Katie led them into the hospital.
Entering a hospital, even when you're only there to visit someone, is never a pleasant experience. You never know what injuries or illnesses will be on display by the people in the waiting room. It could be a simple plastered wrist or a common cold, or it could be something far more serious. Thankfully, today the waiting room seemed to be mostly empty today. Better still, there was no-one queuing at the admissions desk, so the five kids were able to go straight up to the admission nurse.
"Good morning," the nurse said cheerfully. "How can I help you today?"
"Hello," Katie said. "We're here to visit a patient. Her name's Esta Maxwell, and she's in room ninety-four."
"Of course, just a moment." The nurse started typing on her computer. "Are you family?"
"No, we're school friends." James said, taking over from his girlfriend. "We've visited her a few times before."
The nurse stopped typing and looked at the screen for a few seconds, then back at them. "I'm very sorry, but her family has explicitly requested that no-one is allowed to visit Esta unless a family member is present and gives permission."
"Isn't her brother there? Keane Maxwell?" Katie asked. "He usually never leaves her side if he can help it."
The nurse shook her head. "Esta's older brother has gone to work for the day. No family members are currently with her, so I'm afraid I can't allow you to see her. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience."
Katie sighed. "That's ok. But there are some other patients that we wanted to see. Can you help us with them too?"
"Certainly, dear," the nurse smiled. "What're their names?"
Katie stepped to one side to allow best friends Dan and Leah to step up to the desk. Dan spoke first. "We'd also like to see a boy called Harrison Carter and a girl called Andrea Reeves."
"We're friends of theirs." Leah added. "They were due to have a psychological examination today."
Once again the nurse tapped away on her computer. This time when she looked up, she was smiling. "Ah yes. Andrea Reeves has just finished her examination. Harrison Carter is still in the middle of his, but if you were to visit Andrea first, then Harrison will most likely be finished by the time you're done."
"That's perfect. Thank you." Dan said.
"Of course dear," the receptionist replied. "Please follow Nurse Roberts. She'll take you to where they're staying." Another bored-looking nurse stood up and motioned for them to follow. She led them through the hospital and up a single flight of stairs to a first floor corridor. It was here that she left them.
"Just follow the hallway all the way to the end; she's in room fifteen." The nurse muttered, chewing gum the whole time. "You can't miss it." And just like that she left, clearly eager to get back to her daily routine of intense boredom.
The kids headed down the corridor and found room fifteen with ease, just like the nurse had said. Matt knocked, and almost instantly, the reply, "Come in," was heard from inside. The five of them filed in.
Compared to Esta's room, this one was quite underwhelming. It was a small room with a window, a bed, and little else - none of the fancy equipment and intensive care machinery that surrounded Esta every hour of every day. A girl was sitting on the bed, and like the nurse, she looked bored out of her skull. She had been reading a book, but she put it down the moment she saw that she had visitors. "Hey everyone!" She said enthusiastically. "How've you all been?"
Andrea was a very happy, very cheerful person, but her story wasn't a pleasant one. A few weeks ago she had dueled against a man named Skyler. Like the Deltas, Skyler was a Number hunter. He had defeated her and extracted her Number, but he hadn't kept it for long, as Dan had then proceeded to defeat him and take Andrea's Number back. Unfortunately, the extraction process had caused severe damage to Andrea's psyche. She was now terrified of anything related to dueling or Duel Monsters itself. Regular therapy and counselling had helped her immensely, but the psychological damage ran too deep to be completely cured – a person only had to mention dueling and she would start to panic and hyperventilate.
This meant that the five kids had to be extremely careful about what they said around her. It certainly didn't make the conversation very easy.
"Hey there, Andrea!" Katie grinned. They all took turns hugging her, then sat down in chairs placed around her bed for just such an occasion. "So how've you been doing?"
"Pretty well," she replied. "I'll be out of the hospital soon, but I have to keep coming back for counselling sessions."
Vaguely, Matt wondered how much of her ordeal Andrea remembered. It was certainly an interesting thought, but he didn't dare ask her. He might accidentally stir up memories best left forgotten.
"Honestly, I would've thought you'd have been let out by now," Dan was saying. "Your physical injuries weren't that bad."
She shrugged. "Apparently I've got some nerve damage in my wrist or something," she said. "I just can't wait to get out of here and back to school! There's nothing to do here. I'm so bored!" She then looked at each of them in turn. "Anyway, come on then. I want to hear what you've been up to these last few days."
Leah was the first to speak. "Well, yesterday Dan tried to bake us an apple pie for lunch-"
"And we use the loosest possible definition of the term bake." James cut in. "And pie."
"Hey, my pie was a work of art. It was perfect." Dan said indignantly. The others looked at him sceptically. "What?"
Leah giggled. "Dan... you covered five whole apples with breadcrumbs. That doesn't constitute an apple pie." Dan started to argue back, then sat back in his chair and folded his arms with a huff.
Andrea giggled. "Oh, you guys do make me laugh," she said happily.
"Oh, you should've seen him yesterday," James laughed. "Right after we got back from duel practise, he tried to cook a-" he stopped there. His eyes widened in shock as he realised what he'd just said. He had mentioned the unmentionable. Katie clapped her hand over his mouth to stop him from saying anything else, but the damage had already been done.
Andrea's eyes had widened, her pupils visibly dilated, a look of pure terror on her face. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped herself into a tight ball, shaking and gasping for air. The Deltas stood up and moved away from her bed in shock as two doctors and three nurses hurried into the room. "I'm afraid..." one of the nurses said to them, "...that visiting time might be over for you."
James bowed his head in shame. "Sorry."
The nurse smiled. "It's ok. It's an easy mistake to make, but we have to calm her down now. We'll give her a shot, but that'll knock her out for a couple of hours."
Matt took over. "That's not a problem, ma'am, we'll leave now. Thank you for your help." The nurse nodded, but couldn't talk any longer because the doctors needed to start the procedure. The five kids left the room to stay out of the way.
With Andrea asleep and Harrison still in his counselling session, the Deltas were at a bit of a loss of what to do now. They briefly entertained the idea of going to the shops, but the mood was gloomy after seeing Andrea's state, so they were pretty much resigned to going back to their apartment. Fortunately, Matt's bleeping D-Gazer stopped them. He fished it out of his bag and answered. "Hello?"
It was the Professor. It was always the Professor.
"Hello my children." Professor Usur said. He seemed to be a lot more jovial than usual. "We're just had word from our tracking team - looks like you're all going to work again."
Matt sighed. "Alright, send us the coordinates and we'll get searching right aw-"
"Please let me finish, Matthew." The Professor said, suddenly irritable. "As I was about to say, there are two signals, both emanating from similar distances to the North and to the West of your current location."
"Two Numbers?" Matt queried. The other Deltas, listening to the conversation, perked up at the mention of multiple Numbers.
"Indeed." Usur replied. "In this scenario, I strongly recommend that you split into two groups to hunt the Numbers more quickly, rather than sticking together."
"I agree, sir," Matt said, though he actually didn't like the idea at all.
Once again, the Professor seemed cheery. "Excellent. Well then, I'll leave it to you, shall I?" Without waiting for a response, he ended the call.
Matt removed his D-Gazer and turned to the others. "Well, you heard right. Looks like we've got two Numbers to deal with, and the Professor suggested that we split into teams to look for them." Nobody said anything, but then no-one needed to. They all knew that the couple, James and Katie, wouldn't be separated. They also knew that closest-of-friends Leah and Dan would stay together. That just left the question of who Matt was going with.
Matt knew he was about to make a foolish decision. The most logical choice would be to go with James and Katie. James wasn't much of a duelist, so by going with them, he would ensure that there would be at least two competent duelists in each group. But still, there was something in the other group that was strange, something he wanted to keep an eye on...
"I'll go with Dan and Leah." Matt said. If the others doubted his decision, they didn't show it. That alone spoke volumes about their respect for Matt and his leadership skills. "Alright, so we know our teams. We shouldn't waste any time: the Numbers are only about a fifteen minutes' walk from here, but they could move on at any time." That was all he needed to say. The five of them turned and walked briskly towards the stairs again. They couldn't run whilst in a hospital, but they walked as fast as they dared down the stairs, through the double doors (ignoring the receptionist's quizzical look) and out into the car park. Once outside, they said a hasty farewell to each other before splitting into groups and jogging off in two directions.
"Hey, Katie," James said the moment they were out of hearing distance.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"You know that it's probably going to be you who duels this Number holder, right?" James panted, already struggling to keep up with his athletically fit girlfriend.
She laughed, not breaking her stride. "Of course. You always have to rely on your big strong girlfriend to protect you from the mean, scary Numbers-"
James practically tripped over himself. "That's not what I meant at all," he gasped, "I just meant that, since you're a lot better than me, it would be the logical decision to have you duel instead of me."
"Haha, yeah, I know what you meant," she giggled, "but teasing you is just so much fun."
*WITH THE OTHERS*
Matt, Leah and Dan were all of similar builds and fitness levels, so they ran at a pace which they all knew they could manage, heading towards their next Number.
Elsewhere in the city, the man known as Skyler was already on the move, zoning in on the Numbers, using the tracking technology he'd gotten when he's received his robotic right arm.
And that wasn't all. The mysterious Doctor Lithon was also stirring, mobilising his forces, preparing for battle.
The hunt was well and truly on.
Fun Fact #1: Welcome to the world of many fillers. Have a free t-shirt.
Fun Fact #2: What you are about to witness is a large collection of Number duels. Almost every duel here will include a Number, but none of these duels are relevant to the main plot. It is mainly used to show off a large collection of Decks/archetypes/Numbers that we don't have time to show in the main story. It will be updated regularly, whenever we feel like taking a short breather from the main plot.
Fun Fact #3: The reason we've structured it this way is basically to keep our filler episodes grouped together. This means you can avoid the filler simply by reading no further than this chapter. Of course, we don't recommend this. These duels will be awesome! Hopefully.
Fun Fact #4: Oh, look, there's something we almost forgot to mention. Another Ultra-Subtle Foreshadowing Hint! Did you see it? Did you? Did you? Did you?