Dot had won. Against all of the other kids who practically spent all
of their time at the circuit racing track, Dot Matrix won. To be
exact, she had kicked ASCII! Instead of begrudging her the victory and
leaving her stranded there, everyone congratulated her with slaps on the
back and excited hugs.
Now that the games were done and almost every place in Mainframe was
closing for the night, the group piled into two small cars, all
squashing together and practically hanging out the windows in order to fit.
They drove around town like mad sprites, expressing their freedom in
loud, long shouts of happiness. The cheerful daughter of Welman Matrix
found herself rolling her eyes, then finally joining them in the cries.
"We're out! Everyone hear that! No more school!"
When they had all settled down, the mutual decision was to go to
Floating Point Park and hang out. The girls laid on the grass while the
boys tossed around a jet ball. Ana Crom sighed dreamily and commented,
"Finally, our lives begin. I can't wait until I'm married and rich."
"How are you going be rich? Don't you need a job before you're
married?" Dot pointed out.
"Not if I marry a rich sprite," Ana concluded, "Maybe Mr. Mitchell.
He's not that much older than me."
Everyone in the room wrinkled their noses in disgust. In turn,
everyone had something to say about where they hoped to be even in the next
few seconds. Most of their dreams were small, unlike Ms. Matrix who was
most likely going to own half of Mainframe by the time they were all
getting settled in jobs. As they discussed the future and the past, Dot
glanced down at the tie around her wrist. Without a word to anyone,
she began to dig a small hole in the ground.
"What are you doing, Dot?" Paq questioned with surprise.
She placed the tie in the hole and covered it with earth. "Oh,
nothing," she said with a smile, "I thought I'd just leave something here to
come back to. When I am a clever business woman, I want to remember
this night when everything turned out alright; when we had all theses
wishes. Pretty silly, huh."
Paq gave an expression that stated, "Yeah, silly, but very much
something you would do." Artie called everyone over to where he had set his
camera up on the hood of his car. They all swarmed around the bench
and waited for the flash. The picture was taken and everyone was
promised a copy of their first photo of the their life after Upgrade School.
Dot was having fun, but she couldn't help feeling a little left out.
As all her companions reminisced and laughed over the past few cycles
of their lives, she knew that she wasn't in any of these stories. It
wasn't that she was regretting the way she had spent her time, Dot just
suddenly wished she had a friend, a best friend. She'd even settle for
a good friend. None of the sprites her age ever seemed to understand
her or agree with her. It was like when she buried the tie. No one
really saw why she did it. Then again, that wasn't what she really wanted
either. To tell the truth, Dot didn't know what she wanted. She
figured that was what compiling up was for, finding out what you want and
searching for it.
Bob stood before the Guardians trying not to reveal the satisfied
smile on his face. Even though they were scolding him for not following
orders, the cadet only heard the "you followed your instinct and won the
game by keeping a cool head..." Then, when they were done talking, all
of them left except Turbo.
The prime Guardian narrowed his eyes at the cadet and crossed his arms
over his chest. "You did a good job today, Cadet. It's too bad your
classmate had to figure out what you knew the hard way," he said.
"What? Who?" Bob asked with confusion.
"Carden was hurt in the game. Nothing serious, nothing the diagnostic
programs can't fix. I just hope this won't make you too confident. No
one can predict everything the User is going to do. Games are a
Carden had been hurt! Bob glanced at his boots for a second and then
back up at Turbo. "Sir?"
"What is it?" Turbo asked trying not to sound impatient.
"Why?" Turbo stared at him with confusion in his face. Bob
clarified, "Why does the User send the games? What's the point?"
"Bob, no one can understand why and it doesn't do any good to wonder
"But why not," Bob insisted, "We could try to study the User, figure
out why this person or creature or being seems to get pleasure from the
suffering of others. Why does he or she create viruses?"
"Cadet, you spend your energy worrying about stuff like that, you'll
find that you won't have many people who are willing to help you."
Turbo explained leaning his hands on the top of his desk. "Listen Bob, if
you continue to ask questions about things we could never possibly
understand, you will probably find that not a lot of friends are going to
help you. So, just think about that before you theorizes with
impossible goals. You’re dismissed."
"But sir..." Bob didn't push it though. He exited the room and made
a decision. Lack of allies or not, he would someday know why. It
didn't have to be his top priority, of course, but it never hurt to think
about reasons for the User's actions. Not that it wouldn't be nice to
have someone listen to him. They didn't have to agree with him or help,
but to just listen without stomping all over each idea the way Turbo
and his classmates would. Bob wasn't sure of exactly what he would do
when he had someone to talk to, but he never was one for planning ahead.