Chapter IThe Hole in the Computer
Marcus Gray rode home with his parents from school. Currently, they were scolding him on the importance of respect for his teachers. He held his head in mock shame. This was nothing new to him. Marcus had portrayed the sorry young man that would never do it again far too often for his parents to know whether he faked it or not. Marcus always faked it.
"You need to respect them," his father repeated yet again. "They're just trying to help you." Marcus thought of him as a farce in human form. Need to respect them? He just hated the fact that Marcus showed signs of delinquency. "Besides? Do you know what your mother and I went through to get you into that school? And you just want to throw it all away?"
Marcus was almost eighteen now, and was continuously being sent home or given detention. Five schools had decided already that they did not want him, that Marcus was just too much trouble. He hated the schools, almost as much as he hated coming home.
Mr. Gray always criticized him for his choice of clothing, telling Marcus that he looked like he belonged in a homeless shelter. Both his parents told him on a regular basis that his jeans were a too holy, and that if they faded any more, they would fade out of style. Previous scuffles with other students had taken a toll on his attire, and his shirt, though black, and still showed many bloodstains and bare patches of skin.
Opening his eyes, his dead blue eyes staring straight into his father's as he looked back at him from the front seat. "Maybe you should go live on your own for a while? That'll teach you to respect the value of what they do for you." He started the engine. "Of what I've done for you…"
Marcus merely grunted an acknowledgement. Just what exactly had he done? He had packed the boy away like a dirty secret. Mr. Gray never spoke of his son to others, even out of frustration. He certainly never bragged about him. Instead, Marcus rarely left his room aside from school or meals. They hardly spoke to each other outside lectures like this. And as far as either were concerned, worked fine.
"They've given you a huge break and you just brush them aside." His father kept his composure well after so many years of practice. Marcus could tell it was testing his patience though. The eyes staring back from the rear-view mirror were angry and disappointed. "What in the world made you want to take a chair to that kid's head? What did he say or do? You know you can't just hurt people for the fun of it."
Not that he actually took a chair to someone's head… Sure, he had wanted to. He had even picked it up. He knew better than that. To be Marcus was to walk a fine line between troublemaker and felon—to know just how far he could push before the powers-that-were pushed back.
Not only did the kid deserve it—he had thrown the first punch—but Marcus had not even hurt him. A fat lip and a bloody nose: that was the extent of bodily harm. But of course, when the other guy had gone crying to the nearest teacher, Marcus was stood up in front of the proverbial firing squad.
And no one cared to hear his side of the story, let alone believe it if he had actually spoken up. Marcus's father would be the last person to believe him anyway. So he had balled his fists with full knowledge of the consequences, and knocked the pipsqueak on flat on his rear.
"Marcus! Are you listening to me?" His father said, bringing the car to rest at a stoplight. The man turned to glare at his son, who sat with a grim, defiant pout. The man sighed and turned back to the steering wheel. "I don't know why I even bother anymore."
Marcus looked up, taken aback. He had never known his father to say such a thing. He sighed as well as the car began moving again. Mr. Gray drove in silence back to their home, and Marcus pondered the abrupt end to the unusually short lecture. Normally, he could recognize the end of a lecture from miles away. If there were only one reason not to get into any trouble, it would be solely to avoid these little chats with his father. They bored the stuffing out of him.
The care came to rest again in their driveway. The car doors slammed shut with Marcus padding silently up to his room to take a nap. He walked slowly, wondering why he felt his life was in shambles, or why no one ever bothered to get to know him. Once in his room, he tore into his covers and went to sleep. Sometimes, the world could be too much even for someone like Marcus.
"Alice," a voice called. "Alice Andrea Burns, get down here!"
"I didn't do anything," Alice called back to her mother. "What do you want?" Oh boy, she thought again. She knew the drill. She and her younger brother had been fighting again and their mother was now involved. It happened every night. She always fought with her brother. But she never hurt him.
"How come he's crying," Alice's mother's shrill voice yelled back.
Yeah, after invading her room and scattering its contents throughout the house, she was going to be angry. Nevertheless, Alice would never dream of beating her brother even in the most severe cases. She had only roughed him up a bit, gave him something to remember that he should not do this sort of thing again.
I hate this, the though resounded in her mind. I wish I could just leave and never come back! She only had two things she wanted to take with her if she ever got away: pen and paper, which she kept on her person at all times.
Her mother continued to scream at her and Alice let herself slump onto the bed and into a comfortable position. Her stormy eyes scanned the ceiling for any escape. Drawings littered the roof, mostly of fantasy creatures and otherworldly scenes. Absentmindedly she brushed away a lock of blond hair. For seventeen, she was exceptionally talented.
She would have to try to explain herself again to her mother. The woman was drunk half the time. Never could she just settle down and sober up, and possibly use the government's money to supply food and clothing for her kids. That was why Alice never would beat her brother, because she had to take care of him.
At present, this was one of the few times that she thought her mother had not been drinking, when she yelled at Alice for something of this nature. "I'm coming mom!" She stormed off down the hall and found her brother huddling close to his teddy bear, not his mother. She's drunk again! How many times do we have to go through this? "What's the problem mom?"
"Your brother—" there was a very noticeable slur in her pronunciation of "brother"—"just told me that you hit him again!" Alice could smell the alcohol and detested it.
"Bro, did you really tell her that?" The little boy shook his head violently, indicating to Alice that their mother was the perpetrator. "So it was mom again? That figures." He knew the difference between getting hit and being punished. A spanking was what Alice had given him for going through her things. A beating was what he had gotten from his mother after trying to give her some sign of affection.
"Come on, Brent. Let's go get us some dinner, bro." He followed Alice out to her car, the only means of escape either of them had. The door closed behind them, leaving a drunken fool behind cursing them. Brent was too young to have to deal with that sort of thing, Alice thought. "Hamburgers?" Brent nodded.
"Oh Mickey," a deep but young voice said behind the boy. "I've been waiting for you to come on out." School had just let out, and Mickey was on his way home.
Michael Harris looked back. He was young, and unable to defend himself properly. "What do you want?" His knees trembled at what was to come. He knew what he wanted. It was the same nearly every day. Sometimes Michael's torture would vary a bit, from punches to kicks to a black eye on good days. "Please leave me alone?"
"Nope, you dope." The bully laughed at his own joke and Michael found himself despising the "bully" humor. "All I want is the usual," the bigger one said. "Any change you have, and then if it satisfies me we'll skip the beating."
Michael emptied his pockets, desperately hoping for a few quarters to appease his tormenter. He found none and looked back at the other pleadingly. The bully sighed and shook his under developed head. "Sorry, Michael. You know the rules." Five minutes later Michel was on the ground and trying fruitlessly to get up.
He lied there for a while, thinking. How he wished he could defend himself, or that Sammy Johnston would just disappear. Michael was only a child, but he knew well that what he had just gone through was not right. And why was he always the target? Sammy knew that Michael had nothing on a regular basis, and yet he chose him to beat up each day.
Michael pondered away, laying on the sidewalk and not really wanting to aggravate his wounds further. Tears sometimes spilled from his eyes in torrents, and then dropped back to a mere trickle. It was sometime later before his mother found him. "Mama," the boy questioned. "Mama, it hurts." He sniffled and started crying into his mother's arms. She picked him up and carried him off.
"Jerry," the detention lady called his name. "Jerry Young."
"I'm here," he said. Why he was there, he didn't know. He had just been given a pink slip and sent off to the detention office. He leaned back in his chair. His brown eyes stared at the ceiling, waiting for the four o' clock bell to ring. He wore a crap brown vest that had probably seen better days, and a dark T-shirt under that. I don't understand, all I did was close out one of those damned pop-ups. The entire thing was nothing more than a misunderstanding that resulted in Jerry getting detention for a few days.
He returned the front two legs of his chair to the floor and began his homework. Generally, he was a good student. This was his first time in detention so he had to ask where the detention room was. That got him another day because of his "smart mouth." He had rolled his eyes and repeated the question, which only served to further his detention going days.
Life, he assumed was an unfair business and he wanted no part in the reality he lived in. It was the kind of thing that sucked the marrow out of a man's bones. Of course, he certainly had things to live for. His family was good, his home was nice, and his life was in appreciable shape. His high school career had set him up properly for college and then he would be attending some ritzy university in the spring of the following year.
Afterwards, it would be back to work with his father, a lawyer. The family firm would be his soon, which bothered him not at all. His father had a very strict policy towards honesty in his firm: Just do it. Jerry did it as well. Young Cascade was one of the few decent firms left in the world.
He finished his homework in a matter of minutes, and spent the rest of his time staring at the floor, the ceiling, or any other place that might be of interest. Finally, the bell rang and released him from his prison. He promptly grabbed his pack and dashed out the door. By the time he was home, the sun had almost set below the horizon. He walked in and down the hall to his room.
It was night now, at the Gray house. Marcus was in bed, grumbling over his bad day when a loud beeping from his computer caught his attention. He had shut it down hours ago and thought it might have been malfunctioning. Marcus pulled his covers away and stood. He was still dressed in the same, rugged and worn clothes that he had been in earlier.
He moved the mouse around a bit, ending the monitor's stand-by mode. Writing appeared on the screen, scrolling marquee style and in big, bold red letters against the black. "We Need Your Help!" He tried not to care and attempted to shut down the computer again; failing, he cursed.
This must have been some sort of prank or virus. The one who did it was going to get a severe beating from Marcus later on. Only once did the thought that the message might have been real appear in his mind. He dismissed it just as quickly as it had come with thoughts of why anyone would want or need Marcus's help.
He was not the helping sort. "Come on, you damn thing! Turn off!" He smacked the top of the computer with his fist and the screen flashed once, filling the room with a harsh white light. When it subsided, Marcus was nowhere to be found.
When he opened his eyes, the room was dark, except a few strands of light from the moon. He sat up, having been in a laying position, and lifted a blanket. "This isn't my room." By now, he had fully adjusted to the limited light. "So, where am I?" Suddenly, a light flashed on.
A door closed. "Well, that was fruitless." A tall muscular creature walked in the room. For all intents and purposes, Marcus thought he was a dragon. Blue scales, a single blade-like horn protruding from his head, and a thick tail only added to the allusion. "I hate my job," it mumbled in a disgruntled tone.
It turned its red eyes around to see Marcus sitting, wide-awake, wide-eyed, and equally disgruntled. So he's awake? Probably hungry as hell too. Food. He stalked away, and returned a small while later with a tray of something. "I was hoping you'd be awake when I got back. What's your name," he asked irritably.
"Wha?" Marcus still did nothing. The creature talked, it walked and it obviously lived in a rather nice apartment. He seemed almost human, except for the clear and all surpassing fact that it just was not. "Eh?" Someone was definitely going to get a good whooping when he found out who it was.
"I said, what is your name?" Did the human even speak English? "Name? N. A. M. E. Eeeeennnnglishhhh?" He enunciated the last word in a particularly annoying fashion to Marcus, who took only slight notice.
"What are you?"
"Finally," it sat down next to Marcus. "I didn't know if humans could talk or not." Marcus backed away. "Don't worry, you're safe for now. I found you lying on the road outside the city gates."
"Found me?" Marcus asked, his voice only now returning. "Where am I? And who brought me here?" The fire within him burned furiously now and he struggled to calm himself. He needed information right now more than he needed revenge.
"Welcome to District One of the Digital World. My name is Patrick."
"Patrick?" Marcus took a piece of food from the tray. "Ok," he sighed annoyed by the demeanor of this creature. "Where is the Digital World?" He inspected the food, and sniffed it. It smelt familiar, like dried meat. "And what are you." He ate the dried piece of meat.
"Yes Patrick, but you can call me Pat." Pat set the tray between them. "The Digital World is—somewhere. I don't know. As for your last question, I am a digital monster or Digimon for short. Specifically an ExVeemon."
"A Digimon," Marcus whispered to himself. Of all the stupid things he had heard of, this took the cake and ate it too. He looked over the Digimon, and finding no zipper or seam, decided that whoever was playing this prank was worthy of some esteem. Having pulled off a few practical jokes himself, Marcus was especially impressed with this one. The guy would not get a beating, he decided. He played along. "Do you know what happened to me?"
"Not exactly," the monster said. "I do know the legends though. You'll probably want to hear about that." Marcus nodded, smiling at how well rehearsed this was. "Well," Pat stated, "to put it simply, you and a few other humans are going to free us. The long version is too long except to say that you're under a death sentence if you're caught by the government."
"Government, eh? Keep going."
"A hundred something years ago, the old reign was overthrown. He was good, but someone thought differently." Pat settled himself, dropping his tail between his legs. "Before MagnaGreymon—that was the old guy—was executed, he sent off a message to your world. The new guy found out about it and put a price on the heads of any humans who we just happened to find."
Marcus absorbed the information like a sponge. "So are you going to turn me in?" He nearly laughed at the whole thing. Such a lame joke! But it was executed so well. "You might as well! I've got nothing better to do!"
Did he think this was some sort of joke? Probably, and only thought he was playing along. "No, this is no joke. You could very well get yourself killed with that sort of attitude," Pat said. "And the only reason I'm not dead is that I work for them."
"What do you do?" He continued to lay back, relaxed and at ease. This was so cool to him! That someone went to all this work for something so pointless! He was inspired, almost to the point of versification.
"Absolutely nothing for the government," Pat answered proudly. "I transfer funds from the government to the resistance, behind their backs." The reality of juggling paperwork was rather dull, but he served a vital function. If this human was indeed his partner, he would serve an even more vital purpose.
But the human still thought it was a joke? Pat lowered his eyes and removed all trace of humor from his voice. "This isn't a game. The potential you have as a partner is vital to the resistance. And the danger you are in as a human is serious."
Marcus sat up, furling his somewhat bushy brow. "You mean to tell me that I'm going to save all your butts?" He almost snorted. The idea was preposterous at best. Him? That important? But Pat was still looking at him with those serious eyes—eyes that spoke of untold hardships and a losing shadow war.
Everything functioned on the surface. Commerce continued; the banks still handed out money. But honesty and integrity? They had been done away with ages ago. A decent man could hardly make a living now. Marcus thought about his father, struggling to make a living for a dysfunctional family. He might not have had a future but for an act of divine providence.
"Alright," the human said, sobering.
The ExVeemon breathed a sigh of relief. He had finally gotten through, if only just. The Digimon leaned back in his seat once more, still towering over Marcus. "Good. We need you. I don't know how many other humans there are, or where they are. But we can only hope that were found by their partners."
Marcus nodded slightly. He was still having trouble believing it. But the gravity of Pat's voice resonated with him. He looked over the dragon, wondering how he could be of any help. "What's a partner," he asked. "Don't give me any dictionary term either. I want to know what it is that you want."
"All I know is that we're one in the same," Pat replied. He had never given it much thought in truth. His employment at the financial bureau kept him relatively safe as long as he covered his tracks. He lived comfortably, but safely, taking fewer risks than a rock. He lived in a box.
But to be out in the open, fighting? That was in most Digimons' natures to do. Most. Patrick had never been the fighting type. His friend Mason, on the other hand, was crazy. That mad, mad Leomon loved to push boundaries. It begged the question, then. Why had Pat been made to be a partner and not Mason? Maybe it was something in the human. He seemed to be the exact opposite of Pat. He was unhinged, quick to anger, and seemed to be looking for a fight wherever he could find one.
"Two halves of the same coin…" Pat continued absently. "Without you, I can't do anything to help. And without me, you can't survive here." He saw the human nod again, with his now serious expression. The human was certainly in it for the fight, not the cause. "There's no reward," Pat warned.
"Don't need one." Marcus narrowed his eyes. A chance to beat up baddies? He never considered himself a noble person, but any fight was a good one. And a knuckle sandwich to the right guy could be its own reward. Some resistance needed him? He could play mercenary for a while, he supposed.
But it did go deeper than that, even if Marcus had not realized it. He wanted to do something to be proud of—to make his parents proud. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of his mind, he wanted to do right by them. But he lacked the discipline, or so he was told. His instructors and peers looked at him as a ticking bomb, waiting to go off. A wild child that would probably end up in prison could never amount to anything.
He lacked opportunity as well—opportunity to show his mettle. Marcus had tried at one point to earn good grades, make friends. Things had gone well for him for a few weeks, until someone had accused him of some frivolous incident—he hardly remembered what. Nevertheless, Marcus pronounced his innocence: He had been somewhere else entirely at the time.
Past precedence won out, though, and his accuser punished Marcus for the crime regardless. It burned him, and he gave up. He became exactly what everyone said he was. No one expected anything from him but the worst, and he found it easier to give them what they wanted: An excuse to blame him.
Now here he was, looking his future square in the face. Pat, this creature that had accused him of being a hero, looked at him, waiting. He expected something from the human, more than just violence, a bad attitude, or a smart remark. He expected hard work, effort; he expected a respectable individual.
And Marcus doubted if he could live up to that. He would damned sure try, though. "I don't need one," he said again after a pause. "When it's over, though, I want to go home."
Pat deflated immediately, trying to think of something to say. He had not considered the problem of sending the human home. How he even got there was a complete mystery. And that was nothing to speak of a method to send him back. He stuffed his face with a hand full of dried meat.
"You don't know?"
Pat swallowed hard the relatively un-chewed meat. "I don't even know how you got here…" Marcus glared daggers. "What am I supposed to tell you? Stable wormholes, time travel? That's science fiction!"
"You stupid reptile! You call me here, ask for my help, but don't give me any way home?" Marcus found himself standing eye to eye with the sitting form of his partner, shouting at the top of his lungs. "You put my life in danger and you can't even offer me a reward!" Of all the rotten deals he could have gotten, now he was stuck in an alien world with a loser "Digimon" and a death warrant out on his head.
"Keep your voice down!" Pat urged in a furious whisper. He reached over and peaked out the window shades. "If they find out you're hear, you're done for! I can protect you, but you have to trust me."
Trust him, the dragon says? Marcus slapped his forehead and laughed at the thought. He had left a relatively decent life, albeit it needed improving, behind just to have a would-be hero tell him to trust him. "You haven't given me a reason."
"And neither have you! You won't even give me your name." He stood to his full height, soaring five feet above Marcus's head, and took a step forward. "I don't deserve this. I've done my part for the resistance, and I can continue doing it. But dealing with a petty, overbearing twerp like you is too much for anyone.
"And for the record, little human, you might pick your battles wiser." He took another step forward, forcing Marcus to withdraw from the dragon's huge feet. "I could squash you like a bug, turn you in for the reward, or I could have let you rot in the desert sun outside the city. You may not trust me, but you owe me. I've already saved your life twice today."
With that, Pat took a final step forward. Marcus stared up at the angry, fanged frown of the dragon and tripped, falling on his rear with a thud. He still looked defiant, ready to fight the dragon toe to toe, even if it meant fighting from a ladder. But he was smarter than that, and having been properly chastised by someone bigger than him, properly reasonable. "Alright… My name is Marcus. Marcus Gray."
"Grey," Pat asked as he extended his three-fingered claw. Marcus took it and the dragon promptly pulled him to his feet. "As in Greymon?"
"No," Marcus rubbed his shoulder, as the ExVeemon nearly tore it out of its socket. "Gray as in the color gray." Idiot.
My thoughts exactly.