Level 1: Worlds

The Siberian War lasted from 2012-2014. More than 6,000 people and Digimon died.
In 2014, the United Nations received more power to act as a worldwide government.
In 2018, Digimon received the right to elect their own UN ambassador.
On November 1, 2018, the Digital World elected their first representative- Tai Kamiya.

Stage Seven- Rebirth
 

He was on yet another train heading toward yet another destination. It was already starting to feel routine. Although he had never been to the steel terminal before, Takato wasn’t excited by the prospect of visiting. Ever since the battle, he wasn’t excited about anything. For all the months he had spent in the Digital World, Takato had been fooling himself. The world was just as harsh, just as cold, and just as deadly as when he left it.

The desert the train rode through offered a view Takato could never see in the real world. Distant mesas jutted out of the bare earth toward a perfectly clear sky. All Takato could see was the ocean of endless blue above him. The real world was nowhere in sight.

It wasn’t so much that Takato wanted to go home. Even if he could, he’d probably end up back in Okinawa, a place even more unsuitable for him than where he was now. His problem was far greater than being homesick. He had long since abandoned his friends. Henry, Rika, and even Jeri were fading memories. But if Takato didn’t belong in the real world, and he didn’t belong in the Digital World, where did he belong?

So far, the others hadn’t shown any sympathy. Joe sat across the aisle, completely oblivious to Takato and focused on a sheet of paper in his lap. Every so often, he would smile and jot something down. He was serious only when thinking, breaking free of his frown only when a revelation came upon him, like he was leisurely piecing together a puzzle. Matt sat next to Joe, occasionally drifting off to sleep before being jolted awake by the bumpiness of the trail. Neither seemed to care that they were on this journey to have a wheelchair assembled for Kari.

“Matt, have a look at this,” Joe said, showing Matt the sheet of paper, “How do you integrate this equation? My calculus is a little rusty.”

After glancing at it for a second, Matt brushed it aside with his good arm. “Joe, I’m an astronaut, not a rocket scientist. I forgot how to do that long ago. What are you trying to figure out anyway?”

Joe brought the troubling equation closer to his face and lowered his glasses. “I’m trying to see if there’s any chance of getting Gatomon back.”

The words traveled over the aisle and caught Takato’s interest. He turned to the men. “What do you mean? We got the egg; why wouldn’t we get her back?”

Joe lowered the sheet of paper and explained, “We know we’re going to get Kari’s Digimon back. But we don’t know if she can sustain herself at C-Level like Gatomon could before.”

“For some reason, partnered Digimon have problems sustaining themselves above R-Level. And Gatomon won’t be any different. Remember- she digivolved naturally before meeting Kari.”

“Oh yeah,” Joe said, crumpling up the sheet of paper. “Well, I guess we’ll have to get used to calling her Salamon now.” He tossed the paper aside and put his pencil away. “Are we there yet? I’m hungry.”

“If I knew it would take this long, I would have brought some food,” Matt said, adjusting the sling around his right arm.

“How’s the arm holding up?”

“Not too bad, although I really wish I was left-handed.” Matt stood up and walked to the back of the car. “I can do the important stuff. That’s all that matters,” he said with a smile. “Speaking of which…” He opened the door to the bathroom and stepped in, slamming the door behind him.

“For someone who broke his arm, he’s sure in a good mood,” Takato said to Joe.

“Yeah. He obviously patched things up with Sora.”

“How can you tell?”

Joe smiled slyly. “Good old naïve Takato… I think it was part of the important stuff he was talking about.”

Takato sighed. This was another problem. He was still fifteen. After almost two years in the Digital World, he was still fifteen. After ten, even a hundred more years in the Digital World, he would still be fifteen.

“I hate not getting older,” he pouted.

Joe laughed. “When you’re my age, it’s not such a bad thing. TK and Kari are lucky- they’ll never have to turn 40.”

“How old would you be if you weren’t here?”

“Uh… I think I’d be 50. Scary to think about, isn’t it?”

“Not really. There’s a reason people get older.”

“And there’s also a reason older people wish they were your age,” Joe quietly let out a laugh, “Isn’t it funny how we’re never satisfied with what we are now. You want to grow up, and I would be a lot happier living here if I was younger.”

“I guess I’m never going to get to experience anything resembling a coming-of-age moment.”

“You helped saved the world, Takato, I think that counts. The other stuff is trivial- we can probably throw together a coming-of-age ceremony when you would have turned 20. For all I care, you can drink alcohol if you really want to. And for all intents and purposes, you’re probably better off not knowing about sex. You shouldn’t want to know what you missed.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Just trust me. We’ve had some problems in the past…”

 

While the road team handled the purchase of the wheelchair, Sora and TK were responsible for making the cabin wheelchair-accessible.

“I never realized how many accessibility violations this place had until now,” Sora said as she stood in front of the offending cabin, scratching her chin.

“Thank you, Cody,” TK replied, scratching his.

“I’m only saying we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

“I don’t think so. Joe measured the doorways. They’ll make sure it’ll fit inside. We just have to worry about getting it in there.”

After a few seconds of pondering silently, they settled on a plan and set out to take some measurements. In contrast to the previous days of careful preparation and violent battle, the camp was completely silent except for the infrequent operating noises from the research station and Sora’s quiet, cheerful, humming. Even the day designated for recuperation from the battle was filled with leisurely conversations. But with three heading to steel terminal, one in a coma, and Cody occupying himself indoors, the pleasant atmosphere gave way to a quiet lull.

As a result, Sora’s humming was driving TK crazy. It meant she was in a good mood. The reason wasn’t so much problematic as it was annoying. TK knew it wasn’t intentional, but it felt like she was rubbing it in.

“I take it the marital crisis is over,” TK said abruptly, catching Sora off guard. She immediately returned her focus to the ground, and the measurement she was taking. She smiled, almost to the point of blushing.

“It’s a safe assumption.”

“Even with a broken arm he’s probably better than me,” he grumbled.

Sora let a laugh escape, before controlling herself. “Do I detect some sibling rivalry?”

“My dear sister-in-law, whatever are you talking about?” he said with a smile, looking down at his measurements. Immediately, he changed the subject. "Right about here, do you think?"

After scrutinizing TK's placement of the other end of the tape measure, Sora nodded. "Looks good."

"Takato, could you write this down?" TK called out.

"Takato's with Matt and Joe, remember?"

"Right, right, right. Could you hold this in place?"

Sora leaned over to keep the tape steady while TK fetched a pen and paper, as well as a small plastic stake. TK continued to make small talk as he wrote down the measurements. "Why's Takato with them anyway? He'd probably be more helpful here."

"Don't know. I guess he's been a bit down lately. I think Matt wanted to get him a little more involved." In the same breath, she pointed to the stake and asked, "Do you need a mallet or something?"

"Please. I wrote everything down, so don't worry about the tape." TK held the stake down as Sora got a mallet from the research building, "What's wrong with Takato, anyway? I hope he's not homesick or anything. He should be over that by now."

"I don't know what it is," she said from inside the shack, raising her voice to ensure that TK could hear her. "I guess he wasn't ready for all that violence. Or maybe it was Kari and Magnadramon."

"Can't blame him for that," TK paused as Sora exited the building with a mallet. He held the stake down in place. "But if you ask me, he held up in that battle pretty well."

"I guess," she said as she pounded the stake down.

TK let her finish driving the stake in before continuing, "Think about it. He coordinated a simultaneous attack between Plesiomon and Submarimon, he drew a dynamic digivolution out of Veemon, and I noticed his digivice was restraining Daemon just as much as ours were. If you ask me, Takato did extremely well out there."

"I can't argue with that, but it doesn't mean he enjoyed it."

"Well, we didn't exactly treat it like a party either. I never want to go through that again. Seeing Kari fall like that, and not being able to help her. That was one of the worst experiences I've ever had."

Sora placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure she'll be alright."

"I know." TK rose from his knees and they began another task. "But I think I'm handling it okay. I know I can’t blame myself. Neither of us were ready for it. I just hope she'll be all right in the end. It's not the first time I've had to cope with personal demons."

She responded by hugging him. TK silently let it reassure him, and exhaled a few of those demons with an exasperated sigh.

"What's this for?" he asked.

"You needed a hug," she said, releasing her grasp and returning to the job.

"Nice to see your crest is still glowing." He paused for a moment to let her get a short laugh in, then continued: "But if you ask me, Takato fit in perfectly with the rest of us. He didn't seem all that out of place until the battle was over and he cheered like a lunatic."

"Maybe you should have let him cheer instead of getting on his case about taking off his headset."

"Maybe, but he's not going to go into a chronic depression because he didn't get to celebrate. I still think there's something more to him that he's not showing us."

Sora shook her head. "I don't see anything wrong with Takato. He's a little overwhelmed by all of that carnage, but it'll pass in time. Meanwhile, he proved that he was a perfectly competent digi-destined, going beyond expectations to defend the world. At that age, we were all just like him. We were scared out of our minds, and still pulled off the impossible."

"I don't remember us being that distraught afterwards."

"You weren't exactly doing cartwheels that first time Angemon was recycled."

She had obviously struck a nerve, as TK raised his voice at her. "I was eight! And he got recycled ten minutes after going C-Level. I thought I dealt with that pretty well for my age."

"And I think Takato's dealing with this pretty well for his. He probably just needs a hug too."

They dropped the conversation and silently went about their work for a couple minutes. The silence was broken when Cody exited the cabin, almost tripping over the stakes.

"Look out, Cody. We're doing measurements for the ramp," TK said.

"Are you okay, Cody? You were in there for quite some time," Sora added.

Cody had been at Kari's side for the last half-hour. Neither TK nor Sora knew why he spent so long there, but felt it best not to disturb him.

"I... I don't feel good," Cody moaned. Immediately, TK and Sora dropped what they were doing and approached him.

Sora felt his forehead. "You don't have a fever. What's wrong?"

"I don't know. I'm suddenly feeling really disoriented. Claustrophobic even."

"Dizzy?" TK asked, to which Cody shook his head.

"Why don't you lie down inside?" Sora suggested, ready to lead him to the couch in the cabin.

"No, I'd rather be outside. It feels less cramped out here." Cody stepped down. TK and Sora led him past the markers, measurements, and stakes to a lawn chair. It was large enough for his small body to stretch out completely.

"Is that better?"

"A little."

"Best thing is to get some rest until Joe comes back. Just let us know if you need anything," TK said.

"Thanks. I'm sorry for bothering you. I just feel really strange all of a sudden. Maybe it's something I ate."

The other two quietly returned their work, saying as little as possible to avoid disturbing Cody.

 

The wheelchair crew already had a rough idea of what they wanted, and supplied their plans to the Hagurumon who agreed to put the thing together.

"No problem. We'll get right on it. Shouldn't take more than a couple hours," said one Hagurumon to Matt.

"We'll just stick around then," Matt replied cautiously. With no arguments, the Hagurumon immediately went to work. Matt, Joe, Takato, and their bodyguard Veemon found a place to sit.

After making sure the Hagurumon weren't listening in, Joe said, "We don't really need to watch them put it together,"

"You can never be too careful with virus types," whispered Matt.

"There's nothing wrong with virus types. They have just as much purpose as vaccines. Besides, I know these guys, they're perfectly honest."

"So why am I here?" Veemon asked.

"SOP," Matt replied, "We always bring a Digimon with for protection. Just in case. Understand?"

"Everything except SOP."

Before Matt could explain that it stood for "standard operating procedure," Takato jumped in, "I'm still surprised you wanted Veemon to come with us."

"Why not? Doesn’t matter anyway, I doubt we're going to run into any problems. Besides, Gabumon and Gomamon are back on patrol." Since Daemon's influence was sure to be diminished for the next few years, Matt didn't expect nearly as many attacks as previous months. There would forever be violent uprisings by Digimon acting alone, but they would occur infrequently and would never require more than a few Champions to handle it.

The next thirty minutes were incredibly boring, as the four watched the parts of the wheelchair slowly come together. The Hagurumon weren't even close to assembling the finished product. Takato and Veemon were drifting off to sleep, while Matt was only staying awake because of his nap on the train. Joe was reading a book, occasionally looking up to check on the Hagurumon's progress.

"Joe, I'm going for a walk," Matt announced, standing up.

"Have fun," Joe replied, not bothering to look up.

Matt exited the Hagurumon workshop and walked around the surrounding city. The steel terminal had developed well as an industrial center, but there was an intrinsic appeal to such a place. It was clean, rigid, and metallic- a perfect counterbalance to the coarse, wild, and natural atmosphere of the rest of the world.

After following the train tracks for a couple blocks, Matt caught something in the corner of his eye. For a second, it felt like he was being watched. He turned around and saw it for a brief second, just enough to confirm its presence. Matt chased after it, and caught it flying down a dead-end alley. The creature began to fly over the obstructing wall, but Matt held out a hand.

"Tentomon, wait! I want to talk!"

Tentomon froze, hovering in mid-air.

"Please. I need to talk to him. Just to make sure he's alright."

Finally, the insect spoke, "Were you looking for us?"

"No. We're here to build a wheelchair for Kari. She may be paralyzed. But please, it's been long enough."

Tentomon turned around. "I suppose." He flew past Matt and led him down a different street. After awhile he paused.

"It's good to see you again, Matt."

Matt smiled. "Same here."

 

They arrived at a shack nearby. It blended in perfectly with the rest of the buildings in the town.

"I don't know if he's ready to see you," Tentomon said.

"It doesn't matter. He needs to know about some things."

Tentomon opened the door and Matt edged his way inside. The room was small, but served all of Izzy and Tentomon's purposes without discomfort. Izzy laid face down on his futon, reading a stack of papers.

"Did they have the one I wanted?" Izzy shouted to Tentomon without looking.

"I'm going to check right now. I ran into an old friend that wanted to talk to you," Tentomon replied before flying back through the door.

"What do you..." Izzy turned around and saw Matt. Immediately, he frowned. "Oh," he mumbled before returning to his papers.

"It's been awhile," Matt said, doing his best to sound firm, while not threatening.

"Almost three years." Knowing he wouldn't be getting back to his papers any time soon, Izzy set them aside. He stood up and turned his desk chair around, taking a seat. "How did you break your arm? In the attack against Daemon?"

"Oh..." Matt almost forgot about his arm. "Yeah. I broke it while saving Sora, so it doesn't really hurt as much. Besides, I got off lucky compared to Kari."

"What happened to Kari?" He turned back around, suddenly concerned.

"Don't know. Fell from Magnadramon. She may be paralyzed. Gatomon was killed too."

Izzy glanced to the floor, ashamed of himself. "I should have been there. I was so tempted to join you."

"We could have used the help. Is this where you've been hiding?"

"I'm not hiding. I just... needed to be on my own."

"There's no reason for you to be alone, Izzy. All we have is each other. I'm sure the others will forgive you."

"I haven't even forgiven myself, Matt. You had no idea what I had running through my head..."

"You miss your wife. It's completely understandable. Joe and TK miss theirs. I'm sure Cody would miss Junko if he could remember her. And Kari misses Steve, and Sora and I miss our kids. We're all in this together."

"It's not the same," he replied sadly, "Cody's lucky, he doesn't have to worry about it. And TK was heading straight for divorce papers anyway. Not that it matters, since he has Kari now. And Kari has him. And you and Sora have each other. Who do I have?"

"It's tough, I know, but Joe never..."

Izzy interrupted, "Joe and Mizuki were never all that emotional or romantic. But Aya... she was the world to me. When I married her, I didn't think I would ever be able to live without her. The incident with Kari proved it."

"You seem to have enough remorse for it to not do it again."

"That's not the point!" Izzy stood up and yelled. "Just the fact that I wanted to. The fact that I could even consider wanting to do that with her."

Matt sighed. The "that" they referred to had dealt severe damage to the morale of the group. It came out of left field. Nobody saw the incident but Kari and Izzy, yet everybody drew their own conclusions. It started with a hug, then a forced kiss, then to places unknown. The details were unclear suggesting how far he went before Kari put a stop to it all, but Izzy ran away rather than submitting himself to the aftermath.

The other six had put "that" behind them. They let Izzy have his time alone, which ended up stretching into three years. In that time, Takato had arrived, and the Chosen decided to leave Izzy to fend for himself. Matt decided it was for the best, since some were bound to be less forgiving than others, and they wouldn't have been able to agree on anything were Izzy to come back.

"Look, that's not why I wanted to see you. That's not why we're here. There's something else I..."

"We?" Izzy took a step forward. "Who else is with you?"

"I'm alone. I meant me and Joe and Takato are here to get a wheelchair for Kari."

"Takato?" Izzy's eyes widened. "Who's Takato?"

Matt laughed. "The reason I wanted to see you. He's a kid that somehow got into the world about two years ago. We took him in and he's pretty much one of the family now. Thing is, he baffles the hell out of all of us!"

Suddenly, Izzy was vividly interested in the conversation. "How so? Besides the fact that he broke through."

Matt found his way to the futon, pointed to the chair and said, "Have a seat, you may need to write this down." Izzy rushed over to the computer and opened a word processor as Matt continued, "First off, his last name's Matsuki. Figure that one out."

"I'm not connecting..."

"Same as one of TK's characters."

"I thought Takato's last name was Kanbara."

"No, no, that's Takuya. Takato's was in that first book."

"I see," Izzy mumbled, feverishly typing away. While typing, he prodded Matt further, "What else?"

"When he got here, he thought we were all fictional characters from an anime, yet he knew Digimon were real and claims to have had one himself!"

"That's definitely baffling. Who was his partner?"

Matt smiled. "I was hoping you could help with that; you're the walking analyzer. Guilmon- Takato describes him as a red dinosaur. I always pictured a cross between Tyrannomon and Agumon."

"Digimon don't cross-breed Matt. And there's no species called Guilmon. I'm assuming your database told you that."

"About a hundred times. Anyway, next up- we stuck him with Veemon so he'd have somebody to call partner. His median synch level is 95."

"Prodigious. Veemon's pretty easy to get along with, but I've never seen it that high between non-partners in such a short span of time. Have they peaked above 100?"

"We haven't done a formal test, but they have definitely peaked above 100."

Without glancing back, Izzy replied, "How can you tell if you haven't..." He trailed off, inferring the phenomenon Matt was alluding to. He slowly turned his head towards Matt, with his mouth partially open. Matt nodded.

"Dynamic C-Level digivolution between non-partners. It happened during the Daemon debacle. Perfect timing, as most dynamics are."

"Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable. He somehow is able to break into this world, claims to have a partner that doesn't exist, thinks we're all anime characters, and in less than two years time is able to bond enough to force a dynamic digivolution with a non-partner."

"Prodigious?"

"That's putting it lightly!"

Matt stood. "Well, can you draw any conclusions?"

Following suit, Izzy stood as well. "Only one. I need to meet this kid. For all I can tell he's some sort of deity!"

Matt headed for the door. "The temple of Takato is right this way."

 

The chair was starting to come together when Matt returned. Before bringing Izzy in unannounced, he decided to warm Joe up first.

"Did you have a nice walk?" Joe asked.

"You might say that. I need to talk to you. It's about a certain seventh member."

Takato snapped his head forward and turned to Matt. "I was only half asleep you know."

Matt looked directly into Joe's eyes. "It's about a certain other seventh member."

"You don't mean..." Through Matt's expression, Joe knew exactly who he was talking about.

"He wants to meet Takato."

"Fine, great." Joe stood up and walked up to Matt. "Where is he?"

"He's outside. I just wanted to warn you first." Matt turned to the doorway. "Izzy!" he shouted, "They're ready!"

Takato stood and joined Joe as Izzy walked carefully into the room. The name had been whispered here and there throughout the camp, but nobody would say much about Izzy. Takato had managed to put together an assumption that Izzy had once been one of the group, but had left for reasons that would remain taboo.

"Hello, Takato. It's nice to meet you. My name's Izzy Izumi. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask you a few questions."

"About what?" Takato was a little apprehensive. There had to be a reason the man was such a touchy topic.

"About you. I want to see if I can't figure out who you are and how you got here."

"Oh," Takato replied as he glanced to the floor. He thought the interrogations were over.

Izzy put a hand up. "I'm sure the others probably asked a lot of questions too. But that's only because you're very interesting. You've done a lot of amazing things and I would like to know how."

With a huff, Takato relented. Izzy pulled out a pad of paper and began the barrage of questions.

"Okay, describe your partner. What was it? Guilmon?"

"He's... he's Guilmon. He's the best friend in the world." Takato knew the answer was abstract, but didn't care.

Izzy didn't seem to mind either, and wrote it down, "How far have you ever been able to digivolve him to? U-Level? M-Level perhaps?"

Takato laughed. "Oh, we've been to M-Level alright."

"How old were you when you reached M-Level?"

"13."

"So about... 32..." Izzy mumbled to himself before jotting something down. "Interesting. How did you get here?"

"I went to the gate and crawled in."

"A gate? Where was it?"

"Below Guilmon's house," Takato decided to elaborate further, "A storage shed at the park where he lived so nobody else would see him."

"You had to hide him from people?"

"Well, yeah. Otherwise the men in black would try to take him away." Doubting that Izzy would believe him, Takato was intentionally vague, hoping to convince the man that he wouldn't be able to solve anything.

"Men in black... fascinating." Izzy paused for a long time to write several lines of text. "And you found a digital gate below this shed?"

"I didn't. Guilmon did. He was digging around and it was just there."

"Okay. Takato, when you decided to come to the digital world, that gate was still open?"

"Yessir." Suddenly, he was being asked questions he wasn't used to getting, which at least allowed him a chance to talk more about Guilmon without getting into specific anecdotes.

"And you just crawled in? No magic words or anything?"

"Uh... actually I did have to say 'digi-port open.' It's a little strange that that actually worked, isn't it?"

Izzy nodded, furiously taking notes. "It certainly is. Sorry to change gears on you, but who are your parents?"

"Takehiro and Yoshie Matsuki. They... they died in a bakery fire," he answered sadly.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Izzy’s condolence was half-hearted, as he was more concerned with writing the information down, "A bakery, you said?"

"Yeah. We ran a bakery. Nothing special. They didn't have any connection to Digimon, if that's what you're asking."

"That's what I was asking, thank you. Can I see your digivice?"

After a moment, Takato fetched it from his pocket and handed it to Izzy. Izzy immediately admired it, but unlike the others who had seen it, didn't seem as baffled.

"Let me guess, you've never seen one before," Takato said.

Izzy smiled. "Not in real life. This looks like a prototype model some of my co-workers were working on." He pointed to the card reader on the side, "Tell me, is this for some sort of card to go in?"

Takato immediately perked up. None of the others bothered to warrant a guess about the features of his D-Power. "Yeah! It's for modify cards!"

"Modify cards... I see..." Izzy continued to observe the D-Power, before looking back at Takato. "Do you know a man named Goro Mizuno?" he asked with a confident smile.

"Goro Mizuno?" Takato thought hard. "I don't think so... doesn't sound..."

All of a sudden, the name registered. After almost four years it was almost difficult to pinpoint, especially since Takato knew him better under a pseudonym. And the psudonym was all that Takato could say.

"Shibumi."

In a flash, Izzy had dropped his notes, dropped to his knees, and put his hands on Takato's shoulders, careful not to drop the D-Power in the process. "Shibumi! Shibumi! You know Shibumi!" he exclaimed with a bright smile.

"You know him?"

"Know him? He's one of my best friends!" Izzy stood and returned Takato's D-Power. "A fellow researcher working with Sora's father. And you even know his nickname!"

"But wasn't that..."

"We all gave each other stupid nicknames. It was a whole group of us- Shibumi and Babel and Daisy and Tao and..." Izzy laughed, "I was Beetle."

"Why, because of Tentomon?"

"No, because I drove one." Izzy paced around, finally reclaiming his notes and jotting things down.

"Wait a minute!!" Takato pointed at Izzy. "You said 'Tao,' didn't you? Isn't that...?"

"Janyuu Wong," Izzy said cheerfully, obviously enjoying a discussion on old friends.

"You knew Janyuu?"

"Of course! In fact, one of his kids, I think his name was Henry, he was good friends with my daughter. We always joked that they were going to get married one day."

"Henry?!"

Suddenly, he had a reason to remember. Something was coming together. "He was a Tamer too! He was a friend of mine!"

"Hold on a second..." Joe interrupted. "Are you telling me that you two have some sort of thread? You both know Mizuno and Wong?"

Izzy looked at Joe quizzically. "Yeah, I introduced them to you, didn't I?"

"Yeah, but I assumed Takato wouldn't know them. But this could explain it- those two were gatekeepers. They'd find a way to hack a gate open."

Matt joined in, "And Takato found a way in..."

"Incredible..." Izzy was still writing this down.

"You mean prodigious?" Takato corrected him.

Izzy raised an eyebrow at Takato. "Yes... prodigious. Who told you about 'prodigious'? Shibumi? Or was it that anime?"

"The anime."

"Prodigious... any chance you remember who did the voice of me?"

Takato shook his head. He wasn't going to bother trying to remember something like that.

"It doesn't matter," Izzy concluded before changing the subject. Now feeling more confident, he was not ready to solve this case. "So when exactly did Mizuno approach you and give you that digivice of yours?"

"Oh, he never approached me. My card reader somehow turned into it. And then Guilmon bio-emerged... the rest is history." Takato said matter-of-factly.

Izzy dropped his notes. He wasn't ready for that. The conclusion formed suddenly was shot to pieces.

"All done!" The Hagurumon interrupted the moment of silence to make their big announcement. Matt and Joe went to admire the handiwork. The wheelchair was simple, sturdy, and functional.

"Takato! Jump on, I want to see how this rides," Matt said.

"Sure!" Izzy was left in his confusion as Takato sat on the contraption and began to wheel around the room.

Takato finished his test-drive and stood up. "Feels pretty good, guys. Although the right side seems a little loose."

"I'm on it!" One of the Hagurumon took a wrench and tightened some of the bolts on the frame.

"Great. We'd better get back. I don't want to get home too late," Joe said.

"I'm going too," Izzy announced.

The three looked over at him. His notes were still on the floor, but Izzy faced the trio with newfound resolve.

"Takato is fascinating. There's definitely something about him and I want to get to the bottom of it. He's really sparked my interest. And therefore, I would like to rejoin the group."

Matt put his left arm on Takato's shoulder. "No," he stated firmly.

"No?" Izzy was surprised, "What do you mean, no? You were the one that said I shouldn't be alone. I'm ready to come out of hiding. Why 'no' all of a sudden?"

"Because it's for the wrong reason. Takato isn't a science experiment for you to analyze and dissect all you want. Sure, we don't know who he is and how he got here, but we don't care anymore. He is one of us now. He is a digi-destined, and I'm not going to let you choose to come out of exile just because you think he's interesting. If you wanted to be forgiven, or if you needed security, or if you just needed companionship again, that would be different. But your reasons are completely selfish. You’re treating Takato like some sort of scientific anomaly."

"But Matt..." Takato interrupted, "I am a scientific anomaly, aren't I?"

"No. You're Takato Matsuki and you're one of us."

Takato wasn't satisfied with the answer. He was starting to feel like an anomaly again. He didn't belong here. His real world experiences were completely unlike the others. But Izzy knew some faces. He knew Shibumi and Janyuu and Henry. It wasn't much, but it was the closest he felt to home since he arrived.

Finally, Joe stepped in and said, "Look Matt, we have rules in place for this. Everybody needs to weigh their opinion on this, and everybody needs to have a say in the decision. I'm undecided myself, but we need to discuss this at a council."

"Without Kari?"

"It's better than without Kari, Sora, TK, and Cody."

"Please, Matt, I need to figure out what's going on with Takato. Enough that I'm willing to take whatever I have coming to me and ask for reinstatement," Izzy said solemnly.

Matt didn't look thrilled, but obliged. "I guess I don't have much of a choice. Joe's right. This is something for us to decide as a council. But we are leaving soon. You'd better start packing. Be at the train station in half an hour. You might want to have Tentomon stick around to get the rest of your things."

Izzy bowed. "Thank you. I'll be there in twenty."

As Izzy ran out, Veemon decided to take a spin on the wheelchair. Takato was the first to notice. "Veemon, get off of there, that's for Kari."

That seemed to draw Matt back into action, as began to walk out. "Takato and Veemon- let's get that wheelchair aboard the train. Joe- you might want to tell Sora about all this."

Joe nodded. "Right, Matt. Warn them."

 

Despite the anxiety with Izzy's return, the first thing on Joe's mind as the train pulled into forest terminal was Cody. Although he was contacting Sora about Izzy, her news of Cody was an unpleasant surprise.

She continued to surprise the group when she was waiting for them at the station. Immediately, Joe jumped off the train to greet her.

"How's Cody?" Joe said urgently.

"Cody may have to wait. I think Kari's waking up soon." As they ran to the facility, Sora continued, "TK said he saw her hand twitch."

"Yeah, that sounds about on schedule. Thanks."

As Joe ran to check on Kari, Sora waited for Matt and Takato to unload the wheelchair. Izzy disembarked, eyeing Sora nervously. He gulped. "Hi Sora."

Sora wasn't sure what to make of it. He looked exactly the same as he did three years ago. If he was living the life of a secluded outcast, as Joe made it sound, it didn't show through his appearance. His hair was cut, his clothes were clean, and he didn't look any less sociable.

"Hi Izzy," was all she could manage.

"Well, hon, what do you think?" her husband asked, drawing her view down the wheelchair Takato was demonstrating.

"Looks nice. It should do fine. We have plans for the ramp, although we may not have it ready when Kari wakes up."

"She's probably better off staying in bed for a few days anyway. We have to have a council regarding Izzy here, but nobody said we had to have it outside."

Takato quietly began wheeling himself back to the cabin. He didn't get very far before an external force began to push him forward. It was Izzy.

"Thanks for the ride," Takato said, leaning back and folding his hands on his lap.

Izzy smiled. "No problem. I want to see if this place has changed any."

Matt and Sora joined them as they arrived back at the cabins. The first thing Izzy saw was Cody, still resting on that same chair. Despite the fact that he was sleeping, he still looked uncomfortable. Matt nudged him awake.

"Cody? Cody?" The boy began to stir. "How are you feeling?"

Cody moaned slightly and frowned. "Still uncomfortable. I don't know what it is."

"What's wrong?" Izzy stepped in.

"I feel a little disoriented... and a little cramped. Like everything's closing in on me."

Izzy raised an eyebrow. "Really? No fever or illness or anything?"

"Nope. Just this discomfort."

"I see..."

"Don't tell me you know what it is?" Sora asked.

"I think I do. I'll tell you later."

Takato jumped off the chair. "Hop on Cody. Let's see how Kari's doing."

Sora helped Cody on and they wheeled him over to the other cabin. It was a slight hassle lifting him into the building, but both he and the chair were light, so it didn't cause too much trouble. As they went inside, Matt halted Izzy.

"You might want to wait…"

"Understood," Izzy replied, not needing Matt to finish.

The room was getting crowded, but Kari had plenty of room to herself. As she opened her eyes, she saw the whole group, although TK and Joe were nearest to her. TK held her hand.

"Kari?"

After a few breaths, she responded, "TK?"

That alone seemed to be enough to relax the group.

"How are you feeling?" Joe asked.

"I'm not. I can't feel anything below my waist," she said with a hint of fear.

Joe nodded. "It's alright. You took a nasty fall. There may be some spinal damage. I can't say how severe it is, but hopefully it will get better with time."

"Where's Gatomon?"

"She... she was killed by LadyDevimon. But we recovered her digiegg," TK answered slowly.

"Now that you're awake, she'll probably hatch in a day or two," Joe added.

"But we stopped Daemon then?" she asked, receiving several collective nods in response.

"That's good," she continued. "Sorry I made you all worry. I'm sure I missed quite a battle."

"It was something else, but don't worry about that. We'll tell you some stories later," TK said.

Sora patted Kari's free hand. "Just try to rest for now and get some of your strength back. Joe says you may need a wheelchair. He, Matt and Takato had one made today. We'll make sure when you're ready to get out of bed, you'll be able to."

Kari smiled brightly. "Thanks, everybody. You guys are the best."

"It was nothing," Takato said.

Hesitantly, Matt brought up a different matter. "Kari, I don't mean to bring this on you now, but there's something we really need to discuss as a group. There's something really important we need to decide on, and it's important that you have a say in it... since it's about Izzy."

Suddenly, her expression changed to one of curiosity. "Izzy? What happened with Izzy?"

"They found him, Kari," Sora answered, "Matt found him up at steel terminal. And apparently he wants to live with us again. So we're going to have to vote on whether to allow him back in. So we'll have a council whenever you're ready."

"I'm ready whenever," Kari replied immediately. "I know my decision. I've known my decision for three years."

Matt nodded. "Tonight then. He can say his piece, we can ask him questions... and we'll try to fit everybody in here. Alright?"

"Sounds good. Just one more question."

"Yes?"

She smiled once more. "When do they serve dinner at this hospital?"

 

After dinner, the eight were somehow able to cram into Kari's room for the council. It was the first important one Takato had been a party to. There had been several votes, but mostly on trivial matters like cooking duties and train policy. The last significant one was almost two years ago, when Takato first appeared. Takato looked across at Izzy, occupying a dining room chair by the door. "He has to be a little nervous," Takato thought, "After all, I was when they were voting about me."

Matt stood from his position on TK's bed, which startled Sora and TK, also seated on the bed. Takato carefully sat at the foot of Kari's bed, Joe was in an imported chair alongside Izzy, and Cody was in the wheelchair, positioned between the two beds.

"Okay, let's get this over with since Cody isn't feeling well and Kari needs her rest," Matt began, "Long story short, we found Izzy and he wants back in. It's been three years and I hope I don't have to explain to everybody what happened." Everybody nodded, including Takato. Joe had taken him aside on the way back and briefed him of the situation.

Matt continued, "I guess the only thing to do is let Izzy explain why he wants to come back." He shot a glance at Izzy. "And you'd better include the same reason you gave me this afternoon."

As Matt sat down, Izzy stood up. "Okay, well..." The way Izzy sounded made Takato confirm his belief about Izzy being nervous. "What Matt was getting at was that I want to come back because of Takato. From what I can tell, you've all been a little curious about how he got here, and I'd really like to find out. There are things that Takato doesn't know about that we do know about, and there are experiences unique just to Takato. But I think this is a solvable mystery if I have the time to get to know Takato a little better.

“I've already made one breakthrough. We both know Goro Mizuno and Janyuu Wong, both people I worked with and both gatekeepers. Also, Takato worked with Janyuu's son Henry, who was close friends with my daughter. There are connections. And I'm determined to get to the bottom of them.”

Izzy paused. He just blurted it all out without really contemplating each sentence. Was he putting together a good argument or just babbling? He could never quite tell the difference.

He went on, "I don't know why it's happening now after nine years, but we are in the middle of something big. I can feel it. You all just defeated Daemon again, an event which happens only once a decade. In regards to Cody..." Like sheep, everybody turned to him, catching the boy off guard. "I think I know what's going on with Cody."

"What?" Joe asked.

"Cody is getting ready to digivolve."

The heads all turned back towards Izzy.

"Or Hybrid evolve, or whatever name we invent for it. I think the reason he's feeling uncomfortable is because he's growing up."

"You mean this is like... puberty?" Matt took a stab at it.

"In a way, yes. That's a good comparison. Some Digimon feel this way right before they naturally digivolve. Data is starting to compile and the current form doesn't seem large enough. Eventually, the subject digivolves and feels released."

"I think he's right," Cody said. "Yeah, that has to be it."

"Finally, the other big thing is Takato. There is a point to all this research. There is a point to all these questions. Takato may be our last hope. I know how to send him back to the real world."

Everybody in the room erupted, demanding clarification. Takato stood up and said, "You can send me back?"

Matt hushed everybody down and let Izzy continue. "Yes, there is a way to send Takato home... if he wants to take advantage of it, of course. I'll explain later, but I just wanted to let everybody know."

After a pause, Izzy discussed a different subject in a more subdued tone, "Of course, this would mean putting the past behind and forgiving me for mistakes I made before. I think I left more because of my own guilt than out of fear of what you'd think. I mean, I'm sure you were mad, but I've known you guys since I was ten. I know you're all capable of forgiving me. It just took me awhile to forgive myself first. I guess I'm done."

Izzy sat down to a hushed silence. Matt took the floor once again. "Izzy, could you go outside while we discuss this and vote?"

He watched as Izzy left. After waiting until the outside door closed, Matt went on, "I still don't know. I mean, I'm willing to forgive him and all, but I don't like the fact that he's coming back just because of Takato."

"I'm just happy he wants to come back. I was worried about him," Cody said.

"But Cody, this is awfully shallow of him," Joe replied. "He could have come back at any time and discovered Takato. He could have been here when Takato arrived if he wanted to. We would have let him back in. I don't think he doubts that we're going to let him back in."

"Yeah, if he came back on his own, apologized, and swore never to do it again, it would be a different story," TK copied Joe's sentiment. "But Matt found him, showed him Takato, and suddenly he's gotten over it all and decides he's willing to work with us again? I'll admit that I was a little suspicious of Takato too. Heck, after seeing ExVeemon, I still am. But I'm not going to sit here and let Izzy analyze Takato because he's an interesting specimen, or because he's unusual, or because he shouldn't be here. None of us should be here. But we are, and that's all that matters. I don't think Izzy gets that."

"I agree," Matt replied. "It took us so long to accept Takato as a normal member of the group, and Izzy pretty much admitted that he wasn't going to treat Takato normally."

"But he made me feel normal..." Takato's words silenced Matt.

"What? What do you mean?" asked Sora.

"When he said the name Janyuu Wong... when he knew who Shibumi was. When he mentioned Henry..." Takato kept his head to the ground. He was tired of hearing everybody talk about him; he needed to get out his own feelings. "When he mentioned Henry something clicked. Something happened for the first time since I got here. I felt like I wasn't an alien. I didn't feel like I was in the wrong place... the wrong world even. That there was a connection after all."

Takato lifted his head and stood up. "I was always afraid to tell you before, because... well for one thing I was trying to forget them. But also because every time I did say something, you would say that it was impossible. It was impossible that I raised Guilmon in the real world. It was impossible that I could slash a card on my digivice and give him wings. I never could tell you stuff like this because you would say it was impossible."

"Like what? Give us an example," said Joe.

"Okay, here's an example- there's that book TK wrote where I'm supposed to be one of the characters? And the other characters are twins- Ai and Mako. Well, I never told you that I knew twins named Ai and Mako."

TK suddenly grew wide-eyed and leaned forward.

"And they shared a Digimon partner, just like TK's book. But that's it. They were a lot younger than me, six years at least. And we never really got to know each other all that well. We lived in different parts of the city. And there's no way that the Ai and Mako in the book were stuck with Impmon." Takato looked at TK for confirmation; and TK shook his head to confirm Takato's hunch.

"What if I had said that right when we met? You'd always look at me strange. And I've got a million more things that could surprise you and make you say that's impossible." Still not finished, Takato pointed to the door. "But Izzy found a connection. Three people that we both knew at some point in our lives. Three actual living, breathing people that weren't characters in a book, or characters in an anime or figments of my imagination."

Although tears were starting to form in his eyes, he continued, "Not only that, but he says he can send me home. I still don't know if I want to or not. You guys are my family, almost as much as my parents were before they died. But I want to see if it's really possible to go back. You said already that it doesn't matter what Izzy did before. He's obviously sorry and you obviously can forgive him. But don't say he won't treat me like a normal kid. Because nobody here does... including myself. I'm not normal, but I'm not impossible. And if Izzy says so, neither is the chance of opening a gateway home." Finished, he sat back onto the bed and started crying. The only person nearby was Kari, and she weakly placed a hand on his shoulder, the only thing she could do to comfort him.

Getting back on track, Matt turned to Kari. "Kari? Anything you want to say about Izzy?"

"Like I said before, I made my decision years ago and nothing can change it."

"Okay then..." Matt took a slight pause to let everybody make his or her final decision. "All in favor of allowing Izzy back into the group?"

One by one, all seven raised a hand.

To Be Continued in "Stage Eight- Crossing"

 

Author's Notes
See, it's a mindfuck... but a touching mindfuck. I had originally planned to develop the whole messy situation between Izzy and Kari a little further, perhaps even mentioning it in stage five, but decided to tone it down since it wasn't as important as other matters. What resulted was only a little sampler of some of the psychological issues about the incident.

With only one stage left before the end of the story, it seems like there's a lot of loose ends to tie up. In reality, there's only one that needs undivided attention. All the rest are shadowy questions that get explained better in the remaining two stories.

The Hagurumon are the gear-shaped Digimon first seen working for Machinedramon.

Once again, the puzzle grows more complicated, but perhaps a few different questions can be considered jointly to get a little bit of insight into what's really going on. Then again... maybe not. Although hopefully the fact that Izzy knows those three (combined with Matt knowing Riley) may dispel a few incorrect theories.

Yes, those are the names of Takato's parents, and his mother may be one of the most unnecessary dub name changes (apparently, it was Mie in the Japanese version) since her name was so rarely mentioned. Curiously enough, Izzy's mother is also named Yoshie, which is most definitely a coincidence.

This ends Level 1: Stage Seven of The Connection

Stage Highlights