Part One: Captain
The witness flops over like a manatee in heels, hitting the pavement like a fish hitting an equally hard surface. Her body dissolves in moments, a grim reminder that in this city, even a corpse won’t talk for free. I look to my partner, but he’s already moving, that damn loose cannon out chasing our shadowy perp across the rooftops. “Take care of this,” he shouts, like I’m his goddamn desk jockey, not the commanding officer. And then he’s gone, Batmaning away like this is some fucking game.
Well, it is a game – but not like that kind of game. There’s no second chances in this city, and if you don’t play by the rules, it’s Game Over and a quick trip to the electro-helmet morgue. This is Sword Art Online, and if you didn’t know by now, let me tell you – it’s a serious game for grown-ups only. In this game, losing can kill.
2:34 – I let him have it when he gets back to the room, but he waves me off with a shrug. The kid’s got a death wish, I swear. Me? I’m looking to beat this game, and retire to a comfortable life in the real world by this time next year. I can’t afford mistakes
2:43 – Goddamnit, he lost him. Not that I blame him – it’s hard keeping a tail in a world where people can instantly teleport anywhere. Hell, it almost makes you question why we even have a police force
2:49 – For all his tough guy act, the kid still believes in the system. I don’t have the heart to tell him
2:52 – His rage gets the better of him, but the digital walls of this place have little sympathy
3:02 – Our last witness was clearly hysterical – we’d already ruled out ghosts. But knowing that robe was Griselda’s could be a clue – a shame three quarters of all characters in Sword Art Online also wear black trenchcoats with too many belts
3:11 – A frontliner, falling to pieces at the threat of a PK? I wasn’t impressed
3:15 – Fortunately, my partner kept his cool. He could fly off the handle, sure, but the kid had good instincts
3:22 – As the witness broke down and my partner fumed, I darkly considered the evidence before us. I hadn’t asked for this case, and I hadn’t asked for this partner – but with my cushy position on the front line gone and my last partner devoured by hobgoblins, it did no good to think of better days
3:47 – I knew that look. That look meant he’d thought a thing
3:50 – Nevermind, false alarm
4:05 – His thickness was getting to me. I knew I’d really screwed the pooch on my last case, but had I really earned this partner?
4:39 – His condescension bit hard. But it was true – from the front lines of the force, I’d been reduced to packing sandwiches for the department rookie. What a way to end my career.
No, I couldn’t think like that – whatever his feelings, this kid was just another resource to me. Headstrong, violent, possibly a little dim – but he was all I had. I couldn’t think of petty revenge on this kid – I had to keep my eye on the prize
5:00 – More snark. Yes, yes, what a great cook the female officer is – I’m honored to be such a feminine delight to you.
I took the mockery in silence, thinking over the facts of the case
5:09 – Yes, it was petty. But I could only stomach so much
5:32 – What, was he waiting for a commercial break? What are you talking about. Speak normally
8:13 – Of course! With the introduction of this new information I’d forgotten and now suddenly remembered, everything that had happened began to make sense
The kid was good
8:34 – Of course! How had I also forgotten that teleport animations looked identical to death ones?!
9:02 – Fool that I was, I’d written off her turning to show off the dagger in her back as a dramatic flourish. But no. This went much deeper than that
9:46 – I suddenly also remembered I could check people on my friend lists’ locations, thus ensuring I’d instantly know whether a murder was real or had been faked
9:58 – Drop the investigation and go get sloshed early? The rookie was turning out to be a better partner than I’d expected
Part Two: Rookie
12:07 – I opted for a self-effacing entrance – a good chance it would put the killers off their guard, and I wanted to put on an unthreatening impression for the idiots who’d started this mess, as well
12:19 – A lie, of course. Not that it mattered – my opponents were practical men, and if things turned improbable, the odds were still in my favor. Fortune smiles on the man who can calculate the dice
12:31 – Confidence, resolve, and maybe even a little madness. Like you want them to make a move. I assume my partner thought it was genuine arrogance, a thought that made me chuckle. The face is just one more weapon, my dear captain
12:43 – Predictable
13:02 – Her regret at “deceiving” me was gratifying, if misplaced. The larger pieces had been established the moment she admitted her involvement – after that, all that was left was a little credulous performance to clear up the loose ends, a task my partner was more than willing to lend her honest confusion to
13:21 – One of roughly seventeen possibilities, though admittedly the most likely
13:54 – I gained no pleasure from their astonished stares. Frankly, my own genius was cold comfort to me. Better perhaps to live in their world – a world of befuddlement, yes… but also a world of companionship
14:00 – The lie comes easily. No reason to alarm them with my staggering intellect
14:24 – A lie, again. I know what I’d do with a rare item, and I know how I’d convince any given party member that choice was also in their best interests. But would that bring me any satisfaction? Would that make me truly understood? Of course not
14:40 – A simple solution for a simple problem. The elegance surprises me
14:56 – True honesty. A tantalizing thought, but also a terrifying one. The subtext is obvious – the captain’s “I don’t like you anyway” act is as transparent as it is endearing. But how could anything I offer another approach equal honesty? Whatever they gave of themselves, I’d take more – take in my understanding of gesture, of mood, of self. Tragically, such things are forbidden to an ultra super genius such as I
15:28 – I can’t help myself. The performance is too adorable
16:10 – It’s condescending, I know. But my intentions are pure. She knows all these things – a simple understanding of how SAO’s marriage system works should have resolved this case from the start. And she’s a good enough officer to have figured all this out – but she doesn’t think so. It’s not her intellect I need to support – it’s her confidence
Sure, call it hubristic of me. But I understand these people, even if I can never be one of them. And I care
And hell – I had to admit it, I was lonely. Detective work ought to be a two-man job
16:20 – That’s right, captain. Two dots. Connect them
17:42 – Finally, all the players were assembled. I made a quick scan of his gear, level, build, and talent trees – all roughly as predicted. This would likely play out according to the most probable model
17:59 – It’s tragic to see, and also encouraging. That people can still feel such empathy for others – can assume such an optimistic framework for what humans are capable of. What does it mean, that my own framework is so much more… flexible? In acknowledging the beast, have I taken the beast into myself?
18:55 – Revolting, pathetic… and absolutely typical. What a wretched race we are
OCC Aside: Hey look, it’s a moment that reflects on the Kirito-Asuna worldview issue!
19:18 – And with that absurd explanation, my framework for plausible human behavior bends ever so slightly more towards “cartoon villainy.” If that’s what love amounts to for these simple people, am I really so lacking in humanity?
19:29 – The joke’s on him. I may not even be capable of love
…a bitter joke, that
19:41 – The captain’s harsh, unpracticed words startle me back to attention. At least she maintains faith in people. How can I call myself greater, if my own vast intellect only leads to such self-defeating ends?
20:25 – Her words shock me. Could she know? Know it’s performance, know how much I truly withhold?
20:35 – And for once, I answer without a thought. Foolish. A gamble. Where are my words?!
20:47 – Far too much honesty, far too much assumption
20:51 – And the thought is dropped. I stare, mind racing, before realizing I was overestimating. She was just talking about herself, of course – it was an honest question. I have to stifle a laugh
21:00 – An unnecessary olive branch. Clumsy, but endearing
Must I call it clumsy? It’s just direct. I need to stop that
21:46 – “Not bad for your first case, rookie,” the captain gruffly declares. At that, I have to smile
21:50 – “I think this partnership may work out after all.” Could it? I have to admit it, I enjoyed the change of pace
21:59 – Maybe I do. People are too simple and too inexplicable all at once, but perhaps it’s time for a change of pace. I think over the numbers for a moment, and then give a gruff nod. Super genius or no, company isn’t the worst thing in the world
I slam through the door, upsetting the rookie from his nap on the front desk. “Break’s over, partner. Three players from the 12th floor say their friend was killed by giant mantises in the Underdark.”
“But there aren’t any giant…”
“That’s right.” I cock one brow at my partner as his eyes narrow in thought, “Murder.”