Skipping while I tweet.
Anakin hates sand.
No snow on the street.
Start a cool rock band.
Not a single sound.
New York is real bright.
Eerie all around.
Gentrified and tight.
Blah blah blah! Blah blah blah!
How does this song go?
I’ve heard it all day and night.
On the radio.
Sofia sings in cheerful tone, making up the words as she goes along. This causes Jolene to giggle, confused but entertained anyway. “Sofia, it’s July. It’s not Christmas.”
“Yes it is, over…” Sofia pauses. It is Christmas at the time this chapter is posted, but the sun right now scorches the world Sofia lives in. She trails away, “Over there…”
Sofia feels a small itching resentment towards Jolene for ruining her small moment of fun, wanting nothing more than to forget her humiliation at the Ghouls for kidnapping her and dispatching her in a duel. Worse, she now as to work with those same people.
Speaking of work, they have to see the high mage Martis himself at the Freedom Tower. The two women report to his office shortly thereafter. Jolene, the artist of the two, notices how Martis’s office is cluttered with modernist furniture, the extreme contrasts in color and design hurting her sensitive eyes. Sofia, the awakening apprentice, smells a certain anxiousness from the high mage, something suggesting a hollow heart trying in vain to fill itself.
“You girls are late.” He sternly rebukes them. “Your computing skills are needed more than ever to protect us yet you go to Starbucks or Sephora or wherever. We’re taking my jet. Mr. Kaiba is setting a plan in motion.”
Jolene gets triggered from such comments but knows better than to argue with Martis about misogynistic stereotypes. Sofia appreciates the remarks. The more her enemies think her frivolous the better she can subvert them. Martis summons his bodyguards to escort them to the jet and soon everyone is thousands of feet in the air.
“We used to have a rock band.” Jolene recalls. “Yukio made it up and we would sometimes play in a bar to raise money, way back when were just Team Dark Duelists. The band had a bad name, but Yukio was always thinking of changing it.”
“What was it called?” Sofia asks with respectful curiosity.
“Yeah, it does need to be changed.”
So Jolene and Sofia spent the time coming up with a better band name, something dark, something edgy, something mystical, a counterculture icon. Magic Spiral? No, too bland. How about Mystick Spiral? – With a “c” and “k”! – No, they’ll get sued. Why not Blood Spiral? Enough with the spirals already! Dizzy Lizzy? Jolene claims Sofia’s suggestion as a stage name but gives it back to her. Sofia has the dark looks to pull off the “Lizard King satire” better. Strange Plays? Not striking enough, and not everyone is nostalgic over 90s video games anyway.
Jolene and Sofia never settle on a new band name. Before they know it, they are off in a helicopter to a rocky island shore. They see a pole in the distance so tall it went past the sky. Later they recognize it to be a sky elevator. No way! It is the KaibaCorp space station!
Martis escorts Jolene and Sofia once they land to meet Kaiba himself at the base of the elevator. The greetings are civil but short. The four of them enter the elevator and skyrocket past the sky of the earth. The pearl blue earth, the black horizon of outer space, and the sun’s unfiltered white rays cutting through the line separating both are a breathtaking view. Jolene and Sofia would have appreciated the grand sight a lot more if the g-force of the elevator did not make them feel like their bowels were being squeezed out of their bodies.
Everyone reaches the space station on top where Kaiba leads them to a computing room with a projection of the entire world on display. Kaiba points to the many nodes placed on each major city. “KaibaCorp uses a Crystal Cloud network, which not only gives someone the chance to duel anyone else on earth but also keeps track of each duelist at all times. A duel disk not only uploads data from a duel to the KaibaCorp main computer it also recognizes different users. No duelist can hide their location from me or suppress their permanent record.”
Now Sofia understands why the Ghouls still wear masks and cloaks. It is not just a tradition from back when Malik was their leader, it keeps them anonymous.
It is like Kaiba reads Sofia’s mind for he continues. “Still, a conniving dog like the terrorists we deal with can hide in other ways. He can hide his appearance to create an alter ego. He can reconnect his duel disk to an outside network, an underground Internet. Switching duel disks at regular intervals does not work if he is connected to the Crystal Cloud, but it can work if he is connected to a separate network instead.”
Sofia notices how all the nodes link not only to each other but gather to a point above the earth. “Why is there an extra point?” Sofia ventures.
Kaiba ignores the question, an action that tells Sofia all she needs to know. “Jolene, Sofia, you are the best programmers and hackers I know.” He says. “Your job is to help me find the terrorists’ underground network, their ‘Dark Cloud.’ This is not a request but an order from your employer. You two will stay with me in the space station until I decide to leave. You will have vital information and therefore cannot leave the station under any circumstances.”
But Kaiba is not heartless. He summons Mokuba to show the two women how the good services he will provide the two women to somewhat compensate for conscripting them into a new job. Such services include gaming centers, a library, a gym, and a luxury bedroom, a place they would live together in more comfort than if they stayed on the ground.
Sofa thinks back to when she had a sparring session with Maya on the southernmost coast of South America. She told Jolene she went to the gym for the whole day, a lie that kind of made sense since Maya used a spaceship-submarine-thing to quickly whisk Sofia from one side of the globe to the other. “What if Kaiba somehow knows, and now he is hinting at me that I cannot make any more lies?” Sofia asks to herself in worry.
She calms herself down, knowing that worrying is useless. It is very unlikely Kaiba knows anything. Even if he did, how could he prove it? He needs Sofia. Her worry reveals her fear, not reality. An idea suddenly strikes her while she is in this train of thought. Glad to focus on something, she nearly voices an opinion but cuts herself short.
Kaiba glances at her. “You have something to say? Speak.”
Jolene gently nudges Sofia, a reminder to be careful with her words. Sofia nods, then speaks. “You run a corporation that can completely destroy everyone’s privacy since the Crystal Cloud links to the entire Internet. Through that Internet, KaibaCorp has control of every satellite with nuclear warheads on earth.”
Jolene knows what Sofia is implying, and she quickly shakes her head in an attempt to dissuade her friend from being too outspoken. Sofia ignores the warning, determined to speak the truth but in a tactful way. “I have the feeling you want to leave your stepfather Gozaburo’s legacy behind, hence why you completely revamped KaibaCorp from manufacturing weapons to manufacturing gaming machines. Yet looking at all the power you have, all the weapons you indirectly own, I believe Gozaburo would be happy if he had your position.”
Kaiba raises his finger, about to say something, but does not make a sound. He broods over the issue instead. It was an idea he worried over for a long time but no one brought it up. Now someone put his thoughts, which used to exist only in his head, out in the open. A murky impression became a clear statement. He replies, “A fair criticism.”
Kaiba ponders another issue. He sits down on a chair and swivels it to face Sofia. “I have an extra task for you. Once we find the ‘Dark Cloud’ I want you to infiltrate the terrorists. You used to be on Maya’s team in the 13th World Championship, meaning you have a special relationship with her. You are to make contact with her again, befriend her, and bring her to me. I will dispatch her in a duel for the world to see before imprisoning her.”
Sofia finishes his thoughts, “You want to humiliate her before the world to prove her wrong and deter anyone from following her path. Locking her away will cut off the snake’s head.” Sofia’s new role as a double mole is too big to sink in yet.
“Hmm.” Kaiba murmurs as he strokes his chin. “Sofia, do you sympathize with Maya’s cause in any way? You can be honest with me.”
Sofia replies, “I don’t know how to feel about it. Most of the world is suffering under poverty and oppression, so rebel terrorists killing the high mages makes sense. Still, Maya seems like the kind of person who’s more interested in revenge or shits and giggles than fighting for a cause.”
“I see.” Kaiba then starts typing into a computer. “Enough chatting. Your work starts immediately.”
Jolene and Sofia set to work immediately, with Mokuba giving them drinks every once in a while. Sofia’s new position as a double mole now fully sinks in. Now what is she gonna do?