Joe was starting to feel distinctly claustrophobic. The troop carrier had been launched in a hurry as the Star Destroyer captain had reported an old Victory class destroyer belonging to the Empire parked in orbit around Yavin. As a result the ground troops had been 'On Station' as Wedge had called it for almost twenty minutes before they dropped into the system. He, the rest of the kids, the digimon and six members of the Wraiths were strapped into tightly packed chairs in a self-contained converted cargo pod. The final two members of the Wraiths were stationed in the cockpit, piloting the carrier towards the surface of Yavin, hopefully keeping pace with the other carrier that held Major Page's team, Leia, Feona, Doyle and Hobbie, and expertly piloted by Wedge and Janson.
It's just because of the walls, reasoned Joe. Nothing to do with the fact that we may be going to our deaths. He leaned forwards, and looked at where Tai, Izzy and Sora were having a last strategy discussion. Do I tell them what I've seen?
"Hey Joe," chirped Gomamon. "What's wrong buddy? You look kinda down."
Joe leant forwards and ruffled Gomamon's Mohawk. "Just trying to decide if Tai and Izzy are better off not knowing."
Gomamon nodded. He was glad that Joe had at least confided in him. The knowledge of what might happen was clearly eating at his friend. "You said yourself that what you see is only what the future might be, not what it is. If they know about it, maybe they can avoid it."
"But what if me telling them makes them over-confident, and they fall into the trap anyway?" asked Joe, clearly stating a well-worn counter argument.
Gomamon thought about this carefully. "Perhaps the better question is how will you live with yourself if something happens to them because you didn't tell them?"
Joe sighed. "You're right."
"I'm right?" Gomamon grinned. "At last, Joe sees the might of my wisdom."
"Don't push it," cautioned Joe. He lent over in the other's direction. "Hey guys? Can I talk to you?"
"What is it Joe?" asked Sora.
"I have to tell Tai and Izzy something."
"So tell," said Tai. "Better now then before the fire fight…"
"Light fight," corrected Izzy absentmindedly.
"…Light fight starts," finished Tai.
Joe fidgeted nervously. "You're not going to like this." He took a calming breath. "Since we got here, I keep seeing things about this battle. They've been getting clearer and clearer. Matt is going to do some very bad things. He's going to try to kill both you and Izzy."
"Is he going to succeed?" asked Izzy, fighting to keep his voice even.
Joe shook his head. "I don't know. So much hangs in the balance over this. Every time I see the events the outcome changes."
Tai turned to Sora. "Sora, I need you to do something."
Sora smiled. "Of course I'll look after T.K, Tai, you don't need to ask."
Tai shook his head. "I know you will Sora, but that's not what I'm asking. I found something on Tatooine. 'Love is the cure to hate, Hope the cure to darkness, and Courage and Knowledge will be their guides.' It's pretty clear that you and T.K. are going to have to come with us after Matt."
Sora nodded. "But I'm not risking T.K. We'll be way behind you."
"That's the way I want it. If Matt really does kill me and Izzy, I don't want you and T.K. in the kill zone." Tai took a deep breath. "I'm planning my death. This is so not what I was expecting when I went to Summer Camp, you know?"
"Yeah," replied Izzy. "I think I know what you mean."
Yavin hadn't changed physically from what Tai remembered, but the air seemed more oppressive somehow, as if Kun himself was breathing down his neck. Tai shivered. "He knows we're here. This whole jungle is screaming danger."
Wedge put down his binocs. "Well I can see lots of Storm Troopers, and a few Jedi Apprentices."
Leia took the binocs from Wedge and put them to her own eyes. "I'm missing only four." She put them down again. "It's not like there were many Jedi here to start with."
Wedge shut his eyes. "Do you know who's missing?"
"Matt, Kyp and Kam are for sure." Leia scanned the rest of the clearing. "I'm not sure who the fourth is."
"Matt will be inside the temple. Waiting," said Tai.
Janson nodded. "Kyp and Kam are probably with Kun as body guards. That's what I'd do."
"The question is," said Face, "Is Kun as abnormal as Janson?"
"Hey, I resent that," said Janson. "I think. I'm way better than a Sith Lord."
"Permission to put Janson on front line?" asked Face of Wedge.
"Granted. And confiscate his armour."
"Quiet!" snapped Leia. "Mess around later, for now we've got a mission to rescue my brother."
"Wait a minute!" said Izzy. "What about any Digimon?"
Both Wedge and Leia shook their heads. "Didn't see any," added Wedge.
Tai waved Agumon forwards. "Hey buddy, we don't see any digimon. Can you smell them?"
The dinosaur digimon sniffed a few times. "Yeah, I can. They're all hiding in the jungle, but my nose knows."
A rustle in the leaves betrayed the digimon's presence moments before it stepped into the small clearing. "You've a good nose."
Wedge, Janson and Face had their blasters trained on it instantly. Leia was only a fraction of a second behind.
The digimon held up its hands placating. "I'm not going to hurt you. My name is Wizardmon. I'm the leader of the Anti-Myotismon group. Well, one of them anyway." He waved at the bushes and two more digimon came out. "These are Pumpkinmon and Gotsumon," said Wizardmon. "They both let your friends on Endor escape."
"I remember," said Leia.
"I remember them leering," added Izzy.
"Yeah, well…" said Gotsumon. "That Lillymon was a babe!"
"So you'll help?" asked Wedge.
"Oh you bet," said Pumpkinmon.
Wizard nodded. "In return we have a favour to ask." Wedge nodded for Wizardmon to continue. "Kun and Myotismon have moved to another temple, and they've taken more digimon with them. In particular your friend Matt's Gabumon. Seems that Gabumon somehow was blocking Kun if he was too close to Matt. With Gabumon is Gatomon. She's one of us, and she's going to make a break for it during the fight with Kun. Don't go after her."
"Why think we're going after Kun?" asked Tai. "Why not consider that all we want is Matt."
Wizardmon shook his head. "It's your brother he's taken isn't it?" he asked Leia. "He put faith that you'll stop at nothing until you save him."
Leia nodded. "Let's get this over with."
Face took out a comlink and flicked it on. "Saddle up boys and girls. Lock off on Stun. No kill shots without permission from myself, General Antilles or Councillor Organa-Solo."
"One, Five. How about the stormies?"
"That goes for the stormies too, Five."
"I'll make sure they put that on your tombstone, sir."
Izzy swung his lightsabre back and forth, picking off shots that came too close to him. Every so often he'd contemplate spiting a bolt back at the Troopers. Better not, I don't come with a stun setting. As far as he could see the whole situation was at a stalemate. He, along with the rest of the kids stood in the temple clearing, lightsabres blazing, while the crack troops of the New Republic kept within the confines of the jungle, their whereabouts effectively hidden as they tried to engage in sniper activity against the Jedi students of Exar Kun. He suppressed a flinch and the instinct to look as an inhuman yell came from overhead. The digimon were fighting their own battle now, and he could do nothing to help. "Damn it!" He looked around and could see the others pinned down by enemy fire. I'm the only one free to move. He batted away another bolt. We need to break the stalemate. He thought for a moment. I'll get behind them; attack from behind! Izzy broke into a run, straight at the thickest concentration of Storm Troopers, ducking as blaster bolts flew overhead.
Izzy ignored Tai's yell and kept moving. This is my call to make Tai. Hope you understand. He started to get close enough to the troopers that they could no longer miss him. He took hit after hit, each time channelling the bolt down his body and into the ground. If he had been able to watch himself he would have seen the glowing marks he left in his wake, purple electricity darting around his footprints.
The troopers ceased firing as Izzy passed the first rank. It would be foolish to miss and hit their comrades. Izzy picked up speed and vaulted over the second rank, then dodged an apprentice, all while keeping in a straight line for the hanger. Making it inside he skidded to a halt, then flung himself behind the protection of a group of crates, pausing to catch his breath. Great. Now I'll head back out and take the troops out from behind.
Izzy's head snapped up, looking for the source of Matt's voice. "Matt?"
I am here Izumi. I am unguarded. You can take me back and save Tai from all that pain, all that work.
Izzy shook his head. Help the others, then go after Matt.
Coward. Matt's voice held a trace of mockery. You do that. You could never achieve anything. After all, you're not Tai. You're not me. You're not as skilled as him. You cannot achieve anything while you stand in his shadow.
That is not tactically sound, replied Izzy, Attacking now when soon I will have a greater advantage.
You mean Tai will have the greater advantage. Matt's laughter, his real laughter filled the corridors of the temple. You're just his lackey. Run back to your master Lackey. Maybe Sora will let you stay with T.K. where it's safe.
Izzy growled low in his throat. I'm not a lackey. I do what is necessary to win. I will not turn to the Dark Side just because of your taunting.
Did I hit a nerve? asked Matt innocently. His voice hardened. You're weak Izumi. That's why Tai has to do all the work. The only way for you to achieve glory is to ride on his coat tails. Reflected glory is no glory of your own.
Izzy rose and started into the temple. Then how about I find some glory of my own?
Matt's laughter grew louder.
Tai fought with a strange feeling. He felt like he was floating above his body and only observing as he pulled an intricate set of moves, guarding, along with Sora, the patch of jungle in which T.K. hid with two of the Wraiths laying down cover fire. It therefore took him a while to notice Izzy running at a wall of troopers. He blinked and forced himself out of the peculiar flow state he was in. "IZZY!" He felt a brush against his mind, Izzy's assurance that he knew what he was doing.
Like hell he knows what he's doing. Death awaits him in there! Tai moved closer to Sora, being careful not to step into her circle. "Sora, Izzy's gone into the temple. I don't know what he's planning, but I can't let him go there by himself."
Sora nodded her agreement, somewhat violently in an effort to dislodge her sweat-soaked hair from her face. "I can hear Matt talking to him. He's goading Izzy into a fight."
"One he can't win," said Tai.
Sora looked at Tai sadly for a moment before resuming her concentration against the bolts of death. "Go. I'll keep T.K. safe. You keep Izzy safe."
Tai nodded and started to edge forwards, his progress hampered by the onslaught of bolts. This is going to take a while. I just hope I'm soon enough.
Izzy entered the throne room at the top of the temple cautiously. It seemed oddly peaceful, considering the destruction outside as humans, aliens and digimon fought a savage battle. He took a moment to rub his hands dry, hooking his lightsabre back on his belt. He walked slowly forwards, into the cool stone room.
Matt sat at the far end, on a raised dais, sunlight illuminating where he was sitting in meditation. He seemed serene, at peace, and hardly the maniac that Tai had described to Izzy after the encounter at Hoth.
Matt's mouth twitched into a smile. "So, you came." His eyes remained gently closed. "I thought you could not be goaded into a fight?" he asked with faint mockery.
"Yeah well…" Izzy shrugged. "This wasn't goading, this is me making sure my friends don't get hurt because of some crazy ghost."
"Am I your friend?" asked Matt.
"Of course," replied Izzy. "All of you are."
Matt's eyes snapped open and Izzy was shocked at the rage they seemed to hold, a stark contrast to the calm, Buddha-like image of an instant before.
"You're my friend," repeated Matt. "Why do I not believe you?" He slowly stood, reminding Izzy uncomfortably of a cobra rising to strike. "I seem to inspire fear in you Izumi." He advanced slowly, using measured steps. "Fear is hardly the basis of friendship is it? Maybe contempt is, after all you seem to have a fair amount of contempt for me."
Izzy shook his head, willing himself not to fall back as Matt approached. "I've never had contempt for you, not in the past."
"But you do now," said Matt, still slowly advancing. "I can sense it. You have contempt for me now, and you did then. 'Poor slow Matt, doesn't understand a word I say, but tries so hard.' Well guess what, Izumi? I'm not putting up with those views any more. I don't have to." He stopped just centimetres away from Izzy. "See, I'm better than you. Greater. I can do things Jedi and only dream of and non-Jedi cannot imagine." Matt held a hand up limply in front of Izzy's chest. His fingers twitched and Izzy found himself sailing backwards through the air, shoved by Matt's will.
He landed hard on the stone floor, skidding a few meters before stopping. He bit his lip to stop himself from making a sound in shock. He then slowly started to rise, getting barely half way before he saw Matt's hand twitch again. It was like being hit by a truck. He was hurled backwards, harder than the last time and connected solidly with the back wall. This time he did cry out, before succumbing to gravity and sliding down the wall to the floor.
"Aww, poor Izzy-wizzy," consoled Matt. "Getting into something he can't think his way out of."
"You picked up your brother's trick," said Izzy picking himself up. He was fairly sure Matt wouldn't throw him again as he was already against the wall. "You can do telekinesis. Well done."
"You're mocking me."
"Really?" asked Izzy, laying on the sarcasm. "You'd think that just because we can all throw things around that'd make you special?"
Matt's mouth quirked into a smile. "Very true." He watched Izzy rise. "And what about your gifts, huh? Think they're pretty rare?"
"So I was told."
Matt stretched out a hand and blue lighting erupted from his fingers and coursed along Izzy's short frame. Izzy channelled it away from him, into the floor.
"You're not so big now are you?" asked Matt. "I'm in charge, I say what goes, and I say that you'd be better off out of my way."
"That? All it did was tickle," bluffed Izzy, not wanting Matt to know how close he'd gotten to his threshold.
Matt smiled. "All it was meant to do was tickle." He stalked around Izzy, looking him up and down. "You're pitiful. You should have been drowned at birth. You're a runt. A weakling. Always needing someone like Tai to protect you, to save you." He stopped at the wall and leant against it. "And I can prove it too. You can't take punishment." His eyes softened. "Scream for me."
Matt held a hand out and the lightning coursed up and down Izzy's frame again, harder than he could shunt away. It was cold, evil, raising angry read welts on his skin where it touched.
The lightning stopped.
"Scream for me, Izumi. Beg for your life."
"Screw you." As soon as the words escaped his lips the pain began again, making his body go ridged. His body was burning and freezing at the same time.
Matt released him. "Scream for me, Izumi. Beg for your death."
Izzy steadied himself against the wall, gasping for air. "Not… going to… happen," he panted.
Matt shrugged, then hit him again with the lightning, this time pushing him back with all the force of a wrecking ball. He skidded for several feet, the lightning slowly dissipating from his skin, leaving black burn marks.
Matt smiled and moved towards Izzy, looking like he was taking a Sunday walk. He then held out his hand, letting the lightning play over his victim as he advanced slowly but surely like a harbinger of death.
Izzy gritted his teeth as Matt approached him.
"I want to hear you scream Izumi. I want to hear you beg me to stop." Matt continued to discharge blue lightning into the smaller boys frame.
"Never…" choked out Izzy. "I won't… give you the… satisfaction."
Matt continued to calmly and coldly pummel Izzy until the smaller boy fell limp. Then, with a casual flick of his wrist he sent Izzy's limp body flying into a corner. "That was fun, but I don't want to be tripping over my messes when Tai comes."
"This is no good!" yelled Wedge at Leia. "Those Jedi are knocking back anything we send at them." He winced as a blaster bolt passed less than a foot to the left.
Leia nodded and fired another stun-bolt at where she could see the white of Storm Trooper armour between the foliage. "I'm thinking that they're good enough to block real bolts."
Wedge moved off slightly, hoping his displacement would stop the Troopers accurately defining his position. "I have to agree Leia." He flicked on his comlink. "This is General Antilles. I give permission for live fire, repeat live fire. Get those stormies down and out now." Even before he thumbed off the comlink he could see the blue bolts darting from the forest change to the red of blasters set to kill.
Tai shed his outer cloak while he was climbing the staircase. There is no fear, no anger, no hatred. He paused. Who the hell am I kidding? I'm going to face my best friend, who coincidently wants to kill me. Of course I'm scared. He heard Matt's laughter.
Listening in on my thoughts again Matt? he asked.
It's so fun to hear you delude yourself. His tone became consoling. Oh, I thought you might like to know, Izumi is here. Well… was anyway.
What did you do? asked Tai, speeding his climb.
Matt gave the mental equivalent of a shrug. It was such a little thing I asked him to give me. He refused. I tried to get him to do it, but he refused and in doing so hurt himself.
What did you want?
A scream, that's all. Maybe after that an admission that he isn't as great as he thinks he is, but he never screamed. And I did so try to help him.
Tai felt his lip curl. That's sick. You're seriously fucked up, you know that?
Language Kamiya, scolded Matt. I hope you haven't been using words like that around T.K.
Tai reached the top of the stairs. He looked around and found what looked like a heap of purple cloth thrown in a corner. "Izzy?" He started to run towards his friend.
A sharp tug on his collar hauled him back to the centre of the room.
"Ah-ah," said Matt, shaking his head. "You have T.K, I have Izumi. Fair trade, last chance."
"Matt, I don't know what that ghost did to you, but I don't want to fight you." Tai held up a hand to stop Matt from jumping in. "Let me guess what you're about to say. He's made you stronger, right? You fear no one, right?" He put his hand down. "Then how come you're lashing out? That's the action of someone who's scared. Matt, I wish you'd just stop and look at yourself and see what he's done to you. To all of you. Damn it, he pushed Kyp to kill his brother! How long before he makes you do the same to T.K?"
"SHUT UP!" Matt lunged forwards, his lightsabre igniting with a snap-hiss.
Tai ignited his own and brought it up in a block, dancing back out of Matt's reach. "Hit a nerve did I Matt?" He shut his lightsabre down. "I don't want to fight you. I'd rather have my friend back."
Matt's shoulders suddenly slumped, like all the energy had gone from them. "You're right," he muttered.
"I said you're right," snapped Matt. "Everything you said, it's true. All I did was cause pain. I'm so, so sorry." He looked at Tai with clear eyes. "I wasn't in my right mind. Kun did something to me." His eyes started to well up.
Tai took an instinctive step forwards to comfort his friend. Into Matt's circle.
Matt snarled and lunged. Tai dropped into a roll, causing Matt's blade to graze his right shoulder. He backed up quickly, igniting his own lightsabre. "That was a dirty trick Matt."
Matt cocked his head to one side. "Was it? I was just trying to get you close enough to kill you." He darted forwards again, thrusting at Tai's side.
This time Tai parried, then started his own attack. He moved in a series of gentle sweeps on the edge of Matt's circle, testing Matt's defences. "I don't want to hurt you Matt."
Matt lunged in close and started an exchange of blows that ended in their sabres locking, the blue and orange blades connecting near their hilts. "Guess what? I want to hurt you." Matt shoved hard, overbalancing Tai onto his back. Matt stood over Tai. "You die, and my pain stops."
"Pain?" asked Tai. His eyes widened as Matt brought his lightsabre down in a stabbing motion. Tai rolled to one side, and up onto his feet. "What pain? Pain like Izzy may be in?" He moved into the attack, swinging his lightsabre round in a flashy move, and then starting to slowly beat Matt back using scything motions. "Hell, I don't even know if he's still alive."
Matt smirked. "Still scoring zero on the whole telepathy thing I see." He fell back further, all while parrying Tai's blows. "Nice to know some things never change." Matt jumped backward, then backwards somersaulted up onto a narrow ledge that ran around the room for decoration. "You know, from up here you look like the ant you are." Matt held up a hand. "I could just reach out and…" he moved his finger and thumb together in a pinching motion.
One of Tai's hands flew to his neck as he felt something squeeze his windpipe. He closed his eyes and opened himself further to the Force, using it to prop his windpipe open and beat back Matt's grip. He opened his eyes again.
Matt smirked down at him. "Very good." He jumped back down. "Let us finish this how it should be done. A duel, no tricks, no mercy."
Tai frowned. "Please Matt. Some part of you must not want this."
Matt shook his head. "Wrong Kamiya. I want this. I need this. You die. Now." He lunged at Tai with renewed ferocity.
If I keep fighting defensively, thought Tai, I'll lose. Tai made a hard decision. Him or me, one of us won't walk away. He let go of his thoughts, letting the blade do the work for him. He beat Matt down, backed him against the wall, then down on one knee. He raised his sabre for the killing blow.
"Tai, please!" begged Matt, panic in his eyes.
Tai paused in his blow.
Matt plunged his lightsabre clean though Tai's stomach. "I win," he sneered.
Tai's mouth opened in a perfect 'O'. Matt drew his blade back out sharply, smiling as he knew that Tai would suffer for several minutes from the cauterised wound before dying, as opposed to the quick death that falling through his blade would cause.
"Bastard," choked out Tai, sinking to his knees, then keeling over onto his side, one hand wrapped protectively around his stomach.
Matt shut down his lightsabre and got to his feet. "Enjoy the pain you're in, it's the last thing you'll feel." He walked away, towards the stairs. Towards T.K.