Everyone conspires to keep a secret from Seto.
|Illustration Credit: EroticFanart on DeviantArt and Twitter
Chapter Song: The Moth - Aimee Mann
Author's Notes: After much consideration as well as a poll on my Facebook author page, I have decided to use «guillemets» to indicate telepathic communication. Unadorned italics are for internal thoughts, not for thoughts directed at others.
Chapter 41: Distraction
After Laura had taken another round of dancing with Marc and Joan suffered through another hour of mingling with executives, during which she nervously laughed off her ring's luminescence as a technological quirk the brothers had added to it, they met up once again. Laura spoke parting words to Marc and moved in to kiss him. Superstitious about goodbye kisses, Marc put up a hand to stop her.
"This is good luck, not goodbye," Laura persisted.
Marc sighed. "Fine, just this once."
Laura and Marc kissed deeply. Laura then hugged Joan and Mokuba. "You three are going to need all the luck you can get." With that, she left.
Joan, Mokuba, and Marc piled into the elevator and rode it to the top floor. Joan clutched both men the entire way to steady her nerves.
"That technological quirk thing was a brilliant idea," Mokuba said. "Maybe we can use that, but I'll need time to get a device rigged up in case Seto wants to know how it works.
Joan nodded. "I don't want to lie to him like that, but if you think it's necessary, I'll roll with it."
The elevator opened, and their journey down the hall felt all too short. Mokuba knocked on the door, and the wait for Seto to open it felt all too long.
Seto answered the door in his blue shirt and black dress pants, tie and suit jacket discarded. He smirked at the sight of Joan between Marc and Mokuba. "Are you here for hanky-panky playtime or regular stuff?"
Marc smirked right back. "Is there a difference?"
Mokuba opened his mouth to explain the difference but then decided not to bother. He'd brought Marc for hanky-panky playtime anyway.
Seto noticed a strange expression cross Joan's face. "Whore, whatever you're charging for this, I don't care. You can work out your fees with Roland later."
Thankful that Seto hadn't guessed her actual dilemma, Joan stepped through the door and kissed him. She then passed Seto and headed straight for a bedroom with Marc and Mokuba close behind. A fresh box of condoms awaited them on the nightstand.
Mokuba covered Joan's ring finger with one hand while his other ran over her satin gown, silently congratulating himself on selecting the perfect fit for her. Meanwhile, Marc and Seto circled like hawks looking for the right opening to strike. "Go easy," Joan said more to Marc than to Seto, "Mokuba only popped his cherry last weekend."
"Is that so?" Marc paused to stare into Mokuba's violet eyes, noting the hesitation there. "Huh. Who would have thought?"
Mokuba feared that Marc was going to kiss him for a moment, but instead Marc went straight for Joan's mouth, soaking in her essence. Marc took his time aligning each kiss perfectly, like strokes of a paintbrush on canvas. Mokuba plastered a little smile on his face. Marc always worked well under pressure. They could handle this together.
Seto enjoyed the show for a while before joining the action himself. He pulled down the zipper at the back of Joan's dress and kissed the side of her neck as it dropped to her waist, revealing that she had skipped putting on a bra.
"So you've finally learned to obey me," Marc commented. He crouched to suck on one nipple while Seto greedily grabbed the other breast.
Mokuba released Joan's hand briefly, allowing her dress to fall completely to the floor. She hadn't bothered with panties either. Mokuba gasped and let his free hand slide between her legs, exploring her wet folds.
Seto's breath tingled her ear. "You've been waiting for this all evening, haven't you, whore?"
"Yes." Joan moaned as two of Mokuba's fingers entered her. She leaned against Seto's chest and stroked Marc's close-cropped hair, pleasure heightening with every stroke of Mokuba's fingers.
Before she could climax, Marc stopped sucking on her tit, rose to his full height, and commanded, "On your knees, slut."
Joan stepped out of the puddle of her gown, but Mokuba continued holding her left hand. A mild pulse shot through the men's brains as Mokuba received a thought from Joan, «Chill. I know what I'm doing.» She gave Mokuba a nod as he released her ring hand. Joan kept her ring low and out of Seto's line of sight as she dropped to her knees.
Marc whipped out his cock and the brothers followed suit, removing their clothes while Joan sucked on Marc's shaft. She placed her ring hand under his testicles, cupping and fondling them to keep the stones turned downward.
Seto slapped Joan's cheek with his cock and Joan gave it a turn, taking it deep into her throat while she fondled his scrotum. She masturbated Mokuba with her right hand while Marc undressed fully. Seto longed to toss Joan on the bed and plunge into her, but after the little talk he'd had with Mokuba about friendship and teamwork, he held off out of consideration for the other men.
Marc returned and slapped his cock against Joan's cheek. She turned back to him, switching her right hand to wank Seto and keeping her ring hand palm-up as she moved it to Mokuba's sack. She continued rotating this way, gemstones always out of sight below their jewels as she sucked and jerked all of them in turn.
Joan coaxed out Seto's semen first, drinking down each spurt of white lightning as he released it. Seto collapsed on the bed and watched as she finished Marc and Mokuba in similar fashion, each time gulping down a well-earned dose of protein.
Joan leapt onto the bed and tossed her right arm around Seto, leaning her head on her left. "Don't tell me you're done already."
A cocky smirk crossed Seto's lips as he caressed her. "Don't tell me you're declaring victory already. You're outmatched three to one."
"Just try to wear me out," Joan shot back.
"Challenge accepted," Marc said. He sidled up behind Joan and ran his fingers over her body, leaving a trail of fire in their wake. He did this until she writhed in anticipation, rubbing her rear against him, begging for his cock.
Mokuba handed Marc a condom, and Marc donned it. He drove into Joan's pussy but only gave it a few thrusts, coating his shaft with her abundant juices before prodding her asshole. Joan's eyes widened as Marc sunk into her tightest hole, opening it with gentle but steady pressure.
Once fully inside her, Marc rolled onto his back, holding Joan firmly against him until her cunt lay exposed and her tits pointed at the ceiling. He gripped the wrist of her ring hand and held it over her head, ensuring that her palm remained upward.
Joan felt completely vulnerable but also completely thrilled by her position as she gazed up at Mokuba. "Hey, I can fit more cocks than this."
Mokuba's cock sprang to attention, and he rolled a condom over it before plunging inside her. Joan squealed and moaned as Marc and Mokuba alternated their powerful thrusts.
Seto kissed and fondled Joan, waiting patiently for his turn. He thought of using her mouth again but wanted to save some seed for her cunt, just in case he got lucky with a defective condom. As Seto looked up at Mokuba's face, he thought again how his brother's seed would be nearly as good as his own, how it would give him a real blood nephew to spoil and treasure. Too bad swallowing sperm couldn't lead to pregnancy. The odd, electric pulsation he'd felt earlier returned. It didn't feel quite the same as the headaches he typically got from his neural implants, but it still felt damned uncomfortable.
"Fuck," Mokuba said. His eyes went from Seto to Marc.
"What?" Seto asked.
Mokuba didn't answer immediately, searching for an excuse for his outburst. "I'm getting . . . I'm getting close, but . . . but Marc's balls keep touching mine."
"Puh-lease," Marc chided, "Your balls keep touching mine. Besides, you know you like it."
"Fuck," Mokuba said again. It wasn't the physical sensation of their testicles rubbing but the smooth, sultry tone of Marc's voice that sent Mokuba over the edge. Mokuba filled his condom and hugged Joan's legs to his chest as his rapidly beating heart slowed.
Somewhere between all that, the discomfort in Seto's head eased. He could run another diagnostic on the neural interface later, but right now he had an opening. "If you're done bumping balls, need I remind you that's our whore you just came inside?"
Mokuba sighed and pulled out of Joan, granting Seto access. Seto wasted no time donning a condom and slipping inside her while Marc continued to fuck her asshole. The additional man meat made for a tight fit, and it took all of Seto's willpower not to come on the spot. He held out for as long as he could, considering every stroke a triumph. To Seto's relief, Marc came before he did, eyes rolling back in his head as the release swept over him. Seto held out only a little longer before spewing his load. He pulled out and saw, to his dismay, an intact condom. Again, no luck.
Marc pulled out as well and rolled Joan off himself but continued holding her protectively, spooning her supple body. Marc's hand slid from Joan's wrist to her knuckles, enveloping her four fingers. Mokuba lay down in front of Joan and stroked hair out of her face before brushing his fingers over Marc's, covering them until Marc withdrew his hand, leaving Mokuba's covering the ring.
Seto watched this transpire and couldn't help but think that something was off, but exactly what he couldn't pinpoint. After a few more seconds, Marc got up and ambled to a bathroom. Seto took Marc's place, pressing his chest against Joan's smooth back and his pubis against her warm derriere. One arm wrapped around her waist, and the other stretched under her neck until his hand contacted Mokuba's shoulder. "You homo for Marc?" Seto asked.
Mokuba startled. "Uh . . ."
"It's all right. Just wondering," Seto assured.
Mokuba squirmed as he thought of all the little things that could have given Seto that impression. "Maybe a little."
"Whatever. All I'm saying is don't hold back on my account," Seto concluded.
"No complaints here. I like bi guys," Joan said.
Mokuba let out a long breath. "OK, I'll keep that in mind."
Chapter Song: Disco Tits – Tove Lo
Chapter 42: Collection
Marc walked back into the room and caught the sheepish look in Mokuba's eyes. "Did I miss anything?"
"Not really," Mokuba said. Aside from the evening's activities, which could have been mere tomfoolery, he hadn't seen any evidence at work that Marc swung both ways and didn't want to raise the issue regardless.
"Hey Seto," Marc said.
"You know those crazy belts you like to wear?"
"What about them?"
"Ever used them to tie up a slut?"
"No," a sly grin crossed Seto's face.
Joan's eyes lit up. "Oh can we? Please?" It was more a question for Mokuba, but Mokuba remained silent.
Seto rose. "I'll go get them."
The second Seto closed the bedroom door, Marc pounced on Joan, eliciting a squeal. Mokuba felt the bed jostle. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" Mokuba asked, his voice barely above a whisper. "What if Joan thinks she's in danger and the ring activates?"
Joan replied in a hushed tone, "You're all tied to the ring, and I trust you. You three can do whatever you want to me, and I won't see it as danger."
"Think of it this way: what easier way to keep that ring out of Seto's sight?" Marc said.
"As long as you know what you're doing," Mokuba replied.
Seto returned with both hands stuffed with belts of various lengths and materials.
"Holy shit," Joan said, "I think you have more belts than Marc has knives.
"Probably once you count the ones he left back in Japan," Marc agreed.
"Shit," Joan repeated.
Seto dumped all the belts on a corner of the bed. "Change your mind yet, whore?"
"Green." As soon as the word left Joan's mouth, Marc grabbed the wrist of her left hand and twisted it behind her back so fast that any incidental phosphorescence Seto might have seen would surely have been attributed to a trick of the light. With his other hand, Marc yanked Joan by the hair into a standing position. Joan gasped and pretended to struggle, letting Marc keep a firm grip on her left hand while flailing her right.
Mokuba's stomach churned as he watched all this, safe words on the tip of his tongue in case things went too far. However, he also discovered his cock rising to attention. The fact that he might actually like this scared him.
Seto grabbed a belt and caught Joan's flailing arm. He passed the arm to Marc, and Marc pinned it to her other arm. The ring pressed into Joan's back, palms outward, as Seto strapped Joan's wrists to her forearms.
Joan bit her lower lip as she looked into Mokuba's amethyst eyes, breasts bare and nipples diamond hard. Her arms now secure, Marc shoved Joan forward into Mokuba's lap. Mokuba caught her and felt her quivering shoulders. Not knowing what else to do, Mokuba wrapped his arms around her and held her close. A sudden slap on her ass from Marc jolted both of them.
"We're not done yet," Seto said. "We still have twenty more belts to go."
"Yellow," Mokuba said. "Enough belts already."
Seto grumbled, but Marc said, "Respect his limits. He's still new to this."
Seto grabbed Joan's forearms and hauled her out of Mokuba's grasp. He spun her to face himself and kissed her hard, enjoying the way she twitched helplessly under his touch. His cock hardened against her belly. It would be so easy to slip inside her tied up like this, so easy to claim her womb but also so easy to break her trust. Seto pulled her head back by her hair and looked into her eyes. He saw everything in them, as if her feelings were leaking through. She wanted so much to tell him something but couldn't. Not here, not now. Seto looked deeper, and sparks shot through his brain as, «Just fuck me already,» came to him. Seto blinked. Had he imagined that, or . . .
Marc flicked a wrapped condom back and forth against Seto's bicep, and Seto released Joan to take it. While Seto unwrapped the condom and rolled it over his throbbing wood, Marc guided Joan onto the bed. Marc sat against the pillows with his legs spread and positioned Joan in front of himself with her ass in the air. "Suck, slut."
Joan took Marc into her mouth and felt Seto slam into her cunt an instant later. Marc supported Joan's shoulders with his hands, controlling her speed but also sensing Seto's thrusts reverberating through her.
Ferocity consumed Seto and Marc while Mokuba watched with concerned fascination. What if Seto broke the condom like that? What if that's exactly what he wanted to do? Mokuba wondered how Michael would react if Seto's baby wound up in Joan before the agreed-upon time and if they could pass it off as an accident. Another pulse of energy shot through Mokuba's head. He saw Seto and Marc's faces cringe as they felt it too, but Mokuba held his tongue.
"Oh fuck," Seto panted as he came well ahead of Marc. That electric thing in his head had gone off again, and it had caused him to lose control. He wasn't actually sure if he could blame that, but he still had to get to the bottom of why it was happening to him. Seto pulled out and said, "You two love birds finish her off. I have to check on something."
Marc's cock in Joan's mouth prevented her from responding properly, but she made a disappointed noise.
Seto pulled off his unbroken condom, tied it off, and tossed it on the bedside table. "Don't worry, little whore. My brother will fill your empty hole." Seto tossed Mokuba a condom and began dressing.
With too much on his mind to think twice, Mokuba accepted the condom, donned it, and took Seto's place. Mokuba spent a little time prodding her folds before sinking inside. He gasped as she engulfed him, then gripped her hips for leverage as he moved in and out. Seto smirked and watched for a moment before stepping out of the room.
"Oh god, I'm cumming," Marc announced. As his seed surged into her mouth, he couldn't help but think, just for an instant, how beautiful her body would look carrying his child. If only he hadn't pledged his firstborn to Laura. Marc swatted the thought from his mind, but it was already too late. The electric pulse he was starting to grow accustomed to thudded through his brain.
"Fuck," Mokuba said quietly.
Joan swallowed the last of Marc's semen. "You all right?"
"I think that ring keeps screwing with us. You don't feel it?" Mokuba asked.
"I just feel good," Joan replied. "In fact, I think . . . " Joan's insides clenched around Mokuba as her orgasm hit.
Mokuba felt Joan's canal tighten around him and couldn't help but release his load. "Oh god. Yes, you do feel good." He stayed inside her another few moments before pulling out.
Marc undid the belts holding Joan's arms behind her back while Mokuba disposed of his condom. Mokuba collapsed on the bed beside Joan, and she cuddled up to him. "So the ring . . . how is it screwing with you?"
"It's like short bursts of electricity shooting through my brain. It kinda makes me dizzy," Mokuba said. "I think it's hitting all of us guys at the same time. Seto must be panicking over how many times it has gone off already."
"I agree." Marc climbed out of bed and dug his phone out of his pants. "Let's check in with Michael." He took a quick snapshot of Joan and Mokuba but paused before sending it. It didn't seem like the right time to fool around. Marc dialed Michael's number instead.
Linda answered the call. "Hey, um, Michael is hooked up to some kind of brain scanner thingy with all these electrodes. I'm not sure if the phone signal would interfere with that or . . ."
"Give it here!" Michael's voice sounded from the background. Then it came a little louder, "Woman, what's happening over there?"
"Do I sound like Woman to you?" Marc asked.
"Fuck. Linda didn't tell me it was you. Where's Joan?"
"Right here. I'll put you on speaker." Marc tapped his phone.
Michael's voice joined the room. "Woman!"
"Male!" Joan responded.
"What's happening over there?" Michael repeated.
"An orgy." Joan sat up so she could speak closer to the phone. Marc and Mokuba joined her on the edge of the bed.
"And Male wasn't invited?"
"Woman have three males here."
"And every time Woman cums, that magic ring rapes my brain?" Michael asked.
"Probably more like whenever one of the guys comes," Joan said, "and it seems to hit you all at the same time."
As if on cue, the men groaned as another wave hit them.
"Did you catch that?" Michael said to someone at his location. "Sorry, Male is hooked up to an EEG and they keep missing it. The hospital people are calling it brain zaps. They're asking over and over again if I've been taking Adderall or ecstasy. They think I'm crazy when I tell them it's magic, but I have to keep reminding them that Woman is the crazy one who thinks it's magic."
"So it just happened again?" Joan asked.
"Duh. So, who came this time?"
"Nobody," Joan said.
"Well, it wasn't Male. At least, Male hopes not. Male was thinking of cumming in Woman, though."
Marc and Mokuba glanced at each other, both knowing there was more to it than that but neither willing to admit it.
Joan took a deep breath. "OK, think about it again."
Michael did, and the sapphire on Joan's ring glowed, but otherwise nothing happened. "OK, Male out of ideas."
"Thanks for trying, Male. We'll revisit this later," Joan said.
"OK, I love you pretty lady, bye bye," Michael said.
"Love you. Later." Joan ended the call and sat staring at Marc for several minutes while Mokuba held her. The stones on her ring continued to light up without causing any more weird brain sensations.
Seto burst into the room. Mokuba and Marc both moved to cover Joan's hand. Mokuba got to it first, and Marc's hand landed atop Mokuba's. However, Seto didn't notice right away. "I'm going back to Japan early. Now, in fact."
Mokuba, Marc, and Joan all inhaled sharply.
Seto glanced at their stack of hands. "How touching. Listen up. My neural implants keep going haywire, and the only surgeon I trust to remove them is back in Domino City. Mokuba, if anything happens to me, it's your duty to carry on the Kaiba name." Another wave of electricity swept through all of them, but Seto remained oblivious to Marc and Mokuba's facial expressions as he clutched his own head. "Fuck."
Joan took advantage of Seto's distraction to rise and go to him. She slung her arms around the back of his neck, keeping her ring well out of his field of vision. "Do what you need to do. I'll see you when I get to Japan." She kissed him long and slow, giving them both something to remember just in case his worst fears manifested. With that, Seto left.
Chapter 43: Brainstorming
Joan turned back to the bed and flung herself upon it. "Think we should tell him before someone screws with his brain even more?"
Mokuba shook his head. "It will only piss him off more. He's not going to believe until he's exhausted all other possibilities anyway."
Joan looked to the older man for help. "Marc?"
"Mokuba knows his brother better than either of us. I'm inclined to follow his lead on this one."
Joan rolled onto her back. "Fuck."
"Look at it this way," Mokuba said, "this buys us more time to think, and I can get the glowing holograms set up so nobody's the wiser."
"Meanwhile, that weird head stuff might make your brains explode. I better sleep with this thing off." Joan tried to pull off the ring but found it wouldn't budge. It didn't feel tight by any means but rather fused with her skin. "Fuck," Joan repeated.
Marc took her hand. After tugging and prodding the ring himself, he echoed her sentiment.
Mokuba didn't bother trying. "I'm going to go take a shower . . . and a bath. You in?"
"Yeah, it's not like we have any better ideas at the moment," Joan said.
Marc sighed. "Sure." Holding Joan's hand, he followed Mokuba through the empty suite and master bedroom into the master bathroom. As Marc watched Mokuba turn on the tap for the giant Jacuzzi, a thought struck him. "What if the ring reacts to water?"
"Then we're screwed," Mokuba replied. He turned on the shower to let it heat up.
"How about I test it on my own just to be sure I'm not going to put you guys in danger." Joan let go of Marc's hand. She stuck her right hand into the Jacuzzi and flicked some water onto the ring on her left. Nothing happened. She then submerged her left hand into the Jacuzzi and again observed no reaction. "OK, we're good."
"Best news I've heard all night." Mokuba stepped into the shower. Marc and Joan joined him. They washed one another methodically, trying to scrub away the knowledge they had kept from Seto. It didn't work, but at least they got physically clean.
Mokuba turned off the shower, and they all got out and climbed into the Jacuzzi. The hot water relaxed their muscles only enough to clarify their thoughts.
"Marc," Mokuba said, "I need to start working on a holographic façade for that ring first thing tomorrow. Can you attend the Summit closing ceremonies, accept any awards on Kaiba Corporation's behalf, and let me know if I miss anything important? Even if it's nothing important, email me some notes on the highlights in case Seto asks."
"Of course," Marc agreed, "but me not showing up at the office may affect some of our deadlines."
"I'll drop into the office tomorrow to let everyone know what's going on and see if we can stay on track," Mokuba said.
"You going to tell them everything?" Marc asked.
"Might as well. They're all under an NDA, and maybe one of them knows something about magic that we don't."
"Sounds like a long shot," Joan said.
"You got any better ideas?" Mokuba asked.
"That Sartorius guy from the ball," Joan twitched as she remembered his creepy manner of flirting, "what's his deal? He called it out as magic first. What does he know?"
"Probably a lot, but I wouldn't trust him. The guy rented out Kaiba Land recently and made a mess of one of our virtual reality simulators, but he still didn't tell us what he wanted it for."
"OK. What else do you know about him?"
"Not much. Seto made the deal with him."
"Why did Seto give him the time of day?" Joan asked.
"Sartorius manages pro duelist Aster Phoenix. He's a pretty big name in dueling right now."
"What about the Society of Light?"
"Never heard of it," Mokuba said.
Joan looked to Marc, but he merely shook his head.
"Sartorius said I had an aura of light, which is something I've actually heard several times before, but only from old hippie ladies wearing lots of crystals. I mean, Sartorius was wearing some stones of his own, so maybe there's a connection."
"So you're saying we need to go talk to old hippie ladies?" Mokuba asked.
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
Marc raised an eyebrow but remained silent.
"I don't know," Mokuba said slowly, "where do we even find old hippie ladies?"
"The Blooming Planet Festival will be crawling with hippies, young and old alike. Someone there is bound to know something."
A small but serious smile crossed Mokuba's lips. "Since we're going there on Saturday anyway, I guess it's worth a shot."
"Going where again?" Marc asked.
"Just Mokuba and me," Joan clarified. "My friend Dimitri said he felt awkward being around two of my romantic partners at the same time."
"Ah, right." Marc addressed Mokuba. "You'll like the Neverlanders. Nice people. Good taste in machetes."
Mokuba's eyes widened. "Wait, how many machetes do they have?"
Marc chuckled at the expression on his boss' face. "Just one. They were using it for yard work when I met them."
Relieved to let the topic of the ring rest for a while, Joan told Mokuba about how she had introduced Marc to her Neverland friends through a beach trip, how they'd spent a couple of hours picking up trash while they walked along the sand and countless more hours in the car chatting about practically everything under the sun. Mokuba listened with a mixture of longing and excitement, knowing that he would meet the Neverlanders tomorrow evening.
By the time they finished their soak, they had forgotten about the ring, and the ring had forgotten about them. No more weird brain sensations molested them as they toweled off, brushed their teeth, and slipped into bed. Joan slept between Marc and Mokuba's strong arms, overheating and waking up desperate for water in the middle of the night. After gulping from the kitchenette sink, she crawled between the men again but this time slept atop the covers.
Chapter 44: Research
The next morning, Tamara and Mokuba's bodyguard showed up early to escort them to breakfast. Noticing the absence of Seto, Tamara decided to risk speaking. "Did it work?"
Marc, Mokuba, and Joan explained everything they could while they finished getting ready. Marc and Mokuba wore their trousers and shirts from the night before, ditching their ties and jackets while Joan slipped into a simple, versatile dress. Joan's ring continued to light up, but no more weird sensations pulsed through the men's heads.
Once out of the suite, Marc and Mokuba flanked Joan, holding her hand whenever possible and preventing other game developers from approaching too close. Joan kept her ring hand under her plate as they moved through the buffet line. They picked an empty table, and the bodyguards sat beside Marc and Mokuba, forming a barrier of two people between Joan and the game developers who joined their table. Thankfully, none of them inquired about her ring as she concealed it under the table.
As the game developers talked about things that went over Joan's head, her gaze wandered the banquet hall. She spotted Maximillion Pegasus in the sea of people. He caught her staring and flashed a smile that seemed awkwardly apologetic and almost benevolent. Joan remembered his comment about his Millennium Eye and wondered for a moment if she should ask his opinion on her newfound magical power. However, Pegasus remained immersed in his own conversation, and Joan doubted Mokuba would want to risk going anywhere near him.
After breakfast, Joan gathered her things and got into Tamara's Toyota Prius with Mokuba and his bodyguard. Joan hadn't realized that Tamara would double as her chauffeur once Seto departed with his, but apparently that was part of Tamara's job description. Despite Joan's conviction that public transportation was better for the environment and statistically safer than driving, she had to admit that she was no longer anonymous enough to consider herself a statistic after all the media coverage.
Mokuba directed Tamara to the Super Kaiba Megacorp office, and they parked in Mokuba's reserved spot behind the building. They then headed up the narrow staircase and entered the brightly lit office. Once there, Mokuba clapped to get everyone's attention. Joan hid her hand halfway inside her unzipped laptop bag while Mokuba addressed his staff.
"I'd like to thank all of you who dropped into the Silicon Valley Game Developers Summit these past two weeks and also those of you who kept things running here while I was away. Our demo tournament was a major success, and we made some awesome international connections. However, some very strange things happened last night at the charity ball, and at this point, I'd like to ask any of you who have had personal encounters with magic to speak up so we can put our heads together and figure out what's going on."
The office remained silent until Laura stood. "I know what you're thinking: Has Mokuba lost it? I'd like to assure you all that no, he hasn't lost it. Either magic is real, or we got pranked really hard last night, so we're still trying to figure out how it happened. That is all." Laura sat down and let the rest of her coworkers murmur amongst themselves.
"Thanks, Laura." Mokuba turned and noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He addressed his audience once more. "Oh, and whoever put that Kuriboh on Marc's desk, I'll take it. He's taking my place at the Summit today, so it's only fair." The developers went back to their computers, and Mokuba grabbed a brown furball off Marc's desk. "You can set up here for today." He gave Joan's shoulder a squeeze before heading to his workstation in the middle of the room, followed by his bodyguard.
Joan took a deep breath and pushed Marc's monitor aside, then took out her laptop. She checked his chair thoroughly for tacks or other sharp objects while Tamara watched with concern. "What are you doing?"
"Old habit. I'll tell you why later." Relieved to find nothing nefarious, Joan sat down, and Tamara stood watch.
Joan fired up her laptop and plugged in Marc's Ethernet cable. After briefly checking her email for anything urgent, she started researching the magical properties of her gemstones. Although Joan detected a few patterns, she found that different cultures ascribed different meanings to them. Perhaps the origins of the stones played a role in their properties.
Remembering that her gems were lab-created, she adjusted her keywords, but nothing useful came up. She considered writing an email to the manufacturer of her ring but ultimately decided that doing so might make her come off as crazy. Besides, the stones themselves could have come from different laboratories. Joan checked the manufacturer's website and saw that everything was supposedly made in America, but she couldn't find any specifics. She still flew blind.
"How do you feel about lunch?"
Joan looked up at Tamara with screen-strained eyes. "Long overdue."
"Let's see if anyone else wants to join us," Tamara suggested.
Joan made her way through the rows of white desks to where Mokuba sat in the center of the room. She gently massaged his tense shoulders.
"Hey," Mokuba responded, still glued to his screen.
"Wanna get some lunch?" Joan asked.
"I'd love to, but I really want to finish this ring thing so it doesn't ruin our trip. Bring me back something?"
"Sure thing." Joan gave Mokuba a small kiss and headed over to Laura. "Wanna get some lunch?"
"Hold on." Laura pounded out another two sentences on her keyboard before swiveling to face Joan. "I need to pick your brain about what happened last night. Let's do this." She stood and slung a leather purse over her shoulder but paused when she saw Joan's peridot flash. "Um . . . think you could take that off in case anyone sees?"
"Uh, it actually doesn't come off."
Joan let Laura prod and pull on her ring for a while. Laura then turned and dug through a crate under her desk. She pulled out a pair of thick black gloves with knobs on the knuckles and handed them to Joan.
Joan tried on the gloves before properly looking them over. "I think these would make me even more conspicuous. What are these gloves even for?"
Laura shrugged innocently. "I've been taking motorcycle lessons after work."
Joan took the gloves off and handed them back to Laura. "Sorry, but I think it's better if I just let people see it. Mokuba's working on something to control the flashing anyway, so we can pass it off as that if anyone asks."
Laura cringed. "It's still going to drive me nuts. Could you just, you know, keep it under wraps as much as possible?"
Joan sighed. "Yeah, I was planning to do that anyway."
"OK, good." Laura tossed the gloves back into the crate, and the three women headed down the narrow staircase and out to lunch.
Tamara and Laura wound up talking more about motorcycles than Joan and Laura spoke about the ring. However, Joan did convey the essentials about Michael's hospital trip and how all the men experienced brain zaps at the same time with no perceivable magic happening.
Laura pursed her lips at several points in Joan's story as she tried to figure out what might be going on. "I still think someone is messing with you, but if they got to Michael too, that's just plain weird. Whatever happens, keep me in the loop."
"Sure," Joan agreed.
Chapter 45: Implant
After Joan got back from lunch, she handed an appreciative Mokuba a paper bag containing burgers and fries before getting back to her research. She found herself going in the same fruitless circles until Tamara said, "Heads up."
Joan looked up to see Mokuba approaching with what looked like some sort of ray gun out of a 1950s science fiction movie. "What's that thing?"
"It's a duel disk injector," Mokuba said. "Remember when Seto conjured holograms out of thin air while dueling Kayla?"
"Yeah." Joan waited for Mokuba to go on.
Mokuba pulled up a spare chair and sat down. "Well, most duelists still prefer the old duel disks like Kayla used, but Kaiba Corp. now offers implanted ones to anyone who can afford the upgrade. If you ever get into dueling, you'll be able to use the duel disk feature too, but for now its main function will be to hide those glowing gems, or to make it look like you're in control of the glowing."
"Wait, so you're going to put it in me? What if someone hacks it like Seto's got hacked?"
"Don't worry about that. Rebecca Hawkins did the hacking, and she's actually on our payroll, so she knows all the ins and outs of our systems. She's a computer genius, practically the only person in the world who could do it in the first place. She was upset that we asked her to hack into Facebook just so Seto and I could share a relationship status with you, but after that duel, she decided to cooperate."
"Oh, so she's on our team now?" Joan asked.
"And you're sure the implant is safe?"
"Yep. I've got one too. It hurts going in, but once it's in, you'll barely notice it."
Like an IUD, Joan thought. "Will it give me headaches?"
"No, this isn't a neural implant like Seto's. This goes in your arm and it's voice-activated."
"In my arm?" Joan smirked playfully. "Isn't there somewhere else you'd rather put it?"
Mokuba's cock twitched. "Uh, can we be serious for just a minute longer? I don't want to risk that ring going off if it perceives danger. I need to know if you're OK with this."
"Yeah. Put it in me." Joan held out her left arm.
Mokuba held her forearm and aligned the gun between the proper muscles with the help of a deep tissue scanner. He met her eyes and counted to three before depressing the trigger. An odd thrill crossed Joan's face as the pain hit. Was she actually getting turned on by this? "Whore," Mokuba whispered on a whim.
Joan grabbed Mokuba's tie and pulled him in for a kiss, sliding her tongue deep into his mouth. Mokuba stifled a moan of pleasure at the unexpected sensation. He prayed that none of his employees were watching but couldn't pull himself away.
When Joan finally broke the kiss, Mokuba sat back in his chair panting and too blown away to complain. What difference would it make anyway if anybody saw? She'd already kissed him on live television, in front of her husband and boyfriend no less, so why should he worry what a few employees might think?
Then Mokuba recalled the incident with Pegasus. Someone had blabbed, and with so many people connected to Super Kaiba Megacorp in some form or other, there was no telling who. It could have been Seto himself, simply trying to brag, for all Mokuba knew. The story probably got twisted into the form Pegasus had shared after several retellings. Mokuba wondered if the same would happen over Joan's magic ring.
Joan's voice brought Mokuba back to the present moment. "So that's it? Can we get out of here now?"
"Almost," Mokuba tapped a control panel on the injector. "We need to calibrate it first. Start by saying, 'Let's duel!'" Mokuba's own duel disk projected out from his arm.
Joan giggled at the sheepish expression on Mokuba's face.
"Cancel duel," Mokuba commanded. The hologram dissolved. "OK, you do it now."
"Let's duel?" Joan tried.
"You've got to say it like you mean it."
"Let's duel!" An electric blue hologram popped out of Joan's arm.
"OK, now cancel it."
"Cancel duel." The hologram dissolved.
"Now for the special features. Start with, 'Cancel all glow effects.'"
Joan repeated after Mokuba and looked down at her ring. The gems appeared dull, like plastic toys she'd played with as a kid. "It needs some work."
"I know. It should put off the casual observer for now. I'll see if Marc can upgrade it over the weekend. Now try, 'Activate multi glow.'"
Joan did, and the gems still looked plastic, but they now flashed at regular intervals like Christmas lights.
"OK, now try, 'Activate random glow.'"
Joan repeated the command, and the gems returned to normal except for a soft glow in the ruby.
"That's what to say when you want to check on the actual status of the ring," Mokuba said, confirming Joan's guess.
Joan nodded. "Cancel all glow effects." The dull replacement appearance returned. "This is actually a big relief. Thanks."
"The relief is mine too. This has all been so weird. I mean, I've already been through enough magic for one lifetime, and I was hoping I'd never have to deal with it again. We're not out of the woods yet, but at least we can relax this weekend. Anyway, let's get going."
Joan shut down her laptop, packed it up, and headed out with Mokuba and the bodyguards. They dropped by Mokuba's condo so he could change into something more casual. Joan plopped onto the couch and poked her phone while Mokuba stuffed a few things into a backpack. The bodyguards also changed into casual attire so they would better blend in with the hippies at the Blooming Planet Festival.
Normally, Joan would work on her laptop during the two-hour Amtrak ride to see her friends, but with friends in the car, she wound up teaching them more songs instead. Tamara had a few good ones to share as well. Mokuba's bodyguard joined in the singing but offered no new songs to Joan's growing repertoire.
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