"I, uh," either I was going hoarse or I was really freaked out. "I didn't expect you to show up again, after the..."
Alan tugged at his already loosened tie and sighed. "I'm not gonna shoot the messenger here." He climbed up the stairs and, where he usually sat when he visited, lay the guy who appeared mysteriously. He frowned as soon as he took in the couch. His eyes turned to ice and locked on my dark brown ones. "Who's that?"
"I don't know."
His head tilted. "Why are you holding a frisbee?"
I glanced down. "It's a disc," I pointed to the unconscious dude on my couch. "His identity disc."
"I am so confused." Alan looked back and forth from the couch to me. Heaven knows what was going through his head at this point; I probably didn't want to know. "How is that his?"
"He wears it on his back," I explained as I activated his memory banks. "It holds his memory, his morals, his whole life." I whittled it down to his very core codes.
Alan's frown looked like it would freeze in place. "People don't wear 'discs' on their backs." (I thought he would know this stuff already. Maybe working at ENCOM was getting to him.)
I looked up from the disc and had to push my blonde-blue hair out of my eyes. "Technically, Alan, he's not a person."
I realized ENCOM'S head honcho was too tired to grasp my explanation and I was too exhausted to explain it to him- so I simply said this: "Lift the blankets."
"Are you a broken record or something? Lift the stupid blankets."
Alan stared at me like I was from Mars; it wasn't the first or last time someone looked at me like that. "Skigh-"
"I know what you're thinking, but trust me, it's not what you think." I kept playing around with his codes, looking up occasionally as Alan inched towards the couch and slowly got his fingers under the three layers of covering.
And he pulled them back.
"What..." Alan stared in shock. His mouth hung open; at least his frown wasn't frozen.
"He's from the Grid." I waited for Alan's response for what seemed like an eternity.
And then it came. "Did... did you bring him here? To our world?"
"No." I didn't look up from the mess of codes. "That's weird."
I looked up and noticed just how tired Alan was. "He has no designation, no name."
"How is that possible? Flynn created him... right?'
"Uh, doesn't look like it. His code isn't normal. He's not an ISO, so that's good. But he's..." my voice trailed off as I looked at him again. Something I missed, right on his wrist. "I am an idiot."
Alan frowned again. "Just because you have dyslexia doesn't mean you're an idiot."
"No, I missed this." I knelt by the couch and grabbed his left wrist. What looked like an over-sized, computer-screened watch was integrated in his code. "He's not a normal program. Not created by a User, not an ISO..." I sat his disc on the leftover space on the couch and rubbed my forehead. "Ahh... my head hurts way too much to figure this thing out now." I decided to play around with the weird high-tech watch. After fiddling with it for a little while, I sighed. "Still looking at square one here." I couldn't get the display to work; it seemed like there was no way to turn the blasted thing on. And, looking up, he was shaking again. "Alan, help me cover him up, will ya?"
We got the covers back over him. I shook my head and pressed my hand to my chin. "His body heat isn't staying consistent. Not good." I stood and looked at Alan. "Maybe we should let him rest. I- I don't know what the protocol is for unconscious people from digital worlds."
Alan laughed. "No one does." He slipped his arm around my shoulders as we walked back down the stairs and stepped into my kitchen. "You finally got a coffee maker?"
I grinned as Alan stared in shock at the polished black counter top. Sitting proudly by the blender was a new coffee maker that I had yet to destroy. "Yep. You want some?"
"Sure." Alan sat at one of the barstools and leaned on the tabletop.
Neither of us said anything as I got the coffee going. I sat on the counter and sighed. "He's calling again."
"Oh, great." Alan rolled his eyes and smirked. "He threatened me again. Can't believe no one ever sees him- or knows his name, considering he's a high point in ENCOM. Jerk."
The coffee maker buzzed- well, I don't know what noise the thing made, but it made a noise- and I grabbed two cups from the counter. "Did you see the New York Times today?'
"Yes... oh Goodness, how in the world did he dig up that much on you?"
I sighed. "Doesn't matter. Besides, everyone already knew."
Alan grinned and grabbed some milk from the refrigerator. "Wait, didn't ABC and MSBNC play your story when you were adopted?"
"Yep. Old news. Like I said, he's a dimwit. It's been two years, so everyone and their brother already knows..." I said, handing him a cup of black coffee. I hate those blasted flashbacks... (and the average flashback consists of getting a fist slammed into my face repeatedly, someone screaming at the top of their lungs, and there's always that pocketknife.)
"You saw it again?" Let me clarify something- Alan's been a family friend since forever, so he knows, in vivid detail, my entire past. His eyes were doing that thing again! It's like they could just zero in on any out-of-place-feeling anyone had.
I punched the countertop, feeling that blade burning as it sliced into me again. "It's always gonna haunt me."
"No one wants a misfit, an invalid like YOU! I got cursed with you! And don't even think for a second that I'm buying your lies! YOU ARE A-"
(I'll, uh, I'll skip the end of that. Let's just say the head of the orphanage left an impression of her ring in my forehead, and lip, for two weeks.)
I had a wonderful past, which we will return to... after a few million light years.
"Where am I?" I never heard that voice before. Oh no...
I jumped, almost throwing my half-empty cup of coffee from the counter. "Alan-"
Alan was gone.
Glancing at the clock, I grimaced. Three forty-two in the morning?!
Wait, the guy on the couch!
Man, my mind was going at speeds I never thought possible. I raced out of the kitchen and up the stairs- and saw Alan pinned to a wall by the program, a blaring disc at his neck. Geez, I thought Alan left.
"Hey!" I yelled; I was never real athletic, but I've learned how to throw a decent punch or two. Getting closer, I could see Alan wasn't scared, but the program was. His hair now had a bluish tinge I never noticed. He looked really nervous- and weak- as he held his disc, the outer rim blaring white-shot blue. "Uh, what are you doing?"
The program glanced back and forth from me to Alan, his eyes growing wider and wider with every glance. "W-who are you?"
"Chill, okay? We aren't gonna hurt you." He deactivated the disc and attached it to his back.
Alan stepped away from the wall in awe. "You were right. He-"
The guy turned; was his face naturally that pale? "Where am I?" He glanced at the watch on his wrist and tapped it. And the blue screen lit up. Yeah, now it lights up. He played with it for a second, then swayed. He looked even more scared as he shook his head. "Energy level's too low. It's way too low."
Exchanged puzzled glances with Alan. I was so stinking confused at this point in time. The program swayed again. He grabbed the glass wall for support. He looked at me with pleading eyes. "C- Can you tell me where I am?"
"Not on the Grid," I shrugged, looking at Alan, hoping he'd help me out. He didn't; I think both of our brains were fried beyond comprehension. "You're in the User World."
"How... programs can't... I..." He slid down to the floor, head in his hands. "I-I almost derezzed a user!?"
DEREZZED. From seeing those archives, I knew the definition: killed, dead, in a billion little pieces of code, gone, adios, etc. "Uh, yeah, you almost derezzed Alan."
He looked up at Alan. "Sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't-"
"It's fine. No harm done." Alan smiled. "You have a name, right?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I'm McKian, the Misfit." Okay, so he DID have a name.
"What?" I frowned; sounded like the story of my life, excluding most of the last two years.
"M-my code isn't written right," He explained, his voice hoarse. He pointed to his wrist. "I'm different than everyone else. I have the ability to change my talent, ch-change my coding, and no one else can." McKian closed his eyes. "So I am a misfit. I wasn't created right."
I nodded. That made total sense; a glitch in his code this severe meant he could transfer between worlds. But no normal program would've been created with that big a glitch. And, as I've said, he wasn't an ISO. And, as I've also said, my head was in overdrive, so forget about sorting it all out now. And now to be sympathetic. Him being a misfit was basically my life. "I'm Skigh. And trust me, you're safe here."
Alan and I sat beside him on the floor. I felt Alan tap my shoulder. He cupped his hands by my ear and whispered, "Um, Skigh, he's not totally safe here, you know?"
My answer? Alan got jabbed in the ribs.
McKian looked up at us. His green eyes could've melted the coldest heart; how could this guy, who I noticed was kinda cute, possibly be that much of a misfit? "You're gonna help me?"
Didn't even think about that answer: "Yes."
"You have lost your mind!"
"For the record, I am perfectly sane! And he needs help, Alan. You expect someone like me to leave him out in the cold in a world that will rip him to shreds if they find out?!"
We had been debating back and forth in my bedroom for the last half hour; McKian passed out on the floor, so we laid him back on the couch so he could rest. I figured that the transfer between worlds was changing his body chemistry around, or something like that.
Alan's finger stabbed the air as he rasped, "This could be game over for you- for BOTH of you! You're willing to risk your job, your life, his life?!"
I knew how to push Alan's buttons. I'd gotten quite good at it. And, since I knew what made him tick, this was a cinch.
His eyes rolled back. "Look, I know you wanna be the hero here but-"
"This isn't about being a hero, Alan," I cut him off. "This is about doing the right thing." I started wondering if Tron was like his creator...
"You're really gonna do this?"
I nodded as I felt my eyes start blazing. "Yeah."
"And nothing I say will stop you?" Alan could make his voice as low and menacing as he wanted. No way on this earth was I caving.
"You got it."
Alan crossed his arms over his chest; he knew I'd won.