Phantom Thief chap 10

A note for those who live in places that do not follow the custom. The 1st floor is often known as the ground floor in buildings with multiple levels. The same floor you enter the building in (assuming that the area around the building is flat). Just gonna clear that up to prevent any confusion. It's a minor detail.

Disclaimer: The only thing I claim in this story is the long times between updates. Sorry about that.

Chapter 10

In the Belly of the Beast

Blanc bid me farewell once the somewhat disorienting feeling of teleportation faded. The surreal feeling of standing in the central hub of the WPO, having just passed by the entrance to the office dedicated to hunting me down, died quickly enough once I saw all the paper.

The stacks and stacks of paper...

I suspected that the amount of ink in that room could have supplied the needs of a small nation for a month.

"I thought the WPO was top of the line! Why isn't everything holograms and computer-based?" I quietly complained as I set a tower of paper next to about five other knee-high stacks. They had all come from a single stack and had been separated for easier transportation. I peeked and read a few of them, confirming my suspicions that the paperwork had to do with relocating the freed Pokemon in the warehouse among other related topics.

A part of me wished I could complain and say that I had done my part and leave the heavy lifting to some intern or something. Surely karma would have pity on me? I did free a warehouse full of Pokemon and take out criminals. That was considered a good deed, right?

"Thank you, Mr. Kaito," Mrs. Finley, a lady who had the same job as my mom, told me. I had been helping her for the last few hours with various tasks after an employee appeared, asked who I was, then led me to Mrs. Finley's office with instructions to help her out. I vaguely remembered Mom mentioning the name Finley, possibly her boss, so I went along with it.

I just wish I wasn't regulated to what almost equated an intern. It was degrading to a thief of my skill and reputation.

"No problem. What's next?" I resisted the reflexive urge to put my hands in my pockets and instead put them behind my back, the pose respectful and less awkward than simply leaving them by my sides. Shelly had taught me the necessities for infiltration and being able to act respectful was something incredibly basic.

"Here's your temporary authorization. It will be good for the two weeks you will be with us. You'll need it to get to room 137-B, which is where you have been requested to help at next. Take the elevator to the ground floor and you'll find it easily enough," Mrs. Finley tells me as she passes me a card with a small picture of me on it. I thanked her and made my way to the elevator, hopeful that my next assignment would be paperwork-free.

The building I was in was not the actual main headquarters of the WPO. I was certain of that. Shelly told me that the main HQ resided on an artificially created island and that it moved constantly. I had checked out a few windows in the building I was in and noted mountains in the distance beyond a sprawling city.

I had once asked Shelly where the island was and he had acquired a faraway look in his eyes, taking a minute before he answered with, "Now knowing that kind of information would be something all right."

I shook off the memory as I entered the empty elevator and, when the scanner prompted me to do so, held my card up to it. Once the green light appeared, I hit the big 1 and waited. My neck itched and I resisted the urge to attempt to locate the cameras that I had felt on me since the moment I had teleported in.

It might have been a little presumptuous of me, but I felt like they were all focused on me. That someone was analyzing my movements. I wouldn't have acted any differently, but I was glad that Daniel had warned me about Terry and his team suspecting me. It made it so that I knew the paranoia I felt was not unwarranted.

The elevator dinged and felt my pulse spike when six people in body armor and wielding assault rifles were revealed as the door opened.

Only the sight of their weapons being held casually rather than pointed forward kept me from busting the pipes I felt running under them and blowing my cover sky-high.

"Ah, I'm supposed to be here," I said, holding my pass like it was a shield.

The lady in the front of the group blinked, then said, "We're just getting on the elevator."

There was an awkward pause before I said, "Right, sorry about that." I made my way out of there as quickly as I could do so while still walking. The chuckles heard behind me were ignored as I suppressed the embarrassment and kept my eyes peeled for the door I was had been told to go to.

I noted the lack of larger windows on the first floor and, begrudgingly, admired the WPO's sense for security. The larger windows, which were apparently on the upper floors only, made breaking into a location a simple affair. I would know.

Finding the right door took me awhile as I had managed to make a wrong turn and needed to backtrack. The door was guarded by several people in seemingly normal, if work-appropriate, clothes. It took me a moment to realize that they were guards as I did not see any guns on them, only several pokeballs on their persons.

I think it said something about me when I am more used to seeing people hold guns than society's usual method of protection: pokeballs. Some people actually wore pokeballs that had no Pokemon in them to ward off possible attackers. I had a strong feeling that the ones at the door I approached did not follow that trend.

"Excuse me, I was told to come help out down here," I told them while holding my card out when I saw one of them pull out a small scanner. The man verified that I was authorized to be there and opened up the door for me with instructions to head outside and head to the first person I saw.

Now, up until that point, I hadn't really thought about where the Pokemon that had been rescued from the warehouse would have been taken. I hadn't put any thought into it and, beyond assisting with the paperwork involved, I did not intend on doing anything further. It was when I stepped through another door that led outside when I found out where some had been brought.

The noise from the presence of hundreds of Pokemon hit me like a wave and I spent a moment looking over the gigantic field at it all. Any individual voices I may have translated were lost in the general din. I could see humans scattered around the crowd, performing different tasks. Several vehicles had been pulled out onto the field and I was somewhat surprised that there weren't Pokemon climbing all over them.

I noticed that there was a man who looked to be somewhere in his forties closest to me and went straight towards him.

"Excuse me," I said, raising me voice to catch their attention. They were filling up what looked to be a long line of bowls with food from a large bag when he turned to me.

"I was sent to help by Mrs. Finley. I'm Thaddeus Kaito."

There was a spark of recognition. It was barely there and I half suspected it was my paranoia talking, but I saw it. It appeared, not once I introduced myself, but after he turned towards me. He recognized my face. Warning flags waved themselves wildly in my head.

"Just call me Shade. There's some bags of feed over on the back of the truck. Each bowl has a typing on it. Make sure to pour at least two scoops from the cups into the right bowls. Start on that end and move back this way." He gave his orders out quickly and I snapped right to work once he was finished.

While I worked, I wracked my brain for the name Shade. I felt as though I had heard that name before but nothing came to mind as I went from bowl to bowl and filled each one with the kind of food that they indicated. I noticed that a few people gathered the bowls and brought them to another location after I finished the section and, with everyone doing their own part, we were done in half an hour.

"Thanks for the help. We need every hand working to keep this bunch fed," the lady said, indicating the slightly less noisy crowd of Pokemon that were only like that because of the food that they were provided.

"No problem-" I twisted when I felt the fast approach of liquid and just barely blocked the water bottle from smacking me in the chest. The movement had been thoughtless and I raised an eyebrow at Shade who had only given a warning a moment before impact. He was drinking from a bottle of his own and did not notice my expression. I did not comment and enjoyed the water, thirsty from the work. I moved closer to Mr. Shade, intent on asking what we would be doing next, when I noticed something.

"You've got some thing orange on your neck," I informed him, touching my own to indicate the location.

"Ah, I've been slacking," he muttered and tipped his head back with another drink from his water, causing the collar from his shirt to raise up and obscure the orange. I raised an eyebrow at his words but received no explanation.

"Anyways," I said, "What's next? My break doesn't start for awhile."

Mr. Shade waved for me to follow him and he led me into the building. As we walked, I glanced at his neck and saw that the orange had vanished. A frown appeared on my face when I couldn't see a smudge or anything that indicated him washing it off.

He only started speaking after a little ways into the building, having stayed silent until that point even as he passed a few checkpoints, waving in my direction to indicate that I was with him. I made a mental note to ask Shelly about him and how he was well known enough to be recognized my sight alone.

"Terry told me that you can understand Pokemon. You are probably aware of how rare such an ability is and you'll be helping my wife out with questioning Pokemon and finding out where they want to be relocated to. Behave yourself. Her ears pack a serious punch."

I nearly stumbled at that last line, convinced I had misheard but deciding to not comment. I wish I had. The shock of seeing the extra appendages would have been lessened if I had. Sure, the only reaction I had was widened eyes. Even if neither of them saw it, I disliked the moment of honest surprise that was exposed at the first glimpse of those ears.

Mr. Shade knocked once on the door before walking in. I followed, saw the woman behind the desk, then understood the warning Mr. Shade had given me. Along with tan fluff in a few locations, the lady had large appendages that were undoubtedly the ears of a Lopunny. I wondered what the chances of actually meeting more than one of the poor souls that had been experimented on by that terrorist organization were.

"This is the kid Terry mentioned. I'm sure you can put him to work for an hour or two," Shade told her before taking his leave.

She blinked twice at the sudden arrival and leave before looking at me and asking, "You can understand Pokemon, right?"

I was beginning to regret telling Terry my lesser power in the back of the Limping Doughboy as more and more people seemed to learn about it every minute.

"Yes ma'am. It takes a minute for me to adjust to Pokemon I haven't met before but I can usually understand them when I concentrate."

"Perfect!" she exclaimed, a smile appearing on her face.

"You have no idea how hard it is to get someone who can reliably communicate with Pokemon down here. Even psychic types are usually dedicated to teleportation and heavy lifting duties and we haven't been able to snag any so far."

She rose from her desk and led me through a few hallways. I saw lines of Pokemon standing outside a few doors and the lady guided me through one of them. An older man was behind a desk and stopped speaking when we came in.

"This is the new helper. Show him the ropes and get him to work. Call me if there's anything."

"Yes, Ms. Sierra," the man told her as she left.

I ignored the headache that was forming and focused once more as the next Pokemon walked in. Most of the Pokemon that were sent to me were all ones who knew either where they were from or where they wanted to go. I just had to find an approximate location through questioning and enter the information onto the laptop that I was given. There were quite a few Pokemon that had been stolen and, while I was happy to help them get to their proper owners, the constant concentrating was wearing me down. If they had all been the same species, I may have gotten used to it and not have felt anything. The problem came with the fact that a different type of Pokemon walked through the door each time and I had to adjust to understand them.

The next one through the door was a Riolu and I internally cheered. I had been around enough Lucario that a Riolu would take no effort and I lowered my concentration slightly, grateful for the ease that they presented.

"Please have a seat so we can begin. First off, do you know where you want to go? The WPO is willing to transport you to your rightful home just as soon as we are able," I told them, trying my best not to be monotonous as I had said that line far too much already. It was what the guy who had filled me in on what I would be doing had said and he had told me I should recite it.

The Riolu climbed up the chair and sat on the edge as I spoke.

"I was born in the black market and never have been outside it."

My cheer at the ease of understanding him crashed when I heard that. It wasn't the first time I had heard a story like his and clicked onto the tab that I had used a few times when given that answer. I took a look at him and saw that they had the looks of a Pokemon that had been in captivity for a long time. Their fur was lackluster and looked like it had only just begun being taken care of recently. Some areas were patchy and the cautious expression on their face was once I did not like to see on Pokemon because I knew the reasons behind them. I repressed the images of others I had seen in that warehouse as I spoke.

"Any idea what you want to do or where you want to go now that you are free?"

I received a shrug as a response and wished that I was surprised by the reaction. I typed 'Riolu' into the database I was connected to and quickly looked over the options.

"Would you prefer living primarily with Pokemon or-"

"Pokemon," he interrupted me and I took it in stride, adding that to the filters and scanning it once more. I wasn't surprised by his answer.

"Do you prefer living in a city sort of setting or more outdoors?"

They spent a moment thinking, then said, "I would like to see how the wild is, if there is any place that can really be called safe."

I refined my search, asked a few more questions, then found a good option.

"There is this place called the Sanctuary. It has a village primarily comprised of Lucario and Riolu with the only human dwelling nearby being the home of the people responsible for the upkeep of the Sanctuary. There is a city several miles away from the perimeter of the Sanctuary, but it is probably the best option with your criteria." I turned the laptop towards him with pictures of the surrounding area pulled up.

They asked me about the other options and ended up choosing the Sanctuary. I tried clicking on the button that would contact someone to come and take the Riolu to the Sanctuary, but found none available. It had been on every other option, so I couldn't help but frown when one did not show up then.

"Something is wrong?"

"Just a minor error. Come with me. I'll ask Ms. Sierra about it. This has happened before." According to the old man, it had. This was the first time that it had done so for me.

I asked the remaining few Pokemon that were outside my door to go to the old man's door just in case I was gone for awhile and brought the Riolu to Ms. Sierra's office, keeping my distance from him as I did so.

Thankfully, she was there when I knocked on the door. I entered and explained what happened when I selected the Sanctuary.

"Ah, I understand why that happened. Entrance to the Sanctuary is something a little more complicated than other locations."

She typed away on her computer for a few moments, then told me, "I doubt you have clearance to go to his office, so find Shade in room 385 and tell him that you need to get into contact with Simmons about access to the Sanctuary." A paper was printed out behind her and she reached back, grabbed it, then deposited it into my hands. All without looking up from her screen.

"Show Simmons that paper if he tries to get out of the job, not that I imagine he will. Return here once that's all taken care of and I can show you where the cafeteria is."

"Got it. See you in a bit."

My headache was flaring up and I resolved to bring some medicine for the rest of the time I would be working there as I had no doubts that they would put my translating skills to use. On our way to the elevator, I saw the Riolu's steps waver out of the corner of my eye.

"You don't seem very steady," I mentioned.

A glare was all I received. I would have left him alone if he didn't sit down on our way up the elevator and appear to take far too much effort in getting up.

I let out a sigh at the sight and picked him up, placing him on my shoulder and ignoring the way he tensed up and seemed ready to kick my head as I kept walking. The painful grip they had on the left side of my neck was not given a reaction.

"You are not recovered and I do not want you falling or passing out and leaving me asking random people where the medical area is. You can complain once you're all better."

He was silent and I could feel the indignation rolling off of him, even if the grip became less painful. I tried to ignore the emotion that I knew wasn't mine and found Mr. Shade's office with little issue. I knocked and, because I couldn't clearly hear the response, I assumed that he was allowing me to come in. I opened the door and found myself blinking in confusion for the fourth or fifth time that day when I saw the wings that were folded against his back. The orange that I had seen before were certainly explained when I noticed the scales.

Once more, I wondered if the odds of running into people that the terrorist organization experimented on were raised with each one I met. That made three, that I knew of.

"I said that I was busy."

"Sorry. Couldn't hear through the door. Ms. Sierra said that I should find you and ask for you to bring me to Mr. Simmons as I have a passenger to the Sanctuary." A tilted head left little doubt who the unsaid passenger was.

"Right, you don't have clearance up there on your own. Let's go," he told me as he swept out of the office. As he was in front of me and had neglected to put on the jacket that had previously hidden them, I allowed myself to stare at his wings for a little while before forcing myself to ignore them.

I wondered if everyone at the WPO was as quiet as Mr. Shade and the other members I had met or if I was just seeing the quiet ones as no words were exchanged on our way. The first time either of us said anything is when we approached a checkpoint in the hallway and, instead of pulling out a card, Mr. Shade's left wing extended slightly. I blinked in confusion when I noticed a dark patch through the thin membrane.

Mr. Shade got me through and I finally worded the question I had been holding in.

"Was that a tattoo on your wing?"

"No, it is my version of your pass-card. And a quick warning before we go in: don't ask for any autographs."

"Why would I?"

Mr. Shade looked at my face for a moment and, after checking for something, said, "You don't recognize me?"

"I feel as though I should with that reaction, but no." Sure, there was the faintest niggling of recognition at the sight of his wings and I had assumed that he was that way because of the experiments done to him, but nothing concrete.

"That's a pleasant novelty," he muttered, turning and opening a door without knocking.

"For the love of Arceus, please tell me there isn't more paperwork!?" I found myself letting out a snort at his reaction, understanding the feeling far too well.

I walked in and it took a moment to locate the man behind the paper.

"This is what you get for merging departments," Mr. Shade drawled, his tone amused at Mr. Simmons plight.

"If I knew that the bloody Phantom Thief was going to go and do that I would have asked for a vacation ahead of time," Mr. Simmons muttered and finally noticed me. I took note of the red in his eyes and the blue-tinted hair and I felt a memory just barely out of reach, pleading to be remembered.

"Ms. Sierra said to come to you for transporting this guy to the Sanctuary," I said, answering the unsaid question.

"Perfect!" Mr. Simmons shouted and leapt from his desk, causing me to flinch at the sudden action. The grip on my neck tightened once more and I prayed that I wouldn't have a bruise at the end of that little adventure.

"Shade, tell my secretary that something important has come up. I'll be out for a few hours."

"Taking them to the Sanctuary shouldn't take any longer than half-"

"A few hours~," Mr. Simmons practically sang as he turned me around and began pushing me out into the hallway in a hurried fashion.

I restrained my desire to shove his hands off of me and, moments after I began to feel annoyed at the treatment, he stopped pushing me and give a quick apology.

"I feel as though I am being used to avoid your paperwork," I told him, tone deadpan.

"No, I'm just uhh." His voice trailed off when no excuse appeared and I threw him a rope out of pity.

"I hate paperwork as well. They had me stuck lugging the stacks around earlier today. I'm Thaddeus Kaito."

"Jacob Simmons." He said his name and I could tell he was watching my reaction.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing!" Mr. Simmons said, his tone happy for whatever reason.

"Seriously, should I recognize you and Mr. Shade? He had that reaction after I saw his wings." I hoped that mentioning his extra appendages wasn't somehow rude and was glad when Mr. Simmons gave no indication that it was.

"Oh, Uncle Shade was the focus of a lot of attention for a long while. Probably before you were born." I wondered, for the first time, just how old Mr. Shade really was. With Pokemon DNA in his system, there wasn't a good way to guess.

"What about you?"

"Ah, a few events that happened when I was your age put me smack-dab in the public eye."

"Okay, I was going to leave it alone, but I am definitely looking you up as soon as I get a break."

That just made him chuckle and I was sorely tempted to pull out my phone right then and there.

Mr. Simmons led me, and wasn't there a lot of that going on, to a designated teleporting area and I put the Riolu down once we were there.

"You all set to go?" I asked him as Mr. Simmons spoke with someone about the trip he was about to take.

"I don't know what to expect," they admitted.

"That's not exactly a bad thing. Just make sure to be receptive to new things and let someone know when you need help." I rubbed my shoulder in a not-so-subtle indicator.

"Everything is ready! You sure you don't want to come along, Thaddeus?"

To a village full of Pokemon who can pick up on my mental state with someone who was apparently high up in the WPO with a Pokemon the Phantom Thief helped free? Even if I regulated my emotions perfectly, which I doubted my ability to do, the chances that one of them might push a little deeper than my surface thoughts was too high.

"Nah. Maybe another time though." Not likely. "I've gotta report back to Ms. Sierra and find the cafeteria. See you later."

Mr. Simmons grinned, saluted me, then vanished as him and the Riolu were teleported away.

College is a cruel mistress, stealing what little free time I have each and every time it appears. Let me know how you liked the chapter and what you expect for favorite thief. I'm interesting in what y'all might come up with.

And who all appreciates Jacob and Shade showing up? I found writing that scene particularly therapeutic as I could draw myself back into old characters with glee.

Anyways. Hope everyone enjoys this. I'll write whenever I have free time.

Though for whenever I just can't write and am playing Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch (both on PC), here's my Battle net ID if anyone wants to game: TBirdGuy#1191