by Chad Carpenter
Tick: And then she popped.
Fled: Popped? What do you mean “she popped?”
Tick: She popped. Like a quiet, non-violent explosion. After swelling up like she did, her skin burst like a bubble poked out of the air.
Fled: My goodness. That must have made a mess.
Tick: Not too bad, really. A red mist flew out from her body, but most of her remains simply fell to the floor beneath her. Those in closest proximity to her looked like they walked through a bloody fog, their white uniforms speckled as they were.
Fled: Well, how in the world does someone pop, anyway?
Tick: Sorcery, I suspect.
Fled: Well, that's obvious enough. Think deeper.
Tick: Evil sorcery?
Fled: Aha! Good work. Evil Sorcery for sure! But, who's ever heard of a popping spell?
Tick: More importantly, who has the power to perform a popping spell?
Fled: No, more importantly, who would want to pop that poor woman? Did she have any enemies?
Tick: Who doesn't?
Fled: Okay, did she have any enemies who would want to pop her?
Tick: Hmm...Now that's harder to say, but given that she was indeed popped, I would venture to answer 'yes.'
Fled: Wonderful! Write that down: Given that the victim was popped, it is suspected that someone who did not care for her did the popping.
Tick: Got it. But...
Fled: But what?
Tick: Well, what if she popped herself? Or what if someone else popped her, but it was accidental? Or, what if no one is too blame - perhaps some natural magicks combined, floated in on the breeze, and alighted on her?
Fled: Now, Tick, it is our duty to solve this wicked crime, not to invent possible scenarios. We simply don't have the time to investigate every alternative. We will find the most likely aggressor and return spells as the law requires.
Tick: One problem I see with that, though.
Tick: Well, we've never heard of a popping spell, let alone someone who could perform such an advanced bit of magick. It occurs to me to wonder then, how can we return spells once we find our assailant? We can't match that trick.
Fled: Tick, Tick, Tick. It is indeed a good thing the Protectorate paired you with me. Though always thinking, you're thoughts could use some directing.
Tick: Very well. Direct away.
Fled: The law of the Protectorate Guard says any crime of magick must be repaid with the same magick.
Tick: Yes, yes - returning spells.
Fled: Our criminal in this case, according to your own investigating, attacked with a popping spell. Therefore, the favor must be returned.
Tick: Yes, but...
Fled: Tick, do you know anyone with the power to pop someone?
Tick: Not without a very large bellows, sir.
Fled: No one? Perhaps someone who has been known to pop innocents in the past?
Tick: In the past? Why no, is there a history of such... Oh, I see.
Fled: Yes, is it coming together then?
Tick: Well, the very aggressor we are seeking today has such an ability. But surely you don't...
Fled: Surely I do, and surely we must. Once we discover the perpetrator of this heinous -- but most impressive -- deed, he must be the one to dole out his own punishment.
Tick: Or she.
Fled: Tick, you're opening more doors again.
Tick: He, then. Definitely a he.
Fled: Thank you, Tick.
Fled: Yes, Tick?
Tick: What if this person – this man – does not want to pop himself once we find and accuse him? What if he feels more like popping us?
Fled: Well, I can be quite persuasive when it comes to this kind of thing. When we find our man, you just let me do the talking.
Tick: Oh, certainly, sir.
Fled: Very good. Let's get started then.
Tick: Excellent. Where shall we begin?
Fled: It occurs to me to begin at the beginning.
Tick: And where would that be?
Fled: Well, if we're just getting started, I would call this the beginning.
Tick: Looks like a good start, then.
Fled: Yes. Yes, it is. We're moving quickly now. That evil sorcerer doesn't stand a chance.
Tick: Not if he's near the beginning, he doesn't.
Fled: Right, well how about lunch then?
Tick: You think the attacker is at lunch?
Fled: No, I think I want to be at lunch. All this investigating has given me an appetite.
Tick: What about the attacker?
Fled: He can feed himself.
Tick: But don't we risk losing the trail?
Fled: Tick, these cases can last years, but my hunger cannot.
Tick: I see your point.
Fled: Of course you do. Let's go.
Tick: Right behind you, sir.