"For many years I wondered why the Great Harmonious Ones had chosen young children to save both worlds. As a chosen child, I thought myself unequipped for the task. As a teenager, I thought it unfair that my elders could not have their own partners. When I gained the wisdom of an adult, I understood and threw my humanity away." - Takerumon, "A History of the Digital World, Part 3: The Human Invasion."

Hikari Yagami was a woman of few dreams, all of them vivid and memorable. Most of them came true, or at least mostly true. Usually they were nightmares, either when she dreamed them or when she lived them.

There was the one from her infancy, about an egg coming out of the computer and a dinosaur – her dinosaur, named Greymon but much bigger than one – rampaging through Hikarigaoka.

There was the one which accompanied her delirious fever, of a vast underground city worked by Numemon. She became their queen (despite being a human child – dreams are never so sensible), broke their chains, and led their rebellion. In the dream, their slime choked their owner Mugen Dramon to death: in reality, it led to the temporary extinction of Numemon as a species.

There was the nightmarish, lovecraftian one which began as she entered puberty, where a being from another world, a tentacled god of darkness and indescribable horror, was drawn to her powers of light. It kidnapped, raped and impregnated her with its horrific spawn. In reality, there was always someone around to save her from that fate, but the dreams and Dagomon's dark call never completely ceased.

And then there was the one she actually wanted to come true. In her dream, she was a kindergarten teacher, offering tips to a boy with a Nyaromon, in a world where everyone knew of the digital world, but it didn't matter, because humans and digimon lived together in peace, enriching each others' lives through that mystical bond they shared. It was a dream she had dreamed many nights, a dream Belial Vamdemon had tempted her with, a dream she would not forget in her personal darkest hour.

Her personal darkest hour was one which happened during this dream's version of reality.

Mimi Tachikawa had to admit that moving to America made her one of the lucky ones. Every night she thanked Qinglongmon and the kami for her parents' cowardice. Not that the United States had an especially enlightened Digimon policy: they still wouldn't allow kids (save Michael, herself, and the other American Chosen) to have them in their earthly borders, but they allowed ten million children or so to stay with their digimon, as long as they kept them in the digital world – the other children had been cowed by their parents' hatred and fear into breaking their sacred bonds. But there were no imprisonments, no exiles, and people could even keep their digimon partners with them once they turned eighteen. Compared to the stories her Chosen friends around the world had been telling her, it was the closest thing to paradise on earth.

But it was still quite far from paradise. Right-wing demagogues denounced digimon in the same sentences as pornography as a blight upon the moral fabric of the nation, and sometimes sparked riots at electronics stores. The internet had not been locked down as tightly as Australia's, but censorship had still become a fact of life. And in foreign policy, like most of Earth's nations, America had taken it upon itself to expand into the digital world, lest it lose the race for weapons, natural resources, and all those other words politicians use as synonyms for power. And as conquerors, Americans were as brutal as any other.

And then there were her personal problems. For most people, America was probably better. For her - a Japanese-American who still spoke with an accent - she was a target of hatred in the ugly manner which America has always viewed immigrants from hostile nations – never mind that she had friends suffering under those bastards. And while Japan and indeed most of the world still saw the Chosen Children as heroes, America was suspicious of those who befriended monsters and had been selected by their beast gods. To the masses, if not the government, they were traitors waiting for a chance to commit treason.

(Formally, Japan and the US were allies as part of the United Nations, which was expanding into the digital world for the benefit and protection of human and digimon alike, and acting as an alliance for only the third time in its 65-year history. The reality was somewhat more... complex.)

She had dreamed of hosting a cooking show on television. With Palmon. Instead, she went to cooking school in disguise while Palmon (well, Togemon) stayed behind in the Geko Shogunate's army.

But she knew she wouldn't finish the semester. The media was jingoist, but they couldn't hide that tensions were growing. As a young girl chosen to save both worlds, she had dreamed of being a princess and saw only the glamor.

But royalty also have a duty to their subjects, and the slim threads which peace hung by were breaking one by one.

Jou Kidou had never been especially inclined to the study of medicine, but with Shuu studying mythology and Shin in jail for protesting the new government, he had a responsibility to his father to carry on the Kidou tradition of medicine.

And Jou did not run away from his responsibilities. That was part of what it meant to hold his crest, after all. Not that this meant he'd be working in another hospital in Japan, anyway – there were not nearly enough healers in the digital world, rudimentary medical knowledge was rare, and far too many digimon died of what he presumed were preventable illnesses.

His father, to his surprise, had approved of this: perhaps he saw Jou's potential for greatness as a digimon doctor. After a single class, Jou had quickly abandoned the study of human medicine and indeed academia altogether, despite having passed the entrance exams to one of the best schools in the country by nothing more than the sort of willpower which kept him up to three in the morning studying every night.

Digimon, after all, were built... differently. Very differently. The fields of data recovery and anti-virus software were far more applicable than anything about human medicine, and he found himself learning more from Takeru's Patamon and Koushiro than from anyone in his family. At first he had been shocked to know that digimon lacked a germ theory of disease and did not practice basic hygiene. But before long, he realized that there were no germs, per se, in the digital world, and hygiene was more practiced out of ritual than need: he could avoid bathing for weeks in the digital world without anyone smelling a thing.

But in time, with the relentless effort he had once applied to his studies, Jou had learned. He started as an apprentice under a Kentarumon in File City, but in time developed his own practice and became renowned far and wide for his skill. He knew something of human ways (not through the classes he sometimes regretted dropping out of, but from growing up a doctor's son) knew things beyond simply healing attacks and herbs and bandages, and he was proud to say he had taught Kentarumon a few tricks of his own. And as his practice grew, he noticed a new problem. Although few digimon were in much of a mood to talk about their battles – they had, after all, been injured in defeat far more often than in victory, and digimon hated losing - more and more were coming in with injuries inflicted by humans. Soldiers. Bombs and gunshots.

Once, he had berated Mimi for her pacifism. Now, it sometimes seemed she had more wisdom at ten than he had at twenty-three, and he was the fool for talking her into fighting for the world's cause. It seemed the proper path in life to avoid the thorny morality of inter-species violence and focus on saving as many lives as possible.

Or maybe he had become a squeamish coward hiding behind medical oaths and forgetting why he had been chosen in the first place. Maybe the digimon needed more than a healer. Maybe they needed a warrior.

Maybe they needed a hero.

The rocket was launching today, and as Yamato Ishida stood at the Tanegashima Space Center, he wondered if there was an upside to the new government after all. Yes, they were doing it for national glory and power – the same reason they did everything – but there was still something amazing about humans striking out to explore new worlds.

The Shogun had declared that he'd put a man on Mars by 2030. His administration had given him and even Gabumon a role in the space program, and he had largely missed political developments in favor of the harsh training regimen of an astronaut. It was a good gig – his music career had declined, he was no luckier in love than his father, his internal darkness seemed to be coming back despite Gabumon's best efforts, and he could forget all that, forget the world, if he just blasted off into space.

Was the government using him? Probably. His father was a skilled journalist whose reporting on the digimon crises had won him the trust of human and digimon alike, and if he could be muzzled by perks for his son instead of angering people with censorship, all the better. And having a hero of the first digital war working on the space program was probably a propaganda victory in its own right.

But he didn't know these things. There was a lot Yamato didn't know, these days. He had no clue what the government was doing in the digital world. The great digimon seizure had angered him as much as any chosen child, but in a way he understood. Digimon were powerful weapons, and he himself had been manipulated into using Metal Garurumon, a walking arsenal, to beat up his rival and best friend. Could children really be trusted by that kind of power? He wasn't sure, but maybe they weren't as bad as everyone was making them out to be.

After all, how bad could they be if they were training Gabumon to be an astronaut?

In some ways, Ken Ichijouji had done the best of any of the chosen children. While the others maintained fame largely because of their childhoods, he was a legendary polymath, a chess wizard and expert programmer who happened to be lighting up the J-League's top division as a striker, leading the league in goals. Perhaps the talents of the dark seed had not totally left him, or perhaps he had a greatness of his own beyond evil's powers – he was, after all, the brother of Osamu Ichijouji.

But the past he had sought to leave behind still haunted him, and not only in his memories. Contact with the digital world had taught humanity the lesson of his cruelties as the Digimon Kaiser. When interviewed by the media, he sometimes mentioned his attempts to atone, his fight to save the digital world from Belial Vamdemon and his minions. Other times, he said nothing, feeling he deserved to be shunned by human and digimon alike: strangely, the digimon seemed more forgiving than most humans.

More disturbing were the humans who did not shun him. He too could see the parallels between his actions as Kaiser and the present ones of the human invasion, but while Ken saw this as a horrifying development on the part of his nation and species, the militarists of the modern era saw this as a reason to honor him as the first conqueror.

The New Black Dragons (had they no shame? Was an upside-down sky scarier than a mushroom cloud? Had the Shogunate not been militaristic enough?) had invited him to speak, and Ken took them up on the offer, but not to praise them.

The soldiers waited for the first conqueror. They expected a grand speech, expected to elect him leader as they pressured the government onward to greatness.

Ken entered the room in Stingmon's arms, laptop in hand. "You are fools. Do not make my mistakes. I have earned the hatred of decent men and decent digimon. I was a sadistic megalomaniac who reduced digimon to slavery, and I would have done the same to humans had I the power to do so. It was a digimon who brought me back to sanity. It required humans and digimon working together to save the world last time, and I fear that if you get your way, we will be needed to save the world again."

As the crowd booed and charged, Ken opened the digital gate, then shut it behind him. It was worth losing a computer for this, if he swayed even a single person.

He was lucky to make it through the portal alive.

When Rome rose from a city-state to the rulers of the Mediterranean world, the Gladiatorial Games spread across the continent. When the Britain became an empire so vast that the sun never set on its territory, so too did Cricket and Rugby become games played all around the world. This is not only because the conquerors seek to impose their customs on the conquered: war and empire have always meant cultural interchange, and a fun sport is fun regardless of nationality.

When the United Nations, on behalf of the human race, invaded the digital world, it was soccer which followed. Digimon of every species took up the sport, some more skillfully than others. To Sora Takenouchi's dismay, Piyomon's short legs and large wings meant that none of that species, including her partner, would ever be any good: wings, after all, were considered hands for the purposes of digital soccer. Few of the pink birds took to the sport, preferring traditional digimon sports – the battles of the Colosseum and the strange, three-circled curling which the Penmon so loved – and were Piyomon and Penmon that different?

Instead, the team she coached had consisted of other species – two ToyAgumon and two Psychemon on defense, a Unimon and a Meramon as strikers, and a midfield of a Hagurumon, a Kokuwamon, a Gazimon, and a Dokugumon, with an Alraumon in net. It was a diverse group, seldom in need of the red kits they wore to distinguish friend from foe. She had never been a star at the game, never quite as good as Ken or Daisuke or even Taichi. But outside of her friends and saving the world, sports were probably the one thing Sora enjoyed the most, and she brought a great deal of energy and a bit of knowledge to her team. (To be fair, perhaps it was more a cheerleader's energy than a soccer coach's, but no one really minded.)

It was much better than designing fashions or whatever else girls were supposed to do, at least as far as she was concerned.

"Nice pass, Dokugumon!" she cheered as the spider flipped a ball from behind it over its body and right to Meramon's leg, but the ref whistled down the burning man as offside. "You've got to be careful there!"

The game wasn't particularly well-attended, but a hundred digimon or so had gathered to watch, which nearly filled the small bleachers at midfield of her team's "pitch" - a long patch of grass with lines drawn on it, goals set up, and a few stands and a scoreboard set up, but otherwise indistinguishable from the rest of the grassland where it stood. Her team wasn't having the best of days, trailing 1-0 at the 64-minute mark and looking for the equalizer.

Not that they wanted it interrupted. Not like this.

For it was humans who brought soccer to the digital world, and to the radicals among the resistance, this meant that soccer was a decadent foreign influence, and all who played or watched it might as well be collaborating with the enemy. Most matches had gone on without protest, and the attacks which did occur were too infrequent and weakly led to terrorize digimon into more traditional hobbies.

The digital world in this period was a radicalized one. While in his lifetime, Vamdemon was a hated tyrant, digimon growing up after Spiral Mountain's fall saw in him a great king, mistook propaganda for historical fact and seen in his attack on Earth's largest city not the seeds of the digital world's fall, but a brave effort of a heroic ruler to stem the human menace.

And he served as an inspiration for terrorists across the digital world.

A horde of about twenty digimon had approached the stands, all at least at the adult level, most of them machine digimon or virus types. A Metal Tyrannomon stood in back of the group, towering over his comrades and the bleachers alike.

"It's clear that some digimon might as well be humans." The mechanical beast said, glaring at the bleachers with a hint of contempt behind its mechanical, inexpressive eyes. "In the name of the Sacred Order of Vamdemon, Giga Destroyer II!"

A purple missile otherwise similar to Metal Greymon's shot from the Metal Tyrannomon's tripod hand, blowing the hundred largely child-level spectators in a hundred directions, but doing more property damage than disintegration. "Piyomon, pick up whoever you can and get us out of here!" Sora yelled, holding up her digivice as her digimon transformed.

"Piyomon shinka, Birdramon!"

As she rode with a Gazimon, and two Toy Agumon riding atop her digimon's talons, Sora watched the larger digimon pick off the smaller soccer fans, one by one, with none of the competence one would expect of a trained group of freedom fighters massacring treasonous collaborators. "Why are they letting them go? Why are they letting us go? These bastards think Vamdemon is a hero, this doesn't make any sense."

"You've heard of them too, huh?" The Gazimon began, maintaining a surprising calm as his fans and teammates were slaughtered. "But you're forgetting that this pitch is pretty isolated. If everyone dies, there's no one left to get the news out, and that won't do these terrorist fucks any good."

As the pitch approached the horizon, as Birdramon flew further and further away, they saw a human-shaped fire made the size of a candle by distance disintegrate into data. "Meramon!" The four riders cried out, united in tears, then turned their heads so they would see no more of the slaughter.

Koushiro Izumi was not a historian. His ideas of what happened when civilizations met one another came not from mankind's past, but from its imagined futures, when humanity explored the stars.

When it came to conclusions, this fact was irrelevant. A historian who had studied the conquest of the Americas would learn the exact same things as a science fiction fan reading about wars between aliens and humans. When worlds collided, someone always ended up losing, enslaved or exterminated by the superior power.

When Vamdemon invaded Earth, he had believed the superior power to be the digimon, and humankind itself in danger. Now it had become clear that even ultimates could not stand against tanks and guns and bombs for too long, and there weren't enough ultimates left to win the war.

The digital world was in danger. His friends and comrades were in danger. Tentomon was in danger.

But maybe, just maybe, he could make peace. When the civilizations were equal, when neither could destroy the other, they prospered from trade and the exchange of ideas. All he had to do was strengthen the digital world, to make digimon around the world evolve.

And this was by no means an impossible task. After all, he had hacked into Tentomon's code at the age of ten. Now, he would do more – so much more. Whole armies would be built on his programming, and the digital world itself would once again call him their savior.

This time, it wouldn't be Taichi or Takeru who got all the glory.

"Kokuwamon, warp shinka! Gran Kuwagamon!" The machine insect yelled, screaming out in pain as it grew to a hundred times its size and replaced a steel coating with a tough exoskeleton. "Thank you, my lord. I'll do what I can to save this world."

Next to it, his own Heracles Kabuterimon nodded. A nation was forming in the digital world, a nation too powerful to conquer, and Koushiro Izumi was its king.

All things considered, it was only natural that the son of Natusko Takaishi and Hiroaki Ishida would go into journalism. The surprising thing wasn't that Takeru Takaishi was a reporter (he took well to the profession) or that he started so young (he did have... connections) but that Yamato hadn't already followed in their footsteps.

And now it seemed his career would either end soon, or have a grand new beginning.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Takeru asked. "Not that I'm complaining – I'm as curious about the exiled children as anyone - but won't the government shut you down if you run this story?"

"Either they lose legitimacy when we publish the story, or they lose it by shutting down the second-biggest newspaper in Tokyo." His boss, a grizzled man of about fifty years, answered. "I'm prepared to go to prison if it'll bring down this government."

"You are?"

"I lost my son. When the Shogunate came for their digimon, he left for the digital world with the rest of them. If you see a kid named Taro with a... well, I don't know how it evolved, but it was a Ganimon when he left. Let him know I understand and still hope he's doing okay."

"I'm sorry." Takeru answered, holding his digivice up to his laptop. "I'll let you know what happened to the humon. Digital gate, open!"

A few hours' hike later, the Chosen of Hope found his way to the city of Processor. It was a large town, covered in metal, with no signs of human presence in architecture. Fortifications were there; the city had seen no shortage of attacks from anti-human radicals, despite the fact that half of the "humans" in the city would have joined the radicals given half the chance.

When he found Taro – well, Taromon now: each of the Humon had appended "mon" to their personal names – the young man answered that "I don't care what a human thinks. If he cares about me, he'll join us in the digital world."

"He sent me on this story. He wants to tell the world about you guys. Let everyone know what Japan's done, so you can return home and the government can pay for trying to take your digimon away."

"This is my home. Ganimon's, too." Taromon answered. "As long as we're safe here, it doesn't matter what's going on in Earth."

"And do you think you'll be safe forever?" Takeru asked. "The nations of Earth are waging war after war in the digital world, and every year more of it falls under their rule. If your father turns Japan against the government and the war..."

"Then America or Russia will pick up the pieces. Humans are all the same, and it's pointless to try and change their minds."

Takeru bit his lip, holding back his desire to deliver a wake-up slap or punch him to the floor: journalistic ethics forbade such a thing, and he could be forced to flee the city. "Then why did we save the digital world?"

"I've read your interviews. You spent half your adventure wanting to go home and only got into it when your world was also in danger! You never cared about the digimon."

It was at this point that Patamon flew off Takeru's shoulder and had to be restrained by his partner's protests from launching an "Air Shot!" into the younger man's face. "I'll have you know that Takeru shed tears for every digimon we lost along the way! To this day he hasn't forgiven the powers of darkness for all the digimon they hurt... or himself for letting it happen."

"Even if I believe that, you're different. You're a chosen child. The older generation and the kids without digimon partners – they don't care. And I don't care for them, either. I'm a digimon now."

"I'm a digimon now." It would be a great headline.

They watched the internet – officially because of its connection to the digital world, in reality because tyranny demanded surveillance.

They bugged the phones: they didn't tell the people, but they bugged the phones, and the people found out all the same.

And yet somehow, on July 2nd, 2010, the streets of Tokyo were clogged with hundreds of thousands of protestors, most of them young adults who had been children when their digimon were imprisoned by the new government. They had gathered from all across Japan. Public protests were illegal, of course, even the peaceful ones, and perhaps that was the only reason the protests were not even bigger. On the other hand, this fact did not dissuade the enormous mob which had assembled at Hikarigaoka.

The older chosen were all missing, citing various commitments and Ken's team had an away game which conflicted with the protests. In reality, none of them wanted to show their hands so soon, none of them wanted to risk imprisonment or worse before accomplishing anything. But the younger children were more principled (or simply hotheaded) and Daisuke, Miyako, and Iori had joined the rally, each with microphones, each giving their speeches of resistance in turn.

"It is true that is a virtue to obey the law." Iori began, the people pausing, wondering whether to boo the quiet, polite kid. "But there is a difference between the laws of a righteous government, and the laws of a tyrant who calls himself a Shogun. You have done a great deed in coming here, and may sacrifice a great deal more, but know that you are doing it for the sake of justice." He went on for a while in that vein, laying out the moral case for the right of revolution and duty to one's digimon partner and many other things which were insufficiently inflammatory to give inspiration, and already contemplated by virtually the entire crowd. As awe of a chosen child (or chosen teenager) in the flesh gave way to boredom, he finished his speech and yielded the floor to Miyako. The crowd continued to roll through Tokyo, growing larger by the second.

"I'm not going to bore you." Miyako said. "We all know what we have to do, and I know someone who can really inspire any chosen or tamer to action. Daisuke, you're up!"

The chosen of courage and friendship gulped, searching for words as inspiring as the ones he found as a boy, wishing Taichi were here – then ending his search when he looked out at their faces and saw that the crowd needing no stirring. "Okay, time to take this march to the Diet! We want our digimon back!" He yelled, forgetting for a moment that he was riding on Raidramon's back.

"Bingo!" Miyako added, pointing the way and leading them on Aquilamon, Iori riding Ankylomon beneath her.

But although it was true they were distracted by war, three digimon and an angry mob – even an enormous one – were no match for even the Earth Units of the Imperial Japanese Army. The Earth units might have been even called a self-defense force, if the Shogunate had not despised the term as one of national humiliation.

As the protests grew louder and more ferocious, a bomb was thrown at the barracks by an unidentified individual. Some say it was a protestor with more anger than brains, others say a government infiltrator, a few claim that the was never tossed at all. With this as the signal, the army turned its weapons on the protestors, the jails were filled, a few were shot, and many more returned home.

Daisuke, Iori, and Miyako were among those in the jails, for the soldiers did not wish to risk fighting their digimon, and they were not about to go home while so many others had lost their digimon to this regime, even if it meant losing their own as well.

When Taichi Yagami had been appointed United Nations Ambassador to the Digital World at the age of twenty-two, he was elated. Finally, he could do something about it. He would make digimon and human trust each other, he would end the conflict, he would allow the two worlds to benefit from trade and live together in peace. And he – leader of those who had saved both worlds – was the best man for the job.

But then he learned. Learned the "United Nations mission to the Digital World" was a double fig-leaf: it was no mission of trade or civilization, but a barely-disguised grab for empire. The humans who came to the digital world this time had not come as friends, but as thieves aiming to steal the land and wealth of digimon everywhere and reduce them to slavery, serfdom, or simple poverty. The gate of Earth had been opened and a million Digimon Kaisers had come through.

And he had learned that the United Nations itself had little authority in this area. Its primary purpose was to prevent the conquering nations – Japan, Europe, America, Russia, China, and a few smaller, less influential ones – from turning their race for empire into open war, and he found himself mediating more human-to-human disputes than ones having anything to do with digimon. Nor was he able to use the UN's full power to protect the digimon and prevent abuses: he did what he could, but he was ambassador, not proconsul, and his masters stonewalled half his efforts. They were fine with this empire.

Increasingly it was becoming clear that his only purpose as ambassador was that of a puppet king to assuage digimon's fears and give legitimacy to every abuse.

And then the call came from his younger sister: the ex-chosen protest on the streets of Tokyo had been crushed, Daisuke, Miyako, and Iori were in prison. It was the final straw, and the moment the message came, Taichi sat down at his desk to pen an open letter to the people of the world.

In the letter, he denounced human cruelty, called for Earth to withdraw its militaries, and "declared from this day forth that War Greymon (he wrote War Greymon: Agumon wasn't an intimidating enough name and he wouldn't be Agumon again for a very long time) and I are dedicating ourselves to the liberation of the digital world, by a million Gaia Forces if necessary, and we call on every soldier, chosen, and digimon to have the courage to join us in our righteous cause."

Overnight, his army gained a force as strong as a hundred War Greymon. It would need a thousand to have a prayer of victory.