Episode 34: Thanks for the
Memories, Part One

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Hunter hadn’t visited this part of the outer city for years. In fact, he had trouble remembering the last time he had been this close to the old house at the top of the hill. His house, rather, his family house; the house he, Rose, and Logan had grown up in. After his father had died, Bella had started spending more and more time away from it, working in the city – until she had finally moved them all closer to the city center, the house being too far out for her to travel to and from every day.

The house was about forty minutes out of town, and sat out almost in the middle of nowhere, completely secluded and imposing. Hunter had taken the subway to get there. Rather, he’d taken the subway halfway, and then a bus. He was reminded how much he hated public transportation. Now he waited at the bottom of this hill, leaning against the wrought iron bars that surrounded the house and its grounds, waiting for Rose.

It was morning still, barely nine o’clock, but Rose’s telephone call a couple of hours ago had been brief; she wanted him to meet there as soon as possible, and she had had an idea. He imagined – or hoped – the house had something to do with it. He had no desire to be near it longer than necessary.

Now that he looked at it from an outsider’s perspective, he could easily understand how the house had scared people, and how horror stories had been made up about it. It was imposing and terrifying in a way, how it loomed over everything from the hilltop, and looked about as welcoming as a crypt. The black iron fence that surrounded it was badly rusted now, and in places it was in dire need of repair. It still came across as intimidating, however, being over six feet tall - even Hunter was shorter than it.

He slowly walked up the street, taking in the image of the house as he got closer, his eyes adjusting to its size and shape, like an old memory drifting out of the mist of his mind. It was made of old brick, and a few stories tall. Most of the windows were barred up, and all the doors were blockaded, with planks of wood put across the door to disallow entry. The porch steps were full of holes, eaten away by weather and lack of repair. The porch swing - where Hunter, Logan, and Rose had spent many evenings in the summer, regaling each other with horror stories - hung from one rusted chain, swaying slowly in the breeze.

“Down right creepy,” Skollmon murmured, sitting beside Hunter. Hunter silently agreed with him, ignoring the pinpricks that were rippling down his neck and arms, refusing to admit them as fear. “Why would Rose want to come here?”

“Who knows,” Hunter replied, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets. “I don’t want to be here,” he admitted. “I don’t like it here.”

“You and me both,” Skollmon returned.

Hunter stared at the broken swing, and the old front door with its brass knocker still in place. It felt like he was intruding on something that had been laid to rest. Something that had been left alone for so many years. Something that should not be disturbed under any circumstances. There were memories there, embedded in the bricks and the floors. Memories of happy times and sad times. Times Hunter didn’t want to revisit.

He wanted to leave. He could feel his resolve faltering. Rose be damned, she could shout and scream at him all she wanted, and he would take it, but he would not stay here. He wouldn’t go into the house. He didn’t want to reawaken the dusty and hazy memories lingering the in the back of his mind.

“You’re here.” Rose’s voice snapped Hunter from his stupor. He realized he was standing on the porch now, one hand holding the rusted chains holding up one side of the swing. He released it quickly and recoiled, rubbing his hand on his jeans like it was burning his skin. “I wasn’t sure you’d turn up this early.”

Rose had a large backpack with her, placed on the ground at her feet. Hatimon sat beside her, wearing a collar around her neck with a light on it, creating a warm yellow glow. Hunter immediately knew what was in the bag and why Rose wanted to meet here, and the fear chewed at his stomach in seconds.

“This early wakeup call better have a good reason behind it,” Hunter said, taking on his best harsh tone towards his sister, who stood, tying her hair back neatly. “I had Piper over for the first time in three weeks last night because she’s been working, and you take me away from her.”

“I didn’t say you had to come,” Rose explained. “I simply stated it’d be in your interests. Besides,” she unzipped the backpack, “I’m sure your little blonde angel will still be there waiting for you when you get home. She’ll never even have realized you were gone.”

Hunter scowled. “I hate you.”

“No, you don’t,” Rose retorted with a small, blithe smile. She stood up straight, holding out a large black flashlight to Hunter. “Now, aren’t you curious as to why  we’re here?”

Internally Hunter struggled to find an answer. He was curious, but he knew whatever the reason, they were going to go inside. And he didn’t want to do that. His long silence was enough for Rose to take as a ‘yes’, so she began to explain as she attached a light to Skollmon’s collar.

“I reasoned that if the information you and your... friends already knew about the Parasite didn’t divulge how it got loose, then I would try thinking out of the box. You and I were the first to obtain our Digimon; it’s easy to conclude that, considering we’re older than all the rest. But did you ever stop to wonder why?” Rose paused. Hunter suddenly noticed that she had a funny glow about her. She was red cheeked, and her eyes were glistening.

She was excited. Enthused. Hunter hadn’t seen Rose look quite so... alive for some time.

His further silence pushed her on. “I put two and two together, and I hope to have come up with four. Mother can create those crystalline Digimon, but we don’t know how she has the technology. And our Digimon came to us, before the others. It makes me think maybe... Atlas Corp had something to do with it. Father, perhaps, maybe he knew the Digital World existed? His vault is still here, and I know mother didn’t have anything taken from it like the rest of the house, because she couldn’t find the combination to the lock. But I think we’ll find something in there!”

Hunter chewed the corner of his mouth for a moment, while Rose waited for his response. He glanced down at the two Digimon, both of whom waited patiently for them. He caught Skollmon’s eye, and he rolled his eyes.

“I...” Hunter murmured. “I don’t really want to go in there,” he admitted slowly.

“Are you scared?” Rose asked. He tone surprised him. She was sincere, there was no trace of mocking.

“Yes,” Hunter confirmed, nodding his head, “but not of the house itself. Of what we’ll find. I mean...” Hunter paused, he rubbed the back of his neck beneath his ponytail, and then linked his hands behind his neck, glancing up at the grey sky. “Our parents were secretive. I don’t want to know about the shady things they got up to.”

Rose looked at him thoughtfully for a few long seconds. “If we don’t look now... we might never get another chance. We might lose any information this place holds, not just about the Digimon but ourselves.”

“What... do you mean?” Hunter asked, his expression becoming quizzical.

“It was mentioned some time ago,” Hatimon spoke up, “by Bella, that the building was going to be torn down. Rose had planned to come here anyway, and thought it would be best for both of you to come... now that you’re on speaking terms again.”

“Torn... down?” Hunter repeated.

“Exactly. It’s our last chance. If there’s anything here...” Rose shrugged, unable to finish her sentence. Hunter’s expression was troubled, and he did not look pleased to be here as he looked between the haunting old building, collapsing in on itself, and her. He sighed eventually, and turned on the flashlight she had given him.

“As long as we’re careful,” Hunter murmured, taking the lead. “We’ll need to find a way in.”

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

They found a way in through one of the side windows on the ground floor, which hadn’t been boarded up as well as the others had. Rose had come well equipped with a crowbar, along with her flashlights and spare batteries, so all it took was some brute force from Hunter to get the boards to yield and allow entrance inside. The Digimon went first, checking for danger, and then Rose followed, with Hunter bringing up the rear.

Light came through in small slivers and shafts, where boards overlapped each other. Dust rose from the ground, and each time a paw or foot touched the ground, it made a print. The air was stagnant, almost suffocating - the house hadn’t been lived in for years, hadn’t been visited or tended to in any way. It made odd noises as Hunter and Rose carefully moved around, it groaned and creaked, like something reawakening after decades of slumber.

The window they had used took them straight into the dining room, which was still almost as it had been the last time they had both seen it. When Bella had moved them out of the house and into the city, their new home had been already furnished, so they reasoned most of the belongings here had been put into storage – it seemed they had been incorrect. The dining room still contained its table and the six chairs that went around it. Pictures and paintings still hung on the wall, untouched, like ornaments that decorated the surface. There were vases with dead flowers still sitting in their place; letters that had been opened and not answered sat on the table, covered with dust. And the table cloth that had once been cream, had turned grey under the years of grime collecting on it.

Skollmon and Hatimon walked ahead, side by side and barely breathing. The lights from their collars lit parts of the building, while Hunter and Rose kept their flashlights moving, sweeping back and forth, reacquainting themselves with the layout.

“It’s like it’s stuck in the past,” Rose commented, looking up at an old clock that no longer ticked. “I can’t believe mother left everything here.”

“I can,” Hunter replied, glancing his flashlight across Rose’s face and into the next room, as Hatimon and Skollmon led the way. “This place holds memories. A lot of them. She wouldn’t want anything to remind her of them. It’s just the way she is.”

Rose remained silent while she followed Hunter and their Digimon from the dining room. None of the doors inside had been sealed up, and most of them were closed but unlocked, and just required some persuasion to open – namely Hunter shoving his whole body against them to knock them open. Despite the dust and how eerie everything was, the whole house was exactly as Rose remembered it in the depths of her memory. Rooms looked the same, as if frozen in a portrait meant to be undisturbed.

“It’s weird, I wonder if we’re the first people up here since we moved out,” Rose commented, brushing her hand over a mantel piece. For now that they had both put aside their initial reason for coming, both were absorbed with rediscovering a home they had almost forgotten, as it had lain ignored and abandoned.

“Bella probably came here once or twice,” Hatimon commented. “Maybe to relive memories.”

“Why do you think she’d do that?” Hunter asked, eyebrow raised skeptically.

Hatimon shook her head. “I don’t know if your mother is as heartless as you believe her to be. She must have loved you, and your father, in order to have you.”

Hunter scoffed. “Logan, Rose, and I were born out of convenience. Not out of love.” He shrugged his shoulders uncomfortably, catching sight of himself, a reflection in a dusty wall mirror. Hatimon fell silent again, and Skollmon fell into step with Hunter – something he found oddly comforting, to feel the warmth emitting off his partner.

They explored the whole ground floor for a long time, after the dining room, checking the large reception rooms and hallway. The living room, with its antique tables and lamps. Rose was able to open their mother’s old writing desk with the crowbar she had brought along with her, hoping it would yield some information – only to have it coat her in dust and release a pile of woodlouse exoskeletons onto the carpet at her feet.

Further down in the house was the kitchen, where Rose and Hunter had been forbidden to go as children, as it was too dangerous. They barely remembered the cook who spent every day preparing their meals. And that it was always their nanny who brought it to them as they would sit at the large dining room table opposite each other, with Logan at the head of the table – always grousing about one thing or another. Bella and Russell never joined them to eat, and on the rare occasions they did, they never spoke, but ate silently and left, as if not wanting to be around each other or their children.

“You have to wonder if they liked us at all,” Rose wondered out loud, breaking Hunter and the Digimon from the uneasy silence of the house they explored. Hunter turned, his expression quizzical as to why Rose had asked such a thing without bidding. He realized why when he noticed she held a brass picture frame in her hand. The frame contained a photograph, the last one taken of the whole family before Russell had died.

“Who knows,” Hunter sighed, taking the photograph from his sister’s hand and examining it closely for himself. Logan was in the photo too, standing to the right. Beside him was Russell, tall with short hair – the same color as Hunter’s - and sharp, harsh eyes. He recognized himself held in Russell’s arms as a three-year-old, but there was no affection in the embrace. Russell held him as if he was someone else’s child. Bella sat on a chair to the left of the portrait, in the foreground. Rose sat on her lap, neatly and perfectly. To any onlooker the image was that of perfection, the ideal family. Parents who worked, but both appeared to love their children. Three children who would be well cared for and have everything.

“You look like him, you know,” Rose pointed out, glancing between Hunter and the photograph. “You and father. You look... similar.”

For some reason, that bothered Hunter more than he liked and he dropped the frame, crunching it under the heel of his shoe. “No, I don’t,” he said darkly. “I’m nothing like him.”

“I didn’t mean-”

Hunter cut her off. “Let’s just get moving. Their room was upstairs, that probably means the vault was up there too.” He moved off quickly, Skollmon scampered in front of him, lighting the way back up the hallway and up the stairs to the main hallway. Rose paused to pick up the shattered photo frame. Hatimon waited by her feet.

“He didn’t have to get so cross,” she said softly. “I was making a comparison to their looks, not their personalities.”


Hatimon looked at her gently. “Maybe Hunter has some unresolved issues. After all, Russell left you both, and so did Logan. That’s two of his major male figures walking out or disappearing on him when he was quite young.”

“Maybe...” Rose mused.

“I don’t know much about these things, of course,” Hatimon continued. “Being a Digimon, it’s obviously difficult for me to comprehend, but perhaps he fears that he might do the same.”

“I suppose.” Sighing, Rose replaced the broken frame on the side table she had found it on. “But it’s completely different. I mean, father died. And Logan... well... Logan left for his own reasons.” She still spoke bitterly about their older brother, that much Hatimon could sense from Rose’s voice and tone, but she was trying to get past it, in her own unique way – trying to deal with it the only way Rose knew how, and that was to block it out as best she could until she was ready to talk about it properly.

Hatimon made a shrugging motion. “Maybe it’s difficult for him to see past that. I don’t know.” She proffered a supportive, if weak smile and carried on, down the corridor and up the stairs, leading Rose the whole way. They found Skollmon and Hunter waiting in the hallway, at the bottom of the large staircase.

“You didn’t put that stupid picture in your bag, did you?” Hunter asked gruffly.

Rose shook her head slowly. “No... why?”

“Because it’s junk. And it’s a lie,” Hunter replied. “The whole thing. This whole house is a lie.” He started up the stairs, holding onto the banister as it creaked under his weight. Skollmon and Hatimon were immediately in front of him, taking each step at a time and checking it for cracks, safely leading the way.

“Not everything here is a lie, Hunter,” Rose explained. “We have memories here.”

“The happiest memories I have, have been formed in the last six months of my life,” Hunter retorted fiercely. “I don’t remember anything remotely happy from this house, or our childhood. And that... that’s sad.”

“Hunter...”

“That’s more than sad,” Hunter exclaimed. “It’s fucked up! You’re meant to build happy memories as a child with your family, but all I remember is you and Logan, and the nannies we went through. I don’t remember even one heartfelt conversation with Bella. I don’t remember dad’s face. Seeing him in that stupid picture – he looks like a total stranger. I don’t want to look like a stranger.”

Rose frowned, unable to find any words to say, or any method of comforting her brother. It had always been the other way around. He had been the one to comfort her when she was upset, or to drag her out of the depths of loneliness and depression when she needed it. She had never had to be the one to offer support, and now, when it came down to it, she realized she didn’t know how to. And that just made her more angry with herself than anything.

“I’m sorry...” Rose murmured. “I shouldn’t have brought you here.”

“No,” Hunter snapped, “it’s good.” He faced her, appearing to have calmed down – though he had brushed dust across his forehead and cheeks. “It’s cathartic. This place is haunted with a lot of unsaid things, and once we find what we’re looking for – if we do – we can leave. And leave those things behind.”

Rose sighed softly, not completely in agreement, but she didn’t feel like mentioning it – it would only continue to upset Hunter. She came to Hunter’s side as they followed the Digimon up the stairs onto the upper landing. The top floor was one long hallway, with doors leading off to each side. The first few rooms had been their bedrooms. Rose’s was quite pink and peaceful, many of her old dolls still in their places, laid out neatly. Logan’s room was typical for the age he had been living in the house. The walls were decorated with posters of rockets and the music he had liked then. His floor was covered in things: books, magazines, old clothes he had been meaning to throw out. It was his way of rebelling against the attempted perfection instilled in him by their parents. Hunter’s room was similar to Rose’s. Although dusty, it was neat. He had things on the floor but not littered everywhere. It was a sense of space, of organized chaos.

The last rooms on the landing – aside from the bathrooms – had been their nanny’s room, their parents’ bedroom, and their father’s study, where they had never been allowed as children. The nanny’s room was small and well-kept, all the necessities but still impersonal. It looked like their nanny at the time had been told of the sudden move and had taken all her things with her. Both the study and their parents’ rooms were locked tight, but with some force and slamming, both doors yielded eventually – much to the chagrin of Hunter’s aching arm.

Their parents’ bedroom was a surprise to them both – how it was so... normal. Hunter had always imagined the bedroom to look more like something out of an art nouveau film, but it was in fact surprisingly ordinary. A large double bed sat in the dead centre of the room, facing a set of bay windows, which led out onto a small balcony. The curtains were all drawn. Both walls had a set of large wardrobes, and in one corner was an imposing oak bureau that Rose was interested in.

“These things usually have hidden compartments,” Rose explained, pulling out drawers and running her fingers along the edging inside each of them. “Usually so rich ladies could hide ‘improper’ letters.”

“You read far too many romantic novels,” Skollmon commented, as he sat to one side, illuminating the area for them both.

Rose ignored him, and continued on her search, taking out and checking over worn-out papers as she did so. Nothing seemed to grab her attention, and from what Hunter saw as she quickly flicked through them all, most of the papers looked to be old bills that had been collected and recorded. Some old letters, never answered, and more odds-and-ends Hunter didn’t want to get into. He busied himself with a bedside table, opening the top drawer and beginning to dig through the few items that were inside of it, more letters and a couple of books.

Eventually, there was a ‘click’ sound, and Rose released a satisfied and triumphant, “Ha!”

“Found something?” Hatimon was up on her hind legs, leaning on the desk segment of the bureau, with Skollmon beside her. Hunter looked across with little interest. He crossed over to Rose, who was thumbing through another set of papers, her expressions perplexed and confused.

“It’s father’s handwriting,” Rose explained, holding one of the pieces of paper out to Hunter. He took it gingerly, scanning the writing, which was broken and seemed rather frantic, like it had been scribbled wildly and in a rush.

Hunter read aloud, “I write this, not knowing when or where it will be read again. I hope everything I have done, and am going to do, will be for the good of those I do it for. Namely my wife and children. All the answers to everything that I have done and that is to come are in the most secretive of places...

“This has your name on it,” Rose commented, reading from the paper she held. “The key to the entrance was given to the one of my children who I felt would not be pulled into the darkness as I have been, and as others have been. If ever things should go wrong, or need to be rectified, then Hunter will hold the key and all the answers will become apparent.” Rose glanced at Hunter. He looked uncomfortable and tugged incessantly at his ponytail, shifting his hair from his forehead.

“Didn’t he give those to you?” Rose asked, pointing to his dog tags.

“Yeah,” Hunter replied, “but you don’t think...” He paused, catching onto Rose’s train of thought as her gaze remained fixed on the small accessory. “Rose, these are twenty years old, and they’re tacky. I just wear them for sentimental value.”

“There’s a group of numbers on them, isn’t there?” Rose asked, holding her hand out. “Give them to me.”

Hunter handed them over, while still continuing to read over the letters Rose had found. Each one given a different date, and each one echoing the same things, but in different words. The further on the letters went, the worse Russell’s hand writing became.

“Listen to this,” Hunter muttered, stopping Rose in her examination of his dog tags. “My mind feels as if it is slowly unraveling. I do not feel there is much left of me that I still recognize. Even Dalimon confirms I am not as I was when I first arrived... Who’s Dalimon?”

“And what does he mean 'first arrived'?” Rose commented. She inhaled deeply, planting her hands upon her hips. “I think we should check the study – it’s the only room we haven’t been in yet, and I’m so sure that’s where we’ll find the vault.”

“This isn’t a murder mystery, Rose. It’s not an Agatha Christie novel. Who says we’re going to find any answers?” Hunter said harshly. He pocketed the letters he held, and the ones Rose had left on the desk, to read through at a later date. Rose was no longer listening to him, as she had left the room and was down the hall as he followed her out.

Hunter growled under his breath while he debated following her, or dragging his sister out by her hair, and putting a stop to this silly mystery tour she had concocted. Skollmon waited patiently at his feet, the warm illumination drifting off the light on his collar.

“What are you waiting for?” Skollmon asked, staring up at Hunter.

Hunter shrugged his shoulders. “Some kind of...” he paused, letting his shoulders sag, “I don’t know. I just don’t want to do this.”

“Think about it this way,” Skollmon coaxed, “you’re just humoring her. She’s excited, probably over nothing. Humor her, we can go home. And maybe convince Piper to make those funky sandwiches again.”

A small smirk spread across Hunter’s lips. “Always thinking with your stomach.” He scratched Skollmon behind the ears once, before setting off out of the room. “I wish it was always that easy.”

“Can be,” Skollmon confirmed, following after him. “Just gotta not over-examine everything.”

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

The study was a new experience for Hunter to see, it had been – along with their parents’ room – the only room in the house banned to them growing up. I had been an endless supply of curiosity; it was the room their father would disappear to all the time. For hours, sometimes days at a time. He would always return looking tired and disheveled, and would barely manage a small meal or conversation before he would disappear again.

The room itself was of moderate size. Every wall was lined with bookshelves, and each shelf was full to bursting of books, each spine facing out with its title visible – Piper would have loved it, Skollmon had commented. There were dead plants in pots near the large windows that faced out over the hill leading down to the other houses. The drapes were still pulled to their side, dust-covered. In the center of the room was a large mahogany desk, its seat tucked neatly beneath it. Papers were perfectly placed on one side of the desk, and pens in set pots on their other side. If anything, Russell had been fastidious.

Rose was at one of the bookshelves, Hunter’s dog tags still grasped in her hand, and was yanking books off wildly, throwing them to the floor. Hatimon cowered away slightly, trying to avoid being hit by any of the flying literature. Skollmon exchanged looks with Hunter.

“What are you doing?” Skollmon asked loudly, projecting his voice more like a bark to get Rose’s attention. She stopped the defacing of the bookshelves, turning on the spot.

“Help me,” Rose ordered. Hunter folded his arms in response. “There must be a hidden door, or something, that leads to the vault. Something like that! Then we can get into it. We have to find the way in, it’s got to be something silly, like a trick book.”

“You’re crazy,” Hunter stated.

“Seconded,” Skollmon added.

“Rose, I’m inclined to agree with Hunter and Skollmon,” Hatimon spoke up. Rose glared at them each in turn, her face contorted in suppressed anger at their comments, and at the fact none of them were helping her. “You’ve run in here all guns a’ blazing, searching for something that may not even exist here any longer. You say you are doing this to further our collective cause – but I am set to wonder if that is the truth here.”

“You’re questioning me?” Rose retorted, incredulously. “What other reason would I have?”

“Self-worth,” Skollmon stated simply. Hatimon nodded, agreeing. “Maybe you’re looking for a sign that your parents loved you.”

“That... that’s...” Rose faltered, “ridiculous. I’m trying to help.”

“Rose,” Hunter spoke, “it’s okay if you are looking for a sign that they loved us,” he explained. “Just don’t hold on to that hope... likelihood is, you won’t find it.”

“That’s fine for you to say. He gave you these.” She held out the dog tags that dangled in her hand. “It was a sign he loved you. I never had anything.”

Hunter sighed. “Rose... their love – if they did love us – never did anything for me. Or for you. You have seen what it turned us into.” He approached her and took the dog tags from her hand. “Let’s look another twenty minutes, and then leave this place. Its memories, its ghosts... leave it behind, okay?” He offered a small, supportive smile, placing his free hand on her shoulder.

Wordlessly, Rose turned away from him and began to sift through the books again, less frantically this time. Hunter went to the desk, and together they searched in silence.

Hatimon sniffed each book that hit the floor, looking for more clues, and trying to pick up the faintest scent of anything that might help their cause. While Skollmon remained by Hunter at the desk, as he went through the small drawers, tugging each one open and going through the small and neat piles of paper – most of them were blank sheets of writing paper. Some sheets were so faded it was impossible to make out what had been written on them, and other letters were simple official-looking documents. Several of the drawers were fake, or locked tight and not possible to break into despite Hunter’s best efforts.

Throwing a handful of papers on the desk, Hunter huffed, and heard Rose do the same from across the room. She was on her third bookshelf, and so far had come across no trick book that pulled back and opened a hidden door.

“Perhaps it’s time to leave,” Hatimon said, looking hopefully at Rose. She seemed about as happy to be in the house as the others, now.

“Maybe it was all just a stupid idea,” Rose admitted, sounding defeated.

“It wasn’t a bad idea, and at least we investigated,” Hunter commented, turning towards her. Skollmon hopped up onto his hind legs, resting his paws on the side of the desk. He adjusted his paws before he spoke, only pausing as he heard a soft ‘click’ and something shifted beneath his paws. Across the room, the bookcase opposite the large window mimicked the noise, clicking softly and swishing open a little.

Skollmon’s forepaws hit the floor softly. “Oops.”

Rose was pushing the bookcase open wider before Hunter or Hatimon could stop her, and she had her fingers tracing the outline of a large safe door in seconds. “This is it,” Rose said, sounding a little breathless. “It has to be! Hunter, pass your dog tags over,” Rose said, holding a hand out expectantly.


Hunter hesitated. “Rose I really-“

“Hunter,” Rose snapped, “give them to me. You must be curious what’s in here too. Even a little bit. Even if you feign ignorance. There has to be a tiny part of you that is interested, and has an unquenchable desire to know what those codes on your tags unlock.”

“I am,” Hunter snapped, “but I’m prepared to deal with the consequences and the disappointment when there is nothing in there. Are you?” He held the tags out as a temptation to Rose as she eyed them, glaring between the two glinting pieces of metal and his own face. In a flourish she snatched them from his hand.
“Yes,” she said definitively.

Rose had always been a better person for enigmas. It took her barely any time at all to work out how to decipher the code: that each fourth number was the number needed to enter into the safe code, and that that total number was the amount of the three previous numbers divided down into their most base form.

The safe door opened slowly, and creaked loudly, suffering from not being opened for several years. Rose coughed, waving the dust which accosted her from her vision, waiting for it to settle. Hunter could barely feel himself breathing, almost afraid to. Skollmon and Hatimon watched, intrigued, but also cautious. Hatimon’s ears were flat against her head.

Eventually, the dust dispersed enough for Rose to look in completely. Hunter kept his distance, there wouldn’t have been enough light to see in if he stood there too. It took a few long moments, before Rose stepped back, carrying a large crate in her hands. It weighed her down, that much was obvious. It was clear she intended to carry it to the desk, but its weight forced her to place it on the floor at her feet. Hatimon approached first, watching as Rose pushed the lid off the crate, letting it fall to the floor.

 “Look at this...” Rose murmured softly, her eyes lingering over a large sheet of paper. Hunter could just about see Russell’s scrawling handwriting on it. The box was filled with bundles of paper, all neatly dated and bound together. Each page was hand written, and the further the dates went, the worse Russell’s hand writing became.

Rose handed over a small bundle of papers. “These are from twenty-five years ago,” she stressed. “Whatever is written here must have been important enough for father to not only keep for so long, but also to hide from mother.”

“Rose, I really don’t think we should sit and read this here,” Hunter said.

“Listen to this-”

“Rose, really, let’s go back to my apartment and go through it there.”

“Good news has reached me, that Atlas Corp has become a household name. We are top of the stock market, and the most profitable that we have been since the company was first founded fifteen years ago, when it was originally founded by Joseph Lynn and my own father...”

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

Russell’s pen scratched over the paper at an easy and fluid pace. He felt quite at ease today, his mood lifted, and more relaxed than it had felt in some time. It was his daily routine, to write down his thoughts. Most other people kept a journal, but Russell had always preferred to just write things to read back to himself at a later date. It was something he had done as a young man, and a practice he continued. He felt re-reading his own words, in the form of a letter, was something that kept him grounded in times of trouble and joy. It helped immensely.

It also made him feel relaxed.

Since taking over for his father as the CEO of Atlas Corp – the company founded fifteen years previous by his father John Divine and his partner Joseph Lynn – Russell had found less and less time to sit and write his thoughts down as he did now. He had only taken over a year or so ago. Shortly after Joseph had died of pancreatic cancer, leaving his wife, Claire, a widow with a young son, John had felt he was not young enough to keep up with the challenging and changing markets, and had handed over leadership of the company to Russell and his own corporate team.

Russell had been vice president of Atlas Corp for some time anyway, it was only natural and expected by the media, and undoubtedly the world, that he would take over when his father eventually retired. It had been Russell practically dragging Atlas Corp screaming into the modern day technology with new insightful ideas, and fantastic new advertising campaigns that had made Atlas Corp a household name. Less than five years ago, it had been a name that only large businesses knew for their office supplies.

He couldn’t take all the credit, however. Russell had taken the vice president position at a fairly young age, and only on the proviso that he could share the title with other intelligent and sharp minds like his own. Top of that list had been his wife, Bella. They had been married for four years and already had supplied an heir to the Atlas Corp name in the form of their three-year-old son, Logan. Bella was as clever as they came, sharp witted and not a person to be trifled with. Though it seemed having a child had mellowed her somewhat. She was still involved in Atlas Corp, but had taken a vast cut in hours to raise and spend time with Logan, a sacrifice Russell was unable to make in his high position.

Along with Bella, Russell also had on his side two influential men from the city. One, Richard Poihega, and the other Mason White. Both had been stout businessmen running their own companies, before selling to Atlas Corp to manage from inside the large company which overtook their own – with no jobs lost. Richard, Asian by origin, was intelligent and had a mathematical mind, not to mention he was imaginative in the methods he thought up to make Atlas Corp bigger and more successful. Conversely, Mason was more subtle in his work, keeping employees in smaller business holds owned by Atlas Corp, making sure they were pleased. He was a networker, and incredibly good at what he did.

After Joseph had died, it had been expected for Claire to mourn, which she had done, and also taken a short sabbatical, until she felt ready to face work and people again. When she had been ready to do so, Russell had welcomed her back, offering her a position on his corporate team. She had been there when Joseph and John had made connections with small and large businesses. With owners and other influential figures in the city and across the globe, keeping a familiar face in the mix meant none of their business deals went sour, and that in turn meant that more people wanted to be involved in Atlas Corp and its growing wealth and success.

Russell’s team was unstoppable.

Since taking over, they had moved Atlas Corp from being a name known only by other companies for their own supplies, to moving into the markets originally thought too safe and simple by John. These markets had been ones Russell had argued Atlas Corp needed to invest in, in order to have any longevity, and as soon as he was able to, he had made the transition from being a company-specific business to becoming a household name.

Atlas Corp was a company that everyone recognized. They were on televisions in every home. They had gained the upper hand in the household market, selling and manufacturing products that everyone needed at affordable prices, which made them more popular than other brands. They also made sure they were fair to consumers. It was impossible to go to a city and not find Atlas Corp advertised somewhere. It was their time. The company was at the top of its game, and that in turn made Russell extremely happy.

He laid his pen down to one side, an exquisite fountain pen which had been a gift from Bella on their first wedding anniversary. He felt there were no more words left to write, and neatly placed the dated piece of paper into a cream-colored folder at the edge of his desk. He would take it, and all the documents contained within, home later, and file everything away properly then. But for now, as with most important documents, they lived in the folders on his desk, all neatly arranged in an order that was a mystery to everyone else, but made perfect sense to Russell.

Rising from his chair, and tucking it back under the desk afterwards, Russell stretched, walking towards one of the windows in his office. The main Atlas Corp building was, at the moment, only a few floors. A new building was being constructed a short distance away, which would tower over the city. A monument of success and a positive beacon of Atlas Corp’s next venture – building construction. A stroke of genius on Richard’s part when he came up with it, and a venture that Russell was incredibly excited for.

A sharp knock on the door of his office broke Russell from his contented, and thoughtful moment. He turned as the door opened and Bella stuck her head around it. “Everyone’s congregated in the main meeting room, just waiting for you now.”

“I’ll be along,” Russell confirmed, with a nod of his head. He waited a few seconds for Bella to leave, but she waited as well, hovering in the door. Normally so confident and not one afraid to stride into a room to make her presence known, Russell immediately noticed the tentative way she paused. “Bella?”

“Hm?” Bella stood up straighter. Russell motioned for her to enter the room fully, which she did, and the door closed gently behind her. “Sorry – this probably isn’t the time,” Bella explained. She wrung her hands together in front of her, touching her wedding ring repeatedly between her thumb and forefinger.

“Am I going to need to sit down for this?” Russell asked, half serious, half joking. He didn’t like it when people had a change in demeanor and attitude. It unnerved him, especially when it was his wife turning into a wall flower from her usual intense and confident self.

“No,” Bella retorted. “Well, I don’t think so.” She huffed, and slipped her fingers back through her hair. “I’m pregnant. The doctors confirmed it today. They think I’m about eight weeks along,” she explained, all business-like, her previous trepidation disappearing in a flash.

“That’s-”

Bella lifted a hand to cut Russell off. “It’s twins,” she added, her lips curling into a small grin. Russell returned it, ruffling his hand through his hair.

“Well...” he choked on a small laugh. Neither he, nor Bella, were big on displays of affection, this was rather reminiscent of how he had reacted to the news of her being pregnant the first time. It made him want to laugh. “I’ll have to find a bigger place for us to live, then.” He crossed the room in a few strides, taking up Bella in his arms. Bella giggled, a sound rarely heard from her, returning the embrace with her arms tight around Russell’s neck.

“We should go, don’t want to keep everyone else waiting,” Bella informed him, her small smile still playing on her lips, she loosened her arms around him, leaning back and eyeing him playfully. “We can celebrate properly later. You can take me to that Chinese place we went to before.”

“Wonderful idea,” Russell confirmed. He planted a kiss on the side of her temple, opening the door of this office to let Bella through. It closed softly behind them, and a short trip down the hallway led them to the main meeting room where Claire, Mason, and Richard were already sitting and waiting.

“I suppose I can offer my congratulations now?” Claire prompted, smiling warmly from her seat as Russell took his own, and Bella sat down. Bella gave a confirming nod, passing the older woman a conspirator smile.

“In cahoots, were you?” Russell commented, grinning. Richard and Mason looked a little puzzled, a look passed between them that Russell caught, and he added to clarify: “Bella has just revealed to me we’ll be having two new additions to the company.”

“Oh... oh!” It clicked. “Congratulations to both of you!” Richard said with a wide smile. “We’ll have to celebrate!”

“Absolutely,” Mason agreed, a little less enthusiastic, but looking pleased regardless.

“A fine idea,” Russell agreed, “but something to be discussed later. After all, we are here to talk business.” Russell rarely brought his personal life into his workplace, but this was something he could share amongst his closest friends and colleagues. But, as this was work, he did not want their meeting to be taken over by mentions of baby talk, which could be kept for later. Bella agreed with him, work was for work. “And so to business...”

The meetings the five of them had weekly were mainly to go over figures, to see how Atlas Corp was fairing in the current economic market. See where they had their strengths and weaknesses. It also meant they could look over business deals currently being undertaken, and bounce ideas off of each other for new ways for Atlas Corp to continue its seemingly endless progression. Normally these meetings were productive and everyone came out with a new lease on their respective departments. Things had slowed down a little in recent weeks, but Russell had remained optimistic that their ideas would pick back up again after a little time.

He glanced over the different figures on the papers in front of him, a little disturbed to see a dip on the Atlas Corp stocks, where it had been on an upward climb for the last few months.

“It had to stop at some point,” Mason explained, pre-empting Russell’s query. “I’m certain it will even out now.”

“Have you come up with any new commercial ideas in the marketing department?” Russell asked Claire, who headed the area. “And Richard, what is your team working on?”

“We’re working on getting advertisements on the sides of buses and at bus stops across the country. It’s moving a little slowly, mainly due to the council,” Claire explained, “but it’s looking positive.”

Richard shuffled a little. “Well, as far as new projects go, since our last meeting sadly it’s the same.” Russell arched an eyebrow. “It would seem we have exhausted all possible avenues to generate revenue. Atlas Corp is invested in every business imaginable, from clothing stores, cars, to gyms and the local hospital. It seems we have come to the end of possibility funnels.”

“I... see,” Russell said slowly. He had expected the business to finally hit a wall on their current structure, that they would finally run out of options of businesses and areas to invest in. Russell hadn’t been worried, but with what Richard now spoke about, there was certainly a small niggle at the back of his mind. He sighed softly, templing his fingers. “We’ll just have to put our heads together and find a new area to shift into.”

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

For the next two years, Atlas Corp remained at a steady pace. While it struggled a little with changing markets, its accounts and rating always stayed high, or at least level. And this, to anyone else, would have been positive. It meant that jobs were secure, that the company was still strong, and the fact that Atlas Corp remained a household name did little to dampen its reputation or the spirits of its employees. It meant that the company expanded, setting up offices, factories and laboratories across the globe in Europe, Asia, and Australia. While ideas on how to expand had dried up, the fact that Atlas Corp was one of the most powerful, well known and secure companies in the world did little to quell Russell’s growing displeasure and worry.

He had always prided himself on being a optimist. Always expecting things to get better when they were looking their worst, and hoping for an improvement. Even if the hope was misguided, having it kept Russell functioning like a normal human being. But the last two years had taken their toll. Russell felt like he had aged more than two years, and every time he glimpsed himself in the mirror, he did not see the young man he had seen before. He found himself stressing and worrying, sleep deprived by the worries that plagued him, that Atlas Corp had hit its peak too early and now the only way was down. He worried, endlessly, that there would not be a new market for Atlas Corp to break in to, and when there finally was, Atlas Corp would be too behind the times to breach it.

He felt trapped, and had lost a lot of trust in the people around him. Other company officials he barely spoke to unless he was in meetings with them, though he kept Claire, Richard and Mason close. Though now that Mason had relocated to Dusseldorf in Germany, where one of Atlas Corps’ European labs was located, it was harder for Russell to contact and speak to him about business and how things were progressing there, despite their best efforts.

Russell had some things to be happy about though, things to be grateful for. Bella had given birth to their twins in May the year before: a boy, Hunter, and Rose, a girl. Logan had been immediately besotted with his younger siblings, a positive thing as far as Russell and Bella were concerned. Bella had gone on maternity leave two months before the twins were born, and while she still had a hand in the company, had taken a vast cut in hours and responsibilities to take care of the three children, now heirs to the Atlas Corp name. And while Russell was pleased she was taking care of them, and interested in her motherly duties, he missed her at work, and her insightfulness on something he was less accustomed to.

He had taken on many of Bella’s tasks, and now had Claire in Bella’s place as his right hand. But Claire was very different to Bella. As a person, Bella was confident, and very affronting. She took no prisoners in business and in life, and was straight to the point. Claire was less so, more maternal and gentle in her way of business handling and how she dealt with people. It had been a huge adjustment for Russell to make, and more so when his workload had increased.

Claire was not accompanying him on this trip. Russell had rather quickly arranged a short business trip to Europe to check on the offices being set up in London and in Venice. But his first stop was the labs in Germany, and they were the main reason for the trip. In his last report from Mason, he had rather excitedly explained about a project one of his assistants had been working on, and had been unable to fully explain its functionality. He had simply urged Russell to come and see for himself, to get an idea of what they could achieve, and then to report back to the others.

Russell had been restless, and with his increasing stresses and worries, he had been more than willing to hop on a plane and take a short trip. He hoped it would also relax him, a change of scenery, and that it too would give him some much needed inspiration to work, and boost Atlas Corp from its current funk.

So now, Russell sat expectantly in a cold and uninviting laboratory, surrounding by beeping machines, large computer displays, and a lot of mathematics he did not understand. He was surprised to have been, on his arrival, immediately led to his particular part of the lab. It wasn’t a main area, in fact it was more like a spare room, where small experiments and trials could be conducted, but nothing impressive. Or noteworthy. The room was stark, filled with machines, and to one side stood a table with several chairs around it, littered with notes, and with some small pieces of machinery, akin to television remotes.

“What is going on, Mason?” Russell asked impatiently as the door opened, and Mason entered, closing the door firmly behind him. “I have a lot to do, but I came here first on my trip because you said what  you had to show me was important and ‘ground breaking’, but I see nothing here to suggest that.” He eyed the larger man darkly, folding his arms.

“It will be worth the trip, I promise you,” Mason explained, taking a seat opposite Russell. “One of the techs here is a genius. Some would say he’s less a genius, more a madman, but his work holds merit and I intend to follow up his work and theories.”

“Theories?” Russell repeated, an eyebrow twitching. “You brought me here for theories?”


“No, no.” Mason shook his head. “We have created a prototype. A transportation device. Technology never seen or heard of, never even witnessed – and one of our young minds has come up with it and it works,” Mason explained, enthusiasm coating each of his words. He leaned towards Russell. “Imagine it, Russell: driving to work a thing of the past. Commuting anywhere could be brought to a halt. It would mean less emissions, people would be able to work longer hours, and be able to just zap home.”

Russell looked skeptical, and Mason could tell his words were not sinking in, or exciting his comrade as he had hoped. He cleared his throat and sat back in his seat.

“This... technology,” Russell said slowly, “has been unobtainable by man for years, despite trying. What makes you think you’ve succeeded? That it’ll even work?”

“Because we’ve seen it work,” Mason said firmly. Russell paused, Mason watched his face, seeing the meaning of his words beginning to penetrate and sink in. He now had Russell’s undivided attention, even if Russell was not going to show it. “As soon as we had the formula for this technology, we set it to work. We’ve been using small items for the moment, inanimate objects, transporting them from one place to another with no side effects. Then we started with small animals, mice, rabbits... again, no side effects or after effects of the transportation.”

“Explain to me how it works.”

Mason nodded, and picked up one of the small remotes that were sitting on the table. “This remote does everything. We have two pods. One in this room, and another across the compound, we’ve been moving them further and further apart as we have been experimenting. You input the location, longitude and latitude of where you want to go, activate the remote, step into the pod and arrive at the other pod, within a manner of moments.”

“All with this little remote?” Russell asked, taking the small grey box from Mason’s hand. “And how do you return to your origin destination, a person has to carry a list of co-ordinates I imagine?”

“Not at all,” Mason said, smiling. “The remote has built-in memory which remembers all locations entered previously, like how a cell phone remembers which numbers have been most recently dialed. You can name these locations and just find them when you want to travel. The co-ordinates for this room have been put into that remote as a test.”

Russell turned the remote over in his hand once, before tapping a few buttons and watching as names of places came up on a small LCD screen, with a series of numbers beside them. “Incredible.”

“It’s not ready for marketing or anything like that quite yet, you understand, but hopefully you appreciate why we’re so excited. This could be the means to put Atlas Corp in the history books, my friend,” Mason explained, patting Russell on the shoulder.

Russell nodded, a small smile creeping across his lips. “What were to happen if a person were to use the pod, and there not be another pod active at their location?” he inquired, leaning back in his seat.

“One of our first experiments,” Mason confirmed, “was to see the outcome of this. As it was, it resulted in the subject being rejected. With the other pod off there is nothing for it to transport to, consequently, nowhere for the subject to go, so the pod simply does nothing. No dangers, as far as we can see.”

“Incredible,” Russell murmured.

Mason smiled broadly. “Wait for a moment, I’ll fetch the man behind the madness and give you a demonstration.”

Not about to argue, Russell sat back in his seat as Mason left, and moved the remote around in his hands, tapping the main button to scroll through locations. The pod in the room stood at one corner, whirring quietly, obviously on stand-by. Russell was curious. This was his company after all, why shouldn’t he be curious and try to get an idea what exactly his money was being invested in? Mason wouldn’t mind, and if he did, Russell could just remind him who exactly was in charge of the company.

His chair scraped along the floor as he pushed it from the table and stood. At first he walked around the pod, measuring it up. It was just a large metal... cage almost. Imposing and rather off-putting as well, with lights on the front flashing different colors. If this was to become a household object, it would need to be able to be concealed, or customized to look more attractive, or no one would buy it. It would need a sleeker design, at the moment it was far too bulky. And it would need to be quieter. Not that it was loud now, but people didn’t like background noise in their homes, it easily annoyed them.

But for what it was, and by the sounds of what it could do, it was an impressive and interesting piece of technology which, if properly constructed and marketed, could, as Mason said, put Atlas Corp in the history books. And by association, Russell himself.

Lightly touching several of the numbered keys on the remote, Russell entered a set of random numbers for longitude and latitude. He then boldly pressed the main power button on the transportation pod, watching at it lit up and the whirring became louder. Mason had said the other pod wasn’t on, and that the transportation didn’t work without the other being on, it was just simple curiosity, a silly test. Russell stepped into the pod, amused by his own boyish ideas. A firm press on the large ‘activate’ button on the remote and he waited, smiling to himself.

As he expected, nothing happened. The pod made no additional noise, and he went to step out, his childish intrigue sated.

Then he was shocked, noise began to surround him from inside the pod. Loud clicks and ticks like a metronome. Other noises started up: whirrs, and some high pitched whining sound which hurt his ears , forcing him to cover them both and close his eyes from its sound. It was like the sound of a dentist’s drill, and it made his teeth ache. Light blazed in the pod, brightly, forcing Russell to squint whenever he dared to open his eyes even a little, and suddenly it was all silent.

The noise disappeared into nothingness and was replaced by quiet, aside from a breeze suddenly blowing, and the sounds of grass moving, and leaves rustling as the wind blew. Russell’s eyes opened, he realized in his panic he had knelt down, squatted out of fear. He quickly straightened, standing tall and smoothing out his smart jacket. He was no longer in the lab. He stood in the middle of an open field, surrounded by grass, with trees dotted here and there. It looked like something out of a picture book, an ideal landscape from the English countryside.

Pocketing the remote from the transportation pod, Russell replaced it with his cell phone, touching keys and dialing numbers only to receive no reception and no response from it. He took a slow intake of breath, easing down his worry and panic. Wherever he was, he couldn’t stay here, and he felt the best course of action would be to start moving. One foot in front of the other, he picked a direction and walked.

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

Walking led him into a more covered area, something Russell was thankful for, as it seemed the temperature here – wherever he was – was far greater than anything Russell was comfortable with, or used to. The trees he found shade under were larger than any he had seen in real life or in books, and were not green like he was used to. Many of them had leaves that were turquoise, or in some cases purple, with orange or yellow blooms just visible through thick leaves. The terrain he walked changed from lush grass to forest floor, littered with dead leaves, various fungi and upturned roots Russell found himself tripping on regularly.

He was beginning to grow frustrated, not sure whether he had actually been transported to some random, wild destination. Or if he was simply dreaming, had fallen asleep on the plane to Germany and the whole conversation with Mason had been an illusion, created by his own over-worked mind. He hoped it was the latter scenario, and he would awaken as they landed. But he had a strong, gut feeling that it wasn’t the case, that he was indeed in some location, one he didn’t know, and was walking aimlessly to find some form of civilization.

Slipping his jacket off of his arms, the heat becoming too much for him, Russell glanced skywards. The sun was overhead and he could glimpse it through the trees. He had been a Scout as a boy and hoped he could recall that knowledge to find out what time it was and in which direction he was going. But his memory failed him. He had no idea where he was going, and as far as he knew, it could have been three o’clock in the afternoon.

He trudged on, determined to find something familiar, something he recognized. Every now and then he would hear things, things that sounded like foot steps behind him, and rustling in bushes close by. He had found a large stick on the ground at one point, and had taken to smacking bushes with it whenever he heard something, hopefully killing whatever animal was inside. And whenever he heard the foot steps behind him he would pause and turn around, waiting to see someone following him – Mason probably, laughing at his expense. Then when he saw no one, his hope would die and he feel like a fool again, turn, and carry on walking, stick in hand and jacket slung over his shoulder.

When the sun slowly started to disappear, and blackness began to engulf the forest, Russell decided he had made a bad choice in the direction he decided to walk in. He also knew he would probably wind up going back on himself if he continued to walk in the dark, so he decided – despite his low mood and worried mind – to stop for now, and carry on in the morning. Through some miracle – luck finally smiling on him – he located a large tree, close to a small trickling stream, with a hollowed-out trunk which would make for a temporary shelter. He pulled down leaves to make the ground more comfortable, and also in an attempt to make the trunk water tight if it rained during the night. By this time, he could barely see an inch before his face. He folded up his jacket, slipping it beneath his head and lay curled up, protecting himself against the cold, his stick clutched firmly in his hands.

He woke up to the sound of screeching. Like the kind of sound made by a panicked bird. It shook Russell down to his very feet as he sat up, groggy from an uncomfortable night’s sleep – aware of slivers of light dispersing through the leaves. He must have slept all night, and it was now morning. He rose from the ground, pulling his jacket on and grabbing his stick for protection, ducking out of the hollowed tree. There was a noise above it, a steady humming noise, almost like that of a helicopter.

Again, hope jumped up in Russell’s chest, he ran, stopping every now and again as the noise went overhead. He changed direction and followed it, yelling and waving his arms in a desperate attempt to get attention. The trees covering him gave way to fields again. Russell stopped, continuing to wave his arms, staring at the sky for a glimpse of the helicopter and his saviors.

What appeared was not what he had expected. The noise had come not from a helicopter, but what he could only describe as a giant dragonfly, swarming above him. The noise was that of its wings beating and vibrating. Its green body was at least as long as Russell was tall, and large, bright emerald green eyes were visible on its head, along with large gnashing jaws and six clawed legs beneath it. It swooped around in a large semi-circle, changing its direction and screaming straight towards him.

Russell was rooted to the spot. His legs frozen by abject terror and confusion all mixed together. Between its giant jaws, Russell could see sparks generating, as if electricity in its purest form was being conducted.

He was resigned. He was going to die here, and no one would know. He would be alone, killed by a giant insect. Leaving his wife and family bereft of him. The dragonfly was almost upon him, and Russell’s eyes closed tight.

Then he felt the floor, and felt the wind of the dragonfly swooping over him as it missed. His eyes opened, and Russell looked for whatever had knocked him down. Standing to his side was a creature which looked like a chameleon, its body mostly green, with splashes of teal on its head and down its body. It stood erect on two legs, staring after the dragonfly. Oddly, around its neck was a red bandanna. Something Russell could not focus on as it turned to him.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” it shouted, and Russell suppressed a surprised scream. “DON’T YOU KNOW THAT’S YANMAMON!? RUN!!” The chameleon’s voice was desperate and so full of authority that Russell dare not refuse or question it. He was up on his feet in moments, following the lizard through the trees, his eyes never leaving its shape, even as he tripped and stumbled on the randomly placed roots, seemingly put there just to cause him difficultly.

The chameleon darted this way and that, occasionally its head twisted over its shoulder to make sure Russell was still there. The noise of Yanmamon was still audible, and Russell did not want to check if it was close behind them or not. He could hear its noise above the trees, hear screeching and the vibrations of its wings.

“This way!” the chameleon demanded, quickly changing direction and dashing over a fallen log and into a tree. Russell paused. The tree was solid, and yet the lizard he had been following had just disappeared. The noise of Yanmamon was close now, and Russell didn’t know whether to continue on, and do as the chameleon had done, or to stop and question everything he had just witnessed. Before he could think too much, the chameleon’s head popped out of the tree trunk, its expression a mask of rage. Its skin had changed color, the greens and blue becoming darker. “Do you wanna die?!” It grabbed Russell’s hand and yanked him inside.

Russell braced himself to impact with solid bark. Now he would wake up. Now. When he hit the tree trunk. But instead he fell straight through, the brown tree trunk gave way to him, and the forest was obscured immediately by the inside of this miraculous hiding place, which to Russell looked like metal. The chameleon released him, his colors returning to their previous brightness. Russell held his breath as the sound of Yanmamon echoed overhead, too close for comfort, and the lizard stood completely still. It didn’t even look like it was breathing.

Keeping silent, Russell stood on the spot, eyeing his savior warily as it did the same. They both waited in silence for what seemed like hours, for the noise of Yanmamon to die down, a sign it had moved on. Several times, the chameleon Digimon left the tree, only to reappear moments later in a different area, having walked around it from the outside, checking for danger. Finally, Russell watched as it relaxed, expelling a breath it had been holding, and he too relaxed a little, though kept his eyes on the creature before him, and clenched his hand around his protective stick – just in case.

The chameleon looked at him, beady eyes fixed on Russell’s body looking him up and down. Slowly it approached, and Russell took a few small steps back. “You’re not like any Digimon I’ve ever seen. Were you trying to take on Yanmamon alone?”


“I...” Russell faltered. He was not about to converse with a creature that was probably the creation of his own mind. The chameleon looked at him expectantly, waiting for an answer. Upon realizing it wasn’t about to get one, it turned its back on Russell.

“I’m hungry,” it stated. “Wait here if you don’t want to die.” Without another word, it left the tree, leaving Russell alone in the echoey hollows. He fell to his knees, crumbling under his own weight, and the fear that was beginning to dawn on him. This was real. Everything he was experiencing was completely and utterly real. He was somewhere unknown, where larger than life creatures spoke, and attacked, and were the size of small children or adult human beings. Russell wanted to cry, he wanted to curse, he wanted to find a way home.

In his desperate realization, Russell fell asleep, and when he awoke again, he found himself laid out flat with a large, mossy blanket covering him, and light coming from the inside of the tree. The light was artificial, not coming from any primitive fire, it was like the inside of the tree was supplying it. He moved slowly, his limbs aching from the running done earlier than day. Opposite him, the chameleon had returned and was sitting silently, surrounded by a vast variety of food, eating some itself, eyes fixed on where Russell was lying.

“You’re awake,” it said simply. “Eat.” It pushed a pile of what looked like blueberries towards Russell with its foot, and Russell realized suddenly how hungry he was. Without thanking the lizard, or any politeness, he began to eat handfuls of the fruits, barely pausing to breathe or chew as he filled his stomach. The lizard watched him. “You’re new around here, huh?”

Russell did not respond, focusing on the food.

“You could at least talk to me, I did save your life,” said the chameleon firmly. “Or are you one of those weird Digimon with manners? Won’t talk unless I introduce myself.” Another pause, awaiting an answer. The chameleon looked annoyed. “Fine. I’m Dalimon, satisfied?”

Without speaking Russell stared at his savior, this Dalimon, who waited, staring at him expectantly. Russell owed him his life, and the least he could do was show his gratitude. Even if this Dalimon was a giant, talking chameleon. Russell was not about to start rationalizing now. He was stuck, wherever he was, and if it was creatures like Dalimon who occupied the place, he was not about to start over thinking.

“My name is Russell,” he said slowly, mopping his mouth.

“And what kind of Digimon are you? Never seen one that looks like you before,” Dalimon asked quickly.

Russell replied, as calmly as possible. “I am not a Digimon... I don’t even know what that is. I am a man. A human.”

Dalimon’s head tilted to one side. “Only Digimon can be in the Digital World... humans stay in your world. It’s the way of things,” he said, after thinking for a bit. “What’re you doing here?” His voice had lost much of its suspicion and it made Russell relax a little.

He explained in length who he was and how he had come to be in this new place, which Dalimon called the Digital World. Dalimon listened keenly, stopped Russell only to ask necessary questions, which Russell answered to the best of his ability, and when an answer had been given, Dalimon would go silent again and let Russell continue his story.

By the time Russell had finished, he felt better for talking and explaining everything, going through it all himself to someone else made everything he had experienced in the last forty-eight hours seem much less terrifying. Dalimon sat in silence for a few minutes, taking in all the words that Russell had said, and letting them settle appropriately. Finally, he looked at the human opposite him.

“Guess we gotta find you a way home.”

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