The great city loomed in front of them, walls stretching higher than Big Ben and so far either side that it seemed as if they went on forever. The whole structure seemed utterly impossible to get into.
The whole group had made their way down from the cliff and joined the nervous throng of Digimon, all of whom were shuffling towards the amazing structure. Kent (deciding to devolve for now) was concerned that humans there might cause unwanted attention, but there were so many Digimon of all shapes and sizes joining the group that nobody noticed them. Well, except for the Babamon that Aaron almost tripped over, causing her to glare up at him.
"Watch where you're steppin', sonny! I'm not as young as I was!"
Aaron went red. "Sorry…"
He stood there like a lemon, until a firm shove from Velocimon behind him caused him to hurry on forward. The Babamon glared at him for a few seconds more (by the looks of it; with the lack of obvious eyes Aaron wasn't quite sure), before shuffling back into the crowd. Aaron breathed a sigh of relief, before looking around to check that he hadn't lost the others.
Eloise saw him and gingerly waded through the crowd towards him. "Aaron, have you had a look at these guys?"
Aaron nodded. "Don't stare."
Eloise knew she shouldn't, but she couldn't help look at the sorry creatures around her. Every Digimon must have been a refugee, or a fugitive, or a freedom fighter of some kind, like those in Karatenmon's group. At least, perhaps they were once. Now they were defeated creatures, all of them having suffered the wrath of the Fire Kingdom. Some were missing limbs, or eyes. Some limped. Some carried horrific burns. And yet others, while unhurt on the outside, were holding back tears, or simply gazing silently at the ground. She had no way of knowing the true extent of the damage they were hiding.
Down by her feet, Velocimon noticed her looking. He coughed, once, focusing her attention on him.
"I'm sorry. I just didn't expect it to be like this." she said, hunching her shoulders slightly.
Velocimon's eyes darted towards her, and for a second he looked almost sympathetic. "There's a war going on. These are the lucky ones."
"Why are they all headed to the city?"
Velocimon looked up at her, his eyes showing his experience.
"There's nowhere left for them to go."
A twisted feeling in her gut, Eloise straightened up and stared at the colossus they were headed towards. Truly the last great stronghold, although Eloise had her doubts. It felt more like the last place they'd ever enter. Ladomon, still wrapped around her, tightened up despite herself. Even she was nervous about returning back home.
In a flash, however, any qualms the tamers might have had were crushed by a scream from the back of the group. A Prairiemon, stood up and alert like a meerkat, pointed behind them, and the refugees stared nervously. In the distance, the sky was filled with tiny black specks, that got bigger and bigger, morphing into the shapes of birds. Flaming birds.
Perimon made the shapes out first, and his eyes narrowed.
"Birdramon! Dozens of them."
The Fire Forces had found them.
The Prairiemon ducked to the ground, shaking violently.
"They've come for me again! Don't let them take me again!"
At once the whole crowd was in uproar, running about and panicking. Aaron lost sight of Eloise as he was barged to and fro. For a moment he thought about evolving; perhaps he could try and take the birds on…
He didn't need to think about it for long. In the midst of the chaos and panic the little old Babamon from before stepped out, standing between the birds and the crowd. In one hand she carried a basket; in the other, a broom that she was using as a makeshift walking stick. She set the basket down and clasped the broom in both hands, raising it high.
"Empress Haze!" she called, her voice resonating as she brought the broom down on the bare rock.
There was an almighty crack, like thunder, as sheets of fog rolled out seemingly from nowhere, billowing towards the oncoming aerial assailants. The watching group could hear cries of anguish and fury as the fog ate into the eyes of their attackers, but they weren't left standing for long as Babamon picked her basket up and hurried to the front of the rabble. She tapped her broom twice more, each sound echoing out across the wastegrounds. Everyone stopped yelling for a second, and turned their attention to her.
"Everythin'll be fine. The door to the city is there. Head towards it; go quickly but calmly. Now let's go, chop chop. The fog won't hold them back for long."
Everyone did so. Nobody in their right mind would argue with somebody like that. But as they approached the mighty wall, worry began to seep in once again, for there seemed to be no door to speak of.
Babamon wasn't fazed, however. She simply walked up to the endless metal sheet, and gave it a good, sharp whack. With nary a sound, the wall slid open, the sections folding in on themselves to unveil the entrance to the city. Well, it should have been, but the door instead seemed to open into complete darkness. The refugees at the front shuffled nervously, while the little old ragdoll tapped her foot impatiently.
"Oh for cryin' out loud, it's perfectly safe. Just get in already."
Further persuasion was unnecessary, for at that moment a volley of meteors came flying at them from out of the fog. Some hit their targets, and a half-dozen Digimon went down instantly. For the rest, that was enough, as they all rushed, pushing and shoving, into the great wall, no longer wary. The tamers and their partners were pulled along with the flow, and soon only Eloise and a few others were still outside, as meteors kept raining down from the sky. Eloise noticed that not all of them seemed to be on fire. There were also arrows, spears and beams of energy flying through the sky, and they seemed to be coming from the other direction.
Babamon looked up to the sky worriedly, as her own fog began to close in on them.
"Quickly, quickly, chop chop!"
Eloise was just about to head in when she saw a Digimon standing some way away from the door. It's back was turned, but she could sort of make out the shape. Some sort of monkey, perhaps? Two long, twisted horns stuck out from atop its head, and two snake-like tails that danced hypnotically.
Eloise called out, but Babamon grabbed her arm and began to pull her inside. "There's no time. I have to close the door."
Eloise pointed. "But what about-"
"Forgive me." Babamon gave Eloise a shove, before raising her broom high and hitting the metal once again. The agitated screams of the Birdramon echoed through the dark structure, and the last thing the terrified girl saw as the light slowly vanished was the immense silhouette of a winged demon, descending down upon them.
"Your wall won't protect you forever..."
Then everything went black. Eloise could see nothing, and heard only the sound of her own breathing.
There was a shuffle, before something slapped Eloise across the face. She yelled and held her jaw, as a light came on, revealing a very stroppy looking Babamon.
"You stupid girl. They could have gotten in just now!"
"Never mind about him." The old lady sighed, looking down at the floor. "You must be new here, otherwise you'd be used to it by now."
She clambered up the wall and onto a pedestal of some kind as Eloise digested her words. Ladomon bent in and whispered. "Don't worry about her. You haven't done anything wrong."
Eloise raised her eyebrow. "You know her?"
"Babamon? Well, I don't know her personally, but she's been in the city for hundreds of years. I think she even helped to build it."
Eloise looked back at the unassuming old woman, and stuck her lip out. "Not bad for someone of her age."
"I heard that!" Babamon tapped twice and the room filled up with light. Eloise shaded herself with her arm, before taking in where she was. The great walls surrounding the city were actually hollow, and the vast numbers of refugees were packed inside; protected from the dangers outside, but not in the city just yet. Babamon cleared her throat, and carried on.
"If you've come here for sanctuary, and I'm guessing most of you have, then don't worry. You're safe here, and while you may not be livin' in the heights of luxury here, we do our best to provide shelter for each and every citizen. Now, before I let you in, I just want to register you all. Nothin' major; just to check you're not a Fire Kingdom spy or anythin'."
She grinned, and the chamber gave way to nervous murmuring. The old woman hopped down from her pedestal in two steps, and started going around each refugee. For each member she simply waved her hand for a few seconds, then moved on, all the while staying incredibly chatty. It wasn't long before she got to Eloise, who stood awkwardly, her hands in her pockets. Babamon looked up at her and scowled, waving her hand as per usual. She did the same for Ladomon, and then moved on without a word. Eloise felt a tingling feeling in her left hand and opened it up. Her eyes widened as she saw a tiny mark in her palm; two concentric circles, etched in some form of magic. Ladomon had a mark as well, on the tip of one of her feathers, and around them all the refugees were showing the same symbol.
Eloise smiled. Beneath that tough, leathery exterior was a Digimon that really cared about everyone who made it here.
That reminded her. She got up onto her tiptoes, scouring the crowd, but couldn't see any of the others, obscured as they were by the throng. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, she simply stood in silence as the Digimon around her began to gossip.
They all waited for around twenty minutes, until finally Babamon marked the last Digimon and tapped her broom again. The marks flashed brightly for a second, then disappeared, before a rumbling started up once again. Eloise stepped back as this time, the inner wall began to rise up, showing the true splendour of Silicon City.
There were houses and blocks of houses everywhere; all different shapes, sizes and materials. Most of them were simply cubes, but one or two were much larger and somewhat extravagant. The whole city was surrounded by a single curved wall, studded with tiny metal pods around the top. In the centre of the whole set-up, dominating everything else, was the vast clocktower they'd seen on the way in.
Babamon swung her broom out in a welcoming gesture. "Go, friends. Find your new homes. You'll find a place ready for you when you get there."
The refugees swarmed in, Eloise staggering after them. She had no idea where she was going and was about to ask for directions when she felt something collide with her stomach. She staggered back, looking down angrily at Babamon, who'd blocked her path with her broom.
"Will you please stop hitting me with that thing?"
Babamon curtsied. "My apologies. I get used to dealin' with crowds that sometimes I forget my basic manners. But anyway…" The ragdoll scratched her head, her stubby fingers wrapping around strands of silvery-grey hair.
"You're a human, aren't you?"
Eloise nodded. "That's not a problem, is it?"
"Not at all." Babamon grinned again. "I've been hearing all about your particular gang. Saving the Digital World and whatnot. You took down Cephalomon, didn't you?"
Eloise blushed. "Well it wasn't me, specifically, but-"
"Oh nonsense!" Babamon grabbed Eloise's hand and enthusiastically shook it, barely containg her excitement. "I had a feelin' you'd be comin' here soon. Well let me tell you, you've found the right place to recuperate."
"Thanks…" Eloise straightened up, clearing her throat. "Although, I don't suppose you've come across any other humans, have you?"
Babamon twiddled her hair. "I'm afraid I only found four others, along with their partner Digimon. That only makes ten of you; from what I've heard, it seems like you're missing someone."
Atop Eloise's shoulders, Ladomon nodded her head. "Two, in fact. But I don't think they'll be coming anytime soon."
"Shame." Babamon picked up her basket. "I've told the others that we'll meet them under the clocktower. Come with me; I have something I want to discuss with all of you."
She gestured, and the three walked (or in Ladomon's case, hovered) out into the city streets.
If Silicon City had seemed impossibly large from the outside, it was even more so inside. The walls towered high into the sky, so much so that looking at them made even Ladomon dizzy. They were studded at regular intervals with the tiny metal pods; on closer inspection they seemed to be some sort of tiny barracks. Cables dangled down from them, attaching to similar barracks down at the bottom, and little pods were hoisted up and down between the two via a swift pulley system. If one squinted, they might even make out tiny figures running about atop the walls.
The rest of the city was less grand in its aesthetic; in fact, without the great walls it might have looked like a huge slum. Houses were built and placed haphazardly. Some were crammed together, where others were spread apart, allowing the Digimon to mingle between them. Most of the houses were simple blocks, each holding two or three Digimon, but a few were larger and one or two were even quite intricate, having multiple levels and strange gadgets. All of them, however, were made out of the same thing. Well, things; it was a patchwork of stone, metal, wood and even earth, so that each house looked very similar, but at the same time, unique.
Eloise whistled as she gazed around in wonder. Digimon were milling around, chattering amongst themselves and occasionally giving suspicious looks to the human girl walking through their turf. Eloise noticed a Chamelemon licking its right eyeball, while eyeing her intently with the left. She looked away hurriedly, only to catch the sight of a Pumpkinmon leaning against a wall, cleaning a stubby axe with a dirty cloth. He smiled jaggedly, before sticking the axe, blade first, into a slit in his head. Eloise shivered, and caught up to her guide.
Babamon looked up curiously; it wasn't Eloise who'd spoken, but her partner, who fluttered down to Babamon's level.
"How do you mean, dearie? What's so wrong about it?"
Ladomon spread her wings wider. "I grew up here, but this seems a bit more...I mean...the buildings were much bigger, and more beautiful." She blinked. "No offense, I'm sure these are lovely, but you know...built properly...with stone and stuff..." She trailed off, going redder by the second.
"We've got more people here now, dearie. We've had to make new accommodations here and there."
Ladomon cringed, but thankfully, Babamon didn't seem too offended. She scratched her chin, her voice solemn. "Before the war this was a very different place. Only reserved for high-class Digimon. Nobody else really got a say in anything. But when war breaks out, suddenly the commoner gets the power."
Eloise raised an eyebrow. "Was there a revolution or something?"
Babamon laughed her raucous cackle. "Nothing so violent, dear. This just became the main safehouse for refugees in a matter of weeks. The grand buildings you spoke of were torn down and rebuilt into what you see before you, to fit in a much greater population. I believe there are about thirteen thousand Digimon within these walls."
Ladomon looked down. "I see. It was for the greater good then."
Eloise shrugged. "I think it's still rather spectacular. So is there any one Digimon in charge?"
"Not really. Just a small committee that run the city's logistics, and they swap in and out over several years." She pointed at herself. "I happen to be one of the Silicon City Committee myself."
Eloise's face went even redder than her partners, as she clocked that she'd been speaking to a figure of authority. "I didn't realize-"
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, child, stop worryin' yourself!" The old puppet giggled, sending small clouds of dust into the air. "It's all incredibly unofficial. We just oversee that everything's going smoothly, and bring newcomers in. Most of the hard work is done by the Homemade Army."
Babamon pointed with her broom. "You see these Digimon wearing green stripes? They're volunteers. Without them, the city would collapse. They defend the walls, build houses, organize businesses; it's a huge job, but they do it all for free."
Ladomon swerved. "Who organizes them?"
"They organize each other."
"But then wouldn't the whole system fall into chaos. Surely somebody must disagree."
Babamon stopped, resting on her broom handle for a few seconds. She turned and faced the dragon, and her eyes were shining with youthful energy.
"War is a terrible thing, but it does accomplish one thing. It brings Digimon together. Everyone wants to get through this ordeal alive, and they want their friends and loved-ones to do the same. Of course, there's been liars and murders; Digimon left homeless and starvin'; very occasionally a Fire Digimon's even entered the city." Babamon nodded her head for a minute, as if remembering something.
"But despite everythin', the city lives on. Everyone lives here for one reason; they want to survive. They want to get back home."
Despite all the noise and the background commotion, the words hit Eloise and span around her brain. She knew that feeling. These were Digimon who'd lost everything, and yet they still kept fighting for something better. They used everything they had. They didn't complain, or question. They just kept fighting for the world they lived in.
Sounded familiar. Unconsciously, her hand closed around her D-Nexus, and she felt the sharp warmth of her element coursing through her body.
They carried on walking for a good twenty-minutes, and the layout of the city began to change. Houses gave way to more open spaces, where Digimon were trying to sell their wares and services to the wandering public. Most of the stalls seemed to be helping the resistance effort; building supplies, home defenses and several weapons stores. There were Gazimon, Datamon, Gomamon, Penguinmon, Gallantmon, Sealsdramon; so many different kinds of Digimon that there was no way the D-Nexus could pick up all of them. Two Monmon, holding penknives, sat on top of a stripy tarpaulin, under which an Octomon sold fuel of some kind. A twelve-foot steam-powered robot ran a blacksmith, all the while dressed in a fairly ridiculous looking apron (the front of which read "Never byte off more that you can process"). A Kangarumon haggled with a Kotemon over several used blades. It was all very crowded, and Eloise began to get a headache. All the while, the giant clocktower loomed ever closer.
Ladomon flew close to Eloise, whispering in her ear. "That's the only building I remember. I've never been inside."
Eloise gulped. It wasn't so much a clocktower as an impregnable fortress (yeah, another one) with a slightly dodgy timepiece. Both hands of the clock pointed straight up, and neither showed any signs of moving. The whole thing seemed devoid of any doors or windows, and just stood silently, like a grim reaper watching over the city.
Babamon wheezed. "We didn't have the heart to take everything down. It just didn't seem right, and anyway it gives us a landmark for people to follow." She looked around, before tutting impatiently. "Where are your companions? Honestly, people never listen."
The girl turned round and was met with Jack throwing himself around her, giving her a huge hug before separating. The others were there as well, thankfully alive after the onslaught from outside.
Aaron put his hand on his hip. "Glad you finally made it."
"Excuse me!" Babamon rapped him sharply, causing him to withdraw, looking more than a little irritated. Babamon cleared her throat, before breaking out into coughs. "Oh dear, I'm not as energetic as I was."
She straightened up again. "You're all humans, aren't you."
Kent nodded. "Yes. Well, five of us. The others are –"
"Yes, yes, I get the point." Babamon smiled. "I seem to remember a couple of human tamers a very long time ago. Fabulous boys, they were. Full of life." She sniffed. "Can't say the same for all of you, but you work with what you get. Certainly, I am very grateful to be able to aid you on your travels."
She gave a curtsey, while the tamers looked suspiciously amongst themselves. Velocimon stepped forward. "No offense, but we've had a bit of a rough journey. Why should we trust you?"
Babamon looked hurt. "Well you don't have to. It was merely an offer. Although I would never double-cross anyone regardless."
"Still…" Aaron folded his arms. "Any Digimon we come across seems to come off badly. We appreciate the gesture, but I think it would be better for everyone if we just went on our way."
"Now hold on a second." Eloise turned to Babamon. "Do you mind if we talk for a minute?"
"Not at all. I'll wait."
Eloise stepped forward and coerced the group into a private conversation.
Aaron shook his head. "I really don't think it's a good idea to get mixed up in affairs here. We're supposed to be taking down the Fire Kingdom. This'll just hold us up again."
Velocimon nodded in agreement, but the others weren't so sure. Jack piped up, "We haven't really been around friendly Digimon before, apart from Pteramon. They may be able to help."
"And we could still use the rest." added Grace.
"But we're just starting to soul-evolve. We know this power's dangerous; we can't put anyone else at risk. Besides, we can't trust anyone not to hand us over."
Trilomon looked doubtful. "Have you seen the defenses on this place? The walls are metre-thick chrome-digizoid, and they're heavily guarded. The Fire Kingdom hasn't been able to get in yet."
"Look, I…I really think this is going to get us in major trouble. Call it a gut feeling." Aaron sighed. "Sorry, I know what Karatenmon said, but…we shouldn't be here."
There was quiet for a few seconds, before Eloise spoke.
"Sorry, Aaron, I think you're wrong. I don't know everything about this place, but if we're going to see this through to the end, we need to help in any way we can."
Kent raised his eyebrows, before nodding. "Not something I'd imagine coming from you, but I certainly agree."
"We think so too!" said Grace, and all around them the Digimon mumbled in agreement. "This is as good a place as any to train and get stronger."
Aaron and Velocimon gave each other a look, before finally backing down.
Babamon was still waiting patiently for their response, when Eloise turned to face her. "Thank you for having us. We'll gladly stay and help where we can. Although, is there somewhere you could set us up for the time being?"
Babamon grinned. "No need to worry, dear. You can all come and stay at mine, if you'd like. I have plenty of room."
"Oh, we wouldn't want to impose-"
"Nonsense." Babamon winked. "Welcome to Silicon City."
She beckoned, and the group followed her away from the clocktower. It remained utterly static, its smooth, curved surface utterly unbroken and impregnable.
On the smooth curved surface, fifty metres above the ground, was a single metal bolt. A bolt which unscrewed itself, twisted into a long, thin wire and disappeared into the tower. The hole where it had been instantly sealed itself up.
Babamon's residence was relatively large; an odd, three pronged structure with a grass covered roof.
The door creaked as Babamon forced it open, before stepping inside. The others followed her, starting with Kent (who had to duck down in order to fit through the tiny opening), but he was quickly halted by Babamon's broom.
"Rule number one. Take your shoes off. I won't have you treadin' wasteground rubbish all the way through the house."
Kent backed off, and did as he was told. The others did the same; this lady was intimidating when she was irritated. One by one they piled in, and were surprised to find it was far bigger than it had seemed from the outside. The patchwork walls fit together rather snugly, and the roof was just high enough for Kent to stand up straight. It was slightly cramped, but at least it was better than the cave.
Babamon removed her shawl and finally rested her broom against the wall, where its colour dulled slightly. She gestured to several makeshift cushions upon the floor.
"Make yourselves at home. What's mine is yours and all that. There should be enough for two of you to a room, and there's a washroom at the end of the centre corridor."
Grace started. "Washroom? You have running water here?"
Babamon nodded. "Of course. Most of us do, actually. The city's built on a spring of some kind."
Eloise ran a hand through her hair; many nights of nature, battles and dusty caves had taken its toll on all of them. She headed towards the corridor, turning to their hostess. "I hope you don't mind…"
Babamon smiled. "Not at all." She turned to the others as Eloise disappeared, kettle in hand. "So, who fancies tea?"
Vulpimon planted herself atop a cushion, like some little royal corgi. "First hot showers then tea? Stop it, you're spoiling me!"
"Quiet you." said Grace, folding her arms.
"Oh, don't worry dear. There's plenty to go around, and I'm sure you've been missing modern comforts."
Kent's eyes widened. "Thank you. We really appreciate it."
Steam billowed from the kettle (that frankly looked more like a bucket with a hole in it), and Babamon prepared to pour it when suddenly her hand started flashing.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud. Now?" She pulled back her sleeve, revealing a little concentric circle symbol that she'd given everyone herself. She sighed, and rushed over to grab her things.
"I'm afraid I have to leave you for the moment. Help yourselves, make yourselves at home or take another look around the city. Just don't do anything stupid."
She left before anyone could say a word.
Life atop the wall was often uneventful, if a little worrying for the acrophobic. Luckily, the Homemade Army had a determination that far outweighed their own personal shortcomings, and thus they always got the job done right.
That is what the lone Digmon standing atop the wall told himself, as he waited impatiently for another member to come and take over his shift. Being on wall duty meant you had to stand on the edge, looking out, with nothing but a sizeable Digital Energy cannon preventing you from falling over the edge. It was certainly a stunning view. But for this particularly weak-hearted soldier of the earth, it was a view he'd rather not be experiencing.
A sudden gust of wind blew and the Digmon yelled, waving the cannon around dangerously. A voice drifted over from the post next to him; the chirrupy voice of a Bastemon.
"Mrrow…watch where you're pointing that thing, big-boy."
Digmon felt his yellow armour go scarlet as he gingerly scratched behind his head with one spiky arm. "S-s-s-sorry. I didn't m-m-mean to, Bastemon."
She giggled, and waved her red-brown hair in a teasing gesture. There was an indignant cackling from below as the flock of Birdramon circled angrily. Bastemon stuck out her lip.
"They certainly are a purrsistant lot, aren't they?"
Digmon snuck a look himself, before pulling back quickly. He harrumphed, and stood up straight behind his armament. "Well, s-s-stubborn or no, they won't get past these d-d-defenses. They'll be shot out of the sky before they even get close."
"Ooh, aren't we the brave knight in shining armour!"
Digmon couldn't help but feel a speck of pride. Sometimes his co-workers were what made this entire job worth it. "N-n-not at all, ma'am. I merely do my duty. Protecting this city from the dangerous outside."
Digmon waited patiently for her response, before opening one eye. The royal feline seemed to be staring sadly into the distance, her body somewhat lopsided.
Her body jerked again and slumped forward, revealing several small spikes sticking out of her back. Digmon screamed, before he heard a shuffling from behind him. He swung his cannon round, like he'd been told to, and planted his drills inside the input chute.
A flurry of overcharged metal went flying everywhere as the attack was amplified by the cannon, but all it did was hit a sheet of Chrome Digizoid, where it bounced off harmlessly. There was another shuffle, a giggle, and then Digmon felt a sharp pain in his chest, before he suddenly found himself flying backwards off his cannon. He screamed as the floor disappeared beneath his feet, and he felt the wind rushing up as gravity pulled him towards the swirling flock below. As the cackling grew incessantly louder, Digmon heard somebody speak just before he lost consciousness.
"Bringers of the flame, the way is clear. Rise..."
"Do you really think we should be here?"
Vulpimon looked around nervously as she, her partner and Jack slowly approached the great clocktower, almost expecting it to chime at any second. There was a fluttering as Perimon flew back down to their level, having tried to scale the height of the massive building.
"Did you reach the top?"
Perimon scratched the back of his head. "Kind of?"
"What do you mean, kind of? You either reached the top or you didn't."
"It's hard to say." Perimon pointed upwards, where the air seemed to shimmer around the great metal spike. "It's weird, the higher you go the harder it is to go up. Literally; for some reason you keep falling back down."
Vulpimon looked at Grace, who shrugged. "Perhaps some kind of city defense?"
Vulpimon nodded. "That would make sense. Nobody gets in; not through the walls, not under the ground and not from the sky. So the only way you're going to find out what's in that clocktower is from inside." She nodded, satisfied. "And that is clearly impossible, so may we go now? This place gives me the creeps."
Jack nodded. "I know what you mean. There's nobody here."
It was true. The streets around the clocktower were completely empty. No houses, no shops, and no civilians just passing through. It was as if it was removed from the rest of the city.
Grace shivered as she stared up at the top. What was it about this place that made it so empty? So terrifying?
Her dark thoughts were interrupted by the sound of shouting. It came from the city market they'd passed through on the way here, and some of the voices sounded all too familiar. Jack tugged at his sister's sleeve. "We should go."
Grace shook her head, as if coming out of a trance. "You're right. Sounds like trouble."
The four left the scene, unaware they were being watched.
Aaron and Velocimon had run out after Babamon, but had quickly lost her in the crowds. Now all they could do was wander aimlessly through the streets. It wasn't all bad, since they got to witness the real scale of the city; unlike the others, they hadn't had the time to walk around before. Although that had mainly been due to Velocimon, who was still being particularly grumpy.
They stopped near a blacksmith's, avoiding each other's gazes. Velocimon sighed. "This place is a wreck. No good will come of just locking themselves away like this."
"Oh, cut them some slack. Not every Digimon has to be a soldier, you know."
Velocimon opened one eye and gazed up at his partner, who was lying against the wall, a stern look on his face. The dinosaur sighed. "Maybe if people stopped moping and actually got on with the job, we wouldn't be in this mess."
"Oh, so it's my fault now?"
"I could have taken down Cephalomon if you hadn't tried to step in back then."
Aaron smiled humourlessly. "You're not as strong as you think you are. You could give the rest of us a chance."
"I've told you before; humans aren't meant to evolve. It's not the natural way."
Aaron placed his hands on the counter and glared down at his partner. "Why are you so against me trying to help you?"
Velocimon wouldn't let himself be intimidated that easily, as he stood on his tiptoes, his eyes drilling back into his partner's.
"Maybe if you were able to help me, you wouldn't have already almost killed yourself trying to do so."
Aaron's eyes flashed. "You know, I used to think you were cool. But you really are an arsehole."
"OKAY, GENTLEMEN, BREAK IT UP!"
Both boy and dinosaur jumped as a monstrous, twelve-foot thing walked out from the back of the shop, curtains swinging behind him. It was made entirely of grimy, silver metal, with a gauze over its face like a knight's helmet, and several gears, pistons and vents that constantly moved, making great clunking sounds as it walked. It was busy folding up a rather fetching pink apron, and when it spoke, it was with the voice of an honourable gentleman.
"I won't have you arguing outside my shop, thank you. It's bad for business. Either settle this quickly or move along, please."
Aaron scowled for a few seconds, before folding his arms. "There's nothing to settle."
"Good." Aaron lurched forward as a great iron hand slapped him on the back, and the giant roared with laughter. "You must be new here. Welcome to the city. Don't forget to drop by if you need any metalwork done."
"Uh…sure…oh look, Babamon!" Aaron reached out and waved at Babamon, who was shuffling towards him at a worrying pace. The steampunk mecha's head twisted, and he nodded in acknowledgement.
"Oh, so you're staying with Babamon?" He scrutinized the boy with his expressionless face. "You must be rather special, mustn't you?"
Velocimon grunted. "None of your business."
Babamon caught up with them, out of breath. "Good day, Fornaxmon. Oh, Aaron! Velocimon! I didn't expect to see you here." She leaned towards the metal giant and whispered, "I hope they weren't causing you trouble."
Fornaxmon raised one iron hand and one iron cylinder, shaking his head. "Not at all, fair lady. A pleasure to meet them."
"Oh, quiet you." Babamon shoved the two away, Fornaxmon watching after them.
Both tamer and partner leant in close. "What's all this about? Why are you rushing around?"
"Nothing for you to worry about. Just a little commotion near one of the walls."
"The walls?" Velocimon stopped in his tracks, his claws digging into the dirt. "You mean something's going to break in?"
"Unlikely. But yes, it's possible." The old woman shook her head in puzzlement. "I don't understand how it happened. The anti-flight field has been sabotaged, and the wall defenses are gone, but only in one section. Remember those Fire Forces from outside?"
Velocimon planted one fist into the other. "Let me guess; they haven't left yet."
"The leader is climbing. It's slow, but it's going to break in soon, unless we do something."
Aaron pointed up at the mighty walls. "Can't you just lock down the city, like before?"
"We're trying. But anybody who's still up there is stuck out there. We don't want any more casualties."
"More?" Aaron's eyes widened as he looked up at the wall, where lifts were moving up and down at a frantic rate. Down below, Digimon with green stripes were running around, collecting supplies, weapons and all manner of utilities.
Velocimon clutched Babamon's hand. "Let us help. Please, we have power and experience."
Babamon pulled her hand away. "Certainly not. We can handle this. Besides, what happens if the Fire Forces find you here? They'll come knocking even harder, and then we'll all be in trouble."
"But then what are we supposed to do? What's the point of us being here?"
Babamon opened her mouth, when all of a sudden Jack, Grace and their partners arrived on the scene. "Hey! What's going on?"
"About time." Babamon shoved Velocimon towards them, anger in her voice. "Take everyone home and stay out of sight. We'll handle…Aaron, where are you going? What are you doing?"
It was too late. Aaron was already walking away, D-Nexus in hand. Babamon ran after him, preparing to drag him back, but he merely gave her a backwards glance."
"I'm doing what I was brought here to do."
He broke into a run before Babamon could catch him, and was instantly lost in the crowd. Grace reached out towards him. "Aaron! Come back, you can't!"
Babamon clutched her broom two-handedly, looking distinctly frustrated. "That damn kid…"
She was suddenly clutched from both shoulder by Velocimon, whose eyes were full of fire and steel. He shook her gently as he spoke.
"Babamon, this is our fight now. We have to help where we can, and right now, you're in danger. Please, let us prepare."
The old witch turned her head, catching sight of Grace and Jack, as well as Vulpimon and Perimon, who were all ready to step in and take action. She sighed, and pushed the dinosaur away, before brushing herself down.
"I suppose I have no choice. As you say, this is your fight too." She stood up straight, and pointed at Perimon. "You, go and fetch the others, quick as you can. The rest of you come with me. We need to stop that boy before he hurts himself."
When Eloise re-entered the living room, she found that most everyone else had gone. Only Kent was left behind, sitting atop a cushion and looking through scraps of paper. She glanced around, before sitting down next to him, her hair shiny from the long-overdue shower.
"Where's everyone else gone?"
Kent shrugged, not looking up from the sheets. Eloise sighed, and pulled the tops of the sheets down so she could see his face.
"You could talk, you know. Be sociable once in a while."
Kent half-smiled, and laid the papers flat on his lap. Eloise couldn't help but think he looked like a teacher reprimanding his pupil.
"Sorry, you're right. Got distracted." He shuffled back a little as the clock on the mantelpiece ticked, the sound resonating around the cramped little room.
"Babamon said she had some business by the wall to take care of. Aaron and Velocimon followed her, and Jack and Grace wanted to take a look around the city." He thought for a second. "Well, Jack wanted to. Grace seemed a little against the idea."
Eloise laughed, catching a look at Trilomon. He was lying on his own cushion, legs sticking straight up in the air, like a puppy wanting attention. Occasionally he'd mumble and let off a little kick, but he was obviously fast asleep.
"Looks like you took a lot out of him last night."
"I expect so." Kent reached down and gently stroked his partner's armour, his fingers rapping along the plates. "He helped me out so much back there. So selfless, you wouldn't believe."
"I probably would. Almost as bad as Aaron, he is."
Kent nodded his head from side to side, unconvinced. "Eh, I'm not sure."
"Oh, you didn't know him beforehand." Eloise leant back against the wall, hands on her knees, as her partner re-entered the room, her downy feathers glistening with water. She perched atop the windowsill and began to preen herself, as Eloise carried on.
"I knew him from infant school; we were in the same classes all the way through. He was always about making sure other people got the answers or that everyone else got a chance during sport. He was such a cool kid as well; pretty much never got in fights or anything. The only time he'd ever stress out was when he thought he'd done something wrong. He'd be on about it for weeks; I kept wanting to shake him by the shoulders and yell "Let it go! You goofed up, big deal!" "
Kent ran his fingers through his hair. "I guess he's finding it pretty hard right now, then."
"Probably." Eloise's eyes glistened as she thought back to the battle, and the impossible event that transpired. "I do worry about him."
Kent hesitated, unsure how to continue. "I take it you're still against the idea, then."
"What? Soul evolution? Of co-" Eloise stopped, and began to think, instinctively chewing her nails.
"I really don't know, to be honest. Sure, it's got to be useful, and it looks pretty damn sweet but…but I'm worried all the same." Her hand fell to her D-Nexus, and she twisted it around, handling the harmless-looking instrument like a bomb about to go off.
"I can feel it sometimes, Kent. When Ladomon evolves, or when Kai's around. I can feel the energy wanting to come and take me over. Turn me into an unstoppable war machine…"
She paused, placing her face in her free hand. "Why did I have to have Light? The most powerful element? I can't deal with that. I know I should, but…"
Ladomon looked up from beneath her wing. "Don't feel you have to evolve on my account. I'm quite happy to fight for you."
"I'm aware of that." Eloise closed her eyes, wincing. "I was there when you were fighting Cephalomon, and again with SkullGreymon. You'd do anything for me, wouldn't you."
Kent's eyes were pointed to the ground. "Digimon sure are loyal."
"Have you seen the Homemade Army yet?"
The boy grinned, nodding. "I think so. The ones with the green stripes?"
"Yes, them. It's incredible; they built and run this city from the ground up." She turned to her partner, smiling in admiration. "It's amazing how far you'll go to protect one another."
Ladomon smiled, and flew over, landing in her partner's lap. Eloise giggled as the dragon slithered around her. "Get off, that tickles!"
Ladomon didn't get off, instead curling up in her partner's lap. Eloise smiled, and ran her hands over her partner's smooth, downy skin. The little white dragon nodded. "We protect the ones we care for. It's how we are. I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Thanks. I hope when the time comes, I won't let you down."
"I know you won't."
Kent shuffled backwards, sighing again. "Well, just remember, if you need any help, you can always ask me. Total control and all that."
He grinned behind the papers as Eloise pulled a face. "Git."
The door slammed open, causing Trilomon to jump awake, twisting in mid-air like a Rubik's cube. "Huh? Wassat? Wherearewe?! Danger!"
"Calm down, it's Perimon." Eloise turned to the bird, who was completely out of breath, almost unable to speak.. "What's wrong? What's happened?"
"Aaron…Babamon...Birdramon…wall…stupid…Velocimon…clocktower…" he trailed off into wheezes.
Kent looked puzzledly at Eloise. "Well I got about half of that."
"Aaron needs our help. Come on, let's go." She motioned towards the door, her partner flying after her. Kent spread his arms, exasperated. "I literally just got comfy."
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Kent raised himself up and made a beeline for the door, Trilomon scuttling after him. They ran outside, before turning round as Trilomon tripped over his own feet.
"Sorry! My legs feel funny…"
He looked down at himself, his eyes widening as Kent stifled a laugh. "I think you've stabbed the cushion."
White fluff blew everywhere as the insect, embarrassedly, removed all four legs from the fabric, leaving just a shapeless mound behind.
"Not the time to worry." Jack ran off, Eloise, Ladomon and Kent following after him. Trilomon followed as fast as he could, calling out all the way.
"Do you think she'll get mad?"
Aaron felt the rubber band, tight around his left wrist. He'd kept meaning to just lose it somewhere, but it remained a reminder of what he had to do.
He ran faster towards the wall; as he got a closer look he could see that the metal pods were, in fact, lifts of some kind; they scaled the walls from the inside, delivering soldiers to the top. Right now they seemed to be working overtime.
These Digimon needed help. He could see that now. And the only way he could help was to overcome his shortcomings and be the best warrior he could be.
There was the sound of shouting behind him and he turned to see Babamon, Grace, Vulpimon, Jack and Velocimon hot in pursuit. Instinctively his hand tightened around his D-Nexus.
Velocimon reached him first. "What are you thinking, going in alone? Is that how we do things?"
"I need to do something"
"Well then stand aside and let me-"
Without warning Aaron leapt back, brandishing the tiny device like a weapon. It was already glowing in his hand, the spirals of energy beginning to caress his skin.
Babamon held her broom out, ready to make a move. "Think about what you're doin', son. Is this the right way?"
"No it isn't." Velocimon raised a hand, trying to calm his partner. "Aaron, relax. Stand down. This isn't your fight."
Aaron chuckled, and shook his head, his eyes beginning to glow. All around the Homemade Army were beginning to stop and stare at this impossible sight.
"You're wrong, Velocimon. It's always been my fight…"
"Soul Control! Evolution Activate!"
Grace reached forward, "Aaron, no!" But it was too late. The light had wrapped around the boy and the skies above had already begun to darken. Sparks flew everywhere as the figure crouched, hands over its head.
Then, the energy subsided, leaving an electrified warrior standing where Aaron had been.
Without a word, he scanned the height of the cable, that led to the top of the wall. Then, he moved, the grapples extending to about halfway up the shaft and wrapping around the column. Kuaramon turned and addressed the watching group.
"You are all free from this. I will see to it that the Fire Forces do not enter the city."
He tugged at the cable and flew upwards, using his weapons to scale the elevator shaft. Velocimon staggered back, clutching his head.
"Ow, that idiot. I can't be asked to deal with this."
Babamon turned to Grace, obviously thinking the situation through. "Has he done this before?"
Grace nodded. "Once. It didn't go well though." She looked up at the sky, and the ominous clouds beginning to form.
"I see. And can you evolve as well? Or anyone else?"
Grace's eyes flashed in panic. "No, I can't…I'm not…" She composed herself. "Only Kent."
"Okay, then we need him up there as soon as we can. If he and Aaron work together, Aaron should be able to control himself better. At the very least, he won't be taking the brunt of the work.
"Perimon should be back soon."
"Very good." Babamon signaled to the others, and they began to move once again. "Until then, evolve your partner and try to calm him down, okay? The lift'll take her up."
Grace faltered. "Wait, what about me?"
"You said it yourself; you can't evolve yet. It's dangerous up there."
Grace looked at her brother apologetically, before nodding reluctantly. "Right. Ready, Vulpimon?"
The fox grinned, and braced herself. "It's been a while. I've kind of missed this."
"Primal Control! Evolution Activate!"
Within seconds, Alopemon stood, proud and tall, among the awed crowd. The giant fox leapt atop the elevator, which immediately began to rise. Already there were the signs of lightning and fire flying about atop the wall. Babamon held her broom two-handedly, aware of the commotion around her but blanking it out nonetheless.
"Please, be the saviours we need."
With menace in his eyes and sparks in his fingers, Kuaramon brought his hands together around the seal on his chest. The symbol glowed completely white, forming a white orb that hummed and spluttered.
The orb flew off and struck a Birdramon in the chest, sending it spiralling down in a disintegrating fireball. Kuaramon looked around as the great phoenixes kept rising. Normally they would have been unable to overcome the field, but it had been weakened at this very spot. The exact spot where the Homemade Army had been wiped out…
Within his digital form, Aaron gritted his teeth. Now wasn't the time to think about that; instead, he focused on controlling his movements. His limbs felt like they were flying wide, and he could barely see in a straight line. He was all too aware of the rising static in the air, as well.
With indecipherable crows, six Birdramon fired upon him at once, raining meteors down that shattered against the stone and metal fortress. He dodged as many as he could, but still felt the burning impact of one or two of them; it was like getting punched with a boiled kettle.
"You think you can destroy me that easily?"
His flails extended once again, flying around in every increasing spirals.
The white-hot wires slashed and sliced at the birds around him, but still they came in, claws outstretched. Kuaramon took a step back, keeping in mind where the edge was. He he fell here, it would all be over.
In the midst of burning red and electric yellow, frozen blue projectiles flew forwards out of nowhere and slammed into his assailants. They screamed as their wings were encased and their flames extinguished, and they began to drop lower once again.
Kuaramon turned to see Alopemon standing behind him, ice swirling around her. She rolled her eyes. "You're welcome, by the way."
Kuaramon looked back once again, as another shadow moved up from below, trying to break past the field.
"You shouldn't be here, Alopemon. It's not safe for you."
"Look who's talking." Alopemon walked forward and stood her ground alongside him, looking slightly irritated. "If you want to control this thing, you'll need support. The others are coming up soon. Just calm down, okay? This isn't just your fight."
Kuaramon looked pained for a second, then bowed his head low. "I know. It's just…this body…"
Grace pointed. "Um…what's that?"
All three stared as the new shape emerged over the top of the wall. This one was much bigger, with two broad wings, two clawed arms and two long legs brandishing lethal hooked talons. It had a native American look about it, with red and white bands around its body and a feathered mask over its face. Its eyes glowed with menace and madness, and in the dust and fog atop the city wall it resembled a demon from the underworld.
Alopemon's eyes widened. "A Garudamon!"
The great bird smiled, showing a beak, surprisingly, full of jagged teeth. It balled its hands into fists, red flames sprouting along its arms as it tilted its massive body forward.
Babamon was hunched over as the other tamers and their Digimon arrived on the scene. Eloise looked up, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun as flashes of light let up the metallic surface. All around them the city had already been struck by stray meteors, that had shattered buildings and dented the ground. The Digimon around them were rushing around so much, it was difficult to make out any casualties.
Perimon cleared his throat. "We're here; what should we do now?"
"What do you mean, what should we do?" Eloise whirled around, panic in her voice. "Aaron needs help. We have to get up there."
Kent looked uncertain, but Babamon stood alongside the girl, large hands balled into fists.
"She's right. Your friend needs your help, as do we. You must go now."
Kent looked uncertain. "I thought that was a risk. You know, if the Fire Kingdom find us here…"
Babamon raised a hand. "It doesn't matter. To be brutally honest, whatever we've done before doesn't matter now. You're here to be the saviours of this land. I have faith in you." She smiled, the wind rustling through her clothes as the seven before her stared in awe.
"Quickly now, get up there. Show me what you're here for."
The tamers and their Digimon looked among one another, then nodded as one. Babamon clapped her hands. "We need an elevator down here right now!"
"That's too slow." Perimon spread his wings, looking up at his partner. "What do you say? Ready to take to the skies once more?"
Jack grinned, activating his D-Nexus. "Lift off!"
"Primal Control! Evolution Activate!"
The winds blew once more as the small falcon was replaced by his armoured Champion form. Jack nodded at Velocimon, who shielded his head from the sudden wind. "You look like you could use a lift." he said with just the hint of a grin.
Velocimon nodded, and boarded himself. Mistramon couldn't help but chuckle smugly. "Well, what do you know? The proud soldier requires my help."
"Just get your butt off the ground, beak-boy." Mistramon tutted, and spread his wings wide. Babamon ran beneath them, calling up. "Are you sure you can reach the top? The field-"
Mistramon shook his head. "Listen, lady, my partner and I wield the element of Air. If those vultures out there can reach the top, then it'll take me less than a second. Now excuse me, but I have some Fire Forces to blow out of the sky."
With a crow, the Roman eagle shot up into the sky. Kent folded his arms. "Well, glad to see a spell being grounded has done so much for his ego."
"Sarcasm later." Babamon pointed at the newly arrived elevator. "Kent, is it? You should head up right now. If you and Aaron work together in your evolved forms, he may be able to control himself."
"Right." Kent got out his D-Nexus and was about to evolve, when suddenly Eloise grabbed his arm. "Wait, I'm going too."
Kent looked surprised. Ladomon nudged her, worry in her eyes. "Eloise, it's dangerous. I'll go, and you can stay safe down here."
"I don't care." Eloise gripped the tiny device tightly. "If Aaron's going in, fighting for everybody, then so am I."
Kent's eyes widened for a couple of seconds, before he smiled. "Fine. Stay close then, and don't you dare fall off."
Trilomon was already atop the elevator. "Come on, hurry!"
Kent and Eloise held out their devices, energy glowing within them.
"Primal Control! Evolution Activate!"
Their partners bent their heads as they grew into their Champion forms. Seismon flexed and clicked his armour from atop the elevator, where he was soon joined by Luminemon as she landed beside him.
Eloise's D-Nexus stopped glowing, but Kent's carried on. He gave her a knowing wink. "You may want to stand back for a second."
She did so, and he swung his arm around again, the energy this time backing up on itself and engulfing him.
"Soul Control! Evolution Activate!"
Eloise and Babamon watched in awe as he grew to his impressive height, before the energy dispersed and the armoured giant breathed out.
He turned his head, and held out an arm. "You ready, m'lady?"
"Shut up." Eloise hesitated for a second, before taking it. Cratomon held her tight and took a leap, landing somewhat clumsily on top of the device. Seismon pumped his fists. "This is going to be fun, partner."
Cratomon nodded. "I was hoping to get a chance to test this out soon."
Form below, Babamon whistled. "Would you look at that." Then she clapped, and the Digimon around her set to work. "Take them up, fellas. Let's see what they can do."
Alopemon grunted as she was sent slamming to the floor, her fur pelt singed from the attack. Garudamon didn't let up; it's hands filled with fire once again and it shot past them, swiping downwards.
Alopemon closed her eyes, but the attack was suddenly blocked as another red blur shot out of nowhere. Garudamon cried out as it was sent spiraling away, held in Mistramon's vice grip. The eagle leaned in close, venom in his eyes.
"Hey buddy, that's not a good look you're giving us avians."
Garudamon almost looked surprised for a second, then it opened its beak and laughed; a great raucous cackling that sent shivers down Mistramon's spine.
Alopemon struggled to her feet, calling up to her comrade. "Look out, Mistramon! She's smarter than normal!"
Mistramon looked confused. "That thing is a she?" His confusion was quickly dissipated as Garudamon gave him a swift kick in the midriff, sending him wobbling backwards, winded. He opened his eyes, before yelling and spiralling out the way as a tornado of fire surged past him.
"You know that might have been nice to know beforehand!" he raged, flying in all directions to avoid the psychotic bird's pursuit.
Down on the wall, Kuaramon balled his hands into fists. "Smarter doesn't mean she'll get away with this. Quantum Coil!"
The bird-woman raised her arm, ready to strike again, when it was suddenly bound by the electric warrior's wires. As the white-hot cables burned into her, she struggled, and began to pull. Kuaramon dug in tight and increased the voltage. The wires glowed more intensely, and Garudamon hissed as the air was filled with the scent of burnt flesh.
Still, she pulled, and Kuaramon could feel himself being dragged, ever so slowly, towards the edge. From below he could hear the cackling of the remaining Birdramon, and closed his eyes, putting all his effort into staying on the wall.
"I don't think so. Pressure Wave!"
The sudden shockwave caused Garudamon to suddenly lurch forward. Kuaramon's wires retracted, revealing three vicious burn marks around the bird-woman's arm. Garudamon growled, and lashed out at Mistramon, but he'd already dodged yet again.
Kuaramon held his shoulder; it felt like it had nearly been wrenched out of its socket. "I almost had him, Mistramon!"
"Alright, Aaron, step back a little."
Kuaramon turned, and started. "Cratomon! Eloise! What are you-"
"You imbecile!" Eloise was about to run forward when Cratomon held out a hand.
"You stay here for the moment. If you get too close, you'll get knocked off."
"But I…have to…" Eloise shrank back a little, catching Aaron's eye inside his fearsome armoured form. He looked terrified, but she could tell there was no way he was going to stand down. She let go, and remained on the elevator as the others advanced.
Velocimon stood by his partner as another tornado of fire flew over their heads. "Okay, Aaron, you've been playing this game long enough. Stand down, and let me evolve."
Kuaramon shook his head. "No! This one's mine. You've been fighting for long enough."
Cratomon and Seismon appeared at his other side, Cratomon's huge sabre sliding backwards. "Then let us all fight alongside you."
"Evolve me, Aaron!"
Kuaramon looked at his hands. "I…I don't know how-"
"Incoming!" Both parties flew to one side as Garudamon sliced past them, pursued by a wounded Mistramon. Alopemon was still struggling to move, and Luminemon was having trouble getting airborne.
"Guys, I can't fly up here. The air's too thin for me."
Velocimon kept an eye on the giant bird-woman, all the while speaking to his partner. "Aaron!"
"I can't!" Kuaramon's eyes darted down. "I know Kent and Kai may be able to but I don't know how to evolve you and I at the same time. And I'm not going to stand down until I can properly control this thing."
"Gentlemen, she's coming back in."
Cratomon threw back his arm, green energy building up along the sabre. Seismon held his spear, each end glowing, as he glanced beside at his partner. "Together?"
Garudamon screamed in fury as she tossed Mistramon aside, tail feathers fluttering away behind him. As she turned in mid-flight, the battling group could see her blazing eyes and drooling snarl.
She swooped in, all four of her limbs ablaze.
Eloise ducked as the attacks were released, but only a few hit Garudamon. Alopemon, weakened from before, could only summon a few weak projectiles, and Cratomon's arc went flying wide. Inside the goliath, Kent gritted his teeth. "Damnit!"
Garudamon spiralled through the rest of the attacks, with only Luminemon's making any real impact as it seared into her left wing. She hissed, and banked upwards, spreading her wings wider than ever before. Rasping and archaic, the group could hear her voice as it spoke with intelligence; albeit strained due to the Fire affliction, but still present.
"You have no place here. I will wipe you from this world…"
Eloise's eyes widened as the pillar of fire shot downwards, threatening to engulf them all. "EVERYBODY DOWN!"
The warriors were lost in a sea of fire, causing her to recoil from the heat as it spread over the top of the wall. When it cleared, she chanced a look. Cratomon had been forced to one knee, and Alopemon lay sprawled out on the metal surface. Everyone else was still standing, but just barely, and Garudamon was laughing as she began to descend upon them.
"Your pathetic attempts to kill me were worthless after all."
The first to move was Kuaramon, and as he did so, sparks flashed around his body. With an electronic roar he lunged forward, sending both flails flying towards Garudamon, but she laughed and swerved out of the way. Kuaramon staggered, his weapons coiled around him, but he began to shake with laughter himself.
"You're the one who's pathetic. We're not finished yet…"
Behind him, Eloise was shaking her head. "Aaron, no. Not again. It'll kill you this time."
Kuaramon didn't hear her. Or if he did, he paid no attention. With a shout of "Quantum Coil!" He thrust his arms forward, the two flails flying towards Garudamon as they crackled with white-hot electricity.
That did it. The clouds parted, and the lightning flashed down once again. Sparks flew everywhere and arcs danced along the metal walls as both Aaron and Garudamon were struck. Kuaramon didn't go down this time however; he remained standing, his coils wrapped around Garudamon and tightening. But with each second he stood there, he could feel himself slipping. Inside, he gritted his teeth, but his vision was blurring and he knew that he was dicing with death.
Alongside him, Velocimon was desperately clinging onto his partner's leg, firing shot after shot at Garudamon. "Stop!" he yelled, "Listen to your friend! This is too much!"
Eloise screamed and brought her hands to her ears as lightning exploded around her again. She was crying, yelling out to a boy who couldn't hear her. "Please! Stop it!"
"But you'll die!"
"Then this is worth dying for."
Eloise opened her eyes in shock. She brought her hands down, and stared at the terrible scene before her. Her friend from so long ago, fighting, willing to die for something he barely knew. It was ridiculous. He would never do that. He could never dedicate himself so strongly to something so uncertain.
But then again, wasn't that what everyone in the city was doing? Fighting to protect, with no certainty of success? She thought of the Homemade Army down below, of Babamon, of her friends.
Except that Aaron was wrong. This wasn't a hopeless struggle. If it was, why were they even there? What was she doing wielding such an incredible power?
No, this was a fight for survival, and this time, they were going to win.
She breathed in. There was no other choice. She began to walk forward, ignoring the crackling bolts around her and the ominous rumbling in the sky.
"Aaron, I know you can hear me in there. You know that you aren't ready to end this here."
She thought she could see a glimmer of recognition in the electric warrior's eyes, but Kuaramon still held on, slowly being dragged towards the edge. His arms were shaking violently, and his body almost seemed to be glitching. She sped up, narrowing her eyes as the bolts danced past her.
Cratomon raised his head, weakly. "Eloise…get back…it's not safe for you…"
Eloise ignored him."I'm making a promise. I refuse to let any more innocents die here, while I can help it. I'm saving as many as I can, and when this is over, we're all going home, human and Digimon alike."
She stood beside Kuaramon, D-Nexus in hand, as bolts rained down all around her.
"That means you too. And I will not let you die like this, even if I have to step in myself. If this is why I was given this power, then so be it!"
Kuaramon slipped forward again, nearly on the edge. Eloise reached forward and grabbed him, wincing from the heat and the sparks as she reached round towards his chest.
With a yell she slammed her fist against the seal, causing it to fluctuate wildly. She was thrown back as Kuaramon's coils retracted, letting off a whirring electronic scream. The armour disintegrated, and Aaron collapsed to his knees; burnt, beaten, but still conscious. He looked to one side, to where Eloise was standing.
She didn't answer. Instead she stared up at the foreboding sight of Garudamon; wings spread, claws outstretched and eyes filled with fury. Truly the demon of this night.
Eloise squared off against her. "You…I didn't want to do this, but you've brought this on yourself. This ends now!"
Time seemed to slow as the girl held out her arm, device in hand. Off to the side, Luminemon could feel her energy increasing, just as it had with Achromon. She stood up, watching in awe. "Eloise…"
As if by magic, she was lifted off the floor, completely steady and silent. She wasn't engulfed with energy like the others; instead she just grew brighter and brighter, until all her features were obscured.
Eloise seemed to be wreathed in a corona as the wind whipped through her hair and jacket. As Garudamon powered up a tornado yet again, the girl spoke softly, almost inaudibly.
Miniature starbursts flashed over her figure as her arms and legs lengthened and her glowing hair began to grow. Shapes and colours burst out all over her; sea green and golden-yellow. The light faded as gradually as it had begun, revealing the new form within.
With a roar, Garudamon lunged forward, sending a flaming pyre towards her. Before anyone could react, however, the new warrior had vanished, and the column split down the middle. Garudamon was sent flying backwards by some invisible force, as the wind stopped and the clouds parted.
In the centre stood the new Digimon. Her armour was ornate; palest blue and gold, over a light grey covering, almost like stone, that surrounded a slight, yet athletic frame. Her armour was studded with jewels, just like her partners', which glowed a bright turquoise. On her wrists she held strange metallic structures, similar in design to her partner's head, and she carried a quiver on her back carrying arrows with crescent shaped blades, each one studded with different coloured gems. Her red hair had lengthened and the colour deepened, and like Dokkamon she also wore a crown or tiara; this one golden and studded with blue. Over her face she wore a mask; as perfect and beautiful as that of a statue, and while it hid her face completely, her eyes were bright and youthful.
Garudamon snarled as her claws glowed brighter, and she prepared to make the final strike.
In one swift movement, however, Ljosamon reached for her quiver and pulled out an arrow. There was no sign of a bow, until she extended her arm. The dragon head on her wrist began to glow, before it suddenly sprouted long, red angel wings, holding a string of light between them. Silently, Ljosamon loaded her arrow and pulled it back, aiming for the oncoming demon.
Ljosamon let go, and the arrow shot forward. It collided with Garudamon and the bird-man stopped in mid-flight. She coughed, before glancing down at herself. The arrow was embedded in her chest, sinking in towards her digital heart. Her body glowed as the purifying light flowed through it, spreading from her chest through her legs and arms, right up to the tips of her wings. Her eyes widened in horror, but before she could make a sound, she exploded. No noise, no shockwave. There was just a flash, and then she was gone.
The rest of the cackling had subsided. The storm clouds had disappeared, and the warriors atop the wall could see the full glory of the warrior who had saved them. Ljosamon lowered her bow, before disintegrating in a flash, revealing Eloise standing there. Aaron walked over, about to thank her, when he caught sight of her face.
The girl was terrified.
Babamon sighed as she brought the steaming kettle over, where all ten warriors were seated around (or in Perimon and Ladomon's case, above) the table in the centre. Everyone chatted amongst themselves and laughed as the old lady served them some sort of green tea, and for a brief while it seemed like everything might just start going right for a change.
Vulpimon kicked Perimon under the table. "So where did you disappear off to during that? Thought Garudamon was showing you up, did you?"
The table laughed as Perimon puffed out his cheeks. "Look guys, she set me on fire, punched me in the face then dropped me. I wasn't really thinking straight at that point."
Grace half-nodded. "In fairness, he was still on fire when he finally got down to us. Well, partly."
Painfully, Perimon looked back at his singed tail feathers, as Jack sniggered.
"Oh very funny. Let's all laugh at the funny little bird again." he said indignantly.
Eloise chuckled. "Well, I'm just glad you made it down okay. To be honest, you didn't miss much."
"Didn't miss much?" Aaron laughed, before taking a sip of his tea. Velocimon was sat beside him, looking exceedingly pissed off. Everyone had pretty much taken that as normal now.
Aaron carried on. "Eloise, what you did up there was fantastic. Perfect control, and you took that cackling parrot out in one shot!"
Eloise blushed. "Well, it wasn't really…"
Aaron grinned. "You have to show me how to do that."
Eloise's red face turned blue as she choked on her tea, spluttering as she waved her hands back and forth.
"No! I mean, no! I'm not…I don't want to…I'd be no good…"
Babamon tapped her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, dear. Nobody's forcin' you."
"Yes I am."
Kent laughed. "You know, I think we could all give each other a few pointers on this evolution business."
Jack rubbed his hands together. "Oh boy, I can't wait."
"I said you're not doing it!" Grace glared at him, causing the boy to look down dejectedly. "You're enough trouble down on the ground. I don't need you whizzing around up there as well."
Babamon tapped the floor as her houseguests turned to face her. She cleared her throat, before reaching into her basket and pulling out several green strips of fabric. Aaron looked puzzled. "What are they?"
"From what I saw of you all today, I have no doubt that you are the warriors to save us all. Okay, you didn't get everythin' right, but if anybody has the drive, the courage and the hidden power to defeat Surtremon once and for all, it's you."
She began to hand out the fabric, still speaking.
"I know you'll have to move on eventually. But while you remain in Silicon City, may I ask a favour, please? Would you stand as honourable members of the Homemade Army?"
Aaron held his sash in one hand; it looked like embroidered velvet, with two concentric circles in the middle. The symbol of the city. He smiled, and nodded. "As long as we're here, we'll do everything we can to help you."
Babamon smiled, as the tamers and Digimon around her put on their stripes, with the exception of Velocimon, who merely stared disapprovingly at his.
The lights dimmed outside as Babamon left the room, whistling. With her left hand, Eloise stroked the new symbol she'd been given.
Despite the pangs of worry that still racketed around her brain, she couldn't help but feel somewhat accomplished.
After all this time, it was nice to finally be fighting for something.