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