Five moments, five secrets kept. About Domino City's villains, forgiveness, unlikely loyalty, cheerleading, and hell that isn't.
- All the ficlets are dub-based except #1, which is manga-based because the beginning arc is full of strange bad guys du jour, and manga Mokuba is a scary little biznatch. It's also a little personal reconciliation of manga Mokuba with the darling kiddy version of the anime.
- I picked a random personal name for Ushio, as he wasn't given one in canon.
- The summary mentioned in #2 can be found at yu-jyo(dot)net
- #4 was influenced by the Duke/Peggy video at elektra. wrongness. net misc. php? ygo/ (remove formatting in links)
- #5: Dark Necrofear has a baby dammit! That's the one dub edit that really annoys me.
Disclaimer: non-profit copyright infringement ahead. Sorry, Kazuki Takahashi, various other owners.
1. Murder in this town
"I'm finished with the reports," Seto said, tilting his head slightly so that his voice carried to where Mokuba stood by the window. He pushed the folder over to the chair beside his.
Mokuba walked over slowly. He sat down and stared motionlessly at the slim folder; then he shifted restlessly in his seat, keeping his hands clenched
around the arms of the chair.
"Just read the first page," Seto said. "It gives the subject's basic information. The rest is a long way of saying that no one knows what happened." He ignored Mokuba then, granting him time to pull himself together, and kept busy with the task of bringing the feeds from the cameras and bugs in the labs to his plasma screen TV.
Mokuba had picked the folder up and put it down by the time Seto was finished. That didn't necessarily mean that he'd read anything, but Seto ignored that too. "Now, let's check ourselves how things are going," he said. "After all, there are better ways of getting information than from these reports..." He selected the camera feed he wanted.
Case study #203 - Ushio Yukio, a student at Domino High until that morning - appeared on the screen, seated on the bench in his cell and counting leaves. He was sorting them into piles, seemingly according to size and colour, and paused occasionally to pet a pile of miscellaneous rubbish that lay by his side on the bench, chuckling and murmuring to himself throughout.
Seto saw Mokuba stiffen on the periphery of his vision. "It's lucky we've kept him under constant observation," Seto said, "or we wouldn't have reached him before the authorities did. We should commend our emergency team for getting him to the labs so efficiently." He paused deliberately, lending importance to his words. "Will you take care of it?"
Mokuba sat up like a soldier coming to attention, jerking his gaze away from the screen. "Uh - yeah. I can do that. And make sure they get good cover-up stories in the papers. I'll see to his parents, too - make sure their visiting times don't clash with the lab work, and all that stuff."
"Good." Seto smiled briefly and switched the camera feed away from the cell. The screen was abruptly filled with a clipboard, which was being waved around in the air in what looked to be a fit of excitement. They caught a woman's voice in mid-exclamation: "-believe how pronounced the effects got since the last measurements?" The woman was below the line of sight of the camera, but Seto recognised the voice as that of the resident osteopathologist, Nakamura.
"But you must remember that we tested his district about seven months ago; the increase is pretty standard for that amount of time," added the psychologist - Ito, he believed - standing beside the coffee machine with a cup in her hands. Seto found that information volunteered in the break room was generally more honest than anything he got officially.
"It's still amazing!" Nakamura said. "With the sheer size of him combined with the density of his muscle and bone tissues, Two-Oh-Three could probably win fights with walls by now. We've got to get district tests going to see how the others in his area are..."
The last person in the room, an endocrinologist called Van Riet, spoke up in a voice rushed with excitement: "Have you noticed how he's got all the usual effects? Usually people end up with one or the other, but he's got muscular growth and the overactive aggression areas in the brain, the crazy adrenal gland and the massive testosterone production!" The camera caught the corner of the manic grin on the man's face. "I love working in the mutant lab. This guy's better than the Hulk!"
"Speaking of mutations," Nakamura said. "We should get the anti-contamination suits out. I don't want to be genetically screwed by whatever he picked up from those damn weapons until I start giggling about garbage."
Van Riet shook his head. "You remember why we were dragged in to work here, right? Because the tests showed us to be pretty much unaffected by the chemicals?"
"I'd be happier with a suit too," Ito protested. "I'm still not sure we've completely isolated the conditions for susceptibility."
"No, I disagree!" Van Riet said. "Thirty years, people. That's how long the old KaibaCorp bio-weapons have been leaking pollution into the environment. That's how long the pollution's been affecting the wide variety of people you get in a harbour city - and in all that time, it's never caused a reaction of this kind. Even the psychotics that we know developed because of the weapons aren't as screwed up as this guy!"
"What about Chopman?"
The group suffered a collective shudder, but Van Riet persisted. "That's different. Most of the Chopman's frontal lobe is mucus. Two-Oh-Three's brain is in normal condition for the people of this city - but he's nuts anyway."
"But our people at Domino High say there's no other reason for Two-Oh-Three to have snapped," Ito said. "He was fine yesterday."
"So we've got nothing," Nakamura said, slamming her clipboard decisively onto a countertop. "Then he's a keeper."
Seto switched the screen off, though he kept recording the input from the lab feeds. "It's encouraging," he said. "I agree with Van Riet, that last one who spoke - it's doubtful that this incident occurred because of the weapons."
Mokuba slumped back in his chair, breathing out heavily. As one who had been affected by the pollutants (and primarily in his brain, too), he'd been on edge all day, afraid that it would be found that he was at risk of insanity like Ushio's.
"The cleanup team finished cleaning the last dumpsite three weeks ago, didn't they?" Seto asked.
"Yes," Mokuba said, "um, on the fourteenth."
"Then the operation to counteract the pollutants remaining in the environment should be well underway. Our adoptive father's garbage will stop tainting our present soon." Seto smiled. "I'll just have to pay and politick to make sure the official bodies continue to stay out of our business."
Mokuba remained slumped, but slowly the relief drained from his face until he was frowning. He fidgeted with his right hand in his jacket sleeve, drew out his switchblade and watched the blade jump in and out as he flicked the switch. "So..." he said, "when the pollution is gone, I'll be normal?" He didn't sound exactly thrilled at the thought; Seto was proud.
"Stop playing with that," he said. Mokuba put the knife away and glared at nothing in particular. "It will take a few months for all the chemicals to get out of your system and the chemical imbalances to reset to their natural state. And when it's over, you'll be Mokuba."
His brother lifted his head and gave him a small smile, and Seto was relieved. He wasn't sure if what he'd said really meant anything, but it seemed to sound good.
He was lucky that he didn't have to worry about losing his own edge; the tests had placed him in the percentile that was least susceptible to mutations.
2. "It ends in an orgy of friendship."
- Cody Nelson, in a summary of the last Dungeon Dice Monsters episode
TÃ©a and Tristan kept glancing warily at Joey as they all chatted, obviously expecting an outburst at any moment. But newly out of his puppy suit, Joey didn't seem to be holding on to any resentment against Duke; he smiled with his tormentor, as demure as a Victorian era maiden at afternoon tea.
"Wow, Yami. You're /good/." Yugi pretended to sip his drink as he spoke. In trying to avoid accidentally merging with the spirit when they mind-spoke, Yugi had refined talking under his breath to the point of an art. No one had noticed that he hadn't drunk anything yet.
"Thank you," Yami said from inside, sounding pleased. "The spell does seem to have taken well."
It was great to see everyone getting along. Yugi had hated to think of the fighting and bad feeling that would follow Duke's weird vendetta. It would've been worse than how things were with Kaiba. But on the other hand... "Joey's really okay with this?" he asked, speaking as little as possible to avoid getting caught, but sending extra worry to make up for it.
"Surprisingly enough, he is," Yami said. "The magic of the Puzzle is good at bringing people together, but in the end, Joey wants to be friends with Duke Devlin."
"He probably wants to forget about what happened," Yugi reasoned with many intermittent sips. He kept his glass down a while to keep his cover, and then resumed. "If Duke's his friend, Duke will want to forget too."
"But tell me, since it was on television, doesn't that mean many people saw it, and they will remember?"
Yugi gave up and quickly spoke in his mind. "Pretty much. But Joey forgets about a lot of things, and /I'm /not going to remind him."
The spirit of the Millennium Ring moodily ushered away some encroaching darkness and considered his dilemma.
It all hinged on that one moment of inattention. Marik's little trap had been well executed ... he was certainly worthy of his manipulative Millennium Item. And now he was drawing closer, and was going to be able to enter Bakura's mind - all because of that moment.
It had been Marik's idea to bind their deal with blood. The spirit had agreed, let Marik cut his host with a pocket-knife, and had re-emerged from the Ring to find Marik looking at him oddly (probably because his host tended towards rather girlish screams) and gripping his upper left arm firmly to staunch the flow of blood. He had pushed Marik away to inspect the cut and then tied Bakura's hanky tightly around the wound.
"I see what you've done," Marik had said, his voice full of threats. "You switched with your vessel before the knife landed. Why?" He'd pointed the Millennium Rod at the spirit in a posture of suspicion.
The theatrics had not been impressive, and he'd explained the situation to the brat with great calm. "Get that thing away from me, you fool. I let my host take the cut because it would leave me free of pain and able to concentrate better. Since Bakura was cut, the pain will be mostly his. Don't worry - he is my tool, so I've still signed myself to the deal."
Marik had frowned. "What do you mean, the pain will be his? You share one body, so you must feel what he does."
"There are visible differences between us, if you take care to look, but also deeper ones. The magic that binds us has allowed me to have less pain than him, and I suspect a shallower wound, too."
After that, as they'd walked towards the pharaoh's friends with the Ring pointing the way, he'd watched as Marik became most horribly thoughtful; his suspicion had stirred, but it had been far too late to rectify the problem.
His mistakes had become clear to him only now, as images in his memory: Marik's hand clamped around his arm, wet with blood; then in the next minute, that bloodied hand holding the Millennium Rod.
As easily as that, Marik had taken Bakura's blood and transferred it to the Rod to seal their deal. Giving blood to a Millennium Item increased its magic nearly as much as feeding it a living soul, which meant that the spirit was bound to Marik's deal on pain of destruction. Not only that, but with Bakura's blood in the Rod, Marik had access to Bakura's mind that the Ring would have otherwise prevented.
The spirit hurled a punch at a tree for stress relief, and found that the tree had a light switch on the trunk. Because it was his duty, he flicked it; a full moon popped into the sky and the ominous darkness he was getting rid of withered - but the light also showed a troublesome-looking dinosaur rustling about in the underbrush. The spirit took a running jump and kicked it to pieces. The dinosaur was a smaller, weaker nightmare than the ones he'd been dealing with so far, which gave him hope that the damn things would stop soon.
He wasn't sure he'd puzzled out Marik's plans entirely - the mortal had a mind as twisted as a corkscrew - but it was a relief to have figured out why he was stuck keeping guard in Bakura's dreams. Marik had demanded, as they'd walked to the pharaoh's friends, that the spirit keep Bakura as content as possible; he must have known that Bakura's mind would be a safer place to enter if it was happy. Currently Bakura's happiness depended on his nightmares being eradicated, so though the spirit despised the fact that he was standing knee-deep in his host's mind, the blood magic took the edge off his disgust and kept him at his task.
The hospital's medicine had stimulated his vessel's dreams to a mad extent, but things seemed to be calming down. The spirit strangled a thundercloud until it turned a docile white, watching a flying saucer crashing through a city some distance off. He decided to let the spaceship be; judging by its laughter, it was enjoying itself. He sat down on the tamed cloud to wait for whatever came next.
He considered his position. He was as good as enslaved until he was released from the blood bond, and release would only come by Marik's agreement or by defeat. He could be led anywhere by that mad boy - but the rules of Shadow magic would ensure that he got paid in full. And he had a lot to gain from Marik, after all.
He tried to think out Marik's plans again. It was embarrassing to have been caught in them, and he would never acknowledge how he'd been trapped ... but it had to be admitted that the plans were /interesting/. He appreciated their intricacy even from his position.
If ever there were a mortal he could learn to tolerate, he suspected that bitter little bastard would be the one.
4. "Awesome, oh wow! Like, totally freak me out!"
- quoted from Bring It On.
Duke lay awake and listened to everyone snoring around him. Once he realised he was bored enough to be finding rhythms in the snores, he gave up on suppressing the memories and instead began to take tally of what he had seen so far.
The elaborate murder scheme at the docks had been a special kind of crazy, and Marik's Rising Hair of Evil was definitely something. Oh, and the spirits in gold accessories too. But - even more than the comas induced by playing cards that controlled the weather - the thing that got to him was that no one bothered to disbelieve anything that happened.
It was only Mai who'd sometimes looked at everyone like she thought they were insane in a sweet way - but mostly she'd taken it in stride. It was like she'd thought planning strategies against her possible opponents was more important, and had always been thinking about how she could win. So much for that idea.
He turned onto his stomach and switched to another train of thought. Jeez, for all the others knew he was new to this kind of stuff, and no one even asked if he was okay. Hmm - the way Tristan kept asking him if he wanted something from Joey's mini-fridge could be some silent, acceptably manly way of doing it ... but it made him seem like a big mother hen. Which was creepy.
Was he fated to get involved in creepy stuff now? It all seemed very fateful. The odds against him happening to find Tristan and Serenity as he strolled around the city were pretty damn big.
Last time, the magic stuff had started out so normal. He'd just wanted to get his game nicely mass-produced.
Duke flipped over again and scowled at the ceiling, thinking hard about nothing. He tried listening to the snores again - but instead he remembered the sound of the helicopter's rotors on the flight to Pegasus's island, and how fired up he'd been to see Pegasus again and work out the DDM contract with Industrial Illusions. And couldn't stop remembering...
The hungry drag of lingering shadow magic ... getting to know Toon World better than anyone would ever want to. Vengeful souls swarming Pegasus until there was just black mist ... counting Toon Summoned Skull's ribs from the inside while Toon Blue-Eyes knocked to get in. Saving them both by the crazy luck of the magic dice he'd found... and then, bright and early the morning after that, some Industrial Illusions board members showing up to oversee what he and Pegasus had done with DDM. That had been the weirdest thing of all: shaking from what had happened to him while he talked business with old men who practically refused upfront to take a teenager seriously. If it hadn't been for Pegasus, that meeting would have been the end of DDM...
He wrenched his head away as if to get it out of the grip of memories. Keep it together, Devlin, he told himself. Don't punk out now - these crazy people need someone with a bit of sense around. And hey, even if you end up back in the Shadow Realm, at least you still have those killer dice as a souvenir.
He put his hands over his face, closed his eyes, and tried really hard to go to sleep. Pleasant thoughts, now...
He had to admire Serenity's strength. She was going through this insanity with only mild fits of hysteria, and it was taking all he had to keep a calm eye on the situation. She must really love her brother.
He could have told her that cheerleading was bad for your health.
"Er. So ... um, sorry about that. The whole panic-and-attack reaction, I mean. It's just, you know, pretty easy to mistake you for him."
"It's to be expected, I suppose..." the kid said.
Bonz looked at him uncertainly. The kid ... Bakura, he'd said his name was - had stopped bawling more or less when they'd stopped attacking him, but now he was swaying on the spot like a really unhappy drunk, holding his head so low you couldn't see his face.
"But ... you're saying that since your Ring-thing is gone, you're just you? You can't let that other guy out again?" Zygor asked from beside (or maybe a bit behind) Bonz. Sometimes it was nice to have a dumbass on the team - he asked for explanations of explanations, and then Bonz could listen and be reassured a second time that things were okay.
"No," Bakura said. "I don't."
"I don't," Bakura said loudly, still looking at the ground.
No, wait, that wasn't reassuring at all. Zygor looked helplessly at Bonz, who took over. "Uh, kid, you do. You let him out that time we duelled in the graveyard, and he made us end up in this Shadow place..."
"He does it on his own," Bakura said. "I don't let him. Ever."
Bonz had learned about how lies sounded in the Shadow Realm; they never worked well. The kid was telling the truth. So even if he was acting like he was on the verge of breaking down and becoming an axe murderer, they couldn't leave him alone if he was just a victim like them.
"Okay," Bonz said. "That's okay then, I guess."
Bakura sighed and said softly, "But you were right, before. Someone won my Millennium Ring, so the spirit's not here."
"And he can't come here?" Zygor said hopefully.
"Yes, more or less."
Bonz got the feeling that there was a whole lot that the kid wasn't saying, but he didn't press. He had enough to deal with. "Then come on," he said. "Let's get somewhere safe, huh?"
Bakura nodded and walked after them. Bonz glanced up as they walked, checking that the ghosts were okay. His deck's monsters seemed to be having a holiday, actually, just floating along. He was glad they were getting a break; he knew they'd been getting weak from fighting ever since him and his crew got here.
"So this whole thing, us being trapped here, really has nothing to do with you?" Bonz asked, glancing at Bakura again.
"No ... as I said, it was the spirit's doing. I'm just here because the spirit was controlling my body when he lost a dark game. He escaped, but someone had to come in his place and I was close enough. I'm really very sorry about what he did to you..."
The kid's voice was shaking. Just - don't - cry! Bonz thought. "Yeah, well. Aren't we all," he said hurriedly. "Can't do anything about it, I guess."
"So ... you don't know of a way to get out?"
"Sorry, kid. We don't know and the monsters don't know." Bonz made an effort to get the tired sound out of his voice, then said as cheerfully as possible, "Speaking of monsters, it's lucky you have an occult deck. It looks like occult monsters care about staying in the graveyard as much as my ghosts. If she hadn't been able to get to you the second you got here..."
Dark Necrofear walked serenely beside Bakura. The fog thinned before her, and she extended this courtesy to Bakura; but the things that lurked in the mists swerved in great curves around the whole group, keeping their distance from the Lady of the Grave.
Bakura said, "She's not in my deck. She's in the spirit's."
"Oh, so that's why you have two," Bonz said, then felt low for saying it. The kid didn't have a single card on him now, since Bonz had both decks safe in his pocket. He couldn't take any chances with Bakura, and it was all because..."It's crazy! The thing with this spirit ... I wish I could get my hands on him!"
"Yeah, but wouldn't you wet yourself?" said a voice behind them.
Bakura stopped short, finally looking up, his eyes big and terrified. "Don't worry, kid, it's just Sid," Bonz said. "I kinda forgot he was there too. This fog is too damn thick!" And purple. And soul-sucking. Anyway.
Sid, ever paranoid, had probably been watching from a safe distance for the kid to turn psycho. Now he spoke again; he must have reassured himself. "Oi, Bakura, what's up with your girlfriend's arms? She's holding them all funny."
They all chanced a glance at Dark Necrofear. She looked through them.
Bakura leaned closer to her, looking surprised. "I think she's holding something!"
Sid scoffed. "And what, it's invisible?"
"Not quite, I can tell it's orange... Oh..." He looked unnerved when Dark Necrofear moved, shifting as if transferring her orange/invisible burden to the crook of her left arm; he looked frightened to the point of being nauseated when she stretched her right arm out with elaborate elegance and stroked his hair.
The three men stopped and stared. "Er ... Why is she doing that?" Zygor asked, sounding as if he feared the answer.
Bakura didn't answer, though his features did shift to express just a bit more misery.
The men looked at each other. "Maybe it's because the boy reminds her of her duellist?" Sid offered.
"But shouldn't she be able to tell the difference?" Bonz asked. "I mean, our monsters are really loyal ... even if they're not touchy-feely."
"Good," said Sid, with a great deal of emphasis. "I really don't want them to be." He and Zygor looked suspiciously upwards to where the ghosts drifted.
Bonz looked back to Bakura. "Um, do you think we can get walking again?"
The kid pursed his lips, looking determined, and shuffled back a little. Dark Necrofear immediately moved her arms back to their previous position.
"She wants to know," Bakura said, his voice as forcedly determined as the look on his face, "what this safe place is."
"She what now?" Sid blinked rapidly, cocking an eyebrow at Bakura.
"She wants to know where we're going." Bakura looked at Bonz, ignoring the other two.
Sure. Why not. A zombie monster that talked by acting like she was a granny ruffling her grandkid's hair. It was the Shadow Realm! Bonz said, "It's this big place that looks kind of like the temples you see in adventure movies. I'm pretty sure the place is a card called 'Shrine of the Pharaoh'. I guess no one makes trouble there because it's a shrine."
Dark Necrofear tilted her head and seemed to consider this, then bowed ever so slightly to Bakura. When she looked up, Bonz took a step back, hearing gasps from his friends that echoed his sudden fear; the monster wore a tiny, mischievous, brutal smile, and it promised nothing good.
"She likes the idea," Bakura said, his voice a whisper. "So let's just go."
As they walked on, Bonz worked up the courage for more questions. He sidled up to Bakura and whispered, "So - so why's she so happy about that?"
"Her duellist would like to know she got some use out of the pharaoh..." Bakura shook his head irritably, then added, "and she'd prefer to be in a place that's safe enough for her to bring her baby back."
"/Baby/?" Bonz suddenly had seriously nasty second thoughts about what the hair-stroking had been about.
"If you look at her card, you'll see she has a little orange baby in her arms. But she says she sent it away when the spirit called her to duel, because she didn't want to risk putting it in a fight against a god card."
"/God/ card? And monsters can affect what their holograms do - and did you say the god cards are /real/? I mean, I've heard of 'em-"
"Yes, they're real," Bakura said tightly. "Dark Necrofear said she would like to reach the shrine quickly. She wants to call her child back very much. It's already met her halfway."
The monster's arms were indeed full of something that was now more orange and less invisible, but still ... Bonz got the feeling that there was a lot going on in Bakura's head that he wasn't letting out. But that probably wasn't a place he wanted to go, anyway. It wasn't a place he wanted to make the kid go, either; they were already in hell, and he wasn't going to make that worse for anyone.
Hey, the place was almost okay once you got used to eating Scapegoats.