Yifan has always loved horses, even wanting a pony when she was a little girl, and today it is the only cliche she is willing to die for. And she still loves horses to this day, so much she owns a small park in the Chinese countryside just to be with the creatures. Yes, they are swift, bold, loyal, and steadfast, but also have great intelligence: an eye for subtle details in body language, are quick in learning, possess problem solving skills, and even form associations.
As Yifan often wistfully says to herself during moments of weakness and now says to you, “How humane, how rational, free of praying and being preyed on. What would it be like if horses ruled the world?”
Yifan is glad to be away from the world. She feeds her friends carrots, caresses their noble faces, kisses them, rides them when the day is not too cold and windy. If she can save anything while the planet burns, even if it means not saving herself, it would be this small herd. She even has a bunker with provisions just for the horses. Perhaps in a different day and age she is not a monster.
Speaking of which, her phone rings, the caller none other than her girlfriend Pegasus. She picks up the phone and instantly hears his anxious voice. “Who goofed now?”
Indeed, the world blazed outside over the past three nights ever since Maya shut down New York, taking the Wall Street stock exchange with her. Yifan herself took a hit, obviously, as she had to fire the domestic staff in her country house but she withdrew many assets and converted a chunk of her savings to cash and stocks of food, clothes, and weapons sparing herself as best as she could from the worst blows.
Today, Yifan gets to see more inconveniences as already a few migrants from Beijing start camping on the fringes of her park. She can almost smell the filth of those vile people. And China’s airport shut down but using a private jet would be trite. Why not stretch her wings a bit?
Yifan sits down and meditates for about an hour, building her power, squeezing it into her center until a kind of thermonuclear fusion occurs and a star of energy is born. Yifan grows in size, her skin blackens into obsidian scales, her shoulder blades grow into wings, coarse black hair covers her body, her face stretches into the snouted face of a great bat; she transforms into her very Ka spirit. The dragon takes to the cold air and within a small moment breaks multiple times past the speed of sound, easily surpassing the SR-71 Blackbird several times over.
Yifan lands on Slide Mountain in upstate New York within less than half an hour, reverts almost back to normal, saving a little Ka left to dash down the mountain and woods to West Shokan. There, she meets a black limousine attended to by a driver. The man sees one of his employers and raises an eyebrow beneath his thick sunglasses. “How’d you get here so fast? I was wonderin’ why ya had me drive to the middle of nowhere.”
Yifan bluntly tells him the truth. “I can use the Yugioh equivalent of chi to transform into a dragon.”
The driver snubs Yifan for her joke. “And I have health insurance!”
“Lame.” Yifan says as she gets in the car. The driver chauffeurs her through miles of tent cities filled with poor and once middle class people who fled the large towns and cities over the course of three years. She briefly locks eyes with a hoary wraith of a man roasting a squirrel by a small campfire, his clothes too big for his starving body. His large intense eyes briefly flicker with hatred. And over there, as the chauffeur passes through one of the many dense new slums surrounding the city, a caravan of new migrants who clinged on to their wealth until Maya made them lose everything.
Next, New York itself, city of dead dreams. It is so different than in used to be, so quiet, dark, and empty; no lights at Times Square, hedges outgrown and uncared for, no blinking traffic lights, no traffic of any kind, every small store shattered and pillaged. Was that dried blood and a dead body? Huh. Maya could leave a bigger mess.
“Ya know,” the driver muses, “I mean, for the sake of argument, wouldn’t every military base detect ya when, ya know, ya flyin’ around and stuff.”
“I project a shield that blocks detection from any machine.” Yifan answers graciously.
The car reaches a small part of the city still alive, now gated by a small squad of guards and robots running on backup power, stopping by a KaibaCorp building. The driver bids Yifan farewell. “Tell the other bosses I said hi, will ya?”
Yifan nods and gives him a generous tip for his trouble. She enters the skyscraper not to climb to an office at the top but to descend to a large basement at the bottom. Pegasus, Kepura, Martis are there, slouching in a room that is almost completely dark. Yifan sees Kaiba working furiously at three large computers, the only source of light in the room, with Jolene and Sofia as his aids in hacking.
Yifan clears her throat, alerting everyone to her presence since she slipped in the room too quietly to be heard. “Max says hi to everyone.”
“Who on earth is Max?” Kepura asks, annoyed.
“One of our chauffeurs.” Pegasus reminds him.
Kepura snaps his fingers. “Oh, that’s right! I remember! Forgive me; I sometimes forget employees have names.”
Kaiba ignores Yifan, too busy working to revert the blackout, Jolene and Sofia doing the same. Yifan notices the two young women hurting and aching, their bodies covered in bandages. Yifan wonders why Momentum did not blow up the whole tristate area and Kaiba, as if answering her personally, addresses everyone, “Maya and whatever gophers she has under her command could only disrupt Momentum’s ability to supply electricity but Momentum itself is powered by the Millennium Items.”
And so, as logic dictates, Momentum is safe. Kaiba’s tone is confident, meaning he must be close to solving New York’s blackout problem. Within an hour – voila! – all lights in the downtown area return, almost blinding everyone in the room.
But Kaiba is not done yet. He turns to Kepura with a scowl. “You had one job, Kepura, one job: maintain the tristate area, which means guarding it, and you failed miserably. If you were my employee I would not only fire you I would rehire you just to fire you again and I would rehire you again to fire you again one hundred more times!”
Kepura clenches his aching forehead. “Look, I guard a Momentum generator and I have another job running the United States Army. I’m as overworked as an unpaid college intern. Cut me a break and take some laxative for once.”
“It’s your responsibility and your failure.” Kaiba grunts in disgust.
With that business out of the way, Pegasus proceeds to a new issue on the agenda. He produces a floppy disk from his red coat. The surviving police found this on the body of their chief. Perhaps you can play it for us. “Perhaps you can help us play it, Kaiba boy.”
“A floppy disk!” Kaiba flusters. “Who in this day and age still uses a floppy disk!? I can’t play this! None of the computers has a port for it!”
Yifan almost chokes on her own laughter. She cannot believe Maya can be this funny. “Are you telling me that you, in a room with quantum supercomputers powered by a virtual perpetual motion machine, can’t play a floppy disk?”
“Yes.” Kaiba says in a deadpan manner. He calls some security personnel and orders them to get an older computer. The guards leave and come back moments later with a big clunky box of plastic and metal, a Windows 98. He sets up the clumsy machine and puts the floppy disk in it.
Maya appears on screen, sitting behind what looks like the desk of a CEO, and behind her lie two densely packed storyboards. Maya herself is immaculate, wearing a thin black business suit and a tight black skirt with a light green shirt underneath, her only jewel a small gold necklace. Her hair is fully permed, letting her thick locks shine at their most lustrous. She might as well be the CEO of a company.
She gives the real exposition of the story. “Having it all was one of my dreams. I became a millionaire by becoming World Champion of a children’s card game. I even had a husband and a child. If I wanted to, I could have invested the prize money and created a business.” She lights up a hundred dollar bill, uses it to light a cigar, and inhales deeply, reclining into her chair. She puts her black high heels on the desk and slowly breathes out the smoke through her mouth and nostrils, looking like a raksha or a dragon.
“But I didn’t. I gave my money away and dropped off the grid for three years. Now I’m back and I need your help. I address you, mankind; your species, homo sapiens; all of you who have lived, are alive today, and will live. This is your last chance to avoid your doom. What is the threat? It is not so much the vastly wealthy masters of mankind, though they are a pretty big deal, but your very nature, your hubris.”
She points to the two storyboards behind her. “You have two doors ahead of you, one on the left and one on the right. You think one of the doors is where Momentum will lead us to a prosperous future if only big bad business is replaced with an equal just society and we save the environment. But it doesn’t matter which door you choose. It will lead to the end of our species.
Maya delivers the full salvo. “One future is our violent extinction. Momentum may give us near unlimited energy but the gifts of the earth are finite as ever. We will run out of raw materials and, when we do, every developed society, now utterly interconnected and dependent on each other, will collapse over time. As we head towards disaster, Momentum creates a growing ‘satellite’ class of slum-dwellers while fewer people hoard all the gains and use robots as slaves. But one day, when the earth is all used up, the high priests of this world will have nothing to stand against billions of starving people.
“The other future is our quiet extinction. Artificial intelligence will one day surpass us and slowly we will be assimilated into a Momentum Internet of machines. We may become cyborgs at first but we’ll become more and more machine over time until we gently go into the night. The nerds I bullied in high school of course got everything wrong when creating Momentum and the new machines you see around you. The only way we human beings can progress is not through better technology or an expanding market. It is through creative achievement.
She pulls out an old duel disk from under her desk. “As long we serve machines and money instead of machines and money serving us we will never work for our best interests. I became National Champion with this old machine serving me as a powerful weapon. I call on it once more to be my sword for one last battle. The only way to defeat the hierophants of this world is to defeat them in a shadow game as the Millennium Items power their Momentum generators. Nothing else will work. I guarantee it.
“I will destroy the high mages, knocking off one miter after another, but I can’t do it alone. Join me. Let all of us from every dispossessed slum, village, city, and bunker do this together. We can end this nightmare.” For her final assault Maya tears down the two storyboards behind her, revealing an open door streaming with sunlight. “Let’s find the third door. We must if we are going to survive and prosper. All the cards are in your hand. We can win if only you have the courage to play them. I’ll be waiting for you. We will meet again.”
The screen dissolves to static. Kaiba turns off the computer. “I don’t buy anything she said for a moment. How can anyone predict the future with such detail? She’s selling something and, as the king of a commercial empire, I know more than anyone else there is an ulterior motive behind the sales pitch. We must deduce what she’s really planning and rat her out.”
“She must be busy spreading the word.” Martis speaks up for the first time, his voice quiet and monotone as always. “The most disaffected communities are those in the so-called third world.”
Kepura picks up the logic and takes it to its conclusion. “We must devise a strategy. I suggest we aid Anubisius control the Middle East as Maya will most likely strike there. Also be prepared for the possibility of her hiding in Russia or India. It is between Anubisius’ territory and Yifan’s so control of the area is in dispute.”
Kaiba sets his eyes on Yifan’s, acknowledging her presence for the first time. Piercing deep blue eyes meet gentle dark brown ones. Kaiba can’t read her so he asks for her opinion.
And Yifan provides it. “Maya made an effective propaganda film. She constrains the viewer to see only two outcomes in a tiresome situation; both of them lead to ultimate doom. Damnation seems inevitable until she shows the way to salvation if only you, as evangelists say, open your heart and walk with her. If you accept her claims she gives you an ultimatum you can’t refuse. As for her dueling, I say it’s impressive but ultimately subpar. She will need stronger stuff than Archfiends if she hopes to defeat any of us.”
Kaiba scowls at Yifan, instantly made suspicious. Yifan is talking about Maya as if she is her mother or her after school teacher. Are they in it together? But if they are, how?
Pegasus decides to diffuse the tension. “By the way, Yifan, how did you get here so fast and why are you dressed like a jockey? Is it avante garde fashion? I think it’s absolutely dreadful.”
“I can fly.” Yifan says.
“And Donald Trump is president of the United States.” Kaiba snorts.
“That’s a really lame joke.” Squeaks Mokuba Kaiba, Seto Kaiba’s little brother, always following his big brother’s heels like a small dog.
“Shut up, Mokuba.” Kaiba grunts, and everyone has a good laugh.