"Get too close to the sun, and you burn."
Ed Elric, Full Metal Alchemist

Black Wings
Chapter Twelve: "Unforgiven"

Kage half-staggered into the mess hall while Yutaka and Osamu stocked the fridge with meat and vegetables. "Think you can get me a can of soda while you're there?"

Osamu walked over to him with a can of Coca-Cola. "Stressed?"

"Thanks," he replied, opening the can and taking a long drink. "Himi, remember what you said about a genius, an artist, and a leader in the same room?"

Yutaka just stifled his laughter to ask, "That bad?"

Kage took another sip of his well-deserved beverage. "Let's just say it's been a learning experience." Even Osamu smirked at that. "Anyway, Takuya and Junpei are still arguing about the design. I knew Junpei was a visionary when it came to architecture, but I didn't think it would be this bad. His plans, although beautiful, are too complicated and way out of our budget. I hope to see this building up by next fall if we have the manpower. Takuya's trying to negotiate, but with him, it tends to be more yelling than anything else."

"Sounds about as eventful as our adventure," Yutaka judged. Kage gave him a questioning look. "We ran into someone who works at the elementary school, Hideto Arashi."

"I remember you mentioning he seemed suspicious."

"More than suspicious," Osamu corrected. "Mercenary."

Kage shook his head. "Damn. No place is safe."

"I had a security team clean up the place and take care of the wounded," Yutaka informed. "They'll handle any more mercenaries."

Kage sighed and pulled out his computer. "Guess I'd better check for any reports from the other teams." He logged onto the secure internet connection and entered the Resistance e-mail center. He opened one message and upon reading it, sighed.

"What's wrong?" Yutaka checked.

"Minmei Chen of the Taiwan force wrote to inform us of a shipment of refugees and raw recruits traveling through the Digital World. They need an escort team to greet them in Tokyo, but frankly, I'm too tired to take it myself."

"What about everyone else?" Osamu asked.

"I could call Takuya and Junpei, but I need them to finish organizing everything for the University. Izumi's on duty with Miyagami, and Tomoki's too young for a mission on his own. And you two deserve some rest after what you just went through—same for you, Osamu, since your Light Seed needs to recharge or whatever." He groaned. "There are only two left that aren't busy with something."

"Idiot and dumbass?" Yutaka guessed.

"Yep." To Osamu, Kage clarified, "Reiji Takamoto and Ataru Kikuchi—the last two people I'd put my trust in for this, but the only two that can do it."

Two convicted men stood in the nearest train station to the Mt. Fuji Resistance branch's home base. They had to escort the refugees and new fighters to the Fuji Resistance force unharmed. But neither bothered to dream about getting back in good graces with their commander. That was a pipe dream they'd given up long ago.

Ataru Kikuchi, the first of the unforgiven black sheep, looked somewhat bored as he stood beside the platform. His crime was disrespect, and he was guilty in the first degree of being asinine. He had refused to care about how hard it was for the Chosen Children to fight one of their friends, and he blamed Kouji for not doing something to stop Kouichi. Even now, he refused to accept crippling traumatic grief as an adequate excuse not to join the fight.

Reiji Takamoto looked a lot less cynical and a lot more shamed. Guilty of stupidity in the first degree and attempted murder in the second, he was a criminal and a terrorist with a reputation worse than the Kaiser's. He'd given up on trying to raise in the eyes of his peers, but he still hoped that maybe one day, his best friend would stop looking at him like he was a monster. This could possibly be his last chance.

"Taking a while, isn't it?" Takamoto asked idly, trying to break the silence.

"Meh," Ataru replied, shrugging it off. "It'll be here when it gets here. Not like this is anything important to begin with. We're only here because Kage couldn't spare anyone else."

Silence returned. Neither would speak to the other again. It was odd, though, and quite: The motivation behind their crimes were direct opposites, yet they shared the same sentence.

The Trailmon finally arrived, and with it, the throngs of Digimon and humans aboard that were chattering nervously in Chinese. Ataru stepped forward and announced in English, "Everybody, calm down!" At the sound of his voice, they did. "Good. I'm Ataru Kikuchi, and this is Reiji Takamoto. We're here to escort you to the Resistance settlement. We're going to leave in small groups at a time, so if there are any families, get yourselves together now and keep a close eye on your children. Also, if there are any Digimon willing to help as guides, we'd really appreciate the help."

A Turiemon, a Fladramon, two Kyuukimon, and a Mystimon stepped forward to volunteer. Ataru thanked them and with the help of Mystimon's magic, created a map for the others to memorize so they'd know what path to take to the checkpoints.

"All right, thank you all for your help. If everybody's separated into their respective families, we'll start. Anyone who's not with their family, we'll put you in one or create a group for you," Ataru notified. "We're going to try to make this as quick and painless as possible. One group will go out at a time, and when the guide comes back, we'll send another. The other guides and I have earphones, so we can keep in contact in case anything goes wrong. Any questions?" No hands went up. "Good. I'll lead the first group. Everyone keep hidden until I tell you the coast is clear." He walked to the elevator, gun ready, and entered, ushering his group to stay toward the sides, where they'd be shielded. A few minutes passed before Takamoto and the guides heard Ataru's voice in their ears, saying, "All clear. Next group, get ready and secure the elevator." Takamoto nodded and pointed to one of the Kyuukimon to advance. Once the lift was secured, they went up to wait and make sure nothing happened.

"Second group, lift and station secure so far," Kyuukimon informed

"Try and be discreet," Takamoto warned. "Not all humans are used to seeing Digimon wandering around the city."

"All right."

Less than twenty minutes later, Ataru returned and the cycle started again. The first Kyuukimon and his group went out, and Mystimon's team awaited their turn. When he returned, Mystimon led her team out and Takamoto waited.

"You remember where to go, right?" Ataru checked. He'd done the same with the other guides, but it never hurt to be completely positive.

"Yeah," Takamoto answered with a nod. "Checkpoint Lambda in the southeast."

"All right," Ataru replied, satisfied with the answer. "Mystimon?"

"Mission complete," she informed. "I'm heading back."

"No teleportation spells," Ataru warned. "If the Kaiser can track tesseracts, I don't want him finding us."

"All right."

Sometime later, she returned and Takamoto's team went out. The station was full of people, but none were with the Imperial Guard. And no one paid much attention to the group of people exiting the elevator. It was all routine, ordinary everyday life.
They slipped out of the station and entered the street, where people were bustling by. The father picked up his son and hefted him on his shoulders so the child wouldn't get lost. But as he got up, the boy dropped his toy fire engine. He cried out as it was about to smash on the ground, but someone caught it before that happened.

"Here you go," the man commented, handing it to the boy.

"Thank you," the father answered.

Takamoto paled and turned in dread. That tiny snippet of a conversation had been in English. How had someone known that the refugees didn't speak Japanese?

"What's wrong?" Ataru questioned at the sudden communications silence.

"I think we have a situation on our hands," he informed, watching a blonde man watch them with far too much interest.

"Want me to evacuate?" Ataru checked.

"Yeah, and abandon Checkpoint Lambda. I'll try and get my group to Checkpoint Theta."

"All right, Ataru out."

Takamoto removed the earphone and crushed it in his hand. The mother stared in surprise as he whirled around.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Imperials," he warned. "Change of plans. I'm getting you somewhere else. If things don't work out, just get out of here." He pulled a small clear canister of something out of his pocket. As they looked at it in confusion, he explained, "Flash bomb. If anything happens, I'll ignite it so you can run."

He quickly moved them through the streets and slipped through the back door of a restaurant. Pointing them to sit at a table next to the emergency exit, he placed a kerchief over his hair and grabbed a bin or dirty glasses.

The Imperials burst in the front as he started picking up dishes. Takamoto kept his head down, and the family buried themselves in menus. The blonde man pointed at his troops to investigate everyone, but it was going to be hard. Takamoto had specifically chosen a family restaurant, so children carrying toys in their laps was a common occurrence. Plus one of the workers was Resistance; it was safer than anything else. But if things were too dangerous, he still had his bomb as an escape plan.

"You!" shouted a soldier. Takamoto looked up to see her harassing a family with a young daughter. "Produce your identification!"

Takamoto paled again. How could he have been so stupid not to realize it? The Mt. Fuji Resistance team had gotten into the habit of carrying around false identification papers in addition to wearing dark contact lenses so that if they were stopped, they wouldn't be arrested. It was very rare that they were asked, except when they had to get medicine from other towns. What a genius move, then, to send troops to demand identification when most Resistance didn't carry any!

He walked over to clean up an empty place across the room from the refugee family. A few Guardsmen were around them, not paying too much attention to the family, but they'd notice if they tried to escape. Making it look like an accident, he walked right into the blonde man as he turned around from another table. The glass fell to the floor and shattered, the sound cutting through the tense silence so suddenly that everyone looked his way. Seeing Takamoto at the center of it, the refugees lowered their gaze and prepared to move. The blonde mercenary, although irritated, bent to help clear away some of the glass so he could walk. When he did though, Takamoto had a lighter to his flash bomb.

The bomb only contained powdered magnesium, so it gave off a bright white flash that blinded everyone who had been looking in that direction, including Takamoto himself. In the resulting chaos, he had no way of knowing whether the alarm from the emergency exit was set off by an escape or by a stumbling, blind Imperial. And with the gunshots and screaming, it was hard to tell if anyone had been hurt. But it didn't matter. The blonde man recovered first and stuck a needle in Takamoto's wrist. He shouted in pain as it tore a blood vessel and penetrated a muscle, but he fell silent and unconscious very soon when the drug reached his brain. There was no saving anyone now.

Slowly, Takamoto started to wake up. First, his addled mind started to make sense of memories and sensations, and then limited conscious thought began to return. He started wondering why he'd fallen asleep in a chair—had he been that tired after his mission? Wait, why didn't he remember the outcome? And why did his wrist hurt so much?

He opened his eyes to a dimly lit hotel room, and suddenly, everything returned to him. He tried to get up to escape and find Ataru and the refugees, but he found that he was tightly chained to a chair. Worse, the more he struggled to free his hand, the sharper the pain in his wrist became as the broken needle dug itself deeper into his muscles. He winced and let out a small cry of pain before finally stopping.

"Well, glad to see you're finally awake," commented the blonde man. He leaned into the dim light, revealing his features. Takamoto knew without a doubt that this was the man everyone at the Railroad spoke of with contempt: Colonel Reiyama.

"Now," Reiyama continued, holding up a pitcher of water, "we're going to play a little game." He dumped it all over Takamoto before pulling out the wires in a lamp. He let the two exposed ends touch, showing off the electrical spark between them. "Give me an answer I like, and you'll just be wet. If I don't like your answer…" He placed the wires against Takamoto's arm. The young man shouted in pain at the electrical shock, amplified by the steel chains and the needle in his wrist. "Do we understand each other?"

Takamoto moaned and barely whispered, "Got it." He wasn't planning on giving any real answers, and if what he'd heard was right, Reiyama got a sadistic pleasure out of other people being in intense physical or emotional pain. He would just keep saying he wasn't satisfied until he got bored of the tortured and decided to try something new.

No wonder he's the Kaiser's right-hand man, Takamoto realized.

"And don't even try to hope that your screams will attract attention downstairs," Reiyama warned. "I had a Doumon put up wards. No sound can escape those spells. No one's coming to your rescue. It's just you and me." Looking at him, Takamoto realized there wasn't a fate any worse. Was this what he deserved for what he'd done?

Kage looked at his computer again, this time with a mixture of confusion and aggravation. The four Chosen were with him and simultaneously raised eyebrows at his groans.

"What is it?" Tomoki asked.

"Checkpoint Alpha called in," he informed. "They shouldn't have gotten any refugees—I specifically told those idiots to use Lambda or Theta. What did they screw up this time?"

"Want us to go check it out?" Junpei checked.

"In a second," he replied. "I want to see their excuse." He opened his next message and skimmed through it, his face becoming whiter with each word.

"What happened?" Takuya questioned.

"Reiyama," he answered. The Warriors shared worried glances. Kage's last run-in with him hadn't been as bad as it could have been, but he was still haunted by his inability to do anything against the man who killed his father.

Izumi quickly asked, "What do you want us to do?"

"Reiyama has Takamoto. I'm going to let Miyagami know and then pick up Kikuchi and the refugees. You guys scout out the area. Takuya, you're field commander from here on. Figure out who's best for what and go."

"All right," Takuya decided, resettling immediately into his old leader position. "As much as I hate doing it, we'll have to split up, using the station as the centerpoint. Junpei, evolve to Blitzmon and take the north. Izumi, use Fairymon's form and take east. Tomoki, jump from building to building as Blizzarmon and head west. I'll go as Vritramon south. If anyone sees anything, send off a signal by attacking in the air. Junpei and I can do that easiest, but Izumi can blow all the clouds away from her area and Tomoki can revert to Chakra and start freezing the air. I think we can all notice that if we look hard enough." They nodded in agreement. "All right then. Let's head to Centerpoint first, then spread out form there."

Kage, meanwhile, walked to Miyagami's quarters. His face was still pallid, and he still felt sick with regret over his freezing at the sight of Reiyama. This pallor, already shifting from white to gray, did not escape Chideta Miyagami's notice.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Takamoto was captured. From the descriptions the witnesses and refugees gave, we can safely assume that his captor was Colonel Reiyama."

"The Kaiser's second-in-command?" Kage nodded. "What can we do?"

"First, we're going to retrieve Kikuchi and the refugees at Checkpoints Alpha and Theta. Then we wait for the Chosen to locate Takamoto."

"Oh, God," Miyagami moaned as he placed his head in his hands. "All this time I was afraid of Reiji—after his bacterium got Yutaka sick. I didn't think to be afraid for him."

"As far as I can tell, Reiyama has no idea that Takamoto created that bacterium," Kage assured. "Osamu told the Kaiser that the creator was dead. I don't know if he believed it, but I have no reason to believe that he or his lieutenants suspect Takamoto."

"Okay," he replied. Slowly, as if he'd aged twenty years in just those two minutes, he walked to the door and followed Kage out. They had a lot of regrets to take care of.

"I'm getting impatient," Reiyama growled, pulling the wires away. Takamoto took a few shaky breaths. Most of the water on him had already been replaced with sweat. He wasn't sure how long he'd be able to keep this up.

"Told you…" he breathed, "all I know."

"I don't believe you," Reiyama answered. "I've only kept you alive so I can question you. That's why I gave you that watered-down tranquilizer so you'd only be out for an hour or two. But I can always give you the full dose and take you to the Kaiser. I can assure you he's far less merciful than I am."

"No doubt." Reiyama shocked him again, and he shouted again. How much longer would this take? He was starting to think that dying would be a lot better.

"I was hoping to avoid using this," Reiyama commented, taking out a steel briefcase. "But if you're just going to continue resisting, I have few other options left." Inside were headphones and what looked like a steel visor. "Sensory disorientation. It's more psychological than physical, and I normally try to avoid inflicting mental scars because they're so hard to take care of, but physical scars don't seem to work much on you."

He placed the visor and headphones on the barely struggling Takamoto and powered up the machine. He expected the young man to break in no longer than ten minutes. All he could do now was wait.

He went over to a table near the door and picked up the food and drink he'd ordered from room service some time earlier: beef curry with rice and a bottle of whiskey. He'd limit himself to one drink this time; the last time he'd gotten drunk, a slave got into Cell 24 and found the Minamoto boy. He was not going to let anything like that happen again.

A little more than five minutes into dinner, and Reiyama heard whimpers from Takamoto It was nearly impossible to tell time under that thing; those five minutes must have felt like ten. He grinned and took a sip of his whiskey. The sounds of someone losing the fight made everything taste so much better.

Another ten minutes and half a glass of whiskey later, and Reiyama's pleasure hit its highest point. Takamoto was very audibly crying and shouting. He'd all but completely broken. Reiyama got up, picked up the telephone, and dialed the Kaiser.

"What is it?"

"I have captured a member of the Resistance. I believe he may be able to tell me where some sympathizers recently escaped from Taiwan are hiding."

"The Resistance will be after him."

"I took extra precautions to cover my trail."

"I don't care!" the Kaiser shouted on the other end. "They're too smart for this—no matter how much you underestimate them. They're always one step ahead of us. If they show up, forget the prisoner and run. They'll be too busy tending for one of their own to go after you. I know how they think."

Reiyama scowled. "Yes, my lord."


Reiyama slammed down the receiver, knowing he'd pay for his rudeness later. What did that boy know? He was barely twelve! He had no business ruling the world and acting as though he was far older than eleven. If not for that debt Reiyama owed him, he'd…

A bright flash of lightning illuminated the sky, yet there were no storm clouds. Reiyama swore and ran to the window, spotting a dark figure hovering amidst the light. A Chosen Child, the Warrior of Thunder. Fire, Wind, and Ice would soon follow.

Forgetting both the prisoner and his irritation with the Kaiser, Reiyama dashed out of the room and down the stairs, smelling the distinct burnt stench of ozone as he exited the building. The air was still electrified, and Blitzmon was waiting above the hotel. Reiyama decided to avoid a confrontation and any further burns (he rubbed the one on his neck from the flame bullets as he considered this) by slipping into the darker passageways and sneaking away.

Although he knew he was more than powerful enough to enter the hotel, take out Reiyama, and rescue Takamoto, Blitzmon waited in the sky, even letting Reiyama escape through the alleys. Takuya was field commander and had ordered them to wait. The last time someone had gone in alone… Even if things hadn't turned out as they'd thought, Junpei was not going to put his friends through that kind of pain again.

We didn't think Kouichi was dangerous then, but with what he did to Kouji… he recalled, trying to push the memories away. His friend was still alive, but in some ways, he would have been better off dead.

I'll just wait, he decided. Reiyama's too dangerous for me to try to handle alone, even in Digimon form. We'll get him next time.

It took five minutes for the others to get there. Like Blitzmon, they were able to sense Doumon's magical wards around the hotel, the ones that gave away its location. Kage's choice of tactical field crew was perfect; the Warriors were more sensitive to changes in nature than most humans, and as Digimon, they could detect the spells in the air. Reiyama hadn't expected it.

"Izumi, air is your specialty," Vritramon pointed out. "What can you find out from the spells?"

"They're isolated to one room. I don't know what they are, but I don't think they're alarms. They're keeping the air too still for that. There's almost no vibration in there."

"Sounds like silencers to me," Blitzmon judged.

"Then somebody didn't want to be heard by anyone else!" Blizzarmon surmised.

"All right," Vritramon decided, "we'll have to assume Takamoto's in there as well as innocent people. We have to keep the damage as minimal as possible. Junpei, knock out the electricity. Keep people locked in their rooms. Tomoki, use your axes to break down the door. Then Izumi, devolve and administer any first aid. I'll provide cover. Slide Evolution! Agnimon!"

He dropped to the ground as silently as possible, just managing to avoid notice. Blitzmon then struck the building with lightning, knocking out the power and the unlocking mechanism on the doors of the suites. Agnimon then ran inside, using only physical attacks on the people in the lobby. It wasn't as easy as using his elemental attacks, but he wanted a minimum of injuries.

Once he was finished, he signaled the others to come inside. Blizzarmon had to bend over and keep himself as small as possible as they rushed up the stairs. Agnimon was in front, scouting everything and knocking out anyone they encountered. Blitzmon was at the very back, covering their flank. There wasn't much he had to do, though. Takuya's plan had taken a lot into account, and few people managed to escape the Warrior of Fire. Junpei only had to take on a couple of people who'd woken up—that was it.

He's really changed, he acknowledged. He's grown up. He isn't throwing everything away on an undeveloped plan, and he's learned how to come up with something that will work out for everyone. And he's thinking on his feet. It's too bad that Kouji's beyond caring about anything. He'd have loved to have seen this last year.

It was strange how "last year" seemed like such a long time ago and their one year of friendship felt like it had always been. It was strange how adult he felt despite having just turned thirteen. Somehow, now, everything that had once been normal for him felt strange, and what had once been strange was now normal. And that was a strange though.

"Izumi, this floor?" Agnimon asked. The last few times he had, she'd answered with a "No, not yet. A little further." But not this time.

She nodded and replied, "This is it. Fourth door from the elevator, to the right, facing the elevator."

"All right then," Agnimon replied, bursting open the stairwell door. This time, there was nobody roaming around. Everyone on the higher floors had taken the stairs and were now unconscious.

They ran toward the room Fairymon indicated, and Blizzarmon took his axes to the door. As the door fell in a heap of splinters, the Warriors cautiously entered, checking constantly while on guard to attack. When all they found was a drenched Takamoto chained to a chair and hooked up to sensory deprivation equipment, they rushed inside and Izumi devolved to help. She ripped off the visor and headphones while Agnimon melted the chains open.

"Takamoto, calm down for a second," Izumi pleaded as he took breath in convulsing gulps. "Can you tell us what happened?"

"He drugged me," Takamoto breathed. "Brought me here while I was out. An hour or two. Electrocuted me, then used that thing."

"I don't think I can treat him for anything right now," Izumi warned. "I should try and stabilize him, but we need to get him to the hospital. They can do better."

"Needle in my arm," Takamoto warned as she bandaged it. "Only thing that kept me sane."

"The doctors will need to take it out," she realized. "But I want you to keep it bandaged for now. It's pretty brutally jabbed in there, and it looks like it might be infected already. I don't want to take any more chances."

Takuya devolved and checked the window. Below, people were walking past the building. He wasn't going to risk their safety by shattering the glass.

"I'm going to Double Spirit evolve and melt the window. Junpei, you take Takamoto, and we'll cover you if we have to. Izumi, I'd feel better if you used your B-Spirit. Shutumon's faster and more powerful if anything happens. Tomoki, shift you your H-Spirit so she can carry you out. Everybody got it?" They nodded, and Blitzmon carefully picked up Takamoto. "Good. Double Spirit Evolution! Ardhamon!"

"Spirit Evolution! Shutumon!"

"Slide Evolve! Chakmon!"

Ardhamon sized up the window and carefully gathered his power, shouting "Brahma Sutra!" The attack melted a hole in the glass big enough or them to get through, yet caused no damage to the walls or the floor. Once again, Blitzmon marveled at the changes in his friend.

He's controlled himself and his power that well. Kouji would really be proud.

But once again, he willed the thought away. The mission was complete; they were going home. There would be plenty of time to reminisce later. After all, they were still alive.

Inspiration for all of Reiyama's torture tactics came from season four of 24, where Jack uses the same electrocution technique with the two wires from a lamp on Paul Raines. The sensory disorientation was used by Erin Driscoll on Sarah, thinking she's been helping Jack against orders. Checkpoints Lambda and Theta come from two servers on the .hack videogames. And, yes, according to my high school chemistry textbook, magnesium does produce a bright white flash. That's why it used to be used in one-time-use flashbulbs for cameras.

Note: This story is discontinued. I have tried to finish it, but I realize that I have really fallen out of the Digimon fandom, so there's little point in pushing myself to continue.