DISCLAIMER: I don't own Digimon, but I do own the original characters introduced in this story and my other stories (except where stated otherwise here or elsewhere by myself).

A/N: Cheers again go to Crazyeight for beta-reading.


DIMENSIONS

BOOK SEVEN

Escapes

By Blazing Chaos


CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

Phase Two

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Part One


SATURDAY, 14th MAY 2011


Rika Nonaka


The water twirled as it headed for the plug, a tinge of grey to it as it flowed about the white washbasin. Streaks of muted orange and black hair dangled down, hands constantly clasping at it in an attempt to wash it free.

The dye wasn't permanent. It was barely even temporary. After a shower, she was left looking like a tarantula. Washing it only made her into a tarantula with a preference for orange and prompted a number of curses to come from her mouth. Some were new to her – indeed, she doubted they had been used for centuries.

"Rika, relax. It'll grow out. You'll damage it if you keep this up."

"Ugh…" Rika looked in her bathroom mirror. Light was cast down by the roof window, the blue sky above completely ignoring the turmoil beneath. Occasionally, the sound of a helicopter or voice nearby would reach her ears and she would quickly hide beneath the bathtub, having removed a side panel at Harmony's suggestion. "I hate it."

"I thought you didn't care about fashion?"

"I care about looking sane. It's not even neat."

"I did suggest you leave it in and re-dye it."

"With what? All that mum has is blonde highlighter: how is that going to work?"

This day had seemed long and depressing already, even though she had awoken late, thanks to forgetting to set an alarm and having little inclination to get up in any case. Over cereal, she had longed for Kristy to prank her with water, for normality, or at least to soften her mother's healthy cereal, barely palatable in its natural state. She was hardly going to spite herself and she had certainly denied Harmony's…other…suggestion. Her sanity and grip on right and wrong had already been pushed to breaking point.

She rubbed her hair with a towel as she wandered quietly from bathroom to living room, keeping an eye out for intruders through gaps she had left in the exterior doors. If someone knew she was here, any time she could gain would be valuable.

The power light on her mother's portable television turned red as she picked it up from the table and switched it on. "Come on, just a little while."

"…spite of calls for more information from the Acting Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Thompson has yet to issue a statement. The Diet is increasingly responding to the outrage from a country which has lost its leader to outsiders and is now led by one. Nationalistic sentiments through informal protests and petitioning have referred to the Four Black Ships incident. On Twitter, the hashtag #rayleighgo is trending, one user comparing Mr Thompson to Matthew C Perry. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives will today table an emergency bill for a vote of no confidence. He spoke of cross-party support for Mr Thompson to stand down from his emergency role immediately. Questions have been asked of the constitutional legitimacy of Mr Thompson's leadership, given that he is not a Japanese National and yet held a position of high authority as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, a role which is by custom nominated as first in line to serve as an Acting Prime Minister in the event of the death of the Prime Minister."

"Thank God," Rika uttered, thankful that there was a chance Rayleigh could be uprooted, although she had a feeling that even with a new leader she would not be off the hook.

"The Speaker of the House of Representatives responded to criticisms from his counterpart in the House of Councillors as to the widespread unchallenged acceptance in that House by insisting that the emergency situation present in Japan since the assassination of Prime Minister Inukai Keishiro two days ago calls for a drastic, immediate response, rather than political infighting over a new leader. Other members of the Diet have said similarly that a leader is required to pay attention not only to this current emergency, but also to aid those affected by Tohoku and Fukushima and to arrange the emergency budget to deal with Japan's increased national debt, and that this present relatively quiet crisis has been distracting the leadership from the real issues at hand."

She grimaced. Her wishes to join in said incidents to any real degree had been overruled by Rayleigh, purportedly on the grounds that it would cause public distress and would be seen as playing to the media. Right now, a good news story for the Tamers was exactly what they needed, and with Rayleigh's true hand having been played against them it was apparent he must have had other concerns at heart.

"Meanwhile, calls for more information on the whereabouts of the Tamers continue, the alleged terrorist group having no reported sightings since yesterday. Mr Thompson has yet to clarify the events reported to be observed in Shinjuku Park, where an aggressive showdown occurred between Special Defence Forces and the Tamers themselves. Some reports have suggested that Mr Thompson himself was present and that there were a number of casualties, although these reports are not possible to verify. Despite this confrontation, Mr Thompson at his last appearance said that he was still focusing on tracking down their location and that a specialist team was following up leads. The video of the assassination of Prime Minister Inukai Keishiro has reached the top spot on video sharing sites worldwide as the girl at the centre of all this, Rika Nonaka, has been the centre of media interest over the past few days worldwide. Miss Nonaka, alleged in the video to be present in her 'biomerged' form with her Digimon partner, has been the subject of reports ranging from her role as a Tamer to the potential whereabouts of her recent child, Rey, with another Tamer, Takato Matsuki."

It wasn't just the past few days. She had been centre of attention for a lot of the media for a while. Even though, with some help from Hypnos, she had been able to subdue and ignore some of it, the media comment on her 'immoral lifestyle', ranging from her teenage pregnancy to the damage she had caused in her fights, had still disrupted her life. On the advice of the government, she had refused to comment on any of it.

"Furthermore, there is a growing international movement called Digital Truth, claiming that the Tamers and the Digimon are not at the heart of all this and suggesting that there is a conspiracy to ruin them. The movement has particularly spread via the internet, generating increased attention for Digital Watch, an international network of observers of Digimon. It has also brought focus on a hacker group called Lulzsec, supposedly an offshoot of the Anonymous movement, which hacked into the website of the Japanese Government to post various passwords, and replace every picture on the Prime Minister's home page with a pirate ship. Attempts to infiltrate deeper into the servers of Hypnos, the quasi-secret organisation responsible for dealing with Digimon activity in Japan, supposedly proved fruitless for the group."

Evidently real life was nothing like the movies. Still, weren't internet hackers meant to be able to do this sort of thing? For once, she wanted the lowlives of the internet to help her. Hell, she'd spent enough time on Digital Watch and other fansites to know she hadn't escaped the internet's grasp, from fairly innocent stories to quite explicit pornography. "Not to mention Renamon." She shuddered. Some things really were better forgotten. Still, in this circumstance, she would egg on even the sickest of them to do something. They clearly wanted her alive, after all. Although, whether the rest of the population would after she had been 'found guilty' by the media and the government was another question.

"Said government organisation, which has been virtually unheard of over the past few days amid questions as to its trust in the Tamers and its future plans without them, simply posted that it is still being successful in dealing with Digital Threats. As evidence, it pointed to an almost complete drop off in Digimon arrivals, known as bioemergences, almost worldwide. The meaning of this is unknown. This is…"

Beep. Beep. Off.

Rika fell back onto the sofa.

Dear Lord. Her, unfortunately.

Even if she survived this, her name was in the papers again. Worldwide. Her life was ruined. If she went for a job now, everyone knew who she was. Walking down the road, she'd always be hassled. That was, if she wasn't put in prison first.

The weather was mocking her. It had to be.

She had to be strong though. For Rey.

God she hoped Rey was safe. She crossed her fingers, knowing to trust Takato. But if he had to fight, who would she trust then? Who could defend themselves and protect the baby in equal measure? She would be so vulnerable to anything that could happen.

Why hadn't she stayed? She had slapped herself so many times for her choice: she was safe, she was with them all, and she could have resolved things. But step outside for one second, and face the consequences.

She clenched her fist as she sat up. No time to moan or mourn. She had to act. Clear her name, do anything. People were increasingly on her side, but she would have to make her voice heard. She was being seen as a villain: now she would have to resemble a hero.

She wandered to the window, pulling the blind back and looking out to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in the far distance. Its two towers looked the same as always, but no longer symbolised their constant (if quite cynical and not always too helpful) support. It was an enemy: everyone was now. If Rayleigh was anywhere, he had to be there. If she needed to talk to the world, her chance was there. If she was going to be a hero, her chance was there. But most importantly, if she was going to get her friends home, that was the only place she could look.

Wandering back to her room, she searched her cupboards. She paused on a coat – but it was the height of summer. To avoid blending in, she was already wearing different clothes to normal, having dug to the back of the wardrobe and found the best compromise between practical and unusual for her: one of the rare pink (and white) things her mother had bought her that was a top, not a dress – lines criss-crossing it from top to bottom, and a worryingly showy cleavage for something her own mother had bought her. She completed the outfit with some cropped blue three-quarter length jeans.

Oh, and a hat. A wide-brimmed, summery hat, which coupled with her (presently) long hair and a pair of sunglasses did, she hoped, make one think twice who she was. Apart from days on the beach (reluctantly – her hair colour left her highly susceptible to burns and freckles), it was something she never wore, and she suspected it would blow off at the first opportunity.

"D'aww, we'll make a woman of you yet." Rika looked down in disdain. Knowing her luck, she'd only gain attention from this. Fortunately, with the string shoulders clear, if she needed her wings she wouldn't rip through it in the process.

"Shut it. You really think we can fly from this? People usually notice me and this time they're looking for me too." Rika wished Renamon were here: even in spite of knowing why the Digimon had met her in the first place, being able to appear and vanish at will would be handy right now. They had much to reconcile still, even if she knew the Digimon had been well-intentioned.

"It'll be our last resort if we can't hide. If we think of it the other way around, it won't do well for Rayleigh's campaign if you're seen to be right under his nose now, will it?"

"I'm planning to knock his nose off before he can even consider his campaign. Now come on, let's go. I just hope my bike is still working."

"And that people are half-blind."

Rika sighed, glancing to the crib and touching the wood at its side. This was all for Rey. Another Nonaka wasn't about to grow up without a parent, let alone without two.


Takato Matsuki


The forest below rushed by. Gallantmon leapt and bound as he raced ahead of the Juggernaut. Often, he would slow up too much and stray too close and almost become another of its unwitting and unwilling victims as it crossed the wide sky.

This thing was fast. Purposefully-fast, perhaps? He even suspected it was speeding up. "The Kabuki Village is just up here," Renamon called from his shoulder. As they continued across the horizon, Takato realised she never even had to say it.

"What's that?" Calumon asked what they were all thinking, gesturing to the unmistakably familiar shape of a Juggernaut. It sat lazily over the village, the damaged temple pointing to it through a hole in the trees.

"What? Why can we see it?" Renamon exclaimed, horrified. "Where is the shield?" Figures darted around in the village, one struck down by a large explosion.

Gallantmon froze, the sheer confusion of the scene before him causing him to take a moment to think.

"Takato, I don't like the look of this," Guilmon said. The boy nodded within his sphere. Images of his family, his friends, and even those odd acquaintances he had only met when coming here, all flashed before his mind. What had he missed? What could he have prevented? Could he save them?

Gallantmon Crimson Mode raised Blutgang, the energy sword intensifying as he prepared himself for what looked like a vicious battle. Creatures whose silhouettes looked creepily off-model leapt through the sky, while his allies looked worn and tired. The Juggernaut became more detailed as he cautiously stepped forward. It was static, like someone had grabbed it and stopped its spin. He couldn't help but notice the lack of anyone being dragged up into it right now, even if he swore he had seen someone flying up only…

Oh no.

Renamon leapt out like a blur in front of him, yet froze and warped, her data being pulled upwards all at once. She screamed in agony, Gallantmon reaching out and grabbing her leg. Through his increasingly-aching mind, Takato watched Gallantmon's arm also become warped, and averted his eyes skyward, pausing only to grab Calumon from his shoulder and hold him as close as Renamon.

The Juggernaut.

Dammit. His wings fluttered forward, and back, but every movement seemed to stick him harder and the only way he seemed to move was upwards. He cursed being data and sorely tried to fight hard against what was happening, but what could he use as leverage? The ground was long gone beneath him and the village's ground was now becoming clear as the Juggernaut moved towards it, cackling as its very edge began to collide with the other one.

"Takato, my head hurts and I don't think I'm…going to…keep…awake…"

"Guilmon, keep fighting!" Takato cried, feeling surges as Chaos' energy wracked through him. Sparks of red lightning shot from his hands, yet themselves slowed, as Takato felt his eyes beginning to close. Something was pulling him…

"…up!"

His eyes opened gradually. Something had changed. Taking in the sights around him, it was a while before he realised he was Takato again.

What the hell had happened? Where was he? Was this…death?

"Wakey wakey!" Calumon chirped from before his eyes. "I thought Guilmon could be tired."

"Where are we?" Takato wondered, blinking as he turned his head around. For yet another time in his life, he found himself floating in a void, the walls practically painted with green while lines of white light laced from side to side. Amidst it all, however, something was very different.

Something was cackling. Static from a TV screen?

Upon turning his head around, he saw it: a large mass of data – absurdly large, in fact. Its black and white bits floated within the space, shifting randomly about, yet remaining oddly focused into distinct masses, like cornflakes in a bowl. It was bright: very bright. Concentrated? Possibly. Dangerous? Things like this normally were.

"Are we inside the Juggernaut?" Takato wondered, looking aside to Renamon, floating. She opened her mouth to answer, but her snout was drawn sharply and violently forward, giving her pause. He glanced aside to Calumon and Guilmon, as similar warps happened to them, all drawing them in towards the data ball beneath. "Never mind."

"I'm scared," Calumon cried.

"Takato, you aren't warping?" Renamon wondered, looking to the Gogglehead with curious eyes. "I thought you were data."

"I thought I was too."

"I thought Juggernaut deleted data."

"I know – that was what I was implying." Renamon sounded quite offended.

"Think a bit, will you? If Juggernaut deletes data, why are we still here? And what the hell is that thing? Come on, isn't it obvious?"

"Well…uh…Juggernaut doesn't delete data then?" Takato asked, hoping he wouldn't be left behind in this all. He desperately wished Henry were here, even if he felt this could be out of his friend's depth.

"Then maybe Juggernaut never deleted data," Renamon proposed.

"That's not important. I know deletion, I'm the King of Deletion, I invented deletion. That ain't deletion. If it's meant to be, they're doing it wrong. See, we're still alive, but you Digimon are still being taken – even though we're all data."

"I noticed!" Guilmon cried, as his head was viciously distorted. He gripped it once it returned to normal, Takato begging to help his partner.

"Someone designed this," Renamon concluded. "It didn't delete the data on the ground and it's only taking us Digimon. It must be designed to avoid humans. Then…maybe Rika came this way too. How did she escape?"

"That's all great and all, but I really don't want any of you to die," Takato pulled the subject back to the issue at hand. "What do we do?"

"Whatever you do, do it fast," Guilmon added. "I'm getting a headache."

"Yeah – I don't want to be a chess board. People always seemed to run away from them when I joined in," Calumon cried. "And I thought people liked Pawns!"

Takato felt Chaos staring down into the mass. "God, I really just want to fire first and think later. But I quite like being alive, I hate being in nappies and dealing with all that explaining again. Plus this is a really crap way to go."

"If it does mean going. That data must be useful to someone," Renamon said, chillingly.

"I don't want to wait to find out. I just want to go home…Rika must have found a way...how…how...think Takato, think…wait, that's it!" Takato exclaimed, pointing to one of the green, fluid walls of the place. "A way home!" he thought, closing his eyes, something which didn't allow him rest from the commentary of the others.

"Nothing's happening," Renamon said.

"Shinjuku Park…"

"Takato, my tail is really long and I don't like it!" Guilmon cried.

"…come on…"

"I can't see while you have your eyes closed, dammit!"

"…remember it…"

"Oooh, I know that place!" Calumon exclaimed happily. "Woo, chess!"

"Bingo," Takato grinned, opening his eyes to see a roughly-square gap in the wall of the world, a green park and fountain beckoning. Grabbing Renamon and Guilmon's hands, he began to float towards it by kicking his feet, while Calumon gripped onto his head.

"All these places are the same."

"I'm almost getting used to flying," Takato laughed, 'swimming' forwards.

"Wings are better. They look cooler. People remember them. You, on the other hand, may as well just be jumping and missing the ground. God I miss the Dark Ages. People didn't know everything, things didn't…"

"Wait…" Takato stopped, his body pausing practically instantly once he stopped kicking. Guilmon, Renamon, and Calumon kept on floating onwards. It made little sense, but no-one expected much better of this world.

"Takato, what are you doing?" Guilmon asked, Renamon and him each grabbing one of Calumon's ears between them as they drifted towards it. Takato looked down, below the portal.

"The others might come this way…I'll catch up with you…"


Ryder Stevens


Immortality wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Invulnerability would certainly have been nicer, if only to stop the sharp ringing in the boy's ears as he stumbled across to the centre of commotion, a mass of people and Digimon now gathering around pair of figures and cloaking them.

Sure, a cyanide capsule would cure his increasing headache, but did have the misfortune of a while out of commission and no doubt another fantasy about that which he was loathe to admit existed behind this world right now. He was a postmodernist's dream.

"You'd think he'd care more for his partner," he heard Kari say from within Ophanimon to Seraphimon, Davis and Magnamon next to them. Ryder nudged through the crowd, pausing to check Donmon was following. The group parted as he did so, recognising his inferior stature right now and injured form.

WarGreymon restraining Rayleigh.

He had not expected to see that. Hell, he'd expected Donmon to have been blown to bits, he'd expected Rayleigh to have escaped. Yet instead, he and his partner were held separately, the latter by GrandisKuwagamon between his claws, a perilous position.

"Perhaps we should give him a taste of his own medicine," came the angry voice of Jeri's father, clenching a fist as he stepped forward, but Seraphimon put out his arm to keep him back for a moment. Ryder glanced around. Few parents had taken this opportunity to come and see what was happening here, although he had spotted some of the Hypnos crowd among the (remarkably small) gang gathered at the bottom of the steps.

Why, he wasn't sure. It was still dangerous – hell, he could see battle continuing behind them all, the berserk creations of hell still ransacking everything they could see and being fought tooth and claw. Sure enough, wings swished as Ophanimon and Seraphimon returned to the battlefield, drawing their arms against a Numemon.

The sight would've been ridiculous if Ryder hadn't known better.

"Like I said, I don't apologise," Rayleigh asserted. "Oh, the prodigal son himself, hello," he called to Ryder, waving a hand coyly.

"How can you not apologise after everything you did?" Tai cried angrily. "You tried to kill us! All those Digimon you brought hell upon."

"I think that was your fault, you'll find. I was merely acting in the public interest."

"Yeah, and I'm only orange on Wednesdays! You just wanted to destroy us – you're a Demon!" Agumon huffed.

Justimon landed nearby, splitting out into a worn-down Ryo and Cyberdramon. Clearly, neither was in the mood to keep fighting and both were curious at what was happening here, even if Cyberdramon's growl said otherwise. He would fight to the death, Ryder suspected. Quite literally. Was it all Milleniummon's doing? That pickle would no doubt come back to haunt him one day, knowing his luck.

"I thought we had grown above such racism," Rayleigh decried. "A pity. Such antiquated values. But you won't destroy me – you're above that and you know it. You take the higher ground because you're afraid of what you'll become otherwise. Spineless gits."

"Higher ground? Haven't you seen what you've done? All these innocent lives you hurt!"

Rayleigh smirked. "Ken Ichijouji. I heard a lot about you. Others forgot, but, well, being a Demon gives you special privileges. So pleased to meet royalty. Oh, what's this, someone who remembers the world before that Cataclysm? What will you do now? Kill me?" His eyes flicked to Ryder, those eyes holding the same calculating gaze they always did. If he was scared, he wasn't letting on. "Cut out the tumour?"

"What?" Ryder exclaimed.

"Now he's listening." Rayleigh's smirk was sickening.

"Quit changing the subject!" Donmon interrupted. Ryder suspected the timing wasn't a coincidence. "You're going to reverse this all, and clear our Tamers' names, understand?"

"There's not a simple button, you know? And besides, a Prime Minister died – who else do we blame?"

"But you did it!" Wormmon exclaimed. "You admitted it!"

"The media wouldn't have it; far too implausible, too unreal for reality. Besides, how will you make me do it? You can't kill me, because that'll prove you're bloodthirsty. You can't haul me out on TV, because you'll look worse and I'll never say what you want. A press statement will look forced." He smiled. "What's wrong? Have I ruined your victory? Never mind. You haven't a way home anyway, you can stay living out your days in this useless world if you so desire."

"Forget home! What about that?" Davis exclaimed, pointing past the temple steps to the sky behind.

"What about…oh…?"

Ryder looked over and there, in the sky, sat a large, lumbering Juggernaut, heading in their direction. As it twisted and turned, it drew up a few random flicks of data.

And then something far more substantial.

"Takato!" Yamaki started as a trio of Digimon – Gallantmon, Renamon and Calumon – tumbled upwards through the sky. Thank heavens his parents had stayed in the 'safety' of one of the houses or they would no doubt have been running towards it, their danger be damned. Or they would have had a heart attack.

"And the rest!" Donmon exclaimed.

"Perfect timing," Rayleigh slimed. "Falcomon, new plan." Before he could explain to the bird, a claw forcefully went across each of their mouths.

"No way out for you," Ken insisted.

"Yamaki…can he survive that?" Riley asked, suppressed horror in her tone. For all they longed to keep the heat up on Rayleigh, this distraction more than had them beat.

"What are you doing? Go save him!" Jeri's dad shouted, gesturing sharply in that direction.

Tally stood in his way. "And get killed? That thing…"

Silence.

And a horrifying sight.

"Tears people to bits," Yamaki finally spoke, as the data of Gallantmon, Calumon, and Renamon was lost to its mass.

"No, no…they can't be dead!" Tai growled, WarGreymon clenching his spare fist. "Dammit!" Clearly, he was torn on taking his anger out on the human before him.

Ryder's shocked mind wracked. Takato was a God. He could die – he had died so many times in his history – but to die so easily? It left him with a sickly feeling in his stomach. What precisely did the Juggernaut do anyhow? The TV show had been so imprecise. And what did Rayleigh get out of destroying Digimon here? This place was a sideshow and killing off Digimon would be hugely counterproductive to his aim to scare humanity. Hell, he found it more useful to… "…dump…them…on us."

"Ryder?" Donmon wondered, the boy taking a step forward.

"He's still alive. I think. No, wait…I'll put a quid on it…Rayleigh," Ryder span around, ignoring a rather irritating pain in his back. "You know he's still alive."

The claw went back to show the man's face, but the Third Demon maintained his expression. A façade? Or was Ryder heading into a cul-de-sac? "What do you mean?"

"What I mean is – you used the Juggernaut to attack us. You said data was stored in them and then unleashed. That's how you found the corrupt Digimon inside Hypnos – they never died, they were just absorbed. So I think…no…no…"

Ryder stumbled back. This had implications. Huge implications, ones which hit him almost as hard as the floor had when WarGreymon threw him…

A new Angel.

He needed to find the necklaces.

No, more pressing things first!

Mustn't forget to deal with that though.

"Rika is still alive! And I think I know where she went."

A beat passed. Rayleigh laughed; trying to move his hands and clap, but WarGreymon continued to restrain him. "Deduction. You'll be a Sherlock yet. Or are you more of a Morse?"

"Ryder – even if we go up there, this village is still hell on Earth and the Priestess is in trouble," GrandisKuwagamon said. "We can't leave this place yet." Unlike Rayleigh, Falcomon was practically static in his claws. The Digimon, in fact, hadn't said a word so far. Was he planning something?

"That Juggernaut will pull this place to pieces once it hits us. At least the one over us has stopped spinning!" Riley worried, gesturing upwards. "And I wouldn't want to be the one to predict what happens when two Juggernauts collide."

"Pile up on the M25," Rayleigh said sardonically, clearly not as alarmed about the situation as he should've been. "Do I get a phone call or…?"

"If we stay here, we'll get torn to bits," Eiichi worried, clenching a fist and ignoring their blasé foe. "We need to get out of here. Everyone we can!"

"Time is ticking."

"Shut up," Jeri's father hissed in Rayleigh's direction.

"I'm not dying here."

"You're not getting…" Ryder began, turning to face Rayleigh.

Wait. His lips weren't moving? Just open, in shock. Limbs squirming, eyes averting to Falcomon. An escape?

That wasn't his voice.

Ryder felt his throat solidify as he turned his head to the very edge of the group, where a familiar brunette now stumbled back from a thrashing dragon.

"Ryo?" Ken worried.

"Cyberdramon…" Ryo's voice grew to a crescendo of "Cyberdramon!" as he stumbled back. The screaming of his D-Arc was drowned out by the roaring from Cyberdramon's mouth, yet somehow over the top of it all an ominous laughter came from his whole form, his lips never moving to match.

It blurred. It warped. Glimpses of something else peeked out from below.

Ryder knew what this was.

Ryder knew all too well what was coming.

Dammit. Why didn't he play the Wonderswan games fully?

"STOP!" Ryo cried, a whip shooting out from his D-Arc, yet Cyberdramon yanked it away, pulling Ryo along through the dirt to crash down behind him. A foot crunched forward, so heavy it dented the floor, while WarGreymon and GrandisKuwagamon gazed on with increasing alarm, moving back with their 'criminals'.

"We run. I survive," came that low voice again, sending a chill down Ryder's spine. His hand went to his wrist, yet a glance to Donmon reminded him how insane he was to want to fight in his state.

A retcon? Would he die before he managed to complete it? Would he wreck time? Hell, anything was better than what he feared was coming. He wished he'd done his research.

The unmistakable shape of a cannon, even in blurred static, shot from his back. GrandisKuwagamon prepared a claw, while Ryo practically crawled on hands and knees away from his partner. The increasingly-corrupted Digimon gazed upwards and then to him. "Go…home…now!"

"Ken…we have to act, now!" Wormmon exclaimed.

"Davis…this looks familiar," Magnamon mumbled. "I have a bad feeling about this. Where can I remember him from?"

"Tai…"

"I know, I know," Tai cried to his partner, torn between his captive and his enemy.

"Milleniummon, I am not doing that!" Ryo cried, speaking the name which had been but a whisper of fear for so long. The Juggernaut in the distance drew closer and closer, and the threats escalated.

"How many throats?"

"What?"

Ryder gasped as Cyberdramon moved to him at an unbelievable speed, hoisted him into the air, and pressed a claw laden with green lined of data against his throat. Even as an immortal, he feared the pain, the horrid, bloody deaths he'd seen in many a TV show.

Was he even immortal here?

"Milleniummon!" Ryo cried as he ran forward, rapidly closing the distance to his partner. The four Hypnos operatives had quickly moved a dumbstruck Mr Katou and the various other non-Tamers aside to safety, while the events were not going unnoticed among the other Tamers nearby, even as their current tasks occupied most of their attention. "Don't do this. We can find a way out!"

"We can escape now. I will not die here!"

"DRAMON KILLER!" cried WarGreymon, a claw shooting across and smashing into Cyberdramon's side.

Ryder fell, breathing an almighty sigh of relief as Donmon flew up to catch him, probably using what little strength he still had in the process. Yet, the berserk Dragon causing all this landed on his feet nearby, almost unharmed by the attack.

"Agumon…" the voice again hissed with such bitterness. "And Tai. Hello again."

"So it was canon…wait…"

Something clicked.

Something bad.

"Tai…what happened to?" Ryder began.

"DIGI-MODIFY…DIGIVOLUTION ACTIVATE!"

"Oh hell," Ryder thought, as Donmon landed and he caught a fleeting glance of Rayleigh's D-Vice exploding with light.

DIGIVOLUTION

Falcomon, digivolve to…

GrandisKuwagamon's hands burst into light, his claws prised about by the force of it all. A glowing being swooped free and into the air, grabbing his Tamer just as his form solidified.

PECKMON!

A scarf fluttered in the wind as Rayleigh clambered on top of the purple bird, taking off upwards. Orange plumage spread wide as he paused in the air to look back and taunt.

"Perfect timing. Milleniummon – whoever you are – I owe you a pint!" he cried. Magnamon swooped upwards after him, but the bird was shockingly fast, flying straight up into the Juggernaut and breaking apart.

Gone.

Damn it!

Their chance to change things, gone!

"I had to make a choice!" Tai defended himself. WarGreymon looked to a Ryder with an apologetic expression. GrandisKuwagamon swooped towards them, reaching to grab Cyberdramon and restrain him before he could do anything more.

Something stopped him in his tracks.

Something new began.

"…Ryder…." Donmon quivered, raising an arm as its data swirled and warped in unusual, erratic patterns. A huge boom sounded, yet even its sound became warped, as the sky blazed with the light of two Juggernauts beginning to collide.

Cyberdramon became even more erratic, flying straight towards a taken-aback GrandisKuwagamon in an attempt to head butt him. He succeeded, throwing well more of his weight than he should have been able to. He even avoided gaining a claw through his skull once Ken and Wormmon realised what was happening.

"We need a miracle!" Davis cried.

"When even he says it, you know we're screwed," Ryder lamented, glancing across to Ryo, standing speechless as he watched all hell break loose before him.

Poor guy.


Mari Flynn


"We have to do something." Mari tried to take a step forward from their hiding place between two house walls. A tired Doumon had both arms around her, however, holding her tight for protection, while a loose shield encompassed them.

"We're vulnerable enough!" the Digimon exclaimed. A shadow darting across behind the temple acted as a sharp reminder. The pair gazed upon Rayleigh's escape and Cyberdramon's increasingly violent streak, watching with barely a noise made but a gasp. They heard the odd shout and the odd bang, but the rest of what was going on was left up to their imagination, the images before them beggaring belief.

She, like probably everyone, had been horrified to see WarGreymon let his captive go free. They had the man they needed to solve this and now he would no doubt never be captured again. Just what was Cyberdramon playing at? Hell, even with his animal-like nature, couldn't he see the risks of all this?

Then again, with the looming pair of Juggernauts beginning to collide, Mari had a feeling that the risks of this situation were all too clear. She knew little about how they worked, but as the sky vortex above her began to heave into motion, spinning as the pair overlapped, she speculated she didn't have much time to find out.

"Would the shield stop it?"

"The shield?" her partner wondered.

"The Priestess' one." How could they still not know what each other meant? Were they really that distant?

"What is your plan?"

"I don't have one. But there has to be some way between us we can get The Priestess back up again, at least enough to rebuild her shield. It's the least we can do."

Doumon nodded. "We will have to be quick. I think she's in the dojo," she said, picking up her Tamer, giving her the alarming sight of a paintbrush being torn to one side for a moment.

Time was running out.


Rayleigh Thompson


"Sir?"

"I said 'bollocks'."

"Ah. Are we due for a change of plan, Sir?"

"No. I will just have to rely on my final stage to deal with them too. It should be fine."

"Sir? You do not sound very confident in that?"

Rayleigh crossed his arms, looking to Falcomon as he grimaced. "They are always resourceful. They defeat everyone who underestimates them. They have an immortal in their group. How confident can I be?"

Why was he so shaken? Their capturing of him had been pointless and he had only escaped through luck, yet the latter just made him feel like one of them. Had his message had an effect on Ryder? Did it matter?

"It'll still work. Juggernaut is at full capacity across the Digital World…I may not have my PDA, but Hypnos will work fine. Look at it, Falcomon. Ready for deployment."

Rayleigh gestured downwards, sweeping his hand across the Juggernaut plane and the vast ball of data contained within. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

"Understood, Sir. What would you like me to do when we return to the real world, further espionage?" Falcomon asked. The pair were perfectly safe, of course: Rayleigh has designed the system this way. Humans, and Falcomon, would survive fine. Getting either trapped in the data ball would lead to unfortunate consequences and limit his ability to come and go as he pleased. Portal out, Juggernaut back. No Ark required. Also perfect.

"No, stick by my side. I…think the results could be fatal otherwise…" Rayleigh hung on the words, chewing his lip as he found himself up against a quagmire. He mentally sighed. He never claimed he was a man who followed his own principles, yet…what if his own death would help humanity? What if it would further help them realise the reality of their values? He wasn't stupid – he would go down soon if he didn't stand aside out of the limelight, for even he couldn't convince a country and a world to stand by his Acting PM role forever in the face of constitutional hell. His own death at the hand of Digimon, however…

No. Keep the plan for now. He couldn't finish his work if he died, and…

He wouldn't face it. Death in the face. Seeing the images of Chiyo and Taiki…their blooded forms. A life just..cut. He couldn't do the same. He doubted Ryder could fire again either, not after the trauma he had been through twice before with it. That was, at least, something to be pleased about, even if part of him wanted to train the teen to see his point of view and so to follow through with whatever means were necessary to get the world to look in on itself, and think. It was worth having a backup plan.

"Sir?"

"I've made a fund already."

"Pardon?"

"Thinking out loud. Now…Rika and Takato both vanished. We saw Takato, but, let's see – loads of Juggernauts everywhere and Rika goes missing."

He raised his hand, pointing at a nearby wall and beginning to imagine. An image of the Hypnos Towers, up close, appeared on it, clear as day and a stark contrast from its digital surroundings. He smirked.

"Think like your enemy, and you'll find them." He swept his arms back, propelling himself towards it. He grimaced lightly at the pain in his leg as he moved it. Dammit. Being human had such annoyances, yet Falcomon was far too tired for Ravemon to be re-used any time soon.

Whatever. Single mega Digimon couldn't be everywhere at once, and that was exactly what he needed to change the world.

Glancing back into the space as he went through the image of home, his eyes widened and he cursed. "Bugger it."

Still. No-one would ever say Takato Matsuki wasn't thoughtful or caring. And it would be moronic for him to imagine the Gogglehead otherwise.

Fresh Tokyo air filled his lungs.


Ryo Akiyama


It was happening.

Why now? WHY NOW?

Ryo was forced down beneath a flying wood beam from a damaged house by a blur of ginger, his head hitting the floor and leaving him woozy. Not that he was thinking straight to start with.

He looked up to Rei as she climbed to her feet and his mind began to straighten itself. "Thanks."

"Milleniummon shouldn't be doing this," she said, distracted.

"What? You know about Milleniummon," Ryo wondered, looking over the time traveller, his mind increasingly worried. Did that mean?

She swallowed. "I can't say."

"Is this the start of something? Rei?"

"It's unimportant. Dammit, I don't even remember being told about this," she cursed. "Mum, Dad, you could've prepared me more!" she called upwards, all while Verdamon continued to throw her full force and magic into holding back the rampaging Cyberdramon. Worse still, Cyberdramon wasn't alone: the hordes of corrupt Digimon still fought, even if in smaller numbers, while the Juggernaut was beginning to have an effect on all. Ryo looked at his hands, as his fingers elongated, the body horror of it all leaving him oddly unfazed. He had seen way too much in his life already, so much so even that fact barely worried him. "Maybe I've changed time."

"She sounds almost keen about it." "Rei, does Milleniummon come back? Tell me, and I can beat him beforehand. I can stop him for good!"

Rei looked to him. "I don't know. It's not important."

"It's the most important thing in the world!"

"Trust me, I've seen worse. Will see worse. You will. Possibly. Just…be quiet for a sec, will you?"

She was definitely her father's daughter. And, indeed, her mother's. The fact he was becoming used to stuff like this: now, that worried him.

"I can stop him. Milleniummon won't attack me. He wants me as his partner."

"Can you take that risk?"

"We're tied together, always tied together."

"Ryo, what if you're wrong? You know everything about this guy, they all need you. If he turns you into a meat dish, we're screwed. Even Ryder doesn't know all the things you've seen and I'm sure he's played as you!"

His life was a video game. Couldn't he be the star of his own show? His adventures had been amazing enough. Ryo realised this was probably not the best time to moan about this, something which had irked him for a while, and instead nodded, not speaking.

"I'd try to do something…Final Destiny…" she mumbled, almost incoherently, raising her hand up and then stopping it again. "No…no, I can't do that. I just can't. Not again."

"Do what?"

"Don't you have any ideas? You've faced him before, and Cyberdramon disobeys you all the time."

"I just whip him, and even then it doesn't work well. If you have some cheat code, I'd be more than willing to hear it."

"Ha. Tell it to Ryder."

"I'm going to try it."

"Telling him?"

Ryo shook his head, clenching a fist and stepping over the fallen beam, heading straight for his partner. "No."

"Ryo," he heard Rei say, but she made no move to restrain him, and barely moved at all. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Verdamon land next to her partner, mutterings passing between them.

Cyberdramon was busy grappling with WarGreymon, all while a scathed Magnamon tried to sneak around from behind. Surely both Veemon and Agumon remembered the worst of it? Heck, Milleniummon was being positively tame – if he really broke out, he feared for their very existence.

Wait. He was still trapped? Maybe, maybe this was just continuing a pattern? All these little takeovers, building up and up each time. He was only in the Digital World in the first place because of it – they were all only alive because of the Digital 'God' himself!

He knew where it would end. He wanted to avert it. But he was forced to look to the short term, trying to catch Cyberdramon's eye. Monodramon was in there. Heck, maybe he could even reason with Milleniummon.

"Cyberdramon!"

WarGreymon thought he had gained a moment's upper hand with the look on Cyberdramon's face, curiosity and, perhaps, docility, replacing his violent urges. The beast dropped in altitude slightly, before spinning, dealing a kick to a surprised Tai and Agumon.

"Arrrgggghhh," they cried together, as WarGreymon was thrown towards and across the ground. Even against a newfound Angel, Cyberdramon was powerful – far more powerful than he should've been. He was, indeed, disturbingly much like the corrupt Digimon. Perhaps he wasn't really all that different, judging by those blurry arms and canon jutting from his back.

"Ryo," the voice came across in sinister and begging tones at once, eyes meeting.

"What do you want?"

"You to try harder," he raised his arms across him. "DESOLATION…"

Crap.

"…CLAW!"

"RYO!"

"RYO!"

"RYO!"

"VALOUR!"

Ryo covered his eyes at the blinding light, that blast far stronger and faster than he had ever seen from Cyberdramon normally. Perhaps even stronger than Justimon. He heard crashes, followed by cries of pain.

"VEEMON!" screamed Davis from nearby. Ryo moved his arm to see.

It was a grim sight. Veemon, Agumon and Wormmon lay alongside a similarly worn Tai and Ken on the wrecked village ground, groaning as they struggled to move. Davis quickly picked up Veemon, the Digimon looking in Ryo's direction. He expected anger, for having put himself in that position to be hurt and winding up with them getting damaged, but instead there was an unexpected expression. Sympathy? Concern?

Did he know? Did he remember? Did he save him because of that?

Cyberdramon laughed over them, a deep dark laugh only half his own. Had he been expecting that? Or had it been luck? Damn it, Milleniummon worked out so many stages ahead Ryo never could tell.

As he drew his arms together again, he anticipated he would never get any real answers. Hell, his partner had taken down an Angel using his ability – there was no way they could beat that in their state now, let alone him on his own! He didn't know how much of Milleniummon's power Cyberdramon now had, but he knew he was about to find out.

"LANCE PLAY!"

Cyberdramon paused as objects fluttered past him like a rain shower, perhaps a hundred-odd cards sparkling past his sides. He began to swat, not even casting his eyes upwards at their source and took a few out of the air in the process, their torn paper-like forms drifting downwards to the ground.

From a dozen or so of the surviving cards, sharp lances shot out of almost nothingness.

Got him.

The points stabbed at him, made him scream out in agonised surprise, and they didn't stop there. More lances joined up, creating a prison around him, one that no amount of card-swatting seemed to be able to prevent.

He growled as he struggled against it. Ryo averted his eyes away from the torment of his best friend to a new figure floating in the sky above.

"Decimamon," Rei noted, coming to stand next to him. They had been covering his back all this time, it seemed. "Ultimate. I never wanted to go this far. Destinymon could do so much damage if it comes to that."

Certainly, it wasn't hard for Ryo to work out this was one of Realmon's forms. She was faintly reminiscent of a combination of a Gallantmon and a Sakuyamon, yet with far more elegance than such an idea would suggest, resembling more of a fox knight than a mutant creation. She perpetuated the fashion of female armour being far more limited, being far more than simply Gallantmon in drag (a horrifying mental image for the boy), and also being yellow in colour. A shield was strapped to her back, much like a smaller Aegis, emblazoned with a Ying-Yang symbol in place of the Hazard. A long series of short black notches ran around the outside, every fifth one being longer and every tenth longer still. It alternately spun back and forth as it emitted further Tao cards. Her red-gloved palms were pressed together, while those triangles of red fur on her form and on her amour glowed.

"She's saying she can't hold him for much longer," Rei said, tapping her head. Ryo saw the sheer amount of concentration in Decimamon's eyes, holding back an enemy who'd just eradicated three mega level Digimon in one shot, albeit extremely tired ones. Humans and Digimon now limped aside to safety, body and pride both hurt. "She won't be able to beat him or weaken him back to normal either. You know him well Ryo – you must have some idea."

"I just can't think of anything. Milleniummon is making a point, and he will hurt everyone to make sure I go with him. He wants me all to himself. He'll work Cyberdramon to death just to get free."

"You make it sound almost romantic," Rei said sarcastically. "Think of something soon, because the cat is leaving the bag."

Sure enough, Cyberdramon growled loudly, flapping, clawing and kicking at his prison, before he smashed through the lances with a head butt and quickly swooped up towards Decimamon.

She was prepared, putting her hands to her shield behind her, and letting it split and reform into two, curved scimitars, one with a red handle encrusted with a ruby and the other with a blue handle encrusted with a sapphire. Her narrow, Renamon-like eyes gazed down from a flatter, more Taomon-like face, taking a brief moment to appraise the situation as she readied both blades.

"TWIN COLOURS!" she cried, screaming down into her enemy.


Takato Matsuki


White. White, everywhere. Where was he? Heaven?

"Takato!" exclaimed a voice, a red blur leaping at him.

Pain. He doubted this was heaven.

"I was worried it would close before you made it through," a yellow shape said from above, quickly resolving into Renamon's form. Pushing off Guilmon somewhat, Takato got to his feet, and was rewarded by Calumon climbing onto his mop-like hair. "Is this the real world?"

"Shinjuku Park," Renamon nodded. "Before you came through, we could see the fountain, but it seems the Digital Field became thicker when you arrived."

Takato peered through the mist and, sure enough, the fountain was steadily reappearing again. It was a relief to be home, a relief he let out by a sigh, but the back of his mind wouldn't let him forget what horrors could await him here. He was a wanted man. Rika was even more so, and he had to find her. Most worrying of all, Rayleigh had to be out there too, planning something.

"Renamon…can you shadow shift us? I don't think we're exactly invisible."

"It may drain me quite a lot. Do you have any particular destination in mind?"

"You know…"

"I'm not sure," Takato scratched his chin.

"I can keep us invisible too."

"By blowing people's heads up?" Renamon dismissed slyly.

"…fine. But we don't do it enough! I miss the Middle Ages, when people weren't so purist on what 'invisible' meant…"

"Renamon, can you do that thinking thing you do with Rika?" Guilmon asked as the greenery of their surroundings began to blur into view. They would have to make up their mind soon or they would be visible to a myriad of parkgoers, and international news within the hour.

"Hmm…" Renamon mused, closing her eyes and standing still. Calumon leapt down from Takato's head, mimicking her. Anyone else would probably have earned a slap for making a mockery of the vixen. "Mmm…" she mumbled, sadly. "I think it is too far. Or she's concentrating. The range is not always that large."

"So she might still be here," Takato pondered. "If I were Rika, where would I go?"

Takato felt his mouth slip open again.

"Not now Chaos."

"I was going to be helpful. Err…what if she…went to her house?"

"Hmm…it's worth a try. Renamon?"

"I think we could look. But I can move faster than you both and without you both. Somehow I doubt she will be there though. Rika is far too strong-headed to hide in the shadows."

"She's probably out trying to clear her name. Hmm…what about Hypnos? There's got to be something in that place to help us find her." Unfortunately, it was also probably the most dangerous place to be right now.

Renamon nodded. "I want to check her home first though. I will be quick."

"We had better take the tunnel out of here," Takato glanced around. The park was pretty busy and the fog was almost gone. The chances of getting to the towers overland, even via the bushes, were slim without Renamon. The tunnel, even if guarded by soldiers still, was a much better route. It didn't go quite where they needed to go, but it was better than here. "Come find us in the other end."

Renamon nodded.

"Sounds like so much fun." Chaos once again missed those 'glory days' he always seemed so keen to talk about.

"So…hide and seek?" Calumon asked chirpily.

"No, not…actually, yeah." There was no sense fighting this. "Renamon will come and find us, but we have to be extra quiet until then, okay you two?" Takato said. Guilmon was above needing such lies, as he could tell from the Digimon's face, but Calumon hadn't quite grasped the reality and severity of what was going on.

Ah well. This day was probably going to go to hell in a hand basket pretty soon anyhow. One thing to be certain of, at least.


Doumon


Doumon and Mari raced through the dojo doors, getting their first glimpse of the chaotic (and already quite damaged) interior. In one corner, lay Cody's ill grandfather. In another, DarkBiyomon. Even the doctor herself, Fumiko, was injured, albeit from earlier. Joe had (quite confidently, it looked) taken the reins on their various patients, a number of blankets and bandages employed to keep them comfortable.

Attracting the most attention, and worry, was the largest patient to the left, lying on a number of hastily pulled-out sheets. Taomon and Renardmon knelt over her, The Priestess Sakuyamon. The former casted spells, seemingly in vain, while the latter simply looked desperate.

Their arrival inevitably drew a lot of attention. About the room, worryingly, Digimon and humans alike were being 'dragged' by the Juggernauts crashing above their heads, a scary reminder of just what they were up against.

"We have to cure her now!" the American insisted.

"Don't you think we've been trying that?" Renardmon shouted. Seeing him in this state was a strange experience for Doumon; the Digimon she remembered fancying all those years ago was always calm, nice, and collected, or perhaps that was just how he looked from afar.

"My spells are not working," Taomon conceded. "I have never been very successful at healing this Priestess. I had the good fortune until now of not having to."

"Can I try?" Doumon asked her yellow 'cousin'.

"You can try. The injury is severe though. It will need a lot of power, and a good spell."

Doumon glanced to Mari, feeling offended at The Elder Taomon's condescending tone. "Like I said, I'll try."

"This is no time for personal offence," Taomon said, holding that sort of anger Doumon had only seen before in elderly women, the calm types like Seiko who used their frustration only in rare cases. "Even if I could heal her, I doubt I would be able to heal her completely. All I have been able to do so far is just stem the data loss."

Doumon glanced over the wound. It was a hole. A huge hole, right through her. What was she thinking? She was getting out of her league. Were her and Mari just so eager to help they were ignoring facts? If she had taken an injury like this, she was certain she would've been dead already. The Priestess was clearly made of tougher stuff.

So much for making an impact in her old home. Yet DarkRenamon kicked herself for the ill-timed sentiment.

"Perversely, about the only Digimon who could heal her right now would be, well, The Priestess herself," Taomon sighed.

"Taomon…" The Priestess mumbled, breaking free from her unconscious stupor for the first time since Doumon had arrived. "Do…should I appoint a successor? Like the other Priestess did."

"Even if you did…this village is about to be torn apart," Taijimon interrupted. "We have to heal you. Keep fighting! Do not give up so easily; do not prove me right in my doubts about you."

"Kind words," Doumon mused.

Renardmon's eyes met The Priestess' and her hand went to weakly touch his arm, before dropping to the staff by her side. "Use it."

After a moment of surprise, he lifted it. "How? I don't know what to cast."

"Does it look like I do?" she said through her pain, attempting the best laugh she could manage in her state. "Does what you feel."

He nodded, gripping it and wishing, yet nothing happened. If the strings at its end lifted, they did so far too slightly to be seen. "I…can't. I don't have the energy…and I'm not the right sex. Can't someone else do it?"

"I can give you the energy," Taomon said. "I can cast a spell through it: it can amplify what I do. But it will hurt. I do not know how successful it will be. You will have to aim it."

"Then make someone else aim! Seriously, I'm not screwing this up for everyone," Renardmon protested. "Look, Priestess, if I could give my life to save you, I would, but I'm not burning myself to death when we don't have time to waste!"

"You two are close," mumbled a voice. "I can tell just by watching. You remind me of my grandson…future in-law, that is."

Doumon glanced over, Seiko having stood away from her injured partner for the first time in a good long while to offer some words of advice.

"Of course we are, we're old friends," Renardmon said, as the Priestess weakly grasped his hand. Did she even really know what was going on?

That injury. It had to be so painful. Enough to make you want to die?

The village shook again, data contorting all over the dojo interior. Their time was rapidly running out.

"Priestess…I know you can't speak much right now, but would I be right in assuming that the staff works better with a stronger bond?"

A weak nod. Perhaps even a slight smile.

"My granddaughter is always giving strength to her partner, and I increasingly feel it with DarkBiyomon here. I wonder if it is the same with you," Seiko explained. "Renardmon, this is how you can save your friend, and us all."

Renardmon grimaced, looking down at The Priestess again. He grasped the staff and closed his eyes.

"I started this mess…I brought Rayleigh here…I can end it too."

Taomon began to move her hands in circles, beginning to cast the spell. Trickles of energy, one by one, flicked from her to the strings on the end of The Priestess' staff, intensifying by the second. It began to glow, energy beginning to flow down into the hole in The Priestess.

"Is it working?" Cody said.

Renardmon grated his teeth as Doumon watched his paws tense up around the shaft of the staff. The strings tightly wrapped around his arms and legs pinched his limbs as they swelled, the skin reddening from the pain. Clearly, he was willing to scream, but he kept his teeth firmly grated. He was so desperate to save her.

Was it worth it?

"I don't see any change," Mari said, wandering closer to the spell and peering into the gaping wound. The village shook again, the girl taking a step back in horror as her whole arm was dragged a good foot or two away for a few seconds. Even the spell was disrupted, such that Renardmon stopped, and looked down.

"Nothing," he panted. "NO!" he cursed, sweeping a fist through the air in vain before it came to rest on his forehead.

"I do not know how to cure her. She is different," Taomon said in despair.

A silence fell, a horrible silence Doumon remembered from when Ryder was in hospital. A silence of desperation.

And then broken.

"She's human," Mari mumbled. She looked across to The Elder Taomon and repeated. "She's human!" She turned, calling across the room to her old friend. "Fumiko, do you think it could change her?"

"I treat humans, not biomerges," she shrugged, caught off guard by the question.

"But there is a human inside. Mari has a point. Inside her Digital Core, inside her data, whatever…there's a living, breathing human. While she's stabbed, we can't do anything," Joe reasoned.

"I do not have any experience with healing humans," Taomon shook her head, but she seemed not to be caught up in the humans' frenzied understanding.

"Then that means you might not be accounting for the bond between them," Mari wondered. "What if you did?"

"What bond? I thought all this was forced?" Gomamon contested, raising a fin.

"What about Stockholm Syndrome? Cody, you know the one I mean. You said about it when we were watching that programme before," Armadillomon mused.

"Hostages often wind up sympathising with their captors, yes."

"But is she even conscious in there? I tried to locate her, but there's no heartbeat on the surface. There's nothing," Fumiko wondered. "And there's a hole in her. Unless she's really small, she should be skewered."

"Or she's just floating around in her data," Doumon wondered. They just didn't know enough about this: her even less so, having never done it herself. She glanced to Renardmon, who was steadily recovering from the pain, but who in that moment was threatened by all of his data being dragged towards the ceiling. Even The Priestess was affected, making for an even more grisly sight than they already saw, and had yet to become used to.

"The Priestess herself said that she had to merge with that girl to become a mega level. So that girl is an integral part of her," Cody reasoned.

"Not accounting for her then is like working on a human heart and ignoring the ventricles," Joe clicked his fingers.

"Or something less medical," Mari said, a burning keenness in her eyes which bordered on sadistic, given the circumstances. She pointed to Doumon. "You can cast spells, right? You can try and heal her."

"Yes, but I don't think I'm strong enough."

"No, but we know what such a strong human-Digimon bond is like."

"Do we?" With those two words, Doumon saw Mari's expression sink. That which they were denied had become most important at the worst possible time.

"Well, we can imagine it. You can, I mean. I'll help. If I can."

"What are you two suggesting?" Rumiko asked, although her expression indicated she was at least five lines behind everyone. She had the misfortune of having no expertise, human or Digimon, to contribute here.

"Doumon casts a healing spell while imagining what it is like to be merged with a human, and we do the whole staff thing again. I just hope she has the energy," Mari explained.

"I'll provide what I can to help," Taomon suggested, moving her hands again as the spell-casting resumed. "Renardmon, do you feel in a fit enough state to try again?"

"No…but I will anyway…hold tight, Renamon," he said wistfully, looking downwards and gripping the staff tightly again.

"Doumon, you okay with this?" Mari asked her partner, gripping her hand where it poked out from her long sleeves. She looked to the girl, trying to reach out with her mind, yet the dour expression on the brunette's face told her it was a failure.

"…ry."

She turned back to face The Priestess, and the staff, focusing her mind and her energy. She pictured Mari and the feeling she got when she communicated with her, however briefly. The infusion of energy she got when she was digivolved. That feeling of being reassembled, bit by bit, from all those years ago, when Mari threw everything into saving her. The insanity that ensued the first time she became Doumon, as she felt Mari's anger channel along her.

She brought the feelings together, relived them, focused them, concentrated them.

Being so close to your partner to be one with them…it had to be wonderful. It had to change how you thought, how you acted, even your very form itself.

She was faintly aware of data whipping through the air, sparks flying from her to the staff, but her mind was lost in concentrated thought.

Imagine it.

Wish it

Crave it.

Want it.

"Renardmon…hold tight. I am impressed," Taijimon's voice came from afar. "Maybe you are worthy of being my successor one day. Doumon, I am sorry for ever doubting your abilities, either."

Approval.

"It looks like it's working," Mari called, as Doumon felt the girl grip her hand again. "Just a little more."

Images of Mari rushed through her mind, as she forced the invasion of reality into her unconscious again. Her energy felt drained, yet for every ounce drained Taomon's energy flowed in: an almost limitless supply, it seemed. She was more experienced, more powerful, wiser, but she did not know what it was like to have a Tamer.

And that was what made DarkRenamon special in this village.

A sharp breath, as the spell broke, Doumon feeling her target shift. She opened her eyes, watching a shocked Priestess grasping her staff and getting to her feet. She looked over herself, running a hand down her perfect stomach and marvelling at the healing which had been done. Renardmon looked to be physically restraining himself from embracing her, leaving Doumon torn between envy and an appreciation of how sweet the sight was, and the rush of happiness to her mind.

They had succeeded.

"I'm alive…thank you…all of you…"

While Doumon felt humbled by the bow she received from a being who she had been brought up to idolise, she felt Mari let go of her hand and run to the doorway. A blast of tiredness swept over her, as she became aware of how much energy she had used. "The Juggernaut is vanishing…the shield must be working again!"

"It is…but…there is trouble out there."

"I know, Cyberdramon's running amok and there are still loads of corrupted Digimon around."

The Priestess shook her head. "Mari. Take care of yourself," she said ominously.

"What do you mean?" Mari asked, her enthusiasm all but evaporated as The Priestess walked by her to the doorway. Doumon, unconsciously, stepped closer to her partner, intending to protect her.

She glanced to Doumon and back to the American before taking in the chamber as a whole. "I have to put a stop to this. Keep down!"


The Priestess


She flew through to the centre of the village, feeling like she had more energy than she had had in years. The horrific pain had completely receded, and, no matter how much she ran her hand ran over her stomach in wonderment, so had the injury.

Yet her mind was still cursed. She had heard every word in that dojo, even as she lacked the energy to reply.

The girl.

God, what was her name? What was her name?

Stockholm Syndrome? Could it be true? Would the girl feel close to her? Even after all she did? Was this her salvation? Her redemption? Or a curse?

She longed, prayed to hear that voice again, that voice she had heard glimpses of, some reassurance the girl was not injured. Or, worse, still taking all the pain she had had earlier.

And Mari. Her mind had predicted…such horrible things. For all of them, but especially for her. Yet, something still so wrong, an ill-wind, a strange mind. Mari didn't make sense, and even with this new insight she didn't understand why.

An explosion below interrupted her chain of thinking, as she watched a figure not all that much unlike a Sakuyamon be tossed sharply to the ground nearby, breaking down into a miniature almost-Kyubimon. She halted, grasping her staff and looking to the aggressor, who looked ready to finish the mongrel off.

"You!" The Priestess called, pointing downwards. The beast looked up, his draconian eyes holding something much deeper and more sinister behind, something that caught her off guard. A great evil lurked here, something familiar through her bones yet somehow implacable.

He smirked and laughed fervently, a ghost-like cannon gathering from his data and glowing on its back. "TIME…"

Whatever it was, he wasn't getting a chance to use it. She pointed her staff out, and down, and let loose all of her newfound energy in one triumphant spell. "PURIFYING FLAME!"

Boom.

The fire spread rapidly out, huge, living blue plumes, spreading throughout the village. Hurting those who were meant to be hurt and protecting those who weren't.

She felt anguish as the flames cleared through corrupted Digimon, their pain bespoke and unusual, their cries reaching her ears.

They would be at peace now. Yet, she found herself uncertain in her own judgements now, not sure if she had the right to dictate good and evil. Did they have a right to life? What about the girls they had kidnapped? Where did she draw the line? The Tamers had brought her such a terrible gift: the gift of empathy for all.

Except one. And, surprising her, it wasn't Chaos.

The flames ended, and she ignored the surprised masses, astonished such a display hadn't killed them, to focus on a small dark blue Digimon, landing on the floor below. The beast had been subdued, but he was still there. No more death today.

A boy wandered over and picked him up, bringing a grimace to her face. This was the nastier side of a human-Digimon bond. Placing her hand on her stomach, she mourned on his behalf, as she peered down at their safe but wrecked village through tired eyes.

So sad that it should come to this.

END OF PART ONE…


A/N: I split this chapter into two parts (yet again), both so I could get a new chapter out sooner and to make it more manageable to read. I hope everyone is as geeky as me – enough, that is, to grasp the reference behind this title and chapter number. I couldn't resist!

Oh, and Doctor Who beat me to it (again) with…well, I'm sure you know by now. Although this time round I beat them to it, but Moffatt and co. just published their ideas on TV to usurp me. Bah. Worrying how many of my future plot ideas get usurped before I end get around to writing them. Ah well, I'm sure they're still enjoyable here.