Episode 10: Sleep'st
so Sound

  dark                              light

The front door to Katrina's apartment always had a habit of jamming. In the summer it jammed because the wood expanded due to the heat. And in the winter it jammed because of the ice and frost sealing it shut.

"I should really call my landlord about that," Katrina remarked after the door finally gave way, allowing herself and Ashramon entrance to her home. The door was left a little worse for wear, more shoe marks where Katrina had kicked it joining the ones already there.

As soon as the door clicked closed behind her, Ashramon slipped from around her neck and was swooping through the air, investigating the whole space.

It was painted white throughout, with various furnishings in different parts. The main room – the largest – had a plush coffee-colored couch with cream and white cushions. In front of that was a coffee table, barely a foot off the ground. Then there was a television unit, which held Katrina's flat screen television and a selection of game consoles. A sealed-off fireplace was where there was a large computer set-up. A wide desk with a stool in front of it was mounted with several monitors and screens, a couple of electronic mice, and two separate keyboards. Beneath the desk at either side were the main drives for the computers to run from.

The next room was the kitchen and dining area, significantly smaller than the living room, and not nearly as lived in. There was a small selection of mugs and glasses on the side by the sink which were clean, but aside from that the room seemed almost untouched.

Ashramon followed Katrina through the space, down a short hallway into another room. Her bedroom, judging by the large queen-sized bed that dominated the space. Like the living room, the walls were white here, and the bed sheets were a similar pale ivory color, off-set by the dark wooden frame of her bedstead. Above the bed was a canopy of light material, lined with small lights that turned on when Katrina hit the light switch. A wardrobe and chest of drawers were in one corner, and the other was home to a piano and stool. The only other room was the bathroom, which was opposite the door to Katrina's bedroom.

"You have a lovely home!" Ashramon expressed gleefully, following Katrina as she moved from place to place. She deposited her laptop and D-Ex on the coffee table before slouching on the couch and unzipping her boots to yank them off her legs and feet. She also unlatched her bag from her shoulder and thigh, dumping that beside her laptop.

"Thanks." Katrina smiled a little. "It serves its purpose."

As Ashramon followed a few feet behind Katrina, watching as she deposited her boots in the hallway with a selection of other shoes lined in pairs, she noted how neat everything was. Not a single item seemed to be out of place. Even when Katrina put things down like her bag and the D-Ex, it was done with purpose.

"What now?" asked Ashramon, hovering mid-air while Katrina shuffled around her bedroom, gathering a few things, a hair band, and unhooking her long earring.

"Well, first I'm going to have a shower," Katrina informed her. "Then I have to check my emails and make sure the guys at work haven't blown anything up. Then I should probably check some other messages too… and I guess eat." She shrugged.

"Can I do anything?"

"Make yourself at home," suggested Katrina with a small grin. "I'll run some water in the bath after I'm done and you can splash about in there, okay?"

Ashramon smiled broadly. "Yes! That would be lovely."

After Katrina was showered, Ashramon dived into the cool water she had let fill until the bathtub was about half-full. While it was nothing compared to pond or river water, the coolness and the wetness were a welcome addition to Ashramon's drying scales.

Katrina redressed in loose clothing she would later wear in bed when she finally succumbed to sleep: a pair of teal high-leg underwear and a baggy white shirt that hung off one shoulder and was cut off around her ribcage.

While Ashramon paddled, Katrina cooked something quick to eat, caught up on work emails on her computer, and fired up a series of programs to check on a few other things ­– various websites she visited daily, and forums. She was unsurprised to see the University forum in uproar about what had occurred earlier that day, posts with views numbering over two thousand had sprung up only hours ago, full of photos and outrage.

As she closed that to move onto another website, Ashramon came through the door, dripping wet, and settled around Katrina's shoulders. Despite the cold drops of water sliding across her skin, she did not usher the little creature away, instead offering her one of the cookies she had sitting on a plate on her desk.

Ashramon ate from her hand gratefully, her eyes scanning the darkening room as the sun went down outside.

She withdrew from Katrina's shoulder to investigate something. "What's this?" She indicated to a wireless telephone tucked away behind one of the monitors. A red light was blinking insistently on its base.

"Oh." Katrina seemed surprised. "That's a phone. A home phone. Guess mom must have called. She's the only person who has my home number."

Katrina pressed a series of buttons on the base of the telephone, playing a recorded message of a woman's voice, tinted with a slightly foreign accent, clear and urgent.

"Katrina, I saw on the news something happened at the Uni. I know you were there today for the carnival, let me know you're alright."

"That's your mom?" Ashramon queried as Katrina picked up the handset. On their way through the Digital World the Digimon had asked questions about the world from which their partners came, resulting in many things – like parents, mothers, and fathers – being explained to them.

"Yup." Katrina smiled, putting the handset up to her ear. As Ashramon opened her mouth to ask another question, Katrina placed her fingers to her lips and smiled gently.

"Hello?" Katrina's mother – Viola – answered after a few rings.

"Hey hey," greeted Katrina cheerfully. "I just got your message, hope you weren't too worried."

"Katrina," Viola's tone was verging on a scold, "I knew I'd hear from you eventually. I wish I had been sooner, I've been worried."

"You really shouldn't have been," said Katrina. She moved around the living room as she spoke. "I was fine. It was just some freak accident. There's an investigation going on. I don't think anyone was really hurt."

"It's going to hurt the reputation of the University though," remarked Viola.

Katrina shrugged. "Not my problem, mom."

"I wasn't implying it was," sighed Viola. She paused for a moment before continuing. "Anyway, that aside, how was your day?"

"Interesting," Katrina replied. "Not worth going into though, I'm sure it'd just confuse you."

"Katrina…" Viola's voice had a warning tone.

"What?" laughed Katrina, clearly enjoying riling up her mother. "It was boring. But interesting for me, that's all."

"I wish you would tell me more about your life," Viola admitted suddenly. Katrina sat on the sofa. "Since you've moved out, I hardly see you or talk to you…"

"You know why that is," Katrina replied, her tone guarded.

"I know. But still, I'm your mother… you and I were always so close. Now I feel like I never hear anything about your life," said Viola uneasily. "I suppose you don't want to hear this, not from me."

"I thought we still were close," Katrina explained. She had her head tilted back against the back of the couch, staring at the patterns made by the paint in the ceiling. "I talk to you at least once a week."

"Yes…," Viola admitted, "but when was the last time you told me something beyond the ordinary? I don't even know if you have a boyfriend. Or how work is going."

"Is that was this is about?" Katrina asked, laughing quietly. "Well, I can tell you work is fine, and I'm not seeing anyone."

On the other end of the phone, Viola sighed again, leaving the air to grow stale and uneasy in the silence between mother and daughter. "You know you're my own child, Katrina… I just worry."

Something seemed to catch in Katrina's throat, causing her to clear it. "I know, Mom. I'm reminded of that fact most days." Ashramon noted how Katrina's tone had taken on a slightly more aggressive tone, adding to her defensiveness.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."

"No. It's fine." Katrina rubbed the space between her eyes. "I should go. I have a lot to catch up on."

"Katrina, wait–"

"I'll call you in the week; we'll meet up or something." Without another word, Katrina cut the call off and let out a long breath. She sat still on the sofa for a few minutes before rising, replacing the phone in its place and sitting back on her stool in front of her computer. She tapped at the keyboard in silence, Ashramon watching her from where she had curled up on the desk, on the side away from the mouse and the keyboard so she wasn't in the way.

Eventually, after watching Katrina click from screen to screen and reply to emails for several minutes, Ashramon spoke up. "How come you didn't talk to your dad?"

"We don't get on," Katrina replied, not looking away from the screen. "Always wind up arguing. It's easier for everyone if we don't talk."

"Oh…" Ashramon went silent again. Only for a few more minutes. While she was curious about this new world she found herself in, she was more curious about Katrina. Despite knowing one another now for some time, being partners, Ashramon, even as Grindymon, had felt she did not know Katrina as well as she might have liked to. Now was a perfect opportunity to learn about her. "Why not?"

"Huh?" Katrina looked at the Digimon.

"You and your dad, why don't you get on?"

Katrina shrugged. "We just… don't. Clashing personalities. Whatever."

Frustrated, Ashramon rose up into the air and floated into Katrina's view. "Tell me," she ordered, frowning deeply.

"Excuse me?" scoffed Katrina.

"Tell me why."

"Why are you so interested?" Her tone was verging on defensive again; clearly this was a sensitive topic.

"I'm your partner," Ashramon explained gently. "I'm your friend for life, forged from who you are… you can trust me. Besides," she continued, "I can tell something weighs heavy on you. It's good to talk, right?"

For several long seconds, Katrina stared at Ashramon, her little round face haloed by the teal spikes and red frills. The determination in her pink-red eyes and the open, honest smile. She sighed eventually, giving in.

"My dad and I… we haven't talked in like two years," Katrina admitted. "We had a massive falling out when I turned eighteen."

"How so?"

"It's stupid, now I think about it… how it all started." She ran her fingers back through her hair. "My mom had made this meal, she's from Eastern Europe so she knows all these amazing recipes and it's a special thing she does on birthdays, makes a massive birthday meal for the family and she bakes a birthday cake, the works." Her mouth quirked into a small smile. "And in my family there's this tradition on birthdays that you don't eat until you've opened your gifts, and you don't open your gifts until everyone is home. It's been in place since I was born. I guess cause I'm their only child my mom wanted to make a big fuss over birthdays."

"That sounds nice," Ashramon said with a smile.

"It was until that year. I was turning eighteen, it's kind of a mile stone, and mom had told us all to be home by seven. The food would be done by eight at the latest; it gave us all a chance to get home, talk, and get my gifts open. Only… my dad didn't turn up. He wouldn't answer his phone, or the phone in his office, there was no way to get hold of him. Anyway, we stuck to the traditions and when he finally strolled in at eleven, I was in no mood to open gifts and the food had gone cold, or was just ruined in general. Mom was just disappointed, rather than angry… but me… I was more than angry for the both of us.

"I just… went crazy at him. Shouting, screaming. He came in reeking of booze and cigars; he had been out with some of the higher-ups from his office and apparently 'couldn't get away'. Didn't matter to me, I just kept laying into him… and he did it right back. All the while mom is crying on the couch asking us to both stop shouting." Katrina let out a short, wry chuckle.

"Eventually we had moved on from arguing about his not turning up for my birthday and were just picking at each other, all the things we hate about each other. I… I don't even remember how it came up in the shouting, but I accused him of never wanting me. Always regretting that I was his daughter and not the son he wanted, and that when I was born I took away all chance he had of having the big family he had always dreamed of…," she trailed, staring into the open space above Ashramon, as if no longer talking to her.

"What… did he say to that?" prompted Ashramon in a soft whisper of a voice.

"He agreed," admitted Katrina with a slight shrug. "Said I had hit the nail on the head. That it felt good to finally have the truth out in the open. I was just… so stunned. I couldn't even come back with anything. I went to my room, grabbed some stuff and left – even though my mom was begging me not to. I went and crashed on a friend’s couch for a couple of weeks and haven't seen or talked to my dad since."

As Katrina completed her story, she cracked her knuckles, which seemed to break her own reverie of memories. She cleared her throat, and tapped Ashramon on the head. "Now you know. You can't tell anyone."

"I won't."

"I mean it," she added. "I keep my personal life and experiences personal. You're the only person aside from my mom who knows."

"I'm not a person," Ashramon reminded her, smiling lightly. "But thank you for trusting me enough to tell me."

Katrina allowed her a half smile. She shut down the main computer quickly and then switched places, going to sit on the rug beneath the coffee table and switching on her laptop as she plugged it into the mains and located a spare USB cable.

Ashramon followed and curled up on one of the cream cushions on the sofa. As Katrina waited patiently for her laptop to load up, Ashramon stared at her, still a little perplexed. "Why did your dad agree with you? With all those things you accused him of believing?"

"Because they were probably true?" suggested Katrina, logging into the main computer account. "I took away what chance my parents had of having a big family."

"How?"

"I was a troublesome baby before I was born," she explained. "My mom had a lot of complications with me, couldn't deliver me naturally, and had to have me by caesarean. The doctors left something inside while she was being patched up; she got an infection and had to have an emergency hysterectomy."

"What's that?" inquired Ashramon.

"Basically it's when doctors take out a woman's baby maker," Katrina said. "My dad comes from a big family, so does my mom. They both wanted lots of kids… and instead they got me. Just… me."

"I'm sorry… that your dad feels like that," Ashramon murmured, though it seemed that Katrina was now blocking her out and did not answer. She was entering into her own world of technology and the Internet to fill her mind of the familiar and what she knew. She turned her D-Ex over and over in her hands, locating the mini USB port she had found in the Biyomon village. She plugged it in and waited.

Ashramon soon fell asleep on the cushion, the dark room and the only light coming from Katrina's laptop screen assisting her in that. Katrina worked silently and diligently, working through the files she could locate on the D-Ex, though the inner workings of the device were nothing like she had ever seen before.

Nothing was in a logical location, all the files and folders had symbols instead of names, making navigation difficult. More than once when she had tried to access a file it had crashed her laptop, forcing her to restart and continue.

Her search was not entirely fruitless however, she managed to locate the map they had been coursing on their travels and a saved a copy to her own hard drive, she even located the different files and images which related to the Digimon they had encountered, though even now, in the real world, the information on the Behemon was still incomplete and broken, with static and incomplete image downloads.

She hummed quietly as she worked, giving her mind something more to occupy it than just the images and the difficult night of research she had in front of her. Part of her wished she had decided to do this in the company of the others, Ryan, Blaire, and Adrian, to get their input on the things she located, but that thought was quickly banished from her mind. Blaire would probably try to take over and Ryan and Adrian… she wasn't sure but they would probably hinder her work more than help it.

Almost through the list of main folders, a new one appeared as Katrina was going through the list again. It showed up suddenly and without warning, just popping into view as her cursor scrolled over its neighbors. Like the other folders, it had no real name, just symbols as its title: a diamond, a heart, a spade, and a club. As if taken from a deck of cards.

"Weird," remarked Katrina, moving her mouse to open the folder. As soon as her finger had tapped the left button, her D-Ex lit up in bright blue and screeched, deafening Katrina, forcing her hold her hands up to her ears. Ashramon awakened with a fearful scream in reaction, though the screeching quickly forced her to seek shelter to block out the noise.

The light from the D-Ex was increasing, blurring out the items and furniture of the living room, gradually swallowing the darkness, Katrina, and Ashramon whole.

-----------------------------

"Well hello there. Nice of you to join us, no?"

Adrian's cheerful drawl was what greeted her as she awakened. Feeling the cool grass beneath her hands and the overwhelming scent of flowers, she knew immediately she was no longer in her living room. Whatever the light from her D-Ex had been, it had not been the only D-Ex to react.

"Oh good God," Katrina groaned, sitting up. She lifted her eyes upward, sweeping her hair back from where it littered her face. "One day this landing thing will not hurt."

"At least it was a soft landing." Blaire’s voice was beside her. "Ryan landed with his lower back on a pile of pebbles." She was amused, despite Ryan's pain.

"Awesome," Katrina sighed. She glanced around, taking note of Karumon, Grindymon, Muertomon, and Anzumon in the vicinity. To her left was Adrian, and in front of her Blaire. Ryan sat on the ground a few feet away, and yet Katrina was puzzled. Adrian was in a full-body suit – a onesie – made of fleece material in the form of a brown bear. Blaire stood with a large, baggy t-shit, one decorated with the image of the cookie monster from Sesame Street. Her t-shirt skimmed the top of her thighs, making her underwear just visible, and Ryan was naked from the top down, except for a pair of white boxer briefs to hide his nakedness. "Why… are you all in pajamas?" asked Katrina, confused.

"Because we were getting ready for bed?" Blaire suggested. "And we're not the only ones."

Katrina felt the grass prickle on her bare legs, and was suddenly acutely aware of just how chilly she was. She clasped her hands over her torso, remembering suddenly she was also in the clothes she intended to wear to bed. The short, baggy shirt, and her teal underwear.

"Oh my God…," she moaned into her hands. "I'm pretty sure I've had a nightmare like this."

"Same," Ryan said. "Only it was me arriving in my underwear in school."

Katrina rose to her feet, tightening her arms. "So very aware of how naked I am right now."

"I'd lend you my onesie, cher," Adrian smiled, "but I'm not wearin' anythin' beneath it."

"Thanks," Katrina raised both eyebrows.

Anzumon scratched at the ground with his talons. "So, any clue why we're here, or where we are?"

"Does anyone happen to have the map handy?" added Ryan.

No one did.

Their location was unlike any they had come across before. Around them were lush green fields of different grasses, littered with thousands of flowers of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. The trees here were tall, with thin trunks and orange leaves. The blooms differed tree to tree, some with deep purple flowers, others with almost completely black, but each flower was exquisite as if had made from glass and hand painted. And each flower held a different scent.

A short distance away they could see a tower, huge and imposing before them, towering so high into the sky that it almost disappeared into the clouds. At the very top they could make out an onion-shaped dome and small slit windows at regular intervals.

"Wow…," Adrian murmured, the only word that seemed proper and adequate for what lay before and around them.

"This place is so beautiful…," Grindymon whispered. She dropped to the ground and rolled across the grass. "And peaceful… it's like there's nothing to disturb it."

"If there's nothing to do here, why are we here?" Anzumon asked, directing his question to the air. "How did we get here, too?"

Katrina raised a hand. "Might be my fault." Seven sets of eyes turned to her. "I was playing with my D-Ex on my computer, trying to get a better look at the inner workings of it. It started screeching and there was light and yeah…"

"Can you…," Blaire huffed, "just not play with it? We could have been doing something else. Like driving cars!"

"I didn't know that we would get transported to the Digital World." Katrina argued. "I was trying to find out about the D-Ex, they don't exactly come with operation manuals."

"Easy ladies." Adrian stepped between them, smiling. "We here, we should maybe try and find out why."

"That's a good idea," Karumon agreed. "Maybe we should go towards that big ol' tower. Doesn't look like there's much of any interest around here."

Muertomon adjusted his poncho, his butterflies were drifting wildly from flower to flower. "I don't know. It is pretty." He plucked one bloom from its stem to present it to Blaire, however as he did so it wilted and crumbled to dust in his bony fingers.

Blaire, who had watched the whole thing, frowned. "As pretty as it is… I don't know. I get a weird vibe."

"Then let's get moving," Ryan ordered, his voice tired and frustrated. "I just want to get back and go to bed."

He set off first, trudging barefoot over the grass, the flowers springing back up behind him as his feet left them. Anzumon walked at his side, alert and aware, sniffing the air and keeping his eyes trained on even the slightest movement.

Adrian walked a few feet behind with Blaire and Katrina on either side. Karumon walked between Ryan and the others, marching to his own little tune in his mind. Grindymon stuck close to Katrina's shoulder and Muertomon walked alongside Karumon, matching his pace.

"I'm guessing Ryan's discussion with Heather didn't go all that well?" Blaire asked Adrian in a hushed tone after they had been walking quietly for a few minutes.

"Not as such, no," Adrian replied, his tone just as low. "It didn't go as he had hoped."

"I told him not to go after her so soon," Blaire sniffed, folding her arms. "Everything was still fresh. I bet it just ended in a shouting match again."

"Worse than dat, cher," Adrian explained. "Heather was so upset she done gave him an ultimatum, her or Anzumon."

"Ouch." Blaire made a face. "That's harsh."

Adrian said nothing in return, but did raise a shoulder in a half shrug.

Vague and easy conversation flowed between the three at the back of the group as they walked, while Ryan continued to lead, his pace fast and more like a stomping walk than one of ease. The nearer they came to the glistening white tower, the larger it became, and the more details they could make out on its face. For one thing, the pillar wasn't just white, the stones that made up the whole construction were marble for certain, but held a certain quality so that in different light and at different angles the stones appeared to shimmer pink, lilac, blue, yellow, green, and orange. They were smooth to the touch and cool, with no discernible way to get into the tower that they could find once they reached the base.

"So now what?" demanded Ryan, frustrated as he had completed another circuit of the base of the tower, in case he had missed some hidden entrance or other way to get in. He was reminded of films, how sometimes there were illusions you had to see beyond and think outside the box in order to reach a goal, but there was no such luck here. No matter what way he looked at the pillar, and no matter the times he circled it, there was no way to enter it.

"Seriously, I am not in the mood for stupid games in the Digital World right now," he growled.

"You'd rather be spending your time brooding and moping?" quipped Katrina, returning the dirty look Ryan shot her with a challenging one of her own. Her earlier annoyance with being so underdressed seemed to be forgotten for now. "If you would stop charging ahead and be rational I'm sure we can work out why we're here and what we need to do."

"Fine," he huffed after a few seconds. "Blaire?" To her name she looked at him, sweeping her bright hair back from her face. "Any ideas?"

"You're asking me?"

"Your brother has been to the Digital World before." Ryan crossed his arms. "Did he mention anything about a structure like this?"

"Not to my recollection," Blaire admitted. "Although… just guessing blind, and using pure logic… maybe this is the Circle?"

"What makes you think that?" inquired Anzumon. "I imagined the Circle would be like… a circle."

"I don't know," Blaire admitted, "but it gives off the air of a location that would be visited by powerful beings. If the Circle was where the Gods congregated or whatever… then this looks like somewhere they would meet." She was met with more than a few incredulous looks. "Look, Ryan asked and I said it was a blind guess."

"Not as blind as you might think."

The voice that announced itself had a form that materialized from behind the huge tower. The shape was one they knew, the green and teal markings with the red bandanna. Still, despite knowing his form no one looked at Dalimon with trust or greeted him with pleasure.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Muertomon. "You have a lot of nerve showing up after abandoning us."

"Do you have any idea what we've been through since you ditched us?!" demanded Ryan, raising his voice. "We could have avoided it all if you’d stuck around, eh!"

Dalimon stared at Ryan without much expression; in fact, he looked practically bored. "I live here," Dalimon answered, turning his eyes back to Muertomon. "This is the Circle, and I have made my home here for… countless years."

"Called it," Blaire said, with a small smirk.

"You live here?" Karumon repeated. "Inside the Circle?"

"Yes," Dalimon confirmed.

"How?" Ryan snapped. "I've gone around this thing like five times, there's no way in."

"Not to your uneducated eyes," Dalimon said indignantly. "I'll be honest, I'm surprised you even made it here."

"Yeah, well, we did," Blaire said, rolling her eyes.

"No thanks to you," added Ryan under his breath.

Adrian approached the chameleon leisurely, contented by the back-and-forth his companions were having that this was not Varanumon in disguise. "Don't think we've met. I'm Adrian, and dis here is Karumon," he introduced himself.

"Dalimon," Dalimon nodded to them both curtly.

"You couldn't like… enlighten us as to why we here, no?" asked Adrian languidly, rocking back on his heels. "We all a bit lost."

Shaking his head, Dalimon spoke. "I can't tell you, no," he admitted, "but I can gain you entrance inside. Follow me."

Adrian was first to follow with Karumon, and slowly the others went after them, Katrina first then Blaire. Finally Ryan, his mood worsening every moment that passed.

Dalimon led the group about a third of the way around the tower. From there he led them a short distance away, to an underground entrance hidden from prying eyes by a set of dark purple rocks with a silvery sheen to them. To any other eyes they would have appeared as just a random placement, but on closer inspection it was easy to see by the way they were positioned that they concealed something.

Dalimon had only ever needed to remove one stone to gain access, but with the different sizes of his company, more were needed to allow them inside. With the help of Adrian, Muertomon, and Karumon they removed some of the larger stones, revealing a tunnel which led beneath the ground.

Barely four feet in width and only perhaps five feet or so in height, all the humans had to duck and walk in single file with their Digimon either in front of behind them. The tunnel was not long and went straight, though due to the non-existent light it felt much longer. The only light given was from Grindymon's little antennae lantern, which only went so far.

After a short time, they came out in an underground chamber. Unlike what they had seen outside, this chamber was all made out of earth. There was a pair of pillars, old and crumbling, which had not been tended to for many years. Yellow spots of light were scattered around them like fireflies. The Circle was clearly much bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside. This chamber was more than ten yards across, still with enough space to move around easily.

Around the chamber were crystal chambers, build up like eggshells, forms contained within each one.

Blaire made a quick count. "There are sixteen of them," she announced.

"There are people inside…," Karumon said, peering into one of the shells.

"And Digimon," added Anzumon. He hovered over another, peering through the clear substance blocking him away from the being inside, a blue wolf with a tail of vaporous ice.

"The old Gods," explained Dalimon.

"Oh my god…" Blaire was suddenly hit with a wave of realization. She raced towards the nearest capsules, then to the next, until she found one she was looking for. "Reyez!" she shouted, banging on the crystal. "Rey! It's me, it’s Blaire!! Wake up!"

"Blaire!" Ryan approached her, yanking her hands away from the crystal. She had started to claw at it, as if trying to dig her fingers into it. Consequently her fingertips were already cut up and running red with blood. 

"Let go!" She wrestled him off. "REY!"

"Isn't this Rose Divine?" Katrina asked, peering into the shell closest to her.

"I don't care, my brother is here! Help me!" Blaire screamed. "Muertomon!"

"Skull Grenade!" His skull exploded on impact and the noise shook the very ground they stood on, yet there was no mark, no dent made on the crystal and Reyez slept on.

"Try again!" ordered Blaire.

"You can't wake them," Dalimon told her, his voice impassive, in no way moved by her desperate attempts to free her sibling. "You need all the vials for that."

"Then why are we here?!" demanded Ryan. "I'm damn sick of all this cryptic crap, we don't have all the vials, so why did we get sent here in the first place?!"

"To give you a goal?" suggested Dalimon. "I couldn't tell you."

"I get the feeling you know more than you're letting on," Anzumon said, suspicion in his voice.

"Perhaps," Dalimon replied. "Perhaps I would tell, if you would but ask me."

"What do you know?!" screamed Blaire, striding towards the chameleon. "Tell me or I swear I will-"

"What?" Dalimon asked her. He remained calm, cold even, her outburst appearing to not affect him in the slightest. It was as if his emotions had all turned off, as if he was just a shell, talking, saying words. "What will you do?"

"I…" Blaire clenched her teeth. "I will…"

"You hold no leverage. You cannot do anything to me," Dalimon told her. "I have answers to the questions, if you would but ask them."

"What do we need?" prompted Katrina. "To wake them up, to get these cases open?"

"The other four vials," Dalimon explained, speaking directly to Katrina. "Only the blood of all the Gods will awaken them and theirs from their slumber."

"Blood of the…," Katrina trailed, puzzled.

Adrian scratched his chin. "So our vials, they contained God blood, no?"

"Yes,." Dalimon confirmed. "Bring them all together and you will release them."

"Where are the–"

Ryan's question was cut off. The ground beneath him rumbled wildly, sending him wobbling into one of the crystal cages. Adrian supported himself on the wall, while Katrina held her hands to steady herself.

As the rumbling and shaking subsided, everyone let out a slow breath. A passing tremor, that was all.

Or so it seemed until the group shook again, joined by the sound of a pain-filled yowling. This time it did not stop, the ground shook harder than before, sending those on their feet to the ground unceremoniously. The Digimon were on alert, each one growling, looking around for the invisible danger they could each sense. The blue glow that had appeared between the pillars as the shaking had started grew brighter.

"We must leave," Dalimon told them, his tone urgent.

"How?!" cried Blaire. "The tunnel!" The entrance had disappeared; somewhere between their entering and now it had vanished from view. This alerted even Dalimon into action as he began to search frantically along the walls for the exit.

"Da' hell!?" Adrian shouted, pointing to the crystal beginning to form around Ryan's legs. He kicked out, trying to smash at the substance before he was fully encased. His bare feet did nothing, and instead he cut his heel on the jagged material.

Crystal was forming around all of them, trapping them in place as it closed around them quickly.

"No!" Anzumon charged at the crystal surrounding Ryan, his antlers denting it a little. Electricity spread across his wings and over it, disappearing into the ground.

"Skull Grenade!" Muertomon threw his head at Blaire's prison, only to have it explode into dust on impact.

Karumon was pawing at the crystal swallowing Adrian. Katrina, already fully surrounded, watched as Grindymon pummeled it with her black vapor fins and tail.

Adrian looked around franticly. "Da' light!" he shouted, hoping his voice could be heard. "Attack 'dat!" He had no clue if his idea would work, it was random at best, but the crystal had started appearing because of the light, perhaps if that was taken out they would be released from it.

The Rookies all took Karumon's lead when they saw him charging towards the blue glow between the pillars.

"Spark Javelin!"

"Arctic Breath!"

"Skull Grenade!"

"Aqua Needle!"

The four attacks met at the same time, coming from each side of the chamber. They were swallowed by the blue light, and for a moment it seemed as if time stopped. Then, the light contracted before exploding brightly, enveloping each Digimon and person in its brightness. The crystal seemed to disintegrate around them.

Katrina jerked awake in her bed, gasping for air, with Ashramon on the pillow beside her, unsure how she got there.

-----------------------------

The left side of the wooden burgundy door opened wide, allowing Katrina, Blaire, and their In-Training-levelled companions into the townhouse. It wasn't too early, shortly past 11 A.M, but still Rick appeared to be the only one awake as he let them in.

Katrina and Blaire placed themselves at the small round table that occupied space between the kitchen and the living room area. Blaire was sipping daintily on her Excellent Bean mocha latte, her expression indifferent but wandering; no doubt she had only recently woken up and was adjusting herself for the upcoming day.

Katrina opened her laptop and placed her portable mouse and D-Ex onto the table. Before she could fully get comfortable, she turned to see Adrian bustling about in the kitchen. Oddly enough, he hadn't spoken a word since they had entered. She hadn't known Adrian long, but she could gather that he was more than social, and it was quite odd that he hadn't acknowledged her nor Blaire.

“So I discovered that with the D-Ex, there may be a way for us to manually enter and leave the Digital World without having to pass out,” Katrina began speaking. She looked to Blaire then turned to Adrian, who had finally directed his attention towards her, eating a bowl of cereal and staring at her with curious eyes.

“I'm pretty sure what's been happening is that somehow we've been able to broadcast our subconscious into the Digital user net. We are then able to interact with the avatars and abstract representations of data that are the cornerstone of the Digital World, the Digimon.”

Adrian nodded, swallowing his spoonful of cereal before moving the spoon around in the bowl. He leaned against the counter.

“I see, darlin'. Now are you sayin' that little toy gadget thing you're holdin' has the ability to act as a neurological electromagnetic device? Have you been dippin' in the moonshine, cher?”

Katrina was taken aback by Adrian's feign of ignorance. She was sure she had heard him call the 'toy gadget' a D-Ex before, and was pretty sure he had experienced the same thing as herself and the others. His confusion was confusing her.

He pursed his lips, raising his eyebrows. “I touched a nerve, no? I do apologize.”

Something was off about him, but Kat couldn't place what it was. His voice seemed a bit deeper, maybe he had caught a cold over night? Whatever it was she couldn't exactly put her finger on it.

“It's… a little too early for jokes.” Katrina raised a single brow, stepping back towards the table.

“I do believe you incised me with conversation, cher,” Adrian said matter-of-factly. He had opened his mouth to speak once again but was quickly interrupted.

“You're in my way and who gave you da' right to eat my cereal, frère?”

Katrina looked up from her D-Ex, but the second voice made Blaire snap out of her sleepy daze. “Oh wow.”

There were two Adrians standing in the kitchen, and they were identical in almost every way. Almost.

“It's about time your lazy ass woke up, I was just entertainin' your guests. It seems Ricky boy took da' north wind at the sight of the opposite gender,” the Adrian holding the bowl of cereal said, pointing his spoon to the females and their Digimon.

The other Adrian, which looked more familiar to Katrina, looked at the girls with apologetic eyes. His hair was a mess, and one of the only things that distinguished him from the other was his curly moustache. The other, however, had blonde highlights through his crimson hair.

“I do apologize, ladies. Dis here is my brother, Andre.” The real Adrian pointed to the bowl holding Adrian.

“Hello, twins.” Blaire pursed her lips. “Identical twins.”

“Please to meet your acquaintance,” Andre said politely before eating another spoonful of cereal.

“Don't you have a meeting to attention to, yes?” Adrian's voice was annoyance towards his brother.

“I do, I do, but your friend here was entertainin' me with the idea of these Digimon that seem to be running around here. I think you should listen, she a smart one that cher!”

“Why don't you hurry up and get before you're late, and stop eatin' my cereal!” Adrian took the bowl from Andre, who only chuckled.

Andre walked towards the front door, he nodded kindly to the ladies and found the pair of shoes that were his and placed them on his feet, leaving shortly after.

Adrian wiggled his mouth from side to side, something he did when he was slightly annoyed, his moustache tickled his nose.

Ryan was the last to join them that morning, thundering down the stairs while pulling on a t-shirt over his damp hair, fresh from a shower.

The living room of his house was busier than ever, with Digimon and people chattering and talking over one another. Katrina and Blaire had turned up barely an hour ago, both fully dressed and ready to get to work – on what, Ryan wasn't sure.

In fact both he and Adrian had been barely awake when Katrina had started to hurriedly explain why she and Blaire had come over, and that he and Adrian needed to get a move on if they were to get to the Digital World and locate the other four vials. Very little had computed until Adrian had fixed them both some strong coffee.

Rick had taken it upon himself to entertain the guests while both Ryan and Adrian showered and dressed. Luckily that wasn't hard, as everyone seemed more talkative than they had the day before. Even Ryan, once the coffee had kicked in, was in a better mood than he had been, and was ready to get to work after getting washed and dressed.

"You know, I always thought girls who liked computers and games and stuff were a myth," Rick stated, leaning back on the sofa, Katrina's handheld game console in hand.

"Well, you were myth-taken," laughed Katrina, peering over the top of her laptop screen at him. Blaire rolled her eyes a little at the joke. Katrina had planted herself in the middle of the living room and set up her laptop, D-Ex, and USB cable almost moments after Andre had left. The mug of coffee Adrian had prepared for her had been refilled three times in the one hour she had been at the house. Blaire was convinced she was just running on fumes and caffeine now, and that her excited mood was due to that only.

Ryan yawned, rubbing his hand through his hair. "So, what are we doing?" he asked, flopping on a chair.

"If I can figure out how I did it last night, I think I can get us back to the Digital World," Katrina explained. Adrian sat on the floor beside her, and Rick approached to sit the other side, both peering over her shoulder at the laptop screen. Ashramon was perched on the top of Katrina's head, peering down, and Borramon slept quietly on a cushion on the floor, tucked away from the main huddle of bodies.

"And you needed to come here to do that, eh?" inquired Ryan.

"I figure it's probably better for us all to get to the Digital World together, so we don't get separated, and that way we don't arouse suspicion," explained Katrina breezily. She was scrolling through a list of folders and files that had appeared on her D-Ex overnight, she didn't recall any of the folders she looked at, either the names had changed or there were a huge amount of new ones that had downloaded somehow.

"Makes sense," Blaire agreed with a slow stretch. "I just came here to see how you were doing." She looked at Ryan.

"Eh…" He shrugged. "I don't really want to talk about it," he admitted. "Would prefer to stay focused, y'know?"

"Fair enough." Blaire nodded. "Focused it is."

Calamon suddenly leapt out of her lap, pounced on by Pinamon from over her shoulder. Immediately the little skull started chasing the ball of feathers around the room, ducking and weaving between things to catch the other Digimon.

"Careful!" Ryan said, not really looking at either Digimon. There wasn't particularly anything breakable in the house, at least not of value.

"So what happened last night?" Rick asked, leaning back from where Katrina studied her screen. "Adrian said you guys all wound up in the Digital World?" The night before, Adrian and Ryan had spent several hours going into detail and explaining the ins and outs of the Digital World to their housemate. It seemed only fair he knew more than the simple things, considering he would be living with two Digimon for the foreseeable future.

Surprising them both, Rick had taken all their explanations in stride, a little confused in places, but generally understanding and calm. Now it seemed he just wanted to find out all he could, be a kind of support for those with the Digimon.

"Yeah." Blaire nodded. "In our jammies of all things." She smirked.

"Jammies?" Rick repeated, laughing lightly. "That must have been awkward. Ryan doesn't wear jammies."

Blaire's eyebrow rose with interest as her green eyes shifted to the taller man. "Is that so?"

"Normally I sleep naked," he admitted. "You guys were lucky, I was just about to go full Monty when I got sucked in."

"What a shame," sighed Blaire, shooting him a flirtatious smile.

"No, really. Not a shame," Rick said. "Full-frontal Ryan is not a pretty sight."

"Dare I ask?" quipped Blaire.

"Walked in on him in our first week of living together. He didn't realize that the bathroom door locked," explained Rick. "It was… definitely an ice breaker. I mean, can't get more awkward than seeing your house mate totally naked." He sighed a little, ruffling his hands through his hair. "Still, jealous Ryan and Adrian got to see you both in your PJs." He laughed.

Blaire rolled her eyes in response though smiled good naturedly at Rick, while Katrina barely glimpsed at him over the top of her laptop screen.

Ryan rolled his eyes while both Blaire and Rick laughed. Scooping up Pinamon out of the way of Calamon's hands, he moved towards Adrian and Katrina, who had been speaking to one another quietly while trying to locate the file that had transported them all in the first place. He noticed Katrina flexing her hands.

"You okay, Kat?"

"Mhm?" She tilted her head back, dislodging Ashramon. "Oh, fine." She flexed her hands again. "Coffee gives me the shakes."

"What about this folder, cher?" Adrian suggested, pointing to one which had only a club symbol.

"No…," Katrina groaned. "It had a heart, diamond, spade and club. Like from a pack of cards."

"Maybe try someone else's D-Ex?" Blaire offered, holding her own out to the redhead.

"I'll keep that in mind," Katrina said, "but I want to keep searching on mine for a minute. If I found it by fluke yesterday, there's nothing to say I shouldn't be able to find it again today. I just don't remember where I found it."

Blaire slouched back in the arm chair. There was little else for her or Ryan to do except sit and talk and wait. Adrian and Katrina continued to look through the files on her laptop, with Rick chiming in if the D-Ex did anything on the screen – though he spent most of his time talking to Ryan and Blaire, keeping conversation going. At times the talk between Adrian and Katrina became too technical, even for him to keep up with.

At one point, Katrina's D-Ex released the same screeching sound it had done the night before, waking Borramon from his sleep. She had excitedly tapped on the largest button on the front of the device and Ashramon had disappeared into it in a haze of blue light.

A moment of panic was had until the little Digimon's voice came from the D-Ex, just as confused and panicked as Katrina had been.

She had discovered how to store their Digimon in their D-Exes, which was useful, but was not what she had been trying to find out.

Eventually, Katrina gave up, flopping over the keyboard of her laptop dramatically with a groan.

"I give up!" she announced. "I cannot find this stupid folder. It's vanished."

"You looked," Adrian told her with a small smile.

Unimpressed, Katrina slumped over her laptop, head on her fist, supported by her elbow on her thighs. "Stupid thing," she muttered, disconnecting her D-Ex from her laptop. "Folders don't just disappear!"

"D-Exes aren't like normal computers though," Ryan advised her. "Maybe it's a defence mechanism inside the D-Ex? Maybe you weren't supposed to be able to access that folder. Maybe you weren't supposed to be able to access the D-Ex at all."

"Then why would it have a mini USB port?" Katrina retorted snappishly.

"Now, now," Adrian said calmly. He stood, stretching his arms above his head and rubbing his belly underneath his shirt. Borramon rolled towards him and into Adrian's foot, prompting him to pick up the Digimon from the floor.

"I'm hungry, Adrian," Borramon told him sadly.

Adrian's mouth tilted into a small grin. "Alright. Me too. Let's go get somethin' to eat, we'll all think better when we've got more than just coffee in our systems, not to mention leavin' da' computer for a little while might help."

With Adrian's insistence and a lot of ushering out of the house, the five of them, and the four Digimon, found themselves at a small café, known more for its ice cream selection and the fact it was the only place in the city which also served bubble tea.

It was a quaint place, quite off the main strip of the larger shops, and the more popular cafés and restaurants. A family-owned place, Adrian only knew of it because his brother had suggested it to him last time they had spoken. The interior decor made the café appear to look like a diner from the sixties, with white and red striped fabric on the chairs, kitsch memorabilia around the walls, and an old fashioned juke box.

They found a booth towards the back of the building, away from the front door and from any other doors that might be in use a lot, like to bathrooms or kitchens. Only a handful of other people were inside enjoying ice cream and tea, so they reasoned it was a relatively safe place to talk aloud about the Digital World without arousing too much suspicion, provided they kept their voices down.

"Maybe you should all go over what you learned on your trip to the Digital World yesterday?" Rick suggested, sitting down with a small silver bowl in front of him. He sat on the end of one of the couches, Katrina squeezed between him and Adrian, Blaire and Ryan opposite with the Digimon cushioned between the two of them.

"Honestly, I don't want to talk about that right now," Blaire said, speaking around a mouthful of strawberry ice cream. "All our conversations don't have to be about Digimon and the Digital World, do they?"

"I thought you'd be most eager to talk about it," remarked Katrina, poking her bowl of bright blue bubblegum ice cream. "Considering it’s your brother there and all."

"True," Blaire shrugged, "but I'm going to wear myself down with worry if I keep focusing on it too much. Let's talk about something else!"

"Like what?" asked Ryan. His mood had depleted significantly since leaving the house. He picked boredly at his bowl, having not had even a spoonful yet. "The Digimon and Digital World is really the only thing we all have in common." He sighed.

"Let's find other things then?" Blaire suggested, trying to ignore Ryan's low mood. She understood why, everyone knew why he was down. There was little any of them could do about it though. The issue Ryan had was Ryan's to deal with alone. They could all try and support him, but ultimately he was the one to make the decision and deal with his feelings.

More through Blaire's insistence than effort on anyone else's behalf, they started talking and found other areas of shared interest that they could connect on. It had been clear earlier that Adrian had a certain knowledge of computers which he shared with Katrina, who was eager to feedback. Even Rick was able to get a word in at times as he also had some knowhow with PCs and laptops as well.

Adrian explained who his brother was, and also why he had been visiting at quite an early hour, that it wasn't particularly unusual for that to occur as Andre did have a spare key to the house and would often stop by for something to eat after a particularly long night – something to line his stomach with. He talked about his enjoyment of cooking and where he worked, that he was lucky his co-workers were so understanding, because when he had called that morning to lie to them and say he would be off work for a week for recuperation and blood tests, they had not queried it at all.

Blaire was the biggest talker, and consequently it was her conversation that drew the subject back to the Digital World. She went into detail about how her brother knew all the other people they had seen. Though her main focus had been on Reyez himself, she had seen in the crystal shells the faces of the other people and their Digimon. She had recognized most of them, some more than others, but knew them all by name because they had all visited Rey at one time or another.

Eva and Tom she knew, having attended their wedding. She knew Frankie probably the best out of the women, as she and Reyez had dated for some time. James she knew only by sight, and because he and Frankie now had a daughter. Then there were Piper and Hunter Divine, known only by sight, and Rose Divine because she had been round once or twice when Blaire had being staying at Reyez's house.

Reyez had said there was nothing going on, but Blaire knew a walk of shame when she saw one.

Despite their original reservations conversation flowed easily between them, and even Ryan seemed to perk up a little once the sugary ice cream and tea hit his system.

Blaire enthused on her interests in dancing and comics, which Ryan joined into the conversation. At this point no one seemed left out. Conversation began to flow easily from one subject to another.

"Not to ruin the mood," Katrina murmured, while nursing her third drink, "but we're being listened to – don't all look at once! First Adrian, over by the counter. A man and woman."

Adrian looked and nodded, then on instruction Ryan, Rick, and finally Blaire.

"Oh, that's Eleanor and Eric. They were at Tom and Eva's wedding too… and were part of everything four years ago if I remember correctly," Blaire explained breezily. "Eleanor was at the carnival."

"I remember her." Ryan nodded. "Standing in for Rose Divine. Someone said Rose was probably too important to come, guess we know otherwise."

"Yeah," Blaire nodded, "she's been trying to clean up Atlas Corp’s image since Bella died. Not an easy job."

"That's nice and everything, but why would they be eavesdropping on our conversation?" Katrina inquired briskly. "It's weird."

"They probably heard mention of Digimon, or of Reyez and the others and were curious." Blaire shrugged a shoulder. "Eleanor! Eric!" She waved to them, standing up.

"What are you doing?" hissed Katrina.

"Calling them over," Blaire replied sweetly. "Over here!" She waved again, grabbing their attention. "Come on over!"

Katrina groaned softly, and beckoned the Digimon to hide. Ashramon disappeared beneath her hair, Borramon rolled onto the floor, bouncing towards Adrian's feet. Ryan tucked Pinamon inside his shirt, and Calamon sat quietly on Blaire's lap as the two newcomers approached.

Eric was taller, with dark hair. Where he used to wear it more slicked back, now it was less well-kept, a little messy but stylish. And Eleanor was small, petite, her hair long and dark, flowing easily down her back.

"Hey," Eric greeted them. "Fancy seeing you here, Blaire."

"Yeah! Small world, right?" she replied brightly. "These are some friends of mine, Katrina, Adrian, Rick, and Ryan." She went round them all in turn. "What are you up to?"

"Just stopping in before we start shopping," Eleanor explained. "Starting our shortlist today."

"Short list…?" Blaire repeated.

"For the wedding." The other woman smiled. "Not long to go now!"

"Oh! Right, I totally forgot." Blaire giggled. "Excited?"

"A little," Eleanor returned.

The two separate groups fell quiet. Each of them looking at each other and between. Eric had spotted the less well-hidden Digimon – Ashramon, Pinamon, and Calamon – and was staring at each of them for extended lengths of time, making their holders somewhat uncomfortable.

"Well, we should make a move," Eleanor said, clearing her throat. "It was nice to see you."

"Yeah," Blaire nodded. "You too."

"A little bit of advice," Eric said, lowering his tone and leaning in towards the group, holding Eleanor's hand. "If you're going to talk about Digimon out in the open, do it more subtly. Some people are still… well, you mention anything to do with something out of the ordinary and a witch hunt starts."

Katrina frowned, she kicked one of the chairs at the unused end of the table and it slid across the floor a little. "Sit," she ordered.

Eric arched an eyebrow.

"Sit," Katrina ordered again. Eric held the chair out for Eleanor, letting her sit down and then grabbed a second for himself. "What do you know?"

"Enough," Eric explained. "Eleanor and I were both there four years ago, we witnessed everything, things that even the cameras didn't see."

"Our Digimon also took part in helping ward off Mukademon's hench-Digimon, while the eight Gods disposed of him," Eleanor added.

"Mukademon…," Katrina repeated. "I… yeah… That sounds weirdly familiar."

"Hench-Digimon?" asked Adrian.

"Mukademon tried to draw power from the Digital World when it appeared in the sky," said Eric. "In doing so he created… a rift I guess, through which his followers could come and attack. Our Digimon in their Mega forms, Zirnitramon and Liviamon, helped fend them off."

"You have Digimon too?" Rick's mouth hung open a little, until Katrina closed it.

"Not officially," Eleanor said. "We're not chosen like the others were and you… clearly are." She indicated to Ashramon who stared at her with huge glassy eyes, and then at Pinamon who was pecking at a leftover wafer.

"Chosen…?" Ryan inquired.

Eric's mouth pulled into a small smile. "It's hard to explain. The others were chosen, to have Digimon… and I guess so were you."

"Why?" asked Blaire.

"No idea." Eric shrugged. "I couldn't tell you at all the reasons you were given Digimon, but there's obviously a reason. You'll probably find it out at a later date."

"Rewind a little," Adrian requested. "You also have Digimon, no?"

"Yes." Eleanor reached into her purse and pulled out two identical items, which looked like small remotes, decorated with a small screen and three tiny buttons. "For ease, we transport them in these. Home-made Digivices I suppose you could call them… made with the technology of Atlas Corp."

"Our Digimon are Rubimon and Corneliamon, you can meet them later." Eric sighed. "So… what do you know about your task so far?"

"Task?" queried Rick. "They have a task?"

"I would assume so…?" Eric said slowly. "Unless… you don't?"

"No, we have a task!" interjected Blaire. "In fact we found out a little more about it when we went to the Digital World last night."

Eleanor and Eric exchanged glances, before Eric leaned forward. "Tell me everything."

So they did.

Blaire started everything off, explaining how things had started, how the short-circuits at the carnival had somehow triggered them all going to the Digital World, how she and Ryan had met and then bumped into Katrina. Meeting Dalimon, the vial he gave her. The Gazimon, the map, the Biyomon village. The Behemon that had caused Muertomon to evolve to Pelmamon. Their meeting with Hitokamon and how they were enveloped by some huge shadow that spoke to them. How they had met a second Behemon, which had caused Grindymon to evolve, and then the first time they woke up.

There Adrian had added in the whole time he was trying to get through the Digital World with only Karumon and the Varanumon leading them to what was more likely to be their doom than anything else.

Katrina continued from when they had returned and where Anzumon had evolved to Kotenmon. She filled them in on details about the Clockwork City, about the fight they had there where she had been under the influence of the shadow figure. Finding the hive where Mesilamon and Vazkamon held a fourth vial, their meeting with Karumon and Adrian, and now how they had returned home.

Ryan completed the story with their trip to the Digital World during the night, how they had met Dalimon, who had shown them how to enter the Circle where they had found everyone but had been unable to open their crystal caskets without the other vials, so Dalimon had said.

Throughout the whole explanation, Eric and Eleanor kept quiet and only asked questions when they needed to. When the whole story was completed, coming up to that day, Eric let out a long breath and looked at Eleanor. He ran his hair back through his hair, while Eleanor rubbed his hand gently.

"Sounds like you've had quite an experience," he said slowly.

"That's one way of putting it…," agreed Blaire with a small grin.

"Do you have a plan?" asked Eleanor.

"To get back to the Digital World and find da' other vials. I would guess dere are four more if dere are eight Gods, no?" Adrian explained.

"You'd be about right," Eleanor nodded.

"Only problem is getting back to the Digital World. The previous times have all been fluke. Anzumon was being attacked, and last night I was just being nosy. I have no idea how we get back to the Digital World," Katrina said, her tone taking on something of a whining quality.

"We'll get that sorted for you," Eric said, brushing over her complaint. "What about the Digivices… your, uh… D-Exes? What about those?"

Ryan withdrew his from his pocket. "What about them?"

"Do you know the full potential? Not just that they have the ability to help your Digimon evolve and such, but also that they can hold your Digimon within them, making travel slightly less fraught in the real world."

"Only discovered that today," Katrina spoke up. "But again, fluke."

"Okay." Eric played with the ring on his finger, twirling it around nervously. "That's something to look at more in-depth when you have a chance."

"We should really tell Logan what's happened," Eleanor murmured to Eric, her expression drawn and concerned. "He should take over Atlas while Rose is indisposed, otherwise all her hard work will go undone."

"Hmm…," agreed Eric, "that and he might be able to get some more information while these guys are in the Digital World."

They spoke as if the others were not there, talking to one another quietly, while the five around them all glanced around wordlessly and with expectation.

Eric's chair scraped across the floor, causing them all to jump suddenly. "Okay. We need to meet somewhere. Somewhere that won't attract attention, and that you'll be safe in while you're in the Digital World."

"Uhh…" Adrian rubbed his head a little, looking at Ryan and the others.

"My apartment is tiny…," Katrina murmured.

"We could try Rey's… but it's not exactly roomy," Blaire added. "Not to mention sometimes my sister's like to pop by unannounced."

"Our place then," said Ryan. "Would that be okay?" He looked at both Rick and Adrian, who nodded their agreement.

"Alright," Eric said. "Bring supplies suitable for a camping trip and do it quickly, you don't have a lot of time."

"You going to explain what's happening?" Katrina inquired, pointedly.

"We will," Eleanor assured her, "but once we're all together. Out of the earshot of… other people."

-----------------------------

Blaire and Katrina had returned to their own apartments to gather their belongings, while Eric and Eleanor had returned to the house the boys shared to wait for the two women.

Ryan and Adrian both did as Eric said, packing up a few bits and pieces into backpacks: extra clothes, medical supplies, and other items they thought might come in handy while in the Digital World. It was a nice change to be preparing to go, to have the knowledge they would have some of their own things there, rather than be thrown into everything blind.

It was less than two hours later when Blaire and Katrina arrived together, both of them with their own bags, stuffed to bursting with things.

"Don't tell you me you've packed some shoes, or something…," Ryan sighed, staring at Blaire's bag as she dumped it on the floor.

She smacked his arm. "Way to be sexist… and no, not loads of shoes. An assortment of things, all necessary as far as I'm concerned."

"What now?" Adrian turned to Eric, who had been sitting quietly with Eleanor while they had been packing their things.

Smoothing his hands over his legs, Eric stood up and retrieved a grey device from his pocket; a replica of the one Eleanor had shown them earlier. He tapped one of the buttons and in a haze of dark red light a figure appeared, standing erect with dark maroon skin and purple scales as accents. There were gold items across its body as decoration.

"This is Rubimon," he informed them, indicating to the standing reptile. Slowly, it blinked its orange eyes, observing the five other people around it and the four small Digimon.

"A pleasure," she said, bowing her head a little, confirming her gender as female. She looked at Eric. "These are the new Chosen?"

"Yeah," he confirmed with a curt nod. "And they need some help with their mission."

"So I gather," Rubimon spoke. "I heard everything. Eva and the others are trapped in the Digital World, and it's your job to save them, correct?" She looked at Ryan and the others.

"Yeah." He nodded. "But we need some more vials to do it."

"I don't know much about vials," Rubimon sighed, "but I can certainly give you some guidance. I can go with you into the Digital World, save you getting lost and getting into harm's way."

"That…," Blaire tilted her head, "is awfully nice of you."

"I won't allow the peace Ryudamon sacrificed himself for to be tainted and destroyed so easily," Rubimon replied, her tone fierce. "Now come on, help clear a space and I can make a start on the preparations to get us there."

Together, they all cleared the living room of clutter and spread out the furniture to make a large space in the middle of the room, large enough for them all to stand comfortably in. Rubimon began to walk along the carpet, dragging her claws along the fabric, creating a series of shapes and curves.

Rick ran his hand back through his hair. "I really hope that doesn't destroy the carpet… might as well wave goodbye to our deposits on this place if it does." He smiled wryly, though the only people who seemed entertained by his remark were Katrina and Eleanor.

"So, what are you doing, exactly?" asked Blaire, climbing onto the coffee table to get a better view of what Rubimon seemed to be drawing into the carpet.

"Arranging a way to get to the Digital World," she explained.

"You can take us there?" Calamon snorted. "Really?"

"Do not be deceived by appearances," Rubimon warned him as she drew. "I have great power that has been dormant for some time."

"What do I do?" Rick asked. "I don't have a Digimon."

"You stay here," Katrina told him. "Make sure our bodies don't like… decay or anything. Keep us smelling fresh as daisies." She stuffed a small netbook computer into her bag, lying across it to do it up again.

Eleanor smiled vaguely and explained to him. "You can help us. Eric will be getting in touch with a friend to get some information. You can cover for your friends, if their families or boyfriends or girlfriends come looking."

"You've done this before, huh?" Rick asked, smiling a little.

"Once or twice," Eleanor replied.

"Done," announced Rubimon, standing up straight. "Get into the glyph, please." She indicated to the spot and waited until everyone was in place, with their Digimon in hand. She hugged Eric quickly.

"Come back safe," he told her softly, drawing his hand across her head affectionately.

"Don't worry about me," she assured him with a grin. "I'll be home before you know it." Releasing Eric, Rubimon turned to the others and ushered them into the glyph she had drawn on the carpet. Each person stood in a direction of North, South, East, and West. She ordered them to join hands, which they did, with the Digimon in the middle of the glyph, surrounding Rubimon.

With a final look at Eric, Rubimon spewed dark fire onto the scratched markings, which suddenly ignited in dark burgundy flames and spread in a decorative shape under their feet. Shouts of alarm echoed from them as the flames grew higher and licked at their bare skin, hands and faces, but no one was burnt.

In a flash of red light, the group had disappeared, as had the glyph, leaving only the vacant spot with Eleanor, Rick, and Eric looking on.


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