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

Episode 10: Light Up the Sky

In the aftermath of the Ryan incident (the... Ryincident? God, no), there had been a bit of a disagreement over whether or not they really needed to worry about the possibility of other D-Rive holders. As a result, the past, oh, week or so had not been so great for morale.

In the red corner, of the strong and vehement position that they should seek other D-Rive holders and their digimon out, if for no other reason than understanding the situation more fully: Peter.

In the blue corner, of the strong and vehement position that they should mind their own damn business, deal with it when and if it happened, and that they didn't need any more (quote) goddamn Power Rangers on the squad: Xander.

Stuck at various places in the crossfire: everyone else.

At present, they were, as they had kind of become accustomed to, gathered at the Lotus.
(Well, they meant Xander, Meghan, and Natalie at a table, while Peter was working, and Sam was on a strict tell me if I miss anything absence, which was a pattern he held even when there weren't arguments going on. He just didn't particularly fancy public meetups.)
Regardless, it was the first time they had all really gathered in-person since Ryan's reveal. It was a cloudy late afternoon; to make a joke about there being a storm coming would be a bit on-the-nose in the metaphor department, but rain was likely in the coming hours, and Atlas Park on the whole was blanketed in grey.

"What I'm saying," Xander said, balancing his chair on its back legs; the only reason he didn't kick his feet up onto the table is because there were drinks on it, "is that if these assholes want to start a fight with me, that's one thing, but until they do, it's not really my problem."

"First of all, sit like a normal person or I'll come over there and pull the chair out from under you," Peter said from over at the counter; it was dead in the Lotus today, so he was free to eavesdrop and participate as long as he turned his attention to the sparing customers who wandered in, got their drinks, and left. "Second of all, it is our problem. What he said lined up with what Strigimon said, which means it follows that if his digimon has a problem with Raumon, it's likely to have a problem with all of ours."

"You know, I don't know about you, but I just wanted coffee," Natalie said dully to Meghan, who sipped her boba tea solemnly and rested her chin on her hand.
While they were on the whole getting along decently as a group, Xander and Peter were sniping at each other more and more, getting to the point where -- even with others around to try and temper them -- their interactions were getting more openly hostile.

"Yeah, that's your problem. It's not my problem unless I make it my problem," Xander shot back.

"Well, considering how good you are at making everything a problem," Peter muttered, "that shouldn't take long."

Xander glared daggers. "Well hey, I'm not the one throwing a bitch-fit over chairs," he snapped, and to make his point, he tipped his chair back a few more precarious inches.

"Can we get back on subject, please?" Meghan said, which at least chastised Xander a little bit. He didn't return his chair to its full four-legged stance, but he did at least return it to the original angle he was balancing at.

There was a brief, tense pause. Peter broke it: "The subject, which was?" he said, gesturing at the girls for one of them to prompt them back on track.

"That I think we should start being really careful about taking care of emergents in groups," Natalie said. "Just in case."

Xander and Peter managed to keep off each other's backs, once again, by thoroughly ignoring each other; they both spoke freely to Meghan and Natalie, but any time they had to acknowledge a point made by the other they did it in a roundabout fashion, and it was frustrating as hell, but it was better than them sniping at each other.

***

"What even is it that annoys you so much about Peter?" Meghan asked, stretching her arms above her head.

It was a little while later; the three of them who didn't work there were clearing out of the Lotus, as Peter would be getting off his shift soon. While Natalie had parked a little ways away and so parted ways with them as soon as they left the building, Xander and Meghan had both walked around to the back alley behind the building, where they had parked. They had actually reached their cars already, and were simply lounging as they talked; Meghan was leaning against the side of hers, and Xander was sitting on the hood of his, looking at his phone.

"He just has the kind of face I want to punch," Xander said, as though that explained jack shit. "You looked at him recently? He looks like one of the fucking Proclaimers." He was still not paying attention, and affected a horrendously bad Scottish accent for all of half a sentence. "And I would walk 500 miles just to get the fuck away from him."

"That is," Desmon said, materializing next to Xander on his car hood, "hands down, the stupidest insult you've ever come up with, Xandy."

"Never call me that again."
Desmon stuck her tongue out.

A moment later, Oremon materialized next to Meghan in turn. They were in a back alley, standing between their cars; prying eyes were going to be few enough that being seen wasn't a huge risk.

"Regardless, it isn't particularly helpful," Oremon said, folding his arms.

"It really isn't," Meghan said, agreeing with her partner. Beat. "Though-- yeah, that's a really weird thing to insult someone over, what the heck, where did that even come from?"

"What do you want me to say?" Xander said, shrugging and totally not explaining his inexplicable apparent hatred of the Proclaimers. "I don't like fake-deep hipsters who wear scarves in summer and act all fake deep and oh ho look at me being all fake-objective and pretending I'm cool-headed, like I'm not a sanctimonious cockhead." He waved his hands in front of him, palms out and fingers splayed, his tone mocking.

Meghan frowned, arms akimbo. "I don't know, I don't think he's that bad. A little..." Beat. "Hipster-y, yeah, but there are worse things to be."

Xander raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, like, pond scum, maybe."

Meghan stuck her tongue out. "You know what I mean. So he doesn't get mad at everything. I don't get how that's a problem."

He shrugged. "Fucked if I know, then. It happens, don't always need some deep profound reason. He pisses me off because he has just the right personality to piss me off. I inexplicably hate a hell of a lot of people."

"Yeah, well," Meghan said, "most people you just inexplicably hate, you don't have to work together with to fight monsters. So, you know, maybe take that into consideration?"

Xander grunted as he slid off of his hood. He didn't admit she was right, but at least he didn't outright deny it.
"Yeah, well," he said, saying absolutely nothing of substance, and unlocking his car doors. "I'll see you later, yeah?"

"Yep," Meghan said, giving a thumbs-up, and quite clearly feeling like she had made a point that Xander couldn't deny, judging by his slightly gruff closure of the conversation.

Desmon circled around to the other side and pulled the shotgun-side door open, but before she jumped in, she popped her head up over the top of the roof.
"He's just being a grump!" she said cheerfully, before she ducked back down and closed the car door behind her.

Meghan put her hands on her hips and shook her head as she and Oremon watched Xander pull away with a nod of acknowledgement and a one-handed wave.

"One of these days," Oremon said, matter-of-factly and bluntly, "I'm going to headbutt him in the stomach."

"Don't you dare!" she scolded, gently bopping him on the head with a closed fist. Oremon snorted.

Meghan sighed as she leaned against her car for a few more minutes. Out of everyone, it seemed she was the least worried about all of this. Maybe she should have been more worried, but the way she saw it, it wouldn't do much good. Much higher on her list of concerns was trying to maintain the group harmony that seemed to come and go like the tide.

***

A short while later, Peter arrived home.

He gingerly shut the apartment door behind him and ran a hand backwards through his hair in exasperation. Ian was at work, so the place was empty; he looked around, double checking this, before he blurted to nobody in particular:
"What the hell is his problem!?"

Banmon materialized behind him, and shrunk back a bit from his outburst -- just because she hated loud noises -- but her expression was full of concern. This was bothering him more than usual; she slipped past him, drifting around to his frontside. "Is something wrong?"

She didn't actually expect an answer, so she wasn't surprised when she didn't get one immediately.
Truth be told, she herself also had a bit of trouble dealing with Xander's... aggressive communication style, but she could tell it was really beginning to wear Peter down, and it was starting to worry her a little bit.

"It's like he's going out of his way to piss me off," he said after a few moments pause, walking across the room. He threw himself onto the couch, and began to pull his shoes off a bit too aggressively. "And I don't get it. What the hell did I do to him to piss him off so badly?"

Banmon paused for a moment. "It might just be that you're hard to read," she supposed. Xander was very... up front? (That's a diplomatic way of saying tactless and blunt.) Peter, by contrast, had just about never been straightforward in his life.

Peter stayed quiet for a few seconds, then looked over at Banmon. He figured she was right, but he was still frustrated, so he was still testy when he spoke again. "That doesn't excuse the fact that it seems that he's deliberately trying to get in the way of us figuring things out just so that we don't mess up his personal life or, god forbid, infringe on his free time."

Peter very rarely got like this-- usually, he was able to sublimate a lot of his frustration, so Banmon knew: his patience really must have been wearing thin for him to vent even this much.

"He probably just... has a different perspective on it. Different priorities... He sees it differently, I'm sure," Banmon said carefully.

Peter sighed, digging his D-Rive out of his pocket and looked intently at it.
"I understand that. Perspective is one thing, but he doesn't just get to opt out," he said, turning the little device over in his hand.

Banmon thought about remarking that Peter wasn't exactly the best at being a team player, either, but she didn't think it would be worth the trouble of bringing it up. This wasn't the first time she had seen him get deeply invested in something, but...

Peter continued talking anyway, so she didn't have to worry about what she did or didn't say. "I don't understand how he can not want to know what's going on."

"I'm sure it'll come to us whether we want it to or not," Banmon said, sighing. She did understand why Peter was so interested in it, but truth be told, she almost understood Xander's desire to be left out of it.
... well. To a degree. She still couldn't quite gel with his aforementioned bluntness and aggression.

But... all of this talk of criminals and refugees and glory and shoot-first ask-questions-later... she had never been a fan of the adrenaline rush of fighting in the first place, you know? She didn't need all of this extra intrigue and mystery and secrets on top of it, but she was starting to accept how little what she wanted was going to matter.
Had she said that out loud, it might have sounded harsher than she intended it to, so again, she stayed quiet.

"Right," Peter said reluctantly, turning his D-Rive over in his hand. Why on earth did he -- did any of them have these? Both the group he knew, and Ryan and the other unknowns-- what, if anything, did they have in common? What did the digimon have in common?

He got the feeling, all of a sudden, that he would probably be happier if he didn't go sticking his nose in looking for answers-- but when was the last time that stopped him?

***

As long as we're checking up on everyone...

It was later that night-- around half-past ten, which meant the night was still young. Her sleep schedule had long since slipped, and she would likely be up for a while yet, but she still lay in her bed, one hand tucked behind her head and the other thumbing through her phone.
Though she didn't want to admit it, Ryan's words had particularly stuck in her brain.

Two particular words, actually -- refugees and criminals.
Those were not the same thing, no matter how much Ryan and Shitomon had seemed convinced that they were.

But...
She looked over at Raumon, who was settled in his little nest, beak buried in a book. Now, rest assured-- nothing that Ryan could possibly say was going to change her perception of Raumon, but it was true that there was this huge swath of his past that was a massive blank, and there was no knowing the extent of how much they didn't know.
She heaved a heavy sigh and closed her eyes.

It wasn't to say that she was totally delusional about all of this, of course, but ever since the incident last week... well, first of all, the digimon front had been suspiciously quiet. She couldn't help but wonder if it was because there were no digimon coming through, or if Ryan and his mysterious squad were pre-empting them, and if so, why.
She had to admit that before now, she had been... well. Excited felt like too flippant a term to describe how she felt about this whole thing. She wasn't happy about digimon coming through and causing havoc and needing to be fought back, but it was a rush, a sense of purpose and of meaning that had overwhelmed her thoughts since the start of summer.

Now, there was a kind of dread-- the idea that at any moment, they might run into someone who knew more and meant to do them harm... it ind of took the joy out of playing hero, you know? ... well, for a certain definition of joy.
To say nothing of the interpersonal friction it was causing...

"Natalie!"

She didn't know if she had closed her eyes for thirty seconds or thirty minutes, but Raumon's voice cut through her reverie, and her eyes snapped open. He was scrambling onto her bed to hand her her D-Rive. She could already see that it was lit up, bright as a beacon, which meant--

Crap.

She grabbed it out of his claws, navigating to its radar practically by reflex. A few feet away, her phone dinged with a notification, but she already knew what it was going to be about. There was a digimon on her radar, and she thumbed over it.

Meramon - Champion Level.

By the looks of it, it had emerged in the city park, or somewhere very close to it, and was on the move.

Natalie sprang to her feet, grabbing her phone. She hurried out a rushed something came up I'll be back soon to her (mostly apathetic) family as she stumbled out through the living room.

***

Before even seeing the digimon in question, before even parking her car, Natalie and Raumon could tell that Meramon was a fiery digimon. As they drove closer, a plume of black smoke rose out of the downtown area, illuminated from below with the vivid orange of a fresh fire.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

By the time Natalie was able to get out of her car and run closer to where the Meramon was on her radar, the glow was burning brighter, and sirens were blaring, closer and closer. The ear-splitting screech of a fire engine siren, police, emergency services... The street lamps that weren't destroyed were flickering badly.

Natalie was running against the flow of people trying to flee, but in the chaos, nobody really paid her much mind. She looked around frantically-- Meramon was practically right on top of her--

"Burning Fist!" A voice yelled from above, and a fireball soared down from on high, smashing into the concrete and bursting apart into embers that Natalie had to jump away from.

Meramon, as it turned out, was a tall, humanoid digimon, almost entirely featureless except for solid-blue eyes, a stitched-shut mouth, and the fact that its entire body was completely engulfed in flames, which explained a hell of a lot. It currently stood some five stories above street level, and apparently quite pleased with itself and its handiwork.
The building it stood on, meanwhile, was on fire, which was what had caused the massive plume of black smoke that, even without the radar, would have given away its position.

Raumon materialized with a flash of purple light, and Natalie wasn't about to stop him. It was too risky now, with so many people, to digivolve, but... at least they could distract Meramon for now, right...?

Some people stopped and stared, but many were too busy trying to get away from the flames to notice the little bird.
Meramon, of course, was much more perceptive.

"Burning Fist!" it yelled from on high, its arm igniting with even more flames. It threw a punch into the air, which materialized as a fireball, sailing in an arc down at Raumon, who deftly leapt out of the way, and Natalie leapt away in the other direction, not wanting to be set on fire any more than Raumon wanted to be.

Natalie and Raumon waited with bated breath for what was about to happen. A second later, Meramon crouched and leapt down to street level. It didn't seem to mind the fall at all, and it left burnmarks in the pavement where it landed. It reared up to its full height and smirked a stitched-mouth smirk, and it began to advance on Raumon.

Shit, Natalie thought, but at that moment--

"Hey!" Meghan called from behind, and Natalie whipped around to see her and Oremon approaching.

"Yeah-- we just got here," Natalie said, nodding. "Could use a little help though--"

She need say no more; Oremon rushed forward, growling and rearing his head down, charging forward despite the intense heat around Meramon. "Iron Head!" he snarled, rushing past Raumon and catching Meramon in the knee with his horns, which didn't do much to stop the big fiery digimon, but it did make him stumble and turn away from the bird digimon.

"Dark Ring!" Raumon yelled, using the distraction that Oremon offered to attack, himself. A black spell circle appeared underneath Meramon, and tendrils of energy shot up out of it, seeping into the flames and causing the champion-level digimon to hiss with pain.

"Moon Howler!" the familiar voice of Gelermon cried, a green-and-black beam of energy flying past Natalie and Meghan and smashing straight into Meramon's chest. For a few brief seconds, it extinguished the flames on Meramon's body in the spot that it impacted.

"Well, this is just great, isn't it?" Sam said as he arrived on the scene, running up to join the girls, with Gelermon right on his heels. (They couldn't make him come to actually talk in person worth a damn, but he was certainly quick to get on the scene whenever a digimon was fucking things up, like the kid who never comes to class except to take the tests, except the tests were the destruction of public property.)

"So, are we just saying fuck it to the secrecy thing?" she asked snidely, looking around before smirking. "Cause I can deal with that." Without waiting, she rushed forward, her handpaws igniting with the same energy she had just fired as a beam. "Void Paw!" she yelled, rushing forward and striking out at Meramon's shins.

"Heat Knuckle!" Meramon yelled, throwing out a fiery punch as Gelermon approached. She dodged out of the way, but only narrowly, and she could practically feel the tips her ears get singed.

The crowds were starting to thin as police cars and firetrucks began to arrive on the scene, and the humans partnered to digimon were trying to keep back-- trying to look inconspicuous.

Enter: Peter.
"Hope I'm not late," he said as he showed up to the party, and Banmon materialized beside him. Raumon, Gelermon, and Oremon were pretty well occupied with the Meramon, trying to keep it from spewing flames towards a) anything flammable, or b) anything living, throwing out attacks as frequently as they could.

"I think we're all a bit late," Sam remarked dryly, looking at the burning building with a frown and a shake of his head.

"Just this one to deal with?" Peter said, looking to Natalie.

She nodded. "As far as I know, anyway," she said, not discounting the idea that anything could happen at this point.

"Shadow Shot!" Banmon cried as she floated into the battle, lobbing blobs of shadowy energy at Meramon. Like Gelermon's Moon Howler, the places where the attacks impacted temporarily smothered the fire on Meramon's body.

"Burning Fist!" Meramon yelled, throwing out his fist and hurling a fireball at Banmon. She dodged out of the way, but the fireball soared past her and smashed into the burning building, and she made a distressed oh no squeak.

Raumon tried once more. "Dark Ring!" he yelled, and again the spell circle appeared underneath Meramon's feet.

"Earth Wrecker!" Oremon yelled, taking advantage of Meramon's distraction to kick up and lob a couple of jagged rocks at the fiery digimon; Gelermon and Banmon, in their own ways, followed suit.

"Moon Howler!"

"Shadow Shot!"

One attack after another hit Meramon, and it curled its lip with a snarl in response.

"Heat Wave!" it yelled, and its entire body began to flare up intensely. With a primal cry, it released an omnidirectional blast of fire. The human stumbled backwards, and the digimon braced themselves for the powerful blast of fire. It seemed larger after it had finished attacking, as though emboldened by the fires it had started around it.

Now would certainly be a good time for some assistance from--

As if summoned by the lament of her absence, a familiar bat's voice rang out in the air. "Acro Slicer!" Two crescent-shaped blades of air soared past the humans, smashing straight into Meramon and snuffing out more of its fire where they hit its body.

Desmon flapped her way past and into the fray, with Xander coming jogging up after her.

"I miss much?" he said sarcastically, looking around.

"Nice of you to join us," Peter muttered. If looks could kill, the glare Xander gave Peter would have struck him dead.

"Better late than never?" Meghan tried, speaking to nobody in particular, but her voice got lost in the chaos and the sirens and the borderline panic.

"Oh, I certainly missed all the arguing," Sam said flatly, sarcastically, shaking his head.

Natalie sighed through her nose, but turned her attention back to the digimon. They were doing a pretty decent job, though they sometimes seemed to clash a little bit-- only narrowly did they avoid attacking each other, or running into the line of fire of someone else's attack, but for the most part they were doing fine together.

"Symptom Claw!" Raumon yelled, rushing into close range with Meramon at last to deliver a slash of purple-glowing claws to the big flaming digimon.

"Iron Head!" Oremon yelled as well, rushing in right alongside the bird, bowing his head and smashing into Meramon and charging straight on, following through on his headbutt.

Desmon's cry of "Black Static!" accompanied the rings of staticky energy that flew out at Meramon, each one causing a little bit more fire on its body to flicker out as it hit.

"Moon Howler"! Gelermon yelled, having been slightly humbled by the fireball she had barely missed the last time she had gotten up close and personal with Meramon.

"Shadow Shot!" Banmon cried-- her other attack being the one that involved making prolonged contact, and her arms being made of cloth, she really didn't want to risk getting any more up close and personal than that.

Meramon began to flare up, growling-- but it was cut off.

"Light Shot!

"Oh, crap," Natalie muttered, recognizing that attack name before she even saw the attacker. Indeed, coming up from behind Meramon, jumping out of an alleyway, was Shitomon -- long ears and red cowl and all, and her little pellet of light smacked Meramon squarely in the back.

Out of the alleyway from whence Shitomon had come, a too-familiar face emerged-- Ryan, gripping his D-Rive in hand, and he stumbled to a stop when he saw that he and Shitomon weren't the first pair on the block.

The fiery digimon snarled as he turned on the weird little rabbit.

"This the guy?" Peter said, looking over at Natalie, but it was Sam who nodded an agreement.

"I already hate him," Xander deadpanned, looking him up and down.

"Burning Fist!" Meramon yelled, shooting a fireball Shitomon's way, but she leapt up and caught the air with her ears, drifting back down to the ground.

"Magic Trick!" an entirely-new voice yelled, and out of the alleyway from whence Shitomon had come, a shining blue-and-white orb came sailing through the air. It impacted Meramon and exploded like a bomb.

The digimon were quick to look for the culprit, and luckily, he came sprinting out of the alleyway mere moments after his attack did. The new digimon was a fox of sorts, with creamy yellow fur and dark-brown marks on his paws, ears, and tail... but oddly, his face looked like a noh mask, all white with red markings. (Then again, considering they were used to Raumon's mask face, it really wasn't that weird.) His eyes looked as though they were shut, and it wore a massive grin on its face, showing off rows of sharp teeth.
In one paw he clutched the neck of a large tan bag, which he was carrying slung over his shoulder.

"Wild Paw!"

This was a second new voice, and a red-orange blur came running out of the alleyway in turn, accompanied by a streak of yellow light. She only stopped when she collided with Meramon and leapt back, disengaging after striking fast with huge, blunt claws. This one was a red panda, with enormous claws on her hands and feet alike, and a thickly-striped tail longer than she was tall. Her eyes, by contrast to the fox, were large and blue, and very alert.

"Well, would you look at that," the fox said cheerfully, "the gang's all here."

"Meramon first," the red panda advised.

Shitomon furrowed her brow but nodded slowly.

Meramon, meanwhile, had no time for such politeness. "Heat Wave!" it roared, sending out a wave of fire that went in all directions, forcing the digimon both in front of and behind it to brace themselves for the burn.

And then, all bets were off.

"Symptom Claw!"

"Iron Head!"

"Shadow Shot!"

"Moon Howler!"

"Black Static!"

"Light Shot!"

"Magic Trick!"

"Wild Paw!"

Eight rookie-level digimon attacked at once, ranged attacks and melee attacks all focused on the big fiery Meramon, and with all of them striking at once...

Meramon snarled with pain before it began to distort, and it let out one last burst of flame before it exploded instead into light and data, which dispersed into eight thin beams that rushed towards eight D-Rives.

Wait-- eight?
Come on, it should come as no surprise.

Coming running out of the alley, a little late to the party, were two more humans.
The first was a young man with tan skin and dark hair long enough to tie into a ponytail; the second, a fair-skinned young woman with brown hair that almost reached the small of her back, and yes, both of these people cluched D-Rives in their hands. The former's was cyan and white, and the latter's, yellow and white.

"Cho," Xander remarked flatly in an understated expression of dull surprise.

Ever had a standoff involving monsters in front of a burning building? Well, to be fair, nobody here had, either, and nobody could say this is how they anticipated any part of their lives going, but, hey, you win some, you lose some.

"Fancy seeing all you here," Ryan said, putting on a fake jovial tone.
Natalie and Raumon couldn't help but notice that this time, Shitomon wasn't leaping quite so quickly to attacking. (Maybe it was because she was outnumbered this time.)

"I don't believe most of us have met," Ryan said when nobody continued, and he kept up a wonderfully annoying fake tone of cordiality. "These are Jen and Eli," he said, gesturing to the two strangers at his side, the young woman and the young man in turn, "and their partners, Hulimon," the fox, "and Lurumon," the red panda. "Who are all these people, Nat?" he asked, looking at Natalie in particular as he gestured around at the other humans and the digimon accompanying them.

Natalie folded her arms and remained tight-lipped.

"We don't want any trouble," Meghan said instead, putting her hands up in a defensive gesture.

"We might want trouble," Oremon muttered-- not the first time he had said this.

"Trouble's kind of your thing, though, isn't it?" Hulimon said, tapping a finger to the side of his snout. "Harboring dangerous criminals and/or being dangerous criminals and all that."

There that old chestnut was again.

"You know," Gelermon said, putting her hands on her hips, "we've heard that from a half a dozen digimon with a chip on their shoulders now, it'd be really nice if one of you could take the time to explain what the fuck you're talking about before you start trying to tear our faces off."

"Why should we waste time explaining it to you?" Shitomon said, frowning. "You know as well as we do." She looked slightly confused, slightly put out, but not about to back down now.

"We really don't," Peter said, folding his arms.

Behind him, Xander had a different idea. "Let's fucking book it," he said, not quietly enough. "Before this gets uglier than it already is."

"No," Peter said immediately, glancing to the side at Xander and glaring.

"So we're doing it the hard way?" Lurumon asked, glancing sidelong at her compatriots, and then over her shoulder at Jen. They exchanged nods.

"We don't have to do it the hard way," Banmon said quietly, but she went ignored; Ryan, Jen, and Eli all held up their D-Rives, which began to glow in their respective colours.

"Hell yeah!" Hulimon cackled, and if possible, his grin spread even wider.

They did, in fact, have to do this the hard way.

"Shitomon, drive evolve to... Malakhimon!"

"Hulimon, drive evolve to..."

"Lurumon, drive evolve to..."

The little fox -- Hulimon -- digimon grew to human proportions, though his odd mask-like face didn't see fit to change at all, bar the fact that the red markings changed slightly-- mark the difference. His legs and arms grew until he stood taller than the humans, but he stopped growing there. Bandages appeared around his feet and hands, and a long, navy-blue jacket settled onto his shoulders-- just his shoulders, though, as he didn't put his arms through the sleeves, leaving them to hang free. The collar stood tall, and it was unclear how it stayed on, but -- again, digimon, they had learned to accept some oddness.
Dark-blue pants materialized, and a black belt, with black suspenders hanging loose at his sides, appeared as well. His tail split into three, and a twig with a leaf at the end appeared clenched between his razor-sharp teeth. He hoisted up his bag, which had grown to scale with him, and set it down next to him as the light dispersed.

The red panda, on the other side of the humans, grew to much larger proportions. Her legs grew into powerful haunches as the claws on her hands grew to impressive size, while the ones on her feet shrunk down to far more normally sized claws. She began to look more and more ferocious than she had as Lurumon, the more she grew. Her tail grew to keep in proportion with her-- that is to say, still longer than the rest of her body. Two golden rings appeared around the base of it, and a length of bandage wrap settled around her midsection.

A fluffy mane of white fur settled around her neck, as her extremeties grew darker. Lighter circles appeared on her hips and her forearms, while tufts of fur sprouted at her shoulders and the junction of her hips and her body. Her fur looked impossibly thick and dense, and she reared up with surprising grace as the light dispersed.

"Hokkaimon!"

"Himamon!"

Facing down with three champion-level digimon with a bone to pick and human partners... well, what choice was there?

"Oremon, drive evolve to... Ibexmon!"

"Banmon, drive evolve to... Banshemon!"

"Gelermon, drive evolve to... Frekimon!"

"Desmon, drive evolve to... Corymon!"

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

God, there was a lot of yelling going on tonight, and that was before you even took into account all the chaos from the fire.

"Now may not be a great time for this!" Natalie yelled, shielding her eyes from the bright light of all the digivolution. She didn't even have time to appreciate that this was, as far as she could remember, the first time that all of their digimon had been evolved at the same time.
They were locked in a standoff, both sides watching the other carefully for any sign of movement.

"Get out of the way," Malakhimon said, looking pointedly at the humans standing behind the line of digimon. "You don't have to be any more involved in this."

"They're likely too invested already," Himamon said, glancing sidelong at her allies. "The best we can do is try not to hurt them in the process."

"No skin off my nose," Hokkaimon said, shrugging one shoulder, and without preamble--

"Moon Bomb!"
He reached one paw into an inner pocket of the jacket slung around his shoulders, and pulled out a swirling blue and white orb-- it looked quite similar to the Magic Trick they had seen earlier, but larger. He lobbed it their way, and it exploded in midair, splitting into dozens of smaller orbs-- and each of those smaller orbs exploded like a super-powerful firecracker.

That was enough to break the standoff.

"New Moon Fire!" Frekimon cried, rearing back and releasing a large green fireball from her mouth that smacked straight into Malakhimon.

Malakhimon, in turn, growled and reared down. "Holy Charge!" she cried, her body engulfed in white light as she rushed at the gathered digimon opposite her.

"Terra Spear!" Ibexmon yelled, smashing his hooves into the ground and causing spikes of rock to emerge from the ground underneath Malakhimon as she charged, interrupting her attack.
This gave the humans a window-- and they took it.

"Come on!" Sam yelled, gesturing. "Let's get out of the way before we lose a limb!"

They needed no second instruction-- the humans scrambled for the sidewalk, and it seemed that the newcomers had had much the same idea.

"Spirit Ripper!" Banshemon called as she shot forward, claws glowing white as she slashed at Hokkaimon, who jumped deftly out of the way.

"Aura Stream!" Himamon yelled while Banshemon tried to rearrange herself, rearing back and gathering up golden energy in her mouth. It crackled like lightning, but when she fired it, it almost looked more like a powerful jet of water than a bolt of electricity. It crashed into the ghost, sending her tumbling.

"Black Stinger!" Corymon yelled, taking to the sky -- but not too far to the sky, if she flew too high, she would have her head in the smoke and the fire, which would do her no good. The black spears of energy hit their mark in Himamon, who was momentarily paralyzed. Before Corymon could gloat, Malakhimon flapped her wings rose into the air and began to glow white, preparing to charge.

Between the fire, the fact that it was eight digimon fighting in the middle of the street... it was cramped, it was chaotic, and it was loud.
Even though they were outnumbered, the three new digimon were agile enough to keep the team on their toes-- they couldn't afford to concentrate all their attention on one, lest they leave themselves open to attack from the other two. It was hard for them to work together effectively against three opponents, with so much confusion and clamor to contend with.
On the other hand, the team were keeping the pressure on well enough to make sure that their three opponents couldn't gain a clear advantage-- which meant that they were mostly stalemating.

"What the fuck is their problem!?" Xander yelled, covering his face with his arms as Malakhimon and Corymon crashed into the burning building, taking out a chunk of the wall and sending debris flying.

Natalie looked over at where Ryan, Eli, and Jen were keeping out of the line of fire, and frowned. She was considering trying to confront one of them, but that seemd like it might end badly for everyone involved.
More importantly, the fight was starting to get unpleasant.

And to top it all off, it was starting to rain-- the unspoken threat of the dark clouds hanging over the city all day was finally paying off. As the first raindrops fell, the digimon stopped for a half a moment, breathing heavily.

Natalie took advantage of this momentary lull in the fight to run over to where Ryan, Eli, and Jen were; she didn't notice it, but soon, the other members of her team followed suit, rushing after her as she stormed over.

"Call your digimon off!" Natalie yelled.

"And let'em rip our digimon to shreds?" Jen said, incredulous.

"Yours started it!" Meghan said, frowning and furrowing her brow, and at that moment, the lull ended. As if to illustrate Meghan's point, it was Malakhimon who re-ignited it, rushing forward engulfed in white light.

"Excuse me?" Ryan said, raising an eyebrow and gesturing around them-- at the fight, at the fire, at everything. "Our digimon aren't the ones who are responsible for all of this!"

"Neither are ours," Peter said, "you saw the Meramon who started this."
Natalie coudln't say she was surprised, though-- after he had taken credit for taking care of the emergents, the idea of him pinning blame on them--

"That's not what I'm talking about!" Ryan yelled, cutting off Natalie's train of thought. "All of this! The digimon coming through in the first place!"

Xander curled his lip in disdain. "How the hell is this our fault?"

"Do ya seriously not know?" Jen asked, sounding disbelieving. "Like, for real?"

"No, we've just been acting stupid for funsies," Sam drawled, deeply sarcastic. Jen put her hands on her hips and frowned, puffing out one cheek in annoyance at his response.

"Your digimon are the reason the digital world's fucked up, mates," Eli said casually, rubbing his nose idly, like he wasn't dropping some heavy ideas. "Or, more specifically, I guess they're the reason it's not fixed yet? Semantics and shit."

"What?"
That was from Meghan, but it could have been from anyone.

"If the digimon's world was like it was supposed to be," Jen said, twirling a bit of her hair around her finger, "then there wouldn't be cracks, and if there weren't cracks, there wouldn't be any digimon coming through."

"And it's totally outside the realm of possibility," Peter said, "that it's your digimon who are the problem?"

"Yes, actually! Ours came through to apprehend yours!" Ryan said, like this was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Great at their jobs, aren't they," Sam said, looking sidelong at the others, and then over his shoulder at the fight, which had started up again-- but with somewhat less vigor. "Fifteen years late."

"Because it'd be so easy to hunt down five digimon in a city when you're a little puffball for most of that fifteen years, yeah?" Jen said. "And when you're not even sure they're here in the first place?"

"You keep saying that they're criminals, that they're refugees -- which, by the way, not the same thing," Peter said, frowning-- he was more talking to himself than to anyone else, until he looked up. "What did they do?"

Eli was the one who answered, in terribly eloquent manner.
"They're like living backup drives for the corruption thing trying to destroy the digital world, dude. They're the reason their world's fucked sideways."

Any further discussion was cut off by the fact that they had to scatter when Frekimon, thrown by Malakhimon's Holy Charge, came skidding towards them.

***

This was not how Ratamon envisioned this going, he thought, as he watched from a very safe distance.

How he had pictured it was that Meramon would cause a little havoc, he'd draw that last damn one out, and his job would be a nice easy downward slide from there.
That was, obviously, not how it actually worked out. Admittedly, he kind of figured it wouldn't be that easy, but hey, he could always dream, right?

As it was... he had faith in the team of five-- he figured the worst that might come out of this might be some bruised egos and some wounds to lick. Worse things could happen, and chances were good that the humans would intervene if anything got too scary, but...

Ugh.
It had been such a pain in the ass to lure that stupid Meramon through, too...

He twitched his big feathery ears to shake water off of them, and with one last look, he turned his back to where the humans and their digimon were fighting.

He'd figure it out later.

***

Lightning flashed overhead, followed soon after by the crack of thunder, and for the second time, the fighting lulled.

Not a single digimon on the battlefield didn't look worse for the wear. Both Doctorimon and Hokkaimon's coats were marred by dark bloody stains soaking through the fabric. Frekimon had bloody gashes along her shoulder and across her muzzle; half of one of Himamon's ears was torn off. Malakhimon's wings looked like more than a few feathers had been torn out, where Corymon had noticable tears and rips in the membranes of hers. Ibexmon was doing a pretty good job of hiding a limp in one of his hind legs, while parts of Banshemon's robes were torn and burned.

All eight digimon stood their ground in the wreckage, breathing heavily, nobody wanting to back down or surrender, but the rain was getting worse, and they were wearing down-- to say nothing of what the humans had to think over.

Well, at least the rain was keeping the fire under control. Ish. Kind of.

Sirens were flashing, police lights strobing.

"Let's go!" Meghan was the first to yell, cupping her hands around her mouth. "Ibexmon! Let's go home!"

"We can't back down now," Peter said, looking pointedly over at the humans. "Not with--"

"Oh, fucking stuff it," Xander spat. "If we had just booked it like I had wanted to--"

"Guys, don't," Natalie snapped.

Ibexmon snorted and tried to paw against the ground with one hoof, but he stumbled slightly as he lost his balance. He looked over his shoulder at Meghan-- and in that moment where he wasn't looking, Hokkaimon started creeping forward.

Luckily, Meghan did see this, and she bolted for Ibexmon, running in between Hokkaimon and Ibexmon, arms outstretched as if to block the attack, or maybe make herself look bigger.
Even more luckily, Hokkaimon stumbled to a stop, his toothy grin faltering slightly.

"No! We're going home!" Meghan yelled, standing her ground resolutely.

"What are you doing?" Ibexmon asked from behind her.

It was hard to tell if she was answering her partner, or still just going off, when she spoke again. "This is stupid! We're going home before we break something else!"

"She's right," Doctorimon said, looking around. "We're doing more harm than good at this point." He looked at his own allies, and pointedly then at Malakhimon, Hokkaimon, and Himamon, as if to say you're not exempt.

"Aren't you lot always doing that?" Hokkaimon muttered, but Himamon shook her head at him.

"Not now, Hokkaimon," she said quietly. "Loathe as I am to admit it, they're right."

There was a heavy pause yet again. Lightning cracked overhead once again, and there was a brief pause wherein Ryan, Eli, and Jen conferred with each other. Their digimon stepped back so they could be privy to this, but did not take their eyes off of their opponents.

In flashes of multicoloured light, one by one, the three opposing digimon returned to their rookie forms. It seemed like it had been a long time coming, with how drained they looked once they settled back into their default shapes.

Ryan and his group didn't say anything that they could hear. They knelt beside their partners, spoke quietly, and then minimized them into their respective D-Rives, before they took off as a group, running back down the alley they had come from.

"Mother of shit," Xander hissed, dragging a hand backwards through his wet hair. "This is so fucked."

Understatement of the century.

One by one, their own digimon reverted to their rookie forms, all breathing heavily, all looking like they had seen better days. They ran to inspect their partners, who were bleeding and bruised and scratched up, but it seemed that changing forms had undone a lot of the worse damage that they had sustained.

***

Once their partners were safely minimized and they had managed to slip away from the scene, they began what felt like the thousand-mile trek back to their vehicles-- and exactly the conflict you might expect to happen, was happening.

"We should have just left," Xander said, complaining to himself more than to anyone else. "We could have left the easy way, but no."

Natalie was trudging along, leading the way; she and Meghan were trying to make small talk, and Sam was bringing up the back in silence, but two voices predominated.

"Will you stop complaining for two seconds?" Peter sniped.

"Well, I mean, considering it's partially your fault that we got stuck in a eight-digimon pileup street fight--"

"And we know a hell of a lot more now than we did--"

"At what fuckin' cost!?" Xander stopped in the middle of walking, rounding on Peter, and the entire group stopped as well. "Every goddamn person with a camera and a shred of sense recorded that! Like hell are we going to be able to pretend we're not involved with this shit anymore!"

"Oh my god can we not do this," Sam groaned, feeling his body tense up even more than it already was.

"Just because you want to go back to putting your head in the sand and pretending none of this matters to you doesn't mean it doesn't matter," Peter said, his eye twitching in irritation. "Just because you want to be left alone and pretend that you're not involved it doesn't mean you get to opt out of--"

"Guys," Meghan said, "can we please not do this, we're all really tired and stressed out and--"

"Of what? Excuse me for not being thrilled at the idea of being hunted down like fucking animals over some wack-ass bullshit, but hey, now we know what they fuckin' think of us, so hey, it's all better now! Totally undoes the burning fucking building!"

"Guys," Natalie said, her voice slightly raised.

"You could try actually doing something productive with this information, instead of just whining about it. Or would that be too much of a goddamn imposition on your free time?" Peter wasn't as loud as Xander, but his tone was downright acidic.

"Guys."

"Don't fuckin' talk to me about being productive!"

"GUYS!" Natalie practically yelled, and the group fell quiet as they all turned to look at her. "Will the both of you shut the hell up and stop going at each other's throats for five seconds!?"
She was practically seething, and she calmed down only a little bit as she continued. "I know, you're stressed, we're all fucking stressed, but neither of you is helping! Right now I don't want to babysit a couple of grown men, I want to figure out what where we're supposed to go from here, not whose fault it is that we're here in the first place!"

Both Xander and Peter stared at her, and she realized belatedy that both Meghan and Sam were doing the same, and she sighed heavily.
"Look. We're all tired. Can we just reconvene later when we've all had the time to relax?"

"She's right," Meghan said. "Let's just-- deal with this later, okay?"

"Fine," Xander said stiffly; Peter said nothing, only nodded with lips pressed thin.

There were a lot of questions to be asked, and all of them were swirling around in their heads, and all of them came back to one central question: were they telling the truth? And if so, what did that mean for them?

"Gotta admit this isn't how I planned my day to go," Sam remarked to himself, shaking his head.

***

From her balcony, a young woman could see the glow of the fire and the smoke from downtown. Of course, a lot of people could see it from their houses-- she wasn't special in this regard, but...

"You think it's a digimon?" she said, asking over her shoulder. Standing inside, past the sliding doors and watching through the glass, was her best friend.

"Undoubtedly," he said, placing a blunt-clawed paw on the glass.

"I guess it being a grease fire that got out of hand is totally out of the question."

"Trust me on this one."

"It seems like they're getting worse," she said, then turned to look at her friend. "You're sure you don't want to go?" She smirked, rolling her eyes. She didn't want to get involved any more than he did; the question was a sarcastic one. "Go out? Make some friends? Get our ass beat up and down the street a few times?"

"It'd be worse if I did," he said seriously, shaking his head. "Any help I could give would be undone by the damage it would do."

"I know, I know. I'm just giving you shit." She sighed, leaning forward on the railing. She couldn't help but feel that he was being a bit paranoid about it, and he seemed to realize this, because he spoke up.

"If I showed myself, I'd be found, and if I was found, everything would be several times more fucked than it already is."

"Yeah, I know. You're not gonna see me complaining about it, I sure as hell don't want to get involved." She shugged, shaking her head as she walked back inside, reaching down to pat him as she passed. "You don't have to be so serious all the time. Brooding in the dark, talking all cryptically."

He snorted, shaking his head. "I have to get my fun from somewhere," he said, taking one last look out at the city before turning around and following her.

EPISODE 10: CONNECTION INTERRUPTED

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