AN – Bear with me on this one folks, this is a chapter that basically builds up to the action which is to come. I'm sorry that it's a lot of dialogue and not much cars, guns or explosions (although maybe if you are looking for cars and guns you're in the wrong fanfic…)
but I hope you'll like reading it anyway :}

For anyone actually reading this I'd like to say many thanks,

Tokomon leapt down from his perch on his human's head and took a moment to look into the fire as he tried to sort out in his mind the experiences of the last few months in a way that would be clear, concise and thoroughly explain all that these people needed to know in order to make an informed decision about their plan of action in this world.

He suppressed a shudder as he began. "Months ago The Master, a dark digimon who's true identity even I do not know, began conducting experiments which entailed sapping the energy from certain digimon at the moment before they evolved; for this is one of the most powerful moments in a digimon's life due to the sheer amount of excess digi-jules flowing through their system for that fractional window of time." Koushiro nodded in agreement at this diagnosis.

"He harnesses this energy using bands of metal which he puts around the midsection of countless digitama and digimon," Tokomon explained, tapping the gold band around his own midsection "I wear this not as decoration but because I have no choice."

Miko scowled, "Then we should destroy it, no one picks on my Toko'-chan!"

Tokomon shook his head sadly, touched by his human's concern but resigned to the fact he was stuck with this fitting permanently. "I'm afraid that that's not how it works, Miko-san. The bands are fused with my own data, that is how they are able to harness the excess. Severing it would destroy me." Koushiro nodded in understanding and sympathy, Miko puffed his cheeks in outrage and the rest of the digidestined looked shocked that such devices existed. Their experiences before with devices created by evil digimon had been that such things were easily, or admittedly sometimes not so easily, destroyed along with their influence over the victim. This was a much more difficult reality to swallow, especially as Tokomon was now essentially one of their own.

"Anyway," Tokomon cleared his throat, slightly uncomfortable with the sympathetic looks he was faced with on the faces of these strangers. "While the energy collected from these experiments did allow The Master to grow and become continually more powerful, it was not enough. He began to want more than such experiments could provide and so eventually he began taking non-evolution digi-jules from some of his less important subjects." He scowled at the thought of those faces; Botamon, Gotsumon, Neemon, Numemon… "And he…" He choked down his anger. "…And he began to harness and consume their basic energy."

The digimon around him, apart from DemiMeramon who had already witnessed such horrors, gasped and paled. Such a thing was unpalatable and they all spoke up at once.

"He wouldn't-!"

"That monster!"


"What sort of digimon…!?"

The humans, riled by the evident shock and anger of their partners but unsure of what the significance of what Tokomon had said was, looked at him questioningly.

All apart from Koushiro; who despite being pale and slightly shaken by such a revelation was still able to speak with a measure of clinical detachment. "Am I to understand," he looked around at the shocked faces of his digimon friends, who quietened down as he began to speak. "That this Master has cannibalised these digimons' basic data, essentially eating them?" He shuddered slightly and Mimi clutched his hand tightly, tears welling in her eyes.

"Yes." Tokomon affirmed.

"Which is not only horrific enough in itself, but also prevents them being reborn in the Village of Beginnings. It's the only known way to effectively kill a digimon." Patamon added solemnly.

There was a silence as the group took in this information.

"But even that was not enough." Tokomon said sadly after a while.

"What do you mean?" Yamato asked, clenching his fists together in disgust at the actions of this Master. If that guy ever got his hands on Gabumon, I don't know what I'd do. Just the idea of losing him – again. It's more than I can bear to think about.

Tokomon could not meet their eyes, "As you may or may not be aware," he began. "Digimon have a certain amount of digi-jules, which increase as they evolve and become more powerful and this power spikes during the moment right before evolution." The group all nodded, this made sense. "Well, the more digi-jules, the more power The Master could harness for himself and there is only one thing which has more raw digi-jule energy than an evolving digimon." He paused for a second, his gaze shifting regretfully to Miko. "A human child while they exist in the digital world." He looked around, "Or possible human adult as well" he amended.

"Is that what he wanted with Miko?" Takeru asked tersely after yet another silence.

Tokomon shook his head, "He did not know about Miko-san. While he has standing orders for all underlings to capture human children if they are sighted, he did not believe it was possible that they would just be found wandering in this world. So he investigated alternate ways of luring children to this world and roughly a week ago he made a break through."

"Wait, wait just to make this clear – he doesn't know about Miko so my son is safe?" Hikari asked anxiously.

"When I left he had no idea, I myself only knew of his presence as I felt an odd feeling many hours before I even laid eyes on your son, ma'am. I decided to take a detour with Airdramon, my trusted friend, to explore the strange niggling sensation which guided me eventually to the place where Miko-san was being held."

"So… No?" Takeru clarified.

"Well," Tokomon hesitated, "I cannot guarantee the silence of the Gazimon and Mushroomon who were the two underlings responsible for capturing Miko-san in the first place. It is possible they will speak, although highly doubtful as the Master has ensured his experiments remain shrouded in secrecy to all but myself and two other trusted digimon. No one else knows of his need of the human children, only that they are to be handed over no questions asked if spotted."

Hikari and Takeru looked at each other, their concern mixing with determination to protect their child at all costs.

"That's great that Miko is most likely safe and all," Jyou pondered aloud after a short while. "But, Tokomon, you mentioned that he made a breakthrough in luring children here?"

"Yes." Tokomon affirmed gravely, inclining his head.

"What does that mean?" asked Yamato, frowning into the flames.

"The Master has succeeded in bringing children through the rift to the digital world," Tokomon explained. "He has already begun devouring their digi-jules." He paused and then, seeing he needed to clarify, continued. "He is eating them."

"He is eating—CHILDREN?!" Mimi exploded angrily, clenching her fists and lunging at Tokomon. "Children?!"

Tokomon stood his ground as she leapt towards him in anger, allowing her to yank him off the ground and shake him, furiously repeating the same question over and over again in a state of hysteria until Koushiro gently prised her away and sat her down next to him, calming and soothing her as she began to sob.

All things considered, he thought miserably, such a reaction was in no way unjustified. If anything it was not enough. He recalled the screams, the sobs, the pleas of the children he had ushered into The Master's laboratory. How many had been the same age, if not younger than Miko, his human? The very thought now made his blood boil. I will save them, he swore to himself. Whoever is left, I will fight to protect them and ensure He never lays a finger on another child or digimon again.

Once everyone had calmed down, fully absorbing the meaning of what they had just heard about The Master and His evil, Jyou stood up and looked around at his friends one by one. "Guys, I think we can all agree that this is the reason, along with finding Sora's baby's digimon, that we have been summoned to the Digital World. We have to put a stop to this and save anyone who is still left to save: child or digimon."

Taichi nodded, a hard glint in his eyes that hadn't been there before. "I agree."

All around the circle humans and digimon nodded solemnly.

"That's all well and good, and I am most definitely in favour of proceeding with it as the very thought of not stopping this evil is unforgiveable, but how do you propose we go ahead with this plan?" Gatomon challenged, looking to Tokomon for answers. "Is it possible, Tokomon? What do you know of The Master's strength and location? How can we defeat him?"

"Yeah," Agumon pushed, "Do you have anyone still on the inside that can help?"

"Or even, could you go back on the inside?" Gomamon wondered aloud.

Tokomon raised an eyebrow at that idea and everyone else became quiet, dropping their questions for the time out of interest to see how Gomamon was answered.

"No!" Miko intervened angrily, grabbing Tokomon back into his arms. "It's too dangerous, what if he gets in trouble?" His lower lip wobbled and he clung tighter to his digimon, distressed at the very thought of losing him.

"Now Miko, don't worry I'll be fine," Tokomon began, looking earnestly up at his human. "It is certainly worth considering having someone on the inside, it could be the only way to save those other digimon and children."

"Then I'm going with you!" He decided, scowling stubbornly at everyone and daring them to argue.

"No way, baby." Hikari smiled down at her son, shaking her head and ruffling his hair, amused at his stubbornness.

"Wait Kari," said Koushiro thoughtfully, "having Miko go with Tokomon could work – what better way to get access to where the children are being held than to give The Master a child?"

"Koushiro!" Mimi, Hikari, Taichi and Jyou spluttered simultaneously in outrage.

"How can you even put forward an idea like that?" Mimi placed a hand protectively over their own daughter, shocked.

"Sweetheart-" He stammered, "I-I didn't mean it to sound like-" He blushed, not quite knowing how best to end that sentence.

"No," Takeru sighed. "He's right."

Hikari turned on him, eyes blazing furiously. When he did not take it back she slapped him, tears of anger clouding her vision. He opened his mouth in shock, bringing his hand up to the reddening mark on his cheek and tried to reach out to touch her, but she had already turned her back on him and left.

"Mama?" Miko called out after her, shaken by such unusual behaviour. But she has already gone.

Taichi came over and put his hands on both of their shoulders, mumbling "It'll be okay guys, just give her some space." Takeru nodded faintly, not really listening.

"Okay uncle Tai," Miko whispered, clutching Tokomon in one arm and taking hold of Takeru's hand with the other.

"Good lad," Taichi smiled slightly and walked off.

"Looks like the meetings over," mumbled Jyou, not quite sure how things had gotten so out of hand.

Aimi and DemiMeramon watched as her parents argued quietly a few feet away. Miko and Tokomon left Takeru to his thoughts and wandered over to them, their expressions serious.

"Aimi-chan, DemiMeramon, me and Toko'-chan are going to go rescue everyone." Miko whispered urgently, "Will you join us?"

Tokomon looked at DemiMeramon, "We could use all the help we can get."

"Mama and daddy?" Aimi asked, curiously.

Miko shook his head, "Nope, just us."

Aimi looked at DemiMeramon questioningly, "Wormy-chan?"

"I'm with you Aimi, where ever you go I'll protect you." His eyes half closed as he smiled up at her.

She pondered for a few moments and her nose began crinkling slightly with focus, something Miko couldn't help but smile at the sight of. "We go." She pronounced finally.

"Okay then," Miko put his arm around her. "But it may be difficult and scary." He warned, suddenly having second thoughts about asking her to come along when he thought of Gazimon and Mushroomon. What if she gets hurt?

"Not with Wormy-chan!" She grinned, stroking her digimon and causing his flames to spark with pleasure.

"We better go now then," he dragged her along with him, "While the adults aren't paying attention."

Aimi toddled along behind, trying her best to keep up with Miko's pace while holding onto DemiMeramon with one arm. Once they made it past the line of sight of the adults they slowed down a little, with Miko leading Aimi by holding her hand and every so often squeezing it reassuringly.

They were off.