Jasper shrugged at Karma’s retort, suppressing a shudder as she laughed that evil laugh again. God he did not like this woman. All the creeps. He waited a few moments after she, and a few others, left so he would be sure not to meet her outside before he walked out of the HQ as well.
As soon as he was a few paces away from the Goldenrod HQ, Jasper saw a familiar shape leaning against a wall. “Johannes?”
“Jasper. Long time no see.” Johannes was a man in his late-forties, with a face to show it. He had short brown hair with signs of graying, grey eyes, and was still wearing a lab coat over a semi-formal attire. He looked weary and tired.
“What are you doing here?”
“I picked up some intel about the mission, nothing specific, just that you’d be going out in the city today, and I waited.”
“God, I’ve been wanting to talk to you, Johannes,” Jasper admitted. He was worried though, it looked like Johannes had aged a number of years since he last saw him.
“Likewise. Let’s get you out of this mess alive, Jasper.”
“You’re not going to ask me if I did it?”
Johannes shook his head. “I see no point, it’s done and you’re in this mess, guilty or not. I’d rather focus on keeping you safe rather than trivialities of who did what.”
This surprised Jasper. For as long as he had known Johannes, the scientist had always upheld his own moral code, not approving of much of the sort of work that Jasper had been given. If he had to be honest, Jasper was relieved. He’d rather not be asked question he had no satisfactory answer to, certainly not to Johannes.
“What is your mission?” Johannes asked him.
“To catch a Pokémon, any Pokémon,” Jasper answered. “I don’t see the point though, I mean if we weren’t at least semi-competent we wouldn’t’ve been chosen for the E8.”
“No doubt the Warden knows what he’s doing. He wouldn’t give you any missions unless it’s with a purpose.”
“Maybe he’s trying to get us to lower our guard? To underestimate the trials?”
“Perhaps,” Johannes allowed. “But that sounds too simple. It doesn’t matter anyway, just complete it as quickly as possible, I’ll accompany you for as long as I can.”
“They must be monitoring us.”
“I count on it, I’d be disappointed in our security department if they weren’t,” Johannes let out a dry chuckle. “They might keep you under lockdown in HQ, but here they have no such jurisdiction. What do you know about the murder?”
“All I know is that Xarius was found in an area off-limits for anyone not E8, and that he was stabbed. And that the murderer covered his tracks.”
Johannes raised an eyebrow at Jasper, both of them knew that Jasper was known to be meticulous at tracks-covering. Even now on an informal mission he wore his gloves. But Johannes was true to his word and did not enquire. “You don’t know any more than we do then. While a murderer might still have been able to sneak into the area, albeit with difficulty, we can’t deny the motivation for your group is there. Honestly, I think the other members of the Endowed are more of a threat to you than the Warden at this point. I don’t trust them at all.”
“That makes two of us,” Jasper said.
“Just make sure they underestimate you, that’s a lot safer for you. I know you’re not very good at staying in the background, but at least keep up your normal attitude. Whoever killed Xarius likely did so for power, if they want it badly enough to kill once, they’ll want it badly enough to kill twice. Don’t for a moment be fooled into thinking they won’t do so again. This game the Warden is playing won’t protect you or anyone. This is Team Rocket, for all we know he’s waiting for the murderer with a badge of promotion.”
They were walking towards the nearest park now, hoping to find a wild Pokémon there, but the mission was put on the backburner for a bit, the conversation itself taking priority.
“What can you tell me about the others?” Jasper asked. “I know you’ve told me about them before, but I don’t remember a lot of it.”
Johannes sighed. “Of course you don’t, sometimes I wonder why I even bother with you.” It was said with a small smile. “The youngest is Scyke, he’s only 14 years old. Don’t underestimate him though, do you remember the disciplinary schools the team’s been experimenting with? He’s one of the graduates. In fact, I’ve heard it said he was one of the most promising kids there. While I don’t like tot hink of a 14 year old committing cold-blooded murder, don’t exclude him too easily. He is very easily underestimated, let others make that mistake but not you. “
“I don’t know a lot about the other young boy, except that his parents were in with Giovanni. Much good that’ll do them now. Either way, he got in through them. I’ve heard it said that he doesn’t have a lot of ambition, so I wouldn’t worry too much about him. There’s bigger fish to worry about.”
“Yes. Like Karma. She’s… unpredictable. And unpredictable people are dangerous to have around you. Not to mention that I suspect her not to be entirely sane either.”
“Yeah, I kind of got that impression.”
“Why? What did you do, Jasper?”
Jasper looked away, guilty. “I.. may have insulted here… a little.”
“God damnit Jasper! Do you want to make my life difficult?”
“At least she didn’t seem to take it as an insult?”
Johannes let out a big sigh. “There's no knowing how that one takes anything. Can you at least try to stay out of her hair? There have been… incidents before. She’s dangerous, Jasper, I would appreciate it if you would take that seriously.”
“I will,” Jasper said, quite seriously. He would try, at least. His mouth always had that way of running with him. “Now the others?”
“Right, there’s Ernest, the… heavier one. You may have heard of the unorthodox way he was placed in the E8?”
“Definitely, it was quite a laugh when it happened. An administrative error. I still don’t know why they bothered to give the kid a shot. I also can’t see how he could have waddled his way into Xarius’ room and overpowered him. Xarius is a fit fellow and Ernest most definitely is not. I’m not too worred.”
“Neither am I, really. As I said, there’s bigger fish. Lastly there’s Parvati. I’m not too informed on her either. She climbed the ranks much like you did, with effort and not with special circumstance. If a situation calls for an ally, she might be your best bet.”
“You know how I feel about allies,” Jasper responded. “I prefer to work alone.”
“Sometimes it wouldn’t hurt to have someone who has your back. Either way, she might also be someone to keep your eye on.”
“So you think the main danger is with Scyke, Parvati, and most of all Karma.”
“Yes, I do. You can ignore the others for now, unless anything about them stands out. I’ll try to stay in contact as much as I can, but I can’t promise anything. For all I know they didn’t approve of our interaction. We both know they have ways to prevent it. Just, please be careful Jasper, you’re in over your head here. You need to focus, be alert, and most of all, watch your step. Be sure you’re being watched at all times, and not just by the Warden.”
Jasper nodded. “You take care too, Johannes. It’s no secret we’re close. Watch your back.”
“Hey, I’m the one looking out for you, you’re the reckless idiot that likes to give me a heart attack,” For the first time today Johannes gave an actual smile.
“You should lay off the bacon then.”
“Smartass. I’ll see you soon, now go catch your bloody Pokémon.” Johannes took off, hurrying back to the HQ through the allies of Goldenrod.
Jasper felt reassured having talked to him. Johannes helped things make sense where he himself couldn’t. At least now he knew who to look out for. He had reached the small park by now. He grabbed the Pokéball of the Purrloin and gave a great, heavy sigh. “I suppose we’ve got some catching to do.”