At the bottom of the stairs...
Things were a lot worse than they looked like from above. Carts were overturned and crushed; some of the solid stone buildings looked as though something very large and heavy had hit them and caused parts to crumble. Digimon had cleared out of the main street, making the seven kids and their partners standing almost alone in the dust at the bottom.
Almost was the key word, because there was a key figure that needed to be included. ... but... it seemed smaller than the shape they had seen from above. Vastly so. Hadn't what they seen tearing up the town -- so to speak -- been... a lot bigger?
That is not to say it was unimposing.
Standing a good eight feet tall, twenty feet away, was a humanoid digimon. Its face was half-covered by a metal mask that gave the appearance of a dog's muzzle, while large pointed ears and a shaggy mane of dark steel-blue hair completed the ensemble. Most of its body was covered in fine steel-blue fur, with lighter patches on its face and torso; a spiked belt was wrapped around one shoulder, a matching collar around his neck, while a red cape was tied around the other. As far as clothing went, it was wearing tattered black pants, and what seemed to be elbow-length gloves with tremendous metal claws at the ends; these were fastened at various places with brown belts. One more belt was around its waist, studded and with a buckle in the shape of a dog's head. Its feet were huge, clawed viciously, and a whiplike tail swayed almost boredly behind. A red W-like marking adorned its chest and legs.
"I think I revise my position as a 'dog person'," Simon couldn't stop himself from remarking, before his -- and everyone elses' -- D-GEARs units once again began their run-down.
Javermon. Mega-level demon man digimon. Renowned as one of the greatest trackers in the digital world, this virus strain of Javermon has none of the morality of its data counterpart. Its Blood Oath attack can tear through Chrome Digizoid, and its Justice Reaper takes no prisoners.
"Oh joy," Rajamon said, his eyelids drooping. "Another Mega."
"We're hosed," summarized Andrea, completely deadpan.
"You guys really need to learn to be a bit more optimistic," Emily said, more off-handed than anything, but her body was as tense as any of the others.
A pleased expression formed on the new digimon's face, all sharp teeth and glinting eyes, and then... he turned his back, his red cape flowing with his movement. He was completely unconcerned with the group, it seemed-- it was imperceptible from the distance, but the dog-like digimon nodded once. Two dark shapes -- one tall and lanky, vaguely familiar, the other small and compact-- suddenly erupted from hiding-spots on either side of the street, and blasted their way past the kids and up the stairs. It was hard to catch, but the fluttering cape and metallic wings, from behind, betrayed the taller shape as Epidemon-- Rafikmon's digitama, in Andrea's arms, shook just slightly.
A second later, some of the kids and their digimon were torn-- some were moving to go up the stairs, some were lunging forward to confront Javermon, and a couple were stuck in the middle of the group and were being jostled this way and that.
The confusion was not helped when they suddenly heard a terrible screeching caw from above, and... a dark shape (Epidemon) passed overhead, as though knocked backwards... and followed by a familiar fluttering purple shape, smashing one clawed hand into his midsection.
And then Javermon was gone. ... or, not gone. Moved.
He leapt into the air, over the kids, and smashed back down to earth between them and the steps of the temple, his face impassive once more.
"Now's your chance to get out of our business," he offered, sounding almost bored. The group turned to look at them-- in the ground behind them, there was a thudding sound and a huge cloud of dust as Epidemon and Deekamon smashed into the ground. His lip curled into a smile, and he looked over at the digimon that hit ground. "Or if you're content to continue being pawns to the sovereign like your friend, be my guest. It makes no difference to us at this point."
There was suddenly a sound like a thousand bombs going off, louder than the rush that had been inside the temple-- louder than anything the kids could imagine, and the ground underneath them began to shake violently. Heck, they might have been thrown into the air a few inches with every tremor, and Kamomon was quick to jump into the air and flapped his wings frantically to keep steady in the air.
In the mess, it was easy to miss the small dark shape passing overhead, but it was impossible to miss it when it landed next to Javermon, something blindingly bright clutched in its claw.
"We're done here," the dog-man said, nonchalantly, almost inaudible over the rumble, and as if on cue Epidemon suddenly leapt away from Deekamon. (Deekamon, for his part, was struggling to maintain upright with his mostly-substanceless body.) The bird-like man leapt nonchalantly over the kids, landing alongside what were presumably his two compatriots. Something black rushed past, and then... the three digimon were gone.
And they were gone.
But the rumbling and the sound held strong.
"Deekamon! What's going on!?" Egakumon yelled over to Deekamon, cupping his paws over his mouth, but surprisingly enough, Simon grabbed one of his hands and began to pull.
Luke and Sampamon stared for a moment at the place where the three digimon had stood, but were quick to follow.
It wasn't hard to see why they were in a hurry to move away-- pieces of the temple were starting to break off and tumble down the sloped sides, landing with a crash entirely too close for comfort. Taking off down the street, the further they got from the temple the gentler the rumbling was. For a given value of "gentler", of course-- it was still boneshaking, and from buildings on all sides Digimon were running out in panic, trying to determine what to do.
The kids came to a stop, gathering in a small empty lot; Deekamon brought up the back.
"Wh-what's going on!?" Toby spluttered out.
"Well, I'd say we're shaking," Faris replied in a deadpan, and as if by karma, was suddenly bowled over by the combination of a sudden tremor and a digimon rushing by. "Not a word."
"Wasn't gonna say anything, yeom," Delfinimon provided, looking terribly amused.
"This isn't helping us figure out what's going on," Iguamon said, his voice even, but his eyes narrowed as he looked around. "So if anyone--"
"Were I you, I'd find a way out of here as soon as possible," Deekamon said, cutting the dinosaur off. There was a moment of silence. There was none of the usual tone in Deekamon's voice-- he sounded positively sober.
Julian broke it. "Why?"
Deekamon fixed him with a hard stare. "Because we happen to be falling out of the sky at a frankly alarming rate?"
To one not in the know, it would be odd to see Javermon kneeling in the presence of a single somewhat-gangly middle-aged man, but it was a moment of incredible solemnity between the two. Epidemon and the third digimon were nowhere to be found-- elsewhere. Wherever they were was unimportant.
Era flicked his wrist, and the glowing orb in Javermon's hand floated up; the canine-like man hissed in relief, drawing his hand back as though it had been burning him-- in fact, it had been eating through his data. It began to replenish itself as soon as it was taken away, but his hand was greatly deteriorated for a moment.
"Impressive," the man murmured, very barely audible; with a twitch of his finger, it was as though he were turning the orb over in his hand. Javermon smirked, an expression that faded away immediately when Era's eyes were on him again. "Though you realize now that they'll be on to you. I won't be providing my..." a gesture of his hands, "transportation services from here on out. That alone almost depleted it. Weaker core than before..."
He spoke almost as though the digimon weren't in front of him, quietly and to himself, before turning on Javermon again.
"And of course, I have my own things to use it for. You're hardly my first priority."
"Of course, Lord Era," Javermon said almost as an automatic response. "This leaves four, correct?"
A curl of Era's lip. "Don't play dumb. It won't win you any favors from me. Yes, of course it's four, you absolutely useless packet of--"
A deep breath, and a disarming smile replaced his expression of disdain.
"Yes. Four. You and the other two just need to stay one step ahead and everything should work out wonderfully. You can go."
Javermon touched his fist to his chest in salute, and then with a swirl of his cape he was walking out and into the darkness.
Era again twitched his hand to turn the orb over in his hand, and there was a nasty glint of mirth in his eyes as the light reflected off it.
Fantastic. At this rate, even if those bumbling idiots managed to flub up every single one and cost weeks of time, he should be in the clear.
But for now, he had no small amount of work to do.
What followed Deekamon's announcement could be charitably described as a mass freak-out.
"The heck are we supposed to do!?" Andrea snapped, almost dropping Rafikmon's digitama thanks to the effects of yet another violent shake, planting her feet firmly on the ground in retaliation.
"Panic?" Kamomon provided a bit shakily, leaning against Emily for stability, but almost together Simon and Luke cut in.
Both said almost exactly the same thing, but their inflection was thoroughly different.
"No!" Simon blurted, clenching his fists in determination. "There's no way we can just leave!"
"No," Luke said, quiet and unassertive, more matter-of-fact than a bold declaration. "We can't just leave."
"You got some freaky wonder-twin thing going on here, don't you? I totally want in" Faris can't help but say, sarcastic and maybe even a bit uneasy. There was a tremor, and he probably expected to be thrown to the ground again by karmic forces, so he quickly followed it up with a "sorry!".
Emily tilted her head, worrying her lip a bit. "So... what? Form an evacuation party?"
Deekamon said nothing for a moment. "I could try to convince you not to, that we need you to make a break for it, but--"
"No way!" Egakumon piped up, and Deekamon gestured to the rabbit and laughed.
"But I rest my case."
It took a few minutes to get organized-- they split into three teams. Simon, Egakumon, Andrea, and Rajamon formed one; Emily, Kamomon, Faris, Delfinimon, Toby, and Lammon were the second; this of course left only Julian, Iguamon, Luke, and Sampamon to the last; they were sent to try and gather digimon to get them to where they arrived, where Deekamon would be gathering as many flying digimon as he can muster.
The "teams" took off in three directions-- one up (or, down-- away from the temple) the main street, and then one in each direct perpendicular to it.
For all three teams, trying to make sense of anything was nearly impossible; digimon were running this way and that, steadfastly refusing to listen through the haze of panic. The tremors were getting worse-- and it was easy to feel that they were dropping faster.
"This is so many kinds of not working," Rajamon mumbled, placing a paw to his forehead to rub at the spot where a small digimon, in a panic, smacked him upside the head with a wooden sword-- with a loud smack, Egakumon was bowled backwards by the same, and he clamped his claws over his smarting nose.
"Totally uncalled for, Kotemon!" the rabbit groaned.
The digimon before them (Kotemon, if Egakumon was to be believed) was dressed in full kendo gear, with only its purplish reptillian legs and tail bared; its yellow eyes were slanted, and it brandished its wooden sword again. "Back off!"
"We're trying to-- hey!" Simon yelped, barely avoiding being smacked in the shins by leaping backwards and almost smashing into Andrea.
This kind of thing went on for a while.
That's not to say they were a total flop-- the majority of Digimon were quick to listen (especially when shown the digivices-- it was like a free ticket for respect sometimes). It just the matter of a few... stubborn types.
And of course, it wasn't to say that the others were having a terrific amount of success either-- though the periodic dark shapes moving across the sky towards where the group had landed indicated that Deekamon was doing well enough for himself. Some digimon actually listened when prompted to follow the flying digimon.
The pair that were having the most luck? Julian and Luke (with their respective partners)-- possibly helped by the fact that neither of the two humans was saying much to the other (Luke out of his modest personality, and Julian out of his laconic one-- it didn't seem to be hostile), and spoke very matter-of-factly to the digimon, allowing them to act fairly efficiently.
The rumbling was only growing worse by the time they had gathered as many as they could. Some digimon steadfastedly refused to move, no matter what was said or done. (Andrea and Rajamon had to physically drag Simon and Egakumon away from more than one.)
At the designated 'meeting' place, the harried kids and their equally harried partners stood back, sticking to the edges of the clearing-like area at the edge. It was, honestly, an impressive sight-- digimon that could fly hovering in the sky behind Deekamon. Deekamon himself was at the forefront, yelling instruction, while more ground-bound digimon looked ahead, absorbing every word the purple hoodie-wearing digimon was crying out.
It was Lammon who spoke up first, some time into Deekamon's presentation of sorts; it was hard to hear her over the clamor, but the way she jerked her head caught attention immediately. She peered over her shoulder, back into the buildings and the city proper:
"Do you hear something?"
"Aside from the yelling, y'mean?" Faris provided, but he furrowed his brow.
"Not that I can tell," Emily said, frowning a bit. Even so, the digimon... disagreed. They all prickled up, those with fur or feathers having it stand up. Egakumon sniffed at the air, and Iguamon twitched his tail just so.
To the kids, it was considerably disconcerting to watch their partners get agitated about seemingly nothing. Thankfully (or, not), they had a reason very soon.
The sound of crumbling building was a loud one.
It seemed to come from nowhere... but it was huge and hard to miss. Made of bone -- why was every other bad that happened to them made of bone? -- and with a too-large tail that was easily knocking structures down, it was formidable. It was like a tremendous scorpion, hunched over and with its claws in the air; parts of its body were accented with black, while the bottom parts of its claws -- as well as the four "legs" not covered by its hind legs and claws -- were a stained wine-red. Yellow eyes peered out from inky black, and a third -- what might have been a mark, or a third eye -- was nestled in its forehead. Its bony tail was curled above its head, lashing out this way and that, and tipped with an entirely-too-large silvery blade.
That would have been enough. What made this worse, however, was that in its wake, there were beams of light shooting into the air -- as digimon were forced back into their digitama states.
The digimon listening to Deekamon suddenly started to panic -- understandably enough -- but almost immediately, Deekamon leapt over the crowd. He landed near the kids.
"I'm gonna trust you guys can take care of that and get off the island before we crash, yeah?" He was speaking quicker than usual, yellow eyes flitting from kid to kid.
"No problem," Simon said, though... the last part, the getting off the island, might be a problem. The same thought crossed the others' minds; Deekamon waited for a moment, but as each kid nodded, followed by their digimon doing the same, he nodded right back.
Before he suddenly plucked the digitama of what-was-once-Rafikmon straight out of Andrea's arms. "I'll take this," the purple hoodie-wearing digimon said, matter-of-factly. "He's a friend. I owe him much." Before anyone could ask further, he bowed his head. "I'll see you on the ground." He suddenly turned, and yelled one word:
As the huge digimon of bone drew nearer to them -- it was thankfully slow -- Deekamon managed to herd the digimon closer to the edge. Flying digimon took on as many passengers as they could; there wasn't time to look, though.
More pressing matters at hand.
"Let's kick this thing into next week," Rajamon mumbled, stretching his paws out.
A series of flashes of light later, and where six child-level digimon had stood moments before, were now six adult-levels; Baghamon turned to look at Sampamon, still curled around Luke's shoulders, and smirked a bit. The snake looked right back-- this was, after all, the first time she had seen all of her teammates in Adult form.
It had been quite a bit since they had actually fought together; Julian took the opportunity to quickly formulate a battle-plan.
"It's large enough that it shouldn't be a problem for most of you to get the drop on it," he said, though he seemed like he was biting something back. "Shokunimon, Kaizokumon--" The two most-humanoid of the digimon turned their attentions.
"Jump up and go for the head," the oldest of the children said decisively. "The rest of you try to throw it off-balance or attack where you can at the feet-- spread out so it can't get you all at once. I'm going to hazard a guess and say you should probably stay away from the tail."
"Thank you for that wonderful piece of advice, yeom," Shayumon chuckled, but nodded her head; this was punctuated by another building crumbling, and a deep tremor throughout the ground.
That was cue enough for the digimon to turn and go.
Sampamon stayed curled on Luke's shoulders, looking ahead but remaining silent.
There was only a momentary pause-- the humans were prepared to follow their partners (and, logically, Luke would follow them, as his partner was still with them), but Julian stood still, and that was enough to give the others pause.
"You've got something on your mind," Toby said.
There was another brief pause; Julian began to walk forward before he spoke.
"Our D-GEARs didn't go off."
Sampamon's eyes narrowed.
The giant bone digimon stopped in its tracks when the partner digimon rushed forward to meet it. Like twin pinballs, Shokunimon and Kaizokumon bounded off the ground and onto the tops of the closest buildings that were not-yet-demolished, one on either side of the side-street they were on, drawing their respective weapons before they even touched foot on the buildings.
Both the glob of paint and the glowing bullet were blocked by the larger digimon moving its claws -- one per attack -- into the line of fire, stopping them handily before they reached anywhere vital. As it did so, it was greeted with a raptor and a shark at either of its legs.
"Fast Strike!" Velocimon snarled, bone meeting bone as he smashed head-first into his enemy's left leg.
"Wavebreak Crash!" Shayumon cried, a powerful stream of water propelling her body with concussive force into the other limb.
It was more than a little discouraging that, like their teammates before them, this seemed to have almost no effect. They quickly removed themselves -- as quickly as possible -- from the range of the digimon's tail. Just in time, too-- where Shayumon was a moment before, the blade of its tail was sinking into and cracking the cobblestone road.
Ariamon moved next; with a yell of "Smokescreen!" she threw herself past the scorpion, her misty body emitting a heavy cloud of smoke. This caused the hostile digimon to hiss low, the smoke obscuring its vision and burning its eyes-- not doing much more than cosmetic damage, true, but it set up the next.
Baghamon growled low and deep in his chest, throwing his body forward, deftly weaving around the tail-blade embedded in the ground. ... or so it seemed. The tiger actually bounded his way on to the giant scorpion's tail, scrambling up it as quickly as he could manage. He couldn't get far, but before the tail began to wrench out of the earth, he yelled:
Aiming directly at its chest, the jewel on Baghamon's necklace began to glow and subsequently fired off energy that flickered like fire, and immediately leapt off. The scorpion gave a low bellow -- maybe that had actually done something?
In a low, sinister hiss, the big digimon let loose an attack:
And from its mouth poured a black fog that, as it spilled out, completely stained the air-- it was dark as pitch to those caught in the cloud. IE, all six of the digimon in combat.
"Where are you guy-- WHOA!" Shokunimon's voice yelped, followed by an undiginified thud as he fell off of the building he was perched on. The digimon stumbled over eachother, trying to avoid the skeleton scorpion by sound alone-- they were avoiding being hit, it would seem, but were really lacking in the "dignity" part.
The kids were almost tempted to rush forward to help their partners -- maybe trigger a digivolution to Perfect -- before they realized that... Luke had vanished, Sampamon in tow.
"That kid really has a thing for hide and seek, doesn't he," Faris remarked.
About the same time that the group noticed they were gone, Luke heaved himself -- Sampamon on his shoulders -- up and onto the roof of a building a short distance away from the battle. Sampamon had led him correctly. Back turned to the boy and snake, the unmistakable form of Magoriamon stood, hands on his hips, watching his handiwork.
"Seems it's a lot more solid this time around, doesn't it?" Magoriamon said cheerfully, not turning around. "Really, one of my better pieces." He then turned, his yellow eyes flicking over Luke and Sampamon as the snake slithered to the ground -- or, roof, while the painted-on eyes on his mask bored ahead.
"Only one," Magoriamon tsked, tapping his chin. "And you can't even reach adult yet, can you? Man, and I thought I'd actually have some fun." He sounded genuinely disappointed, and turned his back. "I'm going to watch the fun one."
Sampamon sighed deeply, now down on the ground. She looked up at Luke, who shrugged one shoulder and gingerly unclipped his digivice. "Worth a shot," the snake decided, closing her eyes. She had done it before, after all. It... had just been a while. And, really, she just... hadn't tried, right?
It took a few seconds of pained silence. Luke barely breathed, and a hundred negative thoughts had the chance to flit through his mind. Sampamon, however, seemed completely serene.
Nearly ten seconds passed, with only the shouting of the remaining evacuees and the sounds of her teammates doing batle to provide a soundtrack. Completely unseen by either Luke or Sampamon, Magoriamon began to smirk underneath his mask.
Then, Sampamon -- and the D-GEAR unit -- began to glow.
She might have smirked a bit, herself.
"Sampamon, kickstart digivolve to..." For the first time since before the... incident... her body began to grow longer and broader, once more shifting her to her Adult form; plumages of fur and spikes, rings, and, of course -- greatly increased size. "Serpemon!"
Magoriamon wheeled around again. "Adult! How quaint." He spread his hands wide, and began to draw closer.
Serpemon didn't wait; she opened her mouth: "Spectral Blast!" For a split second, everything went grey-- then, a black blast of energy fired out of the snake's mouth, and smashed into Magoriamon dead in the center of his chest.
Let it be known that Magoriamon, while a powerful illusionist and a perfect-level, was a bit lacking in the durability department. While it was far from defeating him, it sent the imp digimon tumbling head over heels into the dust on the ground.
And that was enough-- because the skeleton scorpion digimon flickered. It was enough to suddenly wipe away the effects of its attack, granting the digimon sight once more.
And they could plainly see and hear the impact of Magoriamon onto the ground, not far away-- and above that, a much larger black snake on the rooftop.
Luke looked at the serpent, and he couldn't contain a smile. Serpemon bowed her head and Luke placed a hand on the gem set in the middle of her forehead.
"Oh, lookie," Andrea deadpanned, back with the group. "Who's that clown?"
That was right-- out of the group, it was only Simon, Luke, and their partners that had really been conscious to see Magoriamon as the digimon gathered near their parnters.
"... you remember the whole smoky guy? Yeah. Him," Shokunimon growled, bounding his way over, paintbrush gripped tight. "Great."
"I could have sworn we took care of him..." Simon mumbled.
It was Andrea who said, "obviously not."
"Shokunimon, Baghamon," Veocimon said suddenly, narrowing his eyes, "you two keep our... friend," and he looked at the skeleton monster, "at bay. Distract it." The rabbit and tiger exchanged looks, but nodded-- without a word, they bounded back to the skeleton. Andrea and Simon, likewise, exchanged looks and followed after their partners. You know. Just in case.
"The rest of us... I think newbie might need our help, yeom," Shayumon said.
"Friend in need, et cetera, et cetera, aye?" Kaizokumon chuckled, waving in the air with one hand, but then pounded his fist into his open palm.
And with that, the remaining digimon and their human partners made way over towards where Magoriamon was currently lying on the ground.
When they got there, Ariamon called up:
"Serpemon," the snake corrected gently, but she couldn't keep a smile off her face. "Thank you. There are more pressing matters."
Magoriamon growled, pushing himself to his feet. "Oh, come on. Four against one, this isn't even fair," the imp said, twirling smoke around his fingers.
"You work with Era," Velocimon said, decisively. "Fair isn't exactly how you play, so why should we?"
"Correction!" Magoiramon said, putting his hands up palm-out, and there was that ever-indignant tone in his voice underneath the omnipresent sarcasm. "I work with Epidemon, who works under Lord Era. Lord Era's got nothin' to do with me. ... but you're right about playin' fair. Drowsy Smo-- ow!"
He had been trying to use his little digression as a distraction; it got soundly derailed by Ariamon vanishing and immediately phasing in in front of him and smashing her skull into his abdomen.
The ground began to shake even more violently. Serpemon and Luke stayed on the roof above, even as the shaking threatened to throw them off, staying quiet.
Magoriamon was stumbling a bit as he tried to stand -- whether from the attacks and his own relatively weak stature, or from the shaking, was up to debate -- but he snickered. "So, hey... not my problem, yeah? See you later. ... Probably not."
There was almost something sad in his voice.
And with that, once more, he was gone in a puff of mist. Up and gone. Immediately, the sound of battle died down behind them, as -- presumably -- the illusion digimon vanished alongside its maker.
"Like trying to catch fog with your hands," Luke couldn't help but remark, massaging his temples.
"I am getting incredibly sick of not getting any answers out of anyone," Julian mumbled, mimicking Luke's action.
"I think we all are," Toby ventured quietly, Ariamon looking to the sky.
"We're about to hit ground," she said, frowning deeply.
"I'm gonna say now is am-scray time!" Simon yelped as he and his partner stumbled back into the group; Andrea had the sense to arrive in a bit more style, riding on Baghamon's back.
And then there was another rumbling sound, though this one was... not quite the same as the shaking of the earth.
"Do you require assistance?" boomed the voice of Garudamon, as the bird-man digimon of imposing stature flapped his great wings just off the edge of the clearing they had arrived in-- from which all the evacuees had left.
"Garudamon!" Emily and Kaizokumon yelped together; the group stumbled their way back over, and indeed, Garudamon was there, wings beating to keep himself afloat and hands cupped for passengers.
Almost immediately, the digimon returned to their child forms -- even Kaizokumon and Shokunimon, who would clearly be small enough to ride as they were, but it was a matter of habit. They shambled their way quickly towards the giant bird, and wasted no time in "boarding", so to speak.
"Why are you still here? I mean-- didn't you have to evacuate the others?" Toby asked, looking up at the bird. The great beast's eyes swiveled to look, and he nodded his huge head.
"I am duty-bound to serve the Sovereign and those in high standing with them. The purple-hoodied one instructed me to carry only you."
There were so many questions left to be asked-- as Julian had said, they were getting almost no answers. Everyone they met seemed to be causing more questions than they were solving-- and it seemed like they were making negative progress, if the falling island was anything to look at.
But as Garudamon kicked off the ground, and the kids realized that they could see the earth below them -- not far at all, considering the island's (thankfully, rather slow -- relatively) rate of descent.
At least they could be grateful for this much, for now.