A Friend in Need
by Clearsky

He was doing it again.

Typing out commands that would change her world, for better or for worse, without a second thought.

He was so confident, he would type away, never making mistakes, never going back.. until he was complete. Then the revisions would come, the cursing and finger chewing, the fiddling with pens or paper, until the corrections appeared in his mind and they could be entered in place of the mistakes.

He never seemed to know she was there.. that was probably all for the better, she thought. After all, it was better to love from afar and be happy in your delusions than to be confronted, and hurt.

The doctors didn't believe her when she told them what would happen to the system. They shrugged off her predictions of upgrades and new installations as flukes. They never bothered to listen to her anymore.. everyone knew her condition.

She was crazy.

After all, anyone who said they could talk to the User was crazy, weren't they?

He had stopped typing. What was he doing now? Some kind of disk... he took a blank disk from a box and labeled it, then pushed it into the slot of the workstation he was at.

Maybe he was going to take all her doctors away?

It would be nice to see the sky again.. how long HAD she been in this room, staring at the bland padded walls? She knew where she was, of course - deep in the bowels of the Principle Office, in the back of the medical research section, back in the place where they kept the crazies.

The loonies.

And the strange..

A muffled howling heard thru the door told her that patient #2908 was being taken for his daily bath. Poor binome.. convinced he was a dog. Insisted in his lucid moments that people call him 'Muffy'. He had been here for a while and the doctors still couldn't train him to use the bathroom.

Oh! He WAS taking something out of the system! Now.. if only she could figure out what it was...

There he went, talking to himself again. Good, he always said something interesting, it was almost as if he could hear her... but that WAS crazy. He was a User, she was just a Sprite.

Hmm... so he was having trouble with some program? Protection software? That would mean the Guardians, no doubt. About time the User figured out there was a virus in the SuperComputer, maybe now something would be done about that.

The newly labelled disk got put away, and a bright and shiny CD-ROM was brought out. She couldn't read what it said, she hadn't picked up enough of the User's alphabet for that, but it didn't matter. For some reason, this User had the habit of muttering the name of the disk as it went into the workstation..

And there it was. A new Game. Hmm.. maybe she should warn someone? Why bother? They would just ignore her again, or worse, send in another of their specialists to try to 'cure' her.

She shuddered. Getting stuck with wires was not her favorite way to spend time, especially when watching the User was so much more interesting.

She watched the screen as the Game started up and waited for it to begin. There! Muffled, faint, even through the thick walls and floors of the Principle Office, the System Voice was designed to be heard throughout the entire system, and a Game Warning was surely one of the most important warning messages the Voice could deliver.

New Games were always interesting... she could see why Users played them. It was strange though.. some times when the User would play a Game, no Game Cube would drop. Those were usually the boring Games, moving cards and small tiles, clicking on grey boxes looking for bombs.. not her type of Game at all.

The ones she liked best were fast-paced, colorful, and weren't the regular shoot-em-up type - the blood-n-gore Games she tuned out entirely.

Oh. This looked like one of the blood-n-gore types.. ah well. Maybe she'd peek back in later. Her stomach grumbled.. maybe she should check to see if it was time to eat again. Every so often she would forget.. and if she forgot to eat too many times in a row, another of those annoying specialists would be sent in again.

Yes, there was a plate of food by the door again.. icky mushy stuff... it had no taste at all, but it was the only thing they had. Ah well.. down the hatch it went. Gah... it was even stickier than last time.. if only she had a glass to drink from.

They weren't allowed glasses anymore, not since #1967 had decided to eat hers and died from it. Who knew a child could fit the whole thing into her throat and choke on it? She could understand why, of course. It was the only way to get out of here.

Hmm.. the User was thirsty too, apparently. He drank a lot of cold fizzy brown stuff, so much that she often wondered if it was addictive. He always seemed to have a good supply of it on hand. She wondered if it had vitamins or something essiential to the User's diet, that he drank so much of it?

Oh, now he had stopped the Game! Why? Oh! Another User had stopped by his desk, the one she could recognize as being her User's superior. He was getting mad at her User for wasting company time again.. something her User did a lot, from the superior's point of view.

The annoying User moved on only after the CD-ROM was removed from the workstation and a screenful of code appeared. He was alone again.

He ran a hand thru his hair, sighing. He was so cute when he was worried.. She never thought she'd find a User attractive, but she knew that he wasn't responsible for the deaths that occurred during a Game.

She knew things that no one else did... she knew that the Users had no idea Sprites and Binomes even existed - to them, Games were just games. Writing a program for them was nothing special, it was just something they did every day. It was work - and for some reason, that made her sad...

She would never get a chance to show this User what his beautiful lines of code would become in her world.

It was a pity.

She laughed. Who would have thought... a Sprite pitying a User? And why? Because they couldn't see what everyone else did. They couldn't see the amount of good they did... or the amount of evil.

She sighed. At least the doctors had gotten rid of the nulls. They had been all over the place last week, getting into everything. They had swarmed one of the other prisoners and drained him entirely before anything had been done. Another one free of this place.

Would she ever be free?

She knew the answer.

She would never see the sky again.

And there he went... typing away.

Another line of code, another person born, another place created... what would it be this time? A Binome? Sprite? Virus? They didn't need another of those, they had a nasty one already. Maybe it would be a new place... a bigger cell system? Maybe even a new cafeteria for the prisoners?

She wondered what she had looked like when she was born, typed, created, whatever you wanted to call it. Was she just another line of code? Well, of course she was, but hopefully, she had changed between now and then.

She wondered what it would be like to die... would it be painless? Probably. Would it bother her? Not at all. She was tired, actually. All she did was sit here and watch her User.. come to think of it, if the doctors opened her door right now and told her she was free to go, she'd most likely choose to stay right where she was.

She knew her User. He would choose her time. That was the way it worked. She knew the truth, the one truth that everyone else would be horrified to know...

Oh, they'd deny it, of course. "People are more than bits of light on a screen!" she could almost hear them shout. "The User does not control me!" "I want to be free!"

They would panic, riot, throw things around.

Silly people.

And they locked HER up.

The User was the User. You wouldn't know when he moved bits of your code around, never know when he would rewrite you, never know when he would chose to end your runtime.

But she knew... she could watch him do it all.

Time to peek on her User again... hmm.. looked like he was a little mad. Oh? Something refused to run... bad memory?

He was doing a system scan now... wierd tingly feeling sweeping over everyone, making the wackos down the hall scream and shout. Even the doctors were getting worried, she could tell - they were shouting at her fellow loonies to shut up.

The scan continued.

She grinned. This was fun! She could sit here and watch things from both ends.. ah, he'd found something wrong... had he found the virus yet?

No.. but he would. He was smart.

There! He'd found something... a group of lost files. Lost files? That reminded her of what one of the doctors had said once.. how she and the others locked up here were "lost to the rest of the system". That was silly.

She wasn't lost.

She knew where she was.

She wasn't crazy.

She just didn't belong here.

She watched as her User grouped all the lost files together.

He highlighted them on the screen.

The screams from down the hall got louder - the doctors were panicking too now, it wasn't just the inmates.

Hmm.. maybe she WOULD get out of here?

The pointer on the screen moved to cover the "delete" key.

It would be nice to see the sky again....