Bob landed in front of Dot's Diner, worried and slightly tired. Using the abilities he had gotten from Glitch always left him exhausted in a way that energy shakes and rest couldn't quite make up for, but Dot had sounded upset over the vid window, and he had ported over without thinking about it. Now, as he realized what kind of upset she was, he figured he should have taken a zipboard. Time didn't seem to be a factor in this emergency, and he had a feeling he was going to need all the strength he could spare.
Dot was waiting for him outside. Her arms were crossed and she was glaring at him as if he had personally called the Web into her system. Before he could ask what he was supposed to have done, she pointed behind him. She said nothing, but it was the sort of stained silence that made one wince because it left the screaming to the imagination.
Bob turned slowly, unsure whether he would rather trust his back to Dot in her current mood or the unseen threat. Where, before, there had been a large patch of green in front of the Diner, there was now a large patch of green… surrounding an ungainly, black structure.
Bob blinked. The building was hardly bigger than the Diner, but it was curiously constructed. It was built from a few huge slabs as walls, with an even bigger brick for a ceiling. The blocks seemed to be dropped almost haphazardly, and Bob could see where the corners didn't quite line up.
Dot made a tight growling noise, still pointing. She scowled at him in a manner that suggested meaning, but Bob couldn't guess what it was. The blocks looked heavier than what any Mainframe construction equipment could feasibly carry around, but surely Dot didn't think he built it. True, he might have been able to transport the slabs, but he didn't like to think of how long he'd be weak after such an endeavour.
He shrugged at Dot, and she clenched her teeth tighter. "Come with me," she ground out, and started around the building. Bob followed her. It hadn't exactly been a suggestion.
Once they were at the other side of the structure, Bob understood why Dot had called him instead of a demolition crew. The whole thing was made of the same huge blocks; and there was no door, but rather a jagged hole surrounded by rubble, as if someone had found themselves trapped inside after building it and simply blasted their way out.
Which was, Bob supposed, exactly what had happened. Standing behind a odd looking table in front of the gaping entrance was Hexadecimal, smiling proudly. She didn't seem to mind that her creation had all the aesthetic appeal of a handful of data cubes arraigned by a tiny sprite, and none of the cuteness.
"Guardian!" she said when he came into view. She floated over the table and landed beside him, cutting off Dot as if the green sprite didn't exist. She moved an arm in a wide gesture that encompassed the dark slabs. "Do you like it," she asked earnestly. "I made it myself."
"It's, er, interesting, Hex," Bob said.
"Isn't it," the virus agreed.
Bob glanced back at Dot, who was still scowling. He was suddenly glad that she didn't have Hex's powers, because if looks could nullify….
"But, um, why did you make it?" he asked.
Hexadecimal waved a hand, as if disregarding the question. "I was bored," she told him, and he supposed that was about the only motive of importance to a chaos virus.
There was a huff from Dot. "But why did you make it here?" Bob clarified.
Hex studied him as if he had been suddenly replaced by something BASIC. "This is the business sector," she explained.
"Well… yes," Bob said.
She blinked at him, white eyelids dropping momentarily over green eyes. It was unnerving, even though he had been the one to defragment her face, as though he still imagined the frozen emotions when he considered her.
"I'm going into business," she said. "There were already buildings everywhere else." She looked at him, puzzled. "You said not to destroy buildings. I remember."
"Yeah, that's great, Hex," he sighed. He forced a smile in her direction. She smiled benignly back at him and then flew back to her building and disappeared between the slab walls.
Dot was now seething. She started to say something, but Hexadecimal landed beside her again and she looked pointedly away. "I made you a pie," the virus told him, holding out something round.
He took it from her cautiously, remembering her cookies. "Er, what type of pie is it?"
She narrowed her eyes, as if Bob had just asked the most obvious thing in the Net. "It's blue," she said. "I made it the same colour as you." She reached out a four fingered hand, and Bob couldn't lean far enough back to escape it without falling into Dot. He felt a sharp nail run up his cheek.
"Thanks, Hex," he said, cutting off a choked noise from Dot. "It does look very… blue."
She smiled again. "Well!" she said. "I have a business to run. I can't let you distract me all cycle." Her expression changed so suddenly Bob found himself replaying the transition in his mind to be sure it was natural. "Actually," she purred, "I can."
"No, no," Bob said quickly. "You're right. You're a business woman now. I shouldn't waste your time."
"But that's the fun of it!" she said. "It's so boring to do what you should all the time."
"I'm a Guardian, Hex," he said. "It's what I do."
"Not… all the time," she said, her face all but frozen in a thin smile.
He sighed. "I'll come by later," he said. "See how the business is doing."
"Is that a promise?" He nodded slowly, and she grinned, delighted.
"But now we have to go."
"Oh, if you must." She gestured with a hand, dismissing him, and sauntered towards the blasted entrance. When she was about halfway there she turned back, as if just remembering something. "You will tell everyone to buy my pies, of course."
"Of course," he repeated half-heartedly.
As soon as Hexadecimal moved into her structure, Bob went back to the Diner, unsure whether he was dragging or being pushed by Dot. He let himself relax a little in the familiar place, but it was hard, as the awkward hut was practically the only thing visible through the windows.
Dot was almost shaking with rage. "What," she demanded, "was that?"
"You heard her," Bob said tiredly. "It's her business."
Dot shook her head. "You can't just announce a business. There's property rights and zoning considerations and energy input-output predictions and advertising and expected customer base - and that's before you can even be considered for licensing." She had made it across the Diner, and now started back. "And then there's materials auctions and building commissions and meetings with the Department of Energy - that location is not properly situated on the power grid -"
"Have you gone random?" said Bob, who had been watching her pace. "It's just something for her to do."
Dot spun towards him. "Oh, I think she's made it abundantly clear what she'd like to do."
Bob just stared at her. She sighed and collasped onto a stool. "Sorry," she said, rubbing at her forehead. "It's just... that." She pointed at the hulking black building. "Where did she even get blocks that ugly?"
"She probably brought them from Lost Angles."
"And then just dumped them, and called it a building. And I have to look at it."
"Not for long," Bob assured her. "She'll get bored soon. She always does."
"I don't know what's worse." Dot looked at him through her fingers. "I mean… I know you couldn't have let her be deleted, but now we have to entertain her."
"Yeah." He stared searchingly at the blue pie. "And she doesn't even have the battles with Megabyte to amuse her anymore," he said wryly.
Dot looked darkly at him, but he was busy poking the pie with a pinkie finger and didn't seem to realize his faux pas. "Alright," she said finally. "She can keep her business. But you get to convince her to clean up after herself when she's done."
There was a muted explosion, and the roof slab of Hex's building moved upwards slightly and then settled back at an even more pronounced angle. The pie jiggled with the vibrations.
Bob glanced apologetically at Dot. "I know - as long as she's happy, right?" she said. "Tell you what; next time you feel the need to adopt something, we'll lend you Frisket."