Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.

A War of Worlds

Chapter: 2

Takato Matsuki checked the time furtively as he rang up a customer. He was badly distracted, and it showed, but he managed to keep his head and not mess up making change. If there was one thing that all his years helping out his parents around the bakery had done, it had engrained in him a healthy fear of the consequences that would occur should he cause a complication—namely that it would come out of his allowance followed by stern looks for the remainder of the day. The stern looks he could at least deal with in spite of the twinges that they forced from his conscience, but the impact on his finances had a tendency to cause complications of their own.

Rika's glares are scarier anyway, he chuckled mentally as he handed the customer their purchase. He breathed a sigh of relief as this one proved to be the last in what had so far proven to be a very long line. He checked the time again. The minutes rapidly ticked toward 11:00. Rika's probably already at the park…

He scratched the side of his head around the edge of his hairnet, feeling a bit perplexed about Rika having…well, he hesitated to call it a 'date', but the nagging voice of Henry's partner, Terriermon, insisted on identifying it as just that.

I listen to him too much, he thought before a finger tapping on his shoulder caused him to jerk slightly in surprise. Spinning his head around, his eyes fell on his father, who smiled at him in amusement.

"Off in the digital world?" Takehiro asked sarcastically. Takato sheepishly laughed.

"Sorry," he apologized. "Just…um… Yeah. I guess you could say that."

"Better snap out of it kiddo," Takehiro replied. "Otherwise you'll lose track of time." He pointed at the clock meaningfully. "We're all caught up here now. You said that you have a friend waiting for you in the park, right?"

A smile broke across Takato's face and he bobbed his head up and down. Stepping around his father, the young teen rushed away from the counter and turned into the stairwell that led up to the living quarters section of the bakery. "Thanks Dad," he called, taking the steps two at a time, bashing his shin on one as he went. Swallowing a cry, he made it to his room and threw off his apron and hairnet. Snatching up a pair of yellow goggles from off his desk he strapped them to his forehead.

"Okay…" he muttered, checking his pockets for anything he might have forgotten. "House keys… Wallet… Digivice… Cards…" He nodded to himself. "I think I'm ready to go."

His gaze turned toward a tie hanging from a coat hook along with a suit and he wondered if he should put it on, or at least wear something nicer than his usual everyday clothes like his favored short sleeved hoodie, but he quickly dismissed the thought.

I'm pretty sure Rika isn't going to go to the trouble of looking nice. I mean, it's not like we're…well…I don't know. Once again he scratched the side of his head, wondering at the changes a year and a half had made on his friend since he first met her. Last year around this time—not exactly this time, but a couple months prior—he asked her to go watch the Cherry Blossoms with him and she rebuffed him, and was quite irritated that he even made the offer in the first place. Some months before she even attacked him.

Now it's like we're best friends, he thought with a smile. Well…best human friends anyway. Yes, that description made him feel better. It did away with the nagging feeling that things were not the way they were supposed to be…prompted no doubt by Terriermon and his penchant for teasing over every little thing. He furrowed his brow slightly, remembering that because of this, Rika had waited until they were alone before popping the question to him.

###

The sun was setting to their backs as Takato waved at the departing Henry and his long-eared trouble-maker, sitting astride his shoulder. Both waved back, Terriermon using one of his long ears to make the gesture.

"Good luck you two!" he called in a playful, almost sing-song voice that he recently adopted solely for Takato and Rika.

"Terriermon…" Takato heard Henry groan. Laughing with embarrassment, he turned to Rika, who had her arms folded over her chest and was looking in Terriermon's direction with an annoyed expression on her face. For a moment, Takato thought he saw a slight blush touch her cheeks, but quickly decided for safety's sake that it was just the sun playing tricks on his eyes.

"Well boy," he said, turning to his crimson-scaled dinosaur partner, patting him on his head. "Guess it's time for us to get going."

"Uh, huh," Guilmon nodded, nuzzling his face into Takato's hand. "Do you think there'll be peanut butter waiting when we get there?" His gold-colored eyes took on an almost desperate expression and he looked up at the sky wistfully. "Oh, I hope, I hope…"

"He never stops thinking about eating, does he?" Rika chided, dropping her hands to her waist. "Guess your mom's decision to put him on a diet isn't working out so well, is it?"

"Better than you'd think," Takato replied with a light chuckle as they both began to head down the street. Rika's home lay in the opposite direction, but her family was lighter about her curfew than Takato's. Besides, of late she had taken to walking Takato to his place before they parted ways. Something that Terriermon almost incessantly referred to as a reversal of how things were normally done…whatever that meant.

"No it's not!" Guilmon denied vehemently. "Every day I go home my tummy feels empty and it growls at me while I'm sleeping." His ears wilting, Guilmon touched his claws to his stomach and pouted. "I keep having dreams that I'm wrestling with a Hungermon…"

"Guilmon…" Rika rolled her eyes. "There is no Hungermon…"

"What's your point? There wasn't a me before until Takato drew me."

Rika whirled her head about, her eyes wide with surprise at that unexpected counter. Her lips moved as she strove to come up with a rebuttal, but unable to do so she settled on glaring at Guilmon. The red dinosaur tilted his head to one side as he stared back, but quickly looked away, looking shaken.

"Ohhh… I never win a staring contest with you…"

"Keep dreaming dino-boy…" Rika replied proudly, hooking her fingers through her belt. "Remember, I'm called the Digimon Queen for a reason." She glanced at Takato thoughtfully. "Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?" Takato patted his hand over Guilmon's head as he mentally ran through his schedule. "Besides helping out my parents, I don't think I'm doing anything…"

"Do you want to go Cherry Blossom watching with me?"

The abruptness of Rika's question caused Takato to almost miss it and he blinked at her in surprise. "Say wha…?" he found himself saying, utterly taken aback by what Rika asked.

"It's a simple question, Gogglehead," the girl replied casually…or was it? Takato thought he heard a hint of agitation in her tone. She tended to use her nickname for him whenever she was particularly annoyed with something he did…or playful.

"Um…yeah, I guess it is… I mean it's a yes or no answer…" Takato half-stammered, half-chuckled as he rubbed the back of his head, flustered. "Uh… Yes?"

"Is that an answer or are you asking a question?"

"Yes! I mean, yes. To yours. I mean… Yeah. I'd be glad to go Cherry Blossom watching with you."

Takato breathed heavily—missing Rika relax visibly—feeling a little bit better now that he had given a definite response…as bizarre as the question was in the first place. "W-What time do you want to meet?"

Rika was silent for a moment before answering. "Ten thirty sound good?"

"That…might be a little difficult," Takato admitted. "I've got to help my parents with the morning rush…"

"Fine. Sometime between ten and twelve," Rika cut in. They came to a stop at an intersection, waiting for the crosswalk light to change. Brushing aside a loose strand of hair, she turned toward him, her eyes still thoughtful and considering. Takato felt butterflies flutter slightly in his stomach at her gaze, but he held it. "Well," she began, "I guess this is where I take off."

Takato blinked again at that. This was a change of pace, one that he found himself rather…sad about. "Okay," he said with a nod. "Um… See you tomorrow."

"Later, Takato," Rika returned as the crosswalk light changed.

###

Is it just that weird that she wants to hang out with me? Takato wondered as he piled day-old bread into a bag for Guilmon. So why does Terriermon have to make it so that we have a hard time talking whenever someone else is around?

The answer came to him almost as soon as he asked it. We are getting older…

Takato sighed. Great. Now I'm talking to myself. This is crazy. All we're doing is hanging out! It's not like we're…!

"Takato!" came the voice of his mother as she appeared around the corner. Startled, Takato nearly dropped the back and its contents onto the ground.

"Mom!" he half-squawked. Another downside of getting older was that his voice was cracking a lot more than normal. His friend Kazu, being slightly older, had it worse fortunately.

Mie hmmphed at him. "You don't have to act so guilty bringing Guilmon bread you know. Anyway, you have a call on the phone."

"Rika?" Takato asked, raising an eyebrow, already wondering who could be calling him at this time and could only come up with one person. Maybe she got tired of waiting…

This thought left him feeling crushed, as though he had let her down.

"No," Mie shook her head. "It's Jeri."

"Jeri?!" Takato's eyes bulged in their sockets in pleasant surprise. This was something he hadn't expected. How long had it been since she last called? It felt like forever…

"Yes, Jeri. Now would you stop standing there gawking and stop leaving that poor girl waiting for you? Some of us have to get back to work you know! We sold out all the Guilmon bread after all…"

"Ah!" Takato started, shaking himself out of his stunned amazement. Hefting the bag he raced around his mother in the direction of the house phone. A smile drew across his face. He could not wait to hear what she had to say…and betted that Rika would want the same.

###

"Jeri's coming to visit?" Rika asked, her eyes widening ever so slightly as Takato finished relaying the news to her. The goggle-wearing boy nodded.

"She said that she's going to be in town this afternoon with her stepmom, so she's going to try and see everyone if she can."

Rika turned her gaze away and up toward a passing cloud, her expression solemn. "Jeri…" she muttered under her breath, her brow furrowing slightly. "Did she say how she was doing?"

"She seemed happy," Takato said evasively. "I mean, she said she was doing fine when I asked, but…"

Takato trailed off and Rika filled in the blanks. "Yeah. But."

For their mutual friend, Jeri Katou, they couldn't say that she had been the happiest girl around, not since the events of the D-Reaper invasion and, prior to that, the death of her partner, Leomon. In fact, one could go further back with the death of her birth mother when she had only been a child, which only led back to the D-Reaper as it repeatedly forced that trauma upon her to get what it needed. The situation had been complicated, but suffice to say her family checked her into therapy and involved themselves heavily in her recuperation. Everyone that was her friend or family, Tamer or not, involved themselves, but after the last big invasion, Jeri's father decided that enough was enough and pulled up stakes, vacating the Shinjuku district for someplace that saw less trouble. More importantly, saw less digimon than the one that Jeri more or less adopted. Either way, the fact of the matter remained that Jeri's father put enough distance between his daughter and Shinjuku that it made regular contact rather difficult.

Like Takato, Rika remembered the day that they bid goodbye to the puppet-loving girl. Thinking back on it, that had been the day she started down the path that led to her current predicament.

The things we do for our friends…

Rika resisted the urge to cross her arms over her chest. It was too much of a nervous habit now.

I want to be happy that we can see Jeri again… Rika narrowed her eyes as she dropped her gaze toward the path in front of them. …but for some reason I just can't seem to be.

###

Guilmon followed the two Tamers at a discreet distance, primarily at Renamon's advice that he give them some privacy. He wasn't sure that he understood the reasons for this, but he went along with it all the same. After all, he considered Renamon to be 'always right' and he trusted her judgment when it came to things he didn't understand. Still…there was something that was a little bit off about the whole thing.

Coming to a stop, Guilmon drew himself up to his full height and looked around, unmindful of the stares he was getting from passersby. "Renamon?" he asked, and was rewarded as the golden-furred, vulpine digimon materialized next to him.

"Yes?"

"Takato and Rika smell like they're nervous about something. I mean, Takato almost always smells like he's nervous, but lately Rika's been smelling more nervous. Especially today for some reason, and I can't figure out why."

"Hmmm…" Renamon spared the two teenagers a glance. "Rika's grandmother warned me that this could happen once Rika began to change."

Guilmon bobbed his head up and down. "Takato's dad said something similar to me once when I told him about the mustache Kenta started growing. Remember that? He said it was puberty. But I don't understand what that has to do with Rika being nervous." Guilmon tapped a claw to his chin. "Actually, Takato's dad smelled pretty nervous then too and he stuttered worse than Takato whenever…"

Renamon smiled slightly as Guilmon paused, trying to find the right word to describe his Tamer. "…whenever he acts like a Gogglehead?" she suggested coyly.

"Well, I didn't want to say it like that…" Guilmon admitted, dropping down slightly and resuming following their Tamers. Renamon fell into step beside him. "…but yeah. I wonder if that's where he gets it from." He tapped a claw to his chin again. "Renamon? How do our partners get what they are from their parents?"

Renamon chuckled. She could understand her companion's confusion. Digimon did not have parents in the traditional sense that they had someone who gave birth to them and raised them. Some of the more civilized areas had herds and tribes…even caretakers of sorts, but overall it was a mon-eat-mon digital world. Guilmon was the closest digimon that she could think of who had someone approximating a parent, given that Takato did create him—albeit with a digivice and a piece of notepad paper—and how the teen treated him in their early days, but the fact remained that digimon were physically divorced from the act of procreating while humans were biologically married to it. Friendship, family… Renamon and even Guilmon in a rather simplistic sense could understand the concepts, but how humans got something from someone else?

"It's simple really. They just mash themselves together and scream real loudly."

Renamon closed her eyes and sighed in exasperation at the memory of Terriermon bragging about his knowledge of humanity. There were times where she felt the rabbit-dog digimon was meant as a curse for the darkness of her early days.

Before she could begin to answer Guilmon's question, a faint buzzing in her arm-guard caught her attention. "Excuse me a moment," she said apologetically before fishing out Rika's cell phone from her arm-guard—Rika had requested that she hold onto it to avoid any calls from her mother asking how her 'date' was going. Narrowing her eyes, Renamon's claws fumbled with the buttons as she took in the incoming number.

Hypnos, she mused, her claw finally hitting answer. This does not bode well…

"Hello?" Renamon greeted, holding the phone in front of her mouth while her ears twitched, angling to catch the response. The phone was just not built for someone of her form. The required components were too far apart.

There was a pause on the other end, briefly leading Renamon to believe in spite of her sensitive hearing that she had somehow missed the reply, but soon enough a tentative response greeted her in return.

"…Is this Rumiko Nonaka?" The voice on the other end was Yamaki, no doubt confused about getting a voice he had not been expecting.

"This is Renamon," the vulpine digimon answered. "I apologize, but I currently have Rika's phone. Is there something we can help you with?"

"Wow, Renamon," Guilmon said with wide eyes. "You sound just like those people in stores you go see if you have a problem…"

"Quiet, Guilmon," Renamon scolded, afraid that she would miss what Yamaki said. She narrowed her gaze, straining her senses. She detected no bio-emergences. What could the head of Hypnos want with them? The man was silent for a moment longer, digesting this odd change of pace before speaking again.

"Our sensors are detecting an unusual occurrence that resembles a bio-emergence, but so far it doesn't fit the normal patterns. We're analyzing it now, but we want you to stay on guard in case something does break through."

"Understood, Yamaki," Renamon nodded. "Will there be anything else?"

"We'll call you if we have any further information," Yamaki replied succinctly, and with that the call ended. Renamon eyed the phone contemplatively.

"Is there going to be trouble?" Guilmon asked, his bat-wing-like ears twitching. Although his hearing wasn't as good as Renamon's, it was sufficient enough for him to overhear the conversation.

"Perhaps," Renamon replied, replacing the phone back in her arm-guard. "We should tell the others." Closing her icy-blue eyes, she established contact with her partner through the mental link they shared. "Rika, it seems that there may be a complication about today…"

###

"Tracers report no breaches in the barriers," Riley heard Tally report as she entered the main control room. Raising an eyebrow she turned to Yamaki.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"Possibly a scanner malfunction," Yamaki replied. "We detected what could have been a bio-emergence, but so far there has been no sign that the barriers between the worlds has changed or been infiltrated." Scowling, the blond-haired man flicked his lighter open, only to close it shut with a resounding click.

"You don't sound convinced," Riley remarked.

"We've tested our new systems exhaustively. No. I'm not convinced. Either we're dealing with an old signal—which doesn't fit since we've already run it through our archived history—or this is something new. If there is something coming, I want to know how they're doing this."

"Got it, sir," Riley nodded, heading over to her own chair and strapping herself in. Placing on her visor, she signed in and her chair rose into the air, joining Tally in the air.

"It's about time you got back," Tally chided.

"Sorry about the wait. I overheard someone listening to the news. Apparently something big just happened on Mars and it has the media up in arms abou…" Riley paused and frowned beneath her visor as a thought occurred to her. "Tally; in a second, link me up to one of our satellites. I'll show you which ones. I need to see something."

"You got it."

"Thanks." Riley quickly began checking for planetary positions in the night sky…not something they did normally, so it would take some time to see if they had any satellites in position.

After what felt like an eternity, she finally got the data she needed and fed it to her companion. Within seconds, one of the screens lit up and Riley swiveled over to it to get a visual.

A glowing white ball of fire that made Riley immediately think of a comet filled the screen. Only the problem was it was not a comet.

If this data I'm getting from the satellite is right, then that thing is… "Sir!" she exclaimed, getting Yamaki's attention. "You might want to see this!"

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