A/N: Okay, frankly all the dramatic crap I've been writing is getting to me. Exams coming up, death-by-college-searches, and so on. So I wrote this to unwind.
It doesn't have much of a plot, but I hope it makes someone out there laugh. I think there will be seven parts, but only loosely connected. So, have fun, everyone, as Seto and Mokuba attempt to find a new bodyguard.
She reached the end of the pier in a blur of motion, hearing the voices behind her as well as the engine humming. She dove before the lights ever touched her.
The water swallowed her, trying to force itself into her mouth and nose and eyes. It stung—freshwater wasn't as bad as saltwater, but that had been quite a collision—but she had better things to worry about. She slid below the water's surface after coming up for one last gulp of air, swimming blind. Touching a rock and one of the support pillars for the pier at the same time, she surfaced silently. It wouldn't do to make any unnecessary noise now.
Carefully, she reached up to touch the boards overhead. She had six inches of clearance—better make the best of it. The water was icy and lapped at her head as she carefully stood on top of an underwater rock so she wouldn't have to tread water, which was loud and always a death sentence in close quarters like this.
She heard feet on the wood overhead. She smiled faintly, or at least bared her teeth. They were talking.
"I'm telling you, I saw that bastard come this way," shouted one, and she wondered if she should move. This was a little too close for comfort.
"Well, he's not here now. I could have sworn we should have turned left back there—easy to sneak away back in the bushes," said another. He yawned. "No one would be able to find one small man in black anywhere around this lake. We should have brought the dogs."
The first one spat on the boards beneath his feet, leaving a gob of spittle to hit the hidden eavesdropper in the head. Disgusting. "I told you, there was no time to get them. Not with the way they were carrying on like someone used a dog whistle."
"That's your own fault," said a third, irritated. "What are we going to tell Takano-san?"
"No idea," said the second man, the most reasonable one. "But if we can't find the thief we have to come up with an excuse. A good one."
"It's a conspiracy with you two idiots running around," growled the first.
"Who was the one who forgot to feed the dogs before they ate someone?" snapped the third.
"That was months ago! And besides, you forgot to turn the lock three times. Our batons melted because of the lasers!"
"Come on, you two. Those were both accidents…" said the second, but they weren't listening to him.
"And there was the incident with the baseball and the rubber duck—!"
"Oh yeah? You put glue in my toothpaste!"
"For the last time, it was revenge for letting your sister's little yappy dog get inside the-!"
Someone apparently decided that this was a good time to throw a thermos of some drink at the other. It missed, but their unseen watcher was suddenly wondering why her scalp was being scalded by green tea. She had to duck under the surface to get rid of the burning sensation before it got to her eyes.
By the time she came back up, they had apparently reconciled. Mostly.
The other two grumbled, but eventually agreed after much wheedling and pleading on their leader's behalf.
She slipped out from under the wood as soon as she heard them drive off, silently congratulating herself for paying off the head of security two days in advance. She swam on the surface for a while before finding the other shore. Under the cover of darkness and a well-clouded moon, she walked up into the woods and went to find a place to peel her catsuit off. She still had a job to do.
It was a long walk to her employer's car. At least it was mostly camouflaged this time.
"Did you get it?" he asked as she opened the door and dumped her wet clothes bag on the floor of the SUV. He wasn't that impressive visually—most of his features tended to put one in mind of a small, perpetually twitching rodent—but she thought of him as a very fat checkbook. He at least had the decency to hand her a towel for her hair, though.
"Yes, Mushi-san," she said in an even voice. She reached into her equipment belt and pulled out a rock the size of her fist. Broadly speaking, it was a gemstone, but most gemstones weren't black, and were cut more attractively. This one looked like a big black brick. She handed it to him.
Mushi clapped and took the giant paperweight with an expression of glee on his face. "Perfect. You're just as good as they say you are."
"Thank you, sir," she said quietly.
"Yes. Let's see, your payment?" he asked, stowing the tone away in the secret compartment that happened to double as a fold-away cup holder.
She gave him an even, eerily blank look. "Four hundred and fifty-six thousand-million yen."
Mushi scowled. "We agreed on less."
"We did not," she told him tonelessly. "You wanted a one-of-a-kind black gemstone for a laser weapon to be focused through, and it was inside the home of a wealthy collector named Takano Hideo, who employs two dozen heavily-armed security guards. The risk was great, Mushi-san."
"It was, it was…" said the small man, and she knew what would happen next. First would come the false reassurances… "You did a very fine job. You will get your compensation." And then the suspiciously subtle movement toward a hidden weapon… Ah, there he goes…what a large gun… "I'm sure you have plans, so I'll just send you on your—oof!"
That was the sound a man makes when a woman has just planted her long, steel-tipped stilettos in his stomach. The shot went wide, cracking one of the bulletproof windows and ricocheting at such an angle that it punched a hole in the soft leather seats. And spooked the (underpaid) driver into ditching the car entirely.
Despite losing a very important meal ticket, she felt that it was a decent trade for her life. There was never any point to planning for your own future if you wouldn't live to see it. She kicked Mushi in the head for good measure and snatched the black stone from its hiding place.
With any luck at all, she could either fence it or just drop it off with the security thugs she had seen earlier. The brainy one had seemed like he needed a break.
She grabbed her possessions from the floor of the SUV and made her escape into the dark. A thought occurred to her after five minutes' worth of running—This will be my last job for some time. My reputation is ruined.
And yet the thought didn't bother her like it should have.
Kaiba Seto (or Seto Kaiba, for the Western world) was not, by nature, particularly violent. With few exceptions, he usually didn't have to be. He was one of the few people on the planet who could claim to control a multitrillion yen business empire. He was also sixteen, and nothing ever scares you when you're sixteen. How else could the world account for the crash rates of teenage drivers?
Seto felt like being very violent now. For what seemed like the sixteenth time this year, Mokuba had been kidnapped. And it wasn't even summer yet.
Sometimes he really wondered what he paid his brother's security detail for. As far as he could tell, everyone he had hired to protect the younger Kaiba was supposed to be competent, efficient, and worth the money he spent on their salaries. In reality, the skills that allowed them to pad their résumés seemed to evaporate as soon as they were on the payroll.
Still—and this was the part that irritated Seto to no end—Yugi had come to Mokuba's rescue, and that was the only reason his brother was sleeping in the chair next to Seto's. His brother was safe, yes, but not because of someone Seto had specifically hired for that exact purpose, but Yugi. Yet again.
It was enough to give him an ulcer.
Clearly, some changes needed to be made.
Flipping his laptop open, Seto began to type. Having already fired every supposed security guard that had supposed to have been watching Mokuba (Like they were paid to do!), now it was time to find replacements. He'd lost count of how many he'd had to hire since Duelist Kingdom. Maybe he was looking at this the wrong way…
He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off a headache. Usually he tried looking for ex-military types, the sort of men who would be able and willing to fight for Mokuba's safety. It was probably time and past to have different requirements in mind.
Combat experience. Minimum four years. That one would have to stay. He remembered the days when he and Mokuba had only had that creepy butler—that man had been useless. And had managed to get fried within an inch of his life by his own trap in Death-T, but that was slightly irrelevant.
He looked at the screen and eyed the line where Male sat, quietly lonesome without any qualifiers. He deleted it—most of the bodyguards had been men, and that hadn't really helped.
On and on it went, with Seto industriously deleting what he now considered non-essential to the profile of someone he was sure would actually be competent. Maybe. If he played his cards right, at least.
After about half an hour, he rested his head on his upraised palm and stared at the screen. He was almost done.
"Niisama?" Seto blinked the tiredness and heard Mokuba push the long white coat off himself. Despite apparently being still mostly asleep, his brother wandered over to where Seto was still trying to decide on the last point. "What's this for?"
Seto looked back at the spreadsheet in front of him and said evenly, "I'm trying to decide who to hire to be your bodyguard."
"Hideyoshi did pretty well," Mokuba said, and then he added, "Until the accident, anyway." There was the start of a mischievous smile there, but only just. It was quickly overtaken by a yawn.
"Remind me to ask you how they managed to get lubricant everywhere." Seto said flatly, dragging the cursor over to the EDIT button. "The chicken feathers didn't come out of the carpet for three days."
"What do you have so far?" Mokuba asked, peering at the screen. He rubbed his eyes.
"Not very much," Seto admitted, and if it had been anyone else who was asking he would have inserted a snarky comment somewhere. "The past few months have been failure upon failure for the human resources department.
"See this?" Mokuba nodded, and Seto indicated the third line. "We want someone who can fight. We want someone who can deal with the stress. But after that, it seems like too much is left to chance."
Mokuba looked over the list. Then, after a moment of this-is-my-thinking-hum, he said, with a gleam in his eye that Seto mentally associated with manga and overdone sentai, "Let's get a ninja."
Seto dutifully restrained himself from bashing his head into the desk.
Mentally sighing, because he knew that there was nothing to lose by following his brother's suggestion (since it didn't seem like he could do any worse), he ground out, "Fine. What are the requirements for being a ninja?"
Mokuba's eyes lit up and Seto felt a sudden thrill of dread, the sort that most parents feel when their children start driving and being independent and otherwise doing things that might get them horribly killed. This would probably go…poorly.
In the tradition of all small(-ish) towns everywhere, Domino City was buzzing with the news of yet another KaibaCorp stunt by noon the next day. And, in the tradition of slightly-bigger-than-small towns the world over, a crowd had already gathered near KC headquarters for a bit of street theatre. If nothing else, having such a publicity-based multitrillion yen company in the air led to a variety of interesting sights for the citizens who had the sense not to get involved with Duel Monsters.
Most of them stood in a broad ring around the grand staircase that surrounded the life-sized (or at least hologram-sized) statue of a Blue Eyes White Dragon. In the center, nearest the statue, there was a long white limousine and a fold-up table. A man wearing sunglasses and a dark suit sat at the table, and a long line of both men and women stretched back from him and into the crowd.
The sign next to him proclaimed, in large, computerized script:
"NOW ACCEPTING APPLICANTS FOR KAIBACORP POSITIONS."
Below, in slightly less ostentatious writing, it read:
"Idiots need not apply."
Below that, it said, in childish hiragana:
"But be ready for boot camp if you're interested."
Why was it entertaining? Sometimes, it was worth it to stand in the crowd and watch people get almost to the front of the line before skittering off. Their expressions tended to carry a bit of a story along with them, even if it could be somewhat difficult to tell if their thoughts were simply "No way am I doing something so hard for that pay" or, worse, "I want to do this so badly but I want more money and benefits and I'm bad with kids and I have halitosis and—"
Eventually, the line began to shrink and the crowd began to disperse as the last few participants were led to ambulances by kind people, due to mental breakdowns from the stress of it.
In the end, there were twelve people who stood at attention near the limousine for final inspection. They were of all shapes, ages, and (unfortunately) states of cleanliness, which made Isono wonder if he would have to take a long, long shower after the "event" was over.
In this case, three of them were female in various states of undress, and most of them (to Isono, anyway) looked like cosplayers. Most notable was the woman who had a laugh that could apparently strip paint, even if she was rather attractive (if scantily-clad). There was a man who carried a sword that would work as a surfboard if it hadn't been made of metal, had the kind of spiky yellow hair that looked like it could be used as weaponry, and in a town with the King of Games in it, that was saying something. Then there were the two brats with metal headbands, of which the orange-wearing one seemed to be trying to strangle the other in the street for something the dark-haired one had said. Adding up that with the rest of the apparently societal rejects running around in the crowd, and Isono decided that the hated Sundays.
Isono sighed mentally and spotted a woman near the rear of the ranks. He didn't recognize her, so clearly she hadn't put her name down. He was a man who thought in clipboards. "Your name? Come forward, please."
She wasn't very tall, or wouldn't have been if not for the heels. She had pale blue hair—which wasn't really worth commenting on in a city where it seemed like every third person was trying to give the starfish-headed King of Games a run for his money—but also had purplish-red eyes, which were staring straight through him. Her expression didn't change when he asked her to answer a few questions.
"Do you want to participate in the gauntlet?" Isono asked.
She blinked once or twice, slowly, before answering in an even voice, "Yes."
"And you know what the trials will be like?"
"And you still want to?" He'd asked this question of every one of the twelve that had come before her. They just seemed to be the type of people who were too stupid to see a way out when it presented itself.
Isono nodded to himself and handed her a pen. "What is your name?"
The red eyes focused on him and Isono felt like they were trying to see into his soul. It made him feel naked, frankly, and gave him flashbacks to the time when Kaiba-sama was trying to figure out if he should demote him for things like embezzlement. "My name is Sonozaki Kotone, Isono-san."
He cleared his throat. "Very good. Sign your name here."
She looked down at the paper and her eyes narrowed slightly. "Waivers?"
"If you die, you won't be able to say that you didn't know there was a risk." Isono clarified, if hesitantly. It would be his life on the line if this ever got out.
"Good," Sonozaki said. Isono blinked. "It's only practical."
"Er…yes. Of course," Isono mumbled. "Well then, step into the car, please. The trial grounds aren't within city limits."
And off they went, all piling into the limousine and being carted off to who-knew-where. Isono was the only one bothered by their apparent enthusiasm. They were sneaking drinks from the wet bar, talking and guffawing loudly.
Except for the blue-haired woman, who just started sightlessly out the window. She didn't say a word.
A/ N: Thoughts, anyone?
Isono = Roland (the Battle City announcer)
The others character groups happen to include shout-outs to Final Fantasy, Slayers, and Naruto.