Episode 17: Friends in Low Places

The brief reprieve had come to an end. Luckily, nothing quite so drastic as Draugmon had showed up again; no other ultimate level digimon had reared their heads, to the point where the humans only vaguely remembered the term at all. This, at least, was as close to a relief as anyone was going to get.

It had been just a week since Draugmon's last appearance, and in that time, two digimon incidents had happened-- at least, as far as the group was aware of.

The first had been a large sea-serpent type digimon, aptly named Seadramon, that had appeared in the Harper river one evening about eleven PM one night, and been quickly eliminated-- but it had not been the main squad that had taken care of it.
A couple glitchy, distorted photos were all the evidence there was for the incident at all, but to those who knew what to look for, the two orange shapes of Hokkaimon and Himamon were distinctive enough to make out. (Even if Himamon looked qute bizarre in the few pictures she was in, as her bulky fur was drenched and she looked something like an incredibly large wet cat.)

Even if they weren't a fan of the little side-squad, with all that had happened, nobody was complaining that it had at least been as efficient a dealing-with as it was. Gelermon had remarked that it was clearly only because Ryan and Shitomon hadn't been present, because Shitomon would have stopped to give the Seadramon a moralizing speech, and Sam had found this amusing enough to pass it on to the group.
(It was totally unfair, though, because they had a digimon that was safely in the middle of the river, and -- as their digimon pointed out -- Seadramon was only a champion level.)

The other incident, meanwhile, was much lower key-- a giant red beetle, Kuwagamon, had emerged on the very south side of town smack in the middle of the night, and Banshemon had made quick work of it. It cast quite a stark contrast to the entire group's rookie-level struggle against the not-dissimilar Kabuterimon incident mere months ago.

Both of these digimon incidents had been feral ones, as far as they knew, as opposed to ones with any intentions; both were quick and painless and the mark they left, both on the landscape and in the public perception, was minimal.
This was something to be grateful for; in the intervening days, the coverage, the theorizing, had not stopped. It felt like it was impossible to turn around without a picture of Draugmon or Camazmon in the news, discussion of the damage, even the possibility of Digimon (albeit by the name UDC) was enough to get heads turning and people talking.

(There had been no fatalities, but the helicopter crew had been temporarily hospitalized.)

It was easy to see why it was dominating the city's imagination, but it didn't mean it was something anyone wanted to deal with.

The fact that the incident had been quick and painless did not, however, change the fact that it had still been in the middle of the night. Peter was grateful for the fact that he worked at a coffee shop, because it was only by the grace of willpower and dangerous amounts of caffeine that he was functional right now.

It was fairly dead today, with only him and one other person on the clock, and as many people actually in the shop proper, so he didn't even have the stimulation of a busy day to keep him going. He hissed a profanity through his teeth and only narrowly avoided burning his hand, pulling it away from the heating element that he was trying to clean-- some idiot had left it on, and by some idiot he knew it had probably been him.

"Don't hurt yourself, there."

Peter was considering whether or not he needed to run his hand under water or if he could just power through it, he didn't immediately realize he was being spoken to-- it wasn't the voice of the other guy working, after all, and since he wasn't manning the register right now--

He blinked and looked over his shoulder to see a just-familiar-enough face to go with a just-familiar-enough voice; Jen was leaning at an awkward position on the counter so she could prop her chin on her hands.

"Can I help you?" he asked in his customer service voice, turning around.

"Oh, no, I'm good, the other guy already took my order."
Peter glanced to the side, and noticed his coworker was indeed already working on it.

He vaguely hoped that someone else would come in, or maybe that lightning would strike him. Unfortunately, the air pressure was all wrong for a thunderstorm and the café was having a dead day. Of course he wouldn't be so lucky.

"Do you want something?" he said then, speaking at a much more casual tone that can only be described as a NOT-customer-service voice.

"It's you who's got the little ghost, right?" Jen said, straightforward and with the inflection of someone who already knew the answer to the question she was asking. She was still leaning on the counter. Peter said nothing, and she took that as an affirmative. "You took care of the bug problem last night? I know you and your lot have been kind of trying to keep on top of, you know, the problems that emerge."

Peter frowned, but kept his lips shut tight. He hadn't thought anyone had seen them, seeing as it had been so damn late, but--?

"I was gonna take care of it myself, ya know, but then I saw your--" she paused, not wanting to say digimon, "friend's name on the radar, so I figured you had it pretty well in hand. Didn't want to make it more complicated than it had to be, yeah?"

"Can't say that's what I'd expect," Peter said carefully, raising an eyebrow. "Last I checked, you and your friends were still in the business of trying to get rid of ours."
He felt like he was talking in a really, really stupid code, trying to avoid mentioning digimon by name.
"Not to give you any ideas, but I'd think that if someone was alone, that would be the time to try and pick them off."

"Yeah, well, you know, there's extenuating circumstances," Jen said, lifting and dropping one shoulder. "I mean, I'm guessing that yours hasn't--" she paused as she tried to think of a way to phrase it, "hit the next stage yet, seeing as I haven't heard any more news stories about any more disasters, but I'd rather not risk it just in case you decided to pull out all the stops, yanno?"

What she was saying underneath all that vaguery and insinuation, to be clear, was I figure that Banmon hasn't reached ultimate yet because if she had, it'd have been as big a mess as Raumon and Desmon had; but I still wouldn't want to be the only one taking care of it if I came to confront you and she did reach ultimate then and there.

Peter's coworker dropped Jen's drink on the counter, and she stood up straight as she took it in hand.
"Or at least, that's Ryan's explanation for why he hasn't made any moves, anyway," she said. "Lurumo--" she paused, catching herself, "my friend's got her own reasons, yeah? I kinda follow her logic, and I'm not gonna try arguing it with her."

Peter sighed through his nose. He was currently adjusting a stack of paper cups idly so that he had a reason to continue standing near the counter instead of going back to cleaning.
"Do you have a point you intend to make, or are you just here to antagonize me?"

"Well, hey, don't be self-centered-- mostly I just wanted coffee," she said, holding up her cup with a smile, "but you know. Little bit of all of the above, yeah?"

Peter sighed through his nose and shook his head. Jen waved over her shoulder as she walked out, and Peter drummed his fingers on the counter before going back to what he had been doing before he had been interrupted, and this time being much more careful not to burn himself.

He faintly realized that he was getting a taste of his own medicine in dealing with someone who dealt solely in vagueness. He didn't realize, though, that he was also getting another one of his other bad habits turned around on him; one of the lone customers lurking in the corner was trying desperately to play it cool as he pricked up his ears.


"Banshee's Call!" Banshemon cried, and a flurry of white spirits rose out of the ground and shot forward.

They were in a familiar-enough locale-- the often-empty park that had played host to the group's little group picnic-stroke-Kabuterimon fight those short months ago. Peter was fairly certain that if he would have returned to their picnic site, he might have still seen the evidence of their scuffle-- the broken trees, or, hell, considering how few people came out to this park, he wouldn't have been surprised if they had been the last people to use the site at all. Truth be told, he was getting a little bit of deja vu, lately, between fighting giant beetles and now this.

Peter had had his brief conversation with Jen on Wednesday afternoon, and now it was Friday, and at least this time it had the dignity to appear during normal human waking hour, around ten in the morning. This park was actually not far from the university district, so he was the closest person to hand, and was hoping to get it done with time to spare before he had to go in for his shift at noon-- but unfortunately, this digimon seemed to have a bit of a bone to pick.

Dobermon growled as it leapt out of the way of Banshemon's attack. It was a menacing creature, sinewy and so thin that its ribs and spine were visible through its skin and with massive blades in place of dewclaws. Its red eyes glinted as the wind shifted the leaves above them-- both the normal eyes, on its face (where eyes are supposed to be) and the red eyes inset into its shoulders and haunches.

When it spoke, its voice was haughty and superior. "This is nothing, compared to what I had to overcome to get here. I'm not about to leave empty-handed. Schwarz Strahl!"
It opened its mouth and fired a continuous jet-black beam; Banshemon lifted her arms to protect the bulk of her body, and even as the black beam singed her, she grimaced through it, and her claws began to glow bright white and grow in length.

"Spirit Ripper!" she cried, rushing forward. She practically seemed to cut through Dobermon's beam as she threw herself at the dog digimon. Her claws passed right through it, but it snarled with pain as it recoiled, practically thrown backwards into the small thicket of trees behind it.

Out of the corner of his eye, Peter faintly thought he saw something move, but he didn't turn to look; Dobermon wasted no time righting itself and snarled, baring its teeth as it leapt at Banshemon.

It forewent a proper attack, leaping at her and sinking its teeth into the fabric of her arm. Even without a hard physical body underneath it to grasp onto, its teeth ripped through the fabric to hold her. She would have simply attempted to become incorporeal just long enough to slip free, but it didn't seem to be possible; Dobermon was beginning to gather up another Schwartz Strahl to fire at point-blank into Banshemon's arm, and the energy of its attack prevented her from escaping so easily.

"Spirit Ripper!" Banshemon yelled again, slashing down through Dobermon with her free hand, and it snarled, releasing her as it made a noise of pain.

She almost looked a little bit sorry as she pulled away. It was hard to tell if her sleeve was smoking, as it was singed black by Dobermon's stalled attack, or if it was her smoky body trailing out of the holes that its teeth had torn in the fabric; either way, it was hard to remain too sorry for too long.

Dobermon reared down and lunged forward, hardly giving Banshemon the room to breathe or realign herself, and she was almost taken by surprise to end up in the exact same situation as she had just gotten out of--

"Acid Claw!"

A tan and purple blur hurtled out of the trees, a purple glow trailing behind. Judging by the voice, it was a girl; she crashed into Dobermon at high enough speed to knock the dog off its course, though she was quite a bit smaller than either champion-level digimon, and this made it a bit hard to follow what was going on.
In a flurry of flying paws, the little digimon (no prizes for guessing that it was a digimon) scratched and clawed at Dobermon's side, and as her claws connected, a faint sound filled the air, almost like a weak sizzle.

Dobermon snarled as it righted itself, teeth bared; the little digimon leapt away to put some space between herself and the dog. Dobermon, Banshemon, and Peter alike all got a look at this newcomer as her paws touched down on the ground.

She was a little lion-like creature more than three feet tall and most of her body was covered in tan fur. Green-spiked bracelets matched her collar, and tufts of dark-purple fur sat around both her wrists and a fluffy ruff around her neck. It was hard to say whether her swoopy mass of mane-like hair or her segmented scorpion-like tail were more distinctive, but both were the same dark-purple colour, and her eyes were bright, shiny, and emerald green.
(Maybe manticore was more apt than lion.)

She wore a mischievous smirk on her face, appropriately cat-like, as she settled into a battle-ready stance.

Dobermon glanced sidelong at Banshemon, and growled. "Of course you would bring in backup."

Banshemon didn't have the chance to retort -- that she had no idea who this little digimon was -- before Dobermon opened its mouth again.

"Schwarz Strahl!"

This time, the jet-black beam was aimed at the new little digimon, and-- well.
Banshemon had to make a snap decision, and so she did.

"Spirit Ripper!"

Right at the moment that Dobermon fired its beam, the new little digimon retaliated.

"Venom Strike!"

She gathered up a ball of an ephemeral substance that could only be described as looking poisonous. She tossed it into the air before leaping up after it and spiking it with a (frankly rather unnecessarily dramatic) swipe of her tail, like a volleyball, right at Dobermon's face, as the black beam hit the ground she had been standing on a moment before.

Banshemon's bright-white claws connected with Dobermon, phasing through the dog's side at the same time that the corrosive sphere smashed into its face.
It was really more because of Banshemon than the newcomer, but either way, Dobermon snarled, baring its teeth right before it exploded into motes of light that gathered into Peter's D-Rive in a concentrated beam.

"Acid Claw!"

The little manticore called her attack, lunging at Banshemon without so much as a moment of hesitation, but Banshemon had kind of been expecting this; before the attack had the chance to connect, she made herself incorporeal for a split second, and the newcomer sailed right through her and wound up face-down in the dirt.

Banshemon cast a glance over her shoulder to where Peter stood, her expression one of clear bewilderment, even if the only expression she could make was with her eyes. She didn't want to attack what was clearly a rookie-level, but--?

Peter gripped his D-Rive tightly in his hand, and he opened his mouth to say something, but the sound that filled the air was pointedly not Peter's voice.

"Martyamon, get back h--!"

A young man stumbled out of the trees from whence the little manticore had come. His voice died in his throat and he continued to stumble right to a stop as he realized that he had an audience.

He looked to be around the same age as every other goddamn person they had met who had anything to do with digimon -- that is to say, college age; he had glasses and blond hair, a plain green button-down over a plain white t-shirt and eyes that matched the button-down. He looked a little bit harried and confused, like someone who ran onstage, hoping to pass unnoticed, and didn't expect to see a full house staring at him.
Admittedly, it was only Peter and Banshemon looking at him, both blinking slowly, but still.

There was an awkward silence wherein the little manticore spat out a clump of dirt but nobody else spoke. All it needed was a cricket chirp; instead what they got was the distant sound of cars, which would have to do.

"This one with you?" Peter tried as a blunt icebreaker, pointing at the rookie-level digimon, whose claws were beginning to glow purple again as she got to her feet.

The stranger didn't immediately answer Peter; he saw a more pertinent issue to take care of. "If you throw one more punch," the young man said, looking at the little digimon, "you're making your own ramen tonight."

"What?" The purple glow immediately faded from the manticore's paws, and she looked over her shoulder, a horribly offended look on her face. "You don't let me use the stove, that's not fair!"

"That's the point," the young man said, and the manticore put her hands on her hips and huffed, but she made no move to attack again.

Banshemon and Peter exchanged slightly bewildered expressions.
With the threat apparently defused, Banshemon drifted over to Peter. Rather, she drifted slightly behind him, as though she could hide behind him despite being significantly larger than her partner.

"I'm going to take that as a yes to my question," Peter said, stroking his chin in consideration. He couldn't quite place it, but he seemed vaguely familiar, though not enough for Peter to place.

The strange young man heaved a sigh, scratching the back of his head in exasperation. "Yeah, Martyamon's with me. I'm-- sorry about her."

"And I'm sorry about you being such a killjoy," Martyamon snapped back, hands on her hips and a smirk on her lips.

He didn't dignify that with a direct response. "She's Martyamon, and I'm Theo," he said instead, and he stepped closer to Peter so he could offer a hand to shake, when Peter did. "I have to admit I didn't exactly expect to run into anyone else when Martyamon took off running, but she had insisted, and I don't think I could have stopped her if I tried."

"Well, I didn't expect there to be two champions," Martyamon retorted, walking up as well "and I just wanted a little bit of entertainment. Side note, I totally could have taken it if it had just been one or the other."

"Sorry we got to it first, then," Peter said, voice even, and he put on a polite smile. "We didn't mean to ruin your fun." Banshemon glanced sidelong at him, a little bit confused, but didn't say anything.

"We don't mean to give you any trouble," Theo said, and he shot a look at Martyamon that very clearly said and don't you say we do. "We'll just be leaving." He began to usher Martyamon, attempting to lead her from whence they had come.

"How long have you known Martyamon for?" Peter said instead, stopping Theo in his tracks.


Peter shrugged one shoulder. "Just curious," he explained.

Theo looked between the little manticore and Peter, and he heaved a heavy sigh. "A couple weeks? Just since the start of the month, I think."

"Oh, how time flies when you're having fun," Martyamon said unsolicted, inspecting her claws like she was inspecting her manicure.

Peter hummed quietly at this, though, and he and Banshemon exchanged looks. This was the first time they had heard of someone with a digimon that had come along this recently-- though now that he thought about it...
He couldn't just outright ask if Theo had a D-Rive, but he could definitely wonder.

"I'm not going to lie," Theo said after a moment, heaving a sigh. "I already... well, I can't say knew, but I had a feeling."

"Oh?" Peter said, training his voice into mild curiosity as opposed to anything that might imply oh shit, because, really, he was a bit of a worst-case-scenario thinker.

"I overheard you having a conversation at the Lotus the other day," he said, and Peter immediately realized why he thought Theo's face was familiar. (Give him a break, he couldn't be expected to remember the face of every patron of his workplace.) "I didn't really think anything about it until I heard the girl say something about-- Rurumon?"

"Lurumon," Banshemon provided quietly.

"Yes," Theo said, nodding and folding his arms. "I got curious. I started looking back over the video clips and pictures from the fights over the summer, and I noticed something that looked like her." He nodded his head in Banshemon's direction. "And I saw a guy who kind of looked like you near her."

"To be fair," Peter said, raising one eyebrow, "you'd kind of look like me in bad, shaky pictures. That doesn't say much."

Martyamon snorted a laugh; Theo smiled slightly. "Well, right, but still. I heard her say something about a ghost, and..." He gestured vaguely. "For what it's worth, I wasn't exactly planning to hunt you down and try to talk to you about it or anything," he said, realizing only a bit belatedly that he should probably clarify that. "I just started looking into it more and one thing led to another."

"Joy. We're famous," Peter said dully to Banshemon, who squeaked a little bit, clearly dismayed.

"It seems to me like you've been trying to keep digimon from wrecking things," Theo said. "... admittedly, I only started noticing it when I started going back over the videos again and actively looking that I noticed the same ones were showing up. The ghost and the bat and the-- weird angel dragon thing? Among others."
Ah. Right.

Of course-- and Peter knew this -- the media hadn't been differentiating between one-off digimon emergences and the ones who were taking care of the incidents, and most people were understandably distracted by the destruction that the issue of is this giant wolf the same giant wolf as last time, or does it just look the same wasn't high on the priority list.
And the others -- Shitomon, Hulimon, and Lurumon -- also got the same unfavorable treatment, even if destruction seemed to follow them a little less intently.

So Peter answered noncomittally.

"Mm," he said ("said"), and his lack of comment didn't go unnoticed; Theo kept talking to fill the space.

"Though now that I have you, I did want to ask-- how have you been hiding them?" he said, frowning. "I've been trying to figure out how to deal with Martyamon--"

"'Deal with'," Martyamon said, making air quotes with her paws and scoffing.

"We're already probably not going to get our deposit back on the apartment, after all," Theo said, undisturbed by her commentary. "But I'd imagine a bigger digimon like that is even harder to hide." He gestured at Banshemon.

Banshemon looked nervously at Peter; he nodded once and she, apprehensively, nodded back. She began to glow bright white and her larger form melted away, leaving Banmon in her wake. As the light faded, she had lifted her cloth-like arms up to her face to cover it, and she lowered them sheepishly as she peered back over at Theo and Martyamon.

Both young man and little manticore had taken a half-step back, apparently not wanting to be too close to the glowing monster, which was understandable enough.

"How'd you do that?" Martyamon demanded, pointing an accusatory finger at Banmon.

"I-- do what?" Banmon said, blinking.

"De-digivolve. You're not supposed to be able to do that!" she said, then looked at Theo, still pointing at Banmon. "She's not supposed to be able to do that!"

"You mean shrink?" Theo said, frowning as he tried to determine what happened, but Martyamon was already leaping at the chance to explain.

"De-digivolve! If she de-digivolved it means she lost a bunch of energy all of a sudden and usually when that happens it means they got their ass beat and they're probably dying, but she seems fine as far as I can tell?" She had moved from pointing to gesturing emphatically.

"I only really digivolve for a short time," Banmon said, piping up meekly. "Usually just to fight--"

"I want to do that," Martyamon said immediately, and it was hard to tell if she meant temporarily digivolve or fight; both seemed like realistic options. "Tell me how." She paused, then crossed over to Peter, looking up at him-- and the D-Rive he held in his hand. "When I got the killing blow on Dobermon," you go on believing that, Martyamon, "I saw its data get absorbed into that thing. Give it to me."

Peter immediately blanched, but Theo was already reprimanding her before he even had the chance to say 'no'. "Martyamon, you can't just demand people give you their things."

"It works pretty well on you," she said matter-of-factly, looking over her shoulder at him.

"I'd rather not," Peter said, cutting off an impending back-and-forth. He knew perfectly well what had happened the last time an unrelated digimon had gotten their claws on a D-Rive, and he'd prefer to avoid that.

"That's it, though, isn't it?" Martyamon said, putting her hands on her hips. "It's not normal to be able to digivolve at will. That's the first thing I've seen in this world that seems to interact with digimon, but I've never seen one in the Digital World, so that must be it." For as obnoxious as she clearly was, she was pretty perceptive, even if she was making some pretty big leaps of logic to get there.

"As far as we know, yes," Banmon said, tilting her head.

"As far as you know?" Theo prompted.

"It's a very, very long story," Peter said, shaking his head, "not all of which I'm comfortable divulging, but, yes, it's what seems to allow the digimon to evolve temporarily."

"I'm going to take a guess that the other digimon I keep seeing are the same way?" Theo supposed, but Martyamon was much less interested in the details.

"This is lame," Martyamon said, sighing dramatically as she turned around, walking back to Theo's side. "Well, if it's not going to do anything for me, I don't care. If she can digivolve anytime she wants it wouldn't even be fun to try and fight her. Let's go."
(Hadn't she just said she could totally have taken a champion by herself? Maybe best not to point that out.)

Martyamon was already preparing to go back from whence they had come, and Theo looked between her and the Peter-Banmon duo kind of helplessly. "I guess we're going, then," he said; now that he had started a conversation, and had at least started to get some answers, he didn't seem to want to leave, despite how quick he had been to try and usher Martyamon away before.

He barely had time to make a proper goodbye before he went after Martyamon, and his question went unanswered.

"Are we just going to let them go?" Banmon said, tilting her head as she drifted up beside Peter.

Peter spoke slowly, folding his arms and choosing his words with care. "If it's taken this long for us to know she exists, and she hasn't caused a panic, I don't think we need to worry yet."


"You know, we had a chance to learn a lot that you just threw away," Theo said as he caught up to Martyamon and once they were well out of earshot of Peter and Banmon.

"Why's it matter?" Martyamon, spreading her paws out palms-up as she shrugged. "It's not gonna affect us any."

"I'd say that the affairs of digimon matter to someone -- that is, me -- who is dealing with digimon," Theo objected, putting his hands in his pockets.

"My affairs mostly consist of food," Martyamon said with a smirk. "I'll beat up any digimon or, heck, any human who tries to give you any grief, and you'll pay me back for my generous service with snacks, and it'll be a fantastic mutually beneficial relationship. We can let the special brigade deal with their own problems."

"Don't you think it might have something to do with what's happening to your world?" Theo said. "You said yourself that there were a bunch of digimon that crossed over years ago, and it would make sense if--"

"Hey, I came here to get away from all of that," Martyamon cut him off. "It's not going to affect me any more than it already has."

Theo sighed. "I have no idea how you can be happier not knowing."

"See, I already know plenty, it's you that's got the problem."


ngl that sounds fishy as fuck, Sam said in the group chat almost immediately after Peter summarized this meeting of the manticore and her beleaguered human buddy. youre sure they werent trying anything?

I'm choosing to take them at their word, Peter replied, and even over text the shrug was implied. It's all I have to go on, but Martyamon didn't seem particularly interested in things that weren't eating or fighting for its own sake. I don't think she's secretly in league with Shitomon.

oh actually ! remember? oremon said the last time he dealt with ratamon, Meghan said, he -- ratamon i mean -- asked if he knew of any other people with digimon. do you think that's what he might have been talking about??

Natalie started and stopped typing a couple times; she, like everyone else, had kind of forgotten that little blip of a question in all of the chaos that had happened since then. Eventually, she sent, hmm. he said martyamon had only been around since the start of the month, and-- when did you fight drimogemon again, Meg?

it was on the 18th last month, came the immediate reply from Sam; he apparently had been looking into this already, and he had brought up the coverage of it to check the dates. so unless this guy is really, really bad at remembering the date, no.

damn, Natalie lamented. i thought we might have been onto something.

I wonder why Ratamon would have cared about that at all, Peter said, after a moment of thought.

no idea, Sam said. shitomon herself said that there were only five digimon who were harboring the corruption shit when she infodumped all over our heads like so much sanctimonious sewage spewing out of a busted pipe. Right-- he had been present, and written down notes, for the entire conversation with Shitomon.

lovely imagery, Natalie said.

you're welcome. Sam's sarcasm was overwhelming even without any other context.

am i the only one who's considered that maybe, just maybe, the rabbit is just shit at math? Xander cut in.

that seems too simply, though, doesn't it? < :T Meghan said.

Whatever Ratamon meant isn't the point, Peter said. What is the point is that there's a digimon who's come through recently and made friends with a human.

without a d-rive, Natalie added, which i feel is an important detail.

Right, Peter confirmed. It doesn't narrow down much, but it nixes the idea that they're just something inherent to making buddy-buddy with a digimon.
See, Peter had initially considered that it just had something to do with the corruption that kept coming up, but that wouldn't explain how the other three digimon and their humans had them, too. He and Sam had batted around the idea that it was just some nebulous thing that happened, triggered by some unknown event and that got sent out to any human who had bonded with a digimon after that point.

Yes, it was weird and nebulous, but a lot of these things were weird and nebulous, and Sam was better (for a given value of better) at figuring out how the D-Rives worked; the theorizing and the why was very much Peter's wheelhouse, and he didn't have much to go off.

Natalie shared her thoughts. if martyamon's been around since the start of the month and we're only just now finding out about her then i mean i guess that's a positive? at least, it's not a negative.

That was my thought, Peter said in agreement, and why I didn't try to apprehend her or anything like that.

moreover, Natalie continued, i don't know how great i'd feel about attacking a digimon that, a, apparently is relatively peaceful, and b, made friends with a human.

yeah. s'not our problem unless they make it our problem, Xander agreed.

i feel like all that kinda brings up the question of why they're coming here, though... Meghan said, kind of just sharing the thought as it came to her. i mean the feral ones were just lost, and the ones who want to ruin our day obviously have a goal, but i wonder why she would have come through only to get buddy-buddy with a human?

There was a pause where nobody typed anything.

Natalie's next question was one that all of them could relate to.

why do i feel like the more we find out, the less sense any of this makes?

That lingered on Peter's mind as he set his phone down to start getting ready for work. It seemed like the questions kept piling up without any resolution, and the deeper they dug the more they realized how little they had actually uncovered.

Banmon had been quiet -- well, she was always quiet, but she had been even more quiet than usual, caught up in thought.

"If you don't want to come with me to work, you don't have to," Peter said, glancing at his D-Rive. He always gave her the option.

"I'll come," she said anyway, though she seemed a little distant, a little distracted, and Peter frowned. Something was clearly bothering her, but he wasn't about to try to needle her about it.


It wouldn't be necessary to describe how Peter's shift went; it was long, and it was busy, and he had enough to think about the entire time that a couple times, he even managed to not think about digimon for a whole ten consecutive minutes.

That luxury did not extend to his situation after he got off work.

He had only barely begun the walk back to his flat when he heard a voice behind him.

"Hey! Scarfy!"

Peter closed his eyes and sighed through his nose-- it was Jen. He opened his eyes as he stopped and turned around to see, indeed, Jen jogging towards him. They were only a few blocks down from the Lotus, and he had been about to take the first turn.
He had been so close.

"It's Peter," he said, reminding her of his name as she drew close enough for him not to have to yell to be heard.

"Yeah, not gonna remember that, sorry," Jen said frankly, not waiting for his response before she went on. "Glad I caught you. Just happened right before you left and I was hopin'-- well, first things first."
Peter was just about to ask out loud what her point was and why she needed his attention enough to chase him out of his workplace when she pulled her D-Rive out of her bag, and it was very pointedly lit up.

"Motherfucker," he said, completely deadpan, instead. He pulled his own out, and indeed, it was shining bright, and a couple button presses later--

SkullSatamon. Ultimate level.

"Motherfucker," he said again, softly but with feeling.
(He couldn't help but notice another little dart marked Martyamon that was close at hand as well, but he chose not to comment on that one.)

A flash of white light accompanied Banmon's appearing behind him, peering over his shoulder at the device she had just been contained in.
"Oh no," she said softly, her eyes dropping.

Not wanting to be left out of the party, Lurumon appeared in a burst of golden light, standing next to Jen. Banmon instinctively shrunk a little bit back behind Peter, but the little red panda shook her head.

"I'm not going to try and attack you," she said, and she even managed a little bit of a smile, though it was a bittersweet one. "Asking for your help is hardly something I'd like doing, but there are things we all have to prioritize over our own feelings." She looked over her shoulder; the sun was just barely beginning to set, and they could just barely see a shape far too large to be a bird.
For instance, it seemed to say without Lurumon having to say as such.

Banmon looked at her with a curious expression, but she nodded after a moment, drifting out just slightly more from behind her partner, however apprehensively.

"I don't want to make Lurumon deal with this alone," Jen explained, looking to Peter, "and Ryan lives way the hell on the other side of town, so by the time he got here shit might go real pear-shaped, ya know? If it's two of us we may be to at least stall it if it starts going badly, yeah?"

"If we stall it long enough for your backup to arrive, then who's to say it wouldn't immediately turn around into a gangup on Banshemon?" Peter said immediately, ever the worst-case-scenario thinker; Banmon squeaked in fear.

Jen shrugged. "You can feel free to call for your friends, if you want, yanno, I just don't know how well it'd go."

Peter sighed; he thought of Xander's explanation of what had happened with Draugmon, how their attempts to at least stall had gone wrong, but.. this was different, right? Right.
He looked to Banmon for confirmation; she looked conflicted, but she slowly nodded. Peter and Jen exchanged glances, nodded tersely, and took off at a run-- not least of all because it was flying towards a residential area.


As they drew closer, it was clear that SkullSatamon really lived up to its name, even what they could see from the ground-- a tall and lanky red-boned skeleton with tattered black wings and a massive black core encircled by its ribs and sternum. Leather and metal adorned its body, and a black shroud from which bat wings sprouted enased the top of its, well, skull. A long and tattered tabard trailed far past its feet, suspended by a series of belts around its waist. All of this, and it was wielding a crooked staff atop which a yellow jewel was clutched by a red claw, it looked every bit like something named for both skulls and motherfucking Satan could be expected to look.

"Maybe it isn't hostile," Banmon muttered, not really daring to put her hopes on it.

Its voice rang out from above, and they saw the gem at the tip of its staff begin to glow-- but it wasn't aiming at them. It was aiming at-- really, quite conveniently, an empty plot of land where houses had not yet been built up.
"Bone Blaster!"

The energy from its staff shot down, smashing through the 'lot for sale' sign and into the tall, unkempt grass. A blast of dirt kicked up around the impact point, and something moved within it.

"Venom Strike!" a voice yelled out in turn, and a woefully-inadequate blob of purple poison sailed into the air, only to dissipate harmlessly before it even reached the halfway point.

"Dammit," Peter hissed. Banmon, trailing behind Peter, burst forward and began to glow white.

"Banmon, drive evolve to... Banshemon! Banshee's Call!"
The now-evolved ghost flung herself towards SkullSatamon flying above, and from all around her, white ghosts coalesced out of the air. They sped up and shot past her, and threw themselves at SkullSatamon.

At least it got its attention, and Banshemon realized she didn't have a plan past this point.

"Lurumon, drive evolve to... Himamon!"

Before the golden light had faded away, Himamon was already bounding forward into the lot, presumably to get between SkullSatamon and what, to her, was an unknown-but-presumably-innocent digimon.

Peter looked around frantically, trying to find Theo-- and it took a moment before he saw Martyamon's friend run out from the far end of the plot, apparently in pursuit of Martyamon yet again.
"Martyamon, get back here!"

Theo stumbled to an inelegant stop for not the first time today as he noticed the other people -- and more importantly, other digimon -- who were present.
"Crap," he muttered, gritting his teeth and looking between Jen and Peter, Himamon, and Banshemon and SkullSatamon in the air.

"Spirit Ripper!" Banshemon cried, slashing her claws across SkullSatamon-- or at least, trying to. Her glowing claws, which usually passed without issue through digimon, bounced off, as though SkullSatamon were impervious to her attack.

"Skull Hammer!" SkullSatamon cackled-- and there really was no other way to describe it but a cackle -- and it swung its staff like a club, smashing into Banshemon and knocking the ghost back down to the ground.

"Aura Stream!" Himamon yelled, rearing back and firing a crackling beam of golden energy directly at the core in SkullSatamon's chest. This had about as much effect as Banshemon's attack, which is to say none.

SkullSatamon looked down to the ground and snickered, and it stopped beating its wings; it dropped to the ground like a rock, and the dirt and grass practically exploded into the air around it as its metal-booted feet left a small crater in the ground.
"Lucky me," it said in a laugh, "I'm only here for a few minutes and the other digimon are already lining up. They weren't kidding when they said it would be easier here."

Banshemon righted herself and lifted her claws in a battle-ready stance; Himamon did the same, even though neither of them knew how much good they were going to do. Both champion-levels rushed forward, and it quickly devolved into their claws clashing against SkullSatamon's body, as good as trying to punch solid steel for as much good as they were doing.

With SkullSatamon distracted, Theo was able to run over to the other humans.
"Hi again," he said, frowning.

"Friend of yours?" Jen asked Peter, putting her hands on her hips.

"Not quite, but," Peter said, shaking his head, "for all intents and purposes we'll say yes."

"Martyamon ran off again, and I couldn't stop her," Theo said, adjusting his glasses. "I didn't expect the digimon to be-- well."

"Who's Martyamon, exactly?" Jen asked, tilting her head; she hadn't actually seen the litte manticore, but that was quick to be remedied.

"You guys suck at this!" Martyamon snapped, leaping forward with her paws glowing purple. She practically ran up Himamon's tail and used the red panda as a springboard, her paws glowing purple. "Acid Claw!"

"Martyamon, stop!" Theo said, reaching out a hand as though he could stop her when her attack was already underway.

If the champions' attacks had had no effect, Martyamon's had no chance; she may as well have tried to knock SkullSatamon over with a stiff breeze. This seemed to amuse the skeletal digimon, and even as Martyamon backed away, it followed her with its eyes, and the gem on its staff began to glow.

"Get back!" Himamon commanded, gathering up golden energy in her mouth, but SkullSatamon was quicker.

"Bone Blaster!" it yelled, but it wasn't aiming for Martyamon-- it was aiming for her human friend.

Martyamon quite literally leapt into the line of fire without a moment of hesitation, the beam of energy striking her squarely. It hit her with such a force that the trajectory of her jump was shifted, and she was practically thrown backwards into Theo. He caught her, a bit inelegantly, but concern and near-panic was plain on his face.

"Wh--!?" he said, words failing him.

"She's fine," Himamon said quickly, "as fine as she can be-- if she's not--"

"Skull Hammer!"

Himamon had only been trying to explain that if Martyamon wasn't shifting into pixels of light, she wasn't dying, but her attempt to break to explain this gave SkullSatamon an opening in which to strike her solidly with its staff.

"Himamon!" Jen blurted, and she had to physically stop herself from running forward.

"Fuck," Peter hissed, not sure what to do-- but if he was confused and feeling helpless, it was nothing compared to what Banshemon was.

Banshemon only barely dared glance towards Martyamon and Theo, Jen and Himamon, and really, a thought struck her.

The fact of the matter was, since meeting and talking Martyamon earlier today, it had been bothering her. If Martyamon had been a champion level -- heck, if Martyamon had been just a little more aggressive -- would they have thought twice about trying to eliminate her?
Yeah, it was true that the digimon they had fought either had it out for them and wouldn't be deterred by anything other than total defeat, but all those feral digimon-- had their crime really been just being too large?

(How many digimon who had just wanted to escape a possibly-dying world had they not even spared a second thought on?)

(Would it even have mattered if they had?)

(Did she even have a choice?)

A pang of guilt and fear and panic hit her, and in that moment, she knew she had felt this way before.

And then she felt a whole lot worse, and Peter's D-Rive began to make that horrible, unbearably loud noise.

Banshemon's claws began to glow bright white, as though she were about to attack, but it continued to creep up her arms and a similar glow began to ebb up from her long smoky tail. Just like those who had gone before her, it started geometric and splintered off, and from the blank space in between the lines a blackness consumed her.

She didn't screech; the noise she made was like a prolonged sob, an entirely too-human cry entirely compared to the amost animalistic sounds that Doctorimon and Corymon had made.

"Banshemon, catalyst evolve to--!"

The blackness swirled around her, glitching and shifting, as Banshemon's cry began to distort into a glitchy squeal. It built to a breaking point, and then it did, indeed, break, shearing in two and revealing a new form forming out of the darkness.

Long white hair flowed like water down from a more-humanoid head. She wore no hood, and her face was stark white, apparently done up in makeup; her neck and every other bit of her body below seemed to be made of the same bound-together smoke as Banshemon had been.
Her face was devoid of proper features. Old, blood-stained bandages were wrapped around one eye, and where should have been her other eye was instead a smear of blue facepaint. Instead of a mouth, a jagged, stitched-together scar ran diagonally across her face from underneath the bandages to her opposite jaw.

She wore white and gold robes, tattered and torn, with a greyish-purple sash wrapped around her waist, and-- well. A moment of thought would pin this new form as a naga; emerging from under the tattered bottom of her robe, her body looked more snake-like from the waist down than it had before. complete with a set of white scales on her belly, running down the length of her body and tail, which was tipped in a bone-white rattlesnake rattle. Bandages and bones decorated her long tail, haphazardly placed.

The final detail of note; from the ends of her sleeves were clearly hands, the same black smoke as the rest of her, with too-long fingers and sharp claws. Her arms hung limp at her sides, and her upper body was awkwardly slumped backwards at an angle that couldn't be comfortable for her spine.

She settled on the ground, apparently not able to float freely anymore, and didn't make a single sound as she did.


It wasn't a cry; it was a simple statement quiet and cold, and easy to miss.

Peter swore under his breath, rooted to the spot.
(He had... kind of been hoping that the fact that Draugmon had been present for IlDoctorimon and Camazmon had been part of this, but hey, throw that one on the debunked theories pile!)

"Shit," Jen muttered, gritting her teeth. "I was afraid of this."

"And I wasn't?" Peter couldn't help himself from snapping; he took steps backwards to get space between him and the newly-formed Onryomon as she silently moved towards SkullSatamon, her snakelike lower half slithering and shifting on the ground without a sound, not even the rustle of grass.

"That's your digimon?" Theo asked, looking incredulously at Peter; Peter himself said nothing, lips pressed thin.

Himamon, still picking herself up from from SkullSatamon's blow, growled, her fur standing up on end, but she stepped backwards, not wanting to be too close to whatever was about to happen.

"Bone Blaster!" SkullSatamon said, a sort of half-frantic look in its eye (though, really, that had been there from the start) as it fired another beam from its staff at Onryomon. The beam struck her, knocking her back several meters as though she was feather-light; she righted herself without comment.

"Kiss of Death," Onryomon said, barely above a whisper, and like a cobra striking, she had struck in close to SkullSatamon, faster than the eye could follow. She lifted her arms and grasped around SkullSatamon's neck, drawing her face ("face") in close to SkullSatamon's.

SkullSatamon opened its mouth, but no sound escaped; instead, a smoky white essence trailed out, which Onryomon seemed to be absorbing.
With a blind swing of its club, SkullSatamon dislodged her, and it coughed a rattly cough, looking significantly more worn out than it had a second ago.

"Bone Bl--!" SkullSatamon began, but Onryomon didn't wait.

"Ivory Viper," she said simply (the only sound she made, it was becoming clear, were her very quiet attack announcements); the rattle at the end of her tail began to glow white, and it quickly extended into a blade-like shape. She drew in close to SkullSatamon yet again, and this time, instead of going for its throat with her hands, she struck out for its core with the tip of her tail. The white blade sunk into the black core in SkullSatamon's chest, and the skeleton digimon began to shift and glow into motes of pixellated light almost instantly. The light, as ever, split into beams that shot into both Jen and Peter's D-Rives.

For a half a second, it was entirely too quiet.

"Chakra Strike!"

Himamon launched herself at Onryomon, her claws crackling with golden energy as she struck right at Onryomon's face.

"Why the fuck does this keep happening," Peter hissed as Himamon began to clash with Onryomon-- clearly not trying to beat her, just trying to distract her, as judging by the fact that Himamon immediately drew Onryomon to face away from the human onlookers.

"It's the corruption, dude," Jen said, putting her hands on her hips-- but despite her glib tone and apparent duh answer, she looked sympathetic.

"'Corruption'," Theo said, looking at Martyamon in his arms-- her teeth were gritted but she seemed to be as close to okay as she was going to be, and she was conscious, if her occasional shit that hurts-s were any indication, she just had her eyes closed. "Is that what you were talking about?"

She cracked an eye open to look up at Theo.
"Can't even let me be wounded in peace, can you?" she managed, smirking, and Theo groaned, half with frustration and half with relief that she could still snark at him.

"What was she talking about?" Peter said, looking at Theo, and Theo frowned.

"When I met her," he said, slowly, "she told me that the world she's from is being torn apart. That's why she came here-- because something happened and it was getting much worse, much faster than it had been for years. She said..." He paused, trying to find words. "She said it was pointless to try and bail it out now, so the best option is to bail out entirely?"

"Butchering my words," Martyamon mumbled indignantly.

"Great," Peter said, grimacing-- but he didn't have time to self-pity, because in front of him, his partner was making things worse.

"Kiss of Death," Onryomon said, drawing in close to Himamon and lifting her long-fingered black hands to the red panda's throat.

"Himamon!" Jen cried out, reaching a hand out, and at that moment, her D-Rive began to glow-- and so did Himamon. Onryomon dropped her hands away immediately, backing away as a golden light began to spread up from Himamon's claws.
While the bright white light and swirling darkness that had engulfed Banshemon to turn her into this new form had been cold and harsh, the white light that filled the blank space between the golden circuits covering Himamon in almost the same manner seemed warm and comfortable.

Or maybe that was just the knowledge that she wasn't going to turn into a monster influencing opinion.

"Himamon, conduction evolve to...!"

She was surrounded by a sphere of light, white and gold, and it burst apart into motes of light to leave behind a new digimon.

While she was slimmer and more compact -- and more anthropomorphic -- than Himamon, she wasn't that much shorter. She still had all the features of a red panda, but her tail was more porportional to her body-- and in exchange, her arms had grown even larger, her massive dark-brown claws practically touching the ground when her arms hung at her side. A couple of leather straps encircled each hand, with inches-long golden spikes sticking out of the ones wrapped around her knuckles.

A long golden scarf sat around her neck, concealing some of the orange-red vest that she wore. Around her waist hung a length of orange fabric, encircling around the back and fastened in place with a small array of gold rings inset with reddish gems that matched the kneepad-like armor that appeared on her legs. Black pants blended almost seamlessly into toeless black boots, adorned with black straps.

She wore a calm expression as she set her feet gently down on the dirt, and her voice was firm and confident.


Onryomon, even though she didn't have eyes, seemed to regard Shaolimon with contempt-- she flicked her tail, and indeed, it made a rattlesnake's telltale noise of irritation.

"Ivory Viper," Onryomon said, and a shining blade began to form around her tailtip once more.

"Eighteen Paw Strike!" Shaolimon cried, lunging forward before Onryomon could, and she began to strike out rapidly, delivering hard and fast strikes with her hands and feet alike. In the split second before each strike hit, a flash of yellow light surrounded the paw about to connect, and she finished it off with a full-body turn, smashing her tail into Onryomon's side.

Onryomon was knocked aside and crumpled inelegantly; Shaolimon fell into a defensive stance, her expression serious and eyes fixed on Onryomon, waiting for the ghostly digimon to make another move.

Onryomon righted herself. The bandages wrapped around one half of her face were beginning to unravel and fall to the ground; her hair was obscuring it, falling like a white curtain to block the view; as she lifted her head, her hair shifted just enough to reveal that where the bandages were falling away, there was... just nothing underneath it, a smoky pit of nothingness, and the white makeup on her face was like a cracking mask around it.
She lifted her hands to her face and began to scrabble at it, almost but not quite clawing, as she began to back away.

Shaolimon was already preparing a counter to an attack that never came. "Dragon's Breath!" she cried, leaping backwards to put a bit more space between her and Onryomon; she procured from thin air a tankard of something, and she took a deep swig of it. She reared her head back and spat out a stream of an amber liquid, which ignited in brilliant golden flames the moment it touched the air.

When the flames hit her, Onryomon collapsed and stopped moving entirely; and Shaolimon alighted on the ground, frowning.

She didn't move; Peter could have been imagining it, but he swore she glanced at him and nodded her head, just barely, almost imperceptibly.

Either way, he nodded to himself and walked towards Onryomon himself.

Peter didn't know exactly why he was doing what he was doing, except for the fact that... it was still Banmon, right? And if this ended badly for him, so be it.
He picked up the bandage on the ground from where it had fallen on the ground, and he crossed to the unmoving Onryomon. He knelt to the ground beside her and began to re-wrap the bandage around the void in her face. It was inelegant and difficult, because he didn't want to risk angering her, and she had a lot of hair that needed considering, but the entire time, Onryomon didn't move.

Once the bandage was re-wrapped around her face, Onryomon began to glow white, and in mere moments, she was replaced with an unconscous Banmon.

It was quiet again for a moment, the stillness of the evening finally having a chance to truly set in. Theo stood, holding Martyamon; Peter knelt, holding Banmon; Jen stood to the side, hands in her pockets, watching Shaolimon watch Peter.

The red panda looked at Banmon and Peter, and she sighed, bowing her head and closing her eyes. She was overtaken by a golden glow and a moment later, she was Lurumon again.

Peter looked over his shoulder at her, eyebrow raised. He wasn't going to complain, but he did want to ask why she hadn't taken her chance, but couldn't find a good way to phrase it.

"We'll take her doing the dark digivolve thing and cance it out with you helping us taking care of SkullSatamon and we'll call it even then, yeah?" Jen said, breaking the silence.

Peter looked at Jen with a quizzical expression, but Lurumon, beside her, nodded.

"Alright," Peter said slowly, picking Banmon up. He pulled his D-Rive out of his pocket and pressed the button down, and in a flash, Banmon was safely minimized where she could come to no further harm.

Theo looked between Jen and Peter, and then down at Martyamon in his arms.
"Okay, somebody needs to explain to me what's going on, because I know a lot less than I thought I did."

"Don't we all," Peter muttered bitterly.


Martyamon was alright, just a bit worn out for the trouble.

Theo carried her as he walked with Peter; she looked like an oversized stuffed animal when she wasn't complaining, eating, or fighting, so any second looks they got were easily dismissable. As it turned out, Theo's apartment building wasn't that far from Peter's place; they weren't in the same neighborhood, but it wasn't too extreme of a walk, and their paths coincided as they both began their treks towards their respective homes.

Theo asked questions about digimon, and everything that had happened the past few months, and how normally, he and the girl with the red panda were at odds; while Peter didn't answer everything to his satisfaction, he didn't try to pry, not wanting to be rude or invasive. He explained what he knew and admitted to the gaps in his knowledge, and while he was hedgy about a few things, Theo saw no reason not to beleive that he was telling what he understood of the truth.

He'd have to ask Martyamon about it when she was more lucid.

As Peter signalled that he was about to take the turn down the road to his own place, and that their paths would diverge here, Theo waved him goodbye -- or, he tried to. Didn't really have the free hand to do so. You get the point.

He knew he had just happened into a friendship with a mouthy little manticore; his own involvement in this was drastically less than these people, that Martyamon seemed to only be a bit player in what was far, far greater than he had initially thought.

Still... when a little monster takes a metaphorical bullet (or, such as it was, skeleton's energy beam) for you, he couldn't help but understand, at least a little, why these people were so damn invested in this, instead of just letting the monsters work it out between themselves.

He was going to buy Martyamon a goddamn cheeseburger tomorrow.


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