Episode 30: Meeting of Minds

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The apartment had never been this full before. In fact, apart from Piper, none of the others had visited Hunter’s place before. According to Eva, his apartment was twice the size of her and Tom’s, but it was still a squeeze fitting in seven people, plus their Digimon. Still, everyone had found somewhere to sit, if only because the Digimon had retreated to the kitchen where they could have the run of the area, and the humans the living room.

Hunter had called everyone together rather brashly, hadn’t given much of a reason, just given the address and asked everyone to turn up by four o’clock that day. As people had arrived in dribs and drabs, one at a time, making their reasons known for why they were late, and asking questions as to why they were here, Hunter became more and more uneasy. Not being able to sit still for even a few seconds, or relax. Pacing through the apartment from the kitchen, the hallway, and into the living room. Drawing attention to himself, but not answering any questions as to why he was in such a state.

He hadn’t been able to get his contact lenses in that morning, so was stuck wearing his glasses, which didn’t improve his mood much.

Skollmon seemed much more at ease, practically lucid in comparison to his partner, talking happily with the other Digimon, simply amused by Hunter’s behavior and the odd looks his friends gave him and each other. The Digimon Skollmon sat with didn’t ask questions – they were all of the opinion that humans were strange, and given to times where they acted more odd than usual.

“So... are you going to enlighten us as to the reason we’re here?” Tom asked eventually, managing to catch Hunter as he sat down for a few seconds. Hunter glanced at him over the top of his glasses.

“I will, yeah. I just-- can’t yet.” He explained uneasily, getting up and wringing his hands together. He twitched and fidgeted, nervously. And rebuffed Piper when she laid a hand on his arm. When Hunter disappeared into his bedroom, his D-Touch to his ear, no one followed, deciding it was probably best to leave him to himself for a few minutes until he was calmer.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, your boyfriend is weird.” Reyez said to Piper, sitting happily in an arm chair. He was still recovering from the wound Rose had inflicted on him, which was healing slowly and steadily. He hoped the stitches would dissolve soon and he that he would be able to start putting pressure on his right side again. He had yet to mention the visit from General McTyre that had occurred a few days before. But for now, that wasn’t anyone’s concern but his own.

Piper shook her head slowly. “He is acting strange, I’ll give you that.”

“He’s probably just wired on coffee or something.” Frankie explained. “Everything will become clear soon enough I imagine.” She added cheerfully.

Eva, who sat on the floor, leaned her back against the base of the couch, she glanced across the room to the open door leading into the kitchen. The Digimon all sat circled around each other, talking easily and without momentum breaking. Whatever it was they were discussing, everyone seemed interested. “That’s good.”

“What?” James asked.

“Haven’t you noticed? The Digimon aren’t fighting or arguing as much anymore.” Eva explained, leaning her head back and smiling. “It’s really nice to see. It’s like they’re maturing.”

“I guess.” Tom shrugged. “I don’t think they’ve changed all that much... I think they just try to get on now because we’ve had some really serious stuff to deal with lately.”

“Well, Odocomon and Siberimon don’t clash heads anymore.” James smirked. “I am immensely grateful for that.” He added, Frankie nodded in agreement.

Reyez shrugged. “Eva has a point. Ailurmon doesn’t tend to get so bent out of shape with the uselessness of everyone else anymore.”

“Subtlety is lost on you, isn’t it Rey?” Frankie stated, smiling, tending to a text message on her D-Touch.

“Just saying what I see.” Reyez responded with a quick smirk.

Tom leaned back against the wall. “I must not be seeing what’re you’re all seeing. Poemon still seems shy and retiring to me.”

It seemed the Digimon took that point to listen in to the conversation they were not impart to, but the subject of.

“She’s not though,” said Frankie. “Poemon’s matured, just like everyone else.”

“Thank you, Frankie.” Poemon spoke up, coming through the kitchen door. Irbimon followed after her, a few paces behind, the other Digimon remained in their places.

“I guess I don’t see it.” Tom explained. “To me you’re still shy. Quiet... will always need protecting.”

“But-“

“You’re just not as strong as Ailurmon and Odocomon. Not as confident.” He rubbed his chin. “I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though. I like you the way you are. I wouldn’t want to you get cocky or anything.”

Poemon tugged the feathers on one of her wings for a moment, a little self-consciously. “But I have been getting stronger. I evolved and everything...” she murmured in a small voice.

Tom squatted, coming down to Poemon’s level. “I know you did. You did good to do that too. But you’ll always be in need of protection. To me at least.”

Before Poemon could make a response, the doorbell rang, echoing through the hallway. Irbimon tugged on Poemon’s wing, leading her back into the kitchen, and Tom stood up straight again. Hunter reappeared, and looked more frazzled than he had initially.

“Expecting more company?” Eva asked him.

“Uh...” Hunter threw her a weak smile, and grabbed Piper’s hand, pulling her down the hall away from the group. She looked perplexed. “Look... I really... really hope you can forgive me.”

“For what...?” Piper asked slowly. “Hunter, what is going on?”

Hunter planted a kiss on her forehead, before he smiled awkwardly. “For what’s about to happen.”

If possible, Piper’s expression became even more quizzical, as Hunter dropped her hand and went to the front door. He visibly took a deep breath before pulling the door open.

“I’m not late, am I?” Rose asked, tossing her hair over one shoulder. Hatimon followed her into the hallway and Hunter let the door close.

Piper’s eyes darted from Rose to Hunter and back again. Rose’s expression was worse than Piper remembered it, smug from the belly up, without an inkling of anything else on her face. Just smugness and pride all mixed in together in one big batch. She physically stepped back. “What... what is this?”

“Kitten, calm down, let me explain.” Hunter said, crossing the distance between himself the blonde, leaving Rose to discard her jacket herself, openly observing the two. Hunter couldn’t blame Piper for her reaction, the fact that as soon as he went to put his hands on her arms, she flinched and backed away. He also couldn’t ignore the fact that her doing that, hurt. “Listen--“

“No.” Piper said firmly, shaking her head. “No. Th-- this is some kind of sick joke, right?”

The noise, and the fact that no one had come down the hallway yet, had alerted the others in the living room, prompting them into action, getting up from their seats and coming down to see what was going on. Frankie led the way, took stock of the situation, and grabbed Piper’s shoulders, shoving the other girl into Eva. “Put Piper somewhere safe.” She said loudly, keeping her eyes firmly on Rose.

“So over dramatic.” Rose said softly, folding her arms.


“Get. Out.” Frankie practically snarled.

Rose tutted. “I don’t think so. I’m here by invite, and believe me, it pains me to spend time in the same vicinity as you peons – but needs must.” She shrugged her shoulders delicately, and glanced at Hunter.

Eva returned. “Piper’s throwing up.” She informed Frankie with a grimace.

Frankie placed her hands on her hip, darting her glare towards Hunter. “You better have a good reason for this.”

“I do.” Hunter said calmly. “If you would sit down and listen to me.”

James laid his hands on Frankie’s shoulders. “I know you care about Piper, but...”

“You had better not been defending her.” Frankie snapped before James could finish, her eyes closed with irritation. 

James retreated immediately. Reyez sucked his teeth, and whistled loudly. “Would you all like to calm down?” He commented, loosening his shoulders. “I think everyone needs to take a moment to chill the fuck out, hm? I think it’s obvious enough that none of us like Rose being here, how-”

“And I don’t like being here with you, wasting my ti-” Rose sniped.

“Shut up.” Reyez pointed to Rose nonchalantly. “However, she’s here for a reason. And it better be a damn good one.”

Tom, always the voice of reason, added: “Hunter says he has a reason for her being here, I think we should listen to it. In the mean time, I strongly suggest Rose being kept separate, so we can find out what that reason is.”

“I will not be segregated like some kind of beast.” Rose protested loudly.

“Rose, go and sit in my room.” Hunter told her. “I’ll come and get you when I’ve explained everything.”

“I—“

“Rose,” Hatimon interjected softly, “I really think it’s for the best.”

For a moment, Rose looked like she was about to protest, then she surprised everyone. After glancing at Hatimon, she nodded. Those crowding the hallway let her pass, and she walked into Hunter’s room, without another moment of protest. She closed the door, and left them all standing in abject silence.

Hunter sighed and rubbed his face, pushing his glasses up onto his head. “That... could have gone better.”

Frankie smacked his arm. “This reason you have, it better be a damn good one.” She snapped. “Now go and see if you still have a relationship.”

It took a few minutes for everyone to settle back in the living room, and for the Digimon to get the answers to the questions they were asking about the ruckus they had heard, but not investigated, to prevent any more crowding in the hallway. And it took a few more minutes for Piper to unlock the bathroom door and let Hunter in.

He closed the door behind him, despite knowing it was futile. The walls in the apartment weren’t that thick, most noises could be heard pretty easily, so those in the living room would probably have no problem hearing this conversation. Piper sat on the edge of the bath, a tumbler of water clutched between her hands, which Hunter noticed on closer inspection, were shaking. He felt guilty, to the point where he could feel it chewing at his stomach, not a sensation he enjoyed. Hunter realized this was one of those ‘make or break’ moments in a relationship.

And he decided to try and not fuck it up.

Hunter took the glass from Piper’s hands and placed it on the side of the sink. He squatted in front of her, forcing her to look at him as she kept her eyes downcast. He noticed she was looking at the fading marks on her wrists where the flexi cuffs had cut into her skin. And there was another kick to the gut from guilt.

“’I’m sorry’ doesn’t... really seem like enough.” Hunter admitted, slipping his hands into Piper’s palms, “but I am.”

Piper blinked, swallowing thickly. “You should have told me that you had invited her over. What was going on.”

“I didn’t want you to panic.”

She snorted. “Happened anyway. Telling me would have at least meant I wasn’t shocked when she walked in the door. I would have been prepared for it.”

“I know,” Hunter admitted. “Kitten, I couldn’t very well slip that into conversation now, could I?”

“Don’t patronize me.” Piper said slowly. “You know perfectly well you could have told me the other night when I was over. Given me time to sort myself out.”

“You’ve been okay when you’ve seen her since, fighting... and stuff.” Hunter explained. “I didn’t think it would...” he trailed.

“That’s a totally different situation. There it’s focus on survival. Rose, and how she made me feel, are the last things I’m thinking about in the middle of a fight situation. But just then... it was like everything I felt, all the fear and terror came back tenfold. And it was her fault.”

“I know.”

“And now you’re... what, asking me to forgive, forget, get over it? To what end?”

Hunter shook his head. “I’m not asking you anything, that would be unfair of me. Rose is not going to start co-operating with us. She has information and... I think it could be useful. But it’s information that is best heard coming from her.”

“Fine.” Piper sighed.

She didn’t believe him, that much was clear. She was just uncomfortable, and saying what she thought he wanted to hear. Hunter could be dense sometimes, but he wasn’t stupid. “Listen, I would never, ever expect you to forgive or trust Rose after everything she’s done and what she put you through personally. But can you please... trust me?”

Piper took a few deep breaths, and ran her fingers back through her hair, sweeping it off her face and raking it as far back as possible. She stared up at the ceiling, at the light fixtures for a few seconds before exhaling a breath she had been holding. “I do trust you.” She admitted, her mouth quirking in an attempted smile. “Just don’t expect me to be talkative when she’s in the room.”

“Sure.” Hunter nodded. He hugged Piper after getting to his feet, and kissed her forehead, managing to alight a weak smile from her.

The living room was a hum of quiet conversation, which ceased the moment Hunter entered with Piper trailing behind him, physically squeezing his hand.

“So... why is the person who tried to kill us, here?” James asked, templing his fingers in front of him.

“We’re not done yet.” Hunter stated. “Not by half. Bella is still at large, and has the ability and means to attack us.”

Frankie tapped her foot impatiently. “I don’t see-“

“Frankie, let the man talk.” Tom cut in. He was getting pretty tired of everyone jumping down Hunter’s throat about this. Not that Tom was especially happy that Rose was there, but he figured that Hunter had a good enough reason for getting them all together, and wanted to know what it was. The constant interruptions were just getting in the way.

“Rose has been closest to Bella for... a while. She knows things, knows what plans Bella has, and what she intends to do with those plans, and to us. It could give us an edge.” Hunter explained.

Reyez sat up, wincing a little as the wound on his side smarted. “That sounds like an idea. Why couldn’t she tell you this info, and you feed it back to us?”

“I asked her that myself. She... has some certain conditions, and giving the information directly to me to give to you, takes her out of the picture entirely.” Hunter grimaced, seeing the expressions of those around him harden at the mention of ‘conditions’.

Eva tutted. “Dare we ask what these ‘conditions’ are?”

“She wants to be with us when we finally confront Bella. As,” Hunter carried on quickly, trying to avoid any uproar, “she has been messed around by Bella as much as the rest of us.” He paused to breathe, giving just enough time for others to start talking. Words coming out at speed, voices raised as comments were directed at him, at the wall separating the living room from Hunter’s room, and at each other. Hunter winced at the noise.

“Look, I know it’s not what any of us want – believe me I want this about as much as you guys – but it’s a small price to pay.” Hunter protested.

“I dunno, how does Piper feel about having to fight alongside someone who kidnapped and tortured her?” Frankie asked scathingly, turning her gaze onto the blonde.

“I don’t want that to be... taken in as a factor, here.” Piper murmured in a small voice. “That’s my personal issue. And – with all due respect – it doesn’t concern anyone else.”

“None of us like Rose,” Reyez reasoned, “but it couldn’t hurt to have one more person on our side.”

Eva rubbed her hands over her face. “Are you conveniently forgetting she stabbed you? Hmm? ‘One more centimeter and you would have bled out in a manner of minutes’. That was what the doctors said, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Reyez shifted uncomfortably. “I’m just saying, despite that – Rose could still be an asset. She knows Bella’s plans, like Hunter said.”

“But she’s tried to kill us countless times!” Eva protested. “How are you men forgetting this?!”

“We’re not forgetting it,” Tom said, his tone calm. He was trying to keep Eva from erupting. “We’re just seeing the bigger picture here. Hunter said, we’re not done with Bella. Not even a little bit, and Rose was close to her, knows about Bella’s plans, and it would be useful to have that information to act on.”

Eva’s eyes narrowed, her shoulders were stiff, and beside her Frankie replicated her body position with her arms crossed tightly across her chest.

“Having one more person in the battle against Bella, when we finally go up against her – whenever that will be – I’m not going to say ‘no’ to that.” Tom concluded. “We don’t know what tricks she’s going to have up her sleeve.”


“But. It’s. Rose.” Frankie snapped. “She’s a fucking lunatic. We’ve all seen it. This is blatantly a ploy, and I don’t care what Piper says, I am taking what she did to you into account. She can’t be trusted!”

“Please don’t.” Piper said softly.

“Have you even spoken to anyone about what she did to you?” Frankie asked fiercely. She then turned on Hunter. “You do realize a kiss on the forehead and a quick cuddle doesn’t cure mental scarring.”

“Piper will talk about it when she’s ready.” Hunter retorted. “I’m not going to force her to talk about it. She’s not ready.”

“Your sister is more important. That’s what it is right?”

“No.” Hunter snapped. “We’re veering wildly off the subject here! Piper is fine, and will talk about it when she’s ready.”

“She’s not fine!”

“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!” Piper yelled, stamping her foot for extra impact. “Frankie, I appreciate what you’re trying to do… that you’re looking out for me, I do. Honestly, really appreciate it. But Hunter’s right, I’m not ready to talk about it yet. I don’t want to.”

“But how can you be okay with working together with her?” Eva queried.

Piper’s head shook. “I never said I was okay with it.”

“Oh.” Eva and Frankie exchanged glances.

“I don’t want to fight alongside her. But I’m not making up my mind about this yet, I want to hear what everyone has to say on the matter, and where everyone else’s feelings are.” Piper explained. “It’s more logical.”

Tom stepped forward again. “I think everyone needs to calm down, and we should really talk this over. Like adults.” Silence fell over the group like a blanket, engulfing them all for a few short minutes, while they all calmed, and gathered their thoughts.

Rose listened from Hunter’s room, overhearing every word through the walls. She pet Hatimon, who sat beside her on the floor.

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

The Digimon didn’t fare much better as the noise grew in the other room. Siberimon took the initiative to close the door with a swift kick, letting it slam. It blocked out the voices somewhat, not entirely, but it was more bearable than listening to everyone squawk and scream at each other. Everything that they were discussing, though it did involve them, was better settled by their partners, at least that was what the Digimon agreed on. They had found that trying to get involved in these discussions generally proved futile, and their comments were left without much consideration.

So the Digimon found it easier for both parties to stay out of things, unless they were asked for their opinions. And it was fairly clear that this wasn’t going to be one of those times.

“Sounds like things aren’t going very well.” Siberimon sighed loudly, retaking his place on the floor between Irbimon and Odocomon. Skollmon had had the foresight to inform the other Digimon that Rose and Hatimon would be turning up for some reason. He hadn’t known the reason, but had explained it was something to do with Bella, and that Hatimon wasn’t a threat anymore. As with the humans, the Digimon had been dubious – but nothing bad had happened so far.

“That’s hardly surprising.” Ailurmon commented. “Considering everything that’s happened. I’d be pretty on edge if Rose was around too.”

“I told you, she’s not a threat.” Skollmon said, trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice.

“You said Hatimon wasn’t a threat.” Odocomon corrected.

Ailurmon nodded. “Yeah. Rose is a loose cannon. She’ll always be a threat.”

Skollmon couldn’t argue with that comment. He had seen just how loose of a cannon Rose could be. In the years growing up with Hunter he had witnessed Rose going from one extreme to the other in mere seconds, and taking it out on everyone else around her when things didn’t go her way or when she wanted something badly enough, and witnessed the lengths she would go to get it. The other Digimon didn’t know the half of it – which was why he couldn’t argue with the statement.

“I just want all this to be over.” Poemon spoke up. “I don’t want to fight anymore.”

“What? Why?” he nudged her. “It’s not cause of what Tom said, is it? You shouldn’t listen to him, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“Well...” Poemon shrugged a little. “No... not just that.”

“Good.” Ailurmon said. “You should ignore him. You’ve come a long way. You actually speak up for yourself. I like to think that’s some of my doing.” She smirked. Poemon smiled a little.

“It’s more that I’m scared.”

“Of what?” Siberimon queried. “Of fighting?”

“Of the fighting. Of the powerful Digimon that we face... of the things I remember when I evolve.” Poemon paused, glancing around her companions, noticing then how their expressions changed in tiny ways. How their eyes glanced away from her, or they moved uncomfortably, just the tiniest bit. “You’ve all had it too, haven’t you?”

Silence. Poemon watched them all expectantly, and Skollmon just looked at them with confusion evident on his face. He spoke up, when it seemed no one else was going to.

“What are you talking about?” he directed his question to Poemon, who looked back at the canine Digimon.

“It’s hard to explain.” She started, ruffling her feathers, getting comfortable. “But it’s like... whenever I evolve to Kinnarimon, I get... images. Flashes in my head. And they keep coming while I’m in that form.”

“What kind of images?” Skollmon asked, his interest growing. “Like on TV?”

“No,” Poemon’s expression became troubled, “nothing like that. More like... memories. When you try really hard to remember something that happened a long, long time ago, but all you get are glimpses of it. And from those glimpses, you try to piece it all together.”

Skollmon’s expression became confused. “So not like TV.”

“No.” A moment’s pause, then Poemon continued. “You don’t get them?”

“Can’t say I’ve ever had ‘flashes’. Or anything like memories coming up. Maybe it’s cause I’m not like the rest of you guys.” Skollmon reasoned, rolling onto his back. “You guys are like... Gods, right?”

“We were.” Caesarmon murmured. “Or something. But I know what you mean, Poemon.”

Poemon perked up. “You do?”

“Yeah. As Aureliumon, I get images flashing through my head of battles raging. Of a place I don’t remember going to, but seems really familiar. Like a home. And I can smell it too. It’s amazing.”

“Like a giant white, high walled room?” Siberimon asked. “With pedestals in a circle.”

“And a well in the middle.” Ailurmon added. “I remember that, the well. I remember the noise. But that room... it’s so familiar.”

“I remember the war.” Irbimon muttered, his eyes downcast, and his ears low. “The yells, and Digimon disintegrating all around me. And waves, upon waves of Parasite-controlled Digimon attacking. Like an unrelenting force. We lost a lot of friends... Panjyamon was... particularly hard.”

“It’s chilling.” Siberimon concurred. “The things we remember. The things from our past selves. Maybe they’re trying to tell us something?”

“I think we’re all just trying to piece everything together.” Odocomon explained. “I don’t remember the fighting. I remember other things. Happier times, when everything was peaceful, and calm. It gives me such a sense of tranquility... it’s painful to try and think of how it all changed.”

“Something wanted power.” Skollmon reasoned.

“We did what we had to, to stop it.” Ailurmon added. “Ryudamon didn’t mention we’d start getting our memories back.”

“Maybe he didn’t know.” Siberimon admitted. “Though the things MetalKnaagdimon told us make more sense now.” He spoke to Odocomon this time, who nodded.

“Undoubtedly, yes. Strange how he knew.”

“MetalKnaagdimon told you what, now?” Irbimon inquired, his expression quizzical as he stared at his brother. The other rookies all had their attention on the other two Digimon.

“When we fought him, he was saying things about our memories, trying to taunt us I suppose. Saying it must have been difficult for us to not remember anything.” Siberimon replied. “Stupid of him really. A weak distraction tactic at most.” He sniffed indignantly, folding his arms.

Odocomon arched an eyebrow. “But you did remember something, I know you did, because I remembered it too.”

Ailurmon leaned forward. “Sounds intriguing.”

Siberimon glared half-heartedly at Ailurmon, before turning his attention to the deer Digimon sitting beside him. “I don’t remember anything.”

“Nothing?” Odocomon repeated. “Nothing about... the way you and I... well... were sort of... uhm...”

“Spit it out.” Ailurmon quipped.

Odocomon struggled. “Well, we were sort of... uhm... I suppose the human equivalent would be that we were sort of... romantically involved.”

A moment passed before Irbimon and Ailurmon burst into laughter, Ailurmon tipping over onto her back, clutching her stomach, giggling loudly. “You two!” She yelped, pointed with her paw. “You two?! Really?!

“It sounds about right!” Irbimon added. “You two do argue like a married couple.” Siberimon shifted awkwardly, only causing Irbimon’s laughter to begin anew.

Siberimon folded his arms. “I don’t remember anything like that.” He said harshly, without looking at Odocomon. “You must be imagining things.”

While a little put out by Siberimon’s response, Odocomon decided not to pursue it. If what she had remembered was true, then it was something best discussed alone. And not in the company of others, especially those who would find it amusing. “Perhaps you are right.” She admitted, smiling blithely.


“What other things do you remember?” Skollmon asked eagerly. He rolled back over onto his belly, stretching out over the floor. Irbimon’s laughter settled, and Ailurmon sat herself up straight again, grinning with amusement.

“I remember pain. How hard the final battle was on all of us.” Poemon explained, immediately the atmosphere in the room became less jovial, “and a flash of light before blackness. After that, all my memories are from when I hatched and met Tom.”

“Sounds like all our memories are fragmented. How we have images of different times.” Odocomon reasoned. “We should try writing them down. Maybe we could piece together all the things that happened.”

“It’s an idea.” Caesarmon agreed.

“Gah, I remember the fighting. All the injured, trying to fend off attacks and deal with Digimon getting hurt all around me.” Ailurmon explained seriously, “but when I remember it, it’s just flashes and sounds. Yelling, and cries of pain. Sometimes it doesn’t just sound like Digimon yelling though. It sounded like the earth was crying too.”

“Maybe you felt it more because you’re more connected to the earth than the rest of us?” Poemon proffered. The panda Digimon shrugged in response.

“Y’know what I’ve always wondered?” Irbimon said, sitting upright, his expression perplexed and aimed at his brother.

Caesarmon arched an eyebrow. “How you fit all the food you eat inside of you?”

“NO!” Irbimon rebuffed. “Well – sometimes. But no, what I wonder a lot about was how me and Siberimon knew we were brothers right away.”

“Explain.” Ailurmon requested with an impatient huff.

“Well, it’s like... the moment we met as Uncimon and Tigrimon, and when we evolved to us and then Skadimon and Hurakamon... it was as if we knew, right then and there.” Irbimon explained excitedly. “Right? You felt it too?”

“I felt a connection.” Siberimon confirmed with a sagely nod of his head. “I can’t explain how I felt it... I just... did.”

“But-but-but!” Irbimon continued quickly. “I’d been living with Corvimon for years before that, and I’d never felt any kind of connection or had even a tiny inkling that we were connected somehow.”

“Perhaps blood ties are stronger, than our memories interlinking.” Odocomon suggested reasonably. “After all, it’s taken us to the point of reaching our Ultimate stages to even get glimpses of these memories...”

“I bet,” Skollmon said, “if you guys reach a higher level, you’ll remember everything! That would be awesome!” Agreements erupted from the other Digimon, excitement filling their voices as they began to talk over each other about the possibilities their memories could hold.

Poemon’s voice was quiet when she spoke, but it broke the exuberance. “I don’t want to remember everything.” The noise, and happiness stopped slowly, as gazes all turned to the bird Digimon, some curious, others slightly more troubled by her admittance. “I mean... what if us remembering who we were, changes who we are?”

“I don’t think you’d have to worry about that,” Odocomon said gently. “Didn’t Ryudamon say that you were a kind and benevolent ruler of your lands?”

Poemon struggled a little.

“I don’t think any of us know anyone more kind than you... if you did change, I think it would only be for the better.” Odocomon explained. Irbimon nodded enthusiastically beside Poemon.

“Definitely! You’ve changed so much from the beginning, Poemon! You should be so proud of yourself!” He said cheerfully, grinning at the dubious Digimon beside him. “I bet your increasing confidence is all because of that kind and benevolent queen trying to come out in little ways.”

“Hmm...” Poemon sighed thoughtfully. “I ... guess that’s not that bad.” She smiled a little.

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

Bella sighed gently.

She decided there that she missed her skyscraper office. How she had a view out over the entire city. After the fight that had taken place outside Atlas Corp, the building had been damaged and was deemed unfit for people to occupy until all the work had taken place. So for the time being, all major and mandatory meetings were being held in a secondary office that Bella rarely used, in a small office block. It was decorated the same way the Atlas Corp building was. White throughout with sound proof glass doors and windows. Expensive paintings decorated the hallways with the occasional potted plant to add some greenery.

Bella didn’t like it much. It wasn’t her office. And this wasn’t her board room. It was all very foreign.

Currently she sat in on a mandatory meeting.

She and the other investors in Atlas Corp threw a charity function every year, and had been in the midst of completing and finalizing plans for the function the day of the attack. Completing guest lists and arranging entertainment.

The function consisted, usually, of live entertainment, an in-house charity auction, an open bar, buffet with the best food from all around the world, and had in the past consisted of a theme. Various other delights were also on offer for those used to the better things in life, as this function was invite only, and attracted only the best. Due to the attacks, things had fallen somewhat behind schedule, and invitation RSVPs were still slowly coming back in, as were confirmations of bookings for the entertainment and confirmation for items for the charity auction.

“And we’re sure that all the money raised from the auction will go to the hospital fund, to ensure that all those affected by these terrible monster attacks are well taken care of.” One of the board members spoke, addressing the round table of twelve – of which Bella was the only woman, and the most feared person there. “Is that all right, Mrs. Divine?”

She waved her hand dismissively. Bella tried very hard not to talk during these meetings, and people had learned to read her facial expressions and hand gestures. A dismissive wave meant: ‘that’s fine, get on with it’.

The first man sat and another, taller with impossible side burns, stood. “We have confirmed that the Camden Bonnetts with be playing a ‘set’ at the function. We’ll have a classical string quartet to begin with, for the guests to arrive and also to set the mood throughout the evening. The Camden Bonnetts will play a short forty-five minute set in the middle of the evening, and then will be replaced by the quartet, and later the brass band.” He explained. “The Camden Bonnetts manager has also, generously, offered a few things into the auction. Uhm, a microphone signed by Gin Park, Spencer Henslowe’s guitar, signed. And also a cymbal, signed by Jorel Winstead. There is also an additional prize, exclusive to the Camden Bonnetts available, which is a day with the group, courtesy of their management team.”

A small round of applause echoed around the table. Bella tilted an eyebrow.

“Any other items in the auction?” she asked, feigning interest as she leaned back in her chair and toyed with her fountain pen between her fingers.


“Uh, yes!” He seemed to choke on his words as he rustled through several pieces of paper. “A yacht has been donated into the auction which we expect will draw quite a crowd, as well as a new, unreleased Bentley model car. There are also the usual items in the auction, all-expense paid vacations, new televisions and so on. Despite setbacks, everything is on track for the actual auction items.”

“Wonderful.” Bella said, her tone bored. “Anything else?” She glanced around the table, daring anyone to stand up and add something. She was not in the mood to be in the room any longer, dealing with this mindless and pointless itinerary. She had better things to do with her time. Normally, the task she did now, she would have left to Rose. But that was no longer an option, considering she had disappeared.

Unfortunately for Bella, one more member of the investors stood up, his rotund belly supporting itself on the table top. Bella rolled her eyes. “Just to inform you, Mrs. Divine, we have had response from the Mayor who will be attending, along with his wife and two daughters. One is, I believe, your son’s age.” An impatient glare from Bella caused him to hurry along his list. “There are also several dignitaries coming to the event, the Chief of Medicine has also RSVP’d. He will be attending with his wife and son. There are further confirmations but they can be checked later I am sure. I will leave the list with your secretary.”

“You do that.” Bella chided. She rose from her chair, and the men around her all stood up, in unison, watching as Bella gathered up her paperwork. “Thank you gentlemen, for working so diligently. I am sure this function will not be one to forget.”

“Mrs. Divine!” One man spoke up, bravely stopping Bella leaving. “You never did say if we should... send invitations to your children?”

“My children?” Bella repeated.

He continued quickly. “It is understood you are not on speaking terms with either of them at the moment... we felt it would be prudent to ask.”

Bella’s gaze left this man’s face for a moment and went to the desk top, where Bella was seeing her reflection. She barely thought about her answer, just examined the small, embittered smile that affected her lips. “Of course invite them, you imbecile.” Bella snapped. “Just because we’re currently not on speaking terms doesn’t mean I don’t want my children there.”

She left them still standing as the door swished to a gentle close behind her. She dropped her unsorted papers on to Eleanor’s desk. “Deal with these.” She said, without pausing, and not listening as Eleanor reminded her of messages and telephone calls she needed to respond to.

Everything was pointless now, nothing had much purpose any more. The only thing that kept Bella’s attention was located underneath the temporary Atlas Corp building and in a secure facility – which was where Bella was headed now.

The lowest basement floor of this secondary building was accessible by specific key only, a hexagonal key, of which there were two. One always on Bella’s person, and a second in her vault. The key was emblazoned with her initials intertwined with one another, and when the key was inserted into the correct hole in the lift, if gave access to the lowest floors.

Whenever anyone asked what the lower floors consisted of – which they did frequently – Bella would respond it was all storage, and nothing very interesting. And that was true to a point. It was, for the most part storage space, and held no interest for anyone but Bella herself. This spare building that Bella had never seen a use for, she had found a use for after several years of wondering what to do with it. She had not anticipated the building would become one for normal, everyday use, and because it now was, she constantly found herself on edge.

The bell to the elevator dinged as she reached her lower floor and the doors opened.

The lights down here were dim, and it took a few long seconds for Bella’s eyes to adjust to the change in lighting from the bright fluorescent lights of the elevator to the more dulled lighting she walked into. The room was mostly metal, and huge. Bella’s high heels echoed off the walls as she walked slowly through the gloom, following a path she knew well, around some large apparatus. The smell down here was musty, like the room suffered from severe dampness; which was almost impossible due to the metal casing that insulated the entire room. It was also exceptionally cold, as if it was a storage room used for keeping things on ice.

Bella wasn’t alone. She was never alone. She felt the presence more strongly when she came down here, because this is where the presence lingered and this was its habitat for now, safe and closed away from anyone and anything.

Through the gloom she saw two bodies, men standing at either side. They made no effort to approach her, in fact they didn’t move at all. Their skin was pallid, and rubbery to the look and touch. And their eyes showed no signs of life, or registering of anything. Nothing about them was alive. They stood by some other force, a force than kept them animated, but like itself, hidden away.

“Hello Richard.” Bella said softly. “Hello, Mason.” She spoke to the corpses as she walked past them, a greeting she had become accustomed to. Something that made them seem a little less... dead to her. It wasn’t so much she was frightened of them, at first she had been disgusted with the corpses. Now though she was simply unnerved by them. They didn’t smell, the stench of decomposition kept at bay by the exceedingly cold temperature, but how they looked without seeing, that had been what it was.

Calling the men - who had once been Bella’s companions, and had shared in Atlas Corp when Russell was alive - by their names made them seem less like inanimate objects, used only as vessels.

Bella took a seat, an armchair that stood alone at one side of the room, kept lit by a single, low wattage bulb. It didn’t take long until she felt the cold chill slither up her arms like some kind of serpent. Bella suppressed the goose bumps that threatened to arise on her flesh beneath her clothes. She couldn’t afford to feel them at this point. And she had become used to ignoring the little niggles of fear and doubt that nibbled at the back of her mind.

To her sides, she saw the corpses beginning to move, slowly and with no grace. Their movements were ill advised, unnatural and difficult to make out entirely, except that they were abstract, as if the corpses were being moved by some unseen puppet master who was still learning how best to use the strings. Their heads were up though, and the eyes of both the dead men bored into Bella, without seeing her, sitting in stationary in her chair.

They drew closer and yet Bella did not move, as neither of them entered the small pool of light that kept Bella illuminated.

Her breath hung in the air as a cold, frozen vapor. The two men’s feet dragged on the ground.

“Things are proceeding as expected, despite... our minor setback.” Bella explained, keeping her eyes front-facing.

Bella heard an inhale of air, slow and heavy, laced with what sounded like a choked hiss. “And the setback...” the voice murmured. It echoed around the stark walls, though Bella felt as if the voice was whispering straight into her ear.

“Dealt with.” Bella explained shortly. “It won’t happen again.”

“See that it does not.” Bella felt air move around her. Her hair moving a little across her face and from her up-do. “The plan...?”

“In motion.” Bella answered. “The function is a cover for what we truly intend. Many important people - politicians, doctors, dignitaries - will be there. It will be impossible for them to keep away when so many innocents are at risk.”

The voice was silent for some time. “And you are certain they will come?”

“Rose will tell them everything.” Bella explained. “Totally unaware of the implications of her betrayal of course. She knows nothing of you.”

“Indeed.”

“Your possession of Tsukuyomon was really quite impressive.” Bella stated. “When your true powers are unleashed I imagine it will be quite the sight. Though I wonder what your ultimate agenda is.”

“Hmm...” The voice was silent, and Bella felt the movement again, this time behind her. She knew the corpses circled her, like vultures around carrion. It was, for now, the only way the two could communicate. “The Gods will pay for what they did to me. What they... reduced me to. A mere essence, forced to use the dead to keep living.”

“Your powers are slowly returning.” Bella placated, sensing the being she shared the area with growing irritated. “Soon you, yourself, will be able to take full form.”

“Hmph.” A pause. “I do not remember my full form. All I recall is what they called me when they tried to lock me away. The ‘Parasite’ on the land.”

“You’ll not have long to wait now.” Bella said softly, as if she were speaking to a young child. “Soon, you will have everything.”

“Even if it means the sacrifice of your children?” the Parasite hissed.

A small look of contempt flashed across Bella’s face for a few seconds. She knew this trick, it was one she used often to get her way in business. Threatening that which was most important to the person she wanted something from. Often their family. Bella had information on nearly everyone important in the city. She had broken names and made them, with just a click of her fingers. She would not be baited. “Even if it means that. They have chosen their side.”

“And they chose incorrectly.” Parasite taunted. “How shameful it must be for you to call them your offspring.”

“They make their own choices.” Bella said firmly, still refusing to fall into this baited trap. “I am not responsible for them. They will simply have to pray that they can protect themselves.”

“Such harsh words.”

Bella shook her head. “Truthful. And the truth is sometimes harsh. A lesson I have tried to instill in them.”

“Do you feel as though you have failed, as a mother?”

“No.” Bella retorted. “They have failed me as children.”

“And me?” The Parasite spoke, to Bella’s left. “Do you feel you have failed me? After all, I was promised two willing and able servants... and you have not delivered.”

“My children,” Bella said, her tone sharp, “would not have been worthy of serving you. With their weak minds and weak wills, they would not have withstood your influence. As I have.”

“As you have.” The Parasite repeated. Bella suppressed a shiver, it felt like someone had a cold, clammy hand on her cheek and neck, like arms were enveloping her from behind. “My faithful Bella.”


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

Things at Hunter’s apartment had calmed down considerably once everyone had taken a short time to plan what they wanted to say, rather than trying to yell over one another to be heard. They all took it in turns to air their comments and their qualms about having Rose in the same vicinity as them, let alone helping them. Unsurprisingly the unanimous vote had been that they couldn’t have Rose help them, no matter what information she offered – at which point Rose, who had been eavesdropping the entire time, left the sanctity of Hunter’s room and walked into the living area, bold as brass.

“I have overheard everything you’ve all said, and you seem to be misunderstanding one vital piece of information.” Rose said, sweeping her hair back in one motion. “I don’t want to help you.”

A long pause covered the group as her statement sank in. Hunter felt Piper’s fingers gripping his like a vice as Rose’s gaze turned on and settled on her. Hunter moved forward without thinking about it, acting like some kind of six-foot-plus shield.

“Then...” Tom spoke first, still the calmest and most reasonable of the group, “why are you here?”

Rose regarded him, her eyes trailing up and down him slowly, and her expression marred with distaste. “I am here because I – and it pains me to say this – need you. I cannot take down mother alone, and I want to. I want to make her pay and suffer for everything she has ever done to me and put me through. But myself and Hatimon alone are no match for the arsenal at her disposal.”

“So employ some mercenaries, or hit men.” Reyez suggested. “You’re wasting your time.”

“You’re not welcome.” Eva said harshly. “And you’re not wanted.”

Rose huffed. “How on earth did you ever best me? You don’t listen, do you?”

“Rose...” Hunter’s tone had a warning edge. She glanced at him, took a breath to settle herself and started again.

“I told you before, I don’t want to join you. I don’t want to become like Hunter and be part of your good little gang. Walking on eggshells because you don’t trust me is not my style.” Rose explained. “But you need me because of the information I have. And I need you to destroy mother. It’s a case of I scratch your back, and you scratch mine. A unity caused by a... similar enemy, if you will. A unity of convenience.”

“I’d prefer you not to scratch my back, you’d probably wind up stabbing me in it.” Frankie commented, examining her fingernails and crossing her legs.

Growing frustrated, Rose grit her teeth a little. She was not used to being questioned, or for asking for assistance. Both were new experiences and she didn’t like either of them. Not when she was being genuine and her motives were being questioned every step of the way.

“I’m not asking you to trust me.”

“Good.” Eva snapped. “Because that would never happen.”

“You’re a little ball of comebacks today, aren’t you Eva?” Reyez spoke sarcastically, prompting Eva to roll her eyes and scoff.

“But,” Rose continued unabated, “I can guarantee you that the information I have will prove useful. In fact, would turn the tide in your favor.”

“How about this,” Tom said, standing up straight from where he had been leaning against the wall, “why don’t you tell us this information, or give us an idea of the kind of information it is, and we’ll see where it takes us?”

“Do you think I’m that stupid?” Rose retorted, her arms folding across her chest. “If I tell you, I lose my leverage.”

“It’s that, or we keep going in the same circle.” Tom replied calmly. “The choice is yours ultimately, but it seems to me that you need or want our help, more than we need or want your information.”

Rose scowled deeply, and the grip she had on her arms tightened considerably. Her eyes narrowed and again she looked over the entire group one by one darkly. She caught Hunter’s eyes and he arched an eyebrow. He was not going to stand on her side for this, she had been given a choice, and he knew – as well as she did – that what Tom had said was true. She needed them more than they needed her. They would have plenty of opportune moments to get to Bella, the information Rose had would just make it easier for them.

Finally, Rose released a long breath through her nose, one she had been holding for some time. Her shoulders were squared and stiff. She looked at Tom, the only person who seemed to speak to her without abject contempt. “Every year Atlas Corp holds a function, perhaps you’re aware. It’s normally so those in the high power positions can get together and rub shoulders with one another and network. Because of all the trouble the Digimon have been causing in the city however, this year it is being projected as a charity event. Complete with auction.”

“So?”

“Shut up, and I’ll explain.” Rose said, glancing quickly at Frankie. “The function this year, the charity idea is a front. She intends to invite you, all of you, to the event. Corner you, and attack.”

“That’s it?”

“There’s more.” Rose added. “The people invited to these events are important. Foreign dignitaries, the Mayor, his wife. People who are important, who have an influence. People who had stood in mother’s way for some time, and she has often complained about. I don’t know for sure, but inviting you, and these people of massive importance? It seems like it could be a set up, doesn’t it? She mentioned there would be some kind of ‘surprise’ to welcome those who had attended. And that could be anything. It could be genuine or something sinister. Perhaps even a staged Digimon attack.”

“So you think...” James reasoned slowly, rubbing his chin, “that Bella has invited us, will somehow get our Digimon to evolve, probably using the crystalline Digimon... and that it will look like some attack on these people of power?”

“It’s an angle.” Rose explained. “Mother has been... not herself for some time. I feel there is more to this than meets the eye. But what I have told you is true. She intends to invite you to this event.”

“Then we won’t go.” Eva commented shrugging her shoulders. “Problem solved.”

“No.” Piper murmured, stepping out from behind Hunter a little. “She knows us. She knows we won’t keep away when there’s a risk of innocent people getting hurt.”

“You’re all too predictable.” Rose confirmed, nodding her head. “Being ‘good’ is all well and... good. But it makes your moves and the way you will react to things very easy to anticipate.”

“What’s she actually going to do, do you know?” Reyez asked.

“No.” Rose admitted. “I don’t know what her ultimate plans entail. I don’t know if she means to frame you, or just get rid of you. But having you there and unleashing an attack which will force you to respond will paint you in a bad light and also get rid of some of the people who have resisted her influence over the years.”

Slow realization dawned on everyone, person by person, as Rose’s explanation and comments sank in. That Bella was going to go to extreme lengths to get them in one place, and was more than likely going to threaten the lives of innocent people, good people, who had been helping the city through the crisis, just to get to them.

Eva sighed loudly, and Frankie did the same. No one said anything, but a mutual sense of agreement settled on the room and all looks turned to Rose, who made no effort to hide the triumph on her face.

“This doesn’t mean you’re one of us.” Eva said harshly.

Rose smirked. “I don’t want to be, I told you. I help you, you help me. We go our separate ways as unlikely... allies.”

Frankie groaned. “I cannot believe we’re doing this.”

“Stranger things.” James said, holding Frankie’s hand. She smiled half-heartedly.

“There is one, more, thing.” Rose said, clearing her throat. She pulled out a chair and sat down, crossing her legs. “This function isn’t something you can turn up in jeans and a t-shirt in. You’ll need to dress well to fit in.”

“I guess I can drag out my old prom dress...” Eva said slowly. “It’s somewhere.”

“No.” Rose shook her head. “Nothing old and musty. Nothing dated and probably half eaten away by moths. You need to look the part, the best or nothing.”

“Not all of us have inexhaustible supply of money.” Reyez stated, stretching. “How do you suppose we get our hands on better clothes, rob a bridal store?”

Rose sighed. “There’s a store on the outskirts of town, it sells the latest in designer labels for women, and also suits and that kind of thing for men. They know me. They also know Hunter. You can all pick something up there, and just tell them to put it on Rose Divine’s account.”

Frankie looked suspicious. “You’re willing to fork out for clothes for us. All seven of us?”

“It’s for a larger, more important cause, yes. I really don’t want you turning up looking like... something the cat dragged in and sticking out like a sore thumb. You’ll need to look right in order to get anywhere at the event itself.”

Reyez’s facial expression hadn’t changed much, he kept his head leaned on his fist with the usual bored expression. “Why couldn’t you have gone to the army? Or the police?”

“Mother has most of the armed forces in her pocket, likewise with the police.” Rose answered shortly. “Besides, this does not concern them. This concerns you, and your Digimon. They were the ones who started all this in the first place.”

“I just don’t see-“

“Rey, think about it this way,” Tom explained, “we’d have turned up at the function anyway when the Digimon took their fighting out into the street, chasing after fleeing people. At least this way we won’t need to get there in a hurry.”

Reyez turned his glance to Tom. “We’ll take Rose’s information into account. We’ll go to the ball do all the little things that people who go to these functions do but if this turns into some kind of trap that involves you,” Reyez pointed to Rose, “I am going to personally rip you apart limb by limb.”

Rose shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

Once again there was a silent agreement in the room. Everyone would stay on their toes, as well as keep Rose in their sight whether her information was genuine or not. Rose was fine with them not being able to trust her, but they all had to put their pride aside. Bella was now a mutual enemy and they’d have to work together to bring her down.

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