The blast tore through the hordes of Digimon and sent them sprawling, the Fire Forces closest to the attack simply disintegrating where they stood. The damage radius was incredible, as to be expected from a Mega-level attack, and the sound from the impact was soon followed by the sounds of dozens of trees crashing to the ground.
Martyaxmon landed with a slight stumble and turned to see the results of his handiwork.
He was not impressed.
Where the children had been standing a few seconds beforehand there now stood a twelve-foot high wall of crystal, letting off a slight green glow. Behind it stood the newly evolved Tectonamon, front sabres buried in the ground. Either side of him, Galvamon, Alopemon and the tamers were beckoning in Karatenmon's forces. One of the Centarumon leant on the other as he was dragged behind the wall, his shoulder housing a gaping wound. Besides him, none of them seemed to be injured. They were barely even out of breath.
Martyaxmon wasted no time, barking orders all around him, "Get them you idiots!"
His order was mirrored from the other side of the wall as Aaron yelled orders himself.
"Keep them away from the edges! Galvamon, keep an eye on Martyaxmon. Tectonamon, you're doing great, hold the fort."
Martyaxmon scooted to the side, trying to rush round, but Tectonamon saw him and slammed a leg into the ground.
One slab of crystal collapsed as another one shot forward from Tectonamon's attack, catching Martyaxmon off guard. He slammed into the wall at full pelt; it shook, but held firm. The Fire Forces aimed for the gap in the wall, but were met with vengeful sword slashes and laser blasts from Karatenmon's crew. Aaron nodded at them, "Thanks."
Yasyamon waved in dismissal, "Don't worry about us. Just keep Lion-Boy out."
Yasyamon was right, that was a job in itself. Martyaxmon swerved round, snarling, before leaping onto the wall itself. He scrambled up like a hyperactive gecko, reaching the top in a matter of seconds.
Luckily, Galvamon was already there to greet him.
Martyaxmon's face barely cleared the top before it was met with three pounds of electrified lizard fist. He growled and fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. He got up, before blinking twice, feeling something run down his right cheek. He stuck out his tongue and licked it. Blood. His own blood. That confounded lizard had actually hit him.
"What is this…"
The manticore leapt out of the way as a rain of rock and bone took out another batch of his soldiers. Martyaxmon saw an opening and took another run, but yet again Galvamon was too fast for him. Martyaxmon snarled as, using his telekinetic power, he unraveled his rosary like a snake, swinging the heavy beads like a chain as they glowed deep crimson.
Martyaxmon stumbled, the ground beneath his feet suddenly covered in ice. He felt something hit his leg and he skidded across the ground, before slamming into another quickly erected crystal wall.
Stood atop the insect's back, Kent patted his partner on the shoulder, unsure as to whether Tectonamon could actually feel it through the many layers of armour.
"You're doing great, mate. Keep it going."
Tectonamon nodded, and his voice rang out in Kent's head. "I've still got enough in me to keep him running."
Alopemon and Galvamon nodded, along with Yasyamon, the two Centarumon and the Monitamon. Everything was going according to plan.
Martyaxmon couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. He'd originally come prepared with hundreds of soldiers, but through a quick count now he could only see a few dozen, and their number was dwindling fast. What was worse, these children, these pathetic children who he'd practically walked through on their last encounter, were actually standing up to him.
He could have sworn they were toying with him.
His eyes met Aarons' through the transparent green of the crystal wall. Martyaxmon caught the boy's expression. There was no fear. There was no uncertainty. That was the look of pure, cold determination. The manticore knew. He'd perfected that look himself.
Martyaxmon stepped back and bellowed, his voice carrying far and wide.
"You can't stay behind that wall forever!"
"You can't stay behind that wall forever!"
Martyaxmon's eyes flashed. Any doubts he'd had dissipated like smoke. These children were destroying the work of the Fire Kingdom. They had to die and they had to die now.
With a growl Martyaxmon spun his rosary with great speed in front of him, forming a glowing ring.
"Just watch me."
Aaron swallowed. "Time to go."
Tectonamon threw himself down just in time, before the great red laser pierced through the wall like butter. He felt pain as the heat singed his back legs and tail, and he threw up his head, letting off a primal roar of pain. Despite this, he knew he'd been lucky. One second earlier and he'd have had no hindquarters to speak of.
Kent pointed, "Tectonamon, the wall!"
Martyaxmon was running before his rosary had even cooled down. He reached the gaping hole and leapt for the nearest child (which happened to be Grace), but a great serrated leg swiped at him, sending him stumbling back. Yasyamon stepped up while the beast was disorientated and brought his head forward with a thwack onto Martyaxmon's bejeweled forehead, before Tectonamon, getting to his feet, brought both claws down and raised the wall again.
Martyaxmon cursed, while Yasyamon let off a grunt. "Damn, that felt good!"
Grace was taking great gulps of air, trying to suppress the fact that she'd nearly been mauled by a manticore a second time in as many weeks. Alopemon landed beside her and nuzzled her, "Don't worry, you're okay."
"Thanks." Grace got to her feet, "I'll be fine. Go out and show him."
Aaron had to admit they were doing very well so far. Martyaxmon's troops had all but gone, and they still had enough power to keep him at bay. He'd hoped that would have been the case. After all, he had gone over it several times with the others as to what exactly they'd do when the beast came back. Right now though, they were relying completely on Tectonamon, and although the insect was powerful, and his abilities were incredibly useful, he wouldn't be able to hold on forever.
Aaron glanced over at the distant mountain range. There was a worrying plume of smoke and an alarming red glow where the rest of the group was supposed to be rescuing Strabimon and her group. Aaron had guessed it would be a trap.
"Please guys. Please be alright…"
The dust began to subside as Cephalomon gazed over the sea of shattered rock and broken mountains. That…had been quite an impact. The ranks of Fire soldiers either side of him continued to growl and thrash about, some hopping up onto the smoking rocks. There seemed to be no sign of any life.
The giant squid lay back on his rear tentacles, exhausted. He was getting too old for this. Lazily he lifted his right hand, still feeling the sting farther up his arm, where he'd nearly lost his arm a second time.
He pulled his gauntlet back a short way and a few glistening orbs flew out. Rinkhalmon had fashioned them as a substitute for Martyaxmon's own mystical beads, and they should have worked much the same way. He watched impatiently as the orbs spun rapidly, a screen coming into focus.
"Martyaxmon? The enemy is down. What's the situation over at your end?"
The screen bleeped and whined, the signal having trouble getting through.
Cephalomon shook his arm slightly. "Come on. Work you stupid thing."
"Now now, Tentacles. It's not the machines fault if the user's incompetent."
If Cephalomon had had a proper gut it would have knotted itself and frozen in place. That voice…it couldn't be…
"Rinkhalmon? Is that you?"
The snake-man's large grinning face appeared quite suddenly on the floating screen, grinning from nonexistent ear to nonexistent ear.
"Nicely worked out. How are you doing? I see you've been busy."
"How did you-"
"One of my little secrets. Unlike somebody I could mention I happen to be particularly good at hiding them so no-one finds out about them."
Cephalomon twigged. "You've…"
"Been listening in? Would you really expect anything else?"
"Well, not really…"
"It's all very interesting, the plans you and Marty have been coming up with. Frankly, I'm impressed. You might actually have been able to pull this off."
The other Commander's grin suddenly vanished, and his eyes turned to dangerous slits.
"Cephalomon, you went behind Surtremon's back and disrupted the main plan. You were told not to attempt to kill the children. Move them on, possibly, but they were to remain alive. And now here you are, actually trying to kill them. You've been a baaaad boy."
Cephalomon vented. He didn't have time for this. "You haven't seen them in action! If we don't take them out now they could wipe out everything we've worked for."
"And what are we working for?"
Cephalomon bellowed in exasperation. "Well, if you're so obsessed with it, why don't you tell me? It seems like you're working on a completely different plane to us anyway."
"Possibly. But that is not my concern." Rinkhalmon smiled a faux-friendly smile. "Still, I guess, now that you've started, there's nothing I can do to stop you now, is there?"
"Too right. Now piss off, I want to talk to-"
Cephalomon was interrupted by a strange plaintive moan coming from a soldier at his feet. He looked down, before moving his barrel out the way in shock. The creature (a Tankdramon) was retching up great globs of magma-like bile, its eyes flashing like crazy. All of a sudden it spasmed, toppling over. Cephalomon watched in horror as it began to melt, screaming in pain as its body disintegrated from bottom to top. Cephalomon looked around helplessly; all the soldiers he'd brought were suffering the same fate. In a matter of a few minutes, Cephalomon was alone in the wreckage.
Eyes blazing, Cephalomon bellowed at the screen. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"
"Noooothin'." Rinkhalmon giggled like a schoolgirl, before his eyes turned serious again. "I'm just trying to even the playing field slightly."
"You slimy little bastard. When I get my hands on you…"
"…you'll be captured, tried and executed for treason."
Cephalomon was silenced. Rinkhalmon's face broke yet again, a sadistic sickle of a grin spreading across his far-too-wide mouth once again.
"You got yourself into this. You broke the rules, you caused the deaths of many hundreds of soldiers, and you ignored your duty as a Commander to obey Surtremon. Yet you still haven't been able to kill one single child. I'm sure our good General will be thrilled to hear of your exploits. So do tell me, what are you gonna do now?"
The snake-man waved coyly.
"For what it's worth, I've enjoyed our times together. Have fun, beach-boy!"
The screen faded, and the orbs dropped to the ground, shattering from the incredible fall. Cephalomon was left alone, Rinkhalmon's words sinking in. A growl rose in his throat. Rinkhalmon had known all along.
He looked over the rubble. Well, at least the snake-man had been wrong about one thing. Surely he'd managed to kill the two humans in the blast. Nothing could have survived a blast like that.
There was a movement. At first it just seemed like a rock collapsing. Then it moved again. Cephalomon stepped back, twitching, as a great serpentine body rose from the rubble, its head swinging round to face him. It blinked its four eyes in turn as dust cascaded from its body, before giving the commander a look of utter contempt.
Cyclomon rose up, spreading his golden wings as he prepared to fly. Horrified, Cephalomon caught a glimpse of movement from underneath the titan. They were small, but they were unmistakeable. The children were alive.
Cephalomon prepared to raise his tentacles, to finish them himself, but he became aware of the numbers of creatures standing up against him. Cyclomon, Luminemon, Karatenmon, Piddomon, Pteramon. They all stared him down, ready to move the second he did. Cephalomon may have been a Mega level, but he was out of his depth, and, thanks to Rinkhalmon, completely outnumbered. He felt his throat clam up as he lowered his tentacles and began to back away.
"This isn't over…" he growled, keeping his eyes on them as he retreated. Cyclomon made to go after him, but Karatenmon called him down.
"We've got other things to worry about right now. Be thankful he's leaving us alone."
Rinkhalmon smiled with satisfaction as the giant squid disappeared from view.
"Oh Cephalomon, you clueless dumbbell. When will you learn?" He frowned, looking at a dial next to him, as if it might actually answer him. "Still, I suppose you might be of some use."
Bored, the Commander tapped a few keys with his toes, bringing up the other views. Martyaxmon seemed to be having some trouble, he noted. Those crafty kids were running circles around him. How entertaining.
His eye caught a particular screen and he leant forward, examining the great stampede of fire making its way through the forest.
"Well well. So we have a Plan C as well as a Plan B, do we?"
He fingered the object he was holding, tossing it into the air, considering taking the army out. As he caught it again he decided against it. Sure, it was unnecessary, but it wasn't putting the children in immediate peril.
They still had about an hour.
Grasping her knees, Eloise proceeded to cough up a truckload of dust (and, she could swear, several bits of gravel as well). After a few minutes clearing her lungs, she stood up straight, looking around her to see who was okay. She raised her hand, and saw that it was shaking. It was understandable.
That had been far too close.
The only reason any of them had avoided being crispy-fried pancakes had been down to Cyclomon's intervention. The giant had used his great body, along with the eddies of air along his length, to both cushion their fall, and to block the rain of fire that had threatened to end them. It had still been a rough ride overall, and for a while Eloise had had no clue where she was.
There was a flash from above her, before Mistramon flew down, wobbling slightly from his own ordeal.
"Jack? Jack, where are you?"
Piddomon waved over, "I've got him here."
Jack looked up, his clothes covered in dust, before Mistramon reached him, wrapping a wing around the boy.
"Thank Yggdrasil you're alright." He looked deep into the boy's eyes. "You are, aren't you?"
Jack looked back, dazed, his blond hair ruffled and dirty. "Did we win?" he mumbled.
"How's your knee?"
Jack made a 'pwfth' sound with his lips. "You sound like my mum." Regardless, he put his right leg out and twisted it a bit. "Feels weird but it doesn't hurt."
Mistramon lowered himself down. "You'd better get on."
"Thanks." Jack clambered onto the bird's back, before scanning the area. "I feel like I'm missing something…"
Piddomon chuckled, before producing the boy's cap seemingly out of nowhere. "You were lucky there. Didn't even lose your trademark."
"Awesome." Jack took the hat and slipped it back onto his head. It was bent out of all recognition, but still usable.
Eloise realized there was a distinct lack of other movement around. She looked left and right, "Where's Luminemon?"
Eloise heard her partner's voice and figured something was wrong. She scrambled over the rubble towards the voice; her shoes slipped on the unstable ground but she rushed ahead regardless. Piddomon and Mistramon followed her, Jack clinging tightly to his partner's back.
Eloise found her partner with Pteramon and Karatenmon, looking over a tragic scene. Kudamon was clinging tightly to Reppamon's mask, but there was no response. She was already dead.
Karatenmon knelt down, and gently stroked the fox's neck. Then he scooped his arm under Kudamon and pulled him away. The group watched in silence as Reppamon slowly vanished, her data drifting away.
The group jumped as they turned towards the voice. Strabimon was stood there, fur matted, hands balled into fists. She was alone.
Jack gave Eloise a devastated look. "Wait...the others...Strabimon's friends...did they-"
Strabimon's head pointed down, her eyes narrowed. Eloise opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Strabimon began to growl.
"They're dead. I saw them burn. I watched. I didn't have time...to do anything..."
Suddenly Strabimon ran forward like a mad dog, barreling into the first thing she could reach, which happened to be Eloise. The girl screamed and tried to push the enraged canine off as Strabimon thrashed and punched, tears running down her face.
"They're gone! They're dead and it's your fault! You had to bring your stupid war back here! How are you gonna bring them back? Tell me!"
"That's enough." Karatenmon stepped in, grabbing Strabimon by both arms and pulling her away. She kicked and scratched, hysterical, but Karatenmon held firm, his expression cold, until she stopped resisting and collapsed into sobs.
Eloise got to her knees and stared at the pathetic creature before her. "I'm sorry…really, I am…"
"It's not you. Of course it's not you." Strabimon sniffed. "I should have protected them. There weren't many of us. I should have held onto them, but they…I…" She didn't finish, instead punching the ground. Eloise flinched as she hit the rock again and again, the impact making bloody patches appear on her reinforced gloves.
"I'm useless! I can't even protect my own family when it matters!" I-
"I said that's enough." Karatenmon bent down, clasping Strabimon's shoulder.
"This is war. You're not to blame for the results." His face was impassive, but Eloise could swear she heard his voice break once or twice. "It hurts. Trust me, I know. It hurts. But we have to keep going. For them."
Eloise and Luminemon looked at each other, wondering just how much death Karatenmon had witnessed in his time.
The bird-man stood up. "Alright?"
Strabimon rubbed her eyes, trying to stop the sobbing, but her cold exterior had been breached. There was no way she could hold back.
Gingerly, Eloise walked forward and hugged her tightly. The two knelt in silence, locked in an embrace, their eyes damp with tears. Nobody said anything for what felt like an age.
Eventually, Karatenmon peered over the rubble. "It looks like Cephalomon's disappeared already."
This didn't get a particularly happy response, but the bird-man raised a clawed hand. "We can't worry about him now." He turned to Eloise. "I think your friends might still need our help."
Eloise shook her head. "You don't have to fight for us. Any of you. This is our battle and I don't want anyone else to die because of us."
"We're involved in this as well." Pteramon spread his wings wide, teeth gritted in determination. "I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not leaving until those Commanders are completely finished."
Karatenmon nodded. "Perhaps your ally is slightly optimistic, but I agree. We can't leave you mid-battle."
Mistramon nodded. "In that case, let's go."
"We shall. Just one moment though."
Eloise was halfway mounted on Luminemon when she watched the bird-man address Strabimon once again.
"You've been holding against the Fire Kingdom for a long time, I take it."
Strabimon shook her head. "I've only been running away from it, really."
"Running is the first step of revolution." Karatenmon held out a hand. "How'd you like to travel with us? We'll look after you, and who knows? You may well get a chance to fight back."
Strabimon grabbed the hand before Karatenmon had even finished his sentence. "I'll do it! I want to fight back." She jumped as Kudamon leapt into her arms, the little creature rubbing his nuzzle against her muscular chest. She smiled, surprisingly gently, and stroked the tiny ferret.
"Then it's decided." Karatenmon grabbed Strabimon in one arm and spread his wings wide, the others preparing to take off as well.
Eloise held her breath. "We're coming, Aaron. This isn't over yet."
Martyaxmon was trying very hard to make sure that it was over. Growling, he spun his rosary up to speed again. Grace peeked out, eyes widening at the manticore's attack.
From atop his partner's back, Kent yelled out, "Galvamon, Alopemon! Go for the beads!"
Martyaxmon reared up, roaring as the glowing ring reached its full charge once again.
There was a pinging, followed by a deafening rattle as the glowing ring suddenly burst in front of him, causing the commander to rear back. Glancing atop the crystal wall, he glimpsed Galvamon poised, a smoking claw pointed in his direction. The lizard disappeared again before he could launch an assault.
"You cowards! Come out and fight me face to face!"
Martyaxmon summoned his rosary towards him again, but before he could even spin it once, a barrage of ice slammed into the beads, causing them to drop uselessly to the ground. Alopemon ducked back herself.
Martyaxmon barely looked up before another bone storm rained down upon him, the shards slicing into his forelegs. He snarled, and picked his rosary up again.
He whipped the chain of beads above him, swatting away the projectiles, before lowering his weapon and staring at the wall in front of him. From behind the transparent rock, the others stared back.
Martyaxmon gave a hollow, bitter laugh. "You know you can't win like this."
"Try us." Galvamon tensed himself, waiting for the manticore's next assault. Beside him, Tectonamon stumbled, his breath coming in slight rasps. The constant defense was tiring him out, and everyone knew it.
Martyaxmon crouched. "Screw this."
He ran forward, arms glowing as he took a great leap at the wall, head on.
The explosion shook the ground and the impact caused Tectonamon to drop down, gritting his jaws against the pain. The manticore was thrown back by his own attack, but he recovered quickly, turning on the makeshift fortress once again. There were cracks within the crystal now, and chunks were falling off the edges. Tectonamon couldn't hold it for much longer.
Yasyamon turned to Aaron. "We can't hold out any more. We need help and we need it now."
"I know that." Aaron called into his D-Nexus. "Eloise! Karatenmon! Are you alright?"
"Barely. But we're coming."
Grace started. "Jack…is Jack okay?"
Grace threw herself down without question as Martyaxmon slammed into the wall again, sending a spray of shards down the other side. She shook her head vigorously, trying to evict them from her hair.
Kent looked down at her. "Concentrate. We're not in the clear yet."
With a growl, Martyaxmon set off against the wall for a third time, pushing his firepower to the max.
Aaron called it.
The humans and smaller Digimon ran to either side as Martyaxmon threw himself forward. Tectonamon and Kent were the only ones left, as the giant insect reared up, aiming directly at the oncoming beast.
Kent held onto his partner's armour with all his strength. "Give it all you've got, mate!"
Martyaxmon's attack collided with a crystal juggernaut, and he was blasted backwards, landing unceremoniously in a heap as rock rained down all around. Disorientated, he dragged himself to his feet, staring at the group in front of him. He was exhausted, but he'd done it. Tectonamon collapsed to the ground, unable to even take a step. His great form flickered, before he shrank back down into Seismon. Martyaxmon smiled. They were finally defenseless. He took a step towards them.
A blade of pink energy slammed into him out of nowhere, sending him skittering away once again. Grace looked up, and let out a "Yes!"
Martyaxmon watched helplessly as his opponents nearly doubled in number. Karatenmon landed by his group, dropping off Strabimon as she looked on in wonder. Piddomon, Luminemon and Pteramon circled around the Commander, ready to fire their attacks at any time. Eloise and Jack sat atop Luminemon's back, and higher up, Mistramon wheeled around, tail still glowing from his earlier assault.
Aaron stood behind Galvamon, holding his D-Nexus tightly. He addressed the Commander.
For a brief second, Martyaxmon hesitated. He was severely outnumbered, and he didn't like it. His heart was beating rapidly as he tried to think of all possible ways he could win through this.
Instead, Cephalomon's words rang in his head. "We've come too far to turn back now." From the presence of the aerial group, Martyaxmon could only assume that his aquatic comrade had failed in his own mission. The fool. He'd risked his own life to do this. Martyaxmon lowered his head. He couldn't fail his fellow soldier now.
With an animal growl, he opened his eyes, the pupils narrowed to dangerous slits. With a cry of "Royal Flint!" he summoned his bead flail once again, waving it dangerously. He slammed it against the ground, causing a tremor, before bellowing at the top of his voice.
"You think you can fight me? You think you have what it takes to kill a Commander? Come on then. I'm outnumbered, I'm outmatched. Do you feel lucky enough? I'm ready for you!" Another slam against the ground, and another shout at his surrounding opponents.
"Strike me down!"
Karatenmon drew his swords, and the humans raised their D-Nexus's, the elemental symbols glowing on their chests. Karatenmon spiraled up as Galvamon rushed forward.
"Everybody, attack him now!"
Digimon partner and freedom fighter alike rushed in, except those injured or not strong enough to fight. Galvamon, Yasyamon and Karatenmon circled the manticore, before raising their blades and spinning towards him, like a deadly ballet.
The attacks never struck true as Martyaxmon threw himself at Yasyamon, who just managed to spin out the way. He felt a tearing and glanced at his right shoulder; Martyaxmon had managed to slice it.
Martyaxmon himself swung his great bead chain round in a circle, causing the humanoids to duck as the fiery orbs threatened to snap their bones.
"Come on then! Face me! Royal Flint!"
The beast glanced upwards, seeing Pteramon and Luminemon diving towards him. He leapt backwards, firing his beads out in all directions. The two aerial Digimon Banked sharply, although one of the beads glanced Luminemon's wing.
From the ground, Eloise cringed as she saw her partner corkscrew wildly, Mistramon diving down to steady her. Aaron nudged Kent to the side of him.
"We can't get near him while he's wielding that thing. Is there some way we can get rid of it?"
Kent frowned, scratching his chin. "It's telekinesis of some kind. He'll need to concentrate to be able to use it."
Suddenly he snapped his finger. "I have an idea. First we need someone to break that chain."
Beside him, Grace nodded, before beckoning her partner over. Alopemon was with her in a second.
"Aim for the chain. Be careful though."
"Of course." Alopemon ran forward, jumping from side to side.
Meanwhile the manticore was busy grappling with Karatenmon, who had his muscular arms around the Commander's neck. With a grunt he pushed up, lifting the Commanders front legs off the ground.
Martyaxmon was having none of it; with a grunt he thrust the bird man to the side. Karatenmon had barely rolled out of the way when the manticore's mighty stinger slammed into the ground, where his head had been not moments before.
Martyaxmon swung again, but the chain was halted as Alopemon, seeing her opening, ran forward, tail glowing blue.
She spun round, slicing through the chain at its base and causing the beads to clatter to the ground. Kent yelled, "Now!"
Martyaxmon had barely moved when the three Monitamon suddenly jumped forward, stealing two beads each.
The manticore was beside himself, leaping for the nearest one, but he felt a tug on his tail and veered round, instead smacking Galvamon in the face. The lizard staggered back, snout bloodied. Martyaxmon raised a paw and swatted him away, but by the time he'd turned back, the Monitamon were lost in the surrounding forest.
"Not so tough now, are you."
Martyaxmon shot an icy glare at the lizard, who had his arm raised, covering his bloodied snout.
"I didn't think you were the kind to play dirty, General."
He spat the word 'General' and lunged forward, but Galvamon simply hopped back. He grinned, a toothy smile with no pleasure behind it whatsoever. "All's fair in battle, Commander."
He heard an 'a-hem' from behind him as Karatenmon stepped forward. "Excuse me, Galvamon, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't steal my lines."
Karatenmon raised his twin swords and barreled forwards, slicing into the beast's mane. He landed, before swinging his leg out with a vicious kick, but Martyaxmon stopped him with one great paw, pinning the bird-man's leg down with a vice-grip.
"Don't push your luck."
Karatenmon struggled as the Commander's great scorpion tail came down, threatening to impale him, but before it could meet its target, ebony scales hit golden staff. Karatenmon wriggled away as Piddomon pulled backwards with all his might, causing Martyaxmon to yowl and snap at the air. Piddomon managed to fly away, sans a few feathers.
High above, Mistramon watched the proceedings with frustration. Piddomon glanced up at him, "We could use your help about now!"
"I can't get a hit in without you lot getting in the way."
"We'll go in together."
The Roman eagle nodded, as did Luminemon and Pteramon. The four of them spread themselves out as they began to circle the grounded Commander.
Piddomon gritted his teeth, "Three."
The all dived down in unison, each charging their energy as Martyaxmon looked up too late.
Galvamon yanked Yasyamon out the way as the airborne projectiles landed, obscuring the Commander in a cloud of dust. Martyaxmon howled, pinned in place temporarily, just as Seismon flung a hand forward, glowing green.
"He's down! Keep it coming! Earth Cannon!"
The air was filled with projectiles, all flying towards the hapless Commander. The children ducked back, along with Strabimon, Kudamon and the three Monitamon (who'd disposed of the beads far away from the settlement), as blasts of energy and small silver missiles whizzed past their heads. Jack let out a yelp as an orb of green energy flew past his head, exploding on a tree behind him.
"Watch it, maniac!"
From within the fray, Seismon blinked. "Sorry…"
"Don't be." Kent placed a hand on Jack's shoulder, a smile on his face. "I think we're actually winning."
It seemed like they were. Shouts of "Icicle Barrage!" and "Feather Flare!" mingled with Martyaxmon's grunts of pain and anguish, and the attacks kept coming hard and fast. Struggling under the immense pressure, Martyaxmon lifted a paw, summoning all the energy he could muster.
He slammed it downwards, creating a shockwave and sending his opponents back, but it was too weak to do any damage.
Yasyamon prepared to go in again, but the Commander raised himself up for a brief moment.
His voice echoed throughout the forest as he stared all around him. For a few seconds, there was silence. Then he collapsed to the ground and lay there, panting, his fur a mess and his armour chipped and cracked.
Galvamon gingerly took a step forward. "Give it up. There's nothing more you can do to us."
He chuckled hoarsely. "It'll take more than that to kill me, you know."
Galvamon raised his right blade. "Then this isn't over."
"Oh, what's the point of that?"
Karatenmon raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me? Are you begging for your life?"
"Not at all." Martyaxmon struggled to get to his feet, his legs shaking and his face contorting with pain. "I'm merely questioning the worth of your endeavours. You wouldn't destroy the Fire Kingdom just by killing me. Another warrior would take my place. In the end, your fight would be pointless."
Up above, Pteramon growled. "And? What exactly are you saying?"
"I'm saying you have no chance whatever you decide to do." Martyaxmon gave a subtle grin. "All those who oppose the Fire Kingdom are destined to fall. Your kind included."
Martyaxmon squinted at the great blue beast, hovering above him. Then he laughed. "I knew I remembered you from somewhere. A couple of years ago. I believe I visited your home just briefly."
Something snapped inside the pterosaur. He remembered then, that smug, heartless look on the Commanders face back then. He'd been half-blinded, and the mountain was ablaze, but the image of the Red Beast has seared itself into his brain.
Pupils narrowing, he bellowed down at the Commander, his voice croaking. "Tell me why. Why did you come that night?"
"Orders. I'm simply following the will of my own General."
"And what is that? Why would you want to destroy the world?"
Grace looked up worriedly at her friend as Mistramon gently hovered over, "Calm down. He's trying to get a rise out of you."
Martyaxmon simply shook his head, barely even looking at the old dinosaur.
"Destroy? No, save. This world is ours. We shall save it from you." He looked up, eyes dark and mouth bent in a vile grimace. "You want them back? You want your family back? They're right here."
Pteramon twitched as Martyaxmon raised a paw and gently tapped his chest.
"Data is common between all of us. When many become one, there is no longer any need for war. When this world is ours, all who once opposed us will be a part of us."
Half the Digimon recoiled. Even Yasyamon was too shocked for words, as Martyaxmon just stood there; weak, defenseless, and yet completely defiant.
He smiled, his teeth unnaturally straight.
"And you will feel eternal peace."
That did it. Pteramon screeched, tears streaming from his remaining eye as he lunged downwards, not caring about anything. Luminemon and Mistramon chased after him, yelling at him to slow down. But Pteramon was beyond hearing. With an animal rasp in his voice he cried out as he approached the Commander from high, beak aimed straight towards the Commander's head.
"DIE, YOU SICK SON OF A BITCH!"
Too late, he saw the Commander's heavy tail raised on high, golden blade ready to rip him to pieces.
That's exactly what it did.
Pteramon gave a hoarse bark as he felt his left wing separate from his body, before he twisted and crashed into the ground, body bent at odd angles. The wing landed a few metres away, bent beyond all recognition, before shattering into data particles.
The pain was too intense to move. The pterosaur croaked, right eye facing blindly up as he felt data streaming from the wound on his side.
"Please…I can't see…"
Martyaxmon moved before anybody could reach him or the stranded dinosaur. With a growl he called upon his remaining energy and leapt atop the dinosaur. He pressed his armoured paw down against Pteramon's head, causing the armour to crack and the dinosaur to writhe in pain, screaming for mercy.
Martyaxmon's face showed no mirth, no pleasure, no pride. He simply looked down at the pathetic creature beneath his feet.
"What did I tell you? Eternal peace…"
With one simple movement, he pressed down. Pteramon's head crumpled like paper.
Everybody watched, aghast, as Martyaxmon removed his paw. The children stood in the relative safety of the undergrowth, as their friend and comrade began to crumble before their eyes. Grace had her hands to her mouth. Jack began to murmur, "No…no…"
Before anyone could stop him, Aaron ran forward, screaming at the top of his lungs.
No sooner had the word escaped from his mouth than the pterosaur's body vanished, exploding into data. Martyaxmon breathed in as the data swirled around him, absorbing it into himself.
Mistramon swooped downward, snarling like an animal. "You bastard! Pressure Wave!"
Martyaxmon rolled his eyes, before leaping out of the way of the attack.
"Perhaps you didn't hear me earlier." He raised himself onto his muscular hind legs, feeling the new power within him. His forelegs glowed white-hot as he brought them down to the ground. Eloise rushed out, grabbing Aaron by the arm. "Get out of the way, now!"
Aaron ran back as the surrounding Digimon scrambled for cover.
The force of the attack was incredible. Wave upon wave of fire sliced through the surrounding forest and cracked the earth, leveling the whole area. The air was filled with screams as the heat reached incredible levels. Aaron held on tightly to the others as his D-Nexus went haywire in his pocket. A final burst sent them flying backwards, destroying the last of their cover
Then, it was gone. Aaron waited, before slowly unfurling himself, wincing as he did so. The blackened earth burned his hands as he pushed himself to his feet. Beside him, the others held tight to one another. Jack was crying. Grace had her hands to her eyes. Kent could barely move, sporting an ugly graze along his head.
Eloise tried to stand up herself. Aaron extended an arm towards his childhood friend, and gently pulled her to her feet. Her normally red hair was flecked with a deep crimson, and she held her left arm awkwardly.
Together, Aaron and Eloise walked out to see the damage. Martyaxmon stood, like a lone statue, in the middle of a ring of wounded and pained Digimon. Nobody had been left unscathed. Galvamon winced as he raised his bent gauntlets, defiant to the last. Karatenmon was on one knee, the tips of his wings glowing red. Alopemon and Seismon had done their best to counter the strike, but they now lay, shaking.
The aerial Digimon had been blasted from the sky, landing in rough heaps. Yasyamon's normal white skin had turned practically black. The two Centarumon were clutching each other, brought to their knees. Strabimon was crouched in a ball, holding a trembling Kudamon as tightly as she could.
Martyaxmon spoke. "It's over, children. I want you to walk over to me, or I'll finish your partners off right now."
He slowly ambled over to Galvamon, knocking him over with a swipe of his paw and pinning him down as well. He looked over at the children, completely emotionless.
"I'll start with the lizard. Aaron, is it? Come out here now."
Without thinking, Jack leant out from the tight group, yelling at the monster.
"We're not gonna do anything you say!" His voice was shaking, partly from fear and partly from anger.
"Suit yourself." Martyaxmon pressed down hard, causing the lizard to cry out in anguish. "Although you may wish to reconsider in the next ten seconds."
Eloise raised a weak hand in protest. "Please, someone do something!"
None of the Digimon moved more than a couple of inches.
"What can we do?" Kent had a pained expression on his face, but his voice was cold and impassive. "The Commander's outmanoeuvred us. There's nothing else we can do."
"Don't give me that crap." Eloise grabbed him. "You're the smart one, you think of something. You're not just gonna let us all die here."
"Let go of him." Eloise turned to Aaron, stopping mid-freakout. Slowly, deliberately, their leader shuffled towards the waiting manticore. As he moved into the direct sunlight, Eloise could see the gashes and burns over his body. His right arm was red raw from the heat, and there were red patches over his clothes. His head was down, and his hands were clenched into fists, one of them clutching the D-Nexus. He stopped, facing the Commander.
"What do you want with us?"
Martyaxmon gently pushed himself to his full height, still keeping Galvamon firmly under his paw.
"I want you gone. I want you out of the way. If that means I have to kill you, so be it."
"I can't do that." Aaron stood stock still, shaking but immovable. "Even If I could, I wouldn't. I stayed here to help save this world. Save those like Pteramon. I guess I failed there."
Martyaxmon pushed Galvamon to the side and started walking towards the boy.
Aaron carried on regardless. "You think I'm gonna stop here?" He raised his right arm, holding onto the beeping device in a white vice-grip. "I'm not gonna stop until you kill me outright."
"Fair enough." Without warning, Martyaxmon rushed forward, slamming into Aaron. Eloise screamed as Martyaxmon brought his many layers of teeth down straight towards Aaron's throat.
The beeping stopped. Then, from deep within the device, another noise started up. A noise not dissimilar to the whistling of an old kettle. It increased exponentially, and as it did so, the tiny machine began to glow. It glowed with a bright, intense yellow light, before suddenly letting it loose an immense surge. Before Martyaxmon could make contact, an enormous force blasted him backwards. He growled, covering his eyes from the blinding light.
From the ground, Galvamon stared up at his partner. "Is this my evolution?"
Somehow, he knew it wasn't. He didn't feel the surge of power that Trilomon and Perimon had felt. In fact, it felt almost like something was tugging at him. Tugging deep inside him. At the thunder and lightning he'd sealed within his body.
Stunned, everybody watched as Aaron got to his feet. Bolts of electricity danced around him, and the elemental symbol on his chest was brighter than it had ever been before.
"I won't give up now…"
Galvamon jumped as his blades began to glow, before it snaked up his arms and towards his chest. He roared as tendrils of light burst forth from his own body, snaking through the air and into the waiting D-Nexus. Like before, tendrils of energy flowed over Aaron's arm. But they didn't stop there, burrowing beneath his shirt and wrapping themselves around his other arm, his legs, his head. The tendrils broadened, slowly smothering him in a blinding yellow light.
Martyaxmon squinted. "What is this?"
Karatenmon stood up. "It can't be…"
Aaron opened his eyes. Where they had once been a friendly, ocean blue, now they were completely yellow, letting off angry sparks.
Soon there was nothing left of the boy; only a vague humanoid figure, shimmering as if a mirage. Lines of light, like lasers, traced themselves over the figure. Slowly, they traced out shapes that wrapped themselves around the figure of light again, like a man-sized blueprint. The figure kept shimmering, and with each movement, it grew more solid. At the centre of its chest, the elemental symbol of Electricity kept glowing, somehow separate from the sparks flying around it.
Then, all of a sudden, the light withdrew. Where Aaron had stood just moments beforehand, a radical transformation had taken place. His entire body was armoured; great, steel pads around his legs, arms and abdomen. His chest sported toughened armour plating, with the seal clearly showing through the centre. Through his feet ran two golden discs, possibly wheels, whereas his gloved hands held short, straight blades, that seemed to fold back into his body, running along his arms and through more discs on his shoulders and back, like a complicated pulley system.
Over his head there was now a helmet, sporting yellow feather-like protrustions tipped with blue, much like his partner. Slowly, the yellow glow in his eyes died down, revealing the warm, blue eyes of the boy he'd once been. Slowly, he looked in the direction of his partner. Galvamon stared back, unable to believe what he was seeing.
Aaron turned his attention to the manticore in front of him, who was slowly shaking his head. "This can't be happening."
Instinctively, Aaron placed one foot forward and raised both his fists, sparks dancing around the two short blades. From within his mask, he uttered one word.
Grace blinked, before rubbing her eyes. "Am I dreaming this, or did Aaron actually just turn into…a Digimon?"
Kent threw his hands up. "Before anyone asks me, no, I have no idea what's going on right now."
Even the partners were speechless, trying to pull themselves to their feet. Alopemon and Seismon stared at each other, their emotionless masks betraying little of their complete and utter confusion. Mistramon called across to them, "Did you sign up for this?"
"Enough!" Martyaxmon shook his head, before marching towards the Digimon that had once been Aaron. His eyes still blazed with barely contained anger as he spoke. "You've screwed up this world long enough. Now you've even stolen our data for yourself. You don't belong here."
Kuaramon didn't move from his defensive pose, but his eyes darted down, trying to get a better look at his new armaments. He spoke again; his voice was definitely Aaron's but it had a muffled electronic rasp, which made each word almost sound artificial.
"I thought I told you I wasn't going anywhere. You wanna try and move me? Come and do it yourself."
Martyaxmon roared, leaping forward, but Kuaramon twisted, his body showing the reactions of a cat. Martyaxmon swung his tail, and the tip caught Kuaramon in the chest, throwing him backwards. He staggered as the manticore rounded on him again.
"You want to join the battle that much, you'd better be prepared to handle the fight."
He leapt forward again, pinning Kuaramon before the warrior could make a move. Kuaramon struggled briefly, before smirking.
With an inhuman movement he brought both legs up, delivering a kick to the manticore's jaw and flipping himself back upright. As Martyaxmon lunged at him again and again, he glided out of the way, rolling silently on his wheeled feet.
Gazing out from deep within the body of a warrior, Aaron moved his body completely in synch. He had no idea what he was doing, and yet every move he made was exact, calculated, as if they were his own arms and legs. He didn't even know what he was at the moment; he wasn't even sure he had a real form, for he seemed to be composed entirely of energy, sparking and crackling.
"Who am I right now?"
Kuaramon spread his arms wide as the metal chains began to run through his body, extending the short blades into long, dangerous looking flails. Martyaxmon grunted, "You seriously think you can harm me with those?"
In response, Kuaramon's chest began to glow, the elemental symbol still active. The glow ran through his body, reaching the end of the flails, which began to crackle in earnest, waiting to discharge. In a single, sweeping movement, Kuaramon swung his arm and cracked the whip down.
Martyaxmon leapt back as blue sparks flew everywhere, the weapon leaving a great scorched crack in the earth. Kuaramon didn't stop; he carried on, again and again, swinging at the beast and driving him backwards.
Aaron felt the new power coursing through him and grinned. This was it. This was what he'd been waiting for. A chance to fight back.
As Kuaramon swung faster and faster, he began to laugh, the mask distorting his voice even more. A flail struck Martyaxmon across the face and, despite himself, he yowled. There was a sharp burning pain. Martyaxmon couldn't take it. He didn't even know what was going on any more.
Just then, the forest burst into a sea of fire, as the first of the demolishers broke through.
Of course, Martyaxmon had been expecting them. Cephalomon had been prepared. The demolishers were his Plan C, so to speak. They'd been making their way, slowly but surely, towards the vulnerable settlement. Wave upon wave of unstoppable, mindless drones, leaving nothing but ash in their path. The plan had been simple. Destroy the children, then destroy all evidence. Blame the soldiers.
Except Martyaxmon now found himself staring down his own minions. The beast was still here, still in the way, with not a single child dead, and one of them currently in the form of a Digimon, facing him down.
This was most definitely not part of the plan.
He hesitated. Then, he ran. Without even a parting word, he disappeared into the doomed forest.
The Digimon partners and the others scurried back, grabbing whoever they could and trying to pull them back. Many of them had managed to pull themselves to their feet and pull the others to safety during Martyaxmon and Kuaramon's duel. Luminemon beckoned Eloise to get on her back, "Quickly! We can't stay here!"
Before her partner could stop her, Eloise ran forward to where Kuaramon was stood, stock still, facing the onslaught head on. Galvamon was beside him, grabbing him by the arm, but Kuaramon swung round, "No!"
"Aaron, don't be an idiot! You can't take them, there are too many."
"Watch me." Kuaramon took a few steps forward and spread his arms wide again, the metal whips extending further than ever, crackling along their length.
Desperately, Eloise yelled at him, the heat making her eyes water. "You're gonna get yourself killed!"
"I have this power now! They can't stop me. QUANTUM COIL!"
Aaron's voice was almost incomprehensible as the mask warped it and turned it almost bestial. He stepped forward, bringing a flail down with a great snap. Bolts flew in every direction, impaling soldiers left, right and centre, disintegrating them. The others kept coming; they didn't even notice. Neither did Kuaramon, as he swung again and again. The air was filled with warped laughter as wave after wave of oncoming drones were chiseled away by one lone warrior, glowing brightly against the orange and red.
Galvamon held tightly to Eloise as she raised out a hand, "Don't get any closer."
Aaron didn't hear. There were golden lights dancing in his eyes. With a mechanical roar he raised his left arm, flail flying straight up into the sky, releasing a frenzy of bolts as it did so.
"We're fighting back. You can't stop us any more. We're finally going to win!"
Before anybody could move, the air was filled with light. Eloise and Galvamon covered their eyes, blinded by the sudden surge. Eloise squinted. A column of pure energy was shooting up into the sky. Shooting up? No, perhaps it was coming down, engulfing a single lone figure. The demolishers reared back, the ones at the front taking the full brunt, burning up where they stood.
A lone, inhuman scream pierced the void. Then, the light subsided. Eloise and Galvamon blinked, still seeing colour before their eyes. Eloise saw it first; Aaron standing there, fully human. Smoke billowed up from his blackened body, and his head was raised upwards. The girl couldn't see his face.
Eloise felt something burst beside her, as Galvamon's form shattered, revealing his powered-down Rookie level. They both stared as, agonizingly slowly, Aaron's limp body fell to the ground.
TO BE CONTINUED…