Salva Nos
Episode 9: The Madness Of Now
by Ajora Fravashi

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


For the most part, the long drive from Wakayama was nondescript. There was nothing of interest to note, and certainly nothing for Takeru to recognize as potential information fodder. All in all, it was quite boring. He was even almost tempted to ask Daisuke how the grave visit went, but that would have been callous. For the briefest moment, he wondered if Jianliang would have his hide if he decided to pick up the radio and start up some random conversation with Ken or Sora. Maybe he would luck out and pull Ken out of a meeting, possibly resulting in irritating the man for the interruption. It was an amusing thought, but he rather appreciated the resources at his disposal. He was covering more ground in the month or so he'd been with Iwakuni than he had for the past fifteen years, so it wouldn't do to piss off the man who just so happened to be lending him those resources.

At some point during his rambling chain of thoughts, he was randomly interrupted by a group of people flocking onto the road in an attempt to get his attention. Puzzled, he motioned the two digimon to hide under the blanket between their human partners and slowed to a stop. Daisuke looked at him curiously, then at the crowd of people.

"Hey, mister," someone called out from the crowd. Takeru peered around until he noticed the rather pudgy man waving to get his attention. The man wove his way through the crowd until he was finally face to face with Takeru. "Please pardon the intrusion, but a bunch of men in silver suits abducted my daughter. Could you help us track them down?"

A memory of silver suits and an exploding flamethrower tank fixed itself at the forefront of Takeru's mind and left him feeling queasy. More men of fire? "Five, maybe six of them, right?"

"Five, yes. You know of them," the pudgy man asked.

"Sort of. Long story." Takeru had to grimace at the memory that brought up. "Where were they heading?"

"South of here," someone in the back called out. "We would've caught them by now, but they have a good hour on us-"

"But you have that truck," the man who first called out to them interrupted. "Please, if you can bring my daughter back, I'll pay anything-"

"Don't worry about it," Daisuke offered cheerfully, having apparently returned to his usual good-natured self. "Just wait here and we'll try to find your kid."

The crowd parted with a collective grateful sigh, leaving Takeru with just enough of a corridor to drive through. He nudged the acceleration pedal until he was going fast enough for Daisuke to start looking at him funny, but not so fast that he could no longer control the vehicle. His eyes caught a glint of something shiny and human-sized off the road, and the gut reaction of a hunter urged him to follow his prey, regardless of the obstacles. He drove off the road and into the clearing, but when something large and black registered in his mind, he hit the brakes so hard that his passengers were thrown into the front of truck's carriage.

A black helicopter hovered above the clearing with a rope ladder suspended from its bay. The men of fire looked back at the commotion he made, seemed to argue amongst themselves, then dropped a child- sized bundle and rushed to the ladder. He reacted without thinking, and somehow the bow he kept behind his seat found its way into his hands. Patamon, familiar with the motions of the hunt, pushed a couple of arrows into his right hand. He knocked one of the arrows into the bow and drew the string back. His eyes fixed on his target purely out of force of habit, then he lined up the arrow to its target and let it loose.

One of the ladder ropes snapped, leaving the one straggler in the bunch hanging on for dear life. Takeru knocked the second arrow in place, drew back, and fired. The second rope snapped and the fifth man of fire fell to the ground. Unwilling to lose the rest, the helicopter flew away and left the fifth man to his fate.

Takeru jumped from the truck and raced to the fallen man, having completely forgotten the child for the thrill of the hunt. He found another arrow in his hand and by the time he was at the fallen man, it was knocked back and ready to fire.

The man of fire looked up at him and sneered. Behind the protective plastic of the faceplate was a visage that spoke of middle age. Long black hair was streaked with grey, and hateful black eyes stared back at him from a long face that was paler than anyone Takeru could remember seeing. Deep frown lines were cut by the years into the man's cheeks and between his brows. Takeru nudged the arrowpoint against where he knew the man's neck would be.

"You're coming with us," he whispered in a voice that promised quick retaliation if he wasn't obeyed. The man of fire narrowed his eyes at him, but raised both hands in a signal of surrender.

Takeru was only barely aware of Daisuke releasing the girl from her bonds, his attention focused solely on the man in silver. Only when Daisuke turned up at his elbow did Takeru relax. He didn't remove the arrow from its place until Daisuke moved forward to tie the man up and slide the canvas bag used on the girl over the man's face.

The crowd joined them as Takeru busied himself securing his prisoner to the rover's bed. Daisuke spared him the hassle and handled the crowd with his usual ease, so Takeru didn't think much of the girl until her voice could be heard above the din. He was then struck with the question of why anyone would want to kidnap a perfectly normal kid, and hopped out the back of the rover to ask about it.

Curiously, no one had any idea. The girl was the only child of the leader of a nomadic group, but there was nothing particularly special about her or her group to make for a worthwhile endeavor. Takeru was almost ready to dismiss the incident as some weird fluke until he remembered his talk with Teruo.

Subject M. Vessels. Were they trying to pick up more people for human experimentation? The thought made him sick with disgust. People were not lab rats to be experimented upon and dehumanized by having their names stripped and replaced with single letters or a serial number. It was an attitude that was all too common, unfortunately. He wondered if it was always that way.

He mused over these thoughts the rest of the way to Iwakuni.

It had taken a good few hours to reach the base he was starting to consider calling home. The drive was again nondescript, but deep inside he rather enjoyed making things uncomfortable for the man in the silver suit by racing over potholes in the road. Admittedly, his other passengers were giving him funny looks, but they didn't say anything until they were finally within the base itself.

Base security was relatively lax that day. This meant that there were only half as many guards posted and Jianliang wasn't on the prowl. He was probably caught up in a meeting. A small part of Takeru wondered if the head of security ever actually got any sleep, but he was certainly never going to receive an answer to that. Daisuke quietly picked up V-mon and Patamon, stated loudly that he was going to take the kids out to play, then whispered his intention of dropping the digimon off with Shaochung while Takeru dealt with the man still tied up to the rover. Takeru merely nodded and gave Patamon a passing scratch on a wing joint before Daisuke ran off to the Digimon Room.

Soon enough, Jianliang was bearing down on the deployment area with his escort of soldiers. It couldn't have been five minutes since Takeru arrived.

"Are you psychic," Takeru asked the man in a tone that he hoped came across as teasing. He was never really sure how Jianliang reacted to that sort of thing. Considering the carefully blank expression on the man's face, teasing was as much a futile effort as any other attempt to treat Jianliang as human.

"Would I tell you if I were," the head of security asked in turn. Before Takeru could think of a comeback, Jianliang marched up to the back of his rover to regard the prisoner who still had a sack over his face. When he spoke again, it was in a louder, more commanding voice. "You three," he gestured at the foremost soldiers, "will take our guest to Isolation Room 4. Takeru, report to Ken immediately."

Takeru bit down the urge to respond with "Yes sir. Right away, sir," and did as he was ordered. While he was quite tempted to take his own sweet time in getting to Ken's office by taking the least direct route possible, he reluctantly ignored it and continued on his way. He did have matters of some importance to go over with his boss, after all.

"Ken's office" was something of a misnomer. It had been the Special Ops headquarters at one point, complete with computer arrays and a map/table that lit up underneath. Since Ken had settled in, it became an apartment of sorts. Against a wall was a plush couch and a matching ottoman, with a ficus at one end and an end table and lamp at the other. What had once been a place for officers to place personal items was now home to a bonsai tree and a coffeemaker that was only used to heat water for teas. There was a desk where Ken was usually found at, with paperwork neatly arranged in stacks while Wormmon was around and in a complete mess when he wasn't. While Takeru knew Ken had his own quarters elsewhere in the base, he secretly suspected that Ken spent most of his time here and slept on the couch. It would stand to reason, especially since he rarely saw Ken out of his own office.

Even now Ken was sprawled out on the couch for a nap, with an open book shielding his face from the lamp's light. Wormmon was curled up on the ottoman and ever so often twitched a leg in his own slumber. Takeru was tempted to leave Ken alone and tell the head of security that the room was locked and he just went elsewhere, but considering the room was seldomly locked anyway while Ken was in it, anyone would have seen the boldfaced lie. So, with a sigh, he reached over and picked up the book.

Ken grimaced at the influx of light and blinked up at Takeru blearily until he recognized the agent. "Well, thank you very much for interrupting a perfectly nice dream."

Despite himself, a half-smile appeared on Takeru's face. "What, were you dreaming of chasing us agents with a whip?"

"Very funny." Ken paused to pull himself up to a sitting position. "But no. I had this dream where I was a kid and devouring vanilla ice cream and angel food cake. It's been so long since I've had either of those things."

"I prefer chocolate ice cream and devil's food myself," Takeru offered conversationally. "If you have any idea where I can find any of those now, I'm willing to pledge my undying loyalty to you."

"I shall attempt to locate your requested items, then." Ken's voice changed from dry and teasing to a more serious note now. "What are you doing here? You're not due back for another few days."

Wormmon yawned and twisted around a bit to regain his footing, then waited patiently for Takeru to speak. After taking a seat at Ken's insistence, Takeru reviewed the discussion with Teruo, the drive back, and his encounter with the nomad group. Then, at last, he went into detail about the men of fire and the straggler he captured.

"And," he added, "they had a helicopter pick them up. The kind of big black helicopter you used to see in those military films. Who the hell has that kind of power nowadays?"

Ken frowned slightly at that, but said nothing. He seemed to be thinking deeply about the subject. However, when Takeru was tempted to ask what they were going to do with this information, Ken finally spoke. "I think we need to talk to our prisoner, don't you?"

Takeru could only nod in mute agreement.


It didn't take very long for Daisuke to offload the digimon somewhere safe. He had been extremely lucky and ran into Jun on the way to the Digimon Room. After he explained their situation and why he needed to drop the digimon off for babysitting, he left them with Jun and raced back to the deployment area. By the time he arrived, the captive and Jianliang's escort unit were gone. Upon close inspection though, he found one soldier from the unit left behind.

"I'm here to escort you to the isolation area," the soldier stated in a monotone once Daisuke asked her where everyone went. "Ready when you are, sir."

Once Daisuke gave his assent, the soldier turned on her heel and marched to a stairwell. Instead of going up, as was the norm for accessing the frequently used parts of the base, the soldier led him downwards. The mounted electric lights from the upper portions of the stairwell dimmed the further they went down until it had gone completely dark. Daisuke picked his way down more carefully now. Ever so often there was a landing with a mounted plate backlit to display the basement floor number, but that was all the light available. Did no one come down here?

Eventually they came to the steady, beady red glare of some sort of security keypad and the soldier stopped to tap in a sequence of numbers. They entered once the bead of light turned green.

The corridor that awaited wasn't brightly lit, as was the norm, but emergency backup lights were set at certain intervals and gave off a faint red glow. Daisuke was very tempted to ask what they kept down here, but Jianliang had trained his soldiers a bit too well. They were even more taciturn on duty than the head of security himself.

At long last the soldier led him to the end of the corridor, where a quartet of Isolation Rooms were clustered. What struck Daisuke as odd was that dust was present on tops of door knobs and plaques for the second and third rooms, but the first room seemed to see regular use and the fourth was in use now. Weird. Before he could consider going straight to Ken about what was in the first room, the soldier unlocked the door and ushered him into the fourth room.

Ken, Sora, Jianliang, and Takeru were lined up in a neat little row before a wall that was half glass. Beyond the glass was a small room with the man they captured glaring out at them. Daisuke slipped silently to Takeru's side.

"Now that we're all present," Ken began in that oddly dangerous yet authoritative tone he took on when addressing someone who just happened to irritate him that day, "you will remove your cowl. I believe you only have a few minutes of air left in your tank."

The figure behind the glass remained silent. Daisuke was sorely tempted to start squirming in impatience. He really hated when Ken did one of these stare-down things, because they almost always lasted for an obscene amount of time and he was usually crawling up the walls before someone broke. Finally, just before Daisuke would have started pushing buttons to get someone to move, the captive removed his cowl and stepped into the light from the observation area.

Daisuke wasn't always the brightest bulb in the lot, but sometimes he could tell when something weird was going on. The captive looked at Jianliang as if he recognized the guy, and only Jianliang seemed to acknowledge it with just the subtlest of creasing between the eyebrows. Then, even more amazingly, the flinty black gaze shifted to Ken.

"Ah, I remember you," the captive stated in a voice that dripped with condescension. "It's been a while, Ken. Fifteen years, I think. I would say that you look like your father, but you and your brother never did, did you? I wondered if he was really your father at all."

"Oikawa." Ken practically snarled the acknowledgement. The weird sensation flared to life again. Something really screwy was happening and Daisuke didn't have a clue what it was.

The captive smirked. "You should release me. I have no plans to turn over whatever information you want, and it would not benefit you to keep me. Let us call a stalemate and be on our ways before this becomes tiresome."

Ken's voice was as cold as a glacier now, and just as potentially destructive. "You will answer my inquiries."

"What makes you think I will?" Oikawa leaned forward to openly sneer at them. His gaze fell upon the commanding officer's patch on Ken's uniform and the sneer turned into something far more unpleasant. "Such a pretty boy you were, Ken. How ever did you get to the top? Bestow sexual favors? You certainly never had your brother's cleverness and perchance for manipulation."

Daisuke had never really seen Ken pissed off before. A bit annoyed or cranky, yes, but that was nothing compared to the fire of sheer rage that sparked in Ken's eyes. "Everyone, out. This is personal."

"Wait! We brought him here, and I think we should be in on the interrogation," Takeru snapped.

Daisuke saw it as an opening and jumped into the argument. "He's the first old guy we've seen in more than a decade! And dude, his people had helicopters! We sure as hell deserve to know what's going on!"

"Interrogation will be put off for later." Ken was practically barking at them. "Go now!"

In an effort for more support, Takeru whipped around to face the impassive head of security. "Where do you stand on this?"

"I will stand behind Ken's decisions." Jianliang's voice had that almost mechanical drone he usually affected during such arguments. "He is our leader and I remember my place. Do you?"

Daisuke gaped in disbelief at Jianliang. The head of security recognized that Oikawa person and vice versa, but was acting like he couldn't care less? What gives! He then noticed Takeru turn to Sora, who looked torn between curiosity and loyalty.

Sora's gaze darted from Takeru to Ken, then to Oikawa. When she spoke, her voice was mildly hesitant. "I think we should come to a compromise. We should let Ken have an hour alone with our guest, then we'll come back and continue the interrogation."

Takeru muttered dourly under his breath but didn't challenge her. Instead, he shot one last glare at Ken and stalked out. What was weird was that Jianliang followed immediately afterwards, as if he was in a hurry to be somewhere. Daisuke didn't think twice about following the head of security to figure out what was going on. Instead of leaving the stairwell on the mess hall floor as Takeru had done, Jianliang rushed to the residential floor.

Daisuke waited a moment to presumably let Jianliang get a little more headway on him, but then the head of security broke into a run and he had to stick his head out to see where Jianliang was running to. Oddly enough, when he stepped onto the residential floor, he found himself face to face with a tapir that wore a faceplate and seemed to be missing the lower half of its body. Bakumon, wasn't it? Daisuke was just about to greet the bakumon and ask it to get out of his way when it exhaled a sickly sweet-smelling smoke into his face.

The smoke made his head hurt a bit, but he just couldn't be bothered to care. His bones felt like wet clay and his muscles might as well be made of noodles for all the work they did. Didn't matter really. He was suddenly very tired and just wanted to lie down.

Were he in a better state of mind, he would have noticed someone with autumn-toned Ainu clothing dragging him into his room.


Ken remembered the events leading up to the downfall of Iwakuni very well. He was a child, so very few people paid attention to him as long as he stayed out of the way. Osamu may have been able to command the attention of others just by being there, but Ken could sneak around. He was good at it. During one of his excursions, he noticed an argument taking place between the man who brought his family here and one of the military commanders. From what he could tell, the argument was over the complete communications lockdown. No one could contact the outside for personal matters, a restriction that clearly hindered Oikawa's research. The military commander ordered Oikawa back to his lab and Ken was eager to follow.

What he learned that day was that something drove Oikawa's frequent research into the Digital World. He was certain of the subject because he overheard Oikawa muttering to himself, as if there was someone else in the room to talk to. Among these discussions was how useful a pawn Ken could be, if only they could cultivate his resentment of his brother's fame. That stung, especially when he was starting to consider Oikawa as an okay, if a bit creepy, fellow.

Then, a few weeks later, the virus got in and all the adults died. Osamu commanded that only the youngest children should take the bodies outside for cremation, because he feared that the older kids would be able to catch it. As Ken helped sort through the bodies, he noticed something peculiar: Oikawa wasn't amongst them. He asked Osamu about it, but his brother said they'd have to think about it later. Since then he had redirected his resentment from his brother to Oikawa. His brother couldn't help what he was, but Oikawa lived when their parents had not. A rover and environment suit missing from the inventories only served to cement his belief that Oikawa was alive.

And here the man was now.

"I told them we should come back," Oikawa stated in a voice that was deadly in its quietness. "A perfectly intact base like this, with everything functioning as well as it had before the plague, would have been a prime target. I told them we should take command of this place before you kids got too powerful. They waited despite my insistence. They said you weren't worth the effort. And now you're proving me right. Thank you for that."

Ken's temper dampened slightly as new questions arose. "Who are 'they?'"

"You would like to know, wouldn't you? I won't give you the true name, that would make things too easy. Most of your people would call us 'Amaterasu's Cave.' I find it nicely symbolic." The older man paused to give a smirk that was entirely too self-assured for Ken's peace of mind. "They're going to come for me. I know too much for them to leave in your hands."

"First, I have an agent who would be thrilled to talk to you," Ken stated dryly. Well, he could probably arrange some private time for Takeru to grill Oikawa too. It was the least he could do. "Now, how would they know where to find you?"

Oikawa turned his back to Ken, only to pull the hair away from the back of the neck and lean back far enough for Ken to notice a clearly surgical scar between the bony ridges of two vertebrae. When he was certain to have gotten a good look, Oikawa returned to his former posture and continued. "We all have internal chips where I come from, little boy. It's powered by the body's own electricity and can only be removed by a professionally trained neurosurgeon. It acts as an internal homing beacon. They're going to track it like wolves on the warpath, and the only way to turn it off is to kill me. So, we're down to three choices: either you let me go or kill me, or you keep me and they'll come down on this place with more force than you could ever imagine. Regardless of your choice, you'll never get your answers from me."


Secrets were something Takeru was familiar with, for he had his own. But some secrets shouldn't be hidden, especially when there was the very real danger that hiding such secrets would be tantamount to inviting trouble with a giant pink banner. He didn't like the very idea of doing this, but he needed answers and Ken was unlikely to grant them. So, the moment he knew no one was around, he began digging through Ken's personal files.

There was no one named Oikawa in the files for the past five years, so he ignored his own file and looked further. None for ten years either. At fifteen years, there was a civilian computer programmer at the base named Oikawa Yukio. Oikawa had been offered sanctuary from the plague by names that were probably high-ranking government officials at the time and granted permission to bring five other people. There was mention of some top secret project Oikawa was working on, but nothing definite was given. Other than that, there was nothing to suggest that Oikawa had ever been anyone of particular importance to the base's command structure. But then how could Oikawa-

"Takeru, what do you think you're doing," a familiar voice called to him from the office door. He spun, file still in hand, to find Sora gazing at him in disappointment. "We're working for a world where every citizen's rights would be respected. That includes privacy."

Takeru sighed. He didn't want to get into an argument with Sora, but it seemed inevitable. Maybe he could diffuse the situation by sharing his observations, though. It was worth a shot. "The people that man was with, they had a helicopter. A big, black, mean helicopter that only a military would have. We don't even have anything like that here. He's working for someone's military, and I'd really like to know whose."

Sora began nibbling on her lower lip in worry. "Do you have any idea what you're implying?"

"I may have been naive as a kid, but I'm not stupid."

"Military!" Impeding horror began seeping into Sora's voice. "Military means a command structure, training, artillery, vehicles..." Her eyes fixed on Takeru's. "They have a helicopter, and probably more where that came from. Possibly bombs."

Takeru grimaced at the dark path his thoughts were wending through. "And if Oikawa is important enough to retrieve, they probably wouldn't hesitate to drop a few of those bombs on us."

They regarded each other silently, not liking the subject one bit, but unable to stray from it. Although Takeru was tempted to run to Ken and demand Oikawa be turned over, he considered another facet in the matter. Back during the Vandemon fiasco, anything with electrical equipment that drew near the Digital World's exposed sky shorted out on contact and fell away harmlessly. Maybe they had a chance.


Jianliang broke into a run the moment he left the stairwell and was on the residential floor. They were all in danger and it was Takeru's fault and he knew he had been right about Takeru, but if only anyone ever paid attention to him! Once he was in the solitude of his personal quarters, he turned to his work area.

To say that Jianliang was paranoid when it came to the protection of the base was something of an understatement. Like many outsiders, he had been recruited by Urazoe Kai and allowed to bring along his siblings. Unlike them, he had insinuated himself deeper into the confidences of the Powers That Be than most people could imagine. He was loyal to the old guard, that which had been in power before Ken ascended the throne, and was still loyal to the cause that Osamu had championed before... then. They believed that the best way to survive was to remain isolated. The outside world didn't matter. But then Osamu disappeared, Ken took up the throne, and divided loyalties ran rampant amongst Iwakuni's population when Ken started looking to the outside world.

Steel grey eyes drifted over to one of the bookshelves in his quarters, upon which stood an old photograph they'd taken together before Osamu's disappearance. It was just the three of them standing together in front of the base's gates: Osamu near the left of the photo, his informant in the center, himself on the right. The too-rare smile Osamu gave the camera was tired, his nerves clearly strained by the stress of single-handedly picking up the pieces of civilization and trying to keep order in a world where chaos governed outside. Towards the end of his reign he only smiled in the presence of those close to him. In the center was Osamu's best friend, beaming at the camera with a protective arm around Osamu's shoulders as if he had forgotten his guilt and his world consisted only of them. As if he wasn't indirectly responsible for the downfall of six worlds. Standing just a bit apart from them was the younger Jianliang. He couldn't remember what he was thinking back then, only that it had brought a slight frown to his face and he didn't think to hide it until after Ken had taken the picture. Jealousy over a friendship that went much deeper than he'd ever experienced, displeasure with being the third wheel? It didn't matter anymore. Nothing so pointless mattered in the face of what happened after Osamu left the base and never returned.

Osamu's friend returned to the base many months later, clearly changed and unwilling to speak about what had happened. Ken, whom he suspected was content with occupying Osamu's throne, accused the man of getting Osamu killed when he didn't say anything and then requested that Jianliang toss the man out and keep him out. However, Jianliang knew things that Ken did not. In the following months Osamu's friend kept flitting in and out of the base, despite Jianliang's best attempts to keep him out. The man dropped hints of what would happen in the outside world, beginning with "God says..." The predictions were too accurate for him to dismiss the man as insane like everyone else did. The man walked into a trap Jianliang had devised one day acting as if he had expected it, and when Jianliang asked for the truth...

What does one do when one's belief of what reality was turns out to be wrong? A mistake? The greatest mistake ever made, and it had been an attempt by an all-too-powerful entity to make the man happy by having three realities united as one! Jianliang couldn't believe it at first. How could he? How could he accept that there was another universe where all the adults in the world never died? This reality was all he knew. It would have been too easy to dismiss it all as the ravings of a madman, but he knew Osamu's friend well enough to detect a lie if there was one. Then he asked for evidence and received it.

The special edition Colt M1911 pistol lay in a velvet-lined box hidden in the locked drawer of his personal desk. Blue-stained steel, elegant brass accents, hickory panelling. A true beauty of a gun and impossible to find in Japan. Pinned under its box were magazines from a Spring 2015 in a universe where the adults had never died and their aged faces looked up from National Geographic photos. No one in this world would ever see them, because there were some secrets that no one should be burdened with.

Fingers strengthened by years of martial arts and maintaining the base's security systems reached into the drawer to pull out the gun, this treasure from another time and place. The magazine slid into place with a final click to secure it to the pistol, and he held it up to his desk lamp for consideration as he went over what he needed to do.

Iwakuni Base had to be protected at all costs, even from itself. With the distinct sense of doom for his personal future at the base, Jianliang trotted with renewed purpose down the corridors. He was almost at the stairwell when he recognized the taller form of Osamu's friend. The Wanderer. His double agent. Once the man had answered to the name Akiyama Ryo, but that was many years ago.

"Let me handle this, Jen. You don't know what you're getting into," the double agent murmured lightly. "The darkness in him is similar to the darkness in me. It would not allow a simple bullet to kill its host any more than my own darkness would let me join the dead."

Jianliang said nothing. Once he would have questioned the man outright, but the years had taught him that broadcasting his own thoughts was usually dangerous. With a nod he relented and decided that keeping his job another day would be better than staining his hands again.


Takeru was certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that Oikawa was from Amaterasu's Cave and knew more than anyone he ever contacted. He needed to talk to the man regardless of how much time Ken still had left. He left Sora in Ken's office and ran back to the stairwell, skipped down a few levels, and he was soon back at the sealed-off part of the base. A few taps on the keypad (he watched carefully when Jianliang had input the code earlier) and he was in.

Neither Ken or Oikawa moved much from their previous positions. He slipped in quietly, and Ken gave him the faintest of nods as acknowledgement.

"You're running out of time. All of you," Oikawa said. "They'll come for me."

Bewildered, Takeru glanced from one man to the other. "Who?"

Ken smirked and gestured to the captive. "Takaishi Takeru, meet Oikawa Yukio, our guest from Amaterasu's Cave. I trust you'll want to question him."

"Takaishi?" Oikawa's voice sounded surprised. "Natsuko's brat?"

The world had just turned upside down once again for Takeru, but he knew he had to pursue this now. "You know her? How? Where is she?"

Rather than answer him, Oikawa shot them both a condescending glare. "I know more than you're ready to learn, little boy. For fifteen years you children have been trapped in your own Purgatory, content to contemplate your navels and angst over your pasts. You screwed up, so we're coming back out. The new world will be built to respect the trappings of power again, to recognize the virtues of discipline and following orders. If you don't release me, it starts now."

"Bold threats, Oikawa. Are you sure you can carry them through?" Ken's voice returned to that low, dangerous tone.

"I know this place has radar. Why don't you have one of your little playmates look for you?" Oikawa's lips curled into a cruel smile. "But then, you never had friends, did you?"

Ken snarled and turned abruptly to pick up a hand radio that only worked within the base. "Shaochung? This is Ken. Could you take a moment from the digimon to look at the radar?"

"Momantai, Ken." Even over the crackle of the radio static, Takeru could just faintly hear a few digimon in the background and the girl saying something or another to them. A moment later they all heard the gasp of surprise. "Uh, is this a joke? Very bad joke if it is."

The anger washed from Ken completely. "It's not. What do you see?"

"Dammit! Lopmon, please get the kids under control! Sorry, Ken. Anyway, from the looks of it... Five helicopters, armed and steadily approaching from the north. Who the hell did you piss off?" Everyone could hear the worry in the girl's voice over the radio's static.

"Thank you, Shaochung. I want you to go to the public announcement system and keep me apprised. And before you start, I am fully aware of the repercussions I'll get from the council." Ken sounded unnaturally calm, as if he was ready to break any minute.

For a moment there was no answer from the youngest Li. When she did speak, it was with respect. "Your funeral, man, but I'll be singing praises of your courage. I'll be on in five."

Ken flipped off the radio switch, glared daggers at Oikawa, and ran. For the briefest moment Takeru was torn between staying behind and grilling Oikawa or following Ken. Somehow he knew Ken was going to do something stupid, so the interrogation would have to wait.

"Good evening, people of Iwakuni," Shaochung began in a deceptively bright tone over the P.A. "Most of you are familiar with the fact that I manage the Digimon Room. Which is a swell job if you ignore the floramon and don't have allergies, but I have another job too. Right before me is the radar system, and eighty kilometers away are five nasty military helicopters bearing down on us. Now it's entirely likely that they'll just pass us over for our friendly neighbors to the south, but it's better to be safe than sorry. At Ken's request, I'll begin the countdown for their arrival."

For some reason, it sounded far too much like a countdown to doomsday.


In the beginning, he had hoped to wait in the shadows until Oikawa could complete his life's work and access the Digital World. He would then simply kill the host, return to his world, and reclaim it. Then something happened to blow his plans out of the water and force him to consider new ones. Just before the plague had gotten out, the gates to the Digital World were shut down completely. Oikawa's viewing programs could not even connect to it. All over the world, data systems went awry and he had no idea of the cause.

Naturally, Vandemon was frustrated. Without access to the Digital World, he would not be able to take over the other planes of existence. For ten long years he had to wait in the back of Oikawa's mind, dictating the man's actions and manipulating his thoughts. There was some enjoyment in feeding off the rage generated towards his host by such games as the one he played with the Ichijouji boy, but it was a paltry substitute for what he had hoped to acquire by now. He wanted blood. Beautiful, thick, iron-rich blood to slake his thirst and fuel his body. It would be useless to try while he was still in Oikawa's body, however.

Then, five years ago, Oikawa's viewing programs could look into the Digital World again. What they saw was not the Digital World he knew. It looked like someone had taken three different Digital Worlds and smashed them together without regard for the consequences. The false digimon scouts Oikawa deployed came back with puzzling tales. It was said that the culprit responsible for the circumstances leading up to the plague in the real world and the strange merging of the Digital Worlds had to serve out his punishment for what amounted to ten years in the real world. The culprit was buried in the desert and his power reallocated to the repair of the Digital World. At the end of his sentence, he was turned over to another prison. Rumor said his name was Millenniumon and he had a human partner.

Vandemon could feel the power drawing near him even now. It was a power greater than his own, greater than Demon. It came through the door and Vandemon half-expected it to belong to an undoubtedly nasty digimon. He was rather taken aback when it turned out to be a human. Or, more specifically, a digimon spirit sharing a human body.

"Ah, a kindred spirit at last," he uttered to the human prison of what he was certain had to be Millenniumon.

The human gave a breathy, shallow laugh at that. After a moment of what was sure to be a bit of internal conversation, the human closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. Black shadows collected in the air until they formed a ghostly draconic digimon. The bodiless digimon turned to regard Vandemon with red eyes. "You are hardly in my league, Vandemon. However, I must admit that your enthusiasm amuses me. You try so hard for something you can never attain. It is a remarkable trait. Almost human, in fact."

Vandemon narrowed his eyes at the comment. His, not Oikawa's. Oikawa's personality had long since been locked away into a corner of his own mind. "Do not insult me."

"It is not an insult unless you wish it to be one. That was always your problem." The black shadow chuckled at him again. "Not just your problem. It is the failing of most of our kind."

"I care not for the rambling of a mad digimon." Vandemon allowed his voice to drip with pure condescension. Regardless of Millenniumon's power, he did not take well to being spoken to so rudely.

"That is such a pity. You could learn much from me." Red eyes bored into him, stoking Vandemon's irritation in the process. "You will fail now as you have failed before. Do you know why?"

Disgust welled up within Vandemon. He suspected where this discussion was going to go, but certainly did not enjoy it. "No. Care to enlighten me?"

The black shadow hummed in pleasure and drifted over to his host and partner. "Your problem, and the problem with most evil digimon, is that you fail to realize the full potential of humanity. They created us and our world. Even with their limited senses and physical capacity, they build great things. They create as well as destroy, infect and cure. They are the balance of light and dark."

He had heard of Millenniumon's unusual attraction to humans from the rumors before, but it was something else entirely to be confronted with it. It made him sick with revulsion. To him, humans were lesser creatures. Prey. Something to be fed upon, not... "What are you getting at?"

"You and the others only pursue darkness and destruction. It is all you care for. Nature cares not for absolutes." The black shadow turned his attention to the silent, somewhat bored-looking human beside him and reached out with one ethereal claw to brush away a stray forelock in a gesture that could almost be described as affectionate. "Nature does, however, extol the virtues of blending. Darkness and Light are most powerful when they act as one. Embrace the Light and the worlds can be yours."

With a very clear sneer on his face, Vandemon responded. "As I understand it, you not only embrace the Light but consort with it on a regular basis. Disgusting traitor."

The human snickered at him and Millenniumon seemed to share the amusement. "Sounds familiar, Mille."

"History does have a habit of repeating itself, does it not? Nevertheless," the black shadow turned to face Vandemon in full, "very few ever pay much attention to it. Pity. You had potential, Vandemon, but you always manage to find some way to cripple yourself. Every time you succeed in raising yourself to a formidable position, the forces of Light end up knocking you from your pedestal. It must be quite tiresome."

"This, of course, coming from the so-called 'evil god' who plays games with a human child." Vandemon knew he was working purely from rumors now, but didn't particularly care. "If you were truly committed to taking over the Digital World, you would have done so several times over by now."

"I did, but it got boring. There is only so much you can do with a world before you start wanting some little upstart to come along and challenge you. Not that you would ever know, of course." Millenniumon gave a light, breathy laugh again. "In time, everything I did was to get my partner's attention. You would be surprised at how oblivious he can be."

The human frowned at that but said nothing. Vandemon would have liked nothing more than to break the man's neck, if only to stop Millenniumon from laughing at him. "Even the slaying of six worlds?"

"How ever did you come to that conclusion," Millenniumon asked in honest curiosity. He ignored the glower the human shot at him.

"I was familiar with the human world by the time the pandemic came, but something changed. People and buildings appeared that hadn't existed before. Security systems reacted differently or didn't act at all, as if they were made on another world and not programmed to respond to data from this world. The Digital World was inaccessible, even from Oikawa's viewing programs. After a few years, he managed to get enough visual data in for me to realize that the Digital World had changed as well. Three or more different systems smashed together as it the culprit had no care as to how they went together so long as it was done." Pure distaste laced Vandemon's voice. "From your behavior around your partner, I suspect I am correct in assuming that this was done for his sake."

The shadow that was Millenniumon just tilted his head slightly and regarded Vandemon in thought. "Very good. It seems you have more intelligence than I suspected. It is not entirely accurate, but you came closer than anyone else in finding the truth."

Vandemon was immediately suspicious. Their kind did not hold discussions like this unless something else was going to happen. That was just the way things worked. He scanned the room ever so subtly to make sure he had a way of getting out. He loathed the idea of running, but he still didn't have much power and it was better to be alive than dead. Until then, he would distract the other digimon. His kind was always fond of exposition, especially when it would emphasize their brilliance. "What is the truth? Surely you're not here for a chat, so I might as well ask before you kill me off."

"Let's just do what we came here to do, Mille," the human reminded his partner. "You can ramble to me later."

"Must I?" The shadow turned to look at his partner with a disappointment that seemed almost childish. "Can I at least make it bloody?"

The human looked like he wanted to scowl at his partner, but kept his face carefully neutral. "We agreed on a quick, simple heart attack. But if you absolutely must, I can't really stop you. Just don't take several days like you did with Demon."

The disgust within Vandemon flared to life again as he listened to the exchange. This was a travesty of everything an evil digimon was supposed to be. They wouldn't have been caught dead talking to a human as if it was an equal, let alone asking for permission to do something. But then the so-called evil god of the Digital World turned back to him, and the disgust settled into something cold and unfamiliar. Millenniumon actually looked cheerful.

"Death Crystal," the bass that was Millenniumon's voice whispered. The air crystallized into four spears around Vandemon. Before he could act, before he could even think, they drove into his host's body in a manner that would ensure that no one could survive. As he felt Oikawa's life ebbing away from the body, Vandemon snarled and returned to his own shadow existence. He could find another host and find time to plot just how he would exact vengeance upon Millenniumon for daring to do this to him.

His essence slipped past the sealed door of the isolation room and into the observation area. There was no way they would be able to attack him when he had no body now, he was sure. Then something happened that he could find no words for. The human muttered something and pulled out a simple crystal from his robes. It tugged at Vandemon's essence, and the more he struggled against it the stronger its hold became. He was being drawn into it and there was nothing he could do to get away. It had taken barely a few seconds before he found himself trapped in the crystal.

"We'll be turning you over to Gennai for overwriting," the human said in an all too pleasant tone. The cold, unfamiliar feeling grew. Data could be reborn if deleted or reformatted, but to be overwritten was true digital death. He struggled harder against the crystal, only to stop when it began constricting against him. "But before we do that, I need to talk to Oikawa."

Vandemon snarled at the human's behavior, raged against what had been done to him, wished a million deaths upon Millenniumon, but it was all futile.

When the human spoke again, it was with some amount of sympathy to Vandemon's host. "Oikawa? You're going to die, but death isn't so bad. You're free of Vandemon now. It may be little comfort for you to know this, but in another universe, you met your digimon partner and your soul reached the Digital World to be reformatted as one of the protective spheres."

For the first time in many years, Oikawa's true voice was heard, despite the crystal spears driven through the majority of his vital organs. "Thank you, child."

No words were spoken until Oikawa died. The shadow that was Millenniumon muttered something about useless sentimentality before returning to his own host. Vandemon would be returned to the Digital World, but as a prisoner instead of conqueror.


Takeru followed Ken to his office in what he was sure was a race against time. When Ken began retrieving a handgun from a previously locked drawer in his desk, Takeru had to step in.

"What are you doing?"

"I am doing what I have to do to protect the base." Ken paused to slide a magazine clip into the gun. "He has a locator chip, Takeru. It'll keep broadcasting his location until he's dead."

He had to keep Oikawa alive long enough to find out what he could about Amaterasu's Cave. "We can take them, Ken."

"Don't be stupid. We're not ready for this kind of invasion." Ken tried to shove past Takeru, but the blond just wouldn't have it. He pulled Ken back into the room.

"You're not ready because you waited too long," Takeru ground out. "But you have everything here already. I know we can take them!"

Ken stepped back and glared coldly at Takeru. "Do you want a war? Is that it? Imagine this: Tanks in rice paddies, missiles versus bows and arrows. That is the kind of war that awaits if we don't kill him now."

"But you do have a weapon on your hands that they don't. Digimon." Takeru was certain that the digimon would be their ace in the hole in case war was inevitable.

Ken blinked in surprise at Takeru. "You sound like my brother."

"What do you mean," Takeru asked. That comment seemed to come out of nowhere.

A grimace appeared on Ken's face at the question. "You didn't actually believe the rumors about why he got rid of the bombs, did you?" At Takeru's blank countenance, he sighed and continued. "It was propaganda to make him look good. He got rid of the bombs because they left too much of a mess, but said that if war did come, we could use digimon because they would be more accurate weapons."

Shaochung's voice sounded over the public announcement system just then. "Choppers are thirty kilometers away and closing in. If you're religious, you might want to pray for a miracle."

Ken's eyes went wide at the pronouncement, then he ran with the gun still in hand. Takeru cursed under his breath and followed. They raced down the stairwell and back into the sealed-off corridor in the base's depths.

"Wait, guys," Shaochung began. Her voice had a distinctively quizzical tone. "Choppers are holding at ten kilometers. Holding... No, now they've turned and going back." Her sigh of relief could be heard over the system. If one really listened in, muffled cheers from the digimon could be heard in the background.

Puzzled, Ken shot Takeru a quick, unreadable look and opened the door to the isolation room. Once in, they noticed something very wrong. Even though the sealed door hadn't been touched, blood splattered the walls inside. Oikawa laid in a bloody mess, but there were no bullets lying around or other piercing weapons available. Other than the blood and body, the isolation room was just as it had been before.

Takeru refused to give in to despair. Oikawa knew of his mother, so she had to be at Amaterasu's Cave. It was up north somewhere. They were going to find it, even if it did take a war.


Daisuke woke up with what would have been one hell of a hangover if he had been drinking. Instead it was just an awful headache and the worst case of foul mouth he'd ever had. All he could remember was running into a bakumon and getting breathed upon. After that was some weird dream and here he was in his own bed. He mumbled dourly as he got out of bed to clean his teeth.

Strangely enough, he found a note taped to his bathroom mirror. It asked him to take care of V-mon for the author, and at the end was something that looked like it would have been a signature if it hadn't been stopped abruptly mid-kanji and scratched over to the point where it was unrecognizable. He wondered at that briefly, but shrugged it off and cleaned up.

An hour later he found himself attending a meeting with Ken and the others. He hated meetings so very, very much. What was it with this place and meetings? They sat around that table with the map on it and sipped teas as Sora went over yesterday's events. Daisuke entertained himself by pushing a pen cap around Korea. Then, as his pen cap/ship was in Seoul, Ken stood to speak.

"Takeru asked me a few days ago if I knew anything about Fractal Theory," he began. Daisuke looked up in surprise. He didn't actually expect Ken to address the peculiar question. Ken paused to lay a print-out of some sort of blob in the middle of the table. "This is a Mandelbrot fractal. To the layman it just looks like a pretty picture. However, it is a picture rendered entirely from mathematical equations. Every line and arc in the picture is generated from a set of numbers. If you look closely at it, each part is not impressive on its own, but from a distance, one may recognize the beauty of the whole. Fractal Theory teaches us that beauty comes from chaos, and the greater the chaos, the greater the beauty that comes from it."

"But what about 'strange attractors,'" Takeru asked from the Hokkaido end of the table.

"They are points in the fractal that every incident generates around. No one knows why they occur, but they are there nonetheless. Some theorists think that the existence of strange attractors is the scientific proof of the existence of God, as suggested by the Deist viewpoint of God as the blind watchmaker." At Takeru's half-frown, Ken shrugged. "I don't subscribe to the idea myself, but there you go.

"Now, as you all may have noticed, the world outside is steeped in greater chaos than the history of mankind has ever known. If we play this right, we have a chance to bring on a renaissance. Amaterasu's Cave is going to be knocking on our door again soon enough, but I want us to be ready. We are going to come out into the open and announce our existence to the world. We are going to organize things and get the world back on its feet, because we can't take on Amaterasu's Cave alone. If we have allies, we can beat them. It's going to be hard and people won't believe us, but we have to work for the future. They had their chance and look at how it turned out: exploitation of the people, corporate greed, government infringement on the rights of individuals. Amaterasu's Cave wants to bring about a totalitarian society, and I will not let that happen while we still have a fighting chance.

"As of now, all teams will endeavor to recruit people to our cause, inform other leaders of our offer of alliance, and gather intelligence. The more organized we are, the better a chance we have. We must choose our future before others do it for us."

With that, Ken returned to his seat. Murmurs of agreement sounded all around, then a click sounded from over near the Beijing area of China, where Shaochung was sitting. For some reason she was taking over for Jianliang, who claimed illness as an excuse to avoid the meeting. When all eyes turned to her, she gave them all a far too innocent look and went back to pushing her own pen cap around on the table. After that, the meeting turned to organizing agent missions and no one thought about the click.

When the meeting was done and over with, Daisuke made a beeline to Ken (seated over at the Russian corner of the map) and gave the man a hearty thump on the back. "I knew you were a good person," he said honestly. Ken smiled briefly at that and rose from his seat.

At that moment, Sora opened the door to the outside corridor, which was usually empty. Now, however, it was packed with people. Sora glanced back in bewilderment, and all eyes turned to Shaochung. She gave a nonchalant shrug. "I left the P.A. system on. Whoops. I just realized that when Ken stopped babbling and turned it off."

Ken was just moving to rebuke her for the lapse in security when the crowd at the door saw him, and anything he said was drowned out by applause.



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