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Dance of the Robe
by Trisana McGraw

Dot rolled out of bed, a heavy weight on her heart.. Still half-asleep, she lay on the cot for several moments until she heard Mouse's voice calling orders. Suddenly Dot was awake, and she realized what the weight was that pressed down on her chest.

Everything was gone - her family, the Diner, her home - and with it, any chance of a normal life. They were in a war, and Dot was the leader.

She was weary after scraps of sleep haunted by the ghost of a little green boy whose anguished face would remain seared into her memory forever. The added responsibility of being "Commander Matrix" made her almost cry with frustration.

It's knowing what they want of me that scares me
It's knowing having followed I must lead

Dot bunched the covers around herself and sat still for a moment, contemplating and remembering the first second they had retreated into the Principle Office to fight Megabyte, at the beginning of the Web World War.

Of course, she had changed her outfit and assumed leadership to help her fellow citizens, but she had never imagined that it would go this far, that she would be expected to lead the whole system to victory.

It's knowing that that each person there compares me
To those in my past whom I now succeed

She had already lost Bob, and now Enzo, just last second. Dot had tried to block out the feelings of disbelief, rage, sadness; but the emotion was just too strong, and she had been forced to accept the harsh new reality she faced. Each second of the fresh deletion and infection of Mainframe's people made her feel numb, as if nothing more could creep under her skin. And yet, something always did.

But through all the deaths she had remained strong. She had to be, or else the citizens would lose hope, and they all would lose to Megabyte. But it was so hard, even with Mouse and Phong, her closest friends in this war, by her side.

But how can whatever I do for them now
Be enough
Be enough
Aida! Aida! All we ask of you
Is a lifetime of service, wisdom, and courage

Did anyone know how hard it was to be the leader of a whole system at war? Phong understood, and Mouse supported her, but Dot was the head sprite. She was the one who commanded and decided who lived and was deleted.

To ask more would be selfish
But nothing less will do

Every time she began to doubt, she remembered: She owed so much to this system, her home. Of course she would defend it.

The binomes around her in the Principle Office looked to her for guidance, and she had to give it. But that didn't mean she wanted to. Most seconds Dot just wanted to crumple up in a ball and escape it all.

Aida! Aida!

Dot reluctantly disentangled herself from her blankets and threw her legs over the side of the cot. The sprites and binomes of the rebellion slept in the Principle Office now that it was like their home. Phong had offered her a spot in the main hall, but Dot had had to finish some late-night reports and had opted to stay the night in her office.

Now Dot stood up and stretched. She rubbed the back of her neck, trying to work the soreness from her muscles, as she walked across the room to a small mirror against the wall. Dot smoothed back her hair and turned her icon once, and immediately her clothes changed into the skintight black leather uniform she had become accustomed to wearing. She stopped for a moment and studied herself in the mirror.

Your robe should be golden, your robe should be perfect
Instead of this ragged concoction of thread

There were purple circles under her eyes, and she looked tired; she looked positively drained. She hadn't gotten sleep in seconds, not since Enzo's nullification. What had happened to her carefree seconds? Dot wondered miserably. The times when she had been a wild teenager, and even her seconds as a businesswoman and Enzo's guardian, seemed long gone.

She looked just like a survivor of war. And she was going to keep it that way.

But may you be moved by its desperate beauty
To give us new life for we'd rather be dead

Nothing she would do could completely amount to the losses she had suffered by Megabyte's hand. Dot clenched her fists as she looked again at herself in the mirror, at the fierce look in her eyes that she had never seen before.

Just the thought of Megabyte made Dot's energy heat up dangerously. The tin-plated coward had taken everything away from her. He had infected so many already, and Dot was going to make sure that he didn't take anyone else under his infection. She would do whatever she could to stop him.

Than live in the squalor and shame of the slave
To the dance!
To the dance!

Dot's continuous doubts and worries always came around in circles that led her to the one thought that held her frantic life together: This was where she was supposed to be. If she could do nothing else in this war, she would keep Mainframe together and bring Megabyte to a swift and vengeful end.

They had suffered only a small amount of casualties on their side, and so far, the CPUs were holding up against Megabyte's ABCs. If they could continue to keep control of the Principle Office, maybe they could gain the upper hand and turn the tide. Just as every defeat struck a blow to the rebellion, the same number of victories strengthened them and brought new hope.

Aida! Aida! All we ask of you
All we ask is a lifetime of service, wisdom, and courage
To ask more would be selfish
But nothing less will do
Aida! Aida!

But all the euphoria came crashing down in an instant and was immediately replaced with the hollow feeling in her heart as she thought of all the casualties this war had already brought upon her. She remembered Enzo, young and innocent, who had had his life whisked away trying to protect his home. He would never grow up to see his home - and Dot wasn't sure how much of a home he would have had in the future, anyway.

Then there was her other loss: Bob. He was alone in the Web somewhere, gone forever, maybe. Dot's only hope for him to come back was but a shred, and she began to not believe in that at all.

Aida! Aida! Aida! Aida! Aida!

A buzzer jolted Dot back to reality. One glance at the clock told her she needed to get to the others. Megabyte's army was nearing the Principle Office for another attack. It was time for Commander Matrix to rally the forces.

The door to her office whooshed open. Dot steeled herself and stepped out into the War Room. Wearing a neutral expression on her face, she walked around the catwalk to the front console facing a huge VidWindow, aware of everyone's eyes on her.

I know expectations are wild and almost
Beyond my fulfillment, but they won't hear

The binome officers looked up at her with unrelenting hope in their eyes. Dot swallowed and smiled, and she felt some of the tension lift. She looked around her, and her heart felt, if only for a moment, lighter. Next to her was Phong, her advisor whose wisdom would comfort them all through the long fight. Dot looked below and saw Mouse, fierce warrior and compassionate friend. The hacker sent her a wink, and Dot smiled broadly.

A word of a doubt or see signs of weakness

My nigh on impossible duty is clear

This was where she was supposed to be. Dot came to stand behind the big console and looked upwards. On the VidWindow's screen, Megabyte's ABCs blazed a trail towards the Principle Office, guns firing.

Dot took a deep breath before she began to issue orders. The thought repeated in her head like a mantra. She knew what she was supposed to do. She didn't need any motivation; she dedicated all her work against Megabyte to those she had lost.

If I can rekindle my ancestors' dreams
It's enough

I'll do it for Bob.

It's enough

I'll do it for Enzo.

It's enough

I'll do it for Mainframe.

Aida! Aida! Aida! Aida! Aida!

It's enough!

END

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