1) Stranded

"Impmon! It's for you!", the twins' father called out. He wondered who might be calling, as this was the first time anyone had asked for Impmon specifically.

"Yes? Impmon here...", the lagomorphic digimon replied.

"We've been watching it on the cable. Congratulations to you and the rest of the gang on finally getting that D-reaper problem solved..."

"I don't know... Are you sure? I didn't really contribute all that much..."

"If you're sure it would be OK with the others, I'll come... I'd like to bring someone along, you know, to meet the rest of the Tamers..."

"Be there shortly. 'Bye".

"What was that about?", asked Ai's and Mako's father.

"That was Ruki. It would seem they're having some sort of get-together/victory celebration at Shinjuku Central Park, and she invited me over. I'd like to bring the kids along, you know, to meet the rest of the Tamers".

The Tamers had never actually met his partners. They'd heard about them, but never met them. It was the day after he'd returned to the Material World aboard the Ark that he finally decided that Renamon had been right all along: he needed human partners to help him adjust to this new world of atoms and molecules, and humans. He went looking for his old partners, and discovered that these two kids who'd tormented him so had also learned valuable lessons about sharing, and showing consideration for others. The twins apologized profusely, and did their best to make up for the way they mistreated him. When they asked for his forgiveness, he couldn't resist granting it. (After all, he had his own need to be forgiven. It was one other reason he needed to go to the park.) The partnerships were "made official" after he took a near fatal hit from the D-reaper, Grani's last minute rescue, and after Sakuyamon had seen him onto the bus to Hongo. By the time he'd regenerated enough to fight again, it was all over.

"Can we go?! Can we go?!", the two five year olds piped up immediately. They liked the idea of going on an "adventure" to "far away" Shinjuku with their digimon partner.

"I don't know...", their father replied, "Shinjuku's awfully far away..." He didn't like the idea of two very young children out of his sight, and even though Impmon seemed OK, he still didn't know him all that well. Still, it was an important occasion for Impmon, and perhaps the only chance Ai and Mako would have to actually meet the Tamers, at least for a good long while.

"Please! Please!", they begged.

"Only if you two promise to stay with Impmon at all times, and you do exactly as he says".

"I promise", Ai replied.

"I will", Mako promised.

"I'll take good care of 'em", Impmon reassured, as they walked out the door, one twin holding one of Impmon's hands.

"How're we going?", Ai asked.

"The subway's the cheapest and fastest", Impmon explained. Certainly less expensive than taking a taxi, so that Impmon could save more of the allowance the twins' parents were giving him. He already knew the route to Shinjuku, as he was quite familiar with public transportation.

The mid-morning subway wasn't crowded, and they arrived in Shinjuku well ahead of schedule. Due to the evacuations, there weren't very many people out and about. Even though the park, and the surrounding area were still under evacuation, Impmon figured that the Tamers would have let the authorities know that they were expected. They had no problems getting to the park, making their way to the meadow where Ruki said they would be gathering.

"So we're gonna see your friends?", Ai asked.

"That's right. You never met the other Tamers, since we were so busy. Now that the D-reaper's gone, we'll have time to get acquainted", Impmon explained.

"So we aren't the only ones with a digimon?", Mako asked.

"There are a lot of kids out there with partners, besides the ones I'm familiar with".

"What are they like?", Mako asked.

"Well, for one thing, they're a lot older: fifth graders. I don't think they'll hold that against you".

"Looks like we're early", Impmon said, as he leaned against a tree. Ai and Mako stood by their partner.

Ruki and Renamon, Takato and Guilmon, Kazu and Guardromon, Ryo and Cyberdramon, Henry, Terriermon, and Lopmon, Kenta and Marineangemon, Juri and Calumon were gathering. Impmon held a finger to his lips to warn his partners to keep quiet. Let them savor their victory, he thought. They could join the party later.

"It's over. It's really over, isn't it?" Ruki was the first to speak up.

"Takato: we did it!", Guilmon exclaimed.

"Yeah!", he agreed, "We sure did".

"Uhhh?", Juri said softly as she looked off to her right. Juri suddenly got a look of surprise that focused their attention towards where she was looking.

"Impmon! It's good to see you", Renamon called out. "You didn't look like you were long for this world last time I saw you".

He sort of chuckled. "You won't be rid of me that easily. You were right all along. There were Tamers... even for me".

"I see", Renamon replied, spotting the digivice Ai wore as a brooch from a chain around her neck. "You finally took my advice. You'll see: there are more rewards in partnership than just getting stronger and evolving".

"I... I...", Impmon said as he tentatively approached the brown-haired girl in the sea-green dress. It was something he had to do, and the hardest thing he ever did.

"I'm glad...", she started.

"Eeeh?", Impmon said softly.

"...No one else... I didn't want to lose... anyone else", Juri declared with conviction.

"Juri... You... You're forgiving me?", he asked.

Juri answered with the genuine, warm smile that they had not seen for all too long, up till now, and a nod of the head.

"Ohhhh...", was all Impmon could say. It was better than he expected, or had any right to expect, considering how much he'd hurt this girl.

"Takato!", Guilmon called out in sudden distress while Takato was watching Juri and Impmon. When he looked back, he saw a faint, but unmistakable, white glow enveloping his partner, as Guilmon began to shrink.

"What is it? What's happening?!"

"I don't know", Guilmon replied, perplexed.

"Renamon!", Ruki called out.

"Something is strange..." Renamon, too, was already about Ruki's height, and decreasing fast.

"Henry!", Terriermon called out.


"Cyberdramon!", Ryo exclaimed.

"Ryo, I don't know what's happening to me", he replied. Cyberdramon was seldom that verbose, usually replying in growls.

Kenta and Kazu were speechless, as they watched the same thing happening to Guardromon.

"Henry! Lopmon! Terriermon!" Suzy Wong called out cheerfully. She was accompanied by her father, Janyu Wong. Then she noticed. "Huh? How come you got so small?"

"Dad! Help us!", Henry pleaded.

"Mr. Wong! Why? Why are Guilmon and the others devolving?!", a desperate Takato called out. Guilmon was now something small enough for Takato to hold. He had no idea as to what Guilmon's child form might be called, as he never knew Guilmon even had such a form.

"Devolving?", Henry asked. He realized the implication of what Takato had just said: "Father!", Henry accused, "This is..." Janyu reflexively looked away, confirming Henry's worst suspicions.

"Our plan was successful. The Frontier is stable once again", he sheepishly explained.

"Then the digimon...", Kazu started.

"They were never meant for this world. If they stayed here, they would revert to their original forms: a program. Just like the D-Reaper", he finished for him.

"That can't be!", Takato exclaimed, tears beginning to run down his cheeks. "Guilmon is meant to be with me! I promised!", he insisted, "I will always... always be with Guilmon!"

"I'll... never accept that!", a tearful Ruki sobbed, as she hugged tightly the small yellow form that Renamon had become: Viximon. "You can fight this, can't you?", she asked in desperation.

"Father, you knew this would happen, but you still...", Henry continued to accuse.

Still looking away, still unable to make eye contact with his son: "I've done something unforgivable. I'm really sorry". He finally looked up: "It was the only way to protect the world... both worlds: ours and the Digital World".

"Henry", Gummymon, the child form of Terriermon, said in an accent even higher in pitch than Terriermon's, "Moumentai", as he left Henry's hands, headed towards the digiport that they had not seen until now. Digiports were very difficult to see in daylight, and this one had come straight out of the mid-morning Sun.

"Terriermon... no...", he said as he watched the small figure float away.

"Renamon, no! I don't want to be separated from you!", Ruki said, as her grip on Viximon began to slip.

"Ruki: I'm sure we'll see each other again", Viximon reassured as she left for the digiport.

When?! When will that be?", Ruki called after her. "Tell me when!"

"Guilmon...", Takato said.

"We'll play together again, right, Takato?", he replied.

They all left, one after the other in their respective child forms: Kapurimon, Hopmon, Kokomon, Gummymon, Viximon. Except for Calumon and Marineangemon, as they were already the smallest of the digimon.

"It's a promise, Takato", Guilmon called back as he was entering the digiport. "I'll be looking forward to it". He was the last one through the portal, which dimmed and disappeared after his departure.

"Yeah", Takato answered back to himself, "It's a promise".

"Where's everyone going?", Suzy called out. "Don't leave!", she pleaded as she ran forward towards her older brother. "I want my Lopmon! I want my Terriermon!", she sobbed into his pant leg.

Henry looked back at his father with pure contempt when he saw something that changed his whole expression. "Father! You said the digimon would revert to programs. Does he look like a program to you?!", he pointed an accusing finger at Impmon. "It didn't have to happen!"

Impmon stood there with Ai and Mako: all three with mouths hanging open, looking every bit as confused as any of the Tamers. Whatever it was, it had no apparent effect on the velociraptor/rabbit digimon. He had not devolved to Yaamon; he wasn't pulled into the digiport. Neither did he devolve back to his original programming without intelligence, self-awareness, or substance.

The most composed of the group, Juri Katou, took out her digivice and tried running its "Ident" function. The holographic display remained stuck on "Seek". "That's strange, I'm getting nothing", she said, puzzled. "It says there are no digimon anywhere near here".

"Let me see that", Janyu requested. "She's right: for some reason, it's not recognizing Impmon as a digimon".

Impmon didn't like the sound of that. He tried to flick up a fireball, and produced nothing. He tried something else:

"SSSSUMON!", he called out. The concentric rings of flame didn't appear before him. He jumped as hard as he could. He should have covered fifty feet easily; he barely cleared five.

He sank to his knees: "I lost it... all of it. If I'm not a digimon anymore, then what am I?". He looked up at the sky: "What am I?!", he called out.

Ai and Mako stepped to his side: "We still love you", Ai reassured.

"We're glad you didn't have to go", Mako said.

He felt Ruki's hand on his shoulder, as he looked up at the Tamer: "You're still our friend: that's what you are", she replied. Ruki was feeling a bit ashamed of herself. Resentful of Impmon for being here while Renamon was gone; jealous of Ai and Mako since they still had a partner and she didn't. The others began to realize they weren't the only ones to have lost something.

"It would seem your powers came from the Digital World", Mr. Wong explained, "And with the stabilization of the Frontier, that connection was lost".

Chief Yamaki arrived: "We'll take you home", he offered. "Our vans can still move through the restricted area, and we can keep the media at bay for awhile". After the destruction of the D-reaper, the media was certain to be wanting interviews with the Tamers.

"We'd appreciate it", Kazu Shioda replied. Even though he hadn't been with Guardromon all that long, he wasn't up to wisecracking with reporters just now. (Though under better circumstances, he would have relished the idea.)


The next morning, Impmon and the Tamers had gathered at the same hotel where Yamaki had hosted the meeting between the parents and the Wild Bunch. Yamaki had arranged this press conference to protect the privacy of the Tamers to ease their transition back to as normal a life as possible. In exchange for the conference, the press was urged to grant them that privacy, to not send reporters to constantly be hounding them, photographing them, or hanging around their schools. Also present were the Wild Bunch: Janyu "Tao" Wong, Gorou "Shibumi" Mizuno, Rob "Dolphin" McCoy, Rai "Curly" Aishuwarya, Babel and Daisy. The international members still being available before their scheduled departures to their respective homelands. Impmon was included, being the sole representative digimon.

Naturally, everyone could not help but be curious as to these events, and those who had saved Tokyo, or possibly the world itself. Of course, this meant that the press had a "big story" that they wanted to get out. Such unrelenting attention would do nothing but impede the Tamers' transition back to a more normal life. It was this, more than anything else, that concerned Mitsou Yamaki. He hoped that he could trade this presser for privacy.

Impmon looked around, the only ones missing were his own partners, Ai and Mako, as they had not been involved, Juri, as she was back in Matsumoto with her grandmother and her parents believed she was not up to this so soon after the ordeal of being held prisoner by the D-Reaper. Likewise, Suzy Wong was excluded, on account of age. As for the other Tamers, their attire was highly uncharacteristic: suits and ties for the boys, not their usual jeans, cargo pants, sneakers, and T-shirts.

Ruki's mother was making last minute adjustments to this pink dress with all sorts of lacy frills and fussing with her hair. It was obvious Ruki wasn't wearing it comfortably, even had he not known of her feelings about "girlie" clothes. That she was wearing the dress at all was a testimony as to how much she'd calmed down with Renamon's intervention. It wasn't all that long ago that even the suggestion that she wear a dress would have provoked an outburst of teen angst.

"Don't worry", Rumiko was giving Ruki a last minute pep-talk, "it won't be like that photo shoot. Just try to focus on the audience. No one will shove a camera in your face. Just answer their questions the best you can. No one's expecting a performance here".

The photo-shoot Rumiko had arranged for her daughter had been a disaster. Ruki had complained about the "girlie" clothes, but it was the camera shyness that sent her running away, terrified.

"I'm sure you will do just fine", Seiko, her grandmother, reassured.

Ryo also wasn't present, as his father was still quite displeased with Ryo's running away, his absence for nearly two years, the involvement in the fight. It was high time that Ryo learn to get out of the limelight, get back to doing what all normal kids do. Ruki was happy to have him not see her wearing feminine attire.

"Shall we?", Yamaki announced, as he opened the doors, and led the group to their places behind a long table. Cameras flashed and whirred. Yamaki took the podium upfront for his opening speech:

"On behalf of Hypnos, I welcome the representatives of the various news organizations who are with us this morning. I know you are all probably curious as about these extraordinary youngsters behind me who refer to themselves as the 'Digimon Tamers'. They have agreed to this press conference to answer all your questions. It is the hope of the Japanese government, Hypnos, and myself that they be given every opportunity to return to as normal a life as possible, now that the D-Reaper threat has been neutralized. I am going to keep this speech mercifully short and open the conference for questions".

Hand went up, calls of "Mr. Yamaki!", "Mr. Yamaki!", rang out. He pointed, and a reporter stood.

"I have a question for the Tamers: I'm sure we're all wondering, why you? Of all the kids in Tokyo, why do you think you were chosen to have digimon partners?"

"I'll go first", Takato answered. "To be perfectly honest, I don't know. In my case, me and my friends really liked playing Digimon Battle Cards. We'd play before school, after school, anytime we could get together. I though how wonderful it would be to really play with a digimon. So I designed my own character, who I called 'Guilmon'. I intended to introduce him as another digimon for the card game, you know, to spice it up a bit. I designed the looks, based on Agumon, my favorite character. I wanted Guilmon to be much stronger, so that I might get an edge in the card game. I also wanted to make him a virus type, but a good virus type, as there aren't many of these, and it would be something else that set him apart.

One day, we played a bit longer than we'd intended, and realized we'd be late for school. As I was putting my cards away, I knocked over the box. When I went to pick up the spilled cards, I saw this blue card sitting on top of the pile. It was so totally different, I knew it wasn't part of my collection. I ran it through my Card Fighter accessory. At first, I wondered if I somehow broke it. The screen filled with a bunch of numbers I didn't understand. That's when I heard the final bell. I wouldn't have any time to think about it until after school. Well, I was late again. Had to spend recess time writing a letter of apology for being late.

It wasn't until school let out before I could check back to see what happened that morning. I remember the weather was very strange: windy, clouds where rotating in the sky. The shelter where I kept my game was surrounded by sparks, but no rain. I found my score keeper had somehow turned into a digivice, but there was no data in it. At first, I had no idea what to do with it, or what it could possibly be good for. Maybe showing it off to Kenta and Kazu? Anyway, I hurried home to play around with it some more. I went through my cards, but couldn't find that blue card; it disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.

I played with this digivice, but it still seemed useless: no data. That's when I wondered what might happen if I fed the notes I made about Guilmon through it. I did that, but was called away for dinner. After dinner, I saw that there was an image of a digiegg on its LCD screen. That wasn't there before, and I knew something was coming. Not sure what, but I could hope. I checked first thing in the morning, but the digiegg still hadn't hatched. It wasn't until late afternoon before I discovered that it had. I clicked through various screens until I found the locator function. I followed the pointer to a construction site where I saw Guilmon materialize. Just like I'd designed him. I wouldn't've believed it if I hadn't seen it. Even then, I could hardly believe it. Guilmon was real! I had a real digimon!

I had no reason to believe that I wasn't the only one, and I assumed that this had happened because I designed Guilmon. As to why this should happen, I hadn't a clue. I still don't, really. I don't think I'm the only one who ever got the idea to make their own digimon. Right? It wasn't until I was looking for a place for Guilmon to live that I discovered that Ruki also had a partner: Renamon. Still later, I found out about Henry and Terriermon. I wasn't the only one, and Ruki and Henry got their partners before I did".

Ruki took over: "I think I know. It was just hours after winning the Digimon Battle Card Tournament. At first, it felt great to be a winner, to best a field of mostly older kids, to be the 'Digimon Queen' for a whole year. By the time the lights were out, the crowds gone, the applause silenced, it didn't feel so great anymore. Now what could I do? That's when I wished the Battles could be real ones. I threw my medal on the stack of cards I still had out from that morning's practice session, and threw it harder than I figured. Cards splashed all over the floor. After picking them up, I discovered my Blue Card. There it was, sitting on top of the cards that hadn't been knocked off the table. Like Takato, I scanned it with my score keeper. It instantly began to glow with a bright white light. It transformed into a digivice. Next thing I knew, the whole room filled with a thick white mist, like smoke, but there was no smell of anything burning. That's when I saw this vague, dark figure appear in the middle of it. Details filled in, and as the 'smoke' disappeared, Renamon was standing right there before me. I didn't have to go looking for her, there she was. I wanted to make her the most powerful digimon, and to make myself the strongest Tamer.

At first, I'm afraid I treated her pretty badly. I thought this was 'Battle Cards' amped up. I thought digimon were just for fighting. It took longer than it should have for me to realize digimon were living beings with feelings, and I hurt Renamon's so much she almost left me. I'm glad she didn't give up on me so easily.

I also thought I was the only one. It wasn't until Takato and Henry showed up that I realized there had to be a lot of Tamers out there. What are the odds of meeting two in one day, if there weren't? That's what amazed me at first: just how many of us were there? As for why, I didn't really care, and didn't even think there might be a higher purpose behind Renamon's appearance. Henry's the philosophical one who thought about that. I'm not".

"I'm in Takato's class, and one of the guys who played cards almost obsessively. I didn't think it was ever real, and had no particular desire that it could be real. That was until Takato lost a game, and began bragging about having a real digimon. I didn't believe him, not even after he said he'd show us. We followed him to the park, to this old shed way back in the woods. I guess it was an old maintenance shed or something. There was this big hole way in the back, and Takato said Guilmon lived in there. I thought he was making it up. Then I saw these glowing eyes in the darkness. I was freaked. I wasn't expecting to see anything, just waiting to rub it in Takato's face when he couldn't produce the digimon he promised. I ran off, and later thought he was pulling an elaborate prank, rigging up lights and recordings of some growling beast. That's what I thought until this girl who's also in our class, Juri Katou, later told us in home room that she actually saw and talked with Guilmon.

About half our class went to Takato's bakery, and Takato took us to the park. Sure enough, he hadn't been putting one over: Guilmon was really there. We played with him all afternoon, and he liked the attention. That's what got me wanting to have a digimon I could call my own. Especially when all I could do was sit on the sidelines while Takato got to have all the fun. However, I had no idea as to how I might make that happen. That was, up until the time Calumon got captured, and taken to the Digital World against his will. Takato and the rest of the Tamers were planning on going there to rescue him, bring him back. So I and Kenta went along to look for partners of our own.

After Andromon was seriously injured - we were still in the Digital World - I helped take care of him. He devolved into Guardromon, and because I cared, and helped look after him, I received my digivice. Unlike the others, there was no Blue Card, no score keeper, nothing that transformed. It just appeared right there, a glowing white light that turned into a digivice right there in my hands. I suppose that's why I never digivolved Guardromon: no Blue Card".

"I, too, go to the same school as Takato and Kenta, but we're not in the same class. They were just kids I'd see in the halls between classes, or in the cafeteria, or on the playground. I'm more the loner type, don't play the card game, since I favor the video game version. My Dad brought me the deluxe version of 'Digital Monsters'. This included a peripheral you'd plug into the USB port, and run the same cards used for the card game through it. It would read the magnetic strip, and add those features to your game character. I chose Terriermon as my character. I really got into the game", Henry explained.

"That was, until I got the idea that these game characters really existed in some alternate reality. I felt guilty for hurting and destroying so many digimon. I asked my Dad if there was any way you could change the rules, so your digimon could show mercy. He said there wasn't, and that it was silly to be worrying about hurting digimon. They weren't real, they were designed to kill the weak ones to load their data. But because they were just characters, they didn't hurt. I tried to believe him, I really did. I just couldn't make myself believe that. He said I was developing an unhealthy obsession, and maybe he was right. At that point, neither of us knew just how right I was.

One day, Terriermon was hurt real bad. I had maybe a couple of seconds to think of something, or lose him. I didn't know what to do, and in frustration, knocked all the cards off the table. All but one, that is: a Blue Card. I had no choice but to run it through the card reader, either that, or lose Terriermon. The Blue Card turned the card reader into a digivice. Then my room filled with this white 'smoke', like you heard before. The Terriermon on the screen began to fade out, and a real Terriermon appeared right there in my lap. I apologized for what I'd done, but Terriermon assured me I had nothing to apologize for. I had the digivice, and a partner.

I figured Terriermon had had enough fighting, so I tried to protect him from having to fight. I also didn't want him to digivolve. He agreed to abide by these rules, even though he wasn't very happy about it. He believed that some things are worth fighting for. That was a lesson I had to learn myself".

"I went with my friends to the Digital World to seek a partner, as I wanted one too. I also played cards with Takato and Kazu. I'd pretty much given up hope of ever finding a partner. It wasn't until the very end that Marineangemon took a liking to me. I didn't realize what this digimon was doing, and sent him off with the other digimon who'd come to fight the D-Reaper. It wasn't until we were on our way home that a digivice and Marineangemon materialized in my pocket. I was the last one to partner, but it was well worth the wait. Marineangemon was great. Though small, he or she - I never really knew - was a Mega, despite the small size. We were able to help out Takato and the others get out of a couple of close calls.

So there you have it: we came by our partners for quite a wide variety of reasons, and by different means".

"Mr. Yamaki!"

"Yes", pointing.

"I'd like to hear from Impmon: why did you come to the Material World?"

"We digimon have always known about the Material World. I wanted to see it for myself, with my own eyes, and not just through reports that came over the networks. I never thought I'd get the chance, never saw how that could ever be possible. That was until I heard the rumours about weak spots that were appearing, apparently at random, in the Frontier. I began to see reports coming from the Material World: sitings of strange, unfamiliar critters that looked a lot like digimon. I took a chance, and began to look for a weak spot, if they existed.

I was a fighter pilot in the Violet Zone Air Defense Corps, and I'd been involved in my share of digibattles. Was that all there was to life? Fighting and the Law of the Digital World? I didn't think so. I thought I'd have more opportunities, wider horizons, in the Material World. That's really why I wanted to come.

It took a lot of looking, a lot of traveling about the Digital World, but I finally found one. I went through, and materialized in a parking lot of some mini-mall. I was fortunate to have chosen a time when it was closed, no one around, and so the digital field went unnoticed. I did it; I'd made it. One look around, and I knew I was in the world of atoms and molecules. A Sun in the sky, no dust packets in sight, and a sky of the strangest blue the like of which I'd seen only in pictures.

I also got my first lesson in the realities of this world. My feet were very soft and tender. I stepped on a pebble, and, damn, did that hurt! I'd never really used them before, not really. I also experienced what it was like to be hungry and thirsty. I knew I'd need some considerable help in making the adjustment. I thought I'd had better luck when I met these kids in the park. They accepted me for who I was. Their names were Ai and Mako, twin brother and sister. I didn't realize just yet the difference between adults and very young children. Digimon develop much differently, you see.

Being so immature, and being, well, five year olds, they made my life a living hell, though they never meant to. That put me off humans for a long time, and I came to resent what I saw as the subservient relationships. Takato and the others can tell you stories about my periodic rants on that subject. I wasn't making myself none too popular. It took me far too long to really hear what they were saying. I made more than my fair share of mistakes, caused all too much unnecessary hurt. I struggled to put all that in the past, to make amends where I needed to. To reconcile with Ai and Mako. Now that the D-Reaper is gone, may be I can make good on my original plans for coming here".

"What about the other digimon? Why did they come?"

"This was the doing of the Ancient Ones, whom Shibumi called 'digignomes'. Once Azulongmon, Baihumon, and Ebonwumon overruled Zhuqiaomon, and decided to appease the D-reaper instead of fighting it. The Ancient Ones went along with that, and the digientelechia was locked away, concealed in the form of what looked like a rather unremarkable digimon: Calumon. The Ancient Ones arranged for Calumon to come here, and for other digimon to follow since we could evolve here. This was to prepare an advance force of digimon who would find partners, make friends and connections with the human world, and therefore have as big a stake in the Material World as digimon would have in the Digital World. The Ancient Ones knew a fight with the D-Reaper was inevitable, and so arranged to have a digimon army in place".

"That's pretty much what we figured. Azulongmon explained most of what happened", Ruki added. "Just before we left to return to our world. Though he didn't exactly say our digimon were an advance force... I guess he didn't know. Anyway, we were there when Calumon restored the digientelechia, and digimon began to arrive to defend the Digital World. It was later, after we were here, that the Sovereign sent us the power to biomerge in the Material World".

"Why, of all the digimon, are you still here?"

"I don't really know. I was knocked out of the fight before the end, and didn't take part in that final battle. May be that had something to do with it? Maybe the digignomes thought to fulfill my original desire?". He shook his head: "I can't say for sure".

"I can answer that", Shibumi announced. "The digimon couldn't operate within the Chaos Mass for very long. They lost power too quickly, their more advanced forms couldn't hold for too long. Takato and Guilmon discovered this when, as Dukemon, they were pulled inside. To allow them to operate freely, I created an algorithm that changed the very structure of their digimon bodies, making their substance more compatible with that of the D-Reaper. I stored this algorithm in the form of a Red Card. However, I failed. I didn't take into consideration the human-digimon fusion forms. As a result, the algorithm terminated prematurely, leaving the digimons' structure unchanged. As a consequence, the same devolution program that defeated the D-Reaper began to affect the digimon the same way. They began to devolve, and would have devolved completely, back to their original forms as simple programs without consciousness, and without substance, had they not been able to escape back to the Digital World. Impmon was the only digimon not exposed to the Red Card Effect, either directly or indirectly, which is why he's still here. The devolution program of Operation Doodlebug never affected him.

It's my fault the Tamers lost their partners. I hope someday they can forgive me".

"I see from the press kit Chief Yamaki provided that the oldest Tamers are ten, and the ages drop from there. Since the Wild Bunch created digimon in the first place, why did they drop this responsibility on ten year old Fifth Graders?", another asked.

"While it's true adults created digimon", Rob "Dolphin" McCoy explained, "the original ideas for their forms and powers were actually my son's. So, in a sense, you can say digimon were created by children, for children. Digimon simply like children..."

"Dolphin: that's nonsense, and we all know it", Shibumi objected. "There was no reason any older person couldn't have had a partner. Maybe there were some, I don't know. However, who is it who's watching the TV shows, playing the games, drawing the fanart, writing the fanfic... How many in their thirties, forties, fifties, are doing that? Very few. In my case, I sure would have liked to have had a partner. Maybe I would have, but for my experiment that almost cost me my life when I projected my consciousness into the Digital World, where I met Takato. My consciousness was there, while my body lay in intensive care. Had not the digignomes reunited the two, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now. Had I delayed that experiment, I might have had a partner myself".

"You have to remember", Janyu explicated, "we were all enthusiastic young programmers back in our Wild Bunch days. However, our project didn't receive the funding we needed. The normal demands of life - finding new careers within the IT industry, starting families, took over. Our project was taken over, and turned into video games while life went on for us. We slowly forgot all about digimon, except for Shibumi, that is. The thought of finding partners of our own simply never occurred to any of us. I realized that digimon were real, and living in the Material World only due to a purely chance encounter with Impmon. Before that, it never occurred to me that my son's Terriermon plushie wasn't just some doll he and his younger sister played with, despite his being too old for stuffed animals. Yeah, his mother and I thought it weird and eccentric, but if it replaced that obsession with that video game, we weren't gonna complain".

"What about this Project Shaggai?"

"One of Hypnos' missions is to secure the country against cyberattack. Since the digimon were bred on the networks, their appearance here in the Material World constituted a type of cyberattack. We had these 'Wild Ones', as we termed them, materializing, fighting in the streets with high explosive ordinance, energy weapons, and fire. I thought it was only a matter of time until innocent bystanders would be hurt. I was also very concerned to learn that children were treating these Wild Ones like pets, that they saw it as a game without understanding just how dangerous these digimon were. Or so I thought. Takato and Henry tried to explain, but I refused to listen.

At first, we tried a program I designed, called Yuggoth. The idea was to warn these digimon off by intercepting them before they could materialize. I thought I could demonstrate that the Material World wasn't their playground where they could do as they pleased without regard to our laws. That was another problem: how to deal with creatures that saw nothing wrong with killing one another for their own benefit. That's basically murder. I saw no way we could live with them.

At first, the yuggoth program worked. Then the digimon began to deploy countermeasures. I took this as an aggressive intent, this defeating of a defensive weapon. Given that, and the fact that digimon had weapons the likes of which do not exist in our arsenals, against which we had no defense if they turned them on us, I feared an imminent invasion. That's when I decided the digimon needed to be eliminated, and therefore Shaggai. The first attempts to deploy it failed, even after bringing in the creators of the digimon: the Wild Bunch. The first time I deployed it, countermeasures ruined all the equipment, and brought in the Devas in retaliation. The second time, it was my replacement who didn't understand what he was working with. I arrived barely in time to avert a world-wide disaster that could have crashed the entire network, sending the world back to 1950 - literally!

It took far too long for me to realize how wrong I'd been. It wasn't easy to admit that a handful of school kids knew more, were the real experts, when it came to digimon. In my foolishness, I nearly wiped out the only allies who could have stopped the D-Reaper. That's when I began to work with Takato and his friends.

As for Shaggai, a modified version became the key part of Operation Doodlebug that removed the D-reaper threat by devolving it back to its earliest form that could no longer threaten either world".

Three hours later, the presser concluded. As they were on their way out, Takato called out: "Impmon, hold up a minute".


"I never got a chance to ask: why were you so determined to kill us back there in the Digital World?"

"You have to understand", Impmon began, "Beelzemon was a dark digivolution, and I'm sure you know what happens when digimon evolve unnaturally". Takato recalled: Megidramon from Megalogrowlmon. "After I loaded that Deva, Catsuramon, I knew everything he knew. I was set up: Indramon's entire mission here was to goad me into a fight I couldn't hope to win. He laughed at me, taunted me, and I let him to get to me. If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have recognized that. There is no way that Indramon should have known about my previous partnership with Ai and Mako, and yet, he mentioned it specifically. In that, he made what should have been a critical error, one that revealed he already knew my history here in the Material World. Had I picked up on that, I would have realized I was being played.

I should have known that I couldn't survive a real fight with a Deva. Afterwards, I felt like such a loser that I didn't feel I could ever show my face in public again. I was hiding from Ruki and Henry in a flood diversion tunnel when Catsuramon sent a digiport and offered me the chance to become as strong as I wanted, if I would return to the Digital World. I was feeling so low that I took him up on the offer. After returning to the Digital World, Catsuramon continued to torment me with false memories to convince me that I had no place in the Material World, that I was of no use to anyone. Still, I resisted him. When I told him that I didn't want power so badly that I was willing to kill for it, the whole floor dropped out from under me.

Zhuqiaomon took over, explained what was happening to the Digital World, that an old enemy the Sovereign had thought gone for good had broken its dormancy, and was attacking. He didn't know what it was, not even what it was called, only that it somehow was reacting to our digivolutions. He explained that Azulongmon was convinced that appeasing it by preventing digivolution would cause it to become dormant again, but it wouldn't be appeased. He explained how the Tamers and the partners were interfering, and that if you guys were eliminated, Azulongmon and the other three have to release the digientelechia, so that we could protect our world. That's why he sent his Deva to capture Calumon, bring him back to the Digital world. He thought he could release the digientelechia, but discovered he could not. So long as Azulongmon and his two colleagues desired that it not be released, then the Ancient Ones wouldn't release it.

He convinced me I had no other choice: either the Tamers were eliminated, or we would lose the entire Digital World. When I decided to join the Violet Zone Air Defense Corps, the first thing I did was swear an oath to defend the Violet Zone. Even though I resigned my commission, there was no expiration date on that oath. To defend the Violet Zone, I had to defend the Digital World: I thought I was doing my duty. I should have listened to Renamon sooner; she tried to warn me about all of this, but I wouldn't listen... 'I'm sorry', seems so inadequate".

Takato thought of Henry, who also tended to believe he needed to do everything by himself. "But why you?", he asked.

"I was an unusually weak rookie, and I resented that weakness. Consider Guilmon or Renamon: both Rookies, yet almost as powerful as Champions. My Night of Fire couldn't compare to either Renamon's Crystal Storm or Guilmon's Pyroshpere. Even little Terriermon, even his Petit Twister and Bunny Blaster were more powerful. It didn't occur to me that this rookie weakness might be compensated in more powerful evolutions. You saw how formidable Beelzemon was. That's another thing I didn't listen until it was too late. If I'd only listened to Renamon sooner, I would've partnered sooner, maybe been of more assistance...".

"Then you wouldn't be here with us now...", Kazu interrupted.

"You started out as an annoying little pain in the ass, but in the end, you became as true a friend as anyone could want. Whatever it is you hope to find here in the Material World, I hope you do find it".

"Thanks for understanding, Takato".

Yamaki was also waiting for his chance: "Impmon, I would appreciate it if you'd come back to Hypnos. There are some tests we'd like to run".

"I'm... not so sure about that", he replied.

"It's nothing that will take all that long".

"I heard all about the last 'tests' (making finger quotes) you ran on a digimon. It didn't go so swell for Darklizardmon. I may be new to this world and all, but I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday".

Yamaki inwardly cursed to himself. If there was one thing he wished Impmon didn't know about, that was it. "It's nothing like that. I ordered that test back when all I could think of was that the incursions of Wild Ones was an invasion of creatures I didn't understand. I made some serious errors in judgment, and I know better now - not unlike yourself before and after you became Beelzemon. It's also in your best interests. Have you considered what happens if you get sick? Wouldn't it be best to know ahead of time what might help you, or what might kill you? What if you're in an accident? Wouldn't it be best if the trauma team knows where all the parts are supposed to go? I'm not talking any highly invasive procedures here. Maybe some boredom of doing an MRI, or taking a blood sample. Finding out why you are so different, why you survived when by all rights you shouldn't have, could help us help your friends. That's something else to consider".

"OK", he agreed reluctantly, "but if I don't like what I'm seeing, I'm out of there".

"Agreed, that's fair", Yamaki replied, as he hit the button to summon the elevator. For Impmon, elevators and revolving doors were the bane of his existence, as neither were designed to accommodate tails.