asheth: (Default)

The night had begun its shift into day, the whole base waiting anxiously as the early hours of the morning crept by.

Everyone was on edge, Yugi could tell. He had spoken with Anzu and Ryou over a shared breakfast earlier, and from their hushed tones, he could tell that their mood was grim. No one was certain Dartz would be at this base, and if he wasn’t, they ran the risk of wasting time, or falling into a trap. They had barely escaped Dartz’s last game, and Yugi wasn’t eager to be thrown around into more like a puppet on a string.

He caught up with Atem sometime before they were to set off. The android had been milling around the base, walking down corridors and not really doing anything. He had been embarrassed when he had admitted this to Yugi, but Yugi just brushed it off.

“I’ll go see if Mana and Mahad need help at all. I need to be of use somehow.” Atem muttered, moving away from Yugi.

“Wait, Atem.” Yugi tugged on the other’s arm, stopping him.

“What is it?” Atem asked softly, his full attention turning to Yugi.

“I want you to have this; to use, in the fight ahead.” Because there would be a fight. It was impossible to catch Dartz off guard now; he would know they were coming.

He pressed one of his guns into Atem’s hand, making sure he had a tight grip on it before letting go. It wasn’t in the most pristine condition since Atem had sliced through it while brainwashed, but he had managed to restore it to at least fire.

Atem stared down at the weapon, brows furrowing in confusion. “One of your pistols? But why? These are your… well… I can’t accept this.” He tried to hand it back, but Yugi wouldn’t take it.

“No, I want you to use it. This is my decision,” Yugi insisted. “I only need one, but I want you to have the other.”

“But why?”

“You can use guns, can’t you?” Yugi chuckled.

“Of course,” Atem flushed. “But I don’t understand why you’re giving me your treasured weapon. You almost killed Mana for using this before.”

“That was different. I didn’t know Mana, and I had lost that gun for years. I’ve learnt to deal with just one.”

“But now you don’t have to, you have both of them.” Atem argued. He held the gun back out. “Anzu said you were at your best when you dual wielded these pistols, so I think it’s best you take this back.”

“I’m not going to, so there’s no point in arguing with me on this. I made my decision Atem. I want you to use it. Will you accept my wishes?”

Atem paused, processing Yugi’s words. His face went through an array of emotions, each more intense than the last, leaving him with a strange expression on his face.

Yugi gave him the time, standing there patiently. He was aware of their time limit, and how he really should be rushing, but staring at Atem, he found he didn’t have the heart to push the other.

“I think…” Atem started, fingers brushing over the gun. Yugi didn’t think Atem even knew he was doing it, a subconscious reaction probably.

“Yes?” Yugi said gently.

Atem’s expression hardened, and he nodded, his mind made up. “I’ll do it. I’ll use your gun, Yugi.”

“Good.” Yugi smiled, patting Atem’s shoulder. “Treat her nicely.”

“I will.” Atem cradled the gun close to him in an almost loving way, and Yugi coughed awkwardly into his hand.

“I’ll just… Go set up the mech.” He muttered, sliding away.

Yugi was surprised to find Bruno working on his mech when he entered the hanger bay, a panel open on one of the legs in which the android was fiddling around in.

“Bruno.” Yugi said in way of greeting. “Everything good?”

Bruno jumped, turning to give Yugi a warm smile. “Oh, hello General Mutou. Ah yes, just fixing up some stuff from your last encounter. Your suspension was a little out, so Yusei asked me to right it.”

“Well if anyone would know, it’d be Yusei. And maybe Honda.” Yugi commented, standing back to give Bruno room to work.

He wandered around the hanger bay instead, walking up to both Anzu’s and Mahad’s mech, eyes tracing over their armour.

“Interesting, isn’t it?” A voice said softly. Yugi glanced to his side, the tall form of Yusei standing next to him. He was staring at Mahad’s mech, a gleam in his eye. Yugi guessed he was itching to check inside it and see just how it worked.

“Unfortunately, it’s not under my jurisdiction. I can’t let you play with this one I’m afraid.”

“I know.” Yusei said, head swerving to look at Yugi. “You know there’s no way to reverse what happened.” Yusei said. Yugi sighed. This isn’t about the mech I see.

“Yeah, I know.”

“The programming can be rewritten, but that goes for anyone with access. It will be hard, for him to adjust.”

“I’m not going to let anyone even try,” Yugi grunted. “I’ve seen a lot of fucked up shit in my time, but what happened to Atem has got to be the worst.”

“It is a difficult position to be in. We can’t even begin to imagine.”

“I know,” Yugi said sadly. “I can’t even offer him a point of understanding.”

“You’re trying, that’s what counts.”

“Sometimes it might not be good enough though.”

Yusei went to say something, but was interrupted by people entering the hanger bay. Atem, Mana and Mahad walked in, talking quietly among themselves. When Atem noticed Yugi, he led them over. Yusei at the same time excused himself, going to help Bruno finish up work.

“Admiring my mech are we?” Mahad teased.

“Just wondering how it stays standing with marksmanship like that.” Yugi grinned, and Mahad flushed.

“It’s a top of the range model.” Mahad shot back, faltering.

“Yugi please don’t tease him.” Atem chided him lightly. Yugi gave him a wink in return.

“All right, time to get serious I suppose.” Yugi’s expression dropped, and he looked around at the people gathered. “Where’s Anzu?”

“Here.” Anzu called out, striding into the hanger bay with perfect timing.

“Good, so everyone’s gathered.”

“Is it time?” Atem asked.

Yugi nodded. “It’s time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yugi had Mahad install the location of the base he suspected Dartz to be at in all of their mechas. It meant that if they ended up being separated, or if something went wrong, any one of them would be able to hunt down Dartz.

Preferably they would take him all on together, having the strength in numbers and skills. Dartz was never the hands on type, so cornering the other to fight fist to fist, or gun to gun, in Yugi’s case, would be the most beneficial strategy for them.

“Looks like we’re close.” Atem noted, pulling Yugi back into his body. He glanced at the window on his cockpit displaying a map of their area.

The blimp of the location loomed in front of them on the map, their marker steadily approaching. The reality of how close they were to possibly finding Dartz and opposing him was heavy on Yugi’s mind, keeping his grip and expression grim. He was glad Atem was behind him, unable to see his face with Yugi’s driver seat blocking most of his small form and his entire front from view. He didn’t need to worry Atem anymore than he already was.

It wasn’t much longer before they saw the distance shape of a building forming on the horizon, standing in stark difference to the wavering yellow ground surrounding it.

As they grew closer, Yugi was able to make out a blurry shape, standing as tall as the compound it was in front of, metal plates shining in the harsh sunlight. Its parts were spread out wide, its stance one of battle.

“Is that…?” Atem said, leaning over his seat.

“Yep.” Yugi grunted, right as the mech fired at them.

Twin missiles launched from its arm compartments, shooting upwards to redirect towards them.

“Shit.” Yugi jerked back on his handles, the mech skidding to a rough stop in response. He immediately reset their direction, lunging to the side. The mech awkwardly moved to Yugi’s command, too bulky to really twirl flawlessly. Instead it lumbered on heavy feet, the cockpit bouncing them around.

Yugi’s head smacked against the back of his chair, and he heard Atem hit something behind him too.

Mutou, that’s Raphael’s mech!” Mahad’s voice came through the radio. “Be careful, we’re coming in behind you too!”

Shit, of course it would be, Yugi thought, flicking several switches on the dashboard. “I’m launching a counter attack, make sure you’re in tight Atem!”

He slammed a hand down on the fire button, and his mech chirped happily in response. An arm pivoted towards the enemy mech, shooting off a series of missiles of its own.

This forced the other mech to jolt into action, shooting regular bullets at the missiles to explode them before they collided. The mecha looked heavier than Yugi’s, more loaded with weapons and with thicker armour no doubt. It would mean movement would be slower, giving them the advantage of speed.

Yugi meanwhile had used this time to jump closer, the moment of distraction the perfect chance for a close strike.

The mech moved to intercept, firing from its small pistols, the tiny bullets pelting down on their armour.

Yugi was no idiot though, he knew the reason they were firing uselessly on him. He kept their distance apart short, not giving the other mech the chance to launch long range missile. He knew they ran the risk of a tiny bullet piercing somewhere vital at this close ranger, but there was a higher chance of a missile causing more damage if they pulled away, like the other wanted them too.

Damn it they’ve got us trapped, Yugi gritted his teeth. It wasn’t hopeless though, he had been in worse situations, and if there was one thing he knew, it was that there was always a way out.

And it came in the form of Anzu in her mech, crashing an arm into Raphael’s mech, throwing his aim off Yugi’s.

The radio crackled to light, and Yugi heard Anzu yelling down the line.

“We’ll handle this guy Yugi! If he’s guarding the base, Dartz is sure to be inside!”

“Roger! Don’t die Captain!”

“Only if you don’t, Mutou!”

Yugi cackled, letting his laughter reach through the line before he cut it.

He pulled the mecha back, allowing Anzu to step in with hers, butting heads with the bulkier mech.

Raphael tried to shift his attention to Yugi, who was creeping away on the outskirts of the fight, but Mahad chose that moment to charge in, stepping in front of Yugi’s mech.

“We’ll keep him busy.” Mahad said, and Yugi heard Mana shout encouragements in the back seat.

“It’s nice to have back up.” Atem noted.

“Reliable friends are always better than a stronger mech.” Yugi agreed.

With Anzu and Mahad keeping Raphael busy, Yugi was able to slip past in his smaller mech, dashing up to the entrance of the base.

“Ready for a showdown?” Yugi asked, turning to grin at Atem.

Atem gave him a worried expression back, nodding grimly. “Do take Captain Mazaki’s words seriously Yugi.”

“I will, it’s hard not to when I have my own personal reminder following me around.”

That managed a smile on Atem’s face as he crawled out of his seat. “I’ll say it as many times as it takes for it to sink in.”

“Never a dull day with you two is there?” Yugi playfully rolled his eyes.

“Add Mana in and you have triple the trouble.”

“I’ll never sleep again.” Yugi chuckled, jumping out of the mech.

Atem followed closely behind, and they ran into the building, guns nestled cocked and ready in their hands.

They made their way into the bowls of the compound, heading deeper and deeper, kicking open doors to empty rooms along the way. Atem exchanged an apprehensive look with him, and Yugi frowned. Where was Dartz? Was he leading them into a trap? It was possible, Yugi didn’t doubt it, but there was something off about how easily they were traversing the place. They hadn’t ran into any problems, no booby traps to test and wear them out.

It was almost like Dartz was inviting them inside, not at all concerned Yugi and Atem would have the advantage in numbers.

They stopped in front of a large set of double doors, metal bars drilled across the sides.

“Looks to lead outside.” Atem commented.

“Or to a garage.” Yugi replied. He pushed on the bars, and they doors parted, sliding inwards.

They opened onto a large warehouse, probably off to the side of the compound as an extension. It was similar to Yugi’s base’s hanger bay, smoothed over with cement and a cold dreariness to the expansive air reaching to the high ceiling, but there were no mechs in this place. 

But Yugi didn’t care for the details. He was too focused on staring down the man standing in the centre of the room, the heavy-duty lights above casting him in harsh brightness.

So glad you could make it.” Dartz narrowed his eyes, a playful smirk on his face.

Atem and Yugi strode up to the man, stopping some distance away to keep any sudden movements manageable.

“I take it you had some help finding me,” Dartz continued, seemingly ignoring Yugi’s expression. “After all, I doubt you would have known about this place on your own. Have some Armesian help did you?”

“I’m not here to listen to your shitty voice ramble on Dartz.”

Of course, of course. A final showdown is it? You verses me?” Dartz chuckled. “Then why did you bring it?” He pointed at Atem, and Yugi didn’t miss the hurt that flashed over Atem’s face.

It was quickly replaced with anger, however. “Your words mean nothing to me. You’re below me, the things you do are despicable.”

“And yet you deem me enough for a lecture.” Dartz chuckled. Atem flushed. Yugi knew he wasn’t used to Dartz’s verbal battles, and the man had a way of snaking his words around one to strangle them.

He stepped in front of Atem, sparing him the sneer of contempt on the other’s face.

“And here comes Yugi Mutou, the android’s knight in shining armour,” Dartz sighed. “Why do you even bother Mutou? We both know you don’t care about some android’s life, deep down inside you. You’re just doing this for pity points, trying to convince yourself that you’re not the demon everyone thought you to be in the past.”

“My past has nothing to do with this, and you’re in idiot for thinking it does,” Yugi shot back. “This isn’t about me, for you see, unlike yourself, I don’t think I’m the most important thing in the world.”

“Oh come now, I don’t think I’m the most important thing,” Dartz shook his head, disappointment evident in his expression. It quickly changed into a smirk as he continued. “I’m the most important person, you silly boy. I’m not a thing like that trash heap you keep behind you.”

“You said before you thought he was your greatest achievement,” Yugi cocked an eyebrow. “You’re quick to change your mind once he stopped giving a shit about you.”

“It never did, so why would I care? It’s just an android. They’re designed to fight and die by our command.”

“Atem is a person, and you’re a sick creep for treating him as less.” Yugi growled. He could tell Dartz was just firing him up, and he was ashamed to admit it was working. He had subconsciously gripped his gun tighter, his trigger finger pressed tightly to the side of the barrel.

He felt Atem’s fingers brush against his back, and he forced himself to relax. He knew Atem was sending him the silent message, and he focused on the other’s touch, letting it block out Dartz’s jibes.

“I’m done talking with you.” Yugi said, rising his gun.

“Oh? We’re already on to violence are we?” Dartz chuckled. It was an unsettling sound, no joy in it, only contempt. Yugi’s lips curled back in response.

He fired a bullet into Dartz’s chest, and it embedded itself there. Dartz jerked backwards in reflex, but his body stayed upright, and he showed no signs of being in pain.

“What the hell…?” Yugi narrowed his eyes, glaring at Dartz. “I just shot you point blank. You should be dead; that bullet went through your heart.”  

Dartz just smirked, pulling back his jacket and unbuttoning his shirt. Yugi went to shoot him again, but paused when he saw his first bullet lodged in Dartz’s chest, not even breaking the skin. There wasn’t even a trickle of blood, nothing to show damage. But… that should have gone through…

Dartz tapped his chest, and Yugi heard the clang of metal.

“You put… metal plates under your skin?” Yugi recoiled back in disgust. The thought alone was enough to make bile rise in his throat, the urge to throw up growing. “You continue to reach new lows, Dartz.”

“Why thank you. If your little toy had stuck around and been a good boy, I would have given him the same enhancement. But alas, you two decided to go against me. Your biggest mistake.” Dartz tutted, doing his shirt back up. “Now, we were in the middle of fighting, weren’t we?”

Yugi went to respond, but Dartz suddenly pulled out a gun from his pocket, aiming it straight at Yugi.

Yugi froze, cursing himself in his mind, but his body too sluggish to respond.

Atem gripped him roughly from behind, hauling him off to the side. Yugi yelped in protest, his shoulder connecting harshly with the ground.

He rolled away slightly, landing facing the others, just in time to see Atem dodge Dartz’s bullet. He had used the momentum from tossing Yugi to the side to duck under it himself, but they wouldn’t be lucky every time.

Yugi wriggled up into a sitting position, aiming his pistol at Dartz’s hand. He needed to get the gun out of Dartz’s grip; they wouldn’t be able to dodge every bullet at such close range, and it kept them at bay, meaning they only had their own guns, and they wouldn’t be able to hurt Dartz if that armour was all over. Yugi didn’t have enough bullets to test if he had implanted it everywhere.

Every move counted. He was grateful Atem also had his sword, meaning if he could get Atem in close range, he would be able to use it against Dartz.

I just have to give him the chance, Yugi said, taking careful aim. He knew Dartz was watching him from the corner of his eye, not distracted by Atem, but not willing to take his gun off the android, knowing Atem would shoot the moment he did. So maybe that armour isn’t everywhere, Yugi thought, smirking. Dartz’s attention then slipped to him for a split second, and Yugi made his move before Dartz had the chance to.

He shot at Dartz’s hand, and Dartz let out a yowl, dropping the gun to clutch his wounded arm tightly.

Yugi sprung from the floor, using the moment to return to Atem’s side. Atem meanwhile shot at Dartz’s leg, the clunk of the metal sounding out. So he’s got them there too, Yugi noted, seeing Atem nod in acknowledgment as well.

“You bastard.” Dartz growled, glowering at them. “You’ll pay for this Mutou.”

“Add it to the list, you creep.” Atem snapped, and Yugi laughed.

“You heard the man.” Yugi stepped forward, aiming again. He saw Atem draw his sword in the corner of his eye, taking a battle stance next to him.

 “You’re both going to die here.” Dartz said, drawing his own sword.

He lunged forward, and Atem rushed up to meet him in a clash of blades. Dartz kicked a boot into Atem’s gut immediately after, forcing the other to stumble back.

Yugi picked up Atem’s moment of weakness, drawing his dagger and driving it against the side of Dartz’s sword. It wouldn’t last long against a blade as thick as Dartz’s, but it would serve to keep it off him as he pointed his gun at Dartz’s face.

Dartz’s reaction was immediate, ducking down to slam the pommel of his sword into Yugi’s stomach. Damn that was fast, Yugi staggered, momentarily winded.

Luckily Atem was by his side to help, keeping Yugi upright with a light push, sword drawn in front of them to protect them both.

Yugi exchanged a look with him, and Atem nodded. He had seen it too; Dartz was fickle about his face, meaning his hands weren’t the only thing still completely human in him.

They charged again, together this time, both attacking Dartz at the same time.

They moved back to back, tossing and jumping around each other like they would die without the constant contact. They were in complete sync, no need for verbal communication, their light touches and movements enough for them to read off of each other.

Yugi kept Dartz moving with the occasional shot, while Atem would pivot around to slash with his sword. When Yugi needed to reload, Atem took over shooting, using Yugi’s other gun to keep Dartz at bay.

They had Dartz on the defence mostly, the combination of their dual efforts overpowering him, despite his robotic enhancements.

Reliable friends are always better than a powerful mech, Yugi mused to himself, exchanging a momentary glance with Atem. He could tell Atem was thinking the same from the shine in his eyes.

Dartz was getting frustrated with them, the smirk long since wiped off his face to be replaced by a constant scowl.

“You’re not going to win this, Mutou.” He taunted, but Yugi just scoffed.

“As long as you die, I don’t care, Ironheart.”

“You can kill me, but your little android will never be human again. You failed, Yugi Mutou. You-”

The gunshot rang out through the warehouse. Dartz’s eyes went wide, smoke puffing up from the hole in his head.

“You talk too much.” Yugi said, right as Dartz’s body hit the ground hard. “Rule number one of being a human; protect your brain, idiot.”

Yugi went to lower his gun, the threat of Dartz now gone, but he found his arm had frozen.

His hand was shaking, the cold metal of his gun biting into his palm. He pressed harder, not caring as his nerves cried out in pain. His mind was still locked in fighting mode, and he was struggling to let his body settle.

“Yugi.” His head jerked at his name, shooting a glare at Atem approaching him.

“Yugi.” Atem said again, arms raised in a gesture of peace. “It’s over. Dartz is dead. You can… lower the gun now.” He gave Yugi a soft smile.

Yugi could feel his breath leaving his body loudly, panting with his mouth open widely. He didn’t return the smile.

Instead he took a step back, keeping his gun stretched out in front of him. Atem evened the distance again, stepping forward.

“Don’t.” Yugi said in a low voice. Atem paused.

“Yugi, it’s just me. You know I can’t hurt you. I just want you to calm down, and drop the gun.”

“I can’t…” Yugi panted, shaking his head.

“Just listen to my voice, my words Yugi.” Yugi bit his lip, nodding.

“Our job here is done, you’re safe, I’m safe, we saved everyone. Dartz won’t hurt anyone any longer. We beat him. Go on; say it.”

“We beat him.” Yugi repeated, smoothing over the bruised section of his lips with his tongue. “We beat him.”

He closed his eyes, and Atem wrapped his arms around him. Yugi let out a choked sob, dropping his gun to fist his hands in Atem’s shirt.

“Shit, I’m sorry.” He whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Atem said, rubbing soothing patterns over Yugi’s back. “You don’t always have to be strong, Yugi. Everyone has a moment where they need a shoulder to lean on.”

“I’m supposed to be strong though.” Yugi rebutted weakly. “I’m a General. I almost let Dartz get the better of me.”

“You’re also a person, and you’re only human…” Atem sucked in his breath, and Yugi didn’t miss it. He held Atem tighter, pulling his head back.

“You’re a person too you know. Fuck what Dartz thinks.”

“But he was right,” Atem sighed, fingers still dancing over Yugi’s back. “I’m only part human. My free will means nothing compared to a true human’s.”

“’True human’ what is this bullshit terminology? Who taught you that? I sure didn’t.”

Atem opened his mouth to comment, but then thought better of it, gazing off to the side instead. “It’s true…” He said weakly.

“It’s only true if you allow yourself to believe it. I used to think I wasn’t much of a person until you tried your damn best to convince me otherwise,” Yugi snorted, electing a surprised look from Atem. “So I’m going to try my damn best to convince you you’re a ‘true’ person. Your heart is in the right place, Atem. You’re good.”

Yugi took Atem’s hands into his making sure Atem was watching him closely. “You’re good.” He repeated, squeezing them.

“Thank you…” Atem breathed, a heavy sigh escaping as well.

“No Atem, thank you.” Yugi smiled, stroking a finger over Atem’s knuckles.

“What happens now?” Atem asked quietly, eyes turning to Yugi. “What… what do I… do?”

Yugi picked his gun up from the ground, gently sliding it back into its holster, taking the other Atem offered him and returning that as well. “Nothing.” He answered finally.

“Nothing?”

“You don’t need to do anything. Just be yourself.”

Atem’s brows furrowed. “But… if I don’t fight… what… do I do?”

“Just be yourself.” Yugi repeated. He shoved his hands into his pockets, not wanting to see them shaking still. “That’s all you need.”

Atem seemed to see through his attempt, placing a gentle hand on his arm. “Let’s leave this place. We should go check on the others outside, in case they need our help.”

Yugi snorted, a smile breaking out over his face. “Please, Atem. Anzu alone would have been enough to ground that guy, but with your friends too? I have no doubt they don’t need us.”

“True, I suppose.” Atem chuckled. “But we should go anyway. Considering how it went down last time we encountered Dartz, I’d hate to have another fiery escape.”

“Ah yes, I’d rather not be blown up.” Yugi nodded in agreement.

They retraced their steps back through the compound, focusing on the path ahead, too busy to let conversation flow.

The doors were all still open from their storm in, and they slipped out easily, the sunlight greeting them brightly.

Yugi paused as Anzu and Mahad’s mechas sat outside the door. Off to the side, he could see the smoking remains of Raphael’s mech, and he didn’t need to ask what had happened, trusting Anzu had made the right choices.

“Is Dartz taken care of?” Anzu asked over the loud speaker.

“Yep.” Yugi yelled back. The mechs lowered, and Mahad and Anzu jumped out, racing up to him with Mana close behind.

“Is he… you know…?” Mahad said, gesturing for more.

“Bullet to the skull.” Yugi replied, patting one of his pistols.

“What happens now Yugi?” Anzu asked.

Everyone was staring at him expectantly, waiting for him to step up as the leader to make the decision. I’m done being the leader, Yugi mentally sighed. I don’t want to live like this anymore.

He gazed around the makeshift circle, taking in everyone’s expressions, grim yet determined. Dartz was gone, and now they had the heavy task of cleaning up the aftermath, and smoothing over efforts on both sides of the war. Maybe we can finally end this useless fight, Yugi wondered. He knew one thing for sure; his job here was done.

And so was Atem’s. He didn’t deserve to be caught up in this mess any more.

Yugi turned to Anzu, who raised her eyebrows in expectation. “Anzu, I have a favour to ask of you…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The new recruits were a loud bunch, constantly chattering and yelling at each other. They were young, reminding her a lot of Jou in his younger years, although Jou would deny he had gotten sloppy as time went on. It wasn’t like there was much to do these days anyway, what with the war over and their base reduced to a training camp in the desert.

Suddenly the newbies were bounding over to her, eyes wide and full of questions. She gave them an expectant smile, eyebrow raised.

“Yes recruits? What can I help you with?”

“What happened to the old General, General Mazaki?” One of them asked. “From the old war? That Mutou guy?”

Anzu chuckled, hands gravitating to her hips. “General Mutou had to quit about a year before the war ended. He was made redundant, got send off to a retirement home I believe.” Anzu stroked her chin, smiling at the confused looks she got in return.

“But wasn’t he one of the best soldiers? I remember hearing about this one battle…”

The recruits began excitedly chattering about, and Anzu took the chance to slip away.

She placed a tired hand to her face. No wonder Yugi had preferred his hand selected squad over training recruits. Granted, that had been a different time for the military, but it didn’t stop Anzu lamenting over how much easier it had been when the only wild thing that had happened at their base had been Jou’s curious experiments into Yusei’s tech.

At least, until Atem had arrived.

“Recruits giving you more trouble?” Ryou’s soft voice interrupted her. Anzu turned to see the man smiling at her, a pile of paperwork crammed into folders nestled between his hands.

“Somewhat.” She replied.

“Just pawn them off to Jou.” Ryou winked.

“I could.” Anzu looked thoughtful for a moment, considering it.

“What did they want anyway?”

“They were asking about Yugi.” Anzu said, and Ryou raised an eyebrow.

“That’s a new one, I’d think most people wouldn’t care, on the account of him disappearing before the end of the war.”

“It’s rather hard to shake off a title like that I guess.” Anzu shrugged, as if the action would do the same to hers.

“The General name is a strong one,” Ryou’s eyes shinned. “Isn’t that right, General Mazaki?”

“Please, when the kids aren’t around it’s Anzu. That’s an order.” Anzu sent him a mock glare, and Ryou smiled back.

“Someone’s got to keep you sane. That’s what you did for Yugi after all.”

“I did,” Anzu admitted with a laugh. “A harder job than with me, I’d say.”

“It is rather breezy for me.”

“You can handle anything Ryou. Why didn’t you aim for General rank?”

“I’m content with being a glorified secretary.” Ryou said.

Anzu just sighed, shaking her head. “I wonder how they’re doing out there.”

Ryou understood immediately, used to these conversations happening frequently.

“I’m sure they’re doing fine. They’re good for each other.”

“That’s true. It sucks not being able to see them often, but, this is what Yugi wanted.”

“It is.”

“I hope he’s at least relaxing out there. I’ll kick his ass if he doesn’t take retirement seriously.” Anzu huffed, and Ryou just laughed.

Miles away, in a small secluded valley, Yugi Mutou sneezed.

“Guess someone’s talking shit about me again.” He grimaced, wiping his nose. His attention shifted to his companion, tending to the garden as he always seemed to be.

“Hey Atem!” He called out, waiting for the other to look his way. “You going to take a break today or what!?”

“Just let me finish picking the last of these strawberries!” Atem shouted back, bending back down.

Yugi shook his head, lifting off the chair and trotting over to the other. He leaned against Atem’s back, humming.

“Those are some big strawberries.”

“It’s a good harvest this year.” Atem nodded, a satisfied look drifting over his face.

Yugi stood back, letting Atem finish up his work. He walked around their spacious garden, looking over all the herbs and vegetables Atem was nurturing.

When he has told Anzu he wanted to take Atem into the middle of nowhere to retire with a simple life, she had given him a disbelieving look. No one had expected it, and he himself hadn’t considered it an option until the time he said it. But it felt right, and he had been determined, knowing that it would help Atem grow more confident in his life. If Yugi had to live in isolation for him to achieve that, then that’s what Yugi would do.

And he had, for well over a year now.

He strolled back over to Atem, who had finished picking the strawberries into a small basket, waiting beside the patch for Yugi’s return.

“You feeling okay today?” Yugi asked, falling into their daily ritual.

“I’m fine.” Atem replied, head dipped. “The gardening really helps take my mind off it, and I haven’t ripped anything out in weeks.”

“The plants thank you for that.” Yugi chuckled, gently tugging the punnet out of Atem’s grip. “Shall we go wash some of these off for lunch?”

“I’d like that.” Atem nodded.

Yugi led the way inside the house, walking into the kitchen. He busied himself at the sink rinsing off the fruit while Atem took a seat at the table.

Washing the last off, Yugi placed them in a bowl on the table, plucking a few off for himself.

Atem was a little slower, taking one at a time, nibbling the edges. Yugi couldn’t deny how hungry he had gotten sitting outside in the hot sun, taking huge bites out of his own and finishing them much faster, grateful for the cool feeling of the fruit against his lips.

He stayed at the table, taking a seat across from Atem, waiting for the other to finish.

“Sorry.” Atem mumbled down into the strawberry in his hand.

“For what? Everyone eats at their own pace. Don’t rush, and enjoy them. You put a lot of care into raising them, and it’s not like anyone’s going to scold you for taking your time.”

“I… okay.” Atem nodded slowly.

“You sure you’re okay?” Yugi asked, frowning.

“Yeah,” Atem nodded, face scrunching up. “I just, think my system might be acting up again.”

“I can schedule a trip to see Yusei if you want.”

“No, I don’t think it’s life threatening.”

“Want me to take a look at it then? I promise I’ve been getting better.” Yugi joked, an attempt to lighten the mood. Atem sent a smile his way, acknowledging Yugi’s efforts.

“I appreciate the offer, Yugi, but I don’t think I need that kind of assistance.”

“Okay, sure,” Yugi nodded. “What can I do then?”

Atem tilted his head, gaze thoughtful. “Just being near is enough.” He said softly.

“I can do that.” Yugi reached across the table, taking Atem’s hands into his. He brushed a thumb over the knuckles slowly, Atem humming in response.

“Want to take the car for a spin? I’ll drive.” Yugi grinned. Atem raised an eyebrow, expression sceptical.

“You’re banned from vehicles mister.” Atem waggled a finger in his direction. Yugi ducked his head, laughing.

“True, but hey, I cheered you up anyway.” Yugi winked, and Atem’s eyes widened.

“I… guess you did.” He admitted.

“Come on, I’ll help you water all the plants.” Yugi said, pushing out of the chair.

“I can handle them alone, you know. There aren’t that many.” Atem reminded him gently, rising to follow.

“Yeah, but if I let you do all the work, then there’s nothing for me to do, and I’m tired of lying around. Either you let me water, or I’m taking the car.”

“Well as your caretaker, I suppose I had best indulge you in this then.” Atem said, all serious like.

“You are not my caretaker, quit making me sound so old!” Yugi laughed, pushing Atem lightly.

“Soon he might need a retirement village.” Atem continued, pretending to be deep in thought, finger on his chin. “We might need to say our farewells, old friend.”

“I will lock you in here and water those plants myself if you don’t leave me alone.” Yugi threatened.

“I’d find a way out easily.”

“I could board up all the windows.”

“You wouldn’t be fast enough, I’d already be out.”

“What if I knocked you out first?”

“You would be equally knocked out, our strength levels are quite similar.”

“You flatterer, we both know you have more muscle mass than me.” Yugi stuck his tongue out childishly.

“You’re quicker.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Here I am trying to compliment you and you refuse to accept them, what does it take to give you praise?” Atem shook his head in mock hurt.

“A lot of persisting usually. Call Anzu if you want some tips.” Yugi chuckled.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Atem nodded, smiling. “So the plants?”

“Oh, right, of course,” Yugi laughed, slinging an arm around Atem’s shoulder. “Let’s go water some thirsty plants!”

“Roger!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And that's the end! Thank you for reading! If you've read this all here, I'm probs still updating it on AO3 and it's not done there yet. Feel free to leave a comment telling me what u thought of the fic! Or hit me up on tumblr, url ashethehedgehog and tell me there, feedback is always rly nice to get.
Here is the AO3 version, if you would like to leave comments and/or kudos and the like over there! Thank you!

asheth: (Default)

“Fuck that guy, honestly.” Yugi growled, gripping Atem tighter. Atem squirmed in response, shifting his position on the chair. It was a one person seat, which forced Atem to half sit in Yugi’s lap to allow them space to somewhat move.

Atem didn’t seem to mind, leaning heavily on Yugi’s shoulder for support.

“I guess I’ll go ride with Anzu, since you two seem rather… arranged.” Mana coughed awkwardly into her hand, stopping the mech.

“Yeah, you do that.” Yugi grunted, sliding out of the seat to allow Atem the space. He gently wrapped the seatbelt harness around Atem’s body, offering a small smile in apology at how tight he had to pull it.

“It’s fine.” Atem said, his body sagging once Yugi was done. “I’m not moving anytime soon.”

“Once we get back to base, we’ll get Yusei to look you over, try and sort out this mess. Until then, please don’t stick your hand into any more electrical sockets.”

Atem flashed him a weak smile before closing his eyes, head lolling to the side.

Yugi left him alone after that, climbing into the pilot seat. He tossed the ear piece away back into the compartment, not needing it anymore. He took the handles into his hands, pushing the mecha back into a standing position.

“Anzu, you good over there?” He asked through the speaker, peering over to where Anzu’s mech was, also rising to its feet.

Just peachy,” she grunted back. “I’ve got Mana here now. We can head off when you’re ready.”

“Roger.” Yugi switched off the radio, setting off.

As the mecha bounced along, Yugi found he couldn’t get his hands to stop shaking. His heart was racing, adrenaline still stubbornly pumping through his system. The weight of the guns at his sides ever present and heavy on his mind.

He tried to light a cigarette, but his hand could barely hold the stick longer enough to raise it to his face. He fumbled with it, dropping it several times before he called it quits, swearing at it and turning back to the window.

The base soon came back into view, and Yugi radioed in, glad for the distraction. “Ryou, we’re back, can you open the hanger?” He asked. Static came back down the line, and he blinked in surprise.

“Ryou?”

A sudden loud noise caught Yugi’s attention, and the doors to the hanger bay were opening.

“A simple ‘roger’ suffices, you know.” Yugi muttered, rolling his eyes and switching off the radio. He had a few words to say with Ryou, considering they hadn’t met Jou and Honda coming for them at all, meaning Ryou hadn’t sent them out. It’s not like Ryou to ignore an order, especially given the circumstances. I wonder what is on his mind? Yugi thought.

He let the mech trot forward, slipping through the doors and inside. He was itching to get Yusei to check over Atem, not wanting to waste any time that could mess with Atem’s system. Instead he was greeted by a strange sight.

In the middle of the warehouse, tied together in a circle were Ryou, Honda, and Jou. Behind them was a mech with an unfamiliar design; one he had never seen before. He squinted his eyes, mouth open in disbelief.

A second later they widened in realisation, and he had just enough time to swear before something landed on the window of his cockpit.

He was suddenly staring down the barrel of a gun, a long metal cylinder that could only belong to a kind of rifle.

“Touch anything and you die,” a voice said. Yugi glanced upwards, taking in the figure holding the weapon.

It was a tall man, towering over the cockpit. Yugi was sure his long arms could reach the metal supporting the top of the window behind Yugi, he was that tall. Why is a man this tall using a rifle? And at such short distance too, must be inexperienced, Yugi mentally scoffed. If that was the case, then it would be easy for Yugi to worm his way out of this situation.

“Take your hands off the controls. Now.” The man said.

“What do you want?” Yugi asked, lifting his hands up in surrender. “Who are you?”

“You’re in no position to be asking questions, General Mutou.”

“But you know all about me by the sounds of it, and yet I don’t have a name to your face,” Yugi clicked his tongue. “Guess I’ll just call you rifle man for now.”

The man’s brows drew together in a scowl, his eyes drifting away from Yugi when they both heard Atem let out a sigh.

“Yugi… I need Yusei.” He moaned, one eye open to look around hesitantly.

The man’s eyes shot open wide, and his mouth gaped openly. “Atem…? You’re… alive?” He whispered, voice unsure.

Yugi raised an eyebrow. Well this is interesting. “How do you know Atem?”

Those eyes returned to him, and Yugi’s hair spiked at the look he was given. Oh that’s not good, Yugi inwardly cursed.  

Mahad! Stop don’t shoot him!” Mana’s shrill voice called out over the speaker of Anzu’s mech. It was enough to jerk the man’s attention away from putting a bullet in Yugi’s skull.

“Mana? Is that you?” He asked, eyes searching out Mana’s form in the cockpit.

“Yes it’s me, put your gun down!” She yelled back, just as Anzu opened the hatch, the windows lifting up to reveal them seated within. Mana to the rescue again, I really owe this girl today, Yugi noted.

“Are you a prisoner?” The man- Mahad- called out.

“No, we’re working together!” Mana said. At the confused look Mahad gave her, she rolled her eyes. “It’s complicated, but I can explain. Get your gun out of Yugi’s face and let’s all talk this out.”

Yugi snorted, and Mahad’s attention finally returned to him.

“Get off my mech, please.” Yugi gritted out, making a shooing motion with his hands. Mahad lowered his rifle with a grunt.

He finally removed himself from the cockpit window, jumping down to allow Yugi to park the mecha. He gently lifted Atem, helping him out the side, where Mana and Mahad were fluttering around.

Anzu had gone off to cut the others free, leaving Yugi alone with all the Armesians.

“Yugi…” Atem muttered weakly, his fingers digging into Yugi’s shoulder.

“I know, I know, we’re going now.”

“Please hurry, it hurts.”

Yugi turned back to Mahad and Mana, gaze serious. “Listen, I’m going to let you off the hook for now with just a stern finger waggling, but try anything, and I’ll shoot you in front of your friends.” Mahad shifted uncomfortably, but nodded his consent to the threat.

Atem however gave him a worried glance, and Yugi shot a look back that screamed ‘try me’.

“Yugi please don’t-”

“I’m not going to shoot him, it was just a threat to make sure he gets the message I won’t screw around.” Yugi sighed. Damn I give in to that face too easily, his gaze found Anzu’s, and from the look on hers, she seemed to be thinking the same thing. She cocked an eyebrow at him, motioning to Atem.

“I can handle things out here, you needed to see Yusei, remember?” She called out.

“Right, shit,” Yugi grunted. “Come on Atem, we need to give you check up.”

“Wait, where are you taking him?” Mahad stepped in, shooting Yugi a glance.

Mana jumped in before Yugi had a chance to snap back. “I’ll explain the situation to him, just go see Yusei.”

“Who is Yusei? You mean the android?”

“Yes. Him and his partner, my mechanic and doctor.” Yugi crossed his arms over his chest. “Where are they?”

“I locked the doctor and his android in their lab.” Mahad said in way of an explanation.

“Well let them out, I need Yusei to do his job, and he can’t do that if you’re holding him hostage.” Yugi growled, stomping over to the lab door.

“He was in your base, and he works for the Empire. I didn’t care for his job, just that he was restrained.” Mahad muttered behind him. Yugi promptly chose to ignore the soldier, jamming his override code into the keypad to open the door.

He was greeted with a worried looking Bruno holding a wrench.

“Oh, Yugi, you’re back.” Bruno said, lowering the tool. “And not dead.”

“Always a plus, I find.”

“So the guy who showed up…?”

“It’s taken care of.” Yugi waved his hand dismissingly.

“Oh. Do you need help burying the body?”

“What? No, I,” Yugi snorted. “I didn’t kill him, just convinced him to stand down. Anyway I’m sorry Bruno but I really need to see Yusei. He’s in right?”

“We’ve been trapped in here for a few hours, and yet he’s just been working away like nothing happened.” Bruno chuckled, turning around. “He’s in.”

Yugi followed Bruno, dragging Atem through the lab to where Yusei was behind his computer, as seemed to be the common whenever Yugi visited.

“The situation is clear?” Yusei asked, barely looking up.

“Yeah, it’s all good now. You’re as calm as ever, I see,” Yugi nodded in greeting. “I need you to take a look at Atem. I’ll fill you in, there’s quite a lot that’s happened recently.”

“Not a good trip then I suppose.” Yusei spoke, stepping away from the computer. “Let’s see the damage.”

Yugi led Atem over to the examination table, quickly running through everything Atem had been through, giving the mechanic as many details as he could.

Atem coughed weakly, eyes shut and face twisted in pain.

“I need a moment to check his brain.” Yusei muttered, gently guiding Atem’s limbs flat against the table. Atem gave Yugi a questioning look, and Yugi in return gave a reassuring smile.

“Yusei will look after you, and I’ll be right here, not going anywhere.” Yugi promised.

“Okay…” Atem relented, allowing Yusei to position him properly.

Yusei pressed some buttons on a nearby keyboard, and a blue circle of light appeared above Atem’s head. He closed his eyes, and the circle slowly moved up and down Atem’s head, resizing at intervals.

An image of Atem’s brain appeared on a nearby screen. Bruno was at the chair there, typing up something to go along with the results. Yusei muttered some terms to him, and the android quickly jotted them down in the program.

Once he was done, Yusei pulled the object away from Atem’s head, and the lights flicked back on.

“The modified emotion chip I put in last time is gone. Hs system has tried to jolt his brain back into his original programming,” Yusei said, turning towards Yugi. “I can put a new one in, it will take some time though.”

“Please do.” Yugi nodded, and Yusei went back to concentrating on Atem.

Yugi stayed in the lab while Yusei sedated Atem, slipping out only once Atem was asleep so he wouldn’t know Yugi had left.

Back in the hanger bay, Mana was still running through the recent events, bringing Mahad up to speed with them.

“He really did that? Kidnapped Atem and helped some creep rewrite him?” Mahad said in a hushed tone. His expression was horrified, and Yugi could tell he cared deeply for his friend. Atem really has some loyal friends here, he noted. It would be best for him to go back with them once we take care of Dartz.

Mahad chose that moment to look up, and his eyes locked with Yugi’s.

“Ah, General Mutou.” He said, having the grace to blush. “Mana has told me all you’ve done for Atem since he entered your care. I’d… like to apologise for my behaviour before. I was quite rude.”

“Given the situation, I’d say you were in the right,” Yugi shrugged. “I would have done the same as you, maybe even worse.”

“Still, I pride myself on being quite civil, but when I tracked Mana’s mech down and found she wasn’t there, I was beside myself.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot we left that behind.” Yugi snorted. Mana turned wide eyes to him.

“What do you mean you forgot? I thought you didn’t let me take it because you were worried I would try to escape!”

“Escape?” Mahad echoed.

“Well, I suppose I was worried you would try to radio in for help, still thinking I was kidnapping Atem or something,” Yugi said, “but in all honesty, I did forget about your mech. Sorry.”

Mana grumbled under her breath, crossing her arms angrily.

“It doesn’t matter right now anyway. We have more important things to worry about.”

“Like what?” Mahad asked.

“Getting back at Dartz.”

“The man who helped Raphael kidnap and hurt Atem?”

Yugi nodded. “That’s the guy.”

“Then count me in,” Mahad said. “He’s hurt my friend, and by the sounds of it, these two are traitors to both our factions. I believe a temporary truce to rid us of them would be beneficial.”

“Glad we’re on the same page.” Yugi held out his hand, and Mahad shook it.

Anzu was close by, smoothing things over with the others, but at Yugi’s glance she came over with the boys in tow, all looking at Yugi, waiting for him to give them the order.

“One things for sure, we’re going to track down that bastard and make him pay. I won’t rest until that happens.” Yugi swore, looking everyone in the eye one at a time to make sure they understood. He received a series of nods back in return, Jou going so far to shout in reply. Satisfied, he turned away, heading to his private quarters.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That night Yugi found himself on his balcony, leaning out to gaze over the rocky terrain. He couldn’t see much, but he wasn’t really looking, his eyes glazed as his mind travelled far away.

So much had happened, and in such a short period of time. Yugi was beginning to question if he would need a long vacation far away after this to clear his head. It felt like his restlessness was only getting worse with all this worry. And when will it end? Will it even end? Where was the point when this was no longer his concern?

Maybe I should consider retiring, Yugi hummed, tapping the balcony. Leaving the army and just have a boring day job. Or become a farmer, something far away from this all. The war won’t last much longer anyway. Soon enough it’ll die down, a treaty coming forth maybe.

The door to his quarters opened, and seconds later he heard the soft footfalls of someone approaching.

“Can’t sleep?” Atem’s soft voice asked. He perched himself next to Yugi on the balcony, head turned out to the landscape.

“Never can these days. At least, not well.”

“Nightmares?” Atem turned to him.

“Memories.”

Atem nodded, humming in acknowledgement.

“Why are you up this late? I thought you’d be with Mana and Mahad, catching up and what not.”

Atem squirmed, shifting his position somewhat restlessly. “I tried, and we did for some time, but… It felt awkward.”

“How so?”

“I just… can’t stop thinking about what happened.”

“Ah,” Yugi hummed. “Would you like to take about it?”

“…Yes.”

“All right. Tell me what’s on your mind Atem.”

“I just… What if… it could happen again?” Atem sighed, a quiet sound. “Dartz overrode my system so easily, he erased the side of me that is still human with the flick of his wrists. I don’t… I feel uneasy, that someone has such power over me like this.”

Yugi turned to the other, taking in Atem’s appearance. He looked dishevelled, hair sitting in wild clumps, stuck out everywhere, bangs curled behind his ears in an attempt to tame them. His eyelids drooped, despite the obvious intent to keep them up he exhibited. Looks like I’m not the only one unable to sleep, Yugi observed.

He moved closer, placing a hand over Atem’s. “It’s a possibility, I can’t lie,” Yugi started. “But you’re not alone. You have friends, and people who will help you. A part of you is still human, and that part of you fought back tooth and nail against Dartz’s programming. It’s the only reason you broke free long enough to help stop yourself.”

“My identity is worth nothing if it can be turned off at the mere flick of a switch.” Atem’s shoulders sagged. “I’m to spend the rest of my life like this, aren’t I?”

“Yes. I’m sorry.” Yugi whispered, his words genuine. “But, now that you’ve got most of your memory back, you can go home.”

Atem rounded on him. “What?”

“Mahad and Mana are here to take you back. So go back home, surround yourself with friends who will help you.” Yugi shrugged, trying to play it off.

“But I don’t want to leave, I mean… I don’t think I could. I’m supposed to be here for you.”

“You’re not a mindless soldier Atem. You don’t need to stay here.” Yugi said mildly.

“You don’t… need me anymore?” Atem looked crestfallen, biting his lip. “Why?”

“I’m not about to ship you off to a war you don’t need to fight, Atem,” Yugi sighed, hand slipping into his pocket for a cigarette. “You deserve to live peacefully for the rest of your life. You won’t find that peace here.”

“But… what will you do?”

“Keep going till I die, I suppose.” Yugi shrugged, flicking the lighter on.

“What do you fight for though? You are not loyal to the Empire.”

“There’s nothing left for me here, true. I’ll just carry on till I disappear.”

“There must be something for you. You deserve better.” Atem pressed, edging closer. Yugi glanced at the other, letting out a low sigh.

“It’s not that simple Atem… And besides, this isn’t about me, it’s about you. Don’t change the subject.”

“I don’t want to leave.” Atem said, gaze turning away. “If… If I was an obedient android again? Would you keep me around then? Would I be useful again?”

Yugi gave him a horrified look, almost choking on his cigarette. “What!? How could you think that?”

“You want to send me away, and I… I don’t want to be abandoned. Mana and Mahad are my friends, yes, and that country is my home, but… I don’t feel like I belong back there anymore.” Atem lowered his head. “I’m not exactly a human anymore.”

Yugi paused, staring down at the faint embers that burnt the edge of his cigarette. He brought it to his mouth, slowly taking a drag, leaving the exhale just as long.

“If you want to stay, I won’t stop you,” he finally said. “If you want to leave, I won’t stop you either. It’s your life, Atem. Do what makes you happy.”

Atem flashed him a smile, hand squeezing Yugi’s. “Thank you, Yugi.”

“I promise, Atem; I will never abandon you. You’re part of the team, and we stick together.” Yugi grinned, giving him a gentle muss of his hair. “Now get some sleep, you. We have a lot of brainstorming to do tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.” Atem said, and Yugi had to pause for a moment to work out if he was being serious. The grin Atem gave him back told him otherwise, and he let a chuckle escape his lips.

“Goodnight, Atem.”

“Goodnight Yugi.” Atem said softly, before he padded out of the room, leaving Yugi alone in the cool night air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yugi stared at each person sitting around the table. Anzu was to his left, Atem to his right. Mana and Mahad sat awkwardly together on Atem’s side, while Jou, Honda, and Ryou sat opposite.

“Everyone’s up to date with current affairs?” Yugi asked.

A round of nods answered him.

“Good. We need to work out where Dartz’s sorry ass is hiding. Any ideas?”

“Headquarters would be a good bet, but trying to storm in there would be near suicidal.” Anzu spoke up. Yugi nodded.

“That’s true. I wouldn’t put it past Dartz to go skulking back to Gozaburo now that he doesn’t have to worry about his base of operations being discovered.”

“You think he would go back though? It’s quite the risk, knowing that you have easy access into HQ.” Jou spoke, putting forth the argument.

“That’s true,” Yugi groaned, curling his fingers into his palms. “And all of his facilities and outposts have been uprooted or destroyed. I don’t know anywhere else he could be hiding.” He dragged a hand down his face, looking around the table.

No one met his face, eyes mainly focused on the table while everyone considered their options. We’re running out of leads to go off, Yugi silently cursed. What else is there to work with?

“Wait, you mentioned before that Raphael was involved in this, correct?” Mahad suddenly spoke up.

“He is working with Dartz, and from what Atem remembers, was the one who knocked him out and kidnapped him that night.” Yugi supplied, to which Atem nodded his agreement.

“What if Dartz went into our country to hide? He could have used Raphael’s connections as General to slip away from any trouble you could stir up in the Empire.”

Yugi paused, eyes stretching wide in surprise. The more he thought it over, the more Mahad’s words made sense. “That… could be true. Would there be anywhere Raphael would be likely to lead Dartz too? A hideout of some kind, or a remote base?”

“We have a few idle bases on the outskirts of our country, but  as for any that Raphael has shown an interest in, none come to mind.” Mahad stroked his chin, frowning and deep in thought.

“What about the routine patrols he went on? He always took at least two days to do them, and he never took camping gear.” Mana mentioned.

Mahad’s eyes widened, and he blinked. “Yeah, actually. There was a base along that route I believe.”

“What kind of base?” Yugi asked.

“Something to do with test firing or something I think.” Mahad kept his finger to his chin.

“Is it actively in use?”

“It’s not in my area of jurisdiction,” Mahad answered. “I’m pretty sure Raphael was in charge of it.”

“Sounds like it could be our place then.” Yugi grunted.

“I can bring up the location on a map.” Mahad offered.

“You sure you want to go to this place Yugi?” Anzu asked.

“We’re in the dark, and we don’t have many options left. If there’s a chance Dartz is hiding here, then we should take it.”

“Well all right then,” Anzu nodded.

“We’re behind you all the way Mutou!” Jou gave him a thumbs up, and a chorus of agreements rang out.

“If there is a chance we’re wrong, I don’t want to risk our place of action being destroyed,” Yugi said, gaze shifting over his subordinates. “Jou, Honda, Ryou, you three stay here and man the base while we’re out. Ryou’s in charge.”

“Naturally.” Ryou smiled, nodding his acknowledgement.

“Aw man, no action?” Honda whined. Jou fake cried, and Yugi just rolled his eyes.

“If Dartz attacks our base, you’ll have all the action you want boys.”

“This is true.” Honda nodded, exchanging grins with Jou. Yugi meanwhile turned to the others, determination glimmering in his eyes.

“The rest of you, pack your bags and polish up the mechs. We leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

asheth: (Default)

Atem pulled on his restraints, tugging and snapping at the leather, but it refused to budge. It was high quality material, he could tell, not the kind just any wannabe kidnapper would have.

I’m dealing with someone who knows what they’re doing here, Atem frowned, a snarl twisting his face as he once again uselessly tried to move his arms. But what do they want me for?

He winced, the mechanical part of his mind pushing against his thoughts, an ever-present threat in his current mindset. He forced himself to calm down, letting his mind go blank, and the coding streaming through his head lessened.

A door opened in the distance, and he paused his motions, eyes flickering over to watch a man walk in. As they stepped into what little light there was for Atem to see with, he swore the man looked familiar.

“You’re… from Headquarters.” Atem narrowed his eyes, wracking his brain for the name. This guy was a creep, and Yugi didn’t like him… Another general, what was it…

“You’re Dartz Ironheart,” Atem realised. “The creep.”

Dartz shot him a dark look before it melted into a smirk. “I see General Mutou speaks highly of me.”

“No that was my own assumption.” Atem shot back. “Although, Yugi also thinks you’re a creep.”

“Yugi? My my, Mutou really does have a weak spot for you. No one ever calls him Yugi anymore.”

“Anzu does.” Atem said. He mentally winced, his head throbbing. The chips in his brain protested at how casual he mentioned the captain and general’s names, but he pushed back against it. It felt right not to speak in titles, like he was shedding a weight he didn’t realise he had.

“I’m not talking about his squad, I’m talking about… outsiders,” Dartz’s voice brought him back, their eyes locking. “Because he once punched a guy square in the face for calling him Yugi. Only knew the guy for one mission or so, not very long. Kind of reminds me of someone…”

“What do you want with me?” Atem asked, ignoring Dartz’s jibe.

“Now that’s a good question.” Dartz purred, sliding up to his side. He bent his neck down, sneering. “What do I want with you, little soldier?” He stroked a hand up Atem’s thigh, and Atem wished nothing more at that moment than to kick Dartz’s face in.

“Don’t touch me, you fucker.” Atem growled, trying in vain to jerk his body away. Dartz’s touch was cold, even through the fabric of his pants.

“Such language,” Dartz said, voice full of mock hurt. “Aren’t you supposed to be a good little android, only chirping when someone tells you to?”

“I’m a human, not an android.”

“You used to be human, but you can’t say the same now. Humans don’t have chips in their brain, and metal in their eyes.” Dartz reached out to poke them, and Atem squeezed his eyes shut, hissing at the cold, clammy finger that touched his eyelid.

“So you can’t really classify as human anymore, sorry.” Dartz shrugged, an evil smirk on his face.

“Yugi will stop you.” Atem said, jerking his head up as far as he could manage, glaring daggers at the man. “He’ll come.”

“Oh believe me,” Dartz said, his eyes flashing. “I’m counting on it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What do you mean you don’t know what to do?” Mana was up in his face, eyes blazing in anger. “Get back out there and go find him! Or give me your mech and I’ll do it, since you’re so scared!”

Yugi ignored her, turning to Anzu instead. “Can we get scans of the area? We need to work out the best direction to take.”

“We haven’t used drone probes in ages Yugi,” Anzu pointed out. “The data would be old, and we would need to update them, if you wanted to send them out now. That’s a lot of time to waste.”

“We have no way to survey the sky then?” Yugi allowed his shoulders to sag, avoiding eye contact with them both. “Can we even do anything except blindly patrol around?”

“Actually I can help with that.” A voice muttered close by. They all turned around to see Yusei standing there, watching them closely, Bruno by his side.

“How so?” Yugi recovered first, giving Yusei his full attention. Yusei held up a chip of some kind, passing it to Yugi.

Yugi took it, examining it over in his hand. He wasn’t an expert, nor that knowledgeable in computer affairs, so he waited until Yusei would explain.

“I put one of those in Atem,” Yusei said. “It’s a tracking device. You can find him with it.”

“Does Atem know you did this?” Yugi asked.

“He suggested it,” Yusei shrugged. “Put that chip in your mech and it will bring up Atem’s location on your map.” With that said, Yusei walked away, clearly having no further input.

“Is he always like that?” Mana asked, eyes blinking owlishly.

“You get used to it, we’re all misfits here.” Anzu winked, waggling her brows at Yugi. Yugi just rolled his right back, shaking his head.

“We have our direction now, so I’m heading off.”

“I’ll come back out with you. Two machines are better than none, right?” Anzu smiled, and Yugi gave her a grateful smile.

“Let’s get the mechs ready.”

“Hey! What about me?” Mana pipped up, jumping to get his attention.

“Since you will refuse to stay behind-”

“One hundred per cent not happening.”

“-Then you can ride with me. Just don’t be annoying.” Yugi said, earning a pouty frown from the other.

“I happen to have soldier training too you know, I can handle myself just fine.” She crossed her arms in a fit.

“Sure, sure.” Yugi said, only half paying attention. He strode over to his mech, climbing up into the cockpit and driver’s seat. He busied himself with the start-up ritual, waiting for Mana to follow.

She climbed in behind him, buckling herself in while Yugi turned the engine on. The mecha purred as if in greeting, metal sections jolting to life.

They shot out of the hanger bay, and Yugi couldn’t resist pushing his mech’s leg out just that little bit to kick the vehicle Raphael had arrived in and promptly ditched. He chuckled as it hit a boulder, a reassuring smack ringing out and putting a dent in the bonnet.

The bright light of day once again greeted him outside, heat wavering over the rock and sand in brilliant shades of red and yellow. Things didn’t look so grim this time though, and Yugi was determined.

He put the chip in the dashboard, and the console beamed in excitement, lights flashing as it read the device. Suddenly a screen flared to life on the cockpit window, and Yugi recognised it as the map of their area. A blue dot marked their position, and quite a distance away on the edge of the map was a flashing red dot.

“That would be our destination.” Yugi muttered, pushing the mecha forward.

Anzu fell into step beside him with her mecha, but hung back just a little, enough to let Yugi lead with the co-ordinates.

The map led them out of the area, into more rock and canyon land. The cliffs rose high and higher yet the deeper they travelled. The path around them was still dusty with scraps of sand fluttering over the surface, and they couldn’t deny the potential of hidden areas in amongst the rock that could fit a mech.

Yugi began to take notice of the way certain sections of the rock had gouges in them, almost as if something had nicked itself against the walls and stones that sat in the path.

Yugi hummed to himself, flicking the microphone on.

“Hey Anzu, there’s something resembling a trail here,” Yugi pointed out, eyes narrowing. “Seems oddly convenient to be a slip up, although it would like us to think it is.”

Oh, you’re right, this doesn’t look good. What do you want to do Yugi?” Anzu asked.

“We don’t really have the time to do a thorough search. If the enemy is leaving us a trail, I’d say they want us to follow them.”

Walk into the lion’s den?” Anzu sounded smug.

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” Yugi chuckled. “And besides, I don’t like taking too long. Let’s follow it and see what we get.”

Roger Mutou.” The line cut off, and they both pushed their mechs forward.

“Do you really think this is the right way?” Mana asked, doubtful.

“If you’re going to keep second guessing me, you can ride with Anzu.”

“Anzu doesn’t need help; she’s got a level head.” Mana replied smugly.

“You barely know her.”

“More so than you apparently.”

Yugi shot a glare behind to her, making a noise under his breath. “We don’t have time to argue. And we also don’t have any real leads. This is the best we’ve got.”

“What if it is a trap? You said you lost the trail before,” Mana pointed out. “This new one suddenly making the driver seem sloppy is a little suspicious you have to admit.”

“I do find it suspicious, but what choice do we have?” Yugi sighed. “Each hour that passes by is more time we don’t know what is happening to Atem. It… worries me, not knowing.”

“You know you keep refusing to tell me why you’re putting so much effort into this.” Mana pushed against his chair, her voice close to his ear. “Why do you want to save Atem so badly and help him?”

“Well he is under my care.”

“So you’re just going to get your soldier back? That’s it?”

“It’s not really important,” Yugi argued. “We should be focusing on what’s waiting for us when we get there, not this.”

“Fine,” Mana replied sullenly. “What are you going to do when you get there then?”

“Rescue Atem.”

“And if he doesn’t want to be saved?”

“What are you talking about?” Yugi spun around, pinning Mana with a frustrated frown. “He was kidnapped.”

“Maybe Raphael did it because he didn’t trust Atem with you, a general of the Domino Empire.” Mana stressed.

“Do you believe that? Atem seemed adamant in fighting Raphael, and I never gave him the command to do anything.”

“I think Raphael’s a traitor and he’s going to get what’s coming to him. But I’m trying to prove a point to you, and you’re too thick headed to get it.”

“Listen here, I-”

Yugi?” Anzu’s voice cut through the static, making Yugi pause at the start of his rant.

Yugi flicked the mic on. “Yeah?”

We’re heading deeper into Empire territory.”

Yugi gritted his teeth, hands pulling impossibly tighter over the handles. “I know.”

This isn’t looking good. I’m going to radio Ryou and make sure he has Jou and Honda on standby.”

“No get him to send them both out instead. If we end up walking into a huge ambush, I’d rather have back up already on the way.”

Roger.”

Yugi turned the mic off, throwing a glance over his shoulder at Mana. “And that’s enough out of you for now. Let me focus on driving.”

Mana shot him a cool look, but sat back in her chair, arms crossed to clearly announce her distaste.

Yugi promptly ignored her after that, his attention shifting solely onto the ground beneath them and the path ahead.

The ground began to dip slightly in places, curving down into canyons and perhaps valleys beyond. If they were heading in the direction Yugi thought they were, then the landscape would become littered with more and more cliffs the further they travelled.

Soon they were corralled into a wedge in the rock, the large stone like structures rising upwards while the smoother surface of the ground dipped down. They were still able to walk the mechas side by side in the canyon, but now they had to keep an eye skyward, to check no one was planning an ambush above.

The rock seemed to twist around in a horseshoe-like shape, hiding the path ahead from immediate view. Never a good sign, Yugi thought sullenly. He flipped one of the switches for the mecha’s turret, keeping it open and read to go should they run into trouble.

Following the path the canyon was forcing them along, Yugi was shocked to see a building come into view, nestled in the corner of what seemed to be the natural end of the ravine.

“Why is there…” Yugi muttered under his breath, eyebrows scrunching together. No records, no evidence there was a base out here, nothing to indicate people were populating the area… this is supposed to be off limits… That’s why I’m based here! Because it’s an empty section of the desert!

Gozaburo either knows very well that there are all these bases not marked on our maps that he never disclosed to me, or someone is going behind his back and doing something under the table. Which means whatever it is, isn’t good.

“Anzu,” Yugi turned the mic back on, “are you seeing this?”

“Yeah. That’s not on any records is it?”

“No. No it’s not.” Yugi let out a sigh, his finger sliding off the mic. His grip returned to the handles, tilting them back to slow the mecha down.

“Mana, listen-”

“Here it comes.” Mana rolled her eyes.

“Don’t interrupt me,” Yugi scolded. “I want you to stay here in my mech. Leave it running and keep an eye out for any disturbances while Anzu and I investigate inside.”

“Oh no, you’re not ditching me like that. Atem is my friend, and I’m going to save him too.”

“And if someone like Raphael scoops you up and uses you as leverage?”

“Then what would you care? You don’t like me, plus you’ve even threatened to kill me yourself!” Mana pointed out, jabbing a finger at him.

“Well that’s true,” Yugi admitted. “But I would have never gone through with it, you were just pressing my buttons. As much as we may disagree about each other’s methods, we have one thing in common.”

“Do tell me, so I can then bleach it from my mind.” Mana gave a huff.

“We both want to save Atem.” Yugi replied, unable to keep himself from sounding just a little smug, especially at the way Mana’s face fell.

She froze, her expression dropping in what Yugi thought was shame. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. He’s my best friend, and he’s suffered so much already…”

Yugi paused. Mana looked like she was about to cry, and he didn’t want to have to awkwardly console her with some kind of fake promise, knowing he couldn’t offer real comfort.

“Look,” he said. “I care about Atem, I really do. I know I have a job to do, and I know technically we’re on other sides of the war, but I don’t approve of what happened to him, and if giving him back to the other side will make it easier for him, then I’ll do it. But for now, he’s in danger, and our best bet is for Anzu and I to go in and try to find him and get him out. But we’ll need an easy way out, and that’s why I need you here. I’m not trying to keep you away from the action or anything, but I need someone on the outside. Will you do it?”

Mana looked up at him, her eyes blazing with determination. “Fine, I’ll stay. But you have to take something to keep in contact with me.”

“Done.” Yugi reached over, popping open a compartment that held two ear pieces. He handed one to Mana, looping the other around his ear so the small microphone section rested at the start of his ear canal. “We’ll be back with Atem before you know it.”

“You’d better.” Mana said, her voice repeating through the ear piece.

Yugi jumped over the side of his mech, landing close to where Anzu was already waiting for him.

“Keeping her behind?” She asked.

“We might need a quick get away, and with easy access to the mecha’s radio she can relay information directly to me.” Yugi tapped the electric device in his ear, drawing Anzu’s attention to it.

“Oh that’s clever.” She winked, pulling out a gun from her pocket. “Shall we head in?”

He pulled out his pistols, flickering the safety off. “Be prepared for anything.”

“Don’t go trigger happy with those.” Anzu responded. Yugi just grunted, avoiding the conversation and entering the building.

There was a small hallway with little detail at the entrance; in fact, the walls themselves held nothing, no ornaments or picture frames, not even the inkling of a security system, the edges where the walls met the roof where devoid of any cameras.

Not the best way to protect your front door, Yugi thought, stepping to the side a little to proceed down the hall.

He took in the walls as they went; an off grey colour, like they had been sparkling and white at one point, but had faded through the years from lack of care.

“This is giving me major déjà vu.” Yugi grunted, pulling away from the edges into the centre of the hallway.

“You think you’ve been here before?” Anzu walked up to him, eyeing the peeling paint with open disgust.

“Not here, but somewhere similar.” He stopped by a doorway, handing Anzu one of his guns for a moment to allow him to jiggle the handle. It opened easily, and he exchanged a look with Anzu. She pressed the gun back into his hand.

He shouldered the door open, guns immediately pointing inwards as his eyes quickly took in the new environment.

They realised the room was empty, nothing moving or reacting to their presence. Yugi didn’t let his guard nor his guns down as he went further in, checking in all the corners for any chance of somewhere to hide. It was just a long room however, the walls lined with different sized cupboards and benches.

Scattered all over and even in the cupboards were stacks of equipment, clipboards and folders full of printed results, medical and electrical gear wedged between the binders.

“What is all this?” Anzu asked, poking her head inside a cupboard, only to come back out holding a clear package of syringes. “A hospital?”

Suddenly it clicked, and Yugi sucked in his breath. “Not a hospital… but a facility… a compound, for doing illegal things.”

“Why is this here? Didn’t you say you destroyed the base where they, uh, ‘changed’ Atem?” Anzu said, fumbling for words.

“I did.”

Could this be another one?” Mana’s voice drifted into his ear. Yugi’s heart sank at the words. Another one. If this building was the same as the last, then heading further into the compound might prove to give them some shocking results.

“Let’s try another room.” Yugi suggested. They returned to the hallway, moving further down and away from the entrance.

They passed another door, opening it as easily as the first. Inside was a similar set up, except half the room had tables with computers on them. Yugi ignored them for now, instead focusing on anything that would provide easy details to what was going on here.

“Any sign of struggles? Atem must have woken up at some time.” Yugi said.

“Nothing here.” Anzu reported, throwing him a shrug.

“Any movement outside Mana?” Yugi asked into his ear piece.

Nothing here on my end.” Mana reported.

As they walked deeper into the lab, Yugi couldn’t shake of the feeling of dread that had nestled deep inside him. Something was wrong, he knew that much, but his gut refused to point in any one direction, leaving him floundering around in the dark.

They came upon another room, this one larger than the previous ones. On the far side, Yugi could see a table of some kind, benches littered with equipment. He could only make out vague shapes until he got closer, the light above him weak and flickering.

Leather straps hung off the corners of the table, and the benches were covered in a combination of what looked to be medical and mechanical equipment. Yugi turned over one of the straps, finding red splatters stained into the material. They still looked red, like they were fresh.

“Someone likes machines and medicine?” Anzu offered, exchanging a wary look with Yugi.

“That’s never a good combination, not when you need restraints.” Yugi flailed the strap around, and Anzu swore when she saw them.

“Do you think this is…?”

“The work of Dartz?” Yugi scoffed. “I’m suspecting as much. That man has a lot to answer for.”

“What has he been doing out here though? I thought the facility you destroyed was the main base of his operations.”

“This place is in disrepair, which only leads me to believe he’s working under the law here. There’s enough evidence here for me to present it for treason.” Yugi frowned, picking up a clipboard. The numbers and stats on it were useless to him, but in the hands of an expert, they would provide an overwhelming case against Dartz he was sure.

“But we still need to find-”

A sudden noise behind them jolted Yugi out of his position. Both he and Anzu were of the same mind, jumping up and spinning around, guns pointing at the disturbance. Yugi immediately went to lower his at the sight that greeted him though.

“What… Atem!” Yugi rushed forward, only to pause. Atem was staring at the ground, not even acknowledging Yugi’s presence.

“Atem, answer me.” Yugi tried, putting weight behind his words. Again, Atem didn’t respond. Yugi began to back away, returning to Anzu’s side.

“Anzu…” He said in a warning tone.

“There’s something wrong, I know.” She still had her guns raised.

“He’s not reacting… what if-”

“Ah Yugi, so glad you could make it.” Dartz suddenly appeared behind Atem, his arm slinging around Atem’s shoulder.

Yugi was immediately more on edge, one gun coming up to point at Atem while the other shifted upwards to Dartz’s face.

“What have you done Ironheart?” Yugi snarled.

“Straight the point, no finesse as always Mutou. Although,” Dartz paused, a wicked smile creeping up his face. “That’s not the name our dear android here was screaming just before.”

“Enough of your shit Dartz,” Yugi said, stepping closer. “Tell me what you did to him or I shoot.”

“’him?’ Oh dear, you really are quite attached.” Dartz chuckled, leaning down to graze a hand over Atem’s chin. “But if you shot me, you might hit your precious little android.”

“He’ll live. You won’t. Don’t test my aiming skills.”

“Yes I heard all about them from Raphael. How you really tried your best to help Atem fight him.”

Yugi clenched his fists tighter around his guns, gritting his teeth in an attempt to keep his head cool.

“So it left me wondering, you know,” Dartz continued, hand shifting to pat Atem’s head. “Who would win in a fight between you two? I mean, I heard about your victory from the Commander, but it seemed like you weren’t allowing the android to his full potential. So I thought, why don’t we fix that? So, and I hope you don’t mind, I went ahead and did some remodelling around in his head, get him in the right mindset for a good old fight, you know?”

“You led me here just so you could pit us against each other,” Yugi growled, eyes narrowing. “You’re a sick bastard Dartz.”

“Guilty.” Dartz shrugged, smiling. “As much as I’d love to stick around and watch you hack each other to pieces, I’m off to do bigger and better things! Have fun you two!”

He turned away, heading out of the door, but paused at the entryway, flashing Yugi a wide smirk. “Atem, attack.” He said before slipping off.

Yugi didn’t have the chance to chase him, as Atem suddenly snapped to life, head jerking up and arm raising. Yugi realised a second later that he had a gun, swore, and dove to the ground.

“Get down!” He yelled, hoping his voice would reach Anzu before the gun shot.

He heard the bang, but not much else, his mind already slipping into battle mode.

His hands shot forward again, zeroing in on Atem. The android was too fast, however, already closing the distance between them, gun discarded behind in favour of his sword, raised and ready to slice at Yugi.

Yugi rolled on his side away, repositioning himself behind Atem. He needed a plan; using his guns on Atem wouldn’t do either of them any good. He didn’t have the means to remove bullets from wounds, and he didn’t want to risk sending Atem into shock, wherever his mind was right now. It was still in there, Yugi knew as much, but coaxing it out would be the hard part.

Damn it Dartz sure backed us into a corner here, Yugi gritted his teeth in determination.

He hopped backwards, eyes keeping a close eye on Atem’s deadly sword. He mentally cursed himself for ordering such a fine blade.

Atem jabbed the blade forward, the tip sailing just past Yugi’s cheek. Yugi twisted to the side, batting it back towards Atem with a pistol.

He shot at the ground with his other gun, the bullet ricocheting off the floor between Atem’s feet, bouncing off into something somewhere behind them. The android didn’t even budge from the attack, inside lunging forward again to swipe at Yugi.

“Damn it.” Yugi threw his body backwards, landing on his back from the impossible angle, but still managing to avoid Atem’s strike. It left him sprawled out on the ground, vulnerable to attack and they both knew it.

Yugi sucked in his breath, rocking his hips upwards, positioning his feet curled close to his chest. Then he sprung them forward, connecting his boots with Atem’s stomach.

Atem stumbled back, losing his footing and toppling to the ground in front of Yugi.

Yugi scrambled quickly to his feet, pouncing forward to land on top of Atem before the other could recover.

They both grunted on the impact, Yugi straddling Atem’s legs to keep them in place, sitting on his stomach.

“God damn it Atem snap out of it! You’re stronger than this!” Yugi growled, connecting the butt of the gun to Atem’s cheek. Atem’s head snapped to the side, but he didn’t show any signs of pain, head slowly moving back to its original position.

“Fuck this.” Yugi grabbed Atem’s shirt, pulling him up only to slam him back down, cracking Atem’s head against the tiled floor.

“Yugi! Don’t kill the guy!” Anzu shouted.

“If he doesn’t snap out of it, then I have to knock him out!” Yugi shouted back.

“How can he snap out of it when it’s in his programming!?”

Yugi grunted, shaking Atem up as he tried to struggle again, forcing his head close to his own.

“Atem, I am your commanding officer, and I order you to stand down.” Yugi said, gauging the reaction. Atem stared blankly up at him, arms struggling.

Suddenly he bucked upwards, sending Yugi toppling backwards in a moment of weakness. Yugi quickly adjusted himself, scrambling to be upright.

Atem was coming at him again, sword posed by his side. Shit, Yugi ducked backwards, bringing his guns up as a defence.

Atem’s sword curved upwards in an arc, and Yugi grunted as he felt its impact. No immediate pain surfaced, and he craned his neck to the side, frowning.

Atem retreated his sword, giving Yugi a clear view of the damage. There was a deep gouge down the side of one of his pistols, the metal cut and broken, a piece falling to the floor where it had been cut off.

“My… gun…” Yugi stared down at the slice marring his otherwise perfect weapons. The trigger was completely destroyed, and he had been lucky Atem’s blade had missed his index finger by centimetres.

Yugi barely registered that though, too focused in on the damage to his perfect weapon, the extension of his arm that fitted oh so perfectly in his grip. Ruined.

Yugi saw red.

He slammed the side of the handle into Atem’s sword arm, just as Atem reacted with a punch of his own. Yugi barely felt it connect with his shoulder, too focused on doing damage to worry about any against him.

Atem grunted, his face scrunching up in reaction to Yugi’s hard blow. He didn’t drop his sword however, clutching it tighter and bring it forward for another jab. Yugi easily dodged to the side, bashing the butt of the gun against where he knew the nerves in Atem's wrist were.

Finally Atem dropped his sword, the metal clanging loudly against the harsh tile floor as his wrist gave out, his human weaknesses still present despite the modifications.

“Snap out of it Atem, or so help me I won’t be able to stop myself.” Yugi said through gritted teeth. He slapped Atem on the cheek, forcing the other to stumble backwards at the impact.

And then Atem paused. He shook his head, eyes still glazed over, but brows beginning to furrow. Yugi forced himself to stop, clenching his fists at his sides in an attempt to settle them.

He walked up to Atem, gripping his shirt in a fist. Atem made no move to stop him, staring at him with blank eyes.

“You said I was your friend,” Yugi spoke, pulling Atem closer. “So as your friend, it’s my job to stop you doing stupid things.” He slapped the side of a pistol against Atem’s face, none too gently.

“So stop doing stupid things.” Yugi repeated. Atem finally seemed to react, a hand coming up to touch the area Yugi had struck.

“Yu…gi…” Atem choked out, shaking his head wildly.

“Come back to us Atem. Fight it.”

“I… can’t…” Atem stumbled back, Yugi losing his grip on Atem’s shirt. “Error two one ni-” Atem began mumbling nonsense under his breath, speaking so fast Yugi couldn’t begin to understand it.

Suddenly he jerked his head up, eyes locking with Yugi’s for a moment. He turned around, running to the edge of the room, shoving his hand forward.

He began to scream, and Yugi leaped into action, racing to his side.

“Atem? What the hell?” Yugi reeled back, watching Atem stick his fingers into an electrical socket. The power must have been very active, sparks bursting forth from the holes.

He was electrocuting himself, Yugi realised, eyes wide in shock.

Atem had his teeth gritted, a muffled cry escaping through despite his efforts.

“What are you doing!?” Yugi reached forward to pull Atem away, but Atem shook his head violently.

He couldn’t form words however, a scream letting loose as soon as he opened his mouth.

And then he collapsed to the ground.

Yugi wasted no time, jumping forward to straddle Atem’s waist. “Anzu, the leather straps!” He yelled behind him. He heard a vague acknowledgement, and moments later she pushed them into Yugi’s awaiting hand.

Atem was still twitching, mouth open in a long groan. He didn’t seem to notice Yugi, and Yugi used this to his advantage, stretching out Atem’s hands over his head. He winced at the bruises he saw there, red and raw, as if from tugging too hard on something. Sorry to use these again Atem. He wrapped the leather around them, making sure to pull them tight, looping the ends together in a knot.

“I’ve got his legs.” Anzu said, voice close by. Yugi turned his upper body around to see Anzu by Atem’s feet, slipping another leather strap around the ankles.

Yu… gi.” Atem groaned, eyes squeezing shut in obvious pain.

“Take it easy, no sudden movements.” Yugi said softly, slowly sliding the sword away from Atem’s hands.

“I feel the overwhelming urge to kill you running on repeat in my mind.” Atem muttered, fingers sliding against the tiles above his head.

“I understand I can be a pain sometimes, but if you could resist with the killing, I’d greatly appreciate it.” Yugi chuckled, tightening the leather on Atem’s arms.

“Why am I restrained?” Atem asked, worry in his voice. “Did something happen?”

“Put those things you just said back through your mind, then try again.” Yugi said gently. Atem frowned, pursing his lips. Then his eyes widened, and he looked up at Yugi, concern threatening to spike tears in his eyes.

“I remember having a conversation with Dartz, but everything before the need to fight is fuzzy. I’m having trouble remembering much… I’m assuming Dartz… rewrote my programming?”

Yugi bit his lip, nodding. Atem lowered his eyes.

“I see.”

“You’ll be okay now, you’re back with us, and I won’t let Dartz touch you ever again.” Yugi swore, reaching out to squeeze one of Atem’s bound hands awkwardly, mindful of the bruises.

Atem just nodded, staring at the roof.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay till we get back to base?” Yugi asked, propping him up into a sitting position.

“I’ll try,” Atem nodded grimly. “Best to keep me tied up, I suppose.”

“Yeah, sorry. I promise we’ll fix you up soon Atem.” Yugi patted his shoulder, offering a small smile. He stood up, face morphing into a glower.

“Now where is that bastard.” He growled, searching around the room.

“He’s gone.” Anzu said, walking up to his side, finally putting her gun away. “The coward didn’t want to stick around and deal with any trouble, I’d say.”

Yugi, do you have Atem?” Mana’s voice suddenly cut through, loud enough he was sure Anzu could hear. He winced at the intensity of it in his ear. “We need to leave, Dartz set a fuse!

“A what?” Yugi’s hand shot to his ear piece. “Where? How much time is left?”

“Throughout the building I assume, he’s put one out the front here before his mech exploded through the garage, and I can see more inside! I have the mecha at the door, so you better hurry before the whole place blows!”

Yugi swore, leaning down to pick up Atem into his arms. “Anzu you’re on door duty, clear us a way.”

“Roger!” Anzu jumped to attention, sprinting out of the room with Yugi following close behind.

She kept the way forward clear, letting Yugi focus on holding Atem up.

“I’m sorry.” Atem mumbled close to Yugi’s ear.

“It’s not your fault.” Yugi whispered back, trying hard not to wince at the sudden pain in his shoulder. Atem really packed a punch, he wasn’t holding back with that blow.

They soon reached the entrance, lunging outside of the building. True to her word, Mana had Yugi’s mech ready and waiting by the entrance, cockpit open and turned to their side.

Yugi’s gaze followed Anzu, watching her running towards her own mech, reaching it in record time with her longer legs. He waited to make sure she was in and ready to go before approaching his own.

Just as he barrelled into the back seat, awkwardly slamming his body against it to keep Atem’s from the impact, Mana strung the mech into action, bounding away from the compound as fast as she could manage.

They reached a few leagues away before a massive explosion sounded out, fire billowing into the sky in angry red and yellow colours. They felt the shockwave moments later, rattling the mecha’s frame and sending them spiralling forward.

“Shit shit shit.” Mana yelped, her hands working frantically to keep the foot pedals facing downwards.

The mecha rocked in the air for a few seconds before the wave died down, and they crashed hard into the ground.

It took a moment for the dust to settle, and for them to get their bearings back about them. Mana was the first to recover, letting out a laugh.

“Well, you know what they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” She offered, turning to grin at the two of them.

 

Yugi just groaned. 

asheth: (Default)

Yugi gave Ryou the heads up a few hours after dawn, telling him they were on their way back to base. Ryou’s response had been muffled by sleep, but he promised to be awake enough to let them in when they arrived.

Anzu and Yugi loaded the mechas back up, with Atem helping carry the heavier bags. Most of this

Yugi put Mana in with Anzu, knowing his captain would keep her contained during the ride back to base. It left him in silence with Atem for most of the trip, which worked for Yugi, who was enjoying the occasional chance to jump high in the mech and twirl around. He kept it fairly contained, though, knowing Anzu was watching, and Atem behind him as well. He didn’t want to give them any ideas.

“Mutou, can I ask you a question?” Atem spoke up, leaning forward in his seat behind Yugi.

“Mmm? What’s up?” Yugi said, still looking ahead.

“What does the Empire mean to you?”

“It’s my job.”

“And does it have your loyalty?”

“You tend to get fired if you don’t throw yourself into your job.”

“But are you truly loyal to the Empire? It’s mission and purpose in this war?”

“Where are these questions coming from all of a sudden?” Yugi snorted, glancing back at Atem.

“I’m curious,” Atem responded. “Here you are, a general of an army you don’t seem to have any love for.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You’re helping me.”

Yugi grunted, turning back around to hide his face from Atem. “I have my reasons.”

“And you won’t tell me?”

“They don’t really matter right now.”

“Then what does matter?”

Yugi paused, clicking his tongue. “I don’t know.”

Atem fell silent after that, and Yugi focused on the path ahead of them.

The day stretched on well into the afternoon before Yugi was able to see the base ahead. The tinge of yellow waving down from the sun across the low sky cast dark shadows over the structure, elongated over the rocks.

“Home sweet home.” Yugi chuckled, glancing behind him towards Atem in an attempt to bright back a light mood.

“It’s charming, I’ll say that.” Atem said, a light smirk dancing on his lips.

Yugi hummed, pressing in the microphone and punching in the radio for Ryou’s line.

Back already?” Ryou’s voice chirped.

“Yeah, need you to open the gates to the hanger bay.” Yugi replied.

Roger.” The audio clicked off, and Yugi slowed down his pace.

The hanger doors parted as they approached, and he pushed the mecha forward. Anzu was close behind, but broke off once they were inside, heading to the side of the huge warehouse where her mech usually slept.

Yugi climbed down from his mech, offering Atem a hand before taking it away at the confused look Atem gave him. “Never mind, sorry.”

“I appreciate the offer sir, but I am more than capable of exiting a mech myself.” Atem flashed him a soft smile, and Yugi chuckled.

“You’re right, of course.” Yugi turned away, heading over to where Anzu was unloading her mech, Mana helping.

“Anzu could you get Ryou up to date on all the information please? I need to talk with Yusei.”

“Sure thing boss.” Anzu tossed a wink his way before taking off.

“The doctor?” Atem pipped up from his side. Yugi glanced his way, noticing Mana watching them. I forgot about her… I’ll have to keep a close eye while she’s here.

“Doctor Fudo will need to check you over Atem, especially after everything that happened. Now that you’re back, we don’t want those chips in your brain to pull you back down.”

“Would that not be more beneficial to you, though? Aren’t you supposed to be in charge of a weapon of war? You’re shooting yourself in the foot here, you know.”

“I know,” Yugi hummed, chuckling to himself. “But I like to make things complicated sometimes. Adds a little fun, you know?”

Atem shot him a confused look.

“I guess you don’t know,” Yugi snickered. “It’s an acquired taste I hear.”

“You certainly are a strange one, Yugi Mutou.” Atem mused.

“Then we make a good match, don’t we?”

“I guess we do.” Atem smiled. Yugi offered a tiny smile of his own back before focusing back on their task.

They walked through the doors into Yusei’s lab, where the doctor was behind his laptop once again, like it was his permanent state of residence.

“Doctor Fudo, your favourite patient is back.” Yugi jerked his head behind him, stepping to the side to allow Atem past.

“I’m a doctor in degree sir, not medicine.” Yusei stood, making his way over. “Regardless, let’s begin sorting this out.”

He turned to Atem, giving him a quick glance over.

“You have your memories?” He asked him.

“Partially. I have my own emotions back.” Atem replied.

“And your programming?”

“Still there. I can’t harm anyone identified as a high ranking officer of the Empire.”

“Will this take long?” Yugi asked, conscious of the pile of paperwork that waited for him.

“Give me an hour or so.” Yusei nodded, turning to focus back on Atem.

Yugi ducked out of the lab, trailing back out to the hanger. The building was empty, Bruno busy helping Yusei, and Anzu taking Mana somewhere else he assumed, leaving everyone else too preoccupied to check over the mechas.

Yugi found himself walking around the hanger bay, reluctant to head back to his office. The thought of resuming his job as General, and the possibility of Gozaburo sending him on another mission had him feeling sick.

He found he suddenly wasn’t in the mood to tackle the mountain he knew to be waiting on his desk, so he continued to mill around the hanger.

He walked all around, pretending to be interested in the crates of supplies stacked in the corners and the mechanical equipment lying around from Yusei’s last session.

A door opened on the far side of the warehouse, and Yugi paused, turning to the source.

Ryou walked in, eyes lighting up as he saw Yugi. “Ah, Anzu said I could find you lurking around here.”

“I’m not lurking,” Yugi huffed. “Just waiting for the results from Yusei.”

“You spend a lot of time waiting for results.” Ryou pointed out, although he smiled widely.

“I need a lot of results. You needed me for something?”

“Oh, yes. We got a stock arrival while you were gone.”

“Typical. Of all the days someone makes it this far out, and it’s the one day I’m not here,” Yugi muttered, shaking his head. “What was it?”

“Just the weapon stock you ordered. Oh, and the package you requested for Atem arrived as well.”

Yugi blinked. He had completely forgotten about that. “That’s good. I’ll come pick it up tomorrow.”

“I can do you one better; I’ll drop it by your office tomorrow morning.” Ryou smiled, his eyes shifting behind Yugi.

“Thanks Ryou.” Yugi nodded, turning his head to see what Ryou was looking at. “Oh, Atem.”

Atem walked up to them, giving them both polite nods.

“You’re done already?” Yugi arched an eyebrow, getting a shrug in reply. He vaguely registered Ryou slipping off, and the door closing in the distance.  

“Doctor Fudo informed me there wasn’t much he could do about my memories. He told me they would return in due time, at the rate my mind was recovering.”

“And your programming?”

“He put a new chip in, some kind of modified version of the emotional chip he had used the first time. He believed it will help settle the confusion in my mind.”

“We’ll just keep you away from any battles until this begins to sort itself out.” Yugi jerked his head forward, and Atem nodded.

They feel into step with each other, walking through the maze of corridors in the building. The silence between them didn’t feel as forced as it had before Atem’s memory returned, the air was lighter and Atem’s steps were more uneven, less robotic in their approach. Yugi smiled at that; such a small thing, but it brought something warm to his chest.

“If I may…” Atem paused his speech, glancing at Yugi questioningly.

“Go on.” Yugi said, slowing their pace.

“Well… the more my memory seems to feel natural to me, the more I feel like the android side of me is… more foreign, I guess.” Atem seemed uncertain, almost hesitant. Yugi stopped them completely, turning to Atem fully.

“That’s good,” Yugi said, patting Atem’s shoulder. “That means you’re feeling more human. It’s a good thing.”

“I know, but… It feels weird, I…” He licked his lips, looking down. “I feel strange having to keep up this military personality, even if that was in my past before. I don’t remember being so strict and upright, and it… doesn’t feel right.”

“I’m not sure how to help with that.” Yugi frowned.

“I figured. But I… guess I just wanted to confide that in someone.” Atem looked away, crossing his arms defensively over his chest. “Sorry.”

“There’s nothing to apologise for,” Yugi said gently, squeezing Atem’s shoulder lightly. “If you have the need to talk, I am always here. But I must confess… why me, and not Mana? She’s your friend.”

“Aren’t you my friend too?” Atem blinked up at him, and Yugi froze.

“I’m your commanding officer, technically.” He said, almost on reflex.

“Oh,” Atem’s eyes turned downcast once more. “That is correct. I’m sorry for making assumptions, that was unprofessional of me.”

“It’s fine, don’t apologise,” Yugi closed his eyes, taking a deep breath to reopen them. “It’s not your fault, and I don’t blame you for anything. It’s just… a very stressful time. I guess you caught me off guard there.”

“The great Yugi Mutou, caught off guard? I thought that couldn’t happen.” Atem said, humour creeping into his voice.

“You’d be surprised, the older I get the less sharp I am.”

“You don’t look old.”

“Wait till I start pushing thirty, then your tone will change.”

“I’m twenty four.”

“You’ve got a bit of catching up to do, kiddo.” Yugi smirked, holding up two fingers. “I’ve got a few years on you.”

“You’re not that much older.” Atem pointed out.

“Two years more experience, it counts.”

Atem scoffed, looking away, hands sliding into his pockets. He looked comfortable, the awkwardness fading off his form. He seems more relaxed, that’s good.

“You know,” Yugi said, “if it helps, you can just call me ‘Yugi’. No titles. I don’t mind.”

Atem’s eyes flickered to him, a small smile gracing his face. “I’d… like that.”

“Consider it done. An order, if it helps.” Yugi tossed him a wink before he could stop himself. Wait did I just wink at him? Yugi tensed, coughing as a distraction.

“Anyway I had better go check in and make sure I didn’t miss anything important. Register the patrol we went on with the higher ups and all that.” He said.

“Of course. Where shall I wait for you?”

“Wait for me?” Yugi frowned. “No, just. Go do whatever you want.”

“But my programming still-”

“Then I order you to go hang out with Mana. Go check up on her in her temporary quarters. If you’re still unsure you can wait in mine and I’ll find something else for you to do. Otherwise sleep, it’s been a busy few days.” Yugi made a shooing gesture.

“Yes sir.”

“Yugi.”

Atem smiled, dipping his head. “Yugi. Until tomorrow.”

“Yeah, until then.” Yugi nodded, watching Atem walk away and disappear around a corner bend.

~~~~~~~~~~

Yugi sat in his office, fingers tapping away at his keys as his eyes flickered over the screen. Every now and then he turned away from the computer to scribble something down on a sheet of paper, using the notepad to jot down terminology and keep reminders on certain phrases.

He was trying to send Pegasus an e-mail with his findings, but they had a code language they spoke in, and no matter how hard Yugi tried to memorise it, he still fell short remembering some words.

Eventually he managed to piece it together, sending it off and stepping away from his monstrous workload.

“I’ll do it later.” Yugi hummed, stopping on the other side of his desk. The package Ryou had dropped off was there, the item wrapped snugly in folds of fabric.

“Yugi, Atem’s here.” Ryou’s voice called through the intercom.

Yugi moved away from the desk, walking up to the door to open it.

Atem was standing outside next to Ryou’s work station. Both Ryou and Atem’s heads turned to Yugi as the door opened, and Yugi offered them a smile.

“Thanks Ryou.” He nodded to the other, who gave him a lazy salute in return, going back to his desktop screen.

“Come in, Atem.” Yugi gestured with his head, slipping away from the door back over to his own desk. Atem followed, closing the door politely behind himself.

“Here, this is for you.” Yugi handed the package to Atem, who blinked at it in surprise.

“For me? What is it?”

“Open it and find out.” Yugi chuckled. Atem gave him a hesitant glance, eyes flicking down to the package. His hands unfolded the fabric, revealing the smooth blade underneath.

“A sword?”

“You liked the ones we have in the training room,” Yugi commented. “I thought I’d get you your own.”

“When did you find the time?”

“I ordered it before we left for headquarters. It just took a while to get here. It’s only one I’m afraid. I know you liked to dual wield, but I can easily get you another if you’d like that.”

“One is fine, thank you. You didn’t have to, but I appreciate it.” Atem smiled. Yugi just nodded, clearing his throat somewhat awkwardly.

“You know, I was just on my way to the hanger bay to check on the mechas. I think I left something in mine. You can test the sword there if you wanted to join me?” Yugi offered.

“Sounds good.” Atem nodded, wrapping the sword back up, sliding the package under his arm.

Yugi lead the way through the compound, heading down to the side of the complex that held the massive warehouse.

Once entering the hanger bay, he made a beeline for his mech while Atem went off to the side, unwrapping his sword to test it out.

Yugi jumped up and popped the cockpit, scrutinising the area for his lighter. He realised he didn’t have it when he went to light a cigarette yesterday, and by then he had been too tired to care to search for it. It wasn’t like he had spares, since he had thrown them all out after his previous addiction.

“Ah, there it is.” Yugi snatched up the lighter wedged between the seat cushions, closing the cockpit window and jumping back down. “Found it.” Yugi waved the lighter to show Atem before pocketing it.

Atem nodded, turning back to his sword. Yugi sat on a crate off to the side, observing him work.

Atem twirled the blade around his wrist, flicking it to slice effortlessly through the air, occasionally swapping to make short jabs forward.

Eventually he stopped, nodding to himself about something, turning to see Yugi watching him.

“The sword works perfectly, thank you.” He said approaching.

“Don’t mention it, it’s my job to keep you all in tip top shape.” Yugi shrugged, pushing off the crate to stand next to Atem.

“Are those the orders you are given?” Atem asked.

“Not really, it’s more of a personal choice. Some people in high positions of power don’t really care about their subordinates.”

“That sounds awful,” Atem frowned. “Is it common in the Empire?”

“There’s a lot of things you don’t understand about how the Empire works,” Yugi said, “not everything is as simple as it seems, nor as glorified.”

“I’m sure it isn’t,” Atem agreed. “But at the same time, there are things you don’t understand about our country too.”

“True…” Yugi conceded. He slipped a hand into his pocket, pulling out a cigarette. He just managed to get out the lighter as well before Atem grabbed his wrist, moving it and the lighter away from the stick.

“You don’t need that.” He said, gently prying the lighter from Yugi’s hand.

“But maybe I want it. What does it matter to you?” Yugi shot back, reaching for his lighter back. Atem just pulled it further out of his reach, holding out his other hand for the cigarette.

“Give me back the lighter, Atem.” Yugi grunted, flipping Atem’s hand away.

“You don’t need that toxin in your body. It’s not helping.”

“It helps me feel better.”

“It’s doing more harm than good in the long run,” Atem pocketed the lighter, despite Yugi’s vocal protests. “Please don’t do this to yourself.”

“And why do you suddenly care? You know, if I died you wouldn’t have a commanding officer to mess with your plans.”

“I don’t have plans,” Atem sighed, suddenly looking tired. “I’m just trying my best with what I have.”

Yugi dipped his head, eyes turned downward. That was a shit thing to say Mutou. “I’m sorry.”

“For what? It’s not your fault I’m like this.” Atem shrugged, streaking a hand through his hair. The heavy duty artificial light pouring down from above caught on the highlights, bright crimson flickering through the tips of his hair.

Yugi recalled how soft it had been to touch, the silky strands almost too tempting with how nice they had felt. He found himself unconsciously reaching forward, hooking a finger around a loose bang. Bringing it closer, he rolled the strands between another finger, stopping to admire the sensation.

“Sir?” Atem arched an eyebrow, his lips parted in silent questioning.

“Just curious.” Yugi muttered, swapping his target to another bang. He wondered if the yellow streaking through Atem’s hair came from the bangs too, or if it was just a clump dyed in.

The static from the overhead speaker crackled loudly, jerking Yugi out of his thoughts.

Yugi?” Ryou’s voice called, sounding worried. “There’s something approaching the base, and fast.

“What?” Yugi’s head snapped up, glaring at the roof where the speaker was somewhere. “Have they radioed in their ID?”

I’ve gotten nothing. Estimated time of arrival is twenty minutes.

“Try to contact them and tell them we’ll shoot on sight if they don’t identify themselves.”

Roger.”

The static cut off, and Mana chose that moment to enter the hanger bay.

“What was this about someone coming?” She asked, approaching them.

 “Why don’t you tell me. Got any friends you’re waiting on?”

“No!” She frowned, a delicate finger perched over her lips. “I never tell anyone when I’m going out to the site. No one would have known I was there, except…”

“And here it comes.”

“No, I didn’t tell anyone I swear! I’ve been doing this every month since Atem’s disappearance, and no one ever noticed my absence.”

“But?”

“But I was always back before dawn,” Mana whined, biting her nail. “Maybe Mahad got worried and sent someone to find me.”

“Mahad?” Atem whispered, a deep frown settling over his features. “I… know him. Don’t I? A friend?”

“Yeah, he’s a Captain in the Armesian army. You and he were good friends.” Mana smiled.

“I can’t remember his face… but there is warmth when I think of his name.” Atem nodded.

“I hate to break up this touching moment,” Yugi said gently, nudging Atem in the arm. “But someone approaching my base…?”

They’ve responded,” Ryou said, the sound of him tapping on his computer reaching through the speaker. “Someone from the Armes by the name of Raphael.

“Raphael? He’s here?” Mana gasped. Yugi narrowed his eyes. Another Armesian at his base. Just what he needed.

Orders, sir?” Ryou said.

“Do you know this Raphael person?” Yugi turned to Mana.

“Yeah, kind of. He’s a general, in the army. The other army.” Mana clarified.

“Then why don’t I know about him?” Yugi crossed his arms.

“He was only promoted to the role within the last few months. After…” Mana bit her lip, glancing at Atem. “After they declared you gone.”

Atem looked away while Yugi just grunted. “Sounds convenient.” He said, stepping closer. Unfortunately, Mana had a good few centimetres on him, so he had to look up slightly to glare at her.

“Is he somewhat trustworthy?” Yugi asked.

“I don’t really like him,” Mana admitted. “But he’s a pretty good soldier. He’s probably here looking for me, if Mahad sent him. Maybe.”

“Why would a general take orders from a captain?” Yugi muttered, frowning. Something didn’t add up with this. Mana seemed oblivious to the danger of what she was saying.

They’re just outside the hanger bay sir. Looks like some kind of off road vehicle is parked out there with them. What do I tell them?” Ryou’s voice returned, sounding hurried.

“Tell this ‘Raphael’ to come in unarmed, out of whatever he’s driving. We’ll meet on even terms, but he better understand that he’s entering an Empire base, and I won’t tolerate any hostility, and he won’t receive any, should he be nice.”

Aye, sir.

Yugi strolled up to the hanger doors, punching in the combination to open them. The giant chunks of steel parted with a heavy groan, rust screeching as it rubbed against more rust. Yugi moved away from the control panel, returning to his position near Atem and Mana.

The doors opened in just a vertical slit, enough to let a person through, but not much else. A man strode forward through the gap, walking straight up to where they were standing.

“You’re Raphael I take it?” Yugi asked, looking the other over. He was tall, extremely so, especially standing next to Yugi. The man’s eyes peered down at him, giving Yugi a clear view of his face, devoid of bangs of any sort.

“I am.” The man grunted, his voice deep. “And you’re Yugi Mutou.”

“Charmed.”

His eyes flickered over them, frowning at Mana disapprovingly only to open widely in surprise as he took in Atem’s presence.

“Forgive the language, but I have a lot of fucking questions.” Raphael said, eyes narrowing towards Atem.

“I’m sure you do, but before I grace you with the chance to ask them, I have one of my own that is in your best interest to answer,” Yugi stepped forward, blocking Atem partly with his shoulder. “Why are you in the Empire’s territory?”

“I’ve been searching for Mana on Captain Mahad’s orders.” Raphael replied.

“See? I told you Mahad was worried.” Mana beamed proudly. This only makes it stranger though, Yugi thought.

“Are you not a General of the Armesian army? Why would you take orders from a Captain?” Yugi crossed his arms, not budging.

“Rare cases. Mahad is well respected within our ranks,” Raphael waved a hand, his hands gravitating to his hips to stare down at Yugi. “Now for my questions.”

“I’ll entertain some.”

Raphael grunted, but didn’t argue back. “General Atem has been missing from the Armesian army for months now. We had a funeral and everything, and the Empire gave no sign of taking him as a prisoner of war. So then why do I see someone looking like him here? Is this a trick?”

“I can’t answer that question,” Yugi held a hand up as Raphael opened his mouth to protest. “I’m under an oath to not speak about it. Your only hope of answers would be with Commander Gozaburo.”

“Like I can just walk up to him when I’m a Armesian soldier.” Raphael scoffed. “If he is really our dead general, why don’t you let him speak?”

Yugi glanced behind him, gesturing Atem forward. Atem nodded, stepping up.

“I have nothing to add to this, as General Mutou is correct in what he tells you.” Atem said, tilting his head in a confused way. “Your voice sounds familiar.” He pursed his lips, eyeing Raphael strangely.

“Of course, we served in the same army,” Raphael replied smoothly before frowning. “You don’t remember?”

“I’ve had a lot happen in the past few months.” Atem said, shuffling further back behind Yugi.

“Does the Empire want to tell me why you’ve been keeping our general prisoner without our knowledge? This could be igniting an act of war.”

Yugi laughed, throwing his head back. “Oh that’s rich. In case you couldn’t tell, General Raphael, we are already in a war.”

“But you could spur on a battle that would cost the lives of thousands.”

“Tell me what else is new,” Yugi shrugged. “You don’t seem to understand the finer points of a war very well, General.”

“Compared to a notorious murderer like you, no, I guess I don’t.” Raphael said. Yugi paused, his fingers digging angrily into whatever cloth material he could reach.

“If you’re here for Mana, you can have her. Then I want you to leave. Immediately. Otherwise I may have to add more strikes against my ‘notorious’ name.”

“Hey!” Mana pipped up, bouncing closer to them. “I can make my own decisions, thank you! You don’t have any power over me anyway, Yugi.”

“That’s General Mutou to you. And technically, you’re my prisoner, so no, you can’t make your decisions right now.”

“I’m not leaving without the General as well.” Raphael interrupted before Mana could.

“What? You can’t take me.” Yugi snorted, crossing his arms. “This is my base.”

“Not you,” Raphael shot him a glare, and Yugi returned the expression. “Him.” He pointed past Yugi at where Atem was standing.

“He’s with me. You can’t take him.” Yugi stepped forward, forcing his head upwards to glare at Raphael.

“Then you admit the Empire is holding him hostage?”

“Does he look like he’s tied up to you?”

“So them you defected?” Raphael eyed Atem, addressing him directly. “You’re an Empire dog now?”

“Why does everyone keep using that term?” Yugi muttered, rolling his eyes.

Atem stepped forward, brushing past Yugi, his eyes trained on Raphael, squinted at him.

“Wait… you… you were there. At the ambush that night. I remember seeing you.” He said, frowning deeply. He seemed to be trying to remember something rather painfully, and Yugi placed a hand on his shoulder in silent support while keeping an eye on Raphael.

“Yes, I was part of the patrol in that area.” Raphael answered bluntly. “Now if you don’t mind, we need to-”

“No, you,” Atem glared, his eyes snapping up. “You went to attack Mana! Your mecha short circuited mine and cut me off!” He stepped closer, only to flinch as Raphael went to grab his arm.

Atem pulled his back, making Raphael grip air. “You’re a double crosser!”

Raphael paused, looking between Yugi and Atem. He let out a tired sigh, shoving his hands into his pockets. “If you had just come quietly, we won’t have to create a scene, android.” He pulled out a gun, moving to shoot Atem point blank.

Atem crouched down, avoiding the bullet just as Raphael fired. It spurred Yugi into motion, pushing Mana down and off to the side, while he drew his own gun.

“Stay down if you value your life.” Yugi hissed, drawing his attention back to Atem.

The android had brandished his sword, and Yugi had never been more grateful that he had given Atem a weapon. Raphael had a dagger of his own, abandoning his gun back to his pocket to fight Atem blade to blade.

They exchanged strikes back and forth, but it seemed Raphael was quick with his moves. Just when Yugi thought Atem would land a hit, Raphael would block it, sending Atem reeling back on the defensive.

They were moving so fast, and Raphael kept his body positioned in such a way it was hard for Yugi to get a clear shot, limbs twisting, Atem’s leg sliding where Raphael’s had been mere seconds before.

“Fuck.” He cursed, eyes narrowing in annoyance. “Keep away from him Atem!”

“He has guns, Yugi!” Atem yelled back, narrowly dodging a stab from Raphael’s dagger.

“Find a way! I know you can!”

Atem grunted, focusing back on his moves. For every swing Raphael took at him, Atem matched it with a stab of his own. Raphael was quick with his parries though, and it left Yugi wondering if this man was who he said he was. Whoever he was, Atem didn’t like him, and that was enough proof to tell Yugi he shouldn’t either.

He gripped his guns tighter, anger keeping his teeth gritted close together. If I could just get one shot in… He forced himself to even his breathing, closing his eyes momentarily before reopening them, assessing the scene again.

Atem and Raphael were locked close to each other in combat, both jabbing and thrusting their respective weapons around. There were several moments in Raphael’s moves that left his arm away from his body, especially when he went high with a strike. Maybe I can get a shot in… Yugi tilted his head, lining his eye up with the barrel of the gun. You can do this Mutou. You used to be able to shoot smaller targets much further away, even moving faster. You can do this-

“I don’t have time for this.” Raphael snarled suddenly, batting away Atem’s sword. He reached into his pocket, pulling out some square shaped object and pressing a button on the top. Yugi saw a quick flash of electricity pass over the top of the item, and that was when he noticed the two prongs at the front. Oh no… His eyes shot open, abandoning his aim.

“Atem watch out!” Yugi shouted, but Raphael was faster. He shoved the prongs into Atem’s arm, and Atem screamed.

His limbs twitched violently, sword dropping from his hand. A few seconds later, Raphael pulled the device away, and Atem collapsed to the ground, his legs crumpling underneath him.

Raphael swooped forward, sheathing his dagger and holstering Atem over his shoulder in one smooth, fluid movement.

“Hope you don’t mind me taking your toy back to the shop for a fix up.” He chuckled, turning to run away.

“No! Get back here!” Yugi sprinted after them, but Raphael’s legs were much longer, and he moved faster.

They reached the doors, and just as they did, the metal exploded, two huge, clawed hands reaching through the small gap left from Raphael’s entrance to pry open the twin sheets. Yugi silently cursed the rusted steel. He knew he should have had them replaced.

The doors parted easily, revealing some kind of mecha on the other side. The side panel of its cockpit opened, and Raphael jumped up the side of it, landing in the pit.

“Move it!” Yugi heard him bark, and the glass window slotted back into place, the whole mecha screeching as it turned back around.

“No!” Yugi yelled, swinging around to try and locate his own. It sat off to the side; it wasn’t too far away.

He sprinted back further inside, skidding to a halt in front of the beast. Mana had followed closely behind him, looking distressed.

“Let me come with you!” She said.

Yugi grunted, hauling himself over the side of the cockpit. “No time! You have to tell Anzu what happened here! Get her up on radio, I need to follow that mecha!” He shouted back, leaving no room for argument. He slammed the cockpit window closed, jerking the structure to life.

The mech lurched forward, its massive feet smashing against the ground. It shot out of the hanger bay, the endless stretches of rock and sand and harsh desert sun greeting Yugi with a vengeance.

There was a stir of loose sand in the distance, and Yugi swore. How did their mech travel that fast? He pushed his own to higher speeds, the engine growling louder in response.

The mech slammed into the rock, the loose grains of sand scattering around and being crushed into the ground under the heavy weight. Yugi kicked it into overdrive, shoving the handles as far up as they would go in the runs. The mecha responded immediately, speeding up quickly and practically flying over rock, the foot pedals slapping down on the harsh surface only to spring back up seconds later.

He looked around wildly, searching for the evidence of the mech. His eyes widened in surprise as he took the land in.

It was empty. There was no more dust to show which direction they were travelling in. He couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary; it was just a sea of rocks. His eyes turned to the ground, searching for a disturbance, any kind of print or damage to show where the mech had been.

How… How does it move like that? So fast and yet it leaves nothing behind… his brows scrunched up, a deep frown marring his face. It’s like no mech I’ve seen before… Could it be some kind of new model? Something we haven’t encountered yet in battle?

It seemed like they were in more trouble than he originally thought.

He smashed a hand into the dashboard, not bothering to avoid buttons or the like. Something in the mecha jerked in response, but he didn’t care. He had lost it. The trail was nowhere to be found! How could something so heavy move so fast and leave nothing behind? Yugi growled, fingers and nails digging into the metal.

Yugi, get back to base, you’re not doing anyone any good flailing around out there.” Anzu’s voice drifted through the radio connection.

“No, I have to keep looking!”

Yugi…” a sigh came across the line. “Just come back, and we can form a plan of action here-”

“No! I won’t lose this Anzu.” Yugi grit his teeth together, slamming his hand down, slapping the palm against the metal of the dashboard.

Yugi Mutou if you don’t turn around I’m going to come out there and drag your sorry ass back here,” Anzu said, before her voice softened. “You’re tired and angry. You won’t do Atem any good like that.”

Yugi bowed his head, hands digging into metal frame. “Fine,” he seethed, jerking back on the handles. The mecha swerved around in response, pivoting in place to face the opposite direction.

He threw one last look over his shoulder, but the rocky land remained the same, revealing no clues.

He made the trek back in silence, the only sounds the whirl of the engine and heavy steps against the rock, normally comforting sounds now grating in his ears. The familiar sight of the base made his throat tighten. He had never come back from a mission empty handed before; there had always been something to accomplish and achieve.

But now, he had nothing, and it was painfully apparent to him. Like a stab in the side, it was a wound that lingered, and he had a feeling it would be keeping itself known for days to come. Or until he got Atem back.

How could I let him fall through my fingers like that? Yugi berated himself. I just did nothing, I didn’t even try to shoot Raphael. I saw Atem in danger and… I didn’t try, I did… nothing.

The mecha pulled back into the hanger, and he parked it right in the middle of the space, not caring for the location. He jumped down, looking over at Mana, who was being held back by Bruno, a pained expression over his face.

Mana jumped when she saw Yugi, squirming out of Bruno’s hold to race over, bombarding him with an array of questions.

“Where is he?! Get back out there and find him!” She said, slamming a foot down. Yugi gritted his teeth, barely controlling his breathing.

“We need to regroup and plan-”

“Plan what! You’re letting them get away! You said Atem could trust you.”

Yugi growled, reaching out to pull Mana harshly close to him. His other hand pulled one of his pistols out, jamming it near her face.

“He also isn’t here to stop me from killing you, so don’t make me angry.”

“Do you even care about him? That he’s been kidnapped?” Mana replied coolly, keeping his gaze.

Yugi scowled. “Of course I do. I lose my job if I lose him.”

“So that’s all he is? The key to keeping your high rank?” Her face turned sour, and she spat near his feet. “I should have known it; you Empire dogs are all the same.”

“If you’re so high and mighty, then you should have been able to see the betrayal in your ranks coming, if us ‘Empire dogs’ are all the same.” Yugi jerked the gun away, angrily putting it back in the holster.

Anzu chose this moment to appear it seemed, the door slamming open as she stumbled through.

“Yugi!” She raced over to them, giving Mana one side glance before turning all her attention to Yugi. “What do we do now?”

Yugi took a moment to look at everyone gathered. Bruno was off to the side, but seemed attentive. He lived here too, and Yugi’s decisions would affect him as well. Meanwhile Mana and Anzu were up in his face, Mana glaring at him to make the right move, and Anzu patiently waiting for him to give them orders.

 

“I’m sorry,” Yugi glanced down, shaking his head. “I don’t know what to do.”

asheth: (Default)

Yugi sighed, feeling the blade dig closer to his skin. A few inches more, and it would split it. Great job Mutou. You’ve really outdone yourself with this situation.

He barely had cause for celebration; Atem seemed to have his human memory back, at least somewhat, and it didn’t take Yugi long to work out he was an Armesian soldier of some sort. A fine situation indeed.

“What are you waiting for? Finish him off! We can’t afford to let him live!” Mana shouted, fluttering around beside Atem.

Atem seemed to ignore her, staring down at Yugi instead. He seemed… curious, almost? But there was also anger in his eyes, and his mouth was twisting in frustration. But why was he frustrated? Yugi raised an eyebrow, conveying his confusion.

Atem stared at him for a moment longer before his shoulders sagged, and he let out a ragged sigh. “I can’t, Mana.” He said, moving the blade away from Yugi’s throat.

“Why not?”

Atem held out a hand for Yugi, and Yugi brushed it aside, standing on his own. He stared down at Atem, making it obvious he wasn’t accepting anything from Atem anytime soon.

“Because,” Atem said, standing as well. “He’s my commanding officer. It’s my job to protect him, not hurt him.”

“What do you mean commanding officer? He’s with the Empire.” Mana stressed, jabbing a finger at Yugi.

“Well this is awkward.” Yugi said, coughing into his hand. He ran his fingers over his throat, shaking slightly from the near-death sensation. Adrenaline raced through his body, and he felt excited to fight somehow, burn the energy off.

“I wouldn’t trust him Atem,” Mana continued, seemingly ignoring Yugi. “He’s a General! You know this guy has done bad shit.”

“I know,” Atem admitted, keeping his hands up. “But killing him wouldn’t work. I can’t let him die, and I don’t want to hurt you, Mana. Don’t make me choose; I can’t fight my programming.”

“If you could listen to yourself.” Mana shook her head, hand reaching into her bag. “We need some crowd control.” She pulled out a gun, pointing it at Yugi.

Yugi saw the side of the gun, the engraved letters that shined across the sleek surface. Letters he himself had carved into there himself. “That’s… You little- that’s my gun!” Yugi yelled, whipping out his other pistol and pointing it straight back at Mana.

He didn’t waste time, squeezing down on the trigger, only to have his arm thrusted upwards during the process, the bullet shooting skyward harmlessly. He glared at Mana, only to find it was Atem’s hand gripping his arm, eyes boring into his.

“You just tried to shoot me!” Mana squeaked, the pistol in her hand beginning to shake.

“And I’ll do it again,” Yugi snarled. “Atem, let me go.”

“Don’t do this sir.” Atem said. Yugi coolly kept his gaze on Atem, watching the android. Atem’s eyes were silently pleading with him, his mouth drawn into a thin line.

“That’s my gun. She has no right to wield it.” Yugi argued, jerking his head in Mana’s direction.

“I found it! I’ve had it for months, if you really wanted it you shouldn’t have lost it so easily!” Mana tipped her nose up, and Yugi saw red.

“How dare you.” He snarled, smashing the handle against Atem’s fingers. The android hissed, his grip loosening, and Yugi shook his arm free. He moved to point the gun at Mana again, and she flinched.

Yugi had seconds to react, ducking down right before Mana fired the gun, the bullet sailing past into the darkness.

“No Mana!” Atem lunged forward, smacking the gun out of her hand. “Stop fighting, please!”

Yugi paused, the ‘please’ catching him. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t blast her head off for having my gun.”

Atem turned to him, eyes serious. “Because she’s my best friend.”

Yugi froze, the sincerity in Atem’s tone like a slap to his face. He lowered the gun, shaking his head to clear his mind. He flicked the safety back on, sliding the pistol into his pocket. He held up his hands in a symbol of peace, and Atem’s shoulders slackened.

“Thank you.” He nodded, and Yugi just groaned, rolling his eyes.

“Fine, but I’m going to need some answers, and quick. But first,” he held his hand out. “My gun. Now.”

Atem looked at the weapon on the ground, scooping it up before handing it to Yugi.

“Thank you.” Yugi sighed, feeling the familiar handle grip nestled under his fingers. “Now, I trust you suddenly performing mutiny was a result of your memories returning?”

“Yes, I… remember who I am, now.” Atem turned his hands palms up, staring down at them.

“And who is that, Atem?” Yugi pressed.

“I’m… not sure, to be honest,” his brows scrunched up, and he jerked his head to stare at the ground instead. “It’s hard to tell. Everything isn’t in place yet. I just have… events, and moments, out of order, trying to slot together. I can remember who I was, and what I did, but… most of it is hazy.”

“Of course, nothing is ever easy.” Yugi muttered, sighing. He glanced over Atem, eyes narrowing when he noticed the way one of his hands sat. “What’s wrong with your hand?”

Atem gave him a strange look, raising it up for Yugi to see better. It looked like something had crushed the tops of the knuckles and joints, some kind of hard material. Yugi frowned; he had a good idea what could make those marks.

“Shit, did I do that?” He bit his lip, gently taking Atem’s hand in his own to inspect it.

“You didn’t notice?” Atem asked, his voice even.

“No, I…” he sighed, looking up into Atem’s eyes. “Do you remember what I told you the day Gozaburo made us spar?”

Atem’s eyes softened, and he nodded. “You have trouble controlling your emotions.”

“You say it so easily,” Yugi sighed. “But you’re right. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“It’s fine, sir.” Atem muttered, looking away. That reaction alone told Yugi it was anything but fine.

“I think we have some antiseptic back at the outpost. Let’s return, and I’ll fix this.” Yugi said, then paused. “You don’t need to call me ‘sir’ anymore, Atem. Just Mutou is fine.”

“Even in the presence of others?”

“Yeah. Unless the other generals are around, although I’d rather not have to deal with Dartz nor Gozaburo anytime soon.”

“Wait wait,” Mana pipped up, scrambling in front of Yugi to halt him. “Outpost? Where exactly are you going? Atem and I can’t go to some Empire base! I’m not handing myself over just to be shot dead!”

“Well Atem’s not going to be shot. Not when he works for me.” Yugi said smugly, relishing in the shocked expression passing over Mana’s face.

She turned to Atem, eyes pleading. “You… please don’t tell me you’re… with the Empire now, Atem? What…”

“It’s complicated,” Atem sighed, rubbing his forehead. “And hard to explain. It might be easier to do back at the current base. I also need to… recharge.”

“You said you were fine.” Yugi butted in, narrowing his eyes in disapproval.

“I don’t want to make a big deal about it.”

“It will become a big deal if you collapse at a crucial time from lack of energy.”

“I understand,” Atem said, “but it’s hard to think straight right now… all my memories are trying to slot back into the forefront of my mind, and my programming is… trying to fight it.”

Yugi sighed, biting his lip. This could get bad very fast. We need to find a way to keep the two sides of his brain sated. “I’ll give Yusei a call back at the outpost. He might have something useful to say.”

“That would be appreciated, sir-”

“Mutou.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine. But don’t make a habit of lying to me Atem. If something’s wrong, tell me and be upfront.”

“Understood, Mutou.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I don’t like this.” Mana said.

“So you’ve said. Five times already.” Yugi muttered.

“You’d feel the same, if you were in my situation.”

“Maybe, but I’m not, so suck it up.” Yugi grunted. Mana fell silent after that, and they were able to make the trek out of the canyon and back to the slight hill the outpost sat on.

Yugi stopped just outside the door, turning back to face Atem and Mana, both looking up at him expectantly.

“Okay, Atem, go back to sleep where you were before we left, and Mana, you can… sit next to him I guess.” He shrugged, walking away. “I have to wake Anzu and give her the rundown of what’s happened.”

“Oh don’t worry, I have a good idea.” Anzu said, appearing in the doorway.

Yugi winced, giving her a smile. “Anzu, hey, certainly have a story to tell you.”

Anzu shot him a glare, her gaze raking through all three of them. “Yugi Mutou, you have exactly ten seconds to explain this before I kick your ass.”

“Ten seconds is an awfully short amount of time-”

“Ten.”

“Anzu you’re not serious.”

“Nine.”

“Hey!” Yugi held up his hands in surrender. “Look you can kick my ass afterwards, but for now, it’s hard to explain things with you pressuring me with that timer.”

Anzu glared at him, crossing her arms matter-of-factly. “Fine, but you better start explaining mister.”

“Okay, but outside here,” Yugi motioned to Atem and Mana. “You two go inside and wait for me. Don’t try to escape off anywhere; if I hear any broken windows you’ll have a bullet in your head.” He said, addressing Mana directly. She puffed up her cheeks, but nodded sullenly.

Atem took her arm gently, nudging her inside and past Yugi and Anzu. Anzu closed the door behind them, immediately shooting Yugi a harsh glare.

“All right, Mutou, spill it.”

“You know, with the way you treat me anyone would think you were the general, not me.” He grumbled.

“Someone has to push the guy around who pushes everyone else around. Everyone’s got a set of strings, as they say.”

“Who says that? I’ve never heard anyone use that analogy before.”

“It’s not important, stop avoiding the main focus here, mister,” Anzu waggled a finger in his face, forcing him to pull back. “Who is that girl? And why were you both walking around at night alone? You better have taken your pistol; I know Ryou gave it to you.”

“He did, but that’s not all.” Yugi reached into his pockets, producing both his guns. Anzu’s eyes widened in shock.

“Is that your second pistol? But… I thought you lost it.”

“I did. But the girl in there- Mana, her name is- had it. Guess it was lying around on one of the old battlefields, and she scooped it up.”

“Okay, it’s somewhat worrying to see it again, but let’s not get distracted here. Who is Mana?”

“Some Armes citizen, I assume,” Yugi shrugged. “Although with the way she wielded my gun, I’d think she might have been a soldier. She was a little shaky though, lacked the discipline of a trained sol-”

“Are you trying to tell me she drew that gun against you?”

“It’s nothing to worry about Anzu. You know I can handle myself.”

“That’s not the point Yugi. Why did you bring her back- and not tied up at all, mind you- to our outpost? She knows our location now. There’s only three of us, and we might all be well trained, but against an army even you and wonder boy weapon of war can’t beat everyone.” Anzu stressed, dragging a hand down her face.

“Relax, Anzu. I don’t think she will be a problem. She’s here for Atem-”

“Him? Why? Does Armes know about our weapon and want to steal him? Rewrite his programming?”

“No, she’s… his best friend.” Yugi sighed, reaching into his back pocket. He pulled out a fresh, shiny packet of cigarettes and lighter, not missing the way Anzu narrowed her eyes at him visibly in the darkness.

“Don’t start, Mazaki. I’m just having one.”

“You don’t need it.”

“After all this bullshit?” Yugi laughed, flicking the lighter. “I think I need more than one, but for the sake of your hairline, I’ll keep it to the single.”

“Fine,” Anzu grunted. “But what do you mean this girl is his best friend? Did she know Atem in the past?”

“Seems like it,” Yugi put the lighter away, taking a long drag of the cigarette. “He seems to know her too.”

“He does? His memory is coming back then?”

“Yeah.”

Anzu paused, staring out into the darkness while Yugi focused on the stick between his fingers, the small flicker of light in the tobacco burning.

“This could be bad, if he’s from Armes. Dartz has done some pretty fucked up things in the past, but kidnapping soldiers from the other side and turning them against their friends and family? That’s fucked up Yugi.”

“I know. But what’s done is done. We can’t change him back.”

“So what happens now then? What does this mean for us?”

Yugi finished his cigarette, crushing out the bud against the side of the building. “For now, we’ll just play it by ear. I have questions I need answers for, and we might need to return to base to sort this out. I think we already know what happened here that sparked Pegasus’s interest.”

“All right. I’m going back to sleep then. You should too; I doubt you’ve slept at all tonight.”

“This morning I think you mean,” Yugi said, staring out at the distant brightening of the sky. “Dawn will be soon.”

“That just makes my point all the stronger Mutou.” Anzu placed a hand over his shoulder, squeezing lightly. “Get some sleep, Yugi.”

“I don’t think I could even if I tried,” Yugi sighed. “You might as well go if you can. I have a lot to think about.”

“All right, but I’m watching you dammit.” Anzu said before heading back inside.

“Someone’s got to.” He said to himself, smiling.

He whipped out the packet of cigarettes again once Anzu was gone, plucking another one out to light it. He took a moment to stare at the flame of the lighter, waving it gently in front of him. Sorry Anzu, but I need more than one tonight.

The door creaked open behind him, and he glanced behind him, snapping the lighter shut. Atem walked up to him, crossing his arms to stare out into the bleak darkness.

“So that was your other gun?” He asked, not turning away.

“Was, I lost it ages ago.”

“It’s back now though isn’t it?”

“That might not be a good thing.” Yugi said, taking a long drag of his cigarette.

“You seemed determined to have it back, though.”

“You’re awfully vocal suddenly,” Yugi observed, side glancing Atem. “Does this whole situation not dawn on you to be rather serious?”

“I don’t doubt the severity of our situation,” Atem confided, shifting on his feet. “But right now it is rather hard to think. The two parts of my brain are in a mess trying to sort themselves out, and I find trying to ponder the issue causes a massive headache I don’t have the time to deal with.”

“You speak awfully formal. Would it be rude of me to ask what your past life was like?”

“I suppose that’s what you’ve been wondering all this time, isn’t it?” Atem smirked, and Yugi frowned. He didn’t like been so easy to read, and Atem- this Atem, the human Atem- made him seem like an open book.

Yugi prolonged his answer, taking a rather long drag and an even longer time to exhale, looking away momentarily, pretending to be interested in some shape barely visible in the darkness, probably a bush.

“I admit, I’ve been curious. You can’t blame me for that.”

“I don’t,” Atem said, “but you’ve seemed rather laid back over this. I would be expecting questions immediately, but you’ve barely asked me anything.” He arched an eyebrow.

“I’ve had a lot on my mind, same as you.” Yugi grunted, pressing the cigarette to his mouth again.

“That’s not good for you, you know.”

“I know.”

“So why smoke it then?”

“I’d rather this than some other form of relief.”

“Relief from what?”

Yugi went silent, using his cigarette to cover his mouth. Atem frowned at him, but Yugi ignored it, choosing to feint obliviousness.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” Atem spoke up, and Yugi chuckled.

“You catch on quick.”

“It’s part of the job.” Atem shrugged, his hands shifting into his pockets. “Why do you have trouble sleeping?”

“Aren’t I supposed to be the one asking all the questions about you?” Yugi smirked, and Atem dipped his head.

“That is true, si- Mutou. But, I must admit, I have been just as curious as you, as you have been about my past. Who were you, before all this?”

“I’m sure it would be a riveting tale to listen to,” Yugi snorted, “but I’m not in the mood to discuss my past. I don’t think I’m ready to share that just yet.”

“Understood, sir.” Atem replied. Yugi gave him a side glance, and Atem coughed awkwardly.

“Sorry. It’s hard to shake the habit; it’s in my programming.”

“It’s fine. If it makes you more comfortable, then you can still do it. I fear I’ve been trying to rush you into this, poking at your brain and trying to jar your memory back. I must admit, I’ve been… rather morbidly curious about this whole process. I’m sure you know this kind of thing has never been done before. Attempted, perhaps, but never… committed to.”

“I had considered it, after you had Doctor Fudo install the emotion chip.”

“Ah, yes. How is that going in this mess?”

“I think it’s helping settle my memories,” Atem said. “It makes it easier to think, and slows down the demand from my system.”

Yugi hummed, taking one last breath of his cigarette before crushing it out against the wall, right next to where the other mark was from his previous one. He noticed the muted colours on the wall were much more visible now, and he turned around, the lazy shades of yellow reaching up into the dark night, breathing life into it.

Yugi felt he had wasted enough time. He turned back to the outpost. “I have to call Ryou and let him know we’ll be heading back soon.”

“Back to the base? Mana won’t like that.”

“She’ll have to deal. I’m afraid I can’t let her go scrambling back to Armes and tattle about our position. If the base gets too much attention, I’ll be forced to report activity to Gozaburo, and we don’t want him to get involved.”

“She won’t tell; not if I ask her not to.”

“It’s a risk I can’t take, Atem,” Yugi sighed, turning to the other. “Please understand, I still have a job to do, and as a general of the Domino Empire, I can’t afford to turn a blind eye to potential dangers to my country.”

“I do understand,” Atem’s voice softened. “I’ll talk to her about it.”

“Good. We better get the mechs ready then. We have a lot of work to do.”

asheth: (Default)
 “Shit.” Yugi lunged forward, scooping Atem’s fallen form into his arms. “Atem? Atem?” He shook the android gently. Atem’s head lolled to the side, not showing any reaction. Shit shit shit. Yugi could practically hear the way the Commander would yell at him, damaging irreplaceable military property. Gozaburo would have him shot dead on the spot, or even strangled. Maybe he’d shove his fat cigar into Yugi’s eye, destroying it. He didn’t even want to think about what Dartz would do, but then, Yugi really didn’t care about Dartz’s opinion.

Atem was unresponsive, his body limp and heavy against Yugi’s arms. His breathing seemed fine though, which Yugi was thankful for, but he wasn’t sure how much longer it would stay even and regular. The reason for Atem’s sudden blackout was still a mystery to him, but he had a fair few theories lined up.

One thing was certain; they needed to get back to the outpost. Yugi shrugged Atem’s body closer to his chest, pulling them both upwards and heading back to the mech.

~~~~~~~~~~

Yugi kicked the handle open, the old door to the outpost easily giving way. He pushed inside with his back, swinging Atem’s body around.

“Anzu!” He yelled, even though she was already there in the room. She jumped, throwing him a dark look.

“I’m right here, Yugi! There’s only one room!” She hissed, but then stopped. “What happened?” She asked immediately, walking quickly over to him. Yugi lowered Atem’s body down to the floor, grunting at the weight. He wouldn’t call himself weak, but he also wasn’t the best when it came to physical strength.

“He just collapsed.”

“Nothing to suggest why?” Anzu crouched beside him, looking Atem over. She checked his pulse, hand over the head, the usual basics they could only do.

“I found some gouges in a canyon nearby, looked like a mecha fight happened there, but the marks were old and the metal pieces nearby were rusted. He reacted to it, I think. Said it was familiar to him.”

“What was?”

“The area, I assume. He didn’t give me details. I pressed him and he blacked out.”

“Another memory?”

“I think so. He was definitely nervous being in that ravine. Something happened here involving him, and if a fight was involved, I don’t think it was good.”

“It never is,” Anzu sighed, standing. “What do we do? We’re kind of underprepared to give medical attention. Not that I think that would help, but then we’re also underprepared to give mechanical treatment as well.”

“We better hope neither of us needs help then, or we’re in trouble.” Yugi said, and Anzu groaned.

“The best we can do is wait to see if his mechanical system reboots his brain.” He continued, rising to join Anzu. “There’s nothing else we can do.”

“Want me to radio Ryou to get Yusei? He might be able to help.” Anzu offered.

“Sure, in the meantime I’ll be taking notes and watching over him.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ERROR…

UNIDENTIFIABLE MEMORY BANK…

“Wait…!”

DELETING…

“Don’t touch me!”

“He’s acting up again-”

“Someone sedate him then, we still have experiments to perform on the others first. He has to stay… pure.”

“I’ll kill you all! Release my friends!”

Friends? Who…

ERROR. ERROR. ERROR.

I don’t… understand. Was that… me?

Flashes. Images. A dark night in a canyon-

Canyon? The General was-

“She’s too far away!”

Loud screaming, tones desperate.

ERROR.

“Stop…!”

Ambush… there was… a trap?

“…Atem don’t!”

The clunk of a mecha, gears screeching in protest at how far they were pushed-

ERROR.

Who…

“…”

Who is…

“Atem no!”

I can’t…

ERROR ERROR ERROR.

BACK UP DRIVE ACTIVATED.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yugi was scrawling down notes in one of the corners, chewing the end of his pencil more than he was writing. He huddled between the two walls, the lack of chairs in the room not really giving him many options for comfort. They had one soft blanket among the supplies, but Yugi had relinquished it to Anzu, who was currently curled around it, sleeping away peacefully. Lucky, Yugi sighed, tapping the lead of his pencil into the page of his book and splitting the paper.

He couldn’t write properly right now anyway. Just what the hell had happened in that canyon? It hadn’t been normal.

Maybe Atem had collapsed from a lack of energy? No, that can’t be it, Yugi internally groaned. Yusei had him on a drip before they left, and Yugi had given him food not even an hour before they had reached that ravine.

It’s something to do with his memories, I’m sure of it, he thought, drawing useless circles below the notes he had written. He skimmed over them, the points he had made about the location, and possible theories for Atem’s collapse.

So if it was a memory then, what could have triggered it? Atem had said he had been there before, that the outpost and canyon were familiar. In his human life, something must have happened there. Maybe it’s directly linked to the events before his mechanisation, Yugi mused, the tip of the pencil worming its way into his mouth again. Something that forced him into this area. Or lured...

A trap, then? A way to off Atem quietly? But there had been marks to suggest a struggle, and the wreckage of what Yugi knew to be a mecha fight. The signs were there, and he had been in the field long enough to know what a mecha fight looked like when he saw the debris.

“Don’t touch me!” Atem yelled suddenly, his body snapped upward.

Yugi jumped, not having expected the move. “Atem, what’s wrong?” He put the book to the side, standing.

Atem looked at him, head jerking rapidly, and for a split second Yugi was worried Atem didn’t recognise him, those red eyes wild. Then it passed, and he dipped his head, hands scrunching on the harsh cement under him.

“I… one moment, please. My system is… unorganised.” Atem shook his head, bangs dancing around his face where they weren’t stuck to the sides. Yugi noticed the beads of sweat rolling down the android’s face, his pupils flashing in… worry?

“Atem?” Yugi approached cautiously, hands reaching out. Atem stilled, his eyes closing briefly before reopening. 

“General Mutou,” he said, voice quiet. “Apologies for my… outburst, before.”

“It’s fine. I’m more worried about you. Are you all right?”

“My systems are fine, sir. I am functional.”

“What happened back at the canyon?”

Atem pursed his lips, frowning. “I… do not understand, sir. What canyon?”

“The canyon we were in earlier today. You collapsed when we exited the mech to examine a wall,” Yugi supplied. “You don’t remember?”

“There is a gap in my… memory, sir. I cannot call upon information from today.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

Atem thought for a moment, shifting his position, letting the tension out of his fingers. “We were doing a perimeter check.”

“And?”

“And nothing else.”

Yugi sighed, moving away. “Well, that can’t be helped. We can look into it later.” He hunted down his supply bag, the worn fabric nestled away amongst several other bags, from where Anzu had tossed them earlier. He reached around, locating a liquid breakfast carton box.

“Here. Drink this.” He tossed it to Atem, who caught it clumsily. He turned it over in his hands, curiously staring at it.

“Sir?”

“You need to eat something. A full stomach will help take your mind off all this.”

“This is food? It does not have the same appearance as the last object you had me consume.”

“Yeah- here, let me…” He held his hand out, and Atem gave him back the carton. He broke of the straw, digging it into the top of the box before handing it back to Atem. “Drink from this.”

“Yes sir.” Atem said, taking back the carton. He eyed it a moment longer, bringing it carefully to his lips, the straw disappearing between them.

For some reason, Yugi felt bad to be watching, but he found he couldn’t turn away. I just need to check he drinks it, he told himself as Atem’s throat bobbed and-

“Oh shit, he’s awake!” Anzu said, right as she slammed the door open.

Yugi frowned, glaring at the carton in Atem’s hand, like it was the source of all his problems. “Yeah, he is,” he grunted, standing up to face Anzu. “How did the call go?”

“Yusei doesn’t know what it is, but he said it probably has something to do with Atem’s human memories.” Anzu lowered her voice, hands cupped to her side as if to help direct the flow of it.

Yugi glanced to his side, but Atem was still busy with the carton. “We kind of already guessed that.”

“He doesn’t know anything about this either Yugi. We’re all flying blind here.” Anzu shrugged, walking away to another part of the room.  

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Yugi asked, voice low, turning back to Atem.

“I will be fine, sir.” Atem nodded.

“…If you’re sure.”

~~~~~~~~

The night brought no relief for Yugi, insomnia clinging to his body and refusing to let him rest. He paced around the room lightly, careful not to disturb anything. He was all too aware of how grouchy Anzu would be if he woke her without a decent excuse.

The space was still cramped, however, and he had little room to circle around in. Between avoiding Atem and Anzu’s sleeping forms and the supplies scattered on the ground, he was tip toeing around fabric and limbs, hardly appropriate for the kind of twitchy pacing he preferred to take in the open space of his quarters back at base.

This isn’t working, I’ll be up all night at this rate, he quietly tutted to himself. He was already worn out from little sleep the previous night, and his reaction time was suffering from it. He paused, eyes trailing to the door, the windows on either side sheets of black, the darkness outside revealing nothing. He looked back at Anzu and Atem’s sleeping forms, biting his lip. It wouldn’t hurt to just wander for a bit… He knew Anzu would give him hell if he went alone without some form of protection, so he grabbed the wrapped package of his pistol, pulling the strings and shaking off the cloth.

He stared down at what he could see of the metal, the surface trying in vain to gleam in the darkness. He stroked a hand down the length, smooth and cold under his touch. He shivered at the sensation, his fingers already feeling icy from the chill of night.

He quickly pocketed the gun, exiting the building, closing the door as quietly as he could manage.

Outside the air was crisp, a slight chill ghosting over the open areas of his skin. He pinched the sleeves of his jacket further down, trying in vain to save the skin there. When that didn’t work, he shoved them into his jacket pockets, shrugging forward. Damn this desert area gets cold at night, he silently grumbled to himself. And here I was thinking we coped it back at base. Guess it doesn’t really compare to the southern wasteland.

The quiet sound of the door opening and closing behind him went almost unheard, if it wasn’t for the silence of the night. Yugi turned his head, watching Atem walk slowly up to him.

“Sir, why are you out here so late by yourself?” He asked, voice soft. Yugi could barely see him, nothing more than a silhouette of darkness, his red eyes barely visible, and yet still piercing through the night eerily. Yugi couldn’t look at them for too long, seeing them almost glow inhumanly was unsettling.

“I want to check out that canyon again.”

“Is that wise sir? It is hard to see at night for humans. We could be ambushed.”

“’We’?” Yugi smirked.

“I cannot allow you to go out in the night alone, sir. If you insist on going, then allow me to accompany you.”

“As you wish. We’ll be quick, I promise.” Yugi said, starting off.

The darkness stretched across the night, filling in everything with inky shadows. Yugi couldn’t see more than a few metres in front of him without the aid of a light source, which he was reluctant to use, with them being so close to enemy lines.

It seemed Atem had some kind of night vision, though, and was able to guide Yugi back down into the canyon. Once in the ravine, it didn’t take long for them to reach the spot with the gouge marks, although the closer they got, the more Yugi realised that he could see awfully well ahead of them-

“Wait, there’s someone here.” Yugi whispered, crouching down. Atem glanced in front of them, lowering himself next to Yugi in a pile of shrubbery clinging desperately to the edge of the wall.

“What is it, sir?” His ruby eyes turned to the canyon, scanning in the darkness. Yugi pointed ahead of them, and Atem’s eyes zeroed in.

A few metres away, near the gouge marks on the wall, someone was kneeling, their head lowered. There was a lantern off to their side, illuminating the area around the figure in a small bubble of light. Yugi thought he could almost see something clenched in their hands from the way their arms looked to be held together, but that could have been a trick of the shadows cast by the light, it was hard to tell.

“Who is that?” Atem asked, turning to Yugi for answers.

“I couldn’t tell you. No one else is supposed to be here, though.”

“An enemy patrol?”

“That would imply there are others.” Yugi glanced around, peering into the darkness. “Can you… sense something? Other people?”

“How so, sir?”

“Heat signatures?”

“I wasn’t programmed to track humans, sir. Just to destroy.” Atem replied, like it was the simplest thing to say. Yugi gave a hesitant smile.

“I guess so.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, we can deal with this one for now, and if other’s show up, you can do your thing.”

“My thing, sir?”

“Kill them, Atem.”

Atem hummed, nodding. “Understood, sir.”

“Okay, here’s the plan. We both sneak up on either side, I’ll jump them, sending them in your direction, then you hold them down, understood?”

“Yes sir.”

“Let’s go.” Yugi split off, sneaking off through the bush. He took each step carefully, shooting the kneeling figure glances every now and then to check they weren’t aware of his movements.

Once he felt he was a good enough distance away, he stopped. The cover of the shrubbery was not much, what grew in the canyon was tough and stringy, the foliage on the plants short and stubby, but it was enough. He crept forward, veering off to the side, walking through exposed ground. The rock underneath was not too loose, although sand was scattered across it, making Yugi’s boots crunch down on the grains. He silently cursed, but it seemed luck was on his side this night, as he managed to get close enough without being noticed.

“Stop!” Yugi shouted, lunging forward. The figure jumped, head whipping to face Yugi. They stumbled backwards, scooting away. Yugi strode forward, giving them nowhere else to turn to.

Atem appeared behind them, closing his arms around the figure’s waist.

“Hey! Let me go!” The figure squealed, high pitched voice shouting. Yugi gritted his teeth as they continued to loudly struggle, although Atem hardly budged at the assault.

Yugi swiped up the lantern on his way past, shoving it into the figure’s face. It was just some girl it seemed, he didn’t recognise anything about her, and her appearance was rather dirty. She looked nothing more than an average citizen. So then why was she out here, in the middle of nowhere? More to her than it seems, I’m sure. A disguise of some kind, perhaps, Yugi narrowed his eyes, moving closer.

“Who’re you?” He grunted, moving the lantern partially out of the way, making sure to keep himself in the shadows. The girl shot him a glare spitting at his feet. Yugi curled his lip back, stepping back. Disgusting, what is this, high school? She’s a brat.

“If you don’t answer my questions, I’ll be forced to get Atem here to crush your arms.” Yugi said flatly. The girl’s eyes lit up at that, but instead of screaming or struggling like Yugi had expected her too, she spun her upper body around, staring wide eyed, level with Atem’s glowing robotic eyes.

“Wait… Atem? Is that… you?” The figure gasped. Atem froze for a moment, eyes narrowing.

“I do not know you,” he said, “answer the General’s question.”

She paused, unable to take her eyes off Atem’s it seemed. “You don’t… but… Atem…! I’m your best friend!”

Atem reacted to that, eyes growing wide. His arms loosened around the girl, and she wriggled away, stepping back.

The three of them stood in a triangle, both the girl and Yugi’s eyes on Atem, while Atem stared at the girl, confused.

“Friend…?” Atem tilted his head.

“Yes!” The girl nodded enthusiastically. “You and I are best friends! You’ve been missing for months, Atem. What happened? Where have you been?”

“I… don’t remember…” Atem closed his eyes, head shaking minutely. Just who is this girl? Yugi wondered, glancing at her from the corner of his eye. Her concern was genuine… perhaps… she really was someone from Atem’s past.

“You must! We grew up together! Look,” she pointed to the wall, the vague marks in the rock barely visible. “This is where I last saw you. We were under attack and you pushed my mecha out of the way to save me!”

“I… did?”

“Yes! Please, Atem, you have to remember!”

“I… don’t… memory banks… error.” Atem muttered, dropping down onto one knee, hands shooting to his head.

“Atem!” Yugi shouted, only to reel back in surprise as another voice joined in. The girl turned to him, equally as shocked.

Yugi just grunted, ignoring her in favour of approaching Atem. The girl lunged forward, pushing him off course.

“You stay away from my friend, you fiend!” She spat, eyes blazing in fury.

“Look, I don’t know who you are, or how you know Atem, but they guy’s already collapsed once today, let’s not go for twice.” Yugi held his hands up, trying to appear diplomatic.

“Why is he with you? Why didn’t he remember me straight away? I’m his best friend! What have you done to him!”

I haven’t done anything,” Yugi stressed. “But I’m more concerned with who you are. You’re wearing clothes from Armes. Don’t you know this is the Empire’s territory? You’re over the border.”

The girl had the grace to look flushed, which told Yugi yes, she did know where she was. “If you don’t mind, I’ll ask the questions then.”

“I’m not going to tell you anything else. Not to a dog of the Empire.” She spat, the venom in her voice thick.

Yugi snorted, shoving his hands into his pockets with a carefree shrug, surprised to feel the hard end of the handle of his pistol. I forgot that was in there… He smoothed his fingers around the grip, flicking the safety off carefully. “Call me what you want, but you’re not getting answers either, so we’re at an impasse here. Why don’t you just-”

“Mana no!” Atem gasped suddenly, his eyes shooting wide open. His head whipped around, confusion marring his face. His eyes locked with the girl- Mana, Yugi presumed, at the way Atem’s body slackened, relief washing over his face.

“There you are! What happened? Where…?” He finally seemed to take in his environment more, and the confusion returned.

Now this is interesting, Yugi thought, staying where he was, observing. Mana stumbled forward, her eyes wide, the whites reflecting in the lowlight.

“Atem…? Do you… remember me now…?”

“Of course I do, why wouldn’t I?” His voice softened, although he still looked confused. “Why wouldn’t I…?” He repeated, almost to himself. His brows scrunched together, and he suddenly groaned.

“I… M-Mana...? What’s…going on?” He shook his head.

“Atem…” Mana’s eyes were teary. She took a hesitant step forward before her gaze flickered to Yugi.

But Yugi’s attention was on Atem, and as those ruby eyes turned to him, Yugi couldn’t stifle the gasp that escaped his lips. None of the blank, expressionless void that marred Atem’s gaze was there anymore, replaced with a hard, confused look. He was scared and unsure. The eyes widened when they took Yugi in, then they narrowed, and Yugi was suddenly staring down a very angry Atem.

“You… You’re the…!”

“Careful Atem, he’s the-!”

“General Yugi Mutou of the Domino Empire.” Atem sprung forward, a dagger suddenly in his hand.

Yugi had no time to react, finding himself pushed to the ground, lantern falling out of his grip. Atem pinned him down, the dagger pressed to his throat.

asheth: (Default)
 Yugi had almost forgotten how it felt to be in a mecha. He had missed the rush of lurching forward, his body jerking around like a ragdoll in the cockpit while the mech’s legs pounded against the ground.

The mechanisms squeaked and groaned, an orchestra of grinding gears singing along with the movements of the mech. Yugi hummed along to each creak of the foot pedals under his boots. The connected wires led down in a winding path, causing the feet of the mech to jolt in response to each of his steps.

The walking motions were smooth and continuous, yet so very different from his natural gait. He never stopped to consider how… terrifyingly exciting it could be.

Here, in the belly of this monster, everything was so different, so much more expansive. He felt every movement through his body, every time the clunky steps made contact with the ground. He laughed with every lunge forward, every jerky movement of the machine, the heavy press of the metal foot plates sending jolts through his legs. It was exhilarating, it was refreshing.

It made him feel alive.

“Sir, are you sure you don’t want me to drive?” Atem spoke up behind him, leaning over the side of Yugi’s chair. “You appear to be a little… reckless.”

“You couldn’t get me out of this seat even if you tried Atem!” Yugi yelled, laughing loudly. “Can’t you feel that? The crunch of the dirt? The feel of the pedals under your feet?”

“I’m not in the driver’s seat, I don’t have pedals here sir-”

“Just imagine it! God, why did I ever give this up?”

How’s the rusty old mech feeling for you, Yugi?” Anzu’s voice crackled over the radio. Yugi pressed the microphone button to reply, letting a laugh escape his throat.

“It’s amazing! I totally forgot that exhilarating rush you get from a jump!”

It is nice,” Anzu agreed. “Glad you’re having fun.

“I’m having a blast! I wonder if I can still manage a three point roll…?”

Yugi Mutou, you better not even try that.

“Settle down, Captain killjoy, I won’t. I’m just wondering is all.” Yugi chuckled.

So back to the mission, right. Where is this outpost base supposed to be?

“Southwest of our current position. Should take another hour or so to reach.”

Cutting it close with those co-ordinates, don’t you think?” Anzu scoffed, and Yugi could clearly picture the deadpan expression on her face. His lips twitched up in a smirk.

“It just means we get to have our little confrontation with whatever’s there that much quicker.”

I get the feeling you’re having way too much fun with this, Yugi.

“You have to find the joy in the small things, Anzu. Besides, I’ve been cooped up so long I’m itching to do something.”

Yeah, well there was a reason for that.” Anzu’s tone was quiet, and Yugi’s smirk dropped.

“Blame Gozaburo.” He whispered, pressing the microphone off.

A lump had formed in his stomach, making him feel sour. He tried to focus back on the feeling of the mecha moving around him, but Anzu’s words haunted him, nudging incessantly even when he pushed them to the back of his mind.

Maybe he was starting to enjoy these things more than he should be. It could be a risk, these little slips always seemed easier to dismiss in the beginning, weren’t they? Maybe Anzu was right, and he should take a step back, even let Atem drive while Yugi rode shotgun.

He shrugged the thought off, nestling the growing complaint in the back of his mind to deal with later. Right now, he wasn’t having any violent urges, he felt fine. He could pilot a mech just fine.

They travelled on in silence for some time, the clunky sounds of the mechs pushing them forward, eating up the leagues of distance.

An hour stretched by, and finally the land yielded the outpost base to them, sitting on a rise surrounded by twigs of trees with crumpled leaves. Around the outcrop was a mass of rock formations, giant boulders and ridges stretching upwards, hiding everything around the outpost from sight.

This the place?” Anzu asked, just to be sure.

 Yugi hit the mic button, eyes flicking to the part of his screen showing a map layout of the land. “Yeah this matches the co-ordinates perfectly. Let’s park close by but not quite out the front. If someone’s waiting inside with a rocket launcher, let’s not give them a wide target to hit.”

Roger.”

They walked the mechs forward slowly, stopped just before the rise in the ridge. They disembarked, jumping down to meet between the two machines.

“Let’s check the perimeter. Atem you go left; Anzu, take the right. Check for any signs of people living here.”

He received two nods of acknowledgment, and they both moved away, walking up and slinking around the edges of the building.

Yugi headed straight up to the door, keeping low, his hand briefly patting over his boot, where a dagger was hidden. He wouldn’t need his pistol for this, anything waiting he was sure he could deal with using just his knife. He tried his luck with opening the entrance, pressing down on the handle, and found it to be unlocked. Strange. No one has unlocked doors in the middle of a war, especially so close to the border, Yugi narrowed his eyes, staring holes into the metal surface. This isn’t the ordinary kind of outpost.

Atem appeared by his side, crouched low. He nodded to Yugi, saying, “No sign of movement or life on that side sir.”

Yugi nodded in acknowledgement. Now they just needed to wait for Anzu.

She didn’t take long, approaching them quickly but quietly, coming back around from her search. “This side is empty too,” she said, “I peered into all the windows and what I could see around the dust made the room out to be bare. I think it’s abandoned.”

“Seems that way, but it could be an act. Someone could be hiding inside. Our mechs weren’t exactly the quietest things around. Let’s go carefully, follow my lead.”

Yugi unsheathed his dagger from his boot, crouching in front of the door. He wiggled the handle lightly, the chunk of metal giving way easily. He nudged it open, just enough for them all to pass through.

Inside it was quiet, and the air was stagnant. It smelt awful, like some chemical mixture had been left exposed, or food was lying around, and rotten weeks past its expiration date.

But it was also empty.

“Check everywhere and everything. Maybe there’s some evidence to show what went on here.” Yugi said, sheathing his blade to begin looking around.

One of the benches he passed held syringes scattered across the surface. He nudged one, rolling the barrel with a finger. The inside was empty, whatever had once been in there now gone. There was at least ten on the benchtop alone, and a few on the ground below, mostly shattered, but still recognisable.

So it’s a science lab then? A study branch out in the field? Yugi wondered, stepping away from the table to look elsewhere.

Anzu was exploring the other side of the building’s room, opening the cupboards beneath the benches, rummaging around in them. Yugi walked up to her, peering down at the open space.

“Any luck?”

“Nothing of value, and nothing to suggest any details.” Anzu gave a huff, swinging the door shut again. “There’s nothing here, Yugi. It’s a bit of a dead end, really.”

“Just enough to give us a hook, but nothing worth biting for,” Yugi groaned, slapping his forehead. “Did Pegasus send us on a wild goose case?”

“Well he didn’t know any better. Can’t really blame the guy, with how much he sticks his neck out for us.” Anzu sighed, standing up.

Yugi went to nod his agreement, but something behind Anzu caught his attention, revealed as she moved.

“Wait, hold up,” he walked past Anzu, staring at a spot on the wall. He touched a finger to it, the pad coming back clean. The area was a different colour to the smooth concrete of the wall though. It looked like a stain, old and muddy in colour.

“Does that look like…?” He tilted his head to where Anzu was peering at the wall next to him.

“Blood? Yeah.” Anzu nodded, a grim look on her face. “Do you think something happened here?”

“Well if there’s blood on the wall… and the bench,” he followed the trail to a splash on the surface. “Then there must have been a struggle of some kind.”

“What are you thinking, Yugi?” Anzu tilted her head, leaning on the bench behind her.

“Nothing yet, but…” He turned to her, expression grim. “I want to examine the outpost a bit more, see if I can run some tests on things through the mecha’s computer. I need more ground for this theory.”

“Sure,” Anzu shrugged. “What do we do in the meantime?”

“Mmm, maybe…” Yugi paused, seeing Atem move out of the corner of his eye.

Atem walked up to them, pressing a hand to the bench, next to the dried blood stain.

“This place… feels familiar.” He said, face scrunching up in thought.

Yugi and Anzu exchanged curious glances. “How so?” Yugi asked.

“I feel like I’ve seen this before. Or… Maybe something similar to it.”

“How does it make you feel?” Yugi pressed, coming up to Atem’s side, picking up a syringe. “Does this give you any kind of reaction in your mind?”

Atem stared at the object, furrowing his brows. “I’m… not sure, sir. It is… unclear. There…” He shook his head, blinking rapidly. “Nothing is coming to the surface. I feel like there is something behind a barrier, that I cannot reach. Perhaps I am not supposed to…?”

“You let me worry about that.” Yugi said, putting down the needle. He gave Anzu a look, and she nodded in response, a silent message passing through them.

Dartz.

This just had to be the work of that creep. He wasn’t sure how yet, but the setup of what this place could have been, and the unsettling atmosphere that still shrouded the building just screamed that the general was involved somehow.

“We might as well stay here for the night. We can hide the mechas on a ridge outside, and see if anyone comes back to this place. Judging by the state of the room, I’d say it’s a long shot, but you never know.” Yugi shrugged, leaning back on a bench.

Anzu nodded in agreement. “You go ahead with Atem and park your mecha, and I’ll wait here.”

“Right.” Yugi pushed off with his foot, strutting up to the front door. He glanced back, not feeling Atem at his side like he usually did.

The android was in the same position, his hand still against the wall. He was staring at it with unrivalled intensity, like the answers to his questions where written in the caked blood.

“Atem.” Yugi said, jolting the android’s attention onto him.

“Yes sir?”

“We’re moving the mechas now, then making camp here for the night.”

“Yes sir.” He moved away from the wall, sliding into position by Yugi’s side.

Yugi led him outside, heading to the bulky figures of his and Anzu’s mechs. They climbed in and Yugi quickly booted up the system again, the mech shifting upwards to its full height once more.

He took it in a circle around the outpost, searching for somewhere to offer even a small amount of protection. If Dartz worked on a cloaking mechanism instead of trying to play God, we wouldn’t have this problem, Yugi scowled, eyes glaring out at the rocky expanse around them.

Luckily there was a small amount of shrubbery nearby; not much in the way of concealment, but enough that crouched down the mech would at least not stand out so easily.

With the mecha parked, Yugi jumped down, heading to the back storage section. He popped the lid, reaching in to haul out a duffle bag, throwing it behind him to free up his hands for another. There were three in the trunk, each weighing a considerable amount. Yugi tested the handles of one quickly, frowning at the other two.

“Think you can carry two bags?” He asked.

“Yes sir.” Atem answered, not even trying them first. Yugi raised an eyebrow, and Atem picked the two bags up, nestling them both under his arms.

“All right then.” Yugi grunted, shouldering his own bag before setting off.

They trekked back to the base, dropping the bags inside. Anzu walked over, stretching out a yawn. “Guess I’ll go park mine now. Did Jou put the food in yours or mine?”

“Mine, I think.” Yugi zipped open one of the bags, rummaging around inside to find the package. “There’s a ration pack here. I guess he put them in mine.”

“All right, I’ll be back in a moment. Where did you park yours?”

“Down the hill south from here, in the bush.”

Anzu snapped her fingers, tossing him a wink before walking out.

Yugi focused back on the open bag in front of him. The food stacked neatly in their little packaging reminded him of the advice Yusei had given him. He quickly scanned several of the labels, finding one that required no boiling or preparation work. This’ll do.

“Here,” Yugi placed one of the packets in Atem’s hands. “Eat this.”

“Eat, sir?”

“Consume it, put it in your mouth and chew, however you want to say it, just do it.” Yugi folded his arms, staring Atem down, which wasn’t much, given their similar height.

Atem sniffed the container questioningly, giving Yugi another wary glance.

“That’s an order, Atem.” Yugi said gently.

“Yes sir.” Atem nodded. He no longer hesitated, hands nimbly working to break open the packaging. Inside were dry biscuits, crumbly, but still edible. Atem brought one to his lips, teeth clamping down on a portion, the biscuit giving way easily.

Yugi watched him chew, waiting until he had swallowed before speaking. “Here, you’re spilling more than you’re eating.” He gently took the packet from Atem’s hands, pulling out a biscuit and snapping it in half. He handed one of the halves to Atem, who took it, the whole section disappearing behind his lips.

Would have never thought I’d be hand feeding someone when they gave me this job, Yugi mused, a small smile twitching his lips upwards. I can only imagine Gozaburo’s reaction to seeing his precious weapon of war like this, or Dartz realising he let his mistake seep through the cracks, so vulnerable.

And it was the right word to describe Atem, he felt. Vulnerable. Underneath all of the overbearing systems forced into his mind, Atem was fragile, unsure. There was an inner turmoil there that he himself wasn’t even aware of, and it affected him more than he realised.

I wonder how long he would have lasted, if he hadn’t been sent to me? Yugi pursed his lips, staring at the biscuit in his hand. Would anyone else have picked up on the details? The signs that Atem was more than just an android? Would they have done something to counter it? The last thought sent a shiver down his spine. What would have happened if they hadn’t of picked up on the faults in Atem’s system?

“Am I… doing this right, sir?”

“You’re doing fine.” Yugi said, focusing back on Atem. He softened his voice, barely stopping to wonder why as he continued to break up the biscuits for Atem. It was almost nice, doing something so mundane and simple, without having a negative consequence attached to it. He allowed himself the moment of simplicity, the worries that constantly plagued him far away for this brief second.

Atem kept shooting him unsure looks, like a child afraid they were on the verge of messing up. Yugi gave him encouraging smiles back, handing him each piece gently.

Anzu chose that moment to re-enter the building, arms loaded with their supplies.

“Anzu, you’re back,” Yugi said, shifting himself away from Atem. “Need any help with those?”

Anzu gave him a confused look, dropping the bags on a counter nearby. “You know I don’t. What did I miss?”

“Nothing, why would you think you missed anything?” Yugi busied himself with his own supplies, taking out some of the packets of meals from the bags. Atem continued to slowly eat the biscuits, his expression thoughtful as he chewed each bite. Anzu’s gaze flickered between then, and Yugi didn’t miss the suspicion in her gaze. Of course she would know when Yugi was trying to avoid something, why wouldn’t she? Yugi inwardly groaned, keeping his eyes on the items in his hands, peering at Anzu from the corner of his eyes.

“I might check in with Ryou back at base,” Anzu said, and Yugi gave her a quick glance. “Maybe he might be able to find some record of something about this place.”

“We’re flying blind here; anything’s worth it,” Yugi shrugged, heading for the door. “I’m going to do a perimeter check. Radio me if anything happens here.”

“Aye aye.” Anzu waved, busying herself with setting up their radio.

“Come on Atem, let’s go.” Yugi motioned with his head to the exit, and Atem followed silently.

“Will you be well enough to drive, sir?” Atem asked. Yugi shot him a raised eyebrow, scoffing.

“I’m fine, I’ve got Anzu already heckling me all the time, I don’t need you as well, you know.”

“Apologies, sir.”

Yugi smiled, softening his expression. “No it’s all right, sorry to snap at you like that. I get a little pent up sometimes, don’t take it personally.”

“It is almost impossible for me to think so, sir. I am here to be at your disposal, after all.”

Yugi smiled softly, turning away. I wish you didn’t think that. No one deserves to be used for all their life. He led Atem back to the mecha, climbing in and booting the system up.

He began by circling the building, searching in amongst the trees from his vantage point above. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so he branched out, moving further away, into the rocks.

Giant boulders jutted upwards, scattered around to form untraversable areas, even the mecha too large and bulky to slip through the breaks in the rock. He toyed with the idea of getting out to explore, but brushed it off for another time. He just needed to check there wasn’t any immediate danger to them. He could poke around in rock formations later.

Turning back to the front glass of the mecha, he paused, something catching his attention.

“Do you see that? Over there?” Yugi hummed, squinting his eyes. “Looks like… a gap in the rock. Could be a ravine leading somewhere. We had better check it out.”

He pressed the handles forward, and the mecha lurched in response, shifting its massive body around to point in the direction Yugi wanted. Steam hissed from the suspension, and it shuffled forward clunkily, each step bobbing their entire bodies up and down.

The rocks parted to reveal a dusty path, sloping downwards into what looked to be a small valley. Walls rose as the ground descended, stretching upwards, above even the height of the mech.

“This looks like it naturally forms into a canyon.” Yugi observed, eyes tracing the path ahead of them, the rock curving protectively over the ground. “It might have been a stream at one point.”

He pressed on, the mecha clunking heavily over the rock underneath. Some of it was loose, but not enough to mess with their progression. If anything, it was a little sandy in parts, the slack sifting from sand grains, not earth.

“Hold on, are those scuff marks on the wall?” Yugi stopped the mech, leaning closer, his hair pressing up against the window of the cockpit. “I’m exiting the mech, stay here I’ll just be a moment.” Yugi popped the hatch, the mechanic holding the glass in hissing in response, yielding and allowing the glass to slide upwards.

“Sir I don’t think that is wise, I should accompany you outside of the mech, for safety.”

“Says who? I’ll be fine, you can wait here.” Yugi scoffed, unclipping the seatbelt.

“Captain Mazaki expressed clear orders to stay by your side. She informed me she had equal command of this mission with yourself, sir.”

Of course Anzu would, Yugi rolled his eyes, relenting with a sigh. “All right, come on then.”

They both jumped down, working their way forward by foot. The dirt crunched loosely under their feet, heavy boots crushing over the parting grains.

Yugi approached the wall slowly, arm extended to brush his fingers along the rocky surface.

These are marks from a mecha, Yugi frowned, glancing back to his own. He sized up the scuff marks, the gouges in the rock looked like the basic shape of a mech’s arm, combat upgrades and buffed up metal plates aside. Every mech was different on the outside, build up to be a custom machine for the pilot, but no amount of upgrades and changes could hide the design core underneath. It was almost impossible to change that structure without impacting the function of the machine.

There’s no way these marks are from anything else but a mecha. I’d state my job on it. He’s seen similar ones before, even used them to help track down enemy patrols. Armesian mechas weren’t much different at the cores than the Empire’s, which left Yugi with little evidence as to which country made the scar. If it was caused by a fight of some kind, it was safe to assume both sides had been present fighting. But if there was a fight here, why don’t I know about it? He wondered. It could have been Gozaburo brushing off reports again, especially if they had won the fight. Gozaburo would only get involved if someone wasn’t doing their job properly.

So if it wasn’t negligence, then what was it? A double patrol encounter that ended badly for either side? And so close to an outpost, presumably owned by some kind of research team if the contents were anything to go by. An even higher chance of General Dartz being involved somehow, which in itself brought forth a sea if questions and theories.

Something had happened here, and it wasn’t good. If Dartz was tangled into this mess, then Yugi could only assume he had plotted something, and used someone as fodder for something.

All this guessing and speculation work was giving him a headache, a pain blooming behind his eyes. He scrunched them up, massaging a finger to his temple. He needed answers, something more to work off.

“Can you identify metal particles, Atem?” Yugi asked, eyes opening to trace back along the gouges.

He waited a moment before realising Atem wasn’t answering him. He glanced behind himself, his whole body following at what he saw. The android was clutching his chest, brows furrowed in confusion.

“Atem? What’s the matter?” Yugi edged closer.

Atem shook his head, eyes squeezing shut in obvious pain. “Something… Flashes in my mind… I… This place is… familiar.”

“Like the outpost?”

“Yes… and no. It’s… different. I… There’s a girl… She’s…” Atem’s eyes snapped open, and he let out a surprised cry.

“Atem! What’s wrong?” Yugi stepped forward, frowning.

Suddenly Atem’s frame wobbled, his knees buckled. Seconds later, before Yugi could react, Atem collapsed to the ground.

asheth: (Default)
 It felt good to be back at base. Nothing quite competed with the quiet atmosphere there, especially compared to the noisy mess of HQ. The occasional ruckus of one of Jou’s squabbles was a welcome addition, while the constant buzz of activity that surrounded the main base was too much, the noise grating on Yugi’s patience.

He dragged himself up to his office, earning a sympathetic look from Ryou outside.

“Hard time at HQ?” He said, looking up from his computer screen.

“Isn’t it always?” Yugi sighed, letting off a loose shrug. “Send Anzu up here would you, Ryou? I need to brief her.”

“Sure thing, Mutou.” Ryou chirped, hands slapping the keyboard. Yugi left him to it, slipping into his office, almost shutting the door in Atem’s face.

“Sorry Atem.” He said, catching the handle and pulling it open more.

“Are you all right, sir? You seem tired.” Atem replied, closing the door quietly behind him.

Yugi gave him an incomprehensible answer, grumbling under his breath. The cracked leather of his chair was for once a welcome touch, and he dipped his head back with a sigh.

Atem stood off to the side, arms clasped behind his back, gaze forward, although Yugi could tell he was paying attention to him from his peripheral vision.

It didn’t take long for Anzu to show up, giving one light knock before she walked in. She glanced from Atem to Yugi, one eyebrow arched.

“You look positively reborn from your trip to HQ.” She said, plonking down into the chair in front of Yugi’s desk without invitation.

“I crave death.” Yugi groaned, massaging his temple. “The combination of dealing with not only Gozaburo’s pain-in-the-ass attitude, but Dartz’s slimy creepiness is enough to last a lifetime.”

“Let me guess, a two-or-so hour meeting?”

“Nail on the head.”

“And you called me up for a complaining session, or is there actually something important to pass down?”

“Can I not just complain to my best friend about my shitty trip?” Yugi put a hand to his chest, acting mortified.

“You can, but normally you begin it with a drink offer, and I’ve had no wine shoved in my face to dull my senses to your ramblings. What’s this about, Yugi?”

Yugi grunted, tapping the wood of his desk, allowing himself a moment to simply trace the grooves, drawing the seconds out.

“We have a mission to go on,” he said finally. “I need to brief you on the details.”

“Sounds more legit. What kind of mission?”

“Scouting, poking over the border a little maybe. Possibly causing a stir if need be. I get the feeling Gozaburo’s testing for some backlash, or an excuse to pick a fight.”

“Wouldn’t that be bad for us? More fighting?”

“Probably, but Gozaburo’s not going to care. I think he’s itching for another big battle. There hasn’t been one for… a while.”

“Since we…?”

“Yeah.”

“Ah, I see,” Anzu coughed into her hand, shifting awkwardly in the chair. Yugi took pity, purposely shifting the conversation.

“That’s not all.”

“We have more?” Anzu’s mouth dropped. “You cannot be serious, I’ll wring that guy’s neck myself if he thinks we’re going to do grunt work!”

Yugi hid a smile behind his hand. “No more orders from Gozaburo. This is a special one, from me.”

Anzu’s face immediately softened. “Oh, well, why didn’t you say so?”

“Because that reaction was worth it.” Yugi smirked. Anzu shot him a playful look, crossing her knees to lean back.

“All right Mutou, you had your laugh, now it’s time for the serious adult talk. What kind of mission is this?”

“Pegasus found an interesting detail between here and the border; a little outpost slapped into the countryside.”

“Closer to us or closer to that rival base on Armesian land?”

“It’s within the Empire’s territory, but distance wise, probably closer to us.”

“Is it manned?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Yugi shrugged.

Anzu raised an elegant eyebrow. “And Pegasus didn’t know either?”

“He only found the place; he’s leaving the rest up to us. He takes a lot of risks doing this from right under HQ’s nose; I don’t expect him to go any farther than that.”

“Mmm, good point,” Anzu agreed. “So what does that mean for us?”

“We check it out. If it’s got Empire soldiers in it, we find out why they aren’t on our radio channels or my general records. If it’s Armesian soldiers, we take them as prisoners and interrogate them.”

“All right, I’ll go get started with the supplies. Suppose I have to make sure Jou and Honda won’t burn down the base while we’re gone either.” Anzu rose from her chair, stretching lightly.

“Anzu wait, one last thing.”

“Yeah Yugi?” She turned back to him.

“I’m giving you as much authority as myself on this expedition.”

“Why?”

“Because… Well, I just want you to be able to give Atem commands if I can’t.”

Anzu’s brows lowered, disapproval sneaking into her expression. “Yugi Mutou, if this is-”

“It’s not,” Yugi interrupted, putting his hands up. “I promise it’s not.”

“All right, but don’t make me regret letting this conversation go.”

“Mm-hm.” Yugi pulled out a cigarette from the back pocket of his pants, lighting it before hastily snuffing out the flame.

“Yugi Mutou, that better not be a cigarette I see there.” Anzu groaned, shaking her head as Yugi exhaled deeply.

“And if it is, Mazaki?”

“You quit smoking years ago,” her eyes shone, sympathy crawling into them. “What happened?”

“Nothing. Just decided I wouldn’t mind one every now and then.” He brought the stick to his lips, breathing in the toxic mixture. “It helps calm me down.”

“It’s killing you is what it’s doing.”

“Let it try, many things have, and none of them have succeeded yet.”

“Yugi…” Anzu sighed. “The smoking is only the start. You know if you fall back into one habit, you run the risk of thinking the rest won’t be so bad. There’s a reason you stopped everything you used to do, remember?”

“That’s not true; I still play chess.”

“A harmless game against an AI on your desktop. Yugi, that’s not the point. You know what I mean, and you know I’m right. Don’t make me watch you fall back into all this. Ryou and Yusei too, we were all there.”

“I’m not falling anywhere Anzu. I promise, I’m not taking it back up. Once every now and then all right? I’ll stop soon, I swear.”

“I’ll make Atem smack the cigarettes out of your hand every time you try to light them, don’t think I won’t. Which, speaking of-”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Don’t, please.” Yugi turned to her, imploring her with his eyes to stop.

“Fine, Yugi, but if I hear or see anything to do with you and those lighters again, you’re going to be in trouble, mister.”

“That’s mister General to you. I didn’t ruin half my life to not be referred to as such.”

“Aye aye, General Mutou.” Anzu patted his head, walking to the door. He watched her open it and walk out, the gentle lock clicking into place as she left, and he allowed his shoulders to sag.

He began to feel like the cigarette in his hand weighted more than he thought, even as it burned down to a nub.

~~~~~~~~~

Nights were always cold and miserable for Yugi, the early hours of the morning never changing, stuck in a warp of their own accord and separate from the normal time stream. The difference between three forty-six and three forty-seven was massive, like battles were fought and empires destroyed in those mere seconds.

It all felt like borrowed time, something that wasn’t theirs to own. Perhaps that was why they slept during that time, nestled away in beds, under sheets, warm and oblivious to the magic of the early hours.

Or maybe Yugi just really needed to fix his sleep schedule.

He dragged a tired hand down his face, holding the cup of tea he had been nursing for the past hour in the other hand. The faint warmth of the drink was welcome against the sheet of cold that seemed to wrap itself around him.

Despite the chilly temperature, he still insisted on sitting close to the window where the icy air was strongest, leaking through the glass panel to creep inside and lurking in the corners where the shadows roamed free.

Yes indeed, he had too much time on his hands. He could write a book, with the way he came to describe such things. Could be a more productive use of my time, too, he thought, swirling the liquid of his cup around. From top soldier to best seller. That’s a thing that happens, right?

He distracted himself with a sip from the mug, letting the warm liquid wash through him. The soft sound of footsteps padding on the carpet approached him, and he glanced behind him momentarily.  

“Sir? Why are you awake at this hour?” Atem asked, feet silently taking him to Yugi’s side. His breath frosted a little in the air between them, and Yugi shivered at the sudden chill down his spine. Was it really that cold? He probably shouldn’t be up against the window then.

It wasn’t going to stop him from staying there, though.

“I get… restless, you could say.” Yugi said, in way of an explanation.

“You have insomnia, sir?”

“Mutou.”

“With all due respect, Mutou sir, insomnia is an important issue for one in your position.”

“I don’t have insomnia, I just get restless some nights and need to fidget. It’s not like anything could help me anyway. It’s just a thing that happens sometimes, nothing to worry about.” Yugi leaned against the window frame heavily, giving a half-hearted shrug.

Atem stayed silent, but he nodded slowly, his eyes drifting into the darkness outside. It was a solemn expression, and in the soft shadows, he almost looked like a normal human contemplating and not just staring blankly off into the distance. Yugi sighed.

“I’ll take you to Yusei tomorrow for one last check-up. We’re going out on patrol, so if you’re… damaged, at all, neither Anzu nor I will be able to patch you up. I need to make sure Yusei gives you a clean pass before we leave.”

“Yes Mutou, sir.”

Yugi nodded, thankful Atem didn’t pursue the conversation further. He turned back to the window, content to ride out the rest of the darkness in comfortable silence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey! Be careful with that!”

“Be careful with your own load, buddy!”

Yugi dragged a tired hand down his face, barely holding in a groan. Half the supplies on the list were still unchecked, most of the items unpacked and lying around. Packing up was taking longer than he wanted to admit, and he was eager to set off already. Wasting time on loading everything up was taking away from the time he had to explore the outpost’s coordinates. His rank only had so much sway in the eyes of an impatient man like Gozaburo. If Yugi didn’t get his results in the short period of time he waited for, then he would raise hell.

“Honda, I swear, if you knock me with that crate one more time, I’ll-!”

“Cut it out you two!” Yugi bellowed down at them. Jou and Honda jumped immediately, guilty looking up at him.

“Sorry boss!” Jou called, clasping his hands together in a weak prayer-like gesture. Yugi just rolled his eyes, pushing off the railing.

He went to check on Yusei instead, working his way down to the lower level and heading to the section off to the side that marked the entrance to Yusei’s lab.

The door slid open, and Yugi ducked inside down the hallway.

Atem was sitting on the smooth benchtop, the fingers of one hand curled around the edge while the other was raised upwards, palm up, some kind of cord sticking out of his wrist. He dipped his head when he noticed Yugi enter.

“How’s it going?” Yugi asked.

“Doctor Fudo is just finishing my check-ups now, sir. I should be ready for our departure momentarily.”

“I see. What’s that for?” Yugi pointed at the cord, peering down at it. Atem followed his gaze, nodding.

“Scanners show it to be a device to administrate fluids. It transfers nutrients and blood in humans, I believe.”

“And in androids?”

“I’m not sure, sir.” Atem frowned, his other hand coming to touch the cord gently. “Doctor Fudo insisted I keep it in, though.”

“He must have his reasons I’m sure. I’ll go speak to him, where is he?”

“The doctor and the android with him are in the next room, through that door.” Atem pointed, Yugi’s head turning to follow to the sliding door at the other end of the room.

“I’ll be right back. Atem, stay here.”

“Yes sir.”

Yugi slipped into the next room, where Yusei and Bruno were crowded around a computer screen.

Bruno turned around at the door’s opening, nudging Yusei’s arm.

“General.” Yusei said, not looking up from the screen.

“Why does Atem have a drip in his arm?” Yugi asked, brows knitted close together.

“They didn’t feed him properly,” Yusei said quietly, lips pursed. “His body is weak.”

“How come there were no signs of this before? He’s been here over a week. He’s fought two of my best men and performed perfectly in a mecha. People don’t survive that long without food.”

“He’s not a normal person, though.” Yusei pointed out.

“But he’s still a person, under all that. How has his body survived all this time? What kind of enhancements does he have?”

“The chips, from what I can understand, give his brain signals to think and act like a robot would. A lot of the human things he does don’t go through his mind. He does them instinctively.”

“And his body telling him he needs food?”

“I’m not sure. Perhaps he replenishes himself without informing us. Maybe during the night, who knows? Make him eat something and see what he does in response.”

“I might just try that,” Yugi nodded, arms sliding across his chest. “So he needs human food? Fruits, meat, the lot?”

“To keep him from burning out, I would recommend feeding him.”

“How am I going to explain that.” Yugi groaned. This was a fine mess he had landed in, practically a baby sitter for someone who didn’t even realise when their body was about to give in.

“I’m sure he’ll listen to you, sir. Order him to do it with no questions asked.” Bruno chipped in.

“I’m trying to teach him to be a human, not unconditionally follow my orders.” Yugi dragged a hand down his face. “Never mind, I’ll think of something.”

Back in the lab room, Atem was still perched on the bench, but his head lifted when Yugi entered.

“You’re good to go Atem. Take the drip out and let’s go check on the progress of the mechas.”

“Yes sir.” Atem pulled out the cord, standing up.

“Mutou.”

“Mutou sir.”

“Good enough.”

In the hanger bay outside, Jou was walking past. Catching sight of Yugi, he made a detour in his route, passing right by Yugi.

“Your mech’s ready to go boss!” Jou gave him a lazy salute, hauling a crate over his shoulder.

“Thanks Jou, you did a good job.” Yugi nodded, swiping a hand over the metal surface.

“You go have fun out there boss. Must be nice to finally see some action again instead of paperwork, eh?”

“You could say that.” Yugi offered a small smile. Jou waved to him before strutting off, tackling the load of supplies for Anzu’s mech next.

Yugi barely got two steps in before someone else demanded his attention.

“Yugi!” He turned at his name, nodding as Ryou approached him.

“Something wrong?”

“No, just came to give you this.” Ryou passed him a wrapped package, the shape very distinctive. Yugi didn’t have to guess what it was, but he still asked, nonetheless.

“Is this my pistol, Ryou?” He said, mouth twitching downwards.

“Yugi I think we both know you’re going to need this,” Ryou sighed, already sensing the argument about to play out. “Just take it, or I’ll give it to Atem.”

“I don’t want it Ryou. You know it’s dangerous.”

“Then why do you insist on carrying it around, even just at the base? Every day you walk into the office wearing it, Yugi. You wouldn’t do that if you thought it was dangerous, especially around us.”

“I’m not bringing it Ryou, so take it back and stop going through my office drawers.” Yugi snapped, pushing the package back into Ryou’s hands.

“It was on your desk actually. You should have hidden it better if you wanted no one to find it.” Ryou snatched up Yugi’s hand, shoving the gun into it. The lazy cloth keeping it covered fell off with the movement, revealing the shiny metal underneath.

Yugi scowled at it, lip upturned in disgust. “I can fight with a mecha just as well as a gun, Ryou, I’m sure I can mana-”

“Mechas don’t count for close encounters. You know Anzu won’t let you walk around without a weapon on you, especially so close to the border. For your safety and our peace of mind, just wear it. Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but if you do, you’ll regret not having it.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” Yugi scoffed.

Ryou groaned, snatching the gun back and turning instead to Atem. “Hold onto this for General Mutou, won’t you Atem?”

“Yes sir.” Atem moved to accept the offered gun, but Yugi grabbed it instead, shooting Ryou a dark look.

“Fine, I’ll take it, but I’m not using it. If I happen to leave it in the mecha when we’re outside scouting, then that can’t be helped.”

Ryou grinned, crossing his arms to nod happily. “I can accept those conditions.”

“Good. Now go set up a party or something, whatever you guys do when I’m gone from base.” Yugi made a shooing gesture with one hand, the other still holding the pistol.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep them in line here at base. Radio in if you run into any trouble, okay?”

“Will do Ryou. You’re in charge while I’m gone.”

“Hurry back then, would you?” Ryou laughed, walking away.

Yugi stared after him, hand tightening around the gun. The metal felt icy under his fingers, hard edges digging into the soft skin of his palm. He pressed harder, the bite stinging as it attempted to draw blood. No matter how I try it, we’re stuck together, he thought, eyeing the barrel, shining happily back at its master.

“Lieutenant Jounouchi appears to be calling to you, sir.” Atem’s voice pulled him back. He blinked, pocketing Ryou’s package before turning to where Jou was waving him down.

“All the mechs are good to go boss!” Jou shouted, giving him a thumbs up on both hands.

“Thanks Jou!” Yugi yelled back. He glanced at Atem beside him, standing as tall as he could, gaze straight ahead as always.

“Ready to go?”

“Always, sir.”

“Then let’s move out.”

asheth: (Default)
 Standing on top of the base, Yugi watched the helicopter glide towards them. He could hear the whirl of its engines spinning the blade, slicing through the air with ease. When it reached a few metres away from them, the wind picking up, tossing his hair around and obscuring his vision at moments. He tried to blow his bangs out of his face, but succeeded in only getting dirt stuck to his lips.

The helicopter landed, touching down on the pad gently at first, before its full weight sunk down. It didn’t even bother to turn off its engines, the driver’s gaze turning to Yugi’s, but not able to speak over the roar of the blades.

Yugi just shrugged, gesturing for Atem to follow him inside.

Boarding the aircraft, Yugi sunk down into the plush leather of the seat, groaning. It would be at least five hours before they saw the runways of the head base, and probably longer before he would be able to take a breather again.

Once they were airborne, Atem turned to look at him, a question tumbling from his lips. “Why a helicopter, sir?”

“They’re faster, and we’re heading deep into the Empire’s territory. The chances of being attacked are pretty low, and we’re on time restraints. It’s worth what little risk it poses.”

“Understood.”

Yugi reclined back against the seat, arms sliding up to the head rests. He regarded the stoic, rigid form of Atem, and how the other refused to relax from his upright position.

“Atem? Why do you always sit and stand so stoically?”

“My programming demands me to always be prepared for battle.” Atem answered, fingers curling under his palms. “I cannot disobey it.”

“Even if I ordered you to relax?”

Atem pause, his gaze turning thoughtful. “…My programming recognises your orders to override the base commands of my system. I believe, in that circumstance, your orders would take preference, sir.”

“Then relax, Atem. There’s no need to be so tense, you’ll knot up your muscles.”

“Yes sir.” Atem’s shoulders slowly slumped, and he spread his fingers over his knees.

Yugi turned back to the window, watching the land speed by in sparks of dull colours, his mind far away.

It was another few hours before they saw the mass of metal and concrete that marked the headquarters of the Domino Empire’s military. They touched down on an offshoot of the runway, away from the main section of the base.

Stepping outside into the swirling dust and baking heat, Yugi grimaced. He could taste the bitter particles in the air and spit rapidly to keep them off his lips.

I hate HQ, Yugi inwardly groaned. He glanced over his shoulder to where Atem was stepping off the helicopter.

“Welcome to Domino’s military headquarters, Atem.” Yugi gave a sweeping gesture, sarcasm thick in his voice.

Atem just nodded, eyes trailing over all he could see, which wasn’t much given their location away from the main buildings of the base. The barren landscape and heat caused ripples to wave over the surface, reducing the base to a series of hazy shapes.

“Aren’t you glad we don’t work here?” Yugi chuckled, sauntering over to a Jeep waiting to transport them to the base.

Atem diligently followed, saying, “The location of your workplace has no bearings on me. Where you go, I follow, sir.”

“You’re allowed to have opinions, though.”

“With all due respect, sir, despite the chip you had implanted in me, I am an android built for war. I do not have any use for opinions in my system.”

Yugi frowned, but didn’t say anything. Speaking with Atem about matters not involving war was a one-sided conversation, and Yugi was tired of his words falling on unresponsive ears.

There has to be some way to get through to him, though, Yugi thought, climbing into the car. He watched Atem slide in beside him, the driver taking off once they were both seated.

Atem was rigid and straight again, hair waving in the wind, eyes squinted against the elements. It was the kind of pose that would make Yugi laugh if it had been Anzu or Jou, but on Atem, knowing that the android didn’t even realised why his body demanded him to shield his eyes like that… Yugi felt a little sick.

He wondered what it was like, where that part that had been human in Atem had gone. Was it still there, buried deep inside? Or was it gone, completely wiped from his mind somehow, through some sick means? Yugi could picture it; a man like Dartz, laughing over the shoulder of a scientist, picking apart Atem’s brain while he helplessly slept, oblivious to the damage being forced upon him, soon to change his life.

The car rolled to a stop, and Yugi was forced out of his thoughts at the jolt. Right, the here and now is more important. Get your head out of your imagination, Mutou, Yugi chided himself.

“This way Atem.” He said, stepping out of the car. Atem followed close behind, and Yugi began the trip to the Generals’ meeting room.

It led them up several levels of the building, and across multiple hallways, the floor springing up carpet part way through, and Yugi knew they were close to Gozaburo’s lurking grounds.

He stopped in front of a double set of doors, cracking his neck to the side to work out the nerves stacking there. “This is the place.”

He pushed one of the doors open, strutting inside.

The only thing in the room was a large rectangle table, a chair on either side. One was occupied by a man with teal hair, while the other was empty. At the head of the table sat Gozaburo, his massive frame swallowing the chair behind him.

“Mutou, you’re late, hurry up and get in here.” He grunted.

“Yes sir.” Yugi said, despite Gozaburo never actually giving him a time frame to be late to.

“Keep the android waiting for you outside, Mutou. I don’t want it in here.” Gozaburo waved at him. Yugi raised a questioning eyebrow, but he didn’t argue. He turned to Atem, giving a quick smile. “Wait outside for further orders, soldier.”

“Understood, sir.” Atem bowed, sweeping out of the room quietly.

“All right let’s start.” Gozaburo gave a grunt, waving his hand widely before turning to the other man, as Yugi sat down opposite. “Dartz, I want to know…”

Yugi leaned back in his chair, zoning out mostly while Gozaburo and Dartz chatted away, hardly giving any notice that Yugi was in the room as well.

Eventually Gozaburo moved on to other matters, leaving Dartz alone, whose mismatched eyes then fluttered to Yugi. Instinctively Yugi straightened, coolly meeting Dartz’s gaze.

He idly nodded along to pretend he was interested, letting the Commander prattle on about something that seemed irrelevant to his General status. Gozaburo did like the sound of his own voice, if the way he compulsively spoke loudly over others was anything to go by.

Yugi patiently waited until he was addressed, leaning forward, eager to finally get the details on why he was forced to come here.

“There’s been some Armes soldiers nosing around in our borders recently and I’m sick of pathetic reports coming back showing a lack of action,” Gozaburo said, slamming down a folder. “If they’re trying to test the waters for something bigger I don’t want to let them do as they please. Mutou you’re the closest to all this; get on it.”

Yugi jumped, back straightening as Gozaburo’s eyes descended on him. “Yes sir.”

“Right, you have your orders. Dismissed.” Gozaburo said. He didn’t even wait for Dartz or Yugi to move, shifting out of his chair and leaving the room before either of them could even stand.

Thank god that’s over, Yugi sighed in relief, pushing out of his chair. The sooner he could leave the headquarters behind, the better off he would be. He didn’t like being here, there were too many risks, too many chances for something to go wrong.

Before Yugi had even made it two steps, a lofty voice called him back. Like that, he grimaced, expression morphing into bored curiosity as he turned.

“Yes, General Ironheart?”

“I’d like to meet the android, if you could spare a moment, Mutou.” Dartz said, inspecting a finger, not even looking at Yugi.

Yugi paused, gritting his teeth together. He so badly wanted to roll his eyes at the statement, but settled for beaming a polite smile at Dartz instead. “Of course, General Ironheart. I’m sure I could give you a few moments with your… creation.”

“Excellent.”

“I’ll bring hi- it in, no need to move.”

“How generous of you.” Dartz smiled, an expression that meant anything but cheerfulness.

Atem was waiting where Yugi had left him outside, back straight and arms clasped behind him. He gave a small salute when he noticed Yugi.

“Sir.”

“You’re needed in here.” Yugi said, gesturing for the android to lean closer. He lowered his voice, eyes glancing around nervously. “General Dartz Ironheart wants to see you.”

“Who is General Dartz?” Atem frowned, looking apprehensive. He must have picked up on my unease, clever.

“You’ll be fine, don’t worry,” Yugi said quickly. “He’s the one in charge of the… side business, that created… you. He probably just wants to examine you like Gozaburo did.”

“Shall I revert to my original programming, sir?”

“It’s for the best.”

“Understood.” Atem closed his eyes, reopening them a moment later, the ring of his pupil resizing itself rapidly. Yugi looked away, uneasy at the inhuman expression. He could practically see the emotions evaporating from Atem’s eyes, his face losing all evidence, leaving the signature blank look of an android in its wake.

Yugi led Atem into the meeting room, where Dartz was still perched elegantly in his seat. His face lifted when he saw them however, and he rose slowly to his feet.

“My my, look at how you turned out.” He practically purred, completely ignoring Yugi in order to examine Atem. He strode up to Atem, stalking around him as if assessing his next piece of prey. Yugi shifted impatiently on his feet, itching to leave already.

“Do you know who I am, Atem?”

“General Dartz Ironheart of the Domino Empire, sir.”

“Indeed,” Dartz said smoothly, eyes flickering back to Yugi. “I trust it performs to the best expectations?”

“Well and beyond, Ironheart.” Yugi nodded.

“Good, good. I would hope our little weapon operates smoothly. He’s quite the killing machine, isn’t he?”

“It fights quite well, yes.” Yugi felt his lips twitch downwards, but he caught himself. Dartz was watching him carefully, and he couldn’t afford to falter now, under the gaze of such a hungry predator. Dartz’s wouldn’t hesitate to cram a sword into a weak point once discovered.

“I can’t wait to see the results of the battlefield, the carnage he’ll leave in his wake.”

Why the change in pronouns? Yugi questioned silently. Dartz didn’t seem to act any different, his gaze wandering between Yugi and Atem. He hummed appreciatively when he touched one of Atem’s arms, feeling the muscles clench under his grip.

“Fascinating, isn’t he?” Dartz marvelled, his slimy hands working their way all around Atem’s arms and shoulders. Yugi felt sorry for him, the way Atem had to remain so stoic while Dartz practically felt him up. Disgusting.

“It’s just an android, Ironheart.” Yugi shrugged, acting indifferently. Dartz shot him a curious look, something wild sparkling in his eyes.

“Oh he’s so much more than that, Mutou,” Dartz practically purred, stroking Atem’s arm. “He’s an innovation of my own design. A feat never before achieved in our history.”

“If you say so.” Yugi grunted. Yeah he is, you sick bastard, but not for good reasons. He crossed his arms, signalling his impatience. “Are you done here, Ironheart? I hate to push you away from your creation, but the android and I have an appointment with General Pegasus.”

“Ah, ever the busy one aren’t you Mutou?” Dartz said. “Surely you could stick around, have a drink with me perhaps?”

“I don’t drink, but thanks for the offer,” Yugi lied. “Best not to keep Pegasus waiting.”

“Understandable,” Dartz sighed, the fakest sound Yugi had ever heard. “Do come back once my little android wins us the war, won’t you? We’ll have much to celebrate.”

“I’m sure we will.” Yugi gave the man a smile, enjoying the grimace Dartz gave him in return.

He started walking in the opposite direction, leaving Dartz far behind them. Once he was certain the other General was nowhere near them, he stopped, Atem slowing just behind him.

“You can turn your emotions back on now.” Yugi instructed. Atem nodded, eyes closing momentarily before reopening.

“Have I… met that man before?” Atem asked, the emotion flowing back into his voice.

“Why, do you think you have?”

“He seems… familiar.”

“He was probably overseeing your… creation.”

“Ah… Perhaps that was it.” Atem nodded slowly, although a frown still danced on his lips.

“Let’s go, Pegasus is waiting, and we still have to take care of your mecha test before we leave.”

“Aye, sir.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Pegasus’s office was five levels above the ground floor, a lavish array of decade old furniture and dated carpet. Nothing ever changed in here, it was like walking into a time capsule, something professors would chatter about in lectures for years to come.

Yugi had asked him why he never redecorated into the current century once. Pegasus has said it was because the furniture and carpet were his wife’s favourites. Yugi never brought it up again.

Pegasus was behind his desk, long silver strands of hair covering most of his face, head tilted in concentration at the paperwork littering the desk. His eyes lit up when he spotted Yugi, and he waved ecstatically at him.

“Yugi boy! It’s been too long!” He stood, making his way around the desk to clasp Yugi’s hand between his own, shaking roughly.

“Almost a year, yeah.” Yugi grunted, moving his hand back to the safety of his other palm.

“You really should visit more. It gets lonely around here, dealing with grunts and grunters all day.” Pegasus snickered at his own joke, threading his hair behind his ears to free his face. “What brings you here, by the way?”

“The new weapon,” Yugi answered, turning to the side to give Pegasus a better view of Atem behind him. “This is Atem, and Atem, this is General Pegasus.”

Atem gave a half bow, while Pegasus’s eyes lit up.

“What a dashing young face! How strange, it’s of Dartz’s design, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘design’, more like ‘creation’.”

“Odd choice of words, but I’m sure you’re here to tell me all about it.”

“It’s quite the tale; I only wish I had the beginning to go with it.”

“General Ironheart keeping secrets as always, I see.”

“When is he not?” Yugi groaned, rolling his eyes. “You’re lucky you’re not required to sit in these meetings. They’re just plain awful.”

“That’s why I have you, Yugi boy. Your pretty face is more likely to melt the cold hearts of the others as opposed to myself.”

“More like my track record. You know Gozaburo doesn’t even see me when he speaks to me. He just sees a weapon sitting on a shelf, collecting dust.”

“Come now, Yugi don’t think of yourself that way. We both know you’re so much more than that.”

“But Gozaburo doesn’t, and that’s the problem.” Yugi grunted.

“Gozaburo may talk big, but he’ll get what’s coming to him, don’t you worry. You just keep up your title and reputation, and we’ll be good.”

“Easier said than done. I think Gozaburo is starting to consider putting me back on the field.”

“But you’re a general; generals don’t do grunt work.”

“Everyone is a grunt in the Commander’s eyes.”

“This is true, I suppose.” Pegasus admitted, his shoulders sagging. He moved around the room, trailing a hand over the armchairs. His eyes moved to Atem’s form, something curious and searching in his gaze.

“You know, you look familiar.” He said.

Yugi raised an eyebrow. “You think you’ve met him before?”

“How could I, if he’s an android?” Pegasus shrugged. “Ah well, I’m sure he just has one of those faces.”

Atem looked to Yugi for help, and Yugi just shook his head. Best to leave it alone for now, he’d stash away that bit of information to think about later.

“So, about this meeting, Pegasus?” He pressed.

“Of course!” Pegasus clapped his hands together. He reached into his desk, rummaging around in some draw. He exclaimed loudly, finding whatever it was he had been looking for.

“Records,” he explained, sliding them over the desk for Yugi to see. “Of activity between your base and the closest one of our rivals. I think you’ll find some interesting points in between.”

Yugi glanced at the paper, sifting through the maps and locations listed. One particular one jumped out at him as strange. “How long has there been an outpost between this Armesian base and the compound?”

“Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it? Quite the interesting location, too. Close to a General’s base, should an attack happen, and not too far from an Armesian base too. They could potentially play both sides here, depending what colours and emblems they splash on their uniforms.”

“A prime piece of real estate if I ever saw one.” Yugi agreed, frowning. There was something not right about this outpost. He was getting similar vibes to the compound where Atem had been, an eerie chill up his spine, and he wasn’t even at the place. Gozaburo also mentioned something about soldiers poking around our border. Maybe there’s something going on here…

“Might be worth your time to scout, no?”

“Believe me, I’ll be looking into this personally.” Yugi grumbled. Pegasus nodded solemnly before smiling.

“How goes your soldiers? Anzu keeping the boys in line?”

“As always, she’s exceptional. Really helps keep the heat off my back, Ryou too with his endless patience.”

“That’s good,” Pegasus said smoothly. “It might take a while, but we’ll get them out.”

“There’s nothing else worth doing in this godforsaken place. If I can get one person out, then it’ll be worth it.”

“But what about yourself, Yugi boy? Surely you don’t plane to be Gozaburo’s puppet forever?”

“I’m fighting for those with something still left to fight for. There’s nothing left for me, you know this.”

“We’ve both done things we’re not proud of, Yugi boy. But what makes us different is we’re trying to fix the messes we’ve made. You shouldn’t berate yourself ”

“You might be, but I’ll never be able to take back what I’ve done on the battlefield.” Yugi sighed.

“Don’t stress on the past, Yugi boy.”

“I know, I know. I’m trying.”

“Focus on the now, and what we’re fighting to accomplish.” Pegasus gave him a pat on the shoulder, moving back to his desk. “I’ll keep you informed should any more information pop back up about our mystery place.”

“Thanks Pegasus,” Yugi nodded, slipping the report into his coat pocket. “I’ll hit the road when I get back. For once, Gozaburo’s orders actually don’t mess with our plans.”

“Small steps, small steps.” Pegasus hummed, slouching back into his chair gracefully. “I’ll be hearing from you soon, Yugi Mutou.”

“I’m sure you will.” Yugi said, turning away. “Come on Atem, let’s go.”

“Yes sir.”

Yugi began to backtrack down to the ground level floors, taking the elevator four storeys below.

Inside the elevator, Atem spoke up by his side. “What is our current mission now, sir?”

“Mutou.”

“What is our mission now, Mutou, sir?”

“Better,” Yugi hummed. “Now Atem, we have to test your mecha skills, to keep the boss man happy and off my back.”

“Understood, si- Mutou sir.”

“I must admit, given all your results so far, I’m curious to see how well you do in a mech.”

“I am programmed to respond to the best capabilities in all military based situations.”

“Actions speak louder than words, Atem.”

“Then allow me to show you, Mutou, sir.”

~~~~~~~~~

Yugi stood in a glass box stretched out over the stadium field. From here, he had a clear view of the entire track snaking around the field, and the interchangeable obstacles in the middle section. For the exercise, Yugi had chosen a rocky terrain, something to better replicate the area around his base of work, and the paths that led out into the neighbouring country’s territory.

“All right Atem look sharp, I have to record your results for the Commander.” Yugi spoke into a microphone, his voice broadcasting over the stadium. The screen in front of him sparked an image to life, a close up of the cockpit of Atem’s mech. Yugi could clearly see the android in the pilot seat, his hands gripping the twin handles that acted as the steering mechanism. He didn’t move, even as Yugi’s voice was transmitted directly into his ear piece.

“I’ll be controlling the field and projectiles that will be sent at you for the length of the test. The ground may shift, so be prepared for anything.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Good. Let’s begin.” Yugi slammed his fist down on one of the buttons, and the system in front of him flared to life.

He immediately began to press inputs, arranging the tools down below on the field to his advantage.

The ground lurched in response, the metal plates holding the textured lumps of rock shifting underneath the terrain, booming across the stadium.

Atem’s mech began to activate its suspension, legs spread wide to keep the bulky of heavy metal standing. He looked apprehensive on the screen, eyes flickering over the field, waiting for any kind of movement to act on.

With the ball now rolling, Yugi began to up the difficulty slowly. He began with increasing the speed of the plates, the rock moving faster now, making it harder for Atem to remain in one place, the ground jerking roughly underneath him.

With the balance disrupted, Yugi then activated the weapons set up along the outer ring of the field, where the track hugged the edges. Various types of canons and gun-like launchers rose from the ground, aiming their noses upwards.

With a flick of his wrist, Yugi sent a spray of projectiles towards Atem. Bullets of all kinds rained down on him, and Atem was forced to dance the mech across the field to keep the bullets form piercing the hide.

One of the heavier bullets, a type of canon ball, was heading directly for Atem’s new course of direction, and Atem twisted his mech sharply in response, narrowly dodging it, but sending his vehicle spiralling in the opposite direction.

The mech rolled, arms flinging out to the sides to keep itself steady. Yugi paused in his assault, waiting to see what Atem would do in response.

With the ground slowing its advances, Atem was able to kick the mech back into a standing position, the legs slamming in to get a good hold while the arms held the suspension on a manageable level.

Once upright again, Atem slammed his hands forward, the handles flying down their runs. The cockpit lit up excitedly in response, and Yugi’s eyes flickered from the screen down to the field, watching as the mech shot across the terrain.

Has he lost it? Yugi’s mouth hung open. Not even Jou would make such a bold move, straight into the shifting mass of bullets and metal breaking rock. And that was saying something.

His hands flew across the inputs, commands beeping back at him, cheerily announcing an increase in movement. The field groaned under the effort, but Yugi held firm with his commands, and eventually it became more noticeable.

The plates whirled and moved, slamming up against each other only to bounce in opposite directions, creating a rocky field of icebergs, bobbing and deadly in the sea of chaos.

Atem barely reacted, his mech sailed over the sharper points, pressing against the sides of boulders only to leap off them mere seconds before they crushed up against another piece of stone.

He must have past experience from the compound, no one could make a move like that so easily, Yugi bit his lip, fingers twitching. God I just want to hit him once…

He jerked a thumb over the missile buttons. Almost immediately two shot up from canons on the sides of the arena, turning around slowly in the air to lock onto Atem’s position.

Yugi watched Atem whip his head up, the screen on his mecha shouting bright warnings at the homing attack. His hands moved quickly, pressing buttons and flicking dials, but his mech remained in place, crouched against the dirt.

Why isn’t he moving? Yugi frowned, leaning closer, as if it would help him see some hidden detail he was missing.

Just when Yugi thought Atem was going to let the missiles hit, the mech shot into the air, and the projectiles, unable to change projection quite that fast, crashed into the ground, exploding on impact.

Yugi realised what he had just done, firing homing missiles at the government’s most expensive asset. “Shit.” He let out a deep breath, closing down all of the projectile bays. By the time Atem’s mecha had spun around in the air and landed back onto the rocky terrain, the field was still, everything static.

“The test is over,” Yugi pressed down on the mic input, his voice coming out more shaky that he expected it to. He paused, muting it to cough for a second.

“Return the vehicle to its bay and meet me up here in the control room.” Yugi ordered, shutting down the window with the view of Atem’s cockpit.

While he waited for Atem to finish up, he reset the field, hearing the metal clunk and groan as it shifted around.

He brought up the results from the exercise, the computer already organising everything into statistics for him.

Let’s see now… Yugi went straight for the heart rate results, the collection of data he had secretly taken for his own use, and would cut out of the report Gozaburo would receive.

A normal android- at least, one built for war, without human limitations- would be able to maintain their heart rate in any situation, regardless of implanted emotions or human-like reactions. But, like Yugi had suspected, Atem’s spiked all over the chart, reaching higher when he was more pressed to make decisions. Like a normal human would, Yugi sighed. This only proved what he already knew, though.

He knew Atem had been human, and he already knew about the kinds of limitations the surgery had, and what parts of Atem couldn’t be changed with artificial pieces. Maybe part of him had been looking for an excuse to question Yusei’s tests, a small abnormally that would point Atem to be nothing more than advanced AI. But the glaring data results in front of him couldn’t be ignored, nor could the reality of it all.

Atem really was some kind of twisted experiment.

The woosh of the door sliding open behind him cut through his thoughts. He turned to see Atem stride into the room, offering Yugi a quick salute and inclined head.

“Was my performance satisfactory, sir?”

“Yes it was.” Yugi quickly separated the data, storing his secret notes away and breaking up the file to send in the report to Gozaburo. “You did good, Atem. As always, you’re exceptional.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Don’t thank me, I wasn’t the one who turned you into a chimera of inhuman biology. Yugi just nodded, shoving a flash drive with the data on it into his jacket pocket, hands resting in them to strut confidently up to Atem.

“In other new, we’re done here. It’s time to head back to the base, I have orders to give out, and missions to plan.” Yugi stretched his neck to the side, groaning at the crack his joints made. It’s going to get very busy these next few days…

asheth: (Default)
 “Where are we going today, sir?” Atem asked him. They walked down the corridors, tracing the all too familiar path down to the hanger bay, and Yusei’s lab.

“To see Doctor Fudo.” Yugi answered, turning around a corner.

“Do I require more checks, sir?”

“No, we’re here for something else. I’m not sure about the process myself, but Yusei is the best at what he does. Anything mechanics he can fix up.”

“And there is a problem to fix in my mainframe, sir?”

“Not a problem, sorry, wrong way to phrase that.” Yugi hummed, tapping his leg for a moment. He paused once they reached the hanger, stopping just outside the door to Yusei’s lab. “He’s giving you... an upgrade, you could say.”

“Understood, sir.”

Yugi nodded, activating the switch for the door. It slid open, and they entered through the hallway to the next room.

Yusei was behind his desk area, or the closest thing that could be considered one, where his laptop was currently resting. He was busy typing away on it, while Bruno was propped up on the bench beside him, scribbling something down on a clipboard. The android looked up as Yugi approached.

“General Mutou, how may we assist you today?” He said, and Yusei gave a tiny nod of acknowledgement.

“Yusei, I want to put an emotion chip in Atem.” Yugi said, getting straight to the point.

“Why?” Yusei paused, frowning up at Yugi.

“I thought it might be useful, and help with our problem.”

“…I suppose it could.”

“Can it be done?”

“It shouldn’t be too hard. But it might mess with his original program, and results will vary. Are you all right with that?”

“I’m willing to take the risk. Will it require surgery?”

“Possibly.”

“How soon can you have it done?”

“Could take a while. A few hours maybe.”

“I’ll leave him with you overnight then,” Yugi turned to address Atem. “You’re staying with Yusei tonight. He’s going to give you an emotion chip in your… mainframe.”

“Will that not contradict my original programming, sir?”

“It might, but it needs to be done. Trust me, I’ve been on the field, and I know a thing or two. Having human emotions will help you make better decisions in battle.”

“All I have been told by my creators lead me to believe otherwise, sir.”

“Well they make pretty shiny things, and I blow them up. Who’re you going to believe, Atem?”

“My programming determines all information coming from my commanding officer to be of the highest priority.”

“Then believe me, emotions will help.”

“Yes sir.”

Yugi turned, seeing Bruno smiling at him. “What?”

“Oh nothing, nothing.”

“Spill it.” Yugi stepped towards him, and Bruno threw up his hands, laughing.

“It’s just kind of cute is all! You go out of your way to explain things to him, even if he doesn’t understand it!”

“I’m a renowned and feared General of an Empire; I’m not cute, nor is anything I do.” Yugi grumbled, crossing his arms.

“I’m sorry, sir, but you really can’t chose what’s cute and what’s not.”

“Maybe, maybe, but no one will believe you of what happened here anyway.” Yugi replied smugly. Bruno stared at him, mouth agape, while they heard a silent snicker from behind Yusei’s laptop.

 “I’ll take my leave now.” Yugi said, leaving the lab room.

Back out in the hanger, Yugi saw Anzu working her way quickly towards him.

“This can’t be good.” Yugi said once she was close enough.

“Lovely greeting as always Yugi,” Anzu rolled her eyes. “Although I’m afraid I do actually have some bad news for you.”

“Never a good start to a conversation,” Yugi sighed. “All right, give it to me straight, Doctor.”

Anzu swatted his shoulder before frowning. “Ryou got word there was a chopper heading this way and he made contact with them. It’s Gozaburo.”

Fuck.” Yugi hissed, a hand immediately gravitating to his head at the headache that threatened to bloom. “What the fuck is he doing all the way out here? HQ is miles away!”

“Language,” Anzu chided him. “I know you don’t like him, but he is the head of the military. Be careful not to swear in his presence.”

“I know, Anzu, you don’t need to remind me. Besides, I’ve spent years doing this, and he never picked up on it. I’ll be fine.”

“I’m estimating he’ll be here in about an hour. You’d better prepare.” She patted his shoulder in passing, walking off.

“Yeah yeah.” Yugi muttered, taking of in the opposite direction.

He headed towards his office, knowing it was where Gozaburo would storm into first.

After a quick word with Ryou updating him with the new details, he retreated to his sanctuary, glad for a moment of peace.

He knew it was only the calm before the storm, however.

He found himself getting anxious as the minutes ticked by, itchy to do something. He began to pace the room, arms clasped behind his back to keep them from fidgeting.

Just why was the commander visiting them, and on such short notice? Yugi had nothing new to report, nothing given to them. They had barely done more than scouting missions over the past few months. They certainly hadn’t seen any action, no troops from the other side.

Unless he’s here for Atem, Yugi groaned. Of course he is. Couldn’t he wait, though? Is it really so desperate for him to see Atem right now? But of course, Gozaburo waits for no one. Yugi shook his head, sighing.

A loud knock signalled the approaching doom, and Yugi jolted. He took a deep breath.

“Come I-”

The doors burst open, and Yugi felt his shoulders sag. He rose from the chair, giving a salute. “Commander Gozaburo, sir, it’s an honour to have you he-”

“Spare me the pleasantries Mutou I’m on a tight schedule.” Gozaburo grunted. “You smoke don’t ya Mutou?” He popped a cigar between his teeth, hand already moving to his lighter as he spoke.

“Not anymore, sir.” Yugi said politely, keeping his distance from the man as the flame flickered, trying hard not to look at it.

“Well you do now.” He tossed a cigar at Yugi, who cause it effortlessly in one hand.

“I appreciate the offer, sir, but-”

“No buts Mutou, that’s an order.”

“Yes sir.” Yugi looked down at the cigar, his lip twisting downward. He eyed the lighter Gozaburo extended to him, swallowing back his nerves and grasping it. The smooth surface made him shiver, and he quickly flipped the ignition, lighting the tip of the cigar as quickly as possible before returning the lighter.

“So I’m going to get straight to it because I hate this place and want to leave,” Gozaburo said, not sugar coating anything, as usual. “You said in your reports the weapon was performing perfectly? Is it ready for battle?”

“I believe the moment he- it was handed over to me it was ready for battle, sir. It shows promise in every field.” Yugi exhaled, watching the cigar smoke billow out.

“What about in a mecha suit?”

“Haven’t had the chance yet, sir. It was scheduled for tomorrow.”

“Any preference for anything? Anything that would show otherwise?”

“The weapon works with everything, as I stated in my report, sir.”

“You know I don’t read those things. If I asked for ten page documents I’d go to a college, Mutou.”

“My apologises, sir, but it is a requirement as a General of the-”

“I’m not here to listen to excuses Mutou!” Gozaburo barked, crushing the cigar against Yugi’s desk. “Sources tell me the facility responsible for creating the blasted thing was destroyed after you left. Is this true?”

“Yes sir.”

“Care to tell me why the government’s money ended up completely wasted on that place?”

“I believe it was a gas leak of some kind. The technician who took me through the facility was rather absent minded, and I chalked it up to a mistake on their end. As I was loading the weapon into my vehicle to leave, I heard an explosion, and turned to see a great portion of the facility destroyed. I didn’t have time to search for survivours, as it set off a chain reaction of explosions, and I used the moment to assure no damage would come to the government’s priceless weapon of war.”

Gozaburo shook his head, grunting. “Figures. Those scientist types can’t work their way out of a building enough to see the sun, let alone actually double check their equipment. Was this sent in the report?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then whoever gave me the rundown of that is fired.”

Yugi just nodded with fake sympathy. Without any way of tracing evidence of what happened that day back to him, no one would ever know Yugi had given the order for the place to be trashed. He didn’t care about the millions of dollars the government lost on the place, only that future experiments would be halted without the technology they had built up there. He could only hope the records of the place were burnt as well, and all evidence of Atem’s experiment weren’t available to be repeated.

“That’s all for now, Mutou,” Gozaburo said. “An announcement will come down the line when I need you at headquarters next.”

That caught Yugi off guard, though he tried his best to hide it behind a neutral expression. “Me, sir? What for, if I may ask?”

“For a briefing. As much as I’d prefer not to waste money flying you and the weapon around, that teal bastard wants to see his final product up close, before it’s send off to the front lines, I assume.”

Teal bastard? Yugi frowned, knowing instantly who he was talking about. “Does General Ironheart really want to see the weapon that bad? If I may sir, I have a war to fight here.”

“I know Mutou, and I’d have to agree with you on this one, reluctantly. But the General provides a great deal of support for this war, so we can’t ignore his request. I’ll have a notification sent your way when the dates are set up. Dartz can coo over his abomination while we deal with the threat at hand.”

“As you wish, sir.” Yugi bowed.

“Until then, keep everyone ready around here. Your band of misfits better be in top shape when I need to ship them out.”

“Yes sir.”

“Good.” Gozaburo grunted, shouldering his way out of the door. Yugi stared sullenly at the mark he had left behind on the desk, the wood charred in a perfect circle.

He picked up the cigar and disposed of it, hesitating with the one in his hand. Most of it was still left, although he wouldn’t feel bad about wasting it. But then again, if I have to go to the capital for an undisclosed amount of time, and deal with not just Gozaburo but Dartz as well… Yugi sighed, bringing the stick to his mouth, inhaling deeply. One was fine, he wouldn’t fall back into his old habits anyway. That was a time he wasn’t eager to repeat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gozaburo barged into his office the next day, shouldering his way inside, already sporting a cigar hanging out of his mouth.

How he’s lived this long chugging those I’ll never know, Yugi grimaced, putting on a neutral expression. He rose from his chair, giving the man a half bow.

“Commander Gozaburo, sir.”

“I realised I haven’t seen the android myself, and I’d fancy seeing it rip into something. You said it’s right to go?”

“Aye sir. But-”

“No buts Mutou you know I hate that word. It means something isn’t done the way I need it to be.”

“My apologies sir. What would you like to see about hi- it?”

Gozaburo turned to him for a moment, giving him a strange look. Yugi felt his heart skip a beat in worry.

“I want you to fight it.”

Yugi’s heart stopped, skipping more than would be healthy. His hands turned cold, and a sudden wave of terror pasted through him. “You… want me to spar with the android, sir?”

“That’s what I said wasn’t it?”

“…Yes sir.”

“So where is the weapon then? I haven’t seen it once, where are you keeping it, in the hanger?”

Yugi mentally cringed at the thought. And treat him worse than a dog? Gozaburo found new lows to reach every time Yugi saw him. “Atem is with my mechanic, currently.”

“Atem? Is that what Dartz called the android?” Gozaburo gave a grunt, clearly some joke Yugi was missing. “That man truly is sadistic.”

Says you, Yugi rolled his eyes. “Shall we go to the hanger bay, sir?”

“I don’t want to trudge around in the filth, just bring the machine down to the sparring room and have it ready. I’ll meet you there, don’t keep me waiting.”

“Yes sir.”

Gozaburo pushed out of the room, leaving the door open behind him. Yugi growled in frustration. Now I have less time to check on Atem… and prepare for this sparring match, he shuddered, body flushing cold.

He headed down the twisting corridors, walking down a level to where the hanger bay sat off to the side of the compound.

He slipped into Yusei’s lab, where Atem was sitting on a bench, while Yusei was busy typing away on a laptop. He turned to face the door when he heard Yugi enter, and Atem slipped off the bench.

“Yusei we have a problem I need Atem now.”

“What’s wrong?” Yusei was facing him immediately, brows knitted together. “Gozaburo?”

“Exactly,” Yugi nodded, turning to where Atem was now standing. “Is the chip in?”

“Yes, everything went fine.”

“Has he shown any emotions yet?”

“Ask him yourself.” Yusei shrugged, turning back to his laptop.

“Right,” Yugi flushed, mumbling. “Atem, how do you feel?”

“Yes sir.”

“Uh… No I asked, how are you feeling right now, not ‘do you feel’.”

“Oh,” Atem blinked, nodding. “There are things I can identify as human emotions in my system right now. I believe what I am currently feeling is… content.”

“Are they difficult to sort through?”

“I believe they will be easy to manage in time. My system is working to keep my abilities at the same level as before. I should be back to normal functionality in twenty-four hours.”

His brain is trying to relearn emotions, Yugi nodded, letting out a sigh. “Well that’s good, except we… have a bit of a problem. I have to take you to meet the Commander of the Domino Empire now.”

“It sounds important.” Atem commented.

“It is, but what I need you to do is act like you don’t have that emotion chip in, can you do that?”

“If I may sir, what was the point in installing it to then interfere with my original programming if you only wanted me to ignore it in the first place?” Atem tilted his head, brows furrowing.

“It’s just for this one time, with this one man. Gozaburo paid for a weapon without human limitations, and if he learns I okayed an emotional chip to be put in you, we’re both done for.”

“I understand, sir. I shall return to my original programming for now.”

“Good. Only speak when he asks you a question, and don’t use ‘but’ at all, he hates it.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Let’s go.” Yugi spared Yusei a look, noticing the way he looked back at him strangely. Yugi brushed it off for another time.

“Should we continue on to the sparring field as per the Commander's orders?" Atem asked once outside.

"Aye, but one thing, before we start," Yugi put a hand to his pistol, gripping it tightly. "I... should warn you, Atem. I am a very different person on the battlefield. If for any reason I seem to get carried away, I want you to stop me."

"Stop you, sir? How?"

"It might get rough, and if it does, it would be best for you to not try and fight me at that stage. Yield if I tell you to. Please."

"... I do not understand what it is that spikes your heart rate so, but I will do as you command, sir."

"Good. If you don't, you might die."

"I am always prepared to die, sir. It is in my programming."

This would be too soon for you. “I know, but still, I’d rather keep you alive, if that’s all right with you. I don’t fancy spending the rest of my life dealing with Commander Gozaburo and General Ironheart whine about millions of dollars wasted because the commander thought it would be fun to see me in action again.”

“Fun, sir?”

“He gets a kick out of torturing me.”

“That does not sound good. Should we not question this matter? Torturing someone of your status is a matter of importance.”

“Your concern is touching, but you know so little of what actually happens once you rise above the level of a grunt. Things get complicated, although one thing still remains. You’re still a pawn, just with shiny badges to distract you.”

“…Sir?”

“Nevermind I’m rambling,” Yugi grunted, waving a hand dismissingly. “Let’s be off. You have your orders.”

“Yes sir.”

Gozaburo was waiting rather impatiently for them on the lower level of the sparring room.

“This is the android? The weapon?” Gozaburo grunted, grabbing one of Atem’s arms harshly. Yugi saw Atem’s eye twitch, but he stayed limp, letting Gozaburo poke and prod at him. He forced Atem’s head upwards, jutting his chin around.

“It doesn’t look like much. A bit scrawny. And what’s with the hair? Dartz sure does have weird taste.”

Yugi frowned, imagining the general overseeing Atem’s transition. He had to repress a shiver; Dartz was a creepy man, even on the best of days. But if the man had power over you, something to keep you in his grasp…

Yugi gave Atem a sympathetic look, even if Atem wouldn’t understand what it was for.

“I don’t like its look, but as long as it kills as well as Dartz promised, that’s all that matters,” Gozaburo released Atem, strutting away. “I’m going to the upper deck now, I except a good show Mutou!” He called over his shoulder.

“Sir… what is this feeling?” Atem frowned, clutching his chest.

“What does it feel like?”

“Like… I don’t want to ever see that man again, or let him touch me.”

"It's probably anger, I'd say. It's the base emotion we show around the Commander."

"Is he not the most important in the chain of command, and therefore worthy of our respect?"

"Normally I'd say yes, but you have to remember, just because someone is in a high position of authority, does not mean you have to follow them blindly. You don't have to like the person, just do what needs to be done."

"I understand, sir."

"By extension, you don't have to like me, just follow my orders."

"I understand, sir.”

“Good.” Yugi allowed himself a sigh of relief, only to immediately take it back as he spotted Ryou standing next to Gozaburo on the upper level. He was leaning forward, watching Yugi carefully.

Great, just what I need. I’ll never here the end of this, whatever happens here. Yugi turned back to the field, where Atem had already moved to pick up the two swords he had used against Jou and Honda yesterday.

Yugi walked over to the racks, scooping up a few extra magazines for his pistol, stuffing them in his pocket. Something told him he wouldn’t need them, but he didn’t want to get cocky.

“Ready Atem?”

“Yes sir.” Atem replied, strapping several small daggers to his belt. He noticed Yugi draw his gun, and he tilted his head. “If you don’t mind me asking, sir, do you plan to fight with the pistol alone?”

“The DM is all I’ve ever used. And I doubt you want to see me in a mecha. It’d be hell, so let’s avoid that. I’ll stick with the pistol, and you’ll thank me for it.”

“If you say so, sir.”

“I do. Let’s get into position.”

They both walked to opposite sides of the area, turning to face each other.

“Fight well, Atem!” Yugi called, nodding, and Atem returned the gesture.

“What are you waiting for! Show me that legendary Mutou fire!” Gozaburo barked from the upper level.

“Aye sir!” Yugi pointed his gun and shot, not missing a second.

Atem jerked to the side instantly, the grip on his swords tightening. He sent a knife sailing back Yugi’s way, but Yugi just as easily dodged it. They were merely testing each other, getting ground to stand on.

“Is that all you’ve got?” Yugi hissed, surprising himself at how angry he sounded. His blood pumped and everything seemed to slow down as his heart rate picked up.

Atem charged, low to the ground as he ate up the distance between them. Yugi shot once, aiming at Atem’s feet to throw him off.

Atem side stepped, changing his direction to run around Yugi instead. He was almost close enough to swing one of those deadly swords Yugi’s way, a fact Yugi was all too aware of.

He shot again, this time in front of Atem, forcing the android to reel back, effectively sending him to the ground as his feet couldn’t grip fast enough. True to his programming, however, Atem recovered as he went down, thrusting one of his swords into the metal ground, using it to keep himself from planting face first into the floor. As he did, he spun his body around, his other arm coming up and around his chest. The sword in that hand disconnected from his hand, Atem loosening the grip right as the tip of the blade lined up with Yugi’s body.

Yugi ducked immediately, the woosh of the blade shooting above him sending chills down his spine. That would have been painful to take in the chest, no doubt agonising in the last minutes of life while Atem’s expressionless face stared down at him dying.

Clever, Yugi felt his lips twitch. His blood was on fire, his hand almost numb with how tight he gripped the gun. His other hand was just as constricting, nails biting into the skin of his palm, lacking the rough metal to keep them at bay. He really felt off balance without that second gun, but it would be better lamented later.

Besides, if he had his other pistol, Atem would most likely be dead now.

Yugi stayed on his knees, letting lose another shot. Atem battered it away with his remaining sword, and Yugi jerked to a stop. It was just like how Honda had done it, with Atem’s swords the earlier day…

He learns fast… Yugi bit his lip, hesitating. He set his eyes on Atem, who was closing the distance between them, sword held close to him, posed to strike forward.

Yugi sensed an opportunity, now that Atem only had one sword left. He sprung forward, coming to meet Atem. He saw a moment of confusion pass through Atem’s eyes, the android unable to predict Yugi’s movements, no doubt. It was just what he needed.

He veered to the left, towards the side that lacked a sword. Atem realised his mistake a moment too late, swinging his body around to try and cover the weakness, but Yugi was already too close.

Yugi pivoted around Atem, and the android swung his sword in response, following through to Yugi’s position.

Yugi ducked, grabbing Atem’s wrist in the same motion. He twisted the limb hard, forcing Atem to drop the sword at the odd angle his fingers turned.

Yugi continued to pull Atem’s arm, turning to the side to smash him into the wall behind. Atem’s body smacked against the metal, but Yugi gave him no time to recover. He used the arm he still held to flip Atem around, tossing him onto the ground harshly. He heard Atem’s head crack, making contact with the flooring sickeningly.

He tugged Atem closer to him, pressing his pistol to Atem’s brow.

Yield.” Yugi growled, digging the barrel of the gun further into Atem’s forehead. Atem’s red eyes glared upside down at him, blazing. Yugi could see the fight still in them, the desire to destroy as he was told to.

“Yield.” Yugi repeated, pressing his hand harder into Atem’s wrist.

Suddenly Yugi felt Atem’s muscles relax under him, and he went limp, closing his eyes. “I yield.” He said.

Yugi felt his body snap forward, and the fire left his hands. He blinked, reeling back.

“What…?”

Atem’s eyes were on him once again, watching him with a careful glint. Yugi frowned; what was that look for?

He glanced down, finally noticing the pistol he had pointed to Atem’s temple.

“Shit.” Yugi swore, angrily shoving his pistol back in its holder. He scrambled to his feet, offering a hand, but Atem ignored it, rising to his feet on his own.

“Are you okay?” Yugi whispered.

“Fine sir. You appear to be normal also.”

On the outside, Yugi groaned inwardly. He tried to smooth out his hair, but his hand was twitching so badly he ended up tugging the roots into knots more than straightening them.

Gozaburo came strutting up to them, clapping a hand over Yugi’s back, lurching him forward.

“Bravo! Nice work Mutou! And with only one pistol as well. What happen to the other one? I thought you dual wielded?”

“In the past, yes, but I’ve misplaced my second pistol. I lost it many years ago, sir.”

“Ah whatever, we can always get you another one later.”

“I don’t need it anymore, sir. It’s fine.”

“Whatever,” Gozaburo took a drag of his cigar, grunting loudly. “I’m more concerned with it,” he pointed the stick at Atem, “why did it give up so easily?”

“Perhaps it had something to do with its programming. I am considered to be its superior officer.”

“Ah, right. The voice recognition and all. Fine, understandable I suppose. But it better perform better on the field.”

“I’m sure it’ll be as bloodthirsty a killer as you want it to be sir, swords and all.”

“Swords are redundant on the battlefield Mutou. I want it to use guns, and mechas. Did you give it a test in the mecha?”

“Not yet, sir.” I already told you that, Yugi silently fumed, once again having his reports ignored.

“Then I expect this to happen back at HQ. Take use of the track we have there when you come,” he flipped his wrist over, grunting down at his watch. “Speaking of HQ, I have to ship off. I expect you there as soon as possible Mutou do I make myself clear?”

“Perfectly sir. The android and I will be there.”

Yugi waited until Gozaburo had left the building before letting out a sigh. “Idiot.” He muttered.

“HQ, sir?”

“Headquarters. The main base of military operation. It’s near a city in the north west, past the mountains.”

“And we are due to head there?”

“Yes. I have a meeting to attend to there. We will also conduct your mecha tests there, on the training field. It’s a pretty nice one, and they have every kind of mecha available. It’ll be a good experience.”

“If you say so, sir.”

Yugi paused, humming. “You know… When we’re alone, you don’t… have to always call me ‘sir’ you know. You can use Mutou if you’d like.”

“I couldn’t possibly, sir,” Atem stuttered. “You are my commanding officer.”

“And therefore you have to do as I command, don’t you?”

“…Yes, sir.”

“So call me Mutou when we’re alone. That’s an order.”

“…Understood, sir.”

“We’re alone now Atem.”

“…Understood… Mutou… Sir.”

Yugi sighed. “It’ll pass.”

asheth: (Default)
  Yugi guided Atem back to the training room the next morning, pen and notebook in hand, listing the events the day would entail.

“You’ll be sparring with Lieutenant Jounouchi and Honda today. Jou will start you off. I want you to go all out and show us everything you can do, but don’t hurt either of the Lieutenants. You’re aiming to capture them, not kill them, do you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good.” Yugi grunted, swiping his card for access into the room.

Jou and Honda were already waiting inside, poking and examining the racks of weapons set up. Jou was jabbing a sword around and Honda was eyeing a rifle.

“Jou you’re up first, I’d like it if you could use swords against him for this fight, and then Honda can use guns. Help vary the response we get from him. Can you manage swords and throwing knives you think?”

Jou gave a hum, tapping his foot. “It’s worth a shot. I’m a bit rusty, what with the lack of practice and us using guns instead most days, but what the hell, I’ll give it a shot!”

“Good,” Yugi nodded, flashing him a grateful smile before addressing Honda next. “And Honda, when you get your turn, try not to get carried away would you? I’m trying to test Atem’s powers, not see how much you can show off, and the training room can only take so much of a beating on our budget.” Yugi waved at them, stepping away.

“I… I don’t show off.” Honda muttered, crossing his arms. Yugi turned away, allowing himself a small smile at the reaction, hearing Jou snicker behind him.

He saw Anzu on the observation level, leaning forward over the railing to get a better vantage point. He took the stairs up, joining her.

“Shall we place bets, Mutou?”

“You know I don’t gamble anymore, Captain. My record has been clean since my promotion.” Yugi said smoothly. “Besides, I have no doubt Atem will win.” He flicked his wrist in consent when Jou gave him a questioning look, and the two started.

Jou selected a set of throwing knives, strapping them in runs down his chest and around his legs. He grabbed a sword as well, a thin, long blade that sat loftily in his hand.

Atem just picked up two swords, not looking twice at the designs, his eyes glued to Jou’s form.

“He doesn’t seem to care what kind of weapon he uses. And dual wielding swords too, that’s rare.” Anzu remarked, clearly picking up on this as well.

“He doesn’t, no. But I believe his programming covers all matter of weapons.”

“Were his results from yesterday that good?”

“Let’s just say I think even I would have a tough time fighting him.” Yugi muttered. Anzu stayed silent after that.  

Jou moved first, twisting down to pluck one of the knives off his belt and toss it at Atem. The android dodged easily to the side.

Jou used the moment of distraction to lunge forward, but Atem was already waiting for him. He stabbed a sword out, forcing Jou to step to the side to avoid being sliced. While one arm was stretched out, Atem used the blade in his other hand to jab at his side, where Jou had just moved.

Jou gave a grunt of surprise, dropping down to roll along the ground. As he came to a stop, another knife flicked out from his wrist.

This time the blow forced Atem to move, and he stepped to the side rapidly, keeping his attention on Jou.

Jou threw another knife for each step he took forward, putting Atem under an assault of blades. Most of them the android could side step, but some he bounced off his blades, swinging them this way and that to protect his legs.

“Damn it you’re a tough bastard, I like that!” Jou laughed, launching himself forward.

Atem looked up just in time to cross his blades in front of him, trapping Jou’s sword between them.

“Still think the android will win sir?” Anzu asked.

“He will. This is almost over.” Yugi said. He already saw the means for Atem to pin Jou down, and he had no doubt the android saw them as well.

Atem raised his foot, kicking Jou square in the gut. Jou’s eyes went wide, not having seen the move, and he staggered backwards, momentarily winded. It was all the time Atem needed.

He rushed forward, driving his arm into Jou’s neck, pushing him backwards. Jou toppled to the ground, spinning mid-air and landing on his stomach. Atem put one of his feet down on Jou’s back, pressing the tip of his blade between Jou’s shoulder blades.

“Yield.” He said, his other blade moving to rest over Jou’s neck.

“I yield.” He said, and Atem looked up at Yugi, who nodded in consent. Atem moved off Jou, swords returning to their position at his sides as he walked away, giving Jou room to get back up.

“Impressive. You were right.” Anzu commented.

“It’s a gift.” Yugi chuckled, scrawling down some notes on his pad. Peering down at the trio below, he raised his voice. “Good job Jou! That was some useful data! Now Honda if you could try something with guns, I’d like to see how Atem reacts to being shot at!”

“Not something you hear every day, I’m sure.” Anzu said.

“Aye sir!” Honda shouted back, already scampering off to the weapon bay, selecting the biggest gun he could find. Typical, Yugi snorted, amused.

“If you don’t mind me asking sir, what are you trying to get out of this one? There’s already proof of Atem’s abilities from his fight with Jou, but dodging bullets? You don’t want to hurt him, right?”

No, I don’t, he thought. He suspected that a bullet to the head or heart would kill Atem, despite all the work done to turn him into a cyborg. Mainframe or not, no amount of technology could replace a human heart.

“Just testing some theories I have.” Yugi said, gripping the railing in front of them. “Besides, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to see him dodge bullets.”

“All right, you have me there.” Anzu said.

Below them, Honda had returned to the main floor, guns in hand. “Ready, android?” He called.

“Yes sir!” Atem hollered back.

“Good! Here I come!” Honda let out a cry, and pointed his guns, the oddly reassuring sound of bullets ringing in the air.

Yugi smiled at himself at the thought. Only he would find gun fire to be comforting.

Atem’s movements were graceful, his body snapping to the side just in time for the bullets to sail past him into the metal paddings on the walls. He wasted no time with a counter attack, plucking a knife from his belt, whipping his arm around to send it towards Honda.

Honda smacked the knife out of the air with the side of his gun, and Yugi made a sound, impressed.

“I didn’t know he could do that.” He commented.

“He’s been practicing. Something about the cool factor of it.” Anzu giggled, and Yugi allowed himself a small laugh as well.

Watching Atem fight, so graceful and elegant and deadly with those swords had Yugi’s fingers twitching, itching to wrap around his pistol. He reached down to brush them over the base, feeling the bumps along the metal pieces. He wondered how quickly Atem would react if he shot at the android right now. Would the bullet pierce? Was Atem quick enough to dodge Yugi’s aim? His hand longed to grip the handle, finger on the trigger, to have that weight of the recoil slam into his hand…

He turned to the side, noticing Anzu staring at him. He didn’t miss the worry clouding her eyes. She had been one of the ones on the field, fighting close to Yugi, in many of the same battles. She had seen him at both his best and worst.

“I’m fine.” Yugi said, letting out a shaky breath, taking his hand off the gun as he did. He chose to fiddle with his dog tags instead, pulling them out from under his jacket and smoothing a thumb over the metal.

“Are you sure? I am perfectly capable of managing Atem’s results here.”

“No it’s fine, I should be here for it all anyway. What do you think of him so far?” Yugi asked, changing the subject. Thankfully Anzu went along with it, nodding.

“He’s good, for sure. I can see why we’ve been so drained of money and supplies recently, if that’s where the government has been pooling it all into. He’s a fine specimen. It would be interesting to see what he would be like on the battlefield.”

“Perhaps.” Yugi nodded, turning back to watching Atem.

Most of Honda’s bullets were gone, but he kept the assault coming, setting Atem at bay with dodging the bullets. Occasionally Atem would be quick enough to throw a dagger, but he was running out of supplies, Yugi noted, keeping track of how many the android had thrown.

Atem couldn’t get close enough to swing his blades at Honda, but none of Honda’s bullets could hit home either. Atem either dodged them or reflected them off his swords, catching them on the edge with deadly accuracy.

Yugi had no doubt now that Atem had proven his skills, merely waiting for Atem to finish the job so he could get to writing up the reports.

Honda feinted running out of bullets, and Atem took the bluff, running forward to assault Honda head on with his swords.

Damn it, he’s not going to… “Honda stop!” Yugi called, but it was too late.

Honda fired, but Atem was too fast. A flash of red and grey, and Atem had swung around behind Honda, swords raised and crossed, sitting right under Honda‘s throat. Yugi could see the way his adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, so close to the deadly steel.

“Yield.” Atem said.

“Fine, I yield.” Honda grumbled, barely audible. Atem nodded, pulling his swords away.

Yugi and Anzu moved down to the lower level to meet them. “How was your first taste fighting against millions of dollars’ worth of government funding?” Yugi smirked.

“We should have a sparring dummy like that in here! He must be able to go for ages! Does he ever stop? Does he even need to eat?” Jou was fluttering around Atem, head twisting to observe him each and every way. He even poked Atem’s arms on occasion, and Yugi had to suppress a snicker.

“You’re annoying the android, Jou, quit it.” Honda snapped, slapping Jou on the back of his head.

“On the contrary, Honda, he doesn’t have the means to be annoyed.” Yugi supplied, and Jou grinned.

“If I punched him in the face, would he stop me?” Jou questioned.

Yugi shrugged. “Go ahead and try.”

“Right on!” Jou pulled back his arm, snapping it forward, aiming directly for Atem’s face.

The next few seconds saw Atem ducking down, hand whipping out to bring Jou down with him, where he promptly twirled Jou around in the air, forcing the other on his stomach as he impacted with the ground.

He stood over him, hands holding Jou’s behind his back.

“Ah, self-defence, should have known.” Jou muttered, wriggling under Atem’s grip.

“What would you have me do, sir?” Atem looked up at Yugi.

“Just let him go, he learnt his lesson.” Yugi waved him off, and Atem nodded, standing and letting Jou scramble to his feet.

“You should have a go boss!” Jou said excitedly, bouncing back from being tackled to the ground almost immediately.

“Not likely. I don’t do grunt work anymore.” Yugi smirked, enjoying the off guard looks both Jou and Honda gave him.

“Why don’t you show us how it’s done then?” Jou said.

“Some of that legendary Mutou flare we hear so much about.” Honda added.

“If you’re lucky, you’ll only ever have to hear about it,” Yugi grunted. “I’m off the sparring roster and you know that. I already have all the data I need, and besides, it’s not like Atem is about to be fighting me on the battlefield, not when he has an entire army to deal with already.”

“That sure sounds like a lot to pin on one guy. I mean, I could probably do it, but this guy? He’s so small.” Honda leaned down, squinting his eyes at Atem’s form, still towering over him.

“Atem just beat you both in a fair fight.” Yugi pointed out.

“In a fight where we couldn’t kill each other, yes,” Honda grunted. “But to the death? I know androids don’t have our human needs, but sooner or later he would run out of juice or someone would score lucky.”

“Couldn’t the same be said then for you?” Yugi counted. Honda blinked in surprise, looking away with a barely contained scowl.

“Well yes, but-”

“Ah let it go man! The guy’s a weapon of war, he’s made to be thrown out there and fight until he drops. That’s why they don’t bother with emotion chips and the like. He doesn’t have anything human in him.”

Emotion chips… Yugi’s eyes widened. That could be what he needed. He had to speak to Yusei tomorrow, see if the mechanic could arrange something. I never thought about those… They could… work...

“That’s all for today,” Yugi said, “dismissed.”

“Sir!” They called out, giving lazy salutes.

“Atem, you’re with me.” Yugi gestured, and the android fell into step beside him. They walked in silence for a moment, Yugi trying to word his next sentence well.

“How would you feel about an emotion chip, Atem?” Yugi asked.

“I do not feel, sir.”

Right, I forgot. “Well you can, I suppose, if we get you an emotion chip. The kind androids are given to appear more human.”

“With all due respect, sir, would that not contradict my original programming? I am designed for war, where emotions would hinder my performance.”

“True, but you’re not just for war,” Yugi hummed. “You’ll see what I mean in time, Atem.”

“By your command, sir.”

~~~~~~~~~

Yugi sat curled up on a chair by the balcony, watching the stars twinkle in the sky, the sliver of moon giving a poor source of light in the inky darkness. The crags and mountains around them were fuzzy shadows in the lowlight, he could barely tell what was the red of the rock, everything too dark.

“Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in a field of flowers?” Yugi asked suddenly, nursing the lukewarm cup of tea in his hands. He felt Atem’s presence behind him, swivelling his head to observe the other.

“I have not, sir.” Atem said, only his lips moving as his body remained stoic.

“Then humour me for a moment. What do you think it would be like? To wake up every day, walk out of your quaint little house and see nothing but field after field of blooming flowers.”

Atem tilted his head. “I am unsure how to answer that, sir.”

“Would you like to see a field of flowers?”

“If that is what you command of me.”

“No,” Yugi put his cup down, gesturing wildly with both his hands. “Would you like that? Forget me, I’m not there. Would you think it would be lovely to see a field full of flowers? Doesn’t matter the colour; blues, purples, yellows… reds.” He looked at Atem’s eyes, the tiny flickers of crimson light shining in them in the darkness, no doubt his night vision working to keep everything visible.

“I assume it would be a beautiful sight to behold,” Atem said slowly, “but it holds no bearing on what I am programmed to do, sir. I believe in times of war, my presence would be best suited to the battlefield, where I can be of use.”

“Yes I suppose it would.” Yugi sighed, arms flopping down the sides of his chair.

asheth: (Default)
 The training room was empty the next morning, with most of his subordinates already out on a mission. In fact, the whole compound had a barren feel to it, Yugi meeting no one as he traversed the corridors with Atem.

“This is the sparring area. We use this space to keep our skills honed. Only seasoned warriors are sent to this place, so there’s no need for basic training. I’m assuming you don’t need it either.” Yugi rambled on, glancing back at Atem to get a nod of agreement. “Well we might as well get started then. Do you have a weapon preference?”

“I am trained to be proficient in all weapons, sir.” Atem responded.

“Then just pick any to begin with, and we’ll move through them all. If I see you’re better at any one in particular, we’ll use that one in the next exercise.”

“Yes sir.”

They went through the basic weapons. Yugi made him fire guns, swing swords, and throw knives. They would have to schedule mecha practice for another day, since Yugi still had to deal with e-mails and paperwork. He didn’t have time to watch Atem twirl around all day.

Atem was true to his profile, showing skill in all fields. Every one of his shots hit the mark, and his knife throwing was deadly accurate, enough that Yugi felt a tug of fear at the thought of going up against someone like Atem. It was no stretch to imagine how powerful Atem would be on the battlefield, how many men he could destroy in mere seconds. Yugi had to supress a shiver at the thought. He knew all too well what that feeling was like, and those were memories he would rather not visit again.

But he still didn’t have any answers as to what to assign Atem’s weapon as. Unless he could get away with saying ‘Atem’ as the weapon. Why not, the guy is practically a walking arsenal, just give him the guns and point at the enemy, Yugi scoffed to himself. This wasn’t getting him anywhere though; he needed to assign something to the android.

“How about we try this instead. Instead of me picking weapons for you, I’ll take you to the room and you decide what you believe will work best for you. Sound good?”

“If that is what you wish, sir.” Atem paused in his actions, dropping the gun he was holding back on the rack.

Yugi sighed in response. He wasn’t going to get the verbal response he needed, but he felt like that was a given with Atem. There seemed to be a way to get through to the android, though, and Yugi suspected this would be it. It was worth a try, anyway.

He led Atem to the far side of the training ground, opening a door with his key pass before continuing. Down the corridor and through another door the path opened up into a massive storage room, the walls lined with weapons. They were arranged by types and classes, Yugi already knowing exactly what was on what wall.

“Go ahead.” Yugi gestured forward, stepping back.

Atem gazed at all the weapons on the walls, walking slowly to examine them all. Yugi meanwhile was examining him, watching Atem reach out to brush a hand against the metal of several objects. He completely passed over the guns, seemingly drawn to the more traditional weapons. Strange, not many fight with those kinds anymore, Yugi noted.

Atem plucked a sword from a barrel, twirling the blade around as if he was forging the weapon himself. His reflection shone in the blade, the surface completely polished. He gave the blade a swing, slicing through the air effortlessly.

“Do you like the sword?” Yugi came closer, watching Atem’s reaction.

“They feel lighter than guns.” Atem responded, testing his grip.

“Would you feel more comfortable using them instead, then?”

“I believe I will be able to perform my tasks to better proficiency with these.”

Yugi paused for a moment, digesting what he had said. “So… you prefer swords?”

Atem turned to him, nodding. “Yes, sir.”

“Oh, good. Swords it is then. What about throwing knives? I wouldn’t feel good sending you to battle with just swords, especially with mechas and guns littering the field.”

“Daggers would serve well, sir.”

“Well good. We’ll do a mock-up of your gear to test how much you can carry for long periods of time, then we can-”

Yugi heard the sound of a door opening, and he whipped his head around, hand resting on the handle to his pistol cautiously. He relaxed when he recognised the figure that walked through. It’s just Ryou. He allowed his hand to slide off the gun. He crossed his arms to keep them still, waiting until Ryou had approached him, turning back to Atem.

“Continue with your task Atem.”

“Yes sir.” Atem nodded, and Yugi turned away.

“Ryou, what’s wrong?”

“Just received word that Mazaki’s team is heading back. She said they should be back sometime tomorrow.”

“Finally, I sent them out a week ago, it doesn’t take long to survey the desert,” Yugi sighed, nodding to himself. “Good timing actually, I could use people to spar with Atem.”

“I’ll leave you to it then.” Ryou nodded, scurrying off.

Yugi let out a groan, thinking about all the work he had ahead of him. There would be formalising the details of Anzu’s patrol, and anything that might have showed up while they were out on the field. And that meant paperwork, not to mention arranging enough weapons to be distributed to them in the next shipment, allowing leeway in the budget to order Atem’s weapons too.

He could feel a headache beginning to throbbing behind his eyes, and just thinking about the stack of paperwork he now had to fill out and e-mail to his superiors had his mind swimming through what felt like mud.

His eyes trailed over to Atem, watching the android test out the different swords. He had a small dagger in one hand, and a basic pistol in the other. He tried the weight of them, flicking the gun upwards to slice forward with the dagger, the momentum pulling his body sideways, his arm outstretched to catch the gun in his palm.

Smooth, everything he does is so smooth, Yugi lamented, wishing he had that type of grace. While he might not be as nimble, he still had his own way of tackling things that got the job done, and done well. He just… wished he was more stylish about it. Or had he been graceful? It was hard to remember at times, the battlefield far away and those memories scattered to the corners of Yugi’s mind, not in places easy to reach.

It was for the best.

He shrugged, calling out Atem’s name to get the android’s attention.

“You’re going to spar with some of my team tomorrow. I want to see how you move in a fight, against another person.” Yugi waved to him.

“As you wish, sir!” Atem saluted, and Yugi nodded. He watched Atem continue to work his way through the weapons, the day stretching by at an almost leisurely pace.

~~~~~~~~~

The hanger bay was musty and dirty at best, but it had a certain charm to it. Yugi wasn’t down there often, thankfully, except to visit Yusei when he needed to talk and couldn’t get Ryou to pass along the message.

He leaned against a thick metal support pillar, Atem ever present at his side. They watched the side of the wall that marked the entrance open, rusty metal groaning as it shifted.

Three mecha machines pulled in, the giant doors closing shut behind them. Yugi was relieved to see the paint jobs of his companion’s along the sides, the comforting sight of Jou’s crude doodles and Honda’s jagged shapes a welcome sight. He never told them, but he loved the way they drew all over their mechs, even though he knew Anzu scolded them for it, and he was supposed to as well, with how it risked the mech’s visibility during stealth missions. But he liked how it showed their individuality, when his superiors would prefer that they remain featureless soldiers.

The blonde lieutenant jumped down from the first mecha, shaking his hair wildly.

“Jounouchi! Welcome back!” Yugi called to the man, pushing off the pillar to greet his companion.

“Yugi! Hey bud how’s it going?” Jou ran forward, surprising Yugi with a bear hug.

“Jou please, let’s keep it professional here.” Yugi pushed away, smoothing out his jacket.

“Yes sir General Mutou sir!” Jou gave him a mock salute, body snapping straight upwards.

“All right Jou, no need to be that formal. Just got to keep you on your toes.”

“Leave the General alone, Lieutenant, I’d hate to scold him for the third time today.”

Yugi turned around, beaming a smile as a woman walked up to him.

“An- uh, Captain Mazaki, you’re back!” Yugi waved the woman down, strutting over to greet her.

She scooped up his small form into her arms, giving him a tight hug.

“Mazaki, protocol.” Yugi wheezed, scrambling to get out of the other’s grip.

“Oh hush Yugi you know it’s only us. Everyone here knows we’re old friends, stop being a sourpuss.” Anzu scolded him, giggling.

“Just trying to do my job.” He grunted back.

“You’re doing great, and everyone thinks so, so don’t worry.” She mussed up his hair, finally releasing him.

He swatted her hand away, smoothing out the strands of bangs that clung to the frame of his face.

“Just use more gel, then it’ll stay up.” Anzu shrugged, grinning.

“I’m not gelling my bangs back. Hair, yes, but the bangs stay.” He curled back the stubborn piece that refused to move from his forehead, giving him the strangest fringe. He swatted it to the side, turning to Anzu.

“So how did it go?”

“Same as every other scouting mission,” Anzu rolled her eyes. “We found nothing, no trace of soldiers from the other side, no evidence of anything.”

“What took so long then?”

“Jou got his mecha trapped in a ditch.” Anzu replied smugly.

“Hey! It wasn’t ‘stuck’ I’ll have you know! Just mi-”

“Misplaced, right.” Anzu rolled her eyes, and Yugi chuckled.

“I believe you, Jou.”

“See! The General has my back!” Jou called as he bounded away, over to where Honda was talking with Bruno.

“Will you guys be up for a sparring match tomorrow?”

“These two? Of course they would!” Anzu scoffed. “What for, though? Physical testing was two months ago; we’ve already done it this year.”

“It’s not so much testing them as I need to evaluate the Commander’s new ‘weapon’.”

“Weapon? As in the big fancy weapon of war we’ve been getting nothing more than thin documents about?”

“Details were slim, yes, but admittedly I think I know why they didn’t want us looking into the process. The facility was under Dartz’s command.”

Anzu’s face screwed up. “Not that slime ball.”

“Oh yes that slime ball,” Yugi grunted. “And the list doesn’t stop there my friend.”

“Well shit, what else is wrong? Don’t tell me the weapon exploded when you got it or something?”

“No Atem works fine. More than fine actually, if the records are anything to go off. I’m waiting to get my own data, but he’s in tip top shape to destroy anything the Empire wants.”

“So what’s the problem then?”

“Dartz, ‘advanced’ androids, facility in some random ass area no one else can find without directions? Let’s just say Atem isn’t what he seems.”

“You’ll have to be more specific than that, Yugi.”

Yugi groaned, waving his hands in the space between them. “He’s not an android, not in the traditional sense. He’s… He was originally human, Anzu. They turned a human into a weapon.”

“You know this for sure?”

“Yusei ran tests for me; it’s official.” Yugi nodded. Anzu looked horrified.

“Did he volunteer for it?”

“I don’t think so. I think… I think they might have kidnapped people to experiment on, and Atem is the one they finally got right.”

“Yugi, that’s disgusting. Have you told anyone? The Commander?”

“Like Gozaburo’s going to give a shit about me advocating for human rights. He was probably fully aware of what Dartz was up to, most likely funding it too.”

“Then what can we do? Can we even do anything about that? I mean, if the damage is done, then…”

“Yusei and I have been working to fix the damage. Somehow, we’ll find a way. I’m not going to let Dartz get away with this, not when he practically handed Atem to me.”

Anzu let out a shaky sigh. “I didn’t expect to come back to something as serious as this.”

“Yeah sorry for dropping this on you.” Yugi attempted to smile, patting her shoulder. “Want to split a bottle?”

“Sure, but you should probably go rescue your android from the boys.” Anzu gestured behind him, a playful smile on her face.

Yugi turned around, groaning at what he saw. “Jou! Cut it out!”

Jou and Honda had somehow moved behind them, fluttering around Atem still beside the support beam. Jou was poking at Atem’s arm, wide, curious look spreading his face.

“Hey boss! Who’s the new guy? He’s so… stoic.” Jou asked as Yugi jogged up to them.

“He’s the new weapon of war, idiot.” Honda spoke up, slapping Jou over the back of his head, shaking his own.

“Honda’s right.” Yugi agreed.

“Wait wait wait, if he’s the weapon of war, does that mean he’ll respond to any command? He’s just an android right?” Jou said, eyes bugging with curiosity.

“Only from me. Go ahead and try if you want.” Yugi gestured to the android.

“Sweet,” Jou grinned, puffing his chest out. “Atem, tell me Jounouchi Katsuya is the best!”

Atem tilted his head, eyebrows knitting in confusion. He then completely ignored Jou, turning to Yugi. “Orders, sir?”

“Nothing for now Atem. Stand down.” Yugi replied, giving Jou a sympathetic smile. “Don’t take it too harshly. I still think you’re the best lieutenant.”

“Really?”

“At what you do, since you’re the only one under my command who does it.” Yugi laughed, seeing the dejected look that settled on Jou’s face.

“Cruel boss, so cruel.”

“Life is hard, yes,” Yugi nodded, pretending to look solemn. “Sadly I must take our new member back to my office, where I have a stack of paperwork waiting to be filled out and filed away.”

“Plus you have to make good on your offer.” Anzu reminded him.

“Got the bottle all picked out and all.”

“Oh some general on captain action tonight, is there?” Jou waggled his eyebrows, elbowing Honda in the side at the same time.

Yugi blinked innocently. “Actually we were going to discuss how long you two had been dating, and who tops more.”

At that Jou and Honda both reeled back, gaping at each other.

“No way man, have you seen the way this guy eats? He would put any partner out of business with the budget he would rack up.” Honda shook his head sadly, looking forlorn.

“Hey! I’m not that bad! Plus, a guy’s gotta eat!” Jou puffed his chest out, arms crossed angrily over them.

Yugi and Anzu just laughed, side glancing each other, a silent ‘well played’ passing between them.

“You shouldn’t assume two people hanging out together means they’re dating then! You know Anzu and I are old friends.” Yugi chided, nudging Jou’s shoulder.

“Fair point, fair point.” Jou conceded, throwing his hands up and stepping back. He and Honda both took off, eager to finish unpacking and relax.

Anzu cleared her throat, tilting her head towards the exit. “So that bottle?”

“Coming right up, Mazaki.”

asheth: (Default)
 The base was a quaint little thing nestled in the middle of a wasteland of sand and rock. It was the only man-made object for miles around, leaning against a rock face on one side, with an expansive stretch of desert everywhere else. It was a welcome sight for any approaching, offering cool relief from the hot temperature baking the earth outside.

It’s good to be home, Yugi thought as he strode through the doors into his department, looking up to see Ryou bounding towards him.

“General Mutou! You’ve returned!” Ryou gave a quick polite solute when Yugi stopped in front of him.

“Indeed, nothing like a long drive away from the base to remind you of the horrid war you’re fighting.” Yugi grunted, arms crossed and foot tapping. He felt on edge, eager to get some solid results on Atem’s condition. Conversing with the android had gotten him nowhere, only revealing revealed some rather disturbing rules the compound had imposed on him. Yugi shuddered thinking about them.

“Is this it? The weapon of war?” Ryou asked, bringing Yugi’s attention back to the present.

“This is it. Meet Atem.” Yugi waved vaguely behind him, knowing Atem was standing close by.

“Impressive. But it just looks like any other android. What makes it so special?”

“He single-handedly destroyed the entire compound that created him, team and everything.”

Ryou was taken aback, horror flashing in his eyes.

“On my orders.” Yugi added with a grin. “He only listens to me. Go on, try and tell him to do something.”

“Is that an order?” Ryou chuckled, giving a nervous smile when Yugi didn’t answer. “Alright, uh, Atem… say ‘Ryou is the best!’”

Atem gave a slow blink, not even acknowledging Ryou’s presence.

“Wow, tough crowd. You get him to say it.” Ryou waggles his eyebrows at Yugi.

Yugi coughed into his hand, saying with a smirk, “Atem who is your commanding officer?”

“General Yugi Mutou of the Domino Empire.”

“And who is Ryou Bakura?”

“I do not know, sir.”

Yugi raised an eyebrow pointedly.

“Alright, alright, I get it.” Ryou threw his hands up in defeat. “Must be nice having your own personal android at your beck and call.”

“He’s a weapon, Ryou. He’s meant for war, not for office gags and jokes.”

“Why can’t he do both? I’d say when he’s not on a mission you can do whatever you like with him, it’s not like he’s going to ever complain.”

Yugi pursed his lips but didn’t respond. He would tell Ryou the truth later, after he had the scans and results from aptitude tests.

“Is Yusei in right now?” He asked instead.

“Of course, when is he not?” Ryou laughed.

“Good point.” Yugi replied, swerving around. “I’m taking Atem to get a check-up. I’ll be back up later to see to the new reports.”

“Aye aye sir.”

“Come on, Atem.” Yugi exited the room, trailing down the twisting corridors. His path took him down a storey, winding around until the shiny hallways of the base were replaced with the harsh, concrete structures that led to the weapon side of the base. No time like the present to acquaint their most recent weapon with his new home, after all.

He strutted into the hanger bay, not particularly caring if he interrupted anything. As it turned out, he had arrived at one of the more convenient times.

Yusei was at the front of a large Jeep-like car, the hood popped open and several huge chunks of metal engine scattered around it.

Yugi crinkled his nose at the smell, not enjoying the overpowering stench of oil the hanger reeked of. He liked cars as much as the next soldier, but he was more of a mecha person. The interesting designs and advanced AI were far more useful than the somewhat outdated technology of automobiles.

“Doctor Fudo.” Yugi made his presence known, electing a curse from Yusei as he jumped in surprise.

“General! You scared me.” Yusei gave him a hasty bow followed by a salute. “What can I do for you?”

“I’ve just not long gotten back with the latest weapon of war from a secret compound location, and I want you to run check-ups on him.”

“Sir, I’m just a mechanic, I hope you know that when you ask me to do all this stuff.” Yusei grunted, but dropped the spanner regardless. He walked up to Atem, inspecting him. He prodded at one of Atem’s arms, attempting to lift it up, but Atem snatched it back, eyes suddenly blazing at Yusei.

“Atem stand down, he’s a friend,” Yugi explained, watching Atem’s rigid stance soften. “Just let him do his work, he won’t hurt you at all with anything.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Wow he talks.” Yusei whistled. “Why build a weapon of war in the shape of a human when you have mechas? Seems rather extra.”

“You have no idea.” Yugi muttered, shaking his head. Yusei heard him, dropping Yugi a confused expression.

“Sir? Is there something wrong with him? I mean, you just got him and you already want me to run quality checks? He seems fine, very responsive.”

“I need scans of him. There’s… a problem.” Yugi lowered his voice, glancing around the hanger. He knew Yusei had his own private space to work in, but it didn’t mean anyone with the same level of clearance won’t be able to access the place. He trusted his subordinates here, but he didn’t want to explain to them until he was ready.

“I see… Let’s move to the lab, then.” Yusei led Yugi to a door at the edge of the room. He swiped a key card, sliding in the small door. Yugi, with his shorter height, had no problem walking through, Atem trailing behind him.

Once they were all in, the door closed shut, the mechanism locking behind them. There was a small corridor leading to another door, which Yusei opened, stepping into a large room with white walls.

“Yusei, you’ve returned.” A man walked up to them, beaming a smile at the mechanic.

“Hey Bruno, how’s everything going?” Yusei patted the man on the shoulder for a short moment before stepping away.

“It’s all the same as when you left this morning. But it’s only midday. Don’t tell me you’re finished already.”

“No, but something more important has come up.” He gestured behind himself, where Yugi was standing beside Atem.

“Hello Bruno.” Yugi greeted, politely nodding.

“General Mutou! What an honour.” Bruno gave a half bow, following it up with a salute.

“No need for formalities here Bruno. I’m here for results, not spot checks. Besides this isn’t HQ. We don’t need all those rigid bows here.”

Bruno loosened up, giving him a smile, while Yusei moved forward.

“Okay sir, now would be a good time to fill me in on these details. You know Bruno and I will keep any secret.” He said, flicking some switches on.

Yugi let out a sigh, evening his breath. “Atem is a human.” He said simply, testing the waters.

“A human model android?”

“No, he’s not an android, Yusei. He’s an honest to god human who had his humanity ripped out of him and turned into this shell.” Yugi jabbed a finger at the weapon to further his point.

“A human? You have proof?”

“That’s what I’m here to get. Would I lie about this kind of shit?”

“No, sir, I’m not trying to imply that,” Yusei said quickly. “It’s just… no one has ever tried to turn a human into an android. Made an android more human like, yes, but make something living into… well, a weapon? And not just with enhancements to limbs? It seems… Well, you can understand my hesitance on the matter.”

“I understand, and that’s the reason that compound is no longer in action. If what I suspect is true, and I am ninety per cent sure it is, then there is no way we can allow any more of these weapons to be made.”

“Someone is playing with the boundaries of nature here.” Bruno muttered, a hand on his chin as he gazed sadly at Atem. “That is not right, to have the joy of humanity and have it ripped out… Did he volunteer for the position?”

“I can’t get any information out of him about his life as a human. He doesn’t remember anything past training at the compound, or if he does, some kind of programming doesn’t allow him to speak of it.”

“Can you show us an example? I’m going to need solid examples of all of these things.”

“Atem, what is your earliest childhood memory?”

“I do not understand your question, sir, please rephrase.”

“When you were a kid, a child, a smaller version of yourself.”

Atem paused for a moment, head tilting ever so slightly to the side. “I do not understand your question, sir.”

“You see?” Yugi groaned, rubbing his face.

“Do you remember having a birthday ever?” Yusei asked. Atem didn’t respond, causing Yusei to flush in embarrassment at being ignored.

“Atem, answer any questions Yusei has. He’s going to be examining you to check up on your systems.” Yugi said.

“Yes sir,” Atem’s gaze turned to Yusei, bowing his head. “I do not understand your question, sir.”

“I see why you like your status, sir,” Yusei quirked a smile. “Being called ‘sir’ does sound nice.”

“I can make him change it to something degrading.” Yugi offered, smirking.

“Not necessary,” Yusei coughed. “Atem, where does your name come from?”

“I believe it was assigned to me as my subject name, sir.”

“Did you have it before hand?”

“I have always had it, sir.”

“Do you like it?”

“I do not have interests, sir. This information is irrelevant and interrupts my core programming. Should the General wish it, my name can be reprogrammed to anything he wishes.”

“Nah, I like Atem.” Yugi chipped in, waving a hand at Yusei when he turned towards him.

“It’s an old-style name, I’d have to do research to find its origin.” Yusei muttered, to himself as much as to Yugi. “I suppose I better start testing him them. Will you stick around?”

“No, I have business to take care of; I’m afraid I don’t have any leisure time. I expect the results on my desk by the end of the day, however, and Atem returned to me.”

“Aye aye sir.”

“Any immediate problems contact me directly, bring a message up via Bruno if you have to. I want to be informed.”

“Yes sir.”

“Good,” Yugi turned to Atem. “I’m leaving now, but you’re to stay here. Yusei is going to run some tests on you for various things, and you’re to listen and respond to them all as if I was doing them. When you’re done, return to me, understand?”

“Perfectly, sir.” Atem gave him a half bow, remaining that way as Yugi left the room. He had a sinking feeling he wasn’t going to like those results.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Alright, we better get started then.” Yusei turned away from the console in front of him. “Ready, Atem?”

“With all due respect, sir, I am to be ready at all times. I am a weapon of war.” Atem said smoothly, arms clasped behind his back.

“Right, of course.” Yusei exchanged a look with Bruno. Bruno gave him a comforting smile, patting his shoulder.

“I’ll set up the monitor system.” He said, moving to the other side of the room.

“Sure.” Yusei nodded, grabbing a clipboard from a nearby desk.

Atem looked apprehensive, staring at Bruno approaching him warily. “Sir, what are your orders for this android?” His gaze flickered to Yusei.

“Let him do his job Atem. He won’t hurt you, he’s my assistant.” Yusei frowned. How had Atem known Bruno was an android? He was designed specifically to be completely human on the surface. No one had ever recognised Bruno’s true identity just from looks alone.

“How did you know he was an android?” Yusei found himself asking.

“The signal his body emits is an electrical one. There is nothing organic in him.” Atem stated.

Bruno looked hurt, but he didn’t comment, instead focusing on hooking up the suction cups to Atem’s stomach, pulling his shirt up. He paused with the chest cords in his hand.

“Could you please take your shirt off?” Bruno asked politely, giving a sheepish smile.

“Yes sir.” Atem responded, slipping the cloth over his head and dropping it by his side. He calls Bruno sir as well… Yusei briefly considered if it had something to do with his programming, if he was conditioned to believe every human-like creature was above him. But he’s programmed to only obey the General’s orders… It doesn’t make sense, he thought, watching Bruno move around the weapon, Atem stiffly obeying Bruno’s gentle requests. He had reacted so violently to Yusei when he had approached him the first time, and yet here, in this environment… or was it that Bruno was an android, and as one form of android to another Atem felt more comfortable following their orders? But then he was programmed to serve a human; he was built, from what Yusei could deduct so far, to mindlessly follow human orders.

Bruno gave him the thumbs up, interrupting his concentration.

“Stand still please Atem.” Yusei said, turning back to the machine. He kept the clipboard nestled against his side, fingers flying over the control panel to begin the examination.

He started with a full body scan, wanting to get straight to Yugi’s worries. The machine whirled to life, gauges flickering as light began to stream around Atem. The section he was standing on lit up, and a transparent holographic device materialised, beginning a slow ascent up Atem’s body.

He didn’t move at all, staying completely still while the machine ran the scan. After it reached the top of his head, it dissolved, and the panel in front of Yusei pinged.

He glanced at it, doing a double take quickly. That couldn’t be right… that would mean…

“Yusei?” Bruno’s voice drifted to him, and he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Yugi was right… He’s…” Yusei closed his eyes, placing the clipboard down. “I’m going to need to run some more tests immediately. We have a lot to do, Bruno.”

“Is it likely we’ll need to keep him overnight?”

Yusei sighed, eyes gravitating to the numbers recorded on the screen. “We might have to. Run a message up to the General, would you? It’s going to be a long night.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yugi leaned back in his chair, hearing the mechanism squeak in protest. Of course chairs weren’t at the top of their budget list, but as the General of the base, he wished they would at least give him a decent one.

It was amazing how leaving for one day could make paperwork stack up. Granted, most of it was about informing the higher ups of the success of the project, and how he had Atem in his custody now. It was only a matter of time until he was given orders regarding Atem’s next course of action. Yugi wondered which battle site he would be shipped off to, and how exactly he would fight there. He would have to take combat evaluations with the android tomorrow, find out his preferred weapon and mode of travel. If what he preferred to use was something obscure or in low demand, he would have to get it shipped from HQ most likely. But he doubted the government would care; they had spent a great deal of money developing this subject, and they weren’t about to throw it into battle without decent support.

A weapon for a weapon… Yugi mused, tapping a hand to his desk. What a strange notion…

“General Mutou? Bruno is here to see you.” Ryou’s voice crackled out of his intercom.

“Send him in.” Yugi grunted into the speaker, shuffling the papers around his desk.

Bruno slid through the doors, entering the room at a slow pace. It wasn’t something urgent, then, or he would have flown into the room, rules be damned.

“Bruno? You’re up earlier than I expected. Something wrong with Atem?”

“Well, no, not really. He was doing fine when I left, everything about him is in perfect health and order.” Bruno scratched his neck in a very human way- something he had picked up from Yusei, no doubt.

“So then why are you here?” Yugi felt his suspicions growing at the way Bruno seemed to dance around getting to the point.

“Well, sir… Your theory was… correct,” Bruno lowered his gaze. “Atem is… human, underneath it all.”

Yugi let out a deep sigh, closing his eyes for a moment to ground himself. “You have results?”

“Yusei is still running tests, but he wanted to inform you of that first. He says we may need to keep him overnight, depending.”

“I want to see the evidence, what the machines recorded. Bring Yusei back up with Atem and the results whenever he is done.”

“Yes sir.” Bruno gave a hasty bow before scrambling out of the office.

Once Bruno had left, Yugi put his head in his hands. A human. He had thought so. Everything had pointed to it, and he had been sure, but to have actual data… evidence supporting it… Part of Yugi had hoped that Yusei would tell him he had been wrong. Yugi wouldn’t have minded it for once, would have been glad to admit it.

But he was right.

God I have to tell HQ about this,” Yugi let out a muffled scream. “Then there will be human rights and the big bosses crawling all over us… my ass is so fired.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The day slowly bleed into night, the colours fading behind the shutters over his windows, leaving the room dark. Yugi forwent turning on the ceiling light, opting for the desk lamp instead, although he wasn’t working tonight. He doubted sleep would find him with his mind so awake, but he was too anxious to trust his hand to sign papers or to type out the lengthy reports that loomed large in his mind. Though the longer he left them, the more irritated and impatient his boss would get.

Whatever, they’ll understand why it took so long once I show them Yusei’s results, Yugi let his head fall back in his chair, eyes closed as he rested in the semi darkness of the office.

“Sir, Yusei is here to see you. He’s got the weapon with him.” Ryou’s voice chirped.

Yugi fumbled around for the intercom, finding the button and pressing it. “Send him in.” He muttered, forcing himself to sit upright and flick on the ceiling light, hissing at the sudden influx of light in his pupils.

A few seconds later Yusei came through the door, strolling over to the far side of the room where Yugi’s desk sat, with Yugi behind it.

“You’re done?” Yugi asked in way of greeting.

“Yes sir, I have the results.” Yusei gestured to his side, and Atem stepped forward, gently placing the clipboards on Yugi’s desk.

“That’s a lot of clipboards.” Yugi muttered, picking the one on top up. “So what’s wrong?”

“On the surface? Nothing. He functions like a normal android, with everything in pristine condition. You could ship him off to war anytime and he would perform well.”

“But?” Yugi could sense something bad coming.

“But he does have a human brain. Granted, it’s been modified and poked around in so much it would be hard to tell from an x-ray alone, but under my scanners it’s… I could see how they had stuck in wires and power boards in to control certain areas, General. I hope you don’t mind me saying so sir, but it’s disgusting.” 

Yugi hummed in response, eyes trailing over the reports. Activity of the brain monitored through chips inside. Suspected trauma to the brain at one point; subject responds in the same way to all orders but expresses a heightened sense of adrenaline when confronted with sharp devices. Evidence of dissection.

Wait, did he read that right?

“What does this mean?” Yugi flipped the board around, letting Yusei see the text on it.

“It means the machine picked up on gashes in the brain that hint to a possible dissection. Sections that have been sewed back together after being picked apart. It leads me to believe that they inserted things into his brain to aid in the ‘programming’ stage.”

“And this worked flawlessly? Cutting up the brain and shoving shit in like stuffing a chicken?”

“From what I can gather, the marks are professionally made.”

Yugi narrowed his eyes; something in Yusei’s tone didn’t sound right.

“What are you saying, Fudo?”

“I…” Yusei rung his hands, gloves pressing together. “I believe… it’s just a theory, sir…”

“Let’s hear it Fudo.”

“I suspect that… Atem here might have been the last in a line of test subjects. The proper model, if you would. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s designed to be perfect in every way without a single fault; I think he’s the result of a series of failures, and that’s why his design is flawless.”

“You’re suggesting he wasn’t the only experiment?”

“I believe so, sir. Without any evidence, however, I can’t say for sure.”

Yugi felt like something heavy had dropped in his stomach with those words, like a stone had been cast down his throat. Images of his trip through the compound left a bitter taste in his mouth, test tubes and crossed out names suddenly having more significance. They weren’t just names, they had been…

Yugi shook his head; now was not the time. “What about weapons? Anything to suggest he’s superior to the other kinds of androids on the battlefield?”

“I couldn’t find anything, aside from incredible thinking and reaction time. I dropped my coffee cup at one moment and within seconds he had leap to catch it. Right side up too, not a single spilt drop.” Yusei sounded impressed, but also vaguely disgusted. It was a similar feeling for Yugi. He knew they needed a new weapon on the field to turn the flow of the war, but he wished it hadn’t come in the form of Atem.

“I will assess his military capabilities myself in the morning. This will do for now, should any problems arise, I’ll be sure to contact you. Thank you for doing this. I don’t have to tell you to keep it a secret, do I?”

“Not at all sir; I completely understand,” Yusei gave a half bow. “I’ll take my leave.”

“Am I still to follow the mechanic’s orders, sir?” Atem asked, head tilted towards the door where Yusei had left.

“No, you’re done with them. For now,” Yugi sighed, slumping back in his chair. “I suppose if I’m observing your training in the morning I had better get some sleep. Except I have no idea where to put you… Do you… sleep?”

“I am programmed to be available for your orders at all hours, sir. But, it is also advised to allow my system time to recharge, so I may perform to the best of my abilities on the battlefield.”

“Is that what the technicians who worked on you told you?”

“Yes sir.”

“What exactly did they tell you?”

“’Everything must be done to assure you are at peak performance for the Empire’s use.’”

“Mm-hm, sounds about right,” Yugi muttered under his breath, lumbering out of his chair. “All right, I’m about to drop dead, so let’s head to my quarters.”

“Should I take you to the medical bay immediately sir?” Atem was by his side in seconds, gazing at him with hands raised, as if he thought Yugi would collapse at any second.

Yugi paused, turning to the other. “It’s a figure of speech, Atem. It means I’m incredibly tired. I’m fine.” He added, reaching out to give Atem’s hand a reassuring pat. He wondered why that one hadn’t been programmed into the android.

“Of course, sir. My apologies.” Atem retreated behind him, staying a step back as he dogged Yugi’s heels down the corridors.

Yugi’s quarters were thankfully not too far away, just enough that he could split upwork and home time enough to feel well-rested. Of course he spent most nights in the office anyway, until the early peeking hours of dawn. Overseeing the entire base often meant dealing with many problems at once, and he was easier to reach at the office.

But it was always relaxing to come back to his bedroom and peel off the stress of the work day with a nice hot shower and crisp bed sheets. Except this time he wasn’t alone.

“Oh, right, I have to find some place for you don’t I.” Yugi grunted, glancing back at Atem behind him before sweeping over the room.

The entrance to his residence served as an open spaced lounge room, with a kitchenette on the fair side, and a door leading to his bedroom at the other end.

“You can sleep here I suppose. There’s a couch, and it’s kind of comfy. I mean I’ve crashed on it before, so I’m sure it’ll work…” Yugi shrugged, not sure what to say.

“Anything is suitable, sir. Will you require my services anymore this morning?”

“Morning?” Yugi glanced at his watch, groaning at the numbers that blinked back at him. “No, that’s fine. I’m going into my bedroom now. I’ll come out and collect you in the morning. I mean, later, when I wake up.”

“Understood, sir.” Atem gave him a salute, standing next to the couch.

Yugi tossed a confused look his way, but didn’t both to ask. He just assumed Atem wouldn’t actually sleep until Yugi was gone. Might as well make it easier on him then, Yugi moved into his bedroom, shedding the layers of his uniform before donning a singlet and boxers.

He felt his head hit the pillow, but sleep was still a foreign concept to him. As much as his body wanted to rest, his mind whirled with the new information he had, and the impending physical tests he had to get Atem to perform.

He had an interesting day ahead of him.

asheth: (Default)

The facility walls were a stark white, reminding Yugi of the sterilised abyss of a hospital, and the similarities of the places weren’t lost on him. The mere thought was enough to make his hairs stand up unpleasantly, brushing against the underside of his sleeves.

He walked through the long corridors, lips curling at the unnatural feeling of everything. He had been to hospitals before, and even the excessive cleanliness trying to disguise the stench of death there couldn’t hold a candle to the unsettling creepiness this facility resonated.

“And this room is where we smooth out any remaining bugs in the system. A mess of computers and technology, not very interesting to outsiders I’m afraid.”

Yugi grunted.

“Shall we move on to the main attraction? I’m afraid most of the facility is… not open for viewing.”

“How so?” Yugi asked, but allowed himself to be corralled through another door nonetheless. The technician in charge of his ‘tour’ fumbled around with their clipboard, beads of sweat covering their face.

“I’m afraid only those who fund this project have access to the inner labs. It’s really all so boring anyway; I promise you, sir, you’re not missing out on seeing anything.”

“I suppose I’m only here for the weapon. Carry on.” Yugi waved the person forward, who seemed grateful.

“Right, of course. This way please, General.”

They entered another room, and Yugi felt his skin crawl at the white walls that greeted him yet again. He was getting very sick of this never-ending mass of white. The quicker they could get this over and done with the better off he would feel.

The next room wasn’t empty, and Yugi was immediately grateful for the variation. There was a man standing in the middle, away from the benches lining the sides. He clutched a parcel in his hand, a box of some sort.

He turned towards them immediately as they entered, and the moment his eyes locked with Yugi’s he gave a sharp salute.

“Sir.” He said in a smooth, deep voice. Yugi was taken aback, not expecting such a fine voice on an android. It cost a lot of money to equip a robot a realistic sounding voice, without the static of an automated tone.

He was reluctant to admit it, but he was already impressed.

“This is the weapon of war?”

“Indeed it is. This is project Atem, the weapon of war commissioned by the Commander himself.” The technician puffed out their chest, like it was some great, proud achievement. Yugi allowed him a whistle of appreciation, but saved his attention for the android.

Atem slowly fell to his knees, one pressed to the floor while the other propped up an arm. His spare hand held out the parcel, and the technician took it from him.

“This is the instruction guide for the android. Everything you need to know about its performance, and how to best utilise it is in here.” They handed the package to Yugi, who looked at it vaguely for a second before shoving it into his pants pocket.

His attention immediately gravitated back to the kneeling man in front of him. Was it a man? Did it even identify with anything so human? Yugi had the feeling it didn’t matter, or at least it was irrelevant to him, and therefore he didn’t care.

Atem was a weapon of war after all, and that was what Yugi planned to use him as. If people wanted human acting androids, they could cough up the money themselves for that. The Empire had paid for a weapon, and that’s exactly what Yugi intended to bring back with him. It mattered not what they looked like, only that they performed to his expectations.

“How well is he trained?”

“He will immediately respond to any of your commands, sir.” The technician replied.

“And he only obeys my orders?”

“He is programmed to register your voice, but yes, he only reacts to your commands.”

“Prove it; try to give him an order.” Yugi demanded, crossing his arms and leaning back. The technician coughed awkwardly, fretting with their clipboard.

“Yes, of course,” he nodded, scooting around to Yugi’s side to face Atem. “Subject Atem, I order you to stand.”

Atem remained motionless, not a single sign he had heard showing on his form. Yugi hummed, impressed.

“Stand up Atem.” Yugi said. The moment the syllables passed over his tongue, Atem rose, standing straight and staring ahead, his gaze unseeing.

“Impressive.” Yugi marvelled, circling around him. “And his military training?”

“He understands every kind of phrase and saying. He will also not react to any analogies or the sort, leaving you free to use sarcasm around him, should you wish.”

“Truly?” Yugi reeled back in surprise. “Well shoot me in the foot.” He gave Atem a side glance, but the other didn’t move. “Very impressive. This one will do well on the battlefield.”

“I take it the process is complete, then? You will be taking him now?” The technician seemed antsy, their fingers digging into the sheets on the clipboard.

“I will.” Yugi agreed, running a hand down one of Atem’s arms. He stopped when he reached the hand, bringing it forward in his, feeling the way Atem gave him no resistance. “One last thing.” Yugi dropped the arm, letting it fall back to Atem’s side. “Who do you serve, Atem?”

“General Yugi Mutou of the Domino Empire.”

“Good,” Yugi nodded, pleased. “That is all I wanted to see. I trust you will be able to send on all the paperwork regarding him? Details and what not?”

“Of course, yes,” the technician bobbed their head, flicking through the sheets. “Everything will be sent and waiting on your desk before you return to the capitol, sir. Just don’t forget about the updates on his progress, and if any bugs show in his system, we’ll need him back to sort them out.”

“What kind of bugs?” Yugi pursed his lips, not pleased at the sound of that. He turned his body to fully face the technician, who balked slightly under Yugi’s full attention.

“N-Nothing should happen, but if anything was to leak through, we would-”

“What kind of things would leak through?” Yugi side glanced Atem, wondering what the technician was going on about. Until a few moments ago, he had seemed completely confident Atem was an obedient weapon of war.

“It shouldn’t be anything of consequence. Just a string of the weapon’s old personality, or something resembling human emotion may resurface under extreme pressure. None of this will be relevant on the battlefield though I assure you. It will perform perfectly out there.”

“Wait wait, resembling human emotion? Are you implying this weapon used to be human?” Yugi didn’t bother trying to hide the distaste in his voice. He rounded on the technician, watching the sweat trail down their neck.

“N-No, of course not, sir. Such a thing is unheard of, and completely impossible in this day and age. I assure you this android is completely free of such things. It is just that it has gone through several changes, and several layers of personality have been added, so some of the older pieces of data still embedded in its system may spring out unpredictably. I assure you though, General, that your weapon of war is nothing more than a weapon, and never was. Forgive my slip of the tongue, some scientist humour that was misworded.”

“That’s not something to joke about. The Commander could have your tongue for that.” Yugi commented, crossing his arms.

“This branch runs under General Ironheart, actually. We receive all orders from him.” The technician squeaked.

“I’m well aware that Ironheart likes to poke around at weird shit in here. I don’t care what he does, anyway. Some of us are actually trying to win this war, you know.”

“Of course sir, and the Empire is grateful for all you’ve done for it.”

I’m sure they are, Yugi rolled his eyes. Probably ecstatic I slaughtered battalions for them so they didn’t have to lift a finger.

The technician put on a forced smile, gesturing to the doorway. “I’ll have that paperwork sent to you soon, sir, now if we could head out, this building is under heavy time restrictions...”

“Of course.” Yugi said dully, striding past the sweating man. He didn’t need to hear any more of their lies. Did they take Yugi for an idiot? He had years of dealing with these kinds of people under his belt, and he could see through all of their cover ups.

He waited until he was outside the compound before turning to his companion, knowing Atem had been following behind him silently.

“So you used to be a person under there, did you?” Yugi clicked his tongue. This complicated things, more than he wanted to admit. At the forefront of his mind was the disgust that they had used actual humans to make these weapons. And how was that even possible? Nothing that even came close had been attempted, their current technologies not yet trusted for such a task, not to mention the many ethical boundaries it crossed. It was wrong, so wrong.

Human looking androids, he could understand, but to build weapons out of humans… He shuddered to think about the process, the lengths they went to to scoop out everything that made Atem Atem, and replace him with the obedient shell standing beside him.

“Did it hurt?” He asked, finding himself morbidly drawn to the topic.

“Please specify your instructions, sir.”

“The process? Of being turned from a human into… this.” Yugi gestured to Atem as a whole. Atem blinked slowly, showing no shift in emotion.

“I do not understand your orders, sir.”

“What do you remember of the compound?” Yugi tried a different approach. This one got him a reaction, it seemed.

“I was charged with training to be able to perform to the best of my abilities for my owner, to be able to be the perfect weapon of war without human limitations.”

“Did they take those human limitations of yours away?”

“I did not have them to begin with, sir. I am not human.”

“But you were.”

At this Atem blinked slowly, his expression unchanging. “I do not understand, sir.”

Yugi sighed; he knew a looking battle when he saw one. “Never mind, then. I’ll discuss it with Ryou when we return to base.”

Atem’s expression remained stoic, sensing he wasn’t needed immediately.

“I bet you want revenge, deep down.” Yugi tilted his head, searching Atem’s gaze for anything. It was strange for him; he was so used to being able to read people’s emotions, and yet Atem had mastered not showing a single one. Or perhaps they had, as he suspected, stripped them all out of him. He paused for a moment and studied the android. Maybe he had never had them to begin with.

“Deep down inside, you’re angry at what they did to you, I can tell. I don’t think you volunteered for this,” Yugi hummed, tapping his chin. “And you know what? I think it’s only fair you get to act on this feeling. After all, I’m always telling my subordinates to let out their negative feelings in controlled purges.”

Atem didn’t respond, staring lifelessly ahead.

“I have an order for you, Atem.”

Atem straightened, fists clenched at his sides. “Yes, sir?”

Yugi walked up until he was directly in front of Atem. “Look at me,” once Atem’s eyes were on him, he continued, “I want you to destroy this base. Make sure no one survives. This place now officially no longer exists, and was never here to begin with. Do you understand?”

“Perfectly, sir.” Atem said smoothly, stepping back to allow himself room to bow to Yugi. Once his body returned upright, he pivoted on his heel, sprinting back into the compound.

Yugi took a stroll further away, moving towards where his vehicle had been parked. Something about policies too long for Yugi to care about had made him park outside of the facility, but in the long run it only served to make it easier for him. He had come here with every intention of shutting the place down, all too aware of the institute’s shadiness. This matter with Atem only further cemented their demise.

I hope he enjoys himself, let some of that ripe human emotion through, Yugi mused, listening as the alarms began to sound. He heard several large crashes, a smirk dancing on his lips as he imagined how Atem was moving through the base. Would he react to anything? Any areas the technicians poked at him too hard, or punished him for being too human? Yugi almost wished he had stormed the place with a squad of troops, if only to be able to read the files that were stacked inside, teasingly promising him details of Atem’s development process. But as the base was assaulted by the force of the very creature it had set out to create, Yugi decided he didn’t want to see the kind of sick things it took to make a machine out of a human.

He kicked at the ground, crushing dirt beneath his boots with a satisfying crunch, right as another explosion went off. Smoke began to billow out from a section of the base, and Yugi watched it extend into the sky slowly, turning the lazy shades of blue; dark and almost reminiscent of storm clouds. It was enough to bring a small smirk to his face, the darkness swirling overhead like a symbol of doom, signalling the end for the compound.

As a particularly loud explosion went off, one that rocked the very ground, Yugi made out Atem’s form walking towards him. Yugi surveyed the damage as Atem approached, whistling his praise at the carnage.

Once Atem reached him, he dropped to one knee, saying, “I have completed your orders, sir.”

“Well done.” Yugi said, a hand reaching out to pat through Atem’s hair before he even realised what he was doing. He started, shifting his hand back to cough into it awkwardly. “You may rise.”

Atem did as he was bid, standing by Yugi’s side. Yugi watched as the other moved, his gaze turning thoughtful. Without thinking, he reached out to touch Atem’s cheek, just to feel the skin there.

He didn’t know why he felt so enamoured by Atem, but there was something in the inhuman smoothness of Atem’s skin that excited him. Running his fingers over it felt wonderful, and he couldn’t resist trailing a hand through Atem’s locks to test the strands. Ah, just as soft. How could someone who felt so safe and smooth be a weapon of war? He couldn’t deny Atem’s handsome features too, and it left him wondering if Atem had suitors during his human life. Yugi knew without a doubt he would have been pining after Atem if they had met under different circumstances. Even with the blood caked onto him, the fresher patches reflecting the firelight dully, he still looked flawless.

“I’m sorry.” Yugi said, pulling his hand away. He shifted his attention to the base, watching the way the flames licked around the metal, already melting sections of it. It wouldn’t be long until they found their way into chemicals and triggered an explosion. They would need to move on, or risk being caught up in the damage.

“Let’s go, Atem.” Yugi said, turning back around.

“Yes, sir.” Atem followed at Yugi’s heels.

Yugi led him over to his vehicle, popping the lock button to unlock the doors. He made to move into the driver’s seat, but paused once he realised Atem made no move to get in.

“Aren’t you coming?” Yugi raised an eyebrow.

“I need your permission, sir, before entering any vehicles.” Atem dipped his head.

“That sounds stupid. Why?”

“To safeguard against any potential problems that may occur, should any attacks on my system occur.”

“Attacks?”

“I believe the technician referred to them as ‘bugs’ in my system.”

“Ah.” It clicked in Yugi’s mind. He snorted, rolling his eyes. So the creators did implement ways to keep Atem’s human side from surfacing. Interesting. That meant that deep down, somewhere, they weren’t able to fully destroy the human that had been Atem. There was no other explanation for the lengths they had taken to keep Atem compliant.

“That rule is stupid and you should ignore it. I hereby order you to forget about that rule. You don’t have to abide by it anymore, understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now get in the car.” Atem nodded, smoothly walking over to the front passenger seat and sliding inside. Yugi followed afterwards, sighing contently as the leather seat moulded to his form.

“Let’s get you to your new home, Atem.” Yugi patted his shoulder, shifting back to the wheel. He smiled when he saw Atem nod at him.

Things were about to get interesting back at base.

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