Chapter 30: The Drift
"I could always tell his mannerisms and personality were somewhat unusual, but… human?"
Argon returned a nonchalant nod to Eoin, almost as if the two were gossiping over whether the Bagon snored in his sleep. Both had expected to spend at least a few hours via carriage or foot traveling from the airfield to Port Obstand, and yet due to the strange, noisy conglomeration of steel hustling them through the cobblestone roads, the day was as young as ever as they approached. Where one side of Eoin still mulled over the knowledge of Chimera's humanity, another, more feral part remained perplexed on the enigmatic combinations of pedals, wheel, and dials their Typhlosion driver used. It was a bumpy ride, if a fast one. After a pothole in the road nearly launched both Charmander and Raichu from their seats, an unspoken desire filled the two for a calming walk.
"I-I couldn't believe it either, at first," Argon replied. "Never thought a Raichu wandering out on the beach to avoid others could end up living something straight out of a story book. Or deserve to. He couldn't really take a punch or breathe fire, but… it gave him something different from other pokemon. Human or not, he's always stuck by me."
"And others seem to have noticed that extra something," Eoin whispered, not realizing the slight jump in his tail flame from its shield until it was too late. "Well… far be it from me to judge. I suppose we all have unlikely origins in this dangerous game we all have to play. Speaking of which…"
He looked left, and looked right. Argon similarly saw the long lines of guarded supply caravans they speed by, as well as the slight slouch in Eoin's posture. Just as the two saw an ocean-blue tinge through the thick brush of tropical flora on both sides, she scooted back to meet him. Only a few feet away in the driver's seat, after all, was a Typhlosion with a wandering ear. Not to mention that against the chilling nip of being open to the elements in a menagerie of steel, the huddled Charmander and Raichu could use some warmth.
"Besides meeting Chimera," Eoin whispered, against the constant drone of pistons, "this could also be a useful opportunity to further our aims for the revolution. To get the pallids to the guild hall, our success relies on departing from here. It's well-guarded, and equally defensible, but if we could enlist the sympathy of the port manager, this whole venture could get a lot easier."
"But… would they be willing to listen?" Argon replied, ears drooped down in thought. "I-I mean, if they do already know about the work farms, they've probably been with the guild for a lifetime, or at least as long as I've been. That's not easy to leave, even if we did have the damning evidence."
A turn out of the treeline, and to the cabins and docks jutting out of the yellow sand marked they were almost there. Eoin was silent with a claw to his chin, for longer than either he or Argon were comfortable with. Carriages of fruits and vegetables on their right rolled to the port town, while equally inconspicuous ones rolled away. With the constant chug of the engine, neither Raichu nor Charmander could make out the faint growls underneath.
"I don't know," Eoin replied, letting out a held breath. "I don't know. We can only hope that there are more pokemon ignorant than accepting across Faire. More pokemon that would be content having a pallid at their side, than down below washing a saddle."
As the rattle of wheels against ground turned from cobblestone to deck boards, Argon felt her cheeks spark from the sheer anxiety. Guild member or not, she was only one pokemon, and Arceus knew she had neither the charisma nor endurance to run around Faire advertising revolution like a particularly idealistic solicitor.
Pokemon on both sides of the harbor parted for the rumbling automobile to park. Argon and Eoin were glad to escape the incredulous stares departing their strange, mechanical carriage. The midday crowds seemed a bit thinner than usual, perhaps owing to the copious construction crews; Argon had to jump away making her way across the boardwalk to avoid a crew of three Mankeys, each carrying the last planks of wood from a pile like their life depended on it. Between the constant conversations, murmurs, and shouts from one work crew to the other, her ears raised hearing a single, distinct voice.
"D-do you hear that?" Argon asked, bumping shoulder to side against a Popplio in the process. "I… think that's Chimera. Probably best meeting up with him first."
As Raichu and Charmander wormed their way through the crowd, Argon couldn't tell what side of the caution tape the voice was coming from. One by one, they nestled past the wall of pokemon around the dock. A single ship, especially extravagant in spite of its size, was docked behind, having a group hastily running to paint over its chipped bow.
"Look," Chimera said, exacerbated voice becoming faintly audible, "I know you guys don't have Osha here, but I wanna speak with whoever thought putting a Wooper and Cloyster on lifting detail was a good idea. If you really need extra manpower, talk to me and I'll—"
Brown and blue eyes met across the boardwalk. Chimera nearly had to shout for his voice to project to the workers around his supply crate soapbox, and yet the rattle of his clipboard falling to the boardwalk hit both Bagon and Raichu like a gunshot. With more than enough shock to match Chimera's, Argon looked around. The same three Mankeys, with planks ready for installation and looking toward the Bagon for an order stuck on his tongue. A Marowak, Graveler, and Pallosand, who's faces clicked into her mind all too easy, giving their own directions to the rest of the work crew from a triangle formation with him at the center. A long line of freshly-made dock that stood between the two.
"Chimera, Sir?" A Morpeko said, flat cap nearly falling from its head as it reached for the clipboard. "Something wrong?"
He said nothing. First looking to Argon, then his own elevated position on the crate, Chimera looked as if jolted awake from a dream. Argon fiddled with her paws through the second of silence, her breath sucked out of her lungs.
"H-hey," Argon said.
Without thinking, Chimera lowered himself from the crate. Their eyes didn't break, saying all that could be said. A shrill wind cut through the warm air, ruffling fur and grey cape alike.
"Hey," Chimera replied. "I was just… I was just helping with… "
Shaking his head, Chimera turned to meet the Morpeko's curious look, and the clipboard outstretched in its hand.
"Could you tell Team Tectonic that I'm letting them handle the finishing touches?" Chimera asked. "If anyone asks, just… tell them I have a very important meeting."
Argon got her own shock back to reality feeling Eoin's side brush against hers. A silent look between Raichu and Charmander asked the same question. The former felt her ears raise in a quaint spark of optimism, against a flickering flame from the latter. Both could feel the air starting to feel a little heavier.
"I-It's good to see you," Argon said, taking a step up against the caution tape perimeter. "I know things have gotten a bit more complicated recently, but it's reassuring being a team again."
Chimera took a step forward, as Argon did the same. Eoin stood back watching the two meet in the middle, looking to the dock and extravagant ship on the other end like a chess board. With how the Bagon moved, it wouldn't be long before he reached the other side.
"Great seeing you too, Argon," Chimera replied, holding his hand out to Argon across the caution tape line. "I-uh... "
It took him a second to remember his partner's ignorance to such a human gesture, nor could he hide from her the slight trepidation in his arm spanning across the black and yellow tape. A second passed where they starred, with only nervous chuckles to fill the silence. Argon may have not known how to return the foreign ritual, but from her warm smile, it seemed enough time with the Bagon had taught her its meaning. She raised her own paw, though only to gesture to the tape.
"I-Is it alright if we—"
"Oh!" Chimera replied, eyes shooting wide in realization. "Of course. Here. No-uh, no hardhats necessary. The project should be about done, and God knows I don't need one."
With Chimera's hand on one side of the tape, and Argon's on the other, the barrier was raised to let Raichu and Charmander through. Eoin's head was on a swivel as he walked behind the two, mental notes going through the Pallid's head on planks laid, blindspots in the guards, and the two psychic horns peeking up in one of the portholes.
"So this is your game," Eoin muttered to himself, eyeing the window. "I'm half a mind to judge, though... I can only hope I'm more earnest in raising her to the soapbox."
"If you don't mind," Chimera said, letting out a stiff cough before turning to Argon. "I was planning on attending a little meeting on that ship now that the work is done. Think it'd be only fair if we all went."
Argon only nodded. Even if she felt her levitation starting to falter with every step of the Bagon, the pieces seemed clicking into place. In a strange way, a small part of her had accepted there'd be a day when the Quilladin and Dewott guarding the gangplank would offer Chimera a salute. A shiver ran down her spine, in tandem with a strange spark in her cheeks. Politics aside, she should be happy, shouldn't she?
"This is about the team," Argon asked, "isn't it?"
It was Chimera's turn to be silent. Argon already knew the answer seeing her partner's head droop to the reflecting water below, though to what extent, she couldn't tell.
Indiscriminate chatter mixed in with an echoing creak as the hatch from above deck to below opened. From the inside of the steamboat, it seemed like someone had cut a chunk of the Guild Hall, stretched it to fit a hull, and carved port holes in the sides. A carved mahogany bar stood out against the utilitarian steel on the outside of the vessel, while a glittering chandelier illuminated the red velvet carpet and silk green couches below. The centerpiece of the meeting room was a tall grandfather clock, with a face that seemed to peer into all who entered, and a swinging pendulum as big as a Girafarig's tail.
The comparison wasn't a coincidence. It was a modest crowd, some pokemon donning tricorns, others wearing caps all too similar to the Weezing, and all pinned with three gold lined letters that had nothing to hide. A familiar, sentient tail poked out through the crowd. Even when turned away to face a Kricketune, it was all too easy for its owner to spot the three pokemon who entered.
"You can inform the garrison, Gryllus, that their benefits will be organized post haste. They're the lynchpin of keeping the gears of the agriculture program running. I would be remiss not to—Chimera!"
With Raichu and Charmander at his flanks, Chimera gave Binair a wave. His body and mind seemed at odds crossing the crowd to Binair. Feet swaggered forth, creating a pressing time limit to think while his gaze remained locked to the carpet.
"Hello, Sir," Chimera replied, tone soft as his head raised a tad. "The dock construction is in the finishing stages. I can have a complete report to you by tomorrow. Is… is it up to standards? I know I could have managed the work crews a bit more efficiently, and when that Applin got mixed into the community lunch I knew I should've—"
"Completely," Binair replied, grinning back while his tail bobbed back and forth in rhythm. "Watching from here, I can say it may have gone faster with a certain ship-crasher in charge from experience alone, but in this instance, education took precedence. And it will continue to, now that I can confidently say our little agreement has been fulfilled."
A sideways glance from Chimera met his partner's eyes. Her stance seemed familiar, if a little more stalwart. He'd seen that droop in her ears, crossing a gangplank with a bronze badge pinned close to a time gear. As she looked to Eoin, however, there was… something else. Her gaze wandered to a nearby porthole, to where another tarped carriage was driven from the port. Even through the chatter, she could almost hear the growls of the pallids. Confused. Alone. The Raichu of yesterday neither knew of them, nor was needed to help, but now…
"I-uh, about that, Sir," Chimera said.
Binair's brow furrowed, while Chimera found his tongue tied, and his feet locked in place between Girafarig on one side, and Raichu and Charmander on the other. His hand subconsciously lifted to his slung crossbow, absently fiddling with the sliver of rope that hadn't been cut. Back and worth, his head turned, like a metronome of its own against the ticking clock. Teeth gritted, he took a deep breath. Fortune favored the bold.
"You've been good to me, Sir," Chimera said, breathing a sigh of relief after finding his breath. "Great, in fact. I still intend on following through with this training, but I made an agreement."
Glancing over his shoulder, he looked at Argon. Shock, incredulity, and a fair bit of relief seemed to flow through the Raichu.
"Chimera," Argon said, "if this is for my sake, you don't need to— I-I might be a lot busier myself for the future."
A faint voice in the Bagon caught the meaning under her words, but the rest of Chimera's mind only shored his footing.
"It's not just that," Chimera replied, turning to Binair. "I'm sorry, Sir, but I can't… I shouldn't compromise on this. More than I already have, at least. I'm all for the training, but we'll need to keep it part time, so the team we have can keep going. Is that alright?"
Binair's poker face broke just a tad as he held his breath. His head tilted, his tail gnawing at open air as he glanced back to Chimera and Eoin. For a moment, Binair's gaze lingered on the latter, meeting the Charmander's unmoving goggles with an equally cold stare. A blink from Chimera, and the Girafarig looked back, signature smile returning.
"I respect that, old chum. We can sort out the details for hours once the boilers get their coal, and we set off back to Pith Town. You've certainly shown yourself consistent. You, Argon, and… Eoin, was it? With an O, if I remember—"
"With an E," Eoin replied, flame seething under its cover. "A common mistake. It is no trouble. I doubt you ever thought it important to prioritize matters so colorless."
What would have been silence a second too long was saved by a blaring horn above deck. Trotting aside to a carved, chocolate brown coffee table, Binair's tail bobbed up, smile jolting to attention an Inteleon behind the bar. His call was answered with the clang of four silver chalices set on the bar. As a psychic aura surrounded the drinks, and their crimson contents sloshed through the air, Binair set his hoof on the table. It hit a checkerboard surface, styled in yellow and brown with carved miniatures of Pawniard, Rapidash, Nidoqueen, and Nidoking, and many others dotting its surface.
"Well," Binair said, slowly moving one of the Pawniard forward with his hoof, "in any case, I apologize. It is a shame we haven't gotten the chance to talk more, Eoin. I can tell a 'mon of intellect when I see one. Would you mind a bit of chess between us once we set out? Wonderful human game, it is. Before that, though… a toast."
The chalices floated above them, spinning in a square. They floated down as if by parachute to arm's distance, their contents still swirling when Bagon, Raichu, and Charmander took hold. In spite of the tarped carriages outside being no less present, not to mention the hours ahead dungeoneering with Chimera taking the place of much more important hours, Argon held a tepid smile. One Chimera returned, though with a slight droop that only a Yamask could match.
"Care to make the toast, old chum?" Binair asked, chalice floating up between the four. "I'd say after your work here today, you more than deserve it."
"Uhh, yes Sir," Chimera replied, snapping back into reality. "Thank you."
Raising his chalice, at least as much as his stubby hands could, Chimera looked between the three. He cleared his throat, staring absently out of the porthole where the work crews and tarped carriages of Port Obstand moved in constant motion until he had found the words.
"To… to a bright future ahead."
"F-for all of us," Argon added, surprising even a bit of herself.
The drinks clinked, the evening passed, and before long the horn blared once more as the course set for Pith Town. Chimera spent much of the ride lying on one of the couches, while Argon and Eoin found themselves subconsciously nestling together on an adjacent chesterfield. The same grandfather clock sat in between the furniture, with a constant, unending tick no matter where Bagon or Raichu placed themselves.
The week passed fairly quickly for Chimera. Days became myriads of activity, waking up in the same apartment, drinking the same cup of grepa berry tea, with the same Raichu to rise with in the bunk below. Where before, however, they would journey back to West Faire together with the setting sun at their back, he stayed. It never seemed to cause too much trouble, remaining at the port to supervise another project, or taking notes while a familiar Aerodactyl taught him the logistics of keeping thousands of soldiers, resource teams, and sailors working and content. After all, Argon seemed to always have her own thing to do after their daily missions.
He didn't have any time to ponder. With a clipboard in hand, and the salty port scent fresh in the air as the sun made its evening fall, Chimera made his own retreat. It was a quaint building, all things considered, built into an extension of the port just days ago. Stacked, yellow cinderblock walls with an orange, clay shingled roof. He eyed the wide, golden plate mounted above the door, finely engraved with bold letters.
Personal Office of one Chimera Droverson, WFG Port Comanager
"Still, never thought I'd see the day," Chimera whispered, letting out a chuckle to no one in particular. "A few more weeks, and pokemon here might stop asking me why I have two names."
It wasn't his first time in, yet the place seemed to have a strange familiarity under its fresh paint. Granite flooring, large cedar desk, and a rolling chair short enough that he didn't have to climb it like a ledge. Nailed to the back wall was a large map of shipping routes and hastily pinned reminders. As usual, the foremost said not to miss the late night ferry back to Pith Town, where a Raichu just as drowsy as himself waited in an apartment smaller than the office.
"Let's see… movie night tonight, right?" Chimera said, getting no response. "Just where did I put the—there."
With a spring in his step, Chimera jumped onto the rolling chair, sliding across the room until it hit the desk with a soft tap. Half buried under a mishmash of schematics, approval requests, and written reports, Chimera pulled out a thin, yet large movie reel. He grinned, wiping his hand over the title sticker; The Chimera of yesteryear may have preferred a flash drive and LED monitor, but he couldn't deny getting to watch Wiggly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
with his partner had its own charm.
The glint of nostalgia in Chimera's eyes was cut short by three short raps against the door. The Bagon nearly jumped out of his scales, even finding his hand drifting to a functionally useless crossbow (he'd repair it someday, just… not now).
"U-uh, come in!" Chimera said.
The door was well oiled, and Chimera heard not a peep as it opened until he caught sight of the visitor. Even then, all he could hear was his own hushed gasp.
"Hello, Chimera Sir," the Togetic said. "Sorry to intrude on a gloomy hour like this. It's just… I'm the new secretary around these parts. The Presider thought it prudent I assist you personally. Have some news from him, in fact."
Chimera blinked, then blinked again. His head tilted, gaze lingering for a second as if stuck in a dream.
"Course," Chimera replied, a bit too quickly for his liking. "Course. Appreciate the help, it's just… you just… never mind. If you don't mind me asking, Ms., what's-uhh, what's your name?"
"Eleanor," the Togetic replied.
The last time Chimera met a secretary who could fly through the air without flapping her wings, it was he reporting to her. Realizing a bit too late that his guest was standing outside in the cold, Chimera gestured her in. His posture was a bit more rigid than usual, equally unsettled as he reached to the desk for a glass bowl of red and white mints, pulling out two (complimentary, of course. On a late night like this, he could go through a dozen).
"Want one?" Chimera said, walking a step forward so his stubby arm could bridge the gap. "And what's the news?"
The Togetic's feathers seemed to ruffle a bit, hesitating for a second before she took the mint.
"Right, Sir. Thank you. Construction of the guard posts around the new branch of the harbor has stalled, something about supplies coming in damaged or broken for some reason. The Presider was asking if you could help them make do with what they have before they clock in, tonight. Said he trusted you most to get this done. Offered overtime pay, too, for the hours you help tonight."
"Just a few more of those," Chimera mumbled, a dry grin on his maw, "and we'll have enough coins for two
movie projectors in the apartment, but…"
Glancing back, Chimera let his gaze linger over to the mechanical clock on the desk. The hour hand was low. Too low. Inattentively, his hand lingered over the desk, to a homemade newton's cradle the Bagon would often occupy his time with. A single lift, and the contraption ticked and tocked, ball bearings fluctuating between the movie reel on one side, and the looming wall map on the other. Taking a deep breath, Chimera turned back; no use putting it off now.
"Yeah, sure," he replied. "Tell him I'll be right there. Gotta keep things running smoothly. Could you reschedule my ticket back to Pith Town two hours from now?"
"Right away, Sir," Eleanor replied, floating through the air to close the door behind her.
It was a bit too silent for Chimera's liking, with only the periodic ticks of the newton's cradle to keep him company. Posture drooping a tad, he made his own way to the door, glancing one last time at the film.
"Well… looks like movie nights gotta wait till next week."
The week passed like a setting sun, leaving a season a tad less warm, and a bit more dreary than before. Palm trees stood stout against the cold breeze, while the early morning hours between Bagon and Raichu passed with their usual routine. Another bag of paydirt brought home. Another group of feral pallids knocked to the floor against thundershocks and crossbow bolts. Bandages and splints over limbs were soon discarded; time healed all wounds, after all. The physical ones.
With time, came another opportunity. On the outskirts of Pith Town, with the soft sand at her feet and the water beyond painted in the vibrant orange of dusk, Argon readied herself.
"A-alright… I can do this."
A single target stood about three dozen feet away in the sand. Short, stacked with hay, and with a white and green visage vaguely modeled after a cartoon dinosaur, the practice target was no substitute for an actual threat. The true danger lay just a few feet to the side, in the form of a Ninetales. Even with no small number of gray hairs in his mane, he wielded a telekinetic aura holding his front two limbs a few inches off the ground, not to mention an inner fire Argon knew hot enough to melt stone.
"Remember what we've been going over!" Sean yelled across the way, paw tapping against a loose pile of stones at his side. "Hone the mind as a muscle, and your telekinetic abilities will endure for both the jog and sprints of combat. Keep a synergy between body and mind, and no pokemon will rival your maneuverability. And… best of luck, Argon. Nothing is out of your reach if you put yourself to it. On your mark."
Argon returned a soft smile, lowering onto all fours. Even now, he always made it look easy. All she had to do was take her father's training to heart, close the gap to give the practice target a solid punch, and hopefully not end up singed into ratatouille in the process.
Her eyes closed, a brief moment of serenity falling over Argon before she bolted. Sean certainly wasn't making things easy. Even with the Raichu's legs working on overdrive, she had barely gotten five feet out before spotting three stones soaring toward her from a telekinetic throw. The middle rock was easy enough to avoid, with a quick lunge to the right. Sean was tenacious, however, with the second flying so fast that even a last minute jump couldn't stop Argon from getting clipped on the side. She stumbled through the air, looking up just in time to see the third. Where she was falling, a hit was unavoidable. Unless…
It was the seventh day they'd been training after every mission, and by now it was almost a reflex. Psychic instincts spun into motion, forming an aura of energy that coalesced around Argon's tail. Thoughts sharpening to give it direction, she commanded her tail to raise under her, keeping her moving through the air as the stone whiffed just inches under. In the millisecond she had to think, Argon cringed; that would have hurt.
She wasn't out of the woods yet, however. She hit the ground, sand crunching against her paws with only a dozen feet between her and the target. Argon smiled for only a moment, before seeing the buildup of flames lining her father's open maw.
A wall of fire erupted from Sean's mouth. She could feel the heat against her fur, not to mention her own beating heart at the five pronged blast of destruction hurtling toward her. On instinct, Argon jumped, but she didn't have a hope of clearing its radius with just that. She wasn't an acrobat, but from a guildmaster's training, she wouldn't need to be.
Raging wall of embers getting nearer by the second, Argon again roared the psychic energy around her tail to life. In spite of, or perhaps because of her fear, she worked fast, moving the tail until it floated above her. The Raichu went up after her first jump, but never went down. After all, she had the perfect platform to keep her in the air. Again, Argon lunged, clearing the blast like a pole vaulter. Energy and adrenaline coursed through her, tingling, sparking, and crackling until she fell back to earth with a paw armored in electricity.
She may have gotten a few burnt hairs on her back in the process, but the target ended up much worse. Her momentum carried, fist knocking it back with a resounding crack into the sand. A mark remained on its snout, burnt from a torrent of static. In a weird way, even Argon couldn't believe it. Breathing heavy, she looked back to Sean with a tepid smile; if the Ninetales' wide eyes were any indication, his reaction was much the same.
"I… think that's pretty well for today," Sean said. "Exemplary work, Argon. I have no doubt you'll remain able to defend yourself for what's ahead."
It wasn't until the sparks in Argon's cheeks died that she heard the tinge of wariness in Sean's voice. He let out a few, coughing embers, before setting himself to the sand. His gaze remained steadfast, towards a familiar landmass across the sea. Keeping her smile up as best she could, Argon sat herself down at his side.
"T-thanks, Dad. Couldn't have done it without you. Feels weird, honestly. Being able to do more as a psychic type than staying afloat or fetching something I'm too lazy to grab. Has been a big help going on missions with Chimera. Between that, and him improving on that tool of his, we've been getting through our daily missions in probably half the time we used to. N-not to mention I can get a lot less dirty sneaking with Eoin through that pipe to the… the… "
"That pallid farm," Sean finished. "Orchestrated by my illustrious
counterpart from the WFG."
Argon had heard her father well enough to know what didn't sit well in his stomach. The two sat in silence for a bit, listening to the rhythmic call of the waves. Pelippers, Toucannon, and Swanna flew up against a clear sky. If Argon squinted, she could even see a vaguely familiar Mantine above. Every so often as the Mantine flew above the city and beach, sections of folded pamphlets dropped from the saddle, falling to the ground like leaves.
"Argon," Sean said, snapping the Raichu back to attention. "I've long since learned that I cannot nor should not try to put a stop to what you aspire, but this… revolution, you and Eoin are planning, are you sure that the risk is worth the reward? I respect Eoin and the pallids that follow him, and I'll help anyway I can, but the last thing I want is for you to be harmed unnecessarily."
Argon would be lying to say she hadn't had similar thoughts. Just yesterday was probably the tenth time she'd tried getting the support of pokemon wandering the streets of Pith Town. The tilted heads. The incredulous stares. The mix of disbelief, or simple apathy as they returned to their business. She could only hope that Eoin was having more luck on his end.
"I-I mean, we have to try," Argon replied, fiddling with her paws as she looked to the sand. "I've spent far too long already playing it safe while others suffered. We can get the pallids here, but we need a way to let all of Faire know what they've had to endure. We just need a way to—"
"Bombs away!" Catalina called out, as high as a kite above the two. "'Lotta 'pologies for the shameless advertising, Aragon. The things corporate has me do…"
The call was followed by a pamphlet hitting Argon square in the face. About a dozen more fell to the rest of the beach, after which Catalina had soared off for her next target. Stifling a growl, Sean gave the Mantine a halfhearted shake of his paw. As he turned back to Argon, a psychic aura lifted the paper off her nose.
"You alright, Argon?"
"Y-yeah," she replied, giving a slight chuckle. "Swift attack from that Accelgor in Exeggutor's Jungle gave me far worse. I just—wait."
The pamphlet itself was a fairly standard thing, a colorful yet simple advertisement with probably the most artificial smile a Mantine could give on the cover. Looking up, however, and seeing another airdrop from Catalina, it all clicked into place. Her eyes opened wide, ears perking up with enough static over her cheeks to power a lightbulb over her head.
"Dad!" Argon said, head whipping over to meet Sean's eyes. "You remember that camera you gave me for my hatchday, r-right?"
"Of course," Sean replied, blinking a bit at his daughter's smile. "Do you need new film for it? I likely have enough connections back with the guild to offer you anything you need."
It was foolhardy. Hopelessly optimistic. But… it just might work. She looked up to the sky, seeing Catalina silhouetted against the distant landmass of East Faire.
"T-that's good to hear, Dad," Argon replied, "because if this all works out, we're gonna need a lot of it."
"A lot of what, if I may ask?"
The sudden voice sounded very familiar, but that didn't keep Argon's fur from jumping up like a scared cat. She whipped around in tandem with Sean, stopping only at the sight of a Charmander that has just realized his faux pas.
"Hello," Eoin said, posture shifting as he tried to regain an inviting smile. "Apologies for the interruption. I didn't mean to—"
"W-we were just finishing up the training," Argon replied, tone soothing a fair bit. "It's great to see you, Eoin. What brings you here now? A-and, what's that you're carrying?"
Eoin blinked (or at very least paused, enough that Argon could tell through the goggles), as if needing to remember there was anything in his claws, and exploding in realization at their importance. On his left arm, a simple wicker picnic basket, with a stack of tamoto berries and a thermos hanging off the end. In his right, a single flower. It was a vibrant thing, with a blooming button of small, orange pedals in the center that branched off into large ones of grey and white. He looked at Argon, then at Sean, breath sucked in as he pondered whether to hold the flower out, or hide it behind his back.
"Oh, this?" Eoin replied, putting on the simple smile of a feral that had absolutely no idea how to effectively lie. "Just some— Just that we… I thought that, as co-leaders in the events ahead, that we have some one on one time to exchange notes on our progress. My efforts scouting and sabotaging the defense construction at Port Obstand, yours to shift public opinion. Of course, we haven't had much personal time for such discussion in the past few weeks, and I thought at an hour like this, the cliffside just a short while from here would offer ample security. Is that… agreeable?"
Neither Argon nor Sean needed to look at each other to know the Charmander's intentions were a bold faced lie, or at least half of one. Argon's chest fluttered, half at the thought, and half knowing next to her was a Ninetales that could pick Eoin up with his mind and fling him across the sea.
"D-dad, do you mind if we… "
"Not at all, dear," Sean replied, soaking in Eoin's fearful glances just a bit too much. "Though remember the value of product restraint in times like these. The flower Eoin's holding may have already been pollinated, but when your Mother and I were your age—"
"Dad!" Argon yelped, ears raising in a pouty demeanor. "I-I mean… thank you."
She let out a deep sigh, walking to Eoin as a smile slowly returned. The flower passed from claw to paw, fading daylight falling under the horizon. On a chilly day like this, the warmth they felt as they touched was something to savor.
"Well," Argon said, "shall we get going? We don't have all—wait."
The thought hit her like a take down. How long had they been putting it off? A new, foreign box with a bulb that blared on the entire side of a wall. A roll of tape with that new moving picture thing on it, and a Bagon to share it with. Was that really tonight?
"Something wrong?" Eoin asked.
"N-no," Argon replied, "it's just… just nothing."
The days would pass, and the large sphere in the sky would make its periodic run over the horizon. As she sucked in a breath, however, Argon knew all too well that movie night would have to wait until next week.
They were tired. Again, the days passed, and again, the fall air outside seemed just a little less comforting than usual. Argon was the first to enter their apartment at the usual hour, though they never could predict who'd be the one to arrive later. Three raps against the door greeted her while nestled in her bed. A psychic flick, a click of the lock, and Chimera's visage greeted her.
"Hey," Chimera whispered, arms outstretched as he let out a nod.
"Hey," Argon replied, her own maw opening from the infectious gesture.
The Bagon said not a word as he set his exploration pack to the floor, papers nearly falling from their sleeve. Argon tucked herself into the sheets. She looked to her side, reaching halfway to her bedside table for her nighttime tea, only to find it already drunk. Closing her eyes, all she could do was rack her mind through the fog for something to say.
"H-how have things been going at the port?" she asked. "Projects been going well?"
"Yeah," Chimera replied, answer innate. "Binair asked me to help with some logistics around the Guild Hall. Will be nice getting back here for a bit. You know how it goes. Things going alright with Eoin?"
"Yeah, w-we've been keeping pretty busy ourselves. That Mimikyu pallid in the dungeon today didn't give you too hard of a hit, did it?"
Chimera blinked, needing a second to even remember the morning event she was referring to. Pausing, the Bagon tried every bit to summon the events of their daily mission, only to find they had slid though his mind. Shrugging, Chimera shook his head, before climbing the bunk side ladder to his own bed. He couldn't put his claw on it, but things seemed… different. As Bagon and Raichu rubbed their bagged eyes, however, both knew that neither the sun, nor the ticking gears of time would wait for either of them.
"S-should I turn off the light?" Argon asked.
"Sure," Chimera replied, before catching himself. "Wait, what about the—you know?"
His voice was half hearted, and he knew it. Argon would be remiss to call her own any more enthusiastic. Seemingly in tandem from the top and bottom bunk, the two looked to the side, spotting a large, metallic projector tucked away in the corner where the camera used to be. The same film lied on top of it, with a thin border of dust on its edges. Posture slumping, Chimera leaned back into the bed, letting out a sigh that turned into a nod.
The constant, whispering voice in her consciousness suggested otherwise, but Argon already knew the answer.