Chapter 36: Sons of the First

###
Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.

###

The group entered into the cave, taking in the sights of the deep, dark crevice. They heard water dripping in the distance as they approached the Digimon Queen's castle, expecting an enemy Tamer to appear at any second. So far, there was nothing.

Ayaka was starting to feel tense from the whole thing. So far, there was nothing going on, which only made the wait all the more torturous.

"Hey, where's Prokyomon?" Veemon asked, seemingly out of the blue.

"Yeah, where is that little guy?" Yuji asked. "I remember seeing him last night, but after that…"

Solarmon gave the others a nervous chuckle. "You didn't accidentally eat him, did you, Solarmon?" the long-haired boy joked, giving the gears a grin.

"Uh, no."

"What does happen if you devolve and someone else is still inside of you, anyway?" Taizou inquired, not liking the ramifications. Solarmon just gave his equivalent to a shrug, not liking where this conversation was going.

"You don't have any escape pods in your Ultimate form that Prokyomon could have used to reach the Digimon Queen's castle on his own, do you?" Antonio inquired, suspicious of the gears.

"Uh, well…"

###

As soon as the escape pod punctured the walls of the fortress, Prokyomon jumped out, dodging attacks from various enemy digimon as he aimed for a ventilation duct in the wall. He really should have thought this through a bit better and realized just how short-sighted he actually was as he scurried through the shafts, looking for a semblance of his partner. He found an empty room and exited the shaft before shutting it back up and hid just as a few rookie-level enemies ran past the duct.

The raccoon was panting from all the nervous heat that he felt due to his realization. Now, though, he would have to find another way through the palace.

So far, he didn't seem to have any incursions into his mind from Coonmon, which was a good sign, but he couldn't expect that to keep up. Then again, maybe Sanzomon's protection really reached that far. The raccoon moved along and out of the room, watching out for any enemy digimon that may have been in the halls. He felt like a spy. It was kind of exhilarating.

Finally, he reached a map and glanced at it, wondering where Ed could have possibly been. It was times like that when he wished that his partner would have given him some sort of telepathic bond so he could find him. The raccoon had almost given up before he heard a voice inside his head.

The digimon glanced in the direction of the voice and followed it. The closer he got, the more apparent that the voice was his partner's.

Then he found the pudgy boy, but not where he expected him to be. The room he found Ed in was filled to the brim with tubes, each full of liquid. Only a few of them had anyone in them, including unfamiliar people, such as some boy named Trevor, and familiar people such as Steven McCloskey, the red-head from Kyle's team. There were only a handful of girls compared to the boys, though. Everyone inside of those tubes was floating, fully clothed, and there were what looked like tubes under the kids' skin.

It was at about that point that Prokyomon discovered his partner floating inside one of the tubes, unaware of what was going on around him.

Panicking, the raccoon scurried around, looking for a switch that he could use to open it, but just as he found it, he heard the door into the room open and hid.

He would have to bide his time and hope he didn't get caught. Looking over the controls he hid behind, he spotted Tadashi and Coronamon and instantly deduced that they were looking for him. He just hoped that he would last long enough for the others to get there.

###

Ed spent the better part of a day trying to break through the door in front of him. The tools he had weren't much, basically being limited to combs, tweezers, hairspray, a long razor and shampoo, but he managed to at least figure out a way to slide the razor between the doorsill and the doorknob and, with a little tinkering, he opened it up.

He wasn't prepared for what was on the other side.

"What the heck is this?" he asked with a shocked expression on his face, disturbed at his discovery. When he exited the room, everything was black with blue wire-mesh on the side. Ed immediately wondered where he was exactly. Was the Digimon Queen's castle really like this?

Then he realized something: he wasn't tired. True, in the digital world that he started out in he normally wouldn't get tired too easily, but almost every digital world since had similar rules for food and sleep to the real world and that proved to be the case in the digital world after the Unification occurred.

He also realized something else, much to his amazement. He didn't really feel anything and it seemed like the detail around him was missing. He glanced at his hand and realized he wasn't as detailed as he thought he was.

So he jumped. The drop was slow. Apparently he was asleep and in some sort of artificial dream of some sort. The culprit was obvious: Coonmon.

The chubby boy wandered around the dreamscape cautiously, everything around him reminding him of Tron for some reason. Then he found a door.

"Pierre Cloucharde …" he muttered, glancing at the name on the door. He opened it and checked inside to find a treasure chest with a padlock on the side. "Okay…"

This place was slowly starting to become more and more of a mind screw. He glanced outside the door to spot a StrikeMapachemon wandering the halls from behind. Seeing that, he immediately shut the door to a crack and watched as the shade of a powerful digimon wandered off.

Then he moved on, keeping on the watch for any patrols and making sure he wasn't spotted. He had no idea how fast those Ultimate-level digimon were in reality, even though he designed them personally. As he wandered the dark halls with their glowing blue lines, he checked the golden doors, making sure that none of the names were of people he knew.

It was after what seemed like the fiftieth door or so that he spotted a name he really wasn't expecting: Tadashi Nakabayashi. He burst into the room and found two chests. He assumed that the chest symbolized a part of the personality that was completely shut off from the rest and upon checking the two chests; he realized that they were both repressed parts of the psyche. One of them had a padlock on it, but the other didn't. Still, when Ed tried to open the second one, it wouldn't budge. He looked on the top of the treasure chest and spotted some writing, so he decided to examine it.

"The Agent will rise when he meets the Destroyer of Worlds." He assumed the 'Destroyer of Worlds' was Kurata, but other than that… Agent? Did that mean that Tadashi was some sort of sleeper agent for someone all this time but he just didn't realize it?

"Oh, I didn't expect to see you here," Ed heard from behind. For some reason, his instant reflex was to get into a kung fu fighting stance. The digimon that spotted him wasn't a StrikeMapachemon, but something else: an Ardillamon.

Ed stood in shock at that one. "What the heck?"

"What? You never saw a squirrel before?" the fluffy-tailed rodent asked, smiling.

"No, it's just… I designed you only a couple days ago. You shouldn't exist yet and especially not here," Ed told Ardillamon.

"Oh, so you're where my partner got his drawings from!" The squirrel exclaimed.

Ed was confused about that one. "Okay, I just drew you a few days ago. That would be impossible unless…" The chubby boy thought about it for a second. "Wait, time-travel is involved, isn't it?"

"Yup!"

"And your partner is Donaciano Urrutía?" Ed deduced.

The squirrel looked at Ed in confusion. "What? Sorry, I don't know anybody by that name."

Ed thought some more. "You know anybody with that last name?" he asked.

"Urrutía? Well, yeah, a few people. There's this kid named Fernando that's on my partner's team."

The chubby boy was in shock. "Fernando? My cousin? Wait, what is he doing in the Digital World? I didn't even know he was a Tamer." By the end of the rant, he was panicking. The thought of his ten-year-old cousin facing the perils of the Digital World wasn't a pleasant one to contemplate.

"Yeah, him."

"Who else is on your team?" Ed inquired. He was going to get to the bottom of this.

"My partner, Art, a dark-skinned guy named, uh, Matt, a light-skinned kid named Gus…"

"Matthias Armstrong and Gustavo Orellana?" the chubby boy asked, not believing. "No way!"

"So, what's your name?" the squirrel inquired, tilting his head.

"Ed, Ed Urrutía. I'm trapped here because of the Digimon Queen," the heavyset boy responded.

"Oh, I thought you were Diego," Ardillamon commented.

"Uh, what?" Ed asked, confused. "You know my other cousin. How much of my family do you know?"

"Just a couple. I've seen what Diego, Ezekiel, Antonio and Katarina looked like, but other than that…" the squirrel said, getting interrupted by Ed.

"Katarina?" Ed inquired, even more confused. "My dad didn't get married while I was missing did he?"

"Huh? What? No! Okay, scratch that last one," the squirrel ordered. "You want to go someplace safe? Or at least safer than this place?"

"Yeah, that would be great," the heavyset boy said. "Where do you have in mind?"

"Well, I can't completely free you from this Digimon Queen's control until I'm where you're at physically, but I can give you asylum in my mind," Ardillamon told him. "Just follow me. By the way, my partner likes to come into my mind when we're sleeping, so don't be surprised if you run into him."

"Okay, I look forward to that," Ed told him as he followed him through Coonmon's mind network.

###

The group of boys ran after him as fast as they could. Who wouldn't recognize him with his short, curly black hair and his olive complexion? Plus, there was that nose that he inherited from his mother.

So what if he called the leader of that group of boys a pig? He deserved it. And, after all, he was having the time of his life, scurrying away from them. Plus, it was good exercise.

At least until he tripped and fell face-first into the ground.

"And it was going so great, too…" he mumbled to himself as he got up just in time for the group to catch up with him and surround him.

A few minutes later, he found himself on the ground again, battered and bruised from the epic beating that he had just received. Both his eyes were black and he tasted the iron flavor of blood in his mouth. He wondered how he was going to get past his grandparents that day, but he shrugged it off, not really caring.

As soon as art reached his street, he ran to the fence that surrounded his grandparents' house and climbed over it, landing feet-first in the yard. He felt sore in every inch of his body, but at the same time he never felt so good. He stood up for himself, after all.

Art snuck in through his grandparents' bedroom after glancing in and seeing that they weren't inside and then opened the sliding-glass door and tiptoed though the room, heading through the door and through the hall after making sure that nobody was there either. Then he walked into his room and shut the door.

Looking in the mirror, he saw how bad he actually looked and couldn't help but laugh at himself. Then he changed into some better clothes and plopped onto the bed. He hoped his grandparents didn't come in while he was there on that twin-sized mattress, recovering, but in reality he didn't care.

Just as he was about to fall asleep, he remembered. His eyes got big in horror as he recalled that his English tutor was supposed to come over that day to drill him in the language. He grumbled as he got up again. But it was too late. He already heard a knock on the door.

And it opened.

"Art, it's me… Oh," Alexander's reaction went from a smile to a shocked expression over a couple of seconds once he saw the shape that his pupil was in. "I see you had a rough day."
"Yeah, maybe…" Art said gruffly, grinning wildly.

Rinaldi simply shook his head in astonishment. "Well, I guess boys will be boys."

"Come on, you can't say you didn't get in trouble as a kid," the curly-haired kid told him.

"Actually, I did, come to think of it. My parents divorced when I was young and… Well, I got away with a lot that I probably shouldn't have since they weren't always around." The bald man chuckled a little bit. "There was this one time… Nah, that was a little inappropriate…"

"You're not going to get me in trouble, are you?" Art asked with a menacing look on his face.

"No, of course not. You're already doing enough of that as it is. Now, for today's lesson…" Leaving the door open, Alexander sat down and pulled a notepad out of his satchel. "According to your grandmother, you've been doing well with your flashcards."

"Uh, yeah, can we do something else?" the curly-haired boy asked.

Rinaldi chuckled. "Of course, since we've gone over the elementary parts of grammar and since you've learned approximately 3,000 words, more or less, we're going to start reading a bit more." The man pulled out a simple reader for learners of English. "This is the very easy stuff. By practicing your reading out loud, it'll give me a chance to check and improve your pronunciation."

"Do I have to?" Art asked, not really liking what he was doing.

"Absolutely. Knowing English is a valuable skill in today's world," the black man commented. "Would you believe that your father used similar methods to learn English?"

"Yeah, right. Only someone boring would do that," the curly-haired boy commented as an insult. Rinaldi just shrugged it off.

"You're calling your father boring?" the bald man asked with a smile, throwing the insult right back at the kid. "Hardly. He lived an interesting life."

"Right, and that led to his disappearance, right?" Art asked.

"Not really, your father's disappearance is… kind of a complicated subject."

"Yeah, and if he really loved me, he'd still be here today," the olive-skinned boy said with a frown.

"Your father did love you. He was willing to do anything for you, Art," Rinaldi assured him.

"What is love, anyway?" the boy asked, scoffing.

"Well, this session's definitely gone off the rails," the black man commented, chuckling to himself. "Baby don't hurt me… no more." The man thought about it for a second, even as Art glanced at him in confusion. "That's a song from well before you were born. And on the subject of love: I guess you could say it's a selfless devotion to someone, even to the point of self-sacrifice." The man thought of an example. "For instance, I know of someone who twice traveled thousands of miles to find his son. The first time, he never knew the boy existed and the second time, the boy had been kidnapped."

"That's crazy. Couldn't he have left it to the police? I mean, the second time, that is," Art asked the man.

Alexander smiled. "He did, but when his son was kidnapped, he was taken to a place where the local police had no jurisdiction."

"Yeah? Well, that guy was nuts. I wouldn't do that," the curly-haired boy told his tutor.

"Don't be so sure. We all have someone we would sacrifice anything to help," the black man remarked. "For instance, let's say you had a long-lost brother that you didn't know about but who was being held by enemy villain. Would you try to help him?"

Art laughed. "I have two half-sisters. I don't like either of them," the boy commented.

"True, but if you found out you had a brother you could start anew, possibly," Alexander responded. "Maybe you'd have a chance of a new familial bond. Or say, what if one of your cousins turned up. As in one of Geraldo's sons?"

Art thought about it for a second. "That would be so awesome to meet one of them," he said, smiling. "Especially Ezekiel. He looked so cool! Maybe even Fernando. I don't know about Diego, though."

Rinaldi smiled at the boy. Maybe he would fulfill the destiny the Time Lord had in mind for him after all… Maybe it was time.

"Before you get too carried away, I have something to give you," the man said, pulling out a small, black device with white trim and handing it to the boy, who looked at it with a little curiosity.

"What? Did you get me a flip-phone or something? Why not just get me an iPhone or something else instead?" Art asked.

"That is not a phone. It is a digivice," the black man explained. "In your grandparent's closet, there is a box of pictures and drawings. Find the drawings for the Ardillamon line and scan them."

Art looked at the device in his hands and then up at Alexander. "You can't be serious."

"Try it out. Just beware, though. There are those who will do anything to destroy digimon."

###

Whenever Art went to sleep, he always found himself in the library. It was the one place where he felt safe from harm and it was inside his partner's mind. He found it strange that his partner had been designed to have a veritable database of millions of books inside his head, but at least there he could be alone and away from the prying eyes of the other Tamers on his team.

When he went to sleep, his form appeared inside the library. He glanced at himself in the mirror, seeing his hair consisting of thin curls and eying his face. He glanced at his round head and wondered what Ed looked like or if Ed was at all similar to him. The boy took a deep breath, a futile gesture considering that there was no air in the dreamscape, and walked out of the office that he always found himself in whenever he went to sleep.

Millions of books, all for his enjoyment. He wondered what he was going to read that day; whether it was some trashy lit fic or some hard science fiction. He spotted a book on the shelf that piqued his interest due to how thick it was in the sci-fi section and reached up for it, grabbing it and glancing at the back.

"Peter F. Hamilton… Some British dude, huh? Wow, you could kill somebody with how thick this thing is," he commented. The boy glanced around, wondering where any of the Ardillamon duplicates that usually roamed the place were, and grabbed the thick volume from the shelf. The boy had to walk a ways through the dark and dank building to find a place where he could sit down and read. What he hadn't expected was to spot a red-head already there.

Now, every so often, he encountered things he called shades, mere manifestations of people whom he had either met in the past or seen pictures of, ranging from his parents to his grandparents to cousins that he had never met to other strangers. The heavy redhead in front of him wasn't such a person. In fact, the far-skinner, olive-skinned boy had never seen the blue-eyed redhead in his entire life.

The redhead glanced up from what he was reading. "Yo! You must have been kidnapped by Queenie too, huh?" he said with a grin.

"What are you doing here?" Art asked in his usual sardonic tone, not impressed that someplace as personal as his partner's mind was being invaded by other people.

"Just got saved from a lava pit by a little squirrel. I'd say he was cute, but guys don't say things are cute," the heavy boy said, grinning some more. From what Art could see, the other boy was going to need some serious dental work done. "The name's Steven McCloskey," he introduced himself.

"My name is Art," the dark boy responded, frowning. He wanted the redhead out of his partner's mind. "Are you the only one here?"

Steven nodded. "As far as I can tell. Hey, squirrel! You bring anybody else into this really awesome library?" Art glanced at the book the boy was reading: Twilight.

How the heck did that get in here? the dark-skinned boy thought with a cringe. It reminded him of the time he found a Justin Bieber album in the music section and promptly had Ardillamon delete it from his mind. At least it wasn't Fifty Shades of Grey, though.

Speaking of the squirrel, Ardillamon was running down the row toward them. The little rodent smiled at his partner. "What's up?"

"What's this guy doing here? And did you bring anybody else in here?" Art inquired of his partner.

"Well, I rescued him from the Digimon Queen's clutches," the squirrel explained. "I had to make sure there were no StrikeMapachemon wandering around or watching when I saved him, though, but I got him here. And there are two others wandering around here."

"Are you sure it's a good idea bringing these guys into your mind, Ardillamon?" the dark-skinned boy inquired, glaring at his partner for his recklessness.

"Don't worry, I made sure that they weren't being controlled by the Queen or anything when I brought them in," the squirrel assured him.

"Also, another thing: what the heck is Twilight doing in here?" Art asked irately, pointing at the book that Steven was reading.

"What's wrong with this book?" the redhead asked, curiously. "It just seems to be about some chick that moved to some town."
"Yeah, and falls in love with a prettyboy vampire. Plus, don't you know how crap the writing is?" Art inquired. Once Steven heard the words 'prettyboy vampire,' he immediately tossed it behind him.

"Sorry, I just saw it in the Young Adult section. I never even heard of it," the redhead responded, embarrassed.

"Believe me, in a few years, you'll wish you hadn't. It was ridiculous hearing the girls at school comment on it." Then he spoke in a falsetto. "Ohmygosh, like, Robert Patterson is so smexy!"

"It's Pattinson," Ardillamon corrected.

"Whatever. At least Patterson doesn't come up as wrong on my spellcheck," the curly-haired boy responded.

He glanced over when he spotted movement. The boy knew what it was immediately: a shade of his cousin Diego produced by his mind, glancing through some books in the nonfiction section. Either that or it really was Diego. He shook his head at himself. Diego wasn't even in the Digital World since that reality's version of him didn't even have a partner.

Still, Art decided to check this guy out. The Diego shade moved around the corner well before Art reached his section, wandering past the towering shelves with their ladders. When he reached that section, he had to walk past several more shelves before finding the shade glancing through a book on learning Russian.

That was something new. Whenever shades showed up, they never read through anything in the library. In fact, they rarely ever spoke.

Art leaned against the nearby shelf as he watched 'Diego' thumbing through the book, staring with awe.

Finally, the shade, or whatever it was, had enough of it and turned toward Art. "Hello?" he asked, slightly spooked.

"Hi, Diego, how are things going?" the curly-haired boy greeted.

'Diego' was still puzzled, wondering if the boy in front of him was going to do something stupid. "You're confusing me with my cousin." The heavy boy said before crouching down to glance at a book toward the ground that was on learning Swahili. It even had tapes with it. "Can you actually use these?"
"Uh, yeah, I have a tape player in my office," Art told him. "By the way, whose kid are you again, uh, what's your name?"

The Diego lookalike paused for a second. "Eduardo Urrutía. My dad's name is Antonio. Is your name Donaciano Urrutía?"
Art's eyes grew in size almost immediately. "Uh, I don't really go by that name since I was raised by my grandparents. It annoyed my grandma whenever she called me and got my granddad instead, or vice versa," he informed the guy. "You look so much like Diego it's kind of freaky."

Ed glanced at his relative with surprise flashing across his face. He hadn't expected it to be so easy for him to find this Donaciano Urrutía figure. "Yeah, a lot of people confuse us," he said with a chuckle. "Okay, Don, so… How come I've never met you if you were raised by our grandparents. I assume you're talking about Donaciano and Veronica Urrutía, right?"

"From an alternate reality. Okay, from the future but I started out in an alternate reality. Yeah, it's kind of confusing." Art chuckled. He absolutely couldn't believe what was happening. He was talking with Ed of all people, inside his partner's mind. He immediately hugged the boy out of nowhere, crying as he did so. "I'm so glad to meet you. You have no idea how happy I am!"

Ed didn't know what to think, reacting by pushing the other boy away. "I don't even know who you are." The pudgy boy then thought about what he had heard from his cousin about his father being married in an alternate reality. "Are you my brother or something?"

Art nodded. "Half-brother, actually."

"This is absurd," Ed responded, backing up.

"I'm sure that if you take alternate realities into account, you probably have a few other half-siblings or something," Art told him.

"Don, I try not to think about that," Ed told him.

The curly-haired boy chuckled at that, smiling. "Yeah, I can understand why. They're alternate realties. You can't possibly visit them and they don't affect you." He laughed a little again. "At least until the worlds start combining or something. By the by, it may sound absurd, but I'm traveling with Matt and Gus, your two friends."

Ed couldn't believe any of what was going on. "My brother…"
Art nodded briskly. "Yeah. It's like a bad soap opera, isn't it? I had no idea you even existed until a couple of days ago."

"But if my dad finds out…" Ed mumbled. He couldn't believe it. This had to be trick caused by the Digimon Queen's mind illusion. Everything from Ardillamon to this. It was something the Queen was using to try to change him to her ways. "This isn't real," he concluded.

"You're right, it isn't. This is just the center of Ardillamon's mind and all an illusion except for the people residing inside," Art told him.

"No, you're absolutely not real! I don't have a brother!" Ed told him. The words stung Art. "You're just something created by the Digimon Queen to… I don't know; turn me against my dad or something! That reminds me of that scene she made up of my dad making out with that Katarina chick or whatever!" Ed was staring at his half-brother angrily.

Art just stared ahead. He couldn't believe what was happening. He met his brother, the one that he had heard about just before coming here and he outright rejected him.

And Antonio making out with Katarina… "You're kidding me."

"No, I'm not. You're definitely an illusion created by the Queen. My guess is that the real Donaciano Urrutía's probably some son of my uncle Samuel or something," Ed told him. "Either that or somehow my grandpa got a partner and is stuck in the Digital World with all of us, but then my dad would have said something about that if it had happened." Ed then thought up another, more likely scenario. "Heck, he might not even be related to me. For all I know, he's some Spaniard or Argentianian or, heck; he could even be Cuban and descended from Che or something."

"Dad would roll over in his grave if he heard that," Art told him.

"Hah! You even talk to him as if he was dead!" Ed exclaimed. "Come on, Marie Cauvin, I know what you're really up to!"

Marie Cauvin… Ardillamon, did you hear that? Art asked his partner through their telepathic bond. They could only use that while they were asleep which was one reason for the library.

Uh, yeah. Marie Cauvin… Who is that?

"Is Marie Cauvin the Digimon Queen or something?" Art inquired weakly, reeling from his brother's rejection.

"Come on, Queen! You know that!" Ed yelled. Or maybe he doesn't. Maybe he isn't the Queen in disguise.

"No, I don't!" Art exclaimed. "Because I'm not her!" The boy was getting angry and had a visible scowl on his face. "Now I know why my grandparents never told me about you…"

That stung Ed. "Grandparents… I loved my grandparents. They lived just around the corner from me and my dad, too. Heck, I'm far closer to them than I am to my mom's parents who treated me like crap just for existing." The heavy boy chuckled for a second. "I wonder if they knew who my dad really was all that time ago. It wouldn't surprise me."

Art shrugged. "You know what? I was going to support Matt and Gus… and Fernando's idea of saving you, no matter how crazy it was, but this makes me want to run in the opposite direction and just let Dad take care of it."

Ed was silenced by that. "Uh… You said my dad was heading here to save me?"

"Yeah, exactly," the olive-skinned boy said.

"What? That's dangerous!" the chubby boy exclaimed, dumbfounded by the revelation. "The Digimon Queen absolutely hates him and… It's a trap set up by Coonmon."

"Coonmon… You mean StrikeMapachemon?" Art asked. "I saw drawings along with pictures I thought were of Diego. I guess they were of you."

Ed glanced at him. "What?"

"Yeah, really... I just found them in granddad's closet while I was trying to find something for a school project or something. I guess there are worse things that I could find in a closet." The dark-skinned boy chuckled at that.

It was starting to seem more and more plausible to Ed that this mysterious kid was somehow his brother. Then he recalled something his cousin Diego said to him in the Dark Ocean.

"So, you know, your dad actually married someone in my timeline," Diego informed Ed.

"Yeah, who'd he marry? Actually, on second thought, it probably wouldn't matter," Ed said.

"Come on, aren't you curious?" Prokyomon asked.

"I am… a little." Ed was surprised to see Tadashi standing there and even more surprised to hear the blond say that. He smiled a little bit.

It felt like a longshot, but maybe Don came from that union. And to think I thought that info wouldn't amount to anything.

"Okay, tell me something I wouldn't know," Ed asked him. "Actually, tell me something I could verify if I went back to the real world."

Art started to smile. "I'm with Matt, right? His partner is Kotemon and he can already go Mega." Then the dark-skinned boy laughed out loud. "Oh, and Gus is partnered with a Piximon. He also has a pink digivice."

Ed chuckled,. "That's just absurd!"

"I know, right?" Art replied with a wide grin. "You know, I can probably wake you up from here. I don't trust doing that, though, considering you're probably surrounded by StrikeMapachemon's forces."

The chubby boy smiled. "You're right. But what else can I do?" Then Ed heard something coming from outside of him. His partner needed his help. He had no idea how there could be any sort of telepathic bond between the two of them since he didn't design Prokyomon with that sort of ability, but there was and he could sense who was pursuing his partner.

"Actually, I have a better idea," Ed said, facing his brother again. "A friend of mine got brainwashed. You think you can save him?"

Art looked a bit dumbfounded. "That sounds really dangerous, bro," he responded gruffly.

Ed gave his brother a crooked smile. "But, if you can do it, it shows how real you really are. And if not, you can always back out, right?"

The curly-haired boy clenched his fists. "Oh, the things I do for family… Let's get the move on. We ain't got all day!"

###

The two brothers arrived at the door to Tadashi's mind after dodging numerous patrols on the way and opened it, entering into the mind.

"Oh, wow, that's unexpected," Art remarked, glancing at the two chests. He's a flipping agent. Oh, yeah, Tadashi Nakabayashi! How could I forget?

"You think you can do anything about it, Don?" Ed asked, hopeful.

"Heck yeah, I can. Ardillamon, let's get to work!" the curly-haired boy ordered and the squirrel moved forward.

"Wow, that's a strong lock," the little creature muttered as he tried to undo it. "I might have to digivolve."

"Okay," the curly-haired Tamer obliged, creating a shard of code with his left hand. "Digi-soul, charge!"

"Ardillamon digivolve to… Sciurumon!" The squirrel's Champion form was much like his rookie form, though a bit larger and primarily bipedal. The digimon also had a large axe on his back that he could use against any enemy they happened to come across.

"What's the highest level your partner can reach?" Ed asked out of curiosity.

"This one!" Art exclaimed. "Never reached Ultimate, though I would like to soon. I'm probably going to have to since my team is headed toward where you're at!"

Ed nodded.

"So, how was it like getting raised by dad?" the curly-haired boy asked his brother.

"I wasn't raised by him. Heck, I basically lived a lie until just around the time I turned thirteen since my mom hates our dad so much," Ed explained. Art was struck by a brief silence as he thought about that.

"You're kidding!" the curly-haired boy exclaimed, realizing that Ed may have had things worse. "That's horrible. Man, what's with all these guys that hate our dad? That just makes no sense."

"What about you?" Ed inquired, trying to figure it out.

"I remember him from when I was four, but that's about it. Dad disappeared right after that and I ended up with our grandparents."

"That's pretty weird. What about your mom?" Ed asked, surprised.

Art was about to say something, buth he heard something behind them: a harsh growling as something scratched against the door. He had an idea about what that was. "Oh great, Coonmon's probably found us." Then he turned to his partner. "You any closer, Sciurumon?"

"This lock is just impossible!" the oversized squirrel complained.

"Crap!" Art cursed. "Well, you better hurry up!"

Still, it wouldn't budge. No matter what he did, he couldn't remove the lock. Art glanced at the other lock and thought about it. Should we release the Agent of Forever inside his mind?

The idea was tempting, but at the same time, Art knew that now wasn't the time. The agents were supposed to be used against…

They were running out of time. "Ed, you're going to have to wake up," the olive-skinned boy informed his older brother. "When you do that, try to avoid the Digimon Queen or any of her agents. Also, dad should be there soon and so should I."

"That's what I wanted to do, anyway," the chubby boy told him.

Art grinned slyly. "Alright, then so be it! Sciurumon, wake him up along with the others!"

The large squirrel nodded and then closed his eyes and concentrated. Ed disappeared almost immediately. Then he and Art glanced at the door.

StrikeMapachemon burst forth from outside of the room signifying Tadashi's mind and aimed for Sciurumon, who dodged and proceeded to evade a number of claw attacks from the larger, cybernetic mammal. Then the giant squirrel pulled his axe from off his back while avoiding more attacks and struck with it, causing StrikeMapachemon to get fiercer in his strikes. It was as if the battle was making him stronger.

Art couldn't let his brother or his friends down.

There was no way. He let too much of his family down as it is…

###

When he was called to dinner, his grandparents found out that he was in a fight, and he was chewed out. For one thing, his grandmother didn't want him soiling his father's name by getting into fights with kids at school. Plus, there was that entire lecture about how it could end up worse than simply getting beat up by some kids at school. There were gangs on the other side of town. If he were to get into trouble with one of those, then he could have been killed.

Art didn't want to hear any of it. Instead, he just got up and rushed out of the room as soon as he finished eating.

When he walked into his bathroom, he heard his grandparents talking some more.

"I think we should tell him everything," his grandma said, feeling guilty.

"But if he knew what happened… Plus, he probably wouldn't believe it, anyway," the older man objected. His hair was almost completely gray now and he was starting to get wrinkles all over his face. He was in his late sixties, after all.

His wife frowned. Her curly hair, which her grandson had inherited from her, was still black, but that was only because she dyed it on a regular basis. And on top of that, she was starting to get lines across her face too.

Veronica tried her best to reassure her husband. "Donaciano, you know that nothing is going to happen to our grandson. He's not going to become a Digimon Tamer like his father was."

Art's eyes widened at that. His father was a Digimon Tamer? Was that the reason he disappeared? To fight some battle in the Digital World?

But things didn't add up. He didn't remember seeing any digimon before his dad disappeared. And if that was the case, then why did his mom vanish into thin air as well?

Art just slouched on the ground, trying to handle this revelation.

Well, if his dad was a Tamer, then he would be an even better one. For the first time that night, the boy smiled.

###

The next day, he left the house with his digivice as a guide. Since it was the weekend, he had the day off from school and told his grandparents that he'd be going to his friend Cirilo's house. He was going to go there, but he had one stop to go to first and using his digivice, he found the place.

It turned out that his partner was emerging inside a parking garage.

The curly-haired boy looked around, hoping that there wasn't anybody there. He then ascended up the stairs, climbing them until he reached the story where his partner was coming out of the area between worlds. The floor just happened to be completely deserted since most commuters only used the stories starting about two floors below. The curly-haired boy gasped when he saw the dome of fog before heading inside.

Upon entry, he immediately spotted his partner, a squirrel. Then the digimon opened his eyes and glanced over to where Art was, curious. The digimon got up off the ground and wandered over to where the boy was and looked at his face, tilting his head to the side.

Art was somewhat frightened, though Ardillamon looked like a normal-sized squirrel. The boy stood and waited until after a few seconds when the digimon spoke.

"Are you my partner?" the rodent asked.

Art grinned nervously. "Uh, yeah. The name's Art." He didn't really know how to do this. For a few minutes, the duo conversed, finding out a bit about each other. Then, the curly-haired boy picked up the digimon and carried him out of the parking garage where the little squirrel emerged.

Since Art had no idea how his grandparents would respond to him having a partner, he decided to keep the digimon a secret. He then went to his friend Cirilo's house and played video games with the other boy before heading home. On his way there, he spotted a plume of smoke ascending into the sky but thought nothing of it other than that someone had apparently lit their house on fire. It was only as he walked toward the house that he realized that it was his grandparents' place that was up in flames.

He panicked as soon as he found out, running towards the house and arriving in time to see a group of firefighters spraying it with water. He just stood there, his mouth open in shock at the sight, realizing what had happened.

"Arturo! You're okay!" Art glanced over to see his aunt Marcela run up to him and hug him, tears going down her face. She was a heavyset woman who was in her early forties with her curly black hair tied in a ponytail. "Thank God, you're okay!"

He couldn't speak. Instead, he dropped the digivice that was in his hands and it fell down onto the asphalt.

"Grandma and Grandpa?" was all he could ask.

His aunt shook her head. "They were inside when it happened. It was a bomb. We don't know who did it or why."

Why would they… oh. He glanced over at the digivice that was on the ground. It was all because of that. Because of Digimon, because of the Digital World, his parents were both gone and his grandparents were dead.

He cried all night.

###

Ardillamon showed up a little later on at the house of his aunt Marcela and her husband but Art was silent. The tears going down his face hadn't dried and the boy was just holding the digivice, realizing how much trouble it had caused.

"Art…" the squirrel uttered, not sure how to approach this. He was still new at life, and although he had far more intelligence than Guilmon did at his age, he really lacked experience. The curly-haired boy just looked at him angrily, though.

"It's all because of you," he accused.

"What?" the squirrel asked, confused.

"If it weren't for me getting that stupid digivice and scanning it, then my grandparents would still be alive today!" he exclaimed. Then he grabbed the digivice and threw it at Ardillamon. "Take this and leave!"

Ardillamon flinched when it hit the ground in front of him and he didn't know how to handle that, so he took the digivice and ran out of the house.

Art sat quietly in the guest room. And then he cried even more.

###

There's no way I'm going to let anyone else down again… The curly-haired boy thought to himself, glancing at his digivice. No way…

"Sciurumon, I'm going to have to wake up," Art informed him as he fought tooth and nail with StrikeMapachemon. He hated leaving the scene of the battle, but he had no other choice. He was charged with emotion.

So he awoke.

###

Matt was ready for a prank. For once, he had one in mind involving a bucket of warm water. He grinned as he put it next to where Art was sleeping.

"He's gonna hate you for this," Fernando warned him in a deadpan to no avail.

"Um, where did you get a bucket, anyway?" Alice asked, deadpan.

"Oh, it was in the Chavez brother's shed. I just thought I'd borrow it and bring it with me, that's all." He chuckled to himself as he reached for the curly-haired boy's hand to dunk it in the water.

Then he was royally freaked out when Art's eyes burst open and he popped straight up, landing on his tired feet. Unfortunately for Matt, he accidentally splashed warm water all over himself, grumbling as it dripped from his nose.

Then there came the green glow of data that surrounded Art. "The heck, man! You going Super Saiyan or something?" Matt exclaimed, but Art paid him no heed. Instead, the olive-skinned Tamer took his hand and struck the top of his digivice.

"Digi-Soul Full Charge!"

The blast hit Ardillamon, who was still in his rookie form in the world of the awake, almost instantly.

"Ardillamon digivolve to…" The digimon changed form, despite not being awake, standing tall as he did so. The new form was immense with grey armor and a massive red axe on its back. All over his body, there was armor that made him look larger than he actually was, with broad shoulders and flexible joints. The digimon's head was covered by a helmet that exposed the mouth and there were also numerous mechanical implants all over his body as well as a pair of wings and a jetpack on his back. In addition, there were green lines all over his armor that glowed.

"MechaScirumon!"

Art stood there amazed while everyone else just looked on in confusion.

"Uh, why did you digivolve your partner all the sudden?" Alice asked, walking to where the curly-haired boy was standing. The Ultimate-Level was still upright, but it wasn't moving due to being asleep.

"Because he's fighting a battle in his mind," Art explained, though everybody else just looked on in confusion.

"Does this have something to do with that library you said was in your partner's mind?" Jeri inquired.

Art gave her a curt nod. "Yeah, it turned out my brother was trapped in Coonmon's mind network and somehow he made his way to the library. I went with him to free another friend of his, but on the way, we ran into trouble and my partner had to fight StrikeMapachemon."

Everyone just stared on in silence for a couple seconds before Matt broke it.

"Man, I'm not going to even try to understand that," the black boy said, shaking his head.

"So, how's your brother doing?" Fernando inquired. Gustavo listened in as best he could.

Art just shrugged. "He's doing pretty good, though he had a meltdown when he found out who I was. But now I'm kind of worried since he's now awake."

"Okay, man, this is just too stupid to believe," Matt said.

The curly-haired boy glanced over at the dark-skinned boy. "Yeah? Why?"

"I mean, you don't actually have a brother. Heck, you lied about who you are from the beginning." Matt had his arms crossed as he said it.

Jeri glanced at the two, getting prepared in case the two decided to go at each other and knowing Art's temper and Matt's tendency to push buttons, she had to be ready.

Art just chuckled and gave a crooked smile. "You're right. I haven't been honest with you guys. Looking back, I guess I felt that the world owed me something for all the crap it put me too. I guess that should change right now."

"Good!" Matt exclaimed.

"My name is Donaciano Arturo Urrutía and I'm the son of Antonio Urrutía," the olive-skinned boy explained with a grin, causing everyone who didn't figure it out to glance at him in shock. "And my brother is Eduardo Urrutía."

Matt's eyes more or less popped out and his mouth just about dropped to the floor.

###

When Ed came to, he opened his eyes and then closed them again since he was suspended in fluid. He felt the gas mask on his face. He needed to get out.

He promptly pulled off all the wires that were attached to his body before knocking on the glass, knocking harder with each strike before it cracked and all the orange-colored liquid spilled out along with him.

Groggily he got up, pulled off his gas mask and opened his eyes. Looking around, he saw two others that were suspended in fluid: Steven McCloskey and another boy he saw in the library, a skinny, mildly tanned white boy who was wearing a blue shirt and some grey cargo shorts. Both looked like they were awake and trying to get out of the tubes they were in. Only Steven seemed like he was successful at remotely cracking the tube.

Ed ran over to the brown-haired boy's tube and looked over the buttons. To his annoyance, it seemed like everything was in French, so he had to guess what it all said based on its similarities to Spanish. He punched a button that looked like it said 'Empty', and the tube was drained of fluid and the tube opened up.

The chubby boy caught the brown-haired boy as he fell forward. "Thank you," he said.

"No, problem," Ed responded before going to Steven's cracked tube and pressing the same button. "The name's Ed, by the way."

"Trevor," Ed glanced over at the brown-haired boy and realized something was off. The boy kept his eyes closed at all times.

"What's up?" Steven asked, drying himself off. "Ugh, what the heck am I doing here? First, it was that place from Tron and now this."

"We're in the Digimon Queen's castle," Ed told the red-head.

"Oh, duh!" Steven slapped himself on the head.

"So, do you know what the Queen wants of us?" Trevor asked. Now Ed knew something was off. He glanced at the boy's eyes and noticed that he wasn't even looking at him in the eye. Plus, there was something off about those blue eyes.

"I, uh… you don't want to know. She probably wants to put us in her harem or something," the black-haired boy responded. He didn't want to ask the question directly.

"Oh, okay, that is weird," Trevor replied.

"So, are you blind or something?" Steven inquired all the sudden.

"Uh, yeah, how'd you guess?" the brown-haired boy asked, shifting uncomfortably.

"Dude, you weren't even looking at me!" the red-head exclaimed.

"Guys, I think we need to get out of…" Ed's sentence was interrupted when his partner came in from out of the room, being chased by Coronamon who was tossing flames at him and damaging whatever happened to get in the way. "Prokyomon!"

Coronamon stood in a stance while his partner showed up from behind him. Tadashi looked frustrated. "What are you doing out of the tubes!" he exclaimed angrily.

Ed grabbed his digivice, ready for whatever. "We're leaving, Tadashi."

The blond snorted. "Yeah, so you can go back to that idiot dad of yours?"

"Tadashi, I know you're not a bad guy. Get the hang of yourself, man!" Ed exclaimed.

Tadashi chuckled. "Oh, please, deep down we're all like this, Ed," he said.

"Wow, this guy doesn't look very happy," Trevor said.

"Gee, how can you tell?" Steven asked sarcastically.

Tadashi charged, aiming at Ed with a punch, but the heavier boy dodged. He didn't want to fight his friend, but he had no choice.

After a few more strikes, Steven charged and tackled the blond, pinning him to the ground. Tadashi chuckled. "Right, like you'll get away with this."

A fireball flew upwards. Ed glanced over, seeing that his partner had tackled Coronamon who was going to shoot the flame at Steven.

"You want to bet. I'm way heavier than you, Tadashi," the red-head stated, grinning and proceeding to sit on Tadashi's chest. "So, what do you want to do? Make it easy or hard."

Right when he asked that, the blond went limp.

###

MechaSciurumon faced his opponent, ready for anything.

"A new form? Do you really think you can defeat me just like that?" StrikeMapachemon asked, scoffing at his new opponent.

"Most definitely," the cyborg squirrel responded. "I was designed to defeat you personally. Everything about me was made to counter you."

The raccoon laughed in his enemy's face. Then he moved forward as MechaSciurumon pulled his axe from off his back, causing energy to appear all over the blade. The powerful, grey-clad Ultimate struck his opponent in self-defense, causing a massive gash to appear in his armor, revealing the hollow interior of the powerful telepath's mental body.

"That proves it. You are but a shell, a far weaker duplicate, whereas I'm the real deal," MechaSciurumon said, but StrikeMapachemon wasn't deterred. He brought out his claws and struck fast and hard, damaging the squirrel in various spots.

How's it going? Art's voice boomed through MechaSciurumon's mind, giving him encouragement.

I might need a little help, the squirrel responded. He then felt his partner's presence resonate throughout his psionic body.

He knew that that was something that StrikeMapachemon didn't have. The raccoon's partner was just another pawn for him. Art's presence gave him strength, both mentally and of will. The two of them had gone through so much together and had to do so much to mend their relationship after Art threw the squirrel out of his life.

And now it seemed like the boy was finally healing. He had something to fight for. "Axe of the Just!" MechaSciurumon yelled, teleporting in front of his enemy and striking in numerous vital points.

"Fist of Light!" The squirrel yelled, causing his left fist to glow white and strike through the hard of the mental digimon in front of him, causing him to shatter.

Now, we can free him, Art said. The boy had his eye's closed in the world outside sleep and was trying to concentrate on what was happening.

Should I let the Agent of Forever out as well?

Maybe it would be a good idea to do that. Who knows what having Dumnorix free might bring to the table?

Taking the axe, the squirrel struck the lock on Tadashi's good side. Then he lifted it again.

But as he did so, a hologram of the Time Lord Alexander Rinaldi appeared, coming from the chest. "This is an automated message warning you against freeing the Agent of Forever inside of this Tamer's mind. Doing so prematurely can cause the balance of the team he or she is on to be ruined and everything the Agent knows could be revealed prematurely. I would suggest letting the Agent wait until the appointed time."

"Duly noted," MechaSciurumon said, withdrawing his axe and putting it away as the figure disappeared.

Then the squirrel put his palm to the ground of Tadashi's mind, making so that it was encoded so that StrikeMapachemon couldn't breach into it again, making the blond boy immune to the raccoon's incursions.

###

Both Art and MechaSciurumon opened their eyes up at the same time. "Okay, that was definitely freaky, man. Don't do that again," Matt complained.

The curly-haired boy chuckled. "Don't worry, I won't," he said with a grin.

"Just in time too," Alice commented. "We're starting to slow down and we should be at the cave entrance in just a couple of minutes."

"Well, now almost everybody can reach Ultimate, so whatever the Digimon Queen sends against us should be easy to defeat," Jeri added.

Alice almost gave a smile, but then she thought about how her partner still hadn't reached Ultimate. She didn't know how she was going to do that, though, since she had only been partnered with Sparrowmon for a little bit and she still hadn't gotten over Dobermon.

"Alice, are you alright?" Jeri asked.

"I'm fine!" the blonde responded, almost snapping before putting her hand over her mouth. "Sorry."

The brunette gave her an uneasy smile. "Don't worry. Everything will be alright."

Then the bubble landed.

"We're here!" Gus exclaimed, running over to his dazed partner.

"There's no way I'm doing that again," Piximon commented, ready for a rest inside of his partner's arms.

"Yeah, it should be smooth sailing from here on out, right?" Matt asked the group.

"Hope so," Fernando said. But he felt like something was wrong. Something seemed off. He couldn't figure it out, despite his natural intuition caused by his above-average deduction ability.

"So, what's with the bucket, anyway?" Art inquired.

"Oh, well, I just kind of brought it along in case an emergency came up and I needed to wake you up," Matt replied.

"He was planning on pulling a prank on you," Alice corrected.

"Hah! Making me try to wet the bed, huh?" Art asked, finding it more funny than aggravating. "You're going to have to do better than that!"

"Guys!" Fernando called out to the rest of the team. "We have to be ready! Something's coming!"

"Like what?" Impmon asked, not really buying it.

Then they saw the light heading towards them with his rather portly human partner. It was Lucemon, and as soon as he dropped Jacob McCloskey to the side, he was prepared.

"Guys, we need to digivolve to our maximum levels now!" Art exclaimed, panicked by the sight.

"Are you kidding me? It's only a Rookie," Matt objected.

"No, I think we should listen to my cousin," Fernando said, almost panicking. "Digivolution activate!"

"Patamon digivolve to… MagnaAngemon!" the yellow creature called out.

Lucemon prepared an attack. "Grand Cross!"

The team split into multiple directions to get out of the way, but the attack was still powerful enough to throw them all back.

"There's no way that was the attack of a rookie," Alice commented wryly, wiping the dust and debris out of her eyes.

"Like Art said, get ready!" Jeri told the team. She was going to lead this team to victory, no matter what.

###

Ayaka's team continued their trek through the caves. "Dude, how long until we reach the castle?" Yuji asked, bored out of his mind.

"About five miles," Antonio responded. "We should get there within the next couple of hours."

"Can't we take a break?" Miki asked the rest. Truth be told, they were all tired and Antonio knew it even though he wanted to continue on until the end.

"We probably should do that," Ayaka commented. "We wouldn't want to lose against the Digimon Queen just because we're all tired."

Antonio saw the logic in that, even though he wanted to move on. "Okay, fine," he said, not really wanting to argue. He tried his best not to let his personal grievances get in the way of his relationship with the rest of the team.

Still, he felt really antsy, and as the others sat down and ate or took naps, he got up and wandered around the camp, pulling out his digivice and glancing at it.

He noticed that there was a group of Tamers at the entrance of the cave and checked who they were. The answer surprised and disturbed him at the same time since he could plainly see that it was Jeri's team. And then there was the fact that Gustavo and his own nephew Fernando were there, along with a blank digivice. Donaciano? he asked himself.

"Hey, how's it going?" Antonio glanced up from his digivice to find himself face to face with Abigail Symanski. The girl smiled at him.

"Good. It's going good. You?" he inquired uneasily.

"As good as I'll ever be. I'm worried about Ed," she informed him. He briefly wondered if there was some sort of romantic connection between her and his son, but he shrugged it off.

"So am I," he said. "It's really hard."

"I bet," she said.

Then the unthinkable happened. When he checked his digivice, Antonio didn't notice a seventh signal near their location, and it cost him. He felt a sharp burning pain stab through his back and fell over onto his chest, not knowing that Abby was screaming or that he had been struck by a fireball from behind by a Dracomon. The digimon and his Tamer were there, ready to defeat the team and kill him.

As soon as Abby screamed, everyone got up and prepared themselves for their hardest battle yet.

###

A/N: Trevor is based on a friend of mine, who really acts like that. And he's blind. He's also the only blind Computer Science major I've ever met. And he's got a one-eyed twin.

And if you're worried about the sheer amount of OCs and focus on them, the next chapter should focus on canon characters far more than OCs, namely Alice and Ayaka. Yep.