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EVERYONE: Engineer Buddy: Fixing Burnt-Out Wires

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As an adult trainer plans the Pokemon journey he never had when he was young, he recounts the incident that motivated it. He was once an electrician who worked at the Sunyshore Gym. But one little indiscretion and a conflict with the Gym Leader and his pupil, a certain Pokemon Rehabilitator, changed his life forever.

This fic is a side-story in the Nori Carino series and was based on a drabble bingo event elsewhere, and is very slightly expanded from the original now that I have more than four days to work on it. The idea is that you got a bingo card and had to write drabbles to fill it in. While I misunderstood the intent the first time I did this and ended up doing a Blackout Bingo, I purposefully did so with intent this time around in order to challenge myself. It actually wasn't originally going to be tied to the metaseries, but with some of the the prompts I was given, it kind of lined up and I had the ideas ready anyway. So here we are.

No warnings. Nothing to warn about. You've been warned. Really, any trigger warnings you could reach for would in themselves need a trigger warning (and thus need a warning in an infinite loop) because they are mere mentions, and mentioning them...you get the picture. Hey, did you know studies showed they don't work? That's part of the reason why.
It's just a little alcohol, I'm not that drunk, officer.

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The slender man with minty green locks tapped a foot. His name was Buddy McGuinness (often going by simply Bud), he was twenty-seven years old, and he was stuck in what felt like the world’s longest line. He was next after the person in front of him, and it still felt like it wasn’t going to end anytime soon. The ditzy blonde teenager was chatting it up with the receptionist instead of getting things done. Something about their friend studying in Sandgem? He was practically boring a hole through her back with his glare, yet neither of the girls noticed it.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, he was an electrician. Now he was here, basically the unemployment line. How had this happened? Oh, it was a story to tell indeed. It was his own indiscretions that partly caused this, yes. But that didn’t mean that he couldn’t be angry at certain people.

~~~~~~~~~~~​

Upkeep is an important part of maintaining any Pokemon Gym. The arenas suffer wear and tear from battles, the puzzles need maintenance, the place needs cleaning, and various other things might need repairs and replacements. For Sunyshore Gym, they had contracted Rick’s Upkeep Squad to come in on the last two days of every month to do a more thorough job than what happened on a day-to-day basis.

Rick was always a lenient boss up until that day in August. He always insisted people call him by his first name rather than Mr. Alamos. He let them work at their own pace, and they still got a full day’s wage no matter what. Some of his coworkers took too much advantage of it, but then again, it wasn’t unusual in the industry. Particularly by those who were paid by the hour. If there were any complaints, they could decide the quality of the work. It’s like Bud always said, they could get it done fast, or they could get it done right.

That evening, Bud was in the puzzle room in the Gym with his partner. The tall and husky redhead’s real name was Elit Beluga, but he went by Elliot as it sounded better in English. They were both in their black and brown work clothes. Most of the rest of the crew had gone home, and they were close to finishing up too.

“All good in there?” he asked Elliot as he checked the wiring beneath the randomization panel. It was a simple Gym puzzle: a 4×4 maze of rotating gears and gates. They were controlled by colored switches in many shapes; they had to make sure each spun the gears they were supposed to without problems. The room itself was a well-lit box. It would be a quiet place if not for the persistent hum coming from below, to say little of the turning of the gears. It was a sensible design to make the room as soundproof as possible.

After a sniff to check for burnt wires, Elliot came up with a thumb. His green eyes had a glint in them. “All good.”

Bud nodded. Unlike some of their coworkers, they took their job seriously. Ironically, theirs was the least involved and gave them the most time to relax. Part of it was how the Gym Leader himself did some upkeep himself, but the electronics didn’t need repairs nearly as much as the battlefield. In all his time on the job, they only needed to repair something in this particular room once, and that was replacing a gear rather than one of the wires. Coming to Sunyshore Gym was like having a day off to do anything he wanted, which mostly amounted to browsing on his cell phone.

“Hey, take a look at what I found in the fridge when I was changing a light bulb in their lounge,” Elliot said, reaching into his bag. He pulled out a clear bottle with a water manufacturer’s label. The fluid inside was not clear. It was amber.

“Beer, huh?” Bud walked up to him.

Elliot chuckled. “The good stuff too. Couldn’t help but sneak a bit.”

The light green-haired man coyly placed a finger on his lips. “You devil.”

They drank together often. They did a lot of things together, really. There was just enough there for one swig for each of them. They would be sharing the bottle, but then again, they shared a lot of things. Elliot graciously unscrewed the lid and handed it over for him to go first.

“Cheers,” said Bud before taking his sip. Light and crisp, with just a touch of bitterness. Elliot was right. The beer was great. Probably expensive, but something they would have to try in the future once in a while.

Before he could pass it back, the arena side door abruptly flew open. Bud nearly dropped the bottle as he jumped and tried to hide it behind his back. He eased up when he saw who it was: a short kid with dark brown hair and innocent red eyes. The Demon Tamer himself. He was wearing an orange and white shirt, the same colors the Gym Leader wore. But he wasn’t him no matter how much authority he tried to stand with.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he whined at them, putting his hands on his hips as if that made him look tough. At his feet stood a little white squirrel with cheek sacs and a blue stripe down his body was.

Truth be told, Bud had never liked the Demon Tamer from the start. One of those first days in January, he yelled at them like he owned the place. Then another day, he came down and forced them to get back to work via a battle. He was walking around and imposing like he was the emperor. Bud was thankful that today and tomorrow would be the last times he’d ever have to put up with the kid. He would be moving back home soon. Actually, now that he thought about it, this was Bud’s last chance to tell Nori Carino exactly what he thought about him.

But before he could voice his discontent, Elliot stepped out and bowed lightly at the Demon Tamer. “Sorry, Mr. Carino,” he expressed an impressive amount of respect given who he was and the circumstances. “I was a little thirsty, and when I checked the fridge, well. I simply had to try the beer drank at the Sunyshore Gym. And I have to say, you folks have excellent taste.”

Bud closed his eyes. That was the better way to approach this. With a cool head. Yet a genuine compliment did nothing to improve the kid’s mood. In fact, he stomped a foot. “Fine. But you’re drinking on the job!”

This whole thing was a waste of time. He shook his head at Elliot and turned to the Demon Tamer. “It’s just a little, it ain’t enough to get drunk.” He compounded this by downing his glass and daring him to do something about it. “Besides, you’re not in charge, and you won’t tell,” Bud waved off. According to an interview, Nori Carino hated snitches.

“Actually, I am in charge,” he replied, folding his arms over his rib cage. “Volkner put me in charge of making sure you stupid morons don’t slack off while he’s out. So stop slacking off!”

Elliot raised his palms. “Again, we’re really sorry,” he said. “We just finished working, actually. Forgive us, Mr. Carino. You know it is when you can’t wait to share something, right?” He always had a way with words. And with his smooth tone, it was enough for even the Demon Tamer to concede.

The kid sighed heavily. “Okay, but don’t let it happen again,” he told them.

“Not like you’ll be here to see it if it does,” Bud muttered to himself. If everything went well, this would be the last time he would see the Demon Tamer at the Gym.

Bud thought it was under his breath. He thought he had turned away enough and that the machinery would drown out any noise. But lip-reading must have been one of the things they taught him, or he had very keen hearing, because he immediately countered, “There’s still tomorrow, you lazy bum.”

A heat surged through his body. He took several steps toward the Demon Tamer. The kid’s Pachirisu sparked protectively, but Bud did not care and waved a fist. “Don’t you dare call me lazy, you disrespectful brat!”

“What’s so wrong about calling things like I see it?!” he snapped back.

Did he think he could just get away with insulting people casually? That was going to get him into trouble someday, even in those cases it was true. When Bud took a deep breath and let it out, most of his anger subsided. There was still a part of him that wanted to let out all his feelings about this kid. But it wouldn’t do any good.

“I don’t have time for this.” The electrician waved the issue off as he passed the drink back to Elliot. This was just a waste of effort. So he would be the man in this situation. “I take pride in my work. But it’s clear we’re not going to settle things by talking it out.”

There was a brief moment of pause where Bud thought that was the end of it. Then the Demon Tamer got a smirk on his lips. “How about a battle then?” he suggested. “Just like I did with your boss.”

Even though Bud had no love lost for the person before him, he couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the audacity. He liked it. It was a chance to get one over on him, fair and square. “Sounds fun. You’re on, kid.”

“All right. Let’s go.” He motioned for them to follow. Bud was about to, when a big hand caught his shoulder. Elliot peered down at him with a reassuring smile.

“You don’t need to let him antagonize you,” he gently said.

The electrician shrugged, brushing some of his bangs. “Nah, I’m up for it. My old team will enjoy it anyway.” They hadn’t had a real battle in a good while.

Elliot gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Good luck, then.”

“Thanks.”

Bud took his position at the near side, while the Demon Tamer marched to the far end. The kid whirled around and placed a single hand on his hip.

“Hey, mind if I turn on some music?” Bud asked. If he was going to do this, he may as well have a bit of fun. And he always enjoyed listening to tunes when watching battles. The same went for participating. It helped him get in the mood.

The kid blinked long and hard. “I guess so?”

With his opponent confirming it wasn’t going to be a distraction, Bud reached into his pocket and took out his phone. He brought up his music app and went right to his favorite track. He cranked the volume all the way and pressed play. The original Gym Leader battle theme composed for the virtual adventures.

Yet right as the intro started, the Demon Tamer winced and shut one eye. “Ugh! What’s with that dumb annoying echo? Turn it off or change it!” He stomped a foot.

Bud could only shake his head. “It’s from Red and Green, the games. That’s how it sounds.”

“Does not!” he argued. “I saw Tono play that game once! There was no echo!”

So immature. He rolled his eyes as he pressed stop. But on second glance, his phone had less charge on it than he thought. Maybe it was for the best. Bud placed it back in his pocket and retrieved his first Pokemon in the same motion.

“Okay, send out at the same time,” the Demon Tamer instructed.

“No, I’ll go first,” he insisted, punctuating it by throwing out the armored elephant-like Pokemon within. He wanted to make the threat clear. “Meet Trunks.” Bud wasn’t proud of the nickname these days, but this was a Ground-type. His opponent’s team had a big weakness to that. Fundamentals were the key to any battle, and he intended to make his opponent work for it.

---​

Bud would rather forget the battle that happened. He was by no means a rookie. Besides his work Pokemon, he had his old team from back in his days on Seven Island. Sevii had no formal League, but his talents were enough for the Trainer Tower to recognize and hire him. He had the type advantage with his Donphan and Weepinbell, and his Persian evolved from his first Pokemon and was no slouch in her own right. Yet Nori Carino demolished his team with only his Pachirisu and that Gym Pokemon he was borrowing. It would have been a stretch to win, but Bud was not expecting to be that out of practice. He was glad no one was there to watch.

Before Bud’s opponent could so much as celebrate (or more likely, rub it in his face), the side door opened, and two people stepped into the arena. The first of these was Rick in his black work clothes. He was stout yet muscular, with neatly trimmed brown hair. The other was Volkner Denzi, his mouth and nose pointed up. The Gym Leader wore an orange blazer over top of a white shirt with dark brown jeans. He rubbed his short but ragged strawberry blond hair.

“What’s going on here?” the Gym Leader demanded.

“Thought you’d have checked out by now, Bud,” Rick mused, rubbing his cheeks which were rich in five-o-clock shadow.

Bud was cognizant enough to speak up right away. “Your disciple,” he scoffed while addressing the Gym Leader. “He got angry at us for sticking around a bit after we were finished. And so here we are.”

“That’s a lie!” the Demon Tamer fired off. “I caught him and his friend drinking in the puzzle room! They stole beer from up in the lounge!”

Rick craned his neck. “Didn’t know ya drank, Mr. Denzi.”

The Gym Leader shrugged it off. “Once in a while. That was my old Gym Trainers’. But we have a problem.” The man crossed his arms, and Bud witnessed his boss shrinking back under the scrutinizing gaze of a much scrawnier man. “This is unacceptable.”

“H-hey, ain’t wrong for them to get hydrated,” Rick put up his palms in protest. There was something in his eyes, as if he knew it was feeble.

“I don’t want to hear your excuses,” the Gym Leader barked. “This went beyond needing a drink. Your worker here was drinking alcohol, which could have impaired his work, and he challenged one of the Gym’s members to a battle. Most importantly, your workers were goofing off when they should’ve been working. At best, this was loitering. From what I understand, this has been habitual.”

That was too much. He wasn’t going to stay silent. “It wasn’t on work time! We were done! Ask Elliot! Ask the Demon Tamer! And he challenged me!”

The Demon Tamer didn’t respond, even though he could’ve and should’ve. From the slight crook on his lips, he was staying quiet on purpose! The Gym Leader pretended like his anguished outburst didn’t happen, not even giving Rick a chance to respond to it.

“To repeat myself, this is unacceptable. There’s no use for a lazy bum.” His eyes narrowed. “We can just as easily find someone else to do this work.”

There was that term again. Bud seethed, but kept his mouth shut.

“I apologize, Mr. Denzi,” Rick bowed profusely. “We do take breaks from time to time, but this isn’t the norm. I’ll make sure my men know not to screw around too much.”

“Prove you will.” He glared over at Bud, a gesture that made the foreman gulp. The Demon Tamer was standing there with the most obnoxious grin imaginable. The demand was unspoken, but it was there. Make an example of him.

Rick slouched. He approached as if walking to his own funeral. “I’m really sorry for this, Bud,” his boss said, deeply bowing his head. “I know you do great work, and I believe your side of the story, but I don’t got a say in this. Gotta let you go.”

Bud squinted. He clenched his fists. He had some choice words for the Gym Trainer and his disciple. Yet he only ended up huffing and saying, “I understand, Rick.”

He was man enough to admit it when he’d made a mistake. It was being blown way out of proportion, but there was nothing he could do about it for now. However, as he made to walk away, Rick called to him in a fatherly voice.

“Bud.”

He turned. “Yeah?”

His now former boss held out his hands. “Give me your keys.”

And that was too much. “It was just a shot! Not strong stuff either!” Bud protested. “I’m good to drive. Tell ‘em, kid!”

The Demon Tamer looked over with half-closed eyes and a frown. “The bottle I saw was nearly empty. He could’ve drank more before I came in.”

Rick looked between them, back to the Gym Leader tapping his foot, and finally back to him. He sighed heavily, pressing his forehead into a hand. “I’ll make sure you and your truck make it back home,” he seemed to promise.

Bud grinded his teeth together. Rick was believing that speculation and vague statement?! Over his longtime employee?

The electrician thought about protesting. He almost thought to prove he was fine by walking a straight line across the battlefield markings. But what was the use? He hurled the keys at his now former boss (who effortlessly caught them in one hand) and stormed out of Sunyshore Gym. He ignored the calls from behind. His eyes were watery, but he refused to cry.

---​

Left with no other option, Bud took out his phone when he was outside to call for Elliot. He would come back and pick him up. Probably take him back and comfort him.

He pressed the home button, but the screen did not come on. The electrician pressed the side button, but there was no response. He tried the combination to turn the device on, but still no response. That meant one thing. He was out of battery! How did it go from 12% to nothing when it was off?! He gripped the device hard, his hand shaking. Bud stuffed it into his pocket and staggered into the night. He wasn’t anywhere near drunk, yet with how much he was quaking from sheer rage, his walk was unsteady and he was far from alert.

There was a lot to think about on this impromptu walk. His Pokemon were all beaten and couldn’t guide him. Because of that idiotic challenge. That former boss of his had hung him out to dry. He and the Gym Leader had refused to arrange him a ride home. That Demon Tamer hadn’t told the truth and gotten him fired! On top of that, he humiliated him! And his coworkers being lazy all the time led to him being blamed for their screw-ups!

He would make it to his apartment through some sheer force of will. No sooner had he made it in and locked the door behind him did he fall unconscious onto his couch from utter fatigue.

##########​

Bud was awoken by a pounding at his door. He tried to ignore it, completely exhausted by the events of yesterday. He still couldn’t believe what happened. His whole life had come crashing down on him in the span of an hour. Beaten and insulted by the Demon Tamer, he had lost his job, and he was humiliated by having to walk home. How had it ended up this way?

There it was again, louder than before. He slowly and painfully turned himself to the side to glance at his dresser clock. Noon?! Was he that worn out that he ended up sleeping for over twelve hours? The knocking continued, and then came voices. They were fraught with urgency.

“Bud! You in there?!”

“Is everything okay, my Buddy?”

Elliot was there. Bud decided he had better get up. He swung his legs out and got to a vertical base before stumbling over to his front door. Mercifully, he was coordinated enough to do that in his groggy state.

No sooner had he opened the door did he find himself in a tight embrace. It made him feel safe, and that everything was somehow going to work itself out. God, he needed that last night. He sighed contently into Elliot’s chest.

As he was let go, his partner gave him a wordless smile with intent. If it were not for Rick being there, well.

“Want to say sorry again, Bud,” the stout man said, bowing his head. “Brought your truck back as promised. Wonderin’ why you ran off though. Would’ve given you a ride back.”

That would make sense. It made too much sense. “Just wasn’t thinking,” he admitted, collapsing into his palms. “I wasn’t thinking at all last night. One mistake at the wrong time.”

“I know, Bud,” Rick replied with a heavyhearted sigh. “I know you’re one of the good ones.”

“It’s my fault too. If I held back just a little longer, none of this would’ve happened,” Elliot droned.

“No sense playing the blame game,” Rick took order. “Gym Leader was just looking to run a tighter ship. You know, with what happened with the scandal and all that. Just crummy luck you ended up the one caught up in it.”

A wry smile came to Elliot’s lips. “Well, nothing to say you can’t keep Bud on, right?” he proposed. “He just won’t be able to work the Gym.”

Rick did not answer straight away. His silence and blank expression said more than any words could. He still explained anyway, and he did so with a monotonous edge. “He made sure it was official. Checked my records and everything. Could keep you off the books, but that’d be another headache.”

Bud trembled. He gritted his teeth and scrunched his arms, legs, and hands. It was one thing to want to make an example of him. The electrician could concede that if someone like him got fired, it would be crystal clear to the others that no one was safe. But the Gym Leader going that far was nothing more than sheer spite.

“We can’t stay too long, have to get over to work. But you going to be okay, my Buddy?” Elliot asked, placing a consoling hand on his shoulder.

“I know a few folks,” Rick offered. “Can get you in touch with them for some work.”

The Gym Leader and the Demon Tamer. At the end of the day, it was their extreme reactions that led to this nightmare. The former had gone out of his way to see him suffer. And there was no excuse for the latter not showing a shred of compassion. He just stood there and enjoyed it instead of helping or showing understanding like he did a short time before. Did Bud make a mistake? He would say yes. Was he wronged? Also yes. Did he want to let it go?

“Give me some time to think,” the green-haired man said slowly. He wanted to carefully consider what to do from here.

~~~~~~~~~~~​

And that’s how he came to be standing in the Sunyshore Pokemon Center.

As September rolled in, Gyms around Sinnoh would start to reopen in the wake of the League Conference. It was consequently the time when many trainers in the region decided to start their journey in order to give themselves the most time possible to travel and gather badges. Finally, the girl in front walked away from the receptionist. Bud was not the only one who breathed a sigh of relief at that. He stared down at the pink-haired assistant as he stepped towards her.

“Welcome!” she said, performing a tiny curtsy. The nametag on her white uniform said her name was Allie. She was certainly a member of the Joy family just from appearances and being here. “What can I help you with today?”

“I’d like to register as a traveling trainer,” he told her. Bud already had his trainer card in hand and flicked it onto the counter.

“It’s always good to see an adult do these things!” she remarked as she picked it up. No, it was not that unusual, he thought to himself. A quick scan and a bit of typing was all it took. So she could be quick at things after all. “Oh, wow, your hometown is Seven Island?”

“Yes,” he tersely responded. It said so right there on the card.

“You don’t see people from Sevii signing up here every day! Usually it’s just from Sunyshore or one of the smaller towns like Arrowroot.” Bud only tapped a foot, louder than he did when standing in line. She held out his card with a dramatic gesture where she stretched her arm out all the way. “Anyway, you’re all signed up, Mr. McGuinness! Good luck with your goals!”

“Much obliged.” He took his ID back with a smile before leaving and letting the people behind him get on with their own business. He technically didn’t need to come here, but this would allow him to have free lodging at Pokemon Centers for the year, among other benefits. So long as he kept up his progress, which he intended to. He owed it to his teammates after that dreadful showing the other day.

This would crush a horde of Starlys with one single Rock Slide. Bud would be the first to admit how unorthodox it was, but Elliot had told him to go ahead and chase his dreams. He’d wait for him. Rick also thought it was a good idea. A journey was something Bud had always wanted to do but never could on Sevii. It was never too late for one. Free Trainer amenities while he traveled would give him time to sort out his life. And when his travels took him to their towns, he would have his revenge on both Volkner Denzi and Nori Carino. If they thought he was a lazy bum, they were sorely mistaken.

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The two prompts that that dictated the plot were You're Probably Wondering How I Got Here and Gym Puzzle. The former demanded a particular narrative structure, and the latter settled the setting: it had to be a Gym. I used Day Off and Moving Out to set the timeframe and that's what really settled things: they fit perfectly with my worldbuilding, so that was knocking three out at once. It was easy to group Drinking Buddy, Dead Cell Phone, and Evening Walk together. Same for "I Challenge You!" and Pokemon Center Visit, though I took the latter in a different direction when I decided to use Bud later on in the series.

And if you're wondering, no. I actually only noticed the pun with Drinking Buddy/Bud(dy) when publishing. It was completely unintentional since I based his name off Budweiser. It actually ended up an artifact since I almost erased the drinking to turn him more sympathetic/have legit cause to feel wronged. I really wasn't kidding with the actual warning!
 
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