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Hayada, the White-Gloved General
Universe: Disabled Cyborgs
Word Count: 1700
Summary: Toshi Hayada was a mediocre pianist but a brilliant soldier. And then he got blown up.
Notes: This story was prompted by [personal profile] md84  who requested the premise therein. It was sponsored by the Patreon crowd. You don't need to read any of Disabled Cyborgs to understand this story; Hayada's first appearance was merely a one-line reference in Portia, the Mechanical Girl.

The Hayada family was known for two things: musical skill, and deafness.

Hearing aids, auditory grafts, and cochlear implants were, of course, out of the question. If their bodies were ever modified, they would be cyborgs, and cyborg musicians were held to drastically different musical standards. Borgs had mechanical dexterity, could hit more notes than human anatomy allowed, but everyone agreed that they were nothing better than fancy player pianos, incapable of the human drama and emotion and brilliant imperfection that made music great. So, for the sake of their careers, the Hayadas not only embraced their deafness, but played it up—after all, what showed the drama and tragedy of human life and art but its inherent obsolescence?

Mrs. Hayada was a world-renowned cellist, Mr. Hayada a much beloved organist. Their two daughters, Mei and Kimiko, had respectable careers on the oboe and the bassoon, respectively. In between them was their brother Toshi, who nobody ever called Toshi—his temperament earned him the nickname 'Old Man' at nine.

Old Man Hayada's hearing was the best in family. His musical skills, sadly, were not.

“He plays like a cyborg,” one reviewer commented, “and he doesn't even have the grafts to show for it.”

Despite his disappointing lack of talent, his family still hoped that he'd get a military exemption for art's sake, but it was in vain. Old Man Hayada was drafted the moment he turned eighteen.

It turned out that whatever his passions, Hayada's skill lay in the military. The mind that struggled to interpret sheet music could read and analyze a battlefield instantly. He could predict his commanding officers' actions before they themselves had decided, and they quickly noticed. When his social skills caught up and he started breaking power struggles and leading people, he became downright inconvenient.

Obviously, Hayada needed to be gotten out of the way. How convenient that due to his family history of deafness, he knew Corporate Standard Sign...

At the time, Brikts were the cutting edge of cyborg development. They were big, and they were tough, but their rampant auditory and vocal errors made them a source of frustration to their human officers. They appeared stupid, lazy, rude, or downright insubordinate, so naturally Hayada ended up in charge of them.

The Corporate officers thought this would be the end of the matter, but Hayada had a bloody-minded streak. He was already used to visually communicating with his elderly relatives, and he adapted quickly. Being able to communicate with the Brikts, he started shaping them into a true force to be reckoned with, in practice and not just in theory.

Hayada and the Brikts went through a good few battles, but the one that changed everything was Dead Zone 4.

Back then, the Merged Business Association hadn't quite stomped out resistance yet. The guerilla hackers had taken over a city block, disabled all telecommunications and blanketed the entire area with mute bombs, blasting the entire area with a droning electrical hiss that drowned out all other noise and attempted radio signals. Every attempt Corporate made to re-establish communications was a dismal failure, and disorganization and chaos was setting in. Everyone was communicating entirely in writing (by hand!) and going crazy for the incessant hum, and at first, Hayada was no exception. He'd been expecting tinnitus to set in since he was a child, but the reality was maddening.

But then he noticed that his regiment was unbothered. Half of the Brikts didn't even notice the noise, while those that did just unplugged their auditory grafts and continued on.

Of course. Hayada cursed himself for a fool, stopped up his ears, and got the first good sleep he'd had in a week. When he woke up, he went looking for a book on semaphore.

No one had used that particular form of communication in ages. But the Brikts knew it, as part of their miscellaneous downloads (along with Morse code, RSA encryption, and the entire works of Gilbert and Sullivan for some reason), and that meant Hayada could direct them on the field in real time. He stood on top of an abandoned apartment balcony, flailing his arms and homemade flags, and won a decisive victory without ever re-enabling communications.

He also got blown up. Apparently the guerillas just found him too easy and tempting a visual target.

When Hayada came to, the ringing in his ears was back, and he felt stupid, confused, and deeply grumpy. Nobody was in the room but the medic, one of the few non-borgs in his regiment, and an unwelcome one at that. He mouthed words at Hayada.

Hayada rolled his eyes. He attempted to sign, “haven't you people realized the mute bombs are still on?” but oddly, nothing seemed to happen. Something seemed terribly wrong.

The medic paled and dashed out of the room. He returned with a Brikt-- Angie01, one of the squad leaders. She sat down, and in the stolid, low-key body language all Brikts had at the time, explained what had happened. It turned out that the mute bombs were off—the ringing in Hayada's ears was from the grenade. And that wasn't all—apparently it'd taken off his hands too.

“Heh,” Hayada said—verbally, since Angie01 could hear, even if he couldn't. “Give it to me straight, doc, will I ever play the piano again?”

But she didn't recognize the joke.

Hayada spent the next year “recovering”-- that is, being cybernetically adjusted. His family was completely against it, but they didn't get a say—their child was property of the Corporate army now, and they required their soldiers have hands.

Hayada's auditory graft worked better than the Brikts' did—he was originally human, with an officer's health insurance, after all. It gave every sound an odd blurriness and had trouble with background noise, but for someone who'd always expected to go deaf by fifty, Hayada found this acceptable.

His hands, alas, were another matter entirely.

Hands were infamously difficult for cyberneticists. Cyborgs were grown with the meat version when possible, or raised from the start with cybernetics from the spine out and shoulders down so as to be used to it. Connecting all the finicky little nerves and muscles at the wrist was just too prone to problems.

Hayada learned this through experience. In true Corporate spirit, his new hands looked lovely—clean, delicate, and white, like the gloves he wore to cover them. They were also massively buggy and seemed incapable of using anything but maximum force. A delicate touch became a heavy whump, and a moment's inattention ended in broken dishes and bruises. It also made the other human officers deeply uncomfortable—borgs were shock troops, not officers.

Hayada's family grieved his stillborn musical career, but he was secretly relieved. Despite the rampant stupidity, byzantine bureaucracy, and bloated egos he dealt with, he had found his place in the army. He had never been plagued by conscience, and if anything, his new status as cyborg made him even more popular among his unit—he was now truly one of them.

Hayada didn't so much rise through the ranks as he did siege them like the towering castles of old. He surveyed them, learned the layout, undermined them and starved them into submission, until they had no choice but to succumb to him. He was no longer 'Old Man Hayada' to anyone but his friends. To everyone else, he was the White-Gloved Captain, then Colonel, then General. To the corporations, he was a wizard, a reverser of fortunes, and he was rewarded: he became a Shareholder at forty.

By this point, Hayada had been shot, hacked, infected, and set on fire more times than he cared to remember. He gladly took the Shareholder position. Maybe he could work to improve his borgs' lot from the inside—not out of any sense of moral obligation, but because they had served him well.

The Corporate world was far different than the military one. It was all grace and finesse, neither of which Hayada was known for, but like the army, it required the ability to read the field, the strengths and weaknesses of opponents. If most of the Corporate Shareholders held rapiers, Hayada wielded a machete, and he hacked his way through opposition accordingly—though sadly, he never got the knack of politics.

And then, one day, Hayada was at the top of society. And he was bored.

He knew all the strategies, all the gambits. He'd read Machiavelli and Sun Tzu and Rommel. He'd beaten every Shareholder he met at chess, go, and Monopoly. The world seemed singularly devoid of challenge and novelty.

And then he met Portia van Damme.

She was a homely, chubby child with the docile eyes of a cow. She was also the only other borg in the Shareholder families.

If there was one thing more prone to cybernetic error than hands, it was brains, and with poor Portia, it showed. She was awkward and clumsy, and made all the humans around her uncomfortable.

Hayada was curious about her at once.

One day, between meetings with the van Dammes, while wandering their estate, he found her hiding in a ballroom, underneath a piano.

“Oh,” she said when she saw his legs. “General Hayada.” She tried to curtsy, realized she was still sitting, tried to stand, and bonked her head on the belly of the piano.

Hayada smiled. He liked children. They were unpredictable, which made them interesting. “What are you doing under there?”

She went silently and inhumanly still. It took a bit before he realized she was trying to make him uncomfortable enough that he'd leave.

It had been a while since someone had done something he hadn't expected. It was… nice.

Hayada raised his hands and carefully, delicately tugged off one of his white gloves. He no longer had those cheap, over-powered hands. These hands were top of the line, dextrous and as gentle as he wanted them to be, but they were still smooth and white. He had a nickname to uphold, after all.

Portia's face showed no reaction, but her eyes dilated. “Oh.”

“Can you play piano?” He asked her.

“A little.” Her voice was flat and stilted. “I can play half of 'Heart and Soul.'”

“Ah! I know the other half.”

She got up on the bench, he sat next to her, and they played the piano together.
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