I had nobody to blame but myself.
It was the war's early days. Digimon everywhere were rushing about to stand up to the sudden attack. Propaganda booms. New factories. Forced evolutions. Conscription. Come and save the Digital World. Everything you'd expect.
Being rather smug and self-important, of course a line like that was going to suck me in. So I volunteered. We had barely trained for a week before we were sent off to scout the enemy outposts. Try and reclaim some ground. A stupid move, really, but then again, every one of us was naïve back then.
Perhaps I was more naïve than most; of course I would be the one to go rushing off. I left my patrol and went snooping about the base on my own. I'm good at that, you see. Well, evidently not good enough. But then, how was I to know that Rinkhalmon would be there?
He was ruthless. Everyone else was gone in a matter of minutes. Vanished in a puff of data. I thought my time had come there and then, but the scientist seemed to take pity on me. My powers were sealed and I was put to sleep, that grinning maniac watching over the whole thing.
When I woke up, I was alone in a Fire Kingdom cell, deep in the Infernal Fortress. At least, I thought I was alone at first. After a couple of days with no-one arriving, finally that serpent came in, along with someone else. Somebody unfamiliar; a lanky fellow with armour plating and a heavy Western accent. Bandimon; that was his name back then. I'd barely gotten a chance to meet him before Rinkhalmon beckoned me out. Take part in experiments, and my life would be spared.
It sickened me to think I might be helping those monsters, but frankly, I figured any humiliation would be better than death. Besides, I figured I could use the opportunity to find out more about the Fire Kingdom's plans. Again, naïve, I know, but I've always been an opportunist. So, I took part. My powers remained sealed, and yet the serpent kept playing around with them; pumping various fluids, poisons and potions into me and measuring the reactions. As well as those…things. I don't even know where they came from, but he had a seemingly endless supply. I could never see them, but every time he fed one into the chamber, I could feel it. It passed into me, despite my corporeal form. I could feel it slithering around, entering my mind, feasting on my very essence.
Yet it was never enough. Every time, Rinkhalmon would take me back, cheery yet obviously frustrated. More power. It was always more power he wanted. More energy. Occasionally I asked what for. He'd just shrug and ignore me. Worth a try, I suppose. He'd be quite happy to chat while I was on the operating table; talk about the war, or hobbies, or gossip about Martyaxmon and Cephalomon - he enjoyed that a lot. Still, he wasn't stupid; any mention of his plans and the subject would change in a flash, or he'd simply clam up completely.
So it was for the longest time. Me and Bandimon, brothers in experimentation. When Rinkhalmon was away, we'd pass the time by chatting and playing mind games. He always liked those, although he always got into a strop when he lost (which, I am somewhat proud to admit, was more often than not). Bandimon had been there for far longer than I had, and he was often fatigued, the constant experiments taking their toll on him physically. Still, he seemed happy enough, but he always told me how he yearned to be free again. We made big, elaborate plans of escape, taking the serpent's severed head and tossing it at the Fire General's feet. Of course it would never happen. But it kept us sane.
Pretty soon, others began to come. More "volunteers" for Rinkhalmon's sick projects. First it was Chieftriaskismon the sea leopard, who spent most of the first few weeks standing alone in a corner, completely ignoring us. He would constantly disagree with everything we said and for the first couple of days refused to go with Rinkhalmon to the operating theatre. Well, a few doses of sedative soon stopped that bad habit. He loosened up a little after the first week. A little. Not much at all, really.
Then came Latroditmon, who was friendly enough, although our living quarters were made slightly more cramped by her arrival. She gave us a great many stories about Rinkhalmon's "personal life". Given her attitude toward him at the time, I'm not sure all of them were completely unexaggerated truths, but it was fun to hear nonetheless. It was always satisfying, when Rinkhalmon returned her after a night of testing, seeing him sporting a few nice new gouges on his body.
Neomon was an interesting one; certainly a fun-loving little fellow, but you couldn't trust him further than you could throw him. The first time he met us he tried to kill us all. We thought it was rather cute, and kept him stood in the corner until he calmed down.
For you see we'd been growing stronger, bit by bit. Whatever that vile serpent was doing had changed our bodies; morphing us into something more. We could use power that any normal Ultimate level would have dreamed of, and yet apparently it still wasn't enough.
Then it happened. Well, two things, actually, which would change our fates forever. It started with the four of us waiting for Bandimon. He was almost a day later than we expected but he finally arrived. In a box. What was left of his armour was letting off vast quantities of smoke, and Rinkhalmon just dumped it there, seemingly ecstatic. "I've got it!" he was saying to himself. "I know how to do it! All the power I need."
At first, we were dumbstruck over the loss of our…well, our friend. But miraculously, Bandimon had survived. More than that; he'd evolved. Unnaturally, admittedly, but still completely; becoming something the Digital World had never witnessed before. In between trying to figure out how to use his new plasmic form, he told us all that had happened. Rinkhalmon had implanted yet another of the strange, otherworldly creatures, and the thing had finally connected, giving Bandimon an immense power boost. Sadly, the power had been too much for him to remain stable, and he'd undergone a transformation into the Daigambilastmon you know. And that wasn't good enough, apparently. Those things didn't like the shadows. I should know; they never quite bonded with me as they did with the others.
Then, later that day, she arrived. Teslamon; our newest housemate, plucked from the back streets of Silicon City. Rinkhalmon pretty much shoved her inside the cell and stomped off; apparently her constant chattering had driven him nuts. So, there we were. All examining the newcomer. Perhaps, with a little work, she could be our ticket out of here.
Teslamon became part of our little family almost instantly. Cheery and chirpy, eager to join in with the gossip and the games, and even making the grumpy catfish crack a smile on occasion. She kept everyone's spirits up, until the time came for her to be taken away. We prayed she'd find something; a way out of this hell.
Our prayers were answered that very night. She came back shaking with excitement. You see, in his eagerness to gain his precious energy, Rinkhalmon had imbued her with the same process he'd given to Bandimon. She'd managed to keep her current form, but the power was definitely there. The power to bypass Rinkhalmon's seal. The power to get her powers back. We watched as she pressed again and again at the door, budging it little by little, until she sent it spinning away. It was finally time to get out of that hell hole.
We were never the closest of friends, but we stuck together, just this once. Teslamon and I even helped Daigambilastmon along; even after several days, he wasn't yet strong enough to move his armoured body. We couldn't risk getting caught; not when four of us were still sealed and one couldn't move alone. That slimy bastard had planted us right in the deepest parts of the Infernal Fortress. Nearly the deepest, anyway. There was a single stairway down, but we ignored it. We were headed up and out of there.
It could have turned out alright. We could have made it out, if we hadn't taken a wrong turning and ended up right in Cephalomon's chamber. It wouldn't have been so bad if Cephalomon wasn't there himself, talking to Martyaxmon and Rinkhalmon.
We tried, we really did. We even put the oversized pussycat out of action, but in the end we had nowhere to run, and we were overpowered. I remember the sting of the serpent's finger as he struck me in the back of my neck, and the familiar sensation of the leech as it swum through my brain, clouding it, sending me to sleep…
That was the last time I saw the others until now. When I woke up, I was in the clocktower, far away from the Infernal Fortress. I'm surprised we weren't killed instantly, but Rinkhalmon had always had a way with words. I'm sure he convinced Martyaxmon that we would lead the Fire Kingdom to their next conquest or something ridiculous.
I was lucky, really. I was always very careful about showing off my powers, so thankfully, the serpent had made an oversight in imprisoning me. Despite being completely sealed, I was able to move just enough to polish the inner surface, until it shone like a mirror. Then, I stepped through, and bolted. The others weren't even on my mind. I had no idea they were next to me. I just wanted my freedom.
Perhaps, if I'd gone back for them, things could have been a little bit different. Perhaps not. All I know is that they were very different back then from how they are now. Not necessarily "good", as you'd put it. But we had been our own little family, if only briefly.
For the next several decades, I heard her. Teslamon. I heard her when she called out into the ether, although I never dared speak back. I heard her as your mind broke; as her love for life gave way to a lust for power. I alone listened as her mind succumbed to whatever darkness lay there. It broke my heart to leave her trapped, but something stopped me going back. A fear for what she had become. More likely a fear for myself.
It seems I left it too long anyway. There's no getting her back now. Any of them.
So there you have it.
That's the story of how my cowardice killed the only true friends I ever had.
And you wonder why I prefer to work alone.
Enough about me. Your burden is heavy, but we're here for you. We all are.
Time to wake up, Grace…
Teslamon whistled, twirling the D-Nexuses around her finger as she sauntered down the stairs, when she heard a voice in her ears, seemingly coming from the cell next to her. She pouted, annoyed at having her rhythm broken, before sticking the devices around her wrist and opening up the door. "Eeyello, what's happenin'? Keep it quick; my henchmen are idiots and I'm in a bit of a foul mood."
She grinned, but her grin was strained. Jack looked her way, nodding in acknowledgement. "Hey there Sparky."
Teslamon frowned, and slowly wandered over to where the humans sat, eyeing her down. The shark-woman stopped, and looked from left to right, her brow furrowing. "Okay, I'm the one who does the jokes round here."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. The old biddy; where is she?"
Aaron, Jack and Eloise looked at each other, making exaggerated shrugging gestures. "Never heard of her."
There was silence, followed by a regular rhythm as Teslamon tapped her foot. "I believe I said I'm not in the best of moods. And when I'm not always in the best of moods and people start joking, I start doing things. So, again, where is Babamon?"
Eloise giggled girlishly. "What are you so worried about? She's only an old lady." The girl stuck her tongue out. "Are you scared of her?"
Teslamon's eyes widened along with her smile as she stepped further forward, cracking her knuckles, while Eloise showed not the slightest sign of fear. She moved her hand behind her back. Next to her, Jack started bobbing his head from side to side. "'Fraidy shark! 'Fraidy shark!"
Aaron chuckled quietly, his eyes moving up and down Teslamon's form. Towards the D-Nexuses. Towards her glowing hands. And towards her very agitated right eye.
Slowly, deliberately, Teslamon reached forward and yanked Eloise to her feet by the collar of her shirt. She leaned in close, bolts of static reaching out from her eye and caressing Eloise's hair. "You should know by now I don't play games."
Eloise blew a stray strand out of her eyes, and gave a cheeky grin. "Sure you do. We had a wonderful game of tag a couple of days ago."
She laughed, and Teslamon laughed with her, the shark-woman's hand tightening. Jack shot Aaron a worried look, but kept chanting. Aaron slightly adjusted his hand, bringing it just out into the open.
"Where is she!?" snapped Teslamon suddenly, her raised voice making Eloise flinch and bring her arms up, smiling awkwardly. The metal around her wrists began to rattle unsettlingly as Teslamon's annoyance increased, her electric field growing.
"Would you believe me if I said-"
"Shut up!" Teslamon brought an arm back, her hand closed in a fist and her metal claws gleaming. "I don't have the patience for this right now; not when I have so many incompetent people around me and a bunch of prisoners who won't do as they're told! So I'm giving you three seconds before I start breaking things. For the last bloody time, where is Babamon?"
Aaron called out. "She's right here. Come and have a look."
Teslamon turned, and Aaron fired, his elastic band propelling Babamon's ring straight towards Teslamon's face.
In any normal circumstances, this would have been relatively pointless. But Teslamon was angry. As she got angrier, her powers fluctuated more. As her powers fluctuated more, the more energy her eye emitted. And with the strength of the field it was now outputting, the ring was caught, diverted, and slammed right square in the middle of that very eye.
Teslamon yelped and jerked, a spasm going through her body as her field went haywire for a moment, sending out a magnetic shockwave that ripped through the metalwork closest to her. Including Eloise's restraints.
Teslamon stepped back, and shot daggers at the older boy. "You bastard! You'll pay-"
She caught the sight of something flying towards her and turned her attention back to Eloise, only for the girl's left fist to slam square into her cheek, catching her off guard.
Jack cried out. "Eloise, now!"
The girl knew she had but a few seconds, and she reached forward, grabbing the reeling Teslamon and spinning her around, revealing the D-Nexuses in full view. The shark-woman tried to pull away, but Eloise was just quick enough; her hand closing around her own device and pressing the buttons instinctively.
The effect was instantaneous. The energy had long been building up inside the girl, waiting to be released again. The device seemingly exploded into a sea of light, sending Teslamon flying backwards, the ring snapping from around her wrist. Eloise stood, defiant, as she glowed bright white, her ornate decorations sketching themselves over her transforming body. With a flash of gold the light blew away as quickly as it had come, revealing the elven warrior stood in all her majesty.
Teslamon spat. "Nice try, fairy dust! Perilous Field!"
She brought her arms forward in wide arcs, sending the metal of the room flying towards the girl. Ljosamon glanced to her right. "Cover your heads."
Jack and Aaron did so, as Ljosamon brought both her arms up, the red wings of her bow sprouting and wrapping around her. "Convex Wing!"
The wing surface shimmered, and suddenly the flying metal slowed, twisted, arced back and flew back towards its proponent, glowing white-hot. Teslamon let out a startled "Eek!" and jumped to one side, rolling and standing up again in an impressive show of athleticism.
"So, you're trickier than I thought. Come on then, girl." Teslamon raised her fists, her hands glowing yellow. "Let's see what you've got."
Ljosamon said nothing, instead reaching back and pulling an arrow out of her quiver. Beside her, Jack and Aaron stood up as well, holding their newly freed D-Nexuses.
Aaron smiled casually. "We don't really plan on a fight right now. But we are getting out of here."
Jack grinned. "You can thank Babamon for this. Soul Control!"
The two male warriors yanked forwards, snapping the chains at their wrists and feet as they squared up against the shark-woman, next to Ljosamon, who had already drawn her bow back. Teslamon's eyes widened. "No fair!"
Ljosamon's voice was deadpan, her statuesque face expressionless. "You sent a group of overpowered criminals to pick us off one by one. Who are you to talk about fair? Shining Longbow!"
The arrow shot forward, slicing into Teslamon's shoulder. She yelled and recoiled back, looking around the room for anything she could use to her advantage, before settling on the open door. She snarled, her right eye buzzing furiously as she pointed aggressively. "You're not going anywhere."
She retreated in an instant, disappearing down the spiral staircase. The three warriors wasted no time; rushing out after her and looking around. Kuaramon looked up and down, "We don't have time to waste. Which way do we go?"
Aeolumon pointed up at a door three cells up. "There. That's where she'd put them, right? To split us up as far as possible."
"Seems right." Kuaramon nodded, before running up towards it. "Let's get them out."
Aeolumon sniggered. "Let me. Hurricane Pummel!"
Kuaramon had barely made it to the door when he was forced to back away as a pint-sized Roman warrior slammed into it, pressurized fists splintering the metal and sending the whole thing flying back inside. Kuaramon gingerly looked inside, as four very surprised looking Rookies looked back out at them. Vulpimon looked particularly shaken, her nose very nearly having been taken off by the flying sheet of metal.
Perimon shook a wing. "Maniac!"
Aeolumon scratched the back of his helmet. "Eh-heh…sorry?"
"You're forgiven. Come here!" The bird shot out, flying straight into Aeolumon's spinning embrace, as Velocimon and Ladomon joined their partners too. Velocimon seemed quietly impressed. "How on earth did you get out?"
"Later." Kuaramon looked down the stairs, hearing voices. "We should get going."
Vulpimon stepped up. "Wait, what about Grace?"
Ljosamon shook her head. "She wasn't with us. We're assuming she and Kent are still out there. We're the only ones here."
Perimon stopped, and turned back. "What about Martyaxmon and Rinkhalmon?"
Ljosamon cleared her throat. "Let me rephrase that; we're the only ones here who I give a damn about rescuing at this particular moment in time."
"There they are!"
The group looked down to see Teslamon standing, flanked by Daigambilastmon and Chieftriaskismon, both of whom had weapons raised at them. The sea leopard in particularly looked mildly amused. "I thought y'said y'had these creatures locked up tight."
"I did, Wet Whiskers. Obviously they got out."
Now Daigambilastmon chuckled. "It's a mahty fine mess ya ended up with when y'insist on calling names instead of fixin' the problem. Allow me." Teslamon quietly seethed as Daigambilastmon's shadows fluctuated, his finger barrels glowing.
There was an explosion as two dense cannonballs of shadow sand flew out of nowhere, both embedding themselves in the stairwell. Daigambilastmon also ducked; rearranging himself as the celestial arrows and electric arcs flew towards him. He took a step back, knocking the wall as he did so. "Yah know, this ain't the purtiest place for our battle royale."
"Give it up, guys!" Teslamon held her wounded shoulder as she took a step towards her former captives, eyes glowing in bitter fury. "You've got nowhere to run. You can't hide. You're not going anywhere."
Velocimon pulled back, dragging his partner with him as Ljosamon and the others kept firing. "She's right. We can't get out through the base; not with all those citizens down there, digging."
Kuaramon looked up. "We don't need to. Teslamon left a window open when she got out. We can go the same way she did."
Velocimon raised an eyebrow. "You saying we should jump?"
"We don't have a choice. Besides, we've got a bird. They haven't."
"One of them took down Mistramon before. I'm sure he'll gladly do it again."
"Which is why we need to make a distraction."
Kuaramon shimmered, and his form disintegrated, but the energy remained swirling around his D-Nexus. "By we, I mean you. They may have us outgunned, but we have a giant electric dinosaur and the advantage of gravity on our side."
Velocimon looked immensely tired. "Do I have to?"
"Get to it soldier." Aaron twisted, calling to the others. "Jack, knock 'em back!"
Aeolumon balled a wind sphere in one hand and threw it overarm, the orb exploding in front of the three Clocktower Rebels. They took a step back, but Teslamon just laughed. "You stupid kids; you're gonna have to do better than that."
Aeolumon stepped back, then a thought struck him. He called back, "Aaron, hold it; I've got an idea. Everyone else, start walking backwards."
Then he called down, his arms folded. "Hey! Mr Catfish!"
Chieftriaskismon frowned, tilting his head. "Didn't I take you out once already?"
"I thought so." Aeolumon shrugged. "Mind you, the magnet-lady doesn't know how hard I was to take down. Must be unfair for you.
Teslamon puffed out her cheeks, but before she could say anything, the leopard shark leaned forward, fury in his voice. "What are y'sayin'?"
"I'm saying that you're being pushed around by a silly little girl and it makes you look very stupid." Aeolumon grinned, and stuck out his tongue. "Come on then, show me what you've got? Or are you just an overgrown wet moggy with a big stick?"
Daigambilastmon planted his visor in his hand as Chieftriaskismon roared up. "You'll pay for that, you insolent worm! Tidal Panthera!"
"No, Chief, don't-"
It was too late. The rush of serrated waves burst forwards from the warrior's glowing orbs, threatening to grab the tiny soldier and drag him back into the abyss. Luckily Aeolumon was ready, jumping out of the way and flying like fury up the staircase. "Don't hit me!"
He reached the others, who were safely out the way, as out of the shadows the vast prehistoric beast raised his electrified head, his great sail spinning as nature's great conductor came flying right towards him. Dimetromon roared. "Galvanic Overcharge!"
The pellets of lightning flew everywhere, lighting up the staircase and taking great chunks out of the wall. However, the brunt of them hit the oncoming wave, the highly charged projectiles coursing through it straight back into Chieftriaskismon. His eyes widened and he juddered, letting out feral screeches as he did so, before he was thrown backwards, rolling down the staircase with his spear clattering after him. Teslamon watched incredulously as he did so. "You moron!"
The shadow devil tapped her on the shoulder. "Er, we should probably head after him."
"Later. First we need to deal with-" Teslamon trailed off as she stared up.
For you see, without a conscious entity to control it, water tends to find itself subject to the whims of other forces. Most notably gravity. So it had started its rapid descent back down the staircase. And there was a lot of water.
Teslamon's arms slumped. "Ah crap."
The water hit the two rebels like a juggernaut, sending them the direction of their furry companion. Neither the tamers nor their partners were around to see this, however, as they were already congregating in Teslamon's old cell, Dimetromon already having devolved. Velocimon rolled his eyes, the last traces of energy dissipating from around him. "How inefficient."
Aaron ignored his partner's complaints; he was busy pointing and giving orders. "Jack, evolve Perimon. Vulpimon, Velocimon, you're with him. Ladomon, try not to fall too quickly; let Jack help you." He turned to Ljosamon, who had one hand on her hip, looking impressed. "Not bad for someone who's been struck by lightning twice now."
Aaron winked. "Not bad yourself. Soul Control!"
In a flash he was Kuaramon again, and in a single move he flexed his right arm, sending one coil wrapping around a stray strand of metal. The other hand he held out before him. "Ready to make the jump?"
Ljosamon chuckled. "Please. I don't need a rope."
She demonstrated as such by elegantly stepping out the broken window, her feather-light body floating down on the breeze. Kuaramon stared after her, before shrugging. "Suit yourself. This would have looked cooler."
"Stop right there!"
Mistramon looked backwards, seeing a bedraggled Teslamon and a barely formed Daigambilastmon struggling into the room behind them. Kuaramon waved. "Go! Now! Everyone spread out!"
They did so; all leaping out simultaneously and letting the fall give them the speed they needed. Teslamon rushed to the edge, aiming to grab Kuaramon's cable, but he released it just in time, giving her a good rap across the forearms for good measure. She snarled, and turned to her second in command.
"Give me a hand here!"
Daigambilastmon shrugged. "How?"
Then, "Hey!" as his right gauntlet flew away from his body, warping and encasing itself round Teslamon's arm. She grinned, flexing the fingers, before pointing it at the retreating warriors. "Freeze, you miserable verminous scumbags! Perilous Field!"
She fired, her usual electric field dispersed into great pellets of electromagnetic charge, that zoomed through the air like cannonballs, destroying all they hit. However, she was too late. Her captives were gone.
Fuming, she swore out loud, kicking a great chunk out of the nearest wall. Then she turned to Daigambilastmon, who stood, somewhat bemused.
"What are you standing around doing nothing for? Get the others! And punch the kitty in the face while you're doing it! Honestly, I don't know why I work with you."
Daigambilastmon raised his other hand. "Er, are yah-"
"I said now, shadow-puppet!"
The armoured knight clicked his heels and stepped backwards through the doorway. "Can ah at least have mah hand back?"
"You'll get it back when you deserve it back. Now piss off!" She pointed a finger and fired again, the pellet just missing Daigambilastmon's head as he retreated back down the stairs. Teslamon wasn't done yet; she fired at random, her old room bringing back all sorts of annoying and unpleasant memories. All the while she was laughing like a mad woman, her eye giving off sparks, until she ran out of energy and fell to her knees, breathing heavily. The destroyed room stared silently back at her as she dropped the gauntlet and put her hand up to her burning eye.
She stayed kneeling for a few seconds, trying to block out the pain. In turn, the pain kept blocking her thoughts. She thought she'd had it figured out, but ever since then, her brain had become even more of a mush. Stupid freakin' serpent. She'd deal with him later.
She breathed in, and stared out the window, taking in the view as she calmed down. Beforehand, she'd thought the humans might be of some help. Obviously she'd been wrong. Not that it mattered now anyway. Now, it was all about revenge.
She grinned through the pain. Oh, they were gonna get it BIG time…
With a flicker, Grace's eyes slowly opened, her vision blurred. Instinctively, she looked first left, then right, then straight up as the shadowy figure leaned over her.
"Back with us?"
Grace felt confused, trying to raise her head and failing miserably as she felt dizzy upon moving. "What happened…?"
Trilomon joined her field of vision, looking concerned as usual. "You were lucky. Kent's been working all night to get that thing off you."
"All night? What thing?!" Grace tried to move again, but only ended up shifting position, her body rolling sideways. She found herself staring at a strange orb-like thing, embedded in the ground. It was transparent, and appeared to be made of ever-shifting data, but it seemed to be empty. Sort of. The inside kept shifting and moving around, like something was there, trying to hide itself.
"Don't touch it. It's given you enough trouble already."
"What was that?" Grace shuffled, before huffing, blowing hair from her eyes. "Will someone help me up, please?"
Cerebrumon floated over and provided support, allowing her to get up into a sitting position, from where she saw Kent, busy tapping away at his laptop, his tongue held firmly out the side of his mouth in concentration. Grace pouted. "Will someone please explain to me what's going on?"
Kent tapped a few more keys, then sighed and leant back, looking exhausted. "There isn't time. One of our scouts just got back to us; the others have escaped. We're gonna head out and bring them here. Andromon?"
The robot appeared behind him, holding his arm nervously. The boy turned toward him. "Let's bring a small squad. Get our friends' locations off the new guys and form a group together. This needs to be quick and uncomplicated."
Andromon saluted. "Sir. We'll be a few minutes."
"Don't call me sir. You're in charge for the time being, remember?"
Andromon faltered, and quickly put his hand away. "Sorry. Just…I'm not used to leading a battlefront. I was always a resources management 'mon myself."
Kent smiled. "Change brings out the best in us. You'll be fine. You're doing great."
The robot coughed, and nodded, before rushing off, his processors already whirring with potential strategies.
Grace meanwhile had ignored the older boy, her gaze slowly turning back to the orb. She watched, aghast yet morbidly curious, as the pulsating sphere widened, grew more transparent, before a surge of ripples occurred within. They continued, forming a silhouette. A shape. It filled out, seeming utterly fluid as it moved, splattering against the walls of the orb as it let out silent screeches of anger.
Grace shivered, and pointed an accusing finger. "What is this thing?"
Kent held out a hand. "I swear, I'll explain everything later, but right now our friends need us. Trust me, you may want some familiar company before I show you this thing."
The girl bit her lip, her eyes darting back and forth between the boy and the orb. Finally, she nodded. "Okay, agreed. Friends first; freaky stuff later." She lowered her head. "I hope everyone's okay…"
She stood up, and Kent patted her shoulder. "They're smart. They know what we're doing, and when we find them, we should catch Teslamon and her goons off guard." He chuckled, before his face deepened and he turned back to the orb, with the alien maggot still inside. "Hopefully this thing'll be safe in there. I'm not too trusting of my laptop after last time."
"I will watch it." Cerebrumon floated forwards, his face straight. "I've dealt with these things before. They have little influence on me. Rest assured; it will still be here when you return."
Kent looked concerned, but Grace nudged him. "We should go. We won't have much time."
"No offense, but I'm not too happy about leaving something so dangerous in such…shady hands."
Cerebrumon's lip curled a little, but Grace shook her head. "It'll be fine. I believe him." She looked up, and her eyes met the dark emptiness inside the illusionist's hood. "He has nothing to gain from betraying us."
"And perhaps something to gain by helping you." Cerebrumon nodded. "I thank you, Grace. Both of you, you have my guarantee of this creature's security."
Kent frowned. "If you're sure." He shook his head, before heading off after Andromon. "Come on then, let's go get everyone back."
Grace followed him, struggling to catch up. "Wait, what creature?"
The wall of water came out of nowhere, catching Ljosamon, Kuaramon and Galvamon all off guard as they were swept into a nearby wall, taking a great chunk out of it in the process. Ljosamon lay on her hands and knees, breathing heavily from the impact, her long red hair somehow unaffected by the mass of water and still flowing free and undamaged as ever. What a useful power in these circumstances, she thought, sarcastically, as she attempted to drag herself to her feet.
Chieftriaskismon seemed to hold no interest in her cosmetic benefits either as he strode forward, spear clasped tightly in his hand, yelling as he walked. "You humiliated me. Nobody humiliates the lord of the sea!"
Galvamon spun to his feet, fists raised and tail whipping behind him. "You're no lord. I knew a soldier of the sea who was twice the lord that you were, and she was a girl too."
Ljosamon raised her head, her stony face showing a brief flash of annoyance. "Hey, what was that?"
"Sorry. My mistake." Galvamon shook his head, and looked up. "But at any rate, she could wipe the floor with you just as thoroughly as I'm going to."
"I'd like to see y'try, y'serpent."
"Gladly." Galvamon thrust his fists together, the chaotic bolts illuminating their surroundings. "Charge Bolt!"
The strikes converged on Chieftriaskismon almost instantly, and Galvamon grinned triumphantly. "Saltwater conducts electricity, remember?"
Kuaramon's eyes widened. "Watch out!"
He was too late; Chieftriaskismon barreled forwards, landing the lizard a square right hook in the jaw and sending him spinning away. Galvamon had barely found his feet again before the leopard shark grabbed him by the tail and swung him into the nearest wall with a nasty crunch.
"Let him go! Quantum Coil!"
Kuaramon lunged forward with glowing trails from his fists, but all of a sudden there was a flash of blue and yellow and the energy was sucked away almost instantly. The bladed whip hit Chieftriaskismon directly in the back and he stumbled, releasing the lizard's tail just long enough for Galvamon to climb on the nearest roof. The dinosaur was shaken. "How did you do that?"
"Yer the one supposedly payin' attention in physical science. Y'tell me." Chieftriaskismon gestured to his right, at his great spear now embedded in the solid dusty earth, with tendrils of blue floating lazily around it. "Lightnin' always travels t'ground. Combined with y'clever science, it makes all y'attacks completely worthless!"
Kuaramon tried to ball lightning in his hand, but the polarized water flicked towards it instantly, sucking it away. Galvamon was having similar levels of success and cursing, while Chieftriaskismon laughed heartily. "Now y'know I'm not as stupid as I look! Y'elements are useless now!"
The leopard shark stopped mid-laugh as he turned to see Ljosamon's bow pointed towards him, glowing brightly. "Shining Longbow!"
The cat ducked just in time as the beam of light shot over his head. The holy warrior went to reload, when something slithered behind her, and Kuaramon pushed her away. "Watch out!"
Latroditmon snarled as her tail collided with Kuaramon's cable, dragging against the rough metal. Kuaramon acted fast; leaping around her and dragging her tail with her, trying to trip her up, but a swipe from her spider's legs made him lose his grip. Latroditmon reared up, and gave a coy little wave. "Miss me?"
While the two hybrids found themselves tangled up with the siren, Chieftriaskismon growled up at the lizard. "Yer being a coward. Y'have no pride. Mind you, there doesn't seem t'be much y'can do."
"Advantages are often two-way." Galvamon nodded. "With your weapon and powers concentrated there, you can't use them to fight me."
The leopard shrugged. "Doesn't bother me. I outrank you in skill, strength and stamina. I don't need a weapon to tear y'apart." He raised a hand, and made a beckoning gesture. "But if y'insist on proving y'self, then come down and fight like a man."
Galvamon assessed his current position. "Erm, no thanks."
"Y'coward. In that case I'll come up there and fight like a beast!"
Chieftriaskismon leapt without warning, his webbed claws digging into the scrap metal as he hauled himself up with surprising vigour. Galvamon hopped back, fists raised and blades extended, but he knew he was up against it here. Still, he couldn't retreat. Not with Aaron and Eloise in the danger they were in.
His thoughts were cut short as Chieftriaskismon swung his paw, clipping the lizard as he ducked and sending him to the right. Galvamon reacted quickly; while down he swung his tail, taking out his opponent's legs, before making two quick jabs forward. He felt the telltale clang of metal upon metal, and cursed, before Chieftriaskismon's knee swung up and caught him square in the face. The dinosaur staggered back, temporarily blinded, and the leopard shot forward with a roar, ready to slam him into the corrugated roof.
But Galvamon was feinting; calling upon a trick he often used when caught off guard. Before Chieftriaskismon's dual fists hit him he stumbled back just a little further than usual, leaning back and gripping the roof. He launched himself up with his tail and brought both feet forward; sending the leopard flying backwards with a perfect two-footed kick to the chest. Chieftriaskismon landed awkwardly, snarling as Galvamon readjusted himself, finding his stride. "Y'are really as good as they said y'were."
"Whoever they are, I don't need them to say anything. I fight my own battles."
Chieftriaskismon gave a short, bitter laugh. "No wonder y're a terrible commander then. No self-respecting general fights f'the weak."
"And I'm guessing you'd know?"
Chieftriaskismon stood up, his shoulders broad and his posture tall. "I could've led your army t'victory. I could've stopped the purge before it started. Tis just a shame yer petty resistance got in the way, and I was locked away in the pits of hell." The leopard-shark growled, showing rows of triangular teeth. "Yer no general. Y'lack the spine."
"I'm fighting to save this world!" barked the dinosaur, forcing himself to remain calm. "You're only fighting for yourself. It's pathetic to look at you, it really is."
"Lie t'yerself all y'like. Deep down y'know it's true. A real general would take his army and crush his enemy where they stood. No plans or slimy tricks. Just y'own power. That makes y'strong. That gets y'respect."
Galvamon raised an eyebrow. "Really. Then I'm sure you must be getting so much respect from Teslamon right now. What was it she calls you again? Wet Whiskers?"
Chieftriaskismon's eyes flashed, and he bared his claws menacingly. "Y'death will be bloody, I promise."
Galvamon smirked. "Do you let her pet you?"
Latroditmon turned her head as she heard her colleague's roar of anger, and simply sighed. "That mangy old pussycat; he really gets far too emotionally involved in his work."
She pouted, and brushed one highlight away from her eyes, seemingly oblivious to the two hybrid warriors tussling with her oversized claws at that very moment. Kuaramon gave a grunt of effort and shoved forward, but Latroditmon merely stepped backwards, adjusted herself, and pressed forward again, her great claws snapping shut.
The appendages opened again, releasing wads of webbing that struck both her opponents; Kuaramon in the chest, Ljosamon in the shoulder. The web contracted, causing both of them to step back, but Latroditmon made no move.
Kuaramon glared up, ripping at the web with his blades as his eyes began to glow, but Ljosamon placed an arm on his shoulder. "Calm down. Don't let it control you."
Kuaramon laughed bitterly. "Thanks, I'm aware. I've dealt with this lady before."
"Really? Cause from where I'm standing it seems like I dealt with both you and your little lizard."
"Then why don't you start again now?"
Latroditmon reared up, folding her arms and humphing. Kuaramon stood up, twitching slightly. "You don't seem to be one for an all-out attack. You like to keep at a distance. Keep yourself away from the danger."
"One of my calibre has a duty to protect her beauty."
"Possibly." Ljosamon glanced at her colleague and nodded, before they both leapt back, out of the reach of her swinging tail. "But you won't get anywhere by staying in your comfort zone."
The naga glared at her, and straightened up, revealing her giant spider eyes. "Call me a coward if you want, but doubt my skills at your peril. Siren Gaze!"
The eyes flashed their hypnotic patterns, but Ljosamon already had her bow drawn, letting loose with an arrow a split second before her muscles locked up. The arrow flew straight and true, catching the giant spider right in its left-most eye. Purple blood spurted forth as the spider and Latroditmon screamed in unison, flailing like two creatures in one. Ljosamon looked over at Kuaramon. "Aaron, now!"
Kuaramon leapt, ducking beneath the naga's flailing body as he shot towards the other battlefield, where Chieftriaskismon's spear still lay buried, sapping his power away as he drew closer. It didn't matter.
He heard Latroditmon thundering towards him, and with one, swift movement, he wrapped his coils around the spear and pulled it free from the earth, the aqua tendrils whipping and falling as he did so. As his power grew in strength once again, his coils spiraled around the shaft, melding with the salt water and building in charge. He swiveled, pointing the blade towards his attacker, who was in the process of screeching to a halt.
The coil shot from the end of the spear in a white-hot trail, striking Latroditmon's slender form and causing her to flail all the more. Kuaramon held back, aware of his own limits, when Chieftriaskismon's booming voice roared out above him.
"YOU DARE DEFILE MY WEAPON?"
The leopard shark stared down, hackles raised and fists shaking as he held Galvamon beneath his foot. The dinosaur saw his chance; twisting his foot and bringing his fists up.
Chieftriaskismon was blown back, and Galvamon hopped away, just avoiding Latroditmon's crushing claw coming after him. Ljosamon landed beside Kuaramon, bow raised. "Nice work there."
"Thanks." The thunder warrior frowned, then leapt back as the spear dissolved in his arms, turning into water that slithered away, back into Chieftriaskismon's waiting hands. It reformed, revealing the spear looking slightly worse for wear.
Naturally, Chieftriaskismon was very understanding of the whole situation.
"YOU BENT IT YOU HEATHEN!"
Kuaramon shrugged. "Buy a new one then."
The spear glowed and he threw it high, where it split into dozens of duplicates. Latroditmon unfurled, looking up as she saw the projectiles falling towards her. "Oh, come on."
Ljosamon stepped in front of Kuaramon and Galvamon, her wing shield raised as the spears made impact. The trio was protected from damage, but they were still driven backwards by the barrage, and Chieftriaskismon was barreling towards them, fire in his eyes. Within his Digimon form, Aaron gritted his teeth. "This is gonna hurt..."
The sea leopard skidded to a halt and Latroditmon cursed as a blade of pink energy ruptured the ground around them, splitting the two factions. Within seconds Aeolumon was with them, Vulpimon in his arms, and Mistramon circled round, ready for another aerial attack.
"Jack! We told you to get out of here!"
Vulpimon hopped down. "I thought we were all getting out of here. That includes you three." She huffed, before glaring up at her opponents. "As for you lot, I'm sick of being pushed around by thugs like you. I'm a princess; I deserve better than this, dammit!"
Latroditmon made a face. "Insolent dog. You have no-"
Latroditmon ducked as the beam of light flew over her head, only to be driven back as Luminemon's bulk and talons crashed into her, the dragon clearly not happy. Chieftriaskismon, still furious and off-guard, made a move, but he found himself faced by Aeolumon, who promptly punched him in the face. "That's for before!"
The two Clocktower Rebels found themselves pinned back to back as they fended off attacks from all around them, while unable to get in any of their own. Chieftriaskismon snarled. "I thought y'were supposed to be good at this."
"Me?" The naga ducked as Mistramon flew over, before yelling back at her partner. "You're the so-called powerful warrior; you deal with it!"
"I would have done if you'd done your job of protecting my plan!"
"You didn't tell me your plan!"
The two rebels glared at each other, before both were struck by opposing blasts from Luminemon and Galvamon. Keeping slightly further back from the action, Vulpimon raised her eyebrows. "Do you guys even need our help in taking you down?"
"Excellent work!" Galvamon nodded. "Keep them pinned; we can wear them down like this."
Up above the rooftops, Mistramon grinned, and swerved again, when he suddenly felt something crawling over his leg. He glanced down, and his eyes widened as he saw black sand smothering his talon, eating away at the flesh. He cried out, kicking viciously as he swerved, but the sand lashed out, wrapping around his neck as the pieces of armour were carried up with it. Daigambilastmon leaned in close. "Well well, watch the birdie scream."
"We've got company!"
Mistramon's cry rang out as he descended, and Luminemon looked up. "Uh-oh."
She flew up, her wings struggling in the darkness, when suddenly wires of light lassoed her, dragging her down as well. "Ah!"
Ljosamon looked up. "Luminemon!"
The dragon heard the giggle of her unseen assailant, and twisted against her bindings, her own wings glowing. "White Lightning!"
Tendrils of light flew wide, tussling with the green wires in a technicolour display. Neomon pulled back, his one eye glowing menacingly. "No good no good good. All in a tangle tangle. New new tactic."
In a literal flash, the green disappeared, but the clown reappeared elsewhere, his crouching form trailing coloured lights as he raised his claws behind Aeolumon and Ljosamon. "Neon Blur Blur!"
Ljosamon was struck, and fell to one knee, clutching her slashed arm. Aeolumon brought up his shield just in time, but he was shoved right into the path of Chieftriaskismon, who seized his chance, bringing forward a claw and grabbing the soldier by the chest armour. Aeolumon yelled as he was hoisted off the ground and swung wide, knocking the others back.
Mistramon, eagle-eyed as he was, saw everything even in his chaotic descent. "Bastard! Pressure Wave!"
He twisted, releasing the shockwave and freeing himself from Daigambilastmon's grip. He let out a whoop of triumph, just before crashing into the nearest roof and sliding into an alleyway. "Damnit!"
Daigambilastmon seemed far less bothered; using the great bird's body as a springboard as he powered himself high into the air, reforming himself mid-flight as he aimed for the throng below.
"Yeehaa, just like auld times! Reckon it's time t'unleash mah Scythe 'n' Dice!"
His dice pattern flashed erratically, before coming up a five. He pulled his armour in, spinning as he did so and releasing spears of shadow-matter as he aimed for the ground. Kuaramon looked up, and pointed. "Incoming!"
He and Galvamon leapt out of the way just in time as the falling armour hit the road with the force of a meteor, forcing everyone backwards, including the other rebels. Chieftriaskismon threw Aeolumon to the floor and shook his fist. "Watch it!"
Daigambilastmon's body swirled up, five shadowy spears flying out at once. Kuaramon, Galvamon, Ljosamon and Luminemon all let out cries of pain as the blades sliced into them, while Vulpimon screamed as she was slammed into a nearby wall. Daigambilastmon reformed, brushing excess sand from his remaining gauntlet off on his chest. "Ah'd say that was a success."
"We're not done yet, maniacs!"
From atop the roof, Mistramon snarled and made to leap down, but his form was obscured by the faint flashes of Neomon as he was brought down again. The clown reappeared again, dancing his happy little dance as the four rogues circled round the group, slightly readjusting the tables.
Luminemon looked around frustrated. "This isn't fair. They're outnumbered; why are we outgunned?"
She ducked as a shadow-pellet shot past her head, as Daigambilastmon waved his finger dismissively. "Come nah, t'ain't right f'ra pretty lady t'complain. T'was only a matter of time at any rate. Against us, y'don't stand a ghost of a chance."
Galvamon growled. "Oh really? Strike Thunder!"
The attacks blasted out from the circle, but the rogues were quick; readjusting themselves and moving in for the kill.
Neomon spun around Luminemon, his wires glowing as she was entangled in his deadly snare. She grimaced as the light burned her beautiful skin, before crashing to the ground.
The naga reared up high, claws spinning as the trail of fluid erupted out, pinning Aeolumon to the ground. Vulpimon made to free him, but a quick flick and she too was trapped in the sea of gunk, held in Jack's embrace.
Galvamon and Mistramon tried to shield themselves but the serrated waves slashed into them with the force of a freight train. Mistramon was sent hurtling to the ground, his wings torn, sodden and useless, while Galvamon dropped to one knees, exhausted from the onslaught.
Daigambilastmon extended both jaw-like tendrils, grabbing both Ljosamon and Kuaramon and slamming them together. His mouth and shoulder-pads opened and he released his storm of smog, causing them to fall; limp, retching and all but asphyxiated.
The cowboy straightened up, looking mighty smug. "Look at you. Nah hope in high hell t'take us down. Ya should've followed mah books and gotten outta this war while ya still could." He tutted, waving his finger in a patronizing manner. "Ain't nobody gonna save ya now."
There was a rumble and a nearby building shattered, collapsing in on itself like a house of cards. Daigambilastmon's eyes darted sideways as the crystal wall slammed into him, scattering his pieces like building blocks. Latroditmon and Neomon yelped as dozens of icy daggers came flying their way, and Chieftriaskismon couldn't help but flinch as an arc of electricity flew directly past his ear, singing his fur slightly.
Ljosamon pushed herself up, and looked up in joy at their rescuers. "Kent? Grace?"
The others cheered and whooped as Tectonamon stepped into the courtyard, Kent clinging to his back like a knight of old. He gave them a quick salute. "Miss me?"
Mistramon struggled to his feet. "You took your time."
"I was gathering help." He gestured back, to where Chionemon stood aside Andromon, both with blades extended. Behind them, no less than twenty tough and angry-looking Digimon stood, ready to fight. Aeolumon grinned. "You look nice, Grace. New jumper?"
Chionemon chuckled. "Oi you, you're losing your touch. Better prove you're worthy of wearing that skirt."
"It's not a skirt!" Aeolumon g"rinned. "But I'm happy to see you. And you're right; nobody's pushing me around like this! Crashing Gale!
Amidst the stupor of the rogues, he pressed his hands together, blowing the web-fluid away. Vulpimon immediately ran to her partner, who bent down, embracing the fox. The other warriors, fatigued as they were, called upon the last of their strength and pulled themselves to their feet, weapons raised in defiance.
Latroditmon's arms flopped to her sides, and she glared at the steadily reforming Daigambilastmon. "You HAD to say it. You HAD to say no-one was coming."
"Enough games!" Chieftriaskismon gripped his spear tightly, his orbs glowing ever brighter. "They are NOT getting away."
Neomon snarled. "Leave no one running running away cut off their legs."
Kent tapped his partner's shoulder. "Keep it up, mate."
The giant insect nodded, his giant crystal pulsating with anticipation. Down below, Andromon raised his sword and yelled. "We're taking our city back, starting right now!"
Kent flung his arm forward. "Charge!"
With a bestial roar, Tectonamon reared up and slammed his blades down as the rescue squad moved forward, led by Andromon with his blade crackling with energy. Chionemon stood up, hand on her partner's head. "Have you been missing out on the action?"
"Have I ever."
Chionemon nodded, and her armour dissolved as she reverted back to Grace, her D-Nexus still glowing white in her hands. "Knock 'em down, Vulpimon. Primal Fury!"
Shards of ice swarmed around Vulpimon's growing body as the girl reached up towards Kent, who pulled her up onto his partner's back. She grinned. "You haven't seen her like this, have you? Things might get a little chilly around here."
The winter spirit roared to the heavens, before reaching down and slamming her fist against the ground. "Grave Glacier!"
The ground was covered in a solid sheet of ice, penetrated by green crystal as the rogues found themselves rushed backwards. Latroditmon brought her claws up, blocking several metal projectiles and energy blasts that flew towards her. "It seems we might have misjudged this."
Daigambilastmon twisted, lashing out with a metal clawed foot, before he leapt high. "Pr'haps. But ah'm the one who chooses how mah battles turn out! Roulette Destiny!"
With his one remaining gauntlet he fired a continuous stream of shadow-matter, that formed into a multitude of projectiles; spears and sickles, boomerangs and boxing gloves; all of which rained down in a torrent against the oncoming throng, driving them back. Neomon saw his chance; zipping forward and teleporting from enemy to enemy, slashing wildly. Latroditmon shrugged. "Ah well. Here goes nothing. Spinner CLAW!"
Without warning she dived forward, her claws dragging her deep into the crowd as she left web traps with every step. With great sweeping movements she thrust her enemies aside, giggling as she did so. "You're all so petty! Bow to me!"
Galvamon growled, leaping up and swinging his crackling blades in an arc. "I don't think so, you pompous witch!"
The elements swarmed every which way; smashing through buildings and leveling the street as water shattered crystal and lightning penetrated shadow. Then, out of nowhere, there was the sound of faint popping, and another voice from far away.
Latroditmon jumped as the Maildramon she'd been dealing with promptly let out a scream and imploded in a burst of data, releasing a shockwave that blew everyone away. Andromon reached out, "Maildramon, no!"
Aeolumon gritted his teeth. "She's here as well."
Teslamon landed on the ground with an intense crack, and stood tall, still wearing Daigambilastmon's gauntlet. "What's all the racket about?"
Ljosamon narrowed her eyes, and went to load her bow, but Teslamon was quicker to the draw, wiggling her free finger as she did so. "Uh uh ah, little girl. You wouldn't want me to tear all that pretty armour apart piece by piece, would you?"
Ljosamon faltered, but quickly found herself choking as Neomon's boneless arm wrapped around her neck, dragging her down to her knees. Andromon, Galvamon and Tupilamon all found themselves suddenly under spear, claw or gunpoint of the other rebels, and, reluctantly, the force pulled apart. Teslamon pouted. "You know, it's boring when you get too powerful to just knock heads anymore."
Chieftriaskismon growled, Galvamon squirming in his grip. "They were giving us trouble. I think it's worthwhile getting rid of them right now."
Neomon cocked his head, looking almost like a puppy. "Just a little little?"
"You don't get a say. They remain alive. All of them. I need diggers, right now."
Daigambilastmon's hold on Andromon tightened a little. "Tessa, y'need tah slow dahn. We can't hold onto these guys; they're too slippery."
"Shut your trap."
"Lah-di-dah!" Teslamon placed a mocking hand to her ear. "What's that? Who's got your gauntlet and could blow you up in an instant? Oh yeah." Without warning she swung the glowing yellow trigger finger and fired again, causing the obliteration of another hapless soldier.
Andromon gritted his teeth, before yelling out. "Why do you kill without reason?"
"Because I can, metal man." Teslamon's eye let off sparks as she marched towards him, placing her free hand around his throat. "I don't care how many you've got hidden away, this city and everyone in it belongs to me now. Me! You are all my property and I will do whatever the hell I want to do with the lot of you. Now bow to your king, or you'll go the same place that Babamon went."
Andromon's eyes widened as he processed this information. Grace and Kent shared looks of horror atop Tectonamon's back. The other rogues shared hidden glances, none of them willing to speak.
Andromon looked up, glaring at the shark-woman. "You're no king. You're nothing but just another murderer. Kill me if you wish but I will not bow. My loyalty is to this city. If Babamon is truly gone, then it and everybody in it falls under my protection, however feeble that mostly likely is. And I will not relinquish them; especially not to a false monarch."
Teslamon rolled her eyes and pressed her hand against his chest, immediately causing him to wince in pain as the metal buckled. "You 'freedom fighters' are all the same; you're all so bloody melodramatic! I've never heard so much crap in all my life!" She pressed harder. "Molecular Obsce-"
The ground shook, and Teslamon was thrown off balance, along with everyone else. The hostages, Andromon included, took the opportunity to wriggle out of their captors grasps, before they all stared in horror at the great golem standing not ten feet away, with his blade embedded in the dusty road.
Chieftriaskismon cursed. "The Fire soldier. I should have crushed him back then."
Kuaramon stepped forward, but Galvamon held his shoulder. "Don't get your hopes up. He could be long gone."
Slowly, Fornaxmon got to his feet, his bright copper reflecting the fire in his gauze. "Andromon, for as long as I still have thought, I pledge my loyalty to you and to this city. I may have been disgraced, and I may not have long. But I will not abandon you now."
Kuaramon stood tall as well. "Prove it. Prove you are yourself, my friend."
Fornaxmon nodded, and a small creature flitted out from behind his mechanical head, partially blending in with the shadows. The recognition was instant; particularly for Luminemon, who yelled out. "COLCHIMON!"
"Ladomon! You're alive!"
The shadow dragon spiraled forwards towards his life-mate as Fornaxmon turned his attention to the rebels. "You are destroying the work of many a generation of noble Digimon. I cannot allow that. Stand aside and let the soldiers go."
Teslamon laughed. "As if, metal man. Do you have any idea who you're up against? Perilous Field!"
With a flash she brought the gauntlet forward and fired, the shockwave visible as it barreled towards the old warrior. Fornaxmon brought his arms up, and was momentarily obscured, the shockwave distorting the air around him.
Teslamon grinned, but her smile quickly faded as she heard a hearty chuckling. Fornaxmon stood up and began to walk forward, completely unphased. Teslamon whacked the gauntlet, before looking up at Daigambilastmon. "It's broken!"
The bandit looked hurt. "Well who's fahlt would that be then?"
"Save your accusations, false king." Fornaxmon swung his arm wide, his blade retracting, as the vents around his body began to glow white-hot. "I was forged from the purest metals in the ancient forges of the Fire Kingdom. You have no power over me!"
Without warning, he broke into a sprint.
His vents opened up, releasing his internal fires and turning him into a living, flaming behemoth. Teslamon reared back. "Crap. Split up!"
The rogues did so, but Neomon wasn't quite quick enough, feeling the Mega level's fist as it slammed into his chest, sending him spinning away in a screaming flaming ball. Latroditmon scuttled back, cursing under her breath. "Why does nobody just keep it simple?"
Colchimon turned to the others. "Let's run."
Andromon nodded. "Agreed. We've got what we came for. Everyone get back!"
The soldiers retreated, but the tamers stayed behind, staring at the metal man. Kuaramon gritted his teeth beneath his mask. "What about him?"
Galvamon grabbed his partner's shoulder. "He's biding us time. We can't let that go to waste."
Ljosamon turned to the lizard. "We can't just leave him! Not after all he's done for us!"
"We don't have to." Grace leaned to the side, looking at her partner. "Tectonamon, push them back. Tupilamon, see if you can hold them in place."
The tamers and their partners stepped back as the wall of ice and crystal slammed into the rogues, freeing Fornaxmon from his conflict. He turned, catching Colchimon's eye. The shadow-dragon beckoned. "Come on, leave them! We need to get out of here."
Fornaxmon looked conflicted for a second, but then he nodded, breaking into a sprint as the tamers moved back down the alleyway. Not a minute passed before Teslamon climbed out of the rubble, thrusting her arm forward. "WILL SOMEBODY GET THEM? AT LEAST ONE OF THEM?"
Ladomon (having devolved) flew down to her partner's ear. "I don't think we can make it. They're gonna catch us again."
"They won't." Aeolumon gritted his teeth as he flew in front, the others making good pace behind him. "We just have to get to the gates."
"THERE THEY ARE!"
Grace twisted round. "We're too late!"
"Look out!" Ljosamon pulled back as somebody stepped out in front of them; an odd-looking monkey like creature with two tails and a green Mohawk. It stopped, and looked towards them with something resembling curiosity. It looked awfully familiar to her…
Colchimon's eyes widened, and he nearly screeched to a halt. "You!"
Phoukamon sniggered, as they brought their right hand up. "Well now, here we are at last. Such a lovely city this is. Plenty to see and do. WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE YOU'RE GONNA DIE? Nice weather out there, you lazy people. A little overcast at the moment. Still, time to go."
They winked at Colchimon, before snapping their fingers.
By the time the Clocktower Rebels reached the escapees, they'd already disappeared.
Rinkhalmon looked up as he heard something buzzing in his ear. He waved his head from side to side, looking slightly annoyed, before he realized that the buzzing appeared to be coming from the door.
A few moments later, there was a thud, and the door collapsed, revealing his colleague standing outside, tiny crystals whirring around his torso. Rinkhalmon snickered. There weren't many knew that Martyaxmon had control over ALL the jewels over his body.
"Took you long enough."
The manticore rolled his eyes, his makeshift buzzsaw splitting apart and slotting back into his body as he walked over the door. "You know, I don't have to help you out. Could report back to Surtremon that you died on the battlefield or something. Just saying."
"Marty, how could you be so mean?"
The manticore grinned as he broke Rinkhalmon's bindings in a single crushing bite. "Are you coming or what?"
Rinkhalmon leapt to his feet and stretched. "Ah, you know, I thought it might be cool to hang around for a bit. They do treat me well here."
"Are those bite marks?"
Rinkhalmon looked down at his various little 'presents', before grinning sheepishly at Martyaxmon. The Red Beast sighed. "Don't tell me you enjoyed it…"
"You're revolting. Come on; we've got things to do. But first we need to find our stuff."
He strode out, looking slightly redder than usual, as Rinkhalmon sauntered out after him. "I think Mrs Davidson might have mentioned something about the observatory while she was chewing on my shoulders."
There was a pause. Then Martyaxmon carried on up the stairs, not even looking back. "Thank you for that mental image. I was just thinking I didn't have enough scars."
Colchimon squeezed tightly as Ladomon buried her face in his wing. "I've got you. I've got you back and I'm not letting you go ever again."
Colchimon smiled, but his smile was tinged with sadness. Eloise noticed and walked over to him, gently stroking his head. "Where's Kai? I thought you were…"
"Martyaxmon." Colchimon's gaze fell down to the ground as Ladomon unraveled herself, gazing sadly into his purple eyes. "He ambushed us and took Kai away. I don't know; I followed him as fast as I could, but when I finally reached him, Kai was already gone."
"Don't be. It was my fault; I didn't notice anything coming." He smiled, and looked up at the girl. "He's getting better, you know. He's desperate to come back."
"So why doesn't he? He knows we want him back as well."
Colchimon shuffled, hunching his shoulders a little. "I still don't know. He feels guilty, I guess. About bringing you here, and about…I don't know. Something." The shadow dragon looked up. "He needs you. If he were here now he'd disagree with me, but he needs to come back to you."
Eloise winked. "I promise; when we find him we'll personally drag him along. We're all in this together now. No more lone warriors; they only cause trouble."
Ladomon coughed. "Sorry to change the subject, but how did you get into the city? There's no way you flew over, and the whole thing's tight as hell."
"The city connects to the Spokes, remember? That's where me and Kai were when the Commander got him, so I just followed the path back."
"But that doesn't explain anything. The wall surrounds the whole thing; even from that way the city's impenetrable. Besides, we're in lockdown. There's literally no way in or out."
Colchimon sighed. "That's what they wanted us to think."
"Who else? The Commanders. They don't need to break in. I followed Martyaxmon here and I saw; they have a secret passage inside. One of the elevators slides down and reveals a pathway; they can get into the walls, or even into the city itself."
Eloise stepped back. "So they have been controlling this place from the very start. Wonderful."
Eloise jumped as Fornaxmon and Cerebrumon walked up, towering over her. She forced herself calm. "Sorry, I…I didn't notice…"
Fornaxmon waved a hand, giving a slight cough. "Think nothing of it. I'm just thankful you came back for me."
Colchimon nodded. "Reassuring to know that you're not all out to kill us."
Cerebrumon shuffled awkwardly, and frowned. "Don't get your hopes up."
"Don't be cruel!"
"He wasn't." Fornaxmon sighed, lazily swinging his arms. "You're right to be wary of me. Everyone is." He gestured back at the citizens who were looking in his direction, whispering among themselves and keeping their distance. "As I am now, I'm a walking timebomb. I plan to help you as much as I can, but I will turn. One day. It's just a matter of time."
Cerebrumon shook his head. "I'm sorry. I tried, but I can't get that thing out of you like I did with Grace. It's integrated too much." He smiled, and looked up at the golem. "Look on the bright side though. You're still standing, and still in control, all by your own willpower. That's Commander material, right there."
Ladomon blinked. "I'm sorry; what happened to Grace?"
"Come over here and I'll show you."
Kent stood up, and beckoned everyone over to the transparent sphere; the other tamers, their partners, Andromon, Cerebrumon and Fornaxmon. Colchimon looked around. "Where's Phoukamon?"
"The monkey goat guy?" Kent shrugged. "No-one's seen them. They disappeared."
Colchimon rolled his eyes, and puffed out his lips. "I guess they would, wouldn't they…"
"What I'm about to show you all may go some way to explain everything that's been going on. It may also disturb or frighten you, but this is the Digital World, so that's pretty much a given." Kent leant back, and pressed a few buttons on his laptop. "Be careful, and don't even think about touching this thing. Especially you, big guy. Could be hazardous to all our health."
Fornaxmon nodded and shuffled back a little further than everyone else as Kent pressed Enter. The orb shimmered, a vague shape moving within as everyone leaned in close. Then, the orb cleared, and the thing came into view, and everyone recoiled in horror.
Sprawled out in the dome was...something. It was hard to describe, with no discernible shape to speak of, as its translucent blue body seemed gelatinous, fluid and gaseous all at the same time. It morphed between shapes as if trying to hide its features, but it seemed to be failing. Crimson talons scratched uselessly against the orb and fungal projections waved in the air, each one tipped with a yellow, pulsating blob. Its eyes were yellow too, ranging in number from three to around eleven as the creature kept shifting. It was hard to make out, given that parts of it kept disappearing and glitching, only to be dragged back into the visible realm by whatever Kent was doing with his laptop.
Obviously distressed, the abomination screeched and snapped silently behind the walls of its prison, as Grace pointed a quivering finger. "What the bloody hell is that thing?"
Kent sat cross-legged, and presented a hand. "Ladies and gentlemen, given everything we've learnt so far, I give you what is most likely the source of the Fire Kingdom's affliction."
"WAS THAT THE THING AROUND MY NECK?"
Trilomon looked towards the girl, who was clearly taking this revelation very well. The insect cleared his throat. "It was just about to diffuse into you before Kent and Cerebrumon got it off. You were very lucky."
Grace's face turned to one of abject terror as Perimon winced. "Tactful, mate. Keep it up."
Trilomon hung his head a little, but Grace seemed less bothered with the bug and more with Cerebrumon as she stared up at him. "You knew I had that thing on me and you didn't tell me?"
The shadow-man coughed. "I wasn't sure if you'd react appropriately."
"APPROPRIATELY!? IT'S A GIANT BLOODSUCKING ALIEN LEECH GHOST MONSTER!"
Trilomon raised a claw. "Actually, it doesn't suck blood, it-"
Kent placed a hand on the bug's head and pulled him a little closer, as if to protect him from Grace's sudden weaponised glare of death. Cerebrumon frowned. "When you've calmed down, see how it's reacting now."
The girl forced herself to breath, and took another look. Indeed, the leech or whatever it was seemed to be rather distressed at the sheer number of other lifeforms looking at it.
"In the Digital atmosphere it can hide its appearance, but Kent's isolated it, so it's completely exposed. Still, if it knows it's being observed it'll panic. That could be very dangerous."
Fornaxmon put a hand to his chest, before recoiling a little more. "I…I can definitely feel something. If that…one of those…things is inside of me, then…are they calling to each other?"
Trilomon nodded. "They seem to."
Jack leaned forward, reaching out a finger, but he stopped himself as the creature looked his way, baring its serrated mouth(?) and vibrating. The boy gave Kent a quizzical look. "Is it a Digimon? Why does it look all funny?"
Aaron raised a hand. "Hold it, everyone. I'm sure Kent will explain, all in good time. Which we don't have, but oh well."
Kent nodded. "Thanks Aaron. Honestly, I barely know anything about it either. Only what Trilomon and I have figured out, and what Cerebrumon told us."
Jack looked up at the shadow-man. "So how much do you know about these?"
"I've experienced them. This is the first time I've seen one up close, but I've certainly been...close to them before."
Trilomon stepped forward again, his legs clicking against the metal floor. "I don't think it's a Digimon. I'm not even sure if it's a living being. I mean, I've heard of other pseudo-lifeforms in the Digital world; artificial intelligences, rogue antivirus, Diginomes-"
He stopped as he noticed his colleagues staring at him, somewhat amused. Vulpimon sniggered. "No, please, do carry on. I genuinely do enjoy a little nerdiness now and again."
Trilomon huffed, feeling very embarrassed, and quickly changed the subject. "It's certainly unstable out in the real world, which is why it takes over a host. Remember what happened with Mandrimon?"
Velocimon put his claw to his chin and nodded. "It makes sense. That time; you and Kent were trapped in one of these as well, were you not?"
Trilomon nodded. "It can't survive in the Digital World unless it has a host. It burrows inside and takes over every data bit of its host body, using them sort of like a living suit."
Grace's eye twitched. "Ew."
"It's worse than 'ew'." Kent leaned forward. "As you saw, it makes the host body incredibly powerful; far more than it should be for its level. It also gets inside the brain, increasing aggression to an animalistic level. That's what happened with you, Grace." He nodded at the girl, who was turning pale. "You're lucky Cerebrumon got it off and it didn't actually get inside you; even by touching it, it increased your paranoia and susceptibility to anger. No offense."
The girl quivered, and Jack patted his sister's shoulder in a comforting manner. It didn't help much. "I think I'm gonna throw up."
"The problem is that by doing all this it gets inside its hosts data and messes up the program, big time. Solid objects tend to be fine, but if it's in a living body, the whole thing starts to break down bit by bit, until…well, meltdown."
Grace stood up. "Excuse me for a moment."
She ran off, clutching her mouth, as Fornaxmon looked grave. "Far be it for me to be selfish, but I would appreciate it if you didn't explain quite so graphically how I'm going to die."
Kent looked genuinely guilty. "I'm sorry. I just thought…this is big. Everyone needs to know. Maybe then we can find a way to deal with these things. Perhaps even save your people."
Fornaxmon turned his head. "A difficult task, but certainly a worthwhile cause."
Perimon hopped to his feet. "I still don't get it. If they need a host, how did you get that one here in the first place?"
"This one seems corrupted in some way." Cerebrumon leaned forward, waving his hand over the orb as the leech backed away. "Probably my doing."
"How do you mean?"
Kent held up his flash drive. "This thing must have been in Karatenmon's mask. That would probably explain the weird writing, as well as why the Fire Kingdom wanted it back. I scanned the mask and copied it, saving it in here, meaning the leech came with it as well. When I scanned a living thing, that thing got corrupted, found sentience, and possessed one of the data files in my D-Nexus. Namely, Mandrimon's. That's how he came back from the dead."
Aaron looked puzzled. "But you destroyed the flash drive…"
"He did." Grace wandered back, looking slightly queasy, but taking her place with the others. She looked up at Cerebrumon. "You brought it back, right?"
Cerebrumon nodded. "The leech had implanted itself into your collected subconscious, without you realizing it. I happen to be a master of fetching such things from one's memories and bringing them back into being." He looked down at Grace and Jack, smiling the tiniest bit sinisterly. "I knew both of you had it when I first saw you. You were my ticket to finding out what was going on."
The kids shuffled backwards, but Cerebrumon leant back. "That was the plan, at least. You grabbed the flash drive before I could wipe your memories. From then on it possessed you instead of me. Although that may have been my oversight."
Trilomon answered again. "It seems to favour some data types over others. It seems that beings of darkness are only barely affected by it, whereas most fire Digimon fall under its influence almost immediately. Hence it travelled with you instead of him, Grace."
"Thank. You." Grace sighed. "If it drove me crazy, why'd it draw me towards Teslamon? Is it the thing in the flash drive that freed her?"
Cerebrumon nodded. "If you made contact with her, then yes. She, myself; all of us former captives were exposed to these things during our stay in the Fire Kingdom. Teslamon was the last to arrive, and was by far the most powerful. But as I said, these things rot the brains of Digimon and turn them into demons. That's why she's so unstable now."
The group fell into silence, pondering the implications. Eloise frowned, and looked up. "That can't be right. She seemed perfectly in control when we spoke to her."
Vulpimon nodded. "More to the point, when we fought her under the city we were able to at least hold her off. Now she's come back, she can pretty much blow everyone away with a snap of her finger. It seems to me almost like…"
Andromon finished her sentence. "…like she found another somewhere in the city."
Kent pumped his fists together, his eyes darting about. "That explains everything. Why she's still here. Why she's getting the citizens to join her cause. And the reason why Martyaxmon and Rinkhalmon can walk in and out whenever they please."
Velocimon's eyes widened. "You don't mean…"
"The Fire Kingdom's secret. The source of all their power. It's been right beneath our feet, all this time."
He tapped his foot, barely hiding a smile.
"The leeches are down there. Under the ground. This whole city is one giant storehouse for the Fire Kingdom, and the citizens don't even know it."
There was silence for a few seconds, before Perimon stamped his foot. "That's moronic! Why would the Fire Kingdom place their most valuable possession in the middle of enemy territory?"
Andromon raised a hand. "Actually, it may not be as moronic as you think. There are very few here who would actively go up against the Fire Kingdom; they'd most of them just get on with their own lives. And who would ever suspect such a thing anyway? You're right; it's preposterous. That's what makes it brilliant."
Fornaxmon exhaled a little steam. "And for those who do get a little too curious, they can always place a little guard if needed. Something powerful and efficient like a SkullMeramon would do perfectly."
Grace shook her head. "Except there are no leeches underneath the clocktower. Vulpimon and I went down there, and Jack's been beneath the city. If there was anything down there, surely one of us would have found it."
Ladomon bit her lip. "Unless, of course, the city had two underlayers."
Velocimon nodded. "That would explain why Teslamon's digging, and why she got infected with another leech after being crushed by the city."
"So where's the real way in?"
Colchimon opened his wings. "If the Commanders wanted to retrieve them without drawing attention, they'd want to avoid entering the city itself. It must be the marked elevator."
"Is that a guess?"
Kent's fingers hovered over his laptop. "Best guess we've had in a long time. And, pardon me for rushing, but I think this might be just our chance to make our move."
He tapped a few buttons, and the orb shimmered, the creature inside retracting, scrabbling as it did so. The shield disappeared, and the light on Kent's flash drive pulsated up again, glowing an angry red as the leech was shoved back inside. He ejected it and held it up with melancholy in his eyes. "Poor thing. I don't think it even knows what it's doing. It's like a miniature force of nature."
Eloise looked at him. "What are you going to do with it?"
Kent looked at her, the gears clearly turning in his head. "Much though I'm loathe to have it around, it will come in useful. As Fornaxmon said; these things call to one another. We can use it to locate the others, so long as we're careful."
Aaron clasped his hands together. "So let me get this straight; Teslamon's out to get all this power for herself, and the Commanders are out to protect it. Which leaves us just one move."
Fornaxmon nodded. "You have to find the leeches and destroy them before they cause any more damage."
Aaron smiled weakly. "It'll stop Teslamon in her tracks, and it'll remove one of the Fire Kingdom's advantages. We'd be killing two birds with one stone."
Everyone processed this information, before Velocimon stood up. "Well, it's in our best interests to begin as soon as possible. This plan sounds vague, badly thought-through and highly likely to fail. So I guess we're going ahead with it then?"
Tamers, partners and Digimon alike nodded, a new enthusiasm within them all. Kent turned to Andromon. "These citizens are yours now. We have a job we need to do, but you don't have to bring them into this. It's our fault they're hiding out here; they can stay safe and we can go on our own, if that is their wish."
Andromon seemed to think for a moment, before smiling. "I think everyone needs a new spark of hope right about now."
The robot marched off, clapping his hands together as the citizens in the tunnels began to wake up.
"Everybody, listen up! We're gonna need an army…"
Teslamon stood, arm against the ruined arch of the clock face, as she stared out at the throngs of Digimon jostling on the ground before her. She had to admit, she was somewhat impressed how many citizens had come to join her cause.
Didn't change the fact that she was still freakin' pissed off.
She stuck her hands to her hips and turned to face the four other rogues behind her, all in various states of not giving a damn. Neomon sat cross-legged on the floor, eye flitting around the room, while Latroditmon was busy picking at her nails. Chieftriaskismon and Daigambilastmon were both leant against the wall, arms folded and stoic. Chieftriaskismon looked more than a little irritated, whereas the armoured devil was harder to read; his visor closed. She had begrudgingly returned his other gauntlet to him, though it was now slightly bent.
Teslamon sighed, and gave a slight smile. "Chief, Latroditmon, thanks for gathering so many citizens up." She turned, staring at the great wall. "They're coming. I know they're planning something."
Chieftriaskismon smirked. "If y'so worried, why don't y'bring those slaves y'have diggin' away in the basement."
"Cause we need them to work faster if we want any chance of uncovering the power source."
Latroditmon sneered. "By we, I assume you mean you?"
Teslamon frowned, tapping her foot. "I don't know what's got into you all but I'm genuinely feeling so attacked right now."
"I no no attack you."
Teslamon rolled her eyes, answering in a voice as faux-sincere as the clown's. "Thank you very much, Neomon, I know you wouldn't. You must be the most loyal and dedicated soldier I've ever seen."
Neomon shrugged, not even looking at the shark-woman, but Daigambilastmon got to his feet, twirling his slightly worse gauntlet as he stared down at their self-appointed leader.
"What ah think everyone's thinkin' is the fact that y'haven't provahded any decency on that deal yah promised us."
Teslamon raised her eyebrows. "How do you mean? I got you out, got you in control of a city. The only reason we're still having problems is because you lot keep screwing up. Why is it suddenly my fault?"
Daigambilastmon sighed, and scratched the back of his helmet, making his horns jiggle up and down. "Ah don't know if yah remember. Y'said yah memory was all fuzzy-lahk, so ah'll remahnd you. We made a promise back then. Back in the sidewinder's lab." He opened his eyes, staring straight into hers, as the other rogues joined in.
"Always be a winner," scoffed Chieftriaskismon, staring past the thin edge of his spear blade.
"Always be respected," smiled Latroditmon, her top half slithering over her juddering spider's body.
"Always always have fun fun," giggled Neomon, rocking back and forth with his claws on his knees.
Daigambilastmon tipped his visor and gave a little bow. "Ahlways be smarter." He straightened up, his voice taking on a strange, prideful tone. "Ahlways be better than the big man…"
He paused, waiting for Teslamon to finish. She smiled, almost sincerely, as she recited what she remembered – what they all remembered - from so long ago.
"…but never become him."
She sighed, and wandered forwards, her arms swinging. "I guess I did get overconfident. When I think about it, you're right. This city ain't for us. Not like this. The people are scared and have nowhere else to go. Our talents would be better used elsewhere." She stopped, and grinned, turning her head slightly. "But all the same, before we head off, there are some of the 'big men' out there right now. Marty. Wrinkles. Even the kids and their bloody saviour talk. Blegh. And I believe we all have a little unfinished business with some of them..."
There was a brief flash of tension; mainly from Chieftriaskismon, although everyone seemed more than a little miffed about their previous humiliations. Everyone except Daigambilastmon, who simply twirled a finger. "Ah can't say ah argue with that."
Teslamon wandered back over to the window. "By my calculations it should be daylight soon. Perhaps we should shed a little light on our final showdown. Let everyone see us beat these guys into the dust. Show them the Digital World has no rulers. Only winners." She turned around, silhouetted against the dim lights, her eyes flashing fiercely. "What do you say? One more showdown?"
Latroditmon nodded, already picturing the luxurious life that lay ahead of her if she could 'win the hearts' of all the citizens here.
"Of course, dear."
Neomon nodded, inwardly reveling in how easy it would be to snatch the city from the other's grasps with all their little troubles out the way.
"We we'll show them hell hell."
Chieftriaskismon nodded, already planning his new army from the thousands of potential soldiers, and the force needed to usurp the shark-woman as king.
"Aye. Y'have my support."
Daigambilastmon nodded, thinking how nice it would be to get out of this hell hole. He gave a salute.
"Ah'd be honoured. One last stand."
"For old time's sake." Teslamon turned back, waving her fingers casually. "Go get ready. We'll head out in a few minutes. Drive them out."
She heard footsteps – hard, soft and sharp – as her colleagues left the room. She waited a few seconds, before snickering to herself.
The noise resonated within the city gates as the Clocktower Rebels stood in a line atop a far building, surrounded by hordes of screaming former citizens holding whatever weaponry they could get their hands on. Teslamon still had the microphone she'd yanked from the Volcamon, and was taking full advantage of it.
"You can't remain hidden away in there forever. Surrender now, and relinquish the captives. You have your demands."
There was no response. Not even a flicker. Teslamon smirked, and dropped the device, before raising her arms high. "Time to shed a little light on the situation then…"
Her hands pulsed with power, and the great roof split apart in an instant, revealing a shaft of light. Teslamon concentrated, and pushed harder, peeling the great seal back until the full light of midday burned down upon the city, showing the full extent of the wreckage. Teslamon grinned, before bringing her hands down in clawing motions. The city juddered into life, slowly climbing up the pit with the help of the remains of the great roof. The citizens watched in awe, some of them starting to chant once again. "LONG LIVE THE KING!"
Daigambilastmon let out a little whistle. "M'lady, yah never cease tah impress."
"Thank you, my brave knight." Teslamon's arms fell, and she yelled out once again, her voice loud enough without the need of a microphone. "Don't doubt my power! I can knock down these walls in the blink of an eye, and you know I will. Come out, or prepare to be squashed like the cowards you are!"
Inside the walls, Aaron held his breath. He glance towards Andromon, who stood next to the two maniacal Datamon, both of them holding controllers. The boy nodded. "You ready for this?"
"This is my home. I have no other option."
"One more thing." Aaron glanced back at his friends behind him, seeing the concern and worry in their faces. "Remember, these Digimon are living beings. All of them, the citizens; even the rebels. They may be being complete arseholes, but they have their reasons. They think they're in the right. I guess that's how this whole thing started."
He coughed. "What I'm saying is, do whatever you can to avoid any deaths. No more unnecessary killing. Stop them at all costs, but leave them alive." He smiled. "We're taking back this city, and we're going to do it our way."
The others nodded, a gesture reciprocated by the lines of Digimon, spreading back throughout the walls. They'd all seen too much death over the past few days. Weeks. Years.
Aaron took a deep breath, and nodded at Andromon. "Do it."
The robot gave a salute, his green sash hanging awkwardly, before pressing a button on his wrist. With a rumble, the great gates slid open, and Aaron stepped out, followed by the other tamers and their partners, until all eleven of them stood in a line in front of the throng of bloodthirsty former citizens. Aaron blinked, and shielded his eyes from the sunlight, as Teslamon's cackle greeted his ears.
"Very good, young boy general. I was hoping you'd come out to play sooner or later."
Vulpimon rolled her eyes. "My god, she is annoying, isn't she."
Aaron smiled. "Ready everyone?"
Jack, Kent, Eloise and Grace all had their D-Nexuses at the ready, energy building within them. "Ready."
The five moved in unison, sending out trails of light that formed into a rainbow, before splitting up and shooting into their five partners, who grew in size as they had done so many times before. In a flash, the pint-sized soldiers were transformed into battle-ready beasts, energy swirling around them.
They spread out, covering the gates, as the humans carried on, the residual energy gathering around their hands.
They too were swallowed up in the mesmerizing display, shining brighter than the sun above after days of darkness. The light dissipated, and they too were ready to fight.
From atop the roof, Latroditmon stifled a laugh. "Those poor, simple fools…"
Teslamon grinned, and yelled out again. "A valiant display, but you seem not to recognize your situation. Do you want us to come down there, or do you want the good citizens of the city to rough you up a little first?"
Galvamon stepped forward, face stern. "It appears, young lady, that you are the ones who do not recognize your situation. For you see, these unruly mobs are not the good citizens of this city."
Ljosamon smiled, and fired a spectral arrow high into the sky. Andromon saw the shining signal, and nodded to the Datamon. "Go for it."
Teslamon frowned as she heard a rumble, before feeling a tap on her shoulder. She looked at Neomon, who seemed a little agitated. "The doors. All the doors doors. Every every one."
Indeed they were; the many great gates surrounding the city were all opening at once, and from behind them strode forth yet more citizens of the vast city. Dozens at first, then hundreds, then thousands, pouring in from every direction. Some carried looks of determination; others carried rage; yet others, fear. But nobody ran. Nobody backed away. Led by the remains of the Homemade Army, and yet somehow a part of it. Within a minute, the throng in the middle was surrounded, and it was clear it was utterly outnumbered.
It appeared as if Teslamon's pledge had not gained her as many followers as she might have liked.
Andromon stepped out, throwing his hands out and amplifying his own timid voice to match Teslamon's in power. "These are the Digimon who follow the ways of a great city. A city which survives on its own, and where everyone is welcome, helped and can find a place, no matter what they've been through. We are the Silicon Army, and we're taking our city back, thank you very much!"
The robot raised an arm, before bringing it forward. "TO SURVIVE, WE MOVE FORWARD!"
With a collective roar that could've made the buildings shake, the Silicon Army closed in, screaming in anger. Chieftriaskismon planted his spear down, yelling out louder than any of the others. "ARE'YA GOING TO LET THEM SCARE YOU?"
There were cries of "Never!" as the rogues retaliated, and the two factions collided in a messy brawl. In the midst of the chaos and the rising dust, Kuaramon pointed. "All of you, spread out. We have a mission to complete."
They did so, caught by the watchful eyes of Daigambilastmon, who pointed. "They're surroundin' us. Ah expect they have us all in mind."
"Very well then." Teslamon cracked her knuckles, before preparing to jump. "Let's round 'em up then."
The rogues left their positions, before each becoming lost in the crowds. The battle for Silicon City had truly begun.
Ljosamon rushed forward, wing shield raised as rebels collided with her, some of them at least seeming mighty confused by the whole thing. The elf warrior didn't care; Eloise knew she had somewhere to be. Colchimon flew close to her shoulder and Luminemon flew above, warding off Aurumon and Mothmon alike as she swerved erratically.
They turned a corner, then another, then another as the rebels began to thin out. Ljosamon glanced sideways. "Are you sure this is the right way?"
Colchimon gestured, and Ljosamon saw the elevator coming up. She quietly stifled her joy; there was no way it was going to be this easy. Colchimon adjusted his flight path, the flash drive dangling around his neck, glowing angrily, as they approached it. Luminemon landed behind them, turning around to ward off any attackers.
Ljosamon ran up to it and removed the flash drive from around Colchimon's neck, taking care to hold it by the cord. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Sure am. Cerebrumon seemed pretty sure it wouldn't affect me."
"So how do we get in then?"
Colchimon nodded. "Stand on the top and kick down. The leech wants to get back to its family; it should let you in."
"Very perceptive! Venom Arc!"
Colchimon and Ljosamon jumped back as the poisoned blade came down, followed by Rinkhalmon's insane grinning face as he swiped again and again. "Bad, bad little girl, poking around places you shouldn't belong…"
The snake cackled as he was bound by burning wires, dragged back by Luminemon. Colchimon nodded. "Go! We'll be fine!"
"This is more important; just do it, now! We'll hold him off."
Ljosamon faltered for a second, before jumping atop the elevator, punching the metal. Rinkhalmon saw her and made a swipe, but Colchimon was up in his face before he could move. "Paralysis Pulse!"
The serpent was slowed down enough to see the hidden elevator descend, Ljosamon along with it. Rinkhalmon growled, before swinging his huge arcing blade back, releasing a trail of green fire. The dragons just dodged, Luminemon snarling as light built up in her mouth.
The laser burst, full energy built-up through determination and willpower, and even the mighty snake-man was forced to leap out of the way. Luminemon glared at her lifelong friend. "You should have gone with Eloise."
"I thought you didn't want me leaving you." Colchimon smiled up at the wyvern. "Now I'm here, I'm staying with you till the day I die."
"Oh, how very touching."
Both dragons looked aside in horror as Martyaxmon stepped out, smiling wickedly as his red rosary spun around him. He looked almost sorry for them as Rinkhalmon joined up next to him. "Such a pity the sentiment is lost given your imminent demise."
Luminemon quailed, eyes wide. "Oh, we are so screwed…"
Rinkhalmon fluttered his eyelids at his partner. "This doesn't seem fair, Marty. There's barely enough on the little worm to go around. This isn't a fair fight."
The blast of fire came out of nowhere, forcing both Commanders back. They turned, watching as Fornaxmon strode towards them, blade extended and glowing fiercely.
The golem stopped, staring them down with anger and vengeance in his visor.
"How about now?"
On the eastside quadrant, Aeolumon and Mistramon flew together, dodging bullets left right and centre as they worked to down the aerial enemies.
Their work was cut short by a hail of spears flying up towards them, and they looked down to see Chieftriaskismon, tail swishing and arms held wide as he bellowed up, "Come down and face me like true soldiers, you insolent children!"
Aeolumon glanced at his partner. "Shall we do the honours?"
"Third time lucky?"
"Let's hope so." Aeolumon climbed, before closing his wings and holding his fists out before him. "Hurricane Pummel!"
Seismon spun his spear like an expert, holding off oncoming hordes from one side as Cratomon's Ancestral Army drove the others back. Seismon looked back. "You've really improved at this."
"Don't get cocky just yet."
Their little chat was interrupted by a flurry of webbing that flew out at them, barring off the alleyways and leaving them face to face with Latroditmon, who stretched lazily. "Well boys, one at a time, or shall I take you both at once?"
She leered suddenly, dragging herself forward with the speed of a viper as she homed in. Cratomon raised his great, sliding blade as his partner readied his spear.
"Why did we have to get the bug?"
Alopemon ran through the streets, swerving from left to right as Chionemon sat atop her back, giving directions. The nomad was freezing oncoming rebels left, right and centre, with the merest touch. Alopemon looked back, concerned. "Try not to be so rough with them."
"HELLO LITTLE GIRL GIRL FOXY FOX!"
Chionemon gritted her teeth. "I knew it. Dodge!"
Alopemon threw herself to one side as the clown teleported into place, disappearing almost instantly and appearing atop the roof, leaning slightly to one side. Alopemon chuckled. "I guess this is us."
"I don't know; it would have been nice to punch Teslamon in the face."
"Don't push your luck."
Daigambilastmon leapt the buildings, on the lookout for Andromon. He knew the robot was more trouble than he seemed, and he was ready to dismantle him the first moment he saw him.
He did; the robot was edging around the main battlefield, leading a squad of some kind. Daigambilastmon smirked, and closed in for the kill, but all of a sudden a black shroud appeared out of nowhere and Daigambilastmon found himself swiveled around. He turned his head, only to see Cerebrumon standing there, blades in hand and with that insanely smug grin plastered over his face.
"So yah decided t'show yah true alliance, yah sly dog."
Cerebrumon chuckled. "My sincerest apologies, but I'm afraid I cannot allow you to pass…"
He pulled his hat down, more arms appearing from beneath his cloak.
Teslamon stood waiting in the clocktower courtyard, arms folded, as Galvamon and Kuaramon stepped towards her, weapons glowing.
For once, she didn't exchange witty banter.
She merely raised her arms, and ran forwards, the power within her building.
Soon…very, very soon…
Ljosamon cursed as she slid through the tight openings. This place was obviously made for someone of Rinkhalmon's size and stature, but he did have the annoying habit of leaving random equipment blocking the tunnels.
She heard the battle above and whispered to her partner through the elemental link. "Are you okay?"
"Well, Martyaxmon joined the party, but then again so did Fornaxmon, so right now it's anyone's guess."
"Stay alive. And make sure to look after Colchimon. Don't worry, I'll handle this." The holy warrior felt the arrows on her back, and clenched her fist ready to deploy her bow as the flash drive led the way.
"Eloise, if you feel anything at all, get out of there. Don't let these things control you."
"I know, I kn-"
Ljosamon stopped mid-sentence, skidding to a halt as the tunnel opened out. She was in a vast cavern; walls lined with some sort of luminescent blue gel, which melded with the metal and seemed to glitch every so often. All around her lay the leeches. Every one unique, every one grotesque, and every one staring at her; just waiting for her to make a move. There was an alien pressure and a strange, low hum.
For a moment she felt lost in a strange, unseen world.
Then something moved in the shadows, and she turned to see she wasn't the only living thing down here after all. Her arm fell to her side, the flash drive falling from her grasp as the figure walked forward. Torn overcoat. Pale skin. Open wounds on his face, bedraggled hair and almost white irises, but it was unmistakably him.
Kai mumbled something, walking deathly slowly towards her, D-Nexus in hand. Ljosamon stepped back, feeling something beneath her foot. She looked down, only to recoil as the carcass of a leech stared up at her, blank-eyed and semi-visible, its insides lying in pieces around it. Looking around, she saw many such carcasses. Hundreds, in fact.
Kai spoke a bit louder, and Ljosamon backed away faster. "What is it? What are you…?"
"Never forgive. Never forget."
From within her proud warrior form, Eloise watched in horror as Kai's face emerged from the shadows, shifting as it did so, like something from a horror movie. His pupils turned into vicious slits and his skin was engulfed by a dull, black sheen. His jaw and nose morphed; twisting and cracking as his teeth turned into sharp fangs, before it was covered by a ragged cloth mask. His hair grew in volume, turning steely grey, and the crown morphed over his head, its diamond-shaped jewels shining with false luster.
Kai stepped forward, completing his metamorphosis into Dokkamon kept walking, pulling the shadows with him like a cloak. All around him, the leeches reeled back, scared to approach the monster, the slayer of their kind.
Ljosamon held out a hand. "Kai, no…I'm not…I'm not going to fight you-"
Dokkamon screamed, and rushed forward, the shadows converging into savage blades as he rushed at the girl.
The blue bird striking down the yellow.
"I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!"
TO BE CONTINUED…
Dying again. Death hurts. Never again. No more. I'll stop the death.