She rode the train instead of taking the Digital World shortcuts. Friends thought it was a cute quirk and Kaie had no intention of changing their minds. The cruelest thing she'd been called was a technophobe, only a category away from being prejudiced against Digimon. The words stung and carried on into her nightmares, but it was still better than the alternative.
No one needed to know what she did in the Digital World.
Not using the shortcuts made grocery shopping harder, though. The bags were heavy, except on the days they weren't. She tried not to let herself go hungry, but sometimes there was no choice. No shame in using the services for the poor, but there were people who needed that more than her.
The city passed through the windows outside. A haunting sunset cut through the buildings, casting light on the silent concrete. Her digivice hummed in her pocket, a notification on Digichat. She didn't need to look at it to know who it was from. The Emperor could wait until she got home.
The train rolled to a stop. The doors opened, sending cool air rustling through her hair. She didn't move, standing statue still, eyes forward. It wasn't her stop.
Someone stepped onto the car. Kaie glanced towards the motion, and the blank look on her face changed to surprise. Andrew - from university. The group project they'd worked on together.
He seemed as surprised to see her as she was to see him.
He sat down on the seat across from her. They both dodged eye contact. As the train pulled away from the station, she rolled him over in her thoughts.
Andrew, a quiet, intelligent young man. Weren't all quiet men smart? An engineering student who kept to himself. Friends called him creepy. Kaie rarely disagreed openly, sincerely, with her friends, but something in her found him sympathetic, even familiar. He was no creep. He was just… himself.
She scanned him up and down, assessing his mood and temper. His pose was relaxed, maybe even tired. Andrew wasn't one for conversation, but he could be engaged in it if you tried. Which… she did, oddly enough.
“I don't often see you out of school,” she said.
He glanced away from the window. Their eye contact was fleeting before they both turned elsewhere.
“My math class was long tonight.” His words were the chill of water in winter, crisp and pure. “I would normally be home by now.”
“I see,” she said.
And that should've been it. He wasn't one for conversation after all. But he shifted his body towards her, and said, “What's in your bag?”
Kaie glanced down at the bag in question.
“Groceries,” she said. “I go shopping once every two weeks or so.”
Andrew nodded. “You live alone?”
“Yeah.” This was a dangerous topic. People were judgmental about this. “I'm completely independent.”
He frowned. “Not even a partner?”
He didn't mean a lover. He meant a Digimon. She shook her head, and things fell into silence.
Siren. Her heart jumped into her throat. Not outside, inside. Two of them. A warning from her Digivice.
Both her and him pulled out their Vices. Both read the alert. They looked up and their eyes met.
“That's new,” Kaie said.
“Didn't know they could do that,” Andrew said. “Didn't know they would do that.”
Kaie tucked her digivice back into her pocket. “Whatever the Emperor said he was going to do tonight, it must be bad if they're evacuating.”
“Motherboard is a big district,” Andrew said as he put his own digivice away. “They'll never get everyone out in time.”
Kaie nodded, lips pressed tight together.
“Are you afraid of him?” Andrew asked. Kaie blinked, and commanded herself to relax.
“Of the Emperor?” She looked away. “No. I just worry for the people who might get hurt.”
“Agares would never allow that,” Andrew said. “Those heroes… they're always around to get in the Emperor’s way. It'll be fine.”
It'll be fine, he said. The words didn't sooth her much, but she had to make him think they did. So she relaxed deeper, smiled slightly.
“Yeah,” she lied. “You're right. They'll defeat him this time.”
This time… because victory was never a guarantee. And the look in his eye said the same thing. The question hung thick in the air: would the digidestined succeed tonight?
A voice spoke over the speakers. Kaie jolted. Her stop was coming up. She looked at Andrew, an apology on her lips. He'd already shifted away, staring out the window.
She didn't say goodbye when she stepped off.