Thread: [Other Fanfic] Digimon Campaign
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Old May 24th, 2012 (9:15 PM). Edited June 16th, 2012 by icomeanon6.
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icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is offline
It's "I Come Anon"
    Join Date: Feb 2008
    Location: Northern Virginia
    Age: 24
    Gender: Male
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    [Hello again, PCFF&W. I am pleased to announce that chapter two has been finished in less than two years! In all seriousness, if you read chapter one and were interested in reading chapter two, I apologize. I've made a few minor revisions to chapter one in preparation for this chapter, and since it's been two years you might as well go read chapter one again if you have already. Despite any evidence to the contrary, this story has seldom been completely absent from my mind during this entire time. I intend to complete it, and I have done a lot of planning since I posted the first chapter and the story is definitely going somewhere.

    So here's chapter two. I hope you enjoy it, and please post any comments or criticisms you have. I mean to have the next chapter posted by the end of June, but I'm afraid I can't promise anything.]

    2: The Camp, and a Long Walk Ahead

    Before an hour had passed, the three humans and their unusual companions came across a large hill. The top was obscured by fog, but halfway up Ross could see two rows of wooden spikes jutting out in a manner that set his hair on end. There was a narrow gap where a few spikes had been removed and set aside, presumably to be replaced when the need arose. As Garurumon and Agumon headed for this gap, Tatiana stopped. She asked a question with voice wavering. “W…what are those things for?”

    Agumon turned around. “They keep the baddies out. Don’t you know there’s a war going on?”

    Tatiana had not known, and took a step backwards. Jacob said to her, “Come on, there’s nothing to worry about.” As he said this, Tatiana’s expression relaxed, and she caught up with the rest of the group. They passed through the gap and came to the top of the hill. All around were several small clusters of beige tents. There were a few faint sounds of activity from within some of the shelters, but otherwise the place seemed dead. Garurumon made a deep, slightly disapproving noise in the back of his throat. “Home sweet home.”

    Something about the whole setup went against Ross’s grain, and he shuddered. He looked over at Tatiana, and saw that she was keeping awfully close to Jacob, who was looking about as if he wanted to memorize every detail of the camp. Agumon then motioned the three of them to follow, and they walked to the largest of the tents, on which were inscribed some rough, incomprehensible ink letters. ‘It looks kind of like Chinese or Japanese, but not quite,’ thought Ross. ‘Maybe I should ask later. Then again, I might not get any kind of meaningful answer.’

    Before passing through the entry flap, Garurumon paused and said to the three humans, “I would advise you to be careful with your words. Things have been a little tense around here as of late.”

    The three followed Garurumon through the entrance, and saw something that they did not expect. Sitting on a stool in front of them was a tall, man-like figure with six white wings. His eyes were covered by the steel helmet he wore, which was adorned with a cross. Ross couldn’t help but stare, especially at the light the man—or creature?—seemed to emit. Garurumon bowed his head slightly and said, “Captain Angemon, we have brought back three wanderers from the hills. They say there are more of them in the woods, and that they wish to seek refuge here.”

    Angemon was motionless, but somehow Ross got the feeling that he was examining the three of them closely. After a few seconds of pondering, he answered Garurumon. “You bring with you unexpected but most welcome guests indeed, Garurumon.” His voice was strong and firm, but strangely soothing. He gave off the aura of a soldier; a powerful guardian whose mere presence brought safety to those who were lucky enough to be on his side. “I suppose you have noticed that their attributes are indiscernible, which in my mind makes them all the more welcome.”

    Ross didn’t know what to make of this statement. He looked over at Jacob, who was more collected but no less confused. Angemon’s head remained still; he faced no one in particular, but when he resumed speaking Ross could tell that he was addressing Jacob in particular. “Pardon me if I’m completely off base, but I have a feeling that although you three are clearly alike, you each answer to a different name. Am I correct?”

    Garurumon’s ears rose a few inches, and his voice did little to hide his surprise. “You could tell, sir?”

    Ross glanced over to Garurumon, but he became suddenly aware of a faint presence. It was as if someone was tapping him on the shoulder, though he felt nothing there. He looked again to Angemon, and in an instant the presence grew strong and seemed to force the words right out of his mouth. “Ross! Uh…Ross, sir. My name’s Ross.”

    The presence vanished, leaving Ross red in the face. Angemon didn’t seem to take any offense at his slightly embarrassing outburst, however. As for Jacob and Tatiana, they didn’t seem to notice it at all. “I’m Jacob, sir.”

    And then there came a meek voice that wanted to hide back inside its mouth. “Tatiana.”

    Angemon nodded. “Intriguing names, all. They sound almost as ordinary words. Most unorthodox.”

    At hearing the word ‘unorthodox,’ Ross began to suspect that everyone around here had a name that ended with ‘-mon.’

    “But I forget my manners. It is plain to see that you are tired and hungry. You may take as much as you like from the mess tent. Garurumon, show them the way, if you’d please. I shall have a messenger sent for their companions at once.”

    Jacob answered as earnestly as he could. “You are too kind. Our friends are hiding in a cave. I think we walked about four miles to get here. Thank you very much, sir.”

    Ross followed suit, saying “Yes. Thank you, sir,” and Tatiana nodded her head slightly.

    Angemon nodded back to her and said, “Good day, you three.” As they all turned to leave, Angemon spoke once more. “Agumon, would you stay a minute, please?”


    Jacob, Ross, and Tatiana were sitting on a log outside of the mess tent, each holding a bowl of a bland yet hardy grain dish. Ross didn’t think it was rice. Perhaps it was barley? Millet? None of them could say, but they were more than happy to finally sit down with something hot to eat. Garurumon asked them, “Is the food to your liking?”

    Ross looked over at Garurumon, and wondered if he normally ate the same thing that they were eating. Considering Garurumon’s size, he would certainly prefer a larger bowl, and probably wouldn’t use the chopsticks—the only utensils they could find—either. Jacob answered, “It’s great. Thanks again.” Jacob then noticed that Tatiana was struggling with her chopstick technique. He whispered to her, “Hold them more like a pencil—there you go.”

    As Ross continued eating, he noticed that the fog on the western edge of the hill was beginning to thin out. The now visible landscape consisted of rolling hills that grew into distant mountains to the right, and became covered with a dense forest to the far left. This was nothing out of the ordinary, but something else about the scenery caught Ross’s eye. There were three small but prominent craters among some of the closer hills. They had no grass growing on them, and the dirt was dark, nearly black. Ross supposed this had something to do with the war that Agumon had mentioned. Ross wondered about this war. Who or what do wolves, dinosaurs, and angels fight against? And as long as Ross was asking himself impossible questions, just what in the hell were these creatures, anyway? As he wondered this, Agumon came walking over from their right.

    “Agumon’s back,” said Jacob to Garurumon, who was staring at the ground.

    Garurumon looked up, and promptly shook his head. “Different Agumon.”

    As this new Agumon walked past them and into the mess tent, he said, “Hi, Garurumon.”

    To Ross’s ears, this Agumon’s voice was indistinguishable from the one they had first met. Garurumon answered in kind. “Hello, Agumon.”

    Ross tried to wrap his head around this: These two creatures looked identical, sounded identical, both answered to ‘Agumon,’ didn’t seem to have any other kind of name, and Garurumon regarded them as differently as one regards two different people. Ross wondered how many Agumons there were, and whether or not any of them suffered from identity crisis. It was then that another Agumon came walking over from their right. Before anyone could ask, Garurumon said, “Yes, this one’s ours.”

    Agumon sat down on the ground next to Tatiana, who still couldn’t help but stare at him. “Of course I am. Who else would I be?”

    “Any other Agumon, it would seem,” answered Garurumon. “Our new friends have trouble with recognition.”

    “Not even surprised. These new friends are weird, weird, weird.”

    Tatiana giggled a little, and Agumon smiled. Ross would have been more than happy to leave any discussion of their differences at that. They may have been confused, but they were on good terms with their potentially dangerous hosts. Ross suspected that further talk might reveal differences that would lead to animosity, which they couldn’t risk. Especially dangerous in Ross’s mind would be any mention of—

    “So, could you tell us more about this war?” asked Jacob.

    Ross wanted to punch him. He was just as curious as Jacob was, but in his experience talking about wars led to heated disagreement, which he certainly didn’t want at the moment. Fortunately, Garurumon didn’t seem at all affected by the question. “What do you want to know?”

    Ross hoped that Jacob would simply say ‘Never mind,’ but he had no such luck.

    “The basics, I guess. Who are ‘they,’ who are ‘we,’ and what are we fighting over?”

    Ross thought that saying ‘we’ the second time made the three of them sound much too involved. Garurumon let out a low sigh. “I was wondering when one of you would ask, and I must admit I’m not sure how to answer. You are all ignorant of much that we have always taken for granted as basic reality. I suppose I’ll start with as basic an explanation as I can think of.”

    “I would greatly appreciate it, and I must apologize for our ignorance.”

    Garurumon shook his head. “There’s no need. On the contrary, you should say ‘You’re welcome.’ This is the most interesting day I’ve had in quite a while.”

    Agumon interjected, “Oh, this day’ll get even better, but go on.”

    Ross couldn’t help but notice a hint of frustration in Agumon’s jest. He wondered what it meant, and just what Agumon had been talking about with Angemon.

    Garurumon continued speaking. “We are the Vaccine. We are one of the three basic branches of intelligent life. Since even before the dawn of Knowing, we have existed alongside the Data and the Virus.”

    Data. Virus. Though the temptation was great, Ross did not ask Garurumon if he knew anything about computers. He was relieved when Jacob did not do so either, and simply said, “Got it.”

    “Three years ago, the Virus grew angry with the status quo, which if you ask me is an inexcusably common development for them throughout history. They were once again organized into a formidable army, and we have been fending them off since then. If our army of the Vaccine fails they will overrun our lands, wipe our kind from existence, and obtain control of all life.”

    The first thought that came to Ross’s mind was, ‘Oh, man. We’ve stumbled into a genocidal conflict.’ If Jacob found this situation worrisome, he showed no sign of it, and questioned Garurumon further. “What about the ‘Data?’ Can they do anything to help defend against the Virus?”

    Garurumon sighed a second time. “Though the Data are greatest in number of all the branches, they lack the leadership and collective will to fight as one. On top of that, they are mentally ill-suited to fight the Virus in particular.”

    Ross hoped with his entire being that the other two wouldn’t call Garurumon’s last statement—

    Tatiana asked, “Isn’t that racist?”

    Ross tensed up, and began to sweat. Even Jacob looked a little nervous in response to Tatiana’s potentially disastrous question. It was an immense relief when Garurumon answered, “I’m not familiar with the term, but trust me when I say that it is fact. All other qualities being equal, one of the Data will usually fall to one of the Virus.”

    Tatiana was about to speak again, but Jacob put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Let’s take his word for it. This is his home, not ours.”

    Tatiana hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. Garurumon nodded back, and then said, “That about sums it up, I think. I hope I’ve done an adequate job; it’s not something anyone usually has to explain.”

    Ross seized this opportunity to change the subject. “You did fine, thanks. We’ve got the picture.” Looking off into the west, which was again growing covered with fog, he continued. “I wonder how long until the others get here.”


    It was getting dark when the nine figures walked in cautious fashion up the hill. Leading the way was a three and a half foot tall, pink-feathered avian. Of the creatures that Ross had seen so far, he considered this one to be the strangest. It looked almost like a child in a bird costume, as it stood perfectly upright and its wings seemed to be just as similar to arms as actual wings. He found it slightly unsettling when it jumped up and flapped its ‘wings’ a few times to bring itself to the very top, where it gave a small bow to Garurumon. “All have arrived safely, sir.”

    “Thank you, Biyomon. Show the little ones to the mess tent; they must be hungry.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    It was then that the first of the eight humans came into proper view. Garurumon looked at her and asked Jacob, “Is this the ‘Joanie’ you mentioned?”

    Jacob smiled and nodded. “Yup, that’s her.”

    Joanie let out a light sigh, and smiled in kind. “I am so glad to see you guys here.” Her eyes were then drawn to Garurumon, but she did not seem particularly surprised, which Ross had not expected. “Are you Garurumon, sir?”

    Garurumon nodded. “Yes, indeed. And you needn’t call me ‘sir.’ Biyomon is more formal than is warranted. If you don’t mind, our captain would like to see you along with your two friends, here.”

    The eight children minus Tatiana were now all assembled behind Joanie, and they for the most part looked far more optimistic than they had been when Jacob and company had departed. The oldest of them, whom Ross remembered as Michael from the night before, looked particularly interested in Garurumon.

    Biyomon addressed the crowd, “Follow me, there’s good food this way!”

    Joanie walked up to Biyomon and extended her hand. Biyomon returned the gesture with the three large claws at the end of her right arm/wing, and the two of them shook appendage-ends. “Thanks for everything, Biyomon!”

    “No problem. You were fun to talk to!”

    As Biyomon walked off, most of the children did as well. The three exceptions were Michael, a younger boy, and Tatiana. Joanie turned and said to the two boys, “Go on, Michael, Steven, I won’t be too long.”

    Steven, who seemed to be simply anxious about leaving Joanie, nodded and followed the other children. Michael, on the other hand, stood his ground and said “I want to see the captain, too.”

    There was now little fear and fatigue in Michael’s eyes. His tone of voice wasn’t what anyone would call steadfast, but it was markedly more resolute than it had been the night before. Garurumon looked straight into his eyes, and took a few steps forward. Michael took a sharp breath through his nose, and his eyes wavered a little, but he seemed otherwise unaffected by Garurumon’s intimidating gaze. Garurumon made a noise in his throat, as if suspicious. “Hmmmm.”

    At this point, Tatiana spoke up as well. “Me too. I’ve already eaten, anyway.”

    Garurumon made a quick glance back at Tatiana, and then said, “Very well. Follow me.”

    Michael’s face broke into a wide grin. Garurumon turned and began walking toward the main tent and the two children followed him closely, with the three teenagers trailing several yards behind. Jacob was the first to speak. “Well, it looks like we’re all safe and sound.”

    Joanie let out a deep breath. “Yeah. It’s so lucky that you guys stumbled across this place. I was worried you might get lost; then we’d really be in a tight spot.”

    Ross concurred with a simple “Mm-hm,” and Jacob responded in a more verbose fashion. “You can thank Tatiana for that. She’s the one who picked the right direction.”

    “And you guys should thank Biyomon later. Once she showed up she was great with helping all the kids feel safe. Actually, I think she earned their trust even faster than she earned mine. And she just loves to talk about everything! I wouldn’t be surprised if we know more about this place than you do.”

    Ross asked, “Did she tell you about the captain, already?”

    “Yeah, Angemon,” Joanie replied. Then she laughed a little. “It’s funny, Biyomon described him like this: ‘he looks like you all, but bigger, stronger, and well-armored. Oh, and he has six wings on his back!’”

    Jacob snorted. Ross didn’t think it was particularly funny, and supposed he just wasn’t in the mood. The three of them looked ahead at Tatiana and Michael. They seemed to be engrossed in conversation with Garurumon. Michael in particular appeared most attentive to what Garurumon was saying. Jacob said, “I think Michael there might have felt cheated when we left this morning. Maybe we should have brought him.”

    Ross nodded. “I think you’re right. Is he the oldest out of the kids?”

    Joanie nodded. “Yeah. We all said names and ages earlier and he’s eleven, the only one who’s over nine. Oh, wait. Do you know how old Tatiana is?”

    Ross shook his head. “Never asked. We could ask later.”

    Jacob was not interested in waiting, and called out to her. “Hey, Tatiana! How old are you?”

    Tatiana turned her head and called back. “Ten!”

    Jacob spoke in normal voice again. “That settles that.”

    Garurumon and the kids had now reached the tent, and waited a few seconds for the teenagers to catch up. They all entered together, and Ross still couldn’t help but find Angemon’s presence slightly unsettling. Angemon was sitting and facing the ground, apparently lost in thought. Garurumon was the first to speak. “Captain Angemon, they have arrived.”

    Angemon was unresponsive for a second, but then turned his head upward and smiled. He stood and spoke. “Indeed they have. You must be Joanie.”

    Joanie bore a slight smile, but a subtle contortion of her eyebrows and a subtler haltingness in her voice betrayed that she hadn’t been fully prepared for the sight of Angemon. “Yes, sir. It was too kind of you to have us.”

    Angemon chuckled at the notion. “Not at all, I assure you.” He then turned his invisible attention to Michael, whose mouth was already agape and now took a step backwards. “And what is your name, little one?”

    “M…Michael. It’s Michael, sir.”

    Angemon nodded. “That’s a good name. It strikes me as a name of inner fortitude, and of a strong sense of right.”

    Michael’s expression softened, and he took a step forward. “My parents said they named me after St. Michael. He was an…an angel, like you.”

    Michael’s face began to turn red, but then Angemon spoke again. “I can’t say I quite understand the story, but now I’m sure that the name is a perfect fit.”

    Upon hearing this, Michael practically beamed, and Ross could swear that some of Angemon’s glow was sharing space with the boy, if only for a moment. And it was a scant few moments later that Angemon moved on from introductions to more pressing matters. “Now that we’re all acquainted, let us get to the issue at hand.”

    The air hung still for a moment, and then Angemon spoke again. “In exchange for our continued hospitality, you three large ones must serve us as spies. You shall infiltrate the enemy encampment, and report back on their intended movements.”

    Ross’s jaw dropped, and the other four were speechless. Garurumon was the first to speak up. “I must object, Captain Angemon. This is far too much trust to place in strangers, and I personally doubt their qualifications for the mission.”

    ‘Yes, that’s it. We are not qualified. At all.’ is what passed through Ross’s mind, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak. Angemon, however, was unperturbed by Garurumon’s claim. “Of course, I value your council, Garurumon. Nevertheless, not only do I believe that we can trust these individuals, I also believe that they are uniquely qualified for the mission.”

    ‘You’re wrong. You’re insane. This is bad. We have to leave.’ Ross did not interrupt, and Angemon continued. “Garurumon, you first became aware of Jacob, Ross, and Tatiana when you heard them speaking, correct?”

    “Yes, but…”

    “With anyone else, you would have known they were nearby from four hills away, correct?”

    “Undoubtedly. All of my concentration was devoted to locating enemies.”

    “This is precisely why they are qualified. Their presence cannot be felt from afar, and even when they are in the same room their attributes are hidden. They will be invisible in a way that none of us ever could be.”

    Jacob finally interrupted. “Sorry, but you mentioned ‘attributes’ earlier and I never asked what…er…”

    Angemon chuckled. “Hearing this, I am now even more certain that you have no attributes to speak of. You are not Data, Virus, nor Vaccine. Garurumon, these beings come from the Holy World. They are of the mighty race of Creators, and they have been sent to help heal Creation.”

    Ross could no longer remain silent, and stepped forward. “C…Captain Angemon, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. We’re not ‘Creators,’ we’re just ordinary people. Human beings, that’s it. We’re not mighty; we’re weak, lost, and confused. We don’t know why we’re here, and no one sent us, we just showed up.”

    Joanie stepped forward as well. “He’s right, sir. We’re not Creators; we’re Created, just like you.”

    Angemon smiled. “Trivialities. Nowhere is it written that those who created us knew that they were creating. Nor is it written that they were the ultimate Creators themselves. Moreover, I said that you were sent with a purpose, not that you were fully informed and prepared beforehand.”

    Ross made some vague noises of objection, and turned to Garurumon. Garurumon looked back at him, and his eyes seemed both heavy and ponderous. Garurumon then turned back to Angemon and said, “If you are so sure of this, Captain, then I am as well. They are more than suited to carry out the task.”

    “If that’s all true,” they heard Agumon say as he walked into the tent, “then we’ve been blessed. We can’t lose!”

    Ross was petrified that Angemon would agree with this sentiment, but fortunately the captain shook his head. “It is written that perfect justice will come at the end of time, but until then there are no guarantees. It would be equally foolish to grow overconfident as it would be to discount the significance of our guests.”

    Ross was beginning to sweat. Angemon was apparently less of a fool than Agumon, but he and his companions were nowhere near off the hook. He didn’t know what else to say, but Jacob decided to give it a shot. “Let’s suppose that you’re right, sir, and we were sent here to help you. Even if we were to sneak up close to their base without them ‘feeling’ or smelling us or something, we’re not experts at espionage by any stretch. We can’t sneak around in their camp without them noticing us, and since we don’t know a thing about them other than that they’re ‘Virus’ I doubt we can get them to trust us.”

    Much to all of their consternation, Angemon continued to smile. “Most astute, Jacob, and I would have to agree with you were it not for one other factor. You won’t be going alone; there is one other who is especially qualified for this sort of mission.”

    Hearing this, Agumon’s eyes narrowed, and a few wafts of smoke rose from his nostrils. In response, Angemon’s smile vanished and everyone in the room could feel their bodies grow slightly heavier. “You promised me decorum, Agumon, and I expect you to honor that.”

    Agumon stared at his feet. “Yes, sir.”

    Angemon turned to the rear entrance of the tent. “You may enter.”

    This new individual had apparently been waiting for a signal. He parted the tent flap with his three long claws and revealed himself. He was identical to Agumon except for one key detail: his skin was not orange, but rather black as pitch. Angemon introduced him as he approached the center of the tent. “This is BlackAgumon. He is a Virus type who has more than earned my trust and is under my personal protection. BlackAgumon, these are Jacob, Joanie, Ross, Tatiana, and Michael of the Holy World. You will be working with the large ones, contingent on their agreement.”

    BlackAgumon had a grim expression, and there seemed to be some gravel in his throat. “My pleasure.”

    With a glare and a few shots of even darker smoke from his nostrils, Agumon stomped heavily from the tent. Tatiana followed him after taking one more look at Angemon and BlackAgumon. Ross would have liked to join her, but he couldn’t just leave without giving a final answer to Angemon. Then again, how could he possibly give an answer that Angemon would approve of? They couldn’t afford to get involved in this race war, especially not when that would entail working as spies. But there was also the matter that they couldn’t afford to get kicked back out into the wilderness. Would Angemon force them to leave if they said no, small children and all?

    As bad scenarios fired through his mind, he suddenly felt that uncanny pressure from Angemon, this time stronger than ever before. He then heard the captain’s voice, though his lips did not move. “I cannot have my subordinates hear me say this, human beings, but I only ask for your help because we are desperate. We cannot face the challenges before us without more intelligence, and it is too dangerous to send BlackAgumon alone. Our lives may depend on your answer. So I beg you, please help us.”

    Ross’s heart rate was spiking. He glanced quickly at his companions, and he got the feeling that they too heard Angemon’s plea. On top of that, it seemed that Michael’s eyes were welling up with tears. Jacob and Joanie glanced at each other, and then at Ross. All it took was for Jacob to nod his head slightly and Ross felt that the group had reached a consensus. The three of them turned again to Angemon and Jacob gave the official reply. “All right. We’ll do it.”

    Angemon did not smile, but simply nodded and sat on his stool. His head dropped and it was clear to all that his invisible attention had returned to his own mind. As Angemon entered a deep trance of thought, BlackAgumon began walking back the way he came. “Marvelous. It’s a long walk tomorrow, so don’t stay up late.”


    It was the middle of the night, and Ross was standing at the edge of the hilltop, some seven feet above the spiked barricade. All around him was perfect silence. Ross had expected at least some insects to be making noise, but there were none that he could hear. He stared at the cloudless, moonless, star-filled sky for three solid minutes before he heard anything. What he heard were footsteps, and since they were far softer than the thuds that came from Agumon and Garurumon’s feet, he figured they were human. He kept looking up, and soon he heard a girl’s voice.

    “Is that you, Ross?”

    The voice was Joanie’s. He turned to face her, and he could half discern her silhouette, but nothing beyond that. “Yeah.”

    “Can’t sleep either?” Joanie sounded weary, but not physically exhausted.


    Half a minute of silence passed. Ross couldn’t tell if Joanie found the silence awkward or not. There were no visual cues to pick up. He wanted to know whether she was looking at the stars or at him, whether she had come out because she couldn’t sleep or because she noticed he was missing. If he had her figured out correctly, she was the sort who upon waking in the middle of the night would take a silent headcount just to make sure everyone was safe. But how could he tell? They had only met the evening before.

    His train of thought was interrupted when Joanie spoke again. “I think Tatiana and Michael will do a good job of looking out for the younger ones while we’re gone.”


    Just as Ross was thinking to himself that he wasn’t saying enough, and that he ought to extend his reply so it wouldn’t sound like he was brushing her off, Joanie said, “That’s a lot of one word responses.”

    ‘Damn. Too slow.’ Ross rubbed his eyes and said, “Sorry. It’s just…well...rough day, you know.”

    Joanie made a half-chuckle, just enough to indicate to Ross that she wasn’t bitter about the lousy conversation he made. He then continued. “It’s a good thing you’re here. Jacob and I wouldn’t have been able to take care of all those kids by ourselves.”

    “Thanks. It’s nice of you to say that.”

    Another half minute of silence passed. By this point enough had been said that Ross was sure that she had more that she wanted to talk about but just wasn’t getting to. He was looking at the sky again, trying to find the North Star when Joanie sprang a new question on him. “Ross, why do you think we’re here?”

    Ross swallowed. Her voice had a palpable sense of foreboding about it. As for the question, he had absolutely no idea, and trying to think about it just made him frustrated. He spent enough time not answering that Joanie got the gist, and resumed speaking. “I’m mostly blank on ideas, too. But I can’t help but think about what Angemon was saying earlier. I mean, the idea that we’re any kind of ‘Creators’ is a bit ridiculous, but…”

    She trailed off. Ross wondered what she was getting at. “Yes?”

    “But what if he’s half right? What if God sent us here for some real purpose?”

    “Don’t tell me you buy into that crap.” The words came out of Ross’s mouth before he had a real chance to think about them.

    “What crap? Belief in God?”

    Ross felt himself the biggest moron on the face of the Earth. How could he not have picked up the earnestness in her voice when she said that? He did his best to recover. “No! No, not belief in god itself. Just, you know, that kind of active god. I just think it’s kind of a stretch of an explanation.”

    Joanie was not convinced. “You can tell me the truth. You don’t believe in God and you think it’s dumb for other people to believe in God, right?”

    She did not sound happy with him, and that made Ross cringe. “Uh…well…Right. But I didn’t mean it to come out that…I didn’t mean it that way. So…I take it you’re Christian?”

    “Yes. Catholic.”

    Ross sat down and pressed his hand to his forehead. “Really, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you stupid. And I don’t think you’re stupid!”

    Joanie sat down next to him, but she still sounded kind of annoyed with him. “I understand. It’s the same with everyone. We always view people themselves and their ideas separately.”

    There was something about Joanie. Ross had been in countless exchanges that started the same way as this one and simply ended in angry arguments over whether the idea of God was bunk or not. “Go on with what you were saying earlier; about god sending us here and all. I shouldn’t have shot you down like that.”

    “Well, I don’t want to—”

    “Please.” Ross could tell that she was going to change the subject to avoid offending him, and he couldn’t stand the condescension implicit in that. When Joanie spoke again, she slowly lost the defensiveness in her voice, and in its place came the foreboding that was present before Ross’s boneheaded comment.

    “Think about all that we’ve seen here, I guess; all these big, strange, talking animals and the Captain and everything. It’s all too improbable. I’m sure it’s real because there’s no way I or any of us could have dreamed this up. And us being here, it’s just not something that happens naturally or by dumb luck. Why are we all from roughly the same part of the United States of all countries? Heck, Jacob and I have known each other since we were six, why the two of us out of all people? I’ve just never bought into ridiculous coincidences like that. I have to believe there’s a reason. I just wish I knew what it was.”

    Ross had been listening intently, and for once he was ready with something to say. “I guess part of my problem with that is that I don’t see why this isn’t all just a dream. Just because I can’t think of where all the elements came from doesn’t mean they weren’t in the back of my mind somewhere.”

    “Yet you’re still acting as if it’s all real.”

    “I don’t think I can help that.”

    “Hmm.” Ross supposed that she did actually have something to say to that along the lines of the existence of free will, but he didn’t want to open another can of worms.

    “And the other problem I have is the whole idea of God, I guess. You talk about how you don’t buy into ridiculous improbabilities, but to me that’s what God is. God’s supposedly some perfect, omniscient creator who somehow cares about one random species on one planet out of billions or trillions or whatever. If I had to bet money, I’d say it’s more likely that I’m just dreaming.”

    Joanie wasted no time in answering either. “But again, you don’t believe you’re dreaming, do you? You believe that this place is real…that I’m real, right?”

    The word ‘believe’ always came across as somewhat grating to Ross’s sensibilities. He much preferred the word ‘think.’ He couldn’t stand spirituality—much less religion—but he understood the nuances of the word ‘believe.’ Screw proof, screw reason, just go with what your touchy-feely heart-of-hearts shouts at you, and he thought that was stupid and dangerous. But for whatever reason he didn’t let it get to him that night. “Yes. I do. It’s all too lucid. There’s no way I can possibly believe otherwise.”

    “So how does this place exist and why are we here?”

    Ross was growing more agitated, and his bitterness at their whole situation harshened his tone. “I don’t know. That’s why I’m scared.”

    That stopped the conversation cold. There would be no more discussion and no more communication of any kind except for ‘goodnight’ and ‘goodnight’ when they returned to the others, hopefully to go back to sleep. For the time being, they both knew that they had to set aside their thoughts on the situation from a cosmic sense and focus on what was immediate. They had a long walk ahead of them.
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