Title: Rising Signs

Rating: T for moderate and occasional strong language, some mature (non-sexual) themes, and moderate violence.

Summary: Regular "monsters" aren't the ones to be scared of. The monsters around you? They're a different story. But the worst of all dwell in your heart, when the memories come back. When the world changes. When you find out you're technically dead... like me.

Warnings: semi-Alternate Reality from Episode 111 onwards, so S3 spoilers aplenty! Uses Japanese names and storyline.

This story is included in what I am now calling the Parts!verse, as it follows on from "The Sum of His Parts" (a José-centric oneshot). Reading this oneshot is not vital, but is recommended – it provides an overview of some non-canon concepts I first introduced there and will reuse. In addition, you may find references to "Opposition" in here - that's Parts!verse too.

This is not intended to be an outright pairing fic, although if anything it will lean towards Retribution- or Scoopshipping,. (And I might lay hints for a whole host of pairings, just for the lulz.)

Disclaimer: Much as I love the show, it isn't mine. I'm just playing in Takahashi-sensei's sandbox. This is in no way created for profit - I'm just a simple fan, writing because I love the show and I want to explore what could have happened. ...Though if I could just adopt Lucciano or the twins (or all three! :3) I'd be a very happy Gin.


Chapter 1 – Dark Signer


Thick black smoke painted the air, mirrored by a nimbus of purple fire that wreathed the oil-dark water stretching between the former Satellite and Neo Domino. A siren wailed. Bright blue flashes splintered through the lateness of night, the winking eye of a Security vehicle. The duel lanes stood empty, evacuated of all civilians and duelists; all, save for the two figures who had wrought such a drastic change, and the third who had plunged through the barrier of flames in an attempt to stop them.

Asides from the obvious – the rising pillar of smoke – the sky yawned empty. Those two monsters, the Synchro Killer and a strange black bird, had disappeared from sight, leaving Ushio-sempai free to conduct an aerial search of the duel lanes. So far they had found no signs of life. And, if that helicopter didn't hurry up and do its job, reaching the loser of the duel would only come after they... after it would already be too late. He'd seen the twisted remains of that Bokuru guy. The duelist hadn't stood a chance.

Do its job. As if that had any significance. If they really wanted, they could surely traverse the flames and continue on their way. Safety procedures. Kazama Souichi grumbled impatiently, but knew he had to tread carefully or risk probation: the higher-ups considered him too irresponsible, borderline a danger to the force, whenever there were issues of a … "delicate" nature.

In an attempt to distract his errant thoughts, he turned to eavesdropping on Sagiri-san. She was issuing frantic orders to the helicopter high overhead, her normally mild voice tense with worry. He studied her for a moment. Her posture was uncharacteristically stiff. Kazama had worked in association with her only once or twice, but she was notorious for being more relaxed around people than Ushio-sempai… He supposed it was Ushio-sempai she spoke to with such urgency. Most of what was said applied to procedure, the bane of his 'reckless' existence, but two words caught his interest. "Dark Signer" – a phrase he had never heard before in his life.

Given the context, it had everything to do with that giant bird.

He had no further opportunity to ponder the mystery of Sagiri-san's words. The last flickering flames were beginning to die down. His fingers twitched to the controls of his D-Wheel, earning him a sharp reprimand from the guy to his left. So his reputation preceded him. (In all truthfulness, Kazama was considered either one of the bravest men in Security, or the craziest.) Static blurred in his ears as the radio programmed into his helmet crackled to life. Kazama waited with characteristic impatience for his orders to be relayed, mumbling under his breath, "Come on!"

They had to hurry.

Five, ten, thirty seconds passed. Come on, he repeated more urgently; at last, though, the wait was over. Permission granted. His D-Wheel roared into life. Kazama was the first to punch across where the boundary had previously been defined in solid violet flame, orders still echoing in his ears. They had all been given explicit instructions: Locate, do not engage. Not one of the seventeen officers now spreading across the network of lanes had the Duel function in operation, just in case the Synchro Killer still lurked among the cordoned-off duel lanes. After that debacle with the Ghost army, and Ushio-sempai's crash all those months ago, Kazama knew just how dangerous these people could be.

He glanced over his shoulder. Typical: he was alone. Kazama shrugged it off – he knew that most others found him a little, well, odd. Perhaps it said something about him, that one of the only people who could stand to work with him for an extended period was somebody even more uncontrollable.

There would never be another man like Jack Atlus. Kazama wasn't sure he could cope if there was.

His mood shifted as he noticed the cracks threaded through the walls of the duel lane, like a network of veins. Impossible. That glass was specially designed to withstand any kind of impact, from crashes to speeding bullets (both things he knew from experience). For a duel to cause so much damage… whatever "Dark Signer" meant, if it could wreak havoc on an equal scale to a Synchro Killer, even Kazama had no desire to cross it.

Still, he would admit to the stirrings of curiosity. If that were a crime then he would have earned himself enough jail terms to last five lifetimes, and then some.

The whir of an engine. Another D-Wheel drew alongside. "Sagiri-san says two of the D-Wheels are up ahead," called its rider, a grizzled officer named Suzuki Kaji, across the sound of buffeting air. Then his expression turned stern. "You should be more careful, Kazama-kun. Going off on your own is foolish."

Kazama made a small noise of agreement, scarcely paying attention as he glanced at the road behind them through his wing mirror. No pursuers, which was either a small blessing in a patchwork of misfortune, or a cause for concern. Judging by the scars of battle littering this lane, he had chosen the route they had taken. The blue-haired man had to know what fate had befallen the duelist foolish enough to oppose a Synchro Killer. The scale of the damage left him with a sense of dwindling hope.

Don't you dare get yourself killed. Idiot.

The helicopter rattled overhead. Disturbed air translated into vibrations, which became an uncomfortable whup-whup in his ears. High above them, the smudge of Ushio-sempai's form leaned from the aircraft. He'd be unable to see much from that height, Kazama reasoned, as the man withdrew his head and shoulders from the open hatch. An unwelcome interruption dragged his attention away from Ushio-sempai and his actions - Kaji whistling loudly through tobacco-stained teeth as he scoured a map on his display; the racket overhead faded away, the helicopter moving to another area. "This lane will be out of service for some time. There's too much damage. Surely it can't be safe for us to come down here. We should find another…"

"Look at that!" exclaimed Kazama, ignoring the more experienced man's words. He lifted a hand from his D-Wheel, pointing through one of the amber-tinted walls. There was something around that corner, something he couldn't quite make out from here. Kaji peered into the darkness, flicking his headlamps to main beam in an attempt to see more.

Ahead of them, something had ripped a hole through the middle of the duel lane. Kazama remembered how the huge black bird had dipped its head at one point, shortly after it had appeared. Tried to imagine that beak spearing the duel lane. Jagged glass, twisted metal. Kaji swore violently and slammed his foot on the brakes. The younger Security officer accelerated.

It can't be that hard, Kazama reasoned, as he sped towards the edge of the hole. After all, Jack did this sort of thing all the time. The way it had been torn had left a ramp of sorts, which he could surely use…

Kaji's shouted objections registered only after his back wheel started churning through air. Kazama's maroon eyes glinted. Jack would call him reckless. Jack was hardly one to talk, being foolish enough to hurl himself through violet flames

Crunch. The jolt of impact ground glass fragments into dust. His back wheel juddered. Kazama almost lost his balance. Steady there, steady! He wrestled his D-Wheel back under control, skidding to a graceless halt. Kaji dismounted and rushed to the edge, removing his helmet. "Fool, you could have killed yourself!"

"I had everything under control," Kazama called back in denial, nerves shot through by a rush of adrenaline. That had been one of the stupidest things he had ever done, including the time when he'd swerved into the path of a gun while driving a stolen D-Wheel. Blew his cover and was hospitalised for three weeks. One of the worst experiences in his life.

Even the risk of death couldn't curb the belief that he had made the right decision.

Kaji swore again, pacing up and down like a caged tiger. "Fine. Go on ahead. But whatever you do, do not under any circumstances engage in a duel. Do you understand?"

"Of course." Kazama coaxed his engine back into life. He was reckless, not stupid. "First sign of a Synchro Killer, I'll call for back-up, the same if I find the other duelist. Is that okay by you, Ka-jisan?"

"Insolent whelp," Kaji shot over his shoulder as he stalked back to the D-Wheel, tension knotting his shoulders. That, from a crotchety old man like him, was almost a 'yes'. Kaji would forever be an open book… Engine roaring, Kazama wasted no time in moving on. There were other routes onto this particular duel lane. Kaji would catch him up soon enough.

Or he hoped so. For all his reckless bravado, even Kazama had to admit the Synchro Killers intimidated him – because he held no idea of what they were capable of.

Frowning, the blue-haired man envisaged the final moments of the duel – or what little he had pieced together from observing the monolithic monsters. There had been a stabbing motion of the beak, the one which had caused the damage back there. Yes, and barely three minutes after that, the monsters faded from the sky. That must have been the point where the duel ended. Kazama tried to picture the route he was taking. At his current speed, then it would take him less time than that to reach the duelist, if there was no more debris in his way. He hoped not. The silence suggested he was right.

He rounded a corner, and immediately was struck by how different things were. This section of duel lane remained pristine. Not a single crack or damaged construct in sight. It was eerily calm, compared to what he had seen before. So after the – Dark Signer? was that the right phrase? – ended their turn, nothing had happened for some time… the Synchro Killer taunting him, perhaps. Kazama almost preferred the wanton destruction. At least there, he could figure out what had happened—

…what…

no

Damn it.

He'd found them.

Lying on its side, crumpled and battered, the Wheel of Fortune belched smoke into the air. Jack Atlus was nowhere in sight, a small relief: maybe he'd survived, got out of the wreckage in time. A smaller, more delicate D-Wheel – deep red, with a repeating orange motif and a wing-like design at the back – had been abandoned nearby. It too had sustained heavy damage, the left hand side buckled, as though something, perhaps another D-Wheel, had smashed into it at speed.

Kazama cursed again and switched his headlights to main beam, his vehicle screaming to a halt a safe distance from the wreckage. "Jack! Jack, can you hear me? Where are you?"

The helicopter rattled overhead, drowning any reply that might have come. Hang procedure, he couldn't just stand back and do nothing! "Jack," he called again, choking as the whirling wind swept a fresh billow of smoke into his face. Kazama all but threw himself from his D-Wheel, feeling rather than seeing the glass that grated underfoot.

Somewhere beyond the smoke curtain came the sound of a woman's voice, pitched high with emotion. "He's here, over here, hurry, please…"

Dark Signer. It must be, whatever one of those actually was (and to think he'd assumed it a man). The Synchro Killer would hardly hang around waiting for Security to show up and arrest them. Sagiri-san's frantic conferral with Ushio-sempai had suggested that the Dark Signer was dangerous, just as dangerous as the Synchro Killer. But there was an undercurrent of fear in her voice that made her sound so lost and terrified, so alone, Kazama found himself shoving aside the doubt. Even though she was culpable for at least half of the damage which had been wrought. Even though she could yet prove a danger to herself and others.

He left his D-Wheel where it was, lights flashing into the night to attract the attention of the helicopter. Kazama plunged through the smoke, feet crunching over shattered glass, in the direction the voice had come from. The smoke stung his sinuses and burned in his throat. He had to try and remember not to breathe.

Crouched on the asphalt was an irregular shape, still blurred by the haze. A kneeling figure, with something long and white stretched out along the ground. No. Please, no. Don't let Jack be dead. They could have prevented this. They should have stopped him, somehow. Security was supposed to protect people.

The woman glanced up. "Are you with… Security?" she asked, staring at him (through him) with wide unfocussed eyes. In the inky night, she would be unable to see his uniform. Dark hair framed a pale, drawn face – she looked like she hadn't slept properly in some time, which could explain why her gaze felt like she was looking through him, not at him. "He's gone. The… the Machine Emperor is gone. You won't find him here—"

"Miss, please, calm down." Kazama swallowed, scanning the unconscious Jack for signs of obvious injury. "You moved him?"

"I had to." Her hands fluttered helplessly above the injured man's chest. "I couldn't just leave Jack in there…!"

Kazama looked at her askance, then across to the D-Wheel wreck still spewing thick smoke. Inhaling those fumes could prove disastrous for Jack, for any of them. Thankfully the wind was carrying the smoke away. The woman had been aware enough of her surroundings to judge that, in any case. "Have you noticed any irregularities in his condition?"

He kept his tone crisp and professional, despite his inner turmoil. Procedures. For once he was actually grateful for them. The young woman shook her head. Her body trembled with violent shivers. It wasn't a particularly cold night, but so much of her body was exposed that she probably felt it anyway. Perhaps delayed emotional shock. Kazama made a mental note to warn his fellow officers before they took her in for questioning.

"I didn't know what to look for. He regained consciousness for a bit, but he couldn't move or anything and he fainted again soon after…" The woman stifled a sob. Her breathing was erratic. Damn it, she was on the brink of a panic attack. "It's my fault!"

"Look, miss, please calm down," said Kazama, kneeling on the ground next to her. Next to Jack. The blond duelist looked impossibly young without his trademark scowl. "I'm not accusing you of anything. I just need to know what happened here."

"What happened…?" she asked slowly, still shaking. By the blue flashes of light from Kazama's D-Wheel, piercing through the veil of smoke, the tears shimmering in her eyes became visible. "I… the Machine Emperor attacked me. One of its parts had been upgraded so my opponent could attack my lifepoints directly. He had already stolen Red Daemon's to fuel its attack… he only needed that one attack to take me out, even though… We were winning – Jack could have beaten him – but…

"He chose me. Jack chose me, over stopping the Machine Emperor. And he got himself hurt instead!"

"So you pulled him out of the wreckage, over here," said Kazama, trying to steer her away from self-blame as he continued to piece together what had happened. "There's no outward suggestion of severe injury, but I can't say for certain. For now, miss, we have to assume his spine has been injured – no more moving him unless strictly necessary." She nodded, taking one of Jack's hands in hers. If this was a Dark Signer, then Kazama could not comprehend Sagiri-san's worry over the subject. This woman seemed utterly harmless, not the monster his superior's tone had suggested.

Although… she had been attacked by a Synchro Killer. How was she even alive? Still, that would explain the dent in her D-Wheel and… oh. Oh. No wonder she claimed it was her fault. Jack had shunted her out of the way, so he was struck with the full brunt of the Synchro Killer's attack…

This is how I always am,— Kazama says, still grinning despite the pain from that attack, and Jack smirks. If you get hurt again, the blond tells him, tone deathly serious, my pride won't allow it.—

Stifling a groan, Kazama realised that yes, that was precisely the sort of crazy stunt Jack would pull, and there was only a handful of people he would take such risks for. And now he knew who this woman was. She looked different without her glasses. "Carly Nagisa. I should have realised sooner. You've been on the Missing Persons register for almost a month—"

"Kekekeke…!"

A high, shrill peal of laughter dragged his attention from the woman, whose eyes had widened in disbelief (a month, he heard her whisper), and even distracted him from the rattling presence of the helicopter, which was searching for a place to land nearby. He looked up. There was a child, a long-haired boy of no more than thirteen perching on the edge of the duel lane. His features were shrouded by shadows – Kazama saw nothing to identify him, a calculated move. "You're too late," he said gleefully, a wide grin – the white flash of teeth all that was visible – splitting his face almost in two. "Too late! Kekekeke…"

She turned blindly in the child's direction, a mask of horror twisting her face. Her fingers convulsed around Jack's limp, unresisting hand, clinging to it as though it were her anchor to sanity, while the boy beamed down at them and stood precariously on one bright blue roller blade. He looked like he might overbalance and fall at any moment. "The King is dead," he announced with a loud cackle, revelling in the spasm of pain that flashed across her face. "Long live the King."

Long live the King… No, that child was lying. He had to be lying. Jack couldn't be…

The woman – Carly, he reminded himself, it was Carly – spoke. Her voice was low and hurt and defeated.

"He's not breathing."


Character Notes:

鈴木 火事

Suzuki Kaji : Kaji is a very minor OC who acts as a foil to his younger, more reckless colleague. Kazama occasionally addresses him as Ka-jisan, or Uncle, playing on the second syllable of his name and the … 'unique' nature of their working relationship. He may crop up again. He might not. Depends if I need a Security officer above nameless-mook status.

Other Notes:

Much of the idea for this story originated from the Retributionshipping forum on Janime – I'd like to thank orangerebellion (Shadow) and raiu9 for all the speculation we mustered! I couldn't have done this without you.

I'm trying to keep writing 2-3 chapters ahead of posting, in case I hit a wall. Currently chapter 2 is almost complete, and the structures of chapters 3 and 4 are set out (both in progress). I won't post chapter 2 until 3 is almost complete, so please be patient!