Episode 29: Set 'Em Up, Knock 'Em Down

Back in Atlas Park, it was still the very same day that the refugee party had left. The hour was late -- quite late indeed -- but the city was still more than alive. The downtown square was cordoned off, and the sites of the battles against Wingdramon, Groundramon, and WaruSeadramon were all under close inspection.

Ryan, Jen, and Eli hadn't had a restful moment since they had watched the other six and their digimon vanish into the thin fissure of light. Ryan's apartment was once again the base of operations.
(It almost felt too spacious with only three people and their digimon partners, as opposed to nine-and-nine.)

Eli sat with a laptop propped up on his legs and his feet on the coffee table, his D-Rive hooked up to one of the USB ports as he attempted to sort through the files it had dumped to his computer; Ryan and Jen couldn't do much to help him, but they'd already exhausted every possible plan and course of action they could think of to talk over, so they lurked in the kitchen area, leaning on the island and downing an inadvisable amount of coffee for this late at night.
Hulimon sat perched on the back of the couch behind Eli, watching his partner type and compare and run scan after scan; Lurumon sat with her tail curled around her at the other end of the couch; Shitomon, unsurprisingly, was pacing, and had been for some time now.

The afternoon's overcast skies had given way to rainy ones, thick clouds obscuring the moon and stars and the rain coming and going in intensity, but never stopping.
The oppressive atmosphere wasn't helped by the sirens that came and went in their turn in the distance, too loud by far whenever there was silence to hear them through; without any more digimon attacks making themselves apparent, they had even brought the helicopters back out.
You'd think they'd have gotten used to it by now, huh? It must have been the simultaneous attacks that drew such a big deal; there hadn't been incidents in more than one part of the city at one time before, or at least, not any high-profile ones.

Or maybe it was because of the rumors that people had gone missing.

They had been alone in the square, so there were no hard concrete eyewitnesses except for them -- thank god -- but it seemed like some people had poked their noses in where they didn't belong and had started talking, as people do. Different sources disagreed on the numbers and details, but it was already spreading like wildfire.

And then there was those who were left behind.
Ryan, Eli, Jen, and their partners... well, they weren't sure what else they could do, but it felt wrong to just disperse. It felt like they were waiting for the other shoe to drop-- and "the other shoe", in this case, meant Ratamon. Nithmon. Whatever his name was.

"This thing is a fuckin' nightmare," Eli said after a while, the first thing he'd said in hours, and it made Ryan and Jen both jump to attention.

Jen glanced over at him. "Whazzat?"

Eli mashed ctrl-alt-delete on his computer for not the first time that evening; it had locked up again trying to parse a file from the D-Rive. Luckily it was only a hang-up, not a full-blown bricking. "It's already enough of a pain in the ass that the organization seems to change depending on the goddamn phases of the moon, but on top of that, I swear I'll go into one folder, try to go back, and end up somewhere else entirely, and that's just finding shit. That Sam guy's got either a lot of free time or a lot of patience, probably both, but either way, he deserves some kinda medal for not going fuckin' loony trying to dig through this things' guts, since I'm this close," he held up a hand and gestured with his thumb and index finger a fraction of an inch from each other, "to throwing my computer and-or D-Rive out a window."

Jen and Ryan exchanged looks; they'd thought that Eli had a pretty good handle on the little gadgets, so this was news to them.

"I ain't gonna," Eli said flatly, smiling a little crookedly, knowing full well that wasn't their concern.

"Yeah, since you promised you'd let me do the honors when you trash that thing, and I got a baseball bat in here for the occasion," Hulimon said, reaching down to pat his bag where it was sitting on the couch cushions. "The computer, I mean. If we tried to take a baseball bat to the D-Rives, they'd probably explode."

Eli had just been trying (for the past couple of hours, mind you) to see if he could surmise anything about the new option on their D-Rives, but Hulimon raised a good point, whether he intended to or not. Eli hummed.
"On that note, since this isn't going anywhere: any one of you digi-dudes wanna try attacking my D-Rive real quick to see if it freaks out again?"

"No, and furthermore, hell no," Ryan said before anyone could volunteer-- though Hulimon was the only one who was gearing up to. "It's like, midnight."

Eli blinked-- it hadn't occurred to him. "Ah. Yeah, right. Soz. No noise complaints, yeah."

"Besides that," Jen said, leaning back against Ryan's counter, "I feel like we've been in the vicinity of plenty of digimon attacks. Like 'line of fire' vicinity. It's definitely whatever gave Ratamon the level-up that caused the freakout, not digimon attacks themselves."

"I guess," Eli said, rubbing the back of his head. "I donno, man. I'm just feeling a little bit stumped."

"We all are," Lurumon said, looking at the floor. "There's not much we can do here but wait and react."

Shitomon stopped her pacing. She sighed, and glanced over at the couch. "Do you wish we had gone?"

Hulimon and Lurumon exchanged looks.

"... though I am frustrated, I don't think I want to see the digital world as it is right now," Lurumon said after a moment, choosing her words carefully.

"Not like the state we remember it in is that great," Hulimon said, but he nodded his agreement after a moment, "but I can't imagine it's gotten any better."

Shitomon nodded silently. A siren went off in the distance.

"Not like we've got much of a choice," Lurumon said, glancing towards the window with a heavy sigh. "We've got to stick around in case something happens here."

"Right," Shitomon said, unable to keep a tinge of bitterness out of her voice. "'In case'."

Ryan looked over at her sympathetically. He understood her frustration-- or, at least, he understood something close. Even if another incident, sooner than later, was basically inevitable...
"I wonder how they're doing," he said, looking at his D-Rive as though it would reveal any secrets to them. It was partly to change the subject, and partly because he couldn't shake the idea that they'd have no way to tell if something had gone wrong in the digital world.
... well, it's not like he was worried.

Jen looked sidelong at him. She debated for a moment whether or not to ask what was on her mind, but her curiosity won out, as it usually did-- at least it was something to talk about.
"So, I gotta ask," she said; Ryan hummed that he was listening, but he bristled as she continued. "What's your deal with Natalie? You've never, like, told us that. I know you guys dated, and you're obviously not now, but what kind of apocalyptic--"

"Hey, let's not worry about that right now, huh?" Ryan snapped, on the defensive in the blink of an eye.

Jen raised an eyebrow, then shrugged the corresponding shoulder. He wasn't acting like a man innocent. "Your prerogative. You oughta tell us eventually, tho, I think we've, like, bonded, after all this."

"Yeah, and if you won't share, how else are we supposed to give you hell for it?" Eli said from over on the couch. Hulimon snickered; Lurumon rolled her eyes.

Ryan massaged the bridge of his nose between two fingers. "It's just a long story, okay?"

"We're all full of those," Hulimon said, extremely unhelpfully.

They resumed their uneasy quiet; Eli continued tapping away at his computer, while Ryan and Jen alternated between checking up on the local news, discussing where emergents might show up, and saying nothing at all. Their digimon too were laconic; Shitomon climbed up onto Ryan's back to peer over his shoulder at his phone, Hulimon kept glancing at Eli's screen, and Lurumon moved to sit by the window, watching for any sign of oddity outside while staying just out of sight herself.

The ones who didn't live there knew they should probably have headed home well before now, but what would they have done? Slept?

It was almost half past 1 AM when the lights began to flicker.

Two dots on the D-Rive screens-- both read Olmon - Ultimate.

It was hardly a relief, per se, but it was better than if they had had to sit with the tension. By the time they were headed out the door, the sirens had already begun to wail anew.


"Stay behind the line!"

The dots on their radar were downtown, smack in the middle of the city.
The police were also downtown, smack in the middle of the city.

You see the problem.

By the time they got anywhere close to downtown (with Ryan driving), barricades had already gone up, armored officers were filing in, and anyone who hadn't already gotten a move on was being evacuated-- which meant they were definitely not going to let three punk-ass kids through. You'd think that this happening at 1 AM would make it a little easier for them to creep in, but no, it just made them look a lot more suspicious.
They weren't the only people out here, though; even though they were being evacuated from the streets, people were crowding around the police barricades despite the rain, hoping to rubberneck a look at what was going on. Entire city blocks were cordoned off, and traffic was backing up fast; the digimon, whatever they were, were blocks away.

The sound of crashing, loud as explosions, kept ringing in the night air, mingling with the sirens of police, ambulances, fire engines.

"Can we sneak in by air?" Eli said out of the corner of his mouth, careful not to be overheard-- as if he would be, over the cacophany that shook the air every few seconds. They were obediently staying behind the police line at the end of the first street on which they could find a place to park. People were already being shooed back; they couldn't help but feel like they were losing ground.

"Only Malakhimon can fly, and she can't carry three of us," Ryan said, shaking his head. "She'd draw too much attention flying back and forth."

"But we can't just stand by," Jen said, putting her hands on her hips. "Who knows what those things are--"

As if on cue, one of the Olmon crashed into view a few city blocks away.

It was a huge, serpentine thing, its skin a milky blue, and it was covered in a sheen of rainwater and a sickly mucus. It was at least thirty feet long; its limbs were thick as tree trunks, but they looked spindly in comparison to its body, and it scraped at the concrete with spindly webbed hands. It was slightly transluscent; they could just barely see what looked like bundles of nerves and pulsating organs inside it when it moved-- or maybe that was the way it seemed to glitch and distort a little bit here and there.
It whipped its head around as though to look around, though in place of eyes it only had masses of gnarled scarred tissue. Its face was grotesquely long and spade-shaped, like a crocodile that had been stretched out. Bright-red axolotl-like external gills twitched uselessly in the air, sticking out of its cheeks and shoulderblades. It snapped long, toothless jaws in the air, the remnants of a leather muzzle hanging in tatters from the side of its face. Rubberneckers screamed. It was inescapably similar to the kind of tiny slimy thing that lives only in caves-- but it was thirty feet long, and it was wildly thrashing about on a city street.

Just about the only thing that could make it worse would be--

"Open fire!" an officer close to the trio cried, and the line of cops did just that.

The Olmon made a horrible gurgling noise as the bullets tore bloodless holes in its skin, whipping its sightless head around and thrashing its long tail, taking huge chunks out of the buildings unlucky enough to be near it, felling the traffic lights with a crash. They couldn't shake the idea that it wasn't being harmed, merely annoyed, and this was only encouraged by the fact that it practically shrugged the bullets off, continuing along the perpendicular street.

"You're not going to--!" Ryan began to yell at the cops before his brain could catch up to his mouth, but Jen grabbed him by the shoulder and shook her head.

"We know what we're doing, son, just stand back," the police officer said gruffly, and Ryan bit his tongue. It was a tone he knew well, because he'd used it a lot, and he felt a distinct sense of unease at that revelation.

The trio took a further few steps away.

"'Cos their track record is so great," Eli said once they were out of earshot of the officer, but Ryan was not amused.

"Fuck! We don't have the time for this!" he hissed and dug his hands into his hair, at the end of his temper seeing the police force be aggressively useless yet again. He already felt like they couldn't do shit for the ones who had crossed into the digital world, and now--
He knew this wasn't a new problem, not by any means -- avoiding police, avoiding being seen with digimon, was par the course. And yet, with everything else that had happened today, it felt like the final straw.

Feeling this useless, this powerless, felt pretty damn bad.

It was Jen that cut through his thoughts before he could begin to feel that encroaching wave of self-pity.
"I do know one way around. Or, you know, through, rather," she said, twirling her D-Rive in one hand. Ryan and Eli both looked at her, and they immediately caught her drift.

"With all eyes on us?" Ryan said, quirking an eyebrow. There wasn't anywhere they could go to do it in private-- every street was blockaded, police in every alleyway, onlookers around every corner. "Do you want to get shot?"

"Do you want to just stand around doing nothing?" Jen said. It was blunt, and it was sarcastic, but it was not harsh or mean. Ryan opened his mouth then shut it again. "It's not exactly my idea of a good time, but our other option is to sit here and twiddle our thumbs, ya know?"

"You? Suggesting crossing the line? You've been hangin' around me too much," Eli drawled -- not even a month ago she'd been complaining about hiding from the cops as they ran in to fight Draugmon the final time -- but he hummed in consideration. They could still hear the Olmon, and the knowledge that there was another one slithering down another city street was impossible to forget.
"Fukkit, let's go. Can't make the night any worse."

Eli and Jen looked expectantly to Ryan. He looked between them, looking for something to say, but--

(If the others could make a rash decision to cross between the goddamn worlds, then they were damn well allowed to make some dumb choices of their own.)

"... you know, yeah. Fuck it," Ryan said eventually. Jen put her hands akimbo and smirked, while Ryan looked at his D-Rive. "If we're all in," he said, and he was not speaking to Eli and Jen, but to their invisible spectators tucked safely away in their D-Rives, "then let's get a move on."
They weren't going to force them to come out if they didn't want to... but let's be real -- if they didn't want to was a pretty ridiculous concept at this juncutre.

Now or never!

Red and gold lit up the street as Shitomon and Lurumon materialized next to their partners, and the light grew brighter as they evolved into their champion forms. They drew immediate attention; people screamed louder, but the police took a second or two to turn.
They didn't see fit to linger.

"We'll take care of it!" Ryan called to the line of cops, even if he knew they weren't listening, because why would they? That'd make his life easier, after all. As he spoke, he climbed onto Malakhimon's back; the moment he hoisted his leg over, she kicked into the air. She seemed as ready as him-- moreso, even.

Meanwhile, Eli and Jen both climbed onto Himamon's back; the red panda broke into a bounding run on all fours as soon as her passengers had situated themselves, and she leapt over the police barricade in one smooth motion.
"Pardon me," she said to nobody in particular, but she couldn't resist the temptation to knock over some of the concrete barriers with her massive tail as she passed. Just a bit of a parting shot.

Not wanting to be left out even though he couldn't carry anyone, Hulimon materialized in a flash of cyan; another flash later, he was Hokkaimon, sitting backwards on Himamon's back, pulling a face at the stunned police officers. Thank god, he resisted the temptation to yell something about fuck the police.
And thank god even more-- they held their fire.

They knew they'd have to answer for this once they took care of the emergent digimon, so they'd just have to take care of it quickly. Easier said than done.

"There's two of them," Ryan called down, Malakhimon staying close to the street. They soon came to the street that Olmon had been going down, and it hadn't quite seemed to master corners yet, so they could see smashing its way down the city blocks at reckless speed in a straight line. "So how are we gonna split this up?"

Ryan had been doing the asking, but it was his own parnter that answered. "Eli, Hokkaimon, you go take care of one of them. Jen, Himamon, you handle the other one," Malakhimon said sharply, eyes scanning up and down the street.

"And where's that leave you?" Hokkaimon said, glancing up at her with a quizzical expression.

"Don't worry about it!" she said, but she didn't sound so sure of herself. She quickly rectified her tone to sound a bit more confident. "I have confidence in you two to take care of them. I need to inspect something else."
It was a pretty weak explanation, but still, Malakhimon clearly had something in mind. For all her occasional faults, they had no reason to doubt her.

"Aye aye, cap'n," Hokkaimon said after a moment with a smart little salute up at Malakhimon. "I'll take care of this one," he said over his houlder to Himamon, who nodded her head. In one smooth movement, Hokkaimon dismounted with a jump. Himamon slowed down just enough so Eli could follow his partner, then she took off running again as Jen whipped out her D-Rive to locate the other Olmon on her radar.

Hokkaimon took off at a sprint, beginning to glow cyan once more. Himamon took a sharp turn down an alleyway at Jen's instrution, and Malakhimon rose into the rainy sky.

"What's on your mind?" Ryan said as they rose up.


Where were they?

The B-Team had showed up. That meant they couldn't be far behind, right?


The Olmon that on which they had seen the police open fire was not paying attention to what was behind it-- and what was behind it in short order was Yokaimon.

"Luna Wave!" Yokaimon cried, yanking the drawstring on his bag with his teeth while still running, without missing a beat. A beam of searingly-bright energy shot from the bag, cutting through the darkness of the street and smashing into Olmon's hindquarters. It had a much greater effect than the cops' bullets.
Olmon whipped around, taking out every window on half of the street with the swing of its tail, the sound mingling in the worst way with its gurgling roar.

As it rounded its eyeless face on Yokaimon and Eli running up behind him, it was hard not to see that its body shifted and glitched in tiny ways, more than they had seen from a distance.

"If this thing vanishes mid-fight," Eli said to nobody in particular, but loud enough for his partner to hear, "I'm just gonna straight up walk into the river."

Yokaimon scoffed. "You and me b-- yipe!"

"Abyssal Abandon!" Olmon gurgled, and its front quarters and head were engulfed in a shield of roaring water as it bum-rushed Yokaimon. He attempted to leap out of the way, but wasn't fast enough-- Olmon moved surprisingly quickly for its size.

With Olmon on top of him, Yokaimon had the perfect chance to attack, and he took it. "Moon Claw!" he called, his claws glowing blue as he jabbed them into Olmon's underside. His attack tore bloodless gashes into Olmon's body, the skin sloughing off to reveal greyish, rotten-looking flesh; the injuries distorted and glitched for a moment, barely perceptible in the dark.

Either way, that was definitely not what was supposed to happen.


The second Olmon was identical to the first in all ways but one -- its muzzle was intact, straps of thick leather keeping its jaws shut by force, but this had no impact on its destructive capabilities. It, too, had clearly had an encounter with the police force, and it too was unfazed entirely until Shaolimon had grabbed it by the tail.

Turned out that it was quite a feat for her, at her size, to go toe to toe with a thirty-foot salamander, but she was undaunted.

"Dragon's Breath!"
Shaolimon leapt out of the way of Olmon's slashing claws and spat her acohol-fueled golden flames, catching Olmon square in its eyeless face. It gurgled a horrible cry, recoiling and thrashing its massive body every which way. Its face already looked gruesomely scarred, but the fire only served to enhance the effect.

"Cavernous Crusher!" Olmon said, its voice muffled by its mask but they didn't need to wonder if it was preparing an attack. It swung its body around and in the blink of an eye, caught Shaolimon like a python, wrapping its serpentine length around her-- or at least, trying to.

"Eighteen Paw Strike!"

Shaolimon's paws and tail hit Olmon in rapid succession as it tried to close coils around her, and despite their size discrepency, Olmon was knocked away, skidding and taking out chunks of a building as it did. Shaolimon flinched, but leapt backwards. Jen stood just out of the way in an alley, taking advantage of the moment in which Olmon was trying to right itself; Shaolimon landed next to her, or at least, close enough that she could be heard when she spoke.

"These things are supposed to be docile," Shaolimon said. "They never come out into the open of their own accord. If any digimon was going to be trying to find its way to this world, it wouldn't be them."

"So, either they came through by freak accident because cracks are just opening up," Jen said, putting her hands on her hips, "or someone brought them through on purpose?"

"Yes, in essence."

"Not sure which option is better," Jen said, "but I've got a hunch."

"As do I."

Further conversation was curtailed as Olmon righted itself, and Shaolimon had to put distance between herself and her partner so as not to catch her in the crossfire.


Malakhimon rose high into the sky, Ryan holding fast to her back. She knew staying at Champion level put her at a disavantage if she was right, but she refused to be caught unawares, and she'd rather have her partner with her.

"Do you see anything?" Ryan asked, peering over her back down to the ground, shielding his eyes from the rain with one hand.

"Not yet," Malakhimon said, unable to hide her frustration. From this vantage point, she could see glimpses of -- and hear the destructive outcome of -- her teammates' fights with the Olmon. She hoped that she wasn't just wasting her time by not helping them directly-- and also that she was wrong, because she didn't want to deal with it if she was right.

See, her theory was this: earlier today, the digimon had been bait to draw them all out. Nithmon had said as much. That means he had to know when they were all out and about, and that meant that he had to have some way to know what was going on without revealing himself, and if he could do that, then there might be some way to figure out--

"There!" Ryan yelled, pointing, and Malakhimon snapped her attention to what he was indicating.

It was hard to see in the rain, in the dark, with lights and panicked sound going every which way, but on top of a tall building, a good distance away from where the Olmon were --
(It wouldn't be too hard to imagine it being where they had both started, actually--)
-- the air itself was distorting periodically, pulsating every couple of seconds before calming back down. If they weren't looking for it, it would be easy to overlook.

Before they could figure out what to do about this discovery (approach it? Go help the others and lead them to it? Neither seemed appealing; being right was Malakhimon's only solace, not the outcome of being right), they were soundly interrupted.
By gunfire.

"Shit!" Malakhimon hissed, diving to avoid a spray of bullets headed her way.

Ryan tightened his grip on her, desperate not to fall off; on the ground, police were yelling into a megaphone. He couldn't make them out over the rain and the pounding of his heart in his ears.
"Oh my fucking god, really?!" he snapped, even though -- or perhaps because -- he knew they couldn't hear him on the ground. "Are you people fucking stupid!?"

Malakhimon, though, could hear them, and her face was contorted in disgust and confusion.
"They're telling me to land," she said. "It sounds like they think I've captured you?" She couldn't hide her contempt.

"Oh my god," Ryan said, burying his face in his hands. "They think I'm some innocent civilian and yet they still shot at us! Good fucking work!"

That was just it, though; they had guns raised, prepared to open fire again. She could either land, get shot, or accidentally throw Ryan off her back by trying to avoid gunfire.

The sound of a helicopter getting closer only served to seal the deal.

"I'm going to land. We have to try talking to them. We have visual on something; we'll just have to make this quick."
She still had the feeling this wasn't going to work, and Ryan's grimace practically carried through to his whole body to indicate that he felt the same. They'd just have to keep an eye to where they'd seen the distortion and hope.

Malakhimon braced herself and swooped down, touching down on the ground in front of a line of police officers. She kept her eyes on them, and they kept their guns trained on her.

"We have downed one of the UDCs," an officer began to say into his radio, smug and proud. Malakhimon looked unimpressed; Ryan rolled his eyes. Yes. Take credit for that. You totally did it, after all.

The police officers were clearly not sure what to do with this situation; they probably hadn't expected Malakhimon to understand them, let alone comply, so Ryan took matters into his own hands-- and raised said hands in the air as he dismounted off of Malakhimon's back. She glanced sidelong at him, and then raised her own hands, for all the good it'd do.

"Don't shoot," he said, raising his voice to be heard. "We're the good guys."
More than ever, he felt the weight of that phrase.


"Moon Claw!" Yokaimon cried, leaping over Olmon as it charged and dragging glowing claws through its back as he passed.

"Cavernous Crusher!" Olmon whipped its entire back half into the air to catch Yokaimon with the brunt of its body, catching him mid-attack and constricting. In a puff of blue smoke, Yokaimon vanished from the salamander's coils and reappeared leaping into the air above it, claws glowing blue again.

"Moon Claw!"

Olmon writhed out of the way, smashing its body and taking out a huge chunk of a nearby building, sending brick and concrete dust flying everywhere. Yokaimon's attack missed entirely, his claws digging deep grooves into the asphalt of the street.

"Slippery shit, ain't'e," Yokaimon muttered, shaking rainwater off of his face as he righted himself. This was much harder alone. If he'd had backup, this would have been a cakewalk. He didn't fault his teammates-- certainly not Shaolimon, not even Malakhimon. Just. Damn, you know, he could have used some refugee brigade backup right about now.

Oh, if only the Hulimon from the start of the summer could see himself now.

"On your left!" Eli yelled from his vantage point on the sidewalk, and Yokaimon deftly leapt over Olmon's swinging tail on his partner's advice. He swung his bag like a bludgeoning weapon as he prepared to pull its drawstring again.

And then the police made their glorious, thoroughly unwelcome re-appearance. Over the rain and the commotion of battle, an entire squadron of police had managed to come by surprise, and they turned the corner a few blocks back. They made their presence known with a round of gunfire straight at the fighting digimon.
Once again, Yokaimon saved himself by vanishing into blue smoke and reappearing mid-jump over Olmon's head; and once again, the spray of bullets impacted Olmon, but only seemed to irritate it. It tossed its head and gnashed its toothless maw blindly, its roar gurgling and gutteral.

"Stand down!" an officer yelled into a megaphone.

"Kinda busy here!" Yokaimon snapped back before he could stop himself, landing on Olmon's back and digging his claws in to stay on as the salamander tried valiantly to dislodge him.

"Aw, shit," Eli drawled.

Yokaimon would loved to have stand down to the cops, really he would (spoilers: not really), but he had more pressing concerns, and he knew Olmon wasn't going to stop of its own accord.
So may as well make it count.

"Moon Claw!" he barked, his claws still dug into Olmon's body. He dragged them through its back as they began to glow, tearing horrible gashes lengthwise down its body. As Olmon roared, Yokaimon dismounted, and swung his bag around in his teeth again. While still leaping into the air, he pulled the drawstring. "Luna Wave!"

The searing blue-white beam of energy shot straight down at Olmon. It practically tore through the salamander, burning a black mark on the crumbling asphalt. By the time the beam faded, Olmon was going up in light, bursting apart into pixel motes of light.

And the police still had firearms trained on Yokaimon as he alighted on the ground, breathing heavily.

Eli, with his back still to the cops, slowly, if a little sarcastically, raised his hands.


Shaolimon wasn't having much better luck with her Olmon. Though she was holding her own, the Olmon was indeed a slippery bastard, and she found herself sorely wishing for a bit of help.

She was hardly daunted, though.

"Abyssal Abandon!" Olmon spat, muffled through its muzzle, and rushed at Shaolimon surrounded by a torrent of water.

"Eighteen Paw Strike!" Shaolimon cried right back, rushing forward to meet the salamander claws-first. The flash of golden light that surrounded her paws in the instant before she hit Olmon square in the face refracted throughout the water surrounding its front half, flashing bright like lightning for a split second. She moved seamlessly from a one-two punch into a backwards somersault kick, and she delivered a hard strike with her tail as a parting shot, but Olmon got a shot of its own in, tossing its head to send Shaolimon tumbling into a wall.

Jen frowned-- not at Shaolimon being thrown. Her partner digimon got back to her feet and was back in the fray in mere moments. No, she was worried by the sound she thought she heard over the crashing and crumbling noise of the fight-- and she was proven right when a helicopter's searchlight suddenly flooded the street, blinding-bright.

Of course, Olmon -- being blind already -- was not perturbed at all, but Shaolimon was distracted for only the fraction of a second that Olmon needed to smash into her at full force again, sending both of them crashing into the building Shaolimon had just been thrown into a moment before.

"Dammit!" Jen hissed, looking frantically up to the police helicopter and back down at her partner. Olmon writhed and snaked its body around, whipping its head this way and that and attempting to snap its jaws inside of its leather mask as it pinned Shaolimon down with its claws and weight. A round of automatic fire from the helicopter rang out in the night, and the bullets -- again -- had absolutely no palpable effect on Olmon, though at least it was shielding Shaolimon from the assault.

Shaolimon braced herself and heaved herself up as the round of bullets ceased, her claws glowing golden. "Eighteen Paw Strike!" she cried, delivering a series of hard, quick kicks and tail-strikes to Olmon's underbelly. As the salamander began to recoil, she followed up with hard jabs, forcing Olmon off of her. She was invigorated by the need to deal with this now.

"Dragon's Breath!" she cried, procuring a keg from thin air, taking a gulp of its contents, and spraying golden flames directly into Olmon's face a second time. "Eighteen Paw Strike!" She didn't waste a moment, following up with claws directly to Olmon's face. It only took one hit, and with a horrible gurgling noise, Olmon exploded into light.

Shaolimon immediately raised her paws, breathing heavily but staying calm. She closed her eyes as a squadron of ground officers rounded the corner, trying to tune out the sound of the helicopter and the distorted voices over the speakers.

"Dammit," Jen said again for emphasis, stepping out of the alleyway and raising her hands in turn.


Ryan and Malakhimon hadn't been able to say much of anything; they stood with guns pointed at them, awaiting with bated breath any sign that they could explain themselves, but none came. Instead, they heard radio chatter-- talking about UDCs have been neutralized by task forces, and felt a sense of mixed indignation and dread. The sounds of battle in the distance began to quiet down.

They were running out of time and fast.

"We're not called UDCs, you know," Malakhimon said. Immediately all eyes were on her, and she did a good job of keeping her composure. "We're Digimon. And if you're trying to stop the ones that are wrecking your city," she hoped it wasn't obvious how sarcastic she was being with her if, with as good a job as they were doing, "we're on the same side."

"That's one of the ones that keeps reappearing in the footage," one of the cops said to the one standing next to him. "I recognize it."

"It's done just as much damage as anything else, by my reckoning."

"Why's it got a human with it?"

A frown tugged at Ryan's mouth, and he glanced surreptitiously at the building atop which they had seen the distortion. With a sinking feeling, he thought he saw something surge and distort-- but was that just the rain? The lights had been flickering-- that could just have been the Olmon, right? (But it was starting to quiet down; had the others taken care of the Olmon?)
This was going nowhere.

"When you say you've got them neutralized," Ryan said, keeping his hands up, "what do you mean? Which ones are," airquotes, "'neutralized'?"

Nobody answered him.

Of goddamn course.

Unbeknownst to Ryan and Malakhimon -- even if they had a distinct hunch -- the other two pairs were having stunningly similar conversations, standing in the rain with their hands up and the police pointing guns at their faces.
But Ryan was right-- they were running out of time.

Or... strike that.

Time was up.

A sound like sizzling filled the air, and the streetlights surged so hard they exploded.

"Oh, dammit," Ryan and Malakhimon said in perfect sync, but they were soundly drowned out.

"Nithogg's Teeth!"

Jagged spikes, as big as a car, made of a growing-ever-more-familiar red-black static, shot up from the ground with explosive force, forming a barrier between the cops and the partners. Instantly, Ryan and Malakhimon heard gunfire from the other side-- but the bullets were stopped cold by the crystalline spikes.

They whipped around to see what they could see, and just as they feared, Nithmon floated well above the street, his wings flapping lazily, staticky energy swirling around his hands.

The fact that she had no chance against him one on one seemed to fly out the window, and Malakhimon immediately kicked into the air, surging forward as she began to glow red.
"Malakhimon, conduction evolve to... Eudaemon!"
By the time she took on her new form, she had already formed her spear of light in her hands, and she had its head trained on Nithmon.

"Where are they!?" Nithmon yelled, effortlessly feinting out of the way as Eudaemon rushed him.

"Ruby Oculus!" Eudaemon cried instead of answering his question, the red jewels on her body shining like stars in the night as she released a beam of crimson energy from between her hands. It shot into the night harmlessly as Nithmon vanished, glitching into nothingness for only a split second before reappearing a moment later.

Ryan frantically looked over his shoulder at the gathered cops. "Don't get involved! Trust me on this!" he barked, for all the good it would do, and took off running to keep up with the flying digimon as best he could.
God, he hoped they didn't take that as a threat.
(He felt a distinct pang of sympathy for Natalie having to deal with them all summer. This was no goddamn fun on the other side. Dammit all.)

The two angel-like digimon circled each other in the sky for a few moments, but it was hard not to feel like Nithmon was just fucking with Eudaemon. She wielded her spear expertly, threw it, rushed into close combat, but every time, Nithmon simply teleported to avoid her.

And while this was fun for a short while, he quickly grew tired of it, and he surged backwards, his wings glowing red.
"Vedfolnir's Wings!" he cried, releasing a rain of distorted red feathers on Eudaemon. She screamed in pain as they tore through her body, leaving no physical trace -- no physical injury -- but every part of her that they touched distorted for several seconds afterwards, and it hurt more than any physical wound possibly could.

"Didn't you learn anything!?" Nithmon yelled, flying in to get right in Eudaemon's face as she seized in mid-air. "You don't stand a chance against me. Not now. Not when I have it on my side."

And that was the perfect time for the cavalry!

"Luna Wave!"

Yokaimon's beam of energy cut through the dark as the fox himself came running full-tilt after it, his partner riding on his back. Nithmon effortlessly teleported out of the way of the attack -- no surprise -- but it at least freed up Eudaemon.

Eli clambered off of Yokaimon's back and crossed to Ryan at a jog. "We've got some real pissed cops on our tails," he said, "so we oughta figure out a plan and quick at that."

"Welcome to the club," Ryan said dryly, but he was secretly grateful for the company, and they weren't long to wait for the third member of the team. Perhaps thirty seconds later -- thirty seconds filled with attempts to attack Nithmon ending in failure --

"Dragon's Breath!" rang out, and a golden stream of flames joined the beams of red and blue light came raining down from above. A moment later, Shaolimon leapt gracefully from the tops of the buildings down to the street level, with Jen holding a very tight grip as she rode piggy-back.
"My apologies for the rough travel conditions," the red panda said dryly, but Jen shook her head as she put her feet on solid ground.

"Go on," she said. "Kick some squirrel ass."

"I make no promises," Shaolimon said, but she turned her eyes upwards, keeping an eye on Nithmon. He'd have to get lower for them to have any chance to do anything...

"You got cops on your ass too?" Eli said.

Jen nodded. "Heard shit go wacky. Lights exploded. Scoped Nithmon on the radar while the cops were freaking. Had to help, yanno?"

"Yeah," Ryan said. "I know."

But none of them could shake the memory of Nithmon having baited them out earlier-- and now that they were all in the same place, they dreaded that he had something up his sleeve again.
But he wasn't playing to kill. He was toying with them.
(Was he afraid that something like earlier today would happen?)

"Nithogg's Teeth!" Nithmon yelled again, and this time, an entire circle of spikes rose out of the ground-- and it was clear, immediately, that he was caging in the humans and their partners on the ground. The spikes were bigger this time, well over ten feet tall apiece, and they encircled the group in the middle of the street.
"Stasis Matrix!"
He held his hands out in front of him, and in a heartbeat, Eudaemon was captured in a massive pink crystal-- for the second time that day. It was suspended in midair, floating next to Nithmon.

He really had just been playing with them, and it was hard not to feel like he had them right where he wanted them. Despite their best efforts to play smart, they had still acted on their guts.

Nithmon tapped the crystal containing Eudaemon, and it began to lower to the ground. He followed it, descending slow and leisurely.

"Luna--!" Yokaimon began, but he was cut off.

"Stasis Matrix!"
Yokaimon was caught preparing to pull the drawstring on his bag, in an identical magenta crystal to the one currently surrounding Eudaemon. Shaolimon braced herself, preparing to attack, but Nithmon decided to be a bit proactive, and with a third, "Stasis Matrix!", she, too, was frozen.

"You people really never learn, do you," Nithmon said as he touched down on the ground, looking at the three frozen digimon and their partners, rooted to the spot. "Which works for me, when it makes my job easier." The sirens seemed a hundred miles away here, in the dark, in the rain, the only source of light being the faint glitchy red-black glow of the spikes surrounding them.
"But some of you aren't cooperating, and let me tell you, it's starting to piss me off!" Nithmon said, then paused for a half-a-second. "You," he said, pointing one claw at Ryan, his tone completely disjointed from his previous little rant. "Where are they?"

It was an honest to god confused what, blurted out in bafflement.

"You know what I mean!" Nithmon snapped right back. "Where are the carriers?" Pause, wherein Nithmon waved his hand dismissively. "Former carriers. Refugees. Whatever you call them."

Nithmon didn't know where the others were; he didn't know they had followed him into the digital world. He didn't know that that's where they were now. They weren't going to give that information up if they could help it.

"Can't say I know," Ryan said after a moment, raising and lowering his shoulder in what he hoped was a casual shrug. This was not the right answer; Nithmon curled his lip and narrowed his eyes for a split second before his expression rubber-banded back to normal.

"You, then," he said, turning to Eli, who merely shrugged; Jen flat out ignored him, inspecting her nails when he pointed to her. He waited for a moment; his eye twitched. "They're hiding here somewhere. I know they are. They're laying low again. Like I haven't had to deal with enough of that," he said, putting his hands on his hips.

"We can't help you, dude," Eli said dully. "Mind letting our partners go?"

"I don't think I will!" Nithmon snapped again, his voice getting a little shriller with every word, as that glitchy glow began to encase his hands again. "How about I just start levelling this stupid city until they show their stupid faces!"
Stupid was such a mild word to use in this situation. It shouldn't have sounded threatening, and yet, when it was spoken like a temper tantrum-throwing child with some unknowable destructive power, it didn't feel that funny.

With an ear-splitting sound, the crystal encasing Eudaemon split apart, and she screamed in pain as it broke. She was keeled over on the ground, and looked like she had been straining-- it was clearly an effort on her part to break free of Nithmon's crystal prison. Ryan rushed to her side, conspicuously gripping his D-Rive tight in hand.
"Throwing," Eudaemon gritted out, "a tantrum... will get you-- hcgk-- nowhere."

"Oh, spare me the lecture," Nithmon grumbled, glancing over at her. He paused, and thought for a moment, then looked at the crystals containing Yokaimon and Shaolimon. With a snap of his claws, they too broke apart, and they too roared with pain. Their partners rushed to their sides as well, like clockwork.
"But fine. You know what? I'll play it your way." His tone was as cheerful and chipper as it had ever been as Ratamon. "Make the refugees come to me, and I'll leave this backwater little world alone."

"Why do I feel like he's bound to reneg on that one," Jen muttered.
Shaolimon said nothing, but nodded once, flinching as she did; Her entire body felt like it was on fire.

Nithmon glanced from Shaolimon to Yokaimon to Eudaemon, humming quietly.
"We should be in agreement!" he said once it was abundantly clear nobody was going to answer him, holding his hands out. "After all, isn't that what you wanted all this time? To turn the refugees in to the god of your world?" He smiled nastily. "The only difference is that that's my master, now. Or it will be, soon enough. Semantics!"

"We're not so stupid that you can simply find a loophole," Shaolimon said coolly.

"Debatable," Nithmon said glibly.

"What do you even want here?" Yokaimon cut in, flicking his tails. "You keep saying yourself that you've won. That you've got what you wanted. So why are you coming back? Don't you have some ancient evil to write love letters to back home?"

Nithmon regarded him, and then smiled cheerfully, his eyes sparkling.
"Because I want to, stupid!" he said, chipper and spry. "Because the lot of you have been a pain in my ass for months, and I think I deserve it. You've humiliated me! Given me a lot of trouble! The carriers started going rogue-- I'm sure I can find some way to blame that on you if I think hard enough about it. Or the humans. One or the other. Doesn't matter. I want to tie up loose ends, and I wanna have some fun while I'm at it. Is that so wrong?"

Well, yes.

Eudaemon in particular was not particularly entertained. Though her eyes were not visible, she gave Nithmon the purest form of a glare that she possibly could.
"Our objective is the same as it ever was," she said coldly, "and if they aid our objective, then they are our allies. Our service is to the god-king, and our duty is to protect the Digital World from your master, the same as the god-king protected our world against it aeons ago."

Nobody quite expected Nithmon's reaction.

He looked genuinely offended.

"Is that what you think," he said quietly, closing his eyes; he spoke quietly enough to go unheard. Before anyone could ask what he'd said, he snapped his eyes open, and his wings erupted in glitching red energy. When he next spoke, it was much louder, and a sneer graced his expression. "You really are idiots. Vedfolnir's Wings!"

Ryan, Eli, and Jen braced themselves, but their partners immediately jumped to take the bullet-- or the feathers, such as it was. This close to Nithmon, the feathers didn't have time to disperse, and the attack was more concentrated. The three digimon yelled in pain, crumpling to the ground, their bodies struggling to maintain integrity-- and struggling to maintain their evolved forms.

Nithmon looked to the rainy sky, glancing around, looking, listening, for people that weren't coming.

He had Dinmon's lackeys here, primed to be taken down, but he couldn't even enjoy this!

"After all this, and suddenly, they're the ones running away with their tails between their legs? Ready to leave the lapdogs to die? Ready to let me raze this stupid little city all in the name of ruining my goddamn satisfaction?"
The carriers had been acting so damn buddy-buddy with these three last time; were they really going to just lay in wait? Though he didn't care that much anymore, he found himself bothered-- after everything, every stupid goddamn hoop he'd had to jump through, after everything they'd done to stay safe until he was able to activate the catalyst-- had they really suddenly turned into such cowards?
He was almost disappointed.

Finally, as it had been threatening to all night, the first bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, a bright white crack against the background of the dark sky.

And Nithmon's eyes went wide for a split second as thunder crashed, deafeningly loud. It clicked into place.

"They're not here."

"Oh, goddammit," Ryan hissed between his teeth; Nithmon didn't hear him.

"They're not here, because they followed me back," Nithmon said, speaking to himself, and then he pointed an accusing claw around at the three ultimate digimon getting to their feet. "And you got left here to stall me."

Nobody dared breathe a word-- they didn't want to confirm or deny anything, but they felt the sinking feeling that Nithmon wasn't particularly full of doubt.

"Then it won't matter. Cool. Good to know," he said, a smile spreading on his face. "Then I don't have to fuck around any longer here."
Nithmon's entire body began to glow glitchy red.

And though, surely, many in the reading audience would prefer it be someone else, perhaps we can all share in this moment of glory; because it is at this moment that Ryan continued a holy tradition. That is to say, he lunged forward and decked Nithmon in the face.
And the air filled with a familiar and horrible screech, because he decked Nithmon in the face (what a glorious phrase!), quite deliberately, with a hand clenched around his D-Rive-- and, as he'd kind of been hoping (desperately hoping), his D-Rive flipped the fuck out. The energy flickered away from Nithmon in an instant, as though totally neutralized upon contact with the digivice.

Nithmon's pupils constricted as his eyes widened in surprise as the punch knocked him off balance. He stumbled backwards a couple steps, but he picked himself back up in mere moments.
"Bitch!" he hissed, all of the usual chipper mirth gone from his voice, his hands glowing red with even greater intensity as he surged into Ryan's personal space.

Ryan became immediately aware of the fact that he had just done something very stupid.

Satisfying, but very, very stupid.

"Purge the Wicked!"

Like a shot of the lightning that cracked again overhead, Eudaemon's spear of light sailed straight into Nithmon, and though it distorted slightly in the cloud of glitchy atmosphere that surrounded him, it struck true.

It didn't do much damage-- the moment he was aware of it, the spear vanished, but it still hit him, and that was what counted.

"God fucking dammit," Nithmon hissed, and whether it was thunder or something else, with a deafening cracking noise, he was gone. Just like that.
Running away with tail between legs, indeed.

As Nithmon vanished, so too did the circle of tall spikes he'd summoned, flickering away in an instant, leaving three digimon and three humans standing, their eyes adjusting to the dark once more, in the middle of a street, surrounded on all sides by more police than any of them had ever seen in their lives.

Ryan stood, knuckles aching, where he had landed after punching Nithmon (really can't say that enough). Eli shoved his hands in his pockets; Jen placed her hand on Shaolimon's back.
It wasn't possible that that his punch nor Eudaemon's one attack had truly hurt him-- but he was so quick to flee. They didn't understand-- they just had to take it as it came.

They had been frustrated that they had been left here, but they were glad they were-- even if the streets were a disaster, if everything was fucked up. Who could say what Nithmon might have done if they hadn't been there to intercept him? If the Olmon had just been left to run wild? With how much the police had been able to do...

Speaking of.
The police lights' flashes of red and blue were almost blinding; the sirens sounded distant, their hearing having been shot out by the screeching, by the thunder, by the everything.

They put their hands up for the second time.
Maybe this was another opportunity to set things a bit more right while the others did what they had to do in the digital world.


They had to answer question after question, standing here in the rain; it was humiliating to say the least.
The police didn't seem interested in talking to the digimon at all, deferring to the humans for all questions. They had to tell them to hold their fire when the digimon de-digivolved back to their rookie forms, haggard and tired as they were.

Yes, they were on the same side. They always had been. All summer. They were the good guys.

No, they couldn't explain where the violent digimon came from. (Rather, they just... didn't think it would be worth it to explain it.)
No, they couldn't explain to them what digimon were. (No, they weren't a foreign spy technology, what the hell.)

Yes, they had been trying to keep the city safe.
No, the police's efforts hadn't been particularly useful.

Yes, the other ones they'd seen in the footage all summer-- the plague doctor, the bat, the ghost, the goat, the dog, the bear-- they were all on the same side.
They pretended that the catalyst evolutions were just feral digimon. It was easier than explaining.
The others had done most of the work, actually.

Yes, they were the good guys, too.


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