The large, magma-powered cyborgs in the baseball caps had never been the brightest tools in the box, and that was before they'd undergone the Fire Kingdom crazy. Still, there was enough dim intelligence left in what remained of their brains to realize that something had gone wrong.
Together they'd been shoving the catatonic Fornaxmon down the street, avoiding the rampaging citizens and screams of rage and fear, in a bid to get the mechanical man out of the way. Fornaxmon hadn't resisted; he'd barely even moved. His arms hung limply, and his systems had stopped, held in suspense by some unknown force. Not that the Volcamon knew or cared; their job was to get him out of the city and back to the Fire Kingdom. Martyaxmon's orders. No arguments.
Then the lights had gone out. There had been a lot of shouting and a bit more screaming, and it had been getting hard to tell where to go. Still, the cyborgs kept going, exchanging illegible grunts as they disagreed as to which alleyway to barge through.
Then someone else had appeared in front of them. Smaller than them, with a toothy grin and a glowing right eye. She was talking, but her words were making no sense. Not difficult given their current mental state, but it sounded important. Maybe new orders.
Then she'd leapt forward and put a glowing fist through one of their faces, causing the unlucky victim to wail and dissipate into data.
Come to think of it, this probably hadn't been part of the original instruction.
As the first metal giant slumped, the three other Volcamon squared off against the shark woman, Fornaxmon simply left there in the middle of the road. Teslamon cackled, and beckoned with both hands. "Come on then, boys! Let's have a little fun!"
"Big Bang Tackle!"
Two of the giants rushed forward at once, their arms outstretched as they made to pin Teslamon down. The other prepared his microphone, readying his voice to force her to her knees.
Teslamon sighed, and flipped backwards away from her assailants. Landing again, she brought up both fists at once, both of them glowing an intense yellow.
Her hands connected with the Volcamons' metal platings, and at once the two were forced upwards, their armour buckling under the intense field. One of them staggered back, howling in pain, while the other fell onto his back, scrabbling at his chest as the armour threatened to choke the life out of him. Teslamon was on him in an instant, cooing in a mocking fashion.
"Is that too tight for you? Let me help you with it."
The bestial Digimon gave a short yell as the shark lady dug her claws in, lacerating the metal and circuits and yanking them away, pulling streams of wires and data bits behind them. The monster's eyes faded to black, and Teslamon launched herself again, aiming herself for the other pained creature. A brief struggle and he too lay in a crushed heap, his inner workings in pieces as Teslamon brushed her hands off. She turned her attention to the final Volcamon.
"One to go, then."
With nothing else to do, the Volcamon readied his microphone, desperately trying to hold her back, but his garbled voice was halted before it could begin. His eyes darted downwards as he noted the great, glowing cleaver sticking out of the front of his chest, before he exploded too, leaving Teslamon coughing in a cloud of dust. A lone figure stood before her, blade extended and internal fires glowing intensely. Fornaxmon vented, and the smoke cleared.
Teslamon clapped. "Nicely done. I was pretty sure you weren't out for the count just yet."
Fornaxmon groaned, holding a shaking left hand in front of his visor as Teslamon stepped forward. "You've caused quite the show around here. I reckon you'd make a nice addition to my little collection."
Teslamon halted, holding a hand to her ear. "Sorry? I couldn't hear that."
"I don't work for TYRANTS! FURNACE BURST!"
Fornaxmon thrust his hand away as the fiery laser burst from his vents, causing Teslamon to yelp and jump backwards. The ground around them seemed to explode as Fornaxmon swung, narrowly missing the shark woman as he staggered back, letting off guttural moans.
The smoke cleared, and Fornaxmon was gone. Teslamon frowned as she noticed the glass footprints in the dust; the golem had done a runner.
She shrugged. Ah well, he wasn't that important anyway.
She just hoped her new colleagues were having more luck.
Mistramon swooped as half a dozen little pellets flew past him, exploding as they did so like little firecrackers. He shook his head as the lights flashed before his eyes, only to find himself colliding nastily with a building roof. Atop his back, Jack held on for dear life.
"It's too much, Jack! I can't hold off all these attacks at once!"
"Get higher then!"
"I can't!" Mistramon defied his own words by flapping, but he hadn't gone more than a few metres up before the anti-flight field took hold of him again, and he was forced back down. He looked back, his eyes staring blankly back at his partner's worried face.
From down below, a voice rang out. "Fire!"
There was a horrific buzzing as a minature squadron of insect Digimon rose into the air; composed of Waspmon, FlyBeemon and Mothmon, all with their various cannons and weaponry pointed at the bird and his rider. Jack leant forward, "I've had enough of this guy. I'm going in."
It was too late; the boy had already rolled off the bird's back, D-Nexus in hand, and the red glow signified his transformation.
Immediately the sky was filled with laser and cannon fire, to which Mistramon responded by barreling forward like a maniac. "Pressure Wave!"
The former citizens were scattered, but more flew up to join them as Mistramon followed his partner's path. "Jack, come back here right now!"
"I see him!" Aeolumon pointed down below at the shining warrior figure, surrounded by his armies as he smiled up at them.
"You know how strong he is! We can't take him down!"
"If we keep running, he's only gonna keep running after us till he catches us." Aeolumon gritted his teeth, and clenched his fists, balling energy within. "We don't have a choice."
Without warning, he swooped down, fists raised as about half the Digimon below braced themselves. Chieftriaskismon himself was unphased; merely standing in the centre of the courtyard, waiting for the boy to come to him.
Jack banked into a straight glide at the last second, skimming over the heads of the citizens straight towards the thirteen-foot leopard. With a yell he brought his fist forward, only to yell again when he found himself stopped in mid-flight. Chieftriaskismon held him fast; the warrior's small armoured hand dwarfed in his great webbed paw.
"'Tis truly a fine sight t'see you trying so hard."
"Shut up! Hurricane Pummel!" Aeolumon twisted, bringing his legs round to knock the cat away, but ChiefTriaskismon anticipated his move and brought his arm down, slamming Aeolumon against the ground.
"Hold him steady! I need to deal with the bird!"
Aeolumon found himself mobbed by a group of angry citizens, who pressed down on him, barring his movements. He gritted his teeth, balling wind in his hands and trying to bring them together, but it was no good. He was held firmly, and there was nothing he could do.
A pink scythe of energy erupted out from the sky, illuminating the area and scattering half of the crowd like sheep. Chieftriaskismon saw Mistramon fly overhead, still trailing energy behind him.
The leopard shark raised his spear like a javelin, taking aim as the orbs across his body glowed intensely. "Spear Shower!" He threw; the spear glowing brightly like a shooting star towards its target, before it shimmered and multiplied. Mistramon turned his head too late to see the rain of deadly missiles bearing down upon him.
He tried to dodge, but one caught him through a wing. Another sliced into his leg, causing him to spiral downwards, all the while desperately trying to slow his descent. He saw the army of insects flying up towards him, releasing their own barrage yet again.
From down below, Aeolumon closed his eyes tightly as the pellets made impact. Mistramon slumped, and headed into freefall, shedding data into the air above. He was Perimon before he even hit the ground.
The crowd cheered, and Chieftriaskismon clapped his hands. "Well done, my fine friends. Looks like we've hooked the big one, and his captain too." He smiled down at Aeolumon, before pressing his foot down on the warrior's armour. It shattered in a millisecond, leaving Jack lying there, glaring up but no longer with the energy to fight.
Chieftriaskismon chuckled as he and his army sauntered back off down the street, dragging their catches with them.
Several smaller Digimon were sent flying as Rinkhalmon barreled past them, scrabbling along the ground and through the back alleyways of the city. He was fast, he was slick, and he knew where he was going. He grinned hysterically, all too aware of the great exaggerated footsteps coming up behind him. The snake-man counted the seconds, before making a twisting leap into the air.
Needles flew out of the darkness towards his assailant, but they merely landed with a clatter against Daigambilastmon's great metal form. The warrior raised a red gauntlet, holding a short blade between two fingers.
"Ya needta work on yer sharpshootin', kid."
"Maybe later." Rinkhalmon smiled, and leant back against the wall, fingers crossed behind his back. "You know those things don't actually need to pierce you to have an effect, you know."
Daigambilastmon closed his mouth, and peered again at the blade in his hand, before hurriedly dropping it as if it was burning him. He glanced at his fingers, and the small splash of foaming liquid that trickled into his shadow matter. He jerked, a small spasm running through his body, before he stood, just as he was, giving the same metallic smile.
Rinkhalmon let out a short breath. "Damn."
"Well nah…" The mineral devil lazily stepped forward, twirling his hands round, his corporeal body seeming to shift more than usual. "Ya really think it's wise tah take on the master of gambits at his own game?"
Rinkhalmon shrugged, placing his hands in his belt. "I try not to think about these things."
"Then howabout ya let me take a spin?"
"How about no? Incineration Soul!"
The snake man flung his arms wide, green screaming fire erupting in an arc and lighting up the surrounding alleyway. Daigambilastmon shielded his eyes, but the snake-man was gone before he could react. The demon shrugged. No matter. He wouldn't get far. Lazily, he brought a hand up to his chest, and gently pressed the indent on the centre of the dice pattern, causing it to flash up random numbers. Then, he bent his knees and jumped.
Rinkhalmon ran as fast as he could, but he knew he didn't have much time. The fire around his hands illuminated his path, and he could feel he was close, but his little gamble had lost him more than it had gained. Just his luck. Somehow he'd picked the exact concoction to make his opponent even faster.
Come to think of it, he thought as he ran, he really shouldn't have made that one in the first place.
Shaking the clutter from his head, he turned a corner and saw it; across the courtyard. His way out. The marked elevator. He scrambled forward, feeling the darkness closing in around him.
Rinkhalmon didn't even look; he jumped and twisted, swinging his arms like blades towards the falling demon.
"Scythe 'n' Dice!"
Trails of fire arced through the air, slicing through tendrils of shadow-matter like a sword through rope, but yet more of the tentacles found their mark, wrapping around the serpent's legs, tail and elongated neck and yanking him away. Rinkhalmon struggled, reaching uselessly towards his exit route, but Daigambilastmon turned and slammed him against the floor, then into a building, then finally up against the great wall itself. All the while the dice on his chest kept pulsing, beginning to slow.
Daigambilastmon turned Rinkhalmon round to face him, pushing the serpent further up the wall. "Ya slippery devil. That was a close one."
He peered down, and the number on his chest stopped, and glowed red. The mineral devil smirked. "Two. How fittin' for one such as yerself. Snake eyes."
Daigambilastmon's shoulder pads opened up, and two great spears of shadow erupted forward, piercing the snake-man through both shoulders and pinning him to the wall. Rinkhalmon let out a wretched cry, before glaring down at the one who had ensnared him. The armoured devil sighed, and waved his free hand nonchalantly. "Now now, y'can't say this wasn't all yer own doin'"
Rinkhalmon's face cracked, and all of a sudden he burst out laughing, much to the shadow demon's annoyance. Daigambilastmon let him fall, before giving him a swift crack to the back of the head, leaving him still in the dust.
Aaron stumbled and fell to his knees again, causing Velocimon to run back. "Quickly, we have to hurry!"
"I…" Aaron couldn't even make it past the first word. His beating from Martyaxmon had brought him completely to his knees, and every movement he made caused him new pain. Still, he tried to stand up again, but ended up falling backwards against a wall. The dinosaur stood beside him, concerned.
"I know, Velocimon. They could be here at any moment. You have to go; you have to get out of here. I'll be fine; she doesn't want us dead."
"Shut up!" Velocimon gave his partner a punch on the shoulder, before grabbing his arm tightly. "I'm not leaving without you. We'll get out of here, we'll find somewhere safe and we'll figure something out, okay?"
Aaron nodded weakly, his partner's firm gaze giving him strength, when all of a sudden there was the sound of something slithering in the back alleys.
"Well, isn't that just adorable."
Velocimon began to growl, and Aaron forced himself to his feet, using the wall as a support, as a figure emerged from the shadows. First the body of a green-skinned woman with bulging red fangs, followed by two green armoured claws, then a twisting snake's body, then finally as the rest of the ensemble rose into the air, spread high to block the pair's escape, Latroditmon's spidery lower body stepped into view, eyes letting off a dim glow.
Aaron grimaced. "That Teslamon sure has a weird taste in playmates."
"Enough!" Velocimon turned to his partner. "Evolve me, now!"
"Spinner Claw!" yelled Latroditmon as she fire a wad of webbing out of one of her claws, hitting Velocimon square in the face. He was sent flying back, the sticky fluid gumming his mouth and causing him to flail wildly.
The sudden attack temporarily distracted Aaron as he cried out, "Velocimon!"
Latroditmon's claw swung wide and caught Aaron's hand, causing him to double over in pain and his D-Nexus to clatter away across the road. Aaron looked up at the naga, feeling blood between his fingers. Latroditmon giggled coyly. "Let's finish this quickly, shall we?"
Velocimon's mumbled battle cry came from the darkness as he threw himself towards Latroditmon, digging his claws into her snake portion. She yelled and spat, before thrusting her arm aside and flinging him against a building. "That hurt, you heathen! Spinner Claw!"
More web flew from her claws, this time in a light-pink spray that caught the dinosaur by the leg and dragged him up to the siren's level. She giggled as she patted the struggling form gently, spinning him round as she wrapped him up more and more. "There we go now. All comfy?"
Latroditmon frowned, and dropped the barely breathing parcel of web on the ground below her as she turned to see Aaron glowing brightly, his evolving form shimmering and glitching as it shattered, revealing Kuaramon. The warrior held an arm forward, clearly exhausted, but his element giving him a last boost of strength.
"Let him go!" Kuaramon spasmed as he staggered forward.
Latroditmon turned her body round, her human arms folded as she held her claws in front of her. "Make me!"
With a yell, Kuaramon rushed forward, coils unraveling. "Quantum Coil!"
Latroditmon dug in, her claws releasing yet more web, but Kuaramon sliced through and met her assault with his own. Latroditmon's eyes widened as she caught hold of the two coils, the high current searing and blackening her armour. She hissed, but held her ground and pushed forward, slowly bringing the warrior down to his knees as he spasmed more and more, the charge within him building.
"LET ME GO!"
"I don't think so. I think I'll keep hold of you forever." Latroditmon leaned in, and whispered into Kuaramon's ear. "You're so amusing, every one of you."
Kuaramon yelled, jerking as bolts flew everywhere, lighting up the street. There was a flash, and Latroditmon was forced back slightly. She turned to see Aaron standing in front of her; human, heavily burned and bruised, but with his fists raised in defiance. She sighed, and rolled her eyes. "Enough of this. Serpent's Tail!"
She twisted her body, and Aaron exhaled in pain as the naga's barbed tail slashed his leg. He stumbled, his eyes rolled back and he collapsed as the paralyzing poison worked its way through him within seconds.
Eloise and Grace looked around, being flanked by their partners, as the sound of tittering rang out around them. Luminemon snarled, her orbs glowing bright and illuminating what she could, but they were beginning to fade. She turned to the girls, "I'm running low on energy. I can't keep this much light up much longer."
"Light fades. Darkness falls. We like the dark dark."
Grace yelled out into the darkness. "Shut up, you coward!"
"Calm down, Grace. " Alopemon turned, her six eyes watching her partner with concern. "He's trying to rile you up. Don't let him get to you."
"ARGH!" There was a flash of colour and Alopemon fell to one side, great gouges welling up on her forelegs. There was a rustle and Eloise pointed. "Over there!"
Luminemon fired a beam high into the air, revealing the lolloping clown on a rooftop, his own orbs flashing brightly. He smiled, head tilted just slightly too far to one side. "Now now you see me…"
Luminemon's attack faded, and the neon clown grinned as he seemed to melt into the darkness, leaving just trails of light behind him. There was a rustle and a faint bang, and the tamers turned to see more flashes, seemingly coming from every direction. Grace turned to the older girl. "You have to evolve! You might be able to take him out!"
Eloise faltered. "You're…right, but-"
"The light is mine mine. No-one's. Mine mine. Triple Threat!"
This time Luminemon yelled out as colours flashed all around her, causing the others to stagger back, blocking their eyes. Luminemon fired a laser, but it hit nothing, and the patches around her slashed this way and that, Neomon's great claws landing strike after strike, until the wyvern finally fell. There was a shimmer as Neomon reformed his body elsewhere, and the others rushed forward, patches of light still hanging in front of their eyes.
Eloise crouched down and ran her hands over the street, before glaring up at the bobbing figure. "Where's Ladomon? Where the hell is she?"
Neomon cocked his head. "Dragon safe. Dragon sound. Dragon comfy comfy."
Grace was yelling now. "Eloise!"
The older girl was close to hyperventilating, but she fumbled in her pocket, bringing out the small, white device. She had no choice. She had to do it again. Her vision swam before her as she held the device out.
"Mine! Neon Blur!"
There was another flash of colour and Eloise flew back with barely a yell, her device snatched from her grasp. She fumbled on the ground, panicking as Alopemon fired icicles all around her, yelling up. "Show yourself!"
"Don't want to."
Grace was panicking herself now, but she clutched her necklace, afraid to bring her own D-Nexus out.
Neomon appeared in a flash of green, spinning glowing wires around him in a deadly dance as they flew towards Alopemon. The great fox jumped, before yelling out and falling again as the wires sliced past her, twisting in every direction. Her large form shimmered behind the writhing shapes, before dissolving.
Grace ran forward, stopping just short of where the wires were, when she saw Vulpimon leaping away, bearing scratches but otherwise okay. Grace sighed in relief, cursing under her breath, and turned to face behind her, only to scream as she saw Neomon's grinning grimace hanging in front of her.
"Something round your neck neck."
Eloise came out of nowhere, barreling forward and throwing her henads around the nightmare clown in an attempted headlock. She looked up, "Go, both of you, now!"
"Eloise, what are you doing?"
Eloise gritted her teeth as she felt green wires of light wrapping themselves around her arms and legs, binding her tightly. She looked up. "If I can hold him, you can get out of here. Both of you, find someone! Go! Now!"
Grace stepped back, shaking her head, but Vulpimon ran up and nudged her. "We'll be no use if we're all captured. We have to get out of here."
"You no no go nowhere. Inner Sanctum!"
There was a rush of darkness among the colour and Vulpimon screamed, feeling herself being dragged backwards by some unseen force. She kicked, shedding snow around her as she yelled out to her partner. "Run!"
Something in Grace's head snapped into place, and despite every iota of feeling she had imploring her to stay and help, she turned and ran, disappearing from the back alley as Neomon gazed wistfully after her. In front of him, Vulpimon twisted her head and snarled at him. "Snow Blast!"
It was a futile effort, but it did at least partially reveal her attacker, before the shadows overtook her and pulled her into the void in the puppet's body. Neomon smiled, and turned to Eloise, who lay on the floor, trussed up in green wires. The clown grinned, and hooked his claws beneath them, yanking her up effortlessly. She glared at him. "Happy now?"
"Where where did girly girly go?"
"No idea, mate. Why, are we not enough for you?" She humphed, and brought her foot up hard into the clown's soft knee. She felt no resistance. Of course not.
Neomon seemed not to care; in fact he seemed to be paying no attention whatsoever to Eloise. He began to sing-song to himself as he dragged the girl away, feeling the two Rookies trapped inside the fabric folds of his body.
"One girl girl. One little girl. No worry, no bad. No angry, no sad. Only one little girl girl."
24 hours later...
The sounds of breaking glass and shouting echoed around the clocktower, which had itself been patched up somewhat after the king's departure had left a rather large hole in it. After some discussion, Teslamon had claimed it the best place for a base and general-stuff-discussing area, as she'd put it. In truth, the others had not been all that convinced, given how long they'd spent trying to get out of it in the first place, and with the fact that it was beginning to fall to pieces. The gaping hole in the clock chamber itself had had to be covered over with wood and stone slabs, mostly due to Latroditmon complaining that the wind was getting inside.
Still, there were worst places to hole up. At the very top of the spiral staircase, the roof opened up into an observatory, or perhaps a watchtower. Teslamon didn't really know; this building was so old that the architecture was completely alien. Still, it didn't matter. It was an unbelievably cool place to hang out. She smirked, and brought her feet down with a bang, standing up and stretching.
Idly, she kicked the hatch open and began to saunter downstairs, twirling a jangling ring around her finger like the world's most carefree jailer. From way beneath the ground she could hear the sounds of scrabbling; citizens loyal enough to her to be her personal…excavators. She had kept it very vague, and for good reason. There was something very special down there.
She grinned, and felt a jolt of energy as her right eye sparked. She paused, and held a hand up to it, feeling the fuzzy warmth it gave off. It often got like this when she was overly excited, but it had been like this for nearly two days now. She was still waiting for it to calm down and the glow to stop. In some ways it was quite distracting.
Teslamon started as Daigambilastmon called out to her from down below, taking the steps five at a time. He paused, towering over her even while three steps down. "Everythin's goin' great guns. We're getting' more citizens joinin' the gang every minute."
"Excellent work, Tinman. I was right to trust you back then." She smiled, blushing a little. "Thanks. I mean it. It feels good to be on top."
"Tell me abaht it." The metal man laughed heartily. "So, any new plans?"
Teslamon hummed. "I think there are some people I ought to say a proper hello to…"
Daigambilastmon's old cell had been a big one. Perhaps too much space for a small chest and tiny urn, but it didn't much matter now anyway. It did very well as a storage facility. And by storage, Teslamon remarked, she of course meant chaining people to the walls.
The four of them were there, squatting in various states of fatigue. Babamon, Aaron, Jack and Eloise. They glared as the door opened, their hands held by chains around the great black Digizoid rings embedded in the solid black stone. As the door opened and the dim light illuminated the room all the more, the three children and the old Digimon were shown to be in bad shape. Jack was hunched up against the wall, holding his arm awkwardly. Aaron looked terrible; various burns and bruises across his body, and a look of exhaustion in his eyes. Eloise herself had lines across her arms and face from where Neomon's snare had burned into her. Babamon looked the worst; her hair a mess and her body slouched, looking far too much like a discarded doll.
Teslamon walked in, whistling and twirling the ring, until she held it up, revealing three D-Nexuses dangling on it, banging roughly against one another.
"I hope you don't mind if I keep hold of these for a moment."
"What do you want?" Eloise's words were bitter, and she kept her head down, her hair obscuring her face.
Teslamon frowned, and pulled a heavy steel chair over, mounting it backwards and leaning over the back, resting her chin on her crossed arms. "I just wanna talk. I haven't had a chance to meet you properly yet."
Jack laughed. "Glad you're still doing the same things then."
"Quiet, my little slippery fish."
Jack stuck his tongue out in mock fun, and Teslamon returned the gesture. "I must say, though, I do appreciate that you left me to die beneath a giant squishing machine, as you put it. It opened my eyes, shall we say."
Behind her, Daigambilastmon was leant against the doorway, head down as he listened in. Aaron noticed him, and nodded weakly. "So are they all with you? Him and the freak?"
"The five new warriors of justice, that's us. Here to take down the big man and save this world. Sound okay to you?"
"You sure have funny ways of doing it."
"Says the guy who's not even from this world." Teslamon snapped her fingers casually. "That reminds me, I have a few things to ask you. You're very interesting; you know that?"
Eloise ground her teeth. "Touched."
Jack frowned. "Only if we can ask questions as well."
"And why would I let you do that?"
Jack shrugged. "I dunno. Because we're tied up and can't go anywhere, and we couldn't do anything to hurt you, so you may as well tell us?" The boy pouted. "Please?"
The shark woman laughed. "You are cheeky. I like you." She shrugged. "Meh, ask if you want. I might answer. But first things first..." She held up the metal ring, causing the devices to rattle all the more. "...what the hell are these things?"
Aaron shifted his position, wincing in pain. "They're called D-Nexuses. Apart from that, we don't know exactly what they are. You'd have to ask our partners, and I don't think even they know."
"Ugh, them?" Teslamon thought back to the four broody Rookie levels three cells up. "Screw them; you're much more interesting."
Jack interrupted her, determined to ask his own questions. "How did you survive when you got squashed? And how were you able to move the city?" The boy narrowed his eyes. "I swear you weren't that powerful before. Though it would be cool if you were and I really was that awesome."
"Quick thinking. That and my feminine secrets." Teslamon tapped the side of her nose.
From her squatting position, Babamon gave a short laugh. "Nice try, kid. You still did good."
Eloise mumbled something. Teslamon leant forward, holding a hand to one ear. "Sorry, love? Didn't quite catch that."
Eloise looked up, her red hair falling back. "I don't care how you did all this. I don't know or care what you plan on doing. I just want to know why." She glared at the shark-woman, who leant back, looking surprised at this outburst. "Why, when you hate the Fire Kingdom so much for oppressing you, would you go and do exactly the same thing?" She pulled against her chain, wanting to swing her arms wide, but obviously unable to. "Those people came here to be safe, and you're just taking advantage of them. How is that fair?"
"Life isn't fair." Teslamon stood up, and sauntered forward, standing next to Eloise. "You are a feisty one, aren't you."
"Go to hell."
Teslamon ignored her. "In answer to your question, isn't it obvious?" She shrugged. "You're right; I have beef with the Fire Kingdom. They kinda ruined my life, and took everything I had. I reckon I have a right now to do a little life ruining." She smiled. "Funnily enough, it's all thanks to them that I can. Ain't karma weird?"
She giggled, but Babamon looked up and shot daggers at her. "It's attitudes like that which really will destroy this world."
"Maybe so. But until then, this world will be mine to do whatever the hell I want with."
From behind her, Daigambilastmon clicked, and saluted. "Seems so. Ah hope yer little talk's bein' productive."
"Not really." Teslamon narrowed her eyes, looking at each figure before her in turn, her eyes finally settling on old Babamon. The shark woman raised an eyebrow, and knelt down, turning the old puppet's head to face hers.
"You've been here the longest, old woman. You must have an idea. Tell me; where's the secret that this city holds dear?"
Babamon didn't look up for a few seconds. When she did, her eyes burned out through her entangled fringe. "I ain't tellin' you nothin'. Not that I know anyway, but just to let you know, you won't break us that easily."
Teslamon growled, but Daigambilastmon put a hand on Teslamon's shoulder. "Far be it for me to interrupt, but…ah think it's best us takin' our leave. We have other stuff t'be payin' our dues to."
The shark woman huffed, and nodded, "Fine." She raised a finger, pointing it at the four captives. "I'll be back. Don't go anywhere."
She stood up, swaggering out of the chamber and shutting the door behind her, leaving the three humans alone with their old guardian. Babamon slumped even more, and let out a couple of feeble coughs, before falling back into silence.
The great metal door of the cell swung open, revealing Rinkhalmon in all of his slimy glory, strapped to a chair and smirking.
"Well well, if it isn't the whole family. Please, come in, come in." He nodded, his eyes wide from lack of sleep and his own constant hysteria. "I'd offer you a seat, but I'm afraid my accommodation has rather…sub-par furnishings?"
Chieftriaskismon rolled his eyes as he shuffled into the room, followed by Daigambilastmon, Latroditmon and finally Neomon, who peeked out from behind the others. "Can't see see."
"Move along a bit then." Teslamon pouted, and shoved the others to the side a little. "There we go; we all deserve to see this." She turned to face them and held out a hand dramatically. "I know you've all been waiting a very, very long time to meet him again, so here you go. This, my friends, is the Digimon we all have to thank for this glorious day. As you can see we have offered him the best seat in the house and the honour of our illustrious company."
There was a hushed snickering between the rebels, with the exception of the leopard-shark and the mineral devil, who looked at each other wearily. "T'be honest, I could have gone ten thousand years without seeing him again."
Daigambilastmon sighed. "Y'had it lucky, mah fahne furry friend. Ah've known him the longest, and let me tellya, it ain't pretty seein' such a hideous sight upon wakin' in the mornin'."
Rinkhalmon tittered, and leant back as far as he could. "Well, aren't we all having fun today…"
"Oh please." Latroditmon wriggled from side to side. "Some people never change."
"You're right there." Rinkhalmon's tongue flickered a little, before he surveyed the group. "I must admit, it's good to see the gang all together and looking lively. Tinman, Wet Whiskers, Tessie, Flash, and Mrs Davidson."
At this Neomon and Teslamon broke into giggles again, and even Chieftriaskismon cracked a smile. Latroditmon on the other hand gave a long drawn out breath between her teeth. "I'm gonna kill him. Does anyone have any objections if I kill him?"
Chieftriaskismon and Daigambilastmon shook their heads in unison, but Teslamon held up a hand. "Now hold it, before we get too carried away, remember we need this guy."
"What the hell for?"
"Just until we get what we need."
Rinkhalmon cocked his head slightly. "There appears to be someone missing. Where's old Marvo got to?"
Daigambilastmon rolled his head back. "The slimy ol' trickster's done a runner."
"Ah, I see. So I guess he was the one who let you out then?"
"Nope." The iron cowboy tutted in a bored fashion. "Didn't even say goodbah."
"Oh." Rinkhalmon furrowed his brow, the cogs in his head working overtime. His eyes darted between the figures towards him, as well as left and right as he took advantage of the current light to examine his cell.
Teslamon knelt down, and pulled his head forward to face her. "You should probably understand. You're not gonna get out of here. I may decide to let the humans scatter once this has all blown over, but frankly we all have a bit of a problem with you in particular, along with your fuzzy-faced colleague and everyone else running your little barbeque joint. So you may want to relax while you can, Wrinkles."
Rinkhalmon stuck his bottom lip out. "That's a private nickname. Only good friends can call me that." He smiled, looking away. "But charmed all the same."
"I'm sure." Teslamon shoved him back, and clicked her fingers. "As I said, we don't want to kill him, but that doesn't mean we should leave him alone. After all, he's come all this way. It would be a shame to ignore him."
Neomon sniggered, hopping from side to side. "Very very rude. Must make him happy happy."
"I agree, Flash." Teslamon folded her arms. "Who wants to volunteer to look after him?"
Three arms shot up immediately, but the great metal man held out a palm. "Nah, don't all rush. Ah reckon we should give the honour to the fahne-lookin' lady there." Here he gestured at Latroditmon, who blushed just a little. "Ah do recall you two have more of, shall we say, a history than th'rest of us?"
"How generous of you, Tinman." Latroditmon winked, and fluttered her hand. "Go on then, I'll deal with this. We would appreciate some privacy."
The others shuffled out, with Neomon bouncing up and down angrily. "Never get any fun fun." The door closed behind them, leaving Latroditmon and Rinkhalmon alone in the room together.
The snake-man wiggled his eyelids. "Well, here we are again. It's been a while."
"Certainly, my old scaly companion." Latroditmon lowered her torso and sidled up to the bound serpent, a malicious twinkle in her eye. "I seem to recall we had something going there for a little while. Until you decided you needed a new test subject." She waved her hand. "But who am I to dwell on the past?"
Rinkhalmon felt himself swallow instinctively as the naga's poison laden tail scraped its way gently up the underside of his neck, leaving small incisions. He laughed nervously, feeling the toxin clouding his brain. "Still as persuasive as always, Mrs Davidson."
Latroditmon smiled, and gently stroked the snake's cheek as his eyes began to cloud. "I'd stop talking and concentrate on something else. It'll make this hurt less."
Rinkhalmon lazily nodded his acknowledgement, but he wasn't really paying attention any more. He was vaguely aware of the great serrated claws heading towards him, before he gave up and began to hum his favourite tune, as everything went black and the pain started up.
Grace ducked behind a nearby dustbin as another gaggle of laughing hooligans sauntered by; probably too tied up in their own chaotic deeds to really bother with her. Still, she didn't want to risk it. She couldn't. One wrong step and she'd be caught, and that would be that. They'd never get out of here. Not alive, at any rate.
She felt something trickle down her face and put a hand up to her eye. She was crying, and she hadn't even realized. She sank back, holding her mouth as the tears streaked down the grime on her face. Since she'd started running this would happen every now and again; the reality of the situation would hit her hard. Gritting her teeth and stifling a sniff, she peeked a glance up at the clocktower, where the lights betrayed activity within. She wished she could just walk in there and snatch her friends right back. Show that overgrown fishstick once and for all. She closed her eyes, chuckling slightly. Of course that wouldn't happen. Getting angry wouldn't solve anything. She needed to stay calm.
She took a breath, waiting for the pit in her stomach to die down, before she peeked out again. When she was sure no-one could see her, she shrunk back and pulled out her D-Nexus. With no partner and no soul form, it couldn't do her much good, but it was somewhat comforting to still be holding onto something. She flicked a button until she came to the radar, but there was no sign of anyone she knew nearby. She hoped there was still someone friendly out there.
There was a shuffling close to her, and Grace jumped, fumbling with the device as she put it away. "Who's there?"
She clamped her mouth, cursing at her instincts, but nobody came running towards her out of the darkness. Gingerly, she stood up and stepped forward, heading towards the sound with the slightest footsteps. The shuffling came again, and she saw it came from near the ground. Something hunched over, wrapped in a cloak of sorts. A very dark figure. A very familiar-looking one…
Keeping a reasonable distance, she stood over him. "Cerebrumon?"
There was a pause. Then the shape unfurled, almost like a flower blossoming, as the illusionist looked up wearily. He smiled, and tipped his hat with one of his hands. Three more were laid out haphazardly on the ground, making him look as if someone had thrown out a bin bag full of shop mannequins.
He smiled, and gave his usual sinister chuckle. "I thought I told you to get out of here."
"You know me, I don't listen to anyone." Grace knelt down, and shuffled forward, staying alert all the while. "Are they after you too?"
"By 'they', I assume you're referring to the Clocktower Rebels? If they see me, they'll either want to blow my head off, or worse, want me to join them." He retched, sticking his tongue out in exaggerated disgust. "Group of cretins, the lot of them. How they could find the gall to do this is beyond me."
Grace blinked. "You sound like you know them."
The girl took a step back, sneaking another look behind her. "If you knew they were there, why didn't you tell anyone? Unless you actually are in cahoots with them..."
She glared at him, her hand hovering over her D-Nexus, but the magician waved her accusation away nonchalantly. "They were safely locked up for decades. You'd think I'd have let them out previously if I was in cahoots, as you eloquently put it."
"Don't patronise me."
"My apologies." The illusionist looked away, and sighed. "Besides, if they caught me I'd risk losing any chance I had at getting to the bottom of this."
"This?" Grace looked around. "You mean the flash drive?"
Cerebrumon smiled, and reached inside his cloak. "I'm very grateful you allowed me to have it. If I'd found something, I promise I would have found you. Told you what I knew. But I've learnt nothing. Absolutely nothing; it won't do a thing. I'm at a loss. You may as well have it back."
He pulled the troublesome device and held it forward, but Grace shook her hands. "I don't want it. I can't do anything with it either."
"Well, we're stuck then." Cerebrumon dropped the device on the ground near her, and looked the other way, his posture far less aloof and distant than usual.
Grace frowned. "Look, I'm sorry I can't be more help. I'm sure you want to do what you can to fix this, but it would help if you could just tell me what you know."
Cerebrumon huffed. "I don't work well with others. They tend not to like my company."
Grace rolled her eyes. "I wonder why…" she muttered under her breath. She hesitated for a moment, before sitting down next to him, back against the wall. She was still wary of the corporeal figure, but any familiar and (somewhat) friendly face was better than nothing right now. Idly, she looked around, before becoming aware of something glowing nearby. She looked down at the flash drive, which was giving off a steady hum.
"Still doing that, huh? Any idea what it means?"
Cerebrumon pulled his hat down. "It's not doing a thing. That's the problem."
The illusionist was up in an instant, his hand hovering over the tiny device. He picked it up, examined it, and moved it from side to side. "I swear it hasn't done that while I've held onto it."
"Really? It was glowing a lot when I had it."
Cerebrumon turned to her, and she shrank back a little. She still could barely tell what the shadow-man was thinking with that expressionless face. Very slowly, Cerebrumon extended his arm, picking up the small device. He paused, biting his lip. Then, slower still, he moved it ever so slowly towards her. The glow increased with every centimeter, and with every movement he zoned in to a specific place. His hand stopped, just under the girl's chin. Grace was breathing rapidly, feeling the uncomfortable coldness of Cerebrumon's skin mixed with the fuzzy static of the flash drive.
Suddenly the magician stood up. "Come with me."
"Just do it. Now. I have to know. This could be what I've been looking for."
He held out a hand, and she took it, before he led her carefully through the alleyway, stopping off in a nearby pile of scrap metal and rubble. Resting on its edge against a wall was a large mirror; slightly cracked in one corner, but mostly intact. The magician stroked it carefully. "I've got to keep track of all of these. They come in very useful. Travelling and whatnot." His smile faded, and he stood Grace in front of it. Despite the dim light she caught sight of her reflection, and gave a small laugh. She could barely recognise herself.
Cerebrumon grabbed her shoulder again and turned her around, so she faced directly away from the mirror. He knelt down, the void of his face meeting the level of her confused one.
"Whatever you do now, don't turn around. Don't look in the mirror; trust me. If I'm right, you're in very great danger. In fact, you may have been for a while."
"Because if you do something rash now, it could kill you."
Grace blinked, and Cerebrumon stood up, looking down upon her. "I'm just being honest. Just stay focusing on me. I won't hurt you, and this will only take a few seconds."
Grace shivered, disturbed by the cold bluntness of the words, but also now brimming with curiosity. "What is it?"
"I can't tell you."
"Well then, how can I trust whatever you say?"
"You can't. And I apologise for that." Cerebrumon shrugged. "But to be frank, our situation can't get much worse. Just look towards me, and don't turn around. Don't even peek. Alright?"
Grace swallowed, and nodded. Cerebrumon held out a hand and touched the mirror, causing the surface to ripple, before holding out the flash drive once again. Very slowly he moved it forward, concentrating with every movement. No, not concentrating. He was being cautious, like someone playing with a wire buzzer game, Grace thought. Like any wrong movement could trip a disaster.
She swallowed again, her mouth dry and her neck feeling clammy, something pressing down on her shoulders. She bit her lip, resisting the urge to turn and look. In front of her, the flash drive pulsed ever quicker, illuminating the surroundings. She could hear the distinct sound of something clicking, along with words from far away. Distorted words. Word from beyond the void.
Can you hear me?
She jerked, before looking up. Cerebrumon was looking down at her. "Are you okay? Can you hear me?"
Grace shivered again, the whole experience having made her nauseous. "What the hell was that? Did you find what you were looking for?"
Cerebrumon nodded. "I did. It's as I thought. Normally I'd be satisfied, but…" He trailed off, looking the other way.
Grace nudged him. "What is it? What's wrong with me?"
"I'm very sorry."
The magician stood tall, looking half down at her, and half at the mirror.
"There's something round your neck."
Both girl and shadow-man jumped as the voice came from nearby. They turned to see a small pink rodent with knobbly skin and crazy, wayward eyes, swaying from side to side and carrying a shovel and a towel for some reason. He jumped up and down.
"Yoo! Yoo're one'o dem weird 'oomin things, aintcha?"
Grace pulled back, and pulled her jumper up. "We should get out of here."
Already the Chuumon was waving frantically around him, pointing into the alley as if he'd just found the discovery of the century. A couple of other shadows congregated at the alleyway opening, and a couple tried to make their way inside through all the junk. Cerebrumon grabbed Grace by the hand.
"I believe you're right. We'll talk later. But for now we should probably run."
Chained to the floor in his own personal cell, Martyaxmon sat in silence. There was no sound coming from outside. No movement. His surroundings were bleak and oppressive, and there was no way out. Even his rosary (or what remained of it) had been confiscated, and locked in a chest, where it would no doubt regenerate to its usual length given time. He knew the room to the left of him housed his colleague, who seemed to be getting most of the visitors at the moment. To the right, the humans. Including that boy. Aaron.
Martyaxmon didn't move. His eyes were closed and his brow was furrowed, as if he were meditating. Alone in the dark, his thoughts rang clear and true.
He would get nothing through revenge. Not directly, at least. The further he struggled to right the wrongs that had been inflicted upon him, the more seemed to pile on. First the humans. Then Fornaxmon. Then the rebels who currently held him prisoner. It was unbelievably frustrating.
For a brief moment he heard Cephalomon's voice in his head, remembering his final conversation with the giant.
"I took a gamble and it didn't work…"
He exhaled, trying to purge the memory. His colleague's emotions had been what had killed him. If the manticore wasn't careful he'd end up the same way.
The children and their partners had been trying to survive. As were they all. There was no call in pursuing them, nor in getting revenge. Right now, the Red Beast thought, the source was in danger. It was his job to protect it, and he'd be damned if that wasn't what he was going to do.
He breathed in, and opened his eyes. Then he looked around, and began making plans.
Velocimon rolled his eyes as the banging continued. "Perimon, that hasn't worked for the past thousand times; I doubt it's going to work now."
The falcon glared at the lizard, before resuming banging his head against the great metal door. It wasn't even an effort to break through. The bird just felt that way.
Ladomon and Vulpimon lay in one corner of the cell, heads down, trying to rest. Velocimon was the only other one stood, as he slowly paced back and forth, claw on his chin in thought. Vulpimon opened one eye. "Give it a rest, Velocimon."
"I'm trying to think of a way out of here."
"Well, good luck with that." Vulpimon rolled over and plonked her head down grumpily. "These cells were made to hold super-powered Ultimate levels. But please, let me know when you think we can pull a jailbreak."
"I'm glad to have your support, my fine friend." Velocimon gave her a look of disdain, before walking away again, leaving Perimon's rhythmic banging the only sound.
Aaron looked up, seeing Eloise leaning against the wall, her face shrouded in shadow. He leant forward. "For what? You haven't done anything."
"Exactly." The girl sighed, and pulled her arms around her waist. "Perhaps we wouldn't be in this mess if I wasn't such a coward.
Jack looked up. "Are you saying you could've taken all these guys out with magic fairy arrows, then? That would have been awesome."
"No jokes, Jack." Aaron looked away. "We're in serious trouble."
"Sorry." Jack pouted. "It just helps pass the time. And keeps me thinking. I have done this before, you know."
"I remember." Aaron smiled weakly. "Any chance you can pull off another magnificent escape?"
Jack pulled a face, and tugged against the chains around his hands. He shrugged. "I think she's got cleverer. I'm not getting out of these."
Aaron looked around, seeing Babamon slouched down in front of them. He frowned. "Babamon? You haven't said a word for a while now."
The old woman flinched, and shuffled round painfully slowly to face the others. She smiled. "Sorry. I'd join in more if I could. I want to help. I'm really so very sorry." Her smile turned into a grimace, and she clutched herself tighter, her form flinching again.
Eloise knelt down as the doll carried on, looking very concerned. "Babamon, what's wrong?"
"Nothin' dear., I'm fine." Babamon coughed. "If there's anyone to blame for all this, it's me. This city is...was...my responsibility. It's been my whole life, and yet this whole time I never even thought about what was in that clocktower. I was so focused on keepin' everyone safe and comfortable that I let everyone think I was offerin' them everythin'."
She sighed. "I can't. Never could. Just hidin' away from everythin; that's what I was doin'. Such a shame I can't do anythin' to fix it now."
Jack's eyes widened. "What do you mean? We can still get out of here, right? We'll bring you with us. We're not...leaving you..."
He trailed off, as Babamon showed no signs of responding. There was silence for a few seconds, along with a faint hum. Dread in her heart, Eloise shuffled forward, and put a hand on the puppet's arms, pulling them gently. Babamon resisted for a few moments, before relenting, letting the girl move her arms to reveal the static, glowing patch embedded in her midriff.
Aaron started. "Babamon! What the-why didn't you tell us? We could have helped!"
Babamon shook her head, but Eloise reached forward and grabbed her, holding pressure to the wound as the puppet fell into her lap. "We can still help. There has to be something we can use. Some sort of data..." She fumbled uselessly, her hands shaking as tears began to form in her eyes. Babamon made to say something, but just burst out into a fit of gutteral coughs, the glow spreading out with each convulsion. Aaron looked on forlornly as his friend held their benefactor, desperately trying to think of something. Jack bit his lip, looking away as he tried to stifle his own growing sobs.
Eloise held Babamon all the tighter. "No! You can't die! Not you too! I didn't ask for this...no more, please...no more killing...no more death...I'm sorry, it's all my fault..."
"Oh, do let go of me, you stupid girl. I don't do hugs."
Eloise opened her arms quickly and Babamon shuffled back, slowly getting to her feet and tottering a little, her restraints limiting her movement but allowing her a metre or so. She gave a strained, sheepish grin. "Sorry about this. I honestly thought I could hold on longer, but that stupid overgrown pussycat must've hit me harder than I thought." She chuckled, her voice rasping. "Besides, it was only a matter of time before I went. I just picked a bad moment."
Eloise shook her head, gazing hopelessly into the puppet's eyes, but Babamon softened, stumbling forward and putting a weak hand on the girl's shoulder. "Now, don't be silly. You've still got good friends and good citizens out there who will have your back. And I know you'll all find a way out. So come on. No tears. Look me in the eye; I'm gonna miss you."
She sighed, looking at her quivering hands as they began to fade into the ether, tiny iridescent particles coming off them. "I just want you to know, I'm glad I got to meet you all. It makes me happy to think the future's in your safe hands."
She spasmed, and fell onto her back, her arms spreading out as she lost all energy. Eloise made to move forward, but the puppet raised a finger to her mouth. "Hush. Don't mourn me and my bad decisions. Go forward; I believe in you. I know you'll do the right thing."
She looked up, and her unveiled eyes showed a twinge of annoyance. "It's a pain I couldn't be of more help. Although perhaps...perhaps I can give you one last gift. Consider it...my...blessing..."
Her voice faded to a whisper as the glow encircled her whole body. The three humans sat fixated as she began to shrink, fading to nothing. There was the sound of sparkling data, and the faintest whistle. Then nothing. Just a small patch of static where she'd lain. They sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, as if waiting for her to reappear.
Finally Aaron exhaled, and buried his face in his hands. "I can't take this shit."
Jack sniffed, and wiped his eyes hurriedly. "So now what? How are we supposed to do anything when everyone keeps..." He trailed off, biting his lip again as he tried to calm down.
Beside him, Eloise reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. "We do what she said. We're getting out."
Both boys looked at the girl as she stared up at the ceiling. They looked to each other. Then they nodded.
Eloise carried on. "I don't know how, but we're getting out. We're going to sort this mess out, like she trusted us to do."
Aaron crossed his legs. "We'll need a miracle. Everyone needs a miracle."
"Then let's be one." Eloise looked up, showing a look of strange determination. "We'll take command. All of us. Rally up an army and fight our way. That's what we came here for, right?"
The girl stood up, leaning back against the wall. She shuffled a little, before looking ahead, almost talking to herself. "Remember way back then, when we first came here? I told you it was dangerous, and we should have left this world. I didn't want to stay, but I did. We all did, and we did it out of choice. We wanted to save this world, and we believed we could do it. And yet all we've done so far is fought to survive. That's not enough. We need to fight in order to win."
She looked down at the boys, who gazed at her in wonder. "You say we need a miracle. The miracle's supposed to be us. That's why we were brought here. It's up to us now." She looked down to the pocket where she usually kept her D-Nexus, and frowned. "We need to to everything we can. That includes me. I've been scared of my power all this time, but I can't afford to be. Not any more. I'm gonna step forward and fight with you. And together, we're gonna win. I promise."
She looked between both boys, her expression bright and hopeful, despite the tear streaks down her face. Aaron smiled. "We can get everyone out of this. Nobody else needs to die."
Jack nodded his eyebrows knotted in determination. "We can save this city. And everyone else."
"Can, and will." Aaron clasped his hands together. "I think it's time we stopped hanging round and got out of this awful place."
Jack pointed, and the other two followed his gaze. Where Babamon had lain for the final time, it became clear that she'd been sincere in her final moments. The tiny field of static was still there, and it was forming a new shape. Babamon's final gift.
The three watched, ideas already hatching, as the data formed itself into the shape of a small, golden ring.
From her fortress atop the world, Teslamon stared out across the city. The dim lights around the walls flickered on and off as the nighttime power began to fail, and she hummed to herself; nodding as she tried to merge the blinks into some kind of rhythm in her head.
There was a clatter and a banging to the right of her as Daigambilastmon literally tumbled into the old observatory, rearranging himself on the spur of the moment. "Dadgummit."
"Careful, Dai darling." Teslamon winked. "We wouldn't want you damaging the walls."
"Ah can assure ya, missy, ah have no such evil intentions." The great metal man lowered himself into what resembled a sitting position, his wisps of shadow matter pulling in slightly, and he raised a hand to his eyes. "What are ya lookin' at?"
Teslamon grinned, and moved her hand in an arc. "Beautiful, isn't it? A real marvel of the Digital World. A testament to the blood, sweat and toil that went into making it. And it belongs to me."
She caught her colleague looking at her out of the corner of her eyes. "Course, by default it belongs to you guys too. We're all in this together."
There was no response. Teslamon frowned and turned her head, seeing Daigambilastmon's plasmic eyes gazing into her own. "What are you looking at?"
"Ah'm lookin' at you." The armoured giant readjusted himself, placing a palm on the floor as he twisted his torso to face her properly. "Ah chose to trust in you. Ah gave you a chance 'cause I saw potential in you. I've been runnin' the outlaw circuit for many years nah; ah know how hard it can be t'get noticed."
"Spit it out, motor-mouth."
Daigambilastmon raised his hands. "Sorry. Ah talk too much." He leant forward. "What are y'really lookin' for?"
Teslamon sat up, curious as to his question. "You're gonna have to be more specific. Right now I'm really looking for that other human girl."
"Not what ah meant." Daigambilastmon chuckled, coughed, and continued. "What do ya really hope t'gain from all this? Why are ya so focused on takin' over the world?"
"You know why. I've had a lot taken away from me, as have you lot. I just want some of it back. And I want to pay back the guys who did this to me." She held her palm up to her eye, feeling the sparks between her fingers. "Cool though it may be."
"Why'd ya lock up ol'Babbimon then? She never did nothin'. Or to that matter, what's y'deal with the children? Why are they takin' the sharp end o'yer payback?"
Teslamon raised an eyebrow, causing the mineral demon to shuffle back a little. "Ah'm not judgin'. Ah'm just curious."
"You're always judging. It's part of your nature." Teslamon sighed, and flopped back, placing her hands behind her head. "In answer to your question, it really doesn't matter. I really couldn't care less about any of them. If they wanna get in my way, that's up to them. I shouldn't have to feel bad about their stupidity."
She held out a hand, holding her fingers over one of the distant lights. "As for me, I'm not giving any more to anyone. This is a world at war; a world which belongs to those who take, and I'm fed up of not having anything just 'cause someone else wants to give all my stuff away to them." She squinted, and closed her fingers, extinguishing the distant light.
"I'm taking it back. I want it all."
"Y'do have yah goals set to the heavens."
She turned her head. "What about you? What are you in it for?"
Daigambilastmon started, and shrugged. "Ah want nowhere near the glory. So long as ah can do what the hell ah want, ah could give a damn what world ah live in." His visor lowered slightly, and his voice took on an edge of menace. "Fact is ah'm not sure ah could live in someone else's dream for too long. Ah'm a free agent."
"Really? Cause from where I'm sitting you look like a puppet." Teslamon winked, and wiggled a finger slightly. Daigambilastmon's visor shot up again, revealing his eyes. He sighed, and clacked his jaws.
"Maybe so, missy. But ah don't act kindly tah threats."
"Don't push your luck, Tinman."
Daigambilastmon was about to respond when there was another clatter, and Chieftriaskismon barged in, looking faintly surprised. "I do hope I'm not interrupting…anything…"
"Nothing that can't be solved at a later point." Teslamon waved an arm, not even bothering to get up. "What gives?"
"Th'girl's been spotted. She's roamin' in the western-most segment, along with some tall, hooded figure by th'sound of it."
Daigambilastmon sat up, taking an interest. "Cerebrumon?"
The leopard shark nodded. "Sounds like him. So th'old trickster's still roamin' free aft'rall. Have y'met him already?"
"We caught up briefly. Needless, he seemed tah have some dealin's with somethin' that he doesn't want us seein'." Daigambilastmon rolled his eyes. "Can't imagine why."
"Sounds like a fun chap." Teslamon grinned, and hopped to her feet. "Outta my way. I'm gonna send Mrs Robertson and the clown to go pick them up. They could use something to do."
She barged past Chieftriaskismon, who turned around, a look of annoyance on his face. "Hey, what about me?"
"Oh, just find something to do here, Wet Whiskers. Keep an eye on the diggers or something. Use your imagination."
"Lady, I'm a warrior."
Teslamon waved a hand nonchalantly. "The king has spoken, Chief."
She disappeared down the stairs, leaving the big cat gawping after her. He turned to his old friend. "She really is a bit of a bitch, ain't she."
Daigambilastmon waggled a finger in mock celebration.
"Long live the king."
Grace stumbled as she ran, the faint sounds of disgruntled rebels still ringing out behind her. Cerebrumon held onto her wrist as they powered through the alleys, the shadowman showing himself to be surprisingly quick-footed for someone with no feet. All the while the girl tried to get the words out, hard work through her breathlessness.
"What did you mean there's something round my neck?"
"Not now." Cerebrumon paused and flattened himself against a wall, Grace joining him. "I'll tell you when we're in the clear. But you can't go anywhere near anyone else."
"Why not? What the hell are you talking about?"
The shouts grew ever closer and the two held their breath, the seconds ticking by. For what seemed like an eternity, the rebels bickered, rushing about a few blocks away. Then, thankfully, the noise faded. They'd gone back.
Grace let her breath out, before taking Cerebrumon's wrist and pulling him around to face her. "I want to know now. Tell me, or so help me I'll-"
Grace glared at him, before turning around, staring the other way down the alley. "Why am I even bothering with you? You obviously couldn't give a damn about me, or anyone, other than your own stupid theories. My friends are all being held by that witch and you're not helping. You're just spouting gibberish at me and expecting me to take it in my stride."
"No! I won't!" Despite her words Grace lowered her voice a little, but she still carried on regardless. "I've just had probably the worst few weeks of my life." She turned around, calming down slightly. "I know it's all my fault. I sat on the sidelines for far too long, and when I tried to take control, it all blew up in my face. I need to start getting things right, and I can't do that with you being so...difficult."
"Grace...please. Just let it go. Regarding me, there's nothing for you to do."
"You could let me help you. Let us help you." She turned back, confronting him directly again. "Right now I need your help, because you're the only person around who I know and barely trust. So please…" She took a breath. "Help me free my friends. Once you've helped me, we can help you. I promise."
Cerebrumon stood aloof, his arms pulled in. "This is beyond you, Grace. You shouldn't have to deal with this."
"It's always been beyond me. But it's beyond you too." She held out a hand. "If there's one thing I've learnt while being here it's that you don't have to do everything on your own. To be honest I'm not sure I can totally trust you, but I promise, you can trust me. You need all the help you can get. By the sound of it you've been messing up just as much as I have."
Cerebrumon lowered himself a little. "You'd...do that? After everything I've done to you? Seriously?"
Grace looked the other way. "I'm saying nothing about being friends. I won't forgive you that easily. But right now I need your help and you need someone's help." She nodded, staring meaningfully. "It's time both of us stopped avoiding each other's help."
She stood, waiting, as the tall illusionist bit his lip. Then he relaxed. "It is my fault you're in this mess. The very least I can do is help you out of it." He stretched out a hand and shook hers. "I accept. I'll tell you as much as I know."
Grace gave a tentative smile, but her good feeling was short-lived as there came the sound of tittering nearby.
"Well, isn't that sweet. Two brave souls uniting to win the day."
Grace and Cerebrumon hurried out into the courtyard, standing back to back, as slowly, Latroditmon and Neomon stepped out of the shadows. Neomon waved lopsidedly. "Hello hello. Good to be back."
Cerebrumon forced a smile. "Latroditmon. Neomon. Didn't think I'd be seeing you again so soon."
"I could say the same for you, acquaintance of mine." The naga gave a cheeky smile, and folded back on herself. "Never really liked you to be honest. You were always too smug for my liking."
Grace cursed under her breath. "This is bad. I couldn't even beat one of these guys, and that was with the others."
The shadow-man whispered back. "What about your soul form?"
"Enough chitter-chatter. Neon Blur!" yelled the nightmare clown as he glowed his many colours, rushing forward with arms-a-whirling. Cerebrumon moved in a flash; his cloak billowing round Grace as he brought his arm up against Neomon's attack. The clown's claws sliced through his flesh and the arm disappeared, only to be replaced with three more, all holding wickedly curved translucent blades.
He swept his arms one by one, the knives flying towards the clown. One found its mark; stabbing the nightmarish creature in the back and disappearing instantly. Neomon howled out. "Can't see! Can't see see!"
"Pull yourself together, Neomon-dearest. You know his tricks aren't real." Latroditmon reared up and spun her claws menacingly. "I'll deal with you myself. Then I'll let Neomon pick apart the girl. Sound fair?"
Cerebrumon grinned, and unravelled four more arms, beckoning the siren on. "I'd like to see you try, madame."
"With pleasure!" Latroditmon rushed forward, holding her claws high.
From within Cerebrumon's billowing cloak, Grace could hear the battle going on around her. She seemed to be standing on mobile darkness, and the walls around her were ethereal. Not real. She gulped, trying to calm herself, before hearing Cerebrumon's voice.
"You've got to evolve, Grace. You have your D-Nexus, don't you?"
"Yes, but…" Grace took it out, looking down at the blank screen as she shook it. "I haven't been able to do it. I can't soul evolve. I'm the only one."
"That's not your fault. Mesmeric Control!"
The dark void shook and Grace stumbled, her arms flailing. The illusionist went on. "Listen, I can't hold both of them off. I need your help. You've got to focus…"
"I know you're angry at these people, Grace. Use it. Let your anger out."
Another shake, and Grace saw light through the folds in the wall. She cried out, clutching the device with both hands. "But my anger's what got us into this in the first place!"
"Then don't let it control you." Cerebrumon seemed to concentrate, and the void got darker, the voices outside being muffled. He carried on.
"Your emotions are what make you, Grace. Sometimes, you need to surpress them. But not forever."
He snarled as someone attacked him, the mysterious fabric billowing out. "I lost my emotions too long ago. All I have left is contempt. No love. No joy. I held them too long and became what I am. You're right; I could never be your friend."
"But you're young. You have so much to fight for, and if you shut everything away it'll destroy you later. Don't hide your emotions; now is your chance to use them. Find the power within them, and use them as a weapon to fight the true enemy."
He paused. "Please don't become like me."
He broke off, and Grace suddenly felt very alone in the blackness. She felt something constricting her, holding her back, and she took a step back, holding her arms close to her.
Then she shook her head, and focused.
She focused on Aaron, and Eloise, and Vulpimon, and Perimon and Kent and Jack and all the others. She focused on the chaos around her. She focused on what made her scared. What made her angry. What made her guilty.
It was in the past. It was done. It was all a mistake. A mistake that she needed to face. A mistake that she needed to mend.
She felt the presence around her neck moving as she lifted her arm, D-Nexus beginning to glow. It wriggled, it squirmed, and she could hear a distinct screaming. But she ignored it.
Before she had been blinded. Before she had been alone. But not now. She had Cerebrumon watching her back. And Jack. And Vulpimon. And Aaron and Trilomon and all the rest.
Now she could finally let loose what had been building up for far too long.
Now was the right time for her anger.
She took a deep breath, and leapt forward, emerging from the cloak and back into the physical Digital courtyard. Cerebrumon twisted behind her, bringing three hands up to block Latroditmon's twisting tail, while taking great care to avoid the barbs. "Grace, watch out!"
The girl looked up to see Neomon rushing towards her, lights in a dazzling display far prettier than his ugly expression.
"Kill kill rip tear you slice up up Triple Threat!"
He spun, his body splitting into three as he rushed forward at lightning speed. But Grace was already moving, her D-Nexus out in front of her and glowing with full force.
It wasn't like any of the evolutions she'd witnessed before. The energy exploded from the device in a freezing blast, blowing Neomon's clones apart before it spiralled back round, piercing her body from every angle. She cried out, a sudden constricting pain flaring up around her neck as something…something not quite there…tried to stop her transformation. But she pressed on. She knew she couldn't back down now.
Her body glowed bright white, vicious spikes of energy flying out all around as she morphed. The white glow was pierced itself by another colour; the cold warmth of a royal blue pendant, which arced out, spreading through her form. Then the energy dissipated, and the figure stood, arms outstretched in front of her with her fingers clawed.
Neomon stood up, his one eye darting around, taking in every detail of his new opponent. She wore loose flowing clothes of maroon and greenish-grey, with patches at the elbows and knees, along with a white fur cloak around her neck. Her hands and feet were bandaged, her feet curving into dog-like claws. She wore a mask of jade and silver holy rings around her body, and her chestnut hair fell over her shoulders in long spikes, tipped with ice. All over her body were icy jewels of lapis lazuli, the same as her pendant, and also the same as the rings on her fingers and the horns atop her head. Her eyes glowed yellow as she stood, motionless and poised.
Behind them, Latroditmon hissed, holding her arm as an ethereal blade stuck out of it, a burning sensation pulsating through it. She threw her head back, flecks of spit flying out. "Neomon, stop wasting time and take her down!"
"My pleasure pleasure." Neomon grinned, and raised a claw, before jumping and twisting rapidly, leaving coloured trails behind him. "Neon Blur!"
Chionemon leapt to one side and rolled, the colourful clown barrelling past her, but the clown was quick, and he knew it. He dug a claw in and swung a leg round, his foot crashing into Chionemon's back as his tail wrapped around her leg.
"You you slippery."
Chionemon growled, and brought her foot forward instead of back, crashing into the clown's chest as he gave a hoarse woof. The nomad leant forward and slammed her hands into his face, her fingers glowing and steaming.
Neomon gave an animal howl which promptly ceased as thick frost spread over his body in a matter of seconds. Chionemon threw him back, before spinning and landing a crushing punch on him. With a sickening crunch the clown tumbled backwards, his frozen form flailing about like a sack of potatoes. Chionemon sniggered. "Not so fun when you're on the beating end, is it?"
She turned her attention to Cerebrumon, who barely held off Latroditmon as she ferociously clawed beneath his cloak, ripping out chunks of shadow with her bare hands. Chionemon rushed forward, holding her arms wide as the rings glowed, extending into royal blue spikes. The warrior gave a humph, and leapt high, spinning as she swung her arms in wide arcs.
The spikes rained down upon Latroditmon, each one tearing into her skin and armour and leaving a frozen blue patch. The naga threw her head back and yelled, before turning her attention on her diminutive attacker.
"I think you're a little too short to be picking fights, you mangy little girl!" Latroditmon turned, her tail sweeping round as poison dripped from the end. "Serpent's Tail!"
Chionemon leapt, her feet just clearing the swinging barbs, but the poison princess twisted again and her crushing claw slammed into Chionemon's chest, winding her and sending her flying away. She crashed into the wall of a building, and within moments Latroditmon was on her, crawling along like a manic cockroach.
Her green claws spun, releasing thick rivers of web fluid that smothered Chionemon and pinned her to the wall. The nomad struggled, but Latroditmon leaned back, raising her tail. "Stop struggling!"
Cerebrumon's cloak fluttered out behind the naga's head, and several shadowy hands clamped themselves over her head all at once. There was a pulse, and she screamed, thrusting her body from side to side as appalling visions and patterns erupted through her brain. Her spidery lower half stumbled, and she toppled over, crashing to the ground as Cerebrumon fluttered down.
Chionemon's rings extended into blades again and she slashed through her bindings, before nodding. "Thanks."
"My pleasure." The illusionist tipped his hat. "I must say, I'm impressed."
"That's it! No more games!"
Latroditmon twisted her body, her legs gaining purchase as she reared up above the two, who promptly raised their hands in defense. Chionemon rolled her head, her neck cracking.
"Neomon! Get here now!"
The clown shot out of nowhere and Latroditmon moved with him, releasing green wires and web fluid in turn. Cerebrumon and Chionemon leapt as one, dodging the deadly strings as they landed blows of their own. Latroditmon raised a claw and slammed it down, cracking the pavement and narrowly missing Chionemon's foot, but Neomon was already on it, turning around as the wires trailed behind him. The green gem on his forehead glowed intensely as he cackled wildly.
"I SEE SEE YOU!"
Chionemon turned as a barrage of wires erupted out of the single green crystal, twisting and converging into a spear. She raised her hand just in time to stop the spear entering her chest, but in an explosion of green light she was sent reeling back, yelling in pain as she clutched her arm.
Cerebrumon saw, and yelled out. "Grace, no!" He made a move, but Latroditmon turned towards him.
The illusionist ground to a halt, the giant spider eyes flashing intensely as Latroditmon beared down on him, grinning wickedly. "You're not the only one who can play mind games, mystery-man. Neomon, get her now!"
Neomon snarled, and leapt towards Chionemon, who held out her uninjured hand. The clown ignored it; instead he leant down and brought his shoulder up into her midriff, launching her away again. She landed roughly, and opened her eyes to see the clown flying towards her, colours drifting behind him.
Chionemon flinched, but the blow never came. She opened her eyes, and before her saw a skeletal creature, knelt down between her and the blast. It crumbled to dust before her eyes, but two other fossil creatures ran out of nowhere, slamming into the oncoming clown as he gnashed angrily, the bones piercing his fabric. Somebody ran forward and pulled Chionemon to her feet, and she turned around.
Cratomon nodded. "Nice new threads."
"Kent! You're alright!"
"Better late than never. And I brought some backup."
Cratomon pulled her back as Andromon stepped forward. Seismon was with him , arm raised, and the both of them were flanked by half a dozen angry Digimon either side, all adorning the green sash. Andromon raised his arm, which promptly opened up into an oversized sword.
He, and the warriors behind him, all fired simultaneously towards the clown and the naga. Latroditmon became aware of the commotion just in time, turned, yelped and ducked as a dozen projectiles flew her way. She turned back, but Cerebrumon had already gone, his cloak rematerialising next to Cratomon and Chionemon. The naga shook a fist. "Maniacs! You could've killed me!"
Cratomon swung his arm forward and the green shockwave flew forward, threatening to slice Latroditmon clean in half. She thrust her serpentine body out the way, allowing the arc to sail clean past. Chionemon looked up at the larger warrior. "Are you ever going to hit anything with that?"
"Oi, shut up, you." Cratomon turned and yelled back to the android. "We've got them. It's time to go."
Andromon nodded, his head jerking up and down out of exhilaration. He yelled out. "Datamon! Now!"
A pair of very odd-looking robots stepped forward, their tentacular arms flailing wildly. "Digital Bomb!"
Hundreds of tiny, spore-like devices sprayed out from their fingers, coating the entire area, and Cratomon pulled the nomad back. "We should probably go. As in, now."
One of the Datamon fiddled with a panel on his hand, while the other looked up, signalling a farewell, as the group backed against the wall of buildings. Neomon stepped back as the devices congregated at his feet, and looked up at Latroditmon, whose eyes were wide. "Oh, crap."
The devices exploded, sending bubbles of electricity flying everywhere and smothering the area. Neomon yelped and hid behind Latroditmon, who shielded herself with her arms. When the explosions cleared, she unwrapped herself, coughing and spluttering from the dust. The soldiers were gone.
Neomon stepped out, and flopped sadly to his knees.
"Teslamon not be happy happy."
The city's inner gates opened, just a fraction, and Cratomon strode in, with Chionemon, Andromon, Seismon and the others following after him. There were many more Digimon spread out inside the hollow city walls; mainly smaller and less battle-ready than the ones who had rescued them, but all with looks of determination. Chionemon put her hands on her hips. "I thought all the citizens had gone crazy?"
"Not everyone." Andromon walked up to her, stuttering a little but holding firm. "A great many of us are still loyal to Babamon and the city she stands for. We will rescue her, along with everyone else." He laughed nervously. "We've gotten through tougher scrapes than this. I'm sure we'll be fine."
"We've been collecting people who need our help and bringing them here." Cratomon nodded at the vast empty chamber around him. "Obviously we can't let them out of the city itself because of its current position, but as long as the inner gates are closed then we're safe. Teslamon can move the city, but she can't break into the walls themselves."
Chionemon looked down, and her Digimon form melted away, Cratomon's doing the same. Grace frowned. "Not yet, anyway."
"We'll deal with that when we come to it." Kent put a hand on her shoulder. "What about the others? Is anyone still out there?"
Grace shook her head. "Eloise, Ladomon and Vulpimon were taken by the clown. I haven't seen the others either, and I can't get in contact with them. I'm pretty sure Teslamon got them."
Kent bit his lip. "Damn. So it's just us then."
"Excuse me?" Kent looked down to see Trilomon nudging his leg, before the insect pointed over to the wall. "I think we have an extra visitor?"
"Right." Grace walked over to Cerebrumon and pulled him over to Kent, where the illusionist tipped his hat. "Greetings."
"Much obliged." Kent narrowed his eyes, before looking down at Grace. "This must be Cerebrumon?"
Kent put his hands in his pockets, staring down the shadow-man, despite being half a head shorter than him. "Are you really willing to help us? You've put my friend through an awful lot of trouble."
"I'll share what I know. And what I have. You might be able to do something with this." Cerebrumon felt inside his cloak and pulled out the flash drive, tossing it over to the teenager, who caught it and looked at it curiously.
He stood in silence, his eyes slowly widening as Grace drew closer. "What is it?"
Cerebrumon looked puzzled. "Well it is now. No need to be hoggish."
"No, I mean it's mine. I brought this. I had it when I came to the Digital World." He pointed a finger at the shadow-man. "How did you get hold of it?"
Cerebrumon looked taken aback. "I…I found it in her mind."
Kent's gaze turned to her, and she took a step back. "I'm utterly lost. What is your flash drive doing in my skull?"
Trilomon looked up. "I have a bad feeling about this…"
"Didn't this break?"
Grace blinked. "What?"
Kent nodded. "I broke it. This thing. When I started fiddling with the Digital World. I copied the mask-thing to it and then Mandrimon got inside and then he went crazy-"
He stopped, his eyes darting in every direction as he looked down at the floor, mumbling to himself. Grace grabbed his arm. "What is it? What the hell's going on?"
Kent looked at her, almost smiling as his eyes widened. "Grace, my god. I think I might have figured it out."
Grace swallowed. Behind her, Cerebrumon's face fell. Grace made to speak, but her words were cut short as something squeezed her neck. She gasped, choked, and fell to the floor, feeling a rush of adrenaline, fear and rage wash through her head. Words too.
Don't let the horrible man find me.
Kent fell to his knees, yelling her name. Other Digimon stood around, yelling and jostling. Cerebrumon stepped forward, sweeping his arms back, before unravelling two and reaching down towards her.
She became vaguely aware of a weight on her neck. Small, beady yellow eyes. Translucent blue skin. Sickle-red claws. Fungal projections.
HE CAN'T SEE ME NO ONE CAN FIND ME DON'T LET HIM I'LL KILL YOU I HATE YOU NO DON'T I CAN'T DIE DON'T LET HIM PUT YOU TO
A fog descended over Fornaxmon's vision as he stood against the elevator mechanism. Trying to steady his breathing. Not like this. Anything but this. He didn't want to go the same way as so many others.
Inside he could feel his systems burning; working overtime. A boiling rage threatened to boil over within him, punctuated by voices. They were beckoning him. Leading him somewhere. DON'T LET THEM FIND ME.
He mumbled, and took a step, trying desperately to stop himself. To clear his head. To stop the oncoming madness. He became aware of movement next to him, but ignored it, instead taking another step.
I CAN GIVE YOU POWER SAVE ME DON'T LET THEM
"Don't take another step!"
Fornaxmon snapped out of his trance as a blade of darkness shot out of nowhere, and he found himself being hounded backwards, falling back against the wall as a pair of menacing purple eyes met his visor.
The attack hit him, and immediately his systems slowed. He stared, agape, as the dragon flew forwards, blade held out in front of him, until it was directly in front of his face, threatening to pierce the golem's gauze.
Colchimon growled, and spoke.
"What have you done with my partner?"
TO BE CONTINUED…
CAN YOU SEE ME?