Chapter 1

Best Laid Plans

In the cosmic scheme of it all plans rarely work out exactly the way people want them to, and that goes double for Runners. More often than not they broke down into a kind of chaos that could only be remedied by a series of quick decisions that keep them a few steps ahead of death and failure, not that there's much difference between the two when it came to missions as a Runner. The ones that don't eventually sink into disarray, being kept alive by measures of fast thinking, were the ones that left a Runner with making the choices that they probably would prefer to avoid. When it came down to those missions one couldn't keep thinking like themselves, and would instead have to work outside their comfort zone and adopt new methods; methods to preserve life and the mission. To these ends a Runner must be creative, dedicated, and be able to adapt to the rapidly changing situations they faced. This is one of the ways of a Runner. And one of the reasons they are so needed in the Multiverse.

On this mission, Takuya would be forced to put his ways to the test. No amount of planning or knowledge can prepare any who get involved for what they'll face when a history written once already begins to twist in the powerful commotion of the Multiverse. However, that's getting ahead of the story, for now it only starts with the crumbling of some weekend plans and a new mission. From there, things are going to change and continue to do so.

An hour ago Takuya had been on his way to visit his girlfriend, Kari, how he loved to say those words, in her Zone for a few days, but now, he was standing on the edge of a cliff in some other Zones Digital World. All around him was the destroyed and desolate environment of an area blacken by a strange force. Somehow something felt somewhat familiar to him, but he couldn't place it so he pushed that feeling to the back of his mind for the moment as he stood anxiously at the edge, the winds blowing up from the valley below causing his coattails of his black duster to billow up behind him.

He had been there for half an hour now, waiting for the Digital Ruler of that Digital World to arrive and explain why they had need of his services; the help of a Runner. Standing there he couldn't help but get bored, which in turn caused his mind to wander, and soon he became lost in the events of the past and the changes they had brought about.

It had only been a little over two months since Takuya's mission with the Sealed Digivice had ended. Two months since he had met the girl of his dreams. Two months since he had stolen her heart and she had stolen his in kind. Two months since they had been able to do anything develop their relationship, which is why he had been attempting to travel to her Zone.

The sound of branches snapping from somewhere behind him brought him back down to earth. Instantly his head whirled around to the source of the intruding noise and spotted a pair of scared Gotsumon trying to climb a hill in the distance. The pair seemed to be having some trouble, so Takuya decide that he mine as well help them out while he waited.

"Hey, do you two need some help over there?" Takuya called over to the two rock digimon. When they heard Takuya's voice they became increasingly frightened, now that they had been made aware of his presence, which was enough to get them over the steep hill and out of view.

"That was kind of weird… But not very surprising considering the surroundings. Seriously, what happened here," he commented to himself before turning back around to look out over the valley and wait.

Once again Takuya's mind began to wander as he played with the pink metal bracelet around his right wrist. He ran his fingers over each letter as he said them quietly to himself.

"K… A… R… I…" Takuya read off as a smile spread across his lips. He could still remember how they had traded the bracelets with their names on them before they separated from each other after the mission with the Sealed Digivice had ended.

Thinking of her brought a warm feeling over him and soon he couldn't feel the cold wind blowing all around him. He passed his remaining time thinking about her and how they hadn't been able to spend any time with each other since that day and what he planned to do with her once he rectified that. No one ever said that it would be easy, but missions suddenly getting dropped on him made it much more difficult. That thought was all it took to get him thinking about what had transpired an hour ago.

He had just arrived at Lady Ophanimon's castle where the supreme angel should have been waiting to open a corridor to Kari's home Zone, but that wasn't the case. When he had stepped into the throne room he had found Lady Ophanimon having a talk with an unseen voice over the Dimensional Corridor. He couldn't hear what either was saying since it was all done through mental exchanges, but he knew the look she got on her face when she was doing it. So with nothing else to do he waited quietly for her to finish, but as he did an uneasy feeling began to creep over him.

A minute later the look of contemplation disappeared from the angel digimons face and she began to speak to him.

"Takuya, I have something important to ask of you," she began.

"What is it?" Takuya asked, the uneasy feeling within increasing by the second.

"A few minutes ago the Digital Ruler of another Zone reached out through the Dimensional Corridor seeking help with a problem his world is facing. I picked up on it and offered him our services," Lady Ophanimon explained with a hesitant tone.

Here it came, the reason for the uneasy feeling that was spreading through Takuya's mind and gut.

"Unfortunately, they need help as soon as possible, and, Koji and Koichi are currently on a mission right now, so I was hoping that…" Lady Ophanimon spoke as the hesitation in her voice increased.

"You were wondering if I would go?" Takuya finished her inquiry for her.

"I'm sorry… I know you where really looking forward to seeing Kari after so long, but they are very much in need of your aid," Lady Ophanimon replied remorsefully.

"Saving the day is what I live for!" Takuya reassured her and himself. He had hoped that cheerful response would shake some of the depression he was now feeling about the possibility of not getting to see Kari for an even longer period of time, but it helped very little.

"Thank you," Lady Ophanimon sadly sighed as she began to prepare a corridor to the distressed Zone. She felt bad about having to delay Takuya's plans to see Kari and only hoped he would get some time when the mission was over.

"It's no problem, school's on break for a week and I already have Zoe and Tommy covering for me, so don't worry about it," Takuya said as he checked over his gear. To be on the safe side he had equipped all of his normal travel gear despite his original planning only being to visit Kari. After the last mission had gone all sideways, there was no reason not to be prepared just in case.

He was wearing his new field gear which consisted of. A new pair of very dark blue jeans littered with different deep zipper pockets and a crimson red shirt. A pair a brown steel toed boots refitted to allow for better movement. The same well worn brown bracers and fingerless gloves on his arms; the pink metal bracelet on his right being the only new addition there; and a new dark black leather duster went over it, hiding the hunting knife and other supplied he carried behind his back.

With everything set Lady Ophanimon shared the basics of the mission before Takuya left.

"You're going to meet the ruler at these coordinates once you get there. You might have to wait a while for him to arrive though, it seems his movements are being restricted by something," Lady Ophanimon explained as Takuya zipped up his jacket so that it wouldn't whip around as he traveled through the Dimensional Corridor.

"Right, so what's the mission goal?" Takuya asked trying to get himself prepare while listening to more information.

"Unfortunately, his connection was weak and all I could get was that he was in urgent need of help and where to meet him," Lady Ophanimon answered. It was apparent from her tone that she was unhappy about the lack of information she had been able to ascertain, but not much could have been done in the situation.

"Anything about the Zone I'm going to?" Takuya probed again, seeing if he'd get anything with a different question.

"Besides from the fact that it has a stable Real and Digital World with a strongly established connection, no. However, I am unsure about some strange energy I've been getting from it," Lady Ophanimon sighed wishing she could give him more to work with or that she had more time to investigate the Zone and situation herself before sending him in.

With no real helpful answers available, he surrendered to the circumstances and jumped into the Dimensional Corridor opening beneath Lady Ophanimon and was soon traveling to his destination. A few minutes later he was standing in a blackened field, a quarter of mile from the meeting place, and had to walk the remaining distance to the location. While he walked he hoped that the environment wasn't a sign that he was too late and the worst had already happened.

There he was, an hour later, waiting for his contact in the Zone to come and greet him. If they were coming at all that was. He didn't like to think about the idea that the world might have already fallen so he really hoped that this Digital Ruler arrived soon. He wouldn't have to wait much longer though, because Takuya suddenly felt a powerful presence approaching him from above.

"Greetings, young one, I welcome and thank you for traveling such a long way to be here," greeted a booming voice coming from a swarm of gathering clouds above.

Instantly, Takuya knew who the voice belonged to, even without the flashes of blue that radiated from the clouds. The realization brought him back to his feeling of having been there before, but now it was even stronger than before.

"It wasn't a problem, Azulongmon," Takuya reassured the Digital Ruler.

The blue and yellow helm of the great dragon emerged from the cloud cover and smiled through its long white whiskers. "I still thank…? How did you know who I am?" The dragon digimon asked in a surprised tone. It seemed that I had taken him a few seconds to realize that the boy had used his name.

"Let's just say that we've met before and stick with that," Takuya joked, knowing full well that he was the only one who understood his own comment.

"I don't quite understand, but I believe it doesn't matter now. However, I feel that I should introduce myself nether the less. I am Lord Azulongmon, ruler of this Zone," Azulongmon concluded.

"Right… The name's Takuya Kanbara, a Runner by trade and choice," Takuya shifted awkwardly on his feet, he wanted to get the mission started in hopes that whatever he wanted wouldn't take that long, even less if he hurried it along and skipped the pleasantries. "So why did you need to receive help from outside your own world?"

"The problem started a few hours ago when an evil force from the Real World opened multiple digital portals all over both worlds. These portals pulled in many lost digimon, who are now wandering the human world, lost and confused," Azulongmon explained, a solemn gaze coming to his eyes.

Suddenly, it all seemed so familiar that Takuya could already guess some of what Azulongmon was about to tell him.

"Let me guess," Takuya interrupted. "Now the main Destined of this Zone are traveling around the world and joining up with other Destined to return the rogue digimon to the Digital World."

"Yes…! How could you have known that?" The surprise on the Digital Rulers face was a bit entertaining to Takuya, enough so that he wanted to play a bit more.

"I can even guess the names of these, Digidestined, who are at the center of all this if you want," Takuya boasted playfully.

"Really!?" The confused Digital Ruler bellowed.

"Kari, Tai, Sora, Matt, TK, Izzy, Mimi, Joe, Davis, Ken, Yolei, and Cody. Right?" Takuya listed off the names he knew very well with a sly smile, knowing that his answer would surprise and impress the Digital Ruler.

"Yes!?" Being the only response Azulongmon could muster up. "But how?"

Of course this all had seemed familiar to him. It was just like all of the stories he had heard two months ago from Kari and Tai about their past adventures. They had been skillfully descriptive of the whole series of events, enough that being amongst it had sparked a feeling of déjà vu within him despite him not actually having been involved. He had arrived in a similar Zone, just a few years behind the one he had visited; more like been stranded in. The Digidestined of this Zone where currently in the middle of their World Tour mission that had, and was currently, taking them across the globe.

"Like I said before, we've met before," Takuya hinted, but was unwilling to reveal the exact reason why he knew.

"It seems this Multi-verse theory is going to take some getting used to, but I feel that I'm starting to understand your words a little bit," Azulongmon sighed, a brief look of what could have been mistaken as tiredness crossing his features.

"But I doubt that's the reason you've reached out for help," Takuya commented. He knew from experience that the Digidestined had some trouble resolving the current problem, but they were still more than capable of handling the situation, so he imaged something else must have been happening. That or this Azulongmon was just much more of the nervous type than the one he had met.

Azulongmon simply nodded in agreement with his statement before answering with a serious tone. "Yes, if that were the only problem we faced I believe they'd be able to handle it. However, there's more going on behind the scenes than they know of. It seems that during all of the confusion an unknown force has slipped some infected digimon in amongst the rogue ones in an attempt to get them into the Digital World."

"Infected?" Takuya inquired, the claim piquing his interest. This development was new to him. There hadn't been any mention of infected digimon in the sibling's stories.

"Yes, by an incredibly destructive virus that threatens the whole Digital World," Azulongmon stated a tone of disgust to his words.

"That's horrible! But why go through such a complicated process to get the virus into the Digital World? I mean sneaking them in among a bunch of digimon who've escaped into the Real World seems like a whole lot of unnecessary work to me," Takuya questioned the digital deity.

"That is true, but in this instance it has to be done that way. The virus can only be brought into the Digital World by a high level portal. A level of portal which only the Digidestined can access and open," Azulongmon did his best to make the Runner before him understand.

"And this unknown enemy knows that the Digidestined will send the lost digimon back to the Digital World through the portals instead of killing them," Takuya concluded as the he put the final pieces of the puzzle together.

"Correct," came the answer he had been expecting, but he still felt there was something else wrong with the situation.

"Okay, I'm starting to get the idea, but I still don't know why you called for help. Can't you just contact the Digidestined and warn them about the infected digimon?" Takuya inquired in an attempt to solve the question nagging at him.

"Therein lays the problem. When I became aware of the virus, all channels of communication and travel to the Real World on this side were cut off. The Digidestined can send digimon here, but no one can send anything there from here," Azulongmon sighed tiredly. Obviously he had been trying hard to find a solution to the problem even before he had reach out to other Zones.

"That sounds like it took some serious evil hacking skills and power to pull off, but at least now I see why you need someone like me. You need someone who can enter the Real World through the Dimensional Corridor and stop the infected digimon from getting to the Digital World," Takuya filled in the rest of the blanks on his own.

"Correct again. You need to destroy those digimon before they enter the Digital World and the virus is released," Azulongmon confirmed, becoming more optimistic about the dire situation the more the Runner before him proved to understand the problem.

"This whole thing's horrible and all, but destroying innocent digimon is a little difficult for me morally," Takuya responded. It wasn't like Takuya hadn't taken out digimon in the past he wish he could have avoid; Digimon who left him with no other choice. But killing one just because some villain had inserted a virus into their code wasn't something that sat well with him.

"At least from your response I can tell you're a good person. I was worried about who might show up when I reached out," the lightening digimon explained, his voice sinking a bit as he seemed to briefly ponder something in the reaches of his mind.

"Thanks, but calling me a good person doesn't help the dilemma," the Warrior of Flame retorted with a awkward chuckle.

"Do not be fooled, these are not real digimon. They're embodiments of the virus, beings created from its code with no other thoughts or feelings other than those that will aid them in infecting the Digital World. They my pretend to be innocent digimon, but in truth they know full well about the virus and what bringing it to the Digital World will do. For that reason they must be deleted in the Real World where the virus is inactive and will be destroyed, or else the Digital World will fall into ruin," Azulongmon offered more of the information he had gather; informtaion that he thought would be of help in easing the boy's conscience.

"That on the other hand, does help. But still, there remains a problem. I know the character of the Digidestined and they won't believe me when I tell them they have to kill what appear to be innocent digimon without any proof. They'll believe a lot, but this will be too much of a moral dilemma for them," Takuya assured the Digital Ruler who gave him a confused look when he spoke about the Digidestined with such familiarity. "And even if they did believe me, I wouldn't want them to have to do something like that… something that dark and unsure."

"You are most likely right, young one," Azulongmon sighed, depressed by the current situation. "How will the Digital World be saved from this threat when so many forces are working against us?"

Takuya stopped to think for a few seconds before giving a surrendering sigh and answering. "There's still a way, but I really don't like it." He couldn't help but taking pity on the struggling Digital Ruler.

"Why? What is wrong with your plan?" Azulongmon voice filled with a mixture of returning hope and concern.

"The problem is… it's kind of dark," Takuya mumbled, his head sinking on his shoulders as he thought about it.

"What is it?" Azulongmon asked, his interest piqued by the boys claim.

"I'll play that answer close to the chest for now since I don't know if I'll actually have to use it yet," he really didn't seem to like the plan, which he expressed with an annoyed sigh. "I really just don't want to say it out loud until I'm sure it'll actually come down to it, so let's let it drop until then."

"I see…" The Digital Ruler seemed unsure of what to say, but with the Runner not willing to talk about the subject any further and no other options, he was left with only the choice to agree. "I only hope that what you have in mind will work."

"It probably will," he didn't sound to reassuing, but that's all he had to say before he reaching into his coat pocket. "Okay, now that we're in agreement about the situation, let me get in contact with Lady Ophanimon and get the process of creating a corridor to your Real World underway," he pulled out what appeared to be a cell phone.

This particular cell phone was actually a new addition to his gear. Lady Ophanimon had it made after the incident with the Sealed Digivice. This special cell phone, or Runners Phone as Lady Ophanimon called it, was created for the sole purpose of staying in touch with her and the other Runners; namely Koji and Koichi. It couldn't be blocked or damaged like the Zone communication functions in the D-tectors had been two months ago and it gave crystal clear reception across Zones… most of the time…

After punching in a number Takuya hit the send button and the call connected. "Lady Ophanimon, can you hear me?"

"Yes, I'm receiving you just fine despite the disturbance coming off of that Zone," Lady Ophanimons voice came through the ear piece.

"Well, I know what the situation is here, and I need to talk with you about a few things," Takuya remarked with a sigh.

A short time later Takuya had finished explaining what he had learned and had made a request for a corridor linked to the real world of the Zone.

"I'll get started on the corridor for you," Lady Ophanimon replied once he had finished talking.


"While I prepare the corridor I have one more thing to address. Takuya, have you felt any different than normal since you've been in that Zone?" Lady Ophanimon asked, a worrisome tone present in her words.

Takuya didn't like the sound of that question, especially since he had been feeling a little off since he had arrived. He had just told himself that it was the desolate environment playing with his mind and had brushed it off, but now that Lady Ophanimon was asking questions he didn't feel so confident that it was only in his head.

"Yes…? Why?" Takuya asked in an uneasy voice.

"Can you try and spirit evolve for me now?" Lady Ophanimon requested.

"Okay…" The uneasiness he felt was beginning to deepen.

Takuya pulled out his D-tector and went through the motions of activating his spirit evolution, but the red and black device remained silent and he stayed human. This couldn't have meant anything good. And the fact that Azulongmon was now staring at him questioningly, confused by his strange motions and cry during his attempt to transfom, didn't help anything.

Saying Takuya was shocked by this development would have been an understatement. "What happened?" He gasped as he looked his human hands and body over.

"You're still human aren't you?" Lady Ophanimon asked over the Runners Phone like she had been expecting that result.

"Yes. What's going on?" He nearly shouted into the mouth piece.

"That Zone seems to give off an incomplete kind of Zone Energy that isn't compatible with spirit evolution. I believe that due to the strange energy patterns the only mode of combat that will work there is a partner relationship," Lady Ophanimon calmly explained. Takuya really wished that she would sound a bit more concerned about him and the problem.

"Great, that means I'm powerless here," an annoyed sigh slipped from him while memories of his first week after being injured during the Sealed Digivice mission came flooding back to him at the prospect.

"Not powerless. Just unable to spirit evolve," Lady Ophanimon corrected him.

"Aren't those pretty much the same thing for me?" Takuya inquired.

"It doesn't have to be," an almost playful chuckle could be heard in her voice. Could she seriously be enjoying the situation a little? "I'm sending you a new program. Hold your D-tector up to the display of your Runners Phone and push the scan button."

Doing as he was instructed Takuya put the two devices together and hit scan. Suddenly, fractal code, light, and strange symbols passed from the phone to the D-tector which began to shake. When the phone went silent the D-tector continued to vibrate and then began to emit a bright light. Soon it burst into a blinding flash of light which quickly dissipated, leaving Takuya and Azulongmon staring at the now smoking device.

"There. All done," Lady Ophanimon announced some success.

"Nothing happened… I still feel the same," Takuya commented, still a little shaken up by what had just happened.

"Roll the dial until the symbol of flame overlapping my symbol appears, then hit the top button," Lady Ophanimon ordered.

Takuya complied. He soon found the two symbols and pushed the button. Suddenly, there was another flash of light which went dark quickly. Nothing had seemed to change from before until Takuya felt a presence from right behind him. He quickly spun around and locked his brown eyes with a pair of green ones.

Standing behind him was a light red skinned digimon with black nails. It had on a pair of red pants with symbols drawn on them and a black belt holding them up. The digimon had long messy red hair and a pair of sawed off horns protruding from its head. This digimon Takuya knew all too well, it was Flamemon.

"What's going on here Lady Ophanimon?" Takuya asked still trying to get over the shock.

"Hey there, partner," Flamemon greeted him in a voice somewhere between Takuya's younger tone and Agunimon's.

To be continued…