A bright purple haze lifted even as the words were spoken, leaving three figures standing on unfamiliar ground. The system was average: tall silver buildings surrounding smaller shops, apartments, and hoes, and a few grassy parks. It was in one of these that the game dropped them off, and disappointment was evident on the two sprites' faces.
'Where are we now?' Enzo asked, blinking his eyes, one deep purple and one shining gold. At first glance, he had thought... this system looked so much like...
'It's not Mainframe,' said a quiet voice to his right. The words brought angler bubbling in Enzo's chest.
'I can see that.' His voice came out harsher than he had intended. His anger tended to override his logic lately, but the frustration in his voice dissipated into the air as quickly as it had come. He wished he could snatch the words back, evaporate the tension now in the air. Even Frisket was silent.
Enzo lifted his forearm so that he could see Glitch. The keytool remained in place, but the young sprite had long since given up Guardianship and no longer wore the cadet outfit.
'Stats.' Glitch's screen popped up, cracked and fuzzy, displaying the system's information. Enzo frowned. 'Damn. Of course there's no ports!'
Glitch snapped abruptly back into place and Frisket emitted a small whine, ears back.
'You don't have to get so angry." AndrAIa's voice was even quieter than it had been before, her disappointment now replaced by a hint of hurt and concern. Enzo sighed and turned to apologize.
'It's alright,' AndrAIa dismissed it with a wave of her hand before he could say anything. 'Don't worry about it.' She tilted her head and gave a small, unconvincing smile.
He was nearly a head taller than her now, and his childlike physique was being replaced by an older, stronger looking one. With his false eye and heavy gun he looked much older than 1.6, and much colder than the kind, fun sprite she knew him to be.
Enzo took a breath and tried to calm himself down. The system's desktop was a healthy blue, and according to his quick look at Glitch's earlier information, there had been no game losses in quite a while, despite the obvious lack of Guardianship.
'I wonder why there were no system sprites in that game.' Enzo said, looking around them as if sprites would appear to prove him wrong. Frisket sniffed the ground around the two sprites in vain. AndrAIa shrugged.
'Maybe they just missed it.'
'Maybe," Enzo muttered. 'Glitch. Stats.' The keytool clicked and whirled feebly, first to the left, then to the right. Enzo cleared his throat. 'Please?'
After a moment, Glitch once again obliged, doing the one job it still could as best as possible. AndrAIa leaned over Enzo's arm to scan the information herself.
'Not a single game loss for over two hours.' She said.
'And with no Guardian.'
'Maybe they formed a team of players by themselves. Or maybe they compete, like in Favicon, remember?'
Enzo did remember. They had once come across a system where games had not been threats – they were opportunities. Sprites and binomes would compete against one another in the games, flanked by an entourage of Recorders, who would reboot but remain bystanders. They would record the player's progress step by step, and report their performance once the game was over. The more skill at game playing the sprites had, the more popular they became. They competed against each other so strongly that the User never stood a chance. Enzo, AndrAIa, and Frisket had learned a few good tricks from them.
'Well yeah, that would explain the winning streak, but we were the only ones playing that game!'
'It is strange.' AndrAIa finally conceded.
'Well there's nothing we can do for the system anyway, we should just wait for the next game.' Enzo said, gently pressing Glitch's screen back into place.
AndrAIa nodded noncommittally, eying her companion askance. His earlier anger seemed to have gone as disappointment gave way to curiosity, but this single-minded enthusiasm to move on was almost as worrisome.
'For now, we need something to eat,' Enzo continued. At this, AndrAIa nodded with more enthusiasm.
'Well, Frisket?' she said brightly, clapping her hands together. 'Find us the nearest food!'
The dog barked happily, turning one quick circle with his purple tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, and bounded towards the shops.
'Let's hope he doesn't lead us to the system's Trash Bin again.' Enzo said wryly. AndrAIa laughed.