mustinvestigate: Fallout and Rorschach, together at last (cyborg rorschach)
[personal profile] mustinvestigate
(Urg, sorry for the flist spamming – last one today, I promise!)

Title: All Quiet on the Liminal Fringe (6/?)
Author: MustInvestigate
Disclaimer: I only own action figures
Rating: PG – eventual NC17
Character(s)/Pairing: OT3
Warning(s): Pretentiousness; abuse of noir tropes
Summary: Because [ profile] tuff_ghost sez it can’t be done…an endless Watchmen / William Gibson-verse crossover, existing via the kink meme. Dreiberg, Kovacs, and Laurie Isham are vigilante cowboys dedicated to making life difficult for the cybercriminals and megacorps that keep a stranglehold on a dystopian world’s 11 billion lives. (It’s better than that sounds. I hope.) Compiled here because I lost my drafts in a computer frak-up and had a bugger of a time finding the various parts on the meme – now cleaned up and slightly expanded.

10 October, 18:06
Woke with bleeding dreams, staining neat spread of data into sticky disarray. Uncomfortable sense of conversation, interrupted words wilting on lips, but Miss Isham waits outside, smoking and watching student work on digital notebooks in concrete courtyard below. Door left open, propped with her foot, incomprehensible breach of security. Skin shimmies, fine hairs simultaneously forced against their lay.

“Before you say anything, I needed some fresh air. And so does that hobbit hole.”

Disconnected. She smokes with now-free hand. Am free as well, cable dangling emptily down from neck. First thought was to remove the now-useless appendage, but have tucked it down sleeve, hookup hanging inside palm. Better to allow for possibility of reconnecting quickly, a much easier process now that firewalls have been adjusted for her presence. Disagreeable sensation, but is foolish to refuse proven tactical advantage for personal comfort.

“Fresh air is irrelevant. Security is priority concern.”

Have slept an inconceivable 11 hours. Data trawls heave with catch, most of it already rotted with time’s passage. Sorting through will be unpleasant process. Much of it dominated by news of Veidt-Ashpool strike, Veidt’s PR militia spinning like vaudevillians dashing from precarious plate to plate; no, more like magicians, like the Mystic’s flourishing hand distracting the gullible while another palms evidence of massive destruction. Use many words to carefully say nothing, certainly not that empire would lie in shambles today without the intervention of anonymous white hat.

Head fuzzy. Intestines fighting digestion. Cannot believe voluntary unconsciousness is so-called natural process, despite Dreiberg’s repeated reassurances, not when mankind has always utilised nature’s bounty for the necessary stimulants to hold sleep at bay. Daniel is soft in many ways. Requires constant distraction from empty luxuries available to a man of relative wealth, but will is strong underneath.

Spam first, opportunities to purchase ephemeral goods, launder fortunes of deposed Eurasian oligarchs, enhance manhood. Effluence of diseased minds. All of cyberspace to fill and no dreams left larger than a man’s wallet and genitals. Discard, feeling soiled even after clearing virtual recycling bin.

She will insult personal hygiene. Nothing if not predictable.

“It’s good to breathe actual air instead of stink.”

Gives expected reply, but wry glare is at cigarette.

“Every molecule in there had already been through my lungs a hundred times. They were bored with the scenery.”

Insults domicile instead. Still predictable. Face twists, child forcing down distasteful nutrition.

“You were right, you know. The smoke leaves my new shades all greasy. I’ll really have to quit this time, just as soon as these are finished. Can’t return them in this state.”

Touches carton, bent from scramble to heavens and back. Waits for response to unexpected admission. Unlikely to be genuine. Must be sarcasm. Shrug is best deflection, let corrosive attitude roll off shoulders, without satisfying need for argument or fawning gratitude at slightest positive attention. She is only tolerated for Daniel’s sake.

Daniel – he has made some news outlets this afternoon, minor financial rags positing potential VA-Dreiberg Industries alliance, despite family company’s total destruction years before. Stupid, stupid carelessness! Image after image, with Veidt, bland expressions, his face never fully captured but easily composited together. Stock image of senior Dreiberg, before death. Much like Daniel, except lighter hair, grim mouth. Must keep Daniel’s face and work out of sight until financial speculation passes. Unexpected wrench in strategic gears. Once again is obvious, cannot let the man out of sight.

“You still owe me a new microcloth. This one’s a biohazard now, thanks to your brain melting out your nose.”

Words are combative, expected. Wobbly, forced smile is not. Her face scrunches, worried. Run diagnostic. “Neural net appears intact.”

Facial muscles smooth. Smile becomes professional. Flashed like default setting in place of emotional projection through twelve years of holos. Can cross-reference 316 instances showing exactly eight teeth and curved higher on the left than right, like this one.

“That means the jelly it sits on is fine, too? Good. Look, if you can walk – we’ve got to meet Dreiberg soon. If you can’t, well, I could probably pay most cabbies in sat-on cigarettes and not send up a signal flare to anyone watching for my charge card.”

Must reluctantly admit she is intelligent, despite appearance. Has learned quickly, away from the corrupting taint of her mother, the pimp of tawdry consumerist pap to starving generations, dying for real meaning. Are dozens of unaccessed messages from Sally Isham in her daughter’s private inbox; she wisely ignores them, just as wisely retains as possible evidence in future transgression. Has accessed little from previous debauched life, only exercise programs. Now shuns celebrity gossip, where she once obsessively trawled for own name, seeks instead tech and political intel. Even music playlists, ordered to accompany spins and kicks, are new and mostly what Daniel favors. Is shedding her skin of luxury for one of grime, and that at least is laudable.

“Can walk.” Even though knees are gelatinous. Components’ performance suboptimal as body elements slowly come back online. Am hungry. Stomach growls.

Very hungry.

Fingers tremble punching in lock code. Will need to return once for belongings soon, what hasn’t already been stuffed into pockets with Mystic’s Russian death trap. Have set up new data trawl, seeking blank spots in Sprawl’s awareness of itself. Perhaps Bronx. Something with plumbing.

10 October, 18:38
Arm slides under mine as Thrift Hotel courtyard eases back into focus through grey nothingness.

“C’mon, K, stay with me. Shit, I can’t even tell if you’ve got eyes, let alone if they’re open.”

“They’re fine.” Embarrassing weak mumble. Stomach growls again, plastering itself to ribs. Can’t seem to escape strong fingers, blunt nails digging into rib cage. Strange sense of déjà vu. “Hungry.”

First taxi to stop is in dangerous condition, rear stabilisers shot, battery port sparking, but driver happy to charge several packets of German cigarettes for trip. Offers knock-off holos, Korean-made mp3 chip, and like-new 10mm submachine gun in quick succession for remainder of carton, but Miss Isham (briefly hesitating over last option) refuses all. Run driver’s name and serial number through criminal databases, but is a good alias, returning nothing. Too much to hope he is one of us, fighting the good fight against the omnicorporations engulfing small lives with the casual entitlement of long-extinct baleen whales. More likely another petty criminal, dealing in toxic indulgences as much as underground necessities, anything falling into hands that might turn a profit. Will remember his face.

Watch streets pass, visor clinking on window plastic but no energy to move away. Listlessly sort through remaining catch in data trawls, waiting for nodes of meaning to emerge. Brain still sodden, impulses trying to pass through uncarded wool soaked in syrup.

Feel eyes on me, behind impermeable lenses. Touches, again, this time reaching for bare skin underneath the neckjack. Gets a static shock when she brushes metal, but does not take warning. Curls around neck – perhaps seeking pulse, hoping for positive report to Daniel on nursing skills? Superfluous effort, not meriting praise; am perfectly capable of monitoring own vitals while conscious. While unconscious…

Recall witnessing battle, somewhat. Inability to shake off lethargy long enough to have Daniel’s back, then confirming he’d triumphed. Nothing else clear, only the fog of dreams.

Hand still there. Move closer to window; arm stretches and follows. Feels huge, contacting far more skin than relatively small fingers should… Huge. Giantess. Battling…

Pedantic Freudian themes. Can she feel skin temperature rising? Will misinterpret. Could explain strange attitude, smugness tucked under the surface…no. Only borrowed hardware. Not brain. Espionage and anti-espionage departments of corporations, including Daniel’s so-altruistic friend Veidt’s, have attempted to breach inner voice for decades without success. Inside of one’s skull is last secure sanctuary of mankind.

Door only opens from driver’s remote. Wiring secured not by lock but calcified generations of duct tape. No escape there. Minute vibrations run through raw metal at base of skull, fingerprints catching on whorls of small flaws in surface. Searching for an off switch?

Must touch the hand to remove it. Distasteful, contact between porous membranes, more permeable than a start-up’s firewall, that skin of a thousand ugly fantasies. Have compiled gigabytes of Miss Isham-inspired depravity, cataloguing sources for eventual extermination. Would seek Daniel’s help if he didn’t show hints of similar proclivities, thought not accessing material himself. Exposure to filth, even in destroying it, might trigger contamination.

Only protecting him. And her, in the process. Best they don’t know what from, and how much. Fortunately only drop in metaphorical bucket compared to the tsunami of filth her mother’s whorish shenanigans inspire. Suspect the senior Miss Isham lurks, anonymously encouraging sick individuals.

Her daughter would at least be properly sickened by, for instance, newest posting in busiest fan-server: head spliced into multi-participant obscenity, limbs undulating like the tentacles of Veidt’s strike assassin. From expressions and rhythmic movement, posit head is taken from holo G26-003,
Horseback Riding in Rural Vermont. Good work, minimal seams, possibly fabricated by enemies in professional circles. Warrants closer inspection. Later. Miss Isham need not be aware of filth until culprits have been punished, so that justice may temper shame.

Currently ignoring all attempts to disengage hand. Fingers forcibly removed from perch now curl in collar and pull. Must go with motion or risk losing shirt. Tugged until cheek mashes into her shoulder. Shifts grip to upper arm, allowing no escape. Pats shoulder once, twice. Stares out opposite window, mouth a grim line, unwilling to witness own bizarre assault. Smells like the heights, smoke, bile and ancient industrial carbon liming sweat, not the sweetness of uncountable holo impressions.

Driver is watching, eyes flickering from street to cctv monitor. Surreptitiously presses “record” button.

Pats shoulder again. Signal? Should be connecting cable to her wrist where driver can’t see, receive message that can’t be spoken aloud? Hand is trapped between us, with it the cable. Only barrier between torsos.

News cycle moves on, trawls suddenly blaring that the V-A strike origin has been found, a lone gunmen dead by his own hand in a Chechnyan apartment block.

Gunga Diner in sight. Driver, disappointed, punches the “record” button off. No market for this small depravity, it seems.

“If you’re looking to offload the rest of those dangerous and very illegal cancer sticks, you could do worse than my girl Josephine.”

“Cash?” Miss Isham, finally releasing me. Skin crawls, trying to return to original position around body. Driver jerks chin at cab idling ahead.

“Never deal with cash, chica. Gets simple people like us in one bad ass of trouble, no matter who’s kid we are.” Flashes pearlescently new teeth.

No cash, as promised, and no stims, but Josephine trades a blank credit chip for the rest of the carton and one famous smile.


“You want the 500 mil or the large?”

“Two large.”

October 10, 19:14
Order half the menu. Miss Isham, the other half. Grotesquely overdeveloped muscle mass must burn calories as quickly as neural tech. Shows no further signs of accosting, but scrunch into far corner of booth anyway, out of reach. Diner’s signal is strong, one less function to generate from own shrinking reserves. She makes interlocking coffee rings with the bottom of her cup, frowning.

Search for more on Blake or the make of his final gift reveals little – suspect it may be custom piece, untraceable. Gossip threads that provided original intel have moved on to V-A speculation; no help there. Fickle ghosts, slavering after the moment’s flavour, despite deeper value of yesterday’s mystery. Older caches offer fragments, rehashing half-heard scandals. Node may be forming there, but can’t be forced. Will be able to bring more search engines online when caffeine hits.

Miss Isham sighs, sets cup aside. Brace for impact.

“K…this morning, I don’t know what that was – ”

“Strike virus. Defeated now. Should pay more attention to obvious.”

“No, uh…before that.”

Before that? Sleeping. Should recognise what she herself indulges in nightly. Reach for coffee to cover uncomfortable confusion. Grabs my wrist, slopping hot liquid on us both. Doesn’t seem to notice scalding, lowering voice.

“The dreams, K. The ones out of Satan’s bedside holo stash. With the woman who looked like me.”

Blood retreats from extremities. Pools in torso, packing in so tight heart has no room to beat. Hand forcing wrist to formica surface suddenly very warm.

“They looked like holos, anyway, but real, too, and maybe you just have extremely fucked up dreams…”

Must have – what must she – she’ll tell – she knows –

“…but I doubt that. I don’t need, or, God, want to know what that was all about, but the woman – what happened to her?”

Has gotten into mind somehow – should never have trusted – couldn’t have, though, brain can be destroyed from cyberspace attack, not rummaged through and left intact – must have been forced to confess while incapacitated – for what purpose? Blackmail unlikely – already receives benefits of skills as part of team, already has unfettered access to Daniel. Senseless violation.

…kept quiet in curtained-off corner, fingers jammed in ears, but images still bled through.
She was shielded, senseless meat puppet completely absent through fantasy atrocities, weekender nightmares of family men and upstanding conglomo-citizens. Except they did seep through, eventually. Shoddy custom rig, all safeties stripped away, lucky she was not lobotomised with first use. No, not lucky. Retreated into poorer analgesics: rage, KT, and pirated holos. Paid far more than in the legal cribs, but only in cash, useless in the law-abiding world. Could only purchase more sickness, from sickened underbelly of Sprawl.

Furtive nature of criminal activity kept most of that life silent, off the record. Scoured away all remaining hints in first cyberspace ventures. Names, faces, people – obliterated. More restful grave than deserved. Left Charlton records intact, sop for those like Daniel expecting tragic history appropriate for selling soap.

Hand has tightened painfully, grinding wrist bones together. Will not break under interrogation. Baffling, pointless interrogation. What does senseless woman want?

Stomach growls, loudly. She jerks, lips twisting like the bad taste is back on tongue, loosens grip. Still avoiding direct glance, watching passers-by through round window as if desperate for interruption.

Alternative – knowledge could be unwitting. Unwanted. Deranged unconscious mind, forcibly confessing all. Theoretically possible. Have not slept since hardwired for permanent cyberspace access.

Throat is tight, croaking.


She pulls away, releasing hand. Food arrives, smell hitting stomach and rooting me in place more effectively than restraint.

“Good.” Snatches samosa before the plate is settled, growling as hot grease sizzles chin.

“Customer wanted more than fantasy.” Dip nan bread in vindaloo sauce, but can’t bring it to mouth. Tear steaming dough into strips instead. “Tried to exact justice for worthless whore. Failed.”

Confession supposed to be good for soul. Immortal essence must not reside in throat, tight with bile and panic. Only loosens long heartbeats later when commanded.

“Eat, for fuck’s sake. Before you pass out, and I have to explain to Dreiberg how I let our partner drown in industrial-grade korma gravy.”

Have to, if am to get any sustenance at all. Woman eats like Veidt’s strike virus. All tasteless now, but fills aching void in stomach.

Blip in message drop – Daniel in taxi now. Out of V-A’s range, uploads data, the fraction of virus he’d deemed safe to take away. Quickly make copies and cache in various hiding places, information secured before beginning analysis. Should notify Miss Isham, but is staring moodily at remains of dinner. Conversation impossible.

“This is none of my business – less than none of my business – and I think it’s best we stim you up to the eyeballs asap and pretend we shared a nice normal zombie apocalypse dream. Deal?”


“But before we retreat into that beautiful lie together, I feel like…look, you should just know…that’s not what it’s like. Fucking, I mean. It’s – oh, for God’s – get your hands off your ears!”

Growing inured to crudity. Unaffected by casual obscenity. Perhaps infected already. Very, very bad.

“I’m just trying to tell you, normal people wouldn’t do that, would never want to do that.”

Naiveté, for one depicted as sexual plaything every post-pubescent moment. Customers were normal, just more so. Ordinary men tainting wholesome lives with animal filth always lurking inside. Basest desires only kept in check by unavailability of satisfaction. Miss Isham in supreme danger if believes otherwise. “And normal men want…?”

Opens mouth. Squeaks. Closes mouth. Thoughtful. Drags finger through smidgen of curry left on plate and licks it.

“Actually…damned if I know. Until Jon, I’d never had sex that wasn’t some poor wannabe’s audition. And Jon, well, I told you all about that. He’s as far from normal as you can get, in a different way of course.”

Wish brain truly was hard drive, so all conversations could be deleted, entire system reformatted, preventing memory’s return. Someday.

“Hey, here’s a thought – we’ll ask Dan. He’d know. Hell, he’s the most normal guy on the planet!”

Ridiculous. Could tell her myself – Daniel is a good man, not free of desires but admirably restrained. Not normal; far better than merely normal. Will not tell her, though. Node between them distressingly obvious, robust and cancerous. Probably present from first meeting decades before, introduced by mentors like breeding pair, only growing with shared outcast state. Interests aligning, even when separated – particularly when separated. Increasingly speak in private shorthand. Daniel insists, must make her feel welcome, comfortable, give over space that was mine. Both will reject disharmonious element in time, form stable partnership free from stain.

Can only claw into budding intimacy while still tolerated. Galling.

“Agreed. Going to eat bhajis?”

Different, rarer smile while shoving over plate; only twelve instances in entire holo catalogue, always at close of difficult scene.

* * *
Parts: one - two - three - four - five - six

Date: 2009-08-13 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(Urg, sorry for the flist spamming – last one today, I promise!)

I was really hoping you would just keep posting :D

Date: 2009-08-13 05:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:D I've got a handwritten draft of the next section - TBC soon, depending on how much I slack off on job hunting!

jerb hunting

Date: 2009-08-13 06:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was thinking of going over there and rambling around seeking my fortune after I graduate...everyone tells me it's a bad idea because OMG IT'S WAY WORSE OVER THERE. But I want, I wantsss D:

I hope it's not actually way worse. gl to you anyhow

Re: jerb hunting

Date: 2009-08-13 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's definitely worth a good long vacation or adventure, especially if you have couches to crash on and stretch out funds. The people are friendly, there's history and culture lying around all over the place, the food's great, it's considered properly social to drink six pints of cider with your boss after work on a Monday and throw up on her/his shoes...all good stuff. A must-have experience, in fact.

But, after a year or so, you can't take another blathering conversation about shopping and diets, you can't get a decent permanent job with your non-UK education, and the basics of life (ie, and rent, but mostly booze) drain away most of your paycheck. Seeing a pretty castle nearly every day makes up for a lot of that, tho :) (Oh, and the UK-born husband, heh.)

Re: jerb hunting

Date: 2009-08-13 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
you can't get a decent permanent job with your non-UK education

augh nuuuu

go away reality

I don't want you D:

Re: jerb hunting

Date: 2009-08-13 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Did I mention my education is mostly liberal arts? You may have useful degree :D I'm more annoyed my editorial/student services work experience in the US doesn't seem to count to employers, who are all, sadly, like: no real job for you, welcome to the admin ghetto hahahahaha!

Have a peek through the archives here for practical info:

Re: jerb hunting

Date: 2009-08-13 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'll have a supposedly useful degree. I guess. I've also got a definitely useless degree, bah. Mostly I am worried about the general EVERYONE IS LOOKING FOR WORK NO JOBS FOR ANYONE furor. And the fact that everything will cost the same over there as it does here, only double.

Thanks for the link. It will be me in there going HELP ME GUISE pretty soon I bet.

Re: jerb hunting

Date: 2009-08-13 10:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Meh - job hunting's not so bad, when the rest of the world is doing the same thing. It's company, not competition :) With the high prices, we've just taken advantage of living in a small centralised city to cut out things that used to seem necessary but aren't, actually. It can be done :)

Date: 2009-08-13 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This story is easily my favorite of the kinkmeme, so it's awesome to be able to add actual posts to my memories now (I'm weird and OCD like that). The detail's fucking intense and beautifully staggering, and I can never stress enough how much I love the way you write Laurie, especially her banter with K.

Date: 2009-08-13 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'll join you in the OCD club - I've delurked with this only because it was so hard to find the first half of this on the old kink meme when I lost my files. They needed to be under my control, damn it! :)

I'm glad you're enjoying the detail - sometimes I feel like it's nothing but worldbuilding, so my own entertainment :)


Date: 2009-08-15 07:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amazing.

Re: O_O

Date: 2009-08-15 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh...thanks :D Glad you like it.

Date: 2009-08-25 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OMG this was YOU. I should have known. I've been following this from the start, one of my alltime favorite series from kinkmeme, and I can't wait for the next bit. Oh my god. I lvoe you.

Date: 2009-08-26 07:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Guilty :) I'm glad you've been enjoying it - I wasn't sure if anyone was actually reading it or if I was just entertaining myself :) Hopefully I'll have another big chunk to post over the weekend...crossing fingers the time management gods are kind.

Date: 2009-08-26 09:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Um, oh god, I am kind of mesmerized by this. In a "Weren't you going to bed in bed three hours ago but oh god can't stop reading" sort of way.

I was just wondering the other day if there was a way to make Adrian Veidt hotter. Veidt-Ashpool: my argument is invalid.

I'll just be over here, dreaming of conversations between Adrian and Wintermute, with JARVIS stopping by to say hi.

Date: 2009-08-27 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Not the next chapter, but the one that follows will be Adrian-focused, so I hope I do right by him :) Glad you're enjoying this - it's gotten a little out of hand for a 'you can't possibly write that!' dare :)

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