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Thread: [M] Pokemon: Avarice Versus Justice! (Ashen and Headwrapper)

  1. #151
    The Moonlight Knight
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    It was a quick trek back to Clive's desk, only taking a detour to get a cup of coffee. He took a sip of the liquid, paled to a near milky white from the generous helpings of cream and sugar that were added, and grimaced at the hint of coffee flavor. Dirty bean water, he thought sourly. Upon arriving at his desk, he lowered himself into his chair and took a second look at the various reports on his desk. The fingerprint scans he initiated earlier that night were completed. It turned up basically empty, as any matches had a very low probability of being correct. It would at least add new fingerprints in case they come across a repeat incident in the future.

    Clive took a moment to pause and ponder the fingerprint findings. If there were no findings then the people involved would not have been the typical grunt who already had a history with crime. These were either people brand new to crime, or people too good to have ever been caught before. Why leave fingerprints behind then, if they were so good?

    The detective moved on, raising the forensic report about the ash samples again. Unlike before, when he was still half-asleep and probably delirious, he took his time while rereading the report. "Measurable traces suggest raw material source is wood from an aged tree with no prior heat history or artificial treatment." After another pause, Clive turned and typed away at his computer. First, he gathered a list of lumberjacks in the Johto region. Then, he expanded the list further, as he requested information on the largest consumers of lumber. This included shops that sold firewood, charcoal makers, paper mills, fabricators, furniture dealers, and more. It would be impossible to review records of every inventory transaction for each of these companies, but Clive knew that in a few days time he would likely be able to narrow the list down. He put the word out to park rangers and property owners to be on the lookout for missing trees, in case Avarice decided to gather their own supplies.

    When it was all said and done, Clive paid another visit to the forensics labs and put in another request for a round of tests with the remaining ash samples. He was also told that if he had suspicions on a source of the wood, if he could provide samples it would make it easier to pinpoint the specific species of tree the ashes were produced out of. With a promise to keep that in mind, Clive left the lab staff to their work so he could return to other matters.

    He reread for the third, fourth, and fifth time, Yulia's report of her interview of Sierra. It was probably about time they approached her again, he thought. Who is her lawyer? he wondered. If it was someone who had a good relationship with the justice system, Clive could imagine they would strike up a deal to lessen her sentence if she complied and forfeited useful information. It would be a gamble for the GRPD though. There's not a whole lot of evidence suggesting that Sierra herself would know a lot of information. If anything she was just someone following orders, turned criminal by Avarice just like any grunt. Her crimes were also very clear, and it was arguable that she was definitely involved with the near-lethal maiming of Jean. Letting her off lightly would not look good to the public, the Chief, Natasha, Jean, or really anyone, if the information she had to offer did not help them.

    Clive could not leave it up to chance. He began to review everything they had known about Sierra. Her previous tenure at the Goldenrod Gym, her supposed and unexplained abduction, her involvement with the terrorist attack, and... the statements from that strange girl that day. She had said Sierra's capture was imperative to her master's plan. Why would Phoenix need Sierra captured? Also, who exactly was that girl? She had powers of her own, it seemed, without necessitating the help from Pokemon to teleport. So confident in this ability that even in Yulia's apartment, she simply teleported herself to her position without taking so much as a step to move around, evidenced by her footprints. Sierra seemed to know who this girl was, and presumably her power also, since she sought after her help during the arrest. Maybe striking a deal with Sierra would be worth it if they had more information about the girl, in addition to Avarice's plans.

    He decided he would broach the topic with Yulia, since he had left her in charge of interrogating Sierra before. It may have been time for him to take the wheel next time they talked to her, and possibly her lawyer.

    When he did eventually find her, she was looking more ragged than he had been. He blinked his baggy eyes before furrowing his brows, giving Yulia a quick glance over. "You alright?" he questioned flatly.

    After giving Yulia time to discuss or explain away her apparent exhaustion, Clive brought up the topic of Sierra and his earlier thoughts on the way things would likely go. He deliberately pointed out what he knew about the strange psychic girl, and his hope that identifying who or what she was might help them cripple part of Avarice's toolset. That would only be a bonus, if Sierra could explain anything in regards to Phoenix's plans.

  2. #152
    The Ashen One
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    Clive looked as if he’d been hard at work all day, something Yulia couldn’t quite say of herself. Roses dotted her cheeks, embarrassed at having nothing to show for the hours she’d been here. She tried to shake the feeling and greeted Clive with a half-hearted smile. She was quick to wave away his concerned about her well-being. Yulia didn’t like people worrying about her, and by this point, making excuses for her black-out spells was second nature. Clive didn’t press her, and she was thankful for that. They were able to move on from talk of her and get to the important discussions about their work.

    As always, while they discussed details about their mission, Yulia jotted down notes onto a pad she pulled from seemingly nowhere. Speaking with Sierra again was a good idea—as long as it wasn’t Yulia doing the interrogating. She thought of the last time she’d tried to talk with the girl, how Sierra had reacted to her, and her pen stilled in her hand, nervous. Yulia looked up over the frame of her glasses, gnawing her bottom lip. “Maybe we would have more success if you spoke with Sierra,” she suggested. “I’ll double-check which lawyer has been assigned to her, and I’ll reach out with them to schedule a meeting. If everything works out, we can conduct the interrogation as early as tomorrow.” She wrote reminders to herself to do the things she was going to, and then she set her pad back in her bag. Even if she was unfocused, she could at least complete these simple tasks, and it would make her feel a lot better for the work she didn’t do today.

    When they finished speaking, Yulia nodded towards Clive and fluttered back to her desk to arrange that meeting with Sierra’s lawyer. After she’d done that, she looked over her notes again and stared at the one about the psychic Clive had mentioned. They didn’t know much about her, and it seemed the psychic wanted things to be kept that way. Yulia wanted to talk with her, to try to find out more about her ties with Avarice and what her goals were, but they didn’t know where to even begin in tracking her. Maybe the interrogation with Sierra would give them some kind of lead, but for now, Yulia sighed and made a small note to come back to that later.

    It was getting late, so typing up the rest of her notes and sending a final email to the lawyer with Clive CC’d, Yulia gathered her things and started back to her apartment. It was only on the road that she remembered the state her apartment was in, that it was a crime scene now, and she paused, wondering where she should go. Yulia needed sleep; she knew that, but a part of her was drawn to her home. She wanted to again search for clues, to get back at the people who had done this to her. Clive had been thorough, sure, but maybe there was something she would see that he couldn’t, and—

    She snapped out of her trance as a honk blared from the car behind her. Startled, Yulia realized she had been stopped at a traffic light that was no longer red, and she moved forward cursing herself for zoning out so bad. Now was not the time to bring her work home with her. But Avarice had never been just work to her—it was her whole life, and she was getting closer and closer to putting it all to rest.

    Back in her hotel room, she let her Pokemon out of their Balls, fed them, and then got ready for a nap. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow, and she slept straight until morning. Yulia dragged herself out of bed and into the shower and got ready for work. By the time she got to the police department, she was two hours early for her shift, but she got to work anyway. It wouldn’t make up for her tardiness the day before, but it was a start.

    By the time Clive arrived at his desk, he would find an email confirming the meeting time with Sierra and her lawyer. Yulia had spent a portion of the morning doing research on this lawyer, and she was excited to find he was new to the legal world. With any luck, they would be able to reach a conclusion easily, and they could start exploring whatever leads they got later today. She’d also made a list of things Clive needed to go over with Sierra—not that her partner needed the reminders, she knew, but spelling it out on paper helped her keep organized, and besides, she wanted to feel helpful.

    Before he could even sit at his deck, Yulia was there, handing him the list she’d made and rambling about her speculations of Sierra’s connections to other members of Avarice and even to the psychic. “If you can get her to talk,” she went on, “it would be invaluable to us if she mentioned anything about Phoenix. I don’t expect her to want to share, though, so really emphasize what we can do with her prison sentence, and how grim it’ll look if she decides to not help us. I know how threatening you can look, so really use that to our advantage, yeah?” She smiled at him, showing that she meant no harm by her light jab. “Oh, and you’ll be pleased to know Jean’s recovery is going well. I spoke with Natasha about it earlier. Rumor has it he’ll be out of the hospital by the end of the week. Natasha is sure happy about that, but I would still keep out of her way after…well, you know.” She finally looked up from the papers her eyes were racing over and smiled awkwardly. “Oh,” she said quietly. “And good morning.”

    Yulia seemed almost back to her usual, chipper, overeager self, but whether that was because she was feeling better after some rest or because she was masking how stressed she really was, not even she knew.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

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  3. #153
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    The new began rather normally for Clive. After arising from his sleep, he slowly meandered his way into his living room, where his Pokemon had been resting. Even now, it was hard to sleep at night without the assurance that his Pokemon, with their heightened instincts and perception, were standing watch. He pretended not to notice his Umbreon stir slightly when he walked by on his way to the kitchen for some water.

    After going about his morning routine, Clive marched dutifully to the police department and made his way to the office. Any lethargy or dullness from his earlier slumber was suddenly wrenched out of him the moment he stepped in, repelled by Yulia's energy. As Clive made his way to his desk, his partner had already approached him, spouting off all kinds of suggestions, speculation, news and words of encouragement. Clive quietly accepted the documents Yulia had prepared, feeling like an executive being briefed by their secretary before an important meeting as he did. He tried to glance over it briefly, but could not help himself from looking back up to Yulia every time she piled on a new piece of information.

    Finally, Yulia's excited and wordy discourse slowed to a halt. Clive barely stifled a small chuckle in response to the girl's awkward smile, and he returned it with a grin of his own. "Good morning," he said, setting down his things. He rearranged a few items, and stowed his bag underneath of his desk. He leaned over his desk, pressing the tips of his fingers into as he did so. "Let's unpack all of that, shall we?"

    He stepped back and picked Yulia's list back up. His eyes sped across the page as he skimmed through it, and eventually he mumbled a silent "okay". He frowned slightly, just before sitting down and flipping to a page in his notebook. The line on his forehead furrowed slightly as his eyes darted between the documents, and he eventually stopped to write a few notes and cross out some words to make corrections. "I'll get her to talk, without a doubt," he finally said. "But it's tricky. We can't get excited over every little thing she says, and we have to be careful about making any promises. She is young, which is all the more reason that she will tell us anything we would want to hear to help lessen her sentence, whether it's true, half-true, or completely untrue.

    "Currently, Sierra's charges are all directly tied to the attack. We were not able to dig up anything else that was actually illegal, but those are still some hefty charges. So we can still learn a lot even if we keep the topics centered around the attack itself." Clive then began to describe his plans for the interrogation, emphasizing that a few minutes of preparation could save many hours, days, weeks, months, or years over the lifetime of a case. The clinical nature of his proposed approach outlined his talent and experience, his practice and study of the craft.

    To Clive's annoyance, the lawyer pushed the meeting time to be in the afternoon. He speculated that it was to give him time to conflate Sierra's head with meaningless "tools" to stop her from potentially further criminalizing herself, and coach her to queue to her defense attorney when she was not comfortable with answers. Maybe the lawyer would even try to undermine the interrogator's approach by warning the suspect ahead of time about their practices... Which brought up a good point.

    "Hey, where did you say this lawyer went to school? You said he's rather new, right?" He swiveled in his chair, waiting for an answer. Upon hearing the name of the law school, he quickly did a quick internet search and looked up the faculty there. He hummed to himself, writing down the names of who he saw, and quickly opened more browser tabs to search some other things. "Ah, these are all old school guys," he said. "So they all think like this..." He spun around in his chair and inched towards a bookshelf against the wall. From one end, he pulled out an older looking book, with binding that was rather worn with age. He tossed it on his desk and it landed with a loud thud.

    "I bet at the academy they teach a few different methods for interrogation, yeah? Well all these old guys, all they know is the good ol' Reeves and Associates method. Probably the leading cause of false confessions and shaky evidence." He shook his head as he turned back towards Yulia. "So if this guy is anything like his mentors, he's probably telling Sierra that we're going to barge in there with a narrative and are going to try to bully her into saying things we want to hear. We'll cut her off from making any objections, and ask stupid questions like 'Did you do it because you were force or did you do it because you planned it'? He's coaching her to recognize those things and empower her to 'call us out' on it or whatever."

    The scornful mockery in Clive's voice was thick, rich with his distaste for the topic. His annoyance was evident in his tone, but at the same time he almost conveyed something else. His eyes seemed to glaze over, suddenly under stimulated by the task at hand. Like someone who was bored.

  4. #154
    The Ashen One
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    Yulia was fascinated, watching Clive ramble about his work like this. She was reminded of how much longer he had been at this than she had, and how much more she had to learn. She’d looked into the lawyer’s school, too, but she didn’t know the names of his professors like Clive seemed to. She wondered how many of them he had met personally, how many were infamous around the police department. She took mental notes on the methods he mentions, the names he brought up. It reminded her of the Academy, of studying too many things at once, of keeping different quotes straight and brainstorming ways around example lawyers. Those days felt so long ago now, and she found herself missing them.

    And as Clive continued on, she thought with a chuckle to herself that perhaps Clive did, too. The way he spoke about this made her think he could be a professor himself. Though perhaps a tutor was more accurate; Yulia couldn’t imagine him in front of a whole classroom of students listing off things to look for during an interrogation. She also realized he didn’t particularly enjoy this. Clive seemed bored, and that made Yulia excited about what would happen after this interrogation. With any luck, they’d be able to follow whatever leads Sierra gave them, and that would put them back out in the field. Clive seemed happier out there, and Yulia thought back to the work they’d done together, the warehouse, the festival. If she had to choose, she thought being out there, looking for clues with her partner, was her favorite part of the job, too.

    Yulia shook her thoughts. She was getting distracted again, so she refocused on the conversation and picked up the book Clive had tossed to his desk. Originally, she’d thought all the books Clive surrounded himself with were for show, so to see his familiarity with his shelves impressed her. As he thumbed the different spines, she picked up the book he’d chosen and sifted through the chapters. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen this title—she recognized it and many of Clive’s other books as staples in the library at the Academy—but she couldn’t remember the last time she had given it much thought. She asked Clive to borrow it, intending to reread it before the interrogation. Clearly, she still had a lot to learn.

    They talked over different approaches to the interrogation over a couple cups of coffee, and since Sierra’s lawyer kept postponing their meeting, they temporarily went their separate ways. Yulia returned to her desk with Clive’s book, eager to explore the topics he had brought up in their conversation. At some point, she realized she needed to eat lunch, so with plenty of time still before the interrogation, she made her way to the vending machines down by the entrance and brought something small back to her desk. There was still much to do, and she didn’t want to let her lunch distract her.

    There was still the topic of that psychic. Yulia made a note to contact Sabrina to ask her about her girls, if any of them had been missing lately, or if any had been acting suspiciously. Clive had seen their psychic more than Yulia had, so Yulia thought the two of them could pay Sabrina’s gym a visit, maybe even entertain the idea of a Pokemon battle while they were there. Of course, they would also have Sierra’s leads to follow—if she ended up giving them any—and just thinking about all the work they’d have to do soon would make anyone overwhelmed. Yulia was far from it; with so many things to do, she felt alive, useful, and all the closer to stopping Team Avarice.

    When the time for their meeting finally came around, Yulia walked with Clive to the interrogation room, bid him good luck, then walked to an adjacent room to take a seat. From here, she could watch the whole interrogation from a one-sided mirror. Clive’s book laid on the table in front of her, and she was ready to reference it as if she would be tested on it later. She glanced at the people in the next room, at Sierra and she sat up a bit straighter. Sierra couldn’t see her, wouldn’t recognize her from here, and Yulia took solace in that. The fear that had been in her eyes the last time they’d seen each other… That was a clue in and of itself, but not one she could voice to Clive or anyone. If Yulia had to guess, the girl had gotten into serious trouble among Avarice, which meant she had lots to tell them.

    It was a shame, if Yulia really thought about it, how young Sierra was and how she was already tied up in such a mess. She wondered what would happen to the poor girl once this was all over. What would happen to Yulia herself. She tried not to think about it, and as she shook the thoughts from her head, she turned her attention back to the next room. So distracted, she realized she’d missed what Clive had just said, and she cursed herself for it. As she caught up on the interrogation, she pulled a pen out of her jacket pocket and wrote down all the things Sierra said that she thought might lead them somewhere. By the time the interrogation was done, in addition to all the things Clive had made note of, they would have an extensive list of new things to explore.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

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  5. #155
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    The majority of the Clive's time was spent preparing for the upcoming interrogation. After giving it much thought and discussing it through with Yulia, Clive eventually decided on his approach. He kept a mental list of the questions that needed answered, and tried to formulate ways to answer them depending on the direction the discussions would go. There was no way of knowing how Sierra would react to Clive's presence, since he had been the one to arrest her. Clive had a guess as to what ways the lawyer may try to prepare Sierra, but again, he had know way of knowing how seriously she would take his advice.



    Sierra waited patiently in the interrogation room. Her wrists were bound to either end of the rigid, thick wooden table in front of her. The room was bright, making the details of everything around her extremely apparent. She could see the outline of her broken thumbnail, the bruises around her wrists from fighting her restraints a few days prior. She could clearly see the wrinkles and lines on her lawyer's face as he read through his documents, waiting as silently as she was. What she could not see was anything outside of the brightly lit room. The heavy door had excessively thick seals around its perimeter, blocking any outside light from contaminating the room. The pane of glass the nearly took up the entire wall to her right was was reflective as can be. From her side, anyway.

    There was an abrupt knock on the door, and it suddenly opened. The door's swing was quick, but uncharacteristically silent, and a figure emerged through it. He moved with silent, deliberate movements, hardly making any unnecessary sounds as he did so. After quietly closing the door from behind him, his dark eyes looked towards Sierra and her lawyer. Sierra steeled herself, trying remain quiet as she drew a long breath through her nostrils and stared back in return. She remembered those eyes, which seemed to scan feverishly before intensely focusing on their subjects.

    The man politely introduced himself, acknowledging both Sierra and the defense attorney as he did so. The girl kept herself calm throughout the formalities- she had been prepared about the deceptive and manipulative methods the detectives would use. Predictably, Clive Oiler made her aware of her rights, released one of her handcuffs so that she could be more comfortable, and stated that he wished to hear about her account of the attack that took place in Goldenrod City. So, the lengthy discussion began.

    The first several minutes of questions were easy to answer. The attorney had told her beforehand to expect several "soft balls". She answered a few of the questions without reason to reserve any information, such as her name, age, and some of her trainer information. Other questions, which seemed to be slightly more personal in nature, were shot down by her attorney. Sierra was surprised to see Clive's reaction to such challenges. She expected him to push back. She expected him to try to maintain dominance of the situation, lash back out, voice annoyance, bare his teeth. He did nothing of the sort. Rather, he would continue to write in his hardbound notebook, and the dark eyes would glance up again... and watch. They watched the attorney first, usually, as if waiting to make sure he was finished speaking. They would then move to Sierra briefly, offering the same opportunity, occasionally soliciting her to nod in agreement with her attorney.

    Those moments were the worst. They were silent, and cold. Sierra knew the maneuver was a calculated and rehearsed move, but it was far enough from what she expected that she still could not help but feel rattled each time. Authority, at least in her mind, was supposed to be loud. They should be outraged at any hint of what they perceived as defiance. Their compassion should be evident, their emotions bright and hot. This man was after something different, as if his mind was racing elsewhere.

    Finally, the detective directly broached the topic of the attack. The attorney allowed Sierra to tell her account of what had happened, at least in the way they had previously agreed upon. Clive listened patiently, seemingly writing even less than he was before. Before he asked more questions, he thanked her for the retelling, a gesture that stirred the discomfort in the room again. Even her attorney stirred slightly in his seat.

    "Everything you've recounted seems to match up with the facts that we have gathered," Clive went on to say. He straightened himself in his seat and leaned forward, placing his forearms on the table while looking towards the attorney. "Look, there's no question, this attack was a big deal. It's gotten the attention of a lot of people, and you can imagine there is a lot of pressure to make sure that innocent people do not get hurt again, and..." He paused for a long moment, and turned his head towards Sierra. The bags below his eyes were almost darker as he looked her over sadly. "And to stop Phoenix from victimizing others for his greedy ways. He should be the one behind bars right now, and there are plenty of reasons to arrest him. We just have not found him yet."

    The attorney cleared his throat before chiming in. "And what are you suggesting?"

    "Well, based on the information that Phoenix has made public, he was clearly involved with the attack. I also believe that Sierra may have some insight to his motives, or can at least give me details about how he issues his orders."

    "My client has already made it clear that she is not interested in further incriminating herself. There is also shaky evidence around some of her current charges, meaning it is very probable that she may face a lesser sentence than what she was even arrested for."

    "Several eye witnesses recounted that she gave the order that almost killed a detective on the scene," Clive quickly replied, his dangerous gaze directed entirely towards the attorney. "She destroyed a city Gym in the process, and put people and Pokemon in harm's way. Throw out any delusions of leniency. Not from the courts, nor from the public." The attorney opened his mouth to say something again, but Clive continued on. "I don't need fodder or any additional incriminating evidence, not for this. The moment an officer of the law was sliced open from knee to shoulder, I would have everything I would need offer to the prosecution. Did you know that had the wound began just two inches to the left, it would have punctured that man's femoral artery and he would have bled to death as the rubble crashed around him. A man who just finished putting criminals behind bars for embezzling funds from various Pokemon Centers in the region.

    Mistakes happened. But while we piss around in here, the actual criminals are out there, and they will keep hurting people and Pokemon. And they will take young people and toss them aside to save their own skin. They threw you out like trash, Sierra, I was there and I saw it. And what are they doing to your Persian, huh?"

    "I would like a moment to converse with my client in private, please."

    Clive licked his dry lips, and glanced around once before nodding. "Five minutes." He gathered his things, turned off the microphone on the wall, and left the room. After letting out an audible sigh, he walked to join Yulia in the other room, where she had been watching.

    "He's asking her to make the plea deal," he said, watching through the glass. Sierra seemed frustrated. Although they could not hear her, she swayed from side to side in her chair as she spoke. Her skin was started glow red, and she could not stop a few stray tears from rolling down her cheeks.

    When Clive returned to the interrogation room, the discussion continued for several more hours. Sierra and her attorney agreed that she could share more information, but they asked for a lesser sentence and that any further evidence drawn from the discussion could not be used to incriminate her further. After frequent back-and-forths, Clive leaving the room to "review" several times, and many one-on-ones between Sierra and her attorney, an agreement was finally reached. "This is great," Clive commented. "You are going to help a lot of people, Sierra. And you are going to show them that you are even stronger than they are."

    "Just promise you will catch him," Sierra replied. She looked serious, and Clive was intrigued to know what images were in her mind that she suddenly became hellbent on capturing Phoenix.

    "With any luck, we'll do more than that," Clive said, and they got to work.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    After some time discussing with Sierra, Clive eventually adjourned the interrogation for the day. He had concerns for the girl's well-being and ability focus after several hours of tension. Others may have claimed the move was ill-advised, as it presented an opportunity for the girl to fabricate stories, rethink her decisions, or ultimately back out on their agreement entirely. Clive would have argued that the girls tired, battered, mind was just as likely to produce incorrect statements, and lead to other frustrations. They reconvened the next day.

    "Do you drink coffee, Sierra?" Today, Clive sat on one side of the table so that there was not as much obstructing him and Sierra from each other. He rotated his cup of hot chocolate slowly before taking a sip.

    "No, I don't like it very much," she said. "Like the sweet stuff with a lot of creamer is okay."

    "I don't like it either," Clive said. "That's hot chocolate in there."

    After a few more hours, Clive had everything that Sierra claimed she had to say. There was a lot to unpack, to say the least, and Clive could almost hear Yulia bouncing against the one-way mirror in anticipation, ready to chatter his ear off while he still digests it all. He had to admit, any excitement would be justified. They did a damn good job. Furthermore, there was a lot to be worried about:

    Firstly, Sierra had shared more information about the day of the attack, and the reasons for the attack on the gym. Avarice had organized the various attacks across different teams, so she did not have many details about how the heists on the magnet train stations or the the raid on the department store inventory were carried out. Her attack on the gym, she suspected, was merely a way for Avarice to overwhelm the justice department's resources to make the other raids more successful. "He knew that I had personal reasons for returning to the Gym," she said. "That was where he first recruited me, and made me believe that they could make me... better."

    "Better how?" Clive asked.

    "They make you feel stronger. They give you access to their powerful Pokemon. They put money in your pockets. They even make you feel more beautiful, healthier, which was a big deal for some people. They promise you path forward so that you can beat anyone who you thought was better than you before. Phoenix was the one who did those things with me... And when he told me I was ready to go back to Goldenrod I didn't know he was using me for other plans."

    Sierra continued to describe the events and the planning she was a part of leading up to the attack. Eventually, Clive asked her why Phoenix would go so far to make sure the other plans would succeed. Sierra hesitated, thinking for a moment, but then responded. "He needs more resources to finish his plans. His plans to catch legendary Pokemon." She straightened in her seat, sensing Clive's stare suddenly watching her.

    That was when Sierra had gone on to explain Phoenix's plans to reign in his namesake, the Legendary Ho-oh. In order to capture such a powerful Pokemon, he required the Legendary Beasts, Entei, Raikou, and Suicune. Not only would these Pokemon powerful, but they were linked to Ho-oh, as was told by their legends. If Avarice could acquire all three, control them and amplify their power, Phoenix would easily be able to flush out Ho-oh. Using Avarice's new powerful beasts and the other resources at their disposal, they would capture the legendary bird. Phoenix desired to control Ho-oh himself, and be one of the most powerful and indispensable members of Team Avarice. Unknown to the public, his lab already has Entei in their custody, and work was already started to amplify this Pokemon's power.

    "The beasts are challenging, of course," Sierra had explained. "Phoenix spent a long time building his way up, stealing and capturing powerful and rare Pokemon until he grew strong enough to match Entei, Raikou, and Suicune's strengths. They have been quite elusive, but with enough resources and the right Pokemon he only needs to find each one of them once to guarantee their capture."

    Eventually, Sierra exhausted all she knew about the plan to capture the legendary beasts, and ultimately Ho-oh. "What of the psychic that was present during the attack?" Clive asked.

    "I don't know her name, but Phoenix keeps her close by. She is a very strange girl, and does not seem to take very much seriously. It's almost like she thinks she is just playing, so she is happy to get a chance to use her powers. I've seen her do as little as fetch food for Phoenix and as much as steal certain Pokemon for him. The strangest thing I've ever seen her do though, is say 'no'. It rarely happens, but it has. Phoenix will ask her to do something, and it might seem trivial even, and she will shake her head and refuse, saying something like 'that is not what I'm supposed to be doing right now'. We always thought it just had something to do with her... strangeness, and never thought more of it."

    After bidding Sierra farewell, Clive left and rejoined Yulia in the other room. He set his notebook down, and pressed his hands firmly against his face. "Here we are," he said.

  6. #156
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    The back-and-forth action between Clive and Sierra’s lawyer kept Yulia at the edge of her seat, her gaze restlessly flicking between the two men as they deliberated over the future of the young girl sitting by them. The notepad she’d been using was already filled with the things she wanted to remember or notes she wanted to bring up with Clive later, and as the interrogation dragged on, she eventually filled up the margins of the paper, too. Her excitement was palpable; they were getting real leads now, information they could act upon, that would bring them closer to their goals. Still, Yulia couldn’t bite back the bitterness she felt for Avarice, to have manipulated a young girl like Sierra, too small to be in a place like this, too young, too naïve. She certainly wasn’t the only person Avarice had wronged, and Yulia felt for all those they would never be able to help.

    Realizing that everyone was growing weary, and that continuing the interrogation in this state would lead to less accurate information and more frustration, Clive decided to end the meeting for the day and reconvene tomorrow. That night, Yulia typed up all the notes she’d collected during the interrogation along with her speculations and reminders—mostly to herself—to research certain things further. When she made it back to the room adjacent the interrogation room again, she had a new notepad, and she was ready for more details.

    This day was far more lucrative. Sierra had a lot to say about Phoenix, whom she had been working under, and who had used her only to discard her when he was finished. As Sierra spoke, Yulia’s pen raced across her notepad. Even if what had happened with Sierra was an unfortunate byproduct of Avarice’s many heinous acts, Yulia could take solace in knowing the young girl was using her situation to help other people, even if it wasn’t her intention. And with all the new information she was giving them, Yulia was confident they would be closer than ever to putting an end to this.

    And yet, as Yulia watched Sierra through the one-way mirror, she felt a pang of guilt seize her. Maybe it should have been her in Sierra’s seat, talking about what Avarice had done to her. She quickly swallowed the thought, unwilling to even think about other paths she could have taken. She was a detective, one of the lead ones on Team Avarice’s case, and now was no time to regret her decisions.

    By the time Clive finished with his interrogation, Yulia had already returned to her desk to type up the updates for that day. There were many, and combined with the notes from yesterday, the document she ended up emailing to Clive was several pages long. She attached an apology for that in her email, then, after making a quick stop in the lobby, made her way back to the other room, where she found Clive already waiting. “Yeah,” she replied, just as surprised to have so much new information. She held out a water bottle that she’d gotten from a vending machine downstairs. “I thought you’d be exhausted, after such a long chat. Congratulations on getting her to actually talk.”

    After Clive had taken the water bottle, Yulia reached for her phone and pulled up the document she had just sent to Clive. She told him about it, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice. “We have so many new avenues to explore,” she said. “If we’re to believe Sierra, then we know where we’ll find Phoenix next, and once we’ve got him, the rest of Avarice won’t last long. He’s a major player, and if we can ambush him, find him before he catches Suicune and Raikou…” Her voice trailed as her thoughts tripped over themselves, an overeager mess. Yulia took a moment to breathe before continuing. “We should track down Raikou. I’m sure Phoenix will be doing the same. It’s the less elusive of the two, so I think it’s a better bet than Suicune. Then we can wait for Phoenix, and arrest him before he can disrupt the legendary beast, and even if Phoenix keeps his mouth shut, I get the feeling Avarice will crumble without him.”

    Yulia looked back at her notes, and she brushed over the section she’d started about the psychic. It seemed no one knew much about her, but if she was working with Avarice like Sierra seemed to suggest, then Yulia figured she was an enemy of theirs. “I don’t know what to make of the psychic,” she admitted. They would try to find out more, but they couldn’t afford to get too hung up on her, even if she was an unpredictable wild card.

    After that, Yulia paused, heat rising to her cheeks. She’d been talking a lot, and she realized Clive would likely want to rest after such a long and draining discussion with Sierra and her lawyer. Yulia reminded him of the document waiting for him in his email, then fluttered off to her desk to get started on the notes she’d left for herself.

    Yulia didn’t noticed time passing her by, and after compiling all her new findings into a document that was even longer than the one she’d sent Clive earlier that day, she realized it was long past the end of her shift. She was thankful for Sierra and all the information she had volunteered, because acting on it like this gave Yulia a sense of purpose. She could convince herself she was actively working to stop Team Avarice, and that made her feel less guilty about not doing enough.

    In the days that followed the interrogation, Yulia and Clive spent most of their attention coming up with a plan to catch Phoenix. They were in contact with several scientists who devoted their lives to tracking legendary Pokemon, and eventually, they settled on a date and time to seek out Raikou. They weren’t worried about Phoenix capturing the Pokemon he needed; instead, they were excited about this opportunity to stop him and Avarice.

    Also in that time, Sierra had been sent to a separate facility far away from Goldenrod to protect her from Team Avarice. She would be serving a shortened sentence, and though Yulia was sure the young woman would never want to see her face again, she wanted to send her a thank-you at some point, after Phoenix was in custody, because it was Sierra who had made any of these plans possible. Jean had also been released from the hospital, and though he was stubbornly against it, he was staying home on his doctors’ orders. Reparations were underway to fix all the damage Avarice had caused in their attack, too. Things really were getting better, and as the detectives plotted to stop a major figure in Avarice’s ranks, they finally had hope again.

    ~~~

    Phoenix fiddled with the Dusk Ball in his hands, a bored look on his face. He didn’t want to be having this conversation, and every part of his body language showed that. “I say let them come to me,” he mused. “It’s not like I can’t take them on.”

    Her brows creased, and she heaved an aggravated sigh. “I need you to be prepared. Don’t underestimate them.” She met his gaze with a cold look. “None of your pointless theatrics.”

    Phoenix sat up, sizing up Avarice’s leader. “If I didn’t know better, boss, I’d say you’re scared of ‘em.”

    That only angered her. “I’m not,” she answered coolly, “but you should be. Don’t make me regret my decision of putting you at my right hand. You’ve already sabotaged us by not offing Sierra when I told you to. If you ruin this, too…” She didn’t have to finish her sentence for Phoenix to know how serious she was.

    There was a lot riding on this mission, but he was sure, once Ho-Oh was under Avarice control, they would be unstoppable. He flashed her a grin that didn’t betray the fear in his eyes. “Don’t worry,” he told her, setting the Dusk Ball down. “Ho-Oh won’t let us down.”
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

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  7. #157
    The Moonlight Knight
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    It was a pleasantly warm, cloudy day in Goldenrod. The clouds and sun seemed to work together to create an enjoyable balance of shade and sun rays. The sun would occasionally pass throw the clouds, warming up the skin of any travelers, commuters, and others spending their time outdoors. Then, just when one would think they have had enough warmth and sunlight, the clouds would provide shade once again. This brought about a pleasurable result for most people and Pokemon, and many would be enjoying the agreeable weather of that day.

    Between the thick trees in one of the more heavily forested areas of the National Park, the shade was ever present, resulting in a slightly cooler climate. Nocturnal or otherwise photophobic Pokemon made their homes here, within the hollows of trees, in dens beneath the earth, hidden amongst the shrubbery and foliage, and even within the small streams and creeks. Few travelers ventured here. Any semblance of walking trail was rather discreet, and the only viable city or town one could travel to through the National Park would be Olivine City, which could be more easily reached through official routes or even by ferry. Regardless, deep within these untamed woods, surrounded by nocturnal Pokemon and guided only by a few tree markers, a detective trekked at a casual pace.

    Clive Oiler of Goldenrod City vanished into this forest in a search for peace and quiet, for salvation from the eventfulness of the last several, busy days. He had only been drifting between the trees for less than an hour, and did not intend to continue for much longer. That was all the time he needed to gather himself, reorganize all of his thoughts from the last few days, and forge his resolve for the next several days to come. There was much to reflect upon from the days that immediately followed the fruitful interrogation and eventual collaboration with Sierra.

    Firstly, Clive and Yulia were subjected with a torrent of information related to the legendary beasts and their travel patterns. They spoke with scientists and lorekeepers that have each spent a considerable number of years studying the subject, and who did their best to condense the understanding from that study to simple information that the detectives could quickly understand and put to use. They learned about the techniques that were developed to predict the paths each beast followed, based on years worth of reported sightings. How these routes occasionally changed, even spread to other regions. They learned about the technology available to isolate the sound of each beast's bark, the effects their presences had on the weather around them, even the chemical artifacts left behind in nature by their mysterious powers.

    Meanwhile, Clive was still on damage-control duty with the public. Although most of the developments of the case had to remain a secret, he was asked to continue to make statements to the media about the state of things. These types of conversations were draining for the regularly withdrawn detective. His role was clear: to advertise the hotline for the public to report any known information about the case, provide assurance that justice would ultimately be served, and insist that until that day comes, the people and Pokemon of Goldenrod, Johto, even the world, would be safe from the wretched Team Avarice. Save for maybe the first of these three distinct duties, these tasks took a great deal of mental strain for an individual who is regularly reclusive, and whose most notable public appearance resulted in a rather dangerous outburst. Each statement he made to a reporter, every small tremor in his voice chronicled by a microphone, every determined look caught on camera, required deliberate control and calculation. One could argue, and not be incorrect in saying so, that some of Clive's public statements were genuine, came naturally, and that were fueled by his passion to upend Avarice. It would be wrong to say that expressing such thoughts outwardly, unguarded by the binding of a report or safe within a note file on his laptop, was natural for Clive. So, he constantly shielded his facade. Fueled by his own willpower, he projected the image of justice that was expected from him, and kept his temper reigned in.

    There was also the matter of Yulia, who stirred certain thoughts and emotions for Clive that needed reflected upon. The young detective's mood had bounced back considerably since the terrorist attack on Goldenrod. It had to, and rather quickly at that, in order for her to continue her work to bring Avarice to justice. With this recovery came a lot of energy. The plans they had in motion placed them unimaginably close to finally capturing Phoenix and initiating what they hoped would be downward spiral of the criminal organization he was so important to. This proximity to the cusp of what they had been so eager for created a sense of urgency in Yulia. Clive blamed himself slightly for his inability to keep up with the excitement, having before been able to match the young woman's endurance as they spent hours reviewing, planning, speculating, and searching. Zeroing in on the target, obsessing over it, was in Clive's nature too. He would never claim that there was anything wrong with, and believed that any great detective had that trait, regardless of any personal sacrifices it may have lead to.

    Where he did differ however, was the ability to share that excitement with another, even a close partner. Clive had no experience feeding off of the energy of a partner, and like his public appearances, found the experience exhausting at times. Yulia's excitement fueled her focus and diligence for the work, and so Clive would continue to allow her to ramble on and reaffirm her stalwart efforts to the cause. After all, whether he liked it or not, was that not another role for the more senior detective to play? Like his other efforts, the frequent masking and fulfillment of an expected role drained away at Clive's mental battery.

    All of this did not take away from one final subject on the man's mind: the personal file he kept on his aforementioned partner, Yulia. Sometimes he thought about just scrapping the whole thing, just dropping it and moving on. After all, he made the file during an emotional time, a time where his relationship with his fledgling partner had grown strained and was clinging on by a strand. Much has happened since then, and despite all of the mistakes, there was no doubt about Yulia's dedication to the cause. However, he could not bring himself to do so. There was still some suspicious details and unexplained, or rather, not satisfactorily explained, behaviors and events around Yulia. The way she spoke about Avarice, it was clear her disdain for them predated her involvement with the case. Over the years, Clive had met many who were passionate about their cases, for varying reasons. He had seen people who had a true passion for justice and people who saw some glory in solving their cases. Yulia's eagerness came from a different place, he just did not know where.

    The detective paused as the sight of a young woman came into view, peering from behind the trees. Her sparkling blue eyes watched him from afar, and her sky blue hair fell behind her shoulders in a neat ponytail. After fully emerging from behind the trees, Clive's partner straightened her pencil skirt and adjusted her scarf.

    "You're getting too good at that," Clive said after drawing a long breath, and he waved a hand at the illusion before him. As if the image was commanded by Clive himself, it yielded, and Yulia's figure dissolved into a mist where the detective's Zorua was standing. The Pokemon squeezed its eyelids happily, clearly content with its work. A red beam of light connected with the Zorua, sending it back into its Pokeball.

    After finally getting his fill of alone time with his Pokemon, Clive reemerged from the forest of trees and was back in the main area of the National Park. He headed southward, to get back to his work. As he marched, he noticed a large figure, hunched over a proportionally large walker, making his way towards one of the benches. "J-Jean?"

    "Wait," the large man groaned under his breath as Clive approached. Slowly and painstakingly, he used his walked to support himself to turn around, and then slowly lowered himself onto the seat. A long, slow, growl rumbled in his throat as he did, and once it had passed he looked up towards Clive with a large smile. "Hello," he finally said. His voice boomed, but Clive noticed it was not quite as loud as he normally expected out of Jean, the powerhouse of a man.

    "Are you okay to be walking around like this?" Clive asked.

    Jean laughed, carefully and quietly, and slowly leaned back slightly to pull his muscle shirt to the side. He was wearing a white tanktop underneath of it, which he slid up slightly. "It's all healed now, they sewed me up nice," he said, alluding to the long, messy scar that nearly divided him in two. He was right, it had healed, and there were no traces of wet gore or infection. "They said if I can manage it, some exercise would be good.

    "What about you? Do you have the time to be leisurely stroll through the park? You have some bad guys to catch, don't you?" He chuckled for a second, but his face then grew serious. "Nat showed me what you said... Even I know you should be more careful than that. You know what they're capable of."

    Clive turned his head away, sucking on the inside of his lip. Jean's words and tone had a way of humbling him, like a younger brother being mentored by his elder. He supposed that Natasha had the same effect on him, in her own way. "Yeah. It's making for some good articles, at least. Like something straight out of a movie." He cleared his throat before looking down towards Jean. "It's good to see you're in good health."

    Suddenly, Clive's Rotom phone vibrated. After a quick series of buzzes, it floated from his pocket and floated in front of him. "Oh... Uh, Jean, I need to go. It was good to see you. Stay safe." Quickly, he snatched Rotom out of the air and hurried off, nearly running.

    After a quick trek back to Goldenrod, Clive hurried his way through the doors of the weather research labs that had been solicited to assist with predicting Raikou's next appearance. "I got the message," he said, glancing over to Yulia, who had arrived sooner than him. "This is earlier than we thought, isn't it? Are we sure it could really be... Raikou?"

    "Well it's not anything we were anticipating, I can tell you that much," said one of the researchers, standing from his chair and reaching over his computer monitor for some papers and folders. "A thunderstorm is suddenly gathering over Mt. Mortar, which is not typical for the area. The present weather patterns did not lead to any predictions for thunder there, either. Whatever is going on over there is not normal weather, we know that." The researcher quickly flopped back on his chair, quickly grabbing the thermos full of coffee that he almost knocked over. "It might be Raikou, it might be Zapdos, or it might just be a cluster of Pikachu. We haven't seen anything in that area on our satellites except dark clouds."

    Clive frowned, staring long and hard at the screens in front of them. When he straightened himself, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Yulia. "Are we ready for this? We haven't had time to prepare anything, anyone. It's just us and whoever we can scrounge up in the next couple of hours."

  8. #158
    The Ashen One
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    It wasn’t unlike Yulia to bury herself in her work and ignore everything else in her life. Sprawled out on her couch in her pajamas, a half-finished cup of coffee by her laptop, and dark rings under her eyes had been her default state while still at the Academy, and now, she was happy to return to the nostalgic position. She took another sip of cold coffee before hitting send on the email she had drafted to the chief. Next, she had an email from one of the legendary Pokemon researchers to read and reply to, and she still had more details to add to her never-ending reports. Soon, she and Clive would be preparing to go face-to-face with Raikou, the thunder Pokemon itself, but beforehand, there was so much still to do.

    Before she could continue getting through the emails constantly flooding her inbox, Yulia’s attention was pulled to the loud rumbling of her phone against the coffee table. She quickly set her laptop aside to reach for it, but the laptop balanced too close to the edge, and she ended up nearly throwing her phone in the process. The sound of her hitting it against the coffee table to catch it with probably too much force was enough to startle Fritz, who had been asleep in her lap. “Sorry,” she mumbled to him, offering him a scratch on the chin to make up for it. She then grabbed her phone and swiped away her notification.

    “Yulia!” The familiar voice crept through her apartment and sent a shiver down the investigator’s spine. It was just the person she wanted to hear from the least.

    “I’m busy,” Yulia replied, shoving her phone aside and returning to her laptop. “Go away.”

    The other woman laughed, and Yulia swore it sounded almost too villainous to be real. It was loud, too loud, and Yulia snapped her hands over its source in an effort to quiet it. She tried to ignore her and clicked on the next email in her queue, but she couldn’t concentrate, not with someone waiting for her to take the bait like this.

    Yulia groaned, then asked, “What do you want, Freya?”

    Freya paused, as if trying to find the right words. “I’d like to offer a recommendation,” she said. “You know, this Avarice case is kinda taking over your life. It’s embarrassing. Have you spoken to anyone but your partner since you’ve been on it?”

    Yulia huffed. “If you’re contacting me just to insult my social life, you’re wasting your time.” She considered something, then added, “If you’re here to tell me to step down from the case, I’ll tell you now what I’ve been telling you for years. No.”

    Freya sighed. “It was worth a shot,” she said quietly. “In that case, maybe you should call Mama. It’s been months, or maybe years, hasn’t it? Give her the goodbyes she deserves. Tell her Freya misses her.”

    Yulia glanced towards her phone. Even though it was her day off, she felt like there was too much work to do to be wasting time talking with Freya. “I’m not doing that,” she said coldly. “What, are you threatening me now?”

    Freya laughed. “I know you and the Oiler boy are after Raikou,” she said. “And I know you’re not coming out of that unscathed. If Phoenix doesn’t kill you, maybe Clive will.”

    Before she could stop herself, Yulia stood, anger balling her fists and creasing her brow. “How do you know about that?” she snarled.

    There was a beat of silence, then, “I cheated a little. Sue me. Anyway, I look forward to seeing how it plays out. You must think you’re very close to stopping me, eh Yules? So I look forward to watching you fail. Again.”

    Yulia drew in a breath. Freya was trying to get under her skin, to throw her off, so that she wouldn’t be able to do her job. She had to calm down and think things through. If Freya knew about their plans to ambush Phoenix, that changed everything. They needed to re-plan everything, and train more, so that even with Phoenix expecting them, he would not win.

    “You sound awful,” Freya continued. “Maybe you should drink something. Have you moved at all today?” When Yulia didn’t answer, she sighed. “Well, whatever. It’s your life you’re wasting. Try not to work yourself to death though, okay?” Still being ignored, Freya laughed. “Alright then. Goodbye, my favorite sister.”

    Yulia hissed. “Fuck you,” she spat, but there was no response. Freya was already gone. Yulia tried again to focus on her work, but Freya’s voice echoed in her mind. Yulia wasn’t going to let her take this away from them. They were too close to catching Phoenix, and whether he was expecting them or not, Yulia intended to bring him into custody.

    ~~~

    Not long after her conversation with Freya, Yulia’s phone came alive with a new notification, this one summoning her to a research facility in Goldenrod. She and Clive had been there before; some of the researchers there were helping them track Raikou. She wasn’t at all prepared for such a summons. Yulia chugged the remainder of her coffee, threw on a blazer and skirt, then hurried out the door to make the drive. It wasn’t long after she’d arrived that Clive joined her, and together they found the researcher who broke the news.


    Raikou moved on its own schedule, and it didn’t seem to care that Yulia and Clive were not at all ready to meet it. Yulia wanted to shake her head, to tell Clive that this was better left for when they were better prepared, but she knew that wasn’t a smart move. If the legendary Pokemon was making its presence known at Mt. Mortar, it wouldn’t be long before Phoenix went there with intentions to capture it.

    Yulia sighed, frustration crawling up her throat. This day was not going her way, and she was starting to get anxious. “We have to go,” she told Clive. “This isn’t ideal, I know, but if we don’t go now, we might miss our chance to bring Phoenix down.” She thought back to her conversation with Freya. How had she known Raikou was this near? There wasn’t time to question that now. All they could do was take this opportunity, be careful, and hope nothing went wrong.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

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  9. #159
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    Clive drew a long breath through his nostrils, taking a long moment to consider Yulia's reply. It was indeed the one he expected, and certainly one that he agreed with. That did not make the task cut out for them any easier, though. "Right," he said plainly. He called over to the researchers as he patted his breast pocket, the motion to summon his Rotom-phone that had become all too natural. "Let's get a move on then, there's no time to waste." He turned and left the room, leaving the researchers to gather their things in a mad scramble.

    After coordinating a couple of phone calls, Clive hopped in his car and made his intentions known on the police radio as well. Once Yulia had joined him, he floored it to Ecruteak City, a van of researchers' and equipment following closely behind. Once there, they had to slow down. Around Ecruteak City there were no proper roads meant for automobiles. Clive knew of a path that was just wide enough to fit the car and just trodden down enough to be driven on that would lead them close to Mt. Mortar. In order to avoid collision with a tree or a wild Pokemon, he had to drive slow. It may have been easier and just as fast to walk, but the it was imperative to their ability to control the situation that the researchers were able to bring their devices. They would be able to alert them of any more shifts in weather, or pinpoint the location of an anomaly or spikes in electrical energy.

    The path through the trees was dark, the view of the skies above obstructed by the lush green leaves. Even so, the detectives' surroundings grew even darker as they approached Mt. Mortar. A rush of rain drops began to pour down from above them, accompanied by flashes of lightening and the crackling of thunder. They were approaching the center of the storm, and also the base of Mt. Mortar. When they did finally reach a clearing, Clive pulled his car closer to the base of the mountain before shutting it down.

    He threw on one of their raincoats, grabbed a large flashlight, and stepped out into the torrential rainfall. The heavy rush of rain drops impeded his vision of everything, and he was hardly able to make out anything much further passed his own nose. He cursed out loud, which no one heard over the pounding of rainfall. He hurried over to the researchers' van and knocked on the window. "Anything?" he shouted over the rain, shielding his face with his sleeve.

    "Whatever it is, it's higher up the mountain, towards the peak. There's no way anyone can get up there, especially in all of this. Not even Avarice."

    Clive clenched his teeth, looking back towards the base of the mountain just north of them. To the east was a lake, which he knew would lead to Mahogany Town. "Stay here," he instructed the researchers, before stepping away towards the handful of police officers that accompanied them. "Secure the perimeter, watch out for any signs of Avarice. They may already be here, or are on their way. Either way they won't be happy to see us here."

    He directed a knowing glance towards Yulia, and pointed towards the lake with his flashlight. They headed eastward, towards the lake. Despite the short distance, it was a slow-moving process. Their visibility was poor, and the ground was slippery and thick with mud. Only when they neared the sand near the edge of the lake did they find some reprieve, and were able to march towards the shore. The waves lake seemed to swell with water, pushing beyond its normal boundaries as the rain poured down. Waves swelled and splashed against the shoreline, smoothing the sand as the water ran inland, then back into the lake.

    A flash of light illuminated the area, lighting up the surroundings. In that instant, Clive could see across the entire lake, almost to the route on the other side that lead to Mahogany town. He could make out a large, white, bulging over the surface of the water. It was close to the side of the mountain, about halfway between the shore he was standing on and the shore on the other side of the lake. The thunder boomed loudly around them, and Clive quickly turned towards his partner. "Hey, did you see that?" he shouted, pointing in the general direction of whatever it was that he saw.

    A loud bark resounded from above them, far up towards the peak of the mountain. Another flash and crackle immediately accompanied the bark, lighting up the area again and shaking the ground.

    "That bark... It's Raikou!" one of the researchers exclaimed over the radio. "Those tremors are caused by its cries."

    The tremors continued, accompanied by a chorus of barks that sounded like crashing thunder. After several seconds of this phenomenon, Clive's eyes widened suddenly, his heart suddenly dropping from his chest. He all but pressed the radio to his lips, shouting over the storm. "Is Raikou in battle?" he asked.

    "It's hard to say, but they are definitely in distress."

    Clive cursed again, quickly rushing by Yulia and pushing her along with him. "I need units on the east side of the perimeter. There is an un-ID'd vehicle or something on the lake. All other units guard the perimeter and protect the research van. We're going up the mountain."

    "Headed eastward."

    "Units converging on the van."

    "There is no safe way up there," a researcher protested.

    "Someone's already figured out a way," Clive retorted. "Leave it to us to figure out. Keep us updated on Raikou's status." He panted heavily as he marched up to the base of the mountain. After catching his breath, he turned to Yulia. "Any bright ideas?"

  10. #160
    The Ashen One
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    It all happened in such a rush that Yulia was having a hard time even keeping up with her own thoughts. After they agreed to chase the legendary beast, Yulia, Clive, and their team of researchers set out towards Mt. Mortar. They didn’t know how much time they had before Raikou, a Pokemon who enjoyed wandering the region, left, or before it was captured. Yulia tried not to think of that possibility. Phoenix was competent, was one of the highest authorities in Team Avarice, but he was rash, and if they could get there fast enough, she was sure they would be able to stop him.

    But no matter how they hurried, Raikou was not going to make this easy on them. The storms it brought about sent anxiety scattering through Yulia’s entire body. She hadn’t seen weather this bad since before she’d left her hometown of Snowbelle, where snowstorms were more common than sunlight. But she’d been a child then, and this time, she had to travel in this downpour, rush in it, and she was terrified of getting into an accident and hurting someone. As they pushed on, Yulia prayed Raikou would calm down, if just a little, so they could rescue it from Avarice’s greedy plans.

    Yulia knew they had passed Ecruteak City by the sight of a million leaves being thrown about by the wind. She had heard tales of the forests surrounding this city, had seen postcards of it in autumn, but now, she could hardly make out the trees through the ferocious rain. Mt. Mortar now was a blurry silhouette on the horizon obstructed by the dark clouds forming around it. If that was where the storm was coming from, that was where Raikou was, and they would need to find a way up there, however dangerous it was. There was no saying what Team Avarice would do with Raikou’s power on their side, and Yulia was not willing to find out. Getting to Raikou was their top priority. They just had to figure out how.

    The closer they got, the harder it was to see, until Yulia could only make out shapes in the flashes of lightning every few seconds. It wasn’t safe to continue, even for the researchers who had dedicated much of their lives to studying Raikou’s behavior. Yulia was no expert, but this didn’t seem normal for the legendary Pokemon, and if she could help it, she didn’t want to endanger the researchers. She agreed with Clive, who told the researchers to stay put and be on the lookout for Avarice, and she followed him eastward, towards a lake. Though it was difficult to get there, and she didn’t manage it without splashing mud all the way up to her chest, eventually the two did reach the lake, where the storm was a little lighter. Rain still pelted them, but they could see now, and Yulia took a moment to take in her surroundings.

    The longer they stood in the rain, the more hopeless this mission seemed. It was too difficult to reach the peak of the mountain like this, with Raikou causing such a disturbance in the weather, and Yulia had heard enough about Mt. Mortar to know it was a labyrinthine hellscape that they did not have time for. She bit her bottom lip, trying to think of a plan. Another flash of lightning cracked beside them, and Yulia looked up suddenly at Clive’s comment. He had seen something in the center of the lake. “What was it?” she asked, but before she could answer, a loud roar echoed around them. It sounded like the thunder they’d been hearing, but louder, almost pained, and it caused the ground around them to shake. Yulia had to step away from the lake before the ground’s tremors threw her into it. She didn’t have long to think on the roar; soon, their radios came alive. The researchers knew the sound to be Raikou, except that it was in distress. Phoenix was already there. They were running out of time.

    She could feel the pressure like anvils settling on her chest. They had to figure out something before Phoenix took off with Raikou and continued with his plan to catch all the beasts. Yulia squinted up at the mountain. “Phoenix must have had one of his Pokemon teleport him up there,” she guessed. She couldn’t think of another way for anyone to get to the peak so quickly and unscathed. But neither she nor Clive had Pokemon with that ability, so they would need to find another way. She got an idea, but she hesitated, knowing the dangers. Figuring she didn’t have much choice, Yulia drew a Poke Ball from her purse and threw it in the air. A moment later, her Braviary was flying beside her, his feathers getting soaked almost instantly. “Valkyrie,” Yulia cried, “can you fly?”

    The big bird Pokemon looked to the top of the mountain. It was a long distance to fly even in good weather, and the water splashing around them had the force of a Blastoise’s Aqua Jet. But one look at his master, and Valkyrie knew Yulia hated to ask him of this. It was dangerous, and she valued her Pokemon’s safety, but she couldn’t think of another way to save this mission. Valkyrie nodded, then landed and waited for Yulia to climb onto him. She was bigger than him, taller than him, but the Braviary was powerful, and it took off into the thunderous skies. Yulia called back to Clive, promising to send her Braviary for him, and as her voice was drowned out by the storm, her Pokemon struggled to get her to the peak.

    It was not a stable trip, and though Valkyrie struggled to stay upright, beating its wings against the storm, the two did make it to the top of Mt. Mortar. Yulia let out a sigh when she felt solid ground beneath her feet, and just as quickly as she’d hopped off her Pokemon, she instructed him to pick up Clive. When he’d gone, Yulia took in the peak. The barking was defeaning here, and the storm was bad enough that she could only see several paces in front of her. She had to continue, had to find Phoenix, no matter what it took.

    She followed her ears, and a new flash of lightning revealed a black-striped Pokemon, a pale purple mane, the long and menacing fangs. Raikou was here, and from its expression, she could see it was in pain. She ran towards it, not sparing a single thought for her own safety. Her only concern was saving Raikou and stopping Phoenix before it was too late.

    Before she could reach the tiger Pokemon, however, a voice called out to her. It was difficult to make out in the storm, but she recognized it, had heard it on the phone mere weeks ago. “Yulia,” Phoenix said, a hint of amusement in his voice. He stepped towards her, and Yulia saw that he was wearing the black and gold of Team Avarice, with a sparkling mask covering his eyes and a dark cape whipping with the wind. He held a Dusk Ball in his hand, and he drummed his fingers against it as he looked her over. “You’re not going to get in my way, are you?”

    She snarled. “Leave Raikou alone,” she warned. “You are under arrest for the abuse of people and Pokemon, and we will stop you. Today.”

    He shrugged. “No, you won’t,” he said simply. “You’re alone, Yulia, and you’re powerless. You know that, don’t you?” Before she could respond, Phoenix tossed the Dusk Ball into the air, summoning his Gengar. There was a small device strapped to its head causing shocks to the poor Pokemon, who winced every other second. Its eyes were wild, and its smile mad. It sent a Shadow Ball hurtling towards her, and Yulia jumped out of the way, barely dodging, and scraping her knees on the craggy ground.

    She was quick to get up. “If it’s a battle you’re looking for, I can and will defeat you.” She needed to buy a bit of time until Valkyrie returned with Clive, but she was down a Pokemon, and she worried about her Skorupi’s ability to fight in these conditions. She didn’t want to send any of her Pokemon out in weather like this, but… Yulia looked at the Gengar, saw the pain it was in, and bit her tongue. She had to do something.

    Behind them, Raikou roared again, and Yulia noticed that it, too, had a contraption on it. It latched onto its back, and no matter how Raikou moved, it couldn’t seem to shake it. That was what was hurting it; that was what they would need to remove. But Yulia couldn’t do that yet, not with Phoenix here. So she pulled out a Poke Ball, intending to stall Phoenix. When Clive got here, one of them could deal with Phoenix while the other saved poor Raikou.

    Yulia’s Beartic seemed irritated at the rain, but when she saw the look in Yulia’s eye, she straightened and let out a roar. Phoenix scoffed at the new challenger, then recalled his Gengar. He sent out a new Pokemon, another stolen one. The Dragonite looked weary and too tired to fight back, but after a wave of agony passed through its body, it turned its eyes to Yulia. It looked ready to plow through anything that got in its way, and from the looks of things, it was not used to losing. It would be a hard opponent to beat, Yulia knew, but she had no idea this Pokemon would be even harder to fight for her partner.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

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