Salva Nos
Episode 2: Traces of Distant Days
by Ajora Fravashi

Disclaimer - See the one on episode 1. I don't have time to retype it.


Urazoe Kai had seen a lot in his short life. He had seen relatives die during the apocalypse, children murder each other over a can of food, babies left to die because no one knew how to care for them... all the evils humanity was capable of. But he had seen miracles too. He remembered when the Wanderer came from the north with a gathering of Ainu children; and where they passed, crops sprang up and the old skills of hunting and fishing were taught to children who had known only metropolitan luxury. He remembered when a group of storytellers came together to share their histories so that no one would forget. He remembered the little priestess girl who seemed to shine with inner light and her words had been a balm upon the souls of those who had given up hope. Kai had seen the good and the bad, and he so loved humanity that he had willingly joined the people of the Rocky Country. Their leader wanted to build a better world than the one that died with the adults, and he had signed up the moment he could.

His employment led him everywhere. He often alternated between digging up information, recruiting likely candidates for their cause, or retrieving some item or another on the list of things they needed. Now, he and his latest recruit waited outside of Osaba to see if there was any truth to the rumors. As night fell, a small group of monks with hoods hiding their faces marched down an abandoned street of Hiroshima. Two of them carried a stretcher with a black sheet pulled over it to cover a body, while the rest formed a loose circle around the procession. They paused before him once he had given them a code word and allowed him to take a peek at the corpse's face.

Rising bile wasn't what Kai was used to, desensitized as he was to most of the things he had seen, but it was excusable in this case. He swallowed it down and stepped away quickly, thankful that he hadn't actually touched the corpse itself. He recognized those symptoms, they haunted his nightmares.

With a quick "thanks" to the monks for allowing him to look, he took his neophyte's hand and ran as fast as they could manage back to the rover. He had to send word to base. Had to let them know it was back.

At their pace, they arrived shortly at the copse of trees where they'd hidden his rover. Minami, the sweet young girl he'd hoped to bring back to base for his boss's approval, yanked hard on his wrist and forced him to stop.

"Look at the ground," she whispered urgently. "Fresh tracks that aren't ours."

This was all the discouragement he needed. Kai stepped back cautiously, ready to run if he had to, and Minami followed his example. They backed into what was really the last thing they needed to deal with: Ruki's posse.

One of them, a man who looked eerily like the Wanderer, stepped before them with a machine gun slung over his shoulder and a pleased grin on his face. "Howdy! What would a lovely couple like yourselves be doing with a perfectly functional military rover that's been recently modified with power tools and has a nearly full tank of gas?"

"We stole it," Kai offered quickly. He hoped that would be enough, but from the look on this man's face, it didn't seem likely.

"Now see, I'm afraid I just can't buy that. Ruki wants you in for questioning. Just play nice and give her what she wants, and we'll all be able to go home soon enough and pretend this never happened."

Before Kai could respond, the butt of a gun fell upon the back of his head and sent him tumbling into darkness.


There was definitely a festive air throughout the school as Ruki's closest subjects came by, one by one, to bask adoringly in the electric light. She congratulated each of the would-be scientists and promised a reward in cheerleaders (or jocks, for those who swung that way), which was met with enthusiastic gratitude. The scientists always were the most loyal to her.

When the queen was called away by her second in command, Takeru took advantage of this absence to take a look around. It really was better off than most places, and he wouldn't be incredibly surprised if running water was next on the agenda. He nodded absently to the people he passed, paying more attention to the hallway layouts and exit routes than anything else. It was reflex born of the survival instinct: if he didn't know how to get away, he would be as good as dead. He wandered in this manner for almost half an hour before Ruki's second in command came for him.

In a manner that was radically different from his previous encounter with the second in command, Takeru was forcibly dragged to what had once been a gymnasium and unceremoniously tied up next to the Okinawan and a girl he didn't recognize. She might have been pretty once, but the fresh swelling of a new black eye, a broken lip, and what were probably a few broken teeth distracted from any beauty she may have had. The Okinawan wasn't faring that much better. As the thugs secured his ropes, Takeru mentally kicked himself a few times. He really should have listened to his instincts.

Ruki strode back and forth before them, casually tapping a revolver against the palm of her free hand in perfect time to the clapping of her boots on wooden beams. "So, here's where things stand. Hirokazu says he saw this man," she paused and pointed her gun's muzzle at the Okinawan, "talking to this man." Now it was aimed at Takeru. "These two," and the gun wavered between the Okinawan and the girl, "had a recently modified rover with gasoline, an operational radio, and simply refuse to tell me where they came from. I'll have you people know that I will do anything to protect my people. Tell me where the Rocky Country is."

Takeru could offer nothing more than bewildered silence. Where had he heard that before? Why was it so important that the queen felt the need to beat it out of the two next to him?

"You're crazy," the Okinawan muttered. "Even if it did exist, what does he have to do with anything? We just talked. That's it ."

The pacing stopped and the queen strode near to stare down her nose at the Okinawan. "I know spies and secret agents when I see them. I also know how they recruit people to their cause. Everything Hirokazu has told me about your little meeting with Blondie there just reeks of a recruitment campaign. That's why he's here. Now, as for being crazy..." Ruki squatted down and gave the Okinawan a predatory grin. "Girls had it the worst after the mass deaths, you know. You boys never realize exactly when puberty hits, but we knew. We had to live with the fear each and every night that our first period would come with our deaths. How were we supposed to know that the plague killed so fast that it left no survivors to pass it on to the rest of us? So, yes, maybe I am a little crazy. Fearing your own biological functions for a while will do that. Who isn't?"

After giving the Okinawan a pat on the head, Ruki stepped back to address one of her underlings. What she told the man, Takeru couldn't tell, but he soon found out when the man yanked the girl away from them and dragged her outside. The Okinawan shouted out after her and renewed struggles against the bonds, increasing intensity until a gunshot rang out and silenced him.

Once upon a time, Takeru would have been stunned by the brutality. Once upon a time, he wouldn't have been able to fathom why anyone would do such a thing. But then, once upon a time, his parents had still been with him. Now all he could muster was disgust at the senseless act and anger that he couldn't do anything about it.

"Now then," Ruki said as she turned back to them. "I want you to think hard about this while I'm out, and when I come back, I expect an answer or someone else is going to end up dead. Understand?"

The prisoners could only glare furiously after her as she stalked away with her second in command and the executor close behind. Under the watchful eyes of the guards that were left behind, the Okinawan shifted closer and whispered to Takeru.

"I'm Kai. Sorry about getting you involved, I didn't think she was that good at picking out people like me."

Takeru gave a soft grunt of annoyance in response. An apology, while nice, wouldn't get them out of here. "Why is she so intent on finding this place? Did you tell her it's only a rumor?"

"I tried." Kai's voice took on a tone of resignation. "She didn't buy it."

"Well, why the hell not?"

"Because it exists."


Daisuke had had a lot of weird traveling companions and drinking buddies during his travels, but he doubted any of them could hold a candle up to this guy. When asked about who he was, the man kept saying that he was "Time, unlimited" and returned to winding a watch that didn't work. When asked about the watch, the man said that it would work again when the world was ready to move on. And when asked about that weird manner of speech he had, the man said that God spoke to him in his head. Okay, then. He was with a lunatic.

What was particularly eerie about his companion, though, was that when he pulled that "God says" crap, something inside him was all too willing to obey. It was creepy and rather freaked him out, but there was little alternative but to either dismiss the man or accept this, well, whatever it was.

As he dug into his inner pocket for his bag of konpeito, he reflected on the circumstances leading up to what he was about to do now. The crazy man said that "God says Hope is trapped and needs the aid of Friendship and Courage to break free," and then disappeared the moment he turned his head. But what was really, incredibly freaky was that the crazy man left a bon-bon where he had once sat. Bon-bon. Genuine, fresh chocolate. No one made that anymore and hadn't since the Apocalypse came. He wasn't a believer in that divine intervention crap, but when he opened the bon-bon's wrapper and read "gym" written in katakana on it, he had to wonder.

At the very least, he had to do something as a payback for the first real chocolate he had in years. If it was a rescue mission the crazy man wanted, so be it.

Daisuke was an entertainer at heart, and at some moments it felt like he could live off the attention of an audience. He made a big show of pulling out his konpeito stash, opening the bag, and slipping a star- shaped candy into his mouth. Just in case he hadn't caught the attention of everyone in the bar, he threw in a few moans of contentment for good measure. Much to his amusement, the closest barflies to him stared at his bag of candy with watering mouths. He could swear he saw a trail of drool drop from someone's chin to the right.

"Where'd you get that," a particularly scrawny young man asked before licking his lips.

"Can't say. They told me not to."

A fluffy-haired woman that smelled faintly of a pigpen edged towards him. "Who told you not to?" Okay, scratch that "faintly." Now that she was closer, Daisuke was pretty damn sure she made her living by raising pigs.

"It fell off a truck, okay?" While he wasn't normally a good liar, Daisuke figured he sounded more convincing if he spun it like a story. "Some supply truck headed for that school nearby, probably from the government."

"But the government is dead," replied one of the men near the back. Another man, one with half his teeth missing, took on the look of a conspiracy theorist. "Hey, if people are coming back from the dead in Tokyo, does that mean the government is coming back too? Maybe the Emperor?"

"Don't be ridiculous. He's lying."

"Hey," said the woman who smelled like pigs, "I saw a truck drivin' up to the school. When I asked, they told me to mind my own business. I think Ruki's been hoardin' goods that the gov'ment meant for us and plans to leave when she has it all."

"Preposterous," shouted the man who said the government was dead. "There's no evidence. Even if there was, I value my hide too much to take on the queen."

The barkeeper, a rather pretty blonde woman, leaned over the bar with her arms crossed to support her weight. "There was a guy here earlier. I think he was in the government. Had a real I.D. and everything. He said he was scooping things out, making sure we got our share."

The other woman's eyes went wide at that. "It musta been that man Hirokazu escorted to the school. Ruki pro'bly wants it kept quiet."

That did it. Even dissenters like the man in the back were enraged. After all, they loved and trusted their queen, and now they thought she betrayed them. With a roar that echoed in the bar, a riot came to life.

Thankful, Daisuke turned on the stool and smiled at the barkeeper. "Thanks for the help, miss..?"

"Izumi." The barkeeper gave him a wink and put away a washrag and shot glass she had been toying with during his attempt to create an angry mob. "No problem! I've been thinking of leaving town anyway."


Takeru could do little more than stare blankly at the Okinawan. That certainly hadn't been what he was expecting, but then, what was? He hadn't expected to be in this predicament either. And then it struck him.

"Kai, this Rocky Country, does it go by other names," he asked with poorly veiled desperation lacing his voice. When Kai nodded, Takeru pushed on. "Is one of them Amaterasu's Cave?"

The Okinawan stared back at him, bewildered. "No, but how do you know of Ama-"

It was at that moment that they heard the angry cries of what sounded like rioters.


Ruki scrambled out of her chair when she heard what sounded like roaring waves beyond the school's fences. When her second in command ran to a stop at her door, she demanded an explanation.

"An angry mob," Hirokazu offered between shallow gasps for air. He was not allowed reprieve, for Ruki soon grabbed her revolver and ran to the entrance of the school with him in tow. What greeted her was a sight that would baffle her for years to come.

"You've been robbing us," the rioters chanted. "Give us what's ours! Stop lying to us!"

Unbeknownst to the queen of Osaba, her beloved scientists in their fourth floor lab quibbled over being unable to see what was going on. They didn't like not knowing, they didn't like unsolved puzzles. Naturally, one of them had a brilliant idea.

Far below, Ruki was trying to reason with the people she had tried for so long to protect. She felt hurt and betrayed by this uprising, but refused to give in to the urge to lash out for the moment. "What is it you want?! Haven't I protected you from raiders? Haven't I always been looking out for your best interests? If it wasn't for me, you would all be dead!"

"You have it all, don' you," screamed a woman with fluffy hair. "Food, gas, electric'ty! If you rilly cared, you'd share!"

Ruki snapped. How dare they make such assumptions! "Don't be stupid! I told you all before, we don't have any gas or electricity!"

Oblivious to the events unfolding below, one of the scientists gave a pleased hum over his ingenuity and made last-minute adjustments to the wires connected to his steam turbine prototype before pulling the switch. Now they'd be able to figure out what was going on!

The rioters and Ruki's own personal guard fell silent as the floodlights turned on for the first time in fifteen years. With the distinct feeling of her blood running cold at this new development, Ruki turned horrified eyes upon her rebellious people. The electric light gave new life to their protests and new energy to their efforts, and they surged past the fence.


"Daisuke, I don't know how you managed it, but that was impressive," Takeru managed to get out before slipping into Kai's rover. When the guards had gone to investigate the riot, Daisuke sneaked into the school's gymnasium and cut the ropes binding Takeru and Kai. Although Kai was apparently sporting a sprained ankle, Daisuke and Takeru made good time with Kai supported between them.

They had taken out the guards watching the rover and Kai took control the moment he was in the driver's seat. As they began to drive away, one of the guards woke up to fire off a few shots, but it seemed as if nothing more was damaged but the sides of the rover.


Once the rebellion had been quelled and Ruki had to explain that her scientists were testing the prototype for bugs before wanting to release future models to the rest of the town, she retreated to her office to lick her wounds. And, to add insult to injury, Hirokazu found her guards knocked out in the gymnasium and the ropes cut with the prisoners missing.

A small part of Ruki, the little girl who had to bury her grandmother, wanted to cry in frustration. Her only solid links to the Rocky Country were gone with the rover. The Rocky Country was supposed to be the Promised Land, and the evidence that the Okinawan had unwittingly given her had only verified its existence. Gas, old world technology, a key card she had found in the Okinawan's pocket and had been stupid enough to leave on a table when she left, it all sang of a place that still had the comforts of the old world. Only the Rocky Country was said to have those comforts, and now her chance to find its location was gone.

Hirokazu hovered close by, clearly concerned but unwilling to show it for fear of appearing weak. It was a good idea, for at the moment she was ready to tear into anyone who showed weakness. He was a good second in command, even if he had been an obnoxious twerp as a kid. Not what she was interested in as a mate, but then no one ever had been.

She had one last option and prayed something would come of it. With that in mind, she ground her teeth and swallowed her pride. "Hirokazu, I want you to pass on the word that I will offer food in exchange for any information as to those agents' whereabouts. If that's not good enough, I want the informant to come to me personally and take whatever it is they want from my office. Got that?"

Her ever-loyal second in command gave a brief nod and stepped outside to spread the news.


After making a quick stop to pick up Patamon, whose very existence didn't seem to surprise Kai in the least, they drove deep into the night. According to Kai, the Rocky Country had digimon aplenty; they were, however, limited in that many of the digimon still hadn't found their partners within the base itself. Patamon had been worried sick over Takeru but was glad that his partner was okay, and then flopped onto Takeru's dark green cap to hum contentedly. When Kai didn't seem to want to talk, Daisuke turned to Takeru instead.

"Hey, since we're both looking for something, I was thinking," Daisuke began, then gave a short laugh when he noticed the feigned disbelief on Takeru's face. "Yeah, I know, what's the world coming to, right?"

"Right. But go on."

A more serious expression crossed Daisuke's face. "Well, I think we should look together. You watch my back, I watch yours, and we help each other out of scrapes like the one we left. Make sense?"

Takeru frowned slightly. He had been alone, watched out for himself, for so long that he really didn't know if he could handle having to look out for someone else that wasn't Yamato or Patamon. Committing himself to watch out for a travel companion for an unknown amount of time would be a huge change, and he just didn't handle that kind of change well. But he didn't want to let Daisuke down by saying "no" outright, so instead he said he'd think about it.

Despite the disappointment visible in his eyes, Daisuke nodded and gave a slight smile. "That's okay. Take your time."

It was at this moment that Kai gave what sounded to be a liquid cough and slumped forward on the wheel. Alarmed, Takeru kicked Kai's motionless foot away and slammed on the brakes. They came to an abrupt stop in the middle of a derelict highway and Daisuke hurried out of the passenger's side to run to the driver's side to open the door and figure out what the hell was going on.

When they finally got Kai pulled out of the rover and laid out onto his back, they noticed now what they had overlooked before. One of those bullets had connected and had, at a side angle, penetrated both lower lungs. Without a hospital and old world surgery, Kai would drown in his own blood.

Daisuke wanted to panic, and most likely would have if Kai had not struggled to get something out of his pocket. The Okinawan retrieved a plastic card from an inner pocket and held it out with trembling fingers to Takeru.

"Please... take the rover," he coughed up some blood before going on. "Take it back to Iwakuni Base. Map in h-hidden compartment under rover. Card lets you in. Tell them... It's back."

Takeru glanced frantically at Daisuke, whose only aid was a shrug, and suppressed the urge to shake Kai. Patamon, feeling his distress, gripped hard at his cap and inadvertently pulled on the hair under it. Takeru didn't pay attention to this, for if "it" was what he suspected, there were far greater things to worry about. "What's back? What do you mean?"

It looked like Kai was going to answer, it really did. He opened his mouth, only to cough out some more blood, and slumped back on the ground. Dead. Urazoe Kai, who loved both the good and the bad that came with life, was no more.

Takeru and Daisuke buried him at dawn, while Patamon helped by gathering flowers for the grave. They hadn't known him long, but it felt as if the world had lost something important.


Despite the rather comical attempts in figuring out how to drive later that morning, there was a tangible gloom between Daisuke and Takeru. Patamon did his best to alleviate it by telling Daisuke tales of the Digital World, but even his normally cheerful attitude was subdued. When he had said everything he could about his homeland, he curled up in the space between the two humans and nuzzled each in reassurance. It'll all be okay, he was certain of it.

Shortly after Patamon had exhausted his tales of a world that probably died when all the computers did, Daisuke spoke up in an attempt to get another conversation going.

"Say, Takeru? Do you have any siblings?"

Takeru would have turned to glance curiously at Daisuke, but learned earlier that day that taking his eyes off the road was a really bad idea while he was the one driving. At least he hadn't crashed into anything in the last few hours. "An older brother. Why?"

"Older siblings are a pain, aren't they," Daisuke murmured, his gaze somewhat distant. "Bossy, pushy..."

A brief smile crossed Takeru's face at that. "Think they know everything, always demand the most attention, selfish..."

"... Annoying as hell. But you gotta love 'em," the other man finished off.

"Yeah." Takeru's voice was soft when he said that, and a familiar ache settled into his chest. He missed his own brother, but at least he knew how to find Yamato. The lines of fans were usually a kilometer long when Yamato was holding a concert. "How'd you lose track of Jun?"

"Well, before they died, our parents told Jun to take care of me. She dragged me everywhere. Then, I'm not sure what exactly happened. One minute I was asleep in a house we claimed for ourselves, and the next I found myself in a wagon headed out of town. The driver said that raiders had set the place on fire and Jun went back to fight it." Daisuke's voice, strained as it was with the effort of keeping from showing too much emotion, lightened a bit with affection for the memory of his sister. "She was always stubborn, y'know? You couldn't get her to budge when it came to defending something. But when I went back, she wasn't there."

"We'll find her, Daisuke," Patamon stated as if it were a certainty. "Right, Takeru?"

Takeru gave a brief nod. "Right. No harm in trying."

There were times when Daisuke was pretty sure he had it good. This was one of those times. "Oh, hey, what about your brother?"

"He's like a peacock, only hard to find if you're blind." Takeru grinned at the thought of Yamato dressed like a peacock. Considering his brother's increasingly bizarre taste in stage outfits, it would probably be a step up from the norm. "I just have to look out for the kilometer-long line of fans that follow him to every concert."

"Musician? That's pretty cool. What's his group called?"

Damn his inability to drive while looking away, he really wanted to look at Daisuke's face when he said it. "The Teenage Wolves."

Daisuke could do little more than stare in astonishment. His sister attended every concert she could when they were still together, had probably given up more trade items for a ticket than was healthy just to attend. "You're Yamato's brother! Jun used to have a big crush on him!"

"She and every other hormonal fan. Yeah, I know." Takeru scrunched up his nose at that. The fans were what annoyed him most about having to follow Yamato around. "She got over it, I hope?"

"Yeah. Just a teenage crush thing, y'know? The type that comes and goes. Dunno who'd she be after now, though." Daisuke figured now would be a good time to switch topics, since Takeru looked none too pleased to discuss his brother's fame. That was understandable. After all, who wanted to live in someone else's shadow? "So, uh, what do you think we'll find there?"

"Iwakuni Base? I don't know. Look at the map?"

There was a faint rustling as Daisuke pulled out the map they had found wedged under the engine and opened it. He hadn't looked at it earlier and it took him awhile to figure out where they were supposed to be on the map. Osaba wasn't on it, but Hiroshima was. All the post- Apocalypse settlements weren't marked on it, but the old world cities were. It was vaguely reassuring. If Iwakuni Base was...

... It was...

"Takeru," Daisuke whispered. When he didn't get a response, he spoke louder. "Hey Takeru, did you notice this? The kanji for Iwakuni?"

"Sorry, they weren't in the vocabulary lists when I was in school. What about them?"

"Iwa, rocky; kuni, country. It's the Rocky Country you said Ruki wanted to get her hands on."

The driver actually looked sheepish for the moment. "Well, go figure. And here I was just driving to the dot with the red circle."

"We're on track, at least," Daisuke offered as reassurance. "So, whatcha think?"

Takeru hummed in thought for a moment before he responded. "Sounds like an old U.S. base. That treaty from World War II said Japan couldn't have a military, so all we had was a self-defense force with the aid of the Americans. I think there was word going around that the U.S. planned to turn the bases over to Japan permanently a few years after the new millennium. But then the Apocalypse came..."

"And the bases now belong to whoever squats on them, right?" It made sense! That was how Daisuke and Jun claimed their house, at least until the raiders came and burned it.

"New world order: finders keepers. Kai said they were looking to set things right again, so there probably isn't a madman squatting on Iwakuni."

With an emphatic nod, Daisuke folded up the map and decided to entertain Patamon. Digimon were fun to be around. Maybe someday he'd have one of his own. It'd be really cool if he did. What would it be?


Sunset found them at what had once been a U.S. Marine Corps base, but had since been abandoned. There was no sign of life and no sign that the place had been occupied for over a decade. They refused to be discouraged. Takeru, who spent a good deal of his time hunting for game to trade into town, was the first to find it: a well-hidden trail in the distance. They drove up to it and stopped to clear away the foliage. Beyond was a worn path that led to a fenced-in cliff.

The cliff, with its massive metal doors, was the true Iwakuni Base. It looked downright impenetrable, and the chain that locked the fence was old and rusted. However, when Daisuke gave a sigh of defeat, Patamon pointed out the lock that had been hidden in the rusted coils. It was as shiny and new as it must have been the day it was forged.

They rushed back to the rover and used it to break past the fence. With that out of the way, the trio got out again to figure out how they'd get past the doors. There weren't any handles, knocker, or doorbell. This too was resolved when Takeru found a device designed exclusively to read key cards. Once Takeru slashed the card through the device, there was a great groaning within the cliff as those metal doors swung inwards to reveal pitch-blackness.

"You know, I'm starting to think this wasn't such a great idea," Takeru muttered as he wiped away a bead of cold sweat. He never did like darkness much, in any form.

Daisuke clapped him on the shoulder on the way back to the rover. "Turn on the headlights and we'll be okay."

Takeru was tempted to just leave the rover and head back to the wilderness, where it was never really dark so long as there were stars in the sky. Patamon, however, had a different idea entirely.

"Takeru, we gotta go in! There are other digimon in there!"

He blinked up at his partner, who hovered in the air with big blue eyes focused on the darkness. Patamon had never really said so, but he was worried about the Digital World. If there were other digimon within the base, they might know what happened to it. Well then, Takeru never could deny his partner. He turned back to the rover and slipped into the driver's seat again. With a turn of the ignition and a foot on the accelerator, they went in.

With only the headlights to light their way, it felt as if they were driving into the heart of the Earth itself. They didn't know how long they had driven or how far, but they eventually came to a stop when the headlights revealed the wall they were driving up to. Okay, well, time to get out again.

Then, to their utmost astonishment, someone hit the lights and the three nomads found themselves staring at over two dozen men and women dressed in military fatigues. Men and women with semi-automatic rifles pointed at them. There was no other option but to do as their leader said. Just surrender.


Someone had watched too many cop movies, Takeru thought dourly as he turned his eyes from the hot, nearly blinding interrogation lamp. He was tied up, Daisuke was tied up, and Patamon was completely absent. Though he wondered where his partner had been taken, the lamp was too distracting. Too uncomfortable. He couldn't pick out much beyond the light, but what he could make out were a dozen soldiers standing at ease against the whitewash walls and a man in black pacing behind the glare of the lamp. A man in black with mirrored shades to hide any semblance of humanity. Just perfect. Other than the outfit and shades, Takeru couldn't really make out any other features.

"I know you killed Urazoe Kai. Just confess," the man in black stated in an all-too-even tone of voice. Takeru was getting very tired of these interrogations. Maybe he should just stick to hunting.

"Hey man, we didn't do anything," Daisuke shouted. He struggled against his bonds, but they just wouldn't loosen. "What makes you think we did?!"

The man in black was not the least bit put off by Daisuke's fervor. "Bullet holes on the sides of the rover and blood on the driver's side reveal signs of a struggle-"

"That's because we were trying to drive away from the people who were trying to kill us!"

"I don't believe you. There is a clear motive." The man in black had the kind of quiet calm in his voice that Takeru suspected was just too calm and quiet to be human. And what was with that too-rhythmic clicking he kept hearing? It was enough to drive him mad. "The rover would fetch a very good price on the open market."

Daisuke struggled some more before responding again. "Dude, would we be here if we were going to sell it?"

"Listen," Takeru began, hoping a full account would convince the man in black. "We were escaping from Ruki's thugs, and he got shot during the escape attempt. Before he did, he told us to bring the rover here and pass on a message."

The clicking stopped as the man in black stopped pacing and leaned into the light. Now that Takeru could see more, he noticed rather spiky blue hair framing olive skin that hinted at a Chinese ancestry. "And what would that message be?"

"I'm only supposed to tell the one in charge." Takeru had to work hard to suppress a smirk at the almost-indecipherable frown of frustration on the man in black's face. "I'll only tell whoever's in charge."

Somewhere beyond the light, previously hidden from view by the man in black, another man came forth. This one was taller, with longer hair that seemed to hang around his face like a curtain. "My name is Ichijouji Ken, and I am 'in charge' of Iwakuni Base. Please forgive Jianliang, he sometimes takes his role as head of security a little too seriously."

The man in black, Jianliang, turned to Ken with an all-too-measured air. "I still do not believe them. My informant says that this Takeru will be trouble. My informant has yet to be proven wrong."

"Do you believe in me, Jen," Ken asked, in the sort of tone of voice that suggested that it was something that really didn't need to be asked.

For the first time since the nomads had seen Jianliang, he actually nearly flustered a bit. "Of course, but-"

"Kai's last radio contact said that he saw Takeru as a potential recruit. I trust Kai's judgment, he has never been wrong in the choices he made. Did he not recruit you as well?"

"Well yes, but anyone can make mistakes." Jianliang's teeth actually seemed to be set on edge now. Takeru wondered what the hell he did to deserved this kind of blind distrust, but perhaps it was just paranoia. If Jianliang really was head of security, paranoia was probably par for the course. When Ken did nothing to counter the argument, Jianliang gave a slight nod and turned to walk out the door. "Very well then, I will leave them in your care."

Once Jianliang and his soldiers were gone, Ken slipped into the chair across the table and turned down the interrogation lamp. He gazed curiously at Takeru, then Daisuke, and back again. "Kai's report didn't mention a second, or a digimon. But, tell me, what was the message?"

"All he said was 'It's back,' but there was nothing else." Takeru noticed, with some curiosity, that Ken's eyes widened in surprise and what might have been horror before the expression was quickly hidden. "Is 'it' what we think it is?"

Instead of answering the question, Ken called out to someone beyond the door. "Please send someone to escort these two and their digimon around base and give them something to eat." With that, Ken turned an apologetic eye to the two and bowed slightly. "I'm sorry for running off, but I need to call an emergency council meeting. Our traditional welcome girl will be along shortly."

With that, Ken ran out the door.

Daisuke and Takeru exchanged looks of disbelief at what they had gotten themselves into, and worry over what the panic over "it" implied. And, to add insult to injury, they were still tied up.

Someone did come along shortly, a soldier who said he was told to release them and escort them to the cafeteria. Patamon joined them, though he had been escorted by a kiwimon. The welcome girl was running late. Daisuke soon pushed the event out of his mind once they grabbed trays of food and settled down to eat, Patamon was content to chow down, but Takeru was still worried about "it."

A young woman and a penmon soon joined them, though her face was hidden behind a clipboard. "Hello, welcome to Iwakuni Base, I will be your guide, yadda yadda, feel free to ask-"


The clipboard dropped abruptly, revealing a fairly pretty girl with untamable brown hair and astonished brown eyes. She stared in surprise at her brother, then squealed in delight and threw her arms around his neck in a lopsided hug. It was quickly returned by an equally exuberant Daisuke.

Jun practically bounced with glee before her brother made her sit down next to him. Penmon, who looked to be her digimon partner, hopped onto the bench next to her and watched in amusement. "Oh my god, Daisuke! I kept asking the agents for information about you, but they were never able to track you down! How have you been doing?"

"Swell! Except for the raiders and stuff, but that's life, y'know? How about you? How'd you get here?"

"Took a wrong turn on the way to Albuquerque," Jun offered with a grin. "Really, though, Kai recruited me after the raid. I did my stint as an agent, but that got boring after awhile. So, here we are!

"And, since I'm neglecting my job, here's the quickie version: A bunch of government people or those well-connected came here in an attempt to escape the Apocalypse. Thought they'd weather it out. I don't know how it got in, but it did. One of the kids that had been taken here was this child genius, Ichijouji Osamu. When the adults died, he took command and organized everything. A council, training regimes for future soldiers, stuff like that. I don't know exactly what happened, but some say the Wanderer from the North came to spirit Osamu away to the outside world. So, Osamu disappeared and it's said that whatever killed Osamu made the Wanderer go mad. Ken was elected to power soon afterwards, and he's doing his best to carry out his brother's vision. Got all that?"

After Takeru and Daisuke nodded, Jun continued. "Ken's trying really hard, I think. He wants to bring order back into the world and make things better, the way his brother intended."

All very nice, of course, but to Takeru, intent wasn't the same as action. "You guys are sitting on a goldmine here. I saw a hydroponics garden on the way from the interrogation room. You people have food, electricity, arms, vehicles... things the rest of the world doesn't have. Why aren't you sharing? Why don't you let the outside world know you're here?"

Jun looked befuddled for a moment, but it soon dawned on her that this was in fact a legitimate question. "Well, think about it. The moment the outside world finds out where we are, what do you think would happen? They'd invade, pillage everything we have, and burn the rest."

"She does have a point, y'know." Daisuke seemed to feel the need to emphasize his sister's words. Takeru simply grunted his surrender and went back to his food.


After dinner, Jun and her penmon escorted them to Ken's command center. Along the way, Penmon answered Patamon's question about the state of the Digital World. While it had survived the Apocalypse on Earth, the loss of most of the world's computer systems ended up taking a heavy toll on the Digital World itself. Some digimon had been lucky and took refuge in the base, but others were not and had died with a good deal of the network. Because of limited resources, only the most trusted of Ken's agents were allowed to bond with digimon partners.

Penmon's story trailed off when they approached the door to Ken's command center and she joined Jun in wishing them good luck.

The leader of Iwakuni Base sat with his chin resting over laced fingers, his eyes were closed, and the slight frown on his face suggested that he was worrying about something or another. Takeru and Daisuke settled into chairs across the meeting table while Patamon plopped back onto Takeru's cap.

"Again, I apologize for the inhospitable welcome. Thank you for passing on Kai's message." Ken opened his eyes and looked away to dig under the table for something. It was soon pulled out and revealed to be a small journal. "Kai kept this in a hidden compartment on the rover. It is a journal detailing his travels and notes about what he found.

"I asked you here because I am in sore need of informants, and Kai's death is a heavy hit to us. He was one of the best we ever had. In exchange for this service, you are welcome to call this base home."

Daisuke and Takeru exchanged glances. Daisuke's was hopeful, and Takeru suspected that Daisuke wanted to stay here with Jun. Takeru's was more suspicious. He wondered what happened to him, why he was so suspicious of Ken's motives. He never did particularly like sneaking around, and being a spy wasn't on his list of desirable employments. Under Ken's watchful eye, he took the journal and flipped through it. Most of what was written down were names and places, but one stood out amongst the rest.

Nestled amidst a sea of other names was Amaterasu's Cave.

Startled, Takeru could only stare at the page until the shock passed. When it did, he shoved the journal under Ken's nose and pointed to the name. "What do you know of this place?"

Ken's eyes narrowed in what was probably annoyance at his rudeness, but let that pass. "I only know that Kai had intended to investigate any information on Amaterasu's Cave. If you wish to know the meaning of Kai's message, it is that he believes the virus is back. That place is on a list of locations related to Kai's search for verification about the virus. What I would like to ask of you two is this: whether or not the virus really is returning, and to follow Kai's journal to talk to his informers again. As Amaterasu's Cave is amongst those locations, I'm sure this job will serve you quite well, Takeru."

Takeru was tempted. Very tempted. This was the first solid lead to where his parents should be. However, there was one thing that still bugged him. "I'll agree, but only if I can use some of these resources to help other people."

"I will not put my base in danger," Ken ground out. "If you can find a way to do so without putting Iwakuni in danger, then yes, you are welcome to do so. However, do not expect me to send anyone to save you during your little crusade."

Daisuke gave a cheeky grin and clapped his friend on the shoulder. Apparently this was turning into a habit. "Nah, that's what I'm here for."

"And me," Patamon chirped happily. A mission, yay!

Ken gave the digimon a slight smile. "Well then, if we are agreed, I shall have my second in command assign quarters for you. However, I'm afraid that taking Daisuke to the digimon room will have to wait until the successful completion of your first mission. The details will be given to you in the morning."

While Takeru was sorely pressed not to roll his eyes at Ken's apparent attempt to twist the outcome as favorable for Ken and Iwakuni Base, he couldn't help but be a little bit hopeful that he just might find his parents after all.


The next day came with their first orders, and they were anxious enough to get right on it that the sight of Jianliang stalking around the deployment area was hardly depressing. That Jianliang expected them back within a week was no big deal, really. Before they went on their way, Jun came by to hug each of them and wished them luck. It looked to be a promising start.

As the rover drove off into the morning, a single transient watched their progress until he could no longer see them. He hummed an odd tune to himself before turning on his walkie-talkie and whispering into it. What he said was something only the recipient would ever know.


Note: While Iwakuni Base does actually exist, the one here is a highly fictionalized version.


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