The Last Temptation of Marcus Gray
He moaned, wincing as he moved opened his eyes. He had known a sound beating or two in his life, but he had never woken up from one with such a killing headache. Everything down to his bones hurt. His right arm hurt extra and as he reached to grab something to pull himself up by, he had the presence of mind to realize that his shoulder, though sore, was functional again.
Pat! The prison… and their failed rescue attempt. His mind cleared, and the light grew less dazzling, his surroundings more coalescent. He sat on something soft, padded and obviously too large to have been designed for human occupants. He was still in the Digital World. But in the prison? The room was lit comfortably—it was dark outside now, he noticed. And he smelled food, hot food. He reached for the tray and its contents.
Something felt strange, though, like someone was watching him. He felt like a lab experiment in some sort of cage. Slowly, he retracted his hand and took stock of his situation. He was alone—seemingly, at least—in the Digital World. Pat was probably being held somewhere below him. There! Movement; out of the corner of his eye he spotted a camera, well hidden but for his suspicions and wandering eyes.
He stared into it, putting as much defiance into his expression as he could manage. Then a door slid open, letting in a chilly breeze, and promptly swished closed again. He shuddered involuntarily, more from the Digimon who had entered than from the icy breath from the prison.
"You certainly did a number on my guards," it said, eyeing Marcus. The human, in return, leveled his gaze on DoyenGreymon. The fool actually thought he could face down a mega level Digimon? Laughable. But he must be wary. No one knew the true extent of the humans' powers; even if they appeared weak, he had still bested several of his guards without the help of his partner. "I'm quite impressed," he said darkly.
Marcus glared. The Digimon was obviously in charge, and he felt a certain strength emanating from the armored figure. He stood only just taller than Pat had, body covered in metallic implants and crimson armor. Without asking he knew the Digimon's name, and his purpose. He was responsible for all the turmoil he had seen—the barrenness of the deserts, the empty shops and streets, the ravaged slave hands tending fields that bore no crops.
"You must be DoyenGreymon."
He stared back, almost admiring the nerve of this gangly looking human. Yes, it was true; he was indeed responsible for the wasteland surrounding District Twelve. The boy was observant—a good quality, if he were not human. DoyenGreymon nodded once, a wicked gleam in his eye.
"Don't trust all the rumors you hear about me," he said, taking a seat across from Marcus. "I'm a fair man, and a practical one." He tapped his claw against the wooden arm of his chair, still staring intently at the human. "I have no quarrel with you and your company. I only desire to maintain the peace and security of my dominion."
Marcus sneered. He had once heard a salesman making a pitch for a used car. The same tone, inflection, and silky strings of words oozed from the Digimon across from him. Like a spider spinning its web, this creature spun a fabricated version of his world's history. Even as he continued to speak, Marcus could picture the vast, tangled web in his mind. Only a single thread had to break to unravel it all.
He need only find it.
"And," DoyenGreymon concluded, "you can see I mean you no harm." He raised a brow. The human's concerted expression gave him pause. Perhaps the boy was smarter than he thought? He saw through the deception. "Do you not see? I am offering you a way home. All you have to do is leave."
Home? Wait, what? Marcus found his attention glued to the armored Digimon. He had a way home? The others would jump at the chance, he thought. Alice certainly would—after what he learned of her situation back home, how could he refuse? Yet, something still smelled sour. There was a catch in there somewhere; he felt it.
The snake-oil still flowed, the car-salesman still had yet to make his sale. DoyenGreymon still smiled peaceably, but his true nature seeped through. There as an edge to his voice, like the blade of a knife. Marcus felt he was balancing on that threshold, that any slip would be the death of him.
Play it cool, he told himself. Feign interest. "You can get us home," he asked, hoping he sounded just eager enough. Not that he needed to go home. What would be waiting for him but more modest expectations and faulty assumptions? Besides that, he had already given Pat his word. "How? Pat told me there was no way to get me home. He's a smart guy."
"Not in these matters, I suspect," the mega told him. In truth, that foolish Digimon would be undergoing a multitude of tortures, picking his brain for information during the few moments between horrors where his mind would be lucid. "He lacks that intrinsic knowledge of time and space."
Marcus narrowed his eyes, spying a hint of the dragon's true nature at last. "He was intelligent enough to make a fool out of you." That was right. Push his buttons, the human knew, and everything would collapse. Marcus understood him. "You and I are a lot alike. Smart, in our own way. Not on the books, but heavy on the fist. We can talk our way out of a rough situation, lie to get what we want."
A moment of genuine admiration dawned on DoyenGreymon just then. There was indeed something to be said for the human race. Pathetic as they were, they were at least perceptive. He liked this boy, to an extent. It would be a shame to kill him later. He sighed and resigned himself to it. That was the fate of anyone who crossed him. No matter. He would destroy them all and then forget about them.
"We are very similar indeed," he said. "But I am telling you the truth. I can send you and your human companions home with the mere push of a button. I just need to know one thing."
"They're location?" Marcus guessed, startling the Digimon. "You're going to tell me you need to know where they are so that you can send us all home. Either that, or lure them out. Pat and I are the bait."
Oh, so close, little human. "There is no bait. As we speak, your—partner—is being examined and questioned. He'll be set free as soon as we're finished with him. And you? Go about your business. Stay, go? Why does it matter to me?"
Now that was a good question. Why did it matter? What was his game? And, without waiting for Marcus to ask, he answered the question. "I see it on your face, little one. Your presence here disturbs my kingdom. The disruptive elements in our society latch on to the chaos you bring and use it to bring further disorder to our law-abiding citizens. That is why you must go.
"Our world, as I said, is one of order. Many Digimon are content with the way things are. They wish to see stability. For that dream to be realized, I must quash this rebellion before it starts. By doing it swiftly, I will save lives. These can include your friends."
The human had to fight down his revulsion and swallowed the bile that had been flung into his mouth. He made a face of disgust in reaction, though it passed quickly. This guy was nothing more than a self-righteous authoritarian. With a hint of megalomania, he decided.
Marcus felt sure that the dragon knew his thoughts. He could see the frustration mounting, his patience wearing thin. How long had he been in this room? It had been hours since he had parted ways with Mason, and maybe as long since he had been dragged away from his partner.
Time was precious, he realized. DoyenGreymon had sent his patrols searching every inch of the city. It would only be a matter of time before he found them. How could he end this quickly? How would he escape? From what Pat had told him, this guy was the most powerful Digimon out there. And he knew how to pick battles.
If he were to fight, it would have to be with Pat. Damn! he cursed himself. How could he have been so stupid? He had to sweet-talk his way out—something he had never been shown any talent in doing. Despite this, he pressed forward. "Can I have some time to think it over? Talk it over with the others, maybe?"
The corners of his mouth twitched in frustration. DoyenGreymon felt his patience slipping away from him. This human was making things far more difficult than they need be. Then again, it might be easier to have them all in one place, rather than having to hunt them down individually. Oh yes. That was a capital idea. It would save him from having to split his resources in the unlikely event that someone else would take advantage of his wandering patrols. He would keep his forces consolidated.
"Why yes," he said, smoothing out his irritated frown. "I would not dream of having you make a decision unilaterally like that! This is something that you and your comrades must decide together." He held out a massive claw to the human. The archaic customs of those humans were laughable. As if his word meant anything. "I believe it is a custom of your kind to 'shake' on a deal?"
Shake? Marcus balled his left fist. This was his chance. He extended his right hand, arm still throbbing from the beating he had taken earlier. "Do you know much about humans?" he asked, feeling his muscles tighten like wound-up springs. Marcus did not bother waiting for an answer. Instead he pulled DoyenGreymon close down to him and brought his left fist careening into the dragon's jaw. "We aren't as naïve as you think!"
The mega had no time to react, taken by surprise from the sudden jerking motion. There was a crack, his vision swam and he tasted blood. Then another bang and he felt a heavy metal object collide with is head.
Marcus grabbed the tray next to him and walloped the Digimon, spinning him round and leaving him on the floor. He turned, and as swiftly as he could manage, slipped out the same passage that DoyenGreymon had entered by. The corridor was narrow, even to Marcus, and lead downward along a steep set of stairs to a panel that slid open when he approached it.
He recognized an intersection, the aisle ahead of him leading to the main entrance. The smell of rot greeted him like a punch to his face. Still, it was a far cry from the stink of his captor's lies. He turned the corner, eyeing the cages for movement. Nothing but a dark slit in each door met him—not a single pair of eyes or any kind of voice. Either they were empty, or dead.
How could he have left his partner? Pat had saved him, twice that he knew of. And Marcus had just given up? He could have fought harder! He felt an infuriating sense of helplessness—something he had never experienced. In the human world, he could always rely on himself, and get out of a tight spot. He had certainly never had to worry about anyone else.
Now, and he felt a hot wetness building behind his eyes, he did. He worried. The end of the passage drew near and he banged on the panel belonging to the elevator. The door slid open and two guards looked down at him, automatically reaching for their weapons. Marcus clenched his fist once and gritted his teeth as pain racked his sore shoulder. The suit collapsed and the human grabbed a falling piece of armor and swung it hard at the other suit, caving it in as well.
The door hissed shut behind him and he went down, picking up one of the pistols the guards had carried. Two more watched the door at the bottom of the shaft. He subdued them quickly with an electric zap from the pistol.
There he was! The glass panels at the end of the passageway barred entry into the laboratory where his partner lay, unconscious. Two more guards, one of them a mechanical monstrosity even larger than the Shutzdramon, looked as though they were preparing to wake him.
No! He banged on the panels, bringing the guards' attention to him. The larger one looked at him and its eyes flashed red once, then began to fill a syringe with colored fluid. The other came toward him, opening the panel and reached for him. Marcus brought the pistol to bear and fired, then entered the chamber, not even waiting for the suit of armor to hit the floor.
The other stopped, stared, and then reached for him. Marcus only just managed to lift his weapon and fire. It screeched in an electric voice. Marcus fired again, ramming the barrel into its chest. The artificial Digimon collapsed in a heap of ruined parts, circuits smoldering.
"Pat!" the human shouted. His head barely reached to the height of the table that the ExVeemon lay strapped to. "Pat, get up!" He reached around the base of the table, spying a lever and pulled. It lowered at once, nearly knocking him out with the violent movement. Damn it you stupid dragon! Get up! Then his heart skipped a beat as his partner's claw twitched. Then his tail, and slowly the Digimon opened his eyes. Slowly, deliberately, he turned his head.
"Say something," Marcus said. "Anything."
"What's all the racket?"
His voice sounded weak. And why would it be otherwise, Marcus wondered. He looked over his partner. They had tortured him—burns covered his body, cuts made with surgical precision. Some of them looked like acid burns. "I'm gonna get you out of here," Marcus told him, setting to work on the straps.
Pat pushed himself up, swinging his legs off the table, and looked down at the human. Everything was foggy. He moaned—his body ached all over, and stung where he touched the red, mottled patches of his hide. Where was he? The two artificial Digimon startled him as he caught sight of their ruined forms. Guards?
The prison? And… "Marcus!" What had he done? The guards—they were gone, nothing more than empty pieces of armor. What had he done? The last he remembered was the human being dragged away from him, kicking, screaming. "What's going on?" He grabbed his sore head.
"Prison break," Marcus said curtly. He looked behind him. "We don't have a lot of time. That Greymon guy is gonna wake up soon, and when he does, he'll be mad. Can you walk?"
Greymon? DoyenGreymon! He stood, swayed, and planted a hand firmly on Marcus's shoulder. The human gasped at the grip, but said nothing. Maybe they could merge. That would make escaping far easier. But he felt so weak. He would do nothing but drag his partner down. "You need to go," Pat told him. "I'm weak, I'll slow you down."
Marcus humphed at him once. "You expect me to start listening now?" He put an arm around his partner's waist, steadying them both. He had another thing coming if he thought Marcus would abandon him now. Not after all he just went through to find him. "What kind of partner would I be if I let you down now," he asked. "And anyway, we have to get to the others."
The others? What others? He shook his head, trying to reassert his senses. Yes, the others. Now he remembered. They were supposed to meet at the city wall to make for the resistance. He hoped Mason had made it back safely. He should have. But the Leomon had more guts than common sense.
Together, they took a step, then another. Pat felt sluggish—his human partner could sense his pain, even as they continued slowly toward the elevator. That was when the alarms began to blare, warning the prison of an attempted escape. "We need to move faster," Marcus insisted, struggling to support his ailing Digimon.
Pat nodded, the mind-effecting drugs still working. He had to focus. His partner was in danger—if he were to be killed, there would be no hope for the Digital World at all. Focus, he told himself, closing his eyes tightly. He felt a tingling sensation, and then a piercing light in the mists that clouded his thoughts. Marcus?
That's right, buddy, the human told him.
A new strength flowed through him, but it felt distant, intangible. He still tried to plod forward, but stumbled, and fell to one knee. He had to keep going. Protecting Marcus was his primary concern. Fight, he chided himself. Be strong, like your brother. That's why they chose you, he told himself. Keep going!
Suddenly they stopped, Marcus seizing control of their shared body. You rest. Now he felt the muddled senses, the daze and confusion. What had they done to him? Certainly there had been physical torture, but he had not fully anticipated other means of interrogation. I'll get us out of here, he said.
He grabbed the pistol, which had fallen to the floor when his body disappeared. All of their limbs hurt, and he stumbled once as he felt his Digimon release control to him. He could do this. He had to. Marcus moved forward, relying on his own will, rather than the reserves of strength that Pat normally lent him.
The elevator door opened. He threw a fist into the face of the first guard to step out, then zapped the other with the pistol. It jarred him, sending a shock of pain through the arm and up his shoulder. No matter, he told himself. This was the easy part. The door closed and he took the lift up to the main floor. More guards greeted them, a squad of eight plastic suits, pistols at the ready.
"Vee-Laser!" He remembered the technique from their first battle. It blinded three Shutzdramon, and the burst of energy vaporized the rest of them. Marcus took the pistol and blasted at one, marching forward and taking the butt-end of the weapon, driving it into the mask of a second. The third, he smashed into the wall, ramming considerable girth into it.
This was too easy. The front gate opened—no one met them. There should have been more guards—unless they had been sent to the base. Had Pat told them anything? He eyed the wall and then took a running start, leaping into the air and kicking up dust with a powerful gust from their wings. He had to get there.
The two landed outside the Kellogg. The front door stood ajar, the lights blazing, loud music pouring from the open portal. It looked as if it were business as usual, though he had no idea what a Digimon night club might look like. The day before, they had been taken around to the back door, a hole in the wall almost blended in with the tan masonry except for the latch.
I'm going to see if they're still here, Marcus told his partner. He circled back, sticking to the dark allies. A full moon had risen above the horizon, casting a bright glow that reflected harshly off the desert sands. He stopped short at the last corner, the Digimon senses picking up muffled, mechanical voices. More plastic suits, he thought, peeking around the corner. There, two of the Shutzdramon stood, one speaking into a communications device.
"Negative," it said, its buzzing voice a shrill contrast to the cool evening air. "The secret entrance led to nothing—it is abandoned."
Pat! He almost shouted his partner's name. They're still out there. Which way is the city wall? The Digimon roused, still confused, but lucid enough to know the human's voice. He questioned Marcus about the racket he was making. Focus, Pat. Where are they headed?
"Uh…" he moaned, lifting a claw. Where were they? This was not District One. His apartment should have been two or three blocks the other way. But wait? What? Marcus had not asked about his apartment—this was District Twelve. District Twelve? Oh, his head hurt. Focus. The Kellogg? Right… he lifted his claw again and pointed. That way. I think that's right, he told his partner.
Marcus felt a pang of frustration. It resonated with his partner, feeling a helpless sense of utter uselessness. Marcus had been asleep as they entered the city. Not knowing which direction they had come from, he might as well have been a blind man on a merry-go-round. And Pat? He had to trust his partner.
I need you, Marcus told him. Just stay with me a little longer.
They had waited nearly four hours. Mason arrived shortly after the noon hour, panting and out of breath, telling them to pack it up and move out. He carried a pack of supplies that looked as if it might crush him any moment, prompting the others to relieve him of it before he collapsed.
There had been no explanation, no time to explain. Simply follow him. Jerry scrutinized the leonine monster carefully. He bore a bloody lip and his arm had swollen up, as if he had been in some sort of rough-and-tumble exercise. Likely a scuffle with Marcus, he thought with annoyance.
"I was followed," he panted. Pack it up, Darius had ordered immediately after. The MetalGreymon moved hastily, in and out of the main establishment, conducting last minute business, while the others worked like mad to divvy out supplies appropriate to who could carry what.
Mason was given leave to sit, rest, and eat something. He refused, much to Jerry's surprise. He was almost as machine-minded as his partner, once he got going. "You need to conserve your strength," he and Mech had said. "It is a long journey ahead, and you have already exerted enough of yourself."
"I'll rest when I'm dead," the Leomon replied, glancing over his shoulder as he prepared another bundle. They did not understand. DoyenGreymon was coming. Not just to capture them, he knew, but to kill them. "Pat and Marcus will meet us at the wall," he informed them. "Hopefully."
That had been hours ago, now. Jerry had merged with Mech before leaving, and volunteered them to take the first watch. The sun set, the moon rose, and Mech's unique optics allowed them to scan in any direction for the familiar data core of the ExVeemon. So far, nothing had turned up.
Do you think they're alright, he asked Mech.
The mechanical Digimon hummed to life, calculating. The results were not encouraging. The Leomon's information, assuming it was accurate, painted a bleak picture. Breaking into the prison would be easy enough, but breaking out again would be statistically impossible. Even he would have trouble penetrating the outer perimeter.
He sensed the growing anxiety in his partner. The human had not particularly liked Marcus, nor had he been fond of Patrick. Their plan had been foolhardy at best, and his machine-like mind failed to comprehend the rationale behind it. Then again—and he thought of Jerry—he might have done the same thing if his partner were in need.
Now the question was, would he lie to his partner? Deceit was in his programming, and he had become adept at it. But the fleshling had a confounding ability to know when Mech lied, or omitted information. Besides that, it bothered him when he misled the human.
It is unlikely, he replied at length.
And even if they were, Jerry knew, they would be followed. The great flight across the desert was only the beginning. They would likely be running for the rest of their lives, never ceasing until they were either captured or destroyed. We have to hope, he thought, knowing how irrational it sounded. It was stupid to try it, but that's how they got into this resistance in the first place.
Mech rumbled his assent. Far be it from him to question his partner. He had been right on many occasions so far—especially his judgment of individuals. He could judge potential, stability and statistics, but not people. It was a skill he had not yet acquired, not one in his programming. But this human knew, and it had proved a powerful asset. You may very well be correct. Simulations do not account for everything.
Indeed they did not, he realized. A shadow, approaching from the west, caught his attention. It was a thin, wiry shape that his visual systems did not quite account for until he was able to pick out more detail. It was erratic, though, as if the flier had been injured—or was new to the business of aviation.
Marcus landed in a heap and rolled to a stop five yards from the metal giant. He lifted their head once, groaned, and collapsed. He's hurt, Jerry urged. Mech slid their monstrous claw under the limp body and slung the Digimon over their shoulder. It looks like he was tortured.
I am picking up unusual levels of mind-altering chemicals as well, Mech replied, taking care to handle the champion gently. They must move quickly, then, he decided, and made for the sleeping forms of the other Digimon. I know where there is sanctuary. But we must leave now.