Blade's Edge
(a Hackers Fic)
~Zoi no miko


I was always surrounded by computers, electronics, all through my
childhood. My mother was a foreign applications CEO for IBM, and my father
worked in audio-visual and program design for Sony. He was head of his
department before I was eight. They thought that I was genius, genetically destined
to follow in their footsteps, so I was more than encouraged to explore and meddle
with the trinkets they brought home from work.

Like most rich children, I was enrolled in an elite private school, dressed in
uniforms, taught, my head crammed full of information. I hated school. It was so
structured, with no room to question the set methods of learning or teaching. And
though we all wore uniforms, I always knew I was different from the other
children, marked. I should have been well liked - I was incredibly intelligent, all
my teachers said so. Of course, that was always with a "but" - I couldn't apply
myself, didn't work well with others. Not that I wanted to, in either case. Facts and
numbers were boring when they had no application in my life, other than a distant
marker of the past or future. And the others were so... juvenile. They didn't think
like I did. My parents eventually pulled me out of school, bought me tutors. It
helped, it was better then. More time to be on my own, to work with my
computers.

I was fourteen when we moved to New York, my mother and I. I'd seen it
coming, the divorce. My father, by that time, was more in love with his work than
my mother, so she had an affair, then filed for divorce, asking for a transfer to
New York, moving in with her American lover. I went with her. I doubt my father
even noticed when we left.

I knew English by then, of course. The future universal language had been
pounded into our heads since the first year of school. I had to know it well to hack,
anyway. And hacking had taught me the slang. Not that I preferred English, of
course. Japanese just felt so much better to say....

New York had its good and bad points. The phone system was easier to
con, for instance. And my taste in clothing seemed similar to that of the elite, as if
Japan's fashion was finally seeping over. The bad thing, of course, was that I had
to go back to school, placed in the level with people my age as opposed to my
intelligence. And a week before it started, I still hadn't figured out a way to get out
of it. But a week before school started was also when I first met two very
important people.

My mother and her William were holding a housewarming party, showing
off the penthouse apartment they could well afford with their salaries. Friends of
William's, associates from work, all older, successful people who would ignore me
all night, or try to talk down to me, assuming because of my height that I was
younger than fourteen, and much less intelligent. And the worst part about it was
the fact that my mother made me wear a suite - coat, trousers and a matching vest
of stiff, cream linen. It probably looked quite nice on me - my mother had
impeccable taste - but the fact that she knew of my utter aversion to suits was what
made me sulk the whole evening, hoping the adults would hurry up and get drunk
so I could lock myself in my room with my computers.

One couple arrived fashionably late, toting their son with them as if they
assumed the invitation was extended to anyone they cared to bring along. They
were oriental, but looked like they were properly Americanized. I wondered if
their son even knew a language other than English.

William greeted them at the door, exchanging pleasantries and taking their
coats, eyeing the boy nervously, as if he wasn't quite sure what to do with him.
The couple apologized heartily, with fizzled explanations about sitters falling
through, and - Oh, didn't Sayana have a son who was thirteen, too?

I regarded the boy. Thirteen, and his parents still got sitters for him? He
was probably one of those rich, bratty things, nihonjin spoiled by America's
attitude and money. He was in a suit, too, a gray corduroy thing that looked
entirely too uncomfortable. I smiled slightly, glad that I wasn't the only one with a
sadistic mother.

William looked around, a little helpless, until he spotted me. He waved me
over, and I joined, reluctantly. "Makoji. This is the Yurutsu's son. He's thirteen,
too. You can hang with him tonight. Show him that neato computer of yours, eh,
tiger?"

I gave him a very unimpressed look, not liking his terminology. "I'm
fourteen, Will." Waving away anything else he had to say, I grabbed the boys'
sleeve, dragging him across the room, wordlessly.

"Makoji, right?" He asked, following.

"Mak," I corrected. I knew I'd have to Americanize my name eventually,
and I'd decided to do it myself rather than let the school kids chop it down to
something I didn't like.

"I'm Drew," he replied.

And an American name. I wrinkled my nose slightly. "Hajimimashite," I
said. Pleased to meet you, though I was too annoyed to be pleased about anything
at that moment.

He gave a slight smile, answering in my birth language, to my surprise.
"Arigato gosiamashita."

The more respectful form of thank-you. He really did know the language... I
stopped at the entrance to my room, turning, eyeing him. "Hm." Maybe he wasn't
too bad, then. "Come on," I said, leading him into my room, and closing the door
behind him.

It was my front room, really. A sitting room that lead to the bedroom
beyond, a room that held all my tech stuff. Drew looked around, eyes wide.
"...wow. Wish my parents could get me all this junk."

I shrugged, slightly proud. "It's prototype. Won't hit the market for a couple
years."

"Don't I know it..." he paused, looking at the PC that was hooked up.
"Radical. Can I have a look?"

"Don't screw it up," I replied.

He sat down and turned on the monitor, exiting out of the shell program and
into DOS immediately, fingers flying over the keys. I moved to stand beside him,
making sure he wasn't doing anything too stupid. Oddly enough, he seemed to
know what he was doing, pulling up stats and diagnostic files.

"Mak, this things *incredible*!" he said, half-grinning at the screen. "386,
28k modem, twenty thou KB Virtual memory, 32-bit disk access.... Man, I know
guys who'd give their eyeteeth for something like this. They don't even *market*
386s yet."

"I know," I said, more than a little smugly now.

He poked a few keys. "Just as long as you use this thing for something other
than games, Mak."

"What if I didn't?"

"Then I'd say the thing was going to waste."

"Trust me. It's not."

He turned, raised an eyebrow. "You hack?"

"Of course."

"Done anything spectacular?"

I shook my head slightly. "No. I want to get noticed with something really
big. I haven't figured out what that something is yet."

He nodded slightly. "Sounds like me. Can't really figure out where I want to
fit in with things, though. But I want to be elite, eventually. Maybe when I'm
older."

"Doesn't everyone who hacks want to be elite?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Every serious hacker, anyhow." He paused, leaning back
in the chair. "What's your handle?"

"Katana Blade." I smiled slightly. In essence, both words were the same, a
katana was a Japanese sword. But it sounded neat, which served its purpose.

He grinned. "Razor Wire."

"Not bad."

He nodded towards the screen. "What are you doing with it now?"

"Now? I'm trying to track this guy. I talked to him a couple times before, he
really knows his stuff. He's elite. He said he has something big planned. Have you
ever bumped into him? His handle is Zero Cool."

His eyes widened. "You met Zero Cool?"

"Only online. Why? You know him?"

"Don't you read the papers? He's the guy the police are implicating in that
huge crash a couple days ago. You know, the one that crashed Wall Street?"

"And fifteen hundred and six other systems." I grinned. "I guess he really
was planning something big. I'd love to get my hands on that virus."

"Wouldn't we all. They still haven't caught him, huh? Still looking for the IP
number. Wouldn't it be cool if he never got caught?"

"The government would throw a fit, thinking there was someone out there
who could screw the system. Someone that had more control than they could.
Wouldn't that be cool? We could hack anything, TV stations, schools, whatever.
Hack the planet."

"Yeah." Drew was silent for a moment, then looked over at me. "Wanna
work together? You know, share codes and stuff?"

I regarded him. As much as I'd made up my mind to have a miserable
evening, I'd actually found myself enjoying his company. And liking him. And it
occurred to me that maybe I'd finally have a really friend. I smiled back. "Sure."

~~

So while Zero Cool disappeared into memory, Drew and I made it big. We
somehow ended up in all the same classes despite our age difference - schools
weren't hard to hack if you knew how - which made education bearable for the
both of us. We did well, and we hacked, making ourselves known even in high
school. I dropped the "Katana" in my name, he dropped the "Wire", and we
became Razor and Blade, as official as hacker partners could be. After we'd both
graduated, we bought a club with our parents money, sharing an apartment
adjoining it, paying people to run it, living off the profit quite nicely. We hung
with elite hackers, did the party thing, and did it as Razor and Blade. They knew
us. They thought we were flakes, but they knew who we were. And they knew we
were richer than hell - well, we had bought the club they all went to. And they
knew we knew our stuff.

It was five years after Zero Cool's big crash that I really started looking for
him again. The courts had restrained the media, since he was just a minor. I think
that was what had shocked me the most, finding out that this kid was younger than
I was. But we did know he'd been sentenced to several years probation, being
banned from using computers until he was legal. So I started looking for him. How
old had he been? I'd guessed my age, or Drew's. Which meant he'd be getting
online again, soon. I doubted he'd stay away from computers any longer than he
had to. And I wanted to learn from him, get to know him. To find the person who'd
inspired me.

Drew came into my room early one evening, several weeks after I'd started
looking. He leaned over my shoulder, a slight tone of annoyance in his voice. "Are
you still looking for that guy?"

"Yes." I'd hacked the court records, which I was very proud of, finding his
name, age, everything about him. And school records, federal records, finding
every piece of information I could on the boy named Dade Murphy. He'd been
younger than even I'd thought when he'd crashed Wall Street, only eleven. Which
put him at sixteen, now. Seventeen at best. But that didn't deter me. He was still
online. He had to be, somehow. And I wanted to find him, talk to him. Hack his
computer, if I had to.

"You've been doing that for the past three weeks. Over."

"I know," I replied. "I'm close, Drew. I'm gonna find Dade." Even the name
implied someone special - Dade. His real name, not a handle. Did anyone else in
the world have that name?

"Maybe he's not online. He'd be breaking probation if he was, you know."

"I know. But things like that don't stop real hackers."

He frowned. "You said we'd go out tonight, Mak."

"Tomorrow. I'm close. We'll go out tomorrow, I promise."

"You said that last night. And the night before that. And several other times,
if I recall correctly."

"So I ran into roadblocks. Sorry. But I'm gonna find him tonight," I said,
trying to verbally push him away.

"That's what you said last night, too."

"So? Tonight's for real."

He was silent for a moment. "Then what?

"What do you mean, then what? Then I'll talk to him."

"Mak, it's been five years. Do you know how behind he'll be? If he's even
online again, which I doubt."

"I don't think he ever left his computer," I replied, taking my hands away
from the keyboard, leaning back. "I wouldn't have."

"Your mother doesn't care what you do. His parents might."

I ignored that. "Dade's a genius. He won't be behind."

"He's just a boy. He's not some techno-god like you're making him out to
be."

"Dade isn't just another boy," I shot back. "And I'm going to find him."

"Dade. All I hear is Dade, you tracking Dade. You're obsessed, Mak! With
this kid who you talked to - what, twice? And five years ago! Twice! He got
caught! How wonderful is that?!"

"He crashed fifteen hundred - "

"I don't care if he hacked the planet!" Drew was really riled, almost
screaming now. "He got caught! He's on probation, banned from even operating a
frieken telephone! He's not coming back, Mak!"

"Why the hell do you care so much, suddenly?" I shot back, suddenly
angered. "What business is it of yours what I do? Maybe you're just jealous 'cause
he's better than you. Is that it? 'Cause he proved himself when he was eleven, and
you had to struggle to be elite! You'll never be as good as he is!"

"Neither will you!" He shot back. "You could be, but you spend your time
tracking that kid! You might as well marry the guy, for all you think about him. It's
sick, Mak! You're wasting your time!"

I headed for the door, fuming. "Oh screw off, Drew! I thought you
understood. Guess I was wrong." I slammed the door behind me, storming
downstairs and through the club, then out onto the street. I caught a taxi, and
sulked the whole way to my mothers.

She wasn't home - she never was, anymore. I was suddenly glad the door
was code-operated, because I'd left so fast I found I'd forgotten my keys. Not that I
cared. I wouldn't be going back.

I tried booting up my old computer, but was too restless, annoyed, to work
on the dang thing for more than five minutes. Finally I settled down in front of the
TV with a cup of miso soup and a stiff, designer afghan, flipping channels, not
really paying attention to anything. And my mind drifted back to the confrontation
earlier.

What if... was he right? It wasn't just the past few weeks, when I'd been
looking for Dade. Ever since I first talked to him I'd seen him as a role model,
someone to look up to. I'd wanted to find him, befriend him so badly. I'd thought
he'd understand me.... But I barely knew him, like Drew had said....

Drew. I'd practically ignored him for the past couple weeks. The one who
really did understand me... even when I didn't think he did. He must hate me, now.
With that miserable thought, I dozed off.

When I awoke to infomercials several hours later, the apartment was still
dark and empty, my soup cold, abandoned. I sat up and stretched, a little stiff.
Gall, what was I doing here? I had to go back, had to apologize to him....

I picked up my jacket from where I had dropped it when I came in, putting
it back on and leaving the apartment. It was well past midnight, but the city was
still awake, our club still open to the night owls. I made my way up several sets of
staircases to our apartment. The door was closed, locked. I rang the bell. There
was no answer for such a long time that I wondered, almost panicked, if he'd left
as well....

Drew answered the door after the second ring. He looked like hell, tired,
drained. He regarded me for a moment, then turned and went back into the
apartment, almost collapsing onto the sofa, letting his head rest in one hand.

I stepped in, closing the door behind me, and hovered near the entrance.
"Drew...."

"What?"

I took a deep breath. "You were right, I was wrong. I'm sorry."

He was silent for several moments, then turned to look at me. "You mean
that?"

"Yeah." I let out a long sigh, taking off my coat and draping it over the back
of a nearby chair. "I got kinda carried away. I didn't mean to make you angry."

He looked up. "... I'm sorry. I guess I just got the feeling that you cared
more for that kid than you did your best friend. But that's all right. Hackers work
alone, anyhow."

"No." I moved, sitting beside him. "Look, it's my fault. You're right, I was
wrong. Dade's off the face of the planet, and there's nothing I can do about it. But I
don't want to work alone. Alone sucks. I want to work with you, Drew."

Drew managed a weak half-smile. "I guess I just don't get that feeling from
you all the time."

"Sorry," I replied, moving to hold him.

He blinked. "What are you doing?"

"Hugging you. Am I not allowed?"

"Well - I guess..." He returned the hug almost awkwardly. "Sorry. I wasn't
hugged much when I was a kid."

"Yeah. Me neither." I moved slightly closer, and he rested his face against
my shoulder. "You know," I said, stroking his shoulder almost absently, "We had
the perfect handles to work together. Like we were predestined or something."

"Kinda stereotypical, though." He murmured.

"It's perfect." I touched my lips to his hair briefly.

He stiffened. "Mak - "

"Sorry. Obsessive-compulsive."

He raised his head. "...Mak?"

"Yeah?"

He paused, then shook his head slightly. "Nothing."

"No, what?"

He swallowed. "I... you were right about me being jealous, though."

"You don't have to be. Dade's a world away. And you're my best friend, not
some kid. I'm going to keep my promises from now on...." I paused. "Were you
really that jealous?"

He gave a slight shrug, looking away, and I wondered whether he'd really
heard all my words. "Mak, I...." He stopped, then shook his head again, trembling
slightly. "Nevermind."

"Drew..." I touched the side of his face gently, making him look at me.
"...what's wrong? You can tell me...."

He closed his eyes, silent for a long moment, then whispered, "I think I'm in
love with you."

I stared, not answering. Of all the responses, that was not what I'd
expected....

He opened his eyes again, forcing a slight smile. "I'm sorry," he murmured,
and kissed me.

It was just a simple kiss, just our lips pressed together, but it was more than
enough to render me totally speechless, tingles racing down my spine, a million
thoughts in my mind, and all of them centered on Drew. I stared down at my
hands, not really seeing them, mind still whirling. Then I looked back up at him.

He was watching me, looking a little fearful, a slight blush colouring his
cheeks.

Drew.... Gall, was he really...? Sexuality wasn't something I'd ever
wondered about. I'd admired beauty, male and female, but never really gone after
anyone as far as dating was concerned. And he was beautiful.... perfect almond
skin, quirky smile, expressive, beautiful eyes....

Was that why I wanted to find Dade so badly? Someone so perfect,
impossibly unattainable... so I wouldn't have to take the risk of being rejected by
Drew? But if he really did love me....

I gave a slight smile. Then I took his face in my hands and leaned forward
to kiss him back, longer kisses that soon turned a little less simple, tasting him
hesitantly.

I pulled away, finally, and he laid his head back down on my shoulder,
trembling slightly. I ran a hand over his hair gently, comforting.

"Mak?"

"Yeah?"

"I just kissed you. You're not supposed to be doing this."

"Why not? I kissed you back, didn't I?"

"Yes, but - "

"But what?" I moved away from him, pulling his face up to look at him,
still smiling slightly. "Drew, I grew up in Japan. We're more accustomed to seeing
shonen ai. And the two of us are practically sakura anyway...."

"I didn't think I was that pretty," he murmured, casting his eyes down.

I was silent for a moment. "You are," I whispered, finally. He glanced back
up, and I recovered my voice, trying to cover my sense of awe, hide my trembling
hands. "And you have impeccable taste, which is just as important."

"Yours is better."

I scoffed. "When we borrow each other's clothes? I think not." I let my
smile fade and took a breath, trembling as much as he was, now, despite my act.
"So," I started, voice quiet, "do you want to add lovers to the list of things that we
are?"

He was quiet for a moment, and I began to wonder if I'd asked too soon.
After all, he'd grown up in America....

He grinned, suddenly. "Yeah." He nodded slightly, as if to affirm that.
"Yeah."

~~
I was the one who first painted my face. It wasn't too much of a difference
in my image - I all ready wore earrings, very female-styled clothing. So I went all
the way, not wanting to do anything half-hearted. Stark white, true to the fashion
of the ancient orient, painted wine colored lips, eyes penciled to look larger and
even more slanted. Drew just about fell over the first time he saw me.

He regarded me, speechless, for several moments. "Mak... you look like a
fag."

I grinned, flipping one hand in the stereotypical fag gesture. "So? I'm a
Hacker. And it's called "J-Rock". I'm allowed to look eccentric. Or be eccentric. People
can think whatever they want. We've done enough. We're elite. They won't mess with us." I
leaned back in the chair I was sitting on, stretching slightly. "Americans think we all
look alike, anyway. So we have an advantage over the others. You see them in a school,
you follow them home, you know their real name. All I have to do is take off my
make-up and I disappear. You, too."

He shook his head. "I'm not painting my face like a geisha girl."

" 'Course not. I all ready did that. Just wear make-up." I motioned to the
vanity, where the various cosmetics I'd accumulated over the past while were
scattered. "Go on."

He hesitated, looking over them. Then he picked up a black pencil, lining
his eyes like mine - tilted up and feminine. Gold shadow, bright and very
noticeable. And a hint of silver on his lips. He turned back to me, finally. "Good?"

I swallowed. "...you look beautiful, Sakura," I murmured, standing,
embracing him, our bodies pressed together. "Look... I really should have asked
you first," I told him. "If you don't want me to look like a fag...."

He gave a half smile. "You're a hacker. We're allowed to be eccentric." He
swallowed. "And... you do look beautiful."

"Thank-you," I murmured, and kissed him.

He pulled back. "Mak! You'll smudge my lipstick!"

I chuckled, glad that he'd taken to this more than I'd thought he would. "I
don't care," I whispered, claiming his lips.

We both ended up re-doing our make-up before we finally went out that
night. But that didn't really matter. Not to us.

1995 was when I finally met Dade. By that time, of course, I was so utterly
in love with my other half that it really didn't matter. But it brought a sense of
closure, finally being able to talk to him....

A friend of ours, Acid Burn, had come to see us, come for help. I wasn't
quite sure why she'd brought him along, unless it was because she knew of my past
obsession. He was going by Crash Override by that time.

I made a show of admiring Burn, for both Drew's benefit and my own. She
was pretty, for a girl. Even scared Dade to heck with our gun-shaped lighter on the
experimental mechanical arm we'd been working on. Drew had been uneasy when
we'd allowed them to speak to us, but he'd relaxed at that. As he talked, I took the
opportunity to regard Dade in person. Zero Cool, Crash Override, the parcel that
was him. And I wondered what I really saw. He may have been brilliant, but...
there were cuter. Cereal Killer, though he was a bit psychotic for my taste. Even
the little try-hard chain smoker they hung with that didn't even have a handle, to
my knowledge. And neither of them could hold a finger to my sakura....

Crash and Burn. I wondered if the two of them knew how perfect they
probably were for each other.... Two years ago I might have been dismayed. But
not now. Not with Drew.

I took Drew's hand as they left, touching my lips gently to the back of it. "I
love you," I whispered.

He turned to look at me, smiling back. "I love you, too."

~~~~