Something felt . . . off.
Courtney could feel it, looming around in the base like a bad smell.. First off, that Faba guy and his employees were very strange. She noticed them looking around every corner, every drawer, every desk. She was pretty sure that they were looking in the grunts rooms, too. God, something was wrong. She had that feeling. The feeling where you’ve had a good day and all of a sudden something bad happens and that day is ruined. Like it was sunny and it rained for two hours afterward. Courtney sat next to Tabby during lunch, and she still felt that pit of dread in her stomach. “Something wrong?” Tabitha asked, knocking out Courtney of her thoughts. “Yeah, something feels wrong. I-- I don’t feel good about those Aether Paradise guys.” She said, looking at the ground. “Of course you don’t. Nobody does.” Tabby said, taking a bite his sandwich that Courtney had made for him. “They’re here to judge us and take notes about how we treat our pokemon. I have a feeling their writing notes about all of us and keeping them to themselves. Like high school girls with their menopause going wild.” Courtney curled her nose in disgust. “Gross, Tabby.” “I’m just saying.” He said, wiping a bit of mustard off his chin. “Yeah, but, I saw that Faba guy snooping around Leader Maxie’s office. I-I think he’s looking for something.” Courtney said, her suspicion growing. “What is he looking for?” Tabitha questioned, taking another bite of his sandwhich. “I-- don’t know. They’re not asking us anything, and I'm not sure what they want. . .” Courtney said, her expression becoming even more confused. “Courtney, don't think about it. They'll be gone in a week, that's not so long.” He said, setting a hand on her shoulder. She looked up into his eyes, and smiled. He smiled as well, feeling warm and fuzzy. When lunch had ended, Tabitha and Courtney made the venture back to their rooms, only to find one of the Aether Paradise employees snooping in Courtney’s room. “Hey!” Tabitha exclaimed, startling the employee and causing him to jump. “What are you doing in my room?!” Courtney yelled, pointing a finger to his chest. “We're just looking for an object of great importance. Something you wouldn't understand, so go back to planing to find geodes and all that stuff.” He said, rudely waving a hand in her face. “Hey, we're looking for the legendary Groudon, not hunting for geodes. Also, don't speak to Courtney that way! She's your superior here, whether you Aether Paradise assholes like it or not!” Tabitha interrupted, stepping in between the two. The employee scoffed. “Yeah, so? What are you going to do about me looking in here, tubby?” He scolded, pointing a finger at Tabitha. His eyes showed hurt and insecurity as he started to step back. Courtney reeled back her sleeves and prepared to slam the employee into the wall, before she saw Faba walking down the hall. “Jason! What have I said about this?!” Faba yelled, increasing his walking speed gripping the employee's left arm and wrapping his fingers tightly around it. “I was just--!” He pulled the employee to his face. His eyes showed rage and his scowl could make even the biggest pokemon run away in fear. The employee opened his mouth to speak but Faba interrupted him.“Ah, ah, ah, don’t. We'll talk about this in my temporary office. Now, get out of my slight. ” Faba hissed the last word, as if he was spitting pure venom. The employee ran back to their room, as Faba brushed some dirt off of his uniform. “I am so terribly sorry, they don't usually don't act like this. All employees at Aether Paradise should act in a kind and civilised manner. I really am sorry for this, he shouldn't have called you that terrible word.” Faba apologized, straightening a few things on his outfit and facing them. “That's . . . very kind of you. T-thanks.” Courtney said, a bit confused. Tabitha was lost in his own thoughts, staring into the wall. “I'll talk to him straight away, I promise this will not happen again. Good day.” Faba started to walk down the hall, until Courtney called him out. “Mr. Faba! What was he looking for anyway?” She asked, causing Faba to turn around. “My dear, that is for us to know, and for you not to care.” He said, eyes burning into Courtney's psyche. He walked down the hall until he wasn't visible to the eye. Courtney held Tabitha's hand, as she pulled the silent man into her bedroom for a reassuring conversation.
Maxie felt absolutely exhausted. The Mask had drained his energy for the day. He walked the hallways in a sleepy daze, visible bags under his eyes. He sat down at his desk, trying effortlessly to stay awake. Another meeting was today, and he felt anxiety rising up in his mind. They still didn't have any location for the red orb, they were extremely behind. He growled and slammed his fist on the desk. What a fool he had been! Using that silly tool to destract himself from his duties! He walked over to his desk, grabbing the mask. He angrily turned to the window and tossed it out. He breathed, and walked out of his office on the way to the auditorium. However, the mask flew back into his office, landing in its exact same place from before.
The auditorium was in a frenzy. People were yelling to the top of their lungs, voicing their complaints and concerns. Courtney stood on the stage, frozen in fear and anxiety. Tabitha stood besides her, trying to calm the wild crowd, without any result. The looked like they were going to riot, some were even grabbing chairs! Maxie stepped in, surprised at the sudden behavior of his grunts.
He stomped up to the podium in a rage, grabbing the microphone and yelling “ ENOUGH! ”
The grunts suddenly stopped, sitting down and paying attention. Maxie breathed in gasps, trying to control his fury. “Okay. You may voice your complaints, but please be calm about it.” He pinched his nose, trying to contain himself. “Those Aether Paradise guys are invading our privacy!” A grunt exclaimed, standing up. “Yeah, I've had to lock my door three times in a row!” A female grunt said. “They keep looking in our rooms! We have personal stuff in there!”
Maxie looked a bit surprised, as he grabbed the microphone. “Okay, I haven't heard anything about that . Faba hasn't even told me about it, how long has this been going on?” He asked, looking across the crowd. “Since they got here!” One grunt exclaimed. “Alright, alright calm down! I will talk with Faba about this, and if it happens again, I will do something about it.” Maxie aligned some papers and read them off. “Okay, once again, we are not any closer to finding the Red Orb or Groudon. I apologize for this, since I have been distracting myself with- other duties.” He cleared his throat nervously. “But, if we all do our part, we have a very good chance of finding them both. As I have said in the past, we will crush Team Aqua! Their plan is flawed, while ours is flawless! We shall defeat them, and expand the land for the better of all Pokémon! Together, we are Team Magma, the true victors of Hoenn!” He announced, as the crowd cheered. Courtney and Tabitha clapped, feeling proud of their leader. Maxie smiled, he felt like he was finally getting things done.
“Alright, we must do this quickly while they are in that meeting. Everyone keep watch, this won't take long.” Faba whispered, quietly entering Maxie’s office as his employees stood outside. He tiptoed through the room, looking around. He saw the treasure sitting on Maxie's shelf, sitting there in the sunlight. “Aha! There you are!” He said, walking towards it and picking it up. He examined it, his eyes filled with wonder.“The Mask of Loki! The magical tool of legend! I never thought I would see it in person. Now, let's see what you can do.” Faba giggled sinisterly, placing the mask on his face. A few moments passed, as it did nothing. “Huh? Why isn't working?!” He growled, shaking it in fury. “Wait--” He checked a device on his wrist. “Of course. Faba, you fool. This Mask was created from a Norse god, and Loki did his pranks and such at night. It only works at that time, that makes a small bit of sense. I should take it when Maxie is sleeping, he shouldn't notice it then. I’ll have to wait a few days, however. . .” Faba carefully placed it back, and sneaked out.
“Alright, back to the office. The plan has changed a small bit, we make our move Wednesday at midnight sharp.” Faba and the employees exited the hallway, unknowing that the cameras centered around Maxie's door had picked up the entire conversation.
Maxie sat at his desk, waiting for Faba to arrive. He had scheduled a small meeting with him after hearing the news that his employees were looking in the grunt's rooms.
“Hello, Mr. Maxie. You wished to see me?” Faba questioned, sitting down in the chair right across from him. “Yes. I've heard a concerning complaint from my grunts today.” He said, slow and calm. “O-oh.” Faba said, darting his eyes to the left in a quickened manner. Maxie stood up, crossing his arms behind his back. “Have you been asking your employees to search my grunt’s rooms?” Maxie questioned, a small scowl on his face. “Well, yes. . . but it is for a good reason. We are looking for anything that could harm your Pokemon.” Faba gulped, trying to keep his hands lowered at his sides. Maxie looked unconvinced, but a green glow turned his attention to his shelf.
There it was, just sitting there. Like he had never moved it. The mask was right there. He could have sworn he threw that menacing item out his window! His eyes had widen in surprise, and his jaw dropped. “Mr. Maxie?” Faba asked, returning his focus to the small man. “Your dismissed.” He suddenly stated, keeping his eyes on the mask. “D-don't let me hear of this again, Mr. Faba.” He said, mindlessly walking over to his shelf. Faba stepped out, slightly bewildered.
Maxie stared at the enchanted item, puzzled on how it was back in his office. He stared at it for a long period of time before walking to the window to open it. He took one last glance, causing the mask to glow. His pupils turned a bright green, and the mask's frown turned upwards into a smile. ‘ C'mon! What are you waiting for? ’ it suddenly asked. “W-what?!” Maxie dropped it in a startled daze, backing away. ‘ Come on! Don't you want to have some fun? The sun is setting, and it's the perfect time!’ it speaked, causing Maxie to lift it up again. “H-how are you taking?” He asked, lifting up to his face without control. It went silent, but launched onto his face. His eyes widened and pupils returned to normal. “No! Get off!” He yelled, pulling and tugging on it. He heard faint laughter, but it got louder every time he tried to pull off the mask. It was crazed, and maniacal. “That laughter. . .” He sputtered, his mind becoming even more bent to the power of the mask. “I-it sounds like . . . my own?!” He gasped, but he started to twist. He spun around again, trying to force himself not to transform. His mind had failed though, as it felt like he was falling unconscious.
He stopped, his outfit changing a bit. His hat had disappeared, and his sunglasses’ edges had become pointed and the lens had turned into a light red shade. His hair was slicked back, with the ends pointing upwards. His suit had turned dark red, with black fingerless gloves and a black overcoat. He examined himself in the mirror, admiring his new look. “Looking good, Maxie! Now, what to do?” He zipped over to the desk. He ravaged through one of the drawers and smiled when he found a small picture of Archie inside. “Well, time to get that sea hubby on my side! Ha, ha, ha!” He zoomed out his window, unknowing that Courtney had seen the entire thing and muttered “What . . . the . . . hell.”