Submarimon leapt out of the marsh water, a well-aimed shot cracking the control spire. The tower teetered but didn't fall.
"Ahem, allow me," said Hawkmon, flying toward it and tapping it with a single wing feather. The spire creaked, swayed and fell.
"Now that's what I call teamwork," said Submarimon, grinning.
Cody half sat, half lay inside Submarimon, little beads of sweat running down his face. There wasn't a lot of air, and he felt a little dizzy... but no, this was the fastest way to travel, he shouldn't complain.
"Way to go, guys," said Cody, "ready to *sniff* go find the next one?"
"Just how many spires were you intending to attack today?" asked Hawkmon.
"As many as possible," said Cody, "it's not very often that I have this opportunity, but my mother and grandfather are both out tonight."
"They left you alone?" asked Hawkmon.
"I was supposed to go to Yolei's apartment after school... hey, Submarimon, do you mind if I climb out now? It's kind of... hot in here."
Submarimon lifted back the glass so that Cody could get out. Hawkmon helped to pull the boy out, a wing under each of his arms.
"Thanks, Hawkmon," said Cody, and leaned against Submarimon's cool back, wiping his forehead with his sleeve.
"We have to... have to go to the next area now..." he said, "maybe... Digmon... could help us more."
"I don't know, Cody," said Subarimon, "I don't know if I'd have the energy to armour digivolve a second time... I'm getting awfully tired, I don't think I can go much longer."
This wasn't true, but Submarimon was worried about his partner and just wanted to get him safely back to his own world.
"If you're tired, you can leave if you want," said Cody, "but I... I'm staying here, I can't... I can't let the spires stay up... ruining these innocent Digimon's lives..."
Submarimon sighed, and toyed with the idea of forcibly taking Cody away. His partner was so annoyingly stubborn at times... instead, he reverted to Armadillomon.
"Digmon is ready when you are," he said, with a little sigh.
"Armadillomon armour digivolve to... Digmon, the drill of power!"
He flicked open his shell and spread his wings. Hawkmon sighed and settled on Digmon's back, helping to pull Cody on too.
"I don't have a good feeling about this..." the bird sighed, as Digmon took off flying.
Kari grimaced, moving the food around her plate.
"You know what would be nice?" she said, "we should order a pizza once in a while."
"Oh, we don't need to do that," said her mother, "I could make us pizza if you want it. Ham, cheese, tomato sauce, olives, capsicum... a little honey, a little custard... wow, that's a really good idea, I'll make it tomorrow night, honey!"
"Great," said Kari, dispiritedly, and forced herself to take another bite. Her head was starting to hurt. She wondered how her friends were doing.
"Um, guys, shouldn't you be fighting the Digimon Emporer instead of each other?" asked Patamon with some concern.
Veemon just shook his head. "Let's go find something to eat. Those two will be at it for hours."
Patamon sighed and fluttered after the blue Digimon, leaving the carnage that was their partners behind.
The Emporer smiled, and it was not a nice smile. More like an Evil-Villain-With-An-Evil-Plot smile. Ignoring the screen that showed Davis and TK screaming at each other, interspersed with moments of fist-fighting, he had been watching Digmon destroying spires with Gold Rush and Rock Cracking. But now Digmon, tired, had dedigivolved, and the boy was in the middle of nowhere with two weak Digimon.
"Perfect!" he said, standing up, "my victory is assured!"
"If you're going out, does this mean you want me to set the VCR to tape Sailor Moon, Master?"
"Shut up, Wormmon..." he muttered, stalking out. Then he turned. "Need you ask?"
Cody stopped, nearly doubled over in a coughing fit. Armadillomon and Hawkmon looked at each other in worry as the small boy gasped for breath.
"That's it, we're leaving," said Armadillomon firmly.
"No, it's not even dark yet," protested Cody in a weak voice, involuntary tears streaming down his face.
Armadillomon was angry. "So killin' yourself out here's gonna help? Don't be so stubborn! You shouldn't have even come out here in the first place! Now we've single-drilledly destroyed four control spires, that's pretty good for a day's work. Stop being so stupid, and get on my back!"
Cody sniffled. "I'm... I'm not stupid," he said, his voice cracking. His head was hurting.
"No," said Armadillomon, more gently, "but you need to learn when to quit, Cody."
The fight left Cody, and he half-fell onto Armadillomon's back, grabbing the underside of his shell with unsteady fingers.
"Excellent," said Hawkmon. He flew down and took Yolei's D3 in his claws, examining it. "There is a terminal back to our world due east!"
"Which way is east?" asked Armadillomon.
"The opposite of west."
The trio made their way slowly in what Hawkmon, reading the D3's directions in an authoritative voice, thought was the right direction.
"Don't worry Cody," Armadillomon was saying in his comfortable, reassuring voice, "we'll be back in no time, then you can have a nice sleep, and I'll look after you until your family gets home... I heard that chicken soup is good for people who have colds... what's chicken soup, Cody? I'll make some for you as soon as I know what it is. I promise I won't set the kitchen on fire like I did last time. You just - Cody!"
He felt the grip of his friend's fingers slacken, and stopped just as Cody slid off his back onto the ground.
"Cody! CODY!" He nudged the boy with his head, feeling a rising panic. "Cody! C'mon, wake up!"
Cody lay slumped on the ground, his breathing slow and raspy, his face flushed.
"Don't worry, Armadillomon," said Hawkmon reasonably, "the strain was just too much for him, I'm sure he'll be alright in a little while."
"I don't know about that!"
The two Digimon looked up, startled, at the sound of a third voice. It was the Digimon Emporer.
"So, you thought you could just stroll into MY empire and start vandalising the place?" he asked, enjoying the fearful looks on the Digimon's faces, "I'm sorry but I simply can't let that happen."
He took a step toward Cody and Armadillomon moved in between them, glaring.
"Now, you be goin' on your way," said Armadillomon firmly, "don't you even think about hurtin' Cody!"
"Ohh, how amusing! A lowly Digimon daring to give orders to ME!"
Armadillomon growled and ran at the Emporer, who neatly stepped aside and gave a short whistle. The bushes rustled and through them came a cruel, serpentine head and long neck with a dark spiral around it.
Armadillomon took a step backward and wished he could digivolve on his own. He clenched his paws, digging his claws into the dirt so he could stand his ground. Then there was a suddenly flash of red, and he was being slammed... he was... he was unconscious.
"Look, TW, it's not MY fault we're lost!"
"You're the one who insisted we follow YOUR D3!"
"Well, I'm sure I had it set to detect the nearest spire! See that moving dot?"
"You're an idiot, Davis, spires don't move!"
"What IS my digivice registering then?"
"Who cares, just change the mode! We're wasting time here, and the sun's getting pretty low in the sky. It'll be dark soon."
"Awww, poor widdle TJ, afraid of the dark!"
"Can you EVER get my name right?!"
Patamon and Veemon sighed again as they trudged after their respective partners.
"Could you please not start beating each other up again?" asked Patamon politely, "it wasted twenty minutes last time."
"Yeah, and no fair having a fight without us!" said Veemon. Davis grinned.
"That's right, Veemon, you'd kick TY's butt in about five seconds!"
TK rolled his eyes and checked his D3. "Well, according to my D3, the spire is to our west, and we were heading north-east."
Davis furrowed his eyebrows, holding the D3 up in front of his face and examining it from different angles.
"I don't get it, mine's not showing anything like that."
"Oh, for crying... I bet you can't even set the alarm on your watch!"
"So, who can?"
"C'mon, everybody," he said, "follow MY lead for a while and maybe we'll actually end up where we're supposed to be!"
Davis made a face, shook his D3 a couple of times, then shrugged and began tailing after TK.
"I guess we shouldn't stay in one place too long in case some evil Digimon attack," he said, "but I still don't see why I'm following someone who couldn't find a car in a garage."
"You couldn't find yourself in a mirror!"
"You couldn't find hairspray in my sister's bedroom!"
"You couldn't find mould in my brother's refrigerator!"
"You couldn't find a hat in a garbage dump!... oh wait a second, you DID! Hahaha!"
"Don't Insult The Hat!"
Suddenly there was a sharp sound from overhead; the two kids and their Digimon whirled around as a figure came thundering down through the trees right toward them. Davis lunged at TK and knocked them both to the ground as the brown-and-white blur barrelled by, landing heavily on the ground.
"Way to give me a concussion, Davis," muttered TK, meaning "thanks".
"Any time," said Davis, meaning "you're welcome". The two focused their attention on their attacker.
"Hey, isn't that..." began Patamon.
"Hawkmon!" shouted the others in unison.
"Hey Hawkmon, what's the big idea, you tryin' to kill us or what?!" shouted Davis. "I thought you were - hey, what are you doing here alone anyway? I thought Yolei couldn't come to the... hey, you okay?"
Hawkmon looked rather tired and flustered, as though he had been flying a long time, as he had. He glowed slightly and reverted to Poromon, energy being sucked into Yolei's D3 which he had been carrying.
"It's Cody," he said, waving his little wings frantically, "the Digimon Emporer's got Cody!"
"Cody?!" shouted TK and Davis in unison.
Davis fumbled in his backpack and pulled out Cody's D3.
"But how did he even GET to the digital world?" asked TK.
"He shouldn't haaaave," squeaked Poromon, very upset, "but he insisted and Yolei told me to look after him and I couldn't, waaaaaah!"
"Don't cry," said TK, "we'll think of something."
"What's to think of?!" snapped Davis, predictably, "that creep Ken's got Cody, we gotta go rescue him!"
"I know that," snapped TK, "but we can't just go rushing in without some sort of plan!"
"You always say that! I want to go rushing in for once!"
"Stop being so impulsive!"
"Why don't you just shut up for once, TQ, I'm worried about Cody even if YOU aren't! Digi-armour energise!"
"Veemon, armour digivolve to... Flamedramon, the fire of courage!... hey, why'd you choose Flamedramon? If I have to carry you, wouldn't Raidramon be better?"
Davis shrugged. "A little variety doesn't hurt!"
Flamedramon sweatdropped. "Ever the brilliant tactition."
"That was supposed to be my line, Flamedramon," said TK.
Davis just grunted as Flamedramon took him up under one arm. TK and Patamon sighed as the two disappeared in a matter of seconds.
Poromon said, "what's your plan, TK?"
TK wasn't sure. "Well, I guess, if we're going to have a battle against the Digimon Emporer, we'd better try to get the others here."
He narrowed his eyes, with his sudden scary-TK look. "That jerk Ken has gone too far..."
'That jerk Ken' stood in his lair, looking over the insensible form of Cody at his feet. The child was twitching slightly in discomfort, a grimace on his features, looking so... small... that Ken realised uncomfortably that he couldn't kill him.
"What are you going to do with him, Master?" asked Wormmon, scuttling up. "You're not going to hurt him, are you?"
Ken was irritated at that question. "Do you have to follow me everywhere? I don't have to explain anything to YOU! Get out of here!"
Wormmon did so; it seemed Ken was in a particularly bad mood that day, although he wasn't sure why. And in Wormmon's experience, when Ken was in a bad mood, that was a good time to make himself scarce.
Alone again, Ken scowled, and nudged the prone form with one foot, uncertainly. "Hey. You. Uh... wake up."
Cody winced in his sleep and mumbled something incoherent.
"I said wake up!" snapped Ken, kicking him harder. He didn't know how to deal with unconscious people. One green eye slitted open, then the other.
Cody stared blankly up at Ken through half-closed eyes.
"Bwaahahahahahahahaaaa!" chortled Ken, for no apparent reason other than to instill fear into the heart of the child before him.
Cody wasn't really registering anything except that someone was talking too loudly, and it made his head hurt.
"Not so tough now, are you little digidestined? Let's see how long you last without your pathetic little friends to protect you! You see, standing up to my power is futile! FUTILE!"
Cody responded by throwing up on Ken's shoes.
"Umm, hello, is Yolei there?"
"Yeah, who's this?"
"Oh, TK? Yeah, Yolei will be here in a minute. I don't think you really want to talk to her though. She looks like she's been sleeping in a garbage can. It's a shame really, that one so young could be so ugly..."
"Uhh, excuse me?"
"TK, you said your name was? Oh yeah, Yolei talks about you all the time. You're the one she has a monster crush on, right? I just - aawhh! Hey!"
"MIKE I'M GONNA KILL YOU!!!!... leggo of dat... hey!... oh, TK, you dere?"
"I'm here! Ahahahh... if my brodda said anythig at all, just ignore him. We usually keep him chained in the closet, I don't know HOW he managed to escabe..."
"Uhh, right... hey, listen, Yolei. I'm sorry to bother you when you're sick and all, but I'm worried about Cody."
"Oh yeah, that stubborn kid. Have you met up with hib yet?"
"Unfortunately, the Digimon Emporer got to him first..."
"WHAT?!!! He's got Cody?! Just wait 'til I ged my hands on that cute jerk Ken! I'll be right there... ohhhh I forgot, he used MY D3 to get to the digiworld in the first place."
"Don't worry about that, Poromon has your digivice, I've got it here with me. Could you come around to my place right away, do you think? If you're not feeling up to it, then of course -"
"I'll be right dere!"
Wormmon, a scrubbing brush clutched between two of his legs, sighed and wondered why he always got stuck with the lousy jobs...
In another room, the Digimon Emporer (looking somewhat less imposing, wearing socks with pink bunnies on them) was shouting at a disorientated Cody.
After yelling about how those boots cost over a hundred dollars, and were sure to be ruined now, and how he'd better be prepared to replace them, and how he ought to pay more respect, and how he was just a little fool hurrying his impending demise, and so on and so forth, he realised he just wasn't getting through to the younger boy. This revelation probably came around the time Cody responded to a death threat with "uhhhh, my head..."
"D'you... have any children's aspirin?" he asked suddenly, his first semi-coherent sentence.
Ken slapped his hand to his forehead. "This isn't a hospital! This is an Evil Lair!"
"Think I'm... gonna be sick again..."
Ken ran for the medicine cupboard.
"Davis, has it occured to you that we don't know where we're going?"
"YEEES, Flamedramon," said Davis with ostentatious patience.
"Doesn't that concern you at all?"
"NOOO, Flamedramon," said Davis.
Flamedramon sweatdropped. "Well, give me a LITTLE help here!"
"Just follow the D3 signal."
"What D3 signal?"
"It's picking up something a few miles away."
"Are you sure that's not the clock?"
"Flamedramon, I know how to use my own digivice!"
"Why am I not reassured..."
"Look, it's set on some detect mode, so it's pickin' up other life forms, right?"
"Didn't Ken use a digivice to digivolve Agumon into SkullGreymon?"
"That's right, come to think of it, he did!... so you've homed in on Ken's digivice signal? That's really clever, Davis, I wouldn't have thought it of you! I guess you really do know what you're doing!"
Davis grinned nervously and decided not to mention that in the process of switching modes he had erased his digieggs from system memory...
"Hey, Yolei, come on in," said TK, opening the door to his apartment. Yolei took one step in, squeaked, and whirled around, pressing against the wall of the corridor so that nobody could see her.
"Uhh, Yolei, what's wrong?" he asked.
She pointed a finger at him accusingly. "You didn't tell me DEY were comig!"
"Who, Joe, Izzy and Tai? Yeah, Tai brought Kari over, Izzy came to set up the digiworld program on my computer, and we thought a doctor might come in handy, so we managed to drag Joe away from the books for an hour or two. What's the big deal?"
"There are CUTE GUYS in dere and I didn't brig my make ub! I look like a freak!"
TK sighed. He didn't understand girls.
"YolEI, I don't think that's what's really important right now. Nobody cares how you look, now come ON."
He half-dragged her into the apartment. She held her arm half-covering her face to hide it, and then sneezed three times.
"Hey, Yolei," greeted Joe, "you don't look so good."
Yolei snapped: "so, who cares how I look?! You men are all de sabe! It shouldn't matter one bit what I look like, so log as I can ged us into the digital world and helb Poromon digivolve so we can rescue Cody! Where are your prioridies?!"
TK muttered something under his breath, and Joe sweatdropped. "Uhh, sorry, Yolei... I just meant that you looked like you're not feeling too healthy either, and it might be a good idea if you didn't put yourself in danger. That's all, really."
Yolei sweatdropped. "Oh..."
Kari tapped her foot impatiently. "Are we ready to go now?"
"Right," said Poromon, flying onto Yolei's head and dropping the D3 into her hands. He gestured with one wing to the computer screen. "I think it was *that* black square right there, that's where the Emporer attacked us."
"Okay," said Izzy seriously, "now, obviously Ken is planning some sort of trap. This is going to be a serious test, you'll all need to do your best. Remember that your safety is the most important thing; if you can rescue Cody without getting into a huge battle, then I strongly recommend you do so."
"Right, den let's go already!" snapped Yolei, holding her D3 to the screen. "Digiport, oped!"
The six kids and three Digimon were sucked into the computer and landed in a meadow next to a television set. One of the first things they noticed was Armadillomon, standing nearby. He started when he saw them appear, and ran awkwardly towards them.
"Hey, you guys!" he called, looking wild-eyed and upset; very un-Armadillomon like.
"Are you okay?" asked Joe, kneeling down to be nearer eye level with the Digimon. His sharp eyes had caught a slight limp in his step, and on closer inspection, his armoured shell was cracked at the edges...
"Sure, I'm just fine," said Armadillomon quickly, "but the Emporer's got Cody!"
"We know that, Armadillomon," said Izzy calmly, "we've come to save him."
"Oh, right," said Armadillomon, "then what are we waiting for?!"
"WILL there be anything else?!" snapped Ken, voice dripping with sarcasm. He was standing, arms folded, beside Cody, who was lying in a bed with a thick soft quilt, two pillows, a hot-water bottle, a box of tissues, Vicks VaporRub and aspirin, and a bowl of chicken soup.
"Well, this pillow could stand to be a little softer," admitted Cody. Ken mumbled something unrepeatable, yanked away the top pillow and began fluffing it, with a thoroughly unimpressed look on his face.
"Hey, be a little more gentle next time," said Cody, sniffing, "you wouldn't want me to be sick again, would you?"
After getting lost a few times (but of course), Davis and Flamedramon actually made it to the Evil Lair first.
"This has gotta be that creep's hangout," said Davis, "it's so ugly, it's got Ken written all over it!"
"Where?" asked Flamedramon, inspecting the walls seriously. Davis sighed and mentally reminded himself that Digimon did not understand human metaphors.
"Never mind, buddy. Let's go kick down the doors!"
Inexplicably, the song 'Kick it up' began playing in the background.
'No matter what comes next will be okay...'
"Where did that music come from Davis?"
'Let's kick it uuuuup and show them all the things that we can do!'
Davis blinked. "We don't wanna kick it UP, we wanna kick it DOWN."
The background music stopped.
Davis smirked. "The door's five metres away, I can't be bothered walking that far."
Flamedramon smirked. "One new door, comin' right up! Flaming Fist! YEOWCH!"
He heaved back one blue fist, fire billowing around it, and slammed it through - no, into - the wall. The fire dragon jumped from one foot to another, blowing on his smouldering fist in dismay. Davis sweatdropped.
"Okay, I guess we could try the front door."
For the sake of convenience, it opened easily, and the two began strolling the halls, peeking in doors and occasionally consulting the D3. Finally they stood in front of the room, two beeping digital dots on top of one another.
"This should be it," said Davis, taking a deep breath and turning the knob.
The partners were met with a somewhat unexpected sight: the Digimon Emporer sitting by a bed with a storybook in his hands, reading aloud to Cody, who was lying under a big fluffy quilt sipping soup. Ken jumped to his feet when he heard footsteps near the door, and turned bright red when he saw Davis and Flamedramon there.
"W-what?! I wasn't expecting a rescue party for hours!"
"That's right," boasted Davis, "unfortunately, your little scheme had a flaw... everyone knows Davis the Mighty wouldn't get here immediately - he'd get here BEFORE immediately!"
"You stole that speech from Sonic the hedgehog, didn't you?" said Flamedramon under his breath.
"Yeah, I've been waitin' for the chance ta use it," said Davis proudly.
"It didn't make any sense," said Ken, with a sweatdrop.
"So, who asked you?!" snapped Davis, "we've come to save Cody from your evil clutches! Don't worry Cody, soon you'll be out of this... uhh... nice, comfortable bed, and... what IS going on?"
"Well, what was I supposed to do with him while I was waiting for you to show?!" snapped Ken, still blushing and defensive, "let him throw up all over the dungeon floor?! It's the maidmon's day off!"
Davis didn't answer; he was laughing too hard.
"Hey Ken," he finally managed to say, "you make a really great nurse! Where's your little frilly apron? Hahahaha!"
Ken turned a peculiar shade of purple and ran at Davis.
"You wanna say that again?!"
Davis found himself being tackled and stopped in mid-laugh (as one tends to do upon being strangled). He hit out at the other boy, pushing him away, and lunging at him to slam him into the ground. The two boys began rolling on the ground, punching at each other, trying to get the upper hand.
Flamedramon sighed. "Another little testosterone display..."
Wormmon chose this moment to come scuttling in, carrying a pair of grey boots.
"Master, I tried soap, detergent, washing powder, butter, nail polish remover and shampoo, but I couldn't get the smell out."
"What?!" screeched Ken, shoving Davis down onto his butt to address his partner, "look what you've done to them!! My beautiful shoes! You've ruined them!"
"Nice socks, Ken," said Davis from the ground.
Ken deliberately ignored this and turned on Cody. "Just look what you've done, you little fool!"
"I couldn't help it," snapped Cody, and doubled over in a coughing fit.
Davis scowled. "That's right, Kenny-boy, you can't expect -"
"I don't have time to listen to this," said Ken with a superior look, knowing how much Davis hated to be interrupted. "I have to go make preparations to defend my lair from the digidestined!"
"Hey!" shouted Davis, "I came to rescue Cody, I'm a digidestined, I'm a threat to you! So what are you gonna do NOW, Ken? We gonna fight or what? I'll take you on! You're outnumbered here! I'll... uh."
Ken, tailed by Wormmon, had simply walked out the room and locked it behind him.
"THAT'S NOT FAIIIIIR!" shouted Davis. Flamedramon dedigivolved and sighed. The two looked at each other, and then at Cody, who was breathing heavily, choking for breath between coughs.
"Does this mean WE have to play nursemaid now?" asked Veemon.
"If we can figure out a way to take care of Cody without goin' near him, yeah..."
Cody grunted. "What are *sniff* you guys doing here?"
"Well," said Veemon, glancing at the closed door with a sweatdrop, "we came to save you..."