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

Episode 06: What a Wicked Gang We Are

The bell on the café door jingled its gentle alarm that the door was being opened, but good luck hearing it. Some days the Lotus was a goddamn ghost town; this was not one of those days. Almost every table was occupied. A small group of twenty-somethings stood around waiting for their drinks, while an older man in line was expressing frustration that he wasn't being prioritized immediately despite four customers being ahead of him.

Natalie mostly tuned the complaining out as she slid into line behind this man. She knew her order ahead of time, and she was in no particular rush. She had just been out running some errands and having lunch with some friends, and after parting ways with them, she had decided to take a gamble on the Lotus-- both the gamble of it taking a while, and also the vague wonder if Peter would be on shift when she popped in. Not much had happened on the Digimon front in the past week, so interactions had been pretty minimal.
Assuming that none of the other members of the loosely-connected group People With Digimon and D-Rives (name pending) weren't hitting it off on their own time. Call her crazy, but Natalie kind of assumed they weren't. (She was right.)

She understood why this was, of course-- they were all still pretty much strangers, their digimon being one of the only things to unify them, but she couldn't get digimon off her mind.

In the days after the incident with Ogremon and Fugamon (and to a lesser extent, Garurumon), they had agreed to lay as low as possible; police were looking for culprits for the incident, and the people who owned the building were looking for someone to sue for damages. Because it was hard to sue a green monster that had exploded into pixels, that wasn't going so well, but... well. It opened up a lot of questions.

As the line moved forward a bit, she craned her neck around the line to see if she couldn't catch a glimpse of who was working.

Bustling around behind the counter, the black-aproned baristas were moving to and fro in the cramped space there, doling out muffins, preparing drinks, and praying for the sweet release of death. It took a second for her to recognize Peter sending out drinks-- without the douchey scarf (well, come on, it was douchey) on, she almost moved her glance right past him.

It took a while to get up to the front of the line, but by the time she reached the front, there was only one person behind Natalie; the crowd sitting around hadn't thinned much, but there were at least fewer people coming in, and by the time she went to the side to wait for her drink, you could almost hear yourself think!

"Medium iced mocha for Nata--" Peter stopped mid-name, noticing that Natalie was already standing at the bar, raising a hand in greeting. "Hey. This yours?"

"Having fun?" Natalie said as she took her drink, irony positively dripping in her voice. Peter fixed her with a look that could only accurately be described as dead. Passed on. Ceased to be. Bereft of life. Remarkably parrot-esque. Pining for the fjords?

"I was supposed to get off my shift," he checked his phone surreptitiously, "forty-five minutes ago. Look into my eyes and ask me that question again."

Natalie gave him a sympathetic one-shouldered shrug and her best sorry-for-your-loss grimace, but not ten seconds later, courtesy of an older woman who Nat assumed was Peter's manager:
"Hey, replacement's here and the crowd's died down. You can clock out, Peter."

"'Ight," Peter said over his shoulder, then looked back at Natalie. "Hey. Hold on a second."

Natalie blinked a couple times but didn't have anywhere better to be, so she stood around awkwardly while Peter disappeared into the back. He re-emerged a few minutes later sans the black apron, running a hand backwards through his hair and adjusting his glasses.

"You wanted something?" Natalie said, and Peter nodded, but kept his lips tight, in a we'll talk about this when there aren't people around way. If it wasn't already obvious it was Digimon matters -- because what else would he want to talk to her about? -- that sealed it.

As they emerged out of the building, blinking in the sunlight, Peter spoke again. "I'm gonna assume nothing's happened for you?"

"Nope," Natalie said, taking a sip of her coffee and shielding her eyes with her other hand. "Do you have Banmon with you?" she asked; Peter shook his head.

"Banmon doesn't want to try coming to work with me to work just yet."
Natalie supposed that made sense. Raumon had explained, after a bit more experience, that being minimized was kind of like floating next to her, able to more or less hear everything going on around him, but unable to interact with anyone. From what little she knew of Banmon, Natalie could guess that the little ghost wouldn't be eager to be around in a bunch of people and loud noises, even if they couldn't see her.
"I left her at home with the D-Rive. She can get my roommate to call me if anything happens."

Natalie hummed in acknowledgement of his words, dipping her hand into her pocket and pulling out her D-Rive to look at it. She began to walk back to where she had parked her car; Peter followed.
"Why do you ask? Do you have Raumon with you?" he asked.

"Oh-- no," she said, shaking her head. Raumon had been more interested in the idea of coming out and about, but had declined to come along today, himself, but she still found herself carrying the little gadget around everywhere she went, with bird or without. "I was just curious. I was thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep them close at hand in case something happened."

"Do you expect something to?" Peter asked, looking over at her.

Natalie couldn't quite tell if he was being condescending or not, because -- as she was quickly learning -- he spoke primarily in a deadpan. "I don't know, honestly," she-- fittingly enough -- answered honestly. "Not that I'd be able to do much without Raumon around, but... you know. I don't think it'd be a total fluke."

"Not with the way some of them talk, no," he agreed. The Digimon who had really spent much time talking seemed to have an agenda of some sort, and it was reasonable to assume that the pattern would continue.

"Especially," Natalie added, "considering that the digimon we know seem to recognize each other." Raumon hadn't been able to shake it, and had told her so-- all of the digimon who had been partnered with humans that they had met so far set off his deja vu something horrible, and each of the digimon had said the same to their respective humans.

"Right." For someone who apparently wanted to talk, he was certainly laconic. "Don't you think it's weird?"

"What? The monsters coming through from nowhere?" Natalie couldn't stop herself, making a pbbbt sound by expelling air from her cheeks. "No, that's just a normal Tuesday for me. The weird part is that it's happening on other days too, now." Peter actually cracked a bit of a smile. "Really, though, yeah."

Peter nodded, putting his hands in his pockets. "It's been on my mind a lot lately."

"I guess it does kind of come off as the kind of thing some people would call fate or something," Natalie said, gesturing idly with one hand.

He hummed. "Would you?"

"Me?" She blinked, kind of taken aback by the question -- she had only kind of meant it as an offhand comment. She shrugged one shoulder. "I-- I mean, I don't really believe in that kind of thing." Beat. "Why, do you?"

Peter looked like he was considering his words carefully before he answered. "To a degree. I don't exactly expect any lion heads to come out of the clouds and tell me to follow my destiny, but." He shrugged. "It just strikes me as odd that we've all run into each other so easily." Beat. "Relatively speaking." He stopped as they came to an intersection. "I live over this way. Unless you want to follow me home, I think we part ways here."

"Oh-- I'm glad we were going the right way," Natalie said, a bit sheepish to admit she had begun walking without doing such trivial things as confirming with Peter, but at least it worked out. "... you weren't kidding when you said you lived in the uni district, damn."

As they parted ways, Natalie couldn't help but feel a little bit lost.
What a strange guy.

***

"I think that might just be the way he is," Raumon said when Natalie described the slightly odd conversation she had had with Peter, and had complained about his... indirect methods of communication.

"Yeah, but it's still frustrating," Natalie said. She was laying on her back on her bed, looking at her phone with one arm propped under her head. "Iunno. It's not like I'm expecting everyone to be best buddies or anything, but if there's something connecting all of us... I'd kind of like to know what they think about it, you know?"

"I know," Raumon said, a bit wryly. He looked over at Natalie from his seat -- sitting in Natalie's computer chair.

Natalie sighed and spread out eagle on her bed. "I don't know. Maybe I'm just antsy." She paused. "Do you think I'm being too pushy?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean..." Natalie paused, trying to find the words. "What if all of this just is a coincidence and I'm making a big deal out of nothing? Rallying the troops for--"

Raumon cut her off, sounding incredulous. "Are you really trying to say that being attacked by monsters is a big coincidence that we shouldn't think twice about?"

She paused. "... okay, you put it that way and it does sound pretty stupid."

"It sure does. No offense."

"None taken," Natalie said, handwaving it away. "I don't know, though. I just don't want to come across as... like... the over-enthusiastic boss telling his team they need to synergize and bring up sales percentages by 12% by next quarter."

"I think they're all probably just a bit apprehensive about all of this," Raumon said, then he paused to stroke his chin. He spoke slowly, thinking through what he was saying. "I mean, Peter said he thinks there's more to this than just coincidence. They're just playing their cards closer to their chest to wait and see, or something." Beat. "Or they might be asocial weirdos, heck if I know."

Natalie smiled. It was always good to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, or tell her when she was worrying too much-- and Raumon excelled at that role.

Raumon beamed back, and continued talking. "Point is, aside from maybe Meghan, I don't think any of them are jumping to associate with each other. If this is something bigger than coincidence---"

"Which, let's be real."

"Right! Trying to get everyone to come together might not be the worst idea." He paused. "I'd actually like another chance to talk to some of the other digimon, myself." He thought back; pretty much every chance he might have had to talk to the others had either been interrupted or at an inopportune location.

"Do you want to try meeting up with them again or something?" she asked, sitting halfway up and propping her head up on her knuckles. "Or, actually try meeting up with them, since we haven't all been in the same place yet." Who knows-- maybe this time another goat would fall out of the sky.
She hoped one didn't-- she was kind of tired of going over introductions.

"That was what I was getting at, yes," Raumon said; his shit-eating grin couldn't fit on his face, and bled over into his voice.

Natalie groaned overdramatically and flopped backwards. "First Peter is roundabout and indirect. Now you. What's next? Will I be the next one to succumb to The Vagueness?"

"Only time will tell."

She rolled over to look at Raumon. "I'm going to throw you out a window."

"Please don't, I don't have wings."

***

hey-- when are people free in the next few days? raumon wants to meet up. thought we could give it another go with less falling out of trees this time.

That message, courtesy of Natalie -- obviously -- popped up in the group chat later that evening. She sat with her phone, waiting for a response; it didn't happen immediately. It was about fifteen minutes later when Sam popped in a reply:
what the hell did i miss

The last time we tried to meet up, it ended... oddly, came courtesy of Peter a little while later.
Well, 'oddly' was a word for it. It wasn't bad, per se, but... yeah. It seemed to open the floodgates, though-- the ice had been broken, or maybe just the repeated new-message alerts were getting attention.

oremon and i are free pretty much any time after about two most days !! :D Meghan was the first to respond with actual useful information. and also, he got really put out at the falling out of trees thing

From Peter: Should be free on Saturday. Let me check the schedule.

im free whenever literally all the time i guess, Sam said. i dont do mornings tho

im off day after tomorrow too, but i got shit with my band until whenever, came from Xander, so ten to one says ill be late

you have a band? :o from Meghan.

yeah and we're shit

... ... it took a while to get a plan sorted out.

***

Saturday afternoon came around. June had just begun, and there were just enough clouds lingering in the sky to keep it from getting too horribly hot, or worse, humid. This was a real concern, living in a city on the river. Even if they were a ways away from the river, they were going to be gathering out at a mostly-abandoned picnic area, and thus, were outside-- mugginess was quite realistically the worst thing that could happen.

Yes-- we're counting monster attacks in that.

Humidity is the worst.

The picnic area in question was a bit out of the way, in a mostly-abandoned park, quite unlike the large main city park. It was barely more than a ramshackle old playground and a thicket of overgrown trees -- nestled in which were the picnic areas -- but that was just fine for their purposes.

Natalie couldn't deny that she was feeling a bit... well. Anxious wasn't the word. Her talk with Raumon, the one that had led to this meeting in the first place, had set her at ease, but she couldn't help feeling a bit unsure.

As she took the final turn on the path into the picnic area, she was met with a pleasant surprise. Meghan and Peter were already there, though by the looks of it (and by the fact that she saw the light fade as Oremon materialized out of his D-Rive), she wasn't terribly behind.

"Hi!" Meghan said as she noticed Natalie's arrival, waving; Oremon glanced over, and that was as much acknowledgement as they were going to get. Peter looked over from his seat at the old picnic table, and nodded his acknowledgement.

"Hey!" Natalie said; she would raise a hand to wave, but her hands were occupied by the assortment of plastic bags she was carrying that were by no means a light load.

Raumon materialized of his own accord next to her. "We brought food!" he said helpfully, gesturing at Natalie with one claw. There was a beat of silence, and then it struck him to actually take one of the bags from her to help carry it over to the table. As he set down the bag, he looked around inquisitively. "Is Banmon here?" he ventured, not seeing her. This was, of course, because she was not present to be seen.
There was a certain reluctance to the way she materialized with a surge of white light, or at least apprehension and lifted one clothy hand in greeting.

"You're really going the extra mile, aren't you?" Meghan said, peering at the bounty of food that Nat had brought.

Natalie smiled, shrugging. "I figured it might ease tensions a bit. Food solves everything, you know?"

"Have either of you heard from the others yet?" Peter asked as Banmon drifted closer to him. Natalie checked her phone; there was a big fat lack of new messages, which was a no to answer Peter's question. When she looked up, Meghan was shaking her head.

"What a communicative bunch," Meghan said, putting one hand on her hip.

"Might be driving," Peter said, taking a peek inside the bag that Raumon had set down, right as Natalie set the others down as well.

Banmon popped up over his shoulder. "You certainly brought a lot..." she said. Most of the food was the kind of food you pick up from the store when you realize belatedly you have to feed --

"Ten people," Natalie said, holding up both hands with all her fingers splayed out to indicate ten individuals. Beat. "Or, I guess, five people and up to five digimon, depending." She realized only as she was talking that while Raumon ate regularly, it wasn't required for the digimon. They certainly did seem to enjoy eating, though, so she was going to accomodate them, dammit!
She had brought an armful of prewrapped sandwiches --enough to have extra -- and tubs of side dishes from the supermarket deli, a couple bags of chips, a small assortment of two-liter bottled drinks, and plastic cups for said drinks. Not a lot, admittedly, and pretty basic fare, but-- look, there is no easier way to lure young adults than with free food.

While they laid the food out on the table, they heard the sound of approaching foot steps coming up the path through the trees. For a moment, they were apprehensive -- the vague fear that it was a Normal Person was hard to shake -- but when Gelermon came around the bend, padding along on all fours, they relaxed.

"Sup, bitches?"
Sam was a few seconds after her, looking somewhere between amused and apologetic for Gelermon's announcement of her own arrival, but his lips were pressed tight as he raised a hand in greeting. Peter moved his battered old messenger bag off of the table bench and onto the ground to free up sitting space.

Well, that was four out of five (eight out of ten, really) at least. Conversation was pretty limited (read: not happening), so Raumon opened up the floodgates on eating by being the first one to unwrap one of the sandwiches, and that was at least enough to break the ice on that front-- nobody had wanted to be the first one to reach for food.
Gelermon grabbed one sandwich with each hand and passed one to Sam; Peter grabbed two as well, but he unwrapped and picked all of the meat off of one, before handing the now-vegetarian sandwich to Banmon. Oremon feigned disinterest, taking a seat at the rickety old table, but surreptitiously grabbed a sandwich once Meghan asked if he wanted one.

Sure, the conversation wasn't lively, as everyone had varying amounts of food in their mouths, but it did seem to at least kind of break the ice.

Just as promised, Xander showed up late, though not too much so-- only about ten minutes after Sam's arrival. Still in the middle of eating, they heard a frenetic flapping noise and turned to look, just in time to see Desmon emerge over the top of the trees, surveying their little clearing from up above.

"So much for subtlety," Sam remarked, in what seemed like the most words he had said at one time since arriving. He was, accordingly, speaking sidelong to Gelermon, who snickered.

"I heard that," Desmon said, grinning as she landed smack on the table, almost squishing a bag of chips, grinning all the while.

Xander didn't appear, coming around the bend in the path, until after the bat digimon had already invited herself to the bag of chips she had almost landed on.
"Hey," he said, waving half-assedly. Peter nodded once his vague acknowledgement of Xander's existence, Meghan waved, and Sam was more concerned with his drink than on the people around him.

"Heyo," Natalie said, gesturing over her shoulder. "Food's free for the taking whenever you feel like it, or if you don't, your prerogative."

"Glad to hear it," Desmon said, already in the process of shoving a handful of chips into her mouth as she hopped down onto the ground. Xander rolled his eyes at her and took a seat at the corner of the table.

Conversation struck up slowly with everyone there. Peter and Xander were conspicuously not talking to each other. Sam looked to Natalie and Meghan, and tilted his head at the two other young men with a what'd I miss? expression. Natalie, picking up on it, explained in hushed tones how their previous attempt to meet up had gone.

"So they're probably tying to peace-keep by, you know, totally ignoring each other?" Meghan provided, gesturing with one hand.

"Honestly, I'll take it over the alternative," Natalie said with a shrug of one shoulder and a sip of her drink. "I'm counting it as a success if nobody punches anyone."

"I... see..." Sam said slowly, looking between them. "Goats falling out of trees and fights. This is what I get for being late to the party, isn't it?"

"Yep," Meghan said, smiling in a way that was sort of amused, sort of apologetic.

Peter cut into the conversation with Sam, here. "Speaking of. Outside of messengers, we haven't formally met."

Small talk was definitely a step in the right direction; they began to chat, explaining the basics about themselves to those that had missed it. Names, occupations or lack thereof, shoe size, deepest darkest secrets-- you know, the normal introductions.
(Okay, maybe not the shoe sizes and the secrets.)

Banmon, as well as the rest of the digimon, was seated a little ways away from the table where the humans sat, near the fallen-into-disrepair barbecue pit. She cast a look over to where the humans were making their small talk. "Whew... I was worried they might start another fight."

"Fighting's a lot more of a pain than the alternative," Gelermon said, shrugging one shoulder. "Not worth the effort most'a the time unless someone really needs an ass-whooping."

"Group harmony through apathy?" Raumon said wryly, tapping his beak thoughtfully.

"Hmph."

"See? Beardy's already got the hang of it," Desmon said. Oremon looked at her with an unimpressed expression and snorted, and she grinned right back.

"Is any of us going to cut to the point and address the elephant in the room?" Oremon said, deciding to ignore Desmon. When all eyes were on him, he folded his arms. "We've met each other before."

"That's a big claim, innit?" Gelermon said, lounging back and leaning on her hands.

"You feel it too, though, don't you?" Raumon prompted.

"What? Just because I know I've seen a Raumon doesn't mean I've seen you," the dog said. "Just because I knew what I was fighting was a Garurumon doesn't mean I had Sunday brunch with it."

Raumon scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, I guess."

"But... it feels different," Banmon said, quiet. "I think it does, anyway..."

"What I think," Desmon said, "is that we were all dropped here by an alien conspiracy, and all of this is a big government cover up. Brainwashing!"

"You're sounding like the internet wackjobs," Gelermon said, disdain in her voice and in the curl of her lip.

"It's jokes," Desmon said, sticking her tongue out. "We've all been there the same amount of time, though, right? More or less?"

"Fifteen years, give or take," Raumon said, nodding; the others nodded their agreement with that timeframe. "And this certainly hasn't happened since then. If we all came through at the same time, wouldn't it make sense that we have something in common?"

"Yeah," Gelermon said with a roll of her eyes, "the fact that we all came through fifteen years ago." She was obviously not on board with this.

"For someone who just said fighting was more effort than its worth," Desmon said, looking at Gelermon, "you're certainly being contrary."

"I think Raumon's right," Banmon said, but Desmon didn't stop talking, and so kind of drowned the ghost out.

"I think birdy boy has a point," Desmon said, shrugging. "Fifteen years, and our buddies got the D-Rive thingies, and we're all getting mad deja vu from each other, and none of us remembers anything before coming here?"

Back at the picnic table with the humans, the conversation had actually turned in to a related channel, quite by coincidence.

"I actually met him," Meghan was saying, "hiding under the slide at the playground. He was lost and confused and really grumpy -- I mean, he still is really grumpy, but he almost tried to headbutt me. I think he thought I was gonna try to kick him like a soccer ball or something."

"Sounds about right," Natalie said, nodding. "I mean, I met Raumon under the bridge at the city park, and he seemed on pretty much the same page." Beat. "I mean, I think he'd also been attacked by a bunch of dogs at the dog park, so that might not have helped." She hummed, looking over at Xander, who looked like he had something to say.

He, of course, did.

"You're here saying you met them out in places you might actually expect things to show up. Desmon just fuckin' showed up in my parents' attic and refused to go away. I mean, in mini form, but still, I'm figuring you didn't find a full grown goat under the fuckin' slide, either."

Meghan nodded. "Well, yeah. He was like, a little goat puff."

All five of them compared notes, so to speak. Peter said that Banmon (then called Wispmon) had accidentally drifted through his wall and had collapsed into a little ball of fabric when he had noticed her; Sam's story was that Gelermon, formerly Shuckmon, had caused a massive racket by knocking over their garbage cans at two in the morning, but they all had a similar basic framework-- a little digimon, lost and varying levels of confused and afraid, who had appeared fifteen years ago.

The small talk had given way to discussing their digimon, and the digimon had been a bridging point to actual conversation. Though it was still a bit awkward, and still mostly about digimon-related matters, a good portion of the tension began to slip away. Sure, Sam and Peter were both relatively quiet, but in different ways. Peter spoke up often, but was generally laconic and was more of a listener; Sam didn't voice his opinion as much, but had more to say -- usually sarcastic-- when he did. Xander and Meghan were able to keep the conversation going at varying levels of abrasiveness, filling in the silence.
(Xander and Peter weren't completely ignoring each other, but they didn't really... respond to each other a lot. This was probably for the better.)

Natalie, for her part, felt a great sense of relief. This was actually kind of working. ... she didn't mean to sound too surprised, but-- seriously. Look around at the people she was trying to get along. Them being amicable was a sign of sucess, darn it.
She cast a look over to where the Digimon were discussing, and pricked up her ears.

"I think it's obvious, then," Raumon was saying, "that we most likely came through together, and got separated."

"Hmph. I guess that makes sense, kind of," Gelermon said.

"If you have any better ideas," Oremon said, crossly, "go ahead and share them."

"I just wonder," Banmon said with her usual level of confidence (that is: lacking), "why it was we came through together?"

***

Ratamon flittered his wings to slow his descent as he leapt from one rooftop to the next, and he paused where he landed, looking at the sky. Things had been quiet for the past few days; that was understandable. Even he had a hard time finding cracks stable enough to pass through sometimes, it must be even more of a pain for less-compact digimon.

Maybe one of these days he'd end up stuck on one side or the other for longer than he anticipated.

...

... he'd cross that bridge if he ever got to it.

He had gotten a better idea of where the humans and their digimon lived, at least in the broad strokes-- it'd be easier to find them if he needed to alert one of them to any fishy digimon business. That was good!

But that still didn't solve his biggest problem.

That biggest problem... well, they were certainly laying low, weren't they?
Hmph.

Ratamon paused his internal lamentations, looking to the sky and shielding his eyes with one blunt hand. He had to squint, but he could see against the drifting clouds and the blue sky, the faintest bit of distortion.

It's the damndest thing. Sometimes, your biggest problem wasn't your most immediate one.

***

"... so every time anyone came looking into my room, she'd hide in my laundry basket," Peter said. He was in the middle of explaining that, from their meeting until he had moved out, he had managed to keep Banmon almost entirely a secret from his mother as far as he knew.

Banmon had returned to his side, while the other digimon were taking advantage of the opportunity to spend some time outside. Desmon was doing laps around the clearing (with Xander yelling at her periodically to stay below the top of the trees) while Gelermon, after a bit of prodding, was chasing after her on the ground; it was one half for fun and exercise, and half because Desmon was having fun coming up with new nicknames for her, most of which she did not appreciate. Raumon was gathering up flowers and leaves to press later, and Oremon was sitting on a rock. Said goat trying resolutely to ignore everyone else except for Raumon, with whom he seemed to have an unspoken understanding of some kind.

"See, that's harder when they're not ghosts," Natalie said, sticking her tongue out. "Every time my sisters have someone come over, Raumon has to hole up in my room, and it's not like I could have anyone come over. It kills your social life, doesn't it?"

"Tell me about it," Meghan said, looking over at Oremon.

"You can just avoid all of that by not having a social life to kill in the first place," Sam said. He was looking down at his phone instead of over at them, but this was -- they were finding out -- not terribly out of character for him.

"Honestly, though," Natalie said, by way of agreement. She rested her chin on one hand, looking over at the digimon to see if they were getting on as passably as they were.
(Seriously, though, she was counting this as a rousing success.)

"Aw, come on, puppypants," Desmon chirped, grinning down at Gelermon as she turned around and began to fly backwards, apparently just to prove that she could.

"Get down here!" Gelermon barked. "Moon Howler!" She opened her mouth and fired a swirling black and green beam. Desmon ducked to avoid it and it instead snapped a thin tree branch just behind where the bat had been moments before.

"Will the both of you knock it off!?" Oremon snapped, finally hitting his breaking point. Snorting, he got to his feet and glared.

"Someone's in a bad mood," Desmon said.

"You've been running in circles for the past fifteen minutes," Oremon grumbled, folding his arms.

Gelermon snorted. "Why's it any problem of yours, billy goat gruff?"

"It's--"

"Hey, guys?" Banmon said surprisingly loudly, which meant 'what anyone else would consider a normal speaking volume'. This was enough to get the other digimon's attention, and the humans' as well.

See, she was over near Peter-- which meant that she noticed the little light going off in Peter's bag sitting on the ground.
Peter reached into his bag, as all of the others reached for where they had stored their own D-Rives. Sure enough, each of them had lit up, and when they brought the radar up...

"Kabuterimon, champion level?" Natalie read off, furrowing her brow. It was hard to tell whether it was a relief or not that the dot was heading right towards them.
Bets on it not being a good thing.

It was less of a relief that two dots flickered in beside it -- or maybe they had been overlapping it?

"Both of them are 'tentomon, rookie level'," Meghan provided, being the first to flick her thumb over them.

"That's not bad, then," Sam said, stroking his chin. After all, their friends were rookies, so...
(Yep, thank the fact that he actually read the damn D-Rive's information for that one. And for his next parlor trick, he'd do a simple web search! ... no, but really, the others had intuited that much, Sam was just the only one who actually knew it factually.)

"We gonna throw down?" Desmon asked, perking up her ears as though she could locate them by sound alone. She landed on the ground, regardless.

"Hopefully not," Raumon said.

At the exact same second, Gelermon gave her own contrary input.
"Hopefully."

The dots were moving in quickly-- faster than any other digimon who had shown up on their radars thus far, barring maybe Ratamon. The fear that these were not friendly digimon was growing more and more pronounced by the moment.
A hush fell over the group; they waited with bated breath. Desmon, to nobody's surprise, heard it first, but it wasn't long before they all heard it. It was a loud buzzing, as loud as a passing truck, and like a hundred-thousand really pissed-off bees were flying their way in unison.

And then:

"Electro Shocker!"

The tips of the trees got fried clean off as a massive ball of electricity arced right down into their clearing, and just as succinctly fried away any hopes they may have had about not having to fight. Convenient!
But more on the subject of the crackling ball of electricity headed their way. The humans scrambled to get the fuck out of the way, or at least further out of the way; the digimon, more directly in the line of fire, dove in whatever direction was most convenient. Imagine, if you will, someone at a house party smashing a forty on the ground and screaming scatter, and you have a fairly good idea of what this looked like. The electricity hit the ground and left a nasty black mark in the dirt, but nobody got hit.

Ten pairs of eyes were on the sky to look for the culprit, and they found it pretty quickly.

It's pretty hard to miss a huge blue rhinoceros beetle with four arms, four wings, and a conspicuous lack of eyes, and even if that were a thing that could happen, the two smaller-but-still-enormous ladybugs flanking it almost gave off the impression of heralds. All they needed was trumpets. They all three came to a stop upon seeing the gathering down below.

"Super Shocker!" yelled two voices -- presumably these were Tentomon-- in unison, shooting crackling beams of lightning out from under their wings.
Unconventional heraldry!
They both crackled down with even worse aim than their bigger buddy, which meant that they, too, crackled harmlessly into the dirt, but it sent a message loud and clear. These big bugs were on the offensive, so there was no reason to wait for a declaration of purpose.

"Moon Howler!" Gelermon yelled, firing the black and green beam from her mouth yet again.

"Black Static!" Desmon cried, hopping into the air as she shot fuzzy black rings of energy from her own mouth.

"Earth Wrecker" from Oremon, and he slammed his hooves into the ground. Like toast out of a toaster, a pair of jagged baseball-sized rocks downright popped out of the ground. He caught both of them in the air, one for each hand, and lobbed one at each Tentomon.

They were followed into the air by a slightly apprehensive, "Shadow Shot!" from Banmon, one shadowy blob after another.

Raumon, uniquely, hung back-- though more because of lack of decent long-range options than anything so noble as waiting for an explanation, but he didn't miss out much. The attacks sailed through the air, one after another, but did jack and all good, as Kabuterimon and the Tentomon dropped out of the air, and out of the line of fire quite handily, landing with a cloud of dirt and dust.

Kabuterimon flexed its many, many claws (remember: four arms) and despite his apparent lack of eyes, looked around, surveying the smattering of digimon -- standing, or in one's case flying, ready -- and humans -- who were in various states of 'getting out of the way'. Both of the Tentomon hit the ground a few seconds after the bigger bug did, and they looked around a bit more skittishly.

"God, I fucking hate bugs," Xander muttered. Natalie shot him a now may not be the time look. It seemed that Kabuterimon agreed that now may not be the best time for that comment, because it turned its head to look towards him.

"Stay out of the way," it said, pointing at him with its two left hands. "This is between us and them."

This actually worked out, though-- distracted by telling Xander to shut up, that left a beautiful opening.

"Dark Ring!" Raumon cried, holding his hands out. Underneath Kabuterimon's feet, a dark purple spell circle began to flicker into existence.

All of these next few things happened near-simultaneously.

First, the left Tentomon began to crackle with electricity as it lifted up its wings, preparing to cut Raumon off, but--
"Void Paw!"
Gelermon rushed in, her hands swirling with energy, and she delivered a nice hard power-backed punch right to the Tentomon's face, sending both her and the bug tumbling head-over-heels.

Secondly, not wanting to give the Tentomon on the right an opening to retaliate, Desmon yelled:
"Acro Slicer!" With a slash of her claws, a crescent-shaped blade of energy flew right into the other Tentomon, who was too busy turning its head to look at its compatriot to step out of the way.

Thirdly, and finally, the spell circle underneath Kabuterimon's feet flickered to life, black energy beginning to surge out of it, and it roared as though it were standing on hot coals, lifting back up into the air with a buzz of its wings.

Kabuterimon did not seem amused, and with a growl, it folded its arms around itself as it began to spark with electricity. "Electro Shocker!" it yelled, releasing the energy it was building up as another crackling orb of lightning. It arced right for Raumon, and Oremon near him; they both dove in opposite directions, and it sailed right past them.

This time, the damage was significantly more substantial than a bit of singed dirt-- the tree the Electro Shocker had hit looked like it had gotten hit by a truck driven by an angry redneck who wasn't going to let a tree stop him from flooring the gas.
In less eloquent terms, it was practically splintering in half; if not for the fact that the impact site was blackened and charred, it would look more like it had been hit by a cannonball than an electric shock.

Now imagine how pretty that would be if it had been bird or goat! Their human partners sure were.

"Oremon!" cried Meghan, clenching her fists and furrowing her brow.

"Be careful!" Natalie yelled, looking around quickly to survey what was going on on the whole.

Gelermon was still tangling with the Tentomon she had tackled; the one that Desmon had attacked had its sights set on her and was following her into the air, beginning to crackle with electricity. Both of these pairs were trading attacks, their voices aiding to make the entire scene more chaotic.
All the while, Kabuterimon was beginning to gather up more electricity in its arms, looking between Raumon and Oremon like it couldn't decide which to go for first.

"Electro Shocker--!"

"Breathtaker!" Banmon cried, closing her eyes tight and throwing her hands out. They stretched and glowed white as they wrapped around Kabuterimon's face; at the exact moment that it released its electricity, she yanked its head backwards.

"Iron Head!" Oremon yelled, rearing his head down and running in to the pulled-back Kabuterimon. His head and more important horns met the big bug's thorax with surprising force. Banmon let go of Kabuterimon, her arms returning to their normal size as she did.

As Kabuterimon stumbled backwards, Raumon leapt in as Oremon leapt back. "Symptom Claw!" the bird yelled, his claws glowing purple as he slashed out at Kabuterimon's belly.

It was kind of surprising to the humans, off to the sidelines. The digimon were-- well, they weren't exactly working as a stellar example of teamwork, but even compared to the way they had fought with Fugamon and Ogremon (Banmon excluded), it was clear they had some kind of understanding of each other on an unspoken level.

The Tentomon bugging (ha) Desmon decided to forgo the formalities and simply rush her, tackling her out of the air. She squeaked with surprise as the bug made its approach, her claws lighting up. "Acro Slicer!" she yelled, not slashing through the air but simply striking out with her claws as the Tentomon connected with her and they both fell out of the air. Her tentomon practically flew right into her claws, and with a flash of light, began to pixellate.

"Moon Howler!" Gelermon yelled as the Tentomon giving her trouble pinned her down, opening her mouth wide to fire the beam. It connected with the Tentomon point-blank in the chest, and it, too, began to distort and pixellate in a sure sign of defeat.

Both dog and bat had to take a moment to reorient themselves (and in Desmon's case, flap back up to height) to turn to Kabuterimon, and only barely seemed to register the raptly-attentive humans congratulating them from the sidelines. The bigger bug was the bigger problem.
Well, there was just one way they solved problems round these parts-- at least, when 'problem' meant 'giant monster trying to kill you'.

"Iron Head!"

"Void Paw!"

"Shadow Shot!"

"Black Static!"

"Symptom Claw!"

Desmon and Banmon's attacks flew past the digimon moving in for a melee strike, and struck the big blue beetle first, while Raumon, Oremon, and Gelermon each delivered their blow in close quarters. See, maybe individually none of their attacks would have been a big deal; but one after another, they certainly gave Kabuterimon pause.

After a second to consider, it snarled, huddled in on itself, and began to spark.

"Electric Storm!"

Instead of firing off the electricity in an orb, the orb surrounded Kabuterimon; the three who had rushed into attack had to leap backwards lest they get shocked. Kabuterimon dug its claws down into the dirt as the electricity dissipated, having done its job.
It cast a look around itself, at the five digimon all perfectly willing to get a piece of it, and made a snap decision. Its wings buzzed to life, it kicked off the ground, and Kabuterimon was making to flee.

Banmon squeaked in surprise, looking around in a panic for about a half a second, before she threw her arms out. "Breathtaker!" For the second time, she was able to apprehend the giant beetle. Kabuterimon, however, had a bit of an advantage in the force division-- the little ghost struggled not to be dragged along as Kabuterimon, hindered, tried to pull away.

Banmon squeaked and focused all of her strength into pulling back. With a massive effort, she gave an almighty pull and dragged Kabuterimon straight out of the air and back to the ground.

"Electric Storm!" Kabuterimon yelled again, surging electricity all around itself, and Banmon let go with only fractions of seconds between her and a nice solid electrocution.

Fearing that Kabuterimon might try to escape again, the other digimon were quick to hurl out attacks.

"Black Static!"

"Earth Wrecker!"

"Moon Howler!"

Desmon's staticky black rings, Oremon's jagged rocks, and Gelermon's beam of energy all collided with Kabuterimon at almost the same time, and it roared with pain and frustration-- but it still wasn't making enough headway to take care of their problem, and if they didn't, the big beetle would either keep attacking or get away, and... well. Forgive them for assuming that it might be a bad idea to let a very angry giant electricity-slinging beetle do as it pleases.

"It's not enough!" Natalie called, cupping one hand around her mouth, looking to Raumon-- but as she did, the little crow began to swirl with purple light, as did the D-Rive in her other hand.

"Raumon, drive evolve to... Doctorimon!"

He wasn't even done shifting into his more powerful form before he was diving forward. The other four digimon gave him ample passage as he closed in on Kabuterimon.

Kabuterimon, in response began gathering electricity. It was clearly preparing to electrocute Doctorimon if he got too close, but he saw what was happening ahead of time.

"Black Bloom!" Doctorimon yelled, suddenly feinting and leaping backwards. As he leapt, he procured a black rose from within his sleeve, and then threw it like a dart. The petals glowed with an eery purple light as it struck Kabuterimon right in the chest, and with a snarl and a roar, Kabuterimon began to shift and pixellate.
The light that burst out of it shot to all five of their digivices, creating five thin streams that surged through the air for a half a moment.

There was a moment or two of silence.

"Well," Natalie said, "that certainly is a thing that just happened."

"Are we going to get to look forward to this happening all the time?" Meghan said, rubbing the back of her head.

Sam was the first to respond. "Just knowing my luck? Probably."

"It does seem to be becoming a pattern," Peter said, stroking his chin thoughtfully.

"Oh no," Banmon mumbled, looking around at the damage they had caused to the picnic area. "I'm not... a huge fan of this."

"Suit yourself," Gelermon said, grinning around at the exact same damage. "I'm glad to finally see some excitement."

"Same!" Desmon said, beaming with an almost manic glint in her eye.

"The last thing you need," Oremon said, glancing sidelong at her, "is more excitement." That said, he did look pretty self-satisfied, so he clearly wasn't complaining too much.

"Is everyone alright?" Doctorimon asked, casting a cursory glance around-- but only at the other digimon. He only seemed satisfied once everyone nodded or at least grunted their assent. He stretched out, and he began to glow. It was only a moment before he returned to being Raumon. He paused for a moment, and looked around. "Are there any more of the sandwiches left? I think I deserve another sandwich."

The digimon were all a lot hungrier than they were before the bugs had shown up, so the last of the food was quickly distributed and handily decimated.

"Sorry about all this," Natalie said to the other humans, sighing. "I have to admit this isn't what I had in mind when I wanted everyone to get together."

Peter shrugged one shoulder. "Worse things have happened."

"Better than if they had cornered any of us alone, right?" Meghan piped up. "Or started wrecking things in the rest of the city."

***

Ratamon peered over the treetops, taking care to stay out of sight at the gathering of the humans and their digimon. Okay! Kabuterimon was gone-- they had taken care of it, it looked like. Threat managed.

They were getting better at this! He was almost starting to worry a bit less.
... almost.

That still left his bigger problems to attend to.

Where the heck were they, anyway?

EPISODE 06: CONNECTION INTERRUPTED

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