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Aidan Klein

"I guess I'm part of the ugly truth now."

0 · 1,082 views · located in Kanto Region

a character in “Pokémon: Atonement”, as played by Aethyia

Description

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xxImageImageImagexxxxxAidanKlein
xxxxxxxxx◙◙◙◙* Male xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 36 xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 6'2" xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 190 lbs. xxxxx◙◙◙◙* TR Exec: Moltres

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--Image- BRAWLER street fighting skills; very physically strong
PERCEPTION excellent read on people; "human lie detector"
CRAFTSMAN really good at fixing/making shit
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Image Parallel to life / there’s wisdom that seems out of reach
- - - - - - - like a figure of speech / in a maze of white lies .


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Aidan pretty much epitomizes 'tired.' On a surface level, his demeanor is calm, almost a bit lackadaisical or negligent, and he very much gives off the impression of being bored with basically everything going on around him. The antics of his teammates are met with a rather deadpan stoicism, and he's like as not to complain about 'kids these days' despite not really being old enough to have earned that. It's perhaps somewhat understandable, considering the rather out-there personalities he works with on a daily basis—the top ranks of Neo Team Rocket are a colorful place, to say the least. Aidan deals with this by being, more or less, the eye of the storm: a calm, type-b personality who does things in his own time, at his own pace, and who really can't be moved to much emotion without his consent.

Of course, that's not all there is to him. One doesn't become the trusted right hand of a man like Stefan Gregorovich without being both extremely talented and willing to put in the work. Aidan lacks any kind of supernatural powers or special ninja training, or even so much as a college degree. He's not a genius or a prodigy or the favored son of one of the oldest families in Kanto. He doesn't have particularly special knowledge to bring to the table, or even that much charisma. And while he's in good shape and a fair hand in a physical confrontation, there are certainly plenty of people who could say the same.

What sets Aidan apart, however, is his intuition. He has a sense for people and how they tick that even Gregorovich can't match, and this insight makes him an extremely effective leader—and when he needs to be, an extremely effective manipulator. He can accomplish in a ten-minute interrogation what it might take other people days—and outright torture—to achieve, because he has a way of seeing to the heart of a person, of reading them cold from the fine details of their body language, the clothes they wear, the brand of cigarettes they smoke, and all kinds of other very tiny, very human details. He finds that he often knows what other people are feeling before they do, and has learned to keep many of these intuitions to himself.

Making the most effective use of this intuition, though, does involve knowing a lot of information, and his head is crammed oddly full of seemingly-random data. He knows a little bit about a lot of things, more an intellectual dabbler than an expert in anything in particular, though on occasion he's needed to take deeper dives into certain things and has picked up an odd assortment of skills accordingly.

Towards his subordinates, he assumes a sort of cool professionalism, but he has a dark, deadpan sense of humor, and appreciates the same in others. He is devoted above all else to Gregorovich's aims. It's not that he's heartless or without a conscience, merely that he willingly lays these things aside in service of what he sees as the greater good. For every idyll, someone has to get their hands dirty, and Aidan's are long stained.


Image you know your heart beats / a solitary call
- - - - - - - for a change in the tone of it all.


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Aidan Klein was never supposed to make anything of himself.

By any conventional measure, he was born under unlucky stars: his mother was a teenage girl from the bad part of Saffron City, whose good-for-nothing boyfriend had fled at the first sign of actual responsibility. She loved him, as much as she could, but for the early part of his life, he was raised more by his grandparents than anything, as his mother struggled to keep a succession of low-wage jobs. Eventually she turned to prostitution, which in Saffron was illegal, a fact that meant she was also periodically in and out of jail. Aidan's grandparents were no wealthier than their daughter, and he grew up disaffected, neglected, and occasionally abused. His grandmother was something of a drunk, and didn't tend to spare the boy the rod in such a state.

Much of his adolescence was spent getting into trouble. Though a bright kid, he made very poor grades in school, and from middle school onward spent more time cutting class than attending. He fell in with a group of older boys with a bike gang of sorts, and spent a lot of time at the mechanic shop one of their uncles owned, a rather lackadaisical man named Danny. The gang tended to be belligerent, and Aidan was involved in more than his fair share of scraps as a result. By fifteen, he drank, smoked, fixed cars, and went out looking for trouble long past his curfew at night.

It was his grandfather that more or less yanked him out of the gutter, though the climb would be a long process. For Aidan's sixteenth birthday, the old man scraped together enough money to buy him a pokémon: a pikachu, from a disreputable mill in Saffron. He advised Aidan to get out of the city for a while, to make a journey on his own, with pokémon, in hopes that this would help the boy settle. For a while, it did, even; he found he had a knack for training and battling.

But his pikachu, a poor inbred thing cast off from the mill cheaply, had a congenital disease. His grandfather hadn't known any better than to buy from the business, and Aidan hadn't known how to tell she was getting sick, and by the time a Nurse Joy noticed something off and did the necessary diagnostics, it was too late. Aidan held his partner as she was put down, both more miserable and more angry than he'd ever been.

A young man of seventeen, he went on a ferocious bender, and might have literally died had not a different old man dragged him out of a literal gutter. Stefan Gregorovich had apparently been following his progress through Kanto's gym circuit with some interest, and didn't want to see him waste his potential. He talked to him about the ideals of Neo Team Rocket, how it was his mission in life to see the end of operations like the one that had in their negligence condemned his pokémon to a short life marred by suffering. It was something the young man could, in the raw state of his grief, wholeheartedly embrace. Eventually, Aidan decided to get back at it, and rose to the level of Pokémon Champion of the region, a position which he maintained for several years undefeated. But after a while Gregorovich, with whom he never lost contact, recruited him to Neo Team Rocket as his own right-hand man, and Aidan retired from the professional battle circuit to commit to his new job full time, disappearing from the public eye completely.


Image I’ll be singing you songs of tomorrow
- - - - - - - and then dawn will follow / and our sorrows all undone .


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Nevena
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This line is here to take space.
I uh... damn.

Aidan's not really the spontaneous type, and he does tend to sit with his feelings until he's good and ready to make any decisions that might need to be made on account of them. But just because he makes his decisions slowly doesn't mean he doesn't know how he feels. He has a serious thing for Doc, and he's quite sure she's at least a little into him, too. But he's waiting for things to settle—and possibly fade—before he does anything about it.

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Eryk
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This line is here to take space.
I feel for the guy, I really do.

Aidan's not really the type to compare pain or life experiences in any kind of 'who had it worse' sort of way, but that said, he knows Nero had it pretty bad growing up. It's something he can relate to on a level some people can't—and thankfully don't have to—understand. He won't make any kind of big deal about it, of course, but there's no denying it's there. For the moment, he's actually enjoying coaching him.

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Cyrilla
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I guess we're related now.

Aidan sort of surprised himself by offering to adopt Cyrilla into his family. He doesn't regret it, even after all the stupid nicknames. Actually... part of him kind of likes those. He's never had much of a family before, and definitely no siblings or cousins or anything. He's glad he could help her in this way—it feels good to be able to use his name and position within NTR for something unqualifiedly good for once.

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Kasimir
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There's a lot going on under the surface there.

The more time he spends with Rheinallt, the more Aidan wonders about him. There are certain aspects of who he is that are ridiculously easy to nail down. But this only makes the rest even more unusual. There's depths to the guy, and they're surprisingly challenging to get a grip on. Whatever else might be the case, though, Rheinallt's good people, and that's pretty much all Aidan needs to know anyway.

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Anastasia
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You know, I get the feeling she's hiding something.

Not that he knows what it is. But still, there's something about Ana that concerns him. He doesn't expect her to just tell everyone her life story, of course, but while he has plenty of incidental details about Doc or even the two Kogas in the group, he knows almost nothing about Ana's history, because she never talks about it. And that... that makes him wonder, honestly.

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Coding by Aethiya, inspired by maccotango's guide to the same.

So begins...

Aidan Klein's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK



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April - 25th
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk smoothed out the front of his suit, grimacing slightly at the color. They were required to wear the standard executive uniform which consisted of a white suit jacket, a pair of white formal trousers, and a black shirt underneath it. It was void of the symbolic R that used to cover a breast pocket, but Eryk supposed that had a lot to do with the reimagery of Team Rocket. Now called Neo Team Rocket, but it didn't matter to him. He pushed a heavy sigh through his nose as he made his way towards the foyer. He and the other two executives were being summoned for a meeting. He knew one of the two; Cyrilla was his childhood friend, and current fiancée. A ruse he planned to keep up for as long as he possibly could, however; he did not know who the third member of his group, was. All he had was a name: Kasimir Rheinallt. It sounded familiar, but he couldn't really say.

They were all officially meeting for the first time, today. If he remembered the e-mail correctly, they were going to be given instructions of some sort. Eryk didn't really bother paying too much attention to it, though. He would be given the info he needed, and then he could do whatever job they needed him to do. It was the only reason why he was in Cinnabar. He didn't like the heat much, but he supposed there were not a lot of things he did like.

When he made it to the foyer, he glanced around and noted that he was the first to arrive. He'd always been a punctual person, but perhaps he was a bit early. Shoving his hands into his pocket, he waited for someone to arrive. Cyrilla would be around soon, he thought. She was never far from where he was, but perhaps she'd got caught up in something? Perhaps neating her uniform or some other aspect of her appearance? Unlike Eryk, she always made a point to look her best. He supposed it had a lot to do with what she did. He didn't like it, but that's just how things were.

Pulling in a soft breath, he blinked slowly, listening to the clock behind him tick ever so loudly.

Before long, he could hear a jaunty whistling from down the hall, growing closer at a brisk, but not hurried pace. The whistler was clear and tuneful, but the song wasn't anything he recognized. Not much afterwards, the door opened, and someone else stepped into the room. The man was very tall, with a warm brown complexion and deeper umber hair, which was slightly longer than Eryk's own and pulled into a low tail. He wore the same uniform, but not properly—the jacket was open and his shirt appeared to be only half-tucked, the top three buttons all undone.

The man glanced the other way into the room, then towards Eryk, grinning lopsidedly when he spotted him and stepping in, a slim laptop computer carried loosely in one large hand. "Ryk. Long time, no see." Letting the door shut behind him, he nodded at another beyond it. "We're actually in the conference room up this way."

“Kas," he spoke the man's name without realizing it, realizing belatedly why the name sounded so familiar to him. He'd undergone the same introduction to Neo Team Rocket with Eryk. He wouldn't say that they were exactly friends, but Eryk didn't dislike him. At least not yet. Glancing towards the door Kasimir had nodded towards, he blinked again, but moved forward. He wasn't late, by any means, but he supposed being in the proper area would be a good start to something. What? he didn't know. Didn't really care.

When they arrived to the conference room, Cyrilla was already waiting for them. She grinned in Eryk's direction, raising a hand to wave before she set it back down. It seemed she'd opted to wear the executive uniform skirt with the ridiculously short length. He could almost see it riding up her thighs, however; it seemed she was sensible enough to wear a pair of black shorts underneath. Perhaps to help deal with the heat, but what did he know?

“Took you long enough, Ryk," she spoke, offering him a smile before her eyes landed on Kasimir. She arched a brow in his direction, before she turned back to Eryk and grinned. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her statement, and instead, speared a hand through his hair. It wasn't as if he'd bothered to style it. It was loose, shaggy, and just fell in a way that he didn't really have to bother. He could see Cyrilla roll her eyes, though, before she took a seat at the table. Glancing towards Kasimir, he took the seat to her right, facing the wall where the television was situated.

"Ah. You must be Cyrilla. Kas; nice to meet you." He adjusted the rimless glasses on his nose—Eryk didn't remember him having those before, but for all he knew he'd worn contacts during training.

Kasimir moved to the other side of the table, back to the screen and at the far end, but he did extend a hand for Cyrilla to shake, head slightly tilted in an inquisitive manner.

“Pleasure to meet you as well, Kas," she replied, taking his hand into her own in what seemed to be a firm handgrip before pulling away. Eryk rolled his eyes slightly, and shook his head. “Any idea what this meeting is about?" she asked, head tilting slightly as she waited for one of them to answer.

“I don't fucking know," Eryk stated, brows furrowing slightly. He just wanted it to be over with already. Cyrilla arched a brow at him, her face smoothing out as she sighed. “I don't know," Eryk stated once more, perhaps a little softer this time around. If they had known what the meeting was about, Eryk doubted the three of them would be gathered in the conference rooom for a meeting. They could have simply e-mailed it to them, and he'd be back in his office dealing with whatever it was they wanted him to.

"I've got an idea," Kasimir admitted, crouching on the floor to pull several cables from retractable recesses out towards his computer. "Only because I'm running the visuals for the meeting, though. We've got a mission, apparently." Hooking the cables into a few of the ports in the laptop, he pulled out one of the chairs and flopped into it, pulling his legs up under him and crossing them as he opened the lid and woke the machine up.

The screen behind him flickered to life as well, though as of yet it didn't show much of interest. Only the first panel of one of those presentation things, whatever they were called.

Before he could much elaborate, though, the door opened again, and in stepped a different man, this one recognizable rather easily. Aidan Klein was well enough known within Neo Team Rocket that there were few people who didn't know his face, or at least the hair—bright red and unkempt. A cigarette dangled from between his lips; he crossed the room to crack a window first thing, before he faced the group.

"Good. You're here. I'll assume you all know each others' names at least." He removed the cigarette, flicking the end of it into a nearby glass ashtray and stubbing it out. Exhaling a last cloud of smoke, he dropped into a different chair, scrubbing a hand through his hair. For a man titled after a legendary firebird pokémon, he looked rather... indifferent. Perhaps even tired, though that was harder to say.

"And two of you have already read each others' files." He didn't indicate how he knew that or who the two were, only blinked slowly and sighed. "For the one of you that hasn't, let's get caught up. Who are you, and what are your skills? Go." He waved a lackadaisical hand as if to prompt them to speak.

“Infiltration specialist and intelligence gatherer," Cyrilla spoke first, perhaps in a more professional tone than she'd meant to. “And also a decent chemist," she added, though Eryk knew she was more than just decent. Her eyes went to him, next, though, and Eryk furrowed his brows. He didn't know how to answer that, honestly. His skills were vast, but that didn't make him a specialist of any sort. He could do things, well enough that they managed to get whatever job done, and that had been enough.

"I'm just the nerd," Kasimir said with a little shrug. He nodded at his computer. "I do technology stuff: security systems, the NTR firewalls and information databases, occasionally a records request from the local jennys, that kind of thing."

Aidan nodded, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing what seemed to be a set of ID cards, each with a clip at the top, the kind of thing that would attach to a pocket or lanyard or the like. He slid Cyrilla's and Kasimir's across the table to them, and then Eryk's to him. As befit his promotion, he had a new designation: E01, indicating that he was first-ranked among the executives of Neo Team Rocket. Kasimir's would be E02, and Cyrilla's E03. "What about you, Nero?"

Eryk shrugged his shoulders. “I do a little of everything. Mostly the manual labor aspect of... things," he answered. It was about as best a summary as he could give for his particular set of skills. “A jack-of-all-trades, if you will," he clarified. It wasn't like he needed to be particularly good at one thing. If he could do something well-enough, he didn't think it was necessary to be the best at it. It served its purpose, and that was all he needed. He took his ID card and clipped it to the breast pocket of his jacket. He'd have to get a lanyard for it, or some other sort of thing to keep it attached on.

"All right." Aidan was either satisfied with the answers or didn't care, because he nodded at Kasimir, who returned his attention to his laptop.

"So you three are now effectively in charge of this field office. Technically you answer to me, but I've got my own projects, and for the most part I won't have a lot to say about how things run here. That's up to you. You also, however, have a long-term mission to do. Boss wants intel on a local—anything and everything you can get."

He paused expectantly, and Kasimir struck a key on his computer, filling the screen with a photo. It seemed to be of the identification sort: the young woman in it was not smiling, and seemed vaguely distracted by something slightly past the photographer. She had soft pink hair, long enough to fall out of frame, and a face that seemed to be an assemblage of pale, delicate features, from large blue eyes to the sharp point of her chin. She looked about as nonthreatening as anyone Eryk had ever seen.

"This is the target," Kasimir said. "Her name's Anastasia Asher, and as you might expect from that hair, she's a Joy relative. She runs a pokémon shelter and hospice on the island—it's not more than two miles from here. From what I was able to find in public records, she's up to date on all her licenses—unusually for one of her family, she has one for training as well as one for the shelter, but she's not on record as owning any badges or anything. The shelter was established in town about a year ago; at that point all inspections indicated the place was up to code for thirty pokémon." He lifted his shoulders and let them fall.

Aidan elaborated. "Boss says recon. She's of interest as a possible volunteer for a project of his, but we're not sure she has the right qualifications. You'll know them if you see them, and there's a high chance you will. In the meantime, you're supposed to get close. The idea is that if she qualifies, she'll want to volunteer, so make friends. Or whatever works. That's the mission."

Cyrilla's brows furrowed, but she didn't say anything. Eryk felt something vaguely uncomfortable in his stomach as he narrowed his eyes. They wanted the three of them to get close to this young woman because she was a potential volunteer? Eryk wasn't the brightest person, he knew this of himself, however; why would they need to get close to a target to have her volunteer for a project of their boss? Why not just ask her to volunteer her services, whatever they may be? If he remembered correctly, they could very well compensate her for her services, if that is what it took. It wasn't until the last of Aidan's statement finally caught up with him that Eryk understood something.

Get close so that they don't have to compensate her. So that she'd be willing to do it because they were her friends. The thought left a bit of a sour taste in his mouth. Eryk was not the type of person to make friends easily with people. Cyrilla could; she just had that natural charisma about her, he supposed. Kasimir looked like he could without much effort, but Eryk couldn't be too sure.

“Very well," Eryk spoke, nodding his head in Aidan's direction. Cyrilla glanced at Eryk from the corners of her eyes, but nodded her head as well in agreement.

It was nothing more than a job, and they would all do their parts, he supposed.

"Gregorovich expects written reports monthly, to him directly. I'm assuming that won't be a problem." Aidan stood, withdrawing a box of cigarettes and a lighter from his breast pocket and lighting one before replacing the box. "Anyway, if you need anything, I'm around I guess. You've all been secured an apartment at the nearest complex. I recommend checking out the facility when you get a chance. Hayley's the point person with the local grunts; she won't give you any trouble."

Neo Team Rocket could be a competitive place; it wasn't uncommon for petty grudges held between grunts to last years, and Executives were seen just as often as obstacles to surpass than authorities to be obeyed. Aidan was probably referencing this fact. "Good luck and all that. There's a training exercise at the end of the month, so get to know each other a bit so you don't humiliate yourselves. Maybe Nero can even figure out what all his trades are." The corner of his mouth twitched; Kasimir snorted softly.

Without further input, Aidan exited the conference room.

Kasimir blinked. "I've got maps and more information on the mark if anyone's interested?"

Eryk pursed his lips together. He had a feeling he'd been insulted somehow, but he couldn't be too sure. He turned his attention towards Kasimir, though, and smoothed out his expression.

“I think that's a good idea. The more info we have on her, the easier it'll be to approach and assimilate ourselves into her life," Cyrilla spoke, but there was a slight crease in her brows from where they furrowed.

“Agreed. The more we know, the better our chances at a successful mission," Eryk added, though he doubted that it would be the case. “Let's get to it, then."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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#, as written by Aethyia


April 28th
Aidan's Office - Morning - Sunny
Aidan Klein


Aidan blinked slowly. The large monitor screen in front of him was occupied by the image of an older man with longish grey hair and a fastidiously-trimmed beard, his weathered face partly hidden behind spectacles with a thin silver rim. He was dressed in a crisp black suit, layered over a black shirt and tie, the only bit of color the ruby tie-pin holding the length of satin in place. He regarded Aidan with a solemn expression—then again he pretty much always looked like that. There were bags under his eyes; Aidan wondered if maybe running things in Saffron without him was a less-smooth transition than they'd hoped for.

"Her boat should be arriving within the hour. As I said, I'm assigning this to you personally. The R&D team is going to be crucial to the success of Project Nebula, and she's going to make the difference in that." Gregorovich picked a lighter up from offscreen and flicked it a few times, lighting the cigarette between his lips. It made Aidan twitchy for the same, but he hated it when rooms smelled like old smoke, so he refrained.

"You ever gonna tell me what Project Nebula is or do I have to guess?" He knew some set of the things it was apparently going to need, including this woman's research, but the larger picture was entirely beyond him.

From anyone else, that question probably would have earned the boss's cold glare and no answer at all. In this case, though, Gregorovich leaned back in his chair, exhaling a cloud of smoke and studying Aidan through the monitor. "It's an attempt to develop a new method of identifying and contacting pokémon in distress. Conventional investigation methods are slow and imperfect; you know this as well as anyone."

Aidan nodded slightly, hardly needing the reminder.

Gregorovich sighed. "I can't say much more because I don't know much more. It's hardly more than the grain of an idea right now, and I can't afford to place much stock in it. That's why you're there, though. I need you to keep an eye on the developers. Make sure they have everything they need—do everything possible to make the project viable. If it works... if it works it solves 90% of our efficiency issues. Changes the game completely—saves more pokémon than you can imagine."

Aidan knew there was something the boss was keeping back from him. It was in the way he sat, the way his eyes rested a little too heavily, it felt. But the boss had been leading NTR all this time, and though sometimes Aidan wasn't sure about their methods, the man's vision had never wavered. And when it came right down to it, that vision was one he was prepared to do anything for. So it didn't really matter what he was holding back, and he was sure it would be shared in time.

"I trust you," he said simply. "Sometimes I wish you trusted me a little more, though."

Gregorovich cracked a little smile. "I trust you more than anyone else. Not as much as you've earned, I know, but still. I'm a creature of old habits, son, you know that."

"Yeah, you and me both, old man." Aidan shook his head; Gregorovich chuckled, waving a hand dismissively.

"Go on, go meet your charge. She's very clever; perhaps you won't be so bored as Katia makes you."

Aidan rolled his eyes at the mention of his former teammate—already a little more annoyed and bored just by that—and flicked the monitor off. Standing, he rolled his black sleeves to his elbows and inwardly lamented the island heat. At least he wasn't required to wear the damn uniform, though monochrome black might need to be a decision he rethought when summer rolled in.

Heading down the stairs, he nodded once to Hayley, the Executive Assistant, and passed out of the mansion. He contemplated taking his motorbike to the dock, but it didn't have a passenger car and he didn't really want a nervy scientist on the back while he was trying to drive. So he walked instead, arriving dockside just as a passenger boat pulled up to the pier.

People filed out of the boat, a couple of them glancing in Aidan's direction before scurrying off. A woman exited next, dressed in a simple light blue tank top, a pair of black wide-leg capris. She had on a large sun hat, perhaps to keep the sun away from her eyes. She was pulling a large suitcase behind her with what seemed to be relative ease despite its size. It might have been due to the fact that there was a bayleef to her side, holding onto the handle with one of its vines and pulling it along with her. She glanced in his direction, and smiled, making her way towards him.

“Hi," she spoke, her smile softening somewhat as she glanced towards her bayleef. “Are you from the research facility on the island? The one that used to be the old mansion?" she asked, glancing back in his direction. “Oh, but I should introduce myself regardless. I'm Nevena Solomon," she stated, holding out her hand as if to shake hands with him.

"Dr. Solomon," Aidan acknowledged, closing his hand over hers. He made an effort not to squeeze too hard, but the shake was firm. "I'm Aidan, and yes, I'm from the Field Office. Is the suitcase all you have with you?" He cocked an eyebrow and nodded at the bayleef doing most of the work hauling it. He knew that she'd had the opportunity to send her other belongings ahead—those would have been left in her apartment by now. Still, he'd sort of expected to be handling more than one small bag.

She furrowed her brows at him, but nodded her head. “It is. I don't have much as far as personal belongings go. It makes it easier to move around when I have to," she stated, glancing in the bayleef's direction before turning back to him. “And please, just call me Nevena or Nev," she stated, her expression smoothing back out into something more jovial.

“I'd actually prefer it if it was anything other than Dr. Solomon," she added, huffing in a nervous way. “Oh, and this is Basil. She's my bayleef, and assistant, slash caretaker," she stated, huffing lightly at the expression on Basil's face. It looked mixed parts pleased and annoyed at the statement.

Aidan huffed softly. "Sounds like a big job," he said a little wryly, extending a hand forward to offer the pokémon a pat if she wanted it. "I hope she doesn't mind splitting the duties a little; you've been told you have a supervisor for this project, right?"

Basil nudged his hand with her head before pulling back. “I don't think she minds, really. She probably thinks it's too big of a job for her, anyway," Nevena stated, earning a light glare from the bayleef. “And yes, I've been told I'll have a supervisor for the project. I presume I'll be meeting them at the base?" she stated, arching a brow in his direction.

Aidan snorted softly. "Actually, you're looking at him." He could understand the confusion; he certainly didn't look like the kind of person who'd be put in charge of a team of intellectuals. Which was a nice way of saying he looked like dumb muscle. He'd put in a bit of effort to change that, at one point—back in his competing days he'd tried for something more clean cut, but it was fussy and annoying and didn't solve the basic problem, so he gave up after a while. It wasn't like Gregorovich cared. With the boss, if you were good you were good, and it didn't matter how you looked.

He supposed it was likely that Solomon could appreciate something like that; Aidan figured that being young and pretty in addition to being a leading mind in her field sometimes made people forget the last part. He could easily imagine that old men had mistaken her for an assistant or secretary more than once. It was part of the reason he'd made such a point of calling her 'Doctor.' But if she didn't like it he figured he could just do what he always did and use her last name by itself.

"We can go check out the facility if you like, but I've also got your new residential address and a key for you so if you prefer to rest that's fine. You're not expected in the office until next week."

She blinked slowly before her eyes widened. “Oh, I'm terribly sorry! I didn't mean to confuse you with someone else. I just... I thought you were with a taxi, or a Farfetch'd driver," she stated. She pinked a little in the face, perhaps from her misconception, and shook her head softly. “And it'll be a pleasure to be working with you, sir!" she stated, bowing for some reason, it wasn't clear. Basil rolled her eyes at Solomon before using one of her vines to gently tap the woman's shoulders. She straightened herself back up and cleared her throat.

“If you don't mind, I'd like to check out the facility, first. That way I can see where everything is, ahead of time, and get straight to work on my first day. I don't want to get lost trying to find whichever office or lab I'll need to be in."

Aidan had snorted at the misidentification; he figured he might get mistaken for a grunt or something, but for her to think he wasn't even affiliated with the organization—

He had said he was from the office, right?

Well, it didn't matter to him in either case. Shooting Basil a wry look, he shook his head. "No harm done. Facility's only about a twenty-minute walk; if Basil wants a rest, I can carry your bag for now."

“Oh, it's fine. I can carry it myself, really. Basil just likes to help out when she wants, hence why she's my assistant. She does what she wants, really," she replied, smiling at the bayleef that merely nodded its head as if in agreement. “And I'm sure she'd like the walk. It's really warm and being a grass-type, I'm sure the sun will feel nice for her," Solomon continued, turning her smile back towards him.

“And if it's only twenty minutes, it should be fine. I don't want you to carry my bag when you don't have to," she added. Basil nodded her head, letting out a soft cry as if to agree with Solomon's earlier statement.

He shrugged. "All right. Let me know if you change your mind; it's not really a big deal for me to do it." By the same token, it may well be no difficulty for her, either, and he was fine deferring.

So he turned away from the docks, getting them set on the right road before dropping back next to her. He considered if any of his pokémon could use the walk, but most of them weren't the sort you could casually stroll around with in the middle of town. Frost was, but she hated the weather even more than he did. Brick was too stupid to risk in public. Ed and Jax were too big, and Skiff didn't walk anywhere.

So he pinched the second ball on his belt off, giving it a lazy toss. Rex shook his coat out, flicking his spaded tail. He considered the new people for a moment before padding up to Aidan and headbutting him in the stomach.

Correctly interpreting this, Aidan scrubbed roughly at the houndoom's head and neck, giving him a good scratch. Satisfied, the pokémon approached Solomon, head tilted inquiringly. "He's a big baby," Aidan said, knowing that houndoom had a particularly bad reputation for viciousness. Not entirely unwarranted, but only because so many of them were raised badly.

She didn't really seem bothered by the houndoom, though, and immediately crouched a bit to scratch under his chin. “Oh, but he's so adorable," she nearly cooed. Basil rolled her eyes at Solomon before nodding her head in Rex's direction, but didn't get too close to the houndoom. She didn't seem afraid of it, just standing guard of the suitcase Solomon let go of temporarily.

“And he has a really healthy coat," she stated, glancing up at Aidan before she stood from her spot. “I bet you spoil him," she added, giving Rex one last scratch around his neck.

"Not as much as you do, I don't think." Aidan figured somehow that she was the type to do it.

He whistled sharply, and Rex came immediately to heel position. He'd learned a long time ago that it was important for him to be able to do that—people tended to panic of a pokémon like that was anything other than perfectly polite. He'd had people cross the street to avoid them regardless. Like Rex was going to go eat their kids or some bullshit.

Picking the walking pace back up, he steered them back to the old mansion. It was a brick building, like a lot of the older constructions in town, three stories tall and not really much to look at from the outside. The gardens were exceedingly simple and minimal, but tidy; the placard next to the gate proclaimed it only to be 'NTR CINNABAR FIELD OFFICE.'

Sliding his ID into the scanner at the gate, he remembered he had hers as well, and fished it out of his pants pocket. "I don't recommend losing that," he noted, "but I guess it's not the worst thing if you do, since you're stuck with me breathing down your neck all day anyhow." The gate swung open to admit them, and he started them up towards the house itself.

“Duly noted," she stated, nodding her head as she did. “I have a lanyard I can put it on. It's kind of hard to lose something hanging around your neck, after all," she continued with a light shrug of her shoulders. “It's feasible, though. I have lost something like that before," she stated offhandedly before she glanced at the building ahead of them.

“I promise I shall do my best to ensure that this process is as smooth as possible so it doesn't wear you down too much," she spoke, almost completely serious it seemed.

He shook his head. "Just focus on your research. The rest is my job, and you don't need to concern yourself with it." The last thing he needed was to have to tell the boss progress was too slow because the R&D team had it in their heads that they had to pay some kind of special consideration to his presence. It was half the reason he hadn't bothered to specify just who he was, in the structure of the organization. The level of oversight would be weird enough without them knowing it was basically the boss's own eyes doing the observing.

"Anyway," he continued, holding open the front door for Solomon and the pokémon to enter first. "First level is the office pool. You need something from an administrative assistant or a grunt to lift something for you, they'll be here." The setup was pretty clear—the assistants shared a large desk immediately ahead in the foyer; a door to the left led to the large room where the grunts had cubicles set up. To the right was the kitchen and the janitors' supplies.

"Second floor is where we've stashed the execs—that's Nero, Rheinallt, and Niav; you'll probably see them around at some point. Basement's storage and pokémon intake. Third floor's R&D, and my office. Anything you want to see first?"

She seemed to contemplate his offer. “I think the R&D area should be the first place I look. As long as I can find my way, there, the rest should be fairly easy to navigate," she stated. She glanced towards Basil, though, and pulled a pokéball from her belt. It must have belonged to Basil because the bayleef looked vaguely irritated. As if she didn't want to go back in the ball.

“I promise it's only for a few minutes. You won't be in there long, alright? And when we get to the new place, I'll give you your favorite treat," Solomon spoke as if she were bribing Basil. The bayleef seemed to contemplate it for a moment before she nodded, letting Solomon recall her. She huffed softly before pulling her suitcase to the side.

“Might as well leave this here instead of dragging it behind me," she seemed to explain before she smoothed out her shirt. “Third floor, right?"

He nodded, turning momentarily to the assistants' desk. "Hey Hayley, can you watch Dr. Solomon's suitcase for a few minutes?"

She grinned. “No problem, sir. And welcome to Cinnabar, Dr. Solomon!"

“Thank you, Hayley!" she responded, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

Aidan headed for the stairs, putting a hand on Rex's head. The houndoom relaxed a little at the signal, ranging a bit from his side to bound up the stairs towards the second floor. Someone up there had already made friends with the doofus—Aidan's money was on Rheinallt, and he was seldom wrong about these things. But the door to the executive suite was closed, so he headed more sedately up the rest of the stairs towards R&D.

"There's two others on your project right now," he said as they climbed. "Dr. Greene is an engineer, since apparently you're going to need one of those. Ms. Parker is currently a research assistant, while she finishes her degree. They're both supposedly very good at what they do."

She arched a brow in Aidan's direction. “That sounds about right," she stated as if she knew some things. “I know you said you'll be supervising us as well, but," she started, glancing at him from the corners of her eyes, “what will you be doing, exactly? Is it just supervising, or do I have to accommodate for you to be there as well? As in, are you going to be assisting with the project?" She seemed curious if the way her brow arched was anything to go by.

“And if you are going to be assisting, what will you be doing?"

He considered this a moment; the boss hadn't exactly specified. "My office is close to the lab," he said. "I'll probably be in and out. If I can do something useful though, you're free to ask. I'm good for moving things and reaching shelves at least." He also wasn't half-bad with a wrench, but he suspected anything she'd need Greene to build was too complicated for him, so he left it at that.

"I won't get in your way. If I do, tell me I am so I can get out of it."

She huffed a light laugh, but shook her head. “I doubt you could be in the way," she stated before she tapped a thoughtful finger to her chin. “I'm sure when it comes time to build, Dr. Greene and I would love the assistance. The things we'll be moving around will likely be pretty heavy, depending on the material that they'll use, but as far as anything else," she paused to regard him with a light smile.

“I'm sure you'd rather keep company with other people rather than us," she stated, something a little melancholy in her tone, though she didn't define what she meant by us. “And if you get in the way, I'll be sure to tell you as much!" She sounded a little more jovial that time.

Confidence issues.

He didn't need to be especially perceptive to pin that one down. By the same token he knew the word of a stranger was unlikely to make much difference at a surface level, and further discussion was likely unwelcome. So he nodded at the last part. "Fair enough. Let's go get you introduced, and then we'll see about the rest of the place."

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Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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April 28th
Field Office 9 - Late Afternoon - Warm
Nevena Solomon


The building had been a lot more advanced than Nevena thought it was going to be. She'd heard that NTR's research facility was based out of the old mansion, but she hadn't expected it to have been remodeled the way it had been. Maybe she really didn't even know what she was expecting. Regardless, she would have to thank Aidan for showing her around, even if he was her supervisor. He could have easily had one of the grunts show her everything, but she was grateful he had. He wasn't like most supervisors she'd had in that respect. Most of them either handed her off to an assistant who could show her the things she would need, or very briefly told her where to find things.

She'd always managed, of course. When they were finished with the tour of the facility, they returned to the front of the building so that she could collect her luggage. With it in tow, she bid Hayley a goodbye, and turned to face Aidan.

“Thank you for showing me around," she stated, offering him a short nod as way of thanks. “I really appreciate it," she added, figuring it wouldn't hurt to at least thank him for his services. “You said you had my address and key, right?" she inquired. “Would it be alright to go drop this off and maybe go get lunch?" she stated, pausing for a moment at the way that had sounded in her head. To her, it was a way to get to know people, but to anyone else it might have sounded like she were asking him for a date. He didn't look like the type to mistake it for anything like that, though, so the small spike of panic in her chest, subsided.

“I think it'll be nice on a day like this, at least, to get to know my colleagues a little better. If you wouldn't mind, of course. I don't want to take up your time, especially since you'll be overseeing the project with me," she didn't want anyone to spend too much in her company. She wasn't exactly the type of person people wanted for company, after all. Not that she minded, really.

For all the complexity of her thoughts, Aidan's response was quite simple. He shrugged his shoulders and gave a short nod. "Sure. We live in the same building anyhow; it's probably good for you to get a sense of what's around." When he reached the front door, he held it open for her and then stepped out behind, producing a pair of sunglasses from somewhere and sliding them onto his face. He'd recalled his houndoom into his ball a couple minutes ago.

He paused when they reached the front gate, handing her a small silver door key. "That might have sounded creepy," he said, extending it towards her. "Most of the team members live in the same building. You do happen to be my next-door neighbor, but I didn't have anything to do with the placement. I doubt HR thought much about it beyond needing two one-bedroom apartments in the most suitable building in town. If you'd rather have more space to breathe, I can talk to someone about it." He said this almost as though he expected it to be a genuine imposition to live next door to him.

“Not at all," she spoke, referring to his statement at how that might have sounded. “I'm used to people keeping an eye on me in that sense," she continued, offering a polite smile in his direction. It really didn't bother her even if it was meant the other way he'd thought it sounded. That they were keeping such a close eye on her wouldn't have surprised her, honestly. She was only going to be here for as long as the project lasted, anyway, and she didn't see the need to inconvenience him that way.

“It should be fine, really. No need to talk to anyone about it. You'll hardly know I'm home as well. I'll be spending quite a bit of time at the research facility, and I do not have any unsavory habits," she continued. She didn't smoke or drink, or even keep odd hours. She was, as they had told her once, a work-a-holic, but that was probably the only bad habit she had. Not that she cared if someone else did those things. She'd learned quite young that everyone was different. They all had different vices, and things they liked to do.

He scoffed softly as they walked. "Well then I guess we average out pretty well," he replied, "because I've got loads. Shouldn't cause you any problems, but if they do, let me know." He paused long enough to pull a cigarette and lighter from his pocket as they walked, and then made a considering noise. "You mind? I can wait if you don't like it."

“Oh, by all means," Nev replied, hoping that what she'd said didn't come across as something harsh. “I don't mind, really. Just because I don't do them doesn't mean I'd want someone else to not do them around me. I'm used to people just doing whatever they want, and it's never really bothered me to begin with."

She was just... used to it. Her parents had been like that, after all. Her father often smoked, and so did her mother, especially if they were particularly stressed about something or hit a snag in their research. “I hope that doesn't come across snobbish. I don't mean anything by it," she added, grimaching slightly as she realized how that could have sounded. She sighed softly to herself; she needed to be a little more confident and realize that not everyone took it the way she made it sound. She was unnecessarily always overthinking things, she supposed.

Aidan chuckled softly as he lit the cigarette. "Didn't take you for a snob, Doc. I like to think I'm polite enough not to make anyone suffer in my presence, is all." He put the lighter away and slid his first two fingers up to steady the thing, exhaling to the opposite side so nothing of it approached her.

“So, if you don't mind me asking, what's the best restaurant on Cinnabar?" talking about food might help her ease her mind.

He hummed, seeming to give the question some consideration. "Dunno," he said after a moment. "I usually just stay in and do ready-made stuff, or make eggs or something easy. Don't get out much." He took another drag, then flicked a bit of ash into a sewer grate on the side of the road. "I'm game to try whatever you like though. What kind of food do you want?"

“Oh, uh," she paused to give it some thought. She really didn't have a preference of what kind of food she ate. She usually just ate wherever her coworkers did, and they'd always chosen a restaurant with Kalonian food. She'd grown very fond of quiches, because of it. “Any place that has good seafood?" It'd been awhile since she had anything like that.

He huffed, raising an eyebrow at her as though he didn't believe the question. "We're on an island in the middle of the ocean, Doc. Of course there's good seafood. Do you like it spicy, or no? That might narrow the options a bit. Price ranges? Plan to drink anything? Want to eat near the shore?" He rattled off the questions, then paused, gesturing to his temple with the hand that still held the shortening cigarette. "Sorry. I've got an index. Enough information and I should be able to narrow it for you."

They were approaching a tall, modern-looking building. The shiny aluminum sign facing traffic proclaimed it to be called The Cloyster Luxury Condominiums.

Nev felt her eyes widen a little. “Oh, don't apologize, that's actually a very good skill to have," she spoke with a smile on her face, belatedly realizing she'd actually said it. She huffed lightly to herself, and turned towards the building. It was rather nice, and fit the Luxury part of the name. “And nothing spicy, please. I can't do spicy things. I've tried but it's just not... for me. I don't really drink, but if you do, we can add that to the list," she spoke, furrowing her brows lightly. Anything with a bit of heat always made her eyes burn and she couldn't really handle it very well.

“And something quaint and tucked away. Prices aren't really an issue, but maybe something small, like a mom and pop restaurant? I like those because the owners are usually very nice and I'd like to be able to support them," she continued. Small establishments always had the nicest people and the food was always so much better than anything she'd ever had at a fancy restaurant. She tried eating at places like that when her coworkers were either too busy to go to lunch together, or when she had off days.

And perhaps because she liked discovering new things that people would often overlook just because it wasn't a brand name, or well-known.

A small smile tugged at his mouth as they entered the lobby. "All right. I think I know the place. Never been, but it should be interesting to see some of the local color, I guess." He gave a small nod to the desk attendant, a balding middle-aged fellow in an ill-fitting suit, and hit the call button on the elevator.

"We're on the ninth floor. I'm 903, and you're 904." When one of the elevator cars reached the landing, he stubbed his cigarette out on one of those trash cans with an ashtray in the top, though there was still a fair bit of it left. He gestured for her to step in first, then hit the right button and stepped back next to her, sliding his hands into his pockets.

"So you were up in Mahogany last, right? Johto? Pretty rural even compared to the island, I s'pose."

“That's right," she replied, nodding her head as she glanced at him from the corner of her eyes. “I was looking into the old research they had conducted with sound waves. I don't know if you remember this, but when it was still just Team Rocket, they had used those frequency waves to force magikarp to evolve simply because gyarados were stronger," she stated, a bitterness in her voice. It had been wrong of them to do that; magikarp may have been a weak species, but they didn't deserve that kind of torture. From what she'd learned, it had been torture. A majority of the magikarp had died under the strain rather than evolving. She shook her head, though.

“I don't plan on doing that again, but I figured I'd be able to use what research they had and convert it to something usable that won't hurt pokémon. It would act more as a searching signal rather than something that puts strain on the pokémon. Essentially, it's like a gentle tap on their shoulder to see if they would respond," she spoke, her expression softening a bit. She blinked, though, and cleared her throat.

“Sorry, I didn't mean to go on a rant like that. It's just... it makes me so mad that people used to do that to pokémon, and that they still do." It was one of the reasons why she'd agreed to help this version of Team Rocket. Neo Team Rocket, because they stood for the injustice of the world and were trying to protect those that didn't have a voice. Who couldn't speak for themselves when they were hurting or needed help.

The elevator dinged open, admitting them both out onto the ninth floor. Aidan had been quiet for a bit after she spoke, but as they moved into the hallway, he shook his head. "No need to apologize," he said, and something about this tone had softened, lost the wry edge that it always seemed to have. "That's why I joined, too. Well. Kind of, I guess."

He didn't elaborate, though, only stopping in front of door 903. "Feel free to take your time looking around or whatever. Just come knock whenever you want to go eat. Restaurant's pretty casual. Close to the beach, though, so don't wear anything you don't want sand in." He gave her a nod, then opened his door and stepped inside.

Nev figured she could wear what she already was: the sleeveless light blue shirt and her wide-leg capris. It was fairly warm on the island, and she wanted to dress comfortably. With that in mind, she pulled her luggage back behind her, and stepped into her apartment. Once she closed her door, she withdrew three of the four pokéballs on her belt, and tossed them. Pinky, Basil, and Fluffy all appeared, her wigglytuff, bayleef, and furret, respectively. She smiled at them as Basil trilled lightly, and Fluffy tried to curl himself around Nev's feet. She chuckled lightly as Pinky merely puffed out her cheeks as if she'd been angry to have been in her ball for so long. Nev couldn't blame her, really.

“Alright you three, I'm trusting you all to get things in order while I'm away. You know the drill," she stated, smiling as Basil rolled her eyes, but already started reaching for the luggage bag. “I'll bring you all home some frozen yoghurt since I know you love that. And then tomorrow we'll go see the park and maybe let Floof roll around," she stated, referring to her wooloo. Floof had a mind of her own, and was still fairly young that Nev didn't trust her out of the pokéball yet. Pinky seemed to brighten at the mention of frozen yoghurt and nodded her head, following Basil towards the bedroom to help her, it seemed. Fluffy merely blinked big eyes up at her, causing her to shake her head.

“You be good, too, and look after the two girls, alright?" she stated, leaning down to rub his head. He nodded before bounding after Pinky and Basil. Once she was sure they would be okay, and had access to food and water, she left her room and stood outside of Aidan's room, knocking on it gently and waited for him.

He opened it a few moments later, blinking down at her. "That was quick. Grunts get all your boxes delivered?" He'd changed his clothes; though his wardrobe was still monochrome black, he'd swapped out the more businesslike attire for a sleeveless shirt and jeans. The all black certainly made his coloration stand out at least—that was a very bright red for hair to be. Admittedly, it was a very nice shade of red.

Stepping over his threshold, Aidan locked his door behind him and tucked his keys into one of his jean pockets.

She nodded her head. “I live a very spartan life. The less things I own, the easier it is to move around. All of my research is logged electronically and sent to different servers just in case one fails. All I really have are my pokemon and my clothes. Oh, and a laptop and tablet to keep track of things," she replied. She really didn't have much use to have anything too personal. Her life was such that she'd always be moving around. There was no place to really call home, but she supposed in her line of work, it didn't really matter. She'd be required to go to different places to test different things, or for research.

“And I my team takes care of the unpacking of clothes while I get them frozen yoghurt in return. You weren't wrong, I do spoil my pokémon because they deserve it. They're my best friends, really, although Floof can be a bit of a trouble maker. She's still young and impressionable."

They exited the apartment complex; Aidan set them on a different sidewalk path this time. He'd nodded like he understood when she mentioned the 'young and impressionable' bit, apparently understanding what she meant. "Probably better to keep her with you until she'd used to the change at least," he murmured, more like he was musing to himself than telling her anything she didn't already know.

He shook his head slightly. "Been a while since I've had a young pokémon; it's easy to forget what they're like. What kind is she?" He seemed genuinely interested in the answer.

“She's a wooloo from the Galar Region. I haven't been there myself, but an old colleague was leaving and didn't have the time to commit to her. She was a newly hatched wooloo at the time, but now she's at least a few months old. She's a more recent acquire, I suppose you could say. And yes, I plan on keeping her with me until she's a little more mellowed out which shouldn't take very long for her species. They're similar to mareep in that aspects."

They were both adorable, though. They always made the cutest faces and she could never stay mad at Floof whenever she'd done something wrong. Of course, Nev had to reinforce the discipline aspects of Floof's misdeeds, but they were never really too bad.

“If you're up to it," she stated suddenly, her brow arching slightly, “I plan on taking them to the park tomorrow. You can meet her, then, if you'd like. She always enjoys meeting new people."

"The park, huh?" He seemed to consider this for a moment, though what he was debating wasn't exactly clear. In the end he shrugged. "Sure. Might give a few of mine a chance to run around. Most of them aren't really walk-around-in-town types."

The rest of the walk seemed to pass quickly, or maybe the restaurant was just nearby. It was a humble-looking beach shack place that practically screamed 'small town business,' the only difference being that it was, in fact, perched along the back edge of a strip of sand, the ocean rolling in on the other. Specks out in the distance might have been surfers; there were people scattered about on the beach, too. There seemed to be a small deck attached to the restaurant, with large, striped umbrella's over the tables for shades. Apparently the restaurant was just called Jo's, and with the quaint look of it, Jo herself was probably working inside.

"What do you think?" Aidan asked. "Should we give it a shot?"

“It does look nice," she began, smiling brightly at the place. And she had asked for something small. “Let's give it a try!" she stated, perhaps more excitedly than she'd intended for it to be. The prospect of good food always put her into a good mood.

"Lead on, Doc."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


April 29th
Field Office 9 - Afternoon - Muggy
Kasimir Rheinallt


Too bad the punch wasn't spiked.

Kas had considered doing it himself, actually, but then he'd have to go to the trouble of procuring the booze, erasing the footage, and like it or not there was always a chance of someone having a bad time if they drank alcohol unknowingly. Consent was important and all that.

Still... this had to be one of the worst parties he'd ever been to, and considering the fact that he'd been to more than one cheap-beer-fueled rager in his Academy days, that was saying something. Dear arceus, these people were just so fucking stiff.

This morning there'd been a block of seminars designed to welcome the new staff to the building and provide refreshers for everyone else. It wasn't awful to know how the basement intake room worked and stuff, except Kas had been down there for two minutes yesterday and already figured it out. And the rest of the stuff had been so general it might as well have been the basic training he and Ryk had done eight years ago all over again.

Now everyone was awkwardly standing around in the large foyer, most of them clustered in small groups or around the snack table, while a few more solitary types held up their wall of choice. He could have wandered around socializing—he was more than capable of striking up a smooth conversation with even shy people, but it seemed HR wasn't done with them yet.

The building's local rep, Tanya, was a willowy woman in her mid-thirties. Nothing wrong with that, of course; the trouble was that she was absolutely vapid. Kas couldn't recall the last time he'd been this bored by a pretty face. Or well, it actually happened a lot, but he was typically able to exit those situations, and he really didn't want to make quite that bad of an impression just yet. He preferred to ease people into not expecting much of him rather than slacking too often from the get-go.

“All right everyone," Tanya declared, clearing her throat for attention. She was the kind of woman used to getting it whenever she so desired—that much was easy to tell. Next to half the male eyes in the room had been on her already, for very different reasons than his, and this was a room in which a lot of pretty women were standing. “We're going to do an icebreaker. This one's called Heads Up!"

Kas resisted the urge to groan. That was the one where people picked random cards from a deck to wear on their foreheads so people could help them guess who they were.

“We'll be using our NTR pokégears for this; the app should already be on your new devices. If you'll all break into groups of three, we'll start by putting pairs of groups together and we can rotate when the rounds are done!" Tanya smiled with cherry-red lips, beaming at all of them.

He really wished he'd spiked the punch.

Someone clicked their tongue behind Kas before the person walked to his side and into his field of vision. It was Cyrilla, and she glanced up at him from where she stood, arms crossed over her chest. Her hair was pulled back into a tail, it seemed, a little more professional, but there were still a few strands at the front that hung loose.

“I suppose it makes more sense for the three of us to be grouped together, but..." she trailed off, glancing in a direction where Ryk was. He was staring at a person who seemed to be trying to make small talk with him. Eryk didn't do small talk, from what Kas remembered, and his eyes were suddenly on them. Immediately, he walked towards him and Cy before standing on her other side.

“Well, I guess that means he agrees," she spoke, snickering softly at the expression on his face.

Kas snorted, quirking an eyebrow at Cy. "What? You mean spending your afternoon with me at this scintillating soirée isn't your idea of a good time?" He asked the question in jest, because no sane person would really want to be here, but that didn't mean he couldn't rib her for making it sound like being in his group in particular was something that 'made sense, she guessed.' Hardly a ringing endorsement, which he only found funny.

Opening the requisite app on his gear, he ignored Tanya giving directions. It was obvious—the app had a timer, after which the screen would display his 'identity,' meaning he should have it out of sight by then.

This presented its own conundrum, because Kasimir was tall enough that not everyone would be able to see his forehead, so he set it to his shoulder instead, angled so he couldn't see. Cy's screen identified her as Lt. Surge, funnily enough, and apparently Ryk was 'a drunken chansey.' At least the cards were kind of funny.

He looked up, curious to see who would be in the first group of three to match up with them.

Cyrilla huffed a light laugh at that, and shook her head. “Hm, I couldn't think of better company, really. It beats just being with that one all day," she stated, jabbing her thumb in Ryk's direction who looked to be having a bit of difficulty with his pokegear. She rolled her eyes before she took it from him, and set it up. “I swear you can't operate even the basic things you should know. What would you do without me, really?" she stated, though from the tone of voice she'd used, it sounded more like an older sibling scolding a younger one, even though Ryk was the older one, here.

“Whatever," he finally spoke, narrowing his eyes slightly in her direction. She just shook her head. “I don't understand the meaning behind this. Why can't we just do what we're here to do? There's no need to bond when we likely won't be here for very long," he muttered beneath his breath, causign Cyrilla to hard roll her eyes.

“Because you need to be able to work with your coworkers, and not against them, Ryk. That's why they are called coworkers," she responded, however; before she could say anything further, her attention was taken by a group of people that approached them.

“We were grouped with you," a young woman spoke. She was dressed in formal attire. A black pencil skirt with a white blouse tucked into it. Her dark hair was pulled back into a bun, and thick square glasses sat on her nose. “I'm Lorraine," she introduced herself. Another one stepped forward, this one a man probably in his late twenties. His hair was a bright flame orange, slicked back, and his eyes a dark brown. They were narrowed slightly before he shrugged his shoulders. He was wearing something that mirrored Lorraine's color scheme, though he was wearing a pair of slacks and not a pencil skirt.

“Name's Niko," he stated.

The last was a thin man nearing forty, Kas would guess, with a native islander's complexion. For some reason he was wearing a tweed jacket despite the temperature outside. Kas supposed the air conditioning in here did work a little too well sometimes. He very much had the look of a pencil-pusher about him, the kind of logistics wonk that Kas pretended to be, save for the precise undercut of his floppy black hair. “Nice to meet you," he said in a mild alto, much higher than even his thin frame would suggest. “I'm Luke." This prompted a second look, and Kas realized his throat was smooth, free of the prominent cartilage bump. Ah.

"Well welcome to our corner of the room, guys," Kas said, shooting all three of them a winning grin. Luke smiled back, at least. "I think we're supposed to take a look at what you have here... let's see."

The pokégear Luke was awkwardly holding to his forehead read 'Steven Stone.' Lorraine's said 'confused tauros,' and Niko had 'pro battling cheerleader.' Well that should be interesting.

Sticking his hand out towards Niko, he offered a shake. "So what color pom-poms do you prefer, and does the skirt chafe?"

Niko furrowed his brows a bit before taking Kas's hand and shaking it. Cyrilla snickered lightly, though Eryk merely looked unamused. “Dunno, depends on whether or not you're offering to do a check-up," Niko replied, giving Kas a clue into his identity, perhaps. That or he was flirting with Kas.

"Always happy to help, though I'm sure people in your profession have to stay in tip-top shape." He winked, not yet sure whether that was flirtation but willing to run with it either way.

“Well, there are worse things on a warm day than whipping yourself into a frenzy," Cyrilla stated, arching a brow in Lorraine's direction. The woman merely glanced at her, an expression to match Ryk's, before she narrowed her eyes slightly.

“Hm, yes, well I suppose it is better than being a paranoid trap maker," she replied in a deadpan voice.

“Oh, I didn't know you knew that about me. It's quite fun, really," Cyrilla stated, clearly either ignoring the clue, or not really caring much about it. Eryk had yet to say anything, and just merely glanced between the other people.

“You look a bit like you could stand a bit of medical attention yourself," Luke told Kas with a small smile. “Are those bags under your eyes?"

"Damn," he said with a feigned-heavy sigh. "If only I were a pokémon I could ask Ryk over there to help. Though he might break a few eggs in his state."

Luke laughed, clearly catching the thread of the joke. “Are you sure? Wasn't there a movie about you? Pokémon House?"

"Wait, I'm a frat dude? A... tired frat dude?" At Luke's nod, he checked his screen and found that it did indeed say 'sleep-deprived frat boy.' Huh. Maybe Niko was flirting after all, because that had nothing to do with doctors.

Eryk merely narrowed his eyes slightly at Kas's statement. “He's not wrong, Ryk. If you have any more, you'll just end up passing out, and you'd be no use to anyone, really," Cyrilla added.

“Considering that he's required to assist at any given time, I'd do the same if I were in his position. Thankfully, I'm not a pokemon, so I don't need the help," Niko stated. Eryk looked like he'd rather be doing something else, but sighed heavily.

“You collect rare rocks," he spoke in Luke's direction. Cyrilla shook her head.

“Ryk... that's not how... you know what, never mind," Cyrilla stated before turning her attention towards Lorraine. “As for you, Lorraine, perhaps you should avoid battles until your condition gets better. Otherwise you won't know where you're going, and with those three little whips at your back, it'll only increase your anger," she spoke. Lorraine rolled her eyes in what seemed to be good nature.

“Perhaps, but then again being out and about beats being couped up all day receiving challenge after challenge, and only specializing in one thing," she stated.

"Speaking of," Kas added to Cy, "shouldn't you have been promoted by now? Colonel or something? Or do your superiors think you're too much of a live wire?"

“Surely that's not it," Luke put in with a little grin. “I'd be shocked!"

Kas offered a hand for a high-five. "Stunned, even?"

Luke clapped his smaller hand into it with respectable force. “Nay, paralyzed."

She must have found it funny because she started laughing. Even Lorraine cracked a small smile, then. “Well, considering that I am stunning," she spoke, running a hand through her ponytail and pulling it over her shoulder, “I guess I must be a poor excuse of a Lieutenant Surge since I don't have the trademark golden hair."

“There are worse things to be missing," Niko stated, shrugging his shoulders a bit. “You could be missing an important egg used for treating patients because you were too busy blacking out to remember shit," he continued, glancing at Eryk with an arched brow.

“Oh for the love of..." he stated, checking his screen to see what it said. “I'm a drunk chansey," he stated, causing Cyrilla to sigh heavily.

“Just ignore him; he's a kill-joy," she stated, turning back towards Niko with an arched brow. “You at least seem to be having a lot of fun at major competitions. Know if they could use another able body? I promise to bring a pom-pom style oricorio with me as back up" she stated, blinking in an innocent manner, causing Niko to snort.

“I dunno, I mean, you have great legs for a cheerleader, but not as great as mine," Niko replied, holding out his leg as if to prove his point. Cyrilla laughed again.

Kas and Luke laughed, too, but then the bell at the front of the room rang, signaling that it was time for the groups to rotate. Niko, Lorraine, and Luke shuffled off elsewhere, and a new trio approached, including one surprisingly-familiar face.

"Sis!" he enthused, grinning broadly and sweeping down to pull the blonde scientist in for an ursaring-hug. "I haven't seen you since I transferred out of Mahogany Town! How have you been?" He'd only been there for a short while a couple years ago. The last few months of his time there had been Nev's first with NTR; as the guy in charge of the outpost, he'd sort of made it his responsibility to help her out, at least until he'd been transferred to Celadon for a while.

Aidan was with her, too, his pokégear nowhere in sight. "We can just not with the icebreaker," he said, rolling his eyes slightly. "I'm calling Admin privilege on that one."

“Thank Arceus," Ryk muttered as he folded his arms across his chest. Nev, however, looked slightly surprised to see Kas, and she'd managed a small squeak of surprise when he'd hugged her.

“It's nice to see you, too, Kasimir," she replied, pulling out of his hug with a light pink dusting her face. She cleared her throat softly as she glanced towards Cyrilla and Eryk. “And it's a pleasure to meet you..." she trailed off, as if expecting them to introduce themselves. Cyrilla stuck her hand out, smiling in turn.

“Cyrilla Niav, and this grump here is Eryk Nero. Don't let his face fool you, he's really just a big cuddly mareep," she stated, earning a light glare from Ryk. Nevena didn't seem too bothered by it, though, and nodded her head with a smile.

“Well it's a pleasure to meet you both. I'm Nevena Solomon, but please do feel free to call me Nev," she spoke, earning a nod from Cyrilla. Eryk kept his arms crossed over his chest, though, and seemed to be staring off at the other groups. Probably really just staring at nothing in particular, since it was Ryk.

The third in their group introduced herself as Penny, giving Kas what he suspected was an attempt at being subtle in her once-over. He fought not to grin, and mostly succeeded. Some trace of it must have made it to his face though; she flushed and darted her glance away.

Aidan sighed. "I don't know why HR insists on this," he muttered quietly. "It's not like we have a friendly, collegial atmosphere atmosphere around here."

He wasn't wrong; Kas had been genuinely surprised by the last group being at least personable. Very often, Neo Team Rocket offices were cold, inhospitable places, where everyone was clawing their way towards the top of the organization and the bigger paychecks and chunks of prestige and influence that went with. The mission statement did attract some do-gooder sorts, but the shadow of the previous iteration of Team Rocket loomed. So did the organization's extralegal nature, outside the typical justice system of any government but enforcing its rules regardless. Those tended to draw ambitious people of a certain competitive stripe.

“Probably because they're trying to change that," Cyrilla spoke with a shrug of her shoulders. “Even though it really won't change a thing," she added, earning a confused look from Nev.

“Why do you say that?" she asked. Cyrilla arched a brow.

“Isn't it obvious? A lot of us don't really require working together, and if that's the case, then we'll likely only be getting in each others way. Why bother getting to know people if you won't be around very long to actually care?"

“I guess I didn't see it that way since I'll be constantly working with a team," Nev stated as she furrowed her brows. “But in the mean time, it wouldn't hurt to at least get to know some of you," she continued, smiling at them. Cyrilla huffed lightly and shook her head.

“Well, you shouldn't get to know us too well," she began, something of a pained expression crossing Cyrilla's face. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared, as if it had never been there at all. “We don't want you to miss us too much when it's finally time to leave."

Nev chuckled lightly at that. “I'll do my best. Besides, I have Kas to keep me company, too, right? How's Meep by the way?"

"Adorable as always," he replied with a grin. Meep was in fact his youngest pokémon, and had barely hatched when he met Sis. "Speaking of, didn't your last email mention a Floof? We should get coffee to catch up and let them play."

“Oh, gosh, you're right!" she stated, eyes wide with a large smile. “I was just telling Aidan about her, yesterday. I plan on taking her to the park later on today so she can get some exercise in. If you want to join us, I'm sure Floof would be more than happy to have a playmate. In all honesty, she could use it. You all should come, actually. It would be nice to let all of our pokémon get together to play, if you'd like."

Cyrilla snorted softly. “It sounds like it could be fun." Ryk, however, didn't seem to feel any particular way about the invitation. He lightly shrugged his shoulders, which could have indicated anything.

Fortunately Kas had enough enthusiasm for the both of them. "Sounds great," he replied with a grin. "I admit I'm curious about what pokémon a former undefeated champion keeps on him." He quirked an eyebrow at Aidan.

"A brat, an idiot, a big baby, and assorted doofuses," he said dryly.

“At least yours doesn't try to hypnotize you," Eryk muttered lightly beneath his breath. Cyrilla snorted softly at Aidan's statement, though, and glanced at Ryk.

“Yeah, but you also have Runt, Ryk. He pretty much symbolizes the definition of idiot," Cyrilla stated lightly, earning a flat look from Ryk.

“I reiterate. Doesn't try to hypnotize you at inconvenient times."

“Oh, this is going to be fun. I look forward to meeting all of your pokémon, and getting to know you better," Nev stated excitedly.

“The feeling is mutual."

Maybe this wouldn't be a typical NTR workplace, after all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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May 9th
The Cloyster - Morning - Hot
Eryk Nero


He blinked.

She stared.

He blinked once more, hoping that when his eyes opened, she wouldn't be there.

“I'm not leaving, Ryk. I don't have to be a telepath to know what you're thinking," Cyrilla spoke, pulling Zephyr, her meowth, from her shoulder and settling it into her lap. “Are you going to tell me what you think of her, yet? I'm interested to know," she continued, rubbing the spot between Zephyr's ears, earning a soft purr from the creature. Eryk merely pursed his lips together, his eyes narrowing as he tried to discern her true intentions. The grin on her face, he knew it well. Well enough that she was either up to something, or going to try and embarrass him one way or another.

“No."

“Oh, come on, Ryk! You have to say something. Kas, help me out here, buddy," she stated, tilting her head backwards over the couch so she could see Kas. He was in the kitchen, currently, either getting something to eat, or something to drink. Eryk didn't know, nor did he care. He narrowed his eyes, though, in Kas's direction.

“Don't involve him. He doesn't care," Eryk stated, pursing his lips together.

"Ouch, Ryk. That hurts my feelings. Of course I care." There was a little bit of shuffling around, then the sound of the cabinet being opened, and a few moments later he'd returned from the kitchen, handing Cyrilla a glass of apple juice and leaving himself with water. He didn't give the impression of being concerned with his health, but living with him had made clear that in addition to being tidy, he habitually took care of himself.

Falling softly onto the other end of the couch, he pulled one leg up towards him, propping the other on the coffee table. He always gave Cyrilla more space than she really needed, for some reason. "Besides you should know I'd never pass up any opportunity to mess with you, so." He took a couple swallows of the water and placed it on the small table near his elbow.

"Was I right about the type thing?"

“Type?" he asked, immediately regretting it when Cyrilla grinned brightly at him.

“Oh, definitely his type. I mean, look at him," she spoke, taking a drink from her apple juice while pointing in Eryk's direction. “He's all flustered already and he doesn't even know why. I mean, it's alright to admit that kind of thing, Ryk. For instance," she paused, glancing in Kas's direction.

“Kas would be my type if he weren't so..." she trailed off as if she were unsure of the word she wanted to use. “Hm, actually I take that back, he is my type," she stated, grinning in Kas's direction before turning her attention back towards Ryk. He narrowed his eyes in her direction.

Kasimir huffed a laugh, raising his glass as if in salute. "Always flattering to hear you're maybe almost a pretty lady's type," he replied benignly.

“We've already been over this, Cyrilla. This isn't a seduction mission. I'm not interested in her that way," he stated, putting an emphasis on each word so that it would get through to Cyrilla. He knew it wouldn't, but he wished it would.

Kas hummed, either unconvinced or unconcerned. "Okay then, so if you're not into Ana, what do you like? No reason you have to live like a monk while you're here, you know. I hear the island nightlife's pretty good. Locals mingling with tourists—excellent if you're looking for something fun to relieve stress. Would probably work if you wanted something more long-term, but you're that kind of 'why bother when we're gonna leave?' sort, both of you. I can tell." He nodded sagely, as if this was indeed something he knew.

"No reason not to have a bit of fun though, right?"

“See? He gets it, why can't you?" she stated, arching a brow in Ryk's direction. He sighed heavily. She knew why; they both knew why. He only did so for missions's sake. What Cyrilla did, she did on her own accord. He had a certain reputation to uphold. Honestly, he was a bit surprised SHE hadn't said anything about Cy's infidelity, or so she would have called it. She probably didn't even know, really. He supposed Cyrilla could write it off as part of the mission, of getting information from the locals. People often were a little more loose-lipped during those kinds of situations, he supposed.

“I don't have to explain myself to the two of you," he spoke, shooting Cy a glance. Her brows furrowed, her eyes faltering for a moment as she sunk back into the couch. She smoothed her hand over Zephyr's back. “Cyrilla," he began, but she shook her head.

“No need to explain Ryk. I know," she replied, offering him a small smile. He stood from his place on the loveseat and grabbed his keys. He wasn't sure if they'd be there when he returned, but he couldn't be around the two of them at the moment. She would recover from his statement, and continue trying to prod him with Kas. And Kas certainly wasn't making it any better. Perhaps, the professor, Dr. Solomon, would be better company. Or even Aidan. From his understanding, they both lived in the same complex, just further up.

With that in mind, he left his shared apartment and took the elevator three floors up. They were on the 6th floor, and Aidan and Dr. Solomon were on the 9th floor, if he remembered correctly. As he exited the elevator, he spotted Solomon exiting her apartment, placing her key inside to lock it, he supposed, as her bayleef stood behind her. It almost looked like the bayleef was acting as a guard before it spotted Ryk. She used a vine to tap Solomon's shoulder, catching her attention which shifted towards Ryk.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Nero," she greeted, smiling at him. “Is there something I can help you with? Or did you come to see Mr. Klein?" she asked, tilting her head to the side.

“You can call me Eryk. It's fine, and I was here to see if you're busy," he stated. She seemed to brighten at the prospect of being helpful in some way.

“I was actually about to head out on a walk. I wanted to see more of the island before I head into the office," she began, “you can join me if you'd like?"

At that point the door next to Solomon's opened, and Aidan stepped out, wearing a sleeveless black shirt and black jeans. His wardrobe seemed to be even more monochrome than Eryk's. There was a pair of sunglasses nested in his unruly red hair; he looked entirely unfazed to see Eryk.

"Joining up with the Doc's sightseeing club, Nero?" he asked, locking his apartment door and dropping his key into his pocket. "I think we're headed—what?" he glanced at Solomon with the query. "To the park today or something?"

“The park would be nice, I suppose. And if there's something you'd like to talk about, that would be the place to go," she stated, nodding her head softly in the direction of the elevator. Eryk wasn't entirely sure he'd call it joining anything; he'd seen some of the island with Anastasia's tour, but he supposed he could join them for this.

“If I'm not going to be in anyone's way, then yes, I suppose I am," he spoke, his eyes narrowing slightly at nothing in particular. It was just how his expressions were. Vague, pointless sometimes, and other times they insulted people, somehow.

“Great, now, let's get to it," Solomon stated as she made her way towards the elevator. Eryk realized, belatedly, that she was dressed nothing like the previous researchers would be. When they'd met her, she was dressed in a suit and pencil skirt, with a coat; typical attire for a researcher. Now, though, she was wearing what looked like a pair of khaki shorts and a plain white t-shirt. It was something he'd expect Cyrilla to wear around the apartment as pajama's more than anything. His own attire was, perhaps, not suited for the heat, but he supposed it really didn't bother him as much as it did the others. He couldn't really say.

He followed them into the elevator as Solomon pushed the button for the bottom floor. “So, Eryk, tell me about yourself. What do you do?" she asked, curiosity evident in her voice. He arched a brow at her. He glanced in Aidan's direction.

“I have his old job." It was, essentially, true.

"Upkeeps a proud tradition of people called 'Entei' having shaggy hair," Aidan agreed flatly, as though this was the only requirement of the job. His hands rested comfortably in his pockets; it was hard to say for sure, but this seemed like it might be sort of a routine for him. Perhaps they regularly walked around the island before going into the office, or something.

"More seriously, Nero's the Executive in charge of Field Office 9. The other two are too, kind of, but where rank distinctions are necessary, you're looking at the boss." The other man arched an eyebrow, studying him with apparent interest for a moment. "Disagreement with the roommates, huh?"

“Not so much a disagreement," he began, shrugging lightly. “They are being insufferable, is all," he continued, which was mostly true. They were teasing him about something that wasn't true, and he'd be damned if he had to sit through that shit. It was bad enough that they assumed she was his type. It was bad enough that they thought he'd be able... he stopped that train of thought and quashed the feeling it produced. He had a job to do.

Nev, however, arched a brow in his direction. “Isn't one of them your fiancée, though?" she asked, and Eryk pushed a heavy sigh through his nose.

“Doesn't mean we don't have disagreements from time to time," he supplied easily enough. Marrying someone out of love wasn't something everyone could afford. He was doing it for his own reasons, but there was, he supposed a familial reason, nonetheless.

“Well, I suppose that makes sense," she replied as if she didn't know, herself. He wondered about that, but he wasn't going to pry. She was, in all senses, an appealing person. Not particularly someone he'd be interested in, but there was an appeal, there.

They reached the outside, then, the sun and heat making their presence known right away. Aidan took the sunglasses from atop his head and put them on his face. "You had breakfast yet?" he asked. "There's a little place on the way we like; they can do you something portable pretty quick so you can walk with it if you're hungry." He didn't seem to be interested in prying into either Eryk's or Solomon's business, but there was something odd about the question.

He wasn't making eye contact with either of them, seemingly preoccupied with something off to one side, though it was hard to say what, since the street was mostly empty at this time of day.

“I have not, no," Eryk replied to Aidan's question about breakfast. He was going to eat breakfast with Kas and Cy, but he'd left before he could actually eat. Solomon seemed to brighten at his answer, though, an extra hop to her step as they continued to walk.

“Oh, then you'll love this place," she stated, smiling brightly as if it were her favorite thing to do. Perhaps it was? Eryk knew that some people didn't stop smiling, each for various reasons. He just knew he couldn't do it. At least not in the same way he used to. “They have the best kalosian toast, and they even have galarian muffins. I think the best thing they have, though, is their biscuits and gravy with eggs. It's so good," she continued. Eryk huffed lightly at her enthusiasm, and turned towards Aidan.

“She always like this?" he asked.

There was a faint flicker of a smile over Aidan's face as he turned back to address Eryk's question, but it was gone in the next eyeblink. "Pretty much," he said. "Except at work. She can get really hyperfocused there. I have to remind her to do basic shit like eat and take breaks. I'm basically a scientist-sitter these days." He made sure his volume was sufficient that Solomon could hear as well, perhaps not wanting to speak about her without her knowledge. Though what he said could have been a complaint, he didn't seem to mind.

She huffed lightly, a light pink dusting her cheeks. “And I said I was sorry about that," she murmured lightly. “But he's not wrong. I do forget things like that, and I feel bad because he's supposed to be my supervisor, not caretaker. I used to have Basil do that," she stated, pointing to the bayleef that was trailing behind them, seemingly enjoying the sun.

“But she's not allowed outside of her ball in the room," she continued. Eryk could see why that would be a problem. Basil was a large creature, and she would likely get in the way of the other scientists working. He nodded lightly.

Aidan rolled his eyes. "I'm not criticizing, Doc. And I told you you don't need to apologize for stuff like that."

“I suppose there are worse things to be in our line of work," Eryk stated as he glanced back towards Aidan. “You could be babysitting the other two idiots," he continued, referring to Cy and Kas. Honestly, he'd probably prefer scientist-sitting than dealing with those two at the moment.

He huffed softly, lifting an eyebrow as they headed into a small building that must have been the breakfast place. It seemed to have a menu for sitting and a menu for takeout, which focused on portable things like sandwiches and wrapped crepes and so on.

Aidan dug around in his back pocket for his wallet. "Yeah I've heard Rheinallt can be a handful. Seems like a decent guy though. You'd know more about Niav than I do." His tone sugested he'd heard some things about Cyrilla nevertheless, but he didn't bring them up for whatever reason. "What do you guys want? I'm senior so it's on me this time."

“Biscuits and gravy, please," Solomon stated, tucking Basil's ball back onto her belt. She'd recalled the bayleef before they'd entered the establishment. Eryk, however, glanced towards the menu, his brows furrowing slightly. He didn't need Aidan paying for him, but he had a feeling that if he were to object, Aidan wouldn't let him.

“I'll try what she's having," he murmured. He supposed it wouldn't hurt, and if Solomon thought they were good, then he'd give them a try. Everything else didn't really sound appealing to him, after all. This, at least, was a bit nicer than being with the other two. If only they could be more like this... he wouldn't mind so much.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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#, as written by Aethyia


May 17th
Marna's - Evening - Muggy
Aidan Klein


He'd been more than a little surprised to receive an invitation to join Rheinallt and Nero for drinks at the local bar, but hadn't seen any reason to decline. He figured it was as good an opportunity as any to check in with them and see how they were finding their arrangements, such as they were.

He'd reached the place first, ordering himself a beer to get started and taking up residence at one of the tables on the small covered deck. Marna, as he supposed the elderly woman must be, had hung windchimes at the edges of it, and they caught the breeze and rang with pleasant sounds, some of them wood, others glassy or made of shells, even. It was pretty late, but the sun was still barely around, casting the island sky in deep oranges, reds, and streaks of violet. It smelled a little like there might be rain tonight, though there weren't many clouds in the sky yet.

The wind was nice, though. Broke through the oppressive humidity enough to stir the shaggy ends of his hair.

“Something to eat, Ula?" The voice, and the unfamiliar word, broke him from his staring out towards the ocean, which was a ways out from here but not so far that he couldn't see it. He turned towards her, laughing grey eyes and crinkled skin.

He considered it for a moment. "Sure, thanks," he said after a moment. "And something for Kasimir and Eryk as well; he said you know them."

From the way she snorted, she clearly did. “You got it." Shuffling back towards the bar, she entered the kitchen through the door behind it, leaving the place empty but for him. At least for the moment.

Nero arrived a moment later, looking vaguely confused for a moment before he spotted Aidan. He shook his head and took a seat across from Aidan, eyes pulled just into a soft narrowed expression as he glanced out the direction Aidan had a moment ago.

“Aidan," he greeted. Aidan had learned that was just how Nero greeted people. He didn't seem to find the need for pleasantries, and always seemed to get straight to the point.

"Nero." Aidan nodded back, unconcerned. He'd been accused often enough of being brusque himself; there was just a certain type of person who didn't talk a lot, and that was fine. He didn't really tend to mind, whether they were mostly quiet like Nero or near-constantly rambling like doc sometimes got. "Plans for the weekend?" It was only Thursday, hence the emptiness of the bar, but the office had a long weekend. Sort of impromptu, but necessary since the ancient air conditioning unit had given out this afternoon.

Aidan hadn't been too interested in making people come to work in this heat just for one extra day, so he'd made the call to shut the place down for the long weekend and get the damn thing fixed. He could probably do it himself, but for some reason Gregorovich had a weird thing about him doing that kind of manual labor. Aidan wasn't so fussy, but if the boss would rather the professionals handled it, that was fine too.

“Not particularly," Nero responded as he nodded his head towards Marna who'd brought him a beer. He took a slow drink of it, apparently not too inclined to down it. “Unless you consider volunteering at Ana's as plans for the weekend," he added, holding the beer out in front of him as if he weren't too interested at the moment.

“One of the doors isn't closing properly; I planned on helping her fix it," he stated as if he were explaining why he was volunteering. “And you? Plan on taking Solomon on another walk?"

Aidan, who'd been about to swallow, snorted, and had to fight to down the beer before he lost it. He coughed a bit, striking the center of his chest with the side of his fist, but it trailed off into an odd sort of chuckle. "You've really got to work on your phrasing," he remarked, shaking his head faintly. "Rex, I would take on a walk. The Doc, I would go on a walk with."

He figured it was an honest mistake, so he explained it. The other possible explanation was a pretty sexist one, and he didn't judge Nero to be that kind of guy. Nor Rheinallt, for that matter. He'd not have accepted the offer if he had. Nero made an expression that seemed more like an 'ah' and nodded his head as if he understood the statement.

"As for whether we will, I dunno. Would you like to come with if we do?"

Nero's brows furrowed in thought as he seemed to contemplate Aidan's offer. “If I'm not busy, I don't see why not," he finally stated, taking another drink from his beer. “It would be a better evening than spending it with the other two," he muttered into his drink before he set it down, perhaps, referring to Rheinallt and Niav. “There is nothing wrong with them, they're just... a bit much," he continued, shaking his head softly. He took in a deep breath, though, and remained quiet after that.

Aidan could certainly see that being the case sometimes. They were both rather... energetic, by comparison to Nero, and in a very particular way. "I'm sure they somehow manage to get exponentially worse around each other," he noted, quite certain of it.

As it happened, though, the front door to Marna's opened a moment later, at the same time as the woman herself emerged from the kitchen carrying the food on a large tray. She swung to greet him, only to unluckily catch her foot on a barstool someone had left too far out. The tray and everything on it would have gone flying, but fortunately Rheinallt reacted quickly, snatching the tray up with one hand to the bottom of it and steadying Marna by the should with the other. Aidan would eat the contents of his half-pack of cigarettes if that guy didn't have formal martial arts training, or at least something similar.

"Easy there Auntie," he said, grinning in a manner that could easily be described as carefree. He wasn't quite that though. Or at least Aidan didn't think so.

After Marna had sorted herself out, he handed the tray back to her, and they both approached the table. “Sorry about that," Marna said, dishing out the food. Aidan's appeared to be a spicy poke bowl, which he was more than fine with.

He accepted the dish with both hands. "Not a problem," he said softly. "You all right?"

“Just fine, thank you," she replied, smiling broadly at all of them and setting Rheinallt's drink down last. “You boys all take your time now, and just give me a shout if you need anything."

Nero, for his part, didn't look concerned, but there was a furrow in his brows that conveyed otherwise. He wasn't very good at expressing himself, it seemed. He nodded his head, though, in Marna's direction, as she left. He turned his attention towards Rheinallt, then, and narrowed his eyes.

“Kas," he greeted, nodding his head in Rheinallt's direction. “Enjoying the break?" he asked, arching a brow in Rheinallt's direction.

"Now, see, Ryk, that question's a trap. You're asking me, in front of our boss, if I'm glad I don't have to go into work tomorrow." He shot Aidan a grin. "And my answer is, 'obviously.'"

"Now you've done it, Rheinallt. Gonna have to tell Gregorovich your team's got a slacker," Aidan deadpanned in reply, taking a large bite from his bowl.

The other man laughed. "Oh good. You do have a sense of humor. I was worried when I got over here and Ryk seemed to be comfortable."

“I deal with you and Cyrilla on a daily basis; it's obvious that it'd be more relaxing in Aidan's company than yours," Nero replied easily enough, though from the sounds of it, he didn't seem to be joking. He took another drink of his beer before setting it down and reaching for his own food. It appeared to be nacho supreme minus the jalapeños. He motioned towards them, though, and furrowed his brows.

“Feel free to have some if they suit your tastes," he spoke, as if he were offering to share his nachos.

Rheinallt readily took him up on it, bringing a small cluster of the nachos towards himself. Aidan's dish wasn't really easily shared, but the other man too pushed his plate towards the center. It seemed to have a sort of flatbread on it, sliced into small pieces, with various things topping it. From the smell alone it was fairly spice-heavy.

"We're not that bad. At least I don't steal your food out of the fridge or leave a bunch of mess laying around, right?"

"Low bar," Aidan noted, but not without a flicker of amusement.

“Neither of you do, really," Nero responded, taking a bite out of his nachos before turning his attention back towards Rheinallt. “You both just make too much noise, especially when you both get excited over something. Point in case was yesterday when you were both energetically talking about how cute Meep is, or something of that sort," he added, taking one of Rheinallt's slices and staring at it.

He smelled it as if he were checking for something before he took a bite out of it. “A little more quiet would be appreciated."

To his credit, Rheinallt looked like he was taking this at least mostly seriously, crunching over his nachos with a thoughtful expression. "I did offer to do ground rules, you know. We could work it out so that we have to shut up after a certain time if you wanted. Or, because you probably won't go for that, I can just try to be quieter."

He shrugged. "I guess I never noticed. Grew up in kind of a noisy household."

"Big family?" Aidan asked, trying some of the flatbread and finding it pleasantly flavored. Definitely spicier than his poke, though.

"Compared to some, maybe," Rheinallt replied. "Lot of big personalities, though. I have two sisters, my mom, my dad, my dad's second ex-wife, a handful of aunts and uncles, and enough cousins to lose track of. They weren't all around at the same time, mind you, but I wasn't ever really alone, either. Sometimes it got kind of claustrophobic."

Aidan could almost see that. If his file was to be believed, Rheinallt wasn't just 'really smart' but an actual genius, and if Aidan had his guess, there were actual sensitivities that had come with that, ones he'd probably learned to suck it up and ignore. He wondered if his family had understood or not. Not the kind of question he could ask, at any rate. He didn't seem to think poorly of them overall.

"What about you, boss? Brothers or sisters?"

"Only child," Aidan replied. "And don't call me boss."

Rheinallt grinned.

Nero looked entirely unsure if he should join the conversation in the way it seemed to go. He took another, slow bite of the slice he'd taken from Rheinallt's place and chewed it. He seemed to make up his mind, though, as he washed the bite down with his beer before turning his attention back towards Rheinallt and Aidan.

“I'm an only child in a large, complex family. You both know the Koga family; not much else to say about that," he stated, his eyes narrowing towards his drink almost as if he were angry with it. His expression smoothed out, after that, though, and he took another drink, finishing it off.

Aidan knew enough to know not to press the topic much further than that. He'd been on a team with a very angry, very talkative Koga for several years, not to mention other things he knew simply because he was the closest thing Gregorovich had to a confidante. He polished off his own beer with a shrug.

"And now we both know why Rheinallt can't stand to hear himself think, and we want him to shut up at least fifty percent more often."

Good-humored as always, the other man took the joke on the chin, chuckling softly and shaking his head. "I swear other people like me this conversational."

Nero huffed lightly. “We're not other people," he responded, taking another bite of his nachos, almost frowning when he ran out. He simply took another one of Rheinallt's slices, though. “But... I suppose right now isn't so bad," he added, slightly arching a brow.

“Eventually we'll find a balance. For now, though," he paused, taking a bite out of the slice, “this is fine." He shrugged lightly.

Aidan huffed softly. He supposed it was, at that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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May 24th
Field Office 9 - Early Afternoon - Humid
Eryk Nero


Eryk pinched the bridge of his nose as he stared at the computer screen. A mass email had gone out about the grunts wanting to partake in some kind of event. A battle event if he was reading the email correctly. He wasn't required, per se, to join the event, but... he also knew that if he didn't, there would be some words said and he wasn't really in the mood for that. Before he could turn the computer off, a knock on his door caused him to turn his attention towards it. Cyrilla was standing in the doorway, arching a brow in his direction.

“You read the email?" she asked, waiting for his response. He merely nodded. “Well, come on, then. We're supposed to go help set up the staging area for the grunts so that they have a somewhat viable arena to use. It won't take too long; just have to set up a perimeter for them," she stated. Eryk sighed heavily. Didn't they have other people to do that?

“Yes, we do, Ryk. But it's supposed to be more impactful if the leaders help out, too," she responded as if she'd read his mind. She wasn't a telepath, not like he was, but even then, he couldn't form strong connections with people. He didn't mind, though. It wasn't like it was a helpful or useful gift. From what he could remember, his own father had been a telepath. Not quite a psychic, though.

“Fine." He stood from his chair and followed her out the door.

“We're meeting Kas in the foyer, by the way. He should be there already, but you never know." He supposed that was true enough. It wasn't like they all did their work together, after all.

As it happened, their third was in fact in the foyer, seemingly in conversation with that woman who ran the HR department. At their approach, though, he smiled amiably. "And here they are now. Told you they'd show." There was a glint of amusement in his eyes; he crossed his arms over his chest and arched a brow above his glasses. Eryk couldn't actually be sure he needed them; he only seemed to wear them at work, even though he sometimes worked on his computer screens at the apartment, also.

"I'm kind of interested in seeing what a shitshow this is gonna be. How about you guys?"

Cyrilla chuckled lightly, perhaps, at Kas's statement. “Oh, it's not going to be that bad. A few of the grunts want a chance to have some fun, and apparently they think a battle will help them do that," she replied, rolling her eyes in what seemed to be a goodnatured way.

“There are other ways to have fun on this island, are there not?" Eryk stated, furrowing his brows slightly. He wasn't entirely sure why they thought this was a good idea. Maybe they were trying to see who was particularly strong, and a battle was a good way of doing that? Eryk couldn't be too certain, but he thought it was a waste of time. There were other things they could be doing.

“And there's the grump we all know and love. That may be true, there are other things to do on the island that constitute as fun, but to them, this is a way of bonding. It would do you some good, too, Ryk. Let Runt have a go at some of them. You said he's been restless lately, right?" Cyrilla replied, arching a delicate brow in his direction. He supposed she had a point, but he didn't want to participate himself.

“Are you going to be participating?" he questioned, glancing in Kas's direction. If Kas joined, then maybe Eryk would, too.

"I was kinda hoping to get out of it," he admitted. "But then Luke and Niko challenged me and I couldn't really say no, so I guess I'm stuck going for a round or two. I figure Meep could use the exercise or something." He shrugged, as if to indicate he wouldn't be taking it all that seriously in any case.

"I'm not really a fieldwork guy though, so don't expect too much."

“I already don't," Eryk replied a little quickly. Cyrilla huffed lightly before shaking her head. “I suppose Runt could use it as well, or Icarus," though he wasn't too sure about the espurr. Icarus wasn't particularly inclined for battles. He liked to sleep or hang out with everyone. At least that was the impression he got from the espurr.

“Since you and Ryk are participating, I'll be in your cheer squad, then. Now, let's go help them set up so we can get this show on the road!" Cyrilla stated, causing Eryk to purse his lips together.

“You're going to participate, too, Cyrilla. You're not getting out of this so easily," he stated, narrowing his eyes in her direction. She pursed her lips at him, and placed a hand on her hip.

“But... alright, fine. Diva hasn't had a good battle in awhile, anyway. Mr. Grumps, always bossing me around," she muttered the last part as if she hadn't intended for Eryk to hear. From the smile on her face, though, it seemed to be the opposite. Eryk sighed and rolled his eyes.

Kasimir snorted softly, and led the way outside. The grunts, or some subset of them, were already putting the finishing touches on the ring, it looked like. Stakes had been hammered into the ground and ropes tied to create an informal fence, encompassing a wide area that would give most pokémon at least the ability to run around quite freely. Luke seemed to be taking registrations, and constructing a bracket based on the number of entrants.

He looked up and waved them over.

“You guys in, or just here to watch? It's a single-pokémon competition, because some of us only have one and it'll keep things nice and quick that way."

"Sure," Kas said. "Put me down as entering with Meep."

If Luke thought it strange that he was entering with a very young, first-stage pokémon, he gave no indication of it, merely nodding crisply and adding Kasimir's name to a list.

“I'll be entering with Diva," Cyrilla spoke as she smiled in Luke's direction. She glanced towards Eryk, though, almost as if she were expecting him to back out last second. He narrowed his eyes at her, though.

“I'll be using Runt," he spoke simply, watching as Luke added both of their names to the list.

“Hey, Luke, Cyrilla, Nero, Kas," Niko greeted, seemingly excited as he approached their group. “Already signed up?" he asked, as Cyrilla nodded her head. He sighed a bit dramatically, and glanced in Luke's direction. “Put me down with Rocky," he stated, opening his mouth to say something before he was interrupted. Lorraine appeared, eyes narrowed slightly before she turned her attention towards Luka and gave him, her entrance.

“So, the three of you are participating doesn't seem quite fair for us grunts," Niko stated, grinning as if he hadn't challenged Kas. “But fair seems overrated, right Lorraine?" he stated, grinning in her direction. She didn't look impressed, and if anything, seemed to be focused on the area around them. Eryk didn't blame her, really. He didn't want to be here, either, but some part of him was a little... excited? He quashed it, though.

"You say that now, but I only have this job because I know how to work Porygon Office," Kas quipped.

Luke snorted. “Even the spreadsheets?"

"That's what they pay me the big money for, Luke. So I can make the boss's spreadsheets do fancy shit."

After a soft chuckle and a shake of his head, Luke straightened. “All right. Bracket's done. Should be able to clear it in three rounds. First match is Eryk versus Niko, so have at it, guys."

If Eryk didn't know any better, he would have thought Niko bounded away quite joyously. Was a mock battle really that exciting? He mentally sighed, and made his way towards the makeshift ring. He blinked in slight surprise as he spotted Aidan. He didn't seem to be part of... whatever this was, but he was standing by the middle of the ring. Was he supposed to be the referee? From the looks of it, he probably was.

Runt, behave yourself, he spoke to the tyrunt as he released him from the ball. Runt shook his entire body, head first followed by his torso and then tail. Like a stoutland might do after a bath. Eryk rolled his eyes as Runt glanced around the area. His eyes landed with Eryk's, and for a moment, Eryk could have sworn Runt smiled. In front of him, Niko released Rocky, a rhyhorn. It roared lightly, causing Runt to imitate it, or at least as well as a tyrunt could mimic a rhyhorn.

“Any particular rules?" he decided to ask before they began the battle. He didn't think there could be many, but... he'd rather be certain.

"Don't be an idiot and don't be a asshole. Try not to destroy the building." Aidan shrugged, lighting a cigarette as the battlers prepared themselves, then stepped well clear of the pokémon. "Whenever you're both ready."

They were simple enough, the rules, and Eryk nodded his head towards Niko. He grinned, though, and didn't seem to waste much time, starting with a tackle from Rhyhorn. Runt stood there and lowered his head, meeting the Rhyhorn head-on. The force was enough to send him back a bit, but not enough to topple him over. If anything, Runt had the spine of a rampardos, and probably the balance of one, too. Niko looked vaguely surprised, glancing in Eryk's direction. Eryk merely shrugged his shoulders, though, and he could have sworn he heard Cyrilla snickering.

“Tackle," he stated as Runt jumped back. He pawed the ground with one foot before charging the rhyhorn, head lowered in what looked to be a headbutt. Eryk sighed heavily as Rhyhorn dodged it and Runt kept going. Runt, come back this way, he connected with Runt telepathically to keep him from going too far. How did he end up with such a... special tyrunt?

The battle went on for at least ten minutes with the same thing happening. Runt would end up going too far for a tackle, and Ryk had to call him back. The battle itself was mostly trying to wear each other down. Rhyhorn didn't seem too tired, and neither did Runt. He supposed that was because Runt was just happy to play.

“Stomp," he spoke, watching as Runt jumped into the air to perform the move. It connected with enough force to roll the rhyhorn onto its back before it regained its feet.

“Alright, Rocky, let's stop playing around. Use Ice Fang!" Niko stated, clearly attempting to end the battle. Ryk wouldn't have minded, exactly, but there was something beneath his skin that bubbled. That refused to lose on purpose.

“Dragon Claw."

Runt's claws glowed as he charged Rhyhorn, and when both attacks connected, it was enough to produce a small explosion, covering the arena and pokémon in dust. It took a moment to clear, and when it did, Runt and Rhyhorn were still standing, though the both of them were doing so on shaky legs. Niko, however, held up his hand, and shook his head.

“I concede," he spoke, pulling Rocky's pokeball from his belt, and recalling the rhyhorn. Runt seemed rather pleased with the win, and hopped towards Ryk with what looked to be a large smile on its face. It wasn't particularly a satisfying, but he could understand why Niko forfeited. Both pokémon weren't in particularly good shape to continue, and it would have been a bit cruel to force them to.

“Well, that was entertaining. Thanks for that, Nero!" Niko stated as he approached Eryk, sticking his hand out in what seemed to be a friendly handshake.

“This is the part you also shake his hand, Ryk!" Cyrilla shouted from the side. Eryk rolled his eyes and took Niko's hand into his own, giving him a firm handshake before they walked off the field. Runt trailed behind him, making a noise every so often until he spotted Cyrilla, and ran towards her. She stretched her arms out to take the tyrunt's large head into them, and gave Runt a good head shake.

“Congratulations on your win, Runt," she stated, before glancing up at Ryk. “And you too, I suppose." Eryk huffed.

Dusting off his hair, Aidan flicked some ash off the end of his cigarette, apparently unperturbed by the debris of the collision. "Who's next?"

"That'd be Luke and I," Kas said, ambling up to the ring. Luke's pokémon was a snorunt, which meant neither had the obvious type advantage; when Kas released Meep, the little mareep hopped about with obvious happiness to be participating.

Despite Kasimir's protests about not being a field agent type, the match was over fairly quickly. As if to be contrary to her youth and inexperience, Meep appeared to be quite strong, with a suite of moves that covered her bases quite well, and Luke ceded the match not a minute into it, shaking his head with a soft chuckle.

“Spreadsheets my ass," he said, though it seemed to be amused rather than angry.

Kas only shrugged. "I'm telling you, mine are great."

After Kas's match with Luke, it was Cyrilla's turn who was facing off with Lorraine. The woman had the type advantage, sending out a croconaw, however; Ryk knew that Cyrilla covered for most of her weaknesses by teaching her pokémon moves that were not naturally learned. And it was a well placed thunder punch that managed to make the win for her. Diva looked pretty pleased with herself, howling as if she'd just defeated some great opponent, however; Cyrilla ran her hand through the lycanroc's mane and shook it a bit. Diva huffed as she trailed behind Cyrilla as she approached the group.

“Alright, so... does that mean we all advance? If so, I'm dropping out. I'm going to hang out with Luke and we're going to cheer the both of you on while the others continue their competition," she stated as she grinned in Luke's direction.

“Hey, don't forget about me, short stuff," Niko stated as he placed a hand on his hip and furrowed his brows. Cyrilla snorted softly and motioned him over, along with Lorraine. She didn't appear too happy to have lost, but she wasn't immediately sour about it. If she was, she was doing a good job hiding it. As far as Eryk knew, he always looked to be in a sour mood, so he couldn't be too sure.

“See, now you have a cheering squad," Cyrilla stated.

“I mean, I told you I had great legs for this." Niko popped out his leg once more, causing Cyrilla to laugh. Eryk only rolled his eyes.

Cyrilla's forfeit required a bit of bracket reshuffling, but Luke didn't complain. After another round, it had narrowed to the two finalists, unsurprisingly Eryk and Kasimir.

"Aw man, can't I just forfeit?" Kas whined, lifting his hands to fold them behind his head. "I've seen Runt go at it—he's got a lethal case of stupid and I don't wanna get caught in the crossfire, yanno?"

"If stupid was lethal I'd have at least one dead pokémon, and I don't," Aidan quipped by way of reply. "You guys gonna battle or what?"

Eryk supposed Kas had a bit of a point. Runt was a little stupid, but he was a good pokémon regardless. He shook his head, though. “I agree with Kas, though. Don't want to put him through that kind of trauma," he stated, a little surprised by how it sounded. Did he just joke? That's what it sounded like, even to himself.

“I'll concede this match to Kas," he stated. He'd be losing, in a sense, but he didn't mind too much. “I guess that means you win, Kas."

"Hey," Kas said, frowning in an exaggerated fashion. "I already said I forfeit. You can't steal my forfeit from me!"

Aidan rolled his eyes.

Eryk shrugged his shoulders. “I just did."

"Ass."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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#, as written by Aethyia


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June 1st
Aidan's Office - Morning - Hot
Aidan Klein


The recently-repaired air conditioning unit hummed in a labored sort of way, no doubt taxed by the task of trying to cool an entire building, including a temperature-sensitive lab, in the burgeoning heat of a Cinnabar summer. If anyone had asked Aidan, he'd have suggested a different central unit for each floor, considering the work they all had to do, but of course no one had asked him. So for the moment he made due with the standing fan next to his window and didn't say anything about it. It was working well enough, at least for now.

"Your written report indicates that the last month was mostly spent in lab setup, yes?" Gregorovich had a copy of the thing in front of him, no doubt printed from the email, but of course anything especially sensitive would be conveyed directly, so it wasn't hard to puzzle out why he was asking.

"Yeah," he replied, pulling the sweating water bottle on his desk towards him. "Dr. Solomon had a lot of materials from previous research; Dr. Greene and Ms. Parker wanted to at least go over those so they were caught up on the relevant information, so she spent a lot of the last month getting them up to speed." The benefit to this was that, having sat in on the lessons, Aidan himself was pretty up to speed, too. Apparently Doc's research had a lot to do with psychic pokémon, and the limits of their mental capacities. The exact nature of telepathic connections, and so on. It was pretty interesting stuff, if a little fringe. He sort of wondered where she'd gotten the idea to study it.

Gregorovich's expression remained neutral; he only nodded once. Still, Aidan could tell he'd been hoping for more of an update than that. "I suppose at least it means they can properly get to work this month," he noted with something of a sigh. Sitting back in his chair, he removed the cigarette from between his lips to tap it over a crystalline ashtray. "What about those three? Their reports indicate they've made contact with the target?"

Aidan nodded. "They have. As you know, she runs a shelter. They apparently decided that was the best way in, and spend a lot of their time outside working hours volunteering." Reading Gregorovich's skepticism, he shrugged. "As I understand it, Ms. Asher doesn't really differentiate much between this and socializing; she'd invited them to do that with her as well, so I'd say they're doing about as well as we could hope for on that front." He left off the part where he knew Doc had been down that way, too—technically it probably wasn't allowed, due to the possibility that it would compromise the mission, but it was a bit late for her to suddenly stop. He knew what Gregorovich would recommend in that case, and was planning to do it anyway.

"Hm. Satisfactory, I suppose." He half-smiled a bit and shook his head. "They say age is supposed to make you patient, and here I have to keep reminding myself that things take time. I suppose... I just want everything to be in place before I'm gone, you know?"

Aidan's brows arched. It wasn't really like his boss to muse on something like that, and immediately he couldn't help but wonder if something had happened. "...sir?"

The older man chuckled. "Ah, sorry. I suppose that was a bit unlike me. I only... hm." He paused for a long moment. "It's nothing. I'm just at the point in my life where I'm starting to think about legacy, I suppose. And succession. I wonder when that happened?"

"Wouldn't have thought you were old enough for that kind of shit, Gregorovich."

As he'd intended it to, Aidan's smart remark drew a smile and a short bark of laughter from the other man. "You're right. I'm being a presumptuous bastard, aren't I?" His amusement faded a moment later, not entirely dispelling Aidan's suspicion that something else was behind this. "In any case, the file I've sent you could make a very effective bit of legacy for you, should you carry it out successfully. I know the cause is near to your heart. I expect of course you'll need some help, as yours is still a rather famous face in some circles."

"Yeah, the version of it from ten years and a whole lotta piss and vinegar ago."

Gregorovich grinned a little. "I liked that you. He's still recognizable, in any case, so the point stands." He stubbed his cigarette out. "If you have need of the Beasts, feel free to commandeer them. It shouldn't take so much of their time that they can't stay involved with Miss Asher. Perhaps if they're clever they can find a way to integrate things. She has the right kind of heart, no?"

Aidan supposed the kind of person who ran a pokémon shelter and hospice was likely to. "Thanks, boss. Will do—they've got some talent." Nero and Rheinallt especially, in this particular area. Niav's talents were a bit different, but they were going to be just as useful, if not moreso.

"Good. Keep me updated, Aidan." With a small nod, the boss's image disappeared from the screen.

Aidan pressed the button on the device that hooked him into the secretary's desk. "Hayley, can you do me a favor and tell Nero, Rheinallt, and Niav to meet me in the conference room in half an hour?"

The young woman's voice came back through immediately. “Of course, sir!"

A few minutes later, she confirmed that they'd all been told, and he spent the next half-hour preparing copies of the folder for all of them. Probably something he could have had an assistant do, but Aidan had never really gotten used to asking other people to do things for him that he could do himself. Relaying messages was about as much as he ever used the front desk.

Half and hour later, he was seated in the conference room with a stack of folders in front of him.

Nero and Niav were the first to arrive. They seemed to be having a conversation of sorts, but it died once they approached Aidan, and took a seat. Nero glanced around as if looking for something, but turned his attention back to Aidan.

“Good afternoon, Aidan. Hayley said you wanted to see us?" Niav spoke first. Nero rolled his eyes gently, and shook his head.

Aidan nodded, but didn't elaborate, since he wanted all of them to be present. He couldn't admit to any fondness for repeating himself.

Rheinallt wasn't late or anything, arriving right on time and taking a different seat, leaning back in the chair and propping his feet on the table. Aidan didn't give a shit, so didn't bother to reprimand him for it.

"Good, you're all here. New mission." He handed out the folders, which were all identical to his own save for the personal note from Gregorovich that had accompanied the assignment. "Boss gave me lead on this one, but it's big and we're all going to have to run it. It shouldn't detract from your other job, but it'll at least get you away from your desks now and then."

"I'm not really—"

"—a fieldwork guy. Yeah, so you've said. You'll do for this, though. It's a large-scale kind of thing, and we're gonna need all competent hands on deck." Turning to the first page of the folder, he glanced over the statistics some analyst had compiled. "These are estimates on the use of performance-enhancing substances on competitive battling pokémon. We're not talking about kids wandering around between towns, here. These are the pros. Problem is, the things are already illegal, so it's not like anyone's just going to fess up to using them. The boss suspects it's not just a bunch of isolated cases, either."

Rheinallt, who'd looked like he was about to complain, was suddenly much more interested. "What, you figure there's big money involved?"

"Most likely. There's big money in professional battling, after all. Some of these trainers have heavy-duty machinery behind them: sponsors, agents, their own trainers, huge fanbases, that kind of thing. Battling is the most lucrative sport in the world, and the stakes get pretty big."

Rheinallt nodded. "I wouldn't be shocked to learn people were doping their pokémon at that level, but what exactly does the boss think we can do about it?"

That one was simple enough. "Undercover infiltration," he said simply. "Nero and Rheinallt, you're going to get your asses sponsored as professional battlers. Niav, you're going to be their agent."

Nero's expression smoothed out almost to the point it looked like he was expressing something. Shock, maybe, or confusion. “What?" he finally spoke, narrowing his eyes slightly in Aidan's direction. Niav, however, seemed delighted at the prospect, a grin forming on her lips. She leaned her cheek on her hand and tilted her gaze towards Nero.

“You heard the man, Ryk. You and Kas are going to go under cover as professional battlers," she spoke, perhaps to clarify to Nero. He merely narrowed his eyes at her. “There are worse things to be going undercover, Ryk, and you know that. Plus," she paused, glancing in Rheinallt and Aidan's direction before shaking her head. Nero seemed to know what she was going to say, though, and rolled his eyes.

“Kas and I aren't professionals, though. They'd see right through that guise," Nero finally spoke. “How are we supposed to convince someone to sponsor us if we're not what they're looking for?"

Aidan almost snorted. Wasn't this guy supposed to be experienced with fieldwork? Still, he answered the question as it had been asked: seriously. "Well, that's the thing. To pretend to be a professional battler, you're going to have to... become a professional battler. Sponsorship is going to be interesting, but the best way to do it is to draw attention to yourselves by winning, and letting your manager rub elbows with potential sponsors. You'll be wanting to look at local regional tournaments to start out with. Amass enough wins or good placements, and you'll qualify for bigger ones. You've got what it takes to get there—I've seen you battle and I'm pretty sure."

They'd been practice matches against grunts, to be sure, but the likes of Luke and Niko weren't half-bad, and the heads Nero and Rheinallt had shown for strategy—as well as the fact that they'd both won with such young pokémon—were dead tip-offs as to their abilities.

“There's a qualifying tournament happening in September," Niav spoke casually, glancing between Nero and Rheinallt. Nero gave her a somewhat questioning look, causing her to shrug her shoulders. “People talk," she stated as if explaining how she knew about the tournament. “Anyway, if you train for the next few months, I'm sure you'll have no problem getting qualified into a tournament league. Of course, that requires you actually working," she directed that statement towards Rheinallt. “But if Aidan says you've got the moxie for it, then it shouldn't be too bad, right? Plus, I like rubbing elbows with people. They spill all of their little secrets that way."

“We spend most of our free time helping Anastasia out. When will we have time for training?" Nero questioned, glancing towards Niav. She rolled her eyes at his statement, though.

“Ryk, we don't have to go there every time we have free time. It just makes you look a bit desperate, and she might take it the other kind of way, you know? She might think you like her in that kind of way. Keeping a bit of distance is good for you. Besides, if you're training, I'm sure she'll understand. Hell, if it bothers you that much, you can just tell her you'll be spending some of your time between things. Maybe she'll even want to help you out." Niav shrugged then, and leaned back into her chair, crossing her arms over her chest.

Rheinallt snorted softly, but offered no further comment on the matter of Asher, though somehow Aidan would have expected something. Ribbing, perhaps.

But nothing of the kind was forthcoming, and so with a slight arch of his eyebrows, Aidan continued instead. "I mean, not to tell you how to run your op, but if it were me I'd just integrate the two a bit. Tell the mark I planned to break into pro battling. People like giving advice, and they like being confided in." He shrugged. "As for the training bit, I can help out with it. I'm not just leaving you to run this yourselves; I'm still in charge of the op. I'm just too recognizable in some circles to pass for a neophyte trying to break into the scene. I can help you train, though, and put in a word with the right people when the time comes. Might help draw you some attention."

It had been years since he was active in that world, and in all honesty he liked to pretend he was something like anonymous and forgotten now, even if part of him knew it wasn't true. He was occasionally recognized on the street, though thankfully it hadn't happened here of all places. At least not in any way that he'd noticed. He was perennially grateful to the people who could keep that kind of recognition to themselves instead of approaching him about it. Made his life a lot less awkward.

“See? This is why Aidan's the boss; he gives you good, sound advice. You should take it, Ryk," Niav spoke, arching a brow in Nero's direction. He merely rolled his eyes, though, and shook his head.

“Whatever, Cy," he murmured softly before turning his attention towards Aidan. “Fine," he finally spoke, sighing softly. “We can notify Anastasia about this, and see if she... wants to help, too," he didn't seem especially certain, though. Niav merely grinned at him and pat his shoulder.

“Good. It'll do you some good, Ryk. You have to learn to be a little more sociable, in these cases, especially if you want to land a sponsor. It's all about making the right impressions; everyone knows that," she stated, causing Nero's shoulders to slump a bit. “Is there anything else on the agenda for today?" Niav turned her attention back towards Aidan when she asked that question.

"Well it's also about battling well," Aidan replied in a deadpan. He appreciated that Niav was good at PR, but there was really no reason to suppose it all came down to that, and he had to wonder if she wasn't making it seem worse to a guy like Nero than it really was. "As for anything else today, no. The September qualifier's a reasonable goal to shoot for; we'll keep that the target and adjust if we need to. I'll check in in a few weeks with a training plan. Get me a roster of your pokémon and their movesets by Friday so I can work those up. Any questions?"

"Seems pretty straightforward to me," Rheinallt replied with a shrug, glancing at Nero.

“What he said," Nero replied, nodding his head in Rheinallt's direction. “Shouldn't be too difficult," Nero muttered more to himself than anything, it seemed.

Aidan nodded. That was that, then.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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June 8th
Cinnabar Island Park - Afternoon - Cloudy
Nevena Solomon


The weather wasn't all that bad today. It was pleasant enough that Nevena could enjoy being outside with just a simple white sundress and a sun hat. She had taken her pokémon to the nearby pokémon park, the one she and Aidan frequented, deciding that it was a good day to let them roam around. Being cooped up in the apartment all morning was boring for them, she assumed, and she wanted them to stretch their legs a bit. Floof definitely needed the exercise since she was still relatively young. And it was now that she watched the wooloo casually hopping along, nudging Fluffy as if to entice him to chase her. He was curled up near a tree, probably using the shade to hide from the sun, but Floof didn't seem to want to leave him alone.

Basil was currently sitting near Nevena, glancing with mild interest at everything around her. That's just how she was, Nev supposed. Basil was never much of a interacting type, but she was gentle enough around those that approached her. She'd ocassionally reach out towards Floof, pat the wooloo's head with a vine, and then turn her around to go after another pokémon. It was oddly adorable to Nev, and she chuckled lightly at the antics.

Floof decided to make a run at one of the other pokémon in the park, a deino from the looks of it. She jumped lightly into its side, however; it seemed to topple over from the lightest impact. Nev was at once alarmed and trying not to laugh. Alarmed because Floof didn't look like she'd run into the deino that hard, and trying not to laugh because it just laid there, like one of those fainting skiddo. She quickly stood from her spot and made her way over towards it, gently picking it up its head and trying to get it to stand.

“Floof, look what you did. You need to be more careful," she stated, earning a light trill from the wooloo. “Seriously, come here and apologize," she stated, pointing her finger to the spot next to her. Floof just made a face that looked like she was pouting, however; a chuckle to the side caught Nev's attention.

“Don't worry about it, he's just dumb. She didn't hit him hard and he's pretty dramatic," the young man stated. He had pale blue hair and matching eyes. Not quite the blue normally associated with the Jenny family, but more so the kind one would say Claire had, or even a Stone. He was dressed in a crisp light pink shirt and a pair of blue jean shorts that fell to his knees. He smiled at Nev and held out his hand towards her.

“I'm Drake Bellamy, by the way," he greeted. Nev immediately stood and took his hand into her own.

“Oh, I've heard so much about you! You're Cinnabar's Gym Leader! You took over for your grandfather and are one of Kanto's... er, well, I shouldn't say that, really," because telling him that he was one of Kanto's most eligible bachelor would come off as a bit creepy to Nev. And she didn't want to be that kind of person. Plus, there were other things about him. How he was one of the youngest in history to become a Gym Leader, and how his statistics were fairly good for him to try out for the Kanto League if he'd ever thought about it. He chuckled, though, and glanced to her side.

“Oh, and this is my neighbor, Aidan," she stated, momentarily forgetting he was there. She'd been so distracted by Floof, honestly.

Aidan certainly didn't seem to mind, anyhow, just sticking out his hand to shake in turn. She'd noticed he never smoked in the park, and he wasn't now, either, though he still hadn't really gotten used to the idea of dressing for the island she didn't think, sticking to black and long pants. At least his shirt didn't have any sleeves. He'd started to tan a little, as they spent more time outdoors, and usually wore sunglasses to ward off the glare.

"Aidan Klein," he said simply. "Taking the afternoon off? There was a line outside the gym this morning, if I remember right."

Drake made a vague nose that almost sounded like he was being strangled. It was slightly alarming to Nev, but he reached to rub the back of his neck. “Yeah, I have a line outside of the gym, but... well, I need some time off from all the battling. There's been an influx of challenges lately, especially ever since the old mansion opened up. Getting all kinds of people and challenges from there, but I don't mind, really. I need the workout."

Nevena tilted her head in a questioning manner. “How so?" she asked. From what she knew of Drake, he lived a relatively normal lifestyle. Ate healthy, had his training regime, and still had time to do things around the island. He chuckled somewhat, though.

“Honestly, I'm kind of... avoiding someone right now. It's, uh, nothing bad, I promise, but I'll open the gym again sometime in the evening for that late rush. It'll be fine until then," he stated, waving a dismissive hand in front of him.

“Oh, and it's nice to meet the both of you. I've never seen a pokémon like that, though. Is she from another region?" he asked, glancing in Floof's direction. She trilled happily at him before rolling off, causing Nev to shake her head.

“She's from the Galar region. There aren't a lot of galarian pokémon in Kanto mostly because of how far it is and the environment is completely different. Some would do well while others would likely be uncomfortable. Luckily for Floof, she's a little more adaptable," she replied, smiling just a bit at the wooloo. Drake nodded his head as if in understanding.

“Huh, I guess that makes sense. You... look familiar, though. Have we met before?" Drake asked as he glanced in Aidan's direction. Nev arched a brow at that. She was almost certain that Aidan didn't know Drake; they wouldn't have introduced themselves like that if they had known each other. Maybe it was because Aidan was Kanto's former Champion that Drake recognized him. He would, after all, know who the current and past Champions were as a Gym Leader.

"Uh..." Aidan cleared his throat. "Once, yeah, but you were a lot shorter. Figured you wouldn't remember considering how long ago it was." He placed his arm at about the height of his torso, looking a bit sheepish. Almost... embarrassed? Maybe that was what the slight tinge of pink to his face was, or maybe it was just the sun. "Big get-together. You were there with your aunt and grandfather; I was kind of awkwardly in the corner till the old man insisted on talking to me."

“Ah! That's right!" Drake stated suddenly, snapping his fingers before pointing one at Aidan. “Man, that was a long time ago. I don't even remember why they wanted to do that. Something about bringing the family together or something like that. But, hey, it's good to see you after all these years."

Nev arched an eyebrow at that. She didn't know they were acquainted already, even if it was several years ago. She smiled, though, at the scene.

“And yeah, gramps is always like that. You can't be a wallflower in any kind of situation when he's around. He'll just chat your ear off," he stated, huffing lightly before leaning in closer towards Nevena. “My advice is to never be alone with gramps. He makes even the most mild of situations a bit uncomfortable. He means well, but still...." he trailed off, causing Nev to chuckle lightly.

“Well I'm sure he's pleasant company, regardless," she replied with a light smile.

"Pleasant's not the word I would use," Aidan muttered. After a moment, something seemed to occur to him, though, and he pinched one of the pokéballs off his belt. He usually didn't release many of his at a time, even when they were at the park, though he hadn't really explained why, except to say that they weren't really suited to it. But he expanded the ball and gave it a little toss.

"Remember Brick?" When the light cleared, there was a garchomp there; he scratched at his head with one paw, blinking slowly at all three of them.

“Uh, yeah? How could I forget Brick when I have my own version right over there," Drake stated with a large smile on his face, pointing back towards the deino that seemed to be fixated on the garchomp. “I swear, they're two peas in a pod. That one came right up to me, nudged one of the pokéballs, and caught himself. All he ever does is sleep, eat, and headbutt shit. See," he stated just as the deino made its way towards Brick, and lightly hit Brick's leg. It seemed to be smiling in a very dopey way, and Nev couldn't help but find it oddly adorable.

Brick, in turn, lightly whacked the deino's head with one of his paws.

“Aw, but he's so cute. Look at that face; how could you not want to love on it," she stated, catching the deino's attention. It waddled up to her, and stared up with an open mouth. She snorted softly.

“He thinks you're going to feed him, now," Drake stated, folding his arms over his chest.

“Oh, that's alright. If you don't mind, I always bring little chips of frozen yoghurt for the others," she stated, reaching into the bag she had tied to her wrist. It wasn't large or anything, but Drake shrugged his shoulders; Nev took it as silent permission and fed one to the deino. “Would Brick like one, too?" she asked, glancing in Aidan's direction.

He shrugged. "Probably too much."

Brick did, indeed, seem to be intently focused on her, and after a long moment parted his large jaws to an absurd width.

"Just give it a toss," Aidan advised. "He wouldn't bite on purpose but he's really stupid. I've got a couple scars on my leg from when I stood too close to breakfast one time and he missed."

Nev snorted softly as she tossed a chip towards Brick. Drake chuckled, though, as Deino opened his mouth again, as if anticipating another treat. Nev shook her head, but obliged the deino one more before putting the bag away.

“It must be a dragon thing, being so stupid. I can't say for certain for the rest of my team. They're usually pretty good. And Aunt Claire's dragons are well-behaved. I think you and I have crap luck when it comes to dragons, Aidan," Drake stated as he shook his head. Nev chuckled lightly.

“I don't think it's so much as luck as it is fate, really. After all, you two seem like the only ones who'd be able to care for them, properly," she stated. From what she could see of both Brick and Deino, they were well taken care of, and not just anyone would want to put in that much effort to raise a pokémon like that. Drake snorted, though.

“Fate, huh? Guess that's one way of putting it."

"Always knew my luck was shit," Aidan replied.

Brick, sensing perhaps belatedly that no more treats were forthcoming from Nev, wandered over to Aidan and closed his mouth over his trainer's shoulder. He didn't seem to be biting, exactly, more like a play version of it. Aidan sighed and lifted both arms to pry the pokémon's jaws away from himself, which Brick seemed to take as some kind of challenge. Stepping out from the garchomp's grip, Aidan continued to hold him at arm's length by the mouth, while Brick tried to get traction enough on the ground to push past the defense.

Though the muscles of Aidan's arms tensed with the effort of resisting this, his facial expression didn't change much. It seemed he was used to this kind of thing. "And they say dragons are majestic," he drawled. "Noblest pokémon type, best handled by experienced trainers only. I don't think any of those people have ever actually met one."

Drake laughed at the antics before shaking his head. “I guess they meant majestic in other ways. They were probably thinking of Dragonite or Altaria at the time they said that. Or even a Tyrantrum. Those things look majestic, but most of the other dragons are just like... Brick and Deino, here. Oh, and I actually do have a Brick of my own, other than Deino." Drake reached for one of the pokeballs at his belt and pulled one off. He gave it a light toss as the silhouette of a Gabite appeared.

It blinked at the three of them before its eyes settled on Brick. “Meet Brick Jr." Nevena laughed at the name. These two were something else, really. She felt a strange warmth in her chest as she glanced between the two. It must be nice having friends like this.

“Named after the first Brick, but luckily he's not as stupid. Hey Jr. go entertain your namesake," he stated. The Gabite merely seemed to arch a brow in Drake's direction before huffing and stalking off elsewhere. Drake shook his head and sighed.

"Sassy bastard, isn't he?" Aidan said this with some amusement. Fortunately, Brick seemed to be interested enough in this new development to ease up and plod after the gabite instead of continuing to try and play with his trainer. Grimacing, Aidan wiped his hands off on his jeans, sighing slightly and shaking his head.

He managed a lopsided, unusually carefree smile, though. "Nice running into you again, kid."

“Same to you, old man," Drake stated, grinning lightly at the statement. Nev blinked a bit and tilted her head. Aidan didn't seem much older than her, so did that mean she was an old lady to Drake? She swallowed softly and smiled, though. “And you too...?" Nevena's face turned a bright red. She'd forgotten to introduce herself!

“Oh, I'm sorry, I'm Nevena Solomon! You can just... um, I'm sorry, I didn't," she stuttered softly as she shifted nervously in her spot. She hadn't meant to forget. She just got a little excited about the recent developments. Drake didn't seem to mind, though, and laughed.

“No worries, Nev. Nice to meet you, too. Hopefully we'll be seeing the both of you around more often. I'm sure Deino and Jr. would just enjoy playing with Brick again," he stated, glancing in the direction Brick had walked off to. Nevena chuckled lightly. That sounded nice.

"Yeah, we'll just have to avoid populated areas," Aidan said, rolling his eyes. Pulling his cell from his pocket, he brushed past a few windows before handing it to Drake. "You wanna plug in your number? Feel free to let me know if the guys and girls need some exercise. Mine could always use more chances to run around where they won't accidentally destroy anything." His eyes narrowed a little, but it seemed to be in good humor.

"And I'm interested to see how good you've gotten."

“Oh, definitely."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


June 12th
Field Office 9 - Morning - Hot
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kasimir sighed, leaning back in his office chair and pinching the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb, dislodging the glasses he didn't really need.

Sometimes he almost managed to convince himself this wasn't all a ruse. He needed to be able to do that, if he was working under the likes of an arceusdamn human lie detector. But it made every reminder of what was really going on here that much starker, and sometimes he wondered how much longer he'd be able to handle it. He'd have thought, when he started this, that nothing would be as bad as those early years, when he watched every other mole, from the execs to the janitor, be removed from NTR. That maybe after a while he'd get used to this, to lying through his teeth with every breath, because even when he wasn't saying something outright false, he was pretending.

Somehow, eight years in, it was as difficult as it had ever been.

Rheinallt,

Your last report was pretty sparse. I want more details on this 'Project Nebula.' If Gregorovich is this interested in something this vague, it's big. Dig it up. This isn't a request.

-S


Sighing again, heavily this time, Kas deleted the message, then scrubbed all evidence of it and only it from his machine. He was lucky enough to be the IT guy in this office, but that was no reason to get lazy about removing evidence. Gregorovich was paranoid enough to bring in outside help if he got so much as wind of the possibility of unsanctioned outside communication, and Aidan was good enough that he might well get one eventually. He had to stay calm, and stay prepared.

And, apparently, find out exactly what he wasn't supposed to know about the boss's latest brainchild.

Well, he knew where to start, at least. Pushing back from his desk, he headed to the second-floor coffee machine and brewed up three cups' worth, doctoring one heavily with sugar, the second with cinnamon and cream, and leaving the third black, before carrying them all carefully up the stairs to the lab floor.

As expected, Sis looked to be in the middle of something, while Aidan sat at a desk in one corner of the room, apparently reading the newspaper. He couldn't see the other two scientists who used the floor; they might not be in this early. He probably shouldn't be in this early, considering the reputation he'd spent the better part of the last decade cultivating, but he supposed miracles did happen occasionally.

Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open with his shoulder and plastered a lopsided grin on his face. "Mornin' Sis! Mornin' boss—er, Aidan." He let the grin stretch a little wider, as though he'd just recalled that Aidan didn't like to be called boss. He set the black coffee down on the desk.

Aidan looked at him a little strangely. "Who put you on coffee delivery, Rheinallt? Don't they make interns do that or something?"

Kasimir could tell just from the question that Aidan had always just gotten his own.

"Eh, I made a whole pot, and Ryk and Cy aren't in yet. Figured I'd not let it go to waste." Technically true.

He set the sugared one down on the empty surface nearest to Nev and arched an eyebrow. "Can I ask what you're doing, Sis?"

Either she hadn't heard him, or even noticed he was in the room. She seemed to be staring intently at a piece of paper, a pen lodged behind her ear as she rubbed her chin in a thoughtful manner. She reached over, though, to where he sat the coffee cup down, and seemed vaguely surprised that there was a cup there. It caught her attention, at least, as she turned towards Kas.

“Oh, Kasimir," she stated, eyes blinking as if to bring them back into focus. “Sorry, I didn't hear you come in. I was distracted," she stated, smiling at him as she glanced at the cup. “And thank you for the coffee. As for what I'm doing," she started, moving the cup towards her and setting it down closer. She glanced in Aidan's direction for a moment before turning her attention back towards Kasimir.

“I'm going over the logistics for a particular diagram. Remember when I was in Johto?" she spoke, arching a brow. “I was studying the soundwaves that the former Team Rocket used in the Lake of Rage. I can't get it quite right, but if I do, then I'll be able to get it reconfigured to be used via a psychic pokémon's abilities and it won't be harmful. I haven't got much else other than that, though, so I'm still a bit ways off." She pursed her lips together, though, and furrowed her brows.

“What about you? What brings you in so early? From what I remember, you've never been an early pidgey," she questioned, smiling at Kas.

Soundwaves and psychic pokémon? As Kas remembered, the Lake of Rage project had been an attempt to communicate with pokémon that usually couldn't directly convey information to humans, and then to force them to evolve. The results had been... bad, to say the least, but the iteration that NTR had undertaken was at least on paper more communication and less control. Still, he made a note to look those files up—if there was that much of a similarity, it was worth having the details down pat.

He couldn't risk poking too much deeper with Aidan sitting right there, so he pretended he'd just been asking to be polite, and answered the query in turn. "I didn't sleep that well last night," he said with a shrug. Which was true, largely because he'd known to expect some kind of communication from his actual boss today. He'd sort of figured she wasn't going to be happy with his last report, but all he could do was give her the information he had. He wasn't so well-established here yet as to be above (or beneath, as the case would most likely be) suspicion.

"Figured I'd show up a little early and maybe take the afternoon to go hang out at Ana's or something." He took a drink of his own coffee, pleasantly spiced as he liked it, and glanced briefly at the paper in Nev's hand. He'd probably be able to interpret it with a bit of time, but he was well aware that he didn't have that right now, so he just memorized as much as he could get in a single glance and resolved to think about it later.

“Oh, that reminds me!" she stated, placing the paper down and turning around in her chair. It was the kind on a swivel, perhaps to make it easier to move around. She reached down into her bag, though, and seemed to rummage through it. Once she found what she was looking for, she pulled a small card from it and turned back towards Kas.

“Will you give her this? It's one of my old colleagues from back in the day. I told him that she needed some supplies for her shelter, and he's willing to donate a few of the ones he has. The small wind turbine and rain barrels he's willing to donate under the guise of being a prototype. He'd like to use whatever data she collects from it, such as how it's working, if it's doing what it needs to, and so forth. It'll really help him when he works on the next generation, and I know that she said it would be out of the way for someone like her, but..."

She tended to get a bit long-winded about things like that, Kas knew. She took in a soft breath, though, and smiled. “She doesn't have to accept it if she doesn't want to. You tell her that, too. I just... I thought it might help because her shelter is... well it's really nice compared to most I've seen and I'd like to help her out if I can."

Kas turned the card over in his fingers before nodding slightly and placing it in his back pocket. "I might leave it a bit," he observed. "She's not the type to accept generous gifts from strangers, and honestly I think we're making her a bit suspicious, coming on as strong as we are." He took another gulp of his coffee. "But I think if we give it enough time and bring it up later we can convince her to accept."

He was, after all, conscious of the fact that this was a mission first. Sis didn't have to be—it wasn't her mission. As long as she didn't actively compromise it, it'd be fine.

Turning to Aidan, Kasimir leaned back against the wall behind him and tilted his head. "Have you met her yet? Ana?"

The other man turned a page of the newspaper with a shuffle. "No. I'm not really the charismatic type, and I don't want to crowd her. Especially if she's already suspicious of her influx of new 'friends.'"

Oof. Trust the boss to make the scare quotes around that word audible and vaguely accusatory at the same time. Kasimir showed none of the slight sting he felt, though, only smiling and shrugging. "Well, maybe once we're not new anymore you should consider it. She's a sweetheart, and she seems to like Ryk just fine. He's got the charisma of an ursaring, so I think you'll be fine."

Sis chuckled lightly at the statement. “I don't know about that; Eryk seems like he's really nice albeit awkward. I suppose I should trust your assessment, more, though, considering you all share a room together," she stated, shaking her head softly. She took a sip from her coffee and smiled again. “And I suppose you're not wrong about the... well, coming on too strong bit. I don't want her to think we're just..." she pursed her lips together as if she were trying to think of the proper word she wanted to use.

“Well, I've never really had friends before so I don't know if you are really coming on strong. But I wouldn't want her to feel crowded, either. You're a sweetheart too, Kas, always helping her out. You even help me out from time to time. Just like... well I wouldn't call you a sweetheart, Aidan, but you're also very kind." She took a longer drink of her coffee this time, her cheeks turning a bit pink at the statement.

Kass was torn between rolling his eyes and bursting out laughing. That was the way of it with Sis: rambling sometimes past the point of making any sense and managing to embarrass herself along the way somehow. He shot a momentary, curious glance between her and Aidan before dismissing the thought. She was just awkward, honestly, and probably didn't mean anything in particular by it.

Chuckling softly, he shook his head. "Actually you're the one who's coming on strongest, Sis. Hence the waiting on the turbine and such. But don't worry, it's fine. I think Ana's a pretty understanding kind of person." He gave Nev's shoulder a playful, mock-consoling sort of pat, mischief glimmering in his eyes.

"Of course if you'd like to compliment us further, please feel free. I certainly won't mind—would you, Aidan?"

The other man sighed. "Go easy on her, Rheinallt."

Sis nearly choked on her coffee, some of it spitting out of her mouth as she reached for the nearest napkin. Or in this case, paper. Luckily, it was a blank sheet as she tried to wipe her face with it. Once she'd managed to wipe some of the coffee, she looked for a proper napkin and cleaned her face further.

“I, uh," she began, blinking slowly before her brows furrowed. “I compliment you enough, it seems," she murmured softly, before placing her coffee cup down. “And I don't come on strong, do I?" she asked, arching a brow in both Kas and Aidan's direction.

Kasimir snorted. "I'm not sure I know how to go easy on a question like that," he remarked, throwing a glance at Aidan.

Aidan folded the newspaper down and rolled his eyes quite visibly at the same time before turning to Nev. "By some standards you probably do," he explained patiently. "Depending on topic and context you can get very enthusiastic, which means you ramble a bit and tend to ask lots of questions. It can be overwhelming for people who don't expect it or aren't sure how to handle it, but it's not a bad thing, either." He shrugged.

Kas figured that was a very kind way of putting it, which was good because honestly it was one of Nev's better traits and he really liked it about her. "Nothing wrong with getting excited about things you like," he added with a little grin.

“Oh," she stated lightly. She pursed her lips together, almost as if she were lost in thought for a moment before she turned towards Aidan and Kas. “Please stop me if I ever get that bad. I don't... I don't want to chase people off or come off as strong, or something of that sort. I like a lot of the people here." She had a very serious expression on her face, or about as serious as she could make it, it seemed.

Aidan frowned. "Doc, relax. We like you just fine. The fact that you get carried away is part of your charm."

Kas nodded readily, downing a bit more coffee. "What he said. Besides: no one pleases everybody, and if you spend a bunch of time tying yourself in knots trying to appeal to people who wouldn't get along with the real you, you might lose it." He of all people knew that feeling all too well.

She didn't seem readily convinced, but her shoulders did ease a little. She sighed softly and took another drink of her coffee. She set it down and glanced back at her papers for a moment before something seemed to startle her. “I completely forgot!" she stated, nearly falling out of her chair, trying to turn in Kas's direction.

“We were supposed to let Meep and Floof play today, weren't we!?" she asked, eyes wide as she glanced at Kas.

He snorted, more than a little amused, and nodded slightly. "I do believe that was on the agenda, yes. If you're busy now though, I can come back around lunchtime as originally planned." He arched an eyebrow, not really concerned with choosing one opportunity over another; his work was flexible enough for the moment that he could plan around hers.

Sis glanced in Aidan's direction for a moment before turning back to Kas. “We can go now, if you'd like. I've hit a bit of a stump, anyway, so maybe letting the two play will help me clear my mind?" she stated, gathering her papers into a pile before setting them to the side.

“Oh, and if you'd like to join us, Aidan, you're more than welcome to. Unless... well, unless you have other things you need to do, of course." She continued putting all of her things away before standing to meet Kas.

He appeared to consider this a moment, but eventually shook his head. "You two have fun," he said simply, inclining his head slightly.

Kas grinned. "Somehow I always do."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


June 18th
The Cloyster - Evening - Hot
Aidan Klein


Aidan was bored.

This was not, despite his blasé attitude towards most things, a particularly common occurrence. He might not be any kind of genius or anything, but his was at least an active mind, and he usually sought out things to do or learn in what little spare time his job really afforded him. But at the moment, nothing in particular seemed to appeal. He felt a little restless; it had probably been too long since he'd properly tired himself out in front of a speedbag, but the thought of trekking to the complex's gym didn't really strike him right, either.

He hummed quietly, scratching absently behind Rex's horn. He kept the air conditioner running pretty much all the time in deference to Frost's preferences, but that did often mean that he and the houndoom wound up sharing the big sectional couch in his living room even in the middle of summer like this. Frost herself was, of course, curled up underneath one of the vents in the large bed he'd bought for her, at the moment apparently cleaning her claws. Spoiled brat.

The others were either too big or too destructive for the apartment, so in their pokeballs they remained, for now.

His eyes fell on the neat rows of disc cases built to each side of the fireplace. He wasn't sure when he'd ever use such a thing, but supposed it might occasionally get cold enough in winter to warrant it. Mostly, though, he just suspected the developers had had no idea how to build their luxury condos differently for the climate, and so had just built these like they'd have done in Saffron or anywhere else. There was a distinct lack of local flavor to them; Aidan had bought the important pieces of furniture and decorated a little bit, but it was still beige carpet and white walls and slate tiles in the kitchen and stainless steel appliances and all that other stuff that was generic and had no soul, his grandpa would've said.

It was a big step up for someone like him, but after the shine had worn off he'd found himself agreeing with the old man more than he ever thought he would.

None of the movies stuck out, so his eyes slid down to the shelf of games. He'd bought himself a console system, once, on a whim and because he could, and while he kind of liked it, he'd played everything he owned, except something called Cantour, which was apparently a co-op game he'd bought by mistake. One person played a knight character and the other a wizard, or so the cover made it seem.

An idea occurred to him, and he almost dismissed it outright, except... well, he'd heard the game was good. Couldn't hurt to try, could it?

He sighed, as much to his pokémon as to himself. "When this backfires somehow, you both have permission to call me an idiot."

Frost gave him a look that suggested she already was, and he pushed Rex off the couch so he could move, not bothering with shoes since he wasn't going far. Next door, in fact. He knocked a few times, then stood back so he wouldn't be crowding Doc when she answered. He knew she was in, because surveillance jobs were that creepy, but it was an open question whether she'd be too distracted with something to notice.

He could hear shuffling from the other side of the door, an “ow" before the door opened to reveal Basil. The bayleef blinked up at him, tilted her head, before opening the door all the way with one of her vines. Doc was halfway to the door, it seemed, when Basil opened it, and blinked in Aidan's direction with mild surprise.

“Oh, hi, Aidan. Is there something I can do for you? Er, or, well, do you want to come in?" she stated, causing Basil to roll her eyes. The bayleef left the door, though, as Doc neared it and stood to the side.

“It's, uh, a bit of a mess at the moment, though," she chuckled nervously. From what he could see, there were a few pieces of paper on the floor, an overturned chair, and a coffee mug that looked like it had fallen over. There was nothing inside, it seemed, and Basil seemed to be picking up the papers as if trying to tidy the place. Fluffy, Doc's furret, seemed to be trying to help out as well.

Aidan blinked. "You all right, Doc?" Papers being strewn around was one thing, but the overturned chair was definitely another, and the fact that she'd said 'ow' on her way over. He wondered if maybe the knock had startled her. "I can help you with the chair?" It was a question rather than a statement, mostly because—as only occasionally happened to him—he wasn't entirely sure what was even going on.

“What? Oh! Yes, no I'm fine. I just, well, I let Floof out for just a moment and she got excited is all. I, uh, kicked the chair when you knocked, but everything is fine," she stated, laughing a little nervously. She glanced back behind her where Basil and Fluffy were already setting the papers they'd gathered on the table. Basil trilled in their direction before setting the cup upright and walking over towards the fallen chair. Apparently that was her way of saying she had it.

“Was it that loud? Is that why you're here?" she asked, almost a little shyly. “I'm sorry if that was the case. I just... well, I thought she would be tired after the spending the day with Meep, but I guess I was wrong. Sorry if I disturbed you," she murmured.

"It's all right," Aidan said with a shake of his head. "You weren't too loud or anything. I uh..." He grimaced slightly, reaching up to thread his fingers through the unruly hair at the back of his head. "Honestly I was kind of bored and was wondering if you're into games at all. There's this co-op thing I need another person for. Figured I'd see if you were interested at all."

The grimace deepened. "Nothing to do with the job, so definitely feel free to say no."

She seemed to brighten at the mention of the game. “Oh, I love games!" she stated, perhaps, a little too enthusiastically. “Er, well I never really get the chance to play them, but yes, I'd love to," she stated, making to move back into her apartment before she realized something. “You're just next door, I don't need my keys," she stated nervously. Basil rolled her eyes, though, and ushered Doc out the door, trilled in Aidan's direction, and closed the door behind them. Doc blinked slowly before shrugging her shoulders.

“I guess I've been temporarily kicked out of my apartment," she stated before turning back towards Aidan. “What's the game called?"

He snorted softly, stepping aside carefully to make enough room once the door shut. Heading back to his own door, he opened it and stood aside so his guest could enter first. Rex and Frost wouldn't give her any trouble. The houndoom in fact seemed excited to see her, his thin spaded tail wagging fluidly in greeting and the ears behind his curled horns pricking upwards.

"It's called Cantour," he said, a little more relaxed now that she'd indicated interest in games in general at least. "Based on the books, I think? If you'd prefer to play something else though I've got a few options." He flipped on the lights and crossed to where the console lay nearly tucked on a shelf, bringing it down to hook into the wall-mounted television.

"Oh, and there's like snacks and drinks and stuff in the kitchen. Help yourself to anything you want while I set this up."

“Oh, do you want me to grab you anything while I'm in there?" she asked, making her way towards the kitchen. “I'm just going to grab a glass of water."

"Uh, if you don't mind grabbing one of the beers in the fridge I'd appreciate it." He went back to plugging the thing in and was satisfied when it lit up, the TV screen changing to the login one for the console. Feeding the right disk to it, he grabbed both controllers and sat on the couch, sitting Doc's on the coffee table.

"So... you can either play Ser Maribelle the knight, or Balthazar the Archmage. She's kind of the tank type, who learns healing later on; he's got a sword, but his big thing is, obviously, magic." The character select screen showed a short, redheaded woman in simple armor next to a silver-maned rapidash, and a tall, bronze-skinned fellow with white hair and intricate tattoos that were probably supposed to be arcane symbols or something. "I don't really mind either way, so you pick first."

She had set the beer in front of him, and her glass of water in front of herself before staring at the screen. She pursed her lips together before she seemed to make a selection. “I'll choose Balthazar," she stated, picking up the controller and making her selection. “Mages and magic are a lot like science... er, well, in some cases, I think. I've always been fascinated by the concept," she continued.

“Also, it's just more fun," she added, smiling somewhat as she kept her eyes on the screen. She took a drink of her water before turning her attention back towards Aidan. “Alright, so... just so you know, I may like video games but I am horrible at them. I may fail quite a number of times before I get it right. Hope you're alright with that," she stated, a small grin forming on her face.

"Doesn't bother me any, Doc," he said, half-smiling himself. Moving his cursor over Maribelle, he selected her, and the two of them were narrated through an opening cutscene describing their characters meeting in a most unfortunate location—a prison cell. After the wry Balthazar and plucky Maribelle had quickly determined that their only way out and away from the corrupt magistrate framing them both for different crimes, Aidan and Doc were given control of their characters.

Apparently they could switch between split and shared screens, but he kept it shared for now since they could both see everything in their cell just fine.

"See anything useful on your side?" he asked, directing the currently gear-less Maribelle to rifle through a dingy haystack on the left. Predictably, there was nothing in it but a rat.

“Not yet," she murmured. It seemed she was, as she'd said, having difficulty with some of the buttons. Her brows were furrowed lightly as she pushed a sigh through her nose. “Ah! Got it," she stated, managing to get her character to at least move in the right direction. She seemed satisfied with that and continued to explore the area.

“Oh, I think I found something," she stated, picking up an item, it seemed. She pursed her lips together as she pushed a button. The one she pushed, however, caused her character to throw whatever item he was holding, into a nearby hole. Doc's eyes widened slightly as her mouth opened in shock, it seemed. “I wasn't trying to do that," she murmured softly.

Aidan huffed softly. "Well, uh... check your spells. I bet Balthazar has some basic telekinesis or something. I don't recommend falling in that hole, though. If it's at the side of a prison cell it's probably a latrine or something." The cell door, as expected, was locked. Interestingly, Maribelle had an option to try breaking it, but he wasn't sure that would work, and it might draw attention they weren't prepared to handle just yet.

“Huh, alright," she stated, moving her character away from the hole. She pushed another button, and pursed her lips together when Balthazar seemed to use a spell that she hadn't intended for him to use. Her eyes narrowed slightly at the screen as her brows furrowed. “How... am I this bad," she muttered more to herself than to Aidan.

Taking a deep breath, Doc pushed another button, and seemed to find the inventory button, at least. “Okay, so that's that," she murmured before a look of surprise crossed her face. “Oh, I picked up a key. Maybe it's for this door," she stated, moving Balthazar towards the door Aidan's character had been. She didn't seem to be paying attention to where she was going, though, and Balthazar fell into one of the holes on the ground. A shocked expression crossed Doc's face as her mouth opened slightly, and she took in a sharp breath.

“Did I just... I killed Balthazar," she stated, turning her shocked expression towards Aidan.

"...you did." Aidan blinked at the screen as the character respawned. "I'm... kind of surprised that's even possible on the tutorial level, honestly." Sure it was a big dungeon cell in a creepy castle, but why were there so many holes in the ground anyway?

He caught a glimpse of Doc's face, though, and could only chuckle. "Well, uh... we learned not to fall in holes, I s'pose. Let's give it another go, shall we?"

“Of course! Nevena Solomon does not give up that easily!" she stated, seemingly determined to at least get past this first level.

He figured they might manage it... give or take a few hours.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


June 23rd
Cinnabar Recreation Center - Afternoon - Overcast
Kasimir Rheinallt


It hadn't been the most spectacular day for a picnic—hot and overcast and occasionally spitting a light rain—but that was what backup locations were for, and so NTR had rented space at the local rec center, which was sort of a combination gym, arcade, and go-kart track. Those participating in the team build had eaten their food in a sullen silence broken only occasionally by the more outgoing and friendly of their number, and now they were lining up across from each other on opposite sides of the gymnasium.

Kas had a feeling this was meant to look kind of unfair: it was himself, Ryk, Aidan, and Cyrilla against literally everyone else on staff, from the admin assistants to the grunts to the scientists, a good twenty-some people. And it was decidedly unfair. Just not in the way most of them were expecting.

Because what that amounted to was him, two actual ninjas, and Aidan against a bunch of office workers and assorted nerds. While he'd happily count himself among the latter kind of people on most days, he was rather more like the ninjas for this particular purpose. And today was apparently the day that the grunt team figured that out.

"Y'know, Cy, I'm aware competition is encouraged in NTR culture, but I think this is just going to piss off a lot of people," he said, watching as Tanya the HR manager distributed red rubber and foam balls about the size of his head around the gym. About half the people total would start with one, including all four on the so-called 'executive team.' Kas caught the one lobbed for him in one large hand, rolling it along his forearm and launching it off his elbow, only to catch it in his other hand.

Cyrilla huffed lightly as she arched a brow at Kas. “You'd piss people off either way, even if it wasn't dodgeball. The lesson, here, is that they at least have a chance at hitting us. I mean, they'll fail, but if it's in their head that there is just the slightest chance they could win? I'd count that as something," she spoke, shrugging her shoulders lightly.

“It's not like it was a particularly bad idea, though," she added. Eryk looked about as pleased as the grunts did, his brows furrowed and lips pursed thinly.

“Why'd you even suggest this, Cy?" he asked, arching a brow at her. She arched hers right back at him, though.

“Dodgeball? Because I thought it would be a good way for you to lose some of that tension you have. If you're really against it, you can let one of the grunts hit you, and you can go sit out, you know. You don't have to take this seriously, even if the grunts will."

Kas somehow doubted there was any chance of Ryk losing on purpose. He wasn't really that kind of guy. Sure he might forfeit a thing before it started if he had no interest, but once he was in, he was in. He was less sure about whether Aidan would bother taking it seriously, but the other guy had at least picked up one of the balls, glancing over at them with a raised eyebrow.

"You'd piss them off less if you could make it look like it was close. Almost get hit a few times, juggle some catches, miss some shots. Up to you though. Not like I give a damn if the whole office wants your heads." He shrugged.

"Thanks, bossman, that's real encouraging," Kas replied, though it was obviously a joke. Aidan rolled his eyes at the nickname, but offered no further rejoinders. "So... what's our strategy here? Total decimation? Lose on purpose? Make them think they have a chance? Somewhere in the middle?"

“Depends. Do we want the grunts to hate us more than they already do, or do we want them to at least feel better about themselves?" Cyrilla asked. Eryk furrowed his brows lightly as if he were contemplating the options Kas had mentioned.

“We're not losing on purpose," he spoke, slumping his shoulders a bit, “but the whole purpose of the team build is to reinforce the bonds is it not?" He arched a brow in Aidan and Kas's direction for a moment. “I suggest we do something in the middle. Make it look like they have a chance, but also let them know that we're not going to go down without a fight."

“There's the competitive Ryk I know," Cyrilla stated, smiling softly before shaking her head. She held her ball against her hip as she arched a brow in Kas and Aidan's direction. “I guess we have a strategy, unless you'd like to do something different."

They both shrugged. Kas was fine with not being hated, and he suspected Aidan really didn't care, so that it was.

Tanya, self-appointed referee, blew a whistle, which apparently signaled the start of the match, because a bunch of red projectiles came flying in for them. This was going to be the only reasonably challenging part, actually—surviving the initial barrages, which would at least be dense enough to be interesting.

Kas immediately fired his own ball, catching one of the admin assistants on the shoulder, knocking him out, then ducked under a few and plucked one out of the air—getting your shot caught was a way of being knocked out also. It appeared to have belonged to one of the grunts, who joined the assistant on the side of the ring next to Tanya.

Aidan just used his ball to block a few initial shots, then lobbed it for a knot of grunts, who were clearly not expecting it to be that fast. It managed to hit two of them, then ricochet and narrowly miss a third. Shrugging, the other man stooped to pick up a second ball.

Eryk and Cy spent most of their time dodging, not really throwing or catching any of the balls. It seemed they were assessing things before Ryk finally threw his ball, catching a grunt in the gut. It wasn't hard, at least it didn't seem to be thrown with too much force, but it was enough that the grunt dropped his ball before grumbling and walking off the floor.

Sis seemed to be doing alright on her own, but she was smiling as she tossed a ball towards the group of executives. She dodged a few balls seemingly well, but it didn't appear that she had enough arm strength to actually throw the ball very well. Cyrilla managed to catch two other grunts, narrowly dodging a ball herself. Whether it was on purpose or a grunt had come really close to hitting her, it was unclear.

Eryk managed to hit another two grunts, and caught a ball just as it soared near him. He hadn't been looking, either. He shook his head softly before throwing the ball back into the fray.

Between them, they whittled down the numbers, weaving in a few 'narrow misses' and things that caused the growing audience to groan in the distinctive way of a sport fan narrowly thwarted, which Kas figured was a good sign. Of course, should any of the four of them actually get hit, about a quarter of the Grunts would be able to return to the floor, so no few of them were shouting for their remaining teammates to take out their preferred target.

But sure enough, it wasn't too long before the grunt team was down to the final five, at which point Aidan caught one of Sis's weak tosses, taking her out of the match that way instead of by direct hit. That left Niko, who was probably the most athletic of the lot, Luke, who was probably the smartest of those left, Hayley, and Lorraine.

From a field of twenty-five-on-four to an even match.

Niko struck first, aiming for Kas, who knocked aside the ball with his own, aiming it a little towards Cyrilla. "Hey Cy! Catch!"

Cyrilla caught it and chucked it straight for Lorraine, who managed to knock the ball aside. Lorraine threw her ball at Cyrilla, who narrowly dodged it. Either Lorraine was fairly good at throwing things, or she was intently focused on taking Cy out. Eryk, however, threw his ball at Luke. He had done a fairly decent job of mostly taking out grunts with catching their ball rather than hitting them.

Lorraine seemed to mouth something at Hayley, though, and it seemed that they were going to focus their efforts on him.

Luke almost managed to catch the thing, juggling it awkwardly for several seconds before losing grip on it, putting him out of the game. That left Lorraine and Hayley, who were indeed focusing on Ryk. Kas waited until they were both committed to their throws before launching a quick one of his own, catching Hayley in the hip.

Aidan caught her toss, leaving only the one for Ryk to deal with.

Ryk and Cy shared a glance, something knowing between the two of them as he lifted his ball in Lorraine's direction. He made to throw it, however; Cyrilla threw hers first. Eryk's ball quickly followed after. Lorraine only had enough time to block one of the balls headed her way before the ball Ryk threw caught her in the shoulder.

That signaled the end of the game, and Lorraine mumbled something beneath her breath as she walked over towards the group of grunts. Sis came over to the group, shortly, and smiled brightly at the four of them. “That was a lot of fun," she spoke as she glanced at the group. Cyrilla snorted softly and shook her head.

“I don't think I've ever participated in a dodgeball game since middle school," she continued. Eryk tilted his head slightly but didn't seem inclined to say anything.

Aidan huffed quietly. "I think probably elementary school for me," he noted. "Guess I wasn't too rusty, though."

Kas grinned at the both of them. "You guys did pretty well for old folks," he teased. "What was that, like twenty-five years ago?"

"C'mere and say that to my face, you little punk." Aidan's deadpan was accompanied by an exaggerated step forward, and Kas barked a laugh, taking a similar step.

"I said you're old!" he teased, at even greater volume.

Aidan's brows knit, and he tilted his head slightly to the side. "Yeah, no, that's accurate," he replied in the same flat tone. "Can't get mad when you're right."

“Almost twenty years for me," Sis replied, not at all put off by the statement, it seemed. She merely chuckled, followed by Cyrilla. Eryk merely arched his brow before his eyes narrowed slightly.

“You'll be their age soon enough, Kas," he spoke, folding his hands into his pant pockets. Cyrilla rolled her eyes and nudged Eryk slightly in the arm.

“So will you, Ryk. All of us will, eventually, but that's not the point. Point is we all had fun," Cyrilla stated as Ryk shrugged his shoulders. Sis chuckled and shook her head.

“Maybe we should all go get dinner after this? You know, as a bit of a celebratory 'we all had fun despite our ages' kind of thing?" she suggested.

Aidan shook his head, but seemed amenable enough. "There's a couple places around, sure."

It sounded like a plan to Kas. But first...

"In the meantime, why don't we mix up these teams a bit and try again? Should be reasonably fair if it's only one ninja per team, right?" He grinned at Ryk and Cy.

Cyrilla scoffed lightly. “I don't know about that. We can always give it a try, though. What do you say, Ryk?" Eryk seemed to contemplate the statement before shrugging his shoulders.

“Should be fine," he replied simply.

“Well, then let's see what happens." The grin on Cyrilla's face was almost malicious before it disappeared.

Kas immediately stepped towards her side, moving to sling his arm around her shoulders but pausing before he actually touched her, to make sure it was all right for him to do so. "I'm with this ninja," he said quickly, smiling broadly at the other three.

She didn't seem to mind as she leaned towards his hand. Her brow was arched in Ryk's direction as he merely shrugged his shoulders. “Guess that means you're stuck with Ryk, Aidan," she spoke, turning her attention towards him. Eryk huffed lightly, though, as if he were somewhat amused by the thought.

“There are worse people to be stuck with, Cy," he stated.

“You won't be saying that when you lose. And I know how much you hate losing, Ryk." Eryk's brow arched almost in a challenging manner, though.

Kas settled his arm down, grin growing a little. "We're gonna have to work on your trash talk, Ryk. But first, we're gonna kick your asses, so you have that to look forward to." With a wink, he turned himself and Cyrilla to face the rest of the crowd. "All right, grunts, assistants, and nerds! The half of you that would like to be on the winning team can come hang out with me and Cy here. The rest of you have to be on a team with those two shaggy guys, so take your pick!"

There was an immediate shuffle, new teams forming up, and Kas patted Cy's shoulder once before he stepped away to prepare.

All in all, not a bad idea.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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June 29th
Field Office 9 - Afternoon - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk glanced at the others around him. Cyrilla was fidgeting somewhat next to him, a frown marring her lips as she stared out ahead. They were going to be doing a raid at a local breeding facility. Word had reached NTR that the facility wasn't up to date on their papers, and there were some concerns there, as well. Conditions were not good for the pokémon, and supposedly they were being crammed into small cages and areas. One report said they'd witnessed one of the workers beating on some of the young pokémon. That had been enough to get under Eryk's skin in a way he didn't quite like. He knew it bothered the others, too, in some capacity, but something about it struck him in a different way.

He couldn't explain it.

“Do you have everything you need, Cyrilla?" he asked, trying to get her focused on something else, for the moment. She glanced up at him, and pursed her lips together before nodding her head. He returned the gesture, and motioned for her to lead the way to the conference room. They were being summoned to go over what they were going to do. Apparently Aidan had the information from the boss, and it would be Eryk, Cyrilla, Kasimir, and a handful of the grunts who were going to the facility.

“Do you think it'll be bad?" she finally spoke, keeping her gaze outwards as they headed for the conference room.

“Conditions have to be bad enough if they're asking us to interfere directly," he answered. Cyrilla winced slightly as they approached the door. Before they walked in, Eryk placed a hand on Cyrilla's shoulder, and regarded her through narrowed eyes. “Will you be fine?" he asked. She took in a breath and nodded her head.

“Good. Let's go in," he stated, opening the door to let her in.

Aidan and Kasimir were already inside, the latter's laptop open and connected to the conference room's projection screen. They were discussing something, it seemed; Aidan's expression was sharper than Eryk had ever seen it, and though he usually didn't smoke indoors unless he was standing next to an open window, there was one in his mouth now. He looked tense, though the reason for it was unclear.

At the sound of the door opening, his eyes flicked quickly to them and he sighed, expelling a cloud of smoke and gesturing them in. "Address is 416 Marigold Street," he said curtly, apparently all business. "This isn't a check-in visit, it's a raid, so get in and out quickly or someone's bound to call the local pigs and cause you problems." He tossed two dossiers onto the table before Eryk and Cyrilla had even had a chance to sit down.

"Looks like a facility specializing in fighting and poison types, so don't be surprised if some of them have behavioral issues. I want every last one of them cleared out and at intake two hours from now. I don't care if they look fine. If any of them need emergency medical care, get them to the nearest certified professional. You know how this works. Don't fuck it up or we'll be dealing with cops and paperwork for three years."

Kas wore a serious expression befitting the circumstances, but didn't seem to be as agitated as Aidan, picking up the explanation smoothly even as the projected image changed. "This is the blueprint of the facility on file with the city," he said, gesturing at the map. It appeared to show a large single building with only one floor, and then a big yard. "Of course, as sometimes happens with these things, be on the lookout for, uh, unregistered rooms and compartments. Basements, that kind of thing. I'll be coordinating things for all of you from one of the vans. We're bringing two, just to be safe. The facility has a registered total of ten breeding pokémon, but we're expecting more than that, to account for young ones, and, well... the fact that these sorts of places aren't always keen to do the additional certs they'd need to keep more than ten, so. Make of that what you will."

He paused, then shrugged. "Any questions?"

Eryk only shook his head. He didn't need to ask anything; he'd been given the information they'd need for this raid, and that was all that was needed. Getting in and out wouldn't be a problem, especially for him and Cyrilla. They were trained for these kinds of things, however; it was going to be a bit difficult getting the pokémon out without some issues. If Aidan was right, and some of them had behavioral issues, that meant that noise was bound to be made one way or another. He could try to keep some of them calm with his telepathy, but even that had its own weaknesses.

Tapping with a pokémon was different than with a person. He'd learned that the hard way. “It'll get done," he finally spoke, his brows furrowing slightly. Cyrilla nodded her head as well, agreeing, it seemed. It was going to be a bit more difficult since it was still bright outside, but he and Cyrilla could accommodate for that. They weren't exactly stealing something, after all. They were simply removing pokémon from a facility that was no longer up to standards.

“The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can see what conditions the pokémon are in," he spoke simply. He wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Mostly so that the pokémon in the facility were able to get the treatment they needed, even if some of them might be healthy as Aidan speculates them to be.

"Good." Aidan expelled another breath, hard and sharp, and nodded. "Then I'll leave you to it."

Taking that for a signal, Kasimir closed the lid of his laptop and unhooked it from the wall, wrapping the cords up quickly and tucking it under his arm. "To the vans, then." He tossed Eryk a key ring with a single key on it, then led the way down to the mansion's large garage, where several nondescript vehicles of various sorts were parked. There was even a motorcycle, though from the quality of it probably belonged to one of the individuals working here rather than the organization, which tended towards less-flashy vehicles.

The vans were a basic grey, with tinted windows and sliding side doors. Kas opened one of these and hopped up inside, apparently getting himself set up at a small workstation inside. "Pokémon-handling equipment's in the other van, but if you need to stack cages in here, I don't mind company. Address is in your Pokégear's GPS already."

“Thanks, Kas," Cyrilla stated as she climbed into the other van. Eryk didn't know why she was thanking him, though. Maybe for the address being set up in the GPS? He pushed the thought aside, though, and nodded in Kasimir's direction.

“If we need more room for cages, we'll load them up inside with you," Eryk stated before glancing in the direction of the van he was going to drive. “Let's get going, then," he stated, nodding once in Kasimir's direction before climbing into the other van. He supposed one of the other grunts was going to drive the van Kas was in.

It was another twenty minutes before they arrived at the facility. From the outside, he could see two people standing near a cluster of rose bushes. They seemed to be talking about something, but Eryk didn't know what. One of them was smoking a cigarette; it seemed they were on a smoke break of some sorts. Judging by the length of the cigarette, they had at least ten to twenty minutes to get in without being noticed. Of course, that also meant there was a possibility that there were more workers inside. He pulled the van around the back, stopping at least a block away before parking.

He placed an ear piece into his ear and tested it before calling Kasimir. “Kas, what's the best point of entry from this way?" he asked. If they could sneak around the back and secure a route, they'd be able to get this done quickly.

"Well since there are people outside, I'm thinking you'll want to hang a left from here and hop the fence into the yard," Kasimir replied, his voice clear and calm over the connection. "They've got a few security cameras going, but I'll have you erased from those in no time, so don't worry about it. There might be a few pokémon in the yard you'll want to scoop up first; I'll send some of the grunts over with the cages. Back door looks pretty standard—might be locked but I'm sure you're handy with a pick, right?" That kind of thing was pretty standard field training for NTR.

“Alright," he spoke before glancing towards Cyrilla. “You take care of the ones in the yard. I'm going straight to the doors. Join me once you're done," he spoke. She nodded her head, pulling her hair back into a quick bun and pulled on her gloves. He had his own set of gloves, mostly as a precaution of leaving evidence behind. Once they were prepared, he opened the door to the van and stepped out, glancing around momentarily to ensure there was no one around before hoping the fence. Cyrilla followed behind him, and immediately, they were both moving quickly.

Just as Kas said, there were a couple of pokemon in the yard: a stunky and an ekans. Even from this distance, he could see that the stunky was malnourished. Its fur looked slightly matted, and the cream colored parts of it were dark. Eryk didn't need to know why it was like that. It was curled up near a bowl of what looked to be water, however; there was algae inside of it, and didn't even look remotely drinkable. The ekans was curled on a rock, but it too looked malnourished. Some of its scales looked like they were falling off, and it had a rather large scar on its head.

“Cyrilla," he spoke low enough that she could hear him, and immediately nodded her head. He continued his way towards the back door, though, knowing that she would take care of the two poison-types.

“There's a riolu, too, Ryk. He's hiding in the bushes," Cyrilla spoke over the ear piece. Eryk pursed his lips together and furrowed his brows.

“Get it out with the others, and be gentle. They're stronger than they look, Cy," he replied. She made a vague noise over the earpiece, perhaps an agreement before it was silent again. He pulled a lockpick set from his back pocket once he reached the back door, and went to work at the lock. When it opened, he carefully set the pick back, and opened the door cautiously, checking to see if there was anyone around. Satisfied that there was no one at the moment, he entered, leaving the door slightly ajar so that the others could enter as well when they were done outside.

“Kas, what's the first room?" he asked. He didn't want to accidentally walk into a break room, after all.

"Second door on your left is marked as a holding room," Kasimir replied, still even and calm. "You'll want to sweep it for anything not on the map, too, but the pokémon you can see are the first priority here. Your two guys outside are still there. Smoker's lit another, so you should be all right for a bit."

Eryk pushed a sigh through his nose. He took the second door to his left, opening it cautiously as well. There was a bit of a smell in this room, and when he fully entered, he could see why. There were carcasses of dead pokemon on tables, most of them almost skeletal in appearance with fur. There was a skuntank that looked like it had its fur pulled out, and another that looked like it had eaten most of its paw off, probably because its paw had been infected. There was a cut on it that didn't seem healed right. Eryk felt his lips pull back, but a noise caught his attention.

There was a stunky underneath a pile of dirty rags, and even from this distance, Eryk could hear its breathing was raspy. It looked like it was on death's door. Part of its ear looked like it had been cut off, probably from a failed attempt at tagging it properly. He moved over towards it, removing the rags that kept it buried, and ran a hand through its fur. It made a vague wheezing sound as it leaned into his hand. Carefully, he lifted it from the pile and tucked it into his arms. It seemed to curl up, it's breathing becoming more rapid as he tried to calm the stunky.

“Cyrilla, where are you? I need you to get this one out, ASAP," he spoke hurriedly. The stunky wasn't going to have much of a chance if they didn't get it the help it needed, soon. It was barely hanging on through sheer will, and it was young at that. How it ended up in the Holding Room was beyond Eryk. Perhaps the skuntank on the table had been its parent?

“On my way, Ryk," she replied. It wasn't a moment later that she'd entered the room, her eyes wide before they settled on Ryk. Slowly and carefully, he handed her the stunky that seemed almost reluctant to leave him. When the stunky was secured, Cyrilla left, and Eryk did one more sweep around the room just in case. When he was finished, he moved on to the next.

It took a total of thirty minutes to get a full layout of the building. In total, Eryk had only come across three other workers. Five people to work the facility didn't seem quite as well-staffed as it should have been. It might have been that there were more during the evening shift, but Eryk didn't want to take any chances.

“Kas, where's the room they keep the newly hatched?" he asked. It was the only room he hadn't found, yet.

"You mean that last one wasn't it?" Kasimir sounded incredulous. "Uh... hang on." Eryk could hear the sound of rapid typing, and a soft hum that had to be the sound of Kas thinking about something. "So you've been to all the rooms in the facility marked as containing pokémon, but there's an office here in a weird place. Back up three doors, open the one on your right, go down the hall and open the door on the end. And you'll want to be quick about it—the workers are headed back in."

A pause and then, just as levelly: "Hey Cy, can I get you to run around the front and distract the workers for a couple minutes here? Ryk's got one more room to check and there's still grunts coming back with cages."

“Easily done," Cyrilla replied before it was silent again. Eryk moved towards the door Kas had directed him to, and opened it. It was mostly empty inside, however; there were a few over turned cages. He could hear heavy breathing coming from somewhere, though, and immediately, Eryk felt something collide with the back of his legs. It was hard and heavy enough that it sent Eryk to the ground. Quickly, he rolled to his side to avoid a small fist from colliding with his head. He grabbed the wrist, surprised that it was fur-covered, and immediately released it.

When he managed to get to his feet, there was a wild-eyed mankey staring at him. It was breathing heavily and looking frantically around. It jumped around the room, knocking things over in the process. It was creating too much noise, and Eryk needed it to stop. He did the only thing he could think of; he tried to connect to it telepathically, however; he was met with a strong resistance. It was painful, and it caused Eryk to wince slightly. Relaxing his posture as much as he could, Eryk tried to make himself look less-threatening. He could see mankey grabbing things and flinging them in his direction, however; he merely stayed still.

“It's alright," he finally spoke, keeping his voice as level as he could. I'm not going to hurt you, he continued, trying again to connect with it. It allowed the connection briefly, and for a moment, it paused in its tantrum. Its eyes narrowed once more, though, and immediately, it charged him again. Eryk knew it was trying to intimidate him, but he couldn't let it.

He had to remain calm.

After several minutes of trying to calm the mankey down, it finally made its way cautiously towards Eryk. He could see clearly now that it had a broken tail. Probably when one of the workers tried to get control of it. One of its wrists even looked broken. Eryk furrowed his brows as he kneeled down so that he was at an even level with the mankey. He held his hand out gently, trying his best to earn its trust. Mankey took his hand, and sniffed it, holding on with a vice-like grip. It pulled itself closer to him, climbing onto his back before Eryk was finally able to hold it. One of its arms reached over Eryk's shoulder as he brought another hand to its back, securing it.

Once he was holding it properly, he left the room, and exited the building as quickly as he could. He made it to the van where Kas was, and pursed his lips together. There were a couple of cages in the van with him. Eryk didn't think there would be this many at the facility, however; he shook his head. “Kas, where's the closest facility we can go to? A couple of these need to be checked out immediately."

Kasimir clicked his tongue against his teeth, gesturing for Eryk to hop up into the van with the mankey. "Get in. I'll drive. The closest place is Ana's. That gonna work or should I try for the center instead?" It was clear he was asking the question of Eryk as the head of their team, and the one who had to decide how much Ana was allowed to know. It would be pretty obvious they were NTR if they showed up like this, and Kas didn't know Ana had in fact guessed as much already.

He still gave it some thought. “We'll take them to Anastasia's," he finally answered. If they took the pokemon to the center, it was likely they'd have some explaining to do. That would likely get them involved with the police, and that was the one thing they were trying not to do. At least with Anastasia, they could explain the situation. She might even be a little more sympathetic to the cause, considering her own shelter functioned as a hospice.

Kas nodded, putting the van into gear and pulling out into the street. He took a slightly circuitous route first, so that they would not pass the breeding facility a second time, but as soon as he could get them there, they were pulling to a stop in front of Anastasia's shelter. It was regular business hours for her, so the gate was open, several of the pokémon out and about.

Killing the engine and jumping out of the van, Kas pulled the sliding door open for Eryk, then moved to the other vehicle to do the same, just as Anastasia emerged from behind the house, brows furrowed. It wouldn't be surprising if she'd heard screeching brakes outside her property, actually.

Her expression morphed into one of alarm, though, as soon as she laid eyes on Eryk, or rather the mankey. "This way," she said immediately, her tone brisk. "My medical supplies are in the main shelter building. What can you tell me?"

“Newly hatched, broken tail and wrist," he answered. It was direct and to the point. He knew age had a lot to do with how a pokemon was cared for, and that there were certain medicines and antibiotics it couldn't be given quite yet. “There should be a stunky on the way as well, same age," he added so that she could be prepared for that one, too, when it arrived. “It's having difficulty breathing."

Mankey's grip on Eryk tightened, though, as if it knew it was going somewhere it did not want to go. He ran a hand through mankey's fur, though, trying to keep it calm. I'm not leaving, he spoke to it. It seemed to relax a bit, but it did not move its face away from where it was buried. He was going to have to set the mankey down, eventually, though, so Anastasia could check it over. When they reached the main shelter building, Eryk glanced towards Anastasia.

“Where should I set him down?"

"Right over here," Ana said, gesturing to a clean examination table. She crossed quickly to the other side of it, donning an apron and scrubbing her arms and hands clean in the sink before snapping on a pair of gloves. The box label said 'hypo-allergenic'; it seemed she wasn't taking any chances.

When she approached mankey, though, she was very careful, her motions steady and calm. She met its eyes carefully and smiled. "Hello, little guy," she said gently, carefully extending one arm towards the mankey with a soft smile. "I'm Ana. I know it's hard to believe, but I promise you're safe here, okay? We're going to take a look at where it hurts so we can get started on making it better, all right?"

She seemed to be waiting for something, head tilted, hand still hovering a respectful distance from mankey.

Mankey turned to regard her for a moment before turning its eyes up at Eryk. He nodded to reassure the mankey that it would be fine. Slowly, it reached out its hand towards her, taking her own before it slid down Eryk's arms. It hopped slightly towards Anastasia and regarded her a moment. Mankey made a soft grunting noise before it seemed satisfied to let her do whatever was necessary to make it better, as she'd said. Eryk pursed his lips together, though. None of the pokémon should have been in that condition, however; he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Kas and I need to head back to the office, but I'm entrusting mankey to you, Anastasia. Cyrilla will be by in a moment with the stunky and another pokémon that will require assistance. Is that alright?" he asked. He didn't want to overburden her, after all. That, and he needed to report back to Aidan that the raid was successful.

Anastasia nodded slightly, already beginning her examination of mankey. "I understand," she said. "I'll do everything I can for them, I promise." She asked no questions, at least not at the moment.

Perhaps that was for the best.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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#, as written by Aethyia


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July 2nd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Kasimir Rheinallt


After the raid, they'd needed to leave a total of four pokémon with Ana. Two of those, the ekans and the riolu, had since been cleared to be held in ordinary NTR intake while the group assessed what the best course of action was for them, along with the others that had been seized from the breeding facility.

As expected, the local police had been called, and an official inquiry had been sent up to the Field Office, but by then there were pictures and documentation indicating the abuse and maltreatment of the pokémon at the facility, and Aidan had been only too happy to cite to the officers the exact pieces of legal code that allowed NTR in Kanto to seize pokémon in such conditions. As they usually did, they officially maintained that they'd seen evidence of the maltreatment through a window, which had then given them probable cause to conduct the raid. Technically, they hadn't really had it, only the vague suspicion, but it wasn't like anyone could prove otherwise, so the law was on their side and there was nothing to be done.

One of the cops had looked pissed, but some of them were like that. Didn't like NTR edging into law enforcement territory. Kasimir's own feelings on the matter were kind of complicated, but he really didn't think they were in the wrong here. If there'd been no evidence of mistreatment, they'd just have left. It had happened on raids before, misinformation or reports given falsely sending them to places that were actually aboveboard, but what had been in there... well, he for one was glad that place was getting shut down, and with all the evidence they'd collected, the legal system would likely jail the owners for a while, even if some beat cop didn't like it.

Stunky and mankey were still at the shelter; according to Ana, mankey was so young as to need constant supervision while he recovered, and stunky's breathing issue was likely to be permanent, and so she'd offered to take her in, since that was where she was likely to end up even if NTR did its own assessment. No one had seen any reason to suggest otherwise, so official custody of those two pokémon had been signed over to Cinnabar Pokémon Rehabilitation and Hospice.

Today, for some reason, they had all been summoned to the conference room. It had to be for the beginning of the month executive meeting, but oddly Kasimir hadn't been asked to prepare anything for it. Usually he had maps or dossiers or some other kind of information to organize detailing whatever the month's projects were, but apparently those were coming from somewhere else this time. Maybe Aidan was making them? The other man was already seated at the conference table, but it didn't look like he'd brought much of anything with him. At this point they were just waiting for Ryk and Cy, he supposed.

It wasn't much longer when they arrived. Eryk entered the room first, slight bags under his eyes indicating he hadn't slept much in the last couple of days. Cyrilla trailed behind him, though, and they both took a seat near Kas. He regarded Kas for a moment before turning his attention towards Aidan.

“Good morning, Aidan. Good morning, Kas," Cyrilla murmured softly as Eryk nodded his head as if to say the same thing without actually saying it. Cyrilla sighed softly but didn't say anything else, and they both turned their attention towards Aidan. It was as if they were waiting for him to start the meeting, or something of the sort.

Nodding briskly, Aidan lifted a small remote control from the table in front of him and turned on the screen at the back wall of the room. Without any further ado, the entire group of them was presented with the image of their boss, Stefan Gregorovich. Kas's eyebrows shot up in mild surprise; it wasn't completely unusual for people of their rank to hear from Gregorovich directly, of course, but then he hadn't been at this particular rank for very long. It wasn't like he'd had dinner with the guy.

"Good morning, everyone," the boss said, his tone neutral with a faint hint of warmth to it. "I suppose you might be a touch surprised to see me, but I asked Aidan not to disclose that I would be present at this meeting. I didn't want to cause any dread of it, or anything like that."

In a way, Kas supposed that was a legitimate concern. He'd definitely have worried about it if he knew it was coming—the problem was he was now internally scrambling, trying to remember if everything was in order that needed to be. It was, of course—he hadn't lasted this long by being an idiot. But damn if seeing the boss didn't ignite anxiety in him anyway. There was just something vaguely terrifying about the possibility that he'd been found out and this was how they delivered the news.

But Gregorovich only smiled slightly. "I would like to begin by commending your work at the end of last month—I've read your reports of the incident and can only wish we'd known about the facility sooner. That doesn't discount the good you did, though, and I'm relieved to see the pokémon in question are now in much better hands."

If Eryk and Cyrilla were as surprised as Kas was to see Gregorovich, they didn't show it. Instead, Cyrilla smiled a bit at Gregorovich's statement as Eryk nodded his head. He'd been back to Ana's to check on the stunky and mankey the most after the raid, and had seemed rather attached to the both of them for some reason. He never said anything about it, and didn't seem inclined to, either. He kept his attention on the screen though, a frown marring his features.

“Sir," he stated, though it wasn't in a way that conveyed he wanted to ask a question. It was in a way that was simply acknowledging what Gregorovich had stated. A way of thanks, perhaps. Eryk's brows furrowed, though, before he shook his head lightly.

“But there is more, is there not?" Eryk stated. It didn't seem to be in a condescending way. It was as if he were merely stating an observation or a fact, maybe.

"Naturally," Gregorovich replied, waving a hand vaguely as if to say he'd get to it in its own time. No hurrying the boss, naturally. Fortunately, he was a pretty businesslike individual.

It wasn't hard to tell: even if the immaculate monochrome of his expensive, bespoke black suit didn't convince a person, there was the remarkably keen look to the pale grey of his eyes. He might not be reputed to be a human lie detector, or be as impressive in height as Kas or as naturally intimidating-looking as Ryk, but there was a certain obvious, quiet authority and dignity to him. Gravitas, really. This was the man who'd resurrected Team Rocket from the ashes of organized crime and made it the single most influential organization in the world.

Even if Kas's real boss was sure he'd stuck his fingers in just about every dirty-money pie to do it, it was still impressive.

"I'm calling today to get your updates on Project Nebula," Gregorovich said simply. "As there were raid reports to write, I understand the monthly updates not being finished for that, of course, and thought I'd save you the trouble of rushing those by simply hearing the reports verbally."

Kasimir felt another flicker of surprise at this, but like the last he didn't much let it show. Gregorovich could say what he wanted about convenience—he'd just convinced Kas that this project was even more important than he'd previously thought. Why else seek an update this close to in-person when their reports would be in by the end of the week?

"You've all made contact with... Miss Asher by now, as you've said. How are you finding the task of befriending her?"

Eryk pushed a heavy sigh through his nose, almost as if he wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. It was obvious to those around that Eryk wasn't the type to befriend people easily. That seemed more like something Cyrilla, or even Kas could do. But it had fallen on Eryk to make the first initial contact, and he had. Kas and Cyrilla visited the shelter when they could, but Eryk was the one who spent the most time there.

“It is... not difficult, but it isn't quite as easy as expected. She's not exactly trusting of new people, but," he paused, his brows furrowing deeper, “progress is being made, I believe. It will still be some time, yet, before anything comes of us befriending her."

Gregorovich seemed to consider this a moment, tilting his head slightly to the side. From offscreen, he retrieved a cigarette and a metal lighter with something engraved on it, flicking it open and holding the end of the cylinder to the flame. Flipping it closed, he returned it to its position beyond their line of sight and sat back in his chair, the padded leader creaking softly. "And what exactly do you believe will come of it, as you say?" he asked, seeming genuinely curious.

Eryk seemed to contemplate something before he sighed softly. It was Cyrilla who answered, though.

“We're not entirely sure, sir," she spoke softly and calm. “From our initial report, it's that you want us to see if she's a viable candidate to be a volunteer for a project of yours. The only things we've managed to learn about her, so far, are the obvious: she's a relative of the Nurses Joy, and she owns and operates the Shelter and Hospice."

Gregorovich nodded slightly, though Kas thought he saw some form of... disappointment, maybe? Something like it flashed briefly across his features before it was gone. "I see," he said simply, taking a drag from the cigarette. Kas was pretty sure it was one of the imported sort from Kalos, papered in brown rather than mostly white, and a fair bit longer than standard.

"What of you, Mr. Rheinallt?" He asked quietly, fixing his eyes on Kas through a thin haze of smoke.

"Me, sir?" he asked, blinking as if confused. It wasn't far from the truth, really.

"Yes. Aidan has informed me that you're a particularly clever sort. What do you make of Miss Asher?"

Kas expelled a breath, then shrugged a little. "I think she's smart, and bighearted. I'm also pretty sure she has a secret of some kind, which is why when I fixed her computer, I also installed some spyware in it, so I can monitor her internet use."

Gregorovich exhaled a quiet ha, something that sounded quite amused. "Excellent. Anything of interest so far?"

"She likes classical music and probably knows how to dance, and she's closest with an aunt she refers to as Miranda, who runs the Pokémon Center in Lavender Town. She also likes looking up new baking recipes and cat pokémon videos. So... not much of use, no."

It was sort of a risk, being deadpan and pretty flippant with the boss, but it only seemed to entertain Gregorovich, who nodded slightly. "Very well then. I suppose I'll count that as satisfactory progress, though if you could also monitor her phone, I'm sure it would help. Continue to get close to her—that's your only real task for this month. Questions?"

Kas shook his head.

Eryk and Cyrilla both shook their heads. They didn't seem to have anything they wanted to ask or say, and Cyrilla spared Eryk a glance. His brows were furrowed lightly, but he didn't look upset or anything. Something must have come to him, though, and he turned his attention back towards Gregorovich.

“Is there anything in particular we should monitor her for? A particular skill of some sort?" he asked.

Gregorovich considered this for a long, drawn-out moment, then nodded slightly. "Yes. In particular, I am interested to know if the girl is a psychic. A telepath, in particular. Of course, I understand that this is not the kind of question one can simply ask someone, and it would be preferable if she divulged this to you of her own volition, if it be true. But do be on the lookout for evidence of it, if possible."

He exhaled, and the smoke momentarily thickened. "I understand you have some talent of this nature yourself, Mr. Nero, but according to people who know about such things, if she were one as well she would likely be able to detect it if you attempted to discern this with your own abilities, yes? It is paramount not only that we find such a person, but that we do so in a way that endears us to them. So handle with care, as the saying goes. You're not the only team attempting to locate a likely candidate, but you are the one I have highest hopes for, probability-wise."

Kas didn't bother to hide his surprise at this news, figuring there was no reason to. He noted, though, that Aidan didn't seem to have any. He must have already known, but did he know why they were looking for someone like that?

“Understood," Eryk stated simply. His brows were furrowed deeply, and Cyrilla placed a hand near his forearm before dropping it. “I will do what I can to see," he added, turning his attention briefly to Aidan and then back towards Gregorovich.

The boss nodded. "Much appreciated," he said simply, smiling faintly. "Best of luck, as it were. She seems like a nice young lady, but some nuts are tougher to crack than others."

The screen went dark. Kasimir blew out a breath. "Damn," he murmured. "That was intense."

Aidan snorted softly. "Might want to get used to it, Rheinallt. You're an executive now, not just the IT guy."

“It does come with the territory, Kas. Being an executive means you have to see the boss every once in a while," Cyrilla spoke. She didn't seem amused or anything. She looked mostly concerned, though it seemed to be directed mostly at Eryk for some reason. He shook his head lightly before turning his attention towards Aidan and Kasimir.

“Is there anything else we should be made aware of besides surprise visits from Gregorovich?" he stated, though there was something fairly light in his tone. Almost as if he were joking about something. But Eryk didn't joke; he didn't seem capable of it.

Aidan shook his head slightly. "I had to work to get him to tell you that much. Sorry for springing it on you, but that was the condition."

Kas, who had rolled his eyes slightly at Cy—it wasn't like he was an idiot, though maybe he should be grateful he was playing one better than he thought—looked at Eryk with some concern. Still, he wasn't about to ask in a room full of people, so he only sighed slightly and stood.

"Well in that case I guess I better go write some more spyware," he grumbled. He'd seen Ana's phone only once, but knew the model. Should be doable in a few days' work, though getting it onto the thing would be a different trick.

“Hm, you'll do a good job, though, Kas. You're the IT guy, after all," Cyrilla stated with a light huff. Eryk rolled his eyes, though, and turned towards Aidan.

“If there's nothing else, I will be taking the rest of the day off," Eryk spoke, his expression smoothing back out. “I'll be making a stop by Anastasia's today to see how the two pokémon are doing; it has made her a little more inclined to talk that way. If Gregorovich wants us to be her friends, this is one way to do it." Cyrilla's lip twitched slightly upwards, but she didn't say anything to Eryk.

"You won't hear me complaining," Aidan replied simply. He paused, then, tilting his head a little. "If you don't mind letting me know if anything changes with them? I know how the others are doing, but I've stayed away from the shelter for the obvious reasons."

“Sure. I'll have Cyrilla send you a message once I've found out," Eryk stated, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“He can't work his phone very well," she offered as way of explanation. Eryk merely shrugged his shoulders. He didn't seem to deny it.

"Works for me," Aidan replied, apparently less bothered than Kas by the fact that a grown man didn't know how to work a cellphone.

Technological incompetents. Just... everywhere.

And he was stuck being the IT guy.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


July 17th
Downtown Cinnabar - Afternoon - Sunny
Aidan Klein


It wasn't entirely unlike watching a train wreck in slow motion. Or maybe bacteria bumping against each other under a microscope or something.

Apparently at some point, Nero had decided he needed help with his social skills. Not an entirely unreasonable thing to want help with, sure, though typically Aidan would have recommended... well, not this. Maybe therapy or something—shit knew the kid could probably use it for other reasons, too. But somehow Rheinallt had been appointed to help him out. On its own this wasn't that weird either—the guy was charming in a way Aidan could recognize but not emulate, and his facility with people probably came from understanding them, rather than pure unexplainable instinct or something, like some people had. It meant he'd be able to teach.

But then Doc had wanted to be involved, too, and since it was work hours that meant he was along for the ride, and here they were downtown and he wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen. Kasimir had suggested lunch first, which seemed reasonable, so they were all arrayed around an outdoor café table now, working their way through food and drinks.

"Okay so I know I agreed to help with this and all," Rheinallt said, gesturing vaguely with a cheese-covered french fry, "but if I taught you everything I know about getting along with people we'd be here... longer than any of our patience would tolerate. So maybe you could both explain to me exactly what you're hoping to work on here?" He took a large bite from the fry and glanced back and forth between Doc and Nero.

Nero was regarding Rheinallt with a flat look, one that probably meant he was thinking. Doc, however, seemed to furrow her brows as she chewed thoughtfully on one of the fries. “I guess I'd like to know how to not make a fool of myself," she spoke softly, pursing her lips in Rheinallt's direction. “For instance, I mistook Aidan for a Farfetch'd driver when we first met," she murmured, dropping her gaze somewhat as she shifted in her spot.

“I think that's a good start, right?" she stated, looking somewhat hopeful. Nero, however, shook his head.

“Not to be so blunt," Nero finally responded, taking a bite out of his nachos.

Aidan took a bite of his sandwich, flicking his eyes back to Rheinallt, who sighed. He could understand why—those were one very vague and one very specific—but hard to act upon—direction. Not to mention Doc and Nero were wildly different cases. Not opposite, exactly, but definitely not the same.

"Good grief," he muttered under his breath. "Okay, uh..." He pinched the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb. "Both of those problems fundamentally start with observation. You need to be able to figure out what people are like basically, and you need to be able to pick up on nonverbal cues in the moment that will tell you how they're reacting to what you're doing. So you have that much in common at least. Sort of. I guess we can start there."

That made sense. Bluntness was relative—knowing when he was being too blunt with someone would probably help Nero. Should also help Doc remember to stop rambling, if she recognized the signs that the other person wanted to say something. Though really he thought both of them didn't have 'problems' with people so much as their personalities were just a little different. Neither of them bothered him any, for instance.

"Okay so... Sis. What, exactly, made you think Aidan was a Farfetch'd driver? I have to admit I'm... not really seeing it." Rheinallt grinned to take any edge out of the comment, but it seemed to be a genuine inquiry.

“Oh, well," she sputtered a little as she glanced down at her hands. “I've used the service before and most people who've picked me up always sort of looked like Aidan," she spoke all in one breath. Her face tinged a bit with a pink hue, but she took a drink of her water and laughed a little nervously.

“I think it was mostly just the shades and cigarette, really. I didn't expect him to be... well, him," she continued.

Aidan snorted softly, swallowing his bite of sandwich before he inadvertently choked on it or something. That was her whole basis for thinking so? It was kind of funny to him, actually, somehow perfectly characteristic of who Doc was—she was an absolutely brilliant researcher, he had no shred of doubt at that, but she seemed to have trouble turning that native sharpness to other enterprises.

"On a surface level that's not terrible," he admitted. "I don't dress like what people typically think of when they picture an NTR administrator, but I don't look like most grunts, either, and that was what you were expecting." He tilted his head. "But that there's half your problem. You were expecting something in particular, and so you got into a mode of thinking where you were making comparisons between what you were actually seeing and different sets of archetypes in your head. Everyone does it, but the trick to being good at observation is to only ever do that on purpose, and to try and look at important things with fresh eyes all the time."

He glanced at Rheinallt, lifting an eyebrow. "You mind?"

"Not at all," the other man said with a grin. "Even I'm interested to hear what the human lie detector has to say about observing."

Aidan rolled his eyes. "That's a dumb name," he said simply. People did call him that, though. He chose not to dwell on it. "Anyway." Fishing his packet of cigarettes out from his pocket, he took the sunglasses from off his head and laid both on the table. "Looking a little closer at the same things... what do you see?"

Rheinallt smirked, seeming to know the answer, but left it a moment to see if either of the others would say anything.

Doc stared at the sunglasses a little, head tilting to the side as if she were inspecting them. Nero merely looked like he was glaring at them. “Your cigarettes aren't from around here. You can't get those here. I've seen them mostly in Saffron and Celadon City, though," he spoke, finally. He didn't seem to know much about the glasses, though, as his eyes stayed glued to them.

Doc looked vaguely surprised, as if she hadn't known that. Given that she didn't smoke, or drink, she probably didn't. “The glasses, they're Flygons, right?" she stated, arching a brow in Aidan's direction. “A lot of professional battlers and gym leaders wear this type. Especially the ones who are specific to fighting-types and water-types," she stated, listing off the things she knew about the glasses.

Aidan was surprised she knew of the pro-battling connection; he filed the information away into his own set of observations about Doc herself before nodding. "You're both exactly right. So now you have to put it back in context. You've just been approached on the dock by someone who seems to know who you are, on your way to a new job with NTR. He's not dressed any particular way, but he imports his cigarettes from elsewhere and wears the kind of sunglasses professional battlers tend to like. What's he most likely to be?" He shrugged, picking both items up off the table and replacing them where they went.

It was not, of course, impossible that someone like that could drive for Farfetch'd, but there was a subtle implication in both observations taken together: the person in question was financially comfortable in a way the average Farfetch'd driver wasn't. That might not be fair, but it was fact. And observations inherently dealt in statistics like that.

Rheinallt nodded. "And as it happens, noticing stuff like that can sometimes provide good topics of conversation, too. You seemed to know a lot about the sunglasses, Sis. That's the kind of thing you can chat with a stranger about in a casual setting like a bar or party or whatever. One of the tricks to stuff like this—and Ryk, you can use this too—is to ask questions instead of making statements. So even if I had a pretty good guess that Aidan here was the Aidan Klein, undefeated former pokémon champion of Kanto, I wouldn't just go up to him and say as much. I could get at it less bluntly. Something like..."

He turned to Aidan, body language clearly asking him to play along. "Hey man, are those the Flygon F9s?"

Deciding to humor him, Aidan nodded slightly. "Good eye; yeah, they are."

"They work as well as everyone says they do? I've been looking to get a new pair. Island's damn bright, but I don't want to lose them in the water on day one."

"Haven't had any issues," Aidan replied. "Water, though—you surf or something?"

Rheinallt grinned, then turned back to the others. "See, Aidan just did one of the things everyone should know how to do. He turned the conversation back around on me. Supposing he's not too enthusiastic about getting fawned over, it's exactly the right way to redirect before I manage to ask him about battling. Plus, it's flattering. Generally, people like it when you show interest in them, and let them talk about things they care about. Only if you can make it seem genuine, of course, but that's pretty true of anything."

“Oh, but that was brilliant, though. I couldn't do something like that even if I tried," Doc spoke, but she was smiling a bit. Nero, however, rolled his eyes lightly, and took a bite of his nachos. “I don't think I'll ever get to be that savvy, but I suppose I don't have to be," she continued, her smile brightening a bit.

“Hm," it was more of a grunt than anything coming from Nero, but it sounded as if he was agreeing with Doc.

“I think I just need to be more comfortable, and... learn how to not ramble so much."

Nero shrugged. “There are worse things than rambling, Solomon," he spoke, arching a brow in her direction. She huffed lightly, and nodded her head.

“I suppose you're right about that, but it would be helpful. Sometimes I just keep going and say things I shouldn't," she murmured, taking a drink of her water. “Like when I told Aidan he wasn't necessarily a sweetheart like you were but... and I'm doing it again," she stated, turning pink in the cheeks as Nero arched a confused brow in her direction.

Aidan rolled his eyes; Rheinallt burst out laughing.

"I guess recognizing it is the first step," he said, wiping an imaginary tear from the corner of one eye. "Look, Sis, it's like... conversations have a flow, right? That's what makes them conversations, as opposed to lectures: both people participate. Remembering to ask more questions will help if you also remember to wait for the answers."

Shrugging, Aidan added nonchalantly: "One of the things I used to do was pause for a sec every time I was about to start talking. Helped me catch myself from saying stupid shit a few times. Sometimes you just need to give your brain time to catch up with your mouth." He took another bite of his sandwich.

"That's a good one for you, too, Ryk. But even more importantly, you've got to learn the difference between a true thing and a thing you should say. They're not completely the same."

Doc chuckled lightly as she grinned at Rheinallt. “Then I suppose I have a bit of work ahead of me," she stated, causing Nero to roll his eyes.

“Not as much as I do," he muttered, taking the last bite of his nachos and washing it down. Doc chuckled again and nodded her head.

“I think we have a good chance, though, Eryk. Between the both of us, we'll get it right," she stated, sounding a bit optimistic. Nero arched a brow at her but shrugged his shoulders. His way of agreeing, perhaps. He shrugged a lot when he did.

"I've got more work to do here than the both of you put together," Rheinallt grumbled, but he didn't try to conceal his good humor about it. Aidan got the impression a lot of his demeanor was kind of a facade, but at the same time there was something at least basically genuine about it, and here he thought they intersected a bit.

Personally, Aidan wouldn't be surprised if he'd had to learn a lot of this the way they were. Social grace wasn't something everyone could perfect by any means—he'd learned enough to get by and been uninterested in anything further. Not that he didn't see the advantages. He just didn't think they were worth the sacrifices.

"It's not that bad," he replied, washing down his sandwich with a swig from the glass of soda sitting next to it. "You don't have to make them as good at this as you are. Shit, I don't think most people could be."

Rheinallt shrugged. "Was that a roundabout way of saying I'm charming?"

"No, but I don't reject the implication, I suppose."

He barked a laugh. "And that was what we in the business call 'damning with faint praise.' Way to shoot me down, Boss. Breakin' my heart over here."

"You'll live. And I told you not to call me boss."

“But you are charming, Kasimir," Doc replied after she'd manage to recover from the small bout of laughter. “Very much, so," she added, causing Nero to roll his eyes and take another drink of his water.

“You shouldn't tell him things like that. It'll go straight to his head and you'll never hear the end of it," Nero murmured against his glass. Doc seemed confused by his statement before it dawned on her that he wasn't being serious.

“Oh, well, still. I think Kasimir is very charming albeit a little silly sometimes. But again, it's part of his charm and it works very well for him," she continued, smiling as if she were proud of the things she'd just stated.

"Aaaaaaand there it is again. Y'know Sis, most people are satisfied by saying a thing once, instead of twice and with extra," Rheinallt was looking at her with amusement.

It was, in fact, a thing that Doc did. In fairness to her the reassertion wasn't always needless, but for the most part it was fairly extraneous by most standards. Then again, most conversations were full of extraneous things. Filler words, pauses, repetition. It wasn't a terrible thing.

"Why are the both of you doing this, anyway?" he asked them, fairly sure he knew but wanting to hear it in their own terms. Maybe that was why Doc's redundancy didn't bother him much: for him, most conversations were redundant to things he'd already picked up from observation, but that didn't mean that people actually saying what was on their mind was bad.

“Well, mostly so I'll stop doing things like that," she murmured softly, eyes falling to the table for a moment before they shifted to her cup. She picked it up and held it in her hands for a moment before taking a drink from it. “And I thought it might be useful to know how to get along with people. I know Kasimir said that no one pleases everyone, and I'm not trying to. I just thought that if I knew how to approach people better, I wouldn't necessarily make a fool of myself. I'm notorious for doing that," she stated, twirling the cup in her hand.

Nero shrugged, though. “Mostly so that I don't unintentionally screw things up by saying something that'll offend someone. Certain people, at least," was his simple reply.

Nero's reasons, he could understand, with a sensitive mission like his still ongoing. His file had... overstated his people skills considerably. Aidan wasn't sure why, because it certainly wasn't something he'd misrepresent himself. That guy was a lot of things, but generally speaking dishonest and overambitious weren't among them.

Something better thought about later, though. It probably came back to what it always did: the Kogas pulling strings.

He could only scratch his head a bit, though, when he considered Doc's answer. "I dunno where you're getting this idea that you 'make a fool of yourself,' Doc. Everyone one makes the occasional observational error, and there's really nothing wrong with the way you talk or anything." He shrugged. "If you're in it for yourself, go for it, but if you're worried about offending people or some shit, I think that's all or mostly in your head."

"He's not wrong," Rheinallt replied. "Some people even find mannerisms like yours to be cute for their own reasons, and prefer someone earnest and excitable like that."

Doc's face turned a deep shade of red, and she turned her attention towards the cup in her hands. She seemed more interested in staring at it than anyone else. “I'm not so sure about that," she murmured softly, but shook her head. Nero glanced in Doc's direction but shook his head. “But this was interesting and a little fun," she stated, smiling a bit. She still didn't look up from her cup, though.

“Interesting, I'll give you that. Fun... perhaps for Kas," Nero spoke, turning his attention towards Rheinallt and regarding him with a flat stare.

Rheinallt only smiled, in a way he supposed was meant to be vague and mysterious. Aidan saw right through it—he was more than a little amused, to be sure.

"Who knows?" he said, lifting his shoulders in a nonchalant shrug. "Finish your lunches, and we'll move onto actually talking to people."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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July 25th
Cinnabar Island - Early Evening - Clear
Eryk Nero


Eryk narrowed his eyes slightly. He didn't understand why he couldn't just wear the one yukata he had in his closet. According to the others it wasn't acceptable attire for the festival, and he needed something different. It meant that he had to go buy one, and he was currently with Kasimir and Aidan. He didn't have much of a choice, really. He was told that he needed a new yukata because apparently his had holes in it. And that just wasn't acceptable to most people. He could have had it tailored; there were enough people in town that could have mended them easily enough. Cyrilla said that he needed a new one to match, though.

Match what, he didn't know.

“Couldn't you have just picked something out for me?" he decided to ask. Eryk wasn't picky about what kind of yukata he wore. He'd had to wear different colored ones, styles and what not for other missions he'd had to partake in. Whatever Kas would have picked, would have been fine by Eryk. Even if it might have been a loud color since Kasimir seemed to enjoy things like that.

"Oh come on, Ryk, where's your sense of adventure?" Kas protested, though it wasn't much of one, really, considering the broad smile on his face the entire time. "This is all part of the festival experience, you know?" He opened the door to a shopfront, ushering the other two inside.

Aidan blinked. "And why am I here again?" he asked, lifting an eyebrow at Kas.

"Because Sis thinks it'd be nice if you came along, and I know you don't own one of these."

The other man sighed quietly.

Eryk sighed heavily as he shook his head, walking inside of the shop and pursing his lips together. “I don't have a sense of adventure; I thought that was obvious," he deadpanned before glancing around. There was material strewn about on tables, a few already-made yukata, and a few other things he didn't pay much mind to. Eryk would admit that Aidan was at least free to have said no. It's not like this was his mission; he wasn't the one asked to get close to Anastasia.

“Is there some particular way we have to do this? Can I just choose the first thing?" he asked, though he wasn't entirely sure why he was asking. He could, technically, just grab one of the made yukata and be done with it.

"Aw, c'mon man. If you're stuck doing it, you might as well try to make the most of the experience. Besides, we're probably going to have to check what they have in for tall people. Day of isn't ideal for buying, but if we just need quick adjustments I'm sure they can do them here." He flagged down a shop clerk, explaining that two of them needed new yukata for the festival.

The older man running the counter seemed to measure them with his eyes for a moment, and nodded slightly. “I've got a few ones left that should be in the right size range," he explained, bobbing his head amiably. “Wait right here."

He disappeared into a back room, returning with armfuls of fabric. Traditionally, menswear for this kind of thing was more subdued, in darker, stronger colors, but some of these had patterns to them, too. “Feel free to take a look. There's a few more back there with slightly different colors or patterns, so if something's close but not quite there, just ask!"

Eryk furrowed his brows, but inclined his head when the old man gave them some options to choose from. The darker colors all seemed to be decent enough, but Eryk pursed his lips together when he took a closer look. Briefly, he wondered if he was supposed to match the people he was going with. Turning his attention towards Kas, he decided to ask.

“Are we supposed to match with everyone else for festivals like this? The ones back in Fuschia didn't really have those kinds of things, but not every festival is the same," he stated. That much, he at least knew. Had to know given that some of his missions required it of him. Cinnabar was, perhaps, one of the few places he hadn't known about. He didn't think Kas would, either, but he supposed it didn't hurt to at least ask.

Kas shrugged. "To my knowledge, the only people who match on purpose are dates. Never seen a group do it before, and it's definitely not mandatory for anyone. Hell, there will be plenty of people there in normal street clothes, just not you. Since you're doing this properly." He flashed another broad smile before turning to the third member of their little group. "What about you, boss? See anything that strikes your fancy?"

"Uh..." Aidan was looking at the material in front of him like it was completely foreign to his experience. "Red's probably out. I look stupid in it." He pointed at his hair. "Other than that I've got no clue."

Eryk supposed Aidan had a point, but he couldn't say for certain. He didn't know how things like that worked, after all. He wasn't exactly fashion savvy, and had left most of that to Cyrilla or someone else who was. His entire wardrobe, actually, had been recently updated by Cyrilla when he'd moved into Anastasia's place. Something about needing new clothes or something like that; he couldn't exactly remember. Shrugging his shoulders, he glanced back at the options.

“Why not just do a dark blue or stick with black?" Eryk stated, keeping his eyes on the choices, but directing the question at Aidan. He did, after all, wear mostly black. Eryk supposed it wouldn't be exactly a difficult choice if that was his choice of color or style.

Aidan nodded. "Was sort of thinking I might," he agreed after a moment, Shifting through the options before pausing. "Er... I can touch these, right?"

Kas laughed. "They're just clothes, guys. Different style, for sure, but we're not talking ancient wedding kimono here or something. They're made to be worn; your hands aren't going to do anything bad."

Nodding, Aidan resumed his shifting, Kas checking his phone briefly and then sending a text, it looked like. Casting his eyes over the pile, he hummed and pulled a deep purple one from the stack. "Feeling bold?" he asked with a grin. "It's mostly black, I guess, but this aubergine is nice." It was a subtle striping, of sorts, the purple so dark it nearly matched the black, but would be visible as different in any amount of light.

"You would use the word aubergine," Aidan replied with a snort. He squinted at the garment, though, and shrugged. "But sure, that's fine."

That seemed easy enough, Eryk supposed. Now he just needed to find his own yukata. The problem was, nothing really seemed to be catching his eye, so to speak. He wanted something plain that would do; the one he currently owned was a dark grey color void of any patterns. But there was something about the grey itself that he actually liked.

His eyes scanned the pile trying to see if he could find something similar. Furrowing his brows when he couldn't he sighed somewhat. Grey was not option, it seemed. There was, however, one that looked like a navy blue color. It was dark enough and if Aidan was going with a variation of purple, then Eryk supposed it would be fine if he had a blue. He picked it up and held it out in front of him.

“Will this do?" he asked, turning towards Kas.

Oddly, Kas checked his phone briefly before replying. "Hm. Blue's pretty standard, I suppose. What about a dark red, though?" He pulled another from the pile; this one did have a fair bit of grey to it in addition to the red. "Should bring out your eyes, if you're into that kind of thing." He winked, clearly having much more fun with this than either of the other two.

Eryk narrowed his eyes at Kas. “Ass," he spoke before taking the yukata into consideration. It was much nicer than the blue, but he wasn't entirely sure about it. He considered it for a moment longer before finally shrugging. It wasn't a bad choice, really, and if it was something Kas picked out, then he wouldn't have to worry about finding something himself. And it also meant that Kas couldn't poke fun of him for it since he was the one who chose it.

“Fine, it's nice enough," he stated, taking the yukata from Kas. He held it out in front of him to ensure that it was at least the proper length, frowning slightly when it was a bit too long. “Do they do adjustments here, too?" he asked. Kas might have mentioned it, but Eryk wasn't too sure. He was going to need to get it shorted just a bit so that he wouldn't trip over it if he decided to purchase it.

"Yep. Basic stuff can just be done while we wait." He flagged down the shop owner again, explaining what they needed done, and the old man happily collected the garments and the necessary measurements before shuffling back to the room in the rear of the store.

"So... this the first time you guys have done something like this? Ryk said Fuchsia ones are different, but what about you, boss?"

Aidan sighed. "Don't call me boss," he replied automatically. "And uh... yeah, I mean I've been to a few street festivals. Plainclothes, though. Nothing fancy." With a shrug, he crossed his arms together and leaned back against the wall, seemingly not impatient for the garments to be fixed. "I'm guessing you must've, though, because you didn't get one for yourself."

"Yeah, mine's back at the apartment," Kas said. "couple different shades of green, kinda bamboo-patterned."

"What? No hot pink?"

"No, but I do have a bright orange happi. You wanna borrow it?"

"Pass. Orange looks even worse on me than red does."

Eryk rolled his eyes at the conversation but... it felt oddly nice, he supposed. He wasn't sure how or why it did, but it did. “This is the first time going to a festival with friends, I suppose," he stated, shrugging his shoulders lightly without paying much thought to what he'd just said.

Maybe that's why it felt nice? Because... they were his friends in a way. Not that he'd ever fully acknowledge it; it was too dangerous of an acknowledgment and he was not going to do that to them. He didn't... he wasn't entirely sure, actually.

“And are you saying hot pink would look better on you than orange?" Eryk asked, turning his attention towards Aidan.

Kas barked a laugh, but Aidan rolled his eyes. There was a little smirk playing at the edges of his mouth, though. "You idiots don't understand. You both have dark hair, and that goes with anything. Now me, I can't wear anything in that family. Pink, red, orange... hell, even some shades of green look stupid. Why else would I wear this much black?"

"Honestly? I kind of thought you were emulating Gregorovich," Kas teased.

It was Aidan's turn to laugh here, though it was only a soft chuckle. "I guess that's a fair guess. The guy is the one who taught me to dress. Y'know, to look like a responsible adult instead of a member of a biker gang or something. Used to be a lot more chains involved."

Kas looked him up and down, expression thoughtful, but also clearly attempting to hide a grin. It wasn't working very well. "You know, I could see it. Is that bike in the mansion garage yours?"

Aidan nodded. "Yeah, actually."

Eryk huffed lightly and rolled his eyes. He supposed he could also see it, Aidan belonging to a gang of sorts. The bike, though, was interesting. Eryk mostly walked every where, never really seeing a need to drive. If he needed to get somewhere, he just used Orion in the spaces he could. The pidgeot was certainly big enough to carry Eryk, but it was very rare when he did.

“Suppose you'll be dressing up like it again when halloween rolls around. Might make for a good costume," Eryk chided, though it was in a good natured way, he supposed. “Though you might give Solomon a scare if you did," he added. He wasn't entirely so sure about that, though. She was a bit oblivious to some things, but he didn't think she scared easily. Nor would she find Aidan's chains or biker look intimidating.

"If Doc was busy, I could walk into the lab in drag and she wouldn't notice," Aidan replied dryly.

"Now there's an image."

The stream of banter was interrupted by the owner, who returned their adjusted garments to them, asking them to check for fit again. Everything seemed to be in order, though, so they paid, leaving with paper bags and slightly lighter wallets, metaphorically speaking.

"Hey boss, can we write this off as business expenses? You know, for the mission and all?"

"No."

“You didn't even buy anything, Kas. What are you complaining for?" Eryk stated. It was only Aidan and himself who bought something, and it wasn't like he needed to be reimbursed for it. “If you want to charge a finder's fee, I can pay you for that," he stated with a light shrug of his shoulders.

"Dear arceus, I think Ryk actually just told a joke." Kas looked up at the sky, making a show of squinting as if looking around for something. "I'm expecting flying piloswine next, for the record."

“Ass."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


July 25th
The Camellia Gate - Evening - Clear
Aidan Klein


As it turned out, wearing the yukata wasn't too hard. Aidan had elected for a pair of shorts underneath, but more than that wasn't necessary. The fold naturally sat about as low on the chest as a v-neck t-shirt would, and he'd never been one to really care about that sort of thing. The geta were different, but simple enough to walk in, so it wasn't like he could complain much.

Presently, he and the other two were standing off to one side of the arch that marked entrance into the ground that had been set aside for the festival: several blocks' worth of streets, from the look of it. Tourists were out in force, but so were the locals, and the attire ranged from the traditional, like their own, to t-shirts and khaki shorts to sundresses to business casual, from a few of the office workers who seemed to have just ended their shifts. There were all kinds of people, too: old, young, families, couples, groups of teenage friends, and so on; he supposed the composition might change a little as the night wore on, but at the moment it was quite the interesting mix.

Aidan passively filtered details as people passed; Nero and Rheinallt were talking about something, but he was only listening with half an ear right now. The smell of the flowers next to him was a little heady, but he didn't want to smoke or anything this close to the arch. He really needed to quit, anyway, as he periodically reminded himself.

It was easy to notice that they were drawing attention; he'd even seen a few female tourists snapping pictures that he thought were probably supposed to be discreet. They weren't, but it wasn't worth the effort of stopping them. He was nominally 'famous' and sometimes recognized. He supposed in this case it might be more the other two's fault than his, though, for the obvious reason that they were good-looking young guys in traditional clothing. The kind of thing a certain type of tourist would take a picture of, especially if they could claim the arch was the point.

Hopefully it wouldn't be too much longer until the rest of the group got here. He hadn't been sure about meeting the target, but if he was going to do it, this was about the most organic way to make it happen, so he'd figured he might as well get it over with. If she was ever part of Project Nebula, he'd have to then anyhow.

It wasn't much longer until they arrived. Doc looked to be chatting amicably with Niav who was grinning. They both turned their attention towards the other woman of their group, and waited on her reply for something. Niav rolled her eyes at the answer, but Doc seemed to find it funny. When she glanced in Aidan's direction, though, she waved excitedly as did Niav, though less excitedly.

“Hi, Aidan," she greeted, once they were close enough. “And you too, Eryk and Kasimir. You all look so nice!" she stated as she glanced in Nero and Rheinallt's direction. “Oh, wait, um, Ana, this is Aidan!" she introduced him as Niav chuckled lightly. “He's my supervisor."

Nero rolled his eyes, though, as Doc smiled at them.

She was tiny, Aidan decided.

Of course, this bit of information had been in the dossier. Intellectually, he'd understood that she was five foot one and a hundred pounds soaking wet, if that. But there was an inherent sort of fragility to her appearance, too, one that took something more than just being a small woman to produce. He wasn't sure what it was, but he set the thought aside for a moment when she made hesitant eye contact.

"Nice to meet you, Mr....?" She seemed unsure it was appropriate to address him as Doc had introduced him. Arceus, he was getting old, wasn't he?

Shaking his head faintly, Aidan extended his hand. "Doc's got it right," he said. "I'm just Aidan. Nice to meet you too, Ana."

She smiled, then, a bit of tension loosening in her frame, and she put her hand out in return. He took it very carefully, still quite cognizant of that impression she gave off. He'd heard people use expressions like 'dollfaced' for women before, but didn't think he'd ever met someone for whom it was so appropriate. Poor kid looked like she'd snap in half if you breathed too hard in her general direction, paper and porcelain. But her grip was firm, if far from aggressive, and when they let go, she was still smiling a little, as if she knew he'd been especially careful and was the faintest bit amused by it.

"You all clean up nice," he observed, nodding to Niav and Doc. "Mind the tourists, hey? Couple of them seem to be a bit too enthusiastic with the cameras today." He figured it was fair to warn them—a couple of giggling women snapping shots of them just standing around was one thing. Statistically, men were much more likely to get pushy about it, and while he had no doubt Niav could handle herself, he was less sure the other two would really know what to do.

Doc tilted her head in confusion as if she hadn't quite understood what Aidan had meant. “He means that if some of them get a bit pushy, it's okay to tell them no. And if they can't take no for an answer, well..." Niav started, trailing off at the end before arching a brow at Doc. “You have four capable people here to help you out." Doc's eyes widened as Niav explained before pursing her lips together.

“I don't think that'll be a problem, though," Doc stated, causing Nero to roll his eyes. Niav did the same before shaking her head.

“Well regardless, we all do look nice, and since it's Ana and Nev's first time at a festival, how about we go enjoy ourselves, hm?" Niav stated, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You do look nice, by the way, Anastasia," Nero stated as he moved a bit to the side, as if to allow the women to move in front of them.

Aidan had to suppress a soft snort as the girl's face went pink. "Th-thank you. You too," she replied, stride hitching slightly awkwardly as the group shifted. She clearly wasn't sure where she was supposed to walk, comparatively, but the streets were pretty wide, so eventually the group became a sort of amorphous blob.

Rheinallt took a couple broader steps to wind up next to Niav, leaning down to say something Aidan couldn't hear. That more or less confirmed that the two were in cahoots for some reason. He supposed it probably had to do with Nero; the guy was the target of at least half of their nonsense, with the other half being rather widely spread.

The festival itself had all the staples and then some: food stalls, games, souvenir stands, places to sit or congregate, and a lively atmosphere, backgrounded by a general buzz of noise given vague rhythm by street performers of various sorts. A few small pokémon were about as well, the generally harmless types that weren't required to be leashed at public events like this. Paper lanterns supplemented the dying light of the sun; the smell of frying things was strong on the air.

"Anyone have any preferences for what to do?" he asked, figuring he might as well inquire. Ana shook her head a little; Rheinallt only shrugged.

"You can pretty much see the options," he said. "Food at these is usually pretty good. I recommend the funnel cake if you have a sweet tooth, and the soft pretzels are aces even if you don't. They also do takoyaki, of course, and stuff like candy floss or whatever." He ticked the food off on his fingers; Aidan figured he must be hungry or something. "There's also lots of games, of course. Sometimes they have this weird one where you try to catch a magikarp with your bare hands, but there's more traditional stuff like ring toss too."

“Wait, how would you do that? Magikarp aren't very bright and they tend to just stay in one place. Wouldn't it be pointless? Doc asked when Rheinallt mentioned the game with magikarp. Nero arched a brow at her, though, and tilted his head slightly.

“Catching one with your bare hands isn't as easy as that," Nero seemed to explain. “They're slippery, and sometimes their scales can be a little rougher than normal. They don't have quite the same texture as a sharpedo would; that's more like sandpaper," he continued, furrowing his brows lightly.

“Oh, that sounds like it could be fun!" Doc stated, earning a light chuckle from Niav.

“Well we're here as a collective group, enjoying the festival together, so... maybe we should decide on something to do first. Maybe we can save eating for last and take a look at some of the games?" Niav suggested. Nero shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't care either way.

Considering that no one else had indicated a strong desire in any direction, Aidan was willing to go with it. "Works for me. Looks like over here we've got... darts, ring toss, some kind of speed-eating challenge, apple-bobbing, one of those things were you swing a hammer really hard to hit the bell... coupla guessing games, too, apparently." He shrugged. "Quick, someone pretend we have interests."

Anastasia giggled. "Um... I don't know if I'd be very good at any of those things. What are the guessing games about?"

"Usually the number of gumballs in a jar or something like that," Rheinallt replied. "If you get the closest of anyone on the night, you win the grand prize, which looks like it's... a gigantic stuffed azurill." he pointed, to where there was indeed a stuffed pokémon plush about the size of Ana herself.

Her eyes widened. "Well, I'll put in a guess, I suppose. Does anyone else want to?"

"I will, sure."

“I'll give it a try!" Doc stated. Nero shook his head, though, and didn't seem to want to participate.

“Eryk and I have always managed to get ourselves banned from things like that. We're really good at guessing things, apparently," Niav offered as way of explanation, shrugging lightly. “But by all means, do feel free to take a guess on my behalf," she stated, grinning in Ana and Doc's direction.

“You'd still be taking a guess, Cy, even if they did it on your behalf. Besides," Nero stated as he glanced over towards the stall, “they only get one guess. You'd have to make one yourself if you wanted to win that azurill." Niav rolled her eyes but was smiling as if she didn't really seem bothered by it.

“I'd still like to know what your guesses are, after I make my own, of course," Doc stated as she made her way towards the booth.

The rest of them sort of followed, stopping close enough that Aidan could see the thing they were guessing about: in this case, it seemed to be a large jar of marbles. The jar itself was about five gallons; Aidan did a little mental math that was bound to be less accurate than Rheinallt's, especially considering there were several sizes of marble involved. Still, he managed to ballpark it, and wondered how far off he was. Past a certain point, it was luck, of course; the margin of error was too big to get precision even if you knew the exact dimensions of the marbles involved.

The three that had elected to put in a guess each paid a small fee to do so, then wrote their guesses down on slips of paper, along with their names, and passed them in to the stall attendant. Unsurprisingly, Rheinallt was squinting at the jar, trying to measure diameters and ratios as accurately as possible, no doubt, before shrugging and scrawling a large 5300 on his paper. Ana's handwriting was too small for Aidan to see what she'd guessed, but she didn't seem to be attempting the actual math in the same way, which was fair enough, honestly.

Doc seemed to take a little bit of extra time with her guess. Her lips were pursed and it looked like she was chewing her bottom lip for a moment before her brows furrowed. Taking a breath, she finally seemed to write something down. She'd written 5877 down as her guess before handing the paper to the stall attendant. Smiling to herself, it seemed, she made her way back towards the others and arched a brow at Niav and Nero

“So, what were your guesses," she asked. Niav arched a brow before turning her attention towards Nero. He merely shrugged though, causing her to roll her eyes and gently tapped his forearm.

“Fifty five hundred," he stated, furrowing his brows in Niav's direction as he rubbed his arm. It didn't look like she'd tapped him too hard, though.

“Fifty one hundred and some loose change," Niav replied with a light grin. “What, it was a big jar but there were different sized marbles in there," she spoke when Nero gave her a questioning look.

"I think I went a little too high," Ana said with a rueful smile. "I guessed six thousand and one."

That probably was high, at least as far as Aidan could tell, but not outlandishly so.

"Anyway," Rheinallt said, stretching his arms up over his head. "What's next? Looks like they've got three-legged races going on over there. If we want to do that we should probably make it happen before all the light's gone; I can't imagine they'll stay open after dark." He grinned, waggling his eyebrows at the others. "What do you say, guys? Wanna live a little?"

"That's teams of two," Aidan noted. "We've probably got the best chances if we arrange by height."

"Yeah, but that's boring," Rheinallt replied, shooting a glance at Niav. "Don't optimize the chances of winning. Optimize for the most fun."

“What Kas said," Niav replied, a small grin pulling at her lips. “And if we want to optimize for fun," she continued, pausing only to glance at Aidan and the others, “then we should do it in pairs. That means you and Ana," she pointed to Nero and Ana, “you and Nev, and then Kas and myself. I think it'd be pretty fun that way." Nero furrowed his brows before glancing in Ana's direction and shrugging.

“I'd be okay with it," he stated in a nonchalant fashion.

“I don't know. It seems a bit unfair?" Doc stated. “I've never done a three-legged race before. At least not since elementary. I wouldn't want to..." she trailed off a bit as if she were unsure how to finish that sentence.

“But that's the point, Nev. You're doing it to have fun. You shouldn't worry about whether or not you'll be good at it. It defeats the purpose," Niav spoke, causing Doc to purse her lips together.

“Is that okay, though? I mean, the two of us against the four of them?" she asked, glancing in Aidan's direction.

Aidan snorted softly. "It's not like they're all a team against us, Doc. I think we'll do fine, if you don't mind having your ankle tied to mine." He arched an eyebrow, perfectly willing to opt out if she was less than comfortable with the idea. "I know you're not especially coordinated, if Balthazar's recent deaths are anything to go by, but something tells me we'll be okay against these losers."

"Hey," Rheinallt protested, then paused, glancing down at Niav. "That's probably kind of true actually." He shrugged.

Ana smiled, on the edge of a grin. "How about the actual losers have to buy the first round of snacks?"

"I like the way you think, kid."

The smile inched a little wider. "I like my funnel cake with cinnamon sugar, so you know what to get. You'll probably be full just from eating our dust, though," she declared.

Aidan couldn't help himself—he laughed outright. Something about the smack talk coming from such a tiny person was just too funny. He shouldn't be surprised, though—if she wasn't scared off by Nero's permanent grumpy face, she probably wasn't too intimidated by the way he looked either.

Niav started laughing too, and there was a strange snort that came from Nero. “Well, Kas, I guess we should be looking at getting some funnel cake with cinnamon sugar on it," Niav stated as if she were expecting the both of them to lose. Doc chuckled lightly at Ana's statement, but giggled a little when Aidan laughed.

“I'd like a deep fried twinkie, if the losers are already taking orders," Doc stated, earning a snort from Niav.

“And apparently deep fried twinkies. What about you, Aidan, what do you eat?" Niav stated, glancing in Aidan's direction and arched an amused brow.

"Well assuming I'm not stuffed with Ana and Nero's dust, I wouldn't mind a pretzel," he said. It wasn't too surprising that those two had accepted their inevitable loss. They were the worst height match by a fair margin, and unlikely to take this anywhere near seriously.

Normally he wouldn't either, but he figured it'd be rude to let Doc down, so making an effort it was.

The group headed over to the event booth, making their entries and receiving the scarves with which they were instructed to tie their ankles together. Perhaps appropriately, the one he was handed was purple. "You got a preference for sides, Doc?"

“Oh, um," she began, glancing down at her feet for a moment. “Well, I suppose since I'm left handed... I should do the left side?" she questioned as if she were unsure of which one to pick. She furrowed her brows, though, and shook her head. “I mean, the left side should be fine, right?" she stated, smiling a little awkwardly. Nero was already tying his and Ana's ankles together, it seemed. Niav seemed to be tying her's and Rheinallt's scarf around their ankles, probably due to her being the shorter of the two, and making it easier on them.

"Works for me," Aidan replied easily, moving to her right side and moving into a crouch. Carefully, he nudged her ankle over towards where his was, shifting a little to make it easier to tie them together, and wrapped the scarf firmly around several times, knotting it securely. It would actually be better if there wasn't too much give in it, after all.

Standing, he caught his balance. "This'll be easier if you put your right arm around me," he observed. "You don't have to, though. Would you mind if I put mine over your shoulders?" Their heights made that the best option, and they wouldn't jostle around as much if they weren't awkwardly bumping arms or whatever.

“Oh, sure, that's fine! Whatever will make it easier," she stated, seemingly having no qualms about either or. She wrapped her arm around him as best as she could before smiling a bit. “Like this?" she asked, adjusting her grip on him before moving a bit so he could, perhaps, do the same.

“Okay, so all I have to do is make sure I'm a little more coordinated than usual. Unlike with Balthazar," she stated, grinning up at him. “Let's make sure we don't have to eat Ana and Eryk's dust."

Despite himself, Aidan was a little surprised by the ease of her acquiescence. Not that it was really that extraordinary—Doc was a pretty agreeable person in general. Still, he blinked a moment before settling an arm around her shoulders, setting his hand on her bicep. "Right, so the trick is just to make sure we step together, at about the same pace and length. I'll shorten to match you, so just jog as normally as you can and I'll take care of the rest."

He felt himself smile a bit, wry as the expression had to be. "Gonna make the kids pay for my food this time." Gently, he nudged her towards the starting line, doing as he'd promised and letting her decide the pace. It was a little awkward at first, but not so bad.

The other four were already lined up at the start, and after making sure everyone was ready, the attendant running the attraction dropped the starting flag, and they were off.

Doc stepped forward first, holding a little tightly on to Aidan as they moved. Nero and Ana seemed to be in the lead so far, but Doc had a strangely determined expression on her face. “Oh, no, you're not getting ahead that easily. Come on, Aidan, let's show those losers what we've got," Doc stated as she seemed to move just a bit faster. She was smiling, though, and it seemed like she was having a bit of fun.

He huffed a chuckle, moving apace with her and encouraging her to go a little faster once they'd found their rhythm. It was a balance, trying to increase their pace enough to catch up but not so quickly that they fell out of synch. "All right, little faster," he said. "We're catching up."

Behind them, the other two hit the ground, Rheinallt laughing in such a way as to suggest he was having more fun losing than he would be winning, which seemed about right for him somehow. Nero and Ana were a little more determined, and they moved surprisingly well together, but there was no getting around the fact that the girl was tiny, and Doc's longer natural stride helped them close the gap, passing the finish line just ahead of the other two before one of them—he honestly wasn't sure which—slowed down too fast and they collectively tripped.

"Ah—" Reflexively, Aidan shifted aside, winding his other arm around Doc so he hit the ground on his back and she landed on him, which was probably... a little softer, at least. Not that the ground was too bad here, really. "You okay?" he asked, loosening his arms and snorting softly. "Glad we managed to save the falling till the end."

Doc seemed to be fine, though, if the laughing was anything to go by. “That was so much fun, I could kiss you!" she stated, her laughter forcing her eyes closed for a moment, unaware of what she'd just said, it seemed. She moved, though, so that they could both sit up, and began untying their scarf, huffing a small laugh every time she tried to undo the knot.

He didn't take her seriously, at any rate. "Don't traumatize the kids, Doc," he said with a half smile. Aidan leaned down to help with the knot, managing to loosen it and unwind the thing from around them, though he had to stifle a few chuckles in the process. He lost hold of one when he spotted something irregular and reached over, plucking a few pieces of grass out of her hair.

"Pretty sure these aren't as intentional as the flowers," he said, showing her one so she'd understand what he was doing. He set one of the flowers back the way it belonged, too, then stood, offering a hand down since she was still laughing.

“At least we didn't lose," Nero muttered softly as he glanced down at Ana. He moved his gaze back towards the field, though, where Niav and Rheinallt were still lying where they'd fallen. They were still laughing, it seemed, though whether it was at Aidan and Nev or at themselves was hard to tell.

"Sorry," Ana said, rolling her eyes in what Aidan figured was a self-deprecating fashion. "I'm too short to be that fast." She didn't seem too troubled, though, crouching to untie them before returning to a stand. "Thanks for running with me anyway. I've never done one of those before—it was fun."

Eventually, Rheinallt and Niav got their asses more or less in gear, accepting their loss and paying their penance in snack foods, as agreed, and the group spent a while just wandering around, trying out anything that looked interesting. Though he'd poked fun at them for not having ideas or opinions before, it seemed to get a little easier, as everyone relaxed into the dynamic that the group had. It was an interesting, one, Aidan thought, and oddly... comfortable. He'd been a little worried wither he or Ana would stick out a bit, but it honestly didn't seem to be a problem. She was a sweet kid, and the longer he spent with them, the more convinced he became that none of them were really acting when they reacted to her in the ways they did.

It probably should have concerned him more than it did, but even he was human, and the festive atmosphere wouldn't allow him to dwell on it for long.

It was shaping up to be the best night he'd had in... he wasn't even sure, and it had only been a few hours.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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July 25th
The Camellia Festival - Evening - Clear
Nevena Solomon


At some point during the night, the group had split from each other, though Nevena wasn't going to complain. This was, perhaps, the most fun she'd ever had, and that meant a great deal to her. Going to festivals, playing silly games with friends, these were things she never got to experience in her youth. Her parents never had the time to take her to the festivals, and she didn't have any friends she could go with. As she got older, a lot of her time was spent studying in school, and trying to make it into the position she had, now. It had been a lot of work, but part of Nev wondered if it had cost her more than she'd realized.

Pushing the thought out of her mind, she glanced towards Aidan, and smiled at him. “Are you having as much fun as everyone else is?" she decided to ask. She thought he was having some kind of fun since he'd actually laughed, earlier. Well... more like he chuckled, but it was still in the same category, right? And it had been nice, winning that three-legged race even if they'd tripped at the end. She had, of course, belatedly realized what she had said, but was glad that nothing was taken too seriously about it. It was just something she tended to do when she was excited.

She just blurted out the first thing came to her mind, and she forgot to pay attention to it. None of the others seemed bothered by it; they were oddly accepting of it, now that she thought about it. She supposed it was because they all had their own little quirks about them, and they were just generally nicer than the people she was used to being around. Most of the people she was used to were other scientists who weren't as forgiving as the others had been. It was... nice.

Aidan, who'd been gradually working on a small paper bag of takoyaki, smiled a little as he chewed, offering the sack of fried octopus rings towards her when he swallowed. "I'm not sure it's possible for me to have as much fun as some of you are right now, but I'm enjoying myself," he replied, sounding rather sincere about it. Well, at least for him. He seemed to generally be pretty deadpan or a little wry, but he wasn't mean about it.

"Did you three have fun with your clothes and stuff?" He asked, motioning to her yukata. "Somehow I imagine it being a lot more... involved, than what the other two and I did. Which was basically walk into a store and let Rheinallt bully us into what he thought looked best."

She took one of the rings, and nodded her head. “I did, actually. I've never had to wear one before so I didn't know how to put it on. Cyrilla and Ana both showed me how to put one on, so I can say that it was a fun experience. Cyrilla did my hair for me and Ana let us use the flowers from her garden as decorations," she stated before taking a bite out of the ring. She huffed a little at his statement, though. That sounded a little like Kasimir, but she had a feeling it was more that he was giving them suggestions on what to get. He and Cyrilla always looked so nicely put together, so she didn't put it past him to be able to pick things out for Aidan and Eryk.

“But he chose a really good one for you. It looks nice, especially the shade of purple. It really matches your, um... look?" she stated, unsure if that was the right word to use. She smiled a little nervously, and cleared her throat.

"My look?" he repeated, arching an eyebrow. "Would that be the one where I resemble a juvenile delinquent or the one where I remind people of the boss?" The smile playing at the edges of his mouth gave away the lightness of the question, and he bit into another takoyaki ring. "I'd never bothered with these before, either, actually," he noted after he'd swallowed. A small curl of steam wafted from the remainder of the ring, visible even in the spare light, which was mostly confined to lanterns and the night sky overhead now: the normal streetlights had been dimmed, probably for atmosphere or something.

"Glad I pass muster, Doc. Wouldn't want to embarrass you."

Nev huffed a little as she shook her head. “I don't think you could ever embarrass me," she replied, rolling her eyes in a good natured way. “Me, on the other hand... that's a whole other story," she added. “I do it even when I'm not trying to. And I don't think you look like a juvenile delinquent when you're dressed mostly in black. I thought that was more just your style. It suits you, though. It really makes the red in your hair stand out. Almost reminds me of a rapidash or a ponyta's mane."

In certain lighting, it definitely passed as something that looked more like an open flame than anything else. It was... bright, to say the least. She took another bite of her takoyaki ring, chewing on that before she said anything else embarrassing.

He laughed, then, and it wasn't just a chuckle, either. It wasn't especially loud, either, but it was a proper laugh nonetheless, and with his free hand, he reached over to pat her head, careful not to disturb Cyrilla's work but ruffling it just the faintest bit. "If I'm rapidash, you can be a torchic," he said, dropping the hand away.

"You give the weirdest compliments." He did, though, seem to understand that it had been meant as a positive thing.

Nev tilted her head a bit at the statement but shrugged her shoulders. If she was a torchic and he was a rapidash, then that meant they meshed pretty well together. “It's mostly a work-in-progress, my giving compliments to people," she stated, huffing lightly to herself. “I'm not used to doing it as you can tell. I just, hm, how can I put this," she began, pursing her lips together. She wasn't used to giving people compliments. She could praise people; that was something completely different than a compliment. Not so much, but enough that it was difficult for Nev.

“I can praise people, but I can't compliment them very well even if it is, fundamentally, the same thing. Or at least similar enough," she murmured softly, finishing off the takoyaki ring she had. “But hey, it's a start, right?" she added, grinning back at him.

He considered this a moment, offering the bag back to her once her ring was gone. "You mean like... praise as in 'commend someone for their work or something they've done,' as opposed to compliments about... traits they have or things they are?" He seemed to be asking for confirmation of his thought, intent on understanding the distinction.

"If that's it, I get it. I think it might be because praise is earned, and sometimes even expected, if a person's done something to warrant it. But compliments are like... sometimes they say more about you than the other person, where praise is mostly about them. Or at least that's what I've found to be true." He shrugged. "Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes."

“I suppose that's one way of looking at it," she stated, taking another ring and took a bite out of it. She chewed it over carefully as she contemplated his statement, though. Praise was expected whereas a compliment wasn't always expected. “I guess I still need a bit of practice on that. Like I said, it's a work-in-progress, but I think I might be able to manage it with yours and Kas's help," she stated. There were some things she just didn't quite get, and she wondered if it was mostly just the social aspects of her life that were lacking.

“Like I've said, I've never really had friends before, and my social skills aren't quite polished the same way like Kasimir's are, or even yours. This is all kind of new for me, and I'm willing to learn," she added, smiling just a bit as she took another bite of the takoyaki ring.

He nodded a little. "I mostly learned for work," he admitted. "Honestly, I don't have a lot of charisma. I'm just good at seeing things." Aidan tilted his head, though, and regarded her evenly for a moment as they walked. "And it's not a bad thing to want to be smoother or whatever. But you know you don't have to, right? You're fine the way you are, Doc. And that's a compliment, in case it wasn't obvious." He half-smiled, then turned his attention back to the path ahead of them.

She felt her cheeks burn slightly as she turned her attention to her feet. While he might think that, Nev didn't quite believe so. If she were just a little more charming, or a little more smooth, as he'd said, she might have been able to convince more people to fund her research. Gregorovich had been the only one to do so, but Nev wasn't so sure as to why he was interested in her work to begin with. She pushed the thought from her mind, though, and smiled a bit.

“Thank you, then, for the compliment. You're not so bad yourself, you know," she stated, smiling softly. She turned her attention back towards the path as well, and blinked slowly when a sign caught her attention. Her eyes widened as she turned towards Aidan. “They have a petting zoo!" she stated. “Can we go?"

He looked at her incredulously, wadding up the empty paper bag and tossing it into a nearby trash can. "What're you asking permission for? Go ahead." Aidan made a vague shooing motion with one arm, but started in the same direction himself, a clear indicator that he planned to accompany her. Admission seemed to be free, and Aidan scanned the pens automatically, probably checking to see that they conformed with regulations. He raised no objections, though, so they must have.

"Who're we seeing first?"

“Oh, I don't know!" Nev stated as she glanced around. There were a couple of vulpix, a swirlix, a couple of buneary, a growlithe, and several eevee. They all looked to be mostly young pokemon, but they must have been of proper age to be at the petting zoo. Nev knew that if they weren't at least a few months old, they weren't supposed to be in places like this. There was even an altaria, and strangely, a tauros.

“Oh!" she stated, making her way towards a cluster of zigzagoon. “They're so cute!" she continued, kneeling down so that she could see them better. “They even have a shiny one!" she stated, leaning over towards the copper-looking zigzagoon. She felt her eyes narrow with the force of her smile as it walked up to her, sniffing her hand before it allowed her to pick it up.

“Look at this face!" she stated, holding the zigzagoon in her hands, but showing it to Aidan at the same time.

"I see it," Aidan replied in his customary deadpan. "I see the face." He reached forward, though, to give the pokémon a gentle scratch behind the ears before he was all but mobbed by the growlithe and both vulpix, all of whom sniffed curiously at his ankles.

He rolled his eyes, but crouched anyway, draping his elbows over his knees and letting them approach his hands, which seemed to be equally sniff-worthy. "This is what happens when you live with a houndoom and a ninetales, I guess," he said, picking a bit of loose grass off of one of the vulpix's tails with careful fingers and discarding it to the side.

Nev, who'd been mid face rub with the zigzagoon, snickered softly at Aidan. “It could be worse," she stated, setting the zizagoon down. It seemed a bit disappointed, but waddled over to join the two vulpix and growlithe. Nev opened her mouth to say something when she felt something nudging her back. She blinked and turned to see what it was, and was slightly surprised to see the tauros there. She giggled softly and scratched at the place between its horns and forehead.

“I can almost see a theme going, though," she finally stated, letting her hand rest on the tauros's head. “The red hair, the fire pokémon; you should have been a fire-type trainer. You could have been Kanto's Champion with just the one type," she stated, smiling a bit in Aidan's direction. Honestly, he could have chosen just about any type of pokémon and still managed to become the Champion. He was that good of a trainer from what she remembered about his battling days.

He scoffed softly. "I think Frost would have a few things to say about that," he observed. "And believe it or not, the first pokémon I ever trained was an electric-type." He fell silent for a moment, scratching zigzagoon under the chin with a strangely-blank look on his face before he stood, straightening his yukata with a frown.

"How did people ever wear these all the time?" he grumbled.

Nev chuckled a little at his last statement. “Because I think they're used to it at this point. We don't have to wear them all the time, or at all, so we're not quite as comfortable," she stated, smiling in his direction. She wondered what had happened to his first pokémon. He didn't have any electric-type pokémon with him that she had seen. It was possible that the pokémon was being stored in a PC box somewhere where it was comfortable, but she didn't want to pry.

“You could have had Frost, too. She could have been your surprise player," she added. “Drake has a gyarados, which is dragon-like, but still classified as a dual water and flying-type. I believe Aurora even has a magby, and she's the gym leader in Cerulean. Oh, and then there is Briggs who has a girafarig, and he's Pewter City's gym leader."

He arched an eyebrow at her. "I know," he said dryly. "But it's more interesting that you do. Don't tell me you're a pro-battling nut, Doc." Despite the words, he seemed more amused by the thought than anything, joining her to rub at the thick mane of hair around tauros's neck and chest with both hands.

"You can deny it if you want to and I'll keep quiet, but the evidence is there." A smile quirked one corner of his mouth. "Now I'm offended you didn't recognize me when we met."

Nev pursed her lips together and felt her cheeks heat up a bit. “First, I am a fan," she began, turning her attention back towards the tauros, “and secondly, I didn't recognize you at first because I was so excited to be here. And I just..." She wasn't so sure how to reply to that statement. Part of her felt like he was teasing her about it, but she wasn't so sure. No one really teased her like that. She huffed lightly, though, and smiled.

“Well if you knew I was a fan of pro-battling, then you might have thought I was one of your superfans. I'm not, by the way, but I do enjoy it when I can," she was satisfied with that, and turned to grin at Aidan. “So I'm not going to deny that I am." She nodded her head as if it were the wisest thing she'd ever said before. It wasn't, but that was fine.

"Thank arceus you're not one of those," he deadpanned by way of reply, but the slight smile was back a moment later. "I still watch too sometimes, you know. Tournaments and stuff. Maybe we could have the others over to one of our places for a tournament watch sometime. I can make Rheinallt and Nero come and call it research. I'm sure Niav would show up on her own."

“Oh, that sounds like a great idea!" she stated, pausing momentarily from scratching the tauros's nose, “I'll have to make sure I have enough drinks and snacks for everyone, too!" Having everyone over to watch a tournament sounded like it could be really fun. And she'd be enjoying it with friends. She gave the tauros one last scratch, and huffed when it nudged her with its nose.

“We'll have to see when the next tournament is and plan for it."

"Cerulean Rumble's next month," Aidan supplied automatically, giving tauros a final pat on the head before stepping away. "Then it moves to smaller locals for a bit before anything major." He tugged a bit at his hair, then shrugged. "Let me help you plan, though? Don't want to make you do it all yourself."

“Of course!" she replied happily enough. It would be easier if two people planned it. It wasn't that Nev wasn't capable of doing it on her own, but it was a rather large group to plan for. She welcomed the help in any way he could give it. “We have until next month, after all. We can see what everyone likes to snack on, though I think Eryk really loves nachos. I have to make sure I have that, at least," she stated, already listing off one snack item to get.

“Oh, and I'll have to make sure there are plenty of options for drinks, too!" She knew Aidan enjoyed beer and the likes. She was also pretty certain Kasimir and Eryk did as well, but she wasn't too sure about Ana or Cyrilla. Still, she wanted to make sure everyone at least had options.

"All right," Aidan said, crossing his arms over his chest and regarding her through slightly narrowed eyes. "I've got a mission for you then, Doc. Find out what all our guests like to eat and drink so we can have it at the party, but you can't tell them it's for the party. It'll be good practice making casual conversation with people, and observing. You up for it?"

Nev was pretty sure she was pouting. She could feel her lips purse into a fine line, and her brows were furrowed. “You're so mean to me," she murmured, but she was smiling. It would be good practice; she couldn't deny that. “Alright, fine. I'm up for it! It'll be good practice, like you said, and it would be nice to learn about other people," she stated.

“Like I've said before, Nevena Solomon does not give up so easily! I will do my best to not let you down, sir!" she gave him a mock salute.

Aidan rolled his eyes, an amused pfft sound escaping him at the salute. "Good to hear, Doc. For now, though, you want to pet some more pokémon or get back out to the festival?"

Before she could answer, the tauros nudged her once more, causing her to huff lightly. “Well, according to this handsome fellow," she began, patting its nose gently, “I think we should get back to the festival. There are still other things to enjoy, right?" As much as she enjoyed petting the pokémon, there were other things to do. Other things to see. And Nev, for once, was enjoying herself.

"That's true. I, for one, want to see you try the hook toss. That's bound to be entertaining."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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August 3rd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk sighed softly, running a hand through his hair to get out what tangles there were as he made his way towards the conference room. Another month meant that there would be another meeting. It was routine, or it should have been, but Eryk didn't feel that way. He was, partly, surprised that Cyrilla hadn't walked with him to the conference room. She usually did, but she hadn't been in her office when he stopped by. He supposed she might already be there, waiting on him and possibly the others.

Would have been fucking nice if she'd told me, but he supposed there was no point on dwelling on that. They weren't attached at the hip, he supposed, so she was free to do whatever she wanted. Well, not entirely so.

He entered the conference room, and he blinked when he spotted Cyrilla and Aidan.

“Still, sorry about that. I meant to leave the growlithe with you and the magikarp with Nev, but I guess I got them mixed up in my drunken stupor," she spoke, turning her attention towards Eryk when he'd taken a seat. “Morning, Eryk. Sleep well?" she asked, grinning slightly at him as he rolled his eyes.

“Not gonna justify that with an answer," he muttered. Kas wasn't there, yet, but Eryk supposed he wouldn't be too far behind. He wasn't the type to be late, after all.

Aidan, meanwhile, snorted. "I wondered about that. Still I wasn't just gonna ask. The note was uh... very heartfelt. I think she likes it, though, so I guess she can have 'em both." He didn't seem to mind that a plush toy had been left on his doorstep with a note attached, apropos of nothing. There had been two outside of Anastasia's house as well, the morning after the festival.

Their conversation was interrupted by Kasimir's entrance, though only minimally. He yawned broadly, only making half an effort to cover his mouth. He was carrying his mareep under one arm as if she were a parcel, and held his laptop computer loosely in the other.

"Mornin'. I see all the cool kids are already here. What's on the docket, boss? More surprise visits with the big cheese?"

Rolling his eyes, Aidan shook his head. "Not this month. I think he's satisfied with the progress from last time. He does want me to talk to you about that other mission, though. The one I gave you a heads-up on the month before. The high-end pro-battling circuit's gonna be going on its season break here pretty soon, which means the next couple months are going to be the best time to get you guys set up as hopefuls for next season. The championships this year are in Cerulean, so the first thing we're gonna do is watch those, so you have a better idea what you're getting into."

"Nice. Does that mean we get your color commentary?"

Aidan arched an eyebrow. "I'll be teaching you, but I'll leave the 'color' commentary to the professionals. It's on the 17th. Doc and I are hosting so behave." He considered something a moment, then shrugged. "And bring Ana, if she's interested. Two pidgeys with one stone, or whatever."

"You know this is sounding more and more like hanging out to watch sports instead of training, right?"

"That's because the real training comes after, Rheinallt."

Cyrilla chuckled lightly at Aidan's last statement as Eryk contemplated his other one. “I can see if she'd like to come," he answered with a shrug of his shoulders. It's not like it would be an inconvenience to either of them. They'd be among people they tolerated more than others, and it might actually be comfortable. He pushed a sigh through his nose, though, and glanced in Kas's direction.

“It won't be that bad," he muttered, earning a soft snicker from Cyrilla.

“Ryk, you do realize that it's Aidan who's going to be training the both of you, right? Former Champion of Kanto, Aidan," she stated, arching a brow in his direction. He shrugged.

“So?" Why did that matter?

"Thank you," Aidan grumbled. "It's not like I'm a monster."

Kas snorted. "No, but if the rumors are to be believed, your training regimen's from hell, so forgive me if I'm not too excited to be dragged through that."

"Can it, Rheinallt. I've seen you lifting. You're not as allergic to hard work as you want everyone to think."

"But my pokémon are!" He lofted Meep in both hands, holding her out over the tabletop as if to hand her to Aidan. "Look at that face! The only thing hardcore about Meep is how much she sleeps, and I like to take my lessons from her."

Aidan sighed.

“At least it's only temporary, Kas," Cyrilla stated, shaking her head softly. “It'll only be for a few months and then you'll be able to go back to lazy mornings sleeping in with Meep," she added, smiling just a bit. Ryk shook his head, though.

“You don't have to train with Meep if you're so worried about her," Eryk stated, giving Kas a flat look. “She can be your... what do they call those people..." he trailed off, furrowing his brows as he tried to think of the word.

“Mascot, Ryk?" Cyrilla stated. He nodded.

“She can be your mascot."

"It's really not polite to call me out on my excuses, guys," Kas replied with an overdramatic sigh, slumping back into his chair.

"It was bullshit anyway," Aidan said with a soft huff. "The pokémon likes to battle, and so do you. You can suck it up and deal." Glancing between Eryk and Kasimir, he pursed his lips a moment. "This is for work, so we'll do it on the clock. You both okay with the first couple hours of the morning?"

Kas made a face, but he did in fact nod.

“I don't see a problem with it," he spoke, before he remembered something. “I'll just have to let Anastasia know that I won't be able to feed the pokémon that are usually up around that time, but it shouldn't be a problem," he stated. He did some things for Anastasia in the morning so she could at least sleep in a little longer, but he supposed it wouldn't interfere too much. If anything, he'd just wake up an hour earlier to ensure the food was ready to go for her so she could do it easier, and perhaps go back to sleep.

Cyrilla smiled, something a little soft and a tad too genuine than he'd known her to make, before she rolled her eyes. “If it'll help, I'll make everyone breakfast so you're not training on empty stomachs," she stated, glancing in Kasimir's and Aidan's direction. “What do you guys like to eat? And don't say not to worry about it. I got this," she added, almost as if she were expecting a protest of sorts.

"I'm not picky," Aidan replied with a shrug. "Also, I've pulled a lot of material for you to read on the inner workings side of the pro-battling industry, especially about sponsorships and the role of an agent. I think you should watch at least most of the practice. You need to be almost as much of an expert on what these guys can do as they are, because your job is going to be selling that potential to people who might be skeptical."

“I can do that during the time you are all training so that way we're all training at the same time," she stated, nodding her head. “Especially if we're doing this on the clock. I can take a look at what the library in Cinnabar has to offer on it, as well," she added, glancing in Eryk's direction.

“If he's not picky, and neither is Kas, you might as well just make a breakfast burrito for everyone, or even a breakfast sandwich of sorts," he stated, shrugging his shoulders. She mimicked him and shrugged her shoulders.

“Alright. I suppose it'll be good since you don't want to eat anything too heavy in the morning. Might make you sick," she stated, furrowing her brows before grinning. “I'll have to go make a library card, then, if that's the case."

As if it reminded him of something, Aidan started to pat himself down, searching his pockets until he pulled a small white plastic card from one of them. "Already done," he said simply. "That one's a duplicate, so you can keep it. Don't go forgetting to return anything on time, or it comes out of your wages. It's a company account." Deftly, he slid the card across the table to Cyrilla, then looked all of them over.

"Anything else?"

"Not from me," Kas replied.

“Thank you," Cyrilla stated as she took the card from Aidan. She shook her head, though, and glanced in Eryk's direction.

“No. I believe we are all aware of what's going to be happening for the next few months," he stated, pushing a sigh through his nose. It was going to be an interesting next few months, he supposed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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August 10th
Cinnabar Island - Late Afternoon- Humid
Drake Bellamy


Drake glanced over the line forming outside of his gym. It wasn't particularly long; there were at most a total of five people. It could have been one challenger with their group of friends, or all five of them were challengers, however; there was one person in particular that stuck out. Drake had no intentions of dealing with that person, so he pulled his glasses from the top of his head and placed them on his face. He'd still be recognizeable with the hair color, but there were at least three other people on this island with blue hair. That was the logic he was going to use for now.

As quietly as he could, he turned away from the gym, and made his way towards the other side of the island. Maybe he could go hide out at Ana's place until the gym officially closed? He'd have to send out a message, though, saying the gym wasn't going to be open today. If he did that, then the person was likely to scour the island for him, or just wait at his house.

“Guess I'm sleeping at the gym, again," he murmured to himself. Sighing softly, he shoved his hands into his pocket and kicked at the pebbles on the ground. This week had to start off shitty, didn't it? He really didn't want to bother Ana with this, though, so maybe he'd just take a walk around the island, instead, and hope he didn't run into that person.

His walk brought him through the park. He could hide out here for the remainder of the day. It had some secluded spots, and there were designated areas for the pokémon to walk around at. The ones that could, anyway. Axe, Goopy, and Deino were, perhaps, the only ones he could let out. Brick Jr., too, he supposed. With that in mind, he set off to find a spot that wouldn't be too crowded. He walked towards the back part of the park, pausing mid-step when a meowth ran out in front of him, climbing up his leg before nestling on his shoulder.

“Oh, well, hello?" he stated, a little confused by the creature's actions. The meowth merely mewled at him, when a woman approached him, pursing her lips together and placing a hand on her hip.

“Zephyr, you little shit, that's not nice to do that to random people," she stated, glancing at Drake and offering an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that, she get's a little excited when she's playing with the others and tends to run off," she spoke as a way of explaining the meowth's actions.

“No problem. At least she doesn't try to head butt people or eat their hands," he spoke, reaching up to his shoulder to rub the meowth behind her ears. She started purring, causing him to roll his eyes as he took the meowth from her perch, and handed her back to the young woman. “I'm Drake, and you are?" he asked. Might as well be friendly. He didn't think he'd seen her on the island before. He'd have remembered someone with hair as white as hers.

“Cyrilla," she stated, taking the meowth from Drake. “So you must be Drake Bellamy, then, Cinnabar's gym leader, right?" she asked, causing Drake to nod his head. “Then you're that Drake, the one who's friends with Ana. She's here with me, right now if you wanted to say hi," she continued, causing Drake to blink. She knew Ana? He supposed this was one of Ana's new volunteers. He'd met Eryk, of course, but he'd never met the other two. Kasimir, he believed was the name of the other guy.

Man, I need to get out more often and stop hiding. I'm missing out on meeting people, was the only thought that crossed his mind before he nodded. “Sure. I meant to see how's she's doing lately since I haven't been by the shelter in a couple of weeks," he stated with a light shrug, following behind Cyrilla as she led the way.

“Hey, Ana, I found a friend of yours," she called out when they approached. He recognized Ana almost immediately, and grinned a little when he spotted Aidan.

“Hey, guys. Long time no see," he greeted.

Ana, dressed her in a variation of her usual array of black and ruffles, smiled brightly approaching him and opening her arms for a brief hug. "Drake! How have you been? It feels like you haven't been by in ages; pidgey misses you." One of the shelter's pidgey had a strange fascination with him—probably the color of his hair in particular, as it always tried to land on his head and sit there for the duration of his visit.

He knew, of course, that Ana wasn't saying that to guilt him or anything—it was sort of her indirect way of inviting him to come see her when he had the time and inclination.

Aidan offered him a friendly nod; apparently he'd decided to let Ed out for the day. The mudsdale was enormous even by the standards of his species, but relatively placid and frank compared to some of the former champion's more eccentric pokémon. Frost and Rex and were out and about as well, the latter apparently playing some kind of two-on-one tag with Luna and Nova, Ana's pokémon.

"Taking the afternoon off?" he asked casually.

“Uh, you could say that, yeah," he replied. He technically was taking the afternoon off, so it wasn't like he was lying. He grinned, though, and tossed the pokéballs that housed his pokémon, watching as Axe, Goopy, Deino, and Brick Jr., appeared. Goopy immediately slid over towards Ana, bouncing a bit as she smiled up at the woman. Deino, however, immediately walked over towards Aidan and opened his mouth. Drake supposed he, for some reason, associated Aidan with Nev and the yoghurt chips. Brick Jr., however, glanced at everyone, and made his way over towards a zoroark that was curled under one of the trees. It appeared to be sleeping, but opened an eye to acknowledge the gabite before closing it again.

“There wasn't a line at the gym so I figured I'd close up early," he continued, snorting softly when a large arcanine came up to Deino, and licked his head. Cyrilla rolled her eyes, though. It probably belonged to her. Deino still seemed fixed on Aidan, though, not bothering to acknowledge the arcanine, even as the large pokémon pawed at Deino's back.

“Zero, leave him alone and go bother Rex," Cyrilla stated as she shooed the arcanine away. Zero made a soft whimper before he took off in the direction of the houndoom and Ana's pokémon.

Surprisingly enough, Aidan actually seemed to be carrying some of the snacks, and tossed one into Deino's waiting maw with a snort. "He might be an idiot, but even a broken clock's right twice a day," he noted, rubbing Deino's head despite his rather blunt assessment.

Ana, of course, bent down to scoop up Goopy, giving the pokémon a gentle squeeze. "I missed you, too, squish," she declared, turning them both to watch the now-intensifying tag match between the four others. To Drake, she added: "I'm glad you got a break. I know summer can be pretty crazy for challenges, huh?" It was a popular time of year for tourism, too, and trainers sometimes came seeking a bit of that island lifestyle along with their badges. Fortunately, Drake was high enough up the Kanto chain of gym leaders that he didn't get near as many challenges as someone like Aurora, but being in such an appealing destination almost made up the numbers, apparently.

“They're not so bad," Drake replied with a smile. “It tends to die a little more during the winter, even if Cinnabar doesn't get much by way of snow. I don't remember the last time it even dropped below sixty degrees," he murmured. The island was hot, but it wasn't like Drake was going to complain. He liked warmer weather; he supposed he just wasn't suited to colder climates. Deino munched happily on the snacks, and opened his mouth again, anticipating more, it seemed as Drake rolled his eyes.

“Right or not, he's still an idiot. Guess his name should have been Brick Jr. They pretty much just follow their stomachs," he stated. Cyrilla snorted softly, but offered no commentary. “So, what brings you all out here? Well, besides letting the others out to play. I see Ed's out, and Rex, but I take it Brick's too dumb to leave unsupervised?" Drake stated, grinning lightly in Aidan's direction.

“We spent most of the morning at Ana's, but it was too pretty of a day to stay cooped inside. I suggested the park so... here we are," Cyrilla stated. She wasn't wrong; even if it was a little humid, the day was still nice as far as nice days went on Cinnabar.

"Brick's resting," Aidan explained. "I had him working out a few of Eryk and Kasimir's pokémon this morning; about the only way I can tire the idiot out." Ed approached, lowering his large head over Aidan's shoulder; as if automatically, the man lifted his arm to scratch at the equine pokémon's neck, beneath his heavy mane. Ed seemed to enjoy this, stomping on the ground with one foot in what seemed to be a pleased kind of way, never mind that it sent small tremors through the earth that the rest of them could feel through their shoes.

"We were thinking of getting a snack in a bit," Ana added. "I was going to take them to Yselda's for the ice cream and floats. Do you want to come along?"

Drake grinned broadly as he nodded his head. “Of course I want to go! Yselda makes the best floats!" he stated, perhaps a little too excitedly. He hadn't been to Yselda's in a few weeks, mostly because he and that person had been on a date there, which meant that the place was often haunted by them. Drake would have declined if he didn't already know where they were at. He was refusing to call his ex by his name, after all. Refusing to acknowledge anything about the guy, actually. Shuddering involuntarily, he reached over to scratch Deino's head.

“Since that's settled," Cyrilla spoke, making a sharp whistle. Zero stopped what he was doing, which involved dropping the houndoom's tail in his mouth, before trotting over towards Cyrilla. The zoroark lazily made its way towards the group as well, nudging Cyrilla's back as she recalled both of them into their respective balls. Meowth seemed to protest a bit, causing the woman to roll her eyes before she furrowed her brows.

“C'mon Siri, time to go. I'm sure Aidan would like his head back, now," she spoke. A noibat peered over Aidan's hair, chirped, and laid back down. Drake supposed he wasn't paying much attention since he'd missed it, but Cyrilla rolled her eyes.

“Guess she likes Aidan for a new roosting spot," Drake stated as he chuckled lightly.

"It's fine," Aidan said, recalling all of his pokémon and giving Siri a gentle scratch behind one of her large, thin ears. "Been a while since I had any pokémon small enough to hitch a ride on my person. Reminds me of the old days." He half smiled, if only briefly, and glanced at Ana.

She kept both Luna and Nova beside her—Drake wasn't even sure she ever used pokéballs, since they were small enough to be allowed anywhere pokémon were and well-trained enough to have passed every behavioral certification required to enter public places. "You guys are going to like it, I think. It's this way." She struck off in the lead, exiting the park from the south.

Drake and Cyrilla huffed at the same time as she fell into line next to Ana. Drake stood on her other side, leaving Aidan to take Ana's other side, which meant Aidan was walking in between Cyrilla and Ana. The walk had, as far as Drake had been concerned, been pleasant. Cyrilla and Ana would occasionally say something, snort as if it were funny, before turning their attention to the scenery. He was certain the topic of pokemon came up. Something about a mankey and a stunky, however; before Drake could ask what they were talking about, a voice called out to him. A feeling of dread washed over him as his eyes widened slightly.

“Drake, there you are!" the all too familiar voice of Kevin pierced through the air. Drake glanced around quickly, trying to make it seem like he hadn't seen the violet-haired man. It didn't work, though, as Kevin approached the group. “You weren't at the gym today, and you had a long line of challengers waiting for you," he stated, reaching towards Drake's arm with a bright smile on his face.

Drake immediately recoiled, though, taking a step back and furrowing his brows as Kevin pursed his lips. His amaranth eyes glanced towards the others, though, settling a little too long on Cyrilla and Anastasia before he acknowledge the group as a whole.

“Hi, I'm Kevin. I don't think we've ever met before," he stated.

“That's because you haven't," Drake deadpanned. “What do you want?"

“Don't be like that, Drake. You should introduce me to your nice friends."

“I don't have to; we're not together any more." Kevin didn't seem to like that, though, and he furrowed his brows at Drake.

“Don't listen to him; we're still together. He just needed a break," Arceus, how did he get stuck with someone like Kevin? Cyrilla arched a brow at Drake, but didn't immediately acknowledge Kevin. It seemed she was assessing him if the way she was glancing at Kevin was anything to go by. She must not have liked it since she pursed her lips together.

“Clearly he said you weren't together. Usually that means a relationship is over if one or both parties terminate it. I don't see how you are still together if Drake clearly doesn't see it that way," she spoke, but she didn't sound rude, merely curious as to how Kevin came to his conclusion. Kevin huffed lightly, though.

“It's obvious, isn't it?"

Ana looked immediately uncomfortable, but she did shift a little so she was more or less directly in the way of Drake's arm, if Kevin should try and grab it again. Her pokémon stood at attention at her feet; Nova even hopped up onto Drake's shoulder, curling around his neck and fixing Kevin with unsettling red eyes. There was nothing especially hostile in it, but Drake could feel the tension in the umbreon's body—he was defensive.

"Yeah that's nice and all, but we've got somewhere to be, so if you'll excuse us." Aidan was regarding the situation with slightly narrowed eyes, but he too didn't take an immediately aggressive stance or anything, though it was obvious he was deducing the details of the situation easily. Rather than being unsure what was happening, he simply seemed to be willing to take Drake's cue on how to act.

Rather than take the hint as Drake hoped he would, Kevin merely smiled brightly. “Oh, well if Drake's going then I'll just tag along!" he stated, inviting himself to something when Drake really didn't want him to. “It's alright, right, Drake?" Kevin continued, giving Drake a hopeful smile.

“I'm afraid we don't have the space for another person," Cyrilla started, feigning a polite smile, it seemed. “And it is kind of rude to just invite yourself to someone else's home if you weren't invited," Cyrilla stated, clearly not letting Kevin know their true destination. In that moment, Drake was glad that he was with them. This would have gone badly if it was just himself. Kevin looked like he was about to protest, however; using the opportunity, it seemed, Cyrilla linked her arm with Drake's.

“It was nice meeting you, though, Kevin. See you around, I'm sure," she stated, pulling gently on Drake's arm as he nodded his head.

“Sorry, but gotta go," Drake stated, turning around. He didn't give Kevin a chance to respond, but he did note that the noibat in Aidan's hair hissed slightly in Kevin's direction before they'd walked off. Once they were a good distance away, and Kevin was no longer in sight, Cyrilla released Drake's arm, and arched a questioning brow at him.

“Sorry about that, guys. Didn't mean to put you in that kind of situation," he stated. “As a way to make it up to you all, let me buy your drinks and snacks."

“It's not a problem, Drake. And you don't have to do that; we were glad to help," Cyrilla stated.

“Still, it would make me feel better." Because no one should have to be caught in a situation with Kevin.

Ana put a gentle hand on his shoulder and squeezed briefly before letting go. Aidan, on the other hand, muttered something under his breath. "That happen a lot, kid? It looks like it happens a lot." They'd reached Yselda's; he pulled the door open with a soft jangling sound and ushered the others through, taking the spot at the back of the line, which was about to the door anyway. The shop was very popular during the summer, for obvious reasons.

“Not as much as you'd think it does," Drake replied, pushing a soft sigh through his nose. Kevin's actions hadn't quite escalated too far, however; the fact that he'd tried to invite himself along with Drake's company wasn't a good sign. If he was starting to just invite himself, who knew what he'd try next. Still, it wasn't something to worry about, yet. Drake had other things to do, other things to take care of.

“Seems like he's not over you, though. If you ever feel uncomfortable or just need someone," Cyrilla started, reaching into her back pocket and pulling out a wallet. Drake snorted softly at it. It was a feebas zipper pouch, and she rummaged through it before pulling out a piece of paper. “This has my direct line and personal phone number. I'm not hitting on you, I promise," she stated, grinning lightly at him as Drake coughed a bit into his hand, feeling his cheeks heat up a bit.

“I'll be glad to help you out of any tough situations, alright?" she winked at him before turning towards Ana and Aidan.

“Thanks, Cyrilla," he stated. It was a nice offer, he supposed, but he didn't think he'd ever really need it. Still, he tucked the card into his pocket. He'd program her phone number into his phone, eventually, but for now, they had shakes to order. “What would you guys like?"

"Cream soda float," Aidan said simply. It wasn't clear if he'd been here before, but he had barely glanced at the menu, and that was something they served here.

Ana, who he knew from experience was very difficult to talk into letting things be bought for her, hemmed and hawed a bit before settling on a chocolate sundae. She'd almost certainly end up trying to buy him something in return within the next couple of weeks, but for the moment at least, her protestations were minimal. She did insist on buying Luna and Nova vanilla soft serve herself, however, rather than letting anyone else do it, and when they settled at one of the outdoor tables, she set the paper dishes down for the pokémon first.

It was enough to coax Siri from Aidan's head, and she joined the others. Drake took a seat so that he was on Ana's left, Cyrilla on her right, and Aidan in between him and Cyrilla. He took a sip of his strawberry milkshake; they were the best ones in his opinion, as Cyrilla seemed to be happily sipping on her own chocolate shake. This was, strangely, nice. He felt a little comfortable despite his encounter with Kevin, and it felt more relaxed.

He needed to do this more often.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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August 14th
Marna's - Early Evening - Overcast
Eryk Nero


Eryk sighed heavily, running a hand down his face. He was in a foul mood, and the reason was the email he'd received earlier today from Marah. He hadn't understood the context of the message, vaguely making out things that were insulting Cyrilla, or insulting his own intelligence, but he didn't really care. What he cared about was the fact that she had the audacity to say she was going to have his engagement to Cy, annulled.

She could try.

It wouldn't work, and they both knew that. It was one of the requirements he had made. If they wanted him to continue to be an obedient member of the family, then Marah was just going to have to get used to having Cyrilla as a future daughter-in-law. Not that he was rushing their marriage, though. He knew they were both uncomfortable with it, but they also knew it had to happen eventually. Otherwise his mother would keep sending him shit that he didn't want to deal with.

It was the reason he was currently at Marna's, too. It was one of the very few places he could go to think. To clear his mind and not have to worry about what was going on outside. For some strange reason, Eryk had invited Kas and Aidan along. It wasn't like he minded the two of them, really. They were easy company to be in, and Eryk was sure from the look on both of their faces, they could use a drink, too. He'd just arrived before them.

Kas arrived first, giving Eryk a little wave before he approached the bar to put his order in with Marna. As usual, the place was pretty quiet—it didn't seem to do a whole lot of business, honestly, though it was hard to say why that was. The food was good, and the drinks were always cold. The building didn't look like much from the outside, though, and was a bit further back from the beach than most, though they could see the ocean from the side deck.

Heaving a sigh, Kas dropped into the chair directly across from him, folding his arms together on the tabletop and smiling a little wryly at him. "You look like you've had a hell of a day, Ryk," he observed, pouring from the pitcher of icewater on the table while he waited for his order.

“So do you," Eryk replied dryly, furrowing his brows lightly before rolling his eyes. “It was mostly fine up until the end," he stated, taking a drink of his beer. He hadn't asked for the stronger stuff yet, mostly because he didn't think he'd need it. Yet. He was hoping the beer would be sufficient enough to dissipate his current anger, and so far, it was. He pushed the bowl of nachos out in front of him, routine habit by now.

He always ordered a large amount of nachos in order to share with the other two whenever they came to Marah's, or anywhere they went that had nachos, really. He didn't necessarily mind sharing, though. He might have consumed food quite a bit, but this just felt right to him. Plus, he was almost certain the other two didn't mind.

“What about you? Why'd you look like shit, earlier?" he'd leave out Marah's email for now.

"Cy and I had a run in with that cop you mentioned a couple days ago. Hayes. We were with Ana at the time. He'd done his research in the meantime—at least normal background checks on all three of us. He knows the two of you are Koga, and he's uh... really fucking paranoid about how much time we're spending with her. Problem is, aside from the fact that he's a racist and an asshole, he's... kinda right about the rest of it, and she's not dumb." He drained half the glass of water and grimaced.

"So I've spent the last couple of days backdooring my way through the CIPD computer system, to try and figure out what they have on us. It's been... long." Marna appeared with his drink then, sliding it easily across the table with a smile and a nod. Kas caught it with a word of thanks. "Can you get another for both of us, Auntie? It's been that kind of day."

Her expression was sympathetic. “Seems to be goin' around," she noted, heading back to the bar.

Eryk furrowed his brows. That explained why Cyrilla was depressed. Hayes must have said something that made her that way. But Hayes wasn't wrong to be suspicious, though. This was only going to make their job so much harder. It wouldn't be hard at all if they'd just told her what the deal was, but Eryk couldn't be that stupid. Finding out if she was psychic was the priority. Seeing if she'd be willing to volunteer for whatever Project Nebula wouldn't be too hard, he didn't think, if she was.

“He's an ass who's going to make this much harder than it needs to be," Eryk muttered as he took a bite from his nachos. He chewed it and swallowed before turning back to Kas. “What else does he have on us, besides the obvious?" he asked. If there was more that Hayes could use against them, he needed to be prepared. They all did.

"Not sure yet," Kas admitted, taking up a couple of the nachos himself and popping them whole into his mouth. "I know the PD had files on all of us—and I mean everyone. The entire office, down to Mr. Bates." Bates was an elderly man who served as the mansion's night janitor. "So far it's basic stuff; criminal records, birth certificates, the kind of research you could do with a formal background check or a web search. Which is... well, a fair bit if you know what you're doing, but nothing confidential."

He took a large swig of what seemed to be a spiced cider, and leaned back in his chair. "Problem is, we seem to be the subject of an active investigation, which means I wouldn't put it past him to be doing shady shit, like trying to flip some of the grunts, or have us put under surveillance, or even just go digging a little further into our personal business. Legally, unless he suspects us of a crime, he can't use police resources for this, but that's the problem. We're all NTR. It's not going to be hard to get a judge to believe we have something to do with a crime, especially, say, that B&E we totally actually did at the breeding facility, which was apparently reported."

"Yeah but those fuckers were doing shady shit. We had probable cause." The new voice was Aidan's; he slid into the seat next to Eryk with a drink already in hand.

"We did," Kas said. "But the problem is the report alleges that someone stole things unrelated to that function of the facility or NTR. Personal belongings of an employee."

"Like fucking what?"

"A wallet, some jewelry. Look, it's totally bullshit. We all know it didn't happen. But the report was filed, the case is still open, and NTR is the obvious place to look for the 'thief.' So Captain Hayes has the perfect excuse to look into us all. It won't get him subpoenas for big stuff, but it's possible he could legally compel us to hand over some employee records, if he plays his cards right."

"Sonuvabitch probably had the employees file that theft report just for that, huh?" Aidan shook his head, looking faintly impressed almost despite himself.

"I'd bet money on it."

Eryk sighed heavily into his drink. Chances were if those items were stolen, it wasn't by any of the grunts. They all knew better than to try and jeopardize a mission like that, and it was why the few grunts that had gone, were ones that knew how to prioritize. Hayes was going to be a big thorn in all of their sides. Eryk could already feel it. He'd been lucky enough to be either at work or some place else when Hayes visited Anastasia. He furrowed his brows.

“I'm going to have to start locking the door to my room before I leave, now," he muttered softly. It wasn't that he didn't trust Anastasia, because he did. It was Hayes he didn't trust, and even if Anastasia told Hayes to stay out of Eryk's room, he knew the man would be stubborn and do something he ought not to. He also didn't bring his work home, so it wasn't as if Hayes would find anything.

The worst thing he'd probably find in Eryk's room was the old grey yukata he had with venomoth holes in it. Maybe he'd see if mankey would stay in his room? He immediately banished that thought. Mankey was still young and destructive. Eryk didn't have much in his room to begin with, but he really didn't want to have to replace a broken bed, or some other piece of furniture. He turned his attention towards Aidan, though.

“How are things on your end?" he asked.

Aidan shrugged. "Not horrific, I guess. Been reestablishing contact with a few of the people I know who are still in the pro-battling business. I shouldn't be your agent or anything—if a name like mine's too close to you, people are going to be too careful. But I can lean on things behind the scenes a little, put in a good word here and there, that kind of thing." He paused as Marna brought their food—they'd both taken to ordering things that could be shared like Eryk's nachos, though they switched more often. This time it looked like Aidan had bought a large quesadilla cut into several wedges, and Kas had ordered some assortment of battered and fried fish and vegetables with a few dipping sauces. They both pushed the dishes to the middle of the table, and Aidan handed out smaller plates as he continued.

"Of course, it's too early for any of that yet, so I'm basically just reminding people that I'm around, indicating a bit of interest in returning to the scene, that kind of shit. I hate the politics of this and I always have, but there's some people who can manage to do it without being obnoxious."

"Gotta be careful with that or there'll be rumors of a comeback in no time," Kas noted, dipping what seemed to be a fried pineapple slice in the sauce.

Aidan rolled his eyes, giving his head a shake. "There's gonna be those no matter what I do. Someone'll mention talking to me, someone else'll hear it, and in the offseason like it'll be soon, they'll start a rumor on a slow news day, just to generate interest. It's how this shit works. I know about as much about the pro-battling scene as you seem to know about cops, Rheinallt." He arched a brow, as if inviting explanation.

"Stepmom's a lawyer," Kas explained.

Nodding, Aidan turned to Eryk. "What's eating you, Nero?" he asked bluntly, taking a bite of quesadilla.

Eryk furrowed his brows for a moment before he realized Aidan hadn't meant that statement literally. He swallowed the bit of nachos he had in his mouth, before answering, “My mother," he stated, brows furrowing deeply. He didn't generally hate people, but he'd decided awhile ago that his mother wasn't a person. He wasn't sure what she was; a mother, though, she was not.

“You were Katia's superior a few years ago, right?" he stated, arching a brow at Aidan. “I'm sure she was bitter about it then as she seems to be now, and talked," he stated, shaking his head softly. Katia never seemed to be able to contain her emotions that way. Kas, of course, didn't know who Katia was, and he turned towards the man to explain.

“Katia's family is the oldest branch not directly related to the Koga main branch. She was originally supposed to marry me before I agreed to Cyrilla's parent's proposal. Marah is still trying to find ways to have our engagement annulled so that Katia can be the next head of the family. If that doesn't work, she's trying to get Cyrilla and I... married sooner," he sneered at the thought. He didn't understand the way Marah's or Katia's mind worked. If Katia had married him, she would only be the Head's wife, not the Head, herself.

He decided to leave out the heir portion of that, though. It was too disturbing a thought to dwell on. He just didn't see Cyrilla that way, and he doubted they'd even be able to do as Marah seemed to want.

Even if he hadn't said it directly, though, Kas and Aidan were the furthest thing from stupid. He saw the moment Kas connected the dots; he made a vaguely-horrified expression and shuddered. It didn't even look exaggerated.

Aidan just regarded Eryk for a moment with something that looked very much like sympathy before expelling a breath through his nose. "Katia talks, yeah," he said simply, leaning back and extracting a cigarette from the box in his pocket. Once he'd lit it, he leaned back a little, making sure the smoke was drifting out over the deck instead of towards either of them. "You know, I used to think some of my exes were a pain in the ass, but lately I've been thinking I got off easy in that department, and it was still enough to push me out of the game completely." He shook his head. "Not that she's an ex of yours, but..." he waved his free hand vaguely as he took a sip of his drink with the one holding the cigarette.

"Fuck that noise," Kas said emphatically, though it wasn't clear exactly what he was agreeing with. It did seem to be an agreement, though. "Rich people are nuts. No offense, Ryk, but fucking arceus, man. Is your mom like... nagging you to have the ceremony soon or whatever?"

“Soon, yes," he answered, taking a long drink of his beer. “I've managed to convince her to wait until the end of the year because this mission is top priority. Even she doesn't have that much influence to try and interfere with it," he stated. His family may have been part of Team Rocket since its inception, but Giovanni no longer controlled it. It was Gregorovich, and if this mission was as important to him as Eryk thought it was, then he knew that his family couldn't do shit without incurring Gregorovich's wrath.

He pursed his lips, though, as he stared at his drink. “I'm still trying to figure out ways to get her out, though," he admitted. He hadn't found any, of course, but he was looking. If he could get Cy out of the family, somehow, then he wouldn't have to subjugate her being tied to him for the rest of their lives. He knew she wouldn't complain if they were married; she might even be happy that it was him, but it was something he knew neither of them wanted.

“Unfortunately families like ours are complicated, and not easy to leave." Born a Koga, always a Koga. That was how their family operated. He threw back the rest of his drink and started on the second one.

"Leave the family, huh?" Aidan sighed quietly. "Sounds rough." He pushed a heavy breath out through his nose as Kas continued to eat evenly from most of the plates, a contemplative expression on his face.

"I guess it's probably not quite as simple as like... her and you both marrying someone else, right? Like they'd try to do something to stop it if you made it clear that's what was happening?"

Eryk wouldn't lie and say he hadn't thought of that option, but it wasn't possible. If they did marry someone else, that person would be subjected to the family, and that was something neither of them wanted to do. He pushed a sigh through his nose.

“It's not that simple, no. If Cy or I married someone, it wouldn't be us leaving; it would be that person becoming part of the Koga family, and not a lot of people could endure that. It would, however, stop them from trying to push another arrangement on us. My family may be one of the oldest, but there are things even they couldn't do," such as marry him or Cyrilla to someone else if they were already married.

"Sounds like you two need to find yourselves a coupla badasses," Kas remarked. It was light, but he didn't seem to be minimizing things, either. "Or do something so terrible they kick you out of the family. What do Kogas like to do? Kick lillipups? Snatch candy from babies? Plot world domination? Honestly they sound kind of like ridiculous cartoon villains. Not that I'm doubting you guys about what they're like," he amended quickly, and apparently quite sincerely.

"Does that mean they'd kick him out if he became real-life Crobatman or something?" Aidan snorted softly.

Kas chuckled. "He's already got the 'eccentric rich guy with badass ninja training' part down." His smile faded a little, though, and he tilted his head at Eryk. "If there's ever any way I can help though, man, just say the word. I ain't afraid of no ninjas. My old man raised me better than that." Though the words sounded a bit like a joke he'd make, he seemed to mean it as a serious offer.

With a small nod, Aidan added, "same here. Plus it'd piss off Katia and she deserves it after all the crap I've put up with from her, so. You'd be helping me, actually."

Eryk felt the corners of his lips tilt up into something he hadn't been able to do for a while: smile. “I don't suppose either of you would mind marrying me for a while," he stated, rolling his eyes a bit and taking a bite out of his nachos.

"I'm telling you, you literally can't be worse than my ex," Aidan replied, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

"Yeah, I'd do it," Kas replied with a shrug and a soft laugh. "So, you know, two excellent back-up plans if worse comes to worst or whatever."

Eryk rolled his eyes, but that strange smile still hadn't left his face. “Not sure if they're excellent back-up plans, but it is nice, I suppose, to know they're there."

This had... turned out better than he thought it would.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


August 17th
The Cloyster - Afternoon - Overcast
Aidan Klein


As he'd sort of figured she would be, Doc had been mostly successful in her mission to discover the others' favorite snack foods, so preparation was fairly easy. They made the nachos in her kitchen, as well as a few other things that took a bit more work, including guacamole and the like. They'd set it all out on the coffee table in the living room with Basil's help, the TV mounted on the wall already tuned to PSPN, where commentators were giving a recap of the earlier season to catch people up for Cerulean Rumble.

"Hey Doc, did you remember to take the beer out of the freezer?" They'd put it in there to chill quickly, as they hadn't had quite enough time to just use the fridge. They'd been on a bit of a crunch, in general, mostly because they'd sort of forgotten to do any advance preparations the night before, too busy trying to get Maribelle and Balthazar out of the City of the Dead.

Worth it, as far as he was concerned.

“Basil pulled them out about five minutes ago and set them in the fridge," she replied, making last minute adjustments to the way things were set up, it seemed. “How does everything look? Does it look okay? Do I need to run to the store and grab anything else?" she asked as she glanced in Aidan's direction with pursed lips.

“I just want to make sure everyone has what they need so they can relax and enjoy themselves," she added, smiling somewhat as she glanced over the setup once more.

He snorted softly. "I think we're fine. Honestly I expect at least a couple of them to bring more stuff with them; they're that kind of people."

No sooner had he spoken than there was a knock on the door, and he moved to answer it. It was Doc's house, of course, but they were both hosting, and he doubted she'd mind that he answered her door. On the other side of it stood Nero and Ana, the latter holding what did indeed seem to be a large plate of—huh. That was actually an entire pie. This girl. It smelled like caramel and apples and cinnamon and shit. Like honest-to-arceus homemade pie. He didn't think he'd ever had one, honestly.

"Come on in," he said, opening the door wider so they could move in past him. "You managed to beat Rheinallt and Niav, and they only live a few floors down." He was pretty sure Rheinallt had mentioned something about bringing his sister, but that was fine, too.

Nero huffed lightly at the statement and shook his head. “It would be those two that were late," he spoke, glancing towards Ana for a moment before glancing at Doc. “Solomon," he greeted. Doc smiled brightly at Eryk and motioned for Ana to set the pie down on the table with the other snacks. There was enough room for it between the nachos and guacamole.

“Eryk, Ana! Hi! Glad you could make it," Doc stated happily enough as she waved a little in their direction. Basil snorted softly before walking back towards the kitchen area, grabbing two cups as she did. “Would you guys like anything to drink? I have soda, tea, beer..." she trailed off, listing some of the drinks they had bought.

“I'll take lemonade if you have it, for now," Eryk stated as he glanced at Ana. Basil was already in the fridge, grabbing the pitcher of lemonade as she waited for Ana's response, it seemed.

Ana's eyes shifted between Doc and Basil before settling on the latter. "Soda, please," she said warmly, accepting the can when it was handed over to her with a vine like it was the most normal thing in the world. Then again, her place had a lot of pokémon around, so maybe it was.

She settled on the one of the sofas, patting the spot next to her with a look up at Nero. Aidan noted that she'd left the end free, and that it had a view of the whole room, including the door, so Nero would only be next to one person and able to observe everything that went on if he needed to. He didn't think it was coincidence—she was very clearly doing her best to anticipate what would make him most comfortable.

He felt a little twinge of guilt, but pushed it away, moving back into the kitchen to help Basil with a few finer tasks like making ice.

Nero took the seat next to Ana, seemingly content with the spot, and glanced in the door's direction. “The idiots are here," he spoke in a deadpan voice. No sooner had he said that, there was a knock at the door. Doc seemed happy enough to answer it, and indeed, Rheinallt, Niav, and another young woman were standing at the doorway.

“For your information, we're not idiots, Ryk," Niav stated, as if she'd known Nero had called them such. He rolled his eyes, though, as she thanked Doc. She was carrying a plate of brownies, it looked like, and from the smell alone, there had to be mints inside of it. There was another batch of brownies as well, though they didn't smell as sweet.

“Good, everyone's here!" Doc stated happily as she closed the door behind the last person inside. “Make yourselves comfortable, and feel free to take off your shoes or... er, well that's part of making yourselves comfortable, I suppose," Doc stated sheepishly. Nero huffed lightly as Niav snickered.

“It's alright, Nev. We understood what you were trying to say," Niav stated as she placed both plates down on the table.

The young woman—had to be Rheinallt's sister, from the sheer physical resemblance—meanwhile, made a slightly strangled noise high in her throat when her eyes landed on Aidan.

"Mirmir you fucking shithead," she whispered, too loudly not to be heard, though she seemed to be making an effort, tugging at her brother's arm and dragging him away from where he'd started to walk towards the seating area. "You should have told me."

"Told you what?" Rheinallt clearly knew what, from the shit-eating grin on his face, and from the way the girl's eyes flicked back to him, Aidan had a feeling he did too.

"That one of the people at this super casual tournament watch party is Aidan fucking Klein!" she hissed.

Aidan turned his face away so his amusement wouldn't be quite as obvious. From the way she was dressed, and the fact that she was definitely carrying a spiral notebook, he inferred she was a trainer and serious about it, so he wasn't annoyed the way he might have been if she were some other kind of fan.

"Ohhhh, right," Rheinallt said, smacking himself on the forehead as though he'd simply forgotten. "Hey boss, this is my sister Melly. Melly, this is my boss, but you know him as the guy whose miniatures you used to have in your—"

The poor girl immediately smacked a hand over his mouth, managing to maneuver her other to offer a shake in Aidan's direction. "Hi, sorry. Don't listen to him, he's an idiot. My name's Mel. It's an honor to meet you."

Aidan couldn't quite suppress his smile as he took her hand and gave it a shake. "Nice to meet you, too, Mel. Since your brother can't talk right now, this is Eryk Nero, Anastasia Asher, and Dr. Nevena Solomon."

Finally letting go of her brother and relaxing a bit, Mel shot a grin at the others. "Hey everyone. Thanks for letting me join. Mirmir's talked about all of you; I think we'll get along just fine."

“You collect minatures, too?" Doc stated, eyes widening slightly as she grinned at Mel. “Oh, remind me to show you the ones I still have! I used to have one of Aidan, too, but Fluffy tossed it out a window a few years ago," she stated, not missing a beat as she spoke. She turned towards Aidan with a sheepish smile, though, and cleared her throat.

Niav snickered softly as she took a seat on one of the loveseats. “So, now that everyone is here, what's the game plan?" she asked, folding her legs beneath her. She'd taken off her shoes, though, so they wouldn't be on Doc's couch.

“We're supposed to be watching the tournament," Nero stated, arching a brow in her direction. She sighed and shook her head.

“Does anyone else want drinks? I've got plenty!" Doc decided to say.

“Oh, I'll take a soda for now!" Niav stated, chuckling lightly as Basil walked a soda to Niav. “She's very well-mannered, this one," Niav stated as she rubbed Basil's head. Basil huffed lightly, but didn't seem to be offended. She merely turned her big eyes towards Aidan, tilted her head, before shuffling off to the kitchen to grab everyone else's drinks.

He nodded back at her, quite sure he understood, before making his way over to the seating area. There wasn't quite enough room for everyone with one three seater and one two-seater couch, but both Rheinallts eliminated the need for discussion by easily parking themselves on the floor. Aidan passed a cushion down to Mel, who accepted it with a word of thanks and a small grin, apparently already mostly over the awkwardness. She was like her brother in more than just looks, it seemed.

"Yeah at the moment they're still giving a recap of the season, since this is basically the Grand Championships this year," he noted. "At least for singles battling. They do another, different tournament for doubles, and word is there's going to be a big rule change next year for that, but at the moment that's as far as they divide it."

"Oh that's right," Mel reached for a paper plate, loading it up unselfconsciously with nachos and a slice of pie. "There's going to be single-trainer double battles like now but they're also gonna make team double battles a thing, right? Like with two trainers?"

He nodded. "It's probably mostly going to be a gimmick for a while—they'll pair up big names to draw lots of attention and stuff. But if it goes well it might catch on."

“Considering how popular it's become, especially among the younger couples and Ace Trainers, it could catch on pretty quickly," Doc stated, glancing at the available seats before taking a seat next to Niav. “The only draw back I see it having is whether or not they'll be able to get sponsors for it. Most sponsors only like to back one trainer, so it might be difficult to find one to back two. Of course that isn't to say they couldn't find their own sponsors, but it might... clash with whatever they're also trying to sell," Doc stated as she reached for one of the plates that had brownies on it.

“Those are semi-sweet brownies with pecans, just so you know. Ryk doesn't like sweet things," Niav stated as Doc took one.

“Oh, I take it these are sweet, then?" Doc stated as she took one from the other plate, as well. Niav nodded her head as she took some nachos for herself, and a piece of Ana's pie.

“Is that something we're going to have to learn to do, as well? Double battles in pairs?" Nero stated, furrowing his brows in Aidan's direction.

"No. Like I said it's totally separate, and single battles will always have the most prestige. You could do both if you wanted, but I think for your purposes it's probably better just to focus on one thing at a time." He arched an eyebrow subtly, reminding Nero as well as he could that the cover story was that this was something he wanted to do, so talking about it in terms of what they did or didn't have to do wasn't terribly convincing.

"I still can't believe you're finally getting into pro-battling," Mel said to Rheinallt, nudging him with his elbow. "You finally get your shit together right as I wind up my gym circuit? Are you asking to be my nemesis?"

He laughed, shaking his head. "I'm not that stupid," he said with a grin. "A good opportunity came up, is all. How often do you get the chance for free coaching from a real pro?"

"Ex-pro," Aidan corrected in a deadpan. "I'm retired."

Mel looked very much like she wanted to ask about that, which wasn't uncommon, but she was polite enough not to, for which he was grateful.

"So um... is there a chance that some of the people in this tournament could be opponents for Eryk and Kasimir later?" Ana asked, tilting her head at the screen. They were doing trainer profiles now—presently the screen showed Ernest Waters, who'd been pro since probably before some of the people in this room had been born. One of the greats, to be sure, but mostly in the business for the chance to mentor younger trainers, usually. He was a reliable top ten finisher at most any tournament, but usually didn't crack top five, which was how he liked it. Not to say he didn't give it his all—he did—but he had less fire for winning than he did for good matches, even the ones he lost.

Aidan shrugged. "If they do well enough, sure. This tournament is basically the who's who of pro-battling. You'll notice even a lot of gym leaders and elite four members aren't expected to place that well. That's a sign of how tough the competition is."

“Oh, but I hear that there's a new upstart who's kind of expected to place really well in the tournament. I believe her name was Amaris Castro. She's been knocking back challenges like they're nothing. She's got good statistics behind her, and I think she's currently sponsored by the Devon Corporation. Her blastoise is gigantic, and is basically her mascot," Doc stated, glancing in Mel's direction.

“How good is she?" Nero asked, seemingly curious. Doc seemed all too happy to oblige.

“Well, you know how Aidan just said that the competition is tough?" Doc began, waiting until Nero nodded before continuing, “they think she has a really good chance of placing second place, if not outright winning it. Like I said, she has a very good team behind her, but a lot of it comes down to strategy and how well her pokemon can take super-effective moves. It wouldn't matter much if her blastoise was strong, but was easily felled by a thunderbolt or even a solar beam."

“But if they think she's got a good chance at winning, then she's probably prepared to take type weaknesses into account, right?" Niav asked as Doc nodded.'

“Yep."

"There's all kinds of strategies available for that, of course. Some people tend to stick to one way of dealing; the really good trainers tailor their strategies for that to individual pokemon." One way to do it before battle even happened was to train a team that included a lot of dual-types, of the sort that minimized super-effective types by covering the weaknesses of one type with another. Water-grounds like quagsire were good for that, completely nullifying the electricity problem at the cost of grass becoming even more punishing.

But the two of them had the teams they had; there wasn't really enough time to make adjustments on that level, and besides he wouldn't want to ask them to. Above all, pokémon you trusted and understood were the best ones to take into battle, and so while he could teach them a few things for when they came against poor matchups, the emphasis was just going to be on making the pokémon they had as good as they could possibly be at what they did. Type matchups didn't matter quite as much if someone's pokémon were just leagues stronger. That was mostly how he'd dealt with it, back in the day.

"It sounds like an awful lot to keep track of in the heat of a moment," Ana acknowledged, dipping a chip in the guacamole as the screen shifted to show the first match beginning.

"It takes some getting used to, but it's a skill like any other," Aidan replied with a shrug.

Mel, who'd been scribbling notes as Aidan and Doc spoke, turned her attention to the screen as well, lifting a forkful of pie to her mouth at the same time.

“So what about pokémon that have unconventional moves?" Niav asked, arching a brow at Doc and Aidan. “Take, for example, Noct. Despite being a pure dark-type, he knows flamethrower. If my opponent had a grass, ice, or bug-type, wouldn't that be just as effective?" she continued, taking a bite from the nachos on her plate. Doc shook her head, though.

“Not entirely. While he may know how to use flamethrower, it wouldn't be as effective as if it were, say, Zero or Rex using flamethrower. They're both fire-types, and they have specific flame sacs that produce a stronger variant of the attack. It's like if Floof tried to use thunder wave. It could paralyze a pokémon, however; the paralysis wouldn't last as long as it would if Meep had been the one to use the attack," Doc explained. Niav nodded her head in understanding, it seemed, before turning towards the screen.

“Even if a pokémon's moves aren't conventional, knowing a different type move wouldn't be such a bad thing to have, right?" Nero asked, arching a brow.

“Nope. If a pokémon knows a different move that could, theoretically, be used to its advantage, it wouldn't hurt."

Aidan nodded. "It's one of the ways people get around super-effective opponents. If the move is super-effective in the one situation you really need it for, it's not as big a deal that it's a bit underpowered. The trouble is it's not smart to have more than one move like that on a pokémon or you risk not being able to use them to their full potential. So you've got to pick your one carefully, and while it might be surprising once, in the pro-battling world, you have to expect that everyone you face is going to know exactly what your movesets are." He shrugged. "So it can help, but on a probattling zoroark, I wouldn't recommend flamethrower. It's not solving any problem he has except maybe if he's up against a steel-type, and they tend to be so defensive you're not getting a lot out of the super-effectiveness anyway, plus a ton of them are dual-typed with things that resist fire. I guess it's useful against bugs, but... realistically that's an edge case."

"Of course, it solves the 'I need a campfire' problem pretty effectively," Mel noted, and Aidan smiled slightly.

"It does. Optimal battling movesets are just that: optimal for battling. If your pokémon do something else, mostly, like help you in daily life, or participate in contests, or whatever, you want different ones entirely."

“Yep, but you're also forgetting that, while a lot of steel-types may be dual-types, it all comes down to special attacks and special defenses. Steel-types are defensively strong, but their special defense is what lacks the most. Of course, these kinds of things aren't always obvious at first glance, so it's always a good thing to research some of your known opponents to see what they specialize in, or things of that nature," Doc added, smiling a bit as she took a bite of her brownie.

"I didn't forget shit, Doc," he replied, shaking his head faintly but smiling so she'd know he wasn't actually mad. There'd been a whole sub-lecture in there about special attack and special defense, but he didn't want to talk anyone's ear off.

“You guys really know your stuff. I mean, I wouldn't expect any less from Aidan, all things considered, but you, Nev? I know you're a professor, and all, but still... you seem really excited about this," Niav stated, arching an amused brow in Doc's direction. Doc merely nodded her head, though.

“I am. I love tournaments and the pro-battling world. It's so interesting and I get to see various ways pokémon are raised. It's not just catching them and training them. That plays a small part, but actually seeing a person come up with a strategy, and then playing it out with their pokémon? It's really entertaining."

"Yeah, listen to her," Aidan added. "She's got a good head for this stuff, and her advice is going to be just as good as mine, so might as well make note of it."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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August 30th
The Cloyster - Early Evening - Rain
Nevena Solomon


Nev knew it was silly.

She could tell from the look on Basil's face that she thought it was silly, too. She couldn't really blame Basil, considering that Nev was staring at the Fletchinder website. Fletchinder. It was a dating site. Nev didn't have any business on such a thing, but... well, she thought that maybe she ought to give it a try? She was already thirty two years old. Work and school had consumed a majority of her youth, and she didn't really have time to date.

Not that there were many suitors for her. Most people often looked at her and snickered, or made inappropriate passes at her. She didn't think very highly of her appearance; she wasn't as beautiful as Cyrilla was, and she certainly wasn't as cute as Anastasia. She was just... plain. Basil trilled at her, though, and pulled her from those thoughts. She offered the bayleef a small smile as she glanced at her phone. She had invited Kasimir over, earlier, to help her with this. He was so charismatic and confident in a way Nev didn't think she could ever be. It wasn't a bad thing, but there was just something about him.

She'd invited Cyrilla, too, since she thought the younger woman would like to help. She and Anastasia had been a big help during the Camellia Festival, after all. The doorbell sounded, though, as Basil made her way towards the door.

“Hey, Nev," Cyrilla greeted as she walked into the living area. Nev had a desk set up with her computer in the far left corner, which was where she was currently sitting.

“Cyrilla! Glad you could make it. Is Kas with you?" she asked, noticing the man's absence. Cyrilla snorted softly and folded her arms across her chest.

“You don't think I'd be sufficient help?"

“Oh, no! I just... well," Nev laughed nervously. She hadn't meant to imply that. Cyrilla snickered, though, and shook her head.

“Don't worry, he's coming. He had to stop by the apartment, first. He just got back from a run and didn't think you'd want him all sweaty in your apartment," she stated, chuckling lightly as Nev did the same.

Sure enough, Kas showed up a few minutes later, freshly showered and looking effortlessly put-together in a light pink shirt over a cornflower blue undershirt. The sleeves of the outer one were rolled to his elbows, and he slid off his sandals in the entrance, stretching up to brace his hands on her doorframe and half-swing himself inside.

"So I have to know: are we really doing you up a Fletchinder account, Sis? Because I gotta say this is an unexpected development. I didn't even know you were interested in the dating scene." He let the apartment door shut behind him and plopped down onto the two-seater, pulling his long legs up underneath him and crossing them with an arched eyebrow.

Nev puffed her cheeks a little, feeling a bit of heat rush to them. “Well... I mean I thought it might be different?" she'd phrased it as a question without meaning to.

“Different, how?" Cyrilla asked, causing Nev to laugh a little nervously.

“Well, I've never dated before and... I thought it might be a good experience," she answered, causing Cyrilla to arch an amused brow. She shook her head, though, and glanced in Kas's direction.

“Not every experience is good, but... I can see where you're coming from, I suppose," Cyrilla spoke before turning her attention back towards Nev, and tilting her head. “Alright, so, Kas, we've got our work cut out for us. Where should we start?" she stated, still keeping her eyes on Kas. There was something almost mischievous to Cyrilla's smile, though, something that seemed a little more plotting. Nev wasn't entirely sure how to take that, but turned her attention towards Kas.

Kas hadn't looked too surprised at her answer—then again, he'd probably been able to figure out the part about her not having dated. It might have been why he was under the impression that she wasn't interested. Idly, he used his thumb to crack the knuckles of his left hand, pressing down on each finger in turn until they clicked, and hummed thoughtfully. "Well," he said, shooting Cyrilla a smile Nev couldn't interpret. "I suppose where we should start depends on what Sis is really after. You've gotta give us more than 'it might be a good experience.' What do you want out of it? A one-night stand? A steady boyfriend? Girlfriend? A non-monogamous relationship? A friend with benefits?" He listed off the options rather neutrally, clearly not inclined to judge her regardless.

Nev hadn't actually thought about that. She pursed her lips as she contemplated what she was after. What Kasimir had listed hadn't sounded too bad, but she didn't think she could ever do a one-night stand, or a friend with benefits. What even was a friend with benefits? She'd have to look it up later, but for now, she had to really think about what she wanted.

“Well, I guess I'm looking for something more substantial," she finally answered. “Something that's, uh, how did you put it? Steady?" she stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes a bit.

“Nothing wrong with that," Cyrilla stated as she hummed a quiet note. “Assuming you want a steady boyfriend," she put an emphasis on the last word, causing Nev to nod her head, “The next thing would be what attracts you to a person? Their appearance, their personality?" Cyrilla continued, plopping herself down on the floor and glancing up at Nev.

“Oh, well... I've never been too inclined of a person's appearance, I suppose, but... well, I guess a nice personality?" Nev wasn't entirely sure. She'd never done this before, after all.

Kas snorted softly. "No preferences at all? Really? It's okay to have a type, or to have things that are actual turnoffs or dealbreakers, appearance-related or otherwise. The more honest you can be with yourself about that, the better, because it means you'll choose people you're actually compatible with, which means it won't be a waste of your time or theirs. A lot of the game is..." he paused, tilting his hand back and forth in a so-so motion. "A lot of it is guesswork, so the more clues you can give yourself about whether someone will or won't work, the better. It's not mean, if you're worried about that—if you know what your preferences and requirements are, then you can be up front about them and no one will feel strung along, and that's actually kinder."

He gestured more broadly. "So lay it on us, Sis. No judgement. Anything you like more than neutral? Anything you can't stand?"

“I don't know, honestly," she murmured softly. It wasn't that she didn't have any preferences; she just didn't know what they were.

“Alright, let's start with the basics, then," Cyrilla spoke, folding her legs beneath her and leaning forward. “Have you ever liked anyone before?" she asked, causing Nev to nod. There had been a few people she'd crushed on, but nothing ever came of it. She was much too shy to ever say anything about it, and they didn't seem interested in her that way.

“Alright, then tell us what you liked about them."

“Well, they were basically my friend," Nevena began, pursing her lips together as she tried to recall the people she'd ever crushed on. “And they always had the prettiest shade of red hair," she added. Now that she thought about it, almost all of her crushes had red hair of sorts. Cyrilla grinned broadly, though, as she arched a brow.

“So you have a thing for redheads. That's a start," she stated, glancing in Kas's direction and snorting softly.

He huffed a soft laugh and shook his head faintly. "I guess that's a start. It also sounds like you prefer people you can develop strong friendships with. So forget about the dating element for a second: what, to you, makes a good friend?"

“Well, I suppose that one's a little easier. Someone who makes me feel at ease, like I don't have to pretend or be something I'm not. It just feels much more relaxed, and... I don't feel so afraid to show my more refined quirks," she stated, rubbing the back of her neck, nervously. “It's also appreciated when someone can at least be honest with me if I'm being too weird or annoying," she added. A little honesty never hurt anyone, even if it did sting her a little. She tried her best to not be annoying to anyone or overbearing.

“So honesty and acceptance," Cyrilla summarized. Nev nodded her head, as Cyrilla seemed to chew the bottom of her lip in thought. “Nowadays those kind of traits are rare to find," she began, speaking softly for a moment before shaking her head. “But you basically want to build a friendship with someone, right?"

“I do. I know a lot of people aren't necessarily looking for something like that, especially those a bit... younger," she winced slightly at her own choice of words, however; Cyrilla barked a short laugh.

“You'd be surprised, actually, how many of the younger people seek that kind of thing, out," she stated, shaking her head softly. “They're just not so inclined to admit it."

“Do you look for something like that?" Nev asked, genuinely curious. The question seemed to catch Cyrilla off guard, though, as she blinked in surprise.

“Me? No... I," she paused as if she were unsure how to answer that. “It's not something I've thought about, really," she stated, but the way she said it sounded a little strange, to Nev. It was almost as if she were lying, but Nev couldn't be too sure. She wasn't good at reading people or the different tones to their voice.

“What about you, Kas?"

He was regarding Cyrilla a little curiously, it seemed, but when Nev turned the question on him, he shrugged in what seemed to be a careless way. "I'm one of those irresponsible young people," he said, pointing to himself with a flourish. "Mostly I look for stuff with no strings. But I don't use Fletchinder for that; usually I just got to bars or clubs and pull there. It's easier to get a sense of someone face to face, and if it's not working it's not like either of us has to sit through a whole date just to be polite. Plus it's painless that way when the boss sticks me on a mission that involves that kind of thing. A steady monogamous girlfriend or boyfriend would just get mad if I had to woo someone for information, you know?"

He pulled his phone from his pocket, glancing down at the screen to unlock it. "But you're interested in something completely different from me, so your strategy is going to be almost the opposite. I turn on the charm and cast a wide net. You are going to be yourself and be as honest and forthright as possible. You'll catch some assholes—that's just the way these things work. But like tends to attract like, so you might get lucky and strike on some good, honest people too. Now say cheese." He grinned at her, and the camera on his phone flashed in her direction.

Kas looked back down at the screen a moment later and burst into laughter, passing it over to Cyrilla. "You think we use that?"

Cyrilla snorted as she tried to contain a laugh. “Oh, definitely. It's too good to not use," she replied, glancing in Nev's direction. Nev was vaguely confused, and not so sure Kas was right about catching people. She wasn't the type to do that, she didn't think. “You're very photogenic, you know that?" Cyrilla stated as she glanced back at the picture on Kasimir's phone.

“Thank you?" she stated, supposing Cyrilla meant it as a compliment. At least that's what it sounded like.

“You're very welcome. Now, come on, tell us a little more. What are your likes, hobbies, dislikes, preferences," she stated, listing off a few things. “Nev, you and Kas switch spots; he needs to do your profile for you," she stated, motioning for Nev to take a seat next to her on the floor. Basil trilled lightly as if to object before shaking her head.

She did, however, take a seat next to Cyrilla, leaving the chair open for Kas to take a seat. “Well, I guess my hobbies are mostly work related," Nev stated. “Oh, but I do play video games with Aidan. Does that count as a hobby?"

This prompted Kas to exchange another look with Cyrilla, laden with some meaning Nev didn't quite understand, but he shrugged, settling into the chair and situating himself in front of her laptop. "Well it's a hobby, but you probably don't want to make direct mention of another guy when you're talking about it. That'd come off weird on a date."

He navigated to the webpage for Fletchinder, setting his phone down for the moment and opening a blank profile from the looks of it. "Okay," he said, starting to check boxes and fill in text fields. "You're a woman seeking a man for a long term relationship, monogamous. Oh—education and job. This is the section where you get to show off. Normally, I'd recommend you don't because some men are stupid and easily scared away by women who are smarter than them, but since you're not just looking to get laid you're gonna want to be pretty open about that..." He filled in a few more fields.

Apparently he remembered where she'd gotten all of her degrees and when, which was fairly impressive, as she'd only ever told him that once.

She wasn't entirely sure why, but she did feel a little bad about not mentioning Aidan. “Even if he's just a friend?" she asked cautiously. She trusted Kas and Cyrilla to know what they were doing, and the look Cyrilla gave her made it obvious it was a silly question, but Cyrilla merely shook her head.

“Especially that. You see... like Kas said, some men are stupid, and get jealous very easily when there are other men in your life. Even if Aidan's just a friend, if you were to find a possible someone to be in a long-term relationship with, he might feel threatened by your friendship. As sad as it is, that's just the ugly truth when it comes to having male friends when you're a woman. Of course, you'll find some men who say they don't necessarily care, but there will always be a hint of jealous in the back of their minds."

Nev supposed Cyrilla had a point about that, but Nev couldn't really fathom that. Why would they get jealous about male friends? Why would it matter if they were dating? It shouldn't matter.

“But it does matter, Nev," Cyrilla spoke as if reading Nev's mind. “It's easy to see where your thoughts are going when you wear them so openly on your face."

"Honestly she's right though," Kas said, pausing in his typing and shaking his head. "They shouldn't care, and the good ones won't. But bringing up that your main hobby outside of work is tied to one specific friend could be misleading in the sense that some people are going to interpret that as a possible situation where you have feelings for the friend that you're not acting on for some reason. No one likes to feel like a backup plan. It can be kind of a delicate balance, but you want to be clear in communicating so you don't give that impression."

He switched fields and continued typing. "If you are clear that your male friends are just friends and some guy has a problem anyway, then he's an asshole and you should get out of there ASAP. Especially if he tries to guilt you into hanging out with them less. That's controlling behavior, and it's a sign of abuse. Don't ever put up with it Sis, you got me?" He regarded her seriously, unusually so for Kas, a certain brightness to the gold of his eyes.

“Of course, Kas," she replied. That was a little strange, even for Kasimir. Cyrilla regarded her with a somewhat serious stare as well.

“If you ever feel uncomfortable, Nev, you let them know that. If they don't stop, then you need to leave. Don't let anyone pressure you into something you don't want; if they get forceful," she paused, pulling out her cell-phone from her back pocket, “you call me, or you call Kasimir or Ryk." Nev nodded her head. It was the only thing she could do.

Was dating that dangerous?

“Alright. Thank you, really, the both of you for helping me with this. I didn't think it would be so... harsh."

“It's not that it's harsh. People are just... well, they're stupid for a lack of better words. But I promise that, once you find yourself someone you can enjoy yourself with, it... it'll be worth it," Cyrilla stated, smiling just softly enough that it looked a little misplaced on her face.

"And try not to worry too much. We're reading you the riot act because you haven't done this before, but most bad dates aren't that kind of bad. Just boring or whatever." He grinned a little. "Some of them are going to be bad, though. That's just how this works." He did something with his phone and her computer that transferred the photo he'd taken earlier to the right spot on the page.

"Okay. Now I've filled out all your basic fields and put your picture up. This last box here is for you to say anything you want. Some people go all out with these, but personally I think it's better to leave a little mystery—give enough to hint at conversation topics, but hold enough back that they won't know your answers just from reading your bio. You want people to want to get to know you."

He shifted out of the seat, gesturing for her to resume it. "Oh," he added, seemingly just thinking of something. "I'm not sure what your supervision arrangement is like on this. Should you be telling boss you're doing it?"

For some reason, that question caused Cyrilla to snicker a little. “I probably should?" Nev stated. She wasn't sure, actually. Did Aidan need to know? Did it matter since this was a personal thing, and not at all work related?

“You should at least give him a heads up so that he knows. It'd be the nice thing to do, but he is also your superior," Cyrilla stated with a light shrug of her shoulders, glancing in Kas's direction with an amused brow.

“I guess you're right. I think he's in, should I go tell him now?" Nev asked.

Kas huffed. "Sure. The bio can wait till you get back I guess. We can help with it if you want." He shrugged, and shot a look at Cyrilla with narrowed eyes. Honestly those two seemed to be communicating telepathically half the time.

Were they telepathic? They certainly seemed to be with the way they always seemed so synchronized. Maybe it was just Nev seeing things?

“Oh, uh, I couldn't possibly ask you to do that! You're already doing so much for me," Nev stated once she realized what Kasimir said. Cyrilla huffed lightly, though, and shook her head.

“It's not a problem at all, Nev. Now go tell Aidan about your dating profile and we'll finish it up for you, alright?" Cyrilla stated, all but shooing Nev out. With a light chuckle, Nev stood from her spot on the floor and pursed her lips together.

“Thanks again," she stated, watching as Cyrilla nodded and stood from her spot. She leaned over the chair Kas was sitting in as if to look at what had been typed so far as Nev left her apartment. It was a good thing Aidan lived next door, she supposed. She hovered by his door for a moment, lifting her hand but not quite connecting it to the door.

“Oh, come on, Nev, it's just... you're just telling him about a profile and nothing more," she stated to herself, finally knocking on Aidan's door. But why did she feel so nervous about it?

It opened a few moments later; Aidan blinked slightly down at her and tilted his head. "Hey Doc," he said mildly, the corner of his mouth tilting up just a fraction. It disappeared a moment later, though, as he seemed to take in the expression on her face. "Why don't you come in?" he offered, stepping back away from the door so she could. "You want a drink or something?"

“Oh, no thank you, I'm fine," she stated, smiling and relaxing a bit. She did, however, step into his apartment without missing a beat. It was pretty routine, by now, that they were often in one or the other's place. Most of the time she spent it at Aidan's because of the video game. They weren't close to finishing it, yet, but Nev suspected that it would only take them a couple of more weeks before they were close.

“I won't take up too much of your time, though," she stated, remembering why she'd come here in the first place. “I just... well, I, um," she stuttered a bit, furrowing her brows at herself. She took a deep breath before shaking her head.

“Kas and Cyrilla are making a fletchinder account for me and... well, I just... thought you should know?" Arceus why was this much more awkward than it should have been?

Aidan, who'd been headed for the living room, paused as the words rushed out, turning back to her with the closest thing to confusion she'd ever seen on his face: brows furrowed, mouth pulled slightly to one side as though he'd tasted something unexpected. He lifted a hand to his hair and scratched the back of his head. "Fletchinder? Like the... the dating app or whatever?" This didn't seem to clarify much for him, but anything else he might have said was interrupted by an odd thump sound. It seemed to have come from the hallway; he rolled his eyes at the door for a moment before turning back to her.

"If this is about the supervision thing, you don't have to tell me stuff like that, Doc. Your personal life is yours, as long as it doesn't mess with work. Honestly, you can let it mess with work if you want to, even—it's not like I won't cut you any slack, you know?" He huffed softly and smiled at her, just a little.

"If you wanted my opinion as your friend, though... good luck out there. You ever need an excuse to get out of a date quick, send me a text that's just a punctuation mark. I'll call and act like you've gotta go in for a thing."

Nev pursed her lips together and furrowed her brow. “You know, from the way you, Cyrilla, and Kasimir put it, I'm not so sure this is a good idea," she murmured. She huffed lightly to herself, though and rolled her eyes. She did say she wanted to give it a try, though. Something new. “But thanks for the support! I'll make sure if anything like that happens, I'll text you, Cyrilla, Kasimir, or Eryk. Because apparently I have choices," she stated, smiling just a bit.

“Well... since I'm already here, do you want to see how much further we can get in the game?" She had said she wasn't going to take up much of his time, but... well, she was here already, right? And they were making decent progress.

He expelled something like a soft ha at the question, then turned towards the door momentarily. "You heard that, right?" he said, raising his voice a little. "Go home for the night, you two."

There wasn't any response that she could hear, but Aidan seemed satisfied. "Sure thing, Doc. Let's see if we can't get past the water labyrinth this time."

Nev groaned. “I forgot we were at that level." Still... it was shaping up to be a pretty good night.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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September 1st
Field Office 9 - Late Morning - Drizzle
Cyrilla Niav


Cyrilla hummed softly to herself as she typed away at her computer. She could hear Zephyr purring slightly underneath her desk, probably curled in the bed Cyrilla bought for her the other day. Siri was hanging off the back of her chair for some strange reason, and Noctis seemed preoccupied with the orchid plant on the edge of Cyrilla's desk. Diva seemed content laying on the small two-seater sofa in the office, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“You're a jerk, you know that?" Cyrilla stated as Diva snorted at her. “You could at least make some room on the couch for Siri. You know she likes to cuddle with you," she continued, watching as Diva lifted her head and glared. “Fine, fine. Have it your way, jerk." Chuckling softly, Cyrilla powered down her computer, shutting it off before a knock at her door caught her attention. She spotted Eryk in her door, lips pursed in a relaxed line as he glanced at the pokémon around the room.

“Meeting, and then lunch," he stated in his usual tone. “It won't be too long, I don't think. Aidan says he has something to tell us about the upcoming qualifying tournament," he added. Cyrilla blinked before nodding.

“Alright, give me a second," she stated, as she recalled her pokémon. Siri refused to go into her ball, though, causing Cyrilla to shake her head, and scooped the noibat up. “Fine, but you better be on your best behaviour. And no using Aidan as a roosting spot, alright?" she stated, earning a happy chirp from Siri.

They made their way towards the conference room where Cyrilla was certain Aidan and Kasimir would be. “Here," Eryk stated once they'd entered the room. He and Cyrilla took a seat as she cradled Siri in her arms, resting her head on top of the noibat's.

The other two were indeed already present—Kas had some middle-aged guy's picture up on the projection screen. Aidan was writing something in a file, but looked up to nod slightly at them as they entered. "Good, you're here." Closing the file, he glanced at Kas and nodded slightly.

"Right," Kas said, shrugging and gesturing up at the man on the screen. He was wearing an expensive suit—not quite a top of the line brand, but not far off, either, with a blue silk tie and a bowler had. "This guy is Antonio Geiger. He's a pretty middle-of-the-road promoter in the pro-battling scene. He specializes in scouting new talent and matching them with sponsors, which if he does successfully nets him an 'introduction fee' paid by the sponsor."

Aidan nodded. "It's legal, but some people think it's kind of shady. What's not legal is taking fees from trainers to be promoted, but some of them do it anyway. We're pretty sure Geiger doesn't though, which is good, since I've just confirmed that he's going to be at the Cinnabar Island Preseason Tournament at the end of the month."

Eryk furrowed his brows lightly, and pushed a soft sigh through his nose. Cyrilla arched a brow at that, though. She already knew where this was going; Eryk and Kasimir had to find a way to be scouted by that particular promoter. She glanced at Eryk and watched as the expressions passed over his face. Well, the ones she could tell were there, anyway. He didn't seem too pleased, but that was just how he was.

“That means we have to catch his eye if we want to be promoted?" Ryk asked arching a brow at Aidan.

“With the progress you and Kas have made so far, I don't think it should be too hard, Ryk," Cyrilla stated. He might not have had the chance to go on a journey to be a trainer, but he was undoubtedly good at it. Kasimir was a good trainer, too, from what little she was able to see of their matches against Aidan. She'd been too busy reading all the material Aidan had given her, and then some from the library.

"That's the basic idea," Aidan replied with a shrug. "Of course, doing well in the preseason tournament will take care of most of it, but the rest is going to be Cyrilla's job as your agent. You're going to want to shmooze this guy, talk up your clients, see if he's willing to grease some wheels for you."

Kas snorted softly. "Make him think we're worth the effort to talk up to sponsors in turn, huh?"

"Pretty much."

“Think you can handle that?" Eryk stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes. She could hear the concern in his voice, but he didn't have to worry about it.

“Did you forget that it's my specialty, Ryk?" she countered, raising a brow in his direction. Siri chirped as if agreeing with her, causing Cyrilla to chuckle a bit. “The real question here, Ryk, is are you prepared? I might be talking the both of you up, but you also have to do your part, too. Kas, I'm not so worried about. The guy is as charming as a skitty, but you?" she began, shaking her head a bit.

“You need a different kind of charm. It's not that I don't think you could do it, but different things work for people. Kas has his charm, and his charisma. You... need to find something that works for you." Eryk pursed his lips together, but shrugged. At least he wasn't going to protest. Cyrilla inwardly felt relieved.

“Whatever helps us out," he finally stated, causing Cyrilla to smile a little.

Aidan snorted. "I mean let me put it this way: there's a fair number of curmudgeons in pro-battling. They let me in, after all." He glanced back towards Kas. "You got the tournament details?"

Kas nodded, switching the screen to what appeared to be a list of names and an as-yet incomplete bracket view. "Okay so it's a preseason event, which means none of the big names are going to be out for points yet. But the nice thing about it is the top four finishers all qualify into one regular-season tournament of their choice, so if we can manage that, then even if the promoter thing fails we can buy ourselves another chance."

He hummed. "As far as competition goes, it's hard to say how it's shaping up. Most of these people are locals and unknowns; I'm still running checks on some of them so I don't have all the information yet. Plus there's still a week before registration closes. Tournament's capped at three hundred, but I don't think it's going to have any trouble reaching that number, so it'll probably run a whole weekend. I've put in our registrations already—as you can see."

The names Nero, Eryk and Rheinallt, Kasimir were indeed included in the list, sorted alphabetically with the rest. Right below Kas was Rheinallt, Melody, too.

Cyrilla grinned a little as she rested her head on Siri's and turned so that she was facing Eryk. “Looks like you'll have some good competition, Ryk," she stated, earning a soft snort from Ryk. “What, you don't think so?" she asked, highly amused by the way his brow arched slightly. It almost looked smug, and that had surprised Cyrilla a bit, if she were being honest.

When was the last time he'd been so expressive?

“I wasn't saying that, exactly," he stated, reaching over to scratch behind Siri's ear. Cyrilla huffed lightly as she turned towards Kasimir.

“You hear that, Kas? Ryk thinks he's going to kick your ass," she huffed lightly before shaking her head. Aidan said that the four finishers would still be able to land another chance at getting a promoter if they couldn't get one this round. Cyrilla, of course, was going to take her job very seriously, even if it was mostly just for cover.

"I'm offended," Kas replied, holding a hand to his heart, though the glimmer of amusement in his eyes easily gave him away. He seemed to find Ryk's unusual range of expression to be as interesting as she did, though, even as his playful grin faded to more of a smirk.

“The qualifying tournament is at the end of the month, right? Is there anything else we need to prepare for? Other than what we've already gone over?" she asked. It wouldn't hurt to be as prepared as possible. The more she had, the more she could work with. Of course, that didn't mean she couldn't work with less.

"Not really," Aidan replied. "Try not to totally ooze confidence if you're speaking to a possible connection to the endgame here," he advised Ryk and Kas. "And with your stuff, Cyrilla, focus for now on talking them up, but later down the line don't be afraid to drop a couple hints that they're feeling the pressure. We're trying to draw out the sharpedos here—we're gonna have to act like there's some blood in the water, but not too much or they'll sense a trap."

"Oh good. We're chum now. This'll be fun," Kas joked.

Cyrilla snickered softly as Eryk rolled his eyes. “Not too late to back out, you know," Cyrilla joked. This was their mission; they couldn't just back out. To her surprise, though, Eryk narrowed his eyes in her direction, lips pursing into a fine line.

“Not a chance," he spoke, something fierce flashing in his eyes. Cyrilla hadn't seen that in such a long time. The last time she'd seen anything like that was when he...

“Good," she stated, hiding her smile behind Siri's large ears. “How about we go get lunch, now?" she stated, picking her head back up and glancing at the others. “Unless there's something else that needs to be done."

"Sounds good to me," Aidan said, stretching his arms over his head. "I'll head up to the lab and grab Doc."

“We'll meet you guys in the foyer!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


September 4th
Jo's Restaurant - Noon - Sunny
Aidan Klein


It was, at this point, something of a common practice. Roughly two or three times a week, Aidan would drag Doc away from her research at lunchtime to have a meal with the three beasts. Sometimes this was in the cafeteria setup, but most of the time they went out. He surmised that they took care of themselves some other way on the alternate days; he typically brought stuff from home and kept it in the small fridge in his office for the days when the research was too delicate or someone else had too much to do to leave.

In any case, he'd made a point of getting them all out today. There was a problem of sorts brewing, and he wanted to keep everyone apprised of it, just in case.

Probably the thing Aidan liked least about NTR's office culture was how cutthroat and competitive it was, to the point of, frankly, stupidity sometimes. So far this field office hadn't been too bad about it, probably because the hierarchy was pretty obvious and the executives weren't actually trying to undermine each other, which was refreshing to see. He'd been sort of worried he'd be staring down new versions of Katia and fuckin' Dodds here, but it had turned out to be nearly the opposite.

Still, things had a way of seeping up from the ground sometimes.

Once everyone was settled and had ordered their food, Aidan took a long draw from his soda and expelled a heavy breath. "Someone slashed Hayley's tires this morning," he said bluntly. "Or last night, possibly. Either way I'm pretty sure it was one of ours."

“I know, she told me about it earlier," Niav muttered as she furrowed her brows. Nero looked as displeased as Niav did, though Doc's eyes widened slightly.

“Oh, that's so horrible! Is she okay?" Doc stated, glancing between the others. Nero sighed heavily, but nodded his head. “Why would someone do that to Hayley, though? She's so nice and sweet," Doc asked, furrowing her brows.

“You haven't really experienced the work force here, have you?" Niav asked, taking a drink of the soda in front of her. “Sweet or not, some of the grunts don't always get along, and others will hate on each other for no apparent reason."

“I offered to have her tires replaced, though, since it was done on company property," Nero stated, though from the furrow of his brows, it seemed that Hayley had refused.

“They won't replace her tires for her? Since it was done on company property?" Doc asked.

“No, because they can't really prove someone from the company did it. Even if they could, it's not like the company has insurance policies for things like that."

"Oh I know who did it," Aidan replied simply. It hadn't taken long at all to figure out the who, and even less time after that to deduce the why. "I'm garnishing his wages to pay for replacements, so don't worry about that." He shook his head. He might not have the kind of 'proof' that would be recognized in a court of law, but this was a private matter, and Gregorovich had long given him dispensation to deal with such things however he saw fit.

"The problem is, the root cause of the incident was envy. She's perceived as getting in too close with the higher-ups, and using that as leverage for better opportunities, including the raise she just got after the annual review."

"How'd that get out?" Rheinallt said, brows furrowing. "Payroll data is behind several layers of security and she's not the type to brag about that shit."

"Guy who did it's from the finance department," Aidan replied. They could probably figure out who it was if they really wanted to, but all of them knew by now that retaliating, directly or otherwise, would only 'prove' the point and fuel the persecution complex of the group who felt like they were on the outs. "Some of the employees are apparently pretty sure she got that raise because she's sleeping with you, Niav." He raised an eyebrow in her direction.

The statement caused Niav to sputter into her drink, and she reached for a napkin to clean the small mess. “Oh my Arceus, are you kidding me? Hayley's an attractive woman, but she's not my type at all. She's really sweet, though, as a friend," Niav stated, furrowing her brows slightly. “And that's besides the point that she has the biggest crush on Luke. I'd never do that to someone," she added. Nero narrowed his eyes slightly in Niav's direction, though. It looked like he wanted to say something, but refrained.

“If he has a problem with me, he could have just came to me directly and said it to my face. And besides, the only person I've slept with was Lorraine. Why didn't they target her?" Niav seemed to admit, causing Doc to mimic Niav's earlier actions, and seemed to choke on her drink.

“Really, Cy? Lorraine? I thought she disliked you?" Nero stated as Niav shrugged her shoulders.

“One thing led to another and shit happened, Ryk."

Despite the gravity of the situation, Rheinallt laughed softly, more at the byplay than the predicament. "C'mon, Cy," he said, rolling his eyes, "you know bullshit like this isn't about the truth. It's about perception, and you do flirt with Hayley sometimes. Some people are stupid and can't tell the difference."

“Well, you're right on that point, Kas."

Aidan sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "You know we have rules against fraternization for a reason, right?" He regarded them all with a flat stare. "Now I have to ask you all if there's been anyone else, because there's paperwork I have to file for this shit." HR technically should do it, but no way he was allowing Tanya access to that kind of information—the entire office would know within the day.

"Uh... all of us?" Rheinallt asked.

Aidan narrowed his eyes at him.

He sighed. "Okay fine. Niko, but only once, and only because we ran into each other elsewhere. I usually make sure to keep business and pleasure separate."

“Same, Lorraine's the only one and usually business and pleasure are kept separate. I mean, I think I've done a pretty good job; I haven't slept with Kas, at least," Niav stated, snorting softly as Nero rolled his eyes.

"What, is that challenging or something?" Rheinallt sounded all too pleased with himself, but his tone was jocular rather than serious.

“No one," Nero answered, casually drinking his lemonade. Doc looked rather uncomfortable by the conversation, and her face was almost completely red.

“I mean... you would know, because you're my supervisor and all," she muttered quickly, and softly before turning her attention elsewhere. She'd, somehow, thought the question had included her. He did say all of them.

"Yeah, Doc, I know." Theoretically she could be meeting someone from the office outside of work, but he knew she wasn't. Most of her nights were spent at his place, and involved nothing more scandalous than her sheer ineptitude at complex RPGs.

Still, at least he knew what paperwork he had to file. "I guess you've really stirred some imaginations, though," he noted, glancing back and forth between Rheinallt and Niav, "because the rumor mill is pretty ridiculous. Honestly I wanted to have this conversation here because I think it benefits us all to know what's being said so we can work on dispelling it. So if you've heard anything, add it to the pile."

Niav snorted softly and shook her head. Doc looked to be keeping her focus on her glass, not bothering to glance up at the others at the table. “The most recent one I've heard about myself is that I like being in large groups with a preference towards the women," Niav answered in a nonchalant fashion, not at all concerned, it seemed, about the rumor.

“Oh, and then there's supposedly the one where I use my own office as an orgy club..." Doc snorted almost incredulously as her eyes widened a bit.

“Not that it's true. Trust me, if I used my office for that, Ryk would have jumped off the building a long time ago."

“I would have."

"Also, I would have been so offended that you didn't invite me."

Aidan rolled his eyes.

"Oh, I heard a funny one last week. Apparently Ryk has a thing for knives and likes threatening people with them. It supposedly happened to a secretary who wasn't fast enough getting him some paperwork. Mostly it's dumb stuff, you know—so-and-so's really scary, what's-his-face is a tremendous slut, and so on. People making things up to be heard."

“I heard an interesting one about Solomon," Nero stated, turning his attention towards Doc. “Supposedly she's sleeping with you," he began, turning his gaze towards Aidan, “and you." He glanced at Kas, next. Doc made a strange noise that sounded like a strangled squeak as she slumped into her chair. Niav barked a short laugh as she shook her head.

“You're forgetting the one where she's also a part-time stripper because apparently someone thought they saw her at that strip club. What was it called, Audino?" Niav added, glancing in Rheinallt's direction.

“I've never even been there!" Doc stated suddenly, almost dropping her cup. Niav snickered, though.

“That's why they're called rumors. They're not always true, Nev."

"Mostly bullshit, actually," Aidan grumbled, dragging a hand down his face. He had a feeling he might know where a few of the ones about doc had come from—he'd have to see what he could do about that at least.

"Apart from the one, the mill apparently just thinks we're really thirsty all the time," Rheinallt said, rolling his eyes. "I mean, arceus, two of us have a healthy libido and suddenly we're all sleeping with everyone in the office at the same time or something. Bullshit hardly begins to cover it."

Aidan shrugged. "If that's all it is, we're not doing too badly. You two pump the brakes on flirting with people at the office please. Everything else'll either go away on its own or get boring enough that they only use it when there's nothing else to talk about."

“Guess that means we'll have to save all the flirting for when we're at home, Kas," Niav stated, snickering softly and rolling her eyes. “But sure thing, boss-man. No more flirting at the office," she continued, grinning lightly as she pat Doc's back. Doc seemed to still be choking on her drink before she furrowed her brows and shook her head.

“It'd be preferable if you'd just stop flirting with people and sleeping with them, but I'm not going to stop you. Just don't do it at the office, like Aidan says," Nero stated in a nonchalant fashion and shrugged his shoulders.

“Yeah, yeah, I heard Aidan the first time, Ryk."