Streets of Veilstone, Early evening
The dim orange pools made by the streetlights glowed lazily along the city, bathing it in a fuzzy, muted halo of light. Lumbering along with her bag of coins, she hugged the edge of the pools of light as much as possible, without walking either in the middle of the street nor in the spotlight of the lamps, where she would be most visible. She marched on, pounding out the anger and fear beneath her feet without any purpose or direction.
"What am I doing?"
She finally came to a stop, somewhere at the edge of the barren Veilstone square, a large expanse of flat, empty stone road that was remarkably squared. She stood awkwardly rigid at the edge of the square, a small teen girl clutching the strap of an over-sized and over-stuffed bag, but with no one to comment or stare. Callisto stopped and stared at a small puddle of water that had collected between the stones of the road, watching the deepening lazuli blue of the sky reflected back as a tar black. She hated Sinnoh, hated it with a passion that reverberated down through her bones. It was cold, it was dark all the time, it was 50% rocky and barren and icy and the other 50% inaccessible or developed and that inexplicable extra percentile that made even the beautiful flower-covered towns and muffled, peaceful woods as dark and menacing as...
She winced at the memory. The small pool splattered and rippled at her kick. How could she have known? He seemed so kind, so understanding of the betrayal of who she thought had been a guardian angel. She tried searching that memory, any memory of Julien that could have hinted....but there was nothing. He was a frail figure, willowy and fragile like a reed that could be snapped by a stiff breeze. His face was calm and timid with a faint, tranquil smile, yet he could project an air of quiet, placid confidence no matter how many oglers stopped to stare at his odd attire and his hair. They were no doubt trying frantically to guess his age. 18? 30? 100? It was impossible to tell for sure. Even she hadn't dared to make an estimate. If he had dressed casually, or at least a little more normally, he would look too much like one of those thin, undernourished high school boys to catch an eye. After all, what young man wore a formal suit out on public streets, and with light grey hair no less?
Callisto frowned. She could never quiet get used to that silver hair. It seemed to move independently of him. Of course, she reasoned, his hair was so frail it simply caught every gust of wind, but now she wasn't so sure. She wanted to hate it too, his hair and his eyes, the constant reminders of his oddities, their oddities. The wide, deep eyes which he took great care not to let land on her's were neither compassionate nor cruel, but permanently melancholic, reflecting an unimaginable sorrow. How she wished she could bring herself to despise them. Her need to keep her mind occupied got her feet moving as she walked off towards the fuzzy glow of the city.
Though Hoenn was the only home she had ever known, even if a false one, she had thought getting him away from Mt. Pyre would be the best way to keep him tame. *The other side of the world, what could be safer? *She had no idea that Julien had a past here, a terrible one. *She had been completely ignorant of Sinnoh's geography, of its history, of Julien's odd affinity for it mixed with a strange aversion at the same time. Her first memory of the Sinnoh Mountain range, and of course, Mt. Coronet, the most imposing mountain peak in the world, was all too clear. It was cheerily nicknamed "The Death Mountains" by the locals, for the frequent ghost sightings within the caves and the giant dark swirling vortex around Mt. Coronet's peak that led to the Reverse World. She remembered how Julien stood at the entrance of Mt. Coronet, entranced, staring at the cloud, staring deep into the mountain. She remembered*how the mountain seemed to howl...
A piercing white light filled her vision. “Oh not again.”
There was nothing in the whiteness, nothing at all but a resonating GONG, GONG, GONG, GONG, GONG, GONG,...tink...BRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNGG!!!!.....L ight clouded her vision for an instant. Panting heavily, it ebbed until the overly-bright lights of the city returned. Her ears still rang from the noise. “What on earth was that?”
Holding her head in a daze, she blinked several times before the sign on the building before her came into clear view. “The bank! Oh no, oh no oh no oh no!”
She snapped into focus, glancing down at her stuffed bag of coins and back at the darkened glass doors. Closed for the night, come back tomorrow.
Cursing her luck and her dis tractability once more she trudged back to the hotel with her cumbersome spoils in tow. Luckily, they had managed to book a suite without too much trouble from the receptionist. His, well, everything, had attracted attention as usual, but once they learned of his considerable financial status no comments were made. After all, it doesn't do well to comment on a billionaire’s eccentricities. Julien had a few qualms with the room choice, but she was content with the second-best suite. True, one would expect a morph to be content with any living conditions other than a barred pen, but Callisto had never known the life of a morph, nor ever seen the inside of her lab, having lost her memory long afterwards. Julien had remembered, if only faintly, his life before escaping, but he had been kept separately from the other morphs and had had special privileges and a comfortable, even pampered, life. Alone in the elevator to the suite, Callisto couldn't help but flush red at the thought of what the receptionist had commented about the two of them. She shook it off. “Stupid receptionist, stupid Julien, stupid everything, stupid me.”
Veilstone outskirts, Early evening
The intense blast of grey flames glanced off the blade of his scythe, forcing him to recoil back into deeper shadows. He had been stupid, thinking he had fully melded into the shadows when he was still in corporal form. Fear always made him forget, drop his guard. It lured him like bait, to his own demise if he failed to see the line attached. Julien gripped the wooden staff. What was once a sleek, black walking cane with a sliver topper was now a gnarled wooden staff, taller than himself, with a metre-long crescent blade honed to a deadly sharp edge along the inner curve. The furred girl was now trying to fight, but could barely conjure enough flames to leave her mouth. The two newcomers, a boy and his shiny flareon, dazed him for a second, and he nearly forgot to avert his gaze from the flareon's eye as she tried to combat him with a stare-down.
Julien's lips twitched with unbidden amusement. “He calls me Death,”
he thought, letting the ghost of a peaceful smile spread before snuffing it out. Now was not the time for smiling. Still, the thought lingered. “He calls me by my Master's name.”
It filled him with a strange feeling. Was it amusement?
“[D-damn it... Not now...I don't wanna die... I don't wanna die!]"
The girl, he assumed it was a morph, but he wasn't certain, was now trying to scream for her life. This time he could not hide his amusement and let out a timid, almost girlish giggle. Remembering his manners, but forgetting Callisto had his hat, he whipped off an invisible hat and fell to a knee in a sweeping bow.
“[Mes'moiselles, m'sieur, please, forgive me, I do not mean to cause anyone any harm.]”
Julien spoke in poketongue and kept his voice to a near-whisper, as it usually was, his eyes firmly set on the ground at his feet. He wanted to explain, to reassure them that he was only doing his duty, but no human, even altered, would understand. The ghosts do. They were the only ones. So often, pretending to 'fill his quota', as he had lied to Callisto, he would go to the Lost Tower, lured back by a sense of companionship amongst them, but pushed away time and time again by the odd distance between even him and the dead.
Daring to look up, even if only for a second, he watched the boy, his pokemon, and the girl, making sure to avoid their gazes. He watched their souls ignite their bodies with an invisible flame, their hearts pumping blood through their veins. He couldn't be certain if his heart was even capable of beating, or was the pounding of blood through his veins just another obscure illusion. One more futile, cruel taste of an intangible human existence. “A breath away from life, but never living,”
he remembered, from a quote he heard long ago, “A heartbeat away from death, but never dying.” “[I'm sorry if I have caused you alarm,]”
he said under his breath, holding out his palm, “[Please, I, I wish to help, please.]”
Johto Medical Research Centre, Late afternoon
Professor Aspen watched on the screens as the news report was played and re-run on every news network in the country, translated into five different languages, none the less. If only Masters Lucian and Allison hadn't died. No, not died, killed. Murdered. He crunched the styrofoam cup in his hand, still full of coffee, and let it fall to the tiles in a messy brown splatter. Morphs had been leaked out of the labs in tiny dribs and drabs ever since the beginning, over a century ago. Still, there were no more than two in the wild at any given time, not enough to cause such a security disaster as the situation since the Dubois' deaths. “If it weren't for...”
“Professor Aspen, there's been a hit!”
Aspen whirled around in his chair, shutting off the screens. He stared at the scientist who had entered his study, willing her to go on. She quickly took a slim, metal rod and placed it on the desk, pressing the button on the end. Pulling on a tiny, almost invisible handle on the rod's sleek surface, she pulled so that a long, thin rectangle detached from the length of the cylinder, a holographic screen appearing in between the two sections. “Police activity has increased dramatically in one area in particular with no alert sent to the public.”
Aspen took the holoscreen from her hands and focused the map. He placed his palms flat on the tabletop to avoid splintering the delicate instrument between his fingers. A red blip showed in the north of one city in particular. Veilstone, Sinnoh.
“Are you sure you remembered everything?”
????? + ?????
New Mauville, afternoon
They looked like electricians, from their safety goggles to their full-body electrical charge deterrent suits to their heavy, padded gloves, gripped around various cords and tools. The man nodded to the woman who had spoken. “Everything I could think of, plus some that I don't even know how to use.”
The two walked purposefully along behind a nosepass, which glided along the steel tiles of New Mauville with a faint grinding hiss. The woman brushed away a curious magnemite. “Good, it doesn't do well to underestimate them. Even a plusle could pack a punch if you're not prepa-”
The man shot out his hand suddenly to block her path. A few reflected flashes danced through the hallways of New Mauville, with echoing howls following like the thunder after the lightning. Then nothing. They stood still, waiting. Still nothing. The nosepass was still moving along ahead of them, showing the way. The man took out what looked like a long coil of rope, unfurling it into a net dancing with pulsing, spiked nodules of unknown fluid. “Looks like we have clean-up duty as well as recon.”
The woman took what looked like a particularly large screwdriver from her belt, tightening her grip on the handle until it extended into a meter-long rod that ended in a wickedly sharp point. Red sparks flooded silently from the tip. “Hey, be happy we've only got the plusle job and not the Legendaries.”
He shuddered, one hand on the net, his other on another weapon on his belt, which resembled a regular clamp. “That's no possible now, they canceled the recon on those ones. Remember what happened to the agents who went after them?”
She would've answered if their nosepass hadn't been confused by the charge of a group of nesting electrodes. They buzzed with annoyance and glowed with their intention as the nosepass pointed obliviousy at the horde. “Aw screw you,”
she pointed the tip of the weapon towards the cluster and the red spark short out at them like a ravenous swalot. It landed on the first on it hit, latching itself and crawling out to the entire cluster like a herd of ravenous, burning red joltiks, ensnaring them in an interlaced web of red sparks. They groaned in pain, glow dimming, struggling and moaning in the angry red snare.
The man, who had his back to the woman to keep an eye on the corridor, tossed her a pokeball. “Do you think Pine'll find some use for them?”
She shrugged, taking the pokeball and releasing an Abra. “Maybe, if not they'll just wipe them and return them here to blow up in peace.”
By wipe, she meant memory wipe, of course. “Abra, you know the drill.”
The Abra nodded lazily, body enveloping in a soft white glow which spread to the twitching, groaning mass of electrodes. Then, they were gone.
The woman waved her weapon like a capture styler, watching the spark flow to see if it was still constant. “So, what was it again? Retrieve or eliminate?”
The man nodded ahead to the nosepass, hissing softly across the steel back on it's intended target. “Either one. We can't afford to have one running around outside the lab. Who knows what kind of pain it can inflict on some innocent outsider?”
The woman continued without stopping as she sent a spark at a passing magneton, leaving it bound and withering in agony, to be retrieved later. “Too true, there's too many monsters out there as it is.”
Mossdeep Space Station, afternoon
It was break time, on the nose, and here they came, about a handful of scientists marching laboriously up the stairs, as if the had never climbed stairs before in their life. Upon seeing one of the new interns Brent swivelled back towards the green screen. “Oh shoot, he's here again.”
A few of the ladies turned around to try and be the first to chat with the new 'pretty boy'. He had just been hired a few weeks ago and already he was the hotshot of the station. Brent spared a passing glance at the boy. He must've been only twenty or so. Pretty tall and handsome, he grudgingly admitted. That wouldn't stop him from hating how the girls all fawned over him. He didn't know him well, but the new guy seemed far too pretentious and flamboyant. Of course those were simply excuses for the jealously bubbling in him.
"More coffee, Brent?"
He jumped a bit in his seat at the voice beside him. It was that nice assistant again. Smiling pleasantly he held out his cup. "Of course, a refill would be nice."
He really had to find out what her name was. She was hired around the same time as pretty boy over there. In no way was she pretentious like him. She wore simple lavender clothes and tied up her long mauve hair, odd for someone around twenty-ish, in a long streaming ponytail that curled up at the end, making it resemble a purple tail as she walked. At first her odd hair, that matched her violet eyes and violet attire, made him think 'punk', but anyone who spoke a word to her would realize that she was one of the gentlest and most cordial people they had ever met. At least, Brent thought so, blushing. Great body, he also thought, turning such a deep red he couldn’t look at her as she took his cup.
She glanced down at his half-full coffee cup. Leaning close to his ear she whispered, "You know, you don't have to keep asking for coffee if you don't like it. I can sneak you some pop or tea instead."
Brent felt his face burn as her breath tickled his ear, stammering an uncharacteristically squeaky response. "No, don't worry about me, my job doesn't require any brainpower anyways."
She giggled at his fluster. "Alright, if you say so."
Brent grinned as she began to leave with the visiting scientists down the stairs. The new guy stayed the longest, saying lengthy goodbyes to the ladies. They flustered and giggled. Brent rolled his eyes, then noticed that new guy's eyes were not on them, but fixed on him. The new guy's eyes were slightly narrowed and staring at him suspiciously. There was a warning he was trying to convey through his glaring look. Brent stared right back. “I'm not scared of you.”
He kidded himself. An unsettling feeling ran up his spine as the new buy finally broke his gaze and walked back down the stairs. “Let it go, Brent,”
he reassured himself, “just, let it go.”
North Veilstone, Early evening
Meanwhile, back at the weapons laboratory, the young man was making his way to the end of the hall, feet pounding against the tile, hands shoved deep into his pockets. His mind was buzzing with a torrent of calculations and formulas, recited back again and again in a silent storm. “Everything, must, go, perfectly.”
Each step, each tap of his shoe against the ground sounded like an explosion. “Amazing how that pathetic little receptionist didn't wet her pants. Is the police so ignorant as to think I can be caged by such an inanely organized trap? Pathetic humans...”
A thousand and one calculations with a million and one scenarios. He needed even more to keep his mind alert. Swiping his id card at the elevator, he tensed until the doors opened with hydrolic smoothness.
[Welcome back, Master-]
he cut it off, and stepped in. The ride felt interminably long, though in reality it was less than a minute. Time was no longer his friend. It never was. His foot tapped a mile a minute on the polished floor as he calculated, and recalculated, again and again, mind whirring and sputtering with impatience at the sluggish pace of the rest of the world. Nothing was fast enough. Nothing could keep up.