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Thread: [Digimon Tamers/Fate/Grand Order] Fate/Analog

  1. #1
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    [Digimon Tamers/Fate/Grand Order] Fate/Analog

    Yo, so I still exist, huh? I even still have an account here, which I was worried about for a minute there. Guess you haven't seen the last of me after all.

    So, a lot to say about this, before getting into it. I've been wanting to write something like this for awhile now--something Digimon related, broadly speaking, but I was waiting for an idea that actually stuck with me. It's been awhile since anything like that came along, but most of what's come out of Digimon lately hasn't really gripped me.


    And then Konaka came along and just choke-slammed me into a block of inspiration. For those who don't know, which included me until a month or two ago, Konaka released an Audio drama that he lovingly refers to as Digimon Tamers 2018. Unlike most CD dramas, which tend to be small, self-contained events or commedic side-stories, this was a full on opening to a new plotline and Konaka not only made a website for it with a letter in multiple languages, but flat-out went around to various producers and said he'd be interested in making a sequel to Tamers.

    That, I must say, got the juices flowing. I don't know if this story will go very far, or if it'll go anywhere, but if Konaka is determined to continue Tamers, it feels to early to go throwing in the towel myself. What's more, the CD drama introduces a lot of neat concepts; instead of going with the 'a few years later' plotline of Digimon tri., the story was going to bring back the whole original cast and just age everyone up as if in real time, which is an awesome idea few series are willing to do. The one exception to this was meant to be Takato, because Takato's voice actor is a woman and having her voice a ten year old is one thing, but having her voice a thirty year old man is another.

    Being Konaka, he came up with the obvious solution. The adult Takato is missing and since Nyx--Yamaki's new take on Hypnos, which was originally the Office Affiliated with Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, until Yamaki said fuck that the moment he took command for explicitly chuuni reasons--wants the whole crew back together, they create a machine to basically copy-paste a version of him from the Digital World's memory and create a young clone of him in the present. Things go wrong, of course, to they may have accidentally dragged a version of him from across time and space instead.

    While broadly speaking just hilarious, this idea also struck me as absurd fanfic fodder, and of all the series that it could work with, Fate/Grand Order seemed like one of the best. I mean, all the pieces are there, right? Machines that beam versions of a person across space and time to fight world-ending threats, heroes called across the ages, etc.; it's easy to apply it, just a matter of whether you want to connect it with the Servant system, Magic that has been achieved by technology, or Rayshifting. Either way, it struck me as a natural crossover and as a particularly interesting one, given the idea of Mankind with the ability to summon a specific set of heroes as needed; just the implications of that, in the long enough run, struck me as fun.

    So, well, here we are, with a short beginning. Forgive me, but it's been awhile.

    Fate/Analog
    Prologue: When the Moon Dies
    Digimon Tamers


    Blutgang clattered against the stone floor as it fell limply from my fingers, the sound echoing through the nearly empty castle as the first piece of me fell away.

    It wasn’t the last.

    I managed to hold myself ready for nearly half a minute, putting up at least the act that I would be able to respond if there was one last tick ready, one last blade prepared to emerge from the darkness, but I could go no further. I collapsed in on myself, falling to my knees as Crimson Mode shattered and fell away. I held on for just a moment longer as Dukemon, before that shell also broke, armor sloughing off in an almost solid mass of data. Guilmon—Gigimon now—fell to the ground, his eyes already closed, and I had neither the strength nor desire to keep myself from following suit.

    Yet as I began to fall forward, an arm reached out to catch me. Its owner didn’t say a word and I was too numb to feel anything now, but there was only one person it really could be now. Just lifting my head felt like trying to lift a mountain now, but I at least managed met his eyes through the gaps of his helmet for a moment before giving up and leaning my head against his chest piece. It was cold. Rough. Uncomfortable.

    That’s death for you.

    I smiled.

    “That’s it,” I said. Were my ribs broken? It didn’t matter now; I didn’t need my ribs or lungs to speak and having them wouldn’t help me besides. “There’s only one left now…we managed to clear the way for you.”

    “Takato, you can’t be…” The murmur came. It was hopeless and we both knew it—had both known it before the fight even began—but his fingers tightened so much I actually felt flashes of sensation from them.

    “Dying? Haha…don’t be sad, I died a long time ago. They just kept needing me to come back.”

    “We still need you,” he replied. “Takato, you can’t die now—the Re-Animator, it’s gone; we don’t know how to fix it and we don’t have any other way to summon you! If you die here, it’ll be like…like…”

    “…It’s always been like that, for me. Every time I die, it feels like the last. This time, it just will be.”

    “The Sisters, they can—”

    “I don’t know if they’ll help any of us after this,” I said quietly, a part of me wondering what tomorrow might bring, even though I’d never see it. “But, they wouldn’t help me regardless. I’ve done too much to them…I don’t even deserve to ask.”

    I closed my eyes, still resting against him. I wanted to go to sleep, but I knew that if I did, I’d never wake up. Still, it took me a moment to find the words.

    It was always hard, saying goodbye.

    “And it’s okay. I knew…that this would be the end, and it’s okay,” I continued. “You don’t need to cling to the past anymore, because you have a bright future ahead of you.”

    “Bright…? The world’s dead. Everyone’s dead. Even the four of you…you’re the last, and you’re…” he stopped there, voice breaking. “How can you call this bright? How can you still believe any of it mattered at all?”

    “Because you have to,” I told him. “You have to believe that, no matter how hard it gets. So much was lost, so many people died, all just to get us here, so we have to believe it mattered. We have to believe it was enough. Because worth…is something that people give to things. The universe will never tell us it was all worth it in the end. The whole planet flat-out told us it wasn’t. But it doesn’t matter, because this is something we have to decide for ourselves. That we do deserve to exist.”

    He held onto me tighter, then, as if the grip of his armies might keep me in this world for just a little while longer. Maybe it would; for his sake, I tried my best to hold on a bit longer, too.

    “And it looks like we do. Because we slayed the monsters,” I said. “We saved the world. All of us, working together. The world ended, and we kept going. It ended again and we still survived. It’s proof, that this isn’t over…that there’s a tomorrow waiting for us, something all of us are dreaming of. Whatever it is, it’s just a matter of striving and reaching for it until we find a way. And this time…I know we will.”

    “Takato…”

    “It doesn’t hurt this time. I’m not afraid this time. Every time they pulled me out of that machine, I saw things getting worse and worse. I was there in…2018. 2030. 2054, and I…I was there to watch the world end. I could never stop it, not really; even if I fixed the problem in front of me, things always came back worse. No matter how many people I saved, no matter how many monsters I destroyed, no matter how hard I fought, I was always worried about tomorrow. But now, the fighting’s over and the monsters are all gone. The world is safe. Everyone will manage…I know it. I can almost see it…all of you, in starlight. The war’s over. We put it all aside and fought alongside one another, instead of against each other. That meant something. That’ll last, no matter what the Sisters say. All you have to do is take out the last one, and it’s done. And I know you can do it. You always do it. That’s why we could trust this to you. I’m glad I lived this long. Even if it hurt sometimes, I’m glad I got to meet you, that you’re here right now. I don’t need to be afraid, because of you.”

    He held me for a long moment, silent the whole while, before slowly laying me against the wall. One thing I did feel, then, was something wet hitting my face. We both knew the truth of what it was, but neither of us said a word about it.

    “You’re right…we can’t keep bothering you with our problems, old man. Rest. I’ll take it from here,” he said, standing and turning away from me, his steps shaky but his footsteps strong. He paused for a moment at the doorway, but didn’t turn back. “Thank you. For everything.”

    I managed to hold until he left the room before closing my eyes.

    “Go be the hero, A—"

    I came apart for the last time.

    XxXXxX


    —Or, it should been. And yet, what felt like only moments later, I opened my eyes, seeing nothing but deep, thick fog. I recognized a Digital Field when I saw one, even if it had been a long time, but I couldn’t make any sense out of that observation; why would there be a Digital Field here? Where would it even come from, with the network so devastated?

    No, more than that—where was the Re-Animator? Yamaki’s machine and the improved versions made in later years were, as far as he knew, the only way I could be summoned. But there was no one here—and I was alone. At the very least, Guilmon wasn’t here; forget the mist, I’d know if he was nearby even if my eyes and ears were taken away. But I had never been alone when I was called before; there was always summon there to do the summoning and oftentimes, he wasn’t summoned alone.

    Then—

    “Ruki?” I said, raising my voice as if the mist might try to hide it. “Jen? Are you there?”

    There was no reply.

    Feeling worried and confused, I began to walk, keeping my eyes and ears open for sign of…well, I wasn’t even sure what to expect now. I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I would see, past the edge of the Digital Field. A scene from the far future, maybe, with towering cities and flying cars and spaceships—something beyond everything I knew, for how else was this possible? How long would it take for the world, for what was left of Mankind to recover? For them to be able to dig up an old relic again? And, even if they could—what had made them try? In all my past summonings, I’d only been called on because something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

    Carrying that mixture of curiosity and trepidation, I slowly reached the edge of the Digital Field, still not encountering anyone, but knowing that if anyone was there, it would be right passed the edge. I took a deep breath, preparing myself as best I could for whatever I might find, whether it was a scene of destruction or a scene from the future. Whatever awaited me, I’d been called. What could I do but answer?

    But nothing I’d done could prepare me for what I found when I stepped out of the mist. Not a scene of devastation, but of peace. Not of the future, but of the past. Something I hadn’t seen in…it must have been at least a century. And something I’d never expected to see again.

    Tokyo, as it had been in the early twenty-first century. My home, before…well, before.

    “What the hell…?” I couldn’t help but ask.

    XxXXxX
    Last edited by Ryuugi; October 29th, 2018 at 05:19 PM. Reason: Addition to AN.

  2. #2
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    My God.

    You're alive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  3. #3
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Do you exist? Better question, when will you slip into the Void again?

    Anyway. Serious question... but why Digimon? What's so appealing about Digimon to cross it over with Fate?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Historia View Post
    Do you exist? Better question, when will you slip into the Void again?Anyway. Serious question... but why Digimon? What's so appealing about Digimon to cross it over with Fate?
    Digimon is cool, plus it has enough installments, side materials, anime, manga to compete with Fate in terms of developed setting.Much like Fate, it too draws upon the various different cultures of the world and makes really cool things with them, like Gallantmon, whos basically Siegfried.Plus Tamers is one of the best, imo the best, anime Digimon has ever gotten. Gonna watch this.

  5. #5
    Drunk Anime Is The True Path. Mattias's Avatar
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    Never apologize for providing content, dude. It's been a long while since I even thought about Tamers, so it might as well be series 5 for all know.

    My only gripe is that second paragraph of the second scene it changes from first to third person near the end.

    Gundam-a-thon Status: 0079 Zeta ZZ Char's Counterattck War In the Pocket F91 Stardust Memories Victory G Gundam Wing Endless Waltz 8th MS After War X Turn A SEED 00 Unicorn AGE Reconguista The Orgin Thunderbolt IBO


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    Arthurian Otaku Skull's Avatar
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    This brings me back to when Fate/Extra came out and I drew up plans for a Digimon/Extra crossover that would've gone something like Cyber Sleuth/Hacker's Memory. But that ended up not going anywhere.

    Anyways, interesting idea you got there OP. I'll be curious to see how it develops.


  7. #7
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    Chapter One: Time Enough to Lose

    Fate/AnalogChapter One: Time Enough to Lose
    I couldn’t help but stagger—couldn’t help but stare, really—at the sight of my old home. It had been so long, the mere sight of it left me feeling like I was wandering through a dream. No, more than that…for a moment, in a daze, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had all been a dream.

    But I dismissed that thought almost as soon as I had it. It was subtle, the way the city had changed over the years, but I’d called the place my home for most of my childhood, most of my original life even. Things were different in ways that were obvious to a native; just the skyline set eras of the city apart. When I climbed atop a nearby building just to take a look at my long lost home, I could see the Tokyo Skytree towering over the Sumida ward, so just from that, I knew it couldn’t have been before…what was it? Somewhere around 2010, I think. No, wait, 2012—I remembered because it had been a momentous occasion, at the time, when it was completed on Leap Day; I didn’t remember many dates, true, but even I could remember February 29th. I’d turned…God, I turned twenty that year; it seemed like so long ago.

    That alone was proof this was more than a dream—or else, that it was a truly serious delusion—because I definitely wasn’t…however old I was now in 2012, or whatever the date was. Was I fourteen again, like the first time I was summoned? The first two times I’d been summoned around that age, before they figured out how to improve the Re-Animator and target specific times and places, so it was possible. It’s just, I couldn’t say I remembered what it felt like to be this young, especially since I didn’t really age the normal way, at least not all the time, and it’s not like I could keep track based on the date. I definitely wasn’t in my twenties, but beyond that, my best guess was just general mid-teens-ish. Before I had my second big growth spurt, I guess? I barely remembered when that was, though; statistically speaking, I’d spent the least amount of time as a teenager, and I’d only been one three times.

    And speaking of things that I hadn’t had to deal with in a while, just getting to the top of a building was surprisingly tough—the air was so thin now, so empty and clear. It was a lot more pleasant to breathe than what I’d gotten used to, but it left me feeling empty and weak, too. I was so used to leaping tall buildings in a single bound that having to climb up and down one left me feeling handicapped.

    Once I was back on the ground, though, there was no more avoiding the core issue with attempts at investigation. However it had happened, why ever it had happened, I was somehow in the past and in a younger body then I’d been summoned in for a while. First, the obvious question—

    Was it Millenniumon’s fault? I was inclined to say yes, as assuming temporal problems were Millenniumon’s fault had rarely led me wrong, but in theory, that should be impossible, as Ryo’s partner was supposed to be gone for good—and even if he wasn’t, he should have died with Ryo this time besides. On the other hand, he was a time traveler, so this could just be a version of him from any point prior to that. The only mark against that theory was that when Millenniumon picked you up and hurled you across time and space, you rarely landed anywhere pleasant. Peaceful cityscapes weren’t really his aesthetic; he was more a nightmarish, self-destructing pocket dimension kind of guy. Unless there was more to this than what I was seeing, it just didn’t feel like something he’d do.

    There was an easy way to be sure, though. If I gave Ryo a call and said ‘Hey, have you heard from Millenniumon lately?,’ he would probably know; Ryo’s generally pretty on the ball about that kind of thing and Millenniumon was kind of obsessed. I could believe that he might just drop me in another time without a word and forget about me, but he’d be blowing up Ryo’s phone and monologuing the entire time; if he was involved, Ryo would know. The only thing is, Ryo had more than a bit of trauma where his ‘real’ partner was concerned, and bringing him up tended to…distress him. A lot. Especially if this was before their partners had to return; the mention of Millenniumon after him while he was all alone would probably give Ryo nightmares for a few weeks and I couldn’t blame him. It wasn’t bad enough to risk the fate of the world over, but it was bad enough that, as his friend, it felt like I should at least try googling whether or not anyone had seen a giant two-headed monster first, or otherwise noticed anything weird.

    Of course, I’d need a computer or a phone or something before I could do much of anything. And, ideally, someone who remembered what Ryo’s contact information was in the year of whatever, despite his occasional allergies to staying in touch. And someone who had the authority to help do whatever needed to be done, whatever that turned out to be. Which kind of meant I needed one guy in particular.

    “…Is it okay to just drop by Yamaki’s place like this, though?” I murmured to myself, knowing it was a foregone conclusion but worrying about how he’d react anyway. He’d been fine when he’d run into a younger version of me before, but that had been intentional on his part, sort of. If this was before that, then…what? “It should be fine, right? He’s probably used to weird things happening by now…right?”

    After a moment, I shook my head and sighed. Even if I felt bad about it, knowing how stress would take its toll in later years, it kind of had to be Yamaki. If this was any time before 2018, he was really the only who would be able to do anything if something was wrong; prior to the Malicebot Incident, we’d been living as close to normal lives as you could after saving the world, on international television, while naked. Which, as it turns out, wasn’t really that normal, but without our partners, all we could really do was live our lives. All of my friends were people I could trust with the world, but not people who could fight for it right now. Juri was probably working on getting her teaching degree now, and Ruki was either going through her fashion phase or had left it to pursue motocross instead. And Jen and I—

    Wow, yeah, come to think of it, if this was the past, I probably was here, too. If I was in my early twenties, Jen and I were in college, having gotten a free ride to basically anywhere we wanted after saving the world. I had…I’d had an apartment near Todai, I think, and Jen had one right by it. He’d take college further then I would, eventually going to Stanford U and joining the NSA, while I went right into IT research, but though we’d stopped living nearby each other, our goals had been the same—to see our partners again. After 2018, when that became possible, we’d both started working at Nyx, defending the world, but right now, we were still scattered, searching, waiting.

    I…could go visit myself. Maybe give advice, though I suddenly wasn’t sure what to say. Wasn’t sure how I’d feel, seeing myself and being younger than I was. But, there was a lot I could say. I’d have given the world, at this age, just to have the reassurance that I’d see Guilmon again—even now, I could feel the pain of that longing, of the separation that had defined my younger years. Sixteen years, we’d been apart, and while I remembered how, afterwards, the time we spent apart hadn’t seemed so long at all, I also remembered how the days had crawled by, never leading me anywhere. I could take those days away, or at least shorten them, with a word. I’d been tied up in my own thoughts and worrying since I realized I was still alive, but now that I was focusing, Guilmon’s absence felt like a missing limb. I’d have done anything to avoid that, as a child, and this was my chance to stop it for myself.

    Maybe even more than that, I could change things. Not the stuff I really wanted to change, unfortunately; thanks to Millenniumon, the spirograph that was Ryo’s personal timeline, and that one asshole, I knew an almost unfortunate amount about relentless time-dickery, so I had a decent grasp on the theory of Quantum Time-Locks, or Spiritron Record Anchoring Bands, or whatever we were calling them today. Jenrya and I jokingly called it the Conservation of Time, which it kind of was and kind of wasn’t; what it boiled down to was that while time as a whole wasn’t immutable, there were various major events that might as well be, which gave a general structure to the rest. While Millenniumon—who was kind of the authority on such matters if you actually believed he could be trusted, and seeing as we’d had to stop him from proving it, I guess I kind of did in this case—claimed that even those events could be changed with enough power and effort, it had apparently been an ungodly bitch, even for him. And if he considered it unreasonably difficult, it was probably safe to say that changing the timeline was pretty much impossible.

    But for the same reason, I also knew that while the results might be defined, the details could be changed, because while the results had been our defense against Millenniumon, the process had been his weapon. If the end of a war was locked, it couldn’t be changed, but the number of people who died and how could still be shifted, essentially. While I may not have been able to stop what I knew was coming, both because of time itself and because the simple growth of the Digital World was already out of control, I could prepare people better and maybe save at least a few more lives along the way—

    Or hurt even more people. While the same locks that prevented Millenniumon from just killing us as children and getting everything he wanted also meant I shouldn’t be able to accidentally break history, I could certainly cause unexpected things to happen. While I’d have liked to think that I remembered the important things, I knew that was just from my perspective; I knew the major events of the twenty-first century, the stuff that was probably locked in place? But that wasn’t the same as remembering everything important, because important things happened every moment. People fell in love, were born, died, fought, and worked together to make history in an array of details no one could truly hope to fathom. I didn’t know the whole of that picture or how my actions would change it. Hell, I didn’t even remember my apartment number. How arrogant would I have to be to know how ignorant I was and still try to edit history? And yet, knowing what I did, how heartless would I have to be to do nothing? If I had to act, I also had to act carefully, not just on personal impulse.

    —Although, even saying that, my feet had already begun to guide me towards the one place I needed to go. This wasn’t something locked in place, perhaps. But, it was still something that couldn’t be changed. It was selfish and self-serving, but also inevitable. However I might justify everything else, none of it mattered compared to this.

    After perhaps half an hour, I stood in front of Guilmon’s old shed. It had been hollowed out once, by Guilmon’s digging, but after I’d found a gateway at the bottom of it, Hypnos had filled it with concrete to bar the way. It hadn’t been enough; the bond between them couldn’t be severed by mere steel and stone. They’d used a firewall instead, keeping anything from communicating across that connection instead, trying to cut the Digital World off from the human one. It had taken a long time to forgive them for that. Almost as long as it had taken for it to fail—but fail it had, as the Digital World proved it could overcame anything put in its way.

    Just like they had. This firewall had kept them apart for sixteen years—but, that was a long time ago. The power of the Digital World was in communication, connection, so that was their power. And after they’d come back together, they made sure nothing could tear them apart again. There was no distance too far, no time to great, that they couldn’t bridge the gap now.

    “Sorry, me,” I said, knowing this was hypocritical. The only thing separating my younger self and I was experience and ability. If I was in his shoes, his age, and given this power, all the reasons I gave would have been less than dust; I’d be right here, calling for my partner. But his future was my past, my friend’s past, my people’s past—and awful as it sometimes seemed, I had faith in how we’d all grown and the choices we’d made. If only the details could be changed, then these details mattered. “These years will never stop hurting, but that pain makes a difference. If it helps at all, maybe you’ll choose not to do this too, when you become me. Or, maybe not.”

    First things first, I thought as I drew a card from the deck at my hip, glancing at it out of curiosity. I hadn’t paid it any more attention than I had the clothes on my back, as used to weight of one as I was to the other, but I still had my deck and D-Arc at my hip. My second D-Arc, I should say, which was nostalgic in a comforting way, but made me wonder belatedly what deck I was carrying. Was it my original deck? The updated ones I’d used in 2018 and 2030? Or my final deck, from the 50s and beyond? The answer, it turned out, was none of the above, because the card I drew was completely blank, without any pictures or words.

    That was odd, but not really a concern; it could have been made out of paper, and it would have been enough for my purposes. All it took was the simple, utter certainty that it would to make the card turn blue, and when it slide through my D-Arc, the world around me began to break down. Or rather, it might be more accurate to say it began to ‘peel away.’ The world we knew, the world of humans, was just the surface, the top-most of many layers. The Digital World, predating Digimon, was like an interface, between ‘this world’ and ‘the one below’, logic and fantasy. If you reached the bottom, beneath even where the D-Reaper once lurked, you could even cross over to that place, though I didn’t recommend it. And beneath it all, when all the layers were stripped away? There was just the World and nothing else.

    But I wasn’t interested in going that deep. In fact, all I cared about was what laid just beneath the surface—the chaotic realm between Earth and the Digital World, where the laws of both worlds broke down to utter chaos. The only thing that gave it any semblance of reason was observation; the place ‘he’ had called Imaginary Number Space.

    Well, even I didn’t actually understand how any of that worked; I’d just listened to a bunch crazy people monologue about it. What it boiled down to, though, was that it was a realm where time and space had no meaning—even if it was something that couldn’t be accomplished no matter how much time you were give, it might still be possible to reach it in a place with unlimited time. Even if that seemed absurd, that was what she had done, after all. On the other hand, it was a dangerous place, because once you entered the sea of imaginary things, it was only possible to leave if you had a connection to something real—but that was no problem for us.

    “Guilmon,” I said, and nothing more. There was no need for anything else; as long as one of them was waiting on the other side, they’d be able to find each other even if they were an eternity apart. The only question, really, was which Guilmon, since they were all connected, but even that wouldn’t change things much between them. We’d fought alongside older and younger versions of each other before and it didn’t change that we were partners. When the Digital Field rose around me, I simply waited, letting the false proteins take shape upon the darker figure within. I gave him a moment to get used to the Realization before walking closer to the figure.

    “Takato,” he replied, his gleaming eyes the first thing I saw through the mist. He spent a moment just considering me, perhaps wondering when I was from as well. After a moment, however, he tilted his head and seemed pleased. “You got little again.”

    I had to smile at the almost triumphant sound in his voice. It was a now old sort of joke between us, stemming from when I’d told him about how human aging differed from how Digimon evolved. I’d then proceeded to, from his perspective, age and deage randomly for the rest of our partnership, including showing up several times at the same time as a child and an adult, and having kids before becoming a kid again. He hadn’t let me forget that yet.

    “Hey,” I replied. “You don’t know that. I could still be little instead.”

    Guilmon yawned, not dignifying that with a response. In fairness, we’d always been pretty good at determining each other’s timelines; I was pretty sure we were on the same clock, at the moment, taken from the same moment. That was lucky, actually, and relatively rare.

    “We’re not dead,” he noted sleepily, like the item was one of passing conversation. That pretty much confirmed it. Then, however, with somewhat more interest, he looked behind me, sniffing the air and scanning their surroundings. When he was done, he blinked and tilted his head the other way, before continuing, as if it was a single thought instead of an addition, and the more important part of it besides. “In Tokyo.”

    It’s always great, not being dead in Tokyo. It’s more expensive then the alternative, but you have more fun that way.

    “I think this is either around or before we met each other again,” I explained.

    “Mm. Mmmmm. Mmmmmmmm,” Guilmon said, considering that. “Was it Millenniumon again?”

    He asked the question without any particular feeling or emphasis. Unlike most of them, he’d never seemed to have any particularly strong feelings regarding Ryo’s ‘partner’ and his actions, beyond the general need to keep him from destroying them all. I’d always felt like he might have empathized with him, in a way—and I might have, too, in a way, if not for the whole being consigned to a dimension on the chopping block thing. Neither of them could hold going to great lengths to be with one’s partner against someone, but I was happy to hold literally everything else against Millenniumon.

    Although, come to think of it, Millenniumon had always been a soft hand with Guilmon, too, at least relatively speaking. Hm…

    “Maybe,” I said, pushing the thoughts away. “But this is a bit more scenic then his usual destinations.”

    “Hm,” he said, seeming to agree. He seemed to consider it for a minute more before also seeming to dismiss the matter entirely. “Well, as long as we’re together, it’ll work out somehow.”

    “Well, I mean, we did just die,” I had to point out, but I could hide my grim. Guilmon’s sheer certainty was contagious and I felt my own worries dull now that he was back by my side. Guilmon looked at me placidly, and then glanced between us as if to say ‘And it all worked out, didn’t it?’ as if reality had conspired to prove his point. “Okay, that’s fair.”

    Guilmon seemed content with that admission and apparently considered it the end of the matter. He looked thoughtfully in the direction of the city, mulling over something.

    “I haven’t eaten fresh bread in ages,” he mused then, which was both amusing and sadly true. I couldn’t even laugh at his words, because it had been literal years since they’d eaten anything that wasn’t processed, and not just a few. I could probably be talked into committing at least minor cyber-crime in exchange for something that tasted like normal food.

    “I’ll get us something to eat as soon as I can,” I immediately promised. “Let’s just make sure the world isn’t ending first, okay?”

    “We should find Yamaki,” he said at once. “He’ll know what’s happening, and his wife always bought fresh bread from the bakery. Birds and stones.”

    Trust Guilmon to remember that after all these years—and to plot the most efficient course to accomplish their varied goals. While Takato had distant memories of Mitsuo being an unrepentant slob while he lived alone, Reika ran a tight ship after they got married, which meant there was almost certainly actual food in his house, too. Man, this idea was getting better by the minute.

    “I was thinking the same thing,” I replied. “I remember where he lives, more or less, and if this is after the Cybersecurity Act, he should be running Nyx, too. He can tell us what we need to know. But…Yamaki’s one thing, but it’s probably best if we don’t let anyone else see you just yet. If they think Digimon are back, it could become a big deal.”

    “Mmmm,” Guilmon hummed in agreement. “Shadow you?”

    I nodded, glancing down at the card I still held in my hands. The blue card had faded, leaving the blank card behind, but I closed my eyes for a moment, imagining something in its place. Without opening my eyes, I slashed the card again.

    “Sangloupmon’s Black Mind,” I declared, selling the thought to myself more than anyone else. I opened my eyes even as I put the card away, watching Guilmon literally melt into my shadow, slipping into and under it with a whisper of motion, and seemingly leaving me alone. And if my shadow shifted oddly now and then, well, who was to say it wasn’t a trick of the light? Nodding to myself after making sure now one would be able to see him, I turned back the way I came. “Let’s go find our guy, then. I’ll think of what to say to him on the way.”

    XxXXxX

  8. #8
    Yes… very, very, abstract… An Abstract Platypus?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mattias View Post
    Never apologize for providing content, dude. It's been a long while since I even thought about Tamers, so it might as well be series 5 for all know.

    My only gripe is that second paragraph of the second scene it changes from first to third person near the end.
    This.

    I remember loving the Digimon Tamers series. Guilmon is probably my favourite MCmon just because he’s more adorable than anything has any right to be. My only regret is that I can’t remember who any of the characters are except Takato, the three main digimon, Jeri, Impmon/(Beelzebubmon?) and the D-Reaper. Though, I guess D-Reaper is more of an ‘it,’ or at the very most, a medium for a collective.

    My only question is this: Where’s the Fate/ ? I want to see how this picks up.
    Likes attention, shiny objects, and... a ball of yarn?
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    I joined two years too late...
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

  9. #9
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    Fate/Analog
    Chapter Two: Returning Home

    I was quietly proud of myself for remembering roughly where Yamaki lived after all these years without even having to access the memory, and after only half an hour or so of wandering the general area, I found myself at a familiar doorway. Funny, the way memory worked; the car out front seemed wholly unfamiliar to me and my memories of the neighborhood had been a blur, but the moment I saw the door to Yamaki’s house, I remembered clearly what it was like to stand outside this door, waiting for it to open. Waiting with hope, with dread, with outrage, with gratitude, with pain—for a place I had so many good and bad memories of, it really didn’t look like much, but now that I was waiting here again, it felt like it was all coming back.

    Odd how it was the familiar things that left me feeling adrift.

    “Guilmon,” I murmured, tensing as my hand gripped my Digivice like a lifeline.

    “Steady, Takato,” Guilmon ‘said,’ the thought drifting to me across our connection. It wasn’t telepathy, per se, though the difference could become negligible if we chose; we were literally communicating across our literal connection, like with data packets, the same as if we were sending messages to a phone, if with a different format and encryption. “Even if we’re different, we’re still the same and things are still the same as they were, even though they changed. It’s no different than dying and coming back to life, just backwards.”

    That thought was kind of mangled, but I understood his point—which was part of my concern, really. Guilmon had actually gotten a lot more mature and articulate by the time we were first reunited, but most of that progress had been squandered by what came after. Not by any one thing, really, just by the fact that we’d spent long stretches of time either not talking to anyone else or having no one else to talk to, and our communication skills had degraded a bit, just because we could both just beam bits of thought and meaning into each other’s heads or peer in to figure out what we meant, if we felt like it. I hadn’t even realized how weird that made us seem until I’d started spending time around people who thought it was weird, and even then, it wasn’t until, well, until near the end that we’d really had much need to socialize again or act like normal people…if you could call anyone left then ‘normal.’ Really, everyone around us had been odd in their own ways at that point and we hadn’t spoken to a normal human since before the fall.

    So, hard as it was to admit, it took me a moment to compose myself. Or maybe, more like brace myself. I wasn’t sure why standing here made any kind of difference, when I’d walked through the city just fine, but all of a sudden, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong in this place. Not so much because I was about to meet Yamaki, but because I was about to meet a human, when I’d avoided dealing with anyone else so far. Had I meant to do that? I suppose I must have on some level, just because I hadn’t talked to anyone yet. I hadn’t really needed to, I reminded myself, except that wasn’t quite true; if nothing else, I could have figured out the date by if I asked someone if I could borrow their phone for awhile or looked for a newspaper or even just gone towards more crowded areas. Which I realized I must have been avoiding, just by mentally backtracking to figure which path I’d taken, which it turned out had been rather roundabout; it wasn’t easy to avoid people in a city like Tokyo, so just the fact that I’d gotten here without going through any crowds had to be either deliberate or miraculous, and I wasn’t sure why a miracle would make me climb seven buildings to stay away from people.

    It occurred to me, belatedly, that I might still have some issues. Not that there weren’t good reasons to avoid people, of course, when I looked like…uh, me. Even if I was maybe a decade off from what I should have been, that would probably just make things worse, honestly; the face I had now was closer to the one people read about in history class or saw videos of then my adult one. Not that adult me wasn’t famous, of course, but it wasn’t the face people saw when they played the D-Reaper footage over and over again. In all honesty, the odds that someone might recognize me and do a double-take, or even start a commotion, were fairly high, so avoiding crowds was probably a good idea.

    Which was totally why I’d done it. Sure.

    I did my best to push away my anxiety, only to realize that there was a whole other layer of anxiousness just waiting this entire time for me to realize it was there—the chance that someone might realize the source of my anxiety. Which, thinking about it more, I could probably tie together with some latent anxiety about how Yamaki would react, which I didn’t realize I had until suddenly I was having it. I knew Yamaki, of course…didn’t I? I was sure there was nothing to worry about, except clearly I was wrong, because I was worrying about it. What I might say, what I might do, what he could see in me—it made me nervous. Almost as nervous as what I might see in him, with older, different eyes.

    In my memories, Yamaki had always been the mysterious, older man who knew the facts and was there to help, but was sometimes dangerous and antagonistic, yet I remembered him fondly in the end—but with our roles reversed would I see him differently now? Yamaki would probably be approaching his fifties about now and while you could measure my age in a bunch of different ways, I was undeniably his senior. Looking at him now, not as a younger man putting his faith in an older one but as a much, much older man looking at a younger, what would I see? Yamaki had always had secrets and there had always been…concerns about the Re-Animator’s use. I’d actually kept some of the details secret from certain…friends I’d made, knowing how they’d react to people sending me to fight and risk my life, again and again. But Yamaki had always been on our side, fighting with us and for us, keeping things in check.

    Hadn’t he?

    I guess I wouldn’t know, really. I’d never been around for what happened before I was summoned, not even the original me, and I’d never really questioned it at the time, because time was always on the essence. Had they been counting on that? Anything they told me, they could have decided beforehand; anything they didn’t want me to know, they could have easily left out. But no, I trusted Yamaki; he’d helped us save the world more than once…even if he’d also kept us from out partners for so long. Even so, I had faith in him, although if I truly wanted to be certain, I could—

    “Takato,” Guilmon said, the word a patient reminder.

    I exhaled sharply and rubbed my eyes hard, as if I could wipe away something I couldn’t see. Even then, the temptation to use her gift lingered, but a temptation given into even once could become like a curse. Sometimes it had been right to use it, sometimes it had been the only way, but the simple fact that it was something I could do if I chose hung over me like a sword, and I knew I had to resist the urge. There were questions I had, things I wanted to know, but I couldn’t become like her. Like any of them. Not again.

    God, but I hated this doorway. I kind of hoped it got destroyed again, honestly, so Yamaki can move to his second house that I don’t even remember.

    Luckily, before I could consider doing anything drastic to help things along, the door swung open and Yamaki peered through. The former head of Hypnos looked good for his age, though part of that was just the fact that his blonde hair hid the white amongst itself, just like his sunglasses normally hid the crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes. He wasn’t wearing the latter right now, however, nor was he wearing a suit or tie, but the button-up shirt he wore was vaguely familiar, so I guessed it was a work day, which meant I was lucky he wasn’t working late. Other than that, he looked close to how I remembered him in 2018, which was somehow reassuring.

    But for a long moment, all he seemed able to do was stare at me in shock.

    Which meant I should probably say something, thinking about it—and something besides ‘I hate your fucking house’ or ‘I shouldn’t be here,’ while I was at it. Best to get straight to the point, then; communication was all about conveying information properly, right? Right.

    “Yamaki,” I said and then realized I’d forgotten to add any honorifics. I hadn’t used any with the man since I was twenty, to be fair, or with much of anyone else since the 50s, but damn, I was screwing this up already. I smiled a bit hesitantly, then, looking up at my old…friend? Colleague? Whatever. “I, uh…I don’t suppose you’ve been messing with the Re-Animator lately?”

    Yamaki’s slack expression somehow slackened even further when I blurted out that last part, failing utterly to think of a better conversation starter that would explain the situation, and his shaking left hand slowly brought a cigarette up to his lips. Weird; I could have sworn his wife made him quit, though we were admittedly out of touch for awhile there. I heard Guilmon sigh in my head then, before crawling out of my shadow like it was a two-dimensional pool, dripping liquid bits of imaginary matter all over the floor before shaking the rest off of him like a scaly dog.

    The former head of Hypnos silently dropped his cigarette.

    “I’ll handle this,” Guilmon thought towards me, sorta. The ‘thought’ was really more of a feeling, somewhere between ‘Follow my lead’ and ‘Watch and learn.’ Guilmon was better at abstract thoughts like that than I was.

    “Yamaki,” he said. “We’re from the future.”

    He then stopped and gazed at Yamaki expectantly, as if waiting for an explanation for this turn of event. I saw Yamaki’s usually controlled expression crack, emotion flooding across it as he held onto the doorframe as if he needed it to stay upright.

    “Thank you, Guilmon; I’ve learned a whole lot,” I thought strongly in his direction and nudged him aside when he gave me a confused look.

    “I think that came out wrong,” I said, desperately trying to remember the last time I’d had a normal conversation that wasn’t shop talk or on my deathbed. Maybe a bit less direct, this time? Talking to people that didn’t already know what you meant was hard and the fact that I looked younger than I should be despite being older than I was seemed like it would inevitably cause issues if left be, but clearly we’d been too abrupt. “Sorry, Yamaki; why don’t we start over? We, uh, don’t really know what’s going on either, we were just suddenly here. Well, I was suddenly here and I called Guilmon. But, um, I think something must be going on, you know? So…can you help us?”

    Goddamn, what had happened to me? I was better than this! I was good at talking to people, really! I had lots and lots of experience over the years! Could my social skills have really rusted this badly after the end? Apparently so! Maybe it wasn’t just the doorway making me feel off. Maybe it was this whole city. Maybe I’d felt off from the beginning, but was only realizing it now, because at first I’d thought ‘I’m home.’ But now, I couldn’t help but think ‘I don’t belong here.’ Like I was an alien who’d landed on Earth, rather then a traveler who’d come back to it.

    …Granted, that may well have been true. After all, I wasn’t a human anymore, was I?

    Yamaki lifted his left hand to his mouth, as if to raise the cigarette he’d just dropped, and seemed surprised when he realized it wasn’t there. He dropped his hand back to his side, then, and stared at us for a minute longer. His mouth opened once, twice, but then closed. I chose not to say anything, figuring I wouldn’t be of much help. See? I could learn.

    “Are you hear for revenge?” He asked, to which I could only tilt my head. After a moment, his brain seemed to catch up to him. “No, that’s…you wouldn’t be. You’re too young, and this—did you say you were from the future? No, you mentioned the Re-Animator? I—”

    He sat down abruptly, right there in the doorway, and looked up at me silently for a long moment.

    “Is this a dream?”

    Oh, he was asking if I’d shown up to take revenge for keeping us separated, I abruptly realized, still slow on the uptake myself as I tried to parse his words. I guess that’d make sense for him to worry about, since Guilmon could pull off a passable imitation of Godzilla if he wanted to. Had he worried about that, after sealing the way? Felt guilty? Had nightmares about us someday taking revenge? I guess I could see why. Even for me, there had been days when I’d been so furious that—but no, even then I wouldn’t. And now?

    There was a funny thing that sometimes happened, when adult told you you’d understand why someday. Every now and then, they’re right. Being right wouldn’t keep Guilmon and I apart, of course, but I still understood his point.

    “No,” I said, making sure to sound calm and certain. With him sitting down, I was taller than him, which I realized might be off-putting, so after a moment, I crouched down and put us roughly at eye level. But then, because my own grasp of reality was periodically shaky, I quietly checked, reaching out to the world like I would if I was in a dream. Hey, it’s happened to me before. “I’m not here for revenge and it’s not a dream. I just want to talk.”

    Yamaki looked at me, either judging whether I was telling the truth or whether he could trust a potential dream to judge the state of reality. After a moment, he pinched himself, sucked in a breath, and then quickly stood. He leaned out the door, then, and looked around quickly, before stepping aside.

    “You should come inside,” he said then, and we obliged. He led us to the living room and I took a seat on the couch even as he walked right by it, Guilmon settling down on the floor beside me. Yamaki grabbed a glass from a nearby table and wandered into his kitchen to get a bottle to go with it before returning and settling down in a chair across from us. The was a laptop situated on the table in front of him and he opened it before looking at us again while it loaded. “So. If Guilmon came back, does that mean there are others coming?”

    “Digimon?” I guessed needlessly before shaking my head. “I don’t know. There are a few who could be involved with this, but nothing to pointing for sure to any of them yet.”

    “And that’s why you came to me,” he stated, pouring several fingers worth of whatever alcohol he favored right now. He took a drink before putting the glass aside, rubbing his hands together, and beginning to type. “Right. Any Digital Fields? Gates? Odd events?”

    “One Digital Field, in Shibuya—on a street in Honmachi, I didn’t catch the name,” I said. “I came out of that one. Then I opened a gate at Guilmon’s old shed to pull him through, but you won’t pick up anything for that, I don’t think. We used a backdoor.”

    “A backdoor,” Yamaki muttered underneath his breath, sounding worried at the mere idea. “Anything something else could exploit?”

    “Not on their own,” I said, which was true. On one hand, being nowhere meant you were the same distance away no matter where you then tried to go—but on the other hand, it still meant you were nowhere near anything. It took something special to connect ‘here’ and ‘nowhere,’ and not just in terms of raw power. “They’d need to have someone here to pull them through. I’m not sure if it would have to be a partner, but it’d have to be someone close to them, and they’d need to know how—which no one should, yet. If someone is pulling Digimon through that way, we’d have bigger problems then the Digimon themselves.”

    Yamaki didn’t say what I knew what he was thinking, but I could tell that he had a hard time believing that—that there could be something worse than Digimon breaking through. That view was woefully innocent, but at the same time, not untrue.

    “Nothing,” he said after a few minutes passed. “No alarms, no alerts, not even a blip on the radar. Nyx hasn’t detected anyone crossing through.”

    He pushed the laptop aside and looked straight at us for another long minute.

    “You said—” he began before falling silent, looking down at his computer and then back up. “However you got here—you said you were from the future? Say I believe that for a moment—I don’t know how the hell that works and I don’t care right now. Has anything you’ve seen made you think that the Firewall is breaking down? That Digimon will start coming through again?”

    “What day is it?” I asked.

    “June 4th,” he replied. Then, a beat later, “2015.”

    “Then no,” I said. “It’ll fall eventually, when the Digital World grows beyond it, but not yet. Not on its own, at least. But about that trip you’re planning for your Anniversary this year, I’ve got to ask—any reason you chose NYC during a UN summit?”

    “The UN summit is why I have to be in New York,” Yamaki said flatly, the word almost absent. “I’m just going to bring Reika along.”

    “Oh, so you’re bringing her too the UN summit for her anniversary,” I said, honestly not having heard that part of this story. Then again, maybe things didn’t go down that way once his plans met his wife. There was a strangely amused part of me that wanted to tell him that wasn’t how you swept someone of their feet—but hell, Reika had put up with him this long and she’d know what she was getting into, so clearly they made it work. But still. “Wow. You’re such a romantic, Yamaki.”

    Yamaki ignored me entirely that time, intertwining his fingers and then bowed his head until his forehead rested on his knuckles, almost as if he were praying. I couldn’t blame him if he was, not anymore; I’d seen firsthand the results of the Digital World growing out of control. Currently, meaning since the D-Reaper’s defeat in 2002, organizations all around the globe were dedicated to building up and maintaining the Firewall that was keeping Digimon from crossing over to the Real World, but I think anyone who worked on that project long enough knew full well how futile it was. As a world that grew with the growth of data, inhabited by creatures whose very nature was to learn and evolve, the Digital World would inevitable grow beyond any restraints put on it, so long as the core issue wasn’t addressed. Moore’s Law—that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented—was commonly used to explain the impact and growth of the computer industry, and though in truth it was less a law and more an observation on a trend that had slowly become less true, it was still a powerful analogy, because it was something that had held true for several decades. Right now, the time it took to double that way would have already slowed to every two and a half years, or even every three years and eventually, saturation would be reached, but the truth of how quickly things advanced in the computing industry remained.

    —Of course, that was even more true when it came to the Digital World. Even if technology began to approach its physical limits, it wouldn’t stop the growing influx of data, and so the Digital World would continue to grow; as new information was made, as better forms of communication were built, as technology advanced, so did it and its inhabitants. Even the defeat of the D-Reaper, the greatest threat in the Digital World at the time, had hardly seemed to matter in the end, simply because greater threats had surpassed it. In 2018, the Malicebot had risen to become a greater threat than the D-Reaper simply by virtue of how the internet had changed since 2002. The D-Reaper itself wasn’t some unique, cosmic threat, after all. Originally, it’d been a tiny program, small enough to fit on a floppy disc that had just evolved out of control. If it had nearly destroyed the world, that simply made it clear what we were dealing with.

    What was the internet of 2015 measured in—zettabytes? How many? Five? Ten? By the 2030s, it had to be measured it in yottabytes instead; the equivalent of the Earth growing to the size of the Sun. Even if humanity spread quickly, even if they invented and built weapons at an industrious pace, it should go without saying that ‘doubling in size every two years’ was a pipe dream. If nothing else, the Earth couldn’t support that kind of growth; it wasn’t like the Digital World, after all, that could respond to running out of space by simply adding more. I’d heard once that if you could somehow fold a piece of paper fifty times, doubling its thickness each time, it’d reach most of the way to the sun, but if you folded it a hundred—a hundred and three?—times, it’d be thicker than the observable universe. Even if that growth slowed down, it wasn’t hard to believe that by the end of the twenty-first century, there would be more Digimon in the Digital World than there had ever been humans on Earth.

    That was why, in the end, I’d—

    “It’ll be okay,” I told Yamaki brightly, without a trace of the hesitation that had marked my earlier words. There was a big difference, after all, between have a conversation and lying to someone’s face, and where I’d been lacking experience in the former of late, I had a lifetime’s worth of telling people things would be okay, especially when I didn’t believe it. Yamaki’s fears were more than understandable, they were true. I couldn’t change that—I couldn’t change time or the nature of the Digital World to fix that or give an easy solution. Even though more Tamers would arise to help defend the world, it wouldn’t change the fact that in the end, there was no way to keep up, no way out I could think of except the one we’d taken. But—

    You’ll be dead before it gets that bad, Yamaki. You’ll only ever see us when we’re still able to win…and you won’t have to see what we do when we start to loose. So its fine if you die thinking things will always be this way.

    I wondered for a moment if I might have liked to die that way, too, if I had the choice. I honestly wasn’t sure, since there was a lot I regretted, a lot I hated, a lot I mourned and despaired over, but also a lot I truly cherished. Would I give up those days that felt like dreams, to spare myself the nightmares? No, I couldn’t dishonor those memories that way, even knowing where they led. And—after the choices I’d made, I no longer had any right to retreat. As long as there was even one person left with the will to fight, what right did I have to lose hope? That’s what I’d decided, after the end.

    “Do you know why you’re a child again, if you’re from the…future?” Yamaki asked, drawing me from my thoughts before I could get upset with myself again. He still sounded skeptical about the time travel thing, which I honestly envied, but also pitied. He would be around for Millenniumon, in a bunch of different ways, and every ounce of that skepticism would get beaten out of him.

    “I’m not sure,” I said, which was mostly true, though I’d encountered things similar enough to make me wonder. “Things like this have happen before, but not in the same way. I’ve never had memories of future events before, or even of things that happened after the age I was summoned at. That is, a young me wouldn’t know what an adult me had gone through.”

    “You don’t share memories either, I take it?” He asked. “The…young and adult you, I mean?”

    “Not the way you’re thinking. I…that is, the original me, the one you know, never remembered anything ‘we’ did, for example,” I told him. “So it’s more like we’re alternate selves, rather than past selves. Except, ‘we’ could remember each other’s lives, at least up to the point where we were summoned. We never quite figured out how that worked, but we hypothesized that after the Holy Beasts turned us into data, we somehow got recorded in the Digital World, and while we never conclusively proved it, we found a fair bit of evidence to support the idea. We confirmed that different versions of me could add to that record, but it would only ‘update’ when we came in contact with the Digital World somehow.”

    “As if it was backing you up,” he said. “That’s…fascinating and frightening at the same time, yet I’m not sure if I should be surprised that the Digital World can save a human mind to a file. Or maybe even a human soul.”

    I shrugged. I understood why he felt that way, but I already knew for a fact that stuff like that was possible and it was old news for me. In fact, it was something that would become downright common in the 2030s, to the point of needing to be legally defined, though personally, ‘I’ hadn’t worried about who was the ‘real’ me and the ‘fake’ me in a long, long time—it hadn’t been an issue even before the original me died. ‘We’ had all agreed that our lives were important, separately and collectively, which is why ‘I’ wouldn’t hesitate to die to protect ‘our’ futures if I had to. Regardless of the truth of our natures or origins, ‘Matsuda Takato’ would protect the ones he loved. There wasn’t any point in thinking about it beyond that, because as Guilmon said, even if we’re different, we’re still the same. Even if I didn’t know all the details or remember all of my own history, that was enough for me.

    Instead of worrying about if I was a real boy or not, I was more concerned by the fact that things seemed different this time. What I’d said was true; before, I’d only remembered what the Digital World had ‘backed up’ and only up to the specific date that my ‘file’ was drawn from, and that was how things were supposed to work—but I remembered all of my lives now. Not just things from the relative future, but even data that should have been lost, which notably included most of my last life and a noteworthy chunk of the one before it. While, yes, the Digital World can and periodically did just stop caring about linear time, the idea that it might be pulling data that should be beyond its reach was…worrying, to say the least. Even if it was useful right now, what else might it do if nothing was off limits? I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know what would happen, if it had evolved even beyond what we’d done to stop it. But then, if that was the case, the world would start ending presently, so it’s not like it’d be a long-term issue.

    “The first time I was summoned, it drew on a version of me from when I was fourteen—when I found that portal to the Digital World that you sealed,” I continued, shelving that looming fear for the moment, just because there wasn’t anything I could really do about it. “The second one, I mean. Nothing passed through the gate in either direction, but clearly it was enough to, uh, update my file. Somehow, the Re-Animator tapped into that file and made a copy of it…at least, that’s what we think happened. Odds are, we’re wrong about a lot of the details, and the Digignomes were just kind enough to make ends meet.”

    When I’d first been summoned, there’d been a theory that I’d been drawn from another dimension or just through time, but by second summoning, the theory had been dismissed because of things that were hard to explain, or perhaps simply inconvenient. Ryo had always said that thinking we were completely in control of the process and that there are no horrifying implications was just a poor attempt at optimism, whenever he got into one of his more awful moods. He’d told me once, while he was drunk, just where it was he’d come from—and mentioned meeting me there, or at least a version of me. He’d never gone to Yamaki with what he knew, though, and neither had I, out of respect for his privacy, but thinking about it, I felt almost like I could remember it now. But then, that might have just been what I’d seen while fighting Millenniumon talking.

    Yamaki, ignorant of our thoughts both now and then, just made a dismissive gesture.

    “That’s true of most of what we do, but it’s not helpful to us. The hypothesis can’t be dismissed, just given the nature of the Digital World and it’s currently the one we’ve got; that’s enough for me right now and we’ll leave the details to the Wild Bunch if it comes to it. More importantly, assuming it’s true, do you think the way you were summoned might give us a clue about what’s going on? Perhaps you were summoned this way intentionally…but then, why would they summon you? Was it an accident or intentional? I was about to suggest that they may have summoned you into a younger form to weaken you—but the state of your body doesn’t really matter, does it? If this was some form of enemy action, summoning you with an adult mind is more dangerous then summoning you with an adult body, and if they had the capability to do something like this, I’d hope they’d know that. Was it unintentional, then? Or did they summon you to give them aid, instead? Or—”

    Maybe they’re just worried about what will happen if I grow up.

    I kept silent for a moment as Yamaki bounced ideas, more off himself than off me. The reason I’d been summoned so young very well could be a clue—but, at the same time, it was an uncomfortable topic. My own thought was irrational, of course; I knew that, because I’d grown up several times. Into all kinds of different things.

    “I thought someone might be testing the Re-Animator; that’s why I asked you if you’d used it recently,” I reminded him.

    Yamaki frowned, putting the brakes on his train of thought to look at me.

    “Impossible,” he said, though with a frown that belied his own concerns. “While, in theory, we could assemble the device and enter the testing phase immediately if we needed to, we’re nowhere near even beginning to do so safely—even the device itself was built only as a last resort. You said it had been used to summon you, and I can unfortunately imagine exactly why, but you have to understand that it’s a device meant to allow something from the Digital World easy access to our world, which is something we very much do not want. The only reason it was even suggested, much less approved, was because of you Tamers and your success against the D-Reaper; if the worst should happen and Digimon begin to break through once more, it would be our best shot at connecting you and your partners. Presumably, it worked in the future, but currently, the mere suggestion to use it would be laughed out of the meeting room. Whatever you might think of me, please believe me when I say that if I could bring your partners back safely, I would have done so already; you kids saved the world, after all, and you’re one of our only lines of defense in case of a major Realization besides. So please also believe me when I say that if I tried to do that right now, the disturbance caused by its use would result in Digimon crossing over almost immediately afterwards. Unless a crisis is imminent anyway, its use wouldn’t even be considered.”

    I frowned slightly at that, remembering distantly that when they’d used it to summon me that first time, the Malicebot had in fact crossed over mere minutes later—and just outside the building at that. I hadn’t really considered it at the time, since I’d been a fourteen year old dumped into the middle of a, to me, abrupt emergency but…yeah, that was a hell of a design flaw. I don’t recall anything like that happening in 2030, but that was fifteen years from now. Given that…

    “So no one could have used it, then…” I murmured, preparing to cross that possibility off of my list until I saw Yamaki open his mouth and then quickly close it. I raised my eyebrow at him in response, but he merely drummed his fingers on the table for a moment before forcibly stilling them.

    “No one in their right mind would use that device unless the world was ending,” he said at last. “But, in theory, there is someone who could have. How much do you know about the Re-Animator?”

    I raised my other eyebrow at that odd turn in this conversation, but played along. I almost said ‘everything,’ but Yamaki had just reminded me that wasn’t true; the original me had joined Hypnos and worked on it extensively after 2018, and had been deeply involved in its use by 2030, but I really only knew about the ‘completed’ device used three years from now—which, by the way, had done something completely different from what anyone had thought it would and been completely repurposed from the ground up from there on. What the machine had looked like before that, I honestly had no idea, and if Yamaki was to be believed, it wasn’t even in the testing phase yet, though I imagined it was rushed through when the Malicebot was discovered.

    What I did know was that even then, it was based on the concepts of Realization and Metaphorization; the process of something Digital becoming Real and vice versa. When I—that is, the twenty-six year old me that progressed through time normally—had gone off in search of a Digital Field somewhere in the world, Hypnos had tried to summon me from the Digital World in response to the emergency, except it hadn’t worked, both because of the distortion caused in 2018 and because I hadn’t been in the Digital World at the time, so instead, they had summoned ‘me’—an archetype stored within the Digital World or a copy from a parallel world or my past self or whatever the truth was. It wouldn’t take long for people to realize the potential of that, and so ‘I’ would be called whenever I was needed, and eventually, research into it would become the foundation of both public and military Spiritron Hacking.

    “It’s based on the same idea as the Ark, right?” I replied to Yamaki, who didn’t know most of that, with what I figured he was getting at. “And on how we summoned Grani.”

    “Exactly,” Yamaki said. “Grani served as proof, in a way, that we could transport things too and from the Digital World—and not just people and Digimon, but completely artificial beings, like Grani itself. I don’t know how much attention you paid to scientific journals between 2004 and 2009, but the fact that we could potentially create and materialize matter like that caused…quite a stir, despite the associated risks and requirements. Naturally, other uses were proposed for the Re-Animator project aside from calling upon your partners in case of an emergency, though most of them were shut down out of fear of causing mass Realizations again.”

    “Most?” I said, starting to feel like I might have missed a few things in that big, dull space between 2002 and 2018 where I thought nothing important ever happened. “You mean, not all?”

    “Nyx is, technically speaking, an international organization. Or, at least, we work with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which after the 2015 Japanese Cybersecurity Act that followed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act—” Yamaki cut himself off when he saw me staring hard at him. “Well, to simplify, it was agreed that there would be international cooperation when dealing with potential Digital threats, and regarding research related to the Digital World. Needless to say, this comes with international oversight, after things got a little touch-and-go regarding various national investigations into the Digital World in the late 2000s that nearly spiraled out of control, but we operate with funding from around the globe and mandate from the UN, if in a distant way. This comes with certain expectations, however, and just earlier this year, we were ordered to share some of the technology we had developed with another organization.”

    He typed something on his laptop and turned it around so I could see the screen, every bit of the motion as dramatic as you might expect from the man who’d been put in charge of the Office Affiliated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and immediately renamed it after the Greek Goddess of the Night.

    “The Chaldea Security Organization…?” I asked to make him happy, looking at the screen.

    “Have you heard of it before?” He asked, watching me closely, no doubt trying to gauge the reaction of the time-traveler in the room. If so, he was going to be disappointed, however, because I’d never heard of these guys before in my life. I was pretty confident in my memories after 2030, once I’d learned how to store them digitally, but my memories of the early twenty-first century were a mixed bag—and so was everything after 2050, I suppose, but that was because of Millenniumon. Even so, I’d all but swear I’d never heard of any ‘Chaldea Security Organization’ before. Were they a big deal? If so, this was an unpleasant reminder of how mono-focused I’d been during this timeframe; I remembered finishing college and getting engaged and going on a trip around the world, looking for some sign of the Digital World, but if the UN had ever had any bearing on my life until now, it was news to me.

    “…No. At least, nothing that stands out to me…” I said uncertainly. Could they maybe had had something to do with what happened in 2030? I had nothing to even vaguely support that idea, but the big blank space of ‘People fucking around in 2030’ was the only time I could even vaguely imagine coming in contact with a UN-funded security organization.

    “Somehow, I’m not surprised,” Yamaki said, though that didn’t stop him from looking disappointed. “Even I had to go digging to find out anything about them. They appeared out of nowhere, about two years after D-Reaper, and suddenly became a big deal in the UN before just as quickly disappearing. If I hadn’t been asked to share the Re-Animator technology with them early this year, I wouldn’t have even remembered they existed, much less looked into them. But I’m glad I did, because there’s something suspicious about them.”

    “Like what?” I asked.

    “They have a giant research base in Antarctica,” he said.

    I blinked at that, looking up at him for a moment before my brow furrowed as tried to make sense of that. I looked back down at the computer screen, squinting at it as if the stylized symbol on it might offer some answers, and then had to shake my head when none were forthcoming.

    “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, okay, that’s kinda weird.”

    XxXXxX

  10. #10
    YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHH---!!!!!! DreamsRequiem's Avatar
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    Nice to see some new content for tamers, especially by you.

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  11. #11
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    Fate/Analog

    Speculation

    “Why’s a security organization based in Antarctica?” I had to ask, still stuck on this. “What are they securing against?”

    The moment the words were out of my mouth, I frowned, because it was an important question with some worrying implications. It might have seemed odd to focus on Antarctica after all the weird things I’ve seen—but in a way, that was part of the reason why I couldn’t help but do so; I was no stranger to living in unhospitable locations and my largest take away from all that experience is that it was a pain in the ass. Living in a place like Antarctica was easier said than done, simply because it meant that when things broke in Antarctica, you had to fix them in Antarctica. When people got hungry in Antarctica, you had to feed them in Antarctica. When something went wrong in Antarctica, you had to deal with it in Antarctica.

    It was something that was easy to take for granted—hell, something I’d taken for granted until it was gone—in a world where most of what you needed could be gotten at a nearby store or ordered online, where you could at least receive treatment by driving to a nearby hospital, and where you could replace most broken parts by just installing new ones, but things were different when you lived in a depopulated wasteland. I’d never lived in Antarctica specifically, and I knew that they must have had at least some kind of supply lines to the rest of the world, but I still had enough experience with unhospitable conditions to know that it must have been a huge pain to maintain a modern organization in the arctic, especially one that presumably used advanced machinery, to say nothing of safety concerns. Unless I was missing something, being down there was good for staying isolated and pretty much nothing else.

    —Somehow, the idea of an isolated, secretive ‘security organization’ having a Re-Animator didn’t exactly reassure me.

    “Are they a Digimon organization?” I asked, trying to think of an explanation, before almost immediately shaking my head; I’d have at least heard of them before if that were the case. When things got bad—and things had gotten bad—where Digimon were concerned, all hands tended to be on deck. While it wasn’t as if world peace had been achieved or anything, the international community had agreed to present a united front when it came to the Digital World in 2025, simply because it quickly became apparent that there was no other choice. What’s more, we, meaning the other Tamers and I, had worked with organizations around the globe, because as the only Tamers capable of Biomerging in the Real World, we tended to be in high demand. The original me had spent what seemed like the last thirty years of our life traveling from location to location, bouncing from one project to the next and from one meeting to another, preparing for and dealing with threats. It was almost unimaginable that there’d be a Digimon organization I’d never even heard of, given that; representatives seemed to do their best to reach out to me, even if it meant barging into my personal life. Hell, I’d had people pull me aside on the day of my wedding to talk to me about stuff like this! “Then, are they working on the Firewall?”

    “What would they need my machines for, if they were?” Yamaki seethed, and I had to wonder if that was what this was really about. “The Re-Animator is, if anything, the greatest threat to the Firewall right now.”

    Even I knew I was grasping at straws, so I couldn’t deny that. The Re-Animator was a powerful, almost miraculous machine, but one with pretty limited applications, and most of them were…concerning. Assuming that my summoning wasn’t their goal—because if it was, I’d have even more questions—there were only a few other likely possibilities. It was just—well, it was hard for me to imagine anyone being that stupid.

    But then, hadn’t Yamaki just reminded me that this wasn’t the world or time I knew? The reason it was so hard for me to believe was because in the future, people had seen what could happen, but this was before the Firewall was destroyed or even before the Malicebot reminded everyone of what they were dealing with. Who knows what dumb ideas people might have, when all they truly knew of the threat of Digimon was reports? The D-Reaper had been an international emergency, but Digimon and the Digital World might have looked like a contained issue in comparison, at least before that containment was breeched. I liked to think the memory of the D-Reaper would be threat enough, but even if they had full access to Hypnos’ records, they probably only knew about the threat Digimon posed in a theoretical sense—at this point, the only Perfect-level Digimon that had ever appeared without a Tamer were the Devas, and we’d stopped most of them before they could do too much damage, so most of the people of this time wouldn’t know what they were dealing with yet. They might think that Vikaralamon was an outlier, instead of the norm, and that if they used a remote location, they could deal with whatever happened.

    The worst part was, in a way, they were right; Vikaralamon was an outlier, but not in a good way—namely, he was an example of an almost ideal case, where high-level Realizations were concerned. Back when we’d been based out of Nyx, a Perfect Digimon had Realized in Anaheim, California. It had been an eight hour flight from Tokyo, even with the government pushing us through the red tape on both sides and putting us on the fastest plane available on short notice. Younger Tamers had arrived from Los Angeles within an hour, as well, and managed to hold the line until we arrived.

    That is, they managed to keep it from reaching any other cities in that time. Because in just the time it had taken them to get there, Anaheim had burned.

    And the worst part was, even that was getting off light, all things considered. In what sometimes seemed like a running them of my life, today’s solutions tended to become tomorrow’s problems. Faced with the threat of the D-Reaper, the Digignomes and Culumon had managed to unleash the power of the Digi-Entelechy, evolving dozens or even hundreds of Digimon straight to Ultimate to create an army that could face the threat—and in the end, they had, holding the line until we defeated the D-Reaper despite horrific losses. The end result, however, was still a mixed blessing; a Digital World with an utterly disgusting number of Ultimate Digimon, relative to everything else, and especially compared to the Digital World they’d entered as children where a few Ultimates had ruled the world as its undisputed masters. The Digital World in the immediate aftermath of the D-Reaper had been a fraction of its former size in both population and area, but still several hundred times as dangerous.

    The few times an Ultimate had crossed over successfully, without them being already in place to stop it, it had been…God, catastrophic is too light a word. So the question had to be asked.

    “Yamaki, are they…summoning Digimon?” I asked, as serious as I could be as I mentally prepared myself to try and minimize the collateral damage. But of all the answers I could have expected, from bad to worse, the one he gave still shocked me.

    “I don’t know,” he said, frustration spilling over into his tone even as I stared at him in shock.

    “You don’t…know?” I asked. “You mean, they didn’t tell you? But they had to submit…like, a request of some kind, didn’t they? If this is a UN decision, there had to be some kind of vote to approve it or something, some kind of paper trail or…or something, right? People aren’t allowed to just walk in and take doomsday weapons, are they?”

    “Well, apparently they can, because they did,” he said bitterly. “You’d think the fact that I helped save the world would mean something, but apparently the UN doesn’t agree; there was some vote behind closed doors and then word came down from on high that they could do whatever they wanted. I complained, but they requisitioned my superior’s balls on their way out, and I was told in no uncertain terms not to argue. Nothing came from it and everyone seemingly agreed to never talk about them again, but if something weird is happening—well, it seemed like a decent place to start.”

    I stared at him, still struggling to wrap my head around that. It’d been a long time since red tape had been a concern for me and even when it had been, as one of the Tamers, people tended to bend over backwards for me regardless—but goddamn, even I had a hard time imagining the kind of political clout you’d need to do something like this, it was absurd.

    “Do you…?” I began before shaking my head and trying again. “I have a hard time believing you’d let it go with just that, Yamaki.”

    “Sadly, my spy penguins haven’t reported back yet,” he said dryly. “It’s not as if I can just have someone watch the place. I’ll give them this; they run a tight ship, which I suppose is the point of their location—whatever they’re doing, they must want to keep it private, or else they picked the wrong place to live. It’s so hard to even meet with anyone who works there, it’s almost like they vanish off the face of the Earth as soon as they go down there.”

    That…was a worrying possibility.

    “But yes—there were a few things I’ve managed to find out by digging,” he continued. “Nothing about its internal working, but even they have to interact with the outside world sometimes. According to the official mandate I…found, the head of the organization is a Marisbury Animusphere, who I found out was the owner of a French nuclear reactor and an oil rig, prior to 2004 when he apparently came into a lot of money.”

    “More money than you’d need to buy an oil rig and nuclear reactor?” I asked, eyebrows rising.

    “Enough money to buy enough power plants to fuel an entire country,” Yamaki answered and I stared at him in confused disbelief. Yamaki wasn’t the type to joke about something like this, I knew that, but—can you do that? Apparently seeing my question on my face, Yamaki nodded. “Yes, really. And around the same time, the entire UN just decided they agreed with everything he was working on. Normally, I’d say the idea of being able to bribe or coerce all of them was absurd, but this man is apparently bankrolled by God, so.”

    I raked my brain, feeling like I should have heard about a guy this absurd, but I’d never heard of any ‘Marisbury Animusphere’. And, I mean, I felt like I’d remember if I had; what language was that from? I seemed maybe European, except I actually spoke English and that didn’t seem like any English name I’d heard before.

    “They’ve also been recruiting, this last year or so—though for what, I can’t be sure, though now I’m beginning to have wonder,” Yamaki continued. “Half a dozen recruits at least, but I suspect there are far more that I just don’t know about. All of them were seemingly random civilians ranging between teen age and middle age; two of the recruits we found were fifteen.”

    “That’s pretty young for an internship,” I said. And then, because it still seemed relevant, “In Antarctica. They all agreed to move to the South Pole?”

    “I assume they have amazing benefits,” Yamaki said. “And I say assume because none of those who’ve left have returned home yet, and while their families have been assured they’re safe, none of them seem to know anything about their new jobs.”

    Wow. I’d kind of figured that being in Antarctica would be the weirdest part about all of this, but the more I heard, the more gruesomely suspicious this place seemed. Even as I considered that, however, I noticed that Yamaki was watching me closely—and I knew what he was thinking. After all, I was thinking it too.

    “You’re wondering if it’d be possible to make more Tamers using the Re-Animator. To summon Digimon to the Real World and bond them to people,” I stated the possibility out loud and he nodded silently, which made me sigh. “…It’s possible, certainly.”

    Yamaki grimaced, but didn’t seem surprised.

    “Just like that?” he asked nonetheless. “Get the right person, call up a Digimon, and you can make a new Tamer? It’s that easy?”

    I shook my head.

    “It doesn’t have to be anything like the ‘right person.’” I said. “Being a Tamer isn’t about being chosen, it’s about choosing. If a Digimon and a Human both want to, they can become partners; that’s how pretty much all of us became partners, really. But I wouldn’t say it’s that easy, either; if they’re just calling Digimon up with the Re-Animator or something, they’re going to get as many corpses as success, if not more. Not all Digimon want a Tamer. Not all of those that do want just any Tamer. And…not all the Digimon that want a Tamer want anything good beyond that.”

    “Like IceDevimon,” Guilmon murmured from his place beside my feet, breaking his long silence. He glanced at me and I’m sure we both thought of Millenniumon then, too. “And some others.”

    I nodded.

    “Jenrya and I really only had one partner in mind from the very beginning, though our circumstances were different. But Ruki told me that she was approached by a bunch of Digimon at the same time who all wanted to be his partner, and a Digimon named IceDevimon one tried to kidnap her to be her partner. The issue is, ‘Tamer’ is just a name. It’s not like becoming partners automatically makes a Digimon nice or anything and a lot of the Digimon that do want partners want them so they can become stronger, and I’m not sure how many of them even really understand how the whole thing works beyond that. And if a Digimon like that comes through, they’ll probably want to keep their partner alive, but I’m not sure how much interest they’ll have in the rest of the organization, or in taking orders from other humans. Or in taking orders at all, really.”

    “But they won’t be able to evolve if don’t they work together, right?” Yamaki asked. “If they aren’t equals, if they don’t understand each other and work together, they can’t do what you do, right?”

    I hesitated for a long minute, drumming my fingers on the armrest as I considered how to answer the question.

    “That…might not be true,” I said at last, putting a hand on Guilmon’s head. This was an uncomfortable topic for the both of us. “They won’t be able to do what we do, no—they won’t be able to Biomerge or draw strength from one another to do the impossible or anything like that. But it’s possible to draw power from other things, too. A Digimon that evolved based on fear and hate alone probably won’t turn into anything good, but…if all they want is power, they might not care.”

    “You mean something like SkullGreymon, from the show,” he said, frowning.

    “Yeah,” I lied while Guilmon remained silent beside me. “Something like SkullGreymon.”

    “Assuming for the moment that this is what they’re doing…how likely do you think it is that something like that will happen?” Yamaki asked after a moment, expression now completely serious. He was treating this as an emergency now and acting fully like the Head of Nyx and I knew he’d do whatever he thought he had to. “And how bad do you think it would be if it did? How long do you think we would have to look into it, before that happened?”

    I shrugged, because there was no easy way to answer that.

    “If they are doing this, maybe they’re being smart about it. Maybe they know something we don’t or can summon exclusively friendly Digimon,” I said. “But if they don’t, it’s a roll of the dice each time—and even if they do, I think you know better than anyone that there will always be people who take an open door as an invitation. And even if they succeeded, it would still depend on the Tamer and their partner; in the same way that Tamers and their partners choose each other, they can choose to separate. Impmon did that when he left Ai and Makoto. A crueler Digimon could probably just kill their partner and move on. We aren’t bound together by anything but our desire to stay together, which can be strong enough to accomplish the impossible or completely non-existent, depending on them. As for how long it might take, well, you’ve seen as many Realizations as I have; if they’re just drawing on Digimon without a way to screen for good ones and it took ten tries before something went horribly wrong, I’d be shocked. And as for how bad it could be…depends on the Digimon. Somewhere between bad to apocalyptic, depending on how unlucky they are.”

    It should go without saying where Megidramon fell on that scale.

    “Do you think this might be related to how you were summoned, after all?” Yamaki wondered, now looking for evidence to either support or undermine this possibility. “That…drawing upon the Digital World might have called you somehow?”

    “God, I hope not.” I told him honestly. “If an experiment in Antarctica accidentally summoned me in Japan, that doesn’t bode well for them—or us, really. I’m going to be optimistic and say now, just because I think we’d be having bigger problems otherwise.”

    “Unless they just started and you’re the first sign of things going awry?” He pointed out.

    “Unless that,” I allowed, but didn’t bother pretending to believe it. “Which would mean our problems have become nice enough that they’re helping us resolve them now, without us having to risk our lives or endangering anyone else. But while that would a nice change of pace, spoiler alert—that’s not usually happens with us. I could tell you the bare bones of your future, if you really wanted me to, but let’s be real here, Yamaki; you know what your job is.”

    “…Am I going to spend the rest of my life dealing with things I know are coming, but that the fools around me are too blind to see, only for things to go just as badly as I knew they would all along—if not worse—and have to save the world from it all?” He asked.

    I looked at him expectantly and he swore.

    “Damn it; I realized that twenty years ago, but it’s still depressing to have it confirmed,” he said, but despite his words, he almost seemed to burn with vindication. Yamaki had always kind of hated all the authority figures in his life who didn’t accept his view on the world—that everything was bound to go horribly wrong unless he, personally, helped fix it with some super-science machine he’d named after a Lovecraftian monster—as gospel, so honestly, finding out that he was right and could prove them all wrong was probably enough for him to think it was all worth it. I wouldn’t have implied anything about his future if he wasn’t the kind of guy who could survive on spite alone, after all. “Then we’ll have to act fast. For the time being, we’ve no choice but to assume the worst, which means we need to know more about what’s going on and verify it if we can. A…contact I have in the UN works as a…translator, of sorts, for some of the less technologically savvy members. Over the last few months, he’s been…willing to acquire certain documents for me. I’ll reach out to him and tell him how important it is that we find out more about this.”

    As it happens, I also knew Yamaki well enough to know that he was brushing over a lot of blackmail and illegal activity in that statement, but I understand how bad this could get enough to not really care.

    “And even he couldn’t find out anything else about what Chaldea was really up to?” I asked instead.

    Yamaki nodded and frowned, not hiding how displeased he was about that.

    “The most he could find was a notice sent to the UN regarding the completion of the Spiritron Calculation Engine ‘TRISMEGESTUS’ and the Evocation – Invocation System,” he replied. “But there was nothing explaining what that meant. I assumed they either renamed my Re-Animator or incorporated it into something else.”

    For Yamaki, who’d been put in charge of the Office Affiliated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and immediately renamed it after the Greek Goddess of Night, changing the name of one of his inventions to something that wasn’t occult-based had probably made everyone involved a sworn enemy of his—but that wasn’t the part of that statement that caught my attention.

    “Spiritron,” I repeated, more than familiar with that term. “Are you sure that’s what it said?”

    “Yes,” Yamaki replied, furrowing his brow at me. “Does that mean something to you? I couldn’t find anything meaningful about it.”

    “You shouldn’t be able to,” I replied, developing a whole new level of concern about all this. Maybe Millenniumon was involved here, after all. “Spiritron technology shouldn’t be invented for at least another decade. Unless they were part of the team that developed it or it was usable on a private scale…? No, even then, I’ve never heard of Chaldea before, they—“

    I pursed my lips abruptly and looked at Yamaki.

    “Is there any way you could arrange…” I began without thinking before just as quickly stopping myself; as requests went, asking Yamaki to arrange a meeting with an Antarctic spy movie organization was unreasonable at best and stupid at worst, and what would I even do if he could; ask for a job? I actually had some fairly marketable skills, in my own opinion. I—that is, the original Matsuda Takato—had joined Jenrya in going into computer research, hoping to find a way back to our partners, and we’d both learned a lot from the Wild Bunch, among other people. I had experience with computers far into the future, too, and while I might have to brush up on stuff from so long ago, I was still a professional. Even now, ‘I’ was in my twenties, working hard to learn everything I could and I had faith in our abilities.

    And absolutely none of that mattered right now. Even if I made the bizarre assumption that this mystery organization would be willing to hire me and let me fiddle with their machines while no one was looking, what I was capable of didn’t matter because I didn’t look the part and had nothing to back that up. It was a stupid idea; this wasn’t my time, wasn’t the future where I had the clout to just walk up to some organizations door and expect to be let in, or where hardened men would crack and spill their secrets when they realized I was involved.

    Besides, there was a better way. Yes, this wasn’t my time. This wasn’t the world I’d been forced to get used to and while I knew that mentally, it was still hard to truly think that way. But this was before it all happened, before I’d—well, before I’d done anything I’d regretted, before the world had changed. Which meant I didn’t need to bother with any roundabout methods, because I could just go straight to the source.

    “No,” I said then. “Never mind; I’ll handle this. Is sending what I find to that computer okay?”

    I nodded at Yamaki’s laptop and saw his expression turn confused even as he slowly nodded.

    “Yes, that’s fine,” he said slowly. “Do you need my—“

    “I’ve got it,” I said and I did; now that I thought to try, even a glance at the computer was enough. In a way, since the moment I’d arrived in this time, I’d been reeling from how foreign everything seemed. 2015 was so far in my past, so distant and vague a memory that it almost seemed like an alien world, some strange dream where all the logic and rules were twisted up in knots and everything was backwards. But the thing was, the rules were the way they were supposed to be; I’d just forgotten how to play the game. Forgotten, even, that I’d known it better than anyone here would for a long, long time. But the word Yamaki had spoken was enough to remind me of something that had once been as natural to me as breathing, which opened up doors I’d once thought closed forever.

    The safeguards Yamaki had on his computer wouldn’t survive the advent of Spiritron Hackers, I noted, but then, basically none of the countermeasures used in this time would weather that paradigm shift. I didn’t even really have to try or even enter it fully; I just reached into the computer and took what I needed. Conventional measures like a firewall wouldn’t work against Digimon or Spiritron Hackers seeking to invade a network, just because there was nothing a firewall could do against someone that could physically interact with or destroy data; there was a program on Yamaki’s computer meant the stop untrusted network traffic, but a program like that couldn’t even protect itself, much less the computer. If a firewall in the time wanted to accomplish anything against Digimon or Spiritron Hackers, it would have to be something akin to the ‘Firewall’ between the Real and Digital Worlds, not just a program that filtered network traffic.

    “I’ll be back after I finish digging, but keep an eye on your email,” I said, copying everything from his IP and MAC address to his email address and withdrawing without anything on the device even responding. “I’ll send you whatever I find about Chaldea, but I might need you to do some digging of your own while I’m inside. If there’s anything you need, just—yeah, one sec, we’ll just do it this way.”

    I dusted off an old Codecast—that is, a program used by Spiritron Hackers—that I’d written and installed ages ago and ran it on Yamaki’s computer, eventually popping up a simple but functional chat program that was encrypted and connected to me the same way Guilmon was. He wouldn’t know it, but we’d done this a hundred times, years from now. Yamaki leaned away from his laptop for a moment when it first appeared, but credit where it’s due; Yamaki was smart as hell and he had as open a mind as anyone I’d ever met. After looking between it and me for a moment, I saw understanding begin to dawn, and he leaned closer to type on his laptop.

    “Can you see this?” He wrote, but I heard it all as words. That wasn’t anything he was doing, of course; I’d just set up a voice synthesizer to roughly approximate his voice in this program, to make it easier to get his messages while I was working. I had slightly different versions for other people I worked with closely, just so I was able to distinguish between who was talking without having to visually check on it. The interface on their end was basic, but I’d built in a lot of functionality behind the scenes. I had to, really, just to be able to speak to the Real World without the problems we’d had in the Digital World, all those years ago.

    “I can hear it,” I told him.

    “You’re in my computer,” Yamaki stated, still looking at his laptop in wonder. “You’re…going to enter their computers? Through the network? Can you do that without a portal—no, can you get back without the Arc? How is that…?”

    “I told you I was from the future,” I reminded him. “Trust me; it’ll all make sense in about fifteen years and it loses it’s appeal pretty damn quick—but it has it’s uses. I’ll message you once I’m inside and we’ll play things by ear from there.”

    “How do you know there will be a way in?” He asked and I had to smile a bit bitterly at that.

    “Take my word for it; even if there’s not supposed to be, somehow there’s always a way in,” I told him. “Human nature, I guess. Come on, Guilmon.”

    Guilmon rumbled back a reply and I closed my eyes—and then, for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, I projected myself straight into the Network.
    XxXXxX

    Metaphorization—the act of something real becoming less so. The opposite of Realization, where a Digimon—or something similar; had to make the distinction—enters the Real World and takes on a pseudo-physical form, it was instead the act of making a body out of what would one day be called ‘Pseudo-Spiritrons.’

    Most of the time, people would project their mind—some said their soul, hence the name Spiritron, and I supposed I was evidence of that in a way—into cyperspace using either Visual Perception Digitization with a spinal implant or Visual and Touch Perception Digitization with a wired connection, though there were exceptions to that. VPD Hackers were able to receive Input, such as by perceive things on the network, but they couldn’t construct actual bodies on the network itself. VTPDs could go a bit further and had both Input and Output capabilities, allowing them to influence things directly, but their forms were basic and their capabilities relatively limited, though they’d be a terror in this day and age.

    But generally, when people thought of Spiritron Hackers, they thought of the special cases; the people that were called ‘Wizards.’ Anyone who could project themselves full into the network as themselves was a Wizard, presumably a play off of computer wizard. Regardless, the term was fitting; any one capable of going that far could do things on the network that seemed like magic. Needless to say, we, the Tamers, had all been considered Wizards, though how accurate that was, who knows. Even Wizards generally left their bodies behind when they entered the Network, but even without portals, we simply entered it fully, as ourselves. Chalk it up to the gift Alice had given us, all those years ago; I guess we didn’t have bodies the way normal humans did, anymore.

    Of course, I didn’t have a body period, but that wasn’t the point, nor was it that big of a deal, as it turned out, and whatever rust I’d gathered since the networks were destroyed didn’t seem to hinder me much now. The net opened up before me like a vast plane, but in fact, it was made out of six of them, overlapping and interconnected. This was part of the space between the Digital World and the Real World, beneath the imaginary space and part of both and yet not truly either. Later, we’d name them after six of the layers of the OSI model, with the Physical Layer being the barren, uppermost plane of the Digital World.

    I didn’t care about that, though; all I needed right now was this topmost layer, the one closest to the globe that represented the Real World. Here, the network took on weird shapes—passages of light, cells, nodes, and more, arranged in a dizzying pattern that nonetheless reminded me of Our War Game. It worked much the same way, really, and while the networks of this time weren’t quite as open as the ones of 2030, they were also woefully unprepared to deal with us.

    At least, I hoped so. If not, something was seriously wrong here.

    “Guilmon, can you take point?” I asked and the barest touch of my D-Arc was all it took for us to become one. Light and warmth and certainty enveloped me, even as my clothed dissolved into the sphere that surrounded me. I became something that was somehow even less physical than I was before and yet something so much greater, and I drew strength from him even as he drew it from me. I took a moment to bask in that feeling and drew reassurance from the one thing I could always be certain of, but then I began to distance myself from it, drawing slowly away. The sphere around me slowly began to darken and recede, as if melting away into the void of shadows beyond it.

    I melted away with it and I let myself do so. My senses went one by one, but before I lost the ability to see, I saw my ‘body’ slowly disappear into the shadows as well. I was blind here, because there was nothing to see. I was numb here, because there was nothing to feel. I wasn’t here, because there was nothing here at all, really, not the way there was in the real world. And yet, there was.

    This was the realm of the things that were not real—the World of Imaginary Numbers. I was dangling over a void by a thread and if it snapped or I let go, I’d be gone and done and fade away into the things that aren’t.

    But the thing is, I wasn’t afraid in the slightest, because the thread I held onto was the bond between Guilmon and I. Even if the darkness seemed to melt away at me, I knew that it was something that could never be broken and I would never let go. There was no reason to be afraid of something that would never happen.

    Besides, Guilmon did it all the time. What kind of Tamer would I be if I let him do it but was too scared to do it myself?

    “Spiritrons technology shouldn’t have been discovered yet, Takato,” Dukemon said eventually, the two of use remaining separate minds for the moment, so we could discuss this with ourselves. Unsurprisingly, though, we were thinking the same thing, and without Yamaki here, we didn’t hesitate to discuss it. “Do you think Millenniumon hastened it’s discovery? Why?”

    “I don’t know,” I replied as the voice reached me in the void. My body, the body I had within Dukemon, was gone now, but I could still see through my partner’s eyes, though it felt odd. It was as if my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, to the point that the darkness regained color. I was careful not to reach too far, however, at least not for more than a few moments, because that would have subverted the point. “But we should be on our guard; if he’s here, we can expect an attack. For the time being, I think one of us should always be on the lookout, just in case.”

    ‘Being on the lookout’ was an old bit of paranoid necessity turned habit, but given what had happened before and what was happening now, it seemed like a smart one. One of the issues with fighting someone like Millenniumon was that he was a raging asshole with time manipulation. While altering history was, thankfully, easier said than done and inherently limited, no amount of terms and conditions would ever make me comfortable with Millenniumon having the ability to do it, and there remained a small but real chance that he might try to paradox us out of existence or hurl us into another timeline or try to change our pasts or otherwise ruin the lives of everyone he encountered. There wasn’t a perfect solution to that problem, unfortunately; Millenniumon could manipulate time and that was just kind of his thing.

    But we could make the bastard work for it. The Imaginary Number Space was outside of normal time and space. It wasn’t a parallel world or anything like that; it was something else. And while it wasn’t exactly hospitable, that fact could be pretty useful against a time traveler. As long as one of us was here—wasn’t here?—there was one of us he couldn’t see and couldn’t attack, and as long as there was one of us, we could verify the existence of the other. It was a bit hard to explain what that meant, but…I liked to think of it as a redundant array of independent disks; if Guilmon started to disappear or change into something wrong, it helped me bring him back. We could do that to a certain extent even with going quite this far, which is why I’d figured Yamaki’s house was safe, but…well, better safe then time paradoxed. Odds were, Millenniumon would find some way to screw with us indirectly no matter what we did or how difficult it was, but at least this way, we could try and fight it.

    “Will you be okay?” Dukemon asked. “I know you don’t like it in there.”

    “I can’t believe you do,” I replied. “But I’ll be fine. I hope you don’t think I’m worried you’ll let me go, or we’ll have to have a talk. It’s just weird in here.”

    What I didn’t say was that sometimes, I could swear I wasn’t the only one in here. I wasn’t afraid of being alone in the dark. I was afraid of not being alone in the dark. But I was also sure it was just my imagination, because I told myself that very firmly every time I had to fucking come here.

    It didn’t matter. I didn’t need to feel at ease. I didn’t need my eyes or my nose or my mouth. I didn’t need my sense or my body. I had Guilmon, after all, and the connection between us couldn’t be broken by reality or the lack of it—and through him, I was connected to the rest of the world. Guilmon would protect me and I’d protect him; that’s all there was too it.

    “Never,” he said and there was a smile in his ‘voice.’ “And I don’t like it there, either. But, somehow, it feels familiar.”

    I wondered about that. He’d told me that before, but I couldn’t think of any time in his life when Guilmon could have gotten familiar with this place—except I was even less sure of Guilmon’s origins now than I was when I was a kid. First, I’d thought I’d made him from a drawing. Then, I was told the Digi-Gnomes had done it. Then, went on this weird vision quest where there were hundreds of fake Guilmon floating in the void and I had to find the real one again, which was kind of like this other vision quest I had when the first Deva nearly killed us both, which come to think of it, I never got an explanation for either. Maybe we had been here before; God knows at this point.

    But that didn’t matter either.

    “My home is your home and vice versa,” I muttered. “It’s fine. We’re stronger as Dukemon, anyway, and we might need that strength if anything happens. Unless you want me to stab Milly in the back this time, I guess, in which case I don’t mind the thought, but I question the feasibility.”

    “You make a convincing point,” Dukemon conceded. “I assume you know where we’re going, then? Because I do not.”

    “Scoot over,” I said and he did. Mentally, I mean, so we could both be Dukemon for a moment.

    “Process of elimination,” We realize and pulled up a Google search to see what was in Antarctica.

    “Here,” I said, drawing back. “Only so many ways to get internet in the South Pole; most of it goes through either Argentinean companies and the bases there or through satellites. The former seems to mostly go through Movistar, but the latter is done mainly through TDRS and GOES, and meant to communicate with the American bases like the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, or through the Optus satellite that services McMurdo Station. The Argentinean companies seem to mostly service the civilian areas and at bases on the coast, but I’ve gotta say, I have a hard time imagining a Antarctic Doomsday Fortress owned by a gazillionaire using a normal ISP.”

    “So it would be one of the satellites,” Dukemon murmured, following along. Already, I could tell that we were heading ‘up.’ Geography in the network wasn’t remotely like that of the Real World, but as someone who’s gone to the moon before, trust me, we were heading towards space. “But which one?”

    “I’ll bet you that this Chaldea place doesn’t show up on most maps,” I said. “So whoever’s sending stuff from the middle of nowhere, most likely.”

    “Assuming they’re using the internet, of course,” he hedged.

    “Guilmon, as someone who’s worked in or with IT for damn near forty years, trust me when I say that even if this is a mysterious super-secret organization that forbids all access to the outside world, there would still be someone there using the internet for shit they’re not supposed to,” I told him, entirely serious. “Prepare to be disappointed in people, like I was, every day of my adult life.”

    “If you say so…” Dukemon said, now sounding concerned.

    I swear to God, not even five minutes later, we were following the download of some net idol’s newest post towards what was, supposedly, the middle of nowhere.
    XxXXxX

  12. #12
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    Invasion

    Fate/Analog
    Invasion
    The first thing I made note of about Chaldea was just how it appeared. I was still in the Network, of course, but the way a particular region of cyberspace looked could tell you a lot about the location it was connect to; after all, it was literally made out of that place’s ‘information.’ Accounting for some general weirdness, you could learn a lot about a place just from how things were structured, and from what I saw, Chaldea was…cold. Spiritually cold, I suppose I should say, though in this case, there wasn’t much difference between being spiritually cold and physically cold.

    At a glance, this didn’t seem like the type of place where lovers sent each other longing emails or snuck away from work to be with each other, not that I’d expected it to be. When crossed from the outside to Chaldea’s internal Network, we entered the top of what looked almost like a Dyson Sphere, arranged around a glowing orange point far ‘below’ us, and with rooms both above and below the steel walkways that made up the surface. Despite the interesting design, the structure itself was almost clinical, with smooth floors and white walls, where they didn’t break to show the view over the edge or beneath. Every now and then, what I called static snow blew across the halls, everything in its path turning briefly black and white even as it chilled, but everything else looked nearly sterile, even the rooms that branched out from the main paths and hung over the abyss. Without any signs of life and with its almost uniform color scheme, it was about as dull as a Dyson Sphere could be—though perhaps I was just jagged. Once you’ve been to the Digital World and the Chimeric Lunar Seas, it’s hard to be impressed by architecture.

    That wasn’t to say there weren’t patches of color, however—there were, though they seemed to mostly be kept inside people’s rooms. Here and there, however, I could see marks of colors and odd shapes, where strong emotional responses had marked this place, for both good and ill. To my surprise, I walked passed a couple of lab rooms that damn near seemed ready to explode with colors, though as if to make up for it, there was a third that looked like a charnel house. There was a part of me that couldn’t help but wonder what could have made that kind of contrast—but ultimately, I wasn’t here to sight see and if it mattered, I’d find out regardless.

    “View_map(a),” I said. Lines of light and numbers ran across Dukemon’s armor and the air around our hands, the language that composed the function clearly visible here in cyberspace. In practice, it wasn’t much different than running dir /a in a Windows command line in principle, just modified extensively to work on a much more loosely defined network and adjusted to display in a more useful way. Here in the upper layers of the Network, where the Real World and Digital World overlaps, everything manifested in some form and could be interacted with, if you knew how, which would cause a bunch of problems in fifteen years or so, in large part because it meant you could find just about anything, if you knew where to look. After a bit of processing, the program finished running and displayed a 3D-map of Chaldea’s network, with the directories that composed different areas clearly marked. I looked it over for a moment and then indicated one of them mentally. “There, that one.”

    I directed Dukemon towards the employee directory first, just because I liked having names and faces to put on the people I was working with, for, or against, and because it’d make it easier to look into things from the outside, if we couldn’t turn up anything valuable here. Since Chaldea’s security didn’t seemed prepared to deal with someone who could shove a hand into a computer and rip out the admin password, I wasn’t super worried about being cut off abruptly, but it never hurt to be cautious. Conveniently, the room that contained the directory was close to where the Firewall Monitor was on the Application Layer—both actual, physical locations in this case, of course. As someone who’d spent years in the industry, I’d sometimes had to spend days, weeks, or even months pouring over code that no one apparently knew how to put goddamn notes in when easier methods failed, so even after all these years, I took a bit of sick pleasure in just punching the Firewall until it took my security exceptions and liked it. Once it had firmly learned that resistance was futile and agreed not to look at anything I did, we moved on.

    “Is this it?” Dukemon asked as we came upon what looked like a cross between a gallery and a library. All along the walls were pictures and portraits of people, except they moved—not the pictures themselves, but the frames, opening to masses of fluttery pages, scrawled with lopsided, overlapping words and notes. All told, there were four or five hundred of them, along with a smaller section to the side that had briefer things written on it—notes about people or organizations related to Chaldea, but not a part of it, perhaps?

    “Yeah, this is the place. Copy(),” I said as I created what I called a Scribe—just a basic on, this time, since we seemed to mostly be dealing with text files and a small number of images. It manifested as a blue orb with a pockmarked surface, from which it began to emit what looked like—and for all intents and purposes, were—miniature data streams that it used to scan and store the different files. Well, putting it that way makes it sound fancy, but for all intents and purposes, I was just copy-pasting. “We’ve done this before, remember? When we first went to Tsukumihara Academy, we checked to see who else was in the school.”

    “I’ll take your word for it,” he said. “That’s not really the part I remember about that place.”

    “That’s fair,” I allowed, because yeah, things had pretty quickly spiraled out of control shortly after that point, but also knowing that a decent chunk of it was simply that none of this really interested Guilmon. Digging for confidential information, I mean, or maybe more like the technical side of it, of invading networks and making programs and such. Not because, as some might think, it was complicated or difficult, but rather the opposite; I’d never asked, but I suspected he thought of my programming, both conventionally or unconventionally, as something like playing with dirt. Or maybe more like…something mundane I was making a hobby out of? Like gardening or landscaping. Because for Guilmon, imitating even the most complicated programs I could write would be no more difficult than breathing, even in this form.

    Guilmon had always been smart—smarter, I think, then anyone had ever given him credit for—and I knew better than anyone what he was capable of. If he saw any reason to know about the members, legal information, or finances of Chaldea, he’d probably be done by now. Of course, if he saw the need, he’d probably have just destroyed their entire intranet and eaten it, too, but that’s just because, Holy Knight or not, the Digital World had a pretty different idea of judgement and justice then modern society; he wouldn’t care about the legal ramifications under a specific country’s laws or give a damn about a politician’s sex scandal. Well, not that I didn’t empathize at times.

    “Yamaki, see if you recognize anyone on this list,” I said, sending the files his way after simply glancing over the names, disguising the upload with an innocuous name on one of Chaldea’s computers that was on but not in use, hiding the process, and setting it to delete the record when it was done. I didn’t recognize anyone on it, so the meat would all be in the employee’s profiles and what we could dig up about them elsewhere, but all of that would take time; for now, I sent to files Yamaki’s way and moved on.

    “On it,” the head of Nyx replied.

    My second stop was their finances, because even if nothing else did, you could always count on money to talk, but I also packaged that information and sent it Yamaki’s way. Pouring over someone’s bills from the last ten-odd years could tell you a stunning amount of information about them, but goddamn if it was tedious and, oftentimes, it was hard to recognize what was important at a glance; I wasn’t looking forward to the month of cross-referencing and ground work it’d likely take to get anything useful from it, but unfortunately, even Spiritron Hacking could only do so much. Sometimes, you had to stare at pages full of numbers until your eyes bled.

    The email server came next, just because my knowledge of human nature told me that people sent stuff in emails that they weren’t supposed to and no force on Earth would ever change that. People emailed work documents to themselves, emailed important information to each other, sent emails to non-work addresses, opened emails they shouldn’t, and more. As with the employee directory and their bills, it would take time to go through everything, but emails tended to be a bit easier to search, so I’d play up how young I was to try and take that job while dumping the rest on Yamaki—that’s why I tended to steal that stuff last, after all. Speaking of which—

    “Does anything jump out at you yet, Yamaki?” I asked. “If you see anything you want me to look into, now’s the time.”

    “—A few things,” he said, and though the synthetic voice couldn’t really capture tone, I had a feeling he was frowning.

    “Anyone you know?”

    “No, but…my information is worryingly out of date. Marisbury, the director…it seems he committed suicide some time ago. The current director is his daughter, Olga. She’s…younger than I’d expect for the head of an international security organization.”

    “The stupidly rich guy committed suicide?” I asked, surprised. Sure, they say money can’t buy happiness, but by all accounts, this guy could have bought basically anything else. “Any idea why?”

    “Not yet, but there are some…odd notes on a few of the employees. In any other case, I’d think it was some kind of joke, but…just in case, can you see if you can access their medical records for me?”

    That was more than a bit illegal, but so was everything else I was doing today, so I just shrugged and nodded.

    “Will do. Anything else?”

    “I’ll have to look into things more to find out, but just skimming over things…it might just be an in-joke, but it seems the head of their R&D department is a woman named Leonardo Da Vinci.”

    I blinked.

    “Like the…” I began before pausing briefly. I’d been to the Louvre once, on a trip to Paris, so of course I knew about the Mona Lisa, but that was damn near all I remembered when I heard the name. “The painter?”

    “Painter, sculptor, inventor, and more,” Yamaki replied. “It’s probably just by a coincidence. Or an alias. Or she could just be named after the man, like if she had the same last name. But at a glance, it caught my eye—and knowing what their R&D was up to couldn’t hurt besides.”

    I checked my map again and nodded. I wanted to know what they might be doing with the Re-Animator, anyway, and it’s not like it was out of the way.

    “I’ll check that next, since I’m already on my way to see what…Olga? What the director has on her computer. But there’s something I want to check first,” I said. “I want to know what they tell their new employees.”

    “Do you think they have a brochure?” Yamaki replied, presumably dryly.

    “Who doesn’t?” I asked back. “New employees don’t orient themselves; you’ve had to onboard as many people as the next guy, I’m sure you know that. Even if you fight giant monsters from another dimension, you still have tell the new guys how to do their jobs. And you can tell a lot about an organization based on what they want people to know and what they don’t want people to know.”

    I actually wondered, absently, what orientation day for Nyx was like—I’d worked for the organization, but I’d never gone through it. Being one of the Tamers and having worked with Yamaki since I was ten had let me cut through the red tape, which was nice, but honestly, I kind of wanted to see Yamaki give a welcome speech. Or better yet, he’d probably made some kind of video for new employees to watch, and I was betting it was full of dark rooms and special effects. Maybe I should hack into Nyx next, to steal a copy; I was betting it was good for a laugh.

    “…True,” Yamaki admitted after a moment, as if having never thought of it. I wasn’t surprised; it was something a lot of people don’t realize, after all, and which even I’d learned on the job—but pretty much any big organization, out sheer necessity, had some kind of way to get people ready on their first day. It didn’t matter if they were super-secret spy organizations or yakuza or a cult, officially or unofficially, they had to have a way of getting newbies caught up on the basics of their job and emphasizing why it was important that you, personally, did what they told you to.

    A lot of it tended to be lies, of course. Like, just in general kind of way, and I think everyone kind of knows that. When the megacorporation that reigns over you from on high gives you a printout talking about how much it values you as an employee, how it’s all about giving back to the community, and how it’s not about the money, I’m pretty sure everyone just automatically went ‘No, you don’t, no, it’s not, and yes, it is.’ The point of orientation is to get people motivated and ready to work, after all, and things like reality only rarely did that. Even if it was full of lies, though, it had enough truth for people to actually do their jobs.

    Unfortunately, Chaldea’s main orientation still seemed to be done in person instead of through any helpful instructional videos, so when I ran a search, I mostly just found a bunch of Word documents for what I assumed were different drafts of a speech, made by the director. On the bright side, there was, in fact, a brochure, so I called that a victory for modern advertising and then ran the text files through one of my handy text-to-speech programs so I could listen to it while I was on the move; one of the many benefits of being Dukemon was that we didn’t have much trouble splitting our attention, so I’d listen while Guilmon finished things up.

    —Or, at least, that was the plan.

    Welcome to Special Organization, Chaldea. I'm the director, Olga Marie Animusphere, the program began to play. Unlike with Yamamki, I had no idea what Olga was supposed to sound like, so I left her voice as the default female one, rendering it emotionless and robotic. Each of you has been selected or discovered from each nation for your rare talents. Of course, by talents, I mean your aptitude for Spiritron Dives and your possession of magic circuits, giving you the potential to become Masters.

    The words struck me—struck us—like a lightning bolt and if I had enough of a body in this state to do so, I’d have sat up ramrod straight.

    “Master…” Dukemon said, justifiably concerned. “She doesn’t mean that kind of Master, does she?”

    I didn’t want to believe it either, but I brought up the text document just to check, and sure enough, the word was capitalized. Not that random capitalization necessarily meant anything, I told myself firmly—she could just be American.

    I waited a moment to see if I believed that, before shaking my head. No matter how I looked at it, the way she phrased it and the reference to Spiritron Dives meant I could only think of one thing—the Masters I knew about from the future, born during the Moon Cell Incident in the 2030s. Masters were—well, it was complicated, but they were something like Tamers, only instead of being partnered to a Digimon, they were partnered to ‘Servants.’ Servants were a kind of advanced Digital Lifeform separate from Digimon and Digignomes, and if they were involved that was a problem in its own right, but that wasn’t the issue here, in and of itself. The issue was that Servants only existed because of the Moon Cell, like how Digimon only existed because of the Digital World.

    Except, the Moon Cell shouldn’t be active for another fifteen years, at least not in any way that mattered to anyone on Earth. And when it had active, in 2030…it had nearly destroyed the entire world.

    “Guilmon—” I began.

    “Already on it.”

    Some of you may find this hard to believe, but I assure you, it’s the truth. You are a new breed of mages, born from an unprecedented fusion of science and magecraft.

    I was already reading ahead, or at least trying to, but those words made me pause yet again. Was she talking about High-Level Programming Language? But why would she even know about that. Then, had they already discovered Code Casts? That didn’t make any sense with how unguarded this place seemed to be. What did they mean by mages, then? It’d have been easy to just dismiss their words as ramblings, but these guys already knew far too much.

    That said, although all of you possess special talents, you yourself are nothing special. Remember that all of you are inexperienced rookies, standing at the same starting point. In particular, the mages sent by the Association still seem to be acting like you’re still students. Fix that immediately. Chaldea is under my jurisdiction; your family names and personal achievements have no meaning here. First and foremost, my orders are absolute; your opinions aren’t needed and your complaints won’t be entertained. You are, all of you, merely tools to protect humanity, nothing more. If you don't like it, leave Chaldea at once! Not that there are any flights to send you home, of course. Though if you're ready to trek six thousand meters down a snowy mountain, that would be commendable; otherwise, don’t waste my time on such matters!

    “…Who is this girl again?” Dukemon murmured, only half-listening. “She sounds like she has an interesting perspective on…reality.”

    “She’s young,” I replied, doing the same as I started skimming files, just to try to make sense of the terms she was using. “Girl’s that age are precocious. Tell me if you come across anything regarding this Association or these ‘mages.’”

    “I think that goes beyond being precocious, but okay,” he said. “There were mentions of a Mage’s Association in the Employee Directory. Nearly forty of the ‘Master Candidates’ came from a branch of it called the Clocktower. Location…London, England, under the Tower of London, the British Museum, and other locations. Mentions of three factions within it, but no specifics. Twelve departments…found something. The Animusphere family is the head of the Astrology department of the Clocktower.”

    Like I said, Guilmon could leave me in the dust, if he felt a need to, fundamentally, he was a creature that lived in and consumed data, and better suited to it than I’d ever be.

    …Having said that, the fuck was this ‘under the Tower of London’ business? And the British Museum? What? Maybe I had no right to say anything, since Hypnos had been in the Metropolitan Government Building, but what was the conspiracy theory madness?

    Listen up. What we at Chaldea achieve today is something that will be written in history. The discovery of scientific knowledge. The creations of religions. The dawn of naval exploration. The advancement of information technology. Even the voyage into space-- Our legacy will be on par with the ‘Pioneers of the Stars.’ No, it will surpass them! We will not be mere stepping stones in the development of human history; we will be the hands of God that protect it! By stabilizing human history, we will ensure the future of mankind—in other words, we will ensure the continuation of humanity! That is Chaldea's, and now your, one and only purpose.

    “…Hm,” Dukemon hummed quietly.

    “It’s a noble goal,” I said, maybe a touch sadly. “And it’s good to be confident.”

    “I didn’t say it wasn’t. Just…”

    Chaldea has achieved many results to date. The development of Phenomenon-Recording Cyber-Daemon, Laplace. The creation of the Global Environment Model, Chaldeas. The completion of the Near-Future Observation Lens, Sheba. The finalization Guardian Heroic Spirit Summoning System, Fate. And the launch of the Spiritron Calculation Engine, Trismegistus. With this technology, we at Chaldea have observed humanity’s progress one hundred years into the future. We do not predict the future, but observe it, like those who observed the light of celestial bodies. And whatever it sees, our job has been to ensure that humanity will survive those one hundred years into the future. Indeed, this is Chaldea's greatest achievement, the Global Environmental Model, our Chaldeas. Planets have been defined as beings with souls and this model is a copy of the soul of our world, a miniature Earth. Because of the difference in scale, we are unable to determine the full extent of human knowledge, but whatever can be seen on the surface, the countless, brilliant city light, can all be observed through Sheba. Currently, it's been set to reflect the Earth one hundred years from now, and as long as the light of civilization shines within Chaldeas, we can guarantee humans will exist a century further.

    Neither of us said anything now, both of us stopping to listen. If you asked if it was possible to do something like make a copy of a planets soul, I couldn’t answer you; certainly, it sounded absurd, but I’d seen weird enough things that maybe I could believe it if you explained it enough. If you asked if it was possible to use such a thing to see a hundred years into the future, again I’d be confused and unsure of how to even begin to answer, but I’d seen more than enough proof of time travel that predicting the future wasn’t unbelievable. And if it was true, it was something amazing, shocking, and revolutionary, living up to her boast of rivaling even something like the space age, but I’d seen enough miraculous, revolutionary wonders that I could perhaps believe that too. But even if I could believe in all of that, one issue remained.

    A hundred years from now, there were barely any city lights to be found on the surface. A hundred years from now, the earth was reddened, the ground like rust of blood. No plants grew upon its surface, at least not by natural means, and no normal animals walked upon it. And—while Mankind, perhaps, could be said to remain, humans as a species had already gone extinct. The end had come in bits and pieces, with the Malicebot Incident, the Moon Cell Incident, the Millenniumon Incident, and finally the Overcount Incident—but however slowly it had come, it had come nonetheless.

    I could believe that someone could see a hundred years into the future. But not that they would like what they saw.

    But—Lev, could you normalize Sheba's polarization angle? The program continued, the written speech pausing for a moment, presumably to allow people a chance to respond to whatever the speaker would be indicating. Of course, for me, there was nothing like that. This is the current state. Starting six months ago, Chaldeas changed color and it became difficult to observe the future. The light of civilization, our beacon till now, has disappeared…that's right. The lack of light means that civilization has vanished. This is highly classified information, but you all have the right to know. Our observations indicate that the light of humanity is only visible up to the year 2016—specifically, the last observable activity is in July 2016. Which means that there is a chance humanity will go extinct in June of 2016. No, it is guaranteed to happen, even though it shouldn’t be possible.

    Huh…?

    I felt like I’d just staggered. No—I had staggered, as Dukemon, shaken by that bit of news and its implications. If you said that there was a bright future a hundred from now, it would be hard for me to believe it. But if you said there had been a bright future and it had been swept away, that was a different story. Because—

    “Takato,” Dukemon said. “Shut it off.”

    There's no sign of an economic collapse nor of any sudden disasters, and no war or plague should be able to wipe out all of humanity that quickly, without leaving a trace behind. We can't explain how humanity would suddenly just disappear in so short a timeframe. Over the past six months, we've searched for the cause of this strange phenomenon—the disappearance of the future. And in that time, we have come to this conclusion; if the cause is not in the present, then it must be in the past. Using Laplace and the Trismegistus, we've reviewed the past 2000 years, searching for events that don’t match up with our current history or that couldn’t have happened based on the current Earth. As a result, we observed anomalous events occurring here, in Spatial Singularity F. Year 2004 AD, in a city within Japan. An unobservable part of history that did not exist prior to 2015. Chaldea hypothesized that this was the cause of humanity's extinction, proposed the Rayshift experiment to the UN, and received approval. The Rayshift process transforms a human into Spiritrons, sending them into the past and allowing them to alter it—

    Abruptly, the voice fell silent as Dukemon shattered the program with a thought. Immediately, I started to demand why, only to see our armor flickering, slipping in and out of different shades.

    It was only then I realized the effect this was having on me. It was almost funny; I’d never used to have any trouble keeping control, not even when the world was breaking around me, but now even a few words could send me into a tailspin. It wasn’t until after everything that my grip had begun to slip, my footing start to become unstable. Even more ironic, in many ways, falling to that depth felt safe—because it wasn’t what I’d done in madness and rage that filled me with regrets.

    “Takato, enough!” Dukemon commanded, his tone broking no argument. As if called to heel, our armor ceased to flicker, returned to shining white and crimson red. “Don’t let your heart be shaken by superficial similarities. You heard her; the suspected cause of the destruction is from 2004, not 2054. It has nothing to do with us—we weren’t even reunited yet!”

    “2004 was the year I was first summoned from,” I said quietly.

    “To 2018, not 2016!” Dukemon retorted. “A lot of things probably happened in 2004; it was an entire year. This is a coincidence and nothing more.”

    “But all of a sudden, the future disappeared? That has Millenniumon written all over it. What he did in the future could have—”

    “Then it’s even less our fault!” Dukemon cut me off. “The only one responsible for what Millenniumon did is Millenniumon.”

    “But Millenniumon didn’t destroy Humanity,” I said quietly, making Guilmon fall quiet for a moment as well.

    “Why are we even considering this?” Dukemon demanded a second later, sounding angry. “Someone claimed they could see a hundred years into the future and something went wrong and a part of it was maybe similar to a thing that happened; that doesn’t prove anything! We don’t even know if it’s true. This stupid machine, what reason to we have to give what it says a second thought!?”

    A red ripple expanded outwards from us, sweeping over the walls and floors of the Dyson Sphere complex before Dukemon looked around and stepped over the end, letting himself fall abruptly towards the ‘star’ at the Center. Just before he would have made contact with it, however, Dukemon’s moment abruptly stopped and he hovered calmly in midair, the defiance of physics almost an afterthought in this realm. Dukemon reached for what I assumed to be one of the machines that had been listed—only to abruptly pause. He had to expression to gauge, but I knew he was staring.

    “This is a photonic crystal,” he said quietly, the words seeming to tear something deep inside of him—inside of us both.

    Even if we recognized it, it would be impossible to say either of us truly understood what a photonic crystal was, beyond the fact that it was what the moon was made of. In a way, though, that was knowledge enough—this machine was something that shouldn’t have existed, something absurd like the Philosopher’s Stone. Whether you could do something like see a hundred years in the future with normal science was, admittedly, something I had my doubts on, but if one were to ask if it was possible to see the future with something like this…if it really was a shard of the all-seeing moon, I’d certainly assume so. I still didn’t know why these people used terms like magecraft or mages, but if they had photonic crystals on their side, claiming they were capable of using magic might not be an exaggeration.

    Which meant we couldn’t simply doubt or dismiss this. If a photonic crystal said that mankind’s history would soon come to an end, it was almost certainly true—and it might explain why Masters and Spiritrons and such were being involved, so long before they should be discovered. Which meant…which meant we had to completely reevaluate what we knew about Chaldea and the situation and…everything. We had to prepare for it, of course. We had to stop it.

    Only…there was one problem. We already knew what had destroyed mankind. What I’d said was true—Millenniumon hadn’t destroy mankind. He had, arguably, destroyed the world, or started the events that would lead to its destruction, and so maybe he was the reason for this regardless—but even in his nightmarish world, Mankind had still existed. Millenniumon didn’t care about unmaking things, after all; he wanted to remake them. His whole mad scheme was to destroy the past, to let himself redefine the future. Because in a world without a past, who but the god of time could decide what the world was like. He’d reduce the entirety of human history to an unknown, to a shattered series of moments that he could string together as he saw fit and make whatever he wanted out of the pieces.

    But even then, in that broken time that was his world, mankind had existed. As slaves. As dolls. As toys that had no right to their minds or their bodies or the very choices that made them who they are. But they were, in some sense, alive.

    It was only after Millenniumon’s fall, during the Overcount, that Mankind died. When the competing possibilities Millenniumon had gathered began to fight to decide who could exist and had always existed, when the digital singularity we’d fought for years to hold back finally spilled out of control, when that awful star began to approach—that was when mankind fell. Not to any of those things. Not even to all of those things. But to the on who’d scoured away all of Millenniumon’s possibilities to leave only the true behind. Who’d destroyed the Digital World, the Networks, every entrance and every way out and everything inside as well, before they could break free. Who’d—

    I closed my eyes. It was a truth I didn’t want to admit. I’d spent one life trying to make up for it. If I could, I’d have spent this life trying to forget it. But—

    —Obviously, if you were looking for the one who’d destroyed the world, it could only be me.

    XxXXxX

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