Authors Note: Attempting to stay in series/movie canon, I am using the name spellings from the American released versions. I have seen both seasons and the movie, as well as accessed some information available online. At the time of publication I have not had a chance to read any of the manga/novels, though. Each of the three chapters in this story covers the same formation events from a different character's perspective. Kogami's is the primary one, but the other two will reveal new scenes and different details. The thoughts beneath another's actions might change our perspective—if we had access to them.
"One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion."
Unleash the Wolf: Shinya Kogami
Black engulfed my world. I swore to open my eyes would require a feat of super human strength. A name lingered, but refused to materialize. Something was terribly wrong, and yet in the muddled state of my sluggish thoughts I had no hope of parsing it out. All I could do was pick at the information and try to grasp what the hell was going on.
My left side throbbed. A sharp prick in my arm reminded me of the limbs existence. Voices, thick and distant penetrated my solitude. Were they underwater … or maybe I was? No. That couldn't be true, I was breathing air. So what the hell was going on? Why couldn't I move even a muscle?
A woman's voice sighed. "Looks like it's gonna be another long night. Who do we have here?"
"Hope you had a lot of coffee, Doc." A man answered. "Check this fresh delivery out."
The bleep of a scanner precluded a sharp inhale. "Seriously? Damn! Well, Inspector Shinya Kogami, if only you could tell me what bombshell scorched your psyche."
"Told ya, look at that hue."
"What hue? I can't even tell what it was supposed to be. It's … gray."
Hue? My pulse quickened. Why were they discussing my hue?
—the image of a twisted body gazing through empty sockets flashed behind my closed eyes. Sasayama!—
I gasped, trying to wrench my eyelids open from this revisiting nightmare.
The man droned, "Doc, you won't see me disagreeing with Sibyl's call for treatment on this one. We don't want this guy waking up outside of iso lock-down. No telling with a coefficient that high what he'll do. You ask me, we don't want him even waking up before that number drops—like, a lot."
Treatment? Wait … what the hell?
"Right." The doc's voice sounded like it was muffled through a hand. "Fetch the recommended cocktail and let's get started immediately with some additional sedation. I want to make sure the infusion sticks."
My side, the burning throb, almost like … a Non-Lethal Paralyzer shot from a Dominator!
It took my full concentration but I managed to twitch an eye open. Blurry images swam there, two figures in white coats stood at the side of a bed I lie on. A tube punctured my forearm. My CID wristcom should have been on my left wrist, missing.
Again the memories slammed down like a punishing flood … my desperate calls over the dead feed on the com ... Sasayama … gone, missing for days … until the streetscan picked him up, the holograph image vanished … his twisted body a demented work of art hidden beneath … The case was still wide open. Nearly a month of chasing my tail following Sasayama becoming the fourth victim and hardly a clue had turned up. Failure, complete and utter. Words of warning flared up from my memory, Back off, Kogami! You're too invested over the fate of a dog. This will ruin you.
"Oh shit! Doc, quick he's coming to!" The wide-eyed man tossed her a vial.
The woman caught it and stabbed a needle with an IV line attached into the cap. That line coupled to the IV already in my arm. Far too cheerily, she smiled down at me. "Easy there, Mister Kogami. Don't get too excited."
"I have … to go … there's a … my case … " my words barely formed. I didn't know if I was actually saying them. The further I got, the heavier my body grew. Sedative … oh crap.
"That's going to have to wait. Your crime coefficient is currently above the regulated level. Don't worry, you're in good hands here at the Adachi Municipal Psycho-Pass Correction and Medical Care Center."
The where? Oh shit! This couldn't be happening! Not to me, not now! I tried to get up … tried to keep my eyes open, but failed. Once more my world washed into black. A strange fog flowed into my thoughts. I resisted, or rather tried. The more I fought, the further it dragged me down. Not into any form of peace, but leaving me adrift in the confused oblivion I remained powerless to prevent.
Groggily, I opened my eyes and stared at the blank ceiling. Not the ceiling in my residence. And these padded walls weren't right. The bed I lay in wasn't mine. My mental gears turned like an engine running without lubricant, eerily unlike the sharp precision instrument I had spent years refining. I glanced down at the capped off IV in my arm. My gaze wandered toward the clear sliding doors to the room.
No, not room—cell!
I sat up way too fast. My fogged brain couldn't keep up, forcing me to close my eyes until the world settled again. Whatever they'd pumped into my veins left me disoriented. Staggering to my feet, I leaned against the wall edging my way toward the door. I willed the damn thing to open. Of course, that was a foolish notion. This door was meant to keep me in here. But why? I'm an inspector.
My hand pressed against the holo-pane. The medical display materialized. Instantly I staggered backward, tripping over my feet. Frozen in shock, I couldn't look away from my stats. "How … how did it get that … that high? 233? No! It can't be!" Beside it, my hue reported steel gray. The color … had been obliterated.
My hand rubbed my side where it had previously burned. Who had stared down the sight of their Dominator at me? Which one of my colleagues had pulled the trigger? Under what circumstances? I couldn't remember a thing. And this meddlesome fog wasn't helping me any.
The air grew thin. Gasping, I stumbled back to my feet. I had to get out of here, now! The Specimen Case demanded all my attention, and I couldn't do a damn thing from in here.
I struck the barrier with my fist. "I'm an inspector with the MWPSB! I order you to let me out, right now!"
Red lights flashed. An alarm sounded. Leaping back from the door, I had only a second to contemplate my foolishness. Of course they had active scanners. And I'd just triggered one helluva an alarm with my outburst. Gas billowed in through the air vents. I tried to hold my breath, but I was no record-breaker. The moment I inhaled, my muscles ceased any voluntary function sending me careening to the floor with one arm splayed in front. Not good.
Shadows cast through the closed door. The muffled voice of the doctor carried through. "That answers that question. One infusion wasn't near enough. Prep another. No, scratch that, prep several. Let's just keep flooding his system until something breaks through. The moment that the paralytic gas clears the room we'll sedate him again."
Please, don't do this! But the words wouldn't form. I couldn't even shut my eyes. This really sucked, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.
Minutes later, the door opened. They hefted my limp body off the floor and tossed my ass back onto the bed.
One of the orderlies uncapped the IV. "How long does that gas keep him down?"
Another orderly handed him a vial. "Don't want to find out."
Please! I'm not going to hurt anyone. Just listen to me. Why won't you listen? Why can't I speak? I'm not a criminal. I'm an Inspector. I'm an officer of the law.
Forced to watch, I couldn't even cringe the moment the sedative hit the line. Cringing? Why was I even contemplating that? I didn't cringe, not normally. What was wrong with me? The orderly withdrew his fingers from the IV. "Shit, don't know about you, but I don't feel like getting mauled by an animal like him tonight. I got a family to get home to."
Animal? But I'm not—
"Heh, by the time we get that antipsychotic cocktail this guy won't even know it." The other one tapped my bare arm, laughing. "Sweet dreams."
My eyes edged closed as the sedative yanked my pulse mercilessly down. Suspended in a kind of mental plateau, I remained aware of my surroundings. The staff shifted around me, chatting like they were having lunch at a casual cafe. A strange fog banked my thoughts. Instead of numbing me, I lingered there, trapped in the raw images as they replayed again and again in the theater of my mind … the plastinated victims grotesquely displayed in public. Each replay slashed me deeper, ingraining the already intense drive for a solution that cried out for justice. A justice I could not serve locked in this repetitious hell.
The doctor's voice echoed from a distance. "We'll let that run its course, keep him sedated for a while, then run another infusion. We'll check his Psycho-Pass after that. See if there is any change."
What were they doing to me? How was this supposed to help? This couldn't be right. If I could have screamed … but even that ability had been denied me.
The cycle repeated like clockwork over more days than I could track by mere memory. Subjected to the infusion under sedation, tormented by my obsession with the case I could not access, lying there for a while barely able to function, then a few days of pacing my confinement … until it all repeated again. My only chance of tracking things was the time stamp on my last eval on the days I possessed the coordination to cross the small room.
Like a grindstone, the isolation wore on me. For hours I paced back and forth within the confines of my cell, plagued by the details of the case. Had the sick twisted bastard that orchestrated the murders been brought to justice? Or had he managed to evade capture. How? An individual that disturbed should have been flagged by something, somewhere. Nothing connected and it drove my idle mind to distraction.
Brushing my hand against the pane I took mark of the day. Two months and three weeks had passed by my estimation. My heart sank … my Pyscho-Pass had only degraded. I pumped my fists bowing my head. This damn place wasn't helping me any. Couldn't get a conversation with anyone passing by. And the only time the staff came was to knock me on my ass. That was a great morale boost.
A service drone wheeled past. "Hey you, hold up a sec." It paused and before it could start the saccharine dialog it was programmed to spew out, I cut it off. "I got a request. I need to send out a message to Inspector Nobuchika Ginoza of the MWPSB, Division 1."
"I'm sorry. Request cannot be filled. Patients are under strict isolation." The drone turned to leave.
I narrowed my eyes. "No, wait a second. This is concerning the case I'm working on. I haven't heard a damn thing, and you know … " I forced a smile, "as an inspector, it might improve my hue a bit if I knew how things were going."
The drone remained silent, the light sequence betraying the uplink.
Come on, you bucket of bolts. Just patch it through.
"The patient Shinya Kogami undergoing treatment is under suspension from the MWPSB. Currently listed as involuntary resignation. Request cannot be fulfilled. Have a nice day." The dang thing continued on its path.
"You know what would make my day real nice?" I growled, "A Dominator set on Destroy Decomposer mode aimed at your useless … " Quickly I backpedaled hoping the sensor hadn't caught my intention. "Heh. Just a bit of sarcasm. I uh … didn't mean it."
Thirty seconds passed without a consequence. That had been too close. I ran a hand through my hair and sighed. Sliding down the wall, I leaned against it and rested my chin on folded arms. Involuntary resignation? No one had come. No one had even held a conversation with me. The few times I had attempted to gain the attention of the staff had hardly ended well.
Dismally I stared at my left wrist and tried to recall the cold weight of that metal band. I swiped a finger over the imaginary square holo-emitter. Ringing … I swore it was ringing. Swore I could see the display with Ginoza's stern photo staring back at me. No one answered.
I blinked my eyes. Well … the more the tease of the hallucinations made me question reality, the further the strain of my isolation dragged me toward the brink. That point of no return. I shuddered, was I already there?
Movement outside the door caught my attention. Tapping the holopane, the doctor brought up the record and smiled down at me.
I did not like that smile.
Far too cheerily, she remarked, "What an eventful morning you've had."
I sat up a little straighter, already my pulse impotently began to increase. What was the point? I couldn't exactly run. And this isolation cell prevented me from fighting, even if I had wanted to. Shit, I didn't want that at all. I just wanted the hell out of here!
She clicked her tongue. "All this time and still under so much stress. Well, we can knock that down."
I opened my eyes wider. "Not necessary. Just hear me out—"
"We know what we're doing. So just relax." Her fingers slipped over a sequence.
"Relax?" Edging up onto my bare feet, I backed away from the vent. "Are you shitting me?"
She only grinned wider, striking the last button. I'd seen Enforcers pull a Dominator trigger with that same expression. Wish I'd had one in my hands right now. Wonder what her hue looked like. "We'll just have to step things up and try a more aggressive treatment."
I swallowed. More aggressive?
Not that I had long to wonder. Four seconds later I hit the damn floor regretting my threat on that pathetic drone. Me and my mouth.
Out of the dark corner of the world they tried to shove me into I opened my eyes. Panic seized me. A sharp pain burned the back of my neck, almost a pulse. In a sickening twist a demented man materialized over me, his hand raised with a knife ready to kill me. His crime coefficient flashed before my eyes, though I didn't have a Dominator. 378, murder in his eyes bored straight into me.
Adrenaline coursed through my veins. I reached behind my neck and grasped the device clamped there, yanking hard. A flare of white hot agony blinded me as my jerking hand dropped a thick needle on the floor. The man lunged toward me, I rolled off the bed, hitting the floor face first. Warmth dripped down my neck. My hand slipped, coming up smeared with blood.
The assailant turned, screaming with rage. I scrambled to my knees, tripping over the tangle of a cord. My panicked flight ripped the IV out of arm. No time to consider the consequences, I could stand to lose a little blood if it meant I could evade the deranged attack. Staggering to my feet, I only managed to stumble forward half blind into a collision with the door.
My hands left smears of blood as I pounded on the barrier. Gas flooded the chamber. But I remained conscious, my pulse hammering my ribs. My vision swirled violently. I could no longer strike. Blood seeped down my shaking arm holding my bowed head off the floor.
On the other side of the door the staff stared at me for over a minute before the doctor spoke. "Get the suits. We'll have to go in."
"With him conscious? Are you crazy?"
"Adrenaline is a strong enough stimulant to overcome the sedation. But he's bled enough now he won't have much fight left. We need to get the probe back in, this time with physical restraints. Now go."
Out of the corner of my eye, the assailant came for me again. I curled against the attack. "Open the damn door!" My arms gave out, dropping me onto the ground.
I'm going to die! All while they watched!
At last the door opened, and the staff entered in full hazard suits, the gas venting out. They hauled me off the floor and laid me on the bed facing the wall. I tried to struggle, but every motion left dark blotches in my vision. A hand staunched the bleeding on my arm.
"Hold him still," the doctor's voice echoed.
A pinch at the nap of my neck precluded a strange numbing sensation. Not numb enough. A moment later I bucked against their hold as that damn needle punched up and into the spinal column of my neck flooding every fiber of my being with a searing agony. I couldn't hear it, but I knew I screamed.
The backwash of the pain left me panting as an orderly snapped a metal collar around my neck, blocking all access to that damn needle. With rough efficiency they reinserted a new IV. And before I could even catch my breath, thick straps bound every limb in place in addition to my torso. Forced to lie on my back, I wasn't going anywhere.
Wide-eyed, I searched the room for the assailant. He was still here. I knew it. What the hell was I to do if he came back for me? The staff, they were leaving. Leaving me bound at the mercy of some social deviant. I struggled to no avail as the door shut me off once more.
Suppression System online. Relax, Shinya Kogami. This is for your own good.
That voice. I froze, not even breathing. There was nothing in my hands. How was I hearing a Dominator?
Previous process interrupted. Re-initiating memory suppression selection.
"What are you—" I couldn't finish the sentence. My eyelids clenched tight as visions flooded my brain. The pain stabbed at the back of my neck with a demented pulse. I thrashed, fighting the urge to scream and losing the battle.
"Stop!" I pushed back hard against the erosive force. "Those are mine!"
A jolt nailed me.
Process interrupted. Re-initiating.
And so it began … the seemingly endless battle of wills. Each time Sibyl restarted the process, I wrestled her out.
I huddled in the corner holding my knees tight, still reeling from my recent release after the lengthy tug of war I had somehow managed to deflect. I only knew it had been a week since that damn argument with the tattletale drone. This was the first day I had managed to stagger across the room. Raw and ragged, I now clung to the back of the cell trying to grasp reality from the wild array of images still parading by my fatigued brain. Though I had been partially sedated through the whole thing, sleep had slipped through my hands constantly. I loathed how I shuddered. But I couldn't stop. My bleary eyes dredged up phantoms from some distant land of nightmares.
Don't stop by here … leave me alone … just stop trying to help me, dammit. You're screwing me up!
I gripped my head and panted, fighting down the wave of panic every time a shadow drifted past, real or imaged. Both were threats. I dreaded that one of these attacks would trip the sensor. The strain should have by now … the only way it wouldn't was if they had shut it off, or changed the threshold.
Footsteps paused outside my door. The telltale bleep of my file being accessed triggered a cringe in me. No more! I can't take this anymore! It's not breaking through, it's breaking me!
A tense sigh broke the long silence. Wait a minute … I knew that sigh. I dared to look up. Did I trust my eyes? "Ginoza?" I rubbed my eyes. The man outside the door remained, glaring at the file on the holopane. Clumsily, I dashed toward him, smiling at my old friend. "Gino! I've been trying to reach you. No one would—"
His hard eyes remained locked on the holopane. "I'm not here on a social visit. This is strictly business."
His words cut through the fog. Even plagued by the hazy aftereffects of that last brutal treatment, my chest tightened.
Behind his glasses he peered at the graph and shook his head. "Three months, Kogami. Three damn months you've been here and not once has your crime coefficient dropped below two-hundred. Instead it has steadily climbed. Your hue? Rather than improving has gotten cloudier."
"There's a reason." My voice sounded slurred, it could have been my perception, but I couldn't be certain. I didn't trust any of my senses at the moment. "You have to listen—"
"No. It is time for you to listen. Like you should have done in the first place." Ginoza's tense voice nearly cracked. His fists shaking.
"I have to know," I placed my palms against the pane, "has the Specimen Case been solved?"
"You and that damn case." His teeth squealed as he ground them. "The case has been closed, unsolved."
"What?" I pressed harder, even though it did me no good. "How could they? No … what about the four victims?"
"There's been another? And they closed it? Is the chief insane?"
Gino stared daggers at me. "It's been closed strictly because of the fate of the last victim."
"We can't let this go. Give me the details, Gino."
He lowered his voice to a terse whisper. "You know exactly what happened to him, Kogami. I'm here on orders to finalize that file, to see where this ends." From his pocket he pulled out a CID wristcom and place it on the shelf outside the door.
My chest tightened until I could no longer breathe. I staggered backward, eyes locked on the metal interface. Not a square, but a circle … condemnation. "No!" I gasped. "No, please! Gino, not that! There's no coming back from that. Give me more time. I can pull it back together, I just need more time."
His stern gaze bored into me saying more than any words that could have left his mouth. I had betrayed him in the gravest sense. "Your time is up. The experts have exhausted their efforts here. It's obvious your crime coefficient has settled into a latent criminal. Your choice is this," he pointed to the Enforcer wristcom, "or permanent isolation. Which will it be?"
Pressing back against the door, I cried out, my knees buckling. "Nubochika don't … "
"Shinya Kogami is dead." He turned away. "A victim of your stubborn rage."
Those words locked my tongue. Bowing my head I slid down the pane. It made sense now. They had shut the sensors off because they knew he was coming. They knew the decision I faced. My life as a citizen was over. Only the numbest bastard in the world wouldn't have been brought to his knees. "So … " I forced the words out, "the only choice I have left … is the size of my cage."
He refused to answer. A dark shadow on the other side … no, on the outside … where I never would be again no matter which choice I made.
Humiliation awaited me if I chose the demotion. Those I had worked beside would view me as subhuman, an attack dog unfit to walk among society without a tight leash. Nothing more than that ever again. And yet, at the thought of being confined for the rest of my life in a tiny box like this … I dug my nails into my palms. No, this isolation had already driven me deeper into the mire.
I lifted my head. Maybe there was a chance that I could secretly resume the case. I would never hear another word of it if I was isolated. I couldn't live with myself if I let go of my only chance.
Ginoza began to walk away.
Stiffening, I rose off the floor. "Gino, don't leave! I … I'll …" my head bowed to my chest. "I'll take it."
He cast a cold glare over his shoulder at me. "I'll come back to fetch you once the transfer is complete."
"I'm sorry." It was hardly a whisper.
Ginoza pressed his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. "You should be after throwing your life away." Without another word, he left me behind, haunted by his hollow voice.
With his head stiff, Ginoza flanked my left shoulder as he escorted me through the halls of the rehabilitation center, the first time I had left iso lock-down in three damn months. This wristcom weighed heavier on me for some reason, though it was no larger than the previous one I had worn. I reached up and loosened my tie, letting the top button of my shirt fall open. Didn't know if it was the fact that I hadn't worn a suit in three months, or if I truly was struggling to breathe. I still didn't feel right. The aftereffect of whatever drug they had used on me still left me raw. Gino's active avoidance only added to my nervous mood.
In the secure portion of the parking garage, we approached the back of an open paddy wagon flanked by drones. My heart sank. "Gino, is this really necessary?" I searched his eyes.
They narrowed, staring at a point above my gaze. "The sooner you learn your new place, the better." He pointed. "Get in."
My shoulders sagged. He was now my superior. I could not refuse the orders of a superior without committing insubordination. Considering how deviant my Psycho-Pass had diverged that would not get me off to a great start. I walked inside and watched over my shoulder as the back door shut behind, locking me in.
Slumped on the bench, I activated the wristcom for the first time. My profile came up. Enforcer ID 00475-AEDF-52510-2, Division 1. Designation Hound 3.
Man, that hurt just lookin' at it. I stared toward the front of the paddy wagon as it lurched forward. Three months I had tried to reach my best friend. Now, at last, I had the means. I opened the channel and waited.
It took longer than usual. No video. So, he didn't want to see me. "What?" Terse fell short of describing that tone.
"Gino, we have to talk."
"There's nothing more to be said. And it is Inspector Ginoza to you."
"Let me explain. You think I didn't try to get better? I did. I fought damn hard, but whatever they used wasn't helping me. This whole situation just made things worse."
"So, now you're passing the blame."
I shook my head, even though he couldn't see it. Shit, I was still so screwed up. "Of course not, it's just that—"
"Sibyl ordered your treatment, you know. Perhaps if you hadn't been so stubborn and avoided the obvious solution early on, you wouldn't have ended up where you are now. The blame is solely on your shoulders."
"There's more to this, it's not so simple. Give me a chance, I'm still shaking off the side effects."
The connection died, leaving the compartment dark. I leaned forward on my elbows for the remainder of the trip until at last the vehicle stopped, and the rear doors opened. Ginoza gestured for me to follow him. The moment the CID floor's door shut behind us he broke the silence. "Enforcers are not permitted in public without being accompanied by an Inspector. Within the building, you are restricted to the CID floor … "
I cut him off. "Shit, Ginoza, it's only been three months. I remember the rules."
"Not from that side of the leash." He snapped. "Don't you try anything. I won't hesitate to pull the trigger." The glare in his eyes promised.
"Your call." I tried to deflect the jab at my already demolished pride. It only left my head hanging lower.
"Go to the dog pound and find your assigned quarters. I have files to finish thanks to you." Ginoza strode off with a stick up his ass.
I sighed and walked through the blessedly quiet halls, weathering a few awkward glances at my left wrist. I pushed on with my eyes cast down until I found the door to my assigned quarters. Inside it was damn sparse. I would have to furnish it out via requests now, rather than going out and picking up things on my own. Right now I didn't really care about how restrictive my non-life was. I was tired, and still dizzy. At least someone had brought in a few of my things from my last place. My favorite jacket lay over the back of a chair.
A piece of paper in the middle of the coffee table caught my attention. I picked it up and opened it.
Welcome back, Ko. You know where my quarters are. I got something that'll help.
I cracked a slight grin. Damn, that's right. The old man was Hound 1. We were gonna be running partners now, only this time we were equals thanks to my demotion. A short walk down the hall and I knocked on his partially open door. He crossed the room, hands in his pockets, a grim expression on his grizzled face. "Wish I coulda said I hadn't seen this coming, Ko."
I shoved my own hands in my pockets and lowered my gaze to the floor.
"You look like they put you through some new kinda hell." He approached and angled so he could stare straight into my eyes. "Still got some of that crap in your system?"
I nodded. "I'm not feeling … like myself."
He pressed the back of my shoulder, guiding me to the couch. "Not surprising. That stuff's supposed to take the edge off, make things calmer. A guy like you it would take a wrecking ball to the wall that lets you work without crumbling into useless heap. Whadya say we burn that crap out your system?" He pulled out a bottle of Whiskey Rock and two glasses.
I eyed him sideways. "I thought you weren't supposed to mix that with shit like this."
He laughed, pouring a large portion and handing it to me. "Sure. That's what they say. But trust me, Ko. It'll speed up shaking off the spell. You look like you need it. So, bottoms up."
Not one to argue with the old man, I took his offered medicine knowing that it would be better than anything that had happened to me in their hands over the last months. The whiskey went down in two large gulps, putting a fire back in me. Already I could feel the fog slowly burning away.
He took the empty glass and refilled it. "Do it. They screwed you in so tight I think they stripped the screws. Gotta loosen that hold and get you back."
"Heh." I laughed, staring into the glass. "Who knew, someone actually still gives a shit about me."
He slugged me in the shoulder. "Course. To the guy who gave a shit about his hounds rather then treating them like they're expendable. Gonna miss havin' you up there, Ko. It was nice while it lasted."
I half closed my eyes, cringing.
Masaoka must have marked the strange behavior before I could suppress it. "Wow. They slammed you hard and where did it leave you?" He lifted his prosthetic left hand and flicked his wristcom. After a long stunned pause, he whistled. "So, this is where you settled."
I laid my hand over the holo. "Shut it, please. I don't even want to know."
He rubbed his chin and sighed. "Let me guess, they sent Gino to getya."
I sunk deeper and downed the whole glass in one shot.
"Damn you, Gino," Masaoka cursed. "Well, didn't figure he'd understand."
"Why would he?" I slid the glass on the table, leaning forward onto my elbows. "To expect him to understand would be foolish. If he hasn't made amends with his father, why would he forgive his best friend for the same fate?"
"You got the ol' disappointment in the eyes bit, huh." He cracked a slight grin. "You'll get used to it. And once your guard is back up, it won't hurt so damn much."
Running a hand through my hair, I shook my head. "He won't be the only one looking down on me… how many know?"
"Which part?" He swirled his whiskey glass. "That you cracked? Everyone in the CID. That you've been demoted to a hound? Well, by tomorrow, everyone. You know what you're in for, Ko. Get ready for it."
My shoulders fell.
Concerned, he leaned forward. "You clearly haven't been sleeping. How close are you to the fallout?"
"Dunno. Their last attempt had me under sedation twice … I think. Only it didn't work. It never worked, Pops." I pushed away the details of why. Not something I wanted to share considering I wasn't at all certain where the line between reality and hallucination had stretched.
"Course it didn't on a stubborn bastard like you. Bet you fought it the whole time even if you weren't trying to. No wonder you're so frayed." He set his empty glass down. "Yeah, you're coming out of it. And I hope you listen to ol' Masaoka better than before. Don't go back to your room. Don't do this part alone or you will regret it. Stay here for a bit. I'll drag you out with my bare hands if I have to."
What was he talking about? "Drag me out of what?"
"Steel yourself, Shinya." The moment he used my given name was the moment I knew this was going to hit hard. "The release is the toughest part of this. That they let you walk without watching you come out of it shows how little they gave a shit. You might wanna lie down. This is gonna hit you like a Lethal Eliminator."
Masaoka had always been a straight shooter. That bluntness sent a shiver down my spine. He got up and watched me settle on the couch.
"Go ahead and shut your eyes." He patted my shoulder. "I got your six."
I didn't realize how hard I had been fighting to hold myself together until it hit me. Hours later, on the edge of exhaustive sleep, the borders between reality and hallucination dissolved. Behind my closed eyes, flashes of memories merged into a twisted distortion. Images filtered through the Dominator's sight, every shot turned into a full on assault, the targets twisting and writhing before their inevitable end. Every soul I had ever judged. Crime scenes appeared in vivid detail, not just from the Specimen Case, but everything from the case loads over six years. Behind my clamped eyelids, it played out like a computer set on auto search, flashing a jumble too swift to track. The damned battle to keep access to my memories replayed!
Masaoka's hands gripped my wrists, his weight pressed down on my writhing chest. "Can you hear me, Ko? Just hold on and don't get dragged out by the rip tide."
I gritted my teeth as the strange images distorted. I tried to open my eyes.
"Don't! Keep 'em shut!" He grunted. "Struggle all you want, but stay down and keep your eyes shut."
"What's … going … on?" I clenched my teeth, reeling as the intensity slammed me repeatedly against the wall. Every nerve burned raw again.
"I'm no shrink." He adjusted his grip. "Just theorizing from my own rough ride. You know how a limb feels when you sleep on it wrong? Well, it's kinda like that. They tried to knock you back, and you resisted so, they poured more in there. Sheep just go numb because they have no defenses. Not us! We just push through. Gah! Don't hit me, Ko."
I'd practically wrenched free of his grip, but he adjusted and clamped harder. "I'm not trying to!" I arched my head back, everything blurred into an assault. I knew in that moment why he had suggested I not be alone. Who knew where I might have blindly run to, who I might have struck in the welling panic! Fibers in my brain threatened to snap under the tension.
"Hold it together!"
I clung to his voice, an anchor in the maelstrom as it built into an explosion within my skull. I screamed. Like a rushing tide the assault abated. My body slackened in his grip.
He released the hold and grabbed my shoulder. "Speak to me."
I opened my eyes, the world came back into vivid focus, unlike before. The fog had cleared, painful as that had been. "Thanks, Pops. I owe you."
"Heh, owe me? Nah, just paying back the guy who stood up for my son in high school. And would you look at that, the edge is back in your eyes, even despite the exhaustion." He leaned back and poured a glass of whiskey. "Sit up. You'll need the chaser."
Slowly I pushed up and grabbed the glass. Already I felt clearer minded. "I'm gonna owe you a bottle if this keeps up."
He reclined beside me and laughed easily. "You can drink with me anytime you want, 'specially now. No rules against us dogs knockin' a few back off the clock." He leaned forward, pointing at me. "Something's bothering you."
"Got that right. A lot of somethings." I narrowed my eyes. "Were you there that night, three months ago?"
He offered a tight nod.
"What the hell happened? It doesn't add up. Yeah, I was pushing things. That didn't mean I wasn't watching my state of mind. I kept track, I'd been near the warning zone. But I hadn't crossed it." I shook my head. "Something set me off."
He rubbed his chin. "You don't remember much?"
"No. Just being on the job, and that's vague as it is. Can't even remember the conditions."
Masaoka flipped a hand. "It was a routine run, though there were multiple marks. Nearly all were in the Paralyzer range. We'd teamed up with Division 2. You went ahead, while Gino and I dealt with a straggler. Thought we had everyone cleared. Then an alert came through that the zone was still in the threat level. The hunt still on."
"All of that is routine." I leaned back trying to pull up the fuzzy images of that night. Nothing came clear.
"Yeah, routine until we heard the next alert come over. That the threat level had cleared. Aoyanagi didn't respond when we asked her to confirm who got the hit. We rounded the corner to find her stooped over with a haunted expression in her eyes. Her Dominator still in a death grip. You were already sprawled in the street, out cold in a way that would have been facing her. Your Dominator had slid several feet from your grasp. She could hardly speak, Ko. We couldn't get an explanation from her, not then, and from the looks of it, not in the official file. Ginoza grew cross when he read it at his desk, that's all I can say. Never actually saw it myself."
I glanced at my wristcom and drove a fist into my knee. "Dammit, with restricted access I can't even look into my own file!"
"Nope. And trust me, I tried to get that minx, Karanomori, to look it up. But I just don't have your charms, Ko. She shoved me out of the lab."
"Is it just me or does that whole thing not add up?"
"What? Karanomori kicking me out?" He smirked.
"No." I furrowed my brow. "The details of the night. A streetscanner would have flagged me earlier if I'd been running that high. So what triggered the spike?"
He shrugged. "Can't tell ya. There wasn't much in that alley, and nothing obvious that could have done it. But lookin' at you now, well, something rammed you into the danger zone without letting you look back. You're not gonna get that solution tonight. In case you didn't know it, we're tomorrow morning's hounds. If we're gonna be bright eyed and bushy tailed, best to get a few hours of shut eye. Up to you, you can hang here and I'll wake you."
I laid my head back, letting go momentarily of the thread. He had a point. Any lead was already three months old. "Thanks, Pops. Iso was a bit rough on me. I gotta admit, it helps having someone nearby."
He gave me a thumbs up. "Now, how would I have known about that? Welcome to the latent criminal club. See yah in the morning."
I laid down on my side and closed my eyes, falling into a dreamless sleep. The first one in ages.
The paddy wagon ground to a halt. The door opened into the bright sunlight. I blinked, waiting for my eyes to adjust as Masaoka paused at my shoulder, whispering, "Can feel it in the air."
He was right. My nerves went immediately on edge. "Someone woke up on the wrong side this morning. And for once, it wasn't me. Come on, let's get this done."
We walked down the ramp. Ginoza stared at the information. Odd, considering he'd already shared it with us on the way here. Typical cloudy hue run. Wasn't even all that bad. But since the target dashed into a parking ramp we were gonna need to flush the game. The Dominators waited for us. I grabbed mine. The connection buzzed through me. The familiar directional voice echoed in my head.
Dominator Portable Psychological Diagnosis and Suppression System has been activated. User authentication: Enforcer Shinya Kogami. Affiliation: Public Safety Bureau, Criminal Investigation Department. Dominator usage approval confirmed. You are a valid user.
The slight alteration to Enforcer still stung. But I gritted my teeth and let it slide off my back. Something I was bound to get used to, primarily because I had no damn choice now.
"Alright." Ginoza glanced around the urban surroundings. "He was last spotted … "
His voice cut off as I rested the gun on my shoulder and strode past him toward the parking structure.
"Hound 3, what do you think you're doing?"
Over my shoulder I barked, "What does it look like? My job. Just stay put and keep the wagon warmed up. Be back in a few."
He scowled at me through his glasses. I caught Masaoka lowering his Dominator and fighting a laugh. "Well, I think I'll just stay here in case he comes this way. That alright with you, Ko?"
"Sure thing, Pops."
"Hound 3! Did I tell you to—"
"Talkin' ain't getting it done." I leapt over the wall and started sweeping the structure. Dark, but that was hardly a problem for the Dominator's sight. The months of being pent up, stewing in the frustration of my isolation had me itching for a good chase. Too bad Ginoza hadn't stopped by Masaoka's room for breakfast. He might have had a clue on our plan.
It had been my luck that within an hour of our shift starting we got a call. About as standard of a call as one can get. The guy was in his forties and got flagged in the low one-hundred. If I could nail him quick, the number wouldn't shoot much higher. As much as my finger itched to pull the trigger, after last night's tortured images I wasn't looking forward to the next Lethal Eliminator phase.
Stay calm and this won't hurt. Man, I envy the damn sheep, won't go through an eighth of what I did. Why the hell are you running? Just gonna put you to sleep.
A hand appeared around the edge of a column. I slipped to the side and watched the number read out. Crime coefficient is 112. Enforcement action required. Yup, there we go. The current enforcement mode is Non-Lethal Paralyzer. Trigger safety is released. Aim calmly and disable the target.
Why thank you, Sibyl.
How many times had I heard that before? Aim calmly, I had to laugh. The target started. His eyes widened as he stared down the glowing barrel. He turned to run, taking off up the ramp. I darted after him, weaving between the cars and columns. Of course the idiot ran toward the outer wall and vaulted out into mid-air. His crime coefficient flew up, approaching 150. Well, that was a drop in the bucket compared to mine now, somewhere around 255 this morning.
I followed suit, flying out over the second story wall of the parking garage. The man flailed in the air. I aimed, pulled the trigger and watched the bolt strike him. He went limp, tumbling into a bush. I tucked, hitting the ground in a strategic roll and came back to my feet. "Hound 3. Enforcement completed."
Masaoka broke into laughter across the short field. "With badass style, Ko."
I turned and strode back to them, Ginoza's harsh gaze following my every step. I replaced the Dominator in the rack and started up the ramp. Ginoza stomped his foot behind me. "What kind of stunt were you pulling out there?"
I turned back and narrowed my eyes. "My job, Gino."
The spark burst in his irises, he grabbed my jacket and rammed my back against the bumper of the wagon. "For the last time, Hound, you are to address me properly as Inspector!" His elbow across my throat trapped me in place.
Heated glares intensified between us. "Those high school bullies sure taught you to beat a man when he's down, didn't they! Inspector."
His eyes widened. I had hit my mark with those words. His grip slackened.
I took a deep breath and went for his throat. "But of course they would target a weakling like you. Two words about your father and you practically screamed 'kick my ass'!"
He drew back a trembling fist, which I stared at, waiting, prepared to take the blow. But instead his finger jabbed toward the paddy wagon. "Get in there before I change my mind about keeping you around."
"If you need me I'll be in the dog house where I apparently belong now." In the dark, I lit a cigarette watching Ginoza order around the drones. Masaoka hung by the back of the wagon, leaning against it stealing casual glances at his estranged son. Once the unconscious target was loaded in the back, Masaoka joined me. The moment the door shut, I put my hands behind my head and sighed as I felt the scab. A reminder that it had been reality.
"Well played, Ko." Masaoka lit his own cigarette.
"I hated to do that to him. But I agree, it's not like he'll forgive me anyway. And if he stayed conflicted about ordering me around he'll leave his hue at risk. He's got a reason to treat me like shit now, guilt free since I all but asked for it. We're already screwed with our classification set in stone, Pops. All we can do is shield him from the incoming blows. Guess that's my new job."
"And our secret." He leaned back and shut his eyes. "Tell ya another thing. For once it's nice to have a new Enforcer who knows how to handle a Dominator."
I watched him through the spiraling smoke. "That's your silver lining in this?"
He leaned forward. "You can tell me that after you have to train a raw rehab recruit how the tech works."
"Deal." I cracked half a smile. "Got another bet for you, Pops."
"Shall we see who can trick Gino into allowing an Enforcer to handle detective work first?"
"Heh." He held out a hand. "Under his nose or by permission?"
"Either, or." I shrugged, "Permission would be harder, given what he thinks of us dogs."
"That'll be tough, but hey, it's not like we don't know what we're doing. It's just people don't wanna listen to us."
I glanced at the Dominator charging station and nodded. "Break up the monotony. Though, Gino isn't gonna make that easy."
This wasn't the path that I had chosen. But there was no going back now. The system saw in me the potential threat to society, enough that this was the only opportunity for a life I had now. It fell on Ginoza to keep me from acting on that condemning judgment. All I could think of now was he better keep a tight grip on that leash. I no longer trusted myself.