Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. Toei Animation does.

Summary: AU Season 01. In a world that has co-existed with Digimon for the past twenty years, humans and their partners battle against the Virus type Nightmare Soldiers set on casting the world into darkness. Eight kids will help reshape the future.

Title: The Alternative Factor

Ch.1. Erroneous Zone

"Where did you find him?"

"Sector 12, sir."

"That section's restricted. What was he doing there?"

"He wouldn't say, sir, and I didn't have time to question him. The attack came almost immediately afterwards. But sir, here's an interesting fact: he's one of the eyewitnesses to the incident in Hikarigaoka four years ago."

"Is he now? That is very interesting..."

Tai felt the scrutinous eyes of the captain fall upon him like a scorching wave. He kept his gaze fixed avidly on the table in front of him and jaw clenched firmly shut. They weren't going to get anything out of him.

Nevertheless, he tensed guiltily as a shadow fell over him.

"What were you doing in Sector 12, son? Tell me," the captain's voice ordered in a soft, coaxing manner.

Tai's mind raced backwards to earlier that day. It had started out like any other day: plain, ordinary, dull. He had woken up, ate breakfast, gone to school, and had stopped at the soccer field to play a brief game with his teammates.

Maybe everything had spiraled downward from that moment...

oOo

"Taichi-sempai!"

Tai turned around in time to catch a small, chestnut-haired, tanned-skinned kid before he ploughed face-first into his chest.

"Taichi-sempai, I worked on my balancing just like you taught me! Lookit!" the boy cried, juggling the soccer ball on one foot, before kicking it upwards and alternately bouncing it off one knee then the other. The boy's brown eyes peered up at him imploringly, waiting for praise.

A grin couldn't help sliding across Tai's face. Davis might be a bit of a brat sometimes, and followed him around like a lost puppy, but he was rather cute, even if he did cling to him like a limpet. He reminded him of Kari...

Tai firmly shut that train of thought out of his mind before he dwelled too much on it.

"That's great, Davis," he said, ruffling the boy's spiked head fondly. "If you have time, maybe we can work on practicing your aim when you kick."

"Wait, Taichi-sempai, I gotta show you somethin' first! Come on!" Davis cried excitedly, tugging on his shirt in an impatient manner.

Tai let himself be dragged with a bemused expression over to where Davis' duffel bag leaned against the bench on the courtside. The small boy rushed over, unzipped it, and pulled out...

Tai's breath caught in his throat and the air in his lungs seemed to freeze solid. The world was spinning crazily around him and he wanted to run away as far as possible, but he was held in place by the sight of the round, blue creature that Davis had both arms around snugly.

"This is Chibomon!" Davis said, beaming a grin that showed off the gap where his two front baby teeth had fallen out. "My class all went to Primary Village yesterday to meet our partners! I was just walking by and his egg hatched! For me! Isn't he the coolest?"

Chibomon's brown eyes bored into Tai's as if they knew, and for an instant, his vision blurred and was filled with the image of wide, red eyes instead.

"You should see my digivice!" Davis kept on talking, oblivious. "It just appeared! Right in my pocket! But I forgot it at home today."

Chibomon was gnawing on one of his partner's fingers.

That's right, Tai thought faintly, Digimon are always hungry...

"Stop, that tickles!" Davis giggled, rummaging in his pockets for a treat, and coming up with a half-wrapped candy-bar, which he fed in pieces to Chibomon.

"I should go," Tai heard himself saying, feet backing away one small step at a time.

"Wait, don't you wanna hold Chibomon?" Davis asked, thrusting the small blue Digimon into Tai's face without warning.

Tai cried out in alarm, putting his hands out in front of him as a defensive reflex, and felt his fingers brush over the smooth surface that was Chibomon's skin.

A second alarmed cry split the air and Tai turned his head to see Davis struggling to keep a firm grasp on a wriggling Chibomon glowing with a strange, golden light. A rather familiar, golden light...

The light engulfed the Digimon, flared spectacularly, and then vanished completely, leaving behind a tiny, blue dragon-looking creature in the place Chibomon had been.

"Chibomon?" Davis asked worriedly, wondering what had happened.

"Davish!" exclaimed the little dragon, his brown eyes crinkling up happily. "My name's DemiVeemon!"

Davis was silent for moment. Then letting out an exhilarated whoop, he squeezed the Digimon to his chest in delight.

"You digivolved! You digivolved! Taichi-sempai, Chibomon digivolved on our second day together!"

Tai stood staring at the scene for several seconds, a restrained emotion prickling at the back of his throat, before he turned away and left without a word.

And for the first time since he could remember, Davis didn't notice his departure.

oOo

"What were you doing in Sector 12, son?" he heard the captain ask again.

Tai didn't answer. They couldn't keep him here for very long. He was a civilian and a kid. The most they could do was put him under surveillance for a few days, but he would be released from holding before then.

A long sigh fell upon his ears as the captain's shadow moved away from him.

"What does his Identification Card say?" the captain asked his subordinate.

"Taichi Kamiya, age 11, lives in Odaiba with his father, Susumu Kamiya, and his mother, Yuuko Kamiya. One of the eye-witnesses to the Hikarigaoka Incident along with his sister, Hikari Kamiya-"

"SHUT UP!"

The soldier broke off in mid-list looking a bit ashamed while the captain fixed a calculating gaze upon the boy who was glaring viciously at them as he trembled in a subdued rage.

Tai was breathing heavily, anger still coursing through his veins, and he hated, hated the way he was being shot looks of pity.

"Where's your Digimon?" the captain inquired abruptly, changing the direction of the questions.

Red eyes, red eyes, warm red eyes full of love...

Tai said nothing.

"He's un-partnered, sir," the soldier supplied the information helpfully. "No digimon was ever submitted on record to being bonded with him."

"Eleven years old and still un-partnered?" the captain said, his eyes narrowing in consternation as they assessed the boy shrewdly. "That's very dangerous. You do realize un-partnered humans attract the Nightmare Soldiers' attention, don't you?"

Tai had fallen quiet once more.

"Brief me on what happened, soldier," the captain commanded.

"Yes, sir. It was nearing twilight and Guardromon and I had just taken over shift for that sector..."

The soldier's voice droned on and became a faint buzz in the background. The captain was listening intently all the while never taking his cool gaze off the boy sitting in rebellious silence in front of him.

Blue irises clashed with brown in a battle of wills.

Tai wondered if the captain could read minds. Unbidden, the memory of mere hours ago sprang forward and Tai tried to block out the images, but found himself sifting through them instead in an effort to see what had made him do such a reckless act such as sneaking into a restricted zone.

oOo

The picture of Davis and DemiVeemon, of human and Digimon, reveling in the surge of a newly-formed bond branded itself into Tai's brain as he trudged home and a raw patch over his heart seared most painfully.

Shades of blue and purple were stemming on the horizon and shadows grew and crept along the ground, stirring at the approach of night. Tai lifted his head to view the stars twinkling in the sky above... and one fell down—an orange-gold streak of light plummeted down to the soil that was Sector 12.

He could see the glow where it had crashed: a red-hot light shining gold at the edges illuminating from behind the decrepit, boarded-off buildings in a pulsating rhythm.

The room glowed with an eerie red light and his sister stood in front of the computer staring transfixed as a shimmering oval-shape melted from the screen—an egg—and around them electrical devices went haywire as the air crackled with a powerful energy.

Tai didn't hesitate. In the split instant after he saw the star or whatever it was that had fallen and caused the red light to flare up, he tore straight toward it, crossing over the restrictive barriers without a second thought, running in a mad dash through the crunched-up gravel and debris of the destroyed city block, heedless of his surroundings, not stopping until he had come to it: a huge, gaping crater in the ground and a square marble slab, heat radiating off it in wisps of smoky steam, and there was an odd symbol carved into the stone...

A hand clapped him firmly on the shoulder and spun him around. He found himself staring face to face with a young man in the green of a Self-Defense Forces' uniform looking almost as relieved and startled as he was.

Behind him, a little ways off, the soldier's Digimon, a Guardromon, relaxed his posture from attack mode to at-ease.

"You—you're just a kid," the soldier sputtered before regaining composing. "State your name and purpose here, civilian."

Tai supposed the soldier was some kind of idiot. Wasn't it clear enough why he was here? There was a giant hole in the ground not three feet from them and if he had arrived here so quickly, hadn't he also seen the object fall from the sky? Couldn't he see the red glow flickering about them?

The soldier took Tai's silence while he thought these things as a refusal to willingly oblige. Snatching off the Identification Card from where it hung from around Tai's neck, he threw it to Guardromon.

"Do a background check on his name," he ordered, crossing his arms over his chest and doing his best job to appear intimidating.

All it did was make him look arrogant. The guy was probably only five or six years older than Tai, most likely on the verge of exiting out of his teenage years. Light-brown hair hung over his green eyes that warily studied Tai's every movement from behind the rims of his glasses.

"Taichi Kamiya," Guardromon spoke up as he computed the number from the Identification Card into his memory banks and pulled up a file. "11 years, attends Odaiba Elementary, guardians: Susumu and Yuuko Kamiya. One of the surviving eye-witnesses of the Hikarigoka Incident-"

"What!"

The exclamation had come from the young soldier. He was gazing at Tai now horrified and then there was that awkward moment where people who discovered that tidbit about his past were first shocked and tried to find words of comfort to say only nothing ever came to mind.

But something did come out of the darkness from the deserted buildings.

"WATCH OUT!" Guardromon gave a warning cry, propelling himself forward, knocking the two humans to the ground, and using his body as a shield against the dagger-like claws that inflicted deep, deadly gashes into his frame, tearing strips of metal off with resounding shrieks as they withdrew.

A terrible, screeching roar sounded throughout the air and the inside of Tai's skull vibrated harshly. He was pinned to the rocky ground beneath the weight of the soldier who was in the same predicament because of Guardromon's substantial mass pressing down heavily on his back, and it was difficult to breathe.

Tai had a rather observant view of the sky above given the fact that he was unable to turn his head in either direction. The glowing red light about them contrasted with the blackness that was night and it seemed for a moment that the world was wreathed in flames.

A dragon head with four crimson eyes towered over them; ragged wings with holes through them, long, sinewy arms with skeleton heads on the shoulders and curved, red talons on its front claws, a whip-like tail and scales of shiny black decorated with a criss-cross row of stitching etched all over its body. A Devidramon.

"Shit, its one of the Nightmare Soldiers!" the young man cried once he had gotten a good glimpse of the foe. In their close proximity, Tai could feel the young man's heart beating wildly in his ribcage. "Don't look at its eyes!"

But Tai found himself drowning in the liquid pool that was the red of Devidramon's eyes, paralyzed and unable to move.

Red. The color smeared vividly across his vision, obscuring everything else, until all Tai saw and thought was, red. Red like the glowing light about them. Red like fire. Red like blood. Red like—

Something hard smacked across his face, breaking him out of his dazed state of mind and dragging him back to reality roughly.

"Snap out of it, kid! Come on, he's giving us time to get out of here!" the soldier yelled at him, grabbing him by the wrist and hauling him to his feet, and Tai dimly realized that Guardromon was engaging the Devidramon in battle, firing whistling missiles from launchpads in his forearms.

He was being pulled away from the fighting, but Tai dug his heels firmly into the ground in resistance. He couldn't leave that marble slab behind, whatever it was. He wanted to touch it, run his fingertips over the in grooved markings—it was like the spot on his back that itched but he couldn't quite reach. It was an annoying but irresistible urge that would not go on denied.

"Dammit, do you have a death wish or something? Move!" the soldier ordered yanking on Tai's arm forcefully.

And from out of the chaos came yet another black dragon-type Digimon with four crimson eyes blocking their escape route.

"There's two of them!" the soldier exclaimed in disbelief, pushing Tai behind him defensively and barking into his communicator. "Alerting all units, send for backup in Sector 12! Two Champion-level Nightmare Soldiers: Devidramon! Repeat, send for back up in Sector12!"

Guardromon was still locked in battle with the first Devidramon and struggling simply to avoid taking another hit that might put him out of commission permanently. He let out a distressed cry at the sight of his partner facing down rows of jagged teeth that was the new enemy, unable to come to his aid.

But the soldier wasn't completely unarmed. Whipping out a slim, silver gun, he fired several rounds of what looked like white-hot orbs of light into the torso of Devidramon, cursing as they only seemed to momentarily stun the Digimon, before it shook its head to dispel the effects and blasted beams of crimson light from its eyes at the two human targets.

Tai felt a hand close on the back of his shirt collar and toss him bodily aside. He hit the ground roughly, skinning his knees upon impact, and his were ringing with the sounds of the Digimons' battle. Scrambling up on all fours, he looked around for the young soldier and saw him lying a few feet away motionless, a trickle of blood sliding down his forehead...

Smoke and fumes choked his throat and blurred his vision. Shrapnel whizzed through the air and chunks of buildings crumbled down around him. The earth beneath his feet shuddered and heaved as if coming awake from a deep slumber. He stumbled about blindly searching, calling frantically, and faintly above the explosions he thought he could hear the familiar sound of a shrill whistle being blown.

The Devidramon roared mightily, drawing back its clawed arm for the finishing blow upon the hapless soldier's body. Tai saw the silver gun just within a hands length, having been knocked out of the soldier's grasp. Throwing himself forward, Tai snatched it up, took aim and shot. White orbs of light slammed into the Devidramon's chest freezing it in place. Knowing he had only seconds, Tai rushed over to where the soldier lay, grabbed him under the armpits and tried to drag him away, but he was too heavy.

Tai's limbs trembled from exhaustion and fear, but he didn't desert the young man. He wouldn't run away this time. No, not again, not ever again...

Then Guardromon was beside them, having abandoned the first Devidramon, and calling his partner's name in concern, placing a metal-gloved hand to the soldier's head where Tai was cradling it.

The two Devidramon attacked simultaneously.

Guardromon erupted in a golden radiance stemming from a bluish-green device clipped onto the soldier's belt.

"Gatling Attack!" came the war cry before the light had even finished dispersing.

Twin homing missiles flew forward and tore through the Devidramons' stomachs like they were tissue paper. Tai watched in a fascinated horror as holes appeared and began eating their hosts' from the inside up until they were nothing but flecks of black data swirling in the air.

A tall, android figure emerged from the light and stepped in front of him, most of his body encased in a protective, shining silver armor, though in some places, he could see exposed nerves and muscles showing through. His humanoid head was covered in a metal skeleton helmet that covered half his face and he fixed his one eye on the boy staring at him in awe.

"Quickly, the X-VD2000," the android spoke in a monotone voice, holding out a mechanical hand expectantly.

Tai glanced about for something, even though he had no idea what an X-VD2000 was. The only thing that looked out of place was a white, rectangular canister on the soldier's belt alongside his digivice.

"Is this it?" Tai asked unclipping it and handing it over to Guardromon's evolved form.

"Affirmative," the android Digimon said, closing his hand over it, Then turning to the storm of data, which was all that remained of the two Devidramon, he opened the lid and held the canister up high, seeming to release a vacuum from within that sucked up the leftover data. Then sealing the lid back on, he walked back over the two humans in a purposeful stride.

Watching him, Tai couldn't stoke down the admiration welling up... that is until he felt the sting of an electrical shock to his neck and numbness began tingling down his body, and he realized that the Digimon had just freaking nerve-pinched him.

Slumping forward over the soldier, Tai only time to let out an indignant squawk before his muscles became limp and a fog swamped his brain. The last coherent thought before darkness overtook him was that he still hadn't gotten a close-up look at the marble slab that had fell from the sky.

oOo

Tai had woken up in an infirmary at an undisclosed location. An indigo-haired young man around the same age as the soldier appeared to be in charge and attended to his scrapes and bruises. He wouldn't answer any of Tai's questions as to where he was or demands to be let go. He only smiled at him from behind square-framed glasses and said the captain wanted a few words with him first.

Then Tai had found himself escorted down numerous corridors by the same soldier from earlier—now completely recovered and looking no worse for wear except for a wrapped bandage around his head. He then found himself in a room with nothing but a table and chairs and was thenceforth hounded relentlessly by this afore-mentioned captain until he couldn't take it any more.

"You have no right to keep me here," he told the man finally cracking. "I'm just an innocent by-stander. I went into Sector 12 on a dare and was caught. I've learned my lesson, so let me go and put me under surveillance to make sure I don't do anything reckless like that again."

"Contrary to what you may think, we do have a right to keep you in custody for forty-eight hours without question," the captain said coolly. "Any civilian caught up in a Nightmare Soldier attack has our utmost attention. And you, Mr. Kamiya, an un-partnered human with no Digimon, are a wild card that we can't allow to go unsupervised anymore."

"What do you mean?" Tai asked, a sense of dread washing over him.

"Preparations will be made to find you a suitable partner," the captain informed him. "I'm surprised your school hasn't brought this issue to Headquarters before. I suppose your involvement in the Hikarigaoka Incident four years ago made them sympathetic toward anything unpleasant in your life."

"I don't want another partner!" Tai burst out, slamming his fists on the table angrily.

"Another, Mr. Kamiya?" the captain said softly, arching one eyebrow.

Tai set his mouth in a firm line as he realized his mistake too late and retreated back into silence.

Tai felt like a bug under a magnifying glass as the captain assessed him with blue eyes glinting in a perceptive gaze, and he fought back the urge to squirm.

"Tell me, did you find anything... interesting in Sector 12?" the captain asked in a casual manner.

Tai jerked involuntarily at those words. He couldn't possibly be referring to...

The captain smiled like he had won a battle Tai hadn't even been aware he was fighting. Turning to face the soldier who had been present during the interrogation, he seemed to really see him for the first time.

"You're a bit young to be in the Self-Defense Forces, aren't you?" he asked skeptically.

The soldier appeared almost affronted. "I'm seventeen, sir! Just turned so last month and enlisted!"

"Hmmm," the captain frowned, obviously still not liking the soldier's age. "Well, nevertheless, you've done a fine job protecting yourself and Mr. Kamiya today as well as the destruction and containment of two Nightmare Soldiers. I hear your Digimon evolved to Ultimate?"

"Yes, sir. Andromon," the soldier said, his face a bright, happy pink.

"Good, good. We'll need all the higher-levels we can get if we want to defeat these Nightmare Soldiers," the captain said, clapping the soldier on the shoulder. "I'll recommend you for Corporal, Mr...?"

"Inoue, sir. Mantarou Inoue," the soldier stated.

"You are relieved, Private Inoue. Go down to the mess hall and get some nourishment."

"Yes, Captain Ishida, sir!" Mantarou saluted vigorously.

Tai watched the soldier do an abrupt turn and exit the room and then he was alone with the captain.

The man said nothing for several minutes, nor did he look at the other room's occupant, only tapped twitching fingers against the table as if he were contemplating something.

Tai hoped his slip-up from earlier had been forgotten, but he doubted that.

"A word of advice, Mr. Kamiya," Captain Ishida finally said. "If you are ever in a situation where you are given the option to be destroyed or join forces with the enemy, I highly recommend the former. Being a mindless slave is a horrible fate, but being a slave of your own free will because you believe in their cause is even worse. At least in death, you'll be free."

Tai blinked confused, not understanding the relevance of this information to all that happened. The Devidramon had been intent on killing not capturing.

"You do know why the Nightmare Soldiers insist on attacking the real world and its inhabitants, don't you?" the captain inquired.

Tai scoffed. "Who doesn't? The Digital World merged with the real one almost twenty years ago. The Digimon were mistaken for aliens and monsters at first and a war broke out, before both sides decided on a peace devised of partnering every human to a Digimon. Virus types didn't like the idea because they thought humans an inferior species and because so many Digimon had been killed. They want to cast both worlds into darkness and dominate all things: humans, Vaccine and Data types because Viruses are made up of pure evil!"

"Is that what you humans are teaching your young in schools?" a new voice spoke up suddenly.

Tai started violently at the sight of the newcomer into the room.

He wore a ragged dark blue cape with a matching steeple hat with a skull head sewn in the front. Brown cloth boots with golden crescent moons encased his feet. A yellow jumpsuit with zippers lined in red pockets covered his upper and lower half, and he gripped a staff that faintly resembled the sun in brown-gloved hands.

The cape covered his mouth, but vibrant blue eyes peered out from underneath stringy light brown bangs.

He was short in stature. About a head shorter than Tai.

He was a Digimon.

He was...

"Virus!" Tai shouted accusingly jumping up from his seat.

"Whatever gave you that idea?" the Digimon inquired quizzically, eyebrows disappearing up into his bangs in mock surprise.

"Mr. Kamiya, I'd like you to meet my partner, Wizardmon," Captain Ishida said, a trace of faint amusement in his voice. "He's a Data type."

Tai found himself staring part abashed and part in disbelief. "But he looks..."

"Evil?" Wizardmon suggested dryly.

Similar to another Digimon I saw, Tai thought.

Under the rim of his steeple hat, Wizardmon's blue eyes narrowed.

"Let this be a lesson then: never judge a book by its cover—or Digimon for that matter," Captain Ishida said. "And you should know, since you'll be staying with the Self-Defense Forces for some time, that there are Virus types with human partners. It's rare, but they do exist. In fact, some Virus types aren't what you expect at all."

One thing in particular had stood out the most in that sentence for Tai though.

"Staying here? I'm not staying here! I'm going home!" Tai protested. "I'm a kid and my parents-"

"Your parents have already been informed of your whereabouts and will be arriving shortly," Captain Ishida said. "We can't allow to you leave until you and your new partner form a bond."

"I told you I don't want—" Tai cut himself off before he was caught in the same trap as before.

The captain looked almost disappointed.

Tai simmered in a helpless fury.

"Wizardmon, if you would be so kind as to escort our young guest to Section B-11," the captain said.

"Not to his quarters, Hiroaki?" Wizardmon asked appearing surprised for real.

"No, I think he'll find he has a lot in common with some people there," Captain Ishida said loftily. "We want him to feel comfortable, after all."

Tai found he had no other choice but to follow Wizardmon if he wanted to get out of this room.

"Oh, Mr. Kamiya," Captain Ishida called right before they crossed over the threshold. The man's tone was dead serious now. "Losing your partner can drive you insane. The madness will cause you to act upon irrational impulses that can prove to be fatal. I highly suggest you remember that."

The doors closed with hiss and Tai was left to wonder exactly how much the captain knew and what path his life had turned on. He wasn't sure he liked it.

To Be Continued...

A/N: This fic sprung from me wondering a lot of "what-if's" lately. There are a lot of scenarios in Digimon that could have gone differently if the series of events that led it them had been altered slightly. Thus, think on the hints buried in the first chapter here. What if the Hikarigaoki Incident (aka Highton View Terrace) had been much more deadly and destructive than just a mere overpass being blown up? What if gateways to the Digital World had been opened years earlier cultivating a different society in which the Digidestined were brought up in, where it is normal for every human to have a partner and the ones who don't are the odd ones out?

The plot bunny that spurred this fic on was probably due to me watching too much Star Trek:TOS and the new Star Trek movie where history has been altered and a different reality has been formed. Even the title, "The Alternative Factor" is the name of a ST episode where a portal to a mirror universe has been ripped open. There's no time travel in this fic though. Think of the setting I've shown here as an alternate universe, but Season 01 key events are about to occur nonetheless.

Japanese Self Defense Forces are real. They were formed after World War 2. They maintain a purely self-defense oriented policy and engage in international peacekeeping operations. If you want to learn more, Wikipedia it. But this military power would be most likely the one keeping the Nightmare Soldiers at bay and ensuring the safety of civilians. (I hope I used the ranks correctly).

Rereading all I wrote, I realize this fic is a lot darker than I intended and Tai seems a little OOC. But do realize this isn't the same Tai that we all know. Circumstances have been set into motion that have clipped and tamed our young leader's wings so to speak. But never fear, he'll soon grow into a role more familiar as time progresses. And yes, we will see all the kids by the time this fic is ended. Even the 02 crowd has some chibi cameos (though I'm planning a sequel for them in this universe later). I've decided I'm still using the dub names for the kids, but the adults will have their Japanese names (simply because some were never given any in the English version). And I'm not sure where to put this tidbit so I'll just say it here: no, it wasn't a fluke or mistake on my part that Chibomon digivolved without the presence of a digivice. That's important later in the storyline.

So next chapter: who awaits Tai in B-11 and what has become of the marble slab? What is it exactly? Any guesses? Will we find out what happened at the Hikarigaoka Incident four years ago? What are the silver gun and X-VD2000?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this! Please review and share your thoughts. It's the only reward a fanfic author gets. If you have any questions just ask, and I'll try to answer to the best of my capabilities without giving anything away. Thank you!^^