Digital War: Campaign II

Part One: First Contact

[Chapter IV]

By T. D. Larson

Fog, much to the surprise of both Michael and Isaac, was not as otherworldly as television made it seem. There were no shadows moving about them as they had expected, and no dark looming shapes lingered just at the edge of their visions. Only a gray, heavy curtain of damp hung over them as they entered the Digital World. A few moments later, as they edged their way forward into this new frontier, the fog lifted, and all three of them stood for a moment blinking in the unexpected sunlight.

For the most part, at least to the two newcomers, it looked very much like Earth. A pale blue sky greeted them with a white sun and wispy vapors looping around it like halos. Ahead of them, all was sand and rocks, far as the horizon, save for a cluster of lighter material, shimmering brightly in the heat-distorted air.

The two of them might have taken it for a mirage, had Cotramon not told them they would find hospitality there. "March!" he had ordered, advising them to shed their rain gear. This they did, now beginning to feel the heat of a desert sun pounding them. Then they began plodding through the course sand.

It was not at all as Isaac had expected. The idea of another world filled with creatures like Michael and Cotramon had conjured images of unending fields of odd plants, set about in haphazardly under a strange sky. Odd sights framing even more peculiar creatures lingered in his mind, even as they grew closer to that collection of bright shapes, which he now took to be a city. In all, Isaac found it very anticlimactic for such a journey.

"That's merely an outpost," Cotramon explained, as they drew near. But even he had to admit that the outpost had grown to be much more than that. In the old days, after the war and before the Emperor had ascended to the throne, it had been only a scientific research station, monitoring the Human World for signs of intelligence.

Many such sights were scattered across the borders of the Digital World. All of them were stationed at weak points between the worlds, like weigh-stations for travelers. Not that traveling was even allowed—except for specific purposes such as his. And each point corresponded to a different point in the Human World. It had taken years to evaluate where each gate lead, and then to systematically whittle down the options of where the hybrid—Michael, Cotramon corrected himself—would be found. "We study you humans from there. It's an observation post," he said.

Michael found it difficult to believe, with a wall that large and a gate that huge. It was, indeed, a city by any terrestrial standards. The walls loomed high, fifty feet or more, from the desert sands below, and an equally massive gate barred entry. He wondered briefly why it had to be so large, and then it opened, at the behest of their Digimon guide.

The reason, and here he found he could not contain his startled amazement, was because of the sheer size that Digimon could reach. Two large dinosaur-like beasts, pushing at enormous handles situated on the inside of each door, pressed outward with all their might. The orange and blue striped monsters easily rose to the height of two fully grown men, and their girth was equal to a large freight shipment. Each of them, and their great horned helmets, greeted Cotramon and the others with a loud growling welcome as soon as the portal was open.

Isaac tried to reply to the best of his ability in the same roaring language as the giants. To his chagrin, he only managed to produce a gurgling, weak answer that elicited a deep rumbling laughter from them. So humans could not speak "growlish." So he tried again in English, hoping to at least begin on peaceable terms with them. "I'm sorry I can't speak your language," he said to them, raising his voice. "But, if that was a welcome,"—and, even though they growled, their tone was inviting enough to be taken as such—"thank you."

One of them peered down with great brown eyes and dropped his jaw, much like Cotramon did when he smiled. "It is fine, small one," it said in strangely accented English. "We study the human languages here as well, should we ever come into contact with your people. We are Greymon."

Both of them were Greymon? He had stopped now, in the midst of a train of thought. "Then how do you distinguish between you? When someone calls 'Greymon, come here!' how do you know which of you he means?" The two hulking figures looked at each other and then back down to Isaac. "Don't you have names," he asked.

One of them nodded. "Our names are in our own tongue, though, unpronounceable by you, apparently." He told him his name, a small sequence of grunting noises with various articulations. It seemed to Isaac the auditory equivalent to a string uncut gems, almost musical in quality. Then the monster told him his cohort's name. That was a two-set noise, like lulling sound followed by a crack of thunder.

He told them as such. "You are very perceptive, small one," the thunderous one said. "Our names are given at birth by parents for a particular quality we display, or as a blessing of things to come. I was born in the mountains after a fierce windstorm. My brother," he indicated the other Greymon, "was born, and our father's father presented the family with a hand-cut gem. So he was named."

And Cotramon, then, was not his real name. So what was it? That got him set to thinking about his companions, and he realized with abrupt clarity that they had left him behind. Hastily he wished the two Digimon a good day and ran off, catching up with them just as they reached a central square, filled with even more Digimon milling about—some of them larger than even the two Greymon at the gates.

The Enemy looked over a detailed map of Anshar and its capital city. He knew it was outdated, just as his master did. Millenniumon stood by silently, apprehensively awaiting any word his master gave. Silence, though he had appreciated it during the war, had begun to dig into him in a way that bode very badly. It was when his master sat in silent contemplation that he was most prone to outbursts.

Perhaps "outburst" was the wrong word. They had been locked away on this accursed plane for years, and patience was wearing thin. His master had a desire so deep-set within him to rule and conquer, it had become an obsession. And it had happened far before they had crossed paths. But the years of solitude since the war had given him time to plot.

The seal holding them there—he, his master, and Apocalymon, who led the military arm of his master's triumvirate—had begun to fail. The fires from Musplshiem had seeped in and made the dark, storm-churned climate warm. And even now, as the seal continued to crumble, his master began rebuilding his army.

Those foolish Digimon that had locked him away—they called themselves the Sovereignty—had given the Enemy an entire world and its resources to work with. The arrogance of them, who thought they could stay his power indefinitely, had also sealed his vast, soulless armies away with them. Now he had built his army to ten times what it was during the war. And Millenniumon, though not entirely sure of the prospect, had helped him.

How many Digimon had he killed? At first it had been for the need to experiment, as many of the initial tests he had run were on volunteers who thought his master was, indeed, worthy of recognition. Soon, though, the coup had succeeded, and once established, the Enemy had redefined himself. And the volunteers soon turned into conscripted soldiers.

And from there, because of him, they became mindless shells of their former selves. He could no longer remember the promises that the Enemy had made him, only that for the longest time, he could think of no better reason than the pursuit of his passion. He had even been given the whole of Ea and its teaming underwater cities, to play with. He was a Lord unto himself, and over everything in the water and on the land.

He shifted slightly, making no noise. For his size and bulk, and for the machinery that plagued his body, it was a feat not to be taken lightly. In his service to the Enemy, he had sacrificed much of his body. Now he survived on internal mechanisms and prosthetics that he had engineered hastily as his internal organs shut down.

Because of this, he was not as strong, nor as quick as his counterpart, the End of All Worlds. Apocalymon was just what his namesake evoked: a terror, able to snatch up enemies far and abroad with his long, winding limbs, without having to move a single pace. He had been known to level cities and villages via bombardment. For him, it was the thrill of destruction that drove him onward. And his form, suitably corrupted by their master's influence, was an instrument to that end.

Millenniumon's strength was in his mind, and what he could produce. Not a warrior, but a thinker, he had fashioned many of his master's ideas into reality. That was what brought them to their current predicament. One such idea, he had thought it destroyed, had yet survived, and had been studied by the Digimon above them in the higher planes.

"What do you suppose such a union of bloodlines will produce," the Enemy queried him, turning his dark gaze ominously upon him. Millenniumon almost shuddered. His master's calm voice was not to be trusted. He was a Digimon of immense power, unmatched anywhere in the Digital World. And though he was cruel, even to such as Millenniumon, he was also cunning and efficient. And he did not take failure lightly.

He must choose his words carefully, as he already treaded upon thin ice. Even now, and he continued the analogy in his mind, he could hear the tinkling, cracking of his path before it would give way and shatter. "Pyromon had a power, that, in time, might have rivaled yours," he said, deciding truth was the best course of action. "And because he is a product of the Clone-Works, he is tied to your blood as well. Your son, though he may appear weak, has the potential to destroy us all if left to his own devices."

The Enemy turned back to his study of Anshar before replying. "I concur. I have already sent an agent to assess the situation." Then he remained in silence for several more minutes, with only the shuffling of folded maps breaking the menacing silence that now pervaded the chamber. Then, with a start of surprise, Millenniumon heard the words for his dismissal.

Inwardly, he sighed in relief.

Michael stood motionless as the black-clad form introduced himself. He was smaller than many of the other Digimon that passed them by, taking scant notice of the trio. But he still rose to a height head and shoulders above the hybrid. He, like many of the Digimon, who he had seen, was reptilian in nature, and vaguely draconic as well, with scales as black as pitch and black armor gleaming in the midday sun.

He introduced himself first in the native tongue, a curt, meaty sounding grunt by Isaac's ear. Then he introduced himself again in gruff English: "I am," and he pronounced his name again. "His majesty, the Emperor Boreamon, bids you welcome." He bowed to them, his horned helmet nearly touching the ground at their feet.

"They sent you?" Cotramon asked, incredulously. He hardly believed that the affair was worthy of a personal escort—let alone that their escort might be one of the Emperor's own guard. He raised himself back up, the seal on his chest armor glimmering neatly. He was indeed a Guard. "Who's idea was this?"

The figure, whom Isaac and Michael were later able to identify as a Black WarGreymon, answered, "Baihumon requested a special detail for you on behalf of the Sovereignty." He grinned under his helmet, startling Cotramon by breaking the decorum the Imperial Guard was known for. "Whether it is to protect them," and he pointed to the others, "or to protect us, I do not know. In any case, I will be your escort while you are here."

Cotramon nodded at the unorthodox Digimon as he turned to inspect Michael and the human. He examined Isaac carefully. "What is your name, small one? Or shall I make one up for you?"

"Isaac Marx," he replied, not the least intimidated. It had been the second time a Digimon had called him "Small One." He held out his hand to the burly Digimon in the age-old human gesture. The Black WarGreymon took it thoughtfully, and gave it one good shake, rattling Isaac's comparatively frail form. "What shall I call you then?"

His yellow eyes brightened and he smiled widely, showing disconcertingly long fangs. "Ah! You are perceptive!" he laughed, his voice a deep rumble. He stood to his full height again, towering over the three of them. "My native tongue translates my name to 'Tank' in yours," he said. Isaac nodded.

"That's an appropriate name if ever I heard one," Michael chimed. This Tank was easily the largest creature he had seen—even the two sentries he had passed on the way in seemed small in comparison. This guy had presence! "I'm Michael," he introduced himself. "Michael Delancy."

"Ah, yes!" said the Digimon. "I have heard of you, the hybrid and son of the Enemy…" Michael blinked, startled. He thought he had caught a glimmer of something in those yellow eyes—something he did not like, nor could he place his finger on just what it was. In the next moment, it was gone, replaced by strangely youthful mirth. "You have the form a recognizable hero in our world. He saved many lives in the war, not least among them your partner's."

His partner? The Black WarGreymon had nodded, ever so slightly, to Cotramon. He had noticed as well and humphed at the reference. Obviously Michael had missed something there—an inference of some deeper connection. He, unlike his fully-human companion, was not nearly as insightful. But still, the green Digimon was beginning to grow on him.

Cotramon had at least been sympathetic—at least after he had calmed down properly. The Digimon made sure during their trek to the Digital Gate that he knew some of the history. That, and what he had gathered from the snippets of conversation he had overheard, the Digimon was in earnest trying rectify a profoundly difficult situation. It, among other things, included his sincere apology to Michael as well.

"Yes, then," Cotramon said suddenly, cutting off Tank's rabbit-trail discussion with Isaac on the various naming customs of both worlds. "We were to be met with transportation," he said, looking around. He saw no Digimon on the airfield and wondered if they had been forgotten, and then dismissed the thought.

He pointed to it. There, coming into land on a small airstrip was a large silvery shape that had the distinct look of an aircraft. On closer inspection, however, they saw it was actually a creature, probably another of the incredibly varied Digimon, and that the metallic gleam was a sort of harness attached to its underside for passengers. It was at least the size of a small airliner.

"Indeed," Tank said emphatically, cutting short their amazement. "The Sovereignty will be expecting you when you arrive. They want you debriefed as soon as possible," he said to Cotramon. Then, turning to the others, he spoke casually. "They're very interested in you two as well, but after a long journey such as this, they thought it better to give you a chance to rest. It's only a few hours by air."

The flying Digimon came to rest its four legs, and was attended to by a ground crew offering it food and drink. He would be ready to fly again shortly, one of the ground crew explained to them. Digimon of this nature often flew passengers from city to city and plane to plane using harnesses or other such devices.

"I suppose it's cheaper than jet fuel," Isaac quipped. He must have been a charter, though, as there were no passengers disembarking. He must also have been on a tight schedule, as he scarfed down the platter that was brought him, and took a long drought in an appropriately sized trough.

Moment by moment, this world was getting more and more strange. He had expected as much. But it was a different sort of strange, Isaac supposed. Instead of monsters and bugbears, he found monsters that were perfectly suited to their surroundings. It made them appear normal—or as normal as he could grasp in an alien world. The hulking figures of Greymon and others were not out of place at all.

Mentally he chided himself. Of course they were normal. This was their world. His mental image had been of creatures that size trying not to step on houses or cars, taking mincing, short steps on narrow streets. But the broad avenues he observed now, and the immense architecture of their dwellings—the doors alone would suffice to admit a school bus—were nothing like the cities of Earth. He almost laughed as he explained his revelation to Michael, who set to wonder where he would fit in.

He was one of those creatures, walking down a wide thoroughfare, but small as a human. Then again, Cotramon was much the same size, as were a great many of the Digimon that went by. He had the sense, though, that a large portion of them would end up at least the size of their escort, Tank.

He would resolve to ask Cotramon about that later. He had he inexplicable sense that there was far more to Digimon than just what he saw. It was some sort of expectation, deep set inside him, that he needed to change somehow. He had just become aware of it, meeting the Black WarGreymon and the two sentries at the gate.

But it frightened him as well. He had done enough changing for one lifetime. Again he found himself looking down at his hands—symbols of the spectacular transformation he had gone through. Was there more to come? In one sense, he hoped not. The last time had been agonizingly painful, an experience unmatched in his life.

Then again, when he thought about the prospect of elevating himself to the next level, a thrill of excitement coursed through him. He felt the nervousness of someone about to take a leap of faith, where the risk, though great, was nothing compared to the reward. He needed only step out of his preconceived boundaries and remember that he was not, in fact, human.

Someone shook him back to his senses. It was Cotramon, who rapped him on the head once. "It's time to go," the Digimon said, gesturing to their transportation. Then, noticing the doubtful, and anxious expression on Michael's muzzle, leaned in close. "If you want to talk, I'm here. I'm not an expert on what's happened to you, but I can listen."

"That…" he sighed heavily, "would be great."