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Mantra

 

By Trisana McGraw

 

"REBOOT!"

   

I always looked at the Games as a fun trip away from Mainframe. I could play all different characters, and for a little while life was a big . . . well, game. It was something for me to play and get good at. I never really thought about losing; I knew that I always had Bob there to protect me.

  

"ReBoot!"

  

After Bob was lost in the Games, all the responsibility went to me. Suddenly, I was the Guardian; I had to look out for everyone else when we played Games. And, I sorta liked it. Being powerful and a leader was fun.

 

Then there was The Game. When I lost, I threw up, all over the arena floor. I could still feel the blood running down my face, the flames simmering around my head. It was the most horrible pain I had ever felt, and even worse when I knew that it was all my fault.

 

I went through the Games then, hating every nano of them. I was so thoroughly sick of everything about the Games. It was bitterly ironic, that the thing I had loved so much I now despised every second.

  

"ReBoot."

  

Then I realized that my first thoughts about Games had been nothing but bull. I had wanted to be another person; but now I was no one. We wandered through hundreds of systems and countless Games; I played thousands of characters, but I was never any one of them.

 

"ReBoot."

  

I didn't have a format. I was a mismatch, a hodgepodge of the boy I used to be and every Game character I'd ever played. I had Guardian codes, but I was mostly a warrior. I was anger, and hatred, and stubborn determination, mashed together like a bomb ready to explode.

  

"ReBoot."

  

Eventually, I grew used to the idea. I had to, to survive. In a way, things were no different from the way they had been when I started out as a cadet. I was still the one in charge; AndrAIa and Frisket were relying on me, and it was my job to keep all of us safe.

 

"ReBoot."

  

AndrAIa, Frisket, and I started out in the Games with the goal of getting back to Mainframe. But when the hours passed and we were no closer to home, we -- I -- didn't think we'd ever get home. I thought I'd never see Mainframe again, and I'd be cursed with playing the Games till I finally deleted.

 

Because we kept our icons in game-sprite mode, we had to stay in those Games. We were like leeches, attaching ourselves to them as we played the spammed things over, and over, and over. I thought I'd never get out.

 

"ReBoot."

 

Then we did. We came back to Mainframe and took it back. And you know what I did after the restart, and Daemon -- you guessed it, I played more Games. Only, this time it wasn't an empty, meaningless way to survive. I was protecting my home like I always had, and some of the feelings from my childhood came back. I remembered pride, and a good time, and even a little arrogance.

 

I would never feel the same way about Games. The User himself had made sure that the na´ve innocence I once possessed never returned to me. But this mantra stayed with me all through the hell that was half my life, and it's still here, as I'm healing.

  

"ReBoot."

  

Most of the time I didn't like it; I wasn't supposed to. But it was my calling, and, though it wore on me, I had to respond to it.

  

"REBOOT!"

 

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