for the quote boot camp on pokemon fanfiction challenges.
6. "I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in." -George McGovern
and she dreams of war
She cajoles Dexio out of the lab during the lunch rush and tugs him into the streams of perfumed pokémon and people. He trips over a crack in the sidewalk and tumbles headlong into the curb before Sina can grab his arm and right him; and then he complains the entire way to the galette stand.
"It's not like I put it there to trip you, Dex," she tells him, swinging her arms. His palms are bright red and definitely road-burned, but it's nothing some disinfectant and a bandage won't fix.
They shuffle forward in line. The cracks lining Lumiose's sidewalks have gained definition and grown wider; Sina doesn't think much of it, but Dexio sighs at the city's lack of care.
"If you did, I wouldn't be buying you lunch," he says.
Sina laughs. "Yes, you would. And this isn't lunch. It's a galette."
"Remind me why, then."
"Because I'm your best friend," she teases. "And you shouldn't have made the bet if you knew you'd lose."
"Touché," Dexio sighs, stepping up to the stand and ordering Sina's regular.
Sina relishes every bite and licks her fingers when she's done. Dexio hands her a napkin.
The afternoon finds Sina staring at her mountain of paper work in despair.
"I know about fairy types," she moans. "I really do, I swear. I have an almost-finished report. I promise."
"We'll see," the mountain says. Sina slumps onto her desk.
It laughs, and oh, right, that's Dexio. She bemoans her burgeoning insanity, kicking up her legs under her desk.
"I can't help you there, Sina," he says dryly. Sina makes a very miserable noise. "I've my own mountain range you see."
"You're already done your paperwork, don't lie," she says.
"But," he goes on, "I can distract you. The professor wants to see us."
Sina's fairly certain she bounces out of the chair. She beats Dexio to the lift and prods the button many more times than necessary.
They slide into the lift, and the lifts slides upward. Unlike the one in Sina's apartment building, it doesn't jolt every third floor. She stumbles on habit. Dexio taps her shoulder. Another habit.
Professor Sycamore paces – it's more of a jaunt, really – around his secretary's desk, waiting for them.
"Dexio, Sina," he says briskly, "step into my office."
Dexio follows right away, but Sina stops to wave to Emilie. She looks frazzled, clutching her earpiece closer to her head. She returns Sina's wave a little frantically.
"Is Emilie okay?" she asks, interrupting Dexio.
"Hm? Oh, yes, there was just a complication earlier today." Sycamore straightens the lapels of his lab coat. "Nothing to worry about. It's all settled now."
She falls into place beside Dexio and waits. The professor paces some more, but he eventually sits down in favour of walking in circles around them.
"I have a request for you two," he says, crossing his legs. Out of the corner of her eye, Sina sees Dexio tense – probably in excitement, or in Dexio's case, academic excitement.
When neither of them replies to him, Sycamore laughs under his breath. "It's nothing too big. No paperwork, Sina."
"I need you two to keep an eye on things."
Suddenly he is serious, and Sina is lost. The quotations marks around the phrase are weighty and nearly tangible. Dexio shifts uncomfortably beside her.
Sycamore smiles the easy smile that Sina knows very well, but it's all wrong. His are dark, and they're really, really, hollow. She stares, astounded for a moment that she can't pinpoint exactly when Emilie stopped taking lunch breaks and she stopped seeing the shine in the professor's gaze.
Sina takes a breath.
"We can definitely do that," she chirps, and the room comes back to life. Dexio nods.
"Thank you," Sycamore says. "All I need you to is take note of anything…odd that you see. In Lumiose or anywhere else, really."
Sina adds this entire exchange to her list of future inquiries.
The costumes, surprisingly, are not Sina's idea.
After finding countless people at the mercy of Team Flare grunts, demanding for ridiculous amounts of cash, Sina is livid. She is adamant about raining the professor's rage down upon the region – "What rage?" Dexio asks, puzzled – and the idea of righteous revenge has her running about the main floor of the lab in a tizzy.
"Okay, okay," Dexio says, gesturing from the couch for her to calm down with his hands. "I mean, it's a good idea. Not the raining rage part, that's just overly dramatic, but I think patrolling around the region would work. We could pretend we're doing research."
"Are you saying we won't be doing research?"
She grins at the mildly scandalous look that crosses his face. "No," Dex says emphatically. "We'll combine them, both of the prof's jobs for us. Continue researching, but we won't just look at pokémon."
"I like this, it's like we're undercover agents," Sina says, flopping down beside him on the couch. "Researching by day, fighting crime by night."
Dexio shakes his head. "I don't think we'll be fighting crime by any means. But if Team Flare's recent actions are any indication, we'll probably have to go looking for trouble."
Team Flare, in Sina's opinion, is ridiculous and a little bit frightening, but mostly ridiculous. No matter what they do or say, Sina can't take the fire engine red suits seriously. It's so garish, and it brings shame to the colour red.
But there's a lot of red in Lumiose as of late. Besides the new café, refurbished from pale blue to deep scarlet and white, the obelisk in Rouge Plaza is the colour of blood. It's only vandalism, the police say, just some of the younger city folk getting into trouble.
"Sounds like fun," Sina says lightly.
Dex rolls his eyes and bumps his shoulder against her. "I mean that we might want, I don't know, disguises. Just so we don't shame the professor by doing anything stupid."
"Why do you always assume that we'll do something stupid?"
"It's us," he says flatly. "We're bound to mess up somewhere."
Sina thinks about the pokémon they've accidently lost, reports they've shredded, and files they've deleted. Sycamore is remarkably tolerant of their rare errors, but something in the way he delivered this task makes Sina think there won't be any forgiveness here.
She nods firmly. "You're right, Dex. And, you know what, I have an idea."
Dexio takes the blue mask from her warily – like he does everything Sina-related – and places it in front of his eyes.
He looks ridiculous, so Sina has a taste of what she must look like in her red, and she snorts as much before doubling over in laughter at the indignant turn of his mouth.
Dexio shakes his head, but he's slowly starting to smile. It's there, tugging at his lips, and Sina is abuzz; dragging a smile out of Dex is as hard as calling a cab in rush hour, but it's so worth it.
Guns are outlawed in Kalos. The region is progressive in that. But really, all it means is that criminals in Kalos are forced to get creative.
Sina ducks and rolls to the side, just slipping past the slash of the pangoro's claws. She scrabbles backward on her hands, frantically looking for her own pokéball. The great, big bear straightens itself, readying its next charge, but Dex's meowstic catches it halfway and sends it tumbling back.
She can't breathe.
Dexio's hands grip tightly around her arms, hauling her to her feet. The Flare grunt watches them with no small amount of disdain, even more for his fallen pokémon. "Well, shit," he says succinctly.
Dexio's meowstic hisses, ultraviolet energy leaking from under her ears.
"Calm down," the grunt says. "Can't do anything now, can I? I'm not exactly a fist-fighter, if you know what I mean."
He recalls his pangoro, and Dexio – if it's even possible – clutches Sina harder. Maybe her arms will bruise; she doesn't care.
"I got what I came for, I guess," the grunt continues, collecting two or three shards of crystal. Sina and Dex managed to protect most of it. "See you runts later."
They watch him go, and the grunt's off tune whistles reverberate off the crystal and grate against Sina's ears.
Dexio lets go of her, but she grabs onto the hem of his shirt – onto anything, really. She's shaken, shaken right to the core. She looks at the fractured crystal littering the cave floor and sees herself.
She gets it, eventually, after Serena and Calem destroy every member of Team Flare in the power plant, and Sina and Dexio shut the generators down for good.
Professor Sycamore doesn't have a team like Lysandre does, but he has lab assistants and prodigal trainers; she, Dexio, Serena, Calem, Shauna, Tierno, and even Trevor are Team Flare to the professor.
Sina is an intern in a pokémon research facility. She's meant to notice things.
Dexio throws up when he finds the first dead Flare grunt, savagely slashed across the middle. Sina places a hand on his back, sickened herself, and closes her eyes for a moment.
Then she opens them and looks at Lysandre's beautiful world.
The grunt is arranged like the sleeping princesses from Sina's fairy tales. Her falsely red hair lies in a calm cloud under her head, and her arms have been crossed over her chest. Beside her are the stupid red sunglasses and oh, someone took the time to close her eyes.
"What a shame," Sina mutters. "She won't be able to see the world she died for."
Dexio stiffens beside her. "Stop it," he says sharply. "Stop it, Sina, stop it right now."
He crudely wipes his sleeve across his mouth, eyes piercing and blue through his mask. She blinks and shakes herself. She forces a smile. Perhaps she'll be vomiting next.
"Let's go," Dex says, taking her hand. "We have to find Serena and Calem."
The same fear in Sina's mind is in Dexio's voice: what if they find Serena next, artfully arranged like a sleeping queen?
Sina has seen Lysandre a grand total of two times – once with Dexio and once without. The first was with Dex, and they were filing pokédex prints when Lysandre strode it and demanded to see the professor. Sina huddled behind the stacks, eyes following the stranger with avid curiosity.
The next it was Serena with her, easily as perturbed as she, and Lysandre spoke of beauty.
Sina looks at the seamless white walls and recoils at how stark the red of the grunt is against them.
The earth roars and rumbles around them, so very angry at everything they have done to it. Sina has one hand in Dexio's and the other in Trevor's, dragging him along.
Their feet brush grass as the earth gives one last, vengeful snarl, and the crystalline machine splits in two. Sina doesn't watch it crumble, doesn't watch humanity be saved; she stares at the ground and focuses on putting one foot in front of the other.
"I think," Dexio gasps, "I think we're okay."
Trevor pulls his hand from hers, and Sina uses the freed limb to wrap herself around Dex's arm. She stares down into the rubble, and she catches a glimpse of red. It's so like her scarf, but dimmed to a rusty grey by the ash and rock.
She looks up at Dexio, and mirror demons dance in his eyes. Sina wonders when playing superheroes stopped being a game.
She wonders if it ever was.
She and Dexio leave the lab, umbrella cracking open to guard from the grey rain, and huddle together to avoid the splash.
The list of lunch orders sits in Sina's pocket: crepes for Emilie, croissant for the professor, and assorted anything for the summer interns.
They peruse North Boulevard's gallery of eateries until Sina catches sight of the galette stand.
"Dex," she says, "I want a galette."
He looks away from paying for Emilie's crepe and tilts his head. Sina stares up at him intently. He's been taller than her for a while now.
"Alright," he says. Nothing more. They approach the stand, and Sina, distracted by a flickering lamppost, trips as her toe hooks into a crack in the pavement.
She tumbles, knees slapping wetly against the ground. Sina stares at her dark, wet hands and makes no effort to stand.
Dexio joins her, holding the umbrella above their heads.
"It's telling of what a city hides," he says.
He buys her the galette, and she eats it; the rain washes away the crumbs.