"A Handful of Bullet Shells" by DragonSilk

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Okay, I present you all with Handful of Bullet Shells! ♥

It's a fun new idea of mine, and the fic itself will partially take place in the virtual reality world that the reader is creating throughout the tale. It's going to start off mostly in the 'real' world but the virtual reality will be more important as the tale goes on.

I'm actually really excited to take you guys on this journey. I think this might be one of the best things I've ever done. I've only managed to sit on it for so long because I wasn't sure how I wanted to break up the chapters. Initially I just wanted to break them up based on the game's levels, but that would have created ten GIGANTIC chapters. So I decided they'll be broken up based on levels and then broken up within that as well.

Also, "Handful of Bullet Shells" is pulled from a song on my gaming playlist. The full line is, "The angels dressed for the wake, but she sent them home, with her handful of bullet shells." The song is one of my favorite 'battle themes' for that reason and one of the inspirations behind this fic.

I hope you guys enjoy this! Monsters mentioned in this chapter: Chaos Sorcerer

From your angle the Chaos Sorcerer was an easy target. It was facing away from you, completely focused on sending spells at Kaiba, so you had plenty of time to switch from the machine gun to a shotgun. You checked to make sure your gun was loaded and then took an extra moment to aim for the Sorcerer's head. Chaos Sorcerers were strong, so you couldn't afford to miss.

BAM! You shot, and it staggered back. In a moment it would probably turn its attention to you, so you quickly readjusted your aim. BAM! Another shot, this time through the chest and, hopefully, the heart. You waited a moment, ready to shoot it again if need be, but it disappeared, leaving behind a small bag.

A quick scan of the area revealed that nothing else was nearby. You switched back to your machine gun, just in case something decided to jump out at you from the murky fog of this level. Perhaps you should rethink having this stage as the first level. Being in this fog was much creepier than you thought it would be, and you didn't want to scare people right away.

“I didn't need your help.” Kaiba was glaring at you.

“It wasn't help. The sorcerer was completely focused on you, making it a much easier kill than it would have been otherwise. This way I get the experience and the loot. They drop some pretty good loot too.” Before Kaiba could think about stealing your loot, he didn't strike you as the sort of man who actually cared about gaming courtesies, you strode over to the small bag and picked it up. You held it out for him to see before commenting, “We were thinking about having people actually search the dead bodies, but that idea got voted out. Some people were concerned it would be too morbid and creepy.” You opened the bag and instantly words floated above the items inside.

You pulled out the bright orange sphere. “Bombs can be very useful.” You tossed it in Kaiba's direction and snapped your fingers so that it triggered right above his head. It didn't do any damage, you threw it too high for that, but you did feel a small sense of satisfaction as he lurched back in surprise.

It was official. You loved your job.

Earlier that week.

You hated your boss, and surprisingly you didn't mean Seto Kaiba. No, you might work at Kaiba Corp, but Seto Kaiba was your boss' boss and not someone you saw very often. You had no reason to feel any dislike for Mr. Kaiba. Sure he came into your department from time to time and acted like a raging jackass to everyone, but at least he never took credit for your work.

Not like your boss, who was off fucking a secretary or something while you worked out the bugs in Kaiba Corp's newest virtual reality game. Technically, as the lead programmer, it was your boss' job to oversee everything that was going on and work out the problems in the final stages of all the codes. He should be the one who had the final say in the game's design, but in reality he did almost nothing except for take credit for all the work that you did.

So when Seto Kaiba stormed in you were nearly giddy with glee. You were resolving an issue with the first level's boss battle while your boss was off doing god-knows-who. A visit from Kaiba was never a good thing, but you were too pleased that he would finally catch your good-for-nothing-asshole-of-a-boss slacking off to care.

“Where's the lead?” Kaiba demanded when nobody immediately jumped up to greet him.

While you couldn't throw your boss under the bus, no matter how delicious the thought was, you could still make yourself look good. You stepped forward and braced yourself for the attention that you were about to receive. “He's off fu–taking a break.”

Even though you'd braced yourself, Kaiba's glare was still disconcerting. The force of that stare wasn't something that you could simply brace against. He seemed to study every single detail as he looked at you. “Who are you?” he snapped.

“The scapegoat.” Maybe joking wasn't the way to go with Kaiba, but the words slipped out before you could think about them and it was too late now. “When everything goes well, the lead takes credit, but the moment it crashes and burns it's all my fault. I can answer any questions you might have about our current progress.”

He was eying you skeptically. “What's the current status on the project?”

It was a question that only the lead should be able to answer easily because it involved knowing what everyone was working on and where they were. “The first two levels are completely written. We're debugging them now so that we can use them as a test harness for the battle system, which has also been coded. Part of the team is working on the third level, but the focus right now is getting the battle system completely operational.”

If he was surprised by your answer, he didn't show it. “Does the game actually run on the system?”

“Yes. The levels themselves are easy to test on simulators, and most of the time that's faster, but we do all of our testing for the battle system by using the pods. Since it's designed for virtual reality, it's nearly impossible to test it without actually going in there.”

He cast his glare around the room at everyone before his gaze focused on your computer. “What were you working on before I came in?”

“The AI for the first boss isn't behaving like it should so I'm debugging it.”

“Is that the only bug in the first level?”

“The only major bug left to fix.”

“Save your work and run the level on a simulator,” he demanded.

“Right away!” You quickly copied all the code you were working on over to a new file and saved it. You weren't done with all of your changes and you didn't want to risk one of them crashing the level while you gave a demonstration for Kaiba.

You offered your chair to Kaiba, and as he sat down you booted up the simulator.

“Our current simulator allows you to walk through the level like a ghost. Battles aren't triggered but all completed cut scenes are and you still have to obey the world's boundaries. It's simply to observe the world and ensure that everything is properly placed.”

Completed cut scenes?”

You cringed. You should have expected him to pick up on that. Hopefully he wasn't about to snap and fire anyone. “They aren't all completed for the first level yet. The animation team isn't working on the cut scenes in order and I believe most of their focus right now is on the backgrounds and characters for the later levels. Cut scenes are their last priority.” At least that was what you were last told by the animation department. They sometimes blew you off since they technically didn't have to answer to you. Even your lead didn't really have much power over them, but at least they had to keep him updated on their progress.

Kaiba simply grunted and you had a feeling that the animation department would be getting a visit after this. Those poor, pathetic sods.

“Does this actually do anything or is this your pathetic excuse for a level?”

You nearly jumped out of your skin at Kaiba's abruptly sharp comment. You hit the button to compile the first level before pushing the keyboard toward Kaiba. “Would you like to navigate the level yourself or should I show you the details?”

“Despite what you might think, not everyone shares your low intelligence. I am perfectly capable of navigating a game without your commentary.” He took over the keyboard and mouse and began thoroughly inspecting the level.

As he navigated the level, you bit your lip and tried not to supply him with any knowledge that he might find useless or annoying. It wasn't too hard, you were fascinated by the complex things that he attempted as he searched for bugs in your program. He found a few small errors that you would never have thought your code could produce.

He occasionally pointed out things that he didn't like and that he wanted changed. Some of those things didn't have anything to do with the gameplay and were details that the animation team would have to work out. For example, he claimed that there was a problem with the design of one of the monsters. You simply wrote down his comments in silence. It wouldn't help if you tried to tell him that your team wasn't responsible for the animation.

It might seem weird, but, despite all of his negative comments, you were pleased that he was still playing the game. When he was really displeased with someone's work he often verbally tore their head off before storming out of the room. His comments might not be nice but they were necessary, and it wasn't like Kaiba ever praised anyone. Ever.

Then your boss hurried into the room. His shirt was sloppily buttoned and his hair was a mess, suggesting that he must have heard from someone that Kaiba was in your department. “Mr. Kaiba! What a pleasure!” You were roughly shoved out of the way as your boss began to kiss Kaiba's ass. “I see you're looking at an... example, of the work we have completed! We're making very good time on the game. Don't you agree?”

“This game is a complete mess! Where the hell were you?!” Kaiba thundered.

Well, maybe he was just saving his hatred of the game for the person in charge. Not that that actually seemed like something Kaiba would do. You tried to fade into the background. You weren't going to get involved if you could avoid it.

Your boss grabbed your wrist and yanked you forward so that you were between him and Kaiba. He was predictably going to use you as a shield. “There was an emergency, but everything was working perfectly when I left!” Dramatically he faced you. “That's the last time I leave you in charge!” He shook his head as he addressed Kaiba. “She's useless really. I ask her to fix something and she screws up the entire code!”

Kaiba stood and looked down as your boss. Your body was still being used as a human shield, but Kaiba was tall enough that he could easily look right over you. Even though you weren't the focus of that glare you still felt it. It made you want to melt straight into the floor and disappear.

“You're fired.”

You double checked that Kaiba wasn't looking at you before slipping out of your boss' now shaking hands. Rather than watch the show, you slid into the seat that Kaiba had just vacated and began fixing some of the bugs that Kaiba had pointed out earlier. Your team was on a strict schedule, and your lead getting fired was only going to delay that schedule. Time would be wasted searching for a new lead programmer as your department slowly devolved into anarchy with nobody in charge. You might as well try to get as much work done as you could.

Your now-ex-boss was protesting and trying to claim that he was elsewhere doing important work for the game. He even told Kaiba to check with some girl from accounting. As if there was any reason for him to be dealing with the accounting department.

You tuned his protests out. At this point it was obvious that he wouldn't be able to save his job. Kaiba was nearly impossible to persuade and your former boss was too rattled to even speak without stuttering.

Eventually you were pulled out of your debugging by a hand waving in front of your face. You turned to see who was trying to get your attention and found Kaiba angrily staring at you. “Give me your Kaiba Corp. ID,” he demanded before you could say anything.

“Yes! Okay!” You jumped out of your seat and tried not to run as you retrieved your ID from your purse. You wanted to ask Kaiba why he wanted your ID, you were paranoid that he was about to fire you too, but you knew that questioning him was like sticking a blow-drier in a filled bathtub.

He took your ID from you, you were pleased to note that your hands were not shaking, and looked down at the picture. “Get this back from my assistant at the end of the day.” That simple remark was the last thing he said before leaving your department.

You stood in place and stared after him with your mouth hanging open. Well, you probably weren't fired, but you still had no idea why he wanted your ID. The most logical explanation was that he was considering you for the recently vacated Lead Programmer position, but that would be unbelievably amazing, and you didn't want to get your hopes up. Your gaze floated around the room at all your equally shocked coworkers, and you suddenly thought of the animation department.

Your hand dove back into your purse to quickly pull your phone out. “KAIBA ALERT!” You sent the text to the entire animation department. Hopefully someone would see it before Kaiba was able to reach their floor.

That quick moment of panic for the animation department helped you process everything that had just occurred. You were ready to get back to work, though a glance at your whispering coworkers told you that you were the only one.

“Just because Kaiba walked away doesn't mean we can relax. He's visited a department twice in the same day before, and the animation team might send him back.”

Most of your coworkers had worked at Kaiba Corp. long enough to remember the incident that you were referencing. Half the payroll team lost their jobs that day, and the other half was forced to put in days of overtime after that to make sure that payday was on time. Kaiba might have been responsible for their decimated numbers, but he still expected them to keep their deadlines.

A few of your coworkers were starting to look worried, which was not what you intended. “We've lost our lead, but so what? He was a useless waste of space.” There were several nods of agreement. “We still have our deadlines, so let's get back to work.”

The entire programming team got back to work. The incident with payroll was every single Kaiba Corp. employee's nightmare. Nobody could honestly say if they'd rather be fired or part of the team working double time for months.

You continued making all the adjustments to the first level that Kaiba had pointed out. It was best to do the small things while you still remembered them. After you finished that you would get back to working on the boss battle. You made notes on everything that Kaiba wanted changed in the animation and decided to bring it down to the animation team after you gave Kaiba enough time to terrorize their department. You didn't want to run into him again if you could help it.

When you tried to drop off your notes with the animation department, you realized that your programming team was actually quite lucky. Upon arrival you found the head of their department curled up under a table with his thumb in his mouth. You talked to the first person you could find who wasn't hysterical and discovered that Kaiba hadn't held any punches in their department. Nobody was fired, but Kaiba had verbally abused nearly everyone.

You left your notes in the head animator's box and made a mental note to send him an email to ensure that he knew they were notes directly from Kaiba.

The day ended at five exactly, much like any other day, but the boss was so teasingly close to completion that you ended up working past five to finish the final function. This wasn't out of the ordinary. It was normal for you to end up staying late in order to finish whatever you happened to be working on. You didn't like to interrupt your thought processes in the middle of anything, and you often didn't have anywhere to go after work. Except today you had to pick up your ID from Kaiba's assistant, and you didn't know when she left the office. So you found yourself leaving your workstation at nearly five-thirty, much earlier than normal.

In the elevator, you were faced with a Catch-22. In order to get your ID card from Kaiba's office you needed to swipe your ID in the elevator so that you could get access to Kaiba's office. Of course even if you had your ID, you still might not be able to access Kaiba's office. After hours, only important employees were able to access Kaiba's office and only while he was actually in his office. Your ex-boss could probably reach Kaiba, but your ID probably didn't have that much power.

So you were caught. You needed your ID back, but you also needed your ID to get it back. Reluctantly you pressed the button for the lobby and hoped that someone would still be at the front desk. They had visitor IDs, and you could probably use one.

Thankfully some of the secretaries in the lobby worked until six. You managed to get the attention of one of the women and you explained your situation to her. She called up Kaiba's assistant to confirm your story before giving you a visitor's pass to Kaiba's office.

“Don't forget to return that before you leave!” she called out as you walked away from her desk. “Otherwise the replacements are docked from your pay!”

After that you were forced to trek all the way back to the elevators so you could begin the long ride up to the top floor. Very few people were actually using the elevator to go up this time of night, but that didn't stop it from being a long ride.

Despite your good intentions, it was past six by the time you finally reached Kaiba's office. After all that wasted time, you really hoped you weren't about to find out that you were getting fired.

Your day was still full of surprises. When you opened the door to the top floor you expected to find Kaiba's assistant, Setsu, sitting at her desk.

The woman sitting at the desk was not Setsu.

“Setsu wasn't fired was she?” the words spilled out the moment you saw the new woman. If Setsu was already gone then you'd totally just lost a lot of money in the betting pool. You'd expected her to stick around for a few more months.

“Oh no!” The woman smiled. “I'm Mr. Kaiba's evening assistant, and you are?”

You didn't even know that Kaiba had more than one assistant, and you said as much after you introduced yourself.

“Mr. Kaiba can't have an assistant work for more than twelve hours. Well, he could, I'm sure he wouldn't bat an eye at all that overtime, but they all burn out quickly. Setsu and I work as a team. I work part time and take all the odd hours. Now what can I help you with?”

“I'm here to pick up my ID.”

“Oh! Congratulations!” She looked down and picked up a stapled packet of papers before handing them out toward you.

“For what?” You stepped closer to the desk, trying to get a look at the papers in her hand.

“Your promotion of course!”

You froze. “Is this a joke?” There was no way. People didn't get promoted just like that.

“Mr. Kaiba never jokes.” She pointed to a section of the document. “But I do have to point out that the position is only temporary for the moment. Mr. Kaiba can demote you back to a regular programmer anytime he likes.” She turned a page and pointed to another section. “If he does, you'll still receive your increased pay for all the time you spent as a Lead Programmer, but I wouldn't worry about a demotion too much. Temporary fills are usually just a fast way to place you in the new role as all the official paperwork is processed. If you do well, Mr. Kaiba will probably just give you the job permanently.”

By the end of her detailed explanation of the contract she expected you to sign, only one fact had actually registered in your mind. “I'm the new Lead?”

“Mr. Kaiba didn't mention--actually I'm not surprised, but, yes, in a nutshell. Here's where you need to sign.”

You looked over the contract, and the moment your eyes landed on the pay increase you did a mention happy dance. “This is amazing!” You looked at the details and signed the contract when nothing raised a red flag.

You gave the contract back to the assistant and she gave you your ID back.

You looked down at the ID and corrected yourself. It was a new ID, with your new title on it: Lead Programmer. Just thinking it felt amazing. Though your new ID had the same horrible photo that the old ID had. It would have been nice to get a new photo to go with your new position but you weren't going to complain.

“Is there anything else I need to do?” you questioned.

“Not today.” She was typing something into her computer. “We'll let you know when more official paperwork is drawn up. By tomorrow you should have an email with all the details of your new post.” She frowned, and lowered her voice. “I'd be careful for the next week. Mr. Kaiba will probably be visiting your department sometime in the next few days to make sure that you're doing the job properly.”

“Thanks.” You gave her a genuine smile.

That was one of the nice things about Kaiba Corp, the boss might be a raging asshole but everyone tried to help each other avoid his wrath. Word traveled fast every time that Kaiba decided to prowl the company in a bad mood so he could find people to fire. There were a variety of 'Kaiba Alarms' hidden throughout the company. People had numbers for members of other departments so that they could text them warnings much like you had earlier in the day. There was even a closed Facebook group that posted warnings and notifications on Kaiba's whereabouts as well as his mood.

The warning system was how your old boss was able to keep his job for so long. He made full use of the system, and today he saw that while it was useful, it wasn't flawless.

Well you wouldn't depend on the system. You were going to keep working as hard as you could on that virtual reality game, and you would create Kaiba Corp's best virtual reality game. You would show Kaiba that you deserved to keep this promotion.

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