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Title: Whatever Makes You Break
Pairing: Mikey, Gerard
Rating: gen
Wordcount: 1209
Summary: Mikey only left Battery City four days after Gerard. So why can't he find him?
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.

It’s really not so much that everything Battery City says about the Zones is wrong. After all, even the most dedicated motorbaby would be forced to agree it is an arid uncomfortable climate and that packs of uncivilised people roam the area. What leaves Mikey half stunned is all the stuff that got left out.

For one thing, the area beyond the border is massive. All of Battery City could fit in one fragment of one Zone, and there are many zones. No one ever said that everything beyond Battery City was destroyed by the pig bombs, but no one Mikey knew thought any differently. Instead there’s just miles and miles of semi-habitable land. Mikey should know, he’s driven through half of it. He’s been searching every day for a month and he still hasn’t found Gerard yet. Gerard only left four days before Mikey did. It shouldn’t be this hard.

For another, the music is incredible. Out here music means something. It’s not just to slot in perfectly against nearly every combination of Compositions, entirely background even when you’re trying to focus in on it. The lyrics of these songs are real sentences. They’re not always brilliant, but they’re not nonsense words meant to slip away from the listener’s ears. And the music behind the singing- Misery Business has told him it’s caused by actual instruments, not computers. Mikey had no idea you could make music without a computer in 2019.

And the third lie of omission is in the zones you’re allowed to have friends. Not everything has to be a trade in which both parties are trying to get a better outcome than the other. That’s not to say you can trust everyone and everything is a gift. But people are friendly without having to take a certain combination of pills. Who knew Pete could be right about relationships existing?

Mikey found a group of people to live with until he finds Gerard without much difficulty. The four call themselves Riot!, and they look like a factory of colour exploded on them, from Misery’s orange hair to Crush’s lime green pants, to Farro One and Farro Two’s matching pink helmets. And of course they all have brightly coloured blasters. It would be ridiculous if they didn’t. Riot! doesn’t run all of the blaster trade, but they’ve got a good chunk of it. The Vend-A-Hacks that allow a motorbaby to get a blaster meant for a Drac are hard to use, even harder to find, and nearly impossible to trade for.

Frankly it’s a good thing they’ve taken him in. He’s learning more about survival each day, but it’s a different kind of learning. At school you take pills to help you remember until you’re done being tested, then you move on. Everything Mikey learns here he learns without Compositions. No help, and he has to remember it. His brain isn’t made for remembering, and every new fact feels crammed in. Sometimes his brain feels sore, like all the heavy information has bruised the organ.

Of course, every lucrative market has a downside, just like every pill has an aftertaste. In this case the downside of running an unregulated business selling an essential product is that people will trying to take your supply from you. Not just desperate, pathetic people you’d be inclined to share with - at least in theory. It’s a new concept to Mikey, a zones concept, like Waveheads and Motorbabies and Zoomers, but he thinks he’d be willing to try sharing if the situation arose. He can think of a few times he almost did, with Pete.

No, these people aren’t those sad sorry individuals, because that person would only steal a blaster. These people try to steal Riot!’s Vend-A-Hacks. That’s just greedy. Greed isn’t in itself a new concept. The idea that it’s bad to be greedy is, however. It’s one of the ideas that makes Mikey’s brain feel tender and hurt.

Misery seems tense when a large group of people come in asking about their Vend-A-Hacks, a feeling that reverberates through the rest of Riot!. Misery, Crush and the Farros are all gritting their teeth, practically snarling. It’s impossible to say how the other group feels, they’re all wearing identical orange bandanas that hide half their faces.

Bartering breaks down quickly. Almost instantaneously, really. They’re left trying to fight the strangers off. Actual fighting. According to Crush it goes against code for a Motorbaby to kill another Motorbaby. There are so many hazards already out there that it just seems wrong. Mikey’s not very good at fighting, but if he’s going to show the same brand loyalty that he once did to certain Compositions to this group of Motorbabies then he’ll have to stick around and try.

They win, if you can call Misery’s sprained wrist and Farro One’s burn mark a win. Each of them has a handful of bruises, and a set of bloody knuckles. It’s better than what the other group went away with though. Crush broke one of the men’s arms. Mikey has no idea how it’ll get healed -there are no Compositions in the desert, not even those meant for health like bone growth- but it’s not his problem. Being loyal to one still doesn’t mean being loyal to all.

Mikey’s been nestled in a few blankets in the corner for awhile, trying to convince himself his purpling skin doesn’t hurt, when the door of the hovel Riot!’s claimed is knocked on again. Needless to say five hands go to five blasters. Even when the door opens to one man no one lets their guard down. The huge Mousekat head perched on small shoulders might look friendly, but there’s no telling what expression is underneath.

“I’ve heard Riot!’s been looking for me.”

Mikey stiffens, but doesn’t let himself hope. The voice is too muffled by fur and fibreglass to be recognisable, and for all he knows Riot! has a hundred names pinned on the DInEr’s bulletin board.

“Him,” Farro Two points to Mikey and the Mousekat man takes a few steps closer, quick enough to be jogging. He comes to a stop just far away enough to not be threatening. Then the head comes off and it’s Gerard.

Mikey leaps to his feet and hugs his brother for maybe the first time in his life. The cascade of aches it causes means nothing to him, and neither does the sharp pain when Gerard unknowingly puts a hand directly on a bruise. He doesn't flinch when Gerard moves his head so they're nose to nose and gives him a short kiss. Any hello is like music.

“You didn’t have to come. I was going to find you.”

Gerard shrugs. “Out here you don’t wait for things.”

“Gonna introduce us?” Misery asks.

“This is Ger-”

Gerard interrupts with “Party Poison.”

“Party Poison, my brother.” At some point Mikey will have to reintroduce himself to his brother as Demon Shark Deluxe, if this is the way they’re playing it. “I’ve been looking for him since the day I left Battery City.”

“Brothers are a good thing to have,” Farro One replies. Farro Two nods. Mikey smiles at them. Finally he’ll have what they have. What everyone should have had, if Battery City hadn’t fucked everyone up so much as to not recognise the prize that a sibling is.
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May 2018

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