Chapter 1: Prologue - Happy Anniversary
Chuck grumbled from the passenger seat, “Of course. We decide to go out for dinner and of course Kane’s got an army waiting for us.”
Mike chuckles weakly, causing Chuck to whip his head away from his screens and towards him, “Mikey? Are you okay?” Chuck is starting to panic, because Mike can’t be hurt, he can’t be, they’re in this, in everything together. That’s how it’s been. He can’t—
“Fuck Mikey. Shit. Oh god are you okay—“
His arm looks completely destroyed. Blood covers the entirety of it and shit it looks like he’s coughed up blood at some point.
“Chill out, I’m good,” Lies Chuck wants to hiss, but he doesn’t because he wouldn’t—“It’s not your fault, plus I can still drive. That’s a plus yeah? And—“ Shit, yes, shit, he is coughing up blood.
Kane had built upgraded hounds. They were faster more vicious and only had one order which was to target Motorcity. Chuck wasn’t so oblivious due to his single minded focus on trying to jam their signals not to hear a few of them crash through the windows – he had injuries to show for it. He wasn’t sure if he could move his left leg for one. But apparently he’d missed one crushing Mike’s arm and sinking its teeth into him.
“Chuckle’s it’s fine, just—just work your magic, yeah?”
God Mikey how are you even talking.
Chuck diverts all of his attention to jamming the signal on these hounds that are suddenly gaining and there are dozens more than before, oh god you can’t locate the other Burners. They can’t be all-- You spare a quick glance to your left and you scream because Mike is, he’s , he can’t be, he’s not dead impossible thing can’t happen—
You scream as you shoot up from your nap, sweating, looking up at Julie and Mike’s worried faces.
“A-are you okay?”
Your eyes are unfocused as you blink and reply. You reply something but apparently it’s not reassuring enough because they’re still looking down at you worriedly.
Mike had asked that, oh god Mike – he was dead—
You almost start crying at that and you vaguely think, wow that would be embarrassing if you started crying in the middle of the workshop. So you settle for biting your lips, sitting up sharply and dragging both Mike and Julie into a hug. They’re both muttering reassuring things to you, but Mike saying “It’s okay, I’m here,” is what breaks you and suddenly you’re burrowing your face into Mikey’s neck and sobbing.
Jules slips away at that point and you feel the loss immensely as you shiver and cry harder and try to get as much of yourself around Mike as possible, but she’s back in seconds that seem like hours and wraps her soft yellow blanket that she never lets anyone touch ever around the three of you and rubs your back comfortingly, resting her cheek on your head.
Mike has his arms wrapped around you and is still talking to you. Though you can’t process the words, the tone of it is what eventually calms you and you feel embarrassed and like never moving again because these people are your best friends – your only friends.
Nevermind you are still crying, and Julie has resorted to carding her hands through your hair, and Mikey to singing to you.
It’s another few long minutes until you’re calm enough to release your vice grip on Mikey, but you don’t look up, you just mumble apologies into his shoulder. He keeps replying, “It’s okay,” and you wonder what Julie is thinking of all this.
You haven’t had an episode like this since way back when you first met Mike and Julie and you’d been saved from your cage, almost died trying to get out of that shithole you’d been forced to call home, but here you are now and never more grateful for anything in your life.
Mike grabs you by the shoulders, and his eyes are fierce and angry, and you’re scared because Mikey’s never angry at you, “No you aren’t!”
You don’t realize you’ve been talking the entire time until Mike rests a hand on your cheek and strokes it, “You’re very important to us, all of us, so shut your dirty mouth right now Charles.”
You’re not quite sure what you said, but at least you’ve stopped talking and honestly, you’re kind of embarrassed more than anything else right now so you nod and move to get off of Mike and Julie.
They hold you in place, both of their faces stern.
“What?” you question. You’re really not sure what is going on anymore. Also you kind of have to pee. Emotional distress does that to you sometimes.
They’re still looking at you with the same slightly angry look on their faces.
“What? You called me Charles. That doesn’t sound very good.”
Julie and Mike share a look and sometimes you wonder if they’re siblings because no two people have that sort of telepathy without being born into it. Your expression is appropriately wary as you try to wiggle out of their embrace before suddenly Mikey’s fingers are digging into your sides and Jules’ under your arms and you can’t help but laugh.
“Oh god—no, you guys cut it out!”
“Never! This is punishment! Unless you want us to wash your mouth out with soap!”
“Ahhh! I didn’t mean it I swear! Mikey! Julie!!”
Texas and Dutch walk back in to find the three of you collapsed in a lightly giggling pile of limbs on the floor. Texas takes it upon himself to toss himself on top of all of you and Dutch doesn’t even question it before pushing all four of you over thereby starting a new round of play fighting and laughter.
Today is the anniversary of your meeting Mike and Julie and you’ve never been quite as happy as you are today.
You still have to pee.
Chapter 2: Prologue - Where Things Ended
Chuck steps up.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The Burners each have a tale that led them to each other and their fight for freedom. A tale that will continue until they have won their fight or proudly died trying.
Mike, Julie, and Dutch, who all snuck their way down to Motorcity in screaming rebellion against Kane.
Texas whose story is heart wrenching, and perhaps for another time.
And then there is you.
The only Burner who has not shared his story over drinks, and the one, when asked, has shown a completely out of character stoicism and hard edged refusal to speak.
Julie knows tiny pieces of a long jagged story, but Mike is the only one who really knows the full tale, because he was the one that brought you to the point you are at today.
This is why, for guilt at not alerting his teammates of your past, you spare them Jacob’s cooking and whip up a breakfast fit for royalty.
“Woahh—If Texas knew he would’ve gotten this much food around here for beating up the nerd he would’ve done it way earlier! But where’s Jacob’s awesome greens?”
You scowl good naturedly and tuck into your own overfilled plate with gusto.
It’s only seconds after the other Burners sit down, thank you excessively, and begin to eat that the alarms go off.
You all groan on cue and get ready to head out.
Jacob is out, so you pull up the information on a viewscreen while everyone else is rushing to prepare their gear, “Kane’s set his bots and hounds on…”
You feel yourself growing pale and sweating as you see where they have to go.
“O-on,” you can’t finish the sentence. You settle for swallowing past the lump in your throat, and showing Mike the viewscreen.
If anything, you think he’s grown paler than you managed and feel maybe half of the weight lift from your shoulders as he grips your hand almost painfully for a second. He shouts out the coordinates of the distress signal to the rest of the team.
“THE Windswept Manor?”
“Are you serious? Because it is way too early for jokes Mike.”
“How are we even supposed to get up there and defend it from an attack. Hell, why’s it even being targeted.”
You take a deep breath, “The only one, we’ll get there. I know how.”
You are the first in a car. When Mike climbs in you are trying very hard not to run right back out of the car and help them from the base.
“You don’t have to come Chuck…”
You sigh before answering, “Yeah I do. You know there’s no way for me to help you once you’re inside.”
Mike smiles reassuringly, “If anyone could crack that code from miles away it’s you.”
“Yeah but,” I have to do this, “ How would you make it through this without me watching your back?”
You send a shaky grin Mike’s way, and you’re off through the winds and curves and mazes of Motorcity. The five of you climb higher and higher with your cars, until the sounds of the city can no longer be heard and you can make out the rough underbelly of Deluxe.
“Well, where next?”
You bite your bottom lip at Dutch’s question and realize you’re not quite ready to face that place. But Mike looks toward you with such concern and looks to you for an answer that he already knows to Dutch’s question. All you can do is nod because you feel you have to do this, and while you don’t know where you’ll end up in the next few minutes, you do know that you need to face your past and move on already.
“Straight ahead, team. There’s a transport right off the edge of this road.”
Julie sets up a private communication between Nine Lives and Mutt. She’s quiet for a moment, but just as they’re about to fly off the edge she quietly asks, “…You okay Chuck?”
You give a decidedly frightened sounding laugh, “No way Jules, but I will be…I think. Maybe. Uh. Can we hold off until after I lead you screaming into danger?”
“Me? Scream? I think you’re talking about yourself buddy,” she replies drily.
“N-no. Uh. You’ll see.”
“Can’t wait.” She sounds as excited as you usually do about Mike’s wild stunts.
And then suddenly you’re whirling, all the sensors in the car are thrown off, and you are most definitely screaming because you forgot to mention there’s a three percent chance of the cars being ripped apart and all of you sent spiraling to god knows where in Detroit.
You land safely within seconds, and your computers are completely barred from Burner’s headquarters due to an erratic and relentless security system surrounding all of you.
Mike asks if you’re okay and if everyone is okay and you breathe after the fright of going through the deranged teleporter.
“I’m home,” you murmur bitterly, as everyone turns their cars off. This mission will be a challenge in hand to hand combat since the bio-hounds can track anything emitting a signal. You step out of Mutt, gingerly looking around. Every single crack on every wall, every single piece of furniture brings a memory of your old life surging forth, “Um, this way guys.”
“Did you manage to get a map of this place too?” Dutch questions in surprise.
“No, I…” you pause, your hands shake as you walk forward. Mike gently places a hand on your arm and you feel like you can breathe again, “I grew up here.”
“What?! No way, I’ve heard the rumors about this place! Fight clubs, information rings, drug circles, everything and anything a criminal’d want is here!”
“Are you sure you wanna do this bro?”
You’re sure the line of your mouth betrays your fear, “Yeah man, I’m sure, we’re burners and we protect motorcity. I don’t mean we have to help everyone here and the distress signal bothers me since we haven’t run into anything or anyone yet but…well I need to do this.”
Mike seems to be searching for something on your face, but he can’t see your eyes, so you’re not sure what he could be looking for. However, he seems to find it as he gently squeezes your arm and lets you take the lead with him as the two of you move them through a large corridor, weapons at the ready.
“That’s weird, all their door to door security is down…”
“Forget about that,” you and Julie roll your eyes simultaneously, “isn’t anyone interested in the fact that our Chuckmeister lived here? What’s the story man?”
You sigh, and to everyone’s surprise, including your own, you begin to talk, “Well it’s kinda a long story but…um, way before I met Mike I lived in Deluxe.”
You open every door you pass, looking for innocents who got sucked into this place. The hallway seemed never ending.
“My f-father was one of the scientists for Kane, but one day he pushed him too far and he snapped, it was before I could even code and before I knew it we were living down here.”
The rest of the Burner’s are silent, and you can’t tell if it’s because they’ve been waiting to hear about your past or if they’re getting ready to reject you for being a traitor.
“They struck a deal. He keeps developing for Kane, and we were allowed to live however, wherever we wanted, no questions asked. I…He trained me, he…I worked for..”
A voice boomed from above and you jumped, there had never been that kind of stuff installed before, “Young Chuck there worked for myself and Kane.”
There is a low growling and a large pack of bio-hounds emerge from the rooms ahead and from where you’d parked your cars. You’re surrounded.
“Shit,” Julie mumbles
This is your fault, you should’ve known better. There is no way the Windswept Manor could have been in distress. No one in their right mind would try to attack it, and those that weren’t in their right mind would try to befriend its owner.
Those like Kane.
“Enter the room at the end of the hall and maybe soon we can have a little chat since you’ve so kindly answered my invitation, Burners.”
The voice that was coming from everywhere, it made you want to run and hide.
Within seconds you are where he directed you. There is no way the five of you could have fought off that many hounds without your cars.
You’re unable to help yourself and slide down the wall of the empty room, bringing Mike down with you, “Alright I’ll tell you now since it seems like we have time,” you mumble shakily, “But…” You look around the room, your expression almost frightened at what the rest will think of you by the end of your tale. The tale you refused to share all this time.
“It’s okay, me and Mikey will help tell it.”
All you see are the worried faces of your allies, your fellow Burners and feel Mike’s hand over yours and Julie’s over your other. It gives you the strength to start.
Well, it would have if the door didn’t slam open at that moment revealing a tall muscular blonde man.
You scoot back in abject terror, trying to blend in with the wall and you let out a small whimper. Mike is shielding you with his body so you don’t have to look at him and you scrunch your eyes shut. Fuck you thought you’d gotten stronger than this. Has all this work been for nothing?
Texas and Julie are in front of the two of you and Dutch is standing closest to the door.
He is the first to get knocked unconscious.
It all happens in a split second. Texas rushes forward to Dutch’s defense but his skilled attacks are easily blocked.
Julie is knocked to the ground before she can react and suddenly his hands are pulling you up by the scruff of your shirt and you’re being dragged towards the door.
Mike practically growls as he comes around your side and tries to knock him away but now he has a gun pointed at Mikey and you’re trembling. He looks scared, and you’re sure it’s not for his life because it never is, but it’s for you.
You can’t let this happen. You shoot Mike a reassuring look.
“No, d-dad, I’ll come.”
“Of course you will Charles.”
His voice is just as menacing as you remember from when you were a kid. He pulls you backwards through the door with the gun to your head and the steel door closes with a clang.
The last thing you see is your teammates' faces contorted in anger before you are blindfolded and made to walk with your father’s hand on your back, guiding you.
Mike growls and lets out a sound of rage as he punches the door.
"All right team. There's some things you need to learn about Chuck. I'm telling this quick and I'm telling it fast, and I'm only telling you because Chuck thought now was the right time to do this. So don't interrupt."
Mike brushes a hand through his hair in agitation.
"I met Chuck when I was running the hell out of Deluxe..."
Next chapter: Mike tells Chuck's story as they try to escape and Chuckles concocts a plan.
Chapter 3: Prologue - Meeting Chuck
Mike is completely unprepared to meet the one and only Chuck by means of vent.
If you want to read the whole Chuck backstory segment in one go, wait a day or two for the next update, then go ahead and forge onwards! C:
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mike brushes a hand through his hair in agitation.
"I met Chuck when I was running the hell out of Deluxe..."
It all started about four years ago. Mike had tried running away once before he actually split from Deluxe. Mike had just seen Kane’s human experiments. Much more horrible than they sounded, he singled out every little thing that made humans human and eradicated them one by one, trying to find the most powerful virus to give his people.
He still can’t get the screams out of his head that echoed towards him as he ran for the nearest door and found himself face to face with a dusty locked up service elevator. He panicked and tried to get it to move, but the elevator wouldn’t budge. It had been shut down for ages, so he took the second best route.
He climbed up into the elevator shaft and into an air vent.
The vent only went one way and Mike was worried about that. He hoped it didn’t get smaller because he just needed to get away so badly. While he was much smaller and lankier than he is now, he was still tall for his age.
“I don’t want to!!”
Someone’s voice filtered up through a hole further up. Mike looked down through the hole he was crawling over and gasped. He wasn’t in Deluxe anymore! The grate overlooked the misty view of Motorcity. He almost grinned, he’d always wanted to go down there and explore. Sure Kane obviously hated the place, but it sounded like one big amazing adventure to him!
His eyes widened as he approached the grate ahead of him and looked down.
The old vent promptly crumbled under his weight and he was falling from too high towards the depths of Motorcity.
He closed his eyes and thought how this was what he deserved for betraying the man who took him in. He fell with a thump onto a cold metal floor and warily opened his eyes only to see an enormous laboratory.
“W-what? Where am I?”
A small blonde boy, seemingly the same age, was standing, gripping the arm of a middle aged woman. She had short brunette hair and held her head proudly with a glint in her eye that promised trouble if he was trouble.
Mike almost jumped when a voice addressed him from behind, “Ah. Welcome Michael. Nice of you to..drop in, may I say?”
“Um, Uncle Trenton? Where am I?”
Uncle Trenton was a close friend – using the term friend loosely – of Kane’s who Mike was introduced to years earlier. The first thing he did was insist he call him Uncle because they’d be working together sometime, and approximately a year ago he’d disappeared. Mike hadn’t questioned it, as he hadn’t questioned anything in Deluxe until recently. But sitting there on the cold metal floor, Uncle Trenton must have rebelled.
But…that’s not right, because Kane still talked about him all the time, which he wouldn’t have done if Trenton was a traitor.
“You were trying to escape Deluxe weren’t you?”
Mike stopped looking around and looked up at Trenton in fear.
“No, of course not! I was just explorin’ and suddenly I’m in this place. So, where am I?”
He was rightfully wary as he climbed to his feet and looked up at the older man.
“Why, you’re in my home, Michael. And since you were just exploring, I’m sure your mentor wouldn’t mind if you stayed for the night. I’m sure he wouldn’t want you wandering too far after dark.”
All this was said in a kind tone, but something about Trenton made Mike want to take a step back. He managed not to out of pure stubbornness, instead answering as he glanced towards the blonde kid, “Sure, why not.”
He knew Trenton wouldn’t contact Kane because he’s never seen it happen. This made Mike think twice though, because look at how much he hadn’t seen – how downright evil Kane could be and what he’d already done.
Trenton clapped his hands together, “Good! Mary, my dear, would you escort Michael here to his room? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind bunking with Charles.”
Mike thought he’d seen a threat as he glanced at blondie, well Charles, but surely he’d imagined it?
Though, the kid did look pretty damned scared out of his mind, and it seriously didn’t match the environment or situation. This place was downright huge and comfy to boot!
Not that he was planning on staying long. He still had his mind set on getting straight out of Deluxe, and shacking up in one of the rooms of Deluxe’s allies was not part of that plan. But more immediate matters were at the forefront of Mike’s mind once they’d entered the room.
“So, hey, I’m Mike Chilton.”
He didn’t know why but he felt like he needed to know why this kid was so jumpy. Was it this place, or was he just not a people person?
The greeting was met with silence as the other boy refused to look his way as he climbed up onto his bed. Mike wondered who the other bed belonged to.
Well there went that immediate matter.
“Right. I’m leaving then.”
The utterance was so quiet that Mike thought he’d imagined it.
“Y-you said you’re, l-leaving. Take me with you.”
“Woah woah woah, hold on Texas needs to comment, this is our Chuck right. Our screaming—“
“Chuck who wants to go with a complete stranger to god knows where.”
“Are you sure he wasn’t a clone or something and the real Chuck managed to hoo-chaw his way in Texas style?”
The Burners are currently ripping out wiring and steel from the walls around them, attempting to construct a weapon.
Mike glares half-heartedly at his friends, “Chuckles was way different back then. Him now, and back in this place are two completely different people. Now if you’re done interrupting maybe you could find out why.”
The remaining Burners grin unrepentantly, “Sorry.”
“Right, it’s cool, this is just a hard story to tell. So after a lot of ‘no freaking way’s on my part, and actual insistence on Chucks’s…”
“Fine. Fine. God. I just need to get out of here,” Mike moaned, “Where the hell did you learn to fight like that?”
Mike was currently pinned to the floor by Chuck who refused to release him until he agreed to take Chuck with him.
“Necessity,” Chuck grinned, and Mike couldn’t help but return it. He hadn’t seen the other boy even crack a smile since he’d landed in the place.
“Alright. Let’s go,” Mike raised an eyebrow towards Chuck, “I don’t know why you want to escape, but it’s way easier than you think. You just have to get into a vent.”
Chuck stared at him blankly through his hair, and then looked up. The ceiling was at least forty feet high and the room far too large to make it to the lone three vents in the center of the room.
“Hey don’t give me that look, I have a plan.”
While Chuck felt oddly comfortable with Mike, he was wary of the look on Mike’s face.
“We make a slingshot.”
“W-what?? Wait. M-mike, what are you doing?”
“I’m making a slingshot. Keep up.”
“N-no what’s going in the slingshot?”
“Geez, are you hard of hearing, buddy? We’re going to slingshot our way up to the vent.”
“N-no way. No. Those are stretchy sheets but dude. N-no. There is no way that’s going to work L-like 10% probability a-and—“
“Listen, I know you’re worried, but look. There’s a cord hanging from the vent it’s perfect. Now get on up here. Why are you struggling dude? I thought you wanted to leave. Though I don’t know why you’d want to leave this place.”
“Wha—no, Mike put me down. Oh my god do not release that trigger. What am I even holding. Mike-eeeeeyyyyahhhhhh!!!! Oh god oh god ohgodohgod---“
Mike was laughing from the adrenaline, “Chill, dude, look, we’re fine!”
“You call this fine?!”
The two boys were dangling from a single cord hanging from the vent.
Right on cue, Trenton barged into the room, “Charles, Michael, I have something I’d like you to see—“
Immediately his gentle expression transformed into one of rage, “Where do you think you’re going you brat! Get down here!”
“Oh god get me out of here,” Trenton whipped out a gun and began shooting at them. Mike’s eyes widened, “Sure thing, bro,” he yanked the cord and lifted them into the vent, leading them through a downwards slope. They landed fast and extremely hard, and on their asses.
They both looked around in awe, their faces covered in dirt, and their leg in the slime coating the ground they’d landed on.
“Yeah, welcome to Motorcity.
I hope you don't mind. I wanted to save all the Burner commentary and Trenton detailing for the next chapter, which will come within a day or two rather than the weekly update. It's only fair to give this huge flashback in one go before jumping into the misery of the Windswept Manor.
Chapter 4: Prologue - Acceptance
The beginning of Mike and Chuck's legendary broship.
It was nice writing from Mike's point of view, I'll have to slip that in more often, he's such a firecracker!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There is a thump next to him and Mike whips his head around only to see that Chuck had passed out. Mike rolls his eyes. Great.
He could see nothing visibly wrong with him other than a few cuts and scratches that he shared from their rapid descent into Motorcity. Mike sighed, as he lifted the oddly light boy onto his back and began walking. After about a mile of abandoned roads and trash, he came upon an abandoned house.
Mike sets Chuck down none too gently next behind him. It doesn’t even faze the runaway. One broken window later, they are in, and have a safe haven for the night and possibly the next few days.
“Woah, wait wait, hold up,” Dutch interrupts this time as he uses his knife to carefully cut a piece of metal, “ That doesn’t sound like you, being all fed up with Chuck.”
Texas and Julie don’t even bother nodding in agreement, they just look to Mike for an answer.
“Well,” the word was long and drawn out and a small bit embarrassed, “I’d only just met the guy, and back then he seemed like a weirdly cowardly kid with some skills who was using me to run away from home.”
He rolls his eyes and grins (as much as he can because Chuck is still missing and in trouble, and he knows his team is working as fast as they can but still--) at the horrified expressions they have on their faces. He can’t blame them, for anyone to think of Chuck negatively, well they’d have to be insane, “Take that look of your faces, I warm up to him,” Julie fails to smother a suggestive giggle, “soon enough,” he finishes with a halfhearted glare in Julie’s direction.
“So anyway, we stay in this warehouse for a few hours, Chuck hasn’t moved once since he passed out and I start to get worried…”
Mike’s hands are shaking as he checks Chuck over for sickness, and his body for wounds from when the obviously insane Trenton was shooting at them.
“What the heck is wrong with you Charles,” he murmurs as he sits with his arms wrapped around his knees across from him on the tattered couch. The room is full of dust and all kinds of furnishings are scattered about. It looks like they aren’t the first squatters to enter, but are obviously the first to break a window in order to do so.
Come to think of it, Mike hadn’t even checked the door before he broke the window. He was so used to locked doors and all the order and the way things usually are up in Deluxe that he—
“Right. No more Deluxe for me,” His head is resting on his knees as he lifts his eyes towards Chuck who other than not waking up seems to be alright and comfortably sleeping on the other end of the sofa, “I guess not for you either Charles…” He wonders if his companion realizes he’s been sleeping for almost five hours now. And that’s through being dragged through the edges of Motorcity and through a broken window. None too gently at that.
Mike closes his eyes as he wonders, what the hell has he done. He ran away, he’s betrayed Abe, he’s done everything wrong. He’s terrible, he’s a traitor just like everyone else. Every. Single. Person. Every one of them that Abraham Kane has spoken of with spite, he is now one of them.
Mike takes a notcalmingatall breath and shakily releases it as he tightens his grip around his knees and tries to make himself as small as possible.
He remembers why he decided to leave and he knows, oh god, he knows that he was right and that Kane was the one who betrayed him by lying and actually being horrible and almost evil (but he can’t be evil, because he took care of Mike right?) and he brainwashed people and controlled them like robots and put things in them that shouldn’t be there and—
Chuck’s eyes fly open and he screams.
Which makes Mike whirl in his limited space and let out a rather embarrassing sort of scream.
Little known fact, but the leader of the Burner’s has a scream to rival Chuck’s when it slips out. Unfortunately, there is not enough space on the couch for that movement and Mike falls right off with a painful sounding thump.
Once they both stop screaming and remember the other person is not an enemy there is a very heavy and awkward silence firmly in place. After a few seconds that feel like hours, Chuck leans over the edge peering down worriedly (why is he worried about Mike he’s going to get hurt again), “A-are you okay?”
Mike looks up from where he lays sprawled on the floor, tears still running down his face, and breathing heavily.
“Yeah,” Mike wants to say but what comes out is a broken sound because he has nothing now, absolutely nothing and he’s all alone and what the fuck is he going to do.
He sniffs in the silence and looks anything but okay as he looks up he sees tears at the edge of Chuck’s eyes, threatening to spill over and he realizes that this person he just met has the exact same look in his eyes as him.
Betrayed, hurt, doesn’t know how to handle what’s coming next, absolutely desperate.
“You?” Mike asks quietly as he climbs back atop the couch, perching tensely at the edge of the seat.
He looks surprised to be asked the question and takes a long time to answer with a quiet and obviously untrue affirmative answer.
“So I…,” Mike pauses in his storytelling, opening his eyes to look at his team, “Uh…what. I mean, what?”
They’re all working efficiently but they all look like they’re going to start bawling any second.
“What’s wrong—“ Mike begins,
“Keep going, “ Julie says forcefully, because she can’t explain but she knows Dutch and Texas feel it too. The idea that Chuck and Mike had been so lost and hurt and alone and they weren’t there for them. It hurt. It hurt really badly.
“Uh, right, well, I’d gotten my miserable self back up on that old couch and…”
The two boys were seated comfortably but the air was thick as they stared at each other. They each saw pain reflected in the other’s eyes, but somehow between riding through an air vent and screaming wordlessly at one another they found a spark of trust and determination.
Surprisingly, Chuck is the first to break the silence, “Well, M-michael, what are you going to do now that you’re here?”
Mike can’t help but feel a thrill of wonder and fear at that because wow, Motorcity.
“Two things,” he says in the loud way only a kid can, “I’m going to do something good and I’m going to help someone and I’m not going to run ever again.”
And now Chuck is looking at him, really looking at him, and there’s a look of wonder and fear on his face.
“And you’re not going to call me Michael. Call me what you called me before?”
“You called me Mikey, remember? When we were heading out the vent?”
“…” Chuck seems to be holding his breath as if he lets any air in he will release something he regrets.
“Ringing any bells Charles?”
“I was screaming. That was a scream. Screams aren’t nicknames.”
Mike continues as if he hadn’t said anything, “Hmmm. And we’ll need a nickname for you too. How about…um, Charlie?”
“Yeah…too fancy. You need something cooler…”
The room grows silent as the two boys get distracted from the conversation by the thoughts in their head. Twenty minutes later, Mike suddenly stands declaring something about going to go see if there’s anything to eat in the abandoned home. All that mattered to Chuck was that Mike was leaving the room leaving him alone so soon, and he didn’t want to be alone, not right after he just got free.
So he doesn’t think before grabbing his arm rather forcefully as Mike passes in front of him to leave the room.
They both groan in pain after hitting the floor, and were lucky not to have knocked themselves unconscious with all the tables in the place.
Mike is unable to move and Chuck had fell on top of him, his head now resting on Mike’s chest. He looks up at Mike and says with a nervous laugh, “I guess you can call me Chuck.”
The other boy merely blinks back, almost not processing the words before bursting out laughing and crying all at once and it’s only a few baffled seconds because Chuck can’t help but join him because god what a way to make a friend even if one is confused and his world has dropped out from beneath him and the other is finding hope again and is just so tired and fed up they've both found hope.
“Okay, I can’t do this anymore, we have to bust our way out of that door and get Chuck now.”
Texas is absolutely correct and it is time, but Mike shushes them because the gun they’ve built is perfect because they built it and they need the door to open before they can do anything.
He just desperately hopes Chuck is hanging in there for him.
Writing these flashback parts really make me want to write some actually long one-shots about all the Burners' childhoods u_u
Chapter 5: Prologue - Preperations
Resolve is a hard and difficult thing to gain. Looking back it seems like something you should have had all along, but in the heat of the moment, in the center of the action, it feels to be an unattainable treasure that you know you need to survive, but feel hopeless to find.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
You are literally hanging from a seclusion bubble literally one hundred feet in the air above the rest of your father’s lab.
You're scared. You make your way through lines and lines of programming once again doing what your father wants ever since that fateful day years ago.
You know there is no saving him, but if you are a reminder of who he used to be and how great, then you are willing to sacrifice yourself to free him from his own evil.
You almost don't even have to pay attention to what he wants done. It's so simple yet so terrible. He wants you to write a simple code that hinges on multiple events. In simple language, if motorcity goes out of commission so will Detroit Deluxe.
And vice versa.
It is the easiest program you have created in years and by far the worst. Your hands shake as you type and you wonder if anyone is coming to stop you from killing more people.
You were the one who wrote the base program for so many of the robots that have killed so many citizens of both Motorcity and Deluxe.
What are you going to do?
Obviously you stop typing and delete all that you created with a simple tap on the keyboard.
You flinch as you hear a shouted order for you to keep going but you don’t. Instead you look across towards your father who is standing with a crazed look in his eyes at a balcony used for observation.
You continue typing, but he can’t read text from so far away, obviously expects your complete obedience, and does not expect the triple jamming signal you are creating to nullify both the one protecting the manor and the one attacking it causing all of its functions to null.
What happened? He used to be your dad, someone you could trust and someone who took care of you. The type who hated any sort of violence. Yet he has you up here creating a weapon when the Manor is crashing- yes the distress signal was real – and people need the Burners’ help. Your help.
It was really a long year before you met Mikey that he changed drastically. One day after the two of you had gone to dinner at the loosest place in Deluxe, a place just at the border where so many Deluxians can go and feel a sliver of freedom, he had an unexpected call from work.
This was far from unusual so you waved cheerfully at him as he left and said you’d wait up for him. By waiting up, you fell asleep, computer floating above your lap in sleep mode in the living room. He has a look you’d never seen on his face before, sweat dripping from his short blonde hair and fists clenched.
“Charles,” he barked, and you wince, because he only calls you that when you’re in trouble and you’re sure he doesn’t know about the extra ice cream you let the cook pass you while he was preoccupied with the waitress, “Get up.”
When you fail to move, eyes wide with confusion and concern he yells it and instead of waiting for your sleep addled limbs to obey your commands he drags you off the chair by the scruff of your neck, ignoring your panicked protests as you manage to grab your screens and shove them in your pocket before he drags you out the door.
That is the last you see of your home in Deluxe, because suddenly you are being whisked through back alleys you didn’t know existed and growing more and more frightened by your father’s behavior.
Suddenly you are in a communication pod of all things and you are whirling through the air and screaming and clinging to your crazed father and then you’ve landed on a softly carpeted platform in the middle of a room and you look around in awe at the rich furnishings you didn’t know existed and the soft candle light that was nothing like the harsh white, grays, blues, and frightening spots of red in Deluxe.
Things were never the same after that. You hadn’t seen your father for weeks after that night and you were angry and hurt and frightened.
One night while you were exploring the kitchens - and yes you mean kitchens, as in there were multiple kitchens – one of the waitresses took you aside and explained to you what had happened, what they had managed to discern from his crazed rambling.
Kane had tested a nanosystem on him. One that affected the brain, that could make men do whatever he wanted and create absolute control over every aspect of him. They had found out that the order given was to “Hate Kane.” The order was given to test Trenton’s true loyalties. It was not supposed to be able to work if the emotions or thoughts necessary for the order didn’t already exist. If it worked, Kane’s plan had been to kill Trenton for treason.
However, once the order is inputted it has a run span from anywhere from a day to a lifetime and the order overtakes all rational thought.
All of it.
Which explained your father’s behavior and outright dismissal of you.
You couldn’t move when you heard.
That very night, when your father had been able to fight what Kane had done for a few hours, he told you the same himself, and apologized over and over, and for the first time, you’d seen him cry as he told you when the time came, you were to run from him.
Which you did. You held out as long as you could, especially when the Kane-crazy part of him thought to use your skills for his own gain.
Your father, told you to go to the rings to train. That if you told them who you were, you could do anything you wanted in the manor and that he was so sorry and he missed you.
You absolutely adored the manor.
Everyone was kind to you, and they protected you when your father was not in his right mind. You all started calling it ‘Kane-crazy’ or ‘Kansane’ and other things.
Everyone loved your father, he was the one who started the manor as a sanctuary, both from Motorcity, and from Deluxe. For those who wanted to avoid all of it, or fight from the shadows.
You found the rings and you learned they were literally rings where you could fight. Someone would match you up against an opponent and you’d both have fun sparring until your bodies were spent and you were stuck to the matted floor by the sweat of your skin.
You were frightened as hell, you sure had no clue how to fight and when one of the fiercer ladies of the manor tried teaching you, you literally ran at the first punch. But eventually you learned.
That didn’t mean you didn’t still hate it.
The cooks would always bring you sweets, and the doctors and scientists and technicians all loved when you came down to help keep the Manor running.
But your father was getting worse and worse, and it was impossible to lock him anywhere because he was the master of the manor and access was all his. There was no override, and no one ever thought one would be necessary.
So when Michael Chilton arrived literally from above every breathed a sigh of relief, because he was obviously on the run, no matter what he’d said about exploring, and all whispered to you to run and get out and they would find you once your father had healed.
If he ever did.
You think about it and realize today is the four year anniversary of Kane’s manipulations of your father.
You wish Mikey were here, because your hands are shaking even though you know you’ve just integrated the code into their security that will stop the manor from crashing.
You wonder if anyone here knew you were a Burner? Hell, of course they did, everyone knows everything about all of Detroit in this place.
You hear your name being called and your eyes widen because your father is calling your name, like he used to, with no scorn or hate in it.
“Chuck..chuck what are you doing here, I thought you’d gotten away.”
He sounds tortured and fuck you, Kane. Fuck you for ruining my family.
“I…I did Dad, I’m a Burner now,” you smile shakily as he does the same back.
“I feel weird buddy.”
You roll your eyes, because your dad’s penchant for understatements has never ceased to amaze you.
“Of course you do. Uh. I know this isn’t the best time but could you maybe let me out of here? And—“
“Oh my god the Manor is crashing! Chuck what are we going to do, there’s too many people and—“
Your dad rambles on, and you realize, yeah, this is where you got your screaming habit from and grin.
“This is not the time to be smiling Charles, there are hundreds of people in here and—oh. You totally did something didn’t you my little genius,” He’s letting the seclusion area come over to him and it opens to let you out onto the balcony, and wow you missed him.
You immediately hug him tightly and pull him out of the labs and towards your friends prison room.
You’re certain only Mike, Jules, and your dad are the only ones to ever see you with this look of absolute rage on your face as you think of how much Kane has taken away from you and how you’re not going to seek revenge because then you’d be just like him.
You’re just going to avenge your father’s suffering because this is what Kane does to everyone you love and he’s just started a war with the wrong people.
Your dad is clenching your hand back and there’s a light in his eyes, and you dare to hope that the Kansanity is over and that the doctors can finally get that damned thing out of his head and burn it to ashes because enough.
You want your friends, you want your best friends, you want your father, and you’re scared as hell, but enough it is time to bring the fight to Kane.
I love a forceful Chuck.
Chapter 6: Prologue - End of a mission, Prequel of a battle
Finally they're all on the same page.
Apologies for the wait. I've had some trouble figuring out what direction I wanted this to go, and I wanted to have an idea of where I was going before I posted this last part of the prologue, so expect proper updates now. I've got the next three chapters ready for editing and a further two drafted out.
The next two chapters will both be up throughout this week, and after that the chapters begin to lengthen and there will be surprises and a change of mood in the story ;D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
You make your way down endless hallways with purpose.
You unlock the door your friends were locked in and as it creaks open you come face to face with the barrel of some sort of gun…taser, “Ah! Don’t shoot, it’s me!”
Your arms are raised above your head in the universal sign for ‘unarmed’ and suddenly Mikey drops something with a clang and his arms are wrapped around your waist, hugging you tightly. You’re flustered for a second as you glance towards your father who you told to wait behind a conveniently placed marble statue, and reciprocate the hug just before Mike pulls away.
You feel the loss of warmth immediately.
“Okay, dude, we have got to get out of here. Or was there actually a problem that needed fixing here.”
“Oh,” you chuckle, “The place is sort of crashing,”
You take one look towards your friends and realize you probably shouldn't be messing with them right now.
The remaining Burners walk slowly towards you, their expressions something you’ve never seen before. A mix of horror and worry and anger and love – things you’ve seen hundreds of times on Mikey’s face – and when you ask them what’s wrong, they just tell you it’s nothing and continue to stare until you tell them to follow you and you head towards the end of the hall where
“Oh. Alright? Well I didn’t get to tell you and I should’ve told you earlier but-“
“Where is he?” Mike’s voice is flat and murderous and this is why you told Trent-- your dad to wait. It’s been years and you’re still not used to having people other than dad be so protective, so naturally worried about you and just there, that even though your dad doesn’t deserve the rage, even though it’s Kane, you feel warmed at his protectiveness.
“It’s okay Mike.”
And before you know it Mike has you pressed against a wall and is practically shaking with how angry he is. You have to remind yourself that he’s not angry at you he’s angry at your dad and he’s really truly angry at Kane because this is all that man’s fault, his betrayal, his madness. You remind yourself of all of this as you open your eyes and put a calming hand on Mike because it seems like he’s actually forgotten you’re on a mission and none of you can afford all of…all of this. That everyone needs to keep it in until it’s over, like they usually do, but somehow you’ve ended up being the center of the team today, because you’re the only one with any semblance of logic or calm left.
Which is hilarious really, and you let out a nervous laugh at the thought. This is not the norm.
Dutch seems pretty twitchy, like he’s gonna split or punch something any second. Jules has such a blank look on her face that she looks like she’s about to crack. Texas is just…quiet. Which is hell weird. And Mike. Well Mikey is…wow. You’ve never seen him this angry so close to you before. He usually tries to keep his cool but this is kind of…well it’s reassuring that he trusts you to trust him not to hurt you even when he’s this upset.
Actually it seems like that laugh is all it takes for Mikey to release his hands from pressing on your shoulders and take a deep breath before biting his lips and asking you as quietly as he can to explain.
So you give him the shortest explanation you can.
“I uh. So Trenton, I mean my dad. My dad. We’re cool. It’s over. For now? W-which is good and I actually stopped this place from crashing so I guess mission accomplished?”
“Um, Mikey? Dude? Um guys?”
Everyone was quiet, and you couldn’t see anything because both Mike and Texas were trying to break your spine via bro hug.
You heard them saying things like apologies and how none of it should have happened and wow, Mikey really told them your story. You thought you’d feel embarrassed, but you mostly feel like a weight’s been lifted and you suddenly understand why they wanted you to talk so badly.
They slowly release you, and turn towards the end of the hallway. Footsteps approach, and you immediately know it’s your dad. You grin, and feel a surge of complete nervous excitement because wow, this is definitely not how you were expecting today to go.
But first you needed to take care of your family and—
You positively shriek as you’re picked up from behind and slung over someone’s shoulder. You feel the familiar fabric of Mike’s jacket as you punch him in the back, but Mikey’s laughing, and you assume he’s seen who it is and that it isn’t a threat and suddenly your legs are stuck between two bodies.
“Uncle Trent! I’m…I’m uh happy you’re back with us.” And Mike laughs again, though a bit nervously this time.
“Oh dammit Michel Chilton put me down!”
You refuse to admit that you sounded like an upset princess rather than the seasoned warrior you obviously are.
When you’re upright, Mike is grinning at you unrepentantly, your father’s hand on his shoulder, smiling knowingly at you.
Wait, why is your dad smiling knowingly? Hell, that aside, why was Mike even acting nervous around him?
“I see you’ve been taking care of him like I asked, Mike.”
More nervous laughing, “Um, yeah.”
“Right then. We’re having a reunion, let’s have a party!”
With that, your dad turned to the nearest control access point and unlocked every door in the manor. He then proceeded to mumble embarrassedly into the PA system, “Uh…um..sorry about that everyone. I t-think we’re cool now so…yeah we can get back to whatever we were doing.”
He glances towards you and the other Burners, “O-oh! Right. Formal announcement. We have a few extra guests and some of you might know them but just a reminder to be nice and don’t attack them.”
“Riiiight. Trenton out.”
You forgot how uncool your dad is.
You wonder how you managed to forget.
Texas is doing an admirable job of not laughing and Dutch gives you a sympathetic glance. Julie and Mike have no such reservations and are both clutching their stomachs with one hand and you with the other and laughing.
You scowl and roll your eyes, you’ll allow them the stress relief they so desperately need after today. After all, they have just seen you kidnapped, been trapped in a cell, and all in all been under stress since breakfast.
Your dad breaks into your thoughts by announcing that he’d show you to your rooms and dining halls and feel free to explore and stay as long as you liked.
You felt really happy, it seemed like your dad really was better.
You really had to talk to your Burners about this stuff.
TBC with "Chapter 1: Dinner over Guns and Clouds"