--Your first five microseconds begin now, Miss Matrix.-- Megabyte said.
"Oh no, what are we gonna do?"
"This is bad!"
"Yeah really bad!"
"Worse than that!"
"Hack. Slash." Dot said quietly. "Stay here."
"What?" Hack asked.
"But uh... we are supposed to protect..."
"Yes, to protect you and always..."
"Always stay by your side!"
"And you've done that." She said. "You've both been wonderful. But I have to go alone now. If Megabyte sees you guys, he'll delete you."
"We can't just leave you."
--Miss Matrix. Little Enzo now has *four* microseconds left to process.--
"You have to." Dot said. "Find somewhere to hide, and don't come out until it's all over."
* * * * *
"I don't get it, Megabyte." Bob said. "You said this was going to be a hunt. I don't see you doing a lot of hunting."
"You always were gullible Bob." Megabyte replied. "I knew that Guardian wannabe would try coming to me before I could come hunting for him." Matrix seemed to shrink a little, realizing how thoroughly he had played into Megabyte's hand. "The threat was all that was required."
"So you don't want to hunt us for revenge and you don't want to get to the Supercomputer." Bob said. "What do you want."
"I want what I've always wanted, Bob; the only thing worth having. Excuse me..." He turned on the PA system. "Three microseconds Dot." He turned his attention back to Bob. "Where was I?"
"The only thing worth having." Bob said.
"Ah yes. Well, I simply want what I'm programmed to want; Power. However, I've grown rather attached to Mainframe, and I'd hate to set out on my campaign of conquest until I've resolidified my standing here."
"Uh-huh. And why the sudden interest in Dot?"
The Virus smiled. "Well every King needs a Queen. And I've always had a special place in my CPU for Miss Matrix. I'm sure you can relate, Bob."
"You're sick!" Enzo shouted. "Dot wouldn't touch you in a million hours!"
Megabyte chuckled. "We shall see, boy. We shall see." He turned to the microphone. "Dot, my dear. The millisecond groweth late."
"Enough dramatics Megabyte." They all turned to see Dot standing alone in the ruined doorway. "Here I am."
* * * * *
Dot couldn't remember feeling more frightened in her entire life. Well, perhaps when she had stood there helpless as Bob was shot into the Web. But no, nothing compared to the terror she felt standing in this doorway without even the barest shred of an escape plan. She had given herself up to save the people she loved, and only now did she realize how foolish that was. Now that he had her, Megabyte was sure to erase them all anyway.
How could she have been so basic? *You can Never trust a Virus.* It was one of the few operating principals that had never failed her. How could she have forgotten it?
"I'm here Megabyte." She said. "Now let them go."
The Virus grinned. "Come now, Dot." He said. "You know me better than that. However, I'm not entirely without compassion. Since you surrendered yourself so quickly, I won't make you watch."
He signaled to his guards, who grabbed Dot and dragged her out into the hallway. She just barely heard Megabyte's order. "Wait until you get my signal. Then delete them all."
The fight went out of Dot. She had failed. Everyone she loved was about to be erased. And the User only knew what Megabyte wanted her for. Well, the User only knew; but Dot had a few suspicions, none of them pleasant.
* * * * *
Megabyte departed with one last triumphant laugh, leaving them surrounded by a small group of Viral Binomes. The Binomes kept their weapons raised, awaiting their master's signal. Just as the radio crackled to life, one of the guards cried out in pain.
Suddenly things began to happen very fast. The other guards turned to see what had happened to their comrade. They found him with a large green Null on his shoulder, rapidly sucking up his energy. Before they could react, they came under attack.
Matrix filled the room with bullets, trying to disarm rather than delete. Mouse charged forward with her sword and relieved the unmanned Null-bot of its arms before it could crush Enzo. AndrAIa passed on joining the fight in favor of shielding Phong. Bob used Glitch's file lock to immobilize their captors.
In nanoseconds, all the guards had been neutralized. Bob and Matrix didn't take any time to congratulate themselves. Running faster than anyone would have thought possible; they headed for the exit, arriving just in time to see an ABC lift off from in front of the Principal Office.
"DOT!!!!" Bob yelled.
Matrix had Gun out, but he didn't dare shoot. If the ABC crashed, Dot crashed with it. All he could do was watch helplessly as it carried his sister away.
* * * * *
The hospital wing was eerily silent. After what felt like forever, a '0' Binome in surgical scrubs came into the waiting room.
"How is he?" Bob asked, standing up.
"We were able to stabilize him." The doctor said. "And his condition has been upgraded from critical to serious." Bob frowned. He sensed a 'but' coming on. "But... Due to the immense energy loss Phong suffered, he's gone into prolonged sleep mode."
"What does that mean?" AndrAIa asked.
"If his condition doesn't improve...he may never wake up."
"No..." AndrAIa whispered, clinging to Matrix for support.
"Give us some good news, Doc." Mouse said. "Please."
"...He's not getting any worse. And he isn't infected." The doctor replied reluctantly. "I wish I had something better to tell you, but..."
"That's all right, Doctor." Bob said. "You'll keep us informed?"
* * * * *
With the Tor destroyed, it seemed Megabyte had taken to lurking in the massive structure's former basement, a huge network of tunnels that stretched underneath G-Prime. And it was into these tunnels that Megabyte's guards dragged Dot. As they went deeper and deeper into the tunnels beneath Mainframe, Dot became more and more afraid of what the future held.
She wasn't an unobservant sprite, and she knew Megabyte had always had an...unhealthy interest in her. Hell, he had tried to trick her into marrying him. And now she was in his clutches. This did not bode well for her. However, she was determined not to show fear, not in front of Megabyte. No matter what he did to her, he would not have the power of fear over her.
Eventually the tunnels opened up into a huge underground chamber. Megabyte was waiting for them, looking as smug and triumphant as ever.
"Ah Dot." He said. "So glad you could join me."
"What do you want Megabyte?" She demanded.
"Well you of course." Megabyte replied. "Why do you think I went to all this trouble?"
"Because you're insane."
"Now don't be abusive, my dear. We have such a bright future ahead of us. Why spoil it?"
"Don't kid yourself!" Dot snapped.
"You don't seem to understand your position." Megabyte said. "All your friends in the Principal Office have been deleted. And I doubt any of those miserable Binomes have what it takes to pick up where they left off. Mainframe is mine now. We have all the time in the Net. I know you'll warm up to me eventually."
"Don't count on it." Dot said.
"Oh well, you can't have everything." Megabyte said. "It doesn't matter that much. Whether you learn to accept me or not, you *are* mine now. Now and forever."
He seemed about to continue when one of his guards called him aside and whispered in his ear.
"They WHAT?" Megabyte growled. The little Binome cringed. "Report back to your station." He said. "We'll be having visitors soon."
A thrill of hope and joy ran through Dot. Bob and the others were alive. They were going to come rescue her.
"You were saying something about 'now and forever'?" She taunted Megabyte.
The Virus growled in anger and frustration. "Very well my dear! It looks like we won't have time to do this the old fashioned way! HOLD HER!" The guards tightened their grip.
Now fear gripped Dot. Megabyte just looked so insane. "What are you going to do?" She asked.
"Oh nothing outlandish." He said. "Nothing grotesque. I just need to make certain assurances before the Guardian gets here. First, I'll be needing this!" He grabbed her Icon and ripped it off of her chest. He examined the Icon and for a moment seemed to be looking *into* it. "Exquisite." He finally said. "We're going to have such a beautiful child."
"Now." Megabyte said. "We have to make sure you won't get away. Forgive me if I don't have much faith in your loyalty to me." Dot was still too shaken by his 'child' comment to form a response. As she watched in horror, Megabyte sent a small wave of energy through her Icon. The Icon changed instantly from its normal white and black to the same blue and green that appeared on Megabyte's Viral Binomes.
"Now just hold still." He said. "This won't hurt...much."
Dot had time for one last free thought before Megabyte placed the Icon back on her.
*Goodbye Bob. I love you.*
* * * * *
* * * * *
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