Author's Note: Written for the WA Character Development Challenge, fandom blind works as primary POV is a member of the general public and by default is blissfully naive. For those who wish a quick world synopsis I provide one at the end. American release spellings were used, thus the name discrepancies. Story word count: 4213. Shall we begin on an ordinary October day in the year 2110 …
The Non-existent Quotient
Emi opened and closed the holo-screen on her handheld computer, barely taking in the colorful images flickering on the screen. On the other side of the table, Ryota placed his hand over the device and offered her a crooked grin. "I get that you're excited about the Occupational Aptitude Test results, but they won't be available until tomorrow." His tranquil brown eyes drew her in, setting her racing heart at ease. "Besides, aren't we supposed to be on a date?" With his other hand he gestured out the quaint restaurant's window to the Tokyo Mall's holography covered corridors. Casual shoppers mingled on the pleasant afternoon.
She blushed and rested her hand over his. "Sorry. It's just that … well, you know, it's a big deal. Tomorrow we'll know what the Sibyl System decides is best for us for the rest of our lives. What will it say I should do? You know I always wanted to be a counselor. But what if it says an office job? Or blue collar work? This is the rest of our lives, Ryota. I'm not sure—"
He leaned closer to her, pressing a finger to her lips. A somber expression overtook his eyes. "Easy. You don't want to cloud your hue with all this excitement. The scanners might catch it and then you'll … well, you know."
Sitting back, she clutched her handheld to her chest as his eyes drifted down to the table. "Oh. I didn't mean to dredge that up."
He shrugged and drew tiny circles on the table with a finger. "My mother should have known what would happen when her hue started to cloud. It's not your fault she ended up in the treatment center. At least she's getting help now. Just cause things are murky now doesn't mean they'll stay that way. People come back if they stabilize. Mom didn't harm anyone, she was just upset. She'll be back." He swallowed. "I hope."
"At least the street scanner caught it. Can you imagine the days before the Sibyl System flagged dangerous individuals? I mean the real bad guys." Her eyes strayed to the news flashing on the wall holoprojection. Explosions and violent war scenes paraded by as the recent events around the world raged on. She shivered. "So grateful we live in Japan. Everywhere else is … my God, how do they even breathe out there in that mess? Can you imagine? We barely see anyone even upset here."
Ryota nodded his head. "All thanks to removing any potential threat before it has a chance to do any harm. We are so blessed."
Together they gazed out at the glowing cascades of holoprojections creating gorgeous facades over everything. Not just in the mall, but the entire city of Tokyo always gleamed like a fresh painting thanks to the blessed technology. Such an idyllic Garden of Eden. A robotic drone wheeled by loaded with dishes from the only other diners who had been in the restaurant. The happy couple was now alone.
Emi leaned forward to whisper into Ryota's ear when she stiffened. Her eyes locked hard on two figures shifting across the court right outside the window. Ryota furrowed his brow before following her gaze. Two strange men dressed in dark suits stalked through the crowd. The shorter one had ginger hair and dressed in a black shirt with a red tie beneath his black suit jacket. He padded along with his hands shoved into his pockets, the edges of his rolled back sleeves touching the white double looped belt at this hips. Slouching, he scanned over the crowd. Beside him, a taller man with dark disheveled hair wore a white shirt with a black tie and suit coat. The knot of his tie rode low, letting his shirt collar fall wide in an unbusiness-like manner. Something about his eyes sent a shiver down her spine. Cold, steel gray, leaving the impression of the savage wolf she had seen pacing the cage at the zoo. Hunting. Hungry for the kill. Tension locked his limbs with each stride. He craned his head back and she swore she saw his nostrils flare as if scenting the wind. His expression looked as one who had long ago forgotten how to smile.
But … but criminals, even potential criminals, are caught by the city scanners! That's what the cymatic scans accomplished. Anyone with the mindset to break the laws that governed society were flagged on the street, taken in for treatment, or locked away in isolation if they couldn't be rehabilitated. That was how Sibyl worked tirelessly to keep society safe. No one with an unstable mind was allowed to walk free.
Just the sight of these deviants drove her heart into her throat. "Ryota," she rasped, pulling him closer to her around the circular table she dug her nails into his arm.
He gaped at them, his jaw hanging open.
A cold sweat broke out as Emi stared at the door, the only door out.
The thugs' steps paused just outside. Their hard eyes searching for something. No … it dawned on her, with how they leered at the crowd they were hunting for someone. She curled tighter into her dress, as small as she could make herself. Please. Whoever they are, whatever they want to do, let the Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau get them before they do it!
The black-haired man froze, leaning forward, focused on something out of sight. He reached back and grabbed a dark object from behind his waist. Emi's throat closed up. It was a gun, over a foot long. A massive piece of hardware lined with various bright lights. They flashed from red to blinding blue. At the same point, the man's irises flared with the same blue tint. Beside him, the ginger-haired man gripped his own gun and stared down the gleaming barrel. They launched through the panicked crowd in the corridor.
Emi released a breath as the doorway stood clear. She rose from the chair tugging Ryota with her. "Come on, we need to get out of here."
No sooner had she said these words then the entire building shook with a mighty roar. The floor liquefied beneath her feet. The windows shattered. Columns shook and fractured. Ryota wrapped his arms around her and dove to the ground. Accompanied by the screams of the crowd rushing for safety, the front of the restaurant gave way with a tremendous crash.
Dust choked the air. Everything lay still as silence descended. An earthquake? Emi lifted her head from beneath Ryota's arm. His eyes remained closed, debris covering his body. She jammed a hand toward his throat. His pulse beat strong, breath rattled through his open mouth. Gently hauling him from beneath the broken tables and chairs, she patted his cheeks. "Come on, Ryota. You have to wake up." He didn't so much as stir, a goose egg darkened the side of his forehead.
A groan broke the silence.
It wasn't Ryota.
She flicked her eyes toward the wall of crumbled concrete where the door used to be. Two figures lay sprawled on the floor at the end of skidded blood trails. She clapped a hand over her mouth. The black-haired man stirred. Struggling to rise from the floor, he hung his head and sucked in a few breaths. His left side scraped up from sliding across the concrete.
Her heart rammed into her throat, they hadn't seen her yet. As silently as possible, Emi dragged Ryota, concealing them both behind the tipped over table. She peered between the shattered boards as the man stood and glared around the destroyed restaurant. There was no way out, even she could see that from here. He made a rude noise and nudged his foot against the shoulder of the other figure. "Kagari. Get your lazy ass up or he's gonna get away."
On the floor, Kagari moaned and stirred. Very slowly he rose to his knees and glanced around, rubbing his arm. "Well that was unexpected. Give me a sec, Kogami, will yah? Still seeing stars here." This close to them Emi blinked, the ginger-haired one called Kagari looked to be no older then she and Ryota. Late teens at most. The other was indeed older, but not by that much, she guessed mid-twenties.
Kogami huffed a breath and stalked over to the barrier, his hand running over the surface. "One-one-thousand. There's your second. Now get over here."
With a jerking motion, Kagari widened his eyes as he raised his left arm. A heavy grade metal wrist-com sent out sparks. "We got a problem."
"Only one?" Looking down, Kogami checked his own, a similar model. When he tapped the surface it flickered with static. "Great. Well, that means no communications. We're on our own. Every second we waste sitting on our asses in here gives Takeo Akiyama a greater lead. And I'm not letting him get away."
Dusting himself off, Kagari approached the wall. He plucked a hunk of concrete and tossed it aside. "Come on, Ko. The guy's scared as hell. It's not like he'll get too far."
"I keep forgetting your lack of experience. With that attitude you won't live long enough to learn."
"Hey. The job isn't that tricky. Aim and pull the trigger." Kagari reached toward his back, when his hand came up he blinked at the empty palm. With a start he shot a glance at the debris pile leaning against it. "Oh crap! The Dominators, they gotta be under all this."
"Yup." Kogami grunted and pried a large lump of concrete up, pushing it aside.
Huddling tight to Ryota's motionless figure, Emi heaved a sigh. Thank God they didn't have access to those weapons. Outside of Sibyl-approved media she'd never even seen a gun before.
"Ko, what are we gonna do without the Dominators?"
Another grunt, another stone rolled across the floor. "Improvise. We can't let the target get away. Simple as that."
Emi held her breath. The note of determination in his gravelly voice froze her veins. Not even a hesitation, this man had killed. She hugged Ryota, feeling the steady thrum of his heart. They had to get out of here!
"Right, improvise, like Akiyama did."
Kogami shook his head and pounded a fist against the barrier, "Why'd I have to get saddled with a punk rookie?"
"How was I to know he'd blow a frickin' fuel line?"
"Experience. Which you don't have. Next time I tell you to move right and cut him off, move right and cut him off. Don't back talk like a five year-old."
Kagari's fists pumped. "Seriously? You're gonna burn me like that? I was five when the Sibyl System flagged my ass and locked me in the isolation facility!"
"I know." More rocks slid down. "And if you don't do your job you'll be going back. How does that sound?"
Isolation facility? Emi fought her instincts to run. That meant both these men had deviated from society's norm. Just being in their proximity could destroy her own hue. Shielding the light behind the table, she clicked on her handheld and scanned herself. This morning the color had been mint green, healthy light. Please let me still be clear. Please! The gauge on the screen flowed further down, the dot of her hue falling on grass green. Darker, but not alarmingly so. She shifted the handheld accidentally and it flashed, the focal point on Kogami. The color dot zipped down the gauge, sucked into the darker bar at the end. Charcoal gray. Her hand trembled. That man had no color to his hue at all. Warning flared in her.
"It sucks!" Kagari shouted. "You don't know what those places are like."
"Wanna bet?" Throwing a stone aside, Kogami glared. "I spent three unpleasant months in one before the system gave up on me."
"Three months compared to most of my life, jackass! Screw this, the second I see daylight I'm outta here."
"That right there shows how little you comprehend. You think just cause your wrist-com is busted they can't track you? What about the street scanners? Besides you got something more immediate to worry about."
"You try and run," Kogami turned and fixed him with a dead stare, "I'll break your legs. This isn't a game, kid. We serve a purpose, one you agreed to."
"Look, I just want a chance at a life. Is that too much ask?" He snorted, placing a hand on his hip. "Wait, why am I talking to you? You had a life and threw it away."
Kogami tensed, his knuckles white against the stone before he shoved it aside. "You shouldn't believe every rumor you hear. That's not what happened."
Folding his arms, Kagari snorted. "Sure. So you didn't ignore the counselor's advice and shirk treatment, and you didn't let your hue slip to the point of no return. You weren't demoted from Inspector to Enforcer. Right? I'm just imagining you standing here at my side as a grunt."
With a growl, Kogami rounded on him, pinning Kagari against the wall. "You ignorant shithead! Did anyone tell you why? No one else was there the night I found my subordinate murdered! I owe him justice and no one would help me do that! So yes, because I wouldn't drop an unsolved case I sacrificed my life to live as the CID's attack dog. And no one, certainly not some snot nosed hotshot who's yet to pull a Dominator's trigger, is going to tell me how to do my job!"
CID? Emi stiffened. The Criminal Investigation Department? These guys are with the police?
Kagari's eyes trembled, still held in the lock. The edge of his voice grew brittle and cracked. "You don't get it, Ko. Why'd you have to … damn, I would've given anything to have been an Enforcer under you. They said … they said as an Inspector you weren't like the others. You didn't treat Enforcers inhumanely, like worthless dogs. You respected them … as real people."
Placing a hand on a table leg, Emi leaned forward drawn in by the shadows of grief that lined Kogami's eyes as he lowered his gaze and loosened his grip. His shoulders fell. "Well, what's done … is done."
"Leaves us with guys like Inspector Ginoza."
"Division One is his team to run as he sees fit now, I can't do a damn thing about it from where I stand. That's Gino's call, not mine. So … just let it go."
Emi's foot shifted, a plank of wood clattered on the floor. Both Enforcers turned in tandem. Their eyes peering into the shadows. She shrank back, holding Ryota closer as Kogami dashed toward them.
His rough hand touched her shoulder, the voice unexpectedly soothing. "You ok?"
"I … I … " She shook her head. "Ryota's hurt."
"Let me look." He knelt and eased her death grip. Those once eerie eyes creased with concern as he quickly assessed her boyfriend. Fingers tracing key points, pausing to count a pulse or open an eyelid. "Your friend's unconscious, but stable. That's good news. Once we get out of here we can get you some help. Just hang in there. Alright?"
Jerkily, she nodded. A smile edged on her lips under his reassuring gaze. Those eyes whispered that everything would be fine, he had it under control. He was … she realized in the back of her mind, a police officer, after all.
He rose and waved a hand. "Kagari, now it's not just our asses caught in this mess, get a move on." With no further urging, the younger joined him, tossing and shifting the debris until at long last shafts of light broke through. They widened the gap and ducked through it. To her surprise, Kogami came back with Kagari in tow and the two of them took Ryota's arms on their shoulders and carried him toward the opening. She followed behind, out into the shafts of daylight shining through the skylights. The fancy marble holographs were gone, leaving only the drab bare concrete surfaces. The mall's shattered skin lost its appeal. Emi wanted nothing more than to leave the deserted halls.
Pausing at a bench, they laid Ryota down on it and glanced around. Once more their eyes casting suspicious glares. Kagari flexed his fingers. "You think Takeo Akiyama's still here?"
"Bet my life on it." Kogami guided Emi to the bench. "You stay right here. Kagari—keep her safe."
"Where are you going? Wait a minute, if you're going to bait him out, I know how to do that. Got high score on—"
"This isn't one of your games. This is real life. That's what you're still not getting, kid. You screw up and people get hurt or killed. I can't let that happen. Without the Dominators, there's only way to handle this." Kogami glanced over his shoulder at Emi, his eyes widened, locked on something behind her.
Emi turned to face a man covered in dust. His wild eyes blazed, in his hand a kitchen knife, bits of sushi still clung to the shining edge. Her pulse rammed through the roof as she imagined her own flesh clinging to the blade.
"You got one chance to listen up, Takeo Akiyama." Kogami barked, crouching down. "We can do this the easy way or the painful way. But you're not laying a hand on the girl!"
Akiyama's unsettling gaze bore into her as he advanced one shambling step at a time. The words clearly hadn't reached his addled mind. She tripped and fell backward.
A second later Kogami vaulted over her, colliding with Akiyama hard enough she heard the whoosh of his breath forced from his lungs. Kagari moved in-between, blocking her and Ryota from the threat. Grappling on the floor, Kogami locked the man's struggling body into a firm hold. He delivered a sharp kick against the knee resulting in a shattering crack and a wail from Akiyama. Still the man gripped the blade, thrashing, determined to bury the knife into the Enforcer. Kogami barely avoided the slashes. In a series of hard slams he forced the knife-wielding hand against the concrete until the weapon clattered across the floor. He let go with his right hand and drove his fist into the side of the man's head. Akiyama trembled and curled into as much of a ball as he could.
Hasty footsteps carried over the commotion. A high pitched buzz filled the room. A bright blue bolt shot through the air and connected with Kogami's shoulder. He stiffened, his mouth open in an breathless cry before he crumpled to the side, unconscious.
On the otherside of the bench, Emi clung to Ryota, held captive to the sights by utter shock. Between them and the suspended brawl, Kagari backpedaled. His complexion pale as he locked eyes on the neatly groomed man in a blue jacket bearing the Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau's logo and holding a Dominator. Kagari squealed, "Gino, you shot Ko!"
Lowering the Dominator he eyed, Kagari. "You've clearly been listening to him too much of late. My Hounds are to address me as Inspector Ginoza. No exceptions."
"But—you shot Kogami!"
Ginoza adjusted his glasses. "Yes. He's lucky his Psycho-Pass is still low enough to restrict the Dominator to Paralyzer mode. Much higher and we'd be replacing him."
"But … but … why?"
"I'll forgive your ignorance this once, Hound 4, as this is your first run. Hound 3 knows the use of physical force is strictly forbidden. The Dominator is to be used to judge all targets so all determinations are made by the Sibyl System."
"Ko was doing his job."
"Was he now?" Ginoza lifted his chin. "Where is his Dominator?"
Kagari pointed back toward the debris pile, sputtering, "We lost them in the explosion. There wasn't a choice. He had to do something."
Studying Akiyama's attempts to rise on his crippled leg, Ginoza flicked a hand to the brown-haired grizzled man with a cybernetic arm gripping a Dominator, old scars marked his face. "Hound 1," the Inspector ordered, "hand your Dominator to our rookie."
"You sure about this?" The older man scratched his head.
"That was an order, Hound 1."
With a sigh, he padded up to Kagari and handed it over. The instant it come into contact, his eyes gleamed bright blue.
Ginoza folded his arms, his own Dominator muzzle down. "Hound 4, do your job."
Sweat broke out on Kagari's forehead. His hands trembled as he struggled to raise the muzzle. He stole glances at the fallen Kogami.
The inspector narrowed his eyes. "Don't worry about him. My job is to keep you dogs on your leashes. Your job is to pull the trigger so that an Inspector doesn't have to. Our hues are more important to keep clear. Yours is already cloudy, doesn't matter what you do."
Kagari lifted the bulky gun, aiming it at Akiyama. It shifted, plates rotating, opening up in his grip from the streamlined weapon to a menacing threat blazing with blue light. Kagari swallowed, taking a step back. "Man, this shit isn't happening. You mean I have to … ? But … seriously, Lethal Eliminator mode? It's gonna kill him."
Ginoza nodded. "By Sibyl's judgment this one is too far gone. Now, pull the trigger, Hound."
His finger twitched, once … twice … he squeezed it the moment Akiyama locked his eyes with him. Shock flared on both their faces. An intense bolt flared out of the muzzle and drove into the target. Emi ducked behind the bench as the air filled with sickening sound, like a melon exploding on a hot summer day. When she opened her eyes, she gazed over Kagari on his hands and knees. In front of him what used to be a man was now a massive splatter. His voice ghosted out, "It's not a game … oh God, it's not a game."
"There's hope for you yet." Ginoza turned on a heel and called out for the drones.
The older man knelt down beside Kagari, a tender expression on his grizzled face. "You'll get used to it, kid. This is the rest of your life. Just remember, this is the only chance guys like us get. It's either the isolation facilities, or being an Enforcer. That's it. Someone has to pull the trigger. Might as well be us poor saps."
Kagari stared blankly at the unconscious Enforcer. "Masaoka, I don't get it. Ko wasn't doing anything wrong."
"That's for Gino to draw the line where he wants it. Not for us to question. Ko'll be fine once he wakes up in recovery, annoyed, but fine. Not the first time Gino's done it to him. Won't be the last. Truth is Gino's still pissed."
"Cause Ko used to be his partner."
Masaoka nodded stiffly. "Division One hasn't been the same since Ko crossed the line. And I don't see any day in the near future where Ginoza will forgive him. So few inspectors withstand the pressure. So few are left from their graduating class. Ko was just the latest victim of the job." He stood and clasped Kagari's hand, helping him up. "Least we don't have to worry about what our hues look like, they're already clouded as hell. Long as we stay in line and stay out of public eye, since as far as the public knows we don't exist, everything is fine."
Kagari blushed. "Uhh … well … " He gestured toward Emi.
She hugged the edge of the bench. Her brain struggling to sort out what she'd seen. What she'd clearly never been meant to see.
Masaoka's eyes widened before he sighed. "Heh, well, cat's outta the bag." Walking over, he knelt down and offered a warm smile. "S'ok sweetheart. We'll get you to a nice counselor and your friend here to the hospital. Then you can just forget all this happened."
Emi took his cold, metal hand and let him pull her up. The world flickered like a holograph failing before her. According to the law everyone with a dangerous hue was locked away in an isolation facility. Right? According to Sibyl's judgment. Her eyes roved to the splatter on the floor. The remains of a life—judged irredeemable. She swayed on her feet and peered at Kogami's limp figure sprawled on the floor. At Kagari's stunned expression as he stared at the Dominator in his white-knuckled hands. At the tender smile offered by the man beside her. Hounds they had been called. Hounds of the CID. And what had Masaoka said? Their hues were already clouded beyond repair. How …?
Her hand subconsciously pulled out her handheld computer. She flicked the screen on staring blindly at the countdown clock, the hours and minutes until she learned what the Sibyl System determined she should be for rest of her life. Her heart forgot to beat as she gazed back at Kogami—the rest of a life. A life that didn't even exist.
Author's World Notes, for those who are curious and unfamiliar with Psycho-Pass, the nutshell:
Since this is a once shot for a writing contest and some might like cliff's notes.
Psycho-Pass takes place in a dystopian society roughly one-hundred years from now in a war torn world. On the surface Japan seems a peaceful utopia—but there are dark secrets as to how things run. Desperate to establish peace and make its citizens safe, decades ago Japan closed off its borders and over time implemented the Sibyl System, a high tech system that reads the emotional state of individuals and through a complex algorithm calculates their chance of committing a crime. Residents should seek counseling if their hues, or Pyscho-Pass, are getting clouded. If they don't, the hues worsen and their crime-coefficient (a status that marks how close a mind is to creating a deviant act) rises higher. The Dominators wielded by the CID are hand held versions of the scanners that are mounted all over the city, all connected to Sibyl. Dominators only work for Registered Users: the triggers are locked if the target is not a threat, but will unlock into Paralyzer mode if the target is merely unstable and could potentially be treated, or Lethal Eliminator if they are deemed fully criminal mindset. The lethal mode is essentially judge, jury, executioner in literally one-shot. The Enforcers pulling the trigger are not deemed committing murder as the Sibyl System made the official judgment. Inspectors, who are senior officers with full rights, are charged with keeping their Enforcers in line: not running off, committing actual crimes etc. This is of course a risk since the Enforcers are individuals with a compromised Psycho-Pass called Latent Criminals and technically are removed from society with no true citizenship. Sibyl typically pulls them from the isolation facilities when they appear to be useful. Enforcer is the ONLY way out once condemned to Latent Criminal status. The sad thing is just thinking like a criminal (profiling) is enough for Sibyl to "view" a person as a potential threat to society. This is why Enforcers exist, to do the dirty work and protect the Psycho-Passes of the Inspectors. Enforcers are never allowed in public without an Inspector. Otherwise they are confined to the CID floor or their quarters. They are essentially prisoners at the mercy of their handlers. The public are sheep-like, having adapted to life under the system and fearing a downfall into the chaotic riots of before. They know nothing of how Sibyl works, witness little violence in their day to day life, and are shielded from nearly everything that happens by the Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau. Sibyl tells them they are safe, what jobs they are best to do, who to marry … on the surface it's brought peace with only the rare instance of crime.
Think it sounds fine? Careers that are restricted: artists, writers, actors, musicians—because being too passionate can lead to clouding people's hues, only those who are authorized may pursue these. Careers that are outlawed: college professors, philosophers—just pause and think about that.
This one-shot is pre-series—as the events in series take place late 2112-early 2113. I have used official dates from additional material for when Kagari first joined Division One, Kogami had already been demoted to Enforcer.