After the SkullGreymon incident, there had been no more outbursts or sudden attacks, and the group began to settle in. With nothing much to do except train and rest, they decided to fix up the settlement, allowing everyone to get to know each other a little more.
However, that didn't always mean that everyone always got on.
"Don't you push it through now?"
"No, you loop it round again."
"There isn't enough to loop it round again."
"That's because the knot's too loose. If you actually took care with it then you'd have plenty spare."
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Perimon dropped the end of the rope he had been carrying, making the little wooden tripod gently slide apart. Grace sighed, seeing her handiwork fall apart for the second time now.
Velocimon, being incredibly encouraging as usual, planted his face in his palm. "You idiot, now we need to start again."
"Guys, it's fine. Just let me handle it, okay?"
Grace's remark fell on deaf ears as the bird and the dinosaurs were at each others' throats yet again.
Velocimon folded his arms. "You know, perhaps this whole thing would run much smoother if you'd take a little more care now and again."
"Go zap yourself, lizard boy. You're no help either."
"Oh really? Well –"
The two were interrupted by a blast of ice falling over them, freezing them mid-argument. Vulpimon didn't even bother to get up; she just glared at the two. "Look, some of us are trying to get some shuteye. It's too hot to listen to you two bicker, so either do it somewhere else or shut up, okay?"
Grace carried on with her rope-work. She was almost used to these kinds of situations now.
The bird and the dinosaur grimly nodded as they quickly thawed out. Velocimon shrugged, "I ought to go and see how Aaron's doing, I suppose."
The two left, leaving Grace alone with the tepee, her partner stretched out nearby. Grace finished the lashing, before standing up and stretching.
"Hi Grace. Oh, you trying to get another tent up?"
Grace turned to see Eloise, Ladomon flitting excitedly beside her. They'd obviously been off doing some training. Ladomon had been a little delicate after SkullGreymon had nearly killed her, so Kai had suggested to the whole group that they ought to work with their partners and toughen up a bit more. Ladomon had been improving, but that didn't stop Eloise from worrying about her. Who could say how powerful their next assailant would be, when it eventually came?
Grace nodded. "Velocimon and Perimon weren't having much luck, so I decided to step in and help. Then Vulpimon froze them and then they ran away."
Eloise raised an eyebrow at the fox. "Oh really?"
Vulpimon opened an eye. "Tell me they didn't deserve it."
Eloise giggled. "I just wish I'd been around to see it." She knelt down beside the poles. "Come on; let's get this thing up properly."
With a little effort the two girls got the tripod standing, and soon set to work tying on the supports near the base. Eloise watched the younger girl with interest.
"You're really good at that, you know."
Grace smiled back. "Thanks. I'm in the Scouts, they teach us kind of stuff."
"I tried Guides once." Eloise looked down at her own knot, which, while not as neat as Grace's, was still workable. "Never thought much of it. Too many rules and uniform stuff. I get enough of that from school."
Grace let out a chuckle. "I guess I know what you mean. My friend Lizzie always comes in with her scarf bunched up, and she gets shouted at every week."
"See, I told you!" Eloise smirked, then looked up at the younger girl. Grace was looking down at her own, very well-tied knot. She closed her eyes, her expression very solemn.
Eloise put her own rope down and shimmied round. "What's wrong? Do you miss her?"
Grace nodded. "Lizzie, Kayley, Jade. Mum and Dad. Ross, our dog." Kneeling back, Grace looked all around her. "They're probably worried sick about me and Jack right now."
Eloise thought back to her own family. They seemed so distant, so far away. Now that the group actually had a chance to settle down, it had really begun to sink in that they were trapped in a dangerous new world, far from any semblance of home. Everyone had seemed to become more serious, it had seemed.
"I miss mine too." Eloise sat back, "I wish there was some way I could talk to them, or at least let them know I'm okay."
Ladomon and Vulpimon, listening to the conversation, exchanged looks.
Grace, feeling a tear forming, quickly wiped it away with her sleeve, not wanting to let Eloise see. She looked into the older girl's eyes. "It's not all bad. I mean, I got to know you guys, and Vulpimon. And I think I've gotten stronger here. We'll certainly have something to talk about when we get back home."
She forced a smile, before she turned serious again. "Right?"
"That's right." Eloise nodded, feeling completely unsure. What if they did end up being trapped here forever? Even if they won?
She smiled. "We'll be back home before you know it. When we are, be sure to keep in touch, okay?"
"Sure. I don't have Facebook though." Grace looked a little embarassed. "My parents don't let me use it."
"I'm sure we'll work something out."
The two girls stood up and admired their wooden masterpiece. Eloise blew her hair out of her eyes.
"Get a tarpaulin on that and we'll be done. No more nights of being rained on."
Trilomon yelled and dived to the side as Colchimon's bladed tail swung down, digging into the ground. He rolled into a ball, swerving round and heading back towards the dragon.
"Rolling Blade!" he called as he launched himself upwards. Colchimon saw it coming and moved, but the rolling ball of armour just caught his wing, knocking him off balance. Kent saw an opportunity, calling out to his partner.
"Trilomon, now. He's open."
"Not quite." Kai was leant against the tree, giving the occasional instruction to his draconic partner. In truth, Colchimon was doing rather well on own. His tail was glowing with black energy as he swung it around at the insect again, but Trilomon was already behind him. The insect's foreclaws extended with a cry of "Shell Sword!", and he lunged forward, aiming for Colchimon's wings. He struck true for one of them, bringing the dragon down onto his back, but Colchimon only smirked. "Good try, young one."
"You shouldn't be making jokes when you're about to be killed, you imbecile!" Trilomon raised his claw, aiming for Colchimon's chest.
Colchimon's smile didn't waver. "Goes for you too. Paralysis Pulse!"
Trilomon's claw struck a sphere of darkness, which exploded in his face. He forced himself, trying to stay mobile, but the shadowy power had drained his energy, nearly making him collapse. He was used to this feeling; after all he'd felt it plenty of times over the last week, but he still hadn't quite overcome it. With an exasperated click, he rolled over onto his side. Colchimon wriggled away and hovered above the downed insect, his tail glowing black.
Trilomon didn't flinch as the weapon flew down towards his exposed chest. It stopped just before impact, powering down, before tapping his armoured body with a dull click. Colchimon smiled. "You're it."
"Damnit, Colchimon!" Trilomon wriggled around and got to his feet, quickly recovering from the dragon's attack. "I still think using that move's cheating."
Colchimon shrugged. "You never know, one of our many enemies might do the same thing one day. And they won't stop before the final blow, either."
Trilomon looked dejected, but his partner walked over. "Don't worry, Trilomon. You're doing great." He knelt down beside the little insect, stroking the top of his head.
"Yeah, not bad."
Kent, Kai and their Digimon turned to see Velocimon and Aaron enter the clearing. Velocimon was applauding the two, "Keep this up and we'll be able to fight off anything without even evolving."
Colchimon chuckled. "Within reason. Anything up to a Guilmon, perhaps."
Aaron looked at the two older boys. "Are you two going for another round, or are you okay for us to join in?"
Kai looked at his partner. "What do you think?"
Colchimon grinned fiercely. "I'm up for another game."
Trilomon looked at his partner enquiringly. Kent shook his head, "Actually, there was something I wanted to check out. Trilomon, would you be okay coming with me?"
Trilomon nodded. "Sure, what is it you're checking out?"
"Well, maybe something that can help us besides all this training."
Aaron put his hands in his pockets, nodding. "Fair enough. Have fun."
"You too." Kent smiled back as he headed away from the clearing, partner scuttling beside him.
Aaron and Kai were left in the clearing, with their partners squaring up for another tussle.
Colchimon grinned at the dinosaur. "You feeling lucky?"
Velocimon grinned back. "Just bring it."
"So what's this about?" Trilomon lay down next to his partner as the boy leant against a tree, taking out his laptop and booting it up. "You said you'd found something that can help us?"
"I'll show you in a minute." Kent rested his head back. "Do you really think the training's going to pay off?"
Trilomon nodded. "Sure it will. I already feel stronger." As if to prove a point he arched his back, the movement making his armour click multiple times.
Kent smiled. "Fair enough. It's just..."
"How much more powerful are our enemies going to get? I mean, you remember SkullGreymon, don't you?"
Trilomon hunched at the memory. He could still feel the severe beating he'd received by the boned menace.
"It's just, no matter how much we try to prepare, the next battle could be fatal." Kent kept his eyes on his screen, trying not to make eye contact with his partner. Trilomon tilted his head, surprised by Kent's response.
"You know, it's almost as if you're worried about me."
Kent's normally olive skin turned a definite shade of crimson. "I mean...what I'm saying is..." He swallowed his pride. "Of course I worry. I just don't want you to get hurt. I mean, for the team's sake, and..."
Trilomon nodded, playing along. He could tell when his partner was trying to hide his feelings.
"Ah, we're up!"
The subject was hurriedly changed as Kent began typing, eyes never leaving the screen. He got out his D-Nexus and, with the help of a USB cable (which he kept in his case) connected the two devices.
"I've been working on this for a little while. You know this world's made entirely out of data, don't you?"
Trilomon looked incredulous. "No, but do tell me more about it."
"Never mind, sarcy." Kent tapped a few more keys and pressed Enter. "Okay, take a look at the tree behind you."
Trilomon twisted round and looked. The tree seemed to be flickering slightly, as if covered in a staticky fog. Trilomon was shocked, "Um...what are you doing?"
"I've hacked into the base code of the tree, using my D-Nexus to transform the physical data from the world into computer language. Or, whatever the equivalent is here."
"Ookay...what exactly have you done?"
Kent sighed. "I thought you were supposed to know about the workings of the Digital World." He shook his head in mock disappointment. "Basically, everything that makes up that tree is currently on my computer. So, if I twiddle a couple of the numbers..."
Trilomon watched in awe as the tree slowly shortened, turning a rather fetching shade of lilac while it did so. It stopped when it was about his height. Kent tapped Enter and exited the program, making the fog disappear from around the tree.
"Go ahead, touch it."
Trilomon walked all around the tree, poking and prodding it with his claws. It still seemed to be exactly the same tree that it had been before, just a different size and hue. The insect was impressed, "That is incredible."
Kent shrugged. "Really, that was simple stuff. I haven't touched any of the really heavy code yet."
Trilomon walked back to his partner. "So, let me get this straight. You think you might be able to give us more power by hacking into our code and changing our data?"
Kent looked into his partner's emerald-green eyes. "That was my theory. But I have a feeling it won't be that simple."
"It'll probably be incredibly dangerous. One false move and who knows what'll happen."
"That's what I thought." Kent leant back. "I want to give you more power, but I don't want to make you do anything you don't want to."
"I never said I didn't want to."
Kent looked down with surprise. "What?"
Trilomon shrugged. "I'm just as interested as you are in how this'll work. I don't mind being a test dummy; it's for a good cause after all." His voice was almost as excited as a child's on his birthday.
Kent had not expected this level of co-operation. "Okay, wow, thanks. That would really help." He looked back at the screen though. "However I'm not going into your code directly."
Trilomon thought this over. "Probably a good idea. Maybe you could make a copy?"
"Could do, I suppose..." Kent thought this over. "Okay, at least there's a possibility this'll work. We know that much." He closed the laptop and slipped it with the cable back into its case. "I think I should probably tell the others first, before I do anything drastic."
He muttered under his breath. "After all, we've had enough drastic moves the past week."
Trilomon pointed his claw, "Okay, shall we go?"
"Sure." Kent walked away from the little clearing with his partner. Just before, he stopped and turned. There was something slightly off. For just a second he thought he saw a haze or something. He couldn't quite place what it was.
"Coming." Kent ignored whatever it was and carried on after his partner.
Kent hadn't been quite sure what to expect when he brought his discovery before the assembled group. Perhaps they'd tell him to stop being ridiculous, or maybe they'd be afraid to try this thing.
In fact, everybody just looked all the more confused the more he tried to explain it. In fairness he'd probably lost them at the "I can hack into trees" part. Trilomon took over and was able to describe Kent's idea in a way that made some sort of sense, although Jack and Perimon were still left scratching their heads a little.
Eloise unfolded her arms. "So, in essence, you're giving our Digimon extra batteries?"
At this all the Digimon turned round and gave her slightly offended looks. She raised her hands in defense, "Sorry, but I didn't know how else to put it."
Kent waved his hand, "You're sort of right. To be honest I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing yet. I really need to see what the Digimon are made up from, but..." He noticed the series of faces in front of him looking very uncomfortable. He sighed. "You see the issue."
"It could be more than issue if it goes wrong, Kent." Aaron looked seriously at Kent, who had his laptop out, lines of code running down the screen.
Trilomon chipped in. "We did kind of think that maybe he could, um..." He trailed off, seeing Velocimon's stern gaze upon him. The insect hunched up, unable to carry on.
"Did you both agree to this, or are you only doing this because Kent wants to?"
Trilomon was hurt. He stood up taller, "Hey, it's not l-l-like that!"
Velocimon was about to respond when Perimon nudged him. "Dude, enough." For once the bird was serious; he wasn't a fan of Velocimon's intimidation tactics. "At least let him say what he was going to."
The bird looked towards the insect, who, after stuttering a little, started again. "We thought that if Kent could copy my data, then I wouldn't be hurt if he did something wrong."
"What, make some kind of crash test Digimon?"
"It's not a good move." Velocimon was adamant. "So much stuff could go wrong here. How could we even deal with two Trilomons walking around? What if they're linked? How do you suppose we do it anyway?"
Kent lowered his laptop lid and glared at Velocimon. "That's why I was asking you guys first. I don't actually want to hurt my partner." He said the "actually" a little more spitefully than he meant to.
Velocimon noted his tone, but remained firm. "Well, just don't do it, okay."
Velocimon let out a "Gaah!" as he turned to his partner, who had spoken. "Please don't tell me you're actually considering this?"
Aaron looked at his partner. "Um, yes? It's a valid suggestion, and I don't think we should dismiss it just because you don't like it."
"I'm a Digimon, Aaron. With all respect, I've been here longer than you. In my experience, it's never a good thing when people mess around with the workings of the Digital World."
"Okay, what do the others think?" Aaron turned and looked at the other partner Digimon. Ladomon hid behind Eloise, "I don't want anything to do with this, okay?"
Velocimon swung out his arm. "Admit it, this thing makes you all feel on edge, doesn't it? It's a bad idea."
Perimon scratched his head, looking uneasy. "Look, Velocimon, it's a huge risk, but it might actually be a lot of help if Kent can pull it off. It feels weird, but I'll go with it."
Velocimon's jaw dropped as Colchimon and Vulpimon nodded their reluctant approval as well. Even Ladomon nodded from behind Eloise. With an exasperated yell, Velocimon kicked the dust cloud and stormed off into one of the tents. He turned just before he did so, pointing at his partner. "If this cocks everything up, I'm blaming you." The flap closed behind him.
Jack looked up at Aaron. "Why does everyone always walk off like that when you argue?"
Aaron had his head in his hands. "Well, at least we know where he is."
Kai stepped forward, hands in his pockets. "Do you think you'd get a reasonable practise run out of something that isn't alive, but was still part of a Digimon?"
Kent looked surprised. "I...guess so, I think. It would be better than trees."
Eloise tilted her head, "Where are you going with this, Kai?"
Kai turned. "The mask, remember? Surely it belonged to a Digimon once; maybe it even has the same data?"
Kent started nodding. "That's actually a good suggestion. It would certainly help before I do anything to Trilomon."
"I'll fetch it," said Eloise, heading off towards her own tent. Kent stood up, "Sorry if this is kind of an awkward plan."
Aaron shrugged. "It's so out of left field it might just work." He looked seriously at the older boy for a moment, "Just to make sure, don't do any other coding stuff on your own again. If something goes wrong, you might need some backup."
"Thanks." Aaron sighed. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to calm a dinosaur down from his temper tantrum."
Aaron and Kent both trudged off, leaving the two youngest members standing around in the middle of the settlement. Jack leaned in towards his sister, whispering "I still don't know what's going on."
Seeing as the sun was going down, the group decided to stave off testing the code until the next morning. After all, it would be easier for most of the Digimon to fight if they could see what they were doing. With nothing to do, Velocimon suggested more training ("just in case it goes wrong, which it will" as he put it.)
Unsurprisingly, Jack's idea of getting together round a campfire was the more popular choice. So it was, late into the evening, that the six humans and their Digimon partners sat round a steadily burning pile of logs (reluctantly ignited by Velocimon, after a few kind words from Aaron and a few more persuasive words from the other Digimon)
Grace yawned, legs crossed and hands drawing lines in the dust beneath her. "I don't suppose anyone has any sausages."
At the mention of sausages Jack stopped poking the fire with the stick he was holding and started paying attention. "Where?"
Kai chuckled. "Unlucky, soldier. I doubt they sell them this far out."
Vulpimon looked unsure. She glanced towards Ladomon, "Do they?"
"Umm...maybe? Although it would be in one of the cities if they did." Ladomon adjusted her position, leaning in closer to Colchimon as the light from the fire flickered in her eyes.
Kent, listening in with intrigue, sighed. "You know, I'm not sure I'll ever get this world. Everything's just so...unexpected. I can almost believe you'd have sausages growing on trees somewhere."
"Just you wait till you meet the Burgermon," said Trilomon.
"Burger...mon?" Kent looked down at his partner incredulously. "Tell me you're joking."
Trilomon shook his head, along with all the other partners. Jack immediately fell about laughing, Aaron and Eloise joining in. Even Grace started giggling under her breath. Kent was getting flustered, "What? I mean...how...how does that even work? How does that make any kind of sense at all?"
Aaron nudged the older boy. "I think that's the point."
Kent slumped. "I give up."
"You know, it's funny," said Eloise. "I mean, sausages or burgers would be nice, but I really don't feel hungry, and I don't think we've eaten in days."
"That makes sense." Trilomon sat up a little, causing Perimon to roll his eyes at another one of 'the swotty bug's science lectures'.
"You're data now; you're integrated more into this world than you were in the real world. It's like how you can heal quicker here; you just don't need to take in energy. Therefore eating and sleeping aren't as important. Get it?"
Half of the assembled crowd looked among themselves, not getting it at all. Trilomon lowered his head again. "Never mind."
"This sure is a crazy place," said Eloise, leaning back on her palms and gazing up towards the night sky; at the three moons, countless stars and sweeping auroras spread across it like some sort of elaborate oil painting.
Jack nodded. "Sure, it's crazy, but it's awesome, isn't it?"
"You haven't seen the half of it yet." Velocimon leant back himself, finally a little more relaxed.
"What kind of other places are there here?"
"Oh, too many to count." The others shuffled forward as Velocimon started reminiscing. "My home, Grid Central City, for one. Absolutely stunning at night, when all the lights were lit." He looked away, distracted. "I wonder if there's anything left..."
"Yeah, yeah, you were posh and got a city." remarked Perimon, waving his wing dismissively. "My home was on top of a mountain, in a glorious canyon."
Velocimon was a little irritated at having his former home slated. "Yeah, well, canyons are boring." He retorted.
"Canyons are not boring!"
Grace smiled at the bird, "No offense, but I'm kind of fed up of canyons already." Her answer was mirrored by all the surrounding humans.
Perimon snorted. "Well, pardon me if you have no taste in decor."
"You want decor?" Vulpimon swung her head in a regal fashion, speaking to the group in a faux-posh voice. "I was brought up in the finest and most exquisite palace in the entire Digital World, the Citadel of Ice."
"Who said that?" Vulpimon glared at Colchimon, who winked. The fox relented and winked back, before asking, "Hang on, wouldn't you two have been born in the Light and Darkness regions? I've heard they're supposed to be rather spectacular."
Ladomon shook her head with just a hint of sadness. "Actually, we've never been. We were hatched together in a shop in Silicon City. We've never been to our ancestral regions."
"Silicon City?" Vulpimon nodded her head approvingly, "That's still rather impressive. It's a grand fortress from what I've heard."
"The last great stronghold against the Fire Kingdom, and the centre of the Digital World." Velocimon considered for a moment. "You know, we might actually pass through it on the way to the Fire Kingdom Capital." He looked at Aaron, "We can take you guys on a tour."
Aaron grinned, "Sounds great."
Trilomon looked up at the leader, "Surely you all came from a very majestic home in the real world."
The humans all let out a laugh at once. Kai shook his head, "Yeah, no. We come from a place called England. It's not exactly comparable with ice palaces and mighty fortresses."
Eloise sighed, resting her head on her right hand. "At least it was home. You know, running water, beds, fridges and all that stuff."
All the humans stared into the slowly shrinking flames, memories of their home lives coming back to them, both pleasant and painful. Grace looked to her right at her brother, crouched up and staring into nothing.
"How's your knee?"
"Fine." Jack barely moved when he responded. "I miss comfy stuff."
"I think we all do." Eloise looked around her. "Come on, guys. It's not the end of the world yet. We'll get back again."
Jack sat up, grinning like a maniac. "I'm not ready to go back yet. We've still got Cephalomon's big metal face to kick in."
Velocimon huffed a little. "There’s more to it than that...Ow!" He glared at his partner, rubbing his arm where he'd been pinched. Aaron stuck out his bottom lip. "Aw, come on. Let the kid enjoy the moment."
The fire was very dim now. Kai yawned and stood up. "It's been great, guys, but I think I'm headed off for the night." He slowly walked away, the others watching him go.
Grace nodded at her brother and the two stood up themselves. "Us too. After all, we're very busy tomorrow."
"Oh, come on, we're only rewriting the laws of space and time. Nothing too strenuous." Kent winked at the boy as Jack began to laugh.
One by one, the humans and their partners walked away to their separate tents, roosts or simple patches of ground. In the end, only Ladomon, Colchimon, Eloise and Aaron were left by the campfire as it slowly died away.
On impulse, Aaron raised his arm to check his watch, only realising again that it wasn't on his wrist. There was only that bloody elastic band that he'd forgotten about since he'd come here. He slipped it off his wrist and began to fiddle with it, still thinking back to home. How long had they been gone for, anyway? Surely there were posters out for them now and everything. Six people disappearing at the same time; that would surely make the news, wouldn't it?
Aaron almost wished that he'd never decided to stay. As wonderful as it was here and as great as it had been to get to know the others, he knew they were all in ever more danger the longer they stayed. One false move, and their parents would never see them again.
He shook his head frantically, trying to get that outcome out of his head. Beside him, Eloise put her hand on his shoulder. Aaron looked at her, and she smiled, a gentle smile of encouragement.
Aaron stared at the band for a couple more seconds. Then he slipped it over his wrist again and stood up, stretching. He didn't care what the time was any more; he just needed some sleep.
"Goodnight, Eloise. And thanks."
Eloise stood up herself. "Don't worry. It'll be okay."
"I hope so." Aaron looked down at the two dragons, "Colchimon, can you put out the fire please?"
The shadow-dragon nodded, and Eloise and Aaron went to their separate tents. Ladomon briefly buried her head in Colchimon's wings. The larger Digimon held her for a couple of seconds, feelings of empathy and uncertainty passing between them. Then they uncoiled, and, with a noise barely more than a whisper, Colchimon swept his wings over the dying flames, obscuring it completely in shadow.
Sometimes it's good to have an alarm call. But some alarm calls tend to be better than others.
Perimon was sat atop one of the trees, gently clucking in his sleep, when all of a sudden a breeze blew over him. He mumbled and buried his head deeper into his body, but for some reason he couldn't get the incessant whining noise out of his head. Eventually he could take no more, whirling his head round to snap at whoever was making it.
He did not expect to see a blue flying metal monster hovering just over his head.
"Crap!" Perimon stumbled in an effort to get away, while the monster flew a little higher, saying "Wait, just a minute..."
Too late. The falcon tumbled out through the treetops and spiralled towards the ground. He tried to right himself, but before he knew it he landed in an undignified heap.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLAYING AT, YOU MANIAC?"
This outburst evidently got everyone's attention, as they all tumbled out of their respective tents and roosts to be met with the scene before them. Seeing the great blue beast, half the human partners fumbled around for their D-Nexus's, and Perimon himself stood up and started yelling insults at the creature, calling to his still half-asleep partner to power him up.
Grace stepped forward, "Hang on, everyone. It's Pteramon."
Everybody took a second glance, and hesitantly lowered their D-Nexus's. Kai and Kent still held on tightly, still not too trusting of the thing that had attacked them before.
Pteramon skilfully flew forwards and gently lowered himself down onto the ground, keeping himself steady with jets from the undersides of his wings. There was a small shockwave as he landed, and he folded his wings up and raised himself up to his full height.
"Sorry I startled you guys. I just thought I ought to drop by."
Kai folded his arms. "You know, you are supposed to be helping us, you could have come a little earlier. Ow!" he finished as Eloise elbowed him.
Pteramon's good eye blinked, and he angled his head towards Aaron. "I'm guessing something's happened."
"Just a couple of annoyingly persistent monsters." Aaron shrugged. "Don't worry yourself, we're fine."
"Still, I feel bad I wasn't there." Pteramon adjusted himself a little. "I found some Fire Kingdom soldiers and tracked them for a few days. Didn't really lead anywhere though, so I thought I'd find you guys again."
Grace looked up at the dinosaur. "Are you going to be staying?"
"I can't." Pteramon opened his wings a little, "It's dangerous for me to stay on the ground too long."
"Then how do we contact you if we need you?"
Pteramon nodded towards her. "You should be able to use your D-Nexus. Just go to my information and try and make a mental link with me; I'll hear it."
Grace looked confused. Kent fiddled around with his own device, speaking into it, "Like this?"
Pteramon nodded. "You'll get the hang of it, I'm sure. Those things are pretty useful."
Perimon, brushing himself off, marched in front of the giant blue beast. "Look, it's all very nice of you to come visit, but are you here for a reason or what?"
Pteramon snorted incredulously. Then he calmed down, perhaps remembering that he wasn't in everybody's best books at the moment. "Actually, there's something you should probably know."
He shuffled again, not quite able to get comfortable while standing on the ground. "As I said, I was following some Fire Kingdom soldiers on the edge of the forest, and I found an encampment. I couldn't do that much against so many forces, but they didn't seem to be searching for you." Pteramon blinked his good eye. "In fact, they seemed to be waiting for something."
The children and Digimon looked among themselves. "Waiting for who? Us?"
"Maybe..." Pteramon frowned. "I have a feeling they may know you're here."
Velocimon folded his arms. "But then why haven't they attacked us if they know where we are?"
"They sent SkullGreymon."
"Yes, but if they have that many soldiers, then why haven't they sent more?" Velocimon spread his arms, exasperated. "They could probably level this forest wipe us off the map."
Kai contemplated, Colchimon wrapping himself around Kai in his usual position. "There may be something more going on here. We might need to be wary."
"Probably." Aaron turned to the pterosaur. "Thank you anyway, Pteramon. It's nice to know someone's looking out for us."
Pteramon bowed his head. "It's the least I can do. Besides, I want to get back at the Fire Kingdom as much as you do."
He turned to the rest of the group. "Sorry for the lack of notice. I just wanted to check you were okay and keep you informed. I hope I haven't disturbed you too much."
Perimon huffed. "Yes you did. Now please go." he muttered under his breath.
He opened out his wings, high-powered jets powering up again. As he rose skyward, the children and Digimon on the ground stopped to see him off. The giant rose above the treelines, before straightening out his wings and spiralling off into the wild blue yonder.
Jack looked after him, shielding his eyes from the sun. "Okay, that's pretty cool."
Perimon hunched a little. "Hmph. He's a show-off."
It was all very well when they'd been talking about it beforehand. But when everyone was gathered around Kent, watching the lines of code that held the key to the world before them, everyone was feeling just a little nervous.
"I've got the mask." Grace was the last to appear, holding the mysterious object and placing it down in front of him. Kent cracked his knuckles.
"Stand back, everyone. I have no idea what's going to happen."
Most of the group shifted backwards a fair way, just leaving Kent and his partner alone with the laptop and the mask. Kent turned to Trilomon, "You can go as well if you want."
Trilomon shook his head. "I'm not leaving you, partner."
"Thanks." Kent swallowed, tapped a few more keys, before hovering his middle right finger over the Enter button.
He pressed down.
Beside him, Kent's D-Nexus vibrated as the mask's data copied itself to his screen. Then all was still. Kent exhaled, as Jack poked his head out, trying to get a better view. "Is that it?" He sounded almost disappointed.
Kent smiled, and swivelled his screen to show them. There was a perfect replica of the mask amongst the lines of code running past. "There you go."
"Okay," said Eloise, "but what does that actually mean? What can you do with it?"
Kent tapped a few more keys. Lines of text began to appear next to the code, as well as several diagrams, including one of a strange, bird-man creature.
"You'd be surprised what you can find out like this. Here's what the mask once belonged to. Karatenmon. Demon Man Digimon, Ultimate level, attacks, power levels, everything about this guy right down to his data structure."
Perimon winced. "That's...a little private, isn't it?"
"Don't you see?" Kent was far more excited than he was letting on. "We can find out so much more about the Digimon, thus we can give them the power they need to evolve."
"Okay, how would you evolve that guy?"
Kent got out a flash drive and stuck it into the side of his laptop. "He's pretty high level already; it would take a massive amount of energy to evolve him to Mega. I'll have a look at it later." Kent tapped a few more keys and saved the mask and all the data to the flash drive.
Velocimon, still wary, went over and picked up the mask. "It seems fine, I suppose." He turned it over, trying to find a single thing wrong with it, but it was exactly the same. Right down to the strange writing on the back.
"I'm sure it's fine." Trilomon stepped up to Velocimon and looked at it. "Hmm, that's funny."
"The writing's changed."
"Really?" Velocimon took another look at the intricate carvings. "Yeah, I can't read this stuff."
Trilomon leant forward. "Hang on...let me read it again."
Human and Digimon looked amongst themselves. Colchimon whispered to Kai, "That doesn't sound good."
Aaron walked over to Kent. "You know, maybe we shouldn't be doing this..."
"Why not? It's going well so far."
"I know, but..." Aaron looked worriedly towards the mask, in the hands of his partner. "All of a sudden I don't think it's a good idea to be doing this stuff so close to that thing. We really barely know anything about it. I mean, if this Karatenmon was wearing it, what happened to him?"
Kent sighed. "Look, if it's that much of a worry, I won't look into the mask any more. But can't I at least scan Trilomon?"
"It could help! I'm serious, if we can find out more about our partners, it could give us an edge. Besides, the mask scanned in fine."
"I'm up for it." Trilomon stood at Aaron's feet , looking up at him. "It'll be fine."
"Aaron, I really don't like this." Velocimon stood staring at his partner, still holding the mask. Some of the assembled group nodded in agreement, but Aaron wasn't sure. If this went right, it could really help. But what would happen if it went wrong?
He sighed. "Just...try it. Just once." He stepped back, Velocimon running towards him. "What are you doing?"
Aaron backed away with the others. Eloise leant in towards him. "Aaron, I really think this is a bad idea."
"Don't worry!" Kent was tapping away again, his partner stood before him. "Okay, it's ready. Are you?"
"Of course I am."
"Then here we go." Kent's finger hovered above the Enter key once again.
"That's it." Velocimon, closely followed by Perimon and Vulpimon, began to march towards the two. "This is far too risky, you need to stop now."
They moved too late as Kent's finger hit the button.
The D-Nexus vibrated again, as the copy of Trilomon's data moved into it. A copy of Trilomon's body appeared on Kent's screen, just as the mask had. For a brief moment, everything seemed fine.
All of a sudden, the laptop let off a flurry of sparks. Kent yelled and covered his face as the laptop began to steam, letting off waves of distorted data that surrounded him and his partner. Kent immediately stood up and ran over to Trilomon, leaving the laptop to continue pulsating of its own accord. The waves of data slammed into Velocimon, Vulpimon and Perimon, knocking them backwards into the rest of the group. The waves continued to expand, until they covered an area of about ten metres.
Kent and Trilomon tried to run, but when they hit the wall of data, they were flung back inside. The computer died down slightly, smoking profusely. The sound died down to a low hum, and the group was left in silence, staring at Kent and Trilomon on the other side of the wall.
Kent punched again and again at the wall, but it merely bounced his hand away each time. Kai sent Colchimon forward with a quick hand gesture, "Break it open! Now!"
Colchimon flew towards the force field and started slashing at it with his bladed tail, the other Digimon coming to back him up. No matter what they threw at it, though, the thing wouldn't budge, staying an impenetrable dome.
Kent put his hands over his mouth. "Okay, stay calm. We can get out of this; we can always get out of these things..." He felt the others' eyes upon him, aware they could see him panicking. Trilomon walked up beside him, "I can't dig under it. It must go round in a sphere."
"Well that doesn't help. Try evolving."
"It's not reacting to any attacks. Even as Seismon I don't think I could break us out."
"Well WHAT?" Kent turned on his partner, his anger rising.
Trilomon flinched at the sudden outburst. "I don't know! You were the one who did this." He realised what he had just said, "I'm sorry, I-"
"I know." Kent fell to his knees, his legs were shaking so badly. "I just wanted to help. I...I thought I could handle it. But I went too far, and now we're stuck in here."
"Calm down, Kent." Carefully, Aaron put his hand on the force-field from outside, feeling it repelling his hand away. "You're still in there; we can still get you out. It's going to be fine." He was trembling as he spoke, not quite believing his own words.
"My, you sound awfully confident..."
Kent jumped at the voice which suddenly emanated from his laptop. The whole group watched as the screen began to glow a deep red colour. Kent was terrified, but he swallowed and gingerly walked forward, leaning down towards the machine. "Who are you? Did you do this?"
"I don't think so. At least, I don't think I was the one who pressed the button and messed with things they shouldn't have." The voice was followed by a harsh laughter.
Kent ignored it. "Okay, let me put it another way. How do we get out?"
"I don't know. I also don't care. Also, if I both knew and cared, I definitely wouldn't want to tell you. Any of you."
Trilomon was backing away. "Kent, I don't like the sound of this."
"You never did, did you, wuss?"
Aaron looked at his partner. "I have a horrible feeling I know this guy."
"Me too." replied Velocimon, his face grave. "But how..."
Very slowly, Kent reached towards the lid of the laptop and lifted it up. For a split second, the screen merely showed lines of code. Then, all of a sudden, a monstrous face jumped onto the screen; huge blue nose, slitted eyes and a horrific grimace. Kent jumped back a mile as the creature in his computer laughed maniacally.
"Did you miss me?"
"But...you were killed...how did you...?"
Mandrimon shook his head in a mocking fashion. "Don't you remember? You scanned me when I had a physical form; my very essence was in your D-Nexus. Then, when you decided to play God, you must have let me out. So considerate of you." Another grin, showing Mandrimon's far-too-numerous teeth.
Velocimon put his claws against the force field. "Listen, mate, if you think you're getting out of there, you can think again. We beat you down last time and we'd be happy to do it again."
Mandrimon raised a finger to the screen. "Ah, ah, ah Mr Dinosaur. You seem to be forgetting a few things. Firstly, you're out there, and I'm in here. Secondly, I'm in a D-Nexus with enough juice to bust out and tear apart your little friends. And thirdly..." Here the monkey lowered his head, looking particularly malevolent, "Your techie friend there kindly gave me both the instructions to evolve, and the spare data with which to do it."
Kent looked shocked. "But...I didn't..."
"Remember Kent, you scanned him when he was alive." Trilomon watched as the monkey nodded. "I don't know how he got a new consciousness, but all his information is in there, like when you scanned the mask."
"Perfect description." Mandrimon sniggered, and slowly lowered from the screen.
"Kent, destroy the laptop, now!" Eloise yelled at the older boy. "You can't let him escape."
Kent hesitated for a second, before looking at his partner. "Take it down." Trilomon nodded, rushing towards the smoking machine. "Shell Sword!"
The ear-splitting scream pierced the air as the laptop let off an explosion of sparks, knocking Trilomon back. Kent's D-Nexus burst into motion, letting out a bright green beam, laced with red tendrils. Kent and Trilomon watched, horrified, as first one spindly arm, then another, then the whole grotesque body of Mandrimon emerged from the D-Nexus and stood before them.
The monkey did not look the same as he had beforehand. He raised his hand, making a choking noise as he did so. The group could see his skin pulsating and rippling.
"What did you do to me?"
The monkey was furious, far from the wicked, almost playful personality he usually had. He took a step towards Kent, but another spasm of pain went through his head and he fell to the floor. Mandrimon's vision was blurring, and he felt a massive power within him, worming its way up to his head and all throughout his body. He let out a course, bitter laugh.
"You have no idea what you've played with. You deserve everything that's coming to you."
Mandrimon retched, flames coming out of his mouth in short bursts. He tried to close his eyes, but he felt the burning heat reach up and burst out of his eye sockets as well. The group watched as the monkey spasmed, his skin ripping and tearing, falling to the ground to reveal a new, much larger body beneath it. The new body staggered, its eyes wild as it expanded out.
It was almost humanoid, with four massive arms and jet black skin. It wore gold bracelets and anklets, and carried a wheel on its back. Its three faces were rotating around the neck, each one pushing to be at the front, to focus on its targets before them. It seemed to be similar to a Hindu god, but where it might have looked rather holy normally, this was a hellish creature, with great gashes in its body through which flames spurted forth, and the same wild burning aura in its eyes and at the edge of its mouths, as if it were rabid.
Everyone outside the dome looked on, stunned and terrified by the broken god before them. Grace could barely find her words, "I...Is that M...Mandrimon's e...evolution?"
"One of them." Kai had his D-Nexus out and was attempting to scan the creature, but the combination of the force field and the Digimon's hellish form was making it beep angrily. Finally he got some information.
"Asuramon. Ultimate Level, Vaccine Attribute. Attacks: Fire Fist of Shiva, Asura Bakunenken"
"Kai, no!" Eloise swiped Kai's device away from him, "You can't scan that thing. Look what Mandrimon did when Kent scanned him!"
"But he shouldn't have been able to." Ladomon stretched forward and looked at her partner. "It's just information. There shouldn't be any sort of consciousness there at all."
"I think we have a bigger problem right now." Jack was watching as the mighty Asuramon marched, slowly and unsteadily, towards Kent and Trilomon, letting off a deep, electronic growl as he did so.
Aaron slumped. "We were barely able to fight off one Ultimate level with all six of us. How the hell is Kent going to manage on his own?"
Kent ran forward while Trilomon ran between Asuramon's legs, making him stop to send a punch hurtling down towards the insect. Trilomon was thrown away by the impact, but he gave Kent the time he needed to grab his D-Nexus and rip it away from the laptop. He stood up and watched the god turn angrily.
"Well, that clearly didn't work." Shaking, but standing firm, Kent held out his D-Nexus before himself. "Trilomon, I think you might need to evolve."
Trilomon leapt out of the way of Asuramon's upper-right fist as he heard Kent's words. He skidded underneath Asuramon's legs again and braced himself.
Asuramon turned, expecting to see the little insect, but instead got a spear to the face as Seismon lunged forward. Asuramon staggered backwards a little, the gap between two of his faces rended open, but he ignored the pain (or maybe he didn't feel it) and threw another punch.
Seismon dodged, but he still felt the heat as Asuramon's fist passed him. Kent stood away from the action, clutching his D-Nexus tightly. "Do you think you can take him?"
"We'll see, partner…"
With a guttural growl, Asuramon sent his upper left fist hurtling towards the insect, burning bright with an orange flame. With a quick flick of his hands, Seismon brought his spear down into the earth before him, using it to parry the giant's attack away from him. He winced as the spear bent under the impact, but he quickly swiveled and buried the tip into the ground once again.
Chunks of rock and crystal hurtled towards Asuramon, but with a swing of his arms he simply batted them away. Kent had to leap out of the way as razor-sharp projectiles flew in his direction, swearing as one of them slammed into his arm. At his cry, Seismon whipped his head round.
Kent grabbed the rock in his arm and yanked it out, revealing a large gouge. "Behind you, you idiot!"
Seismon turned back too late as Asuramon's lower left fist caught him in a massive uppercut, launching him across the makeshift arena. He crashed to the ground in an undignified heap. As he picked himself up, he split his spear and returned it to his gauntlets. "I think I may need a heavier hitter for this guy."
The insect clenched his fists, drawing in energy and making them glow green, as if he was about to fire off his Earth Cannon attack. Instead, he held the energy tightly around them and raised his hands as Asuramon came charging towards him, fists raised himself.
Before Asuramon could call his attack, Seismon had already blocked it, crossing his glowing arms to take the brunt of the fist. The attack still knocked him backwards, but he dug in and pushed forward himself. Asuramon took a step back, letting out a roar of frustration as he brought his fists forward again.
"Yeah, I can do that too, mate."
Seismon brought his own fist forward, hitting the fire god square in the chest with the force of a meteor. Asuramon was sent backwards, but Seismon didn't let up, throwing punch after punch. When Asuramon was out of his reach, he opened his fists, beginning to throw green missiles again and again. This wasn't like his previous projectile attack, where he had to charge up between each throw. No, Seismon was hitting hard and fast, and pretty soon Asuramon was backed up against the force-field. Obviously all that training had been paying off.
However, Seismon was still only Champion-level, whereas Asuramon was a wildly fluctuating Ultimate. The god ceased struggling for a second and instead raised his arms to the sides, each hand glowing bright.
With a feral roar he brought each fist forward at the same time, launching four huge fireballs straight at Seismon. Seismon cried as the fireballs hit him, scorching his armour, and he ceased his attack. Within seconds Asuramon was upon him, picking him off the ground and slamming him into the force field. Kent leapt out of the way and turned to see his partner's painful impact.
"I can deal with-" Seismon was cut off as Asuramon grabbed the insect by the throat and slammed him into the ground, crumpling his body like a piece of paper. Seismon coughed and slashed at the giant with his legs, but Asuramon held firm, landing punch after punch.
Velocimon was banging on the outside of the force field, yelling at the insect, but his advice fell flat as Seismon just couldn't move. The rest of the group simply watched, completely unable to do anything.
Kent brought his hands up to his head as he saw his partner mercilessly pummeled into the ground, wincing as the gash in his arm sent a spasm of pain through his body. Kent ignored the pain. All this was his entire fault. What the hell could he do to sort things out? He looked around the arena, but there was nothing around he could use. Except…perhaps…
His gaze fell upon the smoking laptop; the one he'd received on his fifteenth birthday. It had caused all this trouble, but maybe it was the key out of here. If the force-field had come from the computer…
He saw one of Seismon's shards lying at his feet, the one that had hit him. He picked it up and ran towards the flickering device, falling to his knees and raising the sharpened rock above his head.
He brought the rock down, tearing through the plastic and metal and into the workings within. The laptop let out an electronic scream; perhaps whatever had possessed it could feel pain, or perhaps it had just gone completely haywire. Kent brought the rock down again and again, reducing the machine to a pile of smouldering rubble, right down to the flash drive sticking out the side. Around him, the force field flickered with static, then slithered back into the ground.
In an instant the others were in, hands already on their D-Nexus's ready to evolve their partners. Before they could do so, however, Asuramon screamed and raised all his hands to his face. The group simply watched as the giant writhed in the open air, his skin pulsating, flaming wounds opening further. Asuramon was tearing himself apart, letting out great screams of pain as he did so. One by one his four arms tore themselves away from his body, snapping on the ground and spiraling off into energy. The giant got smaller and smaller, screams dying down to whimpers, until finally his three masks simply dissolved, phasing into the ground with a ripple. There wasn't even a speck of data left behind.
For a few seconds, there was silence. Then Jack backed away from the rest of the group, hands over his mouth.
"I think I'm gonna throw up." The boy ran off, his partner and sister in pursuit.
Kent immediately ran over to his partner, who devolved himself to Trilomon. The insect was curled up on his back in the cracked earth, looking up to the sky, as if somehow that had all the answers.
Trilomon turned his head. "I think that could have gone worse. How did I do?"
Kent didn't answer; he simply scooped his arms under Trilomon's battered form and lifted him up, turning to face the others. His head was lowered, black hair hanging in front of his face. A small trail of blood was trickling down his left arm where he'd been struck.
"There's nothing more I can do than say I'm sorry."
Eloise stepped forward, hand raised towards him. "It wasn't your fault. I mean…none of us knew that would happen. It could still-"
Kent looked up at her. His eyes were moist with tears, but his face was one of pure anger. Eloise took a step backward, shocked at the raw emotion on Kent's face. The older boy turned his head and looked down at the debris that used to be his laptop.
"Wait, you can't just-"
"I'm done, okay.” Kent marched past the group, blood welling up from the wound on his arm. “No more.”
Curled up in his partner's arms, Trilomon looked up weakly. "Kent…"
Eloise watched him walk away. "Aaron…"
Aaron sighed, looking down at his feet. He didn't particularly want to talk.
"Are we really going to be ready for the Fire Kingdom? I mean, if they are out there, waiting to attack, can we really do it?"
Aaron didn't look at Eloise, instead turning his gaze to his partner. Velocimon's face showed no expression; he had no idea what to say.
Kai put his hands in his pockets. "Perhaps not. Perhaps we won't be ready for a long time." Colchimon twisted round and gave him a hurt look, but Kai simply looked away, staring at Aaron with his haunting blue eyes.
"Maybe not." Aaron's voice was quiet and brooding. Eloise and Kai stayed where they were, listening intently.
"We may never be ready. But we don't have a choice. We have to keep going."
Cephalomon brought his fist down, hitting the water with a gargantuan crack. The Red Beast ignored his colleague as he tapped his foot in front of his rosary, waiting for a signal from the other Commander. In truth, he felt like screaming himself, but he wasn't one to let his inner thoughts fuel his actions.
Cephalomon, on the other hand, seemed quite happy to vent his frustration; quite literally, as steam billowed out from the sides of his mask. "I don't have a damn clue what Surtremon's playing at, but he'd better let us do something about this."
"I don't know, Cephalomon," said the Red Beast with ice in his voice. "I hope we get clued in as much as you do. These pathetic attempts at freedom fighters are screwing with us too much."
"Ah, we're through." The circle of beads sparked into life, first rippling, then opening up, showing the inside of a dark room to both himself and Cephalomon.
"Rinkhalmon, bastard, you'd better be home."
A shape wriggled into the rosary's viewpoint, hidden in shadows. "Please, Tentacles, you hurt my feelings."
"Cut the crap." The Red Beast slammed his foot down. "The kids found one, one of your little freaks. It took over one of their devices and went haywire.”
“Ooh, that must’ve been fun to watch.”
Martyaxmon gritted his teeth in annoyance. “Do you have any idea how close they were to uncovering one of the Fire Kingdom’s most valuable assets? Admit it, they're too dangerous to be left alive."
A laugh came from the other end of the portal. "I'm sorry, you've come to the wrong guy to complain. If you want to kill them so bad, you'll have to take it up with the boss."
Cephalomon let off another batch of steam. "You're the one who's sucking up to him all the time, that's your job."
"I have. He said the same thing. You can't kill them yet. Any of them, not unless you find the original."
"I know." The Red Beast raised his eyebrow, "The original?"
"You know, the relic. Karatenmon’s last message. Please tell me you remember the briefing should you come across it."
"I know…never mind." The Red Beast thought for a moment. "Wait, I think that might have been what they found back there."
"Really? I'd never have guessed."
Cephalomon leant down and stared into the portal. "Hang on, are you telling me you wanted them to find that thing? Knowing how dangerous that is for us?"
"Of course. They do all the hard work and dangerous stuff, we take it, and then we're at liberty to kill them. The alternative is that they actually didn't find it, you lead them here alive and unharmed and I get to do all the fun stuff." He shrugged, “Personally, I have no objections either way.”
Cephalomon snorted. "You’re such a little prick."
The Red Beast stood up. "I'm pretty sure I felt a certain presence there, different to the ones I get from the regular soldiers. We might just have got lucky."
"Well, you check it out then, my good friend. When you think you've found it, send it to me, I'll check it, and then you can off them pesky kids. Sound fun?"
Cephalomon put his fists together. "You know, I'd rather forget all this mysterious relic bullcrap and just wipe them out myself."
"That would be a stupid move." The Red Beast smiled mockingly, "The last time you went out on land, you got your arse royally handed to you. What makes you think you could take them on this time?"
Cephalomon huffed. "Screw you both." He sank back underwater, eyeing the Red Beast all the while. The Red Beast sighed, then looked into the portal again. "Next time you get some rather helpful information, please try and remember to tell us."
"Will do, Marty." Rinkhalmon let out a giggle, and the portal faded into static. The Red Beast shifted his rosary back around his own body, then looked in the direction of the forest.
"You know, kids, I think it's time I visited you properly…"