Episode 43: Siren Song

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Frankie stretched out over the cushions, easing the tension out of her muscles. “And anyway, you’re wrong.” She treated Eva to a lazy smile, resting her hands behind her head. Eva said nothing, glared weakly and raised her mug up to her mouth, swallowing a gulp of hot tea. Piper did the same, smiling to herself.

It was late. None of them were entirely sure of the time, considering there were no clocks, and they couldn’t be sure if the time specified on their D-Touches was the same here as it was at home. The only clue they had was the fact that it was dark outside, the moon was out and full, and there was no other noise from birds or insects, which were all now sleeping.

The rest of Ryudamon’s house was still. Even their Digimon, who had stayed up with them, all slept soundly on cushions, close together in the corner of the main room. Irbimon had his mouth open, and was snoring loudly. Caesarmon had fallen asleep with his paws covering his ears and Siberimon had a book on his stomach, rising and falling as he breathed.

It had been two days since they’d all reunited with Ryudamon. They only knew that because of the two sunrises they witnessed. The day after they all arrived had been a lazy one. The Digimon had all been at the ends of their beds by the morning, as promised by Ryudamon, and each one had slept long into the day, exhausted from their mission with Rubimon. Though once awake, they each excitedly recounted the events of how they had rebuilt the Circle and regained the memories that had been missing to them. Even Ryudamon seemed more interested to hear the details from the mouths of the Digimon, rather than Rubimon.

Ryudamon had no training for them, and there was little any of them could do to pass the time. Once daily chores were done and meals were made, it was a case of wasting time. Ryudamon practically forbade any of them from leaving the safety of the house, or going further than the trees that protected it, for fear one of them could be abducted – which served to make some of the Digimon irritable, and most of the humans unhappy too. Like being grounded for no good reason.

Every day so far had been a waiting game. Eric was in direct contact with Logan, and was asked several times a day if there was any update from Logan about how they could get home. Or if there was any update at all. The answer was always the same, that there had been nothing. No contact, no emails, no messages, and that as soon as Eric heard something he would alert everyone.

Which was a fair answer – it just didn’t help much with the cabin fever.

“I am not wrong,” Eva retorted eventually, crossing her legs and leaning on the table top. “Tyler Hoechlin is much better looking than Ian Somerhalder. I mean, okay – let’s compare.”

“Let’s not,” Frankie teased, poking her tongue out.

“No,” Eva said. “Let’s.”

“Does it really matter?” Piper inquired, sitting back on the cushions.

“Yes!” Eva told her, quickly glancing at the blonde and then turning her attention back to Frankie. “They’re in totally different leagues. Somerhalder has that clean cut look, like he’d be someone you’d want to take home to meet your mother. While Tyler Hoechlin just looks dangerous! Like he’d be one to rip the clothes off of you.”

“My, my Eva,” Frankie joked, “is that some kind of fantasy you’re letting us in on?”

Eva blushed, making a face in response. “Tch. Hardly. I’m just saying, that’s the kind of thing he looks like he would do! You’d have a much more passionate, physical relationship with him, I think, than with Somerhalder.”

“Well, considering you’re both taken,” Piper said, “is it really worth debating about?”

“Oh right,” Frankie’s mouth slipped into a grin. “I forgot you get all prudish about this kind of stuff. Sometimes you’re like a nun.”

“I am not!” It was Piper’s turn to blush, and she drank deeply from her mug.

Eva giggled. “Maybe we should ask Hunter for sordid details on their love life. Maybe underneath the shy exterior, Piper’s a minx.”

“I am really not comfortable talking about this,” grumbled Piper, placing her mug on the table.

The three of them had been up talking like this for the last two nights. There was little else they could do, and unlike the others who seemed to be able to fall asleep with little trouble, all three of them found it difficult to settle each night. Their conversations were normal, silly bickering arguments that never lasted very long. Often they found themselves talking about home, work, and without needing to worry about being overheard, their relationships. Piper was often the butt of jokes and teasing from the other two, given her sheltered upbringing, but it was harmless, and she found she enjoyed these conversations.

“You’re never comfortable talking about sex,” Frankie told her with a playful grin. “You really shouldn’t be so... prim about it. It’s a totally normal, natural act and everyone talks about it, even if it’s not obvious. And honey, it’s us. Who’re we going to tell?”

Piper said nothing, staring into her tea, and brushed her hands back over her hair, curling a loose strand behind an ear.

“Hunter’s probably already gone into vulgar detail with the guys anyway,” Frankie prompted. “It’s the kind of thing guys do.”

“Okay! I’m going to bed!” Piper stated, getting to her feet quickly and narrowly avoiding spilling her tea on the floor.

Frankie whined and grabbed for her leg. “Piper, come on. You don’t have to go to bed because you’re uncomfortable. We’ll stop asking.”

“I’ve heard that before,” Piper retorted.

“I promise! No more talking about sex, unless you bring it up first.”

“Frank—”

“Can you guys smell smoke?” Eva’s questioned, and her sudden serious tone caused Frankie and Piper to stop their bickering and fall silent. It was several seconds during which each of them breathed in deeply, trying to see if they could, and a few moments more when the smell was confirmed. They could see smoke rising from outside, where trees had been set fire to and were beginning to catch on each other. “Oh, my God.”

Frankie was up on her feet, while Piper woke the sleeping Digimon nearby. “You two go and wake everyone up stairs,” Piper ordered as Caesarmon groggily got to his feet. “I’ll wake Ryudamon. HURRY.”

“FIRE!!” Eva yelled thumping up the stairs making as much noise as she could. Frankie followed her, and they each took different rooms. “Tom, wake up! There’s a fire outside!” Eva shook him violently by the shoulders, ignoring his complaints at being so rudely awakened.

The window to their room faced onto the burning trees, and smoke was filling this room slowly where spitting embers had caught the wood and the roof. Poemon was on her feet, flapping her wings and trying to force some of the smoke out.

“What the Hell is going on?” Tom mumbled.

“There’s a fire, we have to get out,” Eva told him urgently.

She heard footsteps down the corridor and got to her feet. Tom was pulling his shoes on and grabbed his hat from his pillow. Peering out of the door, Eva saw James with Odocomon coming, followed by Eric and Eleanor. Reyez was pulling on his t-shirt as he ran out of his room with a groggy Ailurmon a few paces behind him.

Frankie came after him.

“Where’s Rose and Hunter?”

“Already downstairs, Skollmon and Hatimon smelled the smoke just as we did,” Frankie explained. The corridor was filling with black air, and Frankie pulled up her shirt to cover her mouth. Her eyes were watering against the harshness, and she was finding it hard to see. “Let’s go.” She grabbed Eva’s arm and pulled the plum haired girl, who checked behind her to see Tom coming with his shoes undone, carrying Poemon in his arms.

Downstairs, Piper had roused Ryudamon and Rubimon. Caesarmon and Corneliamon were working at putting out some of the flames, but they moved faster than the little Rookies. The other Digimon congregated around Ryudamon, while Hunter, Eric, and Reyez grabbed up a few supplies from the kitchen.
“What do we do?” James coughed, covering his mouth and squinting.

“Follow me,” Ryudamon ordered seriously and began to run. Half the house was already in flames, and a beam fell from the ceiling, nearly crushing Odocomon who dodged in time. Tom grabbed a bag from Eleanor as she passed him with Eric. In a rush, each one went through the doors to the outside landing of the house, the wood hot and beginning to crumble as the flames ate away at it. Ryudamon moved quickly, leading them around the back and towards a small staircase that was as yet untouched. He ran down it, then watched and counted as each human and Digimon ran past him and carried on into the woods, led by Rubimon.

The trees grew thicker quickly, causing difficulties as far as movement went, as grass was high around them. The flames from the rapidly burning house provided enough light for them all to see by as they scattered, scared and worried that there may be other Digimon, responsible for the fire, waiting for them.
After about twenty meters, Rubimon called them to stop, and Ryudamon made his way through them all quickly and without a word. He nudged the ground where Rubimon stood, hitting it with his foot and listening for the sound. After a few moments, he yanked something from the ground – a hatch door, covered in dirt and grass. There was a drop of several feet into a dark tunnel, and he said nothing as Rubimon marched the group towards it.

Skollmon dropped first, lighting the hole and the drop. Eleanor followed with Eric close after, and then everyone else one at a time, some holding their Digimon with them, while others let the Digimon leap first and then followed.

When Ryudamon dropped down, and closed the hatch after him, he sounded out of breath and coughed violently.

Eleanor was shaking, but was comforted by Eric’s arms around her. Everyone began to check each other over for burns or injuries and were relieved to find that aside from some ash and soot-stained faces and clothes, no one was harmed.

“What ... was that?” Rose asked, her voice quivering. Hatimon was at her side and nudged her leg gently to assure her. Rose grabbed up the wolf Digimon and hugged her to her torso.

Rubimon expelled red flames from her mouth, sealing up the hatch door.

“I had worried something like this would happen,” Ryudamon said solemnly. “I had not expected it so soon.”

“You knew someone would come and set fire to us!?” Hunter demanded, sounding somewhere between astounded and outraged.

“Skollmon, would you walk with me?” Ryudamon asked, ignoring Hunter for the moment. Skollmon nodded and matched Ryudamon’s pace as he began walking, leading the ground through the tunnel. There was no light from anywhere, without Skollmon it would have been pitch black and they all would have been blind. The air was cool but stagnant, and there was no breeze. It was high though, high enough that Hunter had no need to stoop, and it was supported every few meters by beams. Once they had walked a few minutes in silence, Ryudamon spoke again. “I had a feeling something might happen. Once the Gods emerged at full strength. I had not anticipated it to be so soon.”

“So... you knew some Digimon would come and try to kill us?” James snapped. “And you didn’t think to warn us?”

“What good would it have done?” Ryudamon retorted softly. “I did not want to cause further worry to you all. As I am more than aware of how concerned you are for your home.”

“What about your home?” Eleanor piped up.

Ryudamon frowned, unseen by anyone else. “I did not expect to be returning to it, after you all returned here.”

“That’s not cryptic,” Reyez sighed. “At all.”

“At least we’re out, and no one’s been hurt,” Frankie said, tossing her hair over one shoulder. “Why is this tunnel here, anyway?”

“A safety precaution,” Ryudamon explained. “I had expected something might happen – in the eventuality that it did, I thought having an easily accessible escape route would be a good option, instead of you all scattering and becoming separated again.”

Rose suddenly gasped. “The journals!”

“Are no longer necessary,” Ryudamon said sternly. “And there is no need to concern yourself with such a worry. All the information they contained has been as useful as it can be now.”

“But that was all we had of our father,” Rose argued.

“And I am sorry they have been lost,” Ryudamon told her impatiently, “but it is necessary. Now the details of them will not fall into the wrong hands and benefit the enemy in some way.”

Rose opened her mouth to argue, but felt Eva’s hand on her lower arm, which stopped her from doing so.

“Where does the tunnel let out?” inquired Poemon.

“Somewhere far from here.”

They carried on in silence. Ryudamon and Skollmon at the lead, followed by Hunter, Piper, Caesarmon and Corneliamon. Eric and Eleanor followed, Eric carrying a bag of supplies they managed to salvage. And the rest following in a larger group, Tom, James and Reyez each carrying a bag with them. Rubimon brought up the rear, and once in a while she would spew more fire, blocking the tunnel to any pursuers.

There was no telling how long they walked for. The tunnel twisted and turned in different directions, disorienting everyone. Occasionally the roof was lower, forcing some to stoop. It was clear parts of the tunnel were newer, or had been dug more frantically than other parts, but it was supported and had yet to cave in on anyone. The air grew fresher the more they walked, and the walls seemed to grow damp, like there was moisture nearby, cool droplets hit people on the head every so often.

“Are we walking under a lake?” Odocomon asked, as another drop landed on her back.

“Are we going to stop walking any time soon?” Ailurmon added, grumbling. “Some of us are still tired.”

“We’re all tired,” Siberimon argued.

“Soon,” was all Ryudamon replied with as he led them. Occasionally, Skollmon’s tail would fizzle and sputter when he was dripped on, but his flames remained the only light source, and no one dared look away.

Ryudamon stopped them finally. They had reached a dead end, and he looked above him. Here there had been placed several large boulders of differing sizes. They seemed out of place until Ryudamon demonstrated the reason they were there. He climbed onto the smallest one, and then the next largest until he was standing on the largest stone, at least five feet off the ground. He pushed against the ceiling, mustering his strength, until he shoved open another hatch, letting silver moonlight stream in and dirt to fall onto the ground from the hatch door.

Several groans of complaint went up from the sudden brightness caused by the moon light, but Ryudamon ignored them all as he climbed out. “Lift your Digimon out first, it will be easier.”

Poemon flew out before the others were handed up, and one at a time, each Rookie was lifted out and placed on the ground. Following them, the humans clambered out of the hole and onto the ground.

The hatch opened out over the edge of a lake. The light from the moon was enough to give a good view of their surroundings. The lake went quite a distance and was overhung by a cliff face, which had a steady, small waterfall streaming from it. The cliff itself formed something of a semi-circle around the lake side. The grass was short, and in places the ground was soft and squelched when stood on. There were rocks littering the ground, and a few trees better suited to the watery and marshy ground.

Ryudamon slammed the hatch door shut and Rubimon sealed it, then finished with it by covering the remains with grass and leaf litter to make it look less disturbed.

“Now what?” Irbimon asked. “We can’t sleep out in the open. They,” he indicated to Eva, “will catch cold.” He had a point. The lack of cloud cover meant the night was crisp and brisk. It was pleasant for the moment, but after some time it would undoubtedly become too cold.

“There’s a cave near here, we’ll sleep there for the rest of the night and I will think of a plan in the morning,” Ryudamon explained wearily.

“A cave?” Frankie repeated. “I thought I was done sleeping on the ground.”

“We managed to save some blankets,” Eleanor explained, trying to sound cheerful. “It’s not much but...”

“It’ll be fine,” Piper interjected, smiling weakly. She wanted to get to somewhere safe, so did everyone else, they were just too proud to admit it. It was just as terrifying being out in the open as they were now, as it was in the middle of a flaming house. “Where’s this cave, Ryudamon? I’m sure we’re all tired.”

Ryudamon smiled gratefully and led the way.

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

Sleep was something difficult to achieve that night. The ground was cold, hard and uncomfortable, and the walls of the cave were damp with moisture. Little droplets fell regularly, hitting people on the head or skin as they tried to sleep, huddled together for warmth – humans on the inside, Digimon on the outside.

Ryudamon offered to stand watch the whole night, and he was certain there would be no dangers here. No Digimon were attracted to them as the moonlight was enough for them not to need a fire to give light.

It was difficult to sleep. People rolled over trying to get comfortable, others complained when someone leaned on their arm or hair. As some couldn’t sleep straight away, still panicked and full of adrenaline from their escape, they talked quietly about home and subjects that came to mind to take their minds off of everything that was going on. But eventually everyone managed to fall into a restless and uneasy sleep for the hours until daylight.

Dawn light was just beginning to peek over the cliff top when Eleanor started to wake, eyes opening wide. She couldn’t pinpoint what had woken her up so suddenly. She had been sleeping relatively soundly, covered in a thin blanket for some protection from the cold. She breathed in slowly through her nose, staring up at the ceiling of the cave, pointing out shapes the water droplets made in her head. She could hear the breathing of the others around her, a comforting sound, but still she knew now there was no way she could get back to sleep. It had always been one of her issues – never being able to fall back to sleep if she woke up suddenly.

She shifted, pushing her hair back as she sat up. The blanket pooled in her lap and Eleanor blinked, adjusting her eyesight and looking around the group. Eric had been lying beside her and his spot was now empty. In fact, several places where people had been sleeping were now vacant. She also noticed a distinct lack of Digimon.

Trying to ignore the worry beginning to rise in her chest, Eleanor hurriedly got to her feet and walked the short distance to the mouth of the cave. She hoped that the missing members of their rag-tag group were outside, perhaps freshening up and preparing something to eat with the supplies they had saved. Ryudamon no longer sat his post, and from what she could see there was no one else around outside.

“Oh no...” Eleanor murmured. She noticed as she ventured further out the ground to the cave had been disturbed. There were footprints where everyone had walked in, but now those were joined by prints that led out. And they weren’t normal. There were drags in the ground where the footprints walked, leaving longer marks and less defined prints in the earth and the mud. Like the missing members had been dragged or pulled from their places.

Turning quickly, Eleanor paced back into the cave and nudged Eva. “Uhm... Eva?”

Eva mumbled something and rolled over, reaching an arm out in an attempt to find something, either Tom or Irbimon. She found nothing except the ground but didn’t wake.

“Eva.” Eleanor tried again, a little more urgently. She shook the other girl’s shoulder gently.

Eva opened one eye, stared at Eleanor and closed it again. “Ten more minutes,” she murmured and curled back up into a ball.

“No, Eva! Wake up!” Eleanor insisted, shoving her harder.

Rose sat up about five feet away. “Some of us are trying to sleep,” Rose snapped, her hair disheveled and her expression murderous. Hatimon stirred beside her, amber eyes opening and blinking slowly.

“The boys are missing,” Eleanor stated, trying to keep the worry out of her voice, delivering the news more like it was a simple fact, rather than something they should be worried about.

Rose looked puzzled. “What?!” she bit out.

“The boys are gone,” Eleanor said again, louder and clearer. “Look around you.”

By this point, disturbed by the noise, Frankie, Piper and Eva were all moving, shoving themselves into upright positions and stretching out their sore legs and arms from the uncomfortable night’s sleep. Each of them began to look. Hatimon was up on her feet, alert, all signs of sleep gone from her as she shook her coat out and began to pace around.

Eleanor wasn’t wrong. Rubimon was curled up in one place with Corneliamon, Poemon, Odocomon, and Ailurmon all curled up together too. Irbimon, Siberimon, and Caesarmon were all missing, as were Tom, Reyez, James, Hunter, and Eric.

“I’m sure they’re just making breakfast,” Rose said, getting to her feet.

“They aren’t,” Eleanor argued. “I’ve already checked.”

Rose looked as if she was about to scream at Eleanor for back talking, but schooled herself, running her fingers back through her hair. “You obviously just missed them,” she snapped.

Eva left the cave, followed by Piper. Hatimon had woken the other Digimon and was explaining the situation to them. Frankie went after the other two girls, and then Rose, finally Eleanor and the Digimon joined them a few seconds later.

“Even Ryudamon,” Piper said softly.

“That’s ridiculous. He would have put up a fight!” Rubimon sputtered, not wanting to believe her mentor could be taken so easily.


“They must have been taken,” Poemon advised, worried.

“This doesn’t make sense,” Frankie said.

Ailurmon stared at her. “You don’t say.”

Ignoring the panda, Frankie tossed her hair over one shoulder. “Why are we still here? If they were taken... why not take all of us? For one thing, whoever has taken them has taken the wrong Digimon.”

Piper shook her head. “Not really. Our Digimon can’t evolve without us. Leaving us with their Digimon and taking ours? That’s a pretty smart plan.”

“There are tracks here!” Hatimon yelled from a short distance away. She was with Corneliamon, who had also been looking for signs of the missing group.

“And here!” Corneliamon added. She was up to her ankles in mud, while Hatimon stood nearby in the grass where the ground was still waterlogged, but not deep.

The tracks were a mixture of paw prints and shoe prints; all of them had the same tow marks, as if their feet had not entirely left the ground as they walked, but were dragged across, moved slowly or somewhat unwillingly. The tracks all went in the same direction though, leading into the grass and further along, around a small path that seemed to follow around the lake and beyond.

“Where the hell were they going?” Eva said, asking no one in particular. “They wouldn’t have left willingly, and it seems pretty strange that Ryudamon would leave us too.”

“Maybe they didn’t have a choice in the matter,” Rubimon suggested. “But standing around here isn’t going to help anyway – there’s no telling what danger they could be in.”

“I agree,” Frankie said.

Eleanor pursed her lips. “Hatimon, can you get their scents at all?”

“I can try,” Hatimon said, tilting her head.

Rose nodded. “You do that.”

The small blue wolf paced along the water line, nose down, ears pricked and her tail up, smelling and nipping at the grass with her teeth. She ventured a little into the water and further along until the water was coming up to her chest. She looking back over her shoulder at the others and shook her head. “I can’t get anything. They walked through the water so their scents are lost here.”

Frankie stared into the middle of the lake and chewed her lip. “How deep do you suppose that lake is?”

“They wouldn’t have gone in here,” Poemon said firmly.

“They were probably dragged through the water to lose their scents and throw us off,” Ailurmon added, folding her arms. “There’s more than one way to follow a missing group. I think heading up to the cliff is our best option, that’s the direction the footprints are leading anyway.”

“And from there we...?” Eva prompted.

“Look for more clues,” Odocomon said. “But at the moment we’re wasting valuable time. The more time we spend waiting here is more time they could be getting further away from us.”

Rose stretched. “Not exactly how I intended to spend my morning.”

“You’ll have time to do your hair later,” Eva smirked, trying not to let her worry and concern be too obvious. “Let’s go.”

Eva took the lead, Rose following her with Frankie beside her. Eleanor took up the rear, while the remaining Digimon all weaved in and out between them. Hatimon kept to the front of the group, her eyes pinned to the ground looking ahead for tracks, while Poemon flew above, also keeping an eye out for clues further ahead.

Rubimon was the one to notice Corneliamon was missing, and Piper. “Hold on a second.” She turned, and Piper was still standing at the mouth of the cave looking at the group with unease, her arms folded.

“Piper, come on!” Frankie called.

“No.”

Exchanging worried looks, Eva and Frankie returned to her. “Why not?” Eva asked, smiling weakly.

“I’m not going with Rose,” Piper said.

Frankie tilted an eyebrow, while Eva shoved her hands in her pockets. Piper hadn’t really shown any issue with Rose being in close vicinity or part of the group. They hadn’t talked at all, really, unless it was part of a group discussion, and Piper was always the first to leave a room if Rose entered. And still the atmosphere between them was icy, but as far as Frankie and Eva knew, Piper had been handling Rose being around quite well.

“I can understand why you don’t want to go with her,” Eva said slowly, “but she’s the only one of us who has a Digimon who can evolve right now.”

“Besides,” Frankie added, “you haven’t really had an issue with her around since we got here...”

“I’ve had Hunter to distract me, and keep Rose in line,” Piper explained sharply.

Rose stood a few feet away from the trio, her hands on her hips. “You’re being really childish. I haven’t done anything to you while we’ve been here. Why not let bygones be bygones?” She offered a small, tight smile.

“Right...” Piper said softly. “Yeah, because I’m going to forgive you for kidnapping me and threatening to kill me all because your brother was interested in me. Those facts alone make you so trustworthy.”

“Not like it did much to put him off you,” Rose sighed. “You know, I still have trouble seeing how your relationship works. You’re so…” she gestured, “…you. And Hunter could do much better.”

“You’re not helping, Rose,” Frankie's voice gained a bit of attitude, with a perked brow. “Go wait with Eleanor, we’ll deal with this.”

“No,” Rose argued. “She’s holding us up. She doesn’t want to come, that’s fine. I’m not going to be made to wait here, especially when I’m the only one who has a Digimon who can defend us all. She’s already volunteered to stay behind – she’d only get in the way anyway.”

“We’re wasting time!” Ailurmon shouted.

Frankie grimaced, and looked at Eva helplessly.

“Pipes,” Eva said gently, “come on. We’ll be with you, and we’ll keep you and Rose apart.”

Piper snorted. “Of course, let’s not upset your new best friend.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Eva inquired, with a smiled that felt forced, and she knew that it looked forced.

Rolling her eyes, Piper tightened her folded arms. “Forget it.”

“No,” Eva snapped, still trying to keep her smile in place. “You’ve got something to say, so say it.”

Piper stared at the taller girl with narrowed blue eyes and a hard expression. For a few seconds Frankie worried Piper would take a swing, and readied herself to leap between the two. “Fine,” Piper said eventually, “since you and Rose were thrust together, you seem to have become best friends forever. Completely forgetting the things she’s done in the past. Just because she does one good thing, doesn’t wipe out everything.”

“I don’t think that,” Eva retorted. “But she’s trying, and I appreciate the effort. Maybe if you weren’t so fixated on her past actions, you would too. Everyone else can see past them – why can’t you?”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Frankie said, trying to interject the bubbling argument. “Let’s stop before one of you says something you’ll regret.” She physically stepped between the two, giving Eva a gentle shove. “If Piper doesn’t want to come for whatever reason, we can’t make her.”

Eva sidestepped Frankie. “I can understand why you don’t trust her, Piper. But we’re all on the same side effectively. You need to work past your reasons.” Frankie grimaced and rubbed her forehead.

“Work past them?!” Piper repeated, her voice rising a few notches. “Let’s put the shoe on the other foot, shall we?!”

“Piper-”

“No, Frankie. Obviously Eva doesn’t quite understand the severity of what Rose put me through,” Piper yelled, beginning to make points, listing them off on her fingers. “She kidnapped me and left my Digimon in a trash bag to be put into a trash compactor when the garbage was collected. In kidnapping me, she tied me up in an abandoned warehouse with FlexiCuffs which cut so deep into my wrists they have left permanent marks as a fun reminder. She not only threatened to kill me, but cut my face with glass, and nearly slit my throat.”

“She was not her-”

“I AM NOT FINISHED!” Piper screamed, Eva took a surprised step back, and Frankie closed her eyes with an irritable expression. “After the event in question, I spent months having repeat nightmares, waking up once, twice, sometimes three times a night, and sometimes not sleeping at all. I had to be prescribed sleeping medication just to get maybe three hours in one night. I changed the locks on the doors, jumped at my own shadow for months and the only person who seemed to care about the ordeal, was Hunter. So, put yourself in my position – if it had been you that she had done all that stuff to, would you willingly work together with her? Or appreciate when someone tells you to ‘work past’ your reasons?”


Eva stared at Piper, who glared back. Her shoulders square and her body completely rigid. She hadn’t expected an outburst – after all, this was Piper, usually soft spoken and easy-going. It was unusual for her to raise her voice, let alone scream. Eva saw her reasons were valid, but a voice still nagged at the back of Eva’s mind that she was being unfair. She knew though, that mentioning that thought would do nothing for their current situation and they would remain at loggerheads.

Glancing at Frankie, whose expression was one that reminded her of Reyez, Eva released a long breath through her nose, turned, and started back towards Eleanor and the others. They had lost enough time already and there was no need to lose more with pointless arguing. If Piper didn’t want to come, they couldn’t force her.

Piper relaxed a little, as Frankie turned around to face her. “You stay here, in case Ryudamon or one of the Digimon or guys comes back somehow.”

“Fine,” Piper said icily. She flinched when Frankie touched her shoulder. The other girl frowned.

“We’ll keep in touch with you, okay?”

“Yeah.”

Frankie breathed in deeply, the air still static from the argument. Without another word, she followed after Eva and the group as they set off walking back the way they had originally come the night before, Hatimon leading.

Noticing Corneliamon at her side, Piper looked at her. “Aren’t you going?”

“No, I’ll stay with you,” Corneliamon told her with a small smile. She peered up at Piper from the ground. “Caesarmon would want me to protect you.”

Piper breathed and swallowed thickly. She felt a choking sensation around her throat as she bit back a sob. “Thanks.”

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

The trek from the cave towards the cliff was not an easy one.

It started off on flat ground where the waterlogged earth was thick and muddy, causing some issues with getting a grip with their shoes. Once or twice Eleanor and Eva had been forced to stop and help Frankie, whose heels were not ideal for the terrain. Once they were further away from the lake, the ground evened out, becoming more sturdy and a little bumpier, with rocks and bushes obscuring a direct path. Their way also became harder going as the only way they could go, apart from back, was up a steep incline towards the top of the cliff.

Every-so-often Hatimon announced more footprints, and Eleanor had found fabric from Eric’s shirt, ripped on a tree branch. There were also signs of disturbance on some bushes where branches had been obviously broken to allow people or animals past. Regardless of the climb, they were on the right track and Eva tried to keep positive, insisting they couldn’t have been far behind them, as all indications showed their missing companions had been dragging their feet the whole way and moving much slower than they would usually.

Poemon reached the very top of the cliff first, and swooped down, landing on the flat ground. Ailurmon partly collapsed on the ground when she reached the top, and slowly the others came into view, arriving on the flat ground, breathing heavily and worn out from the walk.

It had been early morning when they had discovered the others were missing, and judging by the height of the sun, it had taken them at least two hours to walk up to their destination.

Hatimon ran to a small pool of water close by and lapped eagerly. Rose sat on the ground, recovering, while Eva had her hands on her knees and her head between her legs, fending off the nausea the stitch in her side had caused her.

“Now what?” Frankie asked, as she gingerly removed mud from the bottom of her shoe and the heel.

“We die?” Rose proffered, falling back on the grass, her chest rising and falling quickly as she drew air back into her lungs.

Eleanor tutted. “Stop being over-dramatic.” She was up on her feet, and seemed to be the only one not badly affected by the hike up to the cliff top. “What’s this?” She walked towards the pool Hatimon had been drinking from, stepping over Odocomon and Rubimon as she went. She was more interested in what provided the water for the pool itself. It was clear that the waterfall down to the lake was made by this water source, but pouring into that was something strange.

An odd, pale pink statue.

Rubimon sat up, and Ailurmon wandered across to the ornament, curious. Frankie, Rose and Eva all approached from where they were recovering, standing away from the statue as Odocomon and Ailurmon inspected it.

It stood on a plinth, which itself was about three feet high. The statue on top of that looked to be about six feet, making the whole thing nine feet tall. The statue was that of a creature with rounded feminine features, long hair down to her waist, and arms that carried on her shoulder a gourd from which the water for the pond flowed. Her arms had details of small primary and secondary feathers, just like a bird, and while she also had human legs, somewhat obscured by a carved robe, there appeared to be a avian tail too.
The plinth she stood on was almost as delicate as the woman’s features. There were carvings – some had been worn away by weather and the water constantly pouring from her shoulder. But sitting on top of the plinth at the woman’s feet were jewels: groups of small, perfectly round pearls, a cluster of different colored gems that looked like a mixture of rubies, sapphires and emeralds, all of them sitting on a large gold plate.
No one said anything for a minute as Ailurmon picked up one of the stones and examined it. She handed it to Rose, who waited for it expectantly before she too examined it. “This is a real ruby,” Rose exclaimed, excitedly.

“And probably a trigger for some kind of trap,” Ailurmon said, snatching the jewel back and placing it where she had picked it up from.

“Is this... normal for the Digital World?” Eleanor questioned, looking at Frankie and Eva for clarification. Both girls shrugged.

“We’ve come across towns in the middle of nowhere, and the guys were taken to an underground death match arena,” Eva rationalized. “Why not consider this normal too!”

Odocomon edged towards the base of the statue, examining the writing on one side, as Rubimon did the same. Hatimon was sniffing the ground, still trying to get the scents of their companions, and Poemon and Ailurmon examined the surrounding area, continuing their search for clues as to the whereabouts of their tamers. Despite appearances, Ailurmon was becoming increasingly agitated by Reyez’s disappearance, and Poemon was just managing to keep it together because Eva was with them.

“You know...” Rubimon murmured, standing back and looking up at the face of the statue. “I think this is Anthemon.”

“Who?” Frankie asked.

“Anthemon,” Rubimon repeated. “Which is weird because she’s supposed to be a myth.” She paused, tracing her claws over the inscriptions on the base of the ornament. “Yeah... it is, this here,” she pointed, “its script reads: lay offerings here for the Lady Anthemon so the fruits of this world will never die.’”

“Well... that sounds positive,” Eleanor said. “Is she one of Mukademon’s followers?”

Rubimon shook her head. “I don’t think so. According to the stories she didn’t work well with others.”

Odocomon tilted her head. “Stories?”

“Ryudamon told me the myth: that offerings were made to her because she was a malicious and vindictive Queen, and if anyone angered her, or insulted her by not providing offerings or their offering not being enough, her retribution was swift and terrible. She would bewitch men with her voice and hold them captive to feed on when she became hungry. It’s said she was destroyed by the Lord of the Seas...” Rubimon explained. “At least that was the story. No one really knew if it was true or false. There was never any proof of her existence found, or a battle between her or Gaiusmon.”

“Myths have to come from somewhere,” Odocomon said.

“I guess,” Rubimon shrugged.

“So, wait,” Frankie leaned on one hip, crossing her arms. “If you’re saying she can bewitch men with her voice, men being human and male Digimon, doesn’t it seem logical she might have bewitched our guys?”

“Possibly,” Rubimon murmured, “but this is a statue. It can’t breathe or sing.”

“This Anthemon,” Rose spoke up, “sounds like the equivalent to an ancient Greek siren.”

“I thought sirens were mermaids,” Eva pointed out.

Rose shook her head. “No. Common misconception.” She stepped towards the statue and pointed to the feathers on her arms. “It depends on who you believe, but in Homer’s Iliad or the Odyssey he expresses that they’re related to the sea, but for the most part avian. It’s only in recent times that sirens have been assumed to be fully aquatic.”

“Really.” Eva stepped up to the statue. “So if we are dealing with Anthemon, which is starting to sound like we are, how do we find her?”

“There are no tracks up here,” Hatimon said, “and I can’t find any scents either.”

“This is so stupid!” Ailurmon exclaimed. “People don’t just disappear into thin air!” She smacked a paw into the base of the statue, knocking the jewels off into the water. “And we’ve lost our only lead to finding Reyez and the others!” She landed another punch on the base of the statue, and then a third on the ground beside it, creating fissures that disappeared underneath the statue.

“Get back,” Rubimon warned, shoving Eva away from the stone work as it shook uneasily in place. The fissures Ailurmon’s punch had created dislodged the statue from its place and it toppled awkwardly, leaning to one side. Poemon flapped above it, she had been sitting on the gourd Anthemon held beforehand and had quickly taken to the air as Ailurmon had begun throwing punches.

“There’s something there,” Poemon stated, noticing a gap between the ground and the edge of Anthemon’s visage. “Like... a hole?”

Immediately, the four girls and the Digimon began to shove against it, further dislodging the statue until it fell back onto the ground, splintering Anthemon’s head and arms from her body. Poemon’s instincts were right. Before the statue had been standing on top of a stairwell that spiraled downward into the cliff itself. Now that it was no longer upright, the stairs were exposed and shown to go quite far down into the earth.

“Back underground?” Frankie complained, knowing they would be venturing down there. “Why can’t Digimon have lairs out in the open?”

“I don’t think it’s classed as a lair if you can walk right into it,” Eva teased.

Hatimon went down first, followed by the other Digimon, Rose, Eva, and Frankie, with Eleanor taking up the rear. The stairs were steep and slippery from the water that had dripped down from the fountain, and now from the water that should have been going from the gourd to the pool, which instead ran down the walls and the stairs. Each set of steps was about ten, and Eva made an estimated guess that they went down at least six flights before the bottom came into view and then another four flights when they reached the ground. The light from the sun was enough to light most of their way, and the closer they came to the bottom of the stairs, they found their way lit by dim, eerily glowing torches with pink orbs that floated and glowed in place.

The smell was damp and unpleasant. Rose made the mention that it smelled like wet dog, to which Hatimon was offended. It was cramped; the stairs had very little space between each flight, and more than once someone complained about bumping their head or narrowly avoiding slipping on a step. Hatimon pointed out a few signs that others had been down recently, such as disturbed dust and marks on the wall where people had brushed by. The inside of the cliff was not earthy, like they had expected. It was chalky and white-walled, with sharp flint rocks sticking out at random intervals, which snagged on clothing.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs there was only one direction: a narrow corridor about three feet across, and the only way forward. It led to a room that was dimly illuminated with the same pink, glowing orbs they had seen before, acting as torches and not giving off large amounts of light, but there was enough to see the room they came out in.

It was large, square, and had one other door on the opposite side. The walls were damp, lined with torches, and the floor was stone, causing everyone’s footsteps to echo. The thing they noticed most though, were the large, translucent pink pearls that lined the walls on one side, two rows of five. Each pearl had one occupant.

 “Tom!” Eva dashed away from others towards the closest of the pearls, where Tom was sitting, hunched over and silent. His eyes were open but he didn’t seem to notice Eva when she smacked her hand against the container. Above her, Irbimon was in a similar situation, sitting up with his eyes open and unseeing.

One by one, each of their missing team members were checked, and they were all in the same state: hunched, still, unresponsive, and their vision completely unseeing.

“Reyez, come on! It’s me!” Ailurmon yelled, smacking her fists against the prison. “Listen to me, damnit!”

“James?” Odocomon had her hooves up against the encasement. Frankie was checking on Siberimon above him. Creating no dents with her hooves, Odocomon fired out a short blast of light, which bounced off the cage, and ricocheted around the room until it dispersed on the wall. “We can’t break them!”

“Yes! We! Can!” Ailurmon argued, punctuating each of her words with a punch or kick to the pearl preventing her from reaching Reyez. Each time she hit it, her paws bounced off, leaving ripples in the encasement but no other signs to show anything had hit it before.

Eleanor and Frankie tried to remove the one holding Siberimon from the wall, but found it was stuck tight, and it would not budge no matter how hard they pulled.

“Hey, look,” Poemon, who had been the only one not entirely frantic, spoke up, “their mouths are moving.”

She was not wrong. None of them had noticed before, as they had been preoccupied with trying to break them out, but they were all speaking, repeating something in unison in a voice that was barely audible. Hatimon put her ear up to Hunter’s cage as the others stood around, watching and waiting to know what they each said.

“They’re saying: ‘we serve our beloved, Queen Anthemon’,” Hatimon explained.

Eleanor frowned. “So she is real, and is behind this.”

“Guess so,” Rubimon replied, her expression troubled. “I don’t have a clue how to break them out of these though. I’ve never seen anything like them.” She moved her claws gingerly over the orb that surrounded Ryudamon. Where she touched, ripples moved like droplets in water, but there was nothing else to give an indication of what the pearls were made of, or how they were moved or broken.

“Intruders!”

“Encroachers!”

Frankie whirled round. The second door had a group of Digimon coming through it, all aggressively running and circling around the group. One of the species were orange and yellow in color, with gray claws and gray spines. The other was smaller, green with blue stripes, and a single red fan on its back. Both looked aquatic, and none too friendly.

“Gizamon and Betamon,” Rubimon snarled, holding her arms out protectively in front of Eleanor as they came in closer.

“How did you find your way in to the lair of our most lustrous Queen?!” one of the Gizamon demanded. “And what were you trying to do to her new subjects?!”

“Free them!” Frankie yelled. “They’re our friends and our Digimon. Let them go!”

One of the Betamon laughed. “Let me think. No,” he snapped. One of the Gizamon swiped at Ailurmon who refused to move, shoving her back into Eva’s leg, causing the plum haired girl to topple. The circling Digimon chuckled nastily to themselves.

“What should we do with them?”

“Take them to Her Majesty. She’ll know what to do.”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Ailurmon argued, tightening her paws into fists. “You let Reyez go, RIGHT NOW!”

“Ailurmon,” Odocomon said sharply, “we’re outnumbered, and unable to evolve. The odds are not in our favor.”

“Odocomon’s right,” Poemon added, laying a feathered wing on Ailurmon’s shoulder. “There’s a time to be brave and a time to be smart. Now is time for the latter.”

Ailurmon scowled and flexed her paws a couple of times, before she nodded and relaxed her stance somewhat. She cast a look at Reyez in his bubble as the Betamon and Gizamon began to march the group through the narrow doorway they had come through.

Unlike the corridor from the stairs, this one was wider and allowed more room for movement. It was shorter too, and opened up into a second room, much larger and grander than the one they had just come from. The walls were lined with Betamon and Gizamon on guard. There was a pool of clear water in the center, which glittered with the images of jewels and coins inside it. Around that was a ledge and more of the floating orbs, giving light. Situated in the middle of the pool was a platform with a set of small, floating stones that led to it from an area of solid ground where the Betamon and Gizamon stopped with the group. On the platform there was a throne, on which the very image of the statue they had knocked over sat.

Anthemon was beautiful, the stone statue however accurate, did not do just credit to her appearance. Her skin looked soft, supple, and pearlescent in the unusual glow of the lights. Her hair was long, white-blonde, and she had pale lilac eyes that peered through long, unkempt tendrils. Her limbs were lithe, adorned with pink, yellow, and orange feathers up her arms. She wore a gold circlet around her head, and a translucent robe which was held up with gold clasps at the shoulders and hips. She held in one hand an ornate gold scepter with a turquoise inlay; it was punctuated with small gems of the same color. At one end was a large pink stone about the size of a child’s skull, which glowed softly.

Despite her outward beauty, her eyes had a coldness to them, and she sat with a superiority on her throne, higher than those around her. Her mouth was tight and her face severe.

“So you’re the ones who knocked over my likeness,” Anthemon murmured, looking over each of them in turn disapprovingly. “Why?”

“You kidnapped our partners and our friends!” Frankie snapped.

“Kidnapped?” Anthemon replied, feigning shock. “I did no such thing. I took nothing that did not wish to be taken.”

“I call bullshit,” Ailurmon spoke with a flat tone.

Anthemon snapped her eyes to the little panda and glared coldly. “I will not have such vulgar language in my palace.”

“If that’s what you want to call it,” Rose snorted, folding her arms.

“You never explained why you broke into my home,” Anthemon said, smiling a forced and unpleasant smile. “Why you dislodged my likeness and broke in, and tried to steal away my faithful subjects.”

“They are not your faithful subjects!” Eva snapped.

“We shall see.” Anthemon’s smile increased a little. Waving her scepter gently, the Betamon and Gizamon separated at the doorway as the pearls which contained Hunter, Tom, Reyez, James, and Eric drifted through.

Frankie and Eva exchanged wary looks.

The pink bubbles lined up in front of Anthemon and she tapped each one with the scepter, letting the bubbles fall away and cause the boys to tumble to the ground in heaps. Their voices were audible, now that the bubbles were gone. And each of them continued to repeat the phrase Hatimon had repeated.

“They seem faithful to me,” Anthemon said, hooking one thin finger beneath Tom’s chin and pulling him to his feet. He did not resist and moved like a marionette on a string, his limbs loose and flailing as he was moved and manipulated by Anthemon.

“You leave him alone!” Eva hissed, and Frankie grabbed her wrist.

Anthemon looked at her for a moment. “Precious to you, is he?” She tilted her head, looking Tom over with a discerning eye. “Yes... he has a certain... something.” Without warning, she had placed her lips over Tom’s and was kissing him. Tom was unresponsive and stared ahead with unseeing eyes. Still, the image made Eva’s stomach turn and twist uncomfortably as she struggled to keep a sense of calm.

“Get your filthy hands off of him!” Eva demanded.

Poemon agreed. “He’s not your to kiss! Only Eva is allowed to do that!”

Anthemon looked at Poemon with amusement.

 “Let them go!” Frankie ordered.


“Or what?” Anthemon teased, dropping her fingers from Tom’s chin. He toppled to the ground again like a discarded toy.

“You’ll be forced to face the consequences,” Rose said fiercely.

Anthemon chuckled, leaning back in her chair. “Consequences?” She rose onto her feet and stretched, before she moved onto one of the floating stones in front of her throne platform. “Oh my dear girl, what could you do to me?”

“It’s not her you should be worried about,” Hatimon snarled. In two flashes, Tsukuyomon was in her place, her katana grasped in her maw. The Betamon and Gizamon scattered, while Eleanor, Rose, and the others all disappeared to the edges of the room to give Tsukuyomon more space.

Anthemon looked disinterested.

“Endless Hailstorm!” A haunting howl went up from Tsukuyomon’s throat as a freezing blizzard began to rain down around her, and Anthemon. Anthemon adjusted her scepter, creating a small pink bubble around herself as a shield.

“How uncouth,” Anthemon sighed. She waved her hand in a seemingly bored fashion, glancing at Tsukuyomon as the larger wolf charged her. Blasts of wind pushed against the giant wolf’s face, forcing her back despite digging her claws into the ground.

Tsukuyomon snarled and snapped her teeth together, salivating at the jaws. A new katana formed in her mouth and she swiped wildly in a wide arc. “Winter’s Blade!” she cried, releasing a trail of frost and ice aimed squarely at Anthemon.

Anthemon sighed again, releasing a long blast of air which forced the oncoming attack to dissipate within centimeters of her and the throne. She moved her scepter from one hand to the other, the pink stone at the head of it glowing softly. “Scorning Wrath,” murmured Anthemon, though her lips barely seemed to move.
A blast of energy shot from the head of the scepter, smacking Tsukuyomon head on, forcing the blue wolf to pause in her steps, disorientated and confused as to her whereabouts. Her katana went limp in her mouth for a moment.

“LOOK OUT!” Rose screamed from somewhere in the room. Tsukuyomon looked for her blindly, and then jerked awkwardly to one side as she was blasted in the flank by several fast and furious blades of wind that cut through her.

Tsukuyomon yelped in pain, but regained some sense of self, and snapped her jaws together around the blade of her katana.

Anthemon hadn’t moved from her throne, just peered at the large Ultimate Digimon with indifference that only helped to fuel Tsukuyomon’s anger. She charged again, bringing the blade down in a wide sweep. It clashed against Anthemon’s scepter; the two blades kissed. They held each other in place, Tsukuyomon growling at the back of her throat; Anthemon’s mouth tilted in the smallest of smiles.

The humanoid Digimon pushed against Tsukuyomon’s blade, and sent the giant wolf reeling back a few feet until she regained her balance on her four paws.

“She’s crazy strong.” Frankie’s voice came from somewhere – one of the edges of the room. Tsukuyomon couldn’t see her, or Rose. But she could smell them both.

Determined, Tsukuyomon lowered her head and tightened the grip her teeth had around the handle of her blade. She clawed the ground for a split second and then charged, her blade poised and aimed precisely to land a devastating blow.

Anthemon’s scepter clashed a final time against Tsukuyomon’s katana, smashing it to pieces. “Scorning Wrath!” Anthemon called, firing a swirl of light from her scepter, directly into Tsukuyomon’s face, sending the wolf Digimon back several feet. The pink beam then encased her in a bubble, and shrunk back around her form, forcing Tsukuyomon into Remamon and finally Hatimon, who lay in the bottom of the bubble, exhausted from the fight.

“Hatimon!” Rose cried, running towards the bubble.

Anthemon flicked her scepter to one side. “Not so fast, my girl.” Translucent bubbles began to form around all of them, one around Rose as another closed around Frankie. Eventually all of them were floating in the bubbles above the ground a little way, beating against the capsules with fists and feet. “They’re unbreakable,” Anthemon explained, laying her scepter to one side.

“What are you going to do?!” Eleanor yelled.

“Do?” Anthemon replied, her tone was questioning and for a moment she looked thoughtful. “I’m not sure. I’ve never had female captives before. I suppose I could use more servants...” She paused, and waved her hand deftly. “I’ll decide after I’ve had a rest. All that fighting really did wear me out a little.”

The bubbles began moving, bumbling along on the ground until they were in the same room as the boys had been earlier. They were all aligned back against the wall, in their trance-like states. The bubbles they had been captured in now went to the opposite wall, locking to place with some unseen ability.

“Now what?” Rose asked, leaning back in the bubble. Hatimon stirred above her in her own prison.

“Have you tried to call Piper?” Eva asked, looking at Frankie through the pink haze.

“Tried,” Frankie sighed. “I can’t get through. We’re too deep underground.”

“So ...” Rose murmured. “So we’re stuck here?”

“Unless Piper miraculously senses we’re in danger, or we come up with a plan,” Eva growled, “yes.”

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

At some point, everyone fell asleep.

Despite the light, despite the danger, despite everything, the bubbles they were in made everyone drowsy to a point, and when Eva woke up and checked her D-Touch, she was alarmed to see three hours had passed since they had stumbled upon the statue and come down into this dwelling.

Eleanor slept on soundly, and the Digimon above them were also asleep. Rose was awake, tapping frantically at her D-Touch, and Frankie seemed to be on the verge of waking up. Eva felt tired and lethargic sitting in the confined space. Like energy was being sucked from her body by just sitting there, waiting. Doing nothing.

Anthemon had not taken a risk, and had stationed two guards in the room. One Betamon and one Gizamon. Eva was unsurprised that they were fast asleep too; she couldn’t have imagined it was very interesting watching prisoners who couldn’t move and weren’t even awake.

Her bubble was closest to the doorway that led through to Anthemon’s antechamber. Through the corridor she could see a little bit into the room. Anthemon was asleep on her throne, and from the little else Eva could see, her followers and servants were resting soundly too. Eva’s stomach growled angrily, and she was reminded that she and the others hadn’t eaten since the evening of the day before. The same applied for their Digimon too, and she hoped that if they escaped their pods, that wouldn’t play against them when they went up against Anthemon.

Eva wanted to go up against her. If she had the capabilities, she would have gone up against Anthemon herself and slapped her silly for what she had done and for violating Tom. But she knew that would be futile, and would have to wait until she and Irbimon were free to see Anthemon suffer.

All that plan required was one to get free in the first place. She was sure of one thing, and one thing only: that Anthemon’s scepter was the key to her powers. That if the scepter, or at least the stone at the end of it was destroyed, then the cages would be broken and they would all be free and Anthemon would have no more hold over the male Digimon or the others. It was simply a case of finding a way out of the cages.

Taunting the guards would do little to help them, as the guards had no power over the cages, and she doubted they would respond to jibes either.

She checked her D-Touch for reception. There were full bars, and she toyed with the idea of calling Piper to see if she had better luck getting through than Frankie did. Her thumb hovered over Piper’s number; she was still unsure. After all, the argument they’d had wasn’t easily forgotten, and she worried that Piper would just ignore the call entirely and shut it down before she even picked it up.

Closing the small machine, Eva leaned back against the bubble and stared upwards at the underside of Poemon’s feathers, looking at the intricate details on each feather for some kind of distraction.

She heard something though, something that was out of place in the quiet of the prison room. Something hit the ground, sounding like a rock or a stone that had been dropped from a height. At first Eva thought she had imagined it, but when a pebble bounced in her peripheral vision, she saw there were several on the ground, and the Gizamon and Betamon were beginning to stir.

Another pebble dropped and landed on Betamon’s head.

“Something’s up there,” Gizamon stated.

“Yeah ...” Betamon said. “You go check. I’ll stay with the prisoners.”

Gizamon argued. “Why me?”

“Because I’m higher in command,” Betamon replied haughtily.

“Are not.”

“Just go!” Betamon ordered.

Grumbling, Gizamon started to climb the steps until he was out of view. No more stones were falling and Eva strained her hearing to pick up any other sounds. She thought she heard a muffled yelp, and held her breath to hear better, only to get the noise of her heart beat echoing in her ears. It was several more minutes before Betamon became suspicious that Gizamon had not returned and followed up the stairs after his companion, casting uneasy looks at Eva and the others. Rose was now watching them too, and Frankie, who had woken up shortly after Gizamon had disappeared up the steps.

Eva found she was holding her breath again, staring at the stairs and waiting to hear something to advise if anyone was coming down. She started to hear the pattering of paws, claws tapping against the stone steps as they hurried down.

Gradually the noise got closer, a little louder, until it stopped for a moment, and then continued, slower than before, making the steps quieter and less easy to hear. Finally, Corneliamon’s front paws came into view, followed by her face and body. She caught Eva’s eye as she surveyed the area for danger and then glanced back up. Another set of footfalls started; Eva hadn’t noticed them before, as they had been covered by Corneliamon’s claws tapping on the stone.

Piper appeared behind Corneliamon and peered into the room taking in what lay before her.

“Piper!” Frankie called softly. Piper smiled at her briefly, crossing the room to check the other bubbles first. She lifted Corneliamon so she could see into Caesarmon’s to make sure he was all right, and Piper quickly checked on Hunter. Content that both were fine, she crossed the room towards Frankie and Eva.

“What happened?” Piper asked quietly.

“Anthemon,” Frankie replied.

“Who?”

“She’s this Queen Bitch. She’s the one responsible for the guys going missing,” Frankie explained in hurried whispers. “She bewitched them. You know like in those campy horror movies. She’s a siren or something, so Rubimon says.”

Piper tilted an eyebrow. “So that’s why they’re all… trance-like?”

“Yeah,” Eva added, smiling weakly. Piper gave her a sidelong glance. “How did you know we were in trouble? We tried to reach you.”

“I didn’t,” Piper explained. “Corneliamon and I were just waiting when suddenly the waterfall stopped. I thought it was weird and followed the trail up to see why. Corneliamon saw the statue, smelled you guys, and suggested we check it out. I saw the guards were asleep and didn’t want to risk waking them, so we tempted them away.”

“They’re not coming back?” Frankie asked.

“No,” Piper leaned on one hip. She laid a hand on Frankie’s bubble and watched the ripples ebb out from her palm. “So how do I get you out of here?”

“Anthemon has a scepter,” Eva started. “It’s gold with a turquoise inlay and a big pink stone at the head. She made the bubbles with that – I’m pretty sure it’s the source of her powers.”

“Break the staff, break the prisons,” Piper murmured. “Okay... guards?”

“A lot,” Frankie said. “Gizamon and Betamon.”

“They’re sleeping though,” Eva said. “You can see through the corridor.”

Piper turned to Corneliamon. “Can you check it out?” The otter nodded and padded softly through the room, down the small hallway and into the larger chamber. The three watched her as she ventured further in, disappeared for a few seconds, and then reappeared.

“All sound asleep,” Corneliamon confirmed. “The scepter Eva mentioned, Anthemon has it on her lap.”

Piper sighed and brushed her fingers back through her hair. “Never easy, is it?” She glanced between Eva and Frankie. “At least it’s not me being rescued this time.”

“Silver lining,” Frankie grinned.

“Sit tight.”

“Like we’re going anywhere.”

“Piper!” Eva called softly. Piper looked at her over her shoulder. “About what I said-”

“Save it for when you’re out of the cage-bubble... thing,” Piper told her, carrying on through the corridor with quiet steps.

Corneliamon padded along at Piper’s side, pausing as they came to the mouth of the antechamber. Piper breathed in through her nose, examining the room and what she was faced with. Gizamon and Betamon lined the edges of it, even the edges of the platform where Anthemon’s throne sat. All of them were sound asleep, curled up with each other and alone. Anthemon slept sitting up in her throne, her head supported on a hand where her elbow leaned on the arm of the throne. Her other hand was across her lap, laying lightly on the gold item that Piper needed.

“Shit,” Piper cursed softly. “If she wasn’t touching it, this would be easier.”

Corneliamon gave her a supportive smile. “We can do it.”

“It’s nice that you have faith in me,” Piper whispered, “just wish I had it in myself.” Running her fingers back through her hair, Piper held her arms behind her head, thinking for a few seconds. “Okay, walk slow, step where I step, and watch where you put your paws.”

“What are we going to do about the stick?” Corneliamon asked.

“Hopefully she’ll be deep enough asleep that I’ll be able to lift her arm a little and slide it out from underneath,” Piper explained.

“And if not?”

Piper gave Corneliamon a grin without answering and began to walk through the chamber.

The first bit was the easiest bit. None of the guards were in the middle of the room, they stuck to the edges, so getting to the edge of the pond and the floating stepping-stones was just a case of not tripping on anything or kicking any dislodged stones.

Piper hopped onto the first of the stones, then the second, nearly losing her footing and falling backwards into the water. She was able to steady herself with Corneliamon’s help, and took a few seconds to regain her composure before stepping onto the third stone and then the platform. Her shoes made an audible ‘thump’ noise as she landed, and Piper grimaced, pausing to look around the room and at Anthemon to see if the noise had disturbed any of them.

Sure she was safe, Piper edged towards the throne, examining the scepter and Anthemon. She barely dared to breathe, and when she did it was slow, through her nose, and made her feel more out of breath than when she took a breath. Her every action and motion that would have normally been automatic, was now deliberate. She felt like some kind of tomb robber, about to steal the artifact, and if she timed it wrong, she would be flattened by a giant boulder that would come out of nowhere.

Corneliamon waited patiently at Anthemon’s feet, looking at Piper expectantly. Hopefully.

Piper’s palms were sweaty and her throat was completely dry. She didn’t dare swallow in case she made a noise, and so close to Anthemon, she was sure any noise was sure to wake her. Piper gestured at Corneliamon, mouthing: ‘I lift. You grab.’

Corneliamon seemed to understand and stood on her back legs, supporting her forelegs on the arm of the throne.

Anthemon breathed softly in her sleep, and moved a little, her arm drifting slightly further over the scepter.

Ignoring her desire to scream in frustration, Piper held her breath and leaned over. She clasped Anthemon’s wrist gently and paused to see if it caused the Digimon to stir or wake. A few seconds and there was no reaction. Piper lifted the delicate limb slowly, Anthemon’s hand and wrist was limp and all Piper needed to do was lift it a few inches.

She and Corneliamon waited to see if the change caused any reaction in Anthemon. When it didn’t, Corneliamon edged forward, closing her jaws around the handle of the scepter. She moved an inch, then another, leaning back little by little, pulling the scepter off of Anthemon’s lap. Piper reached with her spare hand and took it from Corneliamon once she had enough of it to grab.

Corneliamon released the handle, but leaned back too far. She toppled uneasily and struggled to regain her balance. Piper dropped Anthemon’s wrist in a vain attempt the grab the tumbling otter, but missed her. Corneliamon fell back into the water with a loud splash.

Piper yelped, feeling a hand around her throat. She was spun quickly and was suddenly facing Anthemon’s violet eyes, furious and outraged.

“THIEF!” Anthemon cried, her voice echoing off the walls. “We have a thief!!” Several of the Betamon and Gizamon were stirring. Her grip increased on Piper’s throat, beginning to crush her windpipe. She was holding Piper a foot or two in the air. “Do you know what I do to thieves?!”

“Piper!” Corneliamon yelled from the water, scrabbling to get out.

“An accomplice!” Anthemon pointed at her. “Seize the vermin!” Several Gizamon were on Corneliamon before she could muster an attack. They grabbed her by the tail and her forepaws, treading water with her.
Anthemon turned towards Piper, whose face was beginning to turn blue. She drew Piper towards her, still holding her above the ground. “You thought you could steal what belongs to me? ME?! The greatest and most glorious?! And for what?!”

Piper forced a swallow, and breathed in through her mouth as much as she could. She couldn’t reach with her legs, they kicked and flailed helplessly beneath her, unable to reach Anthemon. Instead, Piper reeled her head back before thrusting it forward , landing a well aimed head butt on the bridge of Anthemon’s nose.

Anthemon dropped her, staggering back from the impact. Piper hit the ground in a heap and breathed in several gulps of air deeply as she dragged herself to her feet.

“Run, Piper! MOVE!” Corneliamon yelled.


Piper did as she said, bounding over the stepping stones, scepter in hand.

“STOP HER! SHE HAS MY SCEPTER!” Anthemon screeched.

Gizamon and Betamon were rousing, and looking bewildered as Anthemon pointed wildly at Piper’s back. Several of them guarded the door to the other room already, and Piper had no other way to turn apart from back to Anthemon.

“Give my scepter back,” Anthemon demanded with quiet authority, “or your friend dies.” Corneliamon was still in the water, held by the Gizamon.

Piper hesitated. She had the scepter, she could smash it now and the others would be free and the fight would be even. But there was no telling if she could smash the scepter before Anthemon attacked Corneliamon. If that happened, not only would Piper never forgive herself, but she was certain Caesarmon would never forgive her for letting Corneliamon die.

Anthemon seemed to sense Piper’s uncertainty and was walking towards her, gracefully stepping on the stones that led off the throne. “It was a valiant effort, my dear,” she said softly, walking slowly with a triumphant look on her face. “You came so far, and you almost succeeded in saving your friends and lovers. But you should just face it, you’re too weak to do anything alone...”

Piper stared at her, eyebrows furrowed.

“Weak and helpless. Can’t do anything on your own. This is much too big a job for just you, and you know deep inside you’re doomed to fail,” Anthemon spoke gently, her voice almost sing-song. “Now, you hand me the scepter like a good girl, and I’ll make sure you and your friends are kept alive for as long as possible...” She held a hand out and waited for Piper to do as she asked. When Piper didn’t move, her smile faltered a little. “After all dear, what other choice do you have?”

Something suddenly snapped inside Piper at that comment. Something unexplainable, like a wire had been tripped. A long, long fuse had finally come to its end and she snapped. Before Anthemon could react, Piper had drawn the scepter back over her shoulder, she spun on one foot and smashed the head of it against the wall: once, twice, a third time, showering the surrounding Gizamon and Betamon in shards.

The gem exploded with an intense power, drawing Piper and other close by beings towards it, before expelling them out in a high pitched whine.

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!” Anthemon screamed.

Piper took a few steps back; Anthemon’s beautiful face was melting away. Her hair that had been thick and lustrous turned thin and brittle, becoming grey. Her eye sockets deepened and her skin sallowed. Her slim, delicate limbs were replaced by spindly arms, with small hands and long, crooked fingers. She stooped, no longer upright and tall, and her skin became an unnatural puce color.

She was a crone.

The transformed Anthemon breathed deeply, and stared at Piper from beneath her hair with pure malice.

“That was a very big mistake, you foolish girl!”

She lunged at Piper, before she toppled. Corneliamon was behind her, her teeth around Anthemon’s leg, yanking the crone away.

“Piper, you did it!” Frankie cheered, appearing in the door way with Eva.

“Where are the others?”

“Recovering.”

“CAESARMON?!” Piper screeched, just as Anthemon got enough purchase to kick Corneliamon in the face. The crone snapped her gaze to Piper and heaved herself to her feet. She stood, swaying for a moment, her expression demented and manic, a look of pure blood thirst on her face. Her, thin, claw-like finger reached for Piper’s neck and face, Piper was up against the wall of the chamber, aware of not only Anthemon closing on her, but also the hoards of Betamon and Gizamon.

Without warning, Caesarmon charged through the small passage, awash with a bright yellow glow reacting to Piper’s D-Touch. Piper’s eyes mirrored the same color, and in seconds, Caesarmon had been engulfed in the light.

“Caesarmon, Reboot Evolve to… Gaiusmon!”

Immediately, Gaiusmon swung one arm to the side, sweeping Anthemon away from Piper and practically throwing her across the room, setting the Betamon and Gizamon scattering.

“Get out,” he ordered in a harsh tone, his eyes fixated on Anthemon, though the order was meant for Piper and the others. He faced Anthemon, who righted herself with far less effort than she had needed a moment ago. Corneliamon nudged Piper’s leg with her head, trying to coax her out of the chamber as the others were being ushered out  by the slowly recovering Ryudamon. The boys were doing so rather slowly. Their recovery made their movements sluggish, and would made the climb up the steps slow going.

“Keep her busy!” Rubimon yelled.

“I had not expected to see you again.” Anthemon made a mocking bow towards Gaiusmon as he squared up to her. “Two legendary foes locked in an endless tryst.”

“Endless?” Gaiusmon questioned. “No longer. This time, you will not return,” he growled and poised himself to attack, forming a watery trident in one hand.

Anthemon shrieked at him, a high-pitched whining noise, that caused Piper and Corneliamon to cover their ears in unison. Gaiusmon winced somewhat, but remained upright and moved little, following Anthemon’s erratic and wild movements with his eyes.

Despite her changed form, she moved swiftly, still delicate and barely touching the floor. Her movements had a distinct bird-like quality. Each step was precise and well timed, filled with purpose. She knew the room well enough that she never needed to look where she was stepping.

All around them, the Gizamon and Betamon were charging and scattering, trying to escape out from beneath Anthemon, and avoid the impending battle of the two foes.

Anthemon made the first move, and dove swiftly, charging towards Gaiusmon head-on.

Gaiusmon brought his trident around in an arc, spreading a trail of watery energy in its wake. “Monsoon Rhapsody!” he bellowed, the energy thrusting forward and aiming for the attacking crone. Anthemon dodged at the last minute, lithe and quick and agile; she hopped from the ground, and managed to avoid the arc altogether, which instead only caused several of the frightened Rookie Digimon to disappear into data. As she landed, she swiped with her talons, slashing at Gaiusmon’s cape and creating several tears.

He growled, wheeled, but Anthemon had moved again, too quick. Another swipe, this time her claws slashing at Gaiusmon’s face, cutting four small incisions into his cheek.

Snarling, Gaiusmon span. His trident disappeared into a puddle at his feet, and new weapons formed in his hands. Smaller, more compact. A curved dagger in one hand, and an arakh in the other. He slashed blindly with both, cutting the air as Anthemon dodged from each place within moments of his attack.

“Growing slow in your old age?” she taunted from a few feet away.

Not responding, Gaiusmon threw both weapons he had created into the air. They combined above him, and missiles of aquatic energy split off, spreading about the throne room. “Deadly Circle!” He watched Betamon and Gizamon disappear before his eyes, but Anthemon moved between the missiles, only getting touched by one or two but never letting them impact.

As the last blast smashed against the wall, creating a crater the size of a window, Anthemon rose up into the air on unseen wings, and slashed with her hands. “Windless Calm!” Razors sharp blasts of wind fired at Gaiusmon, each one hitting its mark on his face, chest and arms, cutting at his sinew and muscle.

“Gaiusmon!” Corneliamon guarded Piper from the remaining followers who surrounded them, they had not left with the others.

The hooded otter glanced at the pair, then at Anthemon, who had seen his look, sensed his hesitation and dashed across to them. The Rookies around Piper and Corneliamon dispersed in a frantic rush. Anthemon was heading directly for Piper, who seemed frozen in place.

By the time another weapon had formed, Anthemon had Piper in her clutches, and Corneliamon had been kicked into the pool of water that surrounded  the throne. Piper’s legs kicked as she was held above the ground, mimicking the same picture as before, held by the throat above the ground.

“Think carefully now, Gaiusmon,” Anthemon taunted. “Do you attack me and risk the death of your precious human partner, or yield?”

Corneliamon crawled out of the pool.

Gaiusmon glared at Anthemon, his gaze shifting between the crone and Piper.

“The clock is ticking.” Anthemon’s voice took on a screeching tone as she held Piper further above the ground. Piper was choking, clawing with her fingers at Anthemon’s arm.

“I will never yield!” Gaiusmon growled.

Anthemon’s face had a momentary look of surprise, before she schooled it, and a sickening grin spread across her mouth. “Then she dies.” She squeezed tighter and Piper released a strangled yelp.

“NO!”

“Sprinkling Needle!” The tiny spikes impaled Anthemon’s hand, causing her to release a startled yell and drop Piper to the ground in a heap. Corneliamon stood in front of Gaiusmon, her expression one of pure fury as she advanced. “You are no match for the Lord of the Seas!” Corneliamon shouted. “You are craven!! Resorting to threats, and dodging rather than meeting your adversary in true battle – you know it to be true!”

“Corneliamon…” Piper heaved.

“I will not stand for it!” In an instant, Corneliamon was surrounded by a ball of water which engulfed her, and had been supplied, unseen, by Gaiusmon. The ball expanded, and Corneliamon’s small form glowed white inside, changing and stretching, her limbs mutating and growing longer in places. Her otter body transformed into a humanoid one, with a head, long, supple arms and legs that were shrouded by masses and masses of cloth. Forming over her eyes was a visor, while an ornate gold circlet sprouted from that.

“Liviamon…?” Anthemon breathed when the water surrounding Corneliamon’s new form splashed to the ground around her. The fabric that surrounded Liviamon’s legs and feet was decorated with beautiful embroidered shapes, and it seemed as though she didn’t move by stepping, appearing to float instead. Her hands were covered with blue, watery markings, and the white cloth had become a hood, from beneath which blue hair could be seen.

“The very same,” Liviamon smirked. “Perhaps you should face me, if you are too much of a coward to fight the rightful Lord of the Seas?”

Anthemon snarled, and attacked.

Liviamon's movements were fluid and quick. Anthemon swung her scepter with poise and precision but was still too slow for the other Mega.

Liviamon grew bored, twirling in her spot as Anthemon came straight towards her. “Rain's Prayer” She laced her hands together, bowing her head.

Anthemon screeched as she was hit directly with a hard pressure of water formed by Liviamon. Anthemon growled, shaking, visibly angered.

Liviamon smiled. “You seem... upset?” she teased.

Anthemon prepared her scepter. “Windless Cal-”

“Monsoon Rhapsody!”

Before Anthemon could release her attack, her body jerked violently, the power aquatic mallet thrown by Gaiusmon hitting her squarely in the torso and sending her ricocheting into her own stone walls.

The giant water hammer flew back to his palm.

Anthemon pushed herself from the crater in the wall. “I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS!”

Her broken scepter lay discarded on the ground. She snatched it up with one hand as she launched herself towards Gaiusmon. The hammer transformed into a sword. Anthemon brought her scepter down into a strike, their blades clashing together.

“Rain's Prayer!”

Anthemon leaped away just in time to be missed by the attack.

Gaiusmon swung his sword, only for it to be deflected by Anthemon. With brute force he grabbed her by the neck, lifting her from the ground, his fingers pressing into the thin flesh around her bones and squeezing. Anthemon gasped for air; she desperately tore at Gaiusmon’s arm with her sharp claws.

The Sea Lord grunted, sneering. He threw Anthemon, sending her flying across the room towards Liviamon with a single jet stream of high pressured water.

“Ocean's Embrace.” Liviamon opened her arms, welcoming Anthemon, who was stopped from crashing into her. Anthemon struggled as Liviamon's grip tightened. They were then surrounded by water, the pressure caused Anthemon to scream in pain.

Once the sphere exploded, the Mega was left on her stone floor, out of breath, soaked through and quaking with effort. Her breathing was labored, though every attack seemed only to fuel her rage as she glared up through the thin tendrils of hair sticking to her face. She struggled to her feet, swaying weakly.

“I will… NOT... be defeated this way! I am a QUEEN!”

“Not today,” Gaiusmon’s deep voice growled. His face became darkened by his hood. “And no longer.” A sphere of water formed in the palm of his hand and continued to grow.

Anthemon turned to look behind her, as Liviamon was poised and proper in a seated position, a sphere forming between her hands as well.

Anthemon grabbed her scepter, the remains of the pink orb glowing faintly with the diminished remains of its power.

“Rain's Prayer!”

“Deadly Circle!”

Both spheres released giant beams of water that crashed into Anthemon before she could completely surround herself in her own pink bubble for protection. Her scream was high pitched and unbearable. The pressure of water continued, only to make her screams louder. Both Gaiusmon and Liviamon added power to the attack until Anthemon's scream was drowned. She had seemed to be making some type of threat, but then there was nothing.

Her data dispersed, making its way towards Piper's D-Touch, who had watched the whole fight and was dripping wet, having had splashes of water land on her.

Liviamon floated around Gaiusmon, smiling as her hand lightly touched his chest. Gaiusmon seemed unfazed physically, not a Digimon for smiling, but it was obvious that if he could, he would. The two Megas shrunk in size, cloaked by yellow light, which faded to reveal Caesarmon and Corneliamon snuggling each other.

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

Everyone who had been in the pearl bubbles was recovering slowly after the treck back down to the safety of the cave. It was late afternoon by the time they arrived back there, and while Tom and the others didn’t remember much about being captured or being in the bubble, they didn’t question their bodies’ tiredness, and were all asleep shortly after arriving back.

Realizing how hungry everyone was now, and would be when they eventually woke up, Eva, Frankie, Eleanor, and Piper all set to finding food to eat, and using some of the supplies they had. Rose decided to organize the bags to see what they had, while Rubimon and Hatimon found firewood. Rubimon easily created the fire, and then Hatimon sustained it while Rubimon went to collect more food.

Corneliamon used her natural skills to gather up fish, and left them still wriggling on the bank of the lake when she had caught them.

Piper sat beside the fire, a mirror supplied by Eleanor in hand, examining the bruises Anthemon had left on her throat. There were obvious finger marks, already beginning to turn purple, but Piper considered herself lucky that she got away with just bruises and nothing else.

Eva planted herself a few feet away. She had made a make-shift grill out of twigs and vines. She set it over the fire, high enough that it didn’t burn, and laid several of Corneliamon’s catch out over the layer of twigs. Piper put the compact away and cuddled her knees.

“So...” Eva said awkwardly, scratching her neck.

Piper stared at the flames. “So.”

“I should… apologize. About what I said before.”

“It’s fine.”

“No, it’s blatantly not,” Eva rebuffed. She chewed her thumbnail for a few seconds, before sitting upright. “I shouldn’t have said you needed to work past your issues with Rose. It was unfair of me. I can’t expect you to trust her after everything she did.”

“I’m to blame too,” Piper said. “After all, it’s not like I told you I still had a problem with Rose. I guess we’re both at fault. I know you’re working hard to make her feel welcome, and I know we’re all working towards the same goal. It’s just… hard, I don’t want it to be an issue... but it’s Rose.”

“I know.” Eva smiled a little. A ringtone echoed in the cave, and they vaguely saw Eric sit up, rubbing his eyes groggily to answer his phone. “You can talk to me, and to Frankie – you know? About Rose, about what happened. You don’t have to rely on Hunter all the time.”

Piper shrugged her shoulders. “It’s become kind of a normal thing for us.”

“Well, that’s nice and all,” Eva said slowly, “but we’re your friends. And sometimes it’s a good thing to share with your friends too – not just your boyfriend, who happens to be Rose’s brother.”

“I guess.” Shrugging again, Piper tightened the hold she had on her knees.

Eva shifted, edging towards her around the fire, poking two of the cooking fish with a long, pointed stick. Piper gave her a sidelong glance. “Friends?”

Piper smiled a little. “Yeah. Everyone has disagreements.”

Eva grinned, and wrapped her arm around Piper’s shoulder in a half-hug. Frankie walked over in time to witness it. “I am glad to see you two have gotten over your differences.” She grinned, sitting down on the other side of Piper. “I don’t like it when any of us are fighting.”

“I blame the stress,” Piper stated, laughing.

“Oh yeah – the stress of saving two worlds. It’s murder,” Eva agreed, grinning.

Frankie suppressed a chuckle, looking up at Eric as he walked out of the cave, disheveled and blinking oddly; the effects of the pearl cage still obviously affected him. Eleanor approached him, wrapping her arms around his middle, lightly kissing his cheek. Eric’s arm went to Eleanor’s waist.

“Who was on the phone?” Asked Eleanor.

“Logan,” Eric said, clearing his throat. Rose looked over, hearing her brother’s name. “He says he’s figured out a way for us to get home without a transport pod, because he thinks it’ll take him too long to get it calibrated to do the return journey.”

“Great.” Eva smiled. “How?”

“Something to do with a lightning field.”

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