Episode 19: The Foxes Hunt the Hounds
Sunday morning began cold (for August) and grey, but the fact that it was Sunday morning was kind of a moot point to Sam, seeing as he was presently entering hour 26 of consecutive wakefulness (give it up for hour 26!), and so the idea of distinctive days was a murky one at best.
Admittedly, a fair part of that was because Sam's sleep schedule had already been nebulous; it was hard to say it was worse, because it was hard to make a garbage fire worse, but it had started skewing towards both longer consecutive wake periods followed by longer pass-out crashes, because he had long ago given up.
(So be it that he had left the house few enough times to count on one hand in the past, like, three weeks, and that was probably doing the opposite of helping.)
But more than just him having lost control of his life, this time it was because he was busy-- he had a subject to dig into, a series of ideas that had daisy-chained together and he couldn't bear to interrupt it with such trivial things as sleep.
To recap: last night, Meghan had come back with her tale of Oremon's catalyst evolution and their encounter with Ryan. As he always did whenever an emergent incident came to his attention, because he was a fucking nerd, Sam had quickly made note of it, taking down where and when the emergent had occurred. He had immediately started scouring the news and discussion boards for any pictures.
Sometimes there were more -- there was plenty of documentation of the fight between Camazmon and Draugmon, but, say, Banmon's evolution into Onryomon had gone almost entirely under the radar.
The gears had begun to turn in his head, though, as pieces of at least one corner of the puzzle began to fall together, and once he started, he wasn't about to break his streak for something as trivial as sleep.
"So hear me out here," Sam said, putting his hands behind his head. The sun was just about coming up, the first rays of sunlight creeping through his thick curtains providing the only light aside from his computer monitors.
Gelermon cracked an eye open, looking over at her partner from where she lay on Sam's bed. "Sup?"
"Tell me if you notice what I'm noticing here," Sam said, and Gelermon sat up so she could more clearly see the monitor as Sam pulled up several tabs, each with a picture or video clip.
The first was one from last night-- shaky cellphone footage of Cabramon and Karatenmon in the soccer field, the characteristic distortion that accompanied a newly-emerged digimon shearing lines of pixels out of place and making it kind of hard to follow what was going on in the clip. The second was an old one -- the very first video clip of a digimon that had gone public, of Saberdramon and Corymon back in May. Meramon, Strigimon, Raremon-- he leapt back and forth in time, queuing up pictures and videos of digimon incidents.
A clip of Camazmon and Draugmon duking it out and causing massive property damage, skewed and distorted by glitchy video, played out in shaky cell phone footage. Truth be told, the video they had of ultimate-levels was even harder to make out and more garbled than the footage of champion-level emergents.
"You with me so far?" Sam said, and Gelermon shrugged one shoulder.
"I don't know what point you're trying to make," Gelermon said, "but go ahead." Sam was visibly excited to share what he was thinking, and he was just about the only person whose parade she wouldn't merrily rain on.
"I'm getting there, I'm getting there. Here, tell me what you notice about this one."
Sam queued up a video of Draugmon's first appearance-- a clip of Frekimon herself getting tossed aside. She furrowed her brow, about to say something snide (like ah yes truly the most dignified footage you could possibly have found of me, but when she opened her mouth to say it, realization struck her like a lightning bolt.
"The footage is clean," she said slowly, instead of waht she originally intended to.
The video footage of Raremon had been typically garbled and distorted, but once they were gone, replaced by the giant skull-faced bear monster, the footage was clear as crystal, even on the shaky cell phone cam recording that Sam had pulled up. Every moment of Draugmon smacking Frekimon aside like an empty can sitting in his way was undistorted and easy to make out.
"Cool, it's not just the sleep madness making my eyes fuck up," Sam said, though it was clear from his proud tone and (admittedly very tired) smirk that he had never had any doubt.
"You know," Gelermon said, "I heard you could deal with that by doing shit like... sleeping."
"Nah, I'm good," Sam said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms.
"Well, I tried, don't blame me when you keel over dead."
"Don't worry, I will." Sam drummed his fingers on his arms. "Ask me what I think this means."
Gelermon snorted and took the bait. "So, tell me before you explode: what do you think this means?"
"I'm glad you asked!"
Natalie was also awake at this hour of stupid-o-clock in the morning, though she was awake much less by choice. She had tossed and turned all night, a restless anxiety having permeated every corner of her mind. She was sure that part of it was just that this was the last day of her break (so she supposed it was alright that she was getting used to being awake again?), but it would be silly to imagine that was all of it
She heaved a heavy sigh, spreading her arms out eagle on her bed and staring at the ceiling. Was going back to sleep even worth it?
When she sat up about five minutes later, she had obviously decided that it wasn't.
"Is something wrong?" Raumon's tired voice drifted up from beyond the foot of Natalie's bed; he sounded half-asleep, but Natalie heard the sound of his bean-bag chair shifting, indicating that he was sitting up.
"Is everything, forever a valid response to that?" Natalie said in the raspy not-quite-a-whisper that people use when other people in the house are still asleep.
"Yes, but that's kind of a given at this point," Raumon said in response and Natalie smiled faintly. Raumon's head popped up from beyond the edge of Natalie's bed so he could peer at her. "Is it the usual?"
The usual meant exactly what I could reasonably expect you to be preoccupied with, because it's basically been all you've been able to think about all summer, for better or worse.
"Kind of. Kind of that, kind of school, kind of wondering how that's going to interact with school," she said, listing off on her fingers and frowning. She paused for a moment before she spoke what was on her mind.
"Something about what Meghan said happened last night feels really weird to me," she admitted.
Raumon thought, stroking his beak as he considered. "Because the idea of Ryan admitting to being wrong about anything is a sign of the apocalypse, maybe?" he said. As he spoke, he clambered his way up onto the bed.
"A viable possibility," Natalie said, smiling, but it fell off her face a moment later. "I guess I'm just wondering why. You're not wrong that it's practically a sign of the apocalypse, you know?"
Raumon didn't immediately follow, but he thought for a moment, and then he said:
"So you're wondering what kind of apocalypse -- so to speak, anyway -- he must be worried about, to inspire this kind of change of heart?"
"I guess?" Natalie said, folding her arms. That was certainly part of it. While the others just viewed Ryan as obnoxious, Natalie knew better how outstanding of a problem something really had to be for him to admit to being wrong.
(Admittedly, that was a problem the both of them had, to some degree, but even so...)
It was hard to ignore how much Ryan and Shitomon acted like they knew so much more than anyone else, but thus far, they actually did seem to have at least some information more than they -- that is, specifically Natalie and Raumon -- had. That, on top of the fact that they couldn't even be sure that their digimon could digivolve to ultimate safely, without doing more harm than good... she couldn't help but worry. When four out of five so far had digivolved to their next level and lost control of themselves... it was hard to feel like a sudden change of heart was anything other than a red flag.
And if Draugmon and the growing-worse digimon attacks hadn't been enough of a red flag on their own, she couldn't help but wonder.
(It wasn't just this, though. The alternative was that she was holding a grudge against him and letting that cloud her perception, and while she felt she damn well had reason to... well. She wondered distantly why she was more willing to prepare for the worst-case scenario, rather than entertain the possibility that he had just pulled his head out of his ass for two seconds.)
Natalie flopped back down on her bed as rain began to fall, pattering against the window.
Sam's theory as to what was going on was a bit hard to follow at first, because -- as he often did when he got excited about something -- he was a bit hard to follow; if Gelermon hadn't been well-attuned to the machinations of Sam's mind and how to decode the things he said, she might have been entirely lost.
Once he had sorted it out, it went something like this -- and strap the fuck in, because it's a bit of a process, and by cutting out Sam's commentary on it it gets a third as long:
The fact that the original footage of Draugmon hadn't been distorted -- that it hadn't interfered with conventional electronics -- indicated that Draugmon was, in some way, different from other emergent digimon. Sam hadn't noticed this until now, he was quick to point out, because he hadn't really seen a point in poring over footage of the first Draugmon fight; he had been there, he had gotten as much information as he was likely to get from it.
(He totally wasn't embarassed about not noticing this yet. Nope. Not at all.)
That in and of itself might have been odd, but not enough to build a coherent theory on. Draugmon seemed to have defied their expectations in other ways -- namely, how it screwed up their D-Rives' radars, so he had thought that maybe it was just bizarre in some other ways; but the fact that it screwed up their D-Rives and its failure to screw up cameras might, despite his instincts, be unrelated to each other.
Because it had caused the distortion the second time around-- and the second time, it had behaved like any other emergent digimon. Sam figured this meant that it hadn't been newly emerged the first time they saw it-- which meant it had been around already, and seeing as they probably would have noticed a giant ice-bear (was it really a bear...?), it probably had been in a smaller, more hide-able form, instead of emerging before appearing like every other hostile digimon had.
Both times, Draugmon disappeared without warning except for a little white streak-- Ratamon, almost assuredly, because what other little white nuisance did they know? Ratamon had to have something to do with it, and that was only reinforced by the fact that just a couple days ago, after Peter had met what's-his-guts and Martyamon, Meghan recalled Ratamon asking Oremon if they were familiar with any other digimon partnered with humans in the area.
So, say, if Ratamon was trying to find something with a D-Rive's radar... like, say, Natalie's D-Rive...
They already knew that Ratamon had at least some ability to jump back and forth between the so-called 'cracks'-- which, if the little white terror could not only drag something as imposing as Draugmon through (what Sam could only assume were) dimensional goddamn rifts, but apparently had a vested interest in either keeping it from wrecking their shit, or them from wrecking its shit...
As if they needed to realize how much more they didn't know about Ratamon. This wasn't helped by the fact that Ratamon had gone AWOL, or at least become a lot less sociable than he had been at the start of summer.
So, the too long-didn't read of Sam's series of thoughts:
Draugmon was already in the real world before it was Draugmon. Ratamon probably had something to do with it, and also probably was part of why it was presently a giant raging murderous undead monster. Ratamon was a mystery wrapped in an Enigma,
(Give the boy a prize.)
"... and that's what I'm thinking," Sam said, splaying his hands out in front of him. Gelermon considered him for a moment and she couldn't help but bark a laugh.
"I don't understand in the slightest how you put these things together, but damn am I impressed."
Sam grinned lopsidedly, obviously quite pleased with himself. "Well, shit, someone's got to figure this out instead of just running around like the goddamn superfriends," he said, and Gelermon laughed. (He chose not to examine the vague twinge of something that was totally not some weird form of envy, but, you know, shut up.)
"So what do we do with this information?" Gelermon said, standing up on the bed.
Sam paused. He had already decided he was going to hold off on telling the group just yet, though, just to get things straight before he really committed. There was one big one, after all, that he really needed to confirm before he was able to do anything useful with any of this, and that one would require a little bit of field testing.
He picked his D-Rive up off his desk and turned it over in his hand, thinking. He was fitting pieces together in his brain, now that all of their group except Gelermon had digivolved up to ultimate, and all of them had more or less the same thing (read: going berserker) happen.
"I'm still working on that," he admitted. He had a theory, and to test that theory he was working out a plan, but--
"That's the expression of someone with a stupid plan," Gelermon said, interrupting his train of thought; Sam didn't realize he had an expression and he looked up with surprise. Gelermon broke into an appropriately wolfish grin. "I'm in. What is it?"
"Not that I'm complaining about it," Gelermon said, sitting shotgun in Sam's car, "but what's with this newfound desire to venture out into the cold uncaring cruel et cetera world?"
It was Monday now, just barely shy of being afternoon; Sunday had passed without any further incident, no digimon emergences as far as any of them knew, and almost all of them were willing to chalk this up as a good thing.
Sam, however, was ever one to buck with tradition, and instead of revelling in the fact that he had neither school starting up (as did Natalie and Peter) nor a job to be at (as did Meghan and Xander), he was feeling a bit restless and aimless.
(For those of you might be curious: he had powered through until about 9 PM the previous night for a nice round 40 hours of consecutive wakefulness, and then passed out for a cool twelve. Sam made great life choices.)
Gelermon hadn't quite been expecting the casual, conversational do you wanna go downtown today? that Sam had spouted off around noon, but she wasn't about to say anything about it. She had been feeling more than a little cooped up, and she vaguely contemplated whether or not anyone would notice that her ears were green if she stuck her head out the car window.
(And then she realized she wouldn't have the self-control not to yell antagonistic things at other drivers, so she thought better of it.)
"A bit of reconnaissance, mostly," Sam said, and he shrugged one shoulder. "I just want to get a quick look at something."
"And if anything goes wrong, I can kick its ass, right?" Gelermon said, raising an eyebrow. "Because, you know. Just in case."
Gelermon grinned. "Excellent," she said, balling one paw into a fist and pounding it into the palm of the opposite paw.
Sam smiled lopsidedly, pleased that she was so on-board with the idea. He paused for a moment. "... and, possibly more importantly, I'm hungry and if I have to eat another packet of shin ramyeon I'm actually throw myself out the window, so getting food is kind of part of it."
"I'm on board with the latter," Gelermon said with a sagely nod. "How about that deli place? The one with the sandwiches as big as your head."
"Explain to me why you're assuming I'm going to continue spending money on food for you, when, strictly speaking, you don't need to eat?" Sam said bluntly, glancing over at her.
"Because if you don't then I'll give you puppy dog eyes until you do."
"A: gross. B: you couldn't pull off puppy dog eyes if you tried."
"It was worth a shot."
Lily sighed through her nose, laying in the dark and flicking through her phone before she got out of bed. She didn't have to work today unless she got called in, hence why she was still laying in bed around the ripe hour of 11 AM on a Monday morning, and she had no particular incentive to do anything else. This was -- in her opinion -- the worst possible way for things to go.
She absolutely hated not having something to keep her occupied, and she had offered to fill in for so many shifts at work that management was starting to hand-wring about paying her overtime. It wasn't that she had any particular new passion for her job, but being in an empty apartment was too damn depressing.
She wasn't sure why she kept checking on these things. She had the deep and distinct feeling that if Draugmon was going to show back up, she wouldn't be able to miss it. Sure, two data points wasn't enough to truly confirm anything, but when the past two times it had shown up, he had been approaching her workplace and the club she had been at...
She had a hunch, okay?
But even so, she still always looked, checked up on the news and the videos and the social media fearmongering, just in case Draugmon had made some guest appearance somewhere.
She hated to admit it, but she almost kind of hoped he would.
She set her phone aside and looked to her D-Rive sitting face-down on the window sill next to her bed.
She still carried the little device with her everywhere she went, even if she didn't quite know why. Maybe she hoped it'd be useful.
This was a bit of a stretch, because with Brockmon wholesale missing, it didn't even seem to work as a radar anymore-- she wondered if it had to have some degree of proximity to work; it probably would help if the digimon attatched to it were, you know, still reliably in this plane of existence.
She knew she should try to get in contact with the other people, but she didn't even know where to start. It wasn't like she could just walk up to random people who kind of sort of looked like the people she had seen in the videos and start talking to them about monsters, right? Her only hope with her D-Rive's radar not working was to-- what? Hope she was conveniently at the same place as a digimon emergence and just hope she managed to stay out of harm's way and suspicion long enough to figure something out?
Yeah, that'd go over well.
Sam made the decision to get food on the way back, since his mission would take him past the deli in question that Gelermon had requested (because of course, despite his griping, he was going to oblige her). With Gelermon minimized, he had left his car in a metered spot, thrown some change in said meter, and took off walking into the heart of downtown Atlas Park.
He kept his eyes wholly on the sidewalk as he walked, and kept his earbuds in and music up. His hands were stuffed into his pockets, one on his D-Rive and one on his phone, as though to keep track of both of them just in case.
It wasn't a terribly busy day; it was a grey Monday late-morning, after all. The sky threatening to resume the rain that had been going on and off since yesterday (which was suuuuch a big surprise, considering where they lived) only helped to keep other people off the streets.
It was the perfect day to do a little low-key looking around without dealing with the horrible prying eyes of strangers, in other words, or at least as close to that ideal that he was going to get.
Both times Draugmon had showed up, it had been downtown. Not in the exact same locations, no -- Sam had to admit he didn't know off the top of his head where the second one was because frankly he spent a lot of his time actively avoiding clubs and bars, go figure, so his feet carried him to the street where they had fought Draugmon as a group.
Broken windows had been replaced and bent parking meters had been straightened out, but a lot of buildings needed more extensive fixing to take care of crashed-into walls and fire damage; parts of the street where the road and sidewalk had been damaged beyond repair were still sectioned off and being torn up, while smaller cracks had been simply tarred over as a stopgap measure.
In his many trowlings of the news sites, he had seen more than one local talking head (and unqualified internet rando whose opinion nobody asked for) debate the point of siphoning money into this when at any moment, another UDC could start wrecking it again.
Good to see that the rest of the city was getting in on the constant paranoia he and the others felt, huh?
He tugged his baseball cap down to shade his eyes as he oh-so-inconspicuously took a turn, tracing the path up the street and taking notes in his head. Draugmon had taken a turn onto this street, not come straight down it, so he glanced up an intersecting street and saw, indeed, that the path of damage continued.
(He also noted that the moment it had been just Draugmon trudging a long, there was a lot less direct damage, but that could be accounted for by Raremon and its two companions, and Draugmon, and all five of the group, and all three of the douchebag parade, all trying to fight in a space of about one and a half city blocks. He chose not to think too much about how much of the damage probably could have been avoided because something something no use worrying about it now.)
He hadn't shared much of it with Gelermon, because he knew she'd just either get annoyed or take it too personally, but so much of the pontificating and debate he'd seen online had just been... well, typical of online discourse. Very few people seemed to have anything other than fear and disgust reactions to digimon, which he kind of understood, but Sam couldn't help but feel like more of them should have noticed that their digimon were showing up time and time again to, you know, solve the problems.
Though, he guessed, Draugmon had showed up more than once, and look how well that had gone.
Still-- you could only read so many these things should just should be shot on sight and we should try to capture them and shit before you either start letting it get to you or tuning it all out, but either way Gelermon really didn't need any more fuel for her me and the one and a half other people I care about versus the world view.
He peered up at the street ahead of him; it was obviously a few weeks old now, so a lot of the minor damage had already been attended to, but he could still make some educated guesses.
For instance, as he reached where he could reasonably assume that Draugmon may have started from (based on pictures he had seen snapped, and assuming that it hadn't changed its path until it had been distracted by other digimon), he took note that he was indeed coming close to some apartment buildings and businesses with rented-out rooms above them-- residences, in more concise terms.
The awning over the door of a tall, old-looking apartment building at the intersection of two streets was standing a bit awkwardly; the bushes lining one side were half-trampled, and the trees in their little alotted circles of dirt were missing branches. He glanced up and down the way; any further up the street than that, and Sam couldn't see any evidence of anything more severe than a particularly stiff wind having happened anytime in the recent past.
Now if only it weren't creepy as shit to go knocking on doors asking if they knew anything about giant monsters.
Yeah. That'd go over well.
Well, it was something, at least, even if it was all super circumstantial.
He glanced around, up and down the street, and heaved a sigh. There was nobody around, so he pulled out and glanced down at his phone before he started walking back the way he came.
A second later, though he was stumbling a few steps backwards, only barely avoiding crushing the bushes any more than they already were, because--
A familiar blue-white orb of energy smashed into the ground a few feet ahead of him, and Sam was immediately on guard as he snapped his attention up. A yellow-orange blur leapt from one of the trees with a rustle of leaves, and by the time Sam could register he was there, Hulimon was taking off at a sprint back the way they had come.
Gelermon did not wait for an all-clear sign-- she took it upon herself to materialize in a burst of green light, and when she was fully formed, she leapt into action whether Sam was ready or not.
Sam had no choice but to follow her, but Hulimon darted out of sight in short order. It felt corny as hell to make any comments about his vulpine nature with regards to sneakiness or slyness, but Sam at least thought it as he fished his D-Rive out of his pocket.
He noticed immediately something important: his D-Rive was active.
He hadn't noticed, likely because he had been lost in his own head and zoned out to the music in his earbuds, but there were the two dots he expected to see -- the white pinprick representing Hulimon, immediately preceding the green dot shaped like Gelermon's head, but there was another, moving independently and a short distance away.
Liriomon. Ultimate level.
"Gelermon!" Sam yelled ahead to Gelermon, who had gotten a fair bit of distance ahead of Sam, but had made no progress on catching Hulimon, "there's an emergent up ahead!"
He wasn't entirely sure she heard him. He realized, dimly, it wouldn't matter; they were on a collision course with it.
As his pursuit of Gelermon pursuing Hulimon took him down a side-street cutting towards Liriomon's projected path, Sam dimly wondered where Hulimon's partner was. No sooner than he had that thought, he that he saw the ponytailed young man, looking almost blasé as he leaned against a car parked on the side of the street, looking down at his D-Rive.
Hulimon darted behind Eli, and Gelermon skidded to a stop, growling and looking like she was this close to seeing if she could attack Hulimon without risking hurting his human partner, and how much she would consider acceptable collateral.
Eli looked up and raised a hand in greeting, what felt like a few seconds too late.
Sam wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. He was about to ask what the fresh fuck was going on, but he glanced into the distance and saw a blurry blue shape leap from rooftop to rooftop some distance away, and he sighed through his nose, and decided to say nothing.
Gelermon, however, stood between Sam and them, the spitting image of a guard dog. She had stayed on all fours, with her pupils constricted and her teeth bared, and a low growl escaping her throat. Every inch of her body sent a clear warning.
Eli raised an eyebrow, and looked sidelong at Hulimon. "What did you do to piss her off so bad?" he said with vague amusement and little to no apparent urgency.
"Hey, I didn't actually do anything," Hulimon said, shrugging and looking over at Gelermon. "I wasn't even trying to start a fight. I was being good and shit."
"If you didn't want a fight, then why did you attack him?" Gelermon snapped back, already preparing to fire off another attack if Hulimon drew any closer.
Hulimon did not, thankfully; he put his paws up in a whoa there motion, even setting down his bag on the ground in order to do so with both hands.
"Well, I didn't really attack him. Just kind of attacked near him," he said, and the irony dripping from his voice made it clear that he knew he was arguing semantics. "More importantly, I figured it'd get your attention," he said, picking his bag up and hoisting it over his shoulder. "I mean, hey, it worked, didn't it?"
Eli sighed and gently nudged him with the side of his foot. "You're going to get yourself in trouble one of these days," he said, and Hulimon snickered.
Gelermon only barely relaxed, though she pointedly stood her ground.
"Are we going to deal with that, or what?" Sam said with a vague gesture towards the center of downtown, a bit more brusquely than he maybe meant it to come out, but fuck it, too late now.
Eli looked where Sam was gesturing. He nodded and gave him a thumbs-up; this was followed by a gesture at Hulimon to follow as he took off, whether the fox was coming or not.
Gelermon glared daggers at Hulimon; Hulimon snickered with a shrug, and bounded after Eli. Gelermon was quick to follow, not wanting to be left behind, and Sam followed after his own partner a moment later.
Lily had surreptitiously stepped out onto her balcony when she had heard a couple loud noises outside of her apartment. Call her crazy, but it had definitely sounded like digimon.
She hadn't been able to move quick enough to really see anything but a very harried-looking, short young man running after a white dog off its leash who was chasing something, as dogs off their leashes were prone to doing.
She wondered if she hadn't been hearing things.
Sam felt deeply conflicted about this, or at least confused, but he kept his mouth shut. Luckily, Gelermon was providing ample commentary.
"Stupid smug fox-ass motherfucker," she muttered, just barely too loud to be talking to herself. Hulimon continued his faint laughter every time she spoke, and Sam couldn't say he didn't understand Gelermon's desire to shoot an energy beam into his face, but--
Well, there were other things that more badly needed energy beams to the face, probably.
Liriomon was gaining quite a bit of attention, understandably enough; it wasn't every day that one saw a giant blue sabertooth cat with a mane made of petals and a vine-like tail as long as the rest of its body trailing behind it, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. (At least, you didn't if you were sober.) Some of its jumps were on the inelegant side, and the buildings weren't all even heights; this didn't seem to bother it, and it scratched and scrabbled and pulled at the edges of buildings until it could heave itself up and resume its prowl.
The problem -- aside from it being a giant cat jumping from building to building -- was that each swipe of its golden claws tore through brick and concrete like sponge cake, sending rubble tumbling down onto the street and leaving a clear path to follow.
As they drew closer, both Gelermon and Hulimon decided to get a head start.
"Gelermon, drive evolve to... Frekimon!"
"Huimon, drive evolve to... Hokkaimon!"
Green and cyan light faded away to leave dog and fox replaced with wolf and slightly more humanoid fox, and they rushed forward, leaving their human partners a little bit in the dust. It was hard not to feel like Frekimon was trying to race Hokkaimon, and Hokkaimon seemed more than happy to oblige her.
"She's definitely competitive, isn't she," Eli remarked out loud, falling back so that he was closer to Sam; Sam physically felt his lips press together with the sheer force of how hard he was clamming up.
Eli seemed to notice this and glanced sidelong at him-- and then didn't press the issue, saying nothing further.
People were already stopping to rubberneck and peer. What traffic there was coming to a stop-- that which hadn't stopped at sight of Liriomon did so when Frekimon and Hokkaimon came running onto the scene. The distance rang with distant police sirens, for all the good the police had done in any of these incidents.
(Sam found himself wondering, vaguely, if they had reconsidered their use of helicopters in dealing with digimon emergences, after Draugmon had made such short work of one.)
Liriomon was drawing closer and closer; Frekimon glanced up at the rooftops and made a quick decision.
"I'll get it's attention," she said simply, having to make an educated guess the path that Liriomon would take as it leapt from building to building.
"Hey, look at you, stealing my ideas," Hokkaimon said with a smirk (when was he not smirking), procuring a staff from his bag that seemed too long to have fit. "You think you're up to it?"
"Watch me," Frekimon said in a low growl, flexing her claws, clearly unamused.
Liriomon didn't seem interested in anything happening down on the street; if she missed her shot, they'd have to keep chasing it, and the less they had to get involved in a chase, rather than an interception, the better.
"After you," Hokkaimon said with a dramatic flourish of his staff; Frekimon was not amused.
Her snap guess about Liriomon's trajectory had been right; it was preparing to leap from one building across the street to another, and so--
Liriomon dug its claws into the solid brick wall of the building it had been leaping at and snapped its head around, looking to see what had attacked it, and its eyes settled on Frekimon and Hokkaimon in no time. It leapt off of the building and onto the street, and they truly got a sense for how big Liriomon really was.
Spoilers: it had seemed smaller when it wasn't right in front of them.
With two-foot long golden saber teeth and deep blue fur, marked with lighter-blue stripes and green accents, it was hard to deny that Liriomon was a very aesthetically pleasing digimon. Aesthetics, however, only accounted for so much when they belonged to an enormous feral feline who may or may not mean you harm, and had definitely done a number of public property already.
As Sam and Eli stood just barely back from their digimon, Sam couldn't help but feel like there were a whole fucking lot of rubberneckers and onlookers sticking too close to comfort.
(What? They were allowed to be this close.)
"Hey there, big kitty," Hokkaimon said, "we got a problem here?"
Liriomon only snarled in response, yellow eyes wild with pupils constricted, so apparently, talking was really not on the menu.
That worked just fine for Frekimon.
Frekimon did not win this altercation. Even without the difference in their levels, Liriomon was simply much larger than Frekimon, and was able to pin her down easily.
The mane of petals around Liriomon's neck spread out like a flower opening to the sun, and Liriomon opened its mouth wide. A swirling cloud of what looked like golden pollen gathered around its mouth. Frekimon gagged at the sickly-ripe scent that it brought, bringing to mind a heavily perfumed pile of rotting vegetation.
Hokkaimon didn't seem to want to be left out and he, too, rushed forward, the bo staff that he had pulled out of his bag primed and ready to strike out at Liriomon. He smacked the sabertooth square in the face, drawing its attention away; it snarled, lifting a paw off of Frekimon to swipe at Hokkaimon, which was enough for Frekimon to wrench her way out, scrambling a bit inelegantly and awkwardly, but there were more important things than looking good. Hokkaimon leapt back as well, getting out of melee range as quick as he could.
Both Frekimon and Hokkaimon had to shake their heads, feeling a drowsy fog around their heads that they could only chalk up to the effects of Liriomon's pollen.
Liriomon, though, took advantage of this few seconds where they had to re-align themselves. "
That extended to not just Frekimon and Hokkaimon, but Eli and Sam standing back-- and the onlookers who hadn't gotten the fuck out of the way. The street filled up with screams of panic and confusion as thorny vines began to lash out, attempting to grab a hold of anything with a pulse.
Before Sam even had a moment to panic, Frekimon lunged for him, her claws glowing green as she sliced through the vines that had burst up close to the two D-Rive holders.
Onlookers cried out again.
"It's attacking them!" a woman screamed, and Frekimon felt a sudden spike of fury as those words stuck out to her.
"I'll deal with the vines terrorizing the gentle populace," Hokkaimon said quickly, calling over to Frekimon over the noise, "you keep the kitty occupado."
Frekimon turned her attention to Liriomon again; the sabertooth was advancing on her, so anything she wanted to do was curtailed by her need to keep Liriomon from doing anything worse than it was already doing.
She gritted her teeth as she dropped onto all fours, digging her claws into the cracking concrete. She didn't know why she had expected any different-- between Hulimon's entire personality and now this...
The idea of Hokkaimon bailing her out offended her in a way she wasn't quite prepared for, but the reaction from the onlookers was a thousand times worse. It was only one moment in isolation, but-- there were more important things. She snarled, shaking her head to dispel those thoughts; she didn't need anyone's help-- not Hokkaimon, not any of their little group. Nobody but her and Sam. Not if people were going to be switching sides and playing at being allies so soon after being out for their heads; not if people were going to just read her as a threat no matter what the situation was.
(Of course, she hadn't been prepared to help the others at all, so was it really that much better--)
With all these thoughts, it shouldn't come as any surprise that a green light started to creep up Frekimon's paws and tail.
She began to growl, low and deep, her teeth bared, but it was lost underneath the screech of Sam's D-Rive.
She hated that damn noise, and she reared her head back as the green light and blackness consumed her, her eyes flooding with green as she began to howl. The howl began to shift, staticky and heinously loud-- in fact, it seemed to be growing louder, as if she were trying to drown out the D-Rive's glitchy squeal. Even so, just as every time before, within moments it was impossible to tell the two sounds apart, and the inevitable began to happen.
"Frekimon, catalyst evolve to--!"
The glitching orb of black and green spread around Frekimon, shaking and shifting and barely seeming to contain Frekimon's changing shape within as it grew in size. The orb quickly split apart-- not of its own accord, but with a swipe of a massive metal-clawed paw.
The digimon left behind as the dark light dissipated was a massive, hulking, and bulky quadrupedal beast that was canine only in the broad strokes. A metallic black mask covered the top half of her face, and from the crown of her head running down between her shoulderblades was a mane made of putrid green fire. Canine skulls decorated her shoulders, with pinpricks of light darting this way and that in their eye sockets. These matched her actual eyes -- which had a feral and wild, almost crazed, look to them -- in colour: vivid, acidic yellow.
Her front paws were covered by metal gauntlets that granted her enormous dark-silver claws, while metal cuffs settled around both her wrists and ankles. Metal ridges emerged from the base of her spine, just past what looked like steam vents that ripped open near her ribs. Her underbelly was bare of fur and instead plated with green-grey scales, which also covered her now almost draconic tail.
She reared up and slammed her claws into the ground, wrenching open her mouth with the metallic screech of rusted joints trying to move again, and released a cloud of green-black smoke. The stench of burning flesh and sulfur filled the street with a blast of scorchingly hot air.
Somehow, some way, this didn't seem to still the public's panic. In fact, her new shape only seemed to inspire more fear and outcry as a relatively managable eight-foot-tall bipedal wolf was replaced with a fourteen-foot-tall metal-masked hellbeast.
Grimmon roared and the sound was almost metallic-sounding, and she didn't hesitate before leaping at Liriomon, who, at least, she was closer to in size now.
Liriomon lunged to meet Grimmon, rearing one massive claw back. As it pulled it back, thorny vines sprung into existence, wrapping around its forearm. Once it was completely engulfed by it, the thorns shot out until they were over a foot long each, turning Liriomon's paw into a makeshift mace. It struck out at Grimmon, slashing out across her chest and digging deep wounds.
The wounds didn't bleed, but they began to smoke, letting off a faint green cloud.
She threw herself at Liriomon, making a deliberate and clear effort to get as much contact between Liriomon and the fire as she could, and the two of them skidded backwards into one of the cars that had already been destroyed by Liriomon's vines.
"Hey, watch it!" Hokkaimon snapped from where he was dispelling the last of the vines that had sprung up; people still reacted to him with fear and uncertainty, but his smaller size (and, now, much less horrifying appearance) was a boon.
Hokkaimon's words went unheeded. As the fire surrounding Grimmon's front half died down, Liriomon now found itself being pinned by Grimmon, a reversal of mere moments ago that was hard not to notice. No small amount of Liriomon's flesh had been badly burned, and the blackened fur and petals were still emitting a faint green smoke.
People scattered, trying to get as much distance between themselves and the pair of fighting digimon as they could. Grimmon snarled, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was very, very close to a building as the fire on her back began to build up again.
Or maybe she just didn't care.
Sam stood still, his mind spiralling as he thought of every possible way he could have avoided this. As lame as it felt to say (or, at least, think), he should totally have just stayed home today.
Part of the plan that he had told Gelermon about yesterday was that he wanted to test something-- he wanted to test how catalyst evolution worked, and how to put an end to it.
And now that he had gotten the chance to test it, his mind was a total blank.
"Hey!" Eli yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth; his voice shook Sam out of his thoughts for a few spare seconds, and it was long enough for Sam to realize that Eli was talking to Hokkaimon, not him. "Now may be a good time!"
"Thought you'd never ask," the fox said. The staff in Hokkaimon's hands disappeared in a puff of white-blue smoke as the D-Rive in Eli's began to glow blindingly bright.
Cyan circuitry ran up Hokkamon's limbs and tail, and in a moment he was engulfed by a sphere of bright white and cyan-- you should know the drill by now.
"Hokkaimon, conduction evolve to--!"
The sphere of white and cyan looked not unlike the digimon in question's own magical attacks as it burst into motes of light to reveal his new form.
Eight feet tall at the shoulder, Hulimon's new form still had his most recognizable feature-- his noh-mask like face, burst into a wide grin, now decorated with slightly changed red markings and the addition of bright blue ones. A braided blue rope sat tied around his midsection, and a matching collar-like rope rested around his neck, with a large shiny red jewel at the front like a dog-tag. This collar sat in a fluffy mane of cream-coloured fur that sat around his neck now. His paws were cyan, like he had dipped his feet in paint, and his forelegs were covered in the same pale colour as his new mane, with silver rings encircling his forearms.
Only acknowledging his forelegs here is not a mistake; after the waist, his body dissolved into a swirling blue and white smoke. Seven fox tails, each one fading from orange to cream before being tipped in blue, fanned out behind him. In his teeth he gripped his bag, which was identical to the way it had been in his previous forms -- a plain burlap-like sack, emblazoned with a red kanji character -- only larger to match his new size.
(If it was any consolation, the onlookers were just as troubled by Yokaimon as any other digimon. One supposed when one wasn't used to giant monsters, that was a reasonable response.)
Grimmon attempted to wrench away from Yokaimon's attack, and Liriomon was already attempting to pull away, so this led to a domino effect of the digimon being dislodged from each other. Grimmon's claws scraped against the street as she skidded away, while Liriomon righted itself quickly.
Yokaimon's voice preceded him, and he reappeared in another flurry of sweet-smelling smoke. The moment he was visible, he dropped his bag to the ground; he drew what seemed to be a drawstring on it, and from within the bag a concussive beam shot forth, aimed directly at Liriomon.
The sabertooth snarled, pushed back by the attack, and it opened its mouth. "
This still left one big problem.
"Hey, hey, watch it, I can't keep this up," the fox said, even though his grin never faltered. Grimmon skidded to a stop as the green flames faded from her body, and she snarled.
Unfortunately, Grimmon very well could keep it up; she lunged at Yokaimon and wrenched her mouth open with that horrible metal-scraping sound. She snapped her jaws shut like they were spring-loaded, attempting to grab a couple of the fox's tails, but he was too quick.
"So," Eli said, looking over at Sam. "You got a contingency plan for this?"
Sam blinked, taking a moment to realize he was being spoken to, not helped by Eli's tone of voice-- he spoke very plainly, almost like he was just thinking out loud.
Sam pressed his mouth shut, not exactly wanting to admit that he hadn't thought this far ahead.
(He was wondering if Eli wasn't calm so much as just unemotional; he was about to ask how the hell Eli wasn't freaking the fuck out, until he realize that he, himself, was only freaking out on the inside.)
"Not really," Sam said, finding his voice a bit apprehensively, "I haven't exactly figured out yet what the actual process is to bring them back down to normal."
Eli nodded once, watching the two digimon in front of them-- Yokaimon was trying to avoid engaging directly with Grimmon, apparently having decided that she would likely beat him in melee combat, but he only had so many options that wouldn't lead to her to crash into things. She wasn't particularly troubled by the idea of destroying things, and in fact she seemed quite single-mindedly fixated on wrecking Yokaimon's shit.
"If you don't come up with something quick, I'm going to tell Yokaimon to go ahead and try to beat her into de-digivolving," Eli said, fishing his D-Rive out of his pocket and turning it over in his hand. "Nothing personal, just, you know."
"Right," Sam said, his mouth going dry.
He racked his brain. His thoughts were already running at a thousand miles per minute, iterating on solutions (and, in great part, worst-case scenarios).
All of the others, so far, had been stopped by interference by their human partners to some degree-- whether it had been Natalie's calling to IlDoctorimon until she reached him, Xander decking Camazmon, Peter re-wrapping Onryomon's face, or Meghan standing resolute in front of Cabramon, they had all returned to normal after being intercepted by their humans.
But what on earth could he do here? What could he do to drag stubborn, feral, always-ready-for-a-fight-even-when-she-wasn't-abloodyhoo-crazy Gelermon out of the fight?
He tried to ignore the vague grip of ensuing panic somewhere in his chest. He glanced, a bit frantically, to the side and looked at Eli.
"If I die, tell everyone I died doing something cooler and way less stupid than what I'm about to do," he said, and Eli said nothing, merely raised both eyebrows. Sam steeled himself and bolted forward. Yokaimon had just leapt towards where they stood in watching, while Grimmon had gone skidding in the other direction.
"Attack me," Sam said quickly as he ran up to Yokaimon's side. Beat. "Pretend to attack me. Don't actually attack me, I'd fucking die."
"Are you kidding me?" Yokaimon said, glancing sidelong at Sam. The fox looked a bit haggard and harried; he was obviously getting a bit tired, since he couldn't bite the bullet to truly end this fight. "She'd--" A moment of clear realization crossed the fox's face, and his grin grew wide. "I get you," he said, and he nodded. Grimmon got to her feet and snarled, preparing to close the distance between her and Yokaimon when she noticed Sam standing next to the fox, and she stayed her hand, so to speak.
And just like last time, it worked. Even with as obviously as Yokaimon wasn't going to actually follow through, it seemed to do the trick. Grimmon straight up pounced, practically leaving an impact crater mere feet in front of Sam; the sheer force of it caused Sam's legs to be knocked out from under him and he fell on his ass, throwing his arms up to protect himself.
Yokaimon grit his teeth and waited for the exact last moment to vanish in a puff of smoke and reappeared behind Grimmon a moment later; he had been able to stay invisible for less and less time every time he had done it, and he looked a bit haggard and harried now.
Grimmon, though, did not move; her metal-masked face was close to Sam, and he lowered his arms slowly. The eyes on her face and the pinprick lights in the skulls on her shoulders were focused on him, and the ferality was fading out of her eyes fast. Even the vague threat of Sam getting hurt had seemed to do the trick.
Sam prepared his D-Rive, digging it out of his pocket in a hurry. For a split second, Grimmon's form was replaced with a different one before she began to shrink back down to an unconscious Gelermon. By the time she returned to her normal form, Sam was at the ready to minimize her, and nobody who was still stupid enough to be an onlooker was any the wiser.
Yokaimon huffed and stretched out his tails as he began to glow cyan in turn, and Eli followed suit in minimizing Hulimon before anyone could get a good look at where the fox monster had gone.
"Fucking hell," Sam muttered, suddenly feeling a lot sorer and more exhausted than he had felt a moment ago.
"Pretty clever, though," Eli said as he walked up, offering a hand to help Sam up. Sam looked at it and shook his head once, pushing himself up under his own power and dusting himself off. Eli didn't seem too offended, shrugging nonchalantly and putting his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.
They ducked through the same sidestreets to get out of the line of fire (and attention) as quickly as they could, and it was hard for Sam not to feel like they were fleeing the scene of a crime.
... they kind of were, but, you know, shut up.
They had to go in different directions, so Sam realized he only had limited time to ask anything he wanted to ask before they parted ways.
"What's with the change of heart?" Sam said as they turned into an extremely narrow alley.
"Couple weeks ago, I was pretty sure you and your buddies had a beef with us," Sam said. "At least according to what Flopsy the delusional rabbit had to say about the situation. But as of late you've been turning tail and running when you have the chance to take us out."
Eli paused and looked over his shoulder. "There's a lot of sides to the story, you know?" he said vaguely, gesturing with one hand. "Lot of factors. Things change, at least temporarily."
Very specific, Sam thought bitterly, frowning.
Eli stopped, and Sam nearly ran into him. "Also, just gotta say-- just because you don't like Shitomon, it doesn't necessarily mean she's spouting bullshit, you know. Might do you good to stop calling her-- what was it? Flopsy the delusional rabbit?"
Sam said nothing, merely stuffed his hands in his pocket.
Eli shrugged. "S'not really any skin off my back, though. Just saying, food for thought." They reached the end of the alleyway, and he gestured in one direction with his thumb. "I'm goin' off this way. Hope your friend feels better when she comes to," he said.
He raised a hand in vague goodbye, and Sam stiffly lifted a hand in response. As he watched Eli's back retreat, he couldn't help feeling that really should have stayed home today.
He wasn't looking forward to looking over this footage and the conversations that would inevitably surround it.