Disclaimer: This work is for purely entertainment purposes and is not for profit. I do not own Digimon or any characters previously seen in Digimon. If anyone who does own Digimon sees this I am more than willing to help with the next season. Enjoy.

Chapter Twenty- Eight: Nightfall

The plateau where the Tamers made camp the first night they were back in the Digital world was, like the rest of that area, sparsely furnished. Three fallen logs served as seats while awake and pillows while sleeping. The Tamers made camp atop the plateau, making do with what was around. With the first step of the journey complete the complaining began.

"My feet hurt. Why do we have to do all this walking?" Suzie kicked her shoes off and sat on one of the logs.

Adman Hows wasn't with the group. He was pacing the perimeter. With him busy it was up to Shadowmon and the older Tamers to answer questions.

The dark fox appeared next to Suzie and told her, "I'm sorry your feet hurt, but that is how we get around here."

Suzie rubbed her tired feet. "I just expected more."

Ryo chuckled. "I know. I expected light cycles on my first trip here. We really should start a shuttle service of some kind."

Shadowmon missed the lightheartedness of Ryo's comment and replied honestly, "We'd have no way of refueling them. It'd be a waste of effort."

The dark Tamer sat down on a log with as much dignity as he could muster and removed his pack. His back was giving him fits. He took off his jacket and unsheathed his sword. With the blade positioned right he used the reflection to check his back. He slowly pulled up his shirt and frowned. His back was completely purple in places. His back wasn't broken, but the blows he'd received from the Goblimon had caused some internal bleeding. If it weren't for his hybrid nature such problems without medical attention could prove disasterous. In his position Adman was still in need of aid. He'd need to break out his medical kit.

Adman was interrupted by Rika kicking his shoe gently. "Feeling any better?"

He cracked a smile and quickly covered his back. "I won't lie, Miss Nonaka. I've been better. Been a whole lot worse too, but you know."

Rika told him, "You look like hell. I'll get you Henry."

Adman shook his head. "I'm fine. I'll call him when I'm ready. Just leave me be right now. I love the companionship, but right now I'm a wounded animal. It's best to keep your distance."

Rika nodded. "Hey about that animal thing…"

Adman stopped her. "You're curious about my eyes thing aren't you? I'm sorry you had to see that. Lets keep it between the two of us. Call it a byproduct of the virus type data in my arm. The damn stuff runs throughout my body and reacts to emotions in a pretty tangible way. I always just consider it the virus side of me trying to get out. On the plus side it does make me slightly more durable. Otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation. If there aren't any other questions…"

Rika felt like she was being shooed away and it irritated her, but she felt like Adman's secrets weren't worth the effort. He was holding back, but she didn't care enough to demand more.

Ai walked around with a cellphone in the air.

Takato spotted her and nudged Henry. "You want to tell her that there's no service here or should I?"

Henry motioned for Takato to do the honors.

Takato walked over to Ai and asked, "What are you up to?"

Ai didn't look to Takato as she replied, "I'm trying to get reception so I can call my boyfriend and tell him I'm alright. For some reason I can't get one freakin' bar! Lame."

Takato sighed. "Uh Ai, I don't know how to tell you this, but you won't get reception. Nothing electronic works here."

Ai looked to Takato in utter confusion. "Wait. This is the DIGITAL world, right? Don't we have technology that sends phone calls over the internet? Shouldn't this work?"

Takato tried explaining it differently. "I had a heck of a time trying to get a PDA to work my first time here. Look around you. See any telephone lines? Even if this world didn't disrupt technology there'd be no cellphone towers to take the signal."

Ai frowned. "So no calls? Ever?"

Takato just shook his head.

Ai pocketed her phone. "So what do we do for fun?"

Suzie called over to the girl, "Hey Ai! Kenta, Ryo, and I are setting up a mahjong game. We need a fourth. Come join us!"

Takato gave the girl a nod.

Ai walked over to the trio. "How did you guys get this down here?"

Ryo explained, "Kenta packed it. Great idea, Kenta."

The four began playing a game.

Henry, Takato and Jeri sat in a circle and talked. Takato was uncharacteristically quiet.

Jeri finally noticed and asked, "Is everything alright, Takato?"

Takato nodded. "Yeah. I'm fine. Don't worry about me."

Henry could tell something was bothering him. "Alright, now do you want to tell us what's really going through your head?"

Takato sighed. He pulled out his handgun and set it on the ground in front of him gently. "I'd never shot anybody before today. I just… I know I had to do what I did, but still."

At that moment the dark Tamer called Henry over.

Henry told the group, "Sorry, but I have to go. Hopefully he finally wants medical attention."

Ryo had overheard from his game and called back, "He always wants attention."'

Takato ignored him.

Jeri held Takato's hand. "I'm sorry, Takato. You did the right thing though. Adman's alive because you, Rika and Ryo decided to help him. I know it's hard but…"

Takato stopped her. He gently replied, "That's the thing, Jeri. It wasn't hard at all for me to do what I did. It felt… natural. That's what scares me. For a second out there I was Gallantmon again. They were just enemies that I needed to strike down in order to defend my friends. What am I becoming?"

Jeri held Takato tighter. "Nothing. You're always going to be Takato."

Takato nodded. "I'm not sure if this is Adman's fault, or the Digital world's, or if it's just me. I just don't know."

Jeri was going to say something, but then she suddenly felt a rumbling in her stomach that signaled an emergency. "Excuse me. I need to talk to Rika."

Jeri ran over to Rika who in turn walked them both over to Adman.

Adman was still being worked on by Henry. Henry was injecting the dark Tamer with a yellow glowing liquid. It went into his right arm and caused great pain. Takato watched everything from a distance, but felt like he was better off leaving it alone.

Ryo sat down next to Takato, his game finished. "I heard your conversation with Jeri, and I have some advice. That is if you want to hear it."

Takato smiled weakly. "Ok."

Ryo told him, "Killing things isn't always hard, but regretting it is natural. We're Tamers, we take things out all the time, but we should try and find a better way. Take your pistol and try not using it again when a problem comes up. And if you do have to use it make sure you regret it. If you give a man a gun and he doesn't regret what he does with it…" Ryo motioned over to Adman, who was just putting his gloves back on. "Then you get that."

At that point Ryo noticed Shadowmon nearby and said, "No offense."

Shadowmon shrugged. "I'm in complete agreement with you. Some people shouldn't have weaponry, but you try taking it away from him."

At that moment Rika walked back to the rest of the group with a small shovel and a roll of toilet paper. Jeri was following behind her, looking distressed.

Rika called out, "Does anyone need to use the bathroom?"

Kazu raised his hand, but Rika shot him a look. "Any girls need to go to the bathroom. Adman will take the guys down later."

Ai and Suzie went with Rika and Jeri.

Shadowmon stood up too. "I'm their way down. I have escort duty, so if you'll excuse me."

With the girls gone Henry returned to the group. Adman was left to clean his gun. Kazu walked over to talk to the dark Tamer.

Ryo told Takato, "Hey guess what? Adman gave me a position just under you. I'm next in his 'chain of command'."

Takato felt that was a strange move. "But you disobeyed him just like Rika and I."

"He hasn't yelled at any of us about it."

Takato knew Ryo was right on that. "It still seems odd though. I mean I don't really trust him, and you aren't his biggest fan either."

Ryo suggested, "Maybe he's trying to convince us."

Takato nodded. "That's probably it."

Ryo smiled and relaxed in his spot. "Or maybe he really does think we're the best people to lead the group. There is always that possibility."

Henry sat down between the two and interrupted. "Takato, I stole something from Adman's medical kit. You wouldn't believe the stuff I just put into his arm. Electrified data of some kind! Even he was doubled over in pain by it."

Takato brought him down to a whisper. "What did you get?"

Henry set down a small box filled with assorted pill bottles. "He's got an awful lot here so I figured I'd take a closer look."

Ryo replied, "A tranquilizer would do Adman good."

Takato was more focused. "What is he taking?"

Henry opened it up. "Let's see. Most of this is multivitamins. Calcium, beta-carotene, a multivitamin, and stuff like that. What else?"

Ryo was engaged now. "There's more? That sounds like a lot already."

Takato suggested, "Maybe it takes that much to keep his body in shape."

Henry kept looking. Then he stifled a laugh.

Takato asked, "What?"

Henry explained, "These two are male enhancement drugs."

Ryo smirked too. "You mean like Viagra?"

Henry shook his head. "No. Like the rest of this stuff it's a daily supplement. For stamina and growth, I think. Apparently he needs a little help."

An agitated voice behind the trio got them all to jump. "You don't have to need it to be improved by it."

Adman had snuck up on the three. He looked the three over and then sat among them. "You should have invited me to this character assassination. I'd have a few things to say. Hey doc, isn't this stuff supposed to be confidential?"

Henry was going to say something, but Adman stopped him. "Go ahead. By all means, finish. There's one that I have a feeling you'll want an explanation."

Henry looked at the last bottle and read the label. "But that's… why would you need that?"

Adman grinned.

Takato asked, "What is it?"

Adman answered for Henry, "It is an antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia. To answer your next question no, I do not have schizophrenia."

Henry began to ask, "But why…?"

Adman cut him off. "This is the medication I take when I travel to the Digital world. The supplements give my body the nutrients that aren't readily restored here. The antipsychotic I find helps with the lack of sleep."

Henry was astounded. "That's not what its intended for. This goes beyond self-medicating. This is dangerous."

Adman shrugged. "I find it takes the edge off. You don't need to sleep in the Digital world. The body can handle it, but the mind can't. It requires rest after a while just to recharge. I find these reduce the negative side effects from not sleeping. I recommend you all add it to your regiment if you plan on pulling multiple all nighters. In conclusion, I'm not insane and you guys shouldn't steal my meds. Get some sleep, gentlemen."

He took the pill box back and walked away.

Takato looked to Ryo. "What just happened? Did we get scolded, schooled, or what?"

Henry told Takato, "I think that was a warning."

Takato drank from a water bottle. He, Kazu, Kenta, Ryo and Henry were sorting through the food each of them had brought for the trip while they conversed.

Kazu told the group, "I'm betting ten to one that the assassins after us are Digimon. I mean think about it. What else could bring down partnered Digimon?"

Takato remembered how Hypnos had brought down a DarkLizardmon. "A government agency. Trust me."

Ryo nodded. "He's right. I mean Hypnos managed to capture all our Digimon without killing them. Imagine what they could do if they came in full force."

Henry objected. "Yeah, they can, but why? The Tamers aren't a threat to them. Digimon haven't been an issue for a long time. This threat is supposedly killing us too."

Kazu spoke up, "See that's why I think it's a Digimon army. Like the Dark Masters or something."

Takato chuckled. "You're such a nerd."

Kazu retorted, "Hey you knew exactly what I was talking about, so go ahead and tell me how much of a nerd I am. The point is this: We kicked the D-reaper's ass. We've tossed Sovereigns around. We're big cheeses in the Digital world. If anything wanted to get to Earth and take over they'd have to get through us. That'll be a lot easier if we're all dead."

Henry shivered. "It's scary how that actually makes sense. But how could Digimon get through Yamaki's firewall? Or Adman's for that matter? And even if they could wouldn't they show up on the Hypnos systems? I mean don't they monitor for stuff like that?"

Takato looked over to Kenta, who hadn't put any input into the conversation. "What's your opinion, Kenta?"

Kenta shook his head. "I don't have an opinion. As far as I'm concerned I'm just here to get MarineAngemon back."

Kazu encouraged Kenta. "Great idea. Let's focus on our goals and forget about the possible death machines hunting us." There wasn't a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Takato nudged Ryo. "What did you bring?"

Ryo pulled an energy bar from his pocket. "This is the extent of the food I packed."

"Really travelling light, huh Ryo," said Kazu.

Takato added the energy bar to the pile. "So our options are impending invasion, or government assassinations."

Kenta mumbled, "Or some crazy nut with funding."

Takato looked over to Adman, who was sitting far away from the others. "Good point. I never would have though a single person could do something like that, but now…"

Henry lowered his voice. "There is one other possibility. Maybe Tamers aren't being hunted down. Maybe Adman made it all up to get us to come here."

Ryo told Henry, "There's no use in thinking about that one."

Everyone looked to Ryo.

Takato asked, "Why?"

Ryo replied casually, "Because he already has us. We're stranded in the Digital world, no rescue party is coming, and he's the guy with the gun, the Digimon, and our Digivices. If that's the case then whatever his plan is will probably happen. There's nothing we can really do about it."

Takato sighed. "So let's cross our fingers and hope that there really is something out there hunting us down and Adman is protecting us out of the goodness of his heart? Why do I feel so screwed?"

Ryo replied, "I don't think he means us any harm. Otherwise he could have just killed us once we crossed over."

Henry let out a low-pitched whine. "Why didn't you bring up these possibilities before we came here?"

Ryo told the group. "Here's what I think is going down. If Adman is trying to use us, and I'm not saying he is, but if… then he wants our Digimon. We're the only ones that can use our Digivices to track them down, so he'll at least need us that long. He won't let anything happen to us until then, and after that, when we get our Digimon, we'll at least have a fighting chance against him."

Kazu was the optimist of the group at the moment. "But that's if he's using us. What if he really is protecting us?"

Ryo smiled and broke the tension. "Then he's not the worst thing to worry about. I tell you one thing; I'd rather have him with us than against us."

Takato sighed. "How is it I'm twenty-three years old and I still feel like a little kid stuck between a rock and a hard place."


Kazu motioned to Rika, who was walking with purpose towards Takato, "I'd like to introduce you to your hard place. Just hope she doesn't find a rock. Or the hard place… will hit you… with a rock…"

Kenta patted Kazu on the knee. "You should have stopped earlier."

Kazu agreed. "Yeah, it's been a rough day."

Rika looked fairly angry. Takato was apparently the source of her displeasure.

Ryo stood up. "I'll handle this. Hey Pumpkin, why the look? We're all on the same team here."

Rika shoved Ryo aside. "Can it, Akiyama. Goggle-head, you shot Adman today!"

Takato laughed for just a moment. 'This? This is what she's angry at me about?'

Rika glared and Takato's laugh stopped short.

He tried to explain, "Hey he attacked us first! I was just protecting myself. And I really didn't mean to. The gun just sort of…went off."

Ryo asked Rika, "Why do you care? He's a tough guy. He's not dead."

Henry added in, "Rika, he's not what he seems. We checked his medications and…"

Rika stopped them. "I've heard all this. He told me not to say anything."

Kazu flippantly added, "Yet here you are."

Rika sighed and motioned to Takato. "You shoot him and he gives you the number two slot, "she looked to Ryo, "and you disobey him and get promoted too. What the hell?"

Kazu began chuckling. "Now that you phrase it like that it's pretty funny. He's a glutton for punishment. Maybe if I kick him in the balls I'll get the next slot."

Rika shot Kazu a glance. "Listen, you just need to take it easy on him, ok? He's not invincible. Have you seen his back?"

Ryo tilted his head. "Ok, Rika. I understand. He's done a lot for us and we should be thankful, but we just don't know much about the guy."

Kenta spoke up, "Have you even thanked him for the whole Goblimon thing?"

Rika hadn't. "No… I mean I saved him too. What? Why should I thank him?"

Kazu felt victorious. "Ah ha! There it is! You're not mad at Takato. You're mad at yourself because Adman took an ass whooping for you and you can't say thank you. That's not our problem. Go take your bad attitude somewhere else."

At that moment the event of nightfall occurred. Night in the Digital world was different from night on Earth. Instead of a slow progression of the sun setting darkness simply swept across the world instantaneously. The entire digital plain was cast into a darker version of itself in less than thirty seconds, like the flipping of a switch. They saw it coming a ways away.

Ai spotted it first. "What is that?!"

Takato saw it to. "I forgot about this."

Ryo called out to the group. "Nobody panic. This is normal."

It swept over them in an instant.

Suzie panicked. "What was that?! Can we start a fire?"

Henry tried comforting her. "Sure we can have a fire."

Adman called over stubbornly. "No fire!"

Henry was angry that Adman was forcing his sister to be scared. "What? Why?"

Adman was back into his normal demeanor. "Because in the Digital world we are no longer the top of the food chain. Fire attracts attention, especially from our height. I'll allow flashlights for short use, but no fire. I don't want to be fighting things off us all night because your sister is afraid of the dark."

Ryo stood up. "I'll stand guard with you. There's no reason the others should suffer because you're paranoid."

Suzie hated people arguing over her. "It's ok. I don't mind. My eyes are adjusting now. I can see better. The suddenness of it just spooked me, that's all."

Adman walked away. "Problem solved. Rika, leave the guys alone and follow me. We have things to discuss. Bring your sword."

Rika pointed to Kazu. "This isn't over."

Kazu taunted her. "Well it looks over. It looks like you're walking away."

Kenta told Kazu, "What are you doing? She's gonna kill you."

Kazu puffed out his chest. "I'm not scared."

Takato chuckled. "It's easy to say that when she's walking away. You have to sleep sometime, Kazu."

Rika grabbed her sword and followed the dark Tamer. Adman picked up his own sword. He tossed his pack to the ground and unsheathed his blade. The duo were away from the rest of the group.

The dark Tamer told Rika, "Unsheathe your sword. I'm going to teach you something."

Rika did and held it at the ready.

Adman told her, "Today you disobeyed me and came running into battle. You could have been killed. Hell, I could have been killed trying to save you."

Rika denied the idea. "I didn't need saving. You're the one who needed help."

Adman glared at her. "Is that so? Well then since you're so capable I have a challenge for you. Attack me. If you land one hit then I'll forgive you and let you do as you please. If I disarm you then you'll lose and you give me the appropriate kindness for someone who saved your life. A thanks will suffice. Sound fair?"

Rika hesitated. "This is dangerous."

Adman smirked. "Not for me it's not. Come on, Miss Nonaka. You think you're tough as nails? Prove it."

Rika sighed. She collected herself and ran towards Adman. The dark Tamer tossed his sword into the air. Rika followed it with her eyes, surprised by the tactic. As she did Adman swept below her sword arm and grabbed it with his left. He caught his blade with his right hand and jabbed it into the ground. With his left leg he kicked the back of Rika's knee and forced her to kneel on the ground. Then he twisted her arm until she released her blade. It was all over in an instant.

At that moment Takato had approached the two. He spoke gently. "What's going on here, guys? You two aren't fighting already are you?"

Adman grinned, but didn't release Rika. "I'm teaching, Takato. She's in no danger. Allow me to complete the lesson. I'll release her, her arm will be fine. Thanks for your concern."

Jeri was close to Takato, unsure. "Rika, are you ok?"

Rika's shoulder hurt like hell. Her arm felt like it was about to snap. Still she didn't want to give Adman any further satisfaction. "Yeah, I'm fine."

Takato firmly stated, "Don't hurt her."

Adman released Rika. "Wouldn't dream of it."

He nudged Takato. "I saw your hand over your pistol. Good of you not to draw it this time. Nice self control. I need to point something out though. I can be very gregarious, very understanding, when I want to be. You already shot me once in the past twenty-four hours though. If you do it again I'll be forced to take it personal. You get me? You don't want a man like myself pissed at you. Not here, not anywhere else, not ever. Capiche?"

Takato nodded. "Just don't hurt anybody. I don't think that's asking too much."

Adman went right back to his lesson with Rika. "That was a simple tactic, Miss Nonaka. One that left your opponent unarmed. Even then you still couldn't land a hit on me. Pathetic."

Rika rubbed her arm, now in a fury. "Hey I'm not you, ok! I don't go chopping people up for fun!"

Adman sheathed his own sword. He had a knowing look on his face. "That's my point. You aren't me, yet you still thought you could just run into that fight without your Digimon. I'll train you how to handle these situations, but you aren't there yet. In the meantime…" The dark Tamer kicked Rika's sword back towards her. "Pick it up and let's try again. Sheath it and I'll show you something."

Rika sheathed her weapon. Adman removed the scabbard from his belt and sheathed his sword inside it. Both his weapon and Rika's had a loop that fastened to the hilt so that the sword wouldn't fall out.

The dark Tamer told her, "Now we can make contact without hurting each other. Say I'm one of those Goblimon. I'll attack you in their typical barbaric fashion and you counter."

Adman brought his sheathed sword up and then rushed her like a Goblimon. He even let out a mimicked Goblimon war cry to add to the effect. He brought it down like a club. Rika brought her sword up and blocked the attack.

Adman stopped acting. He froze, as did Rika. "What are you doing?"

Rika was annoyed. "I thought I was blocking your attack?"

"I'm a Goblimon. Goblimon are much stronger than your average human. You aren't going to block that attack. You just aren't strong enough. Like I said, you aren't me."

Rika backed away, annoyed. "Fine then. How would you do it? If you were me, that is?"

Adman assumed a defensive stance. "You're the Goblimon then. Come at me."

Rika imitated Adman's run and attack. Instead of blocking Adman dodged to the side.

The dark Tamer put his sword to Rika's stomach, the scabbard protecting her. "Now stop."

Rika froze.

Adman instructed her, "Notice where my blade is. I'm going to simply pull it across as I dodge to the side." He did so.

Rika smirked. "So you disemboweled me."

Adman explained. "But that won't kill a Goblimon. It does hurt, however. Hold your stomach."

Rika did so.

Adman then continued his fake attack. He moved the sword from the stomach and around to the back of Rika's neck in a chopping motion. "Notice your head instinctively lowered as you grabbed your stomach. This attack would kill the Goblimon. Now watch again in regular speed."

Adman performed the whole attack in normal speed. "Notice how I'm not actually looking at the Goblimon as I behead him. I'm already looking around, selecting my next target, and making sure I'm not about to get hit. Now you try."

Adman and Rika again switched rolls. Rika performed Adman's attack as he had. Her sword ended on the back of his neck.

The dark Tamer motioned to her. "Excellent. You learned something today. I'll try and teach you a new move each day so that you get better.

Rika attached her sword to her belt. "That will come in useful."

Adman laughed. "I gave you a weapon for a reason. I wanted to train you a long time ago. Things just didn't work out."

Rika looked to her sword. "I've always wanted to ask, why is it so different from yours?"

Adman chuckled, "maybe because I'm overcompensating for something. Go ahead and make the joke, everyone else does." He mumbled, "Right before I cut them in half."

Rika persisted, "No, I mean why is it a Katana? Is it just because I'm Japanese?"

Adman sat down on a log. "Actually I was hoping for dual lugers or something like that, but I don't have a say in the matter."

Rika sat down next to the dark Tamer. "What do you mean you don't have a say?"

Adman explained. "I pay the tribute and get a weapon, but I don't get a say in what comes out of the forge. It's probably best that you got a katana and not a sword like mine. Otherwise you'd be way too slow."

Rika took the statement as a challenge. "Oh come on! Like you're the only person who can handle your sword."

Adman unsheathed his weapon and set it on the ground. "It isn't like I'm the only person who can touch it, but you'd have to be pretty strong to use it effectively." Rika wrapped her hands around the hilt of the sword and lifted. The sword was weighted horribly! The tip of the sword seemed somehow heavier than the rest of it. It was like someone had made a sledgehammer into a blade. She lifted with both hands and only just barely managed to get it balanced.

Adman stood and took it from her. "See."

Rika panted. "How the hell do you use that?!"

Adman spun it around expertly. He imitated a forward thrust with no sign of the weight the sword had. "I have an extraordinary arm, Miss Nonaka. Unless you were a tough Digimon you probably couldn't use this sword as it's intended. Supposedly each weapon is destined for a person. Shadowmon and I can channel energy into my sword. You and Renamon might be able to do something special with yours."

Rika couldn't imagine what her sword could do, but she was determined to find out.

Adman nudged her. "So what do you say?"

Rika was unsure what he meant. "What?"

Adman reminded her, "We had a deal. I disarmed you. Something along the lines of 'I'm sorry I disobeyed you and put you in danger' would do nicely."

Rika refused.

Adman tapped his finger on his leg impatiently. "Really? You have nothing to say to me? I taught you a new move, I protected you from an almost certainly fatal pummeling, and thanks to you I'm probably going to be bruised for at least a week. You really have nothing to say to that?"

Rika snapped at him. "Ok! Fine. Thanks for helping me out. I could have handled myself, but thanks."

"No sweat. I promised your mom I'd get you back home in one piece. I really don't want to have to give her my sword and let her cut me into ribbons, so…"

Rika kicked him in the leg. "You can't just quit while you're ahead can you? So that was all because of my mom, huh?"

Adman shrugged. "That and I've, well, I've gotten used to your company. If you bite the big one the only person I'll be able to have engaging conversations with is Jeri. A fine woman and all, but... Let's just say it's a long enough trip to make without having to mourn the loss of a fellow warrior."

Rika understood what Adman was saying. This was the closest she'd get to a complement from the man in black.

It was late in the night. All of the Tamers were settling into bed when Suzie called out, "I think I see something!"

Shadowmon appeared alongside her. He was calm as he asked. "Can you show me?"

Suzie pointed to a pink beam that was falling from the earthly globe that served as an ever present satellite in the Digital world.

Shadowmon, being used to the beams, replied. "So?"

Suzie told him, "I'm sure it's getting closer."

Shadowmon looked at the beam a moment longer and concluded the girl was right. There was indeed a pink data stream heading their way. "Sir, we have a data stream incoming."

Ryo cursed their luck. "I knew we shouldn't have camped out in the open like this. We're completely exposed. We need to get out of here now."

Takato began to shout orders to the others, "Everyone, pack up your things! We need to get going or we're going to get swept away!"

Adman sat down on a log next to Takato, his pack resting between his knees, and told him, "There'll be no time for that. It's coming fast. Here, take this."

The dark Tamer handed Takato a small plastic gun. It looked like the guns used in grocery stores to scan items.

Adman explained, "You've probably got the steadiest hand here. Aim that thing at the data stream and pull the trigger. Hold it."

Takato objected, "There's no time for this stuff."

Adman dug through his pack and countered, "You don't even know what it does. Kenta, take this keypad."

Kenta took a keypad numbered zero through nine.

The dark Tamer handed Kazu a pair of binoculars. "I trust you can read. Look through these at the data stream. Numbers will appear. Tell Kenta what you see as you see it. He'll put the numbers into the keypad. Takato, keep the gun pointed at the data stream."

Jeri nudged Adman as the three men did what they were told. "What are those things?"

Adman explained. "The gun sends out a laser to the data stream. It slowly zeroes in on the I.P. address of the data stream, and sends the information to the goggles. Then Kenta puts in the code to confirm it. In which case a system in the human world should negate the activity of the data stream user."

Kazu slowly rattled off digits.

Ryo asked, "How long does this take?"

"About ninety seconds," Adman replied.

The data stream was getting closer. They were running out of time.

Kazu yelled back, "Hey it isn't giving me numbers anymore."

Suzie and Ai were frantically packing. Rika grabbed the two. "Whatever happens we all need to stay together. Don't panic."

At that moment the data stream turned red and disappeared.

Adman chuckled. "Problem solved."

Takato lowered the scanner gun slowly. "How…"

Kazu cheered, "We did it! Woo hoo! Great gadget Adman. You totally toasted that data stream!"

Adman put his pack back over his shoulders. "From where I was sitting it looked like you guys did that. I had no part in it. Good job."

"Check," Rika declared as she moved her bishop over a pawn Adman had on the chess board.

Adman chuckled. "Good move. Saw it coming, but good move. You're not bad at this, Miss Nonaka."

Rika yawned deeply. "You mean for a girl, right? Yeah, well I'm good at games."

Adman moved his rook and took Rika's bishop. "I didn't say that. You're tired. I want you at your best when I beat you. Why don't we continue this later?"

Rika snapped herself into wakefulness, determined to go on. "Oh no. No way are you winning this by default. I'll beat you no matter how tired I am." She moved her queen into a new strategic position.

"I won't think any less of you if you postpone our game. You know I really appreciate you hanging with me, but you don't have to. I'm not your most recent charity case am I?" The dark Tamer moved a pawn further down the board, defended by his rook's placement.

Rika looked at the board, wondering how she was going to keep Adman from getting his pawn across the board and getting his second bishop back. "You know you're not half bad yourself."

Adman finished for her, "For a dumb soldier, right?"

"But I… Oh I get it."

"I knew you would."

Kazu and Kenta sat on the side of the plateau with the new device. Kazu pointed the scanner gun at any data stream within range while Kenta looked through the binoculars with one hand while punching in the given code with another.

Each time a data stream would go down Kazu would make a joke. "Error 404. File Not found." "Access denied. Please try again later." "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that." "Go ahead and blame it on the dial-up."

Kenta yawned. "We should call it a night."

Kazu reluctantly agreed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Got any extra blankets in that trunk of yours?"

Kenta did. He pulled one out for Kazu. "Here. I kind of thought we'd need them."

Kazu and Kenta weren't the only ones succumbing to sleep. Takato and Jeri were settling in for the night, nustled close together for warmth. Henry had adopted the role of guardian over the two girls. While they were winding down he was wide awake. Once they were out he'd fall asleep too. Ryo had his back against Kenta's trunk. He slept in that sitting position without any difficulty. From far off he looked like another watchful guard. Rika slept with her head propped on a log near the far side of the plateau. Once Henry nodded off it was Shadowmon alone who stood watchful and alert. He could crouch near the edge of the plateau and listen for hours, not moving a muscle, and stay aware of possible threats. The dark Tamer had wanted to stay awake, but sleep snuck up on him regardless. He sat on the opposite edge of the plateau, crouched like Shadowmon. His right elbow was rested on his right knee. His right hand supported his chin. He'd tried to stay awake, but his body hadn't given up the circadian rhythm to the Digital world just yet. That would come later. Hunched over as he was a simple forward motion would send him over the edge of the plateau.

As he slept dark thought crept into his mind. Like small invaders they placed doubt all around him.

'What are you doing?'

'You cannot save them.'

'You will fail. Fail like you always do.'

'They don't trust you.'

'They know what you are. Know what you've done!'

'You are as much a monster as the creatures you fight.'

'The Tamers are not like you. You are not compatible.'

'They will die and you will be to blame. You will fail. Just like before.'

A meek, feminine voice spoke up in Adman's defense, 'Enough! Leave him alone. He can do this. I have faith in you, James.'

Adman's eyes opened quickly. The nightmare was over.

He shook it off and grumbled. "Swimming in a sea of doubt brought about by a life of mixed fortunes. Like I don't have enough to worry about."

The dark Tamer noticed Rika not far from him sleeping peacefully. Her head was resting on the log shed sat on earlier. The girl had passed out shortly after winning their chess game.

Adman wrapped his jacket around her. "At least someone can sleep well."

With that done Adman went to the farthest place from the other Tamers on the plateau and watched the Digital world work in its silent grace. They were high enough that the wind storm below didn't affect them as much. Still he could see Digimon moving in the night in the unknown quests for survival.

Shadowmon appeared next to Adman. "Bad dreams again, sir? It's her again, isn't it?"

Adman nodded. "It's this place. Always jogs my memory of her and stirs up old feelings."

Shadowmon understood. "Yet you always want to come back."

Adman frowned. "I didn't say I hated the memories. I just don't want to experience them right this moment."

Shadowmon made the suggestion, "You know you could go to sleep. I know it makes you feel human."

Adman took a sip from his canteen. "Nothing really does anymore."

Shadowmon remained silent for a time before adding. "It would allow you to spend some time with her."

Adman let out a troubled sigh. "That I really don't want. I have too much on my mind to add that to the plate."

Shadowmon tilted his head to look at the girl lying by the log. "What about that one? You could go lie next to her. Keep her warm. I think she'd appreciate it."

Adman took a hard drag on his canteen before restraining himself. "There's brave and then there's just plain stupid. My jacket will keep her warm enough. She'll be fine."

The dark Digimon curled up next to Adman like a large dog, circling three times before laying his head in Adman's lap. Two dark brown eyes with a golden ring around the irises looked up lovingly at the Tamer. "Sir, I'm sorry for everything. I should have been better. I vow to protect these humans. I won't fail again."

Adman was in a horrible mood; the liquor not helping. He pulled out his digivice and let the familiar energy whip fall from it threateningly. "No, you won't. I'm taking that responsibility this time; you clearly can't be trusted with it. Go watch the other side of the cliff."

Shadowmon slithered away, but felt nothing but sadness for his master.

Author's notes: Good to be back again. I know its been forever and a day since you've last gotten a chapter, but I had computer issues that kind of set me back. Regardless, my misfortune should not mean you fine readers should have to suffer, so I'm trully sorry for that. I intend to make up for my absence by getting back to work and cranking out chapters as efficiently as possible. Thank you all for your continued support. -John C.