Untitled Powerpoint Fanfic (Relevant Song Not Found)

Author's Note: ...you try thinking of a relevant Escape the Fate (but only from This War Is Ours or before) or Falling In Reverse song/lyric that works for a fanfic about Powerpoint that's about 50% author tract on infodumping as an expression of love.

"Yes, Arlo, we absolutely agree that Ronnie's output is superior, and conversely, that nothing after This War Is Ours is worthwhile." Sierra barely suppressed an eye roll, if by "barely suppressed" you mean "unabashedly engaged in".

"We're glad that you feel safe regaling us with all of your...interesting knowledge. It's important for you to have outlets for these things. Just maybe --"

Usurping any attempt on Cliff's part to let his fellow leader off gently, Sierra interrupted him. "--we neither need nor want to be your outlet over all of your waking hours that aren't spent with Spark? In reference to bands that we have no plans of ever listening to and/or esoteric research topics?"

"Research is literally my job. You are my coworkers. I can sort of get your problem with the bands, but, like, what's wrong with talking about work with my coworkers?"

"The fact that you get into enough technobabble that no one except you has any idea what's going on. Also, Giovanni doesn't care how Shadow Pokemon are made as long as they function to wreak havoc. Laws and sausages and all that. And if you start snickering because I said 'sausages', I swear on every unholy thing --"

"Now, Sierra, we don't want him to feel like he can't talk to us. We do enjoy our little chats; it's nice to see you being excited about something you're passionate about. We just feel that you need an environment where the exchange can be more...mutual. Have you considered joining Internet forums?"

"No. There are other people on said forums and they are wrong."

"Well, isn't the point of discourse to engage with viewpoints other than your own? Otherwise, you're just standing in an echo chamber or ranting to a captive audience."

"Yes, but I've analyzed every word of every song. I've done statistical analysis on lyrical and musical themes and can detect a legitimate drop in variety after Ronnie's departure. My opinions are backed up by data, but when I've tried presenting them on forums, even with the original formulae, I get ignored and accused of only saying what I do because of personal attachments, which is not the case."

"You named one of your ace Pokemon after this man and also base most of your public persona on his output and the whole idea of 'you kicked me out, so I'm going to be as much of an asshole as possible'. I'm not convinced that it's not the case."

"Sierra, he knows more about his thoughts than you do. If he says that he doesn't just like them because Ronnie is kinda hot --"

"-- I never said anything of the sort."

"-- then we should believe him. Anyway, this is a conundrum. I understand why having people ignore your peer-reviewed and statistically analyzed opinions could be annoying, but you clearly need someone who knows what you're talking about in order to thrive as the precious little emo boy you are."

Cliff reached down and ruffled Arlo's hair to emphasize his description of the other leader, to which the latter responded with very little outward reaction. At least he was an unambiguously male precious little bean. Sierra rolled her eyes once more, but rather than a snarky comment, produced the rare phenomenon of something that was actually constructive in context.

"Cliff, maybe it's not so much about someone being familiar with what he's talking about, but about how he's saying it. He likes telling this kind of thing to Spark even though they're about as far from edgelordy as you can get and likewise, he likes hearing Spark infodump even when it's about things he has no interest in himself. I don't think he wants to share opinions about his bands so much as he wants to be in an environment where everyone else is as much of an overanalytical science-freak as he is."

Both of the other leaders stood speechless for a bit at this. They'd been under the impression that Sierra didn't regard much of anyone other than herself as worthy of consideration as an independent agent, so the assessment of Arlo's motivations showed a degree of theory of mind they'd assumed she either didn't possess or solely used for evil.

"If you're thinking that I'm doing this because I care about the little douchebag, don't. I just want him to take his reverse mode ramblings somewhere else."

"You do realize that it's impolite to address someone as 'the little douchebag' while they're present, right?"

"I know. Anyway, you need to go find someone to infodump at who's not us, because no matter how much Cliff finds it adorable to see you happy and passionate, I, for one, am sick of your explanations of why one flavor of guys who need showers whining and/or screaming about their exes is better than another."

"Is that --"

"-- an order? Yes. Why don't you talk to the team leaders' nerd?"

"...you mean Blanche, right?"


Hey 🖤
Hey, dude! What's up?
Do you know of any Team Mystic events coming up soon?
If you're planning to rob them, I can't legally answer that.
No, not that. It's that Sierra's sick of me infodumping and she thinks that maybe the Mystics might have some sort of outlet for that. Where they can all get together and each of them gets a time slot to uninterruptedly discuss whatever they want.
well, that's rather impolite of her, rejecting a fundamental way you communicate and express love. Candela and I both know damn well that you only go into reverse mode when ur actually really comfortable with someone and want em to understand u
Yeah, I know, but seriously, do the Mystics have an infodump forum, and is that accessible to non-Mystics?
It doesn't need to be official. If I could just rent Blanche for an hour a week, that'd be fine.
you do realize what that sounds like, right?
yeah, I just processed it.
i'll check the mystic website
Spark 💛✨ sent a photo
like, this? apparently they're doing "slideshow nights" to focus on the goal of improving the mystics' public speaking skills in the new year
...pokemon trainers do public speaking?
i don't know of any, but it's blanche what did you expect
yeah. so, i just make a 5-10 minute presentation, come over to mystic hq, and have at it?
sounds like it.
do they have snacks?
yeah, but it's blanche so it's probably just going to be fruit and stuff
eh, it might be worthwhile nonetheless. also, you're coming with me. i need moral support and also i don't have a mystic hq keycard. next time i see one at a pokestop i should probs pickpocket them
i'm going to assume you meant that statement as a joke and not alert blanche
yeah as far as you know >:D
i love how you use emojis like you don't have unicode support
and i love that you recognize that as a trait i'm proud of
i have unicode support; i just only use it when it's earned. i'm gonna go make some slides, chat soon, ya dork

Arlo understood the gravity of his profession. After all, he was aiding in Team Rocket conquering the world and exploiting the populace to spread misery in the name of nothing other than more conquest and soulless profits. So he didn't get why people considered his job shameful. After all, it wasn't any different from working for any other large company save that at least Team Rocket admitted it. Despite all of the seminars and official emails detailing how Team Rocket was no place for mindless edgelording and defiance and those who worked for them needed to understand Giovanni's grander plans, a major factor in Arlo's staying, shortly behind the stellar healthcare plan and them providing room and board, was the aesthetic of working as a "bad guy" and the opportunity to imbue everything he did with evil panache. This was why he'd set up a projector against the wall of his modest quarters, only one of the massive tangle of wires that ran across the walls and floors, solely so that whatever displayed on his computer screen appeared over his body like the evil hackers in movies. Of course, one would hardly consider a Powerpoint to be evil hacker material, even if the version of Office had been pirated and he used a menacing font.

Once the slides were completed, Arlo looked over them in slideshow view with satisfaction. There was always something viscerally pleasurable about producing a completed and organized document, but something about the glitz and glamour of a slideshow made that effect even stronger than either digital art or a proposal or spreadsheet would alone. The only things remaining were to copy the slides to a USB thumb drive to prepare them for the Team Mystic HQ computers. External cloud sharing platforms were prohibited while on the Team Rocket intranet, and even though Arlo could have easily circumvented that with a VPN, and occasionally did in order to download music or videos, he hadn't set up an account on any of them due to some combination of privacy concerns and plain absentmindedness. Also, while they lacked the charming boxiness of floppy diskettes or the iridescent surfaces of CDs, flash drives had a panache that emailing one's self a link did not, especially his favorite, enclosed in a novelty case designed after a switchblade.

After stuffing some jerky and protein bars into his pockets in case the snacks at the event weren't sufficient, Arlo texted Spark and ran out to meet him at the parking garage, and the duo headed in the direction of Team Mystic HQ. Over the 45-minute drive, Arlo had specifically produced a playlist designed to provide a representative sample of the different eras of Escape the Fate's output, which happened to correspond in turn to the songs he'd chosen to put snippets of into his presentation. The choice of which songs to include took up roughly half of the time in preparing the slides. While neither of them could substantially hear the lyrics Arlo decried over his descriptions of the mathematically proven decline in quality after the change in lead singers and songwriters, both enjoyed it nonetheless. Regardless of Spark's subcultural credentials or personal familiarity with the content, the fact that he was not only legitimately interested not only in what Arlo had to say, but understood it as a deep expression of love and Arlo's best attempt to bring Spark into his mental world, a merger of souls if one wanted to be poetic, added a sense of profound meaning and connection to the experience. Plus it was fun to talk shit on Craig, especially if backed by science.

Whatever Arlo had thought Team Mystic HQ would look like, the vista before him was more so. After stepping over a silver impression of the team's Articuno emblem on the floor after going through the sliding doors, he was faced with a clean space which combined pure white floor tiles and walls with light wood tables and blue minimal chairs placed at respectful distances from each other, all within reach of an outlet and/or possessed of USB and wireless charging stations in themselves. Next to the front desk, at which a blue-haired individual in a slate-grey button down shirt took notes on a thin all-in-one desktop computer stood a tray of neatly arranged and rubber-banded shut cables and blocks, labeled as a "charger library" in which Team Mystic members could drop off their extra power cords and collect them for use at the numerous stations within HQ, which were marked on the same sheet as the explanation of the library on a printed-out map. Locations and the endpoints of hallways were likewise labeled, making the otherwise wide open and starkly minimalist space feel substantially less like an inescapable void in which even darkness provided no escape.

Speaking of darkness, signs to the right pointed towards another common area with private rooms in which all light and sound receptivity could be controlled, for those who preferred to think inside the box provided said box was under their control and eliminate distractions. As the pair followed directional signage to the lecture hall in which the slideshow showcase was to be held, Arlo contemplated the substantial differences in decoration style between the college campus or commercial store-like design of Team Mystic HQ and the softer surfaces of Team Instinct HQ, in which nearly every surface was adorned with a variety of pillows and food and water dishes for Pokemon, but despite the substantial differences in aesthetic and seeming texture, neither felt insincere or uncomfortable. They were environments built to be used, to be places in which trainers researched, socialized, and lived, and despite the seemingly opposing philosophies of the team leaders, their spaces reflected that.

As they approached the lecture hall, the approaching Mystics became more numerous, and in the vicinity of the lecture hall, they spread throughout the room and surrounding hallway, some curled into corners with books or computers, some in small groups discussing their ideas and plans, and others pacing the halls taking notes on portable devices or muttering to themselves, soundproofed walls preventing them from disturbing those within the hall itself. Really, "lecture hall" was hardly an adequate term. The room possessed a podium with a projector behind it, but that was about where the resemblance to the classroom image stopped. Seating areas were scattered throughout the space, including several of the soundproof cubicle pods with screens inside them which showcased the speaker and projector without any of the interference from the outside world. Similar screens surrounded the walls, allowing those in attendance to receive the words and slides without the pressures of eye contact.

Arlo's contemplation of Team Mystic HQ's interior design was cut short by Spark tapping his shoulder as Blanche approached the podium and after lowering it, tapped the microphone. They'd traded their overcoat for a polo shirt with the team's emblem embroidered on the left breast pocket and a simple pair of dark grey slacks, but despite the less extravagant attire, their regal presence remained. While still stoic in expression, their announcement retained more tonal variation than Arlo had ever previously heard from them, implying that they were legitimately excited to introduce their new concept.

"Greetings, and welcome to the first ever Team Mystic Slideshow Night! This event serves as an opportunity for trainers from Team Mystic and beyond to not only produce bonds of information sharing with their fellow trainers and improve their public speaking skills, but to provide a supportive space for all kinds of knowledge and opinions to be shared and for you all to highlight your unique passions and experiences. But we are not here to listen to me. We are here to listen to some wonderful presentations. I will remain in the back of the room to moderate. When I raise my hand, you have 5 minutes remaining in your time slot. When I start approaching the podium physically, you have 1 minute remaining. If you are still talking when your time runs out, I will have Lapras use Hydro Pump on you. Now, then, who wants to go first?"

Arlo awkwardly glanced around the room. He witnessed several Mystics who looked like they knew what they were doing chuckling slightly, suggesting Blanche legitimately meant that statement as a joke, but from the little he knew about Blanche, he would not put something akin to that past them. Obviously not the literal example; if anyone would know not to use streams of water near electrical equipment, it would be them.

Arlo planned to place his presentation somewhere in the middle of the allotted time. After all, that way if anything went wrong, it would be unlikely to be remembered as long as the presentations at the beginning and end of the session were equally interesting. He was too focused on the prospect of publicly speaking to those he did not know about something he was, whether he wanted to admit it to Sierra or not, deeply emotionally attached to, to pay attention to the first speaker's topic. Something about remote Pokestop access and why it's actually not a cardinal sin? However, as the presentation block continued and speakers visibly read from notes, showed visible fear, and had their slides crash or fail to render midway through, Arlo relaxed. Those in attendance still nodded and showed what seemed to be legitimate interest regardless of the quality or topic that was being discussed. When they raised their hands for questions, the questions actually concerned what was on the slides. They were actually listening to what was being said.

The last time Arlo had spoken in public was at the Team Rocket worldwide meeting at which the admins for the Vayera unit were revealed. Despite his connecting over a video call, he had still been nervous up until and throughout the presentation over appearing at something publicly in his home region of Kanto, where his mother could hypothetically see it. Obviously, she didn't, seeing as it was an internal Team Rocket meeting and she'd been estranged from him since she kicked him out, but the very fact of his having any remaining connection to that region unnerved him nonetheless. It didn't help that about half of the questions he received from grunts after concluding his brief description of his job duties concerned their having been unsure about his gender and/or assessments of what his precise beef with Team Valor was, many uncomfortably accurate.

Eventually, roughly 45 minutes had passed. With the near perfect middle of the slideshow night having been reached and Spark's gentle encouragements, Arlo approached the podium, slid out his switchblade pen drive, and after checking to make sure all of his fonts and embedded files rendered properly before turning the projector on, started talking, going from the history of the bands to his data results from the computational linguistic analysis of the lyrics from different eras and the embedded audio files and explanations of why he considered them especially representative.

He didn't have time for questions during the presentation block due to running slightly over time, but even after the presentation block ended, the social aspects of the event continued, with attendees getting drinks and hanging around the lecture hall, complimenting their fellows' presentations and exploring questions about topics, methods, and broader implications that didn't have time to fit into the 2-minute ending block. Arlo received several questions of that regard, including one who he actually exchanged phone numbers with after they mentioned some work they were considering doing concerning whether Pokemon understood human emotion in songs as well as speech and requesting that he share his formulas for determining the level of angst in a song and several who, despite his preconceived notions of Mystics, actually shared his tastes and with whom he could discuss the...less academic aspects of his research topic. Even among those with no direct connection, he still got nods and gestures of appreciation simply for coming up to the stage and giving a fascinating, well-researched presentation steeped in passion. The Mystics had listened to what he had to say. They cared about it. They wanted to know more and wanted to see him again.

Eventually, Arlo's conversation partners left to do other things or maintain their sleep schedules and the crowd dissipated, leaving him, Spark, and Blanche alone as the Team Mystic leader cleared up leftover snacks and moved coats and water bottles left behind to lost and found bins in the hallways. While rounding the room on their checks for cleaning, they stopped in front of Arlo.

"Good job. Computational linguistics and analysis of emotion from vocal performance is a fascinating field. My opinions on your genre of music aside, you have some solid foundations of data gathering here."

"Aren't you going to say something along the lines of how fraternizing with Team Rocket members is a flagrant violation of the team leaders' confidentiality statement and whatnot and my attending this event could put all of our jobs in danger?"

"What is there to say? You went to an event and engaged in the purpose of the event in a way yourself and others enjoyed. This provided an outlet and an interested audience you would not otherwise have. The event achieved its purpose. This is a forum where nothing is relevant save the pursuit and distribution of knowledge. I plan to host another of these events 2 weeks from now. I hope to see you again. Also, please leave. I need to vacuum this room."

With that, the couple left, and on the drive back, while Spark and Arlo listened to the same music, Arlo's chiming in over it had shifted from excited and fast-paced descriptions of the themes of the lyrics to about how much he had enjoyed being able to discuss said with a like-minded, at least in how they processed the information if not the content of their passions, peer group and how cool Blanche seemed overall and he really needed to get their number and share some research stuff with them, after all it didn't technically violate the contract if neither of them shared any specifics of their own team's research...

Spark smiled as they drove back in the direction of Team Instinct HQ, where he'd offered Arlo could stay the night. They could very well listen to him regaling them with his theories and passions and opinions all day. It didn't much matter what about. The passion in his voice and darting eyes, and the flash in said eyes when the simple fact of telling his thoughts to someone else sparked a eureka moment or connection was enough.

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