Title: Steam V: Robot Rock
Rating: M (overall rating)
Warnings: Violence, gore, sex
Summary: For Konnichipuu. Steampunk AU: Civil war has torn the country of Nihon apart. On an abandoned battlefield, a scrap-scavenger stumbles upon the sole survivor buried amongst the wreckage. Why this man, why now, after everything that has gone before?
A/N: This chapter jumps back to the present
Previous Chapters: 1 2 3 4
Fay squinted, a pair of forceps positioned carefully beneath the concentrated lantern light in one hand, and leaned in closer over his workbench. He teetered on the tips of his toes and nearly cursed, but caught himself; one small gust of breath was all it would take to scatter his last three hours worth of work into an unrecognizable mess of wheels and brackets. His heels connected once again with ground as a frown pulled at his lips; the trouble with all of Yuuko's flights of fancy wasn't so much their flightiness or their fanciness – it was always, always their damned miniscule size. He dropped the forceps on the bench and cranked the knob at the side of his goggles back and forth, adjusting the length of the slender scope over his right eye as he struggled to focus the lens. He braced his left arm against the workbench and leaned forward once again, his right hand turning, turning, turning a the knob, sliding the scope ever downward, until the fuzzy mess of metal resolved into a clear cut relief of sharp edges and interlocking teeth.
Holding back his breath, he groped blindly along the bench for his abandoned forceps, eyes never straying from their target, and, finding them, brought the final gear to drop amongst its brethren with a flourish. A few flicks of his wrist later and he had nudged the cogs into place and snatched a correspondingly tiny nut from a pile near his wrist to twist over the final bolt and lock the entire mechanism into place. He grinned. It was perfect. Now for a test drive…
"Syaoran," he called across the workshop, whipping his head up a bit too quickly and staggering backward as the magnifying goggles sent his vision into a tailspin. He peeled them away from his face, the thick leather straps catching on his ears and the beads knotted into his hair and yanking his head at odd angles before he was freed. The goggles clattered noisily across the workbench as Fay dropped them in favor of rubbing his eyes, pinching away the last of the double vision, and shaking the dizzy spell from his head. He caught himself against the edge of the bench moments later and chuckled, slightly embarrassed. Without good reason, it turned out, as the shop boy was nowhere to be seen. There was a tinkering noise from across the way and the muted sputtering of an engine, but no response. He frowned and called again, "Syaoran?"
He was cut off by a loud BOOM which trailed off into a high-pitched whine as black smoke wafted from the far corner of the shop. Fay smacked a hand against his forehead. "Syaoran, Sakura?" he called, "Are you two alright?"
Syaoran's head popped up guiltily over the top of the smoking black tank, but it was Sakura who shouted back to reassure him. "We're fine – it was just an exhaust valve off the combustion chamber. It got stuck and the chamber overloaded and…" her voice trailed off and was replaced by metallic clinking and clanking, her train of thought clearly derailed once again by her repairs.
Fay cocked an eyebrow at Syaoran and grinned lopsidedly. The kid was certainly eager to help (and especially eager to help Sakura), but his youthful enthusiasm coupled with a complete and utter lack of mechanical knowledge was proving to be a hazard to everyone's health. Still, Fay couldn't fault him; he hadn't had much knowledge of anything that wasn't contained in a book before he'd arrived here and, after he had successfully managed to shatter an entire set of dinnerware during the course of one week, it had almost unanimously decided that the shop would be a much better place to put him to work. There were fewer things down here to break – or so the argument had gone – and, apart from the occasional explosion, it seemed to be working out well. It was fun, watching the two of them interact across the otherwise dank workshop, and Fay couldn't help but feel a small swelling of parental pride to see the young man so obviously enamored of the girl he had unofficially claimed as his "daughter." "Can you get something for me?" he asked, stifling a chuckle as Syaoran quickly jerked the hand scrubbing the soot away from his face to nod, "You remember those jugs of grain alcohol we got as trade about a month ago? The ones Yuuko said were so foul they would scare the sack off a tanuki?" Syaoran nodded, lip curling at the memory. "Go grab one for me out of storage, would you?"
Syaoran hesitated for a moment, but nodded once again and peeled away his thick leather work gloves, leaving them to hang from Sakura's engine as he took off to the storage cellar. Fay whistled to himself and turned back to his workbench. He picked up the smallish contraption he'd spent the better part of the afternoon hammering away at and turned it over in his hands. The black Mokona had caused nothing but problems since the day it was first put together; it continuously bounced into walls, its storage compartments chewed up anything that was placed in them, and it required an obscene amount of alcohol just to keep the combustion chamber fueled (more than, by all rights, should have been possible under the laws of physics, as currently understood). Fay grinned – with a little bit of luck, he may have just solved both problems…
Syaoran came staggering back a moment later, swaying under the weight of the jug. He hefted it to rest – at Fay's waved instructions – atop the workbench and stepped back to stare quizzically at the older man. "You're not going to drink that, are you?" he asked, nose creeping up his face.
"Don't be silly," Fay chided, scouring the bench for a canister, or a bowl, or a cup, something… He finally settled on a battered tin mug, which he'd probably meant to return to the kitchen ages ago, and handed it to Syaoran, who balked. "Just hold onto it for a second," he instructed, and set about plucking the cork from the mouth. It took less time that he had anticipated – which probably also accounted for a good deal of the contents' foulness – and he heaved the jug up and off the counter to fill the mug. The alcohol splashed clumsily from the open neck and splattered over Syaoran's fingers, but he managed to hold the mug mostly steady as it was filled.
Fay deposited the jug beneath the work station and set about lighting the Mokona's engine, twisting and folding the left ear until he heard the distinct clacking of flint stones and the eventual whoosh that announced the ignition of the alcohol burner deep within its innards. Pleased, he folded the right ear down until it lay flush against the Mokona's side and motioned for the cup as the mouth slowly wound its way open. He dumped the contents of the mug into its mouth, unfolded the ear, and pressed the blue knob on its forehead fully in. "Now," he said, leaning back against the workbench with his arms folded across his waist, "We wait."
"Wait for what…?" Syaoran looked nothing if not confused. He watched as the cylinder picked up speed, chugging swiftly and rocking the Mokona back and forth on its tiny feet. His eyes opened wide as its mouth opened wide and released a puff of steam. "Um, Fay," he choked, "I know I'm sort of new at this and all, but I don't think it's supposed to do that…"
"Aaahaha," Fay waved this away, "Relax. I swapped around the tubes for the exhaust port and the condenser – it's set up to spit the steam out once it runs through the main chamber."
"But you're going to run out of water-"
"It's fine! Really- Oh!" he grinned as a loud snap sounded from somewhere inside the Mokona, "Won't be long now." The Mokona itself continued to chug and sputter, though now it had stopped releasing puffs of steam. Syaoran continued to stare, dumbfounded, for the next several moments until a sharp bell sounded and Fay once again snatched the mug up. This time, he cranked the right ear upward until it stood at full attention and folded just the tip forward. The mouth opened partway – just enough for a small brass spout to peek through. Fay set the mug just below the spout and tapped the blue knob on the Mokona's forehead. Within seconds, latches caught and gears ground…and a steady stream of something dribbled from the spout into the mug. "Ahahaha!" Fay exclaimed, "Success!"
"It's," Syaoran balked, "What is it?"
Fay swished the mug back and forth under Syaoran's nose. "Taste it!" he encouraged.
Syaoran took a few steps backward and screwed up his face; he remembered exactly what had gone into the Mokona's mouth, and wasn't particularly eager to ingest the aftermath. "That's okay," he held up his hands, "I don't think…"
"Aww," Fay held the mug to his chest in a mock pout, "All my hard work! It should taste so much better now, too!" He sniffed at the mug and shuddered as the noxious fumes wafted to his nose, "Well, at any rate, it's more potent!" He took a small swig from the mug and nearly choked, but quickly swallowed the contents down and forced a smile. "Yes sir, definitely more potent. And if you don't want any, there will be more for me and Sakura!"
"More of what?" Sakura asked, appearing suddenly at their side. Her eyes widened as she spotted the Mokona, the spout still dangling from its lips and dripping occasionally, then darted to the mug in Fay's hands. "Oh, Fay!" she exclaimed, eyes shining brightly from behind the smudges of soot and oil staining her face, "You did it! You made us a distiller!" She leaned in closer to examine the Mokona, "But it's so small! How did you fit it inside Mokona?"
"Aha!" Fay laughed, "Well, I had to make a few minor alterations. I attached the condenser to the second boiler, so the alcohol that burns off first floats into there. Once the second boiler is half full, that valve shuts off and opens the chamber into the water tank instead – that way all the remaining water that boils off ends up there. And finally, all the used steam that gets pushed through the engine cylinder goes to the exhaust port instead of the condenser!"
"It's great!" Sakura agreed.
"So," Syaoran scoffed, "You're burning alcohol to make…more alcohol? Isn't that…kind of a waste? Wouldn't it make more sense to route the distilled alcohol into the fuel tank?"
Fay and Sakura looked very patiently at Syaoran. "It's the principle of the thing!" Sakura insisted, "It's exciting because it worked! We can improve on it later…"
"Exactly!" Fay agreed, "Besides, what fun is it to pump the alcohol back into the fuel tank when we can just as easily drink it?" He passed the cup to Sakura and snickered as she sipped, then choked on the liquor. "I'm a terrible mother…" he wailed as Sakura fought back a chuckle and wiped her face, "But, hopefully this will satisfy Yuuko enough to let me work on something else for a while." He toed at a white sheet covering a mountainous pile of scrap.
"I doubt it," a voice rang from somewhere overhead. The three shop workers paused to look up at the second story entrance to the workshop, where a tall man with spiky black hair stood smirking at them from the landing. He was dressed in attire completely unsuited for shop work – a light, linen shirt which he'd refused to tuck in and who's sleeves came only to mid-arm, and loose fitting pants that overrode leather boots more suited for dress than practicality – yet strode down the rickety metal staircase looping along the rounded wall with all the command of a regular, commanding footsteps bouncing and echoing throughout the small chamber. "And what the hell," he added as he approached the bottom of the stairs, "Are you doing giving my sister alcohol?"
"Oh, Touya!" Sakura scoffed and choked back another gulp defiantly, "Stop treating me like a child!" She coughed and sputtered, liquor spraying from her mouth and dripping from her nose. Syaoran quickly leapt to her side to pat her back and wipe the spray from her face.
"I'll treat you like an adult when you can hold your drink, Monster," Touya laughed, but stared daggers at Syaoran.
Fay quickly stepped between them. "Why don't you guys go get cleaned up," he said to Sakura and Syaoran over his shoulder, "You've done plenty today, already." He turned back to Touya as they shuffled away, "And to what do we owe the pleasure? Haven't seen you down here in ages," he chuckled as he untied his thick leather apron and hung it from a hook next to his bench, "I have to say, you're looking more out of place than ever…"
"I heard an explosion," Touya answered coolly, "And I thought it might be a good idea to come down and make certain that little miscreant hadn't blown my little sister to bits." He stopped to quirk an eyebrow at Fay, "Have your boots gotten taller again?"
Fay extended his leg and wiggled a pointed toe suggestively. It was true, his already thigh-high boots had gained another inch or two when he'd stopped folding their upper edge down. Still, it was much more fun to tease the other man, especially when he was so notoriously reserved. "Maybe. Why? You want a pair?"
When Touya didn't respond, Fay followed his gaze to the back of the workshop where Sakura and her new shop-hand were busily covering the engine they'd spent the day tinkering about, all shy smiles and stifled giggling. "You're going to have to get used to that," he said lowly, "She's not a teenager anymore."
Touya glared. "Doesn't mean I can't kill him," he spat, "And where do you get off-"
"Oh, hush now!" Fay sang, tossing a discarded leather work glove into Touya's face, "Just think how wonderful it will be once they're married! We'll be grandparents!" Fay paused, stroking his chin thoughtfully, "Well, I'll be a grandparent; I suppose you'll have to settle for being an uncle…"
"Oh for the last time; I don't care what your little joke is, you are not her mother!"
"And you, my dear Touya," Fay grinned, "Despite your best attempts to prove the contrary, are not actually her father, are you? And even if you were, Daddy's little girl has to grow up sometime."
"She is my responsibility," Touya sputtered, "And if he thinks he's going to- I swear I will skin him alive."
"It's not just him, you know," Fay murmured quietly, nodding toward the back of the shop, "She really does seem quite happy."
"Hmph," Touya folded his arms across his chest and glared.
"Anyway," Fay continued, waving his hand obnoxiously in front of Touya's face, "Was there something else?"
"Huh?" Touya snapped back to attention.
"Well, you're still standing here and not, you know, actively skinning your sister's suitor for smiling at her or stomping back up the stairs in a strop. I thought maybe Yuuko sent you for something."
"Right," Touya narrowed his eyes, but peeled them away from his sister long enough to focus on Fay, "Seems your latest near-death experience has gotten himself up and about."
"You know. That Kuro-gahoosiewhatsit guy you hauled back here. The scary one."
Fay cocked an eyebrow, "Kuro-whatnow?" He could only assume this was an alias; Youou had certainly seemed to remember him at any rate.
Touya waved this away. "Whatever he said his name was. Tomoyo has him out working in the garden."
Fay turned back to his workbench and fiddled with his tool set. "Well, that was quick."
"Yeah, he's a real beast," Touya agreed, "Made quite a racket in the kitchen this afternoon. Watanuki finally got fed up and threw him out, so Yuuko sent him out to till the garden for this spring's planting."
Fay quickly set the wrench he had been examining back on the bench and turned back to Touya. "He's tilling? I mean- Shouldn't he be resting? And not playing in the mud?"
Touya scratched at his head, "Yeah, I didn't think it was a great idea either, but apparently they've got the motorized tiller up and running so it shouldn't be a big deal. Tomoyo's keeping an eye on him so he doesn't tear anything back open."
Fay frowned, "The motorized tiller, hmm? Well," he eyed the discarded wrench thoughtfully before hefting it back up over his shoulder, "Well, then. I suppose I should go give them a hand!"
"Um, Fay, I don't think-"
"It's fine," Fay sang as he sprinted up the staircase, "Keep an eye on those two for me, will you? Don't let them get up to anything dirty~!" He dragged the last syllables out as far as he was able as he darted across the landing and through the heavy door before Touya had time to protest.