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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Lobby


A Murder of 'Krows
Heartache staff
Out of all the places to stay when visiting Frontier Town, the Traveller's Haus was by far the largest. It sat not too far from the outskirts of town for the weary of travellers who had less than a few minutes before collapsing to exhaustion.

Within, countless, tiny pulley systems clicked away between irregularly placed shelves that held tiny books and papers, boxes and holes in the wall. Alongside the chittering squeaks emanating from the thin walls, there was never a quiet moment. And it wasn't difficult to see why: the Traveller's Haus was full of maus.

A unit of four (colloquially called a maushold) worked the reception; a dozen little ones could be seen carrying ingredients into the kitchen on a walkway the width of a wooden plank that had been nailed to the wall; ten more were delegated to room service, flattening out the sheets and tidying the bedsides; and who knew how many were hiding out within the walls or boxes these maus called their home, ready to offer some helping paws?

Just past the lobby and kitchen was a small common area with walls lined with lockboxes beyond that, a set of stairs that went up to a second floor and down into a basement. The basement was reserved for staff maus-only affairs while the second floor was filled with nothing but guestrooms that faced one another with numbers carefully carved into each door. The small but cozy rooms each had a simple bed, bedside table, shelf, a chest to store any items during one's stay, a chamber pot for good measure, and a small hole in a corner by the ceiling for room service to come and go as freely as they pleased.

Ch01: Welcome! Travellers From Beyond the Frontier
Frontier Town was hard to miss, even this deep into the night. Jaak's directions and the distant light of the stars were kind enough to guide the group from the unfinished railway out through the wilderness towards the orange lanterns of Frontier Town. With both luck and some clever illusion work from Bellatrix, the town's outskirts were reached with little hassle. It was a vast improvement over what they saw over in Blaguarro.

All that remained was finding a place to stay for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, the group didn't need to look far as the large, rectangular building that was the Traveller's Haus was the first inn to greet them. It was almost certainly large enough to accommodate the group of six. Money would be an entirely separate issue but as long as the place accepted payment after the stay instead of upfront, all would be well. Though unbeknownst to those who'd come from the railway, payment had already been sorted.

As the group entered the building, a little maus wearing an equally tiny cowboy hat squeaked in greeting, pointing to the reception desk where two other larger maus (also known as a tandemaus) wearing a cotton shirt and a dress were helping each other write with pen and paper that was far too large for them. They looked up and waved before synchronistically tilting their head in question.

Bellatrix's ears lowered slightly in confusion but played along to the best of her ability. "Yes, we're looking for a place to stay. Do you have any spare rooms for the six of us?"

The maus nodded and hopped up and down on the desk, pointing the group over to the common area. The little one scrambled up the pulley system and into the wall. A symphony of squeaking and scrambling followed as the building began to busy itself to prepare for its new guests.
It was going to be a difficult fit, after all. At least, that was Nova’s takeaway when he arrived at the building in question. He was equally as surprised to see others from the nexus had already gotten there. Maybe they spawned in closer.

“I’m, uh, checking in for a group of about… twelve or so?” Nova sorely wished he’d gotten a head count. “Marshal Lucien should be the one who made the arrangements.”
Lucien had indeed stopped by, judging by the paperwork the tandemaus currently at the desk quietly offered to Nova.

It had an accurate tally of the day's offworld arrivals in Lucien's very finely-penned cursive hand. Names and species, too, though he'd listed Nova as "Unk. Sp. ~2m hgt/lgth, quad. paravian – may nd asst w/ fd&dr". His signature was – perhaps surprisingly – small and restrained.

A soft squeak and an indicative tap let Nova know that a signature was expected from one of the group. The little pair then pointed with their tails to a sign reading [~Rooms Ready~]. It would appear the industrious creatures had prepared some beds already.
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Nova reviewed the paperwork. He gently attempted to take a writing utensil. He looked at Lucien's notes, expression unreadable.

No species. Right. Nova didn't want to have Her designation carry over. It was humiliating enough being stuck in the mask. Sighing, Nova slowly moved the pen across the notes underneath Lucien's handwriting.


It was the best he had. Nova signed his name where the maus had indicated. He whispered, "Here you are. Thank you." The maus were tiny. He didn't want his somewhat-raspy voice scaring them too much. "It should cover these guys, too. There'll be a fair number of us coming at different times."

He looked at the others. His fur stood on end a bit from realizing the other Null was there. But he had a little group of sorts. "If you don't need me... I guess I'll be going."
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With a bandanna that had ultimately needed to be tied around his shoulder on account of his lack of neck, and an oil lamp dangling off one of the pike of one of his helmet bolts, decidedly tired of walking in a straight line, Gladion and the others from the train arrived at Frontier Town.

This town felt built with at least some nonzero consideration for outsiders in mind, which was better than the alternative. Part of him was worried it'd also be isolationist but in a less overtly hostile way. The Traveller's Haus being clearly signposted and by the entrance in a way that made it easy to find was a mark in its favour.

That pun, though... Not that Gladion had strong feelings about puns one way or another, but the fact it existed here, with the cloud ostensibly handling their language distinctions, made it an interesting piece of translation. Was localizing puns not difficult to do? And yet here he was, at the Traveller's Haus, a name which worked so naturally that he'd almost overlooked it.

If you don't need me... I guess I'll be going."
Another group had beat them here, though. Primary among them was... actually Gladion never got their name, but it was the other Null.

"Actually, I... Um... I feel like we could use a hand, but I'm not sure where to start except maybe asking what's happened with your group? Did you get rooms here somehow? If so we'll probably want to do the same."
"It's already taken care of." Nova looked over his shoulder at the door. "Some of us arrived in the town square. We met the Marshal. Explained what happened. He's covering for us, but we will need to earn our keep soon enough. Told him there were, like, thirty of us that got scattered about."
“Huh. That works out nicely. With how our landing went I was worried we’d have teams getting dropped into the ocean or something.”

For the hostile first impression the place had made, things sure seemed to be going exceedingly well for them. Honestly they were edging close to being more hospitable than Alola probably would have been. It wasn’t as if there was a precedent for people randomly falling from the sky and landing in Alola to compare this to, but he couldn’t imagine it going better than this. Too many freebies for a human society to consider giving out to outsiders.

At first it struck him as ironic that a world full of totally discrete species that would take serious work to get to cohabitate in his world should be more generous to strange outsiders than his own, but on reflection it also actually sense. There were no non-different people…

Or maybe he was getting to ahead of himself. Zaak was a fluke, he had his own connection to humans— or the idea of them at least— for them not to be totally alien or uncomfortable. Barring that, the Marshal was one man making a temporary arrangement. Perhaps he was just giving them credit he wanted them to deserve and not credit they’d actually earned yet.

There was one person who’d have more insight on that, though: “May I ask what the reaction to y— to our species has been so far?”
Bellatrix, who'd been sitting there the entire time, listened to the conversation intently. Obviously, these two were not any natural creature - her mind instantly settled on man-made but that left her wondering what the purpose was to not only their existence but why they looked they were put together in the dark by a blind man.

She sat there for a moment longer before trotting off to the rooms, pleased to hear that expenses were already covered.

Another tandemaus was standing at the stairwell, providing roomkeys and a point up the stairs to whoever passed by.
"This is what I've looked like my entire life,"
Gladion narrowed his eyes. “Well, yeah, I mean…”

The other Null seemed to be antsy as hell, which struck Gladion as odd because he’d figured that he would have to be the one being quiet with information. This worked for him, after all it let them set up a silent mutual agreement not to pry. Until someone told them his name and it all fell apa— Oh wait, were they just trying to look around the room with just their eyes, in spite of the helmet?

That was odd. Was there someone else here? The front desk was asleep and everyone else was part of their gaggle of circumstantially-related people who’d already know what they were talking about… Unless he’d missed someone again. Had he missed someone again?

He couldn’t tell, so he tried to hedge his response to work both ways: “You know… Another time, maybe?”
"Once we're, uh, properly settled in. I think."

Nova was at the other unit's side rather quickly, whispering. "The maus are small, but there are a lot of them around and I'm not so sure we need to be dropping 'other world' bombs in the lobby. I already got my photo taken by happenstance."

He grabbed one of the keys and... began doing his best to navigate cautiously toward the room whose number was on it. Didn't want to bump into anyone or anything.
Tandemaus were funky little Pokémon. They were also standard lab animals. Dave'd worked with them in the lab on numerous occasions, engineering them so their cancer cells would be fluorescent or giving them mutations that (successfully, confirming the hypothesis!) caused them to grow extra tails on their heads instead of ears.

Now they were not that much smaller than him, and apparently he was going to be staying in the lodgings of a swarm of sapient but nonverbal Tandemaus, all dressed up in little clothes and eager to help and gesturing like people but speaking in unintelligible squeaks despite that literally every other Pokémon spoke perfectly normal English to his ears, and all in all the whole thing was deeply fucked up. Maybe this was some kind of nightmare where his lab rats got revenge on him by turning him into a goddamn dog.

He was exhausted, though, and at least maybe if he went to bed he'd wake up in the morning in his actual bed at home and forget about this entire mad episode. He told his companions good night, followed a pair of Tandemaus upstairs to room 14, shrugged off the belt, and crawled into bed. Did Pokémon in this godforsaken world brush their teeth? Did they even have fucking toothbrushes in cowboy times? Well, maybe if he was still here by tomorrow he could find out, and otherwise he wouldn't have to.

Jean would've fucking loved all this nonsense, wouldn't she, he thought as he was drifting off. Talking Pokémon, dressing up in costumes, stealing supplies from a train to save the world from a nebulous crisis. She'd be babbling his ear off right now about how excited she was about it.

Good thing she wasn't here, because either they'd wake up at home and he'd never hear the end of her disappointment, or they'd actually wake up back here and there was no way this wasn't going to be fifteen thousand other kinds of fucked-up.
[Ch01] Gladion & Nova ~ Double or Nullthing

The room wasn't anything special. It could fit Nova for sure, though it didn't have much floorspace. There was a small window which Nova had drawn the curtain over. He was large enough that someone could theoretically see him from outside if he was standing.

The null looked around, then slowly slid onto his belly.

Meager? Sure. Low-tech? Absolutely.

But he had bedding. He had shelter for the first time in... well, he didn't want to do the math.

"I'm... here." Nova took a deep breath. "My thoughts are mine." Another deep breath. "I'm here. My thoughts are mine."
Gladion found the door of the other Null, knocking and waiting to hear back before entering.

"Hey. I won't bug you for long, just want to check in on what happened while we were on our way here. And, you know, maybe get our 'story' straight for how we want to answer any questions from the locals."

He sighed. "Already told someone these bodies are... made. As an alternative to letting someone get a right-for-the-wrong-reasons guess about the cloud. Thought it'd be the lesser issue since, y'know, wasn't expecting to fool anyone in that regard anyway. Haven't had to lie about anything but myself individually. How're you holding up?"
Nova responded with a light chuckle, but there was clearly fatigue behind it. "I made the front page of the evening edition. They already know my name, too." Thanks to a careless error. He could've— should've taken that photo. But Nova couldn't change the past.

"On the housing form, I wrote 'graydian' under Lucien's species notes about us." Another tired laugh. His shoulders and hips rose and fell with the chuckles. "Like 'gray guardian.' But also a pun on 'gradient,' which we don't have much of." He shook his helmeted head. "Dumb, I'm sure. But I came up with it."

His gaze fell to the wooden floor. "I... came up with it. Made that choice... myself."
Gladion’s heart pinged in sympathy. In retrospect, he wasn’t sure why but he had assumed this Null had more experience than Hazel. Perhaps he’d mistaken the weight they seemed to carry with them for age, but in this case it could just as easily mean being recently thawed and still becoming accustomed to having a life of their own. It certainly felt like the latter right now…

His voice shifted unconsciously towards a slightly softer tone— far from what he used with Hazel in similar situation. That would’ve felt too condescending when the other person could speak back. “Thanks for coming up with that. Terrible at coming up with names myself so I can’t imagine I’d have done any more than combining a couple words.”

He took a moment to steel himself for the obvious next question. The one that should’ve been the starting point. Seeing them like this was the push he needed to stop worrying about his own concerns. Even if they did recognize his name, he didn’t imagine much bad could come of it. “What is your name, by the way? Mine’s Gladion.”
"Nova. Sort of a... defiant name." Nova eyed the other union. Gladion's name rolled around in his head. Gladion. Gla-dee-on.

"Interesting name. Your parents must have a thing for flowers." Or swords, but Nova thought that less likely. "It's familiar." His gray eyes dulled slightly. Nova glanced at the walls. He had tested their sturdiness. Was reasonably confident he could have a conversation without any eavesdroppers.

"You're one of the humans, right? I'm... sorry that summoner projected my form onto you. If I could just remember..."
Gladion laughed. “Pretty common way of naming things where my dad came from. I’m one of the humans, but I’m sure it’s not your fault I ended up as one of these… I’m more surprised than anything that it’s possible, given that it is, I guess it was kind of a foregone conclusion that it’d happen to me. I have one as a partner back home… It’s a long story.”

My name’s familiar, though? But not enough to place it, so we probably haven’t met or anything. Heard my name like it’s a secondhand thing from somebody else? That’s a weird middle-ground for a Null to fall into. Who would’ve told—
Or maybe he does have a version of Hazel with him, but he’s found a safe place for her
No. Stop. Better not to worry about it.

“So if you have heard of me, I guess that’s probably part of the reason… But if you do end up remembering, maybe keep it between us? How that situation came to be isn’t really a part of my life I want too many social ties back to.”

It has been less then a day— probably not even half of one— and he’d already shared with two people more than he ever really should have. Once talking about Hazel, one to another Null. He sure did have his weak point.
Gladion had one... as a partner back home?

The back of his head tingled. What was it She would say? Even different worlds could have certain constants?

... That was when it clicked. And that was when what little gray light drained out of Nova's eyes. His claws curled up, scraping the floor. Nova hastily realized the instinctive gesture and attempted to save face.

"I see. You must care about them a lot." Nova did his best to sound upbeat. "The summoner must've recognized that passion." A nervous laugh. "Don't think you need to worry about Devon being a thing here, though."
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