Quick recap of where everyone is:

Takato split off to go to Hyperion;

Rika, Ryo, Kazu, Jeri, and the digimon are at the ruins of the clinic Kazu was saved at after Chapter 12;

Will is in Odaiba with Davis;

Mala is in the Hypnos building, which was just attacked by Henry.

-N


"No!" TK screamed, though he knew it would make no difference.

The bright beam of light tore through the Atlas tower at the centre of Hyperion—it was off in the distance, and TK couldn't tell if it was the dizziness from the shockwave of the attack, or his own despair that knocked him to his knees.

The tower seemed to crumble inwards the moment after the light hit it, but a second later it exploded and collapsed to the city below.

Hyperion had been the strongest, most populated, and best-fortified city in the digital world—and it was gone, in just a second. Seconds before the attack, the shields had flared to life, then died out, and TK had no idea why. Davis and Will had fixed them—hadn't they?

TK'd never seen the attack before, but it had come from the northwest, so he didn't exactly have to sit and wonder what it had been. It was an attack from Armageddemon.

The Judgment of the Destroyer.

His hand absently reached into his pocket for his crest. Hope—it was supposed to be his thing. It hadn't offered him any support in years, though, and it didn't then. He stared in helplessness as Atlas crashed down, destroying the city below. It took every bit of self-control he had not to do the math—the population of Hyperion, how many had been in the infirmaries in the tower after the Destroyer's army had attacked—the casualties…

But a cold hand gripped his heart when he came to another realization.

Rika…

The data she'd absorbed was the only thing keeping Armageddemon from reaching full power. Henry had become impatient; that was what had prompted his last attack. TK had no doubt that Henry would have replicated the data in her—but that would take time. If she died though…

It had only been a day earlier that TK had rushed to the city to warn the Tamers of Henry's attack. He'd even successfully beat Henry back. But he'd had to give up the power of the Sovereign to restore Ryo, who had been seriously injured—died, even. He'd told the Tamers the truth about Carter, and Cronus, and Henry, and Will, and everything. Everything except who he really was himself. But that wasn't their business, at least not at the time.

He'd considered telling them—that he'd been one of the digital world's original heroes, but he knew they'd never believe him, not after everything they'd seen him do. Besides, he was certain that they'd have listened to Angemon. His message, rather.

After TK left the city, he hadn't made it far—he'd set up camp in one of the nearby mountains, tending to his wounds. He'd actually spent a fair time simply admiring the view of the city that it provided. But as he knelt staring at the destruction, he cursed the cityscape.

It was all for nothing.

He'd given up the power of the Sovereign. His cover with Henry had been blown. And he no longer had any way of communicating with the real world. Davis would have to make contact—if he wasn't dead already. TK was alone.

He turned his head to a small satchel that sat next to his camp, from which he removed Henry's D-Arc. It had hurt Henry—it was the only weapon he had anymore.

Suddenly, he felt it—hope. Henry—Armageddemon couldn't possibly have enough strength to use that kind of power without weakening itself. It was getting desperate. TK looked to the northwest contemplatively. If he left then, he could be at the Destroyer's base in five days.

His eyes turned to the city, however—he knew it was impossible to hear the screams from the distance he was at, but his brain was filling in the blanks for him.

TK had developed a soft spot for Jeri. Ryo—well, they'd been friends once, even if Ryo didn't remember. And even Takato had earned TK's respect.

He had more in common with them than he'd cared to admit. If there was a chance they survived the attack—and there was, given what TK'd seen them endure—he had to go look for them.


"I am scared, Takato. Things have not gone as they were meant to. Angemon's faith in us was misguided—I can feel what he has felt, and I know that there are variables he couldn't have conceived. But there's still hope. You always thought it was Ryo that kept you at your strongest, your sharpest—we all did. But it seems that we were wrong."

Takato had been limping as he walked the day before, but as he continued and his feet hurt all over equally, limping no longer provided any comfort, so he simply walked.

He no longer remembered how many days he'd been travelling. He only slept when he passed out from exhaustion, so he had no hope of tracking the time of day. He couldn't feel any lingering anger from the fight—couldn't feel much of anything, really. When the fury from the confrontation had ebbed, it seemed to take just about everything with it—the concern for the mission, his worry about his family, his humiliation of being second-guessed and ousting himself from the people he loved. Takato didn't feel like himself, but he couldn't identify what made that so.

All that remained was his drive. To get to Hyperion, to find Cronus, and to defeat the Destroyer.

If he hadn't been in such a trance, he may have found it strange that he didn't encounter a single digimon on his path. It wasn't until he approached the city—or rather, the ruins—that he saw something that stirred any kind of emotion in him.

The northwest section of the city was entirely obliterated—that was where the blast had come from. Most of the walls around the city were gone—but there was something strange about the way the remnants looked. It wasn't until he looked at the buildings that he understood that the remaining walls seemed to have been taken down; scrapped to provide materials to rebuild the city.

Takato had been right—there were survivors.

Though his hopes of how many were grim. While Hyperion once had a tower in each corner, with a larger one, Atlas, in the center. Henry's attack had been aimed at Atlas—which had been completely destroyed. The only tower that was remotely intact seemed to be the northeast one, though Takato didn't know for sure which it was—Janus, he was pretty sure it was called.

His legs found new life as he hurried towards the city. If Henry's forces had occupied the city, Takato'd be dead as soon as he entered.

However little sense of time he'd had lately, time seemed to slow to a crawl as he raced to the city. By the time he arrived he was dripping with sweat, and he struggled to catch his breath, but his resolve was steeled.

Approaching the city, the terrain seemed to dip down towards it. Takato looked around, noticing it seemed to be a complete circle—the blast that hit the city seemed to have pulsed outwards after Takato and the others escaped. Closer to the city, he saw dozens of graves, the dirt still moist and freshly-moved.

Not just Wisemon, then…

As he entered the perimeter of the city, nobody paid him any notice—aside from being human, he was as dirty and exhausted as everyone he passed. The digimon he passed were all pushing on, though. They were rebuilding. He felt a twist of pain as he saw an Asuramon helping a Betamon rebuild its home. Hyperion had simply been the best community the digital world had produced, and the Tamers had failed to protect it.

Many of the taller buildings had been destroyed, and the view of the city looked drastically different because of it. Specifically, Atlas tower, which had been at the center of the city, was gone. Takato forced himself to walk to where it had been—he needed to see it.

The pile of rubble was about half as high as the walls of the city had originally been. Takato stared at it for several minutes as the reality of it all set in all over again.

The barrier around the city had flickered when they tried to activate it. The civilians must have thought it had actually worked.

How long did they have to realize we'd failed them before they died?

Takato sat down and for the first time in however long, let himself feel the fatigue of his travel. He tried to take his mind off the pain by reminding himself why he was there.

Cronus. If he's not here, then there's something else here we need…

"Caturamon, go home." A male voice ordered. "You're going to pass out again if you try and keep up this pace."

"I don't have a home anymore." The Caturamon growled in response. "Remember?"

"Your family survived." The man snapped sharply. "Now go be with them at the shelter, and get some goddamn rest."

Takato couldn't even tell it was Reed until he stepped into view. He was wearing a t-shirt that might have been blue at some point, but was covered in dust and dirt, and Takato soon saw why—Reed was clearing the wreckage of the tower. Seeing him, Takato immediately tensed up for a fight—the majority of their encounters had gone very poorly for Takato. With everything else going on, Takato had nearly forgotten that Reed was in fact—well, probably—on his side.

Takato climbed to his feet, his body defiantly screaming at him for rest. He took a few clumsy steps towards the tower, where Reed and the others were working. Takato was probably ten paces away before Reed noticed him.

"Holy shit." Reed said in disbelief, dropping a large chunk of stone. "Takato?!"

Reed approached him quickly, with more energy than Takato had had in ages. Takato braced himself for another fight, but was caught off guard as Reed threw an arm around him and laughed joyfully.

Takato was simply too tired to react either way, instead murmuring. "You know, your mood swings are worse than Rika's."

"What happened to you?" Reed asked. "We've been clearing away the wreckage for days now…"

"We were back in Shinjuku when the attack hit." Takato answered. It was mostly true, after all. Takato realized he'd need to be careful with his words—the Tamers essentially abandoned everyone else in the city during the attack. Not by choice, but it might not matter to the citizens. The Circle of Telesto was beloved throughout the city, and—

and now Wisemon…

"The others?" Reed pressed, walking Takato away from the Caturamon and the other digimon which were likely helping him.

"They're fine…" Takato nodded before quickly changing the subject. "What happened after the city was attacked?"

Reed's eyes darted around, suddenly looking a lot more familiar to Takato. "We should talk about this somewhere else."

Ah. There we go.

"Any suggestions?" Takato shrugged. "The closest thing I have to a room is in that pile of rubble there."

Reed led the way. "The first thing they rebuilt was the bar. Let's go."

They didn't say anything as they walked. Takato wasn't sure what the city's reaction to seeing him would have been—did they blame Takato? He and the others brought so much trouble to the city…

But if there was any animosity, they didn't let it show. In fact, there was no anger to be seen. No despair. It was like they didn't know or care the dangers they faced.

They entered the bar. Takato hadn't gotten to explore the city as much as his friends did before the attack, but from what he'd heard, it was quite spectacular. While the bar was by no means elegant, it was big, clean, and seemed well-built—and it had only been about a week since the attack. The digimon had a remarkable work ethic.

Guess that's why Valn used them to build his lab.

There were a few dozen digimon scattered about—the outer perimeter had several tables dotted around it. Based on the clearly-human influences the establishment had, Takato assumed Reed had been involved in its reconstruction.

The Lekismon tending to the bar waved at the pair, and Reed gave a friendly wave back.

It was unusual to see Reed behaving like an actual decent person. On one hand it felt very fake, given all Takato had seen him do. However, Takato knew Reed had been attempting to trick the Destroyer; perhaps the friendly young man in front of him was the real Reed after all.

Or, far more likely, he just plays the part he needs to get what he wants.

It was actually fine by Takato, as long as their goals were the same.

Reed ordered something Takato had no hope of ever pronouncing, and the Lek

Takato casually took a sip of the drink. It was terrible. It tasted sour, and burned more than any drink should.

Reed unlocked and opened the door, and Takato followed him in. It was maybe twice as big as Takato's room in Shinjuku, which was admittedly, kind of small. There was a single bed in the corner, a shabby-looking couch off to the side, and a wooden table in the middle of the room. On the table was what looked like a map of the city, but Takato realized it was blueprints to coordinate the rebuilding efforts. There were a few chairs, some end tables, a dresser, and a desk, all of which were covered in paper.

Takato heard Reed lock the door behind him. Takato pulled a chair over to the table and sat his disgusting drink down on the floor next to him.

"What happened to the shields? We fixed them!" Reed's tone shifted drastically. It was obvious he'd wanted to ask that question since he saw Takato was alive.

"Cronus absorbed the Guardian's power." Takato answered flatly. "And from the looks of things, the power from a whole lot of other things, too. Shields failed, everything went to hell. The end."

Reed didn't say anything for a few moments, but Takato could tell he was connecting dots in his mind.

It was as good a time any, but Takato wasn't sure if he should bring it up or not.

"You can go ahead and ask." Reed said quickly.

Takato nodded. "We saw the message from the Guardian—from Angemon."

"Right." Reed sighed. "If I said that was in another life, it wouldn't really sum it up, so let me just say this: there's a small group of us that were here in the digital world a long time before you and your friends showed up. Most of us are dead or missing now, and the rest pretty much gave up. Except for me and Davis. When we found out about you guys, we saw an opportunity. You know all about the kid, and why he's important."

Takato held back from rolling his eyes. To say it was frustrating to be relying on Reed—who'd been lying for so long—was an understatement at the least.

"So should I start calling you TK now?" Takato asked dryly.

Reed shrugged a shoulder. "TK was the nice guy that everyone went to with their problems. The guy that had a great girlfriend, and a brother that always looked out for him. Reed's the guy that doesn't have that. The guy that will do whatever it takes to save our world, even if it means letting this one burn. Call me what you want, but I'm sure Cronus would understand."

For what felt like a long while, Takato didn't say anything. As much as he didn't want to, he believed Reed. He believed him because Takato understood how hard it was to leave Jeri behind.

"I still have no idea when you're speaking pure bullshit or not." Takato said finally.

"When Davis and I first met," he started carefully. "I didn't like him—hated him, maybe. But before I knew it, he was the only person I could trust. I'm in the same situation with you now. I know you know why I did the things I have, and I won't speculate whether or not you'd have done them differently, but I want to earn your trust, Takato. I'm not asking you to risk anymore than you already are. Just hear me out."

Damn it.

Cronus's voice had told Takato to come to Hyperion. But to meet Reed…?

"If you try and pull anything—" Takato started.

"Won't happen." Reed said flatly.

Takato sighed.

Match made in hell.

"Okay. What's your plan?"

"Henry's digivice." Reed explained. "You saw what it did to him."

"He ran away from it." Takato recalled.

"The digivices only react to their owners." Reed recited. "It wasn't reacting to the Destroyer, it was reacting to Henry."

Takato's eyes widened. "Can we get him back?"

"I think so, yeah." Reed nodded. "Where's Rika?"

Takato still hadn't told him what happened with the others.

"We split up." Takato answered, not exactly lying. "They're on their way to Thalami to try and find support."

"Good." Reed sounded relieved.

"Why's that?"

"She took part of the Destroyer's essence at the same time Henry did." Reed said again. "As long as Rika exists in the digital world, it slows down his power growth. He can still reach full power without her, but until then, she buys us time."

"I was wondering…if the Destroyer could do something like—this…" Takato trailed off, indicating the city out the window. "Why did it wait so long?"

Reed sighed, his hands locked behind his head. "Because he couldn't do something like this without straining himself."

Takato wasn't sure he understood.

"'Straining himself'? I thought he was supposed to be all-powerful?"

Reed's hands dropped to his side as he paced around; never meeting Takato's eye, but not seeming to be intentionally avoiding it.

"When Armageddemon took over Henry, he was vulnerable—so he stayed hidden. He got stronger as time went by, til he made his move against you guys by going after Rika." Reed explained. "So we all beat him back and he ran off, then blew up the city. But that kind of power must have taken a lot out of him."

Takato cleared his throat a bit, as if he was talking to his parents and trying to stall. Reed finally looked at him.

"That seems like some wishful thinking…" Takato started doubtfully.

"I was one of his heralds, remember?" Reed held up his hand in protest. "I know what I'm talking about—he needed his heralds to do his fighting because he wasn't strong enough to do it himself. I saw his attack on the city—and I'm guessing that any one of us woulda been strong enough to beat Henry to death with our own hands if we'd been around him right after, and he wouldn't have been able to do anything about it."

So maybe there was a chance after all.

"We have a window, and it's closing. If his power's gonna be growing at the scale it was before, we have a week—maybe two, and he'll be fully-powered. Whether he has Rika or not, the worlds end."

Takato had been in more than his fair share of crappy situations, but what Reed was suggesting was the longest shot yet.

"You really think we can pull this off?" Takato finally asked. "I mean, unless you've got some secret weapon I don't know about…"

"Oh, Takato..." Reed grinned. "Momentai."


Ryo and the others were taking a break for the night, and he was infinitely grateful for it. His face felt like it was on fire. Specifically, the blood-red scar under his right eye, that just so happened to match the one Guilmon had. He hadn't mentioned it to anybody, but every few hours it would hurt, a lot. Fortunately, his face was so covered in dirt and sweat that his grimacing didn't look unnatural.

The forest they were travelling through would take them most of the way to Thalami. The terrain was uneven, and there wasn't always a clear path, but the trees would at least provide them with some cover, and would hopefully make it harder for the Destroyer's agents to find them.

It had been Renamon who'd suggested they stop. Fortunately, she had an air of authority about her that nobody questioned whether or not it was a good idea. Ryo suspected she was also the only one perceptive enough to notice the throbbing pain that Ryo was in. He hadn't had a chance to talk to Jeri privately, but he assumed her hand was getting the same treatment his face was.

He sat at the campfire, elbows on his knees, face in his hands. He couldn't tell by feeling it, but he knew it was there, right on his face. A reminder. Branded as a traitor, by Guilmon 2.0, self-proclaimed god of the digital world.

Damn you, Cronus.

Jeri, Rika, Guardromon, Cyberdramon, and Gazimon seemed to be asleep. Ryo, Kazu, and Renamon were the only ones that he could tell were awake, and nobody was saying anything.

Ryo shifted in noticed the left sleeve of his t-shirt was torn at the seam, nearly all across the top half. It wasn't until the breeze hit his skin through the rip that he realized how disgusting he felt. His shorts were caked with dirt and mud, his face was filthy, his socks felt gross—

He stood up and picked up his backpack. Kazu and Renamon looked curious.

"I'm just gonna clean myself up." He said quietly, trying not to wake the others. Giz stirred a little, his long ears flicking slightly.

"I understand." Renamon said softly. "But we don't go off alone. Not anymore."

Ryo was too exhausted to argue, and he owed her for getting him a break without letting the others know how weak he felt, so he agreed. He and Kazu headed just out of sight from the camp.

"How you feeling?" Kazu finally asked.

"Like a big bag of shit." Ryo admitted. "You?"

"We feel like that most days." Kazu pointed out. "Noticing it is just a waste of good sleep."

Ryo snickered.

It was true enough. Sure, they didn't need to eat in the digital world, but they still slept, sweated, bled, cried, whatever. Ryo generally did feel tired and crappy most of the time, but there was always enough to do that he never sat and dwelled on it.

Kazu approached a nearby tree and looked up. Ryo glanced up too, noticing there was a fruit hanging from a branch. It was the shape of an apple, but pure white in color, almost glowing. Looking around, Ryo realized it was the only fruit in any of the nearby trees.

"Hey, boost me up there, will ya?" Kazu said, taking his backpack off and turning to Ryo.

"Why?" Ryo asked, tired.

"Because I want that."

Right.

Ryo wasn't sure why he expected a clearer explanation, but whatever. Again, he was too tired to argue. He clasped his hands together, boosting Kazu up. There were enough branches that it would be an easy climb, but the fruit was high enough out of reach that Kazu would indeed have to climb rather than just reach.

With Kazu on his quest for the mystery fruit, Ryo figured he might as well get changed. He opened his backpack, prepared to jump back at the smell, but none came. In fact, most of the clothes at the top of the bag weren't his. There were a few shirts that clearly belonged to Jeri, and a light sweater he recognized as Kazu's. Finally, he found a zip-up hoodie and a pair of cargo shorts that actually belonged to him. Remarkably, everything in the bag was clean.

"Did you guys do laundry?" Ryo called up to him.

"Oh. Yeah. You guys were out for a while, we figured it was a good opportunity." Kazu answered absentmindedly, maneuvering up the branches. He paused suddenly, looking down at Ryo. "We split all our clothes up across mine, yours, and Jeri's bags, too. So we don't end up shorthanded if a bag gets lost, like Rika did."

"Good thinking." He'd forgotten that Rika had lost all her stuff. At least she and Jeri were the same size.

Ryo pulled off his t-shirt, wincing at the sound of the sleeve tearing further.

Damn it.

He looked down at himself. He had a few scratches and cuts on his side. Most of his previous wounds had scarred over. Among the most obvious were two scars over his chest, and one on his abdomen. He could feel a few sore spots on his back, but it wasn't anything incapacitating.

Realizing clothes were in very short supply, Ryo concluded he'd be better off tearing the sleeves off that t-shirt and layering up. He had no idea when they'd get another opportunity to clean up, so he might as well tough it out.

As he worked on pulling the sleeve off without completely destroying the rest of it, he glanced up at Kazu, who was trying to navigate through a thick patch of branches.

"You could just ask Renamon to get that…" Ryo suggested, getting a little uneasy seeing how high up he was getting.

It might have been a shrug, but Ryo couldn't tell from the distance and darkness. "Just wanna do something myself, you know? We've just been sitting around waiting so much."

"Yeah, I get it." Ryo said with a nod. He managed to get the first sleeve off successfully. He began trying to cut the stitching on the second with his teeth. "So what's the deal with that apple-looking-thing?"

"That clinic I was at…" Kazu started. "Like, when it was a clinic and not a charred hole, I mean? They had these there. The guy there used them to make some kind of, I don't know, ointment or something. Fixed me right up."

"Sounds useful enough."

Ryo got the stitch loose, removing the sleeve shortly after. He slipped the shirt back on, and the hoodie after that. He changed the shorts quickly, packing the muddy ones into a separate pouch where it wouldn't dirty everything else. Finally, he located a pair of socks he knew were his own and changed into them.

He felt instantly revitalized. He hadn't even noticed his face had stopped hurting.

Looking up, he saw Kazu finally at the fruit. Ryo realized it wasn't quite glowing, but was almost reflective.

"Gotcha, you shiny little bastard." Kazu declared triumphantly. "Hey, catch!"

It fell quickly as Kazu dropped it, almost as if he'd thrown it. Ryo had tried to brace himself as he caught it, but it had almost no weight at all. Overcompensating, he felt a little dizzy and off-balance as his instincts were humiliated by the digital world's selective laws of physics.

Kazu climbed down with ease, inspecting the fruit closer as Ryo tossed it to him when he reached the ground.

"Think you can make something out of it?" Ryo asked.

"Doubt it." He shrugged. "But I bet Renamon or Giz knows something about how to use it."

Kazu picked up his own backpack, carrying the fruit himself to show Renamon. As they were ready to head back to the campsite, they stopped in their tracks by a ringing noise.

Ryo thought it was the Hypnos communicator, but he recognized the tone—it was his cell phone. He cocked an eyebrow—he'd brought it out of habit, and it had been soaked from his time underwater—how was it working? He slung the backpack off his shoulders and dug around frantically before finally finding it.

Incoming video call.

His mouth ran dry as he saw that the call was coming from Henry's phone. Ryo looked up and flashed the display to Kazu for a moment, whose eyes widened.

He almost didn't answer it, but he knew he had to. He kept the camera pointed at himself, keeping Kazu out of frame.

Ryo barely recognized the face that grinned back at him. The face of someone he'd known for years, fought beside, and on the rare occasion, fought with.

The video was coming through black and white…probably some kind of low-light filter. It must have been night in the real world.

"Hey, Ryo." Henry said casually. Ryo scanned the screen as thoroughly as he could. The background…it was somewhere outside. "Oh, cool tattoo! Is Takato around?"

Those are tree branches. He's in the real world.

"Aw, just kidding, big guy. You're who I'm really calling for. So I know you have as many places to be as I do, Ryo, and I know we're such good pals that I'm sure we can skip all the pleasantries without it hurting the friendship. So, let's get down to business!" Henry continued cheerfully. "I was wondering if maybe you and your friends would consider joining my side in this whole thing."

Ryo actually had to stifle a laugh.

"What?" He asked when he recomposed himself.

"Well it occurred to me that I liked having a full trio of heralds—I'm a stickler for tradition, you see—and you, Kazu, and Jeri are the top candidates! All you have to do, is hand Rika over to me."

Ryo didn't bother to hide his confusion. "You know, I think we're gonna have to pass on that."

"You sure?" Henry emphasized his disappointment. "You know that sharing in this power's your best chance of stopping me, right?"

"We'll take our chances, thanks." Ryo shrugged.

"Well I'm sorry to hear that, but I'll just have to respect your decision." Henry sighed. The background began to move as Henry began walking. Ryo could only see a few treetops from the angle the phone was being held at, nothing to give him an idea of where Henry was. "Let me be completely honest with you, Ryo. Whatever Takato's little pet did screwed up the digital world bad. Locations aren't matching up with coordinates. Meaning I can't come kill you, because I can't find you. So, I'm going to let you go about your business until you decide to hand Rika over to me, or fight me and lose, or whatever. And that's going to be soon, because the longer you take, the less of a life you'll have left here."

Henry was bobbing out of the frame, and he soon entered his car and shut the door. The camera turned to face the backseat, where Mala struggled, bound and gagged, eyes flooded with tears.

"You son of a bitch—" Ryo hissed.

"Now, now." Henry scolded. "I'm giving you the chance to be civil about this. I'll be back in the digital world soon enough. When I kill her, I can absorb her data and know everything she knows, including where you are. So it really is just a matter of time. But—wait, today's a special day, isn't it?"

"What the hell are you—"

"That's right, Ryo, it's your birthday!" Henry said with a grin.

It wasn't Ryo's birthday; his birthday was still a day away. Wasn't it? He'd been unconscious for—well, it didn't matter anyways.

"Sure, is." Ryo replied. The fact that Henry was still talking to him told Ryo that there was more to the call. He got a bad feeling.

"All grown up…then again, we haven't been kids for years now, have we?"

"No, we really haven't." Ryo agreed.

"I just wanted you to know, that what's gonna happen to Mala here's not your fault. I know it's just not in your wiring to do anything useful, or right, like hand Rika over to me." Henry lamented. "I mean, you can't even get the little things right, like have friends that don't resent you, a dad that's actually interested in you, or a brother that doesn't hate you."

Ryo's face grew hot. However successful Ryo'd been at hiding his emotions before didn't matter. There was no suppressing the anger he felt then.

"Wait, that's it!" Henry perked up. "That brother of yours works at Hypnos, right? As in, that big building right over there?"

The camera turned to show the Hypnos building. The filter on the camera took a moment to adjust to the street lights. He was still in Shinjuku. High up, too…Ryo suddenly recognized it—it was from one of the rises near the building where Will's car accident had been.

When the building exploded, Ryo nearly threw up, as the screen turned back around to display Henry's face.

"No!" Ryo screamed in horror.

Henry dropped the façade in its entirety when he returned to view. His expression was grim, unrepentant, and intimidating as all hell. "You think we're playing children's games, Ryo? You're in over your head. There's thirteen million more people in this city. Just imagine what I can do to them. I'll be in touch soon."

"Henry." Ryo caught his breath. Henry had been reaching for the phone, presumably to turn it off, but paused eagerly.

"Yes?"

"I know the real you is still in there somewhere. I know that, because the Destroyer's keeping you in there so we'll hold our punches when it counts. But I'm telling you now that I'm not going to—I'm the man that's gonna kill you."

A pause before the Destroyer spoke.

"Henry's sorry to hear that."

With that, the screen went dead. Ryo didn't know if he was staring at it for seconds or minutes, but he replayed the scene over and over again. The explosion—could anyone have survived it…?

"Ryo, I—I'm sorry…" Kazu stammered. Ryo had nearly forgotten Kazu was there, that there was a world outside of the little screen that just ruined his life. Ryo still stared at the phone, expecting it to somehow show that it hadn't been real.

They remained there for several minutes. Ryo was numb. Everyone at Hypnos—

Will…

He was supposed to have been safe in the Hypnos building. The last few weeks, with everything that had gone on between them…Ryo'd still thought they would have had time to patch things up.

He called looking for me. Not the others. Because I'm the weak link.

Henry had been toying with them, and Ryo was an easy mark. He'd left his fifteen year old brother helpless in the first place Henry would look for targets.

Ryo knew it wouldn't be a long-term solution, but it was the only thing he could do to not feel like the world was burning. He shut down.

"Henry just called." Ryo said plainly, trying unsuccessfully to hide the fact his voice was shaking.

"What?" Rika demanded.

Ryo couldn't meet their eyes. He was concerned that if he did, they'd realize how terrified he was. "He's in Shinjuku. He just destroyed the Hypnos building."

"What?!" Jeri gasped, her marked hand covering her mouth.

"He's got Mala." Ryo said slowly, still staring at the phone expecting it to flare to life again. "She's alive, but—"

In his peripheral vision, he could see the others exchange glances. It was Giz who spoke.

"Where's Will?"

Ryo finally looked at the small digimon, his body still tingling from the shock. "He's dead."


"Sorry about the mess." Davis said as he opened the door to the apartment and flicked the switch. Nothing happened.

Right. The power's still out.

Will had become disillusioned to the fact because of the emergency lights in the hallway were so bright.

It had gone out shortly after they'd relayed the message to Mala, which made sense—what they had attempted to pull off would have required a whole lot of power. The drive back to Davis's had taken twice as long as it took to leave it, and they'd seen more than a few car accidents along the way that made Will more uncomfortable than they would have a week before.

Davis fumbled in a drawer using his phone as a light, before pulling out a small stack of small black discs. He gave each a twist and it flared to life and moved to place them, illuminating the apartment.

It was probably smaller than Will and Ryo's place, but it was hard for Will to estimate because there was simply so much in it—Davis had tripped twice in placing the lights.

Most of the furniture seemed to have been pushed to the perimeter of the room in an effort to clear space in the centre. Nearly a dozen computer terminals stacked seemingly-carelessly, a laser printer that had finished producing a small stack of documents that didn't appear to have been lifted yet, sketches and maps covering the walls, binders littering the floor, and several jars of instant coffee in the kitchen-area.

"No problem." Will nodded. "My room pretty much looked like this when I was trying to track TK down."

Will was about to remove his bag when he realized there wasn't actually anywhere to put it. Instead he wandered over to what could be considered the workspace, and began to take a closer look at everything. The maps seemed to be in places around the world portals had opened up. Some of the sketches seemed to be of regions of the digital world. Will recognized a few locations and names on it—Hyperion, Galatea, Thalami—but it seemed there were even more regions of the digital world than Will had thought.

"Check out that red binder there." Davis indicated to Will's left.

Will crouched down to pick it up, nearly losing his balance as his shoulder bag swung around. The binder was thick; he fumbled with it for a moment to get his hand around the outsides of it to pick it up, pulling it against his chest after he'd managed to lift it. He carried it to the kitchen table and set it down before opening it up to an indexed page in the middle.

"'While some digital creatures do indeed have circulatory systems, they serve no vital purpose. It is speculated that they may have functioned at one time, but that they have since evolved beyond the need for blood.'" Will read aloud. "'However, the forms that do have a full network of veins and arteries actually absorb data to heal themselves approximately sixteen percent more efficiently than their counterparts do'."

Will perked up. "Is this a textbook on digital medicine?"

"Anatomy, yeah." Davis specified.

Will flipped to a few more random indexes—Data Transfusions, Power Absorptions, Aging—it would have been remarkably helpful had Will had a resource like that during the battle at Hyperion.

"Did you write this?" he asked.

"God, no." Davis shook his head, giving a little laugh.

Will grabbed the front cover and clumsily attempted to brush the pages all to the back as he stared at the author's name.

"Joe Kido." Davis said as Will felt uneasy for a moment.

That name…?

He pulled out his phone, skipping to his last message from Mala.

142 Ariake St, Office 1D, it's a private psychiatry practice. Ask for Joe Kido.

"You know him?" Will asked.

Davis nodded. "Yeah, he's one of us."

Will held up his phone. "He works for Hypnos?"

The man raised an eyebrow. "Not for some time now, why?"

"Mala scheduled me a counseling session with him tomorrow morning."

"Huh."

Davis seemed stumped, but he didn't seem bothered. Will knew it wasn't just a coincidence…Davis and Kari both seemed to know about Hypnos—it was possible that Hypnos would know at least something about them. Made sense they'd want to scoop up a Ph.D. that had experience with the digital world, but as a psychiatrist?

Will turned his attention to the window. He could see the phone booth he'd used earlier that day, and the café he'd camped out at while he was trying to figure out who Davis was. It took him a moment to see it since it was so dark, but he realized a car had crashed into the dining area. Will felt dizzy as he pictured it. He took a step back, slipping on a piece of paper and landing hard on his back.

"We under attack?" Davis entered the room from the hallway.

"No." Will coughed out a reply as he sat up and climbed to his feet.

Davis was leaning against the wall. He'd changed into a black t-shirt, the scars that covered his arm exposed. The next thing Will noticed was that Davis hadn't tried to help him up. The only other person that didn't treat Will like he was some kind of charity case was Kazu.

Will was concerned—he couldn't get in touch with Mala. Her phone was going straight to voicemail, and the line at Hypnos was dead. Their efforts to create so many simultaneous portals to the digital world had come at the price of the city's power, as they anticipated it might. But at least some power in the city seemed to be back, and Will had no doubt that Hypnos would have access to it.

The TV signals and Internet access were also disabled. Will figured that Hypnos was just controlling the information while they came up with a plausible lie of what they'd just done—it might explain why they weren't answering their phones. Will had been in Odaiba at the time, so he hadn't actually seen what happened immediately at the Hypnos-area in Shinjuku, but he had no doubt it would have been something conspicuous. But Mala would still answer her phone, wouldn't she?

Maybe she's just getting yelled at by Yamaki. She'll call in a few minutes.

As much as he tried to push it out of his mind, he was checking his phone every thirty seconds—staring at the screensaver sheepishly, making sure the ringer was on, setting it down, and repeating.

"I think we should go to the Hypnos building." Will blurted out anxiously.

Davis hesitated. "Not tonight." He said finally.

"What?"

"No more driving tonight." Davis said flatly. "You saw how bad the roads were out there, and the power still looks out in most of the city. We'd never make it past the bridge."

Will hadn't considered that—there had been tons of crashed cars on the way back from that woman's house. The suspension bridge from Odaiba to the mainland would be packed full.

I'll be lucky if it's clear by tomorrow night…

At any rate, Mala would have gotten in touch with him by then. She could sort something out, he knew.

"If you want to get some sleep," Davis said, pointing. "TK's room's through there. You can use it 'til we sort out what to do next."

"I'm okay for now. Maybe later."

Will was getting exhausted. But there was too much going on that he'd never get to sleep if he tried.

"We need to reestablish contact." Davis said hurriedly. "Finding Ryo's our first priority."

Why him?" Will tried unsuccessfully to hide his discomfort. "Why not TK? Or Takato?"

Will knew Ryo would be a key factor in the coming battle—everyone did. Even if he wasn't leading an army again or confronting Henry himself, he was still the strongest among them—minus Cronus, of course.

Ryo had never led the team; it had always been Takato to do that—to formulate their ultimate strategies, to make the hard choices. Takato's drive—his courage, his inability to accept defeat—it had pulled him and his friends through obstacle after obstacle. Ryo might have been capable of it, but he'd never been tested like that.

Or maybe you're just making excuses.

Will could tell that Davis was curious—about Will's seemingly-sudden shift in attitude towards Ryo. Will no longer knew how he felt about Ryo—the time and distance had helped, but there was still a lingering resentment—the fact hanging over his head that Ryo had made a fool of Will for so long.

But it wasn't relevant. Will and Ryo could both focus on the mission without dragging their personal issues along for the ride.

"Look, uh…" Davis started slowly. "I know it's not my business, but whatever's going on with you and Ryo, you might want to sort it out—get some closure one way or the other. It sounds like you and I have had a lot of the same things happen to us, and, well— you're all living very dangerous lives…and it's not fair when a sibling dies and you never even got a chance…"

He trailed off—not because he was overcome with emotion, or couldn't find the words; it just seemed like he'd become lost in thought.

He lost a brother or sister…?

"Davis?" Will called quietly.

Davis looked back at him, and spoke quickly before he turned back away. "Like I said, it's not my business…and I know we're not the same people, but you might be able to learn from my mistakes."

Will had been waiting for it so long he nearly yelped when he heard it—his phone rang. But it wasn't from Mala—the screen said it was Takato.

"Hello?" He answered it quickly.

"Will!" Takato's father cried out. "Are you alright?! We've been worried sick!"

"Y—yes sir." He stammered. "I'm fine."

"We used Takato's spare key to Ryo's apartment, and we had to look everywhere before we found your new cell phone number…we heard you'd been working at Hypnos, and—" Mr. Matsuda went on.

Will was overcome with guilt. Takato's parents had been incredibly supportive to him when Will's mother had died. He should have checked in with them—made sure they were off the roads when the power went out.

"I have been working there, yeah…I just—took the day off." Will explained.

"Will, you don't—"

"I'm sorry." Will cut him off. "I'm fine—really. We needed to send some power to the digital world, and—"

"Will, Hypnos is gone." The man said gravely. "The whole building was destroyed."

"What?"

"Some kind of explosive was set off." Mr. Matsuda went on. "There's—there's been no announcement of any survivors yet."

Will stumbled backwards two steps, until his back hit the wall. Until then, Davis hadn't really seemed to be paying attention, but after Will's reaction, his stare was locked.

Destroyed? Oh my god…Mala!

The Internet access was still down, and so were all the TV signals. It could have happened immediately, and he just wouldn't have heard about it.

"Will?"

In his trance, he had no idea if it was Davis, or Mr. Matsuda who spoke. He lowered his phone, and put it on speaker—in part so that Davis could here, but mostly because he suddenly felt extremely dizzy, and the phone had become too heavy to hold upright.

"Hypnos was destroyed?" Will repeated. He must have sounded silly, his voice shaking and cracking as he tried to hold back the tears and suppress the urge to be sick.

Davis's face paled. "When?"

Will relayed the question into the phone.

"I have no idea, everyone's saying different things." The man sighed.

"Did we…do that...?" Davis asked quietly, eyes wide with terror.

We overloaded the power grid by pushing the portal generator past its limits…

Will ran the situation over and over in his mind, but it didn't make sense. Hypnos was built to withstand more than a few dangerous—albeit extreme—experiments.

"No." Will concluded. "The most volatile equipment in there is the portal generator, and it couldn't possibly destroy the building."

Davis must have realized it at the same time he did, and Will wanted to slap himself for not figuring it out right away. They'd opened up portals to the digital world. Portals were a two-way deal—something must have come through one of them.

Henry.

"Mr. Matsuda, you need to get out of town, now." Will said sternly, finding strength in his arm again and holding the phone near his mouth, though it was still on speaker.

"What? But—"

"Trust me, please!" Well pleaded. "If what destroyed Hypnos is what I think, they could be after any of us…I want you safe. Get your wife and leave the city—don't tell me or anyone else where you're going."

Will's hand was shaking.

"Alright." The man agreed, defeated. "But what about you?"

"I'll be okay…" It probably didn't sound any more convincing than it sounded in his head. "I need to stay here, so I can help the others…"

Will clenched his eyes shut, holding the phone to his forehead as he made another decision. "Can you—can you please call Mr. Wong and the other parents, and tell them to run, too?"

"Of course."

"And tell the Wongs that—that if they see Henry, it's not really him. It's just something pretending to be him."

Will wanted to hang up so that he wouldn't have to elaborate. Takato's family was the closest thing he had to parents anymore.

"I'll—let them know. I'm guessing you're about to tell me that it's not safe to call you anymore, right?"

Will couldn't find his voice, and absentmindedly nodded, giving a small whimper of a laugh when he realized what he'd done.

"Please take care of yourself, and our sons." Mr. Matsuda told him. He didn't sound worried. Either he'd been through similar situations before, or he was being strong for Will so he wouldn't worry about them. "Make sure everyone gets home, okay?"

"Y—yeah."

He turned off the phone.

Hypnos was gone; his friends were stranded; the Destroyer was probably after him; and Mala was in all likelihood dead. Will wanted to cry. He probably would have, if he hadn't been so concerned about looking foolish in front of Davis.

Davis, who seemed to have gone through similar trials as Will. Davis, who was still fighting his hardest without a hint of hesitation or self-pity. Whatever Davis had gone through, he was strong. Whereas with each trial Will encountered, he felt more and more broken.

"You did the right thing." Davis reassured him.

Will didn't respond, because he simply no longer knew believed that there was a right thing. But as the despair washed over him, he realized that perhaps he could finally understand why Ryo had lied to him. And for the first time in a very long, difficult time, Will wanted his brother.


I was experimenting with the format on that chapter, it's one of the only ones done by multiple POV's where it does them in single segments rather than jumping back and forth.

The result was, I hope, four enjoyable mini-chapters showing what everyone's up to without tying them together just yet.

Review, please!

-N