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So if anybody's wondering about the abrupt ending with a few things unresolved, it's because it leads into the RPG. This was originally made for the RPG, so there are probably a few references that will be completely lost on casual readers, but I'm hoping this will be able to stand alone anyways
Rated 14A for swearing and some gore.
Disclaimer: The only characters that I own are Strom, Ranney and Ishton. Everything else is property of other RPGers or the RPG.
The Dramon Empire was well into their conquest of the Harmonious Republic. The Sovereigns were long sealed away and those who rebelled against the Dramons were on the run. The Empire had a decisive upper hand against the rebels, who were driven into hiding. The neutral nations remained so; this included The Royal Hive, the Paleozoic Sovereignty, the Celestial Sphere, and several other smaller autonomous nations and tribes.
Some sided with the Dramons if they could, hoping to escape imprisonment or death. Others stood and fought with the rebels, seeking either vengeance or justice. Even some of the neutral nations such as the Oceanic Coalition and the Celestial Sphere provided direct or indirect aid to the rebel forces. However, some, such as the Paleozoic Sovereignty remained completely neutral, hoping to avoid any sort of animosity with either side altogether.
Strom the Spinomon was part of that Sovereignty. He served in the military under King Aegyptu, the ruler of the Paleozoic Sovereignty. His latest mission was to serve as a messenger between the Sovereignty and the rebels of the Harmonious Republic. The mission that he was tasked with bothered him greatly, for he was the one who was supposed to tell the Rebels that the Paleozoic Sovereignty would remain neutral and not offer them any assistance. Strom attempted to reason with Aegyptu, saying that they should help the Rebels not only indirectly but directly. He wanted them to take part in bringing an end to the Dramon Empire's conquest. Aegyptu admonished him and reminded him that he was his messenger, not his advisor.
Frustrated with the Paleozoic Sovereignty's stance and Aegyptu's thick-headedness, Strom left to travel on his own after delivering the message. He wandered the desert until he stumbled across a lone DinoRexmon, named Ranney, who was looking for the Paleozoic Sovereignty. The two decided to have a friendly scuffle and they came to a draw. The two formed a friendship and from then on travelled through the desert, eventually becoming best friends.
One evening they came across an oasis and decided to rest there for the night. A dim orange hue in the horizon faded into a dark blue as night overtook. Soon, the sun was completely gone and the dark, starry sky loomed over the desert.
“Sonic Slash Rain!” a voice roared.
A large, armoured orange dinosaur that resembled a spinosaurus (except the sail was replaced by gigantic metal blades flanked by rows of spikes) got down on all fours and launched a volley of blades at one of the several trees next to the large pond. The palm tree toppled down in a pile of finely chopped pieces of tree trunk.
“Nice shot, Strom!” a second voice called out. “But I can naturally do better. Ogre Flame!”
From a distance away on the top of a dune, a large, armoured and green Tyrannosaurus-like dinosaur unleashed a green flame from his mouth that hit the wood far below and ignited it to form a campfire. He trotted down the dune smugly, his massive, single toe claws on each foot digging slightly in the sand as he walked toward the Spinomon, where his height stood at about Strom's shoulders.
“Yeah, great work, Ranney. You hit a pile of lumber. I wish I had the skill you do to be able to accomplish that feat,” Strom said with a roll of his golden eyes.
“Heh, you're just jealous that I'm more accurate, Strommy. DinoRexmon will forever be the strongest dinosaur digimon!”
“More accurate? At least there was wind blowing at the tree when I hacked it to pieces. The only task easier than hitting that pile is hitting the ground in front of you! ...And it'd be great if you could watch the fire so that we won't be freezing again tonight. I don't fancy spooning, especially not with an ugly creature like yourself,” he said with a half-grin.
“Hmm...” the DinoRexmon mused, folding his arms across his chest before holding his foreclaws out to imitate a balancing scale. “Sleep next to a gruff, unattractive, sarcastic, male Spinomon or freeze my butt off on a cold desert night? ...I think I'll take turning into a popsicle.”
“You won't have to if you just watch the fire, but no... of course I'm gonna have to watch it because some people can't pay attention for over ten seconds even if their tail is on fire!”
“Gah!” Ranney leaped into the air and spun around to look at his tail. “My tail's on fire?!”
Strom palmed the top of his snout with his claw as a result of his needlessly panicking friend. “I forgot... you're not big on metaphors...”
Ranney chuckled sheepishly and sat down in front of the fire. “Heheh... Oh...”
The Spinomon rolled his eyes and sat by the fire, near Ranney. “So, if you're done hopping around like you've got a MetalSeadramon clamped onto your tail, why are you trying to get to the Paleozoic Sovereignty, eh?”
“I've got a better question! Why are you trying to get away from the Paleozoic Sovereignty? And don't deny it, Strom, because I know we're not lost and you're leading us in the way I came,” Ranney countered.
A growl came from the large dinosaur's throat as he glanced over to Ranney. “I asked first.”
“Yeah? Well I asked last,” said DinoRexmon with a smile.
“There's no arguing that,” Strom said with a voice matted with sarcasm. With an air of reluctance, he submitted. “Fine... I left the Paleozoic Sovereignty because they're selfish cowards. Their stance is totally neutral so that they'll save their own hides while the rest of the world is being overrun by those Dramon scum.”
“I can see why they're doing that. Nobody wants to be in a war... but you have a point, too. Wanting peace is fine, but it does seem selfish when everyone around you is being attacked. Fear can be powerful, though.”
The Spinomon nodded appreciatively. “So... It's my turn. Why did you want to go to the Sovereignty?”
Ranney looked at Strom while prodding a burning log with his toe claw. “Well... My brother went there when the Dramon started taking over places. I stayed in our village just in case it was attacked. Luckily, it never was. I want to go find him... Strom?” The DinoRexmon gazed at the distracted Strom curiously.
“Yeah, okay, Ranney. I just thought I heard something, is all,” Strom answered, scanning the dunes around the oasis.
“Don't worry about it; it was probably just the wind,” Ranney explained.
“Famous last words...” murmured Strom, shifting closer to the fire.
“Even if it was somebody, which it isn't, we'd be able to take them, right? The strongest and second strongest dinosaur species around? They wouldn't stand a chance!”
“Let me guess, I'm strongest, right?”
“Hah! In your dreams, Strommy!” Ranney mocked while his gaze was distracted by sparks that flew up from the crackling blaze before them toward the equally bright stars above.
“Speaking of which...” Strom said before lying down on his stomach, curling his tail around himself and shifting comfortably in the sand by the fire's side. “I think I'll dream of kicking your butt now.”
“You do that, Strom. I'm gonna stay up a bit longer,” said the smaller, green dinosaur digimon.
“Don't let that fire burn out. And... for a DinoRexmon, you're not that bad, Ranney,” the nestled Strom said, glancing over with his one open eye.
Ranney smirked from across the fire. “Strom! That almost sounded nice!” The Spinomon merely rolled his eyes before closing them once more. “Well, thanks. You're not that bad for a Spinomon, either.”
A smirk crept onto Strom's face as he relaxed his muscles. “G'Night, Ranney; tomorrow we'll talk about where to go.”
“Okay. Don't let the bed Kuwagamons bite!” Ranney added.
It wasn't long before the large dinosaur was sound asleep and breathing deeply. Ranney rolled another log through the cool sand and into the fire before adding a small Ogre Flame to keep the flames burning steadily. The desert was completely dark aside from the blaze, which cast light onto the two nearby dinosaurs and a few of the oasis' trees. For awhile Ranney just sat and stared at the fire, either in deep thought or simply mesmerized by the flame. Apart from the popping and crackling of the burning logs, the quiet night didn't offer a sound.
Ranney sat partially down wind from the bonfire, close to the oasis behind him. His eyelids began to close and he started to nod off. An unnatural buffet of air, however, struck his back and immediately jolted him to attention. The DinoRexmon jumped and turned around, looking about attentively. "Hello? Who's there?" he called, quiet enough to not wake Strom.
He saw nothing but the calm oasis behind him. Ranney blinked and scratched his head. “Oookay... Maybe it's time for some beauty sleep. I think I've been up too long.”
The DinoRexmon then turned back toward the fire. As soon as he did so, he heard a whooshing sound along with a familiar gust of wing. Ranney was about to turn around again when suddenly two muscular, cobalt arms clad in gold bracers wrapped around his snout and forced his mouth shut. He let out a muffled cry and struggled against his attacker. A bright, green light that appeared under his head suddenly got his attention. A beam sword that had extended from the digimon's bracers hummed and rested dangerously close to Ranney's neck.
“If you yell, this will end badly for you,” said his attacker's voice. “We just want to talk... over on the other side of that dune.” He forcibly turned Ranney around to face a long linear dune which rose up on the other side of the oasis. A silver-armour donned, dragonoid knight landed in front of the two.
“Gotungir, sir,” the Slayerdramon said, looking at the blue, humanoid dragon that held Ranney.
“Ishton.” Gotungir nodded. The UlforceVeedramon X who wore light-fitting armour looked down at Ranney. “Come with us quietly or else my friend will be forced to kill your friend in his sleep. Understood... Ranney?” Ranney's eyes widened, but he slowly nodded, nevertheless. “Good. Ishton, help me take him; I am not about to be impaled because of my own carelessness.”
“Of course,” Ishton complied, walking over and grabbing Ranney's torso. The two Dramon then flew over the calm oasis pond and apex of the dune before flying down the slope and landing at the bottom, completely out of Strom's view if he should wake up.
Gotungir and Ishton then dropped the DinoRexmon, releasing him. “Okay, what's the big idea?! And how did you know my name?!” Ranney growled.
Gotungir kept his Ulforce Sabre drawn in case Ranney tried anything. The azure knight gazed at the dinosaur in a composed manner. “We have a proposition... no... more of an ultimatum for you,” he said bluntly.
“What?” asked Ranney, puzzled by what he could possibly want.
“First things first. We have your brother, Ranney.”
The DinoRexmon's eyes widened in terror. He looked back and forth between the two Dramon and then glanced around, hoping to see his brother somewhere. “...What?! Where?! You're lying!”
“His name is Ramus. 'Ranney and Ramus Nychus', isn't it?” Gotungir said matter-of-factly with a veiled smug grin on his face.
The horrified DinoRexmon gasped. “No...” he whispered, taking a few seconds to mull over the Dramon's words. Ranney then glared at Gotungir and snarled viciously. “Where is he?! Bring him to me! Bring him to me now! Let him go!” he barked.
“We will; we promise... under the stipulation that you will complete your end of the bargain,” responded the calm UlforceVeedramon X.
“Listen here, Horns-for-brains, you're going to give my brother back to me RIGHT NOW!” Ranney said, emphasizing the last two words in a roar.
“That is not the deal, Ranney,” Gotungir answered firmly.
The DinoRexmon let out a savage yell and lunged, claw-first, at Gotungir. The cobalt officer didn't so much as flinch at Ranney's charge. Instead, he cast his Slayerdramon companion a look. The more bulky dragon knight wasted no time in swinging around his segmented Fragarach sword. The golden blade coiled around Ranney's forearms and neck, halting him in mid-air, with barely any space to spare between Ranney's lethal claws and Gotungir's neck. The Slayerdramon then swung the sword to the side, tightening the grip on the dinosaur and yanking him to the ground away from Gotungir.
“Easy, Ishton,” Gotungir heeded, walking toward the incapacitated Ranney and crouching down in front of him. “Maybe you would fancy talking now; you have no other option.”
Ranney grimaced and nodded reluctantly, knowing full well that he was beaten. “...Why do you have my brother? What do you want with Ramus?”
“It is not him we want; it is you... or, more accurately, your friend.”
A look of shock and confusion appeared on Ranney's face. “...What? Strom?”
“What do you and the holiday ornament want with him, you Celestial Sphere-reject?” Ranney sharply asked, prompting the nearby Slayerdramon to tighten the jagged coils around him. The DinoRexmon suppressed a cry upon feeling the metal begin dig into his arms and neck.
“Ishton,” Gotungir whispered harshly, scolding him upon noticing Ranney's pain. “You can’t leave any visible marks on him.” The hold immediately slackened just enough for the metal to exit his armoured scales. Ranney’s tense muscles relaxed slightly, but still made no attempt to fight against the bladed Fragarach. “Well, a Commandramon scout was out on patrol, checking the status of the Paleozoic Sovereignty, a day or so ago when he heard you two walking by. He concealed himself and followed you both. Your friend mentioned to you that before he met you, he was a messenger to the Rebels and that as soon as he delivered his message to their HQ, he left and then met you... I cannot tell you how annoying it has been for our scouts to find the Rebel’s headquarters; aside from the Rebels themselves, only the leaders of the larger nations and their most trusted messengers know where it is...” Gotungir said, smirking as he left his statement hanging.
“...You want Strom to tell you guys where the Rebels are.”
“That is entirely right, Ranney.”
“And what do you need me for?” asked Ranney as he narrowed his eyes.
“That’s quite simple, really. We need you to get Strom out of the Paleozoic Sovereignty’s borders. In all honesty, I would like you to get him to actually lead you to the headquarters, but it would be difficult to come into contact with you again, especially since Ishton here wouldn’t be able to watch over you two without being undetected,” explained the UlforceVeedramon X.
“Why do you need him outside of the borders? What happens then?”
“Then you attack Strom and we come in and take him prisoner. The Three Great Dramon would have my wings if I abducted a dinosaur within a neutral nation and potentially created an international incident. That is why I need him within the Dramon Empire.”
“Ohhh... I see,” said Ranney, nodding in understanding. “Well, in that case--Ogre Flame!” he shouted, feeling the burning hot flame rise in his throat. In the millisecond he blinked, Gotungir was suddenly standing right beside him. The Dramon forcibly clamped Ranney's mouth shut, routing the attack.
“Okay, Ranney, if that is your decision... it looks like we will have to kill your brother,” Gotungir nonchalantly said. Ranney's eyes widened. “It's a shame, too; he looked so hopeful when we told him that his brother was going to rescue him... All you would have to do is escort that Spinomon out of this territory and you two would be reunited. I do not want to be the one to have to tell him that you dismissed your own flesh and blood for a Spinomon you met no more than a couple weeks ago.”
Ranney shut his eyes and bowed his head. Gotungir grinned and released his hands from the DinoRexmon's mouth. “I... I'll do it...” Ranney whispered meekly. With saddened eyes, he looked up at Gotungir. “But only if you promise you won't kill Strom.”
Gotungir nodded. “By my honour as a Dramon, I give you my word that we won't kill the Spinomon.”
Ranney scoffed indignantly. “And just how much is your word worth? I trust you about as far as I can throw ya... and in the shape you're in, that's not very far.”
“Say what you want about me and the Dramon Empire, Ranney, but if there are two things that I value, it is honesty and living up to one's words... the latter of which is something my apprentice will never grasp,” he said, murmuring the last part.
“...You'd better...” Ranney sighed sombrely and looked at the ground. Guilt, fear, and sadness were already tugging at his heart. “...Can you get me out of this... sword now?”
The UlforceVeedramon X uncoiled the Fragarach from around Ranney and turned to Ishton. “Do you know what you must do?”
“Keep an eye on them from a distance; yes sir,” the Slayerdramon replied, straightening out the Fragarach so that it could be placed on his back.
“And your cover story, should the Spinomon notice you?”
“It's all worked out, sir.”
Gotungir nodded in approval and turned to Ranney. “And I will see you all tomorrow.” With that, he disappeared in an azure blur.
Ishton looked at the DinoRexmon. “You'd better hop to it before Strom wakes up.”
“Go kiss a Breakdramon,” spat Ranney before making his way up the side of the sandy dune. As he walked, he watched the shifting sand bury his claws with each step that he took. He grimaced and angrily blasted the sand in front of him with the Ogre Flame he had been holding in in the base of his throat. The blast left a glass encrusted crater in the sand from the sheer heat of the dinosaur's attack.
Ranney sighed and reached the horizontal crest of the dune. He looked down at the oasis and saw Strom still asleep by the dulled fire on the other side of the pond. “Forgive me, buddy,” he whispered miserably.
The DinoRexmon then began to make his way down the slope toward his friend, for what would undoubtedly be a sleepless night.
The sun shone down on the desert from directly overhead. Heat waves from the scorching sands obscured the distant horizon. The land was treacherous for those not suited for it. Luckily for Strom and Ranney, their species were quite at home in the desert. The Spinomon led the way, walking through a small trench at the base of two adjacent, linear dunes. He looked back at Ranney.
“You're surprisingly quiet, Ranney. Usually you're hopping about like the sand's on fire, but you're not your happy-go-lucky self today. Something eating you?” Strom asked.
Ranney shifted insecurely and looked off to the side. “No... I just had a bad sleep. That's all,” he explained, giving him a small smile at the end.
“Maybe I should be thankful then,” said the Spinomon, smirking.
“Heh heh... Yeah...” Ranney said forcibly, his facade breaking slightly near the end.
“You're sure you've changed your mind about going to the Paleozoic Sovereignty? What about your brother?”
“My brother's... He can wait. You were right; we need to take the fight to the Dramons,” Ranney said, attempting to not appear sulky or worried.
“And how do you figure we should go about that?” Before Ranney could answer him, an afterthought hit Strom. “Oh yeah! Before I forget, where did you go last night, Rann? I woke up for some reason and you weren't around.”
The DinoRexmon froze in his tracks, the whole of his insides seeming to tighten up. “Oh, uh, I had to, uh, pee!” Ranney responded hastily.
“I'm sorry I asked,” mumbled Strom.
“That's when a Scorpiomon came across me,” he added. “He said there was a refugee camp on the Dramon side of the border who was starting a resistance. He said they were planning to join the Rebels when they got enough digimon. Maybe we should go there...”
Strom thought about it carefully and folded his arms. “That's odd... I didn't see any Scorpiomon tracks this morning.”
“Oh, you know them... they dig everywhere. Arachnids, y'know?”
The Spinomon grinned and nodded. “Well... yeah, that sounds like a good idea, Ranney... except for the fact that we have no idea where this camp is. Oh, and the fact that we'd be going into Dramon territory, which is dangerous enough without the fact that we'd be going into Dramon territory having no idea where the resistance camp is, if there even is one. It'll be the day when I take a Scorpiomon at his word, for Sovereign's sakes... but other than that, it's a good idea.”
“I thought you said you wanted to fight the Dramon Empire!” Ranney protested.
“Yeah, but I also said I wanted to live,” Strom retorted.
As they debated, Ishton flanked them on the dune to the right. He used the crest of the dune for cover, hiding on the side opposite to the dinosaur digimon. The Slayedramon panted and sweated intensely as he trudged through the thick sand in full armour. The noon sun superheated his metal armour, heating it up to unbearable levels, to the point that an egg would fry if cracked on him.
It wasn't long until he fell to his knees. “For crying out loud!” he snarled, ripping off his helmet and chest armour, revealing his cobalt scales. “I'd rather be doing disciplinary work than spend another minute out here! I don't know how those two can stand it.” Ishton growled, now carrying the armour he removed, and popped his head up over the crest for his occasional check on the two dinosaurs in question.
Suddenly, Strom stopped walking, ceased arguing with Ranney and looked around, prompting the Slayerdramon to duck down. The Spinomon raised a claw, signalling to Ranney to stop. “We're being followed,” Strom whispered. “Don't look around. Act normal.”
The DinoRexmon grimaced. “It's probably nothing.”
“No, it's a digimon. I have a scent... It's coming from up wind, so...” Strom's eyes stealthily scanned the crest of the dune to their right. Ishton remained perfectly still on the other side, ceasing to even breathe. A gust of wind blew up towards them from the other side of the dune. Strom noticed that sand blew over the crest towards them in all but one place. “I have them...” he whispered. “Blue Prominence!”
Strom fired a burning, azure beam from his mouth. It burst through the sand, just below the apex of the dune, punching through the barrier. A yell sounded out through the explosion of sand and glass.
“Errrgh... Don't attack! I'm coming out...” a voice called out.
Ishton emerged over the dune with his chest armour and helmet under one arm and the other arm raised in the air. A minor burn from Strom's attack was visible on the side of his raised arm. The Slayerdramon cautiously tread down the slope towards them and cast a glance at Ranney. Upon seeing his species, Strom glowered and readied himself.
“Don't attack. I'm not an enemy,” Ishton said.
The Spinosaurus digimon gave him a scrutinizing grin. “Oh really? Well, everything about you seems to disagree, Dramon.”
“No, you don't understand!” the Slayerdramon said, dropping the armour and sword he carried and raising his other arm above his head.
“Please. Enlighten us, hm?”
“I'm... not with the Dramon Empire. Yes, I'm a Dramon, but I'm a renegade or a 'defector' might be more accurate. When they began their conquest, I couldn't believe what they were doing to the world. I wanted nothing to do with it. ...I fled. Me and some others who thought like me. We started a camp not far from the border. Soon, others showed up... others who felt betrayed by the Dramon Empire. Soon more and more showed up... and we had enough power to engage in small skirmishes against their military,” Ishton explained, looking between Strom and Ranney as he did so.
“You wouldn't be lying in order to get out of a bind, would you?” Strom asked, not entirely convinced.
“No! I would never do something so cowardly! You have to believe me.”
Ranney stepped forward, still rather unsure of himself. “Uhh... Strom? He... well... maybe he means that camp that I mentioned. ...I think he's telling the truth...”
“Your friend is right!” Ishton remarked.
“Hmm...” Strom grunted, still looking carefully at him. “...Okay then, so you're a Dramon rebel, but why were you following us?”
Ishton glanced at Ranney. “A Scorpiomon came by earlier and he mentioned a pair of strong dinosaur digimon who might be interested in joining us, so I thought I'd check it out. It appears I should have come by in the evening instead,” he said with a chuckle.
Strom grinned. “Heh, maybe that's the reason the Dramon Empire hasn't attacked the Sovereignty; nobody in the right mind would trek through the desert on a day like this.”
“Nobody except us, it seems,” added Ishton, good-naturedly.
Strom chuckled. “I guess anybody going up against the Dramons aren't in the right mind to begin with, eh, Ranney?”
Ranney forced a smirk. “Yeah...”
The Spinomon offered his claw to Ishton. “I'm Strom and this is Ranney. No hard feelings about almost blasting you, I hope.”
Ishton took Strom's claw and shook it. “Of course not. One can never be too careful these days.” He looked over at Ranney and proceeded to shake his claw. “Nice to meet you, 'Ranney', was it?”
The Slayerdramon released his grip and looked back to Strom. “Where were you two going, if you don't mind my asking?”
“We were just debating whether to seek out your camp or not and, as luck should have it, you, someone who knows how to get to that rebel camp, show up to make our chances of death slightly less likely,” Strom remarked. “This is either our lucky day or another unlucky one.”
“Hah. I assure you it's the former. Come with us and help us win victory against the Dramon scum.”
“That's about the best offer from a half-naked Dramon that I'll ever get to hear,” Strom said, smirking. “How about it, Ranney?”
“Uhh... Yeah. Sure thing, Strom...”
“Is something the matter?” asked Ishton, pretending to be surprised at Ranney's disposition.
“Ah, don't mind him. He's just a bit prickly from a rough sleep,” Strom explained. “If you have food at your camp, he'll be back to his old self in no time.”
“We have plenty of that,” the Slayerdramon replied.
Strom shot Ranney a grin. “Great! Lead the way!”
Hours passed and Ishton continued to lead Strom and Ranney westwards towards the border. The sun shifted to a forty-five degree angle. The sun was less intense than at noon, but still shone brightly down on the trio, despite the fact that they were nearing the border and thus the lusher and moderate territory of the Dramon Empire. Strom found amusement in watching Ishton border-line hop in front of them due to the hot metal armour he wore from the belt down.
“I don't expect you'll be making any more trips to the Sovereignty while in full armour, eh, Ishton?”
“I sincerely hope not,” he grumbled. “We'll be within the Dramon Empire's territory once we make it to the grassland up ahead.”
Ranney looked up at Strom apprehensively. “Hey, uh... Strom? Can we talk for a few?”
“With moments away from walking into the enemies' den? Now seems like a good time, yeah,” said Strom, slowing down to walk beside his friend who took back to looking at the ground.
Ranney forced his eyes to meet Strom's, though he could barely bring himself to look at him. “Strom... Uhh... I want you to know that you're my best friend... and whatever happens, you'll always be my best friend... Remember that, okay?”
Strom looked at him and smiled. “Yeah... You're my best friend too, Ranney, but let’s not get all soppy, okay? It's bad luck. And I'm not about to let you get taken down by some flying salamanders or anything... no offense, Ishton, if you can hear this... so don't start talking like this is going to be the last time we'll see each other.”
“Thanks... but that's not it,” Ranney said, now feeling worse than ever.
“Then what's up?” asked Strom, noticing that there was definitely something more than a rough sleep going on with his friend.
Ishton cleared his throat, halting on what was now grass. Strom and Ranney looked around, hardly noticing that they ceased standing on sand several metres back. Ahead of then, what was once a sea of sand was now a sea of grass and hills. “We're in the realm of the Dramon Empire now; let's rest here for the night.”
“Are you crazy? We're right by the border! I don't think the Dramon Empire is the type to leave their borders unchecked,” Strom protested.
“Trust me, Strom; I know Dramon. The border guards already did their rounds in this section for the day. They won't be back until tomorrow,” Ishton calmly answered.
“I don't know...” the Spinomon said, still uneasy at the idea.
The Slayerdramon gave Strom a look. “Patrol only ever checks this area in the morning. Nobody else comes near it. All the security is up northwest, with the Paleozoic Sovereignty's neutrality down here and all. That's why my camp is near here.”
“Then shouldn't we just go to your camp from here?” Strom asked.
“It's not that simple. It's an underground operation. First I have to go and contact my people, then I'll bring them back here. It's not as if we have a literal camp sitting around; we would surely be found out!”
The dinosaur digimon growled. Ishton folded his arms across his chest and stared at Strom. “You do trust me, don't you, Strom?”
Strom wondered about it for a few moments, weighing in on Ishton. “...I suppose... Fine. Do you think we should wait, Ranney?”
The green dinosaur stalled before answering. “Yeah...”
Strom sighed. “I guess we're waiting then...” He looked over to Ishton. “Just try not to let any unwanted guests tag along when you come back.”
Ishton nodded. “Until then.” The Slayerdramon turned and walked toward through the grass until he disappeared over a hill.
The Spinomon sat down on the ground and craned his head to look at the visibly distraught Ranney. “So... Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
The green dinosaur grimaced and sat down with his back to Strom. “I can’t... I’m sorry.”
Strom shrugged and lay forward on the grass on his stomach, proceeding to rest his chin on his folded arms. “If you say so... but I’m here if you need me.”
Ranney didn’t respond. The two sat in silence as the sun slowly began to sink in the direction that Ishton left in. It wasn’t long before sleep overtook Strom. He was out long before the edge of the sun even touched the green hill horizon. Needless to say, Ranney was too anxious to sleep. The thoughts of his brother’s safety and his imminent betrayal of Strom plagued him all day.
“I can’t betray my friend... but if I don’t, they’ll kill Ramus... and Gotungir promised they wouldn’t kill Strom... Oh for the Sovereign’s sakes...” Ranney thought, grimacing as he looked over to Strom.
The dark shadow of night began to loom over the desert behind them, casting a deep hue of blue across the ground. The DinoRexmon’s gaze shifted between Strom and the direction Ishton went. Movement in the far distance caught his eyes. Ranney squinted and saw Ishton and a party of Dramon returning.
“No... Not yet!” gasped Ranney. The green dinosaur hastily walked over to the sleeping Strom and looked down at him with deep sorrow. Ranney felt a tightening in his chest and tried to ignore the tear that entered his eye and rolled down his snout. “... I’m sorry,” he whispered as he raised his foot above the Spinomon’s head. “You truly are my friend, Strom.” With that, he brought his foot down on Strom’s head, eliciting a sharp grunt from the sleeping digimon as he was knocked into a more stable unconsciousness.
Ranney rubbed his eyes with his claws before turning around to face the approaching Dramon squad. The first thing that Ranney noticed were the two metal colossi bringing up the rear. He figured that the two Machinedramon would be the ones who would carry Strom. At the front of the group was none other than Gotungir, slowly walking towards him with a smug disposition that made Ranney want to rip him apart. The DinoRexmon’s heart jumped when he looked past the UlforceVeedramon X’s wingspan. Behind him was Ishton, who was now back in full armour and leading along the form of another, similar-sized DinoRexmon.
“Ranney!” the figure called out as the group grew closer.
Ranney sighed a breath of relief and dashed towards him. Gotungir sidestepped and allowed the two brothers to embrace. After what he considered an acceptable amount of time, the cobalt Dramon cleared his throat. “As promised, your brother. He’s unharmed, a few bruises aside.” Gotungir looked over at the unconscious Strom who now donned a deep cut behind his right horn. “And in return, we have our neutralized Spinomon, who looks like he should be out long enough for us to take him back to base and secure him. Good job, Ranney; you lived up to your side of the bargain. You may take your brother.”
“Who’s that, Rann? What deal did you make?” Ramus asked, looking from Strom over to his brother.
“Later, Rame...” Ranney murmured, still feeling terrible despite the fact that he was reunited with his brother. He looked at Gotungir. “You promised you wouldn’t kill him...”
“And I will personally see to it that he lives,” Gotungir reassured him.
“You’re... You’re not going to pull some loophole where you horribly mutilate him but still keep him alive, are you?” Ranney asked worriedly.
Gotungir exchanged glances with Ishton before shooting a confused look at Ranney. “I think not... And even if we did consider that, I would have had your friend talking long before it came to that, so you needn’t worry either way.”
Ranney scowled. “Good... because you listen to me, ‘Goat-tonguer’ or whoever you are; if you break your promise, you’ll be very, very sorry... You and Fish-tin, over there...”
Gotungir smirked. “I will not betray anybody’s trust tonight... which is more than I can say for you.”
The DinoRexmon narrowed his eyes and turned around, bowing his head slightly. “...Let’s go, bro. It’s a long way.”
Ramus nodded and stood beside him. He looked at his brother’s face and blinked. “Ranney, are you... err...” He trailed off upon noticing the tears remerge in Ranney’s eyes.
The UlforceVeedramon X chuckled, having picked up on this. “How touching... I seem to have struck a sensitive chord.”
The DinoRexmon swung his head around and glared deep into Gotungir’s eyes. “One day you’ll get yours...”
“And I will be waiting...” Gotungir replied before turning around to motion to the Machinedramon to get to work taking Strom. “Ishton, you supervise these two. I will return and tell Daehak to make the preparations.”
“Commander Daehak, sir?” Ishton asked curiously.
“Yes. He got his Deputy Commander to take over for the night. For some reason, he expressed interest in this project. Maybe it’s due to the importance of the information the Spinomon has.”
As the two Machinedramon took hold of the unconscious Strom’s arms, the two DinoRexmon brothers started walking away, toward the desert and the Paleozoic Sovereignty. Ranney looked over his shoulder, casting a final look at Strom, before turning back forward and walking into the night.
Strom’s orange eyelids tensed shut as he regained consciousness. They opened just a crack, as though they were reluctant, but after a moment they gradually opened wider and began to flutter and blink as Strom attempted to see. For the Spinomon, all he could see was a spiralling, black and orange blur. While he tried to focus his vision, the first thing that he subconsciously noticed was that he was lying on his back. Strom took note of this, thinking that it was strange that he didn’t feel any pressure on his back like he would normally feel when lying belly-up, due to the massive blades on his back. However, he did still feel the pressure on his flanking spikes.
The next thing that caught Strom's attention was the throbbing pain in his head. The last thing that he remembered was lying in the grass, starting to nod off as they waited for Ishton; he had no idea what happened. The dinosaur let out a deep groan of pain and discomfort. Strom’s sight was finally beginning to sharpen and steady. With his vision focusing, the Spinomon looked above him. He found that he was no longer outside, but inside. Above him was not the sky but an arched, stone ceiling fifty feet above them. If it weren’t for the gleam of orange torches on the four walls of the room, he wouldn’t have been able to see the top.
The Spinosaurus digimon heard light breaths and an unsettling droning around him, not to mention a faint clanging sound that seemed as though it came from below him. The air in the room was cool and dry, but he somehow felt a warm breeze around his dorsal blades. Strom decided that now was the time to find out exactly where he was. He began to lift his head up to look around. He got about a foot before something cool choked his neck and yanked his head back to the floor. Strom winced and attempted to move his arms to find out what was on his neck. He felt fear deep in the pit of his stomach when his stretched out arms refused to move- they were being held by something. He tried desperately to move his legs next. Nothing.
Strom twisted his head to find the cause but felt dread when he saw a large chain tied around his left wrist that led to a Machinedramon, who stood near the wall and held the end of the chain tightly in its right claw, close to the ground. The dinosaur wrenched his head to the other side to find that his right hand was in a similar situation with a second Machinedramon. He frantically raised his head and looked down his chest to see that his feet were also restrained by two chain-bearing, robotic dragons. He deduced that the thing he felt earlier around his neck was a chain as well. The Spinomon’s dorsal spines were in a deep, linear slit that ran through the floor, so that he could lie flat on his back. Strom’s eyes widened and his heart beat furiously with terror and confusion, when it was very clear to him that he was bound to the stone floor he lay on.
“This is all a bad dream,” he thought to himself, despite the fact that it felt very real.
Suddenly a soft chuckle echoed through the stone room. A gigantic cyborg, in the form of a crimson, upgraded Machinedramon approached Strom’s side, just so that he was in view of the restrained Spinomon. “Hello, Strom. We’re glad to see that you’re finally awake,” he droned in a semi-robotic voice. “On behalf of the Dramon Empire, I, Daehak, welcome you.”
“What- What’s going on?! Where am I?! What happened?!”
Strom suddenly felt a pressure on his chest. He glanced up to see an UlforceVeedramon X standing on his chest. Gotungir folded his arms as he looked down at him. “You are in the keep of the Dramon Empire capital’s castle. You had the great misfortune of being captured by us, but if you cooperate, you will be able to leave no worse for wear than when you came in.”
The Spinomon snarled and fought against the chains with all of his strength, but the statue-like Machinedramons were steadfast in their hold. “Release me, Dramons!” he roared.
“When you give us what we want,” Gotungir responded plainly.
“And what’s that?!”
“The piece of information that will win us the war... The location of the Rebel headquarters.”
“I...” Strom stalled momentarily. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a member of the Paleozoic Sovereignty!”
“Don’t play stupid, lizard,” Daehak growled, stomping over to him. “We know you’re Aegyptu’s messenger-“
“Ex-messenger,” Strom interrupted.
“-and we know that you delivered a message to the Rebels concerning your Sovereignty’s stance in relation to them!”
Despite Strom’s fear and rage, he forced himself to keep relatively composed. He couldn’t afford to slip up and give away such valuable information. “I tend to talk with my claws, so if you keep me chained down like this, it’s going to take twice as long.”
“Then luckily for us, we have all the time in the world,” said Gotungir.
The Spinomon growled and cast glares between Daehak and Gotungir. “Where’s Ranney and Ishton?!”
The UlforceVeedramon X chuckled. “Well, I can account for one of their whereabouts,” the blue dramon said, looking over his shoulder to a digimon standing in the shadows. Ishton stepped forward into the orange gleam on a torch for Strom to see.
“You?!” Strom shouted, his eyes widening in confusion and anger. “These were your people?!”
The Slayerdramon nodded. “I’m afraid so, Strom. I really had you fooled, didn’t I? Don’t feel too badly; I even fooled myself a little bit. There never was a resistance group; don’t you think our Empire would have found them?”
“I knew it... I knew we shouldn’t have trusted you. But Ranney said that Scorpiomon-... Ranney! Where is he?! What did you worthless salamanders do with him?!” Strom demanded, balling up his claws and attempting to sit up, only to be halted by the chains.
Gotungir smirked. “Oh, we’ll tell you, Strom, but firs-”
“You dumb dinosaur!” Daehak interrupted, stomping closer to Strom so that his face peered down directly over the Spinomon’s. “Let me bring you up to speed... This friend you’re so worried about, ‘Ranney’... he was the one who betrayed you, Strom. His brother was our prisoner and he gave you up in order to save him from death.”
“Commander! That was our bargaining chip!” the UlforceVeedramon X protested, trying to maintain his frustration through clenched teeth. “Ugh... No matter. It’s true, Strom. Ishton and I confronted your friend last night and faced him with that ultimatum. Ranney and his brother are probably back in the Paleozoic Sovereignty by now.”
Strom stared long and hard at Gotungir, in a state of shock. “...No. You’re lying. Both of you are! Where is he?! Bring him to me!” he ordered.
“Think about it, Strom...” Ishton said. “Think about how Ranney’s been acting... what he’s been saying the past day.”
The Spinomon thought carefully. He did find it strange that Ranney suddenly didn’t want to go to the Paleozoic Sovereignty like he planned... and the fact that he was acting strangely the whole day... and that he agreed with most of Ishton’s suggestions...
Strom’s eyes widened full as the realization set in. “No... It can’t be!” he shouted. “No! We’re best friends! He wouldn’t betray me! He... he...”
“He did,” Gotungir said.
The Spinomon stopped moving, lying in silence for a few moments. He knew full well that it was true. Ranney had betrayed him. The pain of the revelation stabbed through his system.
Strom’s heartbeat intensified. His brow furrowed as he burned holes into Daehak with his eyes. The corners of his mouth tensed and retracted, showing a full set of jagged teeth. It wasn’t long until a savage growl came from the pit of his gut before quickly escalating into a roar of absolute fury. The Spinomon yanked the chains that bound him, trying with all of his might to free himself and whipping his tail around wildly. He rocked back and forth, trying to reach his head forward and snap at Daehak’s face a few times, but ultimately failing.
Daehak took a step back and looked on in amusement at the enraged dinosaur. “Struggle all you like, lizard; you’re only wasting your energy.”
“LET ME GO!” Strom roared, superheating the metal in his body at the same time to create blazing, cobalt plasma inside of him. “BLUE PROMINE-rrk!” As Strom was in the process of unleashing the intense blue energy, Gotungir signalled to a Machinedramon to yank the chain around Strom’s neck, routing his attack before it left his mouth.
“Sonic... Slash Rain...” Strom struggled to say. He propelled the massive blades on his back in the blind hope that they’d do something, but they all merely disappeared down the slit in the stone floor that his blades were in.
“Please, keep using that attack,” laughed Gotungir. “Below us is the forge; our blacksmiths could use the metal!”
Strom let out another roar and attempted in vain to bite at Gotungir, who still stood on his upper body, but found himself once again held back. His movements became more sluggish and he eventually gave up. The Spinomon’s chest lifted up and down rapidly from exertion. The UlforceVeedramon X decided to walk off of it and stand beside Daehak. The Chaosdramon retook a step forward. “If you’re finished making a fool of yourself... tell us, where is the Rebel headquarters?”
“...The... Rebel headtreasury?” the dinosaur answered bitterly, with full intents on being a smart-aleck.
Daehak proceeded to kick him in the side, prompting Strom to cry out in pain. “I have no patience for games!” he barked angrily.
“No wonder nobody likes you,” Strom jeered.
The Chaosdramon proceeded to raise his foot above his splayed-out, left arm and step down on his bicep. Strom grimaced and exhaled sharply through his nostrils. “Talk!” Daehak demanded.
“Well, the weather sure was nice today. It was much cooler than yesterday; the temperature was perfect for a walk-”
“Stop that!” Daehak shouted, pressing down harder on Strom’s arm.
The Spinomon winced, but tried to ignore the pain as much as he could. “... What’s the problem? Oh, sorry, I guess you don’t really care about the weather, with your lack of skin and all ...Current events then; how’s the war against the Rebels coming? Found their headquarters yet?”
Daehak put all of his weight down on Strom’s immobile arm. A sickening crack sounded out and a roar of agony ripped from Strom’s throat. The Spinomon’s whole body tensed up, causing the chains to dug into his scales further. His breathing increased rapidly, but he managed to look up at Daehak.
“I- I guess you’re still looking for it, then...” he weakly said, trying to keep bile from rising in his throat.
“Where is the Rebel headquarters?” asked Daehak, trying to emphasize each word the best he could with his rather monotonous voice.
“I would tell him, if I were you,” added Gotungir. “He is far less patient than I.”
“And far uglier too... if that’s even possible.”
Daehak backhanded Strom across the face with his mighty digizoid claw. The Spinomon’s head jerked to the side, only to be stopped by the chain around his neck. The Spinomon was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up his taunting act as his pain increased and his anger resurfaced. He slowly turned his head back and bore into Daehak’s eyes.
“You hit like a-” Strom was promptly interrupted when the Chaosdramon followed up with a punch from his right hand. The dinosaur let out a gargling cry as his head hit the stone floor. Daehak stared at Strom and lightly tapped his broken arm with his foot.
“Are you ready to talk now?”
Strom spat a mouthful of blood and a tooth or two in Daehak’s direction. “You’re damn lucky those’ll grow back... it doesn’t look like you’d be able to afford the dentist’s bill,” he growled.
Daehak was about to strike the imprisoned dinosaur a third time, but Gotungir intervened, stepping between the two as he walked toward Strom. “So, tell me, Strom... I have been wondering this... How does it feel to have your best friend surrender you to us?” The Spinomon grimaced and turned his head to the side, feeling the immense pain, which he had been trying to ignore, returning.
The UlforceVeedramon X smirked, jumping over to the other side of Strom’s body and staring him in the eyes. “You can joke and dodge questions all you want, but don’t you feel the least bit angry at him? It sure didn’t take him long to make his choice between you and his brother.” Strom’s gold eyes glowered at Gotungir as he began to revisit the intense rage he had been shoving to the side. The Dramon knight could see Strom succumbing to his rage, prompting a veiled grin from Gotungir.
“Now he and that brother of his are probably laughing, having forgotten all about you, while you lie here chained to a floor for interrogation with no chance of escape. We’re not displeased with the results, but I cannot imagine how you must be feeling right now. I am no expert, but I thought friends were supposed to have each other’s backs... especially best friends. Do you agree, Commander?”
“Indeed...” Daehak responded, picking up on the fact that Gotungir wanted to use Strom’s anger and sorrow to make him slip up or tell them the location out of pure misery.
“And you, Ishton?” The Slayerdramon also nodded. Gotungir grinned and looked back to Strom. “Now, if I were you-”
“SHUT UP!” barked Strom in seething anger. He clenched his fists and tried to yank the chains away from the opposing Machinedramon.
“I do not blame you for being angry. You can start bawling for all I care... In fact, you look like you are almost there,” Gotungir chuckled, watching Strom begin to blink back tears that threatened to enter his eyes. “However, look at things this way... the sooner you tell us the Rebel headquarter’s location, the sooner you can get out of this miserable situation that Ranney put you in. As I was saying, if I were you, I would spite him by telling us right now, thus minimizing your torture.”
“Why would I tell you anything? Once I tell you, that bucket of nails will just kill me,” Strom murmured, glancing at Daehak.
“That is simply not true,” Gotungir insisted. “On my life as a Dramon, I promise to you that you will not die.”
“So now we’re the guardian of the dead, are we? Pfft. Why should I trust you?” Strom asked.
“Because I am a hell of a lot more trustworthy than that so-called friend of yours,” Gotungir responded.
“... I’m not gonna tell you a word.”
“Why are you keeping this from us? You’re not even a Rebel!” Daehak exclaimed. “You’re a member of the neutral Paleozoic Sovereignty!”
Strom shot him a cold stare. “I’m not anymore... And I’m not about to be the cause for a lot of good digimons’ deaths! In fact I’m going to make this as difficult for you as physically possible,” he snarled darkly.
Gotungir sighed. “Very well... Strom is all yours, Commander.” The UlforceVeedramon X walked to the large, guarded door and, upon opening it, found himself faced with a crimson coloured, bipedal theropod-like digimon who stood at half his size. “...May I help you?” he asked the Guilmon.
The red digimon’s small, wing-shaped twitched as he glanced around the UlforceVeedramon X’s waist to look at the prisoner curiously, but soon focused and saluted Gotungir. “Er, yes sir! High Admiral Imego has sent for you and your apprentice regarding his next operation.”
“Very well. Find my apprentice; I last saw him outside of the tavern flirting with a Paildramon,” he said with a hint of disdain in his voice. Gotungir then left with the Guilmon, who took one last look at Strom before closing completely.
Commander Daehak grunted and slowly stalked toward Strom. The Spinomon’s heart beat faster and his rage started to become slowly replaced by anticipation. “So... Your father was a Dramon and your mother was a garbage can, huh? That must have been awkward growing up...” he goaded.
The Chaosdramon smirked internally as he stopped in front of his prey. He raised his large foot and pressed down on Strom’s chest. “I’m going to revel in this... Hold his chains tight; he might writhe a bit,” Daehak said to the five Machinedramon in the room. He then moved his right claws toward Strom’s neck and clamped down on it. “So, tell me... Where is it?”
“I’d tell you, but I don’t trust abominations of nature,” Strom callously replied.
Daehak struck Strom across the face with a mighty swing from his claw, tearing open a cut that led from his cheek to the end of his snout. “Are you... swatting flies or interrogating me? Oh wait, let me guess; ‘you’re just getting started’, hm? Maybe when you’re warmed up, you’ll be able to give a Botamon a run for its money,” the sarcastic dinosaur continued.
“This is your last chance, you worthless reptile. Tell me how to find the HQ,” Daehak said, preparing his jagged left claw.
“I don’t suppose I can sleep on it, can I? Being tortured takes a lot out of you.”
“Your chance is up,” the red cyborg droned. Daehak pierced his claw into Strom’s upper chest. The orange Spinosaurus let out a gasping snarl of pain. “Tell me where it is.”
“No,” Strom responded coldly. He then proceeded to spit blood at Daehak. The Chaosdramon drove the cold, metal finger of his claw further past Strom’s scales and into his skin below. Then he slowly dragged his claw in a diagonal direction down Strom’s chest from his right to left. A primal roar of agony ripped from the dinosaur’s throat as the sword-like appendage sluggishly moved through his flesh.
Strom gasped for air and dug his chained claws into the stone floor. “All you need to do is tell me,” explained the Dramon.
“Piss off!” he roared in defiance. “Blue Pr-“ His attack was quickly cut short when Daehak moved his bloody claw to the other side of Strom’s chest. He stabbed the claw into the dinosaur’s scales once more and, once again, began to slowly shove his claw through flesh and muscle. Strom’s form attempted to thrash about in torment, but failed due to the Machinedramons keeping him down. The red digizoid coated digimon continued moving his claw until a bloody ‘X’ was slashed on Strom’s underbelly.
“It’s only going to get worse,” Daehak explained.
“Only... if you keep... talking...” Strom said in laboured heaves. However fine he tried to seem to his interrogator, on the inside, Strom was barely holding on. Pain, fury, and fear combined and threatened to break him. Even when in deep throes of pain, Ishton’s deceit and Ranney’s betrayal were still prominent in his mind. If it weren’t for his determination, Strom would be an even more miserable heap on the floor than he was.
Daehak drove his clawed, metal foot into Strom’s ribcage. “Talk!” he demanded, growing impatient. The Spinomon’s body shook to the side and he attempted desperately to suck in any oxygen that he could after having his breath knocked out of him.
“Bur...urn,” Strom responded weakly. The Chaosdramon stomped his foot down on the prisoner’s bloodied, wound-ridden chest. The dinosaur tried to let out a roar of pain, but anything besides a grating snarl failed to come.
“Miserable beast! Release the whereabouts or else I’ll personally hunt down everyone you care about and tear them to shreds!”
“Then you’ll... be wasting... your time,” he answered, gasping and spitting blood from his throat between words. “I’m alone now...”
Daehak let out a mechanical growl and removed his foot. “Then I’ll break you in another way.” He walked over to Strom’s chained left hand and took his finger in the cyborg’s clamp-like right hand. “...Piece by piece.”
He tried to wrestle his claws away from Daehak, but found it proved futile. Strom shut his eyes and waited for the extreme, gruelling pain that was soon to come. However, when he expected to hear snapping, he instead heard a door swing open.
“Commander!” Gotungir’s voice called out.
“Not now; I’m busy with our guest. It shouldn’t be long until be breaks,” Daehak answered, staring intently at the claw in his vice.
“It is incredibly important. Imego has informed us of a development with the Rebels,” urged the UlforceVeedramon X, glancing between Daehak and the bloodied and beaten Spinomon.
“Nothing is more important than getting the location of the Rebels’ whereabouts from this damn lizard.”
“We don’t need him now!” explained Gotungir.
“What?!” shouted the Chaosdramon.
“I will brief you later, but for now, release Strom; he’s not going to talk anyways.”
“...I’ll release him alright...” Daehak said, angling himself downward so that his Hyper Infinity Cannon aimed at Strom’s face and slowly charging power within it.
“You are not killing him,” Gotungir ordered, remembering his vow to keep Strom alive.
“You are in no position to tell me what to do, Gotungir!” the commander snapped.
“I only mean is that it would be a better idea to release him and send him back to the Paleozoic Sovereignty. Neutrality is often a fickle state; seeing Strom in that shape would be an excellent reminder of what we could do to them should they ever cross us,” Gotungir explained. “If they send an emissary regarding it, I will just fabricate something.”
Daehak nodded and ceased the power to his cannon. “I see your point.” He then turned to Strom and widened one of the existing wounds on his gold underbelly using one of the Chaosdramon’s claws. Strom growled with pain at the action. “This is your lucky day, Spinomon. You should thank Yggdrasil that Gotungir’s reasoning proves sound.”
“Yeah... real lucky...” The sarcasm managed to show through, even with his laboured heaves.
Gotungir began hacking away at the five chains around Strom’s ankles, wrists and neck respectively, freeing them from the Machinedramon. Despite the fact that he was now free, Strom was too weakened and pained to move. Two of the Machinedramon had to hoist him up and look at Daehak for instruction.
“Bring him to the border of the Paleozoic Sovereignty. He can make his own way home from there. Try not to bleed to death, lizard.”
“Wouldn’t think of it...” Strom muttered, pretty much limp in the two robotic digimons’ holds.
Gotungir smirked and nodded to the dinosaur. “Look on the bright side, Strom; at least you can trust one digimon in this world...” With that, the two Machindramon hauled the Spinomon through the massive doorway, beginning to make their way to the border...
Strom lay alone in the dark desert of the Paleozoic Sovereignty. Blood dripped from his body and stained the sand below. The moon shone down on Strom’s bruised orange back and reflected off his scuffed, metal spines. He supported himself on his knees and right forearm, with his left one being broken.
The Spinomon used this opportunity where he was alone to finally release the sadness and rage that he had been trying to hold back throughout the night. Tears rolled down his face, and trickled off of his snout to meet the drops of blood in the sand. Strom shut his eyes and snarled while balling his fist up.
“Ranney...” he whispered, the sting of betrayal still burning inside of him. Strom blinked the tears from his eyes and craned his head to face the direction of the Dramon Empire. He scowled with an intense rage that was nothing like he had ever felt before. “They’ll pay... Daehak... Dramon... your days are numbered.”
Strom let out a roar of pain as he pulled himself to a stand. He weakly limped through the desert sand, but not in the direction of the Sovereignty. “I’m never going back to that place of selfishness and cowardice. I’m going to do what I set out to do; I’m joining the rebellion. I just need to retrace my steps to their headquarters...”
The determined dinosaur weakly dragged himself for hours through the black night. The sizeable gashes on his chest continued to bleed down his front, so he attempted to staunch the wounds using his free claw, but that proved to be only moderately effective. Instead, he crawled onward. He stopped for a rest at an oasis during the night, but stubbornly continued on. It took a full day and night to fully cross the desert from where he was to wear he wanted to go. The sun’s morning rays began to peek over the horizon, contending with the dark blue sky of the night. It was at this point when Strom left the dry desert and entered a thick forest at the base of a mountain pass.
“I’m... almost... there...” His mouth was bone dry and he was feeling a headache from dehydration. At this point, Strom was feeling light-headed from the blood loss and the constant exhaustion from the past two nights. “Just need to... get into the mountain range.”
Strom’s muscles protested at every movement that he made. He stubbornly pushed through the trees at a sluggish yet determined pace. He took a step toward a nearby pass but his legs finally had enough and proceeded to buckle. The Spinomon fell to the ground, grimacing as the wounds on his chest collided with a log.
“No...” he whispered as his consciousness started to slip away. “So... close...”
He soon heard a whooshing sound and the last thing that he saw in his blurred vision was a pair of clawed feet attached to black, rubber greaves land in front of him before darkness overtook him...
Strom’s golden eyes slowly opened and squinted as a result of the bright sunlight that shone on them. He groaned as he came to. The Spinomon felt himself lying on something soft but was supporting him above the ground. His vision was a blur, but be could see a shadowed silhouette of somebody standing over him between himself and the rays of sun behind the figure. The digimon was looking over his shoulder in the direction of the light.
Strom heard a muffled voice talking. “Jager, Rai, Karasu; scan the area to make sure he hasn’t been followed,” said what sounded like a light, self-assured male voice.
“Where... am I?” Strom murmured as he tried to focus in on the digimon. Although his sight was still blurry, he was able to make out the figure. The person standing over him was a human-like digimon clad in tight-fitting white and blue fabric and a lengthy, red, cape-like scarf that was draped around his neck. He noticed the sunlight glint off the digimon’s metal helmet, which covered half of his face, and his robotic right arm. “Who the hell are you?” the Spinomon growled.
“Hey, is that any way to thank the guy who found your sorry hide and brought you here? You’re not exactly the lightest digimon to carry, you know,” the Justimon responded, grinning. “Oh, and the name’s Braon. Commander Braon.”
“You did that?” Strom asked, wincing in pain. “Err... I’m Strom. Where am I?” The dinosaur weakly raised his head and looked around. The first thing that he checked was his arms and legs to make sure he wasn’t captured and bound down once again. Instead, he found himself lying in a large white tent. Strom’s left arm was in a sling and rested across his chest. He looked past his flanking spikes to see that he was lying on makeshift bed. He noticed that the gashes on his chest weren’t the bloody mess that they were in the night. In fact, they were bandaged and the bleeding had stopped.
“Well, Strom, you’re in my tent... and you really did a number on my bed,” he said, half-smirking as he eyed Strom’s blades and spikes piercing through it. “I found you wounded and unconscious in the forest so I took you here. Our healers have been working on you. Your broken arm is more or less healed, but you shouldn’t use it for the next few days. The two rends on your chest were pretty tough... they’ll heal, but you’re going to be left with some lasting scars... but look on the bright side; chicks dig scars.”
Strom blinked. “Is this guy really a Commander?”
The smirk on the Justimon’s face vanished. “You may not remember me, but I remember you; you were that messenger from the Paleozoic Sovereignty who told us that the Sovereignty would remain totally neutral. ...Judging by the look of you, I’d say that you didn’t exactly have the same idea in mind. That’s Daehak’s handiwork if I ever saw it. Did you try to take him head on or something?”
“I’m not that reckless,” Strom murmured.
Braon chuckled. “Good. We have enough digimon like that around here as it is.” Despite his miserable mood, Strom managed a smirk.
“...This is the Rebel headquarters then?”
The Justimon nodded. “Yeah. Apollo’s going to be down my throat for bringing you here. So... What happened, Strom?”
The Spinomon grimaced. “...After I left here, I started travelling the desert instead of going back the Paleozoic Sovereignty. In short... I was betrayed by somebody that I trusted and the Dramons captured me.”
“I see... What did they want with you? You’re from the Paleozoic Sovereignty.”
Strom sighed through his nostrils. “...They wanted me to tell them how to find this place.”
“What would the Dramon Empire possibly want with my tent?” joked the Justimon.
“Very funny...” Strom responded, trying to sound annoyed, though a second grin shone through on his face.
“And did you tell them?!” a deeper voice suddenly demanded. Braon turned around to see the flaming humanoid figure of Apollo, one of the two leaders of the Rebels, walk in.
“Apollo,” exclaimed Braon in surprise.
“I have words with you, Commander,” Apollo said to him, still staring intently at Strom.
The Spinomon narrowed his eyes at Apollo. “No, I didn’t... They didn’t get anything out of me.”
“Good. We’re grateful for that,” the Justimon said to him.
Apollo then turned to Commander Braon and led him off to the side. “What were you thinking, Braon?! Bringing him here... He could have been followed!”
“I sent a team out to scan the area. Even if he was followed, his pursuers won’t be pursuing him for very long.”
“He could be a spy for the Dramons!” Apollo protested. Strom overheard this and growled to himself.
“Well, if he’s a spy, he’s a hell of a committed one,” Braon half-jokingly remarked, looking at Strom’s beaten state.
Apollo wasn’t convinced, and was even less amused. “This is no laughing matter, Braon. If the Dramon find us here-”
“I know, I know...” Braon said. “But Strom isn’t a spy. He’s Aegyptu’s messenger-”
“Ex-messenger,” the Spinomon corrected.
“-why would he suddenly go and join the Dramons and then come as a spy here? It just doesn’t add up.”
“Stranger things have happened, Braon,” Apollo said.
Commander Braon folded his arms across his chest and looked at the Rebel leader. “I trust Strom. His story makes perfect sense. I don’t think even diehard Dramon loyalists would put themselves through what he went through.”
“I suppose you have a point, Commander...” Apollo looked back to Strom. “So, what will you do now? Return to your homeland?”
“No...” Strom said bitterly. “...Uh... With both your permission... I’d like to join you. I could never stand the Sovereignty’s neutral stance while everything around them was being destroyed. I tried to get Aegyptu to reconsider, but...”
Apollo looked at Braon uncertainly. Suddenly, the orange armoured, humanoid form of an out-of-breath EmperorGreymon entered the tent, prompting the two to turn around. “Commander Braon, sir! The Greymon Corps in sector delta have been engaged by two squads of Dramon fliers- coordinates X-54, Y-23.”
The Justimon quickly grabbed a large map from a nearby table and scanned it before pinpointing the position of the squad. Strom eyed the map curiously from his bed. “Where are the Dramons coming in from?”
“Have them pull back, keep close, and move into an envelopment formation facing northwest,” Braon instructed.
Strom looked uncertain. “Uhh... Commander, if I may...” Braon and Apollo turned to look at him. “Dramon usually have at least some ground support, if not a large army, then a small group for bombardment or flanking. I saw that there’s a large linear hill to the west and southwest of your forces, if a Dramon land force used that for cover and then made it to the crest of the hill, your Greymon Corps’ flank is completely exposed.”
Apollo stared at him with an eyebrow raised. “I thought you were a messenger, not a tactician.”
“I’m both, actually,” Strom responded dryly.
“And he’s right,” Braon added, turning to the EmperorGreymon. “Forget what I said. Have them pull back and guard their left flank. And send in the Gargomon unit for covering fire. Get to it.”
The dragon-man digimon saluted and ran out. Commander Braon looked over at Strom and grinned. “Well... Maybe you do have a future with us, Strom. Maybe I could show you the ropes of general tactics. I wouldn’t mind having another sharp mind around... with Apollo’s permission, of course.”
Apollo sighed. “Yes, fine. You’re responsible for this Spinomon, Braon.”
“Sounds good. I’ll show you your tent, Strom,” the Justimon said as he walked over to him to help him to his feet.
Strom grinned. “Thank you...”
About a week later…
Strom stepped slowly from out of his large, camouflaged tent. He was finally able to remove his sling and the bandages on his chest which covered both his scars and his previously fractured ribs. The large beige scars that were burned across his chest weren’t particularly pleasing to him and as a result, he was a bit insecure when first walking around the rebel encampment without the bandages around them.
As glad as he was that he joined the rebels, Strom felt strange being with them. Braon accepted him readily enough, and he talked to a couple other digimon here and there, but his size and species made him feel out of place. He was more accustomed to being around dinosaurs around his size, not a hodgepodge of smaller digimon. Every so often he’d hear a joke being cracked at his expense, in which case he’d either growl and move on or come up with a biting comeback.
His torture by Dramons and betrayal by Ranney were far from forgotten for Strom. He couldn’t help but mull over it every night as he tried to sleep. He was left disenchanted and jaded. In the whole of the Rebel camp, the only digimon that he really felt like he could trust was Commander Braon. Everyone else was a grey area to him.
Commander Braon walked with Strom through the camp, giving the occasional nod and pat on the shoulder to other passing Rebels. The Spinomon followed him and glanced around. Above him, he spotted a Dynasmon flying overhead and narrowed his eyes in a scrutinizing fashion. “I don’t know about that Ragna guy… Can we trust him?”
“Ragna’s a good digimon with a strong sense of justice; you have nothing to be concerned about. Trust me; I know a thing or two about justice,” said the Justimon with a half-smirk. Commander Braon led Strom toward the edge of a high cliff with a natural rock barricade around the edges. “Rai! Karasu! You’re both relieved of lookout duty; I have someone who’ll take over,” he called to a GoldRapidmon and Ravemon who both sat on high, pillar-like stones.
Rai quickly hopped into the air and flew down towards them, while Karasu took his time sitting upwards. “I was the one doin’ all the work... The only looking out Karasu was doing was counting Sheepmon!” complained the golden rabbit digimon as he landed in front of Braon and Strom.
“And I counted two hundred and fifty-eight of them,” a yawning Karasu responded, following Rai down.
Rai looked up at Strom and blinked before turning to Commander Braon. “Who’s the gecko on steroids?”
Before the Commander could answer, Strom spoke up. “The name’s Strom."
“Heh, well, you can call me ‘Rai: the fastest, strongest and most attractive digimon alive’! Hahaha!”
“…Do you have a nickname? That’s kind of a mouthful,” Strom said with a roll of his eyes.
“’Rai’’ll do. And this is Karasu!” he exclaimed, pulling Karasu over.
“It’s nice to meet you, my theropodian friend,” the Ravemon greeted.
The GoldRapidmon jumped into the air and hovered in front of Strom’s face. “Yo, dino-butt! While you’re on lookout, wanna watch me beat the tights off Karasu in a race?”
“How could I say no?” Strom said sarcastically.
“Great! Let’s go, Karasu!” Rai said, looking over to his avian comrade. However, Karasu was already walking away. “Aww, Karasu, where are ya goin? I need to beat you!”
“I have a shaded tree with my name on it,” replied the Ravemon.
“Then I’ll erase it!” Rai said, grabbing Karasu by the arm and pulling him into the air. “Come on; I’ll go easy on you! You, Strom! Feast your eyes on my awesomeness!” With that, he took off in a golden flash.
Karasu sighed and reluctantly followed. The two started to circle the skies around the Rebel camp. Rai started off strong, confidently leading the friendly race through the sky. Karasu, however, soon began to overtake him after a massive burst of speed and left the bunny in his wake. The Rapidmon blinked in shock and started fuming as he tried to catch up to the Ravemon.
“What?! No way! You can’t get ahead of me; I’m special! I’m the fastest digimon here! Get back here so I can beat you, Karasu!”
Strom watched with a blank expression on his face. He slowly turned to look at Braon, but found that the Justimon was already walking away. “It’ll be like this a lot. Enjoy lookout duty, Strom… All five hours of it!” he said as he approached a MedievalGallantmon.
The Spinomon groaned and turned around, glancing up at the aerial race. “What have I gotten myself into?”
As time went on, Strom started to slowly assimilate into the Rebel’s lifestyle. He still found it difficult and he still found that he was too different from the others to fit in, but he knew he was making some progress. Strom was slowly trying to get past the ordeal with Ranney. As long as nobody mentioned traitors, he was more or less his regular self, except that he was still more cynical, distrusting, and prickly than he was.
Commander Braon had shown him much in the ways of tactics and the Rebels, and Strom offered a thing or two about what he knew about desert warfare and the tactics of the Paleozoic Sovereignty. Strom and Commander Braon stood in a large tent hunched over a map that lay on the table in the center, going over hypothetical tactics. “...But if you pull them back there, the entire right flank is exposed.” Braon challenged.
“Not if we use artillery bombardment to prevent them from moving in there,” Strom answered, pointing with his claw to a place on the map.
The Justimon grinned proudly and gave Strom a playful punch on the arm. “Now you’re getting it! ...But what if our artillery support is eliminated.”
“Then, Commander, in that situation, we’re Dramon food,” a grinning Strom answered.
“Not the best answer a tactician could give,” Braon said good-naturedly.
Suddenly a wavering whistle and distant pop was heard outside. Immediately after, a flurry of voices and far off roars followed. “Oh boy, what now?” murmured Braon.
The black-armoured figure of the Alphamon commander, Arahon Alpha, burst into the tent. “Braon! It’s a Rapidmon’s signal flare; they found us. It’s a whole invasion force. Mobilize your forces and then meet us at the southwest peak.” With that, Arahon was gone in an instant.
“Shit,” muttered the Justimon to himself. He grabbed a handful of maps and quickly handed them to a runner outside. “Bring these to Apollo and Artemis. If we’re overrun, we can’t let them fall into Dramon hands,” he said to him.
Commander Braon then turned back to the Spinomon, who looked a bit unsure of what to do. “You heard Arahon, Strom; you’re with me,” he explained, leading him out and running toward the southwest cliff.
Strom attempted to run, but decided to proceed at a slower pace, fearing he might accidentally step on somebody in the chaos. He moved past a Zudomon and made it to the cliff side. He looked down and Commander Braon was already down on an outcropping, talking tactics with Commander Arahon, Ajax, Tharor and Jager.
The Spinomon then lifted his eyes and looked across the land below. He was stunned by the sheer number of Dramon advancing towards them. Dramon came by land and they came by air. Strom had never seen so many digimon in one place. The sheer enormity of it sent fear and a bit of excitement into him. Within the land ranks he could see the unmistakeable body of Commander Daehak. Strom narrowed his eyes with rage.
“Unfotunately for you, Daehak, I don’t forgive… and I certainly don’t forget.”
"Concentrate all attacks in a line towards that Chaosdramon," Braon ordered to his gathering forces. Then, suddenly, a MedievalGallantmon leapt down the cliff face, charging madly toward the Dramon ranks.
“This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done… but at least I’ll get my revenge,” Strom thought to himself.
It was then when Braon’s voice sounded in a roar. "Attack! Charge!" he bellowed.
And with that, Strom and the rest of his fellow Rebels charged…
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