"Sloppy," you remember shaking your head as a Virus knocks Zero down, watching her phase out as she loses yet another one of her lives before you dispatch the enemy Non-Player Character.\n\nImmediately, Zero rises up and decapitates two Viruses in a row, rendering them into inert code. After that, no further enemies exist. \n\n"There," she says, "They are still dead."\n\n"True, but look at you," you tell her.\n\n"What? I don't understand [[Juniper]] ..."\n\n"You haven't Updated your Armour in cycles. You over-use your weapons. You keep jumping into enemies and wasting Lives. Maybe one day you be the Protagonist, but right now you are an unplayable character!"
You smile and squeeze her hand.\n\n"It's all right, Zero. You aren't ready for this yet. And I just need this one Life. You need to grow: to change that name of yours."\n\nYou step back, and face the virulent chaos of the Infected Upgrade. \n\n"No!" Zero grabs you and turns you roughly around, "Remember what you said in our first battle! [[Remember]]!" \n\n[[And you do]].
You concentrate: transfering your power over to her.\n\nZero's eyes widen, "Your ... your Lives ..."\n\nYou smile at Zero softly, sadly, "You need them more than I do."\n\n"No," she tries to clutch at your hand, "Please, [[Juniper]] don't ..."\n
Zero sighs, "About ... one." \n\nOne life. The Viruses must have taken a lot more out of her than even he thought. You didn't notice. She fought so well: deleting each green unit in [[one fell swoop]].\n\n"I see," you tell her, suddenly feeling [[very tired]].
After that, there is only completion.
You remember being angry at Zero for her recklessness, at putting herself at risk before she could fulfill her role as the Game's Protagonist.\n\nAt the same time, you remember your cycle. You recall being just as energetic, just as driven. You were never content to wait on the sidelines or appear as a random character. But time and caution has turned you into something more of a machine: into a Character that only sees the greater game.\n\nAnd you have held off your Level-Up for too long: to keep playing even as you realize one truth.\n\n[[You understand]].
"Juniper?" Zero places a touch on your form, "Are you all right?" \n\nYour hand is fluctuating. It is fluctuating in that it is phasing in and out of existence. You didn't think it possible, but you have somehow Levelled Up again. But it is too much. Your current form can't take it or, at least, not for much longer. \n\nYou have [[a decision]] to make.\n
You recall it as if it was just moments ago. Zero had been like a green right L-block: surrounding [[many]] of units and obliterating them by eliminating their distance.\n\nBut her left L-block technique was still tentative and it missed her mark a few times. It must have cost her.
Your name is Juniper and [[you]] are a veteran Player Character. \n\n
Zero is a Newbie generation Player Character. Her icon is smooth and simplistic: having just graduated from 8 to 16-bit. She has been selected as the Protagonist to this Game: though she does not know it yet. \n\nShe has found her guide in [[you]].
It was a tough battle with the Viruses: the destructive AIs attempting to guard the Infected Upgrade. Zero made her first deletion today. You put a hand on her shoulder.\n\n"Concentrate, Zero. How [[many]] Lives do you have left?"
"Zero," you tell her, "give me your hand."\n\n"What is going on, Juniper?"\n\nYou smile at her use of your name, the moniker you choose so long ago after reaching your double digits. It really seems like just a few seconds before ...\n\n"Trust me," you say as you take [[her hand in yours]].
Level Up
You have been a Player Character in the Game for quite sometime now. Your icon is pale and customized with many add-ons and upgrades: so much so that you can barely remember what your base programming used to be. \n\n"Juniper," your companion [[Zero]] says, "I-I don't know if I can do this. I don't know how many [[Lives]] I have left."
"No, Zero," you say with a final smile, "I was the unplayable character."\n\nYou squeeze her hand on your shoulder again before seeing whether or not she understands and you turn around to face the corrupted Upgrade. \n\nIt is fragmented pixels of reality and horror and infestation. Now that you are down to your last Life, you are flashing more rapidly, becoming more. \n\nYou sense Zero reluctantly making distance between you and the abomination in front of you. \n\nEven as you call on all of your remaining Points. Even as the chaos looms over you, you know that it is already over--that you are going to show it everything that an OP spite is capable of--as you speak the ultimate code and unleash its universal technique.\n\n"[[Line piece]]."
Matthew Kirshenblatt