absolutely! It's only a matter of time until a game cube lands on the firewall. And then, with this device..." The one binome in the vid-window gestured to a piece of complicated, advanced looking piece of equipment, "we will break through. All we need to do is wait."

"Very well."

* * *

"Hey Jay! I found it!"


"Oh, quiet. You ready?"

* * *

"Warning. Incoming Game."

The sky flickered purple, and a cube dropped out of the sky. A grim looking Dot Matrix zoomed after it, past all the evacuation units. Her eyes widened as she looked for where it was heading.

"The Firewall... I can't get in!" she breathed. "Phong..." she vid-windowed the old sprite.

"Yes, Dot?" he said.

"Phong, it's landing on the Firewall! It's too late for me to go in. What'll happen to the sector when it leaves?"

Phong frowned. "I do not know for sure, but normally it shouldn't cause any trouble..."

Suddenly, right underneath the game cube before it landed, a tear exploded.

"Wh-what in the Net?" Dot sputtered. "Megabyte! He's up to something! Great." she growled. "Just what we need."

Dot glanced to the top of the game, the stared. A thin wire of energy connected a spot on the top of the cube to the sky. "Phong, what in the Net is that?"

"A multiplayer game..." Phong said, surprised. "They're very rare here, but do exist."

"More complications in my life. Wonderful."

Phong shook his head and sighed. "Dot, please, come back to the Principal Office. We're going to need you here..."

"Right, Phong." Dot replied, the energy seeming to drain out of her. "I'm sorry, I know I've been a bit... unbearable for a while. It's just that..."

"Dot, there is no reason to apologize for what you have been through."

"Thank you, Phong." She sighed and closed the window.

* * *

"Damn..." muttered the person at the computer. "Damn!" He pounded at the keyboard angrily as the words, "access denied" flashed across the screen. Kevin sat back and scowled. Damn company supercomputers. Some of them were so hard to get into if a real security programmer had done a proper job.

Most forms of protection were half-hearted attempts at passwords and the like and proved to be a cinch, but not this one. It was the computer for a company that made anti-virus programs. Kevin had a personal interest in this, since virus programming happened to be one of his favorite pastimes. They had wiped out a few of his pet favorites, which had made him very upset.

Kevin had black hair, very dark-brown-almost-black-eyes, and a pale complexion. He made some people uneasy. You could never tell when he was angry or not. You might piss him off, and the only way you'd find out was when you found a virus on your hardrive. He rarely shouted or yelled. When he was mad, he simply went away and planned out the best way to get his revenge on you. Kevin was considered a talented hacker, and was best at viruses.

The reason he made Gil and Jay nervous was the fact that he tended to obsess on some things. Computers was one of them. Jay and Gil were another. They knew him, and while they weren't enemies, they weren't friends either. Kevin had decided to try and infect Jay's computer, since he was supposed to have a strong anti-viral program that Kevin had wanted to break through. Jay wasn't aware of this, although he suspected something strange going on. Jake was pretty good when it came to hacking, and was somewhere near Kevin's level when it came to security codes, although Jay never abused them.

Kevin didn't regard trying to delete his system as illegal or wrong, just as a challenge. He had searched around a bit, and a virus called Kilobyte. It wasn't one of his, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless. It was supposed to split into two different viruses if deleted, luring the User into thinking that the virus was gone at first. Kevin had been impressed by this feature (he's have to try and track down the programmer and ask him how he did it) and used it. It had unfortunately been downloaded into Jake's system the same time that half of his harddrive was erased by a fluke power surge. Kevin still didn't know whether it had survived or not. Jay had been really upset over the incident, and might have overlooked the virus while re-compiling his system, Kevin mused. And Gil.

Kevin sighed, and leaned back even further in his chair, toying with an eraser.

He wasn't one of those people who had full blown crushes. But as it was, he felt, well, attracted to her. Quite a good first person shooter gamer as well. Her love for them could border on the obsessive ocasionally. He had tried to get her out on a date a few times, but she politely declined. Pity. He had always thought she was cute.

Well, if she kept on saying no... He fingered a disk with a virus on it. Don't get mad, get even.

* * *

"Well well, Jay. So you're being the warrior, huh? I myself prefer the subtle yet powerful attacks of a sorcerer." Jill paused and shook her head. "God, I can't believe I'm actually talking to myself." she looked at the screen thoughtfully.

The game basically went like this-wind your way through a treacherous labyrinth filled with monsters to a large central chamber where you and your opponent tried to kill each other. The role-playing game was more strategy than reflex shooter, which made it more challenging for Jill.

The trick was to find enough power-ups and weapons along the way to make your character stronger while making sure to beat the time limit for each level.

When the limit was reached, a horde of high level monsters was set into circulation in your level. They were nearly impossible to beat, and if you *did* make it, your character was severely drained from the fighting, and easy prey for your opponent. It could get addictive at times.

Jill piloted her character through the first level, blasting her way through a horde of small, goblin-like creatures. "Let the games begin." she said, grinning, thinking of what strategy she would use in the final chamber.

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