disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to Chloe. everything is her fault anyway.
notes: I swore I wouldn't start another fic but fuuuuuuuuckkkkk I just love them so much.
notes2: this is an amalgam of my love for all things cyber, cypher, and biopunk. I should be sorry, but I'm really not.

chapter title: start the machine
summary: A ragtag group of cable-dancers on the run, holding out for one last grift. — cyberpunk AU; Rin/Shiemi.






"Shit, you serious?"

In the flickering light of the screen, his brother nodded. "Yes."

Rin scrubbed at his face, gashes of hovercraft grease staining under his eyes from his fingers. He'd been down by the docs, creeping around the barrels to find nuts and bolts for the jury-rigging—the power in the Upper Fold had been going haywire, and Rin had always hated it when his work got cut off for the outages.

"Shit," he said again. "So the bitch finally made its move."

"His," Yukio corrected. "His move."

Rin shrugged, nonchalance in the gesture. There was a certain reckless grace in it, in the way Rin's jacket skimmed his shoulders, sloughed off like extra skin. The leather was the colour of old blood, somewhere between rust and brown, and gone shredded at the elbows and the cuffs where he picked at the pulsing dataports embedded into his skin. The lesions around his wrists stung even now, still raw, red, angry.

"Its, his, what's the difference. We're gonna burn the shit outta it."

"Though how you think we'll manage that is beyond me. The particulars—"

"Don't matter," Rin grinned. "I got something lined up."

"Is it illegal?"

"I prefer to call it colouring outside of the lines."

Yukio rolled his eyes behind his glasses, though with the glare from the screen, no one could tell the difference. "I do have a responsibility to tell the authorities. I do work for them."

"And a decent job it is," Rin shrugged again and raised his head. The inverted dome of the sky had gone streaky; this high up, the maintenance crews didn't touch the paint for fear of the things that lurked in the dark. The weathercover flaked and chipped away, leaving a pearly enamel underneath. It was elegant in its own decay, a lovely reminder that they were all trapped in this city-within-a-city.

"Heh," he chuckled softly, "But responsibility… I guess you do. Got a light?"

And he pulled a faintly crumpled cigarette from his pocket. Chinese, black-market, clean as a smokestack; the good shit. Jeans gone black with grime and shiny along the creases from too many wears would never know the difference.

"Why do you need mine?" Yukio asked, because sometimes he wondered if Rin remembered that fire doused in gasoline burned bright and clean and hot.

And blue, but that was another story entirely (neither of them liked to think of their childhood, not that they had much choice. Things like childhood never really went away).

Rin didn't say anything. He just tilted his head down slowly to one of the telescreens far below, where the buzz of the Glo-ddicts and the gothcore mashers melded into a slurry of incestuous murmurs.

They city was watching.

The city was always watching.

"Seen Amaimon, recently?" Rin asked. The question was a knowing one.

Yukio's lips quirked up, sharp and unamused. "He was wondering where you'd got to."

"Fuck it," Rin grinned like a jackal, lips pulled back from his teeth. "What's he gonna do, stare at me? There's no fuckin' dirt left in this place to control."

The earth had dried up beneath layers of rust and metal; the cybernetics of the True Cross Academy had all but wiped nature away. Hooked in, iced off, lit up, strung out—the inhabitants of the city-within-a-city collided with a monochrome enamel dome for a sky, and spouting synthetic languages, they clung to the edge of an economy built on industrial espionage.

Yukio said nothing.

Rin went to the edge, and looked past the neon glare glancing off the buildings and down, down, down.

The heart of the city beat below them, electronic, steady like a drum. It pulsed beneath the wet streets and the ammonia-gasoline smell that stunk up the air, linked into the periphery, popping back into the highway dead. No one could say where it came from, but all could feel it.

Condensation dripped slowly from the geodiscs.

"Shit," Rin said for the third time.

Yukio turned back to the LED glare; back to the lines and lines of cypher coding that scrolled down the screen, black glyphs slicing through white page after white page. The dot-coms had been trying to break that code for weeks—Safe Zones were so rare—but Yukio had spent enough time building on it to be sure it would never be decoded.

It was only a little thing.

"We're going to have to move," Yukio commented. He didn't even look over his shoulder, already slipping back into the Net.

"Not yet."


Rin looked over his shoulder lit up in neon and chrome, and grinned. His fangs curved over his lip, glinting with the light.

"We got time. We could pull another."

"You're insane," Yukio said evenly. His eyes never left the screen.

Rin was earnest, all hot proteins and moving nucleotides. He was honest, sweltering, fervent with it. "Think about it, Yuki. We could. One last grift. We could blow this place. Hit the ground, even."

"We couldn't do it alone."

"Hell, no. Why'd we want to?" he paused and gestured down, fingers igniting. "This place is goddamn seething—d'you ever how many of 'em wanna get outta here? We find people, tell 'em we have a job. Then we burn the shit out of the Net, and we go. Disappear."

Yukio turned to face him fully, attention finally engrossed. "Who, then?"

Rin shrugged, arms thrown out.

"Who the hell knows?" he asked. "Wanna do it?"

Yukio stared benignly from behind his glasses.


At last.

Rin shrugged again, tilting backwards, back arching over the endless neon abyss. He laughed, exhilaration already coursing through him like the last dregs of good clean Base on a low night. "Later, bro. I got people to find.."

And then Rin tilted farther backwards, and fell and fell and fell.







notes3: so yeah this is happening. just a prologue for now, but ahhhhhhhhh cyberpunk.
notes4: hi again.