Chapter One: The Mysterious Appearance of the Small, Furry Blob
Thalia Lewis-Wolfe, called Tally by close friends and people who wanted to annoy her, sat silently at her desk, leaning her cheek against her left fist in grim contemplation. The object of her gaze was was not the computer screen, as anyone who happened to lean in the door might assume, though that was a subject of interest in and of itself. It flickered mockingly at her, offering absolutely no explanation for what had just happened.
She had walked away -- turned her back on the computer -- for perhaps three seconds, poking her head out of her small office (which was, in truth, a former janitor's closet) to bellow at a co-worker, when the screen had flashed. She had turned around, worried that her worthless monitor had blown out, to discover -- that -- sitting on her paperwork.
Thoroughly convinced that it was the work of her overwrought brain, having cycled through one too many stacks of paperwork, she had returned to her desk and sat down, turning back to the data entry that netted her a measly minimum-wage paycheck. When she had turned to pick up the next paper off the stack, it was still there.
She glared at it.
It wasn't going away.
"Hi!" it chirped at her, smiling. It looked, she noted, like a small, furry blob with two ears, two eyes, and -- oddest of all -- two tails.
"You're sitting on my paperwork," she pointed out to it, though it apparently hadn't a rear end to sit on.
"I'm sorry," it said, even managing to look apologetic.
"Uh-huh," she said, "and what are you going to do about it?"
It paused, uncertain, then answered, "Move, I suppose."
"Good plan," Tally approved. And while it was doing that, she decided, she was going to find out what Marina had slipped into the coffee that morning. She got up and walked out of the office, leaving the whatever-it-was to its own devices.
"Hey, Marina," she called to a woman in a nearby cubicle. "Anything weird happen with any of the computers out here?"
The dark-haired woman peered around the edge of her desk, looking puzzled. "Nothing too unusual, I guess -- there was a bit of a power surge a minute ago, though. Three of 'em blacked out, and we had to call Computing Resources to get their accounts reinstated -- made 'em mad as the dickens, that did."
"A power surge?" Tally commented, all innocence, "I wonder what could've caused that." Her mind, despite her best efforts, was already drawing conclusions about the power surge and all it implied.
"No clue," Marina said sheepishly, laughing. "They tried to pin it all on Ethan, though. He didn't take too kindly to that, himself."
"Yeah," she said a little weakly. "Well, I'll let you get back to work," she excused herself, walking back into her improvised office with a hangdog expression on her face.
"Hi!" the thing chirped at her as she re-entered. It had moved, as promised, and was now plopped in the middle of her chair. More importantly, however, it was still there. For some reason, Thalia found that fact vaguely offensive.
"By the way," it said happily, totally oblivious of her irritable expression, "my name's Vulpamon!"
"How nice for you," she said, silently wondering how she was going to get it out of her chair. The question soon proved to be moot, as, utilizing muscles that its round body suggested it did not have, it hopped from her chair to the floor. Thalia sat down, discovering that her legs would not support her.
She stared at her computer screen. That's just wonderful, Thalia. You're twenty-three years old, and what have you gotten from life? A dead-end job in a nowhere town and a small, furry blob that calls itself Vulpamon. She suddenly felt very depressed.
There was a hesitant sound from next to her chair, and she glanced over at the small thing, which was watching her hopefully with its beady, brown eyes. She arched an eyebrow.
"I'm hungry," it said.
The sun shone harshly on the asphalt of the overpass, beating down on Thalia, who was slouching along the sidewalk the bordered it. A forest green backpack hung from one shoulder, zipper open slightly to allow air to circulate for its occupant. "Yaknow," she said, breaking the silence of the walk, "I dunno what Mim's gonna think of you. She'll either freak out and throw cosmetics, or she'll totally spaz and decide you're the cutest thing she ever saw."
"Who's Mim?" piped up Vulpamon, trying to peek out at her.
"My roommate." Tally lived in one of the dormitories at the state university, though she was barely taking enough semester hours to stay eligible. With that on top of her job, she and Mim didn't see much of each other anymore, except when they turned in at two in the morning and collapsed in their respective beds, too tired to move. She did know, however, that her roommate was ever-attentive to the state of their room, and this new occupant would not go unnoticed.
"Roommate?" It sounded puzzled.
"You'll see." Thalia had had her fill of explaining every nuance of her everyday life to a small, furry alien. At least, she supposed it was an alien. Wasn't stuff like this supposed to happen to other people? "Anyway," she continued, hopping over the railing that separated her university of choice from the highway, "just stay still and let her have her way -- I'll intercede if she starts throwing things."
For a moment, there was silence from the backpack. "Okay," Vulpamon said finally.
When she reached her dorm room, she was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not overrun with Mim's fellow socialites, as it often was when Tally returned between work and classes. She frequently wondered if her roommate ever did go to class. Mim (known as Miriam Beltran to her professors) was, in fact, tugging on a pair of platform shoes that she was especially enamored of.
Thalia regarded her for a moment with deep-seated amusement, tossing her bookbag onto her bed. Mim was one of those girls whose entire existence resided in her make-up kit and closet. Her fresh-faced smile and charming figure had attracted the eyes of hordes of young men all over the campus -- and off-campus, as well -- and she revelled in it. She never dated a boy for more than a month, and she never dated the same one twice. And, evidently, she got away with it. Never once had she heard her roomie called a slut or a tease, even though the definition was probably appropriate. Mim was just too nice for it, she supposed.
Tally, on the other hand, went through life gleefully determined to run members of the opposite gender off from ten feet. She was slender to the point of being skinny, she regarded make-up as a tool of the devil, and her clothes came from the bargain bin. It wasn't like she could afford anything else, anyway. She could still recall the first time Mim had offered to make her up -- so insistently that Tally had told her to either back off or have that tube of lipstick shoved sideways up her arse.
"Tally!" Mim looked up, hopping to her feet, and her roommate was shaken from her reverie. "You're back early!"
"Yeah," Tally agreed, not bothering to explain. If Mim wanted to know that she'd left work early because Ethan had found her passed out next to her desk after a particularly ridiculous comment from Vulpamon, she'd have to get the news from someone else. She started unloading her bookbag, books first.
She noted a peculiar silence from Miriam, and she turned to look over her shoulder to discover that her companion was approximately two inches away from her face. She stumbled aside with a yelp. "Jaysis, Mim --"
"What's that?" Mim pointed into her backpack.
"Er.." Thalia had racked her brain for the entire walk back and had been unable to come up with a good excuse for the creature's existence. "Well, it's --"
At that moment, Mim chose to lurch forward and snatch Vulpamon from the backpack, drawing it into a snuggle that she generally only used on stuffed animals -- and current boyfriends. "It's so cute!"
"It's just adorable! Thalia, where did you get it?" Her eyes sparkled mischievously, and Tally glared at her warily. "I never knew you went in for stuffed toys! No, wait -- I'll bet --"
"Don't you say it!!" Tally snapped at her, only half in anger, and lunged for Vulpamon, who was looking confused by the exchange.
Mim swept it just out of reach, giggling in the way she did when she was about to say something completely cruel and unreasonable. "I know! It's a secret admirer! Why didn't you TELL me, I thought we were -- ow!"
Thalia had snatched up one of Mim's shoes and thunked her firmly on the head, and while the girl was occupied with rubbing the bruise, she retrieved Vulpamon. "Mim, how many times do I have to tell you --"
"Oh come on, you know Ethan has a thing for you." Mim was petulant. They'd had this argument several times before. Mim was convinced that Tally had the potential to be a perfectly attractive young woman, and Tally spent most of her energy trying to convince her otherwise.
"Gimme a break," Tally said, ending the discussion, and she tossed Vulpamon back onto her bed and walked to their mini-fridge. "I hope you've got more in here than tofu sticks, Mim."
Mim hrmphed. "You know, if you keep eating junk food like you do, you're going to lose your girlish figure," she scolded, and Tally rolled her eyes and kicked the fridge shut, popping open a Pepsi.
"Girlish stick figure, maybe," she muttered in irritation. "Don't you have classes to get to?"
"Not for a good fifteen minutes," Mim informed her smugly.
Great. I hope its stomach can hold out that long. "What is it you've got today, anyway?" She glanced at Vulpamon, who was eyeing the fridge covetously. She glared at it.
"I've got psych today," Mim yawned. "And Euro history. Snoozeville."
"Why not skip?" Tally suggested absently, then kicked herself for mentioning it.
"Nah, there's gonna be a pop quiz in psych, and we're getting our papers back in history." She was packing her own backpack as she spoke, and Tally walked over to plunk herself down on her bed.
"Fun," she commented. "I probably have a paper to write for English tomorrow, m'self."
Mim made a dismissive noise. "How long?"
She wavered her hand, even though Mim's back was turned. "Eight to ten pages."
"Not so bad -- you can probably swing it by two." She turned around, swinging her backpack onto her shoulders. "Well, I better get going -- gonna meet Billy early." She grinned at Tally, who arched an eyebrow. Billy must be her newest conquest.
"Good luck," Tally said drily, and Mim wagged a finger at her.
"He's all mine, gal!" Then she flounced out of the room, laughing.
Tally shook her head as the door swung shut, glancing back to make sure Vulpamon hadn't wandered off. No chance of that; the small creature was still plunked down behind her, watching her with interest.
"That was Mim?" it asked. "She was kinda nice."
"Kinda." She stood up and walked back to the fridge. "So, uh.. Vulpamon. Answer me a question real fast while I get you some food."
"What exactly.. are you?" Tally had actually been meaning to ask the question before, but she'd gotten side-tracked. Mainly by Ethan waving his hand in front of her eyes and saying "Tally! Hey, Tally, are you all right?"
Vulpamon blinked at her, wearing the slightly puzzled look of someone who remembers already answering that question. "I'm a Digimon. A digital monster."
Tally looked back. "A monster." THAT helped.
"Uh-huh!" it nodded, though the action ended up looking more like it was jiggling its face up and down. "There are lots of others like me where I came from."
"And where was that?" Tally, having found nothing remotely edible in the fridge, was searching through her drawers for canned soup.
"The Digital World."
Natch. "Where's that, exactly?"
"Um.. I don't really know."
Tally sighed. "Then how'd you get here? Oh, and do you want this warmed up?" She wagged a can of ravioli.
"Yes, please!" it chirped, then, "Oh, and I don't know."
"Well, I know you popped out of my computer at work," she said, opening the can and dumping it into a tupperware dish.
"But I don't really know anything besides that," Vulpamon said apologetically.
She shrugged and shoved the dish into the microwave, not bothering to cover it. Mim liked cleaning things -- she could clean the micro later. At the moment, she really wanted to change out of her work clothes. "By the way, Vulpamon," she said, turning to her closet, "are you a boy or a girl?"
Vulpamon sounded almost offended by the question. "I'm a boy!"
Tally glanced over her shoulder. "Then turn your butt around so I can change."
He blinked at her blankly for a moment, then did as he was told, looking a little embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he said.
"No big," she replied, shinnying out of her skirt and blouse hurriedly and yanking on a pair of jeans and a ratty T-shirt. "Finished!" she declared, right as the microwave buzzer went off.
"You know," Vulpamon said slowly, hopping around again to face her, "I think I know someone who could answer a bunch of your questions."
"Oh yeah?" Tally opened the microwave and stirred the ravioli around. Damn thing never did heat evenly.
He gave his peculiar not-really-a-nod. "He's called Izzy --"
"Izzy really?" she broke in, immediately wishing she hadn't. "Sorry, that was bad."
"Very," the digimon agreed. After a pause, he continued. "I don't think Izzy is his full name, though."
Tally walked over and set the tupperware dish that held his food in front of him. "Then what is his full name?"
Another pause. Thalia was beginning to suspect he was deriving all these answers from a cheat sheet of some kind -- never mind that he probably didn't know what a cheat sheet was. "Toushiro Izumi?"
"Whatever you say," she muttered, shaking her head. "That sounds Japanese to me." The digimon didn't respond, having discovered the dish of food and immediately devoted the entirety of his attention to it. She flopped down in her computer chair and switched her monitor on to check her e-mail, willing to bet Ethan had sent her an annoying message from his console at work.
"I know his e-mail address," Vulpamon remarked cheerfully through a mouthful of food.
"Oh sure, Vulpamon," she said, logging into her account. "I just e-mail this guy and say 'hi, this little furry monster-thing --"
"Digimon," he corrected her.
"-- monster-thing," Tally repeated, "said I should ask you about it and this place called the Digital World and --" She stopped. Vulpamon was beginning to look sulky.
"It's worth a try."
"I'd sound insane."
"But he's a DigiDestined, too!"
"He can explain," Vulpamon persisted.
Thalia sighed and surrendered. "All right . . ." She slapped 'compose', an expression of resignation on her face. "What's his e-mail address?" She was already composing the e-mail as he rattled off the address -- which was, as she'd guessed, based in Japan.
Hi -- this is going to sound a little bit crazy, but I was told you could help me out. This little furry critter seems to have adopted me -- he tells me he's a Digimon, and he's from someplace called the Digital World, and as silly as it sounds, it's all going way over my head. Oh, and if I've just made a complete fool of myself, break it to me gently -- it's been a rough day.
~ Tally Lewis
~ Tally Lewis
She debated briefly adding her university and state to the signature, but she decided that if he really wanted to know where she was, he'd ask.
"All right, I sent it," she informed the monster, who had his face half stuck in the food dish, searching for remnants.
"Good!" Vulpamon's voice was muffled. "He can explain all this much better than me."
"Yeah," Tally said, standing up. No e-mail from Ethan after all. She was annoyed to find herself disappointed by that fact. "Now listen, Vulpamon. I've got a couple classes this evening, so you're gonna have to fend for yourself a little while. If you get hungry again --" Vulpamon's stomach growled, and Tally found herself wondering where its stomach would be, exactly. "-- there's some of Mim's disgusting health food in the fridge, or some more canned soup . . ." Her voice trailed off. "For all the good that does you."
Vulpamon managed a weak smile in response. "Can't I just have some more of that stuff you just gave me?"
Tally shot him an irritated look. "I only have four cans of it, and I'm out of grocery money this week."
"But I'm really hungry, Tally!"
"But I just fed you!"
"But I'm still hungry!"
"But wah!" Tally snapped finally, folding her arms with an air of finality. "You're just gonna have to be hungry!"
The digimon shot her an unhappy look. "Why're you being so mean?"
The girl threw her arms up in a mix of despair and disgust. "You haven't seen mean, Vulpamon!" When the digimon's expression turned even sulkier, she sighed. "It's just I haven't got much food, okay? It's nothing personal. They don't call us starving college students for nothing, yaknow."
"I suppose . . ."
"I'll get you some more as soon as I get back from class -- I'll have to eat then, too."
"Okay . . ."
Tally swallowed her growing irritation, and, in an effort to smooth things over, asked, "So, what's this Izzy guy like, anyway?"
Vulpamon perked slightly at the change in subject, but he hesitated a moment before answering. "Well, he lives in Japan.. Tokyo, I think."
The small monster got that now-familiar searching look on his face again. "He's a real whiz with computers . . . He's thirteen years old, and he lives with his mom and dad in --"
Tally froze. "What was that again?"
"I said he's thirteen years ol --"
"Thirteen!?" Tally's face was the picture of fury warring with incredulity, while Vulpamon's only registered puzzlement.
"Well, that's what I said . . ."
"I'm asking for help from a kid ten years younger than me!?" Tally exploded. "Now I know I've finally gone insane! This is going to look so incredibly ridiculous -- Ethan would just love it. 'So, Tally, what'd you do this week?' 'I had to e-mail this thirteen-year-old kid for help on how to raise my new pet' --"
"I'm not a pet!" Vulpamon broke in, indignant, but Tally barely heard him.
"Oh yes, it'd be fantastic, all over work, they'll be wondering what kind of looney they hired --" She broke off when a very peculiar sound issued from Vulpamon's direction. She glanced over and discovered to her utter astonishment that the digimon, fed up with the torrent of abuse, had burst into tears. "Ah --" The girl looked embarrassed. "Vulpamon --"
"I'm s-sorry," the digimon choked out between sobs, "if you don't -- w-want m-me, but it isn't m-my fault --"
"Whoa, wait, Vulpamon," Tally stammered, waving her arms in a fruitless effort to calm him down, "it's not that --"
"I -- I was just trying to h-help, and y-you're so mad --"
Vulpamon attempted another sentence, but he dissolved into sobs before much more of it came out. Tally, utterly defeated by the misery she'd unwittingly caused the creature, stomped over to the bed and plunked down, scooping the monster into her arms. "I didn't mean to make you cry," she informed him, quite unable to think of anything helpful to say.
The digimon sniffled in response.
"I just.. er.. felt stupid for a minute there." And proceeded to make yourself feel even more stupid directly after. "W-why?" Vulpamon attempted to look up at her, a difficult feat for a small round blob.
"I, uh, guess it's a grown-up thing." The girl looked sheepish. "We think we know everything sometimes."
Vulpamon looked doubtful, but after a moment he deemed the explanation acceptable. "Well, when do you have your classes?"
"My first one's in about a half hour." Tally set the Digimon down on her bed and wandered over to rifle through her drawers for a candy bar. "I should be back around nine or ten." She made a triumphant noise and trotted back to the bed, offering Vulpamon half a Snickers in apology for her outburst.
He accepted, munching it down greedily. "You should check your e-mail again before you go. Izzy's usually really quick about answering."
"Ah," Thalia responded noncommittally. She still didn't much like the idea of writing something that potentially embarrassing to a thirteen-year-old -- especially the part about it all going over her head. "Do you know anything else about him?"
Again the pause, then, "No, not really. His Digimon's name is Tentomon, though. He's nice.. if a little weird."
You should talk. "Think I'll ever meet him?" She plunked down at her computer again and was startled to discover new mail sitting in her inbox. Vulpamon was right -- evidently the boy had nothing better to do than answer e-mails from total strangers half a world away.
"Who, Tentomon?" Vulpamon would have shrugged, if he'd been able. "I don't know, you might. He's in the Digital World right now."
"Ahhh," Tally said absently. She was reading her e-mail.
Wow, another DigiDestined? I'm glad we aren't all in Japan. What's your Digimon like? What's its name? I've gotta let Tai and the others know about this! Oh, and be careful, In-Training Digimon eat a lot! Hope your fridge is stocked . . .
P.S. Do you have a Digivice?
P.S. Do you have a Digivice?
She glanced over at Vulpamon, arching an eyebrow. He was staring wistfully at the refridgerator. "Hey, Vulpamon, what's a Digivice?"
He blinked at her. "It's a . . . thing -- well, it helps Digimon to Digivolve --" He paused, noting that her eyes were beginning to glaze over. "It helps me change . . . to a stronger form . . . sort of thing," he finished lamely. "Don't you have one?"
"Nope." She tilted her head. "You were the only thing that popped outta my computer."
"That's funny.." Vulpamon's forehead creased. "Actually . . . I don't know if I was supposed to . . . why don't you ask Izzy about it?"
"How did I guess you were gonna say that?" She sighed and turned back to her computer, typing quickly.
He calls himself Vulpamon -- he's a round blob with two ears, two eyes, and two tails. Fox-like, I guess, if you go by the name. I was beginning to notice the eating habits . . . he's staring at my fridge like he's in love. Oh, and no, I don't have a Digivice -- he just sorta popped out of my computer at work all by himself.
~ Tally Lewis
~ Tally Lewis
She turned back to Vulpamon, who was now snuggling himself down on her pillow. "Well, he sounds like he knows what he's talking about."
"He does," the digimon replied sleepily.
"I'll bet." Tally glanced glumly at her computer screen and discovered to her astonishment that another e-mail had already arrived. He really doesn't have anything else to do. She found that incredibly creepy.
Really? You didn't even get a DigiEgg first? And no Digivice . . . that's funny, because Tai just had a Digivice appear in his room the other day, right out of nowhere. We can't think of any other Destined children here in Japan, so maybe it belongs to you.
He'd been in such a hurry he hadn't even bothered to sign it. Destined children? That didn't sound terribly promising. Were they all little kids or something? Tally gave the clock a cursory glance, noted that she didn't have to be at class for a good fifteen minutes, and wrote him back.
DigiEgg? Destined children? I'm afraid you've lost me. Why does it matter whether I have a Digivice or whether I got a DigiEgg before a Digimon? . . . Why do I have a Digimon anyway? This thing pops out onto my desk at work, and I nearly get fired, and now everybody's using words with the root 'destiny'.
After sending the e-mail, she leaned back, huffing slightly. Maybe I sounded panicky -- or bitchy, even better. Or maybe I just sounded like another kid. Great. Nothing to do but wait for an answer, though. She glanced over at Vulpamon, but he was asleep, snoring very softly, then startled when her e-mail chimed. He must be sitting on it.
This is going to be really hard to explain . . .
This e-mail was longer than the others had been, and as she read it, Tally became more and more convinced that she had left reality and was wandering around, all unknowing, in some sick dream world. At first, she took it all for a prank -- if a well-constructed one -- and she was furious. All that time wasted while he led her along on a wild goose chase! Then her gaze drifted back over to Vulpamon, and she sighed. How could it be a prank, a joke, or a delusion, when he was still there snoozing on her bed?
Willing suspension of disbelief.
The end of the e-mail, however, rattled her more than the rest of it had even tried to.
"Are you insane!?" she screamed at it, leaping from her seat and pointing an accusing finger at her monitor, which gave a brief flicker as its only reaction. "TOKYO!? I can't go to Tokyo!!"
Vulpamon startled awake on the bed and hopped around to look at her in curiosity. "What's going on, Tally? Was Izzy able to help you at all?"
She startled, eyes flashing over to where he sat, blinking his beady eyes curiously. Fixing him with a hard stare, she advanced, growling out, "I don't care what you say . . . I don't care what you do . . . I don't care what justifications you can wring from your fuzzy little head . . .We are not going to Tokyo."
To be continued in Chapter Two... eventually.