REALITY FLUX: BOLO AND DIGIMON

by

Gregory P. Wong


The quantum anomaly that cast Victor Sherriton into different times and different realities was not just limited to his own universe. Rifts in space-time opened up in countless other places, sucking away denizens of one universe and depositing them in a different one. Fortunately for the involuntary travelers, the rifts were unlike Sherriton's unique anomaly in that they were short-lived. The individuals sucked into the event horizons were returned spontaneously after some time.

Yet, time was still spent in an alien continuity...


Part One: Incoming


"What in..." Fla'drek said in surprise as a ball of blue-white fire flashed into existence in front of him as he polished his fiery armor.

He was a Flamedramon, a soldier sworn to Lord Magnamon of the Thirteen Royal Knights. The Knights, the Great Dragons, the Digiworld Wardens, and the Three Celestials served as extensions of the will of the four Sovereigns, who had fallen into a deep slumber after fending off the terrible D-Reaper. Without the Sovereigns conscious, it had fallen to the groups to safeguard the Digital World from resurging evil Digimon.

Fla'drek was proud to serve Magnamon and what the Golden Knight stood for. He might not be the most powerful warrior, but he was proud of his bravery.

Yet, the Flamedramon felt petrified by the sight of that fireball.

It was no Digimon he had seen or heard of before, and certainly not some wretched thing that sought to disrupt the Digital World.

Fla'drek wasn't sure why he feared this thing. He felt that he should be surprised by the orb of flame, not terrified of it. It was almost as if every packet of techno-organic data that made up his body was screaming in animalistic fear of the thing.

Fla'drek finally found strength to move, and the Digimon rose to his feet, gripping his helmet. A part of his mind that was not paralyzed by terror told him to move slowly, lest he instigate the ball of fire to do something.

The Flamedramon was almost to the door of his quarters when everything flashed to white.


External input detected (unable to identify from flash records)
Bolo Survival Center… Online
Operation: Begin start-up
Operation: Run full internal diagnostic
Internal diagnostic complete (0.295 seconds)... Systems at 99.998 optimum
Operation: Continue with activation process
Master record... Booted
Polymorphic arrays... Online
Yes/No/Maybe trinary logic... Running
Memory Banks... Open
Bolo Personality Center… Online
Hyperheuristic software... Active
Unit entering Combat Readiness Status... Now

My systems suddenly come active again.

I am Planetary Interdictor Unit 1072-JRD of the Dinochrome Brigade, "Jarrod" to my human comrades. I am a Mark XXXIV Bolo of the Line, over twenty-eight thousand tons of heavily armored intelligence, armed with weapons ranging from massive Hellbores, Hellrails and infinite repeaters to humble 25-megawatt APERS lasers and 50mm gauss guns. I am built for war against the enemies of humankind.

I devote 0.087 seconds—a sluggish response time for me, indicating my "newly awake" state—to access my main memory banks.

I am stationed on the human colony world of Esperanza—meaning "hope" in one of the many human dialects—that was thriving after the terrible genocide that was the Melconian-Human war. Esperanza was one of the few worlds that had brokered a truce, and later a firm alliance, with the dog-like Melconians.

But in the terrible firestorm that had come before the cease-fire, my predecessor, Bolo Mark XXXIII of the Line KRN "Karen", had been grievously damaged by Melconian Surtur heavy battle units. Fortunately, however, her core consciousness had survived, and she had agreed to have her psychotronic brain transferred to a secure facility in the outskirts of the sprawling capital city of Kilthwani, where she oversaw the modest planetary defense network.

Unearthing schematics for the design of a Mark XXXIV—long hidden and still only in prototype stage—the military leaders of Esperanza had ordered my construction. However, the maintenance of a Bolo unit at full Combat Readiness Status was a strain on the budding colony's resources, so I was reverted to Standby Status, supplementing KRN's sensor network, which was still far from planet-wide. I was on the opposite side of the world from her, only eighteen kilometers from one of the large human-Melconian settlements, Los Santos.

However, something out of the ordinary had been detected by my sensors. A burst of strange electromagnetic energy and quantum harmonic frequencies had flashed across my "sight" not forty kilometers from my bunker.

I am curious. As I have yet to be assigned a human commanding officer—resources, including human ones, are still hard to come by, it seems—I will take matters into my own hands, as per Directive 32 Section 5 and my Rules of Engagement.

I send a flash report through the communications network to KRN, and send orders to the bunker's armored bay doors, opening them. I bring my fusion reactors to 75 output and feed power to my drive trains.

I roll forward on my treads to meet the anomaly.


Ooh, his head.

Fla'drek woke up and rubbed his aching skull. His landing would have been better if he had his damned helmet on. That spill felt like it had knocked him out for an hour or something.

Wait, why wasn't his helmet on?

Oh, right, he'd been polishing it. But why...

The memory came back to him. A ball of something had been floating inches from his snout, and then everything had gone white.

Hmm... He'd expected to be vaporized by that flash, not...

Actually, where was he? Had he been transported from the barracks, or was he unconscious and dreaming? Or some other possibility?

The ache was fading. Good. He slipped his helmet back on. This was mostly likely not a dream world. He didn't have headaches in dreams, in any case. Ugh.

He should look around and see what this place was like. From what he saw it looked like he was in a big grassy field of some type. It looked like it was around noon, with the sun high in the sky, and the air was just a tiny bit too humid. Not a bad looking place.

There even might be locals who could tell him what in the world had just happened. Still, he doubted there would be any—

"Yah!" he yelped as the sky lit up with a white light.


I detect more bursts of energy all over my field of sensor coverage.

Something is very wrong.

I bring my fusion reactors to full output and increase the power in my drive train, accelerating to my maximum track speed of 105 KPH. My duralloy-monocarbide treads bite into the grassy soil and I bring my weapon systems online.

I must get to the bottom of this.


"Fire Rocket!" Fla'drek cried and sent a wave of fire at the trio of Vilemon that had suddenly popped into existence right next to him. Better yet, the Vilemon didn't seem disoriented at all, and acted like that would like nothing better than to eat his data.

He must be having a bad-luck day.

The evil Digimon gibbered and shifted out of the way of his attack. With a screech, the three enemies dove at him. He sprung to the left, delivering a powerful kick to the leader's stomach. The struck Vilemon yelped and flew back. The unfortunate Digimon's companions turned to look.

Mistake.

He drove forward and buried his gauntleted claws deep into the closer Champion. The Vilemon screeched and wriggled, so he put an end to it by ripping his claw down, eviscerating it.

The Vilemon dissolved into a shower of glowing data. The only uninjured Vilemon hooted and swiped at him with a claw.

He blocked the blow, grabbed the arm, and tossed the evil Digimon over his shoulder.

"Fire Rocket!" he roared, and fireballs flew to devour the flying Vilemon's face. Two down, one to—

"Uhhhn!" he gasped as something slammed into his back.

—go.

Blindsided. Damn.

Think, think... use the momentum from getting tackled to roll and regain balance...

"Nightmare Shock!"

"Aaah!" he cried out as a bolt of amethyst lightning slammed into him. And then...

"Run, Fla'drek, run!"

"No!"

And then the Velgemon dipped its head down and ripped into his friend's body.

As his friend lay dying, he saw the other Digimon stare right into his eyes.

"Fight it, Fla'drek, fight it!"

"AAAaaahhh!" he bellowed, walloping the stunned Vilemon across the face. Gasping, he wiped moisture from his eyes.

Should've been prepared for that. He knew better, dammit. Nightmare Shock was also deadly in that it could paralyze the target with its deepest fears.

Or worst memories.

"Fire ROCKET!" he screamed, and blew the last Vilemon to data.

Gone... finally.

He sank to his knees. Tired, so tired.

He heard a rumble. He looked up.

By the Sovereigns.

As he watched, portals of white fire opened up all over the grassy field around him.

Out dropped mobs of Infermon, Musyamon, TyrantKabuterimon, Etemon, Puppetmon, Devimon... he lost count.

He was going to die.

He staggered back to his feet as a swarm of SkullGreymon rockets sailed towards him.


I detect multiple missile launches. Immediately, I respond by firing a specialty missile from one of my vertical launch system tubes. Arcing overheard, the missile explodes, spreading Battlefield Intelligence Surveillance and Transmission drones into the air. The one-centimeter wide BIST drones, with their light weight and small solar-powered anti-grav generators, will stay aloft for up to forty-eight hours, giving me constant, instantaneous tactical data of the battlefield. I focus the drones on the incomings, supplementing my main sensor banks

My radar systems conclude that the projectiles are heading towards a single target, one that seems to have come from the signature that had woken me up. The missiles will impact in 4.11 seconds.

I devote 0.275 seconds to a full spectrographic, multi-wavelength, variable energy, high-resolution scan of the projectiles, the signatures that my FireFinder counter-battery radar designates as the launchers, and the target.

The results are interesting. The missiles themselves seem to be some kind of amalgamation of organic material, metal alloys, outdated chemical explosives, and some sort of independently derived electromagnetic data lattice. The first three are a bit surprising, but not startlingly so. The last, however, is an utter unknown. Each missile seems to have a "skeleton" at its core, which, when scanned and interpreted by my electronic brain, comes out as a complex form of computer coding.

The missile launchers are similar in their lattice, but, physically, they appear to be made of calcium oxides reinforced with steel. They give off very little heat, and I cannot discern any kind of significant power source. By rights, these walking saurian skeletons should not be able to move under their own power.

Yet they are. I must reevaluate my hypotheses.

Even more strange, the other "species" of entities surrounding the missile launchers—over seven hundred already, with dozens more appearing every minute—are different, yet they have a distinct "flavor" to their strange coding which is identical to the missiles and skeletal launchers.

The last to be scanned, the target, has a different tag in its coding. Visually, it appears to be a blue saurian-humanoid clad in flame-colored armor. The entity has three digits at the end of each arm, a tail, and digitigrade legs. I note that the armor is only a titanium alloy. Additionally, the armor appears, if nothing else, to be ornamental. While the forearms, thighs, feet, upper chest, and head seem reasonably protected by the metal, the lower abdomen, most of the arms, and neck of the entity remain wide open to fire. Biometric scans show that the creature has a reasonably orthodox warm-blood biology, though it seems to have a much higher internal heat than a creature of similar weight should have. However, as it is obviously some kind of alien, I cannot make a conclusion with the data I possess. I can conclude, however, that the target will cease normal biological functions if those missiles impact. Unsatisfactory.

I must take action.

I lock the missiles with my targeting systems and eliminate them with rapid bursts of point-defense lasers and HE gauss slugs. Missile death signature is congruous with a one-ton warhead, which is much heavier than I had assumed.

I make sure I do not target the launchers or the support units, as I have as little data of them as I do of the target. They may be allies.

For all I know, these aliens have never heard of humans before. As there is no entry of them in my memory banks, I would assume so.

However, Bolos are loath to "assume" anything. It could very well be that one side or the other could be allied with humans—we have yet to establish contact with any other colony world—and just be undetected.

However, as my actions show, I must decide first before either side can be damaged.

I activate my powerful speaker system.

"I am Bolo of the Line 1072-JRD of the Esperanza Defense Force," I speak as I come within two hundred meters of the former target. "Who are you, and what is your business here?" As soon as that is out, I begin analyzing the response of the entities. If I detect confusion and incomprehension, I will try another language. In addition to all human dialects, I have extensive knowledge of all major alien languages that humankind has encountered, including Deng, Axorc, Soetti, Kezdai!!!, Malach, Aetryx, and, of course, Melconian.

The blue saurian jerks in surprise and turns to look at me.

"You must help me! Get help!" the saurian cries out. "I'll..." the alien chokes. "I'll hold them off as long as I can!"

The alien speaks Terran Standard. Interesting. Its reaction piques my curiosity, though. Instead of fear—my massive warhull has a tendency to induce nervousness in biologicals that have never encountered my kind before—it gives me a command? I can make the reasonable assumption that the alien is willing to sacrifice its life so I can bring warnings. It is brave, at face value, and I feel a sense of kinship with this strange alien.

However, I must look at both sides. I redirect my speakers so that I broadcast clearly to the other group of aliens.

"Who are you?" I ask simply. "And what do you want?


Fla'drek was confused. First the white fire, then the dark Digimon coming to strip off his skin, and now this massive thing that had rolled up and had presumably stopped the Dark Shot rockets. It looked almost like a human tank, but much larger, more sophisticated-looking that any picture he'd seen. Plus, it talked. Even better, it talked in a faintly British accent.

Tanks weren't supposed to talk, British or otherwise. At least, back from where he was from they didn't. Did they? He'd never, you know, walked up to a tank and asked it something.

One of the Zanbamon, probably the leader of the other Digimon that had popped up so far—all seven hundred?—stepped in front of the SkullGreymon that had tried to take him out.

"We are Digimon, servants of the true master of the Digital World!" the leader snarled. "This is an enemy of my master. Bar us not, and we will let you withdraw with your life."

Life? Hmm... maybe it wasn't a tank at all! It could be a new type of Digimon. Granted, an extremely odd Digimon, but a Digimon nonetheless.

Yet... no. Digimon had an innate sense to know if something else was a Digimon or not, if they concentrated hard enough. He was concentrating damned hard, and nothing, not even a flicker.

So what in earth—or off it—was it?

"Before I can consider your request, you must answer my query: what is your business here?"

Would it really "consider" something like that? Would that... moving mountain leave him to die?

Probably. It sounded like the tank had something to protect, and wouldn't do anything as long as it didn't threaten "Esperanza", whatever that was. He looked back to the evil Mega.

"You answer me, you horrific mound of metal," the Zanbamon hissed. "What are you?"

"I already have," the tank replied with what sounded a lot like a sigh. "I am Bolo 1072-JRD, of the Esperanza Defense Force."

"Fah, you idiotic tin can," the Zanbamon spat. "That Flamedramon you've saved for the moment is fated to die, just like all those who do not follow our master."

"Does that include the humans and Melconians of this world?" There was almost a challenging tone in the tank's voice.

"Humans? Humans are a disease that prevent the Digital World from reaching its full glory! I will take great pleasure in personally executing any of those wretches that are infesting this place."

A hum from behind. Huh? He looked back. A lot guns had suddenly just leveled on the Zanbamon and the others behind.

"I see," the tank said softly. "In that case, I must warn you that if you or any of your forces advance more than three meters towards myself or this Flamedramon, I will take action. This is not an idle threat."

"A human computer giving us orders? I will have great pleasure in ripping your circuits out!" he heard the viral Mega scream.

Then the Zanbamon spurred it horse-half forward. The other evil Digimon followed.

He tensed. Digimon were susceptible to human weapons—Puppetmon wouldn't like napalm, Vilemon wouldn't like machine guns, and Numemon wouldn't like French chefs, for starters—and could be killed easily enough, considering heavy enough weapons were used. In this case, though, there were hundreds of them. No tank could hold off that many.

"Go and warn the humans!" he snapped at the tank. "I'll hold them off. Get going!"

There. That was it. He was going to maybe make a scratch on the Zanbamon, but it was a Champion versus a Mega.

Well, he was dying to protect innocents. It was a worthy death. At least he would make Lord Magnamon proud—

"I am a Bolo. Bolos do not run away."

"There's too many of them! You can't—"

And then the world exploded.


I open fire with my lateral batteries of 20cm Hellbore infinite repeaters. In the breach of the weapon, a metal-encased slug of frozen hydrogen is snatched up by dozens of powerful electromagnets, propelled towards the muzzle of my Hellbore at eighty-percent lightspeed. The fierce acceleration induces a fusion reaction in the hydrogen.

The resulting thermonuclear plasma is herded along and contained by the electromagnets in the bore as high-powered targeting laser in the barrel flash, creating temporary vacuums in the atmosphere to prevent thermal bloom.

Then the bolt of thermonuclear force exits the barrel at a high percentage of lightspeed. The infinite repeater bolts deliver the energy equivalent of four hundred-fifty thousand tons of TNT.

This means that thermal ground effects and possible shrapnel would cause fatal damage to this "Flamedramon" that I have rescued. Unacceptable.

I make sure I target the middle of the ranks of "Digimon" so that the mass of bodies will reduce the flashback effect on the Flamedramon. For the skeleton-rider and those immediately behind, I target them with anti-personnel laser banks, gauss guns, railguns, and all ten of my 40cm breech-loading mortars configured to fire airburst bombs.

I take note as a burst of gauss flechettes tear into a leather-clad, emaciated humanoid with bat-like wings and long arms. The Digimon does not even have time to scream as it dies.

Odd. The target—and pieces of the target—dissolves into glowing motes. I focus sensors on the cloud of red points, and I am surprised to discover that the cloud has the same electronic signature as the lattice of the Digimon, though it is chaotic and quickly fading.

It appears that Digimon are somehow physical manifestations of electronic data. It would seem that Digimon provides a lattice, and somehow matter is molded onto that skeleton, giving them form.

I have enough data. I file a Verified Situation Report to KRN and Esperanza Defense Command. I will let the disembodied Bolo and my human commanders decipher my data.

At hand I have matters to attend to. I detect over three hundred missile launches as soon as my repeater bolts slam into the middle of the mob. My point-defense subsystem repurposes several of my gauss guns and lasers to anti-missile defense. A quick, 0.004-second recalculation also repurposes my four forward-most infinite repeaters.

I swat down dozens of missiles in a single second. The rockets might be fast to human senses, but they are laughable to my nanosecond reactions and computer precision. In fact, I would label them to be grossly substandard to even most twenty-first century earth missiles.

Inferior as they are, there are still several hundred more to deal with.

And I still have the Flamedramon to screen.


Unit KRN—"Karen"—studied the data intently. JRD had warned her of the unknowns approximately 612.7 seconds ago, after the detection of the initial anomaly. Now, with JRD's detailed VSR, she could get a good look at these "Digimon."

Hmm... interesting. It seemed that one, the saurian-humanoid that JRD had designated "Flamedramon", was not an enemy. It did not make the entity an ally, per se, but hopefully that could be resolved easily enough. This lattice data JRD had collected was extraordinarily interesting, though. In some ways, the technology to accomplish this feat must be formidable, but field data collected showed that the Digimon were not overtly displaying any sort of technological superiority. She would like a sample of the enemy, but, apparently, they were dissolving at the moment of—

Alert!

Her sensors strung out over the city and outlying lands detected quantum anomalies congruous with the arrival signatures of the Digimon. As only hostile Digimon had so far made appearances, it would follow that the newly arriving entities would be enemies.

She engaged her own Battle Readiness Status. She no longer had a Bolo chassis, but she did have a chassis of sorts.

Time for Phase One.

Immediately, her underground bunker locked down, duralloy armor, duracrete barriers, and battlescreen shield generators projecting out to transform the structure into a fortress of metal and energy screens. Bunkers and turrets popped out from underground and extended 25cm and 50cm Hellbores, laser cannons, gauss guns, missile arrays, 120cm howitzers, and mortar tubes. Hovering reconnaissance probes, BIST drones, and orbital surveillance platforms focused around her, providing her with real-time strategic and tactical input.

At the same time, she sounded a warning to Kilthwani officials and military personnel and began to fortify the town as ordered by Standing Directive 32. SD 32 stated that Bolos—and Bolo-derived units, as was her new "class"—could take autonomous control of city defenses as long as they filed VSRs and were not contradicted by high command.

An affirmative came back from Esperanza Defense Command. EDC advised that they were scrambling militia and regular army forces.

Excellent. Phase Two

Along the borders of Kilthwani duralloy-reinforced bunkers sprang up, each bristling with weapons similar to her own. Missiles laden with BIST drones sprang into the sky, covering it with recon drones. Sensor arrays all over the city were activated, and she fed opening commands to underground bays where the battle drones were stored.

Done. Phase Three.

She extended her consciousness to the Dragon-II hover drones and Wyvern-II aerial units and took control of them. The improved drones were simply upgraded versions of the ones she'd once used when she had had a XXXIII chassis. A simple thing to operate them.

Thirty Dragons hummed along the streets towards the city borders and twenty-four Wyverns took to the sky. The former were fifty-ton battle units with maximum speeds of 200 kph and armed with 65cm Hellbores, while the latter wielded multipurpose missiles and 15-megawatt lasers. Good, now she had her fast response assets online.

Phase Four.

She took temporary control of the public address systems and radio stations and advised the civilians to barricade themselves in their homes. She didn't disclose the full nature of the enemy, but she did mention that fighting might be heavy.

EDC contacted, telling her that human Komodo main battle tanks, Artemis mobile artillery, and Valkyrie attack fighters were deployed, as well as Melconian heavy Garm-type assault units, Skoll-class medium scout units, and Loki-class tank destroyers. Garms and Skolls were essentially small Bolos, and the Melconian people were fiercely proud of them. She greatly respected them herself. With some minor enhancements from human cybernetics, the Melconian units were top-notch skirmishing and fast-attack units.

Infantry, human and Melconian, were already suiting up and boarding APCs and IFVs.

Kilthwani was as secure as she could make it, which was secure indeed.

She was worried, however, about the outlying settlements. She dispatched half of her Dragons to escort civilians to the heavily defended city.

However, the farthest settlements—including large Los Santos and the satellite towns—were not as heavily reinforced as she would like. Furthermore, the militia forces on the other side of the world were not as developed as the principle city.

Still, JRD was there, and she trusted JRD. A Bolo Mark XXXIV was formidable indeed, and she knew JRD would defend the people under his wing.

However, there was time to think of that later. She had to coordinate with EDC and plan defensive strategies.

She sent a message to JRD, wishing the other Bolo good luck.


"Hey, Kiwi, what happened?" eight-year-old Cielana Angelo asked her friend in puzzlement. Kiwi might know why the weird metal tower thing had popped up in the field near the play equipment.

Her best friend was a Melconian, which meant she looked like a really big puppy that was standing on its hind legs. Kiwi had this really nice fur that was this really cool tawny color. She wished her hair looked like that, not the reddish-brown that she had, even though Mommy said it looked really good.

Kiwi—actually, her name wasn't Kiwi, it was Kiweedhar Na-halik, but Kiwi was easier to say—shook her head.

"I don't know," Kiwi said to her in Melconian. Mommy and Daddy had made sure she could understand Melconian, even though she couldn't speak it well yet. It was good that she could understand though, since being Kiwi's best friend would be hard if she couldn't. "I think we should go home."

"Yeah, I think so. You can come to my house and call your parents."

"Thanks, Cee"

"You're welcome."

They left the park they'd been playing at—Robert Salinas wasn't there to bully them today—and went off for home. Hopefully Mommy or Daddy knew what was going on.

Almost there!

"Come on, Kiwi!"

"I'm running already, Cee," she heard her friend grumble.

She laughed and opened the front door. "Mommy! This weird tower thingy popped up in the park and Kiwi's here to call her Mommy and Daddy."

"Cee!" Mommy said as she came into the living room. "I sent your father to find you! Get down into the basement, now! Kiwi, you too. I already called your parents."

"What's happening, Mrs. Angelo?" she heard Kiwi ask politely.

She giggled. Kiwi always mispronounced her last name. It sounded like "ankle" combined with a sneeze.

"Don't worry, just go into the basement."

"Ah, but it smells funny down—" she started to say to Mommy.

"Cielana Martina Angelo! Now!"

Mommy only used her full name when she was mad, but she didn't look mad.

She looked scared.


Fla'drek wondered if he should help out. It seemed impossible, but not a single Dark Shot missile had made it within one hundred feet of JRD. Plus its other guns were making short work of the dark Digimon.

Except that more and more kept on teleporting in. It even looked like the rate of teleports was increasing.

Flash, off to the left! A Musyamon, close!

"I got this one," he called to JRD, and lunged forward.

The sword-wielding Virus struck out with an overhead bash with its sword. It would have cut him in two pieces.

Except he had jumped over the enemy.

"Fire Rocket!"

The Musyamon's head almost bouncing twice before it dissolved with the rest of the body.

"You, Flamedramon," he heard the voice of the tank call to him. "Hurry and enter my warhull. I will lower my battlescreens and extend a ramp at my rear. Quickly, please."

First being tossed into this world, facing hordes of dark Digimon, a talking tank, and now he was going into the talking tank.

Life was full of surprises.


Indeed, life can be surprising. The friendly Digimon dashes to my rear access ramp and climbs aboard.

This is a calculated risk I am taking. I am still not completely sure of where this Flamedramon's loyalties lie, so I could have potentially let an enemy into my hull. Still, I have internal security lasers, just in case.

Despite the lack of sure data, I feel like I have nothing to fear from this Digimon.

I suppose one can call it intuition.

In any case, without the need to protect the Flamedramon, I can regain full mobility and make my way back to Los Santos. I feed full power to my drive trains, accelerating to one-oh-five KPH, and I launch missiles with area-denial warheads behind me. The missiles will scatter a dense pattern of anti-personnel mines, which will hinder the enemy Digimon for some time.

As soon as I confirm missile detonation and mine scattering, I power down my weapons and redirect the energy to my impellor "sprint" field. While I am unarmed and naked in this mode, I more than triple my speed. I advise the Digimon in my hull to seat himself in the acceleration couches in my passenger compartment. It is most fortunate that my builders deviated slightly from the original XXXIV plans to add the four-person compartment. The Flamedramon nods and enters the room. He sits, and I explain how to attach the restraint harnesses correctly. That done, I speed off towards Los Santos.


"So, uh, you're JRD?" Fla'drek asked. He suddenly felt like talking. It probably was a reaction from the, oh, dozen near-death experiences he had had back there.

"That is correct. I am a Planetary Interdictor Bolo Mark XXXIV Exultant, 1072-JRD of the Line. Most humans opt to call me Jarrod."

A talking tank with a nickname? Now he'd seen everything. "Uh, okay. By the way, I'm not just 'You, Flamedramon.' I have a name."

"It being?"

"Fla'drek."

"Very well. I will refer to you as Fla'drek."

"Thanks."

"You are welcome."

Silence for a bit. He used the moment to look around. For all the "Bolo's" hugeness, it lacked in passenger comfort. Then again, Bolos didn't look like they were made to carry passengers. They looked built for combat, nothing else.

Hmm, now that he thought about it, he still didn't know much about the Bolo. Probably it was a robot of some kind—it referred to itself in the first person—but there might be a human driving this thing. No harm in asking, right?

"Jarrod?"

"Yes?"

"Do you have a driver?"

"I myself am a collection of hyperheuristic thought processes on a massively parallel polymorphic array that utilizes molecular virtual psychotronic circuitry. Bolos above the Mark XXIV are fully autonomous—though many argue that the Mark XXs were capable of full autonomy if their inhibition-programming had been removed—and require no additional human contact. However, it has been proven that Bolos with human commanders are much more effective in combat, so just like all other known Bolos, I have provisions for a human commander in my primary command center. I have yet to be assigned a commander, due to logistical issue."

In short, the tank meant "no." Well, it made sense, though he had no idea what the Bolo had first said. Hyper-hunky whatsit?

"Uh, right," he said. "So, just so I could clarify, you've never heard of Digimon before?"

"That is correct."

"I'm not the most experienced warrior, but I could give you info on the Digimon that were chasing us."

"I would appreciate that data, Fla'drek. Please hold a moment, I have detected enemy units in front of me, between myself and Los Santos. I will be touching down and activating my weapons systems."

He waited. He heard a couple of thumps, but that was it. When was the Bolo going to fire?

"Uh, Jarrod, you do anything yet?"

"I have eliminated nine enemy aerial units with my secondary batteries."

"That was fast," he muttered.

"I run at nanosecond speeds. Swiftness is necessary on the battlefield."

"Er, okay." Hmm, nine aerial enemies? "Jarrod, you have pictures of the Digimon you shot down?"

"I do. I would appreciate your tactical input on the enemies. Displaying visuals on the viewscreen in front of you now."

"Hmm... The three bird-like things are Velgemon, virus-attributes at, oh, strong Champion strength. The orange snake with wings and arms is a Megadramon, a Cyborg-type Ultimate, also a virus. The two big bugs are Ultimate-level Okuwamon. The last three look like Devidramon."

"What do their designations mean?"

"Designations?"

"Ultimate, Champion, virus, and so forth."

"Oh, I'd better explain that."

"I have detected multiple forces closing on Los Santos from the outlying lands, and I am moving to engage. You have plenty of time."


Fla'drek's data is very interesting. The concept of distinct power levels among the enemies—Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, Mega—will prove strategically useful.

Fla'drek speaks of Digimon existing in some parallel "Digital World" alongside the one of humans—he makes special references to humans named Takato Matsuki, Rika Nonaka, Jeri Katou, Ryo Akiyama, and Henry Wong, as well as Digimon named Guilmon, Renamon, Calumon, Cyberdramon, Terriermon, Impmon, and the Sovereigns.

The datum on the humans, who all appear to be Japanese, is puzzling. Before the great diaspora of space exploration, Japan had become a major player in world politics, and I cannot imagine them keeping it a secret. Disturbingly, Fla'drek also mentions a world-wide event involving something called the "D-Reaper"... yet there is not mention of it in any of my databanks.

The etymological origins of the Digimon's names are enlightening, however. Terrier is a type of dog, and "Beelze" is a possible corruption of "Beelzebub", or the Devil. Rena is possibly a shortening for "renard" the French word for fox, and "cyberdra" is a corruption of cybernetic dragon. I have no idea what a "Calu" is, though.

This new data reinforces my initial hypotheses, that these Digimon are physical manifestations of data. They are possibly assigned their names based on what data they are based on.

However, I will let KRN explore my data when she has the time. I copy all acquired data to a VSR and file it to Unit KRN and the EDC.

I am receiving an alert.

Enemy Digimon have begun to advance on Los Santos. Reports from picket militia units tell me that the human and Melconian defenders are hard pressed to hold back the crush of hostiles. Human and Melconian armor elements are initiating sorties, but they are having trouble making any headway

The intelligence assets at my disposal tell me that there are over sixty-five hundred of them, with more appearing every second. The eastern barricade of Los Santos is in danger of falling

I will need to withdraw to the city and assist in the direct defense. Bolos are made to be mobile battle units, not fortresses. However, I can see no alternative.


"Mommy, I'm hearing big booms and everything," Cielana said. It was scary to listen to.

"Don't worry about it, sweetheart. Some bad men have come to Esperanza, but Jarrod and Karen and the soldiers will defend us.

"Oh, the Bolo is going to help?"

"Of course he is, honey," she heard Daddy say tiredly. What was even more scary was that Daddy and Mommy were holding big guns. They only used guns when they hunted or shot the ant-rats that were eating their stores, and they weren't hunting or shooting ant-rats.

"Mr. Angelo?" Kiwi asked. She giggled. Ankle-Sneeze. "Will Jarrod be able to defend—"

Crash!

The floor near the stairs fell down, and something that looked like a metal monkey with sunglasses dropped to the basement floor, along with these funny-looking ghosts with pointy hats.

"Run, kids, RUN!" Daddy yelled and fired the gun. One of the ghosts flew back and turned into a poof of red sparkles. Mommy also shot the gun, and another ghost poofed.

But the monkey moved really fast and punched Daddy and then Mommy in the face. Mommy and Daddy groaned and fell down.

The monkey looked at her and Kiwi. "Come here, brats. I wanna kill you all at the same time."

She took Kiwi's paw and ran deeper into the basement, where there was another set of stairs to the surface.

The monkey was chasing them.


Fla'drek was getting tired of watching the Bolo chase around the enemy. He was supposed to be a fighter not a... a passenger.

Jarrod had rather kindly left a couple viewscreens on, so it looked like they were fighting around the city perimeter.

It also looked like dark Digimon were leaking through.

"Let me out," he said to the Bolo. "Let me help."

"I will not. You are still essentially a strange alien, and it will be confusing for the defenders to have a friendly to watch out for."

"I'll take that chance."

"Your addition to the defense will not be sufficient."

Not sufficient? Why that—

Oh, never mind. The Bolo was as long as an American football field and had more guns than Lady Crusadermon had flowering plants. It was just a question of comparison. Still, though...

"Watch me," he growled. "And the longer we argue, the most lives I could have saved are being lost."

"You would risk your life for strangers?"

"Innocents are innocents."

Brief pause.

"Very well. I have sent tactical updates to all units in the area, warning them not to fire one you. However, I cannot make any promise that the infantry will not mistake you for an enemy and attempt to engage."

"I'll take the risk," he said.

"Very well. I will approach the western end of the city, and I will allow you to disembark."

"Thanks."

"You are welcome. Godspeed."