"Friendship"

Enzo ran. He didn't care who saw him or where he was going. there weren't many people on the streets right now anyway, most of Mainframe's inhabitants were gathered in Kits Sector. The explosion had destroyed the entire Twin City, along with all of its population. A population that included Professor Alfred Matrix, Enzo's father. He had heard the explosion a few nanos ago, and like everyother sprite in the system, had rushed to the VidWindow to find out what had happened. He'd seen the first reports, and that had been enough for him. No one could have survived the destuction; what had been the workplace for every High Data Sprite in the entire city was now a small island with a few twisted buildings, half melted by whatever had gone wrong. No one could have survived that, no one...

Enzo dragged his sleeve across his eyes as he ran in a futile effort to wipe the tears away. His sleeve was already soaked with tears, but he didn't notice. All he knew was that Dad was gone, and he wasn't coming back, ever. The seven month old Sprite kept running, not caring where he was going, as long as he could get away. He'd seen the horrified sympathy in the looks of the binomes at school, and when he fled the classroom, in the looks of binomes on the street. He couldn't take it, all he wanted was to be alone...

His foot slipped on something and Enzo skidded to his knees, scraping one on the rough pavement. He looked up, and realized where he was. "Level 31... the lowest level in Mainframe..." For a moment, fear overlaid the sadness, then the grief came flooding back. "I don't care... at least Dot won't think to look for me here." Remembering his sister made the tears threaten again, she was probably going through the same kind of pain he was, but he couldn't handle it... thinking of Dot made him think of Dad.

A general noise came from the road behind him; someone was coming. Enzo stumbled to his feet and ducked inside a fence, not noticing the sign he passed: "Pearson's Data Dump." He took a running step and didn't realize until too late that there was no ground under his feet. He fell, screaming all the way, to the junk pile 40 feet below. His impact made a resounding crash, and somewhere nearby, a pair of glowing eyes opened.

********

"Ow... whoa.. wha-what happened?" His head hurt. That was Enzo's first thought, just how much his head hurt. He didn't believe he could hurt that much, then the ache from the rest of his body caught up with his brain. He opened his eyes and noticed he was on his back, lying on a pile of degraded parts and some other stuff he didn't want to look too closely at.. it might look back. He shoved himself to his feet, then fell to his knees again as the system tilted. "Whoa.. this is not good!" He grabbed a pipe and pulled himself up, feeling all the various scratches and bumps he'd gotten, then looked up.

"Whoa, duuude... I fell from there? I'm lucky I wasn't deleted! Now, how am I going to get back up there?" He frowned, realizing there was something wrong. He could hear a low rumbling sound not too far off, but had no idea what it might be. "Hey, where am I? What's going on, how did I get here?" He looked down at his sleeve, and vaguely remembered wiping his eyes. 'Now why would I wipe my eyes.. was I crying? Why in the Net would I be -"

Another sound, this time the siren of an emergency vehicle, and he remembered, all in a rush. The explosion, the running, the fall... and he remembered - "Dad..." he wailed, and unseen things skittered away from the sound of his voice. "DAD!!!"

The sound of his sobs were loud; other then the occasional faint siren, there was no other noise in the data dump. Even through his crying, that struck Enzo as rather odd. What was dad always telling him about the dump? He tried to remember, then realised the metal plate he was sitting on was shivering, and he heard the low rumbling again, but this time it was much louder. He looked up with a gasp, and saw two glowing eyes staring back at him from the semi-darkness.

The eyes didn't move and the growling didn't get any louder, and instead of becoming more afraid, Enzo started to get angry. How could that- that- whatever it was go about doing its normal job of keeping the junk yard clear of intruders when the Twin City had just been destroyed? How could it not be affected by his dad's deletion?

Enzo got mad. He picked up a chunk of rock and threw it at the red eyes, then picked up a pice of wood and threw that too. Anything he could get his hands on he threw, yelling and crying, angry that this thing, whatever it was, was somehow ignorent of his loss. He finally found a length of pipe and ran forward, yelling as he swung the pipe around, ready to hit-

A dog. Enzo blinked. It was a huge red and yellow dog, and it was sitting there behind a pile of rocks and junk, chewing on a piece of sheet metal. When the dog saw him, it jumped up and started wagging its tail, evidently waiting for him to throw the pipe he held. The dog barked, tilted its head and lolled its tongue at him, then flipped the piece of metal it had been chewing back over its shoulder to fly off into the darkness. The dog barked again, waiting for Enzo to move.

It was bad enough that this dog didn't know he was hurting, but now it wanted him to play with it? Enzo dropped the pipe in disgust, then, ignoring the dog, he turned and started looking for the way out of the junk yard. At the far side of the pit he saw a light, so he started towards it. When he got to an open space a few nanos later, he saw more lights and a shack with a ramp behind it that led back up to the city. He wrapped his arms around himself and shivered, it was dark and he wanted to go home...

As he trudged through the piles of scrap metal, Enzo noticed that the red and yellow dog was following him. He spun around and yelled at it, "Go away! I'm leaving, I don't want any of this stupid junk, so leave me alone!" He started walking towards the lights again, but the dog wouldn't leave, it kept following him as he stumbled around in the junk. After the tenth time of falling and scraping his knees, Enzo tripped, landing against a stack of boards, knocking them out from under a pile of crates. The junk on top of the crates was well over three times his height, and Enzo looked up to see the entire pile of junk sliding towards him. He froze; he was too tired and bruised to move very fast anyway, and there was no way he would have made it out of the way even if he had been his usual hyper-active self. Enzo closed his eyes and waited for the first impact.

Suddenly he found himself yanked up and out of the way, and being carried out of danger. Something had clamped around his waist and was holding him suspended horizontally in the air, face down. He wiggled a bit, and turned to look behind him, when he heard the resounding crash of the junk pile come tumbling down. Enzo's jaw dropped open in shock - if he'd been caught under all of that, he'd have been deleted for sure... then he saw what was holding him.

The big dog blinked at him and tilted it's head, and Enzo almost hit the ground face-first before the dog tilted it's head back the other way and placed him on his feet.

"Uh... thanks!" Enzo stood there, still stunned by the combined noise, relief at being alive, and the method of rescue. He looked down at his shirt: there were no bite marks, and no pain from the dog's teeth, in fact, he had hardly even felt being grabbed. He looked back up at the dog. It's mouth was big enough that it could probably eat him in three bites, and he froze again as it stepped forward, bringing the end of its nose right up to his face - then a huge red tongue flopped out and slopped over his face.

"Eww! Phooey!" Enzo dragged his sleeve across his mouth, grinning in spite of his gloom, and laughed a little as the dog pushed him down with its nose and licked him again. "Hey! Will you-" Enzo couldn't say more, as the dog put one huge paw on his chest and continued licking his face. "Ack! Will you stop- ick! Hahaha! Stop it!"

"Frisket!" Light blinded Enzo as it poured over him. The door of the shanty had opened, revealing a One binome in the doorway; the light came from twin floodlights on either side of the door. "What've you caught this time, boy?" The grizzled old binome stomped down the wooden steps, shading his eye from the light. "Who's this... a young Sprite! And not in very good condition either. So lad, what're you doing in the dump? Trying to steal something for kicks?"

Enzo shook his head and tried to shove the dog, Frisket, off his chest. It didn't work. The binome noticed, "Frisket! Down boy, get off the lad and let him get up." He walked over and offered Enzo his hand, pulling the boy up smoothly despite the fact that Enzo was taller then him. "So? Speak up lad - what're you doing here?"

"My- my name's Enzo. Enzo Matrix. I was just-"

"Matrix?" The binome shook his head sadly. "Ah, boy... it's bad news I got for you then..."

Enzo sniffed and wrapped his arms around himself as he looked up at the sky. Smoke was drifting far overhead, and Enzo felt tears start slipping down his face again. "I know... the entire Twin City..." He closed his eyes, not wanting to believe it was real, and whispered, "Dad..."

He looked down at the touch on his arms. The dog, Frisket, was bumping him with his nose on the one, and the binome had his hand on the other. "Now, then, my name's Pearson, I run the dump, and this big lump of data is Frisket, and you're Enzo. We belong here, you don't. You should be with your sister - she's probably worried sick about you." He waited until Enzo nodded, watching his face carefully.

"Come on lad... let's get you home."

********

Enzo looked out the window, staring at Mainframe splashed by emergency lighting, looking towards the sector where the Twin City used to be. There was almost nothing left there that was recognizable, and most certainly no survivors. There was, however, about 2 million more nulls in Mainframe then there had been before. It seemed that his dad's experiment to un-nullify sprites and backfired and ended up nullifying everyone in the city. Enzo rubbed his sore eyes; he was too tired to cry anymore, and he was so sore, every movement hurt.

He'd arrived at their home in Pearson's old car, accompanied by the dog, Frisket, who wouldn't leave him alone. Dot had been worried about him, and as soon as they had landed, she'd ran up and hugged him. That had started him crying again, and the two of them had held each other and cried for about 5 nanos before Enzo ran out of tears. Dot had looked at him and told him to go get some sleep, and that they'd talk in the morning. She hadn't asked him where he'd been, or if he was ok, it was more then obvious where he'd been, and that nothing was ok. He'd been grateful for that, and he'd turned to thank Old man Pearson before he went inside.

"Mr. Pear- Whoa!" Enzo had almost jumped 3 feet in the air as he turned and found himself face-to-nose with Frisket. He'd gotten another face wipe from Frisket's tongue before Old man Pearson called him off, but that was all right. He was getting used to it by now, and actually reached around and hugged the dog's neck. "Thanks, Frisket, for everything." Frisket had nodded, barked and jumped back into the front seat of Pearson's car. Dot just looked stunned.

"My... that's a big dog."

Mr. Pearson just smiled. "That he is, ma'am. Now then, how about the two of you go get some rest. You look like you need it." The two had nodded; Dot was still rather distant, but she managed to say "Thank you Mr. Pearson. I had no idea where Enzo was, and, well, thank you." The binome had nodded and gotten into his car. Just before he took off, he yelled at Enzo. "And make sure you stay out of the dump from now on! I don't want to catch you in there again, you hear me?"

Enzo had nodded, then struggled upstairs into bed. He was exhausted but couldn't sleep yet, so he sat there and stared out the window. The sound of a sigh made him turn. Dot stood in the doorway, and came in when she saw him looking at her.

"Do you know... we're the only ones left?" Enzo blinked.

"Only ones left?" He thought about that for a moment while Dot nodded. "You mean, we're the only high-energy Sprites left in all of Mainframe?" He couldn't believe it. All of the system's highest classed Sprites were gone? Nullified? ALL of them? All his friends, his classmates, all gone?

Dot nodded, tears sliding down her face. "All of them, except you and me, little brother. We're all that's left."

Enzo had thought that he had no tears left, but a tear squeezed out one eye, and he clutched at Dot as they fell like rain again. Dot held him tightly, like an anchor in a storm. Brother and sister sat like that for a very long time, knowing that all they had left was each other, fiercely determined not to let go.

********

When Enzo woke up, he was laying in bed. Dot had apparently put him there before she had headed off to sleep, because the door of her room was closed when he went into the hall. Enzo sighed, and got cleaned up. His face felt like it had been scratched by sandpaper, and looked like it too, in some spots. He got some of the medical 'goop', as he called it, out of the first aid box and watched most of the scrapes and scratches disappear. The goop, however, couldn't make the pain of loss any less, so he concentrated on just healing his scratches. He was having a hard time doing it, apparently there was a kind of traffic jam outside. He tried to ignore it. Dot still wasn't up, so he went down and made himself some breakfast. He wasn't very hungry, but managed to eat some of it. The noise from outside was louder, and there seemed to be a lot of yelling. He got up and opened the door.

There were at least 20 CPU's outside, two of them mangled and on their sides. About three times that many binomes were hiding behind the cars, and they were all clustered around.. Frisket?

"Frisket!" The dog's head whipped around and he launched himself over the cars towards the open door. The binomes scattered in a panic, almost climbing over each other in their hurry to get out of the way. Enzo heard the nearest officer shout "Watch out, boy! That dog's unstoppable!" Frisket bounded up to the door and slid to a stop, right in front on Enzo, and licked his face.

"Ack! Phooey!" Frisket panted happily and pushed him over, then licked his face again while Enzo tried to push him away. Frisket finally stopped, then wagged his tail as Enzo tried to get up. He found a paw planted on his chest again, and Enzo looked up into Frisket's eyes, and he could swear he saw the dog smile. Enzo grinned and grabbed the spiked collar, pulling down as hard as he could. The dog yipped and rolled to the side, letting Enzo up, but not before he'd covered his face in doggy kisses again.

The two of them, boy and dog, looked up at the sound of laughter. Dot stood in the doorway, grinning, and the police binomes were laughing as Frisket pulled Enzo around on the ground. Dot, still looking tired, laughed as Enzo let go and Frisket immediatly started licking his face again, saying, "Well, this looks like the start of a wonderful friendship."

END