Encryption by Brave Soul RMS

Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon in any way shape or form. I only own my original characters and plot.

Summary:When the boundary between them grew weak, the worlds made their first contact. Humans and Digimon have met one another and both chose to be allies. The worlds grow and prosper and in this peace, the Union is formed. But good things always come with a price.

Humans and Digimon with ill intent continually cross the barrier in hopes of causing havoc while bigger things are plotted just under the surface. In response, the Union creates ALIAS, an organization charged with keeping the new peace. Caught in the middle of the growing conflict are seven Tamers and seven Digimon, and all the while, their lives, secrets and fates all weave together. For better or for worse.

Arc 01: Formation
Chapter 02: Initialize

October 17th

"So first I randomly get enlisted then the instructions they gave me to come to the HQ building turn out to be wrong." Alex released a sigh and gave the tall building over his shoulder a weary glance. The large yellow D perched proudly at the tower's apex glinted in the sunlight as if glaring back at the boy. Alex squinted and turned away with another sigh.

"And now I have to wait for some kind of emissary to come pick me up? This is annoying…" He could hardly even hear his own voice among the symphony of city noise as the humans and Digimon went about their daily lives.

South Haven City during the day was a nexus of never-ending activity. Before First Contact, it had been a tiny, sleepy little place but the advent of the Digimon catalyzed an explosion in population, commerce, and technology. The first new thing to be built was the ALIAS Headquarters and the various districts cropped up after almost instantly. The HQ building stood in the middle of the Digital District, the busiest district in the city if only because of the dense population of humans and Digimon coexisting there. The further one went from the Digital District in the center of the city layout, the less likely they were to run into a Digimon.

For some, this was a good thing. It meant that they and the people they cared about were less likely to get attacked by a rogue digital monster or one that had been disoriented from the dimensional jump. That reason alone made sure that the suburbs of South Haven were located the furthest away from the Digital District, in the area dubbed the Outskirts. Others found the safety of the Outskirts to bee to boring and instead decided to live closer to the action. After all, it was in the Digital District where all the most popular shops and apartment complexes were, and where all the new technology arrived before being distributed everywhere else. Mostly, though, the Digital District was famous for having the second highest Bio-emergence rate next to the Warzone. The difference between the Warzone and the Digital District was that nobody was fool enough to try and live in the Warzone. No-one except the outlaws, that was.

"Hey, are you just gonna stand there all day?" Startled out of his thoughts, the boy gave a little jump. He looked around for the voice's owner but none of the professionally-dressed adults, too busy with their own business, were addressing him.

"Down here!" the voice said again. Alex felt his face heat up in embarrassment as he looked down in his arms; he'd forgotten about his new partner, cradled in his slender arms. A pair of ruby-red eyes stared back up at him and their owner, a pale-lavender Digimon shaped like a bun with large floppy ears, fixed him with a confused expression.

"Alex? You okay?"

"S-Sorry, Pagumon," mumbled Alex. "It's just that…this is gonna take some getting used to." Pagumon nodded as best as a Digimon that was basically just a head could. At barely three days old, he was basically an infant but had rapidly developed a distinct personality ever since digivolving from Botamon a day earlier.

Pagumon made a face. "Buck up!" he said sharply and caught the attention of some of the surrounding adults. The Digimon and a handful of the humans laughed at how cute the little one looked while the more irritable citizens mumbled about distractions before moving somewhere else.

"I'm sorry…"

"Don't apologize," the little one said. "Hold your head up and look like a man! We're partners, so you don't got nothin' to worry about so long as you're with me!" Pagumon beamed proudly and Alex laughed a little.

"But, Pagumon," Alex said, stepping out of the shadow of the HQ building and make his way toward a bench across from the flagpole in the pristine white courtyard, "you're still small. I can't let you fight yet."

"And why not?" the Baby II demanded. The grin he wore was now a deep frown that made him appear cute rather than serious like he wanted. Alex opened his mouth only to hesitate and retract his words before they were spoken. He tried again.


"Well?" Pagumon pressed, eyes boring into Alex's. The infant Digimon's Tamer flinched and turned his gaze down.

A few seconds of silence passed between them. Then Alex answered in an almost inaudible voice, "I wouldn't want you to get hurt." Pagumon's face grew puzzled.

"Hurt?" he asked. He seemed almost insulted. "I wouldn't get hurt."

"You don't know that," said his Tamer glumly.

"Do so," the Digimon persisted.

"How?" Pagumon's grin returned.

"Cuz I got you with me!" The grin again faded into a worried expression when he saw a deep frown take form on his partner's moon-like face. "Hey, why do you look so sad?" His voice was soft.

"I'm not much use in a fight," Alex admitted, ashamed.

"You won't know until you try," the little one said supportively. "And if you can't fight, then
I'll fight for both of us."

"I can't let you do that; I don't want you to get hurt," repeated Alex.

"Why not?" Pagumon was confused; Alex could feel it. But whether it was because of the Digimon's inexperience or a genuine lack of understanding, he did not know. Either way, the little one's eyes begged for an answer and Alex didn't have one. In the two-day span since their meeting, Alex had inexplicably developed a strong attachment to his new partner that he was ninety-nine percent sure was reciprocal. The mere thought of letting Pagumon get hurt in a fight was, for some reason, more than Alex could bear to imagine and while he had always thought of himself as a person who takes things in stride, this new turn of events was a lot for anyone, especially a fourteen-year-old child.

"I don't know why," he finally said. "I just can't." Young as he was, Pagumon didn't miss the tone of finality in the boy's voice and decided to leave it at that.

"Now, when's that emissary getting here?"

Alex looked up at the cloudless mid-October sky and felt himself loosen up. That was one thing he liked about having the Digital World parallel to Earth: the new sky. Looking up at it made it feel like living in close proximity to another planet, so close that you could see the very surface of the neighboring world hovering above just behind a translucent blue shroud. The Server continent and the Sea of Modem gazed down upon South Haven City. Etched into the mostly green continent were giant golden lines like the ones on a computer chip and File Island lay off the coast of the southernmost tip of Server. Alex took in the view, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Alex gave a startled cry and leapt to his feet displacing Pagumon and fumbling him between his hands. Heart thumping madly, he finally recomposed himself to see a blue dragon man wearing red flame-patterned armor standing next to the bench. It stood there unfazed by the boy's fearful reaction waiting patiently for him to calm down.

"Uhm… Yeah," he answered uneasily. He gave the imposingly tall dragon man a quick once over and shakily turned his gaze up.

Alex flinched.

This Digimon's eyes were red like Pagumon's but much sterner and focused. There was no innocence or confident inner fire in those eyes. Their fire was cold and held the kind of intensity that could only belong to someone accustomed to combat. That scared Alex. Scared him to no end. The sound of his heart pumping in his ears drowned out all other noise. A thought flitted across his mind for less than a second but that was all it took to worsen his fear.

"Are those gonna be Pagumon's eyes one day?"He looked down at the infant Digimon, who was gazing in awe and admiration at the dragon man, and shivered.

Convinced that Alex had calmed himself, the armored Digimon cleared the gap between them in one step and held out a claw in greeting. "Flamedramon." His voice was deep and rough; professional but not unkind. "You must be Alex." The boy gave a meek nod.

"Sorry if I scared you," Flamedramon said before Alex could give his full name.

"It's fine!" he hurriedly assured the Armor Digimon. Feeling Pagumon adjusting in his arms, he added, "Oh, this is Pagumon. My partner."

"I can see that," said Flamedramon. Fighting the urge to jump back, Alex's curiosity grew when Flamedramon bent down to the Baby II's eyelevel and stared for a moment. Then he straightened up and a ghost of a smile – more of a smirk than anything – graced his white muzzle.

"He's got good eyes. Strong." He looked into Alex's own brown orbs and gave a short nod.

"You, too."

Alex relaxed. Mouth twitching upwards in a small smile, he breathlessly said, "Th-thank you." Remembering what he was waiting for, he asked, "Are you the emissary they sent for me?" Flamedramon nodded again and gestured for Alex to follow behind him as he started off at a brisk pace. Putting Pagumon atop his head, the boy scurried behind him taking three steps for every one of Flamedramon's.

The trio proceeded in silence away from the unending clamor of the Digital District's center and towards the relative peace of Union Park. Alex had been to the park before; faint memories of family outings with his family – back when they could be called a family, he thought gloomily – arose when he passed the bushes of multicolored roses the park was famous for. Coming up on a paved cobblestone intersection, Alex set to turn left into the park square. Flamedramon turned right, into the trees and waved Alex over.

"Hey, where are we goin'?" asked Pagumon.

"Matthias requested you personally. I've orders to take you to meet him." Flamedramon explained.

Alex cocked his head to the side, an action Pagumon mimicked. The boy's mind was in complete disarray; nothing about this situation made sense anymore and explanations were seemingly all but extinct. "A personal summons? Why me? Why am I so special? What'd going on?"

"Base is a metal dome in the woods back here." Flamedramon's voice snapped the boy out of his quagmire of thought. "It's a little small on the outside but it goes underground so it's bigger than you think."

"Okay…" The boy said his mind in another realm. Pagumon remained silent when Alex's grip on him tightened. He knew he should say something to try and soothe his partner's mind but nothing came to mind. Pagumon whimpered and deflated.

"Alex…" he moaned somberly to himself.

Big brown eyes watched Vincent pace back and forth, hand to his chin and face scrunched up in thought. Amused, Lopmon twitched the pink ends of her floppy ears and leaned over the edge of her Tamer's head to look him in the eye as he was making coffee.

"Think he'll ever stand still?" she asked with a snicker. Matthias took her off of his dirty-blonde head and placed her on his shoulders.

"Who, Vince?" Moving to sit at the table in the center of the pristine white break room, the Brit sipped his coffee and let out a hearty laugh. "Nah, not him. He's never been one for waiting."

"He's gonna wear a rut in the floor, though," Lopmon joked.

"The floor's made of metal," deadpanned Wizarmon. The mage Digimon stood in the corner
with her arms crossed holding her staff close to her chest. Her hat was pulled down over her eyes and she looked to be asleep. She pushed her hat up with her thumb to reveal hunter green eyes as cynical as her voice. "It'd take years for him to do that."

Lopmon frowned and blew a raspberry. "Well, excuse me, Ms. Sourpuss."

"Lopmon," Matty warned her. "No fighting with your little sister."

Vincent stopped his pacing and looked between the sibling Digimon. He laughed and pointed to them in turn. "Lopmon, Wizarmon," he said, "How are you two related?"

"Don't ask me," the sisters chorused. Then they shot each other glares and shouted, "Don't copy me!"

Matthias drew up to his full height and stretched out his back. He sighed when he felt his vertebrae pop and rapped his partner's horned skull with his knuckles. "Quit it." Lopmon rubbed her forehead and made a face at Wizarmon but kept her mouth shut when Matthias raised his knuckles again. How she hated it when he did that.

Vince heard a door slide open and in walked a petite fair-skinned girl wearing black leggings under a red checkered skirt, tall red and black hiking boots and a black tank-top. Around her neck was a thick plaid muffler that obscured the lower half of her face. She stopped in the middle of the doorway, a bottle of green tea and a can of iced tea in either hand, and surveyed the scene from behind wispy black bangs.

"Are they fighting again?" she finally said after a moment of silence. Her voice was soft and lilting like a lullaby, a trait accented by her accent.

Matthias nodded and gestured to Wizarmon. "You need to keep control of your partner, Talia."

Talia huffed, indignant, and tossed Wizarmon the can of iced tea. "Me? It's Lopmon that starts it, Matty." Matthias simply shrugged his shoulders and offered his sister a pleasant smile.

"True," he said jovially, "I just like teasing you." Talia muttered something under her breath and Matthias giggled. Vincent compared the siblings to one another: the serene and carefree Matthias (or Matty as the team called him) dressed plainly in beige cargo pants, a pink t-shirt and a white hooded sweatshirt; and the meek and soft-spoken Talia dressed in her dark colors. Matty wore his dull gold hair long and Tally kept her black locks in a short pixie cut. The only things that marked the two as siblings were their vibrant blue eyes

"How are you two related? Let alone twins?" he asked again.

"Don't ask me," the fair-skinned siblings said in unison.

"More importantly," Hawkmon interjected from his perch on top of the refrigerator, "where is that new recruit?"

Recollection dawned on Matty's thin face. "Oh!" he said, startled. "That's right; we've got an ickle newbie coming in today; how exciting!"

"You forgot?" Talia asked incredulously. She slapped her hand into her face and sighed.

Then Vincent stepped in. "He's right, though. Flamedramon should have been here by now and he's never late."

"Is that why you were pacing?" Wizarmon inquired.

"Well yeah! Why wouldn't I be?" Vince countered as if the answer were obvious. He grinned and said, "Before this, I was the new guy. Now I get to show him the ropes!"

Lopmon put a hand over her mouth to stifle her devilish snickering. "Maybe we should see if this one's more gullible than Vince and try that fake initiation test again," she suggested.
Matty rapped her on the head.

"Ow!" she shouted. "It was just a joke!"

"Regardless, he's late," Talia said. "You think maybe he got lost or mugged or something?"
The room went quiet and abruptly exploded into laughter. Hawkmon fell off the fridge and into Vincent's arms. Even Wizarmon let out a chuckle.

"Good one, Tally. Flamedramon getting mugged!" Vince guffawed.

"Like that would ever happen," Hawkmon supplemented through hysterics.

"Like what would ever happen?"

As one, the group whirled around to see a stoic but curious Flamedramon standing in the doorway and an apprehensive wide-eyed child standing behind him. Vince grinned and dashed over to the pair eager to meet his new teammate. The boy shrank further behind Flamedramon and hugged his partner, a Pagumon, close to his chest.

Vince blinked, baffled. "Hey, what's up with him?" he asked Flamedramon.

"Shy," the dragon man answered. He stepped out of the way and ushered his charge into the room with a light push. "Go on," he said encouragingly. "Introduce yourself."

Now that they had a better look at the boy, the other Tamers waited patiently for him to speak, each of them silently sizing him up. He was a frail thing with shoulder length brown hair and thin arms and a round moonish face. His brown eyes were wide and shiny and bespoke obvious fear and the jitters. The boy's clothes were a bit too big for him and his jeans were faded and frayed at the bottoms but his black shirt and green checkered button-up were pressed and ironed to perfection.

Alex looked around from face to face trying to gauge their individual reactions and failing. They were all older than him, discerned, and that made him even more uncomfortable. The silence was suffocating. Shivering, he screwed his eyes shut and took a step back and would have turned and ran if not for Pagumon tugging on his shirt.

"Hey!" the little one called out in a whispered voice as fierce as his big red eyes. "Don't run away. They're not scary. It's all in your head."

Alex gulped. "But I don't know if I can –" he began.

"You can." Pagumon's eyes hardened, silently transmitting their courage to Alex. "You can do it."

The boy looked up at the other Tamers and their Digimon, expectant and silent, and summoned his meager courage. "I…" The others leaned in and strained to hear his voice. "I'm Alex…Evans… This is Pagumon. It's nice to meet all of you." The others looked at each other and, to his surprise, greeted him with welcoming smiles and introduced themselves in turn.

"Name's Vincent Sanchez but everybody calls me Vince! You can, too!" Vince flashed Alex a handsome smile then looked down at Hawkmon and nodded.

Hawkmon gave a low sweeping bow and offered a wing to Alex. The boy moved to take it, hesitated, and then delicately took it in his slender fingers. "Hawkmon, pleased to meet you. Vince and I go by the codename 'Skylark'."

Matthias and Lopmon chimed in next. "Matthias Wexler at your service!" He saluted them with a broad smile. Lopmon climbed onto his head again and waved with an ear. Pagumon waved back. "This little lady's Lopmon. Codename: Black Magic. We sorta lead this team, y'know?"

"Nice to meetcha!" Lopmon sang. Alex returned Matty's grin with a meek smile of his own.

"I'm Talia, Matty's sister." She and Wizarmon approached the newbies, a kind smile gracing Tally's pretty face and a bored look in Wizarmon's. Talia offered Alex her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Alex's apprehension melted and he took Talia's hand in his without a second thought. Wizarmon stared at him and Pagumon for a moment before looking up at Flamedramon for confirmation. The dragon man moved not an inch but Wizarmon picked up some kind of hidden message and nodded.

"Glad to have you," the mage muttered almost inaudibly before retiring to her corner by the cabinets.

"Now, I'm sure you have a lot of questions to ask," Matty said loudly before Alex could even ask the one he had in mind. "I'll answer them for you in due time. For now, let's get you properly registered and equipped, eh?"

"I'll let Datamon know to ready the DigiFarm with the right equipment," Tally said. She and Wizarmon exited the room via a door to the right.

"Cool. Vince, you want to go get him a deck?" Matty asked.


"Oh, no! That's fine!" Alex cut in a little louder than he'd wanted to. He produced a deck of
cards from his pocket and presented to them to Matty. "I have my own…"

The older Tamer handed the cards back and smiled. "Good, you came prepared. I'll tell ya how to use 'em in a bit; let's just head down to the Farm and get Pagumon here up to par with the rest of us." So Matty led Alex and Pagumon out of the break room, Flamedramon in tow, into a brightly lit metal hallway and into an elevator at the end of it. A short ride later and the doors opened to a sight that made Alex and Pagumon's jaws drop in synchrony.
Before them lay a five-acre stretch of flat verdant land dotted with sparse trees and the odd traffic signpost. Half a streetcar was buried in the ground and overgrown with moss, to the far right was a giant barn, and a small glittering crystal blue lake was situated in the center of the area connected to a river that ran along the area's perimeter. A hand on his shoulder snapped Alex out of his shocked stupor.

Matthias smiled down at him and made a sweeping gesture at their surroundings. "Welcome to the Digi-Farm."

"Digi-Farm?" Pagumon and Alex parroted in interest. Flamedramon ghosted past them and dashed into the forest. The two couldn't help but wonder what he was going to do.

"We use this place as a training room," Matthias explained. "Datamon, the guy we have who takes care of all the machines, maintains this place. The terrain is fully customizable but we'll get to that later. For now, let's get Pagumon to digivolve."

Lopmon jumped off her Tamer's head and fanned herself with her ears. "Then we start combat training!" she said excitedly. Her devilish smirk returned in full force and she did a little twirl in place.

"Sorry that this all so rushed," Matty apologized. He scratched the back of his head and frowned deeply. "But we're a little short on manpower, y'know?"

"Before we start, I've been meaning to ask you something," Alex began slowly.

"Well, now's as good a time as ever."

The younger boy set Pagumon down and twiddled his thumbs. Choosing his words carefully, he avoided Matty's friendly blue gaze out of sheer nervousness. Pagumon nudged his leg and urged him to speak. His question was mumbled and soft; Matty almost didn't hear him.

"So, like. I was walking home on the night I got Pagumon's Digi-Egg and before that, I stopped in Haven Square and saw the news update." He stopped to make sure Matty was paying attention and continued at a faster pace when he saw the young man was listening expectantly.

"Well, they said Holy Angemon was sending out acceptance letters to the recruits that had applied and all of that because ALIAS is low on manpower. I figured that's why I got my letter and everything but I gotta know." Out of breath, he blurted, "Why'd you choose me?"

Stunned, Matty took a step back and scratched his head in thought. "Wow," he frowned.

"That's kind of a hard question for me to answer." At this, Alex's face fell.


"But, hey," he offered in a jolly attempt at lifting spirits, "Datamon has access to all the records from here. After this first lesson, you and I'll go check 'em out and see why, okay?" The boy allowed himself a small smile. Matty grinned. "Knew that'd sound good."

He sat cross-legged on the soft green grass and motioned for Alex to do the same. From his pocket he produced a purple-bodied D-Cipher with black edges. He turned it on and showed the screen to Alex, who took out his own D-Cipher and compared the two.

"This is the home screen." The home screen consisted of a blue background with a swirl design emblazoned with the Union sigil. There were six icons on it, three on either side: a folder with a blue card coming out of it, a phonebook, a circle marked with the cardinal directions and a red arrow pointing north, a CD-ROM with a pixilated blue dinosaur in the center, a miniature monster standing beside three progress bars, and a black sphere surrounded by lines of binary code.

"In order, those icons are the Card Folder, Phonebook, Tracker, Digimon Analyzer, Statistics Page, and Digicore. This lesson centers on the Digicore so touch it and we'll get started." The Digicore icon bounced when touched and expanded. A large black circle overtook the screen, a brilliant white dot in its middle. Five slowly rotating rings radiated outward from the dot, three of them grayed out. The smallest one closest to the center glowed deep lavender, the same color as Pagumon, and the one just outside it was only a third of the way finished. Looking closer, Alex saw the purple ring was actually a ring of what he recognized as DigiCode, the language of the Digital World.

Matty dove into explaining the basics of the Digicore screen. To digivolve, a Digimon must first upload data into its body, whether that data comes from a defeated adversary or from the environment. Alex listened on, suppressing the urge to flinch at the mention of combat. Matty went on to say that most of the data uploaded is used to meet the size requirements of the Digimon's new form but a small portion of it that he called "gene data" was integrated into the Digimon's core and, by extension, it's unique digital coding. Gene data is what dictates the potential new forms a Digimon could digivolve into.

"Machine, Dragon, Aquatic, Beast, Bird, Holy, Dark, Insect/Plant and Human. Those are the nine gene data types. Vaccine, Data, and Virus are the three attribute data types. When specific types are placed in the right amounts and sequences within the Digicore, it triggers digivolution into a form most suited towards the kinds of data within the core. Understand so far?"

"It sounds simple enough."

"Maybe to you," said Pagumon. "I'm totally lost!"

"Don't worry," laughed Lopmon. "It's a lot simpler than it sounds."

"That center dot on the screen represents your Digimon Partner's Baby form," continued Matty. "The ring just outside that is his Baby II form." He looked at Alex and asked, "He's a Pagumon now. What was he when he hatched?"

"A Botamon, I think," Alex replied with a thoughtful look. "I'm not too sure," he admitted, "I've never spent much time around baby Digimon. I just know he was a black fuzz ball with yellow eyes."

"Yep, that's a Botamon," Lopmon answered giggling. "Matty, continue."

"Right. The ring outside the Baby II ring is the Child form, which we'll be unlocking today. Simple enough, seeing as all ya need's one part size data, one part gene data, and one part attribute data. Touch the Child ring and you should have data packets pop up for ya."
Alex touched the ring and the screen blocked out the others to focus on it. It started to rotate clockwise and in the empty spaces where the other rings were appeared various symbols such as the head of a beast, a proud dragon, and a silver cross. Curious, he touched the green beast head symbol and his interest grew when a green double helix popped out of it. The spinning helix grew and became a column of paired DigiCode letters on the right edge of the screen. Most of the pairs had no compliment and most sections were missing entirely.

Matty grinned, his eyes shining in amusement.

"Here's the part that trips most of the newbies up. Tap the areas where code is missing and try to finish the gene segment. Tapping cycles through the bases. It's like a DNA puzzle game and –"

"I finished."

"Wow, that was fast," Pagumon and Lopmon chorused.

"What?" Alex showed Matty his D-Cipher and to the older boy's amazement, Alex had solved the Beast Data gene segment like it was nothing. The young Tamer dragged the genome into the grayed out circle where it joined with the third of size data and took up the next third of the ring. "Well, I'll be a baboon's uncle."

Alex shifted in place and smiled shyly. "I've always been good at puzzle games," he mumbled.

"Don't be shy about it, mate." Matty checked the screen to make sure he wasn't seeing things. "Damn. That's some real talent there; go on and finish."

Alex took his deck of cards out of his pocket and shuffled through them before finding the one he wanted: a Gazimon card. Presenting it to Matty, he said, "Gazimon was my favorite card. You think maybe I could get Pagumon to turn into him?"

"You're in luck," said Matty. "Pagumon have many different possible forms but Gazimon is the most common one. All ya need there is Virus data and you're done. A white square with a black "Vi" produced a black helix that Alex was told to place right into the ring.

"Attribute data doesn't need to be decoded," explained Lopmon. "You should be ready now." The data icons disappeared from the screen, replaced by silhouettes in the center of the newly formed ring. Alex used the selection ring on the D-Cipher to cycle through them, each lighting up when he stopped to see them. There were only three choices: a rotund purple Digimon with large bat wings growing out of it, a furry frog-like creature with black spines running down its back and a creature covered in thick dull gray fur possessing oversized front claws and ruby red eyes like Pagumon's.

Pagumon shoved his face in front of the screen. "Is that what I'm gonna turn into?"

Without a word, Alex touched the Gazimon on the screen and the newly coded ring became an iridescent white. It returned to the main Digicore screen and settled itself in and for a moment nothing happened. Then Pagumon began to shiver and glow as a crystalline black orb engulfed him. Green letters flashed rapidly one after the other on the screen and from within the D-Cipher, a woman's voice spoke the word they spelled out:


Pagumon digivolve to…!

One week later
October 24th

"This is a message from ALIAS to the citizens of South Haven: A bio-emergence is in progress. Please exit the Digital Zone and move to the outside of the barricade. I repeat, please move exit the Digital Zone and…"

The droning voice of the riot officer over the megaphone barely registered to the young agents. They had better things to think about like which cards to use and what attack patterns they remembered well enough to execute. Hearts pumped faster, muscles tensed, and fingers twitched all in anticipation of what was to come. Inside the Digital Zone was a Digimon making the jump from its world to the Real World and ready or not, it was the Tamer's job to fight. Vincent, Alex and their partners stood just at a three-way intersection under the elevated train tracks awaiting orders as people exhibiting varying degrees of alarm poured out of a massive eerily perfect dome of fog covering six square blocks of the Metro District. People moved around the young ALIAS agents and their overseer like they were a raging river and the boys a boulder in their path.

As always, Flamedramon's visage betrayed nothing of his emotions. He was still as a statue. Vincent was the picture of confidence standing tall and brave amidst shouts and murmurs and orders to evacuate. Beside him, Hawkmon flapped his arms to stay aloft and scanned through the fog with his sharp eyes. Next to them were Alex and Gazimon looking comparatively more nervous. Alex, wide-eyed and jittery, fiddled with his D-Cipher and muttered under his breath in a vain attempt at calming down. Gazimon, however, showed no signs of fear; his fur stood on end and he scratched at the ground grinning widely. This was Alex's first mission after a full week of basic training. Matthias and the others had assured him that he had the necessary tools to succeed but, ever the doubter, Alex wasn't so sure of himself. Gazimon had been there to try and bolster his spirits but nothing could get past the boy's paranoia that something would go wrong.

Vince looked at Alex, shivering in place chanting, and then at Flamedramon. He frowned.
"You really think he should be out here?" he asked, voice full of concern. He hardly knew the other boy but seeing anyone act as scared as the new recruit was now made him worry.
"He's shaking like a leaf. I know," said Flamedramon. Claws flexed. His tail straightened. "But don't forget; he was chosen by Holy Angemon just like you were. He wouldn't have if he didn't think the kid could do it."

Vincent cast Alex another look. "Yeah," he began, "but…"

"I'll be fine," Alex insisted, having caught every word. The anxiety had amplified his perception so much he felt like he could see and hear everything.

"Are you sure?" asked Hawkmon.

"We're sure," he and Gazimon answered.

"I'll be fine. I'll be fine. I'll be fine." Alex chanted his mantra to nobody but himself. He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly through his nose. Thankfully, his shivering stopped. "I'll be fine. I can't disappoint Dad." With that thought, he sank into a memory.

"You're a special case,"Holy Angemon had said a week ago with an edge of curiosity. Matthias and Lopmon had finished training and led Alex and a slightly battered Gazimon into the Control Room, a large alcove filled with complex machines surrounding a huge monitor and console. A small robot with extendible hands by the name of Datamon ran the room and was grumbling over the fact that there were new people in it. Datamon had not come off as the most sociable person. The archangel Digimon had Datamon pull up Alex's profile from the ALIAS database and went on.

"When I first saw your file, I was going to just skip over it. You didn't seem like the type to want to do something like this.

"That's because I'm not." The waning buzz from Gazimon's digivolution and learning to use the D-Cipher coupled with Holy Angemon's stoic and commanding presence had forced the boy back into the shell of his meek demeanor.

"I never signed up. So why choose me?"

"That's something I wouldn't mind knowin' either, boss," Matthias chimed in, uncharacteristically serious.

"He's four years under the minimum age for applicants, too. We should probably be sending him home," Lopmon added.

Holy Angemon said nothing for a moment and took the console controls away from an unwilling Datamon. He opened a letter attached to Alex's forged application and gestured to it. Alex read it and came away with a positively gobsmacked expression. The note was hardly a paragraph long but its contents were unimportant. It was the signature at the bottom that caught the boy's eye.

"To whom it may concern:

I am submitting this application to Holy Angemon of the South Haven ALIAS branch as a formal request. I am not Alexei Evans but I do this in his name and for his benefit. This boy is meek and shy and not the best at forming bonds. I feel this is entirely my fault. But you must understand that, due to unfortunate circumstances beyond my control, I cannot be there to teach him the things a growing boy like him needs to learn. I cannot teach him honor or courage or integrity or the importance of one's friends. You can only imagine how painful that is for me, not being able to be there for him.

So I'm calling in that favor, Holy Angemon. I'm sending you a DigiEgg and a D-Cipher programmed just for him. Teach him to use the device and how to bond with the Digimon inside the egg. Teach him to be brave and stand on his own two feet. I want him to grow up into a fine lad and, seeing as how I can't be there to do it, I entrust this task to you, old friend. Please, teach Alex how to be a man. I'm counting on you.


Mikhail Altukhov"

"Alex, it's coming!" Gazimon's shout tore the memory from Alex's eyes. Frantically, he looked around; Flamedramon had dropped into a battle stance, Hawkmon hovered protectively above Vincent, who had a hand of five cards in his right hand and his red and gold D-Cipher in the other.

"It's starting!" Flamedramon barked. "Get ready!"

Alex gripped his own D-Cipher and held it to his chest like a crucifix. Like a lost memento from someone dear to him. He stopped shaking as best he could. He steeled his nerves and took a deep breath. "This is it."

"Partner." Gazimon's ruby red eyes gave him a calm stare. "Are you ready?" There it was again, the boy thought. That look Gazimon would give him that reminded him they'd grown closer.

"As I'll ever be," was his sincere answer.

A hundred feet away from the group materialized a wireframe arranged in the shape of a human man and a glowing red orb. Data coalesced around it, innumerable bits of light flowing into the orb, the Digicore. From the core outward spread skin that burst into burnt-gold flame in an instant. Two white eyes shining bright as stars cut through the fog. What followed them was groaning as if the figure the eyes belonged to had a headache. The groans grew louder and exploded into a full blown roar of anguish that echoed through the now empty block. A whoosh of flame and the temperature spiked as the figure stalked towards them moaning like a zombie. Alex suppressed a scream the man made of fire stopped and stared them down.

"Meramon," Gazimon said somehow knowing the name of their adversary.

"Great," spat Flamedramon. "Can't use my fire."

"Alex, cover me and Hawkmon, alright?" Vince ordered. "Don't let it leave the Digital Zone."

"Got it." Alex took one last steadying breath and ordered Gazimon forward. The little beast charged with the other Digimon on his tail; Meramon howled and stoked his body's flames. The battle was on.

Time to be a man.