Yellow lights danced across the suspended wires as the buildings around buzzed and whirred with life. It was a normal day in Grid Central City, albeit slightly busier than usual. General Surtremon of the Fire Kingdom had conducted an ambassadorial visit, and while it had apparently gone well, it did set the usually busy people of Grid Central back on their work by a fair amount.

Beneath a rumbling bridge, Juramon sat beside his best friend Kapurimon, as they watched the sparks fly between the buildings, signalling messages going all around the world. Kapurimon giggled, and shivered with excitement. "It's so cool, isn't it? I can't wait to be big enough to get my hands on these things."

Juramon smirked. "It's pretty, I'll give you that."

"Did I ever tell you how that one works?"

"Many times. I still don't understand it though."

Juramon sighed, bobbing his spiked tail up and down as he studied the ground. He felt a small static jolt as Kapurimon nuzzled up next to him, brushing him with her prickly fuzz. "You'll understand it some day."

"I'm not sure I want to. In fact I'm not sure all this clever stuff is really my thing."

Kapurimon rolled onto her side. "Then what is your thing?"

Juramon blushed a little, but Kapurimon nudged him further. "Go on, tell me!"

"I want to be a soldier."

He flinched, waiting for the inevitable laughter, but none came. Kapurimon simply sat with that goofy grin on her face, listening further. He relaxed, before grinning himself. "That General Surtremon…he was amazing. He monitors the whole Fire Kingdom and keeps everyone safe. And the neighbouring cities as well. He's awesome. And I want to be up there, doing my bit."

"You think they'll let you in the Fire Forces?"

Juramon scratched behind his ear. "I suppose not. But somewhere's got to take me. Who knows; I may even lead an army of my own one day." He raised a talon, as if saluting an invisible commander. "All hail, General Juramon and the Thunder Squad!"

Kapurimon giggled. "Thunder Squad?"

Juramon smiled sheepishly. "It probably needs a little work."

"Maybe. Still, I know you can do it." Kapurimon nuzzled up to him once again. "You can do anything. I'm sure you'll be the greatest soldier ever."


Six days to go


Kent blinked, hand held rigidly over a half-assembled control panel as he stared in bewilderment at the Scottish boy.

"Train you…?"

Kai shuffled his feet, his hands clasped behind his back. In truth, this had played out far less awkwardly in his head.

"I meant to ask you earlier, but we got distracted by the big fiery panther-man."

"You want…me…me…to teach you how to fight?" Kent shook his head in disbelief. "Have you even seen me fighting?"

There was a rustling beside Kent, and Trilomon poked his head out from a bundle of wires. "He does tend to hit everything except the thing he's aiming at."

"Thanks, Trilomon. Your input is much appreciated."

"You're welcome!"

"I was being sarcastic."

"Well, I was being honest!"

Trilomon let out a little trill of amusement, before burrowing back into his bundle of wires. Kent stuck his tongue out playfully, before turning his attention back to Kai. "Look, I wouldn't mind helping you, really I wouldn't, but you've just got the wrong guy."

Colchimon unfurled himself from Kai's neck and looked his partner in the eye. "Why don't you get me to help you? You know I'd be happy to help as well. And our fighting styles are more similar."

"I know, Colchimon, but you're a Digimon. I'm a human, and I don't quite have the hang of this yet." Nervously, Kai scratched his head and looked down. "It's not so much the fighting; I can handle that fine. But Kent, you seem to be in full control of your powers. I was just hoping that you could give me a couple of tips or…something…I don't know how you do it."

Kent frowned, scratching his chin. "It just came naturally to me, really."

There was an indignant squeak from the bundle of wires beside him. "No it didn't, you fibber!"

Kent chuckled. "Well, yeah, it did take me a few goes to get it right. I suppose it depends on the element in question."

Kai sat down on the floor, holding his knees. "I just can't stop the feeling, every time I evolve. I think of my dad, and suddenly all this fury rushes into me. I guess it's the fury which gives me power, but I'm afraid every time I do it I'm just going to turn on somebody."

Kent put his tool down, and shuffled a little closer, Trilomon and Colchimon watching as he did so. "Is this why you didn't ask Eloise?"

"She'd help me. I know she would. But I can't guarantee that I won't try to attack her again. And if I leave it a week, evolve on the battlefield and lose it there…" Kai looked up at the older boy. "Please, Kent. I need help. I don't want to hurt anyone."

Kent exhaled, still looking unsure. Kai gritted his teeth, but suddenly Kent held his thumb up. "Alright. I'll do it. Though I can't promise I'll be a very good teacher."

"That's alright. Apparently I never listen to my teachers anyway."

Kent held out a finger. "In which case, before we get started, you can give me a hand rebuilding this thing."

Colchimon sniggered with a snarky smile, hovering just a few feet above. "Always a catch, isn't there…"

Kai nodded, and shuffled up, looking among the bits and bobs of electronics with mild bemusement. Trilomon stuck his head out again, and whistled brightly. "Yay, company!"


The doors slammed open with a crash, causing several of the Digimon wandering around to jump as Velocimon barged his way in, closely followed by Aaron, who was strafing around the dinosaur, pleading as he did so.

"Come on mate, now's really not the time. Please don't go there, please-"

It didn't help. Velocimon marched up to the table that Karatenmon was sitting at an slammed his armoured hands down, causing the pieces of parchment to flutter from their well-layed-out positions. Karatenmon blinked, and looked up from his work. "Can I help you?"

"What the hell were you playing at?"

Karatenmon blinked again, before brushing aside the plans directly in front of him and clasping his hands as he rested his chin. "I think I'm missing something here. What do you mean?"

Aaron waved his hands in a distracting manner. "It's nothing, really. You know him, he just gets grumpy-"

"Quiet." Velocimon glared at the bird, who shrank back, before refocusing his attention on the crow-man. "Yesterday. With the Fire army. You were going to barge straight in there and attack just like that, weren't you?"

Karatenmon fell quiet for a few seconds, as the other Digimon dotted around coughed and silently shuffled towards the doors. The tengu warrior let out a humph, before confessing. "Yes. I was. That was my mistake. It won't happen again."

Aaron placed a hand on his partner's shoulder. "There, he's apologised. Can you let it go now?"

"No, I won't." Velocimon shifted his position, while still looking Karatenmon straight in the eye. "You know we weren't ready. Didn't you think it might just be a bad idea to go rushing in like that?"

"At the time? No, I didn't. I was a little distracted." Karatenmon's expression darkened. "As I said, it was my mistake. We don't have time to dwell on this, so can you please just leave it at that?"

"That's not good enough. There are lives at stake here. If you're going to lose focus, how can I trust you to just 'leave it at that'"?

"Nobody's perfect, General." Karatenmon's smile carried a nasty edge. "Not even you."

Velocimon flustered for a second, before hardening once again. "There's a difference. My mistakes haven't put anybody in danger. I keep everyone else in the front of my mind, always."

Here Aaron let out an incredulous laugh, but the dinosaur ignored him. "You know, I actually thought you would lead well here, but it seems like I was mistaken."

Karatenmon sighed, and slid his papers into a single pile. "If you think I'm doing a poor job then that's fine. You are more than welcome to take responsibility."

"Don't try and duck out of it like that. Do you have any idea how serious the situation is?"

"Serious enough that I don't have time for petty complaints. I've owned up to my mistake. Right now, the enemy are at the gates and we need to plan our attack in less than a week. You finding every excuse you can to make an argument is not helping." Karatenmon stood up, and made for the door, but he paused, instead swivelling round to face Aaron. "Aaron, if you want to make an impact as a leader you'd better start by controlling your comrades."

"Me?" Aaron pointed at his chest incredulously as Velocimon bristled with static. "We're partners, not master and servant. What Velocimon does and says is up to him."

Velocimon humphed, and folded his arms. "Way to be grateful."

Aaron sighed, running his hands through his hair. "I didn't mean it to be rude. But you've got to admit we haven't always seen eye-to-eye on everything."

"And whose fault is that?"

Here Aaron put his foot down. "Right, now you're the one ducking responsibility."

Karatenmon sighed, and turned to leave. "This is unbelievably disappointing."

"Hey, I haven't finished with you yet!"

Karatenmon marched away with purpose, ignoring the dinosaur's taunt. Velocimon made to march after him but Aaron held him back. "For God's sake, Velocimon, leave it alone!"

Velocimon stopped struggling; instead he simply growled. "So when were you planning on telling us about Piddomon?"

Karatenmon stopped, his wings twitching slightly. Aaron buried his head in his hands as the crow-man slowly turned around, fire in his eyes. "What was there to say?"

"That one of your loyal soldiers turned out to be a Fire soldier in disguise? I think that's a fairly major deal."

The doors clattered as the last of the onlookers escaped the growing tension. Aaron raised his hand. "Whoa now, that's not fair. You know what's going on; Piddomon was probably..." He trailed off, aware of Karatenmon's savage glare. He coughed. "Will you tell us? What did happen?"

Karatenmon looked away. "What you'd expect really. I hoped it wouldn't, but I suppose it was unavoidable. Soon after we got here, after one of the Centarumon brothers died, Piddomon became more aggressive. One day, during a defense against a siege, he went berserk. I had no choice but to lock him out of Grid Central. It appears he's now been drawn to their side."

Aaron fell silent, but clenched his fists. Velocimon had his arms folded. "If it was so unavoidable, why did you have him in your army to begin with?"

"I don't lead an army, Velocimon! I lead people!" Karatenmon snapped, stomping his foot against the patterned floor. "Piddomon was one of the kindest souls I ever met. I believed in him till the very end."

Velocimon was adamant. "Angel or no angel, he was a Fire Digimon. You said yourself it was unavoidable that he would turn. Why put your truly loyal soldiers in danger for the foolhardy protection of somebody like that?"

Now Velocimon felt the weight of both Karatenmon and his own partner glaring at him, but he remained firm. Karatenmon snarled. "What happened to him wasn't his fault. I will not have you slander him in such a way."

"With all due respect, I don't care. I'm just being realistic." Velocimon swung out an arm, sparks bursting out of the cannon at the end. "This is a war. If you can't bring yourself to face that then you shouldn't be leading these soldiers."

Karatenmon gave a short, harsh laugh. "I thought I knew you, General. But it looks as if this war you speak of has killed off any semblance of compassion you may have once had."

He turned tail and marched out, slamming the door behind him. Velocimon seethed, before turning to see his partner and former comrade staring daggers at him. Aaron let out a groan of disgust. "That was harsh and you know it."

"It's still a valid point."

Aaron had his arms folded, looking down at the lizard. "And what the hell was that point?"

"Oh don't you start!" Velocimon ground his teeth, sparks jumping out from between them. "People like that need to hear it. It's part of being a leader; you sometimes have to be harsh. Sometimes, being harsh saves lives."

"Harsh, yes. Inhuman, definitely not." Aaron exhaled, and raised his hands. "Look, I know you're stressed. I'm sure it's hard being here again. I can't understand what you've gone through but I-"

Velocimon silenced him with a hand. "What the hell are you talking about now? There's nothing wrong with me?"

"Really?" Aaron gestured to the building around him. "Maybe the problem here is that you won't recognise that you're upset."

"Sadness just gets in the way, Aaron. This is war."

"And this was your home!" Aaron stood tall, his voice echoing. "I don't know what you think you're going to accomplish by acting all hard and stoic and stuff, but it's not going to help anyone."

Velocimon huffed, and looked the other way. "What do you know? You're not helping anyone with your pointless concerns."

Aaron slumped, looked helplessly at the defiant lizard before him. He gritted his teeth, before heading for the door himself. "I'm concerned about you, you know. At the very least you could recognise that." He opened the door, before pausing, the silence of the room digging into him."

"You know, sometimes you really are an arsehole."

He slammed the door behind him, leaving Velocimon all alone in the middle of the room.


Aaron wrung his hands in the air as he stomped through the faintly glowing streets. "Why? God, please, tell me why?"

He stopped, slamming his fist against the nearest wall. Breathing heavily, he stayed there for a good few minutes. What the hell was wrong with everyone? They were on the very edge of war; they needed to stick together more now than ever before, and yet everything seemed to be falling down around his ears. Aaron ground his teeth in irritation. They'd only been here a day.

"You know, that wall hasn't done anything to you."

"Oh shove off!" Aaron turned, but saw nobody in the direction the voice had come from. He frowned, straightening up. "Who was that?"

"Look up."

Aaron did so, and jumped as he saw a goat's face grinning down at him, wielding a green Mohawk and a pair of twisted horns . His eyes narrowed; the Digimon looked familiar somehow...

"Who are you? I haven't seen you around here."

The goat-monkey grinned, twisting itself until its legs lulled over the side. "We are Phoukamon. Guide, translator and all-around nice guy, and here to give you absolutely no help whatsoever."

"What?"

"I mean here to help whosoever requires it."

Aaron blinked. "You do look really familiar. Didn't I see you in Silicon City?"

Phoukamon smiled, retracting their legs. "Maybe. Never been there myself, although I have a holiday home. It's awfully crowded there, don't you think? Nope, never been there. So sorry."

Aaron's curiosity deflated as quickly as it had risen. "Has anybody told you you're incredibly annoying?"

Phoukamon winked, and disappeared in a puff of smoke. Aaron rolled his eyes, and made to walk away when suddenly a large, hairy hand grabbed him by the face. He yelped, stumbling backwards and falling against the wall as Phoukamon grasped his torso. "Mmmph...what the hell-"

"Only one may lead."

Aaron's eyes widened, still held in Phoukamon's mysterious vicegrip. "What did you say?"

"Only one may lead, and he who leads must carry on to the end, no matter what occurs. For a win for one is a loss for another, but why does the outcome matter so? Stay strong, and let the lightning consume you, chosen one."

All of a sudden Phoukamon cried out and let go, staggering away as Aaron held his breath. The two said nothing for a little while.

Eventually Phoukamon broke the silence, their three eyes spinning. "Oh, hi, didn't see you. Tell me hello when you see me around."

They grinned, raising two fingers in a peace sign. Aaron did not accept the gesture. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Which one?"

Phoukamon blew a kiss, before vanishing in a puff of black fur. Aaron slid down the wall, his brain trying to comprehend what he had just experienced. It failed, and instead regressed into the shell of unanswered questions that it had accumulated over the past few months.

Aaron decided not to bother, instead standing up, brushing himself off and getting the hell out of there.


Journal Entry #712. Location, Tartarean Labyrinth

The labyrinth has been more active than usual, and the symbols have been cropping up again and again. This is the third location they have appeared in now, and they all pretty much say the same. Oddly enough, the writing style appears to have changed; more rough and illegible. Is this the Obelimon's doing? Are they in pain? Or is there something beyond? I detected a faint energy signature when tracing a finger along the carving, but it disappeared. I could have sworn I heard a voice though. It told me to leave it alone.

Have not yet informed anybody of my discoveries, but if this carries on I may need help. Luckily, after many negotiations my apprentice and I have finally formed strong connections with General Muspelmon and Commander Surtremon; perhaps consorting with them is in order. For now though, I will continue to observe, but my concerns are growing.


Kent cleared his throat, and gestured flamboyantly. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are very much welcome."

The present tamers and their partners (aside from Velocimon and Perimon), Lobomon and Karatenmon looked on, slightly bemused at the array of wires, dials and flashing lights before them, all interconnected and currently attached to Kent's laptop and D-Nexus by USB. The whole system appeared to be whirring comfortably.

Jack leant to one side, whispering to Vulpimon. "So what's actually changed?"

The fox shrugged. "It's clean?"

"So what exactly is this?" Karatenmon stepped forward, hesitant to touch anything. By the sound of it, his mood hadn't improved from the little conversation earlier in the day.

Trilomon tapped the floor with a nervous fidget. "We've fixed the comms station. If there are any others like it still out there then we can talk to them without needing to go searching. It might just give us an edge."

Karatenmon sniffed. "Unless it doesn't work, or there isn't anybody else out there. In which case you've just wasted time."

Trilomon looked uneasily at Kent, but Lobomon stepped forward, gently knocking the crow-man on the back of the head. "Oh, lighten up. Any help is better than nothing."

"I suppose so."

Kent coughed, before tapping some keys on his laptop. "If I just configure this to sort signals by location, we can start to look through these messages and find out where they're from."

Eloise grinned. "Are you sure this is safe?"

"Positive."

"It's not going to blow up?"

"Of course it isn't!" Kent stamped his foot, looking distinctly miffed as the onlookers laughed. "Honestly, you release one psychotic monkey and you're never allowed to live it down."

Eloise stuck her tongue out. "Focus, genius, we're watching. I promise."

Kent narrowed his eyes, before hitting the Enter button with some force. The message lights blinked out, before reappearing, minus three. Kent frowned, and scratched his head. "Huh."

Kai placed his hands on the console, looking up at the older boy. "Are you sure the lights aren't just bust?"

Trilomon stepped in. "Doubt it. These things were built to last. I'm guessing that all those messages are from the same place."

Kent nodded, and tapped away for a little longer, before picking up his D-Nexus. "So, if I triangulate using the sensors I can pinpoint the co-ordinates on the virtual map to a reasonable margin of error."

Lobomon blinked, before looking at the tamers. "Is he speaking English?"

Grace shrugged, while Jack shook his head. "I think he's speaking Maths."

Kent sighed, his head lolling forward. "I give up. Kai, you explain it."

"I don't understand it either."

"You helped build the darn thing!"

"You were giving me instructions. I was only helping." Kai sighed, and turned sheepishly to face the others. "From what I can gather it kinda sorta finds where the signal's coming from through technical stuff."

Here Karatenmon took notice. "I think I saw a table somewhere of where the comms stations are across the Digital World. I suppose that would give us an idea of who's still out there."

"Way ahead of you. Aha! Found it!" Kent looked between several panels at once, before bringing his D-Nexus display up onto the laptop screen (minus the 3D effect, of course). Everyone gathered closer, watching as a little wi-fi symbol hovered over a greyscale map. Eloise frowned. "Where is that? I'm no good at reading maps."

Ladomon twisted in mid air, resting herself on Eloise's shoulders. "Well, that spiky bit's the Infernal Fortress, where we are, and that little dot there must be Silicon City. So it's north of both of those."

"Oh god..."

Everyone turned to Vulpimon, who had tensed up, her tail dropped low. She was mumbling, her voice hard to hear. "That's the territory of the Northern Tribes. There's only one location there that has a comms station."

She became aware of everybody staring at her, and her ears fell. "The Silver Citadel. My home."

The workshop was silent. Nobody knew quite what to say, until Jack noticed something and pointed. "Um...is it me, or is there another light on the panel-thing?"

Trilomon hopped up to have a look. "I think so. It must have come in the last few seconds-" He paused, looking around. "You don't think it could...have..."

Vulpimon whispered, her voice hoarse. "Read it."

Kent gritted his teeth. "I haven't managed-"

"READ IT!" The fox snapped, stepping forward as the whole room jumped. Trilomon yelped as he rolled off the console, Kent rushing over to him. Still the fox yelled. "You're supposed to be the technical genius! Stop wasting time and read the message!"

"He can't!"

Vulpimon turned her anger to Colchimon. "Why the hell not?"

The black dragon glared, flying down towards the furious fox. "Because the machine isn't configured that way. And getting mad about it isn't going to help. I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do at the moment."

"You..." Vulpimon's hackles were up, and she almost looked as if she were going to take a chunk out of Colchimon's face. Grace knelt down beside her and held her shoulders. "Calm down, please. I'm sorry."

Kent scratched his head, trying to think of a solution, when Trilomon stretched up and whispered into his ear. The boy nodded, stood up, and picked up his laptop. "There might be something we can do after all. Trilomon, put your head against that speaker, will you?"

The nervous bug nodded and ran over to the speaker, as Kent knelt down in front of the fox. "I can't translate the output signal but I can at least play it. It's too low frequency to for us to hear, but we've got a Digimon who hears in vibrations. We might get lucky."

Aaron chuckled. "Quite the little bundle of tricks, aren't you Trilomon?"

The insect blushed, before positioning himself for optimal vibration detection. Kent swallowed, and pressed Enter. The message light flashed, and faint bolts travelled through the circuitry of the panel, converging towards the speaker. It shook for about a second, Trilomon pressed firmly against it.

The insect pulled his head away, looking uncertain, as if trying to calculate what he just heard in his head. Vulpimon fidgeted. "What did it say?"

Trilomon's eyes widened, and he pressed his head against the speaker again. "Play it again. I just want to make sure."

Kent did, and everybody waited as Trilomon listened. He sat down, looking forlornly down at the fox.

"I can't be absolutely certain."

"I don't care." Vulpimon ground her teeth. "What did it say?"

"'Trapped. Send Help.'"

Vulpimon's eyes widened, her mouth falling open. Before anybody could stop her, she'd already turned tail and run out the building.


Surtremon's hand ran slowly over the markings on the wall; ever shifting, and ever changing. His eyes burned with curiosity as he traced his fingers through the engraving. Within these walls, he imagined, was written the entire histoy of the Digital World. Once, he might have been able to find out what it was; what secrets this place hid. But the one person who could have helped had long since passed away. A tragic accident. Such was life.

He heard the door close behind him and turned to see Commander Fornaxmon standing at attention behind him. Slowly and deliberately, the General stepped down from his iron pedestal and stared down at his subordinate. "How are the battle preparations?"

Fornaxmon turned his head, as if trying to think up an answer. Surtremon was tall enough to see down the vent at the top of his head, catching the faintest glimpse of machinery going into overdrive.

"All nearby soldiers are ready at a moment's notice."

"How many are there?"

"Five-hundred and thirty-two."

Surtremon sighed, placing his hand beneath the chin of his impassive mask. "That'll barely be enough, won't it…"

Fornaxmon clicked. "There are many special ops forces running the fortress."

"You're suggesting we put them on the front line? They'd require a lot of training, and offensively they aren't the strongest."

"Commander Rinkhalmon put forward the idea. Commander Martyaxmon sent me to verify it with you."

"I see. So they're still at odds." Surtremon turned, thinking it through. His Commanders had nary made a poor decision in his lifetime, but recent failures had led to many unnecessary losses. He hummed to himself, before turning back round and kneeling down in front of the mechanical man, whose expression was as unreadable as his own.

"May I ask you something, Fornaxmon? I want you to be completely honest."

"Yes sir."

Surtremon crouched further. "What do you feel?"

The torches died down as Surtremon waited patiently. Fornaxmon stepped back. "I don't…I don't understand." His words were forced and monosyllabic.

"You only rejoined us recently. Martyaxmon and Rinkhalmon filled me in on the details. But what do you feel right now?" He reached forward and tapped the Commander's iron chest. "In here."

Even without a face Fornaxmon was obviously uncomfortable. When he spoke, it was as a small child in front of a teacher, unsure of the situation he was in. "I don't know. It's…I don't feel anything. I'm just confused. I can't think…my mind is…I don't know."

"Do you hate me?"

Another pause.

"I don't know."

Surtremon looked away. It was obvious he wasn't going to get any more of an answer so he stood up again. "Discuss the options with Martyaxmon. I will support your decision on this matter."

"What about Commander Rinkhalmon?"

Surtremon faltered. "Don't tell him yet. I wish to speak with him myself."

"Yes sir."

"And Fornaxmon?"

"Yes sir?"

Surtremon looked away. "I'm sorry for everything that's happened to you. I hope you can forgive us. Or at least forgive your colleagues."

Fornaxmon said nothing, but he bowed as far as his stiff body would allow, before leaving the armoured giant's chamber. Surtremon sighed, placing a gauntlet over his mask as he walked to the great circular window that faced out to the courtyard. Both hands on the frame, he peered left and right, watching as the soldiers went about their duties. He closed his eyes, but heard no voices; only the constant growling and snarling that made up all of his day.

He tightened his grip on the frame, purging the doubts from his mind. He had to keep moving forward, no matter what. It was too late to turn back now.


Vulpimon flinched as the door to her room slid open behind her, casting artificial light on the interior. "Go away. I don't want to speak to anyone."

Behind her, Lobomon shrugged. "Suit yourself. I figured you might want to talk it over but obviously not."

Vulpimon didn't rise to the bait; she simply hunched further forward. Lobomon's smirk faded, and she crossed the room and knelt beside the fox. "It's tough for me as well. I knew your folks well. I know how-"

The fox whipped her head round, tears staining her fur. "Don't you dare say you know how I feel. My parents are in danger, possibly dead, because I've been marching round this godforsaken world on a bloody suicide mission." She shut her mouth tight, her upper lip wobbling. Lobomon waited patiently for her old friend to finish. "It's alright for you. The people you're fighting for are all around you. Mine are trapped far away in a dying palace."

Lobomon raised a hand. "I'm sure they're still alive. They wouldn't go down that easily."

"Why not?"

"Because they're the last of a great legacy for a reason, and they control the entirety of the Northern Tribes." Lobomon prodded the fox sharply on the shoulder blade. "But mostly because they're your parents. They love you and would do whatever it took to see you again."

Vulpimon exhaled, before standing up, turning to her much larger and more muscular companion. "Things have changed so much. When I was living in the citadel I was desperate to make a difference in the world; I was young and impetuous. Now I've actually left I can see just how powerless I really am."

Lobomon stood up. "Are you going to let that stop you?"

She turned and walked away before Vulpimon could respond.


Perimon mumbled to himself as he power through the sky, the city streets stretching out before him like an enormous circuit board. Perhaps that was what it was meant to be. The bird had no clue; he preferred the more rugged, open environment to the oppressive walls. Still, at least he could fly here.

As he flapped his wings he caught glimpses of the resistance members below; Gargomon and Yasyamon taking a stroll through the main square, the hefty Minotarumon meditating by himself in an empty room, and the two Monitamon having a squabble over the card game they'd been playing. Perimon smirked. Everybody seemed to be so carefree given the imminent armada heading their way.

He double-took, and swooped down a little lower as he caught sight of his partner, wandering through the streets alone. He looked so lost down there in the vastness of the labyrinth. Perimon flew upwards a little more, debating whether to go down. He felt bad, but at the same time couldn't bring himself to face his partner.

Something else caught his eye, distracting him from the moment. He veered and landed on a nearby roof, where Velocimon stood aloof, surveying the wall beyond. Even from this far distance it was possible to see the blazing wall, perhaps slightly weaker than it had been yesterday. Perimon coughed, and nudged Velocimon a little.

"You okay mate?"

Velocimon simply grunted. Perimon rolled his eyes, "Okay, geez, I was only asking."

"Ssh." Velocimon pointed, and Perimon's eagle-eyes followed his gaze. Far away, on the top of the wall of the Infernal Fortress, he could see the flutter of a pair of tattered wings. They shivered, releasing a couple of feathers into the midst of Grid Central City, before vanishing. Perimon turned to the dinosaur. "So they're watching us. What did you expect?"

"Did you see who it was?"

The falcon thought. "Piddomon, I guess?" His face fell serious. "Why, is Karatenmon still upset?"

"He's angry with me because I called him out on trusting that demon."

"Demon?" Perimon sighed, shaking his head. "Look, Velocimon, normally I'd get into an argument with you but honestly, you're not thinking straight. Seriously, just back off. Karatenmon may have slipped up but he's not an idiot. You don't have a right to keep pressing on him like this."

"Why the hell not? He's endangering us when we should be moving forward." Velocimon pointed. "At any rate, that thing is stalking us."

"He's not a thing..." Perimon paused. "He wasn't a thing. You met the guy; he helped us before."

"He was a Fire Digimon. He was always going to turn."

"You know, you're being unreasonable!" Perimon snapped, as Velocimon turned to face him. "Trust me, I get it. I want to get this over and done with as much as you do. I want to take out that bastard Surtremon and finally be rid of his goddamn lackeys. But this...this isn't you. You're just being cold, and...dead. It's not right."

Velocimon's face was straight. "I work in my own way. I'm not going to change myself just to make everybody else feel better."

"Dude, you're standing in the ruins of your home. Your friends, your family; how much have you lost thanks to these guys?" Perimon closed his eyes, whipping his head back and forth. "All the while I've known you, I've never seen you cry. You've never taken the time to grieve, or to remember. You just carry on as if nothing ever happens, which is fine. As you said, it's up to you. But if you keep holding it in it's going to build and build and blow up in our faces. You're already doing it now."

"Just leave me alone."

"Please mate, you're stressed. That's nothing to hide. Please, just back off, and let's talk-"

"I don't get stressed. And I don't need to talk about anything with you."

"Don't you get it?" The bird shoved him hard, diverting Velocimon's attention from the wall. "You're angry and you won't admit it 'cause of your stupid dutiful pride or whatever. That attitude's only going to get you in trouble."

Velocimon clenched his fists, grinding sparks between his claws. "Even if I were, what am I supposed to do? Do what you do and flip my shit every time someone disagrees with me? Your emotional baggage has held us back more than me, so don't even go there."

Perimon ground his beak, his eyes narrowing. "Yeah, I get emotional. Sue me. It's how I deal with things. Maybe you ought to try it someday so you can stop being such a smug dick about everything."

Velocimon looked away. "Thanks, but I'm busy trying to win this war. Unlike you, I've got nothing to atone for. I can win, just through my own power.

"Velocimon, please, just-"

"Just leave me alone, okay? I don't need your help."

For a moment, Perimon let out a seething growl as Velocimon stood impatiently. Then, the bird shoved the dinosaur again, letting out a grunt as Velocimon staggered backwards. Velocimon threw a punch, but it flew wide as Perimon broke into a hover, glaring down at his comrade.

"You know what, fine, I don't care. Do what the hell you want, but don't come crawling to me when you get knocked on your sorry arse, General."

He flew off, spouting obscenities as he went. Velocimon stood up and dusted himself down, peering over again at the wall.

Bloody birds.


Jack walked alone through the glowing streets as the sun began to die down over the very tops of the buildings. Hands in his pockets and with a slump in his step, he nonetheless couldn't help but feel slightly warm (well, warmer than usual in this climate) at the mechanical beauty of his surroundings. He sighed, and puckered his lip. What a shame that nobody was in the right frame of mind to appreciate things right now.

The wind blew through a nearby anemometer, causing it to rotate rapidly with a high-pitched whirring whine. Jack smiled briefly, before pursing his lips and joining in with a whistle of his own. The whine died down, but Jack continued, the whistle turning into a little melody that his dad would sometimes play on the trumpet. He couldn't whistle it particularly well, but the melody made him stop and think of home.

Home.

Jack sat down on a nearby bench, his mind wandering back to memories of cake and school and trains and sharks and remote-control helicopters. Instinctively he clenched the muscles of his right leg, feeling his knee click sloppily into place, ready to pounce again when he least expected it.

"You alright? You seem to be a little bit lonely."

Jack turned round to see Colchimon behind him, hovering very slowly towards him. The boy grinned, and waved. "Why aren't you with Kai?"

"He's helping Kent with a few more technical bits." The dragon spread his sheet-like wings, curling the ends. "As you can see by my great dexterity in hands-on work, they felt overshadowed and I was forced to part with them out of respect for their inferior skills."

Jack giggled, and Colchimon coiled himself up on the bench beside the boy. He tightened himself to the optimal position, before looking up at the boy, a somewhat concerned position on his face. "What about you? Where's Perimon?"

The boy bit his lip, answering Colchimon's question. "Another fight, huh?"

Jack slapped his legs in frustration. "He's so annoying! He's telling me, every single minute, he's telling me I have to get better, have to get stronger, have to be as cool as he knows I want to be."

"You are cool. Don't deny the truth."

"Not you too."

"Don't worry, I get what you're saying." Colchimon looked up at the purple sky above. "He's pushing you. He's feeling confident and he's trying to show off. And you're taking the brunt of it."

"You think so?"

"The problem with an ego like his is that it only grows more aggressive in adversity." Colchimon rolled his eyes, before resting his chin on his own coils.

Jack tilted his head. "He used to talk more with me. Maybe I've upset him somehow."

"Who knows? I'd stay away from him at the moment. Tell him you're not gonna work with him unless he gets his head straight."

Jack sighed. "It's not just that he's pushing me. He thinks I'm holding back 'cause I'm not as strong as everyone else." The boy turned to the dragon, arms outstretched. "But I'm not! Honestly, I'm not, and I'm okay with that. I don't want to fight any more. I can help in other ways. He just can't see that."

The cloud cover grew and the last streaks of orange were pressed from the sky, leaving only the dim lights of the city to illuminate the area. Colchimon pursed his lips in thought. "You know, I don't really want to fight any more either."

Jack blinked. "Really? But…you're really good at it…"

The shadow-dragon winked. "Flattered. Really. But I guess nobody wants to fight, so I suspect that's nothing special." He sighed. "Ladomon's changed, Jack. I don't know if you've noticed it but she's having trouble finding the right path. She was always such a pacifist, but now…I don't know."

Jack listened intently as the dragon kept speaking. "None of us truly know the right path. War or peace? Condemn or forgive? I know which side I've been most of my life. She had her beliefs and I had mine, and we still lived as one. But now she's finding her very self being challenged, and, I suppose, so am I."

The boy swung his legs out. Colchimon raised his head. "Sorry if I'm boring you."

"You're not, you're not!" Jack smiled. "I'm glad you decided to talk to me about this. I'm not used to people being straight with me."

Colchimon chuckled. "I guess what I'm saying is that there's a way that's right for you. Even if you don't know it yet. Keep working towards it, even if it's really hard."

"And what about you?"

"I don't know." The dragon sniffed. "Dear lord, I'm such a hypocrite, aren't I? Okay, ignore everything I said, I don't know what I'm talking about."

Jack laughed again. "Thanks for the not-very-helpful help. I mean it."

"Do me a favour and don't mention this to anyone else, will you?"

Jack looked up and saw the dragon's face; deadly serious. Troubled. A soul like his own. The boy straightened himself up, and drew a finger in two diagonal lines across his heart.

"Promise."


As the sun pulled low over the horizon, the lone figure stood hunched on the edge of the wall like a gargoyle. His teeth gnashed behind pursed, perfect lips, and his wings flapped a couple of times, sending scorched feathers over the wall.

All the other soldiers had retreated back into their little holes and quarters. Normally he would have, but there was no way he could any more. He had the scent. His old acquaintance was drawing him out. He scanned the silent city beyond the wall, body low enough that nobody could spot him.

The funny thing about madness; it always drew you towards the last thing on your mind. A single memory, etched inside. Karatenmon, holding out a hand as you'd spiralled down, towards the waiting inferno. Your mind had already gone by the time you hit the ground. Blood on your hands. Shocked faces. Severed limbs. A cry of anguish, and several limping creatures. Great iron gates, followed by a barrage. His face, peering over the top of the wall. A mixture of sadness, anger and hatred. Through the crimson haze, they all seemed so similar.

Piddomon readjusted himself, and waited. It was only a matter of time.


Six nights to go


The three moons hung lazily overhead, partially obscured by polluted clouds in the night sky. The wind whipped through the streets, causing something to clatter and making Vulpimon jump out of her skin. She stood, hunched, feeling the cold even through her thick pelt, before staring up at the great sealed wall. The city around her was deathly quiet, seeming to be watching her every move.

The fox had never felt so small. She raised a foot to take a step, but her leg hovered, uncertain and indecisive. Even if she could leave and get away unscathed, what was she going to do? What could she do, without Grace? What would the girl think if she was left without a partner?

But at the same time, her family was in danger. They needed help. They needed her. Didn't they?

Vulpimon pulled her leg back and sat down, her head bowed low. Her shoulders shook gently as she cried again, her tears running down her muzzle and hitting the hard road.

"I figured I might find you here."

Vulpimon blinked, and turned around to see Grace standing behind her. The girl smiled awkwardly. "Here we are again."

Vulpimon laughed, and wiped her eyes. "We really must stop meeting like this."

Grace nodded, before staring up at the blocked passageway. "You really want to go and help them, don't you…"

"Of course I do. Though I don't know what I can do, and we only have a week before Surtremon attacks. I doubt he'll give us another chance to come that close." Vulpimon trotted over to her partner, looking into her eyes. "What am I supposed to do? Nothing seems to be a good choice."

Grace put her thumb to her mouth in thought. "You know, I agree with you. If we can get to your home, we might even be able to bring back more help."

"We might not."

"But it's worth a try. Besides, family is important; I'm aware of that."

"But we can't just up and leave everyone."

"We won't." Grace held out a hand. "Come inside for tonight, and tomorrow we'll get the team together. Who knows; maybe someone else will come with us." The girl knelt down, pulling Vulpimon's muzzle to face her. "At the very least we can come up with a plan. What do you say?"

The fox sighed, before smiling reluctantly. "You know, I'm very glad you're here to talk sense into me. My head is all over the place right now."

"Leave doing stupid things to me." Grace grinned, before frowning, looking behind her. "Who's that?"

"Somebody followed you?"

"I don't know." Grace ducked to the side, keeping an eye out behind her. It was unmistakeable; somebody was definitely there, but they weren't stalking the two Ice warriors. They slowly walked past, following the streets and occasionally pausing to look up towards the wall. Vulpimon noticed a black flash and a flutter of feathers.

"It's Karatenmon!"

Grace pulled her partner back as the crow-man whipped his head around, having heard the surprised whisper. There was a grunt, then a rush of wind, and Karatenmon was gone.

Grace and Vulpimon rushed forward, trying to see him. Vulpimon shook her head. "What the heck was all that about?"

"Looks like he's left a load of feathers everywhere." Grace bent down and picked one up, before humming to herself. "Actually…this one doesn't look like his."

"There's another one over here." Vulpimon pointed. "And another. There are a few of them. Do you think he's tracking someone?"

Grace was silent. Vulpimon wandered up to her, and nudged her leg. "Grace?"

"It's white, and there are burn marks around the edge. I think I know whose this is."

The girl was pale as she looked up at the wall. For a split second she saw the hunched figure of the fallen angel. There was a brief flash of fire, and he was gone. Grace threw the feather away, turning to her partner in a panic. "What does he think he's doing?"

"Whatever it is, I'm sure it's bad news." Vulpimon started back to the tamer's quarters, Grace running along beside her. "Come on, we need to get the others."


Karatenmon crouched, clutching the hilt of one of his swords as he peered left and right. The streets were empty; nobody was following him. He gritted his teeth, muttering to himself. "I shouldn't be here. I shouldn't-"

There was the sound of hissing from above him, before somebody landed in front of him. Karatenmon's eyes narrowed as he stood up, facing the winged beast before him. "Hello again, friend."

Piddomon said nothing, but his wings beat very slowly up and down, sending embers skyward. His face, obscured by a mask that seemed melted in place, showed no emotion.

Karatenmon gritted his teeth. Very slowly, he released his grip on his sword and held out his hand, pointing towards his own chest. "Do you remember me?"

The fallen angel tilted his head, looking almost curious. Karatenmon took an intake of breath. "The flights over the Southern Daggers. You remember them, don't you? And when we visited Silicon City, where we first met Yasyamon. Do you remember Yasyamon?" Karatenmon took a step back, his voice faltering a little. "Please tell me you remember. Please…just say something…"

No response. The air was thick with tension as Karatenmon's shoulders slumped. He smiled a broken smile. "You were the best of us. I never thought they would take you too." The crow man turned, preparing to walk away. "Please, leave us. Fly far away from here. Save yourself at the very least. Even as an animal, you still have survival instincts, right?"

There was the sound of creaking as Karatenmon shut his eyes tight. It perpetuated, before expanding into a voice. Karatenmon turned round to see Piddomon with his mouth open, throat straining as he tried to form a word. Maybe even a sentence.

"I…II…reme…emmbbe…errr…yooo…uuuuuuu…"

For a brief moment, Karatenmon felt his spirit lift. "You haven't left after all…"

Piddomon smiled. His wings arched backwards as he raised a gloved hand, embers congregating around the fingers.

"Apollo Tornado!"

Karatenmon leapt skywards as Piddomon swung, sending spiralling arcs of fire towards his former comrade. The flames barely missed the tengu, still wilting his lower feathers. He soared upwards, but the angel spread his wings, preparing to jump up himself.

"Strike Thunder!"

The electric blast caught Piddomon in the chest, sending him rocketing backwards. Karatenmon's eyes widened as Galvamon stepped out of the shadows, arms crackling and teeth bared. "Galvamon? What are you doing here?"

"I should ask you the same." Galvamon's eyes darted left as the angel detached himself from the wall and leapt into the sky. The lizard turned, pointing an arm towards Piddomon's skyward form.

Karatenmon swooped low. "What are you doing?"

"Stand back you idiot." Galvamon snarled. "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm going to put that thing out of its misery."


Aaron mumbled as heavy footsteps made the ground vibrate, crouching slightly as the light got in his eyes. "Who the hell's doing that?"

Grace barged in, breathless from running. "Aaron, we have trouble."

The boy looked over his shoulder, rubbing his eyes. "What kind?"

Grace swallowed, but it wasn't worth hiding it. "Me and Vulpimon were out, and-"

"What for? It's the middle of the night!" Aaron's face fell. "Not again. Don't tell me you-"

The girl shook her hands. "I promise; we'll explain everything later, but right now we've got a problem. We think Piddomon's entered the city and Karatenmon's gone to find him."

"What?" Aaron sat up, only to stagger as a wave of fatigue hit him. The light was still blinding, causing him to squint. There was a clattering of footsteps and Eloise, Jack, Vulpimon and Perimon rushed in, with Ladomon hanging just outside. Eloise looked left and right. "What's going on? Aaron, why is…" She pointed, squinting herself. "Why is your chest glowing?"

Aaron looked down, and saw the elemental seal of Electricity ablaze on his torso. He fumbled in his pockets and got out his D-Nexus, scrolling rapidly through the menu until he found his partner's energy gauge. His lips tightened. "Oh, you utter…"

Perimon had cottoned onto it as well, peering around outside. "Where the hell's Velocimon?"

"Come on!" Aaron rushed forward, barging out the door and running off down the street, following the blips on his D-Nexus. Eloise caught up with him, "Aaron, what's going on?"

"I don't know. But somehow I think we've got more problems here than just Piddomon…"


"Stop!"

Karatenmon launched himself towards Galvamon, but the dinosaur saw him coming and leapt effortlessly out of the way. Galvamon gnashed his teeth. "I thought you were better than this. I thought you had some semblance of common sense, but it turns out I was wrong. Again. Step aside."

"Fire Feather!"

There was a flapping and a hail of flaming spears crashed into the road, sending splinters of metal flying. Galvamon twisted and fired three beams straight upwards. One of them caught Piddomon on the rightmost wing, and he spiralled down, landing on his feet. Galvamon went to rush towards him, but suddenly felt a tug on his arm. Karatenmon's clawed fingers were wrapped around his wrist, gripping him tightly. The crow warrior was breathless, but his eyes were brimming with anger. "This isn't your battle. This is nothing to do with you. Piddomon is…was…my friend. I'll deal with him."

"Get off of me!"Galvamon swung, planting his fist square into the side of Karatenmon's cheek. The bird man staggered back, falling down, but Galvamon wasn't finished yet; swinging his leg out and sending Karatenmon sprawling. "You've endangered the entire resistance here! You proclaim noble sacrifice and all that bullshit, but in the end, you're no better than the rest of the sentimental idiots around here! You're not fit to lead us!"

"Aannn…geeeerrrrrr..."

Karatenmon coughed, a light spattering of blood coming from his cut lips. "What, then? Sentiment is the one difference between us and them. We feel. We fight for each other. We fight for a cause. What are you fighting for?"

Galvamon clenched his fists, squared off against the crow warrior. "I'm fighting to win. And I won't let emotional attachments get in the way of what needs to be done."

"No. You're fighting for yourself." Karatenmon smiled wickedly, betraying his dark heritage as he wiped the blood off of his face. "You hide your true feelings in order to stay strong and get results. You're trying to pretend to yourself that you don't need emotional attachment. But you can't deny it."

"I'm focused. I know what needs to be done and won't let myself be swayed."

"IIIII…ffeeeeeeelll….yooouuur….aaaanggeeerrr…"

"Admit it, Velocimon, your life is a wreck!" Karatenmon got to one knee, shaking slightly from the pain. "You've lost friends, you've lost your home and you've lost any convictions or motivations to keep fighting that you once had! All you've got is your pride, and instead of accepting your loss you're clinging onto that like a scared little child!"

"SHUT UP!" Galvamon rushed forward, slamming his foot into Karatenmon's chest. The bird man flew backwards, sliding along the ground with a cry of pain.

"Galvamon, what are you doing!?"

The dinosaur whirled round to see his partner standing there, horror on his face and hand clutching a buzzing D-Nexus. The rest of the tamers and partners were close behind him, along with Lobomon, who rushed forward when she saw Karatenmon lying on the ground.

Galvamon rolled his eyes. "I should have guessed. You're all the same; unable to accept what needs to be done. Stay out of this."

Aaron held out a hand. "Velocimon, wait!"

"You do NOT have the right to call me Velocimon! I am not your partner; I am a soldier, and I will be the one to grasp victory!" Before anybody could stop him, he turned round to face the downed angel, arms out and crackling. "STRIKE THUNDER!"

Piddomon looked up helplessly as two intense beams of lightning slammed into his body, sending him flying backwards into a building. There was a rumble, then a splintering as the building crashed down in a sparking wreck. Galvamon stood there, bolts of lightning cascading over his entire body.

"HAAATREEEEDD!"

The choked, serpentine voice burrowed into the ears of all present as Piddomon stood up. The last tatters of his wings floated away, leaving just two trails of fire erupting from his back. His face was no longer stoick; now it was split in a horrific grin; so wide that it tore the skin of his cheeks, revealing his sharpened teeth. Suddenly he rushed forward, swinging his great gloved hand. This time it was Galvamon who flew backwards, rolling along the ground. Aaron yelled as his D-Nexus sent bolts of lightning up his arm, and he dropped the vicious device.

Still Galvamon didn't stop; leaping to his feet, he charged at the fallen angel with punches, kicks and savage swings of his tail. This time, however, Piddomon could not be stopped, dodging every blow and retaliating with a spire of fire.

Ignoring the pain in his body, Karatenmon held out an arm in desperation. "Velocimon, no! He can sense your anger; it's giving him strength!"

"I don't care."

"Please, General, you've got to-"

"I WILL KILL THIS MONSTER AND I WILL KILL HIM MY OWN WAY!" Galvamon flung his arms out, letting out a bestial roar as his entire body burst into electric flames. "PRIMAL FURY!"

His roar joined Aaron's scream as the D-Nexus burst into flames in his hand, sapping the energy from his body and sending it flying towards his partner. The boy staggered back, black spots forming in his vision as Eloise and Kent caught him. Jack ran forward, only to stop as bolts danced at his feet. "Velocimon, stop! You're hurting Aaron!"

The dinosaur couldn't hear. In an instant he had quadrupled in size, flinging off the excess energy in a burning shockwave. "Dimetromon!"

"Apollo Tornado!"

"Galvanic Overcharge!"

The armoured beast charged forward, ignoring the impact of Piddomon's attack as he let rip with a firestorm of his own. The angel laughed maniacally, crossing his arms in front of his body as Dimetromon slammed into him. The dinosaur's great disc was whirring in a white-hot blaze as he snapped and slashed with his metal jaw.

"Giivveeee…meeeee…your….haaatreeeeedddd…"

In a single movement, the angel brought both fists in a thundering impact on top of Dimetromon's head. The dinosaur staggered, his aim flying wildly as he collapsed to the ground.

Aaron was feeling every hit; every new blow to his partner sending a new spasm of pain through his body. Wincing, he brought his D-Nexus up, eyes blurring as he saw his partner's energy and power levels fluctuating wildly. He gritted his teeth, and slowly got to his feet. Eloise clutched his shoulder. "You can't…there's nothing you can do!"

"I have to try. He's going to kill himself and others if I don't do something."

"But what? What can you do?"

Aaron didn't answer, instead walking ever so slowly towards his partner, amidst the flying bolts. Eloise stared after him, remembering the time she'd done the same to him.

Dimetromon's eyes were white as he snapped uselessly, his tail cannon spinning at a dangerous level and beginning to glow. His skin was torn and armour cracked, trails of blood trickling down his face, legs and flank. His breathing was ragged, giving his voice an edge of malice as he spoke. "I will not be beaten by this creature. I will bring justice on them all."

"Is your pride really worth that much, Velocimon?" Aaron blinked as another bolt flew past his head, and he could feel the static energy emanating from his partner.

"I will show you all the true power of a soldier. Of a General."

"That power isn't yours! You stole it from me, in order to sate your anger. You're a danger to yourself and to everybody around you, Velocimon! That's why I'm taking it back!"

Dimetromon's eyes widened. "You wouldn't…"

"I will." Aaron reached out towards his partner's chest, the electricity coursing through his own body now. "You've lost control. You can't handle that power. I don't have a choice."

The onlookers saw what he was doing. Eloise reached out. Karatenmon yelled "Aaron, stop! It'll kill you!"

"Soul Fury!"

Aaron made contact, and the flow diverted. There was a blinding flash as dinosaur and boy screamed in unison, the entire force of the element of Electricity flowing out of one and into the other. Their forms glowed so intensely that it hurt to look at them, and their forms shifted like ripples through water. Then, they collapsed into puddles of static, merging into one, before splitting and reforming. One remained small, rolling away from the intense force and shedding energy as it went. The other grew; not as large as Dimetromon, only to about eight feet tall. For a second it remained human-shaped, but then it began to stretch and deform. It's arms increased in length, great metal spiked and wires erupting from its shoulders, which housed vast generators. Its back cracked and bent upwards, sending the creature falling to all fours like a deformed ape. A thin, bladed tail erupted in a coil from the creature's form. Its neck elongated, and its head morphed into an incomprehensible mass.

The energy began to fade, revealing a mechanical creature hunched over Piddomon, with wires, dials and lights blinking all over its body. It turned to face the others, revealing a single red eye embedded in the centre of an alien mask, with wires coming from where its eyes should have been. The remaining energy gathered and embedded itself in its chest, forming a shifting seal of Electricity protected by a transparent-red, pulsating gem.

The rush of energy ceased, but there was still a steady hum of static. The creature raised an arm, and its movements were jerky and puppet-like. The static increased, and it became clear that it was coming from the creature.

Kent stepped forward and held his arms out, keeping the others from getting close. He swallowed, before calling out. "Aaron?"

The static increased in intensity, forming strange moans and attempts at words. Eventually a single word broke through the creature's mask, strained and painful, but still just legible.

"Brontesmon!"

With a snarl, Piddomon leapt forward, his flaming hands coiling around Brontesmon's throat. "Giiive meee yooour aaannggeeeerrr!"

The reaction was immediate; Brontesmon's body twisted at the waste like some great doll, throwing the angel around like a bull. Still Piddomon's grip was like a vice, and his hands were beginning to burn into the electrical demon's armour.

The static shouting got worse, letting out incomprehensible words and sounds of pain, fear and rage, as bolts of white energy coursed around Brontesmon's body. Suddenly he leapt, dragging Piddomon up with him. His arms and legs twisted round and planted themselves on the angel's chest, pressing away until Piddomon fell. He growled, and made to flap upwards with his flaming wings, but Brontesmon's tail whipped forward and embedded its harpoon tip in Piddomon. The angel screamed as ten-thousand volts coursed through its body, before being launched earthwards and hitting the ground with a crack.

Still he wouldn't stay down, his vibrating body getting to its feet and holding its arms out as fire swirled around. His mask was cracked, and he watched with one maddened eye as Brontesmon landed in front of him.

"Apollo Tornado!"

He didn't have a chance to fire as Brontesmon's hands snapped shut on the ground in front of him, the generators on his shoulders spinning into overdrive.

"SsSSavagGge…NettTworkkkKK!"

Brontesmon reared onto his hind legs and threw his forearms wide, clutching great strands of electrified thread that burst out of the ground in front of him like some great spider's web. Piddomon saw the thread rocketing towards him but was too slow to move, and he was hoisted into the air as wires and threads danced around him, wrapping around his limbs and constricting his every movement.

Brontesmon shifted his body and the threads pulsed, worming around the angel's body and causing him to screech inhumanly as they burrowed ever deeper into him. Brontesmon moved again, swinging the angel around like a great hammer on a string, each new movement causing further pain. Once or twice he slammed the hapless creature into one of the nearby buildings, leaving several nasty dents with each impact.

But his body couldn't stand up on two legs forever. As his legs gave out, he thrust his arms down and connected with the ground. The threads disappeared, the current running back into his body, and Piddomon, with nothing more supporting him, crashed to the ground himself in an unceremonious heap. His limbs were twisted and great burnt gouges had been ripped from his body. He was still, save the occasional spasm.

Brontesmon staggered back, his legs moving every which way as he struggled to find balance. Everyone's eyes were on the angel. His flaming wings flickered, flared, then died out. With nary a sound, his broken body faded away, the data dissipating like flecks of stardust. Karatenmon closed his eyes. "Farewell, friend. Know peace."

"HEE…eeesss….LLPVVkVH!"

The sudden static cry made everybody jump as Brontesmon stumbled and flailed, his limbs flying in every direction and twisting with minds of their own. Grace grabbed Kent's hand. "He's hurting! What do we do?"

The older boy stuttered. "I…if we try to knock him down we could just hurt him more!"

"We can't just let him tear himself apart!" Eloise turned to him, her face white with fear. "What do we do?"

"HooOOOlkvshool…ddd…mEEEeeeE…"

Kai gave an intake of breath. "We don't need to knock him out. We just need to force him to calm down."

"Well how do we do that?"

"Leave that to me." The Scottish boy reached for his D-Nexus, nodding at the others. "You guys hold him in place. Watch out for the claws."

Colchimon unravelled himself and flew backwards, the rest of the partners joining him as the five humans clutched their devices, energy swirling around them.

"Soul Control!"

"Dokkamon!"

"Chionemon!"

"Ljosamon!"

"Cratomon!"

"Aeolumon!"

"Everyone, go!" Cratomon rushed forward first, but Brontesmon's senses picked him up, lunging forward and slashing at the earth warrior's chest.

"Easy, Aaron, it's us. Try and hold back."

The electric demon's movements were erratic and hesitant, giving Chionemon just enough time to leap behind him, planting both hands on his back legs. "Petrify Hand!"

The motors ground to a halt, freezing Brontesmon in place. He flailed, slashing wildly around him, but a shockwave in front of him caused him to recoil. He looked up, seeing Aeolumon hovering above him, two more spheres of wind in his hands. "Calm down and stand still. We're here to help."

Brontesmon had no time to react before Ljosamon and Cratomon gripped one arm each, digging their heels in and pulling the struggling demon down. Aeolumon and Chionemon hovered just out of the way, ready to intervene if anything went wrong. Dokkamon stood in front of his teammate, shadows curling at his fingertips.

Colchimon hovered just out of the way with Ladomon, gripping her tightly as he watched his partner. "Come on, you've got it. Focus."

Dokkamon closed his eyes, and walked forward. His body shimmered, turning gaseous as Brontesmon's head twisted and buckled before him.

"Dark Deluge…"

His body effortlessly phased through Brontesmon's, reforming on the other side. The electric demon stood paralysed, the bolts around his body halted in their tracks. Moments ticked by, nobody moving. Then, he slumped in Cratomon and Ljosamon's arms, the glow fading. The pieces of armour fell one by one, shattering on impact with the ground, leaving just Aaron laying there. He smiled, then broke out into laughter. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief, the humans jettisoning their soul forms. Kai was the last to revert, turning to face the younger boy with a slight hint of embarrassment. "Um...I guess you're okay..."

Aaron laughed. "Thanks, man. Sorry for causing you so much trouble."

Kai blushed, and dug his hands in his pockets. "I…didn't do that…you're welcome."

Aaron smiled, and went to stand on his own but his legs buckled. Eloise and Kent grasped him again, keeping him from falling. "Easy there. You seemed to be going pretty wild out there."

Aaron winced, holding his arms out in front of him. The flesh was white, save for bands of red around his joints, which felt like they were on fire. His entire body felt the same. His leg twitched and he winced again. "Geez, that hurts!"

"Don't push yourself!"

"I won't." Aaron sighed. "I can't. I can't move anything without it hurting. Ah!" He spasmed and one leg buckled again. Kent lurched forward as Aaron nearly pulled him over.

The boy had stopped laughing, instead biting his cheek as he ntried to ward off the pain. "That's some evolution, right?"

Trilomon tapped the ground in front of him. "You were holding the entire element of Electricity inside your human body. It doesn't really..."

He trailed off, stepping back as Kent shook his head. "Later. We'll look at this later, Trilomon."

Aaron coughed. "I think I'm gonna be out of action for a couple of days. You guys'll have to hold down the fort."

Eloise smiled, nodding. Kent just pursed his lips, looking away. "Of course."

Standing a little way away, Karatenmon exhaled. Lobomon held him, turning his head to face hers as she nursed his own injuries. "You shouldn't have done that. Piddomon was gone. You knew that, right?"

The crow-man sighed. "Yes, I did. I just didn't want to accept it. I'm sorry for putting you all in danger."

Vulpimon bit her lip, watching anxiously. "I think we were all very lucky there."

There was a disgusted hiss from the side of her and she turned to see Perimon marching away. She turned to face him. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Does it matter?" Perimon shrugged, not even looking back. "It's not like we're needed here anyway. The humans have it all under control. There's nothing for us to do." He grimaced, sneaking a look back at his partner, grinning away as usual. "What's the point? They do it far better than us anyway."

Kent and Eloise were helping Aaron along when he suddenly remembered something. "Velocimon! Oh god, where is he?"

The tamers looked around, until Jack spotted something and pointed. They turned Aaron round, and they all looked down at the little green lizard sprawled out on the ground in front of them. Juramon looked up, his eyes barely open as he struggled to move due to the pain. Still, he opened his mouth.

"What were you thinking, Aaron? You could have killed yourself there."

"Look who's talking."

"But…" Juramon looked away, trying to form an answer. "I was…I never meant…if you'd just…"

"If he'd just what? Let you die on some stupid quest for justice? Or maybe it wasn't justice. Maybe you were just looking to hurt someone the way you've been hurt." Eloise glared at him. "If that's the case, well done, I hope you're proud of yourself."

Aaron shook his head, and beckoned Grace. She bent down and picked the little green ball up, placing him in Aaron's arms. The lizard looked away, ashamed to meet Aaron's gaze. The boy just breathed out.

"Come on, little soldier. We need to talk."


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