16) The Final Battle

"We have to do something!", Takato announced at the conclusion of the news feature he'd just seen.

"I know how you feel", Takehiro started.

"They didn't interview anyone but those assholes! They didn't ask Janyu, the Wild Bunch... they didn't ask us!"

"I don't know what..."

"Call that station, demand time to give an opposing view, for starters. Maybe Janyu - or Yamaki - can help?"

"Yamaki, I don't know... isn't he still recovering?"

"I don't know who else to turn to... We can't let them destroy the Digital World. Not now, not after we've come so far, not after the digimon did for us when they fought the D-Reaper. Hellsamatter with these people? Don't they realize?"

"Takato", his father began to explain, "that was last year. I know it's hard to understand, but people have short memories. All they see today is the latest devastation, they saw digimon causing it, and that's all they care about: not letting it happen again..."

"But it won't!", Takato insisted. "Zhuqiaomon's gone, he did it..."

Takehiro shook his head, "People don't think to draw such fine distinctions. Remember, they also thought it was all over after the D-Reaper disappeared. That's what they were promised, and with the departure of the digimon, they thought it was all over".

"We have to make them understand..."

"Make who understand what?", Guilmon asked. He was finishing the cleaning for the evening.

"You missed it. There's this outfit calling itself the 'Shinjuku Protective League', and they want the Digital World destroyed. Because of what Zhuqiaomon's corrupt dorugremon did. They didn't give any contrary views either".

"Yamaki and Janyu wouldn't do that".

"I know they wouldn't, but they can always find someone who will. Yamaki also told us that before we left".

"Do you think it's possible? What can we do?"

"I don't see how we can do anything", Takehiro said.

"You mean we should just stand by while they destroy the Digital World? What about our partners?"

Takehiro sighed: "I don't know, Takato".

"One thing I can do is call that station; file a complaint".

That was easier said than done. All he got was an automated answering service. After pressing one number after another, he finally found a voice mail where he could leave a message. He never got ahold of anyone live.

Next, he tried Henry.

"Suzy?", he asked.

"Is Henry there? Can I have a word with him?..."

"He is... Cho-Sensei? This time?..."

"I see... I'll try him again tomorrow... Thanks, tell him I called..."

Henry was taking an evening class in Kung Fu. Next, Ruki...

"Ms. Hata? Takato, is Ruki there?... Thanks..."

"Takato. Did you see it? The evening news?..."

"You did... I agree: quite disgusting. I tried to call the station, but got the run-around. What should we do about this?..."

"I'll bet Renamon's pist..."

"She never did... Ice water in her veins..."

"I know, Henry's out at Cho-Sensei's..."

"We can't let something like this go. You saw, that report was so slanted. They didn't ask me..."

"I figured as much. They're not interested in hearing our side...".

"Maybe, but are you willing to take that chance? What do you think will happen if..."

"Of course Mr. Wong wouldn't... Remember when Yamaki said they'd get someone else? How close we came that time?..."

"Azulongmon wouldn't let them. It amounts to an act of war, and he will defend himself, his world..."

"I don't think he would either, but even if not nuts like Zhuqiaomon, he could still do considerable damage..."

"I wish Yamaki were back in action, he'd know what to do..."

"Then Henry's dad..."

"Good evening, Ruki".

Renamon was quite angry, but, as always, didn't show it. Very disappointed that there were those who would think such things. After everything the digimon did to save the Material World from the D-Reaper, after the Tamers sacrificed, not just one, but two of their own to once again save that world from a disaster. Disappointed that all too many were all too ready to hold all digimon responsible for the foul deeds of a single individual. Renamon couldn't hide it from Ruki.

As for Guilmon, he also couldn't understand why they'd want to destroy all digimon along with their world. He saw his dreams of a parliamentary republic going up in smoke. Even if he wouldn't have cared all that much, just so long as he got to stay in Shinjuku with Takato and his friends, that had changed even with the comparatively short time he'd been in the Digital World.

Ruki and Takato alerted the rest of the Tamers. That was about all they could do that evening.

The next morning, they all headed for the Hypnos Building. They had no trouble with seeing the acting director, Janyu Wong.

"I can understand your concern", Janyu explained. "This is a tiny, but vocal, minority. I'm not saying there's nothing to be concerned about, as they do have some sympathizers in the government and media. It's unfortunate, but there are all too many people out there with unfortunately short memories".

"That's what dad said", Takato pointed out.

"He's right. As far as they're concerned, the whole D-Reaper incident is in the past. All they see is the videos of those dorugremon attacking the city. It reminds them of the rampage of the Devas, and the other destructive digimon who materialized only to cause trouble, and property destruction. They'd rather not have to deal with it, and the elimination of the possibility by the elimination of digimon looks like a solution to the problem. It's the darker side of human nature. They either can not, or will not, understand that it was the work of one evil individual. They tend to see all digimon in the same light".

"Aren't there any vids of digimon helping to attack Zhuqiaomon's dorugremon?", Juri asked.

"Of course there is..."

"Then why aren't they showing it? Remind people that most digimon were on their side?"

"They should, but unfortunately, TV news isn't just about informing, it's also about ratings. Sensational stories sell, and these Shinjuku Protective League speakers help sell advertising. I have done something about it, and Hypnos has issued a press release. I'm hoping we can remind people out there that most digimon mean well, and that Zhuqiaomon was just one rotten egg. As I pointed out, it's a small group making big waves. I'm hoping this blows over quickly".

"You wouldn't really..."

"Kenta, I'd resign first. There isn't a single person working here who wouldn't walk off the job. They'd have to get someone else. But we're a long way off from its coming to that. We also have to consider the whole rest of the world, too. Using Shaggai to destroy the whole Digital World will have far reaching consequences. It could provoke an international incident, and no one in the government wants that".

"Moumentai!", Terriermon called out. "After all we've been through, this is nothing".

"Mr. Director? Your 10:00 appointment's here".

"Send them in", he replied.

"Don't worry about it", he reminded, as they were leaving.

"Pteromon, Kirk, Melissa... Mr and Mrs Morgan", Takato greeted.

"We wanted to thank Mr. Wong personally", Paul Morgan reminded.

He nodded in acknowledgement.

"We were worried when we couldn't contact Pteromon, and feared the worst, even though we had no idea what was going on in the Digital World. You sent her back to us, and we'll always be grateful".

"I appreciate that, but coming all this way..."

"We had to".

"See you guys at the park?", Kirk and Melissa asked.

"We'll be there", Ruki promised. Henry and Terriermon stayed behind.

The Tamers gathered at their usual meeting place.

"Yes, I know what Mr. Wong said", Takato made his case. "Same thing my old man said last night. What do you think these so-called 'Protective League' guys are doing? Think they're just sitting around? They're doing something, and I think we should be doing something to counter their efforts".

"Like what?", Juri asked.

"How about sending e-mails to that TV station for starters. Tell them we want the chance to tell our side".

"They won't listen to a bunch of kids", Kenta objected.

"Except we're not just a bunch of kids. I don't know about you, but I didn't put our lives on the line, I didn't watch Kazu disintegrating into a cloud of data just to sit back and watch the whole thing being destroyed. Why did we even bother?"

"How about a web site?", Ruki suggested.

"I don't know how..."

"No, but I bet Henry does. Hell, his bedroom looks more like a computer lab. I bet Janyu would help him with that, and he was one of the Wild Bunch".

"What would we put on it?"

"What about videos of ourselves and our partners?", Juri suggested. "We tell our stories and get the word out even if the TV won't".

"Good idea", Ryo suggested.

"That's all fine, but how do we get anyone to watch?"

"Fliers like on those community boards", Ryo asked.

"Doesn't your dad have one for the bakery?", Ruki asked.

"Yeah", Takato agreed.

"There you go, it's a start", Kenta encouraged.

That evening, the news featured Kazu's parents. The Tamers were relieved to see there was at least some balance.

"At first, we blamed the digimon", Hirofumi Shioda was saying. "There is nothing harder than losing a child. If the digimon hadn't come in the first place, if Kazu hadn't been so interested in that game, if we hadn't let him go... we've been 'what-iffing' ever since we heard the news.

The first time, he told us it was a school trip... I suppose he knew we wouldn't approve if we knew where he was really going. I suppose it comes with being, well, ten. Can't say I blame him for that. Still, he was that determined to find a partner he could call his own. He was successful, and came back with Guardromon".

"Guardromon kept stepping in the flower garden", Mrs Shioda recalled. "Still, he became like family... Like that eccentric uncle every family has. We didn't even have a body to bury. I don't know all the details, but he's part of the Digital World now. To see the whole Digital World destroyed would be like losing Kazu all over again".

"Our son cared enough about that world to risk his life to protect it, and gave his life to save the digimon and their world. Seeing that world destroyed, can there be any greater desecration of our son's life and death? That's something to think about. That's what we're asking, for ourselves and Hirokazu's memory".

"Kazu thought the Digital World worth saving, who are you to think otherwise?", his mother asked.

0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

"Don't worry Takato", Ruki was encouraging, "I'm sure you'll do just fine".

The Tamers and their partners, and Calumon, were gathered outside the temporary HQ of Hypnos. Janyu was lending the Tamers the use of Hypnos' video studio.

"I hope so, I..."

"Just be yourself".

"That's the problem". Takato recalled that time he met Yamaki. This was on the occasion of Shaggai's first trial. He'd seen herds of digimon being drawn into the void Shaggai had created. When trying to justify the existence of digimon, all he could do was stammer: "Digimon are... digimon are... digimon are cool". It was hardly a convincing performance.

"You're not the one with camera shyness", Ruki pointed out.

"I don't want to make an ass of myself".

"If you could handle Zhuqiaomon, culu, you can handle this, culu?", Calumon encouraged.

What else was there to say that they hadn't said before? The only difference between these videos for the website, and the press conference was that they had their partners, who could speak for themselves, and make a case for not destroying all digimon, and the entire Digital World. Would it be enough? All they could do was hope so.

It was also good that Pteromon and her partner could tell their stories, remind the public that digimon were also beyond Japan's borders, and that any aggression aimed at the Digital World could have international repercussions.

It would take a couple of days before the new website would start showing up on search engines, but the Tamers and their partners weren't going to wait that long. They had the fliers, and Renamon began pasting them up where she could. she was the natural choice, as she could move the fastest, cover the widest territory in the least time...

It was later that night when Takato, his parents, and Guilmon were roused from a sound sleep by the sound of breaking glass and screeching tires. Someone had thrown a brick through the picture window of the bakery store front with a note tied around it. The note warned that a fire bomb would be next if they continued to allow Guilmon to live there.

"I can't understand how anyone could do this", Takehiro was explaining to the local reporter who'd come to investigate. "This isn't just my place of business, it's also where my family lives, right up there", he pointed to the second story windows. "These... people could have become murderers, not just arsonists - as bad as that is already. I'm going to lose a whole day's worth of business". Takato and Guilmon returned to nailing up the plywood sheet over the broken window.

"Do you know who could have done this?"

"I doubt it was any of our neighbors", Takehiro shook his head. "They know we live here, and we've always had good relations with all our neighbors. No one ever complained about Guilmon, and up till now, we never had anything even approaching this".

"There's an investigation?"

"The police came to take our statements, and we turned over the evidence, and we were careful not to touch anything. I hope that whoever did this - if you're listening - to do the right thing and turn yourselves in before they come to arrest you".

Later that evening, the leader of the Shinjuku Protective League was having a hard time explaining himself:

"Look, I want to stress we had nothing to do with the vandalism of the Matsuki bakery. To the best of my knowledge, it wasn't one of our members, and if we find out it was, that person or persons won't be welcome..."

"So you deny you had anything to do with creating a climate of hate against all digimon?"

"Emphatically..."

"Then what of the digimon who are already here? Do we hunt them down too?"

"Of course not..."

"How can you say that while advocating for the destruction of their entire world? Isn't that contradictory?"

"The Tamers' digimon have been here long enough to know how to behave. It's those Wild Ones..."

"You heard Mr. Beckenstein's account? Didn't Azulongmon act to make sure that the one responsible was punished?"

"Maybe so, but what of the next time? Those Devas from a year ago: wasn't it already supposed to not happen again, but it did?"

"What of the other Wild Ones who came? Didn't they prevent the destruction from being much worse than it otherwise would have been?"

"They sure changed their minds in a hurry?", Takato asked his father.

"It's like I said before: they follow the ratings".

"I wish they'd make up their minds".

"So do a lot of people, son".

0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

"With all due respect, Mr. Cabinet Secretary, Hypnos has made no progress with the restoration of Shaggai", Janyu Wong was testifying. "I ordered the work suspended indefinitely, as I see no further purpose..."

"Have you seen the destruction they caused?"

"I was right there in the middle of it, if you'll recall, as acting director of Hypnos..."

"Then how can you justify..."

"Need I remind the Cabinet Secretary that that was the work of one individual. One evil individual who has been dealt with. You have the testimony of both Mr. Beckenstein and my own daughter. Zhuqiaomon will never be in any position to ever..."

"And for how long does that last?"

"Permanently. The Ancient Ones, or Digignomes as we call them, guarantee that. They acted on Suzy's behalf, and the only possibility that Zhuqiaomon could ever return is if Suzy desired it. Not even Zhuqiaomon could force them to release the digientelechia once he'd successfully captured Calumon, and had him under his complete control. It wasn't until Azulongmon desired that his initial wish that the digientelechia be concealed be reversed before the Light was restored and digimon could digivolve at will once again. You aren't suggesting Suzy, my own daughter, would..."

"I wouldn't accuse your daughter of being a traitor. What of other means?"

"There are none".

"Then what of Azulongmon... these other Sovereign?"

"What of them? If you want to reduce the chances for further misunderstandings..."

"I'd hardly call the destruction of a good deal of Shinjuku a misunderstanding..."

"With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, that's exactly what it was. If you want to eliminate the possibility, then send an ambassador to the Sovereigns' court. Establish diplomatic relations..."

"Japan: all by itself, without UN approval?"

"Why not? We can be a leader here. Other nations will have no choice but to follow suit. Who gets the initial benefits? That's us, of all the possible technological spin-offs. We could become a tech leader once again: think of it - no more lost decades".

"You are dismissed, Mr. Wong".

"One more witness on the agenda", a secretary informed them.

Mitsou Yamaki rolled his wheel chair to the podium, locked the wheels, and laboriously, and painfully, forced himself to his feet.

"Are you sure you're up to this?"

"The doctors thought otherwise, but I insisted, and thanks to Marineangemon's ministrations, I am able. They're expecting a full recovery that otherwise would have been impossible. I won't be taking too much of your time".

He reached into an inside pocket of his suit jacket, and pulled out a single page, which he unfolded.

"I'd like to read off a list of names", he began.

Ankylomon

Devidramon

Koji Horikawa"

Yamaki paused: "Hirokazu Shioda". He folded the page, and slipped it back into his pocket.

"What do these names have in common?", he asked rhetorically. "Every one of them - human and digimon alike - gave their lives to protect our world... Both our worlds. To ask that we now repay these proved allies with their destruction... Mr. Secretary, gentlemen, I can think of no greater desecration of their sacrifice, and their memories. I can imagine no action that could possibly be more despicable.

For the first time in six centuries, two different worlds meet. We recall the history of the discovery of new worlds, and it is far from a proud history. One filled with tales of greed and the destruction of indigenous populations. I would like to think we're better than that. I would like to believe we have learned at least a few things during those intervening centuries. Was I wrong to hope so?

The digimon have had a history, up till now, of autocratic rule over the Digital World. This latest rampage of a corrupt autocrat has taught these digimon a valuable lesson. They are ready to try something different: a constitutional, republican monarchy. Azulongmon will make the announcement within the week, and call for a convention to draw up a new constitution.

Need I remind you: democracies seldom ever go to war with one another. We can help bring a new democracy into being: send an emissary to Azulongmon's court. Recognize the newly elected government of the Digital World, and exchange ambassadors. Diplomatic relations can head off misunderstandings before they turn nasty. We can settle our differences before they flare into open conflict. Once trade crosses borders, armies seldom do.

As for Wild Ones, better that they cross over with visas, and check in through Customs. Just like any other foreign visitors. As for obviously feral digimon, Hypnos is perfectly capable of dealing with that problem, and we can work out some other solutions with Azulongmon.

Thank you for your time, gentlemen", Yamaki concluded. He was nearly ready to pass out, and had to be wheeled out.

"Now what happens?", Guilmon asked anxiously.

"It'll go before the Diet for a vote", Yamaki explained.

"I'm not sure I like the idea", Guilmon complained, "leaving them to decide whether the Digital World gets to exist or not".

"Neither do I, but that's government. It's a messy business, as you're about to find out".

0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

"Guilmon", Takato said with great disappointment, "I thought you'd be staying".

"I have to go back, I'm expected as the founder of the No Confidence Party, at the constitutional convention..."

"Renamon?", Ruki asked.

"I'm sorry, but I have no other choice".

"Terriermon?"

"Moumentai! Henry"

"So when will you be back?", Takato asked.

"Your eyes are leaky again", Guilmon pointed out.

"I know... I keep remembering... that last time".

Guilmon chuckled. "It's not forever. I expect I'll be asked to run for Prime Minister..."

"How long will that be?"

"A five year term".

"Five years..."

"I'll be back in time to be there for your high school graduation. Besides, that doesn't mean I won't be dropping in for state affairs, and I'll see to it you're on my schedule".

"And by then, Suzy should be starting high school", Lopmon pointed out.

"I still don't want you to go", Suzy complained.

"I know, I don't either, but I have my duties".

"Pee pii puu plplaa", Marineangemon said.

"I'll miss you too", Kenta replied.

"Yeah, I guess a lot's changed...", Takato said, "for all of us".

"Since that time in the pit?", Guilmon finished that thought. "I know. It wasn't all that long ago, and yet it seems like forever, a whole different world. Hell, it's been a lifetime for me".

"Not a kid who just wanted a digimon to play with..."

"It's like that for all of us", Ruki added, as she thought back to when digimon was just a game.

"For once, I can't argue with the Digimon Queen", Ryo agreed.

"That's a first", Renamon and Monodramon both said at once. There was laughter.

"I guess I still am the Digimon Queen", Ruki replied. That year's card game tournament had been cancelled.

"Enjoy it while you can", Ryo threatened.

"Don't even think about running off to the Digital World", Ruki reprimanded. "Be looking forward to kicking your ass".

"Maybe I'll kick both your asses", Impmon replied.

"Impmon?", Renamon asked.

"I'm staying", he explained. "I still owe a card game, yannow".

"I thought you..."

"I don't leave anything half done. I've got the insurance money, and I'm gonna rebuild, bigger and better than before".

"I thought...", Renamon started.

"Yeah, I thought going into high end audio was something I needed to do to survive here in the Material World when I thought I was stuck here for good. It's more than that now", Impmon shook his head. "It's something I need to do for myself, something I need to see through all the way. Then I can go back... That still doesn't rule out visits, though".

"Garurumon?", Juri asked.

"I'm not planning on leaving just yet. I wasn't involved, besides, I'd like to get to know my new Tamer a bit better. Not expecting any trouble, now that Zhuqiaomon is gone, but just in case some feral digimon show up, someone's going to have to hold down the fort"

"I'd like to stay, too, culu? They'll be expecting me as well, culu?"

"You were a big help when I needed you", Juri told Calumon. "Now others need you".

"It's not goodbye forever, culu?", he reassured.

"Not this time, it isn't. We will be back, next time as tourists and visitors", Renamon agreed. "And no more fighting. That's what we're working for".

"Guilmon", Takato asked, "would it be unseemly if the future Prime Minister of the Digital World played with a bunch of kids in the park?"

"I don't know...", Guilmon paused. "Why don't we try it and see?", he suggested.

They all went to the park to play hide and seek, kick the can, ride Guilmon on the cart while he fired off "guilmon missiles", wads of tissue paper from both nostrils. For a few hours, they all forgot about responsibilities.

Until Azulongmon sent the digital portal at sundown. One by one, they left: Renamon, Terriermon, Lopmon, Monodramon, Calumon, Marineangemon, and Guilmon.

"Win that election". Takato mock threatened, "don't make me come back there and kick your ass".

"I'll be expecting lots of Guilmon Bread for the victory party".

"My dad and I won't let you down", Takato promised.

Another bitter sweet parting of the ways, but this time, with the assurance that they'd be back. Back at a time when travel between the worlds would be as common as an airliner flight. How will they change, Takato thought. He could hardly imagine himself a high school graduate entering the university for the first time. He knew the others were thinking the same thing.

"We'd better be going", Juri announced. "You be OK?", she asked Takato.

"Sure thing", he replied.

"I'd best be getting Ai and Mako home", Impmon said as he took their hands. "Promised I'd have 'em home by dark".

First Week in May

"Takato!", his father called from the living room behind the bakery. Takato was still doing his clean-up chores. "You'll find this interesting".

"What...", he appeared, but didn't need to ask, as the TV news grabbed his attention.

"...Sunday night at the Holiday Inn in Columbus, Ohio, where a furry convention known as Morphicon was taking place..."

The only name that appeared on the bottom of the screen read "Snap", identified as the con chair. This must've been on a recorded delay, as there were others in the background, waving at the camera. Some wearing ears and/or tails; some in full costumes.

"I never", he shook his head, "expected we'd be playing host to a real, live furry... No other con can make that claim"

"Digimon", the reporter corrected.

"Furry, digimon, a difference without a distinction She looked like an anthro-otter, and that's a furry as far as I'm concerned. Of course, we have a problem: do we rescind her 'Best of Show' award for the fursuit parade? I mean, it wasn't a fursuit, was it?"

Takato never heard of a "furry convention", but knew right away who they were discussing.

"I thought there was something odd about them", someone identifying only as Fiona Icecat was saying. "I never saw that one out of costume... ever. We don't wear fursuits to everything, not really, anyway. No wonder it looked so realistic".

"This was the scene right after the end of the convention..."

Video from cell phones showed Pteromon and the rest of the Morgans being escorted into the back of a large van with "FBI" markings on the sides, behind a cordon of city and county police.

"We had to let them go", the director of the Columbus field office was explaining. "There is no law violated here, and it's up to the Pennsylvania authorities and state laws governing the keeping of exotic pets".

A representative of ICE was explaining: "This Pteromon didn't cross a border, or invade US airspace. This... biomerging... as I understand it isn't covered under immigration laws and regulations. It's up to Congress to pass legislation regarding the matter. It's not our department's responsibility".

"Then whose..."

"Try the State Department".

"The Digital World isn't a recognized sovereignty, so that would make Pteromon a stateless person, except she's not human, so an animal... but an animal that talks, asserts her rights while understanding those rights is a contingency we never expected... It's a legal gray area, until Congress passes clarifying legislation..."

"What if someone shot and killed her?"

"There are animal protection laws..."

"Would it be murder?"

"That's for a court to decide... or Congress or state legislatures... It's not our responsibility".

Paul Morgan was explaining:

"We're through with hiding. When we heard about this convention where these folks dress up as their favorite animals, we figured it was the perfect place to go public. That's why we came to Morphicon".

"I understand you're Pteromon's... what was that term again?"

"Tamer"

"Yes, Tamer... so what do you do as Pteromon's Tamer?"

"Basically, it's mentoring her into the ways of the Material World, so she understands our customs better...", he went on to explain everything since he met Pteromon while walking the dog.

"Pteromon, what about you? This representative from the Defense Intelligence Agency..."

"Col. Hanson?"

"You know him?"

"Tell him I'll meet with him whenever, where ever, is convenient for him. I have nothing to hide. I'm tired of hiding who and what I am".