You're not a git. :smile:

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One soundless mid-day,
The wind was so cheerful.

Flower petals sway in the breeze
As if they were sleepy.

This serene feeling...

Tell me, what's the word people use for it?

"Hiro no Tsuki" -- Arai Akino: Outlaw Star


(You're a soldier now, boy. Remember that. It's important.)

New think-tanks? Togusa snorts softly. As if anything could replace the Tachikoma.

(Being a soldier means you follow orders. Can you do that? Or is that too complicated for ya?)

The dark marble pillars of the briefing room are too smooth to lean against properly. Togusa doesn't bother to correct this misconception of Batou's as the cyborg tries it. Needless to say, he slips and stumbles.

(Keep your head down, boy --)

"Good thing Major didn't see that," Togusa snickers before he can stop himself.

(I said, keep your head down

"Who asked you," Batou snarls, picking himself up.

Togusa mutters something under his breath. It might have been an apology. Batou pretends not to hear as the others file in, one by one.

"New think-tanks?" Pazu asks.

"Seems like it," Togusa confirms, not looking at Batou.

(Oh, don't tell me this is happening, boy. Don't you remember that you're a soldier now?)

There is a flurry of words and movement. Togusa finds himself sitting between a disgruntled Batou and an oblivious Boma. He wryly thinks about the picture they must make -- him framed between the two men, his scrawniness even more emphasized than usual. No amount of baggy clothes can hide that, not from the right eyes.

(It's a miracle you ever made it into the service, boy. Do I need to spell it out for you? Are you stupid, as well as weak? Oh, wait, I forgot. Of course you are.)

"What are they called?" Pazu asks disinterestedly.

"Uchikoma," Major replies in her crisp fashion. Togusa hates it, even though he knows that she's only trying to make this as painless as possible.

He studies the picture on the screen in an attempt to distract himself. The Uchikoma weren't bizarrely cute like their forebears. They were stretched and squashed, and painted an ugly green.

"They're supposed to be superior to the Tachikoma, especially since they have different behavior programs."

"How different?" Saito this time. Batou hasn't said anything (he's a soldier too, dammit. Haven't you been paying any attention at all?) but Togusa isn't surprised. Only saddened.

(Be still, boy, be still. Don't need you muddying the waters, they're murky enough. Batou doesn't want you distracting him. You're both soldiers, remember?)

Major is blathering on and on -- the Uchikoma won't be so childish, won't have any emotions in fact. Just computers that kill.

Batou's face is a mask. Togusa hates Motoko with all his heart, because there is only Batou's pain, reflected in the ugly paint of the Uchikoma. Togusa is relieved that his hand is already on his knee; it's turning white, he grips the joint so tightly. Don't bump your knee against Batou's, now; remember, he's a cyborg, so he wouldn't understand the sympathy you want to convey. And even if he did, he'd hate you for it. He doesn't want anyone's pity, especially yours.

(Goddammit, you're a soldier now. Not a detective, not an officer of the peace. A goddamn soldier. Be still, boy, be still

Motoko is still talking. About something he's too angry to understand; something about programs and weapons and Section 9 being police officers --

Togusa can feel a familiar rage filling him. It spills out of his mouth in words that taste like mud and ash; like the flames searing his throat and the pond scum churning in his stomach. "Stop deluding yourself."

She stops and looks at him -- a simple, "Excuse me?" in the polite way she's been talking ever since they lost Kuze.

(What the HELL is the matter with you, boy! A good soldier doesn't mouth off to his CO! Why the hell can't you remember what you ARE now?)

"We're not police officers," he says harshly. The fire is so hot -- "We're soldiers, we're our own army. Not a single one of us is a cop. Not even me."

(Dammit it to hell, boy, what is your problem?)

More movement, more words, more anger. Togusa is making his way down to the parking garage when Batou catches up to him.

He turns around and speaks before Batou can say anything. "Batou, promise me you won't die."

Surprise. "Wha...that's a helluva thing to say. We could die any day. We're ALL gonna die, eventually. You should know that."

"I know," Togusa says calmly, even as Batou is reminded of his nightmare -- Togusa, prone against rubble, arms and legs bent at unnatural angles, bullet holes marring his face, putting out and bursting one of those brilliant golden eyes like it was a blood-filled water balloon. "I know that. But...just matter what'll live...okay?"

And because he wants to say anything, anything to get his best friend off this frightening topic, Batou agrees and the briefing room is forgotten. But, months and years later, he would wonder why he hadn't extracted a similar promise out of Togusa. Because of one last shot from the gun range, and then utter silence, and Kusanagi walking in to see what was taking Togusa so long -- and screaming with horror at what she saw.

And Batou is thinking, that thing isn't Togusa, not that cold, messy DEAD thing-- but no, Togusa is Thataway on the floor with the top half his head pasted on the walls and ground, so if it isn't him then where is he and what is That?

A body with a ghost is what we call human. But a body will eventually become just a body. And that's when you call it a corpse.