-2-

It was cold.

James came to already curled up as tight as his body would allow, half buried in snow, a gentle wind sweeping across his unburied head. A single chill shot through his body before he went totally numb, his senses burning from prolonged exposure; he'd been lying there for a while now. He inhaled deeply and at once gagged, the air freezing in his lungs. Opening his eyes, James bolted upright and froze in awe of what stretched before him.

In the distance the sun was peaking just over the horizon, illuminating the few high clouds so that they shone with a ghostly brilliance. Below was nothing but snow and glacier, rolling hills of it, as far as the eye could see—no trees, no bushes, no rocks, no buildings, absolutely nothing to disturb the smooth white ice. James turned around and saw the same behind him, only snow below and the last stars of the night above, eking out their last light before the sun took over. The wind blew again and the young man pushed himself to his feet, shivering violently as he did so.

"Oh… oh man… where…?" Panic began to set in. James was alone in a seemingly boundless, frozen world with nothing but the light clothes on his back, ill-suited for even the mild winters of the south. His eyes darted about for signs of anything that he could possibly use for shelter or warmth, but to no avail. Turning again to face the sun he began to run, slowly at first, stumbling over and into the snow. As the frozen ground gave less he ran faster, sprinting across the white sheets as fast as he could. His mind flew about, trying to comprehend and understand what was happening: he had picked up a girl on a clear, sunny day; she had complained of some pain; she showed him a little pink gadget; and a tornado had reached down and lifted up the both of them. Now he was in Siberia. James reached the top of a hill and slipped, crashed to the unforgiving ground, and slid down the other side. When he finally stopped, he climbed back to his feet, hugged himself for heat, and promptly swore out every person, place, and thing that he could think of.

"Where the hell am I!? What the ffff…udge is going on!? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING!!?" James looked to the sky for guidance only to notice that the sky was split far more sharply than he had noticed before, the light of the rising sun fading into pitch black night over the course of a degree at most; he held up his thumb to the sky and covered the demarcation for a moment. A wave of warmth ran through him and he shivered again as it passed. As he prepared to begin moving towards the sun again, James noticed something new out of his peripheral. It was a silver dot, darker than the snow, moving very quickly across the ice towards him from the starlit horizon. He couldn't exactly tell what it was, but didn't care, and began waving his arms over his head, lowering them occasionally to hug himself for warmth.

"Hey! Over here! Help!" The dot began to accelerate and grow bigger as it came closer into view. Light flickered off of it and James assumed it was metallic, although its shape didn't resemble anything he was familiar with it. Some distance behind it, moving more slowly, was another smaller object. It appeared to be following the metallic thing's route to the letter, like it was chasing it. James looked again to the metal thing only to feel panic wash over him again: it was bearing down on him very quickly and certainly wasn't human. It flew with bug-like wings, four legs trailing in the air behind it, two arms with vice-grip pincers stretched out in front of it, aimed right at him. Protruding from its head were a couple of gnarled horns and an open maw with rows of sharpened teeth. All over its shiny silver exoskeleton were red markings, like war paint, somewhat faded. In a matter of seconds, the beast would be right on top of him.

James began to run, slowly, tumbling through the snow and ice, struggling to escape the monster closing in for a feast. A few seconds passed and the creature roared, deep at first, climbing to a high pitch, before it dove at the teen. James threw himself down into the snow and the monster narrowly missed him, crashing into the ice just a few feet ahead. The resulting wave of frozen debris nearly buried James as he climbed out of his hole. The monster quickly shook off the snow and turned to James, towering over him, its jaw hanging low. The teen uttered a prayer and tensed—running was not an option, leaving only the possibility of fighting and dying. The monster lunged forward towards James' legs and the teen lept up and forward towards the creature's head. The impact threw him up and over the beast. James grabbed hold of a bit of hair on the monster's backside and held tight as it tried to reach up and grab him, but the arms couldn't reach.

"Hey, don't forget about me!" A small, yet powerful voice shot out from the night side of the world, but James couldn't see what had called out. All he knew is that it sounded reasonably human.

"Help me; I can't do this much longer!" The monster roared and ignored the voice. It bucked about trying to remove the rare morsel from its back.

"I'm working on it!" The voice was followed by a loud click and whirring noise, like a turbine waking up. The noise grew into a loud ringing, then burst into a series of rapid "FWOOSH" sounds. Snowballs pelted the face of the monster and it roared, immediately abandoning the task of removing James to deal with its new nuisance. A lone snowball managed to miss and hit James in the face, blasting him off the monster's back and into the ground behind.

"Come on, ugly! You're going down!" The voice cried out with sing-song cockiness as the insect lunged towards it. The creature was too slow and hit nothing but snow as the voice slid beneath it, down the hill towards James. It was a bazooka-toting polar teddy bear, two, two and a half feet tall at most. It wore red and green boots and a harness with shoulder guards, presumably to hold the bazooka when not in use. On top of it all, a headband with earflaps adorned with a picture of a cartoon bear's face on the front and center. James shook the snow from his head, stretched, and stared.

"What… are you?" The teen was incredulous, his voice displaying his readiness to abandon all hope for reason.

"I'll explain in a minute." The bear smiled wide and took aim at the monster as it prepared to lunge again. It roared and charged forth just as the bear opened fire, a stream of snowballs flying out of the bazooka, belting the creature with little visible effect. James dove and tackled the bear, pushing it to the ground as the monster flew inches over his head. The teddy promptly shoved him off with surprising strength and hopped out of the snow.

"What'd you do that for?" The bear realized that he had dropped his bazooka and began to dig around for it.

"That thing would have cut us in half if I hadn't! And forget the gun, it wasn't even doing anything!" The bear breathed deep and sighed slowly, staring away from James as he did so. Much to his surprise, snow blew with his breath, and the snow liquefied by the action around them quickly froze solid again. The bear's eyes grew wide and he grinned again, turning around to face James and the monster as it prepared to charge them on foot, giving up on dive-bomb attacks.

"Get out of the way." James promptly rolled out of the way as the monster rumbled towards them, throwing snow and ice out of the way like nothing at all, roaring and snapping its claws all the while. The bear inhaled as deeply as he could and expanded like a balloon, held it for a moment, and then exhaled as fast as he could right into the monster's face. Nothing short of a blizzard roared from the bear's depths and the monster quickly found its face frozen solid. Nonetheless, momentum carried it right into the teddy, and the bear was slammed deep into the snow and the frigid ground underneath by the monster's metal mass. The monster lifted up from the ground and bucked about, swinging its frozen head through the air. James stared at the crater left in the snow by the impact, worried that the little bear who had saved him was now dead, crushed by the monster. As he crawled towards the hole, he felt metal scrape his arm, looked to his right, and found the bazooka.

"I'll return the favor, holmes." James lifted the four-barreled launcher to his shoulder and took aim at the infuriated insect, anger building inside him as he did. As his vision tunneled in on the monster he could hear out of his ringing ears the bear moan and climb out of the hole, yet the anger didn't subside. "You bastard, you tried to kill me and then you tried to kill the thing that saved me. Now it's my turn." A wave of searing heat rolled through the teen and he pulled the trigger. Out of the barrels flew a stream of hailstones, the size of baseballs, slamming into the monster with incredible force. The bear watched with awe for a moment before turning to the monster as it rocked in pain. A chill ran through the bear as he charged at the monster, still being pummeled by the storm of ice, and jumped into the air. In a moment he felt his lower body liquefy into water and refreeze into a massive shard of ice, sharp as glass, and flying through the air he slammed directly into the monster's head. The ice around the monster's head broke, then the metal exoskeleton. The insect fell to the ground, gave one last gasping roar, and fell silent.

The bear reformed into himself and quickly leapt off of the fallen beast as James, panting, dropped the bazooka and fell over. He was even colder now than before and exhausted to boot. The bear jogged over to the teen and looked down, himself panting for breath. "Are you okay?"

"N… no… I'm cold." James looked up into the wide eyed teddy as it began to glow a bright light blue. James shielded his eyes from the bright light and, as it died, he uncovered them to find a round-faced child in torn jeans and a blue-black jacket staring down at him. The child himself seemed surprised by this as he looked himself over with curious disappointment.

"Aw… I changed back." The child shrugged and patted around his pocket, reached in, and pulled out a small device similar to the one Jennifer had shown James, only it had blue grips rather than pink ones.

"What the heck are you?" Joey looked down at James to find him staring in bewilderment. The child held out his hand and smiled.

"My name's Joey, what's yours?" A moment of awkward silence passed as James refused to shake his hand, unsatisfied by the simple answer.

"No, I mean, what in the world ARE you? Are you some kind of magical creature or something?" Joey's hand lowered in disappointment and he frowned, realizing that what had been absolutely awesome for him had been strange and confusing to the older boy.

"I'm just a kid. I turned into Kumamon when that monster showed up." James shivered, but managed to pull himself back up into a sitting position.

"Ku-what? Start from the top." Joey sighed and pointed at his device.

"I was walking around at home when it started snowing really hard. I couldn't see anything and thought I was going to freeze when all of a sudden stopped and I was somewhere totally different. I tripped over this and when that monster showed up, it got really bright and I changed. This thing said 'Kumamon' when I finished changing, so I assume that's what you call the thing I changed into. I'm not magic at all, I'm just a kid, but I think this thing is." Joey stopped and watched James mull over what he had been told.

"That doesn't make any sense at all, but neither does that," James pointed at the monster, "…or anything else that's happened today for that matter." He felt a chill run though him again and began hugging himself for warmth. "God I'm freezing." Joey pointed the device at the dead monster and pressed one of the buttons. A mechanical, yet effeminate voice spoke out from the device.

"Scanning… please wait… done. Okuwamon, Ultimate-level, Virus type. A metallic, insect digimon native to subarctic, tundra, and polar regions. Highly aggressive and powerful, once engaged Okuwamon will not cease to attack until defeated. Fire and concussive attacks are advised."

Almost as soon as the voice finished, the monster burst, exploding into a spray of miniscule particles that seemed to pass right over the two. James and Joey stared at where the monster had once lied and the imprint that remained in the snow.

"I must be hallucinating." Joey stared at the strangely placid James as he stared at the imprint. "The tornado picked me up, slung me somewhere, I hit my head, and now I'm lying in the hospital in a coma having freaky coma dreams." James nodded in satisfaction and climbed to his feet.

"But… I'm real." Joey looked up at the teenager with frustration. "And where are you going?"

"Sure, whatever. I'm freezing, and even if this isn't real I'd rather not be freezing, so I'm going to walk that way and hope that it gets warmer. Let's go." James began walking towards the sun again, but stopped after only a couple of steps. "I've seen that gadget before."

"Really? What is it?" Joey quickly abandoned his irritation of being called imaginary in the hope of learning more about his magic gadget.

"Dunno. I saw a girl with one just before the tornado hit and knocked me out. It just told us what that thing was, see if it can tell us where some shelter or warmth is." Joey looked down and began to fiddle with it.

"Where are we and where's someplace warm?"

"Current location: latitude—55 degrees, 21 minutes, 14 seconds; longitude— -20 degrees, 40 minutes, 35 seconds. Great Tundra, Drive. Nearest shelter is Fridgimon's Inn, 3.4 miles southeast of current location."

"Well why don't we just ask it the meaning of life while we're at it?" Joey glanced up at the sarcastic James as he smiled. "Come on short-stuff, let's go to this inn and find us some fire." Joey glared at James as he began to walk away to the southeast.

"I'm very real and I'm very tall for my age!"