Rori watched Aleena, gritting her teeth to hold back the tears brewing. Seeing the one she looked up to in this state was… soul-destroying. Steeling herself, she clenched her fists and saw Andrew walk over from a door at the back of the room. His black suit was pristine and the Digimon next to him certainly wasn’t G-Mon. A new partner? It was a huge boulder with arms made from interlocking rocks and a stern expression. Her Digivice buzzed.
Geomon, Champion level, Data, Nature Sprits, Metal Empire.
Don’t get stuck in his Quicksand attack or you might just go missing!
Aleena coughed, blood spurting out onto the floor.
Rori rushed to help her but Aleena’s arm flew out, pushing her back.
“I’m fine.” She turned to Andrew. “Digivolving G-Mon is like polishing a turd—pointless.”
“Aleena, please,” Talmon muttered as his eyelids closed against his will.
“I’m fine,” she hissed, angry.
Talmon tried to stand up, to walk towards her, but his little body fell back to the floor with a soft thud.
Andrew scowled. “You’ve seen better days.” Thrusting his hands in his trouser pockets, he looked at Geomon. “End it quickly.”
Geomon’s eyes turned black for a second. “Quicksand.”
Sand gathered around them all instantaneously, pulling at their feet as if it were alive. Rori grabbed hold of her leg, tugging at it. “This isn’t good!” she yelled as she realised she was already shin-deep.
Leaves appeared all around them and quickly formed a lasso, with Chrysanthemon holding the other end. Tugging hard, she smacked them together, the leaves tightening around the three humans while Idolonmon was holding Talmon. Chrysanthemon flew up towards the roof, freeing them from a sandy demise, lifting them barely a few feet above the attack, before she began to falter.
“Idolonmon, stop him doing that again!” Tyler yelled, looking over his shoulder at Aleena and Rori, as the three were squashed together by Chrysanthemon’s lasso. “This is a little too close for comfort,” he mumbled. “I’m glad I brushed my teeth.”
Idolonmon dropped Talmon and pointed his trident. “Killer Instinct!” The red lasers battered against the rock Digimon but had seemingly no effect.
“Extendor!” Geomon reached up, its arm extending rapidly towards Idolonmon until it snatched his neck, crushing down hard and continuing to push until Idolonmon was thrown into a wall. “Extendor!” The other shot at them, the rocks clunking against each other as they grew and more were added.
Chrysanthemon tossed them up into the air, leaving Rori’s stomach behind in her wake. “Rotary Spin!” With a quick twirl, she kicked the arm into a wall, blowing out a chunk of the wall with it.
Rori held herself firm as they plummeted back down, Chrysanthemon would catch them for sure. Wouldn’t she? With a thud, she felt the rope dig into her abdomen as they were dangled inches from the ground.
“Sorry.” Chrysanthemon released the rope and they fell in a tumble onto the cold metal below.
Rubbing her head, Rori looked at her partner. “We’ll work on it.” The leaves flew off them and towards Geomon, exploding to create a smoke screen.
Aleena lay on the ground panting, not even the Body Enhancing pills were able to overcome the damage that had been done to her body.
Rori shakily pushed herself up. She had to be strong for Aleena. “Chrysanthemon, go help Idolonmon. We’ll be fine.”
Chrysanthemon looked at her for a moment, hesitating, and then flew off.
Aleena growled, snarling through the pain she was in as she got onto all fours. “Go.” She shoved herself up, falling backwards so that she was on her knees. “Get.” She stood up, staggering from side to side and then steadied herself, pointing at the tank. “Leomon.”
Rori could see—through her good eye—that Aleena was in no fit shape to fight anyone, let alone a grown man in peak condition like Lord Kayran. But telling Aleena no was pointless. Nodding, and holding back the tears as she looked at her friend’s injured body, she said, “I won’t let you down.”
Aleena held out three fingers. “I can buy three minutes. You better not let me down.”
Pointing at Kayran, Aleena yelled, “One on one, you coward!”
He laughed and pointed his gun. “And, why, pray tell, would I squander time on you when I can, instead, end it instantly?”
Aleena clenched her fists, steadying on her feet. “You’re afraid? That it?” She laughed. “No wonder RODAF sucks at everything!”
Unloading his gun, Kayran tossed it and his jacket to the ground. His pectorals seemed to burst from the white vest top he wore underneath the army jacket. Every single muscle was defined and trying to erupt out of his tan skin. “Have it your way. You’ll be easier to dispose of if all your bones are broken, I suppose.”
Kayran moved into a boxing stance as Aleena ran at him, screaming.
“I’ll kill you,” she caterwauled as she raised her fist.
Rori looked at Tyler. They had to focus. “I’ll keep Tracy away from you.”
Tyler nodded. “If you require assistance, alert me immediately.” Even now, he was still trying to help. He didn’t seem to grasp the situation they were in.
Nevertheless, the gesture was something that made Rori feel at ease. “Thanks.”
“For what?” he raised a quizzical eyebrow.
Rori smiled. He hadn’t realised. “For everything, silly.” She touched his shoulder, her finger tips resting gently on the bone. “You treat me like one of you.” Pulling her hand back, she nodded. “You’re good people.”
Geomon’s fist crashed into the ground in front of them, blowing chunks of dust and shards of metal all over.
Coughing, Rori moved her arms down from her face, where she had instinctively raised them to. “Are you okay?” she asked, looking at Tyler as their partners’ attacks echoed across the room.
“Fine.” Tyler grimaced, slowly opening his eyes and lowering his hands down from where he had them held in front of him as if he were trying to catch a Frisbee. “We have to be hasty, no time for trivialities.”
Rori remembered their goal. Thirty seconds had already passed and they had done nothing. Time to act. Sprinting across the floor, she kept an eye on both battles, trying to avoid them as she went.
Tracy was just ahead, typing furiously while pushing buttons and pulling levers in an attempt to stop the inevitable.
Rori pounced from the ground like a tiger, leaping onto the older woman’s back and clawing underneath her glasses in an attempt to blind her. She not only had to stop her, Rori had to make sure she stayed stopped. “Now!” She flipped over the top of Tracy, landing on the console. Grabbing it with both hands, she booted Tracy on the chest, knocking her to the ground.
Tyler clambered up the platform, past the controls and grabbed hold of the needle. Tugging it, he growled in frustration. “It won’t budge.”
“Blöd Mädchen!” Tracy leapt up, charging at Rori with her claw-like nails out.
Rori dived to the side, and smashed Tracy’s head into the controls. Quickly, she leapt back to avoid Tracy’s swipe with her sharp nails. While not technically a weapon, they sure would hurt. “Pull harder!” Rori yelled. She was already doing the hard work; she couldn’t help him as well.
Tyler tugged at the needle, growling. Digging his feet into the floor, he leaned backwards, still yanking at the needle, until it came loose and he was thrown back into the console with a thump. He slumped down, dazed and a trickle of liquid spilled out, falling onto his head and wetting his dark hair with a gentle patter. It dropped down his fringe and tapped onto the ground and then, with quick realisation, Tyler leapt over the console and got down low as the cracks spread up the tube. Looking at the needle in his hand, he shook his head and tossed it away, covering his head with both hands A spider web of fissures formed, creaking loudly, and then with one final snap, the glass fell away and the liquid sloshed out all over.
“All my work!” Tracy exclaimed angrily. “Witch!” She grabbed hold of Rori, strangling her in a headlock.
Rori brought her elbow back twice into Tracy’s stomach, slipping free from her grasp just long enough to get a hold of Tracy’s white lab coat. Spinning around on her heel, she brought the older woman with her and abruptly let go, throwing her across the room. “Get Leomon!” she yelled.
“Removal of her eyeglasses will impair her ocular ability!” Tyler yelled, getting back up and rushing over to the fallen Lion Digimon.
“You will not touch!” Tracy yelled, slapping Rori in the face.
Rori staggered backwards on the liquid, slipping, until she fell onto her back. This was it, she was down and how tired she felt hit her like a tonne of bricks, pressing her into place.
Tracy’s weight thudded on top of her and the older woman clawed at Rori’s face.
Gripping the white coated arms, Rori tried to hold her back, too weak to do much else. She screamed, terrified that this was it for her journey.
No. She would fight on. That was the promise she made to Aleena. Letting go of one of Tracy’s hands, Rori allowed the scientist to scratch her neck while she reached for the glasses. Grabbing them in her fists, she crushed them and then punched Tracy hard in the face as the searing pain spread out from her neck. The adrenaline quickly masked the pain, like it had the rest of her injuries.
Tracy fell off her and staggered to her feet. “You evil witch!”
Twirling on the ground, Rori kicked out with her leg, knocking Tracy back to the floor with a thump that knocked her out.
Panting heavily, Rori gazed up at the roof. She was almost at her complete limit of physical endurance. But, there was a bit left. There was something still in the tank to make sure she could get to the end. Groaning, she got up and walked over, not able to run as she blocked out the background noise behind her. Flicking out the shards of glass in her hands as she went, she tried to ignore everything but her task. She padded across the water with gentle splashes while cold water dripped from her body. It smelt stagnant and dirty. Blood dripped from almost everywhere on her body and the metallic smell filled her nostrils.
As she got up to Leomon, she moved under one arm, Tyler doing the same. This single arm felt like more than she could manage alone but she would have to push herself.
“On my count.” Tyler held up three fingers. “Three.” He gripped Leomon tightly with his other arm. “Two.” Dropping a finger, he held just two. “One.” Grabbing tight with his other hand, Rori copied and they both tensed their legs. “Lift!”
Gritting her teeth, Rori tried not to scream like her muscles were. In her periphery, she could see how red Tyler’s face was already. Leomon’s limp feet and the bottoms of his legs were still trailing on the floor, but it was all they could do. Slowly, they took one step after another, trying to just focus on their goal. Anything else seemed impossible at this point.
“Idolonmon!” Tyler roared, clenching his teeth down so hard. Rori could actually hear him grinding his teeth against each other; it went right through her.
Idolonmon thrust his staff into Geomon’s arm, pinning it to the ground as Chrysanthemon unleashed a devastating slew of lasers. Tearing the trident free as the attack hit, Idolonmon flew over to them.
Rori stopped and looked up at the man in front of her. He was huge, as much a boulder as his partner was.
Andrew held up a hand. “You are not authorised to—” A red trident struck him across the face, throwing him across the room—through the middle of Kayran and Aleena’s battle—and into a wall where he slumped down, out cold.
“Pathetic.” Idolonmon scoffed. “No one can challenge the great me!”
Tyler clenched his teeth, tears trickling down his cheeks. “I can’t lift him anymore!” he screamed.
Rori was also close to her limit, but this reminded her that none of The Resistance were trained, they were ordinary. This wasn’t right; bringing them here.
“Fine, I’ll help,” Idolonmon said, yawning as he picked Leomon up, throwing the Digimon over his shoulder.
Rori saw in that moment, a flash of strain. A break in Idolonmon’s confident façade that he refused to relent.
Tyler breathed a sigh of relief, rubbing his shoulders. “Let’s get out of here.”
Chrysanthemon flew over, data orbs flying off Geomon behind her. Her face was stern, but Rori could see it had hurt the sensitive Digimon to do harm to someone she had previously known as a comrade. They were putting their Digimon in such difficult situations, situations that she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy. While still flying, Chrysanthemon scooped them up, pulling them both close to her chest. “Safe now.”
“Thank you,” Rori whispered, feeling the warmth and comfort of her partner. In that moment, she forgot where they were and just wanted to sleep, to forget it all.
“Aleena, come on!” Tyler yelled.
Rori snapped her eyes open, looking around for the green haired girl. Well, it was hard to say that she spotted the girl she had known and considered a friend. But she had spotted someone similar.
Aleena gripped at Kayran’s arm around her neck and kicked out helplessly but she was unable to even slightly phase him. It was like a child fighting with their parent; a complete disparity of strength and ability.
Kayran didn’t even seem tired as he lifted a large serrated knife to her neck from his hip. Light danced across the blade, making it almost seem exciting if it weren’t for the implications. “If you’re taking Leomon, I’ll have this one.” He gripped Aleena tighter as she tried to fight her way free. “There are some tests I’ve been meaning to do on a live subject. Luckily, she’s the perfect candidate.” He clenched his arm tight around her neck, cutting off her airflow “Even if she’s not good for much else.” Each word was dripping with malice, with pure evil. Grinning, he looked her in the eyes and brought the blade up against her cheek and then relented slightly, allowing her to breathe as her face turned red. Then he thumped her in the leg, smirking.
Aleena released an ear-splitting scream of pain. No amount of adrenaline or painkillers could have covered up the pain she was in.
“Stop it!” Rori screamed, struggling against Chrysanthemon’s steadfast grip.
“If she stopped struggling.” He squeezed again and Aleena squealed, her head falling limp after. “Then maybe I’d stop squeezing.”
Aleena lifted her head weakly, her whole expression one of defeat.
Rori was not prepared to give up. Not now. Even if Aleena had, she would keep fighting. “Aleena, we’re coming to get you!” She slipped free of Chrysanthemon’s grasp and ran across the floor as fast as her injured body could manage but that break while in Chrysanthemon’s arms had taken her body out of its state of shock and she could now feel every injury she had sustained. She collapsed onto her knees, her legs splayed out and her arms just barely holding her up as she pushed them out in front of her. “I won’t leave you!”
“Rori!” Chrysanthemon shouted, flying after her.
Aleena looked at her, the green eyes downcast. Her teeth were clenched tight, like she was holding herself back from doing something. The sweat, dirt and cuts on her face had removed any semblance of the old strong Aleena. From her already messy hair, a matted clump of blue hair fell in front of her mouth as she opened it to speak. “Leave! Now!”
“Don’t be stupid, we can still fight; we can help!” Tyler protested, reaching out at her from Chrysanthemon’s arms. The flower fairy Digimon was protectively standing over Rori while Idolonmon held an unconscious Talmon in one arm and Leomon in the other.
“For a smart guy, you’re so stupid!” Aleena yelled. She shook her head, the last remnants of her hair that weren’t dishevelled flew all over; the bobble that had been holding it back fell out and onto the ground. Her face was barely visible now. “Go!”
As Rori looked at her, she felt her head hurt. This wasn’t right. She couldn’t do this. The memory of her first moment on the base, where Aleena had helped her up from the ground during combat training flashed into her head. Ever since that simple act of kindness, when Rori had been so low, she had wanted to pay her friend back. And now, she was being told to throw that away and go. If Aleena had never met these people, if she had been alone—which she preferred—then she would have been fine. She could have been happy. Crawling towards her, Rori was determined to save her friend but her arms gave way and she fell to the floor, unable to command her body to do anything.
“Aleena…” Rori reached out, her hand shaking. “Come with us, please.” Tears welled up in her eyes. This wasn’t a time to cry, she had to be there for her. She had to be strong. “We need to leave together.”
“GO!” Aleena roared, her blood trickling through Kayran’s grip and dripping onto the floor with gentle plops.
Kayran laughed and nodded his head towards the door. “You heard her. Why don’t you try get out of here alive? I’ll give you a headstart.” He squeezed Aleena tight, but this time she didn’t scream, she held firm. “And leave her to me.”
“You disgusting excuse for a human being!” Tyler yelled. “How dare you think you can get away with this!”
“Think?” Kayran chuckled. “I know I can get away with this.”
Rori tried her best to hold back the tears, looking at Aleena.
“Leave me!” Aleena sounded pained, like she was struggling just to talk.
Shaking her head, Rori turned back to Chrysanthemon, who quickly scooped her up. The tears ran down Rori’s cheeks now; the dam had burst. She turned back to Kayran and pointed. “Don’t you dare hurt her!”
“Just shut up and go, you idiot!” Aleena screamed, spittle flying out from between her hair.
Rori wiped her eyes clean. “We’ll come back for you.” She sniffed and then looked firm at her friend. She wanted to mean these words with every fibre of her being. “I promise.”
Rori sullenly looked up at her partner. “Let’s go.”
Both Digimon left the room quickly, with Idolonmon hanging back to keep an eye on Kayran as they slipped through the door. He fired off two red lasers at the doorway behind them, collapsing it and then flew after Chrysanthemon.
Rori felt the tears coming again, thick and fast. She was so annoyed at herself. What she had just done was unforgivable.
* * *
Aleena watched them go, and eventually the sound of Idolonmon’s heavy footsteps faded. She allowed her head to fall, staring at the ground as the blood and sweat mixed on the tip of her pudgy nose, dripping off slowly. “I know you will,” she whispered softly.
“I think I’m going to cry. It’s so touching,” Kayran teased.
“Shut the hell up!” Aleena screamed, writhing about in his arms. The pain she was in was unimaginable; she had never felt anything like it before. Not even close.
Kayran laughed raucously and then turned her to face him. Any idea that she had control of her body was wiped away in that moment. “I can’t wait to show you all the brilliant things I have in store for you.” He looked over at Alice and smirked. “After your sister failed, I was in need of a new test subject.” His fist flew into her face and she allowed the darkness to consume her.
* * *
Rori quietly sobbed as the group continued through the desolated battlefields. There had been so much hurt, so much anger today. No one said anything until they headed towards Corinne’s battleground. What if she had lost? And the others? What if they had to leave with just the two of them?
“She’ll be alright; you know?” Tyler looked at her, his cool blue eyes feeling warm in that moment. “I’m sure of it.”
Rori nodded. In some ways, she knew herself that Aleena was strong enough to hold on. “I know she will.” But Rori didn’t want her to have to.
The alarm blared loudly as they entered, the red flashing disorientating. Blood was splattered around the room and they both quickly feared the worst. She felt Tyler’s hand grip her wrist tightly, digging into her sore flesh. But in that moment, she needed someone too. Grabbing his hand, she looked at him as he turned to her. “Tyler?”
“Rori, she’s…” Tyler looked back at where he had been looking.
Corinne was lay on the ground; her body so beat up it was hard to comprehend. King and Calmoonmon were nearby.
“Quick!” she exclaimed, noticing no one was moving.
Chrysanthemon sped over, with Idolonmon following slower. She set both of them down, looking around. “Safe.”
Tyler lifted Corinne into his arms gently, as if he were cradling a flower. “Corinne…”
Rori placed a hand on his shoulder, looking down at the sleeping girl.
“I’m alright,” Corinne whispered hoarsely, her eyes still closed.
Rori almost jumped in shock. She glanced at Tyler and saw a smile spreading from ear to ear and his blue-grey eyes twinkling like stars.
“Let’s go home.” Corinne became limp, her breathing slowing slightly.
Tyler sniffed and looked at Rori. “I knew she wasn’t.”
“I know you did.” Rori smiled.
Chrysanthemon lifted them up, bundling them into her arms and continuing towards the corridors of the Office block.
“I did, I swear.” Tyler looked back down at Corinne, who he was still holding. It was kind of cute, how much he actually cared. He sniffed, wiping tears from his eyes with his forearm.
“Never give up, eh, Ty?” Idolonmon said, the strain in his voice immediately apparent.
“Never give up.” Tyler stroked Corinne’s face gently, brushing a blonde curl free from her cheek.
* * *
“Kill the intruders!” How rude!
“We can’t yet!” Well, that was at least a bit of a relief.
Zalyea looked around at the circle of strange men and women in suits. Most were pointing guns at them.
“Yo, you hear that?” Zalyea grabbed Len’s hand. This was a terrifying moment.
“I’m not scared; you don’t have to hold my hand.” Len tried to pull himself free.
“I know you ain’t.” Zalyea gripped tighter. She would never admit it was for her own good. “I ain’t either, but I once heard somefing about united we tall and together we fall.”
Len snorted and started laughing. How could he laugh at a time like this?
“What?” Zalyea exclaimed.
“That’s the wrong quote!” he laughed louder, his face lighting up. It was actually nice to see him like this. Especially after what had happened.
“Be quiet and put your hands up!” One of the suits yelled. “We don’t wanna shoot you.”
“We needa grab Alex before they lynch him.” She pushed herself up, checking her Digivice as she did. Gaimon was still out of it.
“Who needs to grab who?”
Zalyea turned around to see Alex behind them, grinning through the blood caked onto his face.
He gave them a thumbs up. “I’m fine.”
“When’d you get here?” Zalyea resisted the urge to show she was happy to see him.
“Why, you miss me?” Alex winked. “Just before these guys got here I came to check on you two.”
Rolling her eyes, Zalyea looked around. “Why haven’t they done anything yet?”
“They must want to capture rather than kill. The threat is just to keep us from doing anything.” Len grabbed his Digivice, pressing Encompass and sucked Iontramon into it.
Alex looked at the guards and then walked closer to them. “Both of your shrouds faded?”
Zalyea shook her head. “There’s no way I’m using that crazy thing again!” Last time it had screwed with her vision.
“I’d rather not, too,” Len muttered.
“I guess we’re alone then.” Alex laughed weakly, looking at the guards with a pained expression. “Do you think we can escape?”
“Before they shoot?” Len whispered.
“Yeah.” Alex gulped, gripping his Digivice tightly.
Len shook his head. “Probably not.”
There was a loud explosion and chunks of rubble flew into the air. Idolonmon and Chrysanthemon burst out of the smoke.
“Leaf Dance.” Leaves quickly formed a dome around them before Zalyea could register anything.
As the dome moved away, the guards were blown apart and Chrysanthemon and Idolonmon were stood in front of them, data orbs flying off their bodies.
“You got Leomon!” Alex exclaimed. “We’re heroes!”
Len looked at Tyler, staying silent. Had it affected him that badly?
“Yo, you guys alright?” Zalyea asked, wiping her face with her jacket sleeve.
“Rori, Encompass.” Tyler was ignoring her. His face was stern as Idomon and Orchidemon flopped to the ground, exhausted. Idomon was sucked into Tyler’s Digivice and he walked over to them.
“You guys really draw a crowd.” Rori puffed out air and smirked as Orchidemon was sucked in. Something in Rori’s happy demeanour was off but Zalyea couldn’t grasp it.
“It wasn’t us!” Musta been you!” Zalyea joked. Talking about feelings was not her jam.
“I’m not blaming you,” Rori said, holding up her hands and half-laughing.
Alex smirked. “Ladies, listen.” He wrapped his arm around Zalyea’s shoulder. “I’m sure the three of us can work this out.”
“Shut up!” Zaylea shoved him off.
Tyler pulled Aleena’s bag over his shoulder, straining slightly. It was surprising enough no one had taken the bag away but all that extra cash would come in handy. Maybe he’d let her borrow some to buy those new trainers she had seen last week.
“Activate the Digiportal for Gimi’s house.”
Then it clicked. “Where’s bubble-gum head? Shouldn’t we wait for her?” He had her bag. And Talmon was here.
“And why are you and Corinne cuddling?” Alex stood up, crossing his arms. “I wanna get in on that action.”
Tyler and Rori looked at each other but didn’t say anything.
“Can you hold her, actually, Al?” Ty said, holding out Corinne’s limp body.
“Gladly!” Alex wrapped his arm around the blond, tossing her over his shoulder and withdrawing his Digivice with his free hand.
“Thank you, Alex.” Tyler glanced at Rori again but said nothing. They were hiding something. Maybe romance? Or was it about bubble-gum head?
“Go.” Tyler said.
Together, they pressed the button on their Digivices and the Digiportal appeared.