Chapter 24

The newly brainwashed Joey and Tèa were at the rare hunters' hideout. They faced each other with blank expressions on their faces, almost as if they had been hypnotized.

Marik looked up from where he was sitting down preparing Joey's deck, and formed an evil grin on his face when he saw the teens' unfeeling expressions and their eyes filled with hatred. 'Excellent. My spell seems to have taken effect. I expect that little Yugi and Kaiba will be arriving shortly. The thought of Tèa and Joey becoming Yugi's worst enemies must hurt him very much. Well, too bad for him, he will not be able to stop me once he does arrive.' He chuckled softly to himself as he went back to preparing the deck.

'Gah, this is so boring,' thought Tèa, tapping her feet. She gave a heavy sigh. Her feet were becoming tired. 'I hate standing in this position…at this rate my neck is going to break.'

'Is this dude trying to put us to sleep or something?' Brainwashed Joey wanted nothing more than to take Yugi apart.

Marik finally finished building the deck. He held it with satisfaction. 'These cards will give Joey's weak deck a powerful boost. The pharaoh won't stand a chance.' He stood up and walked over to the teens. "Come, it is time to execute our scheme. Follow me."

'Finally,' thought Tèa. Without as much of a word, she and Joey followed the cornsilk haired teen as he led them to the pier.

Marik smirked at the silence between the two young teens, which he found pleasing in an unsettling kind of way. 'This makes my job easier, for they may try to resist me, and I cannot have that.' "You two seem so quiet, almost as if you have no minds of your own," he mocked. "I am glad you have realized that your minds belong to me!" He gave an evil laugh. 'I hope Odion doesn't take all day.'

While walking to the pier, Marik spotted Odion walking towards him. He appeared to be holding something in his hand. Marik slowed down a bit to see what his lead henchman had to tell him.

Odion approached his master and crouched down on his knees, fearing Marik's patience was thin with him. "Master Marik, here are the locator cards you have requested," he said, holding out the clear colored cards he had been holding.

Marik took the cards from Odion and counted them. Twelve locator cards. He smiled at how his henchman was able to accomplish this task with little to no trouble. He gave six of the clear cards back to Odion. "Excellent work. I am hoping this scheme will work and it would not be necessary to enter the finals. However, as you know, it never hurts to have a back-up plan."

"That's right, sir." Odion got back to his feet.

"You have arrived just in time to put the plan into motion," said Marik, his lips stretching into a small grin.

Odion looked relieved to hear that. He expected to endure a scolding from his superior. There was a feeling of guilt nagging at him for becoming involved with such a nefarious scheme, but he shrugged it off. 'I cannot turn back now.'

"Give Joey the deck that was prepared for him," ordered Marik, handing Odion the deck he had just built.

Odion took a quick peek at the cards and handed them to a dazed Joey. "Boosting the power of his deck with the extremely rare magic cards is an excellent idea, Master Marik," he said.

"Yes and with those cards, Joey's victory is guaranteed." The Egyptian turned to Joey. "Go on, my mind slave. Wait for that fool Yugi to show up so you can lure him out."

"Yes Master." The blonde continued his way to the pier.

Keren and Ishizu had left the museum and were now at a small quiet Arabic café. All of a sudden Ishizu felt tightness in her chest as well as a touch of queasiness in her stomach. 'Oh no, Marik has become more ruthless than before.'

Keren glanced up from the falafels she had been eating and noticed the look of discomfort etched on Ishizu's face. "Ishizu? What is wrong? Are you unwell?" She hoped it wasn't the food, since she heard good things about the café.

"Oh no, not at all. My necklace tells me that great danger lies ahead for the pharaoh. It seems Marik has decided to involve his friends in his evil scheme and turn them against him."

Keren's face turned pale. "Oh dear me…" She sighed and pushed aside her plate of falafel, for the news had made her lose her appetite. She placed her chin in her hands, allowing her dark hair to fall over her elbows. She knew she and Ishizu had plans set in motion but she didn't think they could wait. "What shall we do? We cannot allow this to keep going on, and by the time the tournament begins, the damage may be irreversible."

Ishizu could see this whole ordeal was taking a toll on the Israeli, with the fact that she barely smiled anymore. "I understand your frustration. However, we must have faith that the pharaoh will be able to set his friends free, and put an end to Marik's plan."

"I am sure that he will." A lump formed in Keren's throat at the thought of Marik succeeding in his quest. 'Please overcome this trial, my king.'

Meanwhile, Kaiba was finally approaching the dock of the pier. This bode well for Vicki, as she had thoughts about moving near the pilot, since being in the small chopper was making her feel claustrophobic. Plus, she didn't feel at ease around the CEO.

Just as the pilot was preparing to land the copter, Mokuba and Yami spotted someone standing in the midst of the dock, appearing as if he were waiting for someone. "Hey, it's Joey!" Mokuba cried out. "He looks like he is in a daze. I hope Marik hasn't gotten to him."

'Mokuba is right. Joey does look a bit out of it,' thought Vicki. 'I wonder where Tèa is. Those hooligans had better not have laid a finger on her or else there will be hell to pay!'

"Joey...I hope he is all right," the ancient spirit mumbled. He hoped in his heart of hearts Marik hadn't gotten to the blonde already. Something told him he would have to be prepared to give Kaiba an answer to his question sooner than he had anticipated.

The pilot landed the helicopter, making sure it was a safe distance away from Joey. Everyone climbed out. Yami broke into a sprint and rushed over to the blonde. "Joey…thank goodness you're all right!"

'That voice…the pharaoh has arrived.' The possessed Joey glanced up at his friend with a look of disdain on his face. 'Such a naïve fool. If he only knew.' "The Joey you knew is gone forever!" he responded nastily.

"Gah, that electronic sounding voice makes my skin crawl," remarked Vicki. She wondered if she should have brought some ear drops with her.

Yami looked stunned at the change in his best friend's tone. The terrible realization hit him that Marik had succeeded. 'I have arrived too late.' He grabbed his friend by the shoulder and shook him. "Wake up! You are not yourself!"

The possessed blonde glared at Yami. "I am perfectly awake and I see a weakling who will soon be destroyed!"

"Marik," the ancient spirit stated, with a hint of anger in his voice.

"That's right! I have taken over your pathetic friend's mind!" said the possessed Joey, laughing.

"Release Joey from your control right now!" demanded the ancient pharaoh.

"Or else what? You are in no position to make demands," said Marik controlled Joey.

Yami growled. He was becoming sick of his foe's games. "Marik! I'm warning you, don't test me!"

Marik smirked. It tickled him to know he was provoking his greatest foe and causing him the same pain he believed the pharaoh had caused him. "To show you what a kind person I am, I will give you a chance to save your pathetic friends. You must face me in a duel."

Kaiba nearly burst into laughter at such a challenge. He didn't believe Joey had improved all that much, even though he had made it farther than he thought. 'Under normal circumstances, this would be a waste of my time to watch a one-sided duel, but if Wheeler is on the rare hunters' side, he may have been given the Winged Dragon of Ra card. Maybe I should stick around.'

"And if I win, will you set my friends free?" asked Yami, desperately trying to keep his temper.

Marik controlled Joey smiled. "Perhaps. However, we will be playing by my rules. This will be a duel to the death, which is quite fitting since I plan to dispose of you if I win! You cannot possibly defeat me now!"

Considering most of the duels Yami participated in during the tournament, he had an idea of what playing by Marik's rules meant, and he was afraid to ask. He knew it would involve something grotesque. "Marik!" he warned, his voice rising on the last syllable. "Enough of your twisted games! Why don't you show some honor for once?!"

"Ha! If you truly want to save face, you will have to do as I say!" declared a menacing female's voice.

Yami spun around sharply, only to see Tèa climbing down the steps. He clenched his teeth in his anger at the fact that Joey wasn't enough for Marik to control and had to involve the brunette as well. "Oh no! Tèa!"

Vicki's hands flew to her mouth in shock. "Not Tèa too!" Her face turned as red as a tomato. 'This Marik person is lucky he isn't face to face with me, Right now I just want to wring his neck!' Little did she know, Marik was the same person who made her feel star struck when he introduced himself as Namu, back when he rescued Bakura.

"That's right! Like your friend Joey, Tèa, too, is under my control!" Marik controlled Tèa gave an evil cackle. "Are you feeling the pain I have felt for the past six years?"

The spirit of the ancient pharaoh still didn't know what the Egyptian was talking about, and wished he would tell him so they could talk things out instead of the corn-silk haired young man spouting such unspeakable accusations. But now there were bigger problems to worry about than that. "Marik, leave her alone now! She has done nothing to you!"

Marik ignored the outburst and chuckled once more. It pleased him that he hit his enemy's sore spot."This is quite a fitting punishment for you!" He stood with his arms folded.

"You're at my mercy," taunted brainwashed Tèa. She picked up two ankle chains and handed one to Yami and the other to the brainwashed Joey. "Try this on for size."

Joey placed the chain around his ankle. Yami had his doubts, but he placed the chain around his ankle as well. Tèa sat in a chair in the center of the pier and automatic cuffs appeared around her wrists and feet, to keep her from escaping on her own. There was also a rare hunter with long bluish green hair sitting in a truck, holding a remote control and keeping watch.

"What is the meaning of this, Marik?" Yami asked. He didn't like where this was headed at all.

Possessed Joey smirked. "Remember, I said this duel will be played by my rules. See that anchor up there?" The blonde pointed above him.

Yami looked at what his brainwashed friend was talking about. Near the large ships, he could see a large mahogany colored ship anchor. "Yes, what of it?" It was becoming hard for the ancient spirit of the puzzle to keep his temper.

"Well this duel will last for forty minutes. Only the winner of the duel will be able to free himself from the chain. Once the duel concludes, the anchor will drop, the loser will be dragged into the sea, and will drown! In this case that is you!"

"You're insane!" Yami told his enemy.

Possessed Joey laughed. "Your anger amuses me. If by some miracle you defeat me, you will have to fish your pathetic friend out of the sea!"

Yami clenched his fists. It pained him that his friends' personalities had changed so drastically, but he knew they were not like that at all. 'There is still a chance I can reach Joey, albeit a small one.' "Joey, you must free your mind! Remember our promise! You vowed to help me defeat Marik and face me in an honorable duel when you feel you have become a True Duelist." If that wasn't enough to free his best friend from the evil force, he didn't know what was.

Marik controlled Joey laughed huffily. "No matter what you say, you will never set your friend free from my control! That promise is ancient history! If you want to set him free, accept my challenge!"

As much as Yami didn't want to accept the challenge because of how twisted and dangerous the setting was, he didn't see where he had any choice in the matter. 'This could be the only way I can get through to Joey. I will duel him with all of my strength.' "All right Marik. You win. I accept your challenge."

"So you have decided to see things my way," commented mind controlled Joey. "Wise choice."

"Oh, and there is one thing you should know about the final part of my plot!" said Marik controlled Tèa. "If you attempt to stop this duel, the crate you see hanging above my head will fall!"

Mokuba had been seething the entire time he had been listening to Marik's threats and was now at his breaking point. "That's enough! Seto, we have to stop this duel before someone gets hurt! Not to mention they may decide to try something like this on us next!"

Vicki held back a snort of laughter. 'An evil Kaiba? That would be scary.' It was the closest she came to laughing the entire time she had been at the scene. She had felt like letting out tears of anger and strangling Marik for causing all this trouble.

'As if I would allow that to happen. I will not be controlled.' This was one duel Kaiba had no qualms cancelling. He knew full well that harm could befall his one worthy opponent, robbing him of a chance to face him in a duel and he could not have that. 'I have to admit, it was rather amusing seeing Wheeler behave like a mean dog, but that is beside the point here. His little threats don't scare me!' He cleared his throat. "As head of the Battle City tournament, I command you to stop this duel at once!"

"Ha! Nice try, but this duel will happen whether you like it or not!" called the rare hunter, peeking his head out his truck window. "Try to stop it again and that girl will be sorry!"

Kaiba growled in frustration. Not that he was overly fond of Tèa, but he felt the rare hunter was crossing the line. 'How dare he tarnish my tournament? I won't let him get away with it!'

Tristan and Serenity had finally arrived at Domino City, and were now passing a park Joey and his sister often played at when they were little children, before their parents' divorce.

"You know something Tristan? I can picture this place clearly even though I still have the eye bandages on," said Serenity.

"Oh yeah?" The pointy-haired teen wondered if her faith that the operation was successful had been rebuilt.

"Yes! My brother and I used to come here all the time when we were little."

"Awesome." Tristan smacked his forehead. "Oh, silly me! I forgot to ask Tèa and Joey where to meet them. That means we could end up all over the city looking for them."

"Oh, I'm sure we will find everyone, eventually," said Serenity. "You have a number for them, don't you?"

"Yes I do." Tristan felt like an idiot for not thinking of that before. Here Serenity was indirectly telling him to use his head. He spotted a payphone nearby. "Listen, I'm gonna go and give Tèa a call. You wait right here."


Tristan ran over to the payphone, placed a coin in the slot and dialed Tèa's cell number. He let it ring several times, but her voicemail came on. He hung up and looked down at his feet. "That's weird…I wonder what she's doing..."

(at the pier)

Vicki tapped her foot impatiently. 'If Marik wants to duel so badly, why is he taking so long to start it?'

'I have a feeling this will be a waste of my time. I have to find some way to stop this pathetic excuse of a duel,' thought Kaiba, just as impatient as Vicki was.

"Let's begin this duel," said Yami. He just wanted to get it over with so he could move on.

"I thought you would never say that," said the blonde, smirking. He and Yami activated their duel disks and the timer started.

"By the way, if you were thinking about using your Egyptian God card to defeat me, think again! Remove it from your deck, now! When I win this duel, I will claim it for myself!" said brainwashed Joey.

"Fine." Yami took out his dueling belt. "My special cards are in here." 'I had no intention of using the Egyptian God card anyway. It is far too dangerous. Although Marik is in control, it is still Joey's body and the effects of Slifer could seriously injure him.' The spirit took a look at the other card that was inside the pocket of the belt. 'Oh, it's Red Eyes Black Dragon! I can certainly use this to save Joey. It is the least I can do to repay him for lending it to me.' He removed the Red Eyes card, placed it in his deck and dropped the dueling belt onto the floor.

"It's time to duel!" both gentlemen said.

"I hope you're prepared for defeat!" taunted possessed Tèa. With that, Marik released his control on her mind. "What happened?" Tèa wriggled her hands. "Why am I strapped in this chair?" She looked around, and was shocked when she saw Yami and Joey about to duel each other. 'Strange…something is not right here.' It seemed like something that would occur in one of her nightmares, but this time she knew it was sadly no dream."Why are Yugi and Joey dueling each other? Someone tell me what on earth is going on!"

Mokuba opened his mouth to explain, but Vicki beat him to it. "Marik has brainwashed Joey and forced him into a duel with high high you wouldn't believe it if I told you about them. And he had you under his influence for awhile as well."

"Oh no..." The news gave Tèa a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. And to think for a moment that she was a part of the madness made the feeling worse. She didn't think she wanted to know what she had said and done. 'I have a feeling things will only get worse from this point on.' She heaved a heavy sigh. "This cannot continue! The duel must be stopped!"

Kaiba's clenched fists trembled as if he were struggling to make a decision. He couldn't allow his tournament to be dishonored, but he wasn't willing to risk anyone dying either.

"Don't even think about it!" warned the rare hunter. "One false move and I will push this button!"

"Jerk!" muttered the brunette. "Listen, don't worry about me! Just end this duel!"

'Perhaps there's a way to dispose of the trap,' Kaiba thought. 'But how?'

"Are you buffoons finished?!" mind controlled Joey exploded, exasperated. He fixed his gaze on Yami. "I will let you go first. You will need it and enough time has been wasted."

Yami took a look at the clock and saw that nearly ten minutes had passed already.' He's right.' "Don't mind if I do." He drew his card. 'Gazelle, the King of Mythical Beasts…I should put up a defense for now, until I see his strategy.' "I place one card face down and then play Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts in defense mode!" (1200 def) The lion-like creature appeared on the field, growling. "That ends my turn."

Possessed Joey laughed. "How pathetic. Well, your mythical beast won't be enough to guard your life points! I play my trap card, Raigenki Break! It allows me to destroy any monster I choose! Say goodbye to your defense monster!" Lightning rained down on the creature, destroying it.

Yami looked on grimly. "Oh no! Now my defense is gone."

"That's right," sneered mind controlled Joey. "Now I play Alligator's Sword in attack mode!" (1500 attk) The alligator warrior appeared onto the field, raising its sword. "Alligator's Sword, attack his life points directly!" The reptilian beast slashed Yami, causing him to grimace. He was down to 2500 life points as a result.

Mind controlled Joey laughed. "Are you ready to give up, or do you want more punishment?"

"I will never give up!" Yami drew another card. It was Big Shield Gardna. 'I should be able to use this to protect my life points. After all, nearly half of my life points are gone. It seems as if Marik rebuilt Joey's deck, so I could be in for another surprise.' "I play Big Shield Gardna in defense mode!" (2600 def) "That ends my turn."

"It seems like you have lost your touch!" taunted the blonde. "Could you be trying to lose this duel on purpose? Well if that's what you want, I'll be glad to help you! All of your attempts to guard your life points are useless!"

Yami grunted. "Just what do you mean?" He was growing weary of the taunting.

"I'll show you, with a card that will allow me to target your life points even with a monster on your side of the field. Feel the wrath of my Hinotama magic card!" said the blonde, setting the card down. A barrage of fireballs rained down and blasted Yami. He screamed as he watched five hundred of his life points deplete. This attack left the ancient pharaoh with 2000 life points.

Kaiba was absolutely dumbfounded by what he saw. Joey taking a bite out of his archrival's life points this soon? That didn't sound like the Joey he knew.

Mokuba noticed his brother's expression. "What's on your mind, Seto? Why are you so pensive?"

"I have a feeling Wheeler is being helped by a card that is illegal," answered the teen ceo.

Mokuba whistled. "That's Marik for ya. I wish I could bust him but I can't…too risky."

'Come on, Yugi. You can pull through,' thought Vicki, rubbing her hands together. She hoped he would, too. She could barely stand to see him and Joey pitted against each other. But she would not allow herself to shed a tear.

The ancient spirit of the puzzle looked grim. 'This duel has already started and half of my life points are already wiped out. I have to find a way to stop this if I am to set Joey free.' He knew it would be quite difficult, given the power of his opponent's deck. He also found it strange Marik seemed to be urging Joey to finish him off quickly. The cornsilk haired young man usually enjoyed toying with his opponents. 'I can't remain on the defensive if I have any hopes of winning this duel.'

Marik was monitoring the duel via Joey's eyes, with the help of his millennium rod. He smiled at how things were going well for him thus far. "Crushing Little Yugi and the pharaoh was a simpler task than I thought! No longer will I have to endure the suffering brought on by that accursed 3000 year old pharaoh!" He gave an evil laugh. 'Failure will not be tolerated this time!'

Just then, Odion came and bowed deeply. "Excuse me, Master Marik."

Marik turned to face his most faithful servant. "What is it, Odion?"

"I just learned that Joey's sister has arrived in Battle City."

'Interesting.´ A wicked grin formed on the tombkeeper's face. "Did you say his sister? His sister could prove to be quite a useful pawn. Have a rare hunter bring her to me at once."

"Yes sir." Odion went to give the message to the rare hunters. He felt reluctant kidnapping such a young girl, but dared not disobey his master.

Seeing that Tristan was unable to contact Tèa, he decided to just find some people around the city who had six locator cards. 'I am sure they would be all over the place.' He took Serenity by the hand and led her away from the park.

"Tristan? You think Joey is okay?" she asked worriedly.

The gut feeling that Joey was in danger had grown even stronger, but Tristan didn't want to worry the young girl too much. "Oh, I'm sure he is!" he answered casually, placing his hand on the back of his head. "Your brother is a tough customer."

"I suppose..." Serenity wasn't too sure about that, but the thing was, neither of them knew what was going on with Joey at the moment.

Tristan and Serenity came to a dark alley. Tristan could see some tough looking robed men blocking the way. 'Bah, not those creeps! If they think they're gonna stop us, they've got another thing coming.' He led Serenity the opposite direction, in an attempt to hide, but the men saw them. 'Oh, darn it!' What was more horrifying was that the robed men were walking towards them, and had expressions on their faces he didn't trust at all.

"Who do you think you're looking at like that, you robed freaks?" asked the pointy haired teen.

The gray haired rare hunter smirked. "You two twerps are not going anywhere! Hand over the girl and you won't get hurt!"

"I don't think so!" 'I will never allow any harm to come to her!'

Although Serenity could not see, she could tell something was wrong based on the voices and the exchange going on. "Tristan, I'm scared!"

"Don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you!" He swept her off the ground and held her by her knees, pulling her onto his back. "Now hold on tight!"

"Okay!" She threw her arms around his neck and held on, tight enough so she was secure, but not so tight that she was choking him. Tristan ran out of the alleyway.

"After them!" one of the robed men barked.

Yami eyed the cards in his hand, pondering what strategy to use to put a dent in his opponent's life points. 'I think I have come up with an idea, but I will need to draw the right card.'

"What's taking so long for you to make your move, Pharaoh?" asked mind controlled Joey. "Have you realized you don't stand a chance against me?"

"I will never surrender to you, Marik!"

"Then if I were you, I would make my move and stop stalling," said the blonde.

"All right!" Yami drew a card. It was Kuriboh. 'Too weak to take down his Alligator's Sword, but with my face down card it can still help.' "I'll lay one more card face down and summon Kuriboh in attack mode!" (300 attk) A brown ball of fluff with eyes and claws appeared. "That ends my turn."

Marik controlled Joey laughed. "You must have given up if you will play such a miniscule monster in attack mode! I expect more from you, but I guess I overestimated your abilities." He drew a card. 'Excellent. Another Hinotama magic card. By the end of my turn, most of Pharaoh's life points will have been wiped out.' "Alligator's Sword, annihilate that furball!" The reptilian warrior raised its sword, preparing to attack.

Yami's lips stretched into a tiny smile. "Hold it right there!"

Possessed Joey's jaw dropped in shock. "What?!"

"You've activated my trap card, Spellbinding Circle!" The hexagram shaped circle appeared around the alligator warrior, stopping him in his tracks.

"NO!" The blonde shook his fists.

"That's right! Not only has my trap stopped your Alligator's Sword in his tracks, but 700 of his attack points have been drained as well." The monster's attack strength was down to 800 as a result.

"Well well. It looks like Yugi weakened Wheeler's monster, but he still has yet to find a monster strong enough to defeat it," observed Kaiba. 'Yugi, if you lose to this mediocre duelist, I will never forgive you.'

"Very impressive, Pharaoh," the possessed blonde said. "However, you still can't defeat my monster."

Yami gave an amused look at Marik's overconfidence. "Who said I was finished?" he asked.

"You're not?"

"No, I have other surprises. I activate my magic card, Monster Reborn! I'll use it to resurrect Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts. This time, I will place him in attack mode!" Gazelle reappeared onto the field, roaring and baring its claws. "All right my gazelle, destroy his Alligator's Sword now!" The lion-like creature swiped at the reptilian creature with its claw, destroying it. "Now Kuriboh, attack his life points directly!" The furball pounced on possessed Joey. "The combined attacks create a difference of 1000 life points."

"Good dueling for a change. However, that won't last long. It's my turn now. You will feel the wrath of my Hinotama magic card once again! Fire shower attack!" For a second time, fireballs rained down on Yami. The spirit screamed in agony and hunched over as he felt the burning sensation. His life points dropped down to 1500.

Marik controlled Joey let loose maniacal laughter. "You are only life points away from your inevitable death, Pharaoh!"