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Frontier Town Sand Veil Archives

Technically Laura already had started the conversation, but her formally inviting Odette to join it helped level the crag of doubt that had opened in her chest. She’d already made friends, so why was talking to new people still such a struggle?

She cut her gaze back to the books she’d stacked on Jawile, deciding that maybe she’d collected enough for a while.

“Yeah, I’m not that busy,” she said, shuffling over to the table and slipping into the chair. “I admittedly still haven’t conversed with a lot of people on the team myself.”

She snickered to herself at the follow-up. “Oui,” she replied. “What gave it away, my accent or my name?” she asked jokingly. “I take it you’re familiar with the region, then?”
Laura chuckled sheepishly. "Guessed from the name – your accent isn't as obvious as you maybe think it is? I guess we're both from similar Earths – I'm Galarish, went on a school trip to Kalos once when I was a kid. Don't really know any Kalosien or anything, just je ne parle pas la Kalosien, and stuff. Actually, do you hear me talking right now in Kalosien? Must be so weird – I keep thinking about how all the local 'mon are like, speaking Luctemarene and Tenacindean, right?"

She scratched the back of her head. Oof, this probably counted as being weird or awkward.

"Whereabouts are you from? Région Lumiosienne?"
Odette’s hand subconsciously traveled down to her mouth. “I’d always been under the impression it was pretty heavy,” she said sheepishly. Then again, she had been speaking mainly Galarian for quite some time…

Shrugging, she decided she wasn’t going to complain. She’d always been a little self-conscious about her Galarian, and if it was coming off fine to Laura, she’d take it. She kept trying to respond in thanks, but the meowth just kept on. After the third attempt to interject, she decided it was no use and just sat back politely and listened. She actually preferred it when others talked, and she felt her chest settle again.

Her lips twitched into a half grin, and she chuckled lightly. “I hear you. Pretty good,” she said, nodding in approval. “And close. Born in a town called Brackish, moved to Lumiose when I was six. Grandpa was the chief of police in the city, and my mum’s Pokemon lab was there, too.” A pause. “Don’t live there now, though. Moved to Alola a little while ago.”

She began to run her fingers along one of the spines of the books she’d grabbed. “I’ve definitely had thoughts here and there about how we’re communicating with the locals…like none of them would know what ‘Kalosian’ or ‘Galarian’ are, but maybe they have some rendition of those languages here? Or perhaps they just straight up don’t exist. Starting to think it’s the latter since nobody realizes what I’m saying when I sing in Kalosian at the bar. I haven’t looked as deep into it yet, but it definitely crosses my mind a bit. It’s a little wild to think about.”

Now she was drumming her nails against the book cover, and she tucked her free hand under her chin. “Where in Galar are you from? I’ve been a few times.” Another pause, this one hesitant. “My bio father is part Galarian.”
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“Close. Born in a town called Brackish, moved to Lumiose when I was six. Grandpa was the chief of police in the city, and my mum’s Pokemon lab was there, too. Don’t live there now, though. Moved to Alola a little while ago.”

Alola, huh? Noted. Laura nodded with interest. Depending on how long a 'little while' was, that (and her time on Forlas) would explain why Laura wasn't totally sure of the accent. She wondered how her accent read to everyone else...

“I’ve definitely had thoughts here and there about how we’re communicating with the locals…like none of them would know what ‘Kalosian’ or ‘Galarian’ are, but maybe they have some rendition of those languages here? Or perhaps they just straight up don’t exist. Starting to think it’s the latter since nobody realizes what I’m saying when I sing in Kalosian at the bar. I haven’t looked as deep into it yet, but it definitely crosses my mind a bit. It’s a little wild to think about.”

Laura shrugged, with an uncertain grin. "Pretty sure they don't have our languages anywhere here, nah. Even if some are more similar..."

She'd not made a study of Luctemarene grammar or anything, but she'd noticed that Betel translated Tenacindean proper nouns into Paldean names and words. Consistently. That couldn't be accidental.
“Where in Galar are you from? I’ve been a few times.” Another pause, this one hesitant. “My bio father is part Galarian.”

Bio father. Laura took note of the pause.

"Oh, uh, Circhester," she answered, giving herself time to think. "In the southwest, if you know it? Historical city, seriously middle-class, Ice-type induced microclimate."

She swallowed, and decided to be bold. When did being anxious ever get her closer to anyone?

"So, uh, did you know your bio father? I can't imagine that's a comfy topic, but if it's on your mind..."
Maybe she’d said too much in attempt to find common ground. But it was too late now.

“Very familiar,” she said. “My mum’s taken a few trips out in that general direction; she’s very low key into snowy places like that.”

Her expression fell into something a little more uneasy, topped off with a bitter smirk. “Not growing up, no. His existence is a relatively new discovery on my end. Still haven’t met him in person, and honestly, I’d prefer to keep it that way. Only on my mind at all because all I can fucking think about nowadays is…”

She trailed off to survey the area for anybody who could pose an eavesdropping risk. When she didn’t see anything, she simply shook her head.

“Sticking my head into orgs I probably shouldn’t be sticking my head into,” she said in a whisper. “Only reason I know the man exists.”

She gestured toward Laura, brow quirked. “You’re the one who mentioned trying to finesse your way into a shady org, right?” she said, still speaking lowly. “Something about…your cat, right?”
Laura blinked, still processing that last dramatic whisper of an info drop. Odette only knew the guy existed because... she'd been investigating 'orgs' she shouldn't? What did that mean, the underworld of organised crime? Some kind of secret Le Milieu dad situation? Was her dad in charge of the fucking Corsican Mafia?

"Uh, yeah," she managed. "The corp in question are Perihelion, they're like, a tech conglomerate. R&D are the backbone, and they've got a bunch of trainer outreach, environmental conservation, pokémon rehab and welfare sorta programs. Everything from solar panels to League circuit sponsorships. They kinda filled in the vacuum left when Macro Cosmos imploded – uhhhhh that's a long story but basically half of Galarish industry in my world was a monopoly owned by a dipshit who tried to use a legendary 'mon as a power plant. Anyway."

This could so easily become an incomprehensible ramble... Laura took a sharp breath.

"So, uh. The short version... is that loose pets and feral 'mon have been disappearing, Perihelion's been starting up a whole bunch of new programs, they're all over socmedia, whatever. The thing is, my parents let my purrloin run away from home while I was at uni – which I only did because they fucking forced me – and when I came home and found out, obviously I went looking, you know? Turns out she found her way to a shelter, and got adopted by... Perihelion."

Normally she'd be worried about sounding like a fucking conspiracy theorist, but hey. They'd both been turned into pokémon and sent to the wild west, and they'd both poked their noses into 'shady orgs'. Maybe Odette wouldn't think she was nuts.

"I tracked down the outreach agent who did it and, uh, didn't get a confession, exactly, but she admitted things weren't above board and made it clear they definitely weren't gonna give me my fucking cat back. No mention of what she wanted, naturally. (Um, for context, pokémon are sometimes more or less sapient in my world, and purrloin are borderline.) Anyway, I worked my ass off to secure a Peri sponsorship, and I've been trying to get every inroad I can, and I'm dead fucking certain they're doing illegal pokémon experimentation. Probably on my fucking cat. So. Yeah."

Weak finisher. She must sound like a clueless teenager or something.

"...I'm gonna find her, whatever it takes."

Lame action-adventure protag was at least a small improvement...
A little ways in to the explanation, Odette had taken to steepling her fingers in front of her mouth, her eyes unblinkingly trained on Laura's face. It wasn't long before she clasped them together, tight and rigid, as clearly whatever the meowth was saying had her riveted.

She seemed to hang onto the hasty words of determination, her eyes falling back down to the table as she contemplated something during the silence that had fallen around them. "Hm," was the only initial verbal acknowledgement she gave, up until she inhaled, her eyes lighting up along with the questions she began to unload.

"Have you been able to figure out why they might be doing any illegal experimentation?" she asked. "Like, maybe...hypothetically speaking, if they filled the vacuum that Macro Cosmos left behind, is it possible that they would need to conduct any sort illicit experimentation on unsuspecting 'mon to help, uh, I don't know, combat or bolster or maybe even reform something that Macro Cosmos was doing? Purely spitballing, of course, but if you can figure out your why, or at the very least narrow it down to a couple of possibilities you might have an easier time with finding your inroads, since you'll have a better idea of what to look for. Not to mention--"

Odette caught herself on her ramble, a cocktail of embarrassment and panic pooling in her eyes before she smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. That's my nosy ass brain going on a trip." She began to scratch at her cheek with a nervous flair as her smile slowly gave way into a sympathetic frown.

"Though, if you don't mind me being blunt, I think your parents need matching punches to their fucking jaws. Gods, what assholes."

Silence followed again, this round coming on a little softer. Odette appeared to recover from her minor shamefaced spell, as indicated by the way she rolled her shoulders and adjusted her posture. "All this Shadow-Radiance-No Electricity bullshit aside, I really do hope you get her back unscathed. I'd, uh...I'd definitely flipping all kinds of shit over something like that."
Laura laughed sheepishly, consciously holding herself back from reacting too much to someone getting so mad at her parents. She wasn't sure whether to egg Odette on or make excuses for them, so she just let it roll off – but the Mawile could probably tell she was tickled.

"Yeah, uh... I stormed out and have been leaving them on read ever since. Maybe not my best move, but the only one I could think to make. Anyway, uh..."

She tried to think of how to respond to the rest, the stuff about Peri and MacCos. It was all pretty broad, in a way...

"As for why they're doing experimentation, I have this... This hunch. Educated guess, if you're generous. See, among the assets they've bought, one of them is RKS Labs – they make chimeras like Gladion and Nova – and another is a Nihonese corp based innnnn Kanto I think, I don't remember the name, but online rumour has it they've got all the documentation from the crazy 90s Nihon genetics boom. Before all the regulation. The Mewtwo stuff. More mixed-species splicing, like the chimeras. You follow?"

She winced at herself. Conspiracy theorist alert! But who gave a shit about that when the party had met a Mewtwo? (Allegedly. She hadn't met the guy, yet. Could be anything.)
Odette nodded along eagerly with Laura's explanation, her mind going to work with the possibilities of how this conspiracy, from another fucking world, could play out.

"Yeah so..." she said, trying to put it all together in her head. "You think they're...putting together some fucking mutants? Maybe taking parts, or wholes, gods willing, of these Pokemon and splicing them together?"

Pressing her lips into a line, her eyes seemed to glaze over, though it was clear that she was thinking hard about the insinuation. It was a long thirty seconds before she opened her mouth again.

"Sounds like it's public knowledge they acquired the RKS labs, but you should prioritize finding, or at least, getting concrete evidence of the documentation of this Nihonese corp. Because as soon as you have the concrete facts of it all, making it all fit together is the easy part. Obviously."

She sighed after a moment. "Look. I'm not saying fly by the seat of your pants or get into every situation your gut tells you to, but when I was doing my worldwide conspiracy busting shit, I trusted my intuition at almost every turn. Lo and behold, I ended up being about 60% right when I finally got all the information in my hands, which I'd say is pretty fucking good for a conspiracy theorist who had nothing to go by except hypotheticals and illegally obtained information." She laughed to herself. "Hell, my gut helped me get that information in the first place. That and uh, being a fucking snoop," she added with a sheepish smirk.

The smirk was soon gone, chased off by a grimace. "However. As with shit like this, just...ready your jaw to bite off way more than you can chew. You're gonna find a way to chew it anyway, but...I can almost guarantee it's gonna suck going down."
Laura thumbed her temple at the thought of garish, surgically Frankensteined creations brought to mind by Odette's imagery. Weirdly, the Mawile telling her that she was an outright conspiracy theorist (and turned out to be right)... kinda helped. They really were in more or less the same boat, and that felt like it could mean something – both their being here on Forlas.

"I don't know what I'm getting into," she admitted, "but you're right. It's gonna suck, and be more than I can chew, but I'll chew it anyway."

She wet her mouth. She couldn't afford to fret about the stakes back home being so high when the stakes on Forlas kept rising. It was just talk. That's all.

"My thinking is that if they acquired the RKS tech and the Mewtwo tech – which must be real – then they're probably trying to create bespoke pokémon, powerful ones, for some reason. But since they're acquiring so many living, y'know, developmentally mature pokémon for the same subsidiaries handling the genetics stuff, they must be doing something with them. So, what, mutation? Retroviral DNA engineering techniques? Turning living subjects into experimental designer species? Something like that, gotta be."

She swallowed, uncomfortably.

"What the end goal is, though? I have no idea. Perihelion goes on and on about ecology and 'mon welfare and has an incredible track record for corporate ethics outside of the illegal gene research so, gods know what it's all for. It's not like they're fucking Devon, or Silph, or Aether. That last one's probably the best comparison, actually – really good surface PR, weird unhinged shit going on in secret."
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