Chapter Five: 'First Steps Into a Wide, Wide World...'

Note: Any parts that deal with foreign affairs, please forgive any inaccuracies. I did a bit of research, but nothing comprehensive in the least, and God only knows if it's correct in context or not. Also, any mlers who take great issue in their counterparts, please berate me as you see fit. Doesn't mean I'll change it, but if it'll make you feel better... ^_^

Note-2: NOT BETA'd. Since these are so far apart, I thought I'd go for the surprise element across the whole board. Sorry to my beta list, if you even remember who you are. If I get more adept at working on these with some semblance of regularity, your services will be called upon, if you still want to do it.

"Okay Jonny, what did I just say?" Benton Quest, said, rolling his eyes at his son.

Not pausing from his intent observation of a fluttering virtual butterfly nearby, Jonny automatically keyed up the memory banks of the Questworld system, and replied, "'The Q-O-L community has a number of dangers inherent in its free, shared content system. Security safeguards allow for some identity and financial protection, but be sure to be wary of anywhere you go and any files and information you share with other people.

You never know when a virus can dramatically and fatally change a system.' is what you said. Can I go now?"

Benton sighed. "Okay, but since this is your first time out, I'm going to have Meach send an assistant with you. What would you like?" He cued up an input window, ready to put in the acceptable parameters for Jonny.

"Um, a dog? I dunno... Something cool looking."

Benton typed in a search on the Internet for a dog and instantly a picture of a white bulldog with black markings around his eyes appeared, from the personal homepage of a teenager who lived in the Florida Keys.

Benton wrinkled his nose. "Um, Iris, why did you choose this one? It's not exactly..." he trailed off.

"The dog in question is from the homepage of a teenager of Jonny's age in your old Florida neighborhood. I assumed it would fit with his requirements, as age, origin, and assumed personality are identical with those applied to Jonny at inception. Do you wish for me to search again?" Iris answered.

Benton could see Jonny squirming with impatience. "No, no. That's okay. Meach, apply image to assistant avatar and activate. Do you think you could give it a suitable behavior matrix? And be sure to tell it to keep Jonny out of trouble."

"No problem, Doctor. It is sort of cute... in its own way..." Meach answered, her disembodied voice showing some signs of suppressed mirth. Immediately, the "dog" appeared next to Jonny.

"Whoa!" Jonny jumped in surprise. "Well, what do we have here?" The little bulldog immediately jumped into Jonny's arms and started licking his face. "Well, nice to meet you too, boy!"

"Hmm... A bit affectionate, wouldn't you say, Meach?" Benton questioned, smilingly. Though no answer was given, Benton could tell it was her version of a shrug. "So, what are you going to name him, son?"

<Author's note: Yes, I know the audience knows what's going to happen. Let me have my moment.>

"How about Tiger? No, that's not creative... I guess with the markings I can call him The Lone Ranger... but then he's not really alone, is he? And I don't want to be Tonto. He's small, so how about Tiny? But that's not fierce at all... Oh well, I'll think of it later. C'mon boy!" The little white dog jumped to the ground and started walking to the door that acted as a portal to the mainstream Questworld Online system. "Um, Dad?"

Benton, still smiling amusedly, answered, "Yes Jonny?"

"I know I've been asking a lot, but when can I see Mom? I really want to see her..."

Benton's smile faltered, but only briefly, and Jonny missed it. "Don't worry son, like I said, your mom's doing business out of town, but she really wants to see you too. Just go and have fun and don't worry about it."

Jonny brightened further, and excitedly, he answered, "Okay! Let's go, boy!" The pair, a boy and his dog (or vice versa, if you are so inclined) walked to the portal and vanished into the International Questnet.

Benton sighed. "Well, I'll be outside. Could you check up on them every once in a while, Meach? Discreetly, of course."

Meach answered, in a rather terse tone. "Of course, Doctor. Please give my regards to Mrs. Quest and the others outside."

Benton's brow furrowed. "I'll tell them soon enough. They're just not ready yet. I need to prepare them. All of them..." Benton hesitated. "Um, Meach, does Jonny ever question the power he has over Questworld? How he can do the things he does?"

Meach's tone softened, slightly. "I don't think so. He was only six at the time of the... incident, and he doesn't know any different. It's possible he thinks that this is the norm for everyone."

Suze piped in. "This bears further investigation, Doctor. However, I think the others have returned, so I need to unlock the archives and system resources if they are not to be suspicious."

"Okay. Subject: Benton Quest, logging out."

As Benton's digital avatar faded from view, the two remaining "upgraded" AI's in the system fell silent. After a pause, Meach asked, "Suze, do you have any idea what to do about the situation?"

Suze answered, "No idea at all. You?"


And if it were possible, the two AI's might have seemed to sigh.

"Whew! That was awesome!" Jessie Bannon yelled at her friend as they exited the game room.

"Ow! I'm standing right next to you, you know." Kris smiled at Jessie. "Besides, Questworld would transmit your voice to me even if we were game-miles from each other, so can you lower it a notch, Jess?"

Jessie grinned sheepishly. "Sorry. But you have to admit we kicked butt in that game of Capture the Flag. Way to dodge that tag in the courtyard, by the way. That guy looked so surprised when you somersaulted off his head and into our base."

"Well, look at you, Miss Stealth-Flag-Capturer. They didn't even see you once on that second attempt. Of course, if they realized that you've memorized the layout to that maze underground, they might have had a chance. But ah well. Too bad for them." Kris winked.

They stepped into the cooling room, which sent signals to their brain that reversed the sensation of their virtual exertion. The fully immersive environment kept them from feeling pain, but it still allowed mild temperature changes to be "felt" by the physical body. "So, whaddya want to do now?" Jessie asked. "I don't feel like going back yet."

"I think I've had enough action for a while. You want to go shopping?"

"Nah, it just depresses me. After the Questworld purchase, my parents are tightening the purse strings. What's the fun of getting to fully experience a trial version when you know you can't get the real thing?"

"Oh, c'mon. It'll be fun... or hey, we haven't gone to the chat rooms yet..."

Jessie wrinkled her nose. "I dunno. It'll probably be all perverts and idiots."

"You weenie. I think a few of my friends from the CBML got Questworld too. Let's see if we can find 'em."

"Oh sure... There's only like half a million chat rooms on Questworld... And what did you just call me?"

"Come _on_, Bannon..." Kris said exasperatedly, dragging her friend along."

"No, really, _what_ did you call me?"

[Author's insert: Any guesses on what CBML stands for? ^_^ First correct answer gets anything their heart desires... that I can provide. Sorry, no hints.]

"Are you sure this is correct?"

"Positive. Someone's definitely making a play for control of the Tamil Nadu Liberation front. Someone big. Someone bad. It's believed he's also vying for control of some major American, Russian, Japanese, and British criminal syndicates, and rumors say he's got Chinese crime locked tight. He's probably going to make a strike at the heads of the TNLF soon, and I figure you can make off with a sizable chunk of their war chest in the ensuing confusion."

"But why? I mean, why are you telling me this? Why me?"

"We've had our eye on you. You're fairly local. You do good work, and I figure that that wealth is best left out of hands that will use it for malevolent activities."

"This is rather overwhelming. Are you absolutely sure that all this information is accurate?"

"You can trust me. You'll be contacted when everything goes down, sometime next week. Just be at that location, using that simulation data, and everything will happen without a hitch. That program in your "hands," so to speak, is a complete simulation of their main treasury safehouse. It'll update itself if anything changes drastically, so you'll be ready to hit it when the time comes."


"Look, I have to go, the Questworld security scan should pass through this sector in the next minute. I have to get offline or else it'll notice that I hacked my identity matrix. And then who knows who _else_ will be alerted to my presence. All signs point to this new guy being very well connected, and I'm not sure even VR is safe." To prove his point, the visitor's appearance broke, falling briefly to static before reforming itself. "See you around, kid." And with that, he vanished, disconnecting from the system.

"Great. Just great." Hadji Singh muttered. He sighed, slumping down the wall of the chat room.

"This is bad. This is very, very bad."

"C'mon boy. Let's go in here. I need to take a breather after that last game."

Taking a seat at the table. Jonny almost didn't notice the young man slumped against the wall. "Oh, Hi. I didn't see you there. Are you okay?" The boy didn't look too much older than him, and looked nice enough...

"Oh, I'm fine. Just a little stressed." Hadji answered.

"Well, you're in the perfect place to let off some stress, you know." Jonny grinned. "There's some game rooms open just across the way. Care to join me?"

Hadji found the young blonde's grin infectious. "Sure, why not."

The small white "dog" looked from boy to boy. He peered at Hadji, assessing him, then seemingly satisfied, jumped into his arms and started licking his face.

Jonny laughed. "Well, looks like someone likes you!"

Hadji laughed as well, petting the bulldog on the head. "Friendly fellow, aren't you? I didn't know you can have pets in Questworld..."

Meanwhile, Jessie and Kris were walking along the hall. "Now, why couldn't we just look up these friends of yours and instant message their location from them? Why are we wandering aimlessly through these chat halls?"

"Because, I want to surprise them, and we've got plenty of time to kill. And who knows, we might stumble across something interesting. Now, did that directory say 403 or 304?"

"Well, here's 403..." Jessie poked her head inside. "And whoa..."

"What?" Kris followed Jessie's stare to the blonde young man in the room and grinned. "Hmm..." And with that, shoved Jessie into the room.

"Kris? What the--" Jessie exclaimed, regaining her balance.

The two boys in the room looked at her curiously, and she fought to control her blush. "Um, hi. We're just exploring the system..."

Jonny spoke up. "Oh, hey, no problem. Actually, we were just about to join a game soon. Would you care to join us?"

Kris looked at her watch none-too-subtly. "Oh, I'd love to, but I'm supposed to meet a friend around here. I guess she's in room 304. But Jess, you can go ahead." Jessie glared at her. "Gotta go, see you all later!"

All three looked at Kris's retreating form, with varying degrees of confusion. Finally, Jessie spoke, "Um, okay. Want to go?"

"Oh, where are my manners?" Hadji said. "We haven't introduced ourselves yet. I'm Hadji." He placed his hand over the center of the round table.

"I'm Jonny." Jonny similarly placed his hand over the table, just above Hadji's.

"I'm Jessie." She put her hand just over Jonny's. A pulsating globule of light went up from the table, through their hands, and back down again. This was the standard greeting in Questworld, which synced up any needed translation equipment, communicators, and account info for possible addition to Buddy lists later on. All three smiled at each other.

"So, what do you want to play? I hear there's a team game of Infiltration going on over in room 27. I have to warn you, I've been told I'm the master at that type of game. You guys any good?"

Hadji's smile grew slightly. "I have ...some experience with stealth, yes."

"Well, let's go!" Jonny said. And the trio, fast becoming friends, walked off to the game room. As their voices faded down the hall, you could still catch their conversation, interspersed with laughter.

"Anyway, how _did_ you get a dog in here, Jonny?"


[ Prologue 1 2 Interlude 3 4 5 6 ]

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::Whew:: There's part five. Hopefully it won't take me another six months to get part six out. There's always Christmas break, and if I get good enough a response (again), I'll try to work on it harder. ::hint, hint:: If the flow seems weird, or there's just general weirdness in the story, don't hesitate to tell me (be gentle, please ^_^) and I'll try to fix it. The pacing seems a little fast to me, but it could be just because I've reread it a few times.

Archiving: Suze, you got it. Anyone else, tell me, please. You can take it, but I'd like to know where it's going.

Category: ALT, RE, Some ML, Maybe FAM, Maybe a slight hint at a HR, but it's very small.

Disclaimer: Yes, I own Jonny Quest. And all entities therein. I'm just a horribly impractical person who would rather write fan fiction for his properties than actually make money off of them. ::cough::

No, seriously, I don't own 'em, don't sue me.