A constant rushing sound, but far away...like the sound of the sea from a bedroom window...or a train passing...or...
"...'ve got...get up..."
Colours and sounds. Swirling and tumbling and turning into one another, and reaching out and
"Rachel, get up!"
The girl's eyes snapped open, and she was back to reality in an instant. George was leaning over her, his hand around her wrist in an awkward manner. She looked down, and pulled it away hurriedly.
"The D-Port...the D-Port!"
Rachel scrambled to her feet, but fell over again, the dust having made the floor slippery. She could feel moisture on her forehead, and looked up to see the swirling clouds directly above her.
"It's okay, it's okay!" George reached out, thought better of it, and pulled his arm back. "Dallurmon's gone. The storm can't get us here."
"But...it was...I thought..."
George bent down and picked something up from the floor, two-handed. He held it out towards her. She simply stared.
"This was the best I could do. It was going to tear everything to pieces. But the casing's holding it. Just."
Gently, Rachel took the bundle of wires and metal. It didn't look like a state-of-the-art device anymore; more a sorry, cracked bunch of circuit boards, all wrapped up with wire. Nevertheless, the thing trembled in her arms. The energy was still there, wherever it was coming from. They still had hope.
"Dad's work...you saved it."
George blushed. "I'm a Scout. Not an electrician I'm afraid, but...you know..." He scratched his cheek. "Be prepared and all that. My own father would be proud"
"When you've finished, we need to hurry."
Jiminymon buzzed nearby, and looked around worriedly. Some of the others were coming to, slowly but surely. Marsuamon clutched her muzzle and groaned, and Chupamon gingerly tapped Arimon on the snout, trying to get the sheep to budge. Lucy was knelt next to Lizzie, who was retching, holding her stomach.
"I hate this..."
Rachel looked down and saw Neonamon by her feet, and she reached down to pick him up. The snake was battered and bruised, but seemingly none the worse for wear. He grinned toothlessly. "A battle against Dallurmon with no casualties. I'd say that went better than expected."
"I'm not sure about that."
George put his hands in his pockets, his face grim. "We took a heavy beating. I'm not sure how many of us can even walk."
Lucy looked up. "The storm's coming closer."
So it was. Unsustained by Dallurmon's energy, the maelstrom was beginning to shrink. For now it was wide enough, but they only had a temporary bubble. And they knew it.
Lucy reached down and helped Lizzie sit up, the girl in glasses rubbing her temples. "Sorry everyone. I...tried to keep going."
"You did well. All of you." Chupamon peered around. "We don't have enough time for this though. We need to get to safety."
Jiminymon pointed. "What about the archive? It's protected in there; to keep the wall between worlds safe."
"How do we get everybody there in time? The rain's picking up, and some of them are still unconscious."
Lizzie winced in pain, forcing herself to her knees. Too exhausted to stand, she reached into her pockets, pulling out some of Yagamon's crystals.
"Jiminymon, can you open the door?"
Neonamon hopped down, and sat next to the cricket, looking smug. "If she can't I certainly can."
"Thank you, genius, but I do have a memory."
Jiminymon hopped over, and peered up at the lock. Or at least, what remained of it after the onslaught from before. She gave an exploratory hum, and reached out, nudging the edge of the door. It shifted easily, dropping dust in its wake as it swung open.
"Not that it matters. I think your little device did most of the work already."
George nodded. "Then let's get everyone inside."
He ran over to Alasdair, who was on the verge of waking, and pulled him up onto his shoulder. All around, the children and Digimon helped who they could, as the rain began to build.
Lucy peered up at the sky. "Quickly..."
Holding Wyvermon beside her, Chupamon glanced up. "It's fine. We're going to be fine."
"Not the rain." Lucy swallowed. "I've got a bad feeling."
Chupamon said nothing. But he picked up the pace.
Down amongst the wrecked pillars, the administrators and interns and everybody nearby were clinging to shelter, the storm still ravaging the landscape. Nobody stepped out. Nobody dared. The words were already flying; Dallurmon the forsaker. Dallurmon the traitor. Or Dallurmon the defeated.
Nobody had seen Dallurmon. But they had certainly felt everything he'd done.
Alone in the open, Phorusrhamon dragged her broken body forwards. Her legs were worn; sheets of metal, torn and eroded by the terrible rain. Her feathers had been stripped away, leaving red-raw flesh, which glistened in the rain, the data already coming apart. Her wounded eye was now fully closed, useless, and the other one was stained and failing as well. The hole in her chest was getting worse, spewing great chunks of data. But she ignored the pain, clutching the bundle even tighter in her arms.
"Please...still be alive..."
She squinted. There was a figure ahead, lying in the rain. A familiar figure.
She ran, slipping and tripping, and losing even more of her body as she scraped it along the soaking rocks. But she made it, and fell to her knees, the last of her energy gone as she looked down upon Dallurmon's still body. She gasped, horror welling up inside her.
"It can't be...they can't have gotten you too..."
Reaching out impossibly slowly, she placed a hand over the hole in his torso. As her claws touched it, Dallurmon recoiled, coughing up blood. He was severely worse for wear himself, his body stained blue with his own blood. The tattoos over his body had all but faded; he had no energy left. He sat up, and Phorusrhamon saw that the mask had slipped from his face. But even though his eyes were closed tightly, he sat up, and looked towards her. Phorusrhamon gave a smile. He knew. Of course he knew.
Dallurmon reached out with his key arm, the metal brushing against Phorusrhamon's chest.
"You haven't changed, have you? From all the way back then." He smiled. "You were so young. So willing to serve. Your spirit never left."
The arm clicked as it travelled down, and touched the bundle. Inside, the divine right hand twitched, feeling the presence of its owner. Dallurmon stiffened, pulling his arm away, and looking up.
"Phorusrhamon...what have you done?"
Phorusrhamon placed the bundle on the ground, her arms falling by her sides.
"We still need you, my lord. Only you know...what is right...I couldn't destroy it..."
Dallurmon's face followed the bird as she slowly keeled over, her words barely a whisper.
"...only you...can stop them...can save...the world...forgive...me..."
There was a clap of thunder, and the rain worsened, drowning out her words. Dallurmon knelt there, his own storm biting into his flesh. He ground his teeth, his tears melding with the rain on his cheeks.
"You foolish girl."
His arm reached out, caressing her cheek. The skin was rough against his fingertips, the scars evident. He felt around, his eyes still tightly closed.
"I can't do it. I could never wield it again. You could never understand."
His arm touched the bundle, and it recoiled, the hand within grasping at nothing. A tone reached Dallurmon's ears, like that of a horn from a mountaintop. It rushed through him, yet it seemed far away; faint, but audible, and intensely familiar.
He tried to stand up, but his legs were weak from blood loss. His torso was still glistening, the data falling away.
Eyes still closed, he looked down at the bundle in front of him, in the arms of his senior administrator as she held it out. A final gesture on her part.
Dallurmon exhaled, trembling. His eyelids twitched. Flickered.
And slowly, they rose, revealing pure white irises beneath.
Dallurmon gasped as the full extent of the future flooded his mind. He scrabbled around, looking in vain for the mask that suppressed the images; that kept him focused only on the necessary.
But it meant nothing now. Further and further into the future he watched as the world shifted and cracked, the very landscape morphing as years flew by in front of him. It wasn't like the visions through the pool, fuzzy and vague. Instead, with crystal clarity, he saw the land he loved so much burning in front of his eyes, and vanishing, swallowed by the great beast whom he'd sworn to protect against.
And further, past the images he'd seen through the mercury.
He stiffened. The lightning flashed above him, as he saw the true extent of things to come.
With lightning speed, he reached out, grasping the divine right hand and ripping it away from the bundle of rags. Phorusrhamon's body clattered back, already dissolving. But Dallurmon didn't notice. He could no longer even comprehend the world around him; his eyes lay only on that yet to come.
"I never imagined..."
The keys on Dallurmon's right arm whirred and span, sliding up and down the shaft as the myriad of locks and vessels within lined themselves up, edging ever closer to the forbidden alignment. In his left hand, the great horn began to hum, the energy of life already resonating within. The tubes reconnected after decades apart, twisting around the bone and muscle as it began to beat once again.
"It shall not come to this..."
Dallurmon raised the divine right hand up, sliding his arm's key into the base of the arm, directly into the grey flesh. It pulled itself up, sliding effortlessly into place. The fingers of his right hand twitched, jerked, and clasped together. The horn extended, reaching over his back and wrapping around his neck, digging in with razor-sharp spikes. The giant got to his feet and clenched his fist. Once. Twice. He raised his arm and pointed at the body of Phorusrhamon in front of him. His breath was hoarse, but it resonated throughout the tube, growing in power and ferocity. Up above, Dallurmon's breathing resonated through the rushing winds as he became one with the maelstrom, and the very ground rumbled beneath him as he stepped forwards, marching towards the keep. The divine right hand glowed a brilliant white beside him, and with every step, the energy within resonated and grew, the call of the gods answering his prayer.
"THEY SHALL NEVER TOUCH THEIR WORLD AGAIN!"
"I thought we were dead."
Lizzie looked up, red under her eyes, at Alasdair, who lay back against the shelf of parchments. His skin was glowing slightly; residue from Yagamon's crystals. Yvonne and Lucy had helped to administer the miracle stones, and they were providing temporary relief, although they clearly had no chance of healing the sheer scale of the wounds received by all.
They'd all managed to retreat into the study in time, closing the heavy door and barring it as best they could. It wasn't long before they'd heard great tearing sounds from the other side, as Dallurmon's quarters were torn away. But for the moment, it seemed to be holding. The keep was still standing – a testament to its structure – and up here, at the very top, the private study remained in place, the last resting chamber before the wall between worlds.
They'd found it easily, of course; the great translucent panel seemingly embedded in thin air, shimmering with visions of other worlds. Exhausted as they'd been, they'd tried hard to break through, but it wasn't moving, even with all the damage it had taken. Still, the cracks in the wall were widening, moving visibly now. With each splinter, the noise outside grew louder, like the Digital World itself rejecting their attempts to escape. But they'd come too far to give up now.
George and Rachel were leant over the D-Port, trying to salvage something from the pile of broken electronics. Their hands were nicked and their foreheads were sweating, but they kept going. There was no other choice.
Alasdair glanced over at their work, and placed a hand to his own head. "I can't believe it. We got through all that, and...now. Now of all times it failed."
"It didn't fail."
The girl gritted her teeth as she knelt back, cleaning her glasses. "Nothing's failed. We won. We can fix the D-Port and we can open the gate." She looked up, forcing a smile at the boy. "We've gotten through everything else on a wing and a prayer; why not this?"
Alasdair sat up, and winced, holding his forearm out. He winced as a fresh wound opened up, dribbling blood like a monster's maw. Lizzie shuffled forwards, and tore another strip from her sweatshirt; something she'd been doing a lot of.
"I can do something about that."
Alasdair bit his lip as she wrapped the fabric around the wound, pulling tightly and tying it well. He stared up at her as she pushed her glasses up.
"Thank you. For all you've done."
The girl shook her head slightly. "It's nothing. I was...the first to fall. I tried to fight and I failed." She sniffed, and wiped her face on her sleeve. "I have to repay you for the things I've said; it's not fair-"
She stopped. Alasdair had grasped her hand, and was holding it, gently but firmly.
"You've done as much as all of us. I'm proud to call you a friend."
The girl blushed. There was a flapping of wings and a weight landed on her shoulder; Mynahmon, who wobbled and promptly fell off beside her.
The girl laughed, rubbing her own grazed wrists. "I'm never going to get used to this place."
Mynahmon hopped to her feet. "With any luck you won't have to. It's nearly opening; the gate's about to crack into a hundred pieces and you'll go through and we'll...we'll..."
She broke off; not interrupted like usual. Her crest sagged just a little, and she looked up at the girl.
"Are we ever going to see you again?"
Lizzie opened her mouth, but couldn't think of anything to say. She smiled as reassuringly as she could manage, which, honestly, wasn't very much.
"I think that's everyone."
Yvonne wandered up, holding onto Joel's shoulder as he limped, slow but stable. Placomon hobbled along beside him, looking decidedly frazzled with the whole affair.
"I never should have gotten involved in political struggles. There are no winners. Only pain. So much pain all over. Oww..."
The fish looked up, and noticed Alasdair and Lizzie's melancholic looks. She frowned, and peered up at Joel. "Did I say something I shouldn't have?"
"Hey now..." Yvonne knelt down, and put a hand on Lizzie's messy hair. "We did it, didn't we? We won. The dragon is defeated, and we're going home."
"Maybe." Alasdair sat himself up. "I've got to say...I don't know how to feel about that. Yeah this was a completely horrible experience and I never want to have it again but..." He looked around him, listening to the winds and the rain, seemingly a world away now. "The Digital World grows on you after a while."
Yvonne sighed, placing her hands in her lap. "We're never gonna be the same after this. Heck, we just killed someone. Again."
Lizzie flinched, and Yvonne winced, aware of her mistake.
"Probably killed someone. Let's face it; nobody's convinced he's going to stay dead."
"Of course. That's so much better."
Joel folded his arms, and blew a raspberry. "He was a nasty bully anyway. No-one wants him around anymore."
Lizzie chuckled. "That's politics for you."
She stood up, and stretched. "Honestly, I'm glad."
Yvonne and Alasdair looked up, and blinked in turn. "You are?"
"Not about Dallurmon. About the world. About changing." She held out her hands in front of her; still shaking, even after all this time. "I can see things better. I will change the world. This...this has changed me" She grinned at Yvonne. "I'm...I'm gonna become a doctor. I mean it this time.."
Joel swayed, his hands clasped behind his back. "Liz?"
Joel smiled, showing a couple of missing teeth. "You're pretty cool."
"So are you, kid." She knelt down, and ruffled the boy's hair. "We need to keep in touch."
"Don't call me kid."
Alasdair smiled, and a hand reached down towards him. Yvonne pulled him to his feet, and the two of them smirked as they watched Lizzie and Joel poking fun at one another.
"We've changed, Ali. Everyone's changed. For the better, I think." Yvonne glanced to the side. "You really sure this was a horrible time we had here?"
"You're joking, aren't you?"
"Maybe." Yvonne beamed, the lights of the study glinting off her goggles. "Or maybe it's been fun. Sort of."
Alasdair sighed. "You always were one for adventure. Guess you finally became the hero you always wanted to be."
The girl chuckled, and looked deep into his eyes.
"I couldn't have done it without you."
"Come off it."
Alasdair gave her a look, and she raised her hands, her pigtails bobbing on her shoulders. "I'm sorry; we all got through this and we all survived. I'm a little sentimental. Come on Ali, you know very well I'm an idiot."
"Who isn't around here?"
The two were interrupted by a yelp of pain from around the D-Port. Rachel cursed under her breath as a sharp wire caught her finger. She pressed her thumb to her tooth, letting out a long breath. Marsuamon placed a hand on her shoulder, but the girl drew away, just slightly.
"This is horrible! How am I supposed to do this?"
"Calm down." George knelt back, wiping seat from his brow. "This was never going to be easy. Maybe we should give it-"
"Give up? On the life's work of my father? On the only reason I have any purpose around here?"
"That's not true." George shook his head, and reached out, grasping her hand. She resisted, but not much.
"Your father's an incredible man. Far better than mine. But we've managed to get this far, even without his help. The D-Port can be rebuilt." He smiled sweetly. "No matter how long it takes."
There was a chuckle beside them, and Neonamon fluttered his frill. "You humans have amazing technology. Who knows; within a few years there'll be one of these able to fit in the palm of your hands."
George and Rachel looked aside at the little snake, coiled up on Jiminymon's back. The cricket rolled her eyes, and cleared her throat. "You've already revolutionised this world. You have. Not the machine."
"You really think so?"
Jiminymon trilled. "I know so. Show me again, George."
George looked puzzled, and reached into his shirt pocket. "This?"
He pulled out his sketchbook, and the others gathered around, their eyes widening. Marsuamon whistled. "You drew all this?"
"When I had time. I sketch really. Nothing major." The boy blushed, but flipped a couple of pages, showing his work to the people in awe around him. "There's a lot of world out here to explore. Lots of wonderful people, and landscapes." He knelt back, popping the sketchbook back and glancing at Rachel. "I don't want to leave. Not for good, anyway. I promise; when we get back we're going to rebuild the D-Port for good. Dallurmon be damned."
Rachel looked down, clutching the hem of her dress. "It's a wonderful world." She glanced up. At Neonamon. At George. At Marsuamon. "I almost feel like I belong."
She was silent for a couple of moments, before leaning forwards, clutching the loose wires again.
"Come on...one more try..."
The group got back to work, unaware of what they were doing, but determined nonetheless. Behind them, the wall between worlds crackled, showing glimpses of life a world away. Wyvermon lay on his claws, his body scorched and ruined from the battle. He watched as the spider-like cracks made their way across the surface, too thin to be of effect.
"It almost feels wrong."
Beside him, Arimon looked down at the dragon, who looked very world weary, the glimmer in his scales having faded slightly. Gone was the youthful pride which he'd carried throughout their life together; now he looked very small, and frightened.
"We spent our whole lives protecting that arsehole. Now we might well have killed him. But it doesn't feel like we won." He glanced over at Chupamon, who was scraping at the floor with one claw, staying quiet. "Is this how it feels? Fighting against the things that made your life?"
"Does it feel bad?"
The dragon shrugged. "Not really. It's not bad he's gone. He really went off the deep end."
Arimon placed his hands on his knees. "So what now? We can't go back to our old lives."
"If we had old lives to go back to." Chupamon sighed, and got to his feet, resting on his knuckles. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. Truly I am. You probably wouldn't be in this mess if I hadn't been mucking around in your village back then."
"I don't think we can blame you for any of this." Arimon sat back, curling his toes. "Who knows how we got here, to this place?"
Chupamon humphed, and sat back, his eyes darting over to Lucy. The girl was staring at him, her nail in her mouth. He smirked.
"At least we got a few good things out of this whole business."
She stepped forwards and kneeled down in front of him, putting her hands on his shoulders.
"Come with us."
Chupamon blinked, and stared at Lucy. The girl's face was completely straight.
"You could come with us. Come back home. To our world."
Chupamon's mouth fell open, just a little. He tried to speak, but no words came. All around, the murmurs and muttering had fallen silent, leaving only the dim hum from the gate behind them.
Lucy smiled. "I don't want to leave you. You're my best friend."
"I...I..." Chupamon reached up gingerly and held her wrist, being careful not to dig in with his talons. "...you're mine too, but...we couldn't-"
"There's no way we could just...leave..." Arimon looked around at the other partners. "Is there?"
There was a moment's silence.
Alasdair and Lizzie looked at one another. "Yvonne? You can't...be serious..."
"I can. I am. I'm always serious; you just don't appreciate it." Yvonne stood up, and walked over to Arimon. "Maybe you've got nothing to go back to. But out there; that's our world. Don't you want to see it?" She grinned, and patted him on the head. "This doesn't have to end here. This is only just the beginning."
Joel sniggered, and knelt down beside Placomon. "No-one would mess with me if you were around."
Alasdair beamed, leaning back against the wall as he looked down at Wyvermon. "We'll show you the worth of what you've done."
Lizzie stroked an excited Mynahmon as she rested on her shoulder. "I might need to explain you to a few people...you're a bit big for a budgie..."
George smiled at Jiminymon, Neonamon poking his head up from her back. "It's a big world out there. And who knows? Maybe someday we could all come back here."
Rachel looked down at the D-Port, then at Marsuamon, who stood beside her, smiling triumphantly. "We can stay together. We belong together.
Rachel gave a small smile, and nodded. "Yeah...yeah, we can. All of us. We...can change our world as well...as this one..." She reached up, brushing away a few tears from her cheeks. "We must have been destined for this."
Chupamon pulled himself away from Lucy's arms, holding his shoulders close. "Would you really be okay with...me? Coming with you?"
Lucy nodded seriously, her deep green eyes staring into his pale ones.
"Yes. Always. You're my best friend."
Chupamon's body unfurled, and his eyes opened wider than ever before.
"There's a light!"
Everyone looked at George, who was pointing downwards into the D-Port. Neonamon hopped forwards, his smile wide as his face was illuminated.
"There's a light, there's a light! It's working! The D-Port is working!" He beamed up at everyone as they crowded around, the white glistening in his eyes.
"We can all go home..."
"Look," shouted one of the administrators, clutching his wings over his head against the rain, "someone else is out there."
Anomalocarimon was less than enthused. "It's too much. The storm will kill us before we can reach him."
"No, look, it's..." The Angemon pointed. "It's Lord Dallurmon!"
A cheer went up around the administrators as they crowded around within their shelter, shouting words of encouragement.
"We believe in you, Dallurmon!"
"Take the fortress back!"
Dallurmon didn't answer. He just kept running, and as he got closer, they saw his divine right hand. It was glowing, the horn building and building and filling with bright energy.
He slowed. And stopped. His skin was pockmarked, but the ornate horn was unblemished, the metal twisting around his neck. He turned towards them, and they saw the whites of his eyes. Now the cheering had stopped, and murmurs sprung up.
Anomalocarimon felt a rough shove from behind, and he was out in the storm. He tried to press himself back, but even so he still felt the pressure of all those behind upon him, as well as the deep, dark aura ahead. He shuffled forwards, the rain piercing his shell, but leaving the rest of him intact, until he stood at Dallurmon's feet. The giant was staring back at the ground now, muttering.
"...wrong...wrong...it's all wrong...none of this was supposed to happen-"
"Where are the children?"
The insect jumped, feeling the ferocity of Dallurmon's gaze upon him. He raised a shaking claw, and pointed upwards.
"At the top of the keep. Where...where you left them..."
Dallurmon turned, and trudged forwards again.
"Please, my lord! Save us!"
Dallurmon stopped, but didn't turn around. He was muttering again, but Anomalocarimon couldn't hold it back. "Please...several of us have died...you have to call the storm away, or we'll all...you'll lose everyone...we can't survive like this..."
Anomalocarimon bowed his head low. "We believe in you. We can help you."
Dallurmon shook his head, vigorously, almost robotically. "No...no, you can't. Save you? There is nothing to save. It's all wrong."
He turned, and looked down at the insect, who had his eyes tightly closed. Dallurmon raised his right hand.
There was a flash of bright light. One moment, Anomalocarimon lay in the storm, ready and waiting. Then the light hit him. He gave one last gasp, as his breath was ripped away from him. His body remained, grey-fleshed, frozen where it stood. Dallurmon raised a foot, and brought it down, the hollow shell crumbling to data bits. Nothing remained.
Dallurmon stood for a second, wild-haired and mad-eyed. Then he raised his hand again, and pointed it at the shelter.
The screaming was terrible. Some tried to run, or fly, but they couldn't get far in the storm. Others held their hands over their heads, trying to block out the sounds of their companions final gasps, or of Dallurmon's constant, maddened rants. It was brutal, but brief. Dallurmon's power was beyond anything they could have imagined. Within moments, Dallurmon's entire staff lay prone, the hollows that had been their bodies now dissolving away as if they were dust in the wind. Dallurmon stood there, his eyes darting back and forth and his arm moving instinctively.
"It was all a MISTAKE! I was WRONG to believe in any of you! Believe in ANYTHING in this world. It has no chance. None of you have any chance, nor me, nor the children. Save you? There is only one way!"
Dallurmon felt the cold point of a spear strike his shoulder, and he turned to see Geryomon, barely standing, but holding the blade of pulsing energy in all six of his arms. He dug it deeper, his red eye glowing bright.
"Perhaps once." Dallurmon narrowed his eyes, the white irises whirling. "What's it to you?"
"Just curious. I've never met you before." Geryomon's eye contracted, rare fury welling inside.
"I wanted to know what kind of Digimon it was who could destroy so many of us and still claim to be noble."
Dallurmon roared, and clutched the spear, breaking it off with ease. Geryomon raised two stony palms, but Dallurmon's leg lashed out, striking him and sending him skidding backwards. He stood in the doorway, breaths racking his inorganic body, as Dallurmon swayed on his feet. Bright white blood dripped from the end of his horn, the power of the hand feeding off his own diminishing life. Beneath his tattered skin, his blood vessels were luminescent, pulsating visibly. His helmet had fallen off, discarded in the mud.
Geryomon held out his arms in the gateway, summoning his shields.
"I'm disappointed. I thought you were meant to be someone great."
"None of it matters to you."
Geryomon chuckled. "No, we never did. Our kind."
"You are mistakes."
"The children are going home, Dallurmon. I will not let you reach them. Gygas Typhoon!"
He swung, but only got in two hits before Dallurmon swiped him away, his breath coming out ragged gulps.
Another strike, this time on Dallurmon's thigh. The giant stumbled, but his blood pulsed, shattering the magical spear. Geryomon tried to summon another, but it just flickered away in his stony palm. For a brief moment he thought about Yagamon, and wondered how long it would take her to heal him from something like this. Probably not long. She was always clever like that.
The golem held his arms out wide.
"Leave them alone. They're going home."
"It's too late. They've seen this world. They will return and kill this world. All worlds." Dallurmon's left hand went up, and struck his own eye socket, rolling around the edge. Geryomon could see the maddened orb glowing even through the skin of his hand.
"You are the one who's brought ruin on your own land."
"They are the ones who will ruin many lands to come."
"You have no right. No reason."
"Then I am beyond reason. And let my final act be right. It's them, or everything else." Dallurmon laughed, and raised his divine right hand, the energy swirling within. "Why am I talking to you? You don't have a choice."
Geryomon exhaled. "Not anymore, it seems." His eye flicked up, glowing dimly, but accusingly against the black sky.
"May you forever be remembered as a demon. A killer of those who would serve and protect you. Through all my authority, I curse your data and your name."
"The proud heritage of the Nightmare Soldiers. That's who."
There was a clap of thunder. The direful horn sounded, and Geryomon was gone. Saved from the horrific times to come. The golem's body dissolved, and Dallurmon rushed forwards into the keep.
The device reached out, bright and shaking, the light flickering slightly but with presence. The children gathered around as the wall between worlds groaned above them, the cracks speeding their journeys along the crystalline structure.
Joel stared up, holding tightly onto Placomon. "It's...pretty..."
Alasdair held his jaw shut. Yvonne held out her hand, and grasped his, nodding as she did so. "Brave heart, everyone. It's opening."
They jumped as the floor rumbled beneath them; signs of something approaching fast. Lucy flinched, feeling the oncoming footsteps. George held his arms out, grasping her and Lizzie tightly.
"I can see people!"
Lizzie pointed, and the others noticed as well. Vague silhouettes, just beyond the gate, as if they were being seen through jelly. It was the human world. Another place, another time, but definitely the world they'd left behind not a few days before. There were little pulses of light, and the remnants of the D-Port stretched out, forming links and chains with...something...on the other side. Pieces of the wall between worlds fell away into the nothingness in between.
George looked down at Neonamon, at Arimon and Wyvermon, at all the Digimon around them, clutching one another. "Are you ready?"
The cricket hummed quietly. "Just breathe. Just...brea-"
"A few seconds."
"Something's getting closer."
George took a deep breath. "Be careful everyone. I think it's going to-"
There was a flash of light, and the group was blasted apart. Chupamon and Marsuamon scrambled to their feet first, and stared at the doorway to the study, where Dallurmon stood. The celestial horn smoked in his right hand, blue blood running down it. The giant was grinning, his breath coming out in clouds and his eyes darting back and forth.
"I got you..."
The boy was kneeling in front of the gate, suddenly breathing very quickly. There was a light smouldering in the small of his back; a pinprick by anyone's standards. But the light was spreading, his flesh turning grey.
Lizzie scrambled forwards, thrusting her arms around him, followed by Lucy. Yvonne forced herself to her feet, throwing her arms out. One by one, child and Digimon alike gathered around the boy, standing between him and the tyrant at the door. Dallurmon gave a couple of hysterical laughs.
"You will all die...together..."
He raised his horn.
Alasdair stumbled, his own wounds causing him pain. "We were so close..."
There came a croaking voice from behind him; words forced out through a volley of pain and shock.
Alasdair jumped, and turned to George, whose entire torso was flickering, trying and failing to reject the virus coursing through his veins. George bit his lip, drawing blood.
"Don't talk...we'll get you home...it's going to be fine."
"Your kind will never corrupt this world again."
"...it's about to-"
With the sound of a thousand waterfalls, the gate blew open.
There was a bang, and a discharge from the remains of the D-Port, shaking everybody's bodies around it. All around them the very floor of the keep ruptured, pieces of rubble floating up into the air and spiralling away into the shattered void. Beyond, the images of people seemed to move further and further away, the mysterious light of the Interface storming through like a fire from an enclosed building.
It reached out, a myriad of colours and impossibilities. It touched the eyes of the children, and their partners, and Neonamon...and Dallurmon.
Dallurmon jerked as he saw the fullness of the Interface, pure and unfiltered. He threw his arms down, and staggered, letting out an inhuman scream that echoed around the fractured keep. Outside the storm turned ferocious and out of control, a typhoon that lashed at the mountains around.
The children watched in horror as Dallurmon's left arm scrabbled at his neck, the claws digging in beneath the coil of the pipe. It groaned in protest, the energy within dripping out and mixing with blue blood.
"It wasn't...it's too much...it wasn't supposed to BE THIS WAY!"
Dallurmon brought the horn up to his mouth, and bit down hard. There was the sound of tearing flesh, and the echoing screech of the divine horn as it fought back against its master's will. But Dallurmon was strong until the end. In front of the gate, the children watched in horror as Dallurmon's right arm fell away, the keys clattering against the floor and the blood running freely. But it wasn't enough.
"Get out. GET OUT! GEEET OUT OF MY SIGHT!"
The giant fell to his knees, his eyes spinning in their sockets. They were rainbow now, the fullness of the interface tainting them. Corrupting them. Showing him everything that would be. Could be. Had to be. Would ever be. Never should be. Vision upon vision upon vision; countless worlds, countless lives and countless possibilities, all rushing in at once.
He brought up his remaining hand, and placed it firmly over his face, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"I don't want to see any more..."
The children looked away as he dug in with his blunt claws, gouging away at the eye sockets and into the very flesh. They didn't want to see any more either. But they heard it.
Oh god, did they hear it all.
When they looked back, Dallurmon's body had gone. Only his right arm remained, still twitching. The earth shifted again, and that too was lost. Swallowed by the Digital World itself, with the deadly horn still twisted around it.
And the children held tightly to one another as the rest of the ground fell away, and they were lifted up. They tried to hold on, but the Interface was lunging at them. Forcing them to open their eyes, and take in its majesty.
There was a sound rushing all around them. Some of them tried to speak, but their words were lost. Only a hollow rushing of waves, and the faintest sound of a whistle.
"...can't get on..."
Rachel opened her eyes, the colours swimming everywhere. The D-Port was still floating, travelling towards the Interface. Unhindered, somehow. The world fell apart around them as she looked down, and saw figures. Seven small creatures, some of them struggling in others' grasps, some crying, some standing solemnly. Marsuamon stood at the head, reaching out with one stubby arm, and holding someone by the hand. Rachel looked down. It was her hand.
The D-Port shuddered, and the children turned one by one, shouting for their partners amidst the noise. Rachel tightened her grip, shaking her head.
Marsuamon shook her head, and smiled, tears in her eyes.
"Live well, all of you."
She let go. The D-Port drifted up, tearing the children away. Their cries were heard now, haunting the ears of their partners below.
"Don't leave me!"
"I love you!"
There was a roar, and the gate reached out, opening its multicoloured maw and pulling the D-Port inside.
Rachel got one last look at her partner – her true partner, now and forever – as she reached out in vain.
Then the picture grew fuzzy. Pixellated. And disappeared altogether.
The gate fell in on itself, disappearing forever from the mountain. But where the gate had been just moments before, something else had to take its place. The mountain was therefore willing to oblige, and in seconds, it was tearing itself apart.
The Digimon ran; lone survivors amongst the falling ruins and rubble. Some of them were already falling, the grief and anger and raw power of the Interface already eating away at their minds. One by one, they slipped into unconsciousness. Arimon stayed upright the longest, pressing forwards and pushing the others out the door, and down, down the crumbling pillars and into the valleys below; once a picturesque fortress, and now nothing but rubble. He reached out, still seeing Yvonne in the corners of his mind, though her face was already fading.
Then he too slipped into blackness.
His eyes flashed open, and he saw feet. Huge feet. Rows upon rows of armour, standing right in front of him. Something curled around his arm, and he was pulled upright, thrown backwards with the rest of the Rookies as a great armoured figure bent down, flames spurting from his chestplate and curved stag's horns reaching up from his helmet.
Arimon spluttered. He could recognise that anywhere.
He pushed himself upwards, his eyes wide. He wasn't mistaken. The pillars had fallen, and the outside world had finally been able to enter the Echo Quadrant. And, true to their dedication and diligence, the Fire Kingdom had been the first. And they'd come in force.
Beneath his helmet, Muspelmon's eyes narrowed, and the ranks of soldiers tensed up behind him. "Where's Dallurmon?"
"Dallurmon...?" Arimon looked around, at the terrified looks of his companions. "Dallurmon...he..."
"We saw the storm. We felt the damage. Hundreds around this area are dead, and Lord Dallurmon is nowhere to be found. Only the eight of you. You must know."
Muspelmon raised his great battleaxe, resting it on his shoulders.
"Where is your master?"
Arimon started, and slowly looked to his left, watching as Chupamon, grazed and wounded, stepped forwards slowly. The others watched behind him. None of them dared speak.
"All of this was because of me. Dallurmon's dead."
Chupamon bowed low, and sat down, looking up at the Fire General with his immensely pale eyes.
"I killed him..."
Muspelmon was silent. There were a couple of murmurs amongst his soldiers as they stared down at the tiny purple devil. Arimon shook his head, and stood up. "No! I killed Dallurmon!"
There was a rush, as one by one, the others stood up and joined the two of them.
"No, I did!"
"It wasn't their fault."
"He was a tyrant, he was-"
The Rookies fell silent, as the great Fire General held his hand to his mouth, surveying the destruction that had befallen this once proud land. He shuddered, feeling the remnants of something nearby. Something terrifying.
The general's hand curled around his battleaxe, staring down at the eight tiny Digimon before him, all awaiting their judgement.
A moment passed, and he lowered his arm, nodding at the soldiers directly behind him.
"I need you all to come with me."
The soldiers parted, and beckoned the group forwards. Slowly, they began to move. Arimon paused, and glanced back over the devastation.
"Where do we go now?"
He felt Muspelmon's presence over him, and stared up into the general's face. The great warrior shook his head.
"Anywhere but here."
It wasn't like the first time.
The first time had been a rush of noise and colours that had racked their bodies through to the core. A maelstrom; painful, terrifying, and over in seconds.
But now, the device was malfunctioning. They travelled slowly. They saw the true marvellous horror of the tunnel around them; a vortex of impossibilities that reached out, grasping at them and digging deep into their minds. There was no sound in the Interface, yet, no silence either. No up or down. No time, no space, yet all time and space at once. A pathway between worlds, never meant for human or Digimon to see.
They held on, because there was nothing else to do. Slowly, ever so slowly, the threads tightened, pulling them along. The portal was getting closer, infuriatingly so. At the head of the group, Yvonne reached out. He could almost feel it. Some of them were still reaching back, trying to bring their partners who they could no longer see.
Lizzie and Alasdair held tightly onto George. The boy wasn't moving. He was barely breathing. Lizzie tried to fumble inside her pockets, looking for any last crystals, but she couldn't even feel where her hands were. George's lower body was grey, the surface of his skin cracked like stone. The divine horn blew away all life in the end; digital or human alike. The last resort. The mark of the end.
The D-Port jerked, and the children hung on tightly.
With a silent crunch, George's body began to break apart at the waist, crumbling to dust. He turned, and the children saw his eyes were open. He reached out, almost lethargically, and tried to call out.
No sound. And yet his scream all around them, growing louder as they were pulled towards the portal.
Alasdair reached out, grasping George's hand in his.
The boy's fingers crumbled away in his hand.
In a few seconds, which might have been hours, they were gone, leaving one of their party behind.
They fell in a heap, their screams carrying over across dimensions. It was raining, and there were flowers all around them; fields of yellow daffodils, drooping, running water from their leaves.
Lizzie got to her knees and rushed towards the D-Port, her sodden fingers clawing at it. Rachel did the same, gritting her teeth and cutting her fingers on the broken metal. Lizzie was shaking, the hysterics reaching her. "We have to...we have to go back inside...he's still there!"
"Please! We were...all coming...HE'S NOT HERE!"
She brought her fists round, but it turned into an embrace as Yvonne held her friend tightly, raindrops collecting on her goggles. Rachel still scrabbled in the dirt, trying to repair the device which she knew in her heart was gone forever. Joel lay on his side, crouched in a ball, and looking ahead at nothing in particular. Lizzie screams rung around the field, along with Lucy's sobbing, as she lay on her knees, still reaching out for Chupamon.
Alasdair stood on his own, the rain and the voices seeming faraway in his head. He got to his feet, then fell down, coughing and spluttering. He felt sick.
Slowly he got up again, and looked out across the field. It seemed grey and black, all the colour gone from the world he once thought he knew.
The boy floated in the void, his arm still outstretched and his mouth frozen in a call for help.
He could still see them. And the Digital World, come to think of it. His legs twitched, still in agony. He couldn't see them, but he could see his fingers. Or the ghosts of his fingers, at least, with the bones rustling beneath them. He could feel the Interface caressing him. Correcting him. Fixing him. Maybe? He wasn't sure.
Seconds passed. He could feel tears on his cheeks. Or maybe he couldn't.
He spoke, in a voice which only he could hear.
Where was home?
There was someone waiting for him.
let me out
England, September 2012
They never did figure out what had happened to us.
They found us shortly after, soaked to the skin, and several miles from the lab. To tell the truth they hadn't been looking for us. They assumed we'd all died in the explosion. But somehow we'd escaped, and travelled halfway across the country. In two days.
Some of us tried to tell them. Some of us kept quiet. Not that it mattered anyway; there was nothing we could say that would let them believe us. Would you? All the evidence of the portal's existence was lost in the fire, along with the computers. The D-Port was just a pile of scrap metal lying in a field somewhere. Though they never figure out why they couldn't find George. But then again, he was just another missing child; one of dozens every year. The public never cared. We were forgotten.
Dr. Glover was arrested on charges of gross negligence. Even when he was released, he never touched the Digital World again. We were all of us questioned again and again over the months and years that followed. What had really happened to us? Where was George? What was the Digital World and what were these strange, otherworldly creatures we kept mentioning? But they never really wanted to know; I guess, in the end, they didn't care. In the end, they dismissed it as just a group prank. Kids will be kids. Sure, someone died but...come on, what do you care?
One by one we left each other; some of us were dragged away from the country, while others of us just moved on with our own lives. Life seemed to go back to normal. Except it wasn't. Not really.
You don't have something change your life like that and just forget about it.
I always wondered whether I'd see it again. Sometimes I wondered whether it had all been a dream. Then I think back once again, and I can feel the dust and the grass beneath my feet, and see the wondrous creatures and feel the exhilaration as I myself turned into a hero. Whether once again, we could see that world that, by complete accident, we'd opened up.
Although maybe it wasn't an accident. Maybe it was meant to be. A new beginning for both our worlds.
And then, as if by magic, it reappeared in the sky. More children, who disappeared just like we did, although for far longer this time. And then again, with the monster that came back through. A national incident, but gone and dealt with in a flash. Saved by mighty heroes with incredible powers, they say. Though there's no official proof. Oh, there's people who know now, and they're working behind the scenes to make sure there never will be any real proof. But that doesn't change anything. The gate's still there. I saw it again. In my lifetime, I saw the Digital World once again. Though it had changed a bit.
Things have changed now. People know things. People have their own wonderful, mysterious lives, and they see the Digital World and it's just a part of life. I do wonder how things are going to change. I certainly don't think we've seen the last of the Digimon tamers.
I'm sitting here now, old and tired as I type away. Being a human has its disadvantages. My mind's still as sharp as ever, but the fingers won't do what I tell them to.
I suppose, back then, we'd had no idea what would come of it. Just a few days in the Digital World. Pioneers. I wonder...this world here, right now? Was this what Dallurmon saw back then? A new world, where humans and Digimon would reach out for one another? Did he see the ashes of the Digital World as it burned, or the flecks of loose data as it was devoured?
How true it was going to be.
What was going to come to pass.
We were so innocent back then. Lost children, wandering a new world.
It was terrible.
It was frightening.
It was...so, so beautiful. And it always will be.
The light is fading again. I know we'll see each other soon.
Farewell, my love.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING...
AND THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
THE STORY WILL CONTINUE IN DIGIMON CHASM