Episode 20: All My Best Friends are Metalheads
The wind howled across a grey and broken landscape, dust in the sky turning the light from the high-hanging sun a hazy orange-pink. Hundreds of years ago, this land had once teemed with life, but the years had not been kind to it. Even the once-impressive ruins of the temples that had been left behind had been worn down and crumbled down to hollow shadows of their former glory, no longer able to stand even as a reminder.
There were still a sparing handful of digimon who lived out here, but their numbers were few. It was said that the digimon who stayed here had lost themselves; it was hard to tell just how true this was, but the few digimon who had stuck around certainly seemed to have lost something within them. Nobody cared to find out whether the feral digimon were the only ones who could stand to live here, or if living here had sapped that spark from them the way that the land's vitality had been sucked dry.
Of particular interest was the fact that in the past month, stories had started coming back-- tales of a massive skull-faced beast roaming the wastes, even more savage and feral than its usual denizens, whispered in the hushed whispers of unsubstantiated rumors.
This is not to say that it was wholly devoid of self-aware life; especially as of late, treks into the barrens had become more and more frequent, albeit only by a select and dedicated few who dared to brave it.
See, it was here -- and only here, out in the canyons and the severed stones-- that the connection between the worlds was the strongest, where the barrier was the weakest-- and thus, where the cracks were forming. It had been where the refugees and their pursuers had escaped fifteen years ago; it made sense that it was here that the connection was starting to be forced back open.
A great many digimon had undertaken the task of journeying out to the cracks in the past few months -- indeed, far more digimon had ventured than had actually suceeded. The environment was harsh, and it was far, far away from the last vestiges of civilization. The feral digimon were fierce, and even when the cracks were plentiful, they were irregular, and would open and close without warning.
But as of late, the cracks had been getting more frequent. They were larger; stronger digimon than ever before had been able to make it through the cracks. Even ultimate level digimon had been able to cross over.
Mostly, anyway; some digimon had bad timing, or chose the wrong crack, and they were still ripped apart as they tried to cross over.
But still, it was more than had been able to before.
Some said it was worthless to try. They said that no digimon had ever come back after crossing over. Moreover, no matter what had become of the digimon who had made the journey... the cracks were still spreading. It might have been too late. They might be marching into certain death for no reason at all. In fact, some digimon wondered if the refugees were even alive at all.
Others held on to the belief that if they had been defeated or otherwise killed, Dinmon would let them know, as he had promised to do those fifteen years ago. These digimon were more optimistic, holding onto the hope that it could be stopped. They took solace in the idea that there was slightest chance of stopping the impending disaster, even if crossing over was paramount to a death sentence. The possibility was enough to make the endeavor worth it.
Some of the more extreme skeptics, though, had resigned to this, and had found themselves venturing out as well. These skeptics journeyed out to the cracks to cross over as well, but not because they dreamed of fixing things. They didn't believe they would be the heroes to save the digital world from destruction; they had merely decided that there was no saving it, and there was nothing to lose by crossing over. Even if they died in the attempt -- and there were those extreme skeptics who assumed that no digimon had actually truly made it to the other side, and that simply making the attempt would prove fatal -- they decided that they would take the risk if it meant the possibility, however slim, of a better life than awaited them here.
Of course, even those digimon who believed might enable them to hunt down the refugees knew that this all came at a cost.
After all, if the connection was strengthening, then it meant that the thing forcing the connection open was strengthening.
As the cracks increased in frequency, so too did the whispers.
Natalie couldn't help but feel that the first week of her school year had been going too well. Not that it was going super fantastically, but she hadn't run into any major problems yet, and that was enough to put her a bit ill at ease.
The extraordinary events of the summer were an evergreen topic for conversation among the student body, with a joke quickly developing around telling the freshmen and transfer students from out of state that this was normal. (Yeah, and every October the pumpkin monster ravages the STEM buildings, didn't they tell you that during orientation?)
Jokes aside, they had gotten a lengthy email about emergency procedure, reinforced by long reassurances that nothing was going to happen to the campus. Natalie couldn't help but feel like that was tempting fate a little bit, but for all her occasional gripes with Northwest, she didn't particularly care for disaster (or digimon) to strike it just yet. Not until she got her bachelors', at least.
Admittedly, it was kind of weird to be out among -- well, not normal people, because she wasn't pretentious enough to think she wasn't normal, but -- people who hadn't spent the entire summer completely consumed by Digimon. People who, as far as she knew, didn't have Digimon.
(Though, really, as of knowing about Theo, who could say?)
That said, no major digimon emergences had happened since Sunday -- there had been a couple minor ones, but they were all champion levels, and those were getting easier and easier to deal with. (She did, in fact, contemplate more than once how fucking bizarre it was to consider only certain otherworldly monster attacks "major".) While they hadn't been high-profile, it had meant that nobody was quite willing to relax.
It was kind of a crapshoot whether it was better or worse than the terrible silence when no digimon were appearing.
(Raumon had expressed enjoyment at getting to tag along unseen for Natalie's classes, though. She had occasionally taken him out when he could fit in a backpack as Pestimon, but being minimized was far preferable, even if it was a little hard for him to get used to ignoring it when it seemed like Natalie's classmates were going to walk into him.)
And on top of that, there was still the problem that the chances of her running into Ryan on campus approached one as time went on. Even if they (thankfully) didn't share any classes this term, they were in the same department, which meant they spent a lot of time lurking around the same buildings if nothing else. If their few intersections had been awkward last term, this was going to be whole new tiers of awkward and uncomfortable.
Maybe, she thought, she should try talking to him. In light of everything that had happened, there was the slight chance that maybe, just maybe, they could at least come to some agreement-- or maybe she'd just make things worse.
(She'd been thinking about it a lot as of late.)
But none of what she'd worried about -- neither digimon nor ex-boyfriend drama -- had come to pass yet, and she was feeling cautiously optimistic.
She was waiting for her coffee at the Lotus -- which, as she had totally expected, was packed to the gills. It was the first Friday afternoon since the term had started, so anyone who wasn't expecting a wait was a fool. Peter wasn't working just now, so she didn't feel too bad about coming in. If he had been on, she might have reconsidered.
you should totally come, tho!
Meghan was messaging her in a one-on-one conversation; tomorrow night, Xander's band was playing a gig, and Meghan had taken it upon herself to invite the rest of the group. She had had absolutely zero faith that either Peter or Sam would come, each for their own distinct but obvious reasons, and so she was focusing her foremost efforts on Natalie.
i dunno, i don't know if i'd really fit in, you know? Natalie sent back. She wouldn't -- couldn't, even -- deny that it sounded interesting, but...
yeah, because you'd totally expect me to, right? : P
okay-- point. Natalie sighed and shifted her weight, biting the inside of her cheek contemplatively. i'll think about it.
Her I'll think about it was as good as a count me in, and she got the feeling that Meghan knew that, because all she sent back was:
Despite herself Natalie couldn't help but be entertained. She tucked her phone into her pocket as her name was called by an overworked barista and she gave her rushed thanks before she was displaced by a person who had placed his order thirty seconds ago demanding to know where his drink was.
She was just about out the door, almost home free, when she only narrowly avoided (literally) running into Ryan on his way in.
Clearly, she had thought too soon when she had expressed her inward relief.
She stumbled a side-step to avoid a collision, and he looked as surprised as she did, eyebrows shooting up and lips pulled back in a grimace. She readjusted the lid on her coffee, distantly thankful that she hadn't spilled it all over herself (because, you know, that would have been the bullshit cherry on top of the sundae). They stood near the door for a good three seconds, and if not for all the other people present there would have been an awkward silence.
"Hi," she said slowly, then quickly shuffled to the side so that they weren't blocking the door.
Ryan followed suit, not wanting to be that much of a douchebag, and then he seemed to find his voice. "Nat-- hi. I've been looking for you all week, I haven't seen you around campus at all."
"Yeah, I've been kind of busy," she said, which wasn't untrue, but there was also a hint of she had been actively trying to avoid this confrontation. What was one supposed to say? Hey, how about that sudden lack of murder attempts? What's up with that?
"I've been meaning to maybe get a chance to explain what's been going on," Ryan said, turning his palms up.
"No offense," Natalie said, keeping her cool remarkably well, "but the last time you asked to explain yourself it ended with your partner trying to convince me that she should be allowed to go all citizen's arrest-stroke-vigilante murder on mine."
It was a testament to the college student clientele of the Lotus that nobody seemed to bat an eye at this conversation.
Ryan groaned, running a hand backwards through his hair. "Christ, you really hold a grudge, don't you?"
Natalie gaped at him for a second. "I-- correct me if I'm wrong, but are you asking if I'm holding a grudge about being asked for permission to kill my best friend?"
"I just mean--" Ryan said, and she could hear the combatitive tone start to creep into his voice. "... I mean, yeah, when you put it that way it sounds really bad, but that's not the point of what I was trying to talk about. If you could just try not to leap to conclusions for two seconds and not leap down my throat then maybe we wouldn't have to have this conversation--"
Natalie felt her heart start to beat a bit harder in what she felt was the world's lamest flight or fight response. If she had wanted this kind of back and forth, the rhetorical shifting and the blaming and the passive aggression, she'd have just kept dating him, and she could already feel the worse parts of herself start to surface. The parts that wanted to fight, to snip and argue and take the bait. She didn't want to make things worse-- she just wanted to get out of here before it turned into a scene.
And so she took a deep breath to steel herself before she said anything else. She tried to take a metaphorical step back, even if she couldn't take a literal one.
"I'm a little busy right now, though, I've gotta go do-- a thing," she said, even though she didn't-- she just really desperately wanted an out. "If it's really important you can shoot me a message about it, yeah? Every time we've tried to talk in person, it's gone really badly so far."
Ryan folded his arms and exhaled through his nose, but he nodded. "Right. Yeah."
She slipped out of the Lotus and felt her heart just about threatening to pound out of her throat, and immediately regretted asking him to text her about it, because now she was about to spend the entire night -- or however long until he got around to telling her what he wanted to tell her -- having to deal with the creeping dread of being told we need to talk, even if it wasn't in so many words.
When Natalie got back to her family's apartment, it was empty. It was early enough in the afternoon that her sisters were still at school, and her parents were both out of the house. It was almost eerily quiet, and she flopped face-down onto the couch as soon as the door was closed without even setting her messenger bag aside.
Raumon, who had been minimized for the trip up to the door, materialized next to her with his head tilted. "You okay?"
She screamed into one of the couch cushions. She let that muffled sound serve as her answer for all of about five seconds; after that, she lifted her head a moment later and looked over at Raumon.
"Do you think I'm letting how much I hate Ryan get in the way of me actually, like, doing what's best for everyone?"
"No, because Ryan is the worst," Raumon said decisively-- and almost jarringly immediately, like he had prepared for the eventuality that he would be asked this.
Natalie smiled as she sat up properly. "But really though, I've been thinking about it a lot lately."
Raumon thought for a moment, tapping his beak in thought. "I realize I'm biased, here, because Ryan is -- in fact -- the worst, but I'd say because of your experience with him, you have the right to hold at least a little bit of a grudge. He did wrong by you in a lot of ways and he's yet to actually functionally even act sorry."
"Right," Natalie said, but she frowned. "But-- I don't know. You remember what you told me when we talked about IlDoctorimon, right?"
"What part of it?"
"The part about remembering something. Or rather, I guess, remembering that you had forgotten something, I think is how you put it?" she said, and Raumon nodded. "I guess it's just that-- you don't remember anything before you came here, right? Not except for little bits and pieces. The only people who claim to know what came before are Shitomon, Lurumon, and Hulimon, right?"
"Right," Raumon said slowly, and he folded his arms, thinking. "So-- I think I follow."
See, Raumon had said he couldn't fault Natalie for holding a grudge against Ryan considering her experience with him; wouldn't it be silly, then, to not understand holding a grudge for something potentially much bigger than that? And after all-- it seemed like they were starting to overlook it, however temporarily, and however inscrutiably-- so it was at least a valid thought that maybe she should bury the hatchet long enough to be civil, right?
"Maybe I'm overthinking it," Natalie admitted, but Raumon shook his head, cutting her off.
"No, I think you have a point," Raumon said, hopping up onto the couch beside her, and then he paused, thinking. "I think I want to talk to the others, now that we've all had the chance to catalyst evolve. Maybe we'll be able to put some pieces together without having to rely just on Shitomon and company's telling of events."
Natalie nodded, checking her phone as she flopped onto her side in the direction that Raumon wasn't.
Ryan had not gotten back to her with this apparently very important discussion he wanted to have (and as it would turn out, he wouldn't for the rest of the night).
Natalie tried not to be too thoroughly unsurprised, and she began contemplating how best to coordinate this.
"Whatever you end up saying, she's just going to get defensive about it anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it," Shitomon said, shrugging. Ryan had written and re-written a message fifteen times in the past day, trying to figure out how best to articulate it in a way such that Natalie wouldn't flip out at him for it.
"Yeah, but if I wait too much longer I'm just going to make things worse," Ryan said, running a hand backwards through his hair. "I'm kind of in a catch-22 here."
He groaned, leaning back in his computer chair. "I don't fucking get women."
"I suppose that works out for everyone involved," Shitomon ribbed, and Ryan snorted, rolling his eyes.
"No, but really, fucked if I know how I'm supposed to do this. How are you supposed to say hey, I know you hate me, and n-g-l I get it, but there's more important shit than that and hey maybe we can work together so hey how's about it let's bury the hatchet and fight monsters?"
(Perhaps it hadn't occurred to him that the best solution would be to, you know, lead with an apology, and go from there.)
"If you find a good way to say that," Shitomon said, "do make sure to tell me."
Shitomon had been pretty deeply troubled lately, and it wasn't hard to see why.
It wasn't often when you had to set aside what you had thought was your life mission for fifteen years and, teeth clenched, make the decision to work together to fix a problem with the very digimon directly responsible for that problem, but here she was, still on the fence but having few other options to take.
Her thinking was if she could set that aside, then Natalie should be able to set aside her problems with Ryan, since it was obviously much less of a problem.
(Similar conclusions, different paths.)
"We're going with that one, then?"
"You got a problem with it?"
"Nah, I just like how it's so patently obviously a result of your complete inability to express any emotion like a real human being," Will said around a cigarette. He and Xander sat on his -- that is, Will's -- apartment balcony, strewn across plastic lawn chairs as they went over tomorrow night's finalized set list. The sun was going down, and this meant the mosquitos were out in full force, but Will's upstairs neighbors were being annoying again, so they had chosen to make some sacrifices.
"Show me where I asked for your input," Xander said gruffly.
"The part where you won't go ahead with the set list unless he agrees," Desmon provided with a shit-eating grin. She sat just inside the sliding glass doors, not quite wanting to risk being seen from the ground in the current social climate, but not willing to be left out of the conversation.
"I'm down," Will said, handing the more-than-slightly-crumpled piece of paper back to Xander. It was scrawled over, with additions and revisions and rearrangements made in three different colours of ink. "I'm just saying, it's true."
"And that's you saying, god, you're so right, Will, I'm glad you understand me so well."
"I'm taking the last slice of pizza for that, you prick."
"Bad news about that, actually," Desmon said, her mouth full.
"The ultimate point is that he doesn't get it, so I'll allow it," Xander said, sitting back on the shitty lawn chair and folding his hands behind his head, allowing the ambient noise of moths flying into the bug zapper and being electrocuted to wash over him.
So for a minute, he didn't realize that his phone was buzzing with messages.
He vaguely registered that Will was saying something, but he wasn't even remotely paying attention.
He flicked through the messages that had already rolled in by the time he opened his phone-- Natalie was asking if he was free tomorrow afternoon before the gig. He hadn't told her about it, so he took a wild guess and figured Meg had told her; fine, sure, whatever.
Something something asking if he could stop by because bird boy wanted the chance to talk to Desmon, Peter had already agreed to be there but Xander had no obligation to actually stick around since it was really more for the digimon's benefit, something something blah blah.
He glanced in the general direction of where Natalie lived, short shot from Will's place that it was, and he considered.
yeah sure w/e he fired back to Natalie. "Anyway, the fuck you say?" he said out loud, looking up at his bandmate.
"I said, how's the monster hunting business going?" Will said, tapping the ash off of his cigarette.
"How the fuck'd you know that was what I was talking about?" Xander said slowly, raising an eyebrow.
"What other people do you talk to except for us?" Will said matter-of-factly, grinning. "If it's not one of us, it's those people with monsters, and you've never replied to Paul or Eric that quickly in your life, so I'm guessing it's the former?"
"Why, he's become a regular social butterfly," Desmon said in a lilting voice, grinning; Xander rolled his eyes.
The next day rolled around. Natalie's family had agreed to vacate the apartment for the afternoon, since she correctly assumed they wouldn't want to deal with eight strangers (four humans and four digimon) in their living room, and as long as the group didn't leave a mess, they could care less what Natalie did.
"I didn't really want to risk meeting up somewhere like a park," Natalie said a bit apologetically as she opened the door for Sam, who was the last to arrive. "Anymore, I figure we might draw a bit too much attention, you know?"
"And that's even if we didn't get into another fight," Peter said, adjusting his glasses. He was seated at the far end of the couch, with Banmon curled up next to him and trying to take up as little space as she could without physically phasing into the couch.
"Nah, I thought we were the picture of subtlety," Xander said, putting his hands behind his head. He was sitting on the opposite end of the couch from Peter; they had at least apparently come to some kind of truce, though it said something unflattering that wiling to sit on the same piece of furniture counted as progress.
Meghan was seated in the middle of the couch, with Oremon sitting on the floor immediately in front of her; it was possible that her acting as a wall, a veritable barrier of positivity, was part of the fact that Peter and Xander weren't sniping at each other.
"Suits me fine," Sam said; Gelermon appeared next to him as soon as the door clicked shut, keeping close to Sam. He looked around and shrugged, taking a seat cross-legged on the floor. Natalie did the same as she walked back over from the door.
"Gentlemen, I've gathered you here for a reason," Raumon said, unable to help himself as he took a seat, forming a slightly misshapen circle.
"If you say 'to kill the batman', we're gonna have a problem," Desmon said from where she perched on the couch behind Xander's head.
Almost everyone present looked frankly disgusted at that joke. Desmon grinned. (Banmon whispered something about I don't get it... and Peter gently placed a hand on her hooded head.)
"To prevent that from happening again," Raumon said, looking at Desmon, who continued beaming, "I guess I'll cut straight to the chase. Do any of you remember anything now that you didn't remember before?"
Well, it really was cutting straight to the point; there was a heavy pause. It already felt like Desmon's bad joke was ages away, just from how rapidly the mood in the room shifted. They had all known why they were being asked to come and talk to Raumon -- Natalie hadn't wanted to mislead them, after all -- but still.
To almost everyone's surprise, it was Banmon who broke the silence.
"I think I do," she said, raising one cloth-like hand apprehensively, and eyes were on her. She took a moment to gather her thoughts before she spoke again. "I don't know for sure, but..." she trailed off, and tilted her head. "More so since... I catalyst evolved. I feel like I'm starting to remember things more."
"Same here," Gelermon said after a moment.
"Yeah!" Desmon said, nodding. "Though I can't say I'm about to be writing any memoirs anytime soon."
Oremon snorted through his nose and nodded, and that was going to serve as his me, too.
Raumon took all of this and he thought hard for a moment, and he nodded-- and then he decided to break the ice. "When I catalyst digivolved," he said, "I remember remembering the feeling of something. A really powerful, very specific feeling-- like a memory of failing to do something I was supposed to do."
"No, but I get that," Desmon said, nodding vigorously. "I mean-- for me it was more like, the cosmic kind of fuck it, but no, I got the same thing!"
Each of the digimon in turn shared their own experience of that feeling right before they had digivolved into their feral, chaotic forms. For Banmon, it had been a sense of resignation; for Oremon, a deep sense of guilt; for Gelermon, a persecuted kind of fury. Each of them had felt that one emotion coursing through them; each of them had shared Raumon's experience of not feeling like they were in control of themselves, as though they were watching themselves from the outside as they had gone berserk.
From the humans' perspective, it was a very, very odd session of comparing notes.
They talked about how ever since that day, when they had had those weird seizures right before Draugmon appeared, they had felt a creeping sense of remembering that they had forgotten things; they talked about how they had been, over the course of the past three and a half weeks (and god, had it only been three and a half weeks?), they had felt bits and pieces creep back into their minds-- nothing enough to make sense of, mostly just the memories of buried feelings.
"That's not a lot to go off of," Sam said, folding his arms and furrowing his brow.
"No, though," Raumon said, shaking his head. "I think it's something."
"You're going to have to back this one up a bit for me, birdy buddy," Desmon said.
Raumon's ear-like feathers twitched as he thought about how to put it. "Those negative feelings, and the power of our ultimate forms, and the way we lost control, and the way that the D-Rives react... I can't say for sure, but I feel like when we catalyst digivolve, it's like... How do I put this? Kind of like an echo of the past?"
"Ooh, poetic," Desmon said cheekily.
"But you know what I mean, right?" Raumon said, turning his palms up in a pleading gesture.
It took a moment, but Oremon nodded. "I do."
Slowly, the other digimon nodded their agreement as well.
It seemed to becoming clear that everything about their catalyst digivolutions seemed familiar-- and nothing was contradicting the version of events that Shitomon had given them.
They could digivolve up to ultimate because something had been reawakened in them. Not only was that power awakened in them, but so too were faint memories-- memories of pain and hurt and guilt and violence, of being out of control, of causing pain and hurt in those around them. The more they talked about how each of them had felt, the more they felt sure of it, as if the words themselves were pulling more memories out of the buried depths-- or maybe it was just that they only so rarely had the chance to all be around one another.
"So is that it, then?" Gelermon said. "They're right, we're dangerous, and we should just lay down and die or whatever the fuck. Either we're making things worse or we've already made things worse so why bother?"
"Thanks for staying optimistic," Raumon said dryly, shaking his head. Even so, despite her words, Gelermon didn't even remotely seem to actually be resigning to anything, so much as playing devil's advocate. "No, though. I think there's a big part of the equation we're leaving out." All eyes, human and digimon, were on him and he looked a bit flustered when he realized this, but he powered through.
"I mean there's our partners."
"It's the common thread," Oremon said with a nod.
Raumon felt a sense of relief that Oremon was time and again being the first to agree with him so he didn't feel like a total moron. "I think," he said, emboldened, "that whatever it is that gave them the D-Rives, they were given to them for a reason."
"How do you figure that one?" Desmon prompted, tilting her head.
"I think it's like... why would we need a device that lets us get stronger," Banmon said, "unless we needed to get stronger for a reason?"
"Right!" Raumon said with a nod.
"We still don't know what, exactly, sent them, though," Gelermon pointed out, and the others nodded in agreement.
"But they do seem to be able to, like, do the thing, you know?" Meghan piped up, making vague hand motions.
"You mean they seem to be able to counteract at least part of the corruption," Peter provided.
Meghan nodded enthusiastically. "Right! That!"
"So it makes sense, I think," Natalie reasoned, "that every time one of our digimon has catalyst evolved..."
"They get knocked back into reality by us getting in their way," Xander finished, folding his arms. "So, what, are we just being asked to stand around with the D-Rives on hand?"
"A D-Rive can't punch," Desmon pointed out, and Xander shrugged one shoulder with a nod.
Peter hummed. "So... the D-Rive makes them evolve, the corruption makes the evolution go wrong, and in response the D-Rive keeps the corruption under control," he said, "and then the partner brings them back to their senses?"
A murmur of sounds right and I don't have any better explanations went out among the gathered, but one person was remaining conspicuously quiet in all of this.
Gelermon glanced pointedly at Sam, who was clearly thinking hard to piece things together without saying anything. He hadn't really talked to the group since his incident, and he hadn't shared his theory about Draugmon yet.
"All of this actually brings up a point I've been wanting to make," he said, tapping his fingers on his knee in a kind of nervous fidget. Eyes immediately shifted to him. "Not to interrupt the digimon power hour here, but, you know, since we're here."
"You're free to," Raumon said, gesturing in a you have the floor motion.
Sam sighed through his nose and sat back, leaning on his hands. "When I went out on Monday, before everything went to shit, I was looking for something to back up a total batshit theory I had." He paused for dramatic effect. "Do any of you guys think that Draugmon acts like a digimon who's catalyst evolved?"
"... huh," Peter said slowly.
Sam explained in brief his theory, starting with the non-corrupted video of Draugmon all the way up to finding where the apparent destruction Draugmon had caused stopped in a residential-ish area, and his vague ideas about Ratamon's nebulous involvement in all of this.
"It's maybe a bit tenuous," he admitted, shrugging, "but it's something I've been thinking about."
"I think it sounds plausible," Banmon piped up. "But-- if it catalyst evolved, then wouldn't that mean...?"
There were a lot of ways to finish that sentence. Wouldn't it mean Draugmon had a partner? Wouldn't it mean there was another person with a D-Rive?
"I know I may as well be asking a couple of brick walls, but you're still welcome to come, too, you know," Meghan said, looking at Peter and Sam.
After about an hour and a half of discussion and conversation and theorizing, Xander had taken off to take care of band-related troubles before the gig, but the other three pairs of guests were in much less of a hurry to get out, and if Natalie was being honest, she didn't mind the company.
She herself had made the decision to actually go along with Meghan to the concert tonight, if for no other reason than for the novel experience.
"What is it about me that makes you think I want to be around a bunch of loud probably-drunk people," Sam said flatly.
Meghan shrugged with an apologetic smile. "Hey, I didn't want to make you feel like you had to be left out," she said.
Sam paused, before saying, "thanks." Gelermon shot him an almost bewildered look, but didn't comment on it.
"Where did you say it was, exactly?" Peter said, and Meghan's expression was hilariously similar to Gelermon's when she snapped her attention to Peter.
"It's uh--" she paused and gestured, pointing in various directions as she spoke, "it's that place that's down just off Market, on Olive?" She kind of faltered. "Sorry, let me look it up," she said, pulling her phone out to do just that.
Peter nodded once. "I think I know the place you're talking about. I may come." He looked around and saw surprised looks from all eyes that weren't Banmon. "Is it that surprising that I might go to a punk show?"
"Well, yes, that's definitely part of it," Natalie said, "but also, last I checked, you and Xander get along like puppies and wasps."
"Nice imagery," Raumon interjected; Natalie gave him a thumbs-up.
Peter shrugged. "It isn't as though I have to get up close and personal with him to attend a show. Most musicians are dicks anyway. Doesn't mean I stop listening to music."
"He's got a point," Gelermon said with a smirk.
Sam was quiet for a moment, then he exhaled a heavy sigh through his nose. "Well, fuck me, I don't want to be the only one left out of this."
It took a moment to register that this was how he announced his intention to tag along. Meg looked practically ecstatic; Natalie got the feeling, however distantly, that he had kind of been looking for an excuse to agree to come, and she found herself smiling as well.
Apparently, in the past couple of months, Ekko Lokation had actually been getting a fair amount of buzz in the local scene; the group behind them as they trickled in through the doors was having a loud conversation, something about I'm actually mostly here for the opener, I heard their show back last month was fuckin' killer and I'm pissed I got there late . This was indeed another opener for a more well-known local band, but, hey, fuck it, considering that months ago they had been desperately trying to get one gig with a band with a sizable local following, this was not a problem.
The venue was small and dimly lit, with every single inch of the walls covered in layers of posters and flyers and posted messages about proper conduct that nobody had ever given two shits about obeying. A few flickering neon signs and half-busted blacklights provided most of the lighting on the floor proper. A sparing number of wobbly tables were sequestered near the back, close to the neon-lit bar. The little party of four had been quick to lay claim to one of the less-in-a-state-of-disrepair tables as a sort of home base. Meghan hadn't brought her camera with her this time, so she was free to hang to the back the entire time, which suited her just fine; furthermore, Sam in particular wanted absolutely nothing to do with being up in the writhing throng of people.
Peter was the only one of them who was of drinking age (being 21 compared to Natalie's 20 and Meghan and Sam's 19) and this had become ample joke fodder while they had waited for the venue to fill up-- and it had, quite impressively.
"You could really up your hipster game," Sam remarked, glancing over at the bar. "PBR. The drink of douchebags. You have to make up for the fact that you're not wearing the scarf."
"Please," Peter said, his voice deadpan. He was, indeed, not wearing his scarf, possibly because even he wasn't pretentious enough to wear a hipster scarf to a punk show. "I'd only drink PBR if they took the exact same piss beer, artificially jacked up the price 500%, and called it an organic wheat-based fermentation beverage with antioxidants. Maybe throw a handful of quinoa in there. I'm a self-respecting hipster, come on now, I have to put in more effort than the bare minimum."
"I underestimated how big of a douchebag you were," Sam said, then smirked. "Nice."
"You know, I'm not sure how much he acts like a hipster because he's actually genuinely into hipster shit, and how much he acts like a hipster because it's ironic," Natalie remarked sidelong to Meghan.
"But if it's ironic, isn't that even more hipster?" Meghan pointed out, and Natalie turned her head up and looked, thousand yard stare style, into the middle distance.
"That's potential tiers of irony we were never meant to comprehend."
Further conversation got cut off by the sound of a whole buch of concergoers, in various states of inebriation, getting hyped the fuck up as Ekko Lokation took the stage.
In all the noise and chaos and energy, it would be incredibly easy to miss that a young woman hanging to the back of the venue, kept stealing glances over at their table.
Lily had spent more time than possibly anyone else taking notes on the most minute details of the videos of the first Draugmon attack. She had spent as much time as anyone could spend trying to commit the people who had been with the other digimon to memory. She had pored over every video, every picture, every scrap of information she could, but she never really expected anything to come of it.
When one of her friends -- and 'friend' should really go in airquotes, because she had abandoned her pretty much the moment they got to the venue -- had invited her out to this show, she had agreed. She almost never turned down a concert, after all; there was nothing better to get your mind off whatever was bothering you. Still, she had only come because she was asked to come.
When the band took the stage, she did a double take, thinking that the frontman looked not unlike the guy she had seen with the bat digimon, the last time Draugmon had appeared, but that might not have registered to her. She had only seen the guy with the bat from a distance, after all, and there were plenty of people in the city who might look like him from a distance.
But when she saw, lurking at the back, a table of four people that looked shockingly like the other four people--
That stretched the limits of deniability a little bit, you know?
But she still couldn't be entirely sure, and she'd rather put her head in a grain thresher than run up like she knew these people.
But come on, could she really let this possibility go altogether? She wasn't that dumb. She wasn't dumb in general, actually, but she especially wasn't that short-sighted.
Lily would admit that she was kind of zoning out, lost in thoughts as the music washed over her in a veritable tidal wave of fuzzy guitar and pounding drums. She tried not to be a creep, but she found herself glancing over at them more than a couple times. Lily was glad she was sticking to the back, because any further forward and she might be consumed by the all-devouring psycho pit that had formed up front, and she might lose track of the group she was trying to keep an eye on.
(That... sounded creepier in her head than she had meant it to. Strike all that.)
She watched as one of the girls buried her face -- which was giving her dyed hair a run for its money for which was more pink -- in her hands as the band played... well, she couldn't be sure, but it was what she gathered from context to be a very pointed song cover. It didn't seem to be embarrassed so much as flustered, and she watched her companions range from grinning with chin resting on the palms of hands (the natural redhead girl) to what looked like gentle ribbing (the guy who hadn't removed his baseball cap) to half-serious shoulder-patting (the blonde guy in glasses).
They didn't quite act like the best of friends ever, but she got the distinct impression of being on the outside looking in. ... which was normal, she realized; whenever she saw groups of friends out having fun, she didn't exactly worry too much about being an outsider, because that was to be expected.
So then the fact that this put a nasty little pit in her stomach was...
Ekko Lokation was winding down to the end of their set, though 'winding down' was a pretty bad turn of phrase, as their last song was, if possible, even louder, more raucus, more worthy an entry to Music to Have a Bar Fight to, Vol. 3 than any prior. The pounding of feet paired with the amped-up music just about shook the floor.
The final song started to come to a triumphant and very loud close, yelling and applause that threatened to drown out the end of the song, voices raised in a roar over the top of drums and guitar. Xander grinned lopsidedly, running a hand backwards through his hair. He tossed off a salute to the audience.
He looked like he was about to say something, some kind of last sendoff, but the moment he raised the mic back to his mouth--
The amps released an absolutely deafening blast of fuzz and feedback noise for five ear-splitting seconds, and then the power cut out, casting the entire hall in absolute darkness. Most people reacted with confusion, but it didn't last. The noise had persisted longer than the darkness; in a few seconds, the electricity came back on.
In that time, the grin had fallen off of Xander's face. His brow was furrowed, and he still held the mic up as if to say something. His bandmates cast him confused looks-- he held up a hand, a hold off just a second gesture, looking around the venue to see if the other members of the squad (ugh) had the same thought as he had, and he saw them in short order; they were kind of hard to miss if you were looking for them.
"Shit," Natalie said, as she as well as everyone else at the table began digging for their D-Rives. Everyone else in the venue was looking to each other or had just resumed their cacophanous applause, because things weren't confusing enough as it was.
D͏̶̡͡͏R̵͢͝͠ ̸̷̶͞͡d́͘͘͜͟r̵̸a҉̛ù̢͢͠͝g̡͏͡m̵͏̢̀o̶̡̕̕͡n̷̨̛̛ ̴̴͡m͞҉ǫ͏͡͝n͏̵͡ ̶҉͘d҉̸̛r̢͠͠a҉҉̀͠ú̧͏ ̴́͟͢ģ̨́́m̸̵͘ò̶̴́͟n̛ ̵̡͢à̶̸͟͜u̧͡g̴̢͞m̧̀͜o̶͟͝n͢ ̧͜͠u̴̸̴͢l҉͢͝t̡̕i҉̷̀͘m̧͝ ̶́ứ̕͢l҉̷́͟͏t́͟͟͟į͟m̸̢͟a̧͞҉t̷̢̕e̷͢͜ ̸̛ḿ̵a̴͢t͠͝͏͝e͟͏͏̡ ҉̵̡͡m̶̶̢͘à̸̶̛́t̴͏҉ ͏̷e̵̡̧ ̕͘͜͡l̶҉̵́ȩ̶̶̛͜v̧͠
"Oh, that's real nice," Sam said, getting to his feet so fast he nearly knocked over the chair.
They tried to pull up the radar, but it wasn't working-- it brought up a garbled mess.
Turns out, they didn't really need it just now.
They heard something as loud as a bomb going off; the entire building shook.
"Everyone stay the fuck back!" Xander yelled into the mic, thinking quickly. "For the love of shit, I don't care how drunk you are, whatever's about to happen, don't do anything stupid! Whatever the fuck security tells you to do, do it without being a bitch about it!"
Meghan, Peter, and Sam were already on their way out; Natalie was hanging back just barely, looking over her shoulder to make sure Xander was coming, and he made the go, get moving gesture with one hand.
"Xander, no offense, but what the fuck is going on--" Eric hissed, but Xander didn't hear him. He was too busy replacing the mic on the stand and, subsequently, taking a running jump off the stage, which was the exact opposite of don't do anything stupid. The crowd scattered to make way for him; nobody wanted to get a combat boot to the face on this fine night. The other members of Ekko Lokation were left to do damage control.
The building shook again.
They burst out of the venue and into the street, and the very second they did, it was absolutely, god-awfully cold. Sirens and screams alike sounded more distant than they were, their hearing blown out by the volume of the concert just moments before.
But just as they didn't need the radar to know that Draugmon was close, nobody needed anything but their eyes to know what was going on.
The air all around them was already frigid, the late-summer night warmth be damned. Massive icicles stuck imposingly out of the front walls of the building they had just emerged from, having been propelled and driven into them by a massive force. Draugmon stood at the center of it all, hunched forward as it reared back on its back legs, its head half-engulfed by a cloud of icy mist that continued to pour out of its jaws--
And as they emerged, it launched a flurry of icicles. One came to land mere meters away from them, cracking the sidewalk.
It took approximately a half a second for there to be six digimon in the street instead of one.
"We have to get it away from here," Raumon said quickly, looking around frantically as he tried to think of a plan. It looked like Draugmon either hadn't wrecked much on the way here -- which seemed unlikely -- or like it had just emerged very close. That might have explained how the D-Rive's readout was worse than it had been before, but--
"Yeah, you got a plan?" Desmon said, kicking up into the air and flapping her wings to stay aloft. Her eyes were on Draugmon-- and Draugmon seemed to have noticed them, and was turning to look.
"There's no time for that!" Gelermon snapped. "We have to take care of it before shit gets worse than it is!"
"How are we supposed to--?" Banmon said, and her concern hit them like a truck. How were they supposed to fight Draugmon if they couldn't digivolve to ultimate safely?
"We're going to have to make do," Oremon said, gritting his teeth.
"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!"
The street lit up as all five digimon grew in size and stature, and immediately took off in disparate directions, none of them wanting to be standing near their partners when Draugmon decided to start getting murder-y.
"How on earth do these motherfuckers," Xander hissed through grit teeth, "always seem to know where to be to be the biggest pain in the ass?"
"We're just that lucky, I suppose," Peter said dryly, but he couldn't help but wonder the same thing.
One did not easily forget this, and so there was an immediate scramble from the humans to get the fuck away from these cracks-- especially the huge one headed straight for him. They scattered quickly, as did the digimon (at least, those who weren't Corymon and Banshemon, since they weren't confined to the ground), but people were coming out of the venue to see what was going on.
"Hey!" Natalie yelled, waving her arms wildly. "Get away from it!"
However, you try being heard over this kind of chaos, by people whose hearing is shot by loud music, and where everyone is confused. A fair number of people coming out of the concert hall and other establishments nearby found themselves being grabbed by the frozen hands, and--
Doctorimon lunged in close, drawing a black rose out of his sleeve. Taking particular care not to catch any human legs in his path, he wielded the flower like a knife, slashing out at the grabbing hands, severing them. The moment they were separated from the ground they exploded into shards of icy debris. He moved quickly, taking care to not step in any of the cracks himself. Banshemon leapt at the chance to do the same to cover the ground that Doctorimon couldn't, swooping down near ground level and raking out at the frozen appendages with glowing-white claws.
The fact that they were helping them did not stop people from screaming as the magical plague doctor man and floating skull-masked ghost thing had moved in towards them and appeared to be attacking them, but there were worse things to worry about than public image right now, huh?
Draugmon pulled its claws out of the ground, and the cracks slammed shut with an earth-shaking force. An absolutely sickening crunch was too loud for comfort-- the sound of those frozen hands being pulverized as the ground snapped back together.
This seemed to be a harsh awakening for any onlookers who hadn't already realized that the best option they had was to not be here right now. Some took off running; others hurried back into the concert venue, figuring that at least they could put some walls and space between them and this.
The plague doctor leapt backwards to avoid it, wincing internally as the attack took out a chunk of the road instead, but he'd rather it hit concrete than him. "
This, it seemed, was a signal that nobody knew they had been waiting for.
Windy energy swirled around Corymon as she feinted towards Draugmon, pulling out of a collision course as the sphere of wind continued on past her, smashing into Draugmon's hide; a spear of rock shot out of the ground under Draugmon's feet, and both Frekimon's green fire and Banshemon's white ghosts hit their mark.
And all of this had exactly as much impact as it had had on Draugmon the first time they had fought-- that is to say, none. Any damage done to its bare musculature was nullified as its frozen flesh practically fused back together. Even if its hide was slightly burnt or otherwise marred, it didn't seem to notice it at all, and the attacks only seemed to be taken as a taunt.
A young woman who had been fighting the crowds to get out of the venue emerged, stumbling, onto the sidewalk, and she drew all eyes-- including Draugmon's.
She was tall and remarkably thin in all regards, from an almost waifishly slim build to a narrow face. Her hair -- a dark indigo colour with three distinct sections in the front dyed various shades of blue -- was wild and spiky, and looked like she had cut it herself while only occasionally glancing in the mirror as she did so. Her entire left arm was covered in tattoos; because she wore ripped jeans with fishnets underheath, a cursory glance would say that her right leg seemed to have gotten the same ink treatment.
At least she wasn't running towards Draugmon, but that was only a small blessing.
"What are you doing!?" Meghan yelled, but she got no answer.
Draugmon's gaze fell on the new girl. Icy fog continued to gather over its head, coalescing slowly into jagged icicles.
"Get out of here!" Natalie yelled, though she had no idea how much good it was going to do. "At least get back inside, it's not safe here!"
Which, it wasn't safe for them either, but they had a reason to be here, and didn't really have a choice.
As Natalie spoke, the temperature started getting even colder. Frost began to radiate out from under Draugmon's feet, coating the ground in a thick rime, and then within moments, a thick layer of proper ice. It spread and flowed almost like water, filling every crack and scuff in the street, but when it ran out of room it began to creep up the sides of buildings.
In no time at all, doorways were being blocked by feet-thick thick sheets of ice, trapping those who had taken refuge inside where they were. Only by keeping moving were the ground-bound or humans alike able to avoid being frozen in place where they stood, cracking the ice as it began to creep up their lower legs. Frekimon attempted to melt some of it with the fire around her wrists, but it refreezed just as quickly as she could melt it.
Even Corymon and Banshemon in the air wasn't exempt, as a vicious, freezing wind began to whip around Draugmon, nearly knocking them out of the sky.
"Shit, shit, shit," Sam hissed, looking around. In the space of barely more than a minute, the street had been almost completely coated in ice, and this strange girl was still here, and what the hell were they supposed to do?