Kaiba Noah surveyed the wreckage of one of his many labs. The computers were all trashed; there was no telling how much data was lost without a complete audit. Worse yet, the locked cabinets and refrigerators storing all of the biological samples and genetic cocktails had been broken into. Noah had the feeling that anything left behind wasn't worth salvaging. He leaned against his cane—his legs still ached from last night's storm. Being awoken at 3AM to fly an hour outside of Domino City only soured his mood even more.
"Report!" he snapped at one of the scientists, Dr. Hanamori.
"It's bad, Noah-sama. We lost almost everything. I don't know how they did it, but we're going to have to restart a lot of our experiments from scratch."
"And the specimens?"
The scientist shrunk back, and Noah knew his answer then. "All gone, all sixty-five of them. We think they may have had a rouge IDS with them that reintegrated the specimens. Either way, there's been no sign of them."
"We just finished a testing cycle, so it could have been worse. We can rebuild; I want everything up and running within a month. We've already fallen behind Chichiue's timetable."
"Uh, Noah-sama, I'm afraid there's much worse news."
The room fell into complete silence as everyone drew in a collective breath and held it.
"Subject AA011 is also missing. The acquisition of new specimens would be impossible until he is recaptured or replaced with another competent IDS."
Noah brought his fingers to the bridge of his nose and squeezed. He battled the urge to swing his cane and beat the living daylight out of the halfwit. God, he would feel so much better, but then he would be right back to square one. He would still be months behind with no viable prototype to show his father.
"Then get him back, he has a tracker," he growled through clenched teeth.
The scientist brandied his clipboard like a shield. "It went dead within an hour of the break-in. A search of the last location has turned up nothing. They've already moved him."
Noah's temper erupted despite his best efforts to control it. He threw his cane at the scientist, who barely ducked in time. The cane flew past the man's head and sent a pile of broken cages crashing to the floor. "Useless," he spat. He glared at the security team sweeping through the lab for clues. "All of you are useless—garbage! How did idiots no better than an animals' rights group break into one of the most secure facilities on earth and make off with all of our research materials?"
No one dared to meet his gaze. A guard moved quickly across the room to retrieve his cane and offered it to him.
"We are doing our best to recapture the subject as we speak. We will not fail you again, Noah-sama."
"Too late," he snatched the cane, and one end clipped the guard's temple. "I am charging Betaforms 268 and 275 with the pursuit. If he is in the hands of a terrorist cell, they will wipe them out once and for all."
The ceiling overhead was obscured in shadows, but he could clearly make out the fact it was tiled. His entire cell was built with cement though. Even the air tasted different—as if it wasn't endlessly filtered and recycled. Without sitting up in bed, he turned his head and saw curtains fluttering in the breeze. His cell didn't have windows either. When he couldn't hear anyone else in the room with him, he climbed out of the bed. That was another thing; he had always slept in a cot.
Through the closed door, he could hear voices. When he turned the knob, the door swung wide open. The people in the next room immediately went quiet. His eyes were drawn to the all too visible holsters on some of their waists. Panic settled in and he quickly backed away. Something was wrong; this wasn't the lab and those people weren't his usual caretakers. Several of them stood up and started to approach him.
His panic only deepened.
"Wait, just listen for a moment!"
"Someone just grab him for now."
He ran back, trying to put as much distance between him and them. But he was outnumbered and had never been much of a fighter.
"Please calm down, we won't hurt you."
Their holstered weapons still suggested otherwise. He moved toward the open window and glanced over the edge.
"Don't think about it, kid. We're three floors up," a blond-haired man warned before jumping forward to tackle him.
He let his instinct take over. He took a deep breath before whispering, "Winged Guardian," and throwing himself out the window. After falling less than a few feet through the air, a large blue dragon shimmering into existence below. He scrambled to grasp onto the spikes along the dragon's back, dangling unsteadily for several moments. The realization that he was outside and that was the wind playing though his hair caused his whole body to tremble. His eyes watered at the sight of the full moon overhead.
"Please get me away from here," he pleaded.
The dragon took flight over a long stone path and a forest of green. There were no other buildings in sight. He had no idea where they were going, but he didn't really care. He was free for the first time in a long time. But then a sudden force sent him flying off the dragon's broad back. As he crashed into one of the trees below, he could see his Winged Guardian being intercepted by another dark purple dragon. His fall was broken by several branches along the way and finally by a bed of flowers beneath him. He couldn't see either creature through the canopy of green.
His captors reappeared suddenly; some of them with their weapons drawn. He mentally ran through the list of other xenomorphs at his disposal, but he hesitated to call more than one with the Winged Guardian already about. He tried to escape in the other direction, but he was surrounded. They had managed to herd him into a trap.
"Summon—" he began to call on his powers again. He didn't want to hurt them, but he refused to go back to his cell.
"Wait, Yuugi-kun, we're here to help you."
The sound of his given name made him pause.
A white-haired man stepped forward and offered him a gentle smile. "Yuugi-kun, it's been a long time. I hope you still remember your old roommate."
Yuugi was first taken to the training facility many years ago along with many others of Domino's Inter-Dimensional Summoners (IDS; colloquially pronounced as "ids" like Freud's psychological apparatus) population. He was only there for a few months as his abilities quickly outpaced the others, leading to his transfer. Looking back, it was one of the better times before the world fell apart.
And it felt like an eternity ago.
His old friend nodded slowly, and Yuugi broke into tears.
When Yuugi emerged from his shower, he found Bakura Ryou waiting in his room. The white-haired man was distracted by the tablet in his hand. Yuugi took a moment to study Ryou. To be honest, Yuugi struggled to remember what his old roommate was like. He couldn't recall much either, but he thought Ryou used to be a lot more quiet and less self-assured. He may have changed significantly, but Yuugi would never be able to pinpoint how much.
The thought wracked him with guilt.
Ryou looked up and smiled again in a way Yuugi was almost sure he never used to. "I remember the first time I got to shower after they broke me out. It was one of the most liberating things I did in years."
As Yuugi pulled the towel away from his head, his fingers brushed against a scar on the back of his neck. He wouldn't have noticed it if the gauze hadn't gotten wet. It took a few minutes of struggling with the mirror before he finally saw the puckered pink scar. "Bakura-kun, did you guys do something to me? I never had this scar before."
He wanted to trust his old friend, but years of experience had taught him to nurture a healthy amount of suspicion.
Ryou reached back to touch the base of his neck. "They install a tracker in all highly certified IDS, you know. It's a good thing you were already heavily sedated when we found you. They took mine out while I was conscious."
Yuugi shivered and decided not to ask anymore questions.
"Come on, I'll introduce you to everyone when you're dressed."
Ryou left behind a change of clothes on top of the bed. The shirt label said 100% cotton. Yuugi ran his fingers across the fabric, savoring the sensation of the softness against his skin. The clothing he wore in captivity—his prison uniform—had been synthetic. The dirty off-white fabric didn't breathe. It had been like a shroud trapping everything up against Yuugi's skin, choking him.
He chose to just lay naked on top of the sheets for a while.
After a while though, he could no longer put off the inevitable. Ryou and those other people were waiting downstairs, and Yuugi needed answers. He slipping into the clothing provided and went downstairs.
Yuugi nursed a cup of green tea in the living room. The tea was soothing and barely familiar after so long. He stole furtive glances at the others through his long bangs. Besides Ryou, there were two other men and one woman. The woman's delicate features resembled Ryou's, and Yuugi wondered if they were related.
Ryou pointed to the other two men; first the shaggy blond and then the brunet with the sharp hairstyle. "That's Jounouchi Katsuya-kun and Honda Hiroto-kun. They were the ones that helped rescue you last night."
The two men kept their distance from Yuugi, and Yuugi preferred it that way.
"Thank you, Jounouchi-san, Honda-san."
The woman approached him directly though. "I'm Bakura Amane, Ryou's older sister. How are you feeling?"
"It's okay," Ryou coaxed. "Amane is basically the doctor for our little group. She was the one that removed the tracker from you."
"I'm fine, I think. Thank you for taking care of me, Amane-san." He peeked up at her, feeling trapped suddenly.
But her smile was exactly like Ryou's. "No need to thank me, it's the least I could do. Let me know if anything hurts. I'm afraid we didn't have the most sterile environment while operating. We need to make sure you don't contract an infection."
"Where are we?"
"We're about 30 miles away from the facility," Ryou looked out the window with a thoughtful expression. "We should be safe here until the sedatives are completely out of your system. Your grandfather can't wait to see you again."
He tightened his grip around his cup. "Jii-chan?"
Jounouchi strolled across the room and settled on the couch as well. Yuugi shrunk back and scooted closer to Ryou instead. "Yeah, kid, your Gramps really misses you. He's been looking for you forever."
"Please don't call me that. I'm—" Yuugi paused and a look of pain flashed across his face. "I don't know how old I am anymore. I don't know how long I've been gone."
Ryou reached over and patted one of Yuugi's hand. "It's been eight years since we first met, Yuugi-kun."
"Oh god, I'm... twenty-three then." His stomach twisted violently. Yuugi resisted the urge to throw up.
"No kidding," Jounouchi screeched. "But you're such a little shrimp, I could have sworn you were like fifteen!"
Yuugi resumed his silent contemplation of his tea instead.
As Jounouchi opened his mouth to say more, the front door opened with a loud crash. The cup shattered on the hardwood floor as Ryou grabbed him and ducked behind the couch. Amane joined them with her weapon drawn. Jounouchi and Honda immediately reached for their firearms and aimed at the entrance to the den. The long shadow of a person stretched down the adjourning hallway.
"You asshole! We nearly shot you," Jounouchi shouted at the man that appeared in the doorway seconds later.
The new man was tall with dark brown hair and a long shining leather coat, and he didn't look particularly bothered by the Jounouchi's threat. He stood with his arms folded across his chest and glanced through the other occupants of the room. His gaze stopped and focused on Yuugi when he peeked over the couch. "So it's true, you did take something from the lab."
"Hey, Kaiba you bastard, watch your mouth. He's a human being, not some lab rat." Jounouchi clenched his fists.
"Kaiba?" Yuugi's body shuddered. He remembered the KC logo printed on all his caretakers' uniforms and the green-haired man that never bothered to use the two-way mirror. His chest constricted, making it harder to breathe.
Amane rubbed his back. "It's okay. He's with us. He's not going to take you back."
Yuugi squeezed his eyes shut and tried to push out the rest of the world. He was beginning to wonder if he would be better off if he had continued to run or if he was even back in his cell.
"And you have no idea what you took. Noah's put out a country-wide ABP for him. The company wants him back now." Kaiba drew a handheld tablet from his coat pocket and threw it to Jounouchi.
The blond man glanced over the information onscreen before handing the computer to Ryou. "This is bad. It's going to be a lot harder to get back into Domino now."
"What is it?" Yuugi asked. He leaned against Ryou to read the screen.
"They're claiming you're part of a terrorist cell and are offering 2,500,000 yen for any information that leads to your arrest." Kaiba said as he walked past to pour a drink from the liquor cabinet.
"But I've done nothing! I haven't had a life outside of the lab for eight years!"
"This is bad! This is bad! What are we going to do now?" Jounouchi started pacing back and forth.
Kaiba glared at them all. "Then you shouldn't have taken this one from the lab."
"What were we supposed to do? We weren't going to leave him there. You of all people know what things Noah could be doing."
"I don't understand—" A thousand thoughts flew through Yuugi's head. It seemed cruel that his new-found freedom was so quickly soured.
Ryou placed a hand on Yuugi's shoulder and squeezed. "Yuugi-kun, I hope you don't take this the wrong way. We didn't break into that facility for you. We just sort of ran across you. And we had no idea Noah would want you back this much."