Note: I learned from kicking around the Internet that according to the writers, Divine survived being eaten by the lizard god and was subsequently captured and put in jail. Some friends and I were discussing the likelihood of that ending well, and this story was the result. This takes place during the timeskip between episodes 151 and 152.
Divine was a model prisoner.
If there was one thing he understood, it was power: how to get it, how to use it, how to deal with other people who had more of it than he did. There weren't many people who fell into the latter category, he would have said, but this was a prison and there was a higher concentration of them than usual, so he was on his best behavior. He was pleasant to his guards and to the other prisoners. He cultivated an attitude of thoughtfulness and respect, a serious air that suggested he was confronting the enormity of his crimes and sincerely repenting of them. To his jailers, particularly, he was humble and obedient. Naturally, he never used his powers or allowed even the slightest hint that he had any to slip through. The end result was that most of the people he dealt with believed that he had no special abilities at all - that he was at worst a clever fraud and at best had been the victim of exaggerated rumors. A few people, by this point, even believed he was innocent.
As a result of all this, Divine had accrued a bit of power even in a place like this. It wasn't much, but he would take what he could get. Thanks to his act, he had won the sympathy of several guards and had a lot more freedom than most of the other inmates. He was frequently allowed out of his cell to walk around if he wished. He was sometimes even allowed outside, under careful supervision, to do menial chores like trimming weeds outside the building. The guards who liked him brought him things - ornaments to liven up his dreary cell, the occasional candy bar or tin of tea. He even had a writing desk, with pens and paper. He wasn't allowed to have a computer anymore, but he would sit and compose poetry or sketch pictures of things. He even had a little fish in a bowl. He liked his fish. He called it Reginald and talked to it and drew pictures of it. He considered it an essential prop - who would suspect a man who so doted on his pet?
He wasn't paying attention to the fish today, though. He was sitting in a corner of the exercise yard, watching the other prisoners and writing in a notebook. For a while, the guards had taken what he'd written and read it over, but he had devised a code for himself that would allow him to record simple messages to himself without them being obvious. Now he was watching and taking notes on his fellow inmates.
Particularly, he was watching the new boy. He'd only arrived here a few days ago, and he was clearly not settling in well in this new environment. He was wide-eyed and frightened, and the others sensed it. Already, some of them were circling like hungry sharks, waiting for the right moment to take advantage of him.
Divine wished they would hurry up and get it over with. He was getting awfully tired of waiting.
The boy was lurking in the corner furthest from Divine, pretending to be watching a basketball game going on among some of the other men. As he stood there, someone tossed the ball through a hoop, and it hit the ground and bounced away, eventually rolling to the boy's feet. He didn't react right away.
"Hey, kid!" one of the men shouted. He was a formidable brute of a man, with a bald head and a scar across his chin, as though someone had tried to cut his throat and missed. "Hey, you! Throw the ball back!"
"Huh? Oh!" The boy scrambled to collect the ball, but he was already too late. The brute swaggered over to stand in front of him.
"You ignoring me or something, kid?" he demanded.
"No! No, I was just..."
The brute shoved him against the wall. He struck the concrete with an audible bump and rebounded. Divine glanced around quickly to see if any of the wardens were ready to break up the fight, but no one really seemed to be paying attention. Divine guessed that as long as the scuffle stayed between the two men, no one would try to interfere. Good. Divine got up, tucked his notebook under one arm, and dusted himself off.
He reached the boy just as the brute was shoving him again, saying, "You'd better learn some respect, kid. I ought to teach you a lesson to make you remember who's in charge around here."
The boy whimpered something unintelligible, his eyes darting frantically as he searched for a way out. His gaze connected with Divine's, and hope flashed across his face. Divine forced himself to keep his expression calmly concerned, but what he really wanted to do was smile. This was going to be easy.
"What are you doing? Leave that boy alone," he said. "He isn't doing anything to you."
The brute rounded on him. He was an inch or two taller than Divine, but considerably wider, with great broad shoulders and a barrel-chest and biceps like cantaloupes.
"He disrespected me," the brute grunted.
"I'm sure he didn't mean any harm," said Divine calmly. "Let's just walk away and forget this ever happened."
"Who's going to make me? You?" the brute grunted.
Divine simply stared at him.
Everyone, even the most ordinary person, had an energy field around them. Even someone with all the psychic power of a loaf of bread could feel, sometimes, if someone was standing silently behind them. Divine might have been only mediocre as far as raw psychic talent was concerned, but he had long ago learned the knack of controlling his own energy field, so that people would detect what he wanted them to detect. Ever since he'd been imprisoned, he'd projected nothing but penitence and gentleness. Now he shifted his body slightly into a fighting posture and concentrated on radiating cold menace, the sense of power just barely restrained, and he kept his eyes locked on those of the man in front of him. The brute backed away, pale-faced.
"I don't care about some stupid kid, anyway," he muttered, and beat a hasty retreat.
Divine let himself relax, shifting again to an air of sympathy and concern.
"Are you all right?" he asked the boy.
"I'm... fine," the boy stammered.
"These thugs are all the same," said Divine. "They'll walk all over you if you aren't careful."
"I wasn't even doing anything," the boy said.
Divine looked him over. He guessed the boy couldn't have been out of his teens yet - still a bit gawky where he hadn't quite grown into his grown-up frame yet, still with the last traces of acne.
"They don't care, around here," said Divine. "What are you in for?"
"Nothing! I didn't do it!" the boy protested.
"Then what do they think you did?"
The boy spilled out his story. His account was a bit jumbled and probably missing some details, but Divine thought he could guess the gist of it. This was a boy from a respectable middle- class neighborhood, who had been offered a respectable sum of money by a pleasant-seeming man to deliver a package for him to another part of town. The boy had willingly accepted, but halfway across town, he had been stopped by police officers, who had found that the package contained several items that had recently been reported stolen. Piecing the account together, Divine guessed that someone had robbed a house, stolen some money and jewelry along with a few less consequential items, which had then been passed along to an innocent patsy. Then a few words were whispered anonymously to the police, the boy is caught, the other items were assumed to be already sold or spent, and the boy took the fall while the perpetrators got off scott-free. Divine had to admit that it was neatly done.
It was also quite the windfall. Divine needed a patsy, and here was a tried and true one, ripe for the taking.
"What's your name, lad?" he asked kindly.
"Good to meet you, Shinsuke." Divine put a friendly hand on the boy's shoulder. "Listen. I can tell you don't deserve to be here, and I think you could probably use some help. Why don't you stick with me for a while, at least until you get more used to this place? I'll help you learn the ropes."
Shinsuke nodded, almost painfully eager. Divine did smile, then. This, he thought, was going to be rather fun.
From that moment forward, Divine had a friend. A companion, at least - whenever they were allowed outside their rooms, Shinsuke followed him wherever he went like a duck following its mother. Divine encouraged him in this pastime. He got his friends among the guards to pass letters back and forth between him and his new protege, and he shared the gifts they brought him. He also kept the other inmates away from Shinsuke, which was, he told himself, a good deed. Certainly he probably saved the boy a lot of trouble by scaring the rougher elements away from him. However, it also worked in Divine's favor, because there was no one to tell the boy anything that might bias him against Divine. As it happened, Shinsuke had been too full of youthful irresponsibility, too caught up in his own life and small dramas, to pay much attention to Divine's trial, and had only the murkiest idea of what Divine was in for. Divine let him think that he had been arrested for some financial scandal and that the tales of psychic powers had been merely an invention to make him look bad. Certainly there was no such thing as psychic powers, was there?
"How long are you in for?" asked Shinsuke one day. They were at lunch, or what passed for lunch around there. They had a table to themselves. No one else would sit with them.
"Oh, I don't know," said Divine. "A long time. The rest of my life, maybe."
"That's not fair," said Shinsuke. "You don't deserve it. You're a good guy."
"What can I say? Life isn't fair. You take what it throws at you," Divine answered with a philosophical shrug. "I've been on my best behavior, though. I'm hoping they'll reduce my sentence eventually."
"I hope so," said Shinsuke. "It would be good if we got out at the same time, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," said Divine. "I was thinking the same thing. Maybe we could go into business together, hm? You and me, working together? We could go overseas, where no one has heard of us, and we could start over fresh."
"Yeah, that would be great," said Shinsuke. "I never liked it much here, anyway."
Divine smiled inwardly. Typical rebellious teenager, so certain that life would be better away from his parents and teachers.
"It's worth thinking about," said Divine. "For now, though, it looks as though we're stuck. You'll probably get out before I do, anyway. I doubt we'll have a chance to see each other again, after that. A pity."
"Yeah," said Shinsuke, hanging his head. "Too bad. I wish there was something I could do..."
"There is one thing you might be able to do," said Divine.
Shinsuke raised his head eagerly. "What is it?"
"Well, you know, before I came here, I was a duelist," Divine replied. "Then there was all that talk about psychic duelists and whatnot, and the long and short of it is, I'm not allowed anywhere near a Duel Monsters deck. Can you imagine? Some people actually believe that nonsense. But I would like to have a proper deck again, or even just one card."
Shinsuke nodded eagerly. "I bet I can find one."
"Now, you don't have to go through that trouble for me..." said Divine modestly.
"But I want to," Shinsuke insisted. "You've been so much help to me. I never could have made it without you."
"Well, you do what you think you have to do, then," Divine replied, "but really, don't feel like you're obliged to me. I was only too happy to help."
And he smiled. It was a warm and genuine smile - genuine because he really did feel like smiling. He knew that from this point onwards, Shinsuke wouldn't rest until he had found those cards.
Sure enough, a few days later, Shinsuke appeared at the breakfast table glowing with pride, and he handed over not one but three cards. Divine had no idea what the boy had done to get them and didn't really care, though he was fairly certain that a high cost had been involved somewhere. What mattered was that now Divine finally had the tools he needed, and he thanked his young helper enthusiastically.
"Believe me," he said, "you don't know how much this means to me."
Shinsuke actually blushed. "You're welcome. It was nothing, really."
"It is a very great thing to me," said Divine. "I'll be sure to repay you for it. Maybe soon."
"What do you mean?" Shinsuke asked.
"I've been thinking," Divine replied, "and I think I may have a way for us to escape."
Shinsuke's face went pale. "Escape?"
"Yes, of course," said Divine. "You know we don't belong here, don't you? Neither one of us deserves to be in this place, and it isn't fair for them to keep us here. It's only right that we should take matters into our own hands. Don't worry about a thing. Just trust me, and I'll get us both out of here. We'll go away, just like we talked about, and start a new life."
Shinsuke looked understandably doubtful. "But what if we get caught?"
"They won't," said Divine. "I've got everything planned out. You'll see. Meet me in the exercise yard later. I'll take care of the rest."
His accomplice didn't look entirely reassured, but that was all right. All Divine really needed was for him to be there when things started happening. As long as he was close at hand, he would have no choice but to get involved, and once he was involved he would have to stay involved to remain under Divine's protection.
Ah, my boy, you're just going to have to play along for a bit longer, Divine thought, amused. At least until you've served your purpose.
Just as he'd expected, when their exercise time came, Shinsuke appeared, looking so apprehensive that it was a miracle the guards didn't start questioning him just on general principle. No one bothered him, though. He inched his way across the yard toward Divine, who was leaning casually against the wall, apparently daydreaming.
"Hey," he said. "I'm here."
Divine smiled at him. "So I see. Tell me, are you ready to go?"
"What, right now?" the boy asked. "With all these people watching?"
"It's the best chance we'll get," said Divine. "Just stick close to me, and move when I move. No one will harm you. You trust me, don't you?"
Shinsuke nodded. He scooted a bit closer to Divine, face white. Divine tuned him out. It had been a long time since he'd done anything like this, and he needed to concentrate.
Then he took out a card. There was a dragon of some type on it - not the kind of thing he usually dealt with, but more than appropriate for his purposes. He raised it with a flourish, and it began to glow.
In the next instant, chaos erupted. A monster appeared in the exercise yard, bellowing and breathing fire. People, prisoners and guards alike, began to run and scream in panic. A few guards, made of sterner stuff than most, began shooting, but their shots did nothing to faze the dragon. It turned its flames toward them, and they were forced to dive for safety.
"Dragon," Divine shouted, "tear down this wall."
The dragon obediently turned and barreled towards the wall, shouldering it apart as though it were made of styrofoam. Bits of rock and mortar flew everywhere.
"Come on," said Divine to his companion, who was watching the chaos with an expression of dazed horror. "Let's get out of here."
They ran, Divine with purpose and Shinsuke with the obedience of one who is too afraid to think for himself. That was fine with Divine. He commanded the dragon to fly low over them, shielding them from any potential gunfire. He could hear shots being fired, and the dragon roared in irritation once or twice as they bounced off his scales, but nothing touched the two fugitives. They fled towards the city. Divine kept the dragon with them until they were out of shooting distance from the prison, and then sent it to fly off in whatever direction it liked until it vanished back to wherever it had come from. Divine himself ran in the opposite direction, always keeping to shadows and darting down back alleys, trying to avoid places where anyone might see him. It was a long time before he allowed himself the leisure of stopping to catch his breath, but at last he came to a stop in a particularly run-down street.
"There, you see?" he asked Shinsuke. "I told you I'd get us out."
"That was a dragon," said Shinsuke. And then: "We are in so much trouble now..."
"No we aren't. Trust me," said Divine. "I know exactly what I'm doing. I've had this planned all along."
Shinsuke looked at him doubtfully, and he chuckled. He was being quite truthful. He had known all along that there was always a chance that he could get caught at what he'd been doing and end up in jail. There had always been the chance that someone would learn his secrets and spread them around before Director Goodwin could stop them, or the director himself could have decided that he was too dangerous to be allowed to continue even if it would mean Divine spilling what he knew about him. He had known that he might be in this situation, too: that the old director would die or be killed, and whoever came after him wouldn't have any worries about putting Divine behind bars. These things happened, and so Divine had planned for all of them. The first part of his plan had already gone swimmingly. Now it was time for the second.
"This is a place I know about," he said. He walked up to one of the old buildings and began prodding it. It had a brick facade, and some of the old bricks were loose. Divine pulled one out and fished a key from behind it. Shinsuke watched him with interest.
"You see, I own this building," Divine said. "I have a little safe room here, with supplies stashed in it. I bought it under an assumed name, so I doubt anyone will connect it to me right away. We can stay here for a while, until we've worked out what to do next."
He ushered his young friend inside and locked the door behind him. The door led to a series of musty rooms, an old neglected apartment suite. While Shinsuke wandered around, looking dazed, Divine began checking through the furniture. As he'd hoped, none of his things had been disturbed. There were several changes of clothes there, along with some cash money, several forms of identification made out to a variety of names, some credit cards, and assorted toiletries. He felt proud of himself; he really was a master planner.
"Here," he said, passing some clothes to Shinsuke. "Change into these. They probably won't fit very well, but they'll make you harder to identify." He picked up a couple of boxes, an electric razor, and a comb, and started for the bathroom.
"What are you doing now? Shinsuke asked.
"Isn't it obvious?" Divine replied. "I'm changing my look."
Divine went into the bathroom. Sometime later, a man who looked rather like him, but with shorter, darker hair and darker eyes stepped out. He had not done the neatest job with cutting his hair, but he would worry about that later. The dye and contact lenses would throw off most casual observers. A coating of stage makeup hid the criminal mark that had been etched onto his cheek. He returned to find Shinsuke in fresh clothes sitting on the bed and kicking his heels.
"What do you think?" Divine asked. "Do I pass muster?"
Shinsuke didn't answer. "What are we going to do now? We can't just stay here forever."
"I know," said Divine. "Here is what we're going to do. You are the less noticeable of the two of us, so you are going to buy some supplies. We'll stay here for a few days, until the furor starts to die down. We'll buy plane tickets. We'll fly to Europe. We'll change our names and no one will ever find us."
"I'm scared," Shinsuke admitted. "I want to go home."
"If you go home, they'll arrest you," Divine pointed out gently. "We need to stick together if we want to be safe." He patted the boy on the shoulder. "Just stick with me. You'll be fine. Trust me."
Mikage was not in the best of moods. Normally, she tried to keep her emotions separate from her investigations, but sometimes it was harder than others. She was particularly upset about the fact that Divine had managed to get out of prison. Really, the man was impossible - no matter what anyone did about him, he just seemed to keep bouncing back. Any sort of criminal offended her, but when one of them attacked her personally and still managed to escape the law... well, that was enough to ruin her day.
What made it worse was how fast the trail had gone cold. There didn't seem to be any way to track the man. He must have been using a blocker to keep them from tracing the signal from his criminal marker - not an easy trick, but she wasn't surprised that he'd had the resources to pull it off. No one had reported seeing him, and while a few people had called to report seeing his young accomplice, he had always been gone by the time someone had come to look for him. Now, even those fragile leads had died up. She could guess what had happened: he'd managed to slip out of the city somehow. He was probably on his way to some other country with no extradition treaty, and even if she found him, there would be no way to make him come back and stand trial. He would live happily on whatever he managed to swindle out of whoever was near him, and nobody could touch him. It rankled. It was days like this when she wished she'd decided to be a baker or a teacher instead of putting herself through this.
Her phone rang. Mikage reached for it automatically.
"Special Investigations, Miss Sagiri speaking," she said.
There was a sound like someone sniffling on the other end. A voice, youngish and thick with tears, said, "Come and get me."
"What?" she asked.
"Come and get me," the voice repeated. "I want to go home."
"Are you sure you've called the right number?" she asked. "This is the police."
"Yeah, that's right," the voice agreed. "Come arrest me. I want to go home."
She felt a stab of concern. "All right. Let's just calm down. Who are you?"
"My name's Shinsuke. I... I ran away from the prison a couple of days ago. In Neo Domino. I didn't know he was going to do it like that. He made me do it. It wasn't my fault!"
"It's all right. I understand - just calm down," said Mikage. Her pulse rate quickened. Shinsuke was the name of the boy who had escaped with Divine. If he was having second thoughts now...
"The guy left me," Shinsuke continued. "He - he said we were going to work together. We were going to go to Europe and change our names and get jobs. But he didn't do it. He lied to me."
"Where are you both now?" Mikage asked.
"I don't know. He took me to... what's it called? Luxembourg. He'd got a bank account here or something. He got me to help him get all his money together, and then he told me to wait for him while he did something, and he walked off. He never came back. Please. I don't have any money and nobody here speaks the language and I'm hungry and it's cold. I don't care what you do to me, I just want to go back..."
"It's all right," she said soothingly. "We'll take care of it. Stay on the line, and I'll get someone to help you."
"Thank you!" The boy's voice became choked again. "I'm really sorry. I'll never do anything like this again."
"You'll be fine," Mikage promised. "It's not your fault he tricked you. We'll have you back in Neo Domino in no time. If you're willing to testify against him, you might not even be punished."
The boy was tearfully grateful. Mikage felt a sense of satisfaction at knowing things were starting to happen again. She turned to Ushio, who had been listening in on her side of the conversation with a look of interest.
"I've got Divine's accomplice on the line," she told him. "How do you feel about visiting Luxembourg?"
Jack sat at a table at a streetside cafe, watching the world go by and pondering his next move. He had been traveling a lot, these days, searching out powerful duelists and challenging them one by one. Sometimes he played for money, picking up just enough to survive and to pay the expenses he would incur when he moved to the next target. He'd spent the last few weeks crisscrossing Europe, and he was beginning to feel that he'd exhausted its possibilities. Perhaps, he thought, he would head for South America next. He could look up Bommer and try his skill against him. There were bound to be possibilities in the United States, as well. Jack was determined to test himself against as wide an array of duelists as possible. He had to know if he was ready to go back to seriously pursuing kingship.
He took a long drink from his coffee, and as he did so, his eye was caught by a flyer. It was pinned to a bulletin board on the side of the building, along with a number of other pointless ads for things he wasn't interested in - band concerts and pottery lessons and similar nonsense. This one was different, though, and he stood up to give it a closer look.
"Hmm," he said. "I wonder..."
The ad was for a group that claimed it offered support to psychic duelists. He had a feeling he had heard of something like it before. Jack stared at it for a long time, wondering.
Then he shrugged. It had been a long time since he'd phoned Carly anyway. If nothing else, she probably wanted to know how he was doing. He took out his phone and punched in her number. It rang several times.
"Hello?" she said at last. She sounded distracted; he could just see her at her desk with her laptop on in front of her and her notes scattered everywhere. He'd probably caught her just before a deadline.
"Carly," he said. "If you're busy, I can call back."
"Oh! Jack! Hi!" she exclaimed. "No, no, it's okay! You don't have to call back. I can talk. What's up?"
"Nothing much," he said. "Traveling, is all. I was just wondering if anything interesting was happening in Neo Domino."
"You won't believe this," she said, her voice taking on a tone of outrage. "You remember that guy from the Arcadia Movement, Divine? He got out of prison."
"They let him out?"
"No, he escaped. Blasted a wall out," she said. "He's on the run, and the police keep hitting dead ends. They picked up his accomplice, but he'd already gotten out of town by then."
"Interesting," said Jack. "Isn't he the one who...?"
He decided that it was probably best not to finish the question. Some things, even he didn't want to try to get away with.
"He's the one," said Carly quietly. "I still have nightmares, sometimes. Ever since he got out, I keep waking up thinking he's in my room, and he's looking to get revenge."
"Don't worry too much," said Jack. "I don't think he's in Neo Domino anymore, so you're probably safe."
"Probably. I just don't feel that way, you know?"
"He's scum," said Jack. "They should have just executed him and been done with it." He was thoughtful for a moment. "Maybe I should do something about him."
"What would you do? Nobody even knows where he is," said Carly. She paused, and he could almost hear the wheels turning in his head. "Unless...?"
"Keep your computer warm," said Jack. "I might just have a story for you soon."
"Jack, be careful. Don't do anything crazy," she said. "That guy is dangerous - I don't want you to get hurt."
"Don't you worry about me," said Jack. "Worry about him. I owe him some payback. I'll let you know if something comes up."
"Jack..." she began, but he hung up the phone.
Probably, he thought, he had worried her, maybe unnecessarily. On the other hand, she had confirmed his hunch, and he was glad of that. He would try to repay her for it later. For now, though...
He turned his attention back to the sign. There was an address on it, and a time specified where anyone interested might come to learn more. Jack considered.
"What the hell," he said. "I didn't have plans for tonight anyway."
It was very late when Divine wrapped up his first meeting, well past midnight. He hummed to himself as he tidied up the meeting room he'd rented. His first gathering had gone well. This was a big city, after all, and he had been right when he'd guessed that it had to hold at least a few people with powers. He had seen the interest in their eyes, and he knew they would be back. He had been a bit worried about his flyers, but they didn't seem to have attracted the wrong kind of attention, and had drawn plenty of the right kind. Now he could sit back and let word of mouth take care of things for a while. It was a slower way to work, but safer. He could afford to be patient.
He wasn't sure when he became aware of a presence watching him. He'd always been more sensitive to most than that sort of thing, but he'd been deeply involved in his plans and not paying as much attention to his surrounding as usual. It was only when he stopped to catch his breath that he noticed that he had been feeling a tension growing in him for the last few minutes. He looked around warily.
"Is someone there?"
There was a flicker of movement. Someone was close by - someone who moved swiftly and confidently, like a predator. Divine tensed.
The police? No, they couldn't possibly have caught up to me so fast. I covered my tracks too well.
He turned slowly in place, scanning for movement. Whatever the presence was, it moved as he did, always keeping out of sight. He could feel its gaze pricking between his shoulder blades. He decided to try for nonchalance. Maybe if he acted nonthreatening, it would either get bored and go away or come out and show itself.
"I think that's everything put away," he said aloud. "Now I'll just sweep up a bit and lock the door..."
He turned towards a broom closet, and as he did so, something darted towards him and caught the collar of his jacket, holding him in place.
"Hello, Divine," said a voice in his ear. "Let's chat."
"You've got the wrong man," said Divine. "Who are you? Let me go!"
"Oh, no, you're not getting off the hook that easily."
The speaker let him go, and Divine retreated a few steps, turning around to see who he was dealing with. He stared a moment.
"Jack Atlas," said Jack. "And I know who you are. You're the bastard who calls himself Divine. Aren't you supposed to be in jail?"
"That's a matter of opinion," said Divine. "I happen to think I'm not."
"Well, I have a different opinion," Jack snapped.
"I can't see why," said Divine. "I never did anything to you."
It was the wrong thing to say. Jack lunged at him, pressing him against a window. It creaked ominously from the combined weight of two people leaning on it, and Divine felt a flash of fear. The meeting room was on one of the upper floors of a building. If the window broke and he fell through it...
"You brainwashed my friend," he said. "You tortured Rua with electrical wires, you killed Misty's brother, you tried to drown my best friend and my secretary. You murdered the woman I love."
"She got over it," Divine pointed out.
Jack jammed his elbow against the glass, making it shatter, and shoved Divine through the hole so that he was half in and half out of the window. The broken edges cut through his jacket and into his back. An involuntary whimper escaped him.
"Wrong answer," said Jack.
"You won't do it. You wouldn't dare," said Divine. "You're a hero."
Jack snorted. "That's what you think. I'm a warrior. I fight with people. I fought with Goodwin and, now he's dead. I fought the Yliasters, and now they're dead. What makes you think you won't end up the same way?"
"That's murder," said Divine. "You'll end up in jail. You can't be a championship duelist from the inside of a cell."
"Who's going to jail?" Jack retorted. "Some of my best friends are in Security, the chief of investigations is in love with me and the mayor of Neo Domino owes me favors. Who's going to lock me up if you die while I'm defending myself from you?"
Divine felt a flicker of panic. It was beginning to dawn on him that this man genuinely would have liked to kill him. He would have felt more regret over getting blood on his clean white jacket than he would for ending Divine's life.
"Don't do it," he said. "There has to be some way we can settle this peacefully."
"Give me a reason," said Jack. "Give me one good reason why I ought to let you live to see another day."
"Because you're a duelist," said Divine. "A true duelist would settle this matter with his cards."
Jack hesitated for a long moment. Then he gave a grunt of annoyance and backed away.
"Fine," he said. "I'll duel you. If I lose, you can go free and I'll forget I saw you. But if you lose, I'll deal with you however I see fit."
"Accepted," said Divine.
He knew there was no way he could beat Jack in a fair duel. Divine himself was a competent duelist, but Jack was a master of the game, well-nigh unbeatable for an ordinary player.
Which, of course, meant that Divine was not going to play fair. Jack might be talented, but he was still just an ordinary man. He certainly had never shown any signs of psychic power that Divine had ever heard of, and he would have been the first to know. He also played by the duelist's code of honor - a fatal flaw, from Divine's perspective. He would play by the rules even if Divine didn't. He would never back down from a fight, no matter how hopeless it might be. Divine, however, felt no shame in cutting and running if the stakes got too high. This counted as one of those times. He had no intent of dueling Jack seriously. All he wanted was enough time to draw out something with suitable firepower and blast his way to freedom. If Jack got hurt in the process... well, he'd known the risks when he'd made the challenge.
"Since it was I who issued the challenge," he said, as he fetched his Duel Disk, "perhaps you would like to make the first move?"
"Gladly," said Jack. He powered on his Disk and slotted his cards into place. "Maybe it will give you a few seconds longer to live."
Divine just smiled and nodded and watched Jack put his first cards into play.
Such confidence, he thought, amused. You'd think he'd forgotten who I am. Well, this should be fun.
"My turn," he said. "I think I'll start with a spell card - Hinotama!"
He flourished the card, putting a burst of mental energy into it. Flames erupted from it, burning bright and hot, and rushed towards Jack. They engulfed him before he even had a chance to dodge. Divine smiled. That fireball was hot enough to melt steel in a flash. A human being without psychic powers of his own to protect him would be cooked to a crisp.
So ends the career of an illustrious duelist, he thought. Ah, well, I suppose he would have wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.
The flames died down, leaving only a haze of thick smoke where the carpet had been singed. Divine started to turn away, not particularly wanting to see what was left of the man, but then he stopped. Something in the cloud was moving. Divine stared.
Jack was still standing. His riding suit was smouldering slightly, but otherwise he seemed to be perfectly unharmed. There was a strange red light playing over him, flickering on his skin and glowing in his eyes. Divine took a step back.
"What the hell are you?" he exclaimed.
Jack stalked slowly towards him.
"You remember the Dark Signers, don't you?" he asked, his voice dangerously calm. "You've met a few before. They sold their souls to the gods of death in exchange for immortality. But there was one god that none of them were willing to bargain with. One that was so powerful that no one had the courage to try to contain it. No one but me."
"You... you're one of them?" Divine exclaimed. "But I thought..."
"That I was a Signer? A hero? I am," said Jack. "I'm not possessed by the god. Possession happens when a stronger soul overwhelms a weaker one." He smiled, his eyes glowing red. "Do you get it? This is the power of my Burning Soul. I'm not possessed by the god. It's possessed by me."
Divine couldn't reply. He had always prided himself on his power, his mastery of manipulation, his ability to bend anyone's mind and spirit to his own purposes. He'd locked horns with everything from powerful psychics to political leaders and never let himself be beaten. He had lived his life secure in the conviction that he was a superior human being, and that no one could hope to best him in a battle of wits or wills.
He had felt a lot of auras in his time. He had never felt one like this. He gave a strangled little squeak.
"Is it too late to surrender?" he heard himself saying.
Jack smiled, and the fires around him burned brighter.
"Too late," he said. "Play."
Carly stared at her computer screen and sighed. Another deadline loomed ahead of her, and so far, all of her leads had fizzled. If she didn't come up with a story soon, she was going to be in trouble with her boss. She gazed wistfully out her window, wondering where she could find something interesting to write about and if it was too much to hope that something next door would catch fire.
There was a knock on her door, loud and demanding.
"If it's about the rent, I said I'd pay it on Monday!" she shouted.
"Open the door, Carly."
"Jack!" she squeaked. She bounded up from her desk so abruptly that she knocked her chair over and made a dive for the door. She tried to open it, realized it was locked, fumbled with the knob, and finally managed to get it open.
As soon as she did, a body thumped onto the carpet in front of her. It was a man, pale and wild-eyed, his clothing disheveled. He scrambled wildly and dove to hide behind Carly.
"Get this bloodthirsty maniac away from me!" he shouted. Jack ignored him.
"Hello, Carly," he said. "I brought you a present."
"You caught him?" she asked, staring at Divine.
"He wasn't hard to find," said Jack. "He and I have been talking. He's learned why it's a bad idea to tangle with my friends. Isn't that right, Divine?"
"You stay back! Don't you come near me!"
"Be quiet," said Jack. To Carly, he said, "You should be grateful. Getting him this far in one piece wasn't easy. But I thought you should have a chance to have a piece of him before everyone else gets their turn."
Divine looked stricken. "Everyone... else?"
"I've already let Misty and Aki and Yusei know I was bringing you in," said Jack. "I'm sure they'll have a thing or two to say to you about this latest stunt of yours. And in a little while, I'm going to call Mikage and Ushio. Do you remember them? They're with Security. Mikage is the one you tried to drown. Ushio is her partner. He's very protective of her, and built like King Kong. But first, you're going to talk to Carly."
"I am?" he asked.
"Yes," said Jack. "An exclusive interview. You're going to sing like a canary, and I'm going to sit here and listen and make sure you don't start straying away from the truth. How does that sound?"
Before he could answer, Carly flung her arms around Jack and hugged him tightly.
"Aww, Jack," she said, "this is the best present ever!"
He smiled. "I do come through once in a while, don't I?"
Divine heaved a deep sigh of resignation.
"I wish I was back in prison," he said.