The next morning I was attacked first thing in the morning.

“Motokoooo!” Hiromi whined as she launched herself at me as soon as I opened the door. Swinging the Motoko seeking ballistic missile around to bleed off the momentum, I closed the door with a kick and settled the Door Shotgun back in place as I hugged Hiromi tight.

“Fun day! I demand it!” She said while her face was buried in my shoulder.

“Okay. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. You decide.” She responded back and I just laughed.

“Well I’m afraid I wasn’t planning on much today, I got the music bug and I was just recording some songs, but we can go-”“Yes!” She demanded and rushed over to the couch to flop on it. “Serenade me!”

I scoffed at her demand but smiled regardless. “Okay, this is Come as you are.” I informed her and set up the song to play through the music box as I settled in, and then I started up that famous intro. The deep tones were good. Not perfect, I really needed something acoustic, if I wanted to really hit the best notes, but my guitar could fake it well enough.


Well enough for this anyways.

Then I opened my eyes, locked them onto Hiromi, and crooned. “Come, as you are, as you were, as I want you to be!”

The song ended with me letting the last note drift for a while, and then I smiled at Hiromi, because playing music like this was just… Fun.

It was fun.

“God Motoko.” She breathed and then shook herself off. “Okay that’s it! I’m done! That’s it!” She nearly screamed as she rose up and paced and I blinked, nearly stepping back in shock.“What? Hiromi? What’s wrong?”“The fact you don’t do this more! You… Motoko. You sold a song to Denny! To a major label! I mean… You should do this more! It’s amazing! Put a band together! Put on shows!”“I don’t… I like music as my hobby, Hiromi, but I’m not really… Crowds and stuff you know?”“Ughhhhhh.” She whined, smashing her face into the couch and screaming. “Why are you so…”

“You just gestured at all of me.” I joked, heh. Hiccup. Aw man, I haven’t seen that movie in… Well it’s gone now I think..


No, I shook it off, focus on Hiromi.

“I don’t know what to say Hiromi.”

“Don’t say anything just… Listen for a second? Put some songs together. Like just a few! And let me set up a gig for you. Pleeeease. If you have stage fright, we can work with that. But Motoko! You have so much talent here, it’s killing me to see you just not use it.” She pleaded and I looked away. “Hiromi. I’m a merc, not a Rockerboy.”“Be both!” She denied my argument instantly. “You like Silverhand! You can’t argue this. You like him!”

“Comparing me to Johnny Silverhand is pretty rude.” I muttered, but Hiromi wasn’t having my nonsense.

“Motoko, I’m serious. Please for me? As a super special present, let me put together a gig for you. A real one, on a stage somewhere. I’ll set it all up, all you have to do is prep the songs, and then I’ll do the rest.”“Hiromi-”“For my Birthday!” She demanded and I blinked. What?

“Wait, is your birthday coming up? Hiromi! You have to tell me these things, I don’t remember anything!”


“Yep that’s right! My birthday is coming up!.” She begged and I flinched because…

Super uncomfortable, Hiromi! This… I wasn’t comfortable with this!

She realized it at the same time, something on my face showed it and she slumped.

“Nevermind.”“It’s not… I don’t…” I shut up, and actually considered it. I had started the music thing purely for myself, a hobby, and a remembrance of what I had… Lost.

And also as a way to return myself to who I should be. A reminder of the good things in life, and that I shouldn’t just drop into the endless void of chrome and combat.

It was great. I loved it…

But what was the reason I didn’t want to share? Guilt? None of the songs were really mine, but I was the only one that knew them. Was it worse to let them never be, or claim them as my own?

Difficult, but not really that hard for me in the end.

No, the real reason? It was because I was fucking scared. Me. Badass, Afterlife Merc. I’d gone toe to toe with borgs with a smile on my face, been shot and just glared or cussed out who had done it, but I was afraid of people listening to me play a song.

Hiromi, wasn’t being fair trying to push this either, but at the same time.

I knew Hiromi. She wasn’t doing this because of eddies, she really thought it would be good for me to do it. She was proud of me, and wanted to show the world. She was excited to be there.


“O-one gig.” I agreed, and suddenly Hiromi who had been looking dejected as she realized she had pushed too much jerked up.

“Really?”“Yeah… I, I’m afraid, but it’s stupid fears, not real ones. You can set up a gig… I guess I need to figure out a set.”“I’ll do it! You won’t regret this Motoko. I swear it. You’ll love it! The crowd and the music, and everything! Oh! I’m so excited! We need to figure out an outfit for you too!”“What’s wrong with my outfit?” I asked, looking at my super cool tactical leotard, and jeans.

“Nothing, for merc work, but it’s not Rockerboy! Don’t worry I’ll help! No! I need to call the boys! They need to get in on this, and I’ll need their help as muscle! Eeeee!” Hiromi bounced around the room, and all I could think was that this was a mistake.


The embarrassing level of excitement from everyone was getting to me. Malcolm had arrived not long after the call went out, but Ichi was working so it took him a while, but Malcolm had only thrown fuel on the fire of brazer Hiromi.

So now I was dealing with her absolutely freaking out, as I went through my list of recorded songs to make a playlist…

What songs should I pick?

I had made a pretty good selection by now. Rise was definitely going on the list, I really liked it.. Maybe This Fffire next? It was a very Cyberpunk song…Stolen from its original source, this story is not meant to be on Amazon; report any sightings.

Let you Down. It had to be on the set. Probably towards the end was the best bet, then Nirvana after? I could start with Smells like Teen Spirt, and end with Come as you are?

No, I should do The Pretender… But where to put it? Just after This Fffire? No wait, Smells like Teen Spirit… I had to move it.

I groaned. Rockerboy was actually helping me here. Setlists, performance, was all part of the skill, but a part of it that I pretended didn’t exist most of the time.

Looking up from my Music box, I winced and looked away from Malcolm and Hiromi colluding, They were both standing close to each other with toothy smiles as they plotted.

This was my life now… Wasn’t it?

I sighed, and finalized the list.

Smells like Teen spirit, Rise, This Fffire, The Pretender, and Let you Down

Five songs that I could play together… Now I just had to psych myself up for an actual concert…

No, I should probably edit the songs, with better equipment. I could really bring a lot out of them with some real instruments.

“Hiromi.” I spoke up for the first time in a while. “I think I’m going to need a recording studio, to clean these songs up if I’m going to play them on stage, so-”

“Yes!” Hiromi cheered. “Okay! Let’s go! We can text Ichi the new meet up spot. C’mon!” She demanded pulling at me, and I sighed as Hiromi tugged me away.

“Do you even know of a recording studio we can use?” I asked, and Hiromi threw me a grin.

“Of course I do! Denny’s one! The one you wrote Tank at!”

“That place is expensive.” I muttered as Hiromi continued to drag me along Malcolm following along nothing but amused.

“It’s not that expensive, Motoko! Besides, you get a deal for use of the rooms. It was part of the contract I put together for Tank.”“Wait, why don’t I know about this?”“I sent you the contract Motoko.” Hiromi reminded me with a flat face, and I did my best not to look away awkwardly. I had read through it… A little. At least enough to know I wasn’t selling my soul.

“This is why I’m your manager.” She said and this time she said it with a happy smile. Hiromi was happiest, when she was showing off her skills after all.

“You know I’ll need my guitar and stuff.” I mentioned, as Hiromi had pulled me out of the apartment and down the hall by this point. She turned, realizing I didn’t have my instrument.



We drove through the city, finally reaching the parking spots near Denny’s recording studio, and I felt kinda awkward, carrying my equipment, down the alley way and into the same blank faced door. Somehow during the drive over Hiromi had already scheduled one of the studio’s for me, and so we had access. The door opened and we walked into the same long white hall.

“Room 1-16.” Hiromi called out as I headed that way, and slipped inside.

The studio was empty. Just for me. Staring at the space I felt myself actually warm up. Sure my Music box was good, but electronic simulation of different instruments was only so good.

There was nothing quite like the original.

I settled my guitar and Music box to the side and headed out immediately for the instrument room.

“Motoko?”“I need some stuff! Malcolm, I could use some hands.” I asked, and he followed after. It took a while to move and set up the drum set, but it felt great to have it there set up and shiny.

Then I checked over and grabbed a few more instruments, once that was done it was time. I settled, pulling up the tracks I had already recorded. I went to work.

The quality of the microphones alone made a massive difference, better instruments would enhance that, and finally the actual recording equipment, was much higher end, than the program I had made my music box out of.

But it didn’t matter. The Music box was still incredibly useful, saving the recordings for later.

And I went to work. Playing through the songs over and over, removing errors from the early tracks I had recorded, adding some flare to each instrument, in a way I couldn’t before.

The vocal tracks were sung, recorded, and edited with much finer equipment than I had before.

All the while, I let myself fall into the utter focus required to handle all the tasks. I lost track of my friends.

By the time I was doing the drum track for Smells Like Teen Spirits, and just absolutely going to town on for it, I noticed Ichi was standing in the recording room as well.

So I hit it even harder. This was the first song of the story I was telling, I had to draw attention while playing it, otherwise I might not keep them for all the songs.

And so I continued on, hammering through the songs over and over, cleaning every technical piece of the song I could, over and over and over.

It all ran into itself and it was only when I had to stop to go to the bathroom that my chooms grabbed me and sat me down.

“Easy Motoko, you need anything? Food? Here, have some water.” Hiromi demanded, while Malcolm handed it over.

I rolled my eyes at their worry, but drank down the water anyway.

“I’m fine. Just in the zone to get this all done.”“You got some time Motoko, it’ll take me a while to find a location and set it up.”“Red Dirt.” I finally said, decision made. “Can you set up the gig for that bar?” I asked, and Hiromi blinked, looking confused.

“Maybe? Where is it?”“Arroyo.”“Wait, I know that place. It’s fucking ancient.” Ichi spoke up and I flashed him a smile.

“Yep. It was the first place Samurai ever played at.”

“Ugh.” Hiromi groaned, but she nodded. “Okay fine. If that’s where you want to play… I was going to try Lizzies or something.”“Nah, maybe after, if I do another gig.” Red Dirt wasn’t just the first place Samurai played, it was also small…

Hopefully the smaller crowd would help.

I stood up and went back to work. I didn’t want to keep spending money considering I knew just how much these recording studios cost.



“You know… I knew Motoko’s kinda bullshit sometimes. Sometimes I wonder, how the fuck did she do all this. How can she learn all these crazy skills so fast… Then I see her do shit like this, and I don’t think it’s that crazy anymore.” He uttered, staring at Motoko, just a teenager same as him.

A girl that has less than a year of memories? He watched as she didn’t just play multiple instruments, but absolutely destroyed them. Energy she usually reserved for the middle of combat, coming out as she sang and played with a frantic energy that she had kept up with for hours already.

Just watching her made Malcolm exhausted.

“She’s amazing.” Hiromi added, which was just such a Hiromi thing to say. Of course the girl with the biggest crush in the city would think her crush was the best thing ever.

But fuck if Malcolm wasn’t feeling some feelings for her right now either.

The energy, and force Motoko put into the songs, and he had listened to the complete track of the first few she went through was already amazing.

Dammit, why did his best friend that was a girl have to be kinda hot?

He shook it off. If Hiromi found out he even thought that, she would make his life hell.

He glanced to Ichi, who passed over a look.


They both looked away, knowing Hiromi wouldn’t have noticed, she was the one most enthralled with Motoko’s inexhaustible energy.

“So… I’m gonna call everyone I know and tell them to show up for this gig. You?”

“Obviously. We have to tell Jun. He’d kill us if we kept him out of it.”“Oh don’t worry.” Hiromi added. “I have complete confidence in Motoko. I’ll throw up some fliers as well. We’ll turn Motoko’s first gig into a blast!”

Malcolm winced. He knew Motoko well enough to know she had liked the idea of the gig being in a small place to get away from the massive crowds.

Sorry Motoko. You shouldn’t have stolen Hiromi’s heart if you didn’t want her to use her massive corpo powers to your benefit... Or detriment.

“I like this one.” Ichi offered, and Malcolm listened in nodding along as Motoko had switched to singing, and absolutely roared along to the rock song. Taking the headset he put it on, and listened to the song playing along as Motoko sang.

The lyrics… Yeah that was a cool song, felt very old school. No electronic beats or anything just pure instruments, and lyrics, but it still felt exciting, there was so much going on.

“I called the Red Dirt. Got a slot. They agreed pretty quickly, the pay is shit though, but they wouldn’t budge.” Hiromi grumbled suddenly and Malcolm realized that while Hiromi was staring at Motoko like a particularly nice looking XXL burrito, she was also handling business.

Hiromi really scared him. It was a good thing she was on their side.

“Want to tell Motoko?”“After this, she’ll get distracted if I tell her now. Best to let her finish.” She offered and Malcolm had to nod. For a girl that was so confident, she got embarrassed easy.

But Malcolm went back to just listening to the song and nodding his head along with the beat.



“I can’t believe you already set it up!” I whined, as I wiped a towel over my head.

Not sure where Hiromi had found a towel, but I wasn’t going to question it.

“Of course! I’m your agent, and manager. It’s my job.” She said and I took particular note of the additional title Hiromi had given herself, but didn’t bring it up.

“I thought I would have a bit more time to settle with the idea.” I grumbled, but Hiromi shook her head.

“You already made the decision, and I’ve never known you to back off once you make one!” She said looking proudly, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her, I had been thinking of calling it all off.


“So you finished all the songs?” Ichi asked, having been looking at my Music box as it beeped away.“They were already done, but with actual instruments, and better equipment. I was able to clean them up.” I walked over and picked up the music box, the update was complete. “I’ll need to do some hologram work, to make sure everything matches up, but I can do that anywhere.”

“So who are you going to tell about your gig, other than Jun?” Ichi asked, and I hissed, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, which was impossible as that Neural Link covered the whole section, but I still felt it!

“No one! Tell no one! Especially not Jun! Never Jun!” I demanded, and got kind of awkward looks in turn.

They wouldn’t tell Jun, or else!

Sending a firm look to all of them, I nodded and then looked at all the equipment left in the room.

“I guess I have to clean up.”

“Leave that to us.” Ichi offered instantly, standing up. “Just make sure we don’t break anything?” He asked as he headed into the room, and I smiled.


Hiromi I noticed was distracted on a call, so I left her to it, as I went to help the boys put everything away.