Digimon Protectors - The Highton View Terrace Incident (First Chapter Up)

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Set during the events of Digimon Adventure prior to Season 1 on August 1st 1995 now follows protagonist Captain Archer as he fights to saves the lives of the DigiDestined from the ruthless and cunning Daemon. In a battle against time, Archer must find a way to unite two worlds in order to save them both from Mastermind of Darkness and the wrath of the corrupted Order Agent Railius in his quest for revenge.

THIS IS A MATURE STORY. There is violence, swearing, and mature themes. You've been warned.


Welcome to the new release of Digimon Protectors. Maybe some of you remember I had posted the story here a few years ago and now it has gone into a bit of a rewrite. Now I got some art to go with it now I had the time to get some real work done on it. If you are new here, welcome to my second attempt at the multi-media project of my Digimon fan story. I will be posting chapters and art to go along with it and do an audiobook version of the story if you want to do the podcast thing. It is also an excuse to do my own little voice acting practice so everyone benefits.

As for the involvement of my readers, if you like to have your characters appear in the story be they DigiDestined, Digimon, or some other human caught up in the middle of all this I'm open to having you post them here or between chapters with suggestions to what side of the good or bad side of the line you like them. Keep in mind the setting as this is before any of the Season 1 stuff happens. The form goes as follows:

Name:

Age: If Applicable.

Level: If applicable.

Type: If applicable.

Brief history/possible involvement:


Alignment:


Hope you enjoy the read and the arts! See the First Chapter Below!


 
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Unforeseen Consequences

AUDIO VERSION

The rain poured down on the streets of Nerima Japan, every few seconds a red cherry at the end of my cigarette burned orange to give my later than five o'clock shadow a sharp blood mandarine hue as I walked into the uncertainty of my future. My hands were only a little cold behind the charcoal black rough leather gloves as it drew away the dart to exhale the cloud of cancerous smoke, it trailed into the air in a haze until it disappeared among the gray skies above me thinking on the day's events. The wind was strong at my back as the clocks ticked over to midnight. A long night overdue to be over, my ride skipping out to go drinking with the rest of my cohorts, a mixed blessing to collect my thoughts. I needed to think about the meeting and how I should either salvage it or just get my plane ticket ready to go back to Seattle.

The name's Archer. That's really all you need. I was on government business in Japan. A notable but low-key conference of those who work on the darker side of the gray lines of work wetter than the rain pouring down on me at the time. I've been to lots of places in the world, strange and dangerous all around. Places you wouldn't like. No one would in their right mind for that matter. Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Columbia, Sudan, Sierra Leone to name far more than I should. I had lived on and off in Japan but I was actually born on a military base just outside of Toyko. Navy brat somehow turned Army degenerate and then...well it gets classified after that.

For the sake of your curiosity, the business I was on had to do with a special project. Nothing involving aliens before you start getting too far out in tinfoil hat land, just a joint effort between NATO nations. Due to the growing popularity of global terrorism, there was a push to put together some combined force, spearheaded by Japan of all places. They were looking to lift some restrictions on their constitution with US approval, we were looking for more joint training and deployment points in the area. I was just here as an advisor, translator and possibly one in the chain of command of this little outfit. We were stuck on names while we organized our candidates, I put forward Specialized Tactical Anti-Terrorist Interception Command, otherwise known as STATIC Force. When you got two shiny new silver Captain bars on your shoulder it's amazing what ends up getting jotted down on the drawing board.

The rain was starting to die off as I reflected on the meeting. Not often did much get done when you got three different chains of command from five different countries trying to hash out who foots what bill let alone who is going to do what. The droplets pattered lighter and lighter on my head as I saw the clouds thinning out above me. I pulled off my hood to get a good cold breeze going across my scruffy chin and running my hand through my long on top hair to brush out a few bangs in my field of vision. The sides were still cut down to the quick to keep in regulation with the barrette I had to sport around though so it looked a little off. Making my way across the middle of the street, just about to drag off the last of my smoke I heard a crackling in my ear of the world around me suddenly changing for the stranger.

I had a low-profile earpiece headset on, connected to my cellphone in my pocket that began to make some weird high-pitched whistling noise. Sounds like long draw 'tweeeees' winding up before dropping along with what I could only decipher as digital information downloading feedback. The street lights around me started to flicker, my watch's display flashed and randomized numbers. Electrical interfeirance? From what? Looking down the street to my left I saw building lights flash in random patterns, traffic lights flick from stop, slow and go at random. When I looked up the sky stopped me in mid-step.

Above me was not the normal stary sky that I expected as the clouds parted. It looked foreign, bands of what looked like stretches of barcodes mixed with DNA sequences unraveled along the sky. The backdrop to it looked to the striking similarities of the Northern Lights except far more detail and coated the whole sky with faint greens and bright blues. I craned my kneck up I could have sworn I made out what looked like continents, oceans, and even city lights on a world I couldn't be seeing right above me. My cigarette drooped from my lips, fell from it, and made its way down to the wet street below me. The second set of lights came from my right, my eyes darting over after a second. Headlights? Horn sounded. Speeding truck. I'm dead.

I then was struck but not by the vehicle barreling down at me to my painful surprise. Instead, a flash of robes out of the corner of my eye picked me up in a tackle at full sprinting speed into a bone-straining hit. Ripped off the ground, my cigarette fell to the pavement as we sailed back towards the sidewalk. I felt my chest almost cave in before my back hit the cement with a slam and a skid up and over the lip of the sidewalk. The only reason I didn't feel the snap of my spine was my concealed kevlar armor under my jacket and shirt that deadened the blow. Hurt like hell as I rolled over backward three times, slamming my head off a brick wall. My brian jostled in my head, my arms coming up gripping my scraped up scalp. and I slumped to the side with my vision twisting for a few moments. I heard my cigarette hiss out in a puddle.

Curled on the ground I heard another voice giving a slight groan, pulling my knees in as I drew my hand back to see if there was any blood. Yup, blood. I shook my head as i barely missed a concussion, realizing I had flown from the middle of the street at the centerline all the way back to the corner of the sidewalk. The low wall with a barred spiked fence around it symbolically guarding a large residential building, Highenview Terrance in fact as I read from the sign. I looked around to see who had saved my life so suddenly. He was even stranger than the sky was.

I thought he was wearing a very baggy tan trench coat but he was actually wearing some type of monk's robes. It was pretty basic but it has some prestige about it, nicely sewn darker tan trimmings, a solid leather belt around the middle, and some weird rappings around his hands like fight raps. Short brown hair, almost spiked but he had a very long braided ponytail down his back. Around his neck looked like a religious symbol, more like a seal of some kind with the crosses and a shield and really weird-looking symbols looked halfway between Kanji and random computer symbols. He looked in his mid thirties, younger thirties for sure, fair complexion and almost impossibly clean-shaven. On his back was something I was a little more concerned with, a very large scabbard for what looked like a massive broadsword. Medieval in nature, a cleaver of men if you will and that just made it all the more confusing. The robed man stood up to his feet as I got to my knees, squinting through the moderate pain. "Are you hurt?" He asked leaning towards me.

I shook my head as I got up using the fence to get fully up to my feet. I brushed myself off of the grime and water as the truck that nearly hit me sped down the road. Must have panicked and gunned it to avoid my foot up his ass if he got out. "You must get off the streets it isn't safe!" He pointed away.

"Nowhere is ever safe." I answered with a shrug, "Thought my number was up with that truck. What's with the getup?"

He looked confused at my statement. Narrowly avoiding death and not one side of panic he was probably thinking was a little bit strange. Been nearly killed a few times, this one was just a little more surprising and in the soonest retrospect very anti-climatic. I reached for my pack and flicked another cigarette out, I was still expecting an answer. "You know swords aren't legal to carry around here." I said well aware of the hypocrisy of what I had under my tactical jacket, 'Didn't think Japan had HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) with European leanings but do you know what's going on with the sk---'

"You need to get out of here!" He insisted finally, "I'm trying to---."

"Run away Gennai?" A smooth voice called out from the end of the street, "Time to stop running now."

I looked over just a block away, walking towards us seemed to be photo negative of the man I was speaking to, but that smile on his face was enough to make my senses start to sharpen up to a fight. The robes he wore were almost the same as the man called Gennai's, except they were black with gray trimmings. They were torn and faded at the cuffs, collar, and bottoms worn by time but it looked almost intentional. I would have thought they were twins but the flesh on his face was a pale gray and his hair a solid white sheen against the street lights. What pierced me were his eyes. Blood red. The smile was sinister as he walked all on his own but with every step he took the ground started to form a thick soupy fog that stretched out behind him like a misty cloak, stretching out further and further as he walked. "Who's your friend?" He pointed at me, "Seems a bit old to be someone you might need."

"He has nothing to do with me Railius!" Gennai countered.

The guy laughed with a twinge of madness as I started to slip myself into a defensive posture, hand slowly reaching behind my back. Instincts started to kick on as that dark eather that formed along the street started to take human-like shapes. My mind was trying to process all of this insanity but training was overriding the crazy for practicality. My hand slipped around the hilt of my belt knife. "He's next to you and that's enough." Railius answered, "And you're not going to risk your mission to defend him now are you?"

I didn't answer the threat as those forms started to shift up like pulling themselves out of a tar-like substance, the smokey cloud beginning to peel away to reveal similarly dressed beings, only they had hoods and tight-rapped masks around their faces. The eyes I still saw, glowing and looking right at me with a murderous intent I knew well. Gennai stepped in front of me, reaching behind his back and drawing out that monstrous blade out in one pull. The silver steel flashed out as the sky's cleared and the lights returned to just flickering in and out. "I'll hold him off!" Gennai looked back over his shoulder, "Run you fool!"

I couldn't run anyway now trapped on the street corner surrounded. I had anticipated maybe a mugging or an ambitious kidnapping maybe but all of my equipment was under my poncho. The knives they had looked like they were made to gut crocodiles. Halfway between a kitchen knife crossed with a cleaver, the end was shaped like a fishhook complete with barbs. The pummels had spikes on the end too. Nasty but they probably got the job done like they were looking to do to me and this Gennai guy. My heart rate was through the roof now, veins on my neck throbbing but I kept composure. The tan monk stood with his sword out, ready to defend a not so defenseless stranger as he thought. They quickly circled around us, my avenue of escape not there yet. I looked around for a path out, fences and walls in my way for the moment but nothing I couldn't vault over. "I'll go right and draw them away." Gennai turned back, "I'm sorry for this."

"Don't be." I spoke simply, "Wrong place to be tonight."

Gennai glanced back at that, again confusion crossing his gaze. "You're not afraid?" He asked, "How?"

"Death comes for all of us." I answered as two of the dozen were working out who would lead first on me, "Its only a matter of how and time."

"Enough of this kill Gennai!" Railius ordered with a point of his longer version of their blades.

Gennai bolted right like a blur of fabric and flashing steel, ten of them chased after. Railus pursued with a casual stride while the others like hungry jackles after a meal. A battle cry followed those that pursued, long howling cries of rage echoing through the streets as they vanished after him. Railus walked calmly up the street after them in no hurry, metal boots clanking away as he ran his thumb up his twisted sword. The two remaining circled around me, closing the gap with their blades above their heads, dancing their steps side to side in joyful anticipation to sink them into me. I heard them chuckling like hyenas, Railus looking over at me for a moment in the middle of the street. He too was curious since my expression had not changed. "Human...you fear nothing?" He asked almost offended, "No begging? No bargaining? Not a word of why?"

I didn't answer. What was I going to say really? I was glancing between him and his two remaining creatures of my now real nightmares closing in, keeping tabs with every one of their steps. What I returned to him was a glare, he stopped mid-pace. A laser gaze right into his narrowed and even a little bit of anger was burning away into him. Railius didn't respond well to it, insult bled across his demeanor. "Kill him." He dragged the emphasis out on the words, "I don't want things like him running around."

I drew a sneer up my face as he continued now at a faster pace, wanting to catch up on his own prey. The blood-red eyes looked away finally and I looked to the two still twenty feet out and orbiting me. A slight wind kicked up as my feet settled on the ground, weight shifting side to side as my breath drew hard in and out. Adrenaline was making my face tingle a bit, fingers twitch and the ones on the knife flex harder into the rubber handle. I looked towards my two attackers and they both halted in place with my expression alone. "A warning." I spoke finally with a raised finger, "I haven't begged for my life yet. It's because I don't fear losing it. How about you?"

"Death is here now." One spoke back in a bark.

"Embrace it." The other offered gleefully.

I scoffed at the notion. "Come and get it."

My attackers stood, perking upright with surprise by the statement, looking between themselves bewildered. They must have been used to fear being the primary reaction, or at least the outwards appearance of it and finding none with me. They charged nonetheless, one in front of the other in a lunging sprint, knives poised to sink into me when they got that close. I wasn't going to let them.

Firing off like a bullet, my cigarette snapped from my finger in a flick and shot right into the leading physical apparition's face. In reality, all was a blur but the distinct strike of the searing ember crashed right into his eye socket burst into a spattering of burning tobacco. My knife flashed out, the morning fresh wet stone-sharpened blade slicing through my poncho all the way down with ease as I flashed forward as the attacker flinched. I ducked under his blind slash and my edge severed right through the mask around his face, his neck and split all of it open. My feet twisted, knife flipping into an underhand hold and in one rip I hauled my sliced rain protection off and tossed it into the second-standing attacker. The instant batting away of the rubber liner came as I knew it would but it used both arms to do it. Both ends of the blade clear of my attack trajectory, I lept forward and with a sick crunch through the ribcage, the bottom of my fist dug right into where I hoped his heart was. That moment of silence, the first opponent hitting the ground in a roll, my fist twisted over with distinct poping crackles as it did. Its eyes with their black pupils quivering over in the direction of my own look of indifference as I ripped the blade out.

My adversary choked a yelp, my boot rose up under my knee and I delivered a door-busting kick right where I stabbed. My impact felt like I was hitting a dense sandbag but it still lurched back, wobbled down to the ground clawing at its chest. The stuck one babbled weak incoherent nonsense, writhing like it was on a hot plate on the ground. I pulled down the zipper on my jacket and with a smooth pull out came my service pistol from my shoulder holster. It snapped in the direction of the formed being as it gripped its throat with one clawed hand holding tight. The shadowed being looked into my eyes from behind the barrel. "Embraced this." I spat back its words.

The gunshot rang out as I squeezed the trigger, two more after that to be sure. The slashed one crumpled down but instead of the familiar pink mist from the exit, the hit caused a spark of embers, his ash-coloured flesh cracking with bright fractures of bright blacklight purple. His head shattered with a single hole after the third and his head cracked open in a fire burst of orange like a sledgehammer to a glass skull. A neon purple smoke and fire surged out from his neck, the rest of his body, armor and cloth obliterated itself before my eyes. The remnant chunks churned away in a twirling vortex and into oblivion in a few seconds along with an invisible wind. I took my hand away from my eyes as the heat singed me, blinking slowly to what I just saw. 'What the hell just happened?' I asked.

A growl came from behind me, my head whipping around along with my pistol aimed. The stuck one was getting up slowly, the same black-lit glow throbbing from his chest. It was radiating into itself, shrinking and snuffing out leaving only a single line of puncture and a mangled scar! 'It not over yet human!' It screamed at me running.

I instinctively fired, each round of mine punching a set of holes you could fit under a playing card into his chest but it wasn't doing a damn thing! Out the back I caught the black dust flying out where his spine was and I worked my way up to get to his head. A heartbeat before he got into blade's reach, I swapped grip on my blade and clanged a strike off the incoming knife, parrying and slashing down the bend of his arm. It barely affected him despite I should have cut through his arm clean at the elbow, a limp but whiping flail of an aimed cut missed. His arm snapped back into place but my boot crunching his knee with a rippling crackle buckling his leg. He jabbed and swung hard, my blade parrying the strike off. I shot more rounds into his back, going for the head but he flinched out of the way until the slide action on my gun stayed back telling me I was dry. I flipped my gun in my hand to be a stubby club for the second, and cracked it off his face sending him staggering. No time or hands to get a reload as I saw him wobble back up, breathing heavy with glowing cracks all over his body. It paced around me, I mirrored his distance. Ten of fifteen in him and all center mass and he was still functioning with no worse for wear now with a robe looking closer to a cheese grater than clothing. "What the fuck are you?!" I demanded.

"Darkness and will given meaning!" He answered as his knee cracked back into place, "Now your demise in physical form!"

He twirled his blade around trying to fancy me into a mistake, I flicked my blade and parried it off and cross slash flurried him right back. He wasn't concerned for his well being, taking the hits with his forearms and even his chest at times. I carved him up every chance I found, he didn't care. I got in an upper swing of my pistol butt under his chin, spun on the spot and snapped a spin kick right to his face. My foot hit with all the intention of taking his head off but it was like hitting a wooden post, my momentum ending in that second. I landed, my feet scooted me back in a defensive stance, his face having small fissures of glowing purple on his face slowly shrinking away. He was slowing down the more I hurt him at least. I spat off onto the ground, he was getting more frustrated than I was. I beckoned him forward with my knife hand. 'Come on I don't got all night!' I challenged.

Dashing in with a snarl, our blades twanged off each other, slashes went wide on both sides as I caught an opening. I slashed his wrist with my blade, twisted it over his wrists but both of our blades ended up slipping off onto the ground. He unceremoniously shoved me and up and over I went like I was thrown from a speeding car. My back clanged off the metal fence of the wall, the entire wall vibrating all the air from my lungs. My vision again twisted in my head as he charged, my arms shooting out sideways, grabbing the bars tight. In a feat of strength, a kick of my feet off the ground I flipped up with my hips the pivot point, used his incoming torso to run up and leave him with a whipping steel toed chin kick on the way by. I landed on the top of the stone wall part on the other side, catching the top bar just below the spiked heads. The hit staggered him but he lept from ten feet away at a direct angle up at me, fingers outstretched to claw me in half. I jumped backwards, twisting in the air and wrapping my arms around his neck as he grabbed me. Too bad he didn't see me clear the fence while his neck was in line for the dulled points of the speared metal decorations.

I felt flesh again give way but a lot more resistance was met on the way down and before the first line of steel between the point and the bottom of the 'decorative' spearhead. Gruesomely it stabbed through and his neck now had three inches of a spikes through it. His shoulders in line have two on either side as well, impaled firmly on the black painted metal. I held onto him as he writhed and gargled with my arms keeping him in a headlock. One arm lose, I reached my hand into my jacket and pulled my spare magazine out from a pouch inside it, slamming it into the exposed butt of the pistol in my left fist. A clawed hand came around to my face as I yanked my 9mm out from my hand, clicked the action forward and jammed it right to his temple. "Heal this!"

I fired one round point-blank and he burst into the same flame and dust. As he faded from existence, I slipped off right through the loose sand-like substance and hit the ground with the back of my head chipping off the edge of the stone wall, a jolt of pain shot through all the way to the tip of my nose. I came to a stop on the ground ass first and in a seated position in the dirt.

I picked myself up off the flowerbed and the bush I had crushed, instinctively picking up the shell casing on the ground and putting it into my pocket. I slowly made my way over the fence, the steel points looking a little burnt but no one was going to notice, more likely the tulips I crushed with my backside. I landed on the ground, looking around cautiously and listening to any sirens or witnesses retrieving the knife I had lost. Nothing so far. I collected the casings off the ground, pain in my body numbly throbbing away as the toll of this insane fight was adding up. I was about to make a run for it when I saw Railius at the end of the block again.

I stood off to him and my pistol snapped to his direction, shoulders square and a gun aimed to wait for him to come forward just a little more. Incensed I was standing there, Ralius shook his head side the side slowly in bewilderment. My blade under my pistol pointing forward as he walked towards me, the quarter-inch gouges in the blade apparent like a small torch sliced through the metal in my lower peripheral vision. "How?" He asked me with arms wideout.

I wasn't interested in a conversation, I pulled the trigger instead. Multiple times. The rounds hit him right between the eyes within a quarter of an inch. His head whipped backward, twisting away as I walked forward landing every shot somewhere on his skull till the magazine ran empty again. I flicked away the magazine and loading in the last one I had from inside my jacket. Railius didn't fall over or burst into unearthly flames as I had hoped. He turned around to face me again and only small gouges on his face were there and they all snapped shut with a one deep breath in from his nose and a thumbing of his cheek. Fuck. "Just so you know I'm going to kill you." Railius assured with a point, "I want to know how you are not afraid first."

I didn't answer, my mind too busy rewiring my questions and uncertainty to find a way to get out of this. I glanced side to side but kept my looks mostly on him as he walked towards me with his blade in hand, flat side over his shoulder, shaking his head at me. My gaze remained the same, he was now angrily beside himself. "I can feel fear." He salivated at me with his hand like he was holding a wine glass, "I can sense weakness. You? You! There is nothing! You can't kill me! You can't beat me! Yet for some reason, there isn't a shred of fear or dread in you! Why?!"

I kept my aim up, taking slow steps backward without a word. Eyes glared right back, unyielding at him even if it was only indifferent defiance. "I don't even know myself." I responded bluntly, "Neither of us will get an answer. Either way, you can go fuck yourself."

Railius slowly shook his head some more, disbelief overtaking him. It was like he couldn't comprehend what he was seeing or hearing in me. He seemed to fight with himself, pacing back and forth a few paces across the street. Pointing at me at times, my aim following him regardless of confusion and anger changing predominance on his face every few seconds. "Okay then I have a really great idea!" Railus came up with something clasping his hands together, "I like you. Really. I do. So you get something special. You believe in monsters human?"

"Known a few." I replied cocking the hammer back.

"Then maybe this monster be more to your liking." He snapped his fingers, 'Dokugumon!'

At first, nothing happened, but from on high the sound of what started a demented sigh turned out to be an increasing roar until a bulbous form landed right behind Railus with a ground waving thud. A large being, the size of an off-road pickup truck rose up now from its landing stance. This one was a smooth bulb but still, the pointed-haired adorned rear second shape, a painted skull and bones seemingly painted on the shell on it reared up. Large tubes of limbs flared out, the hairs long and spiked on it, eight of them. A churning sensation of what that could not possibly be was right there in front of my very eyes as they went wide as they ever had been, as the masked arachnid face with long jutting horns to the side and the glassy red eight eyes popped out from behind Railius's back. A yawned open a wide fanged mouth in a roar with two large mandibles flaring out, its front legs having three-fingered clawed hands with armored gauntlets over them reaching up in curled clawed fingers. Standing eight feet tall behind Railius as he stepped aside to showcase his summoned monster. 'Can you do me a favor?" Railius asked lovingly, "Drain every drop of blood out of his body for me."

The monster's eyes showed my reflection as it lowered itself to pounce, a guttural laugh coming out of it letting me know what a voice of hell sounds like, its long tubular feet pads scratch the ground. One thing came to mind. "Next time take the cab home.' I scolded myself.
 
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CPT.ARCHER

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The first picture of the stand-off between Archer and Gennai versus Railius and his clone goon squad. Someone's packing some hidden heat.

Now I am planning a second picture from this chapter and it is either going to be the moment where Archer stands off with Railius alone or its going to be the cliffhanger to the end of it when he's face to face with Dokugumon showing up. Any suggestion to help along with the decision is welcome!
 

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This is a little after the fight and you can see the damage to Archer and his knife to show it wasn't exactly an easy fight. I really need practice on doing comic pannels and lighting but I still like the expressions the most. And I just wanted to do the look on Railus's mug after the fight seeing this meager human defying him right to his face.
 

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Dangerous Questions

AUDIO VERSION

Railus looked pleased as a roar of intimidation echoed through the canyons of the apartment buildings and stung my eardrums. I reacted in the last way possible and fired a round right into one the spider monster's eye. Taking a chance with my last magazine's rounds, I saw it jerk back and then whip its head away like a child getting poked by a classmate with a screech. As it came back down, I let off three more, two landings, and my feet did the rest bolting away in fast withdraw. Dokugumon's long screeching continued as it craned its neck up momentarily blinded whipping its head around and clutching its face with its clawed hands! Good enough! 'What are you doing?!' Railius yelled as I cleared the corner in the distance of my hearing, 'Kill him already!'

My stride was long and rapid right through the center of the street, escape and evade was my only chance now. I visualized straight lines through my paths, obstacles, and cover for the shortest distance. Back alleys and parkways were my only routes, narrow areas where it could not get me. An open manhole would be a blessing. I cleared blocks in under a dozen seconds, if someone had watched me blow past I was clearing my under five minutes to the mile record. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw the creature barrel around the corner and scream rage at me, the sharp cry hurting my ears as I cut a street corner in a leap onto the other street. I slid over a hood of a Honda as it scuttled after me to catch up, keeping my momentum and putting everything I could between me and it. It moved quickly, gaining fast but I was nimble darting between vehicles and streetlights. It reared its ass-end up and shot a long thick strand of webbing up onto a high building, picked itself up off the ground, and swung towards me to scoop me off the street. I shifted right, stepped on the hood of a car and flipped over, missing a swiping arm as it sailed up into the air, growling at me as it missed. ~*'Acid blast!'*~ I heard the monster cry out.

I looked up and out from its mouth in a spit came a watermelon-sized glob of green slime at me at high speed. I juked right on a strained ankle pivot and dove for good measure into a roll. I ground my shoulder into the cement, the glob flying past as I sprung back into my run. The biological projectile crashed to the ground, smoke boiling off the roadway. It burned right through the cement with ease, a few splatters burning holes in my jacket melting it just the same. Before it could hit my skin, I ripped it off and threw it away as the sleeve was dissolved like the street. I cut down another alley as it landed against a wall high up in a building. It pressed down and then sprang off to dive onto me. My mind saw where he was going to land; just ahead to cut me off. I changed my trajectory, saw another half wall, jumped up on it and sprang sideways back towards the street tucking my feet in. The large creature landed where I would have stood as I twisted in midair. My feet ended off planting on the large skull symbol on his back for a moment, leaping off again with my own momentum. It sprawled around trying to get me, flipping sideways itself over on its back but I missed all the scrambling greasy-haired legs and hands all at once. It growled frustrated as I hit the roof of a car on my left side, rolled and landed back on the roadway in a full dash. ~*'Web Net!'*~ It called out again.

I looked over as it bent its disgusting rear section over, the spindle sack at the end of its ass point right at me. It seemed to bulge up and then explode in a wet bulb of webbing, my eyes wide at what that was going to do. I threw my arm to my left, kicked off the ground, and corkscrewed through the air due to my speed. One glob whipping past me and three more right behind it. My body contorted as I too was yelling out in adrenaline-fuelled determination, my legs flipping over and the last one gliding past between the Y of my legs and body. The attacks slammed into cars, the bundles exploding out in large nets that cocooned them to the ground they were parked on. My feet hit the ground, I stumbled for a second grating my hand up the street instead of my forehead before dashing away. The monster kicked to its feet, traversing the vehicles and hot on my heels. I threw my arm back and fired a few bullets in a wild aim for me, still managing to land a few hits in its face again. They bounced off the mask, making him only angrier as it barrelled into a parked car with a slam and a burst of safety glass. I swerved into an alleyway, narrowed enough for me and hopefully not for it. Too bad my rash turn between two buildings netted me a dead end by a twenty-foot steel fence barrier.

I skidded to a stop and tried to get back onto a street before I heard a roar and then something hit me in the back like a swipe. It kicked me like a car accident. I felt my back explode into pain as I was lifted off the ground. I soared up, flailing around in a yell as I slapped off a dumpster. I skidded across the pavement, rolled sideways, and stumbled to my feet. My pistol came up, but a ball of web caught my fist and sealed it in a cocoon of white that burned my hand with a dull heat. A second caught my shoulder, spinning me around as the weight doubled there pulling me down. A third hit me dead center in the chest, lifting me off the alleyway and sent me a second time up into the air. I hit the fence, rattling off the chain-link ten feet off the ground. Suspended, I felt the crushing tense webbing against my chest start to harden, breathing was almost impossible. The monster arachnid clawed its way towards me along the walls and ground, squeezing through the alleyway to get closer. I aggressively writhed around trying to break free, the guttural growling getting closer as I took my only free arm that had my knife to get loose. I started slashing at the webbing, sawing through the gap between my hand and the fence, the thick material like hot glue. That face, chomping mouth and stretching venom sack fangs edged closer as I hacked away. Dumpsters fell over, trash cans went flying, brick getting gouged out I slashed as hard as I could. It came within striking range and my last attempted cut wildly slashed out, slicing into the closest eye. It hit, sunk in an inch and the beast cried out angrily, rearing its head back and then chomping down on my knife arm. The two points of those mandibles punctured through my longsleeved shirt and flesh.

I yelled out in pain, blood pouring from my arm as bubbling green slime seeped out into it. My arm felt like it was catching fire going up to my shoulder, I ripped it away and felt the flesh tear itself in the process. In retaliation, my knife came back down in a hard stab with all my strength and embedded the knife into an eye. This time it stuck; the spider abomination threw its head back wildly trying to pull at the steel in one of its eyes. It fell out as my arm went limp, the sensation in it deadened and my brain suddenly went haywire with red and black flashes. The spider poised above me, the gouge there as well as the empty gaze of rage. The intent was clear of what was coming next, a wide-open mouth in drooling salivation nearing my head with a heated, putrid exhale blowing in my face. 'See...you...in hell.' I spat my last words.

~*'VENGEFUL DAGGERS!'*~ I heard a voice yell out from above me.

A dozen throwing daggers shot down from above my head, trailing purple light behind each pummel and drove themselves deep into the entire middle, back end and face of the monster. It squirmed out screaming in pain as a flash of something in what looked like leather-clad armor and a whipping black canine tail out the back flashed past with a streak of steel and neon. The monster's face split in two in a perfect thin line and then without a second more sound burst into nothing but energized cubic particles. My head sagged down, the form wavering like a mirage before my very eyes. A hood covered its head, the tail scanned the ground in a wave as it lifted is slightly curved blade up and slid it into a hefty black leather scabbard on its back. As it turned to look at me, it seemed to have an elongated face like the muzzle of a dog and narrowed orange eyes looking up at me. That was about the last thing I remembered before darkness swallowed my consciousness.


I woke up with a gasp at the realization I was alive and in a bed. The ceiling of my apartment came into focus. I could tell from the white-tiled roof, black lines between them and the build in the globe ceiling light. I rose off my single captain-sized bunk bed against the wall, I groaned leaning up slowly as the covers came off my body in a slow slide. Desk was all there, the upgraded IBM computer, devoid of any papers for security reasons. Safe dial-equipped filing cabinets all around the room, organized and uniform. All full to the point I might need another soon. From the open window, I heard the city buzzing, the tweets of birds, and the sharp beeping of car horns breaking through the residential zone's static. The radio was playing the mundane day's news updates on traffic and the local story of the day. It was ten after twelve. I didn't hit the snooze button at my usual six in the morning. The light shone in bright through the blinds as I rubbed my eyes with my fingers. It couldn't have been a dream, could it? When I looked at my left arm, bandaged up with blood-stained white rappings, I was not lucky enough to think anymore it was just a nightmare.

The toll of last night's fight had taken over since the adrenaline was all gone, feeling it the second I tried getting out of bed. My fists were bruised, black splotches on the knuckles and I felt the sting of cuts, finding this thin red powder all over it that brushed away with just some wiping. My chest throbbed, a breath in had a sting to it each time with the creaking of my ribs. The back of my head was crusty, the cut there healed but left a brown stain on the white pillowcase. My spine tingled and if I leaned the wrong way I felt a jolt of lightning shoot up it. I rolled my legs over to the side; they were heavy as tree trunks from the sprinting. I felt groggy, my stomach was raw and churning cravings for food as I stood up. I held my stomach with my hand, feeling linen raps around it for my ribs or support. On the nightstand, there were a bunch of prescription pain killers, muscle relaxers and other first aid kit items that looked used. Primitive bowls scattered the nightstand as well, a mortar bowl with residual red grinded powders inside it. Someone did some medical work on me. Who? 'Wait outside I'll talk to him.' A voice from the living room probably answered the question, 'If he wakes up.'

I walked over to the door, seeing my pistol on the desk near the keyboard. It was mostly intact; the magazine was out and the slide was all the way locked back. There was a small pile of brass bullet casings there as well. Nine by nineteen Parabellum. I roughly counted the rounds, which added up to what I remember firing give or take a few. Even the empty magazines were there. My wrecked Kaybar was present, completely unusable with the melted gouges and bent tip. This is where one would think I'd reach for the pistol, load it and walk out to get my answers. Instead, I strolled on over to the heavy closet door and opened my sock drawer on my dresser. I fished my hand under it, finding the steel pistol grip of what I was looking for, and pulled out a very much loaded sawed-off pump-action shotgun. Japan had strict gun laws, but since I don't follow those ones in my line of work this was my personal choice for home defense. I pulled the action back lightly and indeed a bright red shell of buckshot was there. Good. With it in hand, I walked out of my bedroom into the living room.

I had a surprisingly good apartment by Japan's standards, lots of room even if I was here all by myself. I didn't have a lot of in the way of electronics. Just a basic TV, a stereo radio CD player on the shelf beside it, and a laser disk player next to it. I was more into the wall of bookshelves that rapped around the apartment where would have been a blank wall. I just preferred to read really. Some of them were in Japanese, some in English, some in Russian, a few in Cantonese and a handful in Farsi which was from the Middle East. I was a non-fiction buff along with some history texts, technology books and some on fishing and mountain climbing. The large bay windows in front of the main balcony were letting a little bit of the noon daylight in, the blinds casting horizontal beams of pale yellow across the room. Next to the couch was the person called Gennai, turning back to see me brandishing a shotgun in my hands. He looked a little nervous and that became concerned when I racked the action back and forward to that universal sound of chambering a shell and not my handgun I suspect. I looked a little haggard, sore and seeking answers which added to my understandably intimidating presentation. 'I'm going to keep this simple.' I spoke up finally, 'I have a few questions if you don't mind.'

'Not at all.' He offered looking between me and my weapon, 'Go on.'

'What the hell happened last night?' I held up a finger from the pump, 'Two, who the fuck are you and they are and last can you make a pot of coffee?'

Gennai looked up to think of a good way to answer all of that request, rolling through them carefully in his head. 'You staved off catastrophe for one.' He started, 'Two, they are what are trying to make it worse by the absolute horrifying means possible and lastly yes I can make an incredibly good cup of coffee.'

'Good because I might need to sit down for this.'

I turned to my open kitchen and started making myself breakfast, my shotgun never out of my reach and an eye to the person making the joe. Gennai worked with the coffee pot to the best of his ability, measuring the scoops of the beans for the grinder. I whipped up some eggs with chopsticks, heated up some precooked salmon to round it out. I came over and there was Gennai with two cups and a pot of the black stuff. I took a seat, placed the shotgun in my lap and started shoveling the food in. I didn't even look up as Gennai sat across from me, eating methodically between sips of coffee. 'Aren't you going to ask me anything Archer?' Gennai asked after a few moments.

'I'm eating.' I answered with a mouthful of food, 'Start with mundane stuff like who you are.'

While Gennai was sitting there completely perplexed at my actions, all of this was deliberate on my part. I was sitting across from him, I was keeping calm. I was playing it like it was any other day. It made him uneasy, it would likely make him start to just admit things. Then again, he might have looked human but if wacko the white-haired clown last night was any indication, he might just appear to be human and nothing else so who knew. It seemed to work, like he was trying to figure me out and finding nothing to see. His eyes kept darting to me and then down again like he was searching the table. 'Archer right?' He clarified glancing up from the table.

'Indeed.' I answered, 'Now give me my wallet back.'

'How did you know I had your wallet?'

'How else did you find my address or name?' I looked up briefly, 'Who are you since you I'm just as curious.'

Gennai flinched but as the wave of reason caught up with him, it explained a hell of a lot and he wouldn't have gotten in without my keys considering the door bolts on it. How he bypassed the alarm panel next to the door I would like to find out. Gennai produced my light tan leather wallet from inside his robes. I politely took it back, flipped through it and found everything still there, leaving it on the table next to my plate. 'To answer your question my name is Gennai.' He continued, 'I am the Leader of the Digital Order, a protector and Agent of balance to the Digital World.'

'So you're not from this plane of reality is that what you're telling me?' I wanted to clarify, 'Because you're differentiating the Digital World from this one am I hearing you right?'

'Didn't you notice the Digimon who attacked you?' Gennai was almost bewildered, 'What could you have thought it was?'

'I don't know.' I gave another shrug getting into the fish a little more, 'Head injury, drug hallucination or I finally snapped and now I'm full of happy juice in a psyche ward. Perception is reality after all in a lot of cases.'

As much as all that was hyperbolic, it was the only way to approach this and it was being methodological. Panicking or wide-eyed speculation wasn't going to help the clear intentions of that Railius guy last night at all. He didn't need to twirl his non-existent mustache to get his point across. I had to believe my senses, and all of this was reality shredding but I had to believe what I was experiencing to be real and genuine. My own mind had a full legal disposition of inquiry as to what I saw, how it worked and everything else physics-defying thing I had seen. It would have to wait because inquiry to another world was not the most pressing issue. 'Well they are as I am from the Digital World I assure you.' He continued, 'This might be hard to believe but there is a world in parallel with yours, a separate reality entirely comprised of nothing but digital information in physical form. It has been in existence for us for tens of thousands of years. For you maybe a few decades at most?'

I put my chopsticks down, placing them neatly in a row on the plate and even squaring them off to make it neat. I crossed my fingers, leaned in slowly and gave him an obvious look. 'Yes it does sound absolutely insane what you just said to me Gennai.' I answered dully, 'But unless I am on the most powerful drug concoction known to man and my senses were completely off up to and including this point, I'm going to go with the simpler option and believe you. Or until the drugs wear off. Who was the pale face clown and his posy?'

'That was Railius and he's a Fallen Agent.' Gennai answered grimly, 'Railius is the leader of the betrayers, those were just his crude clones, barely sentient puppets but very deadly to most. He's former Agent of the Order like myself but he and his followers were twisted by darkness and a want to replace the Digimon Masters.'

'Yes those were words Gennai.' I shook my head, 'Why you are still here talking to me anyway?'

'For one you may have saved my life by distracting Railius like you did.' Gennai continued, 'It was incredible you even survived those two and then the Dokugomon. I owed you at least the explanation and maybe...perhaps ask something of you.'

'Spit it out.' I allowed picking up the coffee.

'Who are you?'

I stopped mid-sip. I stared into the small pool of coffee, the dark liquid a suitable metaphor for my bitter vast void of existence. You can't look into it unless you were inside it and even then its almost impossible to see the answers you seek. My expression elevated above stern, he leaned away like he had offended me as the mug came back down onto the coaster. Good coffee though. 'That is a very dangerous question.' I replied succinctly.

'Why?' He pressed.

Okay Jay if you're going to say anything remember your briefing all those years ago. Vague but concise. Like that really meant anything. Anyone could spill their guts to anyone about working for whatever agency of the day. There was no mythical lightning to strike you down if you did. Just the hammer of the Judge Advocate General if they found out and that might as well be Thor bringing the thunder so to speak. It's the discipline, the silence and the subterfuge that kept people in my line of work alive. Since this guy could have killed me at any time instead of dragging me home, why not let on a little. See if I get more. 'My profession is dangerous and telling people about puts them at risk more than me.' I let go of the mug, 'If you looked at my wallet you'd just see another American living in Japan. An analyst at some mundane government office doesn't fit what you saw I'm sure.'

'You don't strike me as the office type that is for certain.' Gennai agreed.

'I'm a Captain in the US Military.' I stated as flat as my coffee was, 'I'm on loan to the Langley or NSA depending on who needs me.'

'You're a solider?' Gennai asked.

'For over a decade but I'm not running through deserts hunting SCUD missiles anymore.' I smiled, 'I solve problems before innocent people get killed by them these days. You are picking up what I'm laying down?'

Gennai looked hopeful for a moment, leaning in a little more. 'Then can you help me?' He asked with wide eyes.

I didn't answer for a moment, looking at him with a little harder question as to what he was about to ask. I survived last night from a lot of skill but all the Irish in history wouldn't come close to how lucky I was to live through that night. My arms crossed over, those bandage raps on my arms with the brown stained blotches there and the rest of my wounds came though where I bled as a reminder of my humility to what I experienced. While this was technically my job, saving the world from the monstrous people, not from actual litteral monsters. This was an entirely different animal with a much larger issue to deal with first. 'Help you?' I asked, 'How the fuck am I going to do that?'

'You saw what was happening last night!' Gennai insisted.

'I did.'

'And Railius is here to destroy all of Highton View Terrace by tonight which will lead to end of your world!'

'And how the hell am I going to prove that to anyone else?'

Gennai was on the verge of saying something but then caught himself as I stood up, plate in one hand and shotgun in the other. I had finished eating and this would be a suitable demonstration, simplified as it was among all my other questions I shoved to the side for the moment. 'My profession is far more about knowledge than simple ability.' I explain walking back to the kitchen, 'I wouldn't be standing here if I was simply good at punching holes in paper with lead or hand to hand combat. Being smarter than my adversaries is what keeps me breathing and gathering critical information is more important. As good as I am, none of it means anything if I can't prove a threat is real to anyone.'

'The threat is real Captain!' Gennai finally moved to my rank, 'Real as anything you've already seen!'

I turned on the faucet to the sink and nodded. 'I agree what I saw was real.' I admitted, 'But I'd bet if I were to turn on the TV, it would turn out no one else saw or heard anything last night.'

Gennai froze, eyes widening a little as he started to understand. Good. 'If I were to ask you to prove what I ate off this dish you'd just recall what I ate.' I explained further, 'Just a mundane explanation. If you did not see me eat but saw the plate after, you'd maybe spot the few grains of rice on it, flakes of the fish and smears of sauce. Deduction but still evidence-based.'

I put the plate under the hot water, put the shotgun down and scrubbed off the surface with a still soapy sponge. 'I didn't hear one siren outside or a news helicopter buzzing around.' I washed away, 'My alarm is the news as you heard, nothing about reported gunshots let alone a disturbance. I would have loved to hear a human-interest story about how cars were spider webbed to the street but you must have gotten rid of them.'

'I...did.' Gennai sighed in admittance.

'Chucked in the Shikaro River?'

'Correct.'

I pulled the plate up from the water, the white porcelain shiny and slick as the obvious metaphor to the now dismayed Order Agent. 'You cleaned the scene well.' I continued with my fork, 'And if I claim to an intelligence officer in Langley I got chased down the street by a giant spider after getting into a shootout with black robed monks from another dimension, I'd be laughed out all the way to the asylum.'

I dried off the plate as Gennai slowly ran his hands through his hair as my rationality thankfully was sinking in. This was just an exercise in critical thinking taken to its logical extreme with extreme claims. Even if you saw aliens and no one else did and no other evidence existed, you have to admit you didn't see aliens because there is no evidence of such a fantastical event. 'It would be like saying the fish I ate was a piece of the Lock Ness Monster and prepared for me by Princess Dianna.' I concluded putting the plate away, 'Its unbelievable.'

Gennai slumped into his seat slowly, light draining from his eyes with dismay as I came back around to the table. 'Captain I can't stop Railus's plans by myself!' He started to beg, 'I need help to stop the attack on Highton View Terrace!'

I sat back down on the chair and I held up both my hands to illustrate the injuries I had sustained. Gennai saw the grim point coming already as my arms fell back to the table. 'I'm really good at what I do and you saved me from that Dogkuga-whatever thing that was about to bite my head off.' I reminded, 'I owe you at least twice, I believe you but you want me to somehow help you have to give me something to work with.'

'I will do everything in my power to help save your world.' Gennai insisted, 'What do you need?'

Now we were getting somewhere. 'Does Railus have anyone I can point to or go after?' I leaned forward, 'How is he going to do this? Bombing? Nerve gas? Systematically execute everyone in the residential block? What?'

'Yes he has followers since he arrived a month ago which was before I did.' Gennai rushed, 'They call themselves the Datalists and they are just going to blow the entire city block up as far as I know.'

A single word sparked a thought in my head, eyes blinking shut of the snap shots of recalled thoughts. Rumors of new groups, plenty of pinned words on corkboards with faces of suspects. Raised threat levels of people who were nothing but amateurs a month before. Someone in passing mentioned it to me from last night. I stood out of my chair and walked over to the left side of the living room, Gennai standing following after. I reached the door next to my bedroom and opened it to my digital nerve center. 'You might be in luck.' I signaled him to follow.

The door opened after I punched in a code to a disarm panel on the wall. The door buzzed open, the magnetic lock disengaging and I walked inside the extra cold server filled room. Wall to wall were boxes with blinking lights and dozens of wires connecting them all together made by technicians way up on the ninth level of nerdy than I would ever want to be. In the middle of the room was a desk, three monitors and a keyboard with all of the leads paring down into the back of the heavy computer tower behind it. Beeps and whirring were going off all around but I flicked the monitor on and the screen booted up. I typed in the password as the robed being came into the room. 'What is---.'

'Remote server to a surveillance database.' I answered, 'Datalists. I heard that before.'

Gaining my access, I worked through case files and reports on people of interest out there we had been watching. A lot of it coming from governments who want to mess with our networks from afar or slicing in domestically but one group popping up seemed like a novelty before. Now it was the first thing on my mind. 'There were some hackers that have been popping up recently.' I answered, 'Some anarchists and malcontents, the usual that get swept up in it. They've been nothing to worry about until a month ago.'

'What happened?' He inched in further.

'Almost overnight these guys start hitting way harder encrypted sites.' I pulled up files, 'Hit banks, government servers and online accesses to major companies. Punching way above their weight but broke firewalls like nothing. Got away with millions of assets and then the transfers just disappeared. The only way they could was if they had some major influx of capital for some really high-end hardware suddenly.'

'What makes you think they are with Railius?'

'They act like a digital cult is why.' I answered flicking through a few people of interest, 'And now they talking about going completely digital. Sound like something your friend might preach?'

Gennai started to walk around the room a little more, reaching out to touch some of the wires with fascination, running his palms on the dusty tops of the server boxes and listening closely to the hums. I took a few careful looks back at him, curious to what he was doing. 'What?' I asked, 'Never seen computers before?'

'These make up my world.' Gennai answered joyfully, 'This alone would make a continent and probably does...which one?'

'I need you to focus.' I reminded, 'If I can find a lead on these guys and start shouting up some chains to get some attention, I might be able to help you.'

Gennai turned to me and saw some of the information flash across the screen, coming around the side and looking at the information flashing by. 'This is promising.' Gennai seemed to read lines that were not there, 'Best news I've seen yet.'

'I know of a local reporter that was doing an expose' on cults in Japan.' I isolated files to the local drive, 'He might know of these guys, worth a shot.'

'Why do you know about him?'

'Four months ago another cult bombed the Metro line in Tokyo with nerve gas.' I reminded him if he knew at all, 'I do my own homework, I don't always trust Langley to fill me in.'

'This is where the tide might turn.' Gennai spoke to himself.

'So we're clear I'm going to do my job Gennai and see if I can get to the bottom of this.' I assured, 'If I'm going to help and I run into this Railus or any more like him, I need something from you.'

'Go on.'

'I need a weapon of some kind that does more than cat scratches and poke holes if I run into his followers that aren't from this plane of reality.' I explained, 'That sword seemed to do the job; got something to spare?'

Gennai thought to himself, fingers on chin before the lightbulb went off on the top of his head. He reached behind his back and produced a small scabbard, looked like a dagger of sorts. Medieval style. He pulled it out and presented it to me, yup old school no frills narrow dual-edged dagger. Six inches long, leather strand thread grip and a shiny brass hilt and pummel. I twirled it to myself, through my fingers, and back into my palm with a flip. 'Not exactly my style of knife.' I remarked.

Gennai held his palm over top of my hand, a flashbulb of fluorescent blue that turned to deep red in the next second. The blade melted like molten plastic and I would have dropped it if it didn't snap back into a completely different shape under a few seconds. It became my knife from last night! The good old pig sticker Kaybar knife shone a light tinge of orange through the metal. I tossed it to myself a few times, measuring the balance on one finger. 'Try that next time.' Gennai offered with a smile, 'I'll see what else I can get. Use this if you need to communicate with me.'

In his other hand came a smaller device than I expected. It was a very rough bronze thing the size of a wristwatch without the arms. Crude screen in the middle of it like those stupid tomogochi games the kids had these days. There was a thick black stub antenna on it too, a few buttons on the side and the same symbols on it that were on Gennai's amulet. There was a small port on the side, looked like a headphone jack. 'It's a crude prototype but it will help me keep track of you.' He explained more, 'You can contact me with it by clicking the screen button when you have something.'

'This will take time.' I said going through files and compiling the information, 'I'll check in with you when I get a lead and I'll start barking up some chains. Might get lucky.'

'We will need it.' Gennai said heading towards the door, 'I will have my friend keep an eye on you.'

'Your friend?' I asked looking back, 'Who?'

'The one who saved your life.' Gennai said with a farewell glance.

'Hey wait a second who are you talking about?' I said getting up as a download was going.

As I made my way to the door a flash of light came and a snapping of discharging sparks went off. Everything electrical went haywire for a few seconds, screens and lights flickered. As I got to the door and through it, Gennai was gone with a distinct smell of ozone hanging in the air with small particles of white fading away. Then I smelt dusty fur.

You get used to feeling constancies and when disturbances happen. Could be the sounds of specific trees swaying, creaking of old logs, the loss of bird noise when someone approaches. The saying it is too quiet is a real thing. Situated in here the air came in a certain way, the colder air causing a draft of warmer air to come in causing a consistent slight breeze. The air stopped from behind me as I heard a phasing of energy-like noise and when I turned back I was staring right into the two orange eyes I had seen the night before.

The narrowed orange pupils honed in on me like beams from a laser, eye to eye it was slightly taller than me but the canine ears perked up over its head about a foot, pointed at the tips with thin black fur through holes in the fabric. The head was mostly cloaked over with an ash gray hood, hard black shadows covering over the face. It had a matching cloak that went almost to his waist from the body shape, dulled iron studs over the shoulders with a fitted plate attaching it to an armor piece. I skipped a foot back using a boxing juke to gain the distance, the being didn't even flinch. I further studied the human-like arms were crossed over, wrapped up in leather fabric with studded black leather gauntlets all the way up to his elbows. It was humanoid in shape, stood up straight like he was at attention. The chest was under some sort of tight blackened leather chest piece, two bandoleers of old kunai style throwing knives over all the pockets and pouches with what looked like little in them if anything. The armor continued with some rough leather tassets and front loincloth, hooked on with a lot of belts. The feet were digitigrade, the large paws clearly belonging to a wolf of some kind, the same short black hair all the way down to the curved claws at the toes shown. The tail swayed side to side, the arms unfolding to show the thick four fingers and thumb tipped off by a blunt claw. 'How did you get past me?' I pointed without missing a beat, 'That was impossible.'

Right before my eyes, he started to phase out of my sight, splitting into fragmented lines before snapping out of existence. I took a guess and whipped my head around, the same phenomenon happening except in reverse leaving him standing the same as before except behind me. Bent space-time? Moved to fast for my eye to capture? Illusion? Whatever it was if anyone on Earth could do that you could end wars. 'Something I can do.' He answered as bluntly as I would, 'Any other burning questions?'

We were silent for the moment, the eyes' glow from behind the hood even in this well-lit room. I couldn't see inside of it at all except what looked like the end of dog's nose. 'Since you're here I suppose you were the one who saved me last night in the alley.' I extended my hand out, 'That was right out of a comic book or something what you did. Amazing.'

His eyes seemed to soften a little bit, the glow lessened and then raised right back up as he saw my hand out. Instead of shaking, he nodded his head down closing his eyes briefly, returning back up to his pillar-like stance. 'Think nothing of it.' He spoke with a swish of his tail sideways, 'It was foolish for you to think you could fight a Dokugomon and live.'

I didn't have to be that smart to see a bit of condescension, this one came from the superiority of authority. I was the one still breathing because of him so I guess I had to eat the statement. 'If there wasn't a fence I would have gotten away.' I countered, 'Still, I like having a heartbeat so that's one I owe you too. Although you didn't save me out of the kindness of your heart did you?'

'No.' He confirmed, 'I did it because Gennai asked me to.'

'Fair enough.' I nodded, 'You owe him something?'

'A reward for a service.' He said walking around me in an orbit, 'He repays me later for helping him. Now he asked me to stay here and watch you.'

'Means to an end.' I coldly conceded, "You got a name?'

He slowly took off that hood and mask, both hands pulling the fabric away from the bridge of his muzzle all the way down the front of his face. He pulled back his ears down and revealed the face of a canine with way more humanoid features than I would have expected. A thick muzzle halfway between a jackal and a wolf, the thin fur and the thick throat and snout indications of both popping through. Those orange eyes slowly faded in the light, but they remained as piercing as could be. There was a scar down the side of his left eye and the expression was that of annoyance he had to indulge my curiosity. 'My name is Cyrismon." He answered with a bow of his head, "The Shadowed Ranger of Server."

Up to this point, my mind was churning through a lot of information, swelling in the back of my subconscious. Most of it was in the form of my reality slowly encroaching on breaching insanity. Nothing I was seeing was making logical sense but now I have struck maybe a sight that threatened the rest of my composure. It was like some audience in the back of my head was losing their collective shit behind two-way glass, all clamoring over a hundred panicked questions. My expression changed as the thoughts were trying to claw through, twitches and rapid blinks. I needed to stop it before it went too far. I held up my hand slightly towards him as I worked through my mind how to handle at the same time trying to stop myself from losing my shit completely. 'You are not what I expected to see behind that hood.' I could only say, 'That's a lot to take in.'

'I was not expecting to hear you fought two Agent clones to a standstill or almost outrun the Dokugomon.' He answered back, 'Yet here you are. I want something from you in return for your question all being fair.'

From one of the pouches on his curacies, he scooped out my zippo lighter! It was in my jacket I had thrown off when the acid attack hit the sleave, nothing else save my cigarette pack but I could live with losing the five I had left. If he had procured it from the street, perhaps he was the one to help Gennai with the purging of the scene. He held it in his palm with the etched engraved letters on it that said "RANGER" in the upper rocker banner, the year under it was '88'. I was annoyed there was a bit of acidic scoring on the side of it but it looked still functional. 'This was the only thing in what remained in your jacket.' He offered it to me, 'The word on it is the same as my title. What does it mean here on Earth?'

I reached for it but he snapped his fist closed around it, expecting an answer first. Lucky I really like that lighter. 'United States Army Ranger.' I answered honestly, 'Chosen soldiers who took the challenge to be the best the Army has to offer to defend our country to the best of our ability.'

That was the jingoistic answer. Really we have jumped up infantry who were crazy enough to dive out of perfectly functional aircraft. Still, got to take pride in the fact I made Best Ranger twice in a row before I moved on to Delta. 'I fight to protect Server from those that would destroy or exploit it for their own gain.' Cyrismon answered, 'Perhaps we have at least a duty in common.'

The Digimon tossed it to me a little faster than someone else would have, my own hand snapped up and caught it when it slapped off my palm before it hit my face. His head tilted to the side as my hand lowered down, a smug smirk up one side of his face. That was on purpose. Clever. 'And you have a select set of abilities few humans I've seen have.' He seemed to allow, 'You might live to see the end of this day after all.'

'You've met humans before?'

'Long ago.' He answered simply, 'That is none of your concern. Your work is. So if there is nothing else, continue it.'

With that he turned away and went to the balcony window, looking out through the blinds onto the city. That's where he had been all along? This time he didn't phase out of existence or sight or whatever it was. I tossed the knife to myself as I turned around to go back inside my office as even I could tell he didn't want to talk. 'I am curious about one more thing.' Cyrismon stated to my surprise, 'I'd understand if you didn't answer.'

'Go on.'

'What caused all the rest of those scars on you?'

It wasn't any mistake the second you saw me with my shirt off I didn't look like a fitness model despite you could see every abdominal muscle on my stomach. I had more stitch marks in me than a pricey suit, lots of nicks and scrapes and a few bullet holes healed over. The one over my eye was pretty distinct but I've had that since I was a teenager, the cheek cut a slash from an exploded AK round off some cover in Somalia. The burn mark that went over my shoulder was from when my uniform caught on fire one time. Lucky to be standing or I'm just hard to kill, I was still here and I was going to keep going when others could not. The reason was pretty mundane as I came up with an answer. 'Mistakes of inexperience and bravado for a few.' I capitulated, 'Rest mostly the price of spending time in combat. Why?'

Cyrismon turned around, came right up to me with a very intense look on his face looking down his muzzle at me. 'Then heed this warning I have for you that Gennai didn't have the courage to tell.' He pointed, 'You fought mere apparitions of Railius's power, sentient manifestations. If you come across an actual Fallen Agent or Railius himself, luck won't be enough to save you.'

'Duly noted.' I slowly worded and went back to the office, 'I'd better get back to work.'

'Not just your world on the line Captain.'
 
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CPT.ARCHER

Ain't got no mojo...
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What Is At Stake
AUDIO VERSION


As the sun rose on the world which will be mine, it was only a matter of time until I got what I had earned. That is the simplicity of it all. There is no question in my mind at all of what I shall have because I know it will be so. I watched this world from on top of an office tower building, the wind blowing my black cloak across to my left, seeing what mine will be soon enough. I surveyed my future property and the lives I will control, all of them slowly getting into their daily commune to their rat race, never once looking up to the top of this tower to see their future ruler above them waiting to take control. It would be no different since they were mindless enough. It was owed to me by rite, the suffering I endured shall be returned for all the ingrateful drones humans really are. By the time the sun set, it will all be over.

You know I am right. Mindless lives of directionless things led by those with the ability to direct humanity on the bloody path of its own destruction. You follow pieces of cloth on a pole to death and die for it, you believe in leaders who blatantly lie, you idolize past times of ignorance and bigotry as 'the glory days'. You live in the bliss of the horrors around you, live uninteresting lives anyway and go home to waste your life watching the television to rot the minds you have. Those who aspire for more are just there to make themselves feel better that they do more than just wallow in stupidity and act superior to you the rest of the group even if they don't show it. They know they are better than you and I am better than anything you could ever be. At least with me running things, you'll all be equal. Equally working to my whims and given much-needed direction.

My name is Railius. The name was given to me when I was created. It was a simplistic name given to me by my betrayers who called me their equal but treated me not as such at all. So, no one is ever my equal because that would be redundant. More powerful than I and that is a threat. Weaker is easier since I can control that. Simplify it and mold it. The way I will.

So much is unknown about me and that is the way I like it aside from my reputation as someone who will ruthlessly now pursue what he wants now. I'm not going to give you the honor of knowing even the slightest about me. It is beneath me to even to soliloquize my mental prowess to you as it is but for the sake of telling you what you will experience soon enough. All you need to know is I am True Agent. We weren't always called that. We were originally part of the Order, those tasked with maintaining the order of the Digital World. While there were those with being content of keeping things balanced and unchanging, we wanted to change the world a little bit to make it more interesting, have it evolve. Things worked fine but with a few...over embellishments things became tense. When asked to stop we appeared to be and continued anyway in secret. It all came to a crash one day when the Digital was reset in a calamity so destructive the it never recovered as far as I knew or saw. Blame was all theirs but that is but a memory only I possess now. What I built, my visions and my legacy destroyed by others interference and betrayals and I am the one cursed? The monuments, the civilizations and heights the Digital World climbed to where all my doing not theirs! They shall know the depths of their destruction soon enough.

As I stood looking down at my soon-to-be new property, someone was not as content with the vision of the future I had. Telling me through my contact I was to meet him here, landing behind me to my left was the Mastermind of all of what would be to come. A true manipulator of the evil incarnate, in ragged red robes through only which his pale blue eyes gleamed out from under his hood out to the world in front of him. Hands either crossed into the wide tattered sleeves or reaching out to kill his opponent, he floated silently up to the ledge to look down with me. The indiscriminate markings along the sides of his robe and the pure gold buckle that held it together gave him the wonderful sense of dread as his leathery blackened purple demon wings flapped slightly he rose up to stand on the ledge with me. He was Daemon, the Mastermind of Darkness.

I had come across Daemon when he first fell from the sky in the Dark Ocean. Defeated by a simple portal opening by a DigiDestined, in his first moments he swore vengeance upon all those who bore the title and upheld a Digivice. I took it upon myself, even though I was distastefully weaker then, to offer my services in such a task. Soon hundreds of us banished rose up to my side and proclaimed ourselves the True Agents and offered our services. Through the studies of what we had available to us in this draining world we lived and we were exiled to, we came to rise with powers conjured from the depths of the ocean itself and found our way to the past. Once it was opened, we came to this world now to take what would be ours in time regardless. ‘Railius.’ Daemon's growling but soothingly evil voice, ‘Tonight will begin our world as we see it.’

He wasn’t aware of last night yet? Unlikely but why was he not bringing it up? ‘I still I don't know why we do not strike now.’ I looked over at him, ‘Why do we keep waiting?’

‘In time we will.’ Daemon assured with a sinister soothing tone, ‘This world will be ours for the taking when all goes well tonight.’

‘All of Heighton View Terrace will be gone.’ I laughed, ‘All I need is a few precious minutes and then all will be flame.’

‘Our strike will be absolute but timing is key Railius.’ Daemon turned to me, ‘The precise moment will be waited for.’

‘Precise?!’ I demanded, ‘You know who those children are and I can kill them right now!’

‘You will wait Railius.’ Daemon simply stated.

I turned to him with my need bared at him, fists clenched tight enough to suffocate any human being in a matter of moments. ‘What is there to be secretive about?!’ I protested, ‘Look around you these humans are our slaves and vermin under our presence as we speak! We are going to destroy this world down to its foundations anyway! Here, I will show you!’

I flicked my hand out and my cursed blade shone through my hand, materializing instantly. I got on the ledge and leapt off to show Daemon exactly what I mean. I’d keep the damage localized, a few mere blocks to show it be nothing of consequence. Before I could unleash my presence to the world a hand caught my throat and my downward momentum stopped abruptly. Back onto the roof I came and was held up with the curled long fingers of Daemon, him looking up at me as he held me up above his head with the same dead look through his hood. ‘Are you truly that foolish Railius?’ He demanded as he squeezed even tighter.

‘Foolish?!’ I rasped out through the pressure, ‘We are more powerful than any human being...’

‘And what did that power do for you last night?’ He shook his arm once as if I was a common mongrel, ‘I do everything except hold your hand and Gennai still got away from your grasp!’

Daemon drew his arm back and threw me down, dashing me across the ground with the force to crack the cement. My body winded I did not even try to get up as he was already standing over me as I came to a stop on the ground. I knew not to stand up just yet. ‘Gennai is flailing in the wind here.’ I protested, ‘I nearly had him!’

‘And this human caused all of your misfortunes?’ Daemon mocked, ‘So much for the Designer of Digivices.’

Daemon drifted off and turned his back on me at the reminder. The temptation was there, blade in hand looking to drive it right through his back. In time. Instead, I stood up and promptly swatted away some of the dust off my robes letting my sword dissipate into nothing for the time being. ‘What have you discovered about this human Gennai saved last night?’

‘He is human.’ I sneered, ‘What more is to say?’

‘A human you sent Dokugumon after and the spider never returned to his lair.’

That I did not know and my momentary pause gave it away even if it was a second delay. Daemon looked back to see me shift a bit. ‘Apparently a capable one.’ I offered an explanation, ‘My acolytes are in search of his identity. So far nothing on the human world about him in any public record, picture or otherwise. A deeper search of more restricted areas are being done. Easily accessible thanks to my innovational use of Datamon will yield the full result when I return to the temple.’

‘Tell me what this human was like.’

‘What difference does---’

‘Do I need to repeat myself Railius?’

I stiffened at the suddenness of his interest in him. I recalled the night looking into those eyes of his. Stone solid sameness. All…rage and defiance. It wasn’t even at me per say at times. Seeing him there was more akin to seeing a force of unearthly hate yet it seemed justified. ‘I will say that I never expected him to defeat one let alone two of my shroud clones in hand-to-hand combat.’ I admitted, ‘There was a brutalness to his fighting. He matched their speed and their ferocity, I had never seen any human fight like that. I…don’t want to admit it but it was a…pleasure to watch.’

‘My mistake was in underestimating humans.’ He allowed a flaw to show, ‘I thought they were incapable of facing true power but they have it hidden within them. You look at one and project weakness onto the rest. Do not mistake their frailty for their lack of willingness to commit or inflict violence.’

‘Puny as it is effective against beings like us.’

‘Their power is in their technology and weaponry!’ Daemon scolded, ‘Humans can resort to a barbarity level of spiteful violence rather quickly if cornered. Scorched earth is not a euphemism for burnt grass Railius as you should know. They will use every means they have to destroy us so we must prevent whatever they might mount against us before we strike tonight.’

The Mastermind had me there. This very nation not even fifty of its years ago had been ravaging their way across a globe in a bid for global supremacy along with other powers just as ambitious. ‘This one human I feel is different.’ Daemon swiftly entered my personal space, ‘If there is one there can be more. Gennai no doubt will have recruited him in his aim to stop us on Earth. And if I say he’s a problem that makes him a priority until tonight’s done. And since I am far too busy with my end of our deal that makes him a problem you are to deal with. Correct him.’

I snarled at that, the order while against my own interest of my plans it was an indisputable one. Daemon could end me in an instant and he never took insubordination from any creature. I also could not allow something like him to walk around bothering my plans. I still bowed my head down in agreement. ‘As you command.’ I agreed with an angered sigh. ‘I'll be sure to make it fun somehow while we wait to take what was stolen from us.’

Daemon took to perch on the edge of the building as he saw I was going to do as I was told. ‘You’ll get your vengeance as you desire Railius.’ He remarked, ‘But you will do as I say or you won’t. Is that understood?’

‘I am but the obedient vassal of your will.’

‘Everything but obedient.’ He remarked, ‘Just remember who you are serving and see through your end of our arrangement, and you will get what you earned.’

With that he was gone off the edge, disappearing in a winged flight out of sight. I turned away to my own tasks, swearing in my own mind that before this day, only one of us will get what the other wanted. Daemon might have been the Mastermind of Darkness, but my mind-forged our world before he could even comprehend it. What I had planned he’d never see before it was too late for both these worlds.

Just the way I wanted it.



 
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Mon-Ohma

I'm going digital
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Interesting so far. :)
 

CPT.ARCHER

Ain't got no mojo...
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It All Adds Up
AUDIO VERSION


You’d have thought in the world of instant communication, telephones and fax machines there would be this immediate mobilization of forces around the globe as you’d expect with something so urgent. With what I was transmitting you’d think it Sunday following Saturday obvious, but you’d be astounded to find out it is never how it works. Nothing ever moves faster than human comprehension, especially when the rhythm of the anticipated is to be interrupted. Informing of a new threat is a slow, methodical process and often either need mounds of evidence to move at all or so profoundly shocking it abruptly shifts at a breakneck pace to compensate.

The world I had lived in for over five years since I left the regular armed forces operated not like your typical expectations of dealing with threats. This isn’t like your typical emergency line calling the police in the case of a break-in or reporting a murder. Those responses where you can summon help are already allocated to deal with the mundane troubles of the population being the population. There is always an emergency to deal with. The threats the higher agencies like the FBI or MI6 deal with are engaging with foes of way more sophistication than your local crowbar expert. There are thousands of people crammed into cubicles and packed command rooms looking more akin to the Stock Exchange on sell-off day monitoring everything from other spy activity to conducting covert operations to countering terrorists looking to burn everything down. Dozens of departments segment to those who watch specific threats and crimes so to speak. Multiple apparatuses are hard at work to watch and react to the actions and information’s provided by informants and field agents like myself.

To simplify this down so you’re not buried in jargon, I am what you could call a special task field agent, assigned to the Special Activities Division. My main function was to be what teams needed me to be in the wide range field of a counter-terrorist specialist. I could do anything from conducting surveillance, infiltration or combat operations depending on what I was needed to do on top of what I had to moonlight depending on staffing. My assignment until last night was the intelligence conference attendee attaché, advisor to the board and Liaison officer to special operations via Langley. Officially I was here for the conference. I was a local, spoke the language perfectly so it made sense to have me be there as a translator and advisor. Off the record, more accurately in case of a real emergency, had things had gone far worse with Aum Shuriko after their nerve gas attack three months ago, we’d have been tasked on tracking down all the loony toon characters. Well, nothing further than the bombings and gas attacks since that day in May but the police were handling it fine enough. The cult had amassed millions of dollars, truckloads of weapons and the last thing anyone needed was that ending up in the hands of the Triads or the Yakuza or worse. I had been monitoring the situation on and off on top of future assignments as well so I had some latitude to act on new threats. Let’s say if through my own intelligence-gathering I came up with something to add to the effort, a weapons deal going down in Kyoto between some Aum members and a gang for instance. Be it from my own initiative or someone pointing me in a direction it doesn’t matter. If I ran it up the flag pole like that it would be taken as near gospel thanks to my reputation of being very meticulous and accurate field agent. It would be actioned on appropriately and as my handler would say I earned a cookie. Apparently, there is a pile of them somewhere, I have to go into the local office to get them according to her. It would be delt with by the local police and that would be that. Another day, another disaster averted.

All of that had nothing to do with what I was doing now. This was a totally unrelated group with no history of violence, just alleged cybercrimes. Even with the raw data of information, the little I could find, none of it could be used in a courtroom. It was thinner than I remembered, the files had been removed or amended it seemed. What I had to do was raise an alarm over something seemingly from whole cloth and in a way that would be taken seriously fast enough.

You need to understand what I would be saying is happening would be impossible to happen. The mindset of intelligence groups, or anyone with an inch of sense, is there are predicable and perceivable threats. Lone wolf types like the Unibomber slip below the radar in rare cases but realistically caused little damage save a few lives lost. The World Trade Center Bombing, one of our largest failures to date, was done by a group of Saudi nationals driving a fertilizer bomb into the basement of a big building. That attack took three men years to pull off and despite how they got one over on Uncle Sam, they still had movements that could be tracked. These guys were almost as covert as I was and a few mishandling by the FBI and the CIA never talking to the former. Lesson learned. We at least will be looking for truck bombs from now on from looking back. What I was warning about was so out of the ordinary and out of the clear blue sky it might as well be alien invasion I was warning about.

The Datalists were an unknown and entirely new organized sect of religious kooks to all the sparse reports out there. Until this very morning no threat to anyone according to everyone who’d look, except now me. I’d be claiming this new organization was the verge of the next mass murder attack in Japan in under three months from the last? While I was a credible source and I was known for my field work this would come across as being clairvoyant. I had no evidence to drop on a desk or be prepared to present to a room of suits in Langley or Washington. They were half a world away as well. I went through three smokes in a row thinking on every step I had to even get this ball rolling in a timely way. If I was going to even to have a hope to stop this, I had to raise enough smoke on existing information and get the alarming messages in the right peoples’ heads. This wasn’t even mentioning the fact there were Digimon and these Fallen Agents running around which no amount of emails would convince anyone. I had to leave all of that out so I got to work with what I had.

Immediately I began making phone calls while trying to draw up as much information from my database as I possibly could at the same time. The rapidness of my fingers on the keyboard while waiting between transfers through various departments kept the gathering of data sounds going. I had out on my desk all my passwords and key phrases to bypass the checks to access the sensitive data when I had to. There were few reports on the Datalists that were helpful. While the name came up to the cyber security division for all the wire fraud and breaking into mainframes, this was pretty tenuous at best for proof. Different countries were affected, there were no real life names and it was financial white-collar crime. So I had to interject some urgency. I slipped in some observations group called the Datalists might have had some links to Aum Shurikio since many of their members had tried to form splinter groups. Throw in a mention of a lot of their bomb making inventory was still unaccounted for along with crates of Ak74s still missing. The ticking typing of my fingers to formulate these flag-raising information dumps was accompanied by the sound of my fax machine sending the printed versions off to multiple numbers. While they were sending off, I stood up to get some more of the coffee while waiting on my online requests to come back or my phone to go off with the first call back I was expecting.

As people were now shouting into telephones somewhere in the world now aware of a possible attack because of me I could afford a few minutes out to get some more coffee. People were being mobilized, intel being collected and the general feeling of a hornets nest kicked swarming around the southern hemisphere for a fight that was to come. Far out of my hands and waiting for files to be downloaded through the phone line, I came back to the front room to see what may as well be my alien guest was doing. I stopped dead in my tracks at what I saw.

In the middle of the room Cyrismon was there plain as day but now was passing the time in his own way, practicing fighting forms. It looked like taichi on the speed with more than enough strikes thrown in, only the sound of the rushing air around him being heard as he moved. The blinds were shifting from feet away, himself creating a breeze in the room rivaling the AC. Kicks, flips in place, drawing of blades to strike out in a flash of blackening steel all happening in front of my couch in front of the TV. I watched for a few moments with my last sip of coffee swirling around in my cup, impressed at the very alien but understandable martial arts demonstration before me. He was utilizing a lot of clawed hand slashes to which I at first thought was strange until I remembered he had claws on his fingers. The digital creature came to a stop in the middle of a backward strike, seeing me nodding my head and golf clapping silently. “That how all you Digimon relax?” I asked as I made my way to the coffee pot in the kitchen.

“I have much on my mind.” He answered sheathing a dagger, “And I don’t want an audience Captain.’

I filled my coffee cup from Gennai's brew, the furry fighter watched every one of my moves with intent focus right back. Guess he didn’t like telegraphing his moves since I had watched him first. ‘Well you might as well not menace the drapes or scare the couch while you do it.’ I answered turning back, ‘I got a room for that kind of stuff, might be more your speed.”

I crossed to the other side of my apartment to where a second bedroom would have been. Instead when I keyed in the passcode, the room opened up into a wide open space. A half gym and half armory, all paid for by Uncle Sam.

The floor was all fall mats with a raised floor section in the middle for the forms I practiced. Around the square were dumbbell and squat racks and a single bench with a barbell rack with plenty of weight loaded. There was a long-distance treadmill in one corner, a punching bag hanging from the ceiling across from it too that I had rapped up in extra duct tape over the years. The ceiling had a chin-up bar bolted to the roof for the upper body when I felt like trying to pull the ceiling down. The walls were more modern looking and reenforced with metal grating for what was the real attraction to anyone looking to arm up.

The wall that would have been facing the ten story drop as to prevent anyone from drilling in to get to the hardware was dedicated to the weaponry of the room. From left to right were handguns, submachine guns and then lastly assault rifles and a few sniper rifles. Each had their own corresponding magazines on a shelf under each weapon which were loaded up. They didn’t have the bolts in them so the guns were useless until they were put in. On a less restricted rack were a wall of knives, katanas, bokkens, long staffs and other hand weapons like brass knuckles and switch blades. There were a few hard case boxes with equipment in it like holsters, vests, and tactical gear like radios and miscellaneous kit. A lot of the more novelty items were my personal collection from all around the world, hobbies of traveling and picking up things. Of course, I had my own set of equipment but it was already signed out to me and in my room. I had other stuff hidden around the house too in case anything got dicey, the shotgun I had out already for example.

Having this kind of equipment wasn’t just because I was trusted or as a reward for service. Places like these were holdovers of our Cold War with the Russians and Chinese for the last fifty years. Or so they tell me; I’ve only ever seen two others like it in Budapest and what used to be East Germany. According to government lawyers, this place was left in my name when I turned eighteen, some family I never met before died and left it to any remaining family. Even a sizable bank account to top it all off. All of my immediate died in an alleged sea accident and they never left me a dime. When I went more covert, an offer came up to turn it into a safe house for the CIA. Pretty much made living here free with my alias name on the ownership papers. The stuffy office drone apparition I mentioned to Gennai earlier if you were curious. Over the years we made it into a sort of field station complete with the secure terminal and phone line in the building. I was the caretaker so when I was in town I was the man to give access and give briefs to the agents. It made me the official armorer too, responsible for the arsenal here. No matter what the movies tell you, these weapons had to be signed out and tracked. At least to us. I had the triplicate forms and everything. Even the throwaway guns which were procured through less legal means I had to take account of who at least took it. Nothing left here without a meeting or notice to me in some way, only exception was when I wasn’t in town. My local handler and contact to Langley was the only other person authorized to be in here aside from me. She took care of the place when I wasn’t around. Kept it clean I got to say. Never understood why she never slept in the bedroom and just slept on the couch. I went as far as to get a new mattress and sheets for her. The reason for the dojo was my it was a training room but I also had a third hat as a combat instructor. Langley often asked if I’d take an instructor roll or fill in for someone to teach agents how to fight. I considered it a short vacation, a lot less to worry about, and a good way to catch up on reports. Even in the special forces world there is paperwork.

It was lit by a few panel lights but under one such light in the middle of the raised mats was a judo-based wing Chun wooden dummy. It wasn’t shaped like a person as the name would imply, it was a single long trunk of polished wood with two dowels sticking out at one level, one in the middle and a last angled piece of wood out. They were supposed to represent attacking limbs to deflect. They were fun to mess around with and really good for counter strikes practice. A lot of the deflections and parries I used last night came from the system. The dummy was a cherry oak color with no give so I put a thin matt pad on the top section and middle for strikes. I took off my shoes, kicking them to the corner out of respect to the room I made. Cyrismon followed me in, looking around he knew what this place was as well. A brief hint of a smile came up to his muzzle even. “All I know is war.” I admitted simply, “All I’ve ever wanted to do was fight, might as well be for something towards an end. And you better be good or you die.”

I ran my hand along the punching bag, pushing it away with my fingers. As it swung back I drove a snapping punch into it. The thick hide crumpled and the internal bags of sand buckled under the force, bending the entire bag in half for a split second. My mug didn't spill a drop. “Strike first and strike once.” I took a sip, “Take the best at what your allies and enemies do and use it to your advantage. Might not like Russians that much but Krav Maga is useful.”

A hand ran along the weapons on the wall as I walked around, hearing the echo’s of every crack of around firing off from them. The melee weapons, the knives, tomahawks and even the old katanas and newer forged swords I collected their distinct clangs and wacks upon impact. “I know all my weapons as well as I understand my abilities.” I looked over at Cyrismon, “I know the intended purposes of all of them, their strengths as well as their drawbacks.”

‘And those books that line your walls outside?’ Cyrismon asked, ‘They about fighting?’

“Some are.’ I nodded, ‘I assume my enemies aren’t stupid or backward no matter where they are from. I have met many fanatics with university degrees, schooled in military colleges and some who were street wise geniuses. Thus, I make sure my mind is as sharp as theirs can possibly be.’

I pushed off the wall and saw Cyrismon was looking around in the room with curiosity, gravitating to the dummy on the mats. “This is my life.” I summarized, “It’s what I'm good at, for better or worse. But I’ll leave you to it since you don’t like prying eyes anymore than I do.”

Cyrismon laid his hands on the wooden dummy for a moment as I turned away to leave. ‘Why do you not let people see you fight?’ Cyrismon asked.

‘Part of the job to not let people see what I can do.’ I answered.

‘Well since you watched me mind demonstrating how you use this?’ He indicated to the dummy, ‘Fair play after all.’

Wasn’t exactly expecting to do anything in here but since the phone had not gone off why not. I wasn’t so injured I couldn’t show how this thing works. The dummy wasn’t exactly common knowledge even to martial artists and it certainly wasn’t user friendly in what to do with it. I put down my coffee mug on a narrow shelf and stepped up onto the mating. ‘I won’t baby talk you through it.’ I assured, ‘This is just for in close strikes. Goal is to strike and block or avoid at the same time while moving or striking.’

I set up in front of the arms, Cyrismon stood off with his arms crossed watching me intently. ‘And you’ll get ten seconds since that’s all I watched you for.’ I held up a finger.

My hands came up between the two dowls, fingers loosely flexing as I plotted my sequence forms to do. I took a deep breath in and then out and began with the movements with noticeable forms. Even when my fist connected with the pad, my style allowed me to either have my forearm or elbow on either arm contacting one of the simulated wooden limbs. My feet only shuffled from one side to the other, in my mind shifting out of the way of a strike to come in and hit. I made sure to hit with palms, a curled fingered chop or ridge strike or a direct flat strike to the pad. This thing was bolted to the floor so it could take the abuse I was giving it, making a horrible creaking racket the sound proofed walls absorbed. When ten seconds had passed I scooted backward, a hiss through my teeth at the end as I rose out of my stance. The wolf jackal’s expression was a fading fascination since I had stopped, a slight sheen on my forehead from even that ten seconds I had thrown into it. ‘Good for practicing counters up close.’ Cyrismon moved in next to me.

When the bipedal wolf creature moved in front, he mimicked my stance in front as I stepped aside. What happened next was nothing but a blur and a loud three strike succession I only picked up in snapshots where he hit. A straight shot to the head pad blocking two angles, a knee strike blocking two dowls at once and ending with using one hand to hold himself up on the ground, a foot to block one limb and the other landing right in the center that would have kicked the entire dummy off the floor if it wasn’t bolted to the ground. The Digimom held that pose for a good ten seconds before looking up at me. ‘It doesn’t hit back though.’

I again gave the golf clap to him as he came back to his feet, it was impressive. Good thing he was supposedly on my side. Let us test that. I walked towards the heavy bag and limbered up my leg in a few steps. ‘Well the nice thing about how I fight is when I hit someone---’ I swung a sidekick on the last word.

I threw every bit of my strength into the canvas siding in my leg strike and the bag, which was by not any means soft-skinned, struck with the crack of a gunshot. I felt a rush of satisfaction sting up my bare skin and hardened bone not giving a damn. The bag lost its telephone pole figure and bent nearly in half, lurching into the air a bit. Dust even flew off it as it swung up leaving a permanent dent. I held my stance, leg out when my hips engaged in a snapshot like pose akin to Cyrismon's style. The bag came back to a stop against my shin. I turned my head back after a few seconds and shot him a grin as I came back down to a normal stance. The Digimon eyes were slightly wider for the second before they returned to normal. ‘They don’t hit back.’ I finished.

I went back to my coffee, hopefully, it wasn’t too cold by now, reaching for it to pick it up. ‘I said you possessed skills few humans do but that isn't enough.’ Cyrismon’s words came out slowly, ‘You’re smart enough to know that.’

‘I know they aren’t.’ I admitted taking a sip again.

‘Then why are you even contemplating it?’

‘I have to.’ I answered, ‘Observe, adapt and overcome. Been doing it since the second my world met yours. Same as you about me right?’

Cyrismon didn’t seem surprised at the accusation. If he was anything like I suspected, he would be doing so by default. ‘You’re not someone I’m unfamiliar with.’ He answered surprisingly quickly, ‘One look at those guns now, your scars last night and your eyes the entire waking time I’ve seen you told me all I need about you.’

I didn’t answer right away. Where was he going with this? I wasn’t about to endure a lecture or an insult. Let’s instigate a bit though. ‘Pick what you say next carefully.’ I warned, ‘You don’t know me.’

‘Oh?’ Cyrismon approached brazenly, ‘You’ve nearly been killed twice in less than a day. Doesn’t bother you one bit. You’ve shown me this shrine to preparing for violence. What you do as you said. And you have eyes I have seen for most of my existence. They are the eyes that stared into the void of evil and never blinked.’

Cyrismon stood right over me and made sure he was in my personal space. ‘It's because they are just like mine.’ Cyrismon nearly hissed, ‘Make no mistake its not why I don’t trust you around me. People who aren’t looking to see tomorrow tend to take others with them is why.’

I was not ready for that statement and my furrowed eyes gave it away. On a fundamental level it was somewhat correct in one way but wildly simplified to being absolutely false on the facts. He did not know me nor the consequences of my chosen profession. In a second feeling my body heat up and my eyes widened, it caused Cyrismon to shift backward like one moved away from a burst of a fire surged in front of him. It wasn’t fear, it was a genuine surprise. It did hit different with the point and as my breath sucked into my chest to retort when I heard the phone in my office go off. Knowing who was calling was far more important compared to this discussion. I just raised one finger at him as the wolfman seemed to relax, returning to the studying gaze he had before. ‘Don’t follow too close and you’ll have nothing to worry about.’ I answered turning to walk out, ‘Its why I work alone, just like you right?’

I didn’t know if Cyrismon reacted to my own observation about him. Someone who looks like an assassin from antiquity complete with hood and dagger clearly isn’t a crowd person. If I had to put a gentleman’s wager on what he did do was either he remained stoic or gave some indication of the touché response. Not exactly a dig at the Digimon, we all had our reasons and despite the accusation which still had the tingling remanence of my almost outburst I just let it go. I wouldn’t like me much either. I had to keep it out of my mind as I swooped into my room and picked up the phone off my desk. ‘Hello?’ I spoke.

‘Line is secured Captain Archer.’ The chipper female voice came through the phone, ‘Agent Sato as per usual. You’ve stirred up a lot of the office with your last few faxes, care to elaborate?’

Agent Sara Sato, native-born Japanese American and one of my handlers on this side of the globe at the CIA. Quite the resume for someone her age. Marine Corps Intelligence Officer and was scouted by Langley for her work during the Gulf War, even got her out of her contract early to work for them sooner. Met her a few times over the years, only once in the field and it was for a local assignment in surveillance on some Chinese agents who were operating in Kyoto. Good looking and sharper than most scalpels, she was a very smooth talker and like a good agent always trying to sus out information from everyone. It made me wary but I don’t know if Sato was doing it out of curiosity or wanting to find dirt. I took my seat and started to flip open my complied reports to get started. ‘I have reason to believe we have a very imminent threat here in Japan and I’ve sent off the reports as fast as I could.’ I answered, ‘I need this pushed up, get some more eyes on this and corroborate this with our local allies expediently.’

‘I’ve gone over some of what you’ve sent in and across a few other pairs of eyes and this is very much troubling if true.’ Sato allowed, ‘Key is if. You have any more substantial corroborating evidence coming our way?’

I had information and sources which could have easily convinced everyone in the world this was going on. Problem was one of them was a human looking being who could transmute matter wasn’t about to talk and the second was an upright walking dog like creature in leather armour who wasn’t either. ‘That’s why I needed to call in for what I am going to do to get it.’ I answered, ‘I’m going to conduct a hasty field operation but I need to you to be ready to distribute a full red alert on an agency level.’

‘Captain you know you’re supposed to give in person briefings for this kind of event.’ She almost scolded, ‘We have in-field assets already committed on assignments and if you want us to piss off everyone back in Virginia by taking our eyes off the situation with the cultist's bombings attempts to help on your personal project we are going to need something solid.’

I lifted up one of my newspapers which had an article written by a local reporter on the subject, circling the name at the bottom as a person of interest, Hiroaki Ishida. Quite the intrepid reporter for certain and one of the few brave enough to write articles on the Aum Shurikio warning about them for almost a year with his work. What caught my eye was he did write a few articles about these Datalists just last week. I had my suspicions about him though because not many reporters would be so keen to go after a group known to make people disappear. ‘Did you get my request on Hiro Ishida’s involvement in the Aum Shuriko case?’

‘I have it right here.’ Sato answered, ‘Ishida is by all accounts an investigative reporter with Fuji TV and was feeding information about Aum Shuriko to a trusted contact inside Tokyo Metro police, specifically a Sergeant Hida in Zero Unit. We know this because he was the lead officer that lead the raids on their compounds after the gas attack. Both of them met while serving in the Japanese Defence Force.’

Two very civic-minded and dedicated men, something to work with. ‘Ishida was warning the country about Aum and no one listened.’ I informed, ‘Now he’s made mention of the Datalists are a problem so why wouldn’t I take at least a look in the midst of the rest of the issues?’

‘Captain you are asking myself and everyone at this field office to be on standby for you.’ She preverbally leaned in, ‘Now I have no reason to doubt you but as the station chief said he wants more than string lines on a corkboard.’

So far it was working, not doubting me was all I was really hoping for. I wasn’t expecting much action on their part right now. Put yourself in their position. A field agent is warning of an attack no one would have a clue about and connecting a new group to it to the last doomsday cult was tenuous at best. There would be a lot of stand-alone evidence to support it which I didn’t have at the moment. Investigations take time, involve research and surveillance. You needed to have someone be skeptical just for the sake of being thorough. Wild eyed speculation just leads to wasted time and lives if it gets out of hand. ‘If I’m right I’ll have all the information to you in a few hours.’ I offered, ‘I just need you in the office to be ready.’

There was a brief pause on the line, a distant tone in the background in the confronting tone I could make out but no words. ‘I trust him sir.’ I heard her say.

I was on speaker? Good. It meant I was in a conference room with other people whose attention I had now. ‘Captain Archer this his Station Chief Mako.’ A very brisk cadence toned man stated, ‘I understand you are planning to do this on your own?’

The Station Chief was a man who long ago left the field, a relic of the Cold War against Soviet and Chinese influence in Japan using his wealth of experience to direct the new generation of spy. Couldn’t blame him for being in a perpetual state of gruffness since he was one of those Vietnam Veterans who probably was in the Cambodian jungle more than Saigon Valley if his reputation was anything to be confirmed. A military intelligence officer who got slated into a desk due to injury or just too damn tired to crash through the bush so to speak. Spoke to him mostly in his office or a meeting setting, brisk as a cold breeze. Short, stocky and a flat top brush haircut with the leathery crows feet around his eyes. Drank ice water like I did, always a glass on his desk if I remember if it wasn’t coffee. ‘Its what I do sir.’ I answered, ‘I want to confirm I’m right first hence why I’m calling in with the information I sent in and my plan of action.’

‘Captain I have every field agent available working the Aum Shuriko cases and we are stretched thin as it is.’ He reminded me, ‘Before I pass this to Langley or Washington like your emergency request suggested I need some surveillance before I further action this. And I don’t like agents braving the unknown.’

‘That’s what you pay me for sir.’ I answered, ‘If I’m right we’ll need further action, if I’m wrong I’d have wasted my only my time and gotten out of the conference you didn’t want me in the first place, sir.’

There was a bunch of murmuring on the other end. It sounded agreeable. ‘I’ll task Sato to you until this is resolved.’ Chief Mako agreed, ‘She’s your go-to. I want you in front my desk with a report before the day is out no matter the outcome. Are we clear Captain?’

I don’t know if I can type as fast as he wanted but that’s good enough. ‘I’ll be at the office no later than 2000 local time with my findings Chief.’

‘I’ll authorize it then.’ He decided, ‘Bring back what you can, stay out of legal trouble and we will assess your findings and on move from there. I don’t want to come looking for you either Captain you understand me?’

There was this surreal feeling of effectively lying by omission to my chain of command, people I worked with, and had trust in me to be honest. Deception was for the enemy's detriment and here I was not letting on all I know. While had no problem lying to someone if there was a reason to, I preferred using facts and specific information to get what I wanted. Coercion is easier with manipulation. The problem was if I did tell the entire truth I might as well size myself up for the straight jacket now. It would be preferable to what I was in for or whatever the Chief would assign me to for wasting his time. If he had to come looking for me, chances were I’d be dead anyway. ‘Acknowledged.’ I replied, ‘See you in a few hours.’

‘Hurry back Captain.’ Sato’s voice came in before the line hung up.

I put the phone down and the moment I looked up there was Cyrismon at the door. I wasn’t going to assume he wasn’t capable of hearing everything I said with the radar dishes for ears. I stood up from the desk briskly and came around it. ‘You lied to them to get permission to save your world?’

‘Wanted me to tell them about you and Gennai?’ I asked, ‘Full honesty isn’t going to help and I’m sure you do not want to end up on an exam table with a very curious scientist with a scalpel in hand.’

I’m not going to pretend for a moment there would be a rational reaction to the discovery of a humanoid wolf creature that just appeared on Earth from out of nowhere. I wasn’t unaffected by the prospect of another world existing and creatures completely different from anything we saw in nature. Standing right there was something so alien to me I could only just accept it and losing my composure wouldn’t help. Watch enough movies about first contact and you’ll get a rough idea of how things would go. Very bleak and honestly nihilistic to think everything out there is hostile to us, thus be hostile first. The darker reason was since we as a race had a history being the more advanced imposing our will on the natives who were not. Alone I could be rationally spoken to by Gennai, calmly explain the circumstances and let it sink in. The Order Agent had done this and it was correct in the approach. If he tried it at the office to some room of CIA agents or heaven forbid a government building it would have gone to pot in about five minutes. If they didn’t drag him off as a lunatic for an evaluation, he did look human after all, he’d be arrested for certain. If Cyrismon had shown up to the event he might as well have invited the living autopsy he’d certainly get, conscious or intelligence non-factor. They might have met me except I’d be having them in cuffs and escorted back to Nevada and Area 51 if either were lucky. ‘What does this Ishida person know that is so important?’

‘Ishida predicted the last cult’s motives and actions.’ I answered, ‘Everyone called him an alarmist at first, right up until transit riders were foaming at the mouth and their nervous systems shot to pieces by Sarin gas the cult had made. If anyone knows anything about the Datalists it’s him. Lightest of leads and its is a long shot.’

Cyrismon seemed to understand the analogy, the impression I was getting he knew a lot of human culture and euphemism than he was letting on. ‘You don’t sound confident of your chances at all Captain.’

I came to a stop at the door of my room right next to him, my eyes shooting him a grim glance. ‘You were there when I spoke about knowledge is just as important?’ I asked.

‘Every word.’

So he can remain invisible for extended periods of time. That is utterly terrifying if I wasn’t considered friendly. ‘The reason I had to pry out permission wasn’t that I didn’t have the authority to do this.’ I explained, ‘It's just an insurance policy so they know what is going on, and they authorized to send someone else in case I don't report in or get killed.’

If Cyrismon had any semblance of concern to my well-being since it was his task, I saw a drop of it in the form of a shift upwards of his muzzle at my last word. ‘I am going into this situation cold and blind.’ I stressed to him, ‘I have no time to gather information on suspects or locations, I’ll have to cold read the situation on the move. I have no idea their capabilities, I’ll find out on the fly and adapt. I have little time to waste so my methods are going to be direct and blunt, and they usually aren’t painless to get compliance. Knowledge gained normally prevents such things but what methods I am left with means it will get bloody. I’m not looking forward to it.’

The Digimon didn’t seem to like the situation, it certainly made two of us. ‘What are you going to do?”

‘One of the two things I’m good at.’ I pushed past him to my armory to prepare my mission, ‘Solve the problems others can’t on short notice.’
 
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CPT.ARCHER

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Who Chooses The Chosen

In the sky plains of the Intranet of the Digital World, the universe which I knew blurred past me as I saw the fates unfold around me in the infinite distances. Outside the Temple of the Masters you would have seen the eternal dome of intertwining code stretching out into infinity, far off portals opening up between all places in the Digital World and the rarest ones to the human internet which bound us together through existence itself. In the middle of this sphere of digital reality was the temple itself, floating in the center of it like an immovable object, the singular point and the very center of all digital creation and decision.

From the outside and from a very far distance if you were flying around through the vast openness of the Intranet you would have seen the temple from probably a hundred miles with the naked eye even for someone with the worst vision. Not just for its massive pyramid like base shapes made of tanned marble but the built in polished sandstone domes that melded in with the sharp angles. There were also three spiraling orbiting rings around it creating a gyroscopic action, powered by the latent energies of the Digital World and the human one as well. The largest was of natural stone, the middle one of iron and the last made of printed circuit board shapes, the copper engravings like highways along it trailing electric bolts of lightning in a wake of power. They were thousands of feet in diameter, the symbols and designs carved in could double for canyons, drifting around in their tilting orbits. To me as I stood on the outside of the temple looking up they looked as if they were drifting slowly around me. They were really moving at probably hundreds of miles an hour. Never once have I not marveled at it no matter how many times I came here.

My name is Gennai. I was the leader of the Order, the same who protected and kept the balance of light and dark in the Digital World from my time. I could not tell you how long I have lived, only to say I have been around as long as the Digital World has been. What I am is technically a Digimon, yet I am more like you characteristically than the latter. I look human. I sound human. I have no real altered traits which make me stand out save some heightened physical abilities. If I were to take off this tan monk robe of mine and placed on some normal clothes I would blend in with any crowd with a matching complexion. There were things about me which would tell you right away I wasn't human in the slightest as well. Mostly I’d have to show you in demonstration of my innate powers like I did with Archer a few human hours ago. I could do more but those will come in time. I kept my sword on my side as a permanent fixture now, the purple scabbard housing the silver blade longsword my only real weapon. Used rarely in my existence, swearing off violence for the sake of my duties to the Order to not directly interfere. Now I had to be a bit more direct with the coming trials of these times. I stood most of the time with my fingers intertwined and locked gripping into the other hand while my robes covered them up, keeping myself in a meditative or reflective state. A calm look was my outwardly projecting state, emanating from my demeanor. I had to remain calm as I made my way to the Temple of who I swore my existence to in service of. The Digimon Masters.

To even to this get to this part of my world you need to have the Seal of the Order, given to me for being the leader of the Order of the Digital World. While I had the ability to travel freely between both the Digital World and the human world at any time I wished for the most part, coming here required not only permission but also purpose. The Masters limited their influence to intermediaries and the Order itself through me, balance when needed but free will to be is the rule. Even if it leads to imbalance, often at the hands of those who want it imbalanced. Hence why I came here now. To let them know of the coming imbalance leading to a calamity we were on the precipice of.

I walked away from the portal dais, a large stone circle as wide as a football field was long, suspended out from the entrance by singular stone bridge, its own flat sand cut brick wider than some highway on Earth. It was a long walk, three hours at least even at a brisk walking pace. I could portal into the construct if I wished but not this time. The journey from dias gave you a long time to think about what you were going to say to some of the most powerful beings in the Digital World. No excuse to have nothing of value to say. It also gave you much time to realize how towering it all was, how small you really were in comparison as it kept looming higher and higher into the vast expanse above you. It still took my breath from me, stilled me for a time if I lingered my eyes too long upwards. When I got to the entrance, I finally made way into the main corridor hallway. You could link a hundred of me hand to hand and we’d barely make it across to touch either side. The walls were not bare but the entire history of the Digital World from the beginning starting at the door and going along the hall as an enduring story to see on either side. Stories told by etchings engraved of heroes and villains, battles both triumph and disaster. Formations of towns and the fall of continents into the Digital Sea. Above were more details and suspended statues of great Digimon heroes detailed in marble in plinths or given their own stone alcove going high up into the sky. Eventually you couldn’t see the very top of the but if you could fly up you’d have seen more of the same stories told. Intermixed were narrations among the murals, stories and lessons of the depictions to whoever would read them for the wisdom passed on. No one except the Masters did these days, save myself of course. My pilgrimage continued onwards, the miles stretched on through the Digital World’s history until I came to the final chamber where I was expected where the Digimon Masters were waiting for me.

In Human mythology there have been gods to have been known to be as those that control the fate of the world and of those in it like puppeteers. Every action manipulated by these gods for whatever reason may be. These Digimon in front of me however were far more than that and were who I had to answer to now for what I was to tell them. These Digimon were known as the Masterminds of Destiny. The Masterminds of Destiny were the first Digimon to rise from the beginning of the Digital World to become Mega level, Gods among Digimon. One could strip flesh from bone with cutting wind, drain seas and set the very air on fire for he controlled the elements. The second could command the forces of nature for she was the force of it. The last could conjure powers from mere thought itself, commanding digital information to bend the world to his whim. Now they watched over the Digital world with a watchful eye, seeing it continued along at least a measurable form of progress to a stable world. While they were not omnipresent as you would think of a God, they became aware of events by bein tied to the Digital World. Therefore it was in their best interest to keep the balance and the Digital World continuing on.

The Master of The Elements was Yamatomon and an imposing Data Type Digimon who towered like a god of Olympian Myth. You could never see his face since it was hidden behind the armored gold Digizoid plated helm he wore which molded to his thick box like snout and jaw to indicate he was a dragon. The only thing you would see were his surprising blue rounded eyes from deep inside it, giving him a faint bit of calm when you looked up at him at near nine feet. His body was humanoid like in nature but coated with steel like plate scales, thick as coins overlapping to form a natural armor on what skin you’d see. He wore a medieval style armor plating over his chest that molded to his muscular form for much more added protection. Not that he needed it. The upper torso was that of a human with brimming muscular arms but the legs that of a dragon, the digigrade legs thick as tree trunks and the muscles tensed holding up the weight of such a tall being. His lower torso was less armored, instead of going for the chain mail loincloth and plated kilt before the golden greaves down his shin. All of the armor platings was embroidered with varying tribal like talismans or simply hanging from varying parts of his armor. The one solid red emerald that was around his neck the centerpiece to all of his wares. You could see the roaring fire inside the emerald itself swirling on the perimeter of a small ocean of water that too spun around the opposite direction, within that what looked like a windstorm and at the very core was a hardened orb of brown that was shifting, cracking and repairing in a constant seizure of an earthquake. That all worked to signify the powers he was in constant control of. For how he behaved, Yamatomon was the more militant of the Masterminds and made no qualms about hiding it. The Dragon Digimon was a fearless warrior but had a kind streak when he felt like it. Nothing could protect you from him if you ever betrayed his kindness though so take it as you will.

The Mistress of Nature was Giamon and she was much different than what you would preconceive. She stood much smaller, maybe at five feet humanoid but you could see the upon further inspection from behind leaf veined embroidered hood and cloak hid two green emerald sphere like eyes with a smooth face with feel of the stalk of a rose. Her nose was barely there, only two dots between her eyes which when she breathed you could hear the air flowing in when she took a deep breath to give her the fairy like look. Her lips were barely visible, a thin slit with two small ridges parted to show a small set of smooth platinum teeth. When she blinked you could see the clicking of her internal eye lids. If you ever saw her hands they looked human, albeit very dainty but they too were this sharp light green color and minus fingernails. The aura around her felt of constant spring and anything she touched, if she wanted it wasn't spontaneous or without control, would spawn plant life as if it was already there or make the current flora grow rapidly. Giamon could easily control anything about nature as well, like commanding plants to grow, entrapping vines, poisonous barbs and all the other of the either joys or despairs nature had to offer. Her personality was that more of the thinker and planner and most wise of the three. Something to do with the collective intelligence of the world's oldest plants and the inherent wisdom they had. Conservative and calm, she loved to listen more than she spoke which was a shame since I loved not only to hear her voice but to generally speak to her given the chance.


The Master of Technology was Infimon, a technological type of Digimon who resembled a being halfway between an android and a supercomputer mixed with a little bit of a mage of some kind. He was maybe six feet in height but he was skinny for his kind. Letting his stature fool you would probably be your last mistake if you ever tried to trifle with him. His limbs were solid robotic skin in the form of thin skeleton arms. Steel tubular hydraulics instead of muscle structure. Over that were coverings made of a machined reactive armor that gave definition and protection to the vital joints of his limbs. The same could be said of his legs but they were more heavily armored and his feet were integrated knee high boots of the same metal. All of his armor was thin though which made him faster than you would expect. In his hand he always carried his staff which was a metal like walking stick, gears and chips embedded all along it with wires twisting around from the base to the top. Atop it was a rather funny looking plug you would see go into a wall socket, above the two yellow prongs you would see an ever-sparking ball of energy, a faint warning everlasting. It could zap anything into particles if he wished with a flick of his wrist. If you ever saw his face, hiding behind the shadow of his royal maroon hood with cloak, you would see a red band of a visor covering his pale gray eyes you might see if you got even closer. That was if he let you. The rest of his face was covered over with a metal lower mask covering everything just below his eyes. I have heard there is a full face under all that metal but something happened to Infimon that damaged his face to the point where people would look away in disgust of what he had become. Shame, he was a good Digimon. Probably out of all of the Masterminds he was the most outgoing and helpful, a little bit of a fast talker and wouldn't shut up if he didn't get a cut off or glared at to finish up by Yamatomon. If I would call Infimon a genius he would probably be very upset with me selling him short. Infimon could wield the power of the entire Intranet and the budding Human world Internet at once. Anything in the human world or digital he could get his mind into. Infimon was their eyes and ears to what was going on in the Digital World and more recent the Human world.


The main room was very much the audience chamber, the dome shape at the very opposite side from the portal miles back behind us. Before entering the main hallway split off in two directions to either side to the other domains of the Masters. This room was imposingly tall, the smooth marble bricks towering up above us, decorated with etching of lessons and teachings of Digimon long past, wisdom collected by the Digimon Masters and recorded for themselves when pondering what actions to take. There were even a few human philosophers quotes snuck in as well, a few more added by Infimon when he was able to access the human world’s knowledge. There were three large thrones in the room for the three masters to lounge in but now they were all standing around them in one way or another. Each was tailored to them and matched their owner. The middle was Yamatomon’s, clearly made up stiff and upright angles made of chrome digizoid steel that of a king of war with the adornments of weapons from lesser opponents welded on. To the right was Infimons and it was a very sleek construction of black rubber tubes, twined electrical wires fashioned where he could sit cross legged. Giamon’s was effectively the largest bonsai tree I’ve ever seen that grew right out of the stone that formed into what looked like a chair. The leaves were minute but spanned out into its own umbrella if there was a need for shade, even with moss providing a natural cushion to sit. Not that I ever dared. Between us was a long white marble table for when thing needed to be presented or displayed. On the other side were eight neutral sandstone color chairs made of the construction of the temple itself. Not an afterthought since some care was taken into their making since they were made and carved out of one solid piece of stone. On the back of them were carved the very symbols of my tutelage’s soon to be legacy. The Crests of the DigiDestined.


The Crests themsevels were the very symbol of the Chosen Children, the sigil itself to signal which aspect of virtue the DigiDestined represented. Courage was the sun shape of fire, Friendship the blue circle intertwined, Love symbolized by the red heart, Knowledge was two minds of two circles with the dot in one, Sincerity was the green rain drop, Reliability was the cross standard with angled blocks to make appear as a square shield, Hope was the ray of light from the sun and the crest of light a pinkish beacon. They were not colored on the stone, just carved on the back to indicate which one was which. The true Crests, the ones to be housed in the tags the DigiDestined would wear, now were housed under guard of the Order being used to prepare the Digimon chosen to fight for the future yet. I spent a good hour of time explaining to them the situation now presented to us, wasn’t the first time I had done so in the last month since I arrived in this time. Yes, I said time.

The Reversion as it was called by Daemon, was the unintended consequence of what his original aim. If you ever reverted a computer if you installed the wrong program, you would understand it returns to a previous point in its lifespan. File and program wise at least. What Daemon tried to do, as far as we knew before it happened, was to return the Digital World to a point where he could come in and rule it when there were no real challengers like the Digimon or Dark Masters. What he failed to realize was since the Digital World and Human World was synced, it literally reversed time for both worlds. Ripping apart the space time continuum would have been the end of all reality but it wasn’t. Instead when the cascade effect washed out both worlds in a matter of a minute, I only had seconds to cross over or be erased the same so to speak. Even in the seconds I had to react, I arrived a month behind the two. Hence why I was here at all. It was one of the worst fates I never would have imagined to be in only to see everything now was verging on the end of all things. I had of full knowledge of the future but so did Daemon and Railius. Now I had Captain Archer. ‘Gennai this is indeed troubling.’ Giamon softly sighed with her child like voice, ‘This does not do well for the Digital World if Daemon tries to stop the Order from choosing the DigiDestineds of Earth.’

‘The situation calls for my actions I took.’ I said as respectively as I could, ‘Daemon and Railius...’

‘This threat may be real as you have shown us but we have already taken as much action as we can.’ Yamatomon stated, ‘As our vow to the Digital World we cannot directly interfere. We empowered the Order it is your responsibility as its leader to impart our vision as naturally as possible. ‘

This may sound strange the three of the most powerful Digimon choosing not to do anything directly against Daemon but their reasons were founded in logic and the very stability of the Digital World. To understand it you must come to realize every Digimon in the Digital World is literally connected with the world the same way every bit of data in a computer makes up the system that is operating. The majority of Digimon don't make much of a difference them being at the lowest rung which was Baby or Rookie, the first two steps of the ladder. A lot never make it long enough to see Champion let alone Ultimate or Mega. Once you are reaching heights like that, you draw in a lot of energy from the Digital World. When a Digimon dies, or what could be considered death, its data is scattered and redistributed and they are reborn. Think of it as reformatting a file. Every Digimon has their connection to the Digital World and its unique. They could be naturally charged with the care of an area, the operation of a structure that other Digimon use or a direct connection with the environment. The higher up the ladder you go however, the more of a tremendous impact. The Masterminds themselves were so powerful, that if one of them were to be injured or even destroyed the impact on the Digital World would be disastrous. It would be on the order of killing a God of the Roman era, like Prometheus or Odin of the Pagan belief and their respective responsibilities were suddenly vacant. While they were perfectly capable of going to the Digital World, long before they had made the choice to do the passive approach and let the world naturally grow and evolve as it has, for better or worse. The Order was placed in charge of being their servants in the Digital World, making sure the balance between light and dark was kept neutral. Balanced and fair. ‘We aren't prepared to deal with Daemon this early let alone what will happen at the time we choose the DigiDestined!’ I explained, ‘When the rest of the Fallen come...’

‘Captain Archer’s involvement isn’t enough Gennai?’ Giamon broke in, ‘You have said he is capable.’

I stiffened up slightly, not really wanting to bring too much attention to what I didn’t know about the man so far. ‘He is different than anyone I would have expected.’ I shook my head, ‘I’m not used to soldiers of Earth but he is…formidable. There is this strength I sense but this unyielding sense of unease he sets upon me I will confide.’

‘Is he dangerous?’ Infimon finally spoke up in his rapid fire but clear statements.

‘I don't know any of Archer's past aside from what he told me.’ I continued, ‘I didn’t detect him being deceitful and I looked into---'

Infimon lifted up his staff with both hands and unceremoniously stabbed it into the transparent ground. An aura of sparks shot out around where the plug hit and the thin arcs of lightning curled off the ground and formed a small cage of energy around him before it shot off into the air like a lightning bolt in reverse. It held its crackling display as the bolt shot directly into the expanse of the Intranet above us. The display kept up until Infimon stood up, his visor flashing with data streams before it instantly downloaded into his head from the implants he had. ‘Archer.’ Infimon began, ‘Birth twenty-seven Earth years ago. Military. That is all. Concerning.

That brought up a whole different set of thoughts which bordered on doubts, even further the fact Infimon could not find anything. While I wasn't unfamiliar with such things humans did to other humans in war, the very fact what Archer could be troubled me. Archer had not been forthcoming, but it was not deception. Perhaps reservation for the sake of brevity? Archer had secrets of his own I was not privy to. All beings did have their own skeletons as it were and the army officer did not have to give me his life’s story. While I had been searching through one of my latent abilities similar to Infimon on a much more limited level, I could acquire information in a similar way if I had access to the internet. I too came up with nothing specific. When I looked up his last name through public databases, Archer was a common name after all, I found tons of information on other soldiers from what I could see with a similar name. The one that did match was only one brief and the most bare bones military service record to speak of. Picture, name and service number. Nothing else. No high school records or previous employment. No spouse. No next of kin or who they were to gleam any insight. It left everything to uncertainty and to trust he was not something worse than he appeared. It also did not help my case as a character witness to someone who may as well not exist. ‘Sounds like an assassin to me.’ Yamatomon grunted, ‘Not a noble warrior as you billed him.’

Everything I had done and tried to accomplish had only delayed or been countered by both Daemon and Railius, a game of lethal implications. Railius, while comparable to me in abilities in some respects, in a straight fight could kill me but it would only be secondary to what he actually wanted. Daemon would barely even raise his hand and I’d be obliterated. As much as Railius hated me, it was the Seal of the Order he wanted. If he got his hands on it, it would allow him to go between worlds at a whim. As of now he could only warp between points on Earth, like myself, but he was only capable of doing it a few times in a day. Thus he needed to be precise in his movements. It was one of the few advantages I had over him, myself being able to go wherever I needed. Now I had Archer and he presented a different advantage Railius would not be ready for. Someone who didn’t exist, he could not see coming and someone who was lethally effective from what I experienced. ‘Captain Archer’s duty is to protect innocent humans.’ I defended myself, ‘Until the DigiDestined are chosen neither side can truly act to alter the timeline we wish to preserve or Daemon destroy in the open. I think he can do so undetected which is something Railius is not versed in.’

‘This Reverting Daemon caused has given him the power of predictability.’ Yamatomon grumbled, ‘Knowing the future as same as you and Railius is a troubling concept.’

‘Up to a point.’ Infimon remarked, ‘It is also what stills him from not destroying everything with a whim. Daemon is no fool to disrupt the proceedings as it were.’

‘Not anymore since—-‘ I stared but stopped myself.

All three Masters caught it but Giamon giving an amused chuckle as I had almost let slip some of my knowledge. ‘Gennai your persistence to not speak of the future you’re from is a little silly.’ She smiled, ‘There is no harm in telling us how it all came to be at the end.’

The weight of knowledge was a privilege and a burden at times but being adrift in what to me was the distant past conflicted everything in my mind. I knew all the DigiDestined. Everything about them, each one across the Earth. I knew all of them personally, cared about them to no end. Guided when necessary, taught as needed. Watched them grow up and old over the years. Proud humans who grew into the best their worlds had to offer while sacrificing their safety and childhoods for the Digitial World. The inspiration they gave Digimon to maybe aspire to become partners to them someday, a dream which guided many to be better just for the chance to be picked themselves. Knowing all this was to suppose to come, knowing it was under threat had me on the verge of tears most of the time. The worst was when the cascade effect I witnessed once triggered by Daemon and Railius reverting both worlds to a previous state, causing time itself to reverse around me I felt I had lost all of my friends completely. I had no time to despair now if I was ever to see them again. ‘I don’t wish to say anything that would be premature to what happens Giamon.’ I diplomatically answered, ‘That being said, the DigiDestined will indeed do far more for our worlds than ever all three of you can imagine. It....will be a privilege to see if we succeed.’

‘Hah.’ Yamatomon chuffed, ‘What did I tell you Infimon! Always the pessimist with your percentages.’

‘It will hardly matter in the slightest if Daemon or Railius disrupt the events on Earth.’ Infimon reminded, ‘The gate will be fully open tonight across both worlds and then shut fully until it does again in four Earth year’s time. Nothing will stop that. Daemon will act during that to cut off our DigiDestined from being chosen either by killing them or preventing us from selecting. Your only task is to prevent the DigiDestined we have determined to be the best choices from being harmed. Will this Archer help in this endeavor?’

‘He fought two of Railius’s shadow clones and destroyed them with Earth based weapons.’ I bluntly retorted, ‘He outran a Dokugumon for two miles afterward. No mere human I’ve ever known could do all of that alone.’

‘What about intelligence?’ Infimon challenged, ‘Warrior kinds can be formidable but this mission of yours requires a subtle touch.’

‘Archer gleaned more out of me that I did of him while he at his breakfast casually across from me.’ I admired, ‘He deduced everything I did just by listening to a radio and looking out a window. And if we can’t find anything about him—-‘

‘Yet.’ Infimon held up a finger.

‘—yet of course it means Railius will not be able to find out anything about him either to prevent his actions.’ I negotiated, ‘Archer is who we need.’

There was a bit of silence between all three of them, a nod one after the other ending with Yamatomon. ‘So be it.’ He agreed, ‘I’m curious. You came across him by accident did you not?’

‘While I was trying to distract Railius from discovering any DigiDestined in Hightonview.’ I repeated from before, ‘Why?’

‘Would he have died had you not intervened?’

‘Yes of course.’ I confirmed but didn’t see where they were going with this, ‘He’s formidable, not invincible I’m quite sure.’

‘You saved a human who never supposed to have a future.’ Yamatomon stated, ‘And you’re sending him into harm’s way to perhaps not have one.’

It felt like a needle shot through my stomach. If there wasn’t enough on my mind as if was, Yamatomon pointing out not only my desperation had led me to putting another life at risk. I had also disrupted the timeline by preventing a death which was suppose to happen. I didn’t feel guilty for saving his life, and why would I? The consequences of my actions were what I felt a pang of concern for. What would Archer do given life he wasn’t suppose to have? Railius and Daemon had interfered far more in their ways but no one had died at their hands I knew of. At least yet. ‘He volunteered his services.’ I answered, ‘Without question. It is who he is according to him. So why not allow him to help if he so chooses?’

‘I’m not saying it’s wrong in this case.’ Yamatomon cautioned me in those last words, ‘Given the peril. Just a touch colder than I remember you to be Gennai.’

Had I clearer mind I perhaps could have thought of such a situation or the consequences of my actions in saving a life. I never had to take timelines into consideration until I was forced to. Archer being alive only for me to risk it in the face of both world’s destruction was a ethical quandary I had overlooked. Had he been anyone else, Archer would have died at the hands of the Railius replicants or chewed to pieces by the spider Digimon. The soldier instead survived. A capable fighter, bright minded and unyieldingly brave was suppose to be snuffed out by a speeding truck. At in at the dawn of the Digital World showing itself to the human world, a cruel way to end. I saved him only to thrust him into the darkness which threatened his world. Indeed. Cold. ‘He stepped forward into this danger after his brush with death.’ I defended, ‘I told him only the truth and he didn’t even waver. It is his chosen duty and I believe he can carry it out at this late hour.’

‘We shall see who this Archer turns out to be then.’ Giamon stated, ‘Carry on Gennai.’

I bowed and turned to leave, the long walk out I had a long time to think of what unintended consequences might look like caused by my hope in a stranger such as Captain Archer.
 
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CPT.ARCHER

Ain't got no mojo...
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My Job

WARNING: VIOLENT FIGHT FEATURED.

Planning a covert operation was not for the unimaginative or the weak of will, the limitations only what the environment will allow you to do and what you have on hand to carry it out. I was the specialist, this was my wheel house of knowledge and expertise. As I gathered my gear and made mental notes to my objectives I took notice of what to do and how I was going to get it done. Simple as it sounded, it was more striking off what I was capable of doing more than what I was going to have to settle with. Very frustrating and nerve-straining given the stakes couldn't be more dire if Gennai was to be believed.

I had no support despite the phone call I made and it is a very isolating feeling. The office so to speak was not going to lift a finger until I had solid proof so I could forget having a partner let alone a tactical team to back me up. I had no means of police contacts lined up; any relevant investigators I had to approach in real time. I had no means of surveillance or eye in the sky (satellites) which to be fair would provide little in the way of help. Command and control would be good if it was set up for what I was doing but once again they were not geared to my operation. That would take man power in and out of the field which was unavailable until said conditions were met. I knew I was going to face opponents who were naturally lethal and the wall of guns had so many tempting options yet few were an option at all. As much as I’d love to introduce one of those clones or Railius to a 12 gauge slug from the angry end of a semi-auto shotgun, it wasn’t exactly concealable. I couldn't walk around wearing any visible tactical gear to make fighting any easier either. If it was a warzone I could get away with it but this was Japan and if I was stupid enough to flaunt it in public I’d deserve the arrest. Everything had to be concealed. The operation itself was known to the office but if I was caught doing anything illegal to the locals, I’d be in a jail cell until the State Department got around to getting me out of the police station. And I’d be hauled into another cell to be debriefed very aggressively and questioned to my capability. Very counterproductive. It all reinforced my position and mode of conduct for the daunting task at hand.

Solo and covert was the only way. It was my specialty and what I signed up for.

My mission as I had to accept was to stop this attack on Highton View by what means at hand. My objectives were two primary goals. One was to get into contact with Ishada and confirm what I knew already and get any new information from him which he might not have published. If I get something actionable, I move to the next and more complicated goal. The Datalists staging zone, there had to be one for something this complex, needed to be shut down. If Railius and this Daemon were going to use human attackers I could steer law enforcement their way it will at least expose their plot. The office and Langley get their proof and the real alerts and resource rollouts would come en mass. Pushing the snowball down the hill to get the avalanche of response I wanted was what needed to happen. Anything after was too far for me to see and be out of my hands. As I plotted contingencies and formulated methods I was getting my mission loadout ready.

I pulled an olive drab tactical jacket, the same kind from the night before, but this time under it I’d have a bit more firepower and capabilities from a few hours ago. I pulled a brand new HK USP off the wall to boost my firepower. The angular grey machined metal German pistol had just come out with it in .45 ACP which was the main reason I took it. My Barretta was good at keyholing shots but I waned stopping power at point-blank. Added with a threaded barrel built-in and a matching suppressor I could keep it a bit quieter if I had to pull triggers again. I packed a boot knife on my left leg and an ankle holster with one .32 revolver, a ditch pistol specifically. I pulled out a concealed armored vest, same as before but this time I put trauma plates in the back and the front. I learned in Somolia you can get shot in the back even if you aren’t running away. I had fashioned my shoulder holsters with extra magazine holsters, straps and mounts for other equipment since I couldn’t find anything on the market which was modular to sate my needs. The special knife Gennai gave me fit easily into a scabbard, going into the center of my back and still was hidden by my jacket ribbed hem just as well. The newest addition of kit was the device Gennai gave me which I put on under my jacket just under my right shoulder’s pad for the holster. It had a clip on the back so I secured it one of the leather shoulder pads on my holster. With a little bit of luck I found a LASH throat mic which managed to go into what I hoped was a headphone jack. It clicked in so here was hoping. My turtle neck shirt would hide the throat transducer easily. With a custom switch, I could change between the device and my cellphone which was in a custom pocket to keep my hands free if I had to make a call. I didn't bother with a radio of any kind; no one around at the moment to talk to who might have been able to help. I had a lock pick set as well in fabric roll tucked into a pants pocket and two handcuff keys. One in the roll and the other sewed into my pants fabric tag on my pants hem above my ass. To get at it I also sewed in the tip edge of a razor blade in cardboard for my own set of silver bracelets or zip ties. With all I had strapped onto me, I moved onto my carry bag with my extra equipment.

It was a single triangular-shaped sling bag made of dull gray nylon as to not attract attention was where I was going to take my laptop. Normally taking this out into the field was a paperwork nightmare to justify but I needed this in case I wanted to steal something from a computer or get into a network. They advertised they liked computers so if I could hook in and steal everything I would. If they had a mainframe or a LAN I knew enough to strip mine whatever I could with this. Still have to plug it into a wall to send off my report but all I needed was a phone hook up. What times we live in right? Along with that, I had some more break-in tools, black zip ties, some extra firepower in the form of nasty explosive surprises and spare magazines for my pistol if it got worse. All in, I was set.

I put all of this on in a ritualistic fashion for anyone who had been watching, carefully inspecting all of the parts for any breakage or defect. I field stripped the guns, function tested them to be sure before putting them back together and settling them into where they needed to be. I'd only have myself to blame if it didn't work. Added on a thick baseball cap, sunglasses and some tight leather gloves and that was all I needed to not leave a trace looking like another person on their way to work the night shift. I made my way to the door, Cyrismon was waiting in the hallway ahead of me. ‘I’m locking down the place.’ I informed him, ‘Means motion sensors and alarms if you trip them. Can’t have that so you’re going to have to find someplace else to brood.’

Cyrismon didn’t even wait to nod his head before intercepting me in a slow fashion, walking at a very forceful pace with clenched fists. One hand came up to my shoulder, blocking my way with his body from the front as if a post of steel braced itself. I came to a stop, the look wasn’t concern or of impending encouragement. This was intent and it was edging towards murderous. ‘I’ll be watching you.’ He bluntly put, ‘I’m only here to defend you from my kind and Fallen Agents, not humans. You lead me to Railius, I’ll take it from there.’

Revenge. Undeniable. Based reaction. He wanted a crack and cause more than a dent in silver hair, I wouldn’t pass up passing on the task. I nodded once. ‘Just don’t get tunnel vision and not see what’s beyond him.’ I advised, ‘This is both worlds at stake as you said, not just whatever is between you two.’

Cyrismon didn’t answer as he let me go, letting his arm drop as I went to the panel to arm it. I heard him open the balcony door to the outside world. ‘At least let me know if someone’s tailing me or setting an ambush?’ I asked as I heard the door slide open.

I didn’t get an answer as the air pressure shifted out and then back in, the balcony door barely coming to a stop as I turned back. The rouge upright wolf had vanished entirely as the vertical blinds finished shifting aside. Jumped off the balcony or shifted into an invisible space who was to tell. Either way, the Digimon felt comfortable out in broad daylight he wouldn’t be seen so let him. I would have liked a passing assurance but maybe the cynical wolfish being wouldn’t be such a literalist he’d let me get murdered by someone getting lucky. With that, I armed the panel on the wall and every electronic lock in the building clacked shut. I didn’t know if I was ever coming back as I stepped outside; I never knew with my profession. I could only do what I was trained to do. What I was good at. Stepping off, the mission was go.

I was a lot more careful of what I was doing this time, assuming I was being watched or tailed. Usually spies know of other spies and surveil them at all times in every country as best they can. Every embassy is bugged by someone other than the owners. The difference was I was one of those slippery kinds, the ghost type who gives spies the slip. It's easy if you get creative. I wasn’t one for prosthetic noses or hiding in a fake dog costume to slip out of a building. I blended into crowds and camouflaged on the way by changing my profile or swapping clothes if needed. I avoided the street cameras, used taxis and took as many back alleys as I could to get around. It's never a direct approach and its a skill you learn. You got to be a bit forward when doing it, being natural like you’re suppose to be there. Walking through a kitchen area and out the back and not caring what the chef thinks. Going through a public place and into some maintenance area to slip out an emergency exit where you’re forcing a tail to blow their cover. Something which takes ten minutes really takes anywhere from twice as long to an hour depending. The price for that was I knew no one would have noticed me or tailed me. Necessary and in this case vital.

I walked back up the street to Heighton View Terrace, this time a fair bit more cautious and my mind wasn't wandering into questions of what if. The place was effectively a long line of block apartment buildings along the main road, broken up by intersections and walk-over bridges leading into parks and school districts. Not too much to look at as most suburbs go but enough of a note it needed to be blown to hell by a cult and some beings from another dimension. The calls that I made, the files I accessed, the people who looked into these things caused a worldwide seizure of reactionary action over it too. No one would see it, not in a practical sense. In police stations around the world, they might get a blurb of some alert to a possible real alert later today if someone was a bit melodramatic. In unmarked hangers men who wearing a lot of tactical equipment than I do now were getting briefs on this unknown group they'd never heard of. They weren’t going anywhere yet, probably won’t in their minds. It was up to me to validate and verify the fears or dissuade them. That's what I signed up for; to find the threats and have them dealt with. This, while wildly unearthly and supernatural, was no different so treat it the same as the rest of the insanity this country had gone through this year already.

My primary reason to be in Odiba was the conference but I hadn't been sent just because I could speak the language. Being a native of Japan but an American citizen made me perfect for the translation. I was ordered here with an additional tract of reason. Coming back from Kosovo, ethnic cleansing a theme in hotspots recently, I step off the plane and I walk into the wake of a Sairn Gas attack in Tokyo. Being a vet of Desert Storm gave me chemical warfare experience apparently. The group called Aum Shinrikyo cooked the nerve agent up from scratch and even had a Soviet Hind Helicopter in their compound for a later attack. Shoko Asahara and over a hundred of the followers got arrested and up until now, the public thought they all got arrested. All sorts of loony bin types fly the coop before the net swooped down so naturally there were still those out in the wild. They have really messed up folks even for Japan's standards of weird religions. They did electroshock training direct to the brain for the 'purification' of thoughts using this weird headgear they hooked to computers to free their minds of impurities or whatever. I'd make a joke about jumper cables, a car battery and someone strapped to a chair yields the same result but that is probably just in bad taste. I put the first part of my mission to the forefront of my mind, Hiroki Ishida.

I had to meet with one of the leading experts on the Datalists if you could call a local reporter that. Hiroaki Ishida, an investigative reporter to Fuji TV was the man. His big break came when he did some investigation into Aum Shinrikyo a few years ago. Known as a go out and get the story style journalist, he had a reputation of being fearless in the face of the threats he got from the cult. I even found one police report of two men from the cult confronting him, one threatening him with a knife. Ended with a knife guy with second-degree burns from a coffee and the other a concussion from an uppercut. Smart. Ishida was on the breaking news team when the raid went down at the cult’s headquarters complete with his camera crew. Checking his released articles, he started reporting on Aum members dispersing and then the Datalists started to pop up online he continued to follow up on them. If anyone knew of anything we didn't, it would be this reporter. These Datalists were new on the block and rumored to be in the same realm as Aum, at least in the level of fanaticism. What comes after the nilistic outcomes of doomsday or going digital, your guess was as bad as mine. I came up to the door of his apartment in one of the long stretching tenement blocks after climbing the stairs up to the tenth floor. Fewer people to see me come in and I took the long way around the outside walkway balconies to their front door. I rose my hand up to knock when I heard some heated argument coming from inside. Not a domestic dispute from the sounds of it, mostly aggravation and tempers flaring over. I rapped my knuckles on the door and it came to a sudden end with compromised vows to deal with this later. Great.

Three loud clacks of deadbolts later, the door creaked open to show a not industry-standard chain on the door keeping it closed to a pressing hand. First clue something was wrong. Through the crack in the door was the picture of an overworked Japanese middle-class office worker. Dark brown hair, middle-aged and looking way too tired for anything other than paying the bills. Ishida was still wearing the light blue dress shirt, wrinkled and needing an iron badly. His hair was messy and in desperate need of a shower. I could smell the takeout and failing deodorant from here. His eyes were tired beyond belief but they slowly widened when they came into final focus on me. A face long torn apart war and eyes behind black sunglasses was a striking scene to anyone. ‘Mr Ishida?’ I started.

‘Yes?’ He finally spoke, ‘Do I know you?’

‘Unlikely.’ I answered, ‘I'm here to speak to you about your investigation into the Datalists.’

‘Are you a police officer?’ He questioned more.

‘No.’ I shook my head, ‘I am here on behalf of the National Police Agency since I am also investigating the group. I'm here to ask a few questions.’

None of that was really that true but when you're working under the big umbrella of National Security of Uncle Sam, its easy to get around the local law and most of the time they are happy to help or be helped. To back up what I had said since I saw some hesitation in his face I flashed my ID to him I pulled it from my pocket. This was my more official badge, a simple one marked from the US State Department with the seal of the US Government, the words "SPECIAL AGENT" on it. This was just easier to classify me in a civilian context even if I didn't really go to Camp Peary or 'The Farm' where other agents go to get trained. I was Direct Entry exception in my case from my military experience and aptitude tests blowing everyone else in my category out of the water and into orbit. I was in this gray zone until they figured out who was going to keep me, the NSA or CIA. That was for another day to worry about career progression. Regardless, if anyone called the consulate or the embassy someone would pick up the phone at the NSA or Langley and 'verify' my story. Ishida saw it and looked a bit shocked Uncle Sam was at his doorstep. ‘I’ve already passed what I had to the police.’ He excused.

‘May I come inside?’ I cut to the point, ‘This is a matter of your national security. We are trying to avoid an attack.’

Those words caught his attention. The country was naturally shocked of the last attack on Tokyo and Odiba wasn't that far off from where the attack took place. The door closed, the chain latch fell and the door swung all the way open. ‘Come in then.’

Walking in I took stock of the entire apartment in a casual turn of a glance. It was a nice apartment buried under all the strewn clothes, half-eaten food, and scattered of kids toys. Usually, most people in Japan would be shamed into non-existence at the idea of leaving a place messy but this was a result of no time being available and they made due. Everything was off the floor, piled up, and sorted to be thrown away soon as possible. Plenty of indications this was a working family's home; two desks across from each other in the main living room with two workstations completed with many posted notes and cork boards. Both reporters? That was clear from all the clippings, photographs and strewn papers all over the walls. The AC was cranked up to maximum and it wasn't that hot out even for summer. The door closed behind me along with all the locks going back into place. Out from the hallway I saw the second party in this little home so far.

She was quite the lady but she looked pissed off at someone and thankfully it wasn't me. Blond hair, very reserved young lady with look on her face as if she was studying me at the same time I was studying her. Go ahead. She was wearing similar clothing to him, same ID badge on her shoulder and she looked way more haggard. The woman must have had some cognitive ability because she must have known I wasn't just some random person. ‘I didn't get your name.’ Mr Ishada said as I took of my boots.

‘Archer.’ I answered simply standing back up.

‘And who do you work for?’ The female now asked.

‘US State department mamn.’ I bowed lightly as was the custom.

No doubt Mrs. Ishada lamented, palms across the top of her head clutching firmly. ‘Oh god Hiroaki.’ She muttered to herself.

‘Please Nancy not now.’ Mr Ishada hushed her.

‘Is there something wrong?’ I questioned.

‘Yes the very fact you are here.’ Mrs Ishada walked away, ‘First the mail, then the phone calls and now this!’

‘Nancy!’ Mr. Ishada tried to follow her.

‘Mr Ishada.’ I stopped him with my tone, ‘Does this have to do with the Datalists?’

Hiroaki turned back to me looking passively angry at something but it wasn't just this. Nancy just went into the kitchen and I heard angry moving of dishes before it was replaced with a heavy sigh halting a sob. There was the answer ahead of his explanation as far as I was concerned. Strong lady though. ‘The police were already notified of it and they will be looking into it.’ Ishada answered, ‘They are just letters and a few phone calls.’

You really sure about that? ‘I may be able to help you Mr. Ishada.’ I returned to the point, ‘I’ve been investigating them too and a break in my case last night led me to your doorstep since you are a person of interest to them.’

‘You’re investigating them too?’ He asked.

‘Not for long but enough to know they are dangerous.’ I massaged, ‘Your own reporting gave me some clues and I’d like to stop this before anything starts if it indeed will. Is there anything you can tell me that could help me?’

Ishada looked over to his desk of random papers and started to sort through them. Compliant was best. Not as if he had anything to hide or lie. Reporters are duty bound to report crimes, not that it stopped them from keep a source secret or things of that nature. Not that the CIA piggy backed off reporters and journalists before to get in places in the past. I did take the second to look about the room for any other cues or indications of his situation. I saw magazines for home security systems, there were bars installed on the window, re-enforced glass window panes and I spotted two pin hole cameras outside walking up in two potted plants. All this place needed was shotgun in the corner and you'd have the barricading package. The curtains were all drawn back with the blinds closed over just as an added shade of darkness as well on every window. Lots of take out, stacks of empty boxes on every corner. A scan of the cork boards showed lots of leads to many stories but seeing them I could tell which ones were which. There photographs of warehouses, some kind of rituals from afar but one came in the form of a very particular dock area warehouse at the east end of Odiba. Odiba was the largest artificial island in the middle of Toyko so it stood to reason there were plenty of ferries and warehouses. One popped up through all of them as I made my way to them, one very nondescript place but it was a huge warehouse on the waterfront. ‘They caught up to me far faster than Aum did.’ Ishada looked over putting some of the papers together, ‘I was careful. I didn’t even use my name this time in the paper but they found out anyway. They have a lot of money and grew like an infection.’

‘Never underestimate anyone's ability Mr Ishida.’ I tried not to sound condescending, ‘We live in a dawn of a digital age. Anyone can find out anything about anyone if they have the right access code or computer. Threats react quickly even to those who are just doing their jobs.’

The reporter paused in his sorting, looking over at me with wide eyes as he compiled the papers in his hand. Aum was still fresh to him as the rest of the country. I looked back and saw he wasn't so certain. ‘What makes you think they are dan---.’

‘Someone like me standing in your living room is your answer Mr. Ishida.’ I interrupted bluntly.

Nancy came back out of the kitchen now, hearing my tone as my eyes started to flash through the papers of scribbling, printed lines and diagrams I was handed. I instantly cut through things I did know like who they were talking to, their online presence, what they believed and went right to who they were and where they met. The photo of the warehouse on the docks linked up with the notes here. Bingo. ‘The police are handling it.’ Mr Ishada insisted, ‘I have contacts in the Metro Police and I won't let some nasty phone calls stop me from getting to the bottom of this just like before.’

Gotta give the guy credit for being an integral part of the fourth estate. That friend of his was in Zero Unit, Sergent Hida. ‘Its scaring the boys Hiro.’ Nancy insisted almost to tears, ‘Its scaring me! You know the kinds of people who send threatening mail and phones us in the middle of the night!’

‘People who are afraid of the facts getting out.’ He answered resolutely, ‘There is something bigger behind this digital cult and I want to know it and we need the people to know it too!’

I had flipped through the papers as I paced around the room almost unobserved, Nancy becoming further agitated at Hiroaki but probably a bit more reserved now a total stranger was in the room. Getting to the end and tabbing all of it up I saw something on the last page. Symbols that matched the ones on Gennai's and Railius's robes. There was a circle on one of the photographs of one of the cultists, a neck tatoo and one on their foreheads. The dedication was strong to have that stabbed into your skin there. I shifted my jacket and saw all of them matched the prototype that Gennai gave me! ‘What if these aren’t just threats?’ Mrs Ishada countered, ‘Who's going to protect me or the kids!’

I saw what they meant. On the wall there were a lot of hand written letters, some printed out and they were all drawn with neat kanji. One thing about these letters they were very matter of fact, rarely did someone go to that much trouble to make the handwriting neat. Usually the words spelled out in magazine clipping to avoid handwriting matches. These Datalits wanted their intentions in plain and perfect inked calligraphy. It started off with the typical verbal diarrhea of threats. We know who you are. Stop being a disbeliever. Join us and see or else. Then it got dark. Its too late for you. You had your chance. You failed to understand. You'll spread lies no more. These are your last days. That was the last letter. Noted. ‘What's going to happen Mr Archer?’ Nancy looked to me, ‘Is...there a real threat?’

I turned to her after pulling a photograph off the wall, the one I needed to study intently. I looked up at both of them and held up the picture. ‘Tell me about what you know about these symbols before I get to that.’

Mr Ishada looked at the picture, he seemed almost reluctant that I picked that photograph. I could safely guess that he expected me to ask about the warehouse but those buildings don't move so I didn't have to worry. He took the photo and looked it over. ‘There's nothing much to really say about these symbols that would matter to you.’ He evaded.

‘Then just say--.’ I signaled him to continue but then a beeping cut me off.

I heard the communicator in my jacket go off, the distinctive tone alien to my phone catching me off guard. I pulled back my jacket and pushed the button to silence it but I heard static kick off in my ear. Mr Ishada's eyes lit up as he probably saw the device, deer in headlights look. Strange. ~*’Archer its Gennai.’*~ His voice crackled through the headpiece.

Well the mic jack worked at least. My quick soldering job did the trick! ‘Hold that thought.’ I said turning away and placing my fingers on the two circular vocal sensors on my throat.

‘Hey wait!’ He started but I held a hand up at him as I walked into a hallway to keep him off me.

‘Go for Archer.’

~*’Where are you?’*~

‘I'm with a contact right now.’ I answered, ‘Why? You got something?’

~*’I think someone is coming for one of the children right now!’*~ Gennai informed.

Children? What the hell was he talking about? There were specific people these people were going after? Would have been nice to know that ahead of time you fucking idiot. ‘Where?’ I cut to the point.

~*’Highton View Terrance tenth floor of the south building!’*~ He whispered, ~*’ Apartment 1010. Cyrismon spotted them. You have to hurry!’

A rewind in my head for a split second told me it was exactly where I was. Right up to the room number I saw on the front door. The day is just getting better. ‘I'm already here.’ I assured as Mr Ishada came around the corner on a mission, ‘How long?’

‘Dad what's going on?’ A smaller voice said from down the hallway.

I glanced over my shoulder at who appeared in the hallway. It was a kid, maybe ten or twelve years old at the most. Blond hair that was messy all over, blue eyes like his mother and probably a few more of his father's looks going for some of his facial features but that was near impossible to tell unless I had a side by side picture. He was wearing a white t-shirt with some blue trimmings and he looked like he was taking a nap of some kind. A second, the littler one to be sure the first's brother. He had lighter brown hair, same eyes as the mom and similar looks. He was just wearing pajamas, a simple pattern of some kind of kid's anime characters on them. The children in question. ‘Go back to bed kids!’ Mr Ishada pointed and then turned back to me.

‘But Da---’ One of them started.

‘Get back in your rooms this instant!’ He demanded looking right at me, ‘That thing under your jacket? Where did you get it?!’

Now that was an interesting question. ‘You know what it is?’ I asked, 'If you do, we might have bigger problems first.'

~*’Ishada?’*~ I heard Gennai over the line, ‘By the Codes! They are going after Matt and TK! How did they know?!’

‘Matt and TK?’ I couldn't help but asked through the mic.

‘How did you know my sons' names?!’ Mr Ishada now shoved me, ‘What's going on here?!’

I didn't answer the push because I was becoming far more incensed at the person on the other end of the line. I wasn't about to break Hiroki arm either. Not yet anyway. ~*’They just got out of the elevator!*~ Gennai sounded frantic now, ~*’Archer do something!’*~

I looked to my left, saw the wide eyes of the young boys' confusion. I looked forward and saw the frustrated panic on the father's face. I looked right and saw the mother seeing nothing but desperate fear. The letters on the wall showed the intent of those who were coming. I lowered my head slowly for the longest moment so far of the day. Eyes closing in a blink as I knew there was only one way this was going. Only one way now it was going to be dealt with no time to do anything else. When I rose my head back up again, my eyelids clicked open and caused the reporter to flinch back. ‘Mr Ishada.’ I spoke calmly.

He didn't answer, just went stiffer up in front of me waiting for something. The boys leaned in with the smaller one being shielded by his bigger brother. The mother took a breath in. ‘The threat is real.’ I answered him, ‘They are coming here now. And I'm going to deal with it for you.’

I shoved right past him, not wanting to wait for an answer. I cleared the doorway and right past Nancy as I got back to my boots. I jumped into them, threw the laces over and knotted them both up. From my ankle holster neither parent saw originally, pulling the stub nose from the Velcro in a stripping crackle. I reached up and snagged the large tan trench coat off the rack at the door as my backpack came over in front instead of my back. ‘What are you doi-?’ Mr Ishada breathed as he saw the gun.

‘You a favor.’ I responded tossing over the trench coat, ‘Ever used a gun?’

‘Whu- why?’

Good. Rules just flew out the window. Results were all that mattered for these now High-Value Individuals. I’ll make it official if I make it out of this. I took his hand and slapped the revolver into it, turning it and gripping his fingers around it properly. ‘Double action.’ I squared up with his face, ‘Six shots of thirty-eight special, no safety so just point and fire. Anyone comes through that door isn’t in a police uniform or me, shoot them.’

Nancy gave a ghasp of a cry trying to hold it in her mouth with her hands but she took off to the bedroom for a reason. The kids were thankfully oblivious to what was happening and shuffled back to the door frame to look but still hide. Smart kids. I snatched the ID tag off his shirt with another flash of a grab and attached it to his overcoat on my left side. ‘Wait what are you going to do?’ He grabbed me by the shoulder to hold me in place.

That didn't go anywhere with me, my hand coming up and crimping down on his. He yelped pulling his arm away as he felt every nerve in his hand go on fire for a moment. A look got him to not try that again with a point. ‘Solve the problem.’ I answered as I unlatched the deadbolt, ‘Barricade the door in case they don’t care about being quiet. Shoot from the kitchen window since they will likely focused on the getting through it. Don't call the cops unless you open fire. I'll lead them off.’

Ishida nodded lightly as he started to process all the things I was saying quickly, pushing the kids into their room and shutting the door. I opened the front door and took a quick peek with my unscarred left eye and saw who was coming. As if on cue four men came around the corner, basic street clothes but they were marching in lockstep in a loose V formation like they had practiced it. The Datalists had arrived.

It was a gang of them and they all dressed to be inconspicuous but I knew who they were the moment my eye caught them. Ball caps down low, sunglasses and surgical masks covered their faces but the tattoos I could see under their collars, their sleeves or behind their ears were plain to see. The digital symbols tattooed in black ink seemed to match the ones on the wall inside Ishdia’s home, Gennai’s amulet or on the device on my shoulder. One particular one had an outline of a broken version of my given tech which he was trying to hide with a cap on his head in the middle of his forehead. I looked in the other direction and spotted three more, same getups but no one else with the forehead tattoo just turning the corner. Pulled my head back in and turned so my head was inside but my jacket and body was outside. Mr. Ishada looked at me in reasonable fear I gave an encouraging but reluctant nod to him. I’ll deal with this. 'Love you sweetheart!' I spoke loud enough, 'Be back later!'

There was a flash in his eyes of him catching on to what I was doing. The gears turned in his head as I closed the door firmly. Hope this worked. ~*Archer what are you doing?!’*~ I heard Gennai scream through my headset.

What you asked. 'Ishada!' I heard the leader call out.

The door locked the instant after it latched into the door frame with every bolt following in sequence. I glanced over barely enough for them to see and the other group to not at all from behind the shallow door frame. 'Yeah?' I answered gruffly.

'This is your last day.' He repeated the words in the letter as he wrote it.

We shall see but I doubt it. The rushed ruse had been taken. The group who was to my left was the closest, coming in thinking this was a present wrapped up just for them. From the frame of the door, I leapt off it and away into the smaller group, head down and in a lunging stride. The first in front took a step back surprized, the second moved up to intercept and the last tried to get ahead of all three. I barreled right into them, shoulder checking the first, headbutting the second away and jumping up and drove my knee right into the midsection of the last. Number one slammed into a wall, the second's nose exploded in blood and the third ripped off his feet slammed into the corner of the low wall of the walkway balcony like a horse kicked him into it. I was stood with my back to the ret as I came to a stop. I rose up my middle finger the four as the three all hit the ground. ‘You aren’t the first.’ I taunted.

'GET HIM!' The leader ordered with a point.

Come and try.

The standing took after me, bypassing the door completely seeing I was their target. I waited as the three grounded groaned out from the floor, harnessing their devotion to get back to their feet. All for blew past the door and didn't give it a look back. They wanted Mr Ishada, not his wife or kids or at least yet. Good. I bolted for the fire escape. 'Gennai tell me where it is secluded!' I demanded through the communicator going for a fire escape.

~*'I'm not the one there!'*~ Gennai responded, ~*'Cyrismon is updating me!'*~

I wasn’t going to ask either to lift a finger to help for what was to come. This was my realm and I wasn’t going to outsource my problems. I drove shoulder first into the door stop, the enclosed stairwell zig-zagging down with a two-foot gap in the middle that lead up to the roof and looking down all the way to street level. I traversed the stairs leaping down almost all the steps, using the guard rail to swing my way down in harsh landings. The mass of Railius followers barreled their way through the door as I made it to the third, screams of orders and shouts to get out of each other's way as they chased after who they thought was an investigative reporter. No one stayed behind. Ishida was safe for now as Gennai wanted. I on the other hand had to deal with the real problem.

I broke out onto the street after a half a minute of stairs and now my hide and seek from the cameras took a turn for the harder. I had to spot where they were while running through a busy street with bystanders who were seeing me run through traffic filled streets. The mob behind me in a staggered column as it burst out the door, keeping up with me as I zig zagged through people, cars and streets. I could feel the people around me pointing as the seven pursuers were relentlessly tailing a man in a tan trench coat. Running past people, jumping over vehicles and obstacles the mob behind me just barrelled through everything in their way. I was plotting my route, seeing where the people were thinning out as I went. I wanted somewhere this wouldn't be seen. I could have easily outpaced them but I let them keep up and didn't fully evade them. I wanted them to follow me as far as I could make them. Further from Ishida the better. There were darting eyes seeing me blow past, the rare cellphone yet to call the police. I went in search of seclusion of anyone who might see what I was going to have to do.

My answer came to an area between two buildings after six blocks of full running, the residential areas giving way to more commercial hybrids. All sorts of shops both private and chain stores flashed past as the small squad of Datalists were gaining on me because I was slowing down to let them. I spotted an alley way, taking a wide birth to avoid the camera pointing down at the entrance to the corner. I turned the corner and shot past missing the view of it and saw down the long alley. It was clear except for all the dumpsters and metal shutter garages back there. The far end was walled off with permanent cement barriers and high chain link fencing. Dead end for them.

I got halfway down the alleyway and came to a stop in three hoping steps, deciding it was going to happen here. The running feet of the herd of followers thundering stop at the end of the alley's exit to the street with wind sucking and coughing. Stampeding around the corner, one almost falling on his face if it wasn’t for the wall he caught, the men fading trying to get their stamina back. I took one breath in and a slow one out. I was ready. They were drained. ‘You really thought you’d get away?' I heard the leader pant overdramatically.

I looked up continuing to breath slowly, calming my mind as I knelt down pretending to be as winded. It was to palm my boot knife. The one on my back would be seen so I couldn’t go for it. I stood back up with the slim hilt pinched with two fingers against my palm, mirroring the look on my other hand raised in a false surrender. ‘One chance.’ I offered hopefully, ‘You surrender peacefully and quietly wait for the police I promise you’ll all get a fair trial. If you don’t, you won’t.’

Tilting the polished watch face up so the light didn’t hit it too much glare, I used it as mirror to see all seven men even in a low-resolution way to see how they reacted. They didn't seem to take the hint, some of them laughed while pointing at me. Knives came from their jackets, whips of wrists produced extendable batons and the familiar clacking of latching metal into two feet of beating steel filled in the blurry gaps. They were serious. The leader stood back behind all of them with his arms crossed nodding with a smug grin I could just feel he was beaming. 'Bring him to his knees.' He instructed, 'Railius will pleased. You three, hold him down.’

The three approached with rapid steps, the one in lead reached for my left shoulder. I lowered my head for my final steadying breath. They made their choice.

So be it.

----------------------------VIOLENCE WARNING--------------------------

I flicked the boot knife up in an underhand grip, my head twisted to the side to see the closet’s man’s face with his hand so close I could smell the grime under his nails. He had enough time to spot the silver sheen of the three-inch blade’s freshly wet stoned edge before I pivoted at my hips. Nothing he could have done would have stopped it finding itself three inches through and past his aorta, my fist pressed up into his neck. I ripped it back, his eyes bulged out of his head and a red froth came with and out of his screaming mouth. A swing of an extendable baton was arming up before my boot came in and embedded the tread of it into his diaphragm. The swing went right down into the pavement along with the ability to breath, legs kicking out from under him. The second man buckled over, the third brought his switchblade in a downwards slash to get at me. My blade arm arched up into his, stepping into the man to catch him under the armpit, a counter hit to his throat with a jab. Too concerned for the second not able to breathe, I dropped the dagger out of my left and it landed in my open right. The moment it landed it went right back up and drove up under and through his chin. Through the skin, tongue, roof of his mouth, and then brain in a heartbeat. I didn’t have to look at his eyes to see the brain firing on random due to the sudden hemorrhaging in his skull. I slid the blade out, the body falling away and it hit with that hollow noise of an empty corpse slapping pavement. Three new bodies and the only worse for wear I was I had smeared two people’s blood on a trench coat which wasn’t mine.

‘That isn't Ishada.' One of them pointed out.

My adrenaline was up, breathing was low and steady as my will overrode any doubts I had for what I was about to do. I was used to soldiers or other dedicated spies. People who spent a lot of time of thinking about ways to kill people like me. I do it right back. These fools had only thought because they had hand weapon no one would think twice let alone fight. The group stopped in their tracks as my gaze lowered down, tossing my back pack off to the side as and along with the bloody trench coat to the other leaving me more limber. The man who was still trying to breath was curled over trying to get gulp any air from my kick. I lifted my foot up and drove it down on the back of his skull, flattening his face onto the pavement and nauseating crunch came with it. They all made a singular protesting shocked shout, the only response they gave to seeing another one of their fellow cultists get snuffed out. A spasm and then stillness, a gurgle then nothing. The choaking of the dying man behind me ended in a frothing cough leading to the din of the city background noise. The remaining three and their leader were still as the air in the alley now, blood draining away from the bodies and their faces in conjunction. The reality I just made before them clear as the sky was blue. The stale smell of dust and asphalt now mixing with the coppery note of the blood mixing in giving rise to their visible dread. I reached down and plucked the extendable batons off the ground, the clattering of steel on pavement grating their ears I was the last person they ever should have met and they knew it. ‘Now you’ve seen my face and you’ll warn your friends you failed.’ I pointed the blunt end at them, ‘None of you are leaving this alley now.’

I began walking towards them now with deliberately slow and short steps towards the remaining four to not prolong this any longer. A brief look across all of their faces told me enough. They were scared. Some were still concerned for their buddies who may or may not have been dead to them. They were, it just had not sunk into them yet. Overriding all of it was their own anger and devotion, their postures willing themselves up to get back into the fight. ‘Kill him!’ The leader screeched.

The three remaining charged in a mewling battle cry while their fearless delegator watched on as I met them in the fray to prevail. They came for a reporter and his family. They thought they’d have every advantage. They thought they’d do whatever they wanted. They never did this before. They found me instead. Right from their first movements, I knew I had the advantage even with the numbers. Thinking if they dog piled around me it would be enough to get in a hit; they barreled at me like one going over Niagara Falls. I could see the strikes flying at me from the far end of the river. If they had even the faintest notion of coordination it might have given them a chance. Instead, they all jockeyed around directly in front of me as I flourished the baton around to keep them back while keeping myself moving forward. My tactic was to counterstrike, let them give me the opening and make them pay for it. Trying to get a strike in when they thought I wasn’t looking was rewarded with a snap of steel rod or a slash of a blade on exposed skin. I edged forward dodging strikes and inching forward with hits, their blood leaving a trail backwards in their painful retreating. I knew muscles were being damaged, small bones fracturing or the pure impacts staggering the remaining cultists when I commited on a hit. Their anger was giving into the desperation as my attacks were reducing their effectiveness, blood spilling from wounds distracting their own tactics in heavy drops. They hit me with all the precision of a high school parking lot fight but I wasn’t immune to not getting hit. I made sure I didn’t get cut so if I had to take a strike anywhere I couldn’t block or dodge in time I’d let it be blunt rather a slash. Still wounded from the night before, it began to sting when I caught a sidekick in the ribs and a forearm over the side of my head glancing off a block. A break in the battle came when one man tried to dive forward going for my legs but I caught him around the neck and throat letting him take me back a few steps. Dumbest thing he could done and he wouldn’t have even a moment to realize it as I sunk my blade tip into the back of his skull. The crunching noise confirmed it and I tossed his lifeless body aside. The last one with a baton tried an overhead swing he learned from a police riot on TV. I leaned aside and spun under his arm and with the pivot at my hips, I swung for the cheap seats with both hands. My steel landed flat of his temple with a distinct metallic clack, the man’s arms went limp and faceplanted. The last squared off and sent in a few hooks at me, my forearms batting them away until I broke his knee with a crack of my baton sending him down right into the point of my knife driving up into his throat. I pulled my fist back and saw the leader finding himself alone. He reached for his beltline, finger curled into the cloth forgetting it was there. A gun. I twisted on the spot dragging the knife through one side of the squirming man’s neck the gurgling cultist fell aside as I whipped the baton at the leader with the momentum. It spun sideways round and round like a helicopter rotor the distance between us right at his head. He ducked it barely but my hand had dove into my jacket and drew my pistol out. The sights lined up on his belt and I fired with the recoil going up in three rising shots to follow.

The leader didn’t seem to register what just happened as there was a dime-sized hole in his hand straight through both top and palm. Still going through the motion he tried to pull his weapon but the other bullets had hit something more important sapping the life right out of him. The brown-handled Makarov pistol fumbled out of his grip and the leader's eyes were wide, confused even if the one-handed gun stance should have told him all he needed to know. He fell to his knees, tried to remain upright with an outstretched hand but collapsed onto the alley street helpless to the damage I inflicted. The ringing of brass casing tingling on the ground was the final bells of this fight. It was done.

I finally caught up with my breathing, long and deep with a sheen of sweat on my face as the fight ended. Soreness from a few hits radiated through me, aggravating my injuries from the last night giving the stiffening reminders. Checking for wounds I saw my jacket had been nicked a few times but nothing deeper. My torso was sorer so my ribs were not happy. The opposing force went from seven to zero. Four from knife wounds, two due to head trauma and the leader was gripping the invisible last threads of life that frayed away as the seconds ticked past. Trying to breathe and losing, crawling in vain to retrieve the pistol he lost. My boot came down on top of it as I took the last step forward, halting him as his eyes looked up. A bloody cough landed crimson spatters on the toe of my boot as I slid the gun back under my heel away from him. There was a look of resentment, I had seen it before of those who lost to in their final moments. ‘You should have led with the pistol.’ I informed him, ‘Might have saved us both a lot of trouble.’

‘Who--a-are—yo…’ He managed before he trailed off.

Dying from gunshot wounds could be instant, seconds or minutes depending on how good or poor of a shot you landed. Seeing where the former leader was bleeding from, I clipped the lungs or artery to speed it along. His head lowered down, the breathing came to a stop in a fading wet hiss. I listened for any sirens or looked to see if I had any witnesses from the alley. Nothing. I looked down back into the empty accusing stare of his eyes as I caught my own breath again. ‘No one that no one will know.’ I answered safely to say it now.

~*Archer…by the Code…what have you done?!*~ I heard an exasperated Gennai through my earpiece.

I didn’t know I had left the mic open all this time or Gennai managed to see what I did and broke through. Cyrismon relaying a play by play maybe? I now stood among seven bodies, covered in blood that wasn’t my own this time. A bitter taste in my mouth built up, an acidic backwash of adrenaline-fueled resentment of being pushed to this point. Seven bodies laying all around me in an alleyway of men who would have murdered a family. I could only swallow it back along with everything else, to not leave my DNA on this future crime scene to spit off the feeling off. I brought my hand up to my throat mic, pressing it firmly to my skin to make my answer clearly heard. The mic keyed up, I let it linger to catch every word I'd say and I looked up to the middle distance with not one hint of remorse or satisfaction to the victory here. ‘What you needed me to do.’ I answered coldly, ‘My job.’
 
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I really liked how this came out. Archer shows he's been through a lot with the burns and bullet wounds. He's spent a lot of time and effort trying to live the covert life and Gennai asking a man who doesn't exist who may be is a dangerous thing.

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GOD this took forever but it is done! The first is finished in an audio format so if you want to know what some of the characters sound like through some of my own voice acting here you go. I'll be doing the rest of these now I have some music to go with my voice work and my aim is to post the story and the voice-over at the same time.

 

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This didn't take as long and a little longer than the last one, with more SFX!
 
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Been awhile hasn't it? But here is an audio version of the What Is At Stake.
 

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REDACTED
In the endless garden I drifted through lost in the beauty of all of what I brought life but my mind kept drifting back to the very hollow feeling of uncertainty of the human called Archer.

My name is Giamon, the Digital Mother of Nature. All things that grow, stem, blossom and spread through the Digital World were my doing in some way or other. The endless fields of green forests with a spattering of vibrant colors of the leaves, flowers and budding saplings to the hot deserts where the simplistic of life is still grown under the sands. From the high mountains of flowering flecks of life to garnish the highest peaks to the depths of the sea of technicolor marvels was my crafting. All of it was the curated tapestry I sparked life to and let spread through it in blissful joy. Long ago I let it develop on its own like a good mother should, through all the help and harm it can cause. One would think it cruel to make something which would hurt my children in any way, I’d remind you that a good mother needs to teach her offspring to be aware of dangerous things to avoid even more dangerous creatures. I provided my distant guidance, it was very much needed from my realm and my own way of reaching out to a world I could no longer directly interact with. My existence is akin to a creator looking in the window of a museum sealed from all sides of all their worlds of works on display. My atonement for my mistakes.

I stood in my own personal garden, a macrocosm within of our Temple of Mastery plane, between both the Digital World and the Human World. It was a place unto itself, the three circular domes attached to the main pyramid structure orbited between the two realities over and over again while the horizons passed by between day and night. It gave our home a perpetual twilight from the outside. In here it was like I was back on our world, among my omni-child of creation. A stretching tropical forest in all directions, small creeks flowing fuelled by the natural misting rains at times like veins around me. Large enough to feel like its own world in my own self-sustaining half-sphere of creation. My personal gallery of vegetation decorated the grasses, the rich earthy ground. The shifting vibrancy of the flowers, the nutrient-filled veins along the stems provided a feast for the eyes. Some were actually edible, myself preferring my sweet roots and minty bananas which were plentiful. In my heart I knew it wasn’t the same, knowing if I went too far in one direction I would be reminded of its end by the towering stone curve going high into the air above its barrier. Even with it being covered in roots and budding green mosses I knew it was just a large spacious room. Nothing but a contained garden compared to the world I shaped with life. It would have to suffice.

Drifting through the dense forest I nurtured into valleys and rolling hills I usually came to meditate but lately, I was distracted by these horrid events. Usually designing new staples of fauna to my world to be crafted or conjured to see if it would flourish or fail. Seeing how my sentient children Digimon would respond and similar thoughts crossed my mind too. Much of the time I passed my days playing with all the baby types of Digimon who wandered through my garden at the beginning of their lives; freshly hatched from their eggs in Primary Village on File Island. They had to leave eventually; it saddened me but I had to remind myself how the most common Digimon would react to my vegetation creations. I also loved the sound of their squeaks and coos for attention, the wonder of their absorbing eyes. A motherly type craves such things. While considering my current unease a sharp cry came through the trees, snapping my far away worries for the nearest crisis arising. My ears zoned in on suffering of one of my children far off in the distance and I was away to it immediately.

Zipping through the trees with my wings a humming blur as I navigated through each tree where I knew it was. Long ago I memorized every blade and twig of my garden sanctuary so I could fly blind at top speed if need be. When I came to a stop I found a little green bulb of a baby level Digimon mewling in the panic of being trapped in vine it had tripped over. Its wide button eyes and stumpy green legs flailed about, trying in vain to bite it off at the stem level. I landed softly as it looked up at me. ‘Oh Giamon!’ She squeaked at me, ‘Help me! The vine is gonna eat me!’

I gave a soft sigh as I knelt on down to it, a bemused smile on my face as I tenderly took off the vine with a brush of my palm across it. It recoiled on its own and away. No fault of its own, it was just a baby on her way to play elsewhere. ‘A simple vine will not hurt you any more than the grass will.’ I taught nicely, ‘Let me look at your foot.’

The little Digimon ruffled its palm leaf top of its head as I looked at its stubby hoofed toes and baby like foot with green fuzz over it. There was indeed a very nasty rash there where the vine had skinned it from the twisting. ‘Let me make that all better Tanemon.’

‘Yes please!’ She implored me.

My had softly reached down, laying a palm over the entirety of her foot while my other touched the ground. The foliage around me creaked lightly as the energy sapped away from it. It was nothing I couldn’t do without but this was easier. The energy twisted through me and right to the palm of my hand, the rash burn slowly faded out and back into smooth skin. The young-ling sprang up and beamed her eyes at me. ‘Oh thank you so much Giamon!’ She bounced up and down at me.

‘It’s no trouble.’ I softly pet the top of her natural fern hair, ‘You go and play now.’

Tanemon blinked, smiled and went bounding off into the trees again, humming away to whatever friends she'd find out there. No more than a few seconds passed my mind came back to the human a world away clawing back through my mind like an aggressive grass fire. I couldn't help feel the trees around me lean in as if they wished to know why it was bothering me so much. It conjured a memory I wish I could wash away but all the world's oceans would still leave it unmoved. What frightened me about this human wasn't the past horrors of the breaking of the Great Firewall, but who he may represent. I knew enough of my own world's evils but humans could match or exceed such boundaries. Infimon had told me in the past in warning. An uncertainty in Archer’s unexpected ability and brutality but the undoubted bravery in the face of some of my world's terrors were just as indisputable. I needed to know more and only Infimon would be able to find out for certain.

I hovered through the trees continuing to be stuck in the same thoughts as I neared the large archway that lead to the great main hall of our Temple. I had made sure the entrance to my side of our home was framed by large roots and vines in decorative binders and braiding, a path of grass as the natural welcoming mat to my little slice of green back to the main hall.

Entering the main corridor of the Temple of Masters, it was a stark change from my natural sanctuary to the imposing stone. The towering trees were replaced by high carved columns which lined the wide hallway made up of tan squared stone. The above-pointed ceiling stretched higher, statues of many great Digimon we recognized adorned the pillars carved in white marble the larger ones up higher and the smaller ones lower so we could see them. We needed reminders sometimes those who stood for the Digital World, even we forget sometimes over thousands of years. The walls were all carved murals, done by Yamatomon or Infimon when he was so inclined, of battles waged and the Digital World's history in visual form. All in precise detail as well with the level of carving embedded into the sandstone-like walls. You could count the hairs of fur or the number of scales depending on the creature. Any further detail was described by inscriptions in the mural. As I made my way down the hall, caught in an uplifting thought I came to the one mural which dragged me back down accented by my current subconscious. The Chosen Children, the Digital Destined.

Our decision to have children as saviors of our world was one of an unexpected circumstance. Thousands of our years ago these children came to our world by sheer accidental but transformative discovery. One of our Order brought them through to our attention and began the first real age of the Digital World where it rose into a civilization spanning an ever-expanding world. The data from the human world began flooding into ours and all the Pandora like changes that came from it. The inspiration of the ingenuity that came with it built our world to heights rivaling their own civilization. The five of them changed our world, standing together with their Digimon partners. Their young faces were bright and looking up to the engraved sun in the sky, the then five crests adorned through the rays separating them. The one in the middle stands the tallest, proudest and determined, the leader of them had in his raised fist his Digivice. The rays radiating above his head sharp lines of light against the darkness around them. They remained in our world for years at a time, crafting it to heights that prior were unimaginable. The wondrous and boundless things they accomplished led to the crushing sadness of it all.

All of them were lost to us now. One battle sealed their fates and rendered our world a whisper of its former self. I sadly passed it, already had come to terms with the failure of all of us. A story I did not want to retell.

Speeding along the corridor, I neared the northern part of the Temple as I went through the meeting room where we had spoken to Gennai. The large forge room came into view just as I passed it on the left side of the hall. Even from a hundred feet away I could feel the heat blasting out from inside it. Yamatomon didn't care, he was unaffected by it but as I came up to the edge of the door. I could feel myself start to wilt a little bit and my skin dry up very quickly. It wasn’t Yamatomon’s domain, it was far too small. The forge room was on the way to his domain, the large sphere at the furthest northern side and it was like walking into a desert canyon. His own castle was carved into the side of the granite-like stones, the pillared columns of his keep lined with the weapons he had made. The trophies of battles he collected over his infinite life from tributes of other warriors and taken from fallen foes the motif. The large dragon clanged a crude but effective hammer down on sword larger than I was on a large anvil, the entire side of it red hot with sparks flying. Around the large dome were weapons mounted by driven in spikes. Axes, claymores, shields, knives, maces, chest plates and some many more I couldn't being to count a fraction without taking hours to complete. Yamatomon didn't need a furnace, he used his own fire for that as his other hand was open palm first spewing fire down onto the metal. I waited for him to settle the hammer down to interrupt. ‘Yamatomon?’ I spoke up loud enough for him to hear me.

One last mighty clang and a spurt of sparks then the towering dragon turned about to look at me. ‘Yes?’ He grunted resting the hammer down.

‘I've been thinking.’ I started.

‘Pondering over everything still?’ He teased turning about.

‘You could do with some yourself.’ I deflected used to his attitude, ‘I wanted to ask you about Archer.’

‘What about him?’ The elemental master crossed his arms, ‘I said what I thought.’

‘Something still bothers me about him.’ I conceded, ‘It was what Gennai said.’

‘You think he’s making a mistake?’

‘Archer was willing to help but what Infimon said about him counters that.’ I tried to explain, ‘A clandestine warrior doesn’t usually volunteer for risking their lives for others.’

Yamatomon gave a heavy chuff of a laugh, a single but hearty one at me. Grinning behind that helmet surely slightly as he maneuvered around looking at the weapons adorned to the brick dome around us. ‘I could regale you of a time when Digimon who are honored on our walls would jump to the challenge of a fight against evil far lesser than Daemon.’ He reminisced before me, ‘Perhaps he is lusting for battle. Gennai did say he is a soldier, his chosen path.’

‘Gennai didn’t describe him as one seeking glory.’

‘It could be any one of reasons.’ He furthered returning to the forge, ‘Even if he is not so egar, it is his professed duty to fight against those who threaten the innocent. So far we only have Gennai’s assessment he isn’t subverting us.’

It wasn’t a settling answer but the old dragon wasn’t much one for bedside manner anymore. Yamatomon turned back and sent another blast of heat into the blade, a few softer strikes with the corner of the hammer. ‘I need to find out more about him before I can put my mind to rest.’ I concluded, ‘Gennai insisted we give him a better weapon to fight the Daemon with.’

I glanced around the room. I rarely paid attention to the weapons around here but most of them were my height and others were double Yamatomon's. Nothing any human could wield well for their sizes and weights. However, there was a very special rack and shelves where some possibilities. They were far more exotic ones, very intricate battle-axes, war hammers and a few long swords Yamatomon had handcrafted specifically much to the likeliness of a watchmaker. In the middle of all of them was a single straight blade, embedded in the simple hexagonal stone being the centerpiece. There was a simplicity to it but the details on it made it the most imposing. The blade itself was a sharp matte crimson finish, the dual-edge honed to split a single hair from the tip to the root. The hilt was made of nine black rings wrapped in a thin metal wire that was crossed over several times. The pommel was a simple silver sphere, carved lines through it to look like a globe of the Digital World. Inscribed on the flat of the blade was written the words ‘Courage Eternally Forged’ on one side, on the other engraved ‘Blade of Fate’ all written in Digicode. It also was stabbed directly into the stone itself deep enough one would have to wrench it free first and that was not done so simply by brute strength. ‘Do you think---’ I started.

‘He will die before he pulls it out of that stone.’ Yamatomon answered harshly knowing what I was about to suggest, ‘It’s no one’s blade. Gennai gave him his old dagger. That will do the job enough in a fight.’

I didn't wish to press the issue about the Blade of Fate. Too painful. ‘I'll see what Infimon knows.’ I turned off to leave the room, ‘I’ll let you know if he found anything else.’

I made my way away from the fiery furnace of Yamatomon's chambers, the clanging becoming more and more distant as my sensations started to become more tuned to the completely alien mechanical and electronic-based realm of Infimon. It started as the stones started to integrate circuits into the very structure, cables like veins bulging out the stone or swelling out. As I neared his side of the temple, the built-in sheet metal and electronics molded into the stone, monitors of unintelligible compressed digicode scrolled, lights popped out in little pinholes. Rudimentary looking at first before it started becoming more and more refined and streamlined circuits, compounded additions like antennas, receivers and so much I didn't understand I couldn't identify. Flying at top speed to get there quickly to ease my aching heart and mind I entered the singular gigantic dome where Infimon had been since Gennai left.

Infimon domain was as simple in presentation as it could be at first glance but you'd only have to look up into the simulated sky with the thousands of pin lights above to create the effect of stars to know there was much more to everything here. The intricate designs of all the tree trunk thick fiber optic cables twined like roots in the distance, flickering with constant information from both worlds by the flashing of data lights. From the entrance was a suspended Bridgeway to let you also see the depths of the same lighting where all the cables came down from above until they wound themselves into a twine below the octagon-shaped platform and up to support it. The platform itself was made up of a very slick plastic-like material, it too made up of octagon-shaped blackened glass tiles and was a few hundred meters in width all around. There was a very monotone-like electric hum to this space, a pleasant tone to allow one to peacefully meditate, The Master of Information was commonly here doing just that. I had joined him many a time as he did with me in my world, even if he to this day found vegetation a bit too chaotic for his liking. Most of the time spent Infimon in the quiet of his own mind and internal run time of his abilities sitting on the one raised platform in the shape of a perfect circle emblazoned on it the Crest of Knowlege in a matte finished dark purple. Little whips of light lines shot across the floor and under him, the Digimon Master picking out things he had found to expand his knowledge that bit more. Infimon opened his eyes, the blue-grey tinged seeing me as I hovered just ahead of him. 'Giamon.' He spoke up, 'Something the matter?'

I floated a little closer to him, drifting up keeping my feet off the platform since my feet were a little dirty from my world and Infimon kept this place clean to the point of obsession. 'Yes it has to do with Gennai’s new ally.'

'Archer.'

'Yes.' I smiled at him, ‘Did you find anything new?'

Infimon shifted his form from the perfect lotus position to slump a little forward, the light around him fading almost completely out to leave the dias a dark gray with only faded pin lights. He looked around his room of his own design, wiping his palms softly as if cleaning them of dust. Trying to find words to answer, they paused and continued while he was calculating. That never happened. 'Scarcely any further more.’ Infimon summarized, ‘Equally fascinating as it is troubling.’

I actually stopped flying hearing the tone in his voice landing floor with a thud. Infimon noticed but allowed it because I had noticed. 'What do you mean?'

'I looked for Archer’s past.' Infimon answered looking back up, 'What I found was sparse. Unusually so.’

From his very hands small particles formed and fell onto the ground, droplets of digital energy forming in a waterfall of them that lit up the dias. His eyes blinked and emerged a hot white color as he accessed both worlds into his mind. The data partials flowed back up in a rush to form a humanoid shape between the two of us. In a snap of static, it the body became crystal clear but still a slightly translucent projection from one of the octagon tiles beaming the light. The image showed of a much younger human than Gennai described. From the side thinner and smaller screens projected from the sides giving out clear information for me to read off. Infimon never failed to be thorough in detail but kind enough to present all the information clearly this way. It was some kind of uniform the younger human was wearing, camouflage pattern for woodlands. United States Army Uniform as the description shown. The very clear scar down his right eye and a healed gash on the side of his head I had not seen earlier and were now more apparent because his head was shaved in this projection. 'Gennai mentioned he was a Captain in the United States Army so I started in those databases.' Infimon's voice was more ethereal now which had a bit of a song tone to it, 'More than one Archer as a surname but the scar was his identifier. This was when he joined his organization at seventeen years of age. Compiled from other photos from other soldiers' albums.'

'How did he get those scars if it wasn't in battle?'

Another screen popped up to the Archer projection's left. It was a medical record in the form of a blown up sheet according to the points of interest. Many injuries. Some of them almost fatal. Gunshot wounds, broken bones and serious burns it looked like. Nothing indicating the facial wound or the side of his head. 'No record of that injury in the military to speak of.' He answered, 'No hospital record to say it was an accident either with his name. The eye scar is clearly from a cut as is the one on the side of his head. Perhaps abuse by a foster parent or an earlier accident. I cannot say. Very lucky he did not lose his eye.'

I felt both our hearts sink at that, mine a little further than Infimon. A child seeing or experiencing something like that would make any mother pain for him. 'To find anything about him I had to look into other files of soldiers or his commanders who might have mentioned him.' Infimon quickly continued on, 'If not for that clue at first I wouldn’t even know where to have looked. 75th Rangers Regiment. The most elite warriors in the United States Army according to record.’

The projection changed and split into multiple flat images that floated as large murals of places on Earth. Mostly in deserted areas and his uniform had changed many times to match his surroundings. A lot of the times the look on his face had changed from a firm gaze to a more...animated smile with his fellow soldiers. Most of these were group photos with what I assumed were other 'Rangers', posing with weapons or sitting on military vehicles along side him. All of the pictures extrapolated into one new projection, a fully three-dimensional representation of him at that time. The combat armor was thick, a metallic rifle in hand but the steel-eyed nature had honed to a pricing green beam. Not nefarious or threatening, just determined. Infimon even gave his projection a bit of an animation, shifting around with his weapon over his shoulder and inhaling off what looked like a burning piece of paper to exhale smoke that trailed away off into nothing. ‘These soldiers are known for fighting in at least three different wars in less that ten of their years.’ Infimon continued, ‘If Archer was part of that group, he’d have fought in all of them and these are the proof.’

From his hand formed more of his presentation projection partials and it split into two objects. The first was a small piece of metal forged into what looked like a bronze five pointed star with a red ribbon above it. The second was a heart shaped object with a human face in the center. ‘A brief mention of awards in an Army magazine with his name but no details of what he did in a place called Panama.’ Infimon let it float over his palm, ‘The humans award these trinkets to their warriors. This Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement in combat. This one Purple Heart was for being wounded in the same. Both were awarded on the same day several of the human years ago. For certain, there was a time he had done something akin to heroic and paid in pain.’

I felt myself give in to a little hope for the moment, seeing this human in a familiar light. The stalwart defender of his world, living in the shadows like another one we knew well. ‘That is where he may as well cease to be.’ Infimon spoke firmly, ‘Those medals were the last record I found of him no matter how hard I looked. That the source of my true concern.’

Infimon not able to find something out on the human world with all of his access to their databases even beyond Gennai’s capability? I too was now worried. ‘You couldn’t find anything more?’ I could barely believe it, ‘You have access from here to anything on the human world don’t you?’

Infimon drew his arms to the side and in a tossing motion showed me a spectacle of data in the form of letters, papers and streams of information. None of it made any sense but the one word which popped up every other fifth word was ‘REDACTED’. Entire pages were blanked out or just missing. ‘I do and that is why I am tentative.’ Infimon rose up to his feet, ‘There has been a concerted drive to completely remove any information about Archer from all databases. It is not just deleting some records here and there. This is a systematically thorough erasure of any record which once existed for me to find now is beyond even my reach. Anything about Archer must be sequestered on a physical medium on the human world if it does exist at all. These are deliberate and dedicated acts. Someone went to extraordinarily complicated effort to make Captain Archer untraceable, unknowable and for all recordable purposes his real identity non-existent.’

'Why?' I said looking closer at the hardened human face.

Infimon stood up as now the image transmuted into the most modern version of Archer so far from Gennai’s description. The hair longer now and those eyes are smooth marble green stone where eyes should be. The equipment and clothing slimmed down under his jacket, producing his blade and pistol from inside his jacket in a practiced movement. There came a chill up my spine as he pulled over a tight black mask over his face to only leave the rock-like stare. I drifted back with a buzz of my wings, Infimon going around the projection to my side to draw near to me. ‘To be undetectable by his enemies and strike from the shadows.’ Infimon summarized, ‘This is undoubtedly to me why to exist in the darkness unseen. A clandestine fighter with his skill set and abilities would make him an asset to those who do not want their order carried out in the light but cloaked in shadow.’

Cloaked in shadow caught my ear of one who I felt even more pain for than any other Digimon. ‘There is one who is the embodiment of being the light in the darkness Infimon.’ I scolded with my tone, ‘You believe in him don't you?'

‘Cyrismon has endured.’ Infimon retracted slightly, ‘He has proven his tenacity and dedication. I cannot verify Archer’s true current nature, I apologize.’

I wish I knew the answer, not finding them in the eyes of the human projection as it aimed its weapon up above my head and past me, rolling the knife handle around in the other hand. It appeared he was anticipating, searching and waiting for the precise moment to strike. In a flash of a moment, I saw a glint in his eyes, the pupils green bars made so by the hard squint. The determination and intensity as Gennai described as a dedication to duty. Or was this all projection, a memory of those lost transposed onto a stranger in a conjured image by our ally in the time of our greatest need? ‘Didn’t Archer say he stops threats before they hurt others?’ I asked.

‘Effectively yes according to Gennai.’

‘Why would he say that if he didn’t mean it?’

Infimon paused, looking at the projection. ‘I can not say.’ Infimon admitted, ‘Few entrusted with this much power to act outside of the laws of humans rarely keep their honor fully intact. It would be a monumental feat if he did, which is why I am not confident he is as good-natured as Gennai suggests.’

The projection stood up straight and pulled off the mask, showing the full face of the unknown warrior as if to defy the very notion. It was in that second as he slid the gun back into his jacket, leaving his fists clenched and becoming the pinnacle of determination as presented by Infimon. I felt something in the very presents of this warrior…no. I shouldn’t even suggest it to even myself he might be like who we lost. But…he would want me to let one show me who they are instead of judging even in the dire state of peril both worlds were in. I owed that boy on the wall who we lost that much. ‘I’ll trust Gennai’s judgment.’ I decided, ‘If he saw something in Archer that could save us all, we will see it too before this is over.’
 

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This picture I had sitting around in my head, a good way to look at the cost of war Archer has had to endure and the progress of his career as a soldier. All of these are real battles and are nearly thirty years ago. Still trying to keep to the minimal coloring style and about high time Cyrismon got a new feature.
 

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Another audio version of the story so far, this time with a bit more SFX and music.
 
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