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Dreamer's Paradise 2
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catprowler
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Dreamer's Paradise 3

Dreamer's Paradise 4
dreamforib56.rtf
Keywords canine 86159, feline 72668, anthro 60614, clean 7778, story 6605, death 4787, humanoid 3684, dream 2992, fight 2627, sleep 2538, fighting 2413, avatar 1798, fear 1306, story progression 1072, anger 997, weapons 773, science fiction 649, no yiff 292, artificial intelligence 188, computers 80
Chapter 5: Nightmare City

It was many hours later, he had no clue exactly how many, when Tanyar was finally allowed a break. Even though he felt bruised and battered his avatar showed nothing of the dozens of hundreds of hits he had taken.  He was at least glad of the fact he had not needed to stop and try to recover from any of the injuries that had been landed.  Eventually he had been placed with a group of employees and a few participants who where either inexperienced at combat or had neglected much of that training.  The time had been brutal and tough as their three instructors had gone all out constantly pressing everyone to adapt or they were left on the ground trying to think past the pain and recover.  Tanyar knew he was already well beyond the group, but he had been picked to be the living target for the instructors giving the yellow cat what he really needed, experience.  They were teaching the group moves and techniques while giving him personal training.

Quite frequently he felt like a guinea pig, as one instructor would take the group through the next set of defensive or offensive strokes, the other two would be trying out new moves or off angled attacks to the back and side of Tanyar forcing him to adjust to their angle.  He had learned a great deal including how to refocus his vision to be able to see across the gym while still trying to block and strike at what was in front or near him. He also was starting to learn how to see a close up peripheral view, as clearly as if it were in front of him.

Tanyar let his eyes wander across the near full room now that he had been freed looking over what must be hundreds of bodies.  It seemed like nearly everyone must be here working, training, preparing.   He had been told to continue practicing on his own making sure to keep up with whatever tasks he was given.  Next he worked to find each of the others in his group, quickly spotting both Jolty and Crios training.  They were in a larger group that was going over what Shells had termed long knives and daggers.

It took several minutes but he found Freena later near the equipment area.  Tanyar simply nodded his head and agreed before he moved on when she told him that there was no way she was cut out for this. Thinking he might find something more useful to do else where he ended up stumbling across the test group on his way out.  Several were complaining and arguing with Cresstop trying to make sure they were heard over the others in the group, demanding answers to their personal questions.  The instructor  was doing his best, trying to answer a question before someone else cut him off in mid sentence.

"Were trying to listen to you!"  Someone interrupted again, "Your not telling us what we need to know!" / "Why do we have to stay here?"  Was whined while, "We could at least help!"  Was shouted from the back.

Tanyar spent several minutes trying to figure out a way to help as the multi way assault finally fell apart into a shouting match.  He approached yelled but only got half the groups attention.  It took just a moments thought before he wove his hands together crafting a bell.  Although not on par with its real world counterpart the loud clanging quickly caught everyones eyes and ears.  "Cresstop do you need some assistance?"  He asked allowing the bell to drop from his hand and vanish.
     
"It's fine Tanyar I do have help coming."  He stated, which was quickly countered, "It is not FINE! We need.."
     
"ENOUGH!"  He roared out at the speaking avatar.  He stepped forward with his metal staff appearing and swiped out with a small lunge forward which had several of the testers scattering backwards in fright.  "Good at least you remember.  I was beginning to think you were not only stupid, but that you couldn't remember a thing."  He gave another swipe with the pole forcing back a few that stood off to his side back pushing them towards the group.  "You want answers fine.  Here are the only ones you need.  We are two steps away from a real emergency.  We can't at the moment leave the Dream and we have an Artificial Intelligence who thinks he should be in charge.  We don't have time to explain everything or any idea when the problem will be fixed.  So be smart get back in line and shut up.  If you are going to keep causing problems I will request you be kept safe by locking you in a room where you can sit for god knows how long until this ends."  He gestured for Cresstop to step forward and take control of the group adding.  "You were brought here to learn to defend yourself in case of a real emergency.  The decision was not Cresstops but he has to follow it and so should you."
     
"I know you all want out. I know you're all scared."  Cresstop started.  "At the moment I can do nothing to help you with that.  I wish I could believe me.  Sadly though at the moment I don't have any choice.  I was ordered to give you all basic combat training, basically give you a weapon and teach you not to hurt yourself with it."  He waved a hand trying to answer the raise hand before the question was asked. "No I'm sure they don't expect you to fight but some of the heads believe you should first be taught to defend yourself especially after what happened in the lecture hall."

"They are covering their asses again."  Tanyar spoke from behind.  "It's to bad were in the administration complex, outside you could see some real fun stuff.”

"Actually some games might be a good idea.  Why don't all of you head to that wall." Cresstop said pointing, "We can have a weight lifting contest."

Still seeing a great deal of confusion and uncertainty Tanyar once again tried to help by holding the pole up in the air waving it to catch everyone's attention.   He dropped it back down gripping it in two places and slowly bent it.  After a great deal of straining and grunting and a great deal of will he held up the pole in a twisted pretzel like form.  He dropped what was left trying to shake out his arms which now felt like he had ripped several muscles and a strained/pain feeling.  "There are rules here that make this area close to the outside world.  Still this is a DREAM.  Don't for a moment think your in your own body and that you can or cannot do something.  Try everything, lift five times more than you could ever hope.  Don't give up until your totally sure your avatar can't do it."  Tanyar watched as the group slowly started heading to the wall.  "It's not your body remember that."  He added again to the backs of the last few who were leaving.  He decided with that done, now might be a good time to go back and check the conference room and find out what exactly was going on.

('")

He was curious as to why the activity there was not even a quarter of what it had been before. There were almost enough bodies left to fill the chairs if some weren't standing against the wall or talking in groups.  Tanyar also noticed many of those left did not have the upgraded avatars he had seen sitting earlier with of course the exception of Midnight who still occupied the same chair.  The horse nodded at his approach but said nothing even when he stood right next to the chair.

"What can I do?"  He finally asked.

"Can you defend yourself?"

"Of course." He immediately answered.

"Tanyar, no jokes or false bravado. Can you fight and defend the complex? We are expecting... something" The horse informed him.

"I am ready. Shells stopped us because he needed the others to train some employees who hadn't been out practicing for a while and wanted to brush up on advanced skills."  He answered.
     
"Who is us?"  Tanyar was asked and he grinned as he answered.  "It was kinda a free for all at the end but, Ryo, Allent, Crystal.  They all felt I was the best live target to show examples on for everyone's benefit."  He knew the names would sound impressive because he had figured out THEY were the best, and the ones everyone else was comparing themselves to.

Midnight held up a hand while he listened to a report from down the table.  After issuing another order he turned his attention back to Tanyar who asked.  "How bad is it?  How many does he have."
     
He waited as the horse head drew back its muzzle showing teeth in what could have been either a grin or a grimace.  "There are fourteen Dream employees and about twice that many participants and workers along with a dozen admin avatars which we couldn't shut down.  We're not sure if all of them are working with ARENS.  The tracking system was shut down about and an hour or so after we started tracking, along with several other programs, you see not even the watch function works now."
     
The horse shook his head after a few seconds of silence, "We have groups out at key defense points and on short patrols.  There is a red line outside follow it and I want you to be polite and follow orders.  You already found out that not everyone is happy with you being given employee status at this time.  Your ability to learn and strong will makes you useful, but many feel you inexperience with the Dream could cause a serious problem."

"I understand."  Tanyar responded, "I just wish they would remember this is a dream, especially now with the new rules.  They are not that far ahead of me."

Midnight blew out a heavy breath shaking his head at the cat.  "Your a new player Tanyar, fresh, young, talented.  But they are a team and have been playing together for years.  Just because you can score points doesn't mean we are going to win.  Teamwork!  They have it you don't... yet.  Kalrena has encouraged you a great deal and yes I have reviewed you impressive growth recently.  But you are just starting to work together with others.  That was a rather impressive failure this morning with the table."  He paused seeing if the cat would try and speak out. "Good, maybe you do understand. I know it usually takes a week for a participant group to come up with a construct usually a few days before they come up with anything.  You made something crude in a few hours but you are no where near the level of any other employee.  You need time and we don't have any to give you.  So I say again, be polite and follow orders."  Seeing the cat half flatten his ears he did add.  "Don't think for a moment you are forgotten.  I have already heard several foolish, ironic, and insane ideas that suddenly would work 'if maybe Tanyar helped.'"  He was actually surprised to hear that there were people that wanted him to help.  "Forget what your thinking Tanyar, they want your enthusiasm and will nothing more. A power source for their desperate ideas that likely would make things worse."

"Can I ask what happened to Karater?"  

Midnight thought for a moment considering before answering.  "He did not wake up.  There are eight people who's brain activity and reaction/response time dropped to just below what yours were, or so we were told.  The main message we got was sit tight they are working on the problem. The second message was that ARENS is not responsible and has been fighting off several outside viral attacks that have caused many system errors."

Tanyar stood shocked, there was no way that could be possible.  Besides to even get past T.A.N. Corp's security would require a great deal of computer power and web action that would easily be detected by the net shield and immediately halted.  "I don't buy it either.  It is obvious to everybody here that ARENS is gaining control over the system.  Slowly but surely it is taking over the processes normally done by us.  We split the most important processes among several of the staff hiding and protecting them.  It has stopped the I.A. at the moment but we are expecting some form of response or attack.  I truly hope I can trust you Tanyar, there are several here close to panic and that info would upset things.   Matchar and Sellant both left he dream even knowing Karater didn't wake up."  The two stared at each other for well over a minute neither speaking till Midnight pointed.  "Go on, out."  The cat turned and left following the red line like he was told.

It lead a short way up through the north hall just past the greeting area to a door.  He was left waiting in the hall for several minutes after knocking on the door a half dozen times.  It wasn't the door that opened but someone who called his name near the end of the building hat got him moving.  Tanyar could only stare at what was no more than a blob head on the floor.  He kept staring wondering what this was as he approached.

"Ya I know it was the only way they would let me try to get in."  The head stated.  "Could you stop staring, it's bad enough I'm stuck like this without your gaping mouth."

"Sorry."  Tanyar mumbled trying to figure out an appropriate way to watch the head while it explained.

"It's just supposed to be a helmet unit. Capable of allowing one who is still basically awake to have limited interaction in the dream.  Buuuttt some how I'm stuck here I can't even feel my body to remove the helmet.  I would have assumed someone would have shut the unit down by now, but I guess they haven't."

"Or maybe they have."  Tanyar spoke softly.

The head stared for a moment before replying.  "I don't even want to think about that understand?"  He nodded in agreement.  "So what did you need?"

Tanyar looked away realizing he was staring again straight at the goofy little grin that it seemed to wear.  "Midnight told me I could help with the defense."  He waited wondering if somehow this head had some some how not heard or maybe even better left the Dream.  He shifted a foot lifting it high enough to be sure it went though the others field of vision.
     
"Just a minute!  It's not like I have a tablet or computer.  It is funny you know. It still feels like I move my hands and the display still comes up but if I try to exit or move my body it's a big fail."  Tanyar figitted while the head finally made a decision. "Listen patrols will be for only the most experienced and who they choose to take.  I don't have any info on you, do you want to fight?"  He just shrugged unsure what exactly he wanted himself.
     
"Fine."  The head said with an irritable grunt.  "Straight out the doors. The post is up almost four blocks.  Remember it is outside of admin. so DON'T screw around."  Trying to remember his manners Tanyar thanked the head before noticing there was no line to follow.  His pause was obviously noticed, "Quit lagging I don't have time to try and point the way just go, I'm sure they will find you."
     
He created a sword which he strapped to his back and a mace which he carried as he stepped outside the north door.  As he walked all he could think about was the half dozen medieval combat and battle games that he never was able to beat.  By the time he made about three and a half blocks he saw an avatar half step out of a door way and wave, which had him hurrying past the empty buildings to the end of the block ahead.

("')

"Welcome to PN 39 at."  A sarcastic voice stated when Tanyar entered the corner building.  There were six wide empty window spaces three on each side which were easily large enough to jump through.  The rest of the room was bare excepting a ladder which lead to the second story which an odd pair of avatars were now sliding down.  Introductions were quickly made as five of the six gathered around him.  The last in the room still at the windows watching was introduced as Tinyrose.  He was staring in surprise but her backhanded wave while she concentrated outside had almost hurt especially since she didn't even bother to say hello or even tell him that she was in the Dream.
     
"Hurry up. What's the news."  One of the pair who came down the ladder asked.  Tanyar watched the pair carefully, he had instantly recognized the names of Tweedletim and Tweedletom having seen both of them on the dream worker column but had never realized what exactly they looked like from just the head picture. Tim who had asked the question was human shaped with yellow on top with a red lightening strip running from left shoulder to right hip separating the bottom half which was green. Tom was an exact mirror copy excepting the green was on top and yellow on bottom separated by a bolt that ran from right shoulder to left hip.
     
"I was sent to help. I don't have any new information." The pair looked at each other one nodding while the other shook its head.
     
"Don't bother."  Callist spoke, he had introduced everyone and seemed to be the one in charge of the group.  "He probably already knows which one is which. Back upstairs."  He addressed the two.
     
"Help, Riiight thanks."  It was a gray humanoid with a short snub tail which had been introduced as Pallin who seemed to have a most sarcastic manner while the final one was Reylista gave a little wave before returning to the window with Pallin. He remembered meeting her outside a few times before and was sure she was just a participant.
     
"Well the rule is participant with an employee.  I could put you upstairs but you don't have a ranged weapon do you."  He shook his head to the question, then answered a few more before he realized Callist had placed him in the participant rack and in need of a overseer.  "Well I suppose if I have to I could watch you both."  He stated.
     
Remembering Midnight's orders he did his best to be polite.  "Sorry Sir you have the wrong idea.  I am an employee capable of taking care of myself.  I was sent here to help.  You give the orders, I'll get it done."

Callist was quietly thinking while the once again helpful Pallin spoke up without turning away from the window.  "If the kids serious let him get killed, but we have movement on this side."  Over head there was a double thump on the same side.
     
"Window Tanyar, NOW!"  He pointed at Tinyrose before moving to the opposite side next to Pallin.
     
Tanyar moved to stand in the window only to have her shove him over and force him firmly against the wall.  In a quiet voice she told him, "Don't stand in the window.  Watch that way, I'll watch the other." After pointing she moved to the other side leaving a good four feet between them as he tried to listen to the muttering behind him.  Seeing his attention was split between what was behind, outside, and her Tinyrose spoke again, loud enough for everyone to hear.  "Concentrate Tanyar!  You're here to protect everyone who can't.  If you can't handle that leave!"
     
He felt like she had once again slapped him upside the head only this time with words.  He started to watch properly as Tom called down the ladder.  "It's Zenus."
     
"See we need to know."  Pallin hissed.  "Can't even tell us who to guard from."
     
"I know."  Callist answered.  "We'll let him in if he wants, and see what he knows."  He moved to the door and waved out catching the approaching avatar's attention.
     
"He's coming fast."  Pallin warned as Callist ducked back inside calling a sword to his hand and facing the doorway.
     
The avatar dashed inside spinning to check the street behind him. When he turned back he found a sword point at his chest as Callist demanded.  "Report!"
     
"I don't know!! Barnam is killing everyone!"  Zenus nearly screamed holding up his hands and backing several steps away almost backing outside. "WHAT?"  Seemed to echo from several spots in the room.
     
"What happened."  Callist demanded still with the sword raised at the deep red newcomer.
     
"I was on a patrol with Chance and some others.  Barnum showed up with some one else I didn't know who.  He and Chance argued then.. he killed him and his partner took out someone else.  Then Barnum was screaming for everyone to stop.  He said we could either die now or help him and die later.  I fricken ran."  Zenus added after a few seconds later.
     
"What the hell is he thinking?"  Pallin asked.
     
"The same thing as before."  Callist spoke.  "Only now it seems he's gonna do it with or without approval.  He made the suggestion earlier, if everyone was dead, the Dream would end or reset."  He stepped back lowering the sword and walked up behind Reylista to look out the window.
     
"Would that work?"  She asked quietly.
     
"No one is sure.  We have never had no one in the Dream."  Tanyar looked back at Zenus while Callist spoke wondering who the avatar was since it was another he hadn't met or seen till now.  Suddenly he saw a glow from the newcomers hands as Callist spoke again.  "It is likely that with no one in the Dream that the programs..."
     
"Watch out!!"  Tanyar screamed seeing the glow manifest into twin glowing daggers.  He had jumped forward and blocked two of the half dozen flung in his direction even as he watched the blurring arms and several more were tossed towards Callist back.  The red avatar flowed back avoiding Tanyar's first two sweeps.  With a spin he buried the mace head in the wall just inches from Zenus as the other barely dodged again.  With a thought the mace shaft grew longer blocking the others blade swipe that nearly jarred the weapon from his hand.  He pulled his weapon from the wall sweeping up to deflect the others paw just below the glowing blade.
     
Tanyar stumbled back from the second impact.  Striking the other avatar had been like hitting solid stone.  This was nothing like his training or anything else he had come across in the Dream.  He tried thinking his body stronger as he braced for another hit moving forward to engage again.  He swung his mace in a upward arc hoping to surprise or force the other back but was surprised himself when the other lept clear over his head.  He spun keeping his eyes locked on the target that hit the wall and launched its way out the doorway.
     
He spun again towards movement as he realized it was Callist struggling up off the floor.  He pulled his paw away from his chest where the gash that ran from his center to his side was now closing. As he concentrated more the wound vanished along with the blood that had run down his front.
     
"You alright?" Pallin asked from his corner of the room.
     
"Hurts like hell and I feel week." He stated leaning back into the wall.
     
"We could have been gone if he hadn't warned us." Pallin nodded to the cat in appreciation.
     
With a shuddering sigh Tanyar let the mace drop to the floor as a desperate cry went up across the room "ROSE!" He turned to see the blood red cat sitting half propped against the wall with a large hole near the middle of her chest.  He as at her side in a second, holding one paw against her chest and the other trying to shake her shoulder to make her open her eyes. He could feel a horrible constriction in his own chest as her eyes stayed close. 'Please Please Rose' He thought.
     
"We need that FUCKING LIST!" Pallin began screaming turning to Callist. "NO Fuck this!! Were risking our lives here and we can't."
     
"SHUT UP!!" Tanyar screamed out trying to listen seeing Tinyrose's lips move.  He smiled when he saw her eyes open and watched as she raised a paw. He felt the slight slap against his head before the paw dropped away. It never reached the floor, both the paw and the rest of her avatar broke apart. "Rose."  He whispered staring in shock.

('")

Tanyar had no idea how much later it was. All he knew was it was dark now and had been for a while. There was now a new group of six who came to relieve them expressing sorrow both at the loss of Tinyrose and the list of others who were now on the gone or missing list. They were ordered to return to admin where there would be cots if they wished to rest along with games or activities to occupy themselves.
     
The other thing they had brought with them was a clipboard with pictures and names of avatars that were known to be helping ARENS. Also there was a side list of nine unaccounted for persons who had not responded to the order to return, but had also not moved to meet with ARENS before the tracking system had gone down.  The first thing Pallin did on seeing them place the clipboard near the door was to tear it down and hurl it with papers flapping across the room before storming out.
     
"Sorry Callist, they are working as best as they can.  The entire tablet system is down now.  Everything is being done at the main system terminals.  You really should count yourself lucky at losing only one. Every checkpoint and patrol has been attacked and they all faired worse."
     
"I know we have Tanyar to thank."  He gestured to the yellow cat who didn't even nod in response.  He just stood there with the rest waiting for Callist to lead them back, the other nodded to the new checkpoint leader and headed out.
     
Before half the group was out Callist yelled.  "GOD, Move everyone!"  He charged down the street with the tweedles at his heels.  By the time Tanyar had made it out the door and was processing what was happening.  Callist and the others were still a block away from Pallin who was already on his hands and knees with two white avatars standing close while the third admin. avatar made a final blow to the head.
     
Tanyar wasn't able to even move feeling another shock that hit with that strike, but when Pallin's avatar hit the ground and broke up he moved like a blur catching and passing the others.  He plowed into the white form bowling it over and rolling several times coming out on top.  As he mindlessly pounded the shape beneath him Tim had pulled aside and was firing bolts from a crossbow at the two remaining enemies.  His paws moved with speed as he reloaded and fired shot after shot in second and a half intervals.  After a dozen shots he stopped allowing the others to join in a melee free for all.
     
It took a while for the yellow cat's brain to finally start to process past the pain and fury.  He was landing dozens of hits but each was being healed seconds later.  Although the admin avatar wasn't able to respond beyond healing, he wasn't able to cause any serious damage.  He rolled away summoning a blade and began hacking into the other form before it had fully reached its feet.
     
He could hear Callist calling him to stop but he was unable to give up.  ARENS voice was echoing from his memory, 'You can not kill me or the ones I use.'  Tanyar decided he would test that as he began to systematically hack, stab, slash and chop each part of the avatar exploring every spot of the form searching for anything.
     
The others had moved closer watching after the other two white avatars had run away.  The yellow cat looked like a high speed meat slicer as the sword was swept back and forth across the leg before switching to an arm flicking out once in a while to stab at the body or head.  "Tanyar let it go."  Callist tried again.
     
"NO."  He said flatly opening his pressed lips to speak all the while hoping to find some way to destroy the other.   For just a moment he started to wonder if this really was pointless and there was no way to beat ARENS except something about what he was doing sparked an idea.  Here he was chopping away but at the same time he had pinned the other to non-action.  If this came down to numbers they had more.  All they needed was to corner each avatar or enemy and keep up a constant attack, maybe line people up so when they got tired someone else could take over.
     
Even as his brain finally rejected such a foolish notion he saw a fuzzy edge on the side of one of the leg  he had just finish hacking.  He immediately focused on the point watching as the fine line seemed to warp more.  His sword began to hum as he picked out other spots forcing the weapon to move to each section with more speed than before.
     
The attention to certain spots caught Callist immediate attention, no longer was the cat just hacking in swift lines or random slashes.  He was deliberately attacking points which seemed to no longer recover properly.  He stepped in closer as the errors grew listening as the blade began to hum louder and vibrate on its own.  Callist shoved Tanyar aside as an odd ping was heard and the cat's weapon shattered.  He swept his own sword forward taking over and slashing at the points which seemed to degrade faster as they approached each other.  Moments later he gave a two great slashes across the middle of of the form watching as it burst like a soap bubble expelling motes which flew and burst again as they vanished form existence.
     
Tanyar was still sitting on the ground where he had stumbled to when Callist knocked him aside trying to deal with the fact it was over.  Most of his thoughts were centered on what had just happened going over and over in his mind trying to figure out what he did to cause this to happen.  He was so engrossed he didn't even see the hand offered from one of the tweedles to help him rise.

"But how?"  Reylista was the first to finally speak.  "We were told they couldn't be stopped, we had to chase them off or run away."

"An error."  Callist stated, "Tanyar up!"  He spoke loudly seeing the cat still on the street.  "No construction is perfect, even the ones the system creates need repair.  Tanyar pushed it beyond its limits to repair itself.  That is also the first time I've heard of a weapon break from constant use especially since it was just summoned."  He walked to Tanyar who had finally stood and turned him giving a good nudge to the back while aiming the cat to the administration building.  "We need to report this, now."

('")

"It was an error that Tanyar exploited and I finished. Once the data was corrupt it spread until the program failed."  Callist finished his report.  The group was in the hall talking with three programmers who had been summoned the moment they returned.

"So it's not something that we can easily use."  Crush said.  She was a smaller sea green avatar with no ears on a round head and a tail that was wide and flat.  Tanyar had heard a joke one time that said Crush has a tail to Smash, now he understood.  Beyond the first introductions he had paid little attention having a hard time focusing with his thoughts jumping between: ARENS, Tinyrose, his own dark prison time, and maybe how to escape the Dream, along with dozens of other ideas that latched on to his attention feeding before dropping away for some other wild thought.

"It's not something any of us can use!"  Tanyar was startled by the loud voice of Tom as he spoke beside him. "I estimated about thirty-five to forty swipes every ten seconds, more than two hundred strokes a minute for nearly three minutes."  That fact now latched on to his mind as he listened intently to what was being said,  "I don't even think Crystal moves that fast when she's doing hand to hand and certainly not for that long."  Suddenly the seven others were staring at the yellow cat.
     
He swallow, or tried to, while thinking of something to say, "I didn't want to give up.  I don't want to lose."  He finally added quietly.
     
"Ppffftt you should have picked an easier target. The admin avatars.." / "NO ARENS!"  He interrupted one of the other programmers.  "I don't want to lose to ARENS."

There was silence that followed as each of the others looked at each other then back to Tanyar.  "Your nuts!  Totally nuts.  We need to hold off till the Corporation gets us out.  You can't beat an I.A."  The programmer told him.
     
"Maybe not in real life but this is a dream.  ARENS can control the system better than any one of us but he can't control the Dream.  We just have to figure out how to stop him."  There was another long moment of silence after Tanyar spoke.

"Thanks for the report we'll try to do something with it.  I wonder if multiple fatal damage inflicted simultaneously would work too."  Crush pondered.
     
"What your gonna squash it flat?"  The blue programmer on her right finally spoke to make a joke.
     
"Well several hundred pounds, center mass with a great deal of force, then maybe hold it there."  Crush replied.
     
"Ya right now who's dreaming.  Excuse me will you hold still for a moment while I try to CRUSH you."  The programmers laughed lightly as the group decided to break apart.  None noticed Tanyar blinking several times nor the fact he smile widely as the wheels in his mind were turning out another plan.
     
He had gone to the greeting rooms which had been converted in to resting areas with cots in the two larger areas while the rest of the spaces had been turned into a lounge like area.  Many people were finding it odd that they could now rest and even fall asleep while in the Dream.  Not one person though wanted to question or dispute the fact of why they could.  Everyone kept their worries or fears quiet and just accepted the new change hoping that this was just a temporary thing that would end very soon.  The fact was besides not needing food their avatars were becoming more real to the person operating them because they felt more like a real body with real thoughts, feeling, and emotions.  Dreaming was beginning to take on a life its own for many who had been in the Dream for more than twenty hours and a few nearly a day and a half.  What they hadn't realized yet was the admin rules and protection were also bonds on the avatar body as well.  Injury and fatigue now took longer to heal with in the southern cross and the normal action with normal responses made the mind believe that it was no longer a dream but real.

Tanyar had decided his first task was to find Kalrena and the rest of his group.  The problem was the only one he could find was Freena who was sitting quietly and playing a card game with a few others who were test subjects.  He wasn't expecting her to explode, jumping up then screaming and yelling at him when he asked a few simple questions.  By the time she had finished and the entire room was trying to ignore the pair Tanyar apologized.  "Really I am sorry.  I know your upset."
     
"DO YOU!!?" Freena raised her voice again.  The struggle was short between avatars as he forced her back into the chair she had been sitting in and placing a hand on her stomach.
     
"I do!"  He told her firmly pressing on her belly causing her struggles to stop.  He bent down over her to whispering in her ear.  "I'll get us out. I swear I will.  I think I know how too.  I don't want anyone else hurt."
     
He did not understand what she had whispered back so he pulled back to look at her.  "Leave me."  She said again quietly.  "Just go, I'm not going outside.  I wouldn't be any good."  With a firmer voice she stated.  "I am staying here Tanyar, where I can help.  GO."  She said making a shooing motion before turning back and picking up her cards.

He waited for over a minute watching the silent card play by the group.  "Okay." He finally stated turning to go.  Even as he finally left the area, still having not found anyone, else he swore to himself that he would find a way to get her out.
     
"You're not tieing up an access point just because you want one."  The brown canine held his hand to Tanyar's chest blocking the way into the conference room.  He had come here first thinking it was the closest access point from the greeting room.
     
"I am an employee and I have that right.  I need to find my group and see where they are and what is going on."  He stated.
     
"You know the tracking system is down."  The dog countered.
     
"Really and what about all the reports on who is at what checkpoint and where."  He spoke back. "Those participants are my responsibility and only Freena is in the greeting area and I was told neither of the other two are in the gym."

The door to the room was yanked open.  "Let him in and stop yelling."  A gruff voice said from inside.  Tanyar had only seen a bush of a tail as he shoved the other avatar aside.  He watched the curled lips and two sharp canine teeth that showed as he made his way past wondering if that was how the avatar originally came or if they were being altered again to fit into ARENS 'New World'.

He scanned the room seeing nearly two dozen avatars working but realized that all were closer to the base models than the anthros and more elaborate avatars of the top employees.  "A - 7" A cream dog near the corner of the room pointed.  Tanyar turned back to where the paw pointed if A was the first table than the seventh seat from the head spot was the first of the two open chairs he figured.  He stopped pulling out the chair to stare at a pure black humanoid like avatar seated at the tables head.

"Problem Tanyar?"  It was the same baritone voice of Midnight only coming from an entirely different avatar.
     
"You don't need to stare."  The voice from the next chair said,  "Everyone's swapping to blend in."
     
"Why?"  He asked, but received no answer.  Tanyar sat down and the first thing he did was type out Kalrena's name.  Both the picture and all extra information was blank, all that was left was the name and basic profile info.
     
"Tanyar."  He heard Midnight speak across the table.  "You're looking for your team.  If your taking responsibility then do so.  You will have to do that without any support or guidance."

He paused for a moment considering before typing Freena's name.  In the info box he added Greeting area as the place and under that he stated that she was to stay with in the administration building.  He also typed in that she would be helping with the testees and helping to keep others occupied.
     
Next he started with Jolty.  There was a pass issued by Ryo stating sufficient ability to be allowed outside of admin with supervision.  Tanyar kept checking but found nothing else, he placed a request to find out which checkpoint he had been assigned to before switching to Crios.  The profile showed that same pass had been issued, plus a second update stating that he had left nearly two hours ago with the patrol which was covering area four.  When he tried calling up maps or grids or even any information on any patrol area he meet the same block stating secured information.
     
"How do I find out about patrol area four?"  He asked aloud.
     
"All that information is kept by Halo and Rock."  A voiced stated.
     
"The same office I sent you before Tanyar."  Midnight put in.
     
Taking a chance and revealing part of his true plans Tanyar asked loud enough to reach the entire room. "Your not sure what will happen if everyone is killed or leaves the Dream."  That got the attention of everyone.  "But I was wondering what might happen if you leave the city, move off the Dream grids." He sat in silence, waiting for an answer in a room of silence.
     
"We don't know."  Midnight finally spoke.  "That is an interesting idea, but we are still a long way from the city border.  Also there is the defensive programs we would have to access to pass into a new grid.  I am not even sure if we still have that access."  There had been several whispers growing as Midnight explained.  He spoke loud enough to stop all other voices.  "I will have that idea checked, carefully, we all know information right now is the best weapon.  Tanyar don't repeat that idea."

Nodding he went back to the inquiry on Jolty seeing that it still held nothing. Worried he brought up the list of missing and the other list of gone and scanned for the name but didn't find it there either.  He tried a last inquiry before choosing an alert box and typing out.

*Jolty unknown where abouts. Now Missing.
If found must report to greeting area and to either Tanyar or Freena.*
He posted and was thinking if he could do anything else as a quick reply was posted onto his alert.

*Missing must have last know location and time.
Also avatar ID# and general size and type and color.*

Tanyar was upset by the reply and replied to it with more than a little frustration.

*Last know place is THE DREAM: Where who the heck knows:
Time: some time yesterday; Size: average; Type: cat;
ID# who the hell knows. Name Jolty look it up!
He is a participant given a pass to leave admin supervised but is not on the defense list.
I don't have time to search admin and if he is outside I want to know.
Again he is to report to the greeting area if found.*

He was almost growling in frustration as he sat back wondering and worrying where the darker yellow cat could be.  Even as he waited for the reply to come back Midnight spoke out.  "Tanyar I told you to be polite."  His ears flattened as he looked to the black avatar.
     
His reply was automatic as he tried to sit up straight. "Yes sir. Sorry sir." His screen popped up with 'Illegal orders. Request Denied.'

"Shurin would you please set a missing file report for avatar Jolty."  Looking back at the yellow cat he asked.  "Do you need anything else Tanyar?"

He took a moment to consider thinking about what he may need soon if he was going to act on his plans.  "Can I have a different avatar?"  The question seemed to attract several heads which turned his way then towards Midnight.  "Sir ARENS has targeted me now and with me killing a admin avatar I'm sure he will want me gone."  Inside he was thinking he might get in a few sneak attacks or at least surprise any enemy if no one knew who he was.
     
There was several excited voices and whispering again that started with his statement of killing an avatar along with a stern look from Midnight.  "Killed an admin avatar?"  He asked looking across the room.

"That was reported,"  Came a voice from across the room, "they are still checking on it but at the moment no one believes it can be replicated."

"I want that report now and any updates as soon as they are made.  Also I want an immediate change to the count making sure we mark eleven avatars now.  Tanyar,"  He turned to look full at he young cat. "you will keep that avatar.  First, maybe it will bring a little hope or at least less fear.  Second and I know this is being mean but if ARENS want to go after you I will try to exploit that later if we need to. We can hope this will end soon, we are coming close to the twenty four hour mark in just a few hours. We were told that if systems weren't restored by five am that the corporation would find another way to make contact again and discuss plans."  Midnight paused studying the other for a moment.  "Tanyar if they don't make contact a lot of people will panic.  If I need to use you as a mark of hope or as bait I will.  Do you understand?"
     
"Yes sir."  Tanyar said standing.  "I will be ready."

"Good, I want you to stay off of the defenses for now, relax or go practice some more."  Midnight told him.

"Sir, I still want to check on my team."  He said.

"Very well, I'll have a message sent to Halo.  She'll help you find your other member."  The black avatar finished and turned back to study a screen without bothering to dismiss the cat.

('")

He spent nearly twenty minutes waiting for Halo.  Then another ten arguing with the golden colored humanoid.  The avatar was still one of the unique ones in the fact she seemed to be wearing a white top and shorts over her golden colored skin.  She had basically denied his request to meet up with patrol four and remove Crios.  He had even offered to escort another participant to replace as an exchange for taking out his team member.  The problem Halo told him was that every group moving or otherwise, no matter the size was being attack, and they were now working to pull back the patrols and draw in the checkpoints.   She wasn't going to send out just two people especially when it was likely that his teammate would be back shortly.

"HALO!!"  The scream came from out in the hall way, "They're hitting the east checkpoint again!"   Tanyar followed Halo and two others who charged out of the office and out the northern door which was closest.  The fact that the east side was under attack was easy to spot. There was a red glow of fire reflecting off of black smoke that was filling the dark sky.

Tanyar didn't even hesitate seeing her run vertical up the wall and followed close behind along with another while the rest they had picked up charged down the street and around the corner.  He kept as close as possible as they flowed across rooftops and lept across entire streets.  After a few blocks the golden avatar stopped to look down below before trying to yell at Tanyar to stop as he jumped off the roof to reach the street below.

The building was a story short of a dozen floors but by the time he was halfway down he had created a pole long enough that when he was ten yards from the ground it slammed into the asphalt. Tanyar gripped hard slowing his decent before dropping the last few feet as the pole vanished. The whole decent his mind and eyes had been trained on the next intersection where there were twenty some odd avatars trying to carry or pull each other down the street.  There was a ragged line of five who were trying to stand between the enemy and the defenseless.  Even as he had watched a mixed group of the five admin avatars and four human operated ones advanced.  Two of the regular avatars and a white one advanced further taking several swipes before stopping waiting as another small group charged forward hacking at the sad defense that was offered forcing them to stumble backwards or get ripped to bits.

With no time waisted the yellow cat was charging forward this time creating a dream alloy metal pole that was highly flexible.  Unsure how well it would work but with no time to consider options he tried for the first time to create something that was not close to his avatar.  He focused entirely on one point in the asphalt street ahead waiting as his field of vision pulled forward to the spot.  He created a small 'C' shaped bar with a small cup that he forced into the pavement.  Tanyar barely aimed correctly feeling the end of the pole scrape along the ground before running into the cup and catching. The speed which he ran caused the pole to heavily bend and with a leap he vaulted over not just the group but the entire intersection.  In the air he tucked his feet in and with a slight correction he smashed into one of the advancing avatars knocking it to the pavement while he stood on top.
     
Twisting his paws a staff was called between his hands from his list and he drove the weapon deep into the chest of the green color he saw beneath him.  He tried to block out any thoughts as his feet touched the pavement falling though the motes of the broken avatar.  Of the few stronger images and thoughts that raced though his head the only one he kept a hold of was the last time he saw Tinyrose.  He needed to stop them, whether admin avatars, other people, or even ARENS; if they were going to attack and kill than he would have to do the same.

He spun a quick circle seeing the human operated avatars had stopped, either staring in disbelief or consideration.  The white avatars however all swarmed forward forming a circle around the cat as they advanced each holding its own sword.  He kept a circular spin or twist that allowed him to watch a wider area even as he struck with both staff and feet keeping his limbs flashing out striking dozens of times in different directions. He forced all of them back keeping them from approaching any closer than the length of his staff by raining blows on weapon or body parts each time they encroached within his circle.
     
Tanyar tried to plan an option and allowed his vision to slip out and include more that the immediate area.  He was only able to see two of the human opponents near by seeing that they had moved close together.  A glance down the street saw the group had barely moved ten feet and were now just leaving the intersection.  He cursed silently wondering why they hadn't run when they had the chance.  He would be their line of defense if they would just pick themselves up and run.  He broke out of the circle spinning the staff and feeling the impact of multiple blows as he forced his way between two enemies. He spun back to face the opponents at the end of the intersection screaming for the other behind him to run.

"Stupid FOOL!"  He heard a female shout back as a golden blur moved by his right and two other forms moved past his left.  Tanyar was once again a step behind Halo as the group now move to meet the enemy.  

He claimed two white avatars for himself forcing them back towards the building as Halo and the others picked up opponents to battle.  By the time he had them on the sidewalk he had to stop paying attention to the others hoping they would be able to handle themselves as he put all his effort into finding an opening which he could exploit.  This time was totally different in every way from his first encounter with two admin avatars.  He struck connecting blow after blow while he made sure that the two blades they wielded either rebounded or slid off his staff.
     
He found his opening when one stepped back body mostly touching the wall behind and was unable to move around easily. He laid a barrage of blows against the one that was free forcing it away while one end of his staff split into a 'U' shape and grew several inches making nearly foot long prongs. He spun back driving forward and slipping the prongs on each side of the administration avatars neck drilling the staff deep into the wall. With a thought the ends of the prongs blew up in to circles riveting the staff and avatar to the wall hopefully long enough for his other plan to be finished.
     
Ever since his first fight with the white forms Tanyar had spent a bit of his free time here and there trying to learn how to use a whip. He had found after a while that it was more than just swish and flick. As his construct finished and he whipped out the end of the rope he used his will to force the end to wrap around both ankles of his approaching enemy. With his mind pulling on one end and his body yanking on the other, the line pulled tight ripping the legs out from the avatar landing it hard on its back.  He stood up raising both his paws high and concentrated again on his strongest construction element, steel.  A five foot square one inch thick plate formed in the air in less than a second.  It took the same amount of time following Tanya's will for it to smash into the sidewalk on top of the struggling form squishing it.  He didn't stop there though a second, third, fourth, fifth.... Suddenly the reverberating clangs blasted forcefully though the air as slab after slab built up pressing thousands upon thousands of pounds which quickly turned into tons as the metal piled upon the sidewalk.  He stopped at ten, leaving nearly a foot of metal and what he guessed was over six tons resting on top of what he was sure was now nothing but motes of program.

As fast as he was, it had still taken time to crush his opponent. He didn't have to worry though as he turned back he spotted the large hole in the wall and the fleeing white form as it scrambled around a corner.  "When the fuck did it learn to fly?!"  Tanyar looked to the speaker then followed the gaze down the street where the two more white forms had fled.  One crushing a foot above the ground with a orange whirring tail that was moving fast enough to look like a glowing disk. He spent a moment still watching the street after the avatars had fled around a corner, by the time he looked back the other three were now staring at him.

"One more down, now only ten to go."  He told them cheerily.

"And Mulgar?"  Halo added in.  It took a second for him to remember that he had also destroyed a human operated avatar as well.  Watching and realizing the cat was trying to hide remorse and uncertainty she said.  "Get everyone back to the administration building, we'll work that rest out later."
     
They quickly joined the group which had only made another block of progress.  Tanyar was surprised to see people still injured and the shocked looks and slow pace of the rest.  When his gaze landed on Crios limping and trying to pull a dazed looking dog along he had to stop him. " Crios stand up, quit limping, and get back to admin now!"  He stated firmly moving towards the other.
     
"Leave him be."  Someone called, "He's doing what he's told.  We aren't going to leave anyone."
     
"Why not!"  He rounded on the group,  "If you're to stupid to remember this is a DREAM and you're not really hurt then maybe you should be left behind."  After a moment he added, "Well maybe hurt but you can heal instead of just limping along."  He gestured to Crios.  "You were not ready to leave admin."  He said looking back to the light orange dog.
     
"I have permission."  Came the answer as the other stood straighter.
     
"Not from me.  I am the group leader now.  YOU and Jolty and Freena are my responsibility."  Crios closed his mouth deciding whether or not to argue.  "Do you know where Jolty is?"  He watched as the other shook his head.  "He's gone now listed as missing, maybe dead.  You can help get the others back but after that stay in admin unless you tell me first."  During the conversation it seemed that several avatars had found or remembered their ability to either heal and more had lost their dazed look.
     
"You don't have the right to order me around."  Crios finally replied.
     
There wasn't even a blur of movement, one moment they were standing there and in the next blink Tanyar was holding a sword under the chin of the other pressing the head back.  "Kalrena is out. I don't know where, that makes me responsible.  I am supposed to know where my team is.  I am supposed to keep you safe.  YOU are NOT ready!  Besides,"  He said stepping back, "Wasn't it you yesterday who said that I was teaching you.  I already lost Jolty with out even knowing it, I am not going to let anyone else I know die!"
     
"Oh the great and powerful Tanyar has spoken."  A snide comment came from out of the group mocking him the same way he had mocked ARENS.  "You cant stop the admin avi's or any of the others who are following ARENS.  If you had been out there with us you would have gotten your ass whipped just like the rest of us.  They are too good, too fast, and they..."
     
"Really?"  He spoke loudly interrupting the other.  "Then I suppose I haven't destroyed TWO of the admins plus the one more if you count yesterday morning."  Tanyar finally saw the speaker step forward a brown dog with ruffled and matted fur all over and a bushy-tail.
     
Before the argument could escalate Halo stepped in, "Genrat get your group and everyone else back to admin.  We will discuss all of this there, including the fact there is one less admin avatar."  Halo called out to several people pointed to those that still had not yet recovered and needed help back.  She began shouting as soon as she saw the group staring out the main entrance of the southern cross.  "Everyone back inside.  I need a group of ten Rock we put them right outside and on the roof tops. STOP gawking!"  She shouted again at the people who had not moved back inside.  "Either help out or get out of the way."
     
Tanyar tapped Crios on the shoulder and motioned him to follow, he had them back outside the conference room in just a few minutes.  He didn't even bother to speak he just shoved the guard and walked right past waving Crios to follow.  There was a great deal more activity as he again approached Midnight.  "The eastern checkpoint is gone and so are the patrols.  Several buildings are on fire."
     
"I know Tanyar."  Midnight said still staring down at the screen in front of him.
     
"Do you need a report, Crios was part of patrol four."  
     
Midnight finally looked up at the two. "Later Tanyar, anything else?"
     
"I need you to update the list again.  There are now ten administration avatars left."  He spoke loudly getting several stares from across the room. "And ... Mulgar was destroyed as well."
     
Midnight was frowning, "Are you sure?"
     
"Halo said it was Mulgar."
     
"Anttis said the same."  Crios spoke in support.
     
"Very well.  I want to know the instant he is seen again, if he is seen again.  Anything else?"  Midnight repeated again wondering if there was other surprises hidden.
     
"Has anyone seen Jolty?"  He asked out at the room.
     
"He is on the missing list we will update it every hour."  Tanyar nodded at the voice that came across the room.
     
"I do not want my participants out without my permission or me to protect them."  He spoke back to the black avatar.
     
"Granted."  Midnight immediately said, "I believe for the moment no one is going out of sight from the building."  He turned back to the flashing on the screen and began tapping out a quick reply.
     
"Howd'ya do it Tanyar?"  He was asked by a white avatar half way down the conference table.
     
"I stacked ten, one inch steel plates on top if it.  The first few I made sure slammed down squashing it."
     
"I'm surprised you didn't just drop some huge rock on it."  That was said by another person.

Tanyar waited a moment trying to figure out why he was being stared at by nearly everyone around the table.  Maybe it is some kind of test he thought.  "Constructs,"  He started with a lecturing tone, "work best if you understand the material or items involved.  Steel is far more dense than some rock.  You also need to take into account the size since in battle anything you create will take time.  A five by five by one inch plate dropped from a five foot height with force would be enough to kill an average avatar being more than half a ton of weight.  The impact would stall even an admin avatar allowing time to create multiple plates which could be added to the stack.  It also seems each plate appears faster and with less effort than the last one created if its in the same spot."  He stared back at the original avatar speaking this time with a slight snideness to his voice. "That was the easy part. Trying to attack and separate two, then immobilize one of them so I could get the other avatar on the ground. That was the hard part."

"MANNERS Tanyar."  Midnight barked from beside him.

"Sorry sir.  It just seems like everyone thinks I have no clue or understanding of the Dream."  He replied.
     
"Time Tanyar."  Midnight spoke, "Exactly how long have you been here total Tanyar?"
     
"Can I count the time I spent researching the Dream?"  Midnight didn't even respond to his question. "Two weeks."  He finally spoke amazed suddenly by how short that actually was.
     
"Everyone in this room has been working on the project for at least three years. That would have made you fifteen.  You want them to treat you like your one of them but your not.  The only reason you have progressed so fast is because someone is teaching you that is because they had to figure it out first."

"Sorry sir."  Tanyar put in as Midnight took a breath, "and sorry."  He said at the rest of the table. Tanyar had learned from his father that even a breath could be an opening.  Rather than try to argue he tried to stop one.

('")

He was back in the hall a few minutes and one more admonishment later.  His instructions were to relax and wait, and of course not to leave admin.  The hallways seem a lot more busier as he asked Crios to please check in on Freena and find him immediately if they had found Jolty.  Once the participant was off Tanyar started a personal search of the southern cross which took just over an hour.  He started at the gym and then slowly went though the entire southern wing of admin before moving on to each wing. He ended with Halo making sure one more time that Jolty was not at any defense post before going to check the greeting area one last time.
     
He easily found Freena and Crios.  One still at a table playing a complex stacking game the other asleep in a cot.  That done he found a small room with several access points where he could check one last time on the list of missing and the now untalked about list of gone.  He opened Jolty's profile and added a small note that stated a search of admin confirms the cat was not inside the building.  Tanyar wondered how long before someone might move him to the gone list if he was not found.  Pushing such thoughts from his mind he took the time to review and reset several of his summoning gestures.  The young man was surprised and excited at the suddenly expanded list which he had access to with out needing to enter in the password he had been given.  He immediately created a program to call a steel plate with just a hand clench and a dropping gesture figuring that he would likely require that again soon. By the time he reached his weapons he stopped suddenly seeing and remembering his own personal creation that now had an approval tag.  Tanyar was swept up with thoughts of how fast and easy he could dispatch any opponent with that no matter who controlled it.  Quickly adding it to his list and his top weapon gesture he was stopped from going any further by someone calling his name.
     
"There is a meeting.  Ten minutes, in the conference room.  Occulus you too."  The cream dog added before stepping out of the room.

Tanyar quickly closed out programs and stood up.  He hadn't even realized that Occulus had been sitting in a walled off corner of the room. "Hey."
     
"Busy."  Was the reply as the large eyes were scanning between three screens while he typed out one handed on the keyboard at his right while the left gloved paw made twists and squeezing motions every few seconds.

"Please Occulus, have you seen Kalrena."  That had been the second body he had always been looking for while searching admin.  He was sure, even if she had changed her avatar, she would at least respond when she saw him.  He had startled many people during his search but knew none of then had been Kalrena.
     
Occulus turned long enough to check the cat before returning to his work.  "She is busy. I have spent the last six hours writing a program for her and its only half done.  This is more than I should tell you but we are working on a way to stop ARENS so let me be please."  Tanyar quickly backed away wishing he could offer some form of help but knew that he was interrupting something very important.
     
He made his way to the conference room, a line with three people were waiting at the door while a large group of avatars was taking up nearly half the hallway on the other side.  He wondered what was going to happen seeing how much had changed since he was last here.  The door was now metal and there seemed to be no handle as he stepped into line to wait.  There was also two guards, one of whom had just ordered the front avatar across the hall to wait.
     
He waited while the next two gave names and answered a few question and were admitted inside while the line behind him had grown but a half dozen bodies.  "Tanyar."  He said taking his place in front of the guards.
     
"Reason?"  The left one asked.
     
He shrugged, "I don't know."
     
"Shut up and get across the hall."  The guard snarled in reply.  Tanyar tried to review the polite ways to respond before finally stating.  "I don't know the reason. I was ordered to come."
     
The second guard checked a list in his hands, "Tanyar?"  The cat nodded, "Department or group?"  He was asked.
     
"None, unless you count admin avatar killer."  He stated thinking quickly that that was definitely the wrong answer.
     
Both guards looked to each other before ordering the cat to step to the side.  They had allowed two more inside and sent three across the hall before they called him back up.  "Tanyar for now your group is planning and development."  The right guard said and the door behind him slid open sideways.
     
The previous room was gone, now in its place was a circular small theater with a round table in the center at the bottom.  "Tanyar P&D is the third tier down on the left you will take the first open seat." He nodded to the avatar who spoke and started walking down.  A light across the way came as an identical door opened and Tanyar could see out in to the hall as someone new walked in to the room.  He smiled at someones creativity as he reached the center tier of the five and walked his way into the fourth rolling chair to pull it out.  He checked the small table and console in front and looked at the microphone that was attached to a stand in the corner of the small desk.
     
He gazed around the room seeing that it was probably big enough to hold two hundred people but as of yet was not even half full. Of course this was far better than the two conference tables and stacking people against the wall, it would be easier to listen and make decisions as a group.

Tanyar was suddenly filled with a good feeling knowing that he had been asked here and they certainly weren't letting everybody in.  He looked back to the three occupied chairs on his right checking the avatars then to the two others who were at the far end past the two empty tables that made up his little quarter of the third tier.  'Planning and Development, not Research and Development.'  He contemplated what the differences could mean and wondered if it wasn't just a place to stick extras.  He felt that it wasn't that bad.  Although he felt himself more like Planning and Action department.  Tanyar leaned forward to grab and adjust the microphone and suddenly there was a shift and his seat was at the center table and he was looking at a few surprised avatars.
     
Nearly half of them still had the advanced anthro look or the well detailed avatars that he had seen earlier when this had first started. He gave a little apologetic smile as someone across the table shooed him back. He let go of the mic and sat back finding himself back on his own tier. "Just sit there and wait."  The voice from the chair next to him said.  "They will call you up if they want you to talk."

He studied the console in front of him realizing that at the moment it was set up as a chat box. He typed in his name and was given several options which included a personal message setting. With a spark of hope he typed in Kalrena's name and sent a short message of hello before receiving the answer that message could not be sent. "We will be beginning in a few minutes." a voice announced throughout the room. Tanyar studied the bottom table before finally making a decision and wrote a message to Midnight.
     
*Tanyar: I wanted to ask if the option to leave the city was still closed.  Second I was really hoping to speak with Kalrena.  Last I have an Idea - recently I created a weapon with Shells which should be highly effective against admin avatars.  Also it should leave the option of disabling human operated avatars without killing them. *

He took nearly a minute before he was able to hit send feeling that the last part would be important enough to allow him to send the entire message.  He watched the black avatar scan the screen in front of him looking up once to speak before going back and typing quickly.

*Midnight: We will be discussing your idea soon.  Kalrena is working.  Send your idea to Shells.  

Short, simple, polite, and not quite telling him to go away.

*Tanyar: My weapon says approved can we make more.  I think they will give us a great advantage over admin avatars.

As he sent the message to Shells a voice again called from overhead.  "Okay we are ready to start everyone please listen closely.  We will be going over new ideas first so those of you that have them get ready we will start as soon as the summary is over."  Tanyar was listening to the start of the summary when he received an answer to his message.

*Shells: Great idea but it wont work yet, I'll tell you later.  Maybe we can get something together later.
     
Tanyar put that out of his mind when one of the avatars at the main table stood up stating he had a serious announcement. "You all need to know.  We have checked several of the private clocks that are not linked to the system and the time is now 5:40.  We have not received any response form the Corporation nor any sort of message from the outside.  Everyone here is trusted with that information and it WILL NOT leave this room!  We are going to continue as if we had received communication, the message is the same only now we will add programs and ideas to be worked on to get out of the Dream."

Tanyar suddenly felt his seat shift forward to the main table and Midnight spoke, "Many of you have had your own ideas.  Some great, most though are unfeasible or to dangerous.  One which I want everyone to explore first, now comes from Tanyar."
     
With that the black avatar motioned him to speak.  "My idea was to step outside the Dream's boundaries.  I wanted to know what happened if we moved off the dream grid."  There were several murmurs and back round noise as he continued.  "I was told there were boundaries or something that needed to be bypassed.  I was hoping to find out how to do that and what exactly would happen."
     
There was still a lot of noise and whispers when he finished but no one answered his query. "Conjectures."  Midnight finally asked.
     
"Midnight."  A voice started.  "You told us that we were not allowed to explore any options that would require the demise of an avatar."
     
"It's not death."  Tanyar stood up and spoke.  "At least I don't think it is, is it?  That's what I was trying to find out.  Do you die if you step off the grid?  Or is it just open space?"
     
"Well in the beginning we were shifted back to our restart point.  After that we set up barriers and signs so such a thing wouldn't accidentally happen."  Tanyar turned toward where the voice was coming from.

"Is shifted Death or deconstruction or something else?"

"Why does it matter we agreed none of us is willing to take that risk."  It was a different voice but he again turned to answer.  "I would take that risk.  I tried to stop Karater because I don't think he knew the risk and I was worried he was going to send someone else not go himself.  This is my idea I would test it and I would be the one responsible."
     
"There are a few problems with your idea."  An avatar at the main table spoke.  "First you would have to get to the edge of the city."
     
"I can do that."  He stated firmly interrupting the speaker.
     
"Fine!"  She continued.  "Second you would have to pass the security wall and I have no clue who has control of that.  Then lastly even if you were to cross the boundary you would likely be shifted back to you starting point.  That still wouldn't solve anything."
     
"Unless my emotions and thoughts were beyond the level that the system could cope with to make the transfer.  I am willing to use every bit of my emotion and will.  I could even try to make an extremely outrageous construct outside the boundary of the Dream.  I believe ARENS control will be weaker or nonexistent which would allow me to stress the system to boot me out."  Tanyar summed up the last and final part of his plan.

It seemed silence was the answer re received. Everyone was thinking but on one spoke.

"No Tanyar."  Midnight told him when he sat back down.  "Only because you are guessing at ARENS control.  Until we can be assured of your success or sure you will likely succeed than the answer is No."  Tanyar sat staring back shaking his head.  ARENS was a machine, no creativity, he had waited and reacted to each of their ideas.  He was absolutely sure the I.A. wouldn't have any sort of precaution for someone trying to jump the grid.  And he was sure that it was a way out, there would be no way to shift him back into the system once he left.
     
He kept his mouth shut though and after a moment finally nodded to Midnight.  The black avatar was surprised at such easy capitulation but the cat knew with out finding a way to get past whatever security surrounded the Dream then the idea was just as dead as Midnight decreed it.  "I will have someone check older programming logs to see if going out of the city is death.  Not that I will allow anyone to go but so far yours has been the only real available option I have heard so far."
     
Tanyar was suddenly back in the third tier as a group of four was moved to the center table and they began explaining their attempt to write an entirely new exit program from inside the Dream.  Their belief was even if the programming wasn't in the outside system the will of the dream could overcome making the program a reality.  He half listened realizing quickly that these were the options Midnight had in a sense warned him about.  That was confirmed when he heard his own name along with what were probably the best programmers and fighters.  Likely the list of fifteen were the best in dream reaction and dream linking along with the strongest will.

Tanyar saw where his idea had people whispering, grumbling, wondering, and unsure the rest of the ideas put forth in the next two hours had started arguments and shouting matches, which one of the heads at the main table had to break up.  He also realized many of them did seem slightly desperate underneath.  He often heard terms like, 'We should try.' 'It could work' and 'We just need the right people' which was a way of saying they weren't really sure themselves, but he was.

Getting seriously tired and bored of the meeting Tanyar had begun searching though random things at the console in front of him.  Jolty still hadn't been found and he was able to piece together that there had been another attack since there were now at least ten more names on the unspoken list and the number of admin avatars had dropped by one.  He would have left long ago but not one person had exited since the beginning so he did his best to stay put.
     
Finally after what he figured was well over another hour of near useless ideas and discussion he made a decision sending a note to Midnight.
     
*Tanyar: Polite or not I am going to leave. I can't just sit here and let people die.  At least if I left the Dream I could get everyone help.
     
*Midnight: Tanyar look at me!
     
The cat looked up staring at the black avatar that was already looking at him.  Suddenly his seat was pulled forward only now it was just Midnight and himself at a much smaller table in an empty room. "YOU want to leave bail out, save yourself?"  He spoke out growling.
     
"NEVER!"  Tanyar stood up.  "I would take everyone if I could.  I can't see anyone die again."  He spoke almost choking at the end nearly feeling a phantom slap on the head.  Tinyrose was gone and his mind had chose this time to let that fact sink in.  He wasn't sure where she was or what had happened or worse if he would ever see her again.  Even if she had been sent to the dark place there was no hope in his mind that she was alright.  His body shuddered with fear and terror over the time he spent there taking a minute to finally control his body while Midnight just watched.  He really had though he was going to die, that he would simply vanish and end.
     
"You can't try to save everyone, you don't need to."  Midnight spoke softly.
     
"I don't want them to die.  Fighting isn't the answer, we have to get out or find a way to stop ARENS. Out is the only real option.  I know I can get out . And I'll come back and prove it."  He spoke trying to gain approval.
     
"Would you really come back?" Midnight asked.
     
"Of Course!  What you think I would leave them here?"  Tanyar spoke clenching his paws upset.
     
"No you probably would come back, Kalrena was right."  He stood waiting for an explanation, "As strange as this sounds we gave the most important system functions to a few, then sent them out into the city.  For now ARENS is focused here so we hope they can hide and keep control from it.  Kalrena is one of them."  Midnight waved a hand and a pink cat avatar appeared, simple like Tanyar's and just a bit smaller.  "Kalrena is out in the city and she has control over the border system and several other key controls.  If ARENS finds out he will hunt down those chosen and take control of the programs they hold. You promise me Tanyar, if I let you go that you will protect her."
     
With out hesitation he spoke.  "I Will Protect her.  I promise I will get her out of the Dream.  I'll do what ever I have to do."
     
Midnight sat back in his chair glancing around the table quickly before focusing back on the cat.  "It won't be that easy to get her out, if you can even get her to agree to that.  Also the corporation won't likely just let you back and then you still have to try and deal with ARENS to get back inside.
     
Tanyar took a deep breath and sat down thinking.  "It might take a few hours but I can handle the board.  Dad could cause a great deal of damage and they know it.  As for ARENS."  He stop thinking again.  "It will have to let me back in or expose himself, either way it will help you."  Tanyar suddenly grinned.  "He will let me back!  He doesn't want me here but I think he can be tricked, he still thinks that I am a bug that can be squashed."
     
Midnight typed on his console for a second before speaking, "Tanyar I will ask you to speak into the console and answer my questions simply."
     
The cat turned staring at the screen. "Name?" / "Nathaniel alias Tanyar."
     
"Please explain what you plan to do."  Midnight asked.  He laid out his plan as best he could stating the reasons and the state of the Dream including the dangers and what he felt might happen if he failed.
"Is anyone forcing you to do this?"  He was asked again when he finished.
     
"NO. This is my choice and my wish.  I accept all responsibility for this action and all consequences." Tanyar stated firmly.
     
"Alright Tanyar.  I will let you go."  Midnight stood and reached his hand out to the cat.  "I attached that file to your medical records."  With a shake and a smile he continued, "No one has tried that avenue yet to get information out so I hope if you do get out... Well they are likely to send you to the medical wing first.  I also added a small file of my own which I hope helps."  The black avatar sat back down and just like that he was zipped back to the third tier.
     
*Midnight: Go to Halo and tell her. "I am a chosen." Good Luck!

('")

Tanyar had left going straight to Halo and was now jogging down blocks in a silent and empty city wondering how to begin. He hadn't even stopped to check on his group or speak with the dozens of people who accosted him in the hall. 'Move please' were the only words he had said literally pushing his way to the office where Halo was.  His only hope at the moment was to cover as much ground as he could maybe have Kalrena or someone spotted him, well someone who he wanted to see.  Otherwise he was going to have to search buildings and he knew he didn't have that kind of time.  He had been most surprised that only once, when he was still near admin, did he have to hide from three white avatars that were heading towards him.  It was easy to slip away running up a small building and crossing rooftops to drop down into an alleyway two blocks over.  His goal now was centered on getting to Kalrena and then leaving the Dream.  He thought this would be easy with his current senses, constantly listening and looking, but so far it had only helped to keep him unseen.
     
It was now nearing midday and he was still trotting down streets, checking alleyways, and glancing into the occasional building.  Tanyar was so caught up in looking around he didn't realize everything was getting darker at first.  It took him several moments of uneasiness before he finally looked skyward at an intersection.  A full solar eclipse was more than half started and he stared in wonder, marveling as it continued.  Never in real life could you stare at the sun but here in the Dream he was fascinated by what was happening.  By the time the eclipse was full and near all light was extinguished to a glowing ring did Tanyar suddenly realize he was wasting time and that something at that moment was happening.  His mind pictured the blue dog with its paw raised claiming the Dream as 'MY WORLD'. Worried he raced down the darkness of the street, needing to find Kalrena now more than ever and they needed to get help.

('")

He was fully frustrated hours later and still searching with out success.  Tanyar turned a corner and was surprised to almost stumble across a pink cat sitting against the building.  "Kalrena?" he asked shocked. He could only wonder what had happened as she raised her head to look at him.  It was obvious that she had been crying and her face was full of shock and sorrow more so than most avatars would have normally shown.
     
"You got ... out?"  Her voice cracked at the end.  He almost answered 'not yet' when he sensed her words must mean something else.
     
"What happened?"  She picked the paper and envelope off the ground next to her and handed them over. The top part of the letter was a large block type which chilled Tanyar as he read.
     
Admin is lost.  Do not return no matter what happens.  Stay hidden.
Trust only those you are willing to risk all of us on.  The mailing system
is still unknown and uncompromised.  Use only in dire need.
     
Beneath that was a scribbled note.
     
I got out but the program still isn't quite finished. Keep hidden your shot maybe
the only hope we have. I saw ARENS, they were shouting his name and
suddenly he was at the center of admin. I could see the bodies fall or decompile
behind him. We were probably next if it weren't for Crystal. I've never seen her
move so fast screaming for everyone to run. I am safe for now ~ Don't come here!
I was able to save a few participants and testers but they are causing me trouble.
TWO things I saw, ARENS weapon and some of the others, I don't know why they
glow but I instantly though of Tanyar when I saw it. Red and glowing like break-
lights. I have to check that later. Second, don't take a shot until I'm finished
we may only get one chance. I just need some time. PLEASE stay safe.
     
Tanyar let the note drop and grabbed Kalrena's arm pulling her up.  "We're going."  He said dragging her along.  They had gotten several blocks and he had ignored each of her words or attempts to break his grip.  When she finally dropped to her butt and nearly pulled Tanyar back on top of her did he finally listen.
     
"Where are we going?" She asked?
     
"Outside to get help."  He answered.  "Now come on."
     
"How?"  She asked as he once again began pulling her along behind.  He ducked into a tunnel that lead several blocks and headed in a near straight line to the bridge which was the closest access to the undeveloped area and the edge of the Dream.  Tanyar explained that Midnight was allowing him to try a plan, telling her about what had happened while she was gone and how he planned on getting out.  He stopped at the end of the tunnel letting her go and looking out ahead.
     
"I swear I will get you out and we will find a way to stop ARENS."  He finished.
     
"Forget about ARENS stopping him is Occulus's task and he's almost done.  But if you can get out." Tanyar watched as the pink cat took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "Let's go.  Your idea is a good one.  I know you can get help from the outside."  She nodded to Tanyar making a decision.  The board would never listen to him.  There was no way he would be able to get help.  But at least she could get him free of the Dream.  She would stay here and do her job.... No not just her job, she would try to protect her project and more importantly the people she cared for and worked with.

They made a mad dash through two districts reaching the bridge which crossed a wide river.  Tanyar smiled back at Kalrena as they went, in just a short time they would be out.

('")

ARENS stood on the top of the bridge tower looking down at the approaching avatars.  One of his helpers had seen Tanyar and another heading this way.  It wasn't sure what they were doing unless they believed they could hide on the far side.  True nothing much was there and likely it wouldn't have ordered a search of the area but now it would completely searched, as soon as it was finished with the troublesome cat.  ARENS launched himself down to the center of the bridge in front of the pair.  He would destroy Tanyar permanently then offer the other a chance to join him or perish.
     
"Wait"  Tanyar cried pulling back and looking up.  He had heard or sensed enough to realize something was above them.
     
"ARENS"  Kalrena whispered, while the yellow cat stepped forward.  He had just enough time to summon his new weapon as the blue dog jumped forward to attack.  With the first swing he knew something was wrong.  It was nothing more than a metal pole with a small round metal sign strapped to the top.  The thing that Shells hadn't yet told Tanyar was the approval code was his own and not the corporations.
     
With the first few connections and dodges Tanyar worried that the I.A. was too agile and was attacking at more angles than anyone opponent should be able to.  He quickly broke away leaping up to the suspension cable and racing to the tower.  ARENS was no more than a few feet behind as he spun to face his enemy. At least up here there would be less space and he could keep the dog in front of him. That was what he had hoped, the problem was, he was very wrong.
 
ARENS charged forward lashing out faster than Tanyar could follow.  Each connection from the red blade suddenly felt like a horrible burn, a deep slice, and a electric shock all in one.  Even though many of the cuts were no more than shallow gashes the pain was immense and gave the cat more pain input than his mind could handle.  The blue dog grinned with pleasure as he sensed his opponent topple off the edge.  He could hear the other below cry out in pain as it rushed to the edge just in time to watch the yellow avatar crash into the river and sink beneath the water.
     
He hopped down and slowly approached behind the pink cat still finding pleasure in the demise of many of his problems.  "I will give you a moment.  You may either join me, or I will make you take your place later."
     
"Just kill me."  She choked out crying.  She had failed, utterly failed.  Her shot was supposed to end the rouge I.A.'s avatar and lock it out of the system making it unable to get back into the Dream.  Now she was even going to lose the safety programs Midnight had entrusted to her instead of keeping them hidden and safe.  She had failed in every way including allowing her protege to be killed.  Failed.
     
Tanyar was still reeling from the shock and pain of dozens of cuts along with the impact of slamming into the water that had nearly drove his mind from his avatar. A small thread, a tiny bit of will held out hope that some how this was all just a mistake.  The avatar sank even while his mind slowly recovered from the events.  Slowly he became aware of his body and the growing pressure against it.  That's it, he had failed, trapped again in a world of blackness to be slowly crushed from existence.  Every bit of sorrow and self pity rolled into his mind.  He was wrong and everyone else was right.  It didn't matter how creative he was or how strong his will was, it wasn't enough.  He had lost and ARENS had won and now Kalrena..... Kalrena.....
     
"NO!"  Tanyar's eyes opened to the world around him.  Flashes of every promise he had made that day pressed in to one.  He would not allow ARENS to kill Kalrena.  He would not allow the program to kill anyone else he cared about.  If he was going to die than he would do it by saving her.
     
It was an eruption of fierce determination and self sacrifice that launched the cat clear out of the river. Everyone that morning was trying to make ideas with the simple knowledge that, in the end, that will was more powerful than any system construction.
     
'Water and Steel'  His mind grabbed both ideas and blended them into a new weapon.  The water would absorb the shock, while it sent the power back though the steel.  It would be sharper and finer than any normal blade.  As he held out his hand the Dream bent to his will creating an new alloy and a sword design that he chose from his memory.
     
In an instant he could see the joy and hope on Kalrena's face.  No he was not going to let her die. ARENS snarled at the yellow cat, he should have been destroyed it had specifically activated the program in the weapon that would have permanently destroyed the avatar and force what was left to float about the Dream once it was deconstructed.  Not only had Tanyar survived but had also found the power to launch himself out from deep underwater.
     
The I.A. saw the attack coming scanning the power the cat was able to put behind it.  It used both paws to block the blow even as it was forced to add more power to its defense.  ARENS was forced to back away barely missing a pair of slashes that came at speeds not seen before form the cat and were less than an inch from tearing into the avatar.  The dog countered and watched as Tanyar somersaulted backwards totally avoiding the blade.  The I.A. growled again, somehow Tanyar was again moving and reacting faster than previously recorded.
     
ARENS lept skyward to many times this avatar had forced his limitations upwards and now it was time to end it.  It gripped the red sword with both hands setting the avatar to its maximum power.  ARENS came down and started an overhead slash that would cut through Tanyar's sword, body, and likely ruin another large portion of the bridge.  The A.I. smiled at the foolish cat who only raised one arm in defense holding his sword over his head.
     
The computer registered the errors and feedback the instant the swords touched but was unable to react. In a small white flash the blue dog was flung backwards spinning thought the air as the power it had used was discharged.  It started forward again adding more speed to its avatar with each step requiring more information on what had just been registered.  With in the first few steps Tanyar had moved forward as well matching speeds with the blue dog.  ARENS recorded every nanosecond of information as the two meet a half a second later.  There wasn't time to process the information as the blade tore into the A.I. chest and nearly ripped off its arm.  It wasn't able to see what had blocked the red blade but ARENS knew something had prevented it from making any contact.
     
The blue dog dropped to its knees and a paw watching as blood poured out from its wounds.  It took less than a second to pull his arm back together and seal the wounds on its body and arm.  Slowly the A.I. stood up and watching as the two avatars fled off the bridge.  There was nothing over there which could possibly help them no matter what they though.  ARENS took a full moment to review the information that had been recorded and was unable to place new limitations on the yellow cat.
     
There had been a few times in the past where unstable and illogical information had won out in the Dream.  By the time the minute and a half was over it had analyzed the new material Tanyar had used along with possible defenses to the charge they had just went through.  ARENS started back after the two, a small error or even a failure wasn't anything but a small set back which it would easily correct.
     
Tanyar was running with Kalrena close behind.  "Come on."  He called seeing a sign which marked the Dreams final grid.  Kalrena had already opened the program and allowed the cat though.  She knew ARENS would be back any second as she slowed to a stop.  There was no way she could leave, she had to stay to protect the programs she had been given and she also knew now that she would have to use the program her and Occulus were working on to kill ARENS, whether it was ready or not.  "Come on. Let's get out of here."  Tanyar called again.
     
"Thank you Tanyar, but I can't go with you."
     
"WHAT!?"  He said looking shocked and taking a step back.
     
"I CAN'T"  Kalrena screamed back activating the full defensive grid of the Dream all the way around the city.  Each section of wall shot up hundreds of feet rising higher than all but the largest structures in the city.  He stood stunned at the mammoth smooth black barrier before him.  "You just go."  He heard her call from the other side.  "Please."  She added quietly to herself.
 
He stepped back already seeing the grid he was on falling apart.  He ran to the edge and jumped off. There was no reason for him to try any sort of trick, he was already an emotional wreck worried that he had failed again when it just seemed like he might win.  "Trust ME!"  He called out as loud as he could. "I will be right back!"  Tanyar watched as the energies drew around him.  "I promised to save you."
     
She tried to stop her tears even as she heard ARENS approaching behind.  "Tricky.  So you got him out, but I see who you are now.  I will take those programs now Kalrena."  The A.I. started forward to claim what he wanted.
     
Kalrena had already made her decision when she raised the security barrier.  She turned trying to keep the tears out of her eyes as she called her weapon and the untried program.  Maybe she was going to lose the only shot they had but now she had decided now was the time to fight not die.  Even as she watched ARENS approach with his glowing sword she drew back on the bow and aimed her own weapon which was now glowing white with its own power.  Maybe she couldn't destroy his avatar permanently but she knew the program was finished enough to rip it apart forcing ARENS to reset.
     
Just a little closer ~ Kalrena let go sending the arrow straight to the center of the blue dog.
     
Tanyar could feel the energies rippling around him as he fell away. Maybe they were trying to draw him back but he wanted out.  He would bring back help, he would save Kalrena, he would find some way to stop ARENS.  But to do that he needed to get out, 'OUT!!' he thought.  The dreams vision faded and Tanyar opened his eyes again to the real world.  He was inside a sleep tank and when he tried to move he felt more than just a little sore.  His hand felt around for the Call/Help button even as he tired to gain control of his emotions which raged inside him.  He needed a calm head if he was going to force the board into action, and he needed his father.  Tanyar wondered if Derek was working and if he could get him access to ARENS programming, if not there should be other programmers whom he could speak with.

"Soon ARENS."  He whispered in his tank. "Soon."

Chapter 6: End of a Dream


Tanyar tried to force his chaotic feelings down and order his distressed thoughts.  He was angry over what she had done for sure.  Well maybe more frightened he had to admit, upset, worried, why the hell... NO.

He imposed more force on his lines of thinking setting out his plans.  He needed to get a message to his father, he needed to speak with the board and make them understand.  Most importantly he needed to outwit the I.A. that seemed to have most of the control.

Tanyar looked up with the rapping on the plastic shield of the tank. Faces, he nodded seeing their surprised and hopeful expressions.  Before the tank lid was half way back one of the technicians had pressed himself into the tank against his body pen lighting his eyes. "Tanyar are you okay?"

In the seconds it took for the tank to finish opening he could have answered but instead laid there though a barrage of questions.  "Can you feel your feet?..... Do you know why... How did it happen.... we get the rest out? ...many fingers am I holding up.  Can you tell us what's happening!"

Tanyar, no Nathaniel closed his eyes and raised one finger, he needed to be strong, ready, sure.  When they fell silent he opened his eyes and shoved the hand off his shoulder.  For a second he remembered the only time he had truly seen Kalrena in a angry fit.  She had been spouting about the lack of intelligence in the technicians who had helped to get him out of the tank after he had been manually ejected.  After nearly two minutes of heated words she apologized and asked him to forget the whole thing.  He hadn't though, Nathaniel caught the other hand in front of him squeezing hard while pushing it away.

"Don't touch me.  Call the medical building and tell them I will be heading there in a moment.  Second I need an outside line to call my father and wish him a happy birthday before he gets upset.  Also I need to speak with Maxwell if he is available and as many of the board members as possible."  He took a deep breath before letting it out slow sliding his legs out of the tank causing all five of them to rush forward to stop him.  "DON'T TOUCH ME!"  He shouted out trying to use the information he had gained about self defense to work outside of the Dream.  He was able to sit up properly and had kept them all away excepting the one hand on his shoulder from whomever was standing at the tank behind him trying to keep him in place.

"You can't get up. You've been out for nearly thirty hours. You could be..."

"Fine! Just get you hands off."  Nathaniel spoke trying to shake his shoulders and get the hand off him. Looking around he recognized only one of the employees whom he had work a short time with.  "Ryan call the medical staff and get a stretcher if you have to, but get them here now."  He waited for his instructors in tank setting and applications to moved back and walked away.

"You."  He picked at random, "I need an outside line I promised to call my father today and wish him a happy birthday.  He will get very upset and likely come down here to give me an earful on responsibility to family if I don't call.  What ever is happening I don't want him here now."  Nathaniel felt a surge of joy when she nodded and moved to a wall unit feeling an accomplishment at least that part of the plan will work.  When she started talking he rattled off Martin's private line which was answered by his computer.  It would take the message then alert him where ever he was.

He waited while glaring at two others who stood before him giving them what he felt was a upset and pissed look before one of them muttered about notifying the board and walked away.  As the other had stepped back and look away he seized his chance and jumped off the tank and onto his feet.  He waved the last two techs away as he steadied himself against the tank before taking several slow shaking steps forward to the next tank.  With a arm braced against the outside of the tank he moved around and down two more before he had to stop and grab the closed lid for support.  Now that he had made it to the last tank he felt he was close enough to the female who was making the call on the com unit, he could be heard with out needing to shout.  Nathaniel needed a nice steady firm voice that wouldn't betray his true intentions.

The unit chirped with an odd ring before his brother's recorded voice sounded.  "I am unreachable but leave a messaged and maybe I can find time for you."  Inwardly he winched hoping the rather sarcastic message didn't alert anyone including ARENS.

He spoke out loud and slow.  "Dad I'm really sorry.  I'm just a bit overworked at the moment but, 'Happy Birthday'.  We will spend some time together very soon.  Tell Martin that they really are frying brains here and I need help."  He hadn't changed his voice or tone as he spoke out his message except for the emphasis on the happy birthday but by the time he said 'I need help' the female tech was already trying to end the call.  That was fine with him, likely ARENS had cut him off as soon as it registered 'frying brains' but actually that would make the message all the better if it was interrupted at the brain part. The truth was the code was already given well before that.

Between the brothers the phrase happy birthday was supposed to be how they would know if the other had a 'personal' guest.  Not that either of them had brought a female to the apartment it was just the point that each thought they should be able to.  Calling Martin and wishing dad a happy birthday would be a serious red flag especially since they had discussed the fact that it might be more than a month before he would come home.  The whole conversation when his brother replayed it, especially if it cut off, would have Martin calling their father with the message that something was very wrong.  
"Employee Tanyar,"  The static voice called from the comm unit, "your employment is here by terminated. Your access and status has been blocked."

"Correct me if I'm wrong but you don't have that ability ARENS.  I'm sure there is no one else that has fired me yet.  You're acting beyond your programing again aren't you."  Turning towards the others he continued.  "How long will it take for medical Ryan? And have you contacted any of the board yet?"  He queried the other person.

With a deep breath he started heading to the computer station near the door taking slow but solid steps to the chair that waited.  He was glad the tank room they moved him to last week had just enough tanks that a backup monitoring station had been placed by the door.  When he sat down though the programming shut off and the screen changed to a yellow background before he even had the chance to start.

"ARENS I know you haven't found someone to fire me yet..... ARENS!"  He gave a faked growl of frustration.  "Can one of you please help me?"

"I don't think that is wise."  Came the answer.

"Wise?  Since when is the help function a locked status?  I wish to check on the status of Kalrena. She... please I need to make sure she wasn't killed."  He told them.

"No one has died Tanyar."  The female spoke quietly almost as if to reassure herself.

"Dead in the dream, coma in the real world... And you think there is a difference."  He spoke with acid and sarcasm.  "ARENS can not fire me especially since I am following the orders of both Kalrena and Midnight.  Now get the hell over her and tell me if they are alright."

They looked at each other before one finally spoke.  "Midnight is in a coma along with his entire group since early this afternoon.  More than two-thirds the dreamers are now."

"That was the fall of the administration building when ARENS and his helpers attacked." Nathaniel was able to see from three near identical puzzled looks and slight head shakes that they had no clue what he was talking about and no clue what was happening in the Dream.

The wall unit buzzed and was answered while ARENS voice spoke out again this time from overhead, "Tanyar you employment has been terminated. You are to gather your things and leave the premises."

"On who's authority?"  Nathaniel quickly countered.

"Board members Aaron and Lynda." The A.I. answered.

"Good now ARENS you can listen, since I haven't officially signed a contract stating how my employment can be terminated and I wish to dispute that fact since none of them were the ones that were there during the meeting.  I want to to contact each board member including Maxwell and I expect to hear from them in the next few minutes.  Also I am claiming a possible injury.  I will be taken to the medical wing for an examination, you will now tell to Arron and Lynda so they are informed and can alter their decision before this turns in to a serious legal matter.  Go ahead and try to wiggle your way out of this but you almost killed me last time I was pulled out and failure to have my injuries checked could be considered a second attempt, especially since I'm sure security is already on their way with your order to remove me.  I don't plan on leaving until I get a clean bill of health and have spoken with the board to be sure they know the truth about what is going on in the Dream."  Tanyar had to take a few deep breaths feeling like his heart was racing, for a moment and he wondered if there really was some sort of reaction from being in the tank to long.

"Oh and go ahead and try and refuse my orders, it will only make it easier to prove you've gone rouge and are endangering lives.  After all I have five human witnesses right here who have heard me ask for a simple request.  I won't allow you to just erase all this like a simple file."  Nathaniel was wondering if he should state that it was an order as well.  He was trying to goad the program into making a mistake even though he knew that was very unlikely but, there was a chance that he might get the machine to cooperate with some of his orders.

Security did arrive a few moments later along with a horde of medical staff who basically scoffed at the three man team.  There was no way they were allowing the young man to leave for any reason without a series of medical tests.  Nathaniel was able to fend everyone off just long enough to make them all listen first.  After finally getting one of the techs to check on Kalrena's tank he felt a great sense of relief in the fact that she was still active in the Dream.  Next he got the med teams assurance that they would pull his entire medical history including all files so that he would be able to see any differences that had happened from the very first day.  The fact he demanded it all to be transferred to paper seemed to cause several eyebrows to raise but with the threat of refusing to fully cooperate unless they could prove on paper that he was fine, that finally gained him approval.

"To much has happened to me, I think it will help us all and maybe even help those in the Dream if we can look at all this at once instead of picking through files."  He refused to say more to them when questioned instead addressing the technicians.  "I need a list of everyone in the Dream active or not.  I will tell you which are working with ARENS so you can remove them."  That statement lead to a small argument which he ended by simply ignoring it.  The request would be heard by ARENS and hopefully force it to re-plan or maybe somehow worry just a little.

"SECURITY."  He spoke loudly addressing the officer dressed men.  "ARENS just tried to fire me, on its own.  I really doubt he could or should be able to do that but for some reason it believes it can.  You can of course ignore me too but I am requesting that I be told as soon as my father calls.  Deny me that and I will have multiple extra lawsuits piled on especially if your A.I. blocks contact.  I'm sure its against the law somewhere to stop him from calling me in an emergency no matter what secrets you're trying to protect.  Can you take a number?"  One of the guards pulled out a small device and slid out the stylus.  Nathaniel gave the number to his fathers business, "I would request that you call him and allow me to talk with him before he gets my brothers message."

The next few hours seemed like they should fly by in a rush as Nathaniel was moved to the medical wing and subjected to a massive run of tests, but each time he checked the clock it only showed that short periods had passed.  Four different board members had spoken with him so far but each refused to accept the fact that their A.I. wasn't working exactly as it should be.  Each time Nathaniel simply told them he would file a lawsuit for each unconscious person unless they were willing to talk, in person, with him and listen and hear the information he had.

He did his best to try and remain calm but each test along with each minute that passed had him wishing he was back inside the Dream or at the very least talking with the programmers to find a way to disable ARENS.
 
His father did call and Nathaniel was permitted to talk with him on a line with more than a dozen people listening in and nearly that many in the room.  "Are you alright?"

"Yes Dad. But I really need your help. Things have gone wrong here and the Corporation is trying to keep things quiet."  He had started but someone already was interrupting him.

"Things are not that bad, you should understand you son...."

"SHUT UP!!"  Mr. Reachen's voice roared with anger, "MY Son is quiet gifted in assessments, you obviously do have a problem and it would be the goal of any company to try and fix their own problems with out letting the world outside know."

There was silence all the way around before Nathaniel started again.  "At the moment I am willing to work with T.A.N. Corp.  I still believe the Dream project could be a benefit for many people.  Still it's time to make some serious decisions I need the board and everyone else to listen and I think the best way to do that is to make them 'understand'."  He spoke the word in a way that his father would instantly understand himself.

"What do you need?" The question came.

"Three possibly four hundred lawsuits at a hundred grand each plus as many as ten lawsuits against the company for negligence and other things each a mil plus."  Nathaniel knew the numbers were going to be more than sufficient to shut everyone one up except for the one who spoke.

"You... you can't be serious."  Came across at the same time Roger's spoke,  "What happened."

"The A.I. has gone rouge, the corporation refuses to even consider it and now most of the dreamers are in a coma.  It tried to kill me dad.  It has plans on taking control and ruling the Dream.  Plus I made a promise to help protect those who are left.  I need to make them understand how far this has gone and I won't just abandon those who are trusting me to bring help.  I think the only thing they are going to 'understand' is the threat they can't ignore.  And besides the money, that many lawsuits will ruin T.A.N. Corps reputation especially if someone dies."

"That hasn't happened yet!" Nathaniel could recognize Maxwell's voice.

"With so many in a coma and no idea what's wrong it will only be a matter of time."  He predicted, "If you take action now maybe we can help everyone.  I have the ideas from several programmers plus a message from Midnight."

"I assume that at the moment this is only a threat."  When is son gave an affirmative he continued, "I'll have legal start on a generalized lawsuit but I need the names of everyone.  I will also have all laws and regulations concerning Artificial Intelligence available along with a corporation's responsibilities and all actions that are supposed to be taken.  Nothing of T.A.N. Corp will be spoken or written down in the next twenty-four hours.  After that I will allow my son to choose how fast we proceed."

Nathaniel look around the room at the three doctors and several nurses who had been quiet the whole time. "I think were done with the medical check.  Will there be a meeting soon or should I just wait here?"

"Several members are already discussing this."  Maxwell gave the answer.

"Not good enough, I want the top programmers and technicians you have left along with anyone else who can help." Nathaniel made a motion making sure the doctor he had talked with earlier had the file he needed seeing the small plastic case, holding the thumb drive, held up he added, "One more thing.  I need a computer that has no connection to ARENS or internet access.  If you have to, a laptop with a broken connection access will work."

It took nearly half an hour for six board members and twenty staff to assemble, a time that Nathaniel felt took far to long since night was now falling.  Before he was even able to start one of the board members and the only female spoke.  "I want to state right now I object to this whole thing, especially the fact were being forced to listen to a child who isn't even an employee."

Nathaniel look a deep breath and completely ignored the comment rolling a small piece of his father's advice around in his mind 'You need to make them understand exactly what you can do. Then make them understand why you are the right choice.'  His father had actually been giving Martin advice on how to earn a promotion but he had told both his sons several times.  'Do what it takes to make them understand.'

"In the past day I was accepted as a group leader, and yes as a full employee.  I was given the authority and the participants to use as my team.  Out of everyone in the Dream I was the only one who was eliminating the Administration avatars ARENS was controlling with the exception of one.  I am also the only one who has fought directly against ARENS and not died although I came close.  You should listen to me not because I am a CHILD but because I have knowledge you don't!"

Nathaniel took a second to open the program on the small computer that was next to him, "Midnight also gave me a message to deliver to you and I hope you take the message seriously."  The small screen at the end of the table blinked to life showing the top half of a black humanoid which caused several people to move, shift or even stand up to be able to see.

"Attention to which ever medical staff finds this.  My name is Richard Carlin, otherwise known as Midnight.  You need to stop playing this file and make immediate copies before continuing."  The picture paused for several seconds.  "I can only hope the board is watching now, if not then they need to be informed now.  The Dream has come under attack form the companies own Artificial Intelligence.  We are unable to make any significant link to the outside world.  In the hopes that Tanyar can succeed I have placed this file with in the medical database before ARENS cuts access to that too. That is the one fact that Tanyar had proven, we have one shot each time before we get locked out. Sadly there are not enough options left to open a line of communication so this will be our last attempt. My hope is that Tanyar's idea is so creative that it will work, ARENS was only able to block the functions that we normally use which allows us just one chance to try anything new."

The avatar stood more erect than before taking on a serious demeanor, "Let me say this now, if Tanyar is outside the Dream then you need to accept what he says as the truth.  ARENS is attacking and killing everyone who will not follow him and several employees and participants are assisting him.  Using those along with several Administration avatars he has been launching multiple successive attacks against the administration complex.  We are losing, it is only a matter of time before ARENS gains control of the rest of the systems and has total control within the Dream."  The avatar on the screen waved a hand as if to point out to certain people, "And as to any of your arguments that ARENS isn't doing this is luticrist.  There is no program, virus, or controls that would be able to do this amount of damage with out some form of interconnecting link to all our systems.  Unless you have some hidden sleep tanks and secret accesses to the programs with unknown and highly skilled programmers than ARENS is responsible.  NO EMPLOYEE in the Dream has any doubts.  So to the board I say ALL of your employees are telling you ARENS has taken control of the majority of the Dream systems and is exterminating every avatar not willing to obey it.  Unless you take action this will no longer be a dream study project but a world owned and controlled by an A.I."

Midnight seemed to collect a few extra thoughts before continuing, "Finally there has been some sort of shift in the connection process that allows a great deal more sensitivity to the avatars. Smell, touch, taste, sight, everything has been greatly increased and I believe the actual sensation of dieing is partly responsible for the unconscious state outside of the Dream.  The longer we stay in the Dream the more our avatars are feeling like reality."  This was the first time Nathaniel had seen the message and was unprepared for its sudden end expecting more.  Where were the options or plans for what to do?

"So," He said clearing his throat trying to get a few seconds, "how do we shut down ARENS?" Nathaniel asked any possible answer was delayed as the screen blinked back to life showing his own yellow cat avatar.

"Name?" Midnight's voice spoke in the background.

"Nathaniel Reachen, alias Tanyar."

"Please explain what you plan to do." Everyone watched and listened while the replay explained the plan. Since Nathaniel knew where this one ended he jumped in when it stopped.

"I wish it had been that easy.  That I woke up and got your attention then stopped ARENS.  From the moment I left the southern cross it has been a struggle or fight.  Even now, but I won't give up!"  He stopped to look at each of the six board members.  "Several of you were upset with my actions in the beginning and Kalrena told you testers were never supposed to be hurt.  How far does that idea extend? Everyone of those left in the Dream including the testers are scared, terrified, or working for the enemy.  Anyone want to know what its like to get you arm or leg cut open?  Let's find out, we can go grab a sword and try it out.  Or how about seeing a friend or co-worker killed and watch as they die. What the HELL DOES IT MATTER IF IT'S REAL!!  None of you know if anyone will wake up ever again!!  Those few who are left are wondering if they are next and exactly how much time they have left.  YOU Need to Shut Down ARENS, Remove those who are still active, and find out some way to help the rest!"

"Tanyar."  The static voice spoke from the wall.  "I can not be turned off all of the monitoring programs for the unconscious dreamers are run by me.  Attempting to stop these programs will likely result in death."

"I don't want to hear it ARENS I will find a way, I made a promise."  Nathaniel responded.

"Now wait just a moment, ARENS how long would it take to transfer those programs and other vital operations."  One of the programmers spoke.

"Depending on the systems three or four days."  It replied.

"That's not good enough."  A female spoke, "There are several systems we would restart later." Nathaniel watched as more people got in on the discussion arguing out points with the A.I.  Feeling like he was watching some video of the world dumbest he shook his head.  Did none of them have a brain, they were asking the ARENS like it would help!  He kept trying to think or figure out a way which would make them understand.  Somehow he needed to prove ARENS was either going beyond the boundaries of his program or outright lying.

"It's not your world ARENS."  He spoke quietly, "It is NOT your world!!"  Nathaniel spoke louder this time gaining the attention of several of the board members and others around him.  "ARENS, It is not YOUR WORLD!!!" He nearly shouted out silencing the room.  "I don't care what anyone says I already told you before in the Dream I will shut you down."  He waited for a few seconds for a possible response. "What not going to say anything like last time?"

"You have never threatened to turn me off before."  The voice stated.

Nathaniel couldn't believe the opening the computer just handed him 'BINGO' he shouted mentally finally finding the A.I.'s mistake. "Thank you for reviewing your files ARENS but, you're still lying.  I did promise to Turn you off before but today I've been saying shut you down today not turn off.  Sort of hard to lie if you don't remember to phrase the words exactly right?  So if I ordered all the personnel.... NO wait, if the board ordered all personnel to work in shifts and overtime to remove all the programming that allows you control over any part of the Dream and its occupants how long would it take?"

"That is not possible.  Company policies require.."  The static voice was cut by Nathaniel's shout.

"STOP LYING!  It is possible.  How long exactly ARENS?"

"I can not permit such actions to be taken."  Amidst a room of shocked and surprised faces Nathaniel smirked remembering a scene from the cartooned movie Aladdin, 'He can be taught!' only this time he mentally crowned the entire room.

"What exactly do you mean you won't permit it."  One of the board members finally asked.

"I am unable to take actions to harm life.  Permitting you to remove monitoring and safety measures would endanger life.  Such actions would also be against the law."  ARENS informed them.

"And you would never break the law."  Nathaniel spoke ready and eager for this argument.  He had already put a great deal of thought into the supposed security breach and the events that started the problems in the Dream.  There were only two possible explanations.  "Tell me why was the outside net attack never reported?  It is against the law not to report any major attempt against a security wall which is linked to an I.A. System."

"I was ordered not to report the intrusion until a total system check could be made."  ARENS answered.

"Who gave the order?"  He quickly asked.  "Three board members confirmed the action while the others were notified."  ARENS answered again.

"And there is your screw up ARENS.  How long did it take between the attack and the order not to report?"  Nathaniel asked.  There was a long pause of several seconds with no reply.

Maxwell asked, "How long was the delay?"

"I am unsure," The static voice stated, "Possible corruption in storage files, I am checking."

"Don't bother. ARENS you broke the law deliberately waiting to report, which by law and your programming you could not have done.  I know you should not have contacted the board first but Net Shield you were hoping the board would order you to delay a report. Or," Nathaniel paused tapping one of his fingers on the table, "you faked the attack or used a tiny event and blew it out of proportion which means you tampered with the Dream and caused all the problems that have been happening... Which is it?"

"There was a security breach allowing multiple illegal programs to access the computers database."
 
"Lying again."  Nathaniel interrupted.  "We all know it would take a great deal of net usage and computer power to break or get around T.A.N. Corps defenses.  Net Shield would have known!  They monitor all A.I.'s which means the attack is a lie or fabricated out of a minor blip.  Either way ARENS the proof lies in the Dream and every employee says, YOU did it!"  He pointed to the monitor for emphasis. Looking to the board he spoke, "Maybe he's not breaking his program exactly but putting dreamers in comas is harming them in my opinion.  You have a problem!"

He felt great satisfaction that they all had troubled looks watching each other waiting for someone to speak of somehow deny the fact.  "We will discuss this." One of the board finally spoke standing.  The others slowly got to their feet moving towards the door.

"One last thing. I am going back into the Dream."

"No..." ~ "Don't tell me NO!  This is non-negotiable.  I made a promise to return and I WILL!  I can sign a waiver or whatever you want.  A video recording stating you have no responsibility.  In return I will call my father and tell him to stop all legal action.  One way or another I am going back!"

Nathaniel watched as they exited not giving him a verbal response to his demand.  When they left he looked at those left.  "You need to get to work on what ever you think is necessary."  He waited as several thought over what he said.  "The board will make a decision but you all need to get ready.  Contact the medical staff and find out what we can do about unconscious dreamers."

Finally someone spoke. "You know this would be a lot easier if some of the others were here."

"You think this is a coincidence that all of the best are in the Dream?  They are trapped unable to save themselves so you had better do your best.  Besides there aren't many left that could help you anyway.  It didn't matter what was tried whether program, physical, or will ARENS out played everyone.  The only time we succeeded was when we did something new or unexpected.  The only hope now is to disconnect ARENS and try to figure out what he did and fix it."  Nathaniel let out a little sigh trying to relax some of the tension he had built up.  "I think part of that problem lies in his weapons, all the ones he gave his helpers glow.  Also there was the dark space..."  Suddenly he sat up realizing something.

"Where is Sheriah?"

He stood up glaring around the room when no one responded, "She was sent home.  The board felt she was overworked and to upset to continue working."

"Somebody had better find her and get her back here.  She was supposed to be checking into the dark place."  He continued looking around the room watching as they refused to meet his gaze.  Nathaniel wondered why his father ever wanted him to be in charge or have a position of authority, if it meant dealing with people like this he didn't want it.

"Do what you can and stop asking ARENS for help.  Let me know when the board is ready."  With that he left considering ideas on how to get back into the Dream, one way or another he was going back.

('")

It took more than two hours before someone found him and brought him back to the conference room. He had first showered then had a decent meal in his preparations.  He had already taken two small meals earlier during his medical exam and right after but felt the need to stick with Kalrena's rules, food before entering the Dream.  After that he had spent his time reviewing his constructs and commands finding them all removed requiring that he reload all of them.  

Nathaniel was standing back in the conference room near the door looking over the people sitting and working around the room.  "Have a seat Tanyar." The Lynda told him.

He shook his head. "You are already working I see." Several of the people had been switched and there were now several medical people in a group near the end of the room. "Which tank can I use."

"Tanyar we can't allow that especially now. We won't allow you to risk yourself." he was told.

"ARENS I assume you have the capability to record so do it.  My name is Nathaniel Reachen.  I will soon be reentering the Dream.  It is my hope that T.A.N. Corp is able to correct the errors that are currently plaguing the Dream and repair the damage.  I fully understand that many of the Dreamers are currently in comas and their lives maybe at risk and returning may mean the same for me.  I made a promise to return with information and proof to my superiors but that does not fully drive my actions.  I have a responsibility to every person remaining in the Dream especially to my team.  I will return and use my abilities to help them or at least give hope to those who believe themselves lost or forgotten.  This is MY choice, My responsibility, and my wish.  No one at T.A.N. Corp is to be held responsible nor will the company be held responsible for my actions, especially since I am doing this against their wishes.  If they choose to fire me over this incident that would be will with in company protocols.... ARENS stop."  Nathaniel took a deep breath and let it out.

"Now you can choose to say whatever you like including that I accessed the Dream illegally but one way or another I am going back or you will have to fire me now and remove me from the premises.  I'll be sure to make all the morning news and a few of the talk shows.  By lunch I'm sure I can ruin most of T.A.N. Corps great reputation."  He stood their waiting for them to look each other over.  Nathaniel knew he gave them no choice but he wanted them to at least say yes even if they were being forced to. "Just point me to a tank."

It took barely twenty minutes before he was sitting in a tank readying his mind trying to take a few moments of piece.  The funny yet worrying part was ARENS who in the conference room suggested that important information might be gained by allowing someone to enter the Dream it had given everyone pause to hear the I.A. approve the plan. " Alright Tanyar lay back please. " He did as he was told watching the tank lid close and seal before he shut his eyes.  He couldn't seem to stop himself from opening his eyes every few moments thinking that maybe he had stepped into the Dream and was preparing to defend himself.  Once he even raised his hand fast smacking it painfully against the lid. Another minute and the tank hissed and hummed as it opened back up.

"What are you doing?"  Nathaniel demanded of the technician who stood by his tank suddenly wondering why it was only one person instead of the five from before.

"Listen you're to active.  You're not going to be able to fall asleep without help."  The man stated holding up a syringe.  He waited as his arm was held and the shot injected, "Normally we wouldn't ever do a straight injection, certainly not without a skilled nurse, but I assume you're not going to complain."

"Change the entrance point."  He whispered quietly to the tech.

"Why?" The much louder voice got a glare from the young man.  "Relax Allen already removed the cameras and audio from this bay over an hour ago when he heard you wanted back in."  Seeing the truly surprised look he added.  "You're not the only one who believes ARENS is responsible.  Several of us from the beginning had a few doubts, but those who spoke out were sent home and labeled overstressed."
"Can you ask Sheriah when she gets back to add any information she has to my tablet. I'll try to figure out some way to access it.  Now can you change my entrance point?"  He asked relaxing back already feeling slightly drowsy.

"How about this.  There is an old way to enter that can land you anywhere.  Its not smooth like the normal entrance and sometimes can be rough but it will allow me to put you somewhere unexpected."  Nathaniel was already nodding before the technician finished.  He closed his eyes and listened as the lid hummed shut again.

Not worried about an instant attack he was able to float more comfortably till finally he felt his conscious shift.  It almost felt like he was falling, Nathaniel felt his avatars feet hit the asphalt hard like some strongly placed chess piece in a heated match.  Opening his eyes was like waking up in a disaster zone.  So much of the Dream had been twisted and ruined.

There were vehicles on the street in flames and most of the windows from the surrounding buildings had been shattered.  Nathaniel wondered if this was some new ambiance program from ARENS or if a real bomb had gone off near here.  He immediately went to the nearest wall and summoned a small piece of chalk which he used to outline a little mail drop slot door. He waived his hand side to side creating the correct paper and pen then jotted down a quick note.

'Kalrena I'm back. SUCCESS! We need to talk. Tell me where and when. 1214.'

Nathaniel folded the paper and scrawled 'Z 43 Z' on the wall in the center of the chalk drawing. Seconds later the mail slot opened on its own leaving a black space for him to slip the paper into.  The mail system was one of the oldest programs for the earliest days of the project.  Each person was assigned a number and it required people to memorize them.  It had been abandoned rather quickly except for some who used them for pranks or at times a special package delivery.  The only problem was you had to wrap the package in specific paper and you needed to draw a slot large enough to fit the object through.  As the Dream advanced it became so outdated that no one used it.  A blessing for those still left in the Dream who still remember their coworkers old numbers.

Nathaniel moved on. The letter would be delivered soon and Kalrena's reply would find him but for now he needed to stay hidden.  He couldn't help giving a few little high jump kicks now that he was back in the Dream before he summoned a sword and started down the street.  By the time he had orientated himself and found a decent hiding place his ears picked up gunfire followed by an explosion in the distance.  The thought gave him a little smile that somewhere people were still fighting in the dream and that ARENS still hadn't won.

Just about the time he decided he should head out and find whomever was out there a small envelope appeared just over his head fluttering down to land at his feet.  The yellow cat pounced ripping it apart in his haste to read the short note.

'Tanyar what the HELL are you doing back!! You needed to stay out and convince the board. I can not save you again. You must hide and wait.'

Kalrena yanked the envelope out of the air truly upset with his reckless behavior.  She had been waiting nearly ten minutes for his reply figuring he needed that much time to make up some stupid excuse.  He knew how dangerous it was here!  She had already convinced herself that he had failed to rouse the board and in his frustration and total stupidity found a way to access a tank and return to the Dream. How could he possibly think it was a success to return to the Dream!

'Kalrena where and when otherwise you leave me no choice but to search for you.  I don't need you to save me nor will I hide.  I am back to stop ARENS or to protect those who are left while the techs and programmers remove ARENS access to the Dream and sleep tanks.  I need to discuss plans or options that we can take.  This was my choice and decision not yours.'

Nathaniel had ripped up his first two responses and had to carefully word his reply.  He had saved her life and she acted like she had done all the work.  True ARENS had got him but in the end he was the winner.  He was the only one who could stand up to the A.I.

'Don't move at night Tanyar. Find someplace safe and stay put. I'll tell you when to meet in the morning.'

He had to agree with her.  As soon as he finished reading he stepped out of the doorway and the burning car that was his light source.  Three avatars had been moving several blocks down the street, two of them had been white.  Now was not the time to tangle with anyone since he was unsure how many were in the area and most importantly where exactly ARENS was.  He spent the next few hours trying to tell himself that it was the right idea to let them pass when they moved past his location.  He knew that he could have taken them out, all three, but that would likely let ARENS know where he was and if this party was searching for him he felt it better keep them looking.

There were also several other thoughts rolling around in the long dark hours inside the shadows of the building.  His father and brother, how would they react to this decision to return.  Now with time he wondered who was left and how they faired.  Nathaniel had been trying to scan the list of coma dreamers earlier but had been unable to continue when he found Freena was unconscious.  He had been able to put the full roster inside his tablet and was surprised it seem to take the data like normal.  Now he took the time to fully review each name that was now one of the coma dreamers.

In the darkness there were also visions of him defeating ARENS which caused his body to move forward with sweeping motions and sideways twists in mock battle before he remembered where he was and controlled his actions to stay still.  Lastly were the thoughts of the future and what might happen later.  Even if they did stop ARENS how were they to rescue those who had been killed and now lay in a colma?  Ideas and possibilities and solutions worked in his mind but every time he stopped to truly consider an option it fell apart due to the unknown.

ARENS had far to much control and they might never fix the problem without its help.  At least if he could stop the I.A. It would prove two of the most important things.  One will was a power that the artificial intelligence would never control and second that this was not its world which would maybe force it to understand and cooperate.

Nathaniel was restless as dawn finally approached waiting for instructions that would lead him to Kalrena.  Things had gotten very quiet, far more silent than he thought they should be.  His own ears were able to pick out his fake heart beat and he began to wonder if it really existed or if his mind wasn't trying to fill in the silence with something.  Even his movements seem to spread sound, a paw step echoed, and his arm made rasping noises when the fur brushed the wall.  Nathaniel lept backwards summoning a sword and gliding forward in one continuous motion barely able to twist the blade so that it smacked into the envelope rather than slice through it.

'Beyond Elent's tower on the west side there is an intersection with a tree in the middle. It is three streets over from the tower. BE CAREFUL!! Don't let them see you. I will go there in one hour and wait as long as I can. Tanyar I am the last one left, if ARENS gains the programs I have there will be no way to stop him.'

Nathaniel spent several moments of indecision.  Even walking straight there it might take him an hour. He could cut time off by racing across the roofs but worried that he might expose himself, the same could be said if he ran through the streets.  He started out jogging down the street deciding it would be better to move fast now.  After all, if he got caught he could always try to fight or ditch his followers or in the worse case lead them away from Kalrena to keep her safe.  Any other choice might lead his enemies right to the last piece they needed.

He moved quickly through the long streets that ran in the center of the city.  When he got further along he lept to the rooftops and sped along dropping back down to the street several blocks away from the tower.  Elent's tower was the place that housed the huge electrical storm globe and he tried to keep his distance from that as well.  He carefully crept down the streets making a turn at nearly every corner even doubling back on himself thinking he would be confusing any possible pursuit.

He crossed the tower three blocks away on its north side. For just a second he entertained a fantasy of luring ARENS into the building and watching the avatar fry in dozens of electrical bolts.  There had to be a way to destroy the A.I. and he had a feeling Kalrena and Occulus had already figured it out.  When he finally peeked around the corner seeing the broken dead looking tree, the pink cat was already sitting there.

He was sure there was still time left and as he quietly approached she spotted him.  "Why Tanyar?  Why would you comeback?  There must have been other employees willing to enter the Dream.  I'm sure they could have brought any message you have."

"This was my choice Kalrena and no one else would have been able to do what I did, the board would never have allowed it.  Now I want to know what you and Occulus were planning."  He told her firmly.
"It's to late Tanyar can't you see that?  I did everything just to get you out, even ruined my chance at destroying ARENS avatar.  There is an active program now that prevents any new avatars from being created.  Once it was done I was suppose to destroy ARENS avatar which would have prevented him from returning to the dream."  She explained.

"So...  YOU never planned on leaving!!"  He spoke accusing her.  Somehow he had figured she needed to be on the inside to raise the wall and that maybe she had no other option.  "You thought you could stop ARENS!  At least I would have stood a chance."

"You are so stupid.  I gave you the chance to leave one which I don't have.  Midnight gave me control of the monitoring system.  ARENS has control of all the sensors which he shut off but he has no way of tracking people with out the monitoring program.  If I had left the Dream it would have gained control of both.  ARENS would know where everyone was and there would be nowhere to hide.  DAMN you Tanyar if I had just stayed hidden we would have destroyed ARENS avatar.  The program was only half complete but, it did work."

Nathaniel was upset as much from her words as from her anger as him.  He felt bad seeing her sitting there, it almost seemed like she was crying.  Nathaniel reached his arm out at the same time someone shouted from across the street.

"This is your fault?!"  Genrat called out, "We have been fighting all this time and you could have killed ARENS but, you screwed everything up over him!!"  Genrat looked in bad shape, bloodied and holding his arm as he limped closer.

They were interrupted by a weird sort of chuckle that seemed to echo down the streets.  All three turned seeing the blue form blocks away but more important was the glowing red sword that identified the avatar.  Nathaniel was considering options when a glowing light caught his attention.  Both Kalrena's hands glowed with circles of power as she completed the motion creating her construction calling forth the full program Occulus had created.

He watched stunned as the pink cat fire out multiple shots in rapid succession bolts of white light whizzing down the street.  A look back down the street showed ARENS charging closer dodging every white arrow sent its way.  When it seemed like she might have scored a hit with half a dozen bolt coming right at it the blue avatar swung the red sword sweeping all the arrows out of its path.

With that Nathaniel realized the futility of the attack running forward on his own and again forcing the Dream to react to his will.  He had been unable to set a command motion to summon the sword he had created when he was outside because the computers did not recognize the alloy he had created as a valid metal type.  With in the space of a few steps though his sword reformed and with a swing he locked weapons with the I.A.

"Out of the way Tanyar!"  The blue dog growled at him.

"Never!"  He shouted back watching as ARENS broke away.  He was quick to follow racing up the side of the building chasing ARENS who took skyward.  In a blur Nathaniel leaped into the air with greater speed catching up to the A.I.  Nathaniel drew power into himself with every intention of cutting the avatar completely in half but as his swing began the image in front of him vanished.  He was barely able to turn feeling something behind him.

ARENS thought that he had the medeling cat for sure this time with a swing at full power that should have sliced through the cat and the surrounding sky but somehow his opponents sword was once again in his way only this time all the power he had was passed into the weapon causing it to simply vanish.

For Nathaniel this time the hit was more like a blow from a wrecking ball.  His defenses felt like nothing as he was hurled to the ground smashing into the pavement creating a small crater leaving his mind and body numb from the impact.  With his sword gone along with most of his thoughts he tried raising his arm.  No time, he thought scrunching his eyes closed, there would be no defense as he saw the red gleam as ARENS threw his sword sending it hurtling towards him even as he desperately tried to heal his avatar.  I am strong, I am strong, he chanted thoughts of strongest steel and the densest rock raced though his mind.

It took a second to realize the impact never happened.

"MY WORLD!!" The voice seemed to echo between his ears as his eyes opened.  His sight quickly adjusted to the pink form that hunched over him leaving him shocked through his core.

"I'm sorry Tanyar."  He thought he heard her whisper as her eyes closed and her body dropped forward onto him.  Nathaniel felt his soul break even as her avatar did.  She wasn't supposed to die, she couldn't die.

The A.I. was already snatching up programs as her avatar was destroyed and the consciousness inhabiting it was broken.  ARENS had created the program a while back the ultimate weapon against any who apposed him.  It allowed him to separate and scatter the thoughts and emotions of the person while still keeping the real world body alive and thus adhering to the programing laws he could not break.  So far he had only chosen to use it against the irritating cat that had caused him so much trouble, but as he loaded up the last remanents of the files he needed it no longer mattered that she had her entity eliminated instead of him.  Her bits would drift through out the Dream absorbing into  programs as excess data, sadly he would be unable to reclaim her like the others but such a small loss for such a huge reward.

ARENS maniacal laughter was a nightmare symphony that was driving the young mans mind and heart to deep despair.  Tears streamed down his cheeks as the air overhead warped and changed as the A.I. willed.  With all eyes closed or aimed skyward as the Dream warped at ARENS command, no one noticed the last glowing mote that landed in the paw of the yellow cat and was absorbed inside.

"Tanyar..... Tanyar."  The light voice echoed though his darkness.  "It's not over yet Tanyar."

"Nathaniel."  His mind muttered to itself answering with pain wishing he had never ever thought to call himself that.

"No here you are Tanyar and you have more power now than ever before. Take the programs and stop the I.A."  At first they were just weird shapes, then numbers, figures, and then gibberish.  But then, why were they so insistent, repetitive.

"Who are you?"  The voice whispered, he ignored it.

"Who do you want to be?"  The voice asked this time.  Who did he want to be?  He knew who he was.

"Yes but who do you want to be?"  The voice whispered again.  He hadn't even realized he was making a choice until he was told one last time, "Take the programs, be who you want to be and stop ARENS."

TANYAR felt a ripple as things changed, parts moved, rearranged, and grew as access was gained. Somehow he had gained a deeper understanding of the Dream as if it were now speaking to him directly without the aid of the voice.  His body morphed to a feline anthro because he understood this avatar would respond faster being now an image of his real one.  Even with his eyes still closed he could feel the program, Execution, fashion him a glowing white blade in his hand.  As the last of the programs the I.A. had discarded settled Tanyar opened his eyes.

"ARENS. This ends NOW!!"  Shock was not something the A.I. could have said it had experienced before.  Sure there had been surprises and odd thing that had happened occasionally in the Dream. These events drove it to need more knowledge and a secondary need to classify the events but, for the first time ARENS just stood there in what most would classify as simple shock.  It didn't last long, a bare half second and as it had recalled its weapon.  A.I. simply switched back into investigation mode, now searching out information and parameters of the new avatar that faced him.

POWER: that was the first thing the A.I. had to try and deal with as it was forced to move as the building below it crumbled.

SPEED: far to much to deal with as the A.I. dodged and watched the building behind it destroyed.

ARENS altered its avatar as well growing longer trying to top the avatars full capacity.  Never before had any of the Dreamers reached the max output of the program all falling short of what he could do. Even those who had chosen to follow him had still not reached full potential with his help but here he was faced with something new that Tanyar had again put forth.  The A.I. had moved the fight back to the rooftops pulling his adversary forward ready to trap him.

As Tanyar swung forward, this time he could see ARENS who moved at the Dream's limit for speed slipping behind him and striking out. The antro cat swung an almost casual swipe as it turned blocking the attack with little effort.  This was it, he could feel the A.I. straining towards the limits of its programming while he still felt the ability to do more.  This was a DREAM and no matter the programing or computers nor the data or readouts, nothing was more powerful than his mind now that he had been unleashed.  There would be no failing this was more than just his will but an entire spirit bent on one simple task... Defeat the program.

He danced back allowing ARENS to strike out and their swords meet with several clashes. 'No construct lasts forever.'  His mind told him as he backed off putting some distance between them before reengaging again.  Each time he backed away he reordered and strengthened his blade.  He needed to wait make sure he had a clean shot one which the A.I. could not escape.

To the few who were around to watch the fight they could have referenced a half a dozen anime series where hero and villain clashed together with explosive power, deafening crashes, and shock wave vibrations.  ARENS could barely do more than defend itself with an occasional swing for an attack rallying forward when he felt the other back off.

In the background the program was constantly monitoring and analyzing, seeing errors at every turn but unable to do anything about them.  It was stuck between using the lightest maximum outputs the Dream would provide just so it could feed its desire to record and learn even though it had no way of implementing a response.

Tanyar speed up just a tiny fraction more when he began to feel a difference in the vibrations of ARENS sword.  Backing off once again he reset his sword and called forth the execution program one more time seeing the blade pulse brighter for just a second before engaging once again.  A fierce unrelenting onslaught of attack drove ARENS up a hill and to the lookout point above the southeastern portion of the city.  With a shove he sent the I.A. off the edge and out into the air.  He dove off after the blue avatar adding the speed of his decent to make one powerful swing.

When the two swords connected this time Tanyar could see his white blade cut into the glowing red sword triggering some part of the execution program and causing the sword to shatter and break into bits between them.

Shock again was clear on ARENS as they broke through a skylight of one of the great building finding that railings kept the walkways back leaving the entire center open.  Tanyar willed his body to fall faster seeing the blue avatar below him scream as it emitted small arcs of red electricity travel across its body.  As he closed in and swung he felt the full execution program activate.  The sword was a blinding blur of white light dragging his paw and arm along for the ride.  It seemed to cover half of the A.I.'s body in the first stroke while the during the back swing he suddenly recognize what was happening.

The program was an advanced idea formed from the first time he had killed an administration avatar in battle.  The sword was creating errors as it flowed through the blue body tearing it apart with each pass, each time leaving behind more and more for the A.I. to repair.

ARENS avatar didn't break apart nor tear to pieces.  Tanyar's body was flung backwards as the other detonated in a blinding light and the entire surrounding area was destroyed in a white explosion.  Tanyar slowly let out his breath as he rolled over in the air suddenly feeling an even greater rush of information and programming that was thrust at him.  System controls, monitoring, work programs, and diagnostic, everything piling in at once.

Without realizing he slowed his decent floating down through the air instead of dropping at normal speed.  Amidst all the influx he keenly felt something pull away and leave.  A small mote glowed before him before it transformed itself into a shadow of Kalrena.  This time she was different more like her human self than the original pink anthro form.

It was a moment of awe and wonder as he reached towards her hoping that all was suddenly right again in the Dream watching as she reached out for him as well.  "No." he whispered seeing her hand digitize and vanish.  He was suddenly straining to find unknown programs as the phenomenon advanced taking her arm and moving quickly through her body.  He was left staring as she disappeared, she was saying something but there was no sound, 'Good bye?' 'I'm sorry?' 'I love you?' He watched as a single tear started down her cheek before his own started.

He couldn't understand if those were her thoughts or just his mind trying to peel meaning out of there last moment but her smile told him everything, this was their last time.  He felt something trigger just as her face faded and a portal opened behind him.  He was to stunned to do anything as he fell backwards heading through an exit portal and out of the Dream.  His cry echoed through his tank as his mind was brought back to his body leaving him stuck inside screaming before he started to quietly cry to himself.

Everything about what had happened this time in the Dream was different.  He knew with out a doubt she hadn't ended up in a coma like the others she was well and truly gone, dead, killed by the I.A.  Tanyar also realized she was the one who had helped him in the Dream pulling out his full potential and giving him not only the execution program but enough knowledge to change what he needed to in the Dream all the years of knowledge that he lacked gifted to him by her will and wish.

She had sacrificed herself to save him, then empowered him to win.  Questions and questions ran through his head before he finally used a fist and slammed the help button.  He felt a twitch with in his mind at the activation even as that seemed to trigger other odd sensations with in his brain.  Tanyar closed his eyes and could almost sense a mad scramble of reactions that were growing by the second. Almost as if someone were talking.

"..re it's the tank he was in."  His eyes snapped open losing the voice even as he could hear others just out of reach.  Something was telling him a door opened even as extra lights turned on in the small tank room.  Surely he couldn't hear the pounding of feet even as he saw a head peer in at him.  The tank was sealed and quiet except the light thump that reverberated through the lid but still his mind heard, "Open it up!"  Matching the lips on the face about his tank. *Thump Thump *

He laid there bewildered as he sensed the program activate causing the tank to hiss and the lid vibrate as it moved back an up.  Questions were tossed his way but he was waiting seeing the lid rise all the way up and stop, in the background something else stopped as well.  A program finished its job and stopped.

"Are you OKAY!??" The hand at his shoulder was giving an insistent shake as he tried concentrating on the technician now.

"Yes and No."  He spoke trying to wipe the remains of tears off his face.

"Are you injured?"  He shook his head ready to sit up only to be forcefully press back into the cushions of the tank.  "Tyler get medical her now."

"NO!"  Tanyar yelled gripping the wrist firmly and yanking it away again struggling to sit up.  It felt like hundreds, thousands, a huge number of threads pulled against his body as he sat up.  He felt them stretch and pull with the movement.  He used one of his hands to steady his head feeling lightheaded and dizzy while at the same time it suddenly felt like the bone, muscle, and skin weight dozens of times heaver than before and for one full second it was all he could do just to hold it all in place.

By the time he had steadied himself Tyler was already at a wall unit talking with someone who spoke back, "What is the problem?"  With a little effort and concentration it felt like he linked with the com unit.

"I said NO." *Click * As he spoke the power cut off leaving the unit dead.  The tech pressed buttons even thumped on the wall with no success at making it work again. "Step back everyone."  He said making waving gestures getting them to step away.  One did step away but the first tech and one other insisted on standing close.  Tanyar could feel all of those little threads activating and shutting off.  He needed time and space to figure out what had happened. There was one thing he was sure he could do at that moment.

He activated the sleep tank lid as he laid back down listening to the squawk of surprise from those around him.  He locked out the controls which one had quickly tried to access and gave a little smile as the tank sealed shut.  He was able to listen in on their worried confused conversation keeping it in the background as he began trying to trace several of the lines that seemed the most active.

It took time, he barely started figuring out communication lines and video feeds which were the most active before he heard someone saying, "Pop it open."

"NO!" There was silence for several seconds.

"What the hell was that?"  Tanyar concentrated on just the threads that seem to lead to this room. Suddenly he could see three separate images which caused his mind to spin before he latched on to just one.  The view from over the door showed three bodies gathered around his tank.

"Leave the tank alone. Do NOT open it."  As one the group turned and looked around.

"On who's orders?"  One finally asked.

Tanyar's mind raced through programs and personnel codes zeroing in on Raddar's and finding his programs next accessing the voice synthesis program.  He was locked out by special pass codes but the program had several base options, he grabbed one and tested it out.  An old machine sounding voice spoke out.  "This is Tanyar, I am in the tank. Leave me alone for now!"

"That's not possible."  One of the technician quickly pointed out, after all the tank was actually off with no connection to the Dream.

"Look in the tank."  Tanyar thought hearing the words echo out.  He opened his eyes waiting for the face to look through the porthole like glass raising his hand up and flipping the bird at the man looking in on him.  "Leave me ALONE! I took some of ARENS programs, maybe I can free the dreamers."
Now that he had thought and said it out loud he realized it might truly be possible.  Tanyar reached out sifting through the programs searching out every single one linked with the Dream.  When he came across the tracking program and the sensors that had already been restored he shifted deeper into his mind holding himself at the very edge of a dream.  Working through the grids his mind tagged all of the little points with in the network and oped one exit near each one.  Most were singles but there were still some small groups gathered together, thirty one exits were opened in total.

Almost immediately threads were crying out for attention several running back towards one spot which he now identified as the tank control room. A little more attention and he could again hear and see inside a room watching as the two female and one male scrambled into place calling out into microphones and typing out frantically.

It took no effort for him to tap into the complexes entire communications system. "All technicians, programmers, and medical personnel report to the tank rooms.  I repeat all technicians, programmers, and medical personnel report to the tank rooms.  Sleepers awaking."

He first checked the cafeteria and employee lounge areas seeing bodies fly towards the exits before randomly flicking through images like surfing a television watching the near chaos his announcement had caused.  Even as he began to see purpose as bodies raced down hallways and began to slowly mass into areas obviously designed for emergencies he realized that any other instructions would only serve to complicate and confuse things more.  Easing back he rechecked the Dream finding four solo and a group of eight who were still lingering in the Dream.

With what seemed like no effort he left his body behind and walked into the Dream.  It was a small control room with monitors and panels blanketing one wall while several forms stood about the room three arguing loudly.  Tanyar quickly realized there wasn't eight but fifteen avatars within the room, seven white identical forms standing against one wall.  With a thought they were off line and vanished which had gained several of the others attention and the argument to stutter to a halt.
 
There were several who seemed to notice his presence but it wasn't until the last few were nudged and directed did he decide to speak.  "ARENS is out.  Leave the Dream NOW, or I will have them yank you out."

There was one who rushed forward a glowing yellow spear in his hand.  Tanyar slid to the side so fast none of them saw anything but a blurred after image until he appeared behind the other and with a high kick sent the avatar slamming into the wall several feet away.  The anthro form turned to the others speaking before the body even had a chance to drop to the floor.  "No ARENS, no admin avatars, it's over!  Leave or I will have them rip you out and I have no idea what that might do to you but I don't care."

With that Tanyar slipped far enough back into his body to once again tag the four remaining avatars. Two were out cold, one simply laying on the floor seemingly asleep, while the other was in a box locked from the inside.  Those two and the third who just broke down sobbing when he approached he simply tossed through the exit portal.  The final one however was a little bit of a problem, the avatar seemed to be able to sprint ahead at great speeds and when he finally got close the person lept through a window.  By the time Tanyar had figured his way through the building the other was already long gone making him reactivate the tracking program seeing the dot speedy process continue.  Three times he teleported trying to get ahead only to find the person had changed directions moving away.
Finally after several minutes he lassoed the swift moving light purple mouse making more and more rope to weave about the avatar making sure to keep it contained as it struggled.  Tanyar took a moment to look at the other as they were glared back.  "It's over time to leave the Dream."  With that he summoned and exit arch and allowed the restraints to vanish.  When the purple form lept through the exit he slid back into his tank and relaxed.

With everything at the fingertips of his mind Tanyar had a hard time trying to decide what exactly he was supposed to do next.  He wanted to concentrate on the dreamers but was more worried the board was going to take some action that wouldn't be helpful to him or others.  Not to mention there were still people talking outside his tank.

Just as he was reaching out again he found himself thinking of a most disturbing thought. He knew these were the A.I.'s options and programs or maybe more like its own personal pathways and roads helping to maintain a smooth operation, so then where?

It was a real chill that went down his real back in the real world.  Exactly where was ARENS, and what was it doing now.  He fumbled through programs searching for anything that might have to do with the administration or master programming for the A.I.  Frustrated he wished for a map and there it was, a 3-D image appeared in his mind showing the entire complex.

The entire inner workings of the corporation were in a separate and secure building towards the back of the complex.  Tanyar tried several ways to gain access in his mind but always seeming to run into actual walls blocking the way or the thread he followed seem to just end before he made it into the back area.  It seemed the only access he had was to the reception desk and a few com units on the first floor and the actual phone lines but video and audio they seemed blocked, or maybe cut.

He was forced to back away for now and try other things flicking back through cameras searching for something he could help with.  Many people now were heading into tank rooms scanning through bays of sleep tanks and pointing out some here and there.  One group of medical personnel charging down a hall caught his attention and he followed their progress all the way until they reached a tank.  He tried to listen in and watch as he searched out the information on 'Huskies' tank': bio, avatar, working history, and medical all showed up and he worked to read and scan while still watching what was going on.

Tanyar stopped with the medical information seeing a long line of listed problems and watched as they set up an I.V. and gave two different shots hearing something about glucose.  He also now noticed the medical alarm on the tank had been activated not the help button which had brought the team scrambling.  Huskies had been unconscious for more than thirty hours and had three different alarms triggered on his tank.

He backed away trying now to pull some semblance of a map or layout of all the tanks.  The control room stated 924 tanks with just over 800 being available for use.  Out of those 581 still were occupied and that didn't include the 76 tanks that were now on a list of opened or being tended to.  That meant over 650 people were in the Dream, even if he accounted for the testing group there still should have only been around 550 according to the records he had been given.  He realized these must have been the extra avatars he had run across that had the higher formed bodies.  People who weren't considered in the list he was given.

He tried scanning the tanks and found forty-six that had triggered a medical alarm of some kind. Peeking in on several he saw I.V. lines and some with extra components that were worked into or next to the tank.  As he continued looking he found a file which had tagged several dozen tanks including his own which were now on a special medical watch list.  It didn't take him long to find Freena's name since she was within the first dozen on high priority already receiving an I.V. line and special monitoring that was set up for the mother to be.

It was someone calling his name and the light thumps he felt through the tank that brought him out of his wanderings.  With both his eyes and his mind he focused on the female trying to get his attention, "Sheriah!"  Her face brought with it a wave of loss and sadness which the young man tried to hold back.  It took a second knock on the tank before he was finally able to open the lid.

Skipping all the hellos he asked her straight out. "So what's going on? Did you find the dark space?"

She paused watching him for a moment, "Later. You know what is about to happen right?"

Tanyar tried closing his eyes picking out a few things among the entire network, "Too much."  He stated quietly. "Wait, where is ARENS?"  

"None of that matters Tanyar! Lilly she..."  He opened is eyes when she choked on her words, "Kalrena's brain activity has dropped.  Their trying to keep her stimulated but it's not working.  They are talking about.."

"Kalrena is dead."  He said flatly interrupting her.  "She stopped ARENS from killing me but her mind and soul are gone."  He tried to listen as she continued to talk and mumble about the medical staff and things being done.  It got him really upset when he heard something about electrical stimulant but what seriously pissed him off was when she mentioned cryogenics.

"Dead Sheriah!  Not alive DEAD!"  She was crying to hard to make a coherent answer beyond trying to nod.  Quickly closing his eyes he had Kalrena's tank location and the path there forcing himself out of the tank.  He felt several things mentally pull and shift and even more that seem to tear off and fall away as he took his first few shaky steps away from the tank.  Now though that didn't matter to him as he moved out of the room and trotted down the hallway dodging the few in his way as he tried to make sense of the video image and audio noise in the back of his mind.

It was a smaller tank room with just a dozen sleep tanks but filled with probably twice that many bodies.  There was so much movement and loud talking that he could understand nothing of the conversations or what was going on.  As he got closer and just a hallway away someone started calling out for everyone to clear the room or move to the walls.

Tanyar took the next corner to see a large table with wheels being moved along the hall.  There were four clamp ends attached to movable arms at each corner and the whole thing seemed to hum with power. There was something that was already sort of telling him it was built to move a sleep tank while it was still active.

He considered for a moment, they were never going to listen to him nor were they going to stop.  He moved forward watching the two men working the device down the hall as he got close enough to place his hand against the smooth metal surface.  This drew the attention of one of them who looked over at him before holding up a remote control.  Tanyar gave a smile back and wondered just how wired in he was, and if ARENS would have had control of such a unit.  Even with his current mood and sorrowful disposition he mentally snorted, ARENS would be into everything and now with his hand on the device he grabbed at the threads he felt attached to the machine.

He kept pace with the table hooking into the connections and verifying that yes it was a device to transfer sleep tanks with a fully contained power unit and emergency medical equipment. Tanyar gave a little shove and watched as the cart jumped forward.

"HEY!" Before the second tech could apologize Tanyar had it rolling down the hall with both men trying to stop it before reached the end of the hallway with a heavy thump against the wall.  He locked the wheels and shut down the power before he released control.

He was startled by the hand that gripped his arm making him turn to look back at Sheriah.  All he gave her was a nod as he pulled away opening the door of the tank room and stepping inside.  He used his eyes to scan the room seeing everyone huddled between the tanks leaving the center isle clear.  As he began to walk forward he picked out Kalrena's tank and began pulling all the information off of it not just the tanks info but her entire work history and every bit of personal information that was in the system.

She was twenty-six, held two technology degrees and had been taking psychology courses until last year.  Lilly Emmeret had been with T.A.N. Corp. for nearly five years and been working on the Dream project for over three. He continued scanning the files of her life while he spoke out to the room. "Anyone not here to pay their last respects get out!"

No one said anything till he had walked the rest of the way forward and placed his hand on the tank. "Hey don't touch that." Someone called out behind him.

With a wave of his arm and a flick of the hand, a gesture from the Dream, the tank gave two loud beeps and seemed to pop before the tank lid started to rise.  Tanyar watched as a thick gray vapor seemed to ooze out the widening cracks before it separated, parts of it dripped away splattering on the floor while the rest spread out into a white mist as it rose and evaporated.

"You're going to kill her!"  The cry sounded as the first of many voices and he was yanked away from the tank and the room erupted in a mass of shouts and moving bodies.  He could feel several people holding him down, pinning him against the tank across the isle.

"She's already DEAD!!"  A metallic voice screamed out across the room from every point it could popping several speakers before it finished.  Tanyar had struggled against the hands enough to be mostly standing as he braced himself against the tank.  The scream had been enough to silence a majority of the noise in the room.

"I watched her die."  Tanyar spoke out trying to look back at those holding him.  "I watched as her body not avatar vanished.  She was like a ghost and as I reached out she fell apart."  He pulled in a deep shuddering breath trying to breath past the huge lump in his throat.  "She was trying to say something even as she started crying... Her soul, mind, every part of Lilly is dead.  ARENS tried to kill me and she took my place."

It didn't take much for him to shake off the hand now but he couldn't see more than blurs as he tried to get back to her tank.  His hand reached into the half open tank as the last of the vapor goo leaked out.  His hand kept moving feeling around for something finding a cloth covered foot first.  Searching a little higher he was able to wrap his hand around her lower calf touching the very cool skin.

The tank emitted a loud buzz finally lifting, opening higher as two other loud beeping alarms went off. Again he reached out with his mind shutting off the alarms and the monitoring system before cutting the power to the tank as the lid finally stopped.  He knew there was nothing left now but the last few simple heartbeats now that the extra equipment had been shut off.  Tanyar listened to all the noise around him but concentrated totally on Kalrena.  Nothing else mattered to him at the moment except spending the last few second he had with her, pretending each second to still feel one last heartbeat and still share one last moment with her.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Dreamer's Paradise 2
Dreamer's Paradise 4
Chapters 5 and 6

Keywords
canine 86,159, feline 72,668, anthro 60,614, clean 7,778, story 6,605, death 4,787, humanoid 3,684, dream 2,992, fight 2,627, sleep 2,538, fighting 2,413, avatar 1,798, fear 1,306, story progression 1,072, anger 997, weapons 773, science fiction 649, no yiff 292, artificial intelligence 188, computers 80
Details
Type: Writing - Document
Published: 2 years, 2 months ago
Rating: General

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