Digital Shuffle
By Famira Damaris

Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Digimon.
Author's Note: Third season, centered around Takato and Jenrya (and one more character). Switches to the other characters from time to time. Takes just before Yamaki sets forth his Juggernaut plan (like, a day or two before the Juggernaut is activated. Don't really know the exact episode, guess between Episodes 12 and 14) departs from canon from there and goes off in a different direction

Italics for thoughts and emphasis and sound effect.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Digital Shuffle
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(Day 1 – False Digital Fog)

"So, what're your plans for tonight?"

Takato Matsuda looked up, tugging on his shoes, "Huh?"

"I said, what're your plans for tonight?" Jenrya Lee repeated. The other Tamer carefully folded his gym shirt, his back to the other. He just finished his physical education class – Takato's P.E period happened to fall right behind Jenrya's. Takato had arrived at the last moment in the five-minute interval between classes and caught Jenrya about to leave.

"Um…dunno," Takato bent over his knee as he focused on tying his gym shoes, "Homework and more homework, I guess."

"Oh, that'll be fun," Jenrya said. He placed the folded shirt and shorts into his locker, "You really have that much homework?"

"Yeah. And I really wanted to see Guilmon today…" Takato sighed. He reached up to remove the yellow goggles from his hair, wincing as the straps got caught in a tangle. He tugged on the goggles until they ripped themselves from the tangle, managing to suppress a yelp of pain. "I probably won't have enough time when I finish my homework to get out of the house."

"You know, if he wasn't so big, he could stay at your house instead of out in the park."

"You don't have to remind me," Takato mumbled.

"Well, you should've known a red dinosaur would be just a little obvious. If your parents won't even let you keep a cat, what made you think they'd let you keep Guilmon?"

"It wasn't like I had it all planned out!"

Jenrya closed his locker, slipping his feet into his sneakers. He turned to his friend and grinned to indicate he was just teasing. Takato only heaved another rueful sigh.

"Sometimes I think I bring all this stuff down on myself," he grumbled. He didn't really mean it, no matter how much he complained. He created Guilmon completely by accident (actually, he still wasn't quite sure how he'd did it), but he didn't regret it. In fact, overall, it had been really fun hanging around with Guilmon, Jenrya and Terriermon. Heck, even Ruki wasn't that bad once you got to know her.

Gosh, I just realized how boring my life was before I met Guilmon and the others…wow.

Jenrya shouldered his backpack, "Well, I'll be seeing you."

"Meeting up with Terriermon?" Takato opened his own locker.

"Yeah. He's waiting outside. Said the locker room's too smelly for him."

"Smelly? Huh, now that you mention it, it does sorta smell in here."

"You know Terriermon: blunt, as usual."

"Yeah, as usual…" Takato trailed off, not sure what to say.

There was an awkward silence. Takato scratched the back of his head, while Jenrya cleared his throat.

"Uh," Jenrya looked like he wanted to say something but wasn't entirely sure how to go about it. He shuffled his feet, "Ah…about - "

A whistle sounded from outside.

"Oh, jeez, P.E's starting!" Takato hurriedly shoved the remainder of his stuff into his locker and shut the door, "I'm gonna be late again!" He pulled up his gym socks from where they had slipped down to his ankles, "Sorry, Jenrya, but I gotta…"

He looked up. Jenrya was gone.

"…go…?" Takato wondered briefly what Jenyra had been about to ask before he remembered he was supposed to be at gym class. I can't be late for P.E or Mrs. Yamachi's gonna make me run around the whole school again! Keeping this cheerful thought in mind, Takato raced out of the locker room.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Jenrya made his way across campus. He was supposed to be heading to his English class but instead took his time. It didn't matter if he was a minute or two late. He could just say he'd gone to the bathroom, the teacher knew he was a good student and probably wouldn't give him any trouble.

The boy crossed the stretch of grass, heading for the shed. He told Terriermon to hide near the school's tool shed until he came by after gym. Jenrya smiled slightly - the rabbit-Digimon had insisted the boy's locker room was "stinky" and "killing my nose". Terriermon might be right, but he also had a problem with exaggeration, along with being way too too blunt at times. Especially when he had first encountered Takato and caused the poor kid to run away, on the verge of tears.

Jenyra's smile dropped. On the topic of Takato…

Jenrya was concerned about the other Tamer. He didn't want to play babysitter or anything, but…well, he was worried. Takato wasn't acting strangely or anything, which was exactly what bothered Jenrya. It really hadn't been that long since Guilmon first digivolved to Growlmon. Jenrya remembered the horror and fear in Takato's face that night. Even Jenrya had been scared. I thought Growlmon was gonna make us the second course after he got diced up Devidramon. It didn't take a genius to figure out what had been going through Takato's mind at the time: he had been afraid that Growlmon wasn't Guilmon anymore, that whenever he digivolved, he'd turn into a monster who only loved to destroy. I used to think like that. Still, Jenrya was bewildered. Takato was acting like nothing happened. Like Guilmon never digivolved that night. Like everything was fine now.

Yeah, right.

Jenrya thought Takato was trying to pretend like nothing was wrong. Takato might have even fooled himself into believing that. Man, I should've known Takato would be an optimist. He always wants to see the best in people, doesn't he? But if he keeps pretending nothing happened, it's only gonna come back and hit him in the stomach.

Takato knew this wasn't a game. These wild Digimon we've been fighting, they're as real as we are. Takato seemed to get over the fact we're killing them really fast. Jenrya frowned. Maybe he should explain to Takato the similarities between the Tamer's Digimon and the wild ones again. Takato was taking things too well, especially for his situation. Maybe he didn't fully understand the wild Digimon weren't cold-blooded monsters? He probably didn't know they were most likely frightened because of the strange world they found themselves in.

Yeah, he'd definitely have a talk with Takato. Deleting Digimon was as bad as killing humans. And what were they going to do about that weird blond man with the sunglasses? Jenrya himself had only seen the guy when he said something along the lines of "stop playing dangerous games" a few days ago, but Takato said he saw the man another time. He hadn't gone into details because the both of them had been sitting in class.

Another thing Jenrya was going to have to ask Takato when they both had more time.

"Jen-r-y-a-a!"

He snapped to attention in time to spot the bundle of light green fur hurtling through the air toward him. Jenrya threw up his hands.

"Hey! Warn me next time you jump at me like that!"

The Digimon scrunched up his nose at his Tamer.

"What took you so long? I was bored to death!"

Jenrya laughed quietly as Terriermon scrambled from his arms to perch on his backpack, "I was in P.E. We had to do conditioning today."

"You wash your hair for exercise?" Terriermon snorted. "That's so weird."

Jenrya craned his head, watching as the rabbit-Digimon slipped into his backpack, his head and floppy ears sticking out.

"No, we don't wash our hair for exercise, Terriermon. You're just being silly. Conditioning is a bunch of exercises that supposed to work out all your muscles. The teacher decided to make us go around the conditioning stations several times – I just got out of the locker room," he replied.

"Huh."

Jenrya turned around and began to make his way back to the main classroom complex. He had to shift his heavier backpack several times because it kept slipping.

"Terriermon, you're gonna have to lose some weight," Jenrya grunted jokingly. "I'm gonna break my back one day because of you."

He didn't quite hear his Digimon's reply: the ringing bell drowned anything the Rookie might have said. Jenrya broke into a run. He didn't want to be more late than he already was.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Conditioning. I shoulda known." Takato rolled his eyes up to the sky. "Maybe running around the school wasn't such a bad idea."

Juri glanced at him, "You don't like conditioning?"

He groaned, "No! I'm horrible at running and swimming and I'm always the last whenever we do races. It's embarrassing." Takato really was bad at gym. Last time, he was at least five minutes behind the second-to-last runner when they ran cross-country around and through the campus. Most of his classmates had already gone back to the locker rooms, having given up on waiting for him.

Takato watched forlornly as the gym teacher passed him. She was almost done with the student attendance, he noted with some dread. He'd hoped she'd take at least a few minutes longer, anything to cut down on the conditioning time. Great. I just know I'm going to look stupid out there. At least no one'll laugh at me…I hope. He scratched the back of his leg nervously with the toe of his shoe.

"I wonder what stations they set up?" Juri asked.

I wish I knew. Hopefully these'll be something I can do without looking clumsy. Like jump rope. I can jump rope. Please don't let it be the Stair Run. I always fall up those stairs and bang my knees every time we do those! Takato made a face. At least it's the last class. He supposed he could survive a few cuts and bruises on his knees.

Mrs. Yamachi spoke up, coming to a stop in front of the line with clipboard under her arm. She clapped her hands together in an effort to get her class's attention.

"Okay! Looks like everyone's here." The teacher made some marks on the clipboard she was carrying and looked up. "Today, we're going to be conditioning. We've had the stations set up by numbers. As soon as you complete one station, move to the next. Stations will be marked by a blue traffic cone. The other side of the sign will have instructions for that station's exercise. I expect you all to go through all the stations more than once."

This was answered by a groan from the students. Yamachi only shook her head, her short green hair swinging.

"This is good for you, children!"

Another groan.

"I'll be running through the stations with you. I don't want to see any of you failing to put your full effort into this." Yamachi looked down to consult her clipboard again. "I'll be pairing you all up into groups of two – no, you can't pick your partners – and sending you off. When you find your partner, you may begin the conditioning."

She looked up, and smiled pleasantly, "And don't think that just because you might have been paired up with a friend that you can slack off just because my back's turned. I've got eyes in the back of my head. I see and know all."

This was answered by rebellious mutters.

Takato bit his lip. So much for hiding out somewhere until school ended. Especially if there was a chance his partner might decide to be a tattletale. Guess he could scratch that idea.

Yamachi began to pair off the students,

"Hirokazu and Hiros…Kazu and Ashige…"

The line began to split apart as the pairs were called.

"Juri and Takato."

Whew! A sigh of relief. Juri's okay.

He didn't have to look very far for his partner, mostly because she was standing in front of him in the line that was rapidly breaking apart. Juri flashed him a smile he returned nervously (nervously because sometimes her perkiness frightened him and because he just remembered she loved conditioning days. Like really, really love them). Takato flicked a glance at the girl jogging beside him. Just because I'm not having a blast doesn't mean she can't.

They stopped in front of the first cone, which was labeled as "Coordination". Juri skipped around the bright blue traffic cone and read it out loud.

" 'Coordination: rub your head and pat your stomach. Then spin around twenty times clockwise and twenty more times counter-clockwise. Then pat your head and rub your stomach. Does this three times before moving on to Station Two' "

"You've got to be kidding," Takato muttered.

"That's what the sign says," Juri grinned. "It's almost like a piñata at a party, except without the piñata and the candy. Just lots and lots of spinning!"

Takato sighed for the third time in the period. This wasn't going to be any fun. He hoped he wouldn't get sick with all that spinning.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Click.

"Sir!"

Click.

"What is it now?"

Click.

"I have another wild one. It's managed to avoid the tracers I sent: visual confirmation has failed. There's no known data on this one!"

Click.

"Try a firewall! Is it going to bio-emerge?"

Click.

"I'm not sure yet. The firewall has been breached!"

Click. Click.

"Do something about it! I don't want anymore of those things getting through!"

Click. Click.

"It's getting closer! Trying another lock…lock failed! It's going to bio-emerge!"

Click. Click. Click.

"Where?"

Click. Click. Click.

"…T-the…Juggernaut, sir!"

Click.

"What?! What's going on?!"

Click.

"It's bio-emerging, but it's still traveling along its present course at the same time! It's passed right though the Juggernaut!"

Click. Click. Click. Click.

"It's gone. I can't track it anymore. It's out of range."

Click.

"Shit." Yamaki's hand closed around the cigarette lighter. The clicking abruptly stopped. In the darkness of the deck, he was almost shaking with fury and it was only with considerable effort he refrained from blowing up. He forced his voice to be level. "Is there any damage to the Juggernaut?"

"Running a scan…no, there doesn't appear to be any damage to the exterior or interior," Reika's voice was puzzled.

Yamaki scowled, pulling off his sunglasses. He didn't understand how this could be possible! It reeked of a trap, something just waiting to go wrong. It was a battle to regain his composure. "I want a technical team down there as soon as possible."

"On it!" A rapid-fire spurt of taps from the keyboard. "But where're you going, sir?"

Yamaki replaced his glasses, whirling on his heel. "I'm going to the Juggernaut myself."

He was calm now, though he could still feel the anger burning through him. If something happened to the Juggernaut…

The clicking resumed but there was a nervous undertone in its rapid beat.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Takato, you don't look so well."

The Tamer leaned against the wall, seeing an interesting array of stars. "I don't feel so well either."

Juri patted Takato on the back sympathetically. They had gone through the whole conditioning course three times – in fact, he was pretty sure they'd just finished the Coordination station again, which was probably why he was tempted to go in a corner and throw up somewhere. Takato waved away Juri's offers to help him.

"I'm fine. Just…need a moment…to rest." Takato leaned his head against his arm, brown hair damp with sweat.

The girl made a face. "Are you going to barf? You are, aren't you?"

"I'm not! All that spinning just made me dizzy, okay?" Takato summoned up a feeble smile to take the sting out of his words. "And I'm really tired and my knees're killing me because of those stairs, my legs hurt from that sprint and I could go on forever, but I'm not because I think I'm too tired to finish the list."

Juri's face fell and she looked apologetic. "I thought you were doing fine. You looked like you didn't have any problems keeping up with me…if you weren't feeling well, you should've said something."

Takato didn't say anything, instead closing his eyes and concentrating on catching his breath and his sense of balance.

Juri continued, her voice wavering slightly. "I kept going around the course because I thought you were doing okay."

Takato was about to straighten and tell her it wasn't her fault when the ground suddenly gave way underneath his feet.

For a second, he almost did lose his lunch.

He felt himself almost stagger as a sliding disorientation seemed to spin him around (much like Station One had, in fact), pick him up and shake him around like a rag doll. He couldn't see anything but thousands of black and white dots, like static. The sensation like something was glancing over at him. It felt like someone was trying to twist his guts into a pretzel.

In that brief moment, Takato decided he did not like pretzels anymore.

And then it was over. The weird feeling couldn't have lasted for more than a few seconds, though it had seemed like hours to him. He opened his eyes. The ground was safe and firm under his feet, with no signs of suddenly breaking away. He wasn't seeing any static anymore, and his stomach seemed to be its normal shape.

That's weird. I've never been lightheaded after P.E. I'm not in that bad shape.

"I'm really sorry," Juri was saying.

"It's not your fault, Juri." He pushed himself away from the wall, "Look, I've caught my breath. I'm okay."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. I told you, I'm really bad at P.E." Takato shrugged. He didn't feel light-headed anymore, or sick. The only thing wrong was his legs seemed to want to wobble all over the place and he swore he could already feel the bruises forming on his knees.

The gym teacher jogged past them, blowing her whistle and signaling gym was over. Takato started to head toward the locker room, followed by Juri. She headed for the girl's locker room, following her classmates. Takato hurried to the boy's locker room. He couldn't wait to get dressed and headed home. So what if he had a lot of homework?

All I really want to do is get some sleep. Maybe eat something later.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Yamaki pocketed his lighter. Standing before the hulking structure of the Juggernaut, he was easily dwarfed in comparison. He craned his head, staring at the machine.

Something was wrong. You just didn't have things jumping around near Hypnos on accident, only something did and now he was worried. He removed his glasses, scowling. This is ridiculous. The scans didn't show any damage to the Juggernaut. There's nothing wrong with it. But deep down, he knew he could trust a bunch of technicians who didn't want to pull some overnighters making sure.

That wild Digimon. It passed through the Juggernaut in the middle of bio-emerging…yet there was no sign or mark anything had entered or exited the room. He couldn't explain his uneasiness. He knew they'd hunt down the creature, even if they didn't have any data on it. Delete the disgusting thing. The initiation of the Juggernaut plan was scheduled for next week: he promised himself to make a change in that.

It must be earlier. Next week was too late.

The Juggernaut plan must be initiated in a few days. Otherwise we risk the chance of things like this happening again.

Maybe this time they'd gotten lucky and the Juggernaut was fine, if the techs really were on the ball. There weren't any imaginary boogeymen behind the closet door.

Even if Yamaki knew better. The imaginary boogeymen were real. It was his life's work now to destroy them before they could get out into the Real World.

He turned around, waiting for the tech team to do a full antagonistic. Pushing the Juggernaut plan sounded better and better.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Takato waved as Juri disappeared around the corner. He let his hand drop to his side and started walking down the sidewalk. It was starting to get dark and he wanted to get home. Takato didn't want to admit it, but he realized he was still a little afraid of the dark. He hurried down the street. Could he be any more of a kid?

A kid who was going to have a ton of homework if he didn't get home as fast as he could, he thought. If he did his homework as fast as he could, he could go to sleep earlier.

This is a first. I actually want do my homework. What's this world coming to?

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

A pair of gleaming blue eyes opened. For a second, the creature didn't know where it was, the environment looked completely foreign to it. It suffered a moment of intense disorientation before it regained its bearings.

Him. I'm not an "it".

The form shifted, rolling over onto his stomach. He needed to get up. He had spent too much time lying here in the shadows of the alley. He hadn't counted on the transition from the Digital World to the Real World to be so difficult. It hadn't helped he spent a good deal of his journey having to evade those tracers and a firewall. But I'm here now. I mustn't delay any longer. After all this time, now he could prove himself as worthy.

He got to his feet, shaking out the cramps forming in the hocks of his cloven hooves. The sun slowly drifted toward the horizon. He didn't venture out of the shadows. Not until it was dark would he make his move.

The four-legged shadow snorted, blowing a gust of steam from his nostrils, past an ugly set of fangs. Everything had been going moderately well up to the point when he had taken on a physical form, but the energy he had taken from that machine had scrambled some of his data. He had been flung to the alley by the force and his being had swung out of control, torn in two, leaving his body in one place and his consciousness in another, if only for a second.

In this case, it had been a good thing. He had, for a brief moment, accidentally come into contact with one of his targets: a small boy, one of them. The human hadn't even noticed his presence. He couldn't have known someone was taking a look into his recent memories. Oblivious, as most humans went. And completely disgusting.

He loathed humans. Nothing good come out of a Digimon's contact with them. It was one reason why he'd volunteered for the mission. The other being that he just loved to see them squirm. He had yet to meet a trustworthy human that didn't think only in the terms of me-me-me, like the self, pathetic life forms they really were.

The blue-eyed creature flicked its tail. What was that boy's Digimon? Guilmon?

Wouldn't this Takato just love a visit from his precious Guilmon tonight?

Guilmon loves to play, doesn't he? How about a game of my choosing?

He brought up the image of Guilmon from the copied memories: basically a red dinosaur with black markings. Easy to imitate. He closed his sky-blue eyes and concentrated. Transformation to mimic another was a skill few Digimon knew, but his Mistress taught him well. This would be like all the other times. Focused. Concentrated on melding his form to be an exact replica…

It was close to ten at night when "Guilmon" slipped out of the alley. He bounded down the darkened street, the moon painting his hide a bright red.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Takato."

Takato rolled over onto his side, his covers wrapping around him. He mumbled into his pillow, still half-asleep.

"Takato, wake up."

Something about the voice was awfully familiar. Takato made a sleepy face into the depths of his pillow. His mom? No, and it wasn't his dad either. Come to think of it, it didn't even sound human. Which left…

"Guilmon?" Takato opened his eyes blearily.

The red dragon's head stared at him from over the railings of his bed, startling him. He did the intelligent thing and fell out of his bed, landing with a thud on the ground.

"Ow!" the Tamer rubbed his aching butt. That was not a fun wakeup call. Despite the pain, he was still sleepy. Crawling back into bed looked really good right now. "Guilmon, what're you doing here? You're supposed to be in the park."

A moment of silence and then Guilmon rumbled, "I wanna play, Takatomon."

Takato picked himself off the floor, yawning. He glanced at Guilmon curiously.

"I thought you stopped calling me that."

"Sorry. Guess I forgot."

Takato shrugged, not noticing the slip. He vaguely wondered how Guilmon even got in the house, Takato reaching up to run his hands through his shock of hair as he yawned.

"How about tomorrow, Guilmon? I'm really tired right now."

"No, right now." Guilmon circled around him, and planted his wedge-shaped head in the small of the boy's back, nudging him. "We need to go to that tow – that tall thing. There's another one of them."

"A Digimon? Why didn't you just say that earlier? And what happened to wanting to play?" Takato was already throwing on his clothes, picking up his D-Arc. He attempted to get his cards together while pulling on his goggles.

"Play after."

"Which tower?" He finally managed to pull on his shoes, hopping on one foot. Guilmon stared at him with a blank expression until he rephrased his question. "Which tall thing?"

Guilmon pointed with a claw at the tall structure in the distance.

"That's Tokyo Tower! They're doing road construction there, Guilmon. It's going to be closed off! And it's really far away!"

Guilmon shook his head, the pupils in his blue eyes contracting. "I can carry you and I can move fast. We need to go there."

"Okay. I guess I can't talk you into letting me go back to sleep?"

This was met by silence.

Takato slung his box of cards under his arm, shooting an almost confused look at his Digimon. "That was a joke, Guilmon. What happened to your sense of humor?"

Guilmon only snorted. Takato shrugged and awkwardly got on the Digimon's back. Guilmon opened the window, stepping outside onto the shingled roof. He didn't have any trouble carrying his Tamer, despite the fact Guilmon wasn't much bigger than him. With a powerful leap, the red Digimon leapt to the next rooftop, only spending a few seconds to regain his balance before making another sudden leap. It was all Takato could do to hold on to Guilmon.

He didn't see any digital fog surrounding Tokyo Tower, but he didn't question his partner. It might just be near the Tower…? Takato trusted Guilmon to know what he was doing.

As they got closer to Tokyo Tower, the digital field became more visible. It actually rather small, compared to the other digital fields Takato had seen, but it definitely looked like digital fog.

"Are you ready?" Takato shouted above the wind rushing in his ears.

"Yup!" Another bound and they were sailing through the air.

"Great!"

Takato pulled down his goggles, clutching onto Guilmon as they landed with a jolt. I don't remember Guilmon being a long jumper…I guess he got stronger and I never noticed it. Guilmon leaped again, higher this time. Takato squinted as the lights of Tokyo Tower came closer.

He couldn't shake the feeling that there was something odd about Guilmon tonight, however. The feeling was growing stronger as they headed straight for a landing in the digital field. Something's wrong…

It suddenly struck him the moment they flew into the digital field.

Guilmon never had blue eyes.

This isn't Guilmon!

There wasn't any wild Digimon in the digital fog. He didn't have time for any other thought as the two vanished into the false digital field.

When the fog cleared, there was no sign of Takato or Guilmon.

To be continued...

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx