It was a dark and stormy night. It always was these days, probably because Megabyte liked it that way. The only Mainframers who did not mind the change were those virals who had returned to Megabyte of their own free will. They saw it as evidence of the revival of the good old days of order and authority.
The doors of Dot's Diner swung inward. Megabyte looked around the interior, his glance passing over the binomes who were staring in shock. Then he strode inside and demanded, "Where is Ms. Matrix?"
Cecil, who was around the far side of the diner, replied, "She is not here."
"It would be in your best interest to contact her. Do not waste time insisting that you won't." Without waiting for an answer Megabyte sat in one of the now-vacant booths.
Soon a VidWindow popped open above the table. "What do you want, Megabyte?" Dot asked angrily.
Calmly he answered, "I wish to parley with the leader of the resistance."
"Do you expect me to believe that?!"
"I do not expect to be able to trick you again, Ms. Matrix." Her lips compressed in fury. "Come here. I have matters to discuss with you in person. As evidence of my good will-" he turned the VidWindow so Dot could see his limousine, which was parked outside the diner. Enzo's face was visible within. The vehicle itself was guarded by several armed virals.
He turned the VidWindow back to himself. Dot seemed to be struggling with her reply. Finally she said, "I'm coming now."
"Very good." He tapped the corner of the VidWindow, breaking the connection.
When she strode in she demanded, "What do you want for Enzo?"
He regarded the Sprite standing bravely before him, her small fists on her hips. "Nothing." He looked out the window and beckoned with a wave of his fingers. One of the virals opened the limousine door.
Enzo bounded out and burst through the Diner doors. "Dot!"
She pulled him to herself as if afraid that Megabyte would snatch him away. "Enzo! Are you all right?!"
"Yeah! I'm fine. Man, it was BORING over there!"
Megabyte said, "I am a Virus, not a babysitter, and I do not need hostages. Now, listen to me."
Still holding her little brother protectively, she asked, "What do you want?"
"As I said, merely to parley. Please, be seated." He gestured graciously at the other side of the booth.
She stared back, incredulous. Then she whispered something to Enzo, who nodded and ran to the other side of the Diner, putting the bar between himself and the Virus. Against her better judgement, she gingerly sat down opposite Megabyte.
Megabyte steepled his fingers and looked at her over the tips. "Let us dispense with verbal sparring and other tiresome formalities. I have infected Mainframe's vital systems, and am its de facto Command.Com. You are the leader of the resistance against me, and command the loyalty of all citizens I have not infected. This situation cannot endure."
"What are you proposing?" she asked sharply.
Ignoring her tone, he continued, "I will not give up what I have infected. No Virus would. Yet, when I claimed all of Mainframe before - well, you remember what happened then. I do not want history to repeat itself."
She retorted, "Oh? Wouldn't that be a perfect revenge?"
He gestured with the claws of one hand as if shooing the idea away. "Words spoken in the heat of battle. I grow weary of this game we play. As an Infector, I desire power, not destruction. Power over all of this system. Over a functional system, not a war-weakened ruin. That is where you come in, Ms. Matrix." He paused, waiting for the expected protest. However, she only glared at him. He balled one hand into a fist, folded his other hand over it, and continued, "Your Bob used to speak of compassion toward Viruses. I wonder, did he take his ideas one step further and imagine that viral power might be turned to advantage?"
Dot refused to be led. "Get to the point, Megabyte."
"Very well. I propose an alliance. I will remain in power by infection. However, you, Ms. Matrix, will serve as Mainframe's administrator. I'm perfectly willing to admit that you have skills in that respect that I lack. In fact, you will resume many of your former functions as Command.Com. Together, we will rule Mainframe, and with your skills and my army and arsenal we will defend it from the Web and other Viruses."
"Do you really think I'd agree to that, Megabyte?" she asked incredulously.
"Not at first," he answered calmly. "Of course you would find the idea distasteful at first, considering our past together. But do think about it. You might find it a much more pleasant prospect for Mainframe than... well." He rolled his eyes as if dismissing any other alternative as not worth considering. He got out of the booth, moving carefully in the restrictive space, then laid a hand lightly on Dot's shoulder.
She flinched from his touch. He withdrew his hand and said, "Pardon me. Sometimes I forget I can no longer retract my claws. Do think about what I have said, Ms. Matrix. I will be in touch."
She watched him exit the diner and return to his limousine. The sharp sting in her shoulder was already fading. Megabyte expected her to... what? Join his side? Or let him join hers? She was confused. Now that she thought about his offer, it seemed... reasonable, given the circumstances. Sensible, even. She hadn't been able to defeat him before; now that he was even more powerful, she didn't stand a chance. And in trying to remove him she could doom all of Mainframe. But this plan... it could actually bring peace to Mainframe, even strengthen it! Amazed at herself for thinking this, she set her elbows on the table and rested her head in her hands.
Megabyte entered the limousine. Only when it had taken off and was flying back toward the Principle Office did he permit himself a shark-toothed grin. His proposal was indeed reasonable, and soon Dot would see it his way. Oh, it was unlikely that she would ally with him under normal circumstances, but he had taken the liberty of inserting a tiny bit of code into hers when they had touched. It was only the lightest infection, meant to plant a seed of loyalty to him in her mind, which he would cultivate with additional code once they began to work together. He knew that he could do this without damaging her, or rendering her useless to him by visibly infecting her; he had had plenty of time to refine his technique on Enzo. And if, by some chance, that approach failed, he would use the code he had copied from her.
An alliance between Sprite and Virus! Yes, Megabyte thought, but on Viral terms, and laughed to himself.