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Frontier Town Sand Veil Archives

Jade hummed. "If anything, it could be good to know what the Legendaries are like here." In case they ever had to go up against one, as unthinkable as that was in their current state...

Jade idly ran a claw along the wooden ridges of the table. "I just... I want to feel like I'm doing something, you know? Like my being here... matters."
Koa's gut twisted at her words. There was a longing to her words that felt uncomfortably familiar. "A chance to be someone," he found himself saying, without even really meaning to. He averted his gaze unconsciously. "Something more." Or prove you're not something.

Except he mostly felt useless. "Feels like we're not doing anything that matters though," though he grumbled. "I know we just got here but..." he trailed off. He couldn't help but be reminded of back home, out of his depth, more questions than answers. "Have you ever just felt powerless?" he hadn't meant to voice his thoughts out loud, but the words came out anyway, a frustrated edge to them. It was more than just physical power, he realized. But not knowing what was going on. What he could do, if anything, about what was happened. Lost.
Powerless. That day on the burning mountainside where Entei was captured. The night that Midnight Stadium went up in flames along with half of Rebellion. The day that the League had branded them all criminals.

And yet, this felt different. They hadn't been beaten, they hadn't even started yet. There were options, just... a lot of them that had to wait, that was all.

Jade took a deep breath. "I think we'll get a better idea of what we're doing once we find out more about this world. And... I do think that looking into the Legendaries is the best place to start."
"You're right," he said, shaking himself slightly, smiling. "We can start with this Storm bringer shrine. Besides I am kind of curious what sorts of legendaries are in other worlds. Thats kind of what I want to do. Back home I mean. Study legendary pokemon, learn about them, maybe try and meet one for real..." Catch one. He wasn't sure if Jade's world had a taboo against that though especially if they had some kind of attacks. At least she still spoke favourably about them it seemed.

"What about you?" he asked after a moment. "I don't know if its the same but a lot of trainers on my world have goals. Being champion or whatever. Or doing contests. Did you have something like that too?"
It felt good to have something to look forward to here, even if it didn't end up amounting to anything--it was worth it to feel like they weren't just sitting still.

Jade gave a bit of a sheepish grin. "Ah, well, I was sort of aimless as a trainer." At least, before everything went down with the patrons, and the League... "Not really all that great at competitive battling, but... I wanted to get stronger with my team, and they'd all get bored if I weren't traveling around. They're, um... they're a bit difficult," Jade admitted with a small laugh. "You could say that I'm traveling for their sake, and to make up for lost time with my friends who started training before me."
Koa grinned, thinking automatically of Rascal. Difficult indeed. "That doesn't sound so bad. I have a Tyrantrum back home who's a handful. Even more so now that she evolved." He missed them, so much. He under estimated jsut how much he relied on his pokemon for support. "I wish we could have met, and had a battle," he said longingly. For a brief moment, he wondered rather unnervingly if it was possible to meet some version of her in his world. Did a version of him exist out there too? The thought was a bit overwhelming.

Probably they wouldn't be able to go to the shrine immediately, so he might as well enjoy talk, trainer to trainer. "What's your team like?"
Jade's ears perked up. "Well, my first Pokemon was Swift--he's a Pidgeot now--and we go way back, he's always had my back, the whole journey. Then we met Firestorm the day we set out--he used to be a bit of a tryhard showoff when he was a Charmeleon, but he's mellowed out a lot since then. Then there was--"

They went on like that for a while, swapping trainer stories and memorable battles, and for a while, it felt a lot like hanging out with Rudy back home--no mysterious mission, no world to save, just the familiar comfort of training and its power to bring people together.

Ch02: Laura and Gladion
It was, in the end, not a clear and focused research question that drove Gladion to the archives as had been the case every time before. This time, it was a deep-seated discomfort crawling beneath his skin, a tension borne of the hunch he was so close to understanding a great many things, but all of it missing any would-be last pieces he needed to put it all together.

How could the voice possibly have known of his species, how could it have been here before? But he'd looked here for those answers before and found nothing. Fervently rereading everything he had before wouldn't help him.

Was Voclain actually a Kalosien aristocratic surname, if did it just superficially resemble one? If it was the former, why wasn't Ignatius one, too? (Was Lucien a Kalosien name, or Unovan? It could pass as either.) But those were questions nothing here would be able to answer, things that could only ever make him wish he had access to resources back home but hadn't thought he'd ever need to know off the top of his head.

But the only possible balm for the itch left by these mysteries was to learn something, anything, that might help him put them to rest and so he was compelled here anyways,. Drawn in, like a character of eldritch mythos who when learning snippets of truths beyond his comprehension could do nothing but swim further into the tide.
Laura spent a lot of time in Sand Veil Archives lately. Studying up on the town, on the world, on anything she could find out. It made for good recreational opportunities, too, when she could bring herself to focus. Reading local literature gave... interesting insights to the town's culture. Sometimes she spotted other members of the team – if you could call it that – and gave them a wave. Sometimes she said hi.

When she spotted a restless-looking Gladion wandering the racks, she decided to get his attention.

"Hey," she called, sotto voce. "Gladion, right? You, uh, looking for anything specific?"

Hm. It wasn't really that she wanted to help him find a book, though. Better be more direct...

"...Or do you have a minute to talk?"
"Hey," she called, sotto voce. "Gladion, right? You, uh, looking for anything specific?"

Hm. It wasn't really that she wanted to help him find a book, though. Better be more direct...

"...Or do you have a minute to talk?"
That was the second Meowth who had known his name before he'd ever introduced himself. Woes of recognizability, he supposed.

He sighed. "I have at least ten different questions and zero realistic paths towards answering any of them, so I'd say that, no, I'm not looking for anything too specific."

At least with this Meowth, unlike Jade who he'd only learned of in retrospect, he had the same knowledge of who he was talking to this time. "You're Laura Weir, correct? I got a minute if I'm talking to Laura the outworlder, and not Laura the Gazette journalist. That work for you?"
Laura blanched a little. Cripes, was she going to get clocked as a reporter all the time, now?

"I'm, uh. Not working, right now," she replied, fumbling the sentence and immediately wanting to dive under a bookcase in embarrassment. "I mean, yeah, sure."

C'mon, save it...

"I figure I'd better try and get to know as many of the team as I can, since we're gonna be working together for fuck-knows how long. I see you in here pretty often, and this is the first time you've not been absorbed in something."
Gladion internally winced. Maybe "What are you, a cop?" wasn't the most normal conversation opener. He tried to laugh slightly as if this was kind of funny and not awkward as hell.

"Fair enough, I probably shouldn't have asked. 'S good to have you there, just Nova and I've got more reason than the rest of us to worry about how we're perceived. I'd be laying if I said I wasn't antsy about it."

Had... Had Laura been here several times before and he'd never noticed? He missed having peripheral vision— possibly moreso than anything else he'd had before. "After all, I don't particularly blend in, as you've noticed. I had been looking into something here, but it's hit a dead end. Hasn't stopped me ending up here, waiting for something to happen. Guess maybe it has now."

He shifted to look Laura in the eye, which he hoped looked maybe serious but not too intimidating in spite of how much taller and freaky-looking he was. It doubled as a moment to steel himself before continuing without giving up the thread of conversation back to Laura.

"Did you know that compatibility with this world means a species isn't alien here? Picked that up in one of those... lucid dream things. You can probably see some of the questions I have now."

It had also called him a Graydian even though it was a term he knew Nova had made up on the spot, but that was a whole other Palossand's dregs.
Laura nodded, grateful that the conversation was immediately going somewhere purposeful, all the more so because of what direction that was, specifically.

"Actually, I've been wondering since the Nexus what the deal was – y'know, with you and Nova being RKS Chimeras," she replied. "Like, if Nova was one before, you'd think it'd make enough sense for him to come through as one, right? But you're human, so. Why not literally any other species that makes sense for you, right? It really doesn't surprise me that the cloud-voice has, like, implied RKS Chimeras exist here, but... how does it make sense for them to?"

She wrinkled her nose in thought, and counted off thoughts on one paw.

"Makes me wonder if Arctozolt is a native species here, or restored slap-dash in exactly the same way as it was in my world, or something else... Is there, like, someplace on Forlas that's way more technologically advanced than this? Or alternatively, is time and causality just bullshit when it comes to building bodies for offworld souls, and the RKS will get made here decades from now and that counts somehow...?"

She shook her head. "I don't like what that latter idea suggests about predestination, so I guess I gotta assume other RKS exist here already. Which, fuck, I don't know. It messes with my head. Does that, uh, about sum it up?"

Laura was going to get a good grade in predicting what Gladion was thinking, which was normal to want and possible to achieve.
“Apparently ‘my soul chose it’ or something…” He laughed. “Sounds like blaming me for all the body problems. I guess I can’t falsify that but I can at least complain.”

Hm. He’d overlooked Arctozolt. Primarily because he hadn’t known what one was, so he hadn’t known what the implications would be. Put together wrong, huh?

“Maybe the constituent species of Arctozolt existing would be enough? But… that can’t be the case for a Null.”

He took a moment to choose his next words, and what he would and wouldn’t share very carefully…

“There’s two issues. First is the people. the whole ‘Null’ thing is a consequence of losing one project head while he hadn’t documented everything, and the other fucking up an attempt to pick up the pieces. A recreation could succeed, and therefore not create a Null. Second thing is that some stuff in the genetic engineering that can’t exist naturally here. But the metal of this helmet is, based on some metallurgical results, structured as if it was biological. It isn’t, at least not in the real thing. That suggests to me that I’m not a one-to-one recreation, the metals are lifted from something they may not have come from. You could probably put together a replication if the RKS system like that, given that it doesn’t actually have to, you know, work.”

His voice caught in his throat. He was about to cross a line from speculation to deeply self-indulgent wishful thinking. “That leaves the second problem: Something irreconcilably custom in the biological components. It’s not fully documented, so I don’t know about it, but… Nevermind. But the only guy who could have made the biological components is that first project head who disappeared. And that happened because a… We’re gonna call it a ‘dimensional experiment’ to keep on-topic. He got lost in it— sucked away somewhere else. The one where I come from is probably dead but there’s some differences between world, so…”

He sighed again. “See what I mean about all these questions I can’t quite answer? I feel like I’m so close to being able more definitely but right now I’m stuck feeling like a conspiracy theorist. I’m losing my mind here…”
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Laura listened, nodded, and tried to put as much of the pieces together as possible in a hurry.

"So you're thinking, maybe this bloke got thrown from your world to this one already? And he could be repeating his work here?" She considered this, and sucked her teeth for a moment. "Well, if that's what's going on, it still leaves the open question of how the hell he's doing bioengineering at that level in a world like this, right? There's no, y'know, industrial base. I mean, there're factories and stuff, sure, but that's a far cry from genetic engineering. We're talking a tech level where the invention of reliable mild steel girders is a recent thing. Steam locomotives, telegraph poles, that sort of thing."

She considered harder, remembering something Gladion had said earlier...

"Wait, so the make of the helmet is different? Without asking the cloud-voice, I guess we can't know whether that's just a property of the body being magically crafted out of thin air, or because RKSCs are just different here. I don't know enough about RKS Labs' chimeras to know whether they match yours, or this body you got, but howls afar, I wish I could find out..."
“Well, it’s got to be possible to make a Null here somehow. I just have to take that as a given. But even if it is something that only comes to pass in the future, the knowledge of the design can’t come from just anywhere. Even if Nova or I made some kind of grandchild-paradox-thing that allowed us to arrive here because the design existed because we arrived here, I don’t think we can replicate our own designs from memory for generations to come, nor would we if we could.”

Gladion knew his theo— speculation wasn’t something he could place above criticism, but he wanted to anyways, he wanted to be right. Because if he was, then… It didn’t matter. Laura was bound to be right about at least something at some point and that would start to unwind his web of vaguely connected ideas. And yet

“They’d have to be able to either cast or grow a helmet with the structure of inorganic life. I’m not sure my world could do that within a plausible budget, especially for something you wouldn’t be planning to use anyways. I’m sure they’re different here somehow, but… It’s just..”

Gladion felt a rumbling noise emanate from his throat, before cutting it off because it was weird once he started thinking about it consciously.

“Stuck again. Still so close, still missing something. So, tell me then, is RKS Labs something from your world? ‘Cause I don’t see why a massively botched correction to a moderately failed experiment merited getting a fucking company named after it!” He tried not to let his loathing for Faba show through is voice. He failed. “Even if you’d found a way to get it to work you’d probably never get to the RKS shit at all.”

Gladion forced himself to release an acute tension that had built in his talons.

“I am actually, genuinely, beginning to question my own sanity at this point. I can’t leave this place until we figure out what’s going on and how to stop it, but every time I try, it just… I— or I and Nova, I guess, but I don’t think it’s his cup of tea— We should be the best ones to try to follow this inexorably human lead. But. I can’t. It’s like if… I don’t have the words. Except that… I guess everything about it feels like it should be familiar but it’s all just a little bit wrong in a way that gets under my skin.”

His voice was shaking.

“Sorry. It’s not your problem.”
Gods, that was a lot. Maybe this was above Laura's pay grade. This guy sounded like he was enmeshed in some serious shit back home – somehow involved in a shady organisation's genetic experimentation, already too close to it, and unable to pull himself away.

So, like her, really.

"We're on the same team," she said, trying to steady her voice without sounding blunt. "That makes it my problem."

Her ears dipped back as she actually heard herself.

"I just mean, y'know. I care. I should give a shit about this. Even if it weren't already capturing my attention to begin with, it definitely matters somehow, and it matters that it affects you."

He didn't seem like the kind of guy to be comfortable with earnest cameraderie. Better switch tack to something he'd asked about...

"I, uh, already have an interest in this. Back home, I was looking into... Well, it's complicated, but you asked about RKS Labs? That's a research company in Galar specialising in genetic engineering. They were owned by this big fucking conglomerate, Macro Cosmos – then they got busted for messing with some interdimensional alien legendary pokémon bullshit, it's hard to explain, and it looks like maybe some of the tech got leaked to other organisations and used for other shit."

She made a face. "You're not the only one who worries about sounding like a conspiracy theorist, mate."
"Thanks..." Gladion half-laughed, again to cut awkwardness more than anything else. "You don't have to explain it. I... think I get it. Not an unfamiliar concept, except that..."

He looked down at the Alolan Meowth in front of him, the one who knew about the Null project. His laugh was a bit more genuine this time. "Well, except that you're Galarish. Can't blame your 'soul' for having better taste in Meowth than the local geography did, though. Seriously, though, I think that matters. 'Cause I've heard of Macro Cosmos, but not them having anything to do with the genetic engineering and interdimensional bullshit because all that happened in Alola here. Under the table, though, very few people really know. I'll bet someone from the Alolan project cut and ran when things went to shit, and grifted it to Macro as an original thing, since there wouldn't be any evidence to the contrary. Bet you I know who it was, too, based on the name..."

The idea of Faba continuing to grift a project he knew wouldn't work out to people, making more Nulls just to buy himself a second chance he'd inevitably screw up was simultaneously nauseating and yet so quintessentially Faba that it was also hilarious. He wondered if Faba'd finally had to give up that stupid fucking blog that Gladion was the only one ever to care about, and even then only to kepe his finger on the guy's pulse. He laughed, because the alternative was probably to cry.

"That, or the whole thing just happened in Galar from the start, which seems less likely since the RKS name shouldn't have existed until later. I wonder if that would mean there's a Galarish version of me out there... I hope not, I's feel bad for him if he did exist." He raise a talon defensively. "Not saying there's anything wrong with Galar in general... also not saying that there isn't. But 's more of a personal circumstance thing."

He paused to reel in his train of thought. He was all over the place today. Had he always been this bad with conversation, or was that new here? Every time he had a prolonged conversation with someone on the team, his thoughts started spilling over like an overfilled glass.

"I guess the natural question is how you found out about and ended up getting involved in all of that. But it'd open me the reverse question and I'm not answering it, so I can't really expect an answer from you. But if it's conspiracy theory stuff it can't be totally public info yet."
Laura's anxiety had ebbed once they'd found a topic of mutual interest, faded further as they'd gotten stuck into full-flow conversation, and now dissipated almost entirely as she realised that actually, Gladion was worse at talking to people than she was. Incredible stuff.

"Nah, Galar's a fucking rubbish country," she agreed, with a cheeky flick of an ear. "Look, I dunno what your deal is and you don't have to tell me, but the way I see it, there's really no sensible reason for me to hold all my cards close to my chest here, as it were. At least, since you'll actually believe anything I tell you, that is. I'm used to keeping quiet about my interest in this stuff 'cause people normally react like I'm a weirdo – I'm not gonna go blabbing about genetic experimentation to everyone on the team."

She sniffed, and flicked her gaze (and ears – she had bloody radar attached to her head now) around to check nobody was eavedropping.

"Alright... I get the oddest feeling of deja vu saying this to you for some reason, but it's pretty much common knowledge to anyone actually paying attention to this sort of stuff that a few years back, some big company in Alola of all places cooked up the first chimeras. It went wrong, some guy knicked one and made off with it, the suits lawyered up, and then everything was hush-hush for a bit until suddenly they're back on the books in bloody Galar. Then those guys go tits-up, like I said. But I give a shit about pokémon experimentation, and I followed leaks and news about that stuff for ages, and there's this one corp that picked up the rights, or schematics or whatever... It's a long story, and it's not really got anything to do with chimeras, but basically, I'm on a sponsorship deal with them. I guess you could say they're pretty much paying me to snoop on them?"

Laura rubbed the back of her head. It always sounded dumb whenever she said it out loud, but something about saying it as a little Meowth in a library in the pokémon-only wild west made it sound even dumber. What was this guy gonna think of all her bullshit?
Gladion tried to nod, only to pinch himself again. “That checks out. Either the second half of that doesn’t happen where I’m from, or hasn’t happened yet there. I know some guy, though. Both of us had a parent working on the project. My dad wasn’t working on it anymore by the time everything went down, but he stole his mom’s access card before making his move and disappearing. They still haven’t caught up to him yet?”

He fought the urge to laugh. Acting like that was a joke would just risk Laura figuring out the punchline. As it stood, everything he’d said was true, he and Laura could work from there.

“Good luck with the corporate espionage. I guess nothing I say about it’ll stick so there’s probably not much good to it, but if it’s something you want to talk about with someone who won’t think you’re a few bolts short of a magneton, I can’t deny being curious. If you don’t want to talk about it, of course, I’d be a hypocrite to complain. It’s up to you. I’m probably dry of useful info either way.”
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