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Playing Puppetmon's Games

Part One

The three remaining dark masters watched as the oceans of the Digiworld dried up to digital dust, an amazing feat even in the eyes of the Dark Masters.

"Well, you don't see that everyday." Piedmon commented, seemingly unconcerned. But, despite his cool exterior, his mind burned with unanswered questions. Who were these new humans? And what had been those creatures that had been fighting against the digidestined? They were not any digimon the demented clown recognised. However, that hardly meant anything. And that bothered Piedmon because it changed the equation. And changing the equation, changed the predictability. And, if the predictability changed, Piedmon might not win. That was not acceptable.

Beside Piedmon, Puppetmon jumped to his feet, eager for fun. He, like everyone else in the observatory, was nervous and uneasy but, like everyone else, he'd deny it to his dying breath. This was a room of winners, who did not think of losing. It wasn't in their mission statement.

"Metal Seadramon out. Puppetmon in."

"Not so fast, my wooden friend."

The Dark Masters turned their heads to shadows where a mysterious figure stood wearing the darkness as a velvet cloak.

"Who are you?" One demanded.

The creature smiled. "An ally." It said and stepped into the light.

***

Ah, the calm before the storm. The pride before the fall. The celebration before the funeral. It's a train crash in slow motion. The result is unavoidable but I am unable to prevent it. Ken gave a wiry, humourless smile at the imagery his mind created. I should be a poet.

The older digidestined were celebrating their victory, hollow thing that it was. To anyone unfamiliar with such situations, it may have seemed cruel to cheer when a good friend and ally had died only minutes prior. But Ken knew they didn't do it out of cruelty. It was a survival mechanism, delaying remorse until a place and time when it could be properly dealt with.

They're still all pumped with adrenal.

The older digidestined and digimon were gather together and their seemed to be a small confrontation between Tai and Matt going on. Obviously, the survival mechanism was not fool proof. Or, perhaps, maybe fighting was a way of dealing with grief.

Around him, Ken's friends from his own time were milling around, not wanting to get involved and not quite sure what to do next. Usually at this point, they'd go home, eat supper, have a bath and go to bed. The next morning they'd wake up, refreshed. But that wasn't possible here. With all the water dried up, there wasn't even water to drink, let alone bathe in.

Though, Ken assured himself, We can probably drink dew off the leaves. He'd heard of people who were lost in the woods doing that.

Shouting from up river (or, rather, riverbed, as there was no longer any water to make up a river), pulled Ken out of his musings. The tiny confrontation between Tai and Matt had turned into a major one between all the old digidestined and digimon, complete with yelling, screaming, threats, crying and pushing.

The newer team held back, wide eyes open. They'd never, ever seen such a display before. The digidestined were acting like, well, the children they were. Everyone was too stunned too talk, except Yolei who urgently kept suggesting they leave.

It was Sora who looked over. And it was Sora who reminded here friends of the new strangers. Maybe she was trying to remind her group of their manners. Maybe she wanted to draw their attention to other things. Sora had a tendency to work in unusual ways.

There disagree meant forgotten, they crowded around the new people and began to clobber than with questions.

"Who are you?"

"Where are you from?"

"What digimon are those?"

Having been interrogated enough for one day, Cody sneaked away over to the sand monument Mimi and Palamon had created. There were four separate mounds of wet sand, each with a neat little cross planted in the middle.

"This is for Whamon and this one is Piximon's. That's for Chuumon and that's for Wizardmon." Mimi explained, upon seeing Cody's confused expression.

"What about MetalSeadramon?"

"What about him?"

"Does he have a memorial?"

"Why would I make him a memorial? He was evil."

"But he was a digimon, a living creature that must have had a heart."

"Nothing evil can have a heart."

This conversation came to an abrupt end when Tai called out, "Mimi, Palamon, get over here. You too, kid We've got to find a place to spend the night. Hurry up."

Mimi and Palamon got up but Cody found himself staying behind. He was positive every creature had a heart, even evil digimon. It didn't seem right, to just leave.

"Cody, c'mon." This time it was Davis.

"Coming." Cody called back, quickly gathering together a pile of damp sand. Lacing the time and the material, Cody used stones and arranged them in a unique design to mark the spot.

"Cody, the others are leaving us behind."

"One minute Armadillomon." After offering a short prayer, Cody got to his feet and rushed to catch up with his friends.

***

They'd chosen a campsite that, to Davis at least, looked like another part of the forest. But it must have had some special significance because Sora had insist and Tai had readily agreed. Most everyone else was too tired to care. So, when someone suggested gathering some food for supper, Davis had been the first to volunteer his and Vee's services. It was partly because he was hungry but mostly because he wanted to get away from Tai. They were seriously butting heads. It was all stupid little stuff and Davis was pretty sure everyone else wouldn't believe him, but it felt like, well, Tai was stepping on his turf.

I guess there can only be one leader. Davis thought, I just need some time to get my head straight. Besides, I am hungry. How hard can it been?

Harder than Davis had thought, as it turned out. He assumed that Veemon would know the edible plants from the poisonous ones, forgetting that Veemon had been asleep for the passed digimillennium or so and had been living on pizza, pie and pop since meeting his digipartner.

"What about those?" Davis asked, pointed to a patch of strangely coloured mushrooms, "Can we eat those?"

Veemon shrugged.

"You're a lot of help." Davis bent down and picked one of the fungus, bringing it to his mouth. If I die or start trippin' then I'll know I shouldn't eat these. Davis reasoned.

"I wouldn't eat that."

Davis dropped the mushroom in surprise and looked up. Oh great, TK "Shouldn't you be back at camp?

"If you eat those, you forget." TK pointed out.

"I knew that." Davis reached out of bunch of berries.

"Uh-huh."

"What's wrong with these?"

"They give you diarrhea."

"Can't you eat anything here?"

"Sure." TK said but didn't offer anymore help.

Not knowing what else to do, Davis reached over to pick a flower blossom.

"Cold."

Oh, it's that's the game you want to play, you little twerp. Davis straightened and walked three paces to his left.

"Warmer."

He reached out to a bush...

"Getting warmer."

...And touched a berry.

"Cold."

Davis touched a leaf.

"Colder."

"C'mon, TK." Davis protested, "I don't want to be here all night. Give me a hint."

The eight year old thought for a moment before saying, "It's on the bush but it's not the berries or the leaves."

Davis turned back to the bush, frowning, not wanting to admit he was stumped by the kid's riddle. "The bark?" Davis guessed, weakly.

TK smiled and loped over to begin to peel the bark off the bush.

Davis looked doubtful;. "You eat bark?"

TK again looked thoughtful. "I guess you could but we usually boil it in water and drink the tea."

"Does it taste good?"

TK made a face. "It tastes horrible."

"Then why are we gathering it? "Veemon asked. As far as he was concerned you didn't eat things that weren't tasty.

"Joe likes it."

Davis rolled his eyes. It figured. Not that Davis knew Joe well or anything but what could you expect from someone Cody idolised, no offence to either Cody or Joe.

Davis turned his back to the bush and began to walk deeper into the forest. Veemon followed. After a moment, TK dumped his bark and rushed to catch up.

"Let's find something both safe and tasty. Now, hot or cold?"

***

"Cody, not those!"

The boy stood motionless, his hand hovering over the berries.

Sora ran over. "Sorry, I didn't mean to yell," she apologised, "but those are deadly poisonous."

Cody jerked his hand away.

"Don't worry. They're only poisonous if you eat them." Sora say down on a pile of conveniently placed rocks, "Biyo! Armaddilomon! We're going to have something to eat!" Sora yelled to the two digimon, then to Cody, "Sit down. You look tired." Cody sat down beside Sora, very tentatively, like she'd yell if he sat down in the wrong spot.

"Don't have you walk on eggshell here." Sora assured, digging around in her helmet and pulling out a handful of natural goodies and handing them to Cody.

"Hey, what about us?" Armadillomon said, lumbering in with Biyomon perked on his back.

"Biyomon, you are getting lazy. You should have flown Armadillomon over, instead of getting a ride."

Cody inspected the berries Sora had given him carefully. "These look exactly like the ones I tried to pick."

"They come from a separate bush thought. These are choke cherries. The leaves are different."

"You sure?"

"Of course she's sure." Biyomon piped up, as she took her share of berries and seeds. "Sora knows everything there is to know about plants. She's an expert."

"Biyo!"

"Well, it's true."

Cody tentatively took a berry and stick it in his mouth. His lips puckered and his eyes started to water. "It's sour."

Sora giggled. "Sorry. I guess I'm more use to them."

"Let me have some." Armadillomon insisted, so Cody gave him half-a-dozen. After a moment of thoughtful chewing, Armadillomon pronounced, "I like you mom's sushi better."

"You always say that."

"Your mom makes the best sushi ever."

"So, your mom's a good cook?" Sora asked. "Matt's not that bad either."

"Matt cooks?"

"Hard to believe, huh?"

"A little."

"Don't be surprised. We all have a side of us that doesn't often show. Like you, I doubt you are as young as you look."

Cody tried to hide his blush.

"Tai and the others from my group don't realise, though I'm sure your friends do. You're much older than you look and you're use to being treated like it."

"How did you know?"

Sora shrugged. "I'm sure. It's almost like I've met you before. Are you an only child?"

"Yes."

"So's Izzy. He's pretty matured and he's an only child. Then again, so's Mimi. But I think she'll grow out of it."

"I think so too."

"Matt and Tai are older brothers, so don't be upset they treat you like a little kid. They'll be that way until they think you've proved yourself. And Joe, he's a little brother who, because he's the oldest, ended up big brother to eight younger girls and boys. And that's not including the digimon. Joe's a little off with everyone. "

"What about you?"

"Me? I am the younger sister to three, count 'em three, older brothers. Triplets, no doubt."

"Really?"

"Yep. But they live with my dad in Kyoto."

"I didn't..."

"Know? Of course you didn't. How could you? We just met today."

"Yeah."

"C'mon on, we better get heading back. C'mon Biyo... Biyo, wake up."

***

Hawkmon was perched on a tree branch right above where Yolei sat next to Izzy, who was staring intently at his computer screen.

"What exactly are you doing with my digivice?"

Izzy sighed, acting like this was the millionth, not the second time, he'd had to explain. And he didn't even explain it properly the first time. Yolei thought indignantly.

"Gennai gave me a program the enable me to download information from certain digimon we have observed. All I need to do is obtain the observer's digivice and connect it with my laptop. I am attempting to do so with your digivice however I have encountered some problems, as yours is not the standard model. You wouldn't happen to have a name for this variation."

"In fact, we do. They're called D3's"

"Unoriginal."

You're the one who came up with it. "It stands for detection, defence and discovery^. You know, three d's."

Izzy gave a grunt that could mean any number of things.

Trying not to pout and trying not to scream, Yolei looked up into the tree for support from her friend. Hawkmon could only shrug his wings.

"Oh, you're a lot of help."

From over by where supper was being prepared, someone giggled.

Yolei spun around. "You're not much help either, Ken."

"I'm helping with supper."

"You're peeling oranges."

"Hey, Patamon," Matt said, "Where's TK?"

"He went with Tai to gathered wood." The digimon lying in the sun didn't even open his eyes.

"No, he didn't." Tai said. He, Kari and Gatomon had returned about ten minutes prior.

Matt stood up. "TK!!!"

"Shush, Matt."

"What is it, Mimi?"

"I hear something."

"You know, I hear it too."

"It sounds like... singing?"

"Bad singing."

I like mushrooms
We like mushrooms
Big ones. Small ones. Tasty ones.

"It sounds like Davis." Ken observed.

"And TK."

"Davis and TK, together. I'm surprised they haven't killed each other." Yolei muttered under her breath, just before Davis, TK, on Davis' shoulders, and Vee burst through the bush, blaring at the top of their lungs.

"Mushrooms! Mushrooms! We love mushrooms! Red ones! Blue ones! Hot, hot pink ones! We love mushrooms."

"Your singing is terrible." Sora said, coming into camp, carrying a sleeping Biyomon in her arms, and followed by Cody and Armadillomon, "But at least it's good for one thing: We always knew they way to camp."

Laughing, Davis let TK down and they both started to go through the haul they'd collected. They looked like a little kid at Hall'o'ween.

"What were you saying about Davis and TK killing each other?" Ken whispered in Yolei's ear.

"I was mistaken."

***

"We'll take turns on watch tonight." Tai announced after everyone had eaten.

"We'll help." Davis volunteered.

Tai eyed Davis suspiciously. Could he trust these strangers?

"Logically, more people there are to watch, the more sleep the rest of us get." Izzy noted.

"Okay." Tai agreed somewhat reluctantly, "Everyone will take a watch, except Kari and TK." Tai looked directly at Cody. "And you. You're too young."

"I'm almost ten." Cody muttered under his breath.

"Yoo-hoo, Tai, does that mean I have to take a watch?" Mimi asked innocently.

"Yes, Mimi," Tai sighed, "it does."

"Oh, phooey." Mimi pouted.

***

Davis leaned against a great oak, looking out at the darkness around him while Veemon snored at his feet. Both of them were suppose to be awake but Davis figured Veemon wouldn't be able to fight if he was dead tired, so he had let the digimon sleep. It was halfway through the shift and Davis decided to take a walk around the parameter of the camp. He was observing how the older digidestined and digimon slept, practically in one huge dog pile, when he heard faint sobs coming from TK.

At first, Davis couldn't believe it. Here was his advisory, his rival who he fought, his competitor he tried to outshine to gain Kari's affection, crying. But then, he reminded himself this wasn't the TK he knew. This was a little kid who liked mushrooms and piggybacks and bad singing. This TK wouldn't even meet the boy named Daisuke Motomiya for several years.

"TK?" Davis asked softy and, when the boy turned toward him, Davis could see tears glistening on his cheeks. Davis reached over and, a little hesitantly, pulled TK into his lap, just like his mother had when he was having sleepless nights. Davis found himself amazed that TK didn't resist in any way. He had known Davis for half a day and already he had total trust. It reminded Davis of those birds that lived on deserted islands that didn't fear humans because they didn't know enough to fear humans. Innocent trust. Davis just hoped Matt or Yolei didn't suddenly wake up. He wasn't sure what was worse, getting beaten to a pulp or dying of embarrassment.

"Do you want me to get matt?" Davis asked, hoping maybe he could get out of this somehow but TK shock his head no.

"Patamon?" No.

"Sora?" No.

"I don't want to disturb anyone." TK explained quietly.

Considerate little kid, isn't he. Davis thought to himself. "Okay, why are you crying? Did you have a nightmare?"

TK nodded. "Matt left me and he never, never came back. Never." At the very thought, TK began to sob all over again.

"Shh, shh." Davis said, patting TK on the back. He had to shut up the kid before he work everyone up. "Listen, TK. I can see the future but you have to be quiet."

"You can see the future?" He sounded awed. Davis was a little surprised he bought it. It hadn't been one of his better stories, though it wasn't exactly a lie.

"Yes, I can see a bit of the future. And I know you and Matt will be together. Maybe he'll go away for a while. And maybe you'll go away for a awhile. But you two will always be together in the end." A glimpse of the palace collapsing in on TK and Matt flashed through Davis' mind but he quickly sent it away. If all went well that reality would never happen. "Okay?"

"Okay."

"Now get to bed before the others wake up."

TK obediently crawled out of Davis' lap and curled up next to Patamon. Davis looked at the time on his digivice and saw it was time to wake Yolei up for her shift.

***

Deep, dark eyes watched from the surround under growth. They flickered silently in the stilled darkness, watching as the younger leader woke one of his group, the girl.

They looked so vulnerable. It looked so easy. The creature was tempted to kill them now and be done with it. But that would be foolish and the watching creature knew that. It was too weak and the children were strong. Best to wait until they were separated. it would happen sooner or later, the creature was sure. history had dictated it and the creature had no intention of muddling in that part of history. So, it turned away, to wait for another dark night to do its killing.

To be continued...

^I have no idea what I'm talking about. It's something like that but I'm sure I'm wrong.

Notes: I sincerely did not think it would take this long to night this story. I thought I would have had it done by summer but, as it turns out, I'm not even half way done. No matter. I will finish. This I vow. However, I'm going away for August and won't be back for a month. Chances of an update in August are about zero to nil. Sorry for the delay and see you (figuratively) in September. -Catalyst