Author's Note: This is part 7 in the incomplete series I'm working on about everyone's favorite game-hopping trio. I own Nyanko, Dragon, and nothing else.
The Cat's Eye
Matrix stood steady as the game cube lifted away. AndrAIa leaned back against
what had been and building but was now a large, moss-riddled tree. They both were taken aback as they absorbed their surrounds.
"I've never seen anything like this outside of a game," AndrAIa said fingering
her trident, which lay retracted on her thigh.
"This isn't a game," Matrix replied absently, studying the read out on glitch, "it's a system called Endor-9."
AndrAIa sat down on the lush grass and looked around them. Enormous trees,
supporting an endless network of thick vines surrounded them. The sounds of strange animals could be heard on all sides, making Frisket fidget and growl. Matrix put a hand on the dog's head, scratching his ears.
AndrAIa stood and brushed off her leggings, "I guess we'd better find the
Matrix latched glitch to his belt and followed her as she walked in a random
direction. After nanoseconds, Matrix took AndrAIa's arm, and she turned smiling at him.
"Do you know where we're going," he asked her.
"Of course," she punched him lightly, "toward running water. It's the easiest
way to find a village in a game, why not here?"
Matrix and Frisket looked around them, straining to hear. Finally Matrix looked
at her doubtfully, "I don't hear anything."
AndrAIa laughed, "you forget, Sparky. I'm a water sprite. I can find water in a desert game."
The main city was bustling with binomes wearing the skins of other creatures
from the system. As AndrAIa and Matrix entered through a great stone archway that appeared to be the only entrance, they were assaulted by four binomes with spears. Matrix immediately drew his gun, but AndrAIa subdued him.
"We seek your principle office," she said sweetly to the binomes.
They looked at her questioningly. Matrix stepped forward.
"Take us to your command.com," he said abruptly and was met with many
spears pointing meaningfully below his belt.
AndrAIa sighed, holding Frisket's collar before he had a chance to use the
guards as chew toys.
"We wish to speak to a leader," she spoke sweetly to the most heavily painted
He grunted and signaled to the others. Four more binomes slipped behind the
sprites while the original four began backing toward the city. Matrix was goaded on by a pointed object pricking at his back. AndrAIa could feel his aggravation pulling his hand toward his gun, so she gently rubbed her shoulder against his as they walked.
The principle office was a great green orb floating over the center of the city.
AndrAIa wondered why they hadn't seen it from the gate as it seemed to dominate the sky. At the request of the armed binomes, Matrix and AndrAIa climbed a vine ladder toward the hovering sphere that, up close seemed to be comprised of nothing but vines.
Frisket stayed on the ground, protecting the path his companions had taken. The ladder ended at the threshold of something that might have been a doorway, if it were anymore than a hole cut in the foliage. They climbed in, both ready at their weapons. Darkness met them inside, the only light a circle of candles far in the distance, at the center of the orb. Matrix gestured to AndrAIa to watch his back as he moved toward the dim light.
"Who enters," boomed a deep female voice from all sides of the darkness.
"I am Matrix, level one guardian," Matrix stated, reaching back for AndrAIa's
hand, "My companion and I arrived in this system by way of the games. We are seeking shelter and provisions until the next game lands, and then we will be on our way."
Blinding light suddenly filled the room, and as their eyes adjusted, the saw
before them another sprite.
"Welcome," she said happily with an excited smile playing across her lips, "I am
Nyanko, the temporary overseer of this system. It is good to see fellow sprites and game-hoppers."
Matrix gaped, AndrAIa felt him gaping. The sprite was seated high on a throne
on top of a pedestal. As she spoke, the chair lowered to the floor. Standing before them, she was slightly taller than AndrAIa, but with a similar build. Her long, dark red hair billowed to her waist, where a tail of the same-hued thick fur began and swayed smoothly behind her as she walked. Her skin was a light violet, almost imperceptible, and large green eyes sparkled as she came near them. AndrAIa elbowed Matrix in the side and then introduced herself.
"I am AndrAIa, format: game sprite. You are a game-hopper?"
Nyanko let out a sigh, and her long, pointed ears seemed to droop beneath the
curls of her hair, "Once, yes. I've been stuck on this system for some time now."
Matrix frowned, "why didn't you just leave with the last game?"
Nyanko sighed again, "that is a long story. And to be told over a feast, as I am sure you both could use an energy shake, and I'll have something brought for your dog as well while the preparations are being made."
"How did you know ... " AndrAIa began to ask, until she felt Frisket's cold nose
butt against the back of her knee.
Nyanko couldn't help but laugh.
A feast was set for the overseer and her guests at a private table beneath the
curtain of vines that hung from the principle office. Over the largest meal either Matrix or AndrAIa had seen in cycles, Nyanko told her story.
"When I was a small sprite, about 1.2, I followed our guardian into a game. He
lost, but told me how to survive nullification, by switching to game-sprite mode. So I left with the game, and he was nullified. I spent about .6 cycles on my own, jumping from game to game, until I met a game sprite who wished to join me in my travels. At first he thought I was a game sprite as well because of the ... changes a bad upgrade caused to my visual format. During a battle, when it seemed the game would be lost, he uploaded a copy of himself onto my icon just before the user deleted him. Naturally, I defeated the user and accessed his back-up. We traveled together after that. .2 cycles later ... I don't know what exactly happened but we entered a game and after that, all I
remember is waking up in this system. I couldn't access any information, but there was a message encrypted on my icon: "stay here, I'll return."
AndrAIa looked as though the story had upset her greatly, "so you've waited
here ever since?'
Nyanko nodded, absently running a strangely shaped hand through her tail, "it's
been over a cycle."
"What changes did the 'bad' upgrade cause," Matrix asked, causing AndrAIa to
glare at him.
Nyanko blushed deeply, waving her tail above the table, "this, and the ears and
my hands and feet. It was supposed to be a wardrobe upgrade, but, as you can see, that obviously wasn't what it was."
She passed a hand over her length. AndrAIa saw for the first time that an
upgrade would probably be necessary very soon. She wore a tight, short shirt that had been modified to wrap around her chest. The edges were frayed and the fabric was very thin. Her leggings had been made of a motley collection of creature skins, obviously from that system.
AndrAIa smiled and reached for her icon, "I have an upgrade that I haven't used
Matrix looked at her questioningly. When had she had time to download one?
Nyanko smiled, "I will pay you well for it."
AndrAIa escorted Matrix and Frisket from beneath the canopy. As she turned to
leave them outside, Matrix grabbed her wrist gently. "When did you get that upgrade," he asked.
AndrAIa sighed, "I wanted it to be a surprise, but we need supplies more than I
need a new wardrobe."
As she disappeared behind the curtain, he couldn't help but remember the last
"surprise" she had in her wardrobe upgrade. They had been in a medieval game for some time and Matrix had been in one of his "moods". She said she had been saving it for his next compile, but he needed cheering up. She entered the tent wearing a gown that seemed to be made of mist, and shone silver in the moonlight. Matrix was afraid to blink when he saw her, thinking maybe the image was a glitch, but she stood before him. That night, Frisket slept outside.
AndrAIa and Nyanko were laughing as they walked toward the opening in the
canopy. Matrix held his breath, afraid he would let himself be angry with AndrAIa for giving away another one of her surprises. But, as Nyanko stepped out, his faith in his lover's tact was renewed. Nyanko stood in the doorway, a bright smile on her lips as she laughed at something AndrAIa had said. Her tattered shirt had been replaced a deep purple, skin tight top that seemed to wrap around the way her old one had, but much more securely. The shirt was lovely and modest, but still revealed the tight flesh below her ribcage. Her animal skin leggings had become a sleek black material, seamlessly shaping her legs without causing obvious notice to the black boots tucked beneath the hems. AndrAIa coughed lightly as she saw Matrix gaping again.
"I told you," she nudged Nyanko.
Nyanko blushed deeply and was about to retort when the decent of a game was
heralded from above.
"That's our cue," AndrAIa said smiling, she wished she had had more time with
this fellow female.
As they dashed toward the forest, they could barely hear Nyanko's shouts of
thanks over Frisket barking at the binomes to clear a path. AndrAIa felt a wave of sadness sweep over her as they rushed through the tress. She did not want to leave Nyanko alone again. AndrAIa had never considered what she would do if Enzo suddenly disappeared, then she decided that she would be out looking for him. But, the thought made a lump rise into her throat nonetheless.
She was near tears when they reached the landing site of the game too late.
Matrix cursed at and kicked the outside of the giant cube, not noticing how badly AndrAIa struggled for breath. As she sat down and leaned back against the cube, Frisket came and sat beside her, whining quietly. After cursing and kicking sufficiently, Matrix sat on the other side of Frisket, absently rubbing the dog between his ears. He never noticed AndrAIa had shed a few tears.
By the time the returned to the command center, the sky was growing very dark.
Most of the binomes were inside their huts, lighting lamps and cooking meats. The principle office hung in the sky above the city, glowing with a dim green light of its own.
"Strange that a system would have light cycles," Matrix said as he climbed the
"That what I said at first," Nyanko said from the doorway, "but you get used to
She helped the others into the orb, except Frisket who adamantly denied her
assistance. Nyanko shrugged and led everyone to a staircase behind her pillar.
"I assume you missed the game," she said and AndrAIa nodded, "well, there are
extra rooms down here. You may take your pick. Mine is the one at the end of the hall. All the others are unoccupied."
At the bottom of the stairs, and elaborately carved dark-wood hallway folded
out. AndrAIa counted six rooms on either side, all at least twenty units apart. Matrix had already inspected the first two by the time she thanked Nyanko. Both the women laughed at his diligence.
"I guess they're too feminine for him," AndrAIa whispered, causing Nyanko to
giggle for the first time in as long as she could remember.
"This one," Matrix yelled from a door two down from Nyanko's.
He had a smile on his face that AndrAIa almost didn't recognize, but she hugged
Nyanko and moved down the hall. Nyanko told them that she had more work to do, so they were to make themselves at home, and she ascended the stairs. AndrAIa was nearly upon the room when Matrix stopped her.
"Close your eyes," he said with a wide smile.
He hadn't smiled in so long; AndrAIa resisted the urge to protest. She obeyed
and he took her hands and led her through the door. Then, lifting her up, making her laugh with surprise, he dropped her on the bed, which moved like water beneath her. At this she opened her eyes. Matrix stood over her, blushing and smiling as she looked around.
The room was painted deep blue, with dashes of lighter blues and greens
blended in. The bed was a giant ornate clamshell carved of some material that
resembled mother-of-pearl. The lamps that hung from the walls were shaped like
different exotic fish and seemed to move about a radius on the wall. The floor was the deepest blue and seemed to move on its own. Matrix started laughing when AndrAIa threw her arms around him and dragged him down on the bed. Frisket planted himself in front of the door and ignored them.
A crash outside the door woke them up, and immediately Matrix called for
Frisket. The anxious dog often caused trouble while they slept, but this time he was standing stone still at the door. Matrix and AndrAIa dressed and opened the door. The hall was dark except for a faint light coming from the stair well.
"Lead on, lover," AndrAIa said as Matrix led her to the stairs, unhindered by the darkness.
In the main chamber, binomes were scattered about; the few left standing held
their spears to a dark wall. Matrix picked up a conscious guard and ordered him to turn on the lights. The guard obeyed immediately. Another sprite was chained to the wall, though it did not seem to hinder his defensive skills. He stood the same height as Matrix and was equal in build. His pigment was a light brown, almost the color of sand and his dark gold hair hung in his face, unruly and falling out of the long ponytail that had held it back. His loose black shirt hung open, held together only by being tucked in his tight black pants. It wasn't until all the lights where lit that they noticed the huge
dark wings beating against the wall behind him.
Matrix was about to question the stranger when Nyanko ascended the stairs in a
white, flowing gown.
"What goes on here," she said with the same authoritative voice they had first
heard her use.
AndrAIa thought the voice did not suit the happy girl that she had befriended
nanoseconds before. A binome spoke as she thought.
"This sprite was caught sneaking into the city. We attempted to detain him but
he injured many of my men in the prison. We had to bring him here and restrain him with the vines."
Nyanko stepped into the light to scold the guard for not alerting her but her
words caught in her throat and she dropped her light.
"Dragon," she breathed.
The sprite stood straight from his growling, infuriated position, "Kitten?"
Nyanko threw herself on the stranger and the vine-chains fell away. With the
freedom of movement, he immediately wrapped his arms and wings around her.
Matrix stood puzzled, even more so as AndrAIa kissed him with tears in her eyes.
"What's wrong? What's going on," he asked as he wiped her tears away.
"This is Dragon, my lover," Nyanko announced as she shooed the binomes from
the building with the wave of a hand, "he must have returned with the last game."
Dragon stretched his wings and took Nyanko's hand, "I told you I'd return."
Matrix still looked confused and AndrAIa knew he hadn't listened to Nyanko's
story the night before. Just as AndrAIa began to explain, Dragon collapsed to the floor, despite Nyanko's efforts.
"Matrix, help me out here," her voice shook as she tried to keep his head from
hitting the floor, "damn this feline body."
Matrix had to struggle to carry Dragon down to Nyanko's chamber. Once there,
he was told to lay the sprite on the bed and then was told to leave with thanks. AndrAIa stood behind him as the door closed and they both agreed it was best to save anything else for morning. Frisket lay asleep in the doorway as they entered, they agreed he had the right idea.
Alone with Dragon in her chamber, Nyanko dressed the wound on his leg that
he must have gotten from one of the spears. He had lost a lot of his dark energy in the main chamber. She knew he'd be fine in the morning, but she sat up beside him, wiping his brow with a cold cloth and stroking his matted gold hair.
The morning came, and with it a crowd of guards offering apologies to Nyanko.
She did not chastise them for doing their jobs, but she did instruct the captain to relieve the one who drew blood from the stranger. When the guard had gone Matrix and AndrAIa appeared from their hiding place in the stairwell. AndrAIa placed a hand on Nyanko's shoulder and braced the sprite as she cried in her arms. Matrix, uncomfortable with emotions, took Frisket down into the city.
"I am sorry," Nyanko said as she composed herself, "I pray to the code that you
never have to go through what we have."
"Don't apologize," AndrAIa assured her, "how is he doing?"
"Slept through the night and still asleep. His injury was not bad, but something else has happened, I could see it in his eyes. Before he disappeared, his eyes were always bright and full of life. Last night, he looked dead inside. Something terrible has happened and it is coming this way. Matrix ... he's a guardian, isn't he."
AndrAIa nodded, "but he's only a cadet. We were trapped in the games when
he was 1.0 and he never made it to the academy."
"But he has a..."
"It's broken," AndrAIa interrupted, "the virus that destroyed our system
crushed it after sending our guardian into the net. We have been looking for Bob and MainFrame ever since."
Nyanko bowed her head for a moment and then threw her hair back and straightened her shirt, "well, I better go check on Dragon."
"No need," Dragon came from behind the pillar, favoring his injured leg, "Good
Nyanko ran to him and held him for a long moment. AndrAIa felt the tears of
loss choking her again. After they had released each other, Dragon nodded to AndrAIa.
"You better call you companion. My love was right, there is trouble coming and
we're going to need all the help we can get."
AndrAIa swung down from the doorway, not bothering with the hindrance of a
ladder. She found Matrix quickly, his bargaining skills heralding his location. She opened the flap of the tent to find him yelling with a merchant binome. Her laughter from the opening surprised him and he quickly shooed her back outside. After a few minutes, he came out carrying a purchase board. Frisket appeared from somewhere as they walked back to the command center.
"What did you buy that required so much yelling," AndrAIa asked as they
climbed the ladder again.
"You'll see," Matrix responded as they reached the door.
Nyanko sat on her throne, Dragon perched on the back, as they entered.
"We have a crisis that requires your assistance, Guardian Matrix," she said as she walked toward them.
She was wearing a black one-piece outfit that made Matrix think of his sister. He knew he could not deny a request even if protocol did not demand he obey any cry for help.
"There is a virus on Endor-9," Dragon leapt down with a graceful swoop, "I
fought it in the game, but it escaped and entered the system when I did. It's a class L, energy absorbing. If it finds the system core, this entire system is finished."
AndrAIa felt Matrix's skin bristle. His hatred for viruses was the only thing that she could not calm in him. Sometimes she was sure that revenge on Megabyte was the only thing that kept him fighting.
"Only too happy to help," he said in the voice she had come to recognize as
representative of his deepest anger.
Nyanko stepped forward and shook his hand and AndrAIa saw the fury in his
hands. She did not want to know what was in his mind.
"We must start the hunt immediately," Nyanko said, "the more time it has, the
further it can get from the game site. As soon as we leave, I'll put the command core in stealth mode. It will appear to be nothing more than a large tree. Now, gather what you'll need and I'll call the strongest warriors. We must leave immediately."
Matrix and Frisket were already in the woods when AndrAIa and the hunting
party left the "big tree". She had been worried that he would do such a thing and ran from the group as soon as she found his trail. No one bothered to call after her, they didn't want to attract attention. AndrAIa followed Matrix at a full run, expecting to find him in some kind of trouble, which was usually the case. After a while, his trail stopped cold. She immediately pulled herself onto the closest limb she could reach. As she moved up the tree, she scanned the ground below, looking for any sign. She was high enough to see the smoke from the chimneys in the city when she leaned back to rest.
"That arrogant, over-blown sprite," she grumbled.
"Well, I love you, too," Matrix said from the opposite side of the tree.
AndrAIa worked her way around to his side of the tree. She was a limb above
him when she was finally level with him.
"Why did you go off by yourself," she said, hanging upside down by her knees
so that she could face him.
He couldn't help but laugh; she couldn't maintain her usual disapproving pout
against gravity. She was about to scold him further when Frisket howled from below. Matrix leapt out of the tree, rolling as he reached the ground to absorb the impact. In a moment he was on his feet again, running. It didn't take AndrAIa long to catch up. Frisket led the way to the hunting party; or what was left of it. The binomes and dismembered parts of binomes lay in chaos on the ground. Most of the binomes had been completely drained, others ceased function before the virus could get to them. A groan alerted them. AndrAIa gasped as she beheld Dragon, pinned to two trees by his wings. Several binome limbs pierced each wing. AndrAIa and Matrix immediately removed them and helped Dragon to the ground.
"It's got Nyanko," Dragon said in an even voice as they moved him, "and it
knows where the command core is."
Matrix was halfway to the city when AndrAIa caught up with him. She had
made sure Dragon was comfortable and checked for survivors before she went after
him. In the city, drained binomes laid about all over the roads. Frisket ran ahead toward the command center, which was no longer a tree.
"He must have used Dragon to get to her," Matrix said when they reached where
the ladder had been.
AndrAIa swallowed hard. Then, with a strong throw, Matrix lifted her into the
doorway and jumped after her. Frisket stayed below, guarding their path. It was dark inside the main chamber, almost more than it should be. AndrAIa drew her trident and lengthened her claws. Slipping along the wall she found the control panel and touched it for lights; nothing happened. The light outside the door began to dim and Matrix cursed.
"He's in the core!"
AndrAIa did not respond, she could not. The vines on the wall had grown
around her arms and face when she touched the control panel. Matrix assumed she was right behind him as always. AndrAIa fought one hand free and fired her claws at the floor, hoping it would make enough noise to get his attention. It did not work.
Matrix moved slowly down the stairs with his gun ready. Glitch had pinpointed
the virus' location; it was in Nyanko's room. With a forceful kick, he entered the room and was met with darkness even his mechanical eye could not penetrate.
"Virus," he shouted into the smothering blackness.
There was no response, but the darkness suddenly lifted to dim light. Nyanko
lay on her bed, half drained. The room had been torn apart and there was a crevice that would have contained the command core, but it was empty and black.
"Dragon," Nyanko's voice was barely a whisper.
"No, it's Matrix," he took her hand, "what happened to the command core."
She cringed, "the virus has it. When you came in, it left through the window.
It's like nothing I've ever seen. It's ... moving darkness."
Matrix stood to leave, but Nyanko gripped his hand.
"This is the back-up," she strained to say as she left the chip in his hand, "but the command program was destroyed. It needs a sentient control and a power source."
Matrix nodded, "AndrAIa can come up with something, can't you?"
Silence answered him and he ran into the darkness. Nyanko could not move
from where she lay, she could only wait. Matrix was up the stairs in two bounds. The main chamber no longer contained the choking darkness it had before and he spotted AndrAIa in her vine prison instantly. Her energy was being slowly drained, but she was fighting it off as much as she could. A few shots fired at the wall around her and she fell to the floor. Matrix was at her side, keeping her from standing. When he lifted her, she protested.
"I'm taking you downstairs with Nyanko. The command core is no longer here
so it will be safe down there," he moved quickly as he spoke.
Before she could protest further, she was on the bed next to Nyanko and he was
up the stairs again. Frisket met him when he landed in the dirt. A mass of black hung from the dogs snarling fangs.
"This must be what she meant by darkness," he said as he inspected the lump,
"let's go, boy. You will have a new toy by the end of this hunt."
The two were barely out of the city gates before AndrAIa lowered herself down
from the command center. She was weak, but she could still fight, and she wasn't about to let Matrix get hurt like Dragon. She knew she would never catch up with him, but she could track him and watch his back from afar.
"Virus," Matrix called as he ran through the forest, "come out and fight."
Darkness swarmed around him immediately, Frisket stumbled back whining.
Soon, the only light he could see was two red glowing orbs hanging before his face.
"A guardian," a howl of a voice said, "I have not had the pleasure of dining on
one such in minutes."
"I hope you enjoyed it," Matrix set he gun at death-blossom, "because you won't
be dining on anyone anytime soon."
The gun fired in a chaotic pattern, punching holes in the darkness, which then
filled themselves in again. The howling wind voice laughed on all sides of him.
"Foolish guardian, you are only feeding me more. And why bother fighting, this
system is crashing, the core is exhausted. Either die now or later, but you will die, and I will feast on you."
Matrix felt his energy slipping from his body. His hand found the back-up chip
hidden in his belt. He was being drained and the system was crashing, and he suddenly saw his choice.
"A sentient control and a power source," he repeated to himself, "Glitch!
The darkness pulled away from him as the chip became a floating ball of light.
AndrAIa, still so far behind, saw only the darkness and the ball of light. After a moment, she could see Matrix's face in the light. She did not know what was happening, but she knew it was bad, very bad.
"Enzo!" she called out as the energy ball inverted itself into his mechanical eye.
There was an explosion then, and she was blinded, feeling her body being
thrown through the air by the force. Her vision cleared sharply as she realized she could not breathe. She saw below her the system on which she had stood. The energy ball, merging with Matrix's bio-electronic interface had dominated half of the system and was growing. AndrAIa tried to call out, but the barrier layer between the system and cyberspace was sucking every breath away before she could get it. Suddenly the energy ball collapsed, sucking her down with it. As she was pulled down toward the ground, she realized she was headed straight for the virus.
"Don't. Mess. With. My. BOYFRIEND," she screamed as the force of the
implosion drove her with her trident into the dark mass.
In seconds, she was enveloped by the choking darkness again, but her anger had
already energized her weapon and it glowed with her red rage, as she twirled it around her. The virus seemed to scream as it was sliced to pieces, dispersed by the cut of the red light.
Dragon was the one to wake her after she collapsed. Her energy had been nearly
completely depleted, he had told her. But she wasn't listening, she was looking for Matrix.
"He was taken to the command center," Dragon said as he helped her to her feet,
"we've been looking for you for three light cycles."
AndrAIa allowed herself to be half-carried to the city. Dragon carried her up the ladder on his back, she had to be wary of his wings that were tightly bound. When he opened the door to her room, she almost jumped from his arms. Matrix lay on the bed, barely enough energy maintaining his visual format. Dragon helped her to bed beside him and left the room quietly. AndrAIa stared at him from where she lay. She wanted to beat him up for doing what he did. He always had to be the hero.
"Damn arrogant, over-blown sprite," she whispered.
"Love you too," Matrix struggled to respond.
AndrAIa pulled herself up so that she could look down on his face, "Enzo, are
He smiled up at her with his eyes closed. It seemed he was too weak to do
anything but whisper. The effort of holding herself up was making AndrAIa dizzy so she lay down next to him.
"You scared the code out of me," she whispered, placing her hand on his.
He did not seem to notice the gesture, "you're one to talk. You should have
stayed here like I told you, then you wouldn't have been caught in the explosion. I thought ... I had deleted you."
The tears choked off what was left of her voice and she could not respond. She
wanted to remind him of the promise they made as small sprites, that they would follow each other into the web and back if necessary. But, instead, they slept.
A binome carrying a tray of energy shakes woke AndrAIa some time later.
Frisket had taken to sleeping on the bed so the servants came and went as they pleased. AndrAIa thanked the binome and turned to Matrix. He looked better than he had before she fell asleep, but he still had a long way to go. She woke him with a kiss on the forehead. He smiled but did not open his eyes.
"We were brought energy shakes," AndrAIa said quietly, and held one for him
while he drank through the straw.
She drank three before falling asleep again. Matrix was getting stronger and so
was she, but they were losing time. They were on a mission to find Bob and MainFrame. But they couldn't enter a game like this.
"AndrAIa, may I come in," Nyanko called from the other side of the door.
AndrAIa called her in and the sprite stepped in silently. She was wearing one of the delicate nightgowns that AndrAIa had given her. Nyanko stood steadily, as though she had never had her energy drained. AndrAIa pulled her self up and reach out to hug the sprite.
"How are you," Nyanko asked, pulling a small chair over to the bed.
"Getting stronger. How are you, and how is Dragon?"
Nyanko smiled, "You two have been sleeping for so long, you've missed so
much. I've been well for sometime now, and Dragon's wings are almost usable again. You two probably have no idea how much time has past. The system has completely been restored and the core has finally reached full capacity. Because of that, we were able to separate Matrix's mechanical eye from the center of the core."
"You didn't know? Men never to think to mention the important stuff," Nyanko
sighed, "when the core back-up initiated, it assimilated the bio-electric interface and Dragon had to remove it to save him. He doesn't believe he will be able to restore it, though."
AndrAIa shook her head to clear it, "I can do it, I was the one who designed the
interface in the first place."
"No, AndrAIa," Matrix's voice was stronger than it should have been, "I don't
want you to have to do that."
He held up a shaking hand, "no 'buts'. I'll just wait until we find a system with the kind of technology it takes."
"Try and stop me, Sparky" AndrAIa said and kissed his hand, "Nyanko, I'll need
to see if there are any internal repairs to be made."
Nyanko nodded and helped her to her feet.
AndrAIa demanded the room be empty as she worked, ignoring Matrix's protests. She felt new strength as she worked, systematically repairing the connectors
and receivers in both the mechanical eye and where it would lay. Nyanko stood outside the door, her tail twitching nervously from side to side.
"I have a feeling she knows what she's doing," Dragon said as he silently moved
next to her.
Nyanko didn't speak. A call came from the main chamber and she took it as an
excuse to be distracted. From the stairs, she could hear the voices of many binomes, all speaking in low, murmuring voices. More than a cycle ago, when she had stumbled through the gate of the city, the chief of the tribe declared her a divine messenger and she was allowed food only if she accepted the position. Having no choice, she was led to the principle office and began the slow process of upgrading the low-grade system. She told the inhabitants then and repeatedly that once her lover returned, she would be leaving. Since she had been the only one they had ever known to escape destruction in the games, they did not believe her. Now, the time had come to leave, and she knew the chief and his warriors were here to stop her. She mounted the throne with a great swooping leap over the back. Dragon hid in the shadows of the stairwell, awaiting trouble.
"Mistress..." the chief began when he noticed her sudden arrival, but she
silenced him with gesture of the hand.
"I know why you have come, " she said in the powerful voice she reserved for
such occasions, "and what you ask. I have told you from the day I arrived that I would leave one day, and that day will be very soon."
"But, Mistress," one of the larger warriors stepped forward and knelt before the
throne, "you have rebuilt this system, saved all of us from deletion, and defeated the darkness that came from the games. Surely you cannot think of leaving us defenseless."
Nyanko's sensitive ears picked up a quiet growl from the stairwell; Dragon
always hated guilt-trips.
"Please, Mistress," the chief said in her hesitation, but she silenced him again.
"Have I not taught you defense and responsiveness," she stood up, her face
turning a darker violet with frustration, " have I not instructed you on how to survive the games and repair the system?"
There was a murmuring nod from the crowd.
"Then, you have no need of me," she stated, "and so, my guests and I will be
leaving with the next game."
Shout of protest followed and Dragon had to claw the wall to keep himself from
swooping into the hall and carrying her into the forest. The binomes had become
completely dependent upon her. There was silence again. Nyanko tail was twice its normal size; her pointed ears turned back, as she raised her hand for silence once more, "I must consult with my companions now. I suggest
you all decide who will take my place when I leave. That is my final decision."
Attempts at further protest were wasted as she descended the stairs. Dragon
now stood outside the door of Matrix and AndrAIa's room, his wings twitching angrily.
"Has AndrAIa finished," she asked in a calm voice that was betrayed by her flat
ears and bushy tail.
Dragon looked at her for a moment and took a deep breath, "yes, she asked for
us join then when next we had a free moment."
"Well, then," Nyanko sighed absently as she knocked on the door.
AndrAIa called then in. Nyanko smiled weakly, trying not to inspect Matrix too
openly. He looked fine, no different from when they first met, except a little paler. He had a distinctly sulking look on his face. Dragon perched on a chair in the corner of the room while Nyanko asked AndrAIa about the repairs.
"Nothing major," AndrAIa answered, then added loudly, "the worst problem
was getting the patient to lie still."
Matrix didn't move. He was sitting up with his arms crossed, and Nyanko
noticed as he shot a meaningful glance at Dragon. Dragon pretended not to notice.
"We'll be able to leave with the next game," AndrAIa said after a short moment
of silence, "We've been in the system too long."
"As have we," Nyanko announced, standing, "and we will be joining you in the
Matrix turned his head toward her questioningly, forgetting that he meant to be
"He really doesn't listen much, does he," Nyanko whispered to AndrAIa, and
they shared a stifled giggle. Then she cleared her throat, "I too have to find my home. Now that Dragon is back, I can continue searching."
When Matrix called Frisket to his side the next morning, he felt strong and more
than ready to leave the system. He, AndrAIa, Dragon, and Nyanko would be traveling out into the forest to wait for the next game, camping there if necessary. As they left the city, binomes stood on either side of them, staring at them pleadingly as they passed. Without turning back, Nyanko led the group through the main gate and into the forest. No sooner had they found a nice spot to wait then a game cube was heralded from above. It was falling almost exactly toward them. Matrix and AndrAIa smiled at each other, one of Matrix's hand firmly holding Frisket's collar. Nyanko took Dragon's arm and smiled up at him as they were enveloped by the game.
"What happened," Nyanko asked Dragon after the empire game was defeated
and the two couples set off to find campsites.
Dragon had been following her silently, watching the movements of her body as
she strode confidently over the terrain. Her question surprised him and he sped up to walk beside her.
"It was my game, the game I came from," he said as they walked hand in hand,
"it created a conflict in the programming I changed in your icon when I backed myself up. You off-lined as soon as the game loaded and I couldn't change your icon to game-sprite mode. I defeated the user, but I didn't get my icon changed in time. I had to leave with the game, but I knew I'd find my way back."
Nyanko smiled and sat down by a stream they had found, "And so you did."
Matrix had finished initiating a shelter program long before AndrAIa returned
with an armload of fish. She quickly prepared the fish and propped them over the fire, throwing little pits of flesh to Frisket whenever he whined at her pleadingly. As the smell of the dinner simmering over the open energy reached her, AndrAIa sat back and surveyed the spot her childhood sweetheart had chosen. A small waterfall nearby created a mist atmosphere, lingering with the smells of the fish and wet grass. After a while, she began to wonder where the prospector had disappeared to, so she stood and searched the falling darkness around her. Frisket grumbled quietly, letting her know there was no danger. So, she entered the tent...
Her first step into the shelter landed on an icon on the ground. Immediately, her clothes, which where perfect for battle, became a long, light aqua gown. It was sleeveless and off-the-shoulder, her up by a delicate strap the circled the curve of her biceps. It glittered with an energy of its own, shining to the grass beneath her bare feet. Matrix stepped out of the shadows as she was examining herself. He had traded his vicious battle clothes for solid black pants that still showed the contours of his legs, and a loose white shirt that was half buttoned and had the cuffs turned back. He had slicked
his hair back (or attempted to) and replaced his earring with a small diamond stud.
He cleared his throat nervously and AndrAIa looked up, tears brimming in her
eyes. There was nothing to be said as they embraced. Nyanko and Dragon laughed as they saw in the distant darkness Frisket finish the last of the fish and curl up next to the slowly dying embers.