A/N: This story contains some violence, graphic descriptions of violence and gore, dark themes, some language, drug abuse, and torture. Please do not read this story if you are bothered by these themes(and I don't mean to offend anyone with it...). This story is part of the (self-imposed)Cyberpunk Writing challenge I'm doing and will be divided into two parts, Blue Neon, and Pink Neon. The main characters are...well, you can probably guess from the titles.
The story is largely AU, with almost no connections to the game's original plot or canon. And it's my first time writing something this long and intense, so there might be a few cliches, and maybe some mistakes. And if the linebreaks make it too hard or jarring to read, please tell me.
The streets of Shanghai were littered with discarded food wrappers and neon signs. Japanese kanji and Korean hanja mingled in the signs among a few lines of squiggly Arabic and incomprehensible symbols. Fake trees stood on either side of the road, red and pink blossoms draped with lotus decorations and the artificial smell of pine.
A burst of accented French, the guttural sounds of slurred Japanese, rapid-fire Mandarin being uttered into a mobile phone. Faces of passing people flushed with the orange light of cheap street lamps. Smoke from nearby food stalls billowed into the air, and a cloud of steam obscured the street view momentarily as a man lifted the lid off a batch of dumplings.
A boy and a girl stood in front of the bar Kami, the boy's fingers deftly counting the bills and coins he held in his hands. An N5-issue Cannon Sword was nestled inside a sheath strapped to his leg.
The boy's upper arms were lined with thin burn scars as if he'd been lashed with a red-hot whip sometime in the past, and his wrists were studded with brown needle marks that were visible as he quickly flicked through the money. The girl nudged the boy gently.
"Relax, Isa. We have enough for some food. I don't mind sleeping near the warehouses again."
"We almost got shot last time, remember?" the boy carefully folded the coins into the bills and returned them to his pocket. Showing anything worth of value in the streets was never a good idea. "They probably thought we were thieves. Or drug dealers...or users, or something." he looked pointedly at the needle marks.
The girl's eyes darkened, and when she spoke, her soft voice was tinged with sadness.
"Monsters don't die from a few shots..."
Kami's interior was furnished in the retro style of the 2050s, all tarnished chrome and abstract smudges of light.
Blue neon reflected off Kachi's pink plastic jacket like the sheen of water droplets on a cold morning, reminding Isa of Hakata Port, ships rocking in the water as the gray sea foamed under the blurry tinge of dawn.
They found an empty table against the wall and sat down. Red light angrily pulsed through a crack in the ceiling like an aggravated wound. The menu was written in English, Japanese, and Chinese on a chipped sheet of plastic.
"Huh, they use Yen too? That gives us a little more to spend."
Biting of Good China Rice Noodle 500
Isa squinted at the bad translation and looked up.
"We can afford two bowls of...good Chinese noodles, whatever that is, and two drinks."
"Alcoholic for you?" Kachi asked.
"Depends on whether I'm still hungry after the noodles. What about you?"
Kachi tilted her head to the side, pretending to think hard. Finally, she said, "Fruit juice?"
Isa laughed. The effort hurt his face. He realized that he hadn't laughed since leaving Japan a week ago.
"Fruit juice? Seriously?"
"Tropical fruit juice."
The noodles were bland and powdery, unsubstantial. Hardly needed biting at all, thought Isa as he swirled his chopsticks around in the bowl, watching the thin noodles surface and sink again into the soup.
Kachi pushed her untouched bowl towards him. "Here, take mine too."
"I can't do that."
Kachi picked up her bowl and dumped its contents into Isa's half-empty one.
"Hey!" he protested.
She gave him a firm look. "Eat it. You need it more than I do."
Kachi took delicate sips from her glass of fruit juice. Ice tinkled as she took another drink, seemingly savoring the taste of dragonfruit and mango. A small replica of a lily floated on top of the semi-transparent liquid.
Isa searched his pockets for a syringe. He finally found one. The cobalt liquid inside swirled as he tore off the plastic wrap, exposing the large needle. Kachi watched him inject himself with it, driving the sharp end of the needle into his wrist.
"You don't have to watch." Isa felt the chemical burn as it entered his body. It spread out like a corrosive cloud from the point of injection.
"Humans need so much put into their bodies. Food, drugs, water, alcohol." Kachi's eyes held the curiosity of a young child, innocent and... And what? Not quite right?
Damn. She was so pure. Isa looked at the empty syringe in his hand. It was a symbol of his own tormented depravity.
"Preferably more food and less drugs, but yeah."
"I've seen what the drugs do to you. It makes you hurt a lot. You scare me sometimes."
"It is nice, to be human?" Kachi sipped her drink. She sounded almost wistful.
"Sometimes it's not as nice as you might think. Sometimes I wish I could be like that glass over there, all fragile and transparent, you know? So some drunk can bash me against the table and shatter my head into a million pieces." he pointed to his head and mimed an explosion. Boom. "Just like that."
"You scare me, Isa." Kachi's face was now entirely devoid of emotion. Her jacket was illuminated by the surreal green light from the neon bulbs on the wall.
Isa tensed as he heard heavy footsteps behind him. Somebody tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned.
Stared right into the yellow teeth of a middle-aged man, with the reek of cheap alcohol on his breath. Isa felt an impulse to knock his own mug of beer off the table.
The man's face was bathed in dark red light.
"Hey, kid. You look like a drug. You a drug?"
His speech was slurred, with a Russian accent.
"That's no way to talk to your elders, boy."
"Oh yeah?" Isa drew his gun and pointed it at the man's throat. The effects of the methamphetamine and the cobalt were surging through his spine. "Well, I don't give a damn whether you're fifty years old, or a hundred, sir. And I warn you to get the hell out of here, right now."
The man scowled. "How old are you, sixteen? A bit too young to be playing around with guns, don't you think? Think about it, I got a good deal going on with this guy, and..." he broke off, turning to look at Kachi. He leaned forward and stroked her chin with a yellow, chipped fingernail.
"Now, who is this lovely lady? Your girl?"
Isa roughly shoved the barrel of the gun into his head.
"Get away from her."
The man continued to explore Kachi's face with his fingers, moving on to the cheek, nose, forehead. He paused.
"Now, what is this?"
Dirty fingernails swept Kachi's bangs aside, revealing the burned, scarred flesh of her forehead. The scars were letters, branded into her skin.
"Well, well, well. This is interesting."
Isa grabbed hold of his hand. "I said, fuck off!" he shouted.
The man's other fist swung towards him.
Isa effortlessly dodged it, caught it and crumpled it in one hand like a ball of paper. The man's fingers crunched. The man screamed, staring at his hand, which was now reduced to a jangling bag of meat and bone. Behind Isa, Kachi moved with a speed no street brawler could ever hope to match. She had the man flat on the ground with a swift kick to his solar plexus.
People began to stare.
Isa smashed his face in with his foot, over and over again. Stomping down on the eyes, nose, mouth, until the face was no longer a face.
His vision was saturated with bright colors. Blood rushed in his veins, his head, behind eyes that felt too large for the sockets, saw too much. Irregular heartbeat like an animated puppet, jerking against the walls, madly dancing in the deranged mixture of chrome and abstract light. His trigger finger began to twitch, its movement alien, as if a thick stick insect had fused itself to his hand, wriggling and monstrous...
He lowered his gun and fired into the corpse's head.
The shortwaves from an ancient Japanese AM station blared from the radio over the sound of running water and the creaking of pipes.
"15-year-old Isa Jo, a former soldier for the N5, has been sighted in the gaijin bar Kami, after murdering a drug dealer from Vladivostok, Russia."
"The alien life-form accompanying him has also been recognized…..."
"Chinese authorities have been searching Shanghai and surrounding regions for the past six hours for signs of these..."
"Under the orders of the Nebulox, a military organization dedicated to the protection of humans..."
The radio's signals fell away into the incomprehensible regions of static and mumbles of Japanese.
He looked at himself in the mirror, ran his hand through his hair. Not bad, he thought, for someone who'd been living on the streets for the last four months or so. But there was a certain distortion to the face, too pale and pinched. The skin around his eyes was red.
No, he decided. He was utterly wasted.
They'd found a cheap room in a motel that took Yen, and Isa was taking advantage of the plumbing system, washing his face with tap water that smelled only faintly of chlorine. His wet hair kept getting into his eyes. He needed a haircut.
"Yes, Isa?" she emerged from the bathroom, wringing out her hair with a smudged towel. Water droplets on her pink plastic jacket. Hakata.
He instinctively walked over and smoothed her bangs over the scars.
"Do I really look like a drug?" he asked.
Back in Tokyo, they'd strapped him to some machine, and burned lines into his back. Punishment, for disobeying orders to kill. A small boy, no older than five. With blond hair and blue eyes that seemed to be constantly begging for something. He couldn't bring himself to do it. That face haunted him to this very day, another addition to his already sizable library of nightmares.
He'd passed out after forty minutes or so, his own agonized screams echoing in his ears as he fell into the blackness. After waking from some extended fever dream, where the mist had been red, infernal, the fear visceral, his mother's cries increasingly hysterical, he'd found himself lying facedown on a bed. A medic had inserted a needle into his arm after drawing from a clinical bottle half-filled with a clear liquid. The release had been immediate and utterly effective.
Constant quick pulses of blue had strobed down his neck, caressed his spine, stroked and somehow calmed his racing mind, an alien anesthesia. And when it was gone, he'd been left with a hollow, empty feeling, with a certain craving for the blue. And the damned pain in his back.
He'd eventually killed the boy.
The drugs still bound him to that place, the N5. The most similar substance he could find on the streets was a clear cobalt liquid commonly called 1Night2Sky, an unnatural mixture of a small amount of methamphetamine and something users simply called the 'corruption', administered through the bloodstream. Any other substance wouldn't cut it, as far as he knew. He would get sick, feel like he was about to vomit half his insides out. Head splitting in a cacophony of voices and rough-edged incomprehensible thoughts.
He wondered when it would kill him, the drugs. He'd seen up to a year of addiction with normal people, a year and a half with augmented livers.
With him, he had a feeling that it would take much, much longer.
The streets didn't provide the carefully calculated pulses of cold blue relief, but rather the thick orange haze of fear, sweat, and intoxication that targeted the nervous system like a swarm of persistent stinging insects, coating the branching nerve ends with thick goo lit through with plasma sparks of unreal pleasure.
The savage aftereffects of an overdose left him unable to function for days on end, lying on the floor or a dirty mattress in a cheap motel room, listening to the pain ebb away and then return with renewed force inside his skull. Kachi took care of him then, bringing food and water whenever she could. He never questioned where she got them, and she didn't tell.
Besides, he was usually more focused on not puking anything up.
He didn't sleep well that night in the Shanghai motel. After the 1Night2Sky wore off, unsettling dreams found their way in.
"Sometimes, I feel that human memory is too good."
A thick black fog followed him, shifting and morphing into shadows of buildings and monsters, the chaos of people screaming and children wailing. He burst through the fog, straight into a black glassy wall that stretched out in all directions, as far as the eye could see. The edges of the wall faded away into cobalt mist, lit with twilight. He floated there for a second, confused.
He looked at his arms. They were white, elongated. His hands had black claws for fingernails.
Horrified, he looked at his reflection in the wall.
I...I'm a monster. I'm a monster.
I'm the monster!
The dream shifted.
"Isa, go to the shelter and stay there. Don't come out until I come for you, okay? If I don't come back until 6:00..." his mother took a deep breath. "Oh, no...don't cry, love. Please don't cry."
He was stumbling through the burning wreckage, a child again. Crying for his mother.
No, it's a dream. It's just a fucking dream!
The tears were too wet, too salty against his cold cheek, his eyesight too vivid. The panic rising in his chest was too powerful, his pulse too quick.
He tried to turn back, to run away, go anywhere except where his body-his mind?- was now taking him.
But his child's body climbed over the rubble, too quick, too agile for a human child of nine.
He raised his head and saw them. Hoards of them, swarming over the heart of the city, the entire scene lit by the fiery glow of the red, fading sunset.
Terrible and glorious and savage, all at the same time.
He felt their power singing through impossibly intertwined veins, animal instincts burning holes into the fabric of consciousness.
He felt their lust for blood. For more human blood.
He dropped to his knees, sobbing.
The next time the dream shifted, the change was so minute it took a few seconds for him to realize that he was no longer a scared child in a city, but an N5 soldier in a room with cold drafts rustling the yellow curtains.
The child in front of him looked at him with wide eyes, terror stark on his face.
Wide, terrified eyes. His eyes. The eyes seemed to expand, swallow up the rest of the boy's face, filling Isa's vision until it was all he could see.
He fired shots into the boy's head, screaming.
"Isa? Isa? You awake?"
He woke to the sound of Kachi's voice. Normally he would have welcomed the soft, worried tone of it, but today it seemed a bit too loud, a bit too high on the spectrum. His head throbbed.
The blankets felt hot and heavy on his skin. He coughed dryly, and Kachi handed him a bottle of water.
He took a drink. It tasted like petrol.
"Where are we?"
"You were dreaming, and shouting in your sleep. You wouldn't wake up, so I moved you here."
Isa tried to focus on her face. His brain felt as if it had been stuffed into a working microwave and left there for thirty minutes.
"Don't try to get up."
Kachi pressed a cool cloth to his forehead, and sparks exploded against his gritty eyelids.
"Goddamn it, Kachi. I hate the N5. I hate their drugs."
"I know, I know. Just lie down, okay?"
Isa picked himself off the bed and looked around. The room looked too big, too rich for them to afford. A hard knot of uneasiness started forming in the pit of his stomach.
There was blood on Kachi's blouse, red and vivid.
"Go back to sleep, Isa."
She grabbed him by the shoulders and forcefully guided him back to the bed, pushed him down onto the thick mattress. Her body nearly on top of his, he struggled for a few confused seconds before letting himself go limp. The sheets were achingly white, soft. Kachi's arms wrapped around his neck as she pressed against him.
"Hush, my love."
Her power hit him like a sledgehammer then, strange soft hands gripping his mind and leading, bending it slowly into a place of darkness and silence, with no more colors.