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TEEN: Pokémon Magic Act & Everlight Stories (Most recent: Chapter 4)

Table of Contents
  • Daren

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    In a Mystery Dungeon world where technology survived, two storylines run parallel, influence, cross over, and eventually collide.

    *

    This is an experimental story; the first two acts will show two stories with different protagonists and different themes and genres (and very different views on certain issues, especially the Caerma Republic itself) with generally alternating chapters (for some important cliff hangers I will update the same story twice in a row), and the final act combines the two stories into one.

    Pokémon Magic Act: Etain the Pikachu has grown weary of life her as an adventurer; after a certain discovery while on an expedition decides to become a full time stage magician and form a traveling entertainer’s troupe, fulfilling an old childhood desire. Of course, even if her new life is less dangerous it’s not really any easier.

    This is a heavily arc based story with a focus on character drama—conflict is often internal to the troupe rather than some outside threat, though external danger is not unheard of. It also contains a romance story.

    Everlight Stories: Tybalt is a Meowstic private detective in the sprawling metropolis of Everlight city, though one who often works with the local Security forces. In a city like Everlight there’s always someone who needs help, although not everyone thinks he's quite the right cat for the job...

    This is a more episodic story with several unconnected cases, (though there is a major story line built up to over time) with an emphasis on action, adventure, and comedy.

    Content Warnings: fantasy violence, occasional realistic violence/abuse (blood, serious injury, character death—nothing you wouldn’t see in Star Wars), mild strong language, mild suggestive themes (occasional sexual innuendo and implications, off-page sex), Pokémon carnivorism (alluded to and threatened, never occurs), comsumption of alcohol.
    Rated Teen/PG13

    Content Notes
    (Non ratings): occasional cartoon slapstick (not full on Tom and Jerry but things that have happened in the Pokémon games or anime),


    I realize putting everything here might make it sound grimdark, but the story is really no more dark than something like the Lucas era Star Wars films, I just want to be thorough in listing content—most of what will be seen are elements official Pokémon stories have shown or alluded to, but put in a bit more focus.

    Contents:
    Act I
    Chapter I: Pokémon Magic Act, Part 1
    Chapter II: Everlight Stories, Part 1
    Chapter III: Pokémon Magic Act, Part 2
    Chapter IV: Everlight Stories, Part 2
     
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    Chapter 1
  • Daren

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    Pokémon Magic Act, Part 1
    Early July, 318AC

    After close to a full day (including a night’s camping) of making their way through the broken forest, trekking through mud and brambles, climbing up small hills, and carefully avoiding detection by wild Pokémon, Sylvia and Etain had finally located their mark.

    The Weavile and Pikachu pair was lying flat atop a tiny hill in the woods, each with a large satchel secured to them with a chest strap and a much larger backpack lying on the ground. The two were hidden in the brush, scouting out the large building in a clearing ahead of them as the late morning sun shone overhead and strong winds bent the forest around them.

    The building itself was an old, stone structure with three stories, with a meter and a half high decorative stone fence ringed around it, forming a large enclosed yard, though the vegetation between the building itself and the fence was overgrown. A little home and yard cut out from the surrounding forest. There was no visible door from their location and little space between the tree line and the fence.

    "Well, well, well...the tip-off was at least partly true," Sylvia said. Good. The Weavile had felt the traveling singer who had entered the Adventurer’s Association Red Leaf office claiming to have seen a ruined building deep in the woods outside Red Leaf was being truthful, and so far she had not been disappointed. Fortunately, aside from the branch supervisor Sylvia had been the only member present at the time, allowing her to avoid a bidding war over the tip-off.

    The Dustox had been attempting to take a shortcut from Starry Town to Red Leaf—he had been delayed and had perhaps naively decided to cut through the woods to get to town faster—and had gotten hopelessly lost. On the way he had stumbled upon a very old building in a small clearing. He had gone inside to seek shelter from some rain—it was clear nobody was living there by the state of the interior.

    He had not stayed inside for very long, the singer had explained, as an Automated Combat Drone (an ACD) inside had fired at him. Those were dangerous and highly illegal just about everywhere on the continent, so the building’s former occupant was certainly some sort of raider or brigand who had not been considerate enough to deactivate his mechanical guard.

    The Dustox could not, of course, say for certain if there were any valuables inside...there had not been any in the hallway he had flown into from the window, but it looked like an old human building, and while many high-tech human artifacts are restricted from private ownership (though a small finder’s fee for turning them over to Republic Security existed, however) other human items were both legal and valuable to collectors, and outlaws often have ill-gotten gains. Besides, if an ACD was there it meant the building at least had to have a functioning power generator—those were worth a good amount.

    Of course this information was potentially valuable...

    Sylvia couldn't be annoyed, since she'd have done the same thing in his place if she didn't have the capabilities to investigate it herself. The price was pretty fair for what the Dustox admitted was a gamble--there was no guarantee the place ever had anything worth much, or that it hadn't already been scavenged by someone (although most civil Pokémon preferred to avoid the deep woods that were home to their lawless, wilder kin), or that whatever they found wasn't covered by the human artifact ownership restrictions law.

    "That Dustox may have been honest, but he was ignorant about human structures,” Sylvia noted. “It's not in bad enough shape to date back to human times. This is a Pokémon structure built in human style."

    Etain lifted herself off her belly, rising onto all fours and looking up at the second story.

    "One of the windows on the second floor's broken,” she noted. Tilting her head to the side, her ears twitched before she continued, "You know, Syl, poorly maintained houses happen, even with owners. If we don’t spot an ACD or a better sign this place is abandoned we have no cause to go inside."

    Sylvia swore loudly.

    They'd spent two days preparing, so busy discussing whether the building was real, whether there would be anything valuable, and whether said valuables might be banned that they'd overlooked this one other possible point of failure. Only in the final moments had it deigned to reveal itself to their minds.

    Blinded by the thrill of this die toss—the first in some time, adventuring expeditions were rare these days, so they mostly did contract work--they had missed one possible trick the Dustox could have played--hoping they'd break in carelessly and get themselves in trouble with Republic Security so they would be unable to either inform the Association of the betrayal or seek revenge.

    "He’d better not have lied about seeing a combat drone or I'll beat the living daylights out of that scammer if he's still in town when we get back,” Sylvia replied.

    Left unstated was the fact it would be much worse for him if she caught the bug-type outside of town…

    "We’ll just need to be careful," Sylvia continued. "ACDs usually have a set patrol. If he saw one then we should see it too."

    Etain nodded. "I'll sneak around and check for a door, maybe I can spot the ACD."

    "Right, I'll watch from here."

    Etain set off at once--the mouse moved swiftly but carefully, darting from under bushes and behind trees, making her way around the building counterclockwise. Sylvia paid her little heed, trusting Etain to get the task done while she focused on her own. Pulling a black pair of binoculars and a small camera from her satchel, she rose up onto one knee and raised the binoculars to her eyes so she could see through them. It was poorly lit inside but her eyes could see through darkness even more easily than daylight. She focused on one window, then the next, then the next, then up a floor to the second level...

    Then she saw it.

    The machine was floating in the air and had the standard shape and form of an ACD; spherical, about halfway between the size of a Voltorb and an Electrode, a dark metallic colour, and sensors in the form of a rim running all around near the top, red lights shining along it. Sylvia knew it could “see” her from here, but would not react as long as she stayed out of its security range.

    Below it was a weapon—a swivel mounted energy cannon, lying close to the machine’s frame. It could rotate a full 360 degrees and fire with significant speed and accuracy. They said being struck was like taking a powerful Magnezone’s Zap Cannon, but Sylvia had never been hit by one and never intended to be.

    She swiftly snapped several zoomed in photos, just in case she needed evidence. The machine continued to float along until it turned a corner and vanished down another hallway.

    Well, well, well. Another truth, she thought. A Mark II Security Drone. Dangerous, but she had destroyed them before. Everything the Dustox said checked out. Good. From here out anything that went wrong was not treachery—merely fate or her own errors.

    She did not expect any errors on her part, or Etain’s. She knew the weak point of this model, had a few oran berries in her satchel, and her years of battle--in the arena, in the alleys of Everlight City, and in forests, ruins, and caves against robbers, lawless Pokémon, ACDs, and even other adventurers--gave her ample confidence in her combat prowess. Etain could hold her own in a fight as well, even if she was nowhere near Sylvia's equal in power or experience.

    The smart thing would be to try and take the machine from ambush, either come swiftly around a corner, or attack suddenly from above or below it. One nicely aimed Night Slash should end the fight before it truly starts.

    Out of the corner of her eye she saw Etain making her way back to her, having finished her mission around the building. When the mouse reached her she gave Sylvia an excited grin.

    "There's a gaping hole in the wall with a door lying on the ground nearby and inside is a mess. This is an abandoned building; we can go knocking without annoying Republic Security even if there’s no drone!"

    Sylvia nodded and gave her own report: “There’s a drone, like we were told. Mark II security model--I'd guess the owner was some raider who never told anyone about his lair. I can handle it as long as my luck doesn’t sour, although there's still a chance someone got here first and just snuck around the drone." Maybe even our Dustox friend, although we'd never know for sure if it was him, she thought. “Ready to head in?”

    "Give me one second to record this place's coordinates."

    Etain crawled over to her satchel and reached inside, digging about for a second before removing her Pokégear Mark II--the little red device had many useful functions for someone in her line of work.

    Etain had received it as a present last year from a close childhood friend whose name Sylvia could not recall—she guessed the mouse would not have been able to afford one on her own.

    Turning it on, Etain tapped at the buttons a few times, moving the selection screen past various applications--File Reading, Memos and Notes, Species Encyclopedia, Adventurer's Newsletter, before stopping on Map and Positioning. Before leaving town she had activated the tracking feature on the device, allowing the machine to calculate their rough position on the continent. It had to rely on footstep counting but was reliable enough for this purpose. "There. Coordinates for this location saved in case Republic Security wants to follow up on this."

    Sylvia rolled her eyes. "I'm sure the brave Republic Security will march in to valiantly take notes after we do the dangerous work, such heroes as they are. Ah well, let's go in."

    They ran as fast as they could from the vegetation cover until they reached the fence, hopped it, then made full speed to the house itself, where they pressed themselves against the wall and carefully sidled around the building. Before long they reached the front, where Sylvia soon spotted the wooden door lying against the ground in front of the entrance it had once guarded--from the looks of it, someone had forced the door open--possibly a lawless (or simply lost) Pokémon seeking shelter from the weather like the Dustox had.

    Taking a look at the size of the entrance, she guessed whoever had lived here had been a fairly large Pokémon, or expected fairly large company--the door was about two and a half meters tall and quite broad. The two passed silently through side by side.

    *

    The inside of the building was dark—there were few windows, and if there was any interior lighting it was turned off. The two Pokémon nodded to one another and Sylvia closed her eyes.

    Concentrating, Etain summoned up her electrical power. Her cheeks sparked for a few seconds before she refocused it from electrical-type energy to normal-type energy--and for an instant a blinding light shone off her before it subsided, providing a comfortable illumination. She gently poked the Weavile, who opened her eyes.

    They were in a small antechamber leading directly into a large foyer, and even in the current dusty state Etain could tell it had once been very nice--directly opposite them on the far side of the room was a pair of spiraling staircases on either side, each leading up to the second floor, and Etain could make out a second pair next to where they ended leading up to the third level. They could see three side passages on each side of the room's first floor and more above, as well as a piano off tucked in the far left corner, and scattered furniture--tables and chairs, in varying states of repair--all coated in dust. Paintings of landscapes, humans, and Pokémon adorned the walls—fields, hills, a bearded adult human with a severe look and regal clothing sitting on an oddly ornate chair of some sort, a Gyarados emerging from a lake with a roar, and several others.

    I’m no art appraiser but I wonder if those paintings are worth anything? I can’t tell if they’re human or Pokémon made—the former can be worth a lot, though some of these are cumbersomely large for carrying around town—I don’t think they’d fit even in our large packs. Besides, something about pawning human art to a private collector instead of letting a museum have it…well, I guess I’ll let Sylvia have them if she wants them.

    "Stay close to the walls so that thing can’t see us as easily from up there,” Sylvia whispered. "Circle around, wait for it to pass by the stairs, then we hit it,”

    Etain nodded in quiet agreement.

    After checking to make sure it was clear the two quickly made their way across the foyer and flattened themselves against the wall behind the stairs—the Drone would not be able to see them from any higher level, but they would be able to hear it.

    They waited for some minutes, as still and silent as possible, until they heard a soft humming noise, quiet at first, but growing louder and closer.

    Closer…

    Closer…

    Closer…

    Sylvia suddenly turned to face the upper floor and jumped, her right claw extending while glowing with black energy, and just as she cleared the railing on the above level swung. Etain heard an alarmed beeping cut short by the sound of metal being ripped apart, followed by a loud thud against the ground, then Sylvia landed back next to her with a self-satisfied smirk. Etain wondered if she’d ever have that much power, even when she finally found a Thunderstone.

    “Well, that was easy,” she said with casual air. “Let’s go searching.”

    The two moved cautiously through the old house, keeping an eye out for worn flooring that could lead to a dangerous fall, fallen nails, or any other potential threat—but none came. They made their way room by room, starting on the bottom floor, finding little of value—a few books and magazines of no special interest, plenty of furniture, a pantry with some non-perishable food, and various others things that were not always valueless, but not worth trying to sell back in town. Etain could hear Sylvia’s grumbling grow worse after each disappointment. One of the last first floor rooms did have a small bag full of pre-Republic Red Leaf silver coins, enough to be worth perhaps a thousand Poké, but after that they were back to such exciting finds as drinking cups, a broken chair, and several very old issues of “Fighter Fan Weekly” magazine. The last thing they found was a closet filled with clothing—Sylvia was not the “clothing” type, though Etain enjoyed them at times.

    “Well, bottom floor’s a bust,” Sylvia sighed as she closed it. “Next level up, I guess.”

    The staircase was creaky but safe, and the second floor quickly proved more promising than the first; Sylvia and Etain found a small pouch full of Republic bills on a table in the upstairs foyer, a few technical records of Pokémon design (distinguishable from older human ones by the barcode on modern records), some discs of old films from various Everlight movie studios, a tiny chest with some modest jewelry, and eventually the power generator the drone had used (it seemed to be linked to some solar panels on the roof, judging by where the wires ran), but still nothing amazing. The location of the generator would at least be of interest to the office.

    “Floor three, coming up,” Etain said with some faint hope in her voice as they made their way to the last set of stairs. Maybe floor three would be another improvement?

    *

    The top floor proved smaller than the others—most of it was a single large dining hall with a wide and long table, numerous chairs, and only two doors visible to smaller rooms. They chose first the one closer to the stairs, but it only led to a small storage room full of boxes stuffed with little of interest.

    With some trepidation they opened the final door…

    “It’s beautiful…” Sylvia whispered as it swung open, her and Etain’s eyes lighting up.

    One the other side laid what seemed to be the bedroom, having a few straw stuffed beds and a nightstand, but also something of far more interest to the two:

    A wall safe some distance above their heads, potentially packed with wealth.

    They were on it in an instant; Etain went back into the dining hall, brought back a small folding table, and pushed it in front of the safe for Sylvia to stand on while she worked at opening their prize. It was securely locked, but not secure against a barrage of Night Slash attacks, and inside was a rather large wooden chest—also locked, but Sylvia lifted it down to the floor where Etain deftly opened it with a lock pick she kept in her satchel. With bated breaths the two gazed onto the chest as Sylvia popped it open.

    The lights in their eyes flicked off when they saw the contents.

    Sylvia groaned loudly as Etain slammed her tail against the floor in irritation. "What an awful mix of good and bad luck--we risk our necks to take out a dangerous drone and it turns out the place was owned by some technophile... pokéballs, technical machines, portable computers, old human CDs. It’s all valuable except we're in Caerma Republic territory! This stuff's all on the human relic restricted trade list. We can't sell any of it, only turn it over to Republic Security for a fraction of what we’d get on the market as a finder's fee!" Sylvia slammed the lid shut in disgust and the two sighed in unison, followed by a long and awkward silence as they listened to the wind outside.

    "Why not go north now?" Sylvia finally asked. "Work out of the Johrock Association office for a few years. There’s no Republic north of Johland, and no restrictions on human relics. I hear there’s still treasure in the ruins of that big human city, and there’s plenty of well-paying work to help keep the roads safe from bandits and hostile wild Pokémon. We'd make three times the money up there. We could check the abandoned mines—rare gems and stones are there, I’ve found some myself in the past. We could even watch some matches in the Johrock arena while we're up north!" she said with sudden excitement. "It's an amazing sight! Intense, no-holds-barred battles you won't see anywhere else in the Republic, or even on Valour Island!”

    She sighed wistfully as memories floated through her mind. Back when she was a competitive battler (there was much overlap between that career and adventuring, in fact) she had always wanted to enter Johrock’s Grand Royal—a viciously competitive triple battle tournament with fifteen fighters to a team--but ultimately had to settle for entering the open melee one year. Out of a hundred entrants she had been thirteenth place after she'd been a little too slow dodging a Steelix's Iron Tail and found herself knocked clean out of the arena. Good times.

    "Three times the money at ten times the danger, you mean," Etain said, her ears twitching. "There’s a reason the Clans and the Free Cities pay so much, and the wild Pokémon up there can be frightening."

    Sylvia shrugged it off. She hoped the disappointment of today's expedition may have softened her partner on the idea. No such luck.

    She had another proposal, however, and with a conspiratorial grin followed up in a quiet, almost whispering tone.

    "Frankly, I don't see any good reasons not to take this stuff straight out of the Republic to Lodestrom City or Silverport. Nobody'll ever know it came from here and not the northern ruins. I imagine we could get about a hundred thousand Poké each."

    Etain hesitated--on one hand she had sworn when she joined the Adventurer's Association not to break local laws.

    On the other hand it would be such a small violation, for a victimless crime, against a stupid law. She’d love to take some time off adventuring and focus on her magic act, too…

    Sylvia saw her wavering and kneeled down, placing a gentle claw on Etain's shoulder and gazing into her eyes.

    “You always say when you retire you wanted to own your own club, right? That won’t happen if you don’t scrape up every coin you can,” she said gently.

    Etain found her tail starting to wag rapidly; she forced it to stop.

    What to do, what to do…

    "…I can’t," the mouse squeaked softly after what felt to her like an eternity.

    The Weavile sighed and stood up. "Fine. We'll drop the case off at the Association office and get our pats on the head,” she grumbled. Etain looked down to the floor.

    “Syl, even if I can’t that doesn’t mean you ….”

    “Forget it. I won’t ask you to risk covering up for me if you aren’t getting a slice of the pie—you’d be in just as deep if the supervisor found out. In any case, time to gather up everything we want and divide the spoils, such as they are.”

    *

    In the end the two had agreed to bring everything they were interested in keeping to the main foyer. It took some time to carry everything there, especially with a few items they took some time to make a decision over, and noon was growing close by the end, though neither paid it much heed.

    Sylvia regarded the pile with disdain. "That could have gone better. Some money and valuables, but it’s not exactly the Lost Treasure of Goldenrod City here. Some of these portraits might be worth something to a gallery, but it’s too much of a pain for me to carry them around looking for a buyer. A small finder's fee for that tech, too, but not much compared to what it could have been worth," Sylvia fumed, growling a lengthy series of curses aimed at the building, the Republic, and the world in general. “If only you started a few years earlier, Etain. Before those pompous busybodies on the Republic Council decided to institute “no fun allowed” rules for half the continent,” she said regretfully.

    Etain, however, was not paying full attention; she was looking at the small pile of human discs they had put in the small jewelry chest they’d found earlier, slowly turning an idea around. She made up her mind then picked up one of the discs and inserted it into her Pokégear, quickly tapping a few buttons to begin downloading a copy of the disc’s files.

    The Weavile laughed. "You little devil. It’s the discs covered by the relic ban, not the data itself. You sure you don't have a dark-type somewhere in the family tree?"

    "Well...maybe I'm slightly annoyed right now," Etain admitted with a grin.

    "Heh, just as you say," Sylvia said, "Right now anything that would annoy the Republic is good with me."

    The two focused by silent agreement on the discs now, discussing possibilities about what may be on them while Etain painstakingly downloaded each one to her Pokégear. It took some time to finish, and by the end Sylvia had lied down on the floor, idly picking at the bag of coins and sizing up the paintings to figure out if any would look nice in her home.

    As Etain went through the files what she found actually surpassed her expectations.

    Many of the discs seemed to be text of varying types—stories, scientific journals, essays on various topics—but there were also a few recordings of human films and television shows—whomever had lived here seemed to find humans fascinating.

    More interesting by far, however; were the discs containing blueprints and specs for human technology. A few were for devices for which she was not aware of any current equivalent of, though she wasn’t always sure why some had been created—something called a “versus seeker”, for example, designed to play a loud beep, intended to allow Pokémon trainers to ask others if they were interested in battling.

    Why not just ask in person?

    Still, Bress, Red Leaf’s Master Inventor and Engineer (he insisted on the full title), would be very interested in these--everyone knew he was obsessed with human technology.

    Then she found something that was especially interesting.

    “Sylvia, this disc…it says it’s the blueprints and instructions for a device used to emulate Pokémon moves.”

    “Like how an Escape Orb uses Teleport? Which moves does it have?”

    Etain continued reading as her tail started wagging, "A big list. A few I’ve never even heard of…what’s ‘Techno Blast’ do?”

    Sylvia shook her head. She’d never heard of such a move, either.

    Etain’s tail moved faster. “I think…no, no, I know I want this for myself! I want this disc as part of my share of the prize, okay? I’ll ask Bress if he could make me one if he has the specs.”

    Sylvia smiled. "Ah, Etain, skirting around Republic laws twice in one day? You're growing dangerously close to being cool."

    "Well, I bet this would really help my magic act, huh? The ability to emulate any special move..."

    Sylvia chuckled. “You find a powerful weapon like this and your first thought is to use it for your shows?”

    “Truthfully…” the mouse hesitated, her tail coming to a stop. “I’m thinking about going into entertainment full time,” she had to force the words out, flinching instinctively as she finished.

    Sylvia jumped up with a start. “Geez Etain, this was a bit of a disappointing run, I know. But we can always go north, like I said.”

    “It’s not just that, Syl,” the mouse sighed. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I just don’t enjoy this anymore. My tail still aches sometimes ever since that Houndoom bite, I’ve grown so twitchy I have trouble relaxing even in a comfy rented bed, and I’m tired of everyone from south of Starry Town treating me like I’m dangerous.”

    Well, you are a battle-hardened Pokémon with advanced moves who could KO most of those soft city folk with one blow, Sylvia thought.

    “But that’s how it works now, right?” Etain muttered. “The only adventurer anyone outside the business talks about is Stavik, and they don’t talk about him for the right reasons.”

    Sylvia flexed her claws at that name; many people living closer to Everlight city didn't like adventurers. They enjoyed reading adventure stories or seeing movies or theatre performances about adventurers, but were more averse to real ones. Many considered that term a polite euphemism, really, with "vigilantes", "mercenaries", “troublemakers”, or worst of all "grave robbers" being closer to the point. It was much more respected further north, in areas only recently part of the Republic (as well as those isolated hold out towns, and the independent territories north of the Glittering Mountains), but a violent thug like Stavik was not helping their reputation anywhere these days. He wasn’t even a member of the Association, but he was still making all Adventurers look bad.

    “But I was thinking…” Etain continued, “Well, maybe I’ll never own my own club, but I can still be an entertainer. And if I incorporate this move-copier into my act I bet I could be a really good one, too!”

    “I understand what you’re getting at,” Sylvia said softly. “Well, I’ll miss you as a partner if you decide to go through with this, but I really think you should at least sleep on the decision. A few years without practice can make it hard to come back to this, you know, and if going full time as a magician doesn’t pan out you could be in trouble.”

    “Yeah, I’m not doing this lightly. If nothing else I need to get Bress’ estimate on this device,” Etain said, though if she were being honest with herself her mind was made up—her memory of the claps of the audience after her show last weekend in the Claw and Coffee Café on the road south out of Red Leaf was contrasting with three days ago when a stranger she’d been speaking to quite cordially in the local diner began to sweat nervously and made excuses to leave when he saw her Adventurer’s Association identification card while she was paying for her meal.

    “In either case it’s high time we teleport back home,” Sylvia declared. With a nod Etain joined her in packing everything they were taking with them into their two large backpacks. After hesitating a moment, Sylvia also took the Gyarados painting, securing it under her right arm. With a nod, Etain reached into her satchel and removed their ticket home—an Escape Orb.

    Making sure everything they wanted to take with them was close enough to be affected by the Orb, Etain pressed the activation button, releasing a Teleport move as the sphere shattered to pieces and white light flashed around them.
     
    Last edited:
    Chapter 2
  • Daren

    Surprisingly well rehearsed
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    I’d like to thank my readers! I know that the first part of Pokémon Magic Act was mostly setting the stage. The first part of Everlight Stories should prove more immediately exciting, however.
    I thought it would be shorter than the previous chapter, which is a testament to the naïve folly of man; it is more than a thousand words longer.


    ****************************
    Everlight Stories, Part 1
    Mid October, 317AC


    When anyone in the Caerma Republic said “The City” they were referring to Everlight. Compared to it nothing else deserved the title; it was the largest city on Occeris, and almost certainly the whole world—it could swallow the next three largest Occerian cities all at once and not be quite filled. It was the city of technology, the city of culture, the city of wealth, the city of the future.

    Tybalt the Meowstic had lived in Everlight most of his life. The younger of two children from a family living in the residential suburbs along the northern side of the city, he saw Everlight as nothing less than a glowing beacon of the future.

    He was a private detective, though he took jobs in other security or protection based fields when they came up, which was not often--he suspected largely due to few people having faith that a detective whose species is generally agreed to fall on the “cute” side of the scale would prove especially tough. A Meowstic following a paper trail to check to figure out which warehouse your parcel was sent to by accident was one thing, but tracking down dangerous robbers is evidently another.

    One fateful Friday afternoon, Tybalt was sitting at his desk in his office (he never got tired of being able to refer to his office—complete with his name on a plaque, and his certificate from Madoc University’s Investigations And Forensics class hung on the wall), filling out paperwork for the records regarding his last job; he had just returned from finding his overjoyed client’s missing house key which had not been stolen by a local criminal gang as part of a nefarious plot as the client feared but was, in fact, lying forgotten in a potted plant in said client’s home after they had stumbled home last night after too much drinking.

    To celebrate his most interesting case in a month—and, if he was lucky, to forget the fact it was his most interesting case in a month--he was planning to spend tonight at as many clubs, parlors, and theaters as he could, then spend the next afternoon watching low-budget romantic dramas on television while eating junk food with the phone disconnected and the blinds closed. He had been reading Everlight at Night (a weekly magazine covering entertainment in Everlight and surrounding areas) just this morning to find the best (and worst) performances in the city to see on his budget.

    Still, plans don’t always come to fruition, and it was perhaps just before 2 PM as he was putting the file away that his intercom turned on.

    “Tybalt?” squeaked his Dedenne secretary, Deirdre. “Morgan’s here to see you.”

    “Show him right in,” Tybalt said, sighing after he turned the device off. Morgan was a very old friend of his—more than a friend at one time. They had gone to both school and university together, but while Tybalt had set up on his own Morgan was now a Lieutenant in Republic Security, a favorite of the current Chief, and vastly more respected than his old friend.

    If Morgan wanted to see him at the office it meant he wanted to hire him—not an uncommon occurrence. Tybalt suspected it was a kindness--there were many other freelance investigators and security specialists in the city. He was grateful for any work he could get, but today he viewed this with incertitude since he was looking forward to his planned night of hedonistic revelry. He’d have to hear things out and decide what to do.

    A moment later a Cinderace walked into the office, one arm on his hip and wearing a bright white sash emblazoned with the Republic Security Insignia (intertwined red, blue, and green lines wrapped about a representation of the Republic Council Hall, set on a white backdrop) and his Officer’s ID card attached clipped to it.

    “Afternoon, Ty.”

    “Afternoon, Morgan,” Tybalt replied, leaning back in his chair. “Drink? I do have some that are actually appealing locked in the bottom cabinet where the clients can’t see them.”

    Tybalt stocked his office cabinet—at least the shelves visible through the glass--with bottle upon bottle of Aguav juice (half of them empty), displayed prominently behind his desk. Aguav juice was commonly associated with grim Pokémon due to its infamously bitter taste. He hoped it would give an impression of being a grizzled, hard bitten detective.

    “That’s fine, Ty.”

    “So what’s up this time? Is this a Security job or something personnel?”

    Morgan smiled as he sat down on one of the varying sized chairs on the other end of Tybalt’s desk.

    “I’m hiring you, but it’s for Security. I’m sure you can guess a number of the Competitive Battling franchises like to play loose with the restriction on trading human-made Technical Records and Machines—much faster than training normally, you know. An informant we’ve got in one of ‘em—can’t tell you which, of course—says a small boat is carrying a pack of illegal technical records in tonight. Carrock and I are going to intercept them, but I want a little more backup than the Chief can give, just in case. You think you can do an old friend a favor at midnight? I know you prefer the type of job that requires a bit more finesse and deduction, but I figured I’d see if you’re up for it before I went elsewhere. I’ll pay your rate, of course.”

    Tybalt tapped his desk, thinking about the request. "Are you expecting a fight?”

    Morgan shrugged. “According to our contact, this is opportunistic traders, not hardened criminals, but if they get desperate it might turn ugly. That’s why I asked you to come—three looks better than two, doesn’t it?”

    Somehow I don’t think a Meowstic adds much intimidation next to a Cinderace and a Skarmory, Tybalt thought. “Still, why do you need me? Can’t you pick up another Security officer?”

    "This was on short notice," Morgan said. “Really short notice. Tip came in two hours ago. Not a lotta’ Security officers work that hour, and most of the ones who do have patrols or office work to do.”

    Tybalt shifted his weight to the right arm of his chair, resting his cheek against his paw. Why scramble so fast for something like this? Security isn’t exactly energetic about enforcing the human tech ban. This is part of something bigger. What he actually said was, “I thought Everlight’s Security branch would have some officers in reserve for sudden situations like this.”

    "Those guys are on call for more severe issues, especially with a lot of us still up north trying to get a proper Security force trained and ready in the new territories, and of course the Council won't approve emergency funds to pay overtime for something like this."

    He pointedly didn't elaborate on why, though anyone paying attention could guess—it was related to the Human Artifact Trading Ban, officially Republic Bill 316-87, which Morgan had once confided to Tybalt in private was unofficially known in Security as HIC, or “Herwick’s idiotic crusade”, named after the councilor who had initially proposed it.

    The Human Artifact Trading Ban was just over a year old and very controversial; there had been protests only three months ago after an elderly Ninetales' Pokéball (kept as a memento of their trainer) had been confiscated.

    Local elections across the Republic were being held next year, and the ban was shaping up to be a decisive issue; it had some support in Everlight and the surrounding core towns of the Republic, but was widely despised in the frontier to the north and members of the adversely affected Adventurer’s Association were commonly believed to consider it a single issue election.

    Pro-ban councilors in many regions were now trying to distance themselves from the law, and anti-ban councilors would refuse on general principle, so there was no chance of council agreeing to allow Security to use emergency funding to enforce the ban.

    That meant Morgan was dipping into his own pocket for this, despite being a critic of the law. He must really be chasing that promotion to captain. I suppose I owe him at least this much. Tybalt straightened up in his seat.

    “Well, standard rate’s a bit high just to show up at the dock, isn’t it? You agree to buy lunch this weekend instead and we’ll call it even, right?”

    “Thanks, Ty. I do appreciate it,” Morgan said with a smile as he stood up.

    “It’s fine.”

    “Well, I gotta let the Chief know. See ya tonight at dock 6, okay? That’s the only one that isn’t locked tonight. We’ll meet up at the Security lookout tower there,” Morgan said.

    As soon as he was gone Tybalt leaned back again and sighed. I suppose a Saturday night of hedonistic revelry is almost as good, and I could still catch those shows I wanted to see tomorrow. Flicking the intercom on he told Deirdre to let the others know he was heading home early to rest for a late night case.

    He left, exchanging brief nods with Deirdre on his way through. Tancred (a Vigoroth) and Jacob (a Heatmor) were out on another case at the moment—a fairly simple bread and butter job of investigating an employee under suspicion of misappropriating funds.

    His little agency operated out of a small rented space on the bottom floor of one of those steel and glass skyscrapers that dot certain parts of downtown Everlight, located in the Pearl district (not, despite the name, one of the nicest parts of Everlight). He darted out into the crowded streets, making his way to the second road away from the building—every road in Everlight had multiple lanes for different sized Pokémon. Fortunately, his home was not far away, and he arrived before long.

    The apartment he lived in was nothing special—room 306 of a concrete ten floor structure. He went through his mailbox on the way into the entry hall (his nephew’s psychic powers still had not developed, according to a concerning letter from his sister), making his way up two flights of stairs past the bland and undecorated walls until he reached his room, nodded to his Rhyhorn neighbor who was nudging their own door shut with a lever built into it as Tybalt dug the keys out of his satchel and unlocked the door into his tiny apartment, which just had a single living room/kitchen/bedroom hybrid and a washroom.

    Walking in he closed the door, shut the blinds, made a quick mid-day snack (nothing fancy, just some leftovers from the previous night and a glass of water), and turned the television on before planting himself on the couch, where he proceeded to watch an hour-long comedy skit show before making his way to his straw bed and curling up to sleep.

    *

    When Tybalt awoke it was ten hours past noon. With a yawn and a quick stretch he threw on a black dyed wool coat—it was cold at night this time of year--and left.

    The streets were quiet at this hour—nocturnal Pokémon mostly lived in the Night district to avoid disturbing their neighbors and vice versa. Of course the entertainment district of Everlight never slept with its numerous clubs, theaters, all-night restaurants, and more, all highlighted by glowing signs covering the streets, but Tybalt was heading in the opposite direction tonight—the docks were to the east and south of his Pearl District home, and the entertainment district was to the west.

    The streets being mostly empty meant he made good time, and before long he crossed from the skyscrapers and towers of Pearl District into the realm of wide, squat buildings known as the Dock district

    The alleys of the district were a maze of warehouses, shipping containers, and smaller offices. It was easy for an unfamiliar visitor to get lost, and best to follow a road straight down to the docks if you needed to catch a ship or ferry ride. The docks themselves were adequately brightened by street lights, at least. Tybalt knew his way around, however, and could cut out a lot of time going through the alleys, occasionally hopping fences.

    He was hurrying through one alley formed by the intersection of four buildings when he thought he heard something from one of the side routes ahead, and came to a stop as he felt his fur stand on ends. It could be harmless…

    Closing his eyes, he focused his psychic powers and quickly used Reflect and then Light Screen, forming a pair of invisible but sturdy shields of psychic energy around himself, while putting his paw in his satchel and carefully activating the sound recorder on his Pokégear. Only a few seconds later two large Pokémon with unfriendly smiles emerged from around the corner ahead, cutting him off.

    They were a Drapion and a Gliscor, and he recognized them immediately as a pair of toughs he had prior encounters with.

    “Good evening, Nick,” he said to the Drapion. “Good evening, Rick,” he said, turning his head and nodding to the Gliscor. “It’s a wonderfully chilly night for a stroll, hmm?”

    “Oh, it certainly is!” Rick agreed.

    “A lovely night,” Nick nodded.

    “Well, it’s nice seeing you both, gentlemen, but I have business elsewhere,” Tybalt said politely. They did not step aside.

    “Oh, this won’t take long,” Nick said innocently.

    “Not at all,” Rick agreed. “We are very disappointed by your recent actions, you know.”

    “It wasn’t nice to get one of our good friends fired from the Competitive Battling League just because he received a nice present, you know,” Nick chided.

    “How fortunate we saw you outside tonight so we can discuss the issue alone. Like gentleman,” Rick added, as he and his older brother took a step forward.

    “See, when the manager of the Soaring Heights arena wants to me to investigate rumors of fight fixing and then I find out that a Silver-rank who recently lost to a barely-known but promising newcomer is receiving regular presents from a local bookie, reporting that’s part of the job,” Tybalt explained patiently.

    “Perhaps, but you were asked very politely to keep it quiet, remember,” Rick replied, equally patient.

    “Then you come out alone at night in our part of the city! Cute little Pokémon like you should stay in after dark, or they’re liable to get stepped on by accident,” Nick advised amiably.

    Don’t call me cute, Tybalt thought fiercely. “Why, I’m sure you two are just full of fine ideas,” he said with venomous sweetness. “Now out of my way, hmm?”

    Nick waved a claw chidingly. “Ah, detective, I think you don’t quite understand…”

    The Drapion was caught off guard by what happened next, as the cat suddenly jumped back and reached out with both arms—electricity gathered around his paws, quickly growing in size and intensity before surging forward in a powerful bolt that hit the towering scorpion head-on, causing Nick to roar and stumble back. Rick reacted immediately, launching himself forward like a torpedo and drawing a claw back for a Night Slash.

    Tybalt had leapt back as he attacked to give himself time to react when Rick attacked, and he made use of this now, managing to drop to the ground, rolling under the swing and rising quickly to his feet to unfurl his ears and launch a powerful Psychic attack. The Gliscor flailed and yelled as he was tossed into the air and rammed hard against the brick wall of the nearest building, sliding back to the ground with a moan.

    Nick had recovered now, and Tybalt barely had time to turn and face him as the Drapion fired a series of needle barrages from its claws. Tybalt yelped in pain as several hit, but his Reflect shielded him against the blows. With an adrenaline fueled burst of speed he managed to jump aside to dodge the third set of needles and unleash another Thunderbolt—this time Nick fully collapsed with a pained yell as Tybalt turned to check Rick, who was starting to rise.

    “Care to surrender?” Tybalt offered kindly.

    Rick’s response was to leap up and at the cat with a bestial roar. Psychic was difficult to use on an opponent moving at such speed in an uneven way, and Tybalt leapt to the side instead, only narrowly avoiding the Acrobatics attack as Rick slammed into the ground half a second after he had cleared the landing away.

    Now his target was stationary again. Tybalt unleashed another Psychic; once again the gargoyle slammed against the wall, once again he slid back down, but this time he did not stand again—Rick’s fighting power was drained and he remained leaned against the wall, groggy. Nick was equally out of strength nearby.

    Glancing at the defeated pair, Tybalt shook his head and removed his Pokégear from his satchel to call Security, nursing his sore chest with his spare paw. He’d better eat an Oran berry—it’s a good thing he always kept some spare recovery berries in his satchel. That would dull the pain and keep him going for a while.

    *

    After that unpleasantness it did not take long to find the lookout, a tall stone watch tower along the shoreline overlooking the docks. Intended as a way to get a better view of the district, it was accessible by an interior stairway spiraling along the wall.

    Climbing it, Tybalt found the top was sparse—a set of the chairs in all the standardized sizes and nothing else but the guard railings and the view.

    A gust of wind crossed the area and he pulled his coat tighter. Pokémon wearing too much clothing—anything more than accessories--were sometimes teased, but he was very grateful for his coat on days like this; all autumn nights in Everlight were cold—Occeris was a northern continent, after all—but Tybalt felt this was among the colder ones this year.

    A second later he heard footsteps and turned to Morgan coming up the stairs, wearing a radio headset and an Assault Vest. He wordlessly handed a bag to Tybalt.

    Tybalt already knew what was inside: a radio headset for himself and a light blue sash with the Security emblem and a card identifying him as temporarily acting with limited Republic Security authority—there were other colors as well, each with a different meaning. He put both on, carefully adjusting the set until it was on properly—not a perfect fit for him, but close enough.

    “Picked up on the radio you had a little encounter on the way. You okay?” Morgan asked with some concern in his voice.

    “Not hurt badly,” Tybalt replied casually.

    Morgan shook his head. “You need to stop working alone, Ty. Start going out in a three Pokémon team with Jacob and Tancred, or hire someone else.”

    “I’m fine, Morgan. I can’t afford another assistant at the moment, and a three person team is inefficient.”

    “Look, you have enemies after some of the jobs you’ve done for me, and some are a lot more dangerous than those bruisers Nick and Rick. If you start getting those exciting cases you want it’ll only get worse. You might even tick off Orodress one of these days and…”

    “Is Carrock here yet?” Tybalt interrupted.

    “He’s in the air on lookout. He’ll probably see them well before we do. Skarmory see pretty well in the dark, I think. But you’re trying to change the subject.”

    “I appreciate you’re still worried about me, Morgan, but my office is hanging on by a string already.”

    “Ty, I get that, but I don’t want you to get hurt one of…”

    “I see a small trader vessel coming,” rasped a voice over the radio. As Morgan guessed, Carrock had spotted it first. “It’s approaching from the north, quite close to the coastline, towing a small barge. I cannot confirm where it intends to dock or the crew size.”

    Morgan sighed in a way suggesting this conversation was not over. “Shall we?” he asked, gesturing to the stairway down.

    Tybalt nodded. “We shall."

    The two made it to the dock well ahead of the suspects and hid in the office overlooking dock 6. Morgan kneeled down to expose as little of himself to outside view as possible while peeking out the window. Tybalt stood atop a desk table by the window, hiding behind the wall and leaning over to watch.

    The boat was a standard type of trader’s vessel, electric powered, tugging a barge big enough to carry a few crates but small enough a one or two Pokémon boat could pull it—intended for fairly short coastal hops, not ocean routes, as it would be in serious trouble if caught in a storm.

    Tybalt spotted three crew members—a Panpour, a Timburr, and a Chespin--and four crates in the barge.

    They waited. The crew tied the boat to a dock post and the Timburr began unloading the crates one at a time. Before long a short-furred temperate Meowth emerged from the alley between a warehouse and a customs building, and began speaking to the others from the shore in what seemed to be a quite friendly manner.

    Morgan and Tybalt nodded to each other.

    “Now,” the Cinderace whispered into the radio, and then dashed out with Tybalt right behind.

    “This is a Republic Security search! Stand still!” Morgan yelled, as Carrock swooped down and landed hard on the docks. The three by the boat froze up, but the Meowth apparently got these instruction confused in his mind and did the opposite, choosing to run from the dock and flee north along the shore instead. Tybalt gave chase.

    The Meowth was fast and managed to stay ahead for a while. His mistake was when he turned left and tried to make it into an alley; Tybalt was able to catch him by using Psychic to shift a dumpster on the street over to block off the escape. As Tybalt closed in on him the smaller cat pressed his back against a nearby wall while gasping for breath. Now that Tybalt was closer he got a better look at the normal type—the Meowth was immaculately groomed, it seemed.

    “Maybe you’re new in town, but when you’re told ‘This is a Republic Security search! Stand still!’ you’re not supposed to go for your midnight jog,” Tybalt said helpfully.

    “It’s too dark to see the sashes! I thought the boat was being robbed!” the Meowth objected between gasps. Tybalt wasn’t sure he believed him, but figured it would be best to play along for now.

    “Fair enough. What’s your relation with the three down at the dock?”

    The Meowth seemed to be calmer now. “Well, my friends and I are traders. Cherri—the Chespin—she has a small boat. We figured we’d sail some handiworks down from the northern clans—they fetch a nice price in Everlight; most of the stuff here is all mass-produced and lacks that touch of personal attention, you know? I came ahead of time to make sure we had some buyers lined up before we went to all the effort and expenses.”

    “Republic Security received word of illicit cargo coming to this dock tonight,” Tybalt said.

    The Meowth seemed surprised. “Is that so? Weird coincidence, huh?”

    Then Morgan’s voice came over the radio. “Ty? The containers are full of boxes of wooden and stone carvings, necklaces, toys, and some other hand-made works."

    "I assume you already searched under the cases?" Tybalt asked.

    "We ain't amateurs, Ty."

    The Meowth smiled quite amiably. "See? This is just a late night delivery. No hard feelings, right?" he said, offering Tybalt a paw shake.

    Tybalt looked down and tapped his forehead rhythmically. Where would I hide them? Just putting them in the crates is fine if you’re not expecting to be stopped, but they were more careful than that. If the crates are getting checked any satchels, packs, or pockets will be checked too so only idiots would hide them there. Did they hide them somewhere on the boat? Not too much hiding space in these models. Did whoever tipped off Security just make a mistake? Did we get the wrong boat? Did the traders get warned somehow and switch plans at the last minute? There’s nowhere to hide them except…

    “How full are the crates?” he asked abruptly.

    “Not very,” Morgan replied curiously, “They say they’re independent traders sharing a boat.”

    That checked out with what the Meowth said, and would be a good reason for them not to fill the crates, since it would allow each one to keep their stock separate.

    It would also make the crates lighter, just in case they were not being supported as well…

    “Pry up the bottom of the containers, Morgan. I'd bet my right ear if you measured the container outside then the storage space inside you'd find the bottom seems awful thick."

    He knew instantly he was right; the Meowth's eyes widened, his mouth began to quiver, and the color seemed to drain from him before Tybalt's eyes.

    "Good guess, Ty," Morgan said a moment later over the radio. "The crates had partially hollowed out bottoms. Technical Records with no licensing code--clever, they're nice and flat and easy to hide down there. That's just the first container, mind you."

    The Meowth seemed to recover at that point; his smile returned, though it was no longer a sunny and bright one but that of sly amusement. "All right, fair play, you got me,” he chuckled, removing a checkbook from his side pouch. “What’s the fine for that down here?”

    Experienced with smuggling, it seems. Unfortunately for him this isn’t quite the same thing. "Put that away. You’re under arrest,” Tybalt said as he grabbed the startled Meowth by the wrist and started to lead him back towards dock 6.

    The normal type seemed stunned. “What?” he yelped, face frozen in shock. “Is this a joke? Smuggling’s a fine. It’s always been a fine.”

    “Sorry. The human tech trading ban is a separate offence,” Tybalt said, somewhat sympathetic. It must have seemed like the rules suddenly changed.

    Then the Meowth went off like summer festival fireworks.

    “Damnit, why are you troubling us when there’s dangerous criminals out there?!” the Meowth yelled. “Is Security behind on its arrest quota or something?! This is ridiculous!”

    “Calm down, would you? I didn’t make the law. I’m not even with Security, I’m a private contractor,” Tybalt said.

    Oh, I’m sorry! You only work part-time as an enforcer for a bunch of micromanaging control freaks! Things were just fine before the Republic started absorbing everything south of the mountains!”

    Tybalt sighed. He felt sure he was going to have a headache by the time they reached the district’s Security station.

    It got worse; as they got closer to the dock the Meowth suddenly wrenched his arm free with a burst of unexpected strength and wrapped both of his arms (and his tail) around the nearest street light..

    Tybalt buried his face in his paw and emitted a long-suffering groan, then grabbed the Meowth around the waist and tried to pry him off.

    Thus began the opposite of an earthshaking clash between titans; a test of strength between two cats each less than a meter tall. Tybalt was larger than the Meowth, but physical strength was not his forte, and although he believed he was still stronger than his adversary, it was not by enough to break the scratch cat’s grip, and so it ultimately became an embarrassingly long match as Tybalt struggled to pull the Meowth away from the post, insisting between grit teeth that they stop resisting while the Meowth firmly rejected this request and yelled numerous curses no doubt learned in various locales during his career as a trader.

    “Come on, this is stupid. We won’t let you go if you cling to that thing long enough,” Tybalt protested between grunts of exertion, his voice starting to crack from frustration—he generally deepened it in an attempt to be taken more seriously, but it was rapidly returning to its much higher natural tone as the psychic type’s concentration broke. Finally he released the Meowth and backed off to consider his options.

    “Let go of that thing, for heaven’s sake,” he pleaded, his voice fully returned to its natural, soft tone.

    He could break the stalemate with Psychic, but that struck him as unnecessarily rough, and it could cause problems for him and Morgan--he had no idea how strong the Meowth was and if a non-violent suspect was badly hurt he’d be in deeper trouble than a Parasect who went skydiving above a volcano. So he called Morgan over the radio; let the person with full authority of Republic Security work this out.

    Then he glared at the Meowth, who glared back. Negotiations continued while he waited but with little headway—the Meowth seemed to be approaching it from the angle he could somehow get out of arrest if he came up with a cutting enough insult for the Republic, the Council, or Security, perhaps having misread a particular law at some point, and it was with great relief to Tybalt when he heard Morgan approaching.

    "Carrock got the others cuffed to his harness and is leading ‘em off together. Having trouble with this tiny fella?" the lieutenant asked, clearly stifling a chuckle.

    "I can’t get him off there without hurting him," Tybalt said, realizing part-way through the sentence that he’d allowed his natural voice to return and fixing it right on time for the word “him”. He suddenly seemed to find an old flyer lying on the ground fascinating, and looked down to examine it and coincidentally hiding a blush of embarrassment. With a shake of his head Morgan walked past him towards the street light. The Meowth flinched nervously as the much larger Pokémon approached and tightened his grip while circling around to put the post between him and the fire-type, but the Cinderace simply knelt down and looked him in the eyes.

    "Listen here, little guy," Morgan said gently, "This act's not gonna help you at all. I’m a lot stronger than Ty here so good luck keeping your grip on that thing, and if I absolutely need to I can and will lift you up and carry you the whole way like a misbehaving child. The more trouble you give us now the worse it's gonna look later, okay?"

    The Meowth didn't say anything, but looked down at the ground glumly and released the post before he nodded halfheartedly, and put up no resistance when Morgan locked them together with a set of long chained handcuffs.

    *

    The walk to the dock district’s Security station was uneventful; the Meowth remained silent, staring at the ground most of the time and occasionally shooting up a glance at the buildings around them. The station itself was just like every one of its kind—one floor, large, and square shaped.

    Carrock was already inside when they arrived, standing off to the side speaking to a Hypno officer who was taking notes for him. An Illumise desk officer told them the station Captain would want to speak to Morgan for more details on the arrest, and then took the Meowth into a hall leading to the cells. Carrock seemed to finish up, as he nodded to Morgan and walked over to join him and Tybalt.

    “I didn’t have any trouble on the way, but the Meowth seemed to drag you two out for a while. Any hint on why?” Carrock asked.

    “According to his ID he’s from a small village called Cauli, up near Johland. It joined the Republic eight years ago,” Morgan said.

    “Judging by what he shouted it wasn’t a decision he’s happy with,” Tybalt mused.

    “Ah, the others were all from the Republic core. That could be it,” Carrock said.

    Soon after the station captain—a dour looking Noctowl—emerged from a hallway. He spoke to Morgan and Carrock for a while, all boring procedural questions and answers Tybalt paid little attention to until he overheard one thing at the end.

    “Tell the Magistrate there was no trouble, Captain. They all came nice and easy,” Morgan said. Tybalt managed—with great effort—to restrain from a twitch, a sideward glance, or any physical reaction except a barely noticeable flick of his tails easily dismissed by any onlooker as a random movement.

    Carrock did not react, of course; the metallic bird had always been competent but… unenthusiastic. He’d see no reason to contradict Morgan.

    The captain dismissed them, Morgan saluted, Carrock bowed as best he could, and the three left, Tybalt and Morgan exchanging glances as they exited. Carrock, perhaps sensing the tension, flew off as soon as he had space, muttering a quick goodbye.

    “Morgan…”

    “You’re coming with me and staying at my place tonight,” Morgan interrupted in a tone that would not brook refusal. “I ain’t letting you walk all the way back to your place at this hour, especially while you’re hurt.”

    Tybalt just nodded and followed him--he was not going to refuse.

    Besides, they had to talk.

    It wasn’t long before the two arrived at Morgan’s small house in the Red district—a wholly residential area that still consisted of smaller houses and gardens instead of the titanic buildings in the inner part of the city--and made their way up the walkway and inside. It was a standard brick built “Pokémon” style home—one large central room branching out to several smaller ones, with only one floor.

    Tybalt had been here many times before, and it was always the same; everything was neat and tidy, and the room had a television and couch, a small table, and a quarter-full bookshelf off at a side.

    Morgan set off to get a medical kit while Tybalt removed his coat and sat down on the couch to examine where the Pin Missiles had struck. Just some scraping, I think. Nothing serious, he noted.

    Morgan arrived right after with the medical kit. Cleaning, disinfecting (Tybalt was almost able to hold in his pained squeak as it was applied), and wrapping the injury did not take long, though Morgan’s continued lecture on Tybalt needing to look after himself was only partly appreciated, as Tybalt insisted (in his regular voice--he had known Morgan before inventing his "business" tone) he would be fine.

    Then they sat together on the couch, Morgan idly turning the television on to the late night news. They were silent for some time as the popular Midrevious anchor Raea discussed an upcoming concert in the Market district, a recent theft from the museum in the Soaring Heights district, and an upcoming debate between two political experts on the ramification of a recent tax code change on next year’s election. Neither spoke at all for some time.

    “So what was that back at the station?” Tybalt finally asked.

    Morgan turned the television off. "That was reporting an arrest for breaking the human artifact trading ban, of course.”

    “You know what I mean. He earned resisting arrest charges and you act like he turned himself in, paws wringing in anxious guilt," Tybalt replied, questioning but not accusatory.

    "What a surprise! Some trader caught by Security over a law pushed through just over a year ago thought it carried the same penalty as pretty much the same crime and panicked when he found out otherwise? Scandalous! Ty, whatever some of the prisses on the Council think I see no reason to flatten the little guy over something this. If the Council doesn’t like it? Screw ‘em, they can strip me of my sash. The Chief agrees with me."

    "I get what you’re saying, but there’s a certain danger to Security officers tilting things in the direction they prefer," Tybalt said. “Regardless of how little you care for the human artifact…wait,” he glanced up suspiciously. “Morgan, did you volunteer for this mission so you could give a nice report to the captain and get them off easy?” And you brought me because you know I wouldn’t say anything.

    Morgan just smiled at him.

    This was just why they’d broken up.

    Still, he was in no mood for round fourteen of this argument; he rose, the two exchanged brief goodnight wishes, and he retired to one of the two spare bedrooms Morgan had—the first time, he reflected, that he had stayed over at Morgan’s and used one of them.

    The bedroom was nice enough—nicer than the one he had at home, to be frank, having a feather bed with warm Wooloo wool blankets, and Tybalt had barely pulled the cover over his body before he fell asleep.
     
    Last edited:
    Chapter 3
  • Daren

    Surprisingly well rehearsed
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    Pokémon Magic Act, Part 2


    Early July, 318AC


    Teleportation was always a little disconcerting, but Etain and Sylvia had experienced the sensation enough to recover quickly as they appeared on the Red Leaf Adventurer’s Association headquarters arrival pad—which was just a raised stone platform in a fenced off yard out back with a wooden sign instructing people to stay clear of it to avoid accidents.

    The Red Leaf headquarters was a brick-made structure of only one (very tall floor) but of significant length and width—the only larger structure in Red Leaf was the arena. A few other smaller buildings were on the lot, most notably the Red Leaf Adventurer’s Club that was semi-detached to the main structure.

    The two Pokémon agreed to meet back up outside the headquarters in two hours and then separated to wash up and drop their equipment and recovered items off, and the afternoon was well underway when they regrouped outside the Association and set off together to visit Bress’ place to find out the value of the recovered data—and whether or not he could create the item Etain had found the data for.

    Red Leaf was a bustling market town, and during good weather it was often enjoyable to just walk through the streets, chatting with passersby and shopkeepers, stopping to perhaps buy a snack or cheap trinket from the various stalls and kiosks. It was also the winter home for the surrounding area, and once the fall began to wane the town’s population would swell to more than double its spring size as nearby villagers, farmers, and nomads came to spend the cold season.

    The town was minuscule compared to Everlight City down south, but most of the residents thought it was exactly the right size—big enough to have a sizable market and plenty of amenities, but small enough to avoid feeling crowding and impersonal; plus it was a good, Pokémon-style town with only a few important buildings having multiple stories and absolutely no towers that stabbed into the sky, or overly large manors blocking the beautiful view of the nearby fields, hills, and river.

    Etain and Sylvia took a slow walk through the marketplace, stopping to speak briefly with a few familiar passersby or merchants, looking over some of the kiosks and stalls and buying up a handful of cheap trinkets (more out of a show of support than anything) as they went, but it was still not long before they reached Bress’ shop just as a Spearow carrying a full-looking pack in their talons fluttered out the entrance and past them.

    The inside was of the shop was arranged neatly: rows of shelves that were stocked with various mechanical, electronic, medicinal, and other types of goods all in their own labelled sections, and Bress’ Master-grade certification from the Everlight City Science and Engineering Board was proudly displayed on the far wall above a door way leading back farther into the building. Bress himself must have been there at the moment as his young Salandit apprentice was the one minding the counter.

    “Good afternoon, Miss Sylvia, Miss Etain,” the Salandit said with a polite bow of his head. “How can I assist you today?”

    “Hi, Antonius. We actually need to see Bress; we have some old human data he might be interested in,” Sylvia said.

    “And I want to see if he can make me a special commission,” Etain added.

    The Salandit nodded and pressed a small buzzer on the counter to alert the owner. "Something special, huh?” he said curiously. “Maybe Bress will let me work on this one?"

    "You only recently finished your first Muscle Band and you’re already raring to go on a special project?" called the amused voice of Bress the Buizel as he emerged from the door behind the counter, wearing his welding goggles and a protective safety coat.

    “Well, nice to see you two today. Antonius, I need you to pick up some supplies at the market; potions are selling faster than usual and I won’t have enough for tomorrow if I don’t get more ingredients," he said, handing the lizard a small sheet of paper.

    With a brief nod the Salandit walked out from around the counter and left, breaking into a quadrupedal dash after he exited. Bress smiled as he left before turning his attention to the customers. "Now, how can I help the two of you? I may mention that I just finished some high-performance grappling guns the other day, if you’re interested in something to make climbs a bit easier. Fire fast, high precision, and they’re very strong—the wire can hold the weight of an average Rhydon."

    “I might look at that sometime,” Sylvia said, “But for now we have some human data discs we’d like to sell—and Etain is hoping you could create an item described on one of them.”

    Bress did not ask any questions as the two handed him the discs—he was almost naively trusting, but he was too well-liked for many to take advantage—but his real interest was piqued when Etain explained the move copying device she hoped he could build.

    “Well, I’ll need to look the discs over,” he said, turning them around one at a time and looking them over—and Sylvia felt for a split second that a look of uncertainty seemed to come over him, but it was gone instantly. “Come back tomorrow morning—or an hour or so after closing tonight, if you prefer,” the Buizel said. Etain agreed and the three exchanged farewells before the two adventurers left.

    "Well, hopefully those discs will make that last expedition worth something,” Sylvia muttered as they walked away from the shop, linking her claws together and stretching her arms out above her head. “I'm going home to sleep the sunlight away then hitting the club for the night—hopefully the hunters have brought some decent meat in today because I am not in the mood to settle for a fruit and vegetable dinner. You?”

    “I think I’ll visit one of the theatres for the afternoon,” Etain said. “Have fun at the club, Syl."

    "Oh, I will. Enjoy the shows and try to swing by the club after you see Bress if you can. I’d like to know if you’ll be changing your mind on heading north with me or not.”

    *

    Etain decided to spend the rest of the daylight in the Golden Bough, Red Leaf’s best entertainment choice for those on a budget—a ticket got you in all day, there were plenty of films (both old human ones and new Pokémon created ones) and live acts, and even a dinner theatre room.

    Still, despite a number of high quality films, shorts, and acts playing today (alongside the usual deluge of lower-quality ones there to pad out the time block) Etain anxiously kept an eye on the clock all afternoon and exited just as the sun began to set to makes her way back to Bress’ place.

    This time she approached the back door which led to the residential section of the Buizel’s building, taking hold of the lowest of the four knockers and rapped it against the door; a few seconds later the door to Bress’ living room opened and the Water-type politely inviting her in, now dressed in a little blue coat instead of his safety gear.

    “I made some tea, if you’d like any,” he said quietly as they sat down at his coffee table, though Etain politely refused—something seemed off, she noted. He was trying to hide it but the Buizel seemed nervous in tone—probably nothing to do with her, in any case. Clearing his throat, Bress quickly got down to business.

    “So, those discs you found are quite valuable,” he said after a quick drink. “The data and blueprints are very interesting—and rather exciting! A lot of it is outside my specialties, but I do know the Science board would be interested, and I’m empowered to make an offer on its behalf. I imagine Sylvia will see me tomorrow, but for your share I can offer…” he handed the mouse a price sheet, which she looked over quickly and nodded. It’s not like she had any other offers or any contacts she could sell it to. Bress cleared his throat before continuing.

    “Now, I’m sure you want to know about that commission. It is a very interesting device. It seems to create move energy and store it so that a Pokémon to use it even without knowing the move themselves. Amazing little machine, but I can guess at why nobody ever found a functioning copy.”

    “Why?” Etain asked.

    “Firstly, reviewing how it works I am convinced the energy will be unstable—I suspect it would dissipates on its own after just a few minutes, even if the move isn’t used. I would assume it never went into full production for that reason. Secondly, it needs Pokémon energy to function, just like a Life Orb. Which leads to a third problem. The price to build one is…high.”

    Bress sighed as he withdrew another small sheet of paper from his coat pocket and handed it to the mouse. With a sudden sense of foreboding Etain glanced down to read the figure, and as she finished her eyes widened like plates and her paws unclenched, sending the paper fluttering to the ground. She knew it wouldn’t be cheap but was not expecting this price.

    "I’m sorry, I need the same rare type of crystal that’s used to make a Life Orb, and the only mine those crystals came from in Occeris ran dry over a hundred years ago, and god knows how hard is it to get any from over the eastern ocean. The only way I’m aware to get one now is to take it from an existing Life Orb, and those are very expensive.”

    “I see…” Etain said quietly.

    “You know, I’m willing to let you to pay it off in installments over a few years,” Bress offered.

    Etain nodded. That certainly made this possible, if still expensive.

    “Thanks, Bress. So one last question: how long before you could get my project finished, assuming I agreed tomorrow morning?” Etain asked.

    Bress considered that for a moment. “I need to prepare the fireworks and some other attractions for the winter festival, and combined with my regular work and the rare components I’ll need to order from Lodestrom and Everlight I’m afraid that in all likelihood it’ll be sometime next year.”

    Etain nodded—it was not great news, but she couldn’t do anything about it. “I guess I’ll head to the Adventurer’s Club and think things over.”

    “I may just join you there after I finish up a bit of work here.”

    Business concluded, he gave her a signed cheque for the data disc, they shook paws, and she left.

    As soon as Etain was gone Bress walked into his private office/bedroom, put on some reading glasses, and sat down at his work desk.

    Hoping to take his mind off a recent concern Bress turned on a music player (a rare piece of technology in this area) that was lying on his desk and tried to sketch out some ideas for a personal project of his--attempting to recreate a human-made reusable Technical Machine. He spent some time on this task, tapping a pencil against the desk thoughtfully and writing down notes while poring over a colleague’s research paper he’d recently received on late human era TMs when a sudden jolt of remembrance struck and he stood up and walked over to his filing cabinets.

    *

    The Red Leaf Adventurer’s Club was a wooden hall divided by walls between a bar, a game room, and a communal meeting room. It wasn’t the most easily missed of buildings and on most nights you can hear it well before you see it. It had two main rules: no kids, and no trouble.

    Etain entered the building, an act which would allow anyone doing so for the first time to immediately be capable of making an informed decision as to whether they wished to stay or would prefer to cut a quick retreat and look for a different place to spend an hour or so.

    Firstly, although there was no electric lighting it did have a great many wide, short windows, lanterns, and even a fireplace. Those who prefered a lower level of lighting may prefer to look elsewhere.

    Secondly, the clientele were mostly the loud and boisterous sort, and a significant number were adventurers, adventurer-adjacent in some way, or adventurer hopefuls (though the club was technically open to the public few availed themselves of this opportunity); many of them were bearing scars they would be pleased to describe the origin of, though the details of the story may change a little each day.

    At any time there were numerous card games going on, jokes being told, and conversations flowing, and as a general rule anyone wishing to sit down at a table to join in would be accepted, and ultimately this was a place where you usually found what you were looking for—unless it was peace and quiet since there was no chance for those. Looking for a hearty meal and cheap drinks? You’d find it. Want to hear an exciting (and probably far-fetched) adventure story? You’d find it. Want some advice from an old veteran? You’d find it. Just want some friendly companionship for a time? You’d find it.

    And if you were foolish enough to be looking for trouble you’d get double what you were hoping for.

    Etain exchanged loud greetings as she walked through the clubhouse until she neared the end of the main bar room and spotted Sylvia in the game room, engaged in darts with Celia the Granbull, a group of cheering spectators watching.

    The match seemed very even with the board being pinned thoroughly with numerous tiny missiles, but Sylvia won when she managed a bullseye to a mixture of groans and cheers as bets were paid out, after which the two competitors banged their claws together in a show of good sport and Celia sat down a few seats away to exchange adult-only jokes with some friends.

    Sylvia spotted the mouse right after and waved her over, pulling over a pair of stools appropriately sized for each of them.

    “My treat—or perhaps I should call it Celia’s treat,” Sylvia told Etain with a grin before ordering juice and chips for them with a quick claw gesture to the bartending Kadabra.

    “Did they have any good meat in today?” Etain asked.

    “I must have done something good recently because they had fresh venison. How was the theater?”

    “They had some good shows on—and a ton of news reels about the election.”

    Sylvia rolled her eyes at that. She was not a Republic citizen and was tired of being barraged by political ads in the theatre and the numerous signs and fliers being scattered around every town and village.

    “Any ‘adventure’ shorts?” Sylvia asked, smirking with amusement.

    “When isn’t there?" Etain said, grinning as well. "This time we had four ‘experts’ going into a crumbling fortress with only a single Escape orb between the whole group, and naturally they drop it into a crevice and didn’t bring any rope to recover it, none of them knew how to use Flash or Dig, and they each had exactly one Oran berry.”

    Sylvia snorted with laughter. “If more of us acted like that we’d need to replace the memorial wall with a memorial building”.

    “On the plus side the Cinccino playing one of them was quite nice on the eyes…”

    “So you’ll try to catch the next part in a week?”

    “You know it.”

    Just then their order arrived quite literally, floating over through the air and gently setting down on the bar, and after downing her drink in one go Sylvia asked the important question.

    “So…how’d it go with Bress?”

    “It could have gone better,” Etain muttered. “He can make it but he needs a Life Orb to. It’d drain my savings.”

    Sylvia winced in sympathy. She liked to think if she’d had one she’d give it to the mouse…but she wasn’t sure, and decided to drive away a sudden guilty feeling by continuing the discussion.

    “So, are you still going into magic full time or are you staying on as an adventurer?” she asked as she signalled for another drink. “You know I’m more than happy to keep working with you.”

    “I don’t know…” Etain said.

    Sylvia took a bite out of her bread. “You’re good at this, you know. You’ve saved my ass a few times. Tossing it away for something uncertain is just as risky as adventuring in its own way, and I swear I can practically feel the treasure up north calling to us.”

    Etain looked down at the counter as she considered this a moment, but shook her head.

    “How much has changed since this afternoon? All the reasons I’m thinking about getting out are still there, aren’t they?” she said steadily. “Sure, the road looks rougher than expected...but how many times have we seen that? Remember the mission to Gusty Town?”

    “How could I forget?” Sylvia muttered. Sylvia had never forgiven only being paid thirty five thousand Poké for that near fatal mission.

    “Besides,” Etain continued, “It seems if I give up now it means I’ve lost the nerve to keep adventuring anyways.”

    Sylvia smiled at that. “Well, I can see the reason there. I guess I’ll be first to congratulate you. I’m behind you a hundred and twenty percent,” she said, to vocal agreement and light clapping from some of the other members who had been listening in with varying levels of subtlety ranging from Mia the Scraggy impassively drinking on the other end of the bar counter while hearing every word to Orean the Rhyperior, who was seated at a table directly across and had spun his chair around to stare intently and had occasionally hemmed at what was said.

    Etain smiled at the Dark-type. “Thanks, Syl. And thanks, everyone else,” she added loudly to a few chuckles. “You’ve all been great partners over the years!” to which there were some claps and the sound of drink glasses being clanged against the bar.

    The mouse began trying to plan the next few days out over the din as a few Pokémon shouted for an impromptu retirement party. She’d arrange a meeting with an officer tomorrow to get things with the Association worked out—she’d put the request in tonight, although there was no chance she’d get in before tomorrow.

    “You should do a show to kick it off, Etain!” came the booming voice of Orean. “Book an amateur’s night at the Red Leaf Open Theatre, We’ll all come and cheer you on!”

    The proposal was seconded by Vern the Butterfree and carried there by seemingly unanimous acclamation and more drinking cups banged against whatever was handy when she heard a small voice trying to call out near the entrance.

    “Pardon me, can anymore point me to Miss Etain?”

    Etain looked back towards the entrance. Bress had entered, looking about and trying to find a tiny mouse in a room full of much larger creatures.

    “Over here, Bress!” Etain shouted.

    The inventor received a polite welcome as he made his way through the building, though as he reached the bar the Water-type looked around and saw that there were no seats sized for him that were currently unoccupied, then looked warily at a larger stool nearby.

    His attempt to climb onto it proved a struggle he may have been unequal to until Sylvia reached down and allowed the Buizel to grasp onto her wrist so she could lift him up and onto the seat. He thanked her politely and then turned to face Etain.

    “Have you made a decision?” he asked.

    “I’ve decided I’m going through with it.”

    Bress nodded. “In that case I’d like to offer you my best wishes, and a little present,” the water type said as he reached into his satchel and removed a data disc labelled “The Book of Tricks, By Martin the Majestic.

    The mouse took the disc, turning it about in her paws and looking at it.

    “Iit’s the full text of a human-era book on magic tricks,” Bress explained. “I’ve been digitizing my collection of human writings for a while now--some of them are in such a frail state, you understand, it would be a shame to lose them. A while after you left I suddenly remembered I had this one.”

    “Thank you so much!” she said.

    “It’s really no trouble, Etain! It only took a minute to print off this copy. Besides, I’m quite curious to see how some of those tricks look when they’re performed,” he added with a smile.

    *

    Etain visited the Association headquarters early the next morning and after half an hour was directed into the members-only wing and led to a small office where Yasu the Delphox was sitting down at the desk. The Fire-type was sitting up rigidly at a desk with his wand lying extinguished nearby, a pen in his paws and a spread of papers lying in front of him, one of which Etain recognized as her membership file.

    Etain was glad to see he was the officer on duty today; they were on friendly terms and Yasu had given her a great deal of vital advice when she had started out.

    The two exchanged quick greetings as the mouse climbed onto the large couch set up in front of the desk (it was easier than keeping numerous chairs of different sizes in every office) .

    “So, you may have heard by now that I’ve decided to stop adventuring,” Etain said.

    “Yeah, Sylvia swung by my house and filled me in last night. Damn shame to lose you, but I understand your decision—most of us gotta get out of this business eventually, right? Your dues are paid off for a few months, so I assume you want me to knock you off the mailing list and note that you’re not renewing?”

    The mouse nodded, then spoke, “While I’m here: I dropped by the Red Leaf Open Theatre and found a date I could rent a stage—nineteenth hour, August eighth. Think you can make it?”

    “Consider my calendar cleared,” Yasu happily said as he finished jotting down notes on Etain’s membership file, and then the fire-type leaned back and smiled wistfully. “We’ve had some good jobs together, you and me. Remember when we got cornered by that warlord up by Silverport?”

    Etain smiled—that had been a rather large mission involving over a dozen adventurers. “I thought we were screwed when his fighters caught us is in that storage room and said if we didn’t tell them everything about the town’s defenses they’d force it out of us…then you just laughed and said ‘so you’re saying we have nothing to lose?’ and lit the entire room up with Flamethrower!”

    The two laughed at the memory.

    “Gods, yes!” Yasu said. “They didn’t really consider how much flammable material was in that room. The look in their eyes as they fled screaming for their lives! I imagine they thought we were insane—and I suppose they weren’t wrong, were they? Ah, thank the gods for quick thinking and reckless fortune! But of course you’ve worked with me enough to know that I always pulls through,” he finished with a confident grin.

    Etain liked Yasu but his bravado grated, even if he was almost as good as he thought he was.

    “Thanks for everything over the years, Yasu, I’ll see you around,” she said, leaping from the couch and leaving; she had to get back to her apartment and start writing letters. At the very least Etain figured her folks would be quite happy to learn she was getting out of ‘that ridiculously dangerous line of work’ and would let everyone else back home know too once they found out, and she had a few friends living outside Cauli who deserved to know as well.

    *

    Far south of Red Leaf was Caerma town, capitol of the Caerma Republic (even if its size and wealth had been eclipsed in recent years by Everlight City).

    At the moment a number of Pokémon were sitting in the central plaza, off to the sides so as to not interrupt traffic, waiting for others to finish their business in any of the numerous stores and offices here.

    Of interest was a Flygon outside an impressive marble building that was the Trader’s guild.

    The dragon was looking up idly while he hummed to himself, a tune nobody nearby could recognize.

    “Hello!” squeaked a tiny voice.

    Looking down the Flygon saw an Emolga—very small even for an Emolga, certainly a young child—standing in front of him and gazing up curiously.

    “Who’re you?” she asked.

    “I’m Finn of Mauville,” the Flygon said with a polite bow of his head, his voice strangely soft for a creature his size. “Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

    “I’m Sarah of Tinavil.”

    “I’m very pleased to meet you, Sarah. Are your parents nearby, Sarah?”

    “Mom’s somewhere; she took me here to go shopping ‘cause I’m grown up now, but she’s having a boring talk with the clerk so I slipped away to see the town. What are you, mister Finn? I’ve never seen anyone like you.”

    “I’m a Flygon,” the dragon answered. “My line isn’t native to this area, so it’s no wonder you’ve never met another one. There may only be a dozen of us or so on the whole continent.”

    “Where’d you come from?”

    “A place called Hoenn. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?” he asked.

    “Hoenn? I don’t think so. Is it far away?”

    “Oh, yes.”

    “Even farther away than Everlight City?”

    Much farther. In fact I needed to cross the southern sea to get here,” Finn said.

    “Really?” Sarah asked skeptically. “Well, bye-bye,” she said, turning to take flight.

    Casting a quick glance to the sky, Finn saw the Caerma Republic flags above the guild hall flapping about in the powerful wind, and recalled how easily an inexperienced flier can veer completely off course in such conditions.

    “Certainly it was a difficult trip,” he said, interrupting as Sarah seemed about to take to the sky. “Why don’t I tell you about Hoenn?”

    The Emolga’s eyes flashed at that—the exciting idea of hearing all about a continent across the sea her friends had probably never even heard of!—and she nodded and sat down.

    “Well, as I said, Hoenn is far to the south, and much warmer than here. In fact there was a great desert in the middle of it, not far from my hometown of Mauville.”

    “Were there lots of different types of Pokémon in Hoenn?”

    “Yes; though not so many as there are here.”

    “Do you think I could go to Mauville when I’m bigger?” Sarah asked.

    Finn’s smiled sagged slightly. “Ah, well…Mauville is…”

    “Sarah?! Sarah where are you!” came a panicked yell from above.

    Looking up Finn saw an older Emolga flying around hastily, looking about and continuing to shout fearfully.

    “I think you’ve worried your mother; it would be best to rejoin her,” Finn said gently, the momentary doubt on his face gone as if never there.

    “Yeah…” Sarah muttered, looking at the ground uncomfortably.

    “Down here, miss!” Finn shouted, instantly attracting the mother Emolga, who flew down and glared at the child.

    “Sarah! What got into you, flying off?!”

    Finn felt a twinge of sympathy as she child was berated, a laundry list of possible accidents and problems paraded.

    “And to go bothering this stranger…”

    “That’s perfectly fine,” Finn insisted. “She was delightful company while I waited for my friend to finish his business.”

    “Well, thank you for keeping an eye on her. Come along, Sarah,” the mother said tersely as she led her daughter away by the paw, the child exchanging polite waves with Finn. The dragon leaned back and shook his head.

    *

    Soon after he heard the creak of the Trader’s Guild doors opening; turning his neck he saw a small Meowth emerge, looking discontent, grumbling to himself while his tail curled and uncurled rapidly. Finn stood, stretched his arms, and addressed the Meowth.

    “Did it not go well, Dermot?”

    “My trading license is reinstated, but with heavy restrictions for the next year,” the cat said unhappily. Looking about furtively, he added in a quiet voice “Can we talk somewhere more private?”

    The dragon nodded. “Shall we head back to our room, then?”

    “As good a place as any,” Dermot said.

    It took some time to reach the little inn—it was on the southern outskirts of town, while the Trader’s Guild was right in the heart of town—but the sun was still bright in the sky when they arrived. It was a cheap little establishment with two dozen rooms in four size classes, all accessed through external doors, though they did all offer nice views of the beach.

    The room they rented was small, but had enough space for Dermot to curl up on his own cushions off to the side while the Flygon took the bed (sharing a bed was not considered unusual in Pokémon society but Dermot had observed that the Flygon tossed and rolled about while sleeping and didn’t want to risk being flattened).

    After sitting down by the table (being a room mostly rented to larger Pokémon the Meowth had to stack a good number of his cushions to reach the tabletop) Dermot elaborated on his discussion with the Trader’s guild.

    “So as I’ve said before, when a member is arrested their license is automatically revoked and they need to come to headquarters to get it reinstated. What I was unaware of was that process comes with a free lecture on civic responsibility from a Kecleon who got rich enough for his Trader’s Guild board seat by selling food at extortionate prices during the western drought a decade back.”

    Finn tapped his claw against the table at that, scowling.

    “Anyways,” Dermot continued, “Guild policy says after an arrest the trader’s license remains restricted from selling certain items for a while after—technical records and machines, mostly. However, the Guildmaster or a three Pokémon vote in the merchant’s council can waive the restriction if they want to.”

    “And they…”

    “…didn’t want to. I’m not important enough,” Dermot grumbled as his tail curled up almost to the base. “I wasn’t ripping off customers or anything like that! I never hurt anyone. Oh sure, the Guildmaster and the council gave me plenty of sympathy but the wells turned dry when it came time to pull up some actual lenience.”

    Dermot paused for effect and then added in a conspiratorial tone: “Wanna hear some interesting gossip? Privately, the Guildmaster also assured me the Human Artifact Trading Ban wouldn’t last another year and to be patient.”

    “Is that a guess or something more than that?” Finn wondered aloud. The Guild was influential, certainly, but if they were that powerful they’d have stopped the law from passing at all.

    “No idea. All I know is what the Guild Master said,” Dermot said with a shrug.

    “Well, what will you do now? You have a license, at least,” Finn said.

    “It’s too late in the year to join the trading caravan that takes the south to north route to Lodestrom. Best I can do is buy a cart and a mule and do some local trade. Buying produce in the villages and transporting them to the big towns will keep me alive through the winter.”

    “I see another option,” Finn said, “I could fly you to any northern settlement in less than a week. You could get ahead of the caravan easily and join us when they stop in whatever town you please.”

    Dermot hesitated. “You were already very kind to fly me over here so fast. I’d hate to impose even more.”

    “I’m already heading north to Johrock anyways,” Finn said casually. “Dropping you off somewhere on the way is no trouble at all.”

    Dermot smiled at him—not what the dragon called his ‘business’ smile used while negotiating sales and purchases, but that rare and genuine one. “You’re a wonderful Pokémon, Finn.”

    “I am, aren’t I?” the dragon replied playfully.

    “I really need to pay you back somehow…you know, I’ve got a pass to Lodestrom City’s Inner District, if you’re interested. Hard place to get into.”

    “Perhaps one day,” Finn said unenthusiastically. He found Everlight City’s overuse of human technology irritating enough and had little desire to go to the one place in the world that was said to be even worse.

    Dermot cast a look at the noon sky out the window. “I think if we head out today we’ll arrive in Red Leaf well ahead of time.”

    “Red Leaf?” Finn said, “I’d have thought you’d select Starry Town; you’ve mentioned that Starry Town to Haven is an important part of the route. Not to mention you’ll be sitting in Red Leaf over a month waiting for them to arrive.”

    “Well, I haven’t seen Etain for a while time. She was a bit worried when I wrote her about my arrest last year, and I figure if I go to Red Leaf and wait for the caravan there I can probably meet up with her.”

    Finn smirked at that. “Ah, so it’s about Miss Etain.”

    Dermot rolled his eyes .“Don’t give me that ‘ah’ stuff, Finn. Let’s just finish off everything we need to here and get flying, okay?”

    “As you wish,” the Flygon said.

    *

    Since I wasn’t doing authors notes at the time I’ll mention this now: in the original version of chapter 1 Etain and Sylvia were going to have an argument after realizing the discs they found couldn’t be legally sold, Sylvia angrily saying they’d be rich up north and Etain sarcastically retorting that obviously the treasure was waiting for them in particular and would be wherever they went. I figured having them get into a shouting match in their first appearance would set the wrong tone for their relation so it was cut.

    Miscellaneous notes:

    *One thing that I alluded to is that theatres in this setting did not go to the modern style but are still using continuous showings—instead of buying a ticket to a film you buy to go to the theatre, watch everything, and leave when they start to repeat or you get bored, with a combination of films, shorts, news reels, etc. showing.

    *I went back and forth on this, but ultimately I decided that Pokémon can know more than four moves because I can’t think of a non-gamey explanation for otherwise, but can only “prepare” four at a time and switching them is something that requires too much meditation to do in the middle of a fight. Then Legends Arceus came out back me up on that.

    *The Republic Security Officer, Carrock, was actually not intended to be named after the Middle-Earth location; it was just a corruption of “Carrack”, a type of ship (I want Pokémon names to have a combination of human names, corrupted terms, and entirely new names).
     
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