Babamon sipped her tea as she felt her home ascending once more. The sirens round the city borders yelled out as the morning sun disappeared beneath the rising walls. A new day. A new challenge.
The puppet smiled as the city ground to a halt yet again. It did seem to be getting slower day by day, but she thought nothing of it. It wasn't going to be a problem for a while yet. Perhaps, somepoint, they'd need to send somebody down to look at the mechanism, but for now everything was running smoothly.
Good thing too. It had been nearly a week since the incident with Teslamon, and all of the Silicon City main committee had been more than a little concerned. 'What if she'd got to the mechanism' they had said. 'How long had she been there? What if this? What if that? What if she'd placed bombs between the gears?' That kind of thing.
The old ragdoll frowned, and placed her tea down on the table. It had been stressful, she had to admit. Very few Digimon had ever managed to get beneath the city, and it had always been strong enough to withstand any assault they might have made. Still, it was worrying whenever it happened.
It may have been a stronghold, but Silicon City was not impenetrable. With the right approach, anyone could take it down.
There was a sudden tingle and Babamon jumped, spilling tea all over her carpet. She placed the cup down and checked her wrist; the magical symbol - the same kind that she'd placed on all the citizens - was glowing brightly on her own, agitating her wrinkled flesh. She concentrated, before bringing her arm up to her mouth. "What is it?"
"We have trouble. Riots in the south-west quadrant. We may need your help."
The old Digimon lowered her arm, before slugging her tea back. That Andromon; while she had to admire his good intentions, he'd never had quite the assertiveness that such a job required. Still, that was what she was there for. She stood up, cleaning herself off a little, before heading for her trusty broom.
T'was a new day, and new adventures awaited. In some ways, she was actually kind of excited.
After the Teslamon incident, Aaron had decreed then and there that everybody took a rest and a chance to recover, and so the days had gone by pretty quick and without event.
So it was with surprise that Grace opened the door to the lounge that morning to find everyone lounging around and waiting for her. She blinked, and looked behind her, but Vulpimon was already sitting down, evidently waiting to commence some incredible important event.
"Did I miss something?"
Kent shook his head, arms folded as he sat against the wall. "Quite the opposite. We weren't going to start without you." The older boy looked up. "Aaron's calling a group meeting. There're things we need to discuss." He seemed uneasy; he must've been talking with Aaron beforehand.
Grace frowned, and took a place at the table. Each tamer and partner was present, although someone was missing. Grace looked around. "Where's Babamon?"
Vulpimon nodded to one side. "She left a note. Had some business to take care of this morning in town. We're on our own."
"Which might be for the best. "Aaron stood up, clearing his throat, as the eyes of the group gravitated towards him. He felt the tiniest bit uneasy, but nonetheless he turned to Grace. "I realise you've been through a lot the past few days, but we can't hold back any longer. We've been avoiding the whole issue with Teslamon, but the fact is that it happened, and a lot of stuff happened with it. Stuff which could be very dangerous for us as a whole."
He took a deep breath, before continuing. "Basically, Grace, we need to know what happened. Everything. Anything you know that we weren't there for. It could be important."
In front of him, Grace closed her eyes. She'd been dreading this moment for a while, but she swallowed and tried to stay strong. "How much do you mean?"
Kent stepped in for this one. "Teslamon came out of nowhere. We'd already guessed there was something strange about the clocktower, but then you got involved and…well, you know, everything went crazy. But there's something more than that."
Here, half the table looked puzzled. Even Vulpimon turned her head and gave the older boy a quizzical look. "There is?"
Everyone turned to Velocimon, who had spoken flatly, his eyes closed and arms folded. He gazed around without emotion. "That was no freak anomaly; that was a high-ranking Fire Kingdom soldier. Somebody placed it there, in order to guard the clocktower for some reason."
Trilomon took over. "By which we can assume that Teslamon was more important than we realised at the time. Either that, or there's something else down there." He nodded at the girl before him. "We think you might be able to help."
Grace sighed. "I'm sorry, everyone. I didn't mean for things to get so out of hand when they did. I was…"She glanced over at Jack, who gave her a small smile of support.
"…I was delusional. I'll tell you all I can. There may be quite a bit."
So she did. She started small, with the voices in her head and the growing anxiety about her past, although she left out the personal details. She recounted her encounter with Pandamon, her running away and her and Jack meeting Cerebrumon. At this point her brother was leaning forward as well; the missing parts of his memory finally coming out into the open.
All the while the expressions on the people and Digimon before her were sinking lower and lower. Kent looked at his partner when she mentioned the flash drive, and by the time she got to freeing Teslamon everyone was staring intently. She finished with her eyes firmly fixed on the floor, fists clenched as she leant back.
"And that's pretty much what happened."
Eloise lowered her head. "You say Cerebrumon saw you again. Is he still at large?"
"Looks like it. He seems to be able to travel between mirrors or something."
"Do you…do you think he can be trusted?"
Grace shook her head. "I don't think he means us harm. Not specifically us, at any rate. But still, I don't plan on trusting him anytime soon." She furrowed her brow. "He didn't exactly make a good first impression."
"Still, this is worrying." Ladomon twisted around above the table, placing the flat of her tail-blade beneath her chin. "There's something going on here that must have been going on for ages. A conspiracy since before Silicon City was erected." She narrowed her eyes. "Since before even I was here."
"But it still doesn't make any sense."
All eyes turned towards Velocimon, who was sat with his claws beneath his chin, obviously deep in thought. His partner nudged him. "How do you mean?"
The lizard looked up. "Well, you've gone on about these criminal Digimon from before the city was built, but there's a problem. We weren't at war with the Fire Kingdom back then; I'm sure of it. There's no way a Fire soldier would be allowed to just wander about, especially as the new city was being built. People would be watching."
Eloise leant forward. "Perhaps SkullMeramon was a coincidence?"
"Possibly. But it doesn't add up; why would it be just hanging around the clocktower if they weren't connected somehow?"
The group fell into silence, with only the faint noises from outside providing any sound. Gingerly, Jack raised a hand. "I think…"
"What is it?"
Jack looked up towards his sister. "I think you've forgotten someone. I can't remember…" He clutched his head. "It's all a blur. After…Cerebrumon? After he wiped my memory…"
Grace frowned, everyone waiting on her expectantly. She racked through everything; she too felt like she'd forgotten someone. It was on the tip of her tongue...
She yelped, bringing her hands to her mouth. "Oh no!"
Aaron crouched down next to her. "What is it?"
"There was someone else! Someone…he didn't fit in, at all, but he said…he said…" She gulped, looking around at the expectant eyes around her.
"His name was…Rinkhalmon."
There was no recognition in the eyes of the humans, but in a flash all the Digimon partners – Vulpimon included – had their eyes wide open as they exchanged looks of horror.
"Rinkhalmon, that was it. He said...he said he was a Commander for the Fire Kingdom."
Ladomon flew in close, staring into Grace's eyes. "What did he do? What did he say?"
Grace panicked. "I-I-I-I-I don't know. Cerebrumon told me and Jack to run. We kinda did."
"It doesn't matter, Ladomon." Velocimon fell backwards onto his knees, looking a little defeated. "It makes sense. We've been naïve, all of us."
Perimon raised an eyebrow. "How do you mean?"
"The Fire Kingdom. They've been able to get in and out of the city all this time. They must have business here; why else would they send a Commander?"
Trilomon turned his head from side to side, trying to figure something out. "This place is a big insult to their cause. Why would they leave the city standing if they could knock it down at any time? We already know that it's susceptible to an inside attack. Unless…"
His partner continued for him. "Unless they had no need to take it down. For example, if they had something to guard. Something…"
Eloise gulped, and finished. "Something in the clocktower…"
Velocimon nodded. "Something which may or may not be there any more. Or someone."
Everyone fell silent as it dawned on them just how much they'd been played; how much everyone in the city had been utterly played. Perimon looked out the window. "If it's not there any more, then what's to stop Rinkhalmon…stop the Fire Kingdom…"
He trailed off. Nobody bothered to finish his sentence for him. Ladomon swallowed. "Who's to say they haven't already placed their soldiers everywhere?"
"It could be anyone." Perimon looked down at the table, almost muttering to himself. "Anybody could be working for them, and no-one would know. We won't have known. They need only give the word, and the city..."
Aaron narrowed his eyes, bringing his fist down on the table. "We have to find Babamon and t ell her everything. Right now. Otherwise it could be too late."
Everyone nodded in unison, and, in the space of a few minutes, the house was completely empty.
With basket under her arm and broom helping her along, Babamon reached the southern part of town in good time, to be greeted by a gathering of the Homemade Army squaring off against a large mob of rather angry looking citizens. Beneath her fringe, she rolled her eyes. Not this again.
Without a word, she sidled up next to a large, robotic humanoid and promptly poked him in the foot. The robot turned round, revealing an almost-human face covered by a skull-mask. His name was Andromon, and he was one of the few high committee who assisted her with the logistics of the city. He appeared to be in some distress.
"Took you long enough." The cyborg frowned, his head jerking to the side with every word. Babamon swallowed. He was a good leader but he always got fidgety when he was nervous. And he didn't get nervous often.
"Tell me straight, Andromon."
The robot nodded. "They want to overthrow us. Say we're doing a bad job or something. They seem to be being riled up by the big guy." He pointed, and Babamon followed his gaze. She found herself looking at a tall, muscular figure, wearing turquoise armour plating and clutching an ornate spear in one hand. Half of his body was furry and covered in leopard spots, but he had webbed hands and feet, gills and the long, angular tail of a shark, swishing from side to side.
The old puppet shook her head. "Never seen him before in my life."
Presently the leopard shark stepped to the front of the rabble and raised his spear against the surrounding riot squad, the orbs glowing fiercely. When he spoke, it was with the lazy drawl of a sailor, mixed with the savage determination of a soldier.
"This city and evr'one in it will be a part of our new army. We have a duty to strike at t'Fire Kingdom and bring them down. Forget these charlatans who have lied and used you. We don't need leaders, or protection, or laws! We will take back our planet from evr'one who oppresses us!" He raised his spear high as a multitude of voices cheered behind him. "We are the future of the Digital World!"
Andromon let out a spasm at the cat's booming voice, and Babamon knocked him again. "Pull yourself together, man. Stand back and let me find out who this guy is."
The robot obliged as the old woman reached into her basket and withdrew a charm, which she held out with one hand. The other hand she held before her, glowing symbols flashing up; a unique symbol for every citizen she'd let in. She frowned, waving the talisman before her as the soldier and his new army began to march forward, threatening to push the Homemade Army away. Andromon shook, before knocking himself once again on the head. "Hurry!"
Babamon frowned. "This isn't right. This Digimon…he isn't a citizen."
"GET OUTTA HERE!"
Everyone – Chieftriaskismon included – turned in amazement as another crowd appeared out of nowhere, this one led by a far less impressive being. At the head of an even larger crowd than the leopard warrior was leading, the lone Pandamon raised his serrated blade and swung it accusingly at those around him. "Yer all delusional! Don't listen t'the lies of this washed-up kitten!"
Babamon groaned, and looked up desperately at the sky. "Not this joker again."
"Look closer." Andromon pointed. "There's something off about him."
Babamon did so, and raised a curious eyebrow. Indeed, as the bear kept ranting he seemed to be different to before. His eyes were wild, and seemed to be emanating an odd, pink glow. Come to think of it, many of the Digimon behind him seemed to be in a similar state. The old woman frowned. "What the hell's goin' on?"
Pandamon paid her no heed. "The cat promises ya nothin' but death. But there's another; a queen who promises ya freedom. A chance t'escape the war and live in luxury. Live well, away from this shithole of a town. Wake up, and join us!"
Behind him, several dozen voices repeated his words as, the other side, Chieftriaskismon growled. "It would be her, wouldn't it…"
He slammed his spear against the ground. "If y'queen offers you so much, tell her to come out here and face me!"
What the leopard shark didn't realise was that Latroditmon was, in fact, listening to every word. She peeked out wickedly from beneath her hood as she leant against the makeshift stall she'd…borrowed…from one of her new attendants. The majority of her body remained concealed in the back alley, giving her the outward appearance of a kindly old shopkeeper. She giggled, placing a hand on her cheek as the two factions began to argue in earnest, the Homemade Army struggling to keep them apart. "Oh, what fun games we play."
"We win win?" Neomon cocked his head as he lay sprawled out against the nearest wall, looking for all the world like a child had thrown their doll in a fit of rage.
"I should think so. Although Chief is remarkably stubborn." Latroditmon pouted. "He's going to get us all in trouble at this rate."
That certainly seemed to be the case. Already the two sides were beginning to break into brawls, with one side coveting "Victory!", while the others chanted "Freedom!". It was a complete and utter mess, and it was at this point that Babamon decided to step in and put a stop to it.
A cloud of acrid fog billowed out from where she stood, disabling half the rioters on the spot. The others were brought to a halt, coughing and spluttering, as Babamon stood tall. "What in the ever-lovin' name of the Sovereigns is goin' on here?"
The fog began to clear as Pandamon and Chieftriaskismon stepped forward, rubbing their eyes against the irritant gas. Pandamon raised his blade, teeth bared. "Where were ya? Where were ya when we needed ya?"
"Hold your tongue."
"I said SILENCE!" Babamon swiped with her broom, sending Pandamon sprawling. He struggled to get up, as the old woman stepped back. "We do our best to keep you safe. Away from the wrath of the Fire Kingdom, and livin' a somewhat comfortable life. And this is how you repay us? Or perhaps you just want more, in which case, I urge you to take a closer look at the monster that's found it's way within your ranks!" With this she pointed at Chieftriaskismon, who looked down, somewhat bemused. "This creature is not a citizen. He's gatherin' you for his own purposes. He's a criminal!"
Immediately half of Chieftriaskismon's posse stepped up to his defense. An Aurumon flew forward, cybernetic eyes glaring at her. "You're lying! Chieftriaskismon can lead us in a way you never would."
Behind him, a Mercurymon snarled. "He respects us. He gives us what we need to survive. You're just a coward who hides away in this dustbucket pretending to do good."
"I do plenty of good." Babamon glared around her, not giving in from the pressure. "I gave you everythin' you needed. But you people only ever think about yourselves, right? That's why you turn to this guy when he comes offerin' you more." She swung her broom out, pointing it at Chieftriaskismon, who was standing, looking rather amused. "He can't save you. He won't save you. He doesn't have the power or the will; he's not one of us and I can prove it, right here, right now."
The leopard shark smiled. "Are you threat'nin' me, witch? Go on then, show me. What proof d'ya have that I don't have a right t'be here?"
Babamon gave him an almost sassy look, and raised a glowing hand. "You're very observant. I am a witch, and a bloody good one. There's no record of you ever enterin' the city." She held out her broom, and rapped him on the legs. "You. Don't. Belong. Here."
The great cat growled, his grip tightening on his spear. "So what if I ain't on y'register? What if I were here before any of y'pathetic peace-proclaiming lot?"
"Like that woman Teslamon?" Babamon smiled in a faux-sweet manner. "Give it up. Your kind haven't broken this city yet and we ain't about to let you do it now. Stand down, or I will be forced to take you down."
"By what power?"
Babamon smiled. "How about this. Dark Broom!"
With a swift movement she leapt forward, her broom extended with a gaseous, purple aura, slamming into him as he brought his spear up just in time. Still, he was sent skidding to one side as the old puppet kept on the assault, driving him back. He stood, shoulders hunched, as Babamon remained poised.
"Y'have quite the skills for an old woman."
"Old, yes, but I still outrank you. There's nothing you can do to me." Babamon held out her free hand and beckoned cheekily. "Although I'd still like to see you try."
A few of the leopard's gang ran forward, but he held out an outstretched palm. "I can deal with this myself."
Behind them, Latroditmon shuffled forward, hands on her chin. "This should be entertaining."
"Not fair fair fight."
"You're right, Neomon." The naga saw the clown sitting cross-legged out of the corner of her eye as she sighed. "Poor Chief. When will he realise that he can't take on a Mega level yet without getting his rear handed to him. Honestly, he should know better."
"You you caught before. Thought clever clever. Ended up silly stupid."
Latroditmon turned her head and gave the clown a look of annoyance. "That was different!"
"So say you say."
The clown giggled, his lights glowing brightly. Latroditmon sighed, and shuffled a little closer to him for a better view of the argument. "I suppose you're right. But personally I like to think I've moved past that. No more unnecessary squabbling. It's far easier to hone my power from behind the scenes." She shrugged. "Or maybe that's just me. At any rate, old Chief doesn't seem to have learned yet."
Neomon nodded enthusiastically "Yes maybe maybe."
Unaware that his two former acquaintances were silently judging his performance from afar, Chieftriaskismon gave a feral grin. "Fine. You want a fight, old woman? Then I won't hold back." With a roar, he raised his arms, his orbs glowing almost white. Then, they erupted, each one letting out streams of azure-blue water, which cascaded and swirled around the cat's feet, growing in volume. Chieftriaskismon grinned, before throwing his spear-arm back, the water following his gesture.
He lunged, bringing his spear arm forward, and the water followed, forming great claws, then bodies, then taking the shapes of great lions and leopards that ran at Babamon at once, threatening to flatten her. She leapt back and held out her broom, dissipating one or two of them, but the immense force was too much, sending her slamming backwards into the roadside buildings. There was a rumble as the vast skyscraper tilted, the impact rocking its foundations to the core. The water fell back, staining the dusty ground as Babamon lay on her hands and knees, spluttering for breath.
She took a quick look around, water dripping from her fringe, as she gritted her teeth. "This one's different…no, he's too similar to…"
She swallowed, before pushing herself up and holding out a hand. "I don't know where you came from or what you're here for, but I won't stand for it." She fumbled around, finding her broom as she gathered energy again and charged at the cat. "You don't belong here!"
"I choose where I go!" Chieftriaskismon snarled, and met her broom swipe with a parry from his spear. With a flick of his fingers he brought the water around again, attacking the puppet from every direction as she leapt from side to side. It wasn't long before she stumbled again, and lifted her head to find a bejewelled spearhead pointed directly at it.
"You have no control over this city any more, witch. Surrender y'power and y'forces to me, and y'can keep your life."
From her hiding place, Latroditmon scowled. "That sly sea dog. That's just not playing fair."
"Still still in control?" Neomon poked his head out beside her, looking with curiosity at the ultimatum. His normally smiling mouth was turned down in a thoughtful frown.
"Not if he keeps this up." Latroditmon stroked her chin, deep in thought. "He's gotten stronger, and he knows it. I need to think of something. Some way I can get him out the picture…"
"One two one of them fine. Take out leader leader. Lots and lots and lots of soldiers."
"It's not that simple, Neomon darling. Chief is-" She turned, only to find that she was talking to no-one. She raised an eyebrow as she retracted back and looked around, but there wasn't even the faintest glimpse of colour to be seen.
"Neomon, dearest, where have you gone?"
From her downed position, Babamon clenched her fists and spat in Chieftriaskismon's face. "Do what you want with me, but I will not surrender them. We are protected. We are strong."
The leopard-shark growled, then forced himself calm again. "Fine. Then until y'surrender yer leadership, I will take the lives of yer precious Homemade Army one by one, and y'can watch knowing that each blood spilled is on y'own hands."
At this he stood tall, giving the puppet a vicious kick as he rose, and turned to face the assembled force of volunteer soldiers. "So, who among you wishes t'begin?"
About a third of the green-toting members made to step forward, ready to answer his challenge and protect their leader, but they were silenced by a booming voice. "I will!"
Everyone turned as Fornaxmon emerged from the alleyway, twisting his right hand and throwing it on the ground behind him as his blade extended. Chieftriaskismon stuck his chin out, intrigued. "Who're you?"
Fornaxmon chuckled. "I'm nobody. I'm just a blacksmith." He raised his arms. "You may begin whenever you're ready."
The leopard-shark needed no encouragement; he leapt forward, twisting his weapon as he made to strike between the golem's joints. But the great metal man was fast, and he twisted out of the way, his unbladed hand sweeping round and knocking the cat forward. Chieftriaskismon turned and immediately ducked as Fornaxmon swung the cleaver.
The blade embedded in the dust, giving his opponent enough time to seize an opportunity, swiftly bringing his helmeted head forward into Fornaxmon's chest. The giant was sent reeling back, and Chieftriaskismon made his move.
More water surged forwards out of nowhere, completely engulfing Fornaxmon and rushing into the buildings behind. There were creaks and groans as two of them collapsed outright, lying pathetically in the sodden mud. But Fornaxmon was still there, held upright by his own weapon as he raised his body up again. Chieftriaskismon grinned, breathing heavily.
"Not many who can stand up to such a force. Y'have my respect."
Fornaxmon said nothing, instead bringing a hand to his chest. There were flecks of colour, and he brushed them aside, focusing on the battle before him. "I must offer my own compliments, soldier. You have a strength that far surpasses you."
"I could say the same about you, blacksmith." The leopard shark leant back a little, raising a webbed hand in a beckoning gesture. "I could use a muscle such as y'self. Join me, and y'could rule this city and the lands owned by the Fire Kingdom."
Fornaxmon vented a little, the faintest wisp of steam billowing out from the top of his head.
"I don't work for tyrants."
While Chieftriaskismon was distracted, Andromon and a few of the Homemade Army had reached the weakened Babamon and pulled her to safety beneath the great tower. The puppet was trying to get to her feet, but Andromon kept holding her down. "You did what you could. Leave it to Fornaxmon; he's always been able to sort things out."
"Too…much…" The puppet got to one knee, before collapsing and wheezing again. "It's too much for him. And these Digimon…they're not…"
"What the hell's going on here?"
Babamon turned to see the children and their partners running up, immediately coming to her side. Eloise looked concerned, while Velocimon was more interested in the brawl. "Who on earth is that?"
"Riotors…" Babamon gave up trying to stand and lay back, succumbing to the weaknesses of her age. "I don't know. He isn't recorded. He shouldn't be here; there's no way he could have gotten inside."
Vulpimon gasped, and turned to her partner. "Unless…"
"Unless he was already inside?" Kent knelt down, looking Grace in the eye. "Could he be something to do with Teslamon?"
The girl nodded hesitantly. "Maybe? There were five other doors there. There could have been more prisoners."
"Who would have been there before Silicon City itself was established. Back in the old city. In the old clocktower." Kent looked down at the puppet, who was listening intently. "This is worse than I thought."
Babamon shook her head, looking anxiously to the side of the fight. "You have to get out of here. All of you. This…this is out of your hands now."
Velocimon shook his head. "I don't think so. We dealt with Teslamon, and anyone associated with her is our responsibility." He turned back, fists clenched. "Aaron, evolve me!"
"Right!" Aaron nodded and did so, quickly followed by Grace and Jack, and soon Alopemon, Mistramon and Galvamon were all ready to attack.
Babamon wriggled, Andromon holding her down. "Babamon, stop struggling!"
"You don't understand." The old woman was desperate now, batting away the hands of those around her.
Eloise held her down. "You don't understand. This is bigger than these guys. The Fire Kingdom…they're here. Rinkhalmon's been seen in the city. That's how the SkullMeramon got in. That's what they've been doing. They're gonna take this place down from the inside."
Babamon stopped, and in a lightning move grabbed Eloise by the chin. "Where did you hear that?"
"Me." Grace leant forward. "I promise. I saw him."
"It's not true. There…there are no spies…this is all so, so wrong…"
There was a horrific rumble as the group looked up to see the entire top third of the tower leaning over them, gravity taking hold as it threatened to crush them alive.
Neomon, curious though he was as to his rival's struggle, hadn't been paying much attention. With the athletic skills of a spider he scrambled across the rooftops, teleporting and jumping until he reached the great tower. Looking down, he saw Andromon and the Homemade Army gathering underneath, trying to give their leader space to recover.
The cogs whirred in the clown's head as he summed up the situation. In truth, it wasn't looking good, although he could never get Latroditmon to do anything about it. 'Petty' and 'overly careful' came to mind, even if he took great care not to let them slip out of his stitched-up mouth. Chieftriaskismon on the other hand had charisma and the opportunity to steal half the city's armed forces right now. An opportunity like that didn't come easily, but he needed to play it right. Babamon would never willingly relinquish her soldiers, but if she happened to meet her untimely demise…well, that cat would be blamed and arrested, and then, while the Homemade Army remained in chaos for a short time, Latroditmon could get to Andromon. Andromon could get to the others, and then…
Well, with that many soldiers at your disposal, what was the point arguing?
Sneakily and swiftly, Neomon traversed the circumference of the central tower, leaving trails of green wire behind as he did so. It joined up behind and began to constrict, the light energy burning into the old metal and stone. Neomon's green glow brightened again, and he positioned his shot right at the weakest point. It was all about timing.
Down below, Chieftriaskismon raised his foot and stamped down, sending another torrent of water towards Fornaxmon. The impact made the ground shake, and Neomon grinned.
There was a green pulse and the wires contracted, the shot impacting right at the lowest point of the fracture. The clown shimmied down as the tower began to fall, giggling as he did so.
"Lights lights out, Babamon."
Alopemon moved first. "Go!" she cried as she knocked her partner, Kent and Jack away. Galvamon grabbed his partner and Kent, while Mistramon swooped out the way, releasing the wind beneath his wings.
Andromon, Eloise, Trilomon and Ladomon were swept away, but Babamon, collapsed as she was, didn't move far enough. She flinched as the tower threatened to crush her outright.
Fornaxmon stepped in out of nowhere, swinging his arm as he thrust the old woman away. She'd barely turned round when the tower made impact, crushing the golem beneath its weight. She stood up. "NO! FORNAXMON!"
Aaron and Eloise rushed forward, but the heavy metal was embedded well in the sand. Aaron shook his head. "No…he can't be gone…"
"So, yer champion gives way to compassion."
The throng turned round to glare at Chieftriaskismon, whose army was gathered behind him. "I win, and I'm losing my patience. Join me now, or there'll be more than one lowly blacksmith to fall before me today."
Those who could raise their weapons did so, preparing to fight the Ultimate level warrior, but their movements were halted by an ominous bang. Aaron turned back, and there was the definite sound of a groan beneath the heavy metal.
"He's alive!" Eloise turned and shouted over at Babamon. "Babamon, he's-"
Her smile faded as she caught sight of Babamon's expression. The old woman was terrified.
"Not now. Anythin'...any time but now..."
Gingerly, Eloise turned and took another look at the rubble as another bang sounded. Trails of white smoke drifted out from beneath the fallen structure, and there was the distinct smell of molten metal. The girl swallowed, and grabbed Aaron by the arm. "Get back."
"But he needs-"
"Shut up, Aaron! Get back!" The girl dragged him as the banging increased. By now everyone was watching, relief giving away to morbid curiosity and then nervous captivation, until it finally came. A hand burst out from the twisted metal; the same old hand that had taught Aaron to defend himself all those weeks ago.
Except it wasn't. It shook, it spasmed, and the fingers contorted as the flakes of colour reappeared. Only they weren't flakes. Quite the contrary; the arm's normal dull grey was the colour that began to flake off, revealing something very different beneath. Red and black. Copper and gold. And, showing through the holes on the back of the hand itself, the ominous glow of an internal combustion engine that had been silent for far too long.
The arm came down, and, agonisingly slowly, the rest of the body followed. The dark grey from before came off like a lizard shedding its skin as Fornaxmon staggered from side to side, letting off horrific groans and strange, mechanical wheezes. His mechanisms were working overtime and black smoke was gushing from the vent on his head. His visor and chest were glowing; a deep, orange glow that grew brighter and brighter.
Aaron moved his mouth, but no words came out. Kent said nothing, but simply held out his D-Nexus, reading the text as it appeared, confirming everyone's fears.
"Fornaxmon. Mega Level. Data Attribute. The Furnace Digimon."
With a terrifying, inhuman roar, Fornaxmon leant back and released energy built up over decades, spewing fire and burning fuel in every direction; the immense heat burning off what remained of his fake skin.
Then, the explosion ceased. The flaming golem turned to the stunned and terrified crowd around him, dripping burning fuel. The only sound came from the fires around him; the destroyed buildings and melting metal, betraying him for what he was. What he had always been.
"Take the traitor down!"
"Forget that!" This came from Pandamon, who pointed his blade forward, growling savagely. "This thing has been living inside our walls! Tear him apart! Kill him!"
Rebels, citizens and Homemade Army alike rushed forward as Fornaxmon stepped back, but they were stopped again by another cry.
A cloud, larger and more intense than any she'd done for a while, erupted from Babamon's broom and the oncoming throng was sent crashing backwards. As it cleared, Fornaxmon was still there, but in front of him stood Babamon, hands raised in front of her.
"I will not let you touch him."
The mob halted. They mumbled. They whispered, and their words smelt of violence and bitter vengeance. Behind them even the Homemade Army were doing the same; already a good member of them had their weapons pointed at their leader. Babamon gritted her teeth, then whispered back.
"Go, Fornaxmon. Run."
The giant staggered backwards, shaking his head, but Babamon held firm. "That wasn't a question."
Fornaxmon shook his head slightly. "I'm sorry."
Then he turned and ran, sprinting at a surprising speed away from the rubble. Galvamon growled. "Stop!"
He leapt away before Aaron could catch him. Within seconds the boy was running away as well, while Eloise reached out. "What are you doing? Come back!"
"Leave him." Chieftriaskismon pushed his way through to the front, and glared at Babamon. "So, fer someone who would so quickly label me a criminal, it comes to light that Babamon has been harbourin' one of her own." Without warning he gave her a savage kick, sending her sprawling, before placing his foot on top of her, pinning her down. He turned around, facing the blood-hungry mob. "Y'precious leader is a traitor and a fraud. It's time to move onto a new reign. The city is ours!" He raised his spear and the crowd before him raised their arms in unison.
Beneath his foot, Babamon scowled. "You really know nothin'"
"We know enough." Chieftriaskismon reached down and held the ragdoll high, turning to the crowd around him. "For years y'were promised to be kept safe from the Fire Kingdom. That they would not breach the walls. Tell me, and all y'loyal citizens, queen Babamon; was all y'work to make this city based on a lie?"
Everyone waited with baited breath. Grace had her hands in front of her mouth, while Eloise threatened to step forward, hand hovering over her D-Nexus. Beside her, Kent held her back, shaking his head. Now wasn't the time.
Defeated, Babamon surveyed the crowd before her. "I'm no queen." She bowed her head. "And yes, it was. I lied to you."
"She admits it!"
"No! I won't believe this!"
Eloise pulled out of Kent's arms and rushed forward, but she was halted by a great metal arm. Andromon looked back at the children. "Go, now. I'll do what I can, but this…this is out of your hands."
Tears in her eyes, Eloise withdrew, and the group pulled back. But one of the mobsters recognized them; Pandamon, who with fire in his eyes and claws bared, yelled out and pointed at them. "There they are! Babamon's crew! The humans! They started all this!"
The tamers and their Digimon partners took a collective step back as the mobsters turned to face them, waving wickedly sharp objects in their faces. Behind them, Chieftriaskismon grinned. "Well blow me down. I was just about t'get to you…"
Mistramon gulped. "I think we should go."
With a roar the crowd rushed forward, and the tamers scattered. Jack and Eloise took to the sky on Mistramon, followed by at least a dozen bird and angel Digimon, while Alopemon ran off along the street with Grace in tow. Ladomon twisted herself into a back alley with Kent following soon afterwards, with Trilomon diving into the earth behind him, disappearing from sight. Chieftriaskismon roared. "After them! And find the Fire Digimon and the other two and bring them down!"
Within a minute, the square was empty. Scorched earth, burning rubble and dust clouds were the only sign that anyone had been through. Well, them, and the lone body of Babamon, who lay almost serenely, staring up at the sky. Two figures entered her field of vision; one a vast, scaled naga-like creature, the other a short, faintly-glowing clown. The naga smiled, and leant down towards the old witch.
"That could have gone better, couldn't it?"
Babamon smiled, and raised two fingers in a lazy fashion. Latroditmon pulled back, looking hurt, while her tail spun round, the blunt side whacking Babamon sharply over the head, causing her go go limp.
Pandamon kicked up the dust behind him as he ran through streets and back alleys, trying desperately searching for any sign of the escaping humans. All the while he was smiling maliciously. He'd known. He'd bloody known. Those traitors would bring this city to ruin, and even his own leaders – the Digimon he'd once trusted with his life - had been corrupted.
He cackled, rubbing his hands together. Well, it was over now. It was time for a new ruling. A new city. The king he'd always wanted. Screw politics; it was time for the little people like him to get a chance. The Fire Kingdom wouldn't know what hit them.
Giddy with adrenaline, he turned another corner, only to run slap bang into somebody's leg. He fell back, his sawblade clattering away as he looked up angrily.
"Watch where yer standin' ya…"
His eyes widened, and he scrabbled back as the creature turned to look at him, bejeweled paws leaving soft indents in the sand. "Yer…"
Before he could even begin to get on his feet, he was flung to one side and slammed against a wall. Within seconds his body was hoisted up the corrugated iron, until it was pinned, less than a metre away from a red, bearded face. Martyaxmon glared, triple rows of teeth bared at the stunned bear. "Going somewhere?"
Pandamon choked, batting in vain at the paw that held him tightly by the chest, but the Red Beast simply rolled his eyes and pressed more firmly. "I'm going to ask you nicely to tell me what is going on in this city that's causing such an uproar. After that I will ask you again, only I'm going to start removing body parts. Are we clear?"
Pandamon's eyes widened, and he gargled more. There was the sound of tittering from nearby and the manticore's eyes shot sideways. The stuffed toy watched helplessly as a scaly being wriggled out from beneath a nearby roof. "Well, Marty, fancy seeing you here."
"Rinkhalmon." Martyaxmon turned his head and forced a smile. "Always a pleasure and a major temptation to wring your neck. Perhaps you can be more enlightening than my little acquaintance here."
"Now Mittens, you really mustn't be so harsh." The snake man leant forward, twisting his neck as he inspected the great beast. He pouted. "I'll be honest; you look terrible. Did you run into a little trouble?"
Martyaxmon looked away, trying to hide the look of humiliation on his face, along with the numerous dark scars that ran across it and most of his body. He mumbled. "I don't particularly want to talk about it."
"Ah well, it'll make a good truth-or-dare one day." Rinkhalmon twisted round and faced his colleague, leaning against the wall and gently stroking the Pandamon on the head. "In answer to your earlier question, the city appears to be in a bit of a tizzy. They seem to be under the delusion that we got inside or something."
"So basically you let them see you?"
Rinkhalmon shrugged. "Maybe? I dunno. But at any rate, apparently Babamon's been dethroned and they're on the hunt for the children, as well as the escaped Fire soldier."
"But you told me that SkullMeramon had been killed."
"That I did. We had no-one left to guard the source; I assumed you must have sent someone else."
Martyaxmon sighed in exasperation. "Rinkhalmon, how many times must I tell you not to assume anything?" He rolled his eyes. "Ah well. Luckily for you I brought backup."
At this, the manticore released Pandamon and dropped to the ground, before giving a short, sharp bark. At once there was a rumble, then a bang, then about half the street fell away, revealing about twelve identical soldiers; humanoid and around eight-foot tall, with thick cybernetic armour, glowing red eyes and small volcanos growing out their backs. Each carried an oversized microphone and seemed to be wearing a backwards baseball cap, which would have been hilarious if they hadn't been drooling savagely and breaking things with every step. Martyaxmon gave another bark and the twelve Volcamon fell in line, the slightly-larger leader giving a grunt.
"Go and rough up the town. Keep everyone busy and take out anyone who steps out of line. We really don't need a rebellion on our hands."
The Volcamon immediately ran off down the alley, and immediately the sounds of screams and horribly out-of-tune metallic crooning could be heard. Rinkhalmon frowned. "I don't know; a proper revolution would be quite fun. You have no idea how boring it gets round here."
"Yeah, well, sorry to say, but we have priorities!" Martyaxmon growled, and gently batted the snake-man on the back of the head. "Now come on; let's calm things down a bit. I don't want to stay in this dump for longer than I have to."
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
Martyaxmon raised an eyebrow, and looked down at the still-quivering Pandamon, who was looking between the Commanders with horror. Martyaxmon sighed. "It's just another citizen. Nobody's going to notice another crazy person round here."
"Maybe not, but you must be aware of Surtremon's…recommendations." Rinkhalmon bobbed up and down as he waved his finger in time to the words. "You shouldn't leave someone alive if they can ruin your plans later."
The manticore closed his eyes, before taking another look at the shaking wreck. Pandamon raised his arms, and Martyaxmon did the same, holding his great crushing paw over the soft toy. He sighed, and brought his paw back down.
"You do it. I'm not in the mood. Keep it quick."
He walked down the alleyway, leaving Rinkhalmon alone with Pandamon. The snake-man pouted, and nudged the smaller Digimon next to him. "Can you believe it? What a buzzkill."
He felt movement, and looked down to see Pandamon stood up, holding his sawblade out in front of him as it waved around chaotically. Rinkhalmon brought a hand to his face and crouched down, his voice lowering to a soothing whisper.
"Hey now, it's okay. I'm not going to hurt you. Come on, we'll show that big old mean pussycat what, right?"
No change in reaction. Pandamon tried to run, but his legs wouldn't move. Possibly the fear, but most probably the muscle-locking poison that was currently flowing through his body from the golden needle in his back foot. Rinkhalmon smiled, and reached down to the clay vessel around his waist, as green sparkles danced around his fingertips.
"Tell me something; do you believe in magic?"
At this point Pandamon couldn't move at all, so Rinkhalmon stuck out a hand and moved his plaything's head up and down in a nodding fashion. His other hand waved back and forth, the green aura getting larger.
"Do you believe in miracles?"
Nod nod. Pandamon was beginning to cry now, his eyes glazing over.
"You know that one day, something's going to come and comfort you. Make everything alright. Solve all your problems. Cause that's how miracles work, right?"
With his free hand he scooped Pandamon up and rocked him gently like a child, cooing and blowing kisses. He gingerly reached forward with his other hand.
"That's what you want, right?"
Rinkhalmon smiled down at the old, scuffed bear, who looked up helplessly, tears in his eyes. A single word escaped his mouth.
"TOUGH!" Rinkhalmon threw Pandamon up and brought his flaming arm forward, pressing the bear's face into the iron wall as the flames licked around him, his face wild and full of glee. "Incineration Soul!"
The aura hissed and bubbled as Pandamon spasmed, letting out screams of pain and terror as he felt his very essence being ripped away. Rinkhalmon thrust his arm back, cackling maniacally all the while, as the flames wriggled and writhed as if they were holding something. They spiraled down, back towards the clay soul jar, as Pandamon's final screams echoed out, trying to claw away from the burning torment that threatened to rend him to pieces and drive him to the brink of his sanity and beyond into the spiraling acid abyss.
Then, there was a click. The soul jar glowed bright green, then faded. Rinkhalmon stepped back, revealing the still smoking remains of the ex-citizen: a bent and half-melted sawblade, and a pile of black and white sackcloth, with Pandamon's hollow, eyeless face staring blankly up into the sky, his expression forever petrified into one of fear and agony.
Rinkhalmon placed his hands into his belt, and, whistling his favourite ditty, sauntered off down the alley after Martyaxmon.
Smoke billowing out behind him, Fornaxmon powered through the streets and backalleys. His breathing was heavy and his mechanics were spinning into overdrive, and with every step he felt his temperature rising; with every footstep he felt the dust beneath him turn to glass, betraying his every movement.
Letting out an inhuman groan he spun round a corner and collapsed against a nearby wall, trying to catch his breath. He looked down at himself; holding his arms out in front of him. He noticed his distorted reflection in the mirrored wall opposite him, and brought his one remaining hand up to his face, feeling the warmth of the fire within.
Despite everything, he had to admit he felt fantastically fit and healthy. Better than he had in a long while, in fact. It was just a shame that he hated looking at himself like this.
There was a rustle and a shout, and the golem turned to find two thin, glowing blades thrust up next to his face. Galvamon scowled as the mechanical man twisted round, holding his hands up.
"You've got a lot of gall, haven't you." Galvamon sneered, and positioned Fornaxmon between himself and the wall, his teeth bared. "All this time, you pretended to be our ally. Got to know us; our every move. Yet you were one of them." He narrowed his eyes. "Your kind really have lost all honour, haven't they?"
Fornaxmon twisted his head round to the side, letting off steam. "I wouldn't know. And can I just say I find that offensive?"
"Shut up." Galvamon leaned in closer. "I want you to tell me everything before I dismantle you right now."
The mechanical man whistled. "I'd like to see you try." He felt the blades shift again as he turned his head back. "Whatever you want to know, I can't tell you because I don't know. I could tell you what I do, but judging by your current state of mind I doubt you'd listen. I wish to speak to your partner."
"You're not going anywhere near him." Galvamon snapped, and moved his other hand down to Fornaxmon's midriff. "Start talking."
"I'm not going to fight you. You have it all wrong…"
The lizard and the golem turned to see Aaron standing there, clearly out of breath, but holding his D-Nexus tightly. He shook his head, struggling to get the words out. "Let him go. Let him speak."
"We can't trust him-"
"For god's sake, Velocimon, will you forget your own ideas for one damn second and just listen?"
Aaron straightened up, and Galvamon backed up a little. Aaron turned his attention to Fornaxmon. "I can't just believe that you're just another Fire soldier, nor that you're a traitor. For the moment, I won't believe it. But we need to know the truth, right now, before this gets uncontrollably out of hand."
Galvamon rolled his eyes. "It already is uncontrollably out of hand. You can't believe anything this creature tells-"
"Shut up. Let me handle this." Aaron held out a hand, glaring at his partner, until the lizard sighed and stepped back. The golem let out a breath, and the boy turned to him, fingers clenched. "Just tell us everything you know about how you got here. Although I hope you don't mind if Galvamon just keeps you in range."
"Not at all. It's the least you can ask of me given this whole mess." Fornaxmon gestured, and Galvamon, blades still extended, took another step back, quietly muttering under his breath. Quietly and without complaint, Fornaxmon got to his knees, keeping both his hands visible. The orange glow within his visor died down a bit as he began to calm. Then, he began to talk.
"Yes. You're right. I am…was…a soldier of the Fire Kingdom. A Captain, in fact. I led my own patrol and was a trusted member of the Fire Forces." The golem lowered his head. "That was before the war. Before everything went to hell."
He looked up, aware of the human and dinosaur watching intently; one of them just waiting for him to make a wrong move, and one praying to high heaven that he didn't.
"I don't know what happened. Just…everyone, even my own patrol…they began to lose it. They became feral; monstrous, even. I brought it to the Commanders and even to General Surtremon, but they simply ignored me. Even my peers began to succumb to it; they lost all semblance of honour, and all regard for life. The prime laws of the military were shattered and cast aside like trash." He looked down, his voice cracking slightly. "They really did turn into monsters."
Aaron raised an eyebrow, and mouthed over at his partner. "Prime laws?"
Galvamon answered flatly, keeping his attention firmly on Fornaxmon. "Fire is both a powerful and naturally destructive element. We were always aware that it could be deadly in the wrong hands, so back when the Fire Kingdom was being established, it was declared that safety measures would be required, like those placed on the Citadels of Light and Darkness."
Fornaxmon nodded. "In order to prevent the military abusing their power, General Surtremon set down ground laws for the proper use of their forces. Break a rule, and you would be cast out from the Kingdom, never again permitted to be a soldier. There were several such laws. Never attack with more force than you require. Only retaliate; never land the first blow. Stay with your patrol; never advance or retreat without your full force. And of course the most important…never kill without due reason."
Aaron looked up. "Sounds like things were very different back then."
"It lasted for several decades with no problems." Fornaxmon stared wistfully at the boy, before continuing. "It's just that suddenly, everyone began to lose control. I knew that something was wrong, and that my own sanity and possibly even my life depended on getting out of there."
He brought his legs up, staring blankly into the distance. "I lost my status as a noble warrior that day. I ran. I took my patrol – savage, snarling beasts that they were at that point – out on the hunt. Claim more land for the Kingdom. That's what I told Martyaxmon. But instead, I took my patrol far away...out there...deep in the wastelands and away from any signs of the Fire Kingdom, I…I…I slaughtered them."
Aaron held his breath. The screams and yells of a city going berserk could be heard over Fornaxmon's confession, yet they seemed distant. Almost unimportant.
"I had to cover my tracks. If my soldiers knew I'd deserted and committed murder they could have reported back to the Commanders. But at the same time…I did it for them. I'd seen what they'd become, and I thought it best…they couldn't have wanted to end up like they did."
Galvamon pulled back, placing a hand over his mouth. "Geez…"
Fornaxmon turned his head slightly, and looked up. "I don't expect you to like me, or even to tolerate me. What I did was inexcusable. I just hope you can understand my reasons."
Galvamon said nothing, but his expression was conflicted. Disgust and anger, mixed with a faint understanding. He glanced over at Aaron and Aaron looked back, the boy's face betraying his inner fear. What was there to say?
Fornaxmon shook his head. "Anyway, I walked for miles through the Wastegrounds. I walked, and walked, until I was found by a Lilamon. By this point I was weak, probably close to death, but she stayed with me and heard my story, despite the actions of my people. Lilamon told me about the city and offered me a sanctuary, away from the Fire Kingdom's purge. I was against it, but she insisted, making sure I got past the gates safely." He chuckled. "She was always naïve. Always seeing the best in people who didn't deserve it."
The golem reached inside his chest and pulled out a blackened disc, which he opened, revealing a black powder within. "This has kept me hidden for the past several decades. As you've seen, my natural form tends to give me away. I've done my best to help with the city's upkeep, but I couldn't do too much. You have to understand; if I was discovered, then everything the city stood for would be gone in an instant. I couldn't tell anyone." He dipped a finger into the disc and rubbed some powder on the side of his visor, but it didn't take, instead simply flaking off from the immense heat. The giant sighed, and crushed the disc in his hand.
Aaron stepped forward. "You could've told us. We would have believed you."
Galvamon humphed. "I wouldn't have."
"It doesn't matter." Fornaxmon sighed. "I only ever told Lilamon, and she kept my secret and looked after me. Even after she joined the committee, and evolved into the Babamon you know and love. She never stopped believing that I somehow had some good left in me."
He leant back. "That's everything. As I said, I don't know anything about the Fire Kingdom's plans. I ran away too long ago." He chuckled sourly, and held his arms out. "Look at me; I'm a soldier and a Mega and the last noble flame, and all I've done my whole life is run. I deserve all the hate you can give me."
"Maybe." Aaron stepped forward, and leant down beside the giant. "What do you think?"
The lizard looked uncomfortable, giving the golem a dark side look. "I still have doubts. I've spent much of my life seeing the Fire Kingdom's destruction firsthand." He leaned closer, pulling his blades back and kneeling down in front of Fornaxmon. "No offense, but after the things I've seen it's hard for me to muster up much sympathy."
The mechanical man vented a little. "Good! Sympathy's the last thing I want." The giant turned his head, and fell backwards. "I've said my piece. It's up to you now. If you wish to kill me, I won't resist."
Galvamon raised a hand, and looked at his glowing blade, then back to the fallen giant before him. He cursed. "He knows, Aaron. It's what he's expecting. It's what his own people would do to him, given what he's done."
Aaron stepped forward, and placed a hand on his partner's shoulder pad, feeling the hum of electricity beneath.
"Maybe. But that's not our style. We're not the Fire Kingdom; we shouldn't have to punish. We're fighting for a better world, right? Surely, if it calls for it, we can forgive?" He turned back to Fornaxmon. "Personally it doesn't matter to me what you've done. It's done. We all make the wrong choices once in a while. It's up to us to take a step back, and work towards the right way. No matter where you've come from, if you're willing to fight with us, we're willing to fight for you." He nodded at his partner. "Right, Galvamon?"
Galvamon seemed conflicted for a moment, before huffing. "Why can't I ever argue with you?"
Aaron grinned, and Fornaxmon gave a hearty, genuine laugh. "Boy, you never cease to amaze me."
Even Galvamon pushed a half-smile at this as he lowered his weapons, but suddenly his pupils went beady and he sniffed the air. His eyes widened, and he flew at his partner. "Get down!"
The flame exploded outwards from nearby, narrowly missing the boy and his dinosaur. Fornaxmon raised his arms as a shield as the building he was leaning against collapsed instantly, trapping him again under the weight of the rubble. Aaron and Galvamon looked up as their attacker stepped into the clearing, licking his lips in anticipation.
"I thought I could hear your voices. I had to make sure."
Aaron and Galvamon looked up in horror as the dust cleared, revealing the furious face of the manticore who wanted them dead. Martyaxmon looked around, noticing the still-knelt Fornaxmon against the wall. He seemed surprised. "Fornaxmon? I thought you were dead?"
"I don't kill easily." Fornaxmon glared up at the big cat, his legs currently trapped beneath the rubble.
"You've got a lot to answer for, metal man." Martyaxmon growled. "We lost good soldiers because of your foolishness."
"Good to see you too, Commander." Fornaxmon spat the words with venom as he pressed against his trappings. "Glad to see that time hasn't rotted your sense of judgement any."
Martyaxmon simply purred with amusement. "Whatever, the fact is that I've found you now. This might just turn out to be a good day after all. Although I'll deal with you later; first I have some unfinished business." His attention shifted to the boy and the lizard, and he took a step forward, lowering his head as the orbs around him began to glow deep red. Aaron could feel the Red Beast's eyes boring into his.
"You will pay for what you did to my comrade, you vile creatures."
Martyaxmon swung his head, his orbs following his movement in a chain as he reared up. "Royal Flint!"
"Move!" Galvamon and Aaron both rolled in opposite directions at the same time, causing the bludgeoning chain to smash down between them. Galvamon immediately went on the attack; launching himself forward and forcing the manticore to one side. Aaron got to his feet a little more slowly, D-Nexus in hand. "I'm stepping in."
Galvamon nodded. "Go for it."
There was a flash, and Martyaxmon immediately had to duck as a new assailant sent a charged ball of lightning in his direction. The assailant landed, holding his hands out in a defensive position. "Kuaramon!"
"You again." The manticore snarled, before lurching to one side, throwing Galvamon off. The lizard joined up with his partner, and they both stared down the oncoming threat. The Commander looked from one to another, sizing them up.
"So you're still using that repulsive hybrid form of yours. Haven't you learned?"
"A lot, actually." Kuaramon's eyes darted over towards Fornaxmon, before focusing again on the beast before him. "We've been through a lot. We beat you back then and we'll beat you now."
The manticore's eyes narrowed. "I will never accept defeat from the likes of YOU!" Without warning he sprung forward, great paws raised to smash the lower-level Digimon into the ground. Kuaramon stepped back, twisting his arms as he did so, redirecting the paw straight into the ground. Martyaxmon stumbled, giving Kuaramon enough time to throw a punch straight into the side of his head.
Kuaramon's celebration was quickly silenced as the bulk of a huge scorpion tail came out of nowhere, knocking him off his feet.
Martyaxmon raised a flaming paw and slammed downwards, just missing the warrior but still knocking him away brutally. The Red Beast grinned, eyes manic. "Die, scum!"
Galvamon landed just in front of Martyaxmon, fists crackling and sparking as lightning bolts penetrated the manticore's face. Martyaxmon yowled and swiped, but Galvamon launched himself into a vertical flip, grabbing Martyaxmon's neck in a vicious scissor-kick and bringing him to the ground. "Now, Aaron!"
Kuaramon was already on his feet, coils extended, but his assault was halted by the beads that flew around him, landing crushing blows and blocking his many strikes. From his downed position, Martyaxmon chuckled. "You don't seem to be as strong as you once were, boy. What's the matter? No longer have the gall to kill?"
Kuaramon let out a frustrated yell and released an arc of electricity, sending the orbs back. He waved his weapon at Martyaxmon. "We aren't the killers here!"
"Tell that to Cephalomon!"
Using all the power in his back legs, the manticore threw himself up into the air, his back legs slamming into Galvamon's torso as he did so. The lizard saw the beast's paws glowing bright orange as he fell, and he pulled his partner back. "Watch out!"
The shockwave exploded outwards, catching both warrior and dinosaur off guard and sending them slamming back into the nearest wall. Martyaxmon landed perfectly, surveying the scene instantly without the faintest hint of satisfaction on his face. He said nothing. Instead he began to run, claws bared as he prepared to crush the two once and for all. The boy first. Then the lizard. Quick. Simple. Final.
Martyaxmon yelped as a massive metal hand came out of nowhere, sending him skidding backwards. He growled, staring up in amazement as Fornaxmon bore down on him, cleaver raised and smoke billowing from the top of his head.
The blade swung down, connecting with one of Martyaxmon's beads and shattering it in one. The beast slid to the side, before leaping, sinking his layers of teeth into the golem's arm, but the mechanical man easily shook him off. Martyaxmon looked back, but Kuaramon and Galvamon had already moved, observing from a further corner, regaining their strength.
Martyaxmon leapt again, feeling another two of his beads shattering. He scowled back. "You're fighting for the wrong side, Fornaxmon. You belong with us. It's your sworn duty to your general."
"General?" Fornaxmon laughed, and spat, his arm held out straight. "My general died when he broke the laws of our people. Surely you must see that this endless bloodshed is wrong."
"This bloodshed need not be endless. We bring unity, not destruction."
"Stop your foul lies!" Fornaxmon took a step forward, his visor glowing white hot. "I've been hiding long enough. Cursing my name and the name of my people. Well no more! I am a Fire Soldier, and I am proud! But I will fight for the true path, the path I believed in all my life, and I will stand against your maniacal ways. And I will use all the powers at my disposal to send you back to the hell you created for yourselves!" He breathed in, his body letting out a deep whistle that reverberated around the courtyard.
Fornaxmon thrust his head forward, releasing a beam of white-hot fire from behind his visor that slammed into the rubble, exploding instantly. If Martyaxmon had waited one second more he would have been brick-dust. Instead he stood to one side of the burning ground, glaring at the metal man. "So this is your decision. You would deny your heritage and a chance to herald a new age, just to hold on to your last pathetic notions of honour and nobility in this world?"
"That is correct." Fornaxmon stared down the Red Beast, flames dancing around the both of them from the explosive battle. "Do you plan on killing me? Because I don't think you can, and while it breaks my heart to fight someone I once respected, I will protect my friends and my honour should you persist." The golem raised his blade, the edge glowing red. "I ask again; do you really plan on killing me?"
Martyaxmon lowered his head. "You're right. I can't kill you. But I don't plan on it. My orders, if I ever found you, were to bring you back to the Fire Kingdom alive. And if I can't persuade you…"
The manticore looked almost sad as he gazed up at his former subordinate.
"…you leave me no choice."
Kuaramon leapt up from the burning wreckage, throwing out his arm. "Behind you!"
Fornaxmon's head twisted round, followed by his arm as he sliced through the air, but there was nothing save a green and gold blur. Fornaxmon turned again, and this time his attacker was in plain sight. Galvamon snarled. "Rinkhalmon! So you're playing this sick little game as well."
"Good to see you too, General." Rinkhalmon gave a quick salute before disappearing again, slithering out of the way of Fornaxmon's blade. Before the golem could do anything, he felt Rinkhalmon's presence behind him as the snake man raised a single, solitary finger.
"You called, Marty?"
"Do it now." The Red Beast looked away. "Make it quick."
Rinkhalmon grinned up as the giant's head twisted around again, glowing bright white as he prepared to fire. In a single, fluid movement, the snake-man reached forward, one finger oustretched, until the tip of his claw just barely touched the centre of Fornaxmon's copper torso.
For the briefest moment, there was a ripple. It wasn't much, and it wasn't long, but even so, from within the eyes of his warrior form, Aaron saw something move. Something not quite there, and yet something…all too familiar.
The instant he pieced it together, he knew it was already too late.
"Oh god no."
The ripple vanished, but the effect was instant. Fornaxmon jolted; he spasmed, falling to his knees as the fires within him raged and boiled. He looked up to the skies and gave a roar of anguish, firing jets of fuel and fire in every direction from the searing pain that now coursed through him. The flames within licked at the sky, splitting his armour and sending his mechanics into overdrive. The heat was intolerable; even at their relative distance Kuaramon and Galvamon had to shield themselves from the outburst. Martyaxmon's eyes remained closed, his head turned away from his former subordinate. Rinkhalmon simply leaned against a wall, chuckling quietly as the golem's screams died down.
Fornaxmon slumped, the flames caressing his metal. He seemed larger than before. Bulkier. His once pristine armour was scorched and damaged, with a wicked glow coming from within. Around his visor there also remained a glow. A red aura. A madness.
Galvamon's eyes were wide as he tried to comprehend what he'd just seen. "What the hell was that? What did you...do?"
Kuaramon's head was lowered as he clenched his fists, voice on the edge of breaking with rage. "This is how they do it, Galvamon. This is how they turn their kind into soldiers."
Rinkhalmon stepped back, and began to clap. "A wonderful show, isn't it? Beautifully poetic and tragic." He reached out a hand and whacked the golem's stationary body. "The last noble flame is noble no more." He giggled. "And just think; if you hadn't come here and started causing trouble, we never would have found him. Thank you so much, boy; we've missed this valued member of our army."
That did it.
Kuaramon saw lightning before his eyes as he leapt across the rubble, flails extended. "QUANTUM COIL!"
He sliced down, causing Rinkhalmon to leap out the way. Martyaxmon gave a feral call, and immediately half the walls around them exploded, revealing six Volcamon surrounding the small group.
Galvamon gritted his teeth. "Shit. Aaron, pull back!"
His partner might have barely heard him, but the boy was clouded with rage, and the great lizard could feel his strength being dragged away from him as he put up his fists against the volcanic thugs.
Martyaxmon paid Aaron no heed. "Two of you, deal with the boy and the lizard. The rest of you, get Fornaxmon out of here. We can't lose hold of him now!"
The group of Volcamon split, and two of them pulled out their microphones, moving completely in sync.
The shockwaves rang out, shaking the whole arena and causing both Galvamon and Kuaramon to stagger, the great sound pounding in their ears. Within moments the Volcamon were on top of them; great hands restraining their movements. Kuaramon kicked and screamed as the burning bass melded with his own rage, but the Volcamon easily pushed him back, slamming him into the ground. Galvamon tried to leap himself, but another great thug's booming voice stopped him in his tracks.
Without a word between them, the Volcamon raised their fists and began to strike, raining blows down on their targets as the boy and the dinosaur resisted less and less. They were held fast, as Martyaxmon walked towards them, the firelight dancing off his armour. He glared at Kuaramon, who shot daggers back. "Don't you have any semblance of honour?"
The manticore responded by nodding at the Volcamon, who backed off a little, still holding the hybrid warrior but allowing him space. Martyaxmon breathed in, before raising a paw and smashing Kuaramon in the abdomen. The warrior gasped and doubled over, while next to him, Galvamon yelled out. "AARON!"
He was quickly silenced as well as the manticore's tail swung into the side of his head, the impact forcing him down as well. Breathing heavily, Martyaxmon glared between them. "You dare talk to me about honour?"
Another blow to Kuaramon, then another, the impacts fracturing his armour and causing sparks to fly.
"Ever since you've been here, you've torn down those I lead, and those I respect, without a second thought. You justify your actions, but in the end you don't care about unity; all you worry about is victory! You're only fighting for your own future."
Another strike, and Kuaramon cried out as his chestpiece buckled, the glow from the seal fading.
"In fact, not even that! You don't even belong here! You're fighting for something which has NO effect on you, and yet you still willingly turn my oldest friends into monsters. You sicken me!"
One more strike and Kuaramon's armour dissolved, leaving Aaron lying there; bruised and beaten. Beside him, Velocimon hung weakly in the arms of the cyborgs. Aaron looked up, his gaze meeting that of the Commander's.
"I'm glad we see eye to eye."
Aaron heard a giggle, and looked forward, seeing Rinkhalmon eyeing him with interest. "That's quite a power you've got there. I don't suppose you'd mind me looking into it."
Aaron gritted his teeth, and tried to lunge at the snake man, but the Volcamon's great arms held him fast. Martyaxmon simply huffed. "Piss off, Rinkhalmon. You're hardly any better than them."
Rinkhalmon placed his hands on his hips, tutting sassily. "Well excuse me! Someone's having a grumpy day today."
"Possibly." Martyaxmon looked up, staring intently into the boy's eyes, completely ignoring his partner. "But needs must, no matter how unpleasant. If we must be seen as the villains now, so be it. It will lead to a better future."
Velocimon smiled coldly. "Go to hell."
Martyaxmon ignored him, instead focusing on the boy before him, who glared with disgust. "At any rate, you've seen too much. You must be disposed of. I will do this, Rinkhalmon."
The snake-man pouted. "Do you really have to? Can't we just take him with us as well? He'd be most interesting."
"Sorry, old friend, I've been waiting for this." Martyaxmon raised a paw, as Aaron watched his every movement, completely unflinching.
"I know Surtremon wanted them kept alive, but I told you before that I couldn't promise anything."
There was a rush of air and a grunt of pain, and all of a sudden the Volcamon holding Velocimon collapsed to the ground, his head currently located several metres away and held in some kind of snaptrap, rapidly dissolving along with the body. Martyaxmon whipped his head around, before another shout sounded, along with another bang. The manticore jumped back, before a burst of rapid-fire slammed into the other Volcamon's chest, making him explode instantly. Aaron and Velocimon shuffled back as Martyaxmon turned his attention to the invisible assailant. "Show yourself!"
The figure stood in the shadows of a nearby alleyway, lounging lazily against a wall. He raised his hand and blew the smoking barrel on the forefinger of his left hand.
"Well nah, t'ain't right tah be forcin' yer ideals on someone like that. T'ain't right at ahll."
Daigambilastmon slowly stepped out, revealing his full person and giving a quick salute. "Howdy."
Martyaxmon growled, but beside him, Rinkhalmon took a step back. "Uh-oh."
"What do you mean, uh-oh?" The manticore turned to his colleague. "You know this joker?"
The snake-man laughed sheepishly, and scratched behind his head. "It's…um…been a while…"
"To hell with it." Martyaxmon once again turned on the mineral devil, who stood there lazily, tapping his foot. "I've had enough of you people; always causing more damage. It's time I took you all down once and for all! Royal Flint!" With a roar he leapt forward, with what remained of his bead chain swirling around him.
Daigambilastmon simply chuckled. "Ah, Commander. So experienced in the ways of war, yet ya still haven't learned a darned thing. Still, yah want a showdown? Ah'll be more than happy to provide."
Without warning he bent his knees and took a great leap up into the air, his pieces of armour tumbling along randomly. Well, most of them. Martyaxmon yelped as he felt two serrated jaws snap shut around his back legs, and was brought down to the ground. Daigambilastmon reformed, launching himself down towards the big cat as he struggled helplessly. He landed in a pile, reforming himself again and twisting around so he faced his opponent.
The great armoured demon opened his mouth and shoulder pads, and a thick, acrid fluid flew out, smothering the manticore entirely. Martyaxmon struggled; he kicked, swiped and roared ever more, but his roars were cut short as he succumbed to the pain.
Soon he fell still. Daigambilastmon detached himself and stood up, looking rather pleased with himself as the onlookers looked on in horror. He gave a brief nod. "No fear, mah friends. He's only sleepin'."
Aaron couldn't believe his eyes. Martyaxmon lay there, beaten and bruised, and lying still in the dust. The same Digimon who had ravaged their entire group on multiple occasions, and only stopped once by a freak accident, had just been downed, in the space of twenty seconds, by this creature. An Ultimate level had just downed a high-level Mega.
Velocimon couldn't believe it either. "Who are you?"
"Yah don't need to know." The demon cocked his head at Rinkhalmon. "Although he knows anyway." The snake man gave a little nervous laugh, but Daigambilastmon ignore him. "Y'should know ah've no interest in endin' yer lives. T'be clear, ah've no interest in ya personally - well, two of ya – but still, ah've been sent to collect you. There's a young visionary ah know who's dyin' to see y'all again."
"A visionary?" Aaron swallowed. "What does he want?"
Daigambilastmon bent down, and picked up a microphone left by one of the disintegrated Volcamon. "This'll do nicely." Then he turned back to the boy. "Ah think you'll fahnd she'd like to tell you herself."
Slowly, Aaron, Velocimon and Rinkhalmon turned to look up at the broken clocktower, as Daigambilastmon threw the microphone high into the air. It spun chaotically, before a new force hit it and it curved back round, flying towards the outstretched hand of the figure standing on the edge, looking out over the panicked city.
It had still been dark, and Daigambilastmon had been gazing up at the great, impenetrable wall of the city, clicking his jaws together. Perhaps he could make it up and over, but it was going to be tricky. Still, he thought, anything better than lounging around in a place with nothing interesting going.
He took a step forward, ready to make an initial jump, when something caught his eye. Or rather, it caught his entire head, which he was quite surprised to suddenly find being dragged down by some unseen force, until it halted next to an old, wrecked elevator platform.
"Hey, what in the net's righteous name do ya think you're doin'?"
Slowly he brought the rest of his body down, rearranged himself, and faced the being within the metal casing that now held him by the chin. The entity smiled, showing glinting, triangular teeth, and she brushed her hair aside, revealing the playful glint in her eyes, one of which was giving off a permanent yellow glow.
"Do I have your attention yet, Tinman?"
Daigambilastmon blinked. "Teslamon? Ah thought you'd…run into some trouble?"
Teslamon grinned. "I ran into something glorious. I know you don't believe in me, but remember what I told you all earlier? I still have big things planned, and I need your help."
Daigambilastmon gave her a scrutinizing look, but she merely cackled. "Just trust me. One chance to impress you. That's all I need. And I'll tell everything you need to know tomorrow…"
Teslamon stepped out, tapping the mike with an oversized fingernail. "Is this thing on?"
The feedback spread through the city, causing rebels, citizens and Homemade Army alike to clutch their ears, and gaze up towards the source of the noise. Teslamon smirked. "Guess so."
Taking another step forward, she swept her free arm wide as she began.
"Helloooooo Silicon City!"
Her voice rang out electronically, and everyone stopped what they were doing and stared. Across the city, the tamers and their partners ducked for cover from their pursuers, but were still fixated on the booming voice above. Down by the mineral devil, Rinkhalmon went a darn sight greener than usual. "Well, this is...unexpected."
The shark woman began to pace. "You're probably wondering who I am. My name is Teslamon, and for many, many years I've been forced to listen to your pathetic, petty lives from this very room. I have to say, it's appalling. Your city is a wreck. It's a failure, and now, thanks to your leaders' incompetence, it's overrun. You have been lied to, my friends. There is no safe haven. There is nowhere to run. The Fire Kingdom own this place, and your very lives. You are trapped."
She grinned, her right eye sparking and crackling wildly. "But you see, that can all change. For you see, all you need is someone with the power to turn things around. No more power to 'mons who don't deserve it. No more corruption or politics. Just someone who's willing to stand up to the Fire Kingdom and say to their face, this stops now. All you need…"
She paused for dramatic effect, listening to the echo of her words, as her audience waited with baited breath.
"…is a king. And now, you have one."
"Now, I'm sure there are some among you who doubt my power. In fact, I know there are. I can see you down there." She giggled, and waved randomly. "Well, you wanted proof that I could do it? I'll show you proof that the very city on which you stand is now under my control!"
The shark-woman spread her arms wide, flexing her fingers, as a great groaning and snapping built up. The crowds looked around worriedly as the ground beneath them began to shake.
Teslamon let her arms fall, and, with a snapping of metal and the free spinning of gears, the city itself began to fall. A centuries-old mechanism failed in a matter of seconds as the great walls fell back into the pit, citizens screaming and clutching onto anything they could in a desperate attempt to save their own lives.
The woman atop the clocktower smirked, and flicked a couple of fingers up. The descent slowed, braking the movement for the last hundred metres, until the city fell to a stop, permanently sunk in the middle of the wastegrounds.
Aaron stood up, shaken from the fall. "How the hell could she do that? I swear she was never that powerful."
Nearby, Rinkhalmon was looking more concerned by the minute. Daigambilastmon had his arms folded and was nodding, quietly impressed.
Teslamon resumed her speech. "Now you have a choice. You can stay, trapped in here, in which case you're no use to me and I will brush you aside like the lowly insects you are, or alternatively you can follow me to create a new army; one big and powerful enough to stomp the Fire Kingdom into dust, once and for all."
She breathed, before continuing. "This goes for you others as well; all of you who suffered as I did in this very tower. You've seen my power now. I can do more. I can show you more. Join me, and we can be gods. It's time for us to take back what we deserve. Are you with me?"
Down below Latroditmon looked around, seeing her own collection of lackeys staring up, mesmerized. She pouted; it was all looking very weedy. Neomon stood atop the roof, waving frantically up at the clocktower. "King of the city!"
Latroditmon shrugged, and threw off her disguise. It wasn't very good anyway. "I'm game. Show me what you can do, newbie."
A few blocks away, Chieftriaskismon had his arms raised high, his followers cheering behind him. The big cat grinned to himself. This was the chance for glory he'd been waiting for.
"This is our new kingdom! We will lead you to victory"
Slowly, the chant began to build up, all around the city. The same words, over and over again, growing in strength and numbers until over half the population were joining in. "Long live the king. Long live the king! LONG LIVE THE KING!"
Teslamon blushed a little. "Aw, you shouldn't have."
She cleared her throat, and began again. "My loyal subjects, I have a task for you. Scattered throughout this city there are five human children, and five Digimon loyal to them. I want them brought to me; they stand in the way of our vision. As well as this, I have information that the 'Royal Commanders' of the Fire Kingdom, mess'rs Martyaxmon and Rinkhalmon, are also at large. These, also I want brought to me. We shall make an example."
She shrugged. "Anybody else who opposes my word can be disposed of as you see fit." She waved her fingers. "Off you go then."
There was a muffled bang of feedback as Teslamon dropped the mike, but the crowds kept cheering all around. Throughout the city, the tamers and their partners suddenly felt very alone as they saw citizens, rebels and Homemade Army members alike turn to face them, smiles of glee and pent-up vengeance on their faces. More split apart than ever before, the group ran, and the new order followed after them.
Daigambilastmon chuckled. Already the first screams of the would-be opposers could be heard, as citizens ignored decades of rules and regulations, instead taking matters into their own hands. The demon looked down at his three conscious captives; now fugitives, every one. Martyaxmon remained motionless on the floor, but he was given a kick in the head for good measure.
The mineral demon held out a hand, glancing sideways at Aaron and Velocimon. "I'm offerin' you two a headstart; part due to bein' fair, and part 'cause I really don't like this guy." He glared at Rinkhalmon, who stepped back, smiling awkwardly. "Raise yer guns, coward."
"How about no. Malign Gambit!" Rinkhalmon moved like lightning, flinging his arms forward as an assortment of blades and needles flew at Daigambilastmon. The great mineral devil brushed them away, but the snake-man stole his chance, legging it down a back alley.
Daigambilastmon sighed, and looked to the side, to where Aaron and Velocimon were already retreating. He winked. "Ah'd run a bit faster if ah wer you!"
With a spring in his step, he powered down the alley after Rinkhalmon, leaving the boy and his partner to run like hell.
Atop the clocktower, Teslamon frowned, and held her arms high. Sinking the city was one thing, but she wanted to make sure. No outside armies. No spies, or sneak attacks. No reinforcements. Nobody was getting in or out of this city until she had what she was looking for.
She cracked her knuckles, grinning with giddiness from her newfound power, before pulling inwards. Up above, the great horizontal gates began to slide inwards, forming the impenetrable ceiling supposed to keep this hunk of junk safe.
All around her, the screams, laughs and chaos continued as the shadows began to fall, the gates blocking out the sun as they got nearer and nearer. And still, the chants kept going. Long live the king, indeed.
Teslamon smiled, as the shadows reached her and obscured her in darkness, her right eye providing the only light as the great gates were sealed.
"Goodnight, Silicon City…"