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Level 07: ERROR 404
Everything happened in flashes.
Grandfather was lifting back into the sky through a beam of light. In his hand, he still choked Dyonna.
A bright light flashed and I saw sparks flying, and I heard Arik scream.
Another flash of light—The stench of burnt flesh filled my nostrils. Was it mine? Was it Arik’s? Or Dyonna’s?
A third bright flash—Voices spoke to me—Hundreds of them. I couldn’t make out a word.
A fourth bright flash—Across my eyes I saw the words, ‘Error 404’. Then staticy snow ricocheted across my field of vision.
A fifth bright flash—I saw a face before me. It looked something like Dragoon, but it was merged with male features—It was Arik.
A sixth bright flash—And then everything dimmed.
“Dude?” I heard a voice whisper. “You’re actually awake? I thought you were lost.”
“Huh?” I murmured, turning my head from side to side. “What’s going on?”
“Don’t trust him.” A voice whispered in my ear.
“Who?” I asked. My head was so fuzzy; I couldn’t comprehend where I was, or what I was seeing.
“He’s the traitor.” A woman’s voice said. It sounded like Dragoon, but it was less computerized—Almost with a human softness she’d never had before.
“Who’s the traitor?” I whispered. “I don’t understand.”
“Shh!” Dragoon hushed. “He’s right here. He can hear what you say!”
I blinked my eyes hard three times. Arik’s face appeared above me. He put a wet cloth to my forehead—The water was lukewarm, but it felt good against my burning hot skin.
“Arik?” I asked as I tried to sit up.
“Dude.” He pushed me back down. “Don’t try to get up just yet. You took a major blow just a few hours ago.”
“So I survived?” I whispered, closing my eyes and sighing.
“And he did too.” Dragoon scoffed in my mind. “How, I wonder?”
I screwed up my face. “How did you survive?”
“I should be asking you the same thing!” Arik laughed. “You were hit by a massive lightning attack! Boom! He blasted you right dead center in your chest! Your heart even stopped!”
“It did?” I rubbed my eyes. “But where are we now?”
“Grandfather left—He took her man, there was nothing I could do.”
I propped myself up on my elbows and looked around. We were inside the Humvee.
“We have to go find her.” I groaned.
“No. We do not.” Dragoon insisted. “We need to find the first piece of the upgrade. It’s in Flagstaff, Arizona. Remember?”
“We don’t even know where she’s at…” Arik said. “Grandfather doesn’t exactly leave his address when he floats back up into the sky—Like some kind of god!”
“Okay.” I breathed. “We have to get to Flagstaff.”
“Arizona?” He cocked his eyebrow. “Why there?”
“Don’t tell him.” Dragoon said. “By all means, we should leave him here to rot.”
I couldn’t do that. He was my friend. After what I’d put him through, he had a right to know.
“Okay…” I muttered. “Long story short—”
“Stop!” Dragoon hissed.
I ignored her. “I have a plan. I found a hologram of Beauregard. An AI version. He said he could make me into a cyborg like Dragoon—And then I should be strong enough to defeat that old bastard.”
Arik stared at me like I was insane.
“I’m serious.” I said. “I need your help to get to the various components—The first of which is in Arizona.”
“Whoa…” Arik breathed. “I don’t think I’m ready for that serious of a bromance, man.”
I chuckled. “Then go find Zach. But I need the Humvee. Flagstaff is a long drive.”
Arik stood up and walked to a bench, where he sat and put his face in his hands.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
My friend shook his head. “I have a confession to make.”
“What?” I asked.
“Dyonna lied to save me.” He muttered. “I’m the traitor.”
“I told Devil Code where we were.” He said.
“See?” Dragoon hissed again.
“Why would you do such a thing?” I sat up, not sure if I should dive across the truck and beat the shit out of him.
“I thought… I thought they’d help us.” He said. “With Tiff pregnant and all. We’re in deep shit, man. It was just us seven versus three factions! The Lonely Ones, Devil Code, and G.O.D. Mode. I had to choose the lesser of the three evils.”
“Moron!” I snapped. “They might be the greatest of the three. Remember? Dante works for them! According to the data we found, he tried to use Jessie to kill Tiffany! If Devil Code gets us, they kill her!”
Arik hung his head. “I’m sorry, man. I messed up. I know I deserve to have my ass kicked.”
“More than that!” I said.
“Yes, kill him.” Dragoon said.
I ignored her again. “The way I see it, you owe your life to the Gamer’s Guild now. So either I kick your ass out in the desert and let any Corpses left out there get you—Or you swear your allegiance to me and promise to do whatever I say, when I say it.”