Title: my heart is still (remembering)
Word Count: 1,310 (65,126 total so far)
Warnings: Lots of swearing, depictions of a character having panic attacks, mentions of alcohol and drug abuse, some (mostly non-graphic) blood and gore, sexual situations(?)
Summary: He’s not a hero, and he’s not a spy. Really, he’s just a mechanic who nearly went crazy and got in over his head in order to cope.
Notes: Notice that second number up there next to the one that says this is chapter thirty? Yep, that's right, I'm finished writing and we are rapidly approaching the end. Thank you so much for your continued support throughout all of this madness, and please enjoy the rest of the ride!
All he’s left with is a small piece of metal clutched in his hand, biting into the skin of his palm. This is all that remains of the bot that he made after she died. The rest was confiscated by the government years ago.
He leans over the monitor to finally plug the damn thing in and tries not to remember the night that they came. He tries not to think about her screams in that high, shrill voice (so like his Youngji and yet not right at all) and the way that she struggled as they dragged her out the door.
He’d found the data card in the driveway later, after he’d stopped drinking and crying for long enough to venture out of the house (or maybe because he needed more alcohol, he doesn’t remember now) and he’d been surprised that the police had been so negligent as to lose it. He does remember clutching it and crying while knelt on the pavement, so broken and so grateful to have even such a small piece of her left.
His computer protests the presence of the foreign data card, but he ignores it. He goes mechanically through the instructions that Wonshik gave him—making sure his computer is connected to the company network, hacking the firewall so that all the computers in the building will be affected, and then he opens the command box for the data card.
The cursor blinks at him, and he takes his hands off the keyboard so he won’t press any buttons by accident.
It shouldn’t even be a question. He shouldn’t be hesitating over this, but he knows that as soon as he gives the command that tells it to destroy all the data, there’s no going back. This—tainted and broken and faded with time as it is—contains all his memories of her.
Hongbin thinks of the words that she spoke to him, thinks of the storage room full with her things, thinks of Wonshik upstairs fighting for this same thing.
He puts his fingers back on the keyboard and types the command.
For a moment it seems that nothing at all has happened. The computer dings at him, informs him in curling silver script that it is processing his request. And then after a moment, the whole screen goes dark.
Following that, the lights go out as well. He feels his heartrate pick up again and forces himself to breathe. Deep breath in as he counts to five, deep breath out until a count of ten, squeezing his abs until the very last vestiges of breath are pressed from his lungs. And then he does it again, and again, and again.
He’s waiting. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, looks at the time. Three minutes since his monitor went dark. Within five minutes, the backup systems should take over and bring the lights back on, assuming they weren’t connected to the main network. Wonshik didn’t think they were, not in such a way that they would go down with the rest.
Another minute ticks by, and Hongbin drums his fingers on his knee. If something goes wrong, Wonshik will call him. If he’s not supposed to continue with the plan, Wonshik will call him.
If he hears nothing….
The lights come back on. Hongbin has to blink rapidly as his eyes adjust. Being able to see calms him down, a bit. He can do this. Maybe he won’t even have to finish. Maybe deleting their systems will be enough.
He waits a few more minutes, leaning back in the chair and just…being. Hakyeon is probably worrying himself sick right now. At least Taekwoon is there with him, to help calm him down. Hakyeon is not alone. He’ll never have to be alone, if Hongbin has anything to say about it. He’s not sure he will, after this, so in the silence he sends up prayers for Hakyeon and Taekwoon, for Ken and Hyuk and all the others whose lives he changed forever. There’s nothing he can do for them now except what he’s already doing.
It’s been nearly ten minutes since the lights came back on and he’s heard nothing, so he opens the leather satchel again, unzips the main pocket this time and puts his hands on the device.
He holds it with almost reverent care. This—this innocuous, seemingly harmless device—could take down this whole building and everyone in it. Handled incorrectly, it would take only a single moment for them all to perish, for the whole place to collapse.
Hongbin knows that it’s not as delicate as his thoughts make it seem. He shoved it in a bag, didn’t he? He carried it all the way here, on the train and through the lobby and down the elevator, and he’s still in one piece. It’s completely harmless until he sets the detonation process.
He puts it on the pedestal of his bot stand. The thing contains enough percussive force to destroy an entire city block, if positioned correctly. He lays it wide end down, directed so that it will pound through fifty floors of cement and steel beams and cause the structure to fall in on itself. The least damage, the least death; it’s always been what they were aiming for.
He waits another seven minutes, but there’s no word from Wonshik. He has his orders.
Hands shaking, Hongbin switches on the device, watches the little screen on its side turn blue and offer a very simple list of commands.
He presses ‘Detonate’ and waits as it loads a confirmatory screen.
‘Are you sure?’ it asks him. Beneath the words is the dark outline of an oval, roughly the size of a finger. Hongbin takes a deep breath, checks the time once more, and figures he can’t wait any longer. If Wonshik didn’t call, if Hongbin didn’t hear anything, he was supposed to go through with the plan.
He presses his finger to the screen. Around it, the blue glow turns to red. When he lifts his hand away he sees that it’s started a countdown. Ten minutes.
He has ten minutes to say goodbye to this place forever, to step out of his lab, out of this building for the last time. Ten minutes to walk away like he was never here, to go back to a life where he has nothing and no one, where he’s a cyborg who can’t do the one thing that he wants to do and can’t have the one thing that he wants to have.
He backs up a few steps and leans on the edge of the desk. Staying wouldn’t be so bad, he thinks. This near the blast, he’ll likely feel nothing as the device rips him to shreds.
His phone dings, a brittle noise in his earpiece that declares he has a message. He accepts it without thinking, tapping the earpiece with one finger and listening with half an ear as it starts to play the recording.
“I set this to send around the time you’d be starting the device,” Wonshik’s voice says in his ear, “and I know it’s the last thing you want to hear, but I have to tell you: get out, Hongbin. You have more to offer the world. This doesn’t have to be the end.” He goes silent for a few precious seconds, and Hongbin thinks that perhaps the message is over, but then, very quietly, he says, “God, this is stupid, but I love you. I don’t know how it happened or why, but I fucking love you. Live, you bastard.”
It disconnects for real after that, and Hongbin, starved for air and feeling like his heart is going to burst and shatter into a thousand pieces, glances at the time readout on the device. Eight minutes.
A brief note here. I am taking fic requests for the rest of February, and I would love for all of you to participate! Check out my Tumblr post here for more info!