Chapter Four: A Really Good Question
By the time Dexter woke up it was dark outside. His door was still closed; maybe nobody had checked on him all day because they assumed he was fiddling with his present. Well, this time at least. Everything felt weird as he sat up. Dexter swore his head felt heavier, but shrugged it off. Finding his gaze drawn to the computer Dexter wondered if perhaps his excitement had been the catalyst for the obscure dream.
It had to be a dream after all. Whoever heard of someone getting sucked into a computer in real life? That stuff only happened in movies and comic books. Dexter found it difficult to get to his feet and keep his balance, but with determination he made his way to his computer chair. His computer screen was black, but he didn't remember turning the thing off. Then again he didn't recall going to be either. Dexter reached for the power button, but just an inch from it…
"Ouch!" Dexter yelped as he retracted his hand, shaking it violently. "What the heck?"
'Sorry about that Dexter', the voice in his head startled Dexter. 'I was feeling a little drained myself'
Dexter moved away from his computer, gently suckling on his sore fingers. His eyes filled with worry as he tried to tell himself that nobody had come out of the computer and spotted in his head. There was no Freakazoid.
'You're not crazy', Freakazoid chimed. 'I exist remember? We just covered this'
"Oh yeah…" Dexter feigned forgetfulness. "I…forgot"
Turning to his mirror, relieved to see his reflection, an audible sigh escaped him. Retreating to his bathroom Dexter changed into his night clothes and brushed his teeth. Leftovers were a likely option, but truth be told he wasn't all that hungry. There was too much stuff going through his mind to even think about food. He only had the weekend to figure things out before school Monday morning.
"Okay. So how's this going to work?" Dexter pinched the bridge of his nose as he tried to accept that he couldn't simply ignore him till he went away. "How do two people share one body?"
He felt Freakazoid start thinking; the surge of information was unexpected as unused parts of Dexter's brain sprung to life. The strain birthed a headache sourced in the center of his skull. When Dexter winced, Freakazoid ceased. He hadn't meant to hurt him.
'Am I thinking too loudly?' he asked with his inside voice.
"Thinking too much", groaned Dexter as he griped his head and fled to the bathroom; he pulled a bottle of aspirin out of his cabinet and popped two pills. "My brain hurts"
'You're brain's out of shape a little', Freakazoid joked quietly. 'I'm sure it'll beef up after a little while'
"Hopefully", Dexter sighed, clutching his throbbing head. "But, it reminds me. We should set some…ground rules"
'Lay em on me'
"Well, first of all…when we switch you have to switch back on my call", he pointed out. "I have to trust that you won't run off with my body or anything"
'Oh, never!' there was so much blatant honesty in his voice that Dexter believed him instantly. 'I pinky swear'
'I believe you', Dexter thought, somehow knowing Freakazoid would hear him; he felt his alter ego's smile. "So…anything I should know about you?"
Dexter tried his best to not sound like he was asking cheesy questions on a dating show.
'From what I can tell, Dex…i've absorbed parts of you, I know almost everything you know', he began confidentially spewing information like a computer. 'But i'm not human, I know that much…' Freakazoid drifted off; as he thought and spoke simultaneously it was like hearing the information from someone other than himself.
"So what do we do now?" Dexter sighed as he crawled into bed, snuggling under the covers.
'Let's worry about that tomorrow champ', Freakazoid quipped.
"Kay", Dexter sighed as he drifted off to sleep.
..Meanwhile, somewhere else…
"What's this?" Roddy gripped his monitor as he stared at some very unpleasant information. "How can I receive a download confirmation?"
He typed like a madman, trying to prove the message was some kind of error. But as much as wished it weren't true, the confirmation code ensured him that someone was in possession of a pinnacle chip. That someone being Dexter Douglas.
"Oh no…" Roddy dropped his face in his hands to avoid gawking at the flashing red text, issuing a warning; it read notice of malfunction. "Ah! Roddy my boy…why did ye hafta be right?" he rushed to his drawer and began rummaging through its conents. "I've got to find this Dexter Douglas lad before Gutierrez does!"
…Douglas household Sunday morning…
Dexter thought the pounding was his headache, but as he rolled off the side of his bead he discovered that it was someone-probably Duncan-banging on his door. He was so tired, not at all in the mood to deal with his brutish elder brother. But he dragged himself to the door anyway and regretfully opened it.
"Duncan…" he began solemnly.
However, Dexter was shocked to find he wasn't face to face with Duncan at all. Standing before him was a brutish looking man; a tall, broad shouldered, kilt wearing Scotsman. Dexter slammed his door shut, locking it as quickly as he could. He scrambled backwards as the man knocked again.
"Lad!" the stranger called. "My name is Roddy MacStew! I'm the programmer of the Pinnacle Chip, please yew half ta let me in!"
"How did you get into my house!" Dexter's voice cracked in the middle of his panic driven shriek.
"I told yer mom I was yer driv'n instructor…" he admitted sheepishly.
"Well you're not my driving instructor! I have no idea who you are!" Dexter's back hit the wall; it didn't help knowing he was trapped in his room and the guy outside his door could probably kick it in if he wanted to. "So go away or I'll call the cops!"
'You don't need the cops Dexter', Freakazoid beamed with confidence, his smirk practically making its way onto Dexter's face. 'I can protect us, just let me out!'
"Let you out?" Dexter stammered; the stranger now forcibly jiggling his bedroom door's lock quickly erased all doubt in his mind. "Okay…okay…how do we change?"
'If you freak in and become Dexter Douglas…then to become Freakazoid you need to…'
As Roddy flung the door open he witnessed the lad being pulled inside out in a flash of light. When the light vanished he saw a whole new person before him. Freakazoid stood ready to fight, a canine heavy smirk spread crookedly across his jaw. Roddy held his hands up as he backed away; he hadn't expected this to happen.
"Lad…you don't understand…" Roddy tried reasoning with whatever he was facing because he was certain by the look in its eyes he wasn't talking to Dexter anymore. "I'm here to help yew"
"Prove it!" Freakazoid challenged, pointing dramatically at Roddy. "Prove it or I'll make you eat dirt!"
Roddy was taken aback. Eat dirt? Maybe this creature wasn't as dangerous as Roddy had originally suspected. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Folding it into a paper plane Roddy gently tossed it to the lad. Freakazoid pranced in place as it floated to him; he snatched it out of the air and popped it open with a snap of his wrist. He read it right side up and upside down. The scowl on his face faded to a questioning stare.
Freakazoid looked up defiantly; his brow hanging low as he stared Roddy down. There was an awkward pause between the two of them then Freakazoid did something unexpected. He shoved the paper into his mouth and ate it.
"You're a meanie!" Freakazoid shouted, balling his fists as bits of paper and spit spewed everywhere. "Y-You're a meanie ya…ya big WEENIE!"
On instinct Freakazoid turned to run and his body ignited into light; he flew right into somewhere familiar and safe…the computer. At the speed of light Freakazoid travelled through the interwebs, trying to get as far away from Roddy as possible.
He didn't want to hear him say it aloud. His body flew out another screen and tumbled to the ground. His back hit a nightstand, but it didn't hurt.
Freakazoid got to his feet and leapt out a nearby window. He froze when he felt the grass beneath his feet and smelt the alluring scent of a nearby Sunday BBQ. This world was so great and he wanted to stay and be part of it. That man wanted to delete him, like a lowly computer virus. Freakazoid knew in his heart he was better than a computer virus.
And he would prove it.
His thoughts were broken as a familiar light came from inside the house. Freakazoid squealed as shortly after Roddy leaned out of the open window. The super teen backed away from him; he noticed that unlike himself Roddy looked pretty much the same. No blue, no suit, just Roddy with barely noticeable white bolt streaks in his red hair.
"Lad, calm down", Roddy tried to reason as he fell out of the window. "Please, just give me a moment to explain!"
"No!" Freakazoid snapped, sticking his tongue out at the Scotsman. "You're a mean weenie! Leave me alone!"
Freakazoid took off into the street. He went as fast as he could as far as he could. Unfortunately Freakazoid didn't notice the stop sign around the corner. His body went flying across the asphalt, rolling and scrapping against the rough surface. The car he had hit was smoking from the blow, its radio going haywire from the extra surge of electricity.
Freakazoid lifted himself off the ground. His eyes widened as he realized he had hit someone. Scrambling to his feet he sprinted to the scene; there was a lady with short black hair in the car. Her python grip on the steering wheel forced her knuckles white. He came to the side of her car and knocked on the window.
"Hey lady in the car!" he shouted till she turned her head; she moved mechanically from shock. "Lady are you okay?"
She nodded once, wondering if she had suffered a concussion.
"Good, cause I'm running away from a crazy guy wearing a dress!"
"It's a kilt!" Roddy shouted as he tackled Freakazoid to the floor.
"Oh so now you wanna wrassle huh?" Freakazoid's back hit the ground, but he managed to get his feet between him and Roddy; with a good push he flung the Scotsman into the air. "Very well! Let the wrassling commence!"
Something itched in the back of Freakazoid's mind, but he ignored it. He was too focused on the offending Scotsman to worry about an itchy brain. Roddy landed a good distance away, his footing getting lost as he tumbled to the ground. It was clear that he was no match for the boy. Freakazoid cracked his knuckles cockily as he strode forwards.
"Did I break your hip?" he joked, flexing his muscles. "Woah! Oh wow I'm pretty strong!" he cheered happily as he began prancing around and doing random backflips. "Look at what I can do! Weeeeeeeeee"
Roddy watched as Freakazoid landed a back flip and then thrust his hands in front of him and began running in circles making whooshing noises; every once in awhile he would leapt several feet into the air to perform another flip. He was having the time of his life, completely oblivious to the Scotsman standing only a few feet away with his jaw on the floor.
"Lad, please listen ta me!" Roddy frustratingly shouted. "Stop doin that and listen to me!"
Freakazoid stopped doing backflips, much to his dismay. He crossed his arms and heavily huffed out a sigh. Roddy weakly got to his feet and brushed himself off. With an expression that read 'about time' he addressed Freakazoid with stern determination.
"There. You done?" he grumbled. "My! What a live wire ye are, lad", Roddy stretched his sore back. "Now listen to me I dun mean you no harm…I'm here ta help yew", Roddy walked towards the teen when he finally showed a sense of understanding. "I tried to prevent this from happening", Roddy explained, gesturing to Freakazoid. "But now that it has happened I must figure somethn out"
"Oh! You mean the part where you WANTED TO DELETE ME!" Freakazoid snapped.
"I'm sorry lad…" he sounded earnest in his apology. "I dint know what to expect…", he circled Freakazoid once around to get a better look. "Yer a whole nother person in there arnt yew?"
"Sort of" Freakazoid ran his hand through his hair. "But you didn't change", he pointed out.
"Just another mystery my lad", Roddy laughed as he lightly patted Freakazoid on the shoulder. "Now, how about we cease all this foolishness?"
"Okay", Freakazoid agreed.
It was only once the dust settled that Freakazoid felt that itch again; he had to direct focus on what was causing it to realize the odd sensation was Dexter trying to reach him. Freakazoid wondered if he should tell Roddy that it was much harder for him to hear Dexter than it was for Dexter to hear him, but opted against it. There was still little he knew about the Scotsman and in a moment of sanity figured he should keep some things to himself. He could discuss it with Dexter later after his talk with Roddy.
"Should we do something about that lady I hit?" it was only after looking over his shoulder did Freakazoid realize she had left her car. "Oh, she left"
Roddy hurried to Freakazoid's side as he took a knee, his hands latched onto his head. Freakazoid winced in pain, shutting his eyes tight as he tried to shake the pounding in his head.
'Freakazoid!' it was Dexter calling out to him. 'I need to talk to Roddy! Let me out!'
Roddy knelt down and placed his hand on the boy's shoulder; his voice was calm and comforting. "Lad are ye okay?"
"It's Dexter…" Freakazoid replied through gritted teeth. "He wants to talk to you"
"Then let him out lad" Roddy gave Freakazoid a hard pat on the back. "Best I talk to him anyway"
Freakazoid looked up at Roddy with a pout. He didn't want to be deleted. Luckily Roddy picked up on the queue and offered him a comforting smile. It occurred to Freakazoid that perhaps Roddy wasn't a conniving villain, but an ally. Well, he'd give him a chance to prove it anyway. Looking down at the ground Freakazoid swallowed the dry lump in his throat to whisper 'Promise you won't hurt Dexter…'
"Wouldn't dream of it lad", Roddy assured, grabbing his shoulder and giving him a good shake. "I just want ta ave a chat with im", his eyes widened when Freakazoid lifted his hand and outstretched his pinky finger; Freakazoid wore a serious face, that seemed unnatural on the spry spirit.
But Dexter's safety was no laughing matter to him. He wasn't human, but Dexter was. Dexter could get hurt. Even though it was awkward Roddy offered him his pinky and they shook.
Roddy stumbled back as Dexter reassumed the body. The teen wobbled back and forth in the street, holding his head. He was light headed and glad Roddy was there to help him to the curb. After catching his breath Dexter began feeling his body, inspecting it all over for any sign of damage.
"I…I was hit by a car", he turned to Roddy with wonder in his eyes. "I got hit by a car and I'm okay", leaning back on his hands Dexter let out a quick chuckle; when the joke lost his flavor he addressed Roddy with an apology. "I'm sorry Mr. MacStew for running from you. I was just…"
"It's alright lad", Roddy gave Dexter a quick shoulder pat; however, unlike Freakazoid Dexter felt the wind get knocked out of him. "C'Mon, it's goin ta be a long walk home"
Roddy stood and offered Dexter his hand. The two of them began heading back towards the Douglas home. Apparently in the course of a few seconds they had travelled somewhere around twelve miles. Yeah, they had plenty of time to talk. At first neither of them spoke, because what each of them wanted to say couldn't be said in a simple fashion.
"So do you know what's happened to me?" as simple as it sounded, Dexter's question was layered and complex.
Roddy rubbed the back of his neck as he thought about what to tell him. How do you tell someone that you simply can't answer the most important question they've asked in their entire life? Dexter looked at him through his estranged bangs; it didn't help that he was only a kid. He was in the middle of the awkward journey from childhood to adulthood and now all this extra baggage was just thrown atop everything else.
"This entity Freakazoid is beyond my calculation", Roddy spoke with regretful honesty as he tried to explain the trouble Dexter had found himself in. "I dun know what it's capable of, or what it'll do to yew in the long run", and there was a brief pause in which Roddy considered lying to Dexter, but that kind of thinking wasn't going to help the kid out.
Dexter sat quietly, his toes pointed inward, head hung low, fingers fumbling over one another. He was used to bad news and the familiarity of it calmed him. At least things weren't going to change that much.
"All I do know that it is not human, it doesn't seem to be stable…how could something with that much information and constant fluctuation last? It chose yew though Dexter. Something about you drew it in", Roddy paused at a stop light and rested his burly hand on Dexter's thin shoulder. "But, Freakazoid is no longer just a glitch, he's alive…and you are his host. This is theory really, but without yew he's just data"
'Pft', Dexter heard Freakazoid pout. 'What does that weenie know?'
"He's just trying to help", Dexter hadn't realized he'd spoken aloud until Roddy shot him a confused look. "Oh…uh, Freakazoid…"
Roddy shook his head, lightly patting Dexter's shoulder "Aye…We got a lotta work to do laddie"