July 25th, 2010
Photoshop and drawingtablet

PCBCOS Entry: Round 3
Entrants: Sandy Gano and team
Opponent: Aka Kanda and his team (Edowaado)
Theme song: Link

Chapter 4
"Confronting the past"

It was already dark when Sandy quickly made her way through Goldenrod's crowded streets. The city had a busy nightlife and it was difficult to navigate through the masses of people and Pokemon who were still out and about. That said, most made haste to move aside when they saw the hulking form of Solaris following in Sandy's wake. Candy closed the ranks and being directly behind the Blaziken, she did not have to make any effort whatsoever to avoid the crowds. "Excuse me," Sandy said curtly, as she moved past a particularly large individual. Taking an abrupt turn to the left, she finally reached her destination.

Most of the lights in the PCBC OS registration office were turned off, save for one on a nearby desk. According to the timetable taped on the door, the office had just closed fifteen minutes ago. Pressing her face up to the glass sliding doors, which were apparently locked, Sandy could just make out the crown of someone's head behind the counter, working at their monitor. Someone was working late tonight. Perfect. At her urgent banging on the glass, the head popped up from behind the counter, revealing the tapered face of yet another of her acquaintances from the Black Tourney. He had been a judge then, and he was a judge in this tournament as well. She had forgotten his name, but she'd recognize that mug anywhere.

As soon as the man saw her, he got noticeably nervous, shifting his glasses higher up his nose and glancing over his shoulders as if he was looking for backup. However, aside from his small Gulpin companion, which was peacefully asleep on the counter, the judge was alone. As he realized this, he seemed to hunker down somewhat in his chair, but he made no move to open the doors. Sandy's eyes narrowed to angry slits. She knew it was her body language which had him terrified. With her wide stance, her fists clenched up at the doors which separated them, and her face hardened in a strict frown she could make most men run for cover despite her moderate size and stature. And this man had plenty of reasons to dislike her personally too. During the Black Tourney he had been one of the possessed hosts, turned against the contestants by the MC and, in his case, reduced to a stinking hump of human bile with glasses. When he attacked her in that state, she had punched him. Repeatedly. Apparently the memory was quite vivid, because even in his now normal state the judge remained fearful around her. This also became apparent when she registered for the PCBC OS and found him as the attending official.

Sandy didn't want to hurt him. She had no reason to, but right now she was impatient and couldn't be bothered with the niceties which came with reassuring this man and petting his ass until he felt better.

"Ivan," she shouted, taking a wild stab at what she thought was his name, "Open up!" She banged her fists again for extra effect, at which he jerked and hunkered down even further. Perhaps assaulting the doors was not the best way to gain entrance. "I just want to talk!" He hesitated before shaking his head and motioning her to leave. The man said something incomprehensible, which she assumed to be: "We're closed. Please go away."

Well, that just wasn't going to fly. She straightened up and pointed demonstratively at Solly, who had positioned himself next to her, indicating that she'd have the bird bust down the doors if she had to. Solaris, recognizing her bluff, cracked his knuckles to add to the threat. He too was pretty good at giving the evil eye, even if he was far less likely to follow up on his threats as his trainer was. They could see the man pause. Looking the Blaziken over, as if he was trying to estimate its strength and judge its ability to break through the doors, his shoulders suddenly sank. Apparently he had reached the conclusion that Solaris was fully capable of doing just that, because he rose to his feet and reluctantly made his way to the doors. When they finally slid open, Sandy and her crew quickly stepped inside lest he'd change his mind and close the doors again. He backed away and was back behind his desk and counter in no time at all. Standing there as if he had taken cover, he eyed them suspiciously.

"Listen," Sandy said, glancing at the name tag on the desk, "Isaac. What do you know about Aka? Did you know he was in the tournament?"

Isaac blinked and stared at her as he realized what she was asking of him. "Oh," he said, "A-Aka? You mean... you're not here about your winni-..." He quickly caught himself and swallowed the rest of that sentence. He seemed relieved now that he knew why she was here, and he was not about to change the subject to the one he had been dreading. Taking a deep breath he lowered himself back onto his seat and ran his fingers over his keyboard without striking a single key. Isaac was stalling to get his composure back after the shock and terror he had briefly experienced, and apparently these little rituals helped him get the job done. Sandy observed him with growing impatience, but said nothing. He'd probably be more informative if he wasn't scared out of his wits, and from past experiences she knew Isaac generally recovered quite quickly.

"Well, uhm," Isaac said without looking up, "Yes, I knew Aka entered the tournament. I registered him on the day he came in." Finally operating his computer for real now, he accessed Aka's file and called it on screen. The young man's photograph filled a portion of the monitor and Sandy also caught part of his team's set-up. It was a start, but it wasn't the information she was looking for.

"There's something strange about that kid," Isaac said before she could say anything. He glanced at her from over his shoulder, his eyes narrowed in puzzlement. "Don't you think? I suspect you've met him recently and that that's why you're here."

She nodded. "He's been in an accident," she said more sedately now, "A wall collapsed on top of him during his second match."

"Shortly after that match was over, actually," Isaac corrected her, "His opponent told me all about it. She told you too, I think. Seeing how she's your roommate." Sandy nodded again. "He's alright," he continued, "Aka apparently saw it coming and released his Raticate in time to have it dig him out. He was briefly hospitalized, but seeing how he only had minor injuries they released him a few hours ago." Sandy drummed her fingers on the counter, anxious because she already knew all this.

"He's not in his room," she said abruptly, "His roommate has no idea where he is. I want to talk to Aka about... well, you know."

"What makes you think I know where the kid is?"

"Don't you guys have surveillance cameras throughout the city? I saw them myself," Sandy said, "Maybe you could-..."

"Maybe we could spend our considerable time and resources chasing down someone who doesn't want to be found?" Isaac sounded sarcastic. Apparently his fear issues had all been resolved now.

"Well, why not?"

"It would be an invasion of his privacy, for one," Isaac said, leaning back in his chair. "Besides, the cameras only activate when they detect a Pokemon battle is underway. Their main job is to alert our Magnemite camera crews, not to play Big Brother." He shifted his glasses again, thoughtfully considering his arguments. "And on top of that," he said, "Aka seems to have a knack for avoiding our cameras altogether."

"How so?"

"Well, take that Rocket warehouse he fought in. It wasn't supposed to be available as a battle location for PCBC OS competitors. So there were no cameras there," Isaac said, "He must have known that, because people saw him luring his opponent in there. Whatever happened in there, he didn't want anyone to see it. We only know how that fight ended because they both told us. Autumn was pretty furious."

"I see," Sandy said. Somehow this didn't make her feel better at all. It only tied in to her suspicions that something was very wrong with that boy.

"You... didn't happen to catch that fight either, did you? You and Steve?" Isaac inquired. Sandy didn't even bother denying that she had been down there and shook her head. "He sent us away before they started their match. All I know is that they held a race of sorts." She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Her ankle was starting to hurt again. Isaac was quick to cue in on it and offered her one of the nearby seats. With a measure of gratefulness she lowered herself into a chair. It wasn't as ridiculously comfortable as the chairs in the mansion, but it was good enough for her.

"You said you thought there was something wrong with him," she carefully started. How could she set this up without making herself look crazy in the process?

"He's three years older now," Isaac replied bluntly. He was staring into a random corner of the room. Sandy twitched and turned to look at him. Her face wore the expression of absolute stupefaction. "Say what now?!"

"That's what he told me," Isaac said defensively, "But of course that's impossible, right? He was just a kid during the Black Tourney, and that was a few months ago." He watched her from the corners of his eyes, "You and I haven't aged three years since then, now have we?"

"No," she said. It seemed silly that they had to confirm this for themselves, a fact which would have been so obvious to anyone else that it needn't even be asked.

"Well," Isaac said in a resolute tone, "Glad we sorted that out at least. Last thing we need is more time-twisting enigmas. That still leaves Aka, of course. So tell me Sandy, have you ever heard of 'Occam's razor'?"

"Yes," Sandy said with a tired sigh. She already knew where this was going. "It means that the theory which relies on the fewest number of assumptions if usually the correct one." Isaac nodded. He had picked up a pen and was now playing with it, spinning it in circles on the counter and trying to pin it down mid-spin between his index and middle finger. "You think it isn't Aka," Sandy said, "You think he's lying."

"It would be the most obvious answer, wouldn't it?" Isaac missed the spinning pen and sent it flying across the counter. He caught it, returned it to its starting position and spun it again. "Though that doesn't explain why he looks so much like the kid you and I know. And why he knows so many things about us; about the BT." Isaac caught the pen as he spoke and triumphantly held it up.

"Well then, spit it out," Sandy said. She was tired of being lead along like a blind Snubbul on a leash. Isaac was enjoying this far too much. "What do you think is going on?"

"I think a lot of the things that happened during the Black Tourney defy logical explanation," he stated as he put his pen down, "You saw it yourself, didn't you? How often did you make those meticulously calculated plans of yours while you were in that building? And how often did they crash and burn because something completely illogical happened, because the MC warped reality?"

"Nearly always," Sandy admitted crossly. "So that's going to be your explanation then? 'The MC made it happen somehow?'" In her opinion that was about as good an explanation as attributing it to magic.

"I don't know, maybe," he shrugged, "But I do think that it is Aka. Which is... worrying, don't you think?"

She paused and watched him, trying to figure out what exactly he meant. She didn't like the way he beat around the bush all the time. Why wouldn't he just slap his theories on the table and be done with it? Well, maybe it was just his way of getting even with her. She saw his eyes narrow expectantly again. That's when she realized it. What in fact worried the judge was not the whole three-years-debacle. It was the state he was in. If this boy was really Aka, it meant he'd gotten very messed up in their absence. He had changed, and not necessarily for the better. Suddenly Sandy saw Isaac under a different light. Yes, he had a cold and stand-offish exterior. Yes, he was quiet and withdrawn, he liked to toy with people he deemed less intelligent than himself, and yes, he had a bit of a yellow streak in him. But deep down Isaac cared about the people around him and worried about their well-being.

Sandy nodded. "Yes, he's... different now, isn't he?"

"I'll say! Have you seen the look on his face sometimes? He often refers to his opponents as prey or as beat, or at least that's what I've been told," Isaac grimaced, "No idea what he means by that, but it can't be good." He paused before continuing. "And he's a Rocket, you know."

"Yes, I know," Sandy said while looking away with a curt frown on her face. She had seen Aka wear the black bandana around his neck, with the letter 'R' on it during the BT, but had explained it away as something silly kids wore sometimes. Not knowing any better, they'd don themselves as members of Team Rocket to look cool. However, he still had it on him when they met in the warehouse. As they walked away to let him and Kinata fight, she had noticed it sticking out of one of the back pockets of his trousers. Aka had seemed a bit too old to still be carrying it around. Kinata herself had also confronted himself about it, as she later told Sandy. He had confirmed to her that he was indeed a Rocket. The masked girl seemed severely upset about it too. "Well, Team Rocket if defunct now, so I doubt he's still an active member. He doesn't strike me as the thieving type anyway," Isaac said, "But he has developed a few nasty streaks, I'd say." Sandy looked back at him. She could hear Solly and Candy shifting their weight behind her, as they were also listening with increasing interest. They had helped themselves to two other seats in a corner.

"He's become quite a little liar, our young friend," Isaac mused. "I don't think he ever lied about his connections to Team Rocket, but when he fights he'll say anything to put his opponent in a bad spot. A few days ago I caught him trying to con his first opponent into believing his Raticate was some sort of super special breed, which knew completely unique moves."


"Poor girl was so intimidated that she lost on the spot," Isaac shrugged as he spoke, "While he was in fact just combining moves like any coordinator would. I don't even want to know what he told Kinata during their fight. I'm willing to bet it was simultaneously silver tongued and downright creepy."

"That doesn't sound particularly bad to me," Sandy said. She had seen Rockets do far worse things.

"Maybe," Isaac replied, "But it's concerning nonetheless. People are starting to talk about that kid. Some think he's friendly, while others are completely freaked out. Most seem to think that he sees his Pokemon as tools, which, of course if a typical Rocket trait. And he does far too much sneaking around. Personally, I think Aka's as bipolar as a light switch. Kid could use some serious therapy, if you ask me." He shook his head.

Sandy shifted on her seat. She wasn't comfortable with labelling people, especially the ones she considered her friends. And what if it was her fault? She knew she wasn't responsible for losing track of Aka, that she simply couldn't have followed him if he had really made a time jump of sorts. But she still couldn't shake the feeling that she could have, and should have prevented this somehow. Isaac quietly observed her as she clenched her fists and pressed them down on her knees.

"You never actually knew him that well, you know," he said.

"Huh?" She looked up again.

"Aka, how well did you know him when you met him? Not at all, I'll bet," Isaac said. "During the BT you only knew him for a few hours after he disappeared. There's no way to tell if he wasn't already... damaged before we met him." He emphasized the word 'damaged' as he spoke. Isaac stood up and walked over to her seat. "Besides, the Black Tourney was a traumatic event for everyone involved, especially for young kids. I'm actually surprised that Oliver isn't completely screwed up as well."

"Well, his Arcanine wasn't killed in front of his eyes, now was it?"

"My point is," Isaac said patiently, "There's no way you could have helped Aka then." Pausing and staring at the floor in contemplation, he continued: "If you want to help him now, then maybe... Well, I suggest you just... try to keep an open mind. Give him a chance to show who he really is and what he's like. I mean, I would love to be proven wrong about him."

"You think... that will work?" She looked up at him as he stood by her chair.

He placed a hand on her shoulder. "I think you should just forget what everybody has told you about him so far," he said, "And if he really needs help, he's probably mature enough to ask for it somehow."

"I think he's avoiding me, though," Sandy said sourly. "Why else hasn't he come back to the mansion yet?"

Isaac shrugged. "To soul search, maybe? Anyway, I've uh..."

"What? You've what?"

Isaac grinned sheepishly. "Well, I shouldn't technically be meddling with the tournament's match-ups. We're supposed to leave it up to chance, but I thought you might want to see Aka again soon."

Sandy smiled at that. "You're a sly one, you know that?"

"Oh, trust me. I know," Isaac said, "Now if you'll excuse me. I really have to close up the office."

Previous: Chapter 3
Next: Chapter 5

Next up: the actual fight! Spanning over three chapters. :3

Kinata SabakuNoKinata
Isaac ToddM
Oliver Claamchowder
Autumn Bringfire The-Blue-Pangolin

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