Skies As Grey As Battleships

- Chapter 78: Further Elaboration -

Touya reached the Team Plasma building out of breath and feeling as if someone had decided to set fire to his legs. Taking advantage of the fact that there were far fewer police in the streets than there had been yesterday, he'd run all the way there. He hadn't needed to book it as fast as possible, but he'd been driving himself crazy all day at work wondering how the search of the building had gone.

He'd intended to wake up earlier than normal so that he could visit headquarters before work began, but due to what was in his mind a grave oversight on his part he'd forgotten to set the extra alarm, instead awaking at the typical time. And despite jumping out of bed and getting dressed and ready to go as quickly as was humanly possible, he still hadn't managed to scrape up enough extra time to make stopping by before work even remotely feasible.

His sole consolation as he'd muddled his way through an obscenely long number of work hours and menial tasks had been the fact that the morning announcements had mentioned nothing about having captured N. Not that this meant that they hadn't, of course - despite usually announcing whenever they'd managed to capture any fugitives, there was no rule saying that they had to. Plus, N was definitely a bit of a special case.

Having successfully restrained himself from flinging the door open, upon entering the building he'd propped himself up against the nearest wall for a momentary respite. He definitely appreciated the cool breeze of the air conditioner, but he still needed to sit down soon, and the lobby was rather lacking in the furniture department. He rested for a little while longer, waiting the few seconds necessary for him to stop gasping for air.

In a hurry to get to the elevators, he almost missed the note taped up on the wall between them, the white of the paper nearly blending in with the wall. Like previous notes, it was addressed to the building's "employees", and, like last time, Touya fully expected to have completely missed whatever meeting or announcement the note was regarding. To his very pleasant surprise, instead of taking place during lunch time, the team-wide meeting was to occur in the auditorium at six-thirty, which was, assuming Touya's estimation was accurate, approximately forty minutes from now.

Though the information on the note was understandably sparse, the meeting was presumably being held in order to shed further light on the team's plans regarding the attack on Crane. Going to the meeting would mean coming home past the time he'd promised Touko, which wasn't exactly going to make her happy, but unless the meeting ran seriously over the time he anticipated he wouldn't be making her wait terribly long.

Pushing aside any guilt he had concerning the amount of worrying he was inevitably forcing upon his sister, he pressed the call button, glancing between both of the elevators as he waited for one to arrive. Fortunately, it didn't take long – the wait time ranged from a split-second to entire minutes, so to be on the shorter end of the spectrum was a relief.

Considering that he had nothing with him with which he could occupy his time, his intention was to visit the library and hang out there until it was time to go to the auditorium. It would have been a fool-proof plan, if it weren't for the fact that the elevator buttons had yet to be returned to their normal configuration. As much as he would have liked to go on a hunt for N, he knew that he had to be prepping for the impending meeting. Assuming he was in the building, of course, and hadn't been found and captured by the police, but Touya was currently strategically avoiding those sorts of speculations. He'd find out soon enough what had happened yesterday; he just had to be patient.

There were a few possible floors he could go to where he at least wouldn't be kicked out, but he wasn't completely up to speed on what was going on on each floor now that the layout had been changed, and he didn't want to get in anyone's way. Besides, a storage room or battlefield could really only be so entertaining, so he figured that being bored in the auditorium was better than being bored elsewhere.

Which was how he ended up sitting in one of the auditorium's many, many empty seats. There were actually a few other people in the room, but they were all busy. Or, at least, pretending to be busy. A few had documents piled on top of their laps, while others were typing away on their laptops. Touya, on the other hand, had absolutely nothing, and was instead stuck twiddling his thumbs in a seat that was of questionable comfort.

This went on for about twenty minutes, at which point others - more than simply the odd few who'd gathered well before the meeting was supposed to start - finally began filtering in, replacing the stifling silence with the low hum of easy chatter. Utilizing this change, Touya began practicing the art of listening to the various conversations whilst avoiding anything that was too personal or simply none of his business. Not that any of this was really his business, per se, but he was going to overhear what was going on anyway, so he might as well focus in on just one conversation.

Touya didn't even notice until he heard reverb from the microphone that someone had walked out onto the stage, having emerged from one of the stage's side entrances. The new arrival tapped the microphone once, then twice, and then once more until the auditorium had more or less quieted down. "First off, sorry for the short notice - we seem to have enough people here regardless, though. Second, you're probably here for attack plans, whereas I'll be talking about the light stone."

There was nothing so unprofessional as a sigh or a disappointed groan, though Touya did notice that a few of those around him did look a bit put out. While it was true that he'd been expecting further elaboration on the subject, he was still pretty interested in the light stone. Enough that he was actually confused as to why others would be visibly disappointed; wasn't everyone curious about what was going on with the other legendary Pokemon?

"I won't keep you long, though! You'll be hearing from the battle department head, followed by the commander, in due time." It took Touya a second to breathe, relief washing over him at the mention of N. He was safe, obviously, and even if Touya learned nothing else during this meeting he'd still be immensely glad that he'd decided to attend, if only for that fact alone. Unfortunately, he was sort of getting the feeling that the current speaker might be a bit of a talker, which boded well for neither Touko's state of mind nor his desire to see N as soon as possible.

His assumption was soon proved correct, the speaker - who had since identified himself as a member of the research team, which Touya supposed made sense - having taken ten minutes before even getting to the first fact about the light stone. It was, he admitted, at least fairly interesting, if not somewhat depressing. Further testing on the light stone had yet to reveal much of anything, unless one considered the fact that it was almost certainly never going to awaken to be something. There were evidently further tests to be done, however the speaker hadn't sounded terribly optimistic. And for good reason, it sounded like.

Next up was, as the man had said, the head of the battle department. She stood stiffly at the podium, looking out over the audience, not at them. Touya was suddenly aware of the fact that he hadn't met her before. Her face did seem vaguely familiar, suggesting that he might have seen her before, probably on the day he'd accidentally interrupted that meeting N was in, but of course seeing wasn't nearly the same as meeting. He would've thought that, given the time he'd spent on the battlefield, he would've at least run into her, but he supposed that she must spend more time planning things. Which there was, of course, nothing wrong with.

"… And I'll be detailing the requirements for the upcoming mission." Touya was supremely grateful for the fact that it was dark enough so that it was impossible for others to notice that he'd been zoning out. Just a little, though, and he knew that he couldn't have missed much. "Though rank is typically the deciding factor for away missions, we're making an exception in this particular case." He knew that it was a long shot, but he still couldn't help but perk up. He had the feeling that if rank had been one of the qualifications, he'd have been out of the running immediately.

That wasn't to say the he still had a chance, but at least he might not be rejected outright, which was promising. He wondered what the reasoning was behind the decision. He'd never looked at missions with the intention of applying for them, but as she'd said there was almost always a rank restriction. He supposed that it was an easy way of weeding out people who'd just joined or weren't quite experienced enough, or both. And considering the importance of the attack on Crane, they were probably more than willing to spend time carefully going through all available team members rather than excluding a few outright due to rank.

"Should you wish to apply for a spot, your battling level, as well as any other skills you may have, will be evaluated during a set time." Touya wasn't sure if it was her expression or really just the lighting, but she looked a bit uncomfortable. "There are a number of factors that we're considering, so you're all encouraged to apply regardless of how you perceive your skills." The sentiment there was very nice, Touya had to admit, but he wasn't sure whether it quite applied to him. There were some people who might be underestimating their skills; unfortunately, Touya was fairly sure that, when it came to his own abilities, he wasn't underestimating anything.

"To sign up, you may contact any member of the battle or teaching department. Members of those departments may add themselves to the list, but only the department head will be able to move or remove someone from a time slot. Vetting for the mission will conclude one week from today, and you'll be able to sign up after this meeting." Now that he actually had the opportunity to try out - which wasn't actually the best phrasing, now that he thought about it, because it made it sound like he was applying for a role in a play rather than a life-threatening mission - he was second-guessing himself. There was no way he'd be chosen.

… At least he had some time to make up his mind.

"If you have any questions about mission requirements, I'll be here to answer them afterwards. For now, I'll hand things over to the commander."


A/N: It's my hope to have an estimation soon for roughly how many chapters are left. I might've mentioned this before, but I've already got the overarching outline done; I just need to draft the outlines for the individual chapters, which are slightly more specific. As it stands now, it's a bit difficult to predict exactly how long it'll take.

This is probably rather obvious, but Touya's done more battles and attended more classes than have been mentioned outright in the story. He's been a little lax in his attendance more recently due to the search and whatnot, but overall his attendance is pretty good.