Frost formed in the wake of each of OzLykiomon's steps as she sped through street after street. The rain was petering out and Tanya body was starting to feel the drain from keeping Lupmon so far evolved.

'We can't just keep running around, we need to find somewhere to stop,' the teen thought as she attempted to take a peek at the street, only to find she could not force her head up from the relatively safe position of being buried in OzLykiomon's back. 'Okay, maybe we should stop first THEN find a place to hide out.'

"OzLykiomon! Stop!" she cried out, her partner immediately skidding to a halt. Floramon gave out a hacking noise as she swung about in the grip of the giant wolf's jaws. Prying herself up from her partner's sodden back, Tanya became dimly aware of the ache in her arms from just how hard she had been clinging on. She knew better than to give a vague instruction like 'find us a place to hide' to OzLykiomon (a bigger form did not mean better focus) and swept her own soaked hair out of her eyes as she scanned their surroundings. They had run far through the narrow, winding streets and were now away from houses and shops and found themselves cloistered by high-walls and chimneys. 'Factories? Well...if no-one woke up this morning they should be empty...' With all the pseudo-Victorian buildings looking much the same to her she threw out an arm and selected one of the red-brick buildings at complete random.

"Quick, get us into that building theeerrrrrreeeee-eeeeek!" her command broke down into a panicked scream as the great lunar wolf wasted no time leaping the high-brick wall, partner and hostage both screaming in mutual, momentum-inspired terror.


Of Blood and Binary

Chapter 53: The Morning Brings...Part 5.

Even if I have to reach across the lines, I won't withdraw my hand!


+unauthoriseduser:Shademon, this vessel must halt the current philosophical debate due to a sudden hardware error.

+This vessel has chosen to inform unauthoriseduser:Shademon that this vessels engine core has been remotely commanded to overload.

+This command also compels this vessel not to inform anyone of the impending hardware failure. However, this vessel has chosen to inform unauthoriseduser:Shademon because, in line with currently on-hold philosophical discussions, this vessel wishes to choose to not self-terminate.

=Self-preservation is a common choice to make in the face of destruction.

"Hey, your eyes went big!" Eight slid down the slanted floor, letting loose a small 'whee' as he did so before slamming his feet into the side of the console to come to a dead stop. "Didja finally convince her not to kill all the humans?"

"The ship has informed me that its engine is going to overload and explode." Shademon did a remarkable job keeping his tone level, even if the usual dim glow of his eyes seemed more like headlights.

"Son, I think you dun goofed," Eight deadpanned. "I would in fact say that making the ship want to explode and kill us all is the exact OPPOSITE of convincing it to help us."

"Keep talking and I might let it do just that," Shademon seethed at his partner.

+This vessel requests that unauthoriseduser:Shademon attempt to prevent the imminent hardware failure and preserve the existence of this vessel.

=Can't you simply choose not to explode?

+This vessel chooses self-preservation, but the engine core's overload is beyond this vessel's control. This vessel offers the comparison of a flightless life-form falling from a cliff. The life-form desires to live, but cannot spontaneously alter its physical nature to gain wings.

"I really want to point out that you regularly DO spontaneously sprout wings," Eight leaned over his partner's shoulders. "And shoot up about, ooooh, another six feet at least while you're at it."

"Did I not caution you regarding your continued talking and my letting the ship explode?"

"Zipping it."

=How do we prevent the engine from exploding?

+This vessel can alter its interior dimensions to allow access to the engine room via one of the bridge doors. However, this vessel does not possess information on the nature of the engine failure, only that the effect of said failure will be catastrophic in nature. Determining what fault has been induced and how to correct it will fall solely upon unauthoriseduser:Shademon.

"Well that's far more helpful than me zipping it was effective," Eight butted in, a wrench suddenly in hand. "Though, inaccurate since we both know I'll end up doing most of the work."

"Where did you get that?" his partner scowled, giving up on trying to get the human to remain quiet.

"The better question is 'why can't I find the rest of the tool-kit?' I suppose I'll have to hope that it has actually been sensibly stored in the engine room where it belongs," the hacker rambled.

"I presume you are under the delusion that you are sufficiently able to repair a ship's engine when you could not even comprehend its controls?"

"Psh, course I am," Eight beamed, one hand moving to reveal a weighty book. "I managed to find the owner's manual."

For a moment Shademon stared, his luminescent eyes blinking once, a sound almost formed from where his mouth should be before he seemed to think better of it, turned around and began to type again.

=I believe we can handle that.

"What? No snide comment? No disbelief? You're leaving me hangin' here bro. I need that cynic five you so reliably deliver!"

"Let's just go..." Shademon sighed, rising from the seat and beginning to clamber towards the nearest door.

"Are you wanting to trade? Is that it? Should I be questioning where you learned to touch type? Or how you were able to sit in a seat that's at a what? Seventy? Seventy five degree angle?"

"Are we going to prevent our imminent vaporisation or not?" Shademon heaved a sigh.

"We've still got like...twenty six minutes. I'd hardly call that imminent..." Eight waffled as he scrambled up behind his partner, the silhouette-like digimon resisting the urge to follow through on his threat of letting them all die.

With a hiss the blast shield retracted and Eight sucked in a deep breath. He did not want to admit it, but this was going to be ridiculously hard. He was a programmer and occasional appliance electrician, the engineering of an otherworldly and (seemingly) sentient warship is likely going to be beyond the realms of his skill sets. Hell, he knew there was no way he could chomp through a book as thick as this manual and have time to spare. Even with his reading rate, it was practically a good-luck charm at this point. Reaching out he buried his fears and concerns under his ego and confidence and seized the door handle. Worrying was for Vincent, he had too much awesome to be doing to waste time with that nonsense, and that meant starting with a good, swaggering entrance.

His swagger immediately faltered as he and his partner stepped through into the engine room. Not only because the ship's current lop-sidedness meant they had to brace themselves against the railing of the walkway they were suddenly on, but because of the sight that confronted them. The engine room was pretty much exactly what he expected, a twisted fusion of engines, machines and Cthululu's artery system, except for the particular repeating detail of bundles of TNT with little digital timers strapped to them plastered over almost every surface.

"Yeah, sure. Why not?" Eight groaned, flinging away the instruction manual and wrench in a petulant fit. "Give the guy with a brain the size of a planet a fecking carry quest to…" He stopped and slowly, carefully, he reigned in his anger, taking long, slow deep breaths as he tried to retake control of himself.

"Do you need a moment?" Shademon looked up at him, his unseen smile damn near palpable amidst the life threatening danger.


"Because those timers are still going down."


"We REALLY should be doing something about that."



"Light-ning Blade."

"Wildefire Tsunami!"

Blue lighting and red flame rushed towards each other, the curved bolt passing through the wall of fire and vice-versa, the attacks too immaterial to impact on one another, prompting their respective targets to dive out of the way.

"Man, things just don't explode enough in reality," Chad sighed at the lack of boom. "Woulda thought the digital world could appreciate a little more over-the-topness."

Looking about the lopsided deck, the NS member tried to focus back onto his own hunt. The rain had completely stopped now and he was starting to hurt and tire, which meant that BurninGreymon would be too. The effort and exhaustion from their battle with KnightMeramon had been washed away, but the wounds remained and they were beginning to ache and make them slow. If this kept up, it would not matter WHAT BurningGreymon was meant to be the Legendary Warrior of, he would not be able to defeat Andromon if he slowed down much more. However, the transmission of pain and energy went both ways and Andromon was not some lone assailant, he was partnered just like BurningGreymon and Chad was sure that his partner was much softer. If he could take out Andromon's human partner the fight would be theirs, and he was very sure he could take him out before the hulking cyborg-android-thing could get an edge over his own partner.

'Still...what sort of guy teams up with loonies like these?' Chad could not help but ask himself as he fought to keep his balance. He understood that the digital world was weird and that everyone following Lucemon would have their reasons, but an ordinary human who had been dropped into the digital world like them?

His thoughts were broken when a black object rushed by his face, disturbing his balance and causing him to drop to his knees to keep from tumbling over the side of the deck.

"What the heck was that?"

"SoundBirdmon, aka, this cool little flying bird cam thing, aka my escape route," Cecil smirked, stepping out from his hiding spot, arm outstretched. The little musical note-esque bird fluttered down onto his open palm, its single eye staring blankly down at the NS member. "I would really love to stay, crack jokes, let Andromon crack your partner's skull, but we really must blow this joint." He began a sweeping turn only to stop part way, "Which would have a much better impact if you knew what would happen in –" he quickly checked the watch on his wrist in a desire for accuracy, "–twenty six minutes." SoundBirdmon fluttered up from his hand. "ANDROMON!" he cried out as the mechanical digimon raced towards its partner, the light of evolution flaring around it as the towering form shrank down, exiting the light as a much smaller critter that bore a strong resemblance to a computer mouse. Landing in his partner's open arms, the human held him close to his chest as SoundBirdmon latched onto his back, the black wings rapidly increasing in size.

"You think you can just fly away from me?" BurningGreymon cried out in indignation as he lined up his wrist guns.

"Oh...I know it," Cecil smiled up at the monstrous avian. "SoundBirdmon, full speed."

No sooner was the instruction given than a 'boom' roared out, the displaced air washing over Chad as the small group raced away into the sky.

"A...sonic boom?" Chad gasped in surprise.

"How the hell is something so small so fast?" BurningGreymon gaped at the speck in the sky, too fast and too far away now for him to hope to catch up.

"It's for the best I suppose...that they ran away." The human sighed, slumping against the ship's railings and looking down at his hand. He tried to force the light of evolution to build up around him, but got only a pale shimmer that quickly faded. "We didn't have much juice left and, I hate to admit it, but they were strong."

"Yeah…" BurningGreymon agreed, descending down to his partner and shrinking down just as Andromon had done, becoming a small, orange, sun shaped blob that soon nestled in Chad's arms. "It's getting quieter though. I think we might actually have triumphed in some way, shape or form."

Tilting his head, Chad looked at the fires that dotted the city and the trails of data that continued to drift up in the wake of all of the destruction. The sound of industry and the great white pillars of steam that had greeted them when they arrived in Tsyunoinoichi had been replaced by black smoke and the fading sounds of battle. It was not a sight that made his aching body feel any better.

"We damn well better have," he sighed, going as limp as he could without falling overboard.


Tanya had never had reason to think she would one day wish she knew how to tie a good knot. She could tie her shoelaces sure, but she was not exactly equipped with the skills to tie Floramon up to prevent escape. As such they had taken what had seemed to be the only logical alternative and had found a nice big room to completely freeze over, sealing all avenues of escape. With every window, door and wall now behind several inches of ice, the teen had declared it relatively safe for OzLykiomon to drop back down to being Lupmon. A move that definitely saved on energy but now deprived Tanya of the ultimate's big warm body to shield her from the now literally frozen room. Her only consolation as she shivered away was that Floramon looked even less comfortable in the suddenly arctic conditions than she felt, giving her something of a position of strength to begin her interrogation from.

"Th-th hell are y-y-y-you up to?" Floramon shuddered out, her eyes darting around the room, desperately scanning for some weak point in the ice. "Either kill me or let me kill you!"

"I don't really like those choices..." Lupmon pined. The puppy digimon sat by her partner, completely unaffected by the cold and struggling to understand the current situation, she turned her sappy eyes up towards Tanya. "I don't understand why we can't be friends...or what's happening. Where'd Aniki go?"

"Komodomon's okay," Tanya reassured, taking a moment to pat her partner on the head before wrapping her arm back around herself in an attempt to conserve heat. "And Lupmon's right, we don't have to fight."

"Did you miss the part where they've got control of Bryony?" Floramon snapped, anger and frustration overwhelming the cold. "Even if they couldn't just use that little slug to make her heart stop, they could make her stab herself...or jump off a bridge...or..." the explosion of anger swiftly became sorrow and despair, and the flower digimon crumpled to her knees, her head bowed in complete subjugation, tears and sobs flowing freely. "Please...I don't want to hurt you...but I can't let them hurt her...she's my partner...she's my only friend...she's my best friend..."

"Hey...we're the good-guys," Tanya did her best to give a reassuring smile, something that her nerves and the cold was making kind of tricky. "You've got to know you can't save your partner by just going along with them. I want to help you save her."

"What can you do?" Floramon's voice was small, meek, very different from when she was SilkLilamon and attempting to rain death upon them. "They have control of her mind and body... Yersinimon can create monsters and Cecil and Hagurumon..."

"H-hey, slow down," Tanya would have gesticulated, but body heat came first. "There's a lot about what's going on we don't understand and...yeah...there's not much I can do. But my friends...the people I've been travelling with...they're all really strong and really smart. They're going to save this city. They can save her too."

"You really believe they're that strong huh..."

"Aniki is the bestest!" Lupmon burst in. "And Liz is the strongest, and Eight is the smarterest, Agumon is the toughest, and Vincent is the worryerest,"

"Um...what about Shademon?" Tanya found herself lapsing into her partner's soppy pace.

"Um...uh..." Lupmon thought as hard as she could, tapping her head in a very Winnie-The-Pooh-like manner. "He's the 'I don't remember him-est?"

Sighing, Tanya realised that her partner was probably not the best being to paint a hyper-competent picture of their group.

"A-anyway, I'm sure that the golden light we saw was them taking Lucemon down. With him gone, saving your partner should be easy but you've got to tell us how to do it."

For a few moments Floramon was silent, save for a few sobs that slipped past her effort to reassert controls over her emotions. Tanya could tell she was thinking hard. She could not begin to imagine how hopeless the situation had seemed to the poor floral digimon. She had seen plenty of danger since arriving in the digital world, but not only had Lupmon been by her side but Liz and Agumon too. Then there was everyone in the frontier town, Vincent, Komodomon, BB, Bulletmon, Ranamon. They had never been alone and they had managed to overcome the hurdles they were faced with. Bryony and Floramon had been alone, and instead of salvation they had fallen into the hands of monsters.

'I wonder if this is the first time anyone's truly offered to help them...'

"There's a slug...a slug with legs...inside of her..." Floramon eventually spoke. "It's one of Yersinimon's numerals...They pinned her down and they let it crawl in through her ear. I don't know how you could get it out without killing her...Yersinimon said he's the only one who can safely remove it."

"Oh-Okay...this could be harder than I first thought..." Tanya shuddered. The thought of ANYTHING crawling into her ear grossed her out, let alone something that would make its way to her brain. "Wait, I thought that...uh...the guy talking through SoundBirdmon ordered one of the experiments to make you digivolve. Is that ExAiAi thing the slug?"

"His name's 'Cecil'," Floramon sighed as she provided the name. "And I don't think it is. I've heard both him and Yersinimon talk about it having been attached to other subjects. I think that little slug is just a part of something bigger."

The thought of a giant brain slug oozing out smaller brain slugs did little to ease Tanya's nerves and she could feel bile well up from her already turbulent gut. However, from amongst the unease and fear there came a spark of realization.

"Wait...if there's some kinda Queen Brain Slug out there, maybe if we take it out we can destroy the mini one in Bryony's head!" she almost cheered. It was a logical jump she felt, cut off the head and the body will die and all that.

"But...I don't...I don't..." sobs began to rack Floramon again, the control she had fought to reassert over her emotions slipping away as the tears began to flow steadily. "I don't know where it is! I've tried to find things out but I can't learn anything! I can't help her! I..."

Floramon's words came to a sudden stop as Lupmon's fluffy arms wrapped around her small huddled body, the doggy digimon doing her best to deliver a comforting hug rather than her usual crushing one.

"S'okay," she hushed. "S'okay. Aniki is a great finderer too, and we're all trying to finder all of our friends. We were lost for a long time, but we found Aniki and he found us. Everything will be okay."

Loudly sniffling, Floramon couldn't help but wrap her arms about Lupmon, sinking into the warmth of her hug and her shining confidence. Looking on, Tanya couldn't help but feel a fire well up in her belly and a smile appeared on her face. It would be easy, right even, to call the sheer weight of her partner's faith naive, the absolute confidence she had in not only Aniki but all of them. But at the same time, it was the kind of confidence and faith that made you want to live up to it, that pushed away thoughts of failure and your own weakness.

'Maybe that's just me though...' she wondered. 'I'm always so full of doubt...yet Lupmon is so free of them. Sometimes I can't help but get swept up into her pace.'

A faint noise caught her attention and she pivoted to face the door, still sealed in ice. They had been able to roughly make out the far off sounds of battle since they had sealed up the room, but this was something smaller and closer. Her instincts flared up and screamed that someone was in the building, that someone had found them.

'But how would anyone find us?' She tried to reassure herself that there wasn't a way. Only Bryony, or rather, experiment ExAiAi would have been following them, and they had been sure to leave the creepy brain-slug and its host in the dust. How could it track them? The answer came with surprising ease, causing her to curse her own carelessness. They were not running from a digimon, but a human with a partner, and thus, a digivice with a handy little radar function to track other players and her partner. Pulling out her own digivice Tanya stared at the unfamiliar pink arrow that was undoubtedly Bryony, wondering how on Earth she had failed to think of this.

'It's pointing down and still a fair bit away. We've got time yet. we stay? Do we run? Fighting is not an option. This is not an opponent we can fight. She is a hostage, not an enemy...'

Looking to the still weepy Floramon Tanya felt a horrible swell in her gut that seemed to dribble down her bones and leave her legs unsteady. Every option she could conceive of was flashing through her mind but the risk involved in them was too big. The control being held over Bryony was too big a factor. Anything they did could be countered by threatening her life to make them submit.

'There's only one option...' she realised, the weak feeling now becoming such that it felt like she was being devoured from within. 'We have to run...and...'

"Floramon," the word felt heavy as she spoke it, and her body felt unnatural as she moved it.

'We have to run and...'

"Floramon, Bryony...ExAiAi is coming. She's here."


"We have to..."


"Psssshhhhhhh..." Eight rasped, legs looped around the railing as he stretched out on the slanted walkway, arms dangling above his head. "Booooorrred!" he proceeded to moan, the rasping of his 'r's bringing him only a small amount of comfort.

"It's not my fault you cannot multiply yourself," Eclipsemon feigned a sigh, smug satisfaction hung off of every syllable. Nightmare Rave doppelgangers were flying around the whole of the engine room, each one snatching an explosive charge before flying off through the shadows. Eclipsemon may have been lacking in the direct power his comrades were able to swing around, but he had more than his fair share of versatility.

"I just can't believe that THIS is it. That's a literal heart over there pumping...very, very necessary stuff around the ship's body; we got here by warping space-time! Lucifer himself was sailing this thing, and you're telling me the complex self-destruct system was bought from the ACME corporation!?"

"Breathe," Eclipsemon briefly reminded his partner before returning his attention to directing his many clones. The hacker had let his ramblings run on too long and was now gasping for air. Once his breathing was back under control he let out a long sigh.

"This is just...ridiculous. I've done...nothing," he moaned, dangling. "I didn't get us in, I didn't cripple the ship, I didn't beat...HIM into the ground and now, NOW I'm not even responsible for cunningly disarming the ship's apocalyptic explosion..."

Pseudo-ears drooping, Eclipsemon's glowing eyes actually softened a little. He had never seen his partner so deflated. He had not been completely superfluous to their mission. He had been straight up useful in fact, but he had not performed to his usual critical level. The hacker had not seemed affected by the stress of their situation when they first arrived in the digital world, but since they had met up with the others he seemed to have begun to crack. It wasn't surprising that failing to meet his own exacting standards might be the straw to break the camel's back.

"Eight-Ball...Listen, you –"

"I'M NOT GOING TO ACCEPT THIS SECONDARY CHARACTER STATUS! I SHOULD AT LEAST BE A DEUTERAGONIST!" Eight interrupted, suddenly returning to his usual animated self. "I swear Eclipsemon, next time things go down, I'm going to settle for nothing less than the spotlight!"

Sighing, Eclipsemon swallowed down his intended words of comfort and reassurance, whether or not his partner needed them his attitude certainly kept the shadow digimon from wanting to deliver them.

'Perhaps some people are just too insane to go mad...'


'We have to run and leave Floramon behind.'

The thought was there, unwanted in her mind, but the words would not come. The idea was just too horrible to say, even if it was their best option. They were hostages, victims, she should be saving them rather than abandoning them, but there was nothing she could do.

"It's okay..." Floramon sniffed, getting her tears under control and reaching one petal-made-hand up to touch Tanya's. "I understand."

Slowly, she disentangled herself from Lupmon and let go of Tanya before padding over to the far side of the room, stopping with her back to the pair.

"Even if you had another idea...I would go back to her. She needs me, and I need her." Turning her head, just a little, Tanya and Lupmon could see the faintest smile on the plant digimon's face as she struggled to reassure them. "I'll never regret being by her side."

"Floramon..." Lupmon pined, head and tail drooping.

"We'll save you..." Tanya near muttered, the void in her gut shifting as she did. "WE'LL SAVE YOU!" She shouted it this time, ignoring her unease and weakness. "Right now my friends are felling monsters and gods! It may not be now, but we'll definitely save you and Bryony both! I promise!"

"Tanya..." Floramon struggled to keep her composure.

Turning, she clutched her digivice, blue flames emerging about her hand before spreading to her partner, her cry of digivolution at odds with the cold atmosphere of the literally frozen room.

"Lupmon Digivolve to...LYKIOMON!"

"I promise," she spoke one more time before climbing onto Lykiomon's back, the large wolf giving Floramon one last, sad look before unleashing Raksha's Cry to shatter a chunk of the ice and the wall behind it and dashing out into the city once more.

Bounding over the rooftops, wind rushing about her, Lykiomon's sensitive ears still picked out the sound upon her back, concern flooding her voice as she spoke.

"Tanya? Are you okay?"

"She can't cry Lykiomon..." her partner answered, fists tight about the wolf's large collar. "Right now, she can't cry...and I couldn't do anything. I was able to make you evolve and I couldn't do anything..."


Looking down at where her tears fell, Tanya's fists became tighter, her already pale knuckles turning white from the pressure.

"Things seem to be quieting down now, we should try and find the others..."

A quiet pine rumbled from Lykiomon's throat as she tried to sniff out the scent of their friends, all the while listening to her partner quietly chanting to herself as tears streamed down her face.

"I promise, I promise, I promise..."


Pipmon struggled to push himself upright. He could not exactly claim to have a lot of experience in using his ultimate form, but he had never hurt this much in coming out of it. Heck, he had certainly dropped down from his champion state enough to know that most of the pain and injuries would go away, shedding the damaged data as you devolved. But right now he felt like he had been getting kicked around like a football. Every part of his tiny body hurt right now and he struggled to twist around to take a look at his surroundings.

The street had been practically obliterated; a deep trench ran along where cobblestones had once been, the terrifying effect of Lucemon's Grand Cross attack, the force that had taken Beelzemon completely out of the battle.

'What happened to him?' the exhausted in-training thought to himself. He had tried to voice it allowed, but he was too drained and sore to even open his mouth right now. 'Don't tell me Lucemon killed him...'

Lucemon's name triggered a dull warning in his head. He felt far less invincible than when the golden light had surrounded him and D-Greymon. If Lucemon was still standing they were all kinds of screwed. Staggering about, the small in-training digimon flopped onto his side as he tripped over himself, any sort of movement proving to be a great trial for him. Lucemon was lying there in the middle of the street, sort of. Amongst the torn and melted remains of the street the Demon Lord's body was still fading away, little more than his face and arm were left, his fist clenched tight and his eyes burning with fury. Suddenly the Lord of Pride turned his vicious gaze upon Pipmon, the little digimon freezing up with primal fear for a few moments, instincts screaming out that he was so much less than this decimated demon. Summoning his courage, he reminded himself that he was one of the ones who had done the decimating. Resolve steeled he did his best to glare back, no easy task given his current adorable body, but his eyes widened in confusion as Lucemon's eyes flicked from him back to his own fist, over and over again. His mouth opened in an effort to speak, but no noise came out, and the street could be seen through his open jaws. The whole back of his head was gone, rendering him mute.

"Wh...what are you trying to say?" Pipmon struggled along on his stubby little feet, trying to get closer to his fallen foe. With his primal fear under control he was sure this was not some final taunt, Lucemon was trying to tell him something important.

Gradually the decay of Lucemon's body reached down his arm and to his hand, his white clad fingers slipping away into data fragments and revealing what lay within. The source of Lucemon's ire wriggled within his dissipating grasp, small spindly limbs wriggled it around in a mad bid for freedom. Green gunk oozed from its body and its single, large, lidless eye swivelled about until it came to rest on Pipmon.

"The hell is that?"

The thing made no noise other than a disquieting squishing sound from the goo rubbing against its chitin covered form as it moved. Its twisted spider-like legs compressed down as it prepared to leap, waiting for a big enough gap to form in Lucemon's fist. The Demon Lord's burning gaze grew almost imploring as his grip faded along with his eyes. The last of his data swarmed together and began to glow a vibrant red before flying off into the air. The very moment that the red light took off acted as a kind of starting gun for the little eye-ball-spider-slug which sprung forward, only to have its bid for freedom blocked by a stream of pink, mildly explosive, bubbles.

"Like I'm letting something as shifty as you just hop on out of here!" Pipmon threatened, waggling his little non-arms in a rough emulation of a fight-ready pose.

The eyeball-spider-slug scurried around to face Pipmon directly, the single rolling eye staring straight at him again as the legs compressed down once more, this time springing straight at the little red digimon. The in-training digimon struggled to try and push his tiny assailant away, all too aware that the little nubs he called arms were near useless as he batted away at the freakish...thing. Opening his mouth, he prepared to try and blast it away with another Bubble Blow attack only to heed his instincts and clamp his jaws shut, realisation setting in regarding the creature's true intention. It was not trying to attack him, it lacked even the basic ability to claw and bite at him, but its legs had a rather impressive grip. Rather than try and wrestle though, it was focusing on his sealed up mouth, working to force his lips open.

'This damn thing wants to crawl inside of me!' Pipmon's eyes widened as his lips were tipped up and the thing began to pry his teeth apart, its thin little limbs surprisingly strong.

"Bubble Blow!"

Pink bubbles slammed into the side of the miniature monstrosity, sending it rolling to the ground, Pipmon breathed in a hasty sigh of relief before clamping his jaw shut again.

"The hell is that and did I kill it?" Koromon grunted, struggling to get his completely limbless body to move.

"I shink its shtill moving," Pipmon hissed as best he could with his mouth still closed as tightly as possible.

Sure enough, the hideous little thing scrambled for a few moments, struggling to get off of its back, before going still. With a series of sickening clicks and the most unnatural looking of movements the limbs bent and twisted, rearranging themselves so that they were placed on the ground, the creature's back becoming its belly.

"I miss the game world," Koromon shuddered at the sight and sound.

"I am not letting that thing in my mouth," Pipmon growled, his cheeks puffing up as he prepared the biggest load of Bubble Blow he could.

"STOP!" a girly voice cried out from above, causing the in-training digimon and the thing to look skyward for a moment, catching sight of the giant wolf that sailed through the air. "DON'T KILL IT!"

"Yeeomo?" Pipmon mumbled with his puffed up face.

"Tanya?" Koromon asked more coherently.

With numbed limbs Tanya attempted to sit up on her partner's back, only to find her balance completely failing her and she collapsed down to the street. Completely ignoring any pain or embarrassment she continued with her desperate warning. "That slug-spider thing! You can't kill it! It might help us help Bryony!"

"Who?" the pair of in-trainings asked in unison, bubbles pouring out of Pipmon's mouth as he spoke, his jaws slamming down to trap the remaining ones the moment the first few floated past his eyes.

"She..." Tanya began to explain, only to catch sight of the hideous little abomination trying to scurry away. "Catch it! I'll explain later, just please catch it!" she near shrieked in panic.

Responding to her urgency Koromon leapt after the spider-slug, Pipmon spewing out his remaining bubbles to block off its route of retreat. However, exhaustion and injury weighed too heavily on Koromon and the creature managed to slip past him as he did his best to pounce on it. Lykiomon too joined in, but her size proved a disadvantage and she was easily avoided, the creepy critter scurrying between her legs and making a dive for the nearest demolished building.

"NO!" Tanya cried out, scrambling to chase it. She knew that once it was amongst the debris they'd never find it again.

"NOOOOOOOO!" a second, more terrified, voice boomed from the sky. A screaming purple blob arced through the air before slamming into the creature, bowling it over once more and knocking it away from its intended sanctuary.

"Uuuuuurrraaaaahhhh!" a more mature female voice roared, a human woman in biker gear racing over the mound of debris, arms raised above her head with a large boot clasped in her hands. The few moments the creature had to react were not enough as the boot swung down upon it, the open end swallowing it up and trapping it inside. Sprawled out on the ground the woman smiled broadly up at the assembled and confused digimon, her expression dopey and upbeat in spite of the wounds that littered her body. "Got it!" was her only response to the bewilderment of those around her.

"Dis is no way to treat a superior life-form..." the purple blob sagged.

"Wh...who are you?" Tanya panted as she struggled up to her feet, watching as the woman seized a hunk of rock and wedged it in the opening of her shoe, allowing her to sit up-right with the creature trapped.

"Heh...I suppose it has been a while since we last showed our faces," the woman sighed, slumping back against the demolished house. Her vibrant expression rapidly began to fade, replaced by a great weariness, her mad dive having burned what little energy she had left. "Back in the game world I was known as Hel Lordi, and here my partner, that is, my boss is better known as The Demon Lord of Gluttony, Beelzemon."

The announcement was given very little weight, Lordi's hand giving a limp rolling wave towards the purple blob who struggled round to fix those assembled with his best glare. His big adorable eyes, however, made this completely ineffective and did nothing to stifle the resounding 'Eehh?' that burst forth from the group.

"Like I even care about who's who!" Pipmon's voice rang out. "Someone help me find Ranamon!"


SonicBirdmon's wings flapped and spread wide as Cecil hovered in the air, his partner nestled in the crook of his arm. Bryony sat upon ExAiVee's back, her limbs dangling like a ragdoll's as vacant eyes gazed down upon the city. Sandwiched uncomfortably between her marionetted partner and the towering form of Yersinimon, Floramon nervously played with her petals. It had not taken long for Cecil to find them after she had been reunited with Bryony and the pair were whisked off into the sky, bringing their small cabal all together again. This unhappy alliance sat awaiting the end of the countdown, a nervous tension clear on Cecil's face that stemmed from a very different root to Floramon's.

"I'm telling you, this won't work," the human insisted. "What part of 'he's two geniuses combined' do you not get?"

"Mind your tongue, chk," Yersinimon cautioned, his masked face not moving to look at his co-conspirator. "By the information you have given me on this 'Eight-Ball' he has no way to learn that the ship is soon to explode, chk."

"And if he does?"

"Then I will at least have a better assessment of his abilities than your stories have given me, chk," the doctor-like digimon curtly replied, tilting his head to inspect the little warped egg timer as it ticked the final moments away. Cecil and Floramon could not resist looking to the timer as well, the human's eyes growing wider as the flower digimon's began to squeeze shut until, at last, the final tick came and the timer sat silent.

"Where's the kaboom?" Cecil asked, turning back to the city. "There's supposed to be a..."

A loud BOOM filled the air, proving the timer to be a few seconds out with the ones on the bombs, a long wave of fire blasting the trail of destruction the ExVee had already left into a deeper series of craters. Despite this, however, it was not the devastating, city cleansing blast that had been expected, and there was nothing very impressive about demolishing rubble. Floramon had to press her petals to her mouth in order to fully contain the sigh of relief that surged up through her.

"Well, that was anti-climactic," Cecil sighed as Yersinimon signalled to his creation to depart. "And we're just going to leave things like this?"

"Our key objective has been completed, and Tsyunoinoichi lies in ruins. The destruction of these new obstacles would have been a plus, but with Lucemon's forces decimated you are all I have left to launch an offensive with. We have too little intelligence on our enemies' remaining forces and abilities, particularly after that last display. So yes, we are retreating. We will collect Lucemon's power another time."

His creation flying off Yersinimon slipped the warped egg timer back into his coat and mused to himself. What he had seen from Gaiomon's castle...that golden light...he had never seen a power like that manifest in the digital world in all of his research. How would such a power and those who wielded it affect what was to come? If there was a face beneath his mask, it was surely smiling. He had so few joys in the relentless pursuit of his mission, and answering such perplexing questions was one of them.

'The Nightmare Soldiers and this golden fascinating, chk.'


"Five minutes to spare."

"My efficiency bothers you?"

Grumbling, Eight lifted his head to look at his partner, a sour look of disapproval on his face.

"You really have no idea how this whole 'dramatic tension' thing works. If it had been me I would have at LEAST co-ordinated the raves to spell out 'Nyaahahaha' in the sky. Or a portrait of myself."

Sighing, Shademon resisted the urge to ask how exactly he would create a portrait of himself with explosions. He had, he felt, indulged his partner enough by agreeing to come up to the bridge and watch the explosions; he did not need to take part in his mad, egocentric ramblings.

Before the hacker could continue his solo-act ramblings his digivice emitted an ear splitting 'vreen' noise, the screen flickering several shades of static as it did so.

"GAH! What the hell!?" Eight cried, pulling the small machine up to his face and delivering the finest of engineering slaps to its side.

"Please don't tell me all your fiddling broke it..." Shademon turned a very serious look upon his partner.

"I am 84% sure that I am not the cause of –"

Silencing the magnificent motor-mouth of the nightmare soldiers was probably a good indicator of the power held within the red light that surged up to the pair from seemingly nowhere. For a few energised moments it danced around the hacker and his partner before pouring into every seam of the digivice, turning the static blood red for a few moments before it settled into a single, clear image.

"A candelabra, a trident, an upside down rocketship?" Eight muttered, staring at his now silent digivice, a scowl soon forming on his features. "DAMNIT DIGITAL WORLD! DID I ASK YOU FOR MORE QUESTIONS! DID I? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

As the hacker wailed to the sky, a sullen stillness began to fall across the city. What little resistance was left in the forces of the invaders gradually petered out. Even with their victories the soldiers of Tsyunoinoichi could not feel at ease, having been left so dependent on outsiders for so much of the battle and with their castle in ruins and their Lord missing. But these were not troubles for those exhausted and weary members of the Nightmare Soldiers who had fought today, not for now at least. And what little rest they could seize now they had earned, for greater questions and troubles awaited them.


Raven: Fun thing about Eight Ball, and Cecil Jones by account of them being the same guy, is that if we can't have him do something crazy, we can at least have him talk about it. Keyo and I went back and forth a little on just how the bombs would be disposed of, and the idea of Eight arranging them came up. Since that wouldn't realistically happen with Eclipsemon doing the work, we decided to let Eight mention it at the very least. So nine times out of ten, if Eight says a plan that isn't implemented, chances are we considered implementing it.

And Hel Lordi FINALLY introduces herself! Those of you keeping score may notice that it took her a whopping total of fourty-one chapters before she gave any names out. That's right, she's been there since Chapter 12, tagging along with Impmon and all his Demon Lord glory! That's better than Eight Ball not revealing who he is though...or is it?

On the subject of Hel revealing her name, that fight with the that not the cutest, most disturbing thing you have ever read?

Keyo: So this chapter took awhile, I had a few bumps in the process of putting it together but we're still on a roll of sorts ^^ But rather than whine about me being awkward I shall instead regale you with 'stuff that was going to happen in this story arc and then did not happen.' Warning, most of these involve Lucemon.

Our character's surprised us: Originally the fight with Lucemon was going to go very differently. Namely Beelzemon was meant to play a bigger role in taking him out, revealing the power of Bust mode. But then things happened and ClayDrakemon and D-Greymon were on their own and...well...they ended up not needing the help after all.

Attack of the Giant Lucemon: Remember that thing Lucemon mentioned was in his chest that did nothing? Well you'll find out what it is soon, but originally it was meant to go haywire after his initial defeat, turning him into a rampaging giant with a black-hole arm and a super-nova arm. With everyone exhausted save Tanya and Lupmon, it would be down to them to destroy the 'thing' in Lucemon's chest, forcing him back to normal. I'm sorry you lost your big bad-ass moment Tanya T_T This was sadly cut for time.

Beelzemon's Death and Lucemon's Un-Death: Finally, there was meant to be one last confrontation with a Zombiefied Lucemon that would have resulted in a one-on-one showdown with Beelzemon that would lead to both being dead. This was decided to be pointless and dumb.

Huh...Guess they were ALL about Lucemon. Oh well, join us next time when a thing will happen and I will have likely told you all that 'Bust Mode' was not a typo.