+WorldNews, +UnovaNews, +KantoNews, -Celebrity, -Civic, -League
00h 27m 58.7k – New tangela evolution discovered in Sinnoh; Rowan claims “pattern” found
01h 44m 108k – Tier 2 declared in Vermilion, Surge calls for aid
00h 55m 73.3k – “Less ditto found every day” claims Cinnabar ranger
13h 32m 319k – Nacrene city on high alert after string of unown spotted
05h 13m 49.2k – Suspected renegade activity in Castelia, seven dead
17h 53m 101k – Fifth psychic reports shared dream of unown danger, joins warning against research…
Kazue Silph has three rules he never breaks.
The first is never to go into business with family or friends. At many points along his journey, from a small business owner to a major chain to the predominant market in the Indigo regions, he’s had friends, relations, and friends of relations reach out to present him with job applications, joint business proposals, and investment opportunities. He turned them all down without consideration, though he was happy to pass along those that seemed promising to other companies. He’s given away millions of dollars over his lifetime, but always with no strings attached and no expectation of return or service.
A successful business, he learned early on, must always be about efficiency, first and foremost. It can, within limits, have values, but personal sentiment or favoritism will act as a rot, and even deep family bonds can be ruined over the smallest, most impersonal business decisions. He’s spent considerable energy and time ensuring nepotism is as difficult as possible within his corporate culture, but he believes the policies have paid for themselves.
The second rule is to always work toward what the market needs, not what it wants. There have been plenty of enticing opportunities to expand his business into other areas beyond trainer supplies, but to do so would have risked redirecting money from a sure bet to an area other competitors were already crowding, and likely with a much wider talent pool available. At best the company would make more money; at worst they would chase fads and lose not just money, but time and focus, which are much more valuable to him.
Society would always need trainers to survive, and trainers would always need supplies. Everything else he shifts production or resources to would reduce their availability and quality, and cause more trainers or their pokemon to die. Money is just a byproduct of the real value business can create for society, but the resources and power to change the world requires focus.
The third rule is the most important: never make a business decision while angry.
“Send him in,” President Silph says, and a few moments later the door opens to admit Lance, the Champion of Indigo.
Kazue still had a full head of hair, if a bit thin on top, when Lance began his Johto journey. While the businessman’s trainer days were long behind him, it seemed obvious that a child of the famous Dragon Clan, descendents of one of the region’s oldest warlords, with a dratini as his starter, would go far. So he paid little attention to Lance showing up on the news throughout the years, thinking that fame pointed cameras in the young dragon trainer’s direction as much as merit… until he and his journeymates deflected a Beast on their own with a clever, and risky, use of a controlled landslide.
After that it was less surprise than it otherwise might have been when Lance reached Victory Road just a couple years after starting his journey. The reigning Champion has shown the same mix of daring and careful calculation in office that first made him catch Kazue’s attention.
“Thank you for seeing me,” Lance says as he comes to stand in front of the President’s desk and bows, then places his hands on the back of a seat rather than taking it. “Neither of us has much time to waste, so I’ll get to the point.”
Kazue puts on an expression of polite curiosity. “I appreciate that, Champion. What can I do for you?” The fact that the meeting was requested to be in-person makes it fairly clear what this is about, but he still can’t admit that without giving out information; he’s not positive which piece of technology, exactly, has leaked to the Champion, though given the recent news, he’s fairly confident he knows.
The thought makes his pulse quicken, and he takes a deep breath to calm himself. At the end of the day, this is just a business meeting like any other.
“I’m sure by now you’ve heard that other regions are allowing pokemon genesis research. I have been struggling against those who would have Indigo follow their example, but I cannot deny that we would be at a distinct disadvantage if their efforts bear fruit, especially given some private information I’ve been made aware of. I’ve begun negotiations with the other island regions to potentially coordinate some limited, focused, and safe efforts by the various Leagues. Cynthia is currently the only holdout, but I am confident that she will change her mind in time.”
“I applaud your ability to adjust to new circumstances,” Kazue says. “Though if your goal is to stay abreast of other regions, you know my thoughts on regulation and innovation. It is one thing to win a race begun late, another to win it while hobbled.”
“I won’t deny the practical effects of your philosophy, especially given your many accomplishments. But our goal is not explicitly to be the first to create new pokemon, and if we learn how to by unleashing another event like the ditto outbreak, the cost could well exceed the reward if we don’t manage to contain it. Other regions may gamble with their people’s wellbeing, but Indigo will not.”
Lance punctuates the media-perfect speech with a sharp smile, yellow eyes gleaming with something predatory. “And of course, we are not incapable of learning from others’ mistakes.”
Kazue returns his smile, reassured to see the glimpse of the Champion’s ruthlessness applied to matters beyond pokemon battles. “Or benefiting from them more directly.”
“Which is why I knew you would understand when I heard you’ve been developing a pokeball that could catch the Stormbringers. Perhaps even Rayquaza, should it ever attack.” Lance’s shoulders straighten. “I want you to make it available for the League, and only the League.”
President Silph taps his fingers against his desk as he meets that fierce yellow gaze for a moment, then says, “No.”
To his credit, the Champion is an adept negotiator for one who has never worked in the world of business, and doesn’t even blink. “We’re prepared to help negotiate and support some reasonable changes to regulatory laws and taxes, as long as they’re not preferential to your company.”
“Tempting as that would normally be, it isn’t enough. Those laws should be changed for the good of the region, while you’re asking me to give up what I expect to be the most powerful technological achievement of the past decade. Do you even know how much it’s valued at?”
Lance only hesitates for a moment. “Potentially, priceless.”
“Correct. But potential is hard to put a number on, so I’ll reveal that our estimates put the final auction for the first masterball to end, at least, in the hundreds of millions.”
The Champion pauses a moment to absorb that, and Kazue lets him. They both know the League couldn’t afford more than a few at that price, not without drastic cuts in trainer assistance programs… that or a dozen other smaller initiatives and regulating bodies fit under the umbrella.
“You would truly sell such a powerful tool, and potential weapon, to the highest bidder? With no consideration of whether they will be able to even properly utilize it?”
Kazue does not often waste time lecturing people on basic economics anymore, but for those as powerful as a region champion, he’s willing to make an exception on the off chance Lance will be persuaded. “That is what the market is for, Champion. The masterball is worth far less in the hands of a mediocre trainer than it is in a skilled one, and thus those who are skilled, or those willing to patron a skilled trainer, will be willing to pay more for it.”
“And what of their character or goals? Money doesn’t distinguish a Leader from a Renegade.”
Kazue spreads his hands. “Money doesn’t, but you’re suggesting we distribute it by trust, and money can often be a way to quantify trust. Stock investment, providing grants, even the basic act of hiring are all ways of using money to show confidence and trust.”
“An untrusted person may gain access to a lot of money through deceit or antisocial deals.”
“They would have to be deceitfully trustworthy first, for the financier to believe in them, which can be said of those considered altruistic as well.” Kazue shrugs. “We can debate philosophy if you wish, Champion, but my answer is still no. I will not make yet another product, designed and built by some of the greatest scientists and engineers of our era, into an object of charity, limiting the return both for them and our investors.”
Lance frowns slightly. “You’re thinking of the goggles. I understand if you’re frustrated—”
“Frustrated? Perhaps.” Kazue flicks a hand to the side as if drying it of water. “There, I have set it aside. What else do you believe I am, Champion?”
Rather than walk into the trap, Lance remains silent, wariness transmuted by status and dignity into a patient, puzzled frown. But it cannot save him; he is the one who needs something from Kazue, and so all his attempt to save face can do is waste their time.
Lance is a skilled negotiator, but even Kazue’s clerks would be able to smell the need on him; to the President’s experienced eye, this goes even beyond that. Lance isn’t just in need, he seems desperate in some carefully controlled way, and Kazue wants to know why. Knowledge is valuable, and if Lance is actually afraid of something, he likely has good reason to be.
A company can have values, after all, and still survive. If Indigo is in danger, it is more than fiduciary duty that would compel Kazue to act; with major operations in every city of Kanto and Johto, Indigo is Silph, and Silph is Indigo.
“I believe you are standing on principles,” the Dragon Master says at last, “that I may be blind to. But there must be some arrangement we can reach—”
“I understand that you came yourself as a sign of respect.” Kazue keeps his voice firm, but not angry. Never make a business decision angry. “But you are wasting both of our very valuable time. Delegate this task to someone better suited to negotiation, or else drop the charade that you are here to barter as an equal.”
That upsets the Dragon Master, and Kazue holds up an apologetic hand to soften the blow; just as he doesn’t want to make a decision angry, he doesn’t want those he negotiates with to either. True positive-sum trades cannot be those regretted once emotions cool, and anger often drives people to justify negative-sum interactions. “I mean this only in our current situation, and perhaps in our projected, ongoing interactions. Time and again, regions have treated corporations like mine as little more than pokemon; useful tools to be trained into providing valuable goods and services for them. Our ability to trade freely is limited, as if our method is completely unrelated to our outcomes, and when we lobby to attain more freedoms from regulations that would allow us to be more efficient, we are called corrupt, or treated as though we are attempting to corrupt.”
“No, Champion. Not grievances, not frustrations. Principles was closest. You came into this room and asked me to limit the profit we could earn by our invention, as if profit is a choice, as if it comes from coercion that I might refrain from. Our plan is an open auction, which makes every dollar we might gain the result of free, individual choices. You object to this?”
“Then you show the common belief, on some level, that profit itself is an unjust pursuit, simply because the excess value a seller accrues can be counted, while the value a customer gains cannot. Have you considered whether we plan to simply use masterballs ourselves rather than sell it? Hire the best trainer we can find as an employee, and then sell the captured legendary? Until you understand why that is not our plan, you will not understand why your approach today has been wrong from the start.”
To his credit, Lance takes a moment to absorb all this, and Kazue lets him. If he didn’t hold some respect for the Champion he wouldn’t have bothered with the lecture, and it seems that Lance recognizes this himself before he stirs and takes a breath.
“As you said, our time is valuable,” he finally says. “If there is truly nothing that would convince you to do this, then I will accept it. If there is something you want, and it’s within my power and mandate, I can at least try.”
“As a first step, tell me what has you so concerned. Not the vague reasons, the specific predictions or warnings you have reason to believe are true.”
Lance sighs, but to Kazue’s satisfaction seems to have taken his words to heart by simply saying “The psychic dreams that have been reported in the media. There are more, and by trusted sources.”
Meaning by those among the League, probably. “I confess to not having considered the articles worth reading.”
“I don’t blame you, but the simple version is that there is a threat that appears bigger than any other we’ve yet faced, coming at an unknown amount of time.”
“One that will need legendary pokemon in the hands of trainers to defeat,” Kazue guesses. It should be terrifying, but all he feels is tired… and frustrated. For a moment he thought Lance might have learned of whatever experiments Giovanni has been working on, thus freeing Kazue to act on that knowledge without breaking their agreement.
Instead it seems yet another threat is on the horizon, and he finds he is unsure how to internalize an even bigger threat than the Hoenn titans represented. The company suffered massive losses as a result of the incident and aftermath, though they were lucky enough to be able to weather the storm better than others. Of course they were asked to provide humanitarian aid afterward, and of course they did… which just further limited the scope of new, expensive projects they had planned to start developing as the Silph Scope and masterball entered their last stages.
He told marketing to create an ad about that, perhaps earn the company some understanding of what the losses would result in in terms the public would understand, even be dismayed by. But the death count was high enough that he was convinced it would be taken poorly. Still, he feels it like a rock in his boot to think of all the potential lives that might be lost just because they end up developing such powerful technologies any later.
Sakaki understood, of course. Commiserating with him after the Hoenn incident was one of the few times lately that Silph felt they were genuinely allied again in years.
But that hasn’t changed the arc of their partnership, and for that Silph does feel regret. There are far too few equals for those in their position, and further fewer in such different areas of influence that candid conversation is possible.
“It seems likely, yes.” Lance is quiet for a beat. “I know enough about negotiation to understand that I’ve just made my position worse.”
“True enough. If other regions know this, my expectation of how much others will be willing to bid is even higher than expected. I do appreciate the candor, but it only highlights how—”
“There’s more. But it hasn’t been made public.”
“Neither has what you just told me.”
“This is different.”
Kazue’s hands come together as he considers the Champion for a moment. “You want a concession first. Because it has potential business applications?” Not that the previous revelation didn’t, but they would be relatively invisible compared to, say, a secret that would lead to Silph pivoting more visibly in anticipation to some new technology or threat.
“I’m not a businessman, but I know that all knowledge has value… and if I trust you to do one thing, it’s to make use of such information to generate more for your company.”
It’s a compliment, but a backhanded one given the way the Champion once again frames this as a bad thing. Or maybe he’s just worried about favoritism.
Kazue closes his eyes for a moment and breathes in and out until the anger fades to sullen coals. “And if corporations like mine do have the opportunity to use this information to create new products, or refine those we have, don’t you think this would benefit the region as well?”
“Of course. But I must consider how others would react as well.”
“I can have an NDA on my desk and signed within three minutes. I understand wanting a stronger negotiating position, but—”
“No, you don’t.” Lance’s whole body language has shifted, lost something, gained something. The Champion is back in control, somehow, and Kazue feels his first trickle of apprehension; he’s made a mistake somehow, underestimated something… “I don’t fully understand your perspective and values, or the wisdom of them. But nor do you mine, and so I must ask; is there anything that would change your mind? Have you spent even five minutes considering it?”
Kazue’s hands clench, then unclench as he takes another breath. “I thought I made myself clear—”
“You did, and so I’ll skip to the bottom line. We cannot allow these ‘masterballs’ to be sold to another region. Any bidding must be limited to Indigo.”
Calm, he must remain calm. “This meeting is ov—”
“In what world,” Lance says, and his voice is calm, deep and solid as the earth. “Did you think the League would not treat another region gaining a Legendary pokemon as an existential risk?”
“Another region, Champion?” He hates the quaver in his voice, the barely contained fury sounding like weakness. “Or another trainer? There are only a handful of organizations in Indigo who could outbid the League, and who below you would you trust with it?”
“If the League wins the bids, the masterballs will belong to the League. Someone else may prove themselves the strongest trainer by then.”
The words are stated without hubris or irony, and for a moment the absurdity almost makes Kazue laugh. “You’re only the strongest battle trainer. An experienced hunter—”
“Would have no experience fighting Legendary pokemon.”
Calm, calm, calm. “You can’t do this. The charter—”
“Your lawyers are the best money can buy, so I’m sure they were right to inform you that the courts would decide in your favor given what you knew at the time. I’m also just as sure that will change once the new information is revealed.”
Kazue chokes back the wild threats that come to mind, knuckles white around the arms of his chair. Before he can regain control of himself, come up with something else to say, the Champion has released the back of the seat and straightened.
“I’ll send a more skilled negotiator to discuss what we can do for you in return, in thanks for this great service to Indigo’s safety. In light of what you’ve shared about the true cost this limitation will have, I’ll be sure it’s not our most skilled negotiator.” Lance’s smile is warm, the bow of his head respectful, and then he leaves, cape just barely clearing the door before it closes.
Kazue sits frozen for a minute, part of him still in shock at what the Champion had said, another part disbelieving that he had let it happen, and another racing through things he should have said, things he could do to deny the enemy their prize, to protect against such flagrant abuse in the future. Threats to shut down the masterball research, to suspend operations of any kind, would have to be a last resort so long as he can’t trust the information not to be stolen or leaked the way the goggles schematics were.
After five minutes have passed his alarm chimes to indicate his next appointment, and his hand moves automatically to alert his assistant to reschedule his afternoon. He almost makes the call to Sakaki then, but decides to go to his private spa for a soak and massage first.
Never make a business decision angry.
Divxddd: what i miss
Jigglethesepuffs: these sad fools still have hope
Passifist: Hey they can turn it around
Ioutrankyou: assuming Tal wakes the fuck up and GUARDS
Ioutrankyou: HOOP GODDAMN U TAL JUST INTERRUPT ONCE IN UR LIFE
Jigglethesepuffs: that was a nice juke tho
Divxddd: hey wheres kit doesn’t he have money riding on this one
Passifist: Kit’s napping said to wake him before the last match ends
Jigglethesepuffs: Think this is it
Jigglethesepuffs: unless they pull off a miracle
Passifist: i’ll call him
Ioutrankyou: its absurd that Tal still has a contract
Ioutrankyou: absolutely absurd
Ioutrankyou: this guy’s worse than half the pugs I run into
Divxddd: Half the pugs you run into aren’t playing against pros
Ioutrankyou: doesn’t matter
Ioutrankyou: garbage excuse to not do basic shit
Ioutrankyou: even you could have guarded that
Divxddd: lol thanks I think
Passifist: Well that was weird
Passifist: Kit’s up but he’s freaking
Divxddd: lol must have bet a lot
Jigglethesepuffs: freaking about what?
Passifist: no not about the game not sure tbh was saying something about a dream
Passifist: nightmare i guess
Divxddd: bout what?
Passifist: think he’s been reading too many creepypastas
Passifist: something about unown are going to merge into a supermon or something
Divxddd: you know given how this year’s going that’d fit
Jigglethesepuffs: wait I think I read that one
Ioutrankyou: guys i think its happening
Ioutrankyou: holy shit did you SEE THAT
Ioutrankyou: HELL YEAH
Passifist: replaying, I missed it
Ioutrankyou: fuck you Liquidforce
Ioutrankyou: cheap ass surf spamming scrub
Ioutrankyou: tried to hide in the grass as blastoise lol get rekt
Jigglethesepuffs: Alright that was solid
Divxddd: gonna take a few more of those to even odds though
Passifist: So I just looked it up, cuz it sounded familiar to me too
Passifist: Its not a creepy, i mean there are tons about unown but this is different, there’s been dozens of psychics all over the island who are saying they had a dream like this
Divxddd: like what
Passifist: unown creating or summoning some mega mythic pokemon that wipes us all out
Divxddd: Kit should make sure he pees before bed
Divxddd: been doing it for years, never get nightmares anymore
Ioutrankyou: he should get the fuck on is what he should do
Ioutrankyou: missing all the good shit
Jigglethesepuffs: isn’t Kit psychic?
Divxddd: wait, really? is he?
Passifist: Ya he is
Ioutrankyou: so what?
Divxddd: bit of a coincidence
Ioutrankyou: no it’s not
Ioutrankyou: i mean yeah, that’s all it is
Ioutrankyou: bet plenty of non-psy had that nightmare too after hearing psychs being drama queens about it
Ioutrankyou: unown are creepy af
Ioutrankyou: dreams don’t mean shit
Divxddd: our dreams don’t, but psychics might
Passifist: looks like it wasn’t just random psychics to start with, it’s been big names
Passifist: some wrote out what they dreamed without comparing notes
Ioutrankyou: again, so what
Ioutrankyou: some similar phrases and all the differences will get ignored
Ioutrankyou: come on people this is basic shit
Jigglethesepuffs: funny you mention that
Jigglethesepuffs: there is actually one thing in particular that they all seemed to remember, including the ones that wrote their dreams down
Kitandpals: “it is coming”
Ioutrankyou: fucking finally
Divxddd: yooo that’s creepy as fuck
Ioutrankyou: hey log on, we can get a queue going in case the match ends soon
Jigglethesepuffs: you okay Kit?
Kitandpals: i don’t know
Kitandpals: it was so vivid, i’m still shaking
Ioutrankyou: well log on anyway you’re still better than a pug would be
Passifist: dude stfu a sec
Passifist: you didnt hear him
Passifist: do you want to do voice Kit?
Ioutrankyou: u stfu
Kitandpals: I dot know
Ioutrankyou: all acting like fucking babies over a goddamn dream
Ioutrankyou: and TAL IS NOT BLOCKING
Jigglethesepuffs: what else do you remember?
Jigglethesepuffs: if it’s okay to ask
Divxddd: its over
Ioutrankyou: yeah fuck it
Ioutrankyou: gonna hop in a game
Ioutrankyou: you guys coming or what
Kitandpals: Not sure. Confusing, shifting sights
Kitandpals: a whole world of them
Kitandpals: and there was amin there
Kitandpals: *a mind
Ioutrankyou: there’s no use dwelling on it, play a match and take your mind off it instead
Kitandpals: crazy thoughts, hungry thoughts
Kitandpals: wanted what it saw to be more like it
Divxddd: what it saw?
Kitandpals: our world
Passifist: What’s “it?” How do you know it’s coming?
Kitandpals: dont now
Kitandpals: *don’t know
Ioutrankyou: alright I’m in queue and hopping channels you guys join me when you’re done w/ group therapy or wtvr
Jigglethesepuffs: Ignore him Kit
Divxddd: Imma join queue too but staying here this is fascinating
Kitandpals: I don’t know. It was like big capital letter words n my head
Kitandpals: It was all really clear its not fading but the words are most clear like someone said them outloud and woke me up but there was no one in my room and it didn’t sound like a voice it was just the words
Kitandpals: I don’t know what to do or feel right now I’m fucking scared guys
Kitandpals: It still feels so real
Jigglethesepuffs: You’ll be okay, there are others who had the same dream
Kitandpals: I know but
Jigglethesepuffs: they seem okay
Kitandpals: that makes it worse
Kitandpals: that makes it so much worse
The streetlights make Saffron look like a series of washed-out photos through the drizzle, every color faded and every corner shadowed. Masaki Terasoma (codename: Looker) walks from one snapshot to the next, hands on pokeballs beneath his damp coat and eyes wandering restlessly. Lea keeps her nose in the air, the mightyena’s dark coat making her nearly invisible in the gloom as she sniffs for any alarming scents, while his toxicroak slinks through the void between streetlights like the smudged thumbprint of some sloppy darkroom attendant. Above them Sever flies in nearly silent loops as the crobat listens for anything and everything that might come for them.
Some might say having three pokemon as bodyguards in the middle of Saffron City is paranoid. If it wasn’t three in the morning, he would probably be getting plenty of odd or concerned looks from fellow pedestrians. But there aren’t any of those, because late night meetings reduce foot traffic, which makes it easier to spot if someone’s following or preparing an ambush.
Paranoid was left behind months ago; Looker has been in Kanto for nearly four months and there have already been three attempts on his life. Or at least, it’s safest to assume there have been.
It’s hard to tell, exactly, what counts and doesn’t. Whoever picked the locks on his hotel room (scrape marks along the doorframe around the latch, likely caused in frustration when the door still refused to open) may have just been trying to rob him, or even just rob the room without knowing who was in it. The fearow flock that swarmed him midflight to Saffron may have been a coincidental attack by wilds (ratio of fearow to spearow matched average records of local flocks). And the peanuts might have ended up in his food by accident; the chef seemed genuinely apologetic and embarrassed (and background check showed nothing of interest).
And yet, safe as he may be, part of him clings to the notion that he’s being targeted. Illogical as it is, he wants evidence, ethereal as it would be, that he’s on the right track. That he’s finally found something important.
Which is why he was suspicious when he got the message asking for a private meeting a few weeks ago. It was relayed from a relatively trustworthy local source, but sources could be compromised. It didn’t tell him to come alone, but did specify that he only bring along someone he completely trusts, which could have been a clever psyop meant to lower his guard, since he doesn’t trust anyone completely.
But there was an obvious choice. Agent Touta Matsuda (codename: Notebook) has only been with Interpol for a few years, but he has an impressive record stamping out corruption in Indigo before then; if he’s compromised, Looker could only hope it’s in directions other than the ones that would impact their mission here.
Of course, if he participated in a generations-spanning interregional renegade network, “sponsoring” detectives like Touta is exactly the sort of thing he’d do to get someone trustworthy on the inside of investigations. But he knew the investigation would require some risk, and if he couldn’t depend on his local partner then he’d likely be dead already anyway.
That meeting was more fruitful than he dared hope at the time. This second may be even more so.
“Building looks clear,” Notebook says in Looker’s earpiece once he’s about a block away from his destination, and he mutters acknowledgement before walking past it, then around, then back, until he can do a full circuit of the warehouse himself.
Only then does he send his mightyena in, and a moment later he hears two barks, followed by three, followed by another three.
“One person. Female. Two pokemon. Going in.” Looker turns off his mic and sends a whistle to Sever to circle the building before entering with his toxicroak.
Laura Verres is standing with her back to a wall, arms folded across her stomach. He can tell she’s nervous from across the room, but it’s the normal amount of nervous, the expected amount, and so he only gives the warehouse the usual sweep before approaching her and her tangela. Her primeape is lurking on the stacked boxes above, the quiet snort of its breaths punctuating the echo of his steps.
“Good to see you again, Detective.” Her voice is soft as the rain on the pavement outside, and he notes with approval that she’s also keeping both hands on the pokeballs at her belt. “Wasn’t expecting a response so soon.”
Looker shrugs. “Your lead was better than you had any reason to expect. Fuji’s story doesn’t add up.”
Her face remains calm, but he sees something in her eyes. Triumph? Hurt? Maybe something else too. He doesn’t know her well enough to tell for sure, but he knew during their first meeting that part of her hoped she was wrong about the old scientist; he respected the fact that she went through so much trouble to check anyway.
He considered not, of course, unsure what she would do with the information. But an investigator is only as good as their sources, and given what she’s managed to piece together on her own, Laura Verres could turn out to be quite a valuable source indeed.
Still, the same things that tend to make sources valuable can often make them volatile.
“I will, once I get some assurances.”
“I won’t report it, if that’s what you mean.” She seems more exasperated than offended. “So far as he’s concerned, I’ll act as I normally would, and continue helping him spread his ideas. But there are others I’ve gotten involved, or have considered getting involved, and if he’s dangerous in some way, or being around him is, I need to know.”
“You mean Leaf Juniper. Possibly your son as well?”
“That story she’s putting out online, is that involved in all this somehow?”
Verres raises her brow. “You’re reading webserials now?”
“I like to be thorough.” Her brow is still raised, and he shrugs. “Alright I skimmed it. If it’s some kind of code, I can’t make heads or tails of how.”
“Me neither. He’s been pretty worked up about it though, so it may just be something he really believes in. So, is he dangerous?”
“If he is, you’ll leave this entirely in our hands?”
“Of course not. But so far as acting on your information goes, it’s your info, and I’ll respect that… assuming you’ll try to do the same in return.”
“You know I can’t promise that.”
“I wouldn’t have believed it if you tried. I’m not looking for a promise, just a sense that you care.”
Looker nods. He similarly wouldn’t have believed her if she claimed to be willing to subordinate herself entirely to Interpol; he’s starting to believe she’s one of the rare breed of true investigative reporters, willing to put their career and safety on the line to uncover the truth, and they don’t tend to trust police, no matter how separated from the source of potential corruption they’re investigating. “I looked into some financial records that are far more extensive than your source managed to take. Fuji’s been off the grid for nearly fifteen years, but he’s only been on Silph’s ‘payroll’ for about half of that.”
“You could have missed it, if they changed up how they paid for everything.”
“Could have, yeah. But that’s also around the time he started dropping those breadcrumbs that Professor Oak picked up. So my two main guesses are, either he suddenly had a change of heart about working for Silph around the time Silph changed how they were managing him, which could make sense depending on how and why. Or, that’s actually the point when he started working for Silph at all.”
“Which would mean he did what for the years before that? Vacation?”
His smile is as wry as her tone. “Maybe. But this pattern isn’t new.”
It takes her a moment, eyes darting between his, then to the side, then back. “The renegades under the casino.”
“And others, in other regions. Sometimes it’s easy to make up job histories, particularly for random civilians. Gets harder for those who have been in the public eye—”
“—or with a specific set of skills that only a handful of organizations would hire for. The researchers there?”
“Right. Most are from other regions, but of all the people hired to work on secretive projects, some seem to be less ‘hired’ and more…” He shrugs. “Kidnapped? Recruited? Traded?”
“It’s nothing illegal though, is it?”
He grimaces “No. We’ve stretched the laws in Celadon because of the Renegade involvement, but those paper trails all lead to other regions, some of which are less cooperative with interpol and others which are, frankly, too corrupt for me to trust.”
Laura shakes her head. “Whoever was involved in that can’t be involved with Silph if it was stealing from them. How sure are you that it’s connected to what’s happening with Fuji? It feels like you’re making some leaps.”
He crosses his arms. “There’s no reason the strategy would be limited by one particular organization, or even type of org. If an even moderately competent person or group could be doing something without risk that would be an advantage to them, it’s best to assume they are doing it until there’s reason to believe they’re not. But,” he says to forestall a predictable rebuttal, “That’s part of why I need your help. You’re in the best position to learn something more about Fuji’s history and situation, maybe get him to guess about some of the other missing scientists. I don’t believe he’s been as silo’d as he says, and anything you can tell me might shed light on the others, even if they worked for a different organization. If so I’ll let you know.”
“I don’t know how much longer I have. Silph may not have any proof that Fuji’s broken NDAs, and I don’t know if they have any more legal screws to turn that they haven’t already, but they could just move him to another location, or order him to stop talking to others.”
“Why would he listen? Didn’t his whole rebellion start in the first place because he doesn’t want to keep helping them? And with Oak involved now, they must know it wouldn’t go well for them if they try to do anything public.”
“He seems to think it’s important that he stay on the project.” She gives a helpless shrug. “Says he has to be involved, even if he doesn’t think it’s right… that anyone else ‘might get it wrong,’ which I guess he sees as even worse somehow?”
Looker considers that, then gives a begrudging nod. “I can see it. Alright, then do what you can and we’ll try to find out more on our end.”
“I tried looking it up, but couldn’t find a straight answer; what’ll happen to Fuji, if he’s worked with renegades and hasn’t told anyone?”
Looker snorts. “Indigo’s twisted itself around and around on this one. Short answer is, as long as he hasn’t seen renegade activity with his own eyes or heard a direct confession or report of it, he’s clear. If he has and hasn’t reported it, it’s aiding and abetting.”
“You don’t sound happy about it.”
“Nothing personal against Fuji, I have no idea what he’s done or seen yet, just think it gives people too much wiggle room. But there are worse problems with the whole system.”
It still amazes him that so few people see it, even those like Ms. Verres, who has no history with the gyms, and is skeptical of those in power by trade. “That as long as someone has seen something and reported it, they’re totally clear.”
Laura frowns. “There would be records, an investigation…?”
Looker thinks back to the cool, assessing gaze of Leader Erika when she stared him down in the police department, pushed him to limit his efforts even after learning that her city had renegades hidden in it. “That assumes the leader or ranger starts one.” He sees the realization hit, and his grin is hard. “Hell of a loophole, isn’t it? All anyone has to do is find one corrupt leader or ranger, and a whole city could take turns telling them when they see any renegade activity and be totally safe from the law.”
“Joining us tonight is Elite Agatha, one of the foremost experts on mental and spiritual phenomena. We’re honored to have you on the show, Elite, and grateful for any light you can shed on this growing mystery.”
“By that you mean you want some reassurance, right?”
“Well… If possible, I think a lot of our listeners would appreciate that, yes. With everything that’s been happening over the past few months…”
“Of course. This is just one more thing to worry about in a year where every season seems to bring a new one. But I’m worried that for most people, it’ll be one too many.”
“One too many…?”
“One too many worries. It’ll bounce off, slide into ‘someone else’s problem.’ Even if there weren’t so many other major changes to adapt to, this is nothing tangible, nothing they can do anything about. Just a vague worry that some people they’ve never met are having bad dreams. Unfortunately, since it may well be the most important thing to worry about, I’m not sure I’d want to reassure people even if I could, which I can’t, so it’s all moot anyway.”
“To be clear, you’re saying that you believe these dreams are more of a threat than Rayquaza, the renegades, ditto—”
“And everything else happening in other regions, yes. And that’s because it’s unknown, utterly unknown. We have no idea why it’s happening, if it’s pointing to something real, or if we should trust it even if it is.”
“Do you, really? Because you’re not gibbering in the corner, so I have doubts. Maybe you will once the interview’s over and you can take your professional mask off, eh?”
“I… suppose I should say instead that I think I see. Maybe you could explain that last part, about trusting it?”
“I don’t think it’s sunk in for everyone that this is the most public and obvious sign in living memory that humans are not alone in the universe. Whether it’s a spirit, a god, or even beings from another world or dimension, this message is coming from something other.”
“You really believe that?”
“At first, no. I thought it was just some particularly powerful projector, a psychic good at projecting that is, creeping around outside the houses of famous psychics while they slept. Simplest explanation to fit the evidence, at the time… but now? No psychic in recorded history could send a dream to an entire town at once. Could be this is the first. I’m sure that’s what Oak would say. But then, why would they? I think it’s something else, and that something else is sending us a warning.”
“Now you do, yes, or are starting to. Looking a little pale. Need some water?”
“I’ll be alright, Elite, thank you… I suppose the next obvious question is, whether it’s a person or something else, why would the dreams lie? In either case, actually. What do you think the dream projector wants?”
“If their intentions are honest, it’s clear to me they’re sending us a warning about the unown. Whether they want us to kill them or capture them or stop experimenting with them, I can’t say. It may be possible they don’t know themselves. Or perhaps it’s a test.”
“And if not honest?”
“Then we should do the opposite of the thing they want us to do, of course. But there’s a third possibility that’s more likely, and less clear; they may just be too alien for an idea like honest or dishonest intentions to be relevant questions. Their message may itself not reflect something real or meaningful to us.”
“I s… I think I see. Why just the islands?”
“Maybe the threat is focused here. Maybe we’re the only ones that can stop it.”
“Have you had the dream yet, Elite?”
“Oh yes, weeks ago. Kept quiet, figured saying anything would play into the hands of whoever did it, but now it seems moot.”
“And you feel convinced of its authenticity?”
“Assuming they’re not deceitful, I’m convinced the projector believed what they projected, if that’s what you mean. Spirit or alien or god, they could still be wrong, or mad.”
“Doesn’t seem like a particularly good option either.”
“No, but I’d take a few sleepless nights for the world’s gifted over getting eaten by the thing it’s afraid of.”
Cyrus stands above the Ruins of Alph, eyes roaming in a steady pattern in the skies above for unown that might appear. Being so close to Violet City, Alph has been more active than most unown ruins, practically crawling with mystics and researchers, thrill seekers and protestors, so catching any that appear closer to the ground is difficult. Many seem convinced they’ll be the ones to figure out the secret of the unown, but it’s clear that no one knows what they really are, and without that knowledge they’re flailing in the dark.
Unlike Cyrus, who has never seen more clearly.
It was the dream that showed him the way, as he knew it would. There’s been no apparent rhyme or reason to when and where they would appear, but once he realized it wasn’t repeating at a location he came to Violet City, a major metropolis where resident psychics haven’t reported experiencing it yet. He visited the ruins by day, capturing unown with a steadily improving success rate, and going to bed early each night to ensure he slept through as much of it as possible.
He only had to wait eleven days before it came to him, and every other psychic in the city. And what he saw filled him with a deep existential terror… until he woke to reflect, and felt only awe.
Unlike the rest of the world, whose hysteria has only continued to increase. It wasn’t so bad when news articles popped up speculating about what it meant for a handful of famous psychics around the islands to get the same nightmare; a curiosity to be talked about over lunch with friends, and grist for the conspiratorial corners of the internet.
Then whole towns and cities of psychics began to get it, and the net went wild with speculation, fueled in no small part by the more pedestrian psychics themselves, who lacked the restraint and uncertainty of their betters.
But with Elite Agatha’s interview, even governments have started taking it seriously… in opposite directions. Some are calling for a complete ban on not just pokemon genesis, but unown research altogether, while others are pushing for more research to counter the hypothetical threat.
Even worse, there’s no rhyme or reason to who falls on which side of the battle lines; there are researchers and Professors on both, as are Leaders and Elites within the same region trying (for the most part) and often failing to dance around the issue. Meanwhile politicians are shuffling further and further toward the edges as they try to keep up with a public that, despite Agatha’s prediction, has turned out to be quite worried about a supernatural existential threat that they can neither see nor hear.
But all of that pales in relation to what it’s done to psychics, who have been drawn forcefully into the center of the cultural crossfire. Each one he knows has been peppered with questions about the dreams by everyone else, whether they’ve had them or not. No one seems to be blaming psychics themselves yet, but he’d almost prefer that over the desperate fear that’s allowed a few unscrupulous “mystics” to cash in on the phenomenon.
He resisted at first from pitting his voice against the chorus. But seeing so many wallowing in fear and skepticism was unbearable when he knew he could offer them something else.
All his life he’s known something was wrong with the world. With the people in it. With the way society has managed, against all odds, to survive…through the pain and suffering of children they send into the thresher’s maw of nature, itself an indiscriminate charnel house of pain and grief.
Cyrus’s older brother was full of hope and will and an unstoppable drive to see the world. He was dead just a few months into his journey, shattering their parents so thoroughly his grandfather had to put the pieces back together, leaving Cyrus to handle his own shock and grief. Therapy was no help, insisting that he express his feelings while also pushing the idea that it was something to be accepted, what their family was going through. Like it was okay, as long as it was normal.
It wasn’t okay. None of it was. But no one understood that; they thought they did, thought they were all grieving for the same reasons, but Cyrus’s grief wasn’t sufficient. Only action would stop the pain, and not just his.
But his parents never truly recovered, turning into weeping and hollow versions of themselves, fearfully hypercritical of anything he tried to do to prepare for his own journey. When his psychic powers developed he realized that no amount of knowledge or preparation would convince them that he would not fail as his brother did… and yet he was still young enough to think that if he could be good enough, be happy enough despite his own grief, he could remind them they still had a son left. That life could still be good. He would try projecting his joys to them, his hope and desire for things to get better.
It was never enough.
His hair began to gray as a teenager, and few enough things in life gave him any joy that he stopped trying for his parents’ sake. Still, he thought perhaps he could do it for others; where his powers had failed, perhaps other methods would succeed. He joined organizations dedicated to helping those recovering from grief and injury, made connections among different professions and organizations, began forming interdisciplinary teams to identify what would keep people from having as much trauma after crises, or help them recover faster.
Sometimes it seemed he could do some good, here and there. They identified people’s needs that added resilience, things like robust social networks and economic safety, and did their best to facilitate and reinforce them where they could. But most regions had their own unique traumas, whether seasonal or unpredictable, citywide or erratic in destructive scope, and every tragedy would undo much of their work.
It took him years to realize that no matter how much good someone experiences, sometimes a single bad enough day can ruin their lives. For those not sufficiently chained by the biological drive to live, bad enough events can end them.
And still he tried, will flickering and fading, until he read a book by the author Terry Pratchett, in which a character said:
“I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother floatzel with her cubs, a very endearing sight, I’m sure you’ll agree. And even as I watched, the mother dived into the water and came up with a plump magikarp, which she subdued and dragged onto a half submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby buizel, who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.”
For the first time in his life, it was like someone else was speaking to him. Showing that he wasn’t alone in recognizing how broken the world was, and how flawed whatever powers or forces brought it into existence this way.
Because there’s so much that could be better, if just a single thing were different. And he despaired, not at the duty to become the creator’s moral superior, but to ever having the ability to change what it had wrought.
He thought insufficient knowledge was the answer, at first, then insufficient will to move on, then an overabundance of emotion; that people felt their pains too deeply. He considered trying to become the most powerful trainer in the world, or a politician able to unite every region under his rule, or starting a religion that could inflame the hearts and minds of all humanity… but still it seemed there was nothing that could possibly change the fundamental problems in the world.
The flame inside him, still driving him to find a way to fix the crack in his family, began at last to gutter and die.
Until the Hoenn titans arose, and changed his conception of what was possible.
Each had the power to change the world in an extreme way. Each showed a lack of ability to regulate, a lack of intelligent deliberate purpose. Humanity panicked because they thought their world came close to ending, but no one seems to have understood the potential for what almost happened.
A new world’s beginning.
A worse one, perhaps, with so much water or sunlight that more suffering became the baseline. But any society born or acclimated to such a world would surely also consider it the norm, and take for granted that its ending would be tragic.
None would have traded their world for this one, better though it is. Perhaps they would, for a world without flaws.
Many regions have myths of ancient and powerful gods and spirits, masters of some (occasionally competing) domains of reality. But few carry the deep implications of Sinnoh’s. He grew up on stories of Dialga and Palkia creating Time and Space, of Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf gifting humanity knowledge, emotion, and willpower, of Arceus creating all of reality itself with a thousand arms.
Like most others, he believed them myths, or legends gone from their world. Hoenn’s myths turned out not just to be real, but still present, and even stronger than the stories indicated.
What new reality could Sinnoh’s create, if guided by a human mind?
The secret, he’s sure, lies with the unown. It wasn’t widely spread how the Hoenn incident ended; people assumed Rayquaza saved them by chance, or out of benevolence, and that the registeel, regirock, and regice there were released by the earthquakes. All of which may be partially true.
But Cyrus was hired to help those in Hoenn after the incident, where he met and counseled a boy named Wally. The boy’s shields were extraordinary for his age, but they meant nothing once his feelings of guilt overcame him.
Cyrus assured the boy that he did nothing wrong, and meant every word. The glimpses of genius that allowed Wally to influence the living myths were hard to understand, but it was enough, combined with the dreams to know what he had to do.
There’s another pop, and then that entrancing sound from somewhere distant, almost too faint for him to hear… but not for his golbat.
His pokemon darts away, faster than those of any competing unown hunters in the area. He runs by them as he chases his pokemon, vaulting low walls and weaving between pillars as the others are still looking around for the unown. It’s remarkable how few thought to train their pokemon specifically to find the sound they make, and of those who did, how few chose pokemon well known for speed and hearing.
He passes by a researcher who’s using a loudred to orient to the unown’s noise, but by the time she sends her pidgeot after it there’s already a small black figure falling in the distance. His golbat follows it down, occasionally batting at it with his wings to keep it from recovering and flying away, and Cyrus expands a ball as he gets close.
He thought it would take weeks, maybe months, to shake off the decade of rust on his trainer skills. In the years since his younger self trained daily, determined to prove himself to his parents, the only pokeball he held was the one with his teleporter in it.
But the fire in him now is stronger than that ever was, and weeks of retraining his body were almost a formality; the skills of throwing and catching, of split second evaluation and decision, were all there waiting for him, and the two balls expanding in his palms feel like they never left.
The pidgeot and his golbat almost collide as they both attempt to batter the unown down. The researcher behind him is still catching up to him, and he sends a mental command ahead for his golbat to Supersonic it. As the bird veers away, one wing flapping so hard it nearly flips over and crashes into the ground, he reaches the unown and points the lenses forward, nudging his golbat to keep it in range until he hears the two pings and throws.
By the time the researcher arrives he’s already leaving with his new C unown. It’s his third one, but that’s alright; what Wally did required one of each, but he has greater plans.
Plans that will birth a new world.