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Saturday, July 9th, 2011 12:34 am
Title: To Each A Tempo -- Chapter 17
Fandom: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney/Elite Beat Agents crossover
Revision date: March 8th, 2011
Wordcount: 1797
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Phoenix, Maya, Agent Foxx, Pathos.



     The voice shot terror through Phoenix. He turned, and there stood a man suited, coiffed and very faintly smiling; Maya squeaked and the sound skittered off the high walls.
     "U-Uhh," Phoenix tried, clawing for something to say, "We're, err..."
     "Just on your way out, I'm sure." The man's smile grew, pulling creases around his eyes. There was nothing reassuring about it. If this was who Phoenix was sure it was ...
     "We're lawyers," he managed -- that was a good start. "Uhh, we're ... investigating a murder case."
     "You're Phoenix Wright, correct?" The man's brows lifted. "I see. And I trust that you have all the appropriate warrant documentation--"
     The what now?
     "--For a search like this. Very well." He smiled tighter, and offered a long-boned hand -- hesitantly, like he had just remembered his right hand existed. "My name is Sior Pathos, and I reside here."
     That moment stood surreal -- Pathos's razor-blue eyes, his smile and pained twitch in his brow as Phoenix took his hand. Where could he go from here? Phoenix knew too much about a stranger's old troubles and a wealth of top-secret information. His tongue knotted tighter. What was he even free to say?
     "So, uhh--" Fake scratching his ear, jab at the communicator, wish for Foxx's voice. He heard static, just a whisper of it, but maybe that was good? Any transmission was better than no transmission?
     "Hmm." Pathos's look narrowed, barely long enough to stand out from the manicured smile. It was surreal, how much he looked like Stewart -- same height, same broad shoulders and forward-swept blond hair -- and yet moved absolutely nothing like him. "I see you've found my articles, Mr. Wright. Have you had the opportunity to read any?"
     "Oh, the articles?" That was safe enough, wasn't it? Phoenix glanced to his handful of papers. "I-- well, I had a look at them."
     "You're published in magazines?" Maya crept to Phoenix's side. "Are you a reporter?"
     "A reporter ...?" Pathos shook his head once, slow. "I haven't got the credentials for that, I'm afraid. All I write is what I know to be true. Please take those copies, I've made them to share. You might find them enlightening."
     Enlightening, indeed. Phoenix set his briefcase by his feet, folded the sheets into almost-even quarters and stuffed them into his pocket.
     And Pathos carried on watching them, smiling, his gaze unwavering like a splinter driving under a fingernail. Static still hummed in Phoenix's ear, and he still had nothing to say.
     "If that's all you needed to know ...?" Pathos said, passing Phoenix and Maya. He moved sure, like important boardrooms waited for him. Each step clicked the way only dress shoes could.
     This was nowhere near all he needed to know. Phoenix choked a confused sound, and managed, "I need to know where you were at eleven AM, on Tuesday morning."
     "Tuesday? The same place I always am." Pathos's head bent, contemplative, his neck starkly pale against indigo suit collar as he dug in his pocket for keys. "In the Orchard, having lunch, working on my next article. Chef LaFlamme will tell you the same, I trust you've met her?"
     Phoenix couldn't let this opportunity get away. He stepped forward, Maya's small presence shifting behind him.
     "You were writing in the Orchard bistro," Phoenix said, and slid his hand into his pocket, feeling steel chains' presence already, "But what did you do after that?"
     Pathos froze; chill stole through the air. And Phoenix's fist closed around the magatama as chains snaked in tighter, as the tune swelled. Pathos turned, his five Locks glinting.
     "I took a walk through the park, Mr. Wright. It's good to clear one's head."
     Something thrummed different, the colours stirred slower and it wasn't just from Pathos's knife of a smile. Phoenix tightened grip on the magatama.
     "It may be good for you, but I don't think it was good for anyone else."
     Pathos blinked. "And why is that?"
     
     He was acting like he didn't know -- then why didn't the chains strain to hold it all in, why did the colours murmur around Pathos instead of singing clear? Phoenix needed to strike at the right angle, but how was he supposed to know--
     ... Not enough ...
     Here was the problem, he knew with a shiver as Pearl's whisper echoed to nothing. The eretheral song faltered and the foyer walls crept closer. The magatama's charge was fading, and when there was nothing left--
     Phoenix squeezed the gem tighter, and listened harder to every note; he didn't have a second to waste.

     Pathos lifted a brow. "If something is the matter, Mr. Wright--"
     "There was a murder in the park Tuesday morning," Phoenix blurted, reedy notes filling his head, "Committed by someone well-dressed. A witness reported a suited man, and the footprints found near the scene are from a men's dress shoe. That sounds remarkably like you, Mr. Pathos!"
     A crack skittered loud off the walls, but no Lock fragments peppered the air -- there was only the flash in Pathos's eyes.
     "A suited man?" A smile twitched at the edges of his mouth. "That's a rather vague testimony to be accusing people of murder on, Mr. Wright."
     The same double edge as always -- seeing a suited man didn't prove a thing, because suited men were thick on the ground. Phoenix gritted his teeth.
     And Pathos turned away; the magatama had no strength to hold him with. They weren't done and the warm glow faded from Phoenix's palm, but why could he still hear the truthsong, struggling and distant?
     "If you wish to accuse a suited man of wrongdoing," Pathos said, airily, hand returning to his pocket for house keys, "You'll need a basis for your accusation. You'll need a motive. And if you have nothing of that nature to discuss, I'll bid you goodbye."
     "I have more than that." Phoenix stepped forward, left the gem in his pocket and clenched fists by his sides. "Y-You--"
     But where to start? All the proof of Pathos's presence was circumstantial, and all of Phoenix's information was Agent-laced. If only there were some common knowledge-

     "Special ops, come in."

     Foxx's voice, blessedly familiar. Phoenix's hand flew to his ear. "Yes! I'm here!"
     And then he realized his mistake. He felt colder than ever as Pathos turned back to eye him.
     "Pardon me?"
     Phoenix still had a hand at his earpiece, another mistake -- he dragged it backward to rub his neck. "I-I'm here ... to, uhh, f-find out possible motive. For the murder."
     "And what did you have in mind," Pathos asked like glacier water. He faced Phoenix, and smiled.
     "Y-You," and Phoenix scrabbled. He needed common knowledge, like a person's job, like how Phoenix himself was known to be a lawyer. "You worked for Nexus, didn't you?"

     "Phoenix," Foxx breathed, "Are you ...?"

     "Now, that's interesting, Mr. Wright." Pathos folded his arms and carried on smiling. "I don't recall mentioning Nexus Broadcast. Why do you bring it up?"
     Wrong question, wrong question -- panic spread shuddering through Phoenix. "Y-Your--" his mouth tried, "When you were let go--"
     "And the circumstances of my resignation were not made public."

     "Phoenix," Foxx cried in his ear, "Abort! Get out of there!"

     "No one but my supervisors at the time ought to know that I was ... let go. You seem to know me, Mr. Wright, more than reason can explain." His gaze darted away to Maya's quiet shuffling, and back to Phoenix, narrowing venomous. "Don't think I didn't notice that little pang you gave me. I know what your kind can do."
     His kind? But that was all wrong, Phoenix ... had the magatama. He had broken a Psyche Lock and he was wearing an earpiece and a suit. He lifted useless hands. "W-What? No, I didn't--"
     "Oh, I'm sure you did. And I've got exactly what I need to tell the world about you." Pathos's gaze snapped suddenly to Maya, widening. "Don't touch that!"
     She must have found key evidence, a weapon, and the danger that came with it and what if something happened -- Phoenix looked to Maya, her deer-startled face and her hand clasping to her chest.
     "It's just ...?" she murmured. Her hand opened. "A coupon."
     "Just a …?" Phoenix looked around him, finding Pathos's neck-prickling presence gone.
     "It's for thirty cents off Toss N' Bake," Maya wondered small. "Is it really that big a deal?"
      It couldn't be, could it? Pathos's footsteps in the stairwell faded away, and the logo-emblazoned coupon Maya clutched wasn't clicking into place.
     "A coupon? But why would--"
      Realization struck cold. Phoenix looked to the floor, to the empty space where his briefcase should have been.

     "Team, report!"

     Thinly-reined panic filled Foxx's voice. Phoenix clutched at his hair and searched every corner, eyed every inch of white space around him even though he knew horribly better.
     "Foxx, w-we've--" He threw his hands back to his sides, and hissed, "We've been had, Pathos got my briefcase."
     "What?! He got the Agency notes?"
     "Stewart's microphone, too." The thought wrenched his guts. "Everything, he got everything!"
     Foxx stammered, hardly louder than a breath. "P-Phoenix, he can't, he-- What did he say?" Sudden steel in her voice, a snapping trap. "He has exactly what he needs to ...?"
     "Tell the world about you," Maya added. She crept closer, and pressed the coupon into Phoenix's hand. "But he already writes about the Agency, doesn't he?"
     "Something bigger," Foxx muttered, keys clicking, "H-he ... Nexus executive pass reported missing two days post-dismissal. He might have access, no!"
     "Access?" Phoenix asked.
     "Nexus Broadcast is the national center for their programming, television, radio, everything! And he is likely in possession of a high-security keycard. I-I'll get Agents on him, w-we'll-- Protocol, what's the protocol--"
     "But he knows Agents," Phoenix tried. He stuffed the coupon in his pocket -- fat lot of good it would do them -- and began to pace. "It was Pathos who hacked the com lines, wasn't it?"
     "The breach was broadband," Foxx said, gratefully retreating to cool facts. "Intermittent disturbance on all frequencies, probably from a homebrewed variable-output device."
     Three times as much answer as Phoenix needed, but ... output? That meant it gave off electronic signals, and that meant ... He nodded. "If Pathos recognizes Agents and their music sense, and he can hack your com lines, and he's on his way to a broadcast station … Then sending Agents after him will just give him more ammunition." Phoenix dug in his pocket, past the papers and scraps, to his cell phone. "You should keep your distance, Foxx. It's bad enough that he thinks I'm an Agent."
     She hesitated. "Ten-four. He's still suspected of murder, Agency or no Agency. We'll need your connections, Phoenix."
     "Exactly what I was thinking," he said, and headed for the stairs, raking his mind for the right phone numbers.
     "Nick, wait!" Maya still stood by the table -- and she held up Pathos's briefcase, each scale-shaped indent catching sun. "What about this?"

     Phoenix was, now more than ever, a firm believer in turnabout. He nodded, and motioned for Maya to follow him.



~~~~~~~~~~~

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