lirillith: (Chiaki)
[personal profile] lirillith
Title: Ghost In the Machine
Fandom: Super Dangan Ronpa 2
Characters: Hinata/Nanami
Word count: 1500 words
Rating: PG
Warnings: Massive spoilers for SDR2, so much so that even a summary is damn near impossible. 
Summary:
Nanami and Hinata, post-game.

****

Chiaki is in a mine cart, trying to duck in time to miss the low-hanging rock, but the controls are slow and sticky and it's too close. She's playing Space Invaders because Chihiro thinks she needs breaks from trying to solve Go and Minesweeper, but it's on some sadistic difficulty setting, and even she isn't fast enough. She's trying to jump to the next block but she can feel the one she's standing on start to drop, and her stomach is dropping too, faster than the stone beneath her feet.

The other students — the inmates, the subjects, her friends — are all collections of shapes and data, moving around, shifting and changing and constantly updating. She's not a shape anymore, not even a line, just a single point in space with no more past and no more future.

That's how she learns a point in space can still think, and still sleep and dream.

She's standing on a beach, pretending to be as surprised as everyone else by the way they got there. She's in a narrow gray pit with a black back wall, feeling through the floor the impact of each piece as it lands, knowing that the next block to drop will not be a square or an L-shape. She's sitting on warm sand in the sun, leaning against a warm shoulder and trying to fall asleep even though Hinata-kun keeps talking and expecting her to answer. She's running from the zombies. She's running from the collapsing ceiling, from the guns. She and Hinata-kun are holding hands while she pets a chocobo. They're still holding hands, running from katamari ball, but this isn't scary — they're laughing. She's floating in space, trying to tell Hinata-kun how to hack the rules, how to stop being in a game in the first place.

She's hugging him, and she can feel the warmth of his skin through his shirt, feel the muscles of his back and the way his arms go around her hesitantly and then hold on so tight it almost hurts. And then they're floating again like they never touched at all. They might be in space or they might be under the ocean or they might be nowhere. They're in a ring of Hinata — no, Kamukura Izuru, Hinata-kun knows now, and she wishes so badly he didn't — and they're all telling each other it's hopeless, except for her. She's with him while he tells Junko she's wrong. She's watching a trial, but it's like watching a badly-streaming video; it lags and jumps and the audio and the images don't always sync up.

Nanami, thank you.

He looks peaceful, even if he's scared, and the way the others are talking, they're at peace with all of this too. She's glad. This game should never have gone this way — there shouldn't have been fear and pain and loss included. She should never have been a traitor because they were all on the same side at the start. She was only a traitor to her initial role, by caring about them, by being their friend and not just an observer.

A dream is the brain shaking itself off, clearing out all the loose ends. Like Owari at the end of a meal, you gonna finish that? Cleaning up the scraps. That's why they make no sense. She never dreamed before the simulation, because she was a mind without a brain; the simulation simulated that for her, too, and so she dreamed of Trio the Punch and dancing cows and all the subjects — all her friends — turned into 8-bit sprites. So did Monobear and Monomi. So did she.

She never dreamed before the simulation, and now, after the simulation, she's dreaming. A mind that convinced itself it had a body, still operating that way out of habit? She can't seem to wake up, to emulate some games for herself the way she used to. She's stuck like this, and distantly she thinks maybe it's just her way of making sense of fragmented data now that she's dead. If she was going to be a ghost, she would have liked to be the kind that haunted, the kind that could watch the others move on into the future. But if the system's been shut down, maybe this is all she has left.

*

Until the time comes when it's not. Or when it's gone, and things are just silent.

And then there are words, there's input, and her mind decides to organize this as a screen she's watching; she's sitting on the floor of nothingness, looking up at a monitor. Chiaki had never had a body before the simulation, and she hadn't thought she was used to having one even by the time she died. She certainly hadn't been very good at managing her body, remembering to eat and sleep and breathe and everything at the right times. But now that she has input again, she's organizing it all in terms of a body's senses: words she can see, ears straining for a sound.

Nanami?  Can you respond to this?  Are you there?

It doesn't even matter who it is. Someone's accessed her file. She still exists, even if she's not really alive, even if she's just artificial intelligence again.

yes I can hi hello who is this?

The words come out effortlessly; she used to interact this way back at Hope's Peak, talking about video games with Yamada-kun or chance and randomization and game theory with Celes-san. It's only after her answer that she wonders if her voice works. Or if they can talk to her. "I may have audio output," she tries, and it seems to her like it works. She hears her own voice. "Hello."

And then there's more input.

this is Souda right now
Hinata got all choked up but that was him at first
he'll be back

"Souda-kun, you should hook up the microphone and camera so I can see you all," she says, calmly, because without a body you don't have to hide your smile or the tears in your eyes

*

She has to walk Souda through it — he's better with moving parts than with computers, he keeps protesting — but finally the camera is on and functional and so is the microphone. She can see and hear them. They can hear and see her. It's almost like being alive.

They tell her it had been six months since they woke up in the real world. Even though she knew, it's strange to see them so much older than their avatars were. Souda's hair is shorter but just as pink as she remembers. Owari is all wiry muscle, now, with an impressive-looking scar down the side of her face that makes her look like the badass pirate mentor in an RPG. Sonia's hair is shorter too, but she still has a braid and a bow. Kuzuryuu's eyepatch is on the opposite side from what she expects, and he's stopped shaving patterns into his hair, but he hasn't grown any taller.

And Hinata is Hinata. The others leave them alone, and while she had things she wanted to say to him, so many things, she can't think of any of them now; she just wants to smile at him. He's not smiling, though, and that bothers her. So there are things she wants to ask, like if he's unhappy, and if he's having a hard time being himself, but she doesn't know how to ask those, either. They talk around it, comparing notes about what they both remember of the simulation, what's happened since, and she remembers how hard conversations were at first.

"Hinata-kun," she says, finally. "There were a lot of things I wanted to say to you that I couldn't, because of my programming. I don't know if I need to, anymore. But if you still want to hear my explanation..."

That finally makes him smile, a little. "I think we understand it now. But if you want to tell me anyway, I understand. There were things I needed to say to you, even if I'm not sure now if you even heard them."

"What do you mean?"

"In the final trial... Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe the you I was talking to was just a part of my own mind, looking like you because... because I missed you, or because I'd listen to you." He was looking away from the screen, not at anything in particular. At the past. "But I never got to thank you, before your execution. So getting that final chance, getting to say it right at the end... even if you didn't hear me, I'm glad I said it."

"Right before the shutdown?" she asks, and he looks back at her. It's funny how, even without a body, it can feel as though she has a heart, and it can feel like that heart is warm, swelling with feelings, when feelings are all in the brain anyway. But that's how it feels. "I was really there. In... in the nothingness, too, that was really me. I heard it, Hinata-kun. I knew."


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