Year 2650. Humans have managed to colonise other planets. Now only refugees and poor have remained on Earth. Just like all decent citizens who had managed to gain a certain economic stability, Serenity Wheeler and her mother had left the mother-planet.
It had been five years since they left Earth and went to Mercury. Not Mercury of our familiar solar system, of course. This was another Mercury, a Mercury of a galaxy recently discovered by Navigators.
Now, at eighteen years of age, Serenity had managed to become what her mother always wanted: a successful, intelligent and beautiful young woman. Serenity's mother and father had divorced many years ago, when her father was caught shoplifting a store while waving a laser pistol around and threatening a porky, rich lady. He had been drunk, of course, but it had been the last straw for Serenity's organised, comfort-loving mother.
They used to live on Earth. A family of four: mother, father, Serenity and her big brother, Joey. They used to be very poor, starving really. Their parents had their love and that was what really kept them going. Life in a Tokyo overcome with hovercrafts and living machines was not easy and Serenity's dad often had to slave away at work for more than 16 hours.
Joey would always help, of course.
Though the technology of the 25th century would probably suggest it was also developed in every other factor of life, that was hardly the case. Families were clearly patriarchal...the "man is the pillar and strength of the house" and all.
Thus, Joey and their father would constantly work in the "Catacombs". The Catacombs were huge multi-corporations that controlled basically all spaceship crafting. A huge catch, obviously. All companies had actually merged into a huge giant enterprise which controlled everything: MultiCorp, and its Catacombs.
The council of the owners were living safely in their mansions in Mars or Venus while poor people who couldn't afford migration would torture themselves in depths of the Catacombs.
All workers had to be ready for work promptly at 4 a.m. In excruciatingly high temperatures where the very air they breathed could burn their lungs, the workers had to create series of spaceship parts. How? Why that's the easy part! They used Hyper-hands. With a specific surgery which was provided to the workers for free, special parts of nanotechnology would be installed inside the peoples' forearms. The sly metal would work its way from one cell to the other, ultimately leading to the skin. Soon, the workers' arms would turn a sickening green colour. Metal spikes would slit their skin and protrude from their fingertips and their elbows.
But what was the purpose of this? The green metal substance that covered the arms was magnetic to the substance which was used to create spaceships. Once they lured the metal with their magnetic arms, and made sure not a spec of steel was lost, they would use their protruding metallic "claws" to mingle with chips and contraptions and ultimately create the ship.
Blood would drip down their arms every time they did this so an innovative method of syringes was developed: hit one every thirty minutes and your blood will stay warm. If you don't it will freeze and you will die instantly, unable to stand the high temperatures of the Catacombs.
Pretty civilised, huh? Serenity was disgusted every time Joey and her father would return home. She loved them both dearly, even after her father started to take various drugs, unable to manage the pain of hyper-arms.
"That's why you have to do the surgery when you're really young!" Joey would boast "that way, you will suffer the least!"
Serenity watched him talk excitedly about the surgery he had had when he was only eleven. He couldn't fool her, though. Serenity could read her brother like a book. He might have been boasting around about his lucky state but he was really screaming for help. The gory monstrosity that had once been his lean, boyish arms was reduced to a beastly, alien creation.
Once, she had caught him trying to pry his elbow "thorns" off but merely managing to scratch himself further with the other spikes. She had rushed for help but he had pushed her away, afraid he would hurt her too. Poor Joey. Poor, poor boy. He had never wanted any of this. He had honestly confessed to his sister...he wanted to become and artist when he grew up.
"You know! Like one of those who make virtual realities for little kids in Venus!" he exclaimed "I have this totally cool idea! Imagine this world where everybody is dressed like, Ancient American! So imagine they had card decks from which duel monsters would pop out! They'd duel all the time! I' ve thought up some cool characters too! What do you think Seren? Do you like it?"
Serenity had nodded whole-heatedly but their father's reaction to Joey's dreams was different...
"Pff.." he had snorted in his drunken state "When will you learn, boy? Dreams aren't for people like us! Dreams aren't for you! I think I've delayed this long enough..."
Silent trepidation had followed.
"Delayed what, daddy?" Serenity had innocently asked.
"Your hand surgery. I'll arrange an appointment with the experts for tomorrow. You'll learn your purpose in life, son. This will do you real good: you'll finally find out that dreams are for rookies..."
Nothing was the same after that. Joey had fallen into depression as had their mother. Serenity tried to keep a cheerful facade, but she would always end up crying herself to sleep at night.
Joey had steadily been regaining his optimistic manner thanks to a friend of his: Tristan. He worked in the catacombs, along with other poor souls. Joey had found some competition and was naturally drawn to it as a moth to the flame. Their supervisor, Mai Valentine had been giving Joey a hard time with witty remarks.
Overall, Joey had managed to learn how to boast about the most tragic things. He was proud of the freaky refugee he had become. He was the "Slaviest of all slaves" and he was proud of it.
At least he tried to be.
Things had been a downfall thereafter. Their father would drink more often and take excessive medication. Their mother had started to hate him for what he had done to their son. Joey had no choice but to turn into a street-kid, trying to keep his father from being caught by the authorities.
The shoplifting incident had been the end of the line.
"We're leaving! Serenity!" her mother had shouted as she grabbed the young girl's arm in a painful grip.
"Mamma…No! Wait! What about Joey? What are we doing?" Serenity's fearful eyes watched in a terrified manner as her attractive and composed mother turned around and spat menacingly at their home's doorstep.
"Your father's dead to me and so is his son. Let's go now, child."
Serenity couldn't believe it. She was shrieking for help, breaking down in tears, fighting her mother's painful grasp, but to no avail.
"JOEY!! JOEY NO!" she had desperately screamed.
"FORGET HIM!! YOU HAV A FUTURE, HE DOESN'T!!" her mother had barked.
"At least let me write a note!! Something! "Serenity had cried.
"The dead don't read! Come, child!" the hardened, harsh voice had shouted.
Serenity had cried then and she would still cry now, in her comfy home in Mercury. They had managed to gain this apartment by selling all they had, including things they stolen on the way there and her mother's body.
Her mother would never let anything happen to her, though, and that was what disgusted Serenity the most. While Joey was slaving away, possibly dying at Earth's Catacombs, Serenity's hands were soft and clean, untouched and not even calloused.
"You're my little girl." her mother would say, trying to justify her actions "you will become great and make a life for yourself. You will succeed where I have failed! Don't you see that is worth anything? Even when I sold my body for you, it was worth it! Even when we left...Earth...We did it for you! For your future!"
Serenity would still cry herself to sleep. Her mother had the best intentions, she knew. She wasn't an evil woman and she had nothing to gain of this whole situation. She was simply trying to erase her own mistakes through Serenity. Thus, Serenity had had no bad experiences, no hardened hands, and no cruel memories.
The names of Joey or her father had never been spoken since that fateful eve. Serenity didn't know if her brother was alive or dead anymore. She hadn't been able to contact him. She could only hope he understood she had never wished to leave him. Hell, she hoped he knew she was alive!
'Joey must be about twenty years old now...Oh my God...He was fifteen when I left, and I was thirteen. Is dad alive? How are Tristan and Mai and everybody?'
And so on and so forth. This was how every day and every night of Serenity's torturous reality went by. She had finished high school with excellent grades and had attended higher education. Now trained to be a bio-scientist, young Serenity Wheeler had attained her first job.
She had vowed to herself she would return to Earth one day. She would return to Earth and pull her brother away from the Catacombs. Away from the Hyper-arms. Away from the dungeons in which he lived in. She would help him. She would help him fulfil his childhood dreams. Soon, the whole world would speak of "duel monsters" and how they will change the world. No child will like other virtual realities like "Dragonball Z" or "Sailor moon". Only Joey's games!!!
Soon, before Joey would close his twenty-third year of age the whole world would be speaking of the wondrous "duel monsters" and… what was that kid's name again, the main character... Oh yes!
Serenity pressed the red little button on the wall of her new apartment. She was still psyched about finally escaping her mother's overprotective grasp. She was free, finally! Finally able to face the world with a new job, a new house, and a new hairdo!
Oh yes! That's what the red button was.
"Simply sit on your couch and press the red button. The new "Home-coiffeur for all uses" will immediately come up with an immaculate hairstyle!" the ad had said.
So Serenity was perched on her couch as she squeezed the red button. Almost immediately, a hat-like mechanic contraption had thundered on her hair and enveloped her skull. It started buzzing and making weird noises. Serenity could feel her hair be pulled and combed. In three minutes exactly, the buzzing stopped and she was left to blink dumbly as she felt the mechanism lift off her head.
She walked into the bathroom, already wearing an elegant blood-red suit. She looked like a "space-hostess" for god's sake!!! Her jaw fell open as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her waist-long hair had been pulled up and twisted in an elegant bun. Stray long bangs were purposely popping out of the bun. At this point her thoughts flowed to her lost brother again.
'I'm sitting here with my new hairdo, like a well-fed chicken, while my brother is trying to stay alive in that hellhole...' she watched her reflection's eyes swell with more unshed tears. 'If Joey saw me in the street he'd think I'm some sort of alien super-spazz…'
'Which I am.'
She quickly forced herself to exit the apartment in order to keep the tears from falling. "Terminate" she commanded dryly as all electronic mechanisms in her house shut down. She took a deep breath and opened the door. The double blue suns of Mercury greeted her. She closed the door. "Secure lock" she commanded and looked around.
Blue sunshine glowed everywhere. Dozens of hovercrafts floated around the tops of skyscrapers. She couldn't see the planet's ground. That was where Mercury's Catacombs were located: in the ground, near the planet's core, were it was hotter and easier to work with metal.
Serenity gulped. Joey...Brother...he was still in Earth's Catacombs. The worst Catacombs in the universe!!!
Guilt was killing her. She could only see the clouds and sky scrapers. She seriously considered jumping off the building balcony. It was thousands of miles above the ground anyway.
But no. She had work to do. She had to save her family. "Hold on brother, I'm not letting go yet. I'm coming, brother..." she desperately thought "I'm coming to get you."
Kaiba Corp was a huge enterprise. Curiously it didn't deal with technology. It had to do with medical experimentations. It was thanks to these bastards that Hyper-arms had been invented. It was thanks to them that the whole of humanity was now suffering from diseases never known before.
The man who ran Kaiba Corp was just as ruthless and cruel as Serenity had imagined him. Seto Kaiba was an extremely arrogant, conceited and overall disgusting creature. He would do anything to be the saviour of the day. Anything.
There were rumours he had actually developed lethal diseases like cinceri in secret labs so that only Kaiba Corp would have the cure and thus sell more. The key notice in this situation was: "Seto Kaiba. Our saviour! This time, the genius has come up with the cure for canceri!!"
Serenity hated him with every fibre of her body! Astonishing, really- to think she actually worked for the man! Yes this was her first and only job: the right hand man...well, woman of Seto Kaiba himself. After all, she was the best bio-chemist of her kind. Kaiba had offered a terrifying amount of money in order to get Serenity. It was time for her to prove her worth!
Was Kaiba actually a genius? Serenity had met him in her job interview and she had one overall comment: tragic. THE MAN WAS TRAGIC. He had no interests whatsoever. Either he would speak of business and how he was the most powerful, terrifying and ingenious man in all the galaxies, or he would take phone calls and curse his head off.
Boring. Completely boring. Why was she doing this again? Oh yes! Joey. She'd get him out of there if it was the last thing she ever did.
So this was day one for Serenity Wheeler. And she had obviously chosen one hell of an interesting moment to join the company, too.
"I have discovered something that will possibly change life forever! I will be their Hero...hahaha! This is one hell of an operation, Ms Wheeler, and you will be in charge of it! You won't believe what I have to show you! Just be here at my desk on Monday, nine a.m. prompt. Oh, and Ms Wheeler! Don't be late."
That's what her new boss had said in a crazed tone, his washed-off cerulean eyes sparkling in silent arrogant mirth. Serenity hated him.
Here she was, finally entering the grand gates of the third hundredth floor of Kaiba Corp. She stepped away from the hovercraft and greeted a few colleagues. They all hardly knew her, since she was introduced to them briefly on Friday night. They all eyed her up and down with an apprehensive look. She could almost read their minds 'so she's the boss's favourite now, huh? Let's see how long she lasts.'
She smiled sweetly at everyone, men and women alike. She soon reached Kaiba's office's door.
"Good morning Ms Wheeler. He will see you now," the blond secretary said in a sugary tone. 'Yuk! 'Serenity thought 'All these people actually believe I come from some luxurious home in Venus, that's why they treat me so politely...How amusing! To think I come from the Catacombs of EARTH!' Serenity snickered mentally though she seemingly smiled back at the cute blond girl.
She walked in Kaiba's office and the door closed automatically behind her, startling her a bit.
"Jumpy aren't we?" Kaiba's sly voice inquired from behind his armchair. He had turned its back to her so she couldn't see his face, but she could almost feel the smirk on his face.
"Maybe I would be more relaxed if you told me what this whole 'surprise' ordeal is about, sir." Serenity said in a soft tone.
Kaiba chuckled and swiftly turned his armchair so to face her. As suspected, a smirk was plastered on his face,
"I like you Ms Wheeler. Soft and sly but never beating around the bush..." he chuckled again as he observed Serenity from head to top.
She squirmed at his intent gaze. Yet ANOTHER thing she hated about this guy: he thought he was so incredibly hot and irresistible when he was really only a simple person. She didn't know how to take his compliment about her straightforward manner so she settled on an innocent, sweet grin.
"You're not from around here are you?" Kaiba inquired. Serenity's eyes widened in surprise. Well it seems he wasn't as slow as she had originally thought. "You're much too hard-cored to be from around here." He stated rigidly and raised a suspicious eyebrow at her.
Serenity was getting tired of smiling sweetly. "It's true sir." she said but decided against telling him about her actual origins. People around here were prejudiced against Earth, after all. "I come from a little province of Mars. First Solar system...near Earth...you know?"
"Ah..." murmured Kaiba restlessly. It seemed he was in a particularly un-grouchy mode, which was a bit strange for him. He lazily stood up and pushed the armchair away. He stepped in front of Serenity and stood tall before her, eyeing her warily yet again. She was starting to get agitated. 'What, is he expecting me to start drooling or something?' She just kept smiling, however. It would be out of character for Serenity to do anything else, actually. She was the quiet type. Silent and composed.
"Figures you were from somewhere near Earth..."Kaiba murmured lightly "Mars is the first colony...Ancient really...Only people from Earth have your spirit...Ancient, really…' he repeated.
He then walked past her and to the doors. They parted and he signalled for her to follow. She blinked and snickered in her mind, as she followed him down the corridor and past the secretary.
"He thinks Mars is Ancient...Ha! If only he knew...where I REALLY come from…" Serenity mused in tragic irony...'My brother is still suffering...' she thought bitterly but quickly snapped out of her thoughts by Kaiba's new words.
"We'll follow the path to the secret laboratories...You DO realise that this is top secret of course..." he said in a precarious tone, and continued "...because if you don't you will probably become a new specimen for my scientists. It would be quite a loss, wouldn't it, Ms Wheeler?"
Something in his tone made Serenity think he was not at all joking. The combination of humourless chatting that followed made her want to gag. Meanwhile, Serenity was disgusted by the looks that other female workers threw towards Kaiba's direction.
Did they seriously think he was all that? Kaiba had a great body, Serenity knew that. His impressive height and strong manly features could be considered attractive. His frosty cobalt-blue eyes were always fixed on a stubborn scowl and his face was framed by thick chestnut hair. Serenity guessed he was all modern girls could dream of: devoted, silent, stubborn and shaped up...a perfect match for a carefree girl. But Serenity wasn't carefree, thus, his charms never worked on her.
Kaiba, on the other hand, was having different thoughts. He realised all too well that the new girl wasn't very fond of him, but she was a good scientist and that was enough. Besides, the fact that -unlike most other females- she had a personality, helped in work.
He eyed the girl with the corner of his scowling, icy blue eye. She had an immaculate slim figure which moved rhythmically with every elegant, ethereal step. She was wearing a sparkling, red suit like all other important council members of Kaiba Corp and the loose auburn bangs that escaped her bun swayed with each move. Amber innocent eyes observed the world around her. Yet, there was something hidden in those eyes...old pain...that was the best explanation he could muster.
He shook his head, disinterestedly, focusing on leading the way to the labs. Who cared about Wheeler anyway? He only needed her for a specific reason…
Serenity followed silently from behind. They were going down automatic stairs and she could only stare into the glass covered labs, were cloning and DNA mutations took place. Screeches were often heard but Serenity never got the chance to actually SEE something totally gory. Whether that was to be considered fortunate or unfortunate, she didn't know.
She was so absorbed in observing her surroundings that she hardly realised Kaiba had stopped in front of her. She almost bumped into him but managed to pause in the last minute. Luckily he didn't notice. Distant voices were heard and soon Serenity noticed two figures approaching. With a closer observation she recognised a chubby doctor she had recently met and another -rather cranky- old doctor she couldn't recognise.
Once the two doctors noticed her with their boss they immediately rushed to them. They stopped in front of Kaiba and greeted him politely -though the cranky guy had a grouchy tone.
Kaiba proceeded to make acquaintances.
"This is Serenity Wheeler. She is my new personal helper; a prodigious scientist I assure you." Kaiba paused "She comes from Mars."
Serenity silently seethed at the way Kaiba addressed her as "his personal helper". That didn't sound very decent for some reason. Why did he tell them about her origins, anyway? And why had his tone been so…mocking when he'd said it?
Miraculously, she kept a sugary grin on.
"Ms Wheeler, meet Doctor Ayano Akira" Kaiba pointed at the chubby guy who bowed respectfully in front of Serenity "and Dr Suzuki Ichiro". The cranky guy snorted gruffly and extended a handshake.
Serenity had no objections. She obliged to Dr Suzuki's handshake and was thoroughly surprised when the man glared at Kaiba and said. "This woman can't be coming from the lower classes of Mars. Her hand is as soft as peanut butter!" Kaiba stared back at the man with absolute mirth drawn across his face. Serenity was growing increasingly uncomfortable.
"Trust me old friend" Kaiba said quizzically "She does come from near Earth..."
Suzuki huffed loudly and released Serenity's hand. She pulled it back warily.
Dr Ayano was the one who broke the ice "Nevertheless...it would prove extremely useful for this operation if she were really from Mars..." he said lightly.
"Indeed..." Suzuki muttered with a suspicious glare towards Serenity. She was annoyed by him already. Smile in place, she gently asked "Why do you say that?"
"You shall soon find out my dear. Now come...We'll take you to the lab" Ayano said cheerfully.
Serenity was in inner turmoil. She was actually fighting to keep those sneering 'my dear' comments from getting to her.
Now, the three of them had resumed walking down the glass corridors. Serenity visibly flinched at the screeching sounds coming from various laboratories. The cranky old guy, Dr Suzuki, who was walking next to her , snickered lightly. "Don't worry, Ma'am...It might be annoying in the beginning but you soon get used to the screaming..."
Serenity gulped in discomfort. 'That's what I'm worried about...that I might actually have to get used to it. We never did this kind of thing In the Academy…'
Suddenly, the voice of the porky Dr Ayano from the front was heard.
"Dr Wheeler...The time for your enlightenment has come...A few years ago, while Kaiba Corp's special scouts were sent to a quest to the aloof planet of Anoti, they discovered something most interesting..."
Kaiba, who was currently walking next to Ayano, seemed overexcited and not at all interested at what the other man was saying. Serenity, on the other hand, was listening intently. Where was this leading?
"...There is a plant that grows only on that planet…Anoti...It emits a bright cyan glow and is very easy to spot amongst other plants...This plant, which is called Nectra, has the ability to release a special liquid when moonlight falls on it. That is...moonlight of the Anoti planet, only. Thus, during Anoti nights, the Nectra plants release a special liquid...Now brace yourself, because this is important: when one of our oldest, forty year-old scouts, touched the Nectra with his hand...guess what happened?"
Serenity stared impatiently. She shook her head indicating ignorance.
"His hand got exactly ten years younger."
"What?" Serenity asked incredulously. Suzuki smirked and Ayano smiled. "Are you sure?" Serenity continued.
"Positive! We actually ran tests on it! Not only did it look younger, it was like his hand had been created EXACTLY ten years ago...Do you realise what we are saying, here, Dr Wheeler? The man touched the liquid with his finger, and his hand turned ten years younger!"
Serenity was staring at the back of his head. The screams of the surrounding labs were momentarily forgotten. She was transfixed. "Where are you getting at, Dr Ayano?" she asked warily.
She could sense the man's smile though unable to see it. "If a mere touch turned his hand ten years younger, imagine what would happen if we actually hoisted ten litres of the liquid directly into the veins of a one-hundred year-old human!?"
Serenity's blood froze. Suddenly she was sure that all the gory rumours about Kaiba Corp's ruthless methods were true. They were willing to overload somebody with a substance of the sort? They were actually about to have an unauthorised test on a human being, without having at least used a guinea pig before??!!
"What if the substance kills them? This is very dangerous!" she said tensely.
At this remark Suzuki snorted and Kaiba seemed to mildly awaken from his disinterested silence. Ayano didn't miss a beat though.
"Not to worry..." he retorted "it has been verified that the liquid is non-toxic. The proteins inside it do not react negatively with human blood and better yet...the changes are permanent...we are talking about a literal ELIXIR OF LIFE. There are no possibilities for the subject to be killed. There are only two possibilities: for it to work and for it not to work. In the first case, the person turns approximately...say...10 litres...hmm....approximately ninety years younger, while in the second possibility...the subject is simply over-stuffed with a green liquid and he has diarrhoea for the next fifteen days!!"
Kaiba smirked and so did Suzuki. For some reason, Serenity wasn't at all placated by Ayano's words…Something in Kaiba's smirk alarmed her very much. Serenity glanced at Kaiba. "Is this legal?" she inquired, trying not to sound reprimanding.
She never got the answer she wanted from Kaiba, though, as it was Suzuki who answered.
"Actually, you wouldn't believe it Ma'am, but...yes it is. I have a contact in the government- you know, a friend. We're actually doing them a favour, experimenting on that scum!"
"Are you serious?" Serenity incredulously asked, her composed goody-two-shoes attitude long gone. "The government actually approved?"
"Believe it or not, they did!" Ayano continued his colleague's explanations "Mr. Kaiba here was only too lucky to come by the story in the Ultimanet news)...It seems that in the end of the 21st century, when humans hadn't colonised other planets yet, the average lifetime of a Japanese person lasted about...hmm...80 years of age? Well, natural lifetime combined with a healthy, diet and voila!! We have our one-hundred and twenty year old specimen!!"
Serenity gaped incredulously "O-One hundred and t-twenty years old, you say?"
"Precisely! Actually, the guy was schizophrenic. He was a thief...you know, a common robber! He used to steal from those ancient department stores in the 21st century...He was so schizophrenic that he surrendered to the police in the end! They kept him in a special cell in New York. The guy was Japanese and preferred sushi and stuff...Then he turned into a complete vegetarian. He made it through 120 years! The scientists were afraid this prodigy would die before they got a chance to study his causes for living so long!! Guess what they did?"
"...they 'froze' him." Suzuki continued in an amused tone. "They put him into a cryogenic capsule so he wouldn't die. We can bring him back anytime! The government were getting tired of the load...You know, having to find a way to transfer an ancient body from one planet to another isn't that easy. They were delighted when Kaiba Corp offered to buy it."
"We actually bought it? They bought the frozen body?" Serenity inquired in disbelief "But the guy will probably die the moment we un-freeze him!"
"That was the problem until now! But it won't be, if our new Nectra Elixir works!' Ayano revelled.
Serenity was still quite suspicious about this deal. "But, Doctor..." she said, regaining some of her former politeness "You said the man was schizophrenic! What if he still is? What If we bring a psychopath back to life?"
"Not to worry, my dear..." Ayano said happily as his steady trudge started to slow, along with Kaiba's "We just want to see of if our youth-potion works...After all, this is just an experiment."
'On a human being...' Serenity sulked but thought better of saying anything. She still felt very uneasy about this deal, however.
The company of four turned right and reached a big steel door. The corridor's walls were made of glass and Serenity started to register that they weren't surrounded by labs anymore. There was just darkness. Pitch black all around, save for the small lights on the sides of the corridor. A corridor floating in darkness. It was kind of creepy, really, and Serenity shivered involuntarily.
The abrupt sound of the steel door opening shook the young woman back to reality. Kaiba walked in first, followed closely by the two Doctors. The sweet scientist entered last, her high red heels clicking softly on the steel floor. It caught Kaiba's attention unexpectedly and he turned towards the girl. He motioned for her to come closer and he Immediately spoke "This is why it'll help if you are from near Earth...Our new guest is an Ancient Japanese guy, after all...maybe you'll help more than we ever could."
Serenity nodded, understanding.
Their surroundings were peculiar. They must have been in very low levels, near the bottom level of the whole Kaiba Corp building…Serenity was surprised to see that they were in a big room with steel, soundproof walls. On the one side of the room was a huge bar of control panels and levers. When Dr Ayano flipped the light switch, everything made more sense. In front of the multi-coloured control panels spread a wide glass surface. It had a view of a huge room, in the middle of which lay alone an electronic chair. Serenity shivered. On closer inspection, it looked as though they were in a lab. She noticed a small door near the corner of the room. It probably led to the platform with the chair.
This was creepy, Serenity decided. She wanted nothing to do with this. She wanted to get out fast and never come back. She eyed the platform with the chair through the glass. It looked like a hall of torture. The chair was electronic and had many levers and buttons sticking out room various places. It had this weird helmet enhanced and Serenity was suddenly reminded of her "Home coiffeur for all uses" only this was creepier and generally more serious.
Tubes were fixed through the chairs cables. The slim tubes glowed shiny cyan. 'That must be the Nectra Ayano was talking about.' Serenity thought 'but how are they planning to feed it to the subject intravenously?'
Her question was soon answered. The tubes ended in pointy syringes, each one looking sharp and painful.
'Oh my God.' Serenity thought, suddenly reminded of her dear brother and the pain he had to endure with his pointy hyper-arms. 'What are we going to do to this man? Joey...forgive me...for hurting someone once more…'
In the chair platform, a single white spotlight illuminated the lonely chair. Catastrophic consequences of the experiment were constantly presenting themselves to the young girl, and she shivered. The doctors seemed occupied enough as they were fiddling with some controls. Kaiba was gazing seriously at nowhere in particular.
"Um...Sir?" Serenity timidly asked, not wanting to disturb him.
Kaiba seemed tired as he rolled his eyes and turned towards her "Yes?" he inquired.
"This...isn't exactly what I expected." she confessed "I thought I would take part in the action..." she lied. She just wanted out of there "I wanted to be able to use the controls and stuff..."
Kaiba grinned. "Don't worry, Ms Wheeler. This operation is much more important than any control. You'll be the one giving the commands! Don't forget that!" Kaiba said.
Serenity smiled a sickeningly sweet, fake smile. "I guess..." she said
"AND HERE THEY COME!!!" the voice of Dr Ayano filled the air.
"Geez...how fun..." Suzuki countered; earning a reprimanding glare from Ayano.
Serenity blinked. "Who..." she had begun saying when loud noises echoed from the dark hallway outside. Instantly, Ayano rushed outside, accompanied grouchily by Suzuki. They seemed to be conversing with someone. Meanwhile, Serenity turned to Kaiba "What's going on?" she inquired curiously. Her anxiety had somehow diminished.
"The lower class scientists are here. They will take care of the control stations. YOU, on the other hand, will take care of the commander position."
"Huh?" Serenity asked in a confused tone.
"Thus, I suggest you go out there and see what is taking them so damn long!!" Kaiba said, glaring. Serenity got the point and strode outside, high heels echoing through the hallway.
What greeted her outside was rather...disturbing. There was Chubby Ayano and grouchy Suzuki, conversing with a young brunette girl and her blonde friend 'This is not the time for flirting!!' Serenity thought. Then she saw yet another thing that caught her eye. Near Suzuki and Ayano stood three or four men conversing casually. One of them, a silent, more observant one was holding a huge...box?
"Oh dear…' Serenity thought
There it was, unmistakable! The cryogenic capsule with the Ancient Japanese thief inside it!! Out of the frozen glass, she could only make out some wrinkled white skin and some snow-white strands of hair. She almost screamed, completely losing her mind. Not even in the Catcombs had she been so scared. It was dark, no one was with her, there were weird people everywhere and there was an ancient, scary-looking psychotic thief about to be revived.... 'shit shit shit...notgoodnotgoodnotgood'
"Hey...are you ok there?"
It was a soft baritone. Serenity turned her attention towards the source of the voice. She met sparkling lilac eyes. It was the quiet boy that had been holding the capsule. Now that Serenity got a clear look at him, she realised he was very handsome.
Thin layers of heavily tanned skin covered his toned muscles, while golden, shiny hair framed his face. He wore earrings that glowed gold even at that minuscule light and a necklace that glimmered with the same material. Black lines of feline kohl design framed his cheekbones.
The boy approached lightly and Serenity's breath caught in her throat. How lightly he walked, with such grace. The white doctors' robe the person wore made incredible contrast to his burnt skin. His smell spread around her and it was absolutely exotic. The most startling thing about him, though, was his tropical eyes, shining with a lavender glow so captivating and tropical that Serenity's skin caught fire.
She could see the heads of all female scientists snap alert as the handsome boy let go of the freezing capsule and approached the girl in red. As the golden haired boy sauntered towards her, she couldn't help but notice his elegance, his immaculate, almost elf-like manner. She watched as all scientist followed the boy with their eyes. It was painfully obvious that it was not only she who had noticed this person's exotic aura.
He finally reached her. He wasn't smiling. Or smirking. Or glaring. Just…looking at her.
"Hey" he said in a full, deep voice "Are you okay? You seemed a little scared back there." he commented.
"I-I'm fine." Serenity responded. She already felt as if those eyes were cutting slits into her forehead. How could they be so intense?
"You must be the new coordinator." the boy added lightly, absent mindedly playing with the top button of his shirt. There were muffled whispers between the other scientists and Serenity could see why. This boy... he almost had a feline touch to him, but it was so elegant and discreet, that no one could deny its charm.
"Yes...I am." Serenity answered with her usual smile. "My name's Serenity Wheeler"
"I'm Marik." the boy said mysteriously "Marik Ishtar..."
Serenity felt familiar with this boy already. She didn't want to raise any suspicions so she didn't make any further questions. Suddenly, footsteps were heard and Kaiba Seto appeared it the lab door.
"Ms Wheeler, when I told you to find out what's taking them so long I didn't suggest you actually get stuck too."
Serenity was dumbfounded. Malik stared at Kaiba quizzically and the CEO instantly stiffened, much to Serenity's surprise. It was true that Marik's gaze was petrifying, but it seemed to have a rough affect on Kaiba particularly.
"I see you have met Mr. Ishtar...well along when you're ready..." he said quietly and disappeared back into the lab. Serenity just stared after him, absolutely confused. Kaiba acting submissive in front of Marik? Since when? That was certainly new. New and interesting, if not downright fascinating.
Serenity turned back to the "crowd" of spectators.
"Hey there, people!" she grinned happily "I'm your new coordinator! We're working on this project together today! My name's Serenity Wheeler and I' m new here, so please bare with me!"
Everyone welcomed her warmly and she felt welcome for a change. The fear of this place was starting to dissipate completely. Marik was still standing next to her and this time he was smiling warmly. It was a wonderful sight, Serenity decided.
"Please tell me your names everyone!" Serenity asked. Soon she found out that the brunette girl was called Rika and her blonde friend was Lena. The three scientists that were conversing before where consecutively called Kenji, Soiji and Taichi. They decided that they would call each other by their first names, for efficiency.
"Okay everyone! Let's get started! Rika and Lena: go inside and take care of the controls. Marik and Soiji: Make sure the frozen dude goes inside. Kenji and Taichi: you people will unfreeze him the moment he gets out of his little capsule. Dr Ayano and Dr Suzuki: make sure you insert the tubes in his body, you're the only people who really know about Nectra anyway...When we are all done meet me here! Go!!!"
Everyone spread to their "battle stations". Serenity strode proudly back into the lab, where Kaiba was impatiently waiting patiently for her, while tapping a foot on the floor. He seemed to be a bit lost in his musings, however. Serenity smiled brightly. Finally, she had a chance to prove she was good at her job!
Rika and Lena came in immediately and started fiddling with the control panels, switching stuff on and off. From the glass, Serenity could see Kenji and Taichi entering the "hall of torture." After Taichi walked in, Marik and his huge, remote-controlled capsule appeared. Soon they could see Soiji holding the "fridge" from the one side and Marik supporting it from the other.
Serenity's eyes wandered to Kaiba and she noticed that he was clearly staring at the blond, tanned boy. It was certainly an annoyed look. 'Weird' thought Serenity. They continued to watch as Soiji carefully opened the capsule. His green eyes widened clearly at what he saw. A moment of trepidation followed as Marik stepped in front of the now open capsule.
The beautiful boy's face paled and he looked as if he was going to be sick for a moment. 'What? It can't be that bad!!' Serenity thought. Marik grasped Soiji's shoulder for support and Soiji seemed to shiver in disgust at what he was seeing.
After recovering from the sock, Marik and Soiji grabbed the body. Serenity almost gagged when she saw it been dragged to the electric chair. It was nearly translucent. The flesh was frozen and stuck to the bone. One or two white bands of hair fell unceremoniously on the person's brow. "THIS is our specimen?" Serenity heard Lena ask her friend. Serenity smiled secretly and giggled "Yup!" she said "and you better get used to it because there will be a lot more of that when Nectra is a success!"
The girls chuckled and Kaiba glanced at Serenity momentarily. "Don't be so sure we'll distribute it after it's a success, Wheeler." he said frigidly.
Serenity gulped unconsciously, as she felt vaguely sick. "Sure, Sir…" she simply replied.
They focused back to the happenings in the other room. With perfect organisation, Taichi and Kenji were using special tabs and patches to unfreeze the body. After ten whole minutes of waiting, the old man's finger twitched.
"I'm reaching a faint heartbeat...He's coming back to life!!" Rika said into her microphone. She was wearing headphones and checking out some controls in front of her. Her voice echoed around the room with the chair. All scientists were gathered around Taichi and Kenji, who were trying to recover the body.
"Keep trying everyone!" Rika hopefully repeated.
Unable to hide her teasing nature and her urge to tease the new boss Serenity sauntered over to Lena's post and leaned into the mike.
"Hey guys, this is Seren. So...Who wants to do CPU? Marik, you in for it?" she watched in absolute mirth as Kaiba's eyes narrowed to glaring slits. He obviously didn't like jokes very much.
Marik glared playfully at the glass. He couldn't see through it, of course, since it was a mirror from the one side and a normal see-through window from the other.
"Already on first-name basis, are we Ms Wheeler? Perhaps it would be prudent to focus less on pointless teasing and more on the job at hand."
Serenity's face fell completely, but she quickly recovered. Having faked happiness with her mother for all this years had been good training.
"Well, I wanted everyone to be on friendlier terms..." she sweetly said "Besides...It worked. They did their job. Look! Sleeping Psycho is waking up!"
Truly, the man seemed to stir. He raised his hand to cover his chest. That's when Serenity first noticed. There was this thing hanging from his neck. It was something metal...no...golden. Shouldn't it have broken with the ice? Miraculous! And to think that his first thought after a slumber of six centuries was about his golden ring. It must mean a lot to him, if he went to "sleep" with it...
Lena and Rika were transfixed. Serenity had to nudge them sharply with her elbow, in order to get them started.
"Good job, people, now plug him in." Lena said into the speaker.
Taichi and Marik carried the half-dead, half-conscious form to the chair, where Doctors Ayano and Suzuki started to pierce his old, tired body with syringes. Serenity felt an enormous amount of pity swell inside her. Though she was an experienced scientist she would always have a problem with syringes. They reminded her of Joey too much.
Kaiba's gaze was completely fixed on the whimpering form now, concentrating so much that Serenity thought he wanted to kill the old man with his eyes. Soft, incoherent sounds kept escaping the old man's lips and Serenity felt goosebumps crawl onto her skin.
Once Ayano and Suzuki were done with their process, Serenity ordered them to get the old man completely ready: levers, buttons, helmet and all. Once they were finished, Lena had told them to walk away. They all gathered inside the lab, staring at the lonely, old figure sitting on the chair, in the sealed room.
Unexpectedly, Serenity felt a twinge of hurt inside her. "May I go see him?" she asked
"Excuse me?" Kaiba asked incredulously.
"I said: May I simply go to him?"
"Whatever for, Ma'am?" Suzuki snapped.
"I just…want to." she said "I am a scientist too, you know." It wasn't her style to abuse her authority, but she really did want to see this man up close.
Marik silently smirked at that, wanting to hear a response from Suzuki. It was Kaiba who answered, however, with an irritated snort.
Serenity gingerly walked to the door that connected the two laboratories. As soon as she walked inside, all sounds from the other room were lost. All she could see was the lonely figure on the chair, with a white cloth covering his privates. Opposite was the mirror. Serenity couldn't see a thing, but she knew that everyone was watching her from inside. She slowly walked up to the figure and bent on her knees in front of him. She felt so sorry for the man. If only she could do something.
Small, pained whimpers wracked his body. He kept his left hand over the golden ring; his long, vampire-like nails clawing at it restlessly. His eyes were shut tight and he was mumbling something.
Serenity was so overwhelmed with compassion, that she didn't know what to do. Suddenly she imagined what it would be like to spend one whole life time, then be forced to lose the eternal rest of death and also be forced to endure a new life, away from your home and friends. This was the case with this guy.
He was lost. A specimen in a great, conflicting governmental deal. What would he say, if he knew he was an experiment? Where was the human side of science now? No where. Now there were only specimens and experiments and obligations.
She watched the restless heaving of the man's chest. The nipples of his chest were nearly non-existent in his wrinkled, withered costume of skin.
Beads of sweat rolled down the ancient man's wrinkled brow, leaving thin, moist trails of rivers on it. Serenity quickly reached in her jacket and took out a handkerchief. She used it to relieve his forehead. The helmet with tubes which was forced on his scull made it tragically obvious that he was in pain.
As the soft, cool material of the cloth ran through his face, the man slowly opened his eyes. Serenity gasped. Of all the things...
His eyes were brown. A deep oak brown. They held so much innocence and purity that the girl almost fainted. He held her gaze weakly.
They told her stories more ancient than time itself...Only innocence…and pain. How a man with such eyes be a psychopath?
'They don't always come with a cruel face...' a small voice in the back of her head warned, but this was different. This was scary.
His eyes were too pure...Too innocent. They made her want to cry with what Kaiba was about to do to him.
Why wouldn't they let him rest? The man just wanted to rest in peace! Was that too much to ask after a prolonged slow deterioration of SIX CENTURIES?? Serenity understood now. He'd never wished for this to happen to him. He just wanted peace. Final Rest.
Her hand which held the handkerchief was placed in his wrinkled cheek. Slowly, almost hurtfully from old age and all those tubes, the man raised the hand which covered the ring on his chest and covered her own palm. His skin was soft and with a plastic fake feeling- it was the product of old age.
Once more she remembered Joey, and how she felt guilty about the way she had left him.
But this man...Would she be guilty about him too? Would she take his rest and destroy it? What about his new life? What would he be in this world? A spectacle of an exhibition? A specimen? What?
He was an old hag, an ancient man, yet that small innocent touch said it all. 'Thank you...for helping at this time...' he told her with his eyes.
Now she felt even guiltier. He thought she was helping him while she was slowly condemning him. Those startling, forever young innocent eyes beamed at her hazel ones one last time, and then he closed them into temporary rest.
She felt the pang of tears sting her eyes and it took a moment before she realised she was crying. She didn't care anymore. She honestly didn't care.
'Once you're ready, I'll get you out of here...I owe it to my honour...and to Joey...I won't let another person lose his dreams and his life...I promise...I promise I will...' she whispered desperately, clutching on the hand that was still resting above hers on his cheek.
"Wheeler!" a sudden roaring sound was heard 'Figures' she thought 'Kaiba' "Get your pretty rear back here! We haven't got all day!!!"
Serenity got up determinedly and let her hand slip from the ancient's grasp. She left her hanky there, though, just in case he remembered. "I wonder how you look when you're young, big guy..." she whispered "hopefully, I'll find out.
"Serenity!" echoed a deep melodic voice.
She turned towards the door and saw Marik, the tropical angel, stare back at her. She smiled and rushed up to him. Without thinking, she fell in his arms and hugged him, a truly friendly embrace. He stiffened and felt surprised at first but soon gave in and returned the favour, securing his arms around her back
"I know how you feel..." he whispered in her ear solemnly and at this point, she truly believed he did.
"IF YOU TWO ARE DONE NOW I SUGGEST WE GET ON WITH IT!!" Kaiba barked menacingly.
Serenity tried to restrain the urge to snicker loudly.
Marik gently released her and they entered the lab to find a bunch of scientists who were chatting happily and ignorantly, two very impatient Doctors Ayano and Suzuki and a completely irate Kaiba.
Marik was still holding Serenity's hand in his own free will, a thing which made her curiously happy. I t showed how amiable he felt with her. Once the door was closed and completely sealed, Dr Ayano instantly shouted
"Let operation Rewind 1 begin!!"
"Operation Rewind 1? Why the heck did they give it such a corny name?" whispered Serenity to Marik.
Marik glanced back, amused "It's because supposedly time is 'Rewinded' and the subject becomes younger..." he explained.
"Ooooohh…now I get It" Serenity thought for a moment "it still sounds corny to me..."
They both snickered quietly "It's because the boss invented the name..." Marik added while trying to look sober.
"Poor Kaiba..." Serenity whispered "He thinks if he tries being smart, he'll get more fans!"
"But whatever are you talking about Seren?' Marik smirked "Kaiba has a great fan: himself! He thinks he IS the world."
Two naughty grins were plastered on the two friends' faces as the whole commencing process began. Kaiba grouchingly told Serenity to shout when she was ready.
Serenity slowly released Marik's hand and etched closer to the glass. Her determined thoughts came back to her as she watched the old figure clutch helplessly at her now wet handkerchief.
Trepidation hovered over the group.
'I promise...I won't let it happen. Not to you too...' only Marik heard the girl whisper.
"NOW!!!" Serenity Wheeler shouted and all hell broke loose.