Notes: Thanx to everyone who's been reviewing this! I've decided it will be a three-part saga. This is the final chapter of the first part. Be looking for more very soon!







We stare at the rope in utter consternation, the most nightmarish thoughts swirling through our minds. Where is Marik?! Was he caught in one of the implosions?! Did the zombies get him?! Is he . . . is he . . . no longer with us?!

"MARIK!!!"

We scream with one voice, praying desperately for an answer—not that we would be able to hear anything over the deafening roars.

"You might as well give up," Dr. Portman says flatly. "Everything implodes, with each bomb on a ten-second delay from the one before it. Eventually everything blows until there's only two bombs left. They both go off at the same time two minutes later."

"Then there is still hope!" Rishid retorts. "We will never give up on our brother!!"

Again we bend over the opening, staring into the darkness far below as the dust settles temporarily.

"Help. . . . Help me. . . ."

My heart shatters at the sound of Marik's weak voice. Now I can see him. He is laying crumpled on the floor, two zombies assaulting him. There is a wild look of utter terror in his eyes, but he is so frail and hurt from the fall and the implosions that he cannot even try to get away.

Rishid is already halfway down the rope. "I will get him!!" he yells. "I will not let our brother perish!!"

I watch, continuing to keep prayers in my heart. What if he cannot make it up with Marik in time?! What if they both die when the last two bombs go off?!

Rishid rips the zombies away from Marik's petrified body and pulls him close. He whispers something that I cannot hear, and Marik weakly wraps his arms around his brother as Rishid starts back up the rope.

"Here he is," Rishid says to me, wanting to make certain Marik is lifted out before he climbs up himself. I reach for our brother and he smiles, struggling as best as he can to get up the rest of the way himself. I hold him close to my heart, saying prayers of thanksgiving as Rishid comes out safely as well.

Mokuba smiles happily, hugging Marik before Kaiba pulls him away.

"The last two bombs are gonna go off any second!" he yells. "Come on!!"

Rishid takes Marik again and we hasten away from the treacherous place we once called home—never to return again. A loud explosion erupts behind us and we know it is gone for good.

Epilogue

~Rishid~

We are back in Kaiba's Jeep, safe and sound. Marik is wrapped in a warm quilt and snuggled close between Ishizu and myself. He is still shivering from fear because of the most recent encounter with the zombies, but he insists that he will be alright. "I saved the ones who mean the most in my life," he says softly. "What I went through in order to rescue them was a small price to pay." Tears spill from his eyes. "If any of you had been assaulted the way I was in the museum because I had not done anything to save you, I would never forgive myself."

Ishizu kisses the top of his head. "You have done so much, my brother," she tells him, glancing down at her torn dress where the creature had tried to grab her. "So very much. And now, you deserve nothing less than a soft bed and a long rest."

Marik lays his head on her shoulder and looks up at us both.

We both smile back.

"Do you . . . do you think your . . . that . . . creature . . . was there in the tunnels somewhere?" Marik asks me softly, not wanting to call him my father.

"I do not know." I do know that I would not feel much emotion if he has died. After all that he did to us, with Portman's help . . .!

"It was so strange . . . being back in a place we used to call home," Marik whispers now, closing his eyes and leaning against the back of the seat. "It doesn't seem like home now. . . . It seems only like a dank, dark Hades on earth where we were kept prisoners and abused and tortured. . . ."

Mokuba looks at him sympathetically. "That's how it used to feel in some parts of the place where Seto and I live now," he says. "Gozaburo used to do all kinds of horrible things to us . . . and he'd try to keep us apart whenever he could. . . ."

Kaiba squeezes his brother's hand. "But that's all over now," he says. "The past is behind us."

"Yeah," Mokuba grins.

Marik relaxes. "Yes . . . the past is behind us as well," he says quietly. I do know that he does not mean today's past, however. It is obvious from the way he is still quaking occasionally that what happened today is still disturbing him.

"It is alright to admit that you are still distressed," I tell him softly, feeling an overwhelming urge of brotherly protectiveness. I pull the boy close to me.

He smiles at me. "I'll get over it," he says with determination, beginning to slip into a peaceful sleep. I know he will, too. "They can't keep me down for long."

Kaiba's cell phone rings and he answers curtly before handing it to me. "It seems your 'father' didn't die after all," he remarks, irritation obvious in his voice.

I snatch the phone, my anger nearly causing it to crumble in my hands. "What is it you want now?!" I scream. "You very nearly destroyed my precious family today!!"

"Yes, well, tis a shame it didn't work. Maybe then you would agree to help me." The man's vile tone crackles through the phone and Ishizu and Marik perk up, having heard it as well.

"It would only reaffirm my decision to have nothing to do with you!" I retort. "If my siblings had fallen, I would honor and not desecrate their memory!!" I keep a tighter grip around Marik than before, the very sound of my birth father's voice making me even more protective. "And it would desecrate them to no end if I gave in to you!"

"I see." There is a pause. "Well . . . be assured, Odion, you haven't heard the last of me! I'm still very much alive and well and I have other ways to get what I want from you. Enjoy your peace while you can!!" With that he hangs up.

I thrust the phone back at Kaiba and stare ahead, many emotions raging inside me. Only a few scant days before I was thinking about my birth parents. I cannot help recalling the conversation I had had with Ishizu then.

~I do not recall my birth mother at all, nor any biological family I may have had. You and Marik are my family and I am perfectly content to have nothing to do with my birth parents, whoever they may be. They obviously never wanted me.~

~They will never know what a wonderful person they gave up.~

I smile at the memory, glancing over at Ishizu. She is singing a soft lullaby to Marik in Egyptian, a gentle smile adorning her beautiful features.

Marik and I had had a deep conversation as well before this entire nightmare had started. As I look down at him as he dozes, thinking what a brave, dear brother he is, his words return to me as well.

~I'll never forget the horror of seeing . . . seeing Father trying to kill you. It was so diabolical . . . so evil . . . I always knew Father thought of you as only a servant, but I had never imagined that . . . that he hated you so much. . . .~

~It's all over now, Marik. It's over. We're safe now.~

But it is not over. True, Marik's father's evil doings are done with now, but what about my own father's? And if it were not him, it would be someone else. The evil will never truly be over. Neither will the good. There must be a balance. I know this. But that does not ease the pain of seeing loved ones being tormented. It never could!

~Are you happy, Rishid?~

~Happy?~

~Here with us. Ishizu and I. Are you happy with us, Rishid? Do you ever wish that . . . that someone else had adopted you into their family?~

Ishizu and I exchange a smile and lay our hands on Marik's sleeping form between us. As my response to Marik's earlier question echoes around me, every word is confirmed all the more.

~No . . . I do not wish that. You and Ishizu are my life. I could never be happy if I didn't know you both. Even if someone else had adopted me, I would have felt as though something was always missing.~

And we will come through whatever is put before us. We have survived life with their maniacal father, Battle City, retaliations from the ex-Rare Hunters, attacks from numerous other enemies, and we will survive this trial with my father as well. As long as we stay strong and never falter in our beliefs or in our love for each other, everything will be alright.

"You have another call," Kaiba speaks up suddenly, looking irritated. "Maybe you should get a cell phone of your own."

Mokuba giggles.

I glare at the phone. "If it is the vulture who is my father, I do not wish to speak to him again."

"It's some woman." Kaiba shoves the phone at me.

Puzzled, I take and speak into it.

Halima's voice comes over the line. "Odion! My son! I was just informed by that mystical man that you and your siblings have been in horrible danger today!" she cries.

Instantly I am on edge. Did this . . . mystical man truly tell her? Or . . . could it be that she is working with my father?

"Perhaps we were," I say coldly.

She sighs. "I know you don't trust me. And you have no reason to, as I have said before. But I only fear for my precious child. I know you are still in danger . . . very deeply in it. Now I only wish to make certain that you are safe, for the time being at least. My ex-husband will not cease to make your lives miserable, Odion. He will never cease until he is dead."

"We will fight him," I reply, feeling guarded. "He will not win out over us! I will not allow it!"

"I know. . . . But still I worry," she says softly. "I will let you go." The line goes dead and now I sigh, wondering exactly to do about her.

"Is she sincere or not?" I ask aloud.

"I do not know, my brother," Ishizu says, laying a hand over mine. "What does your heart tell you now?"

"My heart is confused," I respond as Kaiba takes the phone again. "My heart has always been confused where Halima is concerned. . . . Even though I know now that her words about my father are true, how do I know that the other things she said are? She could be involved with everything."

"I suppose we can't know now," Marik speaks up quietly, awake again. "Perhaps it's not to be." He smiles. "Perhaps it's another test."

"Perhaps," I agree, seeing the jet up ahead.

Marik starts to doze again once we are inside the aircraft, but before he is asleep he whispers, "I could never have survived this day without you, Rishid. You were right there for me . . . right there after all of my breakdowns, when I thought I was losing my sanity. . . ." He reaches for Ishizu's hand. "And dear sister, you were there in spirit."

"Yes," she agrees, "I was."

"You guys are always gonna be there for each other," Mokuba smiles. "Just like me and Seto!" He lowers his voice. "And I promise I'm gonna be a better friend."

Marik smiles as well. "I know you will be."

Ishizu and I pull the quilt closer around him as he sinks back into slumber. I have my dear family with me. Nothing else matters. I know we will still have to contend further with my father, but all will work out. Now I say a quiet prayer of thanksgiving that we have all made it through this first trial my father has set before us. I do not know what he will try next, but we will be ready for it. And we will emerge victorious once more.