Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.
A/N: We have reached the end and there are only two more chapters to go after this one. Just a quick mention to Forlorn Melody, you guessed why the title is what it is. Funny thing but at one point, I was going to name this fic, At the Edge of Forever. I scrapped that title for a number of reasons but mostly because there is one final scene that won't be included until I've finished up the back story to this fic.
I remember reading several reports of life and death situations where the survivor often wrote that his, 'life flashed before his eyes,' in that one instant where he was made to confront his own mortality. I have been in countless situations of this sort and my memory of each situation is crystal clear. However, I cannot remember whether my life ever flashed before my eyes. Perhaps it is a flaw in the neural net or perhaps I have always known that whatever the situation, I would survive. Whatever the reason, I close my eyes calmly, letting the cool rain wash over me. A second later I hear the force lance discharge a deadly stream of energy in my direction as Gennai pushes the trigger.
24 Hours Earlier
"What exactly is Adessy Special Forces?"
"We are a covert faction of the Multiverse Federation. No one except the Founding Houses on Earth Prime know of us. Our mandate is the monitor everything that goes on in the upper hierarchy of the Federation."
"And him?" Ruki waved towards a closed door. "He is the one who founded you?"
William nodded. "Yes, Lord Houshi created us mainly to keep an eye on the IDCF and on Ryo Akiyama."
Ruki grunted, looking around once again. After their relatively simple escape from the IDCF stronghold, they had been brought to an abandoned storehouse. At which point, Takeru had withdrawn to a private room with orders that he not be disturbed. That left only her to make small conversation with their rescuer. The one respite was that he seemed to know a lot about the current situation.
The boy smiled. "I suppose you want to know what happened to Ryo Akiyama."
Ruki nodded, deciding to try the direct approach. "Yes, all I know is that six months ago, he left on a mission. I came to see if he was all right and ran into this insanity. He," she thumbed at that closed door, "told me what happened during the Great Crisis but if Ryo has kept it under control since then, what could have caused him to lose that control now?"
William sighed. "That is a long story I wanted to tell you and Lord Houshi at the same time. Perhaps he can even shed some light on what Gennai intends to do."
"And if he does, can you get any help?"
"There is a slim possibility that I may be able to contact my people but it is more likely that the IDCF will intercept any communiqué I try to send. The most I can do is put a virus into the IDCF mainframe here that will cripple their ability to create gateways to other Earths. If Akiyama is allowed to fully awaken, it falls to me to contain him."
"That is a dangerous thing to tell me. I won't allow anybody to harm him."
"Even if he is no longer the man you remember."
"Even then," Ruki said resolutely.
"And if he becomes the one thing that nearly destroyed your world?"
Ruki did not respond to that, turning away instead.
He had expected that his freedom would be limited. However, he had not expected the infection to spread so fast.
With a sigh, Takeru Takaishi rolled down the sleeve of his shirt very gently. There was very little he could do now. To cling to life meant going back to the IDCF base yet he would almost certainly lose his life if he was caught. There were quite a few unanswered questions as well. He couldn't make that decision until he had heard all the facts.
Sighing once again, he opened the door to the small room. He was just in time to hear the last exchange between Ruki and William.
"Not exactly an easy decision, is it?" The voice made them both turn towards the closed door which now stood open. "There are a lot of regrets that come with a decision like that. You can sit this out if you wish."
Ruki shook her head stubbornly. "You know that I will not do any such thing."
Takeru shrugged. "As you wish but resign yourself to the fact that before this is finished, Ryo may have to die." Without waiting for her reply, he turned to William. "Fill me in on whatever information you have gathered so far."
The boy nodded. "We became aware of this operation approximately nine months ago." He fixed Takeru with a steady gaze. "You are not the first bio-droid to be created by the IDCF. However, that first droid was given no memories. Through some process, they made it so that the neural net would give him your experience and skills but none of your memories. However, something must have leaked through because that first droid broke free of the IDCF's control. It was through the ensuing chaos that we came to learn of the droids and this base.
At first, we thought the bio-droid operation and this base were unrelated and I was sent here seven months ago to find out what purpose this base served. One month later, Ryo Akiyama was brought to the base. They tortured him for two months straight until I helped him escape. But, by then, the damage had been done. His tentative control over the fragment had slipped. Taking a few canisters of a virus the IDCF had conveniently placed for him, he escaped."
"So, you think the IDCF deliberately wanted to set the fragment inside Ryo loose." Takeru sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Have you figured out why?"
"No, I have not. It is actually very perplexing. They have kept him under close observation and have even allowed him to contact people outside this dimension."
"One thing does not make sense," Ruki interjected quietly. "If they are not trying to capture him, then why did they cooperate with me and inform me that they had sighted him?"
"I don't think they expected either you or me to succeed," Takeru responded. "The only purpose we had was to gauge how far Ryo had come. If he had killed you, it would have shown that the fragment was in complete control. Who knows what part I play in this but I intend to find out."
Neither Ruki nor William looked surprised at the statement. That changed when he added, "I want you two to stay here."
"You can't be serious," Ruki said loudly.
William was a little calmer. "With all due respect sir, I can't allow that."
In response, Takeru slowly rolled back the sleeve to his shirt. The skin underneath was in an advanced stage of decomposition. The slightest prod by Takeru's finger caused a large portion to fall to the ground. Very gently, he pulled the sleeve until it covered his arm again.
"At the rate this is spreading, I will be dead within another day or so. My life is expendable and I can take risks knowing that. You two would only slow me down at this stage." He grinned suddenly. "Besides, I have been in more of these life or death situations then both of you combined."
William moved fast, his hand going for his force lance but Takeru having anticipated the move, quickly moved forward and punched him. A well placed hit to his neck sent him to the floor, unconscious.
"These guys always were stubborn," Takeru mumbled to himself. Looking up at Ruki, he said, "I hope you won't be as difficult as he was. If I fail, I need you two to stop Ryo somehow."
"You are crazy for going through with this."
Grinning, Takeru said, "Sometimes that is the only way out of a bad situation."
A late thunderstorm in the evening complicated matters. On the other hand, as he approached the IDCF compound, it became readily apparent that stealth would not be necessary. The gate to the base stood open, beckoning him to enter. Taking a deep breath, he strode forward and entered the base.
Inside, everything was deserted. The place had not been particularly active but he had seen people the last two times he had been here. Now, there was nobody and the lack of noise really emphasized the point.
Ruki had told him the layout of the building so Gennai's office was fairly easy for him to locate. It too, was deserted. However, there was a sliding glass door behind the chair and desk, which occupied the room. He slid the glass door to the side and stepped out onto the large balcony beyond. A figure stood there, garbed in voluminous robes that were too big for his hunched frame.
"I knew you would come," Gennai said, his back to Takeru. "It fits in perfectly with your reckless style."
"You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. I have to say, I am impressed. You moved a lot quicker then I expected."
"You think so." Gennai turned around. "Actually, everything I have been planning comes to fruition tonight. There was no reason to keep the rest of the ants around anymore."
"I take it that means Ryo is on his way here."
Gennai nodded. "I had originally planned to release Ryo when we had perfected the virus we took from the Dark Path. However, he broke free before we could suitably prepare him. Of course, it didn't really matter in the long run. Having him out there worked to our benefit and we even got to test out our latest bio-droid model."
"Which would be me." Takeru sighed. "Why are you doing this? We once fought for a common purpose. Why would you betray all that?"
Gennai chuckled mirthlessly. "You clueless little fool." He reached inside his pocket and withdrew a locket. With an underhanded pitch, he threw the trinket at Takeru, who caught it in midair and opened it. Inside was a small painting of a woman with long straight black hair. Her lips were quirked in a mischievous smile.
There was a sense then of things coming full circle. His past was something he had never been able to escape. Still, this required an explanation. He looked up at the old, stooped man and waited patiently for an explanation.
"That was my daughter," Gennai said quietly.
Takeru closed his eyes. It made sense. There were some things about Gennai that had always remained a mystery but now he had a clue as to why he had allowed himself to be cursed with immortality.
"She was the Avatar of Light before Hikari," Takeru replied. "I know the story."
"Then you know the horrors she went through. It was all the fault of her fellow Chosen. They all failed her and only one of them had what it took to save her."
"I know all this. I was the one who saved her after all. And all it cost me were the lives of my two children." He couldn't quite manage to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
"That is something you will have to take up with Setsuna. It was his plan after all. I only helped him execute it." Gennai stopped, thinking back to the distant past. "It should have ended then and for Setsuna, it did. However, I remained immortal because Setsuna was the only one that knew the secret of how to reverse the process."
"And you think Ryo will grant you that mercy."
"You're getting ahead of yourself, boy." Gennai lifted a hand to his face. "There is still one more thing that you're not aware of."
Takeru's eyes narrowed as Gennai's features began to shift. His long white beard receded and his hunch disappeared as he straightened to his full six foot frame. His hair also gradually changed from their silvery color to a deeper brown color. Other features such as his nose and mouth also changed until a completely different man stood before him.
"So, that was you," Takeru said softly. "I had no idea you could stoop so low as to become a servant of that Elder. Was it also your idea to bring Hikari into it?"
"No, that was the Elder's own idea. If anything, I warned him against it. She wielded far too much power to be controlled so easily."
"I see." Takeru slowly exhaled. Anger was an emotion he had rarely, if ever, allowed to take over his actions. It had burst loose on a few occasions though and right now felt like one of those rare occasions.
"Such ferocity," Gennai replied mockingly. "I may even deserve it but before you act, wouldn't you like to know the reason for your existence?"
"Not really." Takeru drew his revolver and pointed it at Gennai.
"Oh well," Gennai shrugged. "Take him."
Brilliant flashes of light suddenly surrounded Takeru. Reflexively closing his eyes, he squeezed the trigger of his gun. A loud metallic ting told him that the shot had been blocked. A fist thudded into his stomach before he could fire again and he stumbled back into another person who efficiently relieved him of his gun. The locket went clattering across the floor. Only then did he open his eyes. Overhead, lightning flashed and rain began to fall as he stared into the eyes of two men that could have passed as his twins.
"The limitation of your neural net is that you have no idea what advances have been made in technology since your death," Gennai said as he walked forward and stood between the two bio-droids. "I want to thank you for making this project a success. The tests we ran on you have finally enabled us to solve the problems with the neural net. The IDCF will have their own private army and they will bring order to the chaos Akiyama causes."
Takeru laughed. "I suppose that was the official line you fed your backers. We both know that after Ryo breaks loose of his chains, these puppets will last as well as an ordinary human against him."
Gennai drew a force lance from the folds of his robe. "You are perceptive and what you did for my daughter will earn you a quick death."
Takeru closed his eyes as the force lance discharged a deadly stream of energy in his direction.
Next: The past dictates the present and amidst the chaos arrives one figure who will tip the balance.