The wastegrounds. Harsh, empty and terrifying. Rough winds, laced with sand and rubble, blew over mounds of destroyed building and ravaged forest. Great spires of rock stuck up into the sky, and the ground was laced with hazardous pits and ravine; so many that the landscape could change overnight. And frequently did. There was no colour; only an endless sea of grey and brown.
This was a place of dead data. Nothing lived here; the only signs of life were the occasionally traveler, fugitive or refugee passing through. Technically this place was still under Fire Kingdom rule, but they'd long since stopped caring. If you ended up here, there wasn't much you could do. You'd just dissolve away into the grim grey horizon. Simply another bit of waste.
Jack would have settled for 'we're currently living in a big rubbish heap'. Unfortunately Velocimon was adamant in telling his stories. There wasn't much else for them to do as they trudged through the emptiness. Jack smiled and nodded again, whilst silently hoping for a Locomon to come out of nowhere and clog up the lizard's mouth.
He wished he could've seen a Locomon already. Or perhaps a Trailmon. He liked trains.
"Are you listening to me?"
"Huh?" Jack snapped himself to his senses, causing Velocimon to roll his eyes with disapproval.
"Honestly, youth these days. I said have you seen any sign of a city yet? You're taller than me, you should be looking around."
Jack blew his cheeks out and folded his arms. "Well I don't know what I'm looking for. Anyway, there's nothing around here. There's never anything around here."
"Your attitude isn't helping."
"Your talking isn't helping!" Jack looked away, making a big show of his disapproval. "You always bring one of us out here and just shout at us about how we're doing it wrong. I don't even know what you're talking about!"
"That's because you haven't been listening. You're acting just like Perimon."
Jack mumbled under his breath. Velocimon held a claw to his non-existant ear. "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"I was saying that I used to think dinosaurs were cool. Now I know you're just stroppy."
Velocimon choked with indignation, before closing his eyes. "Don't be childish."
"Why not?" Despite himself, Jack grinned. "You make it too much fun to annoy you."
Now it was Velocimon's turn to mutter under his breath. "You really are just like Perimon."
Jack stopped, and stretched. "Look, it's getting dark. Can't we go back?"
Velocimon sighed, before turning and looking up at the boy. "You seriously haven't seen anything?"
"No. There's nothing round here but more junk. Anyway, my legs are getting tired. You don't want to be dealing with my sister if she finds out you've been overworking me again."
Velocimon scratched the back of his head. In all his years as a soldier he'd never faced an enemy quite so uniquely scary as a maddened twelve-year old girl holding a plimsoll. He cleared his throat.
"You're right. It's late. Let's head back."
"You know, you can climb as much rubble as you want, they won't come back any faster."
The little red bird in the big bronze helmet huffed as he attempted to scramble up said rubble, with a view to use it as a makeshift outpost. It seemed to have been a building once, since the edges were smooth and relatively flat, making it difficult to get a hold. Nevertheless, the bird was determined.
"Push off Lagomon. If I want your help I'll ask for it." Gosmon twisted as far as his stubby wings would let him, but he lost his grip and slid back a few feet. His helmet slipped for the umpteenth time and he cursed, banging his head against the rock.
"This would be so much easier if I could fly."
"You know Jack's not alone, right? Velocimon's with him."
"Of course I do! That's why I'm worried." Gosmon powered up and finally reached the top, hoisting himself onto the building's flat top, where he lay, exhausted.
"Damn dinosaur. Just cause he's still in Rookie form he thinks he can do whatever he wants."
"Do you see anything?"
Gosmon got to his feet, and stared around. Awkwardly shaped though he was, he'd lost none of the keen eyesight he'd had as Perimon. Not that that particularly helped when there was nothing to look at.
"Nobody. Zip. Neither friend nor foe. Or in Velocimon's case, both."
Lagomon bounced impatiently, her tail flapping up and down with the movement. "Well come on down then. Stop fooling around."
"No. I'm a bird, I'm supposed to be free." He spread his wings and made a few practice flutters, for all the good they would do him, as down below Ladomon puffed out her cheeks.
"Honestly, you're such a pain."
"Ah, leave him alone." Lagomon's fur fluffed up as her partner bent down and picked her up from the floor. Grace smiled, and held the small ball of fuzz close.
"When do you think they'll be back?"
Grace narrowed her eyes, all the while keeping up her pleasant demeanor. "I told Velocimon to get my brother back before sundown. I have a feeling he's going to listen this time."
From atop the rock, Gosmon smirked. "Sheesh."
"Join us when you're ready. We're going to get the fire started."
"Will do." Gosmon lay back down and began to relax, when all of a sudden a thought struck him. He called out to Grace, "Wait! How am I supposed to get down from here?"
Grace kept walking, but the little bird heard Lagomon's sweet voice from within the little girl's arms.
"Perhaps you should have thought about that beforehand."
As caves went, the cave the tamers and their partners were currently staying in was rather mediocre. It was certainly solid, out of the way and faced the sun in the mornings, but like most places in the wastegrounds it was utterly filthy, as well as being frightfully cold at night. No matter how hard the tamers tried they always woke up shivering and covered in a thin layer of dust.
Aaron looked up as Grace and Lagomon entered, and nodded a greeting. "Gosmon not with you?"
"He's being stubborn."
Grace set Lagomon down as Aaron got up and stretched. "We should probably get the fire sorted. Ladomon says it's going to be chilly tonight."
Eloise stopped what she was doing, and looked incredulously up at her partner. "It's been 'chilly' every night."
From her hidey-hole in the roof of the cave, Ladomon poked her head out like an eel looking for prey. "I mean colder than usual, but I only said it might be. I mean…I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea…"
Eloise tutted and started clearing away the previous night's ashes. "Better safe than sorry."
Lagomon giggled, and hopped over to where Kent and Arthmon were busy doing something with Kent's laptop. The girl walked over to Eloise, about to ask if she could help, when she suddenly burst into a fit of coughing.
Eloise looked up. "That didn't sound healthy. You alright?"
Grace smiled weakly. "I'm fine. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"I'm not sure that's a good idea…"
"Seriously, I'm okay."
Aaron wandered over, scratching his chin. "You've been working hard every night since we've been here. Don't push yourself, we understand if you're tired out. Besides, it looks like all that dust hasn't been settling too well with you."
"But I can help! I don't want to be sitting around being useless."
Aaron reached out a hand and ruffled her hair. "It's fine. Take a break for tonight."
"I said before, please don't do that."
Aaron withdrew his hand suddenly. "Sorry. Anyway, we do appreciate the gesture."
Grace gave a cross look for a few seconds, before she sighed in resignation and wandered over to her little corner of the cave.
Eloise watched her with some concern, before her attention suddenly turned to Kent. "Excuse me, that doesn't mean we can all take a break."
Kent ignored her, so she put her hands over her mouth, "Hey, cloth-ears!"
Kent turned round, somewhat bemused. "Me?"
"Yeah. Come give us a hand; you've been at that computer all bloomin' day."
"Just give me two seconds."
Kent turned back to his computer, causing Eloise's mouth to flop open in disbelief. She gestured at Aaron, "Can you believe this?"
Aaron sighed. "Just leave it. I'll give you a hand."
Eloise shook her head, and got to her feet. "No, I'm sorry, I'm a little sick of this."
"I said just...no, don't..."
Oblivious to his objections, Eloise marched past Aaron, who raised his hand to his head. "Oh boy…"
Arthmon noticed the woman scorned marching towards his partner, and gave him a meaningful poke. "Um, Kent, maybe we could give it a break for now…"
"Just a few more lines, then we'll be almost done. I just need to-"
Kent was quickly silenced as his laptop lid slammed shut on his fingers. He yelled, before pulling them out as the device snapped shut, rattling as it did so. He stared up at Eloise, holding his throbbing fingers up.
"What did you do that for?"
"Whatever the answer to our current problem may be, I think we've established you're not gonna fix it with that. Unless psychotic monkeys come with flamethrowers now. Now get off your arse and help set up the fire. It's gonna be dark soon."
Kent held his laptop away from her, looking almost hurt. "You know I only fixed this recently. It's delicate. Don't hit it."
"I'll do more than hit it if you don't move. What are you even doing on that that's so important?"
She reached out towards it, but Kent just held it further away. "Alright, alright, forget I said anything. I'll come and help."
"No, I want to know now. You've been sitting at it for god-knows how long since we've been here. It must be important."
"Hey!" Kent reached out as she took the machine from him, opening it up in her hands and scanning the screen.
"Code…code…more code…wait, is that…is that your D-Nexus…?"
She looked down at where Kent was sitting. His D-Nexus was lying on the floor, the screen showing a faint glow.
"Oh, you haven't…"
She shot daggers at Kent, causing Arthmon to jump and roll into a ball with a frightened 'meep'.
"You've been working on this bloody soul evolution again, haven't you?"
She looked as if she was going to through the laptop to the ground at any second, but Kent stood up and wrestled his laptop out of her hands before she could even move. "Just leave me to do what I need to. I didn't ask for your help."
"It's dangerous, Kent. You know that. Why are you still trying to control it?"
Kent had his eyes to the floor. Arthmon looked up at him worriedly, as Aaron walked over to Eloise and put his hand on her shoulder.
"Just leave it."
"I said no." Aaron's eyes darted towards the older boy, and back again. "We'll talk about this later."
For a few moments nobody spoke. Then a familiar obnoxious voice came from the cave opening.
"Guys, they're back! The lone lizard and his plucky young sidekick."
Gosmon stopped mid-waddle, and looked around.
"Um…did I miss anything?"
Aaron shook his head, and Grace fell into another fit of coughing. Gosmon looked suspicious for a few seconds, then shrugged as Velocimon and Jack entered the room. He quickly ran over to his sister, and the two hugged. Grace coughed again, causing Jack to give her a worried look.
She smiled. "Don't worry about me. How's your knee?" She looked down at the sleeve; after its rather nasty twist during the battle with Cephalomon the skin had been showing an ugly purple bruise for quite some time now. The good news was that it seemed to be moving okay now. Halfheartedly, Jack bent it a couple of times, but didn't say anything
Gosmon shuffled over to his partner with gusto, bouncing up and down in front of him.
"So, did ya find anything? Have we reached Silicon City yet?"
Jack shook his head. "No, only more rocks. Although Velocimon said he spotted a river on the way back."
"A river?" In the middle of shifting chunks of wood, Aaron paused, looking down at his partner. "Water usually leads to life somewhere. Maybe we could try following that tomorrow."
Velocimon shrugged. "It was only a brief glimpse. It was probably a mirage or something. As far as I know, we're nowhere near any signs of life at all."
"Ah well. Worth a try." Aaron and Kent cleared the last of last night's logs as they searched the wood pile for new stuff to burn. Luckily there had obviously been a forest here formerly, as the ground was littered with dry stumps and leafless branches; obviously ancient, but they made good tinder. It wasn't long before they'd made up a new fire, and with a quick ignition from Velocimon, they were soon all sat around, trying to stay warm in the freezing night air.
Ladomon yawned, and budged up closer to Eloise. "I hope we get out of here soon. I kind of miss natural light."
"I kind of miss living under a proper roof." Aaron rested his elbows on his knees, and rested his head in his hands. He winced as he felt the pain through his burnt left arm again; another bitter memory.
"Hell, even a tent would we better than this. At least it has a door."
Jack fidgeted, unable to keep his hands still. "Do you know if they have houses in Silicon City?"
"Oh yeah." Ladomon nodded incessantly, causing Jack to look up. "Proper ones as well. As far as I remember, almost everyone has a business of some kind. There are walls round the entire city as well; it's really high-tech by Digital World standards."
"So there you go." Gosmon tapped his foot with irritation, before piping up. "Now will you please stop tapping out little ditties on my helmet? You're giving me a headache."
Jack pulled his hands back. "Sorry."
"Yeah, I should think so."
Velocimon shot another spark into the fire. "I suppose there's one good thing about this place. There's no-one around to pick a fight." He mumbled to himself, "Lucky; it's not as if we could defend ourselves if anybody did."
Lagomon and Gosmon gave each other knowing looks. It was obvious who the lizard was talking about.
Grace coughed again, before leaning forward, her hands tucked deep within her sweatshirt to keep them warm. "We can't be that far away from it."
"I wouldn't be so sure." Kent sat straight, looking down at his D-Nexus, which was still letting off its faint glow. "We have no idea where we are right now."
Eloise humphed. "Always the spark of optimism, aren't we."
Kent's grip tightened slightly. "No, Eloise, I'm just being realistic. We can't count on finding the city anytime soon, that's all. In fact I think it's being hyped up just a little bit much."
Kent looked up, his face tired. "No place is invincible. Even if we make it there we're going to have to move out eventually. The Fire Kingdom's going to just keep chasing us around the world until there's nowhere else left to run."
Eloise glared at him, while Ladomon and Arthmon hid behind their respective partners.
"Okay," said the girl spitefully, "what's your plan?" Before Kent could answer, she'd already held up a finger in mock thought, and answered for him.
"Oh, I remember. You think we should all try and turn into superheroes and fight off the Fire Kingdom ourselves. The world will be saved and everything will go back to normal, only we'll have secret identities now and meet up every night to fight crime."
"What are you talking about?" Kent rolled his eyes. "Look, you're overreacting. I just think it's worth looking into while we have the chance."
"Then let's look into it. Attempt One. Aaron evolves, what happens? He gets struck by lightning and nearly gets killed."
Aaron raised a hand, "Uh, it wasn't that ser-"
Eloise shot him down with a finger, "Shut up, I'm making a point." She turned her attention back to Kent, "Attempt Two. Kai evolves, what happens? He goes nuts and tries to kill us."
Kent buried his face in his hands. "That's why we need to practice. You know, get better. Learn how to control it."
Grace raised a hand. "I don't really want to be risking my life like that."
Aaron nodded. "Yeah, no offense, I think it'd be great, but so far this hasn't worked at all."
Kent stood up, one hand on his laptop strap. "See, this is why I didn't want to say anything. I was perfectly happy to just work on it on my own. You guys don't need to get involved. Come on, Arthmon."
He bent down as the little scorpion scuttled up his arm, before turning and walking out of the cave. Eloise stood up and ran out after him, shouting obscenities.
All was quiet in the cave. Velocimon glanced up at his partner. "Well, I can see you've been discussing things."
Jack leaned across to his sister, whispering something in her ear. She whipped her head round, "No."
"But it would be pretty cool if-"
"I said no." She yawned, and her yawn turned into even more coughing. Aaron looked over at her.
"You two ought to get some sleep. I think you need the rest."
The two younger children both nodded. Grace piped up, "What about you?"
"I'm fine for the minute." He laughed. "Besides, I'll probably wait for Jack and Jill to come back."
Jack shuffled over to his corner of the cave. "Are they gonna be okay?"
Aaron smiled, and poked the fire. "They'll figure it out."
"Kent, you idiot, turn around and look at me!"
Kent did so, but he kept walking backwards, away from the cave. "Don't follow me Eloise. You said it yourself, this is dangerous."
Eloise ran up to him and grabbed him by the wrist. "Then what's the point of you going? What are you trying to prove?"
Kent sighed, and removed her hand from his. "I'm trying to prove that we can do this. I'm trying to prove that we can do something right. And I'm doing it alone, so as not to hurt anybody. I don't see what your big deal is."
"My big deal?" Eloise looked around in disbelief. "What if you kill yourself? What then?"
"I won't. And anyway, that's my problem."
"But how do you think we'd fare if you did? How do you think I'd feel?" She folded her arms. "You know what, I don't really like you. Frankly, I think you're an antisocial prick. But I couldn't live with myself if I just let you walk away now, and then we never saw you again."
"Eloise, I'm trying to help." Kent stood straight as the moons dimly illuminated his body. He looked down at the girl, and his expression was adamant.
"I want us to win. I want to beat the Fire Kingdom and help everyone who's been hurt by them. And now we have a chance to do that. With this we could finally defeat Martyaxmon, and maybe even Surtremon."
Eloise stood in silence, while he carried on.
"I'm willing to take the risk, on my own if I need to. This is for the greater good."
The girl shook her head. "No it isn't. That's the problem. You aren't doing this for anyone else. You're only doing it for yourself."
Kent gritted his teeth, before turning and walking away again. This time Eloise didn't pursue him. She only called out.
"We need to stay together, Kent. You can't do this on your own."
"Just watch me." Kent raised a hand of goodbye. "I'll be back."
Eloise scowled, turned on her heels and began walking back to the cave.
"You'd better be."
Aaron heard Eloise returning before he even saw her. Despite the still crackling fire, her angered footsteps were unmistakable. He looked up as she marched into the cave, sat down and threw her hands up in exasperation.
Aaron watched, bemused. "I take it he's not with you, then."
Eloise glared at him. "Isn't this your job? Aren't you supposed to be making sure we all stick together?"
"Well he is the oldest. And he did seem adamant. And, well, he has a point."
"Point?" Enraged, Eloise nearly stood up again, but Ladomon swooped down and wrapped herself around her partner, whispering in her ear.
"Calm down. It's going to be fine."
Eloise slumped, before burying her head in her hands. "It's not going to be fine. Everyone's saying that it's going to be fine. It probably will be up until the point when one of us shoots somebody."
"Eloise…" Aaron shuffled up, and put an arm around her. "Trust me, I know what you mean. I've felt it firsthand. But Kent knows what he's doing; he's a smart guy. He'll figure it out."
Eloise looked up at him, and her eyes were heavy with worry and lack of sleep.
"Is this really something we should be doing? Even the Digimon don't know how it works. We're playing with fire, Aaron."
Aaron thought for a moment. "To be honest, I don't know what we should be doing. But I think we have to try."
Eloise resigned herself to staring at the floor. The fire caught them and made their shadows dance over the cave wall. From behind them, Velocimon huffed.
"Suit yourself. I actually agree with Eloise; this soul evolution is utterly stupid. Humans aren't meant to evolve. That's our job."
Aaron glanced backwards. "With the greatest of respect, your main plan is usually diving head in and hoping you'll be okay."
"Look who's talking."
"What I'm saying is, if we're both willing to do it, why don't we do it together?"
Velocimon thought for a second, then rolled his eyes. "No offense, but I don't particularly like battle partners." He stood up, and wandered over to his spot of the cave. Aaron watched him go, before yawning and standing up.
"Come on Eloise. I think we all ought to get some rest. Don't worry about it. Kent will be back in the morning, you'll see."
He wandered away, leaving just the girl and her dragon sitting next to the fire. She sighed, before deciding to resign for the night herself. As she stood up, she took one last lingering look outside. Ladomon gently covered the fire, and the two headed off to get some sleep.
"Do you think you might have overreacted a little?"
Kent was fiddling with a couple of wires between his laptop and D-Nexus, when he glanced down at his partner. The two had found a relatively flat plateau on which to set up; out of the way of the wind and yet still open to the limited light the moons gave them.
Arthmon tapped the rock nervously. "I'm just saying…she was worried about you…"
Kent sighed, before connecting a final cable and booting up, the laptop illuminating his face.
"I know. I just wish she wasn't. We can do this by ourselves, we can learn how it works and how to control it, and then we can take it back and show them. That way, nobody's in danger."
"And you really think you can control it? Or even evolve?"
Kent smiled. "Come on, I managed to allow you to Fury evolve for the first time, didn't I? I'm sure this'll go absolutely fine. Nothing can go wrong."
A concerned look from his partner prompted Kent to laugh, "Oh come on, I always expect the worst. Doesn't matter whether I jinx it or not at this point."
"I suppose so." Kent held out an arm and Arthmon scuttled up it, taking a look at the screen.
"Now, all we really know about evolution is that it's a transfer of energy. So the question is…what is it doing?"
Kent leant back and folded his arms, a quizzical expression on his face. All around them the wind began to pick up, whipping up the dust into little tornadoes that danced across the barren rock. There was a fiery glow across the horizon. Arthmon only hoped it was natural light.
Finally, Kent cracked his knuckles, before tapping some keys.
"Arthmon, would you mind standing in front of me a moment?"
"Sure, Kent." Arthmon scuttled down, causing his partner to flinch a little, before positioning himself in front of Kent's laptop. Kent held out his D-Nexus and it gave off a little noise, a horizontal line moving down the screen. The scan finished, and Kent tapped some more keys.
"Thanks. That should be enough to get us started."
"You're welcome." Arthmon scuttled back up, this time resting on the other shoulder. "So…what was that for?"
"This is going to be a tough one, Arthmon. I reckon it's best to start at the beginning."
"Are you asleep?"
Grace pulled an annoyed expression, but kept her eyes closed as she felt something repeatedly poking her in the back. This carried on for what felt like five minutes, before she sighed.
"If I said yes, will you leave me alone?"
Grace sighed, before sitting up to face her brother. Jack was on his knees, his face hard to make out in the near darkness of the cave. Grace rubbed her eyes.
"What are you doing? It's…" She fumbled around for her D-Nexus, found it and flipped through it, only to remember that it didn't have a clock. "…it's night time. We should be asleep."
"Lagomon and Gosmon have gone."
"Really?" Grace looked all around them, but there was no sign of the two fuzzballs. She checked her D-Nexus again; they were close enough that the radar was picking them up, but still…
"I'm sure they're fine. Just getting some fresh air or something."
"Well yeah, but…" Jack fidgeted, his own D-Nexus on the floor next to him.
"I'm worried about them. I mean, I'm sure they're safe and all out there, but…they took quite a beating. I don't think they're taking it that well."
Grace thought about it, then nodded. "They have been less upbeat than usual."
There was a noise from the other end of the cave as Aaron yawned, and rolled over. Grace shushed her brother. "I think we ought to carry on outside. We don't want to wake the others."
Jack pouted, folding his arms. "I can be quiet. I won't wake anyone."
In response, his sister brought both hands to her mouth and stifled another series of coughs.
"No, but I might. Let's go and find them."
She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve, much to Jack's repulsion. She caught his look and shrugged. "What? I'm not perfect."
"Whatever. I'm telling mum when we get home."
"I really don't care. I don't think that's her greatest worry right now."
Jack thought for a little while, backing away to the cave entrance. "Fine then, I'll tell her you called Velocimon a bad word."
He ran out of sight, giggling, while Grace followed in exasperation.
"Seriously? And anyway, he deserved it."
Arthmon had been sitting patiently, scratching little arcs in the dust, for a good couple of hours, when he was suddenly startled by Kent clapping his hands together.
"Okay, I think I've got it! I know how this works!"
Arthmon tilted his head. "You do? That's impressive."
"If I do say so myself." Kent put the laptop to one side, before looking around in consideration. "Hmm, how best can I show you…"
"What about this?" Arthmon pointed at an odd looking rock next to him, which Kent picked up, before scraping it against the larger one. It left a satisfying mark, so Kent nodded and began to draw several small diagrams.
"Okay, so normally Digimon follow a single line, right? Of course it can go in any number of directions, but each single Digimon has one main path. Fresh, In-training, Rookie, Champion, Ultimate and…the higher one."
"Mega. But that's very rare."
"Of course, but anyway that's not important at the moment."
"What is it then?" Arthmon swung his tail forward, pointing at the crude image. "I already know how this stuff works."
"Well then, here comes the fun stuff." Kent moved to another part of the rock and scratched out a little person and an indecipherable scribble.
"Pretend that's me and that's you for the moment."
If Arthmon had had eyebrows, he would have raised them. As it was, he tapped his front claw. "Fine."
"Sorry, I'm not the greatest artist. Anyway," Here he drew an arc from the Kent figure and the Trilomon scribble to a larger Seismon scribble. "Normally when you evolve, you take soul energy from me, and use it to evolve yourself. That's how you reach Champion form."
Another scribble, this one supposed to be Tectonamon. "You reach Ultimate level if you transfer all my soul energy over to your body. That's why it's demanding work for me, and why you can't hold that form for long."
Arthmon nodded. "I get what you're saying. It's all about the transfer of energy, isn't it?"
"Precisely." Kent drew another figure, as well as two more arcs, so they crossed over to the new, as-yet-unnamed soul form.
"We're both holding energy. I have soul energy, basically otherworldly power, and you're holding the element of Earth. You evolve when I transfer soul energy from my body over to the element in your body. So, naturally, if we reversed it, with elemental energy transferring into my body, I should be able to evolve."
"Is that why, when Aaron evolved earlier, Velocimon turned back into Rookie level?"
"I'm guessing so?" Kent pondered for a minute. "Although Kai was able to evolve without Achromon devolving. Perhaps it's to do with a tamer-partner connection."
"Don't forget that both Aaron and Kai had a few problems."
"I'm guessing it would be a bit of a bumpy ride." Kent looked down at himself. "Technically speaking, we're not even supposed to be in this world. When we start stealing your data as well, I can imagine it would want to reject us."
"You're staying remarkably calm about this. When you first came here you were freaking out about all this stuff."
Kent shrugged. "I guess I'm getting used to it. Besides, this is exciting ."
He shook his head. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. Basically, in order to evolve, I need to find some way to tap into the element of Earth."
"How do you plan on doing that?"
"How else?" Kent grinned, and gestured towards his laptop. Arthmon shook his head. "No, you…not tapping into the Digital World again?"
"Why not? The last time I did it I managed to unlock your Fury form, did I not?"
"True, but there was also the time before that…"
"So I have a fifty-fifty percent success rate." Kent sat himself down, Arthmon clambering up beside him as the boy tapped a few keys. "I knew this was going to be risky. But somebody needs to take the plunge."
"Kent, this is a bad idea."
Kent stared down at his partner, who was bunched up, worried. The boy smiled, held out a hand and stroked the insect's armoured plates.
"We'll be fine. Trust me."
Kent tapped away in silence as Arthmon watched the numbers rolling across the screen. The D-Nexus began to glow brighter and brighter, illuminating the area around them. Kent was focused; so much so that when he finally piped up again he caught Arthmon by surprise.
"Right. Let's go!"
Kent stood up, D-Nexus in hand. The wind picked up again, rustling through the boy's hair and clothes, but he stood stock still, breathing in and out. Arthmon cocked his head.
"Uh…what are you doing?"
"I've reversed the polarity." Kent snickered, as if he knew something the insect didn't before carrying on. "This time, instead of evolving you, when I wave the D-Nexus it's going to evolve me instead."
"And you're sure this is going to work?"
"Absolutely! I feel it already. Look!" Kent looked down to see the symbol of Earth etched out on his chest. He could feel the cool energy circulating his body. Arthmon backed away as the boy slowly swung his arm round, as he'd done many times before for his partner. His eyes opened, glowing green, and he suddenly lunged forward.
Kent smiled as data twisted round his arm and flowed into his D-Nexus. He took a breath, preparing himself.
His voice rang out across the plateau. Kent waited for the energy to embrace him. It seemed quieter than usual. Slowly, he opened one eye; an eye still glowing green from his earlier gesture. He pulled his arm back, and looked down at himself. Then he looked down at Arthmon, who was struggling not to laugh.
"Did it work? I feel…weird."
"Somehow I don't think so."
"But it was working. The energy…I can still feel the energy. I mean look at me," Kent spread his arms, revealing himself to be exactly the same as before. The only difference was that it appeared as if somebody had recently attacked him with a neon green marker pen. He frowned, stroking his chin, which only made Arthmon laugh harder.
"I don't understand. I did everything right." Kent raised up the D-Nexus, which was still pulsating as if it were alive.
"Stupid thing, what's wrong with you?"
As if responding to this insult, the D-Nexus suddenly let off a small explosion. Kent was sent flying backwards, trailing green data particles, before he landed sprawling on the rock surface. He lay there, listening to the pitter-patter of footsteps as his partner ran towards him.
Trilomon's upside-down head appeared in his field of vision. "Oh my word, are you alright?"
Kent coughed, a small cloud of smoke emerging from his mouth. Then he slowly got to his feet and dusted himself down.
"That went off with a bang."
"I told you this was a bad idea."
"Nonsense. Anyway, it seems to have done you some good."
Trilomon looked down at himself, realizing he'd turned back into Rookie level. He flexed his now much longer legs, before looking up at Kent, who was staring at the tiny device in thought.
"I guess there was some kind of data blockage. It had nowhere to go, so it kind of backfired. Sprayed everywhere. Eh, at least the rock'll appreciate some nice fresh Earth data."
Trilomon sat down. "Maybe you're not supposed to use cheat codes."
"That's a possibility." Kent snapped his fingers. "No matter; there are plenty more ways to evolve. Come on, Trilomon."
Trilomon shook his head as he shuffled off after his partner. This was going to be a long night.
In the dim light of the moon, two small Digimon sat upon the roof of an old building, staring up at the sky. One of them shifted slightly, sighing at the hollow beauty of the wastegrounds at night.
He then shifted back, because his helmet had slipped again. Lagomon giggled as Gosmon fiddled with his massive headpiece, but her laughter faded just as quickly. They couldn't think of much to say, even though they were both thinking the same thing.
The somber atmosphere was interrupted by the sounds of footsteps from behind them. The bird and fox pup turned round to see Jack and Grace walking towards them.
"What are you doing out here?" Gosmon folded his stubby wings. "It's late; you should be sleeping."
"I could say the same for you two." Grace coughed again, before tapping her foot in a way she remembered her mother doing, some time ago. "What are you doing?"
Lagomon smiled a half-smile. "Thinking, I guess. That's all."
Grace sat down, her brother doing the same. "Is this about Cephalomon again?"
Gosmon and Lagomon nodded in tandem, their eyes pointed to the floor. "We're sorry. Truly we are. We should have been able to protect you better."
Grace shook her head. "What are you sorry for? You did everything you could."
"Yeah," Jack leaned forward, nodding furiously. "You were awesome out there. Especially you, Perimon. Cyclomon, a massive sky-dragon coming out of nowhere. That squid never knew what hit him."
Gosmon scratched his head. "Strictly speaking, he grabbed me by the face and dunked me in the lake. I don't think that's much to be proud of."
Jack frowned. "Well he was cheating. And very strong. And you helped to take him down."
"That was all Kai, Ladomon and Colchimon." Lagomon rolled backwards slightly, her eyes closed and her icicle horn glowing gently. "Let's face it; us two aren't doing very well as guardians."
Jack and Grace shared a look. Gosmon waved at them. "You should probably be heading back. It's cold out here."
"Are you staying out here?"
"Yeah." Gosmon dragged his feet along the rock, as a fine shower of dust passed over the four, blown by the wind. Grace smirked, and planted herself down next to the two.
"If you're staying, then so will I. You look like you could use the company."
Jack nodded. "Me too."
"Jack…" Gosmon was about to send away his partner, but the boy's face was adamant.
So the four sat together, watching the shooting stars fly by, far away from Kent's exploits. Grace sat cross-legged on the roof, Lagomon snuggled in her lap. Jack perched on the edge of the building, wiggling his feet over the edge.
"Do you think Kent's managed it yet?"
Grace shrugged. Jack made a popping sound with his mouth, before returning his attention to his feet.
"If any of us can figure it out, I'm sure he can. He's smart."
Lagomon averted her gaze. "Just because that boy's smart doesn't necessarily make him wise. Still, I'm sure Arthmon's keeping him in order."
Gosmon was laid out with his wings behind his head, looking up at the clouded sky. He looked up at his colleague, who was snuggled in Grace's arms. "What one wouldn't give for wisdom. Would you say I was wise, Lagomon?"
Lagomon sniggered. "You have about as much wisdom as the majestic turkey, my good friend."
"Hey!" Lagomon giggled as Gosmon closed his eyes, ignoring her. "Typical princess. You just don't appreciate the wiles of the working bird."
"You do aerobatics. That's it."
"They are no laughing matter. Those are highly classified specialised attack and evasion moves that I perfected during my time in the military."
"Don't make me laugh. The first time you tried those moves in the army, you flew into a tree." Lagomon considered. "Although, I suppose that has been your main tactic over the years. You managed to fly into Cephalomon multiple times."
Gosmon couldn't think up a response, so instead he stuck his tongue out. Jack laughed. "I think you fly really well."
Gosmon looked smug as he rubbed his portly tummy. "Thank you. Glad to know somebody appreciates my talent."
Jack stared out into the distance, trying to see any sign of Kent. "I wish I could fly like you. Then I wouldn't have to worry about walking and my knee breaking all the time." He sighed. "I hope Kent manages to control it."
Grace leaned back, a stern look on her face. "Don't even think about it. It's not your place to battle."
Jack turned round, shuffling up next to her. "But think about it! If we could evolve, we'd be stronger. We could help everyone. It'd be really cool."
Grace shook her head. Noticing her brother shivering, she held out her arm and hugged him close. "It might be cool. But it's not worth it."
"We'd be stronger. You wouldn't have to worry about me all the time. Me and you could fight together"
"What about mum and dad?" Grace's eyes were sullen as another memory of home sprang up. She shook her head; now wasn't the time. "They'd hate it if we were putting ourselves in danger. Both of us, we're only kids."
Jack's bottom lip wobbled slightly. "I guess so."
Gosmon waddled over, joining the little posse. "What are you moping about? Isn't a giant metal battlebird good enough for you?" Gosmon laughed. "Seriously, you don't need to worry about us. Don't feel you have to fight in our place."
Lagomon nodded in Grace's arms. "Just be yourselves. That's what'll give us strength. We will find a way to protect you, no matter what."
She yawned, before snuggling down further into Grace's sweatshirt. Gosmon climbed into Jack's arms, and the boy hugged him close. It wasn't long before both In-training Digimon were asleep.
Grace nodded at Jack, and they gently slid off the pillar and tiptoed back into the cave. There they lay down, huddled in one corner. For a few minutes they still shivered from the cold, and from the worry of future battles.
Then tiredness overtook them, and both children slid into troubled sleep.
Meanwhile, Kent was currently sat on the plateau; cross-legged, eyes closed and breathing deeply. He'd been doing so for the past fifteen minutes, all the while with Trilomon lying down next to him. Kent's D-Nexus was laid on the rock in front of him, and it hadn't so much as twitched.
Kent opened one eye, looking rather irritated. "Can you feel anything yet?"
"I meant regarding evolution, snarky."
Trilomon shook his head. "You haven't been concentrating for that long. You need to remain calm. Stop trying, just do. Just let the energy come to you."
Kent's brow furrowed with irritation. "I would if it would just show any signs of moving!"
"Ah, I can't do this anymore!" Kent stood up, leaning against the rock and causing his drawings to smudge. He turned round, pointing at his partner. "It's alright for you; all you need to do is run up and wait for me to press a button."
Trilomon started. "You are aware that I'm risking my life out there, aren't you?"
"Why do you think I'm trying to evolve? We have incredible power at our fingertips here; it just keeps turning round and biting us at every opportunity."
Trilomon muttered, "Or in your case, falling asleep."
Kent ran his hands through his hair. "Gah! If only there was some way to simulate a battle. Things trying to kill me. Life threatening stuff, the kind that triggers remarkable power." He tutted as he looked around. "Too bad that all we've got around here are dust and rocks."
He paused. "Rocks…"
Trilomon stepped back as his partner gained that look in his eye. "Kent, maybe we should-"
"Trilomon, stand back." Without warning Kent took a jump and started clambering up the large rock, showing surprisingly agility. In a few seconds he was stood up on the top; a good two metres off the ground. He spread his arms wide, feeling the wind as it passed over him.
"Kent, what are you doing up there?"
"Adrenaline. Drive. Physical exhilaration; I don't know what it is, but it happens whenever we enter the battle. That's what made the other two evolve."
"You're not going to-"
"I'm going to jump." Kent readied himself, bracing for impact. Despite himself, he swallowed. This was higher up than it looked. He began to mutter to himself, increasing the tension.
"I'm in danger. This is bad. I'm going to die here. There's only one option…"
Kent leapt from the rock and braced for impact, the ground coming up hard and fast. He closed his eyes.
For a moment he looked quite graceful. Then he landed. Very badly. There was a mighty bang as his shoes made contact with the rock, and, unsuitable for outdoor use that they were, they slipped from under him, sending him toppling backwards. He ended up flat out on his back, his arms high above his head. For a moment he lay there, before gritting his teeth.
"Damn it, it's not enough! I need more!"
"You maniac, stop it!" Trilomon marched over, staring Kent straight in the eye. "You're going to hurt yourself. Face it, this isn't working. This isn't something you can just logic your way through, so stop trying. It's obviously not going to happen."
Kent sat up, hair dangling down in front of his face. "But I don't understand why. I have to solve this."
"Tough." Trilomon sat down, his gaze drilling into Kent's. "I'm not going to let you hurt yourself. Just leave it."
Kent looked down, dejected. Trilomon softened, and shuffled a bit closer. "You can't solve everything with numbers, you know that?"
Kent sighed. "I know."
"Perhaps we should head back."
"No, not yet." Kent shuffled backwards and leaned against the rock, resting his head back. "I just want to stay out here for a moment."
"But…" Kent looked away before Trilomon could finish. Instead, the insect walked over, and rolled up beside him. The moons were blocked by clouds, casting further darkness over the two.
Kent sighed. "I give up. I don't know what I'm missing but I obviously can't do this."
Trilomon shrugged. "Maybe you guys aren't supposed to fight for us. Maybe this was just a fluke."
"Maybe." Kent thought back to Martyaxmon and Cephalomon, and shivered. "Things sure took a turn when Aaron evolved." He smiled. "It would be him, wouldn't it. Always on the right track."
"What do you mean? You realize he did mess it up, big time."
"Well…" Kent scratched the back of his neck, slightly ashamed. "Yeah, I suppose so. But he was showing incredible power back there. I'm just saying, he seems to be getting everything right at the moment."
Trilomon stared at him. "Are you…jealous of him?"
Kent smiled awkwardly, but the insect's eyes bore into him. Finally he slumped. "Maybe a little. Well, not jealous, just…it's hard to explain."
"Well we've got all night." Trilomon lay down, tilting his head slightly. "Something's been bothering you. You wouldn't be this determined to evolve if it wasn't; you'd be as terrified as everyone else. Tell me, why are you doing this?"
He rested his head on the ground. "Please?"
"Nothing gets past you, does it." Kent chuckled, folding his arms and staring up to the sky.
"Aaron is an incredible person. From the moment he and Velocimon beat Mandrimon he's taken everything in his stride. Despite everything, he's never given up. But it's more than that. He's…normal."
"Normal? He's no more normal than you are, given that you're both stuck in a parallel dimension with weird talking monsters."
"That's not what I meant." Kent fidgeted awkwardly, opening his mouth to speak a couple of times, but not quite getting words out. Trilomon waited patiently. "I'm sorry. I've never actually sat down and talked to anybody about this. Always thought it'd be silly. Unnecessary."
"It's obviously bothering you."
"Well…can I start from the beginning?"
"Start where you want."
"Alright." Kent shuffled slightly, staring at the ground.
"I've never been normal. At least I never thought I was normal. I was always the smart one in the class; hands up for every question, sitting reading during breaktime, over ninety-percent on every test, you know the sort of thing."
Kent squirmed a little, perhaps from embarrassment. Trilomon nodded, even though he didn't know what half of those things meant. He just stayed quiet and allowed Kent to continue.
"Of course, some other kids would bully me. Told me I was a nerd and stuff. I just ignored them, and kept myself to myself. I had a couple of friends who I talked to, but mainly I'd just sit around, reading or something. I thought I didn't need anything else. Sure, some people thought I was weird, but what did it matter? I was doing better than they were."
"I grew more and more independent as I moved through primary school and into secondary. I even stopped answering questions in class; just worked through the book on my own. I'd do all the work for group projects; it was fine. It felt better that way. Even at home I'd spend most of my time in my room. All the while I was getting better and better marks. My teachers said I might even make Oxbridge if I kept it up."
Kent smiled a half-smile. Oxbridge; a dream from a faraway place. He seemed to be talking more to himself than to the insect beside him
"I was so oblivious…I should have seen it coming. In my own family. My brother. I remember now; of course I do. Those times when he'd barge into my room, looking for someone to talk to. I must've just ignored him. I seriously didn't know anything was going on. I probably still don't know the full story. I was only thirteen..."
He paused, obviously searching for the phrase. Trilomon tapped his leg, gently. "Just say it. What happened?"
Kent blinked. "He left one night. Just…one more argument and that was it. Our dad barely shouted at anyone, but he was raging that night. When I woke up, Taylor wasn't there anymore. He'd already packed and gone to live with friends. I didn't know where they were."
"It must've been hard."
Kent shook his head. "That's the worst thing; I didn't care. Everyone around me was telling me everything was going to be okay. My own little brother would nearly burst into tears every night and I just sat there."
"I didn't even realize what was wrong until that day, a couple of years later…"
Kent didn't remember where I was going. He'd had first laptop back then; perhaps going to Computer Club or something. Luckily the bag was waterproof, but he was still running.
Then, all of a sudden, somebody turned a corner. He was texting somebody, but it was definitely him. Kent hadn't seen him for so long. He stopped, and called out his name.
Taylor looked up, the water splashing down from his hood. At first his eyes glimmered with joy, but the moment he smiled his eyes lost their excitement. He didn't want to be there.
"Hi Kent. How are you keeping?"
"Fine." Kent ducked under a veranda, and Taylor did the same, nodding briefly, before going back to texting.
"So how are you?"
Taylor swayed his head from side to side. "Good, I guess."
"Where…" Kent swallowed. "Where are you staying now?"
Taylor held his phone for a minute, before snapping it shut. "Places."
"Yes, but where?"
"I don't want to tell you." Taylor hunched his shoulders, and looked away. "I don't want Dad to know."
"Taylor, I…I haven't spoken to you for two years. I haven't even seen you." The other boy looked away in silence as Kent shuffled nervously. "You walked away without even saying goodbye."
"I don't want to talk about that."
"Taylor, I missed you-"
Taylor spun round, causing Kent to flinch. "I said I DON'T want to talk about that."
Kent held his position, shocked. Taylor leaned back. "Besides, you don't really mean that."
"What do you mean? Of course I-"
"Then where were you?"
Kent blinked, holding the strap of his rucksack with his left hand. He could feel his heart beating fast. This was the reunion he'd been planning for months now, where he confronted his brother for everything he'd been through. This wasn't a turn he expected.
Taylor stared at him, waiting for an answer. "Where were you?"
Raindrops thrashed against the shop window, before running down the windowsill and into the gutter below.
"I needed you. Why didn't you help me? Why didn't you talk to me then?"
"I didn't know...I didn't know what was going on…"
"No, of course not. You never know."
The light from the street lamp above flickered and dimmed slightly.
"You never cared about anyone. We were just too different, weren't we."
"It's not your fault. As you said, you didn't know. You were only focused on yourself. Nothing need interfere with your life. Your perfect life. You don't even need me. You won't even run after me if I walked away right now."
Water splashed up from Taylor's footsteps as he turned.
"Sorry we can't all be perfect like you. The rest of us are only human. Maybe one day you'll drop us a visit."
The footsteps died down as Taylor walked back down the darkened alleyway...
Trilomon stared in shock. "Geez, that's…awful…"
Kent nodded. "He was right. That was when I realized it. I was alone. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't bring myself to care about anyone. Not even my own brother." He stared angrily at the ground, wishing it would swallow him up right then and there.
"I haven't spoken to him since, aside from the occasional birthday text."
He sighed. "And I've tried. I've tried so hard since then to get to know people. Learn how to have a social life. I went to house parties as I got older, only to find I hated them. Trying to speak to people at school and college, but nothing worked. In fact I've gotten worse."
"You're not that bad. You can talk to people just fine."
"That's only what I show you. You see this?" Here Kent gestured at his face; completely expressionless, save for wild eyes that betrayed his true frustrations. "This is a mask. I can only pretend to give a damn now. I can't fit in with people. I can't have fun with people. I've never had a girlfriend, and I don't even care. Three months ago, our family dog died. I'm so bloody heartless now that I didn't even cry! It's all my fault, for Christ's sake, what's wrong with me?"
The pressure finally got to Kent and he put his head in his hands. He remained in that position, but showed no sign of crying. Trilomon nudged him again, causing Kent to straighten up.
"I'm sorry. That wasn't your problem. You didn't need to hear that." He slumped back, knocking his head against the rock. "Martyaxmon was right when he spoke to me that day. I thought, in this world, I'd be able to make a difference to my life. Help out and become an incredible guy, like Aaron. But no, all the while, I was only thinking of myself."
Trilomon waited, before standing up and nuzzling against his partner. "Thank you for telling me that, Kent."
Kent looked puzzled. "Why? It wasn't important?"
"It's important to you." Trilomon nodded. "You don't need to fight every battle alone. You don't need to rely on your own skills for every problem you come across. You can always talk to me, or Aaron, or Eloise or…anyone."
Trilomon sat on his haunches, looking for all the world like a dog, looking up at its master. Kent smiled at the memory.
"I'm happy you considered me enough of a friend to tell me all this."
Kent looked surprised for a moment, before his surprise turned into relief, then genuine happiness. He reached out a hand, and rubbed his partner's head.
Trilomon glanced around, almost sneakily. "You know, we could always just try it one more time."
"Try what?" Kent raised his eyebrows. "Soul evolution? I thought you wanted to give up?"
"I have a plan." If Trilomon had had a mouth, he would have grinned. As it was he got up and walked to the other side of the rock, turning to face his partner.
"You're right about soul evolution being the transfer of energy. But it's also something else. Something more."
Trilomon tapped his chest, as Kent brought his hand to his own.
"We've got a bond, Kent. An elemental link between us. And as much as you provide me energy, so I provide you the same. It's all give-and-take. That's how we grow in power. Together."
Kent thought about it. Then he smiled, and his smile was genuine. "I think I get it. I think I get where I've been going wrong here."
"Then do you want to give it a go?"
Kent reached down and picked up his D-Nexus. "Shall we?"
Trilomon nodded. Kent held out his arms wide, letting the wind blow over him once again. He felt it, cool and alive on his skin. He could feel himself shivering from the cold, and hear it rushing past his ears. This was more than just numbers. This was life itself. He listened. He welcomed.
From deep within his body, he felt the rising power of the element; the element that Trilomon had given him when they'd first arrived. He knew Trilomon could feel it too, and he let it go, an invisible energy swirling between them. Everything they'd shared together during the short time they'd known one another. And beyond. Trilomon could feel Kent's darkest memories, and his brightest moments. Everything was shared. Everything was balanced. Two became one; the stability and the strength of the Earth itself.
Silently, a single tear welled up in Kent's eye, rolling down his cheek.
It wasn't much. But it was a start. And that was enough.
Kent brought his arm forward, and with a gentle voice he spoke.
Trilomon watched in astonishment, feeling the energy coursing through him, as Kent was enveloped by waves of green. At first they moved slowly, almost reluctantly, but as the glow increased they grow bolder, lapping at his feet and travelling up over his torso and head. They swirled and pulsed in time with the insect's heartbeat, and the two began to resonate, causing the glowing figure to grow.
As before, lines of light traced over his body, etching out primal patterns. The light withdrew, and the figure behind was reveal. He was even taller than Dokkamon had been; at least nine-feet tall. His body was covered in strange green crystal, which shimmered even in the dim light of the moon. Covering the crystal were bands of bone and rock; some simple rings around his limbs, and some forming shin and forearm pads. The armour splayed out at the shoulders, the fingers were clawed and the feet carried two wicked looking talons. On his right arm, the Digimon wielded the strangest blade Trilomon had ever seen; made entirely of bone, pronged at both ends, with a single sharp edge running from front to back.
The face was obscured by a bone mask, with crimson crystal in place of eyes. Sharp spines and mandibles protruded out from behind, and Kent's hair had extended, forming a long black ponytail, sealed at the end with two bony rings.
The Digimon breathed in, then out, before calmly speaking.
Slowly, the goliath raised his hand, looking down at himself. Inside, Kent could feel the weight of the great body, as he swung his arms and took a few tentative steps.
"Are you okay?" Trilomon's eyes were wide with awe. "Can you control it?"
"Yeah, I…" Cratomon nodded, not quite believing it himself. "This is me. I'm one with the Earth."
Without warning, he took a leap, his muscular legs propelling him into the sky. He landed atop the rock, causing it to violently shake. Cratomon reached up to the sky and let out a great booming laugh.
"I feel INCREDIBLE!"
His laughter was cut short as the rock, obviously sick of all the abuse it had been getting over the past few hours, split down the middle, sending Cratomon tumbling backwards. There was a mini earthquake as he hit the ground, and he sat up rather awkwardly.
"Sorry. Guess I don't know my own strength."
Trilomon rolled his eyes. "Welcome to my world."
Cratomon slowly got to his feet once again. "Still, this is pretty damn fantastic. Hold on, just let me try something."
Trilomon stood back as Cratomon slid his great sabre backward, as the blade began to glow green. He took a step back, holding the position as he aimed into the distance.
In one movement he stepped forward, swinging his sabre round. It slid forward, releasing the green energy in an arc that shot off…into the ground a few metres away. There was an almighty bang and both Cratomon and Trilomon were knocked off their feet. Cratomon began to laugh again as Trilomon inspected the damage.
"Not bad. Not bad at all. Although you could do to work on your aim just a little."
Cratomon got up, and brushed himself down. "I know. But one step at a time. Let's go and show the others."
As the two began to walk back, the sun began to peak over the dusty horizon, illuminating the tiny particles like glitter. It was the beginning of a new day.
Perimon winced as the sunlight hit his face, and he rolled over. When the metal on his helmet began to heat up, he rolled again, groaning, before thinking, "To hell with it." and getting up out of his corner.
He yawned, stretched, and clicked his beak. He could taste dust yet again.
Something felt different, he could feel it.
He looked down at himself. Then he spread his wings, looking at them. "I'm…I'm…Perimon again?"
"I'm Perimon again! Yes!"
With a victory cry he leapt into the air and took flight, for the first time in what felt like a decade. He laughed as he spiraled around the empty cave, before promptly crashing into a wall, sending dust everywhere.
"Okay, so I'm a little out of practice." Perimon brushed himself down, before looking around the cave. "Where is everyone?"
He heard voices coming from outside, and he promptly ran towards the entrance. Everyone seemed to be gathered in agroup, looking at something in the distance.
"Hey guys! Jack! I evolved! I can fly again!"
Next to Grace, Vulpimon turned to look at him. "That's wonderful. Glad to see you're awake."
Perimon humphed. "Well excuse me, princess." He barged in next to his partner, "What's everyone looking at, anyway?"
He took a closer look, and his beak dropped. "Oh…"
Slowly and deliberately, Cratomon was walking towards them. His footsteps were now making only the tiniest tremble in the ground, and Trilomon, trotting along beside him, couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit proud of his partner.
Cratomon stopped just in front of the group, all of whom were still trying to believe it.
"So, um…hi guys. Nice morning, isn't it."
There was silence, before Eloise folded her arms and looked the other way.
"Kent, you are a jammy git!"
Everybody burst out laughing, including Cratomon himself. Eloise stepped forward, Ladomon wrapped around her like a scarf. She reached out a tentative hand, and he took it, being careful not to scratch her. She blushed, looking down at the floor.
"You're in complete control, aren't you. You actually managed to do it."
Cratomon shrugged. "More or less. It takes some getting used to."
"I can imagine." Eloise looked away, embarrassed. "Sorry for, you know, shouting at you. I guess you really did know what you were doing."
She looked up at his mask, unable to tell what he was thinking. Inside, Kent smiled. "On the contrary, you were right the whole time."
She looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
Cratomon stood up straight, and looked down at his partner. "I wasn't able to do this on my own, after all."
Trilomon nodded. Eloise held her arm awkwardly, mumbling to herself. "Maybe this is something we're supposed to do. Maybe that's why we're here after all."
Cratomon looked up into the sky. "Wait just a minute, I feel something…"
Everyone stopped talking and listened. Aaron looked concerned. "Is it trouble?"
"I don't know…" Cratomon put his foot flat against the ground, staying quiet for a couple of seconds.
"It's footsteps. Lots of them."
Trilomon bent down and flattened himself against the ground. "He's right. They're coming from the north."
"Let me see!" Before anyone could stop him, Perimon rocketed up into the sky, passing the dust cloud. Grace put a hand on her hip and sighed. "He's such a pain."
Jack grinned. "Yeah, but I like him that way."
The group waited anxiously for a couple of minutes, before Perimon's figure cannoned back down towards them. Grace yelped and leapt to one side as the bird crashed into the bedrock. Vulpimon winced, and Perimon stood up hurriedly. "I'm okay, I'm okay. But I really do need to figure this out again."
"What did you see?" said Aaron, stifling a laugh.
"Um…" Perimon rapped his helmet, before piping up. "Oh yeah! It's a massive crowd of Digimon; they seem to be headed towards something. I think we need to take a look."
"What, Fire Forces?"
"No, they looked more like refugees…"
The group looked at each other briefly, before running off in the direction Perimon had flown. It wasn't long before they saw what he was talking about. There, marching across the wastegrounds, was a mighty crowd of various Digimon. They were moving slowly, but deliberately, heading for what looked like a massive engraving in the rock. Two vast, concentric arcs of steel, that seemed to go on forever.
Ladomon's eyes widened. "We've made it…that's-"
She was cut off before she could finish as a great rumbling started up. The refugees down below mingled around nervously as, impossibly, the arc began to rise. It wasn't an arc. It was a great circular wall, rising up out of the ground as what had looked like solid ground began to open up. There was a grinding of gears as the group saw buildings, stretching up into the sky. The walls grew higher, obscuring the city, but the circle in the centre kept rising, showing itself to be an almighty clocktower, etched with Digicode. The rumbling ceased, and the tamers gaped at the marvel of engineering before them. A vast civilization, hidden under the ground.
Ladomon unwrapped herself from Eloise and proudly stretched out a wing towards the megalith.
"Friends, welcome to Silicon City."