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

Episode 21: Stop the Noise

Doctorimon collided with the new girl in a full-body check. This was deliberate, as barely half a second after he forced her off to the side, an icicle almost as large as her entire body smashed into the ground where she had been standing. They skidded across the ice; Doctorimon wordlessly made sure she was unharmed, and nodded. Though he said nothing, he seemed to be apologizing. The plague doctor nodded tersely and leapt back away, struggling to keep his footing on the thick ice while also avoiding the massive icicles that now stuck out of every surface like jagged pillars, not even close to melting in the unseasonably frigid air surrounding Draugmon.

Natalie practically swooped in where Doctorimon had bounded off, stumbling a little as she slid over. "Are you alright? Sorry, he's not much of a talker like this, but I promise he's on the good si--"

"Hypothermia..."

"Shit!"

It wasn't just Natalie who yelled that profanity, cutting herself off; the expletive came from all directions, out of the mouths of the other people and digimon alike. The icy fog had gathered quicker this time; perhaps the cold air was a factor, but either way, it didn't matter. The ultimate point was that another rain of icicles went out, interrupting any attacks or attempted conversation.

"We're not going to be able to do anything to it like this!" Meghan yelled, cupping her hands around her mouth so everyone could at least stand a chance of hearing her. "It's too strong!"

"But if they digivolve, then it might go from bad to worse," Peter said, looking up at where Corymon and Banshemon were beginning an attempt to attempting to keep Draugmon's attention in the air so that those on the ground could regroup.

"Black Stinger!"

"Banshee's Call!"

"It's already worse," Xander barked, "because it's actively trying to kill us!" It did seem that most digimon, even the destructive ones, were more interested in fighting other digimon than in harming humans. There had been exceptions, but they were exceptions, rather than the rule.

"So, what, are we just supposed to hope that we get bailed out by the others?" Ibexmon said as he watched the attacks hit Draugmon to no effect but to annoy it. Ibexmon's tone betrayed a clear distaste with the idea.

This was a distate that Frekimon shared. "Hell no!" she snapped through her teeth. "We can deal with this ourselves!"

"You sure of that!?" Corymon called down, narrowly dodging a swipe of Draugmon's massive claws.

Natalie looked around herself, feeling everything careening rapidly out of hand. The best thought she had right now was to hold it off and hope that Ratamon showed up again to whisk Draugmon away. Even if they didn't know what Ratamon's deal was, their primary directive right now was to prevent things from getting worse in the moment.
So caught up was Natalie that she didn't immediately realize that the new girl -- who Natalie was still close enough to to hear -- was muttering to herself.

"Christ, this wasn't supposed to happen," the girl said, and that caught Natalie's attention; she glanced over with a look of vague confusion. She was about to open her mouth to ask, saw a very important detail she hadn't until now.

Gripped tightly in the new girl's hand was, unmistakably, a D-Rive-- admittedly a slightly odd one, as it was entirely black, without a contrasting faceplate, and it seemed to lack the silver charm hanging off one edge, but Natalie had spent enough time looking at D-Rives to tell them apart from phones when she saw them. She was looking down at it as though it would reveal anything useful.

"Black Ice!"

A sweep of Draugmon's claws caught both Ibexmon and Frekimon. Ibexmon was sent skidding into a wall, cracking the ice that was creeping up over it, while Frekimon was slammed into an icicle stuck in the ground. When she hit it, it burst into razor-sharp shards that flew in every direction-- for not the first time, the humans had to cover their faces lest they lose an eye to a rogue ice crystal.
Both digimon righted themselves in short order, and neither was too hurt, but neither looked better for their trouble, either.

Natalie, though, was looking at the new girl, who only barely seemed to be paying attention to anything around her. "What's your name?"

The girl looked vaguely surprised at being addressed; she looked at Natalie blankly for a moment, then said, "Lily."

"Natalie," Natalie said, giving her own name curtly. There were no times for any more complicated introductions, and Lily only barely seemed to be paying attention to anything; she seemed to be in some kind of shock. "Sorry we had to meet like this, Lily." She winced as the earth practically shook under the force of Draugmon's heavy footsteps. "I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark," she said, gesturing at the giant skull-faced digimon, "and guess you know each other?"

Lily nodded. "Yes. ... I think so, anyway. I'm not entirely sure that's him, but-- christ, I didn't exactly mean for this to happen--" she said, digging her fingers into her hair.

"What kind of dick would blame you for this?" Natalie said, a little bit taken aback.
She nervously glanced to the side; the digimon were trading blows, but every time Draugmon returned volley, it was doing more damage, both to the street and to the digimon. Sirens were getting closer, and judging by how well it had gone last time, whatever forces they were calling in were either going to get a very cold reception (oh, come on, this was no time for that kind of joke), or make things worse.

But if this thing was this new girl's partner, then waiting for Ratamon to bail them out wasn't an option.

"We have to do something!" Meghan yelled. "Someone has to digivolve or it's going to wreck the entire block!"

"Any volunteers?" Xander yelled back, and unsurprisingly, nobody stepped up to the plate immediately.

Natalie chewed on the inside of her cheek, furrowing her brow. Meghan was right-- the way things were going right now, the most they were doing was delaying things.
"You think that's your partner, then?" she said, looking at Lily. She was taking a few logical leaps from Point A to Point D, but she felt it was a fair assumption, and there was no time to ask questions B and C. Lily nodded, and Natalie breathed through her nose.

"Doctorimon!" she called, beckoning her partner over; he cautiously did, leaping backwards and landing next to Natalie.

"Yes?"

"Do you think you can--?" Digivolve? Or rather, keep control of yourself if you digivolve? She wasn't sure how to phrase what she meant to ask.

Doctorimon seemed to understand her basic question, at least, and she couldn't help but feel like he was following her train of thought, no matter how impossible that was.
"I don't know," he said honestly, watching as Corymon was knocked into a building and Banshemon only narrowly avoided being sliced into ribbons.

"Are you willing to try?"

Doctorimon paused and looked at her. He glanced at Natalie, about to ask why she would ask, but then he looked to Lily-- and he saw the D-Rive in her hands, and the pained expression on her face, and Natalie could practically hear the gears turning in his head.

"I'm counting on you for this," he said slowly, and then nodded. Natalie nodded back, clutching her D-Rive close to her chest as it began to faintly glow purple.

"Everyone get back!" Natalie yelled, cupping her hands around her mouth as Doctorimon leapt forward. Her warning was unnecessary; her D-Rive began to screech as purple light began to creep up Doctorimon's arms and legs, but it felt like the screeching lasted a shorter time the second time around. This didn't make it any more bearable to listen to as Raumon began to make that pained and feral noise himself-- a noise Natalie had hoped she'd never have to hear again.

She felt her stomach turn over. She couldn't place why, but she had been hoping against hope that maybe last time had been some kind of fluke, but there was no going back now.

"Doctorimon, catalyst evolve to-- IlDoctorimon!" His voice cut out as he was engulfed in light turning from humanoid plague doctor into massive long-necked vulture. He ran forward the moment he had finished re-forming, throwing himself at Draugmon with a feral screech.
The humans were moving back towards each other after having been scattered. In turn, the other partner digimon fell back, not wanting to de-digivolve in case they were needed, but they had learned well enough that they didn't want to be in the line of fire.

"Ashes to Ashes!"

Speaking of fire. IlDoctorimon tossed his head to spit the black flames around him, and they had an immediate effect on the thick ice. Pops and sizzles filled the air as dark fire came in contact with the ice, cracking and buckling as it melted and re-froze.
This pavement was, in a word, fucked, but it was hard to care.

"You want me to get in on this?" Corymon asked Xander as she landed close to the humans. The other digimon were coming over, one by one, as well.

"No," Natalie said, shaking her head. "I don't know if we can be sure that they won't go overboard if we try to go two on one."

"What's your point?" Frekimon said, digging deep grooves into the ice with her claws as she skidded to a stop near them. "That sounds like it'd be a lot faster to me, and then you could just scream at us until we come back to normal."

Peter glanced at Frekimon. "Considering we don't know how consistently we can get any of you to de-digivolve, I don't think that's a risk I'd want to run, just to more efficiently eliminate--"

"I'd really appreciate if you didn't kill him," Lily said, staring at the ground. She sounded less confident than she wanted to.

"No offense, but who asked you?" Xander said, frustration in his voice; he clearly thought he was dealing with a nosy civilian.

"She has a D-Rive," Sam said; he hadn't had it pointed out to him, he had just noticed it. With those four words, the entire group was able to fill in the blanks themselves.
Introductions would have to go around later.

By this point, the street was a disaster zone; the ice had begun to spread further and further. The frozen wave creeped outward, stopping police cars dead in their tracks; no helicopters were willing to draw near, not after last time, but the sound of chopper blades could be heard from where they were hovering outside of Draugmon's attack range. This was functionally a space for digimon only-- and those few humans stupid enough to have made friends with them.

"Black Ice..." Draugmon hissed, like air being let out of a tire. IlDoctorimon had just lunged for him, and with one well-placed swipe, he knocked the vulture back.

The sound of scraping filled the air. Draugmon threw IlDoctorimon backwards with one well-placed swipe of his claws, and as he was shoved back, IlDoctorimon dug his foot-claws into the ice. Unlike Frekimon's similar maneuver just moments before, he was bigger, moving faster, and the sound was the kind of horrible screech that rattled the teeth of anyone who heard it. He lost his balance and tumbled backwards, only narrowly avoiding crashing into the humans and digimon laying in wait.

Draugmon rattled out a not-a-breath, icy fog coalescing above his head as he began to advance, his huge paws and massive weight crushing the ice underneath him.
"Dead of--" he began, rearing up onto his hind legs.

IlDoctorimon was still getting to his feet, but he didn't need to be upright to cut that short. "Ashes to Ashes!" he croaked, rearing his head back and breathing a concentrated stream of black fire directly into Draugmon's face.

The hiss of rapidly-melting ice as the flames licked at Draugmon's impromptu icy battlefield mixed with the low hiss Draugmon himself was making. Instead of slamming his claws into the ground, Draugmon began clawing at his skull as what skin, fur, and flesh were around his face were charred black by the direct hit. He was clearly in pain.
Draugmon reared up to his full height, slow and careful, like he might fall apart if he moved too quickly. "Dead of Winter," he hissed, smashing his claws down and hauling the earth beneath his feet apart. The cracks shot out-- they were mostly focused under IlDoctorimon, somehow knowing where to go, but just as before, they spidered out under the feet of everyone present.

The fact that the digimon had not yet de-digivolved was a blessing.

Xander flung himself at Corymon, hooking an arm around her neck as she lifted into the air; Banshemon grabbed Peter under the arms and hoisted him up with a bit of effort. Ibexmon all but scooped Meghan onto his back with a toss of his head, while Frekimon grabbed Sam and picked her partner up under her arm like a linebacker. All four digimon scattered before the ground could split open; this left Natalie and Lily to scramble away on foot, seeing as their partners were currently in the middle of attempting to murder each other.

As you do.

Lily didn't move-- she was busy staring at Draugmon, a sort of fear in her eyes, and so Natalie took the initiative by shoving Lily bodily away from the forming cracks. Lily skidded away on the ice just as the frostbitten hands emerged, and Natalie felt several of the hands grasp around her ankles.

The hands were unfathomably cold, colder than they had been the last times; against bare skin, it was functionally indistinguishable from having searing-hot metal pressed against her flesh.

Natalie, understandably enough, screamed. The sound drew the eyes of every human and digimon on the street-- including IlDoctorimon and Draugmon.

IlDoctorimon easily wrenched his way out of the hands that were grabbing him. Turning his back on Draugmon, he came barelling towards Natalie with a horrible squawking noise, and for a second, she felt fear seize her heart--

It wasn't the most elegant or even the least painful thing in the world, but IlDoctorimon shoved Natalie free of the hands with a shove of his neck; his feathers were oily and ragged to the touch, but Natalie didn't have much time to contemplate this before she went skidding across the ice. The dead hands snapped like toothpicks and burst into dust the moment they were severed, but a dozen more emerged in their place to grab at IlDoctorimon in Natalie's absence.

With a truly sickening crunch, the earth slammed back together, catching IlDoctorimon in it as it did. He let loose a horrible keen as the ground settled back down, struggling to get back up to his feet. With Draugmon already beginning to create icicles above his head, IlDoctorimon only had a limited amount of time to get up.

Natalie almost wanted to throw up, and it was hard to tell if it was because of the sound, seeing her partner in pain, or the fact that he-- as IlDoctorimon, struggling, fighting against a ferality -- had still thrown himself into the line of fire to protect her.
(She couldn't even imagine how Lily must have felt.)

Meghan and Xander stayed on their partners; Corymon was staying a short ways above the ground, while Ibexmon was simply tensed and ready to run if he had to. Frekimon and Banshemon, less suited to carrying their partners, set them back down next to Natalie and Lily.

Lily stared between the others in turn, and she felt something unpleasant and bitter well up inside of her. These people, with their partners, who changed back when they needed them, who fought against the corruption to save them, who weren't attacking them, who hadn't been missing for three weeks-- hell, even IlDoctorimon, who was feral and wild and single-mindedly focusing on ripping Draugmon to shreds, had, at great personal risk, wrenched control of himself long enough to bail her out.

And what did she have?
And they didn't care, they barely seemed to understand what was going on at all--

Was that really the case, though...? All around her, digimon and human alike, they were afraid and panicked and angry and worried and desperately trying to figure things out, a full rainbow of negative emotions all tied up on their faces. None were moreso than Natalie, who was clutching her D-Rive close to her chest, watching, struck numb as IlDoctorimon was practically entangled with Draugmon. With a hiss, Draugmon knocked IlDoctorimon just far enough back that one of its icicles would have a straight shot at the bird.

Lily glanced down at her D-Rive. It had reactivated in Draugmon's presence; that wasn't entirely surprising.

What was surprising about it, though, was that it had been opened to the radar, and--

Nobody had been looking at anything but the fight in all the commotion, and almost as soon as Lily snapped her head up to look around, a voice rang out.

"I was wondering how long it'd take for someone to look up!"

The voice was new to the scene, but familiar to most of those who heard it-- and yet it was just about the worst possible thing that could have happened at this point in time. The heads of digimon and human alike snapped upwards to where the voice had come from; even IlDoctorimon and Draugmon seemed to, if not stop their tearing at each other, at least reel it back a little bit.
Sitting atop a building, several stories above street level, was a familiar little shape. Admittedly, most of its features were hard to discern, because it was small and far above them, but there was one giveaway feature that was visible even from ground level:

Huge eyes, vivid green and pink, and shiny, shiny, shiny.

"Ratamon!"
The exclamation rose from more than half of the onlookers. Banshemon said it with apprehension, while Natalie was a more forceful kind of surprised; Sam and Frekimon, speaking in unison, were incredulous and mildly annoyed. Xander took it straight from mild annoyance to straight up what the fuck, while Meghan and Corymon were simply confused.

"Long time no see!" Ratamon chirrupped in his singsongy voice, jumping down from the rooftop he was sitting on. His little wings flapped frantically to slow his descent, but he landed in short order, practically springing off the ground, softening his landing on his big, cushion-y tail.

He dusted himself off, his little feathery ears twitching.

"MOVE!"
Ibexmon yelled at the top of his lungs, and it was quickly apparent why.

While they were all looking at Ratamon, so too had Ratamon drawn Draugmon's attention. While most of them were simply confused, though, Draugmon knew exactly what he felt about this situation.

The massive undead ice-bear was suddenly flinging himself forward with shocking speed, smashing his claws into the icy ground to gain traction. He barrelled straight past IlDoctorimon, smacking the scrawny bird aside with one swipe. His mouth was open in what might have been a roar as he threw his entire body at Ratamon. If not for the fact that this was terrifying, the sight of such a huge digimon going berserker after such a tiny one might have been funny. Nothing could have stopped him, even if they had tried.
Corymon, with Xander still on her back, took off; Ibexmon, with Meghan in tow, bounded in the same direction. Natalie, Lily, Sam, and Peter found themselves dragged by Frekimon and Banshemon in the same direction as the goat had gone. All they could do was get the fuck out of the way, and so they did.

Except Ratamon himself.

Ratamon stood, patiently, watching Draugmon approach him.

In the blink of an eye and a streak of white, Ratamon was gone, and Draugmon collided at full speed with the building Ratamon had just descended from. The building very much lost that fight. It felt like a miracle that it didn't immediately begin to crumble entirely as a huge chunk of the wall was taken out in the collision, and Draugmon was dazed for a few precious moments.
(One could only hope and pray that most of the people who had been inside had already gotten out...)

"What the fuck?" Peter hissed through pressed teeth, stumbling backwards.

Xander whispered something frantically in Corymon's ear, and she nodded. She landed long enough to let him off of her back while they tried to find where Ratamon had gone.

He wasn't hard to find, as he stood out like a bright little beacon of white in the dark. He was sitting on top of a bent streetlamp pole, like he had been there the entire time.
"Rude," he said admonishingly, shaking his head. Draugmon was already forcing himself back up, preparing to charge again, and undoubtedly he would have just as much respect for property as he had had a moment ago.

Corymon rose back into the air, curling her tail underneath her. "Black Stinger!" she yelled, and a round of the staticky arrow-heads shot directly at Ratamon.

Another blink of an eye, another streak of white, and Ratamon had moved somewhere else. Corymon's attack took out the rest of that already-a-goner streetlamp pole. Even so, it was immediately evident that what she had been trying to do had worked; Draugmon stopped before he charged, trying to find where Ratamon was.

"Keep him moving!" Xander said quickly to the other digimon close to him, struggling to speak loud enough to be heard but not so loud that everyone and sundry (read: Ratamon) could hear his plan.

"What if they damage the buildings, though--?" Meghan began, clambering off Ibexmon's back.

"Better than that," Peter said, pointing to the damage Draugmon had done to the building he had crashed into.

"Cool," Frekimon said, "a chance to work out some of this pent-up frustration with the little puffball."

The moment she had located Ratamon, she fired a New Moon Fire right at him. Once again, the strange little digimon practically vanished from how fast he moved, and the green fireball sailed right past him, leaving a scorch mark on the brick building behind him.

"Come on, now you're just being mean," he said, sticking his tongue out-- and he was still grinning. His grin didn't fade when a flurry of white ghosts from Banshemon was coming for him, and he took off again, skittering around the icy battlefield with ease. Trying to follow him was enough to give someone whiplash, but it was, at least for the moment, working.
Draugmon was trying to follow Ratamon's path and was so distracted by this that it gave IlDoctorimon more than enough time to right himself from where Draugmon had thrown him aside, and get a little bit of violent revenge, up close and personal.

(Natalie had a thought, then; she didn't remark on it, but she pulled her phone out and swallowed her pride while everyone else was focusing elsewhere.)

Lily watched all this chaos around her, clutching her D-Rive close to her chest.
IlDoctorimon was disconcerting just by sight alone, moving unnaturally and spitting black flames with a single-minded focus on attacking Draugmon. The other four digimon were trying to keep Ratamon occupied, but it was hard to feel that they weren't being strung along and toyed with.

"Why are you doing this," Lily muttered, and even she wasn't sure if she was talking to Draugmon, to Ratamon, to the other humans and their partners.

At present, Draugmon looked worse for the wear, as a result of his scrapping with IlDoctorimon; massive jagged tears torn in his frostbitten exposed musculature, teeth that had been knocked out of his skeletal face, patches of his loose-hanging hide burnt and mangled. A fair number of the icicles sticking out of his arms and shoulders had been broken off and the blood-stained bandages wrapped around his upper arms and midsection were starting to unravel.

IlDoctorimon was faring only marginally better; his tattered wing-like sleeves were torn to pieces, with frost clinging to his feathers and the bare skin of his hands and feet looking like it was starting to discolour from the cold -- and it was only colder once he got up close and personal with Draugmon. Massive gashes crisscrossed his body, seeping dark blood that left streaked red trails on the icy street.

"We're being fucked with," Sam said quietly.

"What makes you think that?" Peter asked.

"Because," Sam said bluntly, "Ratamon is Ratamon." The little white dragon-squirrel thing had only been shifty and suspicious even when he had seemed benign, and he had done nothing recently to earn any more trust. Nobody could disagree with that.

"Great," Xander hissed, digging his fingers into his hair.

"I'm not surprised," Lily said bitterly, staring at the ground; she couldn't stand to stare at IlDoctorimon and Draugmon any longer.

Meghan looked to Lily and tilted her head to one side. "How much do you know about Ratamon?"

Lily shut her mouth and stared at the ground, pressing her lips tight.

"I'm not going to press right now," Sam said after a moment, "but the second we're not in the middle of an active warzone, you'd better explain. We've had enough of this you don't understand and we're not going to tell you about it."

Even if Lily had wanted to explain herself then and there, there were suddenly much more pressing matters at hand.

"Hypothermia," Draugmon hissed. The fog over his head had been slowing down in its accretion; it seemed that Draugmon was running out of steam, so to speak, and so he only produced one icicle for this round of his attack.

Or maybe that was all he figured he needed.

That one massive icicle shot from straight above Draugmon's head, at almost point-blank range, and smashed through IlDoctorimon's thin, hollow chest.

More than a few of those watching made horrified noises at the sight of IlDoctorimon, speared clean through the ribs by a massive icicle. IlDoctorimon himself made an unearthly noise, rearing his head back, and he let loose with one last attack.
"Ashes to Ashes!"
Blood dripped from his mouth as much as fire did, but it did the job-- a concentrated blast of black fire, aimed straight at Draugmon. The spike of ice was caught in the crossfire as well, and began to melt rapidly as the stream of fire passed over it.

As the last black embers slipped from his wrenched-open beak, IlDoctorimon began to glow purple. His shape distorted as he began to shrink back down to his rookie form, and what was left of the icicle stood where it was, streaked with freezing black blood. It was a small blessing that Raumon did not stay impaled on it, as he shrunk down and re-formed mere inches to the side of it.

"RAUMON!" Natalie yelled so loud she could almost feel her throat tearing. She didn't even have the time to register what was going on, her feet carrying her towards her partner. She was stumbling, the cold-burn on her leg impeding her, but adrenaline is a funny thing.

Draugmon wasn't doing so hot either -- or rather, quite the opposite: he was doing entirely too hot.

He had reared back as the black flames struck him, and the sickly smell of burning flesh filled the air. He tilted his head back and his skeletal jaw fell open as his entire body was wracked by heaving shakes, and it seemed for all the world like he was trying to scream in pain as he stumbled backwards, away from Raumon. An icy fog began to overtake him, spilling out of his open mouth, and--

And a cracking noise filled the air-- Draugmon was beginning to freeze.
His body was going into overdrive trying to counteract the flames and the damage that had already been done, and in seconds, he came to a complete stop. The white fire lights in his eye-sockets began to fade out as Draugmon slowed, and he stood, unmoving.

Natalie was holding Raumon in her arms, not yet minimizing him; she wanted to keep an eye on him and make sure he was still breathing. Peter and Meghan both ran forth to check on her, and their partners weren't far behind. Sam and Xander stood where they were, their own partners flanking them; they both watched on with more concern than either wanted to admit.

Lily, meanwhile, immediately hurled herself at the now-motionless Draugmon, but she was not the only one who did.

Ratamon, little more than a white streak as he bounded over the ground at breakneck speed.

Ibexmon was quick on the draw, though. "Terra Spear!"

A sharpened spire of rock shot out of the ground immediately in front of Ratamon's path. Between his high speed and the slippery ground, he wasn't able to veer out of the way in time to avoid collision. He tumbled to the side, having only having marginal success in veering away; he righted himself in moments, but that tiny delay was enough for Lily to make it to Draugmon first.

Lily had no fucking idea what she was doing, but she reached out. Even though it was so cold it felt like putting her hand on a hot iron, she pressed her hand up against Draugmon's frozen fur and kept her hand there. A moment later, the point she had touched began to-- well, perhaps glow was a bad word. From the point she touched, a pitch black energy spread out across Draugmon's body. This darkness began to consume and swirl around Draugmon, until it engulfed him entirely.

Ratamon flung himself forward, and his claws began to glow, leaving behind glitchy white streaks in the air behind him. He bounded at Draugmon, but something deeply bizarre happened as he approached the black shape.
Like magnets repelling each other, some invisible force seemed to stop Ratamon. Where the white glow of his claws met the black energy, the very air around Ratamon seemed to glitch and shift and distort, and the air filled up with a familiar screeching noise, just for a half a second. The little white digimon was practically hurled backwards, and the sound stopped.

"What are those fucking things," Ratamon hissed, entirely to himself, inaudible by anyone else.

For a split second, Draugmon's black aura seemed to take on a different shape entirely. With an deafening cracking sound, the massive digimon's body shattered into shards of pitch-black ice.

Lily didn't even seem to register that she was assailed by a veritable rain of razor-sharp ice, because her attention was entirely on the small huddled shape, covered in blood and dust, ichor and ice, that was left behind-- Brockmon.

This was many of those present's first view of him; though it was hard to make out the details, he was a large badger, indigo, white, and pale purple-grey, with red leather straps wrapped around his forearms. An impressive ruff of white fur sat around his neck, and massive blunt claws ended his hands and feet; his claws, fur, and leathery black nose were all tipped in frost, and he breathed slow and shallow.
Lily was on her knees immediately, her hands on Brockmon.

***

For Ryan, Eli, and Jen, trying to make their way to the site of the incident was proving to be difficult. Police and news and ambulances and backed-up traffic and hundreds of people trying, understandably enough, to keep as many people away from the disaster area as they could.

Problem was, they actually needed to be there, and had a reason to be there.

Even flying in on Malakhimon was out of the question-- even disregarding that it would have left Jen and Eli out of luck if Ryan had taken that option, the helicopters had come out in full force, and he really didn't feel like trying to ride in on his partner's back when the possibility existed that they might get shot down.

"This is a fuckin' trainwreck," Eli said as they caught their breath behind a dumpster. Ryan was checking his D-Rive-- they were close... so why had it gotten quiet, when they could hear the commotion from blocks away mere minutes ago? Ryan wanted to double-check.

"Yeah, never exactly thought this would culminate in hiding from the cops," Jen said, shaking her head. "Not really on my bucket list, yanno?"

"S'not the first time I've done it," Eli said thoughtfully. "And this is a lot less stupid than the last time I did. Last time involved a zamboni." He paused, and glanced at the ground, which was covered in a thin veneer of frost-- that was how close they were. "Then again, the zamboni might be useful now."

Jen regarded him with a raised eyebrow. "Either you're lying, or you live a weird life."

Ryan sighed, running a hand backwards through his hair. Draugmon wasn't on the radar anymore, and nor was IlDoctorimon, but Ratamon was, and that spelled trouble-- possibly significantly bigger trouble than before. "If you want to bail, now's your chance."

Eli and Jen both responded with a negative in the kind of way that would seem to suggest that Ryan was kind of silly for even suggesting it. Having had the chance to re-gather, the trio began to move again.

Ryan really hoped it wasn't too late. Even he knew that if Natalie had been worried enough about what was going on to actually reach out to him (to him), shit must have been going south.

***

As Draugmon disappeared, Ratamon changed tack.

He clapped his little claws together excitedly, and attention snapped back onto him in a heartbeat. He had righted himself after his rather undignified incident, but frankly, if he hadn't been on thin ice for trust earlier, he had sunken to the bottom of the frozen lake at this point.
"Really well done!" he said in a chipper tone, beaming. Nobody was sure how to respond to this, so Natalie stepped up to the plate.

"What do you want?" she cut straight to the point, brow furrowed.

Ratamon glanced to the side. "What? I'm just checking up on you, that's all," he said, his tone still the same. "Making sure you don't take on more than you can handle. And you've done admirably!"

"It's a bit fuckin' late for that," Xander said, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

Ratamon glanced around himself. The digimon still in champion form stood tense, preparing to fight, with their partners close at hand. Lily still knelt over Brockmon, with her back to him. Natalie was obscured for a moment by a flash of purple light as she minimized her partner, and then her eyes, too, were solidly on Ratamon, and she looked completely unconvinced by Ratamon's explanation. All of them did.

Tough crowd.

Ratamon heaved a heavy sigh, then fixed a carefree smile on his face. "It was worth a shot," he said, then he pointed one blunt claw at Lily's back. "Give me the catalyst."

"No." Lily's words were resolute and forceful while her tone stayed almost disconcertingly even.

"It wasn't really a request," Ratamon said, and boy oh boy, did his cheerful tone clash with his words.

Lily did not move. In fact she tensed slightly, her jaw set. With the press of a button and a whoosh of black energy, she minimized Brockmon into her D-Rive.

Ratamon paused for a moment.
"You know, this would have gone a lot easier if the lot of you would just do what you were supposed to do," he said, shaking his head, "but--"

Whatever he meant to follow up with got cut off by the timely arrival of the very late cavalry.

Ryan, Eli, and Jen came barrelling around the corner, and like students walking into class late, all eyes snapped to them. This, however, was far more dire than a lecture; with flashes of red, cyan, and gold, Shitomon, Hulimon, and Lurumon materialized next to their partners, bristling and ready to fight.

"Sorry we're late," Eli said dryly, which did nothing to ease the tension.

Reactions were mixed. Frekimon snorted, a bit derisive, clearly thinking they didn't need any backup; Banshemon sighed a sigh of tentative relief, though she kept at the alert, her claws raised.

Ratamon, though, curled his lip in vague distaste, like something vaguely foul-smelling was directly under his nose. "Oh. It's you."

"Whatever it is you think you're doing," Shitomon said, "I advise you don't."

"I love how everyone knows what's going on but us," Ibexmon muttered sarcastically, pawing at the ground with one hoof.

Ratamon hummed. "Oh, however am I to say no to such a compelling argument?" he said, tauntingly, looking at Shitomon. He turned, looking back to Lily. "You'll give me the catalyst. I realize you feel some sense of entitlement, but it's not yours to keep. I'll be back!"
Lily wasn't even deigning to look at him; he didn't seem to care.
"But I'd rather not deal with this lot just this moment," he said, gesturing at Shitomon, Hulimon, and Lurumon, and his claws erupted in a glitchy white light. "You can relate, right? Of course you can. I'll be nice! I'll give you that privilege."

Before they could register what he meant, Ratamon was moving. The only way to follow his movement was to watch for the glitchy streaks of light that lingered in his wake. Was he moving faster, or was it just that he was moving over shorter distances?

He leapt at Ibexmon first, and before anyone had the chance to attack him, he rocketed from Ibexmon to Frekimon, bouncing off Frekimon onto a light post; he leapt from there to a wall which he scrabbled up quickly. With this new height he was able to leap onto Corymon's back, and before she could throw him off, he leapt back down, sprinting past (almost through) Banshemon. He didn't seem to do any damage, but as he came in contact with (or at least passed) each digimon, he seemed to 'tag' them, his glowing claws phasing through their bodies. Considering they were spread out on the street, this was no simple feat, but Ratamon covered the distance around them in record time.

It didn't take long before it was apparent what he had done, before he had even skidded to a stop-- and as soon as he had done that, he took off like a little white shot, and was gone from sight in moments.

One after another, Meghan, Sam, Xander, and Peter's D-Rives -- in that order -- began to emit that ear-bleeding screech, and circuit-like light began to emanate out from the points that Ratamon had touched across each digimon's body.

"Fuck," Peter hissed.

"You can say that again," Xander said through gritted teeth.

"Ibexmon, catalyst evolve to-- Cabramon!"

"Frekimon, catalyst evolve to-- Grimmon!"

"Corymon, catalyst evolve to-- Camazmon!"

"Banshemon, catalyst evolve to-- Onryomon."

Grimmon reared her head back and roared, and between the screeching of her metal mask and her voice, it was loud enough to shake the bones of anyone who heard it. Camazmon rose into the air with staggered, aryhthmic flaps of her four wings, and she was almost cackling with every breath; Cabramon's snake-head tail thrashed as his nine eyes twitched and glanced in every direction; Onryomon settled on the ground with eery quiet compared to the heavy breathing and snarling and growling and cackling of those around her.

"This is bad, this is so bad," Meghan said, digging her hands into her hair, stumbling a few feet backwards. She had never really wanted to see Cabramon if she could help it, and around her, she could almost feel the same sentiment from Xander, Peter, and Sam.
To say nothing of Natalie-- and from there, to say even less of Lily...

They were all in this shitshow together.

Somehow, that wasn't comforting.

"You know, I'm not even surprised at this point," Hulimon said, as he was surrounded by cyan light, as Shitomon and Lurumon were consumed by their respective colours in turn.

In a moment, they were replaced with Hokkaimon, Malakhimon, and Himamon-- and of course, it wasn't a moment too soon.

"Kamikaze Dive!" Camazmon laughed like a jackal, her claws glowing as she threw herself straight at the three digimon before they had even finished digivolving up to champion.

"Moon Bomb!" Hokkaimon yelled, leaping backwards while Malakhimon and Himamon took into the air and shot in the other direction, respectively. throwing a glowing orb into the spot where he had just been standing, where it exploded in Camazmon's face like a firecracker.

With the floodgates opened, all hell broke loose as a four-on-three fight commenced-- but as evidenced from the fact that the 'three' were only at champion level, it was clear they were holding back, just trying to occupy the four catalyst-evolved digimon.
Ryan, Jen, and Eli made a break for it, not wanting to be smack in the middle of this disaster zone. They beelined for where the other humans were loosely gathered, coalesced around Natalie and Lily, in the dust and the slowly-melting ice left behind by Draugmon.

"Okay, fill me in, here, what the hell did we miss?" Ryan said as he jogged into earshot.

"Draugmon," Natalie said, then she gestured at Lily, "turns out Draugmon is this girl's partner, Raumon catalyst digivolved--"

"Hold on, back up, new girl, what?" Jen interrupted, looking between Natalie and Lily. Lily was staying quiet, her arms folded around herself and her eyes on the ground.

"We'll explain later, once we have any idea," Meghan said, a little bit resigned, a little bit helpless, unable to take her eyes off of the fighting digimon.

"Long story short, shit went to shit, shit's still shit, and then you showed up," Xander filled in.

Eli shrugged. "Can't argue with that." He glanced over at the fight, practically a tangle of digimon trading blows with each other.

Shit had, indeed, gone to shit.
No matter how careful they were trying to be -- and oh, were the trio of angel-dragon, red panda, and fox trying to be careful -- nothing was going to save the fact that the four ultimate-level digimon didn't seem even remotely interested in things like self-preservation, the preservation of their allies, or the preservation of any of the buildings or the street, and if it had been bad when it had just been Draugmon, this was a disaster.

The best the three could do was lob attacks to draw attention and ire whenever things were getting hairy, but as they were outnumbered... well.

"How the hell are we supposed to bring them back down if getting closer is a death sentence?" Peter muttered, placing his hand over his mouth and tapping on his cheek in thought. (He felt significantly less cool-headed than he was acting, and his voice just barely gave this away.)

"We have to figure out something before things get worse," Meghan said, and she was doing a much poorer job of seeming unfazed.

"We're going to have to just try to defeat them," Ryan said, folding his arms; in contrast to the others' varying levels of distress, he sounded far more confident than he probably had the right to be. "It's not safe and we don't have the time to try and bring them down any other way. I bet money only have so long before they're going to start calling in air strikes or something."
That... was a thought they didn't want to contemplate, but what Ryan said immediately next was surprising to everyone but Eli and Jen.
"That sound like a plan?"

"Since when do you even pretend to care?" Xander said, raising an eyebrow. Ryan blanched slightly, apparently not having forgotten that his last interaction with Xander had been his fist.

"I figured it'd be nice to ask," Ryan said coolly, taking a slightly defensive half-step backwards and he shrugged. "But I mean, if you'd rather let them run wild, I mean, that's on you, I guess."

Peter picked up the conversational thread instead. "I'd rather we don't," he said slowly, shaking his head, "but I think they're going to pose a bigger threat to themselves if we don't."
Practically on cue, Camazmon, gripping Himamon's tail in her jaws, smashed into a building, sending rubble and concrete crumbling down on where Malakhimon was occupying Onryomon's attention below her, at street level. Hokkaimon, tasked with occupying both Grimmon and Cabramon, was weaving in and out, ducking and weaving and throwing glowing orbs left and right, trying to luring them into attacking each other. Really, though, his primary intention was just to avoid taking the brunt of both their attacks.

"We--" Meghan said, clenching her hands into fists. The idea of willingly agreeing to see her partner, even her partner like this, be hurt, wasn't one she wanted to even consider, but... Right now, trying to intervene by themselves was a bit too dangerous. "... yeah."

Sam nodded slowly, his lips pressed tightly together, and Xander -- after a moment -- followed suit.

Natalie furrowed her brow and heaved a heavy sigh. She looked over at Lily, who had barely said a word since Draugmon had de-digivolved, but said nothing herself.
She was wondering if she hadn't done the wrong thing by calling for backup.

"Try to bring them down!" Ryan yelled, cupping his hands over his mouth; he had to trust that not only Malakhimon but the other digimon as well had heard him, because they were a tad too busy to give explicit affirmation.

Their digimon, though, seemed to get the message-- because the street filled up with brilliant light, and as though by instinct, for at least a moment, the ultimate level digimon flinched away from the light. Camazmon dropped Himamon, Grimmon and Cabramon both leapt backwards from Hokkaimon, and Onryomon drew her hands back from Malakhimon like someone pulling their hands away from a hot stove.

"Malakhimon, conduction evolve to... Eudaemon!"

"Himamon, conduction evolve to... Shaolimon!"

"Hokkaimon, conduction evolve to... Yokaimon!"

"Eighteen Paw Strike!" Shaolimon cried, leaping up to give a bit of payback to Camazmon in the form of an uppercut. Her claws glowed bright gold for mere moments as she delivered a series of lightning-fast spiked-knuckle punches at the peak of her jump. She wasn't able to relax; Cabramon charged forward, hooking the red panda on his curved horns as the red panda alighted on the ground once more, only to take the brunt of Yokaimon's claws after making the mistake of turning his back. Eudaemon created a spear of brilliant light to fend Onryomon off, only to leave herself open to Grimmon's claws.

It was... not better, honestly, because it had turned into a proper free-for-all, with the conduction-evolved digimon switching targets practically at whim. Keeping track of which digimon was where was enough of a hassle. Luckily, once the three had turned it up a notch, it couldn't last forever.

"Obsidian Spire!"

"Ruby Oculus!"

Cabramon raised a twisted spike of glass and rock from the ground, only to have it shattered by Eudaemon's scarlet beam of energy a moment later; Camazmon threw herself at Yokaimon in a full-body tackle, only to go smashing into the ground. The fox had vanished in a puff of blue smoke, reappearing unharmed a moment later, only to recieve the brunt of Onryomon's Ivory Viper tail-blade right between the ribs.

"Dragon's Breath!" Shaolimon yelled, taking a swig of alcohol from a cask she pulled out of thin air before spitting a stream of golden flames right in Grimmon's face. The hellhound growled low and reared back, the golden flames mingling with her acid-green ones, and Shaolimon followed up immediately by rushing in for a melee attack. "Eighteen Paw Strike!"

"Purge the Wicked!" Eudaemon cried, a blindingly-bright spear appearing in her hands. She surged forward with a flap of her wings, locking her weapon with Cabramon's horns.

"Chimera Focus!" Cabramon spat through grit teeth, the red beams from all nine of his eyes coverging the mere feet in front of him on a focal point of Eudaemon. The beam practically exploded; the angel digimon kicked off the ground and leapt backwards into the air, but the force knocked Cabramon back as well, sending him skidding down the street towards the humans.

Eudaemon lifted into the air, and she hurled her light-spear at Cabramon. It struck true, sinking into Cabramon's side, and he roared with pain-- and began to glow bright orange, a light that consumed the spear and seemed to practically dissolve it as he began to shrink.
Natalie reached out to keep Meghan from running forward to retrieve Oremon, as she had seemingly instinctively begun to throw herself forward to do so. (Natalie could hardly say she blamed her, as she had done basically the same thing not that long ago.)

Not far away, Camazmon was trying, with reckless abandon, to lunge at Yokaimon; the fox kept vanishing into blue smoke, allowing Camazmon's inertia to be her own downfall as the bat crashed into walls and the street. She didn't seem to be bothered by it, laughing like a horrifying, deranged hyena the entire time.

"God, even I find this giddy shit annoying, and you've seen my face," Yokaimon muttered to himself, his paws beginning to glow white-blue. "Moon Claw!" he cried, reappearing behind Camazmon before she could turn around and slashing hard. Camazmon continued laughing manically, even as a deep blue light began to overtake her.

"Why the hell are our digimon so much weaker than theirs," Natalie muttered out loud, frowning. It didn't seem to just be the fact that Ryan and company had showed up late, after the digimon had been a bit worn out by dealing with Draugmon and chasing Ratamon, but it seemed like it took so much less effort for them to take their digimon down when they put effort into it.

Peter, though, sook his head. "They're plenty strong." He looked around at all the damage they had done, and sighed through his nose. "It's not an issue of power. It's that they're just out of control."

As if to illustrate this point, they looked over to where Shaolimon was being ganged up on by Onryomon and Grimmon. Believe you her, she was not having a particularly fun time, but she was making do, ducking and weaving to avoid Grimmon's fire and Onryomon's gripping dead hands.

"Black Metal!" Grimmon snarled, swiping out at Shaolimon with pitch-black metal claws, and the red panda deftly leapt backwards, procuring a keg of liquor from thin air.

"Dragon's Breath!"

A stream of golden flames escaped Shaolimon's mouth, mingling with Grimmon's green, causing the hellhound to rear back and snarl in pain. Onryomon was preparing to strike like a snake, but--

"Ruby Oculus!" Eudaemon announced, red energy shooting in a beam from the focus she created between her hands, and though it seemed to be a beam of light, her attack knocked Onryomon off-track, drawing the naga-ghost's attention away from Shaolimon.
Shaolimon nodded her thanks to her ally, her paws settling back down on uneven, cracked ground.

Grimmon was not amused at being attacked, so she charged ahead, whether or not Shaolimon was ready. "Hellfire!"

Shaolimon, though she wasn't really ready for it, didn't waste a moment righting herself and throwing herself at Grimmon. "Eighteen Paw Strike!" The moment before she impacted the hellhound, though, she feinted, side-stepping to the side, rapid hits of her claws striking Grimmon's side instead.

Grimmon wrenched her metal mouth open as she was sent tumbling to the side by a charged swipe of Shaolimon's tail. She was quick to get back on her feet, growling low and prepared to retaliate. "Black Metal!" she snarled, her claws scraping horribly against the ground as she ran forward.

Shaolimon's claws flashed gold as she lunged forward, meeting Grimmon's metal claws with her own bare hands. Deflecting the paw that Grimmon had lifted to slash out with with a brush of her hand, she smashed the other hand underneath Grimmon's chin in a hard uppercut, sending the hound tumbling backwards. Before she even hit the ground, she was beginning to glow green, and not just from the fire around her neck.

"Ivory Viper."

A white blade of energy shot straight into Shaolimon's side, sliding between her ribs like a dagger and she stumbled to the side.

Onryomon had realized she was quickly growing outnumbered (as if her allies had ever been much of a boon in this shitshow), but she had kept her cool, firing off attacks left right and center while twisting her body in serpentine ways to avoid attacks from Yokaimon, throwing out blades of energy from her tail every few seconds in every direction.
Yokaimon, though, was only keeping her occupied; Eudaemon had risen a short distance for a better vantage point under the cover of the fox's distraction.

"Purge the Wicked!"

The angel digimon's light spear came hurling out of the sky like a lightning bolt, hitting Onryomon squarely.
An unearthly banshee's keen rose into the air for a split second as the ghost-naga digimon's body slumped backwards, and then the light of Eudaemon's spear was lost as Onryomon herself began to glow pure white as well.

Eudaemon drifted slowly back down, Yokaimon and Shaolimon flanking her on either side as the street went quiet for the second time that night.

Four digimon lay unconscious up and down the street; two more digimon were unconscious, minimized in D-Rives; three more digimon stood triumphant but exhausted, and a moment later, consumed by red, yellow, and cyan light, they shrunk down to their rookie forms.

As the humans ran forward to their respective partners, Shitomon fell to her knees, breathing heavily. "That takes more out of you than you expect it to," she said, wiping at her face with the back of her paw. She hoped that neither Hulimon nor Lurumon noticed that she was wiping away forced-back tears borne of some very mixed emotions.
Both of them did, but neither said anything.

***

A few minutes later, all nine humans had done their best to escape the scene of the incident. Without evidence of the digimon nearby to pin them, and the police's reluctance to draw close immediately (after all, there had been a momentary lull between Draugmon and the second wave, and see how well that would have gone), they were able to get away.

A short -- and slightly terse -- discussion led to the conclusion that they were going to go, as an entire nine-person group, to Ryan's apartment. They couldn't just part ways, but nobody really wanted to have big conversations out in the open. They wanted to be somewhere where they could let their digimon back out if they had to, and somewhere they could talk without being overheard, and that left Xander and Ryan's apartments; Xander declined to offer his apartment for use, so Ryan's place it was.
(It also had the other advantage of the most people -- Ryan, Eli, Jen, and Natalie -- knowing where to go without further instruction.)

Lily was staying just barely apart from everyone, just slightly behind and to the side. Ryan, Eli, and Jen were mostly keeping to themselves, as well, but at the very least, it seemed that everyone knew that now was not the time for anyone to go running off on their own.
(It was hard to say if it helped that Xander and Peter both loudly threatened to punch anyone who tried to run off, but it didn't hurt.)

Meghan and Sam were helping Natalie walk, letting her drape her arms over their shoulders; once the adrenaline had worn off distracting her from the pain, the cold burn on her leg was going to need first aid at the very least. She was lucky. They could hear ambulances and sirens go off now that the area was being searched for people who had been injured.
The news tomorrow was going to be fucking fascinating, but worse than that was the conversation that was coming sooner than later.

They were going to have... a lot to talk about.

EPISODE 21: CONNECTION INTERRUPTED

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