A Small Girl in a Small Town

Part 14

"Capture Exception"


"What are we gonna do?!" Mr. Perkins shouted. "That girl… what was she tinkin'?"

"I never thought she would go this far…" Pelletier muttered. "She must be out of her mind."

With Amanda gone, the two adults were left alone in the upstairs room of the building. The password Amanda had put on the computer would be impossible for either of them to crack without help and by the time they got help it would likely be too late. Amanda would have covered her tracks too well, of course, so there was no point in thinking they could just guess at it until they got the correct answer.

"We ain't gonna find her," Mr. Perkins whispered, realizing how hopeless the situation was. "She ain't gonna come back until she finds her partner, and who knows if that'll even happen!"

Pelletier stood up and placed his hand on Perkins' shoulder. "Listen. That girl has done something incredibly dangerous and reckless but I think we can both appreciate that her intelligence has helped her out in the past. She should be able to figure out what to do. If there is a solution, she is the one to find it."

"Ya really tink she can do it on her own?"

"I think we have no choice. But even then, if she does find her partner, she won't be alone anymore, will she?" He smiled reassuringly. "Now, let's look at that letter of hers again."

They both unfolded it and held it up to read it simultaneously:


Dear Mr. Perkins,

I'm so sorry to tell you like this and I don't know if you'll still be in jail when you do see it, but I have to tell you my plans. First of all, there's this: By the time you read this, I will probably be in the Digital World. I'm going to get Penguinmon back.

It looks like someone on the other side is controlling the Portal Program now. I thought we stopped it, but I met a digimon today and now I know that whoever he is, he wants it for something. And it looks like he might have Penguinmon too. I don't know what's going on, but I have to find out. After all, I'm a Digidestined, and that means I have to protect this town and my partner!

I know you won't like it. If I told you or Mr. Pelletier, I know you'd both try to talk me out of it. So I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, but I really have to do this! Thank you very much for your help, and I hope you're not too mad, but I need to rewire the computers in your store to create an array and generate some reverse portal energy. It should take me to the place in the Digital World where the Portal Program is being broadcast from, and that's where Penguinmon is!

I'm not sure how I'll get back, but if I can get the Portal Program, maybe I can get back to Roxanne. I'm also not sure how long it will take. I hope it isn't very long. I'm actually really really scared because I don't want to get stuck in the Digital World like the Japanese kids did. But what I'm worried about most is my family. Please, Mr. Perkins, please wait until tomorrow morning to tell them the truth if I'm not back yet. But if I don't come back after that, then you can tell them everything. And tell them that I love them very much. Even Philipe. Also tell them that I'm sorry, but they shouldn't worry because I'll be back soon!

Thanks again for everything. I hope I see you again soon. ^_^ v

Your friend,

Amanda

P.S. Tell Mr. Pelletier what I said and tell him I said thank you too, okay?


"Ah jeez," Mr. Perkins said, and he found his eyes were watering, so he wiped them on his sleeve. "That little frigger. How can she be so sweet after all that's happened to her?"

Pelletier took a deep breath to calm himself. "We should respect her wishes. I'll return to my own residence and continue my duties until tomorrow. Would you mind staying here overnight, in case she returns?"

"Not in the slightest," Perkins replied. "But if push comes to shove, we gotta tell her parents about this. And I mean both of us."

"Of course. Let's set a deadline for, say, 9 am tomorrow. After that, we'll reveal what we know."

As they prepared to part ways, neither one of them could believe the situation had grown so dire and both found themselves wondering what that little girl would do now that she was lost in the Digital World.


The rocks crunched underfoot as Amanda approached the rim of the crater. It was bright out, and hot, far hotter than it had been back in Roxanne. Not to mention the dryness of the air and the sudden gusts of wind at this altitude. Even now she felt a twinge of excitement as the thrill of being in another place lingered. She'd never been anywhere like this and seeing it was truly amazing. And the fact that it was another world was still mind-blowing.

Gotta be careful, she said to herself, deciding to focus on her task. The Digital World is really dangerous. I learned that the last time at Drive Bay.

She saw that the inner walls of the crater sloped quite steeply, but if she was careful, she might be able to gradually make her way down to the center, and then to the tower. The tower itself was trickier… should she just knock on the door or try to sneak in? It was unlikely that the owner of the tower would be very friendly toward her, but perhaps she could talk her way out of the situation or make a deal to get Penguinmon back. Nothing was going to happen until she got down there, of course.

"Okay, easy does it…" she said to herself, gingerly easing herself down from the rim to begin her descent. The reddish-brown terrain was surprisingly loose and gravelly, however, and her feet began to slide downward faster than expected. She tried to brace her foot on a larger rock jutting out from the ground, but the rock came loose and began to tumble down the sloping wall. She gasped, but managed to dig her hands into the dirt and slow herself down. Fearfully, she watched as the rock continued tumbling downward, end over end.

Then there was a deafening sound. The rock had hit a patch of earth halfway down the slope and suddenly exploded outward with a mighty force that was so loud that it made her ears ring and she felt the powerful force of the blast in her chest.

An explosion? But why? Unless… She froze. The rocks here didn't explode, of course, but the only explanation for what she saw was…

Land mines! She broke out in a cold sweat as she realized the crater was booby-trapped. If just one rock tumbling down the incline could set one off at random, then it was very likely that the entire crater was riddled with them.

She carefully clawed her way back up to the top of the rim on her hands and knees. Breathing a sigh of relief, she stood up and brushed the dirt from her clothing. She also received a scrape on her leg from when she had begun her slide. "I should have worn pants. Why the heck did I wear my stupid skirt today… ugh."

A sudden metallic sound caught her attention and she stared at the tower, shielding her eyes with one hand from bright sun overhead. There appeared to be a large metal shutter near the top of tower and it rumbled as it slid open. Then a figure, a massive saurian silhouette, burst from it and soared high into the cloudless blue sky, practically invisible against the backdrop of the blinding white gleam of the sun. She tried to follow it then saw it swoop down into the crater before rocketing along the wall and up.

Right at her.

Amanda took a step back as there was a rush of wind and the creature swooped up to view her. Her eyes went wide as she took in the sight of the enormous digimon before her.

The thing was orange and had pebbled reptilian skin. On its broad, muscular chest, she saw a skull symbol on one pectoral, and a glowing red light resembling an emergency beacon on the other. The thing was larger than Tyrannomon had been, although a bit more slender. It had smooth, dark metal covering the top half of its draconic face, with a mess of blue hair coming out the back. Both of its arms appeared to be cybernetic and had three pointed claws that came together somewhat like the claws in one of those catcher games. It had no legs, but instead had a long tail that stretched nearly twice as long as the rest of its body. It also had a pair of ragged, bluish-black leathery wings sprouting from its back and it periodically flapped them, kicking up a strong gust of wind in the process, as it hovered before her.

"Cooool!" she breathed. It was by far the largest digimon Amanda had ever seen and, considering her interest in the creatures, it was hard to not be impressed it.

"Stay where you are, intruder!" it bellowed, and it held out one claw, opening it to reveal a menacing-looking canon that made a low whirring sound as he trained it on her. "One wrong move and I'll reduce you to paste!"

Okay, not cool, not cool! she said inwardly. Outwardly, she could only yelp as the creature aimed its weapon on her. Mon Dieu… look at those teeth! That thing could eat a human in one bite! He'd be scary enough without the dual claw-mounted cannons!

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"I… I-I-I'm h-here t-to-"

"Speak up, intruder!" he shouted, his thunderous voice causing her to drop to her knees, cowering at this monster.

"P-please don't shoot!" she managed to say. "I-I'm just looking for my partner! That's all!"

"Wait a minute," he said. The massive digimon's slitted reptilian eyes narrowed further. "I know you…"

She was feeling worse and worse about this situation. She considered running for it, but she realized there would be no point. He was way too fast for her, and there wasn't anywhere she could hide on the rim of the crater anyway, not to mention that it would be suicide to try getting down either side of it.

"You're that human," the digimon breathed. "Ha! Well, little human, looks like the Boss will get to meet you after all."

Before Amanda could say anything, the digimon whipped his tail forward, rapidly curling it around her and ensnaring her. She cried out in fear and then pain as it tightly bound her its coils. And then, without another word, the digimon shot back into the sky, instantly soaring a few hundred meters high.

Amanda got a dizzying view of the crater, only now it was upside down due to the way the digimon held her. The ride was hardly smooth as it jerked her from side to side after itself. Her stomach churned and she could hear a high pitched, awful screaming sound. And then she realized it was coming from her, though those screams were muffled by the roar of wind. Crazily, the twists and turns in the air, chaotic as they were, allowed her to see the crater was filled with several more paths for mine carts and pock-marked with several entrances to other mines. The tower itself had long pipes, possibly rain gutters, that ran along the outside of it. Steam steadily billowed from a vent near the back. And at the very top of the tower was an array of what looked to be satellite dishes.

Presently, the digimon approached the open shutter near the top of the tower and, slowing its descent, entered a massive room.

"Hope you enjoyed the flight," he laughed cruelly. Then he roughly flicked his tail, throwing the girl to the hard metal floor in the center of the room.

Amanda tried to stand, but she was still shaking all over from the terrifying experience. I think I just learned that I'm afraid of heights… that was honestly the scariest thing I think I've ever done. She resisted the urge to vomit and took several deep breaths before standing on her wobbly legs. As she got herself under control, she got a look at her new surroundings.

The walls and floor were metallic, dull and dark like much like the rest of the tower, of course. Pipes lined the walls and the area was lit with dim industrial lights, giving everything a slightly reddish-orange hue, as if in perpetual sunset. Bunches of wires were hanging loose from the ceiling. The circular room was lined with massive consoles and big bulky screens, not unlike the gigantic ones she'd seen in old sci-fi movies. Their screens displayed strange patterns written in some runic written language - digicode, she surmised - and they were measuring different levels of something in various graphs. All around her was the ever present hum of electricity and the rumble of machinery below her. A gurgling liquid sound came periodically from the pipes. The place was gigantic and she felt tiny. Even as large as the huge digimon was, he could fit his whole body inside by coiling his tail slightly and lowering his head.

"Boss," the large digimon said, his rumbling voice echoing in the metal room, "I found the intruder. Looks like she's the one that set off the mine we heard. I think you're gonna love this."

Amanda saw that before the largest screen was a chair. It was facing the screen, away from her, and against the glow from the screen, it made it appear like the dark throne of some horrible warlord in a fantasy story. She gulped as the chair began to swivel around and shivered in fear at what she would see.

"Let's see what you've found, Megadramon," the being in the chair said, its deep voice reverberating and distorted.

Amanda's eyes widened. "I know that voice. You're the one who hacked City Hall with me!"

The chair finally turned completely around and the being seemed just as surprised to see her as she was to see it. "You? How did you manage to find your way here!"

"Y-you're that digimon?" Amanda gasped. "I… I can't believe… how small you are!"

The creature was actually dwarfed by the massive, black leather chair in which he sat. He had a rounded glass-dome on his head, inside of which was some strange machinery Amanda could not identify. His body was mostly his head, a short metal cylinder punctuated by a mouth with pointy, protruding teeth in an alternating up-down pattern, and a pair of eyes. One eye, however, was a simple light that flashed yellow and red. The other eye, in comparison to the rest of the creature's mechanical body, was organic and stared out at her. It was yellow and perfectly around and surrounded by gnarled tissue. Aside from that, the digimon had long, tubular metal arms that snaked outwards to be terminated with a pair of mechanical, three-fingered hands. From the flat bottom of the creature were four short legs of similar construction to the arms. Each one had a metallic, round foot. As he pushed out from his chair, the feet clanked noisily as he approached her.

"You are quite small for a human, as I understand it," the digimon said. "So I hardly see how my size matters."

He might have had a point, but she couldn't help but feel slightly amused at the fact that this deep-voiced digimon was only half her size. He was practically the same size as Penguinmon, though nowhere near as cute. She relaxed slightly.

"Allow me to introduce myself," he said, opening his arms in greeting. "I am Datamon. I am the Master of this realm, owner and manager of this mining operation, and a researcher of the Digital World. I believe you already met my Foreman, Megadramon."

"Charmed," the massive dragon-like digimon grunted.

"How intriguing that you have arrived here!" Datamon continued. "I thought you would have been stuck in your dimension. And yet somehow you managed to bring yourself here! I suppose I could expect nothing less from the individual who reverse-engineered a way to send digimon back to the Digital World. And to bypass such security in that human-run computer, I might add. Oh ho ho, this truly is a lucky day to be a scientist!"

Amanda had a flurry of questions, but the only one she could get out was "S-scientist?"

"Yes, little human. I am a scientist, a seeker of knowledge. Any and all knowledge is precious. That is what I believe. And therefore, I seek to know all I can about absolutely everything. And of course, the rarest creature in the Digital World is… well, standing right in front of me."

Amanda swallowed. Me, she said to herself. He means humans, and that means me. What does he want from me?

"Let's see," Datamon said, looking her over carefully. He began to walk around her in a circle, scrutinizing her carefully. "My my, what a strange, strange creature you are."

"I-I'm not really so strange," she replied. She scrunched herself inward, uncomfortable at being looked at in that manner.

"For this world, you certainly are!" He paused a few times to consider her, making mental notes. "Bipedal, of course… appears totally biological, no visible cybernetic components… prosthetics over eyes, possibly giving enhanced vision-"

"You mean my glasses?" Amanda asked, taking them off as a demonstration. "I can't really see well without them. They just help me see normally."

"Malformed eyes? Curious disability. In this world, such a disability would likely mean you'd have been eaten by something years ago."

"The human world is a lot more civilized," Amanda said somewhat smugly, replacing her glasses and pushing them up on her nose.

"Perhaps. Such technology must have developed for a reason. To overcome your weaknesses, I suspect. I've heard you humans are physically quite weak."

Megadramon chuckled, his low voice echoing in the large room. "She didn't put up much of a struggle when I brought her here, boss."

"Well then," Datamon said, "let's double check." Without warning, he grabbed Amanda's arm, yanking her off her feet.

"Ow! Let go of me!" she cried. Though Datamon was small and appeared light, he had impressive strength. He gripped her arm like a vice around the wrist and she couldn't resist or pull her arm free in the slightest.

"No, not much in the way of strength. Quite weak," he said. With his free hand, he poked the soft flesh of her arm. "Soft tissue, underlying bone structure…" He then grabbed her face and she stared back at him fearfully. "Say 'ah.'"

"Um, ahhh?"she said, opening her mouth.

"Omnivore judging by the teeth… normal tongue and uvula... no apparent signs of illness, so that's good news at least. Yes, you seem to be a fine specimen, an excellent representative of your species."

He finally let her go and she rubbed her hand.

"You could have just asked me some questions, you know, instead of grabbing me, poking me, and yanking me around," Amanda grumbled.

"Why? I don't need your permission."

She gulped, deciding she'd had enough of this examination. "L-look, I don't have time for this, Mr. Datamon. I'm here for two reasons," she said. "I'm here for the Portal Program and to get my partner back. I want to make sure my hometown is safe, but I also want Penguinmon back. Do you have him?"

For some reason, this got Megadramon chuckling again.

"Quite strange. You come to my home and make demands. That's very rude," Datamon said. Amanda thought maybe he was just toying with her, but something in his voice told her that he wasn't kidding; he really did view the situation that way. "Whatever comes to this place becomes my property. Speaking of which…"

He reached for her suddenly and with stunning dexterity, reached past her jacket and plucked her digivice from where she'd clipped it to the waistline of her skirt. She reached for it as he took it, but Megadramon was on her in an instant, seizing her in one gigantic iron claw.

"...this digivice is now mine. Of course, it doesn't work well without a human partner." He held it aloft and held it up appreciatively. "So… perhaps I can make you an offer?"

"An offer?" she asked.

"Yes. I propose a little partnership. Surely with my genius I can modify this device so it can be used to transfer your power to me as your new partner."

She gawked at him. "You? Why?"

"Power is a valuable commodity in the Digital World, little Human," Datamon replied. "Allow me to tell you my story. I was born in a village of digimon a long, long distance from here. Ever since I could remember, I was fascinated with the world around me. I wished to learn more, to know all I could, and to question everything. I can see in your eyes that you share the same spark of curiosity. Am I wrong?"

Amanda looked away nervously, but it was obvious that she knew exactly what he meant.

"And I bet we have something else in common: I was tormented for my curiosity, ridiculed by others who found me strange or different. Those jealous of my mental prowess made a fool of me and hurt me, for we digimon live in a world where physical power is the deciding factor. But I was determined to grow in the strength of my mind and ignored the things others said. I pursued knowledge above all else and eventually involved into this, my Ultimate level form. It epitomizes my endless thirst for information and thus I have devoted my life to proving my intellectual superiority."

He saw that Amanda was listening more closely now and smiled inwardly, knowing he had her attention. "I wished to monitor the strange energies of the Digital World to learn what subtle forces were at work. And that was when I discovered the old Bitmen network."

"The… wait, Bitmen?" she asked, confused by the term.

"You have heard of the one known as Gennai?" Datamon asked. She nodded. "Well, he is one of the last of the race of humanoids known as Bitmen. I have never seen one in person, but they once spread over the Digital World, creating great structures and machines to discover, monitor, and sometimes even control the energy of the Digital World. Centuries ago, at the height of their power, they even created a series of artificial satellites and launched them into orbit around the planet!" He gestured grandly upward at the sky, although with the metal room's ceiling, nobody could actually see the sky. "I know, it seems impossible for you, Human, but it is possible to go beyond the bounds of the sky!"

Amanda snickered. "Um, you know, we humans have done that too," she said smugly. "We've even walked on our moon."

"Hm," Datamon sniffed, his one organic eye squinting in annoyance.

"B-but, um, it is actually pretty interesting that they did that in the Digital World!" Amanda said quickly. She wasn't lying either; the idea that an ancient race of digital humanoids had successfully put satellites into orbit was fascinating to her. "What happened to the Bitmen?" Amanda asked.

"Their civilization collapsed as digimon feared their power. They split off into different factions. One of which, the Guardians, the very faction which the aforementioned Gennai belonged to, was attacked and eventually scattered by the Dark Masters and their forces. I hear there may still be some around, but they've hidden themselves quite well. However," he said, and this was with a slight hint of mirth, "the remnants of their civilization are just waiting for one who has the intellectual resources to utilize them. This marvelous tower, known as Battery Tower, is one such remnant!"

He walked over to the large console and pressed a button, causing the screens to change and display a variety of topographical maps.

"These maps are unbelievably accurate! They were just waiting here in the databanks of these computers until I discovered them! And that is only the tip of the iceberg! The data I've discovered since then and on my own is absolutely astonishing!"

He chuckled for some reason.

"What so fun-ow, can you please not hold me so tightly?" Amanda asked, looking up at Megadramon.

"Sure can. Not gonna," he said with a laugh. She grit her teeth angrily. She could barely breathe and it wasn't like she was strong enough to overcome Datamon anyway. He was just doing this to be a bully now.

"You're asking what I find funny? I'm only thinking of how I came to control Battery Tower. You see, when I first came here, it was nonfunctional. Totally out of commission, no power at all. It had been discovered by a nomadic tribe of Gotsumon. Simple rock creatures, all Rookie level, no ambition beyond foraging for food and trading valuable gems and minerals with anyone they encountered. And then they came across this tower and they began to wonder what its purpose was. And they found the abandoned mines in the surrounding crater only to discover," and here he went over to a workspace and picked up a small ingot of a strange purple metal, "this!"

Amanda looked at it. The metal was purple, but in the light she saw that it shined and shimmered in a strange way and there was something almost glowing in the grains of the material. It seized her curiosity and she found it fascinating even though she had no idea what it was or what it was for.

"This is an ingot of a rare metal known as bitridium. It has many remarkable properties, including being a key ingredient in the fashioning of the alloy known as 'chrome digizoid,' the hardest metal in our world. It is also a key ingredient in half a dozen other alloys. Furthermore, it is said that in ancient times, there were those who learned that they could use it to unlock a digimon's hidden strength. The technique, if it was ever more than a myth at all, has been lost to time. And the Gotsumon discovered that this tower was sitting on top of a tremendous seam of it, just waiting to be dug up! The tower had all this technology, yes, but it also had a plant capable of processing and refining the bitridium! Tired of their nomadic lifestyle, they thought they would go into the mining business.

"Unfortunately, they lacked the knowledge of how to repair and operate this ancient technology. So that was when they sought out one with a mind great enough to fix it. That is when they found me."

Amanda remembered that Gotsumon. He had referred to Datamon indirectly as "Master." And he'd seemed terrified of him. Now maybe she could find out why.

"So, the Gotsumon work for you?" she asked, feigning ignorance partially. After all, while she knew that that one Gotsumon had called him "Master," she didn't know in what capacity.

"They do. But it began as a slightly different arrangement." He sighed. "I fixed the tower and wished to use it to conduct my research. They began to mine the ore and I insured the machines would continue working to refine things. To transport the refined bitridium, I hired our Foreman, Megadramon." The gigantic digimon grinned, flashing his dagger-like teeth. "We had a business going and the bits we made were just rolling in. The money was immaterial to me, of course… the only thing I require it for is some meager money and the means to keep my research going. The supplies are old and faulty and frequently require specialized parts and materials. And yet I found that after paying the Foreman and the Gotsumon, my own share was coming up short. It slowed my research. And that was simply intolerable."

"So… oh. You cut their salaries," she said, starting to guess where that was going. "And they protested, didn't they?" She frowned. "Let me guess, they threatened to quit mining if you didn't pay them what they wanted, but you didn't want to stop doing your research on the Digital World."

"Correct!" Datamon said, sounding mildly impressed.

"I see now," she said quietly. "But this tower is still running. I saw the mine tracks and carts, so the mines are still running too. You're making them work. You enslaved the Gotsumon."

Datamon said nothing at first, but then slowly made his way over to her. "I took what was mine. Without me and without Megadramon, this operation would never have existed at all. But their selfishness blinded them. So I fashioned a means of control: a series of belts that produce a sonic force that resonates with their rock-like bodies, causing them to shatter explosively. We took control and now they work for us for the privilege of a continued life and sustenance and for the simple purpose of supporting the greatest mind in all the Digital World!" He grew angrier now. "These worthless nomads were and still continue to be intellectual stumbling blocks on the path of knowledge! I am the one who put them in their place, and now they live to serve their betters or they can simply stop living at all!"

She felt a chill run down her spine. These guys are slavers… and now I'm their prisoner!

Datamon managed to calm himself. "But enough about those accursed creatures," he said. "Let's discuss your future instead. Putting you to work in the mines would be an utter waste. But there is still knowledge to be gained and power to be shared." He held up the digivice. "Megadramon, release her."

"Are you-"

"Don't question me!" he snapped.

"Tch. Fine," Megadramon said, and finally released her.

She gasped and filled her lungs with air, feeling her side tenderly now that she was free from the monster's tight grip. "What do you want from me?" she asked.

"I'm sure with some modifications, I could set this device to make me your partner. I know little about how it works, but I'm sure a little ingenuity and reverse engineering should solve the problem. I am already at the Ultimate level, but to finally attain the near-impossible evolution to my Mega form would give me even greater power than before!"

Amanda blinked. Give up Penguinmon, for this little jerk? No way!

"I imagine you're a little averse to the idea, but consider this: I am actually a perfect partner for you." He paused and let her consider this, though she only folder her arms and looked down at him as if he was crazy (and she wasn't convinced he was not crazy, in truth). "Think of it. I know you are an intellectual, a lover of learning, a scientist! The pursuit of knowledge drives you. The thrill of constructing something and seeing the fruit of your genius come to life and flourish… oh, I see a glimmer of recognition in your eye, little human."

Amanda realized she'd unfolded her arms and was now listening with rapt attention. No, she said. This monster is… he's the bad guy! I'm a Digidestined and he's the bad guy!

"And it's more than that," Datamon continued. "You feel the ridicule from others wherever you go. You are misunderstood by those who claim to care for you and betrayed by those whom you thought were your friends."

She thought of her home. The kids at school hated her. They hated her. And her family... how often did it occur that she would begin rattling off her ideas about something only to not have them understand? And then there was that last word from Datamon… her "friends."

Yvonne…

("Just go to hell, Amanda Giroux.")

She felt the hot tears begin to spill onto her cheeks and she reached up to wipe them away with her sleeves. "N-no," she said. "No, th-that's not t-true."

"Oh, I think it is. I know it is. And I know that pain quite well."

Megadramon rolled his eyes at this gushy scene, but a look from Datamon made him keep his comments to himself.

"Listen to me, little girl," Datamon said, his voice quieter, sweeter. "I can follow what you say; your ideas are not beyond me. We can learn all about the Digital World and Earth together. Both worlds will yield their secrets to us and we can silence anyone who mocks us. Alone, we've already achieved so much. But think of what two geniuses can do! Magnificent sights await… we will make the world our very oyster and begin the adventure of a lifetime! That is," he added, almost as an afterthought, "if you will simply agree to assist me. Abandon your old, boring life, and embrace a new one of excitement and limitless possibility!"

He held the digivice up, gesturing to it before her as if it was the key to open the gates of Paradise.

She wiped the way the last of her tears and took in a deep breath.

"I admit, you seem to be pretty good at figuring me out. And maybe we are a lot alike. I… I am lonely in my life. I worry that nobody will like me or treat me well or listen to anything I have to say." She looked up at him and her eyes were now dry and filled with determination. "But I don't care. I didn't give up before when I had nobody who really did get me; and I already have a friend who understands me, who does like me and treats me well and always always listens to me. He's my partner, Penguinmon, the one you want to replace. Well, I'm sorry, Datamon, but I'm not going to abandon him. My answer is no."

That final word hung in the air for a moment before it was broken by the sound of Megadramon chuckling. "Oh wow, little human," he said, shaking his head disdainfully. "You really shouldn't have done that."

Datamon slowly went over to the main console, his metal foot cups clanking on the floor as he went. He set Amanda's digivice on the console and began to speak without turning around. "I offered you a partnership. I offered you the chance of a lifetime. And you reject it so readily," here he pressed a button and a new image appeared on the massive screen, "for this worthless creature?!"

Amanda gasped. "Penguinmon!"

It was him. The shot was in black and white, but it was clearly him. The camera was looking down and at an angle, but she could see he was in some large glass capsule of some kind. The top and bottom seemed mechanical in nature and he looked like a cricket in a mason jar as he sat slumped against the glass at the bottom of it. He appeared to be breathing heavily and his feathers were ruffled and sticking out in odd directions, as if he was exhausted or something similar.

"Correct. I do have your former partner," Datamon said. "When he tumbled into this tower after I downloaded the Portal Program, I decided to study him. So I put him in one of my 'specimen capsules.' He is after all, an exceptionally rare type of digimon for this region. I'd never even seen one in person."

Amanda clasped her hands over her mouth. He's alive! Oh, thank goodness! But... why does he look like that?

"Hmph. So much concern for your little protector? He can only digivolve to Champion level. At his strongest, he would be no match for an Ultimate level like Megadramon or even a less physically capable one such as myself. You have no grasp of value."

"Mon Dieu… he looks so weak." She took her gaze from the screen to look back at Datamon. "What did you do to him?!" she demanded angrily.

"As I said, I put him in a specimen capsule. A device of my own design, all very complex and intricate, of course," he said haughtily. "When I need to study a digimon's biological makeup, this allows me to conduct different tests to measure all sorts of things. Weight, respiratory patterns, heart rate, etc. But biometrics are just the beginning. I can test the subject's tolerance to loud noise, oxygen deprivation, food deprivation, electric shock, and even extreme temperatures. I've been doing so with this little avian for the last 24 hours. Right now he's in the midst of the test of heat. According to my readings, he's currently at 40 degrees centigrade. And I must say he's not doing so well. Barely conscious."

"You… you're torturing him?!" she cried. "Why? Why would you ever do that?!"

"To gain knowledge, of course," he replied coldly. "Any and all knowledge is valuable. He did not hold up well to the electric shock test, I must say. Though he can hold his breath an abnormally long time. He lasted nearly 20 minutes without oxygen before he began to asphyxiate. Quite interesting."

He didn't get to continue as Amanda, screaming in blind rage, ran at him. He turned slightly and simply punched the oncoming girl in the stomach, sending her flying backwards, back into the center of the room.

She collapsed, holding her abdomen in agony, gasping desperately for air.

"Foolish girl," Datamon said flatly. "I thought you were more intelligent than that. But you've let your emotions rule you. You can't even see the beauty of this pure science."

"Let… let him go…" she managed to say, feebly pleading for her partner.

"Out of the question," he said dismissively. "As I said, everything that comes to this realm is mine. And that includes you. Megadramon?"

Megadramon was on her, once again ensnaring her up in his tail. Datamon pressed a button and there was a hissing sound. A long tube on the far side of the room made a loud noise like a vacuum and a door slid open to reveal another large, glass capsule. Just like the one Penguinmon was in, only this one was empty and had the top part, the lid, open.

And she realized who this one was for.

"Megadramon: contain her."

She screamed as Megadramon lifted her up and dropped her into the container. He slammed the lid shut, locking her inside it. She got to her feet and began to beat her fists against the glass.

"That will do you no good." Datamon waited for her to stop, but she continued to beat on the glass and yell at him. "You will yield to my will," he said darkly. He pressed a button and Amanda felt a short, but sharp electric shock course through her body. She fell to her knees in pain, dizzy and with a strange taste in her mouth.

But the worst thing was that she saw that Penguinmon gave a jolt at the same time, suddenly screaming out silently in the black and white security camera feed.

"Calm down or I will give you both a far worse shock than that," Datamon warned her.

Amanda looked up at the screen and saw Pengunmon had slumped to the floor onto his side. He looked unconscious.

"No… no, please, just… just don't hurt him anymore." Her eyes filled with tears and she began sobbing. "H-he's not th-the one you want. I'm the one w-who did it all! He n-never would have been in danger i-if it hadn't b-been for me!"

Megadramon again gave a cruel laugh. "This little crybaby is what had you worried, boss? What a laugh!"

"It would be amusing," Datamon replied, "if it wasn't so pathetic. And a waste of time and concern. You see, little human, it isn't the bird you should worry about."

"W-what?" Amanda whispered fearfully.

"A Penguinmon is rare in this region, but not a particularly rare digimon in general. But you… there is nothing on the Digital World that is like you. You are currently the only human on the planet, and I can learn so much from you, now that you're in my custody." He walked over to the glass capsule and placed his steely hand against it. "You are a treasure trove of information. I need to know more about humans, so I am going to run your biometrics, then put that little body of yours through every test I have available. And most fortunately of all, since you humans do not become data upon death, after the stress tests, I have a rare opportunity to study you piece by piece."

Amanda felt her knees go weak as a cold feeling of terror overtook her. She felt faint as she realized what he meant. "You… you mean…?"

Datamon went over to cabinet at the wall and opened it. Inside it were clear jars containing various animals and the organs of animals preserved in fluid.

"Yes, little human: I'm going to dissect you."


To be continued...