どくがんりゅう の 軍記物語

In the Darkest Home

Respite was a loose definition of the transfer to Demodocus. The base was smaller than even Antioch, less manned and possibly more remote by less official specifications. More people likely inhabited the Faroe Islands than Greenland, and there were more villages, but the base was deeper and not truly even connected to the landmasses nearby.

Yuuki would hate the place; many of the ceilings and walkways were of the more recent Opentech, using bionano reinforcement to a living polymer that acted like glass by being clear and liquid, but shifted itself constantly and with intelligence necessary to maintain and grow itself. The whole of the vast sea was invisible, and the light of the sun shone not even as a haze glow. Invisible, that distant roof some two-and-a-half miles away with its fish and whales and life and the islands that moored there. The short walks were usually kept lightless, though there were dim tracks along the edges to be keyed on if they were wanted. Light attracted attention. But it wasn’t this that struck him as inimical to the young warrior. Rather the palpable feel of the water, the weight of its dark presence in the back of the throat that sat in his sinuses and made breathing shallow for his three assistants who had agreed to come along. It was a place so deep that it became akin to the lack of presence of space.

Only the mecha in the close hangar provided a slow, ponderous way out as necessitated by the sporadic pauses required for the equipment and the human body to adjust to the levels of pressure. Each Brondal-class could carry six passengers, and there were three. 17 people made up Caduceus’ entire world. Four of the Crew had been stationed at Demodocus for a year, prior to their arrival, carrying out research on pressure resistant technology for the partition exodus to the dwarf planet of Pluto. They were drear, quiet folk who had become somewhat incestuous in their isolation. The few soldiers that had come, a set of twins and a transfer from Antioch, had quickly removed themselves from any association with the ‘natives’.

It was only a matter of time before they all followed suit. It wouldn’t be as limited a pool, but most humans gravitated at some point in their dealings with tension and environmental restrictions by turning to sexual relief. It would all work out well, regardless of the isolation of Dr. Beorwith, Veldwore, Massonway and Massonway. Their foursome was established and well working. His assistants may find the soldiers beds.

His bed was already claimed, active pursuit or no.

Kilkenny reached down and curled a lock of gold around his fingers. Caduceus was ‘sleeping’, more because he enjoyed being still, quiet, and heavy with the feel of his Creator’s lap beneath him then actually needing the activity. It was massively unusual for an AI of any kind to not only weather periods of little interaction, let alone relish them. On the whole, Caduceus was a study in the sheer amount of possible residual effects a given body could have on the cyborg or potential AI it housed.

“Caesar?” The mumble was preceded by a soft moan, and the ‘r’ was almost wholly dropped. It would always be a regret that he could not see the colour of blue that opened up at him, nor read the expression there. Relying on the native AI, Precia, to collect data on the expanding use of expressions was dodgy at best.

“Shh, I did not mean to wake you. I was just admiring.” He untangled the strands from his finger and started to withdraw his hand.

Caduceus had learned to move like a human outside of training exercise, but deliberately moved fast enough to catch the retreating hand, “It is not disturbing.” But instead of back to his hair, Caduceus brought the captured hand to his collar, petting the fingers flat along it. Touch me.

Kilkenny decided he may have been too quick to judge that contemporary interest in his affections was not active. The AI was still, waiting, without breath or heartbeat to warn others’ intuition. They had finished the exposures to the college baccalaureate levels three days ago regarding the developmental knowledge of social behaviors and academic learning. “You’re wondering if I do not start to move my hand because I do not want you.”

Caduceus shifted, turning on his side so that the hand slid from his neck.

“You don’t want a lesson now, but you need one. Do you know what you want? What you intend with those hopes? “

“I want you to love me. “

“You want me to make love to you, or to be made love to. But you haven’t decided which. You don’t have the necessary function, Caduceus. Your Jehova’s Apple is designed to instigate a serotonin release when good sources touch you, or caress you, but you cannot get erect or ejaculate. There is no release. “

“You’re excusing yourself from either loving a dead body, or from loving a man.”

Kilkenny smiled, startled. It was a precise conclusion, perhaps arrived at before the decision to try anyway. The development was happening unprecendently fast. Risks. “No, I don’t want you to be hurt if I can come and you can’t. “

“I want to see you like that. I want to be the reason for it. I want you to love me, not just make love.”

“And my wants?”

“You never say what you want or think. You stay at a professor’s remove from the subject. Passionate, pointing out all the angles, but never what you yourself believe.”

“And?”

“It’s good for research and not influencing the development of the subject.” There was a bite in his voice, a dangerous nasal draw that meant Caduceus was probably sneering.

No, not subject. That is dangerous and close to old paths through that brain. “As a father to son, I want you to become strong, clever, wise and patient. Exemplary. But your own skills must be developed for that. I am sorry you feel distanced from me. I do love you, Caduceus. I was just lamenting that I cannot see you. How many men get to spend every day with such a creature? Something so beautiful and quick, and speak with it and teach it. I do not want to hurt you. I always worry that I may. “

It was usual, all the circumstances and signs, that Caduceus would come to love his ‘father’. The AI shifted again, up to hands and knees from the feel of the weight distribution. His long fingers brushed on either side of Kilkenny’s thighs. “I am ready for this. It hurts more to not touch you. “

“Does it?”

There was a long pause while Caduceus was calculating exact sensations. “Yes.”
A shift in weight again and long fingers slid along Kilkenny’s jaw and pet back until the steady hands cupped his face. Caduceus shifted nearer, straddling his lap. “Let me receive you, Caesarian.”

Exposing him to all the aspects of human life through high school and college may have been a mistake on my part. It had been years since anyone had touched him so earnestly or gently. The rush of heat to his cheeks and lips was embarrassing, the rush to his groin, dizzying. “You’ll be very good at seduction.”

Caduceus leaned in so that Kilkenny’s chin was rested on the dip between his own and his lower lip. His words brushed soft against the doctor’s thinner lips. “Seduction has the implications of multiple lovers.”

Where did you learn that? It was an unusual way to speak, creative. Kilkenny closed his eyes. That was fast. From ‘waking’, to brief words, and now he is straddling me. What happened to that lesson? Where did that go?

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Vae Victis

“Good Morning”

Parroting was the correct response, but on-board systems indicated that it was, in fact, late evening. The phrase was facetious, hints of fruity sarcasm and genuine pleasure mixed with personal pride and sense of accomplishment. It was more precisely ’You’re awake." Pointing out the discrepancy served nothing but annoyance, and being awake at all was something of a victory.

The lab was different, mostly because it wasn’t the lab at all. Dr. Ozaki’s fat face was haloed with incandescent light. The ceiling wasn’t cold, glossy tiles, but translucent, living granite that had been patterned ostentatiously with knotwork and precious metals.

“Where?”

The good doctor grinned again. “Oh good, the brogue seems less. Say something else.”

Redundancy. Not answering a question was an obvious way to prompt the asker to further, if frustrated, speech. "Where is this. "

“Maybe gone even.”

There was a faint flashing, like a someone using a red laserpointer to morse code his brain through his visual feed. His claws’ locks clicked in his fingers with the Safety mode. Do not harm or injure Amakusa corp employees.

“Eaaaasy. Eaaaaaaasy, " the doctor pet his limbs, cuing some field interactions and an endorphin release in his brain.

“Where is here?”

“You’re the only they got out before the labs were destroyed. Its going to be up to three of you until the new equipment is finished and suitable raw materials-”

“-humans”

“-ah. .. . . .. are located and the designs reinitialized.”

“where is here?”

“Your GyPS should be able to pinpoint it. You are networked. "

Mention of it brought the text scroll up, a nanosecond flash of a location and town name that didn’t immediately have any meaning. It wasn’t Earth, the Moon, or Mars.

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A Man Kissing Yoshimitsu

Hideo was going. Tsubasa felt cold and impersonal in his looming as he directed the chair from behind. They were going back to his room. If he were at a park the carnie would guess his weight 30 lbs over. He wasn’t really in a hover chair. He was a floating seed, curled, being ushered down a metallic hall by a man-made angel.

Tsubasa wouldn’t appreciate the image. He had been making out with Hideo, after crying, after all that. The Thing was being loaded onto a ship, Grayson was a demon or who knew what with no chance of anything, and he had been snogging a man. Everything was perfect. Perfect in every way. Maybe the metal walls and sliding doors, solitary confinement, cafeteria and soldiers…it all was perfectly matched with a high security funny farm. They’d been talking about rape and hell, reincarnation and a dead demon, or something, like it was all the most normal shit in the world. Hideo had laughed. And I want to be kissing a man. More then that. To the sound of the door sliding open, Tsubasa laying him on his bed, he felt the sicky, bile ball rise in his throat. The seraph had a waste bin in front of him the moment he shifted to try to get off the bed. There wasn’t much there, the chirashizushi bits and tea. Tsubasa pet between his shoulders. “Fast-”He managed between dry heaves, the last of it gone while his muscles had a royal freak out. “It could be worse.” What the hell was that supposed to mean? Yeah, he could be gutted again and laying in his own intestine again. He wasn’t going to complain about some dry heaves, other then it Fucking Hurt. When things Hurt, you expressed that fact if you weren’t trying to prove your balls of steel to someone. “There are only two stories to tell in life, Yoshi. Ones where you spend the whole time trying to forget what you’ve already read, and ones where you can’t remember anything beyond a certain point, but you can see the glued pages or missing and torn edges where they used to be …meaning you spend the rest of the book trying to find out what was in them. " “What….” The heaves weren’t stopping. “Delilah, replicator, muscle relaxant quick release.” Tsubasa had retrieved the air-injector from the replicator tray before Yoshi’s eyes, even with their augments, could record the motion. The nozzle was pressed, cold, to his belly. Like a gun to the already inflamed wound that had festered while Dr. Chen had hauled him along. He could have died then. Should have. He wouldn’t have to be dealing with all this shit if he had. He would have gone out after a gun fight, after seeing Hideo again and knowing that Rana and Damocles and San were being carted off to whatever new life was beyond the tunnels of Undercity. He had just been with Kitten. He’d been really confused, but kinda happy. “Yoshi.” “Un” “Be glad you remember his face. Its all greetings and partings, and you still have more to do. " “The fuck? " He didn’t need another pep talk. And there was no way he was going to end up kissing Tsubasa. Not like Tsubasa wasn’t one of the kingpin freako’s in the joint. “It isn’t that simple.” “You can’t figure it out anyway. " Yoshi hit him, as hard as he could, across his face. There was a smear of blood from some opened knuckles, but Tsubasa wasn’t surprised or phased. He probably could have dodged it. “Yoshi, accept your feelings, that is all you can do with them. Sometimes there isn’t a solution. " “That’s fucking different then being too dumb.” “Sorry.” Just because it was true, didn’t mean it needed said. He hadn’t ever fucked with Tsubasa. "So is that what you’re going to do? Can you just accept your shit and move on? What the hell is your deal, anyway? I didn’t say ‘hey, Tsubasa, get up in my shit and be my fucking councilor.’ " “My shit has to do with what I was made into, what is inside me. Machine and man, and whatever other curses my maker deigned to place on my model. " “You were Juliet-ing for your Romeo when you though Hideo was dead, but I don’t see you getting the fuck over all that. You just stand there and stoner instead of getting on his jolly-roger.” “I’m not gay, Yoshi.” Tsubasa stood, and took the waste bin to the sink to rinse while the yakuza flopped over on the bed again. "I haven’t fully accepted what has happened, no. But at least I know I have to. You didn’t know and are just circling around, like a lost pigeon in a mall, with your grief. " “Besides, "Tsubasa set the bin on the floor again, turning to go, "the Yuuki Hideo I knew and wanted to fuck is as much a fairytale as your cleaner is now. "
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The Moment Rescue Comes

Oceans moved with the tides, drawn by moons. Unseen puppet strings to lead them along sandy roads. Passed dead man’s crabs and bodies, sunken ships, coral graveyards and fish with halos. Lantern to lure the unwary. Light was a lie.

Light-blind, the teeth behind were invisible until the jaws were already shut and the hot wet running down kicking legs and struggling ribs. Sand stuck in wounds and caked. Drowned. The drowned men were dead men.

Dead and walking

Talking, stalking

Sulking, should be, wanted to be, could be would rather be

Flying. Soaring, singing.

There was only Noise

Noise, noise and the noise noise was outside while no words or colours except red dwelt inside only silence

Back to suffering.

Scratching? Came a scritch scritch crash upon the chamber and it shook his bones. The crunching bones, his own ribs gnawed out from inside Quiet. It had crawled in and he could not stop it. Crash. again.

Rock fell but did not hurt, had no weight underwater to impede the great steps that vibrated through the floor. It was no man. A demon, real, had come. He was damned.

Gathered, gathered. Lifted up like hands thrust into fallen petals and there was still no sound but the bull-breath of the living evil that crouched. Shadowed? There was a boy…girl? Boy? There. Painted soft and whiteRed hues and dressed for Murasaki’s tea and Igo.

Oh, it stirred, stretched. Why did they speak? His jaw would come off with much more and he would not sing again, unless the dead could. Hideo, he could smell Hideo. He wanted to kiss him again, with unmarred, memory lips and feel him warm and hard beneath him. In him. To hear that old name said with neither an r or an l, harsh in the deeps of inaka Japanese throats and yet melodious. Like the name itself was a supplication. Wrapped in white feathers and light, and loved. Free and loved as more then a technical achievement, a soldier, a teacher…he had been just himself. It hadn’t mattered what that self was, it was simply allowed and prayed to with staff and mantra. Rhythm, heat, tears and seed.

Hideo.

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Phenotypic Differences

The whole complex referred to him now as ‘the oni’. There wasn’t even a pretense of genetic humanity, whatever a computer could have argued, and he had to agree with that. ‘Phenotypic differences’ was a catch phrase that kept scrolling from what they called Delilah in debate with Dr. Eidokan and Dr. Wellsworth. He though it meant something to the effect of the differences being skin deep. It was a load of shit, and anyone with eyes in their head could tell that much.

Which may be the problem for the AI, it had neither a head, nor eyes. Cameras didn’t really count. Having a body must make a difference, just from the sheer difference in output and input interfacing.

Shiroishi thought everyone must have some of the same questions. What were Oni, exactly? What made them different? What could they do differently? No one wanted to leave it at a ‘if you see one, you know it is one’. They all wanted a definition, like from a book or screen, that could tell them what to expect from the creatureman that stood more solid then the gate the military men had podged together.

He was thinner then he should be. Whatever hard times had stripped Yuuki-sama had done the same to the giant. It was an ongoing siege, too, since he couldn’t have been eating enough since then in the ration conditions of the complex. Japanese would never take more then their share; they were raised with the survival of the group over the needs of the individual.

It was only a half-correct way of thinking, really. Pack was necessary, and more successful as a means of survival, but hierarchy had its demands…the weak and useless should get less. In famine, they would die and the others wouldn’t be burdened. The strong should not starve for their benefit.

Hideo had collapsed a week and two days before. Rana had not eaten or taken drink in five days. His ribs were plain like walls stripped to corrugation. He seemed like something out of a dream, hard-knot muscles rendered extreme in wood and set outside some shrine. He had been taken to a shrine by his grandmother when he was five. He couldn’t remember much, but the statues outside had frightened him. They weren’t real, and neither was the oni in the gate some thirty feet away. Dr. Wellsworth insisted that humans could only live for a week without water, even though he also insisted that Rana was not a human. They should make up their minds faster.

How often did oni have to eat? How the statues and Rana looked seemed the normal image. Were they usually starved? Was it starvation? Maybe they could go longer times without eating or drinking, if they came from far reaches. There might not be abundant resources. He was certain they ate people. People, at least, could be plentiful. Wars would be harvest. What did they eat the rest of the time?

They did have an answer that Oni could stand awake, alert, and on guard longer then humans. Rana had taken no drugs, but for five days he’d been standing there looking evil and was perfectly alert to whether anyone dared approach to interrupt. He didn’t speak much, but would order that “proximity is dangerous.”

So oni could go for a long time without sleep and keep working. They could last at least 5 days without food or water. They were huge. They were stronger then humans. They live in caves and have claws that can cut stone. This one, at least, was territorial.

Which made Shiroishi worry, were there more?

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Make Me What I was Supposed

More then a thousand years ago Kazutaka Muraki had been forgotten. How his deranged mother had dug up a millennium old, middling porno manga he would never know. Even less how she had developed a crush on the antagonist to the degree that it had become an obsession.

Mother.

She hadn’t wanted a son, she had wanted a lover. Somewhere in that rotted brain of hers their blood relation had either slipped awareness or didn’t matter. At least her obsession had meant there was plenty of material present in the house to discover who he was made to be. Who he didn’t want to be.

He hadn’t killed anyone. Still.
The veneer was cracked, though. While some languished in the developmental and social deprivation of isolated living, he had relished it. No one touched him except in martial practices. No one was his friend. No one was his lover. All the latent psychotic episodes-waiting-to-happen had been safely averted and kept at bay. He was not Muraki, whatever appearances might argue. He had his own name, his own life, and he was living almost normally.

Then there was Yuuki.
And now everything was fucked.

There were stained hands flatted against his chest in the shadows of dreams. Shaking, bloody fingers. Yuuki was before him, laid flat on a table and his legs were wrapped around …Muraki’s…hips. It was not himself. It could not be.

Yuuki’s arms were tourniqueted. Slow-leaking slits up from armpit to wrist. No wonder his hands shook. The will alone to move his arms was delicious, and he took him harder in those moments, feeling heat against his own thighs and the act smoothen as Yuuki choked. He was bleeding inside now.

Such dreams. He shook he head. How long had he been staring at the wall terminal? Everyone must know it was over. He may as well be calling yuuki by that other name, tsuzuki was it? He couldn’t remember. It must be why Yuuki appeared on no searches, no inquiries turned up his name, location, anything. He was hidden somewhere within Babylon, but blessings and curses, he was kept from his sight.

Maybe he would be lucky and die in a mission outside. He had put in to be sent to Mars, let them be merciful and grant it. He was tired of shadows in the night, the waking in a hot sweat with his heart pounding and a painfully full erection. Tired of the empty release of his own hand.

The council wouldn’t give him Yuuki, and he didn’t, in what was left of him, want to hurt the other man who had considered bedding him. No one else would have him. Being alone was just madness now, and he needed it to stop. He needed to die, and he hoped honourably. Doing something good…saving someone or something instead of tearing it apart.

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Seleno Labs

Turn left.
Right.
Follow along the blue path, he’d been blue chipped. There were two women ahead of him; he thought they were women. There was one woman behind him. What was the blue chip? Was he the male control? Seleno made designer medications, cosmetics and feminine needs products. A group of nearly all women might mean one of the latter industries was to be his home.

I may not die quickly, after all.

Terror leaded in his legs. Inoue fell, tripping the girl behind him with his ribcage. She screamed as she fell, and kicked back. She was angry. He lay still, and hoped her storm would pass over, given no response.

”What’s wrong with you; can’t you even walk?” She hissed back, getting up again. Kicked again. His forearms guarded his head, so it was his stomach that suffered. She would be one of those, the angry-bitch alphas. Angry in fear. She would make the others afraid to make herself feel more secure. He saw her hands twitching, nails clipped short moments ago in the Grooming Room.

Inoue hesitantly lowered his arms, “It is hard to walk.”

”Don’t you know?” “Didn’t you hear?” The front two women lightly touched BitchAlpha’s arms. They had been in a nearby car to his. They had seen him in Desire’s arms when the tram had come.

”-Probably can’t walk well.”

”-Bet he was a virgin.”

Inoue flushed, pushing onto his knees. They had seen, and heard. It was a good excuse, at least, but it didn’t actually hurt badly. It was a pain he wished wouldn’t leave. He didn’t want to forget him. He didn’t want to forget those last pleasant moments in his life.

The first two girls obviously thought it was hot. They were cooing to BitchAlpha, whispering and giggling about something to cool her. Inoue got up, brushing off his knees. He was taller then all of them, stronger still, he bet. He could challenge this starting superiority. It would be three-on-one.

“We should get going. They’ll expect us in pen faster then this.” He passed them all, mentally drawing the lead to his knees. Let it swing, pendulums to keep him moving. “Don’t dawdle.”

The women looked annoyed, but returned to their line some steps away from him. It wouldn’t be bad to just be out of the group either. He didn’t want a pack. Social desperation was tired and old back on manufacturing in Reddigar ESI. He’d been a comfortable Gamma. But there, in their refineries, the packs served to shore each other up. Friends covered shifts if members were wearing too thin. He couldn’t imagine any actual benefits of being part of the group structure. Just preventative measures. Being outside of the group meant being the enemy – a distinctly female group trait. Well, he had a penis anyway.

They were still whispering to each other behind him.

Glass and mesh doors loomed into view, at least twelve feet in both height and width. They slide often with a hiss of air once he was within three feet. The blue line continued in and right again. The air smelled stale and recycled by two many filtration systems. It smelled like bleach water and sterility. Four cyborgs in white coats waited, discussing something over their network. Their eyes were too intent, even if their mouths were not moving. Four blue circles of light were on the ground. He took the first, stood still and looks at his own feet.
Once the three women had filled the last three circles a voice announced invisibly from the ceiling. “The last two days the subjects have been processed and coded. We thank you for your cooperation in providing your genetic information. Today subjects will be assigned to their individual projects.”

It had been too much to hope that they would be told what the experiments being run on them were. Were the cyborgs orderlies? They were not lovely to look on, strictly functional models, not form serving. Average faces, maybe scientist employees who weren’t Ivy League material. Augmentation may have been a job requirement in having accepted appointment at Selenos’ off-world labs. The cyborgs stepped forward in unison. He decided they would be Curly, Moe, Larry and Shep. Shep stepped up to him.

Shep was tall, about 6’7 with his digitigrades-leg replacements. He was probably the Enforcer, stronger and faster then the others, so they naturally assigned him to the male. The chauvinism seemed dripping. The floor director or project manager must not have been from the Liberty’s Front Union. He could remember his father, ass, joking about the “LFU – Looking For Underwear”. The ass’ best friend, Harvey Shichiro, said countries that joined had caught the “FLU”. Neither were very witty jabs, but they offended well enough.
“Take the subjects to the workstations and begin applications.”

Shep stepped once to the side, opening and indicating with a hand for him to go first. This would be less painful if he was cooperative. BitchAlpha didn’t move, and Larry clamped on her wrist with a not-hand. He lifted her straight up, her shoulder dislocated with an audible pop, and dangled her all the way to the vice chair about twenty feet away. Inoue was already moving, stepping along the line opened by Shep. He wasn’t hesitant and all, but he couldn’t go fast. Shep accepted this. Maybe everyone knew.

He didn’t like the look of the vice chair. It was the bastard offspring of a Victorian asylum strap job with a dental appliance. Tattoo parlour was thrown in on the side: a sizable hose and needle attachment arched off the left side. He laid face down, there was a hole to let him breath, like he was any normal man come to a chiropractor or masseuse for an appointment. Shep’s knees ground as the hydraulics lowered him to a more sitting-like position.

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White Noise
The pillars of a station dimly shined in the dark of the tunnel. There was only the soft green emergency light along the edges of the track, a warning to long ago passengers in the case of power outages of where the ledge and tracks had been. Don’t fall off. Only half of the lights weren’t broken, but it was more then they had had for the last seven hours. Some of the platform was collapsed, a good enough staircase of rubble to make it up. His legs hurt worse as the air his them, the sludge drying on the skin and some chemicals no doubt activating with access to oxygen and biological. He switched to deep breathing, pushing the sensations away. It was instinct to draw away from his legs, but that was do worse harm. He pushed his chi out, feeling stone lead his feet. Humans could poison mountains, it was true, could rot the earth, but it would take them centuries…..and even then the bones of rock would still remain, steadfast, if bare of forest or life. The platform was bleak. The subways of the second sublevel and below had been abandoned for at least three hundred years. Periodic flooding from above, constant chemical erosion and the physically expressed pain of the detritus of passing humanity had been unkind. The pillars that lifted the ceiling were skinned of tiles, the floor was pocked and an indeterminate black brown. Filth. There were rusted bits and remains of what may have been plastic waiting seats closer to the edge. Chen moved passed, towards the back wall. The architect had wisely chosen to make a ledge, to serve as a more durable and easily cleaned seat, out of the same cement as the wall itself. Both had many tiles missing and broken, but it would serve. He laid Yoshi down, petting his hair. “Do you still have the transmitter, Yoshi?” The Yakuza swallowed and nodded, “in the holster. gun’s not. is it safe to signal here?” “I think so.” He honestly didn’t care. They needed help, and it was the only help they could reach, if it still existed. He fished in Yoshi’s hip holster. The gun hadn’t left the boy’s hand since they’d left the PoonTang Act a day ago. It was the size of a shirt button, titanium and blue LED. “It’s already blinking…?” Yoshi didn’t answer. “When did you trip it?” It had been hours. No one was coming. Chen folded his hands together as in prayer, kneeling next to the cement block-bench. It was tripped. Its been sending out signals for hours that either party could pick up. What is Amakusa waiting for? Yoshi- The boy’s eyes were closed, his lips drawn back a little from his teeth. He was still breathing. Chen set the transmitter down. Its periodic blue light made them both look like ghosts. Then he noticed the face. A young man was standing, half visible, half merged with the pillar nearest them. His skin was sickly, cement grey and pulled smooth. Chen could feel his own heart stuttering with galloping. His voice came out like a command. “Who are you.” “I can help you.” “Answer me.” “A mutant.” “I can see that plainly enough. Can you move from that wall? Are you stuck? Your name.” “Kuge. You’re in trouble. You’re in White Noise.” “The least of my troubles, whatever that means.” Chen stood, facing the hollow creature. “What do you want.” “I watch our turf. Our borders. They’ll come and pick you up. " It didn’t sound, somehow, like ‘They’ meant the allies of Babylon. He didn’t like Kuge, he seemed as mad as most mutants. A wild dog that may break its leash. “What do you mean.” “He means us.” Chen turned on his heel; the darkened stair that led up had a light. He couldn’t see, after so long. He could hear their steps though. One limped, one booted, but the soles were worn, the last wore metal. Perhaps a crude, back-alley cyborg, a garage construct. "We mean no harm, we are just passing, resting. " “We know what you are. Shut the fuck up, ojichan. You belong to us, you and your corpse.” The lantern light wasn’t helping. He could make out their silhouettes now, but it would take fifteen minutes before his old eyes adjusted. He hadn’t practiced blind defense in a long time. If there was a cyborg, it might have speed augments. He could feel them draw close, then the chain bag over his head. A Garrote. Waking was like swimming in plough. Skank had congealed in his nose, choking breath to snoring, and as he coughed a mucus like a second skin peeled off his throat and coated his tongue. Chen spat, rolling on his side. He couldn’t stop until he was clean. The membranes of his sinuses and throat rebelled against the grime. Someone was nearby, but it wasn’t Yoshi. Had he died? What had happened to them both? The world was too blurry through his watering eyes. The tears must have been black with how much they burned. They were too swollen. His audience watched or waited. White Noise. The name came back with a goosebumps. Chen swore when the flesh of his legs pinched. He forced his thick tongue to work, “Is this White Noise.” “It is.” Another male, not very young, by the gravel in the voice. Which of the obvious questions should follow first? Would he get answers? “Where is my companion?” “Your son?” Should he lie? They had probably already DNA tracked them both. Was it better or worse to appear important to him? "Of a sort. " There was speech in some dialect he couldn’t follow. The undercommon, perhaps, bastardized of bounty slang, street talk, Ebonics and leet. “Where is he?” “On ice.” Panic again, and his eyes opened, regardless of the swelling and pus. “Cryo, cryo, he is not dead.” The other raised their hands, black, fingerless-gloved blurs of entreaty, “You’re the ones the Uppers are searching for.” “No, " Chen croaked. “But they will take us.” “What do you mean?” “Their target is gone.” “That is vague.” “So is this entire situation.” Chen lay flat again. “What do you want.” “I don’t want anything. Our leader does.” “Who is that?” “White Noise.” Chen’s mouth pulled into a tight line. They’d have to do more then that if they wanted to exchange information. This was a probe. They seemed to take the hint, and he heard a door. It was quiet and empty then.
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Hard Copy

Waiting was boring. It wasn’t particularly awful in general, since he could always run diagnostics, programs, or play with his digipets. He was glad he had brought them, though he’d had to hack and assign new user information, ISP addresses and all other traceable source information. He also could re-scenario the art of his doujinshi in his head. He’d looked at them enough times that he had a complete evaluation of the artists’ styles. He could draw the way they did, if he wanted. But he was happy to just choose and artist and make moving cinemas in his head. He hadn’t needed to keep the hard copies, but there was something more permanent about having the thing.

He had changed information, security systems, had watched enough people go into Setsuna as human beings with names and histories, and watched them exit the assembly line with no life or emotion. More robot then he was.

A hard copy, on paper, was dangerous. It had to be shredded, burned, eaten away with acid; it had to be found before it could be destroyed. A hard copy couldn’t be disseminated as fast as a single click on a screen, but it couldn’t be deleted that way either. Real documents could be copied, touched, read, and loved. The very pages could hold marks of his existence, or others. The oil form a person’s hand sunk into a page’s fiber. A dog ear to note a place where there was a pause or that someone wanted to come back to. A real book was a collection of lives and moments of them, not just the magic that was written in ink on the leaves.

So he kept them, in his bag, on his lap or on his back.
No one bothered his bag, they didn’t seem very curious as to what an AI in a dead body could possibly value to carry along into a new life. Life? Living space?

It was silly to call it life. He wasn’t alive, by most international definitions. He wondered how that fact in itself would affect legislation or sentencing regarding if he was ever caught, captured or seized by the powers that existed outside of the corporate web.
Probably dissected and downloaded, like a stolen laptop.

It had better be like a really expensive laptop.

He shifted his feet in the water. It was warm, a little more then average bath temperature. Not an onsen, not a bath. It didn’t bubble like a hot tub. He set his bag aside and climbed down and in. Dr. Ashland didn’t approve of him submerging himself as he was, but he didn’t forbid it either. The hot water loosened his joints and muscles. He hated feeling stiff, ached and painful all the time. He had never been this run down before. Whole patches under the now translucent pale of his skin were stippled black and yellow-green. It was a little like a corpse in a coffin. Mamiya-san would look like this now. He could be like a real son for her, only he was walking and talking and she wouldn’t ever again.

He could remember when the body had been part of him. “He” was the whole package, flesh and electronics. He hadn’t liked the idea of getting wounded then, some primal fear that it would affect how he acted or worked. It was a failing in his understanding at the time of how integrated he was through bioware with the body he had been built from. The treatments were enough.

His awareness was the interface of the body’s central nervous system with the bioware hard drives and processors. There were artificial glands, such as his Jehovah’s Apple, that controlled spontaneous synthesis and release of proper hormones. The treatments targeted all of those vital devices and organs, but weren’t enough strength or quantity to leak out into the rest of him. As long as those kept functioning, he was fine. Inconvenienced, but fine.
Hideo didn’t want Akira’s body anyway. He wanted Rana and Shinji and Tsubasa.

He could hear Dr. Chen dipping a cloth into the water. He was helping Yoshimitsu to bath. Hideo wanted Yoshimitsu, too. Yoshimitsu was strange. He was a yakuza, but he acted like a amateur level idoru. Like Malice Mizer should have been if they hadn’t practically invented to new look for GothLoli. They’re music was horrendous. Yoshimitsu’s would be too. He was kind of dumb seeming. Maybe he never graduated from college. Maybe he never went to college. He wanted to know what value the happy, puppy-like man could possibly have. He was loyal, he guessed. Dogs were loyal. It was hard to tell since he had defected from Amakusa to Setsuna, and now Setsuna to Hideo.

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Hints of Merger

He didn’t mention it. He rarely bothered talking about such things. It made more sense to act. But with this case, it was difficult to guess what was needed to coax the problem into a solution. What he wanted to say was, “You look unwell, Tsubasa.” It would be the polite way to initiate conversation, and possible get the seraph leader to open up.
.

“We’ve had substantial success with the new data your team managed to recover from the Omni strike, "the fox projection next to him squinted its eyes across the low lacquer table. Tsubasa’s projection didn’t shift at all; neither to bow or give any motion at all that might indicate there was a living being represented by the imagery their plugged brains were being fed.

.

“It is unfortunate that you were not present nor an active member of the operation. Now that you are mostly functional again, this cabinet wishes to discuss your reasons behind your last transmissions.”

.

“You have the recordings. They are self explanatory.” Tsubasa spoke flatly. Rana imagined that in the real world, if anyone were present in the meeting lab, and Tsubasa’s eyes were open, they would have seen flickers of red on the edges of his eyes. It felt like the cyborg was angry, as much as his voice and face were devoid of any human expression. Cold, pure alabaster and set gem eyes like a statue of an old god.

.

There were new ageists that believed that angels were themselves gods, and in the absence of the strange, western Christ. He’d seen some bumper stickers in a store Amakusa had demanded to go into once. They’d been next to the Laughing Buddha inch-high fake resin statues and in front of the “I believe in faieries” backpack buttons. Wasn’t that a misspelling? There had been framed prints in garish fractal colours with ambiguous winged figures. They all looked too perfect with dark or light hair in thick waves around long, white limbs. They’d all had wide, heavily lashed eyes that would be impossible for anyone normal without using glue-ons.
.

Tsubasa did not seem too far off, excepting that he was very attractively, and plainly, male. Fairness of face had been part of the criteria that the design team had used to determine which subjects they’d wanted for the experiments and planned success of the new seraphim augmentation class. He’d never had much dealing with the cybernetics development division, except to learn what he needed of new systems to study how to destroy them (aka defend against in rana-speak). Curiosity as to just how the company had managed to cleanly kidnap the young Dorian. He hadn’t been famous, yet, but he was up-and-coming. It was harder to research such things from outside the company, let alone from within a minor rival like setsuna.
.

Rival. As if the term really applied anymore. Something was going on that the higher-ups of both companies had seen fit to begin something like a merger. How else could the marriage of two of the most prized assets be construed? There were other, more important meetings going on, he was certain, but as before with Amakusa he was only privy to the meetings of face- the media wanted to see the two young nobles meeting and going through the motions of betrothal. He was tired of cameras again already.

.

“-and furthermore, you will be returning to active duty after the surgery, partnered with Damocles.”

.

Rana blinked. He hadn’t been paying attention to the meeting, and now he had no idea what was going on. Hideo would have his head for missing information regarding Tsubasa. He looked slowly over at the cyborg again. At least he never had to worry, with his years of schooling, of showing his panic or the fact that he’d just been completely not attentive.

.

“Are you confident that Setsuna Corp is capable of success? I am not. The last time I submitted myself to a repair by this company, I lost my arm…and have been left with this inferior metal contraption meant for placement on a sand drone and covered with SilkSkin™. I’d rather they just not work at all then risk having to lose them. In fact, no, I refuse this surgery under terms 23c and 6f of my contract with the company. Have your sister negotiate terms with Amakusa Hoshimaru if you want me to be repaired and in full working order to do your handiwork on that front. Until then I am perfectly serviceable as a ground operative, the same a Ho or Seven. Or Damocles. " Tsubasa’s wings, all six of them here in cyberspace, twitched behind his back.

.

“I will not take full responsibility for the damaging of my person. Damocles is just as unstable as the Seraphim Class, and we. Do. Not. Get. Along. If, as chairs of the research and development project, you had read any of my monthly synopsis you would have been made aware much earlier of the pending tensions and flaws in the interface between the team and him. Let alone between his augmentations and his own personal reference core. "

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