Oh boy… This should be interesting. What the heck am I thinking, putting up part of yet another series…? …Oh yeah, I wanted to get the concept down before I forgot it, and see what others thought of it. Eh-he…

So here we go with the disclaimers and warnings, then: First off, and most importantly, I do not own the rights to Digimon. Hey, Azulongmon knows I'd make certain they actually released unedited versions of the series, and especially the movies!

Also, there will be more than a few references to various songs from the Digimon series (as most of you probably deduced from the working title…). The lyrics quotes were found unless otherwise noted at animelyrics.com, a very nice resource site. Also, Megchan's Digimon Encyclopedia (http://www.megchan.com/digimon/) was and will be used as a reference for information regarding digimon who haven't been on the show that much.

This would be another Alternate Universe-type deal, another product of my overactive imagination… Only this one's a bit more removed than most. Let me make this clear right from the start: These are not the Digimon we know from the series. This is a completely different universe/reality, and not one that would exactly allow for the show characters to be putting in appearances – especially not certain characters that tend to be focused on in the vast majority of Digimon fanfiction. You'll understand what exactly that means soon enough…

Oh, you'll see all the old standbys, like Agumon, Veemon, Guilmon, Gomamon and the like, but not the same ones we know and love from the series. These are completely different individuals, with new personalities, new backgrounds – and, in more than a few cases, new genders. (Those of you who thought female digimon got more or less screwed in the series, rejoice, 'cause there's a bit more balance in the rosters in this reality.)

If any of you happen to have read one of my other AU series, you should be familiar with the basic rule. If not, I'll repeat it here: if you're a traditionalist who is easily upset by the slightest tweak to the established, 'official storyline' (and we all know how many different 'official storylines' and universes they have now), then leave now or forever hold your flames. I will listen to constructive criticism, not whining about how much things have changed in this world from the reality you're used to.

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In another reality, the war between humans and digimon as the two worlds merged into one played out in a very different fashion. Those defending Earth were too cocky, gravely misjudging the new beings that now shared their world… seeing them as an inferior race, one they could easily dominate. The bond between 'partners' became twisted and corrupted, the humans treating their digimon as little more than slaves to do their bidding. Few recognized the truth of what the partnership was supposed to represent… and their protests were lost, ignored until it was far too late.

By the time people recognized that Digimon were far more than just a silly game, there was no changing the dire fate they had inadvertently written for themselves.

The conflict that followed was not so much a war as it was a rout: humankind was vastly outclassed by the digimon, who possessed powers far beyond their capabilities. Without any of the digital monsters fighting on their side – for all those who might once have sympathized with the humans were either dead or had their loyalty beaten out of them by those they should have been able to trust – there was no hope left for mankind.

Countless years have passed since that final struggle for dominance.

Humans are now little more than a memory, existing only in tales and myths told to children.

Digimon have become the dominant species – about the only species left in the merged worlds.

However, there are relics left over from ancient times… Items of power rumored to allow even the weakest of digimon exposed to them the ability to digivolve… That gives strength to anyone who can find them and learn the secrets to unlocking their power.

Naturally, rumors of such treasures have attracted the attention of many different digimon, from all levels and all walks of life. Some seek power. Others knowledge and a better understanding of their shadowed and forgotten past. Some simply want adventure, the thrill of venturing into the unknown and discovering wonderful things.

Of course, there are those who would prefer some things remained buried, lost, tucked away where there is no chance of those who might interfere with the current order could ever use them against them.

A group of Rookies are about to find themselves drawn into a growing conflict concerning the lost artifacts of power… And once again, the young adventurers will discover that what many of them consider at first to be a game is actually a vicious war.

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Level 01: Our War Game's Starting Point

Several pairs of clawed hands scraped tiny furrows along a moss-covered stone wall, the eager efforts converging on one particular spot. In the approximate center of where the majority of the scratch marks crossed, one could occasionally catch glimpses of something flickering as it briefly reflected the wavering torchlight that illuminated the otherwise darkened cavern. The same flame cast dancing shadows over the three small figures hunched around the buried object as they feverishly worked.

"Hey, be careful!" one of the trio cried out, even as he raked already grubby white claws over the gradually yielding rock. "We don't wanna break it, ya know!"

"You should talk!" another shot back, crimson eyes narrowing slightly behind their protective covering. Shaking his dirt-caked fingers off briefly in a half-hearted, futile effort to get some of the dust off, he then returned to his task, adding, "'Sides, ya think it'd really break, if it's s'pposed to be so powerful…?"

The first shrugged slightly, never letting up on his task. The last of the trio, sitting between his bickering companions, paused just long enough to spare each one a worried glance.

"Ah-ah, don't fight," he whined. "Can't we just work on finding out what this thing is…?"

"But we're pretty sure we already know what it is…" the second muttered.

"I know! That's why I wanna see it!"

That simple declaration, made with all the conviction of an eager child longing to see his birthday surprise, was enough to quell the argument completely as the trio quickly refocused on the task before them. Two pairs of thick white claws and one pair of claw-tipped sapphire fingers once more pushed away dirt and rubble, slowly exposing more of the mysterious object to the torchlight.

Pleased grins spread over three dirt-streaked faces, and finally the one in the center reached out and carefully pried their treasure from the weakened stone, which gave way just enough for him to lift it out. Cradling the tiny object in his claws, he was vaguely aware of each of his companions placing one of their hands on the one that grasped the precious trinket.

In a sudden, unified moment that seemed almost automatic, the trio of digimon absently reached up with their free hands and shoved their protective goggles back onto their foreheads, exposing their shining and awe-filled eyes.

The protective eyewear each of the three wore were actually more than simple pieces of clothing. The young Rookies had picked them out some time ago, as a symbol of their everlasting friendship and the promises they had made to one another – to seek out adventure wherever they could find it.

The three goggles were not exactly the same make, however.

The goggles that Agumon wore, for example, had been customized slightly to make certain they would fit snugly over his bright green eyes. The black center strap was extended so that it wouldn't snap whenever he slid them into place – the orange reptile did have a somewhat wide face, after all. The rest of the strap was embroidered on the edges with blue and yellow, two of his favorite colors.

Meanwhile, although Veemon's goggles were of a very similar make, with wide, round lenses and a base black strap, they had also been fitted so that they wouldn't catch on the small dragon's horns. The sapphire-scaled digimon also wore a colorful bandana round his forehead, with vivid orange-red flames standing out on the yellow fabric. When his goggles were in their normal position, the reflection of the design seemed to dance in the curved lenses.

As for Guilmon, the crimson dinosaur sitting between his two friends with their treasure still resting in the palm of one clawed hand, he had ended up with a design that was starkly different to the ones they wore. The blue-tinted lenses were set in a bright yellow casing, one that set off his wide golden eyes. The simple black strap looped around underneath his webbed ears, having been designed to fit quite comfortably whether they were in their normal position shoved up on his forehead or pulled into place.

Of course, now that they had been moved away one could clearly see outlines of where they had once rested, thanks to the dust and grime that coated the rest of the three Rookies' exposed faces. The only clean areas that remained were circles around their eyes.

Their rather filthy state did not faze any of the trio in the slightest, however. Their attention was solely for the precious object they had managed to uncover and free from its stone tomb.

The device was small, resting easily in the center of Guilmon's palm. It was shaped somewhat like a flat oval, with curved indents on each side. Three large oval buttons graced the front, one positioned to the left and the other two on the right of the screen in the very center. That screen was currently darkened, a blank rectangle that displayed nothing, yet three pairs of eyes were fixed wonderingly on its smooth surface.

"So… This is one of the old items of power…" Agumon breathed, verdant eyes filling with excitement.

"A digivice…" added Veemon, equal awe and eagerness lighting his scarlet eyes.

Guilmon blinked, then cocked his head slightly to one side, studying the precious object they had unearthed.

"…It's… kinda small, isn't it?" he piped uncertainly.

"Guilmon!" his companions chorused in mild exasperation.

Privately, however, each one silently agreed at least a bit with the red dino's statement. After all, all three had been raised – along with the rest of their generation, and countless generations before – listening to the countless legends and myths surrounding the supposed 'artifacts of power'.

According to the old tales, there were several relics from some long-ago conflict scattered all across their world: items that, when their true power was unleashed, gave tremendous amounts of energy and strength to their wielders – enabling even the weakest digimon to digivolve into some higher form.

There were various types of these items as well, and – if the legends were to be believed – the object they now possessed was supposed to be one such artifact: a digivice.

The trio of wanna-be bold adventurers now held in their grubby, dirt-covered little hands something that could very well be the key to the epic journey they had been hoping for their entire lives…

"So…How do we turn it on?" queried Guilmon, lifting the little device and peering at it.

Agumon and Veemon both shrugged, blank expressions on their faces.

…Provided they got past this little roadblock first.

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While the trio continued to attempt and figure out the secret to activating their new prize, some distance away, another young digimon was busy enjoying another beautiful afternoon – even though she wasn't directly under the clear blue skies.

Instead, blue of another kind surrounded the Rookie, and the sun's gentle rays crested the surface of the sea with glittering silver, and pierced the clear waters just enough to illuminate her already breathtaking surroundings, further brightening her world.

The smile that adorned the youngster's face was just as bright as she wove her way with an effortless grace through the familiar surroundings, darting through natural coves and twisting underwater formations.

Sunlight streamed through the water to dapple her snow-white fur, further highlighting the violet markings on her face, back, ears and flippers. Fiery crimson hair drifted in rippling currents around her beaming face, a few briefly obscuring sea-green eyes that twinkled with laughter.

Yes, Gomamon decided with a delighted giggle as she flipped backwards once in the water, Today is definitely another perfect day to go exploring.

Her giggling became a touch more mischievous at that moment: the seal digimon knew full well that she wasn't really supposed to be swimming around here like this. By all rights, the little Rookie should have been back with the marine group she swam with, following the instructions the higher evolved sea digimon gave her like a good little girl.

Then again, she wasn't exactly the perfect little Marine Angemon, now was she?

Truth was, Gomamon found the school so boring: the elder digimon were always pressuring her to excel, always pushing her too hard… And they all acted so overprotective, practically smothering her all the time.

Why, the last time she had been caught going on one of her little explorations, they had been so shook up that the little white seal found herself being watched constantly – even more than was usual for the paranoid fools – for almost three entire weeks! It had taken some serious work (as well as a few well-timed pranks and other cunning tricks) to get the higher-leveled digimon to lower their guard enough for her to slip away again.

Why did they always have to baby her so much – act like she wasn't capable of taking care of herself? Sure, Gomamon was forced to admit that her primary ability – summoning her friends the amazing magical marching fishies – wasn't exactly the most threatening technique a digimon could possess, but hey! A little cunning and creativity in their use could work wonders…

Besides, Gomamon had never even really seen any real threats in the ocean. For all she knew, there weren't any horrible digimon in the area – or even in the water ever. The only Virus type she recalled meeting was a little Betamon, another Rookie who hadn't ever done anything to harm her. In fact, the two had made pretty fast friends, perhaps in part because neither had much of a chance to interact with those their own level.

'Course, that got ruined pretty fast when ol' Whamon showed up and chased him off, recalled Gomamon with a frown that soon became a stubborn pout. They never let me have any friends my own level…

Well, she'd show them that they couldn't control her. Nobody told a Gomamon what to do and got away with it.

Sea-green eyes flickered down to the small medallion hanging firmly around her neck, and Gomamon smiled proudly. She'd had the pendant ever since she was a Fresh level Pitchmon: a memento of the family she was too young to remember, one she'd come to regard as a good-luck charm of sorts. From what she had learned from her would-be 'guardians', it had been passed down through her line for some time, though she wasn't certain just how long.

The most important thing was that it was hers, a link to the lost family she wished she could have known, and something nobody could ever take from her.

Taking a moment more to admire the familiar engraving – a cross with four triangular beams of light surrounding it, engraved on a smooth pearl surface and tucked safely into a golden holder – Gomamon then continued swimming forward through the clear waters.

If somebody had informed the white seal that she would one day come to regret hiding from her guardians, Gomamon would have giggled wildly and blithely informed them just how silly a concept that was. Why would she ever have reason to regret leaving those overbearing, overprotective, overgrown worrywarts behind?

She had no way of knowing at that point just how radically her life would change, or how much of that would be due to the simple-looking trinket hanging round her neck…

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Sapphire blue eyes scanned over bustling streets, seeking the familiar glint of light off lenses that was so easy to spot from her vantage point. Pink-feathered wings filled with the cool spring breeze, bearing the searcher's small avian body along as she looked for any sign of the ones she was looking for. Their unique choice of headgear usually made it much simpler to locate them – provided they were in the area.

Since she couldn't catch any sight of them, she knew that they weren't around.

A disgusted sigh came from the little bird digimon as she grudgingly swept in for a landing. While she had a pretty good idea of where those three had run off to, she wasn't about to waste any more time going after them.

The metal bracelet on her left leg jingled softly as Biyomon alighted on the ground, the various charms she had attached to it swinging against one another. She glanced down absently, quickly reassuring herself she hadn't lost any of the simplistic trinkets.

There wasn't really any cause for her to worry, as she had clipped the little decorations on in such a way there was virtually no chance of any coming off because of her normal routines. The colorful charms were shaped like the familiar glyphs reported to be printed on the mystical lost 'crests' – hers held no power, of course, simple jewelry crafted to capture the imagination of children who followed the old stories.

Biyomon only wore the things because she liked the pretty designs, and thought they made the otherwise simple band of metal she wore a bit more attractive. So far, she had only bought two: a red, swirling heart and a pink eight-pronged star, patterned after the ancient symbols for Love and Light, respectively.

She was also thinking of saving up to buy the blue yin-yang-like symbol for Friendship, feeling it might match the highlights on the tips of her tail and feathered crest.

Certainly not because she bought into those silly tales of lost items of powers and forgotten civilizations, naturally! Biyomon considered herself far too old to believe those Fresh tales…

Unfortunately, she noted with another long-suffering sigh, so many certain other Rookies choose to trust in those simple fables…

"Hey-yyy, B-ko!"

Looking up at the sound of her nickname, Biyomon smiled and waved back at the pair of Rookie digimon scurrying toward her.

"Hello, P-chan!" she shot back at the one who had called to her.

Palmon frowned in mock anger, doing her best to look put out by the remark. Then the plant digimon burst into giggles, her own charms tinkling where they were clipped to the pink sash wrapped round her neck. She carried one shaped as the teardrop of Purity and Sincerity, in addition to another Light starburst.

"So, have you had any luck tracking the boys down yet?" she inquired, liquid green eyes still dancing with merriment even as she calmed down.

Biyomon, however, only shook her head, her frustration returning at the mention of the three she'd been searching for.

"Those empty goggle heads? Still haven't found them yet." Her blue eyes hardened as she added, "But I have a pretty good feeling I know where they're at…"

"Still scrounging through those old caves, eh?" Palmon shook her head. "Ah well. They'll come back soon enough…"

"Yeah, when they don't find anything," griped Biyomon, rolling her eyes. "When are they gonna learn they're wasting their time chasing after those silly legends?"

Palmon's smile faded slightly, and the plant digimon looked somewhat miffed at the rose bird's comment. Just because Biyomon didn't believe in the ancient tales didn't mean that her friends agreed completely with her… Still, being used to Biyomon's occasionally blunt attitude, she quickly bounced back to her normal cheery grin.

"Anyway, what say we go shopping to pass the time, 'stead of waiting for 'em to come back?" she suggested eagerly.

Biyomon glanced at her, momentarily torn. Part of her wanted to go find the boys and berate them for their foolishness, but they'd have to come slinking back before dark, after all, and she could chew them out then…

"…Okay, let's go," she relented with a smile.

"Do you think Vee will be alright?" piped up the other digimon who had come with Palmon suddenly, catching their attention.

Biyomon frowned slightly at the worry in her friend's quavering tone: it seemed that whenever the almost painfully shy Wormmon did speak up, it was invariably out of concern for somebody else. And that concern was typically over the green larva digimon's elder half-brother, Veemon. The fact that the blue dragon child went traipsing around on his foolish 'adventures' without any regard for his weaker sibling… Well, it was just another reason that Biyomon despised the goggle trio's stupid antics.

Palmon placed one leafy arm over Wormmon's back reassuringly, a sympathetic smile on the weed Rookie's face.

"Hey, don't worry about it," she instructed, smiling her crooked grin. "You know full well Vee's perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Anything gets in his way, he'll just Vee Punch it out of his path!"

She swung her other arm in a mock punch to illustrate her point, and was rewarded by seeing her friend relax. While Wormmon's pincher mouth didn't look like it was capable of much expression, Palmon could tell she was starting to smile in her own little way from the way her blue eyes began to brighten.

"Feh. That doofus'll probably 'Vee Head Butt' a wall or somethin' and get himself and his friends buried alive."

Wormmon's slow smile instantly froze, and her bright blue eyes widened with alarm at the caustic declaration. A visible shudder ran through her small frame.

Palmon bit back an angry curse at seeing her friend's mood drop back into worry and fear again, and glared over at the cause. Biyomon also grimaced: as if things weren't bad enough with the boys running off again, the last thing she needed was to deal with her right now…

Turning around, her cobalt eyes narrowed as they met and locked with laughing jaden orbs. Just beneath the dark green eyes, one corner of a thin mouth quirked upward in a smug smirk, exposing one tiny fang. Thin arms clad in crimson gloves crossed over a purple chest, mostly covering the toothy grin of a demonic smiley face.

"I take it for granted those losers ditched you gals again to go on one 'a their little 'quests'?" inquired Impmon, her long spiked tail swishing from side to side idly.

Biyomon didn't bother to answer the demon Rookie's question. It was obvious from the other's smirk that she knew full well where the three boys were. Instead, the bird fluffed out her rose feathers slightly, making it even clearer that she didn't consider the other welcome here.

"Who says we want those idiots around us, anyway?" she spat. "We've got more important things to do than waste time listening to their stories."

Impmon's smirk merely widened, her green eyes glinting as she sized the pink avian up.

"So Agumon did stand you up then," she observed mildly, and was rewarded with an indignant squawk from her opponent.

"Did you even hear what I just said?"

"Loud and clear, sister," replied Impmon, her mocking tone letting the others know she had drawn her own conclusions from Biyomon's reactions.

The worst thing about it was that they were all fully aware of the fact she had guessed correctly. Indeed, Agumon was supposed to have been meeting Biyomon and the others, but there was little doubt that the orange reptile had convinced Veemon and Guilmon to sneak off to explore instead.

However, Biyomon wasn't about to admit the purple Virus was right. So instead, she settled for fixing Impmon with an icy glare while she struggled with her temper.

"I. Don't. Care. What you think," she hissed, her tone giving away the lie in that statement. "Palmon, Wormmon and I were just about to go get some nice shopping done. So if you're finished bothering us for no reason…"

"Who says seeing how red I can turn your feathers isn't reason enough for me?" sniped back Impmon, still smirking in her annoying fashion.

However, the violet demon abruptly bent at the knees and, in a fluid movement, leapt almost effortlessly from the street to a nearby tree branch. Landing easily on her new perch, she glanced back over her shoulder down at the three other females and winked.

"But if youse don't want me around, I suppose I can find some other way to entertain myself. Laterz!"

With that, Impmon turned and sprang off, disappearing from sight. Once the purple Rookie left, the three other girls glanced at one another and sighed in unison. It was all too clear to them where she was headed.

"Looks like the boys are 'bout to be getting a visitor, wherever they're at right now," observed Palmon mildly, sweatdropping. "Bet Vee'll get a kick out of that…"

"Mmm," agreed Wormmon with a nod, sweatdropping along with the weed Rookie.

"More like a fireball straight up his…" Biyomon muttered, shaking her head.

It was pretty common knowledge among the Rookies that Veemon had developed a huge crush on Impmon, for reasons that many of them couldn't quite fathom. Biyomon had a sneaking suspicion, however, that it had something to do with the little fact that the blue dragon tended to chase the tail of any female who so much as glanced his way.

Still, his pursuit of the violet demon seemed to be more constant: many of his crushes came and went with his short attention span, but for some reason he hadn't stopped fawning after Impmon. Maybe it was partly because the Virus had taken to amusing herself by toying with his emotions – those instances where she actually flirted with Veemon encouraging him despite the number of times she simply blasted him instead.

Biyomon shook her head, then smiled, a bit mean-spiritedly. Let the stupid goggle-heads deal with the fiery-tempered imp for now. It would be decent enough punishment for their truancy until they came slinking back – at which point she'd be free to tear into them herself. And she wouldn't let her talons out of Agumon's hide until he practically begged her for forgiveness.

Beaming at that thought, she spun to face her companions and slapped one wing playfully over Wormmon's back.

"So, what say we take you over to buy some charms like ours?" she stated more than suggested. "I bet we can find you some really cute ones!"

"Oh… But I-I couldn't… I don't have a lot of…"

"Momentai, Wormy!" chimed in Palmon merrily, slapping the stammering larva digimon on the back as well. "We'll pitch in ourselves! C'mon, how 'bout we get you a Light charm like ours, and you can pick out one you really like to go with it!"

Without waiting for a coherent reply, the bird and flower forced their flustered friend, trapped between their bodies, to stumble forward as they guided her to one of their favorite shops, chattering the whole way to drown out her helpless protests.

Yes, decided Biyomon as she glanced up at the brightly shining sun and continued planning out how they were going to spend the rest of the day, things are definitely looking better already…