Author's Note: Before this goes any further, I'd like to take the time to recommend the new Shadowchaser fic "Shadowchasers: Twice-Told Tales" by 7th Librarian. This short series of anthology stories will pave the way for a more traditional Shadowchasers story coming later.

From what I've seen of Librarian's work, it's excellent, and tends to have an unorthodox approach (which is a GOOD thing, by the way). Any writers who want to write for this franchise could learn a lot from reading his work.

Now, on with the story. Before this chapter starts, I'd like to remind everyone that this fic occurs right before the events of "Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's".

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My name is Kyle Stevens… I've often called myself a "ruin maniac", which basically means I'm an archaeologist without any formal training.

As such, the ancient world fascinates me, but there are some things in it that are so mysterious. Take the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, structures like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, and especially, the Great Pyramids of Giza. These miracles of engineering would have been difficult to build even with modern technology, but somehow, ancient civilizations managed to construct them.

With every question that archaeology answers, it seems that two new ones are found that you have to solve…

I came to this junkyard hoping to find answers… But I have my doubts…

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DUEL FORTY-TWO

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Junk Barrage

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As the three teenagers walked down the hallway, Andy spoke up.

"Guys…" he said. "How do you think Iris became the Shadow Queen?"

"I think that was pretty clear," said Stan.

"No, Stan," said Francesca, "We heard the why, but not the how. It seems kind of strange that Iris could have gone from a starving, penniless beggar to a sorceress leading an army of demons in only a year."

"Maybe she made a friend in that forest," muttered Stan. "Someone who offered her anything she wanted, so long as she signed her name on a contract that he had oh-so-conveniently brought…"

"The thought did cross my mind," said Andy, "but there is one big flaw in that theory…

"When a mortal makes a deal with the Devil, what's the mortal's end of the bargain?"

"He promises his soul, I believe," replied Francesca.

"So… Why would such a contract include immortality with the deal?" asked Andy. "The mortal would have to die in order for the Devil to collect the fee.

"It's got to be something completely different…"

Meanwhile, the Shadow Queen was watching, with a very unpleasant look on her face. She was holding an ice pack to her head to try to ease the pain from the headache that the confrontation with Diana had caused (it wasn't helping much) and what she was hearing now only made it worse.

Well, this changes everything… she thought. When I get my hands on Merlow, I'm going to have him impaled…

"My Queen…" said a voice.

The Queen turned as Grodus walked in.

"You are so lucky Grodus," she said. "If you had come in two minutes earlier, I'd have had to kill you."

Grodus froze in place. He knew better than to say anything. When the Queen said something like that, you were better off not knowing why. Especially since he was still sore from when she had slugged him fifteen minutes ago.

She turned back to the now dark crystal ball.

Still… she thought If they really want to know, I guess it wouldn't hurt…

As soon as this headache gets better…

0000000000

Meanwhile, Kyle was walking down a hallway, not far from where the three of them were, cautiously looking around, his Duel Disk ready.

"Hello," said a voice.

Kyle turned around, and saw the Witty Phantom casually leaning against the wall, the brim of his hat covering his eyes.

"You again…" said Kyle, suspiciously.

"How's it going, Kyle?" asked the Duel Spirit.

"What do you want?" replied Kyle.

He still had bruises from the puzzle that he had to solve, just as Stan, Andy, and Francesca had.

The Phantom tipped the brim of his hat upward, and looked at the ruin maniac.

"Why so suspicious?" he asked. "I can't help admire that Monster of yours… That big Machine with 3,000 Attack Points…"

"Ancient Gear Golem?" asked Kyle.

"You know the story behind the Ancient Gears?" asked the Phantom. "How they're supposedly medieval machines?"

He chuckled.

"As an archaeologist, you probably know that's hogwash… A real engineer or mechanic of that time period couldn't have conceived such devices, much less built them…

"I'm not saying it's not possible, of course. If by some chance someone did uncover one in an archaeological dig… They would label it an… Out of Place Artifact…

"A who?" asked Kyle.

"Out of Place Artifacts!" said the Phantom, as he stood up straight. "Surely you've heard of them…

"Stonehenge… Mayan Crystal Skulls… The Moai of Easter Island… That sort of thing…

"Artifacts that by all logic, shouldn't exist, things that could never have been created using the technology available to the ancient cultures that they are identified with, but somehow do exist…

"There's great power in these strange artifacts…"

He stepped aside.

"Keep going down the hallway… you'll find a duelist who'll lead you to them."

Then he turned around, and vanished into the darkness.

Kyle still didn't trust him… Yet, at the same time, his curiosity was piqued.

He slowly walked further down the hall, and found a door to the side.

Well, I've got to start somewhere… he thought.

He opened the door.

0000000000

The next thing he knew, he was in what appeared to be a junkyard.

Surrounding him were piles of garbage and rusty scrap metal. Among the piles of scrap were car corpses, mounds of old tires, and dented oil drums. Pools of black sludge were on the ground.

He looked up, and saw a dark, cloudy sky.

Not exactly the type of place where you'd expect to find a treasure, he thought.

And even if there was something hidden here, how would I find it? You could hide a battleship in a mess like this…

He started to walk forward, carefully maneuvering around the piles of scrap…

Then he stopped.

A large clearing had been made in the junk. In the center, sitting on what looked like an old car engine was a man-shaped creature, in a pose suggesting that it was thinking very hard. Sort of like Rodin's "The Thinker".

"Uh, hello?" said Kyle.

The creature looked up at him.

It was an odd-looking creature. It seemed to be a mechanical being that was put together by scrap metal and odd pieces of junk. Still, it seemed to be well-built, and in no danger of falling apart, its blue covering in rather good condition. It had red lenses for eyes, two wing-like objects protruding from its shoulders, and a white scarf around its neck.

The strange creature said nothing as Kyle looked at it and it looked back.

"Uh, hi?" said Kyle.

The Duel Spirit looked squarely at him, but didn't answer.

"Hello?" said Kyle.

Still nothing.

"Uh, hey…" said Kyle. "I was kind of expecting to find someone around here who could duel… But…"

"Duel?" said the creature.

It leapt off its seat, giving Kyle quite a shock.

(2,300 ATK)

"Yes," it said. "Yes! I can duel!"

It held up its right arm, and it changed shape. A collapsible Duel Disk quickly unfolded, one that, like the rest of the creature, seemed to be made of makeshift material and cast-off parts. It was rather hard to imagine that it could work.

"O-kay…" said Kyle.

He didn't know what to make of this, because it certainly didn't seem like a conversation. Still, apparently this creature did want to duel, and it was likely the only way he was going to get anywhere.

Kyle activated his Disk.

"Okay, I…"

He stopped.

"Oh, right… The Deckmaster thing…"

The odd Monster didn't say anything, so Kyle took his deck, and looked through his cards.

"Okay…" he said. "I choose…Giant Soldier of Stone!"

There was a rumble, and a very large statue holding two swords appeared behind him. (1,300 ATK)

"Then the first move is yours," said his opponent.

(Kyle: 8,000) - - - - - - - - - - (Junk Warrior: 8,000)

"Eh?" said Kyle. "But…"

Then he stopped.

Of course… he thought. He's his own Deckmaster, right?

Okay, let's give this a shot…

He drew his sixth card.

All right! he thought. This is gonna be easy…

"I'll throw these cards face-down," he said, as a set Monster and a set card behind it appeared. "Then we'll see what you've got…"

The creature drew a card.

"I will summon Giant Rat," it said, as the small rodent appeared with a chittering noise. (1,400 ATK)

"I then play the Continuous Spell, Weapon Change," the Duel Spirit said, as it fit a card into its Disk, causing it to appear in front of him. "And my move is complete…"

Giant Rat, thought Kyle, as he made another draw. That could be trouble, but I can't give up this chance.

"I activate the Miracle Rupture Spell Card," he said, as he played a card. "I take one Rock Monster from my deck, and send it to the Graveyard…"

He discarded a Mine Golem.

"Then, I reshuffle," he said, as he shuffled his deck, "and draw once…"

He made a draw.

"Then, my Call of the Haunted activates," he said, as his Trap lifted up.

Mine Golem appeared in front of him. (1,000 ATK)

"And that means I can sacrifice both Monsters…"

Mine Golem and his set Monster vanished…

Ancient Gear Golem loomed over the field, its red optic sensor flashing. (3,000 ATK)

"Smash Giant Rat!" shouted Kyle. "Mechanized Melee!"

The huge robot threw its first forward, crushing the small Beast. Strangely, its owner barely even flinched.

"I use Giant Rat's effect," said the Duel Spirit, as a sixth card materialized next to its other five. "And summon Junk Robot Camelcycle."

Another Machine appeared that could best be described as a bunch of spare parts lashed together vaguely in the shape of a camel, standing on two rickety wheels. (800 ATK)

"And due to my Deckmaster effect, whenever I Special Summon a Warrior or Machine-Type Monster with 1,000 Attack Points of less, I gain 600 Life Points.

Junk Robots? thought Kyle. What in the world are those?

"I end my turn…" he said.

(K: 8,000) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 7,000)

The Spirit drew a card, and then played one.

"It's now my Standby Phase," it said, "so I can activate Weapon Change's effect. It lets me pay 700 Life Points to switch the Attack and Defense Scores of a Warrior or Machine-Type Monster.

"So I'll do that to Junk Robot Camelcycle."

(1,600 ATK)

"Then I use Eco Spell Reduce Waste," it continued. "Via this card, I am able to select two Junk Robots from my deck and banish them. In exchange for that, I am able to select a third from my deck and add it to my hand."

A new card appeared alongside its other ones.

"Next, I play Eco Spell Recycle," it continued, as it played another Spell Card, "which allows me to Special Summon the two banished Junk Robots. I thus Special Summon the two copies of Junk Robot Computerkong that I banished when I used the first Eco Spell."

Two strange Machines appeared in a beam of light. They were man-sized, looked vaguely like gorillas, and seemed to have been cobbled together from old computer monitors and cabinets. (1,000 ATK)

"Again, I gain 600 Life Points."

Well, now I know what Junk Robots are, thought Kyle. Not sure what they DO yet…

"Then, I use the effects of my two Junk Robot Computerkongs," said the creature. "By sacrificing one, I can increase the Attack Score of another Junk Robot by 800 points.

"I thus sacrifice both of them to increase the Attack Score of Junk Robot Camelcycle by 1,600 points."

Kyle's eyes opened wide as the two makeshift robots vanished, and the third one shot up to an Attack Score of 3,200.

I'm never gonna live this one down… thought Kyle.

"Attack Ancient Gear Golem," said the creature.

Bolts of fiery energy shot from Camelcycle's "eyes" and tore right through the much larger robot. Kyle covered his head as it was smashed into a pile of inert junk.

(K: 7,800) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 6,900)

Man, this guy is pretty good! thought Kyle. The way he used a bunch of weak Monsters to bring down a strong one… Not easy to do…

"I end my turn," said the creature, "which means that the effects of Weapon Change and both Computerkongs wear off."

(800 ATK)

Kyle looked at the Duel Spirit.

"Who are you?" he asked.

It looked at him for a minute.

"Who do you think I am?" it answered.

"I have no idea…" said Kyle.

"That's the point," it replied. "Even I don't know for sure who I am. I'm not even sure if I was anything before I came to this place, full of trash and scrap metal…

"I know I'm here for some reason… But I'm not sure what it is…"

This is weird… thought Kyle.

He drew a card.

This isn't the strongest Monster, he thought, but at least it can beat Camelcycle…

"I summon Ancient Gear Soldier," he said, as he played a card.

A much smaller – but still rather large – version of Ancient Gear Golem, with a machine gun in place of its right hand appeared in front of him. (1,300 ATK)

"Attack Junk Robot Camelcycle with Rapid Fire Shot!"

The Machine aimed its gun, and fired burning hot lead at the piecemeal Monster as spent shells dropped from its magazine. Camelcycle was literally torn into its component pieces as the bullets hit.

(K: 7,800) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 6,400)

"I'll set this," he said, as a hidden card appeared in his Spell Zone, "and I end my turn…"

The strange creature drew a card.

It set one, and a face-down card appeared in its Spell Zone.

It looked hard at Kyle.

"A Trap Card?" laughed Kyle, as he made a draw. "I suppose you don't know how Ancient Gears work… Show him, Soldier! Attack him directly!"

The Soldier opened fire, and the Spirit groaned a little.

"I knew that activating it in response to your Ancient Gear's attack was impossible," it replied, "but I actually wanted you to attack me…"

The Trap Card lifted up.

"Because since you attacked directly, I can activate Recycling Drive now that you're done attacking and Special Summon Junk Robot Teapot Kangaroo from my deck."

The Monster that appeared next had a name that fit it perfectly. It looked like an old, metal teapot standing on end, with arms, legs, and a kangaroo's head on the spout. Its pouch (which was where the teapot's lid would be) had three baby mechanical kangaroos in it, although exactly how a Machine-Type Monster could have young to care for kind of defied logic. (800 ATK)

"Again, I gain 600 Life Points from my Deckmaster effect."

(K: 7,800) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 5,700)

"It's your move…" replied Kyle.

The creature drew a card, and put it aside.

"First, as it's my Standby Phase, I'll pay 700 Life Points to use the effect of Weapon Change on Teapot Kangaroo."

(1,200 ATK)

Something tells me he's got something else planned, thought Kyle.

The creature played another card.

"I use the Spell Card, Eco Spell Repair," it said, as it played a Spell Card. "Because I my Graveyard has exactly two Junk Robots that were sent to the Graveyard via their own effects, I can Special Summon them this turn in Defense Mode…"

The two robot gorillas appeared, kneeling in Defense Mode. (1,000 DEF x2)

"…however, I can't use their effects now. But I gain 600 Life Points from my Deckmaster effect."

Okay, I get it! thought Kyle.

"I Equip Teapot Kangaroo with the United We Stand Equip Spell," said the creature.

Kyle's eyes opened in fright as the creature shot up to an Attack Score of 3,600.

"Attack his Ancient Gear Warrior," said the creature.

Teapot Kangaroo lifted itself up with its "tail", and kicked the Ancient Gear hard with both feet, smashing it to bits.

"Ugh…" groaned Kyle.

(K: 5,500) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 5,600)

"I end my turn…" said the creature. "So the effect of Weapon Change wears off once again."

(3,200 ATK)

Kyle looked at his deck, and then made a draw.

It was his third Mine Golem. He looked at the card he had set, and then the other cards in his hand, Golden Form, Monster Reincarnation, Hieracosphinx, and Symbol of Heritage.

"I use Monster Reincarnation," he said, as he played the Spell. "So, I ditch this card…"

He discarded Mine Golem.

"And I get back my Ancient Gear Golem…"

He took the card from his Graveyard slot.

Then he looked at his opponent. This guy had the best poker face that he had ever seen, but he still had to try to sound confident.

"I know what you're thinking," he said, "I still need to swap two Monsters for it, right? Well, maybe, maybe not…"

His facedown card lifted up.

"This Trap Card is called Level Conversion Lab. First thing I've got to do is show you one of my Monsters..."

He turned Ancient Gear Golem forward again.

"Then, I roll one die," he said.

A small die fell into his hand.

"If I roll a one, I lose this card," he continued. "Any other number, and that's the Level of Ancient Gear Golem for the rest of the turn.

"So… Here we go…"

He tossed the die, and it started to roll.

Come on… he thought.

Then it came to rest on the three.

"Eureka!" he shouted. "That means Ancient Gear Golem is Level 3, meaning I don't have to sacrifice squat to summon it!"

He played the card, and the huge robot rose onto the field again. (3,000 ATK)

The problem is, he thought, it isn't strong enough to defeat Teapot Kangaroo… If I attacked one of the Computerkongs, I'd do 2,000 points of damage, and the Kangaroo would lose 800 Attack Points…

But he could still summon another Monster next turn, making it risky either way…

"Junk his Junk Robot Computerkong on the left with Mechanized Melee!" he shouted.

The huge Golem threw its mighty fist again, and one of the two defending Computerkongs was crushed like tinfoil…

"Eh…" said Kyle, as the dust started to clear.

Then, to his surprise, his opponent only had one Monster remaining, the other Computerkong.

"Wha?" he said. "What happened to your Teapot Kangaroo?"

"I used its effect," replied the Duel Spirit. "By sending it to the Graveyard when your Golem's attack struck, the damage it did was reduced to zero."

"O-kay…" said Kyle, looking at it strangely. "Think I'll be ending my turn now…"

The creature drew a card, and quickly played it.

"I activate Eco Spell Biodegradable," it said. "I can now banish three Eco Spells with different names in my Graveyard, and then make two draws."

Three cards – Eco Spell Reduce Waste, Eco Spell Recycle, and Eco Spell Repair – appeared and then vanished. It drew twice.

"But I also have to skip my Battle Phase this turn. I'll set a Monster and this as well…"

A reversed Monster and a card in its Spell Zone appeared.

"…and my turn is over…"

"Okay…" said Kyle.

He drew a card. He looked at it closely for a minute.

Don't think I'll use that one just yet… he thought.

"Ancient Gear Golem…" he said.

Then his opponent's Trap Card lifted up.

"Threatening Roar?" sighed Kyle. "Okay… Guess in that case, I pass this turn… It's your move…"

The creature drew. It looked at Kyle and paused.

"I flip Junk Robot Cleannaga into Attack Mode," it said.

Its set Monster flipped up, and an old-fashioned canister vacuum cleaner, its nozzle swaying menacingly like a cobra would, appeared. (1,200 ATK)

"Then," is said, as it played a Spell Card, "I play Monster Reborn."

The shimmering holy symbol appeared, and Junk Robot Teapot Kangaroo appeared. (800 ATK)

"Once more, I gain 600 Life Points due to my Deckmaster effect. Now, I sacrifice my three Monsters…"

All three of the Junk Robots turned to stone, and then shattered into brittle pieces…

Three sacrifices? thought Kyle. What…

Before he could question this further, the mounds of junk and trash around them started to shake. Then, pieces of junk started to fly off the piles, towards his opponent's side of the field. Old and broken toasters, blenders, microwave ovens, television sets, auto parts, and even a refrigerator… All of this old junk started to fit together, slowly growing into a vaguely humanoid shape…

Eventually, it had turned into a mechanical being that was just as big as Ancient Gear Golem, made entirely of junk that seemed to have been put together in the most haphazard fashion. Two high-powered headlights turned on at the top, forming what could pass for eyes on its roughly-defined head. (0 ATK)

"It has no points…" said Kyle.

"Junk Behemoth starts at zero," replied his opponent. "However, despite being a Level 10 Monster, I can Normal Summon it with one sacrifice… Or with three. And its Attack Score is 1,000 per sacrifice used."

(3,000 ATK)

"In addition," it continued, "it can activate up to two effects when summoned, depending on how many of the sacrifices were Junk Robots. If at least two of them were, I get to draw twice…"

It made two more draws.

"And if all three of sacrifices were Junk Robots, it destroys all cards on the field except itself."

"No… Way…" said Kyle.

Then a blast of purple flames radiated from the base of Junk Behemoth in all directions. Incinerating the Weapon Change card and smashing Ancient Gear Golem to particles.

"I believe the correct response," replied the Duel Spirit, "is 'way'.

"Attack directly with Infernal Combustion Blast."

The creature lifted its arms, and two devices that looked like flamethrowers appeared on the sides. Kyle wanted to run, but he knew that in a duel, that was really impossible…

He screamed as the burning fire scorched his skin…

(K: 2,500) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 6,200)

He rubbed his head as he sat up.

Infernal Combustion Blast? he thought. Really didn't take this guy for much of a sense of humor…

"I set two cards face-down," said the creature, as two reversed cards appeared behind Junk Behemoth, "and then it's your move…"

Kyle got up.

He drew a card, and then looked at Giant Soldier of Stone behind him.

"I play Symbol of Heritage," he said, as he played a Spell Card. "Because I have three copies of the same Monster in my Graveyard, I can Special Summon one of them, so long as I Equip it with this card."

One of his three Mine Golems appeared, kneeling and shielding itself. (1,900 DEF)

"Then, I'll set these…" as he threw two of his remaining four cards into his Disk, causing them to appear set behind Mine Golem.

"Over to you…"

The Spirit made a draw.

"I use the Spell Card, Shield Crush…" it said.

Kyle grit his teeth as the card appeared, and a bolt of energy shot towards the defending Mine Golem…

However, the bolt glanced off its rocky hide.

"Eh?" said his opponent.

"Your card didn't work," said Kyle, with a nervous smile, "thanks to my Deckmaster. See, once per turn, it can prevent a Rock-Type Monster that's in Defense Mode from being destroyed by a card effect."

"In that case…" said the creature.

One of its set cards lifted up.

"I activate the Meteorain Trap Card."

Junk Behemoth pointed again, and its infernal flame shot at Mine Golem. Kyle screamed again.

"Yeah?" he gasped. "Due to Mine Golem's effect, you lose 500 Life Points!"

"I end my turn…" said the creature.

(K: 1,400) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 5,700)

"Here goes!" shouted Kyle.

He drew a card.

"Got it!" he shouted. "I summon Ancient Gear Statue!"

He played the card, and the small bust of Ancient Gear Golem materialized. (500 ATK)

"Next, I play… Ancient Gear Workshop!" he said, as he played a Spell Card. "It lets me recover Ancient Gear Golem again."

He took the card from his discard slot.

"And due to my Statue's effect, I can break the rules and Special Summon it by sacrificing the Statue."

The small statue appeared, and once again, the huge robot rose onto the field… But this time, something seemed very amiss. It was kneeling and crossing its arms. (3,000 DEF)

Kyle's opponent looked puzzled.

"You Special Summoned it in Defense Mode?" it asked.

"Yes I did," said Kyle, "after all, if I had summoned it in Attack Mode, it could only have battled your Junk Behemoth to a draw…

"But by summoning it in Defense Mode, I can use my two face-down cards…"

One of the two set cards lifted up.

"First, Zero Gravity!" he said. "Now all Monsters on the field switch Modes."

Ancient Gear Golem stood up. (3,000 ATK) Junk Behemoth, on the other hand, simply slumped down into a heap. (0 DEF)

"Yeah, I figured that guy wasn't exactly designed with defending in mind," said Kyle. "Now to finish this duel…

"Because my Monster switched its Battle Position, I can use my Quickplay Spell…"

His other set card lifted up.

"Golden Form!"

The results were dramatic. Ancient Gear Golem's rusty grey armor was quickly replaced by a shiny, shimmering, gold-plated covering.

"The Spell not only gives my Golem a spiffy new paint job, it doubles its Attack Score until my next turn."

(6,000 ATK)

"Which means… It's time to take out the trash… Attack Junk Behemoth with Mechanized Melee!"

Ancient Gear Golem Gold threw back its fist, and threw a sold punch so fierce that it made the whole junkyard shake. Kyle's opponent didn't truly scream, but was propelled backwards, crashing into a pile of trash behind him…

(K: 1,400) - - - - - - - - - - (JW: 0)

"Good lord, what have I done?" thought Kyle, as the Golem vanished.

He rushed up to where the creature had fallen…

Miraculously, while it seemed to be a little dented, it was still in one piece. It was holding its head, as if dizzy, and slowly starting to stand.

It looked at Kyle for a minute, still holding its head.

"I…" it said.

Then a sudden look of insight came into its eyes.

"I think someone is calling me…" it said. "Someone… Someone who needs me…

"I… I have to go…"

Then it simply vanished, in a dark, shadowy mist.

"Weird…" said Kyle.

He wondered if he'd ever find out what that was all about…

Then he saw a small, glowing box on the car engine where it had originally been sitting.

Cautiously, he approached it, and opened the small pine box. Inside was a stack of cards…

He looked at them.

"Eh?" he said. "OOPArts?"

He thought for a minute.

"Oh…" he said. "It's an acronym… Out of Place Artifacts…"

He started looking through the cards.

Hmm, not without their charm… he thought.

Say… This one has potential…

Maybe I'll hold onto them for a while…

0000000000

Fifteen minutes earlier…

Stan, Andy, and Francesca were still cautiously walking down the corridor…

Then they froze in fear. She was standing to the side in front of them, looking at them.

Previously, they had only seen the Shadow Queen through her projected illusions. Now, seeing her in person for the first time sent chills down their spines. Looking upon her dark and sinister beauty was like a waking nightmare.

Stan was even more scared than his two allies. Was this what Bleck had meant? Had she decided to finally face him personally? As much as he wanted this to be over, he wasn't sure if he could, especially now that she was right in front of him.

"Wh-what do you want…" he stammered.

"This is my Palace…" said the Queen. "I have every right to be here."

"Y-yeah, but we didn't expect to see you so soon…" said Francesca.

"I'd be a pretty lousy host if I neglected my guests," she replied.

She looked at them for a few seconds with a cold glance.

"You used my real name," she finally said. "Merlow told you, I assume?"

"As a matter of fact, he didn't!" shouted Stan, getting a little braver.

"And if you think we're going to tell you who did…" added Andy.

The Queen looked at them with flames burning in her eyes. Their sudden burst of courage evaporated.

Then the flames vanished, and she looked at them with a calmer, but still cross look. She leaned against the wall.

"You know…" she said, with a tired sigh. "I didn't plan to kill you three originally… I had even planned to keep your suffering to a minimum… I knew that you had never signed up for this, and that it was never your idea…

"Most people who work here think that the ninth layer of my prison is the most horrible place in this Palace, the darkest Hell my mind could create. They think that I was saving it for you three… They were wrong… Its purpose has nothing to do with you at all.

"But now that you know who I am, my plan has changed… People who know who I am can't be allowed to live…"

She just looked at them for a minute. They didn't say anything, expecting her to say something else.

Eventually, she did.

"You wanted to know how I went from 'a starving, penniless beggar to a sorceress leading an army of demons in only a year', as you put it?

"I'm willing to tell you, on one condition…"

"What?" gulped Andy.

"It counts as your last request if this whole thing turns out in my favor!" she exclaimed. "Deal?"

"Yeah I'm… I'm fine with that…" said Francesca.

Stan and Andy nodded. They had a feeling that she didn't intend to offer them much in the first place.

The Queen sighed.

"After my brothers' deaths, I fled into that forest," she said, "and I quickly became lost. In my rage and grief, I lost track of where I was going, and before I knew it, I had no idea how to get back to the city. Not that I would have gone back to beg for aid at that point… I was determined to keep the last thing I had left: my pride.

"Still… If I thought I was hungry before, I was now in even worse shape. It wasn't the right season for berries or nuts, and I lacked both the skills and the tools I needed to hunt or trap anything.

"Water was a little easier to find, but after several days, it got to a point where I knew that a whole lake of it wouldn't help me.

"Eventually, starvation took its toll. I became too weak to go any further, and collapsed.

"I lay there with my mind full of fog, almost certain that I was going to die, and even more certain that no-one was going to care. Likely, no-one would even know. I figured that if I was very lucky, some hunter or furrier might find my bones in ten years and bury them out of pity in an unmarked grave, the best I would ever get…

"And it was then that a soft voice spoke to me. A male voice that seemed charming and elegant. He offered to not only save my life, but make me more powerful than I could ever have hoped to be…

"All he wanted was for me to swear allegiance to him.

"I didn't know who he was then, but I was too desperate to question. I said yes.

"As I did so, I gained enough strength to sit up, and found that a bush that had peculiar fruit had sprouted up next to me. They tasted downright terrible, but by eating them, the bargain I had made was sealed.

"So I was taken to a place… A sort of institution run by demons… I won't go into detail about the eight months I spent there. I was tortured horribly by those creatures, as my body was literally taken apart, reshaped, and then put back together. It wasn't until four months into the ordeal that I met my benefactor and found out who he was, after which he visited regularly to keep tabs on how I was doing…

"It was excruciating, yes, but it was making me stronger, training me and preparing me for my new role and my new life.

"After eight months, those demonic torturers bowed before me and called me master. I was stronger than they were. I had become the Proxy of Graz'zt."

"Graz'zt?" said Stan.

"An exceptional guy," said the Shadow Queen, with a smile.

Clearly this is the "dark entity" that Vivian spoke of, thought Stan.

"And what's a 'proxy'?" asked Francesca.

"The greatest mortal servant of a divine entity," replied the Shadow Queen. "All such beings have mortal followers, but a proxy is the most powerful among them. Even better than a high priest who worships a god… The proxy has actually met the god.

"There are some detractors who say that a mortal who agrees to be a proxy is actually agreeing to become a willing slave to the entity in question, and in a lot of ways, it's the truth… Still…"

Her eyes glowed with evil light, and a ball of flame appeared in her hands.

"Graz'zt kept his end of the bargain…" she said. "I became more powerful than the people in that city could have ever dreamed!

"So I gained my revenge…"

"And decided not to stop there, I take it," said Andy. "Iris, it wasn't their fault for what happened to your brothers…"

"Oh, spare me!" replied the Queen, as the fires went out. "Like I've never heard that before, the old 'it didn't have to happen the way it did' routine.

"Let me tell you something, Andy… Maybe it could have turned out differently… But I like how I am. I never regretted the deal I made with Graz'zt for one minute, not even during the eight months of horrid pain I spent at that facility.

"I actually liked the pain after about a week, and the pain made me feel power, which I liked even more…

"I still like it! Love it, in fact."

They looked at her in horror as she smiled at them wickedly.

"So…" she said. "I recommend you keep quiet about who I am, what my real name is, and what my history is… Because anyone that you tell will die horribly once I find out.

"Continue as you were, and good luck..."

She turned around, and started to fade into the darkness.

"…you're gonna need it…"

She vanished.

"What a grouch!" exclaimed Francesca.

Then she was startled as the Queen appeared in front of her again.

"Listen, Francesca," she said with a frown, "if you had been cooped up in this place for the past ten centuries, you wouldn't be all sunshine and smiles either."

Then she vanished again.

The three of them felt their chests… It was several minutes before their hearts started beating at the regular rates, and even longer before they dared move from that spot again.

Eventually, they started walking down the corridor again.

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JUNK ROBOT CAMELCYCLE (Monster Card)

Machine/Earth/Effect/Lvl4/800ATK/1,600DEF

Effect: You can send this face-up card you control to the Graveyard to target 1 "Eco Spell" card in your Graveyard. Add the selected card to your hand.

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JUNK ROBOT CLEANNAGA (Monster Card)

Machine/Earth/Effect/Lvl4/1,200ATK/800DEF

Effect: You can send this face-up card you control to the Graveyard to target 1 "Junk Robot" Monster in your Graveyard. Add the selected card to your hand.

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JUNK ROBOT TEAPOT KANGAROO (Monster Card)

Machine/Earth/Effect/Lvl3/800ATK/1,200DEF

Effect: If you would take Battle Damage, you may reduce the damage you would take to zero by sending this card you control to the Graveyard.

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JUNK ROBOT COMPUTERKONG (Monster Card)

Machine/Earth/Effect/Lvl4/1,000ATK/1,000DEF

Effect: You can send this face-up card you control to the Graveyard to target 1 face-up "Junk Robot" Monster you control. It gains 800 Attack Points until the End Phase of the turn.

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ECO SPELL RECYCLE (Spell Card)

Normal Spell

Image: The image on this card was unclear.

Card Description: Target 2 "Junk Robot" Monsters that were banished via the effect of an "Eco Spell" card. Special Summon them.

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ECO SPELL REDUCE WASTE (Spell Card)

Normal Spell

Image: The image on this card was unclear.

Card Description: Select 2 "Junk Robot" Monsters from your deck, and banish them. Then, add 1 "Junk Robot" Monster from your deck to your hand.

Note: The Junk Robot and Eco Spell cards were first used by Obomi in the "Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal" episode "Battle with the Bot". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

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GOLDEN FORM (Spell Card)

Quickplay Spell

Image: Gogogo Golem surrounded by an explosive, golden aura.

Card Description: Activate when 1 (exactly) Defense Position Monster you control is moved to Attack Position. The ATK of that Monster is doubled until your next Standby Phase.

Note: "Golden Form" was first used by Yuma in the "Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal" episode #062. Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

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ECO SPELL REPAIR (Spell Card)

Normal Spell

Image: Junk Robot Computerkong trying to fix a broken Junk Robot Camelcycle.

Card Description: If you have 2 (exactly) "Junk Robot" Monsters in your Graveyard that were sent to the Graveyard via their own effects: Special Summon them in face-up Defense Position. This turn, the Special Summoned Monsters cannot use their effects and cannot be Tributed.

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ECO SPELL BIODEGRADABLE (Spell Card)

Normal Spell

Image: Junk Robot Cleannaga vacuuming up several Duel Monsters Spell Cards, "Pot of Greed", "Graceful Charity", "Pot of Avarice", and "Mirage of Nightmare" among them.

Card Description: Select 3 "Eco Spell" cards in your Graveyard that have different names and banish them. Draw 2 cards. Skip your Battle Phase this turn.

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RECYCLING DRIVE (Trap Card)

Normal Trap

Image: The guy from the "Junk Dealer" card examining the head of a Junk Robot Computerkong with the body leaning against a bin that holds an inert Junk Robot Camelcycle and Junk Robot Cleannaga.

Card Description: Activate at the end of your opponent's Battle Phase if you took damage from a direct attack this turn. Special Summon 1 "Junk Robot" Monster from your hand or deck.

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JUNK BEHEMOTH (Monster Card)

Machine/Earth/Effect/Lvl10/0ATK/0DEF

Effect: You may Tribute Summon this card by Tributing 1, 2, or 3 Monsters (you cannot set this card). This card gains 1,000 Attack Points for each Monster used in its Tribute Summon. When this card is Tribute Summoned, activate the following cumulative effects depending on the number of "Junk Robot" Monsters used as a Tribute for its Tribute Summon: 2 or 3: Draw 2 cards. 3: Destroy every card on the field except this one.

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"Giant Soldier of Stone": Rock/Earth/Level3/1,300ATK/2,000DEF: "Solid Rock": When a Rock-Type Monster you control is in face-up Defense Position, once per turn, it cannot be destroyed by a Spell, Trap, or Monster effect.

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"Junk Warrior": Warrior/Dark/Synchro/Level5/2,300/1,300:"Blessed Are the Meek": When you Special Summon 1 or more Warrior or Machine-Type Monsters with 1,000 ATK or less, gain 600 Life Points.

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The heroes have learned the full origin (it seems) of the Shadow Queen, but at what cost? She's signed their death warrants now, and the penalty for losing will be more horrible than ever. Even worse, it will soon become very clear that one can bend the rules VERY far without outright breaking them…

Stan: My first opponent in this tournament was the Witty Phantom, and he used a Gamble Deck. I've never put much stock in such strategies, with so much depending on chance. It worked for Katsuya Jonouchi most of the time, but even his luck wasn't perfect.

Now, the Phantom has demanded a rematch, and he claims that this time, his luck will truly be better than mine…

Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that he might have a set of loaded dice up his sleeve?

"Dice Re-Roll" is coming soon.