Disclaimer: ReBoot created and owned by the folks at Mainframe Entertainment. End Disclaimer
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Author Notes(in order of importance):
1- This is a SEQUEL. Before proceeding, be sure you have read "The Best of Both Formats" or you could get hopelessly lost.
2- CHARACTER DEATH AHEAD. Won't say how. Won't say when. Won't say who. You have been warned.
3- Rated R for violence, mature themes, and suggestive dialogue. Again, you have been warned.
* * * * *Queen of the Crashed
The 18th Angel (aka DaemonFan)
Chapter 01- Start Program
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System of Commodore
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They stood amid the ruins that had once been a thriving system. Four Sprites; three men and a woman.
"She's still here." The woman said quietly.
"Where?" One of her companions asked.
"Everywhere." The second in command, a tall sprite with blue skin and silver hair said. "All around us."
"Will these things really work?" The woman asked, looking dubiously at the small device attached to her forearm.
"They trusted us enough to exchange code." The leader said. "We have no choice but to return that trust."
"And the device?" The youngest man asked.
"It'll work." The Second in Command said. "It has to."
The leader nodded. "Then let's begin." He took a deep breath and spoke to the keytool on his forearm. "Copeland... Net." Copeland began to glow bright gold. "Jase, you next."
The youngest man nodded. "Surge: Net."
A bright band of energy shot between Copeland and Surge.
"Now you, Lain!" The leader called.
The woman stepped forward. "Navi: Net." The bands extended to form a triangle between the three keytools. In the center, something began to take shape, a huge, demonic face.
-*-WHAT ARE YOU DOING?-*- A bone-chilling voice rang out. -*-YOU FOOLS! YOU CANNOT STOP ME! YOU WILL ONLY GET YOURSELVES ERASED!-*-
"Interface!" The leader yelled. "Hurry!"
The silver-haired Sprite nodded and raised his arm. "Glitch: Net!" The net immediately extended to include Glitch. The figure in the center bellowed in anger as its form began to solidify in the center of the net.
-*-YOU CANNOT DESTROY ME!-*- It roared. -*-I...AM...EVERYTHING!-*-
"Now!" The commander yelled. "Copeland!"
In unison, they yelled the final command. "Compress!"
In the center of the net, underneath the horrific visage, the Wavelet Compressor hummed to life. The effect on the Virus was immediate. The roars of anger changed to cries of pain. As the Sprites watched, the face began to shrink. Each wave of energy from the device compressed the Virus more and more until it became too small to see.
Suddenly the air above the compressor seemed to explode. That wasn't supposed to happen. The Wavelet Device was supposed to compress their enemy infinitely, until she ceased to exist. Instead, the device exploded, leaving behind a shining black jewel hovering in the air and four Sprites lying motionless in a circle around it.
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System of Mainframe
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Bob woke from a dream he couldn't quite remember. In fact, all he could remember was that he had been having a dream, and it had filled him with dread. But the details of the dream were lost to him.
Reaching over, he found an empty space next to him. It was barely 0830 and she had already gone into work. He sighed sadly. Dot was overworking herself again.
Bob got up, showered quickly, and went out into the kitchen. Enzo was at the table, reading a comic book.
"Morning, Enzo." Bob said. "Have you seen Dot?"
"She had to go see Phong about something." Enzo said. "She told me to send you to the diner."
Of course! Bob slapped himself mentally. Dot hadn't gone in to work. She had her appointment this morning. And she would be waiting in the diner to tell him how it went.
"Thanks Enzo." Bob said, rushing out the door. "Don't be late for school."
"Yeah, sure." Enzo muttered.
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Dot was sitting in her usual booth when Bob reached the diner. He was about to go over there when Cecil popped up in front of him.
"Can you not read?" The Dedicated Server demanded, pointing to the 'Wait to be seated' sign.
"Not now, Cecil." Bob said. "I need to talk to Dot."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"There's no-one else here!" Bob protested.
"I am sorry, but I can not allow just anyone to walk in off the street and disrupt Madame's schedule." Cecil said.
Bob scowled and help up his left hand, shoving his gold wedding band in front of Cecil's face. "I'm her husband!" He growled. "I don't think she'll mind!"
Cecil sighed dramatically. "Wait at the bar."
Thankfully Dot chose that moment to rescue Bob. Or, more accurately, to rescue Cecil. She looked up from her work and waved Bob over. He grinned at Cecil and joined his wife at the small booth.
"Morning." Bob said, giving her a quick kiss.
"Hi." She said quietly, returning to her vidwindow.
"Hey." Bob protested. He slid into the seat next to her. "What's with the silent treatment? What did Phong say? Should I start formatting a nursery?"
He should have known from the look on her face. Looking into his eyes, tears gathering in her own, Dot shook her head silently. Now Bob really felt like a Null. He had been so anxious to hear the news, he never even considered that it might not be good.
"I just... I don't know, Bob." She said. "Maybe we're just not meant to..."
"Hey." Bob stopped her. "Don't start thinking like that. We've only been married a few minutes. These things can take time." He smiled reassuringly. "I'm in no rush, are you?"
"Don't think you can fool me, Robert Interface." Dot said. "You want kids just as much as I do."
"It's not about how bad we want it. This isn't something you can organize or control, Dot. You just have to let it happen however it will."
"And what if it never does?"
Bob slid closer and put his arm around Dot. "You've always got me to kick around." A tiny smile crept onto Dot's face. "There, that looks much better."
Dot's smile widened. She leaned against Bob, resting her head on his shoulder. "You know...you're right." She said. "This isn't the end of the Net. I mean, we've still got our hands full just taking care of Enzo. Who's to say we should even be thinking about having kids right now, right?"
Bob nodded, humoring her. They had already had this conversation and decided that yes, they were ready to have children of their own. But if it made Dot feel better, Bob would agree with her that 10 plus 10 was 101.
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Bob stayed at the Diner a few more microseconds to cheer up Dot. Eventually, upon her assurance that she would be fine, he left her to her work and went about his, patrolling Mainframe. He had one duty this morning that he really did not want to perform. Unfortunately, if he didn't do it, no one would. And that was unacceptable.
Sighing, not looking forward to this, Bob angled his zip board down toward G-Prime. The Tor had finally been dismantled, the tunnels filled in and the land used for low-rent housing. Bob zipped over the new apartments, heading for the very edge of G-Prime, where the sector bordered Wall Street. One or two high-rises hung over into G-Prime where the two sectors met. Bob landed on the roof of the tallest building a small door led to the stairs; Bob went down one flight and stepped out into a short hallway with a single door at the end.
Megabyte took his time answering the door, either because he knew who was ringing the bell or because that was just the kind of person he was. Some things never changed.
"Oh, good morning Bob." He said. "Here for inspection."
"Yeah. Sure." Bob took two steps into the apartment and turned back to the door." Well everything looks fine see you next cycle."
Bob stopped just at the door, thinking, crash it all, crash it all, crashitall!
"Nothing you'd be interested in, Megabyte."
"On the contrary." The Ex-Virus said. "You're obviously feeling depressed, and I find any pain you might be in fascinating."
"Fine." Bob sighed. "It's none of your business then."
"Problems with the wife, is it?" Megabyte asked before Bob could make it through the door. "I might have guessed. She is rather difficult to live with as I recall."
"What do you know about women, Megabyte?" Bob sneered. "You've only been a man for an hour."
"As in so many other things, I know more than you ever seem to give me credit for." Megabyte replied. "Enough to know when a woman isn't getting something she wants."
"I don't think we need to be having this conversation." Bob said.
"Well don't get mad at me, Guardian. It's not my fault if you don't know how to keep your wife satisfied."
Bob silently counted to 1010, determined not to rise to Megabyte's bait. "As always, you have no idea what you're talking about."
"All right, so everything in the bedroom is processing well." Megabyte said. "Children, then. Dot wants a few dozen offspring running around, but you don't want to lose your precious independence and..."
"Megabyte." Bob stopped him. "I've been coming here every cycle for the last hour. And every time, you have a new prediction of how my marriage is ending."
"What's your point, Guardian?"
"Are you going to be getting your own life any time soon?"
"Bob, Bob, my basic little friend." Megabyte laughed. "Making you miserable is my life."
"Some people would call that obsession."
The ex-virus shrugged. "I prefer to think of it as a hobby. It keeps me off the streets."
Bob rubbed his suddenly aching forehead. It was way too early in the second to have to deal with Megabyte. "Are you doing anything illegal, Megabyte?"
"Are you trying to rebuild your army?"
"Are you looking for ways to go Viral again?"
"Don't patronize me Bob, I gave that up minutes ago."
"Oh come on, we both know you'll never give it up. And a simple yes or no will do." Bob said. "Are you selling Dust to schoolchildren?"
"Is there a lot of money in that?"
"Megabyte..." Bob said in a warning tone.
"I'm not doing anything illegal, Bob. I just sit up here bored out of my mind, second in, second out, slowly degrading from the loneliness of..."
"Fine, see you next cycle." Bob said curtly, heading for the stairs before Megabyte could get too caught up in his usual histrionics.
As he headed away from G-Prime, Bob resolutely pushed all of Megabyte's taunts out of his head. He and Dot were perfectly happy together. There was just that one...minor thing, that they both wanted and seemed unable to have.
--WARNING! INCOMING GAME! WARNING! INCOMING GAME!-- The System Voice jolted Bob out of his thoughts. The skies above G-Prime opened up and the ominous purple cube began its slow descent. Judging the distance quickly, Bob realized that the cube would almost surely land where he had just been. Right on top of Megabyte's home.
Silently cursing his luck, Bob turned back and headed for the roof, getting under just as the game cube reached the top level of the building.
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When his eyes recovered from the bright purple flash, Bob was standing in a clearing in the middle of a lush jungle. The air was almost humid enough to swim in and thick vegetation surrounded him on all sides.
Looking around, he saw a few Binomes and one very angry sprite arrayed through the clearing.
"Bob!" One of the Binomes called out, immensely relieved to see the Guardian.
"So you made it back in time, eh Guardian?" Megabyte yawned. "Well done indeed."
"Just doing my job." Bob replied. "I assume you'll be staying out of the way as opposed to actually helping."
"Quite correct." Megabyte said. "I have no intention of involving myself in this ridiculous exercise."
"Fine." Bob turned back to the Binomes, who eagerly awaited his orders. "Glitch; Game Stats." Glitch whirred briefly before presenting the information to him.
"Okay." Bob said. "This is the last level of 'Korut: Lizard Killer'. The User is two levels below us. He can win by finding the last piece of the Time Staff and all seven keys on this level. All of you, go find the keys and the staff piece and hide them before he gets here."
"You got it Bob!"
"Aye aye, Captain!"
"Ready when you are!"
Bob nodded. "Let's do it. ReBoot!" He clicked his Icon and was enveloped in a pillar of green light. The Binomes did the same. When the light cleared, the Binomes had become small, reptilian bipeds with long necks and agile hands. Bob's ReBooted form resembled the Binomes, though he was much larger and equipped with huge, sickle-shaped claws on both feet. Though no other weapons presented themselves, at least Glitch was still attached snugly to his arm.
"All right." Bob said to the Binomes. "Get out there and hide those keys, then hide yourselves. By the time the User gets here, all of you put together won't be a match for him so just stay out of his way."
The Binomes nodded and scampered off into the level. Bob turned to Megabyte.
"Let me take this opportunity to tell you how absurd you look, Bob." He said with a laugh.
Bob chose to ignore that. "Whether you're helping or not, you won't want to hang around here. This is where the User will enter this level." He said. "You'd better ReBoot and follow me."
"But if I ReBoot, I become a target for the User." Megabyte said. "My entire goal here is not to get involved."
"Well if you don't ReBoot, you'll never be able to keep up with me." Bob retorted. "Now stop being such a little wuss and ReBoot already."
The attack on Megabyte's ego had the exact effect Bob had hoped it would. He glared angrily at Bob, then clicked his Icon twice. "ReBoot."
When the light cleared, Megabyte's finely tailored business suit had been replaced with a pair of camouflage pants, a white tank top, and a baseball cap. He had also received a rather substantial gun.
"On second thought, this may be an improvement." He mused, making sure Bob knew that the gun was pointed in his direction.
"Don't get any ideas." Bob said. "There's no friendly fire between enemies in this game. All you'll do if you shoot me is waste ammo."
"Pity." Megabyte lowered his gun. "In that case, lead the way."
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"It's pretty simple." Bob said, leading Megabyte through the dense jungle. "The User will probably head for the last Time Staff fragment before he looks for the keys. We ambush him there and take him out as quickly as possible. Then it's 'Game Over' and everyone's home in time for lunch."
"Brilliant strategy Bob." Megabyte rolled his eyes. "Any reason we can't ambush him as soon as he enters the level?"
"He'll be at full power when he first gets here." Bob explained. "I'm hoping that this way the Game Sprites will weaken him a little on his way to us."
Though Megabyte hated to admit it, and wasn't about to say it out loud, Bob's plan made a lot of sense. Grudgingly, he fell back into line behind the Guardian.
It was humiliating to be so helpless in a game. An hour ago, he would have been able to get out from under the Game before it landed. And even if he had somehow become trapped in a Game he would have had more than enough power to dispatch the User himself. Now he had to play along and ReBoot, then take orders from Bob just to keep himself from being deleted; or worse, nullified. Being a Sprite was bad enough, life as a Null would be more than he could stand. At least as a Sprite he still had a chance, however remote, a returning to his former glory.
--FINAL LEVEL-- The deep, menacing voice of the Game's announcer called out, heralding the User's arrival.
"He's right behind us." Bob said. "We've got to hurry."
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The Time Staff fragment was already gone when they reached the end of the level. In its place, a dead branch had been laid on the altar, right where the staff piece should have been.
The User wasn't far behind them. Bob and Megabyte had barely managed to hide behind some nearby bushes when he came charging up the steps to the altar. In this Game, the User was a large, bare-chested man carrying what looked like a compound bow with electronic arrows. When he saw the stick lying on the altar his face twisted into a mask of rage. He drew back an arrow and fired it at the altar in frustration. The decoy branch was incinerated in a blast of fire as the arrow struck the base of the pedestal.
With his prize obviously not there, the User turned to head back into the level in search of it. Before he could get too far, Bob leaped out of the bushes, kicking at the User with his clawed feet.
The User dropped his bow as Bob flew toward him. Reaching down, he grabbed a huge hunting knife from his belt. Despite his best efforts, Bob couldn't twist out of the way in time. The knife slashed across his arm. Bob fell back, grasping the bleeding wound.
"Megabyte!" He yelled. "What are you waiting for? Shoot him!"
But Megabyte remained still. He made no move to lift his weapon. He merely grinned as the User pulled a small pistol out of its holster and took aim.
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