Government Confines

Chapter III:

Carry Me Home

Digital World, District One

Pat checked the windows again and saw nothing but empty streets. A strict curfew, enforced by patrolling constables, began every night after sundown. After his argument with Marcus, he worried they might have piqued the interest of his neighbors, who likely would have reported the incident. Anything out of the ordinary was noteworthy to the authorities.

He turned to Marcus and glared at him. "I don't think anyone heard you," he said, sighing in relief. "We should find a place for you to hide anyway." There was no sense in taking any risks, he decided.

Marcus snorted. Him? Hide? What a ridiculous idea. He was supposed to be a hero, not a coward hiding in the corner. "I don't think so. Besides, who made you the boss?" He would rather have kissed a pig.

Pat rolled his eyes. "Aside from me being bigger, stronger, faster and smarter than you," he began, drawing clinched teeth from the human, "I said so. And it's for your own good." Even if they had come to terms with being partners, he still found the human's demeanor annoying. He argued constantly, even if he knew better. He refused to look at the reality that, for him, being in the Digital World presented a very dangerous situation.

The Digimon stepped away from the window. A sudden rap at the door halted him in his tracks, and his red eyes went wide. The knocking continued. "Get down," he whispered, gesturing wildly for Marcus to do so. "Get under the sofa!" For a few moments, Marcus just stood, eyeing the dragon as the visitor's pounding became more urgent.

"Pat! Open up!" the muffled voice shouted.

"J-just a minute," Pat replied, stammering. He jabbed one of his clawed fingers at the space between the sofa and the floor before ordering Marcus down there again. "If they find you, they're likely to kill you. Painfully."

"Don't make me break this door down! Let me in!"

The Digimon gave his partner a pleading look. "I told you what they've done to people, what sort of tortures you could expect." Rumors abounded about the horrors that DoyenGreymon had at his disposal. Whips and chains, starvation—they were only the beginning. His specialty was psychological torture. Isolation in cells just barely big enough to let a fully grown Digimon bend over, combined with subtle manipulations of the sense of the passing of time could lead a captive to believe he had been there for weeks, or months. In reality, maybe only days had passed.

Marcus remembered the conversation vividly. In his quest for insight into this strange new world, he had stumbled frequently across the topic of DoyenGreymon. His leadership was tyrannical at best, bordering on psychotic paranoia at its worst. The Digimon, who Marcus learned was even stronger than the average Digimon, kept watch over every detail of his domain, making sure that nothing could challenge his claim to power.

Yet it went even further than that. According to Pat, this Digimon was convinced that everyone was out to get him. He used living constructs to do his bidding—creatures without heart or soul, emotion or intuition. They were the perfect soldiers, built only to follow orders. Only when he was in need of spies or subversive agents did he use living Digimon.

But Marcus represented his deepest, most long-abiding fear: Humanity. Long ago, when he had deposed and murdered his predecessor, MagnaGreymon—whom Marcus learned was also exceptionally powerful—he learned of a message, sent off to the human world across space and time. Any humans were to be executed on sight, as were any Digimon caught harboring them.

This recount gave Marcus pause as a lump rose within his throat. He swallowed as he heard the rapping hand at the door become ever more insistent on getting inside. He suddenly had the image of a dozen armed guards rushing in and hosing them down with heavy armament.

Marcus decided to do as Pat suggested, and ducked into the crawlspace. But, whoever was at the door was obviously not are heartless Shutzdramon—the name of the living constructs. He heard the door open and Pat breath a noticeable sigh of relief.

"It's about time," the voice said. It was deep and resonant, but had a wild undertone to it. "It's freezing out there!" He saw the visitor's feet—large, golden furred, and shaggy at the ankles.

Pat breathed again. Mason had nearly given him a heart attack. As his brother, he was the only one who knew of his ties to the resistance. Not only that, but he had ties of his own. The government classified Mason as a terrorist. Certainly not as high up on the list as a human, but the Leomon had a knack for illicit activities.

"What are you doing here?" Mason rarely visited—for the reason that he was constantly under surveillance. The Leomon scrunched up his muzzle in a look that said everything: he needed help, and fast. Pat had only a few contacts in the underground compared to Mason's dozens upon dozens. If he were turning to the ExVeemon for help, it would be as a last resort.

Marcus, meanwhile, took stock of his situation. An object, not much larger than a baseball, but very heavy, lay there under the sofa with him. He could defend himself if necessary—brawling was his business. But against a Digimon, he wondered, would he dare? He wondered if Pat really could protect him. His muscular body seemed strong enough, but he was passive.

The conversation lulled and Marcus held his breath. Finally, he heard Pat speak again. "You can't be here. I've got problems of my own to deal with." Marcus saw the Digimon's tail swish in front of him. "I can't risk exposing myself to help you right now."

Could he even risk telling Mason about Marcus? Pat glanced to the human's hiding spot. Mason was trustworthy, but unpredictable. He may tell the resistance, and if any of them were to be captured, the trail would lead them back to Pat and his partner. Therein laid one of the problems facing the duo.

"You never had that problem before," Mason countered, eyeing his brother warily. The Leomon knew, only too well, how much risk his coming had put on Pat. A scout had almost certainly followed him. The patrols should be arriving any minute. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't serious."

The Leomon had to deliver this kind of news in person. It was their salvation, after all. After all this time. "Someone in the resistance found a human child, somewhere in District Eighteen." As a Digimon, his senses were well attuned to changes in the bio-chemistry of other Digimon. The change that came over Pat hit him, therefore, like a battering ram.

Marcus tensed under the sofa, hearing the news. He saw his partner take a step back. He almost gasped himself, in shock that the same magic that brought him also affected another.

The timbre of Pat's voice had changed noticeably. He was no longer the confident brother giving a scolding to his insolent younger sibling. He resonated with a mix of joy and fear. And try as he might, the dragon could not control his next words: "That's a strange coincidence."

Even if he could have hidden Marcus, the uncontainable swell of excitement in his voice would have given the human away. Pat never did well keeping his emotions in check. It was a weakness he had tried to drill out of himself, but never could. He wondered if it would be a liability someday.

Marcus heard his partner tell him to come out. The human did so without argument, eager to see this Mason. He had thought Digimon, being all made up of the same stuff—like humans—would all look similar. He had never paid much attention in biology, but he knew that all life on Earth shared basically the same genetic sequence.

Thus, it was a look of mutual amazement that passed between him and the Leomon. A man, a head taller than his draconic partner, covered in tan fur, and crowned by a shaggy golden mane, peered down at him. Marcus barely came to the lion's belt-loops. Sure that Mason knew how to use the sword strapped to his back, Marcus decided it would be better off not making an enemy of the lion.

Mason felt much the same. The news of a human child had spread quickly from District Eighteen. The mountaintop cities were no place for fleshlings—what little Digimon knew of them, at least—so the Digimon who found it set off immediately for District Twelve. Never, though, did he consider that he might actually see one of these legendary heroes in person.

Of course, every Digimon loyal to the cause of freedom fantasized about having a human partner. Only a select few would ever have that opportunity. How they were chosen, only the gods knew. But it escaped him completely to think that someone other than him—and of all people, his own brother—could have been chosen for the honor of escorting a human partner.

Finally, he realized that he was gaping at the human and closed his mouth. The human mirrored him, seemingly with the same thought: do not drool. "Where did you find him," he addressed Pat. "Does he have a name?"

"He," Marcus said indignantly, "is right here. And I do have a name." Marcus resisted the urge to give him a boot to the shin. At least Pat had had the decency to address him directly. "Pat mentioned you—briefly."

Again, the furry Digimon looked down at the human. He was feisty. Mason might have liked him had the human not been glaring at him so abysmally. He could see the defiance in his eyes and got the sense that the human gave everyone he encountered trouble. Mason wondered how the good-natured and generally soft-spoken ExVeemon had ended up as his partner.

"Maybe the gods are trying to teach you a lesson," he mumbled to no one in particular. "Whatever the case, this is astounding news! But we have to go." Even as he spoke, the sense of impending doom grew greater in his mind. Step by step, the patrols would undoubtedly be surrounding the building.

Pat would have replied, and Marcus might have had something to say also, except for at that moment, the window through which Pat had been peeking earlier shattered as a flash grenade exploded in their midst. Mason stood dazzled by the searing light as the door burst open and a host of Shutzdramon flooded in.

The key to running any empire, he knew, was surveillance. The rebellion had made a tactical error in letting word of the human child spread so quickly. DoyenGreymon watched the monitor intently as one of his patrols surrounded a stone-façade building. Indeed, their error had been so great that it led him straight to a second human. [Fools.]

To think that they could challenge him? He was a master of covert operations; he knew every trick the resistance had to offer. He had been countering their insurgencies for years, like an endless game of chess. Not a fair game, by any means, as he had unlimited resources, and a brilliant tactical mind. Some might even say he was a genius.

Indeed, he was, by his own admission. Vain though it seemed, DoyenGreymon had successfully out-maneuvered the resistance each time they cropped up. Sometimes it was a narrow victory, as a well-coordinated strike could leave him without key resources in an area—long enough for these insurgents to form an organized rebellion. More often than not, however, it was a rout.

It amused him to toy with their hopes. Sometimes he would purposely let them achieve a small victory, just to dash it later. The pleasure derived from exterminating rebels almost rivaled that of his captives' interrogations. Not only had DoyenGreymon developed as a tactician and strategist, but he had also learned the fine art of torture: to inflict enough pain to leave a victim conscious and alert, but enough to persuade them to give up any information in the hope of a mercifully swift execution later.

Not that he ever showed mercy.

The Digimon leaned his thin frame over the consol. Without his armor, he seemed much less intimidating. But it belied his true strength. Throughout the years he had suffered many scars, and had many segments of his body replaced with mechanical prosthetics, to the point where he required his helmet at all times just to breath. Tubes ran from it, down to his chest, where they attached to his lungs. More tubes ran from torso to limb, feeding blood and vital nutrients to his machine parts.

Donning his armor, he was a vision from a nightmare. Crimson armor, polished to a shine, and his acid-yellow eyes peeking from beneath his lidded helmet, collapsed most Digimon into heaps of blathering flesh at the mere sight. All knew him, and all feared him. That was his mark, his empire.

The monitor flashed with unexpected brilliance, blinding him. He blinked, then frowned beneath his helmet after his eyes readjusted. There were supposed to be three of them there…

Marcus tried to blink, but found himself unable. He tried to move, and could not. His body refused to respond. But he felt dizzy, and then noticed the towering height from which he gazed at Pat's apartment. He tried to speak, and managed a gasp when he finally, fully, realized what had just taken place.

A giant metal horn sprouted from a blue muzzle, which moved of its own accord. Marcus's vision was from the perspective of his draconic partner. [Holy hell! What happened?]

Suddenly he started moving, again not of his own will. No reply came, as he felt a presence with him, instructing their shared form to do its bidding. There was no time for an explanation. He saw, and then felt, his fist collide with the nearest Digimon to him. Its white, plastic armor crumpled and its gas-mask helmet shattered with the impact.

The vaguely draconic Shutzdramon deflated instantly with a ghoulish hiss and another one took its place. Drawing a pistol attached to large canister mounted on its back, the soldier-Digimon attacked, shouting its attack, "Gestapo Pistol," in a disconcertingly mechanical voice.

Mason answered back with a shout twice as loud and a punch even harder than his brother's. A burst of fire streamed from him as he called the attack, "Fist of the Beast King!" The mindless mechanic vaporized immediately. The attack incinerated two more Shutzdramon still pressing to get through the broken door.

It gave both Mason and the shared form of Pat and Marcus time to escape outside, where restriction of movement was no longer an issue. Pat spread their wings wide and shouted his own attack, "Vee Laser!" Marcus felt the energy swell within them, then burst out of the x-shaped marking on their chest.

Mason had his sword out now, hacking the white plastic suits to bits with wild leaps and powerful lunges. Pat made a flying kick in the same fashion and landed them square atop the suit's chest.

"What are you doing? Go!" Mason called over the din. The ExVeemon carried with him precious cargo. The time wasted on demolishing a few mindless flunkies was nothing compared to the greater whole. Mason shouted again, urging his brother to flee, before launching another salvo of flaming fists.

Marcus, unable to do anything, but shout at his partner mentally, saw the logic in Mason's command. He, too, urged Pat to flee. He heard a mental sight deep within the shared recesses of their minds, and then felt his partner spread their wings and take flight. Several volleys of laser fire arced up at them as they fled, and left Mason behind to fend for himself.

Jerry roused from his slumber and found himself to be inexplicably taller, moving, and surrounded by what looked to be a desert caravan. He looked to his left and saw teams of four-legged beasts driving large trailers, filled with crates and piloted by what he assumed were digital monsters—much like the one he had met earlier. He wondered where Mech was.

[I am here, Jerry,] the perfectly modulated electronic voice announced. [Word of your arrival spread quickly in the resistance, Jerry. We are traveling to another district of the Digital World.]

The human almost breathed a sigh of relief. It was then that he caught sight of a metallic gleam where there should not have been, and looked down. In place of his tall, athletic body, a three-pronged claw, attached to the hulking form of a mechanical dragon, greeted him with heavy footfalls as his body continued to move of its own accord.

Mech thought subtlety to be the best option, given their current situation. Before Jerry could take a breath, the Digimon exerted his iron will and clamped down the urge his human felt. Given their first encounter, the advantage of hosting the human's consciousness gave him the ability to stop the panic before it set in—something for which he was thankful.

As a rule, Mech kept a low profile. The caravan with which he currently traveled was looked like a traveling market. Many such things existed, traversing from town to town, between cities all over the Digital World. His traveling with such a convoy would arouse no suspicions. However, the fact that he owned the trading cartel in question was one that escaped the attention of even the most studious of foes.

As he told Jerry this story, the human quietly listened, his silent amazement growing more and more. The living machine, who, by now, Jerry had learned was a key benefactor to the resistance movement, came by his riches many years ago during the coup that overthrew the former monarchy. With them, he bought and sold commodities, which in turn brought him into more wealth.

Mech was a businessman, shrewd and calculating. He found the life be perfectly suited to him. His programming allowed him to run through many possible scenarios at a time, and calculate the odds of success. By nature, he was drawn to the life. He was, after all, a machine.

But it was curious, especially to him, how he had developed a conscience. After witnessing the atrocities of the revolution, his solitude gave him time to think. Somehow, even without having a heart, he had been touched, aggrieved, even insulted by the treatment of prisoners. Something inside him recoiled at the thought.

[So you came out of hiding to help?] Jerry had gradually settled down, and now looked in wonderment at his partner's massive frame. The vantage point afforded him gave him a view of the entire procession, some one thousand strong. [Were you programmed to have a conscience?]

The human felt his head shake.

[No.]

There was a touch of guilt to the answer. It was strange, he decided, to feel the emotions of another being so deeply. He wondered what could have provoked such a guilty response if all Mech had done was hide during the war. Once again, it seemed like his partner was hiding the truth.

[How did you come by it, then?] Jerry asked, realizing he had let his mind wander. Then he wondered if Mech knew what he was thinking, and decided no. If the Digimon could hide his secrets so well, it was unlikely that he could penetrate Jerry's inner thoughts.

Mech did not usually share his personal information with others. Whether it was for fear of it catching up with him, or that he preferred to remain as professional as possible, he had never been able to decide. Even now, he felt the temptation to retreat back to his stoic persona.

But this human… He considered the matter intensely. How could such a small specimen—no, specimen was not the right term. How could such a small, seeming insignificant—friend, person, fleshling?—be so disconcerting as to throw off his mental balance? He wanted to remain at arms-length of Jerry. Emotional attachment was an alien concept.

He had dealt with his attachment to the resistance movement. He reasoned that if he were to help the cause, it would benefit the whole of the Digital World, and therefore benefit him. The calculations and simulations all came to the same conclusion: it was a financially sound investment.

But Jerry—his mind reeled at the thought. He had known this human for so few hours, and yet his incessant questions filled Mech with his own queries that, until now, he had never even thought to ask. How had he developed a conscience, a heart, so to speak, if his programing dictated otherwise? How was it that he had begun to experience emotions, when he was only designed to be so much?

How did Mech ever exceed those limitations? And why did he care? He had stumbled upon the human in an alley, unconscious and half-frozen. Of course, his research into the resistance led him inevitably to the legends spawned by MagnaGreymon's last words. "They will come" was a phrase often uttered with hope by the denizens of the Digital World. He dismissed it as mere folklore, though, and brushed it from his memory like a piece of dust from chrome armor.

Yet when he saw the human, knowing exactly what it was—for what else could he have been?—he knew he was destined to save the child's life. He had expected Jerry to be fearful at first, and then grateful later for the deed. But he had failed to considered that the boy might care for him as a friend. Somehow, though, that was the outcome. The human's questioning of Mech's past, his ideals, was proof of that.

It forced the Digimon to admit to himself, finally, that it was for more than just his financial stake that he helped the resistance. He blinded himself to the fact that his caravan was made up almost entirely of freed slaves. He bought them out of compassion, to relieve their suffering, then gave them work, room and board, food, and then gave them their fair wages on top of that. Any of them had the option to leave.

So why did they stay? No one ever called him master. He did not own them. But they called him Sir, and they were happy to continue working, applying their strengths and weakness wherever he deemed them necessary. He evaluated their specialties, gave them education where they lacked it.

Of course, it was financial gain. He ran a business, not a charity. Nevertheless, he felt a desire to help them, even if it were at his expense. He could easily have hired from the current labor pool. The simulations showed no discernible difference in productivity. Yet one way or another, it would have been different, he reasoned.

[Mech?] Jerry queried, wondering about his partner's long silence. If it were possible, he would have gave his metal head a rap on the noggin to snap the mechanical Digimon out of his trance. [Mech? Are you all right?]

[Yes,] he said at last. [Forgive me, Jerry. I was running some calculations.] In a sense, it was the truth. Half-truths came almost easy to him. But again, he felt the taint of remorse, telling that to his partner. He tried to shake it off. [What was your question? How did I develop a heart?]

Jerry answered positively, going into the details of his question. The how and the why always interested the human. The knowing of a person, his motivations and dreams, translated to his thought processes as character research. By knowing real people, and learning about them, he could better create his characters.

[I believe it was a malfunction,] Mech stated simply.

A malfunction? Did Mech really believe that, Jerry wondered to himself. How could he, when all of what he created, he also designed to aid in the defense of freedom? Self-sacrifice was a choice. He refused to believe it, and once more had the feeling that Mech was deceiving him.

Jerry questioned his partner on this too. The reply was ambiguous at best. Mech claimed financial gain, but sounded doubtful as to the truth of it, as if he was trying to convince himself as well. Mech's story, though, appealed to Jerry. Not just his ability to tell the story, but the tale itself engaged the human.

Here was someone whom Jerry could admire for more than just his accomplishments. The boy's father was a masterful lawyer and a man of integrity—a living conundrum by most opinions. Jerry was proud of him. The man was blind, though. Jared Young Senior spent so much time trying to lead by example, that he though the only right way, was his way.

Jared Young Junior disagreed. He found the practice of law an admirable profession, but lacked the enthusiasm to pursue it. Jerry's passion came from language—the formation of words into sentences, striking the right tone to invoke a certain emotion from a reader. Peers and teachers received his forays into the literary arts well. At only seventeen, he had completed every literature and language arts course his school offered.

Now he was onto self-teaching, putting his work out over the internet for his fellow writers all over the world to read. He spent a lot of time on his craft; forsaking food and drink, and even sleep sometimes, getting to know his characters and crafting their legends. That was why Mech's tale held him so. He felt himself drawn into one such story—one of strife, struggle and heroism.

He felt like a character from his own story.

A sudden announcement by his partner finally snapped him back to reality. Realizing that Jerry had drifted off, as he had previously, Mech repeated his message. [The sun will be setting soon, and it is not safe to travel at night. We will pitch camp here for the time being.]

Pat and Marcus sat perched atop the central city's wall. They had managed, thankfully, to outwit and outrun the patrols. Behind them, the city lights glowed, and before them, the thin band of oasis that ran around the city gave way to desert after only a hundred yards. They looked back. A tower, high and menacing loomed black in the heart of the metropolis.

"What is that place," Marcus asked, hearing the strangeness of his words. He spoke using the Digimon's deep bass. He would never get used to sharing a body, he decided.

"That's the palace complex," Pat replied in the same voice. It was his former place of employment, where he had worked safely from the shadows. That was over, now, he knew. The instant he had discovered Marcus, he knew he would have to leave his life behind. His regret was almost tangible.

Then there was Mason. [You're sure Mason is okay,] Marcus asked him. He did not know why, but he felt compassion for the Leomon. He might have given his life so that the two of them could escape. No one had ever given anything for Marcus, let alone a life. Could he really be that important?

"He's a strong fighter," Pat said. "And he's been in tougher scrapes than that." But even he wondered if the odds were too great. The two were opposites in almost every way. Pat chose a studious, book-wise life. He was no fighter. It should have been Mason to take up the role of Marcus's partner.

He was the warrior in the family. The lion-man spent his whole life scraping with others, testing his mettle, and butting heads. Why had the gods chosen him? Why? He hated the government, what they did, the terror they inflicted. But was the wrong man for the job. If it were not for the fact that he was a fully evolved Digimon, he doubted he could have made a dent in the ranks of those Shutzdramon.

What if they had been stronger? He had a hard time imagining him taking on an ultimate level Digimon, even if it were just him. But he had seen Mason fight before. With his sword drawn, its flaming tip slicing up enemies, Mason was nearly unstoppable. In the first few moments of the fight, he had taken down several of the attackers with just one of his attacks…

Marcus was different though. He had felt the burst of energy release from their attack. It was incredible. "You weren't so bad yourself," he said, genuinely amazed at the power behind his partner. How is it that he refused to use that against this evil he railed against?

"I'm no fighter, Marcus," came the answer. He sounded pathetic, even to himself. "Do you have book smart people in your world?" Yes, of course there were. Marcus was the other type, though, and had never really known any. "You know one now, then. The same two kinds of people exist here. There are Digimon that devote themselves to fighting—whether it's for a cause, or just for the thrill of exchanging blows with the best of them, they fight."

Mason. Most in the resistance were that type. They had to be, or else the government would hunt them to extinction. "Then there are Digimon like me. I look strong on the outside—maybe even unbeatable to a human—but if I were to try and fight in earnest, I would be killed outright. We survive by cunning and wit, by staying in the shadows and using our intelligence to undermine the authorities."

Was he serious? Maybe he had not noticed, but Mason looked almost astonished to see his brother release an energy beam that powerful. Marcus had no experience in the matter of Digimon attacks, but he knew potential when he saw it. And in this case, he had felt it firsthand. Given the proper motivation, anyone could beat the odds.

Inwardly he smiled. Maybe that was his role here. Honestly, he doubted he could save the world. That was too big a job for anyone, even someone as confident as he was. The wisest of men would not attempt it. They would tackle the problems around them, and hope their small effort contributed to a greater whole. So it was with Marcus, that he decided to give his Digimon something he had never given before.

[I think you could do it,] he told Pat. [You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. Even Mason saw it.] Between the two of them, he and Mason, they ought to be able to tell if someone had the right stuff. Marcus was the best human brawler he could think of, and Mason was his Digimon equivalent. "We're experts, you know."

"You're so self-important, Pat!" Mason's bright tenor sounded from below. "Get down here! You're making yourself a target!" When the two looked down, sure enough, the Leomon stood out in stark contrast to the dark foliage of the oasis belt.

The ExVeemon glided silently to the ground. He smiled, unable to express the joy he felt. Fortunately, he had Marcus there to express something. "You're still alive? We didn't expect to see you again."

"We? Where's the human?" Mason had lost sight of him when the fighting began. But when Pat had managed to escape, he would have assumed the human was with him. Most of the patrol had followed his brother, leaving Mason only a smattering of white plastic suits to deal with.

Pat clamped down on Marcus, refusing to let him speak again. "Forgive him," Pat said, sounding more like himself. "He's… inside me…" Even he thought it sounded strange. He might talk himself to death trying to explain what happened, but the two involved could hardly fathom it.

"You ate him!"

Ate him? What? "No! Are you crazy?" Pat was taken aback by the accusation, genuinely disgusted at the thought. He loved meat, and briefly considered it as a solution to Marcus's initial attitude. But concern for his world won out over annoyance. "Don't be ridiculous!"

"Then where is he?"

Pat shrugged his shoulders as he said, "He's inside me. I don't know how it happened, but somehow, when the fighting started, his voice was in my head and his body was nowhere to be found." Then again, he had not looked either. For all they knew, Marcus's body was nothing more than a bloody corpse back at the apartment. Just his consciousness may have survived.

The thought did not appeal to Marcus at all. [Wait? We might be stuck like this?] He began shaking their head, putting their hands over their eyes. The three-fingered claws filled his vision and he shut their eyes to block it out. [We can't be stuck like this. It's not possible!]

Mason took a step back, wondering who was in control of this strange behavior. He knew his brother to have attacks of nervousness, sometimes at the most inopportune times. But it may well have been the human, wallowing in his own string of fears and insecurities.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

Pat took back control of his body, though sometimes he twitched with Marcus's emotions roiling inside him. "He's worried we might be stuck like this. I can't say I blame him." [I can feel your anxiety, Marcus. I'm sure it isn't permanent.] Destiny was not as cruel as that, and the gods would never ask for such a sacrifice. Maybe they would ask for his life and body, but not someone's whom they had dragged into this unwillingly.

It mattered little now. The deed had been done, and like it or not, Marcus and Pat were a part of each other. Whether the gods wrote it in the stars, or if it were a fluke chance, the human found himself inextricably bound to his partner. While he hoped it was only a temporary arrangement, though, he could not help think of the experiences he was having. Already he had taken flight under his own strength, had given a squad of fighting machines a run for their money, and started a revolution.

The question now was where to go. Mason was quick to provide the answer—District Twelve. Out over the desert, far to the east where the climate was ideal for growing, the twelfth district dealt primarily with growing food supplies to feed DoyenGreymon's ever-growing industrial machine.

"District Twelve is all farmland," Mason said, turning to the east. He had been on the move since early morning, and it looked as if there were no rest in sight. It was normally two-day's journey to the only major city in the vicinity. But they could cut that time in half by cutting out rest stops. If they traveled at maximum speed throughout the night, they could be there by late afternoon the next day.

That was if Pat could last the whole way. Mason suffered no illusions that his brother lacked the same stamina as he. And then there was the matter of the human, who would undoubtedly complain the whole way. "We had best be getting a move on," he said. "The patrols will know we got away."

"They'll know where we're going, too," Marcus reasoned.

[It's a long way,] Pat warned him.

The human only smiled. If there were one thing he excelled at other than fisticuffs, it was endurance. [Besides that, I figure one of us can sleep while the other walks, and we can trade off every once and a while.] Clearly, his partner had not thought of that. [Since I've had the most rest out of us, I volunteer to take the first shift.]

Pat was grateful, though he was unsure if Marcus was being kind, or if it were purely out of pragmatism. He suspected a little of both. The human, he decided was a conundrum. He spoke of fighting and self-reliance, needing no one and having little respect for anyone but himself. Yet he constantly surprised Pat with flashes of insight and empathy. Marcus, in some strange way, had begun to grow on him.

Putting aside the literal truth of it, Pat wondered, too, if their meeting of minds was a permanent fixture. If it they separated somehow, would Marcus abandon him and his cause to search for a way home? After all, his current kindness may only have been out of necessity.

What good would it do him to doubt his partner, though? He tried to brush away the uncertainty. Marcus would not leave. He could not leave. There was no way home, so far as either of them knew. Moreover, even if there were, Marcus, before they merged, had agreed to stay and fight. That proved it, did it not?

Pat wished he knew.

Fin