"No buts! I need you to do this for me, and I need you to do it now."
"But I don't"
"Even Cecil is helping! You can at least do the same. Most of it's yours, anyway."
"Enzo Matrix, I will not tell you again!" said Dot, brandishing a bright pink feather duster at her younger brother. "Get to work!"
"Come on, Sparky," said AndrAIa in a soothing voice, laying a gentle hand on his biceps. She had a seafoam-green kerchief tied over her hair. "The sooner we get started, the sooner we'll be done."
"Oh, all right," muttered Matrix, following her to the storage room. "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"This from a sprite who codes his own clothes?"
"Shh!" Matrix glanced nervously over his shoulder, but Dot had left, probably to press-gang Bob.
"You shouldn't be embarrassed about it. I dont know how you get the stitching that even. I couldn't."
"That's because you don't have a built-in targeting system." They had reached the storeroom. Matrix looked around at the boxes. "Where do we start?"
"Pick a box and decide if we really need to keep what's in it." She opened one. "For instance, I think we can dispose of these," she said, displaying a heap of broken yo-yos.
"Right," agreed Matrix. He cleared a space for the discarded items. They set to work.
"Wow. Look at all this stuff. I haven't seen some of these things in ages," he said, rummaging through a box. "Ha! Look! My old training zipboard." He held up a pair of small disks connected by sturdy rods. Two even tinier disks were attached to the sides of each main one for stability.
AndrAIa examined it. "Well, it's still in good condition. We'll hang onto it. It might be useful someday," she added slyly. Matrix raised an eyebrow but forbore to comment.
"Let's see what else we've got old chew toys nah, he's got plenty, we can toss all but this one, it was his favourite propeller beanie dear User, did I really used to wear this thing? spare aircart parts I don't need em, but Bob might have some use for them, I'd better ask"
"Oh, Enzo! Remember this?"
Matrix turned to see what she had found. His jaw set. "Yes," he said shortly.
AndrAIa was too enthralled with her find to notice. "You showed me this when I first came to Mainframe," she said, rather mistily. "Do you remember?"
Matrix's face softened a touch. "Yeah," he said. "I remember."
"You were so proud of it," she said. "You said you'd spent hours learning to play it. Bob taught you, right?" she asked, looking up.
Matrix nodded, smiling faintly. "Every second after school. Dot was amazed I could concentrate on anything for so long. She actually got scared; thought it was doing something to me. She had Phong perform a scan on it, but it was clean."
"You even learned to play that song Dot wrote for you. You played it for me, and Dot sang. You were really good, you know. I mean, I'd have thought so no matter what, but you were good. But then, you've always been a fast learner." She smiled fondly at him.
Matrix chuckled. "Yeah, and then you made Dot teach you the song. Of course, I'd have thought you were good no matter what, but you really couldn't sing back then. You've gotten much better," he added.
"Thanks. I think. Of course, I've practised. You havent really been able to. Still, maybe its like riding a zipboard." She grinned and held it out to him. "How about it, lover? Want to see if you can still play?"
"NO!" He jerked backwards as if she had slapped him.
"Why not? What's the matter?" she asked, startled and worried.
"What's the matter? Thats Megabyte's, AndrAIa!"
"It's yours, Matrix. He gave it to you. Thats why you loved it so much. Can't you remember how special it made you feel?" He was looking furious, but she pressed on regardless. "You told me, once. You said that even when every binome in Mainframe showed up for your birthday, you knew it was because Dot had arranged it. But even Megabyte gave you a present. Of his own free will. He could have attacked, but he gave you a present."
"He probably wanted to put us off guard."
She stared at him, horrified. Then she slowly walked over and placed it on the heap.
They got back to work. Occasionally one would consult the other about whether to keep or discard a particular item. Beyond that, neither spoke.
When they were done, Matrix rose and stretched. "It's getting late, and I'm hungry. We can take this stuff to the dump in the morning." AndrAIa nodded and followed him out. They ate dinner and went to bed early.
AndrAIa woke in the middle of the night to find Matrix's side of the bed empty. She was about to go look for him when she heard a sound from down the hall. It was very soft and muffled by distance and intervening walls, but she still recognised the tune. He's all right he's okay
Smiling and humming along, AndrAIa went back to bed.