By Akino Ame
Part of Lord Archive's Diaries Universe. Used with permission.
Disclaimer: The characters and series of Digimon belong to Toei Entertainment and Akiyoshi Hongo, distributed by Disney.
Entry Five: "See You on the Battlefield"
Michael had no idea how he was going to pull this off. The fishing ship hadn't yet set sail, so he knew he stood a chance of getting caught and thrown off before he even had the chance to try. He'd left his shirt back at Mermaimon's shack so he could show off a bandaged torso—part of his cover that he was an injured digimon. His shoes were also off for the same reason. A stinky green blob of a digimon oozed around the ship, checking off a list, which only added to Michael's paranoia. Once, when his father had to play a villainous role in a movie, Michael had asked him how he managed it. The character was cold, calculating, and driven—completely the opposite of the laidback, adventurous, and even crude man that Michael had known all of his life. His father answered that part of acting was figuring out what was going on in the character's head, difficult of course, but crucial. Once an actor understood how his character ticked, he could begin the process of playing him.
Michael took a breath and steeled himself. The role he was playing was an injured young digimon with no other way to pay back his rescuers' kindness. Really, it was only a change of species. Both the character and the actor were scared stiff but determined to at least give it their best shot.
All right, he told himself. I can do this.
The blob came over to him and Betamon, had a double-take, and looked at his notes. Immersing himself into his character, Michael calmly asked, "Is something wrong?"
"You—who are you? You're not on the list!" the blob shouted. This got everyone looking at them, and Michael suddenly felt something akin to stage fright. He fought it off with what he liked to think of as stage thrill—the thrill his father had taught him of playing a part.
"I'm just trying to pay off a debt to my friends," he explained. "I got attacked, and Betamon and Mermaimon saved me. I thought I was going to die, but they kept me alive."
"Take your sob story somewhere else," the blob warned. "You're not on the list."
"It's a favor to Mermaimon," Betamon cut in. "You know how she gets when she finds a pathetic case like this." The blob wavered. "Come on, Numemon. It's only until he can get back on his feet. Yeah, so he's a Lucemon that can't fly anymore—he's still got arms to haul with. It'd mean a lot to Mermaimon if you helped us out."
"All right," the blob, Numemon, finally agreed. "But that's the third one you owe me—you need to pay up."
"No problem," Betamon promised. "I'll just let her know how suave and debonair you are and that you know a nice little place in the Middle District where you can get dinner." The grin he and Numemon shared indicated that they'd gone through this particular conversation many times before.
"All right, everyone back to work," Numemon ordered. "Cast off!"
Just as the ship set sail, Michael noticed a familiar yellow frog leering at him. Disturbed, he hurriedly went back to rigging up the nets, but Frogmon came over anyway.
"Looks like you have a new friend, Betamon," Frogmon observed while Betamon silently fumed. "What's the matter? Trying to replace me?"
"I've got a voice, you know," Michael interrupted. He knew it was foolish, but he was tired of people talking around him.
Frogmon turned a glare on him. "Pretty brave, kid. Brave or stupid."
"Sometimes I can't help but be accused of one of the two," Michael replied, matching the stare evenly.
Realizing that he couldn't win the war of intimidation, Frogmon tried a different tactic. "You know, it's got to be pretty hard for you to fight without your wings. There aren't a whole lot of Lucemon around, but I've heard about their attacks. You've probably knocked out your most powerful attacks, am I right?"
"What's this about?" Betamon argued.
"Hey, your friend and I are talking here," Frogmon snapped. Then, turning back to Michael, he said, "I'll see you tonight at the docks for a little…training session."
When Frogmon finally left, a bewildered Michael turned to Betamon and asked, "What did I just not agree to here?"
"Put bluntly, you're screwed," Betamon answered with a wince.
"I was afraid you'd say that."
While young, Maria was determined to do her fair share of work around the shop. In the morning, before everyone else woke, she and Patamon snuck into the kitchen to try and make breakfast. Patamon's flight gave him access to ingredients and equipment on the higher shelves while Maria sat at the table to cook. She didn't usually cook at home because of her age and her mother's nervousness at letting her handle the stove, but scrambled eggs couldn't be that hard, could they?
When Steve came downstairs a few minutes later, he fell over laughing at the sight of Maria and Patamon looking absolutely disgusted by the eggy mess they'd created. It was amazing there was still any in the bowl—it had splashed onto the table, the floor, and them when Maria tried to scramble the eggs, and Patamon's attempt to pour the milk had spilled milk all over the table.
"What happened?" Gabumon asked, looking at the mess.
"We just wanted to help…" Maria protested.
"Eggs aren't as easy as they look," Patamon added.
Steve managed to pick himself up and restrain his laughter long enough to take the goop-covered bowl from them and bring it over to the stove. "Thanks for the help, you two. I'll get these cooked while you wash up." Maria gave him a bright grin before racing Patamon upstairs. Gabumon looked once more at the mess and then at his partner.
"Help?" he repeated.
"Hey, there's no reason to yell at them for trying to help," Steve said. "So they made a mess? Big deal—they learned from it. They're part of this team and they're trying to pull their weight. I don't see anything wrong with them doing that."
"What if they try too hard and get hurt?" Gabumon asked.
"I trust them to know when they're in over their heads," Steve replied. "Maybe I believe in people a little too much, but I'm usually never wrong. And in any case, Patamon's there to keep her out of trouble."
Gabumon gave him a cynical look. "You expect me to keep you out of trouble too, don't you?"
Steve gave a sheepish grin. "Think you can start by cleaning the kitchen?"
There wasn't enough of the egg to cook alone, so Steve added milk to stretch it before dipping in several slices of bread and frying them on the stove. Lou and Gotsumon came down soon after and started setting the table. Steve had just about finished cooking the French toast when there was a knock at the door. Gotsumon headed off to answer it.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded. Steve and Lou froze and stared at each other while Gabumon prepared to defend them if necessary.
"I have information you may be interested in," said whoever it was at the door.
"Then just say it and go," Gotsumon spat.
"Gotsumon, let him in," Babamon declared, walking in. "This is important, and you know it."
With a sigh, Gotsumon let somebody step through the door before he closed it and showed him to the kitchen. The visitor appeared to be human—a man in his twenties or thirties, dressed in a white robe with a hood. Lou and Steve blinked.
"Allow me to introduce myself," the man said when Gotsumon didn't make a move to do the same. "My name is Benjamin, and I'm here to help you."
Steve looked at Lou and said, "Please tell me I've finally lost it and Obi-Wan Kenobi isn't standing right in front of us."
"It's not just you, man," Lou replied, shaking his head. "It's not just you."
It took a few minutes for everyone to introduce themselves and settle down, and by the time Maria and Patamon returned from their bath, breakfast was on the table for everyone. Benjamin ate very little, which suited Gotsumon just fine, as he just wanted him done and out of there. Gabumon was wary, Patamon was curious, and the kids were anxious to learn more about the first adult human they'd seen in this world. Babamon, however, was calm about the whole thing, offering the man another cup of tea. It grated on Gotsumon's nerves that she'd be so casual about a known renegade. Granted, Gotsumon didn't like Vamdemon any more than Benjamin did, but at least he didn't make trouble for others because of it.
"Um, Mr. Benjamin?" Maria asked. "Do you know where our friends are?"
"First of all, just call me Benjamin. We're going to be working fairly closely from here on out, so there's no need for formalities." The kids nodded. "Second, yes and no."
"What do you mean 'yes and no'?" Lou asked. "Are Sam and Michael okay?"
"One of them definitely is," Benjamin answered. "Sam, I think it was. I left him with a friend who I know will take good care of him. He's in the Central Core."
"I remember seeing that place," Lou said. "It's right in the middle of the island."
"Yes, and right under Vamdemon's nose."
"And Michael?" Steve added.
"I don't know," Benjamin confessed. "Opening portals to the real world—your world—is difficult. While the digivices can reach their owners most of the time, we have a hard time getting the portal to open exactly where we want it to. I'd hoped you'd all be together when you arrived here, but instead, you all got split up over the island. I managed to track down the landing points for most of you: Sam landed near one of the warehouses in the Central Core, so I had to get to him first. Maria ended up in the park, close to Patamon, I believe. Steve took a bad fall near a crime scene—" And here, the others stared at him as he grinned in embarrassment. He'd been hoping he could forget that. "And Lou wound up right in the middle of the Middle District."
"So what about Michael?" Steve asked.
"I lost his signal somewhere over the water," Benjamin replied. "There's been something going on in the rivers that's blocking my tracking system. But if he got in the water, he should be fine. There are fishers all over the coast and along the riverbanks. One of them would find him."
Lou felt a chill go up his spine. "But what if one of Vamdemon's men found him? What's going to happen?"
"Vamdemon probably wouldn't look there," Benjamin explained. "It's not that obvious, and he's overlooked the poor there so often that he doesn't realize how many of them are willing to rise up against him—if they had the strength. They only have a few at the Perfection level, and those ones can barely fight outside of the water. Vamdemon's headquarters is in the heart of the High District—and completely isolated from any water source."
"So you do want them to fight," Gotsumon noticed. "Instead of concentrating on reuniting them so they can get back to their world, you'd rather throw all of them together against an army that's crushed everything that's come up against them—no matter how powerful they were."
"The choice is up to them," Benjamin replied. "And I trust that no matter what they choose, as their partners, you'll stand by their decisions. As partners, you share a great deal—experiences, energy, and many things I will explain to you at a later time. But now, I hope you share trust in one another."
"I'd like to fight," Steve confessed, breaking the uneasy silence that followed Benjamin's impromptu speech. "I hate having to stand by while someone this corrupt is in power and draining the money and life out of the people here. But I'll wait till we find Sam and Michael before I decide anything. I don't want to leave them out of this—I'm the leader, so I have to listen to everyone first." Gabumon nodded in agreement, impressed with the maturity his silly partner displayed.
"I want to help," Maria added, "but I don't know if I'd be any good. If we do stay, will you all help me?"
"Of course we will!" Patamon affirmed. "I'm not very strong, but I'm not going to let anything happen to you."
Maria smiled. "Then I want to stay!"
And now, everyone looked at Lou for his answer. He was nervously fidgeting in his seat, not meeting anyone's gaze. Finally, Gotsumon asked, "Well?"
"I don't know," he answered. "You both make good points. I got pulled into the middle of this already, so I know how everyone in this city must feel. But at the same time, I don't know if we'd be able to do anything about it. I just don't know. I'll go with the majority, I guess, when Michael and Sam are here."
"But what if there's a split decision?" Gabumon asked. "You'll have to make the deciding vote then, instead of Steve."
Lou winced. "I didn't think about that. Just please don't ask me to decide right now."
"Okay," Benjamin agreed. "Then for now, we'll focus on finding Michael. The best place to start is probably the harbor—we'll ask the fishers if they've seen anything."
"But how are we going to avoid suspicion?" Gabumon asked. "You're a fugitive, and these three stand out like sore thumbs."
Steve grinned. "The whole secret to avoiding looking like you don't belong is to act like you do belong. Just talk the talk, walk the walk, and no one will know otherwise."
Lou raised an eyebrow. "That just went way over our heads."
"Trust me on this."
Work was exhausting and gave Michael a whole new appreciation for the digimon—and indeed, the humans back home—who did this day in and day out. His muscles ached, he could barely stand, and from head to toe, he smelled like dead fish: slimy, rotting, disgusting dead fish. It was enough that when he got back to Mermaimon's shack, he nearly vomited at the smell of dinner: fish, of course. Still, he ate just so he could keep up his strength.
"That has got to be the single stupidest thing I've ever heard you do!" Mermaimon yelled at Betamon. "What were you thinking? You know Michael can't fight!"
"To be fair, the sarcasm was my doing," Michael said calmly, taking a second helping of stewed greens. "The rest—that was Frogmon."
"What are you going to do?" Mermaimon asked once she calmed down a bit. "Frogmon specializes in catching his opponents off-guard and hitting weaknesses hard. How do you plan to fight back?"
"I have no idea," Michael confessed, looking down. The mask he'd worn all day was slipping off, showing a scared young boy with no idea what to do next. "I know a few things about self-defense—my dad does so many action films, it's kind of hard not to imitate him when he has to go in for martial arts choreography. But I don't think I can do this."
"Hey," Betamon insisted. "We're going to be there—we've got your back."
"Thanks," Michael replied. "I really needed that."
When dinner was over, he went over and pulled his shirt on and tucked it into his pants. It would offer some protection, and tucking it in would keep him from getting caught as easily. Though he was skeptical as to what he could find, he checked his backpack for anything useful. If he remembered correctly, batteries could explode when exposed to heat, but Frogmon didn't appear to be a fire-elemental, nixing that idea. The CD could be a useful projectile, but he only had one. The notebooks and homework wouldn't be much help, unless he happened to get close enough to Frogmon to whack him over the head or give him a surprisingly fatal paper cut, but Michael planned on keeping as far out of reach as humanly possible.
"Well, I do have this thing, whatever it is," he remembered, looking at the silver device he'd pulled out of his pack.
"That's your digivice, isn't it?" Betamon asked.
Michael gave him a confused look. "Is that what this thing is?"
"I guess," Betamon answered. "Mermaimon says it is, and it sounds like everything from the legends." Michael nodded, having heard the stories earlier. "I've heard that through those things, a digimon and a human can share energy. You just need to find your Digimon partner, and you'd be able to fight Frogmon, no problem."
"How?" Michael asked. "I'm still a little sketchy on that."
"All the legends say that the digivice allows for a digimon to evolve easily," Mermaimon explained. "Evolving is kind of like growing up for you humans, only in digimon, where it's induced, it's reversible. Each new level has new powers and is a lot stronger than the level before it. For example, Betamon's Adult level would probably be twice as powerful as he is now, and my Ultimate level would be even stronger, since I'm a Perfection—one level above Adult, which is a level above Child." Michael nodded in understanding.
"And Frogmon's twice as strong as he was in his Child form, Shakomon," Betamon added.
"So would he be twice as strong as me?" Michael asked quietly.
"I don't know," Mermaimon confessed. "And I don't like that you have to find out. You can still run away."
"And then what?" Michael asked. "I don't have anywhere to go. I don't know where my friends are, I don't know how to get back to my world—I've got nothing. Staying here is my only option. And I can't live off of you guys without giving something back. If I run away from Frogmon, I won't be able to go back there and earn my keep. I'm stuck."
And with that, he stuffed the digivice in his back pocket and shuffled off to meet his fate, Mermaimon and Betamon close behind him.
"This is stupid," Lou moaned. Somehow or another, Steve had gotten them in dark robes that covered them from head to toe. And while it was supposed to keep them from being spotted easily, he felt everyone's eyes on him. "People are staring at us!"
"Correction: they're staring at you," Steve replied, turning around and pointing. "Benjamin, Maria, and I are blending in just fine. Just relax and you'll be fine."
"Will you both knock it off?" Gotsumon asked. "BlueMeramon's headed our way."
Benjamin started to leave for a shadowed alley, but Maria caught hold of his cloak and said, "It's okay. He's one of our friends. He helped us when Lou was in big trouble."
"Well, I'm glad to see you children have plenty of help," he decided.
BlueMeramon didn't come too close, so Gabumon ran over to them, as their unofficial liaison. "Did you find anything?" he asked.
"I've been listening around and heard there's going to be trouble at the docks," he answered. Then, spotting the tall, robed figure in the back, he added, "It sounds like your brand of trouble."
"Is it one of the other children?" Gabumon asked.
"I don't know," BlueMeramon confessed. "I'd check it out myself, but I'm on duty. You're going to have to do this one on your own. But I'll keep an eye out for you."
"Thank you," Benjamin said from a distance, but BlueMeramon pretended he hadn't heard nor seen a thing, and that was just what they needed.
"To the docks?" Steve guessed.
"Don't get your hopes up," Benjamin warned, "but to the docks it is."
Michael felt better knowing that Betamon and Mermaimon were with him, but that almost-good feeling fled when he saw that Frogmon had witnesses. Even so, he took a deep breath and forced himself to remain calm. A panic attack was the absolute last thing he needed right now.
"I'm surprised you had the guts to show up," Frogmon said. "Kunemon and I had a bet going to see how far you'd run."
"Don't worry about those guys," Betamon whispered. "Kunemon and Otamamon are pretty weak, so they won't try anything. And if they do, I've got them. All you have to do is…"
"Not die," Michael finished.
Betamon winced. "Good luck."
"You through talking?" Frogmon asked. "I didn't come here to sit around and watch you gab."
"Not yet," Michael replied, feigning courage, and doing it surprisingly well. "I want to set some ground rules."
"Whatever. So long as it gets you to shut up already."
"This is only practice," Michael insisted. "Nothing lethal."
"Fine," Frogmon agreed. "Now let's go!"
With a cry of "Leaf Wheel Cutter!" he sent a spinning wheel of razor-sharp leaves coming straight at Michael. Without a second thought, he jumped into the water, ignoring the laughs of Frogmon and his cronies. He swam underneath the dock, taking the opportunity to inspect everything around him. The water was polluted, with litter just bobbing in the waves. He chose an abandoned oar as a weapon just as something grazed his elbow. Frogmon had caught him with something sharp—but not a leaf wheel this time. It was time to get serious.
Michael got out of the water and brandished his oar, paying no heed to the laughter he received. Before Frogmon could send off another leaf wheel, he rushed forward, swiping at him with the oar. However, he'd completely forgotten the fact that his opponent was a rather large yellow frog; naturally, he jumped right over it and readied another attack. Michael just caught a glint of silver before a tower of water came at them, sending both of them into the bay. When he surfaced, Betamon was standing on the dock, glaring at Frogmon, and a dagger was right in front of him.
"I knew he'd try something sneaky like this," Betamon declared. "Didn't expect the knife, though, but I'm glad I spotted it."
"That goes completely against the rules you two set up in the beginning," Mermaimon said. "It was supposed to be non-lethal."
"Still would have been if he ducked," Frogmon insisted.
As Michael climbed back onto the dock, Betamon replied, "No, that's it. I'm sick of the way you've been treating all of us lately. You used to be my best friend, but you know what? I've only known him a day or two, and Michael's already a better friend than you ever were!"
The digivice in Michael's pocket started to feel warm, so he pulled it out to check it, not hearing Frogmon say, "So he is a human then."
"Yeah," Betamon answered. "And instead of making him fight a losing battle, I'm going to make sure I finish what you started."
Mermaimon came over to Michael and draped an arm around him for support. "Sit this one out, kid. Let Betamon fight."
Michael was about to protest, but he knew he was next to useless. In contrast, Betamon was doing fairly well. He somersaulted through Leaf Wheel Cutters and sliced at Frogmon with his sharp dorsal fin. When Frogmon tried to pull out his dagger again, Betamon struck it with an electrical shock.
But Frogmon liked to play dirty, and he knew that there was one weakness Betamon would never be able to overcome: his small size. The next time Betamon came close, he leapt on top of him, trapping him under a hind foot.
"Betamon!" Michael cried. He tried to run over to help him, but Mermaimon held his arms tightly. "Let go! He'll be crushed to death!"
"You can't go in there," Mermaimon insisted. "Frogmon will kill you!"
"Then why don't you do something?" Michael insisted.
He finally managed to pull an arm free and used it to pull her wrist away from his other arm. He was running toward Frogmon when the digivice in his hand shone brightly and its heat nearly burned him. The next thing he knew, he heard Betamon crying out, "Betamon evolve! Seadramon!"
There was blinding light all around Betamon, and Michael had to cover his eyes for fear of blinding himself. When it faded, he saw exactly what this "Seadramon" was: a long blue sea serpent with a gold mask, who looked none too pleased about Frogmon standing on his tail.
"So, you think you can kick us around now?" he asked, his voice a lot deeper than it had been as Betamon's. Otamamon and Kunemon were smart—they went running, leaving their leader to deal with one very angry sea dragon with what looked suspiciously like a smirk on his face. "Let's see how you like it, then. Ice Arrow!"
Ice formed around Frogmon, leaving only his head exposed. Then Seadramon whipped his tail out from underneath Frogmon, sending him flying out into the ocean, bobbing and floating and completely at the mercy of the tides.
"Hopefully, by the time you thaw, you'll have learned your lesson," Seadramon said. "Or at least you'll be far away from the island. Either way, you're not a problem." He then looked down at Michael. "Hi."
Michael blinked, opened his mouth, closed it, and blinked again. He could vaguely hear people calling out his name in the distance, but he couldn't seem to register it in his mind. All that was there were Seadramon and his incredible evolution.
Finally, he said, "I'm not usually the one for dumb jokes—that's Steve's department—but I guess parochial school was wrong about evolution being only a theory."
"You know, Seadramon," Mermaimon interrupted, "that was pretty anticlimactic. I thought you'd have done more than just turn Frogmon into an iceberg."
"I didn't want to sink to his level," Seadramon insisted. "He was outclassed, and both of us knew it."
"Still, you should have hit him a little more," Mermaimon replied. "Just to make the lesson stick."
Seadramon chuckled before turning back to his partner. "Michael, don't be mad at Mermaimon for not fighting. She and I've been at this long enough that she knows not to butt in unless I really need it. I had Frogmon back there, even if that evolution didn't happen."
"Really?" Michael asked a bit skeptically.
"Of course," Seadramon answered. "He forgot that I could electrocute him. I was just mustering up enough energy for a good enough Electric Shock when you came running. Of course, I was fresh out, so thanks."
Michael grinned at this. "No problem."
"Hey!" cried a voice nearby. While Seadramon devolved, Michael turned to see Steve, Lou, Maria, three digimon, and an unknown man walking to him.
When he got close enough, Steve put an arm around Michael and said, "We spend the entire time looking for you, and what are you doing? Playing around with the digimon!"
Michael shoved his friend playfully and asked, "So what've I missed?"
Daylight broke over the Low District as the fishing ships set sail. It was artificial light, supplied by an artificial sun, but it didn't bother Michael all that much. In fact, not much was bothering him today. He was getting some odd stares from the other fishers, as he'd foregone the injured digimon act but all the same, he pulled his weight as an ordinary human.
"You're staying on board?" Numemon asked in surprise.
"Gotta earn my keep," Michael insisted. "Just because I'm not playing a part doesn't mean I'm going back on my word. And if me being human is such a problem, then the rest of you guys just have to deal with it. I don't plan on changing any time soon."
Betamon smirked and said, "You tell 'em."
Numemon simply sighed and muttered, "Between the two of you, I don't know how I'm gonna survive."
The chapter title comes from the catchphrase of the Zoids next-episode previews. I apologize if the writing style of the fic fluctuates from chapter to chapter; I've been working on multiple projects at the same time, which influences how I write back-burner projects.