...YES! 200 reviews! You guys are simply awesome! I'm so glad there was such a strong response to the last chapter. Had it mind for so long I'm glad I pulled it off.

Robby Cartwright: There will be Taiora and Rukato but that's about it as far as pairings are concerned.

Blazing Badger: New series! *GooglesGooglesGoogles*

digifreak51794: I did not know that, but thanks for sharing. I'm always interested to learn about connections like that.

Orpheum: I'm honored to have inspired that! Thank you!

Female Marauder: You think that's weird? Takuya is voiced by Matt!

FireFairy219: I assure you they did return to separate worlds. Though I gotta admit it would be an awesome twist!

PureWolfWarrior: Usagi will appear when TK thinks she will be useful. With the control spires still up...

pixiegirl1000: Prequel? I honestly never considered more than flashbacks. Sounds interesting but I doubt I'd get around to one. Maybe someone with a writing style I found suitable, I could leave it to them after finishing SC:P. We'll see...

Seriously, thank you all so much for reviewing. Seeing that number go up just keeps my spirit going! Now please join me in wishing the story a happy second birthday! Enjoy!

Second Coming: Providence

Chapter 11: Introvert Introductions

"I don't see why you're so worried," Patamon said, popping the last bit of bread into his mouth. Having given up on getting TK to sleep hours ago, Patamon sat with his partner in the living area well into the next morning. After a time staring at the visage of a red reptile born of Takato, he could no longer resist eating the cake. The quality of Takato's baking was equal to his zeal for battle.

TK's blue eyes burned a hole into the wall as he stared ahead from the couch, unblinking. "It's not like I didn't expect this eventually..." Takato Matsuki could not be stopped any more so than a hurricane, TK knew this better than anyone amongst the living. "But it's much sooner than I anticipated. And," TK found himself swallowing nervously. "I think I'm afraid. I'll have to face him soon."

Patamon nodded sympathetically. "Yeah, it'll be awkward. You stuck a sword through the guy after all... Metaphysically at least. Still, you'll make it out in one piece," Patamon said positively.

"I'm not too sure," TK said, keeping his voice low so as not to wake the others in the apartment. The walls were not as thick as their privacy mandated. "I betrayed him. He has the right to seek retribution." The boy's eyes lidded as he shifted his gaze to the floor. "A part of me wants him to. I deserve to suffer for what I've done."

"Get a hold of yourself, masochist!" the bat-pig whispered hoarsely, lightly slapping TK with his wing. The blond recoiled on the couch, stunned. "When adults do something rotten they have two choices: take responsibility for it or don't. Tell him! Don't just sit there and feel sorry for yourself. Tell him why you did it, and maybe he won't violently reintroduce you to Benehime." Patamon sighed tiredly, looking at him with sad eyes lost in time. "We've all suffered enough, TK. There's nothing to gain by crucifying yourself. Didn't you learn that from Ken?"

TK looked at the partner Digimon who had been with him through all the trials life offered. Patamon's words, along with Tai's warning, Kari's request for him to value his life, and Yolei's fearful remembrance of his indifference to his own injuries, rang through the blond's head like the chime of a bell. He was aware that he had become something not suited for the life he was living, but he didn't see how he could go back. The person he was now, the things he had done could not be taken back no matter if he escaped from the plane of time where he committed those acts.

But... he supposed there was no actual point to his suffering other than a twisted self-gratification. TK's lack of... self preservation, as Yolei called it, the total dedication of self to the eradication of all enemies that the Virus Busters was formed around was hurting those close to him; that much had not changed. He would not allow his obsession to envelope them as it had the others, casting away all value their lives had. He was no longer living an indefinite suicidal mission, a vendetta against evil that existed within and without himself. So why did he still feel that he was? That was why...

Properly chastised, the Child of Hope nodded. "I'm sorry. When I face him I will look Takato in the eyes."

"Glad to hear it," Patamon said, nodding approvingly.

A throbbing on his face alerted him to a welt forming. TK rubbed his stinging cheek. "I can't believe you slapped me."

"Nothing worse than what Takato will do," the Rookie said with a shrug.

A chill coursed through TK. "Fair enough. At least you'll be with me, right?"

Patamon looked at him strangely. "What are you, nuts? I'm gonna be out of there like you wouldn't believe."

TK's eye twitched. "I hope that bread was poisoned," the blond muttered. Patamon mock chocked in response, spinning and landing on his back, legs kicked into the air. Annoyed, TK jabbed the Rookie's belly with his finger, getting a face full of chewed bread crumbs for his trouble.

(Digimon)

Pools of gold with black irises stared with unflinching determination into the blue-green frontier perched above. Shoulders hunched, his reptilian form had taken the stance unmistakably that of a predator. Guilmon's will would not bend to this feathered newcomer. He waited with the patience of a statue, eyes refusing to leave the bird's for even a moment.

Then Thunderbirmon blinked. The challenger had been defeated.

"I win again!" Guilmon said, throwing his arms up in midst of childlike joy. He attempted a handstand in celebration, but only ended up tumbling down the stairs as he lost balance. That seemed to be a skill he would have to relearn.

"I do not believe she was playing," SnowAgumon remarked, more to himself than his fellow cold-blooded Rookie. He too had been keenly observing the lightning fowl. A short time ago she had been an enemy, but was now partnered to that Kazu boy he and Toshiro quietly dismissed as excess baggage to the group. He bore her no grudge, but her presence atop Guilmon's stone house was very alien, very... unsettling. She spoke only to her partner, and quite briefly for that matter.

"She's kind of creeping me out," Terriermon said, giving voice to SnowAgumon's own ponders. "Why doesn't she at least say something?"

"Yes... She seems prepared to snatch one of us away to feed to her young."

Coronamon chuckled. "You sure about that? Sounds pretty hypocritical."

"What?" the pale reptile asked, looking befuddled.

"Well, she kind of reminds me of you when we first met," Coronamon said. He puffed out his chest, accentuating his mane, and therefore his own pride. "Of course, that was before my fires of friendship melted your icy exterior!"

SnowAgumon sighed a misty breath and said, "Never again will you say such a thing, or I shall eat you." He glared at the laughing green rabbit. "Do you find something amusing?"

Terriermon grinned from ear to ear, making it an impressive act. "Have either of you ever heard the term yaoi?"

Making it back up to steps on his clawed feet, Guilmon hunkered down once again in front of Thunderbirmon. "Okay, best five out of seven!"

The lightning fowl narrowed her eyes, and the other Digimon may have heard her sigh.

(Digimon)

Takato sat with a slump. Whatever his teacher was saying went in one ear and out the other, if the words even penetrated his skull. His mind was wrapping around a single event that had thrown his perception of things into question: Kazu was partnered not with Guardromon, but with Thunderbirmon. This itched the Gogglehead's brain to no end. How did it happen, and why?

Not once had it occurred to Takato that any of the Tamers, his Tamers, would end up with different Digimon. What could he have done to change that? From his understanding the connection between the two was predetermined by fate, or something. The Digidestined had their partners chosen for them, so Takato always assumed the same for Tamers. But perhaps that wasn't the case; Kazu's recent divergence from the path Takato had believed he would take forced him to reevaluate his previous assessment. He mentally peeled apart all of the partnerships between Tamer and Digimon.

The brunette himself created Guilmon by drawing the most kick-ass, fearsome Rookie with the best qualities of Agumon, along with a tail inspired by Veemon, and Patamon's ears for aerodynamic biting action! Guilmon was perfect, just as he intended. Subconsciously, Takato had been channeling the Digital Hazard and integrated it into the red dino's Digicore. Even Fanglongmon backed him up on that.

So if he had chosen to draw something completely different, or a Digital Monster that already existed, what would have come of it? Would Guilmon have still been born? Frustrated, Takato turned his thoughts to the other partnerships.

Rika and Henry had each chosen their respective partners in Renamon and Terriermon. His girlfriend had been approached by a cluster of Digimon looking for the strongest Tamer to make them evolve, and she'd chosen Renamon. Henry selected Terriermon to play the computer game with on the net. But what if they had chosen differently? Would they have D-Arcs that matched those partners' color schemes?

"Takato."

Jeri had fallen in love with Leomon at first sight, and was highly determined to become his partner. She, eventually, after a bit of stalking, succeeded in this, being granted a Digivice by the DigiGnomes that bound the muscled lion warrior to her. Was it destiny that they became partners, or was it Jeri's willpower that shaped their partnership?

Henry's little sister, Suzie, had befriended the rabbit deva and D-Arc formed right in her hands. If destiny or some predetermining force had not brought them together, then was a play date enough?

When it came to Kazu, Takato was not present when the visor clad boy bonded with Guardromon. The highlight of that exploit was that a Trojan Milkshake had been involved, but Takato recalled that Guardromon had been fighting some Orochimon without much to show for it. Chivalrous wasn't among the first hundred words he'd use to describe Kazu, especially not at the moment, so he wasn't sure what brought them together as Tamer and Digimon.

"Takato..."

Kenta's partnership with MarineAngemon had been the most passive of all in forming. A DigiGnome delivered the tiny Mega right into Kenta's pocket just as they had been leaving the Digital World.

Were all of these partnerships formed because of decisions of the Tamers? What had taken place was irrefutable. Kazu had been able to wrangle Thunderbirmon into being his partner because he willed it.

It would seem that there was no accounting for what affect free will would have on the future with Tamers having the ability to chose their Digimon partners.

"Takato!"

The adolescent in red and black snapped his head up to see Ms. Asaji's disapproving frown, and several other students looking back at him, apparently amused. "What did I just say?"

Takato opened his mouth.

"And don't you dare say 'What did I just say?'" the chestnut haired teacher warned.

Takato closed his mouth.

Ms. Asaji sighed. "I let it slide this time because I'm sure I know why you're distracted. Just don't let it all go to your head, celebrity."

(Digimon)

Davis looked upon the collaboration of Digimon and Chosen Children that had gathered once again in the computer lab. They had left the Digimon to hide themselves for the day, at least until classes had ended. Veemon, or rather DemiVeemon bounded up to him as soon as he walked through the door. TK and Kari were with him, but the others were currently elsewhere doing who knew what. He just wished they were hurry up. What was the big idea keeping the team waiting like this?

"Man, aren't you guys excited?" he couldn't help but ask. "This'll be our first trip to the Digital World without any older kids looking over shoulders."

"I wouldn't classify helping you adjust as 'looking over your shoulder,' Davis," Kari said. "And we aren't going for a picnic." Although that didn't sound like a bad idea now that she'd said it aloud... "Remember what my brother told you."

"'Don't do anything that I wouldn't do.' Yeah I remember," Davis said, remaining in an excited mood. "But it's a chance to prove ourselves and our independence! And when we return triumphant after another victory over the Digimon Emperor," he shrugged, "maybe they won't worry about us so much, you know?"

TK nodded, impressed by his reasoning. "He's right. We have to move away from their influence to grow on our own."

"Not to mention you will be there to worry enough for all of them put together," Kari quipped.

"Hey guys, sorry I'm late!" Yolei called, running into the room holding a plastic bag with an 'i' logo on it. She set the bag down on the floor in front of the Digimon. "I brought you guys something from my family's store. There's enough for everyone, so eat up."

"Your family owns a convenience store? That must be great. You can eat snacks until your teeth fall out!" Davis said enviously.

Not particularly fond of the image of herself needing dentures, Yolei shook her head. "I've got help out sometimes, stocking shelves and unloading boxes. Everyone in my house helps out at one point or another, and it's no walk in the park being the youngest of the Inoue clan."

Davis blinked at this, thankful he did not have such responsibility. TK made a mental note to start a tab paying for everything their group got from the family's store.

Patamon grabbed one of the food packets before the ravenous In Training Digimon started tearing apart the bag and its contents. He offered it to Gatomon, who was observing the unruly eating mannerisms with dismay. "Here, it's your favorite flavor, isn't it?"

Feeling slight bewilderment, Gatomon accepted the peach flavored food. "You remember stuff like that?"

"Of course. How could I forget?"

"Oh. Thanks. What about you? If you try getting anything now you're liable to part with a limb..."

Patamon smirked a little, glancing at TK. "Don't worry, I already ate."

Huey and Cody walked down the hall engrossed in conversation that began at lunch and had not yet ended.

"So you're saying that we only need to eat one meal a day?"

"Ideally, yes. We might require more than that due to our very active lifestyles, and you would have to maintain a certain diet of foods. But it is more than possible to survive on one meal every day or every other day without suffering any ill effects. It's supposed to be more healthy that way."

"Is there more to this idea, Huey?"

"I do have a book that fully explains better than I can, if you're interested. I'm happy to let you borrow it."

"Yes, I would appreciate that very much. I promise to return it in good condition."

Huey looked at what was being consumed even by Dorimon, his perpetual scowl deepening. "I assume this food contains high fructose corn syrup? Japan being the birthplace of that plague, after all."

Yolei bristled in offence. "Are you saying my family purchases faulty product?"

"That depends. Does you family purchase foods containing a poisonous chemical that erodes human livers?"

"What?"

"Read about it. It'll kill you."

"Sorry to interrupt this nutrients seminar, but adventure is waiting. Time to go!" Davis said, his blue D3 already in hand.

The bespectacled girl looked like she had more to say, but scoffed. "Whatever. The gate is already open anyway."

(Digimon)

Dear lord she hated skirts. It wasn't a grueling task for her to decide that anyone who would voluntarily dress in one of these textile nightmares was brain damaged. Why wear clothes that were the plaything of any slight breeze? She couldn't wait to tear off the drab grey uniform of her all girl school and put on some damn pants.

Rika Nonaka quickened her pace.

The redheaded girl was itching for a fight; her frustration with school and home only fueled the desire to escape boredom. And the next day would truly wear on her nerves, with her mother visiting the classroom along with a slew of other airheaded parents.

She wondered who the next enemy would be. Nothing lower than a Champion would do. Renamon needed the data of a strong Digimon so she could finally reach the next level, because the low-level chumps weren't cutting it, apparently. Rika mentally shifted through suitable cards to use with every imagined challenger. A Frigimon would be weak to fire, so her Agumon card would do nicely. If she faced the opposite in Meramon, it would call for Shellmon or perhaps Kokatorimon... A red behemoth in armor flared up in her mind's eye, an aloof boy standing on its bleached hair.

Shaking her head, Rika growled in annoyance. Why could she not forget that damn dream? The Tamer pushed it as far away from her thoughts as she could. There were more important things of concern to her than some imaginary boy and his walking murder machine. She would make Renamon the strongest Digimon ever, no matter what.

"Nice skirt," a boyish voice commented as she passed, following up with a stupid laugh.

Rika locked her feet in place, turning her head almost mechanically to glare through the newspaper at the gaudy little bastard who'd said that. "Listen, you jerk-off," she began, fully prepared to tell the guy where to stick it. Her potential tirade was nipped in the bud as the newspaper lowered and two red eyes were looking at her with a playful, overly familiar expression.

Rika gasped and stepped back. She pointed at the boy with a nimble finger. "Y-you! What are you doing? You can't be here..."

"Well excuse me for living," Takato mumbled, eyes briefly downcast. The way she was staring at him, as if disbelieving his presence, seemed uncalled for. Even if she had read the newspaper, Rika wasn't the type to be star-struck, especially not over some long jump record. Hell, Renamon jumped, like, thirty feet every time she attacked. "You are the Digimon Queen, right?"

The girl shook off the daze that claimed her. She stared at Takato, trying to make sense of him as his words registered. "Who wants to know?" Rika asked in a steady voice, betraying none of the confusion she was vividly experiencing.

The boy smirked. "The one who shall... dethrone you." Rika felt her skin crawl. "I, Takato Matsuki, challenge you!"

Violet eyes narrowed. "Pass. I'm not into that kiddy game anymore, little boy," she said scathingly, her mask of cool impassiveness firmly reestablished. The kid in black and red was not discouraged; he in fact laughed.

"Did you know that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was named 'Little Boy?'" he asked jovially. "I'm kinda like that."

"What? Ironically named?" the redhead asked lethargically.

"Yeah. Wait no, I meant like a nuclear bomb. Click-clack kerboom!" A shudder of annoyance frisked Rika's shoulders. This guy was seriously starting to give her the creeps.

"Look, why don't you get lost, Gogglehead? I said I'm not interested."

Takato folded his arms behind his head. If she wanted to play hard to get, he'd just need stronger bait. "So you don't want to pit Renamon against my Digimon? What's the matter, red? You scared?"

Rika tensed, and the shadows in an ally nearby stirred. It was just a dream. It was just a dream. It was just a dream. I probably saw this guy without noticing and he wormed his way into my subconscious, Rika thought, attempting to lay her unease to rest. Her eyes narrowed at the brunette. But how does he know about Renamon? She definitely did not like anyone knowing her business. I guess I'll just have to beat some answers out of him. This made Rika smirk. Maybe after she wiped the floor with him and Renamon absorbed his Digimon's data, she would be rid of that infuriating dream.

"You're on, Gogglehead," the girl accepted. "I'll show you exactly why they call me the Digimon Queen."

Takato smiled beatifically. "Is that a promise? I'm looking forward to it," he said, honestly enthusiastic.

"Just name the time and place of your execution." Rika was palpably confident she could win.

"The park. One hour. Be there or be square!" he said, utmost seriousness nipping the heels of his words.

Rika gaped at him, unable to conceive that he had just unfalteringly said something so atrociously lame. This would be easier than she thought. "Whatever. Tell your Digimon he has one hour before his data is loaded." Rika continued walking home. At least she would have a fight to get to once she had changed clothes.

Takato watched her go, feeling a parallel gaze on himself. He looked at Renamon and smiled. "Don't be a voyeur!" The humanoid fox froze in place before melting into the shadows. Takato chuckled. That served her right. He was certain that at times he had felt a pair of eyes on him when he and Rika were being intimate. His girlfriend swore that wasn't the case, but he had never been convinced...

On his way to the meeting place, this thought gave Takato pause as he scratched his head.

"I wonder if I'm still a virgin," the veteran wondered aloud. Too loudly, though, as a pair of old ladies walking nearby gave him dirty and suspicious looks. Takato dipped his head and scurried away, praying they weren't customers of the bakery. No amount of good grades could override what he'd said.

Still, it wasn't as weird as seeing Henry with hair.

(Digimon)

The In Training Digimon each returned to their larger, more combat appropriate forms once in the Digital World. The Digivices picked up a signal emanating from what the group believed could be a Digiegg. Kari wondered why her older model responded as well, when it sensed nothing of the Digieggs of Knowledge and Love. Her desire to find the egg strengthened in response to this.

"It should be somewhere around here," Davis muttered from the front.

"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Huey asked mildly.

"Yes I'm sure!" Davis said crankily. Tai had told him there was an art to walking in front of a group and getting them to feel at ease following your footsteps. Apparently an art Davis had not mastered yet.

"I wonder who this Digiegg will belong to," Kari thought aloud.

Hawkmon said, "I regret to inform you that even we do not know the answer."

"Perhaps it is for one of us," Cody proposed. "It's already been proven that one Digidestined can hold multiple Digieggs."

Davis mumbled his agreement, still looking at the screen of his electric compass."Yeah, TK's already got like six of 'em."

"Four," the blond corrected.

"The again, maybe that's because his Digivice is more... advanced," Huey said.

"Do you guys think another Digimon will be freed?" Yolei asked.

TK sighed. It really made him feel like lying crap to hear them speculate about something he was wholly aware of and remain silent. "We'll know when we get there," he said, hoping to quiet the matter. Though if memory served, there would be enough of a distraction shortly...

The Gogglehead stopped. "Uh, guys," he bean hesitantly, "I think I may not be reading this right."

"Let me guess. You got us lost, didn't you," Yolei said, sounding highly unimpressed.

"That's not it!" he said defensively. "It just looks like there's someone else with a Digivice nearby." Davis blinked in confusion before an idea occurred that rubbed him raw. "Oh man! Don't tell me one of the older kids followed us here!"

Kari checked her Digivice. "Mine's picking up a signal, too."

"What are you doing here?" a voice most of them had never heard demanded. The image of the Digimon Emperor stood less than twenty feet from them.

"Is that him?" Yolei shouted in surprise.

"You piece of crap!" Davis growled. Before he made it two steps to repay the Emperor with fist to the face, TK firmly gripped his shoulder.

"Look before you leap," he advised. "That's just a hologram." Davis relaxed and looked closely at the projection he'd been ready to attack. Good thing TK stopped him, because it would not have looked cool.

"What are imperfections like you doing in the Digital World? How are you able to pass freely into this realm?" the Emperor asked forcefully, as though they owed him the explanation as tax for standing on the soil. "This world is only for the Digidestined. Your presence here is a blemish."

"We are Digidestined, you smug jackass. The real question is why are you here!"

The purple glasses covering his eyes stared contemptuously at the Gogglehead. "I am here because I belong, gnat. I am in my rightful place. I am a Chosen Child."

"You don't even know what it means to be a Digidestined!" Kari shouted. "We protect the Digimon, not hunt them down and enslave them. You're retched!"

"This world and its inhabitants are mine to do with as I see fit. I am not bound by your flawed sense of morals. I alone decide the rules of the game," the Emperor said plainly.

Cody clenched his fist, wishing there was a shinai in reach. "You think this is a game? You're toying with lives because it's fun to you? What gives you the right?"

"I am a perfect human being, as any Digidestined must be. This is a criteria you all fail to meet. Only I am perfect, therefore I am the sole Digidestined."

"Then how do you explain our Digivices?" Yolei asked, trying to cut through the crap he was spewing. She had heard of people who were full of themselves, but this guy's arrogance was simply blowing her away.

The self proclaimed monarch of the Digital World seemed contemplative of this. "I can only assume you must be a trial for me to overcome in asserting my rightful dominance of this world. You are an inferior breed, an unfit element that I must cleanse this world of."

Huey's eyes thinned. "Great. He's not just a fascist. He's a Nazi."

"No," TK disagreed. "Nazis believe in a race of superior beings. He only believes in himself."

"Ah, TK." The Emperor's mouth stretched into a smirk. "I've been waiting for the opportunity to make your acquaintance. You will forgive my safety precautions, won't you? I can't risk introducing myself to an unknown element like yourself."

"If I wanted you dead, you'd be dead," TK said, sounding bored. The others gaped at him, reasonably alarmed by his words, and the fact that he seemed completely serious.

"Is that a fact?" he asked, sobering. "You do have some interesting abilities, I will give you that. But do you have what it takes to end a human life?" He would tell no one, but it was the same question he had asked himself a few days ago.

"You wouldn't be the first."

Kari looked at TK, eyes wide and worried. He was only trying to bluff, to scare the emperor, wasn't he? Maybe he said it because he was angry at being hurt before. It wasn't as if TK would actually kill humans, other children. He said he was capable of things... things she couldn't comprehend. But could that mean..?

The Emperor laughed in a way that suggested to Yolei he was in need of medication. Were she on the receiving end of such a threat, laughter would be her last response.

"There may be a place for you in the new order of this world," the capped boy offered. "I would like to learn your abilities; if you are capable, then I must be as well. So I will spare you if you obey. That garbage you're with... go ahead and dispose of them."

The group was stricken by silence at the brazen order. "You sick son of a bitch," Gatomon hissed spitefully.

Yolei was ashamed of it, but her eyes inched over to TK, terrified of the thought of him turning on them. What would they be able to do against him and his energy sword? If it could cut through the fabric of space and time, what would it do to human flesh?

Cody wondered how twisted the Digimon Emperor must be to think of such a thing. Someone like him could never understand what it meant to care about something other than himself.

"You think I'd kill them?" TK asked hollowly. He shook his head at the genius' ignorance. "Unthinkable. Never. These people... are my life. I would die for them. There's no lengths I wouldn't go through to protect their lives."

The Digidestined felt an odd veil of protection fall over them, one that had been there all along, they simply had not been aware of it. But with it came a smothering pressure, an almost suffocating aura...

The Emperor frowned. "That's an unfortunate response. This will be the only warning I give any of you: leave the Digital World at once! Important matters have me occupied at the moment, so I have no time to play with you. Be thankful, for after today I will show you no mercy! For your sake, let this be the last time we meet." The hologram fizzled out.

"My, what a pleasant fellow," Hawkmon said dryly.

Armadillomon nodded warily. "I thought he'd be rotten but that was a bit much, I'm feeling faint."

"What an asshole!" Davis shouted, enraged. "I am totally gonna knock that guy's teeth out!"

"Only if there are any left when I'm done with him," Huey said, quietly simmering in anger. Dorumon growled feeling his partner's rage.

Veemon said nothing. Truth be told, he got the feeling that the Digimon Emperor was a very lonely person. The blue lizard had reached the peak of joy after finally being united with Davis. He could tell that the frizzy haired boy knew nothing of such bonds. But he would learn, probably the hard way.

"That's kind of guy I hate the most! He'll piss you and then be on his merry way! Ah, whatever." Davis put his arms behind his head. "Let's just pretend he didn't show his ugly mug an find the Digiegg," Davis said. He started walking again in the direction the Digivice indicated. He was tempted to look back at TK, but he was holding out so the others would follow his example and just leave it alone for now. He glanced back as far as he could. TK, did you really...

Yolei was quick to follow, feeling extremely uncomfortable lingering where that cretin decided to have a friendly chat. And she wasn't sure if she could look TK in the eye at the moment. Not after what had crossed her mind. Unsure of what to do, Cody looked at Huey, who shrugged, equally clueless as to what the proper response was. The fifth graders shuffled after Davis.

Kari looked back at the blond who stolidly aligned his neck, as though the Emperor's projection was still present before him. "TK..."

"Would you really want to know?" he asked preemptively. Kari chewed her lip, unable to find an answer. TK sighed. "Forget it, I was only bluffing anyway. Let's go before Davis leaves us behind. We wouldn't want to miss out on being lost, too."

Kari nodded and walked along side him. She tried to get a glimpse of his eyes, but the yellow shades concealed them perfectly. The girl looked at his back, transfixed with the Crest of Hope embalmed on his duster. She remembered how he had used that power to save her, save everyone, from Piedmon.

The Child of Light supposed, from that moment on, she already knew that TK would do whatever it took to protect them. But recently she began wondering how far he would have to go, how far TK was willing to take himself down a path of destruction for their sakes. And she knew the answer, because he'd just told her: as far as he had to.

There was only one answer to not becoming a burden, to save TK from himself. They had to be strong enough to protect themselves, so that he wouldn't feel the compulsive, obsessive need to be their guardian, to push himself beyond his limits. And in order to do that, Kari needed more power.

So, when Kari Kamiya found herself in a cave, staring down at the Digiegg of Light, she grasped it without hesitation. She welcomed the transformation of her Digivice into a new D3. And when prompted by Gatomon and TK, the latter having removed the Digiegg of Hope, she said the words to activate its dormant power, smiling as she was no longer a burden.

"Digi-Armor Energize!"

(Digimon)

Rika's steel-toed shoes trampled over any foliage daring to stand between her and the dumbass Gogglehead. She was prepared for war. She was going to utterly annihilate him. The more her encounter with that boy, stupid, stupid boy! replayed in her head, the more furious she became. Talking down to her, underestimating her... and worse of all he said 'nice skirt.' Nice skirt! He would pay...

But she tamed her indignant fury and planned to unload every bit of it in the upcoming death match. Rika had even deigned to check her cards, as opposed to grabbing her assembled deck and heading out the door. She had never experienced the pleasure of crushing another Tamer, only beating posers who mistakenly believed they knew how they card game was played. She would settle for nothing less than total victory that sent the Gogglehead crying to his mother.

She could feel Renamon shadowing her more closely than usual. The long armed fox had mentioned some nonsense about being careful and the Gogglehead being dangerous. What did Renamon know? Did she actually feed into that garbage he was saying? That just proved Digimon shouldn't waste their time thinking; he wasn't dangerous, he was just weird and obnoxious. And in all likelihood a pervert as well. She had already told Renamon to concern herself only with Digivolving, but it seemed her order was being taken lightly.

Using the radar function of her D-Arc, she tracked the sole Digimon signal being transmitted throughout the park. She approached a chainlink fence, and there he was, lounging underneath the solitary tree, back pressed against the trunk. His eyes were closed peacefully... had he the nerve to have fallen asleep? When she approached to give him a rude awakening, one potentially involving the use of her sneakers, Rika smelled something in the air, something burning... Incense? He had lit incense before their duel? What a creep...

"Gogglehead!" she barked, approaching without fear. "Wake the hell up!" Rika didn't have any problem attacking without warning; anyone caught unprepared deserved to get taken out. But she wanted to see the bastard squirm as he realized defeat was inevitable. "People can see us out here so I have to make... this... quick.."

When she saw his Digimon partner, Rika's steps swayed from the shock. It was a red reptile, black tattoos scattered over his form. To another they would seem like an innocuous design at first, but she recognized them as the same markings of the red beast that had torn through a horde. This must be its... Rookie form? And now that she thought about it, in her dream, she had seen that same mark on the boy's forehead.

The enemy Digimon was lying with its stomach against the dirt. It stirred in response to her shout. Rika tensed, which meant Renamon did as well. The fox tightened every muscle in her body when the opponent stood. Rika shivered as the carnage this creature's advanced forms could inflict flooded her mind; sheer overwhelming power. The dino opened golden eyes and stretched the muscles of its mouth. Renamon was standing between the beast and her partner in a flash of fur, bracing herself for an attack. No burning energy gathered between its teeth. The only thing he emitted was a low sound that was anything but threatening. He was... yawning.

The Rookie nudged his Tamer with his snout. He spoke a dreary slur. "Wake up, Takatomon. It's time to fight."

'Takatomon' blinked himself awake. He looked at Renamon and, logically deducing that meant Rika was present as well, scrambled to his feet. "Dammit, Guilmon, you were supposed to warn me when they got here!" Takato hissed quietly, discreetly making sure his hair was okay.

Guilmon whimpered. "Don't yell at me, I fell asleep too!"

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Let's just get to the matter at hand." Takato cleared his throat, squaring himself off with the opposing duo. Though he doubted very much their teamwork was a fraction of what it should be, of what it would be again.

Takato greeted them with his most amiable smile. "Welcome, ladies. May I take your coats?" he asked, staring specifically at furry fighter.

"May I take your data?" Renamon, master of all arts aloof, asked crisply in turn. The enigma would not break her composure twice in one day. Her crystal eyes slid over the reptile to allow Rika a reading on it and learn the what cards may be needed. And, perhaps, any information would settle the discontent Rika hid not so well from her.

"I'm afraid not. We're fairly stingy about Guilmon's data," Takato said, clearly making a show of sounding apologetic. "However, feel free to help yourself... TO A FIREBALL! Guilmon, attack!"

"Attack! Pyro Sphere!"

With plenty of warning, Renamon easily dodged the destructive ball of heat and energy, jumping away on her lithe but powerful legs. The impact of the explosion disintegrated a chunk of earth.

Rika scoffed internally. Hmph. Flashy amateurs. They announced they were going to attack twice beforehand. The blast was powerful, but in their hands it's worthless. She looked down at her D-Arc, which refused to show her anything more than an image of the Gogglehead's Digimon, vexing Rika greatly. Come on already, is this thing busted or what? Show me the data on Petmon.

With impressive time suspended in the air, Renamon crossed her arms, a sheen of blue energy mildly resembling a halo briefly glowing around her. The ring of light exploded outward, and shimmering shards took its place when she unfolded her long arms. "Diamond Storm!" The sharp bullets rained down, pelting Guilmon with all the force that had torn through countless opponents who had proved not to be Renamon's equal. But the attack failed to even penetrate Guilmon's leathery skin. Renamon paused at this unprecedented development.

Red brows furrowed. She didn't think that anyone could shrug off Renamon's attack unscathed. And yet this thing...

Annihilate them, a voice not her own whispered in her head. That was what the boy in her dream ordered his Digimon to do. He wiped out thousands in one go... standing next to absurdly powerful gunfire as though the obliterating force were nothing but firecrackers.

She withdrew a card to give Renamon an edge. That was a dream, but this was real. The Gogglehead's Digimon was basically Agumon with rabies, a virus type she guessed. That much she could derive on her own. "Digi-Modify! Angemon Activate!"

Takato was struck speechless at the irony. You gotta be kidding me.

Renamon's gloved hand glowed with an awesome power that told her to defeat the enemy in her eyes! "Hand of Fate!" A blast of holy energy shot from Renamon's fist as she punched from a distance. Guilmon, caught totally off guard, was hit straight on with the orange beam. The holy energy washed over him, peeling the Rookie apart at the seams, burning him to the core like acid. Guilmon yelped like a wounded puppy and dropped to his knees.

This was what happened when you underestimated your girlfriend: she kicks your ass. A lesson Takato had always been slow to learn. "Guilmon, you alright, boy?" He would have thought there would be some sort of... immunity to those attacks, considering who his DNA partner had been. But he did not anticipate Rika would use that card, primarily because the Virus Busters didn't carry cards of living partners with them.

Rika smirked, satisfied things were finally moving along as they should be. "That's more like it. I knew you were just a goofy little boy with a pet Digimon."

"Guilmon isn't my pet, he's my friend!"

His being was aggravated with the pain of a hundred wasp stings. But Guilmon pushed to his feet. "That's right!"

"We work together as partners!"

"Yeah!"

"Besides that, he'd make an awful pet!" the number one Tamer declared.

"Yeah!" Guilmon said, before Takato's words caught up with him. "Heeeeey. No fair, Takatomon, you tricked me!"

Rika looked at the matching pair with passionless violet orbs. Takato tried not to get distracted; her eyes always shone like gems when she thought he'd said or done something retarded. "Friend?" she questioned, as if trying a word in a foreign tongue. "Don't be ridiculous. Even a lousy Tamer like you must know that Digimon are only meant to fight. That's why you challenged me, right?"

"Heh... we like fighting every now then, but Digimon can do other stuff. They're living, breathing creatures, no two of them the same, just like humans... well, ok, some are undead and others don't need oxygen, but that's beside the point! Digimon are people."

Rika rolled her eyes and Takato watched as she did. "You're beginning to remind of freaks who think of their pets as children," she said disparagingly. "Digimon are data. Nothing more, nothing less."

"When I created Guilmon I had more in mind than some blank faced killing machine." For that... there was Takeru.

"You created him!" Rika asked with more than a hint of incredulity. He is so full of shit it's unbelievable!

Takato proudly nodded. "Sure did! He's my greatest creation ever." He'd taken many bad things out of the world, but Guilmon was the only good thing he'd brought into it.

"Second only to Guilmon bread," the red raptor expressed his opinion. "Empires rise and fall, but bread is forever."

"That's impossible! You can't just make a Digimon!" Rika said. Even if they were just data, it was complex data. An idiot like him could never manage it. Though it would provide an explanation as to why she couldn't get a reading on Guilmon... and why he seemed about as crazy as his Tamer.

Takato suppressed a manly need to rip his shirt as he announced to Rika, "I live on the edge of impossible! Right between insanity and amazing, far from the land of rationality!"

"At least you can admit you're a whack job. I hear that's the first step to recovery," Rika said scathingly. "Look, the bottom line is Digimon were created to fight, they absorb the data of other Digimon, and then they evolve. If you're strong you live, if you're weak you die. That's just the natural order. Two Digimon cannot peacefully coexist... not sure why anybody would want something as boring as that anyway. And if you believe otherwise, you're just naive."

Scratching his head, Takato asked, "You know we aren't the only Tamers, right? I'm actually friends with a bunch of others, and our Digimon get along just fine... usually. In fact, you should feel free to come by anytime."

The redhead blinked. That was... surprising, if she could believe a word from this guy's habitually lying mouth. Before today Rika had assumed that she was the only Tamer. Now it turns out there was a nest of them, each with their own Digimon?

She ginned predatorily. "Well I'll just do that. After I'm finished here, I'll clean house with your friends. I hope at least one of you pansies can give us a decent challenge."

"Rika... are you happy fighting like this?" Takato asked, which made the girl pause. "Do you really find this fulfilling?"

"Oh stop being such a girl! This isn't about feelings, it's about winning or losing. And Renamon will win, because a Digimon that loses is absolutely worthless!"

Takato was surprised that even Renamon could stoically endure such comments about her value. At this point did she know any better? "That kind of harsh reasoning... If that's all they wanted then what do you think they need Tamers for?"

"I'd say it was a symbiotic relationship, but you probably wouldn't understand what that means."

"I do so!" He may have only had a seventh grade education, but he wasn't that dumb! Mutualist adaptation was part of how DNA Digivolution worked.

Rika sighed and shook her head. Stupid boy. "Then isn't it obvious that Digimon use Tamers to get stronger? And Tamers bring out that strength with modify cards?" She was so close to the truth but so far from its meaning.

"Not if it's done the right way," Takato muttered darkly, thinking of Kazu and Thunderbirmon. "Sure, Digimon were designed with survival of the fittest in mind. But when they form a true bond with a human partner, they don't need data. They get something far more valuable. Only then can their true power be unleashed."

"You sure talk big," Rika said, growing impatient. "But I don't see any of that 'true power.' All I see is a wimp who's out of his league and a soon to be extinct dino."

Takato chuckled, making the girl nervous. She found something extremely off-putting about his laughter. "You want me to show it to you?" he breathed so lowly she barely heard. He took a step toward her and dropped from the face of the Earth. Rika blinked, scanning the area for him. "I'll let you in on a secret," he said, suddenly right behind her. Rika frantically spun to face his back. "Of all the opponents Guilmon has defeated, he's absorbed the data of less than one percent."

"A-and that's why he's no match for Renamon!" Rika stammered, wondering how in the hell he managed to sneak up on her. "Renamon's absorbed dozens of other Digimon. And your little pet is next."

"Huh? Well then why don't we finish it now?" Takato said, walking back to the tree. Rika wearily watched him go.

"Yes, lets. I didn't come here for a philosophical debate." Though she had found it as interesting as it was ultimately pointless, having never spoken to another Tamer. Talking was not the purpose of a Digimon battle.

"Don't hold back."

"You aren't that lucky. Renamon, walk all over him," the girl ordered, taking out one of her most reliable cards. "Digi-Modify! Hyper Speed Activate!"

Her greatest attribute increased twofold, Renamon zipped forward, vanishing from sight. Her arms and legs became coated in a blue flame. "Power Paw!" a disembodied voice shouted.

Renamon threw a hungry claw at Guilmon, intending to take his Jurassic head off. Only because of the speed boost was she able to spot the change in his eyes from docile to feral. The red Rookie rolled his head with her punch before crouching, ducking under it entirely and into her guard.

Guilmon held firmly in position as Renamon's rib cage implanted onto his immobile skull, knocking the wind out of her completely. The normally agile fox gasped wordlessly as her legs kicked up before she crumpled onto the ground. It felt like she'd gone running into a steel girder.

"...Renamon?" Rika said. For the first time, she was seeing her Digimon down without any signs of getting up.

Barely holding on to consciousness, Renamon looked up at the blurry image standing above her. She could no longer make out the state of his eyes as he peered down. Her own eyes widened as she flipped back off the ground, landing in front of her Tamer with as much grace as she could muster. She stared at Guilmon wearily. That precise, expert movement. He's been in many battles... more than I have. Is this the power that the boy mentioned? A power not obtained through data? What kind of level have they reached?

Rika snapped out of her revery. "That was sloppy, Renamon," she berated. "We can't lose to another Rookie, that's just insulting."

Takato titled his head upon hearing that. It was time."Then what if you don't lose to a Rookie? What if it's... a Champion?" Guilmon swiftly Digivolved to Growlmon. The demon dragon stared down at Renamon as if admiring meat behind the glass of a butchery.

Her body shaking like a leaf, Rika dreadfully looked at the beast straight from her nightmare. Every detail matched, from the devilish horns and white hair down to its rumbling steps. It couldn't be... It couldn't be!

"Or maybe," Takato continued, "it's less embarrassing to be defeated by an Ultimate?" Flames wrapped around the Champion, armor born from the fire encased its upper body. WarGrowlmon towered over the Rookie, clearly able to crush her with a single step. Renamon stared, feeling the unfamiliar strain of fear, her instincts screaming at her to run away.

Rika tried desperately to steady her rattling knees. I am not afraid of a Digimon, she told herself, no matter how big it is... It's got nipple cannons for goodness sake! She checked her D-Arc, which was as informative now as it had been throughout the battle. Fine, whatever. I still have a card to play. I can still win. She noticed Renamon's fur standing on end her frustration mounted on that. "Shape up, Renamon! We're not gonna win by being scarred of that thing!"

Takato smiled approvingly. "You're still intending to fight? I commend you! The last people to face this form were sick with fear, but not you... my Digimon Queen."

"You must be talking about those wimps you hang out with. Well I'm a lot tougher than they are! Digi-Modify! Angewomon Activate!"

At the behest of her Tamer, Renamon fought on. Encapsulated by a sphere a of pink light, she clapped her hands together. "Heaven's Charm!" A cross wove between her separating fingers. The holy symbol shrouded the cyborg type in a cleansing light.

"And that's all she wrote," Rika said confidently, her grin returning. I knew it. Nothing but a dream. I'm the best there is. There's no way some geek with a pet gecko could...

The light died down, revealing WarGrowlmon was unfazed by the divine attack, not so much as a scratch on his shinny armor. The virus type crouched down onto his metal claws so that he was as close as possible to looking at Renamon eye to eye.

"You lose."

The fox did admirably in holding her ground and not scampering away. Unless she was totally paralyzed with fright. It was more than apparent that this was a fight she could not win.

Rika knew this as well, loathed as she was to admit it. As calmly as she could manage, Rika said, "Renamon, this is... an unknown enemy. We'll regroup for now."

"...Understood." the vulpine said. She paced backwards from the behemoth until standing before her Tamer. No matter the danger, she would stand between it and Rika.

The redhead looked at Takato disdainfully, though there seemed to be a modicum of begrudging respect. "This isn't over, Gogglehead!" she warned, calmly turning her back on the Tamer and his Ultimate level Digimon.

"It's okay to walk away, 'cause I like to watch you go!" Takato wolf called after her, laughing.

Rika sped up her pace, cheeks burning in misery. She, the Digimon Queen, had lost. To an idiot.

(Digimon)

TK watched the grass underneath him from Pegasusmon's saddle. After finding the two Digieggs belonging to Kari and himself, the Child of Light insisted that they 'take them for a spin.' TK didn't really see the point; there were no enemies to evade, no one to rescue...

Regardless, he was talked into it. Patamon had also wanted to go, and it wasn't difficult for him to understand why. Just himself and Nefertimon as the only Digimon... Too bad for the bat-pig that Dorumon innocently and actively insisted the entire group go flying. Hawkmon found it a splendid idea. Patamon wasn't selfish enough to deny his friends. A part of him wanted to be, though.

Excluding Armadillomon, those that could fly suited up in their Armor Digivolutions... which meant everyone except Veemon. The blue lizard was vocally perturbed by this. Armadillomon requested to ride with someone else, as Digmon tired easily from exercising his wings, and he didn't consider the strain very relaxing. Pegasusmon graciously offered his saddle to Cody and Armadillomon as well.

Playing off this, Davis attempted to lament to Kari the difficulties of having a Digimon incapable of flight. Yolei dragged the spiky haired boy over to Halsemon, stating it wouldn't be too much trouble to carry them both. Before Davis could get a word in edgewise, his crush was already settled on Nefertimon and flying away. Davis simply hung his head in defeat.

TK could not remember once ever taking a ride purely for leisure. It would never enter his mind to waste the Digisoul that could be saved for a vital Digivolution. Seeing the golden mane between his Armor Digimon's ears had always meant flying to or away from disaster. Just looking down on the untarnished beauty of the Digital World with his friends around him, no immediate danger roaring in their ears or spewing fire at them, TK had to admit that it was rather relaxing. That was a feeling he'd never had when things were nearing the worst; people found it difficult to relax in a war zone, go figure.

Cody lightly tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, TK. What's that thing over there?" Pools of blue followed to where the young boy was indicating. At the foot of a mountain a black pillar stretched from the ground, reaching for the sky with a pointed tip. A control spire.

Now's as good a time as any. Reluctantly, he said, "Let's check it out. What do you guys say?"

"Those black towers started appearing around the same time the Digimon Emperor showed up," Nefertimon said. "I never had the time to give them much thought before..."

"Doesn't seem likely to be a coincidence," Yolei said, adjusting her glasses.

Huey nodded. "They are awfully suspicious. I doubt they're doing anything good."

"Well then let's stop jabbering about it and go take a look," Davis said, trying to make sure he held on to Yolei only as much as he had too. She probably already thought he was an idiot, he didn't want perversion added to the charges.

"Last one there is a rotten egg!" Raptordramon announced, already jetting toward the destination in his eagerness, much to the drowned out objections of Huey. Halsemon, having anticipated this, was hot on his heels, and the race was on.

Pegasusmon galloped through the air after making sure Cody was holding on tight to TK and the Armadillomon between them. Davis cheered Halsemon on, and Yolei jokingly told him to let go if he really wanted them to win. At least he thought she was joking.

Not weighed down as the others were, Nefertimon neared the front of the group the closer they got to the tower. In the end she was the first to touch down. Raptordramon tired himself out due to his haste, arriving just after Halsemon. The winged horse was last.

"I hope you didn't lose because of us," Cody said, hating to inconvenience others.

TK smiled, shaking his head. "Don't worry, it was just a race, no harm done."

"Besides, if I wanted to win, I would have," Pegasusmon said as his hooves brushed against the dirt. He returned to his Rookie form once his saddle was empty.

The black obelisk seemed... unnatural, like it didn't belong. The more closely it was examined, the more its presence struck the Digimon as wrong.

"What do you suppose it's for?" Armadillomon asked.

"Maybe the Emperor is compensating for something," Huey suggested.

"I'll run a diagnostic," TK said, holding his arm out at the dark tower. He'd never had the chance to before. By the time he obtained his current Digivice, all the control spires were long gone.

"You can do that?" Yolei asked, surprised. "Then again, I guess that isn't as amazing as teleporting, but still."

The D-Ultima released a probing ray that swept up and down the structure. Once the scan was completed, TK upturned his wrist. His Digivice produced a projection of the dark tower, with a dark ring floating by it; the Digidestined gathered around it like a campfire.

Yolei adjusted her glasses as she leaned in, peering closely at the hologram. "If I'm reading it correctly, then this... tower, acts as a sort of radio transmitter. It seems to be broadcasting two frequencies at once. One looks like a jamming signal of some kind. The other is being sent directly to the dark rings."

Gatomon narrowed her eyes. "Jamming signal, you say?"

Yolei nodded. "It's some sort of energy field. But I'm not quite sure what it's dampening."

"Agumon and the others aren't able to Digivolve at all," Patamon supplied, leaving a bread crumb to the truth. "Even I can't reach Champion level anymore."

"Oh yeah, Sora explained it to me. She said that was why it was so important to get the Digieggs, because the older Digimon couldn't fight back. These towers could be causing the interference."

"So the Digimon Emperor uses these things to spread the influence of his Digivice," Gatomon said, stroking her whiskers. "Can you tell how far the signal reaches?"

"It has a limited range, five miles or so But it looks like that distance increases the closer it is to other towers."

"What if we're able to find a place that's really out of the way, no towers around? Do you think they would be able to Digivolve then?" Kari asked.

"I don't see any reason why not."

"But what connection does it have to the dark rings?" Cody asked.

"I think it controls them. Or rather..." The helmeted girl gasped as she understood. "It powers them! The Emperor uses these towers to transmit a signal that forces Digimon to obey him. Without any towers..."

"Let's bust this thing up!" Davis announced, startling the group. "I'm not sure I really get all the technical stuff, but these things are making everyone miserable, right? Well I say it's time for a little vandalism, Digidestined style!"

"I agree," Huey said. "In fact, we should destroy every one of the dark towers. That way we won't have to destroy every dark ring individually. Although... it would quicker if we simply took care of the Emperor first."

Yolei's eyes widened. "By 'take care of him' you mean...?"

"I meant we should take his Digivice," an exasperated Huey said. "Without that he can't stop Digivolution, right?"

TK shook his head. "He won't show himself while I'm around, he's too cautious. Besides, it doesn't sound like that would free all the Digimon under his control, right, Yolei?" he asked, to which the girl responded with a nod. "Then that's our mission from now on: we'll wipe out every control spire in the Digital World."

"Control spire?" Kari asked, raising a delicate brow.

"...You don't like that name?" TK asked, trying to cover his slipup.

"Works well enough for me. I just think Izzy will be disappointed. You know how he loves naming stuff."

"I'll send him a fruit basket. Right now, Patamon and I will take care of this."

"Are you gonna use the Digiegg of Light?" Gatomon asked happily.

"Th-there's really no need for that," Patamon answered nervously. Using that egg was the last thing he wanted.

TK smiled, in the know about Patamon's reluctance. "It couldn't hurt," he said with feigned innocence. Patamon quietly shot him a look that said otherwise, swearing vengeance if he dared push the matter. "But I'm sure we can manage without it." The blond stretched his arm toward the control spire. "Slay him." A slender blade of golden energy shot from his D-Ultima. TK swung his arm in an arc, his blade sheering through the base of the tower.

"Boom Bubble! Pah!" Patamon slammed the attack near the highest point, toppling Ken's tower backward against the mountain with a resounding crash. The black obelisk fell to pieces from the impact. The others cheered at seeing it laid to waste.

"Awesome! Next time it'll be our turn, Veemon. I think that about wraps up another day."

Cody nodded peaceably. "We should go back and tell Izzy and the others all about our findings right away. I'm sure he'll be very happy with you, Yolei." The girl let a out a small squeal of excitement at the thought of impressing her predecessor to the computer club, which she had rejoined.

"Kari," TK said, pulling her aside, "do you think you could let Cody ride back with you?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess. Why? You are coming back with us, right?"

TK shook his head. "You guys go on ahead. I've got something to take care of. And don't give me that worried look, I'll be home shortly."

"Are you sure it can't wait?" Kari asked.

"More sure than I have been about anything. This has been a long time coming."

Kari could see the resolution and clarity in his eyes. "I don't know what you're up to, but please be careful."

"I'll see you tomorrow," he promised. The brunette nodded before joining the others. Once they had all flown away to the nearest television, TK turned to face his real fear. "Lets go somewhere more private... Takato."

The Tamer of the Digital Hazard shrugged. "Sure thing, Takeru."

TK unsheathed his blade, watching as Takato's hand clenched reflexively. He slashed a portal and walked through, the Tamer no more than two steps behind him as the gateway closed.


It's been rough month for me, but I am so glad I managed to make my deadline.

So the time has finally arrived. What will the be the outcome their encounter? Even I can't predict... Stay tuned Digimon fans!