RE: Waiter! There's a Virus in my Battle!
Torrent floated within an ocean of electrical water. It was a safe and comforting feeling, like being wrapped in warm blankets. The pain of the day washed away as her program defragged and cleansed itself of latent viral data. The lights of the surface drew closer, the pull of buoyancy dragging her forward.
posted in SciLab Net
She broke the surface, stepping forward onto dry land, the electric ocean rising up behind her like a still waterfall. Translucent pipes and tubing poked out of the cylindrical wall of water, twisting, joining and splitting as they emerged and submerged from the vertical sea. Torrent bounced forward, feeling strong and light within the world of her PET, passing under the forest of tangled pipes, like a canopy of rushing water. The imaginary sun overhead mingled with the pipe canopy to create a vista of rippling shadows that pleased Torrent to watch. She passed through the glade and into a large clearing at the centre of the ring of water. Her positive comfort shattered as reality asserted itself.
“Oh, come on!” Torrent gaped at the mess all around her home. It was a three-tiered structure, with three plateaus curving up a central spine, like a cake stand. The highest tier was tall enough to overlook the wall of water and featured a sunbed and viewscreen. There were no connecting pathways between the tiers, Torrent being light enough in her realm to leap easily between them. The ground beneath the structure was made of soft golden sand, the forest of pipes ending at the edge of the clearing, burrowing into the earth, leaving the sand mostly free from tripping hazards.
Mostly, because a few of the pipes had been broken, pieces of them scattered about and greenish liquid spilling out of them. The lowest tier of the structure was tilted at an absurd angle, spilling its contents onto the floor. She kept trinkets and mementos on that tier, things that she’d found interesting or earned. But now they were scattered about like a hurricane had come through.
Torrent gingerly stepped over the debris and knelt at the pile of stuff. Among the things were an autographed plate from the heroic SolarMan, her third-place trophy for Intermediate Liquid Navigation and a black chip that turned out to be mostly garbage data, but was admittedly cool to look at. She gathered them all up and placed them on top of an upturned box. “It’s going to take me all day to clean this up…”
A strange rhythmic sound drew her attention to the other side of the bent tier. Her inner pump doubled it’s output as she tiptoed around the structure. The horse from the Auto-Waiter had its head bowed at one of the broken pipes, lapping up the liquid electricity that poured out. The machinery and mechanical parts of it had calmed somewhat, the wild anger and jitteriness somehow assuaged.
Torrent swallowed her fear and licked her lips. “Um, h-hello?”
The horse ignored her, focused solely on drinking.
Torrent inched closer. “Are you… feeling better now?” The hope in her voice faded as the horse remained silent. She drew closer. “I don’t know how healthy that is to dri-”
The horse bucked backwards, catching her in the chest. The blow felt soft, like she had a layer of padding, yet still the force caught her by surprise and she stumbled back. The horse slowly lifted its head and looked sideways at her, the gleaming light of its yellow eye peering at her. “...Hungry…”
“Ah… aha… still, uh, still on about that, huh?” Torrent’s grin was tight and shaky. “M-maybe I can get the boss to whip something up for you, huh?”
“...Food?” The horse asked, turning its whole body around to face her. A small tendril poked out from a hoofprint in the sand, wiggling and sparking.
“Nope! Nope nope nope!” Torrent inflated a bubble in her hand and pressed it into the tentacle, scooping it up with a pop. It wriggled, contained within the green-yellow sphere. “We’ll have none of that in here!”
The horse approached the bubble in her palm and sniffed it. “Food?”
Torrent held the bubble away at arm's length. “Oooh no. This isn’t for you.” She pulled down the bottom edge of the bubble and launched it onto the top of the structure where it would be out of reach. The horse watched it fly away, then followed it, trying to climb onto the tipped tier. “Wait, stop!” Torrent grabbed onto the horse and struggled to keep it still. “That’s MY house!”
A face peered over the other side of the horse. “Tsk tsk. Viruses in your own PET?” The voice was smarmy and confident. “What would the kids think?” A hot thundercrack blasted through the small world, and the horse went soaring into the air, a charred, smoking wound in its side. It crashed into the canopy of pipes and disappeared into the shade.
“No, wait!” Torrent picked herself up from the sand and thrust her arms to the side. “It’s not a virus, Blitz!”
BlitzMan shrugged, the huge turbine engines on his shoulders crackling with electricity. His white-gloved fist smoked and sparked from his attack. “I heard you were in trouble, so I thought I’d pop along and help out my junior co-worker.” He flicked his slick, light-brown, thunderbolt-shaped hair. “No need to thank me.”
Torrent felt small around Blitz, the more experienced navi looked down on her from the lofty peaks of his ego. He was clad in an orange, red and black leather jacket, opened to show a muscular chest, and red jean-shorts. His legs from the knees down were bare, aside from the red and yellow sneakers on his feet.
“Good job on the Auto-Waiter. Of course, I could have cleaned it out in a fraction of the time… but still, I’m impressed.” BlitzMan straightened his jacket, dusting sand from it. “Impressed you didn’t run away for once.”
“I… I haven’t r-run away-”
“Well, whatever,” BlitzMan shrugged, gazing around at the scenery, “As long as you don’t give the shop a bad rep, you can play at being a virus buster all you want.”
Torrent curled her hands into fists and took a deep breath. “I’m not p-playing!”
“Really?” BlitzMan brushed his thunderbolt hair and smarmed, showing his teeth. “I always assumed everything you do is a joke.”
Torrent flustered. “How did you even get in here?”
<<Sorry, Torry.>> Hippie piped in with a distracted note, her voice no longer garbled. <<A.K.'s being a jerk!>>
”LIES!”A horrible tin-shredding whinny echoed through the realm. HayWire exploded out of the pipe forest, steel and glass shattering around it. It’s machinery rippled and pistoned as it stormed towards BlitzMan.
“Ooh, a toughie!”Blitz flashed his pearly whites, revving his shoulder engines to a hot whine. Crackling fire blossomed on his fists, the heat causing Torrent to recoil. “I think I’ll have to melt this one!”
“Nope!” Torrent jumped between them and took a deep breath. With her PET’s energy flowing through her, she blew through all of her nozzles, inflating a massive green-ish bubble all around her that swelled to a massive size. It caught both the horse and Blitzman within its watery field, halting the horse’s momentum and snuffing out Blitz’s fire.
Torrent pushed Blitz out of the bubble, letting him drop to the floor. With the power of the PET, she shrank the bubble so that HayWyre remained inside. The horse fought and thrashed against the liquid, but a deep lethargy overtook it. It’s movements slowed and stilled, the creature curling slightly into a twitchy slumber.
BlitzMan nodded in approval. “Nice, now you can crush it with water pressure.”
“I’m not deleting it!” Torrent snapped. “I’m… I’m going to help it…”
BlitzMan looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. “...What…?”
“It’s…” Torrent bit her lip and looked back at the horse. “It’s just sick. I can…”
“Make it better?” BlitzMan finished for her, following a burst of laughter. “I think you’ve forgotten what we are. Listen, Li’l T, our purpose is to protect the net worlds from viruses.” He lectured, slowly approaching her. Out of habit, she shrank back. “And I know you’re new to all this, especially compared to me. So I’ll fill you in on what you seem to be missing. We’re not here to help viruses. Or infected programs.” His engines revved up to a whine. “Our operators aren’t doctors, and we aren’t surgeon’s knives. We don’t cut out the infection…” Orange-red lightning crackled on the tip of his finger, which he pointed at the suspended HayWyre. “We exterminate them.”
A superheated thunderbolt cracked out of his finger, the world glowing hot and red. Lightning sparked and snapped on impact, tendrils of red energy shocking pieces of sand into glass spires.
The storm died almost as soon as it had appeared. HayWyre remained untouched, a full third of the bubble evaporated to it’s side. Torrent floated between the bubble and BlitzMan, a chunk of her stomach missing. Tears of pain and anger welled in her eyes, even as the PET’s energy immediately began restoring her code. A great shadow drew across Blitz, and he looked up to see the surrounding ocean walls closing in and blotting out the sunlight.
“GET OUT!” The walls broke and tonnes of liquid electricity crashed down onto BlitzMan, completely submerging him. Glass and paraphernalia were picked up and carried along by the rushing tide. The walls built themselves back up along the perimeter of the realm, the water draining back to the ocean. BlitzMan was gone, ejected back into his own PET.
Torrent let herself sit down on the sand, sniffing. She drew her knees into her chest, holding them. For a long while she sat, her bottom lip soured and trembling. The sounds of the ocean, calm and serene, didn't soothe her as well as they usually did. The sunlight did its best to warm her, but it went unnoticed.
Today had been stressful, and all she wanted was to take a nice, long defrag. Torrent looked up at the iron horse, floating listlessly within the orb of water. “S-sometimes,” she told the horse, her voice quiet and fragile, “I r-really hate that guy...”