After defeating Daemon, before discovering Megabyte v.2. 'Glitch-Bob' and a bit of introspection.
It had been ages since he’d come to present himself, to seek audience. Not many people used the little private chamber, at least no one had ever been using it when Bob wanted to and so he felt as if it belonged to him personally. It had been impossible to direct-connect like this while stranded in the WEB. While contact had not been cut off entirely, Sprite-User interfacing was very different there than it was in the ‘Net. The Riders tended to gather together to offer mass praise and supplication. Bob, however, preferred the privacy of the little gray-white room off to one side of the Principle Office’s main hall.
Because the room was situated near the center of the huge spherical complex, there were no windows, only a single door that served as both entrance and exit. Unlike most of the other rooms, there was no work-station, no Vid-Window, just a low, square dais in the center of the floor. Door sliding shut behind him, Bob keyed the lock and took the half-dozen steps toward the low platform. A small section of it was padded, and his knees sank into the soft surface as he knelt down, back to the door. Being in the WEB had gotten him out of the habit, but he’d been meaning to come here for a while now. Things had finally calmed down enough that taking a few microseconds aside was possible. So many things had been chasing around in his mind of late, coming here seemed to help straighten things out. Bowing his head, he closed his eyes and spoke the query:
“Guardian 452 initializing update.”
A faint whir sounded in his ears along with a soft click as his icon rotated and detached from its place on his uniform. It hung in space briefly before turning so that the many wires and circuits of its reverse side faced the ceiling.
A ray of brilliant blue light shot up from the small disk, the beam piercing the space between ceiling and floor, creating a swirling rift a few bits above Bob’s head. The hole in reality shone faintly blue but with no definite color in the depths beyond. There was nothing visible, but it was certainly there, just beyond the edge of the gap, out of sight, but not out of reach.
The word was not unkind, nor was it overtly benevolent. It had been a long time since he’d heard it and Bob let out the breath he’d been holding, painfully glad that even after combining with Glitch, they were still recognizable. He had been half-afraid he might be dismissed. Although he had faced that featureless voice countless times in Game after Game, Bob couldn’t help the vague nerves that always accompanied these encounters.
“The program has been compromised,” Bob confessed. “Attempt at upgrade has failed.” In its most brutal form, it was the truth. Yes, everyone had gotten out of the WEB safely; yes, MainFrame was free again; yes, Hex- User rest her code- had been cured, but the hard, cold fact was that merging with Glitch had ultimately done more damage to both himself and the Keytool.
The nod was invisible, but there nonetheless, accompanied by an encouraging “Okay.”
Bob took heart and pressed on.
“System repairs incomplete. Virus Hexadecimal has been quarantined and healed,” well, sort of, “no threat detected.” For now. “Trojan Horse Megabyte is still on your hard drive.”
“Delete.” came the emphatic reply. Bob shook his head.
“If you delete Megabyte, you will lose part of another program!”
While he’d had his guesses before, Bob was ashamed of how long it had taken him to put two and two together. “Nibbles” and Nullzilla had been his first real clue, but it hadn’t made any sense at the time. “Jelly-Welly” and a more in-depth discussion on what had happened on both ends when the twin city was destroyed had made him wonder, but it had been Hexadecimal’s curious altering of the younger Enzo’s icon and Nibbles regaining speech and his personality that clinched it for him. Megabyte and Hexadecimal each carried an important part of Welman Matrix’s code. Without that code fragment, there was no hope of fully reuniting Dot and Enzo with their father. Bob himself was all too aware of what that felt like.
“Sprite Welman Matrix will be lost if you delete Megabyte. I can’t do that to Dot, to Enzo. Hexadecimal was right, a big brother just isn’t enough. Matrix is proof of that. I can’t let them down again. Please, just…give me a hint and a little more time, that’s all I’m asking. I know I can correct this if you let me.”
An almost unbearably long pause.