Episode 14: Pestilence

Even without the obvious literal freezing effects of the -- well, presumably it was a digimon -- before them, the entire group felt like they were frozen in place as the enormous monster began to close the distance between them.
For some reason, nobody wanted to be the first one to throw the first (metaphorical) stone at it.

Actually, that's a bald-faced lie. There was one digimon who was absolutely first in line to throw the first stone.

Frekimon glanced sidelong at her allies, and she snorted. "Anyone mind telling me what the hell we're waiting for?" she said, and the green flames around her wrists flared up. She launched herself forward, teeth grit and lip curled. "Ravenous Hunter!" she cried, closing the distance between her and the giant digimon in a few simple bounds--

The giant skull-faced digimon stopped walking forward, and focused its white-fire eyes on Frekimon rushing towards it. It raised one massive paw, icy energy beginning to swirl around the claws that were already carved out of ice. It made a hissing noise, presumably calling its attack. As Frekimon closed in, it swiped out at her, pre-empting her before she was about to connect.

She went down like a sack of potatoes. The icy claws dragged through her flesh, tearing huge bloody gashes that they could see even at a distance; she was thrown to the side by the force of the swipe, tumbling inelegantly into a light post. For a split second, she seemed to begin to glow as though she was about to de-digivolve, but through sheer determination, she managed to maintain her form, and the faint glow died back down.

Two things happened: first, Sam flung himself forward, the fact that he was running towards a giant death monster be totally damned. "Frekimon!"

"Hey--!" Meghan yelled, reaching out after Sam, but she accomplised nothing by doing so-- not least of all because Ibexmon put a hoof in front of her to keep her from rushing forward.

The second thing, though:

"Hurricane Blitz!"

Corymon launched herself forward, swirling winds beginning to whip around her. This immediately caught the strange digimon's attention; Corymon pulled up before she collided with it, the sphere of whipping wind energy continuing on its trajectory, while Corymon swooped overhead.

Even though it took the attack squarely in the face, it seemed to have no effect. The skull-faced digimon craned its neck to follow Corymon, as though her Hurricane Blitz had been nothing more than a stiff breeze.

As the skeletal-faced digimon moved its head to follow Corymon, icy mist began to pour out of its jaws. It swirled around and upwards, solidifying into razor-sharp icicles that floated over its shoulders. The tips followed Corymon as she swooped past, as though they were homing-locked on her.

"Oh, dicks," Corymon muttered through grit teeth.

The digimon hissed a rattling noise again. Corymon could swear it sounded something like "Hypothermia" -- but she didn't have much time to contemplate what its attacks were called, as those massive icicles shot at Corymon at high speed as though shot from a cannon. She quickly feinted, allowing herself to drop out of the sky a few dozen feet.
For not the first time, her ducking away from an attack instead led said attack to sail past, dealing damage to the building behind her. The icicles smashed the windows of the building and took out a chunk of the wall, but, frankly, she'd rather break a window or six than take that hit head-on.

"What the fuck are you doing!?" Xander yelled, cupping his hands over his mouth.

"Great question!" Corymon yelled back, rising back up into the air. "Hadn't really thought that far ahead yet!"

Back down on the ground, Frekimon was gritting her teeth and cringing with pain as Sam ran up to her.
"That thing hits like a goddamn truck," she spat, wincing as she attempted to pick herself up. "You should get back to the others, before you get hurt," she said, glancing at Sam.

He didn't say anything, merely gave her a raised-eyebrow glance, and she chuckled, shaking her head.

"Point taken, but still. Even if we were weakened by the bullshit with the garbage patrol," she meant Raremon, Vegiemon, and Weedmon, "there's no way it should be able to do that with one hit unless it's an ultimate. You should get back to safety. Get back to the others. Tell birdy boy, he'll know what it means."
She left him with those words, getting back to her feet and steeling herself. Despite her wounds, she charged forward again, though the flames around her wrists seemed to flicker a little bit weaker than they had before.

He wasn't quite sure what to make of her summation or what that implied. It didn't help that nobody else was privy to this information, and as a result, the other digimon were throwing themselves towards the skull-faced digimon.

Ibexmon was first, and he surged forward, bowing his head and preparing to headbutt; Banshemon's apprehension was apparent, but not enough to stop her from flying forward and summoning her white spirits around her. Hokkaimon leapt deftly forward, nimbly landing on and springing off of a lamp post and Himamon rushed forward on all fours; Malakhimon held back for a moment, only a moment. She cast a look at Raumon, brow furrowed and a frown on her mouth, before she kicked into the air, her wings spreading behind her.


Admittedly, this hadn't been part of the plan, but at this point, Ratamon was kind of playing it by ear. After all, he was riding high on a bit of a rush-- finally, after months of running around and bullshit, he had finally found that stupid catalyst. He could already feel the cracks start to widen, and that was just his own perception. It wasn't even accounting for the fact that...

Well, Draugmon was proof enough, right? It was an ultimate level! That alone would have been just about impossible without the connection strengthening-- or, at least, ones crossing over would have been. He couldn't say he was sure he knew if the same rules applied to those weird induced evolutions, but considering that none of them had managed it...

He looked down at the little purple device he held in his claws; he turned it over, and looked at the little plague-doctor mask charm hanging from one end.

He supposed he had better give it back before he crossed back over. Not that he wouldn't be back, but after all, he had said he'd give it back, and he wasn't about to make a liar out of himself.
(Any more than usual, anyway.)


The simple fact that everyone except for Banshemon had already been involved in the fight with Raremon couldn't account for how badly this was going. No matter what attacks they fired off, it seemed that none of them seemed to do as much as put a scuff mark on the huge skull-faced digimon; they had to constantly interrupt attacks and had no time to strategize. They had all seen how easily Frekimon had been taken down by a direct blow; none of them wanted to be next, and that meant that far too much of their time was spent simply trying to avoid the swipes of claws and the barrages of icicles.

"So, thinking I'm not going to be breaking anyone's hearts here," Sam said as he came running back to the cluster of humans, "if I say we're totally fucking screwed and ought to consider bailing."

"We can't!" Meghan said, looking frantically over at the digimon; Ibexmon practically threw himself to the side to avoid an oncoming swipe of the massive digimon's paw, trying and failing to find an opening to headbutt, and when Corymon tried to swoop in to take a stab with her tail in the window afforded by it missing Ibexmon, she only narrowly avoided getting thrown by the paw's way back up.

"I don't know what it means," Sam continued, looking to Raumon, "but Frekimon said something about it being an-- ultimate? She said Raumon'd know what it meant."

Raumon's brow furrowed in deep thought; he didn't say anything, but he tapped his chin, trying to think-- which wasn't easy, considering how loud their surroundings were.

Sirens filled the air in between the crashes and roars and shattering of concrete happening far-too-close; if they strained their ears, they could almost hear what they assumed were helicopters, though whether they were news choppers or something far more aggressive was going to have to go unanswered for now.

"Meghan's right, though," Natalie confirmed, nodding at Meghan. "We're the only ones that can actually do anything, we can't just--"

"It's not really you, is it?" Ryan cut in rudely, looking pointedly at Raumon. He, with Eli and Jen behind him, had closed the distance between the groups; Natalie felt the frustration and rage start to bubble up in her in record time. "I mean, more than the fact that this is kind of your digimon's fault in the first place, you're not really part of it, Nat. Why is your digimon the only one who isn't fighting?"

Raumon instinctively put himself between Natalie and Ryan, glaring even if he knew he couldn't really do anything. "I don't appreciate the implied accusation," he said.

"You can't deny it is kind of suspicious, ya know," Jen said with a shrug of one shoulder, before she started counting points off on her fingers. "I mean, you came in late, you're like, the de facto leader of your little refugee squad, and you're the only one who's holdin' back--"

A little white streak crashed the party, not stopping amongst them but brushing past Raumon and the legs of more than one of the humans as it passed. Left unceremoniously at Natalie's feet was her D-Rive, open to the glitched-out radar.

"Ratamon!" Raumon yelled, looking around for where the little white digimon had gone; he caught a glance of him atop a bent light post, curiously watching the fight up the street and (seemingly) paying no mind to the cluster of humans (and Raumon) turning to see him.

Seemingly, anyway; he glanced over his shoulder, and grinned.

"Thanks for the help!" he chirrupped, just barely audible, before he took off like a bolt, ascending a building with lightning quickness and darting out of sight.

"Goddammit," Peter hissed while Natalie immediately dropped down to pick up and inspect her digivice. She looked at it-- one word was visible on the screen.

"I'm going to take a wild guess in the dark here," Jen said, rubbing her nose, "that that's why birdy-boy wasn't gettin' in on the action."

"Why am I not surprised!?" Ryan yelled, turning his palms up to the sky and rolling his eyes in exasperation.

"Yeah, gotta admit, this really isn't helping your case," Eli said, rubbing the back of his head.

The mixed confusion, frustration, and exasperation on everyone's faces, from Natalie to Sam, was practically picture-esque.
"You know, this would go a lot faster," Xander said, taking a half-step towards Ryan, "if you'd stop fucking treating us like we're stupid for not knowing what you keep refusing to tell us!"

"Is this really the time," Peter said, quietly enough that Xander couldn't hear him, but Natalie still felt the sickening drop in her stomach, of hoping that maybe things would be able to be smoothed over.
(She had kind of been hoping that when she had come to talk to Peter earlier, and she can't say she was surprised but..)

"Could we maybe focus on the giant monster instead of this?" Natalie said, gesturing hopelessly at the fight, which had long since devolved from a fight proper into an effort to keep the giant monster -- Draugmon -- occupied.

With swipes of its massive icy claws and barrages of icicles, even though it couldn't focus on any one digimon for too long at a time, it seemed to have no trouble handling them; the attacks lobbed seemed like gentle shoves at best and stiff breezes at worst, but at least it was staying contained. Police were yelling for them to clear the area, that they had called in reinforcements, they had been authorized to use force--

"What exactly are we going to do from back here?" Ryan snapped, gesturing at the wreckage of the street. "I think this is a perfectly acceptable use of our time here! You're in cahoots with the squirrel from hell, so I'd say this probably is pretty soundly on you!"

"We're not in cahoots with him," Sam said, furrowing his brow, as Xander added:

"Who the fuck even says in cahoots with!?"

"If he borrowed your D-Rive and then this happened," Jen said, ignoring Xander's outburst, "then, you know, put two and two together?"

"He didn't borrow it," Raumon said, puffing up, "he stole it!"

"Because you were friendly enough with him to not be suspicious of him," Ryan said quickly, shrugging his shoulders dismissively. "Say whatever you want, it's not going to change--"

"Are you really so petty," Natalie blurted, "that you're going to stand here pointing fingers at me when people are in danger!?"

"You can call it pointing fingers all you want, but that doesn't change what happened. It's still on you, isn't it?"

"Oh my god," Natalie groaned, dragging one hand through her hair and balling it into a fist in frustration. Eli and Jen looked at each other wordlessly, while Ryan, in front of them, folded his arms, standing resolute.

"We should bail," Sam said, turning to Natalie. "Before any of our digimon get hurt. I don't know what the police or whoever else they call in can do, but it can't be any less than the good we're doing, and frankly, I'd rather our partners don't die."

"You're perfectly content to leave Shitomon and Hulimon and Lurumon to pick up your messes, huh?" Ryan said, putting his hands in his pockets and frowning. "Typical."
Jen and Eli exchanged looks with each other again, but neither said anything.

Sam, for his part, looked at the ground, muttered something about I wasn't talking to you but thanks, and then went tight-lipped-- but luckily, there was a loudmouth present who could speak for all of them.

"Holy shit, I think I hate you even more than I hate the hipster fuck," Xander said, raising an eyebrow at Ryan and jerking a thumb at Peter to indicate that he was, in fact, the hipster fuck.
Peter was in the middle of opening his mouth to say something to the tune of boy, don't I feel flattered, but it died in his throat when Xander took another step towards Ryan, reared back, and decked him in the face, sending the douchey sunglasses perched on his head flying.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing!?" Peter yelled instead of the snide comment he was about to make.

"Don't you fuckin' dare!" Xander snapped, gritting his teeth. "You of all people have no fucking place to say shit to me--"

Ryan came right back swinging, and Xander cut himself off to feint to the side and keep the punch aimed right for his stomach from landing. It half-worked, Ryan's fist grazing him, but Ryan followed through by slamming his elbow right into Xander's ribs instead.

"Oh my god, oh my god!" Meghan said, digging her fingers into her hair and clearly beginning to panic-- and the fact that at that moment, Ibexmon was practically thrown into a parked car just down the road didn't help.

"Dude!" Eli yelled, though it was hard to tell if he was yelling at Ryan or at Xander as the two of them began to exchange blows.

"I can fight now," Raumon said, quietly, looking up at Natalie. "I'm going to go in."

"Are you sure?" Natalie said, frowning as she looked at the hopeless fight up the street, back to the fruitless fight with Draugmon happening there, and back down to Raumon, not sure which to look at.

Raumon nodded solemnly, and without another word, he took off running down the street towards Draugmon, who was laying waste not only to the street, but to his allies and his enemies alike. The little bird began to glow purple.

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

Doctorimon's boots pounded a rhythm on the ground; despite all the chaos around him, he focused on the steady beat of his steps, focusing only on what was in front of him.
Hokkaimon went skidding backwards past him as he ran, thrown by a swipe of the strange digimon's paw; the fox's coat slipped off his shoulders, but he held tight to his bag as he skidded backwards, half-frostbitten gashes visible across his back even as he was thrown like a skipping-stone.

Behind him, he could tell that the fight was just as lively behind him as it was in front.
He wondered if he shouldn't turn around and try to break up that fight, or if he'd just make things worse.

He also wondered if he wasn't just going to be making things worse by getting involved in the fight with this thing. Sam had said that Frekimon had said that it was probably an ultimate-- they hadn't had to deal with anything higher than a champion, lately.
(He wondered, all of a sudden, why he had never considered the possiblity before-- it felt almost like the very existence of higher levels had just struck him, sliding back into his memory-- like something slid back into position by someone who had hoped that nobody would notice its absence.)

Back with the humans, a concentrated effort -- Meghan and Natalie on Xander, Eli and Jen on Ryan -- had pulled the two human combatants apart. Peter had resigned that trying to get involve would likely complicate things even more, and Sam was a few steps away, distancing himself with his hands in his pockets and his attention on the digimon in lieu of the throwdown.

"Our problem isn't with them, dude," Eli was saying, but Ryan pulled his arm away, rolling his shoulder and glowering at nobody in particular.

"Well they're pretty intent on making themselves our problem! I mean, only god knows how much shit Natalie's chatted about me--"

"Oh, don't worry, I hate you entirely based on your own merits," Xander said with a joyless smirk as he wiped away a bit of blood from his mouth with the back of his hand-- one of Ryan's punches had led to him accidentally biting the inside of his mouth hard enough to bleed, nothing major.

"I haven't chatted shit," Natalie said, furrowing her brow, and she felt the frustration starting to reach a breaking point. She had thought that maybe they could get things under control--
(Maybe she shouldn't have come at all, maybe she should have just let everyone else take care of this--)

As Doctorimon rushed into close enough range with Draugmon to make his move, Corymon fell out of the air as an icicle tore clean through the membrane of her wing.

"FACE OF JUDGEMENT!" Doctorimon yelled, surprising himself with his own volume. He leapt into the air, flourished his staff as he slashed it through the air, the red jewel at its tip beginning to glow.
Black flames poured out of the mouth of the judging face, flying through the air in an arc that followed the path of the staff's tip.

The dark flames at least caught Draugmon's attention, though that wasn't saying much. As Doctorimon's feet hit the ground again, the skull-faced digimon focused its eyes on the little plague doctor before it--

"Doctorimon!" Banshemon cried-- she was trying to pull her arm free of the concrete, where her arm was pinned by an icicle as thick as a lamp post-- one of the same barrage that had downed Corymon. Close by, Ibexmon was trying to stand on a badly-injured foreleg, and Frekimon looked like she was missing the better part of an ear and had massive gashes running along her sides and back. Himamon had been thrown into a building, and was trying to extracate herself from the debris.
Malakhimon, overhead, was the only one still on her feet (so to speak), and even she had stopped, flapping to hold her place in the air steady, to see what was going on on the ground.
Draugmon lifted an icy claw, preparing to attack Doctorimon.

You probably could have healed them, he realized too late. Face of Judgement-- if he had chosen to use the mourning face instead of the judging face, he could have -- if not undone the damage, he could have at least have helped his allies. But you didn't, he told himself.

Just like last time--

In that moment, the very instant that he had that thought, a purple light began to consume Doctorimon. It started at the tips of his sleeves and boots alike, creeping up his limbs like circuits-- or maybe like veins, as while they started geometric, they quickly branched out into a more ambling, organic form.
Curiously, Draugmon recoiled its claw, releasing a horrible hissing noise that may have been a noise of fear; it was kind of hard to tell.

Back among the humans -- still arguing -- Natalie's D-Rive began to screech for the second time today. It was a familiar enough noise by this point, but it still stopped every human in their tracks.
It didn't stop nearly as quickly as it had every other time before.

"Oh, fuck," Natalie blurted, as she had the distinct feeling that might not be a good thing.

In the space between the purple light, a black glow began to emanate from Doctorimon's body, if something black could be said to glow. Doctorimon snapped his head up just before the black glow fully consumed him, and the holes in his mask for his eyes had filled with purple light.

And it was becoming apparent very, very quickly that something here was going very, very wrong.

Doctorimon began to make an unearthly noise of his own-- like the cry of a dying bird, rasping and pained. It began to distort, rising in pitch and becoming more staticky and unnatural until it was difficult to tell the difference between the screech of Natalie's D-Rive and the noise that Doctorimon was making.
After a moment, it was hard to tell if the glitchy screech was Doctorimon, or Natalie's D-Rive-- or both, melding into a high-pitched digital grinding, the very sound of an error.

They could almost make out garbled words.

"Doctorimon, catalyst evolve to--!"

The black glow grew into an orb of light that surrounded his body, and from there it grew quite a bit larger. It shifted and glitched as though the light couldn't quite hold on to where they were supposed to be. The purple streaks shifted, disappeared, and reappeared at random, flashing different colours for a split second before returning to their original violet hue. The sphere suddenly split apart like it was being sheared, and the paradoxical black glow began to fade.

What was left was...

Well. It was a lot more bestial than Doctorimon had been. In some ways, he looked much more like Raumon, but much larger-- and much worse.

He was once more a bird-like creature, with black feathers all over, an angular tail, a simple white plague doctor's mask, and feathery ears. It was unmistakably Raumon, which made the points of divergence worse.
He looked kind of like a vulture, with an unnaturally long neck. He had very little apparent muscle mass; his skin and feathers clung to his bones, leaving his ribs and spine plain to see. Stained bandages were wrapped around his neck, around the beak of his mask-like face, and around his raptor-like feet. It looked at first glance like he had wings, but a second glance would reveal that these were just long, tattered black sleeves, not apparently connected to any garment, cloth merely growing out of his shoulderblades and falling down his arms.

Greyish marks, like tear-tracks, ran down his face from his eyes, and a strange black gunk seeped from where his mask met his face, trailing down and dripping from the underside of the mask itself.

His white pupils constricted as the glow faded away, and he spread out his arms, flexing his claws. He moved in a way that was unnatural and awkward, at once both stiff and jerky yet disturbingly fluid.

"IlDoctorimon!" he hissed, his voice cracking and raspy.

He rose up to his new full height -- fifteen feet, so still dwarfed considerably by the towering Draugmon, but still far more imposing than he had been a few moments prior.

And by the time he had finished transforming, Natalie was already running foward.

"Raumon?" she yelled, feeling her heart drop into her stomach as she ran. Nothing about this had inspired confidence-- even when he had first digivolved to Doctorimon, it hadn't seemed anything like this. "Raumon?!"

"Human! Get back!" Hokkaimon yelled, forcing himself to his feet, and it was quickly apparent why he advised she stay back.

"Ashes to Ashes!" IlDoctorimon crowed, opening his mouth despite the bandages wrapped around his beak. He tossed his head, spilling a stream of black flames-- not just at Draugmon, but into the air at Malakhimon, and even at the digimon who had been sidelined from the battle as well. He didn't seem to care for friend or foe, casting black fire in a veritable wave in every direction in front of him.

"Hey, birdy boy! What are you doing!?" Corymon yelled, trying to kick into the air but having no luck, and having to jump to the side to avoid a blast of black fire.
However, Draugmon actually seemed to respond to this attack, growling as it took a heavy half-step backwards-- while it wasn't much, it was more effect than any of the champion-level digimon had managed to elicit. Icy mist began to pour out of Draugmon's jaws, and it shook its shoulders-- almost like it was laughing.

IlDoctorimon clearly didn't appreciate this; he lunged forward, slashing at the exposed flesh of Draugmon's arms. His claws struck true, tearing through half-frozen tendons and causing Draugmon to roar in pain, slashing out wildly with the paw that hadn't been attacked. IlDoctorimon couldn't move in time to avoid the attack, and he was knocked backwards. He stumbled to a stop, rearing back up to his full height in an uncomfortably fluid motion, and he didn't so much as hesitate before coming right back.

"Ashes to Ashes!" he cried again, but the black flames from before hadn't yet died out-- as he spewed more and more of them, they simply added to the fire that was there before, which was beginning to spread to the buildings nearby.
Because, you know, what we needed with all of this cold-cracked concrete and icicles pinning down his allies, clearly, the solution would be to set some shit on fire!

It had a side-effect, in addition to setting a fire-- one by one, the digimon caught in the fire began to glow with the light of de-digivolution. Frekimon, Corymon, Banshemon, Ibexmon, and Himamon all shrank back down to their respective rookie levels; Hokkaimon, who had hung back, was in no state to rush forward, as he was uneasy on his feet as it was.

Malakhimon was presumably the only one left at champion level-- and she was nowhere to be seen overhead, hidden by the quickly-gathering plumes of smoke.

The other humans still hanging back ran closer; Sam and Meghan had taken off running first, though Xander, Peter, and Jen were hardly a half-a-second behind. Eli stopped next to Hokkaimon, who de-digivolved back to Hulimon with a great sigh of exhaustion, and Ryan, his partner being in the apparent least danger, hung back a little bit.

Draugmon growled and rushed forward at IlDoctorimon, who met it, leaping forward with a feral keen and slashing out at Draugmon and grappling with the larger digimon. This was the cover that they needed-- kind of.

"I donno about you all, but I'm not waiting around for either of them to attack again, thanks," Jen said, speaking as though she was just talking to herself but looking pointedly at Natalie, before she ran forward towards the rubble where Lurumon was using her newly-shrunken form to extricate herself.

The others followed suit-- rushing forward to where their partners had fallen, and they were aiming to do exactly one thing: minimize their partners before anything went wronger. (Sam, in particular, was holding down the button on his D-Rive the entire run over to where Gelermon was; he was apparently testing its range, and it was only a matter of meters.)
This was no easy task; IlDoctorimon's black flames were spreading, and spewing an even blacker smoke as buildings and overturned cars alike began to catch fire, making the area not only a hazard, but hard to see in. Behind her, Natalie could see a flash of cyan light as even Hulimon was re-absorbed into the safety of his partner's D-Rive.

Natalie, though, couldn't very well follow suit, and had only one thing she could think to do.

"Raumon!" she cried, cupping her hands over her mouth. "What are you doing!?"

IlDoctorimon ignored her yet again.

Draugmon had been emitting the icy mist from its jaws for quite some time, now, and over time, it had been coalescing into more and more icicles floating over its head, ready for the firing-- and that time was now. Draugmon snarled, releasing the spray of icicles, laser-focused on IlDoctorimon.

For a time, anyway, as IlDoctorimon was ready to retaliate, for a given value of retaliate.

"Black Shroud!" he yelled, slashing one hand through the air. His talons seemed to cut into the air as though they were ripping through fabric, and from the tears left in his claws' wake, black blades of energy surged forth.
They flew forward, crashing into the icicles before they had the chance to hit him. Instead, the icicles burst into much smaller, sharper shards, which exploded all around-- and at far greater radius.

What this meant was that every human who had run forward to get their digimon -- even though every one of them was scattering to get out of the line of fire as quickly as they could-- was in range for an icy spray of razor-sharp shards of ice, and got them they did.
The ice crystals cut through clothing and sliced jagged cuts into bare flesh; they didn't quite have the force to sink in with a direct hit, but that didn't mean they didn't leave a mark; even the ones that didn't leave bloody scrapes were certain to raise welts and even bruises.

So, you know.

This was fine.

(This was extremely not fine.)

"Hey!" Eli called. "Could you call bird boy off before he makes things even worse?"

"I'm trying!" Natalie yelled back, feeling more than a little helpless. "He's not listening--!"

The backfired attack rained down on Draugmon in its turn as well, slicing through its hide and at least causing enough damage that it stumbled backwards-- backing up into a building and taking out a huge part of the front wall of said building as it did. It righted itself quickly, and it made a noise it hadn't made before, apparently quite put out.

It began to rumble from deep in its chest, and the sound echoed and reverberated as though it was bouncing around inside an empty vessel before it emerged out of Draugmon's throat. As the sound grew in volume, black energy began to swirl around its claws.
IlDoctorimon was raising his claw for another attack when Draugmon reared forwards and slammed its hands down into the earth, palms out, like it was trying to pry open the street.

And the thing was, it kind of worked. Massive cracks spread out from the point of impact, and they spread with lightning precision.

See, these cracks rocketed out underneath everyone's feet-- not just IlDoctorimon's feet, but out under the feet of every human standing nearby, as far back as Ryan.

"What the hell!?" Peter blurted, hissing as he jumped away from the crack under his feet-- and a good thing he did, too. A good thing that nobody was terribly willing to stand still, as Draugmon began to, with a great effort, its claws apart, and the radiating cracks all split open wide.
Out of the earth from within the cracks, frozen hands -- looking mummified by cold -- began to emerge, grasping out at the ankles of the onlookers and IlDoctorimon alike.

The street filled up with panicked yells and sounds of disgust and dismay as the hands seemed quite intent on grabbing a hold of their marks, stretching out to unnatural lengths to grab out with frostbitten fingers.

"Raumon!" Natalie cried again, stumbling backwards frantically and only narrowly avoiding the hand. "Listen to me!"
Xander tried to strike out with one foot to discourage the hand, and only succeeded in only narrowly avoiding its grip, and everyone else that she could see was doing a similar song-and-dance.

IlDoctorimon, though, paid no mind to the humans. Instead, he snapped his attention upwards, and why only became apparent a second later.

"Holy Charge!"

Malakhimon divebombed out of the sky, out of the smoke, in a shining white bolt; encased in white light, she smashed into Draugmon, which wasn't enough to hurt it, but it was enough to distract it-- it pulled its claws up out of the ground, and the moment it did, the cracks slammed shut with incredible force, and it was a profoundly lucky thing that nobody was currently stepping in one, or they'd likely have lost whatever limb was in it when the earth smashed back together.

"There we fuckin' go!" Ryan yelled, cupping his hands over his mouth, but he spoke too soon.

"Black Shroud!" IlDoctorimon yelled, slashing his claws through the air-- and sending an attack at Malakhimon, who was swooping back into the air.

"What is he doing!?" Meghan yelled, scrambling backwards on the ground in an awkward crab-walk from where she had fallen down. "She's trying to help!"

If Natalie's words weren't going to reach IlDoctorimon, Meghan's sure weren't, and that was illustrated when he attacked again.
"Black Shroud!"

"Christ," Ryan hissed, running up beside Natalie. "What the hell did you even do?"

"I didn't do anything!" Natalie snapped back-- she was in no mood to be condescended to.

"What do you call that?" Ryan said, gesturing at IlDoctorimon ignoring Draugmon in order to throw attacks at Malakhimon.

"I don't know!"
It came out sharper than Natalie meant, but her patience was gone. "I don't fucking know, okay, Ryan!? If you could stop being a dick for two seconds and try to help then maybe-- I don't--"
She trailed off, her steam lost after the initial burst, and she looked away.

This was spiralling out of control and fast.
She shouldn't have come-- she shouldn't have tried to go interfere with Peter, she shouldn't have tried to get involved and help out. If she hadn't come then Ratamon wouldn't have stolen her D-Rive, right? And then none of this would have happened, and...

She screwed up her eyes as a couple tears threatened to leak out. The last thing she needed right now was to start crying.

Fuck it, it was happening anyway.

One of IlDoctorimon's black energy blades hit Malakhimon, but his own distraction provided the opportunity for Draugmon to strike out with his claws, smashing a paw swirling with icy energy right into IlDoctorimon's side.

IlDoctorimon was knocked aside by the force of the blow, skidding off to the side and having to scramble to avoid being knocked into a burning building-- but Malakhimon fell to the ground, and she scrambled to right herself before either ultimate had the chance to round on her.

"Malakhimon!" Ryan yelled, reaching out a hand to her.

She looked over her shoulder at her partner, and nodded.

Ryan looked deeply confused, but in his hand, his D-Rive began to glow-- but his didn't make the same infernal screeching noise as Natalie's had.

Red light began to run over Malakhimon's body in a way that looked quite familiar; a crimson glow that started at the tips of her limbs and began to work, circuit-like, up her body. Unlike IlDoctorimon's transformation, though, hers remained geometric and circuit-like, clean and crisp. The negative space between the lines began to glow with a piercing white light, and as she snapped her head up, her eyes filled with that same bright red.

"Malakhimon, conduction evolve to..."

(That hadn't been what Doctorimon had said...)

The light expanded around her, encasing her in a swirling, shining orb. Red streaks raced around her, cutting through the white in high contrast; everything was much cleaner, far less glitchy, than it had been for IlDoctorimon.
Instead of shearing, the orb of light burst apart into pixels not wholly unlike a defeated digimon, and in its wake was a shining whtie shape.

She was smaller than Malakhimon, and more humanoid in shape, though her tail and animal-like haunches emblazoned with red marks stayed similar, and the tan and white fur that covered her body also remained constant. Two feathered white wings flared out behind her back, while a second pair settled, folded, at her waist, almost like tassets. At the highest joint in all four wings was a glossy red jewel-like orb, and the wing-like end of her tail had one as well.
Golden bangles decorated her upper arms and her ankles, which matched the golden armor on her wrists, and the visor, decorated with a cross design, that covered her eyes. A garment not unlike the lower half of a tabard hung around her waist, held in place by a golden chain with more red gems inset. Yet another red jewel was in the middle of her chest, decorating the front of a simple, gauze-like wrap of a garment that was worn over a simple black cropped shirt.

With her new humanoid appearance came long flowing hair, silver in colour and long enough to reach the base of her tail, where -- you guessed it-- a ring of red jewels served as a hair tie. Small ornamental wings decorated either side of her head, and her ears drooped downward, poking out and the same colour as her hair.

"Eudaemon!" she announced as the last of the light faded from her body, and she flared her wings out, her paw-like feet alighting on the wrecked street.

"Another one!?" Sam blurted through grit teeth, clearly frustrated. "Is there anything else we don't know that anyone would like to explain!?"
Between Jen and Eli's slightly baffled reactions, as well as Ryan's more openly shocked one, though they were as in the dark as anyone else.

"Be not afraid," Eudaemon said, her voice confident and calm, and it was hard to resist the thought that she had wanted to say that for a long, long time-- even if just judging by the faint smile on her lips. "You humans will come to no harm."

"Why do I not feel reassured," Peter muttered, pulling himself to his feet with a little bit of difficulty-- he had taken the barrage of ice shards to one leg, and it hurt more than he cared to admit it did. Even so, the humans were in no hurry to stay where they were; all of them who had been caught ahead scrambled back to the backlines, closer to where Natalie and Ryan stood.

"You got this!" Ryan yelled, clenching his fist and gripping his D-Rive tightly.

Eudaemon chanced a glance over her shoulder and nodded once.

IlDoctorimon practically hissed as he got back to his feet, his too-thin ribcage heaving with breath-- and on the other hand, Draugmon stood almost troublingly still, the only thing moving being the msity fog spilling out of its mouth and its pinprick-fire eyes.

Eudaemon was smaller than either other digimon by a large margin -- in fact, she may have been shorter than Ryan, now -- but she composed herself with an unwavering calm even so.
"Purge the Wicked!" she cried out, holding her hands out in front of her. In her hands, a shining spear appeared, its edges blurred by the fact that it seemed to be made of pure light except for the shining ruby set in its blade. Both the higher wings on her back and the ones around her hips flared out, and she leapt into the air, hurling the spear right between Draugmon's eyes.

The direct hit, accompanied by an audible crack as it broke the bone of Draugmon's skeletal face, caused it to rear its head back and release a raspy noise that might have been the dregs of a roar, even as the spear faded away into nothingness. Draugmon stumbled backwards more than a few steps,

"Ashes to Ashes!"

IlDoctorimon seemed still quite focused on -- well, now Eudaemon, regardless of the massive undead ice-monster in front of him, and instead of fanning his flames out, he fired a concentrated stream of the black fire at his now-smaller target.

Natalie averted her eyes, staring down at the cracked concrete below her feet.
This-- this was wrong. Something had gone wrong.

She didn't feel better, knowing that Shitomon (or Malakhimon, or Eudaemon, or whatever she was right now) had managed to pull off the same thing as Raumon had-- that stronger evolution-- but... she hadn't sounded like she was in pain. It hadn't looked as glitchy, or as wrong.
She hadn't lost sight of what she was doing-- she hadn't started acting without regard for anyone around her.

She was still listening to Ryan.

They're like living backup drives for the corruption.


Since she was looking down, she didn't see what was going on until a sudden jolt of surprised noises from the humans prompted her to snap her head up.

In the blink of an eye, Draugmon had vanished.

It hadn't been defeated-- there was no burst of light, no pixels dissipating in the air.
It was simply gone. It was no small feat to hide a twenty-five foot tall ice zombie bear, either-- but there it was. One moment it had been releasing a rattling noise, scratching at its skull face in pain, and then next--

The icy mist still hung in the air where its head had been a moment before, and the sudden rush of hot air replacing the cold was almost painful.

Nobody noticed the tiny white streak bouncing away from rooftop to rooftop.
Possibly because-- there were other things to look at, more than just the sudden disappearance of the monster and the unholy wreckage it had left behind it, like the monsters who were still wreaking ever-more havoc.

"What--?" Eudaemon murmured, looking into the empty space in front of her, but this even momentary distraction was more than she should have afforded.

With a rasping vulture-like screech, IlDoctorimon flung himself at her. He had the distinct advantage of size, and he grabbed her out of where she was flapping in mid-air to slam her into the crumbling remains of the front of a building. She cried out in surprise, attempting to wrest free of the plague doctor monster's grip as he raised a claw, preparing to attack.


For what felt like the millionth time, Natalie found herself screaming her partner's name. She didn't even know what good it would do.

IlDoctorimon's ears twitched, and his grip on Eudaemon against the wall faltered just a tiny bit.

This was more than enough of an opening-- Eudaemon wrested herself free of IlDoctorimon's hand, and she grit her teeth, the gems strewn all across her body beginning to glow with a scarlet light.
"That is enough! Ruby Oculus!" she yelled, throwing her hands out in front of her. The light from the gems gathered into her palms, where it swirled, creating what looked like a small portal, from which a brilliant-red bolt of energy fired, striking right in the middle of IlDoctorimon's chest.

IlDoctorimon stumbled backwards, half from pain and half as though he was being physically pushed by the attack. He crowed loudly, throwing his head back.

For a split second, he seemed to shift in shape-- not back to any familiar form, but to something different, but it happened so quickly that it was impossible to make out the details.

And then a purple-tinted light engulfed him, as he began to shrink back to his rookie form. The black flames on the street and buildings around them started to die down almost immediately as IlDoctorimon was replaced with Raumon, reduced to smouldering ebony embers in a matter of thirty seconds, but the damage they did was left behind.

Eudaemon alighted on the ground, and she was already preparing another shining spear in her hands, a solemn expression on her face.

"Raumon!" Natalie yelled for the final time, stumbling forward across the uneven ground. It wasn't easy going, but she practically slid onto her knees when she came close to her partner.
He was unconscious, but breathing, his feathers ruffled and his body bruised and bloody but mostly intact. Though de-digivolving seemed to at least suppress some of the damage of fighting, as usual, he looked much, much worse for the wear.

"Please move aside," Eudaemon said, her voice even, but there was no enjoyment to be found in her tone. Natalie didn't look up at her, but instead did the exact opposite, picking Raumon up into her arms. "This is for the--"

"Not now, Shitomon."

Ryan was the one to speak-- he had come jogging up after Natalie, though she hadn't noticed him in her single-minded focus on Raumon. Eudaemon turned to look at Ryan incredulously; though her eyes weren't visible thanks to the golden mask over them, she was clearly furrowing her brow.


Ryan shook his head silently, and Eudaemon looked between her partner and Raumon. She opened her mouth and closed it without saying anything, and slowly, the spear of light in her hands dissipated.
So, too, did this form; she began to glow with red-tinged light, and Shitomon stood where Eudaemon had a moment before, and a moment after that, there was no digimon there at all, as Ryan minimized Shitomon into his D-Rive.

And then there was nothing but the gentle wind the sweltering heat of the first day of August, the sirens of police cars and ambulances and fire engines. Ryan said nothing to Natalie as he turned and walked back over to his own allies.

"We'll have other chances, we should get out of here so they can start damage control," he said when Eli and Jen gave him curious looks, but they already understood more or less what his thought process was-- and it was a lot more complicated than that.

Meghan was the first to approach Natalie, who sat with Raumon in her arms on the ground without moving for a few long, quiet, awkward minutes. She had twisted her ankle in all of the chaos, so she didn't move quickly, and she didn't want to kneel down.
"Are you okay?" she asked quietly, placing a hand on Natalie's shoulder.

The hand seemed to shake Natalie out of some kind of reverie, and she heaved a heavy, shaking sigh. She looked around; aside from Meghan having crossed over to her, the three boys were all watching intently, though Xander was with arms crossed and he looked away when he realized he was being looked at.

She said nothing as she pulled her D-Rive back out, and in a flash of purple light, she minimized Raumon, and the first thing she said was:
"Do you still need me to give you a ride back, Peter?"

What else could she really say?


Draugmon whipped its -- his -- head around frantically. He didn't recognize where he was at all-- one moment, he had been in the city, fighting, and the next--
Well. Let it be said that this place was definitely not there.

He was at the bottom of a canyon, it seemed. The sky, far above, was dark and dusty; the city buildings were replaced with jagged walls of grey stone and piles of rubble, cracked concrete replaced with worn-down pebbles and discoloured stone as the only indication that once, a river had run through this, eroding the stone before drying up entirely.
Where the city -- as uncomfortable as it had been for it -- had been noisy and full of life, there was an eery, total stillness to this new environment he found himself in. The only sound was the howling wind whistling far above.

To be fair, neither was particularly pleasant-- his mind was full of nothing but a feral bloodlust-- no. Not bloodlust-- the desire to destroy.

His mind was clouded by the same feral fear that it had been this entire time as he whipped his head around; he would be snorting like a bull if he had breath to snort, and he flung himself at the walls of the canyon, barrelling into them and breaking the rock, tossing his skeletal head and smashing the icicles on his shoulders into the rock. The icicles shattered, obviously, standing no chance against solid rock, but they re-formed, surging out of his body.

It might have hurt, if he had any sensation left.

"Hi! Been a long time since you've been here, huh?"

A too-familiar voice chirped, and Draugmon felt the animal instinct to rip and tear and crush and freeze surge even higher than before. A cloud of icy fog began to emanate out of his jaws, solidifying into icicles above his head, before he even found the source of the voice.

"Hey, hey, hey! Don't attack me! I got you out of that mess! It could have turned out badly, you know, and we can't have that. Try to show a little gratitude, huh?"
Ratamon was so tiny, it would only take one swipe of his claws--

"We've still got a lot of work to do!"

He felt Ratamon leap up onto his face, and then instead of just a little white spot darting in and out of his vision, everything went white altogether.


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