Level 1: Worlds

RKngel: Hey, what are you still doing up?
Rena
やガみ: Oh! Haven’t talked to you in awhile.
RKngel: Time zones are a bitch.
Rena
やガみ: :)
RKngel: So what time is it over there?
Rena
やガみ: 5
RKngel: 5 in the morning? Can’t sleep?
Rena
やガみ: i guess you could say that.
RKngel: What are you doing?
RKngel: Well?
Rena
やガみ: Web stuff.
Rena
やガみ: You know… typical insoniac stuff.
RKngel: You haven’t been doing what I think you’ve been doing…
RKngel: Have you?
Rena
やガみ: …
RKngel: You have, haven’t you? You know that’s risky.
RKngel: The more you watch them, the more likely they are to find out.
RKngel: Besides, it’s not healthy to be attached like that.
RKngel: You’ve been staring at him now more than you did when he was alive.
Rena
やガみ: I can’t help it. It was just so cruel. It doesn’t matter how much of an ass he was.
Rena
やガみ: He didn’t deserve it. None of them did.
RKngel: I agree… you know I agree.
RKngel: So… anything good going on down there? ;-)
Rena
やガみ: lol
Rena
やガみ: Well… you’ll never believe this…
Rena
やガみ: Matsuki’s with them.
RKngel: Matsuki?!
Rena
やガみ: I don’t think anybody else knows but me. I think that goes for the MAXIS too.
RKngel: Shit… how the hell did that happen?
Rena
やガみ: Beats me. Looks like he’s fit in pretty good. Don’t know how long he’s been there.
RKngel: Just make sure you don’t tell anybody.
RKngel: This is big. This is very big…


Stage Four- Prison

The plan was for the six Chosen and Takato to scale the ridge nearby. But a delicate situation in the northern regions forced TK, Joe, and Cody to join Gomamon and ensure that nothing turned violent. Therefore, Takato, Matt, Sora, and Kari made the trip alone. Biyomon accompanied them; it was standard policy to have one Digimon on the trip in case anything happened.

“Are you okay Kari?” Sora asked. Kari’s injury wasn’t severe enough to prevent her from making the trek, but it was aggravating nonetheless.

“Yeah. Sorry I’m slowing you all down.”

“Half of it’s my fault anyway. Besides… this way we can enjoy the scenery.” Matt looked around. It was a pretty easy hike up the ridge, but even halfway up the view was remarkable.

Takato was also enjoying the view. Matt had explained to him that the hike was something of a formal initiation. Takato wasn’t so much concerned with that, because the sight of the Digital World was unfolding. He could see everything for miles- from the plains and forests below him, to the mountains and ocean off in the horizon. It was beautiful. It was perfect.

When they reached the top, it was clear to Takato that the three Chosen were also admiring the scenery.

“Matt, we really need to go up here more often,” Sora said, resting her head on her husband’s shoulder.

“We just haven’t had a reason to in the last few years,” replied Matt.

“With a view like this, who needs a reason?” Kari added.

Takato turned to the three. “So what are we supposed to do up here?”

“We are supposed to show you how big this world is.” Matt guided his hand across the horizon. “You see all that? That’s not a fraction of the world. And yet- it’s all ours.”

“Ours?”

Matt nodded, “As the only people in the Digital World, we have to help protect it. Through any means necessary. It’s a big responsibility. It’s not always an easy life. It’s not always a fun life. But it’s our life. And it’s your life now.”

Takato continued to observe the world around him. “I don’t see how this couldn’t be fun. I mean, we don’t have to worry about the problems of the real world. There’s no school, no money…” Takato paused for a minute, before concluding his statement, “No Jeri.”

Matt continued Takato’s statement, “No luxury, no security… no family.” He paused. Clearly it was still difficult for him to take. “It’s a tradeoff. A big one. You gave up a lot Takato. Most of it you probably took for granted.”

Biyomon jumped into the conversation, reprimanding Matt, “Don’t scare him, Matt.” Sora’s Digimon partner turned to Takato. “Takato, sure there’s a lot of scary stuff out there, but it’s nothing we won’t be able to handle if you stick with us.”

Matt scratched his chin. “Still… we’d better hook you up with your old partner before too long. It would be nice to have an extra ‘mon around the house.” Matt looked down at Takato, “Am I assuming too much in thinking you had a Digimon partner?”

Takato smiled. “Nope. Actually, I was hoping you’d help me find Guilmon.”

Matt turned back toward the scenery. “Guilmon, huh? I’ve never heard of that one.”

Takato squirmed. He was afraid that he’d weird them out even more, but sucked it up and began the explanation, “You see… Guilmon…”

“Of course, I never really followed along with the new species that are discovered.” Matt interrupted Takato, offering his own conclusion without hearing the truth, “So do you remember your synch level?”

“My… synch level?”

Matt smiled. “I guess not. That’s alright. I think the whole thing’s pretty stupid myself.”

“What’s a synch level?” Takato was now the one that was confused.

“Supposedly it’s a measurement of your bond with your Digimon partner. I don’t know how they generate these results, but I personally never thought they worked right.”

Sora couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s because Tai’s was always higher than yours.”

“Fuck Tai, yours is higher than mine!” Sora and Kari immediately burst out into laughter. Matt feigned anger, “Gabumon and I go on a solo trip to Mars, but supposedly I haven’t spent enough time with him!!” Now Matt himself couldn’t contain it.

Takato was the only one not laughing. The conversation had suddenly sparked his curiosity.

“Hey, I was wondering about that.” Takato turned to Matt. “How did you become an astronaut anyway?” The laughter continued.

Finally, Matt controlled himself and gave Takato an answer, “Actually, it was all because of Kari.” Matt looked over Takato’s head. Kari smiled brightly, nodding in acknowledgement. Matt continued, “It’s a long story.”

“Please… I’m really curious.”

Matt took a breath, and began, “Okay, this is probably before you can remember, but one of the biggest drawbacks to having both worlds connected was the treatment of Digimon in the real world. Basically, they were the largest and most underrepresented minority group on Earth. Some people didn’t view Digimon too kindly, so Kari decided that the best way to get a positive light shown on Digimon was to manufacture some sort of achievement for them.”

Kari stepped in to continue the story, “My husband found out that NASA in America was looking for ways to put a man on Mars, and that they were interested in incorporating the Digital World into their studies. We pulled some strings, and they agreed that if a flight were to ever be attempted, they’d have a Chosen and his partner go along.”

The cheeky smile came across Matt’s face. “Guess who they picked.”

Takato smiled before Kari interrupted, “Actually, Steve ran through all the American Chosen first. They all said no. But you were the first Japanese Chosen we talked to!”

Matt brushed off the comment, “Anyway, they devised a way to keep a gate to the Digital World open from the spacecraft. That way, Gabumon and I could pop in here every once in awhile to recoup.”

Kari laughed, “It was strange. NASA said it was the first space flight where the astronaut was able to sign autographs while he was on the mission!”

Takato was still smiling at the story. At least until he saw Sora and Biyomon, both staring off in another direction, distancing themselves from the conversation.

“They were originally going to test it out with the Moon, but we said no way. Gabumon and I weren’t in this to do something that’s already been done before.”

“You can imagine the reaction when the first creatures to step on the Martian surface were a Digimon and a Japanese-American,” Kari was almost shedding tears of joy, as if it was her crowning achievement.

“American?” Takato asked.

Matt rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah. For my training, I had to move to Houston.” He sounded a little ashamed of himself.

“What’s wrong with that?” Takato glanced back at Sora and Biyomon. They were talking quietly. Takato couldn’t hear them, but their expressions were unusual. While Kari and Matt were clearly enjoying the story, Sora and Biyomon looked melancholy.

Biyomon noticed Takato and flew over towards him. “We’ll start looking for Guilmon as soon as we get back.”

Even Takato was suspicious about the abrupt change in conversation, but he responded politely, “Oh. Thank you. I’ll show you what he looks like when we get there.”

Matt waved his hand. “No need. We have the database. If he’s in there, we should be able to find him in no time. We’ll probably have him in a week.”

Sora returned to the conversation, raising an eyebrow. Apparently, she had just thought of something. “Takato, why the interest in Matt being an astronaut? I know fashion design and teaching aren’t as sexy as going into space, but…” She sounded somewhat scornful.

Takato interrupted, “Oh, sorry if I offended you. It’s just that… well in the TV series, they showed what everybody was doing in the end. I guess we all thought Matt being an astronaut came out of nowhere.”

Matt laughed, “Well, now you know- it did come out of nowhere! But you should have expected that. I mean, when I was that age, I didn’t have any plans for the future. I could have been anything!”

“I don’t know,” Takato shrugged, “You could have been a rock star.”

Kari and Matt started laughing as if it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. Even Sora joined in after a few moments.

“What? Weren’t you in a band?”

Matt finally got himself together. “Yeah… but… kid… we were awful!”

Kari wiped a tear. “It was just Matt and some friends in a garage. The whole thing was a joke!”

“If our concert didn’t get interrupted, TK probably wouldn’t have even mentioned it!”

“Yeah, wasn’t your concert on TV? Your band couldn’t have been that bad if it had a televised concert,” Takato said.

Matt’s reply was simple. “Things work differently when you have a dad who works at the TV station.”

Takato looked back at the women. They were still laughing.

“Did that show you were telling us about make it sound like he was good or something?” Sora asked.

Takato was suddenly distanced again. He felt like they were laughing at him. “Well… yeah. It sounded like he wanted to be a rock star or something.”

“Of course I wanted to be a rock star,” Matt said, “Who doesn’t?” Takato was perplexed, so Matt continued, “Everybody wants to be a rock star or a movie star or a TV star. Everyone wants to be rich. Everyone wants to be famous. You can encourage people as much as you want but most people just don’t have the talent for it. Way I see it, if everybody had the talent to be rock stars, there wouldn’t be rock stars. Me and the guys dreamt of it all the time, but really we all knew that we didn’t have a chance in hell.”

Takato finally gave up, “It’s strange. The series made it sound like you were pretty popular. Why would they lie like that?”

Matt ran his hands through his hair and smiled. “Well, I’m one of the heroes of the series. Why would they want to say I was failing with something? We had a couple fans, but they and we knew that it was all just for fun. None of us gave serious thought to making a career out of it, that’s for sure.”

Kari put a hand on Takato’s shoulder. “I guess that when they took TK’s book, they also took a little creative license with it. That epilogue TK wrote is also probably a little confusing, since it didn’t say how we ended up doing what we did. But our lives now aren’t important to the story. The story was what we did when we were children. That’s what you have to think about.”

“Well, why don’t we head back?” Sora suggested, “Hopefully Joe has an update for us.”

Matt walked ahead and joined Sora and Biyomon. “Good call. This isn’t really fun without the other guys.”

As Sora, Matt, and Biyomon led the way, Takato leaned over towards Kari, who was still nursing her back, treading carefully. “Kari? I noticed that Sora didn’t look too happy about the whole astronaut story.”

Kari frowned. “She um… didn’t really like the whole idea. I mean Matt was sold immediately, but Sora… she thought it was too much of an abrupt change. Not to mention the risk of it all. Space travel isn’t exactly routine.”

“But she came around eventually, right?”

Kari shook her head. “When Matt moved to Houston… Sora didn’t.” Takato’s mouth fell open. Kari continued, “It’s a good thing they didn’t have kids yet. Furthermore, Sora was angry at me for bringing up the whole idea.” She looked down. “She didn’t speak to me for almost two years.” Kari now had to fight tears again, but this time they were hardly joyous. “It wasn’t a good time for the Chosen.”

“But everything ended up okay, right?” Takato needed to hear something encouraging after hearing the dark side to Matt’s story.

Kari nodded. “Yes. It did. That’s something I’ve always believed in. No matter what happens, eventually, everything will be corrected.”

Satisfied, Takato started to pick up his pace. Kari stood there and watched him. She still could sense something about him. Something out of the ordinary.

“Eventually…”

 

----October, 20X4----
Janyuu was trying not to scream at the telephone. “Yamaki- you’re breaking their hearts. Those Digimon are a part of them. You can’t just ask them to sever ties completely.”

Henry and Suzy were both crouched by the doorway, listening in on the conversation. Their father was their last hope in seeing their partners again.

“I understand that,” he answered, “I understand that it would be a logistics nightmare to bring them back. I’m not arguing that. But there has to be a way.”

As Janyuu listened to Yamaki’s explanation, he turned towards his children. Both were watching with anxious eyes.

He sighed and lifted the receiver to his mouth. “Then I’ll do it.”

Henry stood. “Dad? Do what?”

Janyuu ignored his son, “I’m willing to take the risk. I feel partially responsible for this anyway.”

“Daddy?” Suzy stood as well.

“Maybe, but if we can pull this off, there may be some hope.”

Another pause. This one seemed to last forever.

“Thank you. All I ask for is a chance to see if we can do it.”

He set the phone down. Henry and Suzy ran up to him, but stopped before saying anything.

Janyuu turned towards his children. “Henry? Suzy? I’m going after them.”

“But Dad- I thought they said it wasn’t safe. They said it wasn’t possible!” Henry’s concern for his father was battling his desire to see Terriermon again.

“When you guys left last time we thought it wasn’t safe. We didn’t think it was possible either. But if there’s the slight chance of getting them back, even for a short while… we have to try.”

Suzy said nothing. She ran forward and hugged her father, crying.

Henry exhaled. “Good luck, Dad.”

 

It was something of a makeshift gate. Nobody at Hypnos could honestly say if it could successfully send somebody into the Digital World. They weren’t even willing to guess if it could bring them back. But Janyuu was determined to try.

His wife didn’t attempt to talk him out of it. He was set on the idea.

His whole family was in the room. All five were nervous. Janyuu spoke to each one privately, hoping to keep them calm while the procedure was taking place. Doing so was difficult, especially with Yamaki, Riley, and Tally making last-minute status checks behind the Wong family.

Takato and Rika stood nearby. They didn’t want to disrupt the family as Janyuu talked to them, but they insisted on being present.

Janyuu reached Henry and shook his head. “I don’t know how you were able to stay together when you told us you were leaving.”

Henry shook his head as well. “I don’t know how you were able to stay together when I told you I was leaving.”

Janyuu.” Yamaki remained grim. He was obeying Janyuu’s wishes, but remained unsure of it all. “We’re ready.”

After a quick hug, Janyuu approached the platform. The hope was to establish a portal on the surface of one of the digital plains. It was the only way the process could happen, since they no longer had access to the ark.

“Coordinates entered and locked on,” Tally shouted from her seat at the controls.

“Digital gate opened and ready. Tracking device installed and on standby.” Riley nodded towards Yamaki.

Janyuu. Whenever you’re ready.”

Janyuu took another glance towards his family and stepped through. He became increasingly pixilated, and one by one the pixels vanished. Janyuu was gone.

Yamaki stepped towards the communications unit. “Janyuu. Come in Janyuu.”

The on-lookers remained nervous. This was the first crucial stage.

Janyuu!” Yamaki shouted again.

For a full minute, the room was in dead silence.

“He should be responding by now…” Tally said.

“Riley! Is the tracker working?”

“It should be picking up his signal, but it isn’t reading anything!” she shouted.

“I’ll scan the coordinates.” Tally began typing away.

Meanwhile, the hopes and prayers held by the family were starting to diminish.

“What’s going on? Is something wrong?” Jaarin asked.

“Where’s Daddy?” Suzy was starting to get worried.

“I’m getting absolutely nothing. Tally?” Riley turned to her co-worker.

“Nothing but meaningless artifacts.” Tally turned to Yamaki. “We lost him.”

“Keep looking for him. Maybe he just ended up at the wrong spot,” Yamaki commanded.

Tally obeyed, but shook her head. She knew exactly where the coordinates should have taken him.

Takato and Rika were left in stunned silence. They glanced at Henry.

“Dad…” was all he could say.
--------

 

----April, 20X7----
“Dad… Dad…” Henry mumbled. It had been more than two years, and the family had moved on. They spent that night at Hypnos, watching as Riley and Tally did what they could to find Janyuu. Ultimately, any search came up empty; and they sadly called the effort off a week later. Janyuu was legally pronounced dead before the end of the month.

“Dad… Dad…” Every once in awhile, Henry relived the incident in his sleep. It was all so sudden. Even more sudden was when Hypnos abandoned their facility three months later.

“HENRY!!” He was jolted out of his dream by Suzy. She was smiling brightly. Like everybody in the family, she went through a grieving period, but ultimately recovered.

“Suzy…” Henry rubbed his eyes. “What are you doing in my…” Henry looked around. They weren’t in his room. He was lying on the couch in the living room. It was the middle of the afternoon.

“You got a letter!” Suzy handed Henry the envelope and ran into the kitchen. Henry stretched for a moment and sat up before opening it. A key fell out onto his lap. He picked it up and set it off to the side. The envelope contained a few small schematic drawings as well, but Henry first skimmed the letter. One word jumped out at him-

Takato.

Takato Matsuki disappeared without a trace a year ago. Henry and Rika had long since given up any hope of finding him. By now, everybody was trying to get over it and get their lives back together.

Henry checked the bottom of the page. Could the letter possibly be from Takato? He looked for the signature.

There was none.

After reading the letter closely, he ran to the phone and dialed a number.

“Hi, this is Rumiko Nonaka and company! We’re off doing whatever it is we do best so leave a message and we’ll get back to you!” It was the energetic, and prerecorded, voice of Rika’s mother.

Henry left his message, “Rika, this is Henry. Call me back as soon as you can. We may know where Takato is.”

 

“He hatches into a Patamon??” Takato looked up from his book and turned to TK, who had started laughing. “I can tell you wrote this.”

“Hey, he’s a recycled form of Seraphimon, so I didn’t have that many choices,” TK defended his decision, adding, “If you noticed, I also put some of the others’ Digimon in there. I was fair with my cheap cameos!”

“You forgot to put me in there though!” TK turned around and smiled at the blue Digimon that was shouting at him.

“Hey Veemon! Here for a check?”

“Yep!” Veemon walked over to Takato. “So where’s Joe?”

“Joe had to take care of something with the girls. He should be back pretty soon,” Takato answered.

It was just another routine day. Takato and TK were both relaxing by the cabins, reading their book of choice. TK was forever grateful for Kari’s initiatives in promoting reading in the Digital World, prompting the creation of a large library in a nearby city. Takato was finally getting into Digital Frontier, TK’s most successful work of fiction. TK, meanwhile, was enjoying a historical novel- a coming-of-age story using the Siberian War as a backdrop. It was somewhat ironic, since the recent Siberian War was a primary inspiration for TK when he wrote Digital Frontier.

Takato and Veemon had grown accustomed to each other. After Matt and Joe were unable to locate Guilmon, it was decided that Takato still needed a Digimon in case of emergencies. Although Takato was reluctant to accept the offer, Veemon was gung-ho about it. Veemon was one of those Digimon that simply liked being around humans. With Davis in the real world, Veemon was starting to miss the adventures he had with his partner. Takato was an opportunity to start anew. It didn’t take long for Takato to warm up to the idea.

TK stood up. “Well, I bet Matt and Cody could probably do it. I don’t want to keep you guys waiting.”

“It’s no problem.” Takato dog-eared the page he was on and set the book down. “We can just goof off until Joe comes back.”

“Nah. I don’t know how long he’ll be. Besides, that might alter the stats a bit.” TK popped his head inside the door of the first cabin. “Matt! Joe wanted to do a synch check on TK and Veemon today. Do you and Cody want to do it?”

Matt walked outside and handed a broom to TK. “Sure, anything to get out of cleaning.” Before TK could counter, Matt walked to the second cabin to get Cody.

“I guess my break’s over,” TK muttered.

“I’ll help you when I’m done,” Takato replied.

TK smiled. His initial suspicion had never truly subsided, but Takato turned out to be so friendly that TK forced himself to accept the newcomer. It wasn’t that Takato was any less suspicious. In fact, given the inability to locate Takato’s partner, his reluctance to discuss his adventures in the real world, and the nagging issue about his name, he was even more mysterious. But in spite of it all, Takato’s naivety and positive attitude were enough for TK to give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

“Let’s see here… I’ve never done this before with non-partners.” Matt stared at the small device on the table. The countless outlets and ports were intimidating.

Cody attached a wire to Takato’s forehead. He was the only one whose forehead Cody could reach. “It shouldn’t be all that different. I watched Joe do it… once.”

“It doesn’t have to be set differently to work?”

Before he could attach another wire to Veemon, Cody turned to Matt. “I don’t think so. Just connect the receiver into the parallel port and plug the stupid thing in.”

Matt pointed at the device, “This is the parallel port, right?”

“Yes,” Cody replied, somewhat annoyed at Matt’s apparent incompetence. “You know there are times when you make me fear for the future of the space program.”

Finally, Matt plugged it in and went over to a nearby computer. “Well, fear no longer because it works. I’m already getting a…” Matt paused and looked back at Cody. The boy was still holding the wire.

“What?”

Matt looked back. The computer was registering a synch level between Takato and Cody. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

“Never mind,” Matt dismissed it and started to input data into the system while Cody clipped the other end of the wire to Veemon’s right ear.

“Ready Matt,” Cody announced, walking over to the console.

“Okay… hopefully this is what Joe wants.” Matt pressed a button and the computer recorded data collected from Takato and Veemon.

“Hey Cody, has Joe been collecting extreme values?”

Cody nodded. The current test was a median test- taken when there was no undue influence affecting the relationship between Takato and Veemon. But extreme values- collected during high and low moments in their relationship, were also important. Usually, the first digivolution occurred during a peak, typically when one or the other was in physical danger. But since Takato and Veemon weren’t partners, the Chosen knew that if digivolution was even possible, it wouldn’t be realistic for another year or so.

The computer finished loading and began to print out page after page of diagnostics. Matt took the top page from the printer. Joe was the only one who bothered looking at the complicated details of the test.

Matt raised an eyebrow. “How’d I do?” Takato asked.

Cody snuck around and glanced at the page. He too was surprised.

“88. Wow,” said Cody.

“Is that good?” Takato asked.

Matt looked over at Takato and Veemon, both removing their wires. “For you two, that’s great.”

Cody continued to muse at the data, “An 88 between non-partners? That’s incredible.”

“Well, what was I at with Davis?” Veemon asked.

“317. Highest in the world, if I remember,” Matt said as Veemon smiled proudly.

They unhooked everything and everybody and exited the researching building. “So how long before I can make him digivolve?” Takato asked.

“Well… assuming it’s possible, you need a median of 100 to make him digivolve at will,” Matt answered, “You’re doing really good Takato, but it’s still going to be a while. I also wouldn’t count on a sudden spike to do the trick. That only works between partners.”

“Yeah- so please don’t try to piss off any rampaging C-Levels like Davis did,” Veemon said.

“Hey!” Takato abruptly changed the subject by pointing away from the camp, “I think I see them.”

Matt took two steps towards Sora, then stopped and clutched his nose. She approached him, covered in a putrid combination of sewage and slime.

“I hate Raremon,” she muttered.

“Problems?” Matt asked, although he could probably guess the answer.

Sora shook her head. “Let’s just say that this mess wasn’t the worst part.” Sora eyed Matt. “They’re at it again.”

“You mean?” Sora nodded. Matt sighed. “Aw shit.”

She forced a smile. “Well have fun! I’m going down to the river. The shower’s not going to be enough today.” Sora went into her cabin to retrieve clean clothes and a towel. She hustled out and left before the other two could arrive.

TK exited the cabin and turned to Matt. “What happened to Sora?”

“Batten down the hatches TK- she says Joe and Kari have begun the annual Dragoism debate.”

“So- do you want to break them up… or should I?”

Takato tugged on Matt’s shirt, “What’s the Dragoism debate?”

“You’ll find out soon enough- then you’ll never want to hear about it again.” Matt and Cody led Takato to the campfire. “Just pretend to be busy. Read your book.” Takato followed Matt’s direction and begun to read. He hadn’t finished two lines when two very loud and very angry voices filled the area.

“Kari, you’re the one that keeps saying we should try to find alternatives to killing!”

“It attacked Sora, what are we supposed to do- let it get the rest of us?!”

“Look, we need to research these corruptions, and we’re not going to do it by scattering their data halfway to File Island!!”

The two had officially entered the camp, and their voices had grown twice as loud.

Kari seemed more livid than Joe. “Joe- why do you keep defending evil?”

“There you go again! You always say I’m defending evil! It’s a matter of balance. I don’t like it any more than you do, but *darkness* has a purpose in the world.” Joe stressed the word darkness, in his view the more proper term.

“Darkness is evil, and evil is evil!” Kari reiterated.

“What are they talking about?” Takato whispered to TK.

TK didn’t answer. Instead, he ran into the cabin without being thrown into the conversation.

Joe continued to stand up for himself, “If there was no darkness, there would be no light. I’ve told you this a million times. Of all people I think you’d understand that! If darkness was eliminated, you would be too.”

“Fine by me!!”

Matt cracked a smile at Kari’s reply, “Ooh. I don’t think she’s used that one before.”

“When powers of darkness are destroying everything you care about, do you think anybody cares about balance? You weren’t there, Joe!”

Joe suddenly turned aggressive. “Oh don’t start that! You mention June 9th and I swear I am going to…”

At that point, Matt stepped in. He was willing to let them vent their aggressions, but as soon as physical threats were made, he was forced to draw the line. “Okay, okay, don’t get too crazy about this. Both of you go to your room and try to calm down.” Matt knew he was treating them like children, but for the time being they fit the part.

Kari entered her cabin as TK walked out with a book, ignoring her. After Kari was out of earshot, he turned to Matt, “So who won?”

“I think Kari won this round. They’re almost even now.”

“Should we go talk to them or something?” Takato asked.

Matt shrugged his shoulders. “Nah. They do this every once in awhile. Something happens while they’re out and they get pissed at each other. Usually, they just don’t speak to each other for a couple days, but they get over it eventually. They’ll be fine.”

TK walked over to Takato, flipping to a page at the back of the book as he did so. He found what he was looking for and handed the book to Takato, pointing at a page.

“Takato- read this line.”

Takato leant forward and read, “Let’s see… ‘The darkness has not been conquered and will continue to fight against the light forever.’” He looked up at TK. “So what?”

TK slammed the book shut, “That one line sparked a huge debate that spanned the globe. That’s part of my epilogue for Chronicles and it seems to be the only part anyone remembers from the whole book. Basically, a lot of people interpreted that line to mean that the forces of darkness- Daemon and Dragomon, must remain present in order for the worlds to be in balance. These people, and Joe seems to be one of them, believed that to destroy Daemon would be to destroy the balance of the universe. The belief came to be known as Dragoism.”

Takato was still confused, “How can you destroy Daemon? Didn’t you seal him in the Dark Ocean?” Immediately, he retracted his comment, “Sorry, I haven’t seen the series in awhile.”

TK opened the book and thumbed through it, “That’s okay, I haven’t written this in awhile.” He planted his finger on a page, “Yep. First time it was the Dark Ocean.” TK shut the book and turned to Takato, “The next two times… however…”

“You mean, he came back?”

“Like the line says- ‘the darkness will continue to fight against the light.’ About every twelve years, Daemon opens a rift to the Digital World and tries to start all over again. And the people of Earth, as digi-destined, have to fight him. Both times, however, we couldn’t defeat him. We had to seal him away again.”

“But if you just keep sealing him away, he’ll just keep coming back. When was the last time he attacked?”

Matt answered, “It would be about ten years ago. And the next time he attacks, us seven will have to work together to stop him… including you Takato.”

“Strangely enough…” TK observed, “When he stares into your eyes, and you know that his thoughts center around your annihilation… any debate about how he should be stopped is lost in the darkness he brings.”

 

“You’re late,” Henry said as Rika arrived at the base of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. He checked his watch. “Didn’t we say after school?”

Rika scowled, “What? You think I’m coming here in that geeky uniform? Let’s get this over with.”

The two walked into the building. They rarely had reason to come anymore after Janyuu was lost and Hypnos abandoned. It was just another place of business to them. Besides the occasional need to talk to a city official, or a bad excuse for a field trip, neither Henry nor Rika visited.

Fortunately, they were the only two in the elevator, meaning they could carry on a discussion about the letter. “So do you really think he found a way in?” Rika asked, sounding a little disappointed.

“Well, it was one of our theories. Whoever sent this letter seems to think it’s likely.”

“Stupid Takato. Running away from his problems…”

“It’s not the why he did it that bothers me. What gets me is how he did it.”

Rika replied harshly, “I don’t care how he did it. There’s bound to be a way to get in there. It’s just that he wasn’t willing to fight for Jeri. He just gave up and let Terry have her.”

Henry looked down. He had no argument for it. The elevator fell silent for a minute as a man entered, then left a few floors later.

Rika was suddenly solemn. “I still can’t believe he dumped her.”

Henry sighed. He too was feeling Jeri’s pain after the recent breakup. “I know. That’s awful. She gave up so much to be with Terry, whether she wanted to or not. And in the end, he just leaves her.”

Both Henry and Rika did what they could to console Jeri. It had been a week, but Jeri was still continually depressed. Every once in awhile, Henry bumped into Terry on the job. Terry told Henry that it was clear that Jeri’s heart was still beating for one person. And Terry knew that it wasn’t him. He had eventually decided that he couldn’t continue a relationship like that. To Henry, that was the worst part of it all- Terry’s reasoning was almost understandable.

Rika pounded the elevator wall. “Why are all men evil?”

Henry frowned. “Thank you, may I have another?”

Rika turned around and walked up to Henry. “I don’t mean you.” She put a hand on his shoulder and smiled. “In my book, you’re not a man.”

For some reason, Henry wasn’t appeased. “I didn’t mean that literally.”

 

They finally reached their floor and headed to the appropriate door. Henry pulled out the envelope, and the key inside. He inserted the key into the lock, and the door swung open. It was pitch black until Rika flipped on a nearby switch. Not only did the lights come on, but the whole room seemed to buzz to life.

Henry closed the door behind him, “We have to give it a little while to warm up. It’s been in sleep mode for awhile.” He looked down to the several pages of schematics.

Rika noticed the detail on the pages. “Whoever sent this to you must know what they’re talking about. What’s on the envelope?”

“Nothing.” Henry kept the important pages for himself and handed the top page and the envelope to Rika. “No signature. No return address.”

As Henry continued to look through the schematics and instructions, Rika made the startling discovery.

“Henry… not only isn’t there a signature or an address… there’s no postage.”

He turned around, “What?” He ran up to her as she showed him the envelope. Sure enough, both the upper left and upper right corners were completely unmarked.

“That means that… this wasn’t mailed. This was hand-delivered.”

“Who gave it to you?”

“Suzy… I think it got thrown into our mailbox. Weird.”

Henry eventually shelved the thought and got back to work. “Anyway, we need to find a data file archive. The letter says that they have a database of files for everybody who has been in the Digital World. Sounds like it’s in a drawer somewhere.”

“Over there.” Rika walked and pointed at the same time. It was a simple green file cabinet, conspicuous among the high-tech wizardry that made the Hypnos system. She opened it and saw a series of labeled cartridges, ordered by last name. “Yep- there’s names here. I see Shioda, Kazu right here.” She began thumbing through them, trying to find Matsuki, Takato. While doing so, she continued to make conversation, “Hey- does the letter say anything about your dad?”

“That’s another thing I noticed,” Henry still eyed the mysterious documents, “There’s nothing about Dad… or Ryo for that matter.”

“Found him.” Rika pulled out Takato’s cartridge, stuck in-between Kenta’s and her own.

“Great.” Henry took it and went over to a large console- the same one where Riley and Tally sat on that fateful night two years ago. He found the place to insert the cartridge and went to work.

The instructions were well-explained. Henry, who already had plenty of experience around computers, had no trouble with it. The basis was simple- by bringing up a frame of all the data in a particular area, and then using provided filters to scan out unwanted formats, Henry could search the world for the data that matched the information on Takato’s cartridge.

Rika paced around, well behind Henry. She was nervous. “Maybe it’s Yamaki or Riley,” she finally said to him.

Henry took a moment to finish entering the filter to hide the Digimon themselves. He turned around. “You know, that was what I was thinking at first. But if it was one of them, why would they keep themselves hidden? Especially if they dropped the letter in my mailbox personally.”

Rika had no answer, so she resumed her pacing while Henry resumed his work. Rika was silently dreading the results. She was not about to forgive Takato for running away. But to go to the Digital World? A place with so few material worries. A place where the only concern was in keeping yourself alive, a concern pretty much ignored in the real world. As much as she would hate Takato if he really threw everything away and went there, she also cursed him for doing it before she had the chance.

Henry stared at the screen. He found a match.

He sighed. “Found him. He’s in there, and he’s alive.” It was now officially confirmed.

Henry was relieved. It was another painful chapter of his life that he could now close. He would tell everybody. Perhaps it would make them feel better knowing that he was still alive- and doing well to the best of Henry’s knowledge.

As he turned around, he saw Rika hurling a chair across the room and storming after it. She was dealing with the news in her own style. Henry decided that it was best not to disturb her. He returned to the monitor.

“That’s strange… looks like there’s other humans around him,” Henry thought aloud, “Maybe I don’t have all the filters off.”

He wouldn’t have been surprised if Takato had found a couple other stray humans in the world. One of them may have been Janyuu. But Henry counted six others in Takato’s vicinity, with two more elsewhere in the world. After turning on some additional filters, only one of the mysterious bits of data vanished; that was with a filter to remove something called Hybrids, which Henry knew nothing about.

“Perhaps…” Henry thought. It was very reasonable. There was nothing in the letter, but maybe it was automatically implied. “Rika!” he shouted, “Get the files for Ryo and my dad.”

No response.

Henry turned around. After her burst of anger, she was now leaning against a railing. Something was obviously wrong- Rika was crying.

He slowly walked up to her. Perhaps the news wasn’t relieving to everybody. “Are you okay?”

Rika looked up. “I’m going after him,” she announced as she marched towards the console. She had had it with this world. If Takato was going to leave, she was either going after him or joining him.

“No you’re not!” She was persistent; Henry had to physically restrain her from doing anything drastic. “It’s too late. I don’t know how to open a gate. He’s probably happy where he is.”

Still shedding tears, she relented as her head collapsed onto his shoulder. “Then that’s where I want to be.”

Henry was naturally uncomfortable, but she appeared awfully unstable. He needed to help his friend, so he kept his arms around her.

“It’s okay,” he whispered, “I know it’s hard. But I can’t let you do anything stupid.”

“I don’t care anymore. It’s so easy. Just me and Renamon and nobody else…”

“I’m sorry, Rika. But I’ve lost enough loved ones already. I don’t need any more.”

She stepped back for a moment. After drying a tear, she looked at Henry. “Loved ones?”

Henry remained focused, “You know what I mean. After Dad and Takato, I’m not losing you either.”

“Oh.” She calmed down. “For a second there I thought you were talking about…”

“No…” Henry answered before she could finish. He walked over to the cabinet. He found Ryo’s file quickly enough, but continued to search for his father’s. After searching the whole cabinet, he found nothing and gave up. Henry walked back to the console with Ryo’s file. “It would be nice to have someone I could call a loved one… and mean it like that,” he added.

“Me too,” Rika replied.

 

The steel terminal was loud, and hardly pristine. Everything was metallic and rigid. Despite it all, there was a certain sense of beauty with it. But she wasn’t here to admire the atmosphere.

She knew who she was looking for. Unfortunately, in such a big world, she wasn’t sure exactly how to go about finding him. It was enough of a risk to be in the Digital World to begin with. She had first hand experience of the dangers lurking within. She spent too long waiting for a reunion, and to delay it any longer would be begging for trouble.

She had her digivice held out, but it wasn’t responding. “Come on… do something,” she said as she hit it a few times. After that did nothing, she pocketed it back in her green dress and continued walking along the train tracks.

 

Elsewhere at the terminal, he had detected her signal and was running to meet her. After so long, they were to be reunited after all. He ran to her, stopping only a few paces in front of the girl.

He smiled. “It’s been awhile. I was always wondering what I would say if you ever did come here. But the words just aren’t coming right now.”

Izzy wasted no time in wrapping his arms around the girl. He began to tear up, “Mari… I never lost faith in you… I knew you’d find me eventually.” He sniffled for a moment before kissing her on the forehead.

“Like father… like daughter.”

To Be Continued in “Stage Five- Sex”

 

Author’s Notes
I’m sure the primal reaction to this stage’s “mysterious italic intro” will be one of two things. The first is to skip it entirely, as they’ve only been messing with your head ever since Ryo, Tai, and Cody were reported as dead in stage two. The second of course will be to figure out who the conversation is between. I’ll warn you that if you decode hiragana lettering, you may end up more messed up than normal.

Readers familiar with the Japanese version will know that the term Chosen was changed to digi-destined for the American version. However, here, they are not used interchangeably, and both are used properly in the context of the future’s outlook of the Digital World (such as the case is with other argot such as C-Level and synch level).

Not only did I explore the whole astronaut thing, but I tried to put it in a new light. The little discrepancies between the series and reality will remain little- they got most of the facts right so I won’t pull any serious surprises on you. But the rock star discussion is even more interesting, as although the epilogue is canon and accurate, Matt’s talk about being a rock star is in almost direct conflict with the whole theme of the epilogue about not giving up on your dreams. Incidentally, like Mike Storch had to do in Grim Reality, TK also had to put a positive spin on some pretty sad events that occur in the future.

Dragoism will not be a significant part of the series, but it does allow me to put in some conflict between the adult Chosen. It’s also a chance to recognize Chiaki Konaka’s lone contribution to the second season. He was the head screenwriter of Tamers and  Serial Experiments Lain, but he only wrote one episode in season two. The Japanese episode was called “Call of D(r)agomon,” but American fans know it as “His Master’s Voice.”

Now that Henry and Rika have received the news about Takato, their role in the story will be greatly reduced. Henry/Rika supporters can probably draw some romantic hints dropped in this stage, but since I’m trying to mess with your head, I go no further discussing it. It’ll be up to you to decide what happens.

This ends Level 1: Stage Four of The Connection

Stage Highlights