Babamon stood upon her doorstep as the shadowed figures shuffled about in front of her, forming the shapes of Digimon illuminated by flashing lights and glinting metal. She frowned, the incessant mumbling burrowing into her ears. Change. Exile. Revolution. It was nothing new, of course. She'd heard the words and she'd encountered the same feelings before; hell, she'd been part of a mob herself a few times. But, she kept telling herself, things were different now. They could not afford to lose focus. They could not afford to lose the children.
She raised her broom, her expression stern. "Don't think you can just run me out. Just go home, and everythin' will be fine. This is my home; if you don't leave, I'll make you."
A couple of the shadows faltered, backing away just a little, but many of them still jostled about roughly, their eyes glowing in the dim light. One of them shouted out, "It's the humans you should be kicking out!"
There was the flash of a laser, and another voice piped up. "Yeah! They cause nothing but destruction."
"We don't need them 'round here!"
"Take charge, Babamon. We believe in you."
"Be our king!"
Babamon gripped her broom tightly, and raised it higher. "I'm warnin' you!"
There was a sudden bang, and she ducked as a ball of metal flew past her head, embedding itself in her floor. She cursed, before bringing her broom down with a cry of "Empress Haze!"
Highly contained though it was, the acrid mist still billowed out, and the vandals scarpered as soon as they had come. Babamon closed her door in silence, before leaning her broom in its usual place and examining the damage. A clock gently ticked in the background as she walked around the cannonball, debating whether to prise it out now, or wait until later. She decided to wait; the best thing she could do was be there for the children and their partners, all of whom were asleep in their respective rooms. She knew they knew what was going on, but she had insisted that they stayed out of it. They had bigger things to worry about than the vandals.
She let out a sigh, and placed herself down in a chair, sipping green tea from a chipped mug. Very rarely did she ever yearn for a good drink, but right now it was the only thing keeping her focused.
The mist would clear soon. When it came, the vandals would return. They were chaotic, they were weak, but they were far more numerous than they had first seemed, almost as if someone had been rallying them. Getting into their heads. Giving them ideas.
Babamon swallowed, and gripped the side of the chair tightly. It wouldn't be too much longer before they got inside.
Aaron twisted under his thin covers as he tried to sleep, trying to ignore the commotion outside. But as much as those outside hollered and yelled, he was kept awake solely by his own mind. He tossed and turned, but as much as he tried the question wouldn't leave his head.
What was he going to do?
His mind fell back to earlier that day. The sun had been out, the streets had been quiet, and Fornaxmon had been more than willing for a quick sparring match...
As boy and robot let out their stress in the old scrapyard, Aaron felt the question nagging at him then. He ran forward, and Fornaxmon swerved to the side and stuck out a cheeky metal foot. Aaron stumbled, and the blacksmith laughed. "It's all very well you looking at my face, but you do need to look at your own feet as well."
Aaron stood up, and brushed himself down. "Sorry. It's...I'm not that focused today."
He waited a second for the old warrior to buy it, before leaping up and striking again. Fornaxmon stepped back, before wrenching Aaron's baton away once again. He nodded. "Good try. Nice thought, although the execution was a little lacking." He held up a hand and lowered his own blunt blade, giving them both a chance to rest. Aaron sat down, and Fornaxmon joined him, leaning back against the dry dust. "I sense you weren't completely lying. What's on your mind?"
Aaron shrugged. "I guess it's not really your problem. You have your own things to worry about."
Fornaxmon shrugged. "I already skip out on earning money cause I like you, boy. Seriously, whatever it is I'm willing to listen."
Aaron sighed, looking down at his hands. He gently moved his finger back and forth in time with the regular heartbeat that marched through his ears, mingling with the distant sounds of angry citizens, and clashing with the ticking of a clock somewhere close by.
Beside him, the old knight waited patiently as Aaron opened and closed his mouth, looking for the right words. "What do you think I should be doing here?"
"What do you mean?"
Aaron looked up. "We've been here for a couple of weeks now, and we're still no closer to being ready. That's what Karatenmon sent us here for; to train up and prepare to take on the Fire Kingdom. But look at us; heck, look at me. We're nowhere close." His head lolled low again, and he gave a small, sarcastic chuckle. "He'd be so pissed off with me right now."
Fornaxmon swivelled his head and looked straight ahead. "I wouldn't say that; you've been improving these past few days. You've managed to last at least twenty seconds without falling over."
Aaron smiled, but his eyes remained low. "It's not just me. As a group, we've drifted apart. Those of us who are willing to fight aren't strong enough, those of us who have the power are too frightened, and the strongest of us left ages ago. We only won against Cephalomon by utter luck, and every one of us knows it. It's getting worrying." He looked away, ashamed. "I haven't spoken to Grace for a while. Ever since I called her useless. She still won't say what happened to her two days ago, and Jack swears he doesn't know."
He leant back, kneading his fingers against the soft dust. "The longer we stay he the more damaged we'll get, and the harder it'll be when…when we have to face them." He cringed, his body moving instinctively as he thought about them.
"I'm scared, Fornaxmon. I'm scared and I don't know what to do."
Fornaxmon looked distant for a couple of seconds. Then he placed his non-bladed hand on one knee. "You say you're scared; I'm sure you are, but still, but you want to go now, don't you? You want to face your enemies head-on. That sounds like a noble decision."
Aaron shook his head. "I don't know. Noble or not, if I make the wrong decision, I could get us all killed. Then what?"
The blacksmith twisted his head slightly, letting off a small jet of steam. "There's no such thing as the wrong decision. There's only the decision. Once you've made it, you must deal with the consequences. Continue fighting as if the last decision you made was the right one. Don't you remember SkullMeramon, and your partner's evolution? That turned out well, didn't it?"
Fornaxmon raised a hand. "You're asking me like I know the best choice. I don't. I never have. This is up to you."
He stood up, shaking the dust off his blade. "We've been here a while. I should be getting back; I might be getting customers soon."
Aaron nodded. Fornaxmon walked over and picked up his hand from the floor, retracting his blade and clipping the appendage back on. He flexed it a couple of times, before turning back to the boy.
"You can never truly be prepared. Just do what you think is best."
He walked away, as Aaron clenched his fists.
Beside his partner, Velocimon lay perfectly still. Much like Aaron, he wasn't asleep, too much running through his mind, ticking round with the regularity of a clock beat.
He'd been searching. Every hour, every day for the past couple of weeks. Ever since SkullMeramon. He'd found nothing. Citizens would no longer talk to him. Gangs had begun to chase him away. Any hint of something dangerous within the city walls and he'd immediately get the blame.
His brow furrowed angrily. Why couldn't they understand? A Fire soldier, and a powerful one at that, had been running loose in the city. Nobody had discovered it; well, those that had had been dispatched long before. It couldn't have scaled the walls, or just waltzed in through the doors.
He didn't want to be here. Every moment that he spent here made him more anxious to get to the Infernal Fortress. They were needed elsewhere, and yet…Velocimon felt a nauseating hole in the pit of his stomach.
Something was going on here. Something big, and the Fire Kingdom were in on it. He was determined to find out what.
And more importantly, whom.
In one room, Kent slept lightly, Trilomon curled up next to him. In another, Eloise did the same, her own partner lodged up in the rafters. They too had confronted one another earlier that day…
It was midday, and Kent found Eloise sitting at the table, idly flicking through her D-Nexus. Her partner hung lazily above her, eyes closed in meditation. Gingerly, Kent sat down, his partner doing the same beside him. Eloise's eyes darted up, as she stopped on an image of Mandrimon, gently flickering before her.
Kent nodded. "We've definitely seen a few, haven't we."
Eloise gently brushed her finger against the spherical button. The image shifted; to Mosquimon; to Pteramon; to Martyaxmon; to Garudamon. She sighed and knocked the device to one side. "I barely check it any more. It's usually quite depressing."
Trilomon rested his claws on the wood, looking over at her. "Cheer up. We're still here."
"I know." Eloise sighed. "I just wish there was a way to avoid all this. All this fighting. But it seems like we don't have a choice."
Kent tapped the table a little, matching the clock rhythm that rang in his ears. "It seems that way. But at least we have a way to defend ourselves."
Eloise looked up, almost hurt. "Must you see everything as a game of survival?"
"I'm sorry." Kent faltered, before carrying on. "I'm just saying…when it comes down to it…"
"Just stop, okay?" Eloise sighed, and looked ahead into nothing. "I don't want to think about it. It scares me."
Kent stared at her for a few seconds. "Do you mean your Soul form?"
The girl chuckled. "Is it that obvious?" Her smiled faded and her eyes fell down to her D-Nexus once again. "I've been thinking about it, but I can't bring myself to do it again. It was like…the power I was wielding could wipe out half the city, and yet it felt like holding a pencil. It can't be that easy. It shouldn't be; hell, it hasn't been. It just doesn't feel right."
"You were so controlled, Eloise." Kent looked down. "If you could just become comfortable with it you could protect everyone effortlessly."
Eloise looked at him. "What about you? Not to palm off responsibility, but you could do it. You're comfortable with it."
Kent looked down. "Yeah, but I'm holding back without knowing it. I don't have the power of the rest of you, and I sure as hell can't shoot straight, no matter how hard I practice." He smiled at his partner. "That doesn't mean we haven't been trying though."
Trilomon chuckled, and Eloise smiled. They seemed to get along so well now, where they had once been the most separated of any of them. She closed her eyes. "I'm sure you'll get better." She stood up, awakening her partner and heading for her room.
"As for me, I hope I never have to use it again."
In his room, Jack lay curled in a ball, staring straight ahead as the clock thumped out its regular melody around the room.
They'd asked him. All of them, and he'd tried so hard to remember. But his mind had been clouded by a blue-black smog, taking out any memory after he'd run after his sister. Only she knew the full story, and she wasn't telling anyone. Typical. He'd seen something important, of that he was sure, and yet he'd just let it slip away.
That was just like him; useless to the end.
He closed his eyes, trying desperately to grasp the comfort of sleep, but the same visions kept swirling around his head. He flinched, and curled up tighter, mumbling something in a voice fainter than the morning chill.
"What's wrong with you?"
Vulpimon snapped awake with a yell, and sat there for a few moments, breathing heavily. Every time she closed her eyes she felt Grace's harsh words digging into her. Her partner had apologized afterwards, but Vulpimon had sensed something. Something clawing away at the girl. Something she was hiding. Again.
The fox gritted her teeth, and got to her feet. It drove her insane. On the one hand, her partner was becoming increasingly reckless, so much so that it was getting her into trouble. On the other hand, Vulpimon could see the pain on the girl's face every time she glimpsed her; feel her partner's anger coursing through her.
All the while, she felt her own anger as well. Her own weakness, as she tried to keep up and fight with the rest but kept falling. Never able to take it all the way. Back then, when she was still royalty she could have marched through her adversaries with a flick of her wrist. Now, she could barely even slow them down. All she craved was the power to make a difference. To prove herself. To her friends. To her family. To Grace.
She looked over at her partner; the rough blankets strewn everywhere, forming a dark shape on the floor. Gently, so as not to wake the girl, she walked over and looked down. The shape seemed different somehow. Flat. Unorganised. Almost…empty.
With a sickening feeling, Vulpimon turned to the window. A cool breeze blew in, buffeting the flimsy structure back and forth, creaking all the way. Vulpimon ran over and put her paws on the windowsill, her eyes wide as she stared up and down the street.
Grace, unlike the people she'd grown close to over the past month or so, was not asleep.
A wind picked up and she clutched her arms, shivering from the cold. Her free, unbound hair whipped and fell, but she ignored it, staring instead at the timepiece towering above her. Forbidding, aloof and terrifying, but it remained stubbornly dead as ever. No lights. No windows. No noise. Even the clock remained firmly at a bit before midnight.
The girl gritted her teeth, and fingered the flash drive, which was held on a string around her neck so she wouldn't lose it. It was warm and seemed to be pulsating slightly, with the regularity of a clock beat.
Grace rubbed her eyes and looked up again. The clock remained still. Unmoving.
Yet the incessant ticktock of a clock remained pounding out its rhythm in her head.
It wasn't the kind of thing you'd notice, unless you'd been without it for so long. But Grace knew...thought she knew...no, she knew that something was up. Why else would it start working again as soon as she'd retrieved the flash drive?
Gingerly, she held it up, lining it up with the clock face in her vision. It was unmistakable; the device was getting warmer, and even seemed to be glowing, just very slightly, with each tick.
Swallowing, she took a step forward, then another. In her hand, the device kept beating its slow, regular rhythm. She shivered again, but she wasn't sure it was from the cold. Gently, she stopped in front of the impenetrable wall and raised a hand, slowly moving it forward to touch the impossibly smooth surface. She was so close...
"What are you doing?"
Grace jumped and whirled around, concealing the device in her hand from view. Vulpimon stood behind her, eyes bright yellow in the darkness.
"Grace, it's the middle of the night. What the hell are you doing out here?"
The dim artificial light felt heavy on Grace as a bead of sweat ran down her brow. As her partner walked towards her, the girl stood still, trying to think up an answer that wouldn't make her sound like a lunatic. Judging by the fox's expression, she was already failing in that regard.
Vulpimon stopped in front of her partner, and sat down, trying to keep her cool. "What have you got there?"
The fox moved to look at the thing that Grace was holding tightly, but the girl yanked it back and moved out of the way. Vulpimon's face twitched slightly as she sat, staring at the floor. "I thought we were past this."
"You don't understand, Vul-"
"No, YOU don't understand!" Vulpimon whirled her head round, snarling at her partner, who jumped back. The fox's teeth were bared as she began to shout. "I'm sick of constantly having to watch your back for you; can't you just think for ONCE in a while? What would've happened if something else was out here? How do you think we would have felt if we couldn't find you? If you keep this up you're going to get someone killed!"
Grace shook her head, her own anger rising. "Then it's not your problem. I can handle this myself."
"You?" Vulpimon let out a hysterical laugh. "What the hell do you think you're going to do if you run into trouble? You wouldn't stand a chance!"
"Neither would you!" Grace snapped back. "The number of times the others have had to bail you out of trouble, just because you can't hold your own. Don't think you're any better than me!"
Vulpimon faltered a little, before slamming her front paw on the ground. "I'm here to protect you. I'm here to lay my life on the line for you. Don't you DARE throw me away like that!"
Grace clenched her fists tighter. "Don't say that. I don't need anyone else putting themselves on the line for my sake. Not now, not ever, not any more."
"So it is true. You do think I'm useless."
"That's not what I said."
"You pity me."
"You pity yourself." Grace stared darkly at her partner as she took a step forward. "Get stronger! Or just do nothing for the rest of your life; it really doesn't matter. Just stay out of my business; you'll only get yourself hurt."
Vulpimon shook her head. "I don't understand you. How do you think you can do all this?"
Grace shrugged. "I don't. I deserve everything I get. But I'm willing to try, and you're not going to stop me."
Vulpimon growled. "I can and I will. You're coming with me. But first, what are you hiding?"
Without warning, Grace ran, but Vulpimon leapt and barrelled into her, sending her sprawling. She tried to get up but the fox pinned her down, breathing erratically. "Still think I'm too weak to protect you?"
She went for Grace's hand but the girl twisted onto her back, holding her fist in front of her. "Stay away from me."
Vulpimon faltered, her right paw raised. "Grace...please, you can't expect me to hurt you."
Grace writhed, trying to pull herself from her partner's icy grip. "Please, just...just leave me alone."
"You know I can't do that." Vulpimon's paw was shaking as she brought it towards Grace's hand, trying to push it down. The girl pushed back, her teeth gritted as she tried to keep her secret. Vulpimon let out a short, sharp breath. "I don't want to hurt you, but I'll get it by force if I have to."
Grace didn't answer; instead she pushed back, trying desperately to get the arctic canine off of her.
Vulpimon snapped. "Fine."
She closed her eyes and swung, her outstretched paw batting against Grace's hand, sending the flash drive flying away, where it knocked against the wall of a nearby building. Grace cried out in shock and pain, but Vulpimon was already moving, chasing after the device. She was inches away from touching it when it suddenly exploded into life, flashing an aggressive red and letting off a high-pitched sound.
Vulpimon screeched to a halt, eyes wide, while behind her Grace got up and stared, cradling her wounded hand.
"It hasn't done that before..."
"Grace, what is it?"
"I...I don't...WATCH OUT!"
Grace pointed as something thin and silvery came into view, erupting from the dust. Glinting in the lamplight, it swung near to the device, which promptly flew towards it, held by an unseen attraction. Before the silver line could pull it away, however, Grace had reached it and grabbed hold of it, wincing as it dug into the palm of her hand. She pulled, and the object stretched out, revealing itself to be some sort of wire. With a growl Vulpimon leapt and grabbed the thing in her mouth, before pinning it down, where it pulsated up and down with vibrating waves.
Gently, Grace leant down and picked up the flash drive, before looking back at the wire. Slowly, very slowly, she moved the device towards it, and as she did so, the memory stick began to vibrate and wail once again. She winced and dropped it; it had suddenly gotten very hot.
Vulpimon blinked. "Okay, enough's enough. Where did you get that thing, why is it doing that, and what am I standing on?"
Grace stuttered for a couple of seconds. "It...it came from my mind."
Vulpimon stared as Grace recounted her story. "Someone, a Digimon, broke into my mind and took that out. I can't remember what it's for, and I don't know why it's doing that, but I know it's important."
She knelt, holding the wiggling end of the wire to get a closer look. At the end of it was a blob of something metallic, hard to make out in the dim light. Grace squinted; it seemed to be some sort of tiny electronic device. Crude, but there was a light, a gauze...it was a speaker.
And the speaker was ticking.
Grace stood up. "These...this..." Then she stared at the corner of the building where the wire was protruding from.
"I need to follow it."
She took a step forward, but her partner stood in her way. "No. Not this time. We get the others, we get them to come with us-"
"No." Grace shook her head. "This is personal. This...whatever this thing is has been in my head for the past month or so. This whole city's been screwing me around since I set foot in it. I'm tired of playing the pawn; I have to find out what it is and I have to find out now. If we leave now, I may never find it again."
Vulpimon took a step forward, practically begging her partner. "Please, just stop. For now. For me."
The girl's eyes glistened, but she shook her head, saying nothing. Her hands were steady. Her feet were unmoving. She was going nowhere.
Vulpimon sighed, before looking up with a steely glare. "I'm. Coming. Whether you want me to or not."
The wire had since stopped pulsing, but it still gave off the signal when the flash drive was held near. Grace followed it back, and, with their new lead, she and her partner walked off into the desolate alleyways.
The two walked together in silence, following the wire as it led them up, down, across streets and through buildings. Eventually the trail led them to a certain building, lost in the middle of a bunch of other houses in bad need of repair. The silver streak trailed inside, but didn't come out again. Grace tried the door; it was locked, but with a bit of rough work by Vulpimon they managed to knock their way inside.
The building's interior was grey and stank of must, and where there were usually four walls, there were only three. In front of the two partners lay a series of shallow stone steps, leading down into pitch blackness.
The girl and her fox kept going. Normally the darkness would have prevented them moving, but the now-constant red glow of the flash drive kept the way ahead relatively clear. Just to be safe, Grace got out her D-Nexus and flicked to a flashlight setting, improving the visibility even more.
It was here that Vulpimon finally spoke up. "I'm sorry."
Grace looked down. "You? For what?"
Vulpimon cowered slightly. "I don't know...I don't know anymore with you."
Grace blinked. "Why are you here with me then? You know it's dangerous; hell, I know it's dangerous. I thought you would have done more to try and stop me?"
Vulpimon shrugged. "What else could I do? You're obsessed."
"Then we're both doing well."
Grace stifled a laugh, before carrying on. "Seriously, I don't want you to get caught up in this any more than you need to."
"But that's the problem. Why do you feel you have to find this...thing? Why you alone?"
Grace sighed. "They've been going after me. All this time. I haven't told anyone but I've been hearing them. Their voice, ever since I came here. They knew everything about me; my weakness, my worries, my...my brother."
She swallowed, trying to look away from the unfamiliar darkness ahead. "They got inside my head. Now I know how."
"The speaker?" Vulpimon looked at the silver streak running along the wall. Actually it wasn't just one any more; now there were several wires tracing their way along the stone walls; twisting and turning, and more appearing from the rock as the two carried on moving.
Grace nodded. "There must be hundreds of them. All over the city. Whatever's here knows exactly where everyone and everything is at any given time."
Grace looked up; the steps they had reached now travelled upwards, and they seemed to be curving round in a spiral.
"I think I know where we are."
Vulpimon swallowed. "The clocktower..." She took a step back, "Please, Grace, this feels wrong. Just...so wrong. I don't know why..."
She stopped, her partner giving her a withering look. The fox steeled herself and began to walk ahead.
Behind her, Grace was deep in thought. "This clocktower's been here since the city was built, right? Before it was built, in fact. The clock must have worked at somepoint. Maybe the wires were there already; they're only speakers after all. Everyone needs to know the time, no matter how big the city."
Vulpimon looked back incredulously. "Wouldn't they have been found though? When the new houses were built?"
Grace shrugged. "Not if somebody hid them well enough. Which begs the question...who actually put them there?"
"Look at that." Vulpimon stopped, and nodded next to her. It was a door; huge, metal and featureless, without even a keyhole or a hinge in sight.
Grace gulped. "You think this might have been more than a clocktower?"
Vulpimon sighed, and they both kept climbing. "I have absolutely no idea, but it's possible. A large, impenetrable structure? Yeah, maybe this was a prison."
Grace hunched up a little as they passed more doors, evenly spaced on the journey up. "Was, Vulpimon?"
She stopped, and her canine partner turned and looked at her Grace pointed at the nearest door; the silver wires stopped here, vanishing inside. Also, unlike the other doors this one was ever so slightly ajar, forced open by all the thin, pulsating metal. From inside, there was the sound of an ever-present ticking, louder now than ever before. The flash drive lit up with each new tick, whining as it did so.
Grace looked at her partner, who hesitated. With a deep breath, the girl placed her hands against the metal, and pushed.
The door remained firm for just a second, before breaking free from its bent bindings with an audible snap. Grace pushed, Vulpimon joining in, as the heavy door slid out of the way, and they found themselves inside the room.
There were wires everywhere. They travelled up and down the walls, into corners and across the floor, like overgrown ivy. The only place they didn't conglomerate was the ceiling, and that was only because there was no ceiling to speak of. Up above them there sat hundreds of gears, springs, cams and cranks of all kinds; some tiny, some vast, even rivalling some of the buildings down below. Great metal chains also hung down, taut and unmoving. One wall was taken up entirely by a huge circular window, holding a device connected to the myriad of mechanisms above.
Grace gulped. "I think this must be the clock face."
It was then that the ticking stopped.
The girl and the fox turned around, their eyes following the paths of all the wires and chains, until they could finally make out the construction in the corner of the room. It was like a sarcophagus, or an iron maiden perhaps, but it was vast; at least twenty-five feet tall. It was bolted shut with great rivets and secured in place by the chains that twisted round it and held it together, as if it might explode at any point. The whole thing seemed lifeless, like a statue.
That was until the eye sockets began to glow an alien yellow that illuminated the entire room. Grace raised a leg as the wires around her began to twitch erratically. Gingerly, she raised the flash drive in front of her, worried it would explode at any time. It glowed; the red light being lost in the yellow glow of the room.
From deep within the bowels of the construction, a voice sounded out.
An all-too-familiar voice.
This was then followed by a long, low giggle.
Almost immediately Vulpimon began to snarl, her claws digging into the metal of the floor. "Who are you?"
The giggling stopped. "Who am I? That's rich; you enter my home without asking and then demand to know who I am? I should ask who you are."
Vulpimon bared her fangs, but Grace stopped her, her fists clenched but trying to stay calm. She took a step forward, and the wires reacted to her movement, edging ever so slightly closer. "It's you, isn't it. You've been the voice talking to me inside my head."
"Inside your head? I'm not that clever."
Grace looked around. "So are all these yours? Did you make them?"
There was a bump from inside the iron maiden, as if whoever was inside was shrugging. "Not really. I mean I could, if I really wanted to, but they were mainly lying around like this anyway. I guess somebody out there wanted to keep an eye on everyone."
"How should I know?" The Digimon inside the cage harrumphed. "Still, can't complain. They did let me find you, after all. And they also let you find me."
"But how can you use them? You're trapped in there?" Grace faltered. "At least, I'm guessing you are."
"Sorry to disappoint, but you're right. I ain't going anywhere. However that doesn't mean I can't do anything." The voice let out a laugh, and as it did so, the wires strewn over the floor all moved as one, pulsing and repelling one another. Grace jumped, but the voice carried on. "These things are small enough that I can juuust move them around from in here."
Grace stepped forward, and noticed for the first time that all the wires converged in the back of the sarcophagus, near the neck area. The head also seemed to be a little misaligned; obviously the a few of the wires had been forced in after this thing had been shut.
The voice sighed. "Really? You really don't know this stuff? I thought basic electromagnetism was common knowledge." There was a pause. "Unless you're not from around these parts."
Vulpimon stamped her foot. "Less talking. You've caused a lot of grief for my partner; kindly stop pestering her."
There was a gasp, and the wires pulsed in unison. "Pestering? Who, me?" There was a brief burst of something like radio interference, or possibly the creature inside trying to stifle a laugh. "Sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you. But the truth is…I need your help."
The girl and her partner looked at each other, before staring warily back at the great metal cage. The eyes seemed to be glowing all the more.
"Our help? You want us to let you out?"
"Yeah. The Fire Kingdom guys; they put me in here a very long time ago. If you let me out, I can help you. I know their weakness, see? I can defeat them." One of the yellow lights blinked out briefly, almost like a wink. "Not to brag or nothing, but I can save the world."
The eyes seemed to burn into Grace as the voice continued, almost seductively.
"Just let me out of here, and everything will be alright. Promise, cross my heart and hope to not die a horrible painful death." There was another snigger, before the voice fell silent again. Grace waited, until the creature inside spoke again.
"All you need to do is give me the flash drive."
Grace shivered. "How do you know about that? I never told anyone."
There was a pause. "I can feel it, Grace. It can set me free. It holds a secret that could turn this world inside out; a secret that the Fire Kingdom have been abusing since the war began. Maybe even before. So come on. Let me out of here. It's only fair…"
The wires pulsed again. Grace looked at the device, then at her partner. Vulpimon shook her head earnestly, "Don't do it. Please, think about this."
Grace closed her eyes. "I do think about these things, partner." She put the device back within her sweatshirt, where the flashing was lessened through the fabric. "I'm not falling for this again."
She turned for the door. "Come on, let's go. I don't want anything more to do with any of these guys."
"Oh, come on. Be a sport. It'll only take a second, and then I'll leave you alone for good."
Grace stopped, feeling the wires moving beneath her feet. She steeled herself, turning around to face the being in the cage. "No, I won't do it. How do I know you're even telling the truth?"
"Perhaps you didn't twig yet..." The voice briefly took on a note of anger, before settling on a malevolent yarn. "…I've been here for a very long time. That means I know everything that goes on."
Grace backed away, gingerly holding the device around her neck as she felt the door behind her. It seemed to have been pressed shut. Or perhaps that had been her? She raised a hand to open it.
"That also means I've had a lot of time to practise."
With a terrible snapping sound, a wire shot out from the wall. Grace yelped and pulled her hand back, but she wasn't quick enough. The sliver of metal wrapped itself around her wrist before flying back to the wall, binding her to the nest of metal. She pulled, but the wire dug into her and wouldn't budge.
Immediately Vulpimon ran towards the cage, growling. "Let her go!"
The Digimon inside merely chuckled, causing the yellow light to pulsate. "Now why should I do that? Seriously, look at it! A perfectly precision-placed snare; what's not to love? I wanna take a picture."
Vulpimon ran back over to her partner, who was trying to get her fingers beneath the silvery strand, but the trapped Digimon just sighed. "It won't work, you know. It's super-conducting electromagnetism; you don't get to move until I say you can."
Grace pulled regardless, the metal rubbing against her already injured hand. She glared at the cage, "Who are you?"
There was a chuckle that echoed around the room, as the wires began to twist. "It's been a while. Call me Teslamon. And while you're at it, hand over that memory stick, there's a good girl."
Beside the girl, Vulpimon began biting at the wires, trying to yank them away, but Teslamon was having none of it, simply pulling them out of her reach. Grace gritted her teeth as her wrist was yanked again. "If you're so powerful, why don't you come here and take it?"
The glow flared up as Teslamon snapped. "You people; you're never satisfied, are you?" She sighed again, the yellow subsiding. "You think I'd be asking you if I could reach it myself? This place...it shuts away my power. Most of it, anyway. See what the Fire Kingdom did to me, forcing me to hold a dear little girl against her will? It's really them you should be angry at."
"Shut up!" Grace yelled, before reaching for her D-Nexus with her free hand. Vulpimon looked up, "We shouldn't have come here."
"I know." Grace glared at her partner as she raised her hand, the device glowing.
"Primal Control! Evolution Activate!"
In a flash, the newly evolved Alopemon was slashing at the wires with her icy claws, but still they wouldn't give. She stepped back, whirling her head round towards the sarcophagus.
"Release my partner or I'll put you through hell."
Teslamon let out a 'phwt' sound. "Please, you're too late for that. But still, this is a bit tedious. Seriously, there's nothing you can do to me or that wall until you decide to give over the flash drive."
Grace shook her head, her wrist sore from the wire's tight grip. "Do what you want to me, but you aren't getting this."
The imprisoned Digimon was quiet for a few seconds, Then she sniggered. "I figured as much. How about a different incentive then?"
There was another horrific snap, and Alopemon crashed to the floor. Grace cried out, and Alopemon bent down to see her back legs intertwined in a mess of wires, wrapping tightly around her. She struggled, her frozen spikes glowing white. Beside her, Grace held out a hand. "Alopemon, no!"
The fox hissed as the wires wrapped tighter, and there came a laugh from inside the cage. "It's quite simple, really. Give me the flash drive, or I wring your partner's neck right here and now."
Alopemon's eyes widened, and she struggled to her feet, shards of ice floating around her. "You're insane! Icicle Barrage!"
The shards flew everywhere, one nearly hitting Grace and several simply bouncing off the sarcophagus. Teslamon merely huffed. "You know I can't feel you from in here, right?"
Grace stared helplessly as her partner was brought down to floor level once again. "Alopemon, get up."
The fox was shaking now, her face unreadable beneath the mask. "Grace, I..."
"Come on, I know you can do it...I believe..."
Alopemon looked away, her energy rapidly fading. There came the sound of tittering from the cage once again. "Uh-oh, looks like somebody ain't strong enough."
Grace pointed an accusing finger at the sarcophagus. "That's NOTHING to do with you! Let her go now!"
"Come and make me." There came the sound of tutting from inside the iron maiden. "Come on, I'm fighting with both hands tied behind my back here. You really suck at this."
Alopemon struggled, her icy spines glowing and sending icicles everywhere, but she was held fast, completely unable to move. As she gave way entirely, lying pinned down against the floor, she noticed her partner looking wretchedly down at the floor.
Neither girl nor fox was paying attention, but still Teslamon continued. "I don't understand what you thought you'd be able to do, coming here all on your lonesome, but I'm glad you did. It makes things so much easier for me."
Grace chuckled; a short hysteric laugh that made Teslamon pause slightly. "What's so funny?"
The girl shrugged. "You know, you're the second person to try and use me as a pawn since I came here. I'm getting kind of sick of it."
"It's your own fault."
"Oh, I'm sure." Grace's shoulders began to bob up and down, and it wasn't clear whether she was crying, or laughing. At any rate, her voice seemed completely steady. "Every time I try to do the right thing, someone takes advantage of it. And they'll keep doing it. They can, because they all think I'm weak." She looked up. "I'm not weak."
Teslamon laughed again. "Don't kid yourself, kid. There's nothing you can do. Face it; you're weak."
Off to the side, Alopemon stared helplessly at her partner. "Grace…don't…"
"I'M NOT WEAK!" Grace looked up, and her eyes were wild. "I'm sick of being pushed around! I'll show you what I can do. All of it!"
The wires pulled back as Grace gripped her D-Nexus tightly, blue energy coursing through her arm. Alopemon struggled, feeling her partner's emotions as they ripped into her, causing her pain.
"Grace, stop! You don't know what you're doing!"
Grace turned on her. "Stay quiet and do what I ask you to. I'm not going to lose this time. I'm getting you out of there and I'm giving you all the power I have."
Alopemon writhed uselessly on the floor. "No, please! You don't know what you're doing! I can handle this, you can't-"
That did it.
Grace stared for a second at her partner, the fox's words ringing around her head. The corners of her mouth began to twitch, and she raised her arm again, her voice breaking into hysterical laughter.
"Yes. I can. And I will." With a yell, she pulled until her arm broke free of the wire, leaving a red line around her wrist. Her eyes and chest glowed a fierce blue, and frost began to form on her skin as she shouted.
Alopemon closed her eyes as the energy hit her like a bullet train, sending her flying into the opposite wall. She screamed as cold fire ripped through her body, but her screams subsided, replaced instead by pure, cold anger. You're useless. Powerless. Weak. Doomed to failure.
Prove you're worthy of carrying this power.
Alopemon opened her eyes, and they narrowed. "Evolution Activate."
Her flesh dissolved, spinning and mixing into a great ball of swirling ice and fur. It reshaped itself, forming something bipedal, yet not humanoid; great muscular legs, a hunched back, and huge arms that reached down to the floor. Silver bands and mystical symbols glowed all over the creature's body as another red pelt draped over it. Jagged shards of ice stuck out of her back and from the tips of her paws, forming claws almost like those of a bear. Her face was canine in shape, but had two great teeth dropping down, like a walrus' tusks, and a skull mask covering it with two jagged antlers reaching out.
The blue energy cleared, and the abomination was revealed in full, standing completely still. Only her eyes showed any sign of life, glowing a vicious yellow. She breathed, a cloud of condensation forming before her, illuminated by the glow. Then she raised a leg, and pushed herself up, wires snapping all around her, until she stood at her full height, completely free.
Teslamon had been silent throughout the entire process. Now she began to chuckle yet again as the girl walked forward, in awe of her partner's new form. "Well, this is new."
Grace chuckled, and turned to the cage with a wicked smile. "I told you. I'm not going to lose. Not this time. I have the power."
The sarcophagus almost shook slightly as the Digimon inside thrust herself around. "Nothing's changed, girl. You still have what I want, and I'm gonna get it."
The wires around Grace's feet glowed once again, threatening to snap up and entrap her at any moment, but Tupilamon knelt down and touched the dense floor, her symbols glowing a vivid blue. Grace heard her partner's voice in her head; soft and tender, like a whisper most unbecoming of the hulking brute in front of her.
Waves of blue aura spread out, freezing the wires where they stood. Grace stood, unharmed, as the aura washed over her. Teslamon, by contrast, yelled out as her prison was sealed further by the advancing freeze.
"You bitch! Give me the flash drive!"
Grace grinned. "Who's powerless now?" She turned back to her partner, who was still knelt as the frost began to climb up the walls. "Let's go, Tupilamon. We've got nothing more to do here."
Tupilamon didn't move. Grace took a step forward, before freezing. She heard a low growl coming from her partner's throat, and the creature's lips were curled up in a terrifying snarl.
Grace stared as Teslamon laughed behind her. "Oh, I see. Sure, you do seem to have the power. Pity you have no control over it. Either of you."
Tupilamon tensed, and Grace felt the cold increase. Her eyes widened as she twigged what exactly she'd just done.
The Digimon in the prison continued her taunt, as Grace took another step forward. "Come on, you lumbering monster. You want to fight me, don't you? You want to make me pay for playing with your dear little friend there. Turning her against you. Turning her insane."
Grace turned back. "I'm not…I'm not…"
"Insane?" Teslamon cackled. "You really thought you'd be able to take me on? You think that's the decision of a sane little girl? There's nothing you can do to me, not now, not ever. This is utterly worthless."
Grace could feel the presence of both creatures, and she shivered. "No…"
"You are utterly worthless."
With an otherworldly roar, Tupilamon bounded up and ran forward, claws bared and tail thumping against the ground. Grace turned too late as her once-partner barrelled into her, her immense right arm catching her on a swing and sending her flying back. Teslamon laughed as the monster rushed towards her, raising her arms as if to impale the great prison.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
The claws reached the dense metal and shattered, sending shards of ice everywhere. She backed away, new claws forming almost instantly, but she was distracted by a cluster of wires that slammed into the side of her head from nowhere. Teslamon howled with laughter. "Is that the best you can do?"
Tupilamon wiped her mouth, tasting blood. It didn't matter. This Digimon had to pay. Raising her head back she gathered blue energy in her mouth, the face on her chest glowing malevolently.
Lying far away, Grace opened her eyes in time to hear her partner's cry.
Tupilamon grabbed the sarcophagus with two paws and screamed like a banshee. The sound was petrifying; silencing even the imprisoned Teslamon's hyperactive tongue. Grace felt herself fall to her knees, shaking uncontrollably as shards of ice flew around the room, sticking to anything and everything and never relenting. She closed her eyes again, her entire body racked with pain.
Then, the storm passed. She sat up, and gazed with horror at the monster she had created. Tupilamon was grappling with the prison, shaking it every which way and roaring, but the prison stayed intact and Teslamon just kept laughing. Grace stood up, her vision blurring. She put her hands in front of her mouth and yelled out.
"Vulpimon, stop! This isn't what I wanted!"
The creature didn't even acknowledge her. Grace ran forward, wincing with every step but getting faster, before grabbing her once-partner by the arm.
"Please, you have to stop! You can't get hurt because of me!"
She was thrust back again, yelling and clutching her shoulder. Her hair was a tangled mess and her eyes were wild, as her partner roared out once again, and raised her muscular arm to strike.
Grace ran forward, holding herself between Tupilamon and the prison, arms wide. Tupilamon's arm fell…and stopped. The snarling died down as the creature's eye began to shake. Grace smiled, breathing heavily. Was this recognition?
Teslamon sniggered. "Thank you, little girl."
Before she could react, Grace felt something wrap around her arm, and all of a sudden she was forced backwards, towards the sealed sarcophagus. She struggled, but felt something tug at her neck. With a feeling of dread, she looked down to see the flash drive fly towards the cage and make contact with the cold metal.
"TUPILAMON! HELP ME!"
The monster stood there, held in a stupor. Her partner was between her and her prey. In her current state, there was no way she could stop one without harming the other. She took a step back, clutching her head. So much anger.
Grace could only look on helplessly as the flash drive began to flash faster and faster, and Teslamon's voice rung out in her head. "Well, this has been fun, but I think it's time I stepped in for real..."
There was a flash of yellow and red, and the wire holding Grace loosened up as power coursed through it. With a grunt she wriggled out, before snatching the flash drive back, running from the prison as it began to pulse violently.
"Tupilamon, stop her!"
The ice spirit snapped out of her stupor and rushed forward, but a blinding light came from nowhere as the sarcophagus began to shake. Both Grace and her partner were forced backwards as chains began to rattle and dust, undisturbed for nearly a century, began raining down upon the room. Teslamon groaned, and the entire mechanism of the clock groaned with her, shuddering as rivets and bolts began to pop out of her prison.
Grace looked down at the device in her hand; it was still reacting, albeit weaker than before.
"What the hell's in this thing?"
She looked up as metal plates from the prison began to fly in her direction. She rushed behind her partner, who punched the ground, forming a barrier of ice that made its way towards the escaping prisoner, intent on freezing her in place. Still, it wasn't enough, and the prison blew apart with a force enough to rock the whole clocktower. The great chains broke free, and with nothing holding them in place any more, the great weights of the clock swung, and fell.
All around the city, citizens awoke as the ringing of a clock – a clock they hadn't heard for decades – rang through their homes once again. Through every wire and into every corner, every alley, every house, the bell was heard. Citizens ran out of their houses, the Homemade Army gathered round the building, and the rebels outside Babamon's house ceased their hubbub and turned to look at the new sign in the sky. They were joined by the old puppet herself, then the humans and their partners; all stood in utter horror, watching the clock face as tendrils of frost spread out across it.
It occurred to them that two of their own were no longer with them.
The chiming ceased, and Grace lowered her arms. In the middle of her the remains prison, surrounded by rubble, Teslamon stood in person. She was quite tall and humanoid, with grey, rough-looking skin and a mop of shiny black hair. She seemed to wear clothes of spiky copper, fitting her muscular form perfectly, and she had a shark's tail that whipped from side to side as she stretched it. Her face was almost attractive, with a pert, pointed nose and a grin of spiky teeth, and from her head protruded two magnetic bars; one red, one blue.
The shark-woman stretched, getting right up on her toes, before flinging her arms down.
"You would not believe how good this feels! Honestly, you take the whole 'being-free' thing way too much for granted!" She winked, a bolt of electricity pulsing through her right eye as she did so.
Grace felt the cold creeping forward as her partner growled again, and she turned round to face the hulking brute. "Stop it! I don't want you getting hurt."
"Aw, come on." Teslamon began hopping from one leg to the other, fists held in front of her like a boxer. "I'm outta shape. I could do with going a few rounds with the hairbag, and she looks like she's up for a little spar." The shark woman grinned maliciously, as Grace backed away, powerless. "What do you think?"
Tupilamon needed no encouragement; with a roar she planted both fists to the ground and screamed, the shockwave forcing Grace back again. The girl put her hands over her ears, and even Teslamon stopped moving for a moment, wincing from the noise.
"Ow. You know, a simple yes would be cool."
Tupilamon growled, and ran forward, swinging her right arm as she did so. The monster's mighty limb hit nothing as Teslamon had already somersaulted out of the way, whistling as she did so. "Ya missed!"
Left fist glowing, Tupilamon struck the floor, making the whole room shake and the ice advance ever further. The shark woman jumped back again, before looking round in curiosity. "This isn't a bad place to set up home, I suppose. There might just be something round here I can use…"
She grinned, before holding an arm up high, making the great weights above shudder as her magnet began to let off bolts of yellow energy. With her other hand she pointed at the monster before her.
There was an audible snap and a flash of yellow as one of the great clock weights flew downwards, pulled from its bindings like a cherry from a tree. Grace yelled out "Above you!"
Tupilamon moved out of pure instinct, as the mighty weight crashed down, going through the floor and almost taking the ice spirit with it. Tupilamon ran forward, roaring as she swiped with both hands, but Teslamon was too quick; ducking, diving and weaving between the empty blows. All the while she was laughing, and delivering her own strikes with her heavy metal claws. It wasn't long before Tupilamon's matted fur was beginning to drip with blood.
Suddenly, without warning, Teslamon leapt up at her adversary and grabbed a hold of the two antlers on top of the creature's mask. Tupilamon wailed and thrust her head back, but Teslamon positioned herself with the skill of a gymnast, before twisting her body to deliver a gravity-powered kick right in the monster's stomach. Tupilamon fell back, and Teslamon stood up, brushing her hands off.
"Well, that wasn't so bad. Who's next?"
Apparently Tupilamon was still first in line, since she swung her tail, catching the shark-woman off guard and sending her spinning. With a lunge, Tupilamon swiped with a paw and struck true, sending Teslamon into the far wall, near to where Grace was cowering. Teslamon grimaced, and went to stand up, only to find that her entire left arm and leg appeared to be frozen in place. She sighed, and blew some hair out of her eyes.
"Well, this is tedious."
Tupilamon swayed in front of the shark-girl, mouth open and drooling. She raised an arm and ran forward, preparing to swipe her adversary's head clean off. In the corner, Grace covered her ears. "NO, STOP IT!"
Tupilamon swung, but all of a sudden she stopped. Teslamon smiled, her eyes glowing as the great creature's arm struggled, being held back by its own metal bands. The snow beast swung her other paw, but Teslamon simply nodded and that stopped as well.
"This isn't your night, darling. I happen to have basic physics on my side."
With a grunt, she broke out of the ice holding her limbs and began to walk backwards, dragging Tupilamon with her by both arms. Teslamon raised her arms, before swinging them both round. "Perilous Field!"
Tupilamon was launched from her feet and sent slamming into the clock. There was another great rumble and vast spidery cracks began to snake their way along the smooth surface. The ticking turned into clanking, before grinding to a halt as the ancient mechanism gave up the ghost completely.
Yet still Tupilamon tried to stand, desperate to take out the new opponent. She snarled, and Teslamon rolled her eyes. "Face it, there's nothing you can do to me any more."
Lazily she lifted her arm up high, causing the mechanism above to rumble once again. Clenching her fist, she wrenched down a collection of large gears, springs and chains, that swirled around her like planets orbiting a sun. In front of her, Tupilamon tried to get to her feet, struggling to do so. Teslamon glanced back, seeing Grace on her knees, holding out a hand in desperation.
Teslamon shrugged. "Sorry kid. You started it. I'm just finishing it." Her eyes glowed yellow as she threw her arms wide.
The metal shot forward, and both Grace and Teslamon covered their faces as the clock face exploded, raining down chunks of glass all over the street below. Tupilamon was lost in a sea of debris and twisted metal, but Grace could hear her scream echoing through her own head.
The chaos stopped, and Grace opened her eyes wide. Tupilamon was gone. Where she had stood there was now a block of ice, with half of Vulpimon's limp figure encased inside it. The other half - scratched, bloody and barely breathing - hung out over the precipice.
Down below, the citizens cried out as rubble began to fall all around them, while the shattered face of the clocktower lay open to the elements, its edges trimmed with fingers of ice. Aaron strained to see, but the hubbub all around him was too much.
"What the hell's she gone and done?"
Kent gritted his teeth. "What do we do?"
Beside him, Babamon could only look up in horrified wonder. Kent knelt down and shook her roughly by the shoulders. "You know this place better than any of us. How do we get up there? We need to help her!"
The old puppet brushed Kent's hands away. "I have no idea. I never knew of a way inside that thing! It's impossible; I have no clue how she managed to find it!"
"But Grace…" Jack stepped forward, looking desperate. "She needs help! She could get hurt if she's not careful!"
"She won't." Perimon hopped down beside him, looking deadly serious for once. "Evolve me, Jack. I can get up there."
Above him, Ladomon shook her head. "The anti-flight field…you'll never make it."
"Yes I will!"
"No buts!" snapped the bird, shooting the dragon a look that made her back away. "It's the fastest way, unless you want to find the exact route she used to get in."
Jack nodded, grabbing his D-Nexus. "Fine, we'll fly. But I'm coming with you."
"No you're not." Aaron stepped forward and grabbed Jack by the shoulder. "You're staying here on the ground."
Jack struggled, yelling out as he squirmed in Aaron's grip. "Let me go! She's my sister!"
All of a sudden he turned his head and bit down hard on the hand that was holding him. Aaron swore, and Jack ran off, Perimon following him. The little boy raised his arm high and shouted.
Before anyone else could reach him, Perimon had turned into Mistramon and was currently soaring up into the sky, Jack holding on tightly to his back. Aaron threw his device down to the ground and grabbed his head in frustration, "Damnit!" He turned to the others, hands grasping at nothing. "Do either of you fancy running off as well?"
High above, Jack gritted his teeth as the wind blew through his hair. He could feel Mistramon breathing heavily, struggling to rise against the power of the anti-flight field. Still the bird kept climbing, and the shattered clock face came ever closer.
"I'm coming, Grace. Hold on."
Grace yelled in pain as she was slammed roughly against the wall, pinned back by her hair. Teslamon knelt down beside her, looking very interested at the whole affair.
"Well, I must say I didn't expect a human like you to be wandering around when I got out. I guess quite a bit must have changed. Tell me, when exactly is this?"
Grace hissed as her hair threatened to pull from her scalp. "Don't...know..." She got out through gritted teeth. "Not…telling…you…"
"Oh come on." Teslamon pouted, and pulled up a tiny bit harder. "Seriously, give me a break here! I've been locked away for several decades or something; I'm only trying to get with the times."
Despite the pain, Grace managed to move her head just a little bit. "V…V…Vulpimon?"
Teslamon sighed, and promptly dropped Grace back on the floor, planting a hand to her face. "Oh, this is futile." She frowned, chewing on one of her overly-long blue nails in thought. "I think you might just need the appropriate setting. Somewhere quiet. Relaxing. Alone."
With a snap of her fingers she summoned a chain to her hand, that began to glow a wicked yellow. "Come on girly, you're comin' with me."
"LEAVE HER ALONE!"
Teslamon was almost knocked off her feet as the blast of wind hit her, and she leapt out of the way immediately, arms raised in a defensive posture at the giant bird hovering outside. Mistramon scanned the interior of the room; the damage, the broken cage, and the still body of Vulpimon hanging before him. The bird's eyes widened. "Oh god…"
Teslamon raised her eyebrows. "Well girl, you didn't tell me you were bringing company." She grinned, chain twisting in her hand. "And since you're being so unhelpful…"
Grace coughed, and tried, weakly, to get to her feet. "NO!"
It was too late. Teslamon was already moving, swinging her chain as Mistramon flapped hard in a desperate attempt to get away. The chain was round his leg before he could get away, and in a second both he and Jack tumbled inside, wincing as they hit the sharp rubble. Jack's hat bounded away, landing on a pile of broken glass.
Jack got to his feet first, disorientated and looking round desperately for his sister. He saw her in the corner, shaking from the pain and anguish she'd withstood for the past few hours.
"Come on Grace, we're-"
Something metal wound its way round Jack's waist, and in a few seconds he was hoisted from the ground and held in Teslamon's arms, her magnetic body holding the chain fast. Jack's eyes widened as he struggled, but Teslamon stroked his hair with faux-affection. "Sorry kid, but you're comin' with me. We have things to talk about."
Grace screamed, running towards the shark-woman holding a piece of rubble - the first thing she could find that could be weaponised. "Don't you dare!"
Mistramon struggled to his feet and prepared to launch an attack, but Teslamon simply gave a wink.
"Sorry. I dared."
Nonchalantly, she stepped into the void. Grace ran forward, falling to her knees at the edge itself. "NOOO!"
Mistramon stamped his foot. "Quickly, get on!"
Grace nodded, before glancing a look at her unconscious partner. "What about-"
"She'll be fine up here, out of any more danger." Mistramon bowed his head as Grace climbed up on his back.
"We have to stop her! Now!"
Eloise pointed up as Jack's scream reverberated down below, and the glowing silhouette of Teslamon could be seen against the illuminated skyline as she flipped her way down the clocktower wall and over the rooftops. Alarms sounded as the Homemade Army began to rush to the seen, firing grapples and their own weaponry at the assailant. Aaron pointed as well, "Get her!"
Beside him, Galvamon leapt into action, white lightning building in his claws. Teslamon felt a tingle as the electrified lizard began to leap after her, catching her up. She waggled a finger back. "Ah , ah, ah. I would want you to put your little friend in danger."
"Let him go, you bitch!" Eloise rose up before the shark-woman, Luminemon growling beneath her. The dragon spread her wings wide, letting tendrils break forth. "White Lightning!"
The white threads all flew for Teslamon, but she dodged them and hopped over the dragon, landing a flying kick in Luminemon's face. The wyvern reared back, and Teslamon kept running, her stride barely broken. Eloise stood up and pointed. "Stop her!"
Below her, Luminemon took flight again, but it was obvious she was finding it hard going. She looked up wearily, "If you evolved, you might just be able to shoot her down."
Eloise faltered. "I…I…"
Eloise shook her head. "I can't anyway. I might hit Jack."
"It's alright!" called Cratomon as he and Aaron ran below, followed by many members of the Homemade Army. "She can't escape the city, no matter how athletic she is."
Teslamon very soon found herself looking up at the great metal wall, frowning a little as if it were a mild inconvenience. Behind her were the city lights, and to one side was the great mechanical elevator, still working even at this late hour. She heard something land behind her, and quickly twisted out the way as Galvamon ran forward, blades glowing. The lizard hit the wall, and was promptly held there by a metal claw crashing into his back. He went down, but the others were arriving; Cratomon, Seismon, Aaron, Babamon and many more. The shark-girl was surrounded; caught between her pursuers and the great metal cage.
Babamon stepped forward. "Give it up, young lady. There's nothin' you can do."
From above, Eloise and Luminemon flew in. "Exactly. We don't want to hurt you, but unless you give our friend back right now we won't have a choice."
Teslamon pouted. She could hear the whirring of the elevator next to her and was busy thinking. Jack squirmed in her grip, but she pulled the chain tighter, holding him still. Finally, she grinned. "You'll have to forgive me; I'm a little lost. I just want someone to talk me through everything."
She took a step back, as Galvamon got up and stood in front of her again. "We can help, trust us. Just put Jack down, and we can explain everything."
Teslamon grinned. "But where's the fun in that?"
Without warning she thrust out her hand, "Perilous Field!"
Galvamon felt himself fly backwards, knocking into the people behind him. There was a scuffle and a flash of yellow as the metal weaponry and armour all decided to converge in the exact same spot, taking most of their owners with them.
Teslamon turned, still holding out her hand as she began work on the elevator station next to her. She closed her eyes, and clenched her fist.
There was a groan from the mechanism as the metal began to glow; faintly at first, then more brightly as the metal of the mechanism began to fold apart, forming an opening. Kent yelled out, "Stop her! She's going up!"
From behind the wriggling crowd, Babamon shook her head. "No, she's going under!"
"GIVE HIM BACK!"
From above, Mistramon flew down at lightning speed as Grace held onto his back, her hair flying free.
Below, Teslamon winked. "So long, guys." Before anyone could do anything, she was through the hole. Grace jumped from Mistramon's back and ran forwards, but before she could reach it the hole was plugged with metal; gears and plates from inside the mechanism. There was a yellow glow and it was bonded in place, leaving no opening. Mistramon cried out, "GRACE, OUT OF THE WAY!"
The girl threw herself back as the elevator platform high above - no longer supported - fell down as the cables whirred and screeched. It landed with the force of a meteor, sending the surrounding Digimon flying back as it fell against the metal dome, crushing one side and sealing the opening for good.
Teslamon was gone.
Tears in her eyes, Grace ran up, banging uselessly against the downed platform with her fists. Her brother's D-Nexus lay beside it, beeping gently. Grace kept hitting and hitting the shell, grazing her fingers, before her arm was roughly grabbed and she was spun round by Aaron.
"Let go of me!"
"What the hell did you do up there?" Aaron's eyes were blazing as he held tightly the girl's wrist, as she struggled more and more, tears beginning to flood down her face.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean any of this, I just…I just…Jack, no…ow..."
The girl broke down, finally succumbing to sobs and gurgles as she lay limp in Aaron's grip. He yanked her up again but she cried out in pain, and he let go. He saw the red and purple line around her wrist, the scratches and grazes over her body, and the awkward way in which she held her left arm.
Eloise walked forward and put a hand on his shoulder. "Leave her, okay?"
Aaron nodded, before storming away, breaking into a run as he called out among the crowd. "We need help, right now. First aid, and someone to break into that station. Hurry!"
Next to the station, Eloise knelt down and put her arms around the sobbing little girl, where they sat for a little while. Grace shook in the older girl's embrace, finally letting everything go. Eloise glanced up at the sealed hole where Teslamon had disappeared, as the dust continued to settle around them.
"Oh Grace, what have you done?"
TO BE CONTINUED...