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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera

"Maybe we don't need to," Aige replied thoughtfully, "I mean on both counts."

The Roggenrola met Koa's eyes, even if he couldn't tell. "We don't need to keep secrets, and we don't need to have everyone's explicit help. Not that it wouldn't help a lot though!"

"Gauging the enemy is crucial," Aige said in a lower tone, tapping her foot again. "If we're here to help, and the limit of our help is presumably whatever an exceptionally strong pokemon could do, then it's not like the danger here is an earthquake or a meteor, it's something or someone. If this human thing is such a big deal, then dangling it out in the open makes for tantalizing bait, no? Keeping a low profile while also keeping this human thing secret might backfire on us. The louder we are, the more present we are, the harder it would be for us to get picked off."

"Not like we can expect everyone to agree though," Aige said, suppressing a laugh. "I'm sure this plan has a few holes I haven't thought of. Maybe we'll keep it between us for now if it's too much of a hassle to explain."

"One thing I think we should do right away though is to have a code." Aige's tone turned serious. "A method for sending messages that only we know. I mean, we don't need it now, but if you have any ideas, I'm all... I'm listening."

Aige seemed relieved. "Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Koamaru! You should tell me more about those 'legends' another time, the concept is- interesting to me."
A rush of excitement flooded Koa and his eyes shone. The reality of Aige's final words sunk in. He almost yipped in delight, but managed to contain himself to normal levels of excitement. "Sure. Any time at all. I help at the library so you can come by there or the Travellers haus spot or wherever. And you can tell me more about your world too."

Calming himself a bit more, he considered Aige's plans. Finally, something was being planned. Even if it was still speculation and it was just him and one other pokemon. "As for bait... We'd have to be careful. Baiting them is a good idea, but baiting them too early means we're too weak to fight them. Wait too long and maybe its too late to stop them. So starting by playing ignorant until we're a little stronger, then baiting them maybe. Its a something for now, at least," he added. "And as for a code... we'll have to talk more to the others first. So we're all on the same page. But maybe we can figure out a secret system of sending letters to each other," he mused.

"Anyway, it was nice meeting you too. I'm glad we figured something out, you have some good ideas. Maybe we can try to find everyone and have a proper team meeting of some kind." He almost started to raise his paw for a casual handshake in farewell before he caught himself. Instead he nodded and hopped off the chair. "I'll see you around." He really wanted to ask how Roggenrola saw, but that was a question for another time.

Halfway out the door he realized he was still thirsty. Oh well.

Ch01: The Dog and Other Rock
Judging from what Dave had read at the library, this place really was basically the Wild West but furrier. The bar Kimiko had named of course turned out to be basically an Old West saloon.

He padded up to the bar and managed to climb onto a barstool. The Tyranitar behind the bar didn’t actually appear to be wearing any clothes at first, but then he turned around, revealing a tiny bow tied around one of his spikes. Would people even see that from afar? The real point here was clearly that nobody was going to fuck with a Tyranitar even if they thought he wasn’t sapient.

Dave still wasn’t entirely sure if Poochyena could drink here without dying of alcohol poisoning, but also, that was definitely the sort of thing no actual Poochyena would be asking about at the bar. In the end he went with, “Got any recommendations for a drink?”
Tyranitar stopped inspecting the glass and watching the other bar patrons to look at Dave directly. His expression gave away the stoicism of a typical bartender who had seen people at their lowest and highest stumble and stride into his establishment.

"Depends on how hard you're lookin' t'get smashed," Tyranitar replied. "Looking for something light and no muddle, we've got some hard lemonade, though it's only hard by technicality. Want a real adventure you won't remember, we've got this special cactus whisky that's as potent as it tastes awful. Or if you aren't the alcoholic sort, we've got some berry juice I can water down since it's usually for the drinks.

"Someone your size, I'd probably water it down anyway. Don't worry. I got the experience."

It was probably the most any of the team had ever heard Gerome talk.
Well, if he was naming alcoholic options, and very alcoholic options from the sound of it, couldn’t be too lethal. He didn’t enjoy the sound of watering it down for someone his size but had to reluctantly acknowledge that was probably sensible. For as long as he wanted to stay alive, anyway. Maybe after a week or two of suffering being a dog he’d order the straight cactus whiskey and take his chances.

He was tempted to try the cactus whiskey regardless, but seeing as he was hoping to have a conversation and actually remember any of it, and he had no idea exactly how Gerome’s descriptions were calibrated or how much tolerance he actually had in his tiny dog body, maybe next time.

“Well, definitely alcohol, and definitely harder than the lemonade. How about we start with something moderate and see how it goes?”
"Alright," Gerome said, and then, by some strange gesture, a glass from the shelf spontaneously fell down... and magnetized directly to his hand from several feet away. That was definitely far beyond the typical kinesis seen by Pokemon...

"Sweet or sour?" Gerome asked, though he was now eyeing Dave curiously. "Don't remember seein' you around town. Traveler?"
Holy shit. Dave definitely couldn’t do that, and telekinesis wasn’t exactly supposed to be within a Tyranitar’s usual skillset. Wait, was it just that it was glass? He indicated it with a paw, raising an eyebrow. “Is that just cleverly applied sand manipulation you’re doing?”

He almost forgot about the drink for a second. “Sour. And yeah, not from around here.” He glanced around the bar, wondering if he’d be overheard if he spoke quietly.
There was the slightest glint in Gerome's eye when Dave asked about his power.

"You're a smart one," Gerome said. "Yeah. That's exactly right. When y' run a bar and all the rowdy folks, gotta learn a few tricks if you aren't hiring a bouncer."

He pulled out a small bottle of one drink that, the moment it opened, filled the area with a tangy, eye-wateringly sour smell. Then, he filled it with a little water, and then came another bottle of some sort of whiskey, all of it the same kind of glass.

The bar was abuzz with the activity of some rush hour. It was unlikely that Dave would be overheard for the time being.

"Not everyone knows that glass and sand can be the same thing," Gerome said. "One's clear, one's dusty. And 's much as Pokemon try to distance themselves from that feral side... the eyes are all they rely on sometimes."
Dave smirked as Gerome confirmed what he was doing. “Nice. Guess there are some perks to being a Tyranitar, huh?”

He watched him mix the drink with interest. The smells of everything were overwhelming with the dog nose, his eyes watering.

"Not everyone knows that glass and sand can be the same thing," Gerome said. "One's clear, one's dusty. And 's much as Pokemon try to distance themselves from that feral side... the eyes are all they rely on sometimes."
Dave’s ears perked. Gerome sure was talking about Pokémon almost like a group he didn’t belong to.

He picked up the glass with his limited telekinesis - don’t think too hard about it, just do it - and took a swig of the drink. It definitely had a kick to it; before he could stop himself he’d done a rapid doggy head-shake, fur fluffing up along his spine.

“Good choice,” he said. He leaned in a little closer, cocking his head and lowering his voice. “So listen. I know this Snivy, Kimiko, and she was telling me that you gave her some advice. About humans.”
"Mmmhm." Gerome didn't react much, nodding along like he was simply listening in on another person asking for advice on their troubles. "She's an adventurer alright. Must've come from rumors about humans. Told her not to look too deeply. What, she a traveler with you?"
Really wasn't letting on anything, huh. Which probably meant the guy actually cared about protecting her identity.

"I'm one of her group, yeah, just arrived by a different route." Dave took another look around, just to be sure, and another sip of his drink. "Look, she told me what you actually told her. That there are people out here looking to find and exploit people like her. And that sounds pretty fucking concerning to me. I'm looking to find out more about what's going on, because everyone else here has been acting like everything's fine and dandy."
Dave had experience with shady individuals before. Perhaps even more important, how innocent people could look just as shady if they wanted to hide something--for the safety of themselves or for others. Perhaps it was his face of literal, hard stone, or perhaps it was his background as a barkeep, but Gerome was inscrutable. Dave could only tell from the subtleties of his tone that his sensitive ears could pick up that he was taking Dave a lot more seriously.

"You another one?"
Dave met his gaze. No way to know exactly what the fuck the Tyranitar was thinking. But he had the sense he was suspicious. That maybe people coming in here pressing him about people rumoured to be humans tended to be the type he'd been warning her about. What the fuck had they walked (teleported) in on.

Split-second decision on whether to trust Gerome, go. He grabbed his glass and took a chug of his drink before laying it back down on the bar - quietly, so as not to draw anyone's attention to them. "Yeah. I'm human too. And I didn't know that would be some huge fucking problem until we got here and heard about your warning. I don't know who exactly to trust in this place, but you at least believe what you're saying enough to be very discreet about Kimiko, so I guess I'm rolling that dice. If there's a bunch of people out there headhunting for humans, I think we need to know what the fuck is going on."
"To most, it's probably not gonna be a big deal," Gerome replied, taking the empty glass once Dave was done with it. "...The problem comes when you run into other humans. I don't know the full story... I just know they're real keen on how high 'n mighty they are compared to the lowly Pokemon." He snorted, the air beneath his nostrils warping from the heat. "Not exactly a well-received belief. But they're strong.

"Don't touch them. If they wanted, they could ruin a whole town, 's far as I can guess. You oughta spread that news to your allies... if you're as numerous as you are, y' might get confused with them."
...Huh. "So these are like... 'human supremacists'?" In a world where the Pokémon were sapient, and the human supremacists were also fucking Pokémon? Jesus Christ.

And then he thought of Jaak, a bad taste forming in his mouth. That guy sure had been enthusiastic about humans, hadn't he. Extolling how they were far beyond the capabilities of a normal Pokémon. How humans would know about being civilized. Was Jaak's hero Jesse Stranger one of these creeps? Had they been led here by some kind of crypto-fascist?

Either way, there sure was a possible explanation for the world having a crisis. And they, as the 'heroes' sent to combat that crisis, were there in the bodies of toddlers, against a bunch of shitheads supposedly stronger than any normal Pokémon.

He sighed. "Well, fuck everything. Another drink."

And then, after a brief pause, he figured fuck it. "So are you human?"
"Nah." Gerome reached for a glass on the shelf across the room, which flung straight toward him at incredible speeds. The cup shattered... and then stitched itself back together perfectly in mid-air. "I'm just your average Tyranitar barkeep."

He poured a second drink and slid it over.

"Got a wife. Got a kid. I live in a quiet little home. And I'd like to keep it that way."
Dave suspected the subtext of that answer was that even if Gerome was human, he just wasn't going to give that away to anyone. Which, if the world was full of weird fucking soul-species supremacists, was probably fair, wasn't it.

He raised an eyebrow. "Understood." That sand telekinesis was something else. Had he just deliberately shattered a glass in mid-air just to put it back together again?
Wes could have laughed in relief when he finally found the bar. After wandering around Main Street in the afternoon sun for hours, he was desperate for a place to sit and rest out of the heat. His leg, though feeling far better than this morning, still protested at all the walking he’d been doing today.

He pushed through the doors of the saloon—because of course it was a saloon—and slunk over to a place at the counter for a drink before recognizing a familiar (and fellow canine) face.

Right, that guy…what was his name again? Something incredibly bland, like Dan or whatever. Wes wanted to believe he was trustworthy, especially considering he’d been dragged into the same mess as the rest of the newcomers, but from his experience, it never hurt to be careful. He took a seat a couple spaces away—a respectful distance, but close enough to catch Dan—Darrel? David?

Whatever. Close enough to catch this guy’s eye and acknowledge him with a nod.

Gerome reached for a glass on the shelf across the room, which flung straight toward him at incredible speeds. The cup shattered... and then stitched itself back together perfectly in mid-air.

Wes jumped at the sound of shattering glass, but nobody else in the bar seemed the least bit bothered. What in the hell was that? Some kind of party trick? How was a Tyranitar capable of doing that?

The Tyranitar in question looked at him, and Wes realized he’d been staring in wide-eyed shock. He blinked and shifted awkwardly. “Well, I was about to ask for a drink, but maybe I shouldn’t take my chances with a magically shattering glass.” He’d meant it as a joke, but it came out a bit more sarcastic than he intended.
"Mmmhm. If you've got coin, you've got a drink," Gerome replied idly. "Seems this bar's been getting a little extra activity the past couple days."

The way Dave and this newcomer interacted with each other told Gerome all he needed to know. "Name's Gerome. I was just talkin' to your friend here."
Dave whipped his head around as someone approached, only to find the blue Rockruff from the place they'd landed at, sitting down a couple spaces away with a curt nod of acknowledgement. Dave raised his eyebrow and nodded back, wary, wondering if he just wanted a drink or what. He'd definitely said he was human, too, right?

"Wes, right?" he said. He inclined a paw towards Gerome. "It's just Tyranitar sand powers, apparently. Glass is sand, so he can manipulate them at will. Fucking incredible."

He should tell him about the human supremacist gang, too, shouldn't he. But sitting a couple spaces away meant he had to raise his voice to address him, unless he moved closer. "And, uh, I can recommend this," he said, raising his drink briefly. "Want to talk?"
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