Chapter Eleven: DELETE

"Is everyone alright?" Riley asked as the boys came back to the real world.

"Yeah." They answered.

"Good." He sat down. "Now, what happened?"

"According to the Oracle," X said, "My mind couldn't enter the Matrix, so it went to the Train Station."

"But why couldn't your mind enter the Matrix?" Riley asked.

"I don't know." X admitted. "I wish I knew."

"So do all of us."

"So . . ." Shadow spoke up, "Did it not work?"

"Apparently not," Hero said, "When X returned to the Matrix, there was no trace of the vaccine in him, which, I think, has something to do with why you went to the Train Station and not the Matrix. It must've interfered with your programming."

"Maybe." X said with a shrug.

"So that idea didn't work." Pyro sighed. "But the grenades did. And by the way," He turned to the sentinels, "Thanks."

They nodded.

"So what do we do now?" Shadow asked.

"We sleep on it." Riley said, "And I mean it. It's late and we've done a lot of work. We'll decide what to do in the morning."

They silently got up and went to bed, feeling a sense of defeat.

X was bugged, deeply. He couldn't understand why the vaccine didn't work. It should've worked. It had no side-effects on humans that he knew of, and he hadn't been hurt by the vaccine at all. What was the problem?

He pondered and pondered, stretching the limits of his brain.

"It should've worked." He whispered to no one. "It should've worked."

So why didn't it?

Why would it interfere with human programming? It wasn't designed for that. It was designed to take out Abyss . . .Abyss. The virus. The vaccine. Abyss. The Virus. The Vaccine. Abyss. The Vaccine. The Virus. Virus. Abyss. Abyss. Virus. Abyss. Virus. Vaccine. Abyss. Virus. Abyss.

The Backup.

X knocked lightly on the sentinel's dome. Its red light eyes came on and looked up at him. X waved sheepishly. The sentinel made a typing screen.

"You should be asleep."

"I know." X responded. "But I need to do something and I need to do it alone. However, I'm going to need your help."

Pyro had been awake when X left the room, but he paid no heed. But when he didn't come back for a long time, he got curious. Still, he waited. Finally, he couldn't stand it and got up to search.

"Wondering where he is too?" Shadow asked from his bed.

"You're awake?"

Shadow got up. "Yep. C'mon. Let's find him."

They first when to the Matrix room, figuring that's where he'd be. To their surprise, they found X in a Matrix chair with a sentinel working the station.

"What the?!" Pyro exclaimed. The sentinel turned in surprise. "What's going on?"

The sentinel displayed its story.

"X is fighting Abyss."

X picked up a rock and threw it, hitting Abyss's window.

"Come on!" He shouted, throwing another rock. This one went right through the window. "Come out here!"

Abyss opened the window and leaned on the sill.

"X! Didn't expect to see you tonight, especially on your own free will! What's the occasion?"

X grabbed another rock and chucked it at Abyss's head. Abyss ducked back inside and then came back out.

"And so aggressive, too! Why the change?"

"Come out here and fight me!"

Abyss rolled his eyes. "Alright, alright." He came out the bottom door only a second later, taking the "hacker's shortcut". He closed the door behind him and walked over towards X.

Riley wasn't happy. "YOU LET HIM GO?!"

"His plan was convincing." The sentinel explained.

"And what plan was that?"

"He was going to use his vaccine to destroy Abyss."

"We already tried that, it sent him to the Train Station!"

"Not this time." The sentinel said. "He made it to the Matrix."

Riley calmed down a bit. "He did?"

"Yes. X's theory was correct."

"Theory?" Pyro asked.

"X theorized that Hero was correct in assuming that the vaccine interfered with his programming. But he wondered why. It wasn't designed to affect humans; only the virus. Then, it hit him. X had a piece of the virus inside himself. When entering the Matrix, the vaccine was introduced to him and did what it was made to do: attack the virus."

"It attacked the backup." Shadow translated. "Of course!"

"Why is it the obvious things that we never see?" Hero asked in frustration.

The sentinel continued, "X also realized something else. Even when he went into the Matrix, his viral powers no longer worked."

"So . . .it worked." Pyro observed. "The vaccine worked!"

"Exactly. The virus was overcome, but Hero didn't see the vaccine because, as X stated, the two opposing forces cancelled each other out."

"But it works." Riley said. "Then we have a chance after all!"

"That's why X entered the Matrix." The sentinel wrapped up. "He knew he'd make it this time because the virus was no longer a part of him. He could upload himself with the vaccine and fight Abyss. I helped him enter the Matrix."

"But why did he go alone?" Riley wanted to know. "It makes no sense to fight alone."

"To X, it did." The sentinel disagreed. "Abyss doesn't know that his backup has been deleted."

Everyone looked at each other.

"So he thinks he still needs him." Pyro said.

"So he'll be looking for him." Shadow added.

"And Abyss cannot kill him." Hero put in.

"And he didn't want anyone getting hurt." Riley finished.

"Wow." Shadow said. "I thought it was just the virus, but the kid can really think!"

"But he has no backup." Pyro countered. "If Abyss finds out he doesn't have the virus in him anymore, he'll have no reason to keep him alive."

"Then we'll have to hope that X gets to Abyss before he finds out." Riley said.

Pyro shook his head. "I can't take that risk." He looked at Hero. "Plug me in."

"What?!" Hero exclaimed.

"Me too." Shadow offered.

"Do you two have a death wish?"

"Only if need be." Pyro smartly replied.

Hero held his hand up to his forehead. "Abyss has had it up to here with you all. He sees you again, he's not holding back. He'll slaughter you."

"It's a risk we're willing to take. Load us with the vaccine also and we'll triple our chances of deleting Abyss once and for all."

"You're both crazy." Hero said.

"I like it." Riley said.

"What?!"

"They have a point. If you load them all with the vaccine, Abyss will be outnumbered. Plus, we'll keep the sentinels ready if they need Agent help."

The boys nodded. They went to their seats.

"All alone?" Abyss asked X with a small grin. "Where are your friends?"

"They don't know I'm here." X replied. "I didn't want them getting involved."

"I see. If this is true, you're a fool. If not, you're still a fool. But lets see which is which." He shot his hand out to X, but to his surprise, X retaliated.

X swung his arm up, smacking the hand away, then ran up Abyss's chest and kicked him in the face, backflipped from it, then planted both feet on Abyss's chest, knocking him way back to the apartment building, where the impact of his body broke a few bricks.

X had no idea where that power had come from. Then he remembered that against Abyss, his powers were amplified.

Abyss got up, equally surprised. "Very nice!" He complimented. "You're learning to use your own powers. I see you've figured yourself out."

"More than you know." X threatened. They ran at each other.

X jumped clear over Abyss and he spun around, kicking X's chest, but X jumped back to avoid the next blow, then punched his face twice. Abyss ducked under the third and gave a mighty uppercut, sending X flying into the sky. He jumped up with him and grabbed his collar, then spun around and threw him to the ground. X landed on a car.

Abyss landed softly on the ground.

"Why do you fight me, X? It's not going to get you anywhere! You may have a piece of me wedged in you, but it's not enough to take on the real thing."

X peeled himself off the car and fell onto the sidewalk.

"No, it's not." X admitted. He slowly got back up. "But it could just help."

Abyss rolled his eyes. "Your poor human brain is so feeble. Of course it couldn't hope to see that I am indestructible. What would you do if you did destroy me? You'd take my place, that's what! You know, that might actually be interesting, watching you kill your own friends." He smiled. X charged.

Abyss gathered his power into his fist and waited. When X was close enough, he struck. But, quick as lightning, X ducked under and slid on his knees until he was right under him. He swung the same uppercut and launched Abyss to the sky. He jumped up high to meet Abyss and swung a few kicks, then threw him to the ground.

X landed with ease and stared at Abyss. He was floating a foot or two off the ground, then pulled himself up to hover upright over the ground.

"You can fly?" X asked, amazed.

Abyss nodded, then reeled back and launched. He tackled X, picking him up along the way and flew up high with him, then circled in the air and increased his speed. In front of a building, he suddenly stopped and released X. X kept going and crashed through a window and flew a good distance into the office before hitting the floor.

Abyss floated in and came over to the pained X. He picked him up and threw him into a wall, then ran over and rammed him into it. He caught X as he fell down the and threw him across the room into the opposite wall, then ran over and kicked him back up into it, then gave one last kick, slamming him through what was left of the wall.

Abyss walked through the wall and looked down at the pitiful human below him. With one hand, he picked him up by his throat and he pulled the other back.

"Now, sleep."

But when he tried to thrust his hand into him, X grabbed Abyss's other hand and jumped up in a front flip motion, flipping right over the hand and bending his back to allow his feet to land on either side of Abyss's head, then twisted his legs, breaking the neck. Abyss toppled and X flipped off, then fell to his knees.

Abyss got up angrily and grabbed an office chair and threw it at X. He groaned, but jumped up and flailed over it. Abyss grabbed the entire desk and threw it at him. X bent backwards to avoid it. When he came back up, he met Abyss's fist. X fell back and Abyss punched him down the rest of the way, then picked him up, threw him up in the air and jumped into a spinning kick, knocking him through the window. They were several stories up, so X was going to have a very painful landing.

But then, something soft stopped him and he flew another way and landed on the ground with ease.

"You know you're an idiot, right?" X turned and beheld Pyro and Shadow.

"What are you doing here?" X asked them.

"Helping you." Shadow said.

"How did you . . .?"

"We saw you leave." Pyro explained. "Then we talked to the sentinel. We found out your story and decided to help you."

"He won't kill me." X said. "But you two he won't bother spare!"

"Don't you know just better than that? We're willing to run that risk."

X sighed, not knowing what to say. They were not going to leave and that was that.

They all felt it at once and looked up, then jumped away. Abyss smashed into the ground where they'd been standing.

"So they did come!" Abyss said.

"Yeah!" Shadow said, standing. "And we're not leaving until you're dead."

"We'll all be here a while then." Abyss cracked his knuckles.

Shadow ran up, spinning his twin blades rapidly. Abyss jumped back and blocked a few strikes, then backflipped to kick him back and avoid Pyro's stab. Pyro balanced on his sword and spun around, kicking Abyss into X's waiting punch.

Abyss landed on his hands and spun his feet around in the air to kick back both boys, then landed and gave a mighty uppercut to Shadow as he struck. Abyss ripped a piece of concrete from the ground and threw it at them.

Pyro jumped up and spun his sword, slicing through the concrete. Both pieces flew off on either side of him.

X looked at him. "You guys have been uploaded too?"

"Yep."

Abyss glared and stomped the ground, knocking the boys to the ground from the shockwaves. He charged for them.

Pyro catapulted up and sliced, but Abyss dodged and struck back with a strong punch, knocking him away. Shadow got a few slices in before being knocked away. X faced off with Abyss.

"I don't know what it is you're trying to accomplish," Abyss said, "But it won't help you!"

Abyss swung, but X ducked and countered with two flipping kicks, then spun a low one, then a high. Pyro took it from there, giving a Tornado Kick to force him into Shadow's bladed backflips. Finally, all three boys ran in a kicked him from a different angel, crushing him in the middle. Abyss hit the ground.

Then, Abyss REALLY hit the ground. The pavement exploded, sending the boys their separate ways. Abyss jumped and floated in the air, looking for them.

X got up and shook his head. He saw Abyss floating.

"Flight." He sighed. "Something I hadn't counted on." But then he thought. "I made this vaccine to perfectly counter Abyss . . .maybe . . ."

Abyss saw X and flew for him. X began running with all his might. When they were close enough, X jumped, arms outstretched, and flew up to meet Abyss. They collided and the street was ripped from the shockwave of power.

X punched Abyss twice, then backflipped, kicking him. Abyss performed a bicycle kick, then rammed into him, forcing him away. X flipped back a ways, then zoomed forward again, already getting used to his powers.

Abyss got ready to strike, but Pyro flew in and tackled him, then Shadow tackled him from the other side. The dual attack knocked him off balance and he couldn't regain composure before X collided and carried him right into the wall of a high building. He kicked off him, flipping back and let Abyss fall.

Abyss caught himself and looked at the three boys flying around in the air. They all charged at him. Abyss flew up. The boys followed. He grabbed a piece of a building and ripped it off, throwing it at them. They all avoided it and continued their pursuit. Suddenly, Abyss jolted away horizontally, faster than the boys could see.

He stopped and his eyes glowed red. This was something he'd never tried before.

"DYYAAHH!!" He roared. As he expected, lighting leapt from the clouds and struck the boys in mid-air. Then, he created a great gust and blew them away.

"What the?!" Shadow exclaimed.

"He can control the Matrix itself!" X reiterated. "That includes the weather!"

Lightning struck again, but this time, X caught it and threw it back at Abyss. He was struck by his own might and stunned by it.

"What is this?!" Abyss hissed to himself. "They use my own powers against me!"

He flew at them again and they returned the attack. All three of them grabbed hold of Abyss and flew up high, then turned and went downward. They increased their speed with each second and the ground became nearer and nearer. At the last second, they let go, but Abyss surprised them. Like lightning, he shot his arms out and grabbed Pyro and Shadow, bringing them with him. All three hit the ground. X flew up again, not knowing what had happened.

Abyss grunted as he pushed himself up onto his fists. Shadow and Pyro were hurt and couldn't yet get up.

"Human fools." He hissed. "How you two were able to fly, I do not know, but it ends now!" he grabbed them by their collars and stood them up. He rammed a hand into each of them. "Now, DIE!!"

But at that command, the vaccine kicked in. There were flashes of red and blue as the power collided.

"What . . .?" Abyss wondered as the boys twitched and writhed. Suddenly, with a white flash, Shadow and Pyro flew one way and Abyss flew the other.

Abyss jumped back up, inspecting himself. "What was that?!"

Pyro and Shadow struggled to stand, feeling significantly weaker. A second later, Pyro's phone rang.

"What?" He groaned.

"You and Shadow need to leave." Hero said.

"What?! Why?!"

"The vaccine is gone. When Abyss tried deleting you, the vaccine protected you, but that's all it could do. The next time, he'll succeed." He told them where an exit was. "Hey, head's up!"

Pyro looked up and saw Abyss flying right at them.

Shadow took over, pulling out the Pulse Rifle and fired the Data Grenade he had stored for such an instance.

Abyss grabbed the grenade, which did NOT detonate, and kept going. He reeled back and kicked them both away, then landed and looked at the grenade, which he'd stopped from going off.

"Nice try." He said. "But not nice enough." He began transferring his own power to the grenade, filing it with viral energy. "Goodbye." He said with an evil grin. Then, he tossed the super-charged Data Grenade.

However, as soon as he threw it, X shot past him. He grabbed Shadow and Pyro and flew up and away. He looked back as the grenade went off. Abyss had flown the other way as it detonated and quickly discovered the wisdom in his action.

The explosion was far too massive to be a grenade. The explosion must've gone on for at least a mile. X flew up higher, just to be safe. When it was done, they looked down and saw a perfect hole in the world, leading to a black nothingness.

"Geez." Shadow gasped.

"Incredible." Pyro said in awe.

"Unbelievable." X whispered.

Shadow's phone rang.

"What happened?" Hero asked with a horrific calm tone.

"Abyss . . .he amplified the Data Grenade and . . .this!"

"You guys get out of there, X too. We'll try again later. That's Riley's order." He hung up.

"We have to go." Shadow said. He told X where to go and he flew there.

Pyro answered the phone and vanished. Shadow reset it and looked at X. "You have to come too, Riley's order."

X nodded and Shadow vanished. X picked up the receiver and ripped it from the phone and flew back to the destruction site.

"He's not coming back, is he?" Shadow asked.

"Nope." Riley said. "Didn't think he would."

"Then why did you even try?"

Riley pointed to the screen. "Look." They looked and their eyes shot open.

Abyss stared at the hole in the earth, awed.

"Inconceivable." He whispered. Then, he looked up and saw X fly down and land next to him. "Why do I have the feeling you had something to do with this?"

"What makes you think that?" X asked.

"That was no ordinary grenade. I improved it, but I didn't expect it to do THAT! Look at it! It cut through-"

"The very fiber of the Matrix itself." X finished. "I know. I created it to do that."

"Very nice." Abyss complimented. "But now, we have a problem." He looked at the hole.

X turned and looked. He squinted his eyes and ran closer to make sure he wasn't seeing things. He wasn't.

The hole was expanding.

He flipped on Neovision and saw the code being eaten away by an expanding red viral hole eating away at it.

"My God." X whispered.

"Exactly." Abyss said. "Perhaps your grenades were more effective than you planned."

"No." X said. "I've seen them work." He pointed a finger at Abyss. "You altered it! You filled it with your viral powers, so now it's a giant expanding virus, eating away at everything!"

Abyss looked at the hole, then back at X. "Bummer."

X's phone rang. He answered it. "What?!"

"Do you see what's happening?" Riley asked calmly.

"Yeah. I see it."

"What do you make of the situation?"

"The virus will keep expanding. The hole will increase in size. Everything it touches will be delete, piece by piece. Soon enough, it will consume the entire Matrix." He glared at Abyss as he said it.

"Is there any way to stop it?"

X hesitated. "Call you back." He hung up and squared off with Abyss.

"Well," Abyss said. "It appears we may both die here. The question is . . .who dies first?"

X clenched his fists. "I've had enough of you." He charged full speed and Abyss returned. But at the last second, X ducked under and flew off as fast as he could.

Brriiinngg!!

"Operator." Hero answered.

"It's X!"

"X! Do you know how to stop the virus?"

"Not from here or any computer I can access in the Matrix. We need the machines' computers. They hold the codes for the Matrix itself. Inject the Matrix with the vaccine! Then, they can rewrite the Matrix as they've always done!"

"The machines' computers . . .you mean in the Machine City?!"

"Do you have a problem with that?!" X demanded. "Get going! Now!! Hurry to-"

The line suddenly went dead. Hero reported the message to Riley.

Riley looked at the sentinels.

"How far are we from the Machine City?"

One opened its satellites. "Quite a ways."

"We need to get there-and fast!" He explained the situation.

"There is one path we can take." A sentinel spoke up. "We are only a few kilometers from Zion. Go there and we can take the tunnel." It meant the tunnel the machines used to assault Zion before the truce. It was never sealed off.

"The ship cannot fit in there." Riley protested.

"We'll take the vaccine straight up to the city."

Riley's eyes narrowed. It would be very quick, but he wasn't sure if he could trust these machines with X's vaccine. He pondered the idea for a while.

"I want Pyro and Shadow to go too."

The sentinels looked at each other then back at Riley.

"Agreed, but the only way they can is to ride us."

"Then they'd better hang on tight." He ran to the cockpit. "To Zion!"

Abyss had finally caught up with X and tackled him, then threw the phone away. It shattered when it hit the ground.

The two of them wrestled in the air for a bit, then Abyss kicked him away. X flipped a few times, then caught himself and charged.

"Just like before." Abyss smiled as he charged. They rammed hard into each other, the force sending a great shockwave out into the air.

Abyss kicked X in the ribs, then punched him backwards. X couldn't stop himself before Abyss caught him again and knocked him downward. X went with it and continued downward, Abyss following. Suddenly, X stopped in mid air and reeled back his feet, then kicked Abyss in the face, knocking him back up.

X smiled, but was then struck by lightning again. He landed on the ground and suddenly, a fissure opened in the ground and he fell in. The earth closed around his chest just in time. X was stuck.

Abyss jumped up and flew at him, top speed. X knew he was in a bind and got onto working a plan. He put all his energy into his fist and waited. Abyss close in, flying closer and closer. As soon as he saw the whites of Abyss's eyes, X shot his fist up through the concrete and punched Abyss in the jaw. He flew off course and crashed into a building. X burst out of the ground and got ready for more.

As he got up, Abyss grabbed a piece of concrete and threw it at X. To his surprise, X punched right through it. The broken pieces fell around him.

"How does he do this?" Abyss wondered. Then, he asked himself another question. "Let's see the limits of his abilities." He began ripping out concrete from the ground and threw them at him.

Zion was near.

"This is Captain Riley, requesting emergency clearance to gate one."

"One moment, Captain."

"I don't have a moment!" He replied. But he had to wait anyway.

"Clearance granted. Security to gate one standing down." Riley saw the door opening. "Gate one is open, Genesis. Welcome home."

"Yeah, yeah." Riley groaned, hurrying through the gate. As soon as they were in, Riley opened the hatch, not waiting to land. Once it was open, he gave the command over the intercom.

"Go! Go! Go!"

The people in Zion watched as five sentinels flew from the ship, two carrying human passengers, and flew up through the tunnel.

Shadow and Pyro were having the ride of their lives. They were strapped to the sentinels by their tentacles. Pyro held onto the vaccine tightly. A sentinel had given the Machine City the message. They would be ready for them.

At the speed the sentinels were traveling, it only took a moment to go through the tunnel. They emerged only a short ways from the city. As they neared it, Shadow and Pyro stared in awe, then looked at each other.

"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." Shadow said.

Pyro looked around. "In this place, you never know." He grinned. "We just might be!"

Riley landed the ship in its dock, but couldn't shut it down until X was back.

"How is it?" He asked, coming back to Hero.

"See for yourself." They watched the fight.

X had been dodging debris for a little while and was sick of it. Finally, he jumped up and over a piece, then kicked through the next and continued the kick to land on Abyss's head. X landed and spun, kicking Abyss again, then punched him rapidly five times.

Abyss grabbed the fifth punch and returned it, then gave three of his own. He swung his knee up, bashing X's gut, knocking the wind from him, then picked him up and threw him into the building next to him, then punched him through it. He charged in himself and grabbed X and flew through the other side of it, then brought him up and forced him through the second floor, then the third, then the fourth. On the fifth, X finally got a punch to Abyss's face and escaped his clutches, as well as the building.

Abyss circled around to find his prey once again. But just as he came around a corner, X jumped out and kicked his face, knocking him off balance. He grabbed Abyss, spun around and slammed him into another wall, then planted many lightning-quick punches to his ribs. Abyss flung his feet up and kicked him up, then they both swung a punch. The power knocked them both back several feet.

X flew lower to the ground for more safety and circled around the building, but Abyss found him and dove at great speed. He tackled X into the ground and dragged him through the ground, creating a long trench before X finally backflipped and kicked Abyss over his head. X jumped into the air and backflipped in the air and shot down like a bullet and rammed Abyss into the concrete and bounced off.

Abyss catapulted up and saw X coming. He grabbed a streetlight and ripped it from the ground, then swung it like a bat. X's instinct kicked in and he flipped back and slid in the air right under the light. He grabbed it and swung it up, flipping Abyss in the air. He caught himself and hovered, but X swung the light. The steel shattered against Abyss's skin. Abyss slowly turned and gave a cold, hard glare to X.

"Enough!" Abyss shoved his hand into the building next to them. It exploded without warning. X was knocked a good ways away. Abyss flew over and destroyed the building next to him again. X was again tossed. Then, the ground exploded where he landed and lightning struck him down. Abyss landed next to him, pulled his foot back and kicked him under the stomach. X flew through the front door to a small building, then rammed his hand into the wall. The building crumbled atop X.

Abyss smiled. "Defeat is inevitable."

But then, with a force greater than he knew he had, X stood again, forcing all the rubble off of him. Several pieces flew out and hit Abyss, knocking him back. Abyss stood again and looked at the deity standing in the midst of the wreckage.

"It appears I've underestimated you." Abyss admitted. "Greatly. You've tapped right into the very core of your power and are extracting every last drop."

How little you know. X chuckled to himself. He jumped up to fly. But quicker than a blink, Abyss grabbed a concrete slab and threw it at X, knocking him back to the ground.

"Stay down!" Abyss roared. X ignored the command and forced himself back up as Abyss walked over to him. Abyss swung a punch. X blocked it and two others, then swung Abyss's arms up and planted a strong jab to his gut, then bashed his knee into the same place, then gave an uppercut to his jaw. Abyss flipped back from the punch, caught himself on his hands and flipped right back forward, swinging his hands down, bashing X in the back of the head. When X toppled over, Abyss swung his hands back up, knocking him into the sky, then grabbed a metal beam and waited. When he was in the right position, Abyss swung down, slamming X to the ground, then tossed him up and batted him away. X crashed into the neighboring building, then was whacked again in the stomach, pushing him further through the wall. Abyss watched the beaten X fall off the wall and followed him down as the smashed him again when he hit.

X was down.

Abyss tossed the beam away and smiled. "It ends now." He picked X up. "I've grown tired of your rebellion. I'll find a much weaker human in whom to plan my backup. I no longer need you." He shoved his hand into X's gut. "Extract Data!" he ordered. X felt both powers welling up inside him as virus and vaccine battled it out. Abyss felt the same resistance he'd felt with the other two.

With the same white flash as before, X and Abyss flew in different directions, each hitting the ground and rolling for a bit.

Abyss slammed his hand into the ground to stop himself and looked at X.

"Again!" he seethed. "What happened?!"

X felt weaker. He could barely get to his feet again. And he couldn't fly.

"Oh, no." X whispered. "It's gone!" And he phone was destroyed, so he couldn't call for an exit. X looked up and saw Abyss rise to the air. He dove to the side as Abyss came by, but he circled around and planted a powerful punch into his chest which sent him into a wall. X hit the ground and couldn't get back up.

Abyss walked to him. "Something wrong?" he cocked his head. "Strange. You were just so powerful earlier. Though I tried extracting my data from you, I didn't feel it return to me. I thought it was still in you...but appearances can be deceiving." He picked X up by his hair, forcing him to his knees and scanned him. "You've lost your powers, haven't you?"

X didn't answer. Abyss punched him.

"Haven't you?!" He punched again. Abyss picked him up and slammed him into the building wall, then threw him back a ways. He ran over and picked X up, punching him again, then threw him to the ground. He pulled him up to his knees again. "Yes. It's all gone." He punched him again, releasing his grip.

X spat out blood. "I lost my viral powers yesterday, you blind fool!"

"Oh?" Abyss cocked his head.

"That's right! I removed the virus from my brain all by myself!"

"And how might you have done that?"

"I studied myself and my X-Virus for a long time and finally created a suitable vaccine for it. I uploaded myself and the virus in me was deleted. That's how I was able to fight you like that! It wasn't your power! It was mine! My own! I used my own vaccine and was able to stand against your strongest power!"

"But not defeat it." Abyss smiled.

"I'm not entirely surprised." X spat. "The vaccine was supposed to be the equal and opposite equivalent of your power. That's why you couldn't delete Shadow or Pyro and why you couldn't extract your data from me, besides that it wasn't there!"

"But then it also cancelled out your powers, didn't it?" Abyss pointed out. "So now...you're nothing."

X looked up at him, defiantly. Abyss punched him again and picked him up.

"So now," he pulled back his hand. "It's time to die." He shoved his hand into X's body. "Delete!"

BLAM!!

"AGH!!" Abyss roared, his body arching from the bullet in his back. X flipped back, kicking Abyss in the face and sliding from his grip. He landed on his stomach. He was hurt, but not dead.

Abyss spun around to see who fired, but he was too late. His hands were knocked away from him and two more thrust into his chest.

"DYAH!!" He bellowed and looked at his attacker. He'd seen him before, the black trench coat tied by a belt at the waist, coving black clothing and boots over the thick body and the shades a little below the short, black hair. "You!!" he seethed.

"Yes." Riley nodded. "Me." He let his vaccine powers go, filling Abyss's body. Abyss felt his powers inside being over come by this new force. "No!" he hissed. He reeled back his hand and put all his power into it, then thrust it into Riley.

To Abyss's surprise and horror, the fingers of that hand suddenly shattered like little pieces of fine crystal, leaving no mark. Abyss roared more in shock than pain.

"I owe you this one!" Riley hissed. "Be gone!"

Abyss's body twitched and writhed. "AHHH!!!'

"And this time," X said, forcing himself to stand, "There will be no backup to recreate you."

"No . . ." Abyss grunted. "NNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"

With a great white blast, Abyss's body shattered like crystal and blew X and Riley back a good ways.

X rolled to a stop. When he opened his eyes, he was filled with terror. The hole in the Matrix was only a few feet from him and coming closer. But X was hurt badly and the last blast hadn't exactly helped. He tried pushing himself up, but it was all he could do to get onto one knee. He gathered all his strength and pushed with that leg. He got about two steps in before falling again. He tried once more to get up, but this time it was hopeless. He was done. His energy was spent. He turned and watched the hole getting closer and closer to him until it was only a few inches away.

Suddenly, something picked him up.

"No you don't!" Riley said, slinging X over his shoulders. "You've come this far and you're not going to die now!" He began running, even though he'd just run that far to pick up X in the first place. He flipped open his phone.

"Hero, get us outta here!" Riley ordered.

"Three o'clock, captain." Hero responded calmly. Riley looked to his right and a car zoomed up and stopped in front of them. Shade was in the front seat.

"Get in!" She said. Riley opened the back door and put X in the back, then got in himself. They drove to the exit phone. Riley first put X to the phone and X weakly picked it up and vanished. Shade went next, then Riley exited the Matrix for the first time in months.

X's eyes weakly opened.

"You alright there, Tiger?" Hero asked him as the chair sat up.

"I think so." X whispered, out of breath. He looked at Riley. "What about him?"

"I feel the best I've been since the last time I saw Abyss." Riley said, standing. "Didn't expect to see me, did you?"

"Nope."

"When your powers were cancelled out, I knew you'd need help. But Shadow and Pyro were gone, so I volunteered."

"Against the doctor's orders?"

"I wasn't about to lose one more crew member to that program...or one more friend." He smiled. X returned it.

"But where are Shadow and Pyro?"

"Machine City, doing their business."

"What the?!" Hero suddenly asked.

"Now what?" Riley groaned, walking over to him.

"I don't know. The Matrix feed suddenly went all weird." He was right. It was flashing and flickering like it had before, when X first tried entering with the vaccine. But in a few seconds, it went back to normal. Hero searched. "Hey, the hole is gone...they did it! The Matrix is back to normal!"

X and Riley smiled again.

"Pyro and Shadow are on their way home." Hero explained. "They'll be here momentarily."

"Everything worked out." X sighed, sliding back down in the chair. "Abyss is finally gone and the Matrix is freed of the most powerful program in the world." He closed his eyes and slumped down. "Thank heavens."

Riley reclined the chair for X so it would be more comfortable.

X just lay there, eyes closed, feeling free for the first time since he couldn't remember. But he felt very hot and was covered in sweat. A minute later, he felt a cold, wet rag on his head and soft hands slid through his hair.

"You gonna be okay?" A female voice asked.

X opened his eyes and saw Shade kneeling beside him.

"Wha . . .? How did you . . .?"

"I was around, so I came aboard to help Riley."

"That's how I sent her in for you two." Hero explained.

"Oh . . ." X closed his eyes again as Shade stroked his hair a few more times. He smiled a little.

A few minutes later, the hatch opened again to let in Shadow and Pyro. X was feeling a bit more rested and was sitting up again. He looked at them and had to laugh, with everyone else.

"What happened to your hair?" Shade laughed. They looked like they'd stuck their heads out a car window for too long.

Pyro pointed to the sentinels. "Riding them. Six Flags ain't got nothing on a sentinel ride!" he began fixing his hair.

"What are you doing here?" Shadow asked her. They all shared their stories, getting everyone back on track.

"So . . ." Shadow said, "We did it."

Riley nodded. "We did it."

A sentinel came up to them and projected a screen.

"On behalf of the entire Machine City, we thank you."

The sentinels bowed their domes to them.

"You have liberated the Matrix from a deadly fiend once and for all. You've done a great deed for us. Now, is there anything we can do for you all?"

X shook his head. "I just wanna go home."

Riley chuckled. "We are home."

X remembered. "Oh, yeah. Then, I'm cool."

"I'm alright." Shadow said.

"Me too." Pyro agreed.

"I got what I wanted when I killed Abyss." Riley said. "I could ask for no more."

"I wouldn't mind better living quarters." Hero honestly said. They all laughed.

Then, the phone rang.

"If it's a telemarketer, I'm gonna kill." Hero chuckled, answering.

"Operator . . .uh . . .who is this?" he waited, then rolled his eyes and gave a Pyro a dirty look. "He's right here." He held out the headset. "Veronica."

Pyro put the headset on. "Yello . . .what? . . .whoa, hey, slow down! What happened?" He was silent for a moment. "Where are you now?" Another silence. "Stay there. I'll come as soon as I can."

"What is it now?" Riley asked, arm crossed.

Pyro looked at the machines. "Remember when you asked if you could do anything for us? I actually do have one request . . ."

Pyro ran up the stairs of the apartment building. Sixth floor. Apartment Fourteen A. He opened the door without knocking. Scott was in the living room without his shirt and spun around when the door opened.

"What the?!" He hissed at Pyro. A bedroom door opened and Veronica looked out, frightened. Scott looked back at her. "Did you call him?!"

Veronica nodded, jittery.

Scott's eyes burned. "You little-"

"Watch your mouth." Pyro said.

"Shut up!!" Scott roared. He reached down and grabbed his gun from his belt on the counter.

"NO!!" Veronica screamed. But Pyro bent back and dodged the bullets, then cartwheeled away and began flipping and flailing towards Scott until he was close enough to spin-kick the gun from his hand, then kick Scott in the chest. He gave Scott a few more punches, then performed a Tornado Kick, sending Scott to the wall. He fell to the ground, unmoving.

Pyro looked at Veronica. "You okay?"

"I-Is he dead?"

Pyro looked over at his body. "If he gets back up, he will be." He turned to Veronica again. "How did he find you?"

She shrugged, still shaking. "He . . .he surprised me in the park. I said I didn't want to go back, but he didn't listen. He brought me back anyway. I tried fighting him like you said, but . . .he was too strong."

Pyro walked closer to her and saw the numerous bruises on her body. "Geez." He whispered.

"Scott was tired of my stalling, so he told me to go into the bedroom and 'prepare'."

"And you called me instead."

"Yes." She nodded. "I had to. I didn't want to . . .not with him!" She shook her head. "But I can't stop him . . .I can't even run from him!"

"There are many things you can't do by yourself. Just tonight, I couldn't do something myself. Sometimes someone else has to do something for you."

"I feel so weak." Veronica looked down, crossing her arms over herself.

Pyro walked over and put his hands on her shoulders. "You're not. You had the guts to leave Scott, knowing the consequences, should he find you again. Too few people are able to run."

She smiled a little as she looked up at him. "I think it was easier for me."

"Why?"

"Because I had someone to run to."

Pyro smiled. Veronica moved forward and wrapped her arms around his waist, her head against his chest. Pyro returned the embrace.

"But I don't even know you." Veronica said. "You fight on trucks, you chase psychopaths, you dodge bullets . . .I don't even know your name!"

He gave her a look. "I told you. My name is Pyro."

Veronica shook her head. "That's not a name. That's an alias . . .isn't it?"

Pyro looked down at her, hesitant, but he nodded in the end.

"So what's your real name?"

"I . . .I don't think so."

"Not privileged to give out that kind of information?" She shook her head. "Don't you think I know too much already? What's name going to hurt?"

Pyro admitted that, but he still wasn't sure.

"So what is it?" She asked again.

He thought back to a name he hadn't used in over two years.

"It's, uh . . .its' . . ." He remember. "Lance . . .my name's Lance."

She smiled again. "Lance. It's a good name. But there's still so much about you I want to know."

"There's so much to tell . . .I don't know if I have the time." He looked at Scott's body. "So I have an idea." He sat her down on the couch and sat next to her. "Remember how I said it was impossible for you to stay with me?"

Veronica nodded.

"Well, it's possible now." He reached into his pocket and pulled out two large pills, one red and one blue. "Take the blue pill and you'll fall asleep and wake up tomorrow felling that this was all a big dream. You won't remember me or anything you've seen or heard. Take the red pill . . .and I'll show you my world. But once you enter it, there's no going back. Choose."

Veronica looked him funny. "What do you mean, 'your world'?"

"The real world. The world you know is a dream, Veronica. None of is real. You can leave it now, leave it all behind and see what earth really is."

"Not real?" She asked.

"It's alright for me to tell you now, no matter what pill you choose. But you have to make that particular choice now. Do you wish to stay in this world, which is actually easier to endure, or know the truth about everything?"

Veronica looked at the pills. "If I take the blue one . . .I won't ever see you again, will I?"

Pyro shook his head. "You won't even know that I exist."

Veronica looked at Scott. "A life with him is one thing." She looked at Pyro. "But a life without you?" She picked up the red pill. "That is unbearable." She took the pill. Pyro smiled.

Veronica suddenly felt a shortage of breath. She felt dizzy. "I . . ." She wheezed.

"Don't worry." Pyro encouraged. "This is usual."

Veronica gripped his arm until she hit the ground, unconscious. Pyro opened his phone.

"She took it."

"We're ready for her." Hero said." Use the phone one floor up, apartment 12B to leave. Hurry. She'll be expecting you."

Pyro hurried out the door, closing it behind him.

Veronica went through the same situation every freed human went through, the awakening, the drilling, the excruciating pain, and the sudden drainage into someplace she didn't know.

Veronica spilled out onto the floor of the Genesis.

"I remember that." Shadow chuckled.

She was unclothed, so Pyro had a sheet ready and covered her with it, wrapping his arms around her frightened and shivering body.

"It's alright." He whispered into her ear. "It's alright. You're free now...you're free."

She turned her head and looked up at him. "L . . .Lance . . ." She whispered. Pyro nodded. She smiled and closed her eyes again.

"Lance?" Riley asked.

Pyro shrugged. "My real name."

They all looked at each other, then Shadow stuck out his hand.

"Cory." Pyro looked at him, then shook his hand.

X stuck his hand out. "Taylor."

Hero joined in. "Jack."

Shade stepped up. "Vickie."

"Nathaniel." Riley spoke up. Everyone looked at him.

"Wait a minute!" Hero said. "You mean Riley isn't your real name?!"

"Hey," Shadow said, "You've known him longer than us and you didn't know?"

"No!"

Riley smiled. "Didn't suspect anything, did you?" He chuckled.

Shade looked at Veronica. "So what are we gonna call her?"

Pyro thought. "I think 'Liberty' suits her well."

Riley nodded and headed for the cockpit. "Let's take her back home."

Veronica/Liberty was inspected and clothed on the way home. Then, she began to re-learn how to walk.

In Zion, the crew received a royal welcome. Everyone had heard what they'd done and they were declared heroes. Riley was asked to come to the commander's office. Hero followed. The others were lead to the homes that were prepared for them. After unpacking, the gang went their separate ways. Riley had given them a place to meet him in an hour and a half where they would all eat together.

". . .then we exited the Matrix and waited for Pyro and Shadow to return." Riley wrapped up his lengthy report to not only the Commander but the counsel as well. They were just as curious.

"Amazing." A counselor said. "Simply amazing." The others agreed.

"I say the same." The Commander said with a smile. "Incredible, all of it. That's quite a crew you have going there."

"Thank you, sir. I was careful in my picking."

"Very good. I'll sort out a few things with the counsel and you and your crew will be rewarded. Dismissed."

"Thank you, sir."

Riley turned and walked out of the room. Outside, Hero was waiting for him, along with two others.

"Captain Morpheus." Riley said. "A pleasant surprise."

"Captain Riley." Morpheus shook his hand. "This is the operator of the Bata Neb, Link."

"Good to meet you, sir." Link shook his hand.

"Likewise." Riley said.

Morpheus spoke. "Hero here told us your story. It's very fascinating."

"Why thank you. You also know how it feels to have a story surrounding you."

He chuckled. "Yes, I do."

"You, know," Riley said, "I never did hear the details of that story."

"Nor I." Hero added.

"Tell you what," Riley offered, "Why don't you two join us all for dinner and tell us the full story of Neo."

Morpheus nodded. "I would be honored."

"Yeah, me too." Link said, "Especially if y'all paid."

They all laughed.

"My crew will meet us." Riley said as they began walking.

"And what a crew it is, from what I hear." Morpheus said.

Riley nodded. "I have no regrets in my choosing. They never cease to amaze me."

Veronica was sticking close to Pyro. He was telling her everything he knew.

"So I can get uploaded and kick butt in the Matrix too?"

"Sure, once you take the training courses and join a ship."

"I think I already know the one I want to join."

Pyro smiled. "So what do you think of the real world?"

She looked around her. "It's different . . .very different. But I think one day we can fix it."

"I agree. One day things will be back to normal. One day we'll see the sky again."

Veronica nodded. "So does it hurt entering the Matrix?"

"Only at first and not too much. You get used to it."

"Can I get an alias too?"

"It's required. We offered one: Liberty."

Veronica looked around, the nodded. "I like it. It suits the situation."

"That's why I did it." She stopped.

"Pyro . . .Lance . . .whatever. Look, you've done a lot for me. You're . . .you're the only one that's really been there for me in a long time and, well . . .I . . .just . . .thank you."

Pyro nodded. "Anytime. And if you ever need help around here, just call me."

Veronica smiled, then reached up and kissed his cheek. "Thanks again."

Pyro smiled, but when she turned away, he shot his fist in the air in triumph.

Shadow asked Shade a question. "How come you were able to board our ship?"

"We just happened to be in Zion, refueling when the Genesis suddenly flies in and opens the hatch without landing. If that's not weird enough, a buncha sentinels shoot out and carry two humans up through the tunnel. Hey, how was that?"

"Fun! They should charge admission for that!"

"You guys saved the Matrix?"

"Kinda. We used X's vaccine to sorta 'cure' the Matrix. Then the Machines rewrote it to the way it always was."

"Cool."

They walked along silently for a little while.

"So . . ." Shade said, "Cory."

"So . . ." Shadow countered. "Vickie."

"Your hair isn't really black!" Shade noticed, holding a few of his brown locks in her fingers.

"Yeah? Well you're not quite as tall in the real world either."

"And you're not quite as built."

"Well...your butt looks better in the Matrix."

Shade gave him a look. "I didn't change that."

Shadow froze. "Oh?" He looked behind her and stared for a while. "Huh. I guess I'm just seeing things."

Shade shook her head. "You said that just to get a peep, didn't you?"

"Yeah." He shrugged.

"Smooth."

"Thanks."

"Looks like we both had a few enhancements on ourselves when entering the Matrix."

"Yeah." He stopped her and took her hands. "But you're still as pretty in the real worlds as you are in the Matrix."

Shade smiled. "And you're still as sad and pathetic as you are in the Matrix."

"Hey!"

"But it's that young attitude that attracts me." She kissed him. "As well as the compliments on my posterior."

They laughed and kissed again.

Poor X was alone. But he didn't really mind. After his experiences with Siren, X was convinced that he didn't want a girlfriend right now.

X went back to the orphanage to see the younger kids again. They were thrilled to see him again. He met up with old friends, who all wanted to know about his adventures on the ship.

He was walking around the training areas when three girls walked out of the computer room, shaking their heads.

"She's lost it." One said. Then she looked up. "Oh! Hi, X!"

"Hiya." He said.

One of the girls pointed into the computer room. "Maybe you can save her."

"Who?"

"That girl in there has been at that computer forever, fiddling with that training program forever. She can't beat it, but she just won't quit!"

"And what makes you think I can stop her?" X had to ask.

"She looks up to you."

X gave them a look. "To me?"

"Yeah, she wants to be as good a hacker as you were. As her role model, maybe you can help her out." The girls walked off.

"Since when does anyone look up to me?" X asked himself. He walked inside and saw a trim, pretty, short-haired blonde at a far computer. She looked about his age and she was furiously tapping away at the computer. X walked in and came up behind her, watching her work. He remembered this program. Pretty high stuff. Even he'd had a little trouble with it . . .a little.

No matter how the girl tried it, she couldn't seem to hack into the program.

"C'mon!" She hissed. "C'mon!" She was close, but then another wall was put up to stop her and the time ran out.

"MISSION FAILED." The computer told her.

The girl groaned. "I had it! I had it!"

"You're too hasty."

The girl spun around in the chair and looked up at him. Her eyes widened.

"You're X!"

He nodded. "I am."

"Wow! I . . .It's great to meet you!"

"Thanks. I, uh, I hear you're a fan."

"Of course! You're only the greatest hacker to come from this place!"

X shrugged and blushed a little. "Well . . ."

"So . . .what was it you said about this?" She pointed to the computer.

"Oh, yeah. You're too hasty. You had the right code combination and all, but you were so frantic on the keyboard that you lost it. Slow down a little. Try again."

She turned and started it up again.

"This is pretty high-rate stuff." X said. "You sure you're up to it?"

"I always go at least one level ahead of what they say I should do."

"Oh?" X was intrigued.

"Yeah, it's just something I do. I want to be above average."

"Understandable." He sat down next to her.

The girl began working the program and, once more, began to lose control.

"Slow down." X said, watching. "Easy does it. Be calm."

She took a deep breath and continued, a bit less frantic. A short while later, she was in.

"HACK SUCCESSFUL." The computer reported.

"I did it!" She rejoiced.

"There, you see?" X said. "Slow and steady wins the race."

She nodded. "Thanks a lot."

"But, like I said, this is some pretty advanced material. You did well."

"Thank you. Everyone else says I'm crazy, jumping ahead of the regular material."

"Nothing wrong with stretching your limits." X said. "It may come in handy someday."

The girl nodded. X got curious.

"What's your name?" He asked.

She seemed a little stunned. "Spyder . . .with a Y."

"I'm X." he formally introduced himself and shook her hand.

"Nice to finally meet you." She looked back at the computer. "Thanks again for the help. I've only got five months to do the best I can, then I'll be old enough to board a ship."

"A lot can happen in five months." X said. "Trust me."

"Well, yeah," She said. "In less than that, you made that." She pointed to the virus flash drive, but found another around his neck. "What's that one?"

"The vaccine." He said.

"Vaccine?"

"It's a long story." He shook his head.

"I don't have anything to do." She offered.

X thought for a minute. "Tell you what, Spyder. Why don't you come to dinner with me and I'll tell it to you."

Spyder's eyebrows perked. "Are you asking me out?"

X thought. "Yeah . . .yeah, I am."

"Well . . .yes! Of course!"

"Alright." He nodded and gestured towards the door. "Shall we?"

"Let's." They walked out together.

The table was large and filled with happy people. Stories were shared, jokes were told, and advice was given. Everyone learned something from one another that evening. A day or two and they'd all go off again on their own duties. Who knew what would happen? That wasn't for them to know. All they were supposed to know was the here and the now.

Hours later, Link tapped a knife against a glass.

"Hey." He said. "It's not that often that a bunch of us get together like this, so I want to take this opportunity to propose a toast." Everyone agreed. "It's a toast for a number of things, really. A toast to the future, to the sky, to the machines-the good ones, to the humans, to the truce . . .and to the world."

Everyone raised their glasses.

"To the world!"

And they drank.

THE END

Author's Note: And that's the story. Sorry for the delay. Thanks to everyone who read. And thanks to the real Shadow and Pyro for helping and encouraging me with this story. Please review one last time. If you liked this story, check out some of my other stuff! Thanks again and adios!