a ghost in the shell au about cass & balthazar escaping the american empire together
they’re childhood friends, they met in the hospital where cass got his first full prosthetic body, then lost contact a decade later when cass was forcibly recruited into public security by michael’s side of the family, bc no one makes a better cyber soldier than a full cyborg
and cass tries to not even think about balthazar until he’s become the best hacker on record next to michael, until he can meet with balthazar even in public with absolutely no trace of it recorded on any camera or in any cyberbrain
and he teaches him everything. balthazar has only minimal cyberbrain enhancements, and no protheses, and with cass’ instructions he just starts taking apart all traces of their existence, piece by piece
and michael catches on eventually, except he shot himself in the foot years ago, first by making cass disappear from the public record himself when he was “recruited,” second by outfitting him with a new mass-market shell. easy to blend in on the outside, and custom engineering on the inside to make him unique
but mass-market is mass-market, and if you’re good, if you’re really good, if you’re the second best cyber hacker in the country, you can reverse engineer the customization until you are completely indistinguishable from the other 750,000 of you in circulation
finally michael confronts cass in person, cass who now only barely exists as a mundane private citizen, and threatens balthazar instead. and cass just looks at him and frowns
because balthazar hasn’t just disappeared from the public record, he’s disappeared from cass’ too. as michael dives into cass’ brain for evidence, he finds all of his memories of balthazar have been overwritten. there was no other boy in the hospital, no classmate, no friend, no one
balthazar only exists as a name in michael’s head. cass could never hack michael, but he doesn’t need to. michael never spared a second thought for cass’ life. he has not a single memory of balthazar to make his case. he can’t even describe him
and cass walks away
encrypted fragments in his brain, none of them even a full sentence on their own, start popping up, telling him to turn, to keep going, and he just keeps walking, walking across the city, which does not record him passing, all the way to the airstrip
by the time he boards his plane, there was never a “castiel” to begin with
there’s a blond stranger in the seat next to him. once they’re in the air, the stranger plugs himself into a film, smiling, enjoying himself
cass is still nervous. michael’s word alone carries weight. as long as he knows cass exists, there’s always a risk
once they’ve crossed the border, the stranger turns to him and asks if he’s all right. cass smiles and deflects
“you look like you’re enjoying yourself”
the stranger offers cass a wire to share the film. cass accepts and plugs himself inand suddenly
“Balthazar!” Cass called, waving him down to a short stack of crates with a small, white and brown bag tossed on top.
“This was in the bag…” Cass looked uneasy as he handed Balthazar a card.
“Hey–!” Santa grabbed it from him, glaring at it; her picture was on it, as though it were a trading card.
“Ah, you noticed,” Ace approached them, two cards in hand. “These were in the bags under the stairs.”
“Quatre,” Balthazar murmured, “and…Duo.”
They were silent for a moment, until Cass spoke up, tugging at his sleeves.
“When were these taken…?” he asked slowly. “How long has Zero been watching us…?”
“It’s just a headshot,” Santa muttered. “I can’t even tell what I’m wearing, or I’d maybe be able to guess the when.”
Balthazar glanced about the room, scattered with the small bags. One of them, no doubt, would hold his own photo…and Castiel’s. They resumed their search rather chilled.
The bags, only four in total, were exhausted soon enough, leaving them to pry open every crate and barrel within reach to find all nine cards.
Balthazar and Castiel heaved the lid off a large box to the right of the entryway, and there they were, laying eerily side by side.
Castiel watched, face full of concern, as Balthazar slowly lifted the card with his own photo.
Balthazar bit back a shudder, wracking his brain for something less than completely alarmed to say.
“At least they got my good side,” he muttered, turning the card over as though it interested him only casually. It was weak, but Cass seemed relieved, leaning into the crate for his own photo.
“Well?” he held it out to Balthazar, his tone expectant.
“…well?” he tilted his head. Cass frowned at him.
“Did they get my good side?”
Balthazar laughed. “Oh, dear, you don’t have a bad side.”
Cass smiled, satisfied.
serious question: if i want a middle-aged john w!michael to be recognizable without initially being named
do i draw jeffrey dean morgan or an older matt cohen?is there any kind of precedent here i can work off?
i think you’re right. as long as i can draw a recognizable matt cohen/young john an older version shouldn’t be a problem
plus like, all the other characters are spn angels so it’s not like anyone’s gonna wonder if it’s michael or john. in fact drawing jdm in that context might be more confusing
The monitor had powered up, the screen glowing white for several seconds before fading into…
“…I’m not sure what this is,” muttered Balthazar, with Ace looking over his shoulder.
The screen showed a grid, with a number of brown and grey tiles standing out. To the middle left was a single, yellow tile with a red dot at its center, and the entire right column was made up of similar, paler yellow tiles. In the top right corner was an icon shaped like a coffin, and in the top left sat the words “Moves 50/50”.
“It’s the control panel for…that,” Santa, with an odd smile on her face, pointed to the ground floor past the fence.
Suddenly, the grid on the monitor made perfect sense. He hadn’t been able to tell from eye level, but the wooden crates and metal boxes behind the fence were arranged exactly as the tiles on the screen. Only an odd, yellow device with a red bulb on its head stood out.
“And what is…that?”
Santa and Castiel began to laugh, looking down at a stiff piece of paper Santa held in her hands. She cleared her throat authoritatively, laughed again, and straightened up to speak.
“It’s the Pushmaster 5000.”
Santa broke down, weakly pushing the card into Balthazar’s hands as Cass clutched her arm, trying to stifle his laughter with his sleeve.
the pushmaster 5000, available NOW for the low, low price of
(#it's from the original game i swear to god)
this is the tl;dr version bc i can’t be bothered to get in depth and i don’t think it’s necessary but
pure, stubborn, immovable selfishness, i realize, is the archangels’ defining trait honestly
“no one makes us do anything” is not a free will line, it’s a “we never listen” line
it’s a goddamn tragedy what happened to heaven and earth bc god left the universe in control of beings whose motto is “i’m going to what i’m going to do, and i dare you to stop me” (although as far as i can tell, god himself isn’t much different)
“why won’t any of you listen?”
“they don’t listen, castiel, because their hearts are mine, and i’m too far up my own ass to listen to anyone else”like goddamn no wonder sam n dean were the vessels
(#y'all know i find raphael the most sympathetic of the four but jesus fuck #the civil war happened bc he would not accept any road to 'paradise' other than the apocalypse as prescribed by god)
“There’s something other than boxes over there,” Santa said, “but I want a closer look.”
“I’ll go with you,” Cass insisted.
“Sure,” Ace agreed. “I think Balthazar and I can manage somehow.”
Balthazar huffed a small laugh as he knelt, but no sooner had he started than he was startled by a crash.
Santa’s voice rang out from behind a tall stack of crates. Shoving his cards into Ace’s hands, Balthazar leapt to his feet and dashed to the fence.
Cass was on his feet, at least, brushing the knees of his leggings with an irritated look. His head snapped up as Balthazar rounded the corner, and he drew his shoulders back indignantly.
“I’m fine! I just tripped on these f–” he waved his arm at the innumerable boxes littering the room, “–…crates.”
Balthazar said nothing for a moment. Cass’ eyes were clear, it was true, and his face was no more - or less - red than when they’d left the engine room.
“Santa saw it,” Castiel insisted, assuming Balthazar was simply unconvinced. “Ask her.”
For her part, Santa looked startled to be called as a witness.
“I wasn’t exactly watching…” she started, “but…yeah, I think he did just trip.”
Cass nodded vigorously, turning back to Balthazar, who couldn’t help a relieved chuckle.
“I’m glad,” he said. “Really. But…do tell me if your fever comes back. …please.”
Perhaps still embarrassed, Cass nodded again and quickly walked around them, back to Ace. Balthazar watched him disappear, trying, really, not to be too concerned.
balthazar you wanna be his boyfriend or his grandma