It had been a long time since true moonlight had illuminated the streets of Silicon City. Hidden underground by night as it was, the structure was lit by a circle of lights around the upper wall, where the barracks were, as well as the individual light from each house. This provided enough light to get around when the place was hidden away, but, as with anything crafted from metal and glass, it never felt quite natural.
One of the lights flickered as a shadow moved past, blending into the darkness effortlessly. It had been summoned.
As it reached the centre of the city, even the lights from the other buildings began to fade away into the distance, taken over by derelict shells. The shape stopped, and looked around nervously, before dropping its disguise, revealing itself to be a bulky, armoured green lizard, with a spiral tail and a permanently grumpy look. To be fair, that was rather apt; it had a rather grumpy outlook on life as well. Especially with those humans showing their faces around. He shivered, and licked each eyeball in turn. Stupid humans. They pretended to be saviours but it was clear they had no idea what they were doing. They were only making things worse. There had to be another way to stop the Fire Kingdom, and he may just have found one.
He couldn't explain it. Others would think he was crazy. But he heard them. The voices; they beckoned him, every time he was alone. Whoever they belonged to was hiding nearby, he just knew it. They would surely bring the revolution he'd been waiting for.
The lizard stepped forward, each eye swiveling back and forth, constantly on the lookout. There seemed to be no way into the great structure, and yet he knew there must be. Somewhere, there must be an imperfection. An opening. Something he could use…
He could hear the voice in his head once again, making his armour feel light and his head all woozy. So much power…just waiting…ready to spring…he braced himself, ready to make a leap. It was time to find out what was inside.
Like the strike of a serpent, something else shot out of the darkness. With a heavy metal jangle it struck his neck, wrapping around his throat. His breath was cut off before he could so much as yell, and in a matter of seconds he was dragged, kicking and choking, back into the shadows. There was a scuffle, a glow, then finally silence. The dust settled. Two crimson lights flashed momentarily, before there was the sound of heavy footsteps trudging away, along with something large being dragged along the ground.
The whole, horrific scene was only witnessed by two. One figure, unseen himself, stifled a chuckle, before skipping back down the alleyway he'd been hiding in.
The other watcher simply cursed.
The sound of the vigil atop the walls as they called out the morning warning echoed through the house as normal. Jack opened his eyes, looking somewhat irritated, before pulling the blanket over his head.
"No…it can't be time yet…I hadn't finished dreaming."
To his relief, the shouting stopped, but it was immediately replaced by the odd heavy feeling one gets as they go up in an elevator. Reluctantly, Jack sat up, looking unbelievably grumpy. He yawned and rubbed sleep from his eyes, feeling a twinge of irritation at this new strict schedule that had pretty much been forced on him.
Still, no use complaining about it now. He got to his knees and stretched, being careful not to put too much pressure on his bad knee (it was usually rather tender in the mornings). The rising city still made him feel dizzy, but he'd nearly gotten used to it. Looking around he saw an empty bundle of blankets on the opposite side of the room, and his own partner, lying on his back atop a shelf.
How he was able to sleep through all the commotion was a wonder in itself.
"Hey Perimon, the city's getting up; you should be as well." said the boy sleepily, running a hand through his hair.
Perimon simply whistled, and rolled another ninety-degrees, so that he faced out over the edge of the shelf. Jack folded his arms. "You're gonna fall off again."
"Never!" Perimon opened his eyes and glared at his partner, who was busy straightening his hat. "I am a master of the element of Air and as such have an impeccable balance that is unaffected by such-"
The city reached the peak of its rise with a mechanical clunk, causing a small shockwave. Jack stumbled, and, with a surprised squawk, Perimon slipped off the edge and thudded onto the stone floor, his helmet making a clanging sound. Jack sniggered.
His partner answered with a venomous glare, as he picked himself up. "Yeah, well, shelves are overrated anyway."
"Who do you reckon actually makes this thing go up and down, anyway?"
Perimon grumbled, scratching the back of his head. "Who knows? Maybe it's automatic. I don't do machines, particularly not this early in the morning."
Opening the door, Jack stuck out his tongue. Perimon tried to keep the grumpy act up, but failed and fell into a giggling mass. With a grin, Jack beckoned him to hurry up.
"Come on, oh master of the element of Air."
Babamon tied her shawl tight and waved her salutation to the tamers. "I've got to head off and do my rounds," she said cheerily, "As I said, don't feel you have to hang around while I'm not here."
She sniffed, picking up her broom and opening the door. "Although, it might be easier if you didn't go lookin' for trouble every day."
She smirked, and left before Vulpimon could answer, "Hey! We're not that bad!"
"You really think so?" murmured Kent, briefly putting down the guide to the city he'd borrowed from their host in order to deliver his remark.
Sitting opposite him, Ladomon nodded, coiled around Eloise as she was. "We haven't exactly had the best track record when it comes to staying out of trouble."
"That's not our fault."
"She never said it was." Eloise grinned, brushing a few strands of hair out of her eyes and grinning inanely. "I guess we're just unlucky."
"Morning guys!" said Jack as he and Perimon entered the room. Grace nodded in acknowledgement, Eloise and Kent waved to him, and Aaron, sitting back against the wall, simply gave a "Hmm" in acknowledgement.
Jack wandered over to where his sister was as Perimon hopped up on the table. "So, any chance of breakfast?"
From next to Kent, Trilomon looked up, confused. "You're a Digimon; since when have you ever needed to eat?"
"I can dream, bug-boy!"
"Ooh, don't, please." Grace clutched her stomach, "I don't need another reason to miss home."
From his position in the corner, Aaron smiled a half-smile. "Don't worry. Think how awesome it's going to be when we do get back."
He tensed, gingerly bringing his left arm up to check the new burn he'd received a week ago, after fighting Garudamon. Sure, he'd come out of it standing, but the marks of his battle were still present.
Elosie coughed to break the awkward silence. "So…what are our plans for today?"
Everyone shrugged, with the exception of Grace, who stared awkwardly at the floor.
Kent didn't notice. "It sure feels different not having to run away from things every other morning."
His partner tapped the floor nervously. "It doesn't feel right. I don't like waiting around here; it's like we're waiting for something to happen but it's not going to."
"Umm…" Grace shuffled her feet as the others turned to her. "I think there might be something going on."
Aaron frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well, we haven't heard anything from outside the walls. You'd think that Martyaxmon would be out to get us no matter what."
Kent shrugged. "Maybe he doesn't know we're here."
Grace placed her hand over her mouth, deep in thought. "He doesn't seem to be the type who'd give up. But that's not the only thing; I think there's something inside the walls."
Vulpimon sat down, looking almost disapproving. "This isn't-"
"I know, but the clocktower...doesn't anybody it's a little weird?"
Her question was met with looks of confusion. Kent scratched his head, "In what way?"
Grace looked at Vulpimon and Perimon in turn, "You know what I'm talking about, don't you? Has anyone else felt that it's, you know, hiding something?"
Vulpimon sighed. "Grace, that thing has been there since the old city, before the war. Whatever's inside, if anything at all, it can't be much help now. And yes, for your information, it does feel weird. I think that's a sign to leave it alone."
Perimon looked thoughtful. "Still, it's true that nobody seems to know anything about it. And we don't have anything else to do-"
"Out of the question," exclaimed a stern-sounding Velocimon as he entered the room. He glared up at Grace, who quailed a little.
"But it could be important."
"And it could be more needless distractions." Velocimon folded his arms. "I know which one I'd like to bet on."
"Velocimon, please." Aaron planted his hands in his pockets. "Although I do agree with you." His eyes fell on Grace with a look close to pity. "It's not just that it might not be useful, but we're not in the woods anymore. If we make a move just based on a hunch, it could turn out for the worse. Not just for us but for other citizens as well."
Beside her partner, Vulpimon nodded. "I'm with them. I stand by that that place is evil. It's best to leave it alone."
Grace looked deflated, but Aaron was firm. "We don't want to put anyone in unnecessary danger."
Velocimon huffed. "That's rich," he said under his breath.
Aaron's eyes flashed with annoyance, almost as if he'd been expecting this. Kent planted his head in his hands. "Not this again…"
Aaron closed his eyes. "Sorry, what was that, partner-of-mine?"
"You know what it was."
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you." Aaron took a step away from the wall as everyone else shuffled back, leaving a void between the boy and his Digimon.
"What have I done wrong now?"
From above, Perimon whispered down to the dinosaur, "Don't do it!"
Normally he wouldn't have. However weeks of frustration do tend to build up, to the point where they can no longer be satiated by a couple of simple words.
Velocimon gritted his teeth. "If you're so adamant on keeping people out of unnecessary danger, why don't you stop trying to play the hero whenever it suits you just because you get a fancy new costume." He pointed accusingly. "That's what you're doing wrong."
"That's different. I'm trying to help people, and I'm trying to control it. If I can I'll be able to fight alongside you; I don't see what's so bad about that."
"How about the fact that you've almost killed yourself twice?"
Aaron faltered. Velocimon smiled triumphantly. "You may be trying to control it, but it's not working. Face it, it isn't your place."
Kent put down the guide, looking slightly peeved. "Hang on, what about Eloise and I? We haven't had a problem; why shouldn't Aaron learn to control it as well?"
The dinosaur's lip curled up in irritation. "Because your evolutions haven't caused a hindrance. Whenever my partner evolves, he drains all my energy away."
Aaron retorted. "Well maybe that's down to you! If you wouldn't try and lead every battle yourself and learn to share this 'energy' properly…"
"Aaron, please!" Eloise slammed her fist against the table, stopping boy and dinosaur in their tracks. "Chill already. I'm not dealing with this, it's too early."
"How do you know?" Aaron stood up straight, quite unable to 'chill'. "Countless times I've woken up in this bloody world, and what do I have to show for it? What have I actually done to go any way towards saving it?"
"Aaron, don't be stupid. You've saved us so many times-"
"But that wasn't me!" Aaron opened his hand towards his seething partner. "That was all Captain T-Rex here! And the one time I have a chance to fight for my own life, everything blows up in my face! I'm the only one who can't control this thing; even Kai was handling it better than I could."
He made for the door. "I'm going out. I've had enough of this conversation."
The group flinched as the door slammed, and the sound of footsteps faded away. Perimon slyly hovered down and stood next to Velocimon. "Way to go, scales."
"That was nothing to do with me!" yelled Velocimon indignantly, whirling around.
For once, Perimon made no witty retort. He simply sighed, and gave his old comrade a tired look. "You really are a colossal moron, you know that?"
Velocimon growled. "Fine, I'm going."
"I didn't mean-"
Kent groaned, and transferred his head to his other hand. "Well, this has been a fine morning."
Eloise answered by repeatedly banging her head against the table, causing Ladomon to bob back and forth like an executive toy.
Aaron was already stomping his way down the dusty path when he was stopped by an enraged "Hey, I haven't finished with you yet!"
Aaron made a guttural sound, and turned to look down at his partner. "Really? I thought you'd made it quite clear that you didn't want me to do anything."
"That's not what I meant, if you'd only listen." Velocimon sighed, and folded his arms. "Look, I appreciate what you're doing. I really do, but it's just not working for you like it is for the others." He gave a backward glance, "Not that I really approve, but their evolutions are different to yours. Maybe it's the element, I don't know, but I don't think it's right for you to be evolving."
"But it's effective; you know it is." Aaron held out his hands, "Okay, it definitely needs some work, but you could help me. With just a little bit of training we could learn to fight together, like they do."
Aaron looked down hopefully at his partner, but the lizard shook his head. "I'm sorry, Aaron, but I'm not prepared to take the risk."
Aaron straightened up. "Have you always been this stubborn?"
"I'm not stubborn. I'm just trying to get the job done right."
"By always jumping in and commanding everyone to 'follow your lead'"
"Oh, don't be immature." Velocimon was getting angry again; a twitch had appeared on the left side of his mouth. "At least I don't try and fight everything I come across myself. I know my limits; it's time you learned yours."
"Limits? You told me yourself; this is a war. There's no room for limits."
"There are when you're putting others in danger."
"Will you stop telling me that!" Aaron brought his foot down, sending up a mini-explosion of dust. "I'm not trying to control this thing for myself, you know! This isn't just me thinking it's a game or anything; I'm actually trying to help. I'm fighting because I care about the others, and I care about the Digimon, and funnily enough I care about you, always risking your life out there. I'm trying to lighten your load and you're acting like that's a bad thing!"
"It IS a bad thing when you keep messing it up!" Velocimon leaned upwards, his face getting closer and closer to his partner's.
"You're not gonna be able to fight everything off on your own. Hell, you haven't been able to. Remember Cephalomon? What would've happened if he'd taken you down back then; you know he could have if Kai hadn't arrived. What do you think would've happened to us? Would you have even cared?"
Velocimon growled. "How dare you…I've been fighting this battle longer than you've been alive. How DARE you accuse me of not caring!"
"But it's not all about fighting, or winning. It's about surviving, and keeping the others safe. That first night; you told me to make the call that seemed right. That was how to be a leader, you told me. Well I'm making the call now; why won't you accept that?"
"Gah," Velocimon held his head in frustration. "That was before all of this…this…insane business with soul and humans evolving and everything. There's making a call and then there's just being stupid."
Aaron lowered his voice. "I see. So as a leader my decision is okay, unless you don't agree, in which case it's wrong."
"Yes! Well…no…but, yes!"
"Look who's being immature now."
"You are unbelievable. Do you have any idea how important this battle is?"
Aaron stopped, catching his breath. Boy and lizard squared each other off, the faint sounds of the city ringing in the background. Aaron swallowed, raising his left arm and looking at the band around his wrist. He waited for a second, then his arm fell limp.
"You know, I thought I did. I guess it turns out I don't. Apparently it's all up to you."
"Aaron, don't be stupid."
"I guess there's no point in us trying to get along."
He turned and began to walk. Velocimon followed him, "Running away now? I expected better of you."
Aaron turned. "What, you expected me to be another one of your perfect little soldier boys? I don't think so."
"At least they'd actually have some common sense."
Aaron shrugged. "Geez, no wonder your army never won anything."
Velocimon stopped, his eyes widening. "You…"
"Go fight your own battles, Velocimon. You obviously know how to win them better than I do."
The dinosaur watched as Aaron walked away, green stripe blowing in the wind. He hissed, before turning and walking in the opposite direction.
Seething, Aaron marched through the city, sending citizens running either side of him and letting off a volley of curses at him.
"Hey, watch it!"
"Yeah, piss off until ya can shoot straight, bolt-boy."
Aaron whirled round at this last scathing remark, coming as it had from a Pandamon holding a satchel and an obnoxiously large saw blade. He scowled, "Screw you too."
"Hey, watch the language, child."
Aaron felt a large hand plant itself on his right shoulder, and he paled slightly, but upon turning round he found he recognised the giant, masked character behind him.
The golem chuckled, drawing back slightly. Aaron could hear pistons working throughout the huge metal body, as well as the scrape of metal on metal.
The boy coughed, aware the other Digimon were staring again. "Look, I…I'm in a hurry…"
He took a step to the side, but Fornaxmon's armoured head followed his movement. "What's wrong? You seem to be in a bit of a temper."
Aaron looked away hurriedly, and sped up. "Really, it's nothing."
Fornaxmon's head span right round as he watched the boy run off down the street. Behind him, the Pandamon scoffed. "Would ya look at that? Running around however it suits him. Can't even be arsed to do some honest work like the rest of us."
"Oh really?" Fornaxmon scratched his cheek (?) as Aaron ran out of sight. He turned back to the vulgar stuffed toy. "I'd like to see you balance on top of a wall and grapple with a Garudamon."
Pandamon shrugged, before turning and shuffling back the way he was going. The giant could hear him muttering to himself, "Stupid humans. Always thinking the fate of the world revolves around them or somefin'."
"Quiet you." Fornaxmon tapped his foot hard against the dusty road, before setting off back to the blacksmith's.
"For all we know, it may well do."
Aaron finally stopped when he was sure there was nobody else around. He leaned against a wall, feeling the sandy roughness against his palm as he caught his breath. He wasn't sure how far he'd walked; he wasn't even sure where he was.
He looked up, and gulped. As it turned out he'd gone rather close to the clocktower, and now it stood forebodingly above; silent and still, like a judge looking down upon him.
Oh well, at least it was quiet here.
Aaron sighed, and leant back against the decrepit building. The morning hadn't exactly gone flawlessly, especially since he'd now fallen out with his partner. Probably the only Digimon in the whole city who'd be able to help him out.
He held his D-Nexus in his right hand, and stared at the screen, hoping it would give him some answers. As per usual, though, the screen remained its usual unhelpful self. Apparently it was 11:24 a.m. Woop-de-doo.
He let out an exasperated moan, let his arm fall and slammed his head back against the building, wincing as the stone dug into the back of his head. What was his problem? Why was he the only one who couldn't use this bloody power without it trying to fry him alive?
You're not strong enough yet.
Everything he tried, it just kept digging into him. The more power he tried to draw, the more it threatened to take his life. He could feel it; each time he even thought about it, he could feel the air around him dancing with wicked, deadly bolts.
Get with the picture. You need a miracle
He only wanted to help. To do his part. To fight…
"Huh?" Aaron snapped out of his stupor and looked around. "Who's there?"
Nobody answered. The only sound was the wind, blowing through the abandoned building. There was nobody around.
His gaze fell upon the clocktower once again. It remained no less sinister, but there was something else about it. Something hidden within those walls.
He shook his head. Of course, that was impossible. The whole thing was solid; filled up and left to stand there forever. There was no way there'd be anything inside. But still…
He gingerly began to step towards it, eyes constantly focused on the broken clock-face. There was something attractive about this place; eerie, but inticing at the same time. He became vaguely aware of something moving in the background; a bell, perhaps? Maybe a chain.
All of a sudden he whirled round, and caught sight of a figure diving behind a building.
"You! What are you doing?"
He ran towards them, D-Nexus in hand and yelling as he turned the corner, before stopping in his tracks. "Grace?"
She held up her hands, "I'm sorry! I couldn't help it; it was…you know…"
Aaron relaxed. "What are you doing here? We agreed it wasn't safe here." He looked backwards, before shying away from the building. "Egh. I have to agree. This place is creepy."
Grace lowered her own hands. "It's more than that. Its-"
Aaron ignored her. "Where's Velocimon? Do you have any idea where he is?"
Grace shook her head. "We haven't seen him since he ran out after you." She pointed up at the tower. "You can't-"
"I can't what?"
The girl stepped back. "Nothing."
Aaron sighed. "Look, just ignore it. We've got bigger things to worry about right now. We should stay away."
"But it could be important."
"I've told you before Grace; it's too risky."
"Grace!" Aaron folded his arms, raising his voice slightly. "We talked about this before. Remember Pteramon?"
"Please don't bring him up."
The boy raised his hands. "I'm just saying you should be careful of what you jump into."
"Says you!" Grace stamped her foot. "You tell me to me careful when you're the one constantly jumping into fights?"
Aaron snapped. "You know, why don't you try actually fighting once in a while? You'd probably be better than me, and who knows, you might even do something useful for a change! Now, I don't care about this idiotic clocktower or whatever crazy theories you've got; I've got more important things to worry about, so do me a favour and leave me the hell alone. You're just making things worse! Now go home!"
Grace blinked, stunned. Aaron inhaled, ready to carry on, when it suddenly dawned on him what he'd just said. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
It was too late. Grace's face had already bunched up and tears were forming in her eyes. She ran away without a word, disappearing into the abandoned district.
Aaron screamed as he began writhing; punching the wall repeatedly until his knuckles grazed.
"What the HELL is WRONG with ME?"
He coruched down for a few seconds, clutching his head. Then his temper relaxed, and he stood up once again, breathing heavily. Then, head low and arms dangling uselessly, he began to walk once again.
Why not? It was as useful as anything else he'd done that day.
You utter screw-up.
"Can I help ya with anyfin'?"
What a pain, thought Velocimon, leaning against the wall and watching the citizens walk by. Even though he was on his own, many of them were still giving him dirty looks as they had the humans.
Humans. Velocimon grimaced. It was no doubt that they were wonderful people, but they could be sentimental idiots sometimes. They hadn't been here during the worst of it; they hadn't seen what he had, done what he'd done. There was never any room for risks. No uncertainties. No foolish bravado. Everything had to be planned, from the first move to the last, like an elaborate game of Risk.
He twitched in annoyance. His mind flashed back to the argument beforehand. "No wonder your army never won anything." He would've scoffed, but actually thinking about it…what had he accomplished before all of this? Sure, he'd won a few battles, but the resistance had been all but wiped out. That was why the humans had been called in the first place.
Strangely enough, he briefly remembered Pikamon. The chipper little guy would always stand by him, no matter what, and yet he seemed reckless and hyperactive. What would he have thought about this stupid little argument? The lizard smiled; he could just imagine him leaning over, rapping him round the head and whispering…
"'Scuse me sir, would ya shove off if yer not gonna buy anyfin'?"
Velocimon turned round, and caught sight of a very irate looking Pandamon; a saggy, worn looking fellow with a stitched-up scar through one discoloured eye. He was wielding a surprisingly large saw-blade and a chunk of what looked like breezeblock. Velocimon stood up quickly; he appeared to have been blocking the stall.
"Very sorry." Velocimon brushed himself down; he should have figured it out beforehand, since he was now covered in brick-dust.
"Yeah, well, you oughta look more of'en." The little bear rolled his eyes and went back to his stone, scraping the blade along it like he was trying to saw it in half. His eyes darted up, and noticed Velocimon still standing there.
"Got somefin' on yer mind?"
Velocimon exhaled. "It's complicated."
"Ah, spit. The worst 'fing." The Pandamon sliced off a piece of stone like it was a chunk of salami, put it to one side and began sawing again. "Yer with those humans, aren't ya?"
"Can't say I feel happy for ya. Or about anyfin' to do with those troublemakers." He sniffed. "Come to think of it, not sure I'm happy about anyfin' anymore."
"Good for you." Velocimon leaned against the counter, curious. "What's your problem with the humans?"
"That's good. They're here to help after all, even if they don't always get it right."
Pandamon dropped his blade. "And there's the problem. To be honest, I think this whole thing is bullshit." The little bear brushed off his hands, sending white dust everywhere, including into Velocimon's face. Obviously safety was no priority for this workman.
Still, he carried on. "I've heard so many stories of 'the Digimon who will save us all' or 'the final battle' or 'the last trick of the resistance' and it's all a load of crap. As long as this war's going on, there's no way we're gonna stop it. It's too late for that now."
Velocimon glared at him. "You know, we put an awful lot of work into trying to save the Digital World. You could at least show some support."
The toy was unfazed, simply carrying on as he had been. "What does it have to do with me?"
Velocimon folded his arms. "Well, it's keeping you alive, isn't it? Right now the war's out there and you're in here, and the Fire Forces won't get past the wall easily."
"They're already here."
Velocimon started. The teddy had stated it matter-of-factly, but all of a sudden the crowds seemed to be pressing in on him. He leaned in closer.
"How? I mean, I heard a couple of them breached but they were just random soldiers."
Pandamon stopped, and looked at the lizard with a tired expression. "Nofin's impenetrable."
"You're just being a conspiracy theorist. If a soldier got through here it would start attacking left, right and centre. The Homemade Army would stop it and that would be the end of it."
"Oh yeah?" Pandamon pointed his blade at the lizard. "Then explain all the Digimon who've been disappearin' recently?"
"Like my neighbour, for one." Pandmon looked left and right, before leaning in close.
"He went last night. Something about meeting someone, I don't know. It was by the clocktower; I told him not to go. I've seen things 'round there. Blue fire, glowing eyes; all sortsa bad stuff. Digimon dragged away in the middle of the night. But he went anyway. I 'aven't seen him since last night."
The bear backed down. "I don't know how. To be honest, 'til the day when they come knocking down my door, I'm not gonna ask. But they're here alright."
He backed away, cleaning his blade with a dirty cloth as he disappeared through a curtain in the back of the stall. Velocimon was left, suddenly feeling a lot more vulnerable.
It was impossible. The Fire soldiers were all but mindless, with a few exceptions. There was almost no chance that anybody would be able to hide one in the city.
Still…Almost no chance was still a chance.
He set off, heading towards the clocktower. He briefly thought about heading back, warning the others. Maybe telling his partner. But, thinking harder, this would probably just turn out to be a crazy rumour. He may as well verify it first. After all, he was a soldier. He could look after himself.
The late-afternoon sun bore down upon Aaron as he sat dejectedly against the wall. He was fully aware of the citizens looking at him now but he really didn't care. He'd stopped listening to the things they were mumbling about him long ago.
Today had been a disaster. He'd managed to anger his partner, send Grace off in tears, and still hadn't come any closer to figuring out what he should do. He dreaded to think what the others might do when he got back. He could just imagine Eloise ripping into him. "What the hell are you thinking? Don't be an idiot!"
It was alright for her. Everything seemed to go fine for her.
He sighed, glancing down at his D-Nexus that he'd tossed to the road beside him. As was expected, it was still humming blankly. "Stupid piece of metal."
He became vaguely aware of a shadow lying across him, but he didn't pay any attention until the owner raised a large metal gauntlet and coughed. Aaron looked up, and flinched when he noticed Fornaxmon's large, threatening body (still wearing that ridiculous apron) standing over him.
"I resemble that remark, you know," huffed the giant, standing perfectly still as Aaron scrabbled to his feet. "What are you doing here? Loitering is bad for business."
Aaron smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, I…forgot this was your place." (In truth he hadn't so much forgotten, as much as he still had no idea where anything was).
He made to move past the golem, but Fornaxmon didn't move, blocking the side entrance like some sort of statue. Aaron stood awkwardly, not sure what to say, but luckily the giant broke the silence. "What are you doing out here on your own? You don't look in the best of spirits?"
Aaron looked down. "Well, it hasn't been a great day to be honest."
He stopped, but the golem pried further. "Go on? What's not been so great about it?"
Aaron sighed, and bent down to pick up his D-Nexus. "Well, I'm supposed to lead a group of kids and our Digimon to save the Digital World, but I've managed to piss everyone off because I keep trying to control my element but instead it keeps trying to kill me."
He breathed. "You probably have no idea what I'm on about, but as I said. Not the best day. But there's not much I can do about it."
Fornaxmon raised a gauntlet to the gauze over his face (?) and let off a long, low hum. "I see…"
Aaron laughed. "You really understand all this?"
"Vaguely." Fornaxmon began to rock back and forth, as if considering something. "You can't be doing that badly. I heard you took out Cephalomon."
"Me? Hardly. I nearly got my partner killed, if that's what you mean."
"What do you mean?" Aaron held out the device, as if it might suddenly explain everything. "This...thing's somehow given me the ability to evolve. Everyone else who's tried it has managed to do it, but I can't. I just can't do it." Aaron's arm fell limp, and he stared at the ground. "Everyone's looking at me to be the leader, but how am I supposed to lead anyone when I can't even fight?"
The golem waited patiently for the boy to finish, tapping his foot. "You're quite the young warrior, aren't you?"
"Hardly. There's no way I'm going to be able to fight like this."
"True." Fornaxmon suddenly moved, holding out a hand. "Give me two seconds and I'll be with you."
Aaron watched in puzzlement as the giant entered his stall. He wandered round the front, poking his head through the metal arch. Fornaxmon had a wooden chest open and was busy depositing all his tools inside, whistling while he did so. Aaron peered in, looking around at the giant's handiwork. Like many vendors around here he seemed to make weapons, but these were unlike any of the makeshift crowbars and spears he'd seen around the city. Black, beaten and bulky, any of these would do serious damage. He was tempted to ask how much they cost.
"What are you doing?"
"Just closing up shop." The giant straightened up. "Can you turn around please?"
"Trade secrets. Just keeping them safe."
"Oh, fair enough." Aaron did so, before looking at his non-existant watch, then up at the broken clocktower, then finally just settling with the colour of the sky. "Why are you closing up? Isn't it a little early?"
"Business has been slow," said the giant matter-of-factly as he drew a great iron curtain over the window. A few seconds later he emerged from the stall, still wearing the apron and carrying a bag on a sling. He was rubbing his hands together, expelling some sort of black dust as he did so. "Besides, I had a feeling I'd be needed elsewhere. Come on; I'd like to show you something."
He walked ahead with a rattle and a clank. Puzzled, Aaron followed him.
They walked through the town centre with nary a word, until the shops petered out into houses, and then again into scrapheaps. Despite being far from the clocktower there was almost nobody around; just piles of machinery, metal and rock surrounding large, dusty courtyards.
Fornaxmon stopped in one and jettisoned his bag, wheezing slightly. Aaron caught up to him. "Is…this where you live?"
"In a manner of speaking." The golem raised a finger, "Truth be told I don't really need a home, but I watch over these places and make sure they stay in use now and again."
"In use?" Aaron looked around. "How do you mean? There's nothing here but junk."
Without any sense of urgency or purpose, Fornaxmon walked up to one of the piles and lazily swept his arm through it, as if looking for something. "Junk, you say? Well, it's very reliable junk. I should know. I probably made most of it."
Without warning he tossed something at Aaron's feet, before walking out into the centre of the courtyard. Aaron jumped back as the object came crashing down, before he picked it up. On closer inspection it wasn't junk. Most of it was made out of weapons; old cannons, siege engines, crossbows and handheld weapons by the hundred. Many of them were the same style as the ones he'd seen back at the shop, and the object before him now looked the same; a dark, slightly rusted baton with a pointed end and a leather-bound handle.
Suddenly, it dawned on him what the mechanical man was doing.
Outraged, Aaron dropped the baton and marched towards Fornaxmon, who was faced the other way. "Hey, what are you playing at? You can't expect me to fight you like this?"
Fornaxmon's head turned, but his body remained facing the other way as he fiddled with the straps on his apron. "Many Digimon were trained in hand-to-hand combat this way. I taught some of them myself. It has a great many uses."
"You can't seriously..."
"Why not? You said yourself you weren't able to fight. The way I see it you just need a little training."
"But I'm not a Digimon. I'm a human; you can't swing heavy things at humans! We break!"
"Really?" Fornaxmon chuckled, before finally jettisoning the insultingly pink garment and turning around to face his opponent.
With the apron on, Fornaxmon had looked faintly ridiculous, but now he showed an entirely different side. His chest was spherical, with plates bolted on and two great levers sticking out his back. Two more actuators stuck out the bottom, attached to two immense legs, and great spinning wheels stuck out of his shoulder blades. He took one step back and one step forward, before raising his hands.
Aaron stood there, stunned, before raising his own hands. "I can't fight you. Just look at me."
"You do have a weapon, you know."
Aaron gritted his teeth. "I didn't want to do this, but if I have to…" He took out his D-Nexus, following Fornaxmon's every movements. The tiny screen began to glow as he held it out.
"Last chance. Soul –"
The golem moved with the speed of a martial artist. One cupped hand suddenly slipped downwards, below the boy's outstretched arm. It struck, sending Aaron's arm up and the little device flying. Before Aaron knew what had happened, Fornaxmon was holding the D-Nexus.
"Well if you will make silly poses before you evolve what do you expect to happen?"
"Give it back!"
"Why?" Fornaxmon vented a little, turning the device delicately in his hand. "I thought it was just a stupid piece of metal?"
Before Aaron could stop him he opened a hatch in his body and dropped the D-Nexus inside it. "There. Now it's a fair fight."
"Are you going to pick up your weapon and face me, or do you need some more encouragement?"
Aaron pointed a shaking finger. "You are insane. I'm getting the others."
He took a step, but was suddenly blocked by Fornaxmon again. The giant raised his right hand, before cupping it in his left.
Aaron wasn't paying attention. "I mean it. I didn't come here to fight-"
With a loud pop, Fornaxmon's right hand came off, and he threw it away. From the stump on his outstretched arm there came a whirring. A spinning cog emerged, followed by a thick, dirty-silver cleaver. Aaron watched, mouth open but no sound coming out, as Fornaxmon raised his arm high.
Aaron started. With a cry of "Shit!" he ran, as the great blade slammed down into the ground. The resulting shockwave slammed into Aaron and knocked him forwards, thankfully landing near the baton he'd dropped earlier.
Without thinking he picked it up, turning to face Fornaxmon, before screaming as he saw the giant bearing down on him like an angry rugby player. He leapt to one side, instinctively swinging out with the baton as he did so, but the rod hit only air and the golem was bearing down on him again. The cleaver dragged against the dirt, leaving a great groove as it did so.
There was nowhere to run. With nothing left to do Aaron held up the baton, praying for his life, as the cleaver came round again.
There was a rush of air as Aaron felt the impact. His arms felt like they were going to be wrenched from his sockets, and everything went black.
It stayed black for a couple of seconds, before he finally twigged that he had to open his eyes. He was still standing there. He was still holding the baton. The baton was still in one piece, and Fornaxmon was still there, holding the cleaver in mid-strike.
Slowly, the giant lowered the blade, and fingered Aaron's shaking weapon. "Another tiny scratch won't do it any harm."
Aaron laughed, more out of hysteria than humour. "You scared me to death."
"Really, you honestly think I'm going to kill you?" Fornaxmon placed his left hand on his hip(?), tutting. "I'll have you know that I'm well practised at this. Trust me, you'll thank me later. Nothing like a fair hand-to-hand spar to teach you the basics of combat."
Aaron stared at the baton in his hands, before looking up at the giant and his oversized bladed hand. "I don't think you've quite grasped what the concept of 'fair' is."
The giant laughed; great, hearty chuckles that made his shoulders bounce. "That's what they all used to say. Still came back though."
"I'm sure." Aaron held out a hand. "Can I have my D-Nexus back please?"
"Heavens, no!" Fornaxmon shortened the cleaver slightly so it was only just as long as the baton, before raising it once again. "We still have to finish your lesson."
Aaron grinned, adjusting his grip on his own weapon.
"I figured as much."
Whatever the situation, Velocimon would always have sworn he would be the last to get worried. After all, worrying didn't help anything. Worrying was for citizens, not soldiers.
That said, he couldn't help but feel a twinge of unease as he walked through the quiet back alleys near the clocktower.
After a bit of casual research around the town, it appeared that there was indeed more to this place than met the eye. Digimon had been disappearing for a while now, and many of them had shown signs of becoming…obsessed? They talked of voices, calling them towards the tower.
Slightly anxious, but at the same time slightly bored, he stood before the megalith and looked up, as if he expected to see something different from before. At a closer look it seemed just the same. Completely smooth. No windows, no doors. Only a single clock face, both hands permanently pointed skywards. The whole thing reached up impossibly high into the sky, and there was no telling what was at the top from this angle. It may even have been hollow.
He folded his arms and tapped his foot. "Well, I'm waiting to be impressed."
Nobody answered. Velocimon sighed, and scratched his head. "I don't know why I'm even here. Heck, I don't even know why I'm here in this poxy city."
He had to admit, the place was grating on him. Everybody was hiding from the world outside. He felt powerless. He couldn't just out and declare an attack; that would just spell catastrophe. As long as he was here, all he could do was lay low. It drove him up the wall.
Still, at least it was safer than outside.
Good luck, General.
Velocimon jumped, and looked around. "Who's there?"
Nobody answered. The air was still, almost threatening. Velocimon could have sworn he'd heard a voice, but if he had it had been faint; difficult to make out.
The lizard glared up at the tower. Why couldn't there ever be a straight answer to everything. Almost certain that he'd wasted his time, he strode towards the tower, about to give it a good inspection.
All of a sudden his feathers bristled. He threw himself to the ground as something large, heavy and noisy flew over his head. He scrambled back, guns glowing, as the chain retracted to its owner. He got to his knees, pointing both arms at the place the chain had come from, but his mouth opened in shock.
"It can't be…"
Two glowing red eyes proved him wrong, as the creature in the alley thrust a heavily muscled arm forward, sending the chain flying towards him. He dodged again, but the creature anticipated his move, swinging its arm to the left. The chain caught Velocimon and sent him spinning, crashing into a derelict wall.
The lizard got to his feet and ran. The heavy footsteps behind him confirmed that he was being pursued.
While his partner was running for his life, Aaron was running as well, in order to escape another oncoming assault from his armoured adversary. He threw himself to one side as Fornaxmon steamed past, but he landed awkwardly and stumbled. Fornaxmon saw his chance and swung, but Aaron raised the baton to block it once again. The weapons collided again, but Aaron was able to hold his ground, and actually managed to get a strike back, the dark metal clanging against his opponent's armour plate. Fornaxmon chuckled, and retreated once again.
Aaron stood, breathing heavily and holding the baton in both hands, as he watched his opponent make his move. The golem was far more skilled than he'd previously let on. Aaron could tell he was holding back, but it wasn't out of hesitation. He was gauging every attack just right; not too little, and more importantly, not too much.
"I have just one question," asked the boy in between breaths, circling Fornaxmon himself.
Fornaxmon turned his head slightly. "In your own time. Pay attention though."
"Why are you doing this? What are you trying to show me?"
Without warning Fornaxmon rushed forward again, but Aaron easily caught his strike and the two stood, deadlocked, neither backing down. The giant chuckled, "What do you think?"
Aaron tilted his weapon up, but Fornaxmon just pressed harder, forcing him to take a couple of steps back. Despite himself, the boy smiled. Every move he made was being countered, and yet he was countering right back. It was a cycle. Action and reaction. A battle of wits as opposed to a battle of power.
"But this…" said Aaron, stepping to the side quite suddenly as the mechanical man's blade flew downwards, "…this is different to my Soul form. How am I supposed to control that?"
Fornaxmon lunged, causing Aaron to jump back once again. "I can't tell you that. Think about it; as a warrior, and as a leader, and as a friend, what is it you need to do?"
Aaron lunged himself, locking blades with Fornaxmon again. "I don't know. I-"
He stopped. Amidst the clanking and grinding and sparks flying, he could hear a familiar buzzing. It came from a compartment in the giant's torso; the one where he'd stashed the D-Nexus. It was faint, but it was definitely there.
Aaron started. "Velocimon…he must be in trouble." He jumped back as Fornaxmon knocked his weapon away and swiped. "Stop! My partner, I need to help him."
"Stand your ground, Aaron."
"I said enough!" Aaron stepped back again, and held out a hand. "I need my D-Nexus, now."
Fornaxmon said nothing, but stepped towards him once more. Aaron raised the baton, gritting his teeth. "I don't have time for this! Give it back!"
"And what difference do you think you're going to make?" shouted Fornaxmon, catching Aaron off guard. There was anger in the goliath's voice as he swung again and again. "You said it yourself. You lose control. You can't help him as you stand. Tell me now; what do you need to do?"
Aaron dodged, before charging in towards the metal man. He stared daggers straight into the gauze. ""What do you think you're doing?"
"Answer me Aaron!"
"No." Aaron leapt, reaching for the compartment, but Fornaxmon simply swatted him away. Aaron coughed, before getting to his feet once again. Without warning he tried to make a run for it, heading for the city, but Fornaxmon was too fast for him, cutting him off and sending him to the ground once again. The boy swallowed dust, and balled his hands, before reaching for the baton and standing once again. His eyes seemed to be dancing with electricity. "You don't understand. This isn't to do with me; this is my partner. He needs my help, and I need to be there for him. Even if I need to take you apart to do so."
Fornaxmon lowered his head. "So be it."
As the chain flew past his head once again, Velocimon swore and skidded along the ground. He was ducking and diving in between all the derelict buildings, but he knew that he couldn't evade this creature for long.
He heard footsteps pounding towards him and leapt out of the way as the behemoth burst through the wall like paper, trailing blue flames behind it. It turned to face the dinosaur, red eyes focusing down.
Velocimon knew what it was, of course. He'd seen them before. Relentless. Brutal. Unstoppable. This was a SkullMeramon, and in many ways, it was the perfect hitman. Standing at least ten feet tall, with a body built like a tank, it wore black leather biker trousers emblazoned with fire and great boots sporting death's heads. At least, that's what it had worn once, but the trousers were in tatters and the boots were worn and scuffed.
Wrapped around the rest of its body were the great flaming chains, burning with some of the hottest fire in the Digital World. Its entire torso was ablaze, including its head, and its face was concealed by an impassive metal mask, showing only its pinpoint red eyes.
Velocimon backed away, shaking his head, as, lazily and silently, the creature began to spin its chains once again, forming blue arcs in the air. It wasn't supposed to be here. These were creatures without will. There was no way it could have hidden here for so long. Someone would have discovered it, warned the Homemade Army, and disposed of it.
His questions were cut short as the chain struck his feet, causing him to yell. "Damnit!" Raising his arms he let off another volley of sparks, but they simply bounced off his opponent's chest. Velocimon looked around; chains were closing in from every direction. The only way was up. With surprising athleticism he took a leap, bouncing off a nearby wall until he was on the roof. He breathed a sigh of relief, but was suddenly caught by a blast of blue fire from the creature's maw. He rolled, his feathers slightly singed.
"Aaron, where the hell are you?"
The dinosaur leapt from rooftop to rooftop, watching out of the corner of his eye as the blue giant pursued on the ground, easily keeping pace. Velocimon gritted his teeth. If only he could evolve, then he might stand a chance. If only Aaron wasn't so stubborn.
"No." He shook his head; this was his own fault. He'd come here of his own accord, and it was up to him to fix it. With a falcon's eye he scanned all around him, stumbling slightly as one of the burning chains struck his foot.
They were still near the clocktower, so no citizens were nearby. As long as he stayed here, there was nobody nearby to help him. He had no idea where Aaron was either. He was running out of rooftops. The only way to escape this thing was through the city, but there was no telling how much damage it would cause. Still, he couldn't see any other way. He had to risk it.
Without warning he jumped, aiming for a taller tower and grabbing on tightly. Loops of chain spiralled towards him, but he ducked out of the way, before firing back again.
"Come on, you overgrown blowtorch, bring it!"
SkullMeramon obliged, letting loose a roaring flame that shook the building to its core.
The blast had done what it needed to. Throughout the city centre, citizens turned to see the blast. Eyes widened. Jaws dropped open. The closer citizens began to run, shouting out a warning.
"A Fire soldier! It's in the city!"
"Everybody get out!"
"Calm down!" Quick as a whippet, Babamon was already in on the scene, flanked by a dozen members of the Homemade Army. Two more ran up to her; they'd already scouted ahead to see Velocimon tussling with the giant. "It's a SkullMeramon. We don't know how, but-"
She silenced him with a palm. "Thanks, and don't worry. That's all I needed to know." She tapped her broom with two resounding knocks, catching everyone's attention.
"Everybody, leave your belongings and move quickly but calmly to the south district; my colleague Andromon will be there. Just get out of here as quickly as you can. Now go."
Some were reluctant, and many were terrified, but the streets were cleared in a matter of minutes. Meanwhile Babamon ducked inside an alley, shaking her head. "Figures things like this would start happening. This doesn't bode well."
She held out her hand, summoning up the magic tag she'd placed on her lodgers when they'd first arrived.
"Aaron, where are you? We need your help, there's been a breach."
There was no answer. She shook her hand again, as if it was getting bad reception.
Aaron could feel the light glowing on his hand, but he was too busy dodging Fornaxmon's attacks again and again. The giant was relentless, his reach far outreaching the boys and to great effect. Aaron cursed as he was thrown to the floor once again.
Fornaxmon stood over him, almost triumphant. "There's a way you can bring all this to an end, you know."
"You're insane," said Aaron, weakly getting to his feet once again. "My partner could die if I don't go and help him. This game is pointless. You have no idea what you're doing but it will end horribly if you don't give me my D-Nexus."
He threw himself forward again, but the goliath smacked him down. Aaron lay on the ground, breathing heavily, as the monster stood over him.
"It will end horribly for you if I do. So tell me…" Here he knelt down, laying his blade on the dusty ground. Aaron could hear the wheels and pistons whirring within his spherical body.
"Tell me Aaron, what are you going to do?"
Aaron stared at him for what felt like an hour. Then, slowly, the boy got to his feet, reached out, and dropped the baton on the ground.
"You know what? I don't know. Ever since I got here, I've never known what to do. I just decide on what's the best option at the time. It's not always right. But I do what I have to. I keep going." He glared up at the mechanical man. "I can see that's not going to work. It never works."
Fornaxmon nodded. "So what are you going to do?"
Aaron threw his hands up, "How should I know?"
"So you're giving up?"
"Then what?" Fornaxmon stared the boy down, his visor glowing intensely.
Aaron sighed. "Take a step back. Try something else."
As the boy stared at the golem, he thought he could see a glimmer of something in the glowing visor. He wasn't sure what, but the giant suddenly lowered his arm, the blade retracting back inside. His other hand went to the hatch in his body, opening it and bringing out the small yellow device.
"Show me, Aaron. It's your turn. Show me what it means to be a leader."
With one, simple movement he tossed the device over to the boy, who caught it, immediately bringing it up to his face.
"Velocimon, I'm here."
There was a pause, and then...
"Aaron, where the hell are you?"
Aaron smiled with relief, before running off, shouting "Where are you?"
Fornaxmon watched the boy run off. Calmly, he wandered over to where his detachable hand lay, before following where Aaron had gone.
"Watch out, Aaron, I'm bringing the cavalry to you."
Halfway through one of the junkyards, Aaron stopped mid step as he witnessed Velocimon; burnt, bedraggled but alive, running towards him. The lizard was currently being pursued by the SkullMeramon, trailing burning chains behind. Following that was an assorted squadron of Digimon, all bearing the same green stripe. They were trying to take the behemoth down, but it was no use. They could barely get near it.
Velocimon ran past Aaron, who ducked as SkullMeramon clattered past as well. Velocimon yelled over angrily, "I could have used your help, you know."
"Well, I was a little tied up. But I'm not now."
"Well, just…don't worry me like that." The dinosaur looked away sheepishly, before narrowly dodging a swipe from the phantom. "I need you."
Aaron held the little device, which began to glow. Velocimon closed his eyes, readying himself. "Aaron, do you want to take this thing together?"
SkullMeramon swung his chains in front of them, burning brighter than before. Aaron nodded.
"Primal Control! Soul Control! Evolution Activate!"
The glow intensified as both Aaron and Velocimon were enveloped in electric energy, invigorating their bodies with new power. The members of the Homemade army watched in awe, exhausted from their own pursuit. Further back still, Fornaxmon watched, arms folded. It was now or never.
Boy and dinosaur changed shape, and within seconds two fully transformed warriors stood in front of the ghost rider.
The chain came crashing down as the two split, circling their oversized opponent. Galvamon called over, "Watch this guy. Don't touch him; he's hot."
Kuaramon's eyes darted over the blue flaming giant. "Thanks, I'd never have guessed."
"Just attack him already."
"Just a moment."
Aaron stopped, scanning his opponent. It was true; he'd never get close to this thing, and it would easily knock away any attack he tried to throw. In the back of his mind the little bolts were trying to coax him on. Go on. Take it down. You can handle this.
He shook his head. "No. Not this time. We handle this together."
"Strike Thunder!" Galvamon flipped forward and released two high-powered bolts into SkullMeramon's chest. The giant stepped back, but simply retaliated with a stream of blue fire. Galvamon leapt out of the way as the fire hit the heap of metal behind him, soldering several scrap weapons into a twisted black sculpture.
Galvamon held both blades out, growling "Any time now, Aaron!" SkullMeramon was already advancing, thrusting his chains towards the lizard.
Flail met chain, and SkullMeramon's movements were suddenly halted. The giant turned round, but Kuaramon was already on the move again, wrapping the other flail around SkullMeramon's neck. He lowered his head, and the bindings glowed white hot, tightening their grip. It seemed as if the behemoth couldn't even feel them, but they stopped its movement temporarily, which was exactly what Kuaramon had intended. He dug both feet in and drove backwards with both wheels, keeping the snare as tight as he possibly could.
"Galvamon, go! Aim for the head!"
Galvamon needed no encouragement; he sprung in the air, his own blades glowing as he aimed them downwards. This was going to hurt, no matter what he did.
Planting both feet on the phantom's chest, he stuck one blade in each eye of its mask and fired. There was an almighty crackling as SkullMeramon jerked, its metal bindings causing it agony. However Galvamon could only hold the attack for a few seconds before his feet became unbearably hot. He leapt away, dancing in the dust.
Like some relentless zombie, SkullMeramon readjusted itself, and took a shaky step forward. Both of its eye-holes were smoking, but apart from that it was unmarked. It raised an arm and thrust it forward, sending Kuaramon spinning away. Galvamon barely even saw the fist coming before it struck him in the face, sending him sprawling.
Still the giant said nothing. It simply let the chains rise again, before all striking the downed dinosaur at once. He scrambled to get out of the way, but he was badly burned. Some way away, Kuaramon got to his feet, staring at the brawl before him. He raised his hand; he knew he could take this guy out in one shot. He'd done it before. He'd fought off Martyaxmon, along with waves of Fire soldiers.
He clenched his fist. No. That was dicing with death; it always had been. There had to be another way.
He glanced over at Fornaxmon, who was still watching him intently. Within his armoured form, Aaron almost laughed. There was no way he could have defeated the golem. There never was. And yet he'd kept throwing himself at it again and again.
Fornaxmon nodded, saying something that the boy couldn't hear. "Don't be afraid."
Another way. Try something else. Take a step back.
Kuaramon focused, his armour dissipating from around him. The energy swirled around and reformed as the D-Nexus in his hand. He heard a cry, and looked up as SkullMeramon held his partner's head in a vice grip, his oversized hands slowly twisting. Despite his greatest efforts, the lizard couldn't stop it. It was too late.
Bruised and beaten, yet more determined than ever, Aaron thrust his arm forward, the little device glowing more than it ever had before. "This one's down to you, partner."
Galvamon's eyes opened wide as he heard the words, and he grinned. With the last of his strength he pushed back against the arms around him, just before the full power of the element of Electricity hit him. His body practically dissolved, turning into static that repelled even the flaming titan. The onlookers gasped as the static shape swelled in size, growling like a savage beast as it did so. The energy expanded, took form and solidified, before dispersing as quickly as it had come.
While not quite as huge as Cyclomon or Tectonamon, the new Digimon was still monstrously large, and it stood on all fours, its bulk immense. Its legs splayed out, each one bearing feathers similar to its predecessors. The Digimon's head, shoulders, back and feet were all armour-plated, with spikes and golden fins, as well as several blinking lights. Wires trailed down its legs and into its head, and its lower jaw was serrated metal. Adorning its body was a multitude of elaborate weaponry; snipers, lasers, rapid-fire cannons, a huge spiked cannon on the end of its tail and an even bigger serrated sail on its back, glowing a faint yellow and humming.
With a thunderous roar, the new improved warrior threw its head backwards and stamped at the ground.
SkullMeramon wasted no time; with an unearthly moan it flung its arms forward, wrapping the primal reptile in chains. But Dimetromon was having none of it; for far too long he'd been out of action. Unexpectedly, he ran forward towards the phantom, barrelling into it with the force of a speeding lorry. It was knocked off its feet as Dimetromon spun round, still calculating every move. Aaron nodded in satisfaction; still the same old Velocimon.
Dimetromon began to charge again, but the phantom wasn't stupid. Getting to its knees it placed a hand on each shoulder and held the dinosaur, preventing it from moving anywhere. The watching crowd gasped, but Dimetromon was having none of it. "You think your strength is going to help you now?"
As he spoke, the many cannons and barrels along his body began to glow, letting off an electronic whistle, while the great sail on his back began to spin. Slowly at first, but it got fast and faster, until it was whizzing round like a great glowing sawblade.
SkullMeramon didn't even have time to move before hundreds of rapid-fire bolts slammed into it, flinging it backwards. It groaned, bringing its arms in front of its face, but the barrage kept coming and it was forced back. The chains it commanded wrapped around it in a vain attempt for protection.
Dimetromon humphed. "Another puppet. Another ploy by the Fire Kingdom to take us down."
Sail still spinning, he shifted his massive tail until it hung over his back, before lowering it down. The outer rim of the sail stopped instantly, the momentum instead shifting to the rings making up the tail cannon. Within seconds it was spinning at an unstoppable rate, bolts of static electricity flying out every which way.
"Last chance. Will you submit?"
The great chained phantom had no answer. Either that or it had no free will of its own. At any rate, it got to its feet and let out an incredible blast of blue fire, heading straight towards Dimetromon.
Dimetromon lowered his head and fired a single, devastating yellow beam. The oncoming fire was extinguished in a flash, and the attack hit SkullMeramon. The phantom was incinerated, its mask and chains ripped away in twisted coils. Dimetromon kept firing, until Aaron raised his hand.
"Hold it, Velocimon. That's enough."
He walked towards his partner turned death machine as the cannons stopped spinning and the sail stopped whistling. They both looked over at SkullMeramon; the only things remaining were a couple of old, scuffed biker boots, slowly dissolving into data.
"Well, that certainly made a difference. Although you did take out quite a bit of the courtyard."
Dimetromon rolled his eyes. "What would you have preferred? A showdown in the middle of town?"
Aaron smiled, and patted the dinosaur on the neck. Dimetromon recoiled slightly, his normally deep yellow scales going a touch of red. But he relented.
"You did good, Velocimon."
The giant dissolved, energy pouring back into the D-Nexus until only Velocimon stood there once again. He looked up at his partner with admiration, just as he had that first night. "So did you, partner."
Behind them, a small applause started up as the Homemade Army began to cheer. Some of the onlookers slinked away, looking deeply disgusted, but they were ignored. Fornaxmon clapped along with the rest, chuckling to himself.
For the umpteenth time that day, Aaron stood leaning against the outside wall, although this time it was more because he was exhausted than anything else. The cleanup after the attack had gone smoothly, although it turned out there had been a couple of casualties after all. Still, the city would no longer be threatened by SkullMeramon.
"You've gone far today, boy."
Aaron turned as the mechanical man walked up to him, carrying his belongings once again. He nodded. "No small thanks to you."
Fornaxmon chuckled. "It was my pleasure. I have faith in you."
"Sorry for, you know, calling you insane and all that." Aaron looked away sheepishly. "Although if you just wanted me to take a step back, you could have just told me."
"And would you have listened?"
Aaron mulled it over. "Probably not. But still, I think you gave me bruises."
"My apologies. But, that's life nowadays." He sighed, looking up to the stars. "It takes a true warrior to keep going, no matter what. But it takes a true leader to know when to stop."
Aaron looked bemused for a moment, before blurting out the question on his mind. "Who are you, really?"
"Me?" Fornaxmon thought for a second. "I'm just a blacksmith. Hopefully, that's all I'll ever be."
He shrugged, and walked past, package jangling in his arms. "Do come see me if you ever want to spar again. Who knows, you may even knock me down one day."
The golem turned the corner and disappeared. Aaron could still hear him laughing into the night. He smiled, intrigued, before heading back to Babamon's house.
The sun had already dipped low over the horizon as the great city was lowered into the ground once again. The great metal roof closed up, blocking out the outside world, and hopefully the waiting claws of the Fire Kingdom.
Inside the house, the tamers and their partners were chatting once again, mostly about Velocimon's new evolution.
Eloise folded her arms. "At last. I'm just glad somebody remembered that our partners can evolve as well as us." She pointed at Aaron. "You do not run off again, got it?"
Aaron grinned. "I don't see what you're so upset about. You evolved only last week, remember?"
Eloise shrunk back, going red. "I try not to."
Kent nudged her. "Ah, lighten up. Everything turned out well in the end, didn't it?"
"Nearly everything." Aaron glanced over at Grace, who avoided his gaze. He sighed, "Look, I'm sorry for being such a dick to everyone over the past few weeks. This whole business just got to me."
Velocimon coughed. "It got to all of us."
Babamon sat cross-legged against the wall, listening in. "Well, I have to say you did well. Especially you, Velocimon. There could have been much more damage than there was." She frowned. "Although it does concern me."
"Yeah." Perimon looked over at the dinosaur, who seemed deep in thought. "How exactly did such a powerful soldier get into Silicon City in the first place?"
Kent nodded. "Or alternatively, who let it in?"
Babamon shook her head. "It shouldn't be possible. Not unless there's something going on that none of us are aware of."
"Well, that's the thing." Velocimon shuffled forward and relayed his experience at the clocktower. "I don't think it was an accident. I have a feeling that it was put there to silence people."
"Indeed." The dinosaur looked over at Grace. "You said you thought there was something funny about that place. You may be right. I don't know, but it feels like something could be playing the entire city for fools."
Grace looked decidedly scared, while Jack listened with interest. "Who do you think it is?"
"I don't know. And I don't know how they do it, but they seem to have an unbelievably wide influence."
Aaron thought for a little bit. "We'll need to look further into it. Everyone, find out as much as you can, but stay away from the tower itself. I've got a bad feeling about that place."
Everybody nodded earnestly. After the earlier fiasco they wanted nothing more to do with it.
The conversation had carried on into the night, but Grace had retired early, excusing herself from the group. She hurried to the bedroom and closed the door, before staring out the window. Even in the dim artificial light, she could see the clocktower bearing down upon the city. No longer guarded. No longer bound.
Alone I see.
"Leave me alone!" whispered Grace aggressively. "I don't want anything to do with you!"
Come on, be a sport. I just want to get to know you better.
Grace clamped her hands over her ears, looking around the room. "Where are you? Who are you?"
I'm somebody who's been here for a very long time. I've been watching this city since before the war began. I know the secrets. I know the plots. I know you're here for a reason. I know all about the darkness that awaits you. All of you…
There was silence for a couple of seconds.
Too bad you don't have the power to do anything about it.
Out of all six of you, you're useless. Your partner is weak, and you're too scared to fight.
"I said shut up!"
How can you protect them?
How can you protect him?
Grace threw herself down in her little corner of the room, covering herself with blankets as the voice grew louder, devolving into manic singsong laughter. Your fault. She squeezed her eyes shut, pressing the blankets further against her ears. It's all your fault. She began to shake, trying to expel the voice from her head.
You're a failure and it's all your fault.
The door opened, and Grace jumped. She remained facing the wall as the canine form of her partner slowly padded in, eyeing her with a concerned expression. "Are you okay? You've been very quiet all evening."
Grace swallowed. "I'm…I'm fine, Vulpimon. Thanks."
Vulpimon smiled weakly, and curled up beside her, snuggling up to her partner. Grace stroked her, running her hands through her red fur.
"You're shaking." Vulpimon raised her head. "Something's wrong. Please, tell me, what is it? What's gotten you so scared?"
Grace didn't respond. Instead she simply lay down and curled up once again, clutching her necklace. Vulpimon watched her for a little while, before laying down herself.
It wasn't long before both of them had drifted into troubled sleep.