“How on earth do you do it?” Matt asked Takeshi.
“Practice makes perfect.” Takeshi replied.
Matthew, or Matt, was 32 year old American graphic artist and avid gamer whilst Takeshi was a 29 year old Japanese programmer and illustrator in his own right, who had fairly good English skills. They both worked for the same company, Kingdom Games, designing virtual online games.
Although a relatively young company of only four years old, Kingdom Games had already made a name for itself internationally with the creation of Eternity One, a massive multi-online role playing game (MMORPG) set in the combined worlds of futuristic space aswell as the middle ages. Later game releases never saw success anywhere near Eternity One and fans had pinned Kingdom Games as a ‘One Hit Wonder’.
The company, which is based in the Square City business district, had recently moved their expanding design department to a converted studio apartment on the outskirts of the city.
Matt and Takeshi, along with dozens of other designers, were assigned to work on improving certain aspects within Eternity One, which, after three years, was still the biggest and most popular online RPG in the world. With technology advancing at every given second, it was their job to design new graphics, peripherals and such to keep the game fresh and addictive.
Takeshi had just completed a program in two days that would normally have taken weeks.
“Honestly, man. You never cease to amaze me.” said Matt. “At this rate we’ll be done in no time.”
As 5 o’clock approached on Friday afternoon, there were beeps sounding from all around the studio. They were from the mobile phones of all the employees, marking the end of a long days work.
Matt and Takeshi were flat mates, and they would often wait until the afternoon traffic died down to go home. The huge windows of the studio gave a great view of the beach, and often they would find themselves staring out to sea whilst the sun was setting, lost in thought. Matt had always dreamed of heading the creation of his own game, calling the shots, designing the characters and someday being the CEO of his very own game company, while Takeshi thought of his next visit to Japan to see his family, it had been almost three years since he took the job in Square City.
After a while Matt turned to Takeshi in an almost impatient tone, “When do you think Eternity One will be over with? It’s been three years since the release and another year before to make it in the first place. I’ve spent four years working on this monster.”
“All good things do come to an end, Matto-san.” Takeshi replied calmly, gazing at the flashing ripples of the sun on the ocean.
“Bah, I doubt it.” Matt turned away and headed to a pile of boxes in the corner of open planned studio. It had only been a few weeks since the relocation of the design department so there was still plenty of equipment and hardware to unpack, not to mention archives of rough sketches and abandoned concepts of all the games Kingdom had released.
“Which box was mine again?” Matt asked.
Takeshi turned his head to face him “The one with the big cross through the Kingdom Games logo.”
Matt tried to pull his box out from under two others without them falling over, but the inevitable happened. The two boxes that were on top of his fell clumsily over, spilling papers all across the floor. Matt gave an exaggerated sigh as he knelt down to pick up the papers. At the bottom of a stack he saw something shining. He picked it up and examined it. By this time Takeshi walked over to help him tidy up and noticed him holding a flash stick.
“Is that yours?” Takeshi asked.
“No, I think it was with all these papers in the archive box.”
“What do you think is on it?”
“Only one way to find out.” Matt gave a sly smile and headed towards his desk, his computer was still on. He plugged the memory stick into the USB port.
A window opened on the screen that displayed the contents of the stick.
“What’s on it?” Takeshi asked, still clearing up Matt’s mess.
“Just tons and tons of coding. It must be for a huge program or something. Wait…there’s some text files here too”
Matt clicked on one of the text files and a word processor window opened. He skimmed through the text, “No way!” he said sitting back in his chair.
“What is it?” Takeshi stopped to face him.
“It’s some kind of journal entry about the creation of a game that was being made about five years ago.”
Takeshi stood up and walked over to Matt’s desk. Matt read out loud,
“The game was coming along nicely. We had just implemented a new series of programs that would give the Digimon the ability to grow and evolve into stronger creatures. We gave them the ability to eat, dispel and most importantly, show emotion…”
“Digimon?” Matt turned to Takeshi. Takeshi shrugged and Matt continued,
“Over the past few weeks Patamon has grown quite intelligent, he is surpassing all of our expectations. He communicates through twitching his winged-like ears and even points with his small fingers, were are looking into giving Digimon voices to be able to communicate vocally and in any language…
While surveying the health of the Digital World coding we found that there was a worm in the system. We have instructed Patamon to eradicate it. We’ll have to wait and see if it works….
Last night Patamon was sent to get rid of a worm we had discovered in the Digital World. But he had failed and was almost destroyed. His data had to be ‘fixed’ in order to save him. Now we have discovered that the worm has planted a virus and is slowly eating away at the Digital World….
The virus has infected some of the Digimon and corrupted their data into evolving…”
Matt read on as Takeshi listened intently. They read about the Digital World, the creation of the Digimon and the inception of the virus. They learned about the war between the Digimon Lords and the Shadow Lords of the Digital World and how the virus was corrupting innocent Digimon. They read about the great Digimon of Origin that defeated the Shadow Lords and the virus and that in the end, to keep the virus from infecting all the networks in the world, the Digital World had to be completely erased.
“We are sad to see our project end in failure, but we know we can never forget our creations. We have saved all of their coding, if only as a remembrance, but the Digital World game will never be a reality, again…”
“Intense.” said Takeshi.
“Not as much as this.” said Matt, scrolling down to the bottom of the window.
“What?! Keslar? As in, Kingdom Games CEO Malgam Keslar?” Takeshi was surprisingly…well, surprised.
“Why is that so shocking? Don’t tell me you didn’t know Keslar worked at Hitori Games before he left to start up Kingdom Games.” Matt looked at a still surprised Takeshi, “Honestly, dude, don’t you read Wikipedia?”
Takeshi, who although loved playing games, was smitten with just one specific company, Japan’s Beyond Games. He was loyal to the company’s releases and saw Hitori Games as an arch rival of sorts, for the releases between the two were commonly similar in some way or another, the setting, the hairstyles of the main characters, the references to the classics etc. And because Hitori’s games were released some months after Beyond’s, Takeshi was very skeptical about a leak within Beyond employees. Meanwhile Matt was a huge fan of Hitori’s releases, unbeknownst to Takeshi, but had sold all his games and consoles when he moved to Square City.
And now, after finding out that the CEO of the company he works for used to be an employee of the company to which his favorite game company is rivaled? Well, Takeshi didn’t take it very well. First, he searched for a chair, and no sooner had he sat down, bolted for the bathroom door.
Needless to say Matt was genuinely surprised that Takeshi hadn’t known about it. He sat, pondering in his chair.
Suddenly the computer screen blanked for a moment, and then made a beep as it restored.
“What the…Weird.” said Matt.
After a while the bathroom door opened and out walked Takeshi, his face flushed and his usually neatly combed hair was messy and just all over the place.
He pulled a chair over to Matt’s, sat down, and laid his head face down on the desk.
“Feel better?” Matt asked, rhetorically.
Takeshi turned his head to him, the side of his head resting on the desk.
“I think I have an idea. All this, it would make a great story, hell, it would make a great game!” said Matt enthusiastically.
Takeshi sat up, “Are you mad? This is the work of Hitori Games! There’s no way I’m getting involved.”
“Dude, weren’t you listening? The game wasn’t even completed. It wasn’t even published. And there were only a handful of people working on it. Besides even if it had been a screw up after being live on the web, Hitori would’ve found a way to cover it up as a beta test or something. Or maybe you’re just sore that Beyond didn’t think of it first.”
Takeshi was red faced again, glowering at Matt, who knew exactly which of Takeshi’s buttons to push.
Takeshi calmed and stood up, “I think the traffic must’ve died down buy now, we should get going.” and he headed for the door.
“Wait” Matt stood up from his desk to face Takeshi.
“If we can make this, it could be big. I mean we can work on the kinks and stuff and make it better than the idea it is now. Besides, internet security and anti-viruses have dramatically advanced since those guys worked on it.”
Takeshi, holding the doorknob, gave a sigh and turned back to face Matt.
“Give it a shot. We got sometime to play around with the idea. I mean, you did finish three weeks work in two days.” Matt smiled.
Takeshi smiled back, “OK, we’ll try it out, but I don’t think we can pull it off by ourselves.”
Matt pulled out his mobile phone from his pocket, “We don’t have to.”
That Saturday morning Matt and Takeshi, along with some of Matt’s friends he had called up the previous night, met up at a local cafe to discuss their new project.
“Digimon, huh?” asked Aimy, skeptically.
Aimy was a child prodigy when it came to programming, but unlike Takeshi, she was mean hacker too. She was very opinionated, and most people took it as being rude. But she did have a soft side, somewhere…
She turned to her partner, Rion, “You believe this stuff?”
Rion was a tall, built individual with arms covered in tattoos. His voice was deep but his personality was cool, calm and collective, “It sounds interesting.” He was also a great CG artist. Both he and Aimy had attended the same college as Matt.
Aimy sat up and scowled at him, “You’re not serious.”
“Come on Aimy, you gotta admit it’s a great idea” said Matt.
“I’m not saying it isn’t, I just think that the so called story you read doesn’t sound believable.” Aimy crossed her arms.
“Well there is only one way to find out. We have to go to the big cheese and talk to him.”
“Tell me, Matt, why are you so fixated on these ‘Digimon’?”
“I can’t explain it, but when I read those texts, something went off in my head.”
“Was it your brain perhaps?” said Aimy, sarcastically.
“Seriously, we need to do this, I just have this…this feeling.”
“Did you have the same reaction, Taki?” Aimy turned to Takeshi.
“Uhm can’t say that I did.” Takeshi replied.
Well after two hours of discussion, Matt sat back in his chair and put his hands on his head. He looked upwards and gave a sigh.
Aimy and Rion exchanged a look, and then she turned back to Matt, “Okay okay we’ll do it. But just remember I don’t take on free projects often, or ever, in fact.”
That night, back at the studio, Matt’s pc screen suddenly turned on. On a white backdrop a single black pixel appeared right in the center of the screen. It began to grow and grow. Before it consumed the screen there was a sudden flash of white light and something had hit the floor. The black mound moved and squirmed. It began to make its way to the corner of the studio…
The next day was a quiet Sunday, too quiet in fact. Matt woke up, his arm automatically stretched out to pick up his mobile phone off the end table. Squinting his eyes, he saw that his phone was off. He moved his finger to push the power button, but it wouldn’t turn on. He sat up, yawned, scratched his head and reached down into the draw of the end table for the charger.
He got out of bed and, after a quick stretch, headed over to the nearest outlet in the room. He was a little perturbed to see that his phone would not turn on even after he had plugged in the charger. He turned to the clock radio on the end table and saw that it was off aswell. He flicked the light switch, nothing.
“Oh great, power out.” he though to himself as he walked out into the small living room. Takeshi was looking out the window, sipping on a glass of orange juice.
“Power out” Takeshi said. “The whole city”
“Really? Good thing it’s Sunday then. My phone’s completely dead.”
“Mine too, but it was fully charged last night.”
“Weird. Well I’m gonna take a walk, see how things are downtown.” Matt headed back to his room to change clothes.
As Matt headed down the street he noticed a couple of people trying to start their cars.
“What’s wrong?” He asked one of them, a neighbor of his.
“Dunno, it won’t start. No one’s will.”
“That’s strange. It’s not even an electric car.”
“Strange? That ain’t the half of it. No power, my phone ain’t got power either, now my car and, word has it, the trains, buses, planes, nothin’s working in this damn city.“
Matt carried on walking. Everything was closed, probably because of the strange power out, since stores were usually open until noon on Sundays.
He passed by the local deli, and saw that it was open. He headed inside.
“Hey Matt.” the girl behind the till smiled widely.
“Hey Phoebe, why are you guys open? I doubt you were able to bake anything with this crazy power out.”
“I know, I think it’s a total waste of time. Then again I can’t do anything at home either, and my phone is totally dead.”
“Same here. Today is…really weird.”
“Yea…Oh hey if you’re looking to buy something we do have some snacks and stuff, potato chips, yesterdays muffins and soda, don’t worry they’re cold, we put em in a bucket with ice. And all the prices have been rounded off, since not even the calculators work.”
“Well, I guess I could get a few things, incase the powers still out around lunch time.”
When Matt returned to the apartment, he found Takeshi stretched out on the couch with an open book covering his face. He was snoring, loudly. Matt sighed at the strange occurrences of the day and headed over to the kitchen counter to set the deli things down. The next minute he was shuffling around the apartment, which woke Takeshi up.
“Oh hey, what are you doing?” he asked Matt.
“I’m looking for the address book.”
Takeshi proceeded in putting the book back on his face.
“Come on, man.” said Matt.
“On top of the fridge.” Takeshi pointed.
Although Malgam Keslar was a tough attitude guy, he still held a sense of disappointment, which Matt and Takeshi now understood was due to the failure of the project from five years ago. So much so that he quit his job at Hitori Games to start off fresh. His ex colleagues on the project had left too, some to pursue different careers whilst the rest moved to other countries.
If Keslar hadn’t thought that particular day was strange enough, well, he was definitely convinced when he opened his front door and saw Matt and Takeshi. Hesitantly, he invited them in, and moments later they were in deep discussion about the Digital World and the Digimon.
“You found the memory stick?” asked Keslar, calmly. “Man, I thought I’d lost it for good.”
Keslar had though of resurrecting the Digital World recently, but couldn’t quite decide how to go forward with it, or if he could go forward with it at all.
“I don’t know about this. We were so sure that the virus hadn’t been completely destroyed. Can you imagine what would happen if something like that spread across the internet? There would be chaos, everywhere.” Keslar explained.
“But surely something like that can’t happen again, I mean, we do have the best defenses against viruses in today’s world.” said Matt.
“Not to mention the technological advances.” Takeshi had to put in his two cents.
It was a little after sunset and Matt was still trying to convince Keslar to make this Kingdom Games next big project.
All of a sudden, the ground began to shake. Takeshi fell off his chair and instinctively bolted under the nearest table. Matt and Keslar stood up and tried to remain standing.
“Earthquake?” Matt asked “In Square City?”
After a moment the tremor subsided, and every electronic appliance, gadget and all of the lights switched on at once.
“What the hell?” Keslar exclaimed.
The faint sound of laughter came from the TV. They all turned to look, but there was nothing but static on the screen. The laughter became louder, until the silhouette of a woman’s face till the neck appeared on screen.
“Is that some new show or something?” Matt asked.
Within the silhouette the woman appeared. Keslar’s eyes widened and he jumped back, tripped over the coffee table and stumbled on the floor.
The woman on the screen had a pretty face, with dark make up on, and fangs. Her hair was held up with numerous pins and a golden comb. She also had two horns on the sides of her head and what looked like a bat tattoo across her forehead.
“What is it?” Matt turned to help him up.
Keslar pointed at the woman on the screen, “That’s Lilithmon!” he shouted.
“What?” Matt turned to examine the face of the woman, “But she looks like a normal person, sorta.”
“No, she’s one of the Shadow Lords!”
“Serously?! That’s a Digimon?!” Matt was sort of convinced, whilst Takeshi was under the table for the second time.
Lilithmon’s laughter became louder still, until suddenly the TV screen cracked. The lights in the ceiling surged. The light bulbs burst and there was a shower of sparks. And then it was quiet.
Matt felt his mobile phone vibrate in his pocket, as did Keslar and Takeshi. They had all received the same SMS, nothing but lines of ones and zeros.
“Binary code.” said Takeshi, coming out from under the table.
Keslar put his hands on his head, “How did this happen?”
Matt thought for a moment, and said finally “D’you think it could’ve started when I plugged the memory stick into my computer?”
“Most likely that’s the starting point to this. But Lilithmon, I don’t know how…We must get to the studio, now…”
Since all electronics were working again, taking Keslar’s car got them to the studio fairly quickly. They ran over to Matt’s desk and found that his computer screen was cracked, tiny glass shards stuck between the keys of the keyboard. Takeshi yelled and pointed on the floor where they stood, “GAAAH!!! WARUI!!!”
Matt and Keslar looked down and saw a black stain on the tiling beneath their feet. The stain led to the corner of the studio.
“It’s like The Grudge” Matt said “Totally creepy”
Keslar turned to Matt, “Matt, did you notice anything strange when you plugged the memory stick in?”
“Hmm, now that you mention it, the screen went blank, but for like, a moment.”
“There was something left, maybe a remnant of the virus, dormant inside the memory on the flash stick” said Keslar “…or…Where’s the stick?”
Matt picked the memory stick out of his pocket and handed it to Keslar. He walked over to Takeshi’s desk and turned the computer on. He began typing frantically on the keyboard. “No.”
“What is it?” Matt and Takeshi walked over to the desk, Takeshi’s eyes still glaring at the black stain on the floor.
“There was a remnant of the virus left, but within the internet itself. As soon as the memory stick was plugged into the computer, the virus picked up on all the data that was on it. Seems it somehow found the source codes for the Shadow Lord Digimon.” Keslar explained.
“But boss, what the hell made that stain on the floor?”
Keslar turned to examine the stain more closely, “That’s something I wish I knew.”
The next day everything seemed back to normal, apart from all the news broadcasts of the blackout. It was an international disaster. Businesses all over the world lost tons of money. It seemed the entire planet went practically primitive for that Sunday, which became known as Blackout Sunday.
Everything resumed as usual at the studio. Keslar had ordered a cleaning crew to clean the mysterious black stain before the employees showed up for work. The other designers were curious to know why Matt wasn’t at work, but assumed that it was probably due to his broken computer screen. And knowing Takeshi, he was the first to suggest the perfect replacement.
But in fact Matt and Takeshi were chauffeured by a private taxi to Kingdom Games HQ in Square City, their former place of work. They were directed straight to Keslar’s office by his assistant.
“Mr. Keslar will be in shortly.” she said, and returned to her desk outside the office.
Moments later Keslar walked in and closed the door behind him. He handed Matt the memory stick and said, “Listen carefully. Go home, boot up your PC, make sure any internet connection is completely disabled, and work on these codes.”
Matt and Takeshi were a little confused. Keslar went on to explain, “The source codes for the ten Digimon of Origin are on here. Some of the codes are incomplete. Once you have completed them, enable your internet connection.”
“And then what?” Matt asked.
“You’ll let me know.” said Keslar and he rushed off out of his office.
Matt looked at Takeshi, “Uh, think you can handle this?”
Takeshi took the memory stick from Matt, “Let’s do it.”
Along with Aimy and Rion, Matt and Takeshi worked on into the night. Matt, whose forte was not in programming, put himself in charge of refreshments. By dawn, after hours of painstaking typing, checking, re-checking, and a combined twenty-one cups of coffee, Takeshi and Aimy had completed the last of the codes. Takeshi stood up, very slowly, with his arms hanging at his sides, and brushed over to the couch, where he allowed himself to collapse and close his blood-shot eyes.
“Lightweight” said Aimy as she finished up.
By Keslar’s orders, Matt then proceeded to re-enable his internet connection. After a moment, the screen began to flash in all sorts of colors and there were loud beeping noises. Takeshi woke suddenly. It was over in a few seconds. And then it was quiet.
“What was that?” asked Takeshi.
“I’m not sure, but I have a feeling we’ll find out real soon” Matt replied.
A moment later Takeshi was fast asleep yet again…