As I surveyed the other faces in the crowed lobby I could not help but feel nervous. They were the best in the world, all handpicked to be here from thousands of applicants. All of them were competing for the same internships at Kaiba Corp. I shook my head mentally scolding myself. I was here. I was one of the finalists.
I chuckled at the word, finalist, like this was some kind of Duel Monsters tournament. Perhaps it was, at least that was the way Seto Kaiba had been handling this, with the same mentality he did with all his Duel Monsters tournaments.
And why would he handle it any other way?
Kaiba's multi-million dollar company and livelihood rested in Duel Monsters. I stared at the ceiling and let out a small sigh. I pictured the young CEO and president of Kaiba Corp sitting many floors above me and wondered which of his lackeys I would have to impress.
The Kaiba Corporation lobby was quite large but from the looks of it, it had never been intended to hold this many people. Cramming fifty or so people in here did not leave much elbow room. I sighed.
Then I pushed my way through a group of newly graduated college students. Each of them was boosting about which top percent of their class they had graduated in. I rolled my eyes.
Rather than monsters, it was egos battling. It was my move. I elbowed a blond in the ribs as I pasted. She was claiming to have graduated from Cambridge. Resentment had gotten the better of me; I only went to tech school. I was gone before she could react. Seto Kaiba really did know how to bring out the best in people.
I mumbled a few pardon and excuse me's as I made my way through the rest of the crowd. Finally, I found a spot were the crowd was less dense and leaned up against a nearby wall. The wait dragged on. My nerves slowly started getting the better of me once again. I fidgeted and adjusted dress shirt.
I caught my reflection in the glossy marble floor. A few strands of my light brown hair had escaped my bun and my mascara was slightly smudged around the corners of my grey eyes. I tucked the loose hairs behind my ears and wiped my eyes.
Just as I finished making the adjustments to my face I was nearly knocked off my feet. Was the blond back for revenge? I looked up. A young man, maybe a few years older than me, with brown hair and brown eyes caught me mid fall. He had a kind face. His hand me down suit gave him the appearance of a young boy wearing his father's clothes.
"I'm sorry!" he spoke loudly drawing lots of unwanted attention in my direction.
"No harm done," I gathered myself together. People behind us were staring and mumbling to one another. I shot them my best buzz off look. It must have worked because they turned away quickly and returned to their previous conversations.
Still flustered the brown haired male gave me another look over and began to poke and prod at me. I raised an eyebrow and gently pushed him away.
"You're sure you're ok?" he questioned.
The young man opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. After a few seconds I gave him another confused look. He motioned for me to turn around.
At the end of the lobby was a very attractive woman with dark hair. She was dressed to kill in a black pencil skirt, white dress shirt and red Manolos. She had just stepped out of an elevator. The woman cleared her throat. It took a moment but the low roar in the lobby died down.
"Listen up, because I don't repeat myself," Her tone was very authoritative, no nonsense, "My name is Nori. I'm Mr. Kaiba's personal assistant."
There were a few derogatory comments from the crowd about what 'personal things' she actually assisted Mr. Kaiba with. Nori didn't hear them or had just become accustomed to ignoring them because she continued talking unfazed.
She explained how things were going to work. Groups of no more than seven would follow her upstairs for the interview or what else they might have us. When question about who was giving the interview, Nori just smiled and told us to wait and see.
The butterflies in my stomach became restless as she read off the first set of names. I didn't breath, I had forgotten how. From the way I heard it there was no rhyme or pattern to the names. They were as far as I knew random. Another test Kaiba throw in to keep us on our toes? I wasn't relieved when I did not hear my name, it just meant more waiting.
As the first group joined Nori in the elevator my lungs refilled. I slipped into an empty chair. I took another deep breath. I was ok. This was ok. The interviewer would be all warmed up for when I got called. If anything this was helping me.
"I'm Hiro by the way. Hiro Harazaki,"
The voice came from my left. It was the guy who had nearly knocked me over. He had taken the other available seat. I didn't say anything. I was just hopping the conversation would die before it even started.
Harazaki leaned over staring at me intently, "And you are?"
"Sayoko Suzuhara," I mumbled.
He smiled, "Where did you graduate from?"
I looked up at him. Of all the people crammed in this lobby, why did this guy have to knock me over?
"Oh a local huh?" he sounded pleasantly surprised, "Well. I Graduated from Tokyo University, business major and-"
Hiro Harazaki really liked to talk. He talked for a good fifty minutes about everything from Duel Monsters to his family back in Tokyo. He only stopped to listen to Nori call up another group of hopefuls. It was strange the first seven did not come back. Nori did not answer when asked about it. Again, Kaiba's personal assistant took a group in the elevator.
Again, I was left waiting.
Faceless suits and white lab coats continued coming and going through the marble lobby. Harazaki had finally run out of steam and had turned his attention to his briefcase. He was shuffling through papers with sweaty hands. At least I was not the only one who was nervous.
Time dragged on and on. Then finally I heard the all too familiar ding of the elevator. The remaining applicants all turned to face Nori as she exited the elevator. Only this time she was not alone. No one in the lobby made a sound.
A blonde was glued to Nori's side. She was trembling. I recognized her as one of the new college graduates, the one I had elbowed. The blonde wobbled out of the elevator behind Nori. The faces in the crowd were shocked. Until now none of the people who had gone upstairs had come back. The young woman kept her head down and walked slowly across the lobby not making a sound.
The deafening silence was broken by a man calling out to her.
"..How was the interview?"
More curious people shouted their questions at her.
"...Who was it?"
"...What happened to everyone else?"
"...Why did you come back?"
She shook her head, her blonde hair flying. She kept walking still staring at the floor. I tried to meet her gaze as she passed where I was still seated. For a spit second I saw her face as her hair swayed. From the look in her eyes she was still crying invisible tears. Black trails ran down her face from where her makeup had run. Her eyes were puffy and red. Even still I could not pity her.
If anything I should be furious, she was around my age. What was going to happen when I walked through the elevator upstairs? Would they look at me as just another fragile girl? Had this stranger killed my chances already? I gritted my teeth as anger welled up inside me. I shook my head. I had not worked this hard for this long to quit because of some girl with no back bone.
But this competition was more cut throat then I thought.
It took a moment for me to compose myself. I smoothed out the front of my pants and watched the girl make her way to the front doors and out into the city of Domino. The crowd fell silent again as Nori began to call yet another group of names. I was about to space out again till I heard the last name Kaiba's assistant called.
I instantly got to my feet and began to make my way to the elevator. This was it, the moment I had been working for, for so long. A nervous grin appeared on my face. It was strange but I looked back at Harazaki for support. He gave me a reassuring smile and thumbs up.
As I turned back around, I tripped. I looked up from my hands and knees, my duel monsters deck scattered around me on the floor. Business attire or not I never left home without my deck. A guy with dark hair and dark eyes stood over me smirking. He had tripped me. I franticly picked up my cards as the others in my group made their way to the elevator. Once I got all my cards together I sprinted over to the group who were already in the elevator.
I heard Harazaki call out to me. I didn't have time to see what he wanted. The doors were closing. I needed to be in that elevator. Pushing a round faced girl out of the way, I barely made it. I slipped my hands into the small crack of the closing elevator doors and they instantly reopened. A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I boarded the elevator.
"Nice of you to join us," said Nori a tad bit of sarcasm in voice.
I didn't say anything. I was here, that was all that mattered. I caught the eye of the guy who tripped me. He smirked and turned away. Apart from another in my group tapping his foot, the ride up was silent. From where I was standing I couldn't tell what floor we were going to.
All too soon the door opened. We all stepped out into a large hallway. Doors lined the walls. A few chairs placed in the spaces between them. A beautiful painting of a Blue Eyes White Dragon hung on the far wall. I did not have time to take it all in before Nori was herding us further down the hall.
"Ok Suzuhara your up," Nori gave me a gentle push forward, "Fourth door on the right."
Swallowing hard I walked slowly down the hall. Nori was ordering the others to take a seat. Once I made it to the fourth door on the right I knocked lightly. It was all I could do with shaking hands.
"Come in. I don't have all day," called a cold voice from inside.
The voice sounded so familiar but I could not place it. The knob felt cool and slick in my sweaty hand. I opened the door slowly and stepped into the large office.
Sitting at the desk was Seto Kaiba himself. The CEO and president of Kaiba Corp had ditched his signature white trench coat for a dark blue suit and matching tie. He was typing on his computer. Kaiba did not even look up for his computer as I walked in. I made my way over to his desk still a bit dumbfounded. My heart stopped. Seto Kaiba was giving me my interview. No pressure.
"Sit down," he commanded.
I sat in the chair opposite him. Kaiba opened up a file and glimpsed over a few papers. I looked over and noticed it was my application, résumé, and transcripts.
"You're kind of young aren't you?" I felt his ice cold blue gaze on me.
I looked up at him, "I'm almost your age"
Kaiba turned back gaze back to the papers and read off my accomplishments. Straight As, graduated top of my class, one of the top ranked duelists in the armature division.
It was strange. I took such pride in all of those things but when Kaiba read them they sounded meaningless. He was less than a year older than me but he ran one of the most successful gaming companies in the world. Nothing I did could measure up to that. I wasn't making an impression at all.
I was about to count myself out when Kaiba's expression changed, "I don't like liars"
"Excuse me?" I blinked a confused look on my face.
He propped up his elbows and folded his hands glaring at me, "It says you can take a Duel Disk apart and put it back together."
I nodded, "I can."
"Listen, no one but specially trained Kaiba Corp. technicians can take a duel disk apart and put in back together and it still work. It's part of the special security settings," he sounded confident.
Frowning, I looked up at Kaiba. He was doubting my integrity.
"Maybe you need to double check your security settings," I smiled. My tone was overly polite boarding on sarcastic.
Kaiba smirked, "You sound sure of yourself. Prove it!"
I scribbled a list of all the things I needed to complete the task Kaiba saw as impossible and passed it to him. He shot me a look like I was messing with him.
I gave a small nod.
With another confident smirk Kaiba made a phone call. It was not long before a man with a mustache brought me all the supplies I had asked for.
Then in walked an older gentleman wearing a lab coat. His protective goggles were on his head. The ID card clipped to his coat said he was from the technology department. He laid a duel disk on Kaiba's desk in front of me. The man in the lab coat looked at me with pity in his eyes.
"Roland will start the timer once you begin," Kaiba nodded to the man with the mustache.
There was a pause. I had not noticed the stopwatch, "Wait, you're timing me?"
"What's wrong? You sounded so sure of yourself a minute ago,"
Kaiba stared me down almost daring me to start. My grey eyes met his for a moment. Of all the people I had ever met his gaze was the only one I had ever had trouble holding. There was just something about those deep blue eyes.
Without another word I took off my jacket and rolled up my sleeves. I flipped the duel disk over. Roland started the timer. I reached for a screwdriver I had requested and went to work.
Words would do nothing to the arrogant CEO, my actions would have to speak for me.
The first part was easy. All I had to do was remove the outside cover and detach the two wings where the duelist played their monster cards. The next part was a little trickier. There was a security device that if activated fried the whole system. It was meant to keep the technology inside a secret. With steady hands I tucked a Q-tip underneath the tiny security part and as gently as I could removed it with wire cutters. It was a cake walk after that. Eleven minutes and thirty eight seconds later the duel disk sat in pieces on Kaiba's desk.
Roland and the man from the technology department looked impressed but the CEO continued to sit there his expression unchanged, "Now, put it back together."
I did as I was told. It was easier to put it back together. In no time the duel disk was restored to its former glory. I stood up and strapped it to my arm and inserted my deck. The duel disk came alive, all the lights flashed on and my life point total, 4000 flashed on the small screen. Just to prove it was fully functional I played my Magicat monster card. The hologram pounced onto Kaiba's desk and pointed its staff at him.
Kaiba looked up at me as if he had been indifferent to me before. It was as if I was finally standing out from all the other applicants, than his eyes narrowed. The CEO's expression turned cold again.
"Who have you told about this?" he asked coldly.
"N-No one" I stammered. That was not the reaction I had been expecting.
"Don't give me that. Was it Pegasus? Zigfried? EA Games..?"
I looked at him and powered down the duel disk. I placed it on his desk, "Two years ago, in the last round of the regional armature tournament my competitor's duel disk malfunctioned. I was going to win by default. I mean, no one really cares about armature tournaments and I think they just wanted to get it over with," I paused, "But that kinda win didn't feel right. So I fixed it when not one was looking with whatever I could find,"
"You lost that duel," Kaiba recalled.
"I haven't lost one since then," I was quick to reply. I didn't like to lose but how did Kaiba know the outcome of that duel?
Kaiba dismissed Roland. The man in the lab coat turned to leave as well but the CEO called him back, "You're fired."
The man stood there in shock for a moment, "Sir?"
"If Suzuhara can take a duel disk apart with Q-tips I'm sure our competitors have found far more technical ways to do so. You were in charge of that security program. You're fired. Get out of my sight," Kaiba sounded angry.
The man from the technology department snarled and tossed his ID card on Kaiba's desk. He stormed out of the office. It reminded me of a child throwing a tantrum but even still I had not intended for anyone to be fired. I felt a tad bit guilty. Looking down at my feet I moved my weight from side to side nervously. What fate awaited me?
Kaiba continued my interview. I stumbled through the generic interview questions. My throat felt dry. I caught myself rambling a few times and started shorting my answers. All the questions seemed to blur together till he asked me one last question.
"Why do you want be an intern at Kaiba Corp.?"
I didn't realize it but I stood up nearly knocking the chair over. My fist hit the desk with a large thud. For the first time through the whole interview it was easy to hold his cold blue gaze. I felt my heart pounding. I took a deep breath, doing my best to keep my voice and tone even.
"Kaiba Corp is the best," I paused feeling my words shake. Kaiba smirked. I wasn't trying to flatter him, it was a known fact. "I want to work for the best," I finished with as much authority I could muster in my voice.
The CEO dismissed me. Smiling I held my hand out expecting him to shake it, "Thank you for this opportunity Mr. Kaiba,"
After a moment I realized Kaiba was not going to shake my hand. I hurried from the office. As I shut the door behind me I saw him pick up the duel disk I had taken apart and examine it before turning back to his computer. Once in the hall I took a few steps before my knees buckled out from under me.
I had survived my first trip to the dragons den.
Nori helped me to my feet. Her eyes seemed kinder then when she had been barking orders in the lobby. She escorted me to another elevator and told me to hang out in the cafeteria with the others who had completed their interviews. As the doors closed I heard Nori say one last thing.
"I'm cheering for you, you know,"
It made me smile. Her words sounded genuine. Then again, had she said that to all the intern hopefuls to lure them into a false sense of security. I pondered this for the rest of the ride. When I reached the cafeteria I slumped down in an empty chair at an empty table. I could not think anymore my head was spinning replaying the interview over and over. How had I done?
More and more people began to drift into the cafeteria. Harazaki waved and took the seat next to me. He looked exhausted. All the life was drained from his face.
"I did terrible," he whispered, "He's such a hard ass."
I nodded, "Well it is his company."
Harazaki gave me a confused look, "It's Seto Kaiba's Company, I mean the name, Kaiba Corp."
It was my turn to look confused, "That's what I said."
We were silent for a moment.
Then Harazaki finally understood, "Mr. Kaiba gave you your interview?" He sounded stunned.
"He didn't give you yours?"
"No, a man named Roland did," He sounded disappointed. Harazaki sighed, "Well at least I didn't make a fool of myself in front of Mr. Kaiba."
"Like I did,"
We both laughed. It wasn't funny but after the day we had been having a laugh felt good.
"Oh yeah, Suzuhara I almost forgot, you left this down stairs," Harazaki reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a duel monsters card. My eyes widened as he handed me my Allure Queen LV 7.
"Thank you Harazaki!" It was one of my better cards. The thought of losing it, I did not even want to think about it. I took the rest of my cards from the pouch on my belt and added the monster back in.
Harazaki looked very pleased with himself, "You really want to thank me? How about a duel?" He pulled a plastic box out of his briefcase and slid out his own deck.
It shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did that Harazaki was a duelist. I'm sure the most of other interviewees were all too familiar with the game. But the goofy business major didn't look all that threatening.
"It will give us something to do," continued Harazaki.
"Ok you're on Harazaki"
He smiled, "You can call me Hiro."
I shrugged, "Harazaki is fine." Nice or not Hiro Harazaki was still my competition. Getting too comfortable with him could cause me problems later.
Harazaki seemed a little disappointed but shuffled his deck. I did the same. It was the first time in a long time I played duel monsters without a duel disk or even holograms. This was old school. I laughed. Here we were sitting inside Kaiba Corp, the mecca for duel monsters technology battling on paper mats. Seto Kaiba would be so proud.
"Ladies first," said Harazaki a little too sweet.
Two can play at that game. "What a gentleman," I smiled very perky as I drew my first card.
I took an early lead. Knocking Harazaki's life points down to 2100 in only a few turns. I questioned again whether or not he actually knew what he was doing.
He favored machine type monsters, strong when used properly. Over confidence overcame me. I was getting cocky and it cost me. I went to attack his life points directly even though he had a face down card. Harazaki revealed swords of revealing light crippling me for three turns. This gave him plenty of time to summon one of his more powerful monsters, Machina Fortress. (ATK: 2500 DEF 1600).
My life points dwindled down to 1500. I played scapegoat, trying to buy myself some time. With one goat left I managed to summon enough monsters to synchro summon The Tempest Magician (ATK: 2200 DEF: 1400). Once equipped with Mage Power I had more than enough fire power to knock out Harazaki's Machina Fortress. A few more turns passed and I finished him off, not even having to use Tempest Magician's special effect.
"Good job Suzuhara," Harazaki congratulated me. I was relieved that he was still in good spirits.
"It was a good duel Haraza- Hiro" I gave in calling him by his first name. Perhaps Hiro wasn't so bad. It would be good to have at least one friend in a room full of enemies. Also, he was valuable. He knew business something I had never been too keen on.
I had not noticed it but a group of people now surrounded our table. They had been watching our duel. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw one man hand another five dollars. Betting against me is always going to cost you.
From the way he acted after you would have thought Hiro was the one who won the duel. He explained that growing up he was a bit of a trouble maker, calling him Harazaki just made him think of teachers scolding him. I laughed it was hard to see Hiro as a vigilante. The crowd dispersed leaving me and Hiro alone at our table. We spend the remaining time chatting. I almost forgot how nervous I was or how my interview must have bombed.
After another hour or so Kaiba's infamous assistant walked in. She cleared her throat. Nori was far removed from the women upstairs who was 'cheering for me'.
"Everyone but, Akio Soma, Alan Smith, Darren Underhill, Hiro Harazaki, and Sayoko Suzuhara please fallow me," Nori's strong voice carried through the cafeteria. The others followed her without question.
Soon five of us were left behind, an older man, the jerk from the elevator, a man who I hadn't seen before, Hiro, and myself. Hiro looked like he was going to be sick. The older man buried his face in his arms. Even the prick from the elevator had lost his cocky smirk. The other male just continued to sit there expressionless.
Had I just been cut?
My heart was in my throat. If I had in fact been cut I didn't want to be here. I stood up. As I pushed in my chair the elevator doors opened. Out stepped Kaiba.
"Apparently you five are the least incompetent of all the others," Kaiba gave us all a good look over almost double checking his decision. "I expect you here bright and early Monday."
The CEO turned to leave, and then turned back toward us.
"There's only one rule,"
I felt his cold blue gaze on me as he spoke, like he was talking directly to me, "Don't screw up!"