A/N: So I wrote this a while back and was waiting until I finished the next chapter before putting this up but I hurt my wrist and typing is very difficult. I was looking into getting Dragon voice-to-text software though so hopefully I can write more of this soon. But I had to post this because…if you're familiar with US current events you know the healthcare bill passed. Really pissed me off, and exactly the sort of stuff that this story is speaking against. I really hope that somehow my humble fanfic might warn people…might change someone's mind or help get people to speak out. Then again everyone is probably like, "STFU AND GTFO we do not care abut ur politikz READINGTIEM???" …not that I blame you. Please try and enjoy.
Thanks to my friends that put up with my political rants and offer snuggles of comfort rather than trying to hit me over the head with a shoe. This is for you. And those that have patiently dealt with my slow onscreen keyboard typing of course.
On his walk to the bullet train station he felt extremely isolated.
All around him people were walking about, carrying their same cup of coffee, their same newspaper, wearing the same shoes, all laughing and smiling and talking about things that didn't mean anything. For the first time in his life he felt an invisible barrier between him and everyone else in the world. They hadn't lost their rose-tinted glasses, and he was stumbling blindly through a world stained in gray.
People with shopping bags came out of a shoe store and raved about their new purchases. They were already wearing the shoe available.
Some housewives meeting for tea at a café praised the amazing deals at the supermarket. It always had the same prices and the same choices.
He finally got the train station and waited with the large mass of people. He tried not to feel the distance between all of them, as if his negative energy created the wall he imagined. Fearing that allowing himself to get swallowed up in this train of thought would drive him mad, he tried to list off all the chores he needed to do at home.
"Isn't the government amazing?" a girl behind him marveled aloud. "This elaborate train system and we don't have to pay for it! Just scan your chip and get on. I must use this thing like, twenty times a week! It was such a good idea for them to make it. But they always tend to have good ideas."
Suzaku bit back a groan and hurried to get on when the train arrived.
They played another interview with the "president" on his ride back home. He wanted desperately not to pay attention to it, and yet he couldn't block it from his mind. Apparently the government was still debating the measure over what hair color people were allowed to have. Suzaku sat tensely in his seat and stared blankly out one of the small windows.
"The whole issue lies in the inequality of hair color, correct?" asked the man interviewing the president.
"Yes. Everyone is taught in their history books about some of the wars that broke out purely because of genetics and things we can't control. This will be the first measure in a line of ground-breaking steps to further rid our beautiful community of feelings of inadequacy, of envy, unfairness…Everyone will have the same hair color to make sure we all feel equal and can focus on more important things."
"What hair colors are you considering?"
"Well, it can't be a naturally occurring hair color, because that would make the message out to be that people with those hair colors are naturally better than other people. We've considered muted versions of red and green, but that's still up for debate."
"I'm assuming everyone will be dying their hair to achieve the proper color? What about the people allergic to hair dye?"
"Unfortunately for now the safest way of changing hair color is still through hair dye. For those that have health issues, they will be required to wear a wig in the same shade of everyone else's hair until we come up with a better solution. The dye is only temporary, of course. We have scientists working on a way to actually alter what color your hair naturally grows as."
"That's really something! And you say you have more plans for this kind of measure?"
"Of course. After we've gotten this figured out, things like eye color, skin color, height, weight, etcetera are going to be discussed. We're concerned about the number of people teased for these traits, many of which they just can't control. Teasing has fallen drastically in recent years thanks to our equality acts, but it's still easier to make everyone equal in those aspects than to make people accept their peers as they are…"
The thought of having to change his body on government orders sickened him. He was all too happy to get out of the train when it slid to a stop. He wanted someone to talk to about this…no, more like he needed someone to talk to, someone who would take it seriously, who wouldn't immediately side with all the things the government had been saying. There wasn't anyone else who felt like him though, was there? Suddenly the image of the old man came to mind and he mentally cursed the fact that he had been taken away. He was making his way towards the exit when a face in the crowd caught his eye. At first he couldn't recognize who it was, but there was the old man from before. Now his hair was clean and combed, his expression was bright and cheery, his skin clean, clothes in good shape…the same as everyone else. Startled, Suzaku found himself moving over to him before he realized what he was doing.
The man was passing out fliers informing people of some of the new measures the government wanted to take. He greeted Suzaku with a large smile, exposing well-kept teeth.
"Hello, brother! Please take this information about the future plans for our glorious city!" he offered Suzaku one of the fliers and Suzaku, unable to decline due to pure shock, took it with an unsteady hand. The hand fell to his side, the piece of laminated paper completely ignored.
"Didn't…didn't the peacekeepers take you away this morning?" he asked with a note of wariness.
"They sure did. They saw that I had stubbornly refused their kindness and was bitter because I didn't have these things in my life. They sat me down and explained everything to me. They fixed me up nicely and even gave me a job so I'll have money for food and more clothes like this. I've never been so happy! Isn't our government just swell?" he seemed sincere and passionate. The dramatic change in his message frightened Suzaku into wondering just what the hell the government had done to this man. It was illegal to do anything…harmful, right? And yet he sounded completely different. He looked different. Suzaku took a step back. The man just kept smiling brightly at him. Another step, and another, and before he knew it he had turned on his heel and was running. People complained as he nearly ran into them, barely dodging around them, but he didn't slow down. He knew that no one was chasing him but he had this need to escape. The world, the one that had seemed just fine and dandy to him a week ago, two weeks ago, was becoming dark and confusing. Smiles turned sinister. Faces all looked the same. People weren't unique, they weren't individuals. They thought the same and were being made to look the same, act the same…!
In all his running he didn't realize he had squeezed his eyes shut. He hit something hard and cried out in surprise and slight pain, thinking it at first to be a pole. When he didn't topple over he opened his eyes.
The first thing he saw was fierce, vibrant purple. No gray. No brainwashed dullness. Mesmerized, he hardly noticed when he was pulled into the shadows of an alleyway and pressed against the wall of a building. His gaze remained locked on purple eyes until the owner of such gems leaned forward to speak into his ear. Silky black hair brushed across his cheek and he blinked, staring off at nothing in particular.
"Don't attract attention."
It was definitely a male voice. Velvety smooth, it gave him the feeling that this man was very dangerous. Despite himself he just nodded, curious as to what was going on.
If just for one moment, he forgot about his panic, about being isolated. Someone was reaching through the barrier.
"I've watched you. That old man affected you. I heard what you were trying to say to the blue-haired man. I saw your reaction to the imposter." He was pinned down with those eyes again. Long eyelashes, thin black eyebrows, pale skin…the features weren't entirely uncommon, but he had the look of an aristocrat from ages long since passed, like a painting right out of the history books assigned in school. The grip on his shoulders, the one pressing him against the wall but completely unnecessary, was firm despite his slender fingers and thin arms.
The words sunk in.
What if this strange individual happened to be an undercover peacekeeper? What if he was going to take him in because of his behavior? Because he was showing signs of being like that old man? …It wouldn't be too bad to be back to feeling content, not caring what happened, enjoying what life had to offer and going along with things…and yet a part of his mind refused.
I want to think for myself. I want to be myself. I don't want to be like everyone else…
"I didn't do anything wrong!" he exclaimed. "Don't take me awa--!"
Before he could keep yelling and pleading, one of those hands was pressed tightly over his mouth, successfully muffling his voice and cutting off his air supply.
"Calm down. I didn't say that you did anything wrong. You're going to get us caught if you keep screaming at the top of your lungs. I want you to listen to me. You're going to go back to the train station and you're going to get the old man to follow you here. Do you understand? I'll know if you fail to cooperate."
His lungs started burning and his mind screamed at him. Need oxygen. Need to survive…need to breathe. He nodded furiously, or as hard as he could with that firm grip over his mouth, mainly to get this strange man to let go of him. The hand was removed just as he began to feel dizzy and he gasped for breath, slumping against the wall of the building while his eyes slid shut. All his life Suzaku Kururugi had never been afraid of anything. Now he had been terrified twice in one day.
"I have no intention of hurting you, provided you listen to me. You aren't satisfied with the direction this world is going…and I'm going to show you why that feeling is justified."
"…Why do you want to see that man? And why do I need to bring him here?" He was still wary. Being grabbed out of the blue by a handsome, intriguing young man seeming to lack sanity didn't just happen to people. While his interest was piqued by the bait, the desire for companionship in this confusing and aggravating state of mentality close to overwhelming, he got the feeling that something bad would happen if he listened to this questionable demand.
"I'm going to show you something," he repeated, lacking emotion in his rich voice, his expression still fierce and acutely focused. There was an abundance of intelligence and secrets in those deep eyes. "If I'm seen by the ones called Peacekeepers, they will annihilate me."
…Great, Suzaku thought blandly. Forced to do something by a wanted criminal. And if I'm caught with him, what will they do with me?
Seeing the hesitance still written across Suzaku's face, he pressed him more firmly against the wall.
"If being asked makes the decision too difficult for you, allow me to simplify it." The voice was a whisper against his ear, perfectly calm and polite, but there was an edge to it that made Suzaku tense up. Not a moment later he felt the icy cold touch of metal under his chin, hard and unforgiving, molded into the barrel of a gun. The ice spread through his veins, leaving his whole body cold and trembling, his lungs forgetting how to pull in air and his throat closing up to prevent them from relearning. "Go get the old man."
Suzaku didn't need to be told a third time. He was gone the moment the man released him, diving back into the sea of people. He was like a fish trying to swim upstream against the tide of people trying to head back home from a short day of work, struggling past bodies and mumbling hurried apologies when he accidentally jostled someone in his clumsy panic. For a second he considered just running home or calling the peacekeepers for help. There was no way he could really know, right? But part of him didn't want to find out the answer to that question…the same part that was morbidly curious about what he felt the need to tell him. If it weren't for his newfound displeasure with the world, he wouldn't have given his words a second thought. But now, questioning the stupid ideas people clung to so easily, he desperately wanted to be assured that he wasn't the only one who felt like this. His legs retraced his steps back to the station where people constantly loaded and unloaded from bullet trains. It was a struggle to reach the wall off to the side where the old man had been before with his fliers, and for a moment, people still crowding the path there, he was scared that the old man would be gone. There was a man with a gun that had threatened him with unspoken horrors if he refused to bring him what he asked for. An imaginary gun was still pointed under his chin and he might not even know where the old man had gone to.
But there was the combed hair and the too straight, too white smile. Relief flooded through his limbs, making him feel weak and vaguely dizzy. His legs carried him the rest of the way there and before he knew it, he was standing in front of the grinning fellow. His eyes were glazed strangely and Suzaku couldn't tell if he recognized him or not.
"When the peacekeepers took you…you said you learned a lot about our government," Suzaku started slowly. He had no idea how he was going to get the man to follow him.
"Yes, they explained everything to me so that I would no longer be confused. So that I would see the light, the intelligence behind everything that they are doing. They showed me how misguided I had become through my ignorance."
"I…see…then, sir…if you would be so kind…please walk with me and tell me what you learned. I fear I have become confused as well and want to understand." The words came out before he could think of them. It seemed as if the man was very interested in spreading this message about how wonderful and amazing their government was, so with that excuse…
"Of course, my brother. Spreading the knowledge is my duty."
Suzaku felt a little sick at how easy it was to persuade the man to follow him. Hadn't he said it himself before? Like a lamb to the slaughter, he was allowing himself to be led away. He walked and the man followed, already beginning more of his ranting, more of what he had said to Suzaku just minutes ago. Suzaku didn't want to hear it, but when portions did slip past his defenses, he realized that there wasn't any "knowledge" in his words. All the man did was praise the government as if he had found a new religion.
He walked slowly, torn between his sense of dread and the desire for real answers. Despite his lack of acknowledgement the man continued to go on and on, more background noise that mingled with the hundreds of thousands of voices filling the city. Part of him wished that he would forget which alley it was, but his feet betrayed him and were already turning a corner between two tall buildings.
The old man followed him, oblivious to his motives.
Before Suzaku could even blink the old man had been shoved up against a wall in a manner very similar to what had happened to him. The barrel of the gun, a small thing with a modern design, was placed directly between the eyes of the man.
"You—!" the old man gasped as if he recognized the criminal. Then his eyes narrowed, any trace of that peaceful contentment replaced by contempt. "You can't keep this up for long, they'll find you!"
Suzaku was frozen in place from shock. His legs felt as if they had been encased in cement. He couldn't even look away from the scene. The purple-eyed man was calm and indifferent to the situation, and hardly seemed to be listening to the old man, anyway.
"Wait, are you really going to…?!" Suzaku exclaimed, though it felt as if his throat was constricting, so his voice came out like a strangled gasp. He had never seen a gun in real life before, just the stunners the peacekeepers used. The world was united, the government said. There was no reason to make those dangerous things anymore and risk the lives of innocent people. They didn't make guns, so where had he gotten it in the first place?
"I'm sorry for your suffering, Kirihara. I will return your freedom to you, and I pray that your soul finds peace. They won't get away with what they've done." His words were solemn and the determination was evident on his face.
Both Suzaku and the man he had called Kirihara knew what he was going to do. There wasn't fear in the old man's eyes, but his expression was fierce. A slim finger didn't hesitate to pull the trigger of the weapon.
The gun was silent as it released the bullet. Suzaku's eyes widened and he flinched, expecting to see everything stained with blood. He expected to see pieces of skull, gray matter exposed, blood pooling quickly, even eyes dangling by its single nerve…although he wasn't sure how that would happen. There wasn't any of that. The bullet had definitely gone between the man's eyes, lodged inside where his brain should have been, but there wasn't any blood. With a few jerks and twitches, Kirihara's body went still, a garbled attempt at last words trailing off into nothing. The light left his eyes but the man responsible continued to hold him upright.
"What…?" Suzaku whispered. He wasn't sure if it was even audible.
If the man heard he didn't answer. He put his gun back in his coat and set both hands on either side of Kirihara's face. With one sharp jerk and pull, the head separated from the body. Suzaku covered his mouth at the sickening sound of tearing flesh, but was once again surprised to find no gushing blood, no pieces of spinal cord, no pipes and tubes hanging out.
He was shown the part where head and body had been separated…and was shocked to see that all of it was metal. Wires replaced veins and board upon board of circuits interlaid with hundreds of tiny chips
attempted to recreate the organic tissue.
"When you saw this man earlier today he was flesh and blood. The ideas he was trying to spread were harmful to society in the eyes of the government, and he was beginning to learn too much. When the peacekeepers took him away, they had already constructed the perfect citizen to replace him with." The head was dropped unceremoniously, eyes and mouth still open, frozen in a look of…of…if Suzaku looked close enough he believed he could see gratitude.
The man released the body and it fell to the ground, not like the crumpling of a limp form, but of a stiff board falling to the side.
"Are you saying that they replaced a human being with…with a robot? Because he was saying things they didn't want other people to hear?" Suzaku had been feeling discontent lately. He had just wanted to go home and relax, enjoy his vacation in peace, and regain the cheerful ignorance that had gotten him through most of his life. Never would he have believed that the government would really try something like this, but there was the machine. He had seen them take the man with his own eyes.
"If information about how they got into power in the first place got out, they wouldn't be able to continue their supreme rule. Ignorance and censorship are their tools to making people believe they are right. When that becomes too dangerous…well, in this day and age, people disappearing is more of an issue. Instead they make someone that will listen and obey, someone that will live their life exactly how they are told. A robotic form made to look like the one they took, uploaded with most aspects of the victim's personality, but tweaking things to their liking."
"But…how could they even manage something like that…? Wouldn't people…find out eventually? What do they do with the people they've…made robots of?" Part of him knew he didn't want to know. Part of him could guess.
"If people find out, they don't mind doing the same to them. For the sake of the "greater good", they can sacrifice as many people as it takes. The price is never too high, provided it doesn't affect them. They deal with the people who cause them trouble the same way they've dealt with them for thousands and thousands of years." He looked at the people walking by, a flash of emotion crossing his face, but soon it had disappeared back into his mask of collected intelligence. "They kill them. Kirihara, the real one, was dead. I was doing him a favor by removing this imposter."
The thoughts spun around in a whirlwind through his mind, filling him with a mixture of disgust, confusion, anger, remorse, until he had to turn himself to one side and was quietly sick. He was having trouble coming to grips with it all. The man politely said nothing and waited until he was done before gripping his arm to help steady him. For now he was in shock and had nothing to say to the mysterious purple-eyed man. He couldn't even voice a protest when he was lead from the alley, trembling, pale, and surprisingly cold, accompanied by a final murmur.
"I'm going to be staying with you for a while."