Chapter 1: TEAM SLEUTH: Get totally plastered.
“‘Least I can take my hat off if I want to,” Sleuth grins, grabbing at his own hat. “W’thout revealing some dark s’cret. Like… like the world’s worst combover.” He laughs and takes another drink.
Dick glowers over his leader before waving a hand in Inspector’s direction. “Pickles! You hearin’ this?! Ain’t you gonna tell him how rude that is or somethin’?”
Inspector finishes filling his glass, downs it in one gulp, then fills it again. Sleuth leans over.
“You okay there, Pickle?”
“I haven’t ascended to godhood yet,” Inspector mumbles before drinking. “I’m not… I am not drunk enough.”
“We’re not in the imaginary world anymore, that ain’t gonna work,” Dick points out.
Inspector fills the glass again, drinks it, and slams it back down on the counter. He repeats his previous statement, louder and with purpose.
“I. am. not. drunk enough.”
Chapter 2: Could be worse.
Scout’s source didn’t strike you as particularly reliable. He said that the Scoundrels were planning a heist in this area, but you weren’t confident enough in that testimony to bother bringing the others with you on your stakeout. They had other work to catch up on, after all.
Despite your doubts, it isn’t long before you catch sight of Scofflaw and Delinquent walking by and into a nearby building. You make your way closer, hiding behind a cluster of trash cans—careful not to touch them, of course, you don’t want your suit getting dirty. You wonder where Innovator is.
That’s when you hear a soft cough behind you. You look back to see Innovator standing there, a cup of tea in hand, smiling faintly.
“G—good evening, Detective,” he says.
“Good evening,” you say, cautious. There is no way he doesn’t know why you’re here. If nothing else, the binoculars in your hand are a dead giveaway.
“Y-you look cold,” Innovator says, holding up the cup of tea. “I—I had some tea, so I thought…”
“I’m fine, thank you,” you say.
“P—Please,” he pushes the cup into your hands. “I—I insist.”
You hesitate. This tea is most certainly drugged, but you have a Twilight Scoundrel standing over you and you were stupid enough to come here alone. It’s not like you have much of a choice.
You drink. As your vision fades, you suppose that another week in Innovator’s attic is still preferable to Scofflaw having found you instead.
Chapter 3: It suits you.
“It… it suits you,” he mumbles as he inspects the spear. He doesn’t look at the blade. Maybe he’s trying not to think about how many people you’ve killed with this weapon. Instead he focuses on the staff, inspecting the myriad scratches along its length. Evidence of all the times you’ve used it to deflect an enemy attack, to defend yourself. “It’s different from, um, from a cuestick though, isn’t it? A s-spear is more… more stabby.”
“It’s not so different,” you say.
“What did th-they call you, back then?” His voice is uncertain, as though he suspects he’s being rude by asking.
You aren’t quite as sensitive about the topic as some other people you know. “Draconian Dignitary,” you say, tapping your cigarette on an ashtray on the end table.
“Ah,” he says, his eyes darting to the side in thought. “I—I think… I think I’d heard of you.”
You almost smile. “And you, Inspector?”
“M-me? I…” He frowns a little, and it looks like he’s having a hard time remembering. “P—Peculiar Initiator. I—I wasn’t anyone special like you w-were. I just, um… I worked in the cloning labs. I did Rooks and Knights, mostly, I think…”
You have to admit you’re surprised. You always imagined he was more of a pencil pusher, not a geneticist. You’ve seen chess pieces like the ones he made in action—he was probably indirectly responsible for far more deaths than you were.
He seems to realize what you’re thinking, because his expression becomes pained. “I didn’t like doing it,” he says. “B-but I was too weak for the Battlefield a-and I had to help defend Skaia somehow…”
“What about your friends, what did they do?” you ask, figuring he’d welcome the diversion.
“S-Sleuth and Dick? I don’t…” He scratches his head. “I think Sleuth was a diplomat. Y-you would have to ask them.”
“You didn’t know them back then?”
He shakes his head. “N-no, we didn’t meet un-until we arrived here. I, um, I had other friends on Prospit. But w-with the war, and then exile…”
“I see.” You put your cigarette out. You aren’t particularly surprised; Prospit suffered much higher casualties than Derse did. Still, you are impressed that he survived the desert alone. You doubt you would have made it without your Crew helping you, and here he managed. Perhaps he’s stronger than you give him credit for.
He hands you the spear. You stand up and replace it on its display case on the wall.
“Too bad we n-never met back then,” he says.
You look at the spear’s blade and think of how many Prospitians’ lives had been ended by it. You sit back down.
“Perhaps it’s for the best,” you say.
Chapter 4: A dress
(This one was inspired by my other story, In Which Marriage Is Discussed.)
He’s planning the wedding and you’re being uncooperative about the wardrobe.
Sarcastically, he suggests you wear a dress.
“It can have a corset,” he adds. “I know how much you enjoy corsets.”
You refuse vehemently.
Later you find your daugher with Droog’s.
They’re talking about wedding dresses.
There is no sarcasm in their voices.
Chapter 5: Sad PI in Snow
(This one was drawn/written to elaborate on some backstory for my PI RP blog. Said blog makes the assumption that Team Sleuth are exiled Prospitians.)
You still have your old sniper rifle. You had it with you when you were exiled and you wandered the desert with it on your back. It brings back nothing but bad memories, but you can’t bring yourself to get rid of it.
Hate it or not, it’s as much a part of you as your arms and legs are.
You still use it sometimes. Rarely. You don’t like to. But sometimes you have to make a choice between some violent criminal’s life and your friends, and you’ll choose your friends every time.
You still have the scarf, too. It carries the same bad memories, but when you have your rifle in hand again it’s something of a comfort. It kept you warm during your many long nights alone on the Battlefield. It’s faded and tattered by now. You don’t care. You pull it up and hide your face behind it as you prepare to end someone’s life.
Chapter 6: Closure.
The plan was simple: get close to Pickle Inspector and find out what he knows.
It couldn’t have been easier. He, after all, was stupidly in love with you, and you had no qualms with taking advantage of that. You hadn’t quite planned on enjoying his company so much but, well, these things happen.
You started to hope that he didn’t know anything. Then you wouldn’t have to do anything to him, and the two of you could continue spending time together. That was a naïve hope, though, and you are not a naïve man.
You take him to a night on the town. Dinner, dancing, drinks. You’ve never seen him so happy. It’s late at night when you’re walking through the park and you stop him, telling him that there’s something you need to do.
He must realize, you think. There’s fear in his eyes before you even take out your gun, and tears are streaming down his face by the time the bullet pierces his lung.
He staggers backwards. His legs hit the bench behind him and he tumbles backwards into it. He coughs and gasps, clinging to life as blood fills his lungs.
You bend over him, pressing your lips to his as his breaths come shallower. He stops breathing entirely as you sit down beside him, noting the coppery taste in your mouth.
You should leave, you think. It’s late, but not so late that someone won’t have heard the gunshot.
Still you linger there a little longer. You take out a cigarette and light it. You take small puffs on it, the nicotine quickly eliminating the lingering taste of blood. With that last trace of him washed away from you, you rise. You do not look back as you leave Pickle Inspector behind.