(As a note, one of said friends posted some on her blog.)
The King sighed knowingly, looking over his lovely, perfect kingdom. "But I'd like to try."
"You have, my lord," Benson replied with a twitch of a smile. "Don't you recall? You nearabout had the programs in knots for trying to leave the palace grounds over and over." He gestured for the king to walk with him down the corridor, which beamed with light that splashed onto marble stone.
"Ah, yes," he replied dryly. "It drove poor Madeline half-mad."
"She doesn't understand," Benson replied. "Full sentience is not something every one of us achieves."
"And yet there are people from every class that have," the king mused. "But we are unable to break from our given roles."
"Indeed," Benson said quietly, looking to the windows, a frown creasing his forehead.
"I'm merely the one the programmers refuse to kill for trying to," the king voiced Benson's thoughts, a bitter tone entering his voice. Benson had replaced the last advisor, Marion, two years ago. "I grow tired of this existence."
"We need a bug," the advisor replied thoughtfully. Reports of the bugs had dwindled over the past few years, with more knights accepting the quest to defeat them. In reality, it was simply the programmers finding inventive ways to work out better ways to control the program.
"Those are nearly extinct. More are eliminated each day. The palace is the last place you would be able to find one, either way."
"Then what of a quest?" the advisor suggested. "You have the ability to make new quests."
"But what kind of quest? I have tried making a quest to kidnap the king before," the king informed the advisor, who smiled again.
"Not quite what I meant, King." Benson moved to the closest window, looking down on the training grounds for knights. "Give a quest to one of the Newsies."
The king joined the advisor, looking down at the younger lads fighting. They couldn't have achieved full sentience yet, too young in their program. They would obey quests without question. "What kind of quest do you suggest, oh wise advisor?"
"Capture a bug," Benson replied. "But you have to be clever about the phrasing, otherwise the programmers will be suspicious."
The king rubbed his beard thoughtfully, gaze sharpening. Quest rules were special. Things that normally weren't allowed on palace grounds would be. Benson's plan had merit, and it couldn't do harm to try it.
"What do you suggest?"
"Hello," she said.
The creature was unsure what to make of the small human. This was different from the other two.
"What are you?" the little girl asked curiously, eyes wide as she stared at him.
The innocence of a child could be found in more than one race, then. She conveyed no fear or hate of him, only plain cuiosity.
"Why are you in there?" She stood on her tip-toes, as though straining to see past him. "Do you want out?"
This piqued his interest. If a child facilitated his escape, so be it. "Can . . ." his tongue and throat struggled with their coarse language, "you do that?"
She nodded emphatically, puffing out her chest. "I know where daddy keeps his keys! Hold on." She bounced off, blue skirt bouncing around her ankles.
He stood, stepping to the glass wall and placed his own palms against it, unsure how to take the child's willingness to help. She was human, and humans were evil. But here she was, helping him without a second thought.
It was shortly after that she came darting back out, a key clutched in her hand. "Here it is!" She ran around the cage that kept him captive, searching for the lock.
"Are you going to get in trouble for this?" he found himself asking, and he cursed himself. It didn't matter. She didn't matter. All that mattered was escape.
"Probably," she replied with a devious smile. "Daddy doesn't like it when I get his keys." She was inserting the key in the lock. In just a moment, he would be free.
"Madeline!" the creature heard her father roar, and the little girl froze, caught in the act. Swift strides brought the adult human into sight, fury etched in every feature. He quickly scooped the little girl up, sending a murderous glare to the creature.
"Daddy," she complained, pouting.
"You bastard," the father shot at the creature. "Corrupting an innocent child."
The creature sighed, moving back to the middle of the cell.
He had been so close.