Disclaimer: In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. All Yu-Gi-Oh!-related characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi.
Tracing the issue back to its roots was a sordid and messy affair, but in Rex Goodwin's estimation the whole matter could essentially be boiled down to the subject of hair color.
Rudger Goodwin had been born with luxurious golden locks that had flourished into a regal mane in his youth, the crowning mark of his undisputed greatness. As he established himself early on as a genius and prodigy in a thousand different fields, those gleaming tresses had served as a constant reminder that Rudger was destined for glory.
Rex, on the other hand, had received from the hand of fate curls of finest silver, the traditional hue of the perpetual also-ran. And so was his destiny; whether it be in school or sporting competitions or dueling, Rex held no peer but his brother, and yet regardless of the weight of his own efforts he could not help but stall at second place. Just as the moon's silvery glow was nothing more than a pale reflection of the sun's golden radiance, so too was the Goodwin family's second son nothing more than a less potent imitation of its first.
Not that Rex hadn't tried his absolute hardest to alter this dreary state of affairs – his sheer determination and fervor were unquestionable, if perhaps somewhat Quixotic. Faced with a brother who had seemingly been gifted with every possible advantage under the sun, Rex had worked tirelessly to attempt to measure up to the strengths and abilities that Rudger had simply been handed as his birthright. Where Rudger was naturally endowed with a well-toned physique and ample muscles, the comparatively scrawny Rex resolved himself to hours upon hours of rigorous physical conditioning. Where Rudger was possessed of a brilliant mind that made every subject imaginable an absolute piece of cake, Rex studied long into the night to even come close to matching him in grades or test scores. And where Rudger quickly made a name for himself on the dueling field with rare and powerful cards that he had received as rewards for his numerous accomplishments, Rex struggled to maintain the runner-up position in every tournament he entered with whatever crappy commons he could scrounge with his pocket money.
And the most infuriating part of the whole mess, perhaps, was that Rudger didn't even have the decency to gloat about his continuous victories. It would have been one thing had the blond projected a smug air of self-aware superiority that Rex would have been only too glad to shatter. But instead, the fact that he was the eternal "golden boy" (both literally and figuratively) was such a resolved point for Rudger that it never even crossed his mind to bring it up. To Rudger, there was absolutely nothing wrong with his relationship with his brother, and if he ever sensed Rex's resentment of his talents then he certainly never reacted to it.
And so the years went by in largely the same fashion: Rudger continued to excel at every single thing he chose to put his formidable mind to, and every Goodwin relative in existence continued to lavish him with unending praise and adoration. It was a foregone conclusion amongst the Goodwin clan that Rudger was the scion who was going to make their name famous; whether he decided on politics or business or science as his ultimate career field, everyone knew that Rudger Goodwin was going to be world-famous by the time he turned thirty. And as for Rex, if any thought at all was spared on the family's second son then it was only to lament over how much of a shame it was that his parents hadn't been able to produce another prodigy. Rex's own accomplishments didn't matter in the slightest – he couldn't compare to Rudger, and therefore he was doomed to be forgotten by all so long as he stood in the brilliant blond's shadow.
By all accounts, this should have caused Rex to distance himself as much as possible from Rudger's career path, but for reasons he himself couldn't quite explain he had followed his older brother through the acquisition of a grueling doctorate in Advanced Duel Physics and straight into a research and development job at KaibaCorp. As the dual assistants to Professor Takashi Fudo, Japan's foremost expert in their field, Rex and Rudger were for once ostensibly equals in position and stature, but Rex was acutely aware that this rare parity was not destined to last for long.
The trouble had started when the trio's greatest work, the prototype Momentum reactor, began to produce significant seismic activity following preliminary tests. Fearful of the potential threat posed to the citizens of Domino City, Professor Fudo had immediately called for an end to the operation. Rex was largely indifferent to this – after all, they were being paid regardless of the overall outcome of the project, and he honestly wasn't confident that the world was ready for the overwhelming responsibilities attached to clean, free energy – but Rudger was absolutely beside himself. Rex couldn't understand his older brother's sheer vehemence over the issue, but then again it was growing increasingly rare that he understood Rudger at all, and so it was without his knowledge that the tanned blond chartered a plane to Peru in order to investigate the source of the earthquakes further. By the time that Rex learned of Rudger's intentions, he was already touching down in South America.
And then, a mere day later, his entire life changed irrevocably.
With the Momentum project on indefinite hold and Rudger abroad, Rex had very little to do around the lab, and consequently he was shuffling aimlessly through the sterile halls when he came across a door left conspicuously ajar. A conversation was clearly being held on the other side, and as Rex placed his ear to the crevice he recognized Professor Fudo (speaking in tones far more rushed and frantic than Rex had ever observed in him previously) and an unfamiliar voice with a vaguely echoing quality to it.
Widening the crack slightly so that he could peer inside, Rex was stunned to observe an unmistakably ethereal figure speaking rapidly to Professor Fudo, a figure that Rex recognized immediately as Takashi's own mentor, and the forerunner for virtually all of their current research in Duel Physics: the legendary Doctor Daichi Misawa.
Which, in-and-of-itself, was unquestionably strange…given that Doctor Misawa had experienced a rather high-profile death over ten months prior. Though upon further consideration, the translucent aura and wispy trails of eerily glowing smoke that surrounded his silhouette, reminiscent of nothing if not the classical image of a ghost, seemed consistent with this fact.
But even more shocking were the things that this specter was explaining to his wild-haired superior – fantastical tales of divine dragons and malicious Gods reigniting their ancient conflict in the modern age, and of the ordinary humans whom each faction was marking as their emissaries via the signs of their being.
…And suddenly the intricate birthmark that had graced Rudger Goodwin's left arm since the day he had been brought into the world made quite a bit more sense.
Professor Fudo entirely ignored Rex in the days following this spiritual intervention, as he was far too busy carrying out the phantom's edict: reincarnating the essences of the legendary dragons into the form of cards, so that they might be used to avert the catastrophe that the specter clearly feared was imminent. This left Rex Goodwin with several empty days to process all of this information.
The spirit had credited a celestial being known as the Crimson Dragon as his master, and described in detail the methods through which the scarlet God kept watch over the human race. Each generation a small group of humans known as "Signers" were chosen to act as the dragon's earthly vessels, marked for this task by signs corresponding to the pieces of its serpentine body. It did not take a genius to determine that Rudger was a member of this elite group, nor to deduce that the fact that his particular birthmark depicted the Akaki Ryu's head indicated that the elder Goodwin was destined to be their leader.
But this news came with a grave warning as well, one which placed Rex in a state of distinct unease as he waited impatiently for his brother to return to Japan.
The warning concerned the Crimson Dragon's counterparts, the Earthbound Gods, which were teetering dangerously close to escaping from their sandstone prisons…in part, at least, because of the shockwaves that the Momentum reactor was producing. According to the ghost, these Jibakushin preyed on the darkness within the human heart, and Rudger's role as lead Signer rendered him an irresistible target for their corrosive appetite.
The cosmic forces of good and evil were clearly mobilizing against each other, and Rudger appeared fated to be caught in the middle of their crossfire. It remained to be seen, however, which side his brother would ultimately ally his significant powers with.
That mystery did not last for too long, however. Rudger returned to the lab the next day, his outward appearance unchanged but his deeper demeanor unquestionably altered. For one thing, the wild intensity with which he had responded to the proposed shutdown of M.I.D.S. had disappeared, to be replaced by a rather disturbing calmness. For hours on end Rex could observe his brother staring silently into the light of the perpetually spinning Momentum reactor, his blue eyes glazed over in a fixation that seemed almost reverential.
Furthermore, Rudger was using the time that he didn't spend observing the reactor's radiance to quietly go behind Professor Fudo's back and attempt to resume the project. Such a technique would probably not have worked with the Kaiba brothers, who had personally appointed Takashi Fudo to the position, but as the pair had recently passed away in what had been reported as a private plane crash (though Rex was pretty sure that the specter had mentioned something about this explanation being less than entirely truthful) executive decisions were currently being placed in the hands of the board of directors. Rex's immediate impression of these men was that they were the most money-grubbing bastards he had ever encountered, and so it came as little surprise to him when they jumped at Rudger's promises of a completely safe method with which to continue the experiments…without even inquiring as to what that method was.
But what did come as a surprise was what Rudger did afterward. Backed by a small battalion of armed security personnel, the blond researcher had stormed into Professor Fudo's lab to forcibly relieve him of his duties; financial arguments had proven more than sufficient to convince the board to hand the position over to Rudger.
Rex watched this confrontation from a distance, ensconced beyond a doorway as he watched the two geniuses square off. Each man wore an expression that Rex had never before observed upon their faces; Rudger an intense, almost animalistic hunger at the prospect of renewing the Momentum experiments, and Professor Fudo a stern, worldly resolve as he defiantly announced that he would be putting a stop to them. His heavy jaw set as he stared down the heavily armed battalion, the wild-haired scientist revealed that he had already constructed several seals upon the Momentum reactor's limitless power, ones that would be activated permanently should some particular cards be placed inside them.
But Rudger did not earn his reputation as one of the planet's greatest minds for nothing, and with a sadistic grin he had made it clear that he was already several steps ahead of the wild-haired scientist by flashing the very cards in question: four of the Signer Dragons that Professor Fudo had spent the past few days painstakingly recreating.
To his immense credit, Takashi Fudo wasted absolutely no time in wrenching the cards from Rudger's grip and tearing away from his guards…though not without paying a hefty price. As Rex stared on with a mix of astonishment and horror, one of the nameless suits clipped the brilliant scientist in the arm with their weapon, forcing him to drop one of the precious cards as he stumbled painfully out of the room.
Given the lack of unprotected exits to the Momentum chamber, it was almost inevitable that Professor Fudo would run into Rex…literally, in fact. But Rex was quite fond of his mentor, and so with great effort he had hauled the bleeding man onto his back and tore off for a more private wing; one which, even with all of his almost insane levels of preparation, Rudger was yet unlikely to have clearance for.
"Please get a hold of yourself, Professor Fudo!" Rex had exclaimed as he laid his superior's form against a wall, droplets of blood seeping from his arm and mouth.
"Rex…you have to stop the Momentum," Takashi had insisted in strained tones, raising the three cards he had managed to steal back from Rudger as he did. "To you…these cards…take them, and get as far away from this laboratory as possible…"
"But I can't just leave you here!" Rex had maintained, taking the cards in-spite-of-himself and placing them in his pocket.
"The cards are more important!" Professor Fudo had shouted, waving away Rex's attempts to administer some assistance to his wounds. "Far more important than you could ever imagine! And…" he had added, "…there is another. You must retrieve it as well, and then flee while you can. The rest of the Five Dragons cannot be allowed to fall into Rudger's hands…or worse, be destroyed."
"Where is this last card?" Rex had asked.
"I hid it…within a statuette of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon at my desk on the second floor," the senior researcher had explained. "It is but one piece of the dragon that should have been destined for Rudger, had he not turned his back on the light, but if the body is separated from the soul than at least that soul can never be fully corrupted by the shadows that are gathering here." Takashi had visually cringed before further noting, "To access the card, twist the dragon's head ninety-degrees clockwise and flip it open; that should reveal a small microphone. Give it the password 'Yusei' and the card's compartment will be unlocked."
"'Yusei'…your son's name?" Rex had questioned, his face frozen in amazement as he processed all of this new information.
"Yes…and I'll need to get to work on that operation straightaway," Professor Fudo had muttered, gasping in pain as he wrenched himself to his feet. Apparently forgetting for the moment that Rex was in the hallway, the brunette researcher had continued to talk to himself. "The shuttle's been ready for days, but Yusei…he should still be home with Kamiya. Oh God, if I could only save her too…but there's no way that a larger capsule is going to clear the blast radius in time…"
"Wait, 'blast radius'?" Rex had cried out. "What the Hell are you talking about?"
"I think that Rudger's going to do it tonight, Rex," Takashi had declared solemnly as he began trekking toward the garage that held his car. "Misawa-sensei…he warned that this might happen…"
Rex didn't recall anything about a "blast," so he had concluded silently that it must have come up prior to the commencement of his eavesdropping. "Look sir, you're not talking sense," Rex attempted to reason. "What is it that Rudger is going to do tonight?"
"I've dubbed it…Zero Reverse," Professor Fudo had stated as he staggered, Rex jogging to keep up with the determined researcher's surprisingly rapid pace. "The Momentum reactor sustains an infinite reaction of Planetary Particles through controlled clockwise motion, but if all of the safeties were removed and the reactor was induced to spin in a counterclockwise direction…the effects would be disastrous."
"And you think Rudger might actually set something like this off?" Rex had yelled out, now beside himself with shock. "But Nii-san would never…"
"He would, and he will," Takashi had interjected firmly. "The evils of the Underworld have seized full control of your brother's mind, and there are no limits to the atrocities that a man can accomplish under their influence. But if I can save Yusei and you can save those cards…there might still be some hope left. So find the last dragon, commandeer a vehicle, and drive as fast as you possibly can away from this place. Do you understand?"
"Err…yes, but…" Rex had begun, but Professor Fudo again cut him off.
"No objections," he had stated. "You know what needs to be done, so do it. And someday…someday when you have the resources, release all four cards into the public. The fine strands of destiny will take care of the issue from there. Goodbye, Rex Goodwin, and may the Akaki Ryu bless your journey."
That had been the last time that Rex ever laid eyes on Professor Takashi Fudo.
Retrieving the last of the Five Dragons had been as simple as Professor Fudo had described, but the other points on the man's litany had been rather stickier. As insistent as the wild-haired researcher had been on the subject, Rex simply couldn't believe that his brother – the genius, the golden boy, the absolute paragon of the human condition – could be imminently plotting mass murder. Not without hearing Rudger's side of the story, anyway.
After checking quickly back at the Momentum chamber, Rex had stolen away into Rudger's private lab, where the muscular scientist was hunched over a console, breathing heavily.
"What's wrong, Nii-san?" Rex had shouted automatically, but he scarcely need have asked; the fact that his lab coat's left sleeve was missing the corresponding arm was abundantly clear.
Instead of turning around, Rudger had merely reached under his chair and hurled a large canister at his brother's feet. Rex was struck speechless at the sight of the thing, which even casual observation could inform him contained none other than Rudger's severed arm, floating sickeningly in a solution of green formaldehyde.
"Rex…someday, those known as the Signers will appear," the blond had announced, still not looking at him. "No matter how many years it may take, gather them together…and defeat me!"
"What are you saying, Nii-san?" Rex had exclaimed, unable to believe what he was hearing. If Rudger was saying something like this, and had removed the arm that contained his precious birthmark to boot, then that meant that he had indeed decided to throw his lot in with the Earthbound Gods, and that meant…
"Do as I say, Rex!" Rudger had cried wildly, finally turning around and regarding his little brother with eyes that were utterly inhuman. "There are two Gods within my body. But I…I chose the path of darkness! Take that and get away from here, while just a small amount of my human self remains!"
"Nii-san…" Rex had begun as he took the heavy canister into his arms, but Rudger had ceased his protestations quite forcefully by drawing a gun and firing off a warning shot at his feet.
"Go!" Rudger had commanded, and with no other choice Rex had finally fled, four Synchro Monsters in his coat pocket and one disembodied forearm in his hands.
Lacking a car of his own (Rudger possessed the keys for the one that they shared to work), Rex had raced back to their home and saddled himself upon his motorcycle. Buying the thing had been mostly a lark; balance and coordination on such machines was the only talent that he had been able to find which he possessed in greater quantities than his brother, so while the vehicle was largely useless for a young research scientist in a practical sense he still valued it quite highly. But at that moment, if what Professor Fudo had stated was indeed factual, then that motorcycle was his only hope in escaping the area in time.
There had been only one issue, however: the canister. He couldn't very well drive any extended distances with the thing held in the crook of his arm or strapped onto his back, and he hadn't possessed any feasible method of somehow attaching it to the machine, so he would need to store it somewhere for safekeeping. But off the top of his head, Rex had been unable to come up with a sufficiently secure hiding spot…until his eyes had alighted upon an enormous skyscraper, only about a mile away.
The Arcadia Movement was an academy (of sorts) for psychic adepts, and it had been a matter of particular interest to M.I.D.S. for some months. For whatever reason, its headquarters had been completely unaffected by any of the seismic activity that resulted from the Momentum experiments – the only building within their entire half of the city to carry that distinction. If Rex needed to store Rudger's arm for a potentially extended period, he could think of no better location off the top of his head.
As he had evidently been pressed for time (the sun was already setting low, and Professor Fudo had postulated that Rudger was going to set off the purported cataclysm sometime that night), Rex had not bothered to consult with the heads of the organization (a pair of siblings whom Rex could not immediately recall the names of) before driving up to their tower with the canister held precariously under his arm and sneaking through a side entrance as a whistling janitor ambled merrily out of it.
Fortunately, daily operations had clearly ceased by the time that Rex arrived in the Movement's lobby, so he had had little difficulty skulking about the place without detection, searching frantically for a good hiding spot. But an inconspicuous nook or cranny that he could easily access at a later date had continually eluded him (even the ceiling tiles in the bathrooms had apparently been unmovable, negating the possibility of that old spy-movie cliché)…at least until he had found himself in an expansive, gleaming inner chamber, which he had hazarded a guess as being a makeshift Duel Arena.
Duel Arenas were ideal for this sort of thing; their traditionally gargantuan sizes, hallmarks of the days when they had been solely responsible for producing Solid Vision, had not changed much over the years, even as more and more of their traditional functions had been absorbed by the far more functional Duel Disks. As a result, there was generally a good deal of empty space beneath the platforms, and indeed Rex had struck gold when he loosened a panel on the surface of the device: a person-sized alcove, one that would be quite difficult to discover unless one was specifically searching for it.
The eerily glowing canister thus ensconced, Rex had wasted no more time in dashing out of the building and returning to his motorcycle, revving the engine with trembling hands. At that point, two avenues of escape were open to the silver-haired scientist: either shooting through most of the city and then off into the rural countryside that lay opposite his position, or driving as far as he could into the lower-class communities that were located in the other direction.
Choosing the latter on the spur of the moment was a decision that Rex Goodwin would live to regret for over ten years.
The disaster had occurred right on schedule, but its wider effects had been even greater than Rex had ever anticipated. Not only had several city blocks been immediately vaporized by the pure, blinding light, but the explosion had also resulted in widespread earthquakes and tsunamis, ones with such overwhelming power that they had managed to cleave Domino City into two separate entities. And unfortunately, the one upon which Rex had hidden himself had ended up drifting off to sea, settling as a thin, ravaged island that many were now dubbing the "Satellite."
As the years upon that lonely isle passed Rex by in silence, it had become abundantly clear to him that his new home had been designated by everyone he had ever known as a crime-ridden slum, one which deserved no more than the paltriest assistance from the city's central government. The administration of the now dubbed "Neo Domino City" occasionally sent shipments of food and basic supplies, and provided meager employment for its residents in the form of waste processing, but shortages of even the most fundamental necessities were more than common and luxury items (which in this case included even such things as toothbrushes) were absolutely unheard of. Travel between the Satellite and the mainland for everyone other than Security personnel was, of course, forbidden.
This life had not suited Rex well, to say the least. Although he had never exactly been rich, the Goodwin family on the whole had been decently well-off for as long as Rex had been a member of it, and as such he was decidedly unused to poverty. Sorting through mountains of garbage as they proceeded unceremoniously past him on a conveyor belt was a humiliation that Rex had endured day-in and day-out for the past decade in ingratiated ignominy, but it could not be helped; the seven-hundred yen that he earned a day from the position was his only source of income, and consequently the only avenue through which he could acquire food.
Rex's only real assets in this despondent Hellhole had been his motorcycle (long since pawned off in order to afford a tiny one-room flat in an overcrowded residential district) and the four Dragons that Professor Fudo had entrusted him with. Following his mentor's advice, Rex kept the priceless cards on his person at all times, though he had eventually been forced to part with Stardust Dragon and Red Dæmon's Dragon at critical junctures in order to make his rent. But Takashi had never exactly specified a timeframe as to when he was supposed to "release them into the public," so he rationalized that there was nothing technically wrong with having done so…
But that was neither here nor there. What mattered at this point was that he was going to escape this miserable existence very soon, and damned be the consequences.
He had stared at it for years: the distant beacon of light sitting just on the edge of the horizon that was Neo Domino, taunting him like a sunrise that never progressed, remaining firmly and invariably out of his reach. Rex acknowledged that he could spend hours upon hours simply rooted to a single spot on the coast, focusing intently on the glimmering utopia and wondering vaguely if Rudger remained there. The ache to return to his true home struck the middle-aged man with unyielding constancy…not only to take back what was rightfully his, but to go further, and make his own destiny within the greater world that lay beyond the sea.
His escape attempts had been unsurprisingly numerous…and of course, unsurprisingly unsuccessful as well. Once he had hidden himself within a crate that housed a confiscated D-Wheel, but had been found out due to the sheer clumsiness of one of the attending Security Officers, who had tripped and rattled the box as it was being loaded onto the ship. And another time, he had salvaged the remains of a boat that had just happened to wash up near his favorite spot of contemplation…but all attempts to repair it and make flight upon the waters of the bay were dashed when thugs from the B.A.D. area had stolen his prototype in the night, preventing him from even making a meager profit off of the spare parts.
No, Rex had all-but-given up hope up leaving these slums about a year prior, but that was before he had showed up.
The man was truly a mystery, in all aspects. Rex knew neither his name, nor his history, nor even his true appearance; his face had a strangely shadowed quality that prevented the former researcher from closely observing any feature above his nose, and this natural veil pervaded even on the brightest of days (or as bright as they ever were in the Satellite, at least). His voice meanwhile remained in an utterly neutral register at all times, notable neither in volume nor pitch, and yet when he spoke it commanded Rex's full attention, regardless of the circumstances. All in all this man had the air of one who was wholly unnoticeable, completely content to stand off to the side of a crowded street and be ignored by thousands…until of course he wanted to be noticed, at which point it often seemed like he and Rex were the only two people on the planet, cut off from the petty concerns of mortals and parlaying over something far grander.
"It's a shame, isn't it Doctor Goodwin?" he had asked upon their initial meeting, causing Rex's head to turn so quickly that an audible crack could be heard; he had been under the distinct impression that he was the only man to regularly visit this particular wharf, barren as it was (apart from its glorious view of the mainland, of course).
"How…how did you know my name?" Rex had responded in shock – no one in the Satellite, so far as he was aware, knew his true appellation. Like any other details regarding his past, that was something that the silver-haired man had been quite strict about disclosing.
"The same way that I know a great number of things," the man had replied matter-of-factly, calmly dusting off his crisp white suit…a sight about as rare as flying rhinoceroses on this island. "For example, the fact that your older brother Rudger was chosen by Gods of both the light and the darkness, his body forming the first battleground in the War that threatens to tear apart this planet in the very near future. Or the fact that for the past ten years, you have been stewing in silent envy over the fact that you were never chosen by destiny's guiding hand. Always second-best, Doctor Goodwin…but we can help you change that."
"Who exactly are you working for?" Rex had questioned, tentatively approaching the other man and attempting in vain to get a better look at him.
"I am a representative of Yliaster," the man had answered succinctly, and Rex thought that he saw a small glint in his perpetually obscured eyes as he said this. "I am but a humble emissary of God's will, delivering the message of His grander scheme for you. You are no longer fated to remain trapped in the languor of this dying wasteland, and if you make sojourn to Neo Domino City then you will soon find that much greater things are in store for your future."
"There's no way out off of this island," Rex had returned solemnly. "Believe me, I've tried."
"Then try again," the white-suited man had rejoined with a soft smirk. "And once you make your triumphant return, petition the Public Maintenance Security Bureau and apply for a high-level position. You may just find the results to be very much to your liking."
And with that, the man had turned around and sauntered away, the harsh winds in the area picking up force as he did. Rex made to follow – he still had had about ten-thousand questions remaining for the enigmatic gentleman – but his eyes closed involuntarily in response to the sudden gale, and when they parted, the man was gone.
So where had all of that brought him now? Tired, lost, confused, and sweatily driving a spike into the pavement with a heavy sledgehammer.
Rex Goodwin had taken the mysterious man's advice to heart, cryptic though some of it was, and for the past two weeks had been commencing construction on the impossible: a bridge to connect the Satellite to the mainland. The plan was fucking insane, and he acknowledged that much…but logical schemes had utterly failed to provide him passage to Neo Domino, so he supposed that it couldn't really hurt to attempt something crazy.
…Well, on second thought, perhaps it could hurt just a bit. As a one-man operation, building this bridge was going above and beyond his physical limits, leaving him aching and groaning at the end of each passing day. It didn't help either that the Security forces clearly weren't exactly pleased with his project, and though they hadn't taken any direct action to hamper him he could certainly tell that the officers in the area were constantly on-edge.
Still, there had been hopeful signs. His efforts had been rather quick to attract an audience, with more and more denizens of the Satellite flocking to his location by the day. The bridge was rapidly becoming the talk of the island, and nearly always in a positive sense; the general narrative floating around was that even if the operation fell short of its goals – which was of course the most likely outcome – Rex's labors were still providing some small measure of hope to the populace, and no one could fault him for that.
It was eight days into the project that Rex had first received direct assistance from any of his fellows. A boy with a slender gait and long, silvery hair had stepped out from amongst the crowd, picked up a spare hammer, and joined the former researcher's toils in silent dignity. The young man looked to be no older than seventeen, and Rex had certainly never met him before, but regardless he appeared steadfastly committed to helping bring this bridge into reality. "It…satisfies me," had been the youth's laconic response on the one occasion that Rex had inquired into his motives.
And the boy had only been the first of many. Once the unspoken barrier had been broken Rex's audience had begun flooding in, swiftly transforming the egregiously impractical construction into something that might actually be feasible. Progress on the bridge was spiking dramatically as more and more people joined into his efforts, and Rex was actually starting to entertain the notion that they might be able to make it to the mainland after all, given enough time and patience.
But for Rex Goodwin, things were rarely ever that simple.
He had stolen this D-Wheel from…someone; to Rex, it really didn't matter who. All that did matter was that it was currently the only thing standing between him and a lifetime in prison.
The Security Officers had come in wee hours of the morning, right before dawn…evidently they had wished to avoid confronting him while actually working on the bridge, for fear of igniting an uprising among his followers. Only his own tendencies as a very light sleeper had saved Rex from immediate arrest, but ever since then he had been the subject of an intense police chase, barely managing to evade capture from the enclosing dragnet for hours on end.
But his options were running out rather quickly; Security had the entire district surrounded by now, and it was only his superior riding skills that were keeping him ahead of their forces for the moment. Breakneck speed, hairline-thin turns; Rex Goodwin knew that he was cornered, but he would not accept it. Still, the fact remained that he was almost out of road to tread…the Security Officers had cleverly been steering him toward the wharf, where the only possible avenue of escape was…
Everyone – the citizens of Satellite, the Security Officers, even Rex himself – went wide-eyed in awe as he maximized the throttle and shot forth across the uneven metal planking of the half-finished bridge. In the deeper recesses of his mind Rex could distinctly hear a voice screaming over just how insane this course of action was…but he ignored it. The slipstream was all that Rex Goodwin felt as he accelerated further and further, deploying decorative flaps on the motorcycle that could charitably be called wings and readying himself for the inevitable moment of truth.
The roaring tires soon parted way from the bridge's support, but much to Rex's shock he did not immediately crash. Instead, miraculously, his momentum pushed him ever forward threw the air, and he flew.
The feeling was wondrous…it was as if the laws of reality, of mortal men, had been left to wither upon the ground, leaving Rex with nothing but the purest sensation of unbridled freedom. All negative thoughts and emotions filtered out of his mind and soul as he climbed higher and higher, racing without restraint toward the golden radiance of the sun.
…And then, suddenly, staring at the blazing orb reminded his logical mind that the laws of physics could never be broken, and as such that gravity would reassert itself fairly soon. He could not hold himself above his fellow humans, much as he felt removed from them in this moment, for the divine hand of fate had decreed him ordinary in all respects. It was Rudger, only Rudger, who was allowed to remain upon this plane without end; he had been chosen to stand alongside the sun as an equal, possessed of a nigh-Godhood that Rex could only manage to fleetingly touch.
"Nii-san…" Rex muttered, hardly knowing what he was doing as his left arm reached out desperately toward the sun's blinding light.
And then he fell.
A day later, Rex Goodwin washed up on the shores of Neo Domino City – cold, wet, and in extraordinarily intense pain.
How he had survived the crash, the silver-haired man truly had no idea, but though destiny had apparently decreed that he be allowed to live this day, it had not done so without forcing him to pay an intense price. Having been outstretched as he had made impact with the water (which at the speed he had been falling had possessed roughly the consistency of concrete), Rex's left arm had been mutilated beyond all recognition. Even with his inexpert medical knowledge, Rex could easily tell that repairing the bloody appendage was going to be impossible; the limb would have to be amputated above the elbow. Rex reflected dryly on the uncanny coincidence; both Goodwin brothers had lost their left arms from this whole contrived affair, the only difference being that one sacrifice was deliberate and the other accidental.
Still, even the state of agony he was now in was eclipsed by one singular fact: he had made it to the city.
The immediate advantages of this change in scenery made themselves abundantly known as he stumbled into a hospital, marveling at the sterile halls and professional cleanliness that had been absolutely alien in the Satellite. There had been precisely one licensed doctor across the entire island, an older gentleman by the name of Lewis Schmitt, and while Rex had nothing against him or his work it still made receiving proper medical treatment a chore at best and downright impossible at worst.
But here, a nurse noticed him straightaway and immediately called for a stretcher, two orderlies appearing moments later to assist him into the emergency room. Which was rather a good thing, since Rex was very close to passing out completely. With such intense pain shooting through his entire left side, even maintaining consciousness was proving to be a struggle, and he held on just long enough to provide an old, long-faced doctor with the answers to a handful of medical history questions before everything went black.
Hours later, Rex awoke to a sensation of intense numbness; he was evidently recovering from some manner of intense surgery. Blinking rapidly in order to acclimate his eyes to his surroundings, the former researcher shook his head slightly until his eyes alighted upon the doctor who had treated him. The doctor smiled slightly and placed a hand upon Rex's right shoulder; his entire left torso had been carefully wrapped.
"Good, you're up," the older man stated calmly. "My name is Doctor Richard Goat. How are you feeling?"
"What…what did you do to my arm?" Rex asked, though he suspected the answer. "I can't feel it at all."
"Unfortunately, your arm was beyond surgical repair," Doctor Goat lamented delicately, confirming Rex's thoughts. "We were forced to amputate all of the tissue below a certain point…around halfway up the femur. In its place I've installed the barebones of a metal prosthetic, which you should be able to move with effort in a matter of hours. I'd highly recommend commencing a regimen of physical therapy over the next several months, however. Getting used to your new limb will be an extensive journey."
"Can I…look at it?" Rex asked lamely, to which the doctor nodded silently, carefully peeling away some of the bandages until portions of the gleaming appendage were gradually revealed.
There was nothing specifically wrong with the prosthetic – as far as Rex knew anything about prosthetics, anyway – but the image of something that so obviously did not mesh with the rest of his skin being attached by nerve and sinew to his body was nevertheless intensely jarring. Concentrating fiercely upon the steel hand, Rex thought that he could see the tip of its pointer finger wiggling slightly in accordance with his mind's commands, and this both frightened and deeply intrigued the silver-haired man.
"This is actually one of the more advanced models available on the market," Doctor Goat added, sounding quite pleased with himself. "In addition to complete nervous functionality and a tenfold increase in raw physical strength, the apparatus is designed to be compatible with a variety of simple upgrades, should you have any associates who are so mechanically inclined. A clock, for example, or a communications device of some sort…I've even heard of one company designing a Duel Disk that is compatible with this hardware."
"I see…" Rex responded, at a loss for words. The suddenness of everything that had happened that day was finally beginning to overwhelm him. "When will I be allowed to leave here?"
"Once the sedative we used in surgery wears off completely, which should be in about an hour, you will be clear to be discharged," Doctor Goat informed him. "Though before you depart, there is one other matter that I'm afraid we just parlay upon…payment."
"What exactly is the price of this prosthetic?" Rex inquired, dreading the answer. The doctor responded by quoting a figure that was far, far out of Rex's reach, considering that he no longer had direct access to any of the money he had attained prior to Zero Reverse, and his total savings since then amounted to little more than the price of a few packs of bubblegum.
Although…he did have one, singular monetary asset to his name even now, and loathe as he was to give it up Rex felt that he had little choice at this point. Reaching into his breast pocket and selecting one card at random, the former researcher handed Doctor Goat Black Rose Dragon, explaining, "I have little in the ways of liquid assets at the moment, but this card is one-of-a-kind and obscenely rare. It should prove sufficient to cover my debts here."
"A…card?" the surgeon repeated, raising an eyebrow. "I haven't paid any attention to Duel Monsters in decades; not since all of that nonsense at the KaibaCorp Grand Prix…" Rex could gather from his tone that the doctor did not think highly of these memories, but after a beat his musings shifted gears. "On the other hand…I know that Senator Izayoi has a daughter who plays the game, and she does have that birthday coming up…"
Finally Doctor Goat snapped his fingers and adjusted his glasses in apparent triumph. "Fine then, I accept your alternative manner of payment," he declared ostentatiously, before adding in a low mutter, "…This could be just the thing to get back in the Senator's good graces, after that incident with the Rottweiler and the casserole dish…"
Rex didn't bother to ask, so instead he lay there silently as the doctor sauntered away with his prize, waiting impatiently for sensation to remerge in his left arm, so that he might test his new…acquisition.
As tempted as Rex was to simply spend his days celebrating his freedom from that island Hell, he mastered his more primal impulses and forced himself to stick straight to the mental "to-do list" that he had drilled into his skull every day that he worked on that unfinished bridge. First on his agenda was the action that the shadowed man had recommended – applying for a position with the Public Security Maintenance Bureau. Pawning off the very last of the Signer Dragons had been necessary in order to provide him with funds for a cheap motel room and a new suit, both of which were essential for this task, and those investments had paid off well; the interview with a senior executive, a heftily built old man with a slender beard who called himself "Señor Carreras," had gone about as splendidly as Rex could possibly have imagined it to.
The elder gentleman had promised that Rex would hear back from the Bureau by the end of the week, and indeed on that Friday he received a transferred call from the motel's front desk, which opened with a heavy voice that sounded as if it was being filtered through a respirator declaring, "Congratulations, Doctor Rex Goodwin. You have been appointed to the position of Director."
"D…Director?" Rex stammered, nearly dropping the phone in shock. True, the mysterious white-suited man had assured him that an application to a "high-level" position would bring good results, but the station of Director was second to no one in the city's current power structure. "Are you…absolutely certain about this?"
"What can I say…you impressed us," Señor Carreras breathed. "The position happens to be open, and it needs to be filled. And we of the Crimson Star believe you to be the perfect candidate for the task."
The Crimson Star…if Rex knew his mythology right, the older man was likely alluding to the South American legend of the People of the Stars and the Akaki Ryu, a legend that conspiracy theorists across the globe had long associated with a little group by the name of…Yliaster.
Yliaster; of course. The enigmatic gentleman had mentioned that organization as well – the backroom cabal of movers and shakers that was rumored to have controlled the larger affairs of the human race for the past several millennia. Being a man of science and rationality, Rex had long dismissed the tales as nothing more than cleverly spun urban legends, but everything that he had observed up until now was pointing toward the conclusion that said secret society was both real and pulling the strings behind the Public Security Maintenance Bureau.
Rex, then, was being placed into this position of supreme power, not on his own merits, but because he was a knowable entity; Yliaster had somehow observed his movements within the Satellite and determined him to be their perfect pawn. So it came down to one simple decision: was gaining this incredible authority worth swallowing his pride and playing along with these chessmasters of his destiny…at least for the moment?
Rex Goodwin sighed deeply before bringing the cradle of the phone back to his lips and answering, "I accept."
His new office was magnificent; there was no denying that. Lavish comfort was abound within the gleaming chamber, with even the massive desk alone putting to shame his entire flat from the Satellite. And the aforementioned slums…now, they were but an eyesore on the distant horizon, a singular dark spot that he could gaze upon imperiously from his high-rise window.
And as for his salary, it had grown to monumentally ridiculous levels. Scarcely knowing what to do with this obscene influx of cash, Rex had ultimately settled upon purchasing a fairly large estate and constructing a glorious mansion upon the premises, sparing no expense to create a home that would erase every last lingering memory of that hated island from his consciousness. If he was going to sell his soul to the Devil – and he had no delusions over the fact that that was precisely what he had just done – then he figured that he might as well make the most of it.
Throughout all of this, of course, his interactions with Yliaster had been continuing with increasing frequency. Rex had been mildly surprised but not altogether shocked that he had been inducted into the society straightaway – and indeed, given a position that ostensibly carried fairly high clout. In practice this did not change very many things (it wasn't like Yliaster gave out membership cards or held holiday parties, though the higher level members did occasionally hold something that was roughly equivalent to board meetings), but it certainly provided Rex with quite a bit of welcome perspective. His ever-present thirst for knowledge was finally being sated with confirmation over which myths and legends of antiquity held grains of truth into the modern age, and Rex was adjusting accordingly; he had already begun construction on a reproduction of the Stairway to the Dragon Star within the core of his new home, with a hollow chamber at its center perfect for housing the final mark of the Crimson Dragon, as soon as he would be able to retrieve it.
Yes, getting hold of Rudger's dismembered arm once more was now the one single operation most direly in need of completion, in accordance with both his brother's and Professor Fudo's dying wishes. Rex had made sure to follow the instructions he had received from the pair of them on that fateful day to the letter – no more, and no less; the four Signer Dragons with which he had been entrusted had now been disseminated to the public, self-serving though their original distribution had admittedly been, and now that he had genuine subordinates under his command (headed up by a effeminate midget by the name of Jaeger Dokeshi, who despite his eccentric appearance was proving to be quite an efficient operative) Rex had instigated a variety of operations designed to track down and draw out the other Signers.
Time would only tell if the gossamer strings of fate would indeed allow Rex Goodwin to gather the Signers in opposition to the forces of the Underworld that Rudger had had a head-start of ten years to mobilize. But for the moment, recovering that formaldehyde-filled capsule was the most practical step toward that ultimate goal; after all, with his current level of authority, it was unlikely to be a particularly complicated task.
"No," the red-haired psychic answered infuriatingly, his lip curled in sadistic glee at Rex's incensed expression.
"I don't believe you quite understand the gravity of the situation, Mister Divine," Rex stated as his fists, flesh and metal alike, clenched tightly against the table. Struggling to maintain an even composure, he went on, "What use would you even have for that canister, anyway? From what you've told me so far, it's been about as valuable to you as an oversized paperweight for all the years since you found it."
"Well, it's more the fact that you want it so badly, my dear Director," Divine answered smugly, reclining in his chair and stroking the glass cylinder as if he was a villain in a clichéd American film. "And there's no need for the 'mister,' incidentally."
"I assure you, my interests in that object are purely…academic," Rex lied swiftly. "And it was my property in the first place, in any event."
"I call bullshit on both counts," Divine returned, dropping his simpering smirk for the moment. "For one, you abandoned this thing on my premises and didn't bother to retrieve it for over a decade. I believe that you forfeited any claim you might have originally had to it quite a while ago. And for another, no one tries this vehemently to acquire something merely for 'academic' purposes."
"Fine," Rex conceded with a sigh, pinching his brow in frustration. "How about a deal, then? What would it take for you to allow me to walk away from here with that capsule, no questions asked?"
Divine laughed softly at the proposition, before reaching under his desk and extracting a thin bottle of cognac. "And now you're speaking my language, Goodwin," he responded jovially. "Could I interest you in a glass?"
Rex politely waved away the offer, to which Divine merely shrugged and poured his own serving, swirling the brandy smugly before taking a carefully measured sip. "Alright then…my stipulations are as follows," he declared with a casual grin. "You are, as I'm sure you are aware, the talk of the entire city nowadays. A long-assumed dead M.I.D.S. researcher, coming out of nowhere to snag the Director's position with nary an ounce of political experience to his name? It's a story that certainly…intrigued me at first glance."
"Cut to the chase," Rex interjected shortly.
"Always so impatient, are we?" Divine asked coyly. "Oh, no matter. In any event, the important point is that as Director, there are certain…things that you can do for me, which no other man on this planet can match."
"Like…?" Rex inquired, not liking where this conversation was heading.
"Oh, you know. It's no significant matter," Divine went on, still calmly sipping the smooth beverage. "I'm only requesting that you and your little friends at Security – how should I put this? – look the other way from time to time. The Arcadia Movement occasionally gets up to certain…operations that the public at large might not be too pleased to learn about, so in our infinite graciousness we try not to let them."
"That reminds me," Rex noted, a feeling of unease popping into his head. "The last I heard about this 'movement,' it was headed up by a pair of siblings. What…happened to them?"
"Oh, my dear friends Takuma and Mizuchi?" Divine alluded, his smirk growing wider and crueler. "Had to let them go, I'm afraid. There was a split over…creative differences."
His worst suspicions now all-but-confirmed, Rex considered Divine's offer. A deeper part of his psyche knew that he really should be refusing this sick man on principal; all evidence so far pointed to him being a thoroughly despicable human being, one whose crimes were no doubt quite numerous. To provide someone like this with prosecutorial immunity…it went against everything that Rex was ostensibly supposed to stand for. And yet…
He needed that canister. Without it, there was no point in any of the operations he had put into place since returning to Neo Domino; gathering the other four Signers meant nothing if the mark that was intended to lead them lay in the hands of a madman like this. And while agreeing to do this thing was anathema to his very moral compass…well, it wouldn't be the first action he had undertaken recently that did so.
"You've…got yourself a deal, Divine," Rex Goodwin reluctantly stated, shaking the psychic's hand. "I guarantee that all investigations of crimes related to this organization will conclude without locating any definitive evidence. But I have one additional condition."
"Hmm?" Divine grunted, clearly interested. "And what might that be?"
"No one must know about this canister – no one," Rex emphasized severely. "I want your word that you will not breathe a syllable about it to anyone else for the remainder of your days. And if anyone happens to come snooping…you are to take care of them swiftly and with extreme prejudice. As an absolute last resort, you may inform them that the 'dirt' you hold over me is that I previously resided in the Satellite…certainly a scandalous piece of information, but not one which would have any bearing on my position if released."
"Sounds like a plan, my dear Director," Divine said unctuously, downing the last dregs of his cognac. "Pleasure doing business with you."
The pair shook hands once more before Rex departed, canister tucked safely in his arms as Divine resumed his soft, cold laughter.
Having safely stored Rudger's glowing forearm in the temple deep within his mansion, Rex Goodwin was now pacing anxiously across the lonely hallways that surrounded his own chambers, wringing his prosthetic hand with his flesh-and-blood one as he shuffled about in a daze. Although the hour was right for it, Rex was quite certain that he would not be able to sleep anytime in the near future; his mind was far too preoccupied with the sheer weight of what he had just done.
More than anything else, the thing that was bothering Rex most about his exchange with Divine was the fact that he wasn't feeling particularly bothered. As Director he had just handed off blanket immunity to a piece of slime that could well be a mass-murdering child rapist for all that Rex knew of him, and yet he couldn't really say that the hypothetical consequences of that action were really placing him into any decided state of unease.
Staring intently at his steel appendage once more, flexing and un-flexing it with a sense of numb detachment, Rex had the sudden notion that the metallic limb was the perfect symbol for how he currently appraised himself. With his conscious mind focused entirely on the "missions" that the two other lead researchers on M.I.D.S. had set him on that fateful day, Rex had been forced to grow cold – amoral, if not downright immoral – and robotic as he gave himself up to the dictations of a shadow organization, struck bargains with almost literal Devils, and mobilized operations to locate those that bore the Akaki Ryu's birthmarks, some of which were borderline unethical and some of which buried the line completely.
And what was his motivation? A corner of his mind answered immediately that it was for the sake of honoring the memories of Professor Fudo and the man that Rudger once had been, but that was a lie and Rex knew it. His true intentions were far, far more selfish.
The Akaki Ryu and the Jibakushin…both had chosen Rudger as their vessel as they readied for combat in the modern world, and the bitter truth of that fact had been eating away at Rex for the entirety of his exile into Satellite. In all honesty, Rex was just as jealous of his elder brother as he had been back in grade school; it was merely the stakes that had grown higher in the interim. Rudger…he could make decisions. He could choose the darkness over the light, and he could choose to place Rex in charge of uniting the forces of that light, so as to perpetuate the meaningless War that had been taking place since time immemorial.
Yliaster, too, could make decisions…Rex suspected quite deeply that their upper echelons were well-aware of what Rudger was up to, wherever he was, and that the reason that he had been given his current position of power was so that he would have the resources necessary to fulfill the role that fate had prescribed for him.
But Rex was tired of playing destiny's patsy. Through the mediums of Rudger Goodwin and the men who were truly directing Yliaster, some sort of divine providence had decreed precisely what tasks Rex was fated to perform, but Rex would not stand to have those decisions taken out of his hands for even one more moment. He desired the power to dictate his own course, to surpass the stifling influence of destiny's will, and now that he possessed Rudger's sign once more he had the capability to do so.
For although Rudger had always proven himself superior in the past, the golden-haired man had shown tremendous weakness just once…in his inability to tolerate the marks of Heaven and Hell within his body at the same moment. If Rex could bear, and indeed accept, that same hefty responsibility, then the Goodwin family's second son would finally be able to eclipse its first.
It would take a long time – years, perhaps. But as Rudger was doubtlessly gathering a sizable number of Dark Signers at that very instant, so too would Rex bring together the Signers and unite them through careful manipulations…and outright threats, if need be. And then, when the forces of yang and yin were set into direct opposition…then, it would be Rex's moment. He would do whatever it took to obtain one of the Earthbound Gods for himself, while simultaneously taking hold of the dragon's head that rested plaintively within his hallowed temple. Two Gods would answer to Rex Goodwin, and in making it so he would become the Ultimate God, deified and removed from the worthless mortals that scampered across this Earth…and yes, even removed from Rudger.
In the fullness of time, the ascension that Rudger Goodwin had been unable to handle would become the singular right of his brother, the just reward for every ounce of pain and suffering that he had endured in the eternal champion's flawless shadow.
All that Rex would have to do was wait.