Authors' Note: Sorry for the delay in updates...we've been without inspiration for a really...really long time...If you must blame something besides that, blame the stupid, unnecessary "Noah" Saga that killed the inspiration.

The Gathering - Chapter 26

"A Gamer's Dream"

"The transformation spells have been successfully completed. They can be access on a whim. The pharaoh's friends shouldn't stand a chance-" Chalie stopped short, looking up from his report, "Are you alright, Mistress?"

Seline was on the tile floor, on her hands and knees on the floor, leaning above the glowing circle that displayed the Pharaoh's return to the mortal world. Her breathing was heavy and the glowing green Egyptian Eye was flickering on her forehead beside a pulsating vein. Angrily, she swiped at the image and it vanished in a wisp of smoke.

Then she stood, fully composed again. She turned towards Chalie, the green eye burning brightly, lighting his face as well as hers. "Excellent…but it will no longer be enough. It seems the Pharaoh is more resourceful than anticipated."

The man tensed, feeling adrenaline begin to fuel his natural abilities as an Erten. That dangerous symbol, the one that had nearly led to the death of the Prince of Egypt, had reappeared, "Mistress, are you certain you are alright?" The change was becoming more frequent now. It wasn't as though she was a different person, but something seemed to influence every decision his Mistress made when that Green Eye glared upon her forehead.

"Never better," she said, reaching up to stroke his cheek, "You?"

He did not react to her touch, but was tempted to grab her hand. Unfortunately, Chalie knew his own limitations. The powers of an Erten cannot be taken lightly, after all. She seemed too in control now. Trying to remove the Eye from her forehead could be them end of him, or both of them, "Have our plans changed?" he asked, "The Pharaoh will make our objective much more difficult to obtain."

"Our goal remains the same," she said calmly, "The steps in getting there, however need altering. You're absolutely right – dealing with the Pharaoh was supposed to be completed by now. Come," she said, striding past him towards the door, "We have work to do."

A worried expression plastered itself on Chalie's face and he shook his head in concern, "Very well, Mistress."

* * *


The eldest Kaiba sibling looked up from his desk, where his computer displayed several different pie graphs. Tax season was always complex around the world's largest company. Things had calmed down considerably since the Jetsu-debacle and Vitani's recovery from the incident was all but complete. "Yes?"

"What're you workin' on?" Mokuba asked, leaning on the armrest of his big brother's high-backed chair.

"Income taxes," Seto sighed, shutting the laptop, "Boring adult things, Mokuba."

"Oh…well, the mail's here," the younger boy said, reaching behind him and holding up a large cardboard box with a 'THIS SIDE UP' label.

Kaiba nodded, searching the box over for a return address but finding none, "This made it by security?" he asked skeptically.

"Actually, a bunch of suits brought it by hand," Mokuba explained, "Vitani cleared them through and said to bring it up to you."

"Ahh…" he said, then his eyes widened, "Ahhhhh…"

"You're so weird, Seto…" Mokuba said, eyebrows raised, "So what's in it?"

"Our future, Mokuba, our future," Seto explained evasively, hands twitching in anticipation.

The younger Kaiba brother opened his mouth to ask what that meant, but a different voice cut him off before he'd even begun, "Does that 'our' include me?" Vitani stepped into the room, smiling.

"Yes," the president of Kaiba Corp. said quietly, a bit embarrassed to be discussing such things in front of his younger brother.

"So what is it??" Mokuba asked eagerly, his curiosity outweighing his desire to tease his brother.

Seto thought for a moment, then gathered the box up into his arms (resisting the urge to hug it close to him), "I'll show you in the duel-test arena." He walked out of the room, motioning for the two to follow him.

* * *

"They really did it, didn't they?" Vitani asked as Kaiba slit the tape holding the box shut. The three of them were standing in the steel-plated arena used to test Kaiba Corp.'s newest software.

"We'll find out, won't we?" Kaiba asked, tearing away several dozen packing peanuts from his newest creation. Beneath the remaining Styrofoam bits was a decent sized machine wrapped carefully in bubble tape, and a second, small box located next to it. Seto cautiously removed the latest version of the Duel Disk from its packaging. The newest model of portable dueling looked a bit like its predecessor (why change what works?), but more refined. It was smaller than the DD2, and several color changes had been made. Where there had been light gray as the border frames, there was now sleek dark silver. The slots in which monster cards are placed, rather than blue with red arrows, was black lined with gold. A small antenna was just barely visible, tucked inside a thin tunnel along the side. "It's beautiful, isn't it…?" he asked, mesmerized.

Vitani shook her head, smiling and kneeling down beside him, "It's wonderful…" she said, just a tiniest bit less than enthusiastic.

"What's this thing?" Mokuba asked, picking up the smaller box and shaking it near his ear.

Kaiba nearly spazzed, "Mokuba! That's part of the Duel Disk 3! Don't shake it!" He removed the box from his brother's smaller fingers and opened it, shattering the tape holding it closed.

"Geez…sorry," the boy shrugged, watching Kaiba remove a headphones-and-mouthpiece from the box and fit it on his head, "What do you need that for?"

"Voice recognition. My duel monsters, for whatever amount of time they stay on the dueling field, are going to listen to me and only me." It was a brilliant work of science, managing to transform the energy and air molecules all around them into a specified DNA code written into the DD3 for each duel monster card. Radio waves from the machine would be sent directly to the duel monsters brains, instructing them as the duelist commanded. All the graphic and sound technology had been perfected for magic and trap cards, which roughly functioned the same as its predecessor, the Duel Disk 2. Kaiba slipped the multi-million dollar machine on his right arm, the clamps adjusting smoothly and flawlessly to his arm size, "Fire up the computer, Vitani. Mokuba, go with her."

"Right," Vitani rose, taking Mokuba by the hand. She reached into the pocket of her suit jacket and tossed a pair of thick leather gloves to Kaiba, "Don't forget these." Then she turned and led the younger boy to the elevator leading up to the control room.

Kaiba grunted and snapped the gloves on his hands tightly, a bit annoyed to be reminded of the last time he attempted to touch a live Blue-Eyes White Dragon. A different sort of life had been given to his favorite monster then... "Let's go!"

Vitani's voice echoed over the sound system, "Whose deck do you want the Duel Computer to use?"

"Like it matters," Kaiba scoffed.

"Ok…I guess I'll pick one and surprise you." Vitani flipped a few switches and typed a bit on the main keyboard, and the Duel Computer robot was released from its storage area behind the far wall.

Seto Kaiba slid his dueling deck into the appropriate slot, causing the machine to start up and begin counting his life points. He adjusted the mouthpiece to the headset, "Seto Kaiba voice test," the man said quickly, allowing the DD3 to record his voice, "Begin duel!"

The Duel Computer's virtual deck appeared, the randomizer "shuffling" its cards and laying out six to begin (Gravekeeper's Spear Soldier, Ready for intercepting, Cat of Ill Omen, Royal Tribute, Terraforming, Cursed Seal of the Forbidden Spell). The mechanical voice was synthesized to that of an adult female, calm and smooth, "Activate magic card: Terraforming," its monotone voice said aloud, a green-backed card with a picture of a dome of life on a dead planet appearing in front of Kaiba, "Field magic card selected from deck to hand," (Necrovalley), "Set one monster in defense mode (Cat of Ill Omen (500/300)). Activate field card Necrovalley. End turn." As it slid the card into its slot, the steel-plated room around them morphed, being enveloped in brown stone that crawled up the walls. The ceiling vanished and a red-orange sky appeared in its stead.

The president of KaibaCorp rolled his eyes. He knew exactly whose deck Vitani had chosen. Seto pulled the six out of his duel disk with surprising ease despite his clumsy gloves (Spell-Shield Type-8, Spear Dragon, Flute of Summoning Dragon, Luster Dragon, Negate Attack, Giant Germ) "I set two cards face-down (Negate Attack/Spell Shield Type-8) and set one monster in defense mode (Giant Germ (1000/100))," The two brown-backed cards appeared on the field. A small trickle of sweat made its way down the back of his neck. Despite his confidence in the new machinery, defense mode was safer. No need to test the DD3 right away…

"Seto?" came his baby brother's voice over the intercom system, "What's wrong? Why'd you play defense?"

"Zip it, Mokuba," Kaiba told his sibling shortly, "It's my duel, remember?"

Up in the control tower, Mokuba clapped a hand over his mouth, and Vitani spoke into her microphone, "Take it easy, Seto. He didn't mean anything by it. Let's just keep moving."

The elder of the siblings snorted, "Fine. I end my turn."

The Duel Computer selected another holographic card (Gravekeeper's Assailant), "Flip summon Cat of Ill Omen!" A small, chubby black cat appeared on the field (holographic, as the computer still had DD2 technology) purring softly, "Cat of Ill Omen special effect: select one trap when Necrovalley is on field, and add it to hand. Card selected," A new card appeared on the digital duelist's hand slots (Curse of Royal), "Set two cards face-down (Curse of Royal/Ready for intercepting). Summon Gravekeeper's Spear Soldier (2000/1500) in attack mode." Up from the stone rose the tall, black-robed man, holding his long spear at the ready.

"Spear Soldier attempts an attack on your face-down monster," The warrior rushed forward, its large, pointy spear aimed at Kaiba's down monster.

The man moved to press the button on his Duel Disk, knowing full well the effect of the enemy monster. But before he could touch the button, he stopped. His Giant Germ (a live one!) was going to be on the field if he let the attack through. Seto folded his arms, waiting eagerly for the ensuing destruction.

The spear struck through his face down card, revealing for an instant a very solid Giant Germ. It made no noise, but the holographic spear struck right through the beast, causing it to cave in on itself and splatter all about the room, covering Seto with sticky, putrid smelling purple goo. He glowered for a second, but as he transported the card to the graveyard, all of the purple substance that was once his monster vanished, removing any trace of its tiny existence. Kaiba: 2100/ Duel Computer: 4000.

Seto pulled two of the same card out of his deck, "Now I summon two more Giant Germs to the field (2x 1000/100) in attack mode!" Two more of the same large, goopy creatures appeared, small grooves and bumps coming and going on their surface as they moved to sustain their flight, "And you lose 500 points for the destruction of my monster!" Kaiba: 2100/ Duel Computer: 3500.

The computer opponent sent one more of its magic cards from the field to the graveyard, "Now activating: Royal Tribute. Discard all monsters from hand to graveyard"

Kaiba pressed down one of the buttons on his Duel Disk 3, "Not so fast! I activate Spell Shield Type-8!" A large, peculiar looking silver machine hovered over the field for a moment, absorbing the computer's magic card within its depths, "By sending one magic card from my hand to the graveyard (Flute of Summoning Dragon), I can stop your pathetic spell in its tracks!"

"End turn."

The young man drew his card (Mystical Space Typhoon), "I activate a magic card of my own: Mystical Space Typhoon!" A large, cyclone-like magic card appeared behind his monsters, sending a thin bolt of electricity towards the surrounding valley they were now dueling in, "Which will destroy your Necrovalley!"

"Activate trap card: Curse of Royal," Several spooky, wailing ghosts flew out of the newly-played trap card, swallowing the electric shock whole, "When opponent's magic or trap targets magic or traps on this side of the field, Curse of Royal will negate the card and send it to the graveyard."

Kaiba growled, "Fine, now I tribute one of my Giant Germs…" he pulled one card up off of the dueling field, causing one of the vile creatures to disperse again, "to summon my Luster Dragon (2400/1400) in attack mode!" With a rush of wind and a tornado of emerald shards, the giant creature rose up through the floor. It flapped its wings excitedly, sending sparkling green shards everywhere. Then it let out, not a roar, but a sound that was more like that of a whale's song. It turned its head and blinked ruby red eyes at its master, the echoing, cooing sound slowly fading away.

Seto's eyes widened in awe, "Yes…" he removed the gloves casually, switching what was left of his dueling hand from one hand to the other in order to get the coverings off. As the dragon lowered its head towards him, he stretched out his free hand, stroking it slowly, as if savoring the taste of something rare and exquisite. The scales on its nose with small and smooth, rippling under his fingers. The dragon cooed again, locking gazes with its master.

"Amazing…" came Vitani's amplified whisper.

"That's so cool, Seto!" Mokuba's voice rang out across the dueling area. From inside the viewing box, the young boy was hopping up and down with excitement.

The president of KaibaCorp grinned and stepped away from the dragon, "Go, Luster Dragon, destroy that pathetic Spear Soldier!"

The other of he computer's two face-down cards flipped up as the large, green dragon creature took flight towards is holographic enemy, "Activate trap card: Ready for Intercepting. Switch one spellcaster-type into defense mode," As if on cue, the Spear Soldier knelt down and positioned its spear in front of itself on an angle. A blast of beautiful green (and extremely hot) fire burst forth from Luster Dragon's mouth and blew away the illusory enemy.

Seto Kaiba smirked and pointed at the frightened-looking black cat on the other side of the dueling field, "Giant Germ, attack now!" The large floating ball of disease let burst a stream of horrid purple toxin from within itself, burning the Cat of Ill Omen to bits (and leaving a black stain beneath where it once prowled). Kaiba: 2100/ Duel Computer: 3000.

"Drawing card," the computer began (Sword of Dark Destruction), "Set one card face-down (Rite of Spirit). Summon Gravekeeper's Assailant (2000/2000) in attack mode." The tall, Egyptian man rose up out of the floor, only his eyes and hands visable through the mass of dark cloak. One hand clutched a twisted dagger.

"I still think that computer has bugs in it," Mokuba muttered quietly to Vitani, folding his arms across his chest, "Just because it can beat Giant Germ doesn't mean Seto's Luster Dragon won't destroy it next turn. That'll leave its life points wide open!"

"Don't be so fast to predict the future, Mokuba," Vitani told him, her gaze not leaving the duel arena, "My sister's deck is not so easily defeated."

"Activate Equip card: Sword of Dark Destruction." The twisted dagger in the Assailant's hand disintegrated into dust, and was replaced with a long, curved sword. The weapon crackled with red energy, fueled by darkness. "Gravekeeper's Assailant will now gain 400 attack points. Assailant will attempt attack on Giant Germ." The computer's monotone voice displayed none of the spirit usually held within Athena's deck, but the tone did not stop the cloaked monster from rushing forward, intent on hacking the last of the disease creatures apart.

"I activate my trap card: Negate Attack!" Kaiba roared, his swirling defense shield revealing itself in time to stop the Gravekeeper monster from making contact with his beast.

"End turn."

"I draw!" Kaiba glanced down at his magic card and snorted (Blue-Eyes White Dragon) 'Too easy...' "I tribute my two monsters to summon forth my ultimate monster: The Blue Eyes White Dragon!" Both Luster Dragon and Giant Germ both became pure white, glowing brighter and brighter as they melded together, forming a new being. As the glow dulled, Kaiba's ultimate and most loyal creature was standing before him.

Kaiba wished to touch his mighty being, know for certain of its reality, but 'once bitten, twice shy', "Blue Eyes White Dragon," Seto called up to it, "Unleash your fury upon that monster now!"

With a mighty blast of electric white energy that shattered the glass separating Kaiba from his two closest friends (from sheer power alone!), the mightiest of dragons incinerated the holographic monster and burned a hole into the wall just to the left of the duel computer. Seto's creature let loose a mighty roar, celebrating its victory. Kaiba: 2100 – Duel Computer: 2400.

The Computer selected another card (United We Stand), "End turn."

"Kaiba…" Vitani's nervous voice echoed through the room, "Don't attack directly – you could destroy the computer…not to mention the rest of the room behind it."

Seto Kaiba ignored her. It was probably decent advice, but if the Computer was shut off, it would record the battle as a draw. Besides, he was a billionaire. It wasn't like replacing it would be difficult. The real motive, however… "Blue Eyes, attack my opponent directly NOW!"

The dragon roared and a second blast of energy erupted from its mouth. Vitani ducked down, wrapping her arms around Mokuba as she did so, shielding him from the force with her body. The Computer warped against the force of impact, and then exploded violently, leaving the energy to soar straight through where it had been and crash headlong into the wall. The smell of burned metal and smoke filled the room, and the final shockwave rushed past all three humans present.

The eldest Kaiba didn't even flinch, but threw back his head and began to laugh hysterically. The dragon of light let out one final cry, then disappeared as the shiny new Duel Disk 3 Prototype powered down.

Mokuba stood up, coughing against the dust, "I think Seto might be getting a little carried away…"

"I think you're right…" Vitani said, brushing her bangs out of her face and peering down out the shattered windows towards her unofficial beau. Kaiba simply laughed on. It was the gamer's dream come true.