1

Prologue

"Demidevimon!" The call echoed up and down the corridors of the pyramid, harsh and full of authority. "Demidevimon?" Again, softer, almost plaintive.

"The master speaks." The Gazimon noted wryly, glancing up from his console.

"Eh, let him speak. 'S a free country…well, at least for him." Spitting his crumpled cigarette into a nearby waste receptacle, Demidevimon resumed his orbit around the Gazimon's head. Of all the ridiculous customs Datamon had introduced, this was the only one he enjoyed. The bitter, organic rods were no good to eat, but when lit, they produced a pleasant, pungent odor that was strangely addictive. Demidevimon reeked of it, which was occasionally a source of complaint among his subordinates, but he was certain it was out of jealousy. Only the highest-ranking officers were allowed the privilege of smoking, and no-one, save the king himself, outranked Demidevimon. Hero of the Crest War, promoted overnight from coffee fetcher to official royal emissary, he had been overjoyed, but the post had quickly lost its novelty. Now, he would have taken a job among the Numemon just to get out of the palace. He had not been a professional sidekick for nearly thirty years without learning something about the temperament of villains, and his current master was more temperamental than most. Still, in those thirty years, he had become the only one capable of dealing with the King.

"So, uh…what's the problem here?" He rasped.

"Snag in the dark network. Here, on the border of sectors 8.03 and 8.04, the cable's been severed in two places." The Gazimon indicated the screen, where a patch of whiteness signified the blind spot. "Now, the way I see it, there are three possibilities. If it's a hardware problem, i.e a wild Monochromon got caught in the wires; we can dispatch a team and have it fixed within the week. If it's a software problem, that means an error in the coding, which could take months to locate and longer to repair. We might have to overhaul the entire network, which would mean instating martial law."

"Or…" Demidevimon prompted. Something in the Gazimon's tone indicated that the worst-case scenario was yet to come.

"Sabotage. Unlikely, since the network failed to detect anything in the vicinity. Still, we know it only records data at fifteen-minute intervals. It would be conceivable to launch a precision aerial assault, sever the cable and then fly out of range of the sensors. I can only think of a few Digimon capable of that, and the entire operation would take either considerable resources, or an insider, probably in Datamon's department. Either way…"

"Demidevimon!" The call repeated a third time, cutting off the Gazimon's exposition. "I know you're out there, man, I hear ya flappin' around…" Demidevimon and the Gazimon exchanged a piteous glance, and the royal emissary glided off down the corridor, cursing under his breath.

"You rang, boss?" The throne room was long and high-vaulted, lit by a single row of spectral lamps down the center. Shadows clung to the corners and alcoves, lending the place a deserted appearance. At the very end, surrounded by glowing monitors, was the Spartan throne, its simple metal back to Demidevimon. He fluttered toward it, wingbeats heavy, feeling his age. At last, he alighted on the dais, coughing loudly from the exertion of flight.

"That you, D.D? Come here, into the light, where I can see ya." A voice, seeming distant and disincarnate, filled the chamber. That voice, once proud and arrogant, the scourge of Digital World, was now pained and forlorn. There was no love lost between master and servant, but still, it pained Demidevimon to see the king reduced to this. He hardly ever left the throne room now, his concerts had grown few and far between, he never spoke in person, only watched his guests in the monitors.

"What's eatin' you, chief?" The emissary inquired, squinting at his master through the gloom. The king gave a long, rattling sigh.

"Feeling old, D.D. It's been…how long? Four, five years? Feeling old. Past my prime." Etemon ran a hand through his graying mane, a hair coming loose in his fingers. Robed as he was in shadows, sunken in his throne, he still retained some of his former menace. Still, his face was lined, and his muscular form broken and bloated. He had traded his sunglasses for a pair of vision-enhancers, through which he peered at Demidevimon.

"Been there." The emissary sympathized, not entirely insincerely. "Face it, we really are getting old. Three years, maybe. Don't think of now, chief, try to remember the old days…the good times." Actually, it had been nearly ten years since the Crest War, but there was no need to remind him.

"Right. Good times." Etemon said, with a sad smile. "I could sing, then, sing better 'n anyone in the world…"

"Still can, boss. Still can."

"Right, right…time to face the music, D.D, I'm not the 'Mon I once was. You know…tell me something. You think…did they ever like my music, really? Did they clap 'cuz I could sing, or…was it just fear, you know?" The question hung in the air, unanswered. "Listen, D.D., like I said, face the music. There'll come a day…come a day when age catches up with me, you won't see my face 'round here no more…tell me, who's running my empire these days?"

"You, of course, chief!"

"C'mon, don't talk to my like I was some damn kid. You know what I mean."

"Gazimon. Name of Spencer." The emissary lied glibly. He could never tell Etemon the truth, of course; he'd go berserk.

"Huh? They givin' Digimon human names now? Something aint right 'bout that." Etemon scowled, but pursued the subject no further. "Like I was saying…I won't be around much longer, and…I need a 'Mon to fill my shoes."

"Aint no one could do that, boss."

"You could, D.D. You'll be around long after I'm gone, and…I can trust you. I can trust you to run things around here, 'till I'm reborn. You always served me faithfully, and you even killed that Digidestined kid…"

Demidevimon still wore the crest around his neck, as a badge of honor. "Sure thing, boss." The emissary said with a smart salute. Somehow, he managed to keep his composure. No more brewing coffee, no more running errands, no more taking orders, no more…pain. Damn, he was so close…he, Demidevimon, lord of the digital world. Hmm, he liked the sound of that. He'd have to start planning immediately. He'd have to tell Datamon. Not the whole story, of course, but enough. "You can count on me."

The sun was setting on New Cairo, Etemon's capitol. Both literally and figuratively, the cloaked Pedestrian reflected as he walked down the main street, surrounded by blazing neon. The city gleamed like a jewel in the barren waste of the New Sahara, the setting sun reflecting off its steel façade. It was the heart of the Digital World, though its beating had been labored of late, its arteries clogged with the cholesterol of decadence. Well, maybe that was carrying a good metaphor a little too far. Datamon's influence was clear in the streetlights, stop signs and fire hydrants, all of which were strictly ornamental. That Digimon had a singular fascination with all things human, and a source for that information. Etemon's touch was also evident, not only in his image blazoned on shop signs and billboards, but also in the massive concert grounds near the center of the city, and the numerous music stores. Despite his use of it as a weapon, Etemon had the deepest respect for the musical medium and respected those proficient in it. The Pedestrian smirked under his hood, watching Etemon's empire disintegrate before him. Already, the citizens had begun too ignore his doctrines, and news of his decline was spreading like wildfire. Within the year, no doubt, he would be dead, and his empire would be torn apart in the ensuing power struggle. He smiled at that, but it offered little solace. The infrastructure was in place, the Dark Network spreading throughout the land, and it would not be easily removed. Even if his Capitol was razed and his successors slain, the Digital World would never be the same. And it could never bring his friends back. All trace of the smirk vanished from his face, and he quickened his pace. The white robe signified him as a veteran, a survivor of the Crest War. Considering his height, he could pass for an exceptionally lanky Gazimon.

He had been away some time, too long, really. The city had changed, none of the streets or stores were familiar. Still, at least one landmark was constant-Digitamamon's bar, The Arm & Leg. The place was nearly empty, but the door was open, and light flooded from within. Dodging a Monochromon caravan, the Pedestrian entered, finding the place much as he had left it. Wooden chairs huddled around a few disparate tables, the path to the bar unobstructed. Behind it, the familiar restaurateur waited, beaming. A few patrons sat, hunched over their drinks, sunk in silent stupor. The Pedestrian took a seat near the end, not wanting to draw attention to himself, not wanting to invite inspection. He drew his hood down to obscure his eyes. However, no sooner had he taken a seat than another Digimon sat beside him, shorter, but likewise cloaked. He figured it was better not to ask questions, lest one should be asked in return. However, the stranger insisted on making conversation. The Pedestrian noticed he already nursed a mug of beer, half-drained. The fermented beverage had not achieved the popularity Datamon had expected, but it had a few dedicated consumers.

"Veteran, eh?" The strange Digimon inquired in a reedy, somewhat familiar voice. The Pedestrian had encountered quite a few Digimon during his lifetime, and he was most likely familiar with this race. He nodded wordlessly in response to the inquiry.

"Did you ever see combat?" The stranger pressed.

"Yeah." The pedestrian replied at length. At that moment, Digitamamon appeared behind the counter.

"So, sir or possibly ma'am, what can my humble establishment offer you?" He asked, eyeing the Pedestrian greedily.

"Your cheapest drink." The pedestrian requested bluntly, slapping a wad of bills on the bar. Digitamamon scowled with his eyes, shuffling off to fulfill the cheapskate request. Nothing angered him more than cheapskates. Manipulating the tap with tar-like limbs, he poured a glass of generic beer for the Pedestrian, who stared at it for some time before speaking.

"I'd like to propose a toast." He called at last, turning to the stranger beside him. He raised the glass. "To the Digidestined, heroes, every one of them."

"Hear, hear." The stranger echoed, knocking the brim of his mug against the Pedestrian's. Beside him, a Tentomon added his voice to the proclamation.

"Better not let Etemon here you. He'd have your head for that one." A Numemon from further down the bar called to him.

"Let him hear." The Pedestrian retorted. "I say they were heroes, and if he doesn't like that, well…he can…do something, that's what!" He finished uncertainly.

"Besides, he can't." The stranger added. "And here's to Tai, I wish him happiness, wherever he is…" Their glasses met, and they both took a swig.

Clink.

"And here's to Sora, languishing in Datamon's dungeon…"

Clink.

"And here's to Matt, and Mimi, God rest their souls…"

Clink.

"And here's to little T.K, and to hell with Demidevimon…"

Clink.

"And here's to Izzy, the brightest kid there ever was!" The Tentomon piped.

Clink.

"And to Joe Kido…may God forgive him…for failing his friends, and…may he be reunited with them…in this life, or the next…" The Pedestrian's voice cracked, and he had to look away. The stranger froze. Slowly, he reached up and pulled back his hood.

"Joe?" He asked, his voice suddenly solemn.

"Izzy?" The Pedestrian muttered, incredulous. Quickly, he threw back his own hood, revealing, a drawn, gaunt face, faint stubble on its chin and deep, dark marks beneath its eyes. Blue hair hung in matted locks, partially obscuring an eye. The stranger was human, younger and clean-shaven, wiry red hair recently trimmed. The two Digidestined stared at each other for quite some time.

They called him Spencer. It was considered pretentious for a Digimon to take a human name, but his species had never been known for their humility. For Spencer the Gazimon, life was good. He was doing well, moving up, Datamon had even gone so far as to call him his protégé. Currently, his superior was working silently, entirely absorbed in his task. Spencer was used to that, though, Datamon often ignored his subordinates. He waited patiently until the Tech director was finished, standing at attention. At last, Datamon turned, looking past him, clearly distracted.

"Yes, what is it?" He demanded curtly.

"Sir, Demidevimon is waiting in the antechamber. Says it's urgent, news straight from the king himself." Spencer related, saluting as he did so. Datamon's face contorted with alarm, and he hovered past the Gazimon, brushing imaginary dust off of himself.

"Why didn't you speak up sooner?" He accused, already speeding towards the door. Not bothering to answer, Spencer excused himself through a side door.

Demidevimon flapped about impatiently, a grim expression set on his face. As soon as Datamon entered, looking slightly vexed himself, he began to speak, rapidly and without pausing for breath.

"Listen, and listen real good, 'cause I don't want to have to repeat myself, see? The boss says he won't be around much longer, just age, that's all. We're all feeling our years, been around a while, you and I and him…right? So, the boss says if he were to croak, then we should choose a successor…a Gazimon, more than likely, as a kind of…what's the word, there…regent, until the boss gets reborn. Boss doesn't know about you, of course, fortunately, so he tells me to do it for him. Says he can trust me. Well, the boss doesn't know about you, and neither do a lot of people…they won't support you, see, if you want to take the boss's place. So…here's what we got to do, see? You and me, knock off all the heirs, somehow, before the boss bites it. Then, it's only you…" Datamon held up a claw for silence, halting the emissary's babbling. He turned away, musing aloud.

"So, the simian's use is at and end. I knew this day would come, and I have planned, yes…you misjudge me. I would not want to lead, myself. I have groomed another for the position…"

"Spencer?" Demidevimon erupted. "C'mon, the guy's a pushover! Some monarch he'd be!"

"Precisely, which makes him perfect for the post. He will obey me."

Well, so much for that plan. There might yet be a way to turn Spencer and Datamon against each other, but he would have to plan carefully.

"Not to trivialize the matter, but…I remember it all like it was yesterday." The Pedestrian, Jyou 'Joe' Kido and the stranger, Koushiro 'Izzy' Izumi walked at a leisurely pace through New Cairo, hoods up once again. They spoke in hushed tones, glancing away from one and other. Tentomon hovered at a distance, glancing about for Gazimon officers. Right, yesterday. The screams, the last words, the speeches, and that gleam in Datamon's eye…it would always seem like yesterday, a person didn't forget a thing like that.

"Yeah." Joe agreed despondently. "You said…oh God, I'm sorry…I should have been there…"

"Snap out of it. It was a coincidence, and a lucky one at that. If you'd been there instead off procuring firewood, they might have gotten you too…"

"No, you don't see…Datamon caught me first. He…it was an ambush, Gazimon; they knocked us out before Gomamon could digivolve. I ran, after that, I couldn't go back…I still don't know how I managed to escape, but Gomamon…I left him. I mean, I had no choice, but I left him. And then there was no use going back, because I couldn't fight. By the time I finally returned…"

"I see. And when you came back, they'd found us already."

"So I ran again. The story got to me later, in bits and pieces. Somehow, I managed to survive…"

"So I take it you don't know the whole story?"

"I…no, and I'm not sure I want too, but I guess I don't have a choice…you said that Matt and Mimi…"

"It was…a suicide pact. After Datamon attacked the camp, the three of us managed to break free of the guards. We ran for the hills, that big flat one to the north of the capitol. Matt knew that if we were caught, Datamon could clone us and control our Digimon."

"But…how'd he know, then?"

"Birdramon was one of the Digimon who attacked the campsite. Sora was there, or to be more exact, her clone. Datamon explained it as he coordinated the assault-he said it was the power of the crest and digivice, not the Digidestined, which controlled the Digimon. Sora was walking proof. Matt realized the same thing could happen to any of us, and decided it would be better to take his own life, rather than risk becoming a weapon for Datamon. I argued, told him it was madness, pleaded with him, but he wouldn't listen. Matt…he always was like that. Stubborn, and inscrutable. He bullied Mimi into it, and Palmon…" Izzy spoke with eerie calm, as if reciting a passage from a history book. At last, his voice held a twinge of emotion, which he tried to suppress. "I tried to stop them. I swear. It…I couldn't watch, but I had too. Someone had to see, to remember-Matt ordered Garurumon to shoot Mimi, and Togemon to shoot him…then each other. The Digimon reverted to dust immediately, but Matt…he just lay there, impaled on this needle, for at least an hour, and Mimi reduced to charcoal…except her face. I waited, of course…what could I do? Waited until the end, and they just melted away, like the Digimon…I'm sorry…" He broke off. They walked in silence for quite some time. At last, Izzy spoke once more. "Datamon seemed to find it quite amusing. He renamed the hill New Massada in honor of them. T.K, of course, was short by Demidevimon…the dart hit him right in the chest…"

"I know that. I know. I guess Matt had to watch that. Maybe that's what…you know…wait. I though Etemon and Datamon were enemies. How come Demidevimon participated in the attack?"

"Who knows? He was always a shifty little bastard, I wouldn't be surprised to find his alliances in flux."

"Yeah, I guess…and Tai?"

"He was taken into the pyramid. That's the last anyone saw of him."