Digimon re:CONNECT || Something wicked this way comes.

Episode 01: Once More Unto the Breach

A thin silver of crescent moon peeked out from behind a wall of clouds. It was a beautiful night in the merry month of May; the air was warm, tempered by a gentle breeze. In the distance, lights twinkled and cars rumbled; the downtown of Atlas Park was coming to life as Friday night was underway.

That is not where we pick up the story.

Where we pick up the story is one girl who was having no part of any of the downtown. Natalie Green sat perched on the roof of her family's apartment building, legs dangling off the side and the backs of her rubber-heeled sneakers bouncing off the brick.
Natalie was a girl of average height and decent grades and average-enough circumstances, with shortish ginger hair and eyesight that would warrant she wear glasses more often than she did. She had a few freckles on the back of her left knee and was mildly allergic to tomatoes; she chipped a tooth in the third grade and often got mad at other drivers while in her car.
She was, of course, rather extraordinary in other ways, though; for instance, her best friend was quite unique.

You see, seated next to her on the roof, sitting behind the wall rather than on top of it, was a large-- well. Not quite a bird? He had a bird-like silhouette despite his lack of wings, yes, and he had talon-like hands and feet, and black feathers all over his body... but 'bird' would fall quite short of describing him. His skin -- as he was bare from the elbows to his hands and his knees to his feet -- was lilac; a frill of longer, darker feathers sat around his neck, and even-longer feathers of the same shade formed his tail, which was oddly rigid and bent obtustely. He had bandages wrapped around his upper arms, for reasons that were hard to discern.

But all of this is a distraction; the most remarkable thing about him was that his face appeared to be covered by a plague doctor's mask, complete with a thin black strap running around the back of his head. It was white, with a long beak and big black eyes with curious white pupils. It seemed to be a mask, but he could blink and furrow his brow and he had a mouth, just not one that was terribly apparent until he actually spoke.
This was Raumon-- Natalie's oldest friend, closest confidant, and most jealously-kept secret.

(To everyone that wasn't in her family, anyway. It's kind of hard to hide a small-child-sized bird from your parents for, uh, fifteen years.)

Natalie turned and craned her neck to look at her feathered compatriot. He'd been acting slightly out of sorts lately; Natalie herself had been busy, and even now, she felt a lingering sort of unease. Her finals week had just concluded earlier that day, and she had barely had the time to do anything but study and regret her life choices. These precious few days were her chance to unwind before she began whatever summer job would hire her --
(Look, it had been a busy semester, and she had totally spaced out on applying ahead of time, okay?)
-- but she still felt a curious ball of stress in her stomach. She knew one way to at least ease it, though, if not totally cure it.

"Hey. You wanna go down to the bridge?" she asked, and watched the ear-like clusters of feathers on Raumon's head prick up as she spoke.

"Sure," Raumon said without a moment of delay, scratching at his face idly.

Night was, for self-evident reasons, the only time that they (or, rather, Raumon) could leave the apartment; even though Atlas Park never really went quiet, if you knew where to go, you could find secluded places under cover of darkness without too much of a trouble.

***

The door on the roof led right down into her family's apartment on the top floor. They passed Natalie's sisters' bedroom (twins, you see, and young enough that sharing a room until Natalie moved out wasn't too terrible a prospect), down the hall past the other bedroom, and stopped just short of the living room. Natalie peered around the lip of the doorway; her parents were watching some terrible B-movie-- the kind of drek that nobody with an ounce of self-respect would watch.

Of course, she recognized instantly that it was 50-Foot Squid Monsters vs. The City of Cleveland.

Natalie mouthed along with a few lines of badly-acted, stilted dialogue, while Raumon mimed along with the actors on-screen, because they both knew the film by rote.

Of course.

"We're going out to the park," Natalie said after a moment, once there was a gap in the script. (Didn't want them to miss any vital plot developments, after all.) "We'll be back in a bit, unless we get hit by a car or something."

"Noted," her father said, not taking his attention away from the television, with his typical level of engagement. Natalie occasionally contemplated saying she was doing something outlandish, like running away to join the circus or to get a tattoo on her forehead, to see if he'd respond any more.

Nonetheless, Natalie plucked her car keys off of the ring. With Raumon hot on her heels, the pair set out the front door. They gingerly crept down the four flights of stairs that led down to ground level, not wanting to alert the neighbors by galumphing down at high speed. Sure, they knew that they had absolutely no chance of being evicted -- it was her parents' apartment building, as in they owned the building... but Raumon would be a hard pill to swallow if any neighbors peeked their heads out to see what was the matter.

Oh, and also it'd be rude to be loud, but that wasn't quite as high a priority, you know? Gotta keep those priorities in order.

Raumon practically dove into the bushes once they hit the ground floor as one of the tenants poked his head out to take out his garbage; luckily the dumpster was close-by, so even though Natalie kept walking so as not to look suspicious, Raumon didn't have far to catch up.
Within a few scant seconds, Raumon was clambering into shotgun in Natalie's car, and he was far more at-ease as he buckled in. He was short enough that, even sitting shotgun, someone would have to be standing right next to the car and looking in to spot him.

"All good?" Natalie asked as she got into the driver's side; her avian-esque friend gave her a thumbs-up, and they were off, comfortable in silence and not needing to fill it with small talk. ... okay, more the latter than the former; Raumon turned on the radio.

Their destination was in the city park; it was up relatively close to the Harper River, a little ways north of Natalie's apartment building. It was only about twenty minutes away assuming no outstanding traffic congestion, which for some godawful reason, did sometimes happen.

The park was a green oasis in a city that was rapidly developing every spare inch of land; the stream that they were headed to, a tiny offshoot of the much bigger river nearby, cut through one side of the park, and was fairly close to the parking lot that Natalie pulled into. It was bordered on either side by tall trees, the remnants of an old grove that once stood near the edge of town. They towered over the lazy water's surace, providing a natural ceiling of sorts and dropping stray leaves. On nights that the moon was fuller, it would shine beams down through the gaps; on a night like tonight, the only illumination came from the sparse street-lamps that intermittently lined the concrete walkways that zigzagged through the park.
This, paired with the dense foliage, provided plenty of cover for Raumon to run ahead into and wait until Natalie caught up, walking at more natural a speed.

A very old wood and metal bridge stretched across the water at a relatively narrow point, and it is on this structure that Natalie and Raumon convened. They came here relatively often, when Natalie had the time; sometimes they came to sit and think, sometimes they merely came to avoid the claustrophobia of staying inside, and sometimes they came to pretend, if only for a short time, that they didn't live somewhere quite so intensely developed and industrial.
It also had a degree of sentimental value, but, you know, that was just a bonus.

"I've been going crazy cooped up inside," Raumon said, stretching out his arms and legs in turn like he was doing a careful inventory of himself.

"I know, I know," Natalie said with an apologetic little shrug.

"I know, I know," Raumon said, in exactly the same tone of voice -- not to mock her, but just because he had picked up the tic from her, "you've been busy. Too busy to spend an hour or two doing absolutely nothing with me. I'm so very slighted and offended," Raumon said, putting a claw to his forehead like he might just swoon. Natalie smirked and shook her head.

"I'm a terrible friend."

"Just the worst."

They kept straight faces for a good ten seconds before both of them began to laugh. It felt good to be outside instead of studying (in Natalie's case) or simply just stuck inside (in Raumon's).

"Really, though. You been feeling alright?" Natalie asked, looking over at the bird as she leaned forward on the railing of the bridge.

"Yes?" he ventured, but his voice was unsure. Perhaps he was just feeling cooped up; that was how he was chalking up the slightly uneasy feeling in his gut. So be it that he'd been cooped up a dozen times in the past few years for one reason or another and he'd never felt like this before.
Natalie squinted at him; she wasn't buying it, and he knew it.
"I don't know," he said after a second delay, and he tapped a claw to his beak. "You know that feeling when you know something's happened and you're waiting with bated breath for someone to tell you about it?"

"Right," Natalie said, nodding. The both of them had historically had fairly reliable gut feelings, and they always seemed to settle in within the day, if not mere hours, of something coming out of left field, whether it be as simple as predicting that Natalie's mom would forget to run to the bank on her way home to Raumon's prediction, a mere 24 hours prior, that Natalie's then-boyfriend would show his particularly douchey true colours soon.

"I've been feeling like that. Like something's really off." He spoke apprehensively, not sure if he was making sense, or if this was worth bringing up at all; he was a bit taken aback, but pleasantly so, when Natalie's shoulders slumped with a sigh of relief.

"So it's not just me, then?" she said, miming wiping sweat off of her forehead with the back of her hand.

"Not just you," he said, and he too slumped his shoulders with the release of that uncertain tension-- or, at least, some of it. "I should have figured you'd catch on too."

"I don't know what it is," she said, stretching out and looking towards the direction of the parking lot, where they had just walked. "I was thinking it might just be the college thing. But unless I've missed something, you're not doing online classes or sneaking out to the college," (Raumon chuckled at this), "so why would you feel it too?"

Raumon nodded; he remembered full well the way, after graduating from high school, his friend had woken up in a cold sweat more than once in the following week, and convinced of the delusion that she must have some project to complete or a test to study for. He looked up at Natalie, scanning her face and her body language; she had turned back to look at him, her hands on her hips, weight shifted onto one foot.

"Psychic brain worms?" he suggested after a moment of thought, gesturing vaguely with one purple claw.

"May as well be," she said with a heavy sigh, looking up at the sky through the shifting canopy of leaves.

Somehow, neither of them felt any less confused about that uneasy feeling settling in their stomachs, but it was at least something to know that they both felt it. Was that a comfort, though? If they both felt it, didn't that mean that something was probably about to happen, or was that just confirmation bias?

Raumon, feeling the itch to move, half-clambered up onto the wall of the bridge, not quite able to pull himself up all the way but hoisting himself up sufficiently to look over the side.

"Is something up?" Natalie asked, following his eyeline.

There was a beat of silence, before he answered: "I thought maybe I might see something if I got up here, but I think I'm just hurting my arms."

Natalie smiled and picked Raumon up, hands under his armpits, to set him on top of the wall proper. He puffed his chest-feathers in appreciation as he took a seat on the top of the rail, while Natalie leaned forward and rested her arms.

They stayed there for another fifteen minutes more; they talked about the news that Raumon had read while Natalie was taking her tests, and about maybe getting something from a drive-through on the way back home (Raumon, of course, would have to hide in the back). They didn't fill the space, though; they were perfectly content to take advantage of the stillness.
(They didn't know, at the time, how little they'd get to do so in the very near future.)
The wind rustled the trees, the water ran beneath them, and every now and then, a bat would swoop down to snap up a mosquito from the water's surface, but nothing gave either of them cause for alarm.

The silence and the stillness were broken when Natalie snapped her head up. She saw a light in the distance, accompanied by the whir of bicycle wheels -- someone was riding their bike through the park at the ripe hour of nine-thirty at night, for some godforsaken reason.
"Someone's coming," she said in a hushed, urgent tone, and tapped Raumon on the shoulder gently.

What she meant was for this to be a signal for them to go. Unfortunately, Raumon was a bit lost in thought; the gentle tap was a rude awakening, and instead of being gently roused, he half-squawked, half-squeaked, and jerked forward.

He flailed his arms around in circles; Natalie wouldn't dare say it, but in her head, the only word that came to mind was timber. A couple slow-motion seconds and one large splash later, and they had a very soggy bird on their hands.
Or in the stream.
Mostly in the stream.

The passing night-cyclist cast Natalie a very strange look as she half-hoisted herself over the lip of the bridge, trying very hard to stifle a giggle, but they presumably suspected nothing.

Raumon re-emerged with a gentle bloop a few seconds later and he began to spit water out of his mouth, but aside from being wet and maybe a little muddy, he seemed fairly unharmed.

"You know," he said, and though he was drenched his tone was quite dry, "there are more effective ways to warn me when someone is coming." Luckily, the water wasn't too deep nor quick-moving, and it was a short paddle back to the bank. A few moments to shake some of the water out of his feathers and he was trotting back up to rejoin Natalie on the bridge.

"We're both lucky that I don't care if you get my car wet," Natalie said blithely, smiling at her soggy friend, "or I'd hang you up to dry for a few hours before we went home. Come on. Let's get a cheeseburger or ten," she said, beginning to walk back to her car. Raumon was quick to follow, doing an awkward hop-skip every few strides to shake more water off of his limbs, but he cast a look over his shoulder.

He should have waited just a second more to look back; the moment he turned away, a shape in the dark shimmer and shifted in the trees, a dark-hued something visible for just a second before it faded away.

They didn't think twice of the way the streetlamps flickered.

***

In the corner of Natalie's room, there was a square of about two and a half feet by two and a half feet, between the foot of Natalie's bed and the wall, that was designated space for Raumon. It was mostly a nest of blankets and pillows on a large bean-bag chair, but many of his other belongings were buried strategically-- a little chest full of feathers and trinkets, a scrapbook full of pressed flowers, books he had borrowed and had Natalie buy for him, candies, candy wrappers, all sorts of little things.

When they had moved into and taken ownership of this building many years back, her parents had offered him his own space, but he had declined, perfectly happy to share space with Natalie. Indeed, while it was nominally "Natalie's Room", it was really more of Raumon and Natalie's room. The strange bird creature had been a part of their family for fifteen years-- though, admittedly, he had looked different when they first met. He was older than Natalie's sisters, even; they had had plenty of time to adjust.

This of course did make it a bit problematic whenever Alexis and Madison, said younger sisters, had friends over, but this was solved easily enough by having Nat and Raumon sequester in their room whenever visitors were about.

Luckily enough, they were perfectly content to do that whether there were visitors or not. In fact, this is exactly what they did when they returned to the apartment at nearly ten-thirty PM.
Raumon was still soggy, but he had been placated by an offering of a milkshake and a chicken sandwich, the former of which he held in both hands now, seated comfortably in his aforementioned blanket nest. The latter had already been eaten on the drive back. (He didn't strictly need food, he had explained once, but food was tasty, and he liked eating it, so he was going to continue eating it. Natalie, having a hard time with the idea of a living thing that didn't need food, basically assumed that he would participate in every meal.)

The film that Natalie's parents had been watching had reached its conclusion; apparently, it was a marathon event, as 50 Foot Squid Monsters vs. The City of Omaha was starting up in its stead. (The sequel, you see.) Natalie knew this not because she had actually stayed out in the living room, but because her own TV was switched to the same station, and glorious B-movie cheese was providing background noise as she scrolled mindlessly through her social media. Beside her on the bed, Raumon was reading through Natalie's copy of Alice in Wonderland for the fifteenth time in between sips of his milkshake.

Pretty standard night.

So standard, in fact, that when it was disturbed by a loud THUNK! from the roof, Natalie almost jumped out of her chair. She didn't really, of course, but she did get quite a start-- enough that the fact that the power browned out for a half-a-second and the way her television screen distorted momentarily went almost unnoticed. Raumon was looking just as startled as she was, looking up at the ceiling as though he might be able to see through it if he looked hard enough.

"What the hell," Natalie blurted out, furrowing her brow.

She didn't get an answer-- quite the opposite, in fact; she heard crunching, heavy foosteps, like someone with no concept of downstairs neighbors was stomping around on gravel. The self-evident problem: top floor. Anyone stomping upstairs was on the roof.

"Curiouser and curiouser," Raumon said wryly, because he just had to, and he was just about to ask if they should go take a look, when Natalie's mother's voice drifted through the door.

"Nat, dear, would you mind taking a look? It sounds like something fell over."

Natalie pulled one side of her mouth back in a not-quite-a-grimace and shrugged one shoulder as if to say well, there's your answer-- though she noted that it seemed that her mother didn't hear the footsteps, and that did nothing to set her at ease.

"This is how people die in bad movies," she said, but she shook her head in resignation. "Let's go check it out." The bird nodded back, gingerly setting his milkshake aside and putting a bookmark to keep his place. In a moment, he was hopping off his friend's bed and onto his feet.

As an afterthought and a precaution, Natalie pulled the old wooden baseball bat out of her closet and hoisted it up over her shoulder before she began the trek down the hall and towards the stairs. She could hear, through the cracked-open door, her sisters wondering what the ever-loving crap had just happened.

***

A pair of wings beat rhythmlessly against the air as boots clomped on concrete, ducking down back alleys and side streets, careful to avoid streetlamps and any sign of other human life.

"You had better be sure of this or I'mma be pissed."

"If it isn't what I think it is, I'll eat the pudding you've had in the back of the fridge since Easter."

"Your point?"

"Easter of last year."

"Hm."

"... ... oh, come on, buddy bear! Trust me! It might be dangerous, but we may be the only ones who stand a chance, you know? I mean, come on. What are the odds there's anyone else?"

"Don't call me buddy bear."

***

Natalie and Raumon trekked up the stairs that led up to the roof, careful, quiet. They weren't quite sure what to expect when they opened the door; maybe it was really just something that got knocked over?
(What could have gotten knocked over that would sound like that, though?)

Call it wishful thinking, because whatever they expected, it sure wasn't what they actually saw; Natalie opened the door and felt the intense urge to slam it immediately.

See, standing in the middle of the roof, looking like it was trying to dig through the roofing to absolutely no avail, was-- well. Not a person, but one could be forgiven for making that assumption at first glance.

It was tall, and roughly human shaped-- more or less. Huge clawed dragon feet and long ears kind of ruined the illusion. What skin was visible in the moonlight looked kind of blueish, but admittedly, there wasn't a lot to see; it wore a white tank-top and ragged grey pants, and more importantly (and vastly more unnervingly), its face was covered by a white mask.
Two long horns curved up from the mask's forehead, and dark purple marks were under what were either eyes or marks made to look like eyes, but that was as many distinctive features as it had. It had long shaggy red hair that grew out from under the mask, and belts made of green thorny vines cross-crossed across its chest, which held on its back--

Bizzarrely, a blue teddy bear?

There wasn't much time to look at that, though; far more important were the heavy wooden gauntlets that covered its forearms, matching the wooden swords it held, one in each hand.

The reason Natalie nearly slammed the door wasn't just that she saw a strange humanoid thing on her roof-- no, it was the fact that the moment after she opened the door, the strange humanoid thing lifted its head and stared at her and Raumon just behind her, unblinkingly.

She stood there for a moment, her mouth hanging slightly open-- she barely noticed that Raumon's brow was furrowed, his eyes squinting, his feathers standing up on end.

"A Yasyamon?" he said, more of a question to himself than an explanation for Natalie. He felt tense all of a sudden, like his body was preparing to spring into action-- without his permission.

The human-like creature -- Yasyamon? - tilted its head, and boy oh boy, did it move in a way that didn't look natural. Its body was slightly limp, its torso lolling back and its head rolling when it moved like its neck couldn't support the weight of its head. Its gaze focused on Raumon, practically looking through Natalie.

"What the--?" Natalie began, frowning slightly as Yasyamon began to move its arms. It lifted both of its wooden swords above its head, striking a bizarre tableau before it yelled only two words--

"Double Strike!"

With a brilliant flash of light, it was no longer holding two swords, but rather one, held above its head with both hands. Its blade was no longer wooden, but wicked-sharp steel, and it glowed like a beacon in the dark of the night.

"WHAAAAT THE HELL," Natalie said in a frantic yelp before she could stop herself, nearly dropping her baseball bat-- but it was a lucky thing that she didn't. In the blink of an eye, the blue creature leapt forward, swinging its blade, and aiming right at Raumon. Before she knew what she was doing, Natalie held the bat out horozontally, using it to try and stop the sword. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Raumon dive to the side-- and then, back in front of her, the bat was nearly snapped in half, held together only by the thinnest of splinters.

Just as soon as she looked, though, she could see that Yasyamon's sword had separated back into two wooden ones the moment it had hit the bat.

As Natalie saw all this, Raumon saw his chance.

Acting on instinct and not reason, Raumon reared one hand back and it was immediately engulfed in a strange purplish glow.
"Symptom Claw!" he yelled, slashing out at Yasyamon's leg. He struck true, catching Yasyamon in the left shin. He tore two long rips in the thing's pant leg and sliced into his leg proper, as well; when Raumon's claws struck flesh, the glow seeped out of his hand and into the cuts it left behind.

Yasyamon snarled and stumbled backwards, glaring at Raumon and it resumed a fighting stance.

"What are you doing?" Natalie asked, a bit breathlessly, a bit shell-shocked. She never wanted her face to be that close to the business end of a sword again.

"Haven't the foggiest," Raumon answered truthfully; he would have given his friend a distressed look if not for the fact that he was totally unwilling to look away from Yasyamon. Understandable, really. "What do you want?" he said to the stranger, louder than he spoke to Natalie. He was trying to sound brave, unflapped, but Natalie could see him pull his hand back in case he had to attack again.

"I found you," Yasyamon said, as though that was any kind of explanation, "and I'm not going back without you! Double Strike!"
Yasyamon lifted his swords once again; a flash of light replaced his weapons, once again; and he lunged at Raumon, once again, swinging his weapon down as he did-- and he hit true.

Raumon was simply not able to take a hit from Yasyamon's sword straight-on, and even though he was preparing to counterattack, the stranger moved faster. Even though the blade looked sharp, it had a more concussive effect, sending Raumon tumbling head over heels backwards into the knee-high concrete wall that bordered the roof.

"Raumon!" Natalie cried out, stumbling to her feet and rushing to her friend's side, dropping the halves of the baseball bat as she did so. He was dazed; he had hit his head on the wall. Yasyamon was advancing with no regards for the girl in his way; he began to lift his weapons again.

This was the turning point.

A single powerful gust of wind blew past, strong as a hurricane. Overhead, a couple streaks of light arced across the moon-lit sky-- and one of the beams of light shot down into Natalie's hand, where it began to coalesce. Even Yasyamon -- thankfully enough -- paused in confusion.

It swirled and spun, gaining mass very quickly. It took on a purplish glow, not unlike Raumon's hand had a moment before. Within mere seconds, there was a small device in Natalie's hands where there had been nothing before.

It was almost like a phone or an Mp3 player; it was sleek and rectangular, the size of a small smartphone. Its corners were rounded off, and the back was heavy-duty black rubber. Its faceplate was two different shades of purple, with a few small buttons on the left-hand side-- three rectangular-ish yellow ones, and a circle split into two buttons and a third center button. On the far end from the buttons, a tiny silver charm dangled on a thin silver chain attached to the device.
Most of its face was taken up by a shiny black screen; it was very shiny, looked quite new, and was completely, utterly lifeless.

Though she didn't know it yet, this little doohickey was a digivice, and in many ways, it was about to turn the tide. A lot of tides. A whole lot of tides.

You know what this absolutely did not do?
Make Natalie any less confused. In fact, it compounded the questions she had severalfold. If she had known what it was, of course, she would have felt a powerful sense of relief, but she didn't, so she felt no such thing.
"What the hell, what the hell, whaaaat the hell?" Natalie did her best broken record impression, looking frantically from the thing in her hand to Raumon to--

Actually, you know what it did do?
It gave Yasyamon pause. Yasyamon was watching Natalie, his head tilted just barely to the side.
"Hm."

"What is that?" Raumon groaned as he pulled himself up to his feet, a little bit dazed from his sudden familiarity with the concrete wall.

"Double Strike!" Yasyamon yelled as a fantastic interruption, and for the third time his swords began to glow and combine above his head. Before Raumon could intersect, Yasyamon attacked again-- but this time, he was aiming for Natalie.

Natalie only barely avoided yelling with panic. She threw up her arms in front of her as a last ditch attempt to protect her face, if nothing else. Raumon was already making to leap in the way.

She didn't expect this to work.

See, the thing was this: the sword hit the device that she gripped in her hand, and it was as though Yasyamon's sword was wooden once more and had tried to hack through a wrought iron shield. It stopped cold, and a loud metallic clangk! rang out in the night air. The hit resonated through the little gadget and into Natalie, making her bones shake.

Yasyamon stumbled backwards, his swords separating. He was clearly as surprised as either of them-- all three of them stared in Natalie's hands, the digivice began to glow.

It was different from the light that had formed it; purple light began to swirl around it, and around Natalie's hand. The screen flickered to life; a rush of strange characters rushed across the display, far too fast and far too much for Natalie to make heads or tails of-- and it began to make the most ungodly noise, like the sound of a thousand dial-up modems and a thousand out-of-service fax machines meeting in the middle to knock each other's circuits out.
Very melodic.

The bright side to this was a literal bright side-- the purple light swirling around the digivice was suddenly starting to swirl around Raumon. It started around his hands, and then worked up his arms and began to engulf him.
He didn't know exactly what was going on, no, but he knew that this was something good. The same could not be said of Natalie, who was having an extremely bad night thus far and was not looking forward to more surprises.

So, you know, imagine her sense of unease when Raumon, surrounded by this light, began to change.

"Raumon, Drive Evolve to..."

What happened next happened over the course of mere seconds.
He grew taller, more humanlike; his body enlongated until he was well over a foot taller than Natalie. Appearing from nowhere, a long, tattered black coat draped over his body, with sleeves that came several inches past the tips of his clawed fingertips. His skin was grey; admittedly, not much was visible, as the coat covered most of him, aided by a large, loose collar of fabric resting around his neck to cover the lower part of his face and his neck. Long silvery hair replaced the feathers on his head, tied into a loose ponytail.
Tall steel-toed black boots covered his feet, and a wide-brimmed, flat hat rested on his head. His beaked mask shrunk in size, covering only the top half of his face (though, as stated, his jacket covered the rest), and was now two-toned, black on his right and staying white on the left, with two purple streaks running down the cheeks.

Once he had formed fully, he threw his arm out to the side, and procured a staff from thin air. It was wooden, and topped with a tremendous red jewel. Strapped to the gem were a pair of white bird masks, quite like his usual face, though one's expression was sorrowful, and the other angry. He flourished this new weapon before folding his arms. He spoke quietly, his voice serene and solemn-- though not much deeper, and still having the timbre it usually had.
"Doctorimon!"

"WHAAAAT THE FUCK."
That was courtesy of Natalie, if you couldn't tell.

(Look. The last time Raumon had changed, it had been -- ... not nearly so severe or dramatic? He had been a little bouncing black ball with feathers and no mouth, but he had grown up into the Raumon they knew now a little more than a year ago. He had explained it like a butterfly pupating, but--
Had Raumon just changed for good again?)

Raumon -- pardon, Doctorimon -- looked down at Natalie, who sat flabberghasted. She still gripped the digivice in her hands and stared at him, her jaw hanging slowly slack. He tilted his head just so, such that she could see a faint, thin smile.

She felt... uneasy, yes, but a little more reassured.

Just a little, though.

He turned his attention back to Yasyamon, and his demeanor changed entirely-- he seemed detached, severe.
"I don't know what you want from us," he said; he didn't need to speak above a whisper to sound intimidating and imposing, "but you won't have it."

"I'm not leaving without--!" Yasyamon spat, and he began to lift his weapons, but this time, Rau-- Doctorimon was quicker on the draw.

"Black Bloom!" he said, and from within his tattered sleeves, his hand (still a purple talon, just like Raumon's) was now holding a strange black rose that glinted in the moonlight. He did not hesitate; he swiped it down through the air, and in its wake, it released a shower of razor-sharp black petals that shot at Yasyamon like bullets.

Yasyamon snarled and twirled his swords. Even as the attack pushed him back -- and it clearly caused him pain -- he was in no mood to surrender. "Double Strike!" he yelled, moving almost too fast too see as he clapped his swords together. He twirled his weapon with a flourish and lunged at Doctorimon.

Once more, the sword was stopped in its tracks, but this time, it was by Doctorimon's staff. He crossed it with Yasyamon's sword, holding him at bay. "Had you not tried to harm my friend," Doctorimon said, calm and quiet, "then this may have turned out differently. Face of Judgment!"
The way he had oriented his staff was no mistake; the more hostile-looking mask was facing Yasyamon. The gem began to glow, and red light began to spill out of the eyes of the masks. Under its own power, the beak on the angered mask began to open-- and it began to spill a stream of black flames, licking over Yasyamon's skin.

Yasyamon roared in pain, stumbling backwards. The flames licked over his body but as they did he--
Became pixellated?

Natalie half wondered if she needed to wear her glasses more often, because it looked as though a real-life object was becoming lower-resolution. Within mere moments, Yasyamon's body burst into pixel-like motes of light. The specks of light, or whatever they were, swirled around each other in what was too graceful to be a random array, but it was impossible to discern the pattern. The digivice in Natalie's hands beeped quietly (much quieter, less ear-grating, thank god), and as though it was a signal, almost all of the light organized itself into a thin beam and shot into the device.

It beeped softly, and the screen turned off.

And then... everything was quiet except for the cars in the distant downtown.

Like nothing had happened.

... except for the fact that Raumon was now a tall bird man. That was new.

Doctorimon turned to look at Natalie; he bowed his head and then bowed properly, with a little gesture with his staff.
"Raumon, you, uh," the girl said, finding her voice slowly; her tongue felt like lead. "You look different." Pause. "Good, though. You look good." Though she couldn't see his mouth, she could tell, somehow, that he was smiling again. There was another few moments of silence, before--
"Is this going to be permanent? Because we may have to stop going to the park except for like, when there are anime conventions in town. Or Halloween."

"I don't think so," Doctorimon said, shaking his head once.
He was right, and this was right on cue. The purple light returned; he seemed a bit surprised as it began to swirl around his hands, but he remained calm as it overtook him once again. This time, instead of making him grow and turn into something new, the light began to shrink him this time. When it faded, he was once more small, feathered, and familiar-- he was Raumon once again.

Natalie breathed out a heavy, shaky breath, but she couldn't help but smile. She knew that Raumon was Raumon, end of the day, but--
But.
... but a crazy blue dragon man had just swung a sword at her face several times in the space of, like, ten minutes, and Raumon had turned into a big plague doctor man, and she was kind of in shock, so it was nice to have something familiar come back, okay?

***

"Did you see that!?"

"Hm."

"I'm going to take that as a yes, mister chatterbox."

"How many names are you going to call me tonight?"

"Like, six more."

"..."

"Anyway, I bet there's another person!"

"Do you, now."

"And I bet they got one, too."

"Only one way to find out. Tell me if you see a fire escape."

After all... after the mysterious force that brought electronic gadgets on the wind, tonight couldn't possibly get any weirder.

***

About fifteen minutes passed as Natalie and Raumon tried to gather their nerves and try to figure out what was going on. Natalie had checked her phone-- a text from her father, everything alright up there? Quality parenting, she had thought as she fired back a yeah, before she had sat where she sat now, with her back to the concrete wall. Raumon sat beside her, peering over at the litte device in her hands, for indeed she was holding the little purple thing.

She had been experimenting with it over the past couple minutes. When pressed, the buttons caused the screen to come on, and caused subtly different mostly-empty screens to show up. It had a basic menu, that much she had figured out.
That said, none of the symbols on the screen, aside from the single word 'MENU', seemed to resemble real letters. She determined, at least, that the little circle keys were used to navigate through the menus, and the different yellow buttons brought up what were probably different functions, but what those functions were was unclear. She wasn't exactly eager to press buttons she didn't understand, least of all when it had had quite so dramatic an effect on Raumon.
The little silver charm on one end was -- curiously enough -- a little plague doctor mask, with engraved eyes but no other features. Next to the little chain holding the charm on was a pull-away tab that, frankly, looked like it would fit a mini-USB.
Also filed under deal with later.

"So, that thing was--" she said slowly, still turning the thing over in her hand.

"A digimon," Raumon said, with a nod. "Like me. I mean, kind of. Obviously not entirely, but-- you know?"

"Right." Digimon. Raumon had said the word before, of course; he had explained that there were lots of them, that they came in many sizes and shapes, but he had also said that as best he knew, he was the only one here. Around. That Natalie would ever run into.

She had asked lots of questions over the years; she knew her fair share, but Raumon's memory of such things was always a bit spotty. She had no reason to believe that he was withholding information deliberately.
In truth, he realy wasn't, for what it was worth-- but it still meant that their understanding was woefully incomplete.

And more pertinently, it didn't explain a damn thing about why Yasyamon was here, what he wanted, why he seemed to recognize Raumon... What this thing was that she held now. Why Raumon had grown.

"I don't understand it," Natalie said. She was loathe to admit it, of course, but there was no way around it. She was clueless.

"We're in the same boat, then," Raumon said with a shake of his head and a shrug.

Natalie looked at the gadget in her hand. She turned it over in her palm. It surprised her, really, that it had stopped Yasyamon's sword-- and that stopping a sword hadn't even scuffed it. She frowned and tucked it into her pocket, and though it was lightweight, she knew it'd weigh heavy on her mind.

And that's when Natalie just about had a heart attack for the umpteenth time tonight!

For what it's worth? She was really, really sick of surprises. Had never been fond of them! Really starting to hate them, now.

"Hey."
It was the voice of a young man, bored sounding, and quite close. Natalie leapt to her feet and whipped around; Raumon ducked instinctively, even though the concrete wall would have been tall enough to hide him even if he hadn't.

"Uh?" Natalie said, doing an excellent job of pretending to be composed (that's sarcasm). She had no idea where she was supposed to be looking, as she wasn't sure where the voice was coming from; she looked around, and it took a second or two for her eyes to fall on the fire escape of the next building over.

He was kind of hard to miss once she spotted him.

Standing there, leaning against the railing, was -- indeed -- a young man; he looked like he was around Natalie's age. He wore blue camo pants and tall combat-style boots. He had something of a loose mohawk, with the sides of his head shaved (though not recently-- he was kind of shaggy) and the rest of his dark hair spiked loosely. He wore a black t-shirt and black cuffs on his wrists, and he looked like the kind of person Natalie would expect to see wrecking utter face in a mosh pit or something.

"Am I late?" the young man said, looking up at Natalie. His voice and face were both hard to read, almost devoid of emotion as they were.

"No, most people hang out on fire escapes at eleven PM," she said, keeping her cool even though on the inside she began to panic. How much had this guy seen? She swore she could see him raise an eyebrow even in the dark, or maybe she just felt that kind of aura coming off him, but he didn't break eye contact as he reached into his pocket.

"Let's cut to the chase. You got one of these?" he asked, pulling out of his pocket--
A device practically identical to the one in Natalie's pocket, though it looked like it may have been blue instead of purple. She couldn't quite tell, though, as the only light came from the moon and the streetlights down at ground level.

"Maybe," she said after a moment, watching the boy carefully.

There was a tense moment of silence, wherein he scrutinized her, then shrugged his shoulders. "'Ight. C'mon up," he said, peering down into the alleyway; he raised his voice just a bit. From below, Natalie heard the distinct sound of a garbage can being knocked over.

And then there was a bat the size of a labrador flapping its way up to the fire escape.

She was the size of Raumon-- though, actually, maybe she was a bit bigger. Her entire body was steel blue in various shades, except for her white muzzle and matching fluff on her chest. She had crescent-shaped markings on her legs and shoulders-- which were separate from her wings. Indeed, she had a large pair of wings, and then in front of them, a pair of normal-ish arms.
She had big spade-shaped ears, and big orange claws on her hands and feet; her eyes were gold and so bright they shone in the darkness.

She flapped up at high speed, though not particularly gracefully; she landed deftly on the rail of the fire escape that the boy, who was presumably her friend, was standing against.

"Howdy howdy howdy," she chirrupped, cheerful, high-pitched, with an upwards inflection that made her sound eerily like a squeaky-toy for a split second.

If this wasn't a digimon, Natalie would eat her bandana.
She cast a sideways glance at Raumon; his brow was furrowed, but he continued to lay low.

"Name's Xander. This is Desmon." He gestured at the bat; who waved cheerfully with one club-like hand as well as the matching wing.

Natalie hesitated before returning the courtesy. "I'm Natalie," she said, looking sidelong at Raumon. "And this is--"

Raumon peeked up over the wall, his white face obvious in the dark. "Raumon," he said, looking at Desmon more than Xander.

***

Around the city, these two were not the only people who received the digivices. Not by a long shot.
One by one, and one at a time, the little mysterious objects began to appear with swirls of light and zero explanation.

EPISODE 01: CONNECTION INTERRUPTED

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