The Long Winter: Chapter 1
**Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon. This fic was produced purely for entertainment purposes, and I promise not to sell it. So there. Don't sue me.
**Author's notes: Yeah, yeah, I know I said I wouldn't write again for some time, but then, the truth was, I couldn't stay away. I'm hooked on my own fic, sad isn't it? Don't worry about exams though, I think I've got it under control.
Anyway, this is set five months later, and as you can tell, it's winter. This chapter's a little slow, but hey, I'm setting up for the good stuff. Bear with me here. I'm also going to put in a little drama (Ok, a lot of drama), along with the action. Pure action just seems, like, I don't know…so superficial, you know what I mean? Read on, and see what happens to Matt and Tai's groups, and Willis, etc.
PS. I seem to be a sucker for taking titles from books. "Yesterday when the War Began" was taken from a novel called "Tomorrow when the War Began", and "The Long Winter", if you haven't read it already, is a book about american pioneers on the prairies, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Five months later
The slow, sad-sounding notes of a harmonica filled the air. Slowly, the blond haired boy played the instrument, trying to hold onto the notes, trying to remember what it was like before the war began.
He sighed, and put the instrument down. No, he couldn't do it. It's too depressing. He glanced instead at Gabumon, curled up into a ball, and sleeping away. Sleep nowadays was so rare, Matt didn't have the heart to wake him.
Why'd you stop playing Matt?
It's too depressing. That song always gives me the blues.
The blond boy smiled at the memory, then his grin turned bittersweet. The one who'd asked him why he'd stopped playing was long gone, killed by Diaboromon. A tear coursed down his cheek, for the comrades that he'd lost, that he was still losing, in this whole insane war. Angrily, he wiped it away. He was the leader. If the others saw him like this, it would be disastrous for morale.
Matt glanced out the window. The ruins of Tokyo looked even more depressing than ever. Underneath a lead gray sky, flakes of soft, pure white snow drifted downwards. A light blanket covered everything in sight. The settling rubble of the once proud city blocks were lightly dusted by the light flakes. It's going to be a white Christmas, the boy thought sadly.
Christmas, the season of hope. His lips twitched up in an ironic half-smile. Christmas. And now look at everything. The once proud human race, reduced to scrabbling about in the dust, crushed by Diaboromon back to the stone age. This is hope?
Most of the human race had been wiped out. Those hardy few that survived were forced to eke out a meager existence out in the wilds. Vicious, starving gangs roamed the cities, and gang resource wars raged across the world. But it didn't stop there.
Diaboromon had established his headquarters in Tokyo. His minions were now firmly entrenched around the globe, established in every major city and country. Matt's eyes turned grim as his thoughts turned back to the war. The only blessing was that Diaboromon had apparently been unable to replicate more copies of himself in the real world. Thus, he had been forced to bring over reinforcements from the digiworld.
Matt's little underground resistance were still puzzling over how Diaboromon had managed it. About a month after the initial invasion, other types of digimon had appeared, mainly Bakemon. None of them were nearly as powerful as a Diaboromon, but in the numbers they appeared in, they were still dangerous. Certainly enough to defeat the unorganized and disbanded human resistance.
"Matt? You OK in there?" his father opened the door. A pool of golden light washed in from the outside room. From outside, Matt could hear the plastic clacking of keys as Mr. Izumi continued to work on his computer. Kari and Joe were talking about something in low-key voices. Gatomon was perched on Kari's shoulder, and Gomamon was somewhere or other, probably checking on supplies.
"Yeah Dad, I'm fine." Matt smiled at his father, trying to reassure him. They had found his father, Mr. Izumi, and Jim Kido on the streets shortly after he and Joe had returned from the failed rendezvous. They were the only people, apart from the digidestined, that Matt had found. All the others had simply disappeared. Matt had no idea if they were even alive.
"Happy Christmas Eve."
Matt snorted. "Happy Christmas Eve. Who can think about Christmas at a time like this." He sighed. "Well, thanks anyway."
His father smiled at his son. Then snapped his fingers. "Oh yeah, I need to tell you something. Mr. Izumi's still trying to get us online without being detected by Diaboromon. I just sent TK out to gather some supplies for us. He should be back by morning."
A few months ago, Matt would have been worried sick about sending TK out alone into the wasteland out there. Not anymore.
Over the past few months, Matt had seen his little brother mature and grow up into the most capable soldier a commander could hope for. TK had…changed. He was still as compassionate and gentle as he always used to be, but now, the wide-eyed innocence he carried about him as a child was gone. Instead, his demeanor seemed to be constantly tinged with a slight sadness, permanently left on his heart and soul by the atrocities he'd seen in the last few months. TK can take care of himself, probably better than I can.
Matt nodded at his father, acknowledging the news, then turned back to his silent contemplation of the ruined cityscape. His father, knowing when he had been dismissed, started to close the door.
"No Dad, leave the door open." Matt gave his Dad a half-smile. "It gets a little dark in here."
His father nodded once, and left the door ajar as he left. Matt turned back to the window again as he thought about what had happened over the last 5 months.
Diaboromon had apparently repaired the majority of the Internet, and had modified it until it resembled a gigantic version of Etemon's Dark Network. Almost nothing went by around the world without him noticing. However, it was that network that Matt intended to use against him.
Mr. Mark Izumi was himself a respected computer expert. Once Matt had managed to get him a working computer, he had been trying to find a way to get past Diaboromon's firewall, and into the network without being detected. Matt's eyes narrowed as he played the idea around in his head. Once they were in, they could get almost unlimited information on Diaboromon's troop movements, how he had managed to transport Digimon over from the digiworld to bolster his ranks, wreak havoc with his network…
Matt shook his head. It would not do to count your chickens before they hatched. The leader that looks too far ahead trips over his own feet. He would see how the network idea played out, and then would plan accordingly. Sighing, the blond boy abruptly got up and walked out of the room.
The small, underground resistance was still stationed in the abandoned building that Kari and TK had stayed in all those months ago. Now though, it had been modified into a proper little base. Supplies, food, water, small cots lined the sides, and a weak bulb in the center of the room illuminated the place. Weapons lined the far wall. His father had managed to rig up a gasoline generator to run the computer and the light.
Walking up behind Mark, he leaned over his shoulder. "How goes it?"
Mr. Izumi made a face. "Slow. This firewall's really giving me problems, and even if I do manage to get in, I have to somehow avoid detection while I do it."
Matt pondered that for a moment. "Then…any progress on how Diaboromon seems to be tracking our digimon?"
Mark sighed. "None as well. I'm sticking to my original hypothesis. Since Diaboromon almost invariably manage to show up after your digimon digivolve, then I'm guessing he can track that somehow." He looked over his shoulder and at Matt. "I still have no idea how digivolution works, so I'm not exactly qualified to make a judgement on this."
Matt stared back. "Neither do I. No one does. What I'm asking for is a reason why he seems to be able to track our digimon."
The older man thought about it for a moment, then he said, "Well, according to the laws of physics and energy, although energy cannot be destroyed or created, each time energy changes form, or is transferred between objects, a little is lost from the system. So, if you carry that idea out…"
Matt interrupted. "I don't want the whole science lecture. Just get to the point." Izzy, are you sure you were adopted?
Mark didn't seem offended, he was used to it. "Fine. I'm guessing he can somehow detect the energy that is being released whenever you digivolve, or whenever your digimon use one of their attacks. Being in the real world, such releases of digital energy are probably unnatural. He could probably track energy bursts on a big screen somewhere, and then direct troops at them."
Matt looked at Gabumon, still catching a nap in the other room. "So…there's no way we can get around that?"
Izzy's father shook his head. "I don't even know what type of energy we're dealing with here. Even with a full-sized lab and proper funding, it could take years to try to find out a way to mask or dampen the energy released. With what we have now…I'm telling you Matt, it's impossible."
Matt sighed. Looking over at his older friend, he gave him a slight smile. "Well, good work anyway. If you come up with anything new, tell me, alright?"
Matt nodded, and accepted the fact. He went over an inventory of what he had at his disposal at the moment.
The parents were certainly helpful. Mr. Izumi and his father's knowledge of computers had enabled them to attempt breaking into the network, and Jim, Joe's older brother, had become a rather effective field medic.
He glanced around the room. Kari and Joe no longer seemed to be talking, and instead, Kari seemed to be concentrating hard on carving a small piece of glass in her hand. Gatomon was curled up in her lap, catnapping. She seemed to have worked on that object for the past 2 weeks at least, whatever it was. She wouldn't let anyone see it, especially TK. Joe had gone onto the roof to take his turn at sentry duty. Although they were both children, they were after all, digidestined. Both of them were reliable, and could be counted on. Matt would trust his life to either of them without a second thought.
Then Matt turned his gaze back out the window again. TK would be out there right now, gathering supplies for the small resistance. The snow looks so peaceful, the blond boy thought as he contemplated the serenely falling flakes. For a moment, he forgot about the entire insane war, about the resistance, and lost himself in the flakes. He could remember times as a child when he had been similarly mesmerized, eager for Christmas to come, pleading with his parents to let him open his Christmas presents ahead of time.
Then he looked down. The debris-filled and ruined streets and buildings stared back up at him with stark relief. Matt sighed. This war is everywhere, he thought bleakly. The human race was threatened with extinction, and here he was thinking about snowflakes.
Tai stared sadly at the crumbling remains of New York. Well, what was I expecting? he thought bitterly. It's not like the United States is invulnerable…
The city blocks were slumped, rubble filled the deserted streets. Not a single building stood untouched. A chilling wind blew through the ruined city, and Tai shivered as he pulled his coat tighter around him. Agumon stood quietly beside his friend, also scanning the remains of the proud city. His eyes swept around the city, and turned towards the sea.
What he saw depressed him even more. The Statue of Liberty hadn't escaped the wrath of Diaboromon. The once-proud monument, standing boldly for peace and justice, had been leveled into fist-sized blocks of copper. It was as if liberty and hope had finally fallen, crushed by the darkness that was threatening to envelop the world.
"Tai, come on. We have to do what we came here to do."
The brown-haired boy stifled a sigh, his breath blowing out in a frozen cloud of vapour. Sora's hand rested on his shoulder for a moment, and he turned and gazed into her crimson eyes, giving her a weak smile. Sora smiled back, grateful that their leader was all right. How typical of her, Tai thought. She's always the caring and protective one of the group. These days, he was beginning to appreciate her more and more.
Following Sora, he walked back to where the rest of the group was resting. Izzy was somehow working on his computer with gloves, his fingers typing on the keyboard without being slowed down at all. Tentomon was slumped on the frozen ground, his wings flapping weakly as he rested. Mimi was resting tiredly on her haunches, while Palmon hugged herself with her vines and shivered. Tai smiled at them. The one blessing in this war, was that he had loyal comrades at his side to face it. Together with his friends, he felt invincible. They're all the family I have left now…
They had picked up a very, very confused and scared Mimi about 2 months ago. At the time, she had been hiding and running from the Diaboromon patrols, much like Tai and the others had back in Tokyo. It had taken a long time to get across the Pacific to America. After all, it wasn't as if they could just hop on a plane or boat and get there in a few hours. In the end, they had had to hijack a small ship. They had all agreed that a ship was the best way across, since none of them knew how to fly a plane. It wasn't as if they knew how to sail either, but it was at least safer.
After finding Mimi, they had then proceeded to trek across the entire US. Landing on the western side, around Hawaii, they had had to traverse one of the largest countries in the world, on foot. They had all changed, growing into an inseparable unit, with an almost militaristic command structure. It couldn't be helped. The constant wandering, the uncertainty, the never-ending problem of supplies and food, the patrols, had all forced them to rely on one another more and more.
At the moment, the brown-haired girl was tapping her foot impatiently against the frozen ground. Having been in a literal living hell for the last 5 months had desensitized her a little to the ruined cityscape. "Come on Tai. This is the first real city we've ever been to in a long, long¸ time. At least this time, we won't have to sleep out in the open. Let's go find your precious Willis, and be gone."
Izzy interrupted behind her. "Uh, Mimi. Don't forget that this "Willis" could very well be the person we need to tip the balance of power."
Mimi humphed. "Well, then let's go ahead and find him."
Sora smiled tolerantly at the flighty girl. Mimi may seem a little snobbish at times, but at heart, she was a sincere and loving. Tai turned to Izzy. "Well, we're here. Do you have the address of his house?"
The others stared at him. He shrugged. "OK, he's probably not there, but it's a place to start." He looked around. "Anyone else got any better ideas?"
No-one did. Izzy turned back to his computer and hit a few keys, then turned his laptop around to show the others his screen. It displayed a picture of a young boy, with pale blond hair and bright green eyes, about the age of TK and Kari.
"Here's all that I know about Willis, which isn't much. His full name is Willis Maxwell, (** yes, this was taken from G Wing **). This is how he looks like, as of 5 months ago, so if you see him, you'll recognize him. 10 years old, that is, about the same age as TK and Kari. His home address, according to what corresponded to his email address anyway, is 155 Woodbine Ave. Other than that, we don't know much about him except he seems to have some knowledge about the origin of Diaboromon." Izzy smiled. "We were just passing acquaintances on the web, but he struck me as somewhat of a genius. Kind of a loner though."
They all stared out at New York. The ruined city seemed to stretch on forever, and Tai tuned to Sora. Sora caught his gaze and nodded, then drew out a city map of New York that they had swiped while passing a gas station. "Izzy, where'd you say he lived?"
"155 Woodbine Ave."
"Gotcha" Sora laid out the map, and took out a pen. Leaning over it, she circled the spot where they were standing. "This is where we are. Let's see where we need to go…" Turning the map around, she checked the index, and picked out "Woodbine Ave." Turning back to the map, she circled the street with her pen. "He lives here, or used to live here."
Tai studied the map carefully. "That's about a 15km walk due North." Looking up, he squinted at the sun as it made its pass along the sky. "We'll probably get there by nightfall, taking into accounts the detours we'll probably have to make around patrols and gangs. Even if he's not there, we can probably bunker up in one of the houses there for one night."
Mimi clapped her hands. "Yesss!! We don't have to sleep out in the open tonight!"
Tai stared at her sternly. "Mimi, get serious." Turning back to the group, he laid out orders. "Kay, guys, when we're in the city, there'll probably be patrols and gangs. Keep your eyes open, and no fooling around. Don't talk unless absolutely necessary. Agumon, that goes for you too."
Tai's faithful digimon looked up at him reproachfully, "Come on Tai, you know I can keep my mouth shut when I want to."
Tai smiled back down at the little dinosaur. "Joke, Agumon. Can't you take a joke?"
Tentomon buzzed around their heads eagerly. "Come on then. We're finally at New York, let's go find Willis!"
For the next couple hours, the small group of humans and digimon walked through the city. Keeping to the shadows, they slipped silently through the deserted streets, their senses strained taut for the occasional patrol of Bakemon, or even a lone Diaboromon. Several times they were forced to detour around large city blocks because of a patrol.
Biyomon grumbled as they had to detour around yet another patrol of Bakemon. "I don't see what the problem is. We can take these guys even in our Rookie forms. Why do we have to make way for them?"
Sora gazed up and down the streets, constantly turning her head and scanning for potential danger. "You know the reason. The ensuing fight would attract too much attention, which we don't want. As far as anyone is concerned, we don't exist."
Tai tread silently along the uneven pavement, making his way around small hills of wreckage. "Hey Izzy, doesn't this remind you of something?"
Izzy nodded. "It was just like that time in Machinedramon's city. Just us, a whole bunch of patrolling digimon, and a deserted city. Only difference was, Machinedramon's city was in much better shape than this."
The group trudged on. As they got deeper into the metropolis, they found out the city wasn't entirely deserted after all. Several times, they had to detour around gangs of humans, out to scavenge. Sometimes, resource wars erupted over the meager supplies left. Tai shook his head sadly. Have we really been reduced to this? Fighting and killing amongst ourselves, ready to slaughter over a handful of food?
The journey to Willis' house was relatively uneventful. By the time they got there, the sun was setting over the western horizon. The suburb that Willis' house was located in was totally deserted, and a lonely wind scoured the streets.
Tai looked up and down the neighborhood. This had once been a prosperous suburb, quiet and secluded. Not anymore. Like other parts of the city, this little suburb had not escaped the wrath of the war. Rotting piles of timber and wreckage littered the streets everywhere, and the ashes of gutted houses lined the sides.
"147…149…can't read the number…doesn't exist anymore…155." Izzy slowly counted out the houses, and stopped in front of the appropriate one. "Here's where he used to live."
Sora looked at the house. "Doesn't look occupied to me."
She was right. The door had been left ajar, and although it stood relatively intact, all the windows had been broken, and it had a deserted feel about it.
Tai shook his head. "We won't know until we go inside. Come on, at least we'll be sheltered from the wind inside."
The rest of the group gratefully followed him into the shelter. Inside, it was a mess. The floors were littered with shattered pieces of furniture. Drawers and cabinets hung open, Willis and his family apparently having left in too much of a hurry to close them. All the major electrical appliances had been blown out. It was dead silent. Even the constant moan of the wind was shut out by the door.
Tai looked around. "Spread out. Sora and I will take the top floor. Izzy, you and Mimi take the ground floor. Yell if you see anything."
The small group nodded, and spread out as ordered.
Half an hour later, the small group slumped exhaustedly on what remained of the couch. "Tai, I'm telling you, there's nothing here." Mimi complained. "I mean, it's not like he'd leave a note about where he'd have gone to."
Tai gritted his teeth. "We have to find that boy. He knows something important. Just tell me what you found. I'll decide whether it's important or not."
Izzy sighed. "Well, we can just forget about pulling anything off his computer. All that's left of it now is a blackened husk from the electrical surge. Nothing survived."
"There's nothing in his room either, except a big mess. No clues about where he went to. He did seem to have kept a dog or something though, since I noticed a little bed." Sora added.
"I checked the garage. I know they own a car since I saw the tire marks on the floor, but it's not there anymore. Not like it would do them any good. No way you can drive a car through the wasteland out there." Mimi mumbled from her slumped over position.
Tai grimaced. "I found nothing either. Just a big mess like Sora." Frustrated he looked out the window again at the ruined neighborhood. There has to be a way to find him, he thought angrily to himself. His mind wandered as he tried to think of a new way to search.
Then he frowned. Something had caught his eye. He looked more closely at the destruction outside. A strange pattern was there, something maddeningly out of reach of his conscious mind, but there nonetheless. "Izzy, is it just me, or is there something wrong with that wreckage out there?"
Izzy joined him at the window. The girls, too exhausted, remained at the couch. "What are you talking about?"
"You know, the pattern of the debris doesn't seem right. Can't exactly explain why, but I've seen wreckage left behind by Diaboromon, and that's not it. Somehow…"
Izzy looked out the window, squinting. "I think I know what you mean. Come on, let's go outside for a closer look." Pulling out a powerful flashlight, the two boys stepped outside the door, accompanied by their digimon. Tai glanced back at the girls. "Keep on looking, search everything, and if you find something, shout."
Together, the two boys walked to the nearest destroyed house. The bitter cold hit them again the instant they stepped outside, and both Tai and Izzy shivered. Slowly, they circled the house, trying to decide what it was that had caught their eye in the first place. Finally, Izzy pointed.
"There. That's unusual."
Tai joined him, and put a hand over the peculiar marks. The side of the house was pockmarked with small craters, each about the size of a dinner plate. "Somehow, I don't think a Diaboromon did this."
"No, they can't have. Their attack is Web Wrecker, a big blast of energy. If they had shot that at the house, there'd be nothing left. And it certainly wouldn't leave marks like that."
Izzy looked around, then pointed. "There, see that blast mark over there?" Tai turned his head to see a large crater in the street. "That's more typical of a web wrecker. A large, single crater, and not a series of small ones."
Agumon peered closely at the ground. "Tai, look at this." Tai knelt down by his digimon's side, and put his hand on the black smudge mark there. Running his fingers lightly across it, he inspected his fingertips closely. There were little black flecks of something stuck to his hand. Not quite soot or ash, not your typical battle debris, but somehow it looked familiar…
Tai straightened up. "So…what've we got here?"
Izzy knelt by the marks, peering at them closely. "These look like a lot of relatively weak impacts in a short amount of time, culminating into a devastating net effect. Kind of like a machine gun, except the rounds are a little too big."
"Could it have been done by humans? Resistance perhaps?" Agumon chipped in.
Izzy shook his head. "No way. Not unless they had a full-sized 30mm gatling at their disposal. The kind of slugs that hit this house is of the armour-piercing type. You find that type of gun on tank-killing planes like the A-10, or land-based artillery." He glanced at Tai. "Somehow, I don't think that normal suburban people would have that type of gun in their hands."
Tentomon frowned at the wall. "How about Digimon? Could they have done this?"
Again, Izzy shook his head. "None of the digimon we've seen so far can do this. I suppose if you took 50 rookies in a row, and had them fire at the wall simultaneously, it would create these marks." He snorted. "Why anyone would do that though, is beyond me."
Tai leaned in close to the wall, and ran his hands over the marks again. The phantom bullet marks gleamed faintly in the dying sunlight as it caught the setting sun. "If it's not done by Diaboromon, and not done by humans…" he glanced over at Izzy. "Then who did it?"
Izzy didn't answer. Instead, he was heading back to Willis' house. Tai hurried up to catch him. "What are you doing?"
"I want to get an overall view of the damage pattern. Maybe we can see how the battle played out with a higher view."
Tai huffed. Why didn't I think of that, he thought. But he followed the auburn-haired boy into the deserted house, climbing up onto the second floor. Glancing around, Tai looked for the girls. "Sora? Mimi? Did you guys find anything?"
"Mmph…" Mimi replied. Sora was more explicit.
"Nothing Tai, nothing that even remotely suggest where he might have gone to. I mean, we can learn a lot about Willis the person, but not where he is right now."
Tai nodded as he climbed up the stairs after Izzy, with Agumon at his heels. "Well, keep looking. I'll join you in a minute. We just have something to check out."
By the time Tai got to the upper room, Izzy was already at the window, looking at the devastated neighborhood. "See anything?"
Izzy turned to Tai. "What do you think?"
Tai and Agumon looked out the window as well, and Tai narrowed his eyes. In his mind, he tried to picture the battle, where each fighter would be, how the shots had been fired, the angles of the projectiles…
"There." Agumon pointed to a spot about half a block down. "That spot seems to be the most damaged. Craters everywhere. Typical of a Diaboromon web wrecker as well. It was as if they were concentrating their fire." The large, smooth-sided craters had the distinct signature of a web wrecker.
Izzy nodded. "Look at where those bullet marks we saw appear as well."
Tai looked, and frowned. "They seem to be fairly spread out, all coming from a central source, and the angle of the shots seems to be…" he pointed back to the spot. "coming from there, where the web wreckers seem to be concentrated." He looked closer. "And where the bullet marks appear, there seems to be a corresponding black smudge mark as well."
"So that means, a group of Diaboromon were fighting one single entity, an entity with the capability to crank out devastating streams of armour-piercing slugs. The black smudge marks are probably leftovers from the dissolved data of defeated Diaboromon." Izzy summarized.
Tai sucked in his breath. Defeated Diaboromon. Deleted data. So that was where he had seen that mark before, too many times it seemed. He scanned the scene again, trying to get a general sense of what had happened. The bullet marks seemed to be everywhere, and he counted at least 10 black smudges.
"No way it could've been human then." Tai said slowly. "Whatever it was, it was a really powerful digimon to have been able to take down so many Diaboromon single-handedly." He shook his head uneasily. "Where in the world did it come from? Is it on our side?"
Both boys looked at each other for a moment. "Do you think Willis is a digidestined?" Tentomon finally ventured.
No one could answer that question. Tai glanced out the window again. The last, red rays of sunlight glimmered briefly off his hazel eyes, and then the sun set. All of a sudden, the entire place seemed colder, more hostile somehow without the warm, friendly glow of the sun. He shivered. "I don't know, Tentomon. I don't know…"
**Author's notes: like? Hate? Remember, if you read this, REVIEW!!!!! I luv reviews, and they keep me going, so if you want me to continue, remember to REVIEW!!!!!!!