Actions

Work Header

The Photograph - A TPP Colosseum Story

Chapter Text

Chapter 0

An explosion rocked the facility. The door that was once locked shut was now clean across the room. Smoke billowed everywhere as a young man stepped through the newly opened doorway. He wore a blue trenchcoat and silver sunglasses, and his messy hair was albino white.

“That was bigger than I expected,” he said to his Umbreon.

The Umbreon was nearly all black, with matted fur and yellow eyes. The usual markings of yellow were covered almost entirely in dirt and grime, and it had bandages wrapped around its paws, with claws poking through them. The Umbreon gave a growl that could be interpreted as a laugh in the right context, and a threat in any other.

The young man bolted through the clearing smoke, whipping out a switchblade as he approached a mannequin with a large machine strapped to it. “So, this is the Snag Machine prototype…” he said to either himself or his pokemon as he began working the blade through the various pinnings that held it on the mannequin.

Shouting floated down from outside the once-sealed room. The young man’s Umbreon jumped up to help get the machine off the mannequin. The machine came free. The young man tucked it up under his arm and ran, his Umbreon on his heels. He ran downstairs and out the door, into the desert valley outside. Some of his pursuers caught sight of him on his way out.

“WES?!” “What?! Wes?!”You’re the one who did this?!” “What the hell, Wes?!?!”

The young man they called Wes ran away from the building, heading toward his one-wheeled hovering-motorcycle parked just around the bend. In the sidecar of the vehicle, an Espeon sat, watching, its ears curled back with worry. Its fur was also matted, and it had many scars and scratches across its face and body, some of them more recent than others.

Wes tossed the machine towards the Espeon, who caught it with a paw and Kinesis, and dropped it onto the floorboards. Wes, himself, jumped onto the bike’s driver’s seat and kicked the massive eight cylinder engine to life. Umbreon leaped into the sidecar next to Espeon. Umbreon looked at Espeon expectantly.

“Blow it, T!” Wes cried over the roar of the engine as the motorcycle began speeding away.

Umbreon yelled something back at Wes, and began clawing at Espeon. Espeon batted him off, keeping its eyes on the line of Team Snagem members streaming out of the building. Umbreon’s clawing got more vicious, but Espeon continued to hold him off despite the new wounds it was forming.

“Nach, let him do it before we’re out of range!!” Wes demanded into the winds to his left.

Espeon finally determined no more Snagem members were coming out of the building, and batted a small remote control Umbreon’s way. Umbreon tackled the remote and pressed the button on it with relish.

A giant explosion rocked the Team Snagem hideout behind them. All its members ducked out of the way of the falling debris, and watched after the young man and his fleeing pokemon.

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

The young man with albino white hair clipped a few more facets together, and the Snag Machine was now properly strapped to his left arm. He stood up from his bike’s seat and felt the weight of the machine on his left shoulder.

“It’s not bad,” he said to his pokemon, “Now where do the converted balls come out?” He turned to his pokemon; they were fighting again. “Guys, stop. Help me out here. Do you see any place where pokeballs are stored?”

The two pokemon jumped out of the sidecar and circled him, examining the machine with him. Both came to the conclusion that there was no place to put pokeballs. The young man poked at his PDA and eventually brought up some instructions he had snatched earlier for the device currently strapped to his arm. “Oh,” he said, “It converts the balls I hold in my left hand… So it doesn’t just supply the balls itself, I have to buy them…

“Well, that’s just great,” he sighed, snapping his PDA closed and stowing it in his inner coat pocket. “This desert never has wild pokemon, let alone pokeballs to catch them in.”

His Espeon motioned towards the nearby train-engine-turned-diner they had stopped at.

“Yeah, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to ask. I’ll be back. T, don’t kill Nach.”

Umbreon’s ears drooped as it glowered at Espeon, who glanced sidelong at Umbreon with a saddened expression.

The diner in question was an old copper locomotive, long ago derailed from a long-buried rail line. It had been hollowed out and repurposed as a diner on the outskirts of the desert. The young man walked towards the ramp leading up to a doorway. At the bottom of the ramp, a hovering cargo truck was parked. In the back of the truck, a large sack was wriggling. As the young man approached it, he thought he heard someone shouting nearby. “Hey! Help me! Get me out of here!”

The young man approached the back of the truck. His gloved hands rested momentarily on the edge of the vehicle’s bed as he paused to confirm the location of the shouting. Then, he turned and headed towards the ramp, his hand sliding along the bed’s edge as he walked past and around the truck. He started up the ramp; two shady-looking men passed him on their way down.

“Fwaah! We sured pigged out, eh? I love chowing down after a job!”

“Hey, just don’t pass too much gas as we head out! We don’t need to leave a trail to trace!”

The young man cringed at their raucous laughter, but said nothing. He stepped inside the diner. A burly bartender with dreadlocks looked up. “What can I do you for?”

“Got any pokeballs in stock?”

“Pokeballs? Heading outta Orre or some’ing?”

“Or some’ing,” the young man replied, matching the bartender’s diction.

The bartender glanced around behind the bar, “Nope. Fresh out. Now you mention it, some members from Team Snagem came by and snagged ‘em all up weeks ago. Haven’t had a shipment in that time either. They’s probably intercept’n ‘em all.”

“Figures,” the young man said as he sat down at the bar. “Got gasoline?”

“That I gots,” the bartender sets down his cleaning rag, “Gimmie five minutes and I’ll pull some up for ya.”

The young man nodded as suddenly an urgent report came on the tv.

“Authorities have made a stunning announcement on the mysterious building that exploded in Eclo Canyon. It was Team Snagem’s Hideout! Team Snagem is a gang of Pokemon abductors who have already been marked for arrest. The hideout was discovered only as a result of the explosion. By the time police arrived, the ruined building had already been abandoned. The cause of the explosion is under investigation. It should become apparent eventually.”

“Well I’ll be,” the bartender exclaimed, “We might actually get to see the end of that rotten gang! Round o’ drinks on da house!” The diner patrons cheered as the bartender lined up several shot glasses and poured a murky liquid into each.

The young man was the first to get one, simply due to being closest. He fingered the glass as he watched the reporter on the TV continue to filibuster on something she knew nothing about. His hand went into his inner coat pocket and pulled out an old photograph, torn and taped, wrinkled and worn. He stared down at it, at the Pikachu in the photo, waving at him from in front of an old TV. A distant memory filled his mind, and he downed the shot of the foul-tasting liquid poured for him…

Chapter Text

Chapter -9

It turned on the TV. He turned off the TV.

It turned on the TV again. He turned off the TV again.

It turned the TV on once more. He turned the TV off once more.

The Pikachu looked back at the boy. Then it turned around, ran up to it, and jumped into the boy’s face. The boy tumbled backwards, as did the Pikachu. They both became dizzy for a moment, and then they both laughed it off.

Pikachu turned back around and turned on the TV and watched for a bit as a Meowth reported from a field somewhere. The boy got up on all fours and dove at the Pikachu. He grabbed and yanked on its tail.

The Pikachu yelped and jumped back. It fled towards the closed sliding glass door, turned around, and hissed at the boy, standing on all fours, its ears and tail erect, its whole body shaking in anger.

The boy looked on, scared, saddened. “I’m sorry, buddy…”

The Pikachu continued to stare the boy down in anger. The boy turned away in defeat, and began playing with his diary, opening and closing the book aimlessly. He glanced back at the Pikachu, who’s stance had softened. It stood on its hind legs and shook its head angrily.

“I’m sorry…” the boy said, sitting up.

The Pikachu calmed down and began moving around the room again, once again fascinated by the location. The boy twisted a corner of a page in his diary.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

The young man with the albino hair stepped out of the train-engine diner, still coughing from the horrible alcohol he drank. He carried a tankard of gasoline in his off hand as he staggered down the ramp and towards his motorcycle. His Umbreon and Espeon looked up in slight alarm as he dropped the gasoline and grabbed a canteen from inside the sidecar.

“Remind me to never come here for ‘a pint’, or anything liquid, ever again.” The young man took a swig of water as his Umbreon rolled its eyes and his Espeon nodded dutifully.

“Heyo! Wait up!” a voice cried from back near the diner.

“Oh, helix, what now?” the young man mumbled as he turned around. A young man of similar age to himself, but with bright pink spiky hair and sideburns, was rushing over to him.

“Heyo! My name’s Willie!” the pink-haired man said, “What’s yours?”

“Randall Artherfield Sutherland, the fourth,” the young man with albino hair said, unblinkingly, not missing a beat.

“Woweee! That’s a name if I’ve ever heard one! Mind if I just call you Randy?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t.” Randall turned his back on Willie and picked up the gasoline tankard.

“Listen, Randy,” Willie was bouncing excitedly, “after I got a good look at you in the bar, well… I-I got this urge to battle you! It’s– It’s like I’m compelled to!”

“Please, dome, no.” Randall replied in a monotone, without turning around.

“It’s obvious that you’re no ordinary Joe – or, Randy. So, what do you say? Let’s you and me have a quick battle!”

Randall had the gasoline cap off of his motorcycle, and was in the process of filling it. “Not right now, Willie. I’m a little busy…”

“What are you saying?! You’re joshing, right?”

“No, I’m—” Randall sighed, and rolled his eyes, “alright, fine, if I have a battle with you, will you get off my back?”

“That’s the spirit!” Willie cheered, grabbing two pokeballs from his belt, “Over here, this way!”

Willie walked a short distance away, into a clear area in front of the train-engine diner. Randall, however, didn’t move, still holding the gasoline tankard up to fill his motorcycle’s tank.

“Yeeeeeeeaaah!” Willie called out, jumping giddy, “I’m burning now! I’m on fire! It’s full throttle time! Vroom vrooom!! LET’S GO!!”

Randall gave a dismissive wave at his two pokemon. “T, Nach, could you, just… deal with his pokemon, please?”

The two pokemon stretched and jumped out of the sidecar. They faced off against the two Zigzagoon that Willie had sent out. Espeon charged up its psychic skills and Umbreon went at them both with teeth and claws. Both Zigzagoon were down for the count inside a minute.

Randall’s pokemon sauntered back over to the motorcycle as Randall himself finished emptying the tankard into his bike.

“Tch…” Willie sighed as he too moved closer, “Wiped out. I still need seasoning…”

Randall said nothing, but tossed the empty tankard aside and replaced the gasoline cap on his bike.

“But, yeah, you’re tough. Real tough. You did a real number on us.”

“Did I?” Randall mumbled under his breath, “Didn’t even notice…”

“Hey, why don’t you go test your skills in Phenac City? It’s out west of here. You’ll find trainers who are way better than me out there. They’ve even got a gym and center out that way.”

Randall turned to face the man for the first time. “Really? I’ll look into that then. Could use a spot to heal up.”

Randall then jumped on his motorcycle and its eight-cylinder engine roared to life. Willie was about to interject something else, but Randall spun the back tire, creating a huge cloud of sand and dust, and was gone mere moments later.

“What a wild young man…” Willie contemplated after the dust cloud heading west.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

The young man with albino hair parked up his single-wheeled hovering-motorcycle against the southern wall of Phenac City. He stepped off his bike and returned his two pokemon to their pokeballs before heading in through the southern gate.

Phenac City was a marvelous oasis, filled with all sorts of various water features to show just how much water it had to spare. Aqueducts along the tops of the city walls poured into streams and fountains below, and a magnificent waterfall in the north of the city topped it all off.

The young man was walking into the city, taking in the view, when he heard a commotion not far away. The two shady guys from the outskirts diner were here, with their struggling sack.

“Get a grip man!” “Settle down in there!” “Ow!! Help!! Someone let me out!” “Just be quiet a little while longer!” “You didn’t tape her yap shut!” “Hey, quit your shouting!”

Just as before, the young man turned away from the situation; now that it had reached a fever pitch, getting involved was the last thing he wanted to do. Yet, he was trapped in it from the moment he entered:

“That punk overheard! And he’s running to get the fuzz!”

The young man stopped dead. He knew running would only prolong this encounter. The two shady guys were soon upon him, having dropped their cargo on the ground in favor of invading the young man’s personal space.

“Actually,” the young man said, leaning back and turning his head away to try not to breathe in the other men’s breath, in vain, “it wouldn’t have taken much to overhear you two. You children apparently haven’t developed the concept of ‘backroom voices’, yet.”

The two men stepped back in shock, and released upon the young man two Whismurs. “You take that back, you dirty Trubbish!”

The young man, however, had already tossed his two pokeballs behind him, and his Umbreon and Espeon pounced at once on the Whismurs. He couldn’t help but laugh, “You even still use children’s’ taunts and dolls to fight!”

The young man looked around as the battle proceeded, and he saw that they had drawn the attention of several people in the town square:

“What’s going on over here?!” a young teenager called, running over to the struggling sack the shady guy’s had dropped on the ground.

“Eeeek! Somebody! Robbers!!” one woman shouted.

“Y-You be quiet!” one of the men yelled at the woman as he retrieved his pokemon from battle, “We’re no robbers! We’re kidnappers! Get it? Kidnappers!”

“What? You dingbat!” the other man spat, retrieving his own pokemon, “Don’t shoot your mouth off!” The guy then turned to the young man, “I know you! I’ve seen you before! You’re that ‘Wes’ from Team Snagem!”

The young man, who was calling his pokemon back, was caught off guard by this; he took an involuntary step back.

“Well…. next time we meet,” the guy continued, sizing up the situation around him, “I’ll trash you and your pokemon, I swear on it!”

And the two shady men ran out the southern entrance. Wes followed shortly behind them to the gate. He stopped and glanced at his motorcycle, then scanned the horizon to find them, running off across the desert. The kidnappers clearly didn’t plan on going very far…

“You stopped those men!” “You’re a hero!” “There’s someone in the bag!” “Oh, those monsters!”

Wes’s heart dropped. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then turned slowly around to assess the damage. The teenage boy and another man were tugging open the sack the kidnappers had dropped. To the horror of all the onlookers, a young woman about the same age as Wes crawled out of the bag.

“Phew! Thank goodness! I’m saved!” the girl exclaimed, standing up and dusting herself off. She had bright ginger hair in short pigtails, a blue jacket, a skirt, and pink boots.

“That man!” the boy pointed, as Wes averted his eyes briefly to the heavens, “He saved you from those shady guys!”

The girl turned. Her eyes found Wes. She froze. She stared.

Wes decided this was as best a time as he could get. He walked towards her, moving to walk past her. As he reached her, he turned slightly to her and said, loud enough for the small crowd to hear. “I’m glad you’re ok. I should be going now.” He made it past her. The hard part was done. Right?

“You should go to the mayor about this!” a woman from the crowd exclaimed, “Such horrible criminal activity should be brought to justice! And you, young man, could get a reward for bringing them in!”

Wes continued walking, facing away from the crowd. He dismissively waved, saying back, “Seeing that this girl is alright is reward enough!” Just keep moving… Get away from this mess…

“But what if they come back for me?! I need someone to protect me!”

Wes faltered. He didn’t want to falter, but he did. The girl’s voice made him flinch, made him halt.

“Yes! This girl is in danger! Why on earth would they want to kidnap you, sweetie?”

“I don’t know, but…” Wes felt someone grab his arm, and he knew things just got worse. “I know I’m imposing…” she said to Wes, “but I don’t have anyone else I can turn to right now… Please….”

Wes turned and looked her straight in the eye. He tried for his most hostile expression, his least inviting look, his glance of terror that often made his pokemon cower in dread. But her eyes fought back. Her eyes were filled with fiery determination, a blazing vendetta, a glacial hatred… It made him pull back, made him falter again. Wes’s hostile expression retreated into veiled fear and surprise.

“Please…” she said in a saccharine tone that contradicted her eyes in seven ways, “can I get you to escort me for a while?”

He looked up and saw all the people in the small crowd looking on expectantly. “Shu–ye–yes…” Wes stuttered, and in a desperate grab to regain control of the situation added “For a little while. U-Until we get you home…”

The crowd cooed. The girl smiled. “I thought you might say that!” she exclaimed, jumping up and down on his arm, “Thank you! Thank you! If you’re with me, it won’t matter if those guys come back again!”

The crowd started to disperse, happily talking amongst themselves. Wes pointedly tugged his left arm out of the girl’s grip before turning and walking away. She followed behind him. “What’s your name, by the way?” she asked sweetly.

“They call me A7,” the young man said glibly without facing her, “It’s a code name. I don’t give out my real name. And no stare of yours is going to make me.”

The girl’s smile faltered a bit. “I sa… I suppose that’s fair. You can call me Rui. And that is my real name.

“Good to know,” A7 said, again without turning around. He walked towards the pokemon center. Rui followed after him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

The young man with albino hair took his pokeballs back from the nurse as she wished him a good day. He then marched over to a corner table near where Rui was waiting. He sat pointedly down at the table, and pointed at an opposing chair.

“Sit.”

Rui seemed a bit taken aback, but sat down gingerly in the chair. A7’s elbow landed hard on the table as he went to point at Rui.

“You’re hiding something,” He blurted.

“W-What?” Rui stammered.

“Don’t play dumb with me. I saw that… that look you gave me minutes ago. You want something, and I want to know what, now.”

Rui was appalled. She glanced around briefly, as if to find solidarity in insult, but there was no one to share this with. “Is this how you talk to every woman you meet?”

“Don’t dodge the question.”

“What makes you think I want anything more than protection from those men who kidnapped me?”

“That expression you gave me was much more than just ‘oh help me please!’. It was ‘I’m going to find them and kill them!’”

Rui gave him a disgusted look. “You’re out of your mind.”

A7 threw his hands up and glanced around briefly, as if to find solidarity in insult, but there was no one to share this with. He rubbed his nose with two fingers on his right hand. “At least tell me why those men apparently kidnapped you. I deserve that explanation.”

Rui became sad and contemplative. She leaned in, “I saw them using pokemon…. abnormally….”

A7 made a disgusted face, “Ew?”

Rui paused momentarily, “N-No, I mean… in battle… these pokemon….” she gestured vaguely with both hands, “They… were radiating hatred….”

A7 blinked, “Radiating…. hatred…..” He rubbed his nose again, “And…. what does that look like? A…. burning black fire fucking raging around them?”

Rui thought, and nodded, “Yeah, sort of!”

“I was making that up!”

“But you’re not far off! They like…. glow this… blackness!”

“And… no one else cares about these dark glowing pokemon?”

“I’m… I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that can see this…”

A7 slammed the table and stood abruptly. “Now you’re making shit up,” He spat, pointing accusingly at her. He became aware that he had turned heads and stopped conversations with that gesture, and slowly he sat down again.

Rui looked desperate, “Seven, I swear it’s true. Those pokemon were also… attacking people and… fighting… horribly…. I don’t even know….”

A7 rested his head on his thumbs and forefingers, elbows on the table, eyes closed, thinking deeply. Rui sat quietly, patiently. Her finger groped up her shoulder towards her ginger hair and began twirling a strand by her ear unconsciously.

A7 breathed in and opened his eyes to look at Rui. “I have other things to do than babysit you. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just leave you at the Mayor’s house.”

Rui pouted, “You don’t care about those poor abused pokemon?”

“No!” A7 spat, “I could care less what others do to their own pokemon. There’s only 1 pokemon I care about…”

A7 froze, his mouth open, his finger pointing roughly at himself. Rui cocked her head expectantly.

“…and I’ve already said far too much.” A7 got up from the table.

“No, wait!” Rui pleaded, also getting up and getting in-between him and the exit, “Please, perhaps I can help!”

“How could you help? You don’t even know what I’m talking about.”

“But if you tell me, perhaps I can help. I know people. People with influence. We might be able to save the one pokemon you care about!”

A7 licked his lips. His hand involuntarily went to his inside coat pocket, then he caught himself. He pointed at Rui again. “I don’t believe you. And you have two days to prove me wrong.”

A7 then shoved Rui against the table and walked past her. She watched him walk past, and smiled a little at his back, before following him out.

Chapter Text

Chapter -7

Pikachu was up on a rock, staring out at the bobber in the sea. The fishing pole it had was almost comically oversized for it, yet it held it with determination.

The boy sat on the beach a little ways back, drawing pictures in the sand, occasionally looking out at the yellow pokemon on the rock. The surf rolled in, rolled over his ankles, and splashed up around his behind, soaking his pants with saltwater and sand. He would have to change when he got back, but he didn’t mind now.

The bobber out in the ocean dropped below the waves, and the Pikachu perked up and began to tug hard on the line. Its footing slipped, but it dug in and held firm, pulling and reeling as hard as it could. The boy wondered if he should try to help.

But just as he was about to get up, Pikachu gave one final tug and fell backwards as a water pokemon sprang from the water towards the boy. The boy tumbled backwards for fear it would land on him.

The Starmie landed on the shoreline, standing tall over the prone boy. It danced a moment on the shore, confused by its sudden surroundings. The Pikachu got up as the boy cowered from the large pokemon, the largest Pikachu had caught thus far. Pikachu called out to the Starmie, and the Starmie turned around and blasted the yellow pokemon with a stream of water before jumping back into the sea.

The boy cracked up laughing, all his fear suddenly gone, as the Pikachu shook itself dry and resumed its fishing.


The young man continued to stare, unfocused, at the crystal clear rippling water in the man-made stream. The sun glinted off the water, the reflected light dancing across his face and body, and across the palm tree he was leaning against. A smile flitted across his face.

He jumped when Rui touched his arm. He adjusted himself to cover up his flinch. Rui didn’t seem to notice. “I’m done,” She said, pointing at the pokemart behind her, “They didn’t have what I wanted.”

“What a waste of time then,” A7 sneered.

Rui’s face went sour. “We’re going to the Mayor’s now…” she snapped, and then gestured to A7 to lead the way. He did just that.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

The young man with the albino hair opened the front door, and the girl with the ginger pigtails pushed passed him and rushed inside.

“Mayor? I–”

Rui clapped her hands over her mouth as she spotted the two shady men who kidnapped her standing in the back of the room. A7 stepped inside, saw them, and immediately his pokemon were out, standing, ready to pounce, on either side of him and Rui.

One of the shady guys pointed. “Boss! That’s him! He’s the one who took the girl from us! And there’s the girl!”

Then, out of the other room, a very tall man in a glaringly gold and sparkling leisure suit came walking out. He had to duck coming in the doorway, not solely because of his height, but because of his amazingly large, spherical afro, over a meter in diameter, colored red on one side and white on the other. He smiled a disgustingly wide smile behind his sparkling gold shades.

“Oh, now, ain’t you boys frightfully pathetic? You mean to tell me you were bested by these darling infants?”

A7 exchanged glances with his pokemon. “And… you are?” he said slowly, in contrast to Miror B’s speedy speech patterns.

“All my friends call me Miror B, darling. All my enemies do too, actually. What shall I call you?”

“Marik,” A7 said quickly. Rui glanced sidelong at him.

“That’s a lie, Miror B!” A shady guy accused from behind the afro, “His name is Wes. He’s from Team Snagem!”

Miror B closed his fist at the guy, multiple times, making a disapproving noise with each close. “Mph-Mph! Did I ask you to interrupt me, sweetie? If he wants me to call him Marik, I’ll call him Marik!” Miror B walked forward and bent down towards them, gesticulating as he spoke, “Now, I so don’t like saying this, Marik, sweetie, but we’re not at liberty to keep your lady friend at liberty.”

A7 looked sidelong at Rui, who was covering her mouth in fear again.

Miror B gestured widely toward her as he spoke, “That sweet young thang, my boys say, she can see things, that ordinary people, ain’t supposed to see. And that just will not do, for what we’re planning to do.” He waved his finger disapprovingly “That just won’t do at all.”

Rui looked at A7 in fear; A7 was still looking at her. His face showed a disbelief about the situation at hand.

“Now, darling,” Miror B continued at his usual breakneck talking speed, gesticulating wildly as normal, “if you don’t like pain… an-and I know that some people, they do like pain– but most people, they don’t like pain– I-I’m assuming you don’t like pain– If you don’t like pain, you can avoid the pain, by keeping your nose, out of places, it ain’t needed. This is one of those places, where it ain’t needed. You catch my drift?”

A7 opened his mouth to answer, but Miror B had already spun around to address the shady guys behind him.

“Boys! Boys! I shall make my return to Pyrite now. Do remember that I will be waiting for you to return, with the little lady. Do I make myself clear? I will not accept failure from you boys again. Now!” Miror B spun around on the spot and pointed towards the ceiling in a disco dance pose. “Let the MUUUUSIC SPIN! Let’s get it on now!”

Then, seemingly from somewhere on his person, salsa music began playing loudly. He began dancing and gyrating on the spot for a few moments, before salsaing around A7, his pokemon, and Rui, and limboing right out the doorway. Three other men in colored suits and helmets, whom A7 hadn’t noticed before due to Miror B commanding all attention in the room, followed Miror B out the front door, each locking eyes with A7 as they passed him. Miror B continued to dance his way down the street outside, and the music faded away with him.

A7 was dumbstruck for several seconds as he watched the man with the massive afro and golden leisure suit disco away. “What… on earth… did I just witness?” He finally managed.

The two shady guys seemed entirely unfazed, however, and jumped between A7 and the doorway now. “You!” The one guy demanded, “I was caught off-guard last time! That’s not gonna happen again!”

The shady guys advanced, pushing A7 and Rui backwards into the house. Espeon moved back with them, but Umbreon stood his ground and bit at the shady guys as they got close.

“Oh! Hey!” one guy said as he dodged getting nipped, “This pokemon of yours could work for us!” He then proceeded to throw out a Whismur and a Lotad to fight with. His partner produced a Makuhita and Spinarak.

“Oh, I see how it is,” A7 scowled, “I’m better than you guys, so you guys go and double-team me?”

“You heard Miror B,” the shady guy sneered back, “We can’t lose this time.”

Umbreon and Espeon were surrounded by the four other pokemon. They started attacking their opponents, splitting their attention between two each.

Meanwhile, Rui latched onto A7’s left arm and whispered in his ear, “Seven, please be careful! These are the pokemon I was talking about!”

A7 looked at the opposing pokemon. “They don’t look like they’re ‘radiating darkness’ to me,” he spat through gritted teeth.

“I can see them, though! Like that Makuhita! It–”

Suddenly, the Makuhita, which was between A7’s pokemon and A7, turned to face A7. It then threw a punch that hit his hip, just barely missing his crotch. A7 stumbled backwards in pain; Rui yelped as she jumped out of the way. A7 clutched himself for a moment, before taking a long stride forward, and sinking the toe of his right boot into the pokemon’s face. Rui let out another yelp as it went flying back into the fray, where Umbreon pounced on it and gnawed at it.

“Oh, helix have mercy on us…” Rui uttered, her hands over her nose and mouth, as A7 doubled over in pain.

“Alright, so you were right about them attacking humans,” A7 managed through gritted teeth.

Rui came over and bent down with him, “Maybe you can help them!”

“How the fuck do you propose that?!” A7 yelled at her, “That fucker almost nutted me!”

“Well…” she stammered, “You’re from Team Snagem, they said! Can’t you…. snag’em?”

“What?!” A7 snapped, “Why the fuck would I want to steal a fucker who just tried to nut me?!”

“So we can help them!” Rui yelled desperately.

“Oh, fuck that!” A7 batted her away and doubled over again.

His Espeon limped over to him now, and A7 looked up and saw Umbreon standing atop the four pokemon, hissing down at each of them in turn as they laid in a pile, defeated. The shady men quickly recalled their pokemon, making Umbreon lose its footing; Umbreon turned and hissed at them angrily.

“We got flattened again!” one of the guys whined to another, “Miror B’s gonna chew us out!”

“I don’t care about him, right now!” the other guy said, backing quickly through the door, “I don’t want that black devil chewing us out right now! Let’s get out of here!”

The shady guys scrambled through the door and vanished into the streets. Umbreon hissed at them until it could see them no more. Then it promptly fell sideways to the floor, breathing hard. Espeon, suddenly concerned, dragged itself over to Umbreon, and started licking its wounds. The Umbreon yelped and hissed at the Espeon, and the Espeon cowered back.

“T, chill! The fight’s over.” A7 spat at his pokemon as he limped over to the couch in the corner next to the TV. The news happened to be on, and he used a nearby remote to turn it up.

Rui came over. “A7, what are you doing?! Your pokemon need–”

“Don’t tell me how to treat my pokemon, woman.” A7 snapped, “They just need to rest. And so do I.”

Rui looked at him, aghast, “How can you just sit and watch TV–”

“You will shut up now, or you will go find those fuckers who just left here and go with them!” A7 yelled, “I need a few minutes, alright?! Don’t! Talk!”

Rui seethed at A7, but said nothing. She walked away from him, to the middle of the room where his pokemon were lying, breathing shallowly. She kneeled down on the floor next to them. She tentatively reached her hand over towards Espeon’s head, and, glancing to see that A7 wasn’t looking, began petting its ear. Espeon responded by pushing its head towards her hand, to get the perfect location under it.

A7 sat, holding his bruised hip, listening as the news caster pretended to care about things that didn’t matter, presented stories that meant nothing, and interviewed people who didn’t know what they were talking about.

And it calmed him.

Chapter Text

Chapter -5

The air was a mass of bells jangling, pokemon chattering, and tree leaves rustling. The boy sat in the woods as the Pikachu gathered a dozen or so Cleffa together in the amphitheater-like area.

All the Cleffa in place, finally, Pikachu got up on a central stump and bowed towards his audience, which consisted of the boy and several Bellsprout scattered around the boy.

Pikachu then picked up his giant Pokeball-shaped bell and gave a cry to his compatriots. Their performance started, the bell choir ringing one bell at a time. The boy tried to follow the bells, looking at each one in turn, focusing on the one Pikachu was holding, closing his eyes to simply listen. He only heard the bells overpowering the much more melodic rustling of the leaves in the woods around him.

The performance was over before he realized, as the gong from the Slowpoke in the back sounded its final pang. The pokemon around him cheered in approval as Pikachu bowed again. The boy smiled and clapped, though he was not entirely sure what the big deal was.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

The young man with the albino hair sat on the couch with his eyes closed, listening to the news playing on the TV. He opened his eyes, a slight smile on his face. He looked to his Umbreon and Espeon, both lying on the floor.

Espeon looked up at him, and its tail and ears perked up. It gently nudged Umbreon, who halfheartedly swiped back at it. Espeon limped over to his trainer and hopped up onto his lap. The young man petted Espeon’s head and neck. The pink fur was matted and disgusting, and the scars and the blood that came from them were crusted over and sticky. But Espeon didn’t mind.

“How are you doing, Nacho?” Espeon’s trainer said.

Espeon made a sound which its trainer took to mean, «I’m just happy you’re alright.»

Umbreon looked up at its trainer and found him petting Espeon. Umbreon hissed and rolled over onto its stomach. «Why does he always get the attention!?»

“Taco, if you want petted, get over here as well.”

The Umbreon got up shakily and limped towards its owner. Its owner leaned down and helped Umbreon up onto his lap.

“Wow, you two come out of that fight looking so well, didn’t you?” their owner said sarcastically. Both pokemon moaned in agreement. “I’ve still got some healing reserves from the hideout, I think.”

Umbreon growled, «You better. I think those ‘mon had rabies.»

“You thought there was something off about them?” He said, producing some bandages and healing salves from his coat.

«Oh yeah,» Espeon nodded, «Something wasn’t right about them.»

«They had a vicious bite, and used weird maneuvers!» Umbreon hissed, up on all fours, swiping at the air, miming an attack of some kind. His trainer shoved the pokemon's behind down into a sitting position and began applying a salve to its head. Umbreon purred as the cool liquid soaked into its wounds.

Espeon flicked its tail expectantly as it waited for its trainer to finish with Umbreon. It looked towards movement on the stairs as someone came down them.

Rui touched down on the bottom step and stopped, staring at A7 applying healing to Umbreon’s head. She opened her mouth, then closed it, clearing her throat. A7 looked up at her, his hands still greasy. She said nothing, and walked past him. She moved over to the far end of the couch and kneeled down in front of it. She folded her hands and bowed her head.

A7 exchanged bewildered glances with his pokemon. He proceeded to spread salve over Espeon’s various scars and wounds about its head and body, all while watching Rui over Espeon’s head. She kneeled there, down at the other end of the couch, head bowed, hands folded, for almost a minute, before she unfolded her hands, looked up to the ceiling, and traced an inward spiral over her heart.

“Ok, I give up. What are you doing?” A7 said as his Espeon purred in his hands.

Rui shot a glare down the couch at him. “Oh, am I allowed to speak now?”

A7 rolled his eyes, “Yes.”

“While you were glued to the news cycle,” she spat, standing up, pointing accusingly at him, “I was scouting things out. The mayor is not in this building.”

“Isn’t this his house and office? I mean, that’s the mayor’s desk right there, isn’t it?” A7 gestured with his head to a large mahogany desk opposite him in the room.

“Yes, I think so! I don’t know what Miror B did to the mayor, but neither he nor his wife are anywhere in this house!” Rui stood straight and pointed at the door, “Not only that, but we can’t leave this city.”

“What do you mean?”

“Those three guys Miror B lead out of here? One’s stationed at each exit.”

A7 sighed his disbelief, “We have to fight our way out…”

“Seems like it,” Rui sighed.

“They couldn’t have just guarded my bike? It’s not like you can get anywhere in this dome-forsaken desert without transport.”

Rui opened her mouth to comment one thing, but another came out of her mouth: “You have a bike? Why am I not surprised?”

A7 glared at her as he wiped his hands off on Umbreon’s fur. He got up, wincing a little bit from his previous wound. “I need to wash these guys off.” He said, and then snarkily added, “Shall we go outside and suss out the situation there?”

“Not much we can do in here…” Rui surmised as A7 walked out the door.

A7 lead them all over to one of Phenac’s man-made streams of water. He bent down and began washing off his hands. His two pokemon jumped into the water and rinsed off as well. All the while, he was scoping out the situation. Just as Rui said, the three guys in different colored suits and helmets were standing idly by the entrances to the city. They weren’t blocking anyone else’s entry into or exit from the city, but A7 was certain they would block his. Or, rather, hers.

“Remind me why I haven’t handed you over to them again?” A7 asked Rui pointedly, “I mean, it’s not me they want. Miror B even said that if I kept my nose out of it–”

“Seven!” Rui snapped, “I said I would help you help the pokemon you cared about! And you said you would give me two days at least to help!”

“Maybe two days is too long….” A7 muttered. He looked up and saw both Umbreon and Espeon staring at him, and he was taken aback.

Rui hadn’t noticed, “And I can’t much help you do that when the resources I have are outside this city, and we’re trapped inside it!”

A7, meanwhile, was alternating between looking at his two pokemon.

Espeon growled, «Pikachu?» It turned to Umbreon, who exchanged glances with it.

«Pikachu…» Umbreon growled, turning back to glower at A7.

A7’s nose wrinkled. “It’s not a lost, cause, okay?!” he snapped at them, to which Rui was startled.

“Lost cause? What??”

Espeon facepawed while Umbreon simply turned its back on A7 and continued washing itself off.

“I have a plan, alright?!” A7 snapped at them, “That’s why I took—! Look, I’m not going to argue this with you two again! And not in front of her!” A7 gestured at Rui. “It’s not like you two have any say in the matter anyway!”

«It’s a waste of time,» Umbreon cawed over its shoulder.

“It’s not a waste—!”

«Even if you do find him–» Espeon started.

“I’m not arguing this again, I said!” A7 barked, and haphazardly grabbed their pokeballs from his belt. He recalled Umbreon first, who faced him with a look of contempt and exhaustion before disappearing into its ball. Then he recalled Espeon, but it dodged the recall beam.

«You need to move on, Adam!» Espeon barked angrily, before it too was hit by another recall beam attempt and returned to its ball.

Rui was stunned silent. A7 dumped the two pokeballs to the ground and stood up. He then stomped away and punched a palm tree. He cried out, having hurt his hand, and he proceeded to kick the tree repeatedly until he tired himself.

Rui approached him cautiously. “Ok, I don’t know what just went down between you and your pokemon, but I think we need to find a TV again for a while…” She steered the seething young man back towards the mayor’s house and then went back for his two pokeballs.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

But the young man with the albino hair never made it back inside the house.

The man in a green jumpsuit and helmet leaned against the western city gateway, which was situated next to the Mayor’s house. He’d been watching the whole ordeal from meters away. And as the fuming young man practically walked right past him towards the mayor’s house, the man in green couldn’t help but taunt him.

“Hey ‘Weasley’!” the guy in green called out in a taunting tone, “What’s wrong? Your pokemon disobeying? You gonna go cry in the corner??”

Wes’s fists clenched hard. He spun on a dime and rushed headlong at the green dude, his fist in the air. Verde, however, tossed out his pokemon between him and Wes, and Wes was suddenly met with a massive Bayleef, which body slammed him. Wes fell backward, rolling over his head and landing on his stomach.

“Wahaha!” Verde laughed, “Do you have some idea that you can take me in battle? You don’t even have any pokemon to protect you!”

Upon seeing the impromptu battle begin, Rui tossed both of Wes’s pokeballs. Umbreon and Espeon appeared, momentarily confused and facing the wrong directions. “Seven’s in trouble!!” Rui shouted at them. The two pokemon got their bearings and ran to stand between Verde’s pokemon and Wes.

Wes got up on all fours, holding his head, feeling it pounding from the impact with the ground. He looked up and saw Espeon mentally confusing a Grimer, and Umbreon biting and clawing at a Spoink. The Bayleef towered over both of them.

Rui rushed over and pulled Wes to his feet. “That Bayleef!” she said in his ear.

“Is really fucking bulky!” Wes completed for her, still rubbing his head.

“No, it’s one of those pokemon!”

The Bayleef then proceeded to perform a strange move. It rushed headlong into Espeon and headbutted it; a dark explosion emanated from the point of contact, and Espeon was sent flying, knocked unconscious.

“FUUUUUUUCK!!” Wes shouted, and recalled Espeon before it hit the ground behind him. He grimaced at the battle, as Umbreon was losing ground. “We’re outnumbered.”

“Not if you snag that Bayleef.”

Wes looked at Rui with shock for a moment. Then he realized she was right: he could turn the tide in battle this way. But there was one problem: “If I had some spare pokeballs, you mean…”

Rui looked blankly at him for a moment, before reaching into her hip pack and pulling out five pokeballs. She dumped them into his hands. “You do now.”

Wes was incredulous. “Where did you get these?!”

“Does it matter? Use one!”

Wes stowed four of the balls, and took the last one in his left hand. “I’m not entirely sure how this model works…”

Wes held his hand straight out and enlarged the pokeball to full size. The machine on his left arm powered on. The hair on his left arm stood on end as he felt a surge of power through the cables and the glove. The pokeball floated in the air momentarily, surrounded by rings of light. The red top of the ball tinted orange, the white bottom turned yellowish. Wes grabbed the ball out of the air and concentrated on his target, the Bayleef.

He threw the ball haphazardly, for his left was his off-hand. But the ball seemed to curve through the air of its own accord, stopping right above the target pokemon. The Snag Ball opened, and great tendrils of energy reached out, like a hand grabbing at the pokemon. A red forcefield appeared around Bayleef; Wes knew this was the “contract of the pokeball”, as it was often called, trying to enforce itself - the power of the pokeball trying to keep a foreign trainer from taking its occupant. The tendrils of the snag ball easily shattered through the forcefield and touched the pokemon. The pokemon energized, and was sucked up into the Snag Ball. The Snag Ball closed, and it threw itself at Wes’s feet, removing itself from the last tendrils of the forcefield.

The ball had returned to its normal colors as it shook on the ground, the pokemon trying break free. Wes watched intently as the ball shook. Rui clung hard to his arm, hoping, praying, the ball would hold.

It did. The ball stopped shaking. And Rui jumped up and down like a giddy school girl. Wes forcefully detached himself from her again and picked up the ball.

“The old snag machines didn’t do too well with changing loyalties right away…” Wes said to himself, “There were still tendrils of the old ball’s effects lingering…. Mine is supposed to improve on that. Let’s see how well it does.”

“You’re what?!” Rui exclaimed, unbelieving, as Wes threw the ball and out came Bayleef, on his side.

Umbreon, stiff and bleeding, jumped back away from the battle to regain its composure, and bumped right into Bayleef. For a moment, Umbreon thought he was surrounded and momentarily panicked, until he heard his trainer, for once, giving orders: “Bayleef, have at them!”

The Bayleef roared and performed a dark tackle at his former allies, striking them hard. But they too retaliated with their own attacks and dark tackles. Bayleef tanked them, and waited for orders. But Wes gave no more orders. Wes was confused for a moment, and wondered if the snag machine wasn’t as good at changing loyalties as it was supposed to be. That is until Rui yelled: “Why aren’t you giving it orders?!”

“What?!” Wes snapped at her, confused, “Don’t tell me what to do! My pokemon know that it’s up to them to make their own judgement calls!”

“Bayleef doesn’t yet!” Rui blurted, as Bayleef went down, and the pokeball automatically recalled it to prevent further harm to the pokemon.

“….shit….” Wes mumbled as Umbreon was soon to be overtaken. He recalled Umbreon and started sprinting away from the battle, Rui on his heels.

“That’s right!!” Verde called angrily after them, “Just take my pokemon and run! That’s what a true Snagger does! Come back here and let me finish pummeling you, you ashole!!”

But Wes was already halfway to the pokemon center.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

The sun hung low in the sky. The immense desert was slowly cooling, the shimmering heat waves gradually dissipating to reveal the distant mountains and the gleaming white tower on the horizon. A copper-colored rock outcropping stood out boldly against the vast salt flats that made up most of the surrounding area. A one-wheeled hovering-motorcycle was parked under the rock, in its shadow. In the sidecar of the motorcycle, a girl with ginger pigtails sat, arms crossed, examining the cracks along the rockface above her.

She breathed in, and called out, “Do you think we lost them by now?”

A voice echoed back from somewhere beyond the rock. “Can’t a man go in peace?!”

Rui buried her face in her hand, and muttered “I thought men didn’t take as long as women…?”

The young man with albino hair came back around from the other side of the rock, zipping himself up. “What did you say now?”

“I said,” Rui repeated, irritated, “Do you think we lost them by now?”

“Absolutely, this desert is massive. That maze of valleys back there is easy to lose someone in. I’ve done it a dozen times now. They would have caught up to us ten minutes ago if we hadn’t.”

“I’m glad you’re so sure of yourself,” she mocked.

“I’m glad you think you know everything,” he shot back, “Miss ‘I don’t carry a knife on me’.” He pulled out his switchblade and twirled it in his hands a bit, “Would have been good to have when you were in that sack.”

She kept her eyes on the knife as he twirled it, closed the knife, and put it away. “I apologize for not carrying weapons on me,” she sneered, “Only criminals do that.”

He snorted and sat down sideways on the bike seat, his back to her. He became interested in his fingernails.

She added, “That was supposed to be an insult.”

He gave her a derisive glance, “Please. I worked for Team Snagem for nine years. Petty name calling isn’t going to phase me.”

“You worked for them for nine years?!” She repeated, disgusted, “Don’t you feel any… remorse for stealing other people’s pokemon?”

He turned to look at her with an air of confusion, “….Why?”

She gasped in disbelief, “What do you–?! How—?! Wh-what if someone came along and just stole your Umbreon or Espeon?!”

A7 shrugged, “I’d track the fucker down and steal them right back.” He pulled out Umbreon and Espeon’s pokeballs, “It’s not like that hasn’t happened a couple times before. Right guys?”

Umbreon and Espeon appeared from their balls in the salty sand that surrounded the rock outcropping. Almost immediately, Umbreon was on top of Espeon, biting at its ear and smacking its face. Rui jumped out of the sidecar, appalled.

“Hey! Stoppit!! What the hell?! What did Espeon ever do to you?!” She attempted to break them up, but the Umbreon hissed and clawed at her as well. Rui looked up at A7, who was still leaning on his bike, seemingly picking sand out from under his fingernails, entirely unconcerned. “Seven?! Don’t you care that your pokemon are fighting amongst themselves?!”

He glanced over. “T, don’t kill Nach, please.” He went back to his fingernails.

THAT’S NOT HELPING!!” Rui snapped.

“What?”, A7 said nonchalantly, biting his nails as glanced at Rui, “T’s just wound up from the fight past that blue asshole, and if Nach learned to fight back, maybe T wouldn’t beat up on him so much.”

Rui stomped over to him, “Well maybe Nash can’t fight back properly because his attacks don’t affect T?!”

“Nach.”

“What?!”

“Nach. His name’s Nacho. I call ‘im ‘Nach’ sometimes for short. The other one’s Taco. Call ‘im T for short.’”

Rui fumed, stamping her feet. “Dammit, Seven!”

“Speaking of,” A7 interrupted with a pointer finger, “We got this guy you wanted so much.” A7 pulled out a third pokeball, and called Bayleef out into the sand. It appeared half-in and half-out of the shade, and the first thing it did was move out into the sunlight and turn its leaves to the setting sun. “Personally,” A7 continued, still trying to bite his nail properly, “I’m thinking ‘Luchaleef’, ‘cause this guy’s got a weight class on him, let me tell you…”

Rui wasn’t paying attention anymore, though. She had gone over and hugged the Bayleef around its neck. A7 opened his mouth to say something, but didn’t do so before the Bayleef bucked her backwards into the sand and resumed its sun soaking pose.

Rui sat up and dusted herself. “What was that for?!” She whined, saddened.

“Bayleef don’t like you blocking their sun when they’re trying to soak some up,” A7 said, walking over. He finally got the bit of nail he wanted and spit it out into the sand, and shook his hand. “I had a Bayleef for a while. Snatched it off of some guy, who had snatched off of some girl, who had snatched it off of some other guy, who had snatched it off of some kid… these pokemon change hands constantly out here. It got snatched off of me almost a month after I got it…”

“I thought Team Snagem was one team,” Rui asked, getting up from the sand and brushing herself off.

“Yes and no… Us Snaggers are all more or less free agents under contract, and occasionally there’s reasons to be under one umbrella. The politics of it bores me to death…” A7 leaned down and checked the neck leaves of the Bayleef, ran his hand down its back, and thumped its back leg. “This ain’t the same Bayleef I had. This one’s fucking built. Like it’s been pushing and lifting some heavy shit a lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone snagged this out of a construction site or something.”

Rui piped up, “Well, I think he’s adorable. He’s like a cute adorable kid!”

A7 cocked an eyebrow. “Right…. you keep dreaming that….”

Meanwhile, Umbreon and Espeon, having finished their scrap (with Espeon the worse for wear, as always), had come over to their new teammate. They were conversing with it in that peculiar way pokemon do.

A7 stood by and let them talk. Pokemon always seemed to comminicate faster amongst themselves than when they spoke with him and other humans. There was always a lot of interpretation associated with a human speaking with a pokemon. A7 had been with his Umbreon and Espeon for so many years now that he always seemed to understand them perfectly. But he just couldn’t make out anything this Bayleef was saying back to them. Not yet at least.

Umbreon addressed A7 as Espeon continued to converse with Bayleef.

“The coal mines?” A7 repeated after Umbreon.

“The coal mines?!” Rui gasped.

“Now that’s just a waste of a good grass type,” A7 mused.

Rui had run over to Bayleef again and began hugging and petting it out of pity. The Bayleef once again attempted to shove her off its leaves, but she was undeterred this time. “Oh you poor, poor thing, being trapped down in such horrible mines, forced to work all the time!”

A7 rubbed his temple as he walked around to Rui and physically yanked her off it. “That’s enough fawning over my pokemon now. They need to train.”

“Wait, what?” Rui balked, “We’re not going to Agate before the sun sets?”

“Uhhh, no? I never travel at night: way too much shit to crash into out here. And T and Nach need to train Lucha how to fight properly anyway.”

You’re not going to train it? You’re letting the pokemon train it?”

“Yeah? I don’t fight battles. They do.”

“That’s ridi–wait! We’re sleeping out here for the night?!” Rui was livid.

A7 plopped down in the sand under the rock outcropping. “Why? The sand’s not bad. Just don’t eat it.”

“I can’t sleep in the sand!!”

“I do it all the time.”

Rui stomped her foot in rage.

“I mean, feel free to try sleeping in the sidecar if you want, but it’s pretty cramped in there. And don’t hit any controls on my bike or you’re paying out of your ass when it crashes.” A7 pulled out his PDA and poked a few times at it; the breaking news jingle came from it as he sat back and watched.

The shadow of the sun setting over the distant mountains washed over the rock and the pokemon training by it. Rui looked around at the rest-stop-turned-campsite, and decided to plop down in the sand right where she stood, still furious. The pokemon talked and strategized as the sky slowly dimmed over the salt flats.

Chapter Text

Chapter -14

“…This TV is a gift to you from Pokemon Channel. Pokemon Channel is a TV station that airs many kinds of Pokemon programs. You’ve been chosen as our first test audience. But, first things first. May I have your name?”

A small boy was sitting in the middle of a bright blue room, knees to his chest, arms clutching his knees tight. The Ditto cushion beside him was likely what he was meant to sit upon, but the wooden floor was what he was actually sitting on. The bright screen of the 4-foot television glowed before him, and an image of an old man in a lab coat showed on screen.

“S-Signing up is easy,” the old man on screen said, “Just… register your name. That will start putting programs on the air.”

The small boy stared blankly at the screen. The old man stared back through the screen. The boy could see the old man, but could the old man see the boy?

“Okay….” the old man continued after a long pause, “So, may I have your name?”

The boy continued to stare at the screen. What is my name?

The boy contemplated it for a while. He immediately thought of the name “Seth”. Seth seemed like a name someone would have. But not him, surely. There was another boy somewhere, somewhere far away, who had the name Seth. His name was different, however. It didn’t begin with an S. It didn’t even being with a “Set”. That was just silly.

The boy contemplated this for a long time. A very long time. His mind was blank on the matter. And yet the old man sat there, waiting. Patiently.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

The young man with the albino hair snorted and awoke abruptly. The first thing he saw was salt-sands meeting copper rock. He sat up quickly, and fought through his momentary dizziness to determine why he had awoken. He listened carefully, but heard nothing. He glanced around, but saw nothing. After a moment, he determined it was likely his dream that had awoken him. He rubbed his eyes and pulled out his PDA to check the time. It was nearly 3am.

The young man got up and strolled out from under the rock outcropping. He saw the girl with ginger hair in pigtails, and stopped there for a while. She slept uneasily. It looked like she had attempted to use her tiny jacket to cover herself, to little effect. She shivered.

The young man looked at her for a long while, one hand holding onto the rock outcropping above him, contemplating random things. He picked up one side of his coat and felt the weight of it. He moved to take off the jacket, but realized that the Snag Machine still strapped to his arm made it impossible to take it all the way off without disassembling the machine. He left his jacket on.

He moved around to the side of the rock and found familiar handholds and footholds on it. He climbed up and found Umbreon perched up top, yawning. It didn’t look surprised to see him.

The young man sat down on top of the rock outcropping next to his pokemon. His hand went to petting the Umbreon; the Umbreon purred. They sat there for a while, looking out over the salt flats, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of movement or life other than themselves. All they found were sullen mountains, quiet rocks, and the occasional flicker of light from the giant white tower in the distance.

The Umbreon spoke first, growling softly. «Bayleef is workable. He said it feels weird to not be commanded all the time, but he can probably work it out.»

“That’s good. Did you notice any strange effects or strategies?”

«Yes. We talked about it. They ‘did things’ to him.»

“…Who?”

«He doesn’t know names.»

“What did they do?”

«He doesn’t know what. There are gaps in his memories. He knows things are missing, he can feel them when he tries to remember certain things.»

“….So they brainwashed him? Maybe they’re trying to cover up secrets.”

«But also, he knows this weird move. We’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s extremely effective against both of us. And he also knows all of his normal moves.»

“An… an extra one?”

Umbreon nodded.

“How… extremely useful…”

«It’s extremely aggravating to him. We had to stop training and force him into his pokeball because he flew into an unintelligible rage.»

“…Rui didn’t notice?”

«She helped us get him into his ball.»

“Wonderful,” he said sarcastically.

They were silent for a while. The night wind created gentle dancing whirlwinds across the salt flats. But they made no sound. Nothing out here made sound. The night was so completely silent, you could hear the stars twinkle.

«What are you going to do about her?» Umbreon continued, almost making the young man jump with his growl.

“Nothing right now. She’s turning out to be right, it seems.”

«You think so?»

The young man thought on the question for a moment. He sighed. “Regardless, I’ve given her one more day to… provide what she says she’s able to…”

The young man could feel the Umbreon sigh deeply under his hand. The young man waited for him to present the obvious argument again. But it didn’t come. His Espeon would have said it. Instead:

«You’ve never kept your word on anything before.»

“That’s… not strictly true.”

«Do you really think she can ‘help’ you so much? That you’re willing to risk her being untrustworthy?»

The young man reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out the photo. It was far too dark to see the image itself, but the young man already knew what was on it.

“Yes.”

«You’re out of your mind.» Umbreon didn’t strictly “speak” that; he had made no noise. But his body language as he got up and stretched conveyed the same idea. And when you’re speaking with a pokemon, such things are functionally identical.

The young man said nothing. Umbreon moved over to the edge of the rock. «You’re on next watch then?» it grumbled back at him.

“Yeah. I’ll wake Nacho later,” he said. Then added, “T? Could you…. keep…. close to her tonight? Just… keep an eye on her…”

The Umbreon glowered back at his trainer. «I won’t like it.»

“I expect nothing less. ….th…thank you…”

The Umbreon grumbled as it jumped down off the rock.

The young man curled up on the rock, sitting with his knees up near his chest, leaning on them, looking out over the horizon. His thoughts drifted once again…

Chapter Text

Chapter -13

The boy sat, knees to his chest, contemplating the conundrum of his name for a full ten minutes. For a while, he considered if it began with a J. But it did not. It was not Jeremy, nor Jacob, nor Jaquelyn, nor Joey. He contemplated more. Perhaps it began with a Z. Zane, or Zayde, or perhaps Zack, or Zimmy. Or maybe a P, like Patrick, Patty, Phillipe, or Peter.

Did it begin with A? Abe? The name Abe stuck for a while, like he had heard it before. But no, it was not his name.

Perhaps he didn’t have a proper name at all. The number 8 came to mind, and then just as soon left.

And all this time, the kindly old man in the long white coat and red shirt stared at him from the screen. Not smiling, not frowning, but thinking, observing, taking mental notes. In the same expression, he seemed kindly and patient, but also deeply concerned and troubled. He did not tap his foot, he did not shake his head, he gave no outward sign of concern nor disappointment nor impatience. He simply… watched.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

The morning sun hadn’t woken Rui so much as the engine of the motorcycle next to her. It could very well wake the dead with the explosively loud roar it gave when it turned over running. She had shouted at length at Seven about such a rude awakening, but either he couldn’t hear or, more likely, he didn’t care.

She had gotten in the sidecar, tired, aching, hungry. Seven had sped off almost before she could get a handhold. She rode with one hand to her ear, to try in vain to block out the excessively loud motor. The other hand held tight to a metal rail that was half screwed on to the dash in front of her. There was no seatbelts to speak of in this contraption of Seven’s. He had said this sidecar was where his two pokemon usually sat, and she wouldn’t be surprised if they had fallen out of here before.

It felt far longer than the 10 minutes he had said it would take to get to Pyrite Town. Between the hairpin turns, the dodging of ever-redder rock outcropping, the weaving through winding canyons, and the jumping over large chasms, Rui felt as if she’d been gripping on to that frankly flimsy bar for almost an hour.

Seven finally slowed down as he approached the outskirts of Pyrite. There was an area just outside town that had a whole slew of various vehicles lined up. From the one-wheeled hovering-motorcycle variety similar to Seven’s, to the two wheeled kind (with various sizes of monstrous spiked wheels), to the three, four, and even five-wheeled kind, most with but some without hovering components. There was even a zero-wheeled kind of vehicle, that just had hover pads on the bottom. Some were sleeker than others, some had bigger or more exposed engines, some had sidecars, some had enclosed cockpits, some had bucket seats. One even had a giant rocket just strapped on to the back of it with what looked like several dozen lines of rope; that bike looked like it had been in more than a couple of crashes.

As Seven slowed down and found a spot near the outer edge of the area to haphazardly park up, Rui noticed that very few of the bikes were secured in any way. A couple of them had large, mean-looking pokemon guarding them. Others just had chains the size of your arm securing them to rocks. Most of them had nothing.

Suddenly, the air felt empty; Seven had cut the engine. Rui’s ears were ringing, and her one hand was aching from gripping so tightly. She stumbled out of the sidecar and sighed deeply as she felt the ground beneath her feet again. They began walking into town.

“Wow, how stupid,” Seven commented, waving dismissively at the pokemon guarding the bikes, “Do you know how easy it could be to snag one of those pokemon? Pathetic and risky…”

Rui said nothing. Seven glanced at her. She had a disgusted look on her face, still recuperating from the ride. Seven seemed pleased. It only made her more disgusted. Clearly he was doing this on purpose now.

“Why did we come to Pyrite anyway?” she blurted, “We were supposed to be going to Agate up north.”

“Breakfast,” Seven said simply, “We’re close by, so might as well drop in for a visit and some eggs.”

Rui felt her stomach. It was growling… Why they had to go to Pyrite of all places, though…

“Don’t go wandering off now,” he added, “People in Pyrite don’t say ‘hi’ with their mouths. They say ‘hi’ with their pokemon’s fists.”

“I know,” she mumbled.

He glanced back, puzzled, “You what?”

“I said ‘so I heard’,” Rui repled, louder, “This is one of those towns ‘fabled in story and song’. The den of criminals. Everyone’s out for themselves.”

“Really?” Seven said, pleased, hands behind his head, “This is one of my favorite places to hang out!”

“…Like I said,” Rui mumbled again. Seven didn’t notice this time.

They reached the edge of town. Buildings made of stone and rusted metal littered the winding valley. All of them were in some state of disrepair, anywhere from mere splatters of dirt to whole sections of wall that had been torn out and “patched” with other whole sections of wall. The town was very colorful, including tones such as brown, red-brown, blue-brown, orange-brown, green-brown, yellow-brown, brown-brown, light-brown, dark-brown, and dirt-colored. In the distance, a massive rusted dome stood out for being more blue than brown, but the rust still made it pretty brown.

Seven had called Umbreon and Espeon out of their balls, and they were now walking on either side of him. Rui followed along close behind, wary of everything around her. She didn’t have pokemon of her own on her, unfortunately, so she had to rely on Seven to keep her safe. And given Seven’s attitude, that didn’t make her feel any better.

There were dozens and dozens of shady characters milling about. Dozens of pokemon battles were happening at any one time; you could always see one no matter which direction you looked. There were children who were running around, or skating past on roller blades, and every one of them looked like they hadn’t had a bath in months. Rui watched one child skating towards a pokemon battle. The child bounced off one of the trainers, apologizing profusely. The child then skated away, tucking something into his shirt pocket, something he didn’t have before the collision.

“Seven,” she whispered, “Could you maybe get out Shotaleef to follow behind us?”

Seven craned his neck to briefly give her a quizzical look. “Who?”

“B-Bayleef…”

“Why would you want a pokemon in an omnicidal rage to walk behind you?”

“In a what??”

Seven stopped and turned around to face her. “T told me last night about Lucha’s insane rage, and that you helped put Lucha back in its ball. Did you not?”

“I did, yes, but I thought… I thought it would have calmed down by now…”

Seven responded by taking the pokeball off his belt and placing it in Rui’s hands. She was surprised by the warmth emanating from it. “That’s not a normal rage…” Seven concluded.

“Oh, poor thing…” Rui whimpered, petting the pokeball.

Just then, the boy on rollerblades skated by very close. Seven turned to watch him with a suddenly angry expression. “HEY!!” he shouted after him.

Espeon turned and glared at the kid; the gem glowing on his forehead. The kid’s skates seemed to abruptly reverse, and the kid was on his face. Umbreon, who was already on the kid’s tail when he fell, pounced on top of the kid and hissed angrily at him. Seven ran over to the scene, followed closely by Rui and Espeon. The kid was shaking, either in tears or fear, Rui couldn’t tell.

“Seven! What the hell?!” Rui spat, as Seven waved Umbreon off the kid, reached down, and picked the scared kid up by the scruff of his neck. “What was all of that ab–?!”

Seven pilfered a PDA out of the kid’s hand, and offered it to Rui. Rui, startled, took the PDA and opened it to a password screen and a picture of herself. She reached down to her hip bag and felt for her own PDA; it was not there.

“Oh…” she sighed, a little embarrassed.

“Gotta say, Lon,” Seven beamed as he put the kid down on his wheels, “That was an impressive swipe. Dibs for trying, but you don’t steal from ol’ Wesley Fargo.” Seven dusted his own shoulders off with pride.

“Yeah, I know,” the kid sneered, adjusting his yellow bandanna and dogtags, no longer shaking at all (had that all been an act?), “But I almost stole from Fargo’s girlfriend!

“HEY! Them’s fighting words, kid!!” Seven shouted gleefully.

“You’re on!!” the kid screamed back, skating backwards and throwing out his pokemon.

Seven snapped his fingers and his Umbreon and Espeon were in the fray with the kid’s Igglybuff, Azurill, and Skiploom. Rui had her eye on the Skiploom. She came close to Seven and went to whisper in his ear as he watched the kid calling all the shots in battle.

“Lon does not know how to handle three pokemon at once,” he laughed, “this is hysterical!”

“Seven,” she whispered, “there’s something wrong with that Skiploom. Look at how it moves!”

The smile was wiped from his face. He watched as the Skiploom charged into the friendly battle in an angry rage. He looked at the kid, who was trying to give it commands, with more and more desperation, as it refused to do what the kid wanted it to do.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me…” Seven said as he pulled a pokeball out and dropped it into his left hand.

“What are you waiting for?!” Rui begged eagerly, shaking his arm.

“Chill, alright?!” Seven snapped, shaking her off him, “And quit grabbing my arm, it’s irritating!”

Seven watched and waited as the battle started to turn sour, with the kid desperately shouting mainly at his Skiploom, to no avail. Espeon had been put to sleep by the Igglybuff, so Umbreon was fighting three on one. Except now the Skiploom was attacking its allies, and turning the battle against itself. The kid has long lost all control of the battle. Seven still waited; Rui still watched impatiently.

Then, things turned for the worse. The Skiploom knocked out both the kid’s Igglybuff and Azurill in one go, and then started rushing headlong for the kid himself. The kid screamed in alarm and, in attempting to run away, lost control of his skates and fell on his butt. The Skiploom beared down on him, seemingly intent on harming the kid.

That’s when Seven moved, spinning up the Snag Machine and releasing the Snag Ball into the air. It arced hard around to the Skiploom and opened above it. Its tendrils reached out and snagged it from behind the strange red forcefield that suddenly encased the pokemon. The pokeball threw itself back at Seven’s feet.

“LON!” Seven shouted, “Get off your ass and get out of here!”

“What the fuck did you do to my Skiploop?!” the kid shouted back at him.

The ball broke open, and the Skiploop appeared in front of Seven, looking insane with rage. It rushed directly at Seven; Umbreon rushed over to try and get between, but it was far too slow to make it in time. Seven swiped his third pokeball from Rui’s hands and soon Bayleef was on the field. And it looked equally pissed. Skiploom rushed right into it, and Bayleef took the attack without flinching.

“Rush it back!!” Seven shouted.

The Bayleef roared in confused rage. It rushed in and headbutted the Skiploom, sending it flying. The Skiploom landed and responded in kind. Seven was spinning up the Snag Machine again, with another pokeball in hand. Bayleef headbutted the Skiploom a second time, and the Skiploom rushed in again to strike again.

“Yo! Lucha!!” Seven yelled, “SCRAM!!”

Something odd happened with Bayleef. Moments after Seven yelled its name, it seemed to look up and inhale sharply. Its eyes, which Rui now noticed had been dilated, returned to normal. It seemed to come suddenly to its senses. And instead of rushing haphazardly into an attack once again, Bayleef dodged to the side, leaving Seven’s line of sight free and clear.

The Snag Ball curved itself around again and once again its tendrils reached out to grab the pokemon. Rui noted, curiously, that there didn’t seem to be a red forcefield trying to keep the tendrils out this time. The ball grabbed the Skiploom and once again threw itself at Seven’s feet. Umbreon and Bayleef surrounded the ball on either side, watching it intently as it shook. The kid, having retrieved his defeated pokemon, came over as well. The ball stopped shaking; the snag held.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief; Rui was a little giddy.

“Lon!” Seven snapped suddenly, pointing at the kid, “Where the fuck did you get this pokemon!?”

“At the Colosseum!” the kid yelped, “They were giving them out for winning brackets!”

“They were giving these homicidal freaks out?!” Seven said sharply.

“Yes, sir,” the kid replied, scared.

Seven buried his face in his hands. “I need to speak to Duking… But first, breakfast on me.” Seven reached down and grabbed Skiploom’s pokeball. “T, tell Nach to raise and shine.” He waved Lon over, “Kid, I’m stealing your nutjob pokemon from you. The least I can do is feed you.”

“I guess so…” the kid said as he lazily rolled over to Seven. Seven put his arm around the kid and they all started walking together towards a run-down diner off the main street.

“And take those ridiculous wheels off!”

What? They’re how I flee my pickpocketing!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

The young man with the albino hair found an empty table at Spearowgers’ Diner in Pyrite Town and directed the girl with the ginger pigtails and the boy with the bandanna and rollerblades in hand towards it. The young man’s three pokemon, Umbreon, Espeon, and Bayleef, also found a place to sit on one end. Bayleef technically just stood, but it was at the table nonetheless.

“Fargo, is it true?!” the boy asked the young man eagerly, setting his rollerblades on the table, “Is it true what the newswire’s been saying about Team Snagem?! Is it really history?!”

“Nah, it’s not history,” Fargo replied, “Team Snagem still lives. They’re just gonna need a new hideout.”

“Is it–?!” the boy started, and then dropped to a whisper, “Is it true what they’re saying on the streets? That— that you did it?!”

Fargo was taken aback. “Are they really saying that?” he asked back in hushed tones. The boy nodded. “Well, what do you think?”

“I– I dunno!” the boy stuttered, “It sounds like something you might do!”

“Oh! Well!” Fargo laughed, “If that’s the reputation I have!”

They laughed about it together; Rui sat quietly, simply listening in. She wouldn’t understand. Lon, this boy with the roller skates and bandanna, was like a little brother to Fargo. He remembered fondly of the first time Lon almost pickpocketed him in the streets of Pyrite, and how Fargo caught him and taught him a lesson – in how to pickpocket properly. Lon got some pretty decent hauls when Fargo took him into places like Phenac and other small, wealthy towns.

It was always sad when Fargo had to leave him behind, and it was always fun visiting again and seeing just what sort of weird tricks he had come up with in the interim. The rollerskates seemed like a dumb idea. But hey, if it made up for Lon’s lack in agility, perhaps it worked.

They all ordered breakfast; Spearowger’s specialty was eggs of various varieties and preparations. Lon and Fargo caught up while Rui sat quietly and simply listened to their antics.

It wasn’t until halfway through their meal that Fargo spotted Duking at a distant table. And he only spotted him because Silva had barged on past their table on his way to him. Wesley Fargo got up suddenly from the table when he saw this, and snapped his fingers; Umbreon and Espeon dropped their breakfast bagels and joined their trainer’s side.

Rui went to get up as well, but Lon stopped her: “We should stay here. Things are about to get nasty…”

Duking ran Pyrite. Not as any elected official, but as the most intimidating man in town. He was huge! Huge pectorals, huge biceps, huge handlebar mustache. He also ran the Colosseum on the far end of town, which helped his intimidation factor considerably with the locals, who loved to battle all the time. He was usually the first person the town’s token police force went to to try and bring order to the chaos that was Pyrite. Because, after all, Duking intimidated everyone.

Everyone except for one person. Silva was a young man, younger than Wesley. Compared to Duking, Silva was a twig; lanky, juvenile, hot headed, winsome. But despite how tormentable Silva seemed, no one dared cause him any pain. Because Silva was Duking’s right-hand man, his lieutenant, his second-in-command, his “best friend”. And anyone who messed with the “buddy” of the most intimidating man in town was asking for the Judgement of the Gods as delivered by the two-tonne truck that was Duking.

People came to Duking with with their problems, with their concerns, with their suggestions, and with their unsettled personal affairs. Duking was patient. He listened and he judged fairly. And his word was unwritten law. No one dared oppose his judgement. Except for Silva, in public one day, at Spearowger’s.

“DUKING!!” Silva shouted, arriving at Duking’s table and slamming his fist down on it, “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

The diner went quiet instantly. Duking had eggs on his fork, halfway to his mouth. “Silva,” he said quietly and respectfully, “please don’t use such language in front of my daughter.”

Duking’s daughter, around nine years of age, sat across from Duking. She shrank in her seat.

Silva continued, undeterred, “Why the fuck are you letting them use you and the colosseum like this?! What the fuck is the matter with you?!”

Duking did not look at Silva. He continued eating. The clinking of his utensils was the only sound in the diner, besides for Silva when he continued to yell.

“What the fuck did they do to you?! Have they sucked all the spirit right out of you?!”

Duking cut some more of his omelette, scooped some onto his fork, and put it quietly in his mouth. Silva reached over and swept his entire place setting onto the floor.

“ANSWER ME, YOU FUCKER!!”

Duking, having no more breakfast to eat, quietly placed his fork and knife on the table, took the napkin from his lap, swept something off his cheek bone, and dabbed his mouth clean.

“You’re not the man I once knew!” Silva spat. He turned on the spot and stormed out, shoving past Wesley and anyone or anything else in his way.

Wesley moved towards Duking. “Duking, about the–”

“I’m sorry, but I’m very busy.” Duking interrupted, “Marcia, we’re going now, sweetie. You’ll have to excuse me, Colin.” And with that, Duking and his daughter moved out of the diner as well, apologizing as they pushed past and telling the wait staff to put their meal and any cleanup costs on his tab.

Wesley returned to the table.

“I suppose that could have gone better…” Rui chimed in.

“Lon,” Wesley demanded as he fell into his chair, “spill.”

“Duking’s been weirdly quiet as of late,” Lon explained intently, “Ever since… ever since they started handing out those pokemon, actually, like the one you snagged from me. They hype those pokemon up as awesome fighting machines. Everyone’s been clamoring to get one.”

“Does anyone know who’s handing them out?” Wesley asked.

“No one knows for sure. After someone wins at the Colosseum, they get invited inside the old mining company building and handed a pokemon. The people handing them out all wear these helmets and suits.”

Rui’s face lit up with horrid realization. “Lon,” she asked, “Has anyone on the street heard the name ‘Miror B’ before?! O-or seen a guy with a massive red and white afro and a gold outfit walking around town?!”

Lon thought as Wesley looked at Rui with a mix of disgust, anticipation, and horror. “Actually…” Lon said, “I recall hearing talk about a guy like that coming into town…”

The place settings on the table rattled violently; Umbreon and Espeon abandoned their unfinished breakfasts again and raced to fall into step with Wesley, who was heading towards the door.

“Seven! We have to pay!!” Rui shouted, scrambling to get up from the table as well.

The young man stopped dead, huffed, turned towards the cash counter as he pulled out a wad of currency, pulled out several bills that were more than enough to cover the bill, slammed them on the counter, “Keep the change,” and continued to storm angrily out of the diner. Rui raced after him. Lon and Bayleef collected as much of the unfinished food as they could muster and soon followed suit.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

“What the hell is your problem?!” Rui shouted as she caught up to the young man with the albino hair. She attempted to grab his shoulder, to stop him, or turn him towards her, but the young man shook her off. “One day you’re considering handing me over to Miror B’s peons just so you can get out of the city yourself, and the next you’re going to murder the guy?!”

“HEY!” the young man snapped as he spun on the spot, pointing at her accusingly. Had she not stopped as fast as she did, he might have poked her eye out. “That asshole told me if I kept my nose out of his shit, that he’d have no reason to involve me. And wanting some nosy, clingy, asshole girl knocked off for purportedly ruining his gig is none of my business! But when they came into MY town and fucked with Duking in ways only Amber above knows, he just rubbed his shit in my face. And he’s gonna get that shit flung right fucking back at him!

The young man spun right back around and continued to storm down the street. Rui stood there, watching after him. She folded her arms loosely for a while, and breathed slowly, and for all the world looked like she was about to cry. Lon and Bayleef ran past her now, with doggie bags in hand (or in vine) and bagels in mouth. She watched them for a moment, running off after A7, before glancing around her to see all the people eyeing her in the street. She swallowed her tears and started moving to catch up to Lon.

Meanwhile, the young man arrived at the old mining company building, a run down warehouse and office building that sat on the edge of the giant ravine that separated the main town from the Colosseum on the far side. It had been abandoned for years prior, but there were usually vagrants living inside. However, the usual holes that A7 remembered always being there had been sealed: the old bent garage doors had been replaced, and the windows had been re-boarded with metal shutters or even bricked over. How long had these guys been operating here??

A7 directed his two pokemon to scout out and see if there was another way in. Shortly after, Lon and Bayleef arrived on the scene, finishing off their breakfasts. Rui meandered in after them, just as Umbreon and Espeon reported back that there were no ways inside.

Lon pointed, “That’s the front door they use all the time.” He pointed at a steel garage door. It stood out against the other doors in the entire city due to it not being rusted at all.

A7 pointed at Bayleef, then indicated the door. “Body Slam that thing down.”

Bayleef handed (vined?) the doggie bag it was carrying to Rui, and walked over to the door. It squared itself up with it, sizing it up, looking for weak points or pressure spots. It stamped the ground a bit and snorted, apparently trying to intimidate the metal into bending itself. Then it roared, and galloped towards it. It forced its shoulder hard into the metal, and the door made a resounding boom. It hadn’t budged.

“Do it again!” A7 commanded.

Bayleef backed up a bit and kicked the door hard with its front hooves. It roared in anger as it wheeled around and stomped hard on the door with its rear hooves. It made a dent in the door, but the dents were minor.

“Stop TRYING to knock down the door and KNOCK IT DOWN already!!”

Bayleef was pissed. It slammed into the door twice more before galloping around to get a run up on it again. It was clear from its dilated pupils and its angry snorting that it was in its rage mode once again. It sprinted hard at the door, ducking its head and slamming hard into it. The door buckled right down the middle, but continued to hold.

“Uh, Fargo, do you hear–?”

“AGAIN!!!”

Bayleef wheeled around and came at the door again. When it made contact with the door, the dark explosion was clearly visible. The door buckled more.

“Seven, it sounds like there’s people ready on—”

AGAIN!!!!

Bayleef came at the door one last time. The door came clean off its tracks and crumpled to the floor as Bayleef continued its trajectory into the building and plowed through four pokemon and two trainers who thought they were ready for the grass-type missile. It finally slammed into a far wall, causing the drywall to crumble to the ground.

A7 was the first inside, with Umbreon and Espeon on his heels. The now doorless entryway lead to a small lobby area, with a reception desk, a pokemon healing machine, a few vending machines, and handful of helmeted and suited trainers all in sight of the front door. Bayleef roared and staggered to its feet, shaking off drywall dust. A7 called out Skiploom as well, and it screamed its rage in chorus with Bayleef.

“Lon,” A7 turned, “Take Taco and your pokemon around that way. Flank the opponents when you can. Follow my lead.”

“Got it!” Lon nodded before heading off.

“Rui,” A7 rounded on her, then paused for a moment. Her eyes were red from tears. He pointed at her, “You do you.” And he turned and lead his remaining pokemon down the hall to the first of the defense coming around the corner and releasing their pokemon.

Rui threw her hands up in disgust. She meandered towards the battle, but paused as she spotted a binder on the receptionist’s counter. She glanced in the direction of the four-on-four battle taking place at the corner before stepping over to the counter and picking up the binder. It was labeled “EIN FILE”, and stamped across it diagonally “CIPHER INTERNAL DOCUMENT”.

She opened the binder. The cover page read:

Shadow Pokemon Project
Cipher Syndicate
Chief Ein

CLASSIFIED: NEED TO KNOW

Cipher… She thought, well, we have a name to call them by now.

The binder wasn’t particularly thick with papers, so Rui figured it was meant for the basic understanding of everyday peons in the syndicate. She flipped through the pages, and started reading nowhere in particular.

A Shadow Pokemon is a pokemon that has been made into a fighting machine. The process involves artificially altering a pokemon’s memories and brain patterns. This process causes the pokemon to become receptive of technique modification, loyalty manipulation, and move replacement and addition. With this process, artificial moves have been created, and moves a pokemon cannot learn through normal means can be implanted in addition to the moves it already knows.

“Alright, Peon of Miror B! FREEZE!!”

Rui jumped and spun about. She was flanked on either side by a Kangaskhan and a Slowbro, and cornered against the desk by the winsome young man whom she had seen earlier screaming in the diner. The man seemed to be standing in some sort of off-brand martial arts pose – a pose that couldn’t block a punch if he was warned by Delibird a day prior.

Rui stood motionless, scared stiff. The man was also motionless, seemingly waiting for Rui to make a move. His Kangaskhan grunted and let its guard down, and turned to investigate some of the downed trainers and pokemon around it.

“You don’t have any pokemon, do you?” The man asked tentatively.

Rui shook her head. The man’s slowbro grunted in agreement with his teammate and turned to search trainers as well.

“You aren’t one of the bad guys, then, are you?” The man asked, lowering his pose as well.

“I’m usually with Seven,” Rui replied, indicating over her shoulder. The floor was quiet, and fighting could be heard distantly upstairs. “Sounds like he continued his siege without me…”

The man cocked his head. “With who?”

“Oh, um, A-Seven?” Rui said. The guy was still confused. “Uh… Wesley? Fargo? Um…. Marik!” The man was shaking his head, even more confused. Rui threw her hands up in annoyance. “A guy, about this tall, goggles on his head, worked for Team Snagem, Umbreon, Espeon, albino hair–”

“Oh! You mean Colin Snipes!” the man said in sudden recognition.

“Sure! Why not?!” Rui slapped her own forehead, “What is with this guy and names?!”

“Oh, well, Colin’s got the lot of this joint handled then. I’ll take the elevator up and clear this building from the top down! Nice to meet you, Miss…?”

“Rui.”

“Silva,” the young man replied, shaking Rui’s hand. He then moved over towards the destroyed wall and kicked it a couple more times before disappearing through the hole. Silva’s Kangaskhan followed suit, making the hole bigger still as it attempted to shove through sideways

Rui turned around and flipped to the front of the binder. She unlocked her PDA and opened up a document scanning app. She had scanned the first page when A7 and Lon came stampeding down the stairs, with no pokemon beside them.

”–had done like I said and took the right–” ”–wasn’t my fault your Espeon jumps INTO the path of the–” ”–Skiploom shouldn’t have been standing where Espeon was targe–” ”–so suddenly it’s MY fault that Bayleef was charging in his–” ”–just stood there while that fucking Trapinch just buries him–” ”–I mean, really, who the hell has a Snorunt in the desert!!

In between all the arguing with each other, they had thrown A7’s four pokeballs and Lon’s two pokeballs in the healing machine and healed them up. They immediately headed back upstairs, still arguing.

Rui watched them go before continuing to scan the contents of the binder. Silva’s Slowbro followed suit, making the hole bigger as it shoved its massive Cloyster through first.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

“Nice of you to join us,” the young man with albino hair snarked at the girl with ginger pigtails climbing the stairs.

“You left me behind, so I decided to take my time,” she replied, equally snarky, as she approached A7 and Lon standing on the roof of the building.

“You would have just gotten in our way anyway,” A7 sneered.

Rui opened her mouth to respond when someone came out of the rooftop shed. “We just caught an intruder!” the guy shouted at the three of them as he ran past, “Get in there and provide assistance!”

“Silva!” Rui gasped.

“What?! Silva’s here?!” Lon exclaimed. A7 was already heading to the shed’s door.

Inside the shed, Silva lied sprawled on the floor, coughing and sputtering. He was trapped under a large web presumably woven by the Spinarak that was stuck on the ceiling over him. That Spinarak was managing a webline that held a Remoraid over Silva’s head. Two women stood on either side of Silva, one with red hair, one with purple.

The one with red hair kicked at Silva’s foot tauntingly. “Now I remember who you are! Aren’t you Duking’s precious bottom? What’s that big guy doing sending his fuck buddy on a pokemon rescue mission for him? Is the big lug too scared to do it himself?”

“Fuck y—!” Silva just barely managed between coughing fits.

“Sounds like you hit a nerve, Reath, sweetie,” the purple haired lady mocked.

“Shame, such a foul mouth needs to be washed out...” She pointed at the Remoraid, and it began squirting a water gun into Silva’s face again. Silva tried desperately not to drown.

The Snag Ball reached out its tendrils and ripped the Remoraid right out of the webs. The ball threw itself at the ground in front of A7 and he caught the ball under his foot and held it there as it tried to shake free.

“If you’re going to waterboard someone, learn how to do it properly!” A7 sneered before Lon’s Azurill fired a stream of water at the redhead. It hit her square in the face, and she recoiled in surprise and disgust.

The redhead, soaking wet, held her arms out and tried to shake some of the water off her. “Ferma!!” she spat, disgusted.

“Already on it, hon!” the purple-haired woman replied as she released an Aipom, a Furret, and a Yanma into the room. Umbreon, Espeon, Bayleef, and Skiploom raced inside, and Lon’s Azurill and Igglybuff brought up the rear.

Ferma’s Aipom scampered clear over to Umbreon and Bayleef. Umbreon braced as Aipom scampered past him and began running rings around him and Bayleef. Bayleef stomped at it, and tried to swat the Aipom away with its vines, but the Aipom was far too fast for it. Then, Umbreon’s eyes sparked yellow momentarily, and suddenly the situation was reversed: Aipom was unable to keep up as Umbreon ran rings around it to confuse it. Bayleef snapped a vine in, grabbed hold of the monkey by its tail, and slammed it against the wall once, and then a second time.

Meanwhile, Furret and Skiploom were dancing around each other, taking jabs at each other, but always dodging each other. Igglybuff tried to run in for a few bitchslaps on Furret, but Furret simply spun about its tail and sent it flying across the room. Skiploom shook itself and sent out spores again, but the Furret danced around them again. Furret dashed in and got a few lucky hits on Skiploom, and Skiploom, angry, started dashing in with its own dark tackles.

Elsewhere, Espeon continued to send psychic blast after psychic blast at the speedy Yanma, but the Yanma kept detecting and dodging them. The Yanma circled and made a loud blast of sound at Espeon, at which Espeon cringed hard, covering its ears. It continued to do this until it was suddenly knocked out of the air by a flying Igglybuff. Espeon seized the moment, pounced on the problem, and began smacking it about with its claws and tail.

Lon dodged through the chaos with his Azurill playing defender. He took a knee beside the still-coughing Silva. “Are you okay, Silva?!” Silva stopped coughing only long enough to manage “Helix!” before the Spinarak landed on top of Lon with a wide web and scooped him from the ground. Lon cried out as the Spinarak started spinning the web bundle in the air, restraining the boy inside. It had to pause briefly to web up an irate Azurill that was shooting water at it.

A7 was busy irritatedly micromanaging Skiploom’s dance with the Furret when Rui yelped from the doorway. A7 glanced at her and she directed his attention to Lon being slowly encased in spider webs.

“Oh, is that how we’re playing then?” he growled. He then grabbed by the scruff of the neck the Furret that was now dancing on top of his fallen Skiploom. He threw it at his feet and promptly punted it against the wall. He pulled out his switchblade and stomped his way over towards Lon and Silva.

“Who brings a knife to a pokemon fight?!” The purple-haired woman shouted in alarm. Her Yanma zoomed past her head with a pissed-off Espeon dangling off the tail of it; it crashed into the wall.

“I don’t think he’s an ordinary trainer, Ferma, darling!” the red-head cried out.

“Damn right,” A7 snarled, “If you’re gonna cheat, I’m gonna cheat more. And I’m gonna start by impaling this spider, if you don’t mind...”

The Spinarak shot a whole bunch of webs in A7’s direction. But Bayleef, unconscious Aipom dangling from its vine, sent a load of razor-sharp leaves to ensnare the webs before they could reach him. Espeon, having rid itself of the Yanma for good, scampered up and promptly put a reflective shield up in front of A7.

“I think it’s time we scrammed, Reath!”

“I couldn’t agree more, Ferma!”

The two ladies recalled their pokemon, hopped the rails of the stairs in the corner of the room, and retreated down them quickly.

A7’s pokemon promptly tumbled over in exhaustion. A7 reached over and began cutting away at the webline that suspended Lon upside down in the air.

Silva had finally got over coughing. “Thank you, Colin. I totally had them.... for a while... then things turned sour...”

A7 caught Lon as he severed the webline. He placed him down on the floor next to Silva and began working carefully at the webs around the boy’s chest.

“I’m such a fool...” Silva contemplated, “I didn’t know what was happening at all.... They... they had taken Duking’s pokemon hostage! His poor Plusle!”

“They did what?!” Rui exclaimed from the doorway. “How could Miror B do such a downright dirty thing?!”

“That cowardly cheat!” Lon added angrily as A7 freed his arms.

“We’re going to go rescue Duking’s pokemon, right Seven?” Rui asked.

“Absolutely,” A7 replied, as he handed Lon his switchblade. “I expect that back,” he added to Lon.

“I’m coming with you!!” Silva demanded, “Just.... cut me out of this, will you?”

“That’s Lon’s job,” A7 said, standing up and recalling each of his pokemon in turn, “He’ll cut you out once he’s cut himself out.”

“Wait,” Lon asked, “Why don’t you just cut me and Silva out right now?!”

“Because, I don’t want you guys following me to Miror B, and I don’t trust Silva with my knife. Somehow, the klutz would cut his own dick off while trying to free himself, and Duking would have my head for that.”

“Hey! Fuck you!” Silva interjected, but A7 was already pushing Rui out of the room and closing the door behind him.

 

Silva stared irritably at the door for a little while, then strained to try and see Lon near his feet. Lon was quietly sawing away at the webbing around his body. “So, uh...” Silva said, “How long do you think you’ll be?”

“There’s a lot of web here...” Lon replied, grimacing at the difficulty of cutting this particular bundle.

“Do ya.... Do ya think your pokemon could help you?”

Lon glanced across the room at his pokemon lying on the floor. “They’re out cold.”

“Oh....”

They sat quietly again. Lon finally cut through one of the bundles; it fell away to show three more criss-crossing under it. “Hope you don’t have to pee or anything anytime soon.”

Silva gave a long sigh, “....well now I do....”

Chapter Text

Chapter -10

The boy looked around the room. The wooden floors, the blue-painted walls with white stars, the white clock with Unown letters on the face, the bookshelf in the corner, the cubbies against the wall, the white wooden desk, the posters on the wall, the sliding glass door…

There were pokemon looking in through the sliding glass door. A Torchic, a Treeko, and a Pikachu. They looked at him with curiosity, and now he stared back. He crawled haphazardly forward, towards the door. The pokemon startled, and stepped back. He paused for a moment, a hand in the air. Then he grabbed the door and yanked it violently open.

The pokemon fled, scared. But the Pikachu stopped as it was about to leave the yard and looked back at him. The boy stared after them, his mouth slightly agape, his eyes wet.

The Pikachu turned to look after its friends as they fled. Then it turned back and approached the boy, first at a sprint, then at a crawl as it came close. The boy had dropped onto his belly, his head on his folded arms.

The Pikachu stood on its hind legs and cocked its head to the side, examining the boy, who stared back, unmoving. The boy sniffed back a booger; the Pikachu didn’t flinch. The small yellow pokemon reached a small yellow hand towards the boy’s head and touched his hair; the boy flinched. The Pikachu pushed some of the boy’s albino hair back, revealing some of his scalp beneath, also bright white.

The pokemon stepped forward and placed a paw on the boy’s cheek. It was wet; the pokemon didn’t mind. The pokemon leaned down and looked into the boy’s eyes. It cocked its head. “Pika pi?” It asked; the boy heard «Are you okay?»

The pokemon sneezed suddenly and inadvertently. The boy jumped back, and sat back on his feet. The Pikachu came forward and bowed, as if in apology.

“Oh! That’s a Pikachu!” the old man’s voice came from the TV, even though it was off, “Well, it’s very rare to see a wild Pikachu out like this. It really must…”

But the boy wasn’t listening. He was enthralled by the yellow pokemon. He reached his hand forward towards the pokemon, but didn’t quite get it all way towards the pokemon when the pokemon moved towards his hand of its own volition and began scratching itself on it. The boy scratched back.

And the boy smiled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

“He’s down in the caves! Just keep going down till you reach the underground river, and head left. You can’t miss his music.”

The young man with the albino hair violently shoved the defeated Cipher peon aside and proceeded into the cave. The girl with the ginger pigtails followed quickly behind him. The young man pulled the photograph out of his inside coat pocket and looked down at it as he walked. He could barely see the image in the retreating sunlight as he entered the cave. He sighed deeply.

“So,” Rui started, and A7 shoved the photo back into his coat pocket, “Why didn’t you leave me behind as well?”

“You know, you ask a lot of questions,” was A7’s retort.

“Well,” Rui fixed her hair nervously, “you leave behind two competent trainers, and yet you allow me to tag along, even though I have no pokemon on me.”

A7 snorted, “You overestimate their competence.”

“All I’m saying–”

“Look,” A7 halted and turned to her, “If you don’t want to come along, by all means,” he indicated the cavern’s opening. Rui didn’t budge. She awkwardly spun her hair around her finger. A7 sighed, turned, and continued walking. They were quiet for a moment. A7 decided to turn a corner in the cavern system, and the entranceway disappeared around the bend.

“I thought you hated me…” Rui mumbled finally.

A7 chuckled dryly, “You mistake apathy for hate. Though that’s not to say I’m not irritated by you.”

“Is that why you haven’t ditched me yet? Because you just don’t care?”

“You still have two days to prove to me that you weren’t lying.”

“Lying…?” Rui asked.

“Lying about being able to help me about my pokemon.”

“Oh,” she blinked, having forgotten with all the excitement. Rui raised an eyebrow, “Don’t you mean one day, not two…?”

A7 waved dismissively over his shoulder, “Today’s shot with this whole rescue attempt thing…”

Rui seemed confused for a moment, but her confusion turned into a realization.

Yelling echoed through the caverns. “Dommit, man! Control that ghost!!” “Hit it already, you fucking lotads!” “AHHH!!” “Holy trainer of Helix!!” “Someone kill that thing already!!”

Rui got close to A7 as he jogged quickly down a set of stairs. The screams and sounds of pokemon battles were getting louder. As they turned the bend, in the dim light of the old mining lanterns, a massive battle between seven different trainers came into view. A7 continued towards it at a swift pace, fingering Bayleef’s and Umbreon’s pokeballs on his belt.

Something flickered abruptly between some of the trainers’ pokemon, and suddenly they all ordered their pokemon to throw attacks at it. Most of the attacks missed, however, and ended up hitting other pokemon.

“Seven, there’s something wrong here….”

“You think I don’t notice that?!” He spat back at Rui.

“There’s some sort of dark ghost!” she squeaked, latching on once again to A7’s left arm.

A7 stopped and took considerable effort to detach himself from her, “What is it with you and my ar—OH FUCK!!

Rui screamed as well as the Misdreavus appeared in front of them with massive blood-red eyes and horrendous teeth and claws. Rui backed up hard against the wall and shrank to the floor as A7 took several steps backwards and all four of his pokemon were out and surrounding him. The place where the Misdreavus had been seconds ago suddenly filled with lots of ice shards, razor leaves, water sprays, and a bolt of electricity as all the enemy pokemon tried to strike at it.

“Hey! Isn’t that the guy Miror B said to take out?!” “Get at him now!!”

Suddenly, all those enemy pokemon turned on A7 and his pokemon. “Fuck,” A7 mumbled, before shouting at his pokemon, “Scatter! NOW!”

His pokemon ran off in four directions, and A7 dove in a fifth direction as the horde of enemy pokemon opened fire. Espeon took a moment to construct reflective shields for his allies, while Bayleef began firing a storm of razor leaves at the inordinate number of Lotads in the area. Skiploom showered cotton spores on the whole lot of them to try and slow them down, but got taken out by a well-aimed lightning bolt.

Meanwhile, there were flashes of darkness that were zipping back and forth through the crowd of enemy pokemon. Umbreon took cover behind an upturned minecart and his eyes flashed yellow for a moment. He looked on the crowd and could now make out the Misdreavus doing dark tackles back and forth across the crowd, slowly taking out the enemy pokemon. Umbreon glanced around and spotted his trainer also taking cover behind some minecarts. He barked at him. A7 glanced over, and Umbreon pawed the ground, telling him to come over. A7 dashed out of his cover position and rolled into a prone position behind Umbreon.

“What’s up, T?” he said.

«That ghost is helping us,» Umbreon growled.

“It’s attacking us too.”

«Yeah, but there’s more of them. I can see it dashing through their numbers.»

A7 looked out at the crowd of enemy pokemon. They were hitting themselves at lot in the chaos, but there was also a lot of blatant fainting without a visible cause. The crowd was thinning. “Y-You can see it?”

The Umbreon gave him a gnarly grin, «Yes, Adam. I think I can help you snag it.»

Adam grinned back. “I wonder how Rui will like that ghost…” he said, half laughing, as he grabbed a Great Ball from his coat and warmed it up in the Snag Machine.

Umbreon creeped out from behind his cover and hissed at Espeon, who was running by. «Distract that ghost! I’m gonna bite its hair off!»

Espeon shot a concerned look back at Umbreon, but spotted Adam waiting behind Umbreon. Espeon nodded and began circling the crowd, shooting confusion blasts into it, hoping to hit the ghost. Umbreon dodged around the circle of trainers, as their last few pokemon attempted to fruitlessly grapple with the ghost. Espeon halted as Umbreon stopped opposite him, on the other side of the circle of trainers. Espeon concentrated, its gem glowing yellow; Umbreon’s eyes glowed purple, and it suddenly had a second perspective on the ghost. With Espeon’s helping hand, Umbreon sprinted into the ring of trainers, where it could clearly see the Misdreavus. It pounced, and sunk its teeth into the hair of the intangible ghost. The ghost screamed; Adam threw the Snag Ball.

The Snag Ball stopped hard overhead as the Misdreavus wailed, and the tendrils of the Snag Ball broke through the contract of the pokeball and sucked the ghost in. Umbreon fell to the ground, the ghost it had clung to gone, and found itself in the middle of the circle of enemy trainers. It growled angrily at them, expecting a battle, but there was only one Lotad left between the seven trainers. It growled meekly at Umbreon. Umbreon, taken aback by its patheticness, casually back-pawed the Lotad. It keeled over and was auto-recalled to its pokeball.

“Oh, shit! He snagged my Misdreavus!” “Not that you could control it anyway!” “Anyone have any pokemon left to fight him?” “Nope…” “I’m out!” “Well, shit.”

“Hey boys!” Adam said, coming out from behind cover, holding the just-filled Great Ball in hand, “Care to dance?”

“Nope!” “I’m out!” “Bye!” “Run away!” “There goes my hopes of getting a promotion!”

The cave was soon cleared of the enemy trainers. Umbreon came forward, proud of itself. Espeon smacked Umbreon for the hubris and they began fighting again. Bayleef was bent over the barely conscious Skiploom, trying to tend to its wounds. Adam walked over and found Rui curled up and hiding behind a minecart, with Remoraid uselessly splashing there, trying to look mean at any potentially threatening attackers.

Adam snorted. “I see you got FailFish here to protect you.”

“What happened to that ghost?” Rui said as the Remorid splashed angrily in A7’s direction.

A7 held up the Great Ball.

“You… you caught it? Really??”

“Yep,” A7 smirked, and walked away. Rui stood up and watched A7 tend to his pokemon. Her expression was mixed somewhere between restrained fear, grateful relief, overcome pain, general sadness, and mild joy.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

The guard at the cave entrance was right. Once the young man with the albino hair and the girl with the ginger pigtails descended to the underground river caverns, there was no mistaking which direction Miror B was hiding in. His disco music could be heard echoing across the rushing waters.

They could see Miror B as they walked across the bridge towards the cave room he had made into his base. He was up on a pedestal, dancing of course. As they approached, his pokemon came into view as well: four Ludicolo, all dancing with him. The sombrero’d pokemon and their trainer in a gold leisure suit and massive afro all sambaed in time with Miror B’s music.

The young man called out his pokemon: his dirty Umbreon, his scarred Espeon, his bulky Bayleef, his cute Skiploom, and now his scary Misdreavus. Rui also pulled out a pokeball, the pokeball that held the young man’s Remoraid, but he stopped her before she called it out: the Ludicolo would inevitably (literally) waltz right over it.

Miror B was facing them through the doorway as he salsaed. He clearly saw them as they approached, pokemon at the ready.

“It’s about time, darlings. I am so frightfully tired of waiting for y’all. Do you know how many times I had to loop this song? And this is the most loopable song, make no doubt of it. But even I get tired of it. Who am I kidding? I never get tired of it.” And with that, Miror B spun around three times on the spot and stopped, pointing at the ceiling, hips still swaying to the music.

“We’re here to stop you, Miror B!” Rui shouted at him.

A7 put his hand up to stop her. “Rui, please.” He sighed, and then shouted. “I’m here to end you, Miror B!”

“Why so violent?! You gotta dance a little in life! Com’on, Marik, sweetie, get on up here and dance with me! We can have a dance off! I can show you some moves, I’ll even teach you how to tango with sweet young wallflower of yours! AAAAARRRRRRRRRIBAH!!!” Miror B kicked a leg high in the air and flipped his head back. For a moment, Marik thought the momentum of his afro would carry him right off the side of the pedestal; to his disappointment, it didn’t.

Marik looked around the room, at the furiously-dancing sombrero-wearing pineapple-ducks that were Miror B’s pokemon. He noted that they seemed to be slowly working their way into a formation surrounding him and his team.

Rui grabbed his shoulder and pointed; behind Miror B, a Plusle was strapped into the seat of a large metal machine. Several probes were strapped to its head. It was struggling and trying to escape, to no avail. Now that Marik saw the Plusle, he could hear its struggling, muffled cries undercutting the music.

“M-MIROR B! You cowardly cheat!!” Rui shouted furiously.

“Cowardly cheat?” Miror B repeated, taken aback. He glanced behind him at the Plusle Rui was indicating. “Oh, honey, that’s simply not true! Taking a hostage is a perfectly fine bargaining tactic, especially when the person you’re bargaining with is so frightfully uncooperative. And don’t you worry your little head about that device. It only needs a few more hours before the Shadow Pokemon process is complete!”

A massive record scratch filled the room as the record player by the door tumbled to the ground. Miror B physically tripped hard over his own two feet as the music came to an abrupt end. Miror B and the four Ludicolo adjusted their headwear.

Marik kicked the now-detached table leg again, and it sailed clean across the room into the shadows. “Finally rid of that noise...”

“Now that’s just rude, Marik, my boy,” Miror B spat.

“This charade. Ends. Now.” Marik growled through bared teeth.

“Marik, darling, what did I tell you about keeping your nose out of things?”

“YOU should have done the same!” Marik shot back, pointing at Miror B so hard the force of it alone looked like it should have knocked him off the pedestal.

“Darling, please, I’ve been here for months. I think it’s you who’ve been naughty, messing up our plans all in one fell swoop! We were oh-so-close for everything to turn out just right.”

“If your plans were that fragile, they weren’t very good to begin with. And once you messed with me, well, they might as well have been dust!

Umbreon, taking that as a cue, leapt up onto the pedestal and launched itself straight at Miror B’s massive hairdo. Miror B dodged backwards and the Umbreon went sailing right over him.

“Uh-uh! UH-UH!!” Miror B shouted, wagging a disapproving finger, “This ain’t how it’s going! Boys! Tear ‘em down! Knock ‘em out!!” Miror B indicated violently to his Ludicolo. Somewhere emanating from his body, his salsa music started playing again, but a step faster than before.

The Ludicolo all started dancing to this more frantic music as Marik’s other pokemon began hitting them with attacks. Clouds formed at the ceiling of the cave, and a harsh rain came thundering down upon the room. Rui ducked to just outside the doorway and took the opportunity to call out Remoraid into the waters that began flowing out the doorway.

Bayleef and a Ludicolo traded razor leaves, while another Ludicolo drained the energy out of Espeon. Espeon’s gem glowed dark purple as Misdreavus’ eyes glowed bright purple, and Misdreavus sent a massive ball of shadow that swept right through two of the Ludicolo. The ball of shadow also ran over Espeon accidentally, and it was down for the count. Skiploom was getting angry again, and was using dark tackles against the Ludicolo. The Ludicolo, however, seemed to be getting stronger and faster in the rain.

Umbreon appeared from behind and latched onto the tree-looking head of one of the Ludicolo. The Ludicolo in question started frantically shooting water up at its own head to get Umbreon off, but Umbreon danced around inside its rain dish and continued to claw and bite at its head. Bayleef slammed its body hard into the Ludicolo that Skiploom had weakened, and that Ludicolo was taken down. Bayleef called over to the Skiploom, and the Skiploom came to its senses. Bayleef helped Skiploom up onto its back and they charged at another Ludicolo.

Remoraid continued to lividly rush headlong into the Ludicolo Umbreon was latched onto, and Rui took this time to sneak around the battle finally. She splashed through the rising water over to where the Plusle was strapped into the machine. She started operating it, trying to find a way to reverse its process or safely turn off the machine.

Miror B backflipped off his pedestal into the water behind it, and out came another pokeball. A Sudowoodo appeared on the pedestal, standing above the rising waters that had pooled in the room. “How do you like my new dancing partner, Marik, darling?” Miror B taunted, and directed the dancing tree to perform attacks.

The ground shook, and out of the storm clouds overhead, rocks fell from the ceiling of the cave. They crashed down around Marik and his pokemon. Misdreavus dark-rushed hard two or three times at the Sudowoodo, but it got smashed through by a falling boulder and went down. Remoraid cried out and a massive wave formed from the shin-deep water in the room and washed hard over the Sudowoodo. It cried out in pain and turned its attention to the Remoraid.

The Sudowoodo jumped off the pedestal and did a flying kick at the fish; the Remoraid was knocked out instantly. The Sudowoodo rebounded off the wall of the cave, and jumped back towards the pedestal in the center of the room, but Bayleef grabbed it around the foot with its vines and slammed it hard into the water. Skiploom, on Bayleef’s back, took the chance to drain some energy from it. But the Sudowoodo reversed the attack with a low flying kick at Skiploom. Skiploom was knocked into the air, unconcious. Bayleef cried out as it grabbed Sudowoodo again and slammed it again into the ground.

“Lucha!” Marik cried, trying to steady himself in the knee-deep water rushing steadily out the door, “There’s still two Ludicolo’s left! Focus on THEM!!” Bayleef, in its rage, flung the Sudowoodo past Marik’s head and out the door. It fell into the distant underground river. “LUCHA!! WATCH IT!!” Marik spat back at Bayleef, who uttered an apology.

“My new dance partner!!” Miror B cried out. He jumped up onto the pedestal and began desperately trying to recall the pokemon; it was too far out of range. Another one of his Ludicolo went down and auto-recalled into its ball. And as he looked to his last Ludicolo, he saw it get ganged up upon by an enraged Bayleef, a furious Umbreon, and an irate trainer. “I can’t keep up with the tempo! Oh no, oh no! What a no-no!”

The final Ludicolo fell and auto-recalled. Miror B jumped back off the pedestal into the water as Marik, Umbreon, and Bayleef rushed up onto it to knock him off.

“How dare you! How dare you!!” Miror B shouted as he waded around towards the door, his afro getting perforated by razor-sharp leaves. “Don’t you dare think you’ll get away with this outrage! I–Gah!” He slipped into the water, and it started dragging him out the door. “I can see where I’m not wanted anymore!” he shouted back, “But mark my words, Marik! One of these days, I will take great pleasure in kicking you in with my elegant dance steps!!” And with that, he was swept over the edge of the bridge into the underground river. The music he emanated faded with him.

The storm clouds in the ceiling of the cave dissipated, and the water level finally began lowering as it all rushed out the door.

A7 continued to stare out after Miror B angrily. “Fucker got away...” he growled.

Umbreon tugged at his pants. «Where’s the girl?»

A7 turned, glancing around the flooded room. “Rui?!” he shouted.

“Back here!” her voice echoed.

Bayleef indicated; there was an open door in the back of the room. A7 waded over through the draining water. Rui had dragged the machine Plusle was attached to into the higher elevation of the back room. She was still poking at the controls.

“What are you doing?!” A7 spat as he walked in, “Just unplug it from that thing!”

“I don’t want to leave the pokemon brain dead, if you don’t mind!!” Rui spat back, flipping through a manual she had apparently found dangling from the device.

A7 stopped short at her words. He looked down at the Plusle, strapped into the machine. The Plusle was frozen in terror, shaking violently. The Plusle looked up at the young man, fear and tears permeating its eyes.....

The Pikachu looked up at the trainer, fear and tears permeating its eyes...

The boy with the albino hair looked down from above, screaming out at the Pikachu, reaching out for him. But the boy was unable to make a sound...

The pokeball was thrown... the Pikachu vanished in an instant....

The trainer looked right up at the crying boy... he smiled evilly....

“Got it!!”

Ç was startled back to his senses. The young man ran a hand through his albino hair as he took in his surroundings again. Silva was kneeling down, pulling the Plusle out of the machine. It seemed exceptionally happy to be out of that thing. Rui was squealing over it, hugging the manual to her chest presumably as a substitute for hugging Plusle.

“Duking will be so relieved,” Silva said, “Let’s get back to him!”

Rui, Silva, and Bayleef raced out the door as the young man got slowly to his feet. His Umbreon, resting beside him, got up too.

“How long?” the young man asked his pokemon, steadying himself. His voice quavered. His Umbreon seemed to have been expecting this.

«Fifteen minutes, give or take.» Umbreon replied.

“No one noticed?”

«Attention was on Plusle.»

The young man nodded, sniffed, and wiped tears from his eyes. He sobbed once, and breathed deeply, trying to contain it.

Rui’s voice echoed from outside. “Seven! Are you coming?!”

A7 breathed in deeply, cleared his throat, and called back in his normal snarky tone, “You forgot to wake me up!” He sniffed, and cleared his throat again.

“Oh, it wasn’t that long!” Rui’s voice echoed back with contempt.

A7 wiped his eyes once more and said quietly to his Umbreon, “Don’t tell Nacho.”

Umbreon grinned in a way that said, «I won’t have to say anything.» A7 sneered back at him and ran out the door.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

The single-wheeled hovering-motorcycle bellowed angrily as it wove its way between the dunes of the desert, heading northward and away from the morning sun. The young man with albino hair driving it glanced to his left. The girl with the ginger pigtails sitting in the sidecar was holding on for dear life with one hand, and covering her ear from the noise of the engine with the other. She otherwise seemed to be off in her own thoughts.

The young man steered the motorcycle over another sand dune, and the sand beneath the tire started to become dirt. He slowed the bike down. The patches of grass started overtaking the patches of sand. The bike approached the first tree seen for miles. He slowed the bike down and came to a stop next to the tree. The smoky mountains rose above the horizon ahead; the heat of the warming desert shimmered in the air behind.

Rui blinked as the motorcycle went suddenly quiet and she came to her senses. “Wha... wh-why are we stopping?”

The young man paused adjusting his gloves to look at her. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt your erotic daydreaming?”

Rui became instantly surly, “Seven!”

A7 dismounted the motorcycle, “I mean if the engine makes good background music for your Duking and Silva fantasy, I can turn it back on. It’ll need gas first, though.”

She folded her arms indignantly as he reached into her sidecar and grabbed the gasoline canister from under her seat. “Why are you still on about this?” She sneered.

“Because your sudden voyeurism back there gives me just... so much joy.” He smiled widely as he unscrewed the gas cap on his motorcycle.

“It’s not my fault they just....” Rui struggled for words, her face becoming red, “...went.... at it.... on the desk.... right there.... windows... open...”

“Oh, no,” A7 agreed, “of course not! And I am so looking forward to bringing that up when I see Silva next... But!” A7 turned to face her, finger in the air, “You cannot deny that you were still thinking about them last night. Because I heard you thinking about them. Through the hotel wall.”

A7 gave her a cheshire grin. Rui’s mouth was open in horror. A7 turned back around and finished pouring the gasoline into the tank. He turned to put the canister down, but was met with Rui suddenly invading his personal space.

“Woah! Hey!!”

“You did not!” She breathed violently into his face. He grabbed her by the arms and held her back at arm’s length.

“I totally did, and chill the fuck out!” A7 shoved her away and stepped back, eyeing her. “You act like this is the end of the world or some shit! Amber knows we all do that sort of shit sometimes! It’s not my fault you haven’t been laid recently, so don’t take it out on me!”

Rui, standing ramrod straight, looked angrily at the dirt to her left. A7 moved to put the motorcycle between him and Rui and continued to prep the bike. Rui turned away from him and crossed her arms. “Sorry,” she said over her shoulder.

“What the fuck is up with you?” A7 replied, still keeping on the opposite side of the bike from her, “I saw those murder eyes again just now. The same ones I saw back in Phenac. You have some sort of grudge you’re settling or something?”

“I said I’m sorry,” Rui demanded meekly, still keeping her back to A7.

“That’s fine, but I’m not talking about this. I’m talking about then. What grudge do you have to settle?”

Rui examined the ground intently for a moment longer, her brow furrowed. She then turned to face him. “Isn’t it obvious?” she sighed, her face scarred with old anger, “They took my pokemon. When they kidnapped me, they kidnapped my pokemon too.”

A7 blinked, “You had pokemon before?”

Rui glared at him. “Is there anyone else in this region who doesn’t have pokemon on them at all times?”

A7 took in a breath, then nodded. “Fair point. What pokemon did you have?”

“What does it matter? They’re long gone,” Rui croaked, spreading her arms wide, “They could be anywhere. They’ve probably changed hands three times by now.”

A7 got up on the bike sullenly. “If it makes you feel any better, I can Snag them back for you if we come across them.”

Rui rubbed her elbow. “That would be nice...”

A7 nodded towards the sidecar. “Get in. You’re going to have to direct me to Agate. Where you’re standing right now is about as far as I’ve ever been outside the desert.”

“O-okay...” Rui said, climbing back into the sidecar.

“That means you’ll have to use your hands, though,” A7 said nonchalantly, turning to face forward, “They seemed to be pretty occupied otherwise.” He turned to see she had assumed the travel position again, one hand holding on, the other hand on the ear.

Rui glared at him for a moment. Then she smirked. “Well, maybe if your motorcycle wasn’t so Root-screamingly loud...”

“The mufflers were hampering its power output,” he smiled as the engine exploded to life once again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

The young man with the albino hair had never seen so much water before in his life.

The first thing anyone sees as they cross the wide Agate River via footbridge is the giant waterfall some distance upstream. The water that fell from that ledge, some hundred feet up, flowed down the river, under the footbridge, and right past the base of Agate Village. The young man with the albino hair stared in awe at the rushing waters beneath him as the girl with the ginger pigtails lead the way across the footbridge.

The village itself was built upon a lush green section of the mountainside that had been terraced to accommodate walking paths and housing construction. A very large, very old hollow tree sat near the center of the village. Its roots spread outward from it, poking out of the ground where the terracing had cut away at the mountainside, and diving right back down in after dodging footpaths in their way. A stream came down from the mountainside, split into many smaller streams, and they worked their way through the village, creating many tiny waterfalls and necessitating many small bridges and dykes to keep the water from impeding foot traffic.

Houses in the village were constructed out of solid concrete. They were built into the terraced hillsides, under roots or whole trees, straddling streams of water, and, in one case, sitting resolutely under a waterfall. The bridges over the streams and across the gaps in the terracing were exclusively wooden and many of them were simply flat planks.

Most of the people in the village were old, retired trainers and their still-living pokemon. The young man with the albino hair noted this as he and Rui moved through the paths of the village. The old men and women greeted them as they moved by, and some of them seemed to recognize Rui. One woman even started into a “when last I saw you, you were knee high to a Kricketune” routine while Rui sidled away as fast as she could, pulling A7 away by the hand.

Finally, they stopped in front of the massive hollow tree near the center of the village. There was a house sitting resolutely under the tree. Or perhaps the tree was sitting on top of the house; it was hard to tell which had come first. She sighed and straightened herself. Then she turned and straightened A7, fixing his hair and straightening his collar. A7 batted her off.

“Stop!” he snapped, re-messing his hair, “I’m not your boyfriend; you can’t just fix me up like I am.”

Rui sighed matter-of-factly. “First impressions count for a lot.” She spun and approached the door. She knocked.

Rui stepped back. She adjusted herself. A7 scratched his nose. He spotted his fingernails and began biting at them. Rui swatted at him, and gave him a “What the hell?” look. He waved her off, and continued to bite at his fingernails. She sighed, pulled out her PDA and checked the time. She knocked again.

“Got any literature on the Book of Claw?” A7 said nonchalantly, not looking up from his nails, “I’m sure that’ll bring them to the door.”

“We are not proselytizing: these are my grandparents.” Rui glared at him sidelong, “They should be home!”

“Oh, honey,” said an old man who happened to be walking by, “Eagun isn’t home right now. He went off to the Relic Grove.”

“Still?! It’s way past time for their morning walk!” Rui exhaled disapprovingly.

“No, no, honey, there was a commotion out that way a little while ago and he went to investigate. I’ve never seen the man run so fast, honestly.”

“Oh, shit,” Rui muttered, turning to A7, “Com’on, we have to go catch up to him. I have a bad feeling about what that commotion was…”

Chapter Text

Chapter -6

The Pikachu stared intently at the screen, deeply invested in the pokemon anime playing on the TV, and the dilemma of the Pichu brothers. The boy laid on his stomach just behind and to the side of Pikachu, also watching the show.

Just as a big thing was about to be revealed in the anime, the boy shifted slightly, and accidentally leant on the remote. Suddenly, the channel switched over to a Meowth with a microphone, interviewing a Slowpoke. Pikachu jumped back in shock by the sudden change, and tumbled head over heels backwards.

“Sorry, Pikachu!” The boy said, laughing, “I–”

But the Pikachu was up on all fours. It cried out, electricity arcing from its cheeks, and it shot a thunderbolt at the TV. The TV, now showing a sleepy psyduck, suddenly showered sparks everywhere and exploded into smoke as the bolt of lightning hit it.

Pikachu, its aggression let out, calmed down and looked around. The boy was nowhere to be seen. It called out for the boy, confused.

“Ç?!” the disembodied voice of the old man cried out. Pikachu jumped and went on all fours again in fear. “Ç?! Are you ok?! You didn’t get hurt, did you?!”

A faint crying could be heard. The Pikachu let down its guard slowly. It looked around the room, its ears perked up, trying to locate the crying.

It waddled cautiously over to the bed and peaked underneath. The albino white hair of the boy could just barely be seen from behind a box under the bed. A faint scared sobbing came from there as well.

Pikachu’s ears drooped. “Pika pi?”

The boy flinched, “No... don’t come closer....”

The Pikachu sat down under the edge of the bed. “Chuuuu..... pika chu.....” The boy stayed under the bed, softly crying, for a long while. And Pikachu sat just under the edge of the bed, watching him. They didn’t move when the men in white coats came and replaced his TV. They didn’t move to watch or change the channel on the new TV. The men had turned the new TV to the news channel that had been on when the old TV was destroyed.

The boy laid there, no longer crying, listening to the Psyduck news reporter drone on about stupid things and weather reports. And Pikachu sat there, patiently waiting, even as the Meowth field reporter interviewed inane pokemon doing nothing interesting.

Eventually, the boy would crawl out from under the bed. Eventually, he would hug Pikachu and the two would make up. And eventually, the TV station would be changed to something meaningful. But not for a long while. For now, the boy just stayed there, calmed down, and thought...

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

The young man sat there, his eyes closed, listening to the news reporter drivel on about meaningless faff. She sat behind her desk, simpering, as pointless images showed on screen. She delegated to others who stood in pointless locations, interviewing asinine individuals, promoting fear mongering stories. The young man breathed deeply, and opened his eyes. He was in a living room.

From somewhere else in the house, a Pikachu cried out in pain, and people could be heard tending to it. And the young man shut his eyes hard again.

Eagun had a Pikachu. Rui’s grandfather owned a Pikachu. The man who had run into the Relic Forest trained a Pikachu. There was a Pikachu, and it belonged to Eagun.

It was an old Pikachu, far older than the boy’s pikachu. But the sight of this Pikachu battling against a young, wild, nasty, brutish foe sundered several heartstrings in the young man’s chest. The sight of the Pikachu falling, the Pikachu fainting, the Pikachu down for count, had thrown the young man into a rage. The young man remembered calling forth all of his pokemon, but didn’t remember the battle. He remembered the color of the opponent’s suit and helmet, but didn’t remember the opponent’s pokemon. He remembered Rui physically pulling him off of the opponent’s bloody face, but didn’t remember what the opponent looked like.

The young man turned up the volume on the TV, to drown out the cries of the Pikachu coming from elsewhere in the house. He felt a paw bat at the remote in his hand, and only then did he realize that Espeon was sitting in his lap. The young man rubbed his eyes, and then he saw an Umbreon lying at his feet. He looked up and saw a Bayleef and a Skiploom spooning in the corner of the room. He saw a Quagsire looking at itself in a hand-held mirror, adjusting a fake-looking hairpiece on its head. And he saw a Misdreavus hovering in front of the TV, attempting to mimic and scare the talking heads.

“What happened?” he said.

The Umbreon and Espeon both jumped, startled. «Adam!» «By helix, he’s sane!» «How many tail ends am I holding up?» «What the hell was that back there?!» «Do you remember your name?» “I’ve never seen you so emotional before!» «Er... I mean you’re most recent name?» «That was some impressive commanding!» «Or rather the name you—»

“Guys, guys, guys... please...” the young man rubbed his temples. He had a splitting headache. “Okay, where are we right now?”

«Rui’s relative’s house,» Espeon gestured.

«And you’re not allowed anywhere near Rui’s relative’s Pikachu,» Umbreon growled, up on all fours, looking like he was ready to pounce on the young man.

“Why? Oh dome, what did I do to it?”

«You did nothing to it,» Espeon glared despicably at Umbreon, «You were actually quite valliant, rushing in to save it and Rui’s relative from harm.»

«Yeah, AFTER its mere presence seemed to trigger some kind of traumatic episode. All Pikachu are evil...»

The young man rubbed his face. His head felt like a tonne of broken bricks.

“Seven?” Rui had appeared at the entrance to the living room.

A7 looked up, and immediately regretted it. He closed his eyes and held his head again.

Rui moved over and sat down on the couch next to him. “Seven,” she said quietly, “I don’t know what happened back there, but my grandparents think you’re a hero. My grandfather’s Pikachu is safe and sound thanks to you.”

A7 waved it off, saying nothing. He went back to massaging his temples.

“But I know that wasn’t you back there. At least, it wasn’t the man codenamed A7 that I know.”

“Rui, please,” A7 whispered, “I don’t remember what I did back there.”

Rui blinked incredulously, “You fought off the Cipher peon that was trying to destroy the Relic Stone. In fact, you fought him off expertly, commanding your pokemon expertly. You even quickly used a whole bunch of revives to get your team back in the fight fast when they went down to his evil pokemon.”

A7 quickly checked his coat pockets, and found his emergency stash of revive salves missing. “Dammit, I was saving those...”

“Presumably for a battle like this one?” Rui smirked, “You even Snagged a particularly bothersome Quagsire from him.”

“I what?” A7 snapped, “Is that what that thing is?” He pointed at the Quagsire with the toupée. His headache got the better of him again. “I need to lie down for a while.”

Rui got up from the couch, “You can lie down here, next to the TV where you like it.”

A7 looked gingerly up at Rui. He seemed to hesitate for a while. His mouth barely managed a “thank you”; the sound did not escape his lips. Rui smiled a little.

As A7 moved over on the couch, Rui’s grandparents walked into the living room. Eagun carried his Pikachu in his hands. Umbreon went immediately hostile, and began hissing loudly at Eagun. «No!! Don’t you bring that evil monster in here!!»

Rui bent angrily down and backhanded Umbreon across the face. “No! Don’t you dare, you dome spawn you!” Umbreon was shocked, and cowered from her as she raised her hand to him again. Umbreon looked to A7 for help, but he wasn’t looking this way. Umbreon ran away to behind Espeon. Espeon also seemed ready to pounce on the Pikachu, and now also on Rui. The three of them glared at each other.

Meanwhile, Eagun brought his old Pikachu over to A7. “My old friend would like to thank you for saving him.” Eagun set him down on the coffee table opposite the young man.

The young man was fixated on the pokemon. This pokemon was much older, many many years older. It was noble in its old age, not brash like the Pikachu he had known. Its tail was different. Its ears had a different angle on them. Its voice, when it spoke, was a different tenor. This was not his Pikachu by a long shot.

Yet, the young man reached forward and picked up the Pikachu. He brought it close to him, and they hugged. A tear, two tears, slid down the young man’s face. The Pikachu was concerned, and with an arthritic hand wiped a tear away.

Eagun was sitting next to the young man. “You used to own a Pikachu yourself, didn’t you?” He said.

The young man said nothing.

“Rui told us that you were hoping to help a pokemon in need. I can tell now that it was a Pikachu.”

“I lost it a long time ago...” the young man said quietly, absentmindedly petting the ear of the Pikachu on his lap.

Eagun put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “We’ll do everything in our power to help you. You should rest now, though.” The old man helped his Pikachu off the young man’s lap. The young man closed his eyes to try and keep his tears in. He laid down sideways on the couch.

Rui’s grandmother moved to turn off the TV, but Rui stopped her. “He sleeps better with a little noise on in the background.” The two women left the room.

The young man was alone on the couch. The subject of their defensive stand-off gone, the Umbreon and Espeon slinked quietly over and laid down on the floor under where he laid. They whispered to each other, too fast for the young man to understand. Not that he cared; sounds were starting to drift into meaninglessness...

The breaking news jingle played. “Breaking right now, there’s reports that the Mt. Battle facility has been raided...”

Chapter Text

Chapter -12

The boy spoke, “I don’t know.” His voice was raspy and wavered.

The old man stared back from the TV screen, unmoving.

The boy spoke again, “I don’t know my name.”

The old man said simply and firmly, “We must have a name to put on the contract.”

“But I don’t know my name!” the boy shouted.

The old man simply repeated what he had said before, in the same tone as before. “We must have a name to put on the contract.”

This argument went back and forth for a while. The old man’s tone never wavered, never faltered, never rose to a yell or dropped to despair. The old man was a rock in a rushing sea of unsettling emotions. He was there for him.

The boy gave up and began to think again. Then, all at once, it hit him. Ç. My name... is ç...

“My name is ç, sir.”

This, of all things, seemed to strike the old man. There was a flash of... something across his face. Realization? Terror? Concern? Regret? Sadness?

It was gone as soon as it had come.

“Let me confirm this,” the man said, “Your name is ‘ç’, correct?”

“No. Yes.” The boy sniffed. “Yes. Yes it is.”

The old man breathed in. “Very good, ç.” he said slowly and deliberately “The first program is the brand-new anime ‘Pichu Bros.’. I’d like you to watch the TV anime all the way through. Let’s meet again after the show.”

The boy nodded. He once again curled up, his knees to his chest, hugging his knees. He felt.... a little excited....

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Ç woke up and blinked. The TV was on. It was not showing an anime. A news reporter, that was not a pokemon, was standing in the glow of the street lights just outside of Mt. Battle. The man was interviewing a worker there on how a giant man who called himself Dakim came into the facility and demanded that they hand over something a man named Vander had. The reporter continued to ask the worker questions on the situation of the place right now and if the authorities were doing anything.

“What authorities,” the young man blurted, still lying sideways on the couch, “Orre doesn’t have anything that could be considered ‘authorities’. There’s a police force of two in Pyrite, and a load of trainers that go around doing whatever the fuck they like!”

“I know,” someone else in the room said, “It’s sad, the state of this region...” The young man looked up and saw Eagun sitting in the arm chair next to the TV. “When I was your age,” Eagun continued, “Orre was a hotbed of economic activity. The mines brought in lots of wealth from their export. Gateon Port was full of commerce. Phenac City was the next new hope for the region!

“Now... The mines collapsed. Gateon is almost barren. Phenac is a shadow of its former glory. And Pokemon trafficking...” Eagun turned to look at the young man dead in the eyes. “It’s the likes of you, young man, who ruined this region.”

“M-me?!” the young man sat up, “What did I ever do to you?!”

“That newfangled contraption on your arm that allowed you steal away that pokemon this morning,” he growled, “You and yours are feeding the Pokemon trafficking. Stealing pokemon away from their rightful trainers. Selling them into slavery. Messing with their minds!”

The young man averted his eyes, “It makes a good profit.”

“And that’s just it!! The money!! Look at these loonies!” Eagun indicated the TV, “These shady people raiding a place with altered pokemon! They’re pretty blatant about wanting the Time Flute! Presumably to shatter it to pieces, the scoundrels!”

The young man examined Eagun, confused, curious. “The Time Flute?”

The old man stared at him for a moment. “You’ve never heard of the Time Flute and the Relic Stone?” he queried dramatically.

The young man rolled his eyes, “I’ve never been outside the deserts of Orre, let alone cared about your stupid rock formation in the middle of a forest.”

Eagun threw a hand up in disgust. He then began waxing philosophical, “The Relic Stone is said to purify the heart! They say its energies can wipe away years of torment and abuse, and leave one free of heart and mind once again! Make them whole once again! And the flute! The Time Flute is an ancient relic that they say can call upon the Celebi! Playing the flute ne—!”

“What a crock of shit...” the young man muttered. Eagun glared at him. “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in fairy tales,” the young man added sorely, looking at him.

“Young man, do you believe in the gods?”

The young man snorted. “No. They’ve never done shit for me. Oh mighty Helix,” he began mockingly, “with the power over chaos, in constant fights with Dome and his order, and they’re constant battles and bickering with Amber on high. Meanwhile Root blathers on and on. Claw meditates away not giving a shit. Skull and Armor constantly battling. Blah de blah de blah.”

“Well, at least you know the pantheon,” Eagun mused. “I can only hope Amber brings balance to my life in my old age... My granddaughter is a devout follower of Helix. She believes she can convince him to keep the chaos out of her life simply by praying hard enough.”

“That would explain a few things,” the young man said, recalling the odd scene at the mayor’s house.

Eagun was watching the news report again, “It would be horrible for those evil men to get their hands on the Time Flute. Such a precious relic falling into the wrong hands could only bring evil to the world...”

“Tell me this, old man,” the young man quizzed, “If the Time Flute has such powers, why are all of its powers only rumors? You know, all that ‘they say’ and ‘it’s said’ bullshit. Why has no one just used it already to find out?”

“People have,” Eagun replied pointedly, “A Time Flute shatters when it’s used. The one Vander is keeping at Mt. Battle is the last one we know of. It’s also why we guard the Relic Stone so heavily, and only allow trusted individuals to go near it. Who knows what mischief someone untrusted can get up to...”

The young man was about to make a snark about the earlier raid when the front door to the house opened and Rui walked in from the darkness outside, flanked on all sides by every one of A7’s pokemon. It was only then that A7 realized the balls on his belt were all empty.

A7 stood up and confronted Rui as she closed the door. “What the fuck were you doing with all of my pokemon?!”

“Oh!” Rui said, taken aback, “Grandpa was supposed to tell you if you woke up. I took your pokemon to the Relic Stone.”

“What the hell for?!” A7 spat, “And without my permission?!”

“Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you. The pokemon you snagged, that I told you I could see radiating darkness and all that? I cleansed their aura at the Relic Stone. Their dark abilities and their indescribable rage should be no more.”

“You WHAT?!” A7 bellowed, “You’re telling me you got rid of some of their most useful tactics!?!

Rui became livid, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize the fighting ability of your pokemon trumped their fucking mental health!!” She shoved past him and stomped up the stairs.

“And what the fuck were you two doing with her?!” A7 screamed, turning on his Umbreon and Espeon.

«I followed her to make sure she wasn’t stealing your pokemon,» Umbreon hissed angrily in return.

«I went with him to help, because Taco’s afraid of Rui now,» Espeon purred sarcastically.

«You shut up!» Umbreon spat back at Espeon, baring its teeth.

“Enough!” A7 snapped, “What the fuck did she do to them?!”

«Adam,» Bayleef chirped, drawing its trainer’s attention to itself, «It wasn’t no terrible thing. A lot of praying. A lot of poured spring water.»

«And a lot of chanting and odd words,» Espeon added.

«A lot of whistling like a bird and communing with nature.» Umbreon muttered, «You would have been bored out of your mind, frankly... Helix knows I was...»

«Hi!» His Skiploom appeared atop Bayleef’s head. «Fun! Was fun!» The Skiploom was clearly trying to say something more complex, but Adam wasn’t used to its communication patterns yet. His Misdreavus and his freshly caught Quagsire were also attempting to speak with him, but he got absolutely nothing from their growls and movements either.

“Alright, alright,” he said, stopping the chorus of cries from his pokemon, “I get it. It was good for you. I presume you’re much happier for it... I was honestly hoping you guys could have taught T and Nach some of those dark tackle moves, but... what’s past is apparently past... I’m not mad at you guys.”

His pokemon cheered and came into a big group hug, which he begrudgingly accepted (for lack of a method of escape).

“Doesn’t make me any less pissed off at Rui, though...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

The news simply would not shut up about the Mt. Battle incident. The ongoing situation had peacekeepers from various locations in Orre trying and failing to get in and dispel the situation. The situation wasn’t life threatening. It was basically a matter of Dakim interrupting operations and bullying people, refusing to leave without what he wanted. And no one at the news station seemed to know what it is he wanted. Or if they did, they didn’t say.

The young man with albino hair sat on the couch, his eyes closed, absentmindedly biting at his fingernails, not really listening at this point to the reporter’s constant filibustering and dancing around the issue. The young man’s pokemon were around the room in front of him, lying down, sleeping or resting peacefully.

Eagun appeared at the doorway to the living room. “Still watching the news, Seven?” he asked quietly, causing both Seven and his Umbreon to jump to attention, “It’s very late.”

“Uh, yeah, um,” Seven replied, rubbing his face. His Umbreon settled back down and closed its eyes again. “I’m not really tired. I sort of slept most of the day anyway.”

“It’s alright,” Eagun replied kindly, “I understand. If you do get tired, the guest bedroom is yours to use. It’s upstairs, just to the right. We put fresh sheets on the bed for you.”

Seven smiled warily. “Thank you. You really didn’t have to.”

“We couldn’t have you sleeping on the couch all the time, now could we? What kind of hosts would we be, then?” Eagun smiled. “Good night.” He turned to head upstairs.

“Eagun,” Seven started. Eagun paused and turned back to look at him warmly. “Um... the Time Flute...”

“Yes...?” Eagun smirked, intrigued. He leaned against the doorframe.

“I-If it’s actually real,” Seven added quickly, shooting a look at Eagun’s smug expression.

“M-hm?” Eagun affirmed, still smiling slyly.

Seven’s glare turned into a contemplative stare at the carpet. “You... You said that it would call....”

“Celebi”, Eagun finished for him, “the time travelling pokemon of legend. The legends say,” he began with an embellishing wave of the hand, “that if a traveller plays a soothing melody on the Time Flute, while sitting at the base of the Relic Stone, the melody will echo through the ages. A Celebi will hear it, and come to the source of the melody, to listen to it being played.”

“Does it have to be a ‘soothing’ melody?” Seven scowled at him, “It can’t be, I dunno, some punk rock ballad or something?”

Eagun rubbed his eye, smirking, “The idea is that the song played on the instrument will bring a Celebi to you, presumably because the melody is attractive to them. I presume if you wanted to alarm them into seeing if you’re having a seizure, you could play something spastic.”

“I just didn’t know if Celebi would show up and say ‘sorry, not soothing enough, try again when you find another flute.’”

“Seven,” Eagun sighed, “please keep in mind that these are legends. They’re often more flowery than factual. One legend says the person playing the flute has to be pure of heart to call Celebi, but we both know that no one is ‘pure’ of heart. We all have our sins.”

Seven gave a single chuckle, “Yeah, and if that were true, you wouldn’t be so afraid of that asshole getting his hands on the thing.” He indicated the TV.

Eagun glanced momentarily at the news, showing a helicopter shot of Mt. Battle. “That as well...” he conceded.

Seven was quiet for a moment, and suddenly asked, “Does that mean it even has to be a melody? Could you, maybe, play random notes and get it to show up?”

Eagun just barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. “Good night, Seven.” He turned to leave.

“Wait, wait, no, wait, one more question, serious question.”

Eagun turned to face him again, his face lined with mild contempt.

“What, um...” Seven seemed a little timid, rubbing the back of his neck, “what does Celebi do then...? O-once you’ve called it to you by playing a song?”

Eagun breathed in, musing again. “Legend says that the Celebi will grant you...” he held up a finger, “one wish.”

Seven waited for him to continue, but he didn’t. “Just... ‘one wish’?”

Eagun nodded.

“What kind of wish?”

“The legends are vague.”

“Sure...” Seven growled, “Get all specific with the whole ‘peaceful melody’ bullshit, and then get vague on the important bit.”

“Important bit?” Eagun cocked his head, laughing a little, “You say that like you have a Time Flute in your possession already.”

“Uh... no... I mean–”

“And there’s only one flute anyone knows about right now. And it’s is in that building,” Eagun pointed the TV, “that building that is right now under siege by someone evil.” He sighed, “It’d be such a shame if he got ahold of it, and prevented any much more worthy people from using it...” Eagun paused for a moment, staring at the TV, letting the news anchor fill the silence he left. He then turned away once again and ascended the stairs.

Seven stared at the TV, and the helicopter shot of the Mt. Battle facility. He stared for a long while, silently contemplating, replaying the conversation he just had in his head. His hand moved absently to his inner coat pocket, and he felt an old photograph between his fingers.

“I wonder....” he mumbled slowly to himself, “I wonder if Celebi... could find someone....”

Chapter Text

Chapter -2

The night is cold and deep. The last sliver of the crescent moon hangs overhead. A small dog-like figure slips out of a dark house through an upper window. It jumps down into the yard and bounds to the back gate. It leaps up onto the fence and looks around, up the road, down the road, across the windows of the house it just came from. Its eyes glow a piercing yellow briefly.

A second figure, humanoid, emerges from an upper window now. It climbs out the window, drops a pack to the ground, leaps towards the yard, and rolls on impact. The figure heads out to the back gate, picking up the pack as it goes, and is soon followed by another dog-like silhouette. The humanoid fumbles with the gate.

The second animal makes a sound. A gem lights up red on its forehead, illuminating the immediate area for a moment. The humanoid, a boy of no more than 14, quickly and roughly reaches down and covers the gem on the Espeon’s forehead, blotting out its light.

“Don’t you dare!” The boy breathes angrily at the Espeon. “You’re not stopping me anymore. You’re getting left behind if you don’t behave yourself!”

The Umbreon leaps down from up on the gate and claws at the Espeon’s head. The Espeon, put off and hurt, dims its gem.

“Do I make myself clear?!” the boy whispers, punctuating the attack by his Umbreon.

The gate opens, and the boy and his Umbreon bolt quietly down the back street. The Espeon pauses for a moment, watching after them, before following them down the street. The boy reaches the woods at the end of the street and stops, catching his breath. The Umbreon glares at the Espeon making its way towards them.

“Taco,” the boy says quietly, “Keep him in line.”

The Umbreon nods.

“We’re finding Team Snagem, whether Sam wants us to or not.” The boy clutches at his coat pocket, feeling for the photograph he knew was there, before darting into the woods. The Umbreon and the Espeon were on his heels.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

Rui came down the stairs in her pajamas, yawning, stretching. It had been the first good night’s sleep she had had in almost a week now. She floofed her red hair as she walked around to the kitchen, where she found her grandfather at the table and her grandmother at the stove.

“Good morning,” she greeted.

“Good morning, Rui,” Eagun returned kindly from behind his newspaper.

“Oh, Rui,” her grandmother giggled, “I thought you were your sister again! You just look so much like her with your hair like that!”

Rui smiled back and then asked, “Have you seen Seven this morning?”

“Not yet, honey,” her grandmother replied, handing her a plate of eggs.

“He’s probably still sleeping,” Eagun said, turning the page of his newspaper, “That boy was up late watching this constant news coverage of Mt. Battle.”

“Mount Battle?” she asked as she began eating, “What’s going on there?”

“You haven’t heard?” Eagun was mildly surprised, “With a boyfriend so intent on–”

“He’s not my boyfriend, grandpa,” she snapped, “He helped me out of a major pinch a few days ago, and in return I said I would help him. That’s all.”

“Fine, fine,” Eagun yielded, waving it off. He held up the front page of his newspaper for her to see, “Mt. Battle has been in a bit of a hostage situation since yesterday afternoon.”

“A hostage situation?!” Rui gawked, dropping her fork and taking the newspaper to read it.

“A man named Dakim and his team of cronies have apparently pushed through Mt. Battle and taken Vander hostage. Given their attempt at the Relic Stone yesterday, I’m pretty certain they’re after the Time Flute.”

Rui dropped the paper and looked directly at Eagun. “What.”

“Oh, come, Eagun,” Rui’s grandmother scoffed, “Do you really think Vander still has that thing?”

“Beluh, darling, I keep in contact with Vander quite frequently. He, I, and the rest of us in the society, are well aware of the power of the Time Flute, and he said he would keep it with him, away from the forest.”

“Dakim’s part of Cipher...” Rui mumbled, spreading out the newspaper, looking at the image of the raid.

“Beg pardon?” Eagun asked.

“The Cipher Syndicate,” Rui clarified, “Seven and I have been running into them a lot recently...”

“I’ve never heard of them. Do you know what they might want with the Flute?”

“I know exactly what they might want, and it’s not good,” Rui got up from the table and moved over to the staircase. “I presume you gave Seven the spare bedroom?”

“Of course, dear,” Beluh confirmed, and Rui headed upstairs.

She knocked on the door of the spare guest bedroom. “Seven? There’s something very–” The door creaked open from the force of her knock. There was no one inside the room. “Seven?!” She called inside, and then to the house in general, “Seven! Where are you?!”

“He’s not upstairs, Rui?” Beluh called up the steps as Eagun went into the living room to look.

Rui checked the other rooms upstairs, “No, grandma, he’s not up here!”

“Rui, darling!” Eagun called from the living room, “I’ve found him!”

Rui rushed quickly down the stairs and darted into the living room. The room was empty, save for Eagun and Bulah staring at the TV.

”—the young man came some time in the middle of the night and has been attempting to dispel the situation in Mt. Battle, Cindy. Occasionally we–” The front door of the Mt. Battle facility slammed open suddenly and an Entei poked its head out the door. In its maw was a young man in a blue trench coat and albino hair. The Entei unceremoniously dumped the young man out the door and then roared loudly, breathing fire from its mouth, before slamming the door shut once again. Its roaring could be heard from inside, accompanied with screaming.

The reporter and cameraman rushed over towards the young man as he got up and dusted himself off. “Sir! Sir!” the reporter shouted as he approached, “How long have you been at this?”

“What does it matter to you? And I’m sure you have a running tally in some infographic you show the masses anyway.” (Rui read the bottom third, and sure enough: “Young Man Attempting Rescue for the Fourth Time.”)

“Sir,” the reporter continued as the young man attempted to walk away, “What’s your plan of attack?”

“If I told you, then they’d know how to counter it. It’s not like they don’t have the TVs on in there!”

“Is there anything you can tell us about the situation inside?”

“They have their TVs on in there.”

The reporter was getting visibly irritated. “Do– do you at least have a name?”

The young man turned to face the camera directly and very seriously. “Napoleon Tabitha Wulfric Emanuel Cornelius Lysander Bartholomew, Esquire, the Seventh. And don’t abbreviate my name in your lower third.”

The reporter, attempting to write the name down, got lost on the second name. The young man was walking away and the reporter, desperate, yelled, “A-Are you at all related to Napoleon, the three-time champion of Sinnoh?”

The young man halted and was visibly stunned for a moment. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know they hired people that stupid.” He turned and walked away from the incredibly irritated reporter.

“Ugh, Seven,” Rui buried her face in her hands.

“Is that his real name?” Eagun asked, “Is that why you call him Seven?”

“No, grandpa,” Rui said dismissively, “as far as I can tell, nobody knows his real name. He never gives the same name twice. I wouldn’t be surprised if his own pokemon don’t even know his real name.” She was gathering her things, “I have to go after him. He needs my help.”

“Why didn’t he take you with him then?” Beluh asked.

“I don’t know. I’ll find out after I get to him... I need some way to get there.”

“I know someone in the village who might be able to help,” Eagun said, “Tell me when you’re ready to leave and we’ll head over to meet her.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

“Napoleon Tabitha Wulfric Emanuel Cornelius Lysander Bartholomew, Esquire, the Seventh. And don’t abbreviate my name in your lower third.”

“What?!” “Wow!” “I like this guy.” “Yeah, he’s got a mouth on him.” “That can’t be his real name, can it?” “Nah, no one has a name that long!” “Serves that reporter right.”

“What are you three doing?”

“S-Sorry, professor. Something’s going down over in Orre right now. It’s all over the news station.” “Yeah, this guy is apparently trying to beat the guys who raided the place.” “He’s got a mouth on him.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know they hired people that stupid.”

“Nice one.” “Yeah, really, what kind of ques–”

“Adam?!”

“What?” “No. No, professor, the guy said his name was Napoleon.” “Yeah, he... Professor?” “Professor?!” “Where are you going?!” “Profess–”

Slam.

“What the hell?” “He just up and left!” “What got into him?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Bayleef and Jumpluff auto-recalled to their pokeballs as they fainted. The Entei roared. The massive man in tribal paint and tangled red hair laughed again. “Why do you continue to come back again and again? Do you enjoy pain? Entei, take–”

“I’ll show myself out this time, thank you,” the young man with albino hair turned on a heel and began walking away. He heard the Entei charging behind him. He went to dodge out of the way of the beast, but the Entei was quicker. The young man was launched into the air.

“This young man, who earlier gave us the name ‘Napoleon’, is said to have made considerable progress this time. We await word of–” The reporter vanished suddenly from the frame as the young man fell on top of him.

“Ow... fuck...” Napoleon muttered as the cameraman cut his feed and hastily put his camera down. The young man disentangled himself from the reporter. “Have to hand it to that Entei... That was some aim. I’ll remember next time to not attempt to show myself out...” He gave a friendly wave to the reporter, “Thanks for breaking my fall.”

The reporter swore up and down at Napoleon as Napoleon limped away. He pulled out his PDA and opened up the news channel. The feed was delayed; he watched himself fall on the news reporter, and the station quickly cut back to a stunned anchor woman, who began filibustering to cover the situation. Napoleon smiled as he hobbled over to the pokemon healing machine he had dragged outside after the third attempt; its cord ran across the grass to a plug just inside the the front door of the facility. He dumped his pokemon into the machine and sat down painfully in the grass. He massaged his leg, trying to work out the soreness.

“Hey, Fargo! How’s the battle going?”

The young man turned, confused, and saw a boy in a yellow bandana and dogtags standing over him. “....Lon? The hell are you doing here?”

“I hitched a ride,” he smiled, pointing over his shoulder at the girl in red pigtails approaching them.

Fargo’s face turned angry, and he shoved Lon roughly aside to look at Rui. “What the hell are you doing here?!” he spat.

“I didn’t appreciate you leaving me behind without a note or email or anything,” Rui snarled, “Especially after I was so gracious enough to get your pokemon to obey you again, instead of constantly terrorizing anything in their path.”

“You ruined my pokemon,” A7 snapped, attempting briefly to get up on his feet, but finding it too painful to do so, “If you hadn’t done whatever the fuck you did to them, this Dakim asshole would be licking the floor under my boot by now!”

“Sh-should I come back later?” Lon asked timidly.

“You’re fine, Lon, stay put,” A7 said quickly to him before turning back to Rui, “I left you behind because I don’t want you anywhere near my pokemon again, lest you somehow screw them up even more!

“That’s fine!,” Rui replied, hands up, “I don’t need their help! But from the looks of this mess you’re in, you need my help! That’s why I brought Lon here along.”

Lon waved meekly.

“You– You went and just... got Lon?” A7 asked incredulously, “What the hell kind of plan do you have that requires Lon to help me? No offense, Lon.”

“You need water power to finish off that Entei,” Rui smiled, “Lon and I have water power.”

A7 glared at her. “I’ve got Quagsire–”

“And now you’ve also got a Remoraid and an Azurill.”

“Marill, actually” Lon corrected. He turned to A7, and quietly squealed “She evolved!” A7 couldn’t help but smile. He roughed up Lon’s bandanna and hair playfully, leaving the smiling boy to put his bandana back on his head properly.

“So what you’re saying,” A7 started, returning to a serious expression, “is that I need to cheat.”

“That’s how you usually work, isn’t it?” Rui asked scornfully. “I presume you’ve tried to Snag that massive beast?”

“I’ve thrown every kind of ball I had at it. It refused to stay put.”

“So that’s out, which means it’s time to bring in backup. Us.”

A7 stared disdainfully at Rui. “You couldn’t have brought Duking?”

“We tried,” Lon interjected, “He and Silva were preoccupied.”

Still?!” A7 scoffed.

“Still what?” Lon asked, bewildered, while Rui giggled a bit. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t worry about it, Lon,” Rui waved it off, “No, Seven, there’s some commotion going on there in the Under they were looking into. Something else we need to look into with this Cipher gang, no doubt.” She gestured vaguely at the Mt. Battle facility.

“So you know what the fuck is going on here, then?” A7 surmised, pointing over his shoulder, “With that flute and Vander and all that?”

“I have my suspicions and it’s not good. Dakim cannot get his hands on the Time Flute.”

The front doors of Mt. Battle slammed open, and the 10-foot tall giant with war paint and tangled red hair ducked out the doorway. “I’ve got my hands on the Time Flute, gents! It’s time to roll out!”

“Shit.”

“Seven! It’s now or never!”

“You better pray to your spiral-shelled god this fucking works!”

A7 stumbled his way to the healing machine and began throwing pokeballs out of it. Bayleef appeared out of its ball and landed directly in Dakim’s path. It roared a challenge at Dakim.

Dakim took one look at the Bayleef and laughed, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. This again? I guess the first dozen lessons I pounded into your flesh and bones didn’t stick!”

“Dakim’s just appeared, Cindy, and it looks like we have a live pokemon battle on our hands! This situation is getting intense!”

Dakim threw out a Marshtomp and a Metang. Bayleef bellowed and Jumpluff appeared from its ball and landed on top of Bayleef. The two grass pokemon whipped up a storm of razor leaves around them. Marshtomp lifted a wave of mud from the ground and sent it their way. The razor leaves fired at the Marshtomp and passed straight through the wave of mud. Metang shielded itself in a protective shell, but Marshtomp wasn’t that fast.

“The Marshtomp couldn’t take it! It’s down!!”

Dakim sent out his Camerupt, which snorted and blew its top with a fresh stream of fire. The Camerupt immediately shot a stream of fire at the two grass pokemon in its way. Bayleef went for the dodge and got singed. Jumpluff wasn’t fast at all. It attempted to heal itself in the sunlight, but the burns were too much for it. Bayleef cried out to Jumpluff as it auto-recalled.

“Down it goes! But what’s this?!”

Umbreon, hanging from Misdreavus, swooped in from the side and landed on top of Metang, where it proceed to attempt to bite the metal pokemon. Its tooth snapped from the maneuver and it cried out in pain. It slid down the front of the Metang and gave it a horribly nasty look directly in the eye before it began scratching at its eyes and face. Meanwhile Misdreavus sent a barrage of shadowy balls at the Camerupt. The Camerupt fired a blast of fire at Misdreavus, which missed and took out Bayleef.

“That Umbreon’s look seems much worse than its bite! But the Camerupt is down!”

A Golem replaced the fallen Camerupt. Metang, flailing wildly to get the Umbreon off its face, fell to the ground. Misdreavus sent a few shadowy balls Metang’s way, and it quickly went down under the barrage. Espeon appeared and threw a reflective screen up around its allies. Golem stomped and the ground shook beneath its feet.

“A vicious earthquake rocks the stadi–er–the battlefield!”

Misdreavus, unaffected, continued to throw its shadowy balls at the Golem. Behind it, a small wave of water washed forward, and Remorid rode high on it. It shot forth a great spray of water at the Golem, which hit it hard. Umbreon ran around and gave it a really nasty look straight in the eyes, and the Golem froze on the spot in fear. Quagsire appeared on the field now and it too shot a powerful stream of water at the rock pokemon. The Golem attempted to surround itself in a protective shell, but it wasn’t fast enough. The water got inside the protective shell and ricocheted around inside the shell, hurting Golem again and again. It rolled around in the high-velocity water and was auto-recalled shortly after.

“Big hit! Taken down by an intense blow! There’s a great disparity in the number of remaining pokemon!”

“That’s perfectly alright!” Dakim screamed at the reporter. “I only need this one...”

The Ultra Ball flew through the air and landed on the ground. It opened and the six-foot-tall red-brown dog-like pokemon appeared and roared its challenge. The end of the roar was punctuated by a giant explosion of dark fire, a pillar of which shot into the sky, a shockwave of which exploded out across the field. Umbreon, Espeon, Misdreavus, Quagsire, and Remoraid were all hit with the eruption and thrown backwards. The reporter dodged the Umbreon as it flew past him and his cameraman.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Entei has appeared and has nailed every opposing pokemon with Eruption!”

Umbreon swiped weakly at the reporter before falling over and being auto-recalled to its pokeball. Misdreavus and Espeon followed soon after him, being auto-recalled into their balls.

A7 swore, “That bastard keeps opening with that and taking out my entire team!”

“That’s why we kept the water pokemon in reserve for as long as possible!” Rui replied. She nodded at Lon, who called out his Marill and his Swablu.

“What’s this?! There are more pokemon being called out onto the field!”

Quagsire whipped up some muddy water and swirled it about himself. Marill and Remoraid jumped into the swirling water and helped build it up. Entei, however, didn’t wait. It rushed forward in a fiery dark-tackle. It was about to slam headlong into the spinning whirlpool of muddy water when Swablu swung in and got between it and Quagsire, taking the entirety of the charge.

“Crushing blow! That had to hurt!!”

Swablu was auto-recalled into its ball before it flew too far away from the debilitating tackle. Quagsire unleashed the massive amounts of mud-water it had been building up upon the now-open Entei. Entei looked around and found itself in the middle of the whirling water. Marill and Remoraid rode the edges of the mud whirlpool. They shot lots of water directly at the roaring fire pokemon.

“Trapped in a Whirlpool! Could this be it for Entei?!”

Entei roared once again and erupted into a pillar of fire. The muddy water instantly dried up in the searing heat, and Marill and Remoraid found themselves helplessly trapped in the sudden wall of dirt. Entei stomped hard and the explosion of fire blew away most of the mud walls, sending Marill and Remorid flying high. They were recalled before they hit the ground.

Quagsire sized up its opponent. Entei was clearly hurt badly. It needed one more clean hit.

“Take him out Entei!!” Dakim screamed.

Entei roared and began shadow-rushing towards Quagsire. Quagsire stood its ground, eyeing the opponent as it rushed in. Then Quagsire stomped. Hard.

“Earthquake tears open the ground!!”

The Entei lost its footing as the earth shook and opened up beneath it. It fell. Down. Into a crack. Quagsire bellowed and slammed its foot again, causing the cracked earth to slam closed on Entei. Entei bellowed in pain. And it lost consciousness.

“Game! Set!! Aaaaaand Match!!!”

Dakim screamed as the Entei was recalled. “No!! This can’t be!! You cheated at this whole thing!”

A7 strided over to Dakim. “You cheated first!” A7 shouted, “By starting this whole ordeal! Now hand over the Time Flute!”

Dakim stood tall, and towered over A7. “Make me.”

A7 punched him square in the crotch. Dakim doubled over. Rui, having flanked him, smacked him over the head with a chunk of concrete debris from the battle. Dakim fell over hard, and the Time Flute tumbled out of his hands. A7 took the opportunity to kick Dakim in the stomach several times, and then place his boot on his face.

How’s that feel, huh?!” He shouted at the giant man’s face, pressing his face into the dirt with the heel of his boot. “How do you like getting stomped on?!?!

Rui picked up the Time Flute and patted A7 on the shoulder as she walked by. “When you’re done, we’ll be waiting around the corner.” A7 made no indication he heard: he was too busy yelling and gloating like a madman.

The reporter stopped Rui as she walked away. “That was an amazing come-from-behind victory! How did you two do it?!”

Rui smiled at the reporter. “I only helped. The person you should be interviewing is over there stamping on that guy’s face.”

“Yeah, but.... I... don’t want to interview him....” the reporter whispered.

“I don’t blame you.” Rui grinned. She put her arm around Lon as Lon stepped in between her and the reporter.

“You dropped this, sir,” Lon said, and handed the reporter a wallet. Lon then turned and subtly pulled Rui away from the reporter.

“Oh, um... thanks?” the reporter said, checking his pocket for his wallet. Lon sped up and pulled Rui around the corner before they heard the reporter cry out that some of his money was gone. Rui eyed Lon. Lon simply whistled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

The front door closed softly. The young man with the albino hair had a smile that hadn’t left his face since this afternoon. The girl with the red pigtails was right next to him, also grinning constantly.

Eagun’s house was quiet. It was late at night. Seven moved up the stairs quietly, Rui right behind him. Rui’s room was opposite Seven’s guest room. They both went into Rui’s room. Rui’s room had two single beds in it; she had shared the room with her sister when they were young. Seven fell down, exhausted, on the unused bed. He was still smiling.

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed pummeling that big guy once his Entei fell...” He laughed, “They should use that for therapy or something.”

Rui snickered, sitting on the far side of her own bed, taking off her shoes and socks.

Seven shook his head, giggling. “You just don’t understand how weird this feels. I’m so exhausted. I basically stayed up all night trying to beat this guy. But I’m so exhilarated right now, there’s no fucking way I could go to sleep.”

“Yeah...” Rui agreed, quietly placing the Time Flute in her bedside drawer. “That was– That was just insane...”

“And you!” Seven said, looking over at her, “You’re just... I don’t even know! If it hadn’t been for you showing up at just the right time...”

“You probably could have beaten him quicker if I’d have been there sooner...” Rui replied, her back still to him, staring at her hands, “If I’d have come with you...”

Seven’s smile faltered. “Right... that...” Seven got up from his bed. “Um, about that... I, um....” He stood awkwardly, with a half smile on his face. “I’m... sorry.... that I ran off like that...”

“No,” Rui said, also standing and turning to face him, “I’m sorry that I... took your pokemon... w-without even asking you...”

“Oh, yeah....” Seven mumbled. “I mean... it is kind of stupid to have uncontrollable pokemon... I shouldn’t have yelled at you for it...”

Rui came around the bed and stood in front of him. “We were both wrong... about a lot of things...”

“Yeah.... I......”

Silence. Seven stared into her eyes. She stared back. They were getting closer.

Their lips touched.

Seven’s eyes shot open and pulled away with a gasp. “What. Wh-what is this.”

Rui was startled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean–”

“No, I mean, what is this right now?” Seven seemed panicked, feeling his heart, his hip. “What are you doing to me?!”

“I-I-I was just kissing you,” Rui replied, also panicked now, “Is-Is that not okay?!”

“N-No! I....” Seven seemed to be hyperventilating, “Last time I... with a... she...”

“Seven, I swear, I mean you no harm! Calm down!”

“I— I can’t!” Seven gasped, “I— I need to tou— want to touch yo— but–”

“Alright, alright, calm down, sit down, sit down!” Rui said, pulling him to the floor. Seven and Rui knelt on the floor opposite each other, almost a foot apart. This seemed to ease Seven a little, but not much. “Listen...” Rui continued, concerned, “I can understand if you’re scared. B-But that was just a kiss. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that, if you want.”

“I just... I’m sorry, I....” he tried to control his breathing a little, “I want to... I want to sex you... yes... I-I-I-I mean if you want to.... th-that is...”

“I was....” Rui smiled inadvertently, “I was going to be a little more tactful than that, but...”

“I’m sorry, it’s just...” Seven blushed horribly. He hid his face behind his hands, “I’ve only done this once before.... an-and that was a.... special.... circumstance...” Seven’s voice noticeably cracked as he said this.

Rui was flabbergasted, and she giggled uncontrollably for a moment. “Really? I.... I honestly don’t believe that!”

Seven still hid his face, his face getting redder. “When.... When you’re... When you’re in my... line of.... work, if you will...,” he gestured at the Snag Machine still strapped to his arm, “if you let your guard down just— just once....”

Rui grabbed his hands and held them gently in hers. She smiled tenderly at him, though the corners of her mouth gave a window into the giggle fit she was trying hard to suppress. “What can I do to make you feel safe with me?”

Seven thought for a moment, breathing heavily in the moment. “Allow me to... to take a minute to lock away my pokemon.”

Rui again was happily unbelieving of the situation. “S-sure, yes. I-I have a safe in my dresser.”

They got up and went to her dresser drawer. Seven placed his pokeballs in her safe. He unstrapped the Snag Machine from himself, with her help, and coiled it inside the safe as well. After he locked it shut with the key, she allowed him to hide the key somewhere in the room while she closed her eyes and hid her face behind her hands. Her hands helped contain her continued giggling.

Seven approached her after he did this, and took her hands into his. He trembled, feeling naked already without the bulk of the Snag Machine weighing on his arm. “I-I-I’m... I’m ready now.”

Rui’s giggles melted into calm breathing. She wrapped her hands behind his head and played with the albino hair on his nape. She slid two fingers along his jawbone to his chin. She pulled his chin gently to direct his eyes towards hers. Her thumb played on his bottom lip. “Are you?” she asked alluringly.

“I-I-I don’t know....”

She smiled as she leaned in and kissed him again. Seven kissed her back, his hand going to her nape to help. The kiss became frantic, passionate, their hands all over each other.

His coat was gone. Her shirt was next. The two of them were moving slowly towards the bed. His shirt hung over the mirror. Her shorts ended up on the chair back. They almost tripped over his boots as he struggled to kick them off. His pants draped his boots shortly. They were on the bed now. Their inhibitions were on the floor. It wasn’t long before they both reached their breaking point. Rather, their first breaking point. He would hit his three more times that night. She, six more. He was the best she ever had.

She was the first time he had actually tried...

Chapter Text

Chapter -1

The boy with the albino hair set the serving platter full of appetizers down on the serving table. He grabbed a few pieces of the cheese off it and ate them one by one as he walked away through the crowd.

“Wes, leave some for the other guys!” said another young teenage boy about his age, passing by with another serving platter. Wes grinned at him as they passed each other. Wes moved through the party and into the kitchen area, where a whole bunch of Team Snagem Snaggers were just hanging around, talking.

“...ran down the riverbank, just screaming. It was hilarious!” Niver finished. The other guys all laughed. Niver turned to Wes as Wes grabbed another serving platter to put out. “Hey, Wes, how’s that Wurmple I gave you? You taking care of it?”

“Yeah, Niv!” Wes replied, “It should be evolving any time now!”

“Hey, now, don’t let it do that!” Niver said, as some of the other guys snickered.

“W-Why?” Wes replied, confused, “It would get stronger, wouldn’t it?”

“But what if it’s not ready for that?” one of the other guys said.

“Yeah, some pokemon just want to stay cute, you know,” another guy added with a grin.

“I guess... I guess I never thought of that...” Wes pondered sullenly. The guys in the group all stifled their laughter as Wes looked at the pokeballs on his belt.

“That’s right! What if your Umbreon and Espeon never wanted to evolve at all?!”

“Th-that’s not true!” Wes said now, dropping the platter on the countertop and taking an angry stance towards them, though unable to hold back his sudden tears.

The guys all cracked up laughing. “Oh, Dome, we’ve got him crying again!”

“S-S-Stoppit!! No I’m not!!” Wes spat at them angrily, wiping the tears from his eyes.

“We’re only messing with you, kid!” “Yeah, suck it up!”

“Oh, now, boys, tsk tsk...” she said, “That’s not very nice of you...”

The rowdy bunch of Snaggers hushed suddenly. Wes’s eyes snapped to the doorway of the kitchen, and they widened considerably. Leaning against the doorway was a very busty woman. She had long blonde hair, thin eyebrows over red eyes, red glossy lips, delicate-looking hands and fingers, black stiletto heels, a short leather skirt, and a button down top with three small round black buttons with four small round holes in each button and a fold-over black collared part that started down near the first button and got bigger as it went up and around the round chest and....

She walked – no, more strutted, or glided perhaps, but more bounced, or rather– over to Wes. “How could you boys pick on such a handsome fellow?” she said as she ran a red-painted fingernail through his albino hair. Wes shuddered.

Some of the guys exchanged glances, and shook their heads. Others turned away, disgusted or smiling. Wes couldn’t notice them doing any of this though, as his eyes were interested in only two things.

She leaned down and looked at him. “I’ve never had an Umbreon before,” she said, “But I’ve had an Espeon. Want to trade tips on how to raise one?” Wes attempted to speak an affirmation, but failed. “Com’on, it’s far too loud here. Let’s go find some place quieter.”

She grabbed his hand; her hand was silky smooth and her grip was gentle. She lead him out of the other kitchen door, down the hallway, and into one of the single bedrooms. He wasn’t usually allowed in this private sleeping quarters, as he was only a lowly member of Snagem and therefore slept in the bunks. But this thought didn’t even cross his mind right now. All the blood had left his upper head.

She closed and locked the door, and lead him over to the bed. She sat on the bed as he stood awkwardly in front of him. “Now, then,” she said as placed a finger on his collar bone and slowly began tracing a path down his shirt to his belly button, “what kind of care do you like giving your pokemon...? Do you treat them rough? Or are you... gentle...?”

Her finger dropped off his shirt and touched skin, and she traced back up his side, under his shirt. His hands and arms were shaking by his side. With her other hand, she unbuttoned her top button, then her second button. It came briefly to Wes’s attention that his shirt had come off at some point, but he didn’t bother trying to remember how. She traced the few traces of pubescent hair under his belly button to the button of his jeans. His pants and the red and white pokeballs attached to the waistband were on the floor.

“Do you like playing with your pokemon? How often do you keep them clean?” She touched him; he shuddered.

She recoiled. “Ugh!!... really?”

“I-I-I-I-I’m s-s-s-sorry!!” Wes stammered horribly, still shaking violently from head to toe, “Th-this is m-m-my f-f-first t-t-time...”

“Really?” she said, an odd smile coming to her lips. “I don’t think I’ve ever been someone’s first before...”

“I-I-I c-can t-t-t-t-try h-h-harder....”

She shed her soiled top. “Oh, you will? Well, I intend to give you a lesson you won’t soon forget...”


ding, ding, ding dong DING! ding, ding, ding dong DING! ding, ding, ding dong DING!


“Oh, gods! This place stinks to Mt. Silver!!”

Wes opened an eye.

“What the fuck were you doing in my bed, you fucking rattata?! This is disgusting!!”

Wes opened his other eye. He blinked, and looked down. The door to the hallway was standing wide open. There were a few Snagem members laughing raucously. There was one member who was pissed off, stomping around, and yelling his head off. And there was no covers over Wes. And no clothing on him either.

Wes scrambled up on the bed and covered himself with his hands, as the bed was devoid of anything else to cover himself with.

“Good to see you in the world of the living again, Wes!” Niver called from the doorway as others around him roared in laughter.

“Where’d she go?!” Wes asked, panicked.

“Who?” Niver asked back with a wide smile.

Wes opened his mouth, expecting a name to come out. “Y-Y-You know!! That woman!!”

“Sorry!” One of the other guys said, roaring with laughter, “Can’t help you without a name!”

“Get the fuck out of my bed, you fucking twerp!” The angry guy hollered.

Wes slipped off the bed and grabbed his clothing lying on the floor. Something was missing.

“WHO THE FUCK TOOK MY POKEMON?!?!” Wes bellowed, to a renewed round of laughter from the peanut gallery. Wes rushed into the hallway and began flailing at them, kicking and punching, “Seriously?!?! This isn’t funny, you fuckwads!!!”

“Dude! We don’t have your pokemon!” Niver said, slightly sympathetic, but still laughing.

“Then who the fuck took them?!!”

“Probably the girl who you fucked last night?!” “Yeah, we knew she was pulling one of those jobs on you the moment she mentioned your pokemon by name!” “You should have seen it coming!”

“Why didn’t you stop me, you fucktards!!” Wes shouted angrily, dropping pieces of his clothing.

“Wes, you wouldn’t have let us if we wanted to!” Niver said, the smile still streaked across his face.

Wes haphazardly picked up his clothing. “Thanks a fuckload, guys!” He spat.

“Hey! You’re training to be a Snagger!” Niver said, “Perfect opportunity for training!”

“Fuck you!” He turned around and stomped away as the laughing continued at his exposed behind.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

The young man slowly opened his eyes. The ceiling was adorned with little plastic green stars and pokeballs. The sun shone in through the window and struck the pink carpet, lighting up the room with a pink glow. The room smelled awful. The sheets on the tiny single-person bed he laid on were crusty. He looked to his left: Rui was still asleep, her head near his chest.

The young man rose gingerly from the bed, careful not to make too much noise or motion. He picked his way quietly through the minefield of discarded clothing. He reached the window and opened it up. A rush of cool air swept into the room, bringing the smell of the outside in with it. Pidgey and Starley could be heard chirping.

He went and retrieved the safe key, opened Rui’s dresser, and unlocked the safe. His pokeballs were still there, his Snag Machine wrapped around them. He felt them, and confirmed they were not empty. He sighed deeply.

He locked the safe again, and replaced the key in its hiding spot. He returned quietly to bed, lying down again next to Rui. He briefly considered putting underwear on, but he decided he needed to shower first. He would do that later. After a bit more sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

The bus rattled and bounced along the dirt road. There were only a smattering of people on the bus, and they were spread out across the various seats, spaced more or less evenly from each other through no conscious effort on their part.

A young man with a shock of green hair and black leather jacket and pants, lounging with his leg up, played a game on his PDA that involved flinging irritated Starley. A woman with a blue bandanna, pink shirt, and black tights, stared forlornly out the window, watching the trees go by. A man wrapped head to hips in white and green robes, with baggy green pants and bandage-wrapped ankles and wrists, quietly read documents on a PDA. A young boy with a red hat, red jacket, and blue jeans, played happily with his Croconaw. An old man with a wide-brimmed hat, leather cowboy shirt, and leather chaps, slept with his hat over his eyes.

They all moved with the bumping of the bus as it rattled down the dirt road. The young boy and his pokemon were the only two making any amount of sound, and he was only occasionally laughing and giving his pokemon playful orders. The young man sneezed; no one acknowledged him. The bus turned now, down another short road. It slowed down and came to a stop at a bus shelter with a large sign that read “Gateon Port”.

“End of the line,” the bus driver announced in a raspy voice, the kind of voice that urged you to clear his throat for him since he wouldn’t do so himself.

Four of the five passengers got up; the old man in cowboy trimmings snoozed on. The young man and bandanna woman passed him by and exited the bus. The young boy giggled a little at the old man as he passed, and thanked the driver as he exited the bus. The driver grunted, and coughed in response. The robed man put his PDA away within his robes and walked over to the old man. He roughly patted the man on the shoulder.

“Ugh, wha?” the old man snorted, adjusting his hat as he woke. The robed man motioned wordlessly toward the front of the bus. “Oh,” the old man grunted, “We’s here. Thankya.”

The two of them exited the bus with only gestures of thanks to the bus driver. Two people got on the bus after them. Both of them were sailors. The bus groaned as it drove off, back the way it came.

The robed man approached the concrete steps leading down into the docks of Gateon Port. He watched the old cowboy shamble down the steps and head off towards a large Krabby-shaped building down one of the docks to the right.

The robed man adjusted the scarf that covered the lower half of his face. He walked down the stairs and began walking about the marketplace to the left. The marketplace wound between several buildings and splintered off down several alleyways on either side. There was a distinct lack of hustle and bustle in this marketplace. The stalls were low on wares and shoppers were few and scattered about.

A heavy-set man with a goatee watched from the corner of a building as the robed man approached. The robed man kept an eye on the heavy man, and stopped before him when the heavy man refused to look away. The robed man made a gesture that conveyed “What are you looking at?”

“A man so confrontational about who he is,” the heavy-set man began, “He is looking for something, but refuses to ask for help.”

The robed man crossed his arms, staring at the heavy man with mild contempt.

“Jesso only wants to help the confrontational man. But Jesso can’t read minds. Jesso has tried many times before, and has failed all those times.”

The robed man rubbed his temple before moving a little closer and speaking. “I’m looking for transport across the desert. Preferably something I can rent for a while and use on my own.”

“The confrontational man looks for a rare thing indeed,” Jesso said, stroking his beard, “Transport for the vast wasteland is either public transit or built by owner. Jesso knows no personal vehicles for rent for short period of time. Such things would have outrageous insurance, Jesso thinks.”

“I suppose if I must buy something, I can. I can sell it once my business here is done.”

“Jesso knows just the place the confrontational man wishes to go. Jesso will show the confrontational man the way to there for a couple pretty pokeys.” The man rubbed his thumb and forefingers together.

“I’m not stupid,” the robed man replied with disgust, “I will prepare your... ‘pokeys’ for when we arrive.”

“The confrontational man remains confrontational till the end. Follow Jesso.”

Jesso began walking with ungainly steps through the marketplace. The robed man followed at a distance, constantly scanning his immediate vicinity for any tagalongs. They soon left the marketplace and headed towards a dock on the far end of town. There was a machine shop there, marked by its distinct exterior of metal and gears, compared to the wood siding of the rest of the houses in the area. About a dozen or more contraptions that looked vaguely like motorcycles and small vehicles were parked outside the shop. A man and a boy were working on one of the vehicles.

It looked like it took Jesso considerable effort to stop, and it involved adjusting a few things on his person once he did. “Jesso shows the confrontational man this highly respectable machine shop, which buys and sells machines which sometimes are built for desert travel. All sales final.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me about this in the first place?” the robed man said incredulously, “I would have found this place eventually...”

“A shady deal for a shady man,” Jesso winked, “If the man were not shady, deal would not be shady.”

The robed man rolled his eyes as he handed Jesso a few pokedollars and irritably walked towards the machine shop.

Jesso pocketed the money, looking after the robed man. “Jesso swears Jesso recognizes the confrontational man’s voice. But Jesso cannot place it...” he mused to himself, “Jesso will wrack his brain for days trying to place the voice. Or Jesso will eat a funnel cake over it. Jesso likes that idea better.” The heavy-set man turned around with effort and began building momentum towards the nearest food stand.

The robed man approached the machine shop, and coughed to make his presence known before he got too close. The boy was the one who heard the cough. He adjusted his red beanie and blue shirt before crossing his arms and puffing out his chest at the robed man.

“An’ wha’da’yew want?” the boy growled, acting tough.

The accompanying man had his head inside a vehicle engine. He banged it inadvertently as he withdrew, upon hearing the boy. He rubbed where he bumped it as he turned around and saw the robed man. “Oh! Um, hello,” the machinist said as he wiped off his hands.

“Why’re covering your face like that?!” the boy asked rudely.

“Perr, if this gentleman wanted his identity known, he would have pulled down his mask when he approached.” The machinist turned to the robed man. “Please excuse my son, sir.”

The robed man waved it off.

“What can I help you with?”

“I’ve never driven the deserts before,” the robed man replied, “I need a personal vehicle that I won’t kill myself in.” The robed man eyed the contraptions with one and two wheels with disdain. “I’ll pay cash.”

“Good,” the machinist said, walking around to a couple of vehicles, “we only accept cash for desert runners. Too much liability in credit.”

The boy was contemplative, his hand to his chin. “I swear I’ve heard you somewhere before!” he blurted. The robed man’s eyes widened at the prospect.

“PERR!” the mechanist shouted, “What did I just say!? I’m going to send you back to your grandfather if you keep acting up like this!”

“But I hate the Under!” he whined.

“Go inside! Now!”

The boy scowled and stomped off inside the shop.

The mechanist watched him go before directing his attention to the vehicles. “We have this machine here. Four seats might be a bit much for just you, but the stability alone might be worth it. The hover plates are what you really want for desert driving, as there’s no traction problems in that case. Got four of those. The two ridge tires off the back fold down for extra oomph if you need it. If it’s your first time with one of these, I highly suggest not using them, at least not before you get used to this. This one I can give you pretty cheap. It’s a bit worn, but it gets the job done.”

“Seems fine to me,” the robed man said, inspecting the lack of tires on the squat vehicle. “If it gets me from point A to point B with decent speed, I’m good with it.”

“It’s not going to win any races any time soon.”

“That’s fine. I’ll take it.”

“I’ll ring you up inside,” the machinist said. He then dropped to a whisper before adding, “Incidentally, my son is right. You’ll probably want to change your voice in the future.”

“You know who I am?” the robed man asked tentatively.

“I have my suspicions,” the machinist said vaguely, “Let’s just say that if I were someone famous who was often on the radio, discussing my work on a regular basis, and I actually wanted to hide my identity out in public, that I’d at least attempt to muddle my voice in some way.”

The robed man blinked blankly, and adjusted his face scarf again. “You... wouldn’t happen to have a voice modulator, would you?”

“I think I have a few in the back. They’re not great in face to face conversation, though, so keep to the silent treatment when you can...”

“I intend to...” the robed man mumbled meekly as he followed the mechanist inside.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

Umbreon and Espeon were released from their pokeballs. Espeon stretched out and yawned and Umbreon scratched himself with his back paw.

“Good morning,” they heard a cheery voice say, “Feel free to call the others out for a morning stroll.” A pale naked male human walked past them out the door. They both froze as they watched the human practically prance into a bathroom across the hallway and close the door.

«Nacho, buddy,» Umbreon sat down in front of Espeon, «Could you just mentally scan my head? I think I may have been hit a bit too hard in that last fight. I’m think I’m seeing things.»

«I saw it too, T,» Espeon appeared worried, «I think that really hard fight yesterday has gotten to Adam.»

«I have never seen that boy move like that! It’s disgusting!» Umbreon twitched in disgust.

«Not to mention clearly indecent for a human in a public setting,» Espeon paused and started looking around, «If we’re in a public setting, that is...»

«Yeah, where the hell even are we?» Umbreon strolled out into hallway, looking around. «Did we win that fight? Why are we back here?»

«I don’t know, bro,» Espeon was visually scanning the bedroom, «I was retrieved right after you were. Are we back in the girl’s house?»

«We are. I recognize the lower area.»

Of the two beds in the room, one had been stripped of typical adornments. Espeon jumped up on the bare mattress and moved in a circle upon it. «Hmm... this is actually pretty comfy as far as sleeping locations go... It’s got a weird smell though...»

«Nacho!!» Umbreon hissed from the hallway. Espeon perked up in alarm and came running. Umbreon’s ear was to the bathroom door, and his face was one of utter terror. Espeon put his ear to the door as well.

«What on earth?» Espeon gasped.

«It sounds like he’s dying in there!» Umbreon reared up, ready to pounce at the door.

«Nonononono, T, no,» Espeon physically placed a paw on Umbreon before listening at the door again, «I’ve– I’ve heard Adam do this before. H-He called it ‘singing’ then.»

«Singing??» Umbreon scoffed, «No, no, I’ve heard humans sing before. That sounds like a Zangoose got caught in a bramble patch and is trying to get out of it by growling it to death!»

«Adam never sings...»

«Probably because he sounds like that.»

«No, I mean, why is he singing?»

«Maybe because that last battle was really hard?» Umbreon pondered, «I presume we did win that battle since we’re back here and not still trying over and over again. So... maybe he’s really.... happy about that?»

«Is Adam ever happy?»

They pondered on this for a moment. «Well, there was that one time—»

“Hey, Seven?”

Umbreon and Espeon jumped and scattered, diving into hiding spots at opposite ends of the hallway. A girl with messy red hair and with only an undone robe on came up the stairs.

“Seven?” she called as she reached the top step. She heard the sounds emanating from the bathroom and became concerned. She rushed over and knocked on the door, “Seven?! Are you alright?!”

“What?!” A7 called back through the door, “I’m showering!”

“You were making a really horrible noise!”

I was singing!!” He yelled irritably.

“That was singing?!” She cracked up laughing against the door. She added, to herself, “And I thought you were only morally tone-deaf...”

“What do you want already?!”

Rui called through the door, still laughing, “Do you want me wash your blue coat too? It’s got a lot of random stuff in it and I didn’t know if–”

“No, that’s okay, leave it be! I’ll do something with it later, maybe!” A7 called back.

Rui confirmed this to him and headed back downstairs. Umbreon and Espeon crawled out of their hiding spots, staring at each other with horror on their faces.

«Did– did he just trust that— that witch?!» Umbreon hissed.

«Something happened to Adam after that battle...» Espeon agreed.

«Yeah, he lost his dome-damned mind! Walking around like he’s a pokemon, being even amiable towards that devil woman...!»

«Taco,» Espeon placed a paw on Umbreon’s chest, «You go downstairs and see what the girl is up to down there. I’ll–»

«No! Hell no! I’m not going anywhere near that bloody murkrow! You’ve got the psychic bendy-spoon abilities! You go scry on her or something!»

Espeon scowled. «That’s not how it— fine, you go wake up the other mon, then, and see what their consensus is, while I go spy on the girl.»

«Fine by me!» Umbreon turned, irritated, as Espeon crept downstairs. Umbreon went into the bedroom and found the other pokeballs on the dresser. He pawed the button on each of them and they all came out, groggy and stretching.

«My lilypluff!» Bayleef immediately scooped Jumpluff up into its vines.

«My darling shotaleef!» Jumpluff replied, caressing Bayleef’s neck with its white seed puffs.

«I’m so glad you’re okay. That Camerupt’s burns were vicious!»

«Oh they were! They were,» Jumpluff swooned, «But I knew I had you to protect me, my darling, so I tried my hardest.»

Umbreon looked like he was about to cough up a hairball. «If you’re done fondling each other...» Umbreon retched. «...what the hell do you have on your head, Sunny?»

«I only have the latest fashions, of course,» Quagsire scoffed, adjusting the wig it had apparently acquired sometime after the battle.

Umbreon rolled his eyes, «Ok, who here lasted to the end of that last battle against Trihard and his gang.»

«If it weren’t for that dog’s eruption blasts,» Misdreavus scowled, «I would have murdered the fucker, finally.»

Bayleef cradled Jumpluff lovingly, «I didn’t last much longer than my sweetums here... I do remember you, Scumbreon, attempting to bite that metal-head.»

Umbreon felt his canines with his tongue and shuddered as he felt their broken form, «It wasn’t a good idea, I admit. And it’s one I’m gonna have to live wi— what the hell did you call me?» Bayleef, however, was back to being enamored with Jumpluff. Umbreon scowled at it before turning to Quagsire, who was adjusting the wig pompously in a mirror on the wall. «Spit it out, already, princess.»

Quagsire was disgusted at Umbreon briefly, then became pompous again. «I won the fight. Solo.»

«So you know what happened to Adam after the fight,» Umbreon pressed.

«Not much did happen. He gloated over his fallen enemy for a long while, rightfully so. While he was doing that, I got my hands on this lovely–»

«Skip it.»

Quagsire was irritated. «After that, they were heading back to the town of thieves to drop off the pickpocket boy. I was in my ball the rest of the time, primping.»

“Hey guys!” A wet Adam appeared in the doorway. He was still butt naked, drying his albino hair with a towel. “Glad to see you’re all up and healthy again!” He promptly left.

His pokemon stared at the doorway for a long while. «He does seem off, doesn’t he?» Misdreavus pondered.

The young man with wet hair came down the stairs, tying the towel around his waist. “Hey, Nacho,” he smiled, picking up the startled Espeon that had been hiding on the stairs, “How’re you doing, buddy?” He held the Espeon in his arms, scratching its head around its ear. Espeon purred.

The young man touched down at the foot of the stairs and turned towards the kitchen. Rui had A7’s clothing draped over the back of several chairs and was using a hair dryer on them.

“The hell are you doing?” A7 asked, still petting the purring Espeon in his hands.

“This is a lot faster than hanging your clothing out on a clothesline, isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is...” he said slowly, then realized, “You’re grandparents are getting back soon, aren’t they?”

“Their morning stroll lasts days when you’re forced to walk with them every morning for three hours,” Rui replied, “But it seems a lot shorter when you’re trying to remove suspicious stains from your bed sheets...”

A7 eyed her open robe. “Y-You should probably get dressed before they return... You at least have a change of clothes, here, right?”

“My walking around their house in a robe is a lot less suspicious than you walking around their house hanging free,” She turned off the hair dryer and felt the fabric of A7’s underpants. “Close enough.” She tossed them to him. He barely caught them and set Espeon on the kitchen table so he could don them. “You got an email from Duking, by the way,” Rui said, pointing to his PDA on the table.

A7 pulled his open PDA towards him, looking at the email on-screen. “Is this that Under thing you mentioned?”

“I didn’t read it,” Rui replied, the hair dryer back on.

“It says they caught some of Miror B’s peons trying to sneak into the Under, and how there’s still a bunch of those strange pokemon appearing in town. He wants us to help Silva investigate.”

“Us or you?”

“Well, me, but...” A7 looked up at her, “I presume you want to tag along...”

Rui froze for a moment, and looked at him with a hint of a smile. “Y-yeah, I... I do. This Cipher Syndicate is getting bigger and bigger, and I want to get to the bottom of it.”

“To find your pokemon...?”

Rui sighed, “It’s more than that, Seven. I just... hate this thing they’re doing to these poor pokemon... And, I know you don’t understand,” she said to his confused expression, “but I really care about this. They’re evil people. And we need to find the guy at the top to take him down...”

Espeon looked expectantly at A7 and was scared by the soft expression on his face.

“I mean,” A7 said shyly, “If that’s what you want...”

Even Rui was a little taken aback, “W-what about the problem with your pokemon?”

A7’s right hand instinctively touched his bare chest above his left nipple. This was usually where his inner coat pocket was, but as he wasn’t wearing his coat, this gesture was made awkward. He covered this movement by reaching up and scratching his shoulder.

A7 him-hawed a bit. “Well, I mean... I’ve... I’ve spent years trying to find the little guy... I.... I don’t think another few days is going to make much difference...”

Rui beamed and moved to hug A7 as Espeon jumped off the kitchen table and bounded upstairs.

«TACO!! TACO!!» Espeon bellowed as he ran into Rui’s room. Adam’s pokemon were all gathered around, mid-conversation with one another; Bayleef was indicating to Misdreavus with its vines, Quagsire was trying to use a fancy stick for a moustache, Umbreon and Jumpluff were critiquing the room. All of Adam’s pokemon froze when Espeon stopped in the doorway of the room, panting. «Taco! It’s much worse than we thought.»

«What?! What?! What happened down there?!» Umbreon panicked.

Espeon was nearly at tears. «Adam is in love with the girl!»

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

“You’ve really never been to The Under before?” the girl with red pigtails gasped.

No. Really. I haven’t,” the young man with the albino hair replied again, irritated.

The maintenance lift rattled as it descended from the old mining company building and down into the mineshaft below. The further down the lift went, the darker and colder it got. Soon the lantern lights at the corners of the lift were the only light there was in the elevator shaft.

“You’ve been in Pyrite for how many years?” the girl continued, “And you've never visited the Under?”

“The Under is a different town, separate from Pyrite. And no, I’ve never had a reason to visit.”

A beam of bright light blinded them briefly as the elevator moved past a mine shaft corridor where some construction was happening. The darkness engulfed them again shortly after, and their eyes continued to adjust to the perpetual night.

The young man looked at her suspiciously and retorted, “Are you implying that you have been to the Under?”

The girl was hesitant, “This was... this was where I got kidnapped...”

A loud banging rattled the elevator; the car shook for a moment. The girl, nervous, got closer to the young man.

“Why the hell were you down here in the first place?” the young man asked.

The girl gave a hesitant half-laugh. “It’s.... a long story...”

It was then that the rock face turned to meshed metal and The Under came into view. The ravine to the right, the same ravine that separated Pyrite’s colosseum from its town proper, opened up at this depth into an expansive open cavern. Inside this cavern, the old miners had built a town.

Metal and stone buildings had been constructed in the center of the caverns. The buildings were stacked on top of each other: shops, pubs, and specialty stores all built on the same small plot of land, each level with its own storefront. A couple of these buildings were so tall, they literally scraped the roof of the cavern. Metal walkways, metal staircases, and sometimes metal ladders provided access and patios to the higher storefronts. Neon lights and holographic signs adorned the buildings, calling attention to themselves and the storefronts they advertised.

Metal and stone houses were constructed and carved into the walls of the cavern. They too were stacked vertically, reaching 8 or 9 stories high before the roof of the cavern got in the way. Some patches of wall were haphazard about the placement of their houses, with houses sometimes half-dangling out over a sheer drop into a neighbor’s porch, and metal walkways being only means of accessing them. Other patches were more uniform, with the cavern wall terraced so solid stone was the walkway between houses.

Metal walkways and staircases connected the outer shell of houses to the inner towers of buildings. Pipes and wires were everywhere. Metal ductwork ran up and down every building. Wire conduit spanned gaps hundreds of meters across. Corrugated piping wound its way around signs, under walkways, and through fuse boxes. Black bundles of wire draped from the ceiling of the cavern itself, dangling in gaps and connecting lighting fixtures.

The young man with albino hair moved to the edge of the elevator to get a better look through the fencing at the construction marvel before him. The elevator lowered down out of the ceiling of the cavern, and slowed down as it reached the floor of it. The elevator came to a stop with a violent shake, and the gates on the elevator opened. He stepped out of the elevator slowly, still marvelling at the mess of metal walkways and buildings all around him. Rui physically pushed him to move faster.

“First time in ‘e Under, love?” a young woman asked. She wore a pink tutu over her jeans and had a purple top hat with matching cane. She leant against a nearby railing; her Aipom was dangling from the railing next to her. She grinned at the awestruck boy. “You might’n’t wanna keep yer mouth gawking open like ‘at. Cave water might draip down inta it!”

A7 snapped his mouth closed and glared back with contempt. Rui giggled.

“Not’ta mention,” the woman continued, and indicated with two fingers for them to come closer. They moved a bit closer and the woman dropped her volume. “You might wanna try and fit in ‘round these parts. Ol’ Lady Venus is a scheming up some trouble on’e again.”

“Lady Venus?” A7 asked.

“Ye’ll know ‘er when you see ‘er. She just won’t stay off ‘e telly for more ‘en five minutes. ‘Specially when she’s scheming up some’ing fierce.”

She pointed to a large flat-screen TV hung from above the gates of the elevator. It currently showed a mess of static. The young man looked around a bit and saw that these TVs were scattered haphazardly all over the Under. He had thought they were light fixtures and neon signs at first glance. On second pass, it was pretty clear the TVs likely outnumbered the streetlight fixtures.

“They’re everywhere,” A7 gasped.

“You should feel right at home,” Rui quietly teased. He smacked her. She giggled and then turned to the woman, “What do you mean by ‘she’s scheming?’”

The lady smiled. She checked her watch. “We hadn’ had one in ten minutes now. I bet ya...” She held up a finger. As if right on cue, the TVs all across the Under suddenly went pure white, and a jingle began playing. “I knew it!” the performer lady said, pleased with herself.

As the jingle played, a title card appeared on screen, with text that read “The Under Time” over an oval image of a cartoonish cave setting.

“Did they steal the breaking news jingle?” “No, Seven, they didn’t.”

A woman appeared on the TV now. She held an overlarge microphone. “Hello, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! It’s time for The Under Time again today!” Her voice echoed throughout the whole Under. There was no way you could miss a broadcast.

“Is that Lady Venus?” Seven asked.

“Shh!” the performer lady slapped at him, “Not ostentatious enough.”

“Without further ado, let’s bring out that special someone we’ve all been waiting for! Lady Venus, please!”

As soon as Lady Venus appeared on screen, A7 knew why the performer lady had used (and actually pronounced) the word “ostentatious”. Venus wore a giant decorous white and pink gown, complete with massive sleeves and overlarge shoulder pads. She wore what could only be described as a horned crown on her head, with said horns protruding a good half a meter out to either side of her head. She had what looked like a giant bouncing sideways golden Lunatone simply floating behind her head, presumably to invoke the imagery of a goddess’s halo. Her golden hair was tied tightly in braids that fell on her shoulders. Her eyebrows were plucked, her eyes lined, her lipstick rose red. She wore a pink veil over her nose and mouth. She smiled sweetly.

A7’s first reaction: “What in the fuck??”

“Hi, everyone!” Venus echoed from the TV, “It’s me, your Venus! Everyone’s Venus, that’s me!”

A7’s second reaction: “I feel like I’ve seen her before...”

Rui turned to him. “You told me you’ve never been to the Under before!”

“I haven’t!” he spat, “So clearly I must have seen her outside of it before.”

“I have something terribly important to share with you today.” Venus continued, “It’s horrid. There are spies right here in The Under. Can you imagine?”

Rui grabbed A7’s arm and squeezed. A7 smacked her off him. The performer lady laughed at the TV screen.

“We don’t really know all the details, but if you see anyone suspicious, please let us know. Everyone, please, I’m counting on you! We need you to get lots of information for us!”

The performer lady laughed harder as the woman with the overlarge microphone reappeared on screen.

“And that was Lady Venus! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, thank you for watching. Please do tune in again!”

“As if we hav’n choice,” the performer lady scoffed in a manner that suggested she always said that. The TVs turned to static images once more. “Naw that one’s a new one! Spies!” she laughed, “As if we’s all one big secret org’nig’zation or som’ing! We’s pulling off a whole buncha covert op’rations down’n ‘ere!”

Rui tried to share a glance with A7, but A7 was too busy quietly laughing at the performer lady.

“You wanna know wha’sa best part?!” the performer lady continued raucously, “She di’n’ tell us jack shit! She said: ‘anyone suspicious’. You wanna know whos ‘suspicious’?!” She pointed at the two of them. “Yous suspicious, ‘cause yous just show up in ‘e Under!”

Rui clenched as A7 continued to to laugh.

“Yous know who else?! I’m suspicious! Cause I hang out by ‘es elevator! Yous know who else?!” The performer lady started turning about on the spot, pointing at anyone she saw as she spun. “He’s suspicious. She’s suspicious. He’s suspics. He’s suspicous. She’s supich. He. She. She. He. He. He.” She completed the circle. We’s all mutherfuck’n sucspicious! She spazzed out, flailing her arms, “‘Cause we live ‘e Under. We’s all criminals to ‘e Upper people! We’s criminals to ‘e criminals in Pyrite!”

A7 was nearly on the floor with his laughter now. Rui, rubbing her elbow, began chuckling at how over-the-top hilarious A7 found this. She saw now that a small crowd had formed around the street performer.

“So I dunno wha Lady Venus wan’s! She didn’ tell us shit! She’s gonna get ten’haousand reports of ‘suspicious’, as e’ery one of us assholes reports o’r brothers, o’r sisters, o’r aunts, o’r uncles, mothers, and fathers, o’r fucking pokemon! Theys all spies!!”

The crowd laughed, and as the street performer bowed, they all clapped. Several people tossed a few bills at her feet as they dispersed, which her Aipom swiftly picked up. A7 was wiping tears from his eyes as he pulled out a few bills and gave them directly to the Aipom.

“Thank ya kindly,” she bowed, “An’ I highly sujjest, good sir in e’ white mop, ‘at you go see ‘e parts shop down ‘e way. Ask fer Perr. He’d be ‘specting you.”

A7 was taken aback, the smile on his face vanishing in an instant. “Someone’s expecting me? Why?”

The performer shrugged. “‘sall I know. ‘Es little’uns like ta play ‘ere games an’ don’ tell noone no’hing.”

A7 gestured his thanks and lead Rui away. “We have a tip on where to go.”

“That doesn’t make me happy...” Rui cringed.

“She said they were kids. As long as you outnumber them, they’re pretty easy to handle if you have your wits about you,” he smirked. “And I have a good feeling about this...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 29

The four-seated hovering desert runner slowed down roughly as it approached the Mt. Battle facility. Its driver, a man wrapped in white and green robes and baggy green pants, steered the desert runner inexpertly towards a parking lot.

The parking lot was full of a medley of various desert running vehicles. Any one vehicle could have anywhere from zero to six spiked tires on them, and nearly all of them had at least one, if not several, hover plates installed on them. One vehicle had a rocket booster crudely strapped to the back of it; that vehicle looked like it had been in more than one violent crash.

The robed man was not used to the frictionless maneuvering the hover plates afforded to the desert runner. He banged the vehicles on either side of the parking space he was attempting to park in. The man turned off the vehicle in irritation, and the vehicle stopped dead. He flipped up the hood of his robes to cover his wind-stricken gray hair, and he tightened the silken scarf covering his lower face.

As he stepped out of the vehicle, he inspected the runners on either side of him, to see what kind of damage he had done. However, because the vehicles were already scratched and rough all over, he couldn’t find where he might have damaged them.

There was a Rhydon seemingly standing guard a few rows down in the parking lot. And there were two hooligans approaching it. Their voices carried on the wind.

“That’s probably not a wild one! It’s standing guard!”

“Well try it anyway, nitwit, just in case we don’t have to waste a Snag Ball!”

The robed man was in the process of choosing what pokemon he should leave to guard his runner when he heard this dialog. He paused and turned, unfamiliar with the term “Snag Ball”. He witnessed one of the hooligans throw a ball at the Rhydon. The ball smacked into a red forcefield that briefly appeared around the Rhydon; the ball bounced back at the hooligan. The Rhydon was angered by this, and began rushing at them.

“Snag it already before it kills us!”

The other hooligan threw a slightly different colored ball. It flew differently, seemingly guiding itself through the air. The ball opened above the Rhydon and energy tendrils reached down at it like a hand grabbing at the pokemon. The red force field appeared again, but this time the tendrils shattered the forcefield, and the Rhydon disappeared into the ball. This alarmed the robed man greatly, and it brought great joy to the hooligans.

“I’ve got a Rhydon now!!”

The robed man suddenly decided against leaving a pokemon by his vehicle. He quickly moved towards the Mt. Battle facility.

“Hey! Let’s try it out in battle right now!” “What?! No! You can't—!” “RHY!!” “AUGH!!” “You idiot!! They're not instant conv—!!” “DOONNNNN!!!!!” “Run away!!!!” “You MORON!!

The robed man climbed the front steps of the facility and stepped inside, as a raging Rhydon chased after the hooligans through the parking lot and front yard behind him.

Inside the building, a line of trainers stood in front of a doorway labeled “Mt. Battle Challenge”. A woman was by the doorway, smiling at them, making small talk to the people in line near her. A light above the doorway turned green and she allowed one trainer through. He stepped through the door to the outside, onto what looked like a perilous catwalk to a series of floating arenas beyond.

There was a woman tending a healing machine and a man tending shop also in this building. Near the healing machine, a man on crutches was being interviewed by a news reporter and cameraman. The robed man moved over to them, in hopes of listening in. The reporter was wrapping up the interview. The cameraman began packing up the camera.

“Thank you,” the reporter shook the hand of the man on crutches, “I hope you get better soon.”

“Same,” the man replied, “I’d like to get back to battling shortly.”

“Could I just get the spelling of your name for the lower third?”

“Vander: V-A-N-D-E-R.” He waited for the reporter to write it down, “Did you ever get the proper name of that guy who beat Dakim?”

The reporter gave him a look that radiated hatred and pain, “No, and boy would I like to give him a piece of my mind. He gave me some 10 word name that started with ‘Napoleon’ and ended with like three random titles people take degrees to get stuck onto their name.”

“So clearly a fake name,” Vander confirmed.

“Yeah, clearly trying to hide his identity,” the reporter scowled, “His girlfriend and their bastard kid pilfered a bunch of money off me too before they ran off into the desert. Bunch of criminals, the lot of them.”

“Shame. I’ve got a bone to pick with that guy as well. Off the record: that thing that Dakim wanted? Well that asshole stole it off of him when he beat him. I never got it back!”

“What was it that was stolen, anyway?” the cameraman asked.

“I’d rather not say,” Vander replied, “But it’s a priceless artifact. And who knows where it is at this point.”

“I heard from the helicopter crew that the guy and his posse raced off to Pyrite Town on his massive motorcycle.”

Pyrite,” Vander gasped irritably, “Wonderful. It’s probably making its way through the black market right now!”

“My sympathies,” the reporter patted his arm. “Chances are he’ll be in the news again soon. Thanks again for the interview. It’ll likely be broadcast tonight.”

“My pleasure,” Vander replied. The crew walked off. Vander turned to speak with the robed man, who had been standing by, looking interested in talking to him. But the man was gone. Vander glanced about to see if the robed man had wandered off to somewhere in the facility for a moment. He was nowhere to be found. Vander shrugged and gingerly sat down near the line of trainers by the doorway. He struck up a cheery conversation with them.

Chapter Text

Chapter -15

“Are you sure this is the right thing to do, professor?”

“No, I’m not sure, but it’s what I’m doing.”

“Don’t you have the resources to get the boy proper counseling instead?”

“It’s not a matter of resources, but a matter of politics.”

“Politics?”

“Swear to me right now that what I’m about to say to you never leaves this room.”

“...yes, of course.”

“That boy is a fugitive from the state.”

“What? How?! That boy can barely look someone in the eye without curling into a ball and crying! There’s no way he ran from the police!”

“He didn’t run. I stole him away from police custody myself.”

“Professor!? How—?!”

“The way he is right now?! That state of being scared of everything around him?! I did that to him! That’s my fault! Indirectly, of course; I would never raise my hand to a child. But what I did to him, I might have well. And it’s my duty to fix it, if I can!”

“So this is the reason then? This is the reason you, a professor of pokemon, suddenly make this clandestine diversion into a child psychology study, of all things?”

“Yes. I figured other children could benefit from this as well, so I offered it to a limited number of other families under a false guise. The boy himself will be known as Subject C in the records, just another subject among many. I assure you the programming lineup I showed you earlier is harmless to them.”

“Yeah, to the point of being pointless. How do you expect this to help ‘Subject C’?”

“I expect this to distract him... hopefully to the point of forgetting what he witnessed happening to his parents...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

“I’m very disappointed. The spies haven’t been caught yet. Can you imagine?”

Venus’s voice echoed through the Under once again. The young man with the albino hair held his ears against the announcement as he walked along a third-floor catwalk between metal buildings. The girl with the red pigtails behind him scowled at the three TVs that hung from a nearby wall, each showing the simpering woman in the outrageous getup. The boy in the red bandanna and blue shirt that lead the two of them giggled a little at their reactions.

“Everyone, please, I’m counting on you for more cooperation!”

“And that was Lady Venus! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, thank you for watching. Please do tune in again!”

“Because we can totally choose not to...” the boy sneered at the TV as it turned to static again.

“Seems to be the consensus...” the young man replied, lowering his hands.

“Has anyone tried to just turn off the TVs, Perr?” Rui asked the boy.

“A’course!” Perr said, stopping at the corner of a building, “People’s climbed up them, pulled out the plugs and stuff. She has her guys fix ‘em up an’ put up more. People get punished if they gets caught.”

Perr then vanished around the corner of the building. Seven and Rui stopped short of the corner of the building, for the corner of the building also marked the end of the catwalk. Or rather, the sheer drop off of the catwalk, as there was no railing at this catwalk’s end. One could easily just fall off and drop three stories to the cavern floor if they weren’t paying attention.

“Yo! Rui! Damien!” Perr called through the metal grating from two stories above, “Com’on! Use the ladder!”

Rui carefully approached the end of the catwalk and looked around the edge of the building. There was indeed a ladder attached to the wall just around the corner, over a three-story drop. She backed away. “Um... you can go first.”

Damien grinned, “What? So you won’t have anyone to catch you when you fall?”

“I’ll go first...” Rui said, approaching the edge of the catwalk gingerly.

She reached out and grabbed the ladder. She squealed in terror a little as she went to lean out. Damien approached and held onto her around the waist, his face portraying a bored amusement. She closed her eyes for a moment as she leaned out and stuck her foot onto a rung of the ladder. She then quickly grabbed hold of the ladder with her other hand and soon she was on the ladder. She breathed uneasily as she climbed upward, refusing to look down. Damien smoothly swung around onto the ladder after her.

“Wow, you guys are slow,” Perr mocked as Rui gingerly climbed off the ladder backwards at the top.

“Blame her,” Damien said from below Rui. Rui shot him a nasty look.

“Com’on, it’s not much further from here,” Perr pointed down the catwalk. The catwalk extended out from the town center, up a flight of mid-air steps, and met up with one of the walls of the cavern.

“Perr,” Rui asked as Damien got off the ladder, “How long have you lived down here?”

“I don’ live down here,” Perr explained, leading them down the catwalk, “I get sent down here by my dad when he doe’n’t want me around.”

“Oh that’s horrible,” Rui gasped, covering her mouth in shock and sadness.

“Nahh,” Perr waved it off, “It’s okay down here. I live wit’ my gramps when I’m down here. An’ I get to hang out wit’ a buncha ot’er kids who do live down here. Your ‘bout to meet ‘em.”

Perr climbed up the stairs and came to a landing. This landing catwalk, hanging in midair, had five different paths splitting off at odd angles leading to various locations along the cavern wall, some higher up, some lower down. Perr headed down one in the middle, towards a set of houses that were built into an inward slope in the cave wall; higher houses hung out over lower houses, creating a strange reverse-step look to this neighborhood. Most of the houses had lights on inside, and some had what amounted to a porch light lighting up their front door and the cavern below them. The house Perr was heading to did not have a porch light; it had a satellite dish instead, hanging down below the house, pointing at the roof of the cavern.

Perr approached the metal door. Damien and Rui stopped behind him. He knocked: two taps, a pause, a series of four taps, a pause, and then he kicked the door twice. Nothing seemed to happen for a moment, but Perr was patient. An eye hole opened up at adult eye height, and a small pair of eyes looked out at Damien and Rui and then down at Perr below.

“When does the Murkrow fly at night?” a small girl’s voice asked through the door.

“Through the sandstorm,” Perr replied.

Rui and Damien looked confused at each other as the eye hole slid closed. The front door slid open; a girl in two ponytails and a white dress climbed down off a chair that blocked the doorway. She dragged the chair back off to the side as Perr waved his guests inside. The main room looked like a dining room, with a table and chairs over a throw rug. There were a few doors to other rooms on either side, and a staircase leading downward in the corner.

“Yo, Megg. Where’s Bitt?” Perr asked the girl as he walked inside.

“Bathroom,” the girl replied with a grin, closing the door behind them, “He made me do the door.”

“Good, he might crap himself in excitement otherwise,” Perr grinned, “YO, NETT!! BITT!!” Perr suddenly bellowed.

“WAT?!” a couple of voices yelled from elsewhere in the house.

“We got company, ya nerds!” Perr hollered back. “It’s WACM and Rui!”

“What?!” “WHAT?!” “What?!” “What...?” “WHAT!!”

As Rui and Damien attempted to figured out what Perr just said, one of the other doors slid open with a bang and a boy in a white collared shirt, gray jeans, and round glasses came racing out of the room.

“Is that really true?! Is Wacm really here?!”

Another boy in a green baseball cap and grey shorts came bounding up the stairs, yelling, “She’s really here?!”. He halted on the top step, staring at their guests.

Perr turned to the two boys, arms folded proudly over his puffed-up chest. “In the flesh,” he indicated the young man and the girl with a nod of his head.

The first boy came forward, awestruck, and offered his hand to the young man. “Hi! My name is Nett! It’s an honor to finally meet you!”

“Hi, Nett...” Damien opted to pat the boy on the head instead of shake his hand. “What is it that Perr just called me?”

Nett blushed a little as Perr produced a machine component out of his trousers and handed it to Nett. “Here’s that part you asked for.”

“Great!” Nett replied ecstatically, “We can get the Grid back up and running again!”

“Finally!” Megg cheered as Nett ran back into the room he came from.

“You didn’t answer my question...” Damien interjected, moving after him into the back room. It was a small dark room, with three computers sitting on various desks placed haphazardly in the room. Wires were everywhere: hanging from the furniture, carpeting the floor, running along the walls... Nett entered the room and more-or-less dove headfirst into the pile of wires, seemingly searching for something. Damien opted not to actually enter the room, lest he get caught in the mess of wires.

“What do you mean, ‘the Grid’?” Rui asked from behind Damien.

“The Kids Grid!” Megg replied cheerily.

“What’s the Kids—”

“No!” Damien spat, “Answer my question first! What the hell did you all just call me?!”

“Wacm,” Perr replied, leaning against the door frame, “W-A-C-M. It’s an acronmeer for all yer names!”

“Acronym!” Nett corrected as he emerged from the pile of wires with a couple red wires in-hand. He shoved past everyone at the door, explaining as he walked. “See, the Kids Grid is a network of kids across various towns in the region.”

“Nett set it up!” Megg interjected. “My big brother’s a computer genius!”

Wacm, Rui, Perr, and Megg followed behind Nett as he moved into another room. Rui noted that Bitt was still standing at the top of the stairs, shyly digging his toe into the flooring, watching them move about.

“And what does this have to do with calling me ‘WACM’?” Wacm asked, irritably.

Nett opened the door to this other room. This room held a server farm. Or rather, the floor was strewn with several old computers that were haphazardly wired together. And there was a fan in an open window that was trying to keep the room cool. The fan wasn’t doing too good of a job, in this respect.

“Us kids are all on our own VPN,” Nett explained as he began rearranging wires, “where we can talk to each other and gather information. You two came up in conversation when you took down Miror B. It was a little confusing at first, but we figured out that you never use the same name twice!”

Wacm was taken aback by this conclusion. Rui gave him a look that indicated she agreed with Nett’s assessment.

“Marcia said your name was Colin.” Nett listed off idly, “Marcia recently got in touch with a guy named Lon, who said your name was Wesley. Silva said you used the names ‘A7’ and ‘Merik’ at some point. So we started calling you ‘WACM’: Wesley A7 Colin Marik.”

Rui was suppressing a giggle. Wacm folded his arms, sighing.

“Oh yeah,” Perr piped up, “I forgot to tell you guys. Wacm was on a news broadcast a bit ago. I saw it while I was in Gateon. He gave the reporter the name ‘Napoleon’! And just now, when we met, he told me his name was Damien!”

“We’re not adding any more letters on to that acronym,” Nett scowled, “It’s barely pronounceable as it is.”

“Can’t I just give you a name you kids can call me by?” Wacm asked.

“No,” Nett spat, “You would just give us yet another new name!”

Wacm rocked his head side to side in a manner that suggested that that was actually what he was going to do.

Rui giggled at this. She then glanced over at Bitt again. He had gotten a little closer to the group since last she checked, and his face seemed to be more red as well.

Nett exited the server room and rushed back to the first room. He sat down at one of the computer terminals and began pounding away at the keyboard. The rest of them all shifted with him, except for Rui, who stuck around near the server room.

“So,” Wacm asked of Nett, “what’s with all the processing power? And that part you needed?”

“In the last day or two,” Nett replied, still typing away, “We somehow lost connection to the others. I think it’s a jamming signal, and it’s probably Venus’s doing.”

“Venus is trying to jam you?”

“Venus knows about you kids?!” Rui asked more pressingly, concerned.

Perr scoffed, “If Venus knew about us, no secret knock and nonsense password would keep her and her men out.”

“Which is probably why she doesn’t,” Nett agreed, “Chances are she’s just jamming the news broadcasts from the surface. The Cipher Syndicate has been all over the news recently...”

Megg added, “Though she could just be blocking more hacking from Nett.”

“What?!” Wacm gasped as Nett once again ran into the server room, “You hacked their computers?!”

“Just a little,” Nett grinned, “No one noticed.”

“Nett got a bunch of data out of their computers,” Megg exclaimed, “There’s a whole bunch on the Lab where they make Shadow Pokemon!”

“There’s a lab?!” Rui gasped, “D-Do you know where??”

“At the end of some train tunnel, as far as we can tell,” Nett replied, once again returning to the control room, “And that’s about it right now. I’m going to try and get more info once we get back online.”

Rui glanced down to her left and found that Bitt had managed to make it to the wall right next to her. She grinned and sat down against the wall. He became red once more, rubbing his elbow shyly. She looked directly at him, and flicked a bit of hair out of his face. It looked like he was going to pass out from the sheer amount of blood his face had horded.

“Y-y-your p-p-p-pretty...” Bitt just barely managed to whisper.

Rui smiled gently at him. “Oh, thank you,” she replied kindly, “You’re quite handsome yourself.” Bitt responded by more furiously trying to dig through the floor with his toe.

Perr and Megg snickered at them. Wacm turned to look at what they were snickering at, and a nasty smirk came to his face. “We should probably get going before Romeo here steals my girl away from me.” Bitt was suddenly furious at him.

“There!” Nett announced, “We should be back online again!”

“Yay!” Megg cheered, “I can talk to Secc and Marcia again!”

“That capacitor Perr got us is powering through the jamming signal. Heck, if that jamming signal goes down, we might be able to reach beyond Orre with this signal, even from down here in the Under!”

“Hey, since you know about us now,” Perr suggested, “You wanna join the Kids Grid?”

“Yeah!” Bitt piped up towards Rui, “We could talk to you directly!”

“We’d get you any information we dig up on the Cipher Syndicate!” Nett added.

Wacm and Rui exchanged glances. “Sure,” he shrugged, and pulled out his PDA. Nett took it and promptly plugged it into the computer to download their communication app. “You want this too, Rui?” Wacm asked.

“Nah,” she said, “I’m still tagging along with you, Seven, and that’s enough for me.”

Bitt seemed devastated by this.

“Sorry, fella,” she said, getting up on her knees to come face to face with him, “I’m not the kind of girl who gives out my number to random guys.” She gently lifted the boy’s chin, “But I will give you this, as a parting ‘thank you’.” She gently kissed him on the cheek.

Bitt proceeded to melt into a puddle of funny feelings on the floor.

Wacm retrieved his PDA from Nett as Perr and Megg cracked up laughing. “Thanks, guys,” Wacm said, heading towards the door. Rui got up and followed him out, waving goodbye to the kids. The door slid shut behind them.

A7 gave Rui a smirk. “You know... you’re a bit of a slut,” he said.

He then bolted as fast as he could down the catwalk away from the offended and revenge-seeking girl with red pigtails.

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

“We got the spy!” “The spy!” “We caught him!” “Finally!” “Lady Venus will be so proud!” “Lady Venus will finally shut up!”

“Let me go! Let me go!”

“Shut up!” “It’s hopeless!” “Quit struggling already!”

The young blonde man was shoved into the fenced-off storage area. He stumbled to his knees as they locked the gate behind him. He struggled against the wires that bound his hands behind him.

“Let me out!” he called.

“Shut up already, spy!” “Now you be a good boy and lie still.”

His captors walked away, pleased with themselves. He sat down up against the fencing that looked out over the rest of the Under. His cage was near the Pyrite elevator, where he had been caught, a few flights of stairs up from there. He had a decent view of the whole Under. He sighed, and tested the wires binding him again, in vain.

Suddenly, a green vine dropped down from above right in front of him. The boots and blue coat of someone he recognized came into view shortly after.

“Colin!” he cried as a young man with albino hair descended down the vine. “It’s me, Silva!”

“I know who you are, Silva,” Colin replied smugly as he sat himself on the ledge on the opposite side of the fence. “And I have a list the length of my arm of stuff to tease you about.”

“What?! Colin, now’s not the—”

“First, of course, is your current situation. I didn’t know you were into kidnapping and BDSM. Kinky stuff, of course. Is Duking into it too, because I can imagine if he isn’t, it’d be quite a massive itch to scratch.”

Silva leaned against the fencing, his eyes closed in irritation. “Colin, please...”

“Second, major one,” Colin checked off a tick on an invisible checklist, “I didn’t know you and Duking were into the whole public sex thing. Like you were the night Miror B was driven out of town.”

Silva’s eyes shot open. “What.”

“I mean, really, not even taking the time to make sure the windows were closed and the doors were locked before just going at it on the desk. I really thought you two were more careful.”

“You–you–you—you–you s-s-s-saw that?” Silva cringed.

“Me personally, no,” Colin said animatedly, to a sigh of relief from Silva. “My girlfriend, however, I found out was the voyeuristic type. And I guess it did make her horny as hell later on, so perhaps I should thank you for that...”

“Too much information...” Silva groaned.

“Thirdly—”

“Enough!” Silva demanded.

“But it’s just getting good!” Colin mocked irritation.

“Are you gonna get me out of here or what?”

“And risk getting labeled a ‘spy’ as well? Not likely,” Colin said, swinging his feet from the ledge, “I just found out I have a posse of small children who can probably unlock this gate remotely with their computer mumbo jumbo. I think you might already know them, actually; they did mention your name. I’ll drop them a line for you.”

“...Right. Good enough,” Silva sighed, “Listen, I discovered that they were bringing those fucked up pokemon into Pyrite from the Under. I got as far as figuring out they were coming from across the ravine over there before they caught me.”

“I’m guessing under the Colosseum over there?”

“Something like that.”

“There’s a TV station I’ve set my sights on over there as well. I’ll investigate your hunch while I’m dealing with that.”

“Those broadcasts from ‘Lady Venus’?”

“Oh yes. I have a bone to pick with her...”

Silva smiled, “L-like an actual bone? Like your bone?”

Colin stared at him disappointedly. “Leave the lewd quips to me, please?”

“Sorry...”

Colin grabbed hold of the green vine still dangling in front of him. He gave a small tug, and the vine began retreating, bringing Colin up with it. Colin’s boots vanished and Silva sighed. He struggled against the wires binding his wrists again. He bit his lip, glancing down at himself, and brought his legs up to his chest, to attempt to hide his highly unwarranted, and growing, excitement.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

“And we’re live in five... four... three...” The guy continued to count down with exaggerated motions on his fingers, silently. The attention jingle could be heard echoing throughout the Under outside. The man then gestured broadly to the lady with the giant microphone.

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!” she announced into the camera, and her voice could be heard echoing with a couple second delay outside, “It’s time for The Under Time again! Lady Venus, please!”

The bright red light atop the camera, that indicated which camera was currently live, switched to a camera that was focused on Lady Venus, in her giant pink and white dress. “Hi, everyone!” she simpered, “It’s me, your Venus! Everyone’s Venus, that’s me! I applaud you all on catching that spy, but unfortunately there’s still more!”

The young man with the albino hair and the girl with red pigtails watched the live production from a wall in the shadows behind the cameras. The young man turned to the girl, “We all know, of course, the spies are everywhere,” he grinned.

The program manager turned to look at them, and gave them an exaggerated and silent shush. The young man put his hands up in mock apology.

“That spy was only one of the ones we were looking for!” Venus continued from behind the news counter on set, “So please keep sending in all the information you can! We have to catch these spies! Who knows where they could be!”

“Why,” the young man said loudly, in a tone mocking Venus’s high pitched delivery, “they could be right under our noses, even!”

The program manager stormed over to the young man and got into his personal space. “That’s it, you’re out of here!” he demanded into his face.

The young man shoved him away and released his Quagsire to stand between him and the program manager. “Actually, I’m not. Because I came here specifically to see my Venus,” he walked towards Venus, arms wide open, “My Venus, doing what she does best! Pontificating to the Under!”

A cameraman had spun his camera around to get a shot of the young man, walking towards the set between cameras two and three. This camera was live, in fact. The live feed switched over to Venus, furious.

“Who do you think you are, boy?! Interrupting my broadcast!? Assaulting my producer!?!”

“I think you know exact...ly....” the young man trailed off as he got close to Venus. Slowly, a smile creeped onto his face, starting small, then going to full teeth. “Hoooohhh ho oh oh, Amber above... you are too kind to me...” he laughed softly to himself, then said, more sultry, “I think you know exactly who I am.”

Venus was flabbergasted at his tone of voice. “What is it that you’re implying, boy?! Wait,” her hands went to her mouth, “you’re on our blacklist from headquarters! You’re that Marik kid!”

That’s the one I came in here prepared for!” Marik announced with a massive smile. He turned promptly to the camera and waved, “Hello, Under Dwellers. I’m the designated spy. Thank you for playing our little game. We’re sorry no one won the grand prize this week, but don’t forget to tune in next week for more hijinks.” he winked, “Not that you have much choice in the matter, of course.”

“STOPPIT!” Venus shrieked, “You are not authorized to broadcast to them!”

“No, of course not!” Marik’s eyes snapped to Venus, smile still spread wide across his face, “I sincerely apologize!” he bowed insincerely, “Only your highness may address the peasants.”

“That’s corr–” Venus caught herself, and pointed accusingly at him, “No! How dare you! I am not their queen,” she posed dramatically, “I am their Venus!”

“Yes, of course,” Marik conceded, “Venus, goddess of love and teacher of sex techniques!”

“WHAT?!” Venus snapped, wide eyed.

“What? You don’t go by that anymore?” Marik said, feigning concern, “Oh I apologize!” he turned to looked directly into the live camera, “I’m an old student of hers.”

The whole studio collectively gasped, and began mumbling amongst themselves. The reaction from the Under was so raucous, the rumbling could be heard making its way through the walls of the studio.

“How dare you make up such lies!” Venus growled through bared teeth.

“Did you get a breast reduction in the past eight or so years?” Marik asked, mocking innocent curiosity, “Then again, I was fifteen, so they might have just seemed a lot bigger back then.”

The mumbling in the studio strengthened, and Venus turned to them. “Shut up! This devil tells lies! I have no idea who he even is!”

“You don’t remember me?” Marik pouted, with a sudden exaggerated sad face, “How could you forget? You were my first. You’d never been anyone’s first before. So we spent allllll night loooong going over the techniques on how to improve my stamina. And let me tell you,” he ended with a grin, “I really took to it.”

Suddenly a flash of recognition flitted across Venus’s face.

“There it is!” Marik pointed, mounting an evil grin on his face. The roar from the Under reached a fever pitch.

“NO!!! YOU FUCKER!!!” Venus screeched, backing up, and suddenly five pokemon were flying out of their balls on her side. Delcatty, Banette, and Vileplume lined up in front of her, smashing away the newsroom set on either side. They were followed shortly by a massive Steelix, which roared as it tore through the rafters overhead, causing studio lights to come crashing down around it. Venus herself was suddenly riding atop a massive Suicune, it’s hair and tail ribbons flapping furiously, like they were in a hurricane.

Marik was soon too surrounded by his pokemon, his Umbreon and Espeon up front, his Bayleef and Jumpluff on either side, and his Misdreavus with murderous eyes behind him. He pointed, they attacked.

Delcatty and Espeon met and began scratching hard at each other. Steelix came around, lifting its tail high, knocking out more rafters. Misdreavus aimed its shadow ball at the Delcatty, but the Delcatty was unaffected; Espeon, however, was being auto-recalled. Steelix’s tail came down hard where Espeon once fought, and the steel floor opened up and crinkled beneath it. Delcatty was dragged under the Steelix’s tail as the floor was pulled from under it. Jumpluff was there, flying over the Steelix’s tail, and sucked a massive amount of energy from the Delcatty. The Delcatty auto-recalled.

Banette ran down the Steelix’s tail, lunging at the Jumpluff with razor claws, but it was battered aside midflight by a stray shadow ball, and then beaten in and finished off with a deliberate shadow ball. Steelix swung its tail upward, batting the Jumpluff out of the air, and then beat the pokemon down with a rock it pulled from the subfloor. Jumpluff was called back.

Umbreon, meanwhile, was dodging around Vileplume. Umbreon was still getting used to having to attack with a secret power he had, rather than his now-broken teeth. He got a blast of powder from the Vileplume in his face, and he felt sick, but continued to attack as best he could. However, another swing of the massive Steelix’s tail, and both he and Vileplume were being auto-recalled.

Marik looked around the battlefield, dodging the swing of Steelix’s tail. Venus was riding high atop her Suicune, commanding the Steelix where to smash its tail. Marik pulled out an Ultra Ball, and charged his Snag Machine. The black and yellow striped ball turned brown and orange, and he haphazardly threw the ball once he had line of sight on the beast. The Snag Ball flew over Venus’s head and the tendrils reached right around her and through the contract of the pokeball. Suicune vanished from underneath Venus, and she screamed as she landed on her backside. Venus’s crown and moon decoration tumbled off her as the Snag Ball threw itself through the raucous battle towards Wes’s feet.

“NO!!” Venus yelled piercingly, “You will not take Dong from me!!

“T-take what?!” Marik spluttered, surprised.

It didn’t matter, though, the Ultra Ball broke open and Suicune reappeared on the field right in front of Marik. It roared angrily at the young man, and reared back, ready to dark-tackle him. Then Steelix happened. Marik had dove to dodge Suicune; he instead successfully dodged Steelix’s tail. The tail passed right over his head, taking Suicune with it. The legendary beast slammed hard into the wall and fell unconscious.

Venus screamed as she fumbled for its pokeball. She attempted to recall it, once, twice, but nothing happened. In her rage, she threw the pokeball at the Suicune. The ball bounced off the fallen pokemon, it lifted into the air and opened, and a red forcefield materialized around the Suicune before the pokemon energized and returned to the ball. The ball fell down right there.

Venus’s hair was a mess. Her dress was wrinkled and ripped. Her veil was torn. And she had murder in her eyes. She watched as Bayleef, the last of Marik’s pokemon, fired razor-sharp leaves at Steelix, and Steelix began a slow crumple to the ground. She recalled it before it ruined the studio any more than the thousands of dollars in damage it had already done.

Marik and Bayleef turned to Venus, smug expressions on their faces. Their expressions were wiped away, however, when they both saw Venus’s axe-crazy smile and fire in her eyes.

“A grass-type, eh?” she breathed, her crazy smile reaching homicidal levels, “It’s a good thing, then...” she reached through the torn cleavage of her dress and pulled out an old pokeball, “that I saved... the Best....” she expanded the ball, “for last....”

She tossed out the pokeball. The ball opened, and a white and blue furred beast roared into existence in front of her. The Typhlosion’s flames flared up high, and it opened with a massive, sweeping flamethrower. Bayleef dodged out of the way of the flames, sweating, as Marik ran off towards the cameras.

Bayleef took a moment to regain its composure, though lack of sun did nothing to help. The Typhlosion stomped and opened up the floor under Bayleef. Bayleef stumbled to its feet and rushed headlong at the monster, body checking it. But the Typhlosion caught the body check and, with sheer force of will and muscles, shoved the Bayleef into the ground at its feet. It then roared fire at the Bayleef. Its leaves were smoking as Marik recalled it from the sidelines, before it got too badly hurt.

The Typhlosion roared as Marik pointed. A Remoraid came surfing in on a large wave of water. The tidal wave of water crashed right over the Typhlosion’s head. It seemed for a moment like it was badly hurt by the attack, but then the pokemon grinned horribly and the fire on its back flared up again. The Remoraid swirled around on its wave of water, getting into position to rush it again, but the Typhlosion suddenly bounded over to it, got up on its hind legs, slammed a foot into the ground, and swung an almighty punch at the fish. A giant crack of thunder resounded across the Under as the punch connected, and the unconscious Remorid was flung across the studio. Marik swore as he recalled the fish and threw it back at Rui behind the cameras.

Marik pointed hard at the monster, directing his last pokemon out onto the field. The Quagsire waddled out, adjusting the mittens it had on. The Typhlosion turned, and visibly cackled at the blue pokemon waddling towards it. The Quagsire kindly waddled right up to the Typhlosion and curtseyed. Typhlosion responded by wheeling back and sending out another punch at the pokemon.

A massive crack of thunder resounded across the Under once again, and a bolt of lightning blinded all who were watching. It took a moment for everyone’s eyes to adjust and blink out the streaks that had been flashed onto their retinas.

The Typhlosion’s face went blank. The Quagsire was still standing there, unmoved, the Typhlosion’s fist pushed into its cheek. The vibrations of the absorbed electrical attack wiggled down Quagsire’s tail and into the ground below. Quagsire looked down; Typhlosion followed its gaze. Quagsire’s mittens were black, singed, and smoking. The two pokemon looked at each other, Quagsire angry, Typhlosion still surprised.

Typhlosion roared and went to shove the Quagsire, but Quagsire was faster, and stomped the ground. Typhlosion flew into the air atop the section of floor Quagsire just ripped up. Then, Quagsire fired a missile-head of wet dirt from that hole, sending Typhlosion against the back wall. The stream of mud shot hard and constant against the Typhlosion. It breathed fire, but the mud quashed it. It attempted to shove off the wall, but the mud sent it right back. It struggled hard against the massive stream of mud flying at it, to no avail. This continued for several minutes, Venus screaming at it to get up, before the Typhlosion became lost in the piling sludge, buried somewhere within. Venus recalled the pokemon before she completely lost sight of it.

The TV studio was in ruins. The roof had been torn open from fire, lightning, and meetings with Steelix’s head. The floor and subfloor had been torn to shreds from multiple earth-rending moves. The studio light fixtures scattered the floor; broken glass laid everywhere. There was a single camera still manned, as the others had long fled in terror. The program manager had vanished and control board had been abandoned; Rui had taken over the board. They were still live to the Under. Rui directed the lone cameraman to focus on Venus.

Venus was a mess. Her murderer smile had vanished into the mud. Now she only cried, her makeup running.

Marik came forward and patted Quagsire on the head. “You know, for a pokemon that I don’t remember ever getting... you’re pretty damn good at winning battles.” Quagsire chirped its approval.

“You,” Venus huffed through her tears and her crazy messed up hair, “Why?”

Marik was a little scared of her. “To be honest, you brought this on yourself. I didn’t intend to go this far with this.”

“You ruined me!!” Venus screamed, her voice hoarse.

Marik was shaken. “I mean, that was the plan, yes. Knock you off your high horse... you’re really fucking high horse... get some info on Cipher... basically free the Under from your tyrannical fists... ‘cause, you know, have you seen this place? It’s amazing!”

“I’ll get you back for this... someday...” she spat, and then went off at a sprint down some stairs in the corner. The cameraman followed her out.

A cheer, a roar of the crowds, began echoing through the Under. The young man turned and saw the camera was pointing right at him, zoomed into his face, his uneasy and frightened face. He waved at his neck, signaling to cut the live feed. The red light atop the camera went dark.

The cameraman came out from behind the camera and walked right up to the young man. The cameraman took Marik’s hand in a two-handed handshake. He gave him a wan smile, and patted the young man’s hand. He nodded, and said nothing. Then he left.

The echoed cheering from the Under turned into a rhythmic chanting of “Mar-ik”. Rui came up to Marik as he was stepping through the debris of the studio, looking around at his feet. He bent down and picked up a cardkey. It had an image of what looked like a Maglev train on it.

“Now what?” Rui said, as he pocketed the card.

“Now, I step over there and wave to the Under to shut them up. Then, we go investigate below. Silva said there was possibly something down here.” Marik patted Rui on the shoulder as he stepped over towards the studio’s entrance. He stepped through the door towards the Under proper, and the echos of the chanting turned back to cheering.

Rui sighed, watching the young man’s back as he waved at them beyond her line of sight. She looked down at the Quagsire next to her, who was trying on Venus’s horned crown. It fit surprisingly well.

Chapter Text

Chapter -8

“The Pikachu was your doing?”

“No, the Pikachu I hadn’t expected.”

“But you introduced the wild pokemon, yes?”

“Yes. Pokemon are often an excellent way to calm someone, and have proven excellent for therapy. But I hadn’t anticipated the Pikachu to be so... shall we say, ‘obsessed’ with the TV.”

“Well, it’s doing wonders for Subject C. He’s smiling and laughing, and seems to be acting very much like a normal boy would do once again.”

“Yes. He’s bonding with the pikachu. He and it have come together as close friends in only a few weeks’ time. The only thing stopping it from being his own is the contract of the pokeball.

“Professor, no, that may only complicate things. The Pikachu is the boy’s friend, not his owner. Perhaps it’s best to just leave it be for now.”

“...yes ...for now...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 33

The man in green and white robes walked warily through the streets of Pyrite Town. Everywhere he looked there was a pokemon battle. People in skimpy or ragged clothing were battling fellow people in gang outfits and leather. As he walked along the street, in fact, two people bumped into each other right in front of him, and suddenly he was in between two combatants in a pokemon battle. He backtracked around the battle, and moved through the streets only where the crowds were thinnest.

An old woman stood outside a building that had the words “Fortune Telling” spraypainted on it. The woman was staring directly at the robed man as he made his way around another pokemon battle. The robed man glared at her when he spotted her staring at him. The battle in progress meant he had to walk directly past her to continue on his path.

“I know exactly who you are, wise one,” the old lady said without preamble as he went to move past her.

He gave her another passing sneer, and turned to continue onward.

“The boy you seek, with guardians of light and dark, who knows not his own name,” she continued to his back.

The robed man stopped cold. He stood, her back still to her, listening intently against his better judgement.

As once he fell before, so too he shall again, for the white tower be his doom, lest ye be there to catch him.

The robed man turned with a confused and disgusted face to look at the woman, but the woman had already turned her back on him, and was meandering into the fortune telling building. The door closed behind her. The man turned back around slowly, contemplating what he just heard. Suddenly a boy on rollerskates bumped past him.

“Sorry, mister!” the boy shouted back as he continued skating away.

The robed man, however, was already pulling a pokeball from within his robes. He pointed at the boy as the Charizard appeared from its ball. The Charizard shot into the air and swooped down on the boy. It grabbed the boy around the torso with its claws. The boy screamed as the Charizard flew into the air above the town, the boy gripped tightly to its chest.

The robed man stepped into a side alley, away from the gasping pedestrians around him. He directed his Charizard, circling overhead, to land in the alleyway next to him. The Charizard came in low from beyond the town limits and flapped hard to come to a soft landing in the alleyway. The boy wore a yellow bandanna, a red shirt, several dog tags, a terrified expression, and dripping wet shorts. His arms were pinned to his sides by the Charizard, and his rollerblades dangled a foot off the ground. The robed man reached over and plucked his coin purse from the boy’s waistband. He looked the boy in the eye with an expression of utter contempt, tossing and catching his coin purse pointedly.

“I-I-I-I-I’m s-s-orry m-mister!” The boy squeaked, “I-I-I won’t d-do it again! P-p-please don’t h-h-hurt me!”

The robed man cocked his head to the side, the contempt in his eyes replaced with curiosity. He signaled his Charizard with a couple fingers; his Charizard lowered the boy until his rollerblades touched the ground, but did not release him. The robed man dug inside his robes and pulled out a bright red PDA the likes of which the boy had never seen before. The man opened it and poked at it for a moment before he turned to show the screen to the boy.

On the screen was a freeze-frame captured off a video player. The video had been a news report. The image showed a red-headed girl standing above a boy in a yellow bandana. The robed man pointed, indicating that the boy currently in Charizard’s grip was the same boy. The boy looked up at the robed man in fear, unsure of what he wanted. The robed man then showed him another picture from the same news broadcast, of the redheaded girl and the boy in a yellow bandana talking with a young man with albino hair. He pointed at the young man.

And then the robed man spoke for the first time. And when he spoke, it sounded like he was speaking with two voices at the same time, one lower and more sinister than the other.

"Where is he?"

The boy’s face lit up with renewed terror at the man’s voice. “I-I-I-I-I-I don-I-I don’t—!”

"Tell me what you know!"

“I-I-I-I-I–”

“HEY!”

The robed man stepped back and turned to see a giant body builder at the end of the alley, blocking most of the view of the streets beyond.

“D-Duking!” the boy cried, “H-H-Help m-me!”

This Duking character moved domineeringly down the alley towards the robed man, backing him against the wall. The Charizard snorted a threat at the man its size, but the robed man waved it down.

Duking stood, towering over the robed man, and folded his arms menacingly. “Whatever the meaning of this is, traveller, I’m sure it can be settled civilly without threatening the welfare of our citizens...” Duking growled. “LON!” he shouted suddenly at the boy, “Did you steal from this traveler?”

“Yes,” the boy replied abruptly and timidly.

“Traveller! Did you retrieve your property from him?”

The robed man, regaining his composure, nodded.

“Then why isn’t this over? Why are you keeping this boy hostage?”

"I need information," the robed man said.

Duking was taken aback for only a moment by the man’s double-voice. “What kind of information do you think this boy can give you?”

The robed man held up his red PDA. "I need to find this man. And this boy is friends with him."

Duking raised an eyebrow, “I know that man as well. Surely whatever it is you need to know you can ask of me instead of a helpless child...”

The robed man stared back at Duking for a moment, before waving at his Charizard. The Charizard let the boy go. The boy, unprepared for this, stumbled backwards into the Charizard’s stomach and fell to the ground. The Charizard offered a claw to gently help the boy back to his feet, and dusted him off. The boy moved quickly to the wall of the alley opposite the Charizard. He stood there, back against the wall, staring at the pokemon in confused fear. The Charizard bowed graciously at the boy, growling a concession.

Duking watched this happen, and then stepped back to give the robed man space. “And what business do you have with Colin that you’re kidnapping children over him?” Duking asked the robed man pointedly.

The man was confused for a moment, and pointed at the man in the picture again just to confirm. "My business with him is my business, not yours," the robed man replied.

“I’m afraid it is my business, traveler, if what you did to poor Lon is any indication.”

Suddenly, a young man appeared in the alley from the streets. “Duking! Good news! Colin found a transport system in the Under for–”

“Silva! Please!” Duking interrupted the young man, “You managed to find the worst time to inform me of this, as I’m interrogating a potential hitman on Colin!”

Silva turned to looked at the robed man with alarm, and he suddenly jumped into a martial arts pose that couldn’t block an attack if he had a week’s notice.

The robed man laughed. "Hitman? No! This is a big misunderstanding," he said in his sinister double voice. He then tugged the scarf off his face. “Perhaps you can help me find my son...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

The Maglev trainer known as the “Shadow Liner” sped through the underground tunnel. While a train travelling at high speed through a dark tunnel like this would normally have a rhythmic banging sound as the train cars bumped over places where the tracks joined together, this train travelling at high speed through a dark tunnel was totally and completely silent. The only audible hint that the train was moving at any great speed was the whistle of the wind when pipes and signs on either side of the track zoomed past.

The young man with albino hair sat in the driver’s seat. On his lap sat the girl with the red pigtails. She leaned against him as they watched the magnets on the track ahead come slowly out of the darkness beyond the headlight, and then silently and suddenly vanish under the train.

“Did you do something with your hair?” Seven asked, breaking the silence. His chin was on her shoulder.

“Why?” Rui replied, unconsciously reaching and smoothing the hair on the back of her head, “What do you mean?”

“I– well.... um... I j-just noticed it seems.... iunno, redder.”

Rui giggled. “You just noticed? In the darkness here?”

“N-no, I...” Seven hesitated, his blushing covered by the dimness of the lighting, “I just... it came to mind just now... I noticed a while ago...”

“It’s alright,” Rui said, playing with his coat’s collar, “I refreshed the color a couple days ago, when we were at my grandparents.”

“Oh...” Seven mumbled, “Y-you can do that?”

“W-what?” Rui chuckled in disbelief as the train began slowing.

“I mean like... you can change your hair color?” Seven asked, playing with her hair a bit, “Is... Is that an ability you have?”

Rui just stared at him in smiling disbelief, “Are you.... Are you serious?”

“What?” Seven seemed confused, “I mean, I know Kecleons can just change their scales on the fly and— what?!”

Rui was holding in a laugh with her hand, “I.... I have no words, Seven. I.... just...”

“Oh now, com’on, you can’t tell me this is common knowledge or something.”

Rui shook her head, running her fingers through his hair, “You know, for a man who knows so much about the desert and the criminal underworld... you really are naive about some things.”

“Hey, I know what it takes to survive out here. You’ve clearly never been in the desert before.”

“And you’ve clearly never seen hair dye before...”

The train car filled with sudden light and both of them shielded their eyes from it. The train slowed to a stop at the station. There were two men standing at the station, seemingly waiting for the train to arrive. Once the train stopped, they immediately started walking over to it.

Seven stood quickly and grabbed a pokeball off his belt. Rui also grabbed for a pokeball from her hip bag, but Seven stepped in front and waved for her to get back.

The train door opened. “Whadda we got today?” the one man mumbled boredly, checking a clipboard, “Another delivery from Venus?”

Seven stood upright, “Sorry, I was just told to bring the train back here for pickup.”

The man looked up at him, and then did a double take. The man proceeded to flip to the back of his clipboard, where a page of “Wanted” pictures was taped. The man looked up in alarm. “You’re Marik!”

“Well, there goes my cover.”

The second man took off towards the only door in the station. Marik saw this and body-checked the first guy standing in the train door. He threw one of his pokeballs at the station door. The ball smacked into the doorway and Bayleef appeared and landed in front of the second man. The man, unprepared for this, ran head-long into the Bayleef and bounced off it. Bayleef didn’t budge from the impact.

Marik turned and sent Misdreavus out to hold up the first man, and sent Skiploom’s ball sailing across the room so it could knock out the second man with some powders. After the second guy was asleep, Skiploom fluttered over and put out the first guy as well.

“Good work, guys,” Marik complimented as he strolled over to Bayleef. He turned and saw Misdreavus carry the first guy over and dump him on the second guy. Marik giggled and Rui facepalmed as Misdreavus, cackling, took a moment to arrange the bodies into a suggestive position on the floor.

Marik called out Umbreon, Espeon, and Quagsire. Umbreon took one look at Rui and moved as far away from her as he could and still be with the group. Espeon smugly followed him to the front of the pack. Quagsire wore a fake tiny mustache. Marik looked disgustedly at it. “Quagsire, what.... nevermind, I don’t care enough...”

He pointed, and they entered through the doorway. The first room was empty save for a couple scattered and empty crates. They moved quickly up the stairs.

A scientist was standing irritated in front of a server. He tapped his foot angrily, looking at his watch. “Why do they single me out for these extra hours?” he muttered to himself, “I could be at home having dinner right now. This is discrimination...” A burst of spores appeared above him, but he didn’t notice. “I could be curled up with my wife on the couch, the Elektrike would be sleeping on the floor, we’d turn on some movie on the TV...” he yawned, “And just... chill....”

Rui caught the guy as he fell. She laid him on the ground and pulled his ID card off his jacket. “Take my advice, buddy,” she said to the unconscious man, “Run as far and as fast away from here as possible. You’d probably regret staying after we get done with this place...”

Seven and his pokemon had already moved down the hallway towards the stairs, save for Espeon, who stayed back to watch her. She ran to catch up with the others.

Seven bounded up the stairs. He was in a garage, which was basically empty. Given oil residue on the ground, there was clearly parking spots for a dozen large vehicles. But there were currently none around. Along one of the walls, there were three orange-yellow vending machines. Rui landed at the top of the stairs as Seven walked over to them.

“Snag Machines...” he mumbled, running his hand over one, “Feels like this one was banged back into shape. Probably stole it from the hideout...”

“I thought the Snag Machine was that thing on your arm,” Rui asked, confused.

Seven turned and held his left arm aloft, “It is. This one’s the new kind. There’s only like a couple of these prototypes, but I think they’ve all been captured and destroyed. I remember the news went crazy when they saw this for the first time. These, however,” he slapped one of the vending machines, “These are the old kind.”

He pressed a button on the vending machine, and the unit rumbled for a moment. An orange-tinted pokeball dropped out into the slot below. Seven picked it up and tossed it to Rui. She handled it like she was handling a dead fish.

“These things,” Seven continued, “they spit out pre-made Snag Balls that you have to keep on you like any other pokeball. Logistically speaking, these arm-mounted units make more sense, ‘cause you can take any dang ball and turn it into a Snag Ball in the field.”

Rui came over, dangling the ball from her fingertips. She disgustedly tossed the ball into the slot below and wiped her hands off on her shirt. Seven snorted, and then asked for the pilfered badge. She handed the scientist’s badge to him, and he walked towards the door. Rui took one more look at the Snag Ball vending machine, and kicked it in anger. The machine rattled again and a second ball dropped into the slot, to her surprise.

Seven looked back at her, giggling, as he approached an access panel near the garage door. He waved the badge in front of it and it lit up with several options. He found and pressed an “open garage door” button, and the large garage door began rattling open.

The desert night was visible beyond a ring of glowing fences. The wind whisked and swirled sand across the concrete lot outside. They stepped out. The moon shone down harshly overhead. It’s luminance lit up a massive white tower that stood only a mile or so away from them.

The tower looked like a small city placed on a massive fancy three-legged café table. Three supports came up from the ground, curved inward towards a large silver sphere in the middle, and then swept outward again as they reached the top. The supports held up four disks: one large central disk, on which stood two dozen buildings, and three smaller disks held out on the ends of the swept-outward supports, each holding a handful of buildings up top, and a couple hanging down below. There was a certain three-way symmetry to the tower; each of the smaller disks were replicas of each other. All three had spires with blinking red lights at the top, while the central disk had the tallest spire, with a blinking yellow light at the top. There were all sorts of various lights lit up in the buildings up top, glowing dimly in the dark.

Wes and Rui stared at the tower for a long while. From the ground to the bottom of the disks had to be sixty to seventy stories up alone. And then up top there were buildings that were probably thirty stories tall themselves.

“What is that?” Rui finally asked.

“It’s that tower they’ve been building for nearly a year now,” Seven replied, “This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to it.”

“Where even are we?” Rui asked, looking around. The lab building they had just come out of was squat, low to the ground, and seemed to be sitting in a dip in the terrain.

“We’re in the shadow of that damn tower, that’s for certain,” Seven said, as Rui swiped the badge off him, “I wonder if we’re within the construction area... they cordoned off like a mile around this fucking tower when they started... cut off three viable desert routes...”

Rui was waving the badge in front of a keypad next to a personnel door she had spotted. It kept beeping like it was accepting it, but the door wasn’t opening. “Can’t get in,” she concluded.

“Perhaps no one’s supposed to be here at night....” Seven wondered, walking over to her, “Let’s go back and spend the night in the Under. We’ll come back on my bike tomorrow, when there’s people we can question here.”

“Why not just take the train back tomorrow?”

“‘Cause I feel a little naked out here knowing I don’t have my bike nearby...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

“You’re the savior of us all!”

The young man with albino hair retreated slightly, blinking, as the portly man praised him.

“I’ll give you tonight free, on me, for getting rid of Venus and her massive ego!” the portly inn owner proclaimed.

Seven and Rui looked at each other in shock. “Yeah!” “Sure!”

“It’s the least I can do!” the man continued cheerily, “I might be able to lower my prices finally! And get more business! Now that I don’t have to pay protection costs to her and her men!”

“P-protection costs?!” Rui gasped.

“Yes,” the manager smiled sadly, “because I didn’t want to put her TVs in my rooms. They’d wake up my guests in the middle of their sleep! I had to raise my prices to cover the costs. A thousand a night!”

Seven and Rui recoiled.

“Yes, I know...” the manager said sadly, then proclaimed in exhubilation, “but that’s all behind us now! I might get business once again! I-I could almost kiss you!” the manager exclaimed, reaching out to Seven. “But I’ll leave that to her,” he went to the books on his podium, as Seven covered his mouth, blushing.

The manager looked up cheerily, “How many rooms tonight?”

“One–” “Two–” Seven and Rui looked at each other, confused.

“Maybe I will have to kiss you anyway...” the manager mumbled awkwardly.

“Why two?” Seven asked Rui, ignoring the manager.

“Have you seen the sizes of these rooms? We’re not fitting comfortably into one.”

“Space is limited down here in the Under,” the manager added, not looking at them.

Seven shot the manager a look before whispering to Rui. “B-but... I was hoping...”

“Seven,” Rui said pointedly, “Not here.” She glanced at the manager as he doodled in the margins of his books.

Seven licked his lips. “Right, uh....” he addressed the manager, “two rooms, please...”

“Wise choice,” the manager grinned with a finger wag at Seven. He wrote things down in his books and then reached under his podium for a pair of keys. He handed them to Seven. “Have a good rest.”

Seven took the keys and they went and found their rooms. Rui had been right: the rooms were little more than a bed, a dresser, and a bathroom, with room to walk between them. Rui claimed one of the rooms and went right inside with only a quick “‘Night!” to Seven. Seven was in the process of saying “Good night” as well when the door closed.

The young man entered the other room awkwardly. He closed the door and flopped down on the bed. He sighed, and then pulled out one of his pokeballs to look at. He opened it and Umbreon was suddenly on the bed with him. He called out Espeon as well. He petted them both as they got up in his face to nuzzle him.

He sighed. “I think she hates me, guys.”

«Good,» Umbreon huffed, «She’s an evil hag.»

“Hey, don’t call her that,” he snapped at him, “She’s not evil! Evil people only care about themselves! She doesn’t!” He turned over, and mumbled, “Not like I do...”

Umbreon and Espeon exchanged alarmed glances. Espeon placed a paw on his forehead, «Adam, are you okay?»

“No, I’m not,” he mumbled, staring at the far wall, “and I don’t know why.”

Umbreon jumped to the floor to stand in Adam’s line of sight. «It’s the girl. She’s the one causing you so much trouble! Lose her already!»

“I can’t... she needs me...”

«But do you need her?!»

Espeon jumped down next to Umbreon and shoved him aside. «Don’t listen to him, Adam. You needed another person in your life! You’ve become a better person because of her!»

“All to please her...” Adam sneered, “And what has it gotten me?” Adam turned over to put his back to them. He sighed, and pulled out his PDA. The news jingle played, and the anchor lady talked about dumb things.

He dropped the PDA on the bed, sat up, and tossed out his other pokemon. Bayleef, Jumpluff, Misdreavus, and Quagsire appeared in the small room. Jumpluff immediately jumped into Bayleef’s vines for a snuggle. Misdreavus stretched and then started sneakily phasing through the wall to look into Rui’s room; Adam recalled him to his ball with a “That’s enough, Mister...”. Quagsire was trying on a strange item for a hat.

“The hell do you have there, Sire?” Adam asked.

«Is hat. Is very nice, no? No, is not nice. Sire try many place. No place fit.»

Adam reached over and took it from Quagsire as she tried to decide where it was supposed to go. It was the Time Flute. “Where did you get this?”

Quagsire did the Quagsire equivalent of a shrug, «I find lie. All things find lie. This one lie in case.»

Adam waved at her to stop. “T, what is she saying?”

The two pokemon spoke for a moment. «Princess found it in a drawer in Rui’s relative’s house,» Umbreon conveyed.

“Really?” Adam questioned, “I thought I had this in my coat... I... I must have accidentally left it there.”

Umbreon scoffed, «That’s totally it. It wasn’t because the girl–»

Espeon smacked him upside the head. Umbreon retaliated and the two began fighting again, clawing at each other and rolling around. Adam rubbed his temples and turned over. “If you guys aren’t asleep in thirty seconds, I’m sending you all back to your balls!” he demanded before turning over on his stomach and burying his face in the pillow.

Chapter Text

Chapter -3

The flames danced silently across the logs to music only they could hear, casting shadows across the audience of the brick hearthstone. The embers churned and popped, their wisps of smoke providing effects for the dance before floating gently up the chimney. A clock on the wall ticked softly, giving a metronome for the flames that they did not follow.

The old man with grey hair sat in a cushy armchair next to the brick fireplace, the chair parallel to the hearth. He had one leg up on the other knee, and he sat leaning sideways towards the fireplace, with a manilla folder in hand, reading the loose leaf pages inside it by the flickering light. He paged through the stack of paper, sometimes pausing to read things hand-written on the pages, sometimes skipping ten pages at a time. He reached the back of the folder, and read a couple sticky notes that were affixed to the folder itself, and then closed the folder with a sigh.

He leaned over and plopped the whole folder in the fireplace. As he leaned back in his chair, he picked up another manilla folder from the dwindling pile of them sitting on the hearth next to him. He paused before opening this folder, and watched as the fire suddenly grew in brightness as the sheets of paper caught fire and curled up into ash.

As the old man looked back to his new folder, he spotted out of the corner of his eye a small boy sitting on the staircase opposite the fireplace. The boy leant against the poles of the banister, his face pressed between two of the poles, sitting quietly, simply staring, watching the fireplace. The man didn’t know how long he had been there, as the burst of light from the fire was the only reason the boy was no longer in shadows.

“Adam,” the man said, his voice hoarse but kindly. He put the new folder back on the stack on the hearth. “Adam, what are you doing over there? Can’t you sleep?”

The boy shook his head ever so slightly, his cheeks rubbing against the two poles on either side of him.

“Come here and sit on my lap, Adam,” the old man said, waving the boy over and patting his knee.

The boy, about 8 years old, got up and came down the stairs quietly. He wore blue pajamas with Magikarp patterned all over them, and Slowpoke fuzzy slippers. The boy came over and the old man picked him up and set him upon his lap, facing towards the paper burning in the fireplace. The old man took a moment to fix the boy’s albino hair before the boy leaned in to the old man’s chest. The boy watched the fire quietly.

“Did you think of a name for your new Eevees, Adam?” the old man asked kindly.

The boy nodded.

“What are they?”

The boy breathed in, and whispered “Taco... and Nacho....”

The old man smiled. “Those are good names. Are they sleeping upstairs?”

The boy nodded sleepily.

“Did you know?” the old man whispered, “Those two Eevees, they’re brothers.”

The boy blinked sleepily, “What’s that mean?”

“It means that they have the same mommy. They’re family.”

The boy continued to stare at the fire, breathing slowly. The burst of activity in the fireplace had gone by now, the paper long burned away. The boy breathed in. “Sammy...”

“Yes, Adam?”

“Am I brothers?

The old man closed his eyes and sighed deeply. “No, Adam. I hope you don’t have any brothers.”

The room was silent for a long while, only the occasional pop from the fireplace breaking the silence.

The old man looked down at the boy who weighed heavily on his chest. The boy’s eyes were closed, and he breathed slowly. The old man reached over and took a manilla envelope off the stack on the hearth. He opened the folder and scanned the first page. He thumbed through the other pages briefly, but didn’t really look at any of them. He slid a hand to the back of the folder and pulled off a sticky note he knew was there. On it was only written a letter C. He closed the folder and put the sticky note on the front of the folder.

Then, he leaned over and dropped the whole folder onto the fire. A batch of photo prints fell out of the folder before it reached the fire, however, and scattered across the floor in front of the hearth. The old man sighed, unable to pick them up with the boy sleeping on his chest.

He got up, hefting the boy into his arms, and headed towards the stairs. The boy became conscious long enough to adjust himself to a clinging position and to watch the retreating fireplace light up once again with the burn of the paper folder. Light sambaed across the photos scattered on the floor. The old man carried the boy up the stairs as the boy fell back asleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

“I wonder what Colin might say when I tell him I met–”

“Silva! Contain yourself!”

“R-right... sorry boss...”

Duking buried his face in his massive hand. “Honestly, I don’t know how I thought you could do any spy work when you act like a giddy schoolboy over something that’s supposed to be kept secret.” Silva looked really sad at this. Duking sighed.

A knock came to the door. “Enter,” Duking called.

A young man with albino hair and a girl in red pigtails walked inside.

“I’m glad to see you cleaned the desk up,” were Colin’s first words.

“What?” Duking blinked.

“Nothing, Duking,” Silva said, getting up and punching Colin in the left arm. Silva then shook off the pain from hitting a part of the Snag Machine.

Colin grinned. “Duking, have you ever been to the Under? It is the coolest place in the world!” he started, “It is this massive underground city, that’s been built into this cavern, and you should see jus-just how they’ve built this fucking place! It’s like they’ve used every bit and piece of the cavern they could get their hands on, up the walls, into the walls, stacked up to the ceiling, ten floors high, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hanging houses from the ceiling next time I visit there. And I will be visiting there again, ‘cause it’s so amazing! I can’t believe I never went down there before, and I’m really sad I never did! It’s amazing! It’s always nighttime down there, because of course it is, it’s the underground, what do you expect, but every day around noon, the Under lights up for several minutes as the sun gets high enough to cast its light waaaaaay down the ravine and bounce off one of the rocks near the top of the cavern! So for a few minutes everything looks eerie and–”

“COLIN!!”

Colin halted, and suddenly realized that Duking had called his name several times during his rambling. Rui and Silva were holding back their laughing. “S-s-sorry...” Colin said, catching his breath, “I-It’s kind of cool.”

“I get that,” Duking declared, “thank you. Do you have information on the actual thing I wanted to know about? The Cipher laboratory?”

Colin hesitated, a finger in the air, before saying “We know where it is. We were planning on going there right now actually. By motorcycle.”

“Oh, excellent,” Duking said, standing, “We’d like to accompany you.”

Colin looked at him, taken aback, “Y-you’re not both going to fit on my bike.”

“Of course not. We have a driver who will take us.”

“Oh, a chauffeur,” Colin said, mocking snootiness, “getting all fancy up in here, are you?”

Duking sighed and directed to the door, “Lead the way, please? Silva, would you?”

The four of them walked out the door of Duking’s house. Silva broke off from the group and ran over to the nearby hotel. The man in green and white robes was just stepping out of the hotel when Silva arrived.

“Pro–er–uh...” Silva started to call.

“Are you on your way then?” The robed man asked of Silva, “I was coming over right now to meet with you two.”

“Yes, w-we’re leaving now!”

“So soon?” The robed man exclaimed, picking up the pace. Soon he and Silva caught up with the rest of the group as they walked out of Pyrite.

Duking was on his PDA, speaking into it. “Daddy’s going out of town for a bit, period. Be good now, period.” He typed a bit, hunting and pecking with his pointer finger. Then he put the device away. “Kids these days and their technology...”

“Don’t I know...” Colin muttered, glancing at Rui with a smile.

They got to the parking lot of desert runners. Colin’s single-wheeled hovering motorcycle had been boxed in, and he had to drive it up a rock and through a few other vehicles to get it out. Meanwhile, the quad-hovering four-seater the robed man drove drifted crazily around as the robed man tried to control it. He wasn’t used to having two other people squeezed in the back seat, throwing off its balance.

“Perhaps if you put those wheels down,” Duking called to the robed man over the roar of Colin’s engine, “you’ll have better traction.”

“The man I bought this from said to not use those wheels when I’m still new at this!”

“Try them anyway, just to see, before Colin runs off!” Silva called back.

Right on cue, Colin and Rui shot off across the desert, their engine noise vanishing with them. The robed man fumbled with the dashboard for a moment, and the two spiked wheels on the back of his vehicle folded down into the sands. The robed man touched the gas pedal, and the wheels spun, and the vehicle lurched forward and stopped again.

“Oh my!” the robed man exclaimed as he adjusted his hood forward onto his head again. He then stepped on the gas again and the vehicle shot forward after Colin and Rui. The robed man’s hood fell down again, and his gray hair was immediately windswept. The robed man gripped the wheel tightly. “Oh, this... this is a LOT nicer to drive! I should have done this in the first place!” The robed man smoothly curved his vehicle up over a sand dune, and got a bit of air as he went down it. “This is wonderful!” he yelled jubilantly.

Duking and Silva in the back seat were holding on to each other for dear life.

Chapter Text

Chapter 37

By the time the man in the green and white robes had arrived at the underground laboratory near the gleaming white tower, the young man with albino hair had already sent his pokemon over the laser fence to open the front gate. He had beaten down a whole bunch of personnel who were in the garage, had gained access to the lab proper, and was making his way through the lower levels. Duking, Silva, and the robed man arrived to find a whole bunch of people unconscious or in the process of running away in hovering delivery trucks.

“...Those kids do work quickly, don’t they?” the robed man mused as he took in the chaos.

Meanwhile, inside the lab, Rui and Seven were moving down a hallway.

“Does it bother you, Seven, that there seems to be no one here in these lower levels?”

“A little bit,” he replied, and glanced into a room. “There’s someone.”

A man in a yellow jumpsuit was pushing a push broom across the floors inside what looked like a cage made of glass. There were several cages lining the walls of this room, and they were all opened. Seven darted into the room and readied his pokeballs, but the guy in the yellow jumpsuit only looked up at him briefly, and then kept sweeping like it was nothing.

Seven was at a loss. “Well, that’s a first...”

Rui moved towards the man in the cage. “Excuse me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the man said, ceasing his sweeping momentarily. “Were you folks wanting a pokemon too?”

“Uh... maybe?” Rui replied.

“Well... you’re outta luck,” the man replied sadly, continuing his sweeping, “It’s a shame. They’re all gone. They’ve all been taken away somewhere, every last one.”

“Taken where?”

“I dunno,” the man shrugged, “It’s not my place to know what they do with ‘em. I’ve just been hired to tend to ‘em. So that’s what I’ve been doing this whole time. Now there’s none of ‘em left to tend to.”

“My apologies,” a suave voice came from the doorway, “I had honestly forgotten in all the excitement.”

Rui, the caretaker, and Seven all turned to look to the doorway. A tall man in a white labcoat with blue accents was standing in the doorway. He had horned, rimless glasses sitting atop his small nose. He had black hair with large sideburns and an even larger bang, which was gelled to stand upright and hang down in front of his face.

“Professor Ein,” the caretaker replied, “I’m sorry but I cannot do my job if there ain’t no pokemon to tend to.”

“No, it’s perfectly alright, Emitt,” Ein said as he approached the caretaker, “I am the one at fault. Your services are no longer required. Here is your severance.” Ein handed the caretaker a handful of bills.

“By Claw’s eye! This is a too much!”

“Emitt, please,” Ein chuckled graciously, “You’ve done wonderfully. I will keep you in mind if I run any more projects in the future. But that should be enough to keep you in good hands until you can find another job.”

“You’re too kind, Ein, sir,” the caretaker bowed, and then left.

Rui and Seven were rooted to the spot as they watched Ein move slowly, deliberately, out of the cage, looking around at the roomful of the cages, lining the walls around him. “He’s practically made this place spotless...” Ein said, “At least it won’t stink from the dung.” Ein then turned to Seven. “It may still stink, yet. Marik, I presume?”

The young man nodded.

“You sure have done quite a number on Cipher,” Ein mused, grabbing his chin in curiosity, “I must say, I’m impressed.”

Rui came and stood next to Marik. “You’re Chief Ein, aren’t you?” Rui scowled, “Head of the Shadow Pokemon Project?”

“There is no other,” Ein boasted, “This method of bringing about a pokemon’s full battle capabilities was entirely conceived and created by myself. I, of course, had help, such as—”

Marik’s team were suddenly all around him, staring Ein down.

Ein saw this, and began laughing, a high pitched, simpering laugh. “I apologize,” he smiled, “you want to battle me?”

“You’re going down, pretty boy!” Marik growled.

“Please, spare me the juvenile insults,” Ein intoned, fixing some stray hairs on his head, “Pray tell, what is it that you think fighting me will do?”

“We’re gonna stop your project in its tracks!” Rui spat.

“And how does one stop something... that has already ceased to be?”

“...What?” Rui gasped.

“Can you just use a language I understand,” Marik snapped irritably.

Ein laughed again, and then leaned down, as if speaking to a child. “I’ve already won.”

“You haven’t even begun fighting!” Marik snapped.

“There’s no need to,” Ein chuckled, “Because the Shadow Pokemon Project is finished! It is no longer running! It has achieved its goal, and the Cipher Investors have taken their spoils and pulled out of the project!”

Rui’s eyes went wide. “Y-You mean we’re too late?”

“Yes, young lady!” Ein simpered. He spread his arms wide, “I am happily unemployed right now! My work here... is done!”

Marik stood upright, disgusted, “A scientist is never finished researching.”

Ein chucked as Rui looked at Marik oddly. “Of course, dear boy,” Ein replied, “I have no intention of retiring from my work entirely. It is my passion, after all. But this project is completed, so say the investors. The procedure is perfected, according to the investors! We’re shutting down all further research on this, spake the investors.”

Ein was no longer smiling. Rui, Marik, and his pokemon stood awkwardly, listening to Ein.

“I am given a handsome severance package, complete with an all expenses paid one-way trip to anywhere but here...” Ein proclaim grandiosely. He paused, and sighed, “And I am told I should resign. So I did!” Ein looked down at Marik again, “Now do you understand why fighting me is entirely pointless? I have already won the fight, even if my pokemon don’t. Because I.... do not matter anymore...”

Rui was uneasy. “S-Sorry...”

“Spare me,” Ein waved his hand at her, “If you want my opinion, I say you should take up your grievances with Cipher’s management. You’ll find them at the top of that gods-be-damned tower they built on my expansion property. Sorry... my previously owned expansion property.” Ein bowed, “Have a lovely day.”

Then, he left.

Umbreon pawed at the ground, scratching something odd looking. Espeon examined seam lines in the floor. Quagsire tweaked the black wig it was wearing. Misdreavus reordered the beads around its neckline. Jumpluff landed and primped its puffballs. Bayleef ruffled its neck leaves. Marik bit and tugged at the fingernail on his ring finger. Rui groped up her shoulder towards her red hair and began twirling a strand by her ear.

“So then...” Marik said through his mouth full of finger. Everyone looked up at him and he pulled his finger out of his mouth. “To the tower?”

Everyone agreed and moved quickly out the door. Quagsire shuffled over to a random leek that was on the floor and picked it up. It then high-tailed it out of the room to catch up.

Chapter Text

Chapter 38

The single-wheeled hovering motorcycle roared away as if it were a jet taking off. Duking and Silva ran feebly after it.

“Where the hell is he going?!” Silva shouted, flinging his arms at them in anger.

“From the looks of it, Realgam Tower,” Duking said, turning his back on them and rushing back to the lab.

“What?! That thing?!” Silva shouted, indicating the looming tower overhead.

“Professor! We need to go!!” Duking ran inside the garage, dodging unconscious Cipher peons lying all over the place. “Professor?!” Silva followed him inside, but Duking sprinted back outside again. “Professor!!”

Duking ducked into the lobby of the lab. Just beyond the security doors, the man in green and white robes sat on a hexagonal seat in the middle of the room, retying the wrappings around his wrists. Duking stopped in the doorway. “Professor!”

The robed man looked up. “You’re yelling for me?”

“They’ve gone,” Duking huffed, waving his arm vaguely towards the door, “They’ve left for Realgam Tower! We need to go!” Duking turned to head outside and ran into Silva coming in. He physically turned Silva around and pushed him outside.

The robed man strode outside behind him. “What’s Realgam Tower?”

“That thing!” Duking indicated the tower ahead.

The robed man shielded his eyes against the bright glare of the sun off the towering structure. “The white tower....” he gasped to himself.

Silva was already in the robed man’s vehicle. “Com’on! We need to–”

“No!” the robed man shouted, “I’m not going!”

“What?!” “But we need you to take us there!”

“Take one of the delivery trucks from the garage! I am staying here.”

Silva approached the robed man while Duking rushed into the garage. “Why?!” Silva demanded, “There’s nothing left here! Colin yelled that as he left! We have to go after them!”

“There may be nothing left here for him...” the robed man said, “But there’s still a reason I need to stay.”

Duking drove out of the garage in a hovering truck. He called out to Silva. “Com’on, Silva! This thing is not nearly as fast as Colin’s runner. We need to leave now before the trail runs cold!”

Silva looked at the robed man one last time. “Thank you professor,” he said, holding out a hand.

The robed man shook his hand. “No, thank you. I couldn’t have found him without you two!”

Silva walked backwards, away from the professor, towards the delivery truck, shaking his head. “You know what you’re doing, professor!” He said, confused, and got into the truck. The truck drove off as fast as it could, heading after the dust cloud that was left by Colin and Rui.

The robed man smiled after them. “No, dear boy,” he muttered, “I’m a scientist. I only pretend to know what I’m doing, and I learn what to actually do along the way.” He looked up at the tower. “And right now... I’m pretending...”

Chapter Text

Chapter -11

“What did you think about the anime?” the professor had said, “How about I get you to file a report right now?”

It was nearly an hour later. The boy had spent the whole time smashing repeatedly at the controls of the television. The boy was completely fixated on the television and seemingly letting out his aggressive feeling on it.

The controls were nearly destroyed by the time the men in white lab coats had come into the room, without the boy noticing, and administered the sedative to calm him down.

The professor came into the room shortly after the sedatives had taken effect. He looked down on the boy, who was staring blankly at the television, drooling slightly, seemingly drifting off to sleep.

“Keep an eye on him. We’ll continue to try in the morning.”

“Isn’t this what Subject B did? Should we really continue, professor?”

“No. That was different. This boy is different.”

“How, sir?”

The professor seemed flustered. He said as he turned and left the room, “Subject B’s parents are still alive.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 39

The sound of rippling water permeated the lobby of Realgam Tower. The entire circular lobby area was outlined with a long slow aqueduct that rippled water down steppes. Two fountains with silver slow-spinning Sudowoodo statues atop them flanked the entryway bridge over the aqueduct. The lobby’s floor was a shiny black and white checkered pattern, with occasional red and white concentric circles accenting the floor. The walls were white, and patterned with faint gold rosemåling in the corners. The pillars were round and had many decorative layers to them.

A grand glass elevator tube was centered in the middle of the lobby, going straight up through the ceiling. Five concentric steps leading up to it were its base. A redwood reception desk sat in front of the elevator, and a girl with blue hair sat behind the desk, doing paperwork.

A young man with albino hair and a girl with red pigtails burst in through the front doors. They slowed down as they took in the sight of the lobby.

“Wow... fancy.” “Regal.”

They spotted the receptionist. They moved up to her. She looked up and smiled at them.

“Welcome to the Realgam Tower,” the receptionist greeted, “It’s our grand opening today, so we’re giving discounts on seats in the Realgam Colosseum. Are you looking to buy some?”

“A Colosseum?” the young man scowled, “You’re telling me you cut off three desert routes to build yet another Colosseum?! Orre is full of the fucking things!”

“Seven, please,” Rui patted him on the shoulder, then turned to the receptionist and smiled, “We were wondering what it would take to see your president? The one who heads the Cipher Corporation?”

“Your name please?” the receptionist asked, turning to her computer.

Seven began, “Johann Sebasti–”

Rui slapped a hand over his mouth. “Try ‘Merik’, please?”

The receptionist held backspace on the keyboard, shooting the two a confused look. “Ah! Merik and Rui?” she cried, “We’ve been expecting you!”

“Y-You have?” Rui was confused as Seven smacked her hand away.

The receptionist nodded enthusiastically, “Yes, just step into the elevator behind me and there should be someone to guide you from there.”

“This is a trap, isn’t it?” Seven scowled.

“E-Excuse me?”

“We’re walking right into a trap,” he slammed his hand down on the desk, “Tell me what they’ve got planned for us up that elevator!”

“Sir,” the receptionist said, shoving Seven’s hand off her desk and leaning forward, “I wouldn’t know if it was a ‘trap’ or not. It is above my paygrade to know these things. I’m just the receptionist. Incidentally,” she pointed behind her off to the left and right, “There should be a pokemon healing machine and a cafe on one of these two sides, if you wish to rest before you head up. I honestly don’t remember which side at the moment, I apologize.”

“Thanks,” Rui smiled, and tugged Seven after her as she left the receptionist to her job. She moved towards the elevator, Seven in tow.

“What if this is a big trap?” Seven snapped at her.

“It probably is, Seven,” Rui snapped back, “And if it is, we’ll fight our way out just like always.”

“That’s not a very good plan,” he snarled.

“Unless you have a better one!” she growled.

Seven pulled away from Rui and approached the receptionist from behind. “Excuse me,” he asked politely, “Where are the stairs?”

The receptionist smiled wanly, “I believe they’re emergency exit only,” she replied, “And honestly, when you have an elevator, why would you want to climb 67 flights of stairs?”

Seven licked his lips. “Maybe I like my cardio?”

Rui grabbed him and shoved him into the open elevator. The glass door closed, and the lobby floor fell away from them as they were lifted through the ceiling. They could see for miles around the tower.

Seven folded his arms grumpily. “They could at any moment just fire this capsule we’re in out of the tube and we’ll be stains on the desert sands...”

“By that logic,” Rui replied dryly, “At any time in the past week, they could have just came up and stabbed us in the back with a switchblade.”

“Shit, that reminds me,” Seven started patting his pockets, “I don’t think I ever got my switchblade back from Lon...”

Rui rolled her eyes and looked out across the deserts around them as they rose. She could find Pyrite stuck between several rocks out west, and she could see the glinting waters of Phenac out east. Behind her, she could see the shadow pokemon lab, literally in the shadow of the tower.

Seven grabbed her hand haphazardly and suddenly, and squeezed. She looked at him and found he had his eyes closed and was breathing heavily.

“Seven?”

“I found out something about myself just now...” he said quickly, “I’m never ever fighting in Realgam Colosseum after this...” He cleared his throat uneasily.

She smiled. “Are you afraid of heights now?”

He didn’t look at her, keeping his eyes shut. “It occurred to me that if I fall from this thing, I will die...”

Rui couldn’t help but giggle a little as suddenly the elevator was swallowed in darkness from the top down. “You can open your eyes now.”

He breathed in and opened his eyes as the floor fell around him and the elevator stopped. And the first thing he saw... was someone clearly taking the piss.

More specifically, this.... androgynous individual was seemingly wearing what looked like a full-body, skin tight suit that was colored dark purple on the top and navy blue on the bottom. In between, they wore what looked like a dark red sheet that they had “artfully” torn to shreds and fashioned into what amounted to a tutu that hung low around their waist. This person’s hair was long, white, and really really flowing. Like, the hair never stood still. It waved up and down in sheets, and it looked like it was alive and was constantly trying and failing to beat its owner to death.

And then the person turned around. The purple suit had all sorts of highlights on its chest that were clearly trying to call out a muscled physique that the owner of the suit clearly did not have. The suit also had no fingers in its gloves, meaning that the one wearing it was essentially wearing mittens. And dear Amber the eyes fucking glowed red. It was like this person has said to himself one day “I feel like telling the world I’m out and I’m proud to be downright fucking evil!” Or he was just hopelessly lost on his way to a halloween party that ended six months ago.

The elevator doors opened, and Seven walked slowly out of it, just fascinated with this guy. Or girl. Rui followed him, also staring at the figure with disbelief.

“Ah,” it said, “you’ve finally reached me. I must say that I am impressed. Marik, Rui, I welcome you to the Realgam Tower. My name is Nascour. I did ha–”

Seven snorted, long and hard, bending at the waist, and began laughing his ass off. Rui cracked as well at Seven’s extended snort, but slapped her hand over her mouth to cover. Nascour closed his mouth, and stared at Seven with mild disdain.

Seven breathed in hard and then continued laughing, loud and high pitched. He almost stood up, and pointed at Nascour. “It’s like a Mewtwo mated with a Nidoking, and a Tentacruel just came along and blessed his hair!” Seven doubled over again in renewed laughter.

Rui snorted in laughter now, still trying to contain it. Nascour cleared his throat, folding his arms.

Seven waved his hand up and down frantically, “Wait! Wait, no! It’s like a Gardevoir bathed itself in a Muk, and then got a perm from a Ludicolo! IT’S-A DANCING!!” Seven shouted, flailing about in a haphazard dance.

Rui turned around now and leaned up against the elevator, because she couldn’t look at Seven any longer without bursting into tears of laughter. Nascour sighed, arms still folded. He reached briefly for his hair, but constrained himself.

Seven had sat down on the elevator’s stairs now, to make sure he didn’t fall over and hurt himself. “No! No! Waitwaitwaitwait I got it!!” Seven shouted, waving in front of him, “A Starmie, a Jynx, and a Tangela walk into a bar... and that came out!” he screamed, laughing, pointing at Nascour.

Rui fell to the ground, finally laughing outright. Nascour cleared his throat again, and brushed himself off. “I’ll..... go ahead and wait for you upstairs. Don’t... keep me waiting too long...” Nascour turned and walked up a wrap around staircase to the right of him.

“Nononono! waitwaitwait!! I have more!!” Seven shouted after him from the floor.

“I’m sure you do...” Nascour mumbled, not even bothering to stop.

Chapter Text

Chapter 40

The young man with albino hair was still laughing on the floor when the bald man came down the stairs. The man had a red vest hanging undone over his muscled chest, a snidely whiplash mustache gracing his upper lip, and insanely long and thin eyebrows that curved up over his head.

“What’s so funny?” the man laughed, “Did I miss your roast of that pompous ass, Nascour?”

The young man looked up from the floor wiping tears from his eyes. He was alarmed to see someone he recognized. “G-Gonzap!”

“Wes! Long time no see!” Gonzap grinned as he reached the bottom of the staircase. He stopped there and folded his arms, looking down at the young man, who was trying desperately to stop his laughing and stand up.

Rui helped Wes to his feet, and hid behind him. “G-Gonzap?” she said, “Isn’t... Aren’t you the boss of Team Snagem?”

“Yeah, that’s...” Wes wiped his mouth, trying to stop chuckling, “That’s him.”

“I’m sorry I missed it,” Gonzap said, grinning, his hands on his hips now, “That asshole in a tutu shoved right past me to the elevator up. It would have been nice to see you roast him. You always were so very blunt about everything...”

“I see you’re still compensating for your lack of hair,” Wes replied cheekily.

“I am,” Gonzap smirked, running his hand over his bald head, “I think the look is good for me. The girl is nice on you as well.”

Wes became aware that Rui was hanging off his left arm again and took the effort to yank his arm back. “What are you doing here?” Wes asked, now properly serious.

“Doing business,” Gonzap replied, “finally got around to putting the order in for twenty more of that thing on yer arm. And I don’t mean the girl.”

Rui was aghast, “Wait, the Snag Machines are a product of the Cipher Syndicate?!”

“They certainly helped,” Gonzap replied snidely, “My team is mainly just a bunch of thieves, running a decent-sized Pokemon Trafficking ring. We’ve got some good heads in the ring, certainly, and they came up with the original Snag Machine. Cipher stepped in later and helped design the thing down to what Hot Shot here stole from us. We only yesterday found the backup plans for the thing, after the originals were shredded in the Hideout explosion...”

Gonzap and Wes locked eyes in a deathly stare.

“I apologize for trying to kill all you fuckers,” Wes snarled.

“Oh! Well!” Gonzap exclaimed dramatically, “Apology accepted, then! I hope we can go back to being friends, after I tear you limb from limb.”

Wes and Gonzap simultaneously pulled out two pokeballs. They stared each other down for a moment, before they both threw them out. A Hariyama, a Bayleef, a Pinsir, and an Espeon appeared between them.

“I hope you fare a lot better this time than last time I battled you,” Gonzap said as Espeon shot forward and mentally nailed the Hariyama with a psychic blast, knocking it down for the count.

“I have a lot more worldly experience behind me now,” Wes replied, his Bayleef opening up its leaves and taking in the sunlight streaming in through the glass dome ceiling.

“I’d hope so,” Gonzap recalled his Hariyama and replaced it with a Shiftry, “Only another five years of experience on ya.”

“Makes a world of difference,” Wes braced as the Pinsir shook the floor and tripped up his pokemon. “It also helps that I have a few more pokemon,” he added, directing his Bayleef to fire its solar beam at the Shiftry.

“Yes, whatever did happen to that Vibrava of yours?” Gonzap asked, bracing against another earthquake and swapping out the downed Shiftry for a Crawdaunt, “You loved that annoying thing.”

“I never found the fucker that took it from me,” Wes replied as Bayleef took in more sunlight and Espeon attempted to mentally strike down another opponent, in vain.

“You should have came to me,” Gonzap smirked, bracing against another rattling, and swapping out the Crawdaunt that fell to the earthquake with a Skarmory, “I have tabs on all the Snaggers.”

“You didn’t have tabs on me, though,” Wes grinned, recalling his fainted Espeon for Umbreon, and directing Bayleef’s solar beam at the still-earthquaking Pinsir.

“You were an outlier,” Gonzap cringed, directing his Skarmory to focus fire on the solar-charging Bayleef, “You somehow always managed to slip by unnoticed. Then the base exploded...”

Wes hesitated, unsure of which of Gonzap’s pokemon would hurt more from the charged Solarbeam. Then, his attention was diverted as Rui squeaked. Bayleef breathed in and the leaves around its neck glowed in the bright sunlight. Bayleef’s body became greener from photosynthesis and its leaves bloomed into flowers. It’s leaf fell off its head and it sprouted antennae. Bayleef had evolved into a Meganium, which fired a solar beam directly at the Skarmory’s face as it swooped in with a steel wing.

“About time,” Wes grinned, recalling the Meganium as it fell over, its energy spent on the evolution. He sent out Quagsire in its place.

“You always had a strange way with pokemon,” Gonzap admitted, directing his Pinsir to take out the Umbreon that was running around clawing at it.

“No I didn’t,” Wes chided, replacing Umbreon with Jumpluff, “You were just shit at it. Like right now, being unable to keep your Pinsir in line enough to not take out your own pokemon.”

“You’re not one to talk,” Rui quipped as she braced against yet another earthquake. Wes scowled at her as he quickly replaced Quagsire with Misdreavus. The Pinsir shook the floor again, but this time it was only slowly bringing the tower down around them, and not any of his pokemon. The Misdreavus sent a shadow ball into the Pinsir’s face and it finally fell down.

“Wes,” Gonzap asked earnestly as his Skarmory sliced down Wes’s Jumpluff, “Why did you leave?”

“...Personal reasons...” Wes answered as Misdreavus sent a shadow ball into Skarmory.

“Why don’t you and me team up again?” Gonzap inquired, as Skarmory, limping, sliced into Misdreavus, “Just like old times...?”

“Gonzap...” Wes murmured, as Misdreavus sent one last shadow ball into the metal bird’s chest.

“What do you say?” Gonzap continued, recalling his final pokemon, “We can do whatever we please. The world will be ours...”

“Gonzap... I’d love to.”

Gonzap waved dismissively, “You’re just joshing me...”

“No, really,” Wes said thoughtfully, “I’d love to. I’d love to go back to when things were simpler. But.... they were never perfect...”

“Things never are...” Gonzap walked past Wes, heading towards the elevator going down.

“Gonzap,” Wes began, and the bald man stopped, “A long time ago... I... I had a Pikachu. It was.... It was my friend... when... when I had no friends...”

Gonzap turned to look at him. The young man had a photograph in his hand now, and was staring down at it; it looked like he was trying hard not to cry. Rui stood to the side, biting her fist, watching.

Wes looked up at Gonzap, tears in his eyes. “It was stolen from me...” Wes gasped, “when I needed it most....” His grip tightened on the photo, crinkling it a little.

Gonzap breathed slowly, staring at the twenty-something as he wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

“You asked why I stole the Snag Machine,” Wes muttered, and he looked up at Gonzap, his eyes red with tears and malice, “It was to steal him back from whoever took him.” Wes shook with emotion, breathing haggardly.

“I hope you find him,” Gonzap replied, staring into Wes’s eyes.

Wes closed his eyes and shakily nodded, his head bowed. Gonzap turned and entered the elevator going down. He vanished into the floor.

Rui came slowly over to Wes. She reached over and patted him on the shoulder. Wes opened his eyes and glared upward. “Let’s finish this thing already.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 41

The desert winds carried forth a great cheer coming down from the top of the tower. The Charizard sunbathing on the top of the laboratory roof perked up and opened its eyes to the tower scraping the heavens above. It flapped its wings and landed in front of the personnel door to the lab, and roared inside.

«Sam! There’s something going on up there!»

“Is there?”

The man, wrapped head to waist in green and white robes, with baggy green pants, and with wrists and ankles wrapped in white bandages, stepped outside. The man was no longer covering his gray hair or masking his face; all the peons that had been knocked out earlier had long ago woken and escaped elsewhere into the desert.

“What do you hear?” the robed man asked of his pokemon.

«There’s noises of a crowd going on up there.»

“So there is something happening up there then? I wonder what it is...”

«Shall I go up and investigate?»

“Perhaps you–”

“I can tell you exactly what’s up there,” a suave voice answered from within the lab, making both the robed man and his Charizard jump. The Charizard turned quickly, ready to pounce if need be. The man walked towards the doorway from the darkness inside, “It’s a grandiose colosseum, filled with all the finest gingerbread, because we didn’t have enough of the damned things in this region.”

The man with the black hair with an elongated and styled bang hanging in front of him stepped out into the sunlight. He was dressed in a bright blue travelling coat, and hefted a large duffle bag at his side. The moment he stepped out into the sunlight and got a look at the robed man, however, the duffle bag dropped to the ground.

“D– Do my eyes deceive me?!” Ein proclaimed, “Are—- are you Professor Oak?! Thee Professor Oak?!”

The robed man realized in this moment that his head and face were not covered. He had let his guard down too soon. He cleared his throat, stood upright, hands behind him, and replied, resigned, “In the flesh.”

Ein’s hands were to his mouth, attempting to contain any squealing that might escape them. His hand fanned his open mouth for a moment. The professor’s Charizard rolled its eyes and flapped up to the roof once more.

“I did not expect you to be here!” Ein managed finally, at a pitch far higher than intended.

“I did not expect to be discovered here,” Oak replied kindly, waving him inside.

The two men walked inside and sat down in the lab’s lobby, on the hexagonal chairs that littered the place.

“I-I-I do apologize,” Ein said, fixing his hair, trying to control his breathing, “I-I must collect myself. I am... I am a big fan of yours since– since my youth!”

“I can tell,” Oak chuckled.

“What— what are you doing here?? A-a-at my lab?!”

“Let us say ‘the fates have brought me here’ and leave it at that for now.”

“The fates have brought you here, yes,” Ein replied, “on the worst day possible for my career as a scientist!”

“Your funds got cut?” Oak smiled, glancing around.

“‘Slashed’ is more the word I would use,” Ein snarled at the wall, “‘Eviscerated’ even.”

“Being forced to end an incomplete project is the worst feeling,” Oak mused sadly, “A punch in the gut from the world, lashing out at you.”

“Yes, simply because someone didn’t like your face. Or your drive. Your motivation.” Ein added.

“Perhaps something didn’t go right. Something legally destructive occurred.”

“Someone important pulled funding because they didn’t like the breakthrough you just had.”

“Someone came to the conclusion that this whole thing you’ve been doing for months on end has been for all the wrong reasons. And that the charade needs to end now, before anyone else gets hurt...”

Ein looked at Oak. Oak was staring at the ceiling, his eyes wet.

“And that someone is you...” Oak finished.

Ein examined his shoe uneasily. “Professor,” he spoke without looking at Oak, refusing to see him cry, “was I right?”

Oak turned to look at him. He said nothing.

“Was I right to want to... to increase a pokemon’s power? To... change them.... into something.... better?”

Oak examined the floor. “Scientists all over the world are looking to find ways to make humans better. Make us better than our... mortal selves. Trying to find ways to make us stronger, faster, live longer... substitute missing body parts, or replace existing ones with better ones... Debates rage over whether extending a human in this way would make us... less human.”

Ein blinked at him, listening. Oak looked at Ein with a calm, neutral expression.

“The same debate happens over pokemon, though not always in the same context. Pokemon always tend to be viewed as only fighting machines. Is that all they are?”

“Professor...” Ein mumbled, “Pokemon are not humans...”

“No? Have you spoken with a pokemon? Have you asked it what it thinks? What it feels? They are sentient creatures.”

Ein’s eyes drifted away from Oak.

“They have memories and ideas. They can act and think as we do. They may not be as smart as us sometimes, though sometimes they may be far smarter. Pokemon are powerful beings. Our deities...” Oak insisted, wide eyed, “They are pokemon!”

Ein’s eyes snapped to Oak. “Is.... Is it true?” he whispered, in a tone that suggested longing for the answer, “Is the legend of Red.... true?”

Oak smiled. “I watched Helix ascend with my own eyes.”

Ein covered his mouth in awe, but this soon turned to burying his face in his hands. “...what have I done...?”

Oak reached over and placed a hand on Ein’s knee. “If you seek to make a pokemon stronger in battle, your name will land among hundreds of scientists who have tried to do the same. If you want my advice, you should seek to find a way to make a pokemon stronger... in mind.” Ein looked up at Oak, hope in his eyes. “The person who brings about a new age, where pokemon are equals with people, will have their name carved in stone.”

Ein swallowed. “Thank you. I..... Thank you...”

Oak stood. Ein as well. Oak held out a hand to shake. Ein hugged him. Oak patted his back. They moved outside.

Ein picked up his duffle bag and got in a spare delivery truck. He waved at his hero, his mentor, and then he turned the truck and drove off into the desert beyond. He didn’t know where he was going, but wherever he ended up, he was sure that great things could be accomplished.

Chapter Text

Chapter 42

The girl with the red pigtails hugged the young man with the albino hair as the elevator rose towards the central disk of the tower. The young man had his eyes closed, and he was breathing heavily. The elevator became engulfed in darkness from above.

Rui let go of Seven. Seven opened his eyes and sighed. “Thank you,” he muttered.

The floor fell down around them and the elevator came to an abrupt stop. They had arrived on the field of a massive stadium. The stadium was surrounded on all sides by hexagonal covered stands. Hundreds of people were in them, cheering. Behind the stands, surrounding the stadium, were dozens of buildings towering high overhead. These were the same buildings that could be seen from the desert below. Some of these buildings had balconies overlooking the stadium, and there were a few people up there as well, cheering.

Seven and Rui stepped out of the glass elevator, and the elevator vanished into the ground behind them, a cap covering the tube as it went.

“This doesn’t look like the president’s office...” Rui mumbled to Seven.

“I told you it was a trap,” Seven replied.

“What kept you, Marik?” a voice echoed through the stadium’s PA system, “I was worried perhaps you had laughed yourself to death.”

“Wait, is that the Mewtwo baby?” Seven asked, his face lighting up.

“The time has come for you to pay off some debts.” Nascour continued over the PA, “We’ll have you battle as payment towards the huge losses you inflicted on us.”

“What?!” Rui shouted, “That’s not why we’re—”

“I expect to see spectacular battling out of you. After all, you’re here to entertain!” Nascour started laughing hysterically as a large bodybuilder woman came out of the doorway opposing Seven and Rui.

“He’s planning on wearing us down,” Seven said to Rui, “I’m gonna need a healing machine...”

“And what do you want ME to do about that?!” Rui exclaimed as the lady bodybuilder posed for the cheering throngs.

“Find one!” Seven snapped through gritted teeth. “That lady just came through a door over there!” Seven turned to look behind him, and pointed, “Go through the door on my side!”

The lady bodybuilder sent out a Porygon2 and a Zangoose. Seven sent out Meganium, Espeon, and Misdreavus.

A shrill whistle blew and the crowds quieted to a low rumble. Seven looked to his left. There was a VIP seating area behind glass. Seven could just barely see Nascour sitting inside through the reflection of the glass. Above this, however, a referee on a podium stood up.

“Battles shall proceed in doubles!” her voice echoed over the PA system, “Only two pokemon allowed on the field from each side.”

The crowd roared again as the referee sat down. Jeering and catcalls aimed at Seven could be clearly heard amongst the roar. Seven smirked. “Fair enough,” he said, recalling Misdreavus, “That makes things manageable.”

The battle started. Espeon shot a mental flare at the opposing pokemon as Meganium took in sunlight. Rui rushed away from the battle and headed towards the competitor door on Seven’s side of the field. She ran right up to it and pushed. The door didn’t open. She felt for the seam in the door and tried to get a grip on it, but she couldn’t. She banged the door, and searched the perimeter for an obvious access panel of some sort. There was nothing.

The opponent’s Miltank fell just as quickly as her other two pokemon, and the crowd roared. Boo’s and more catcalls permeated the noise. The bodybuilder lady sneered and walked off towards her competitor door. As she exited, a guy in a rancher’s outfit walked into the stadium. The doors slid closed behind him. He threw his pokemon out onto the field before he even reached his box. Seven’s pokemon hadn’t even been recalled.

“Seven!” Rui screamed as she ran back over to him, “The door won’t open!”

“Well, force it open or something!” Seven said as he recalled his Espeon, down from a nasty crunch from the opponent’s Sharpedo.

“I don’t have the strength to do that!” Rui snapped at him. “Maybe if you give me one of your pokemon...”

“I can’t spare a pokemon right now,” Seven snarled, sending out Jumpluff to replace Espeon.

Rui folded her arms as a solarbeam from Meganium seared through the Shapedo and took it out. The rancher recalled the pokemon and sent out Absol. Rui’s eyes went wide, as she took in the pokemon. The white fur coat, the blue claws, the scythe-like horn that ended a little askew...

“S-Seven!” Rui shouted, grabbing onto his left arm again.

Seven yanked his arm from her again, “What is your obsession with latching onto my arm, woman?!”

“Nonono, Seven!” she insisted frantically, “I have an idea! Y-You have a couple balls right?!”

“Yeah, a couple, that’s it!”

“Snag me some helpers!” Rui urged, and she pointed at the Absol, “That one’s one of those radiating darkness pokemon!”

Seven glared at her, pulling out a ball. “Fine!” he snapped, and charged up the Snag Machine. He aimed at the Absol and threw the Snag Ball haphazardly. The ball sung as it curved through the air to over Absol. The Snag Ball opened, and the tendrils tore through the red force field that appeared around the pokemon. The Absol energized, the ball snapped shut, and it flung itself across the battlefield to Seven’s feet. It shook only once before locking.

“Hey! What the fuck?! You stole my pokemon!!” the rancher yelled across the battlefield as Seven picked up Absol’s ball.

“Maybe you shouldn’t fight with stolen pokemon, asshole!” Rui shouted back.

A whistle blew as the crowd broke out into mumbling and shouting. The referee stood again, “Combatants are only allowed up to six pokemon competing per side!”

Seven broke into laughter as the rancher opponent broke into screaming. “What the fuck, ref?! He just stole my fucking pokemon!! Aren’t you going to DO something about that?!”

The referee visibly pulled a book from her back pocket and started flipping through it. Seven continued to laugh, the back of his hand covering his mouth, the Absol’s ball in his hand. After a moment, the referee announced, “There is no rule in the book explicitly against pokemon changing hands as long as each side is only using a maximum of six pokemon. I’ll allow this.”

The stands erupted into laughing, cheering, jeering, hollering, screaming, crying, and applause. The rancher threw down his hat and stamped on it, swearing. Seven held the Absol’s ball high over his head, and then made an exaggerated show of giving the ball to Rui. He then held up his six other balls between his fingers, to show he only had six pokemon on him.

“Let the battle recommence!” the referee announced, and the pokemon began trading blows once again.

Rui immediately rushed clear over to Seven’s entrance door again and called out the Absol. The Absol immediately pounced on her and licked her face. “Abby!” Rui laughed, scratching the pokemon’s fur vigorously, “I’m so glad you’re alright! Alright, we need to crack this tin can open. I presume you’ve been shadowified?” The Absol nodded. “Get at it until it breaks!”

The Absol began dark-tackling the door. The crowd roared again, and Rui glanced back to see the rancher stomp off the field, and be replaced with a woman in full Cipher regalia, with the full body suit, helmet, thigh high boots, and arm-length gloves. Rui turned back to the door to egg on Absol as the woman threw out a Houndoom and a Torkoal. The Absol stopped suddenly, and turned to look at the battle. Rui turned to look as well. The houndoom had a weird necklace around its neck.

Rui gasped, and patted the Absol, saying “Keep going, I’ll handle this.” She rushed back over to Seven, who was swapping Jumpluff out for Quagsire. “Seven!”

“What now?!” Seven scowled, shaking her off his arm again.

“We need more help! You said you have another ball?”

“Which one?” Seven resigned, irritated.

“The Houndoom looks vicious enough for the task, don’t you think?”

“This is the last ball I have,” Seven insisted, charging the Ultra Ball in the Snag Machine.

“We’re working hard on getting you that healing machine.”

“Right...” Seven sighed, letting the ball fly.

The Cipher Peon lady shouted “What the FUCK?!” as the Snag Ball broke the Houndoom’s contract with the pokeball and energized the pokemon. It landed at Seven’s feet, shook three times, and held.

“If I touch it,” Seven intoned, “the lady in the peanut gallery is gonna whistle at me.”

Rui picked up the ball, smiling at Seven. “Thanks sweetie!”

Seven blushed a little as she ran off.

The Cipher Peon giggled, “Oh, now I see. Earning brownie points are you?”

“Shut up,” was Seven’s response, directing Quagsire to douse the fire pokemon with a wave of water.

Rui ran back over to the door and released the Houndoom. “Freddie, buddy!” Rui hugged the Houndoom around the neck and scratched it. The Houndoom licked her face. “Freddie,” she then said, “We gotta get this door open. I think a little heat will help?” The Houndoom then literally opened fire on the door, and the Absol began dark-tackling the heated spot.

With another wave of water, the Cipher Peon’s pokemon fell. She recalled her pokemon and simply left. She was followed by another Peon, a guy, with a red scarf. He sent out a Cradily and a Tropius. Seven began directing his pokemon to attack the Tropius, but it began flying up and away from the attacks.

Rui turned around to monitor the battle behind her. She gasped when she saw the Tropius. She was about to run to Seven, but then remembered that he had no more balls. She bit her fist, and shook her head. The Tropius soon went down to a barrage of attacks. “I’m sorry, Benny, buddy...” she whispered, “I’ll come back for you when this thing is finished...” She glared at the Peon with the red scarf around him. “I will find you, you fucker...”

She heard a loud clank, and she spun around. The Absol popped its head out from inside the shredded door. “Perfect!” Rui shouted as she climbed inside. She looked around. This room was clearly a trainer locker room. It was filled with lockers, benches, sinks, and various amenities, such as vending machines, PCs, a snack bar, and...

“Yes! A healing machine!” Rui cried, and rushed over to the machine. She unplugged it and began pushing on one side. “Freddie, help me out! We’re moving this thing into the arena!” The Houndoom muscled up and shoved the healing machine over towards the entrance door. They reached the door, and Rui saw the opponent Cipher Peon turn and walk away. She shouted, “YO! SEV!”

Seven turned around and saw the healing machine just inside the destroyed door. He recalled his one remaining pokemon, a poisoned Umbreon, and began running towards the door.

“Bravo! Bravo!” Nascour’s voice echoed over the PA system as Rui found a plug near the door and plugged in the healing machine for Seven to dump his pokemon into, “Well done, Marik! Why, you could even become a Cipher show-battle trainer with your talent! I’d vouch that you would become a top star in no time. Would you even consider it?”

The crowd roared, cheering and booing equally permeating the air. Seven collected his pokeballs from the machine, and thanked Rui.

The crowds suddenly went quiet. Seven turned and saw that Nascour had walked into the stadium. “...I wouldn’t have minded making that proposition,” Nascour continued, yelling out for the crowd to hear him from the field, “but I’m afraid I’m not that big-hearted.”

“I might have accepted that proposition too,” Seven shouted back at him for the stadium to hear, “had you not been the special pretty fairy that you are.”

The crowd gasped, and muttered, and began laughing. Nascour glared. “I will destroy you in battle right now! You will know the humiliation of total domination before this crowd!”

“Sorry,” Seven shouted back, “but I ain’t into that kind of kinky stuff.”

Espeon, Walrein, Meganium, and Gardevoir appeared on the field.

“Oh shit!” Seven sneered, pointing at the Gardevoir, “He’s fighting with his mother!”

Nascour fumed, and directed Gardevoir to aim a psychic blast at the trainer. Meganium blocked it and began charging from the sunlight. Espeon fired a powerful psychic blast at the Walrein, and it spun about and took out one of Nascour’s legs. Nascour recalled it, screaming “FOOL!!”, and replaced it with a Blaziken. Espeon rushed the Blaziken, and got hit by Meganium’s solar beam accidentally. But Espeon sent another mental blast at the fighting bird, and the Blaziken collapsed.

Nascour yelled at his Blaziken as he recalled it, and sent out a Xatu behind Espeon. Espeon spun and mentally blasted the new pokemon. The Xatu lifted its wings to mentally block the psychic blast, but was hit in the back by another ray of solar power from Meganium. It fell down, rigid as a board. Meanwhile, Gardevoir was still aiming for Seven’s head, but Seven kept putting Meganium between him and it.

Dusclops appeared, followed shortly by Metagross behind it. A whistle blew from the referee, and Nascour spun on the spot and shouted “YOU’RE FIRED!!” at the woman in black and white stripes. The woman shrugged, tossed the rule book away, and left the podium.

“Oh, we’re breaking the rules now, then?” Seven smiled, holding up four other pokeballs.

Nascour scowled as his Dusclops went down to another of Espeon’s psychic blasts. An Umbreon, a Misdreavus, a Quagsire, and a Jumpluff soon appeared behind the Meganium. The crowd went nuts.

Meganium fired another solarbeam at the Metagross, and Quagsire rushed it with a wave of water. The Metagross went down quickly between the two attacks. Only Gardevoir was left.

Nascour began spraying the pokemon with stat-boosting items. Umbreon and Espeon looked at each other and nodded. They rushed around to either side of the Gardevoir, while Seven taunted.

“What’s the matter? Too afraid you’re precious mother is gonna get beat down?!”

MY POKEMON!! IS NOT!! MY MOTHER!!” Nascour bellowed, utterly livid.

Espeon’s gem glowed yellow while Umbreon’s eyes glowed purple. With Espeon’s helpful hand, Umbreon rushed in, sprung into the air, and got its claws right in the Gardevoir’s hair. It then charged and projected its secret power, which caused vicious razor wind to strike hard at the pokemon again and again. The Gardevoir attempted to mental blast the pokemon off its head, but the move had no effect. Gardevoir tumbled backwards as a second and third wave of the power hit it, and it auto-recalled.

Nascour grabbed for another ball from his waistband, but there were no more balls. “No!” he groped himself for more pokeballs, “N-No! There’s no... Th-This can’t be happening!”

“What’s wrong, Mewtwo Boy?” Seven grinned, folding his arms, “Got no balls?”

The crowd roared in laughter and catcalls.

“NO! NO!!” Nascour screamed, “We shall continue battling! This isn’t ov—”

ENOUGH!!” an unfamiliar voice bellowed, “Don’t embarrass yourself ANYMORE, Nascour!”.

Chapter Text

Chapter 43

The young man with the albino hair froze. The crowd went quiet. So quiet, in fact, you could hear the scraping that was caused by Rui’s Houndoom pushing the healing machine out towards the battlefield. Rui was uncoiling an extension cord behind it. The Houndoom stopped and looked around at the silent crowd, and Rui followed suit.

“I’m... I’m sorry, sir...” Nascour pleaded, turning to the VIP booth and falling to his knees.

Seven and Rui turned to see a squat, portly man waddle out of the VIP booth. He wore a brown coat and a gold emblem with red ribbons hanging from it. He had two tufts of grey hair on either side of his otherwise bald head, and he had a bushy gray mustache.

“There’s someone above Nascour?” Rui muttered as the portly man made his way over to the man on his knees.

“You disgrace me,” the man said to Nascour, and then turned to Seven and Rui.

“You fought valiantly, my dear boy,” the squat man said, “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is E. S. Cade. I hear you two had quite the battle in my house in Phenac earlier this week.”

Seven and Rui looked at each other. Rui approached the others. “Wait, you’re the mayor of Phenac City?”

“Yes, dear child,” Cade bowed, smiling.

“Why weren’t you in your house then? What was Miror B doing in there?!”

“I was there, child. I slipped out the back when Miror B was called to deal with you two. We were discussing a raise for him over tea and cookies.”

“Where was your wife?” Rui continued as realization dawned on Seven’s face, “She was nowhere to be found either!”

“Why here, of course! We have a lovely condo up here in Realgam, and she was moving some of her things in.” Cade turned, looking up at the buildings surrounding the stadium. He lifted a hand and waved at one of the buildings. “Hello, darling!” Seven and Rui looked up towards the building in question and saw one of the distant people on a balcony wave back.

Cade turned back to smile at them again. Seven scowled at him, “So you’re the president of this tower we’re standing on, I presume? Is that why Mewtwo Boy here obeyed your order to shut up?”

Cade raised a finger, confused for a moment. “I’m not going to ask...” he mumbled to himself, putting his finger down. He folded his hands in front of him, “Yes, actually, I am the president of the Cipher Syndicate.”

“So you’re the one who ordered the Shadow Pokemon project?” Rui demanded.

Cade chuckled, “Well, now, I can’t take all the credit. Nascour is the one that proposed the project to me, and I simply signed off on it. Though, yes, that does make me responsible for it, and I must say, I am deeply concerned with how thoroughly you meddled in our affairs.”

“You’re messing with pokemon’s heads to make them fighting machines!” Rui shouted, “You don’t think anyone would notice when they go berserk mode?!”

“All kinks that are being worked out of the process,” Cade proclaimed with a finger in the air.

“How?” Seven interjected, “You fired your research head!”

“He resigned.”

“You asked him to resign!”

“Petty details,” Cade scoffed cheerily.

“What purpose do you have for messing with pokemon like this anyway?!” Rui screamed.

Cade chuckled, “Why, to take over the world–”

“Of course!” Seven spat, rubbing his temple.

“...The world of entertainment, dear boy,” Cade finished, “I mean, look at the crowds these battles draw!”

“It’s wrong!” Rui growled, “Pokemon shouldn’t be treated like this! We’re taking you out! We’re going to bring down the Cipher Syndicate!”

E. S. Cade chortled again. “Well... if you insist. I will just have to destroy you so utterly that you will never think about challenging the Cipher Syndicate ever again.” The portly old man chuckled once more before pulling out a handful of pokeballs.

A Slaking appeared before the old man. It yawned and stretched, and scratched its stomach lazily. A Scizor flew overhead, followed shortly by a Salamence. A Machamp roared into existence, and pounded its chest in a war cry. The Slaking waved at it, like it was telling it to shut up and let it sleep.

“I see the rules are out the window again,” Seven sneered.

“Well someone decided that we didn’t need a referee anymore, so I might as well take advantage of that,” Cade replied with a chuckle.

“That’s fine...” Seven said, stepping back and leaning against the healing machine right behind him. “Get’em guys!!”

Salamence swooped in and slashed hard at Meganium as it charged a solar beam. Misdreavus began firing shadow ball after shadow ball at the Scizor that flew around the battlefield. Machamp roared into battle and threw a double punch at Quagsire, who absorbed it and shoved it back with an earthquake. Espeon lashed out mentally at the Machamp, and the Machamp was taken out. But Espeon was standing in front of the Slaking when it did this. Slaking opened one eye and spotted the Espeon in front of it. It slapped it into the ground like it was a fly. The Espeon vanished into its pokeball, which promptly, “accidentally”, fell out of Seven’s grasp and into the healing machine.

“Rui!” Seven spat at Rui, who was simply watching from the sidelines with her Absol and Houndoom by her side, “Why are you just standing there?! This is a fucking free-for-all cheat-fest! Get your new buddies in there!”

Rui glanced between Absol and Houndoom. They seemed eager. “Well, then, let’s do this!” Rui said, and her pokemon entered the fray.

“Hell,” Seven grinned, “get FailFish in on this. It’s not like he can fail that hard with a healing machine within reach.”

“Two pokemon is enough for me,” Rui leered, holding up a hand to him.

Meanwhile, Umbreon and Quagsire were wailing on Slaking, who was simply sitting there like they were giving him a relaxing massage. Slaking stretched and suddenly an earthquake rocked the arena, taking out Umbreon. Espeon was sent back into the fray in its place, but Espeon quickly ran the opposite direction and chose to attack the Slaking from afar.

Misdreavus, meanwhile, was riding Salamence like a cowboy rides a bucking bull. The Salamence crashed into the ground, running over Meganium and sending Jumpluff flying. The Salamence got up and roared, but spores dropped down on it, and it soon fell to the ground again, asleep. Meganium sent a solar beam into the dragon, point blank, and it was auto-recalled. A Slowking took its place. Misdreavus scoffed, and shot a shadow ball into its stomach. The Slowking fell on the spot, and was recalled.

Slaking was still under a constant combined massage from Umbreon, Espeon, Absol, and Quagsire. It yawned, and groaned. It sat up, and then suddenly shot like a bullet high into the sky. Its attackers glanced around frantically, trying to see where it went. Then, suddenly, the Slaking crashed down on top of both Meganium and Jumpluff, and both were auto-recalled. The Slaking leaned back where it landed and lounged, yawning.

Scizor darted overhead. Umbreon shot a secret power slice at it. Quagsire shot a wall of mud at it. Houndoom fired a stream of fire at it. The Scizor was far too fast for any of these attacks to hit. Then, Misdreavus got in front of it and made a horrifying face at it. The Scizor halted momentarily in mid-air, taken aback and scared by the face. This was all that was needed for the secret mud-shot flamethrower to take it down.

“You’re running out of pokemon, Escade!” Seven shouted.

Cade chuckled, “Ah ah,” he scolded, wagging a finger, “I’ve been saving the best for last.”

He threw out an Ultra Ball, and a massive green dinosaur materialized overhead. The overlarge Tyranitar dropped to the ground; Absol and Espeon were recalled from under its feet and dumped in the healing machine. The beast roared, and the howling winds picked up. Streams of sand appeared over the walls of the Colosseum, as the desert winds roared to life and were attracted to the green spiky beast. The sand whipped around the battlefield, sand-blasting all those inside.

The beast roared, and a lighting bolt struck the field from the sand-strewn skies above; Jumpluff was auto-recalled. Espeon and Umbreon began running around it on either side, Espeon helping Umbreon find its weak points. The Tyranitar shoved Umbreon off and crushed it with a pile of rocks. Quagsire whipped up a whirlpool of water around itself, which collected the sand flying through the air and quickly turned to mud. It fired the mud at the Tyranitar, and the dino roared in pain. It rushed in at the Quagsire and took it out with a dark explosion tackle.

Meanwhile Slaking was getting sanded down as it lounged. It saw Espeon with its gem glowing yellow next to it, and the Slaking reached over and flicked the pokemon away. The Slaking then began picking its nose with its pinky finger.

Meganium found it difficult to collect sunlight in the raging sandstorm. It expressed this to its allies around it. Espeon, having slammed into Meganium after being flicked, began chanting to the sun. Jumpluff swirled the winds around itself, directing the sands through the air. Quagsire appeared out of its pokeball again and lifted waters up around it, capturing the sand from the air. A column of light finally formed above them, piercing through the sandstorm around them. Meganium drank in the sunlight, and targeted the gem on the belly of the beast. The beast roared, and rushed right at the Meganium. The Meganium let loose the massive beam of light.

The sun beam shot straight through the Tyranitar. The monster roared, and stumbled backwards. A scream of “NOOOOO!!!” could be heard undercutting its roar. It fell to the ground with a earth-shaking crash. And the pokeball automatically recalled it.

The sands settled, crashing to the ground all around the stadium. The Slaking shook itself off and opened one eye. Then it opened both eyes. It was surrounded on all sides by eight pokemon. It grunted, and rolled over. The eight pokemon unleashed fury upon it all at once. With a last mega-drain from Jumpluff, the lazy beast auto-recalled to its ball.

The crowds in the stadium cheered. E.S.Cade fell to his knees. Seven grabbed Rui and dipped her into a kiss in celebration.

“I’m ruined!” Cade shouted.

“And so is Cipher Corp!”

Seven turned. Duking, Silva, and a couple of Pyrite police officers were climbing through the ruined entry door on his side of the field. “You’re under arrest, Cade!” Silva shouted again, marching towards him.

“No! No!!” Cade screamed, scrambling to his feet, “I will not be taken to jail over this!!” And he took off running towards the VIP booth.

“After him!!” Seven shouted, and he sprinted after Cade. His pokemon all kept up, and some even ran ahead, gaining on Cade until he reached the doors to the VIP room and slammed them shut behind him. Absol charged a dark tackle and knocked the doors right off their hinges.

The VIP room was a large area covered in dark wood tones, black leather furniture, and maroon carpeting. Near the front of the room, several balconies climbed the giant window pane, with big armchairs looking out over the stadium to watch the battle unfolding outside. Behind and below the battlefield viewing area, there was a bar and lounge area, complete with solid wooden tables, cushy leather chairs, a full bar, a pool table, and a giant pane glass window looking out over the Orre desert below. There was also a private elevator, which Cade was frantically trying to call.

Seven stopped in the doorway to take in the sights. Cade pounded on the elevator button some more and spun about to see Seven and his pokemon in the doorway.

“Get him!” Seven pointed.

Cade turned and dove behind a table, and upended it to catch the razor leaves that suddenly embedded themselves into the solid wooden surface. Umbreon jumped around and found him cowering behind the table, and performed a secret power on him, but Cade scrambled away as he was pelted by the attack. He dove behind the bar and a shadow ball struck the alcohol stored on the back wall. Shattered glass and liquids rained down upon him. Cade hid at the far end of the bar as an Espeon appeared on the other end. Cade curled up into a ball as it stared at him.

“N-N-Nice kitty...” Cade cooed at it, shaking.

Its gem glowed green-white. A pair of vines came over the top of the bar and wrapped around Cade. They lifted him up and brought him out over the bar. The Pyrite police officers arrived momentarily, and put cuffs on Cade’s hands. Duking and Silva arrived behind them, with a cuffed Nascour in tow.

Rui stood at the ready in front of the open elevator with her pokemon, blocking Cade’s exit path. She relaxed, standing up straight, as Seven came over to her. He happily put his arm around her. “We got ‘em,” he smiled.

“E.S.Cade, you are under arrest,” Duking announced, testing the cuffs on Cade’s hands.

“No!” Cade pleaded, “You’re making a mistake!”

“Quiet, old man!” Silva spat, “Cipher’s finished! That Shadow Pokemon plan ends now!”

Rui sighed. She shrugged Seven’s arm off her and stepped forward. “Actually....” She then put her fingers to her lips and whistled a bird song.

Jumpluff turned and sprayed Duking, Silva, and the police officers with sleep spores. Misdreavus turned and shadow balled Nascour against a wall. Meganium dropped Cade and shot its vines over and wrapped up a stunned Seven. Quagsire surrounded Cade in mud and sucked the mud dry instantly, trapping the man in clay. Absol and Houndoom turned on Umbreon and Espeon and violently batted them both to the ground and pinned them.

Rui tiredly pulled out her pigtails, shaking her hair free, as Seven freaked the fuck out. Meganium pulled Seven close to itself, away from Rui. It repositioned itself to the side, by the window, as Rui walked over and muffled the protesting E. S. Cade by shoving his own red ribbons into his mouth.

“What—! What the!! Let me go!! What the fuck are you doing, R-Rui?!!?” Seven cried out, angry and terrified.

“Ugh,” she sighed as she pulled two yellowed pokeballs from her hip pack and limp-wristedly tossed them both. The tendrils of the Snag Balls broke through Umbreon’s and Espeon’s red force fields, and they were both gone. The balls threw themselves at her feet, where she caught them under her foot and held them fast until they shook no more.

“Nonono....” Seven whimpered weakly, “Whawhat what are you....?”

“You know,” she began. Her tone of voice was very different from what Seven was used to. She moved differently too, held herself differently. “I know this wasn’t the longest time I kept up an act,” she said, stretching, cracking her neck, “The heist in Jubilife certainly beats this. That was a few months I think? Whatever... this one, well... this one was the hardest, by far!” She turned to look at Seven, who was speechless, crying. “And that’s because you were involved. You are fucked up.

“And I mean, sure,” she continued, taking off her boots to shake sand out of them, “it came down to a night of sex, it always seems to come down to that whenever there’s a guy involved. Which, by the way, congrats,” she walked over to him and pinched his cheek, “You certainly take the cake when it comes to that. That Venus chick taught you well, I must say. Maybe I can track her down later and see if she’s available.”

“Rui....” Seven barely managed through his terrified shaking, “Why....”

“Sorry? Why? The Shadow Pokemon project, of course! The moment I found out about that shit, I said ‘That sounds like a blast, and very profitable! I wanna head that!’ Unfortunately, I wasn’t careful enough in the Under and got caught, and poor Abby and Freddie got taken from me,” she petted her pokemon, “And I gotta track down that ascot asshole and beat my other pokemon out of his face too...

“Anyhow,” Rui said, approaching Seven, “You showed up, carrying a fucking Snag Machine on your arm like it was nothing.” She slapped the machine on Seven’s left shoulder twice, grinning, “You were like a fucking golden ticket! A difficult to manage one, but one nonetheless! Not to mention: Shadow Pokemon! They’re highly susceptible to suggestion! Fucking brainwashing! A-Star! I haven’t used that skill in years!”

“Why are you telling me this?” Seven grimaced, trying to be brave and angry, but failing miserably.

“Because! I don’t get to monologue very often, and gods dammit I’m gonna savor this victory!” she beamed with an eager fist pump, “Most of the time when I’m done, I’ve got this all around me: a room full of unconscious assholes and an escape route out of here before they wake up. Then it’s a matter of a little hair change, a little name change, boom, Singapore! Outta here! Nowhere found! Gone.

“This time, though, I had you. You were, by far, the most difficult and most exhilarating piece of the plan to manage. I haven’t felt that on edge in years! And I just wanted you to know that, you little fucked up piece of shit, you!” Rui came up to him, grabbed his face, and kissed him full on the lips. He recoiled in disgust and struggled to pull out of the kiss. Rui pulled away and sighed happily at him. “Man, it’s gonna be really hard for me to kill you now...”

“What.”

“I mean, I haven’t felt this good in a long time, but I do need to get going. Who knows how long these guys are gonna be out, and who knows who can walk into this room at any time through that door Abby took off its hinges. So, what can you do? Tight schedule. Lucha, you have the honors.”

“Whatwhatwhat nonoNONOOOOOOOOO!!!”

Meganium reared up and slammed Seven into the glass pane next to them. The pane shattered as the vines loosened. The young man’s bloodcurdling screams echoed through the room as he fell away from the room and towards the golden sands below. His screaming faded quickly, and was soon gone. The room was eerily quiet for a moment as Rui wiped an imaginary tear from her dry cheek.

“Right,” Rui reached down for the two pokeballs at her feet, “let’s see how our new companions like their new owne—HEY!!

Umbreon and Espeon appeared from their balls and immediately pounced on Rui, knocking her on her back. Espeon saw the window smashed and bounded to it as Umbreon clawed rapidly at Rui’s face, screaming and hissing angrily. Rui wrestled with him for a moment and then flung him off her and against the elevator door. Umbreon was stunned from the hit for only a moment.

“Fucking hell!” Rui hissed, sitting up and feeling her cheek. She found blood on her hand. “Murder that piece of dome shit!

Houndoom and Absol dove for Umbreon. Umbreon reared up, but Espeon’s gem glowed, and Umbreon’s now glowing eyes widened. Umbreon then ducked through the Houndoom’s legs as Espeon dodged past Meganium’s whipping vines and Jumpluff’s blast of powder. They headed for the door. Misdreavus shot a shadow ball at Espeon, but Umbreon flung himself in front of it, letting Espeon dodge away past Quagsire’s whipping tail. Absol rushed headlong at Umbreon in a shadowy dash, but Espeon flung up a reflective wall to allow him to escape. Misdreavus sent one last shadow ball at Espeon, and it hit square. Espeon was flung out the doorway, past Umbreon, into the stadium. Umbreon quickly got up under Espeon’s limp form, hefted him up, grabbed his tail and ear in his broken teeth, and darted away as fast as possible around a corner. Absol and Houndoom bounded outside and looked for them, fruitlessly.

“Fucking wonderful!” Rui snapped, still massaging her bleeding cheek, “Loose ends!” she kicked one of the empty pokeballs out the window. “Let’s get this shit over with quickly then...”

She bent down to lock eyes with Cade, who was sweating and frantically trying to get free of the dried mud. “Don’t worry, old man,” she said, patting down his coat, “You’re next to go. But I still need you for a little bit longer.” She found his PDA. She took a moment to use his lapel to wipe the blood off her hand and face, and then stood up.

She grinned as she opened the PDA. “I love how no one seems to know how to set a password on these things...” She punched a few things into the PDA and began speaking in a refined voice: “Good Afternoon, Cipher Corp. I regret to inform you that our president has unfortunately passed away this afternoon due to heart failure. While we sort this tragedy out, I will be taking the role of interim pres—”

“Hello, young lady,” the PDA talked back in a unfamiliar but kindly old man’s voice, to her jumping surprise, “Unfortunately, the Cipher Syndicate simply does not work that way...”

Chapter Text

Chapter -4

Professor Oak reached out, once again, to put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. The boy, once again, tightened up, curling into a ball. Oak, once again, did not touch the boy’s shoulder.

“Professor Oak!”

Oak jumped a bit at the sudden voice over the TV. Was this what it was like when he suddenly appeared to his subject?

“Professor, we found the footage. It looks like the pikachu was captured, sir.”

The boy looked up sharply at the TV screen, which was displaying the black and white security camera footage. A lone trainer had come onto the property, found the wild Pikachu, and had captured it.

“Take that down off the screen immediately!!” No one had ever heard the professor shout that sharply before. It was taken down within a few seconds, but the damage had already been done. The boy had jumped up and run out the sliding glass door.

“Dammit! You’re broadcasting to C’s room! I’m in C’s room, and so was he! Do you know what you’ve done now?!” the professor demanded sharply to the TV screen. The professor then ran out of the room as well, after the boy.

The boy hadn’t gotten far, getting as far as the fences that surrounded Springleaf Field. Oak found him, crying, bawling, pounding on the fence, shouting at the world that it was his Pikachu, not theirs. That that man shouldn’t be allowed to take his Pikachu away.

The boy couldn’t be consoled, couldn’t be calmed. As much as the professor attempted to wrap the boy in his arms, to comfort him, it wasn’t enough. The boy thrashed and screamed and cried. The assistants came with the sedatives soon. Oak held out as long as he could, taking the beatings from the child as he thrashed about, trying to calm him without medical aid. But it proved futile in the end. They injected the boy.

The boy soon laid in a sobbing pile in the grass, drifting to sleep, as Oak nursed the bruises about his head and arms.

“Sir...?”

Oak held up a hand to stop the aide from speaking. He continued to apply ice and medical aides to himself, all while staring sadly down at the sleeping boy.

“The boy needs a new pokemon.” He said finally to the aide, “Not a Pikachu.”

The aide shuffled his clipboard and binder, and paged through his some documents in the binder. “Might I suggest an Eevee, sir? We have quite a few in the facility, and.... they’re pretty cuddly.”

Oak thought for a while. “Yes. Two.”

The aide, writing on his clipboard, froze, “...Two, sir?”

“I want them both fresh from eggs, too. ...Just for him.”

“Sir... Isn’t that showing preferential treatment to your subjects in the–”

Oak snatched the clipboard from the aide and promptly broke it in half over his knee. “This experiment is OVER!” Oak snapped, causing all his aides to jump, “I will cause this boy no more undue harm!”

Oak looked down at the sleeping boy as the aides all mumbled among themselves in shock. Oak sighed, then continued, calmer, “I apologize. My professionalism in this experiment has been compromised from the beginning. I am no child psychologist. I am a professor of Pokemon, and I am far from qualified to be doing this... this sham...

“I am shutting down this facility. The other 9 subjects are to be released to their families, and the pokemon employed are to be returned to their rightful owners. I will see to it you are all relocated to other projects more worthy of your talents. “

“Sir...”

Oak held up a hand, and said quietly, “I will take personal responsibility for this boy... You all are free to go.... Let us never speak of this... abomination... again...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 44

Darkness. Silence.

This was death, surely...

The young man was dead. Clearly, this was what death was like. This neverending darkness, lying here, silently. Nothing.

The sound of a door sliding open. Clearly this was Giratina come to take him to hell. A chair pulled up. Perhaps Giratina was going to take a moment to go over all the things he’d done wrong in life, then take him to hell. He felt something warm and wet get placed on his forehead. Was Giratina... licking him?!

The young man’s eyes shot open. He saw a ceiling. There were gray hexagonal ceiling tiles. He counted them. Why was he counting them? He didn’t know, but there were 37, or 39 depending on how you counted the partial tiles.

He saw an old man with gray hair lean over him and place a warm wet rag on his exposed chest. He became aware he was missing his coat, and his shirt, and his Snag Machine.

“What? Where?!”

The old man shushed, and placed his hand gently on the young man’s head, “Lie still,” the man said gently, quietly, “be calm...”

The young man was about to shout at him that he was calm when he actually felt himself shaking violently. The old man placed another wet rag over his stomach.

“Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth,” the man whispered.

The young man closed his eyes and followed the old man’s instructions. He felt himself calming. The old man wiped the young man’s face with rag.

“You had a terrible fall,” the old man whispered, “It’s a good thing my Charizard acted so quickly, or you might not be here with me in this lab right now.”

The young man’s eyes opened again. “Rui! S-She has my pokemon!” The young man went to get up. That was when he discovered he was restrained to the table he was lying on. “What– what the hell?!”

The old man shushed him again, but the young man was having none of it.

“Why am I strapped down?!”

“To keep you from hurting yourself,” the old man said calmly, turning away for a moment to tend to something on a counter, “I was once larger than you and could restrain you. But now, I haven’t the strength, nor the aides, nor the sedatives, should it come to that.”

The young man glared at the old man as he returned, for the first time really looking at him. He almost didn’t recognize him. The near-decade they had been apart had taken its toll on his face and hair. The young man could hardly believe it.

“....S-Sam?”

The old man smiled warmly at him. “Seth.”

“That’s not my name!” was the young man’s automatic response.

The old man sighed, his smile gone. He adjusted the rag on the young man’s forehead. “That’s what you told me back then as well. I called you Adam then, just to please you, to calm you. But you’re old enough now that I’m not going to do that, Seth.”

“Don’t call me that!

Sam shushed him again. The young man began bucking on the table, trying to get free, but the straps held his hands, feet, and waist to the table. Sam backed away from the table while the twenty-three-year-old child had his fit. Sam simply watched sadly, his arms folded. Eventually, the boy calmed and glared at him, tears in his eyes.

“Let me go,” the young man demanded.

“If I let you go now, your anger will simply get the better of you, Seth–”

“STOP CALLING ME THAT NAME!!”

“THAT IS YOUR NAME!” the old man suddenly bellowed.

The young man froze. Few times had he tried Sam’s patience enough for him to snap sharply at him like that. The young man immediately became complacent, scared.

The old man breathed in through his nose, and out through his mouth. When he spoke next, it was calmer, quieter, but not quite as fully collected as before. “Tell me, Seth: Why do you hate that name?”

The young man looked away from him, and contemplated it. “I... I just do...” he concluded, “I don’t know why.”

“I do,” Sam said. Sam came forward to the edge of the table and looked down at the boy strapped to it. The boy didn’t look back. “It was your father’s name.”

The young man immediately became angry, and he didn’t know why. Sam shushed him softly, stroking his albino hair. The young man turned and looked at Sam, trying to control his anger. “But... But you’re my father...”

“I am not your father, Seth,” the old man said. “I adopted you, after....” Sam stopped talking. He turned and walked away from the table.

The young man watched him, concerned. He thought he heard Sam sob.

“Your mother...” Sam began, emotion in his voice, “was a close friend of mine. A colleague, and professor of the highest caliber... She did foundation work on pokemon dreams and mental fortitude. Work that would go on to be the baseline for more famous professors, like Dr. Fennel in Unova...”

Sam suddenly slammed his fist on the countertop, and screamed “It should have been Maria’s name! Not Fennel’s!! Professor Maria Andrews!! SHE should have gotten the credit!! She would have gotten the credit! If I hadn’t.... ruined.... her life....” Sam buried his face in his hand.

The boy laid on the table, tearing up from simply watching Sam cry. “Sammy...” he asked quietly, “Who’s Maria?”

Sam’s sobbing renewed when the boy said that. He didn’t quite collect himself, came over, and sat down in the chair next to him.

“Seth.... Maria is your mother.... She.... She didn’t know what to do after that... liaison with that... Seth character...” Sam pronounced the name like he reacting to a particularly disgusting bite of food. He took another moment to collect himself, “I.... I was a traditionalist at the time... I insisted.... no, threatened....” he spat, disgusted with himself. He sat quietly for a little while, then managed, “A child needed a mother and a father, after all, right? Right?! NO!” Sam lashed out against the bucket of water on the floor he had been soaking the rags in. The water splashed across the floors and walls of the lab. Sam got up from the chair and paced the room in anger.

It was difficult for the boy to watch Sam like this. If the boy wasn’t trussed to the table, he’d be curled up into a ball right now.

Sam took several minutes to think in silence, fist – no, hand, no, fist – holding up his cheek. When he next spoke, his voice was hoarse. “Your anger issues come from your father.” Sam paused again, “I.... I can only hope your mother’s influence tempered it... And mine, my influence...” Sam looked gravely up at the boy on the table. “You haven’t murdered anyone, have you?”

W-W-What?! N-No!!

“Then perhaps we were successful...”

“What?! What do you mean?!” the boy was frantic, scared, disturbed.

Sam put his back to the boy, leaning up against the counter. “Your father they.......” Sam found it hard to continue, “...he was categorized a.... suicide by cop...” Sam swallowed, “They found you... curled up in a ball... in a closet.... hiding from his rampage...” Sam’s voice broke, “Your mother wasn’t so lucky......”

The boy was sobbing on the table.

Sam turned around, grabbing a knife from the counter. He went at the bindings that held the boy to the table. “I stole you away from the system before it could swallow you up,” he said as he sawed, “It’s entirely my fault. My foolishly insisting that a boy cannot be... whole without both a father and mother.... I took them both from you.”

The boy pulled free from the cut bonds and untied those that Sam hadn’t cut yet. Sam backed up, dropped the knife to the floor, and stood before the grown boy.

“I was going to tell you this when you turned eighteen... You ran off before then...” Sam licked his lips, “Now I lay my faults out in front of you.... For your judgement...” Sam held his hands out and bowed his head. “Do what you have do to me, in retribution for what I did to you.”

The young man with albino hair blinked. Sam stood there, unarmed, his hands open, palms up, willingly giving himself to violence, in the name of fairness. The young man swung his legs out from the table and stepped down onto the wet floor. He walked forward towards Sam. Sam braced, his eyes closed.

Seth wrapped his arms around him, and buried his face in the old man’s hair. “Thank you, dad,” the grown boy whispered in his ear, “Thank you for everything.”

Samuel Oak took a moment to register the hug from his adopted son. He proceeded to hug him back, patting him on the back. They stood there, crying, for a long while...

Chapter Text

Chapter 45

Seth Andrews reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the photograph. He smoothed the corner of it carefully, lovingly, before presenting it to Oak, standing beside him. “This is it.”

Oak took it in his hand, examining it with open mouth. “This– This is one of the pictures from your records,” He exclaimed, amazed, “It has to be! I-I recognize the angle. Where did you get this?”

“Found it under your old chair by the fire,” Seth smiled, “When I was...” his smile faltered, “when I was playing with Taco and Nacho... It was covered in dust when I found it.”

“I thought I cleaned up all those photos...” Oak said, offhandedly.

“Sam,” Seth asked, pointing at the picture, “what happened to him?”

Oak looked at Seth cautiously, “What do you remember?”

Seth turned and glared at the floor. “I remember a trainer.... off in the woods... I was up high somewhere, I don’t know where... He stared at me... And just... captured Pikachu away... right out from in front of me...”

Oak placed a hand on Seth’s shoulder. “You’re remembering the security footage,” he said, “You were nowhere nearby when it happened, but you accidentally saw the footage. I was there when you did.” Oak turned and paced, staring at the photo, “I spent a year trying to track this pokemon down for you. I pulled all sorts of strings. Nothing came up.” Oak faced Seth. “The trainer.... vanished after he took the Pikachu. We couldn’t find him anywhere, and there were no more angles on the security footage with a better look at his face. That Pikachu.... was just gone.”

Seth knew this already. He knew what Oak was saying already, what he was going to say already, but it didn’t hurt any less hearing it from him.

“Seth,” Oak came forward and touched his shoulder again, “You have to move on.”

Seth didn’t look at him.

“There’s nothing that can be done for this Pikachu anymore,” Oak gestured with the photograph, “He’s a figment of the past now, and you need to look to the future.”

Seth took the photo from him. “The past...” he mumbled, sighing, “That’s what... Taco and Nacho always told me...”

Oak looked away. “I’m sorry...” He turned and walked out through the lobby’s security door, and out into the setting sun.

Seth looked again at the photo. He held it in two hands, grabbed it like he was going to rip it, but he couldn’t. He simply couldn’t. He tucked it back in his inner coat pocket. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve. He walked outside as well.

The setting sun shimmered across the tops of the sand dunes around the abandoned shadow pokemon lab. Seth’s coat caught a wind gust; the coat tails fluttered around him. He patted down his coat. He found Quagsire’s pokeball; he tossed it. He found Misdreavus’s pokeball; he dropped it. He found Meganium and Skiploom’s pokeballs; they fell to the ground at his feet.

He found his PDA. He opened it.

”–reports saying that the Cipher Syndicate occupying Realgam Tower are seeking world domination plans. These reports are unconfirmed at this time, as well as reports that the battle taking place this afternoon caused any cha–”

He turned the news channel off. He deleted that app.

He opened the Kids Grid secure chat room. It was full of discussion on the fight that had happened, and asking if anyone had seen Wacm since then. He decided to type into it, for last time.

* Backlog update complete

[18:23:10]* You are now talking on the Kids Grid VPN

[18:23:48]<Wacm> Rui is evil.

[18:23:59]<Wacm> She's taking over the Cipher Syndicate

[18:24:01]<Bitt> wat?!?!

[18:24:10]<Wacm> She tried to have me killed.

[18:24:23]<Lon> What?! Fargo are you alright?!

[18:24:23]<Wacm> I'm leaving this dome-forsaken shithole. Saving Orre is your problem now.

[18:24:30]<Wacm> Don't bother to come after me.

[18:24:33]* You are now known as SethAndrews

[18:24:35]<Lon> Fargo wait!

[18:24:45]<SethAndrews> Take care of yourself, Lon. Don't get caught.

[18:24:47]<SethAndrews> Goodbye.

[18:24:49]* Disconnected ()

Seth closed the app, and erased it from memory.

He closed the PDA, and looked up at the gleaming white tower before him. He breathed in sharply, and, with a loud grunt, flung the PDA at the tower with all his might. The device sailed away on the winds, arcing over a sand dune.

“You alright?” Oak called over from his desert runner.

“Purging,” Seth replied simply, “Where’s my Snag Machine, so I can chuck that into the desert too?”

“I have it with me,” Oak said, “It’s not falling into the wrong hands.”

“Fine,” Seth grimaced. He continued to pat himself down.

He found the Time Flute. He fingered it for a moment. He decided to leave it in the pocket.

He found Umbreon’s and Espeon’s balls. He had avoided them earlier, when he was dumping the other useless balls. These were the only two pokeballs he had left. And they were empty. They were unassigned. The contracts had been broken. Even if their recall beams reached an infinite distance, and could go through walls and around corners, these pokeballs wouldn’t recall them. They weren’t his anymore. They were gone...

He squeezed the pokeballs, and looked up to glare the white tower angrily. His eyes, however, never made it to the tower, but stopped at the horizon. He squinted, trying to make out detail through the shimmering heat of the desert sands. His eyes went wide.

Seth suddenly bolted towards Oak’s desert runner. He ran into it and stopped.

Give me the Snag Machine!!

“Wha–?!”

GIVE ME THE FUCKING SNAG MACHINE!!!

Oak, startled, scared, reached into the desert runner and haphazardly grabbed the coiled machine from the running boards. Seth seized it and took off running at a full sprint into the desert.

Where the hell are you going?!” Oak called after him, getting up into the runner and standing on one of the seats to watch him.

Seth panted hard as he ran through the shifting sands, towards a distant dune. As he ran, he slipped the glove of the Snag Machine on his left hand, and vaguely coiled the wire around his arm. The part that was supposed to attach to his shoulder flopped around, his right hand trying and failing to hold it in place. “Fuck it!” he gasped and grabbed Espeon’s pokeball from his belt.

The Snag Machine whirred haphazardly, and the ball became yellowed. Holding the machine on his arm with his right hand, he planted his foot in the sand, and flung the ball overhand at the purple splotch he was staring at on the next dune over. The Snag Ball sailed away into the distance.

Seth grabbed Umbreon’s ball with his left hand, and squeezed. The Snag Machine churned slowly and ground and whined, clearly not liking being used twice in succession like this. “Com’on you fucking piece of shit!!” Seth screamed at it, and the machine began churning faster, and the pokeball yellowed. Seth then eyeballed the black splotch on the horizon that had moments before been mostly obscured by a purple splotch, and flung the new Snag Ball at it. The ball sailed away on a manufactured course.

Seth had forgotten to hold onto the arm unit the second time, and the top of the machine flung on momentum around his arm, smacked into his gut, and landed in the sand. Seth groaned from the impact, but kept his eyes on the horizon. The winds were still momentarily, as if waiting with Seth.

From the distance, a pokeball came flying through the air and slammed into the sand a meter away from Seth. The pokeball had already locked. Soon, a second ball came flying out of the heat mirage and landed a short distance away. It too had stopped shaking.

Seth dove for the balls and opened them. He was tackled by a yellow-eyed dehydrated Umbreon and a scratched, scarred, and tired Espeon. He fell into the sand on his back as they nuzzled and licked him and rolled around in the sand next to him. He laughed and petted them and cried tears of joy.

Oak soon arrived, hovering over in his runner. He smiled down at the grown boy playing with his two grown Eevees in the sand. Seth sat up, an Eeveelution in each arm, and looked up at Oak, sitting high over him in the hovering desert runner.

“So,” Oak asked, “What now then?”

“We’re getting the fuck out of Orre,” Seth answered, grinning, petting his two pokemon.

“What about Rui? And your other pokemon?”

Seth snorted in laughter, “These two are all I need. She can keep the others for all I care.” He stood and helped Umbreon and Espeon into the desert runner. “I mean,” Seth continued, “She thinks I’m dead! Why would I want to prove the homicidal bitch wrong?”

Seth climbed into the passenger seat of the desert runner and carelessly chucked the Snag Machine onto the floorboards. Oak watched him do this, and asked, “And the Shadow Pokemon project?”

Seth put his feet up on the dashboard, and his hands behind his head. “Not my problem. Never should have been.” He closed his eyes, smiling.

Oak blinked at him with mild disdain. He glanced back at Taco and Nacho in the back and mouthed to them, “Hold tight.” The two pokemon braced. The wheels on the back of the runner folded down.

The runner suddenly shot forward on the dunes. Seth was nearly catapulted from the passenger seat, screaming “OH FUCK!!!”. The raucous laughter emanating from the desert runner faded quickly into the distance as the runner aired over a distant dune, heading just due north of the sunset.

The desert winds created swirls of sand off the dunes and into the slacks between them. A grey PDA laid open in the sand in one of these troughs, displaying a picture of a young man with albino hair. The screen changed suddenly to display a new mail message from “Lon”: “Where the hell are you?! What happened?!”. After a few minutes, the screen turned itself off, reflecting only the white tower looming overhead.

Chapter Text

Chapter 46

«Why are we still out here?! It’s been hours!» Umbreon groaned, climbing irritably over sticks and twigs, «I was actually enjoying the pillows in town. But no! Back on our feet! Always going! Never resting!»

“Quiet!” Seth shushed, “We’ll get back to resting up in comfy hotel beds soon, don’t worry. Like I told Sam, there’s one last thing I need to do before we leave Gateon and Orre altogether.”

«And it had to involve woods?!» Umbreon hissed, stubbing its toe on a tree root it didn’t see in the dark.

«Someone’s out of their element...» Espeon purred, bouncing over sticks and through foliage.

«Give me the soft sands of the desert any day over this tree crap...» Umbreon snapped.

“Shut up! There it is!”

They came out of the trees into a clearing. The center of the clearing held a large blue-grey stone that looked like it was made up of strange stone gears or puzzle pieces. It stood up on a circular grey stone stage that also looked like it was assembled of stones carved to make puzzle pieces. The stage extended into a stone path that lead up some stone stairs towards a cave carved into a cliff face above.

«The Relic Stone?!» Umbreon sneered, «Couldn’t we have just gone in via Agate like we always have?!»

“And risk running into Rui’s grandparents?!” Seth snapped quietly, “She turned out to be evil! Who knows what the fuck she told her grandparents! ‘Oh, granny!,’” Seth imitated in a high pitched voice, “‘It was horrible! It turns out that Seven boy? He was made of the devil! So I had to cast him from the highest cliffs...! If you ever see him again, I suggest a large stake through the heart!’”

«I get it, I get it...» Umbreon rolled its eyes, as Espeon cackled softly.

Seth crept forward and looked around. It didn’t look like anyone was guarding the stone nearby. He climbed up onto the stone stage and approached the Relic Stone.

«Okay, stop,» Umbreon jumped in front of him, «Last time we were here, everyone got brainwashed.»

«Rui’s not here, stupid,» Espeon snapped, «Clearly Adam is here to have his heart cleansed of impurities.»

«Oh, that bullshit?» Umbreon grumbled.

“Not quite...” Seth said. He sat down at the base of the Relic Stone and produced the Time Flute.

«That thing again!» Espeon examined it, surprised.

«The hell even is that thing, besides a hat for Princess?» Umbreon sniffed.

“It’s called a Time Flute, guys,” Seth said, examining it.

«No!» Umbreon spat.

«What?!»

«Stop!!»

«What?! What is it?!» Espeon pawed at Umbreon eagerly.

«That thing is supposed to be able to call Celebi and grant a wish!»

«What?!»

«And how do you even plan on playing that thing?!» Umbreon shoved right up into Seth’s face. «You’re music deaf, remember?»

“Yes, I remember, thank you,” Seth scowled, pushing him off, “I’m gonna pick a few notes at random and hope they work.”

«And what if they don’t?»

“Then we’ve come out here, through the woods, in the dark, for nothing. And assuming the flute doesn’t crumble to dust simply by my playing it, we can sell the thing on the market before we go.”

Umbreon sat back on its haunches, irritated. Espeon sat on the opposite side of Seth from Umbreon. Seth licked his lips and fingered the holes in the flute.

Espeon leered, «This is about Pikachu, isn’t it?»

Seth sighed, and took a hand, and grabbed Espeon’s muzzle. “Shhh...”

Espeon sat back, also irritated. If it were a human, it would be folding its arms in disgust.

Seth breathed again, licked his lips, and tapped the holes in the flute. He bit down on the mouthpiece and blew a note. Umbreon and Espeon both cringed horribly, and covered their ears.

Seth sighed. “I know this isn’t going to be music to anyone’s ears, including mine. But if could you please refrain from acting like you’re dying on my every note, that would be grand.”

Umbreon and Espeon both put their heads to the ground and covered their ears with their paws in anticipation. Seth closed his eyes and breathed again. He placed his fingers, and bit the mouthpiece. He blew another note. And another. And another. He couldn’t tell the notes apart, but he knew they were supposed to be different. He imagined they were different, imagined they made sense, imagined they made a beautiful song, whatever that sounded like. He got quicker paced with the notes, because he felt the song should be quicker here, and he got slower with the notes, because here was a slow bit. He mimicked songs he thought he heard, and played bits of music he guessed he understood. He slowed down, as he was approaching the end of a song, and he ended with a high note, probably, followed by a low note, most likely.

He let go of the mouthpiece, and opened his eyes. He heard a smattering of applause around him. He looked around, and jumped. To his left was a small, green, antennaed humanoid creature with giant blue eyes, floating in mid air, clapping. To his right, there was another one, also clapping. He quickly got to his feet, stumbling backwards, and counted seven of them, all of them floating around him, giving him a tiny round of applause.

Seth looked down, and saw Umbreon and Espeon, still covering their ears. In fact, they weren’t moving at all, weren’t even breathing; they were frozen. He looked at the forest around him, and noticed it was brightly lit and completely and utterly still. Nothing moved, save for him and the green pokemon around him.

«Hello, child,» one of the green pokemon said, floating towards him, lounging playfully in midair.

Seth shook his head. The word “said” was a misnomer. He hadn’t heard the pokemon talking. He had felt it talking. In his head.

«That was one of the most unique tunes we’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing!» another said.

«Yes! We heard the song in your heart!»

«And the song in the air was unique to you!»

«It was beautiful! Thank you!»

“Uh... y-you’re uh... you’re welcome...” Seth stuttered, blushing.

«We know the wish you seek!» «We’ve seen it in your heart!» «Now speak it to the air!» «And we shall see it done!»

Seth licked his lips. His heart was racing. “I... I wish...”

«He hesitates.» «He knows such a wish must be spoken right.» «Does he know such a wish will cause him strife?»

Seth looked at the eager green Celebi floating in the air around him. “Please... understand...”

«Oh we understand, make no doubt.» «But you still must speak it!» «Say it out!»

Seth closed his eyes, and a tear rolled down his cheek. “I... I want my best friend back...”

The Celebi all smiled, and their eyes glowed bright blue. They gestured to his left. He turned. The path leading from the stone stage ended in a set of stairs, which dropped down into a grassy meadow. The trees around the stone stage ended abruptly where the grassy field started. He walked towards the meadow.

Ahead of him, there was a windmill at the top of a hill. He moved towards it. Memories flooded his mind, of roaming pokemon, of friends met, of cards gathered, of Pikachu eating a beach ball...

He looked behind him; there was a fence, marking the edge of Springleaf Field. He turned and moved forward. There were little houses at the bottom of the hill. The lights were all off. He recognized his house, and grinned.

A pitter patter. He looked to his right. A Pikachu. He fixated on it. It was young and spry, brash and nimble. Its tail had the spot on it. Its ears twerked at the right angle as it ate. Its voice, high pitched, youthful.

Just as he remembered.

“Hey, buddy,” he whispered, bending down.

The Pikachu perked up its ears and turned.

“Long time no see,” Seth waved at it, kneeling down in the grass.

The Pikachu approached the man, first at a sprint, then at a crawl as it came close. It stood on its hind legs and cocked its head to the side, examining the man, who stared back, unmoving. The man sniffed back a booger; the Pikachu didn’t flinch. The small yellow pokemon reached a small yellow hand towards the man’s head. The man lowered his head, and the pokemon touched his hair. The Pikachu pushed some of the man’s dirty albino hair back, revealing some of his scalp beneath, also bright white.

“Pika.... pi....” it said; the man heard, «You got big...»

“I did...” Seth whispered, standing up, “You haven’t changed at all...”

Seth discovered a Pokeball in his right hand. He looked at the Pikachu.

“Would you like to come with me, buddy? We can go on all sorts of adventures out in the big wide world.”

«I always want to be at your side,» the Pikachu said, tearing up.

“You always can be,” Seth replied, also tearing up.

He threw the pokeball. There was no red forcefield to bounce the ball back. The ball bonked Pikachu on the head and energized it. The ball fell down in the grass, and didn’t shake.

The young man picked up the ball and smiled. He looked to his left, to see the houses at the bottom of the hill. But instead, a security camera, hanging from the fence, caught his eye.

He looked up at it; it was pointing right at him.

His breathing ran ragged; his heart pounded. As he turned to his left, and his feet carried him through where the fence should have been, up the stone steps again, into the waiting arms of the Celebi, his mind raced, his palms sweated, his eyes bulged, his tongue dried. He said to the Celebi, “What have you done?” After the words came out of his mouth, he realized he was only addressing himself...

The flute fell to dust in his lap. He spat the dust out of his mouth, the dust that was once the mouthpiece. He began coughing, and fell backwards, laying down at the base of the Relic Stone. Umbreon and Espeon flanked him, worried.

«Adam, are you okay?!» «Adam, what’s wrong?!» «What happened?» «Did the flute not work?» «Wait... what’s.... that....?»

Seth looked down and found a bright red and white pokeball sitting on his chest. It was so shiny and new, it almost glowed an ethereal light.

«Nooooo.....» Espeon gasped, cautiously approaching the ball.

«Is.... is that....?» Umbreon reared up suspiciously.

Seth sat up, taking the pokeball in his hands. “Guys... I’d.... I’d like you to meet someone...”

He opened the bright pokeball. A young Pikachu appeared before him. It looked around the dark forest and spotted Seth, and smiled.

Seth smiled back at it, while holding tight to both Umbreon and Espeon, keeping them both from pouncing on it. “Guys, be nice. I’d like you to meet... my old... er... young buddy... Pikachu....”

«You mean the pokemon that completely ruined your life?» Espeon growled, fighting against Seth’s grip.

“No, Nacho,” Seth replied, tearing up, “I did that to myself.”

«That doesn’t even make sense!» Umbreon grumbled.

“Ssshh, sssshh,” Seth forcefully petted Umbreon’s head, keeping it down, “That’s enough, Taco.”

The Pikachu came forward, a little scared of the two other pokemon. However, it was more concerned with its owner, its friend. «Ç... why are you crying?»

The young man smiled wide, tears rolling down his face. “Please... call me Seth.”

fin

Chapter Text

Afterword

After he got his pokemon calmed down, Seth went back to Gateon Port, where he floored Oak with the Pikachu and his tale of the Celebi. Seth would cause himself headaches trying to figure out the logistics of his trip through time for a couple more days before vowing never to think on it or its complications ever again. He and Oak left for Kanto the next day.

While Seth was off doing his errand in Agate, Oak paid a visit to the local Pokemon Labratory. He met with Professor Krane and his assistants, and handed over the Snag Machine prototype for them to reverse engineer. The lab was already in the process of switching over to researching pokemon mass-purification. While there, a young boy who lived at the lab challenged Oak to a simulator battle, which Oak delightfully took part in. Oak won, of course, to the child's and his sister's disappointment.

Eagun found the remains of Vander's Time Flute at the Relic Stone the morning after Seth's clandestine visit. He would write Vander to tell him the news. While the news was devistating at first, there was a sense of ease that soon followed, as Eagun, Vander, and the others in the society no longer had to constantly protect the Relic Stone from intruders. The search still continues for any other Time Flutes or similar artifacts, but none have been found to this day.

After what happened on the Kids Grid VPN IRC, Lon attempted to track down his friend and mentor, taking the hint that Seth's username change was the name he was going by now. He didn't find him before he left Gateon, however, and Lon would begin travelling the surrounding regions, looking for Seth, over the next few years. But that's a story for another time...

Duking and Silva awoke in the VIP room an hour after they were knocked out, finding only the two Pyrite police officers with them in the room when they awoke. They assumed Colin and Rui had chased after Cade and Nascour after what was clearly an escape attempt on Cade's part. It wasn't until they checked in with the Kids Grid did they learn of Colin's vague last words, and started to investigate what might have actually gone down.

Cipher as a whole vanished from the Orre region, leaving the Realgam Tower to new, unrelated owners. While the people of Orre were at first skeptical of their vanishing, after a couple years with no news on the matter, people became convinced Cipher was officailly gone. In truth, of course, Cipher simply went underground with their Shadow Pokemon plan. They hired a new head scientist to change and build upon the Shadow Pokemon project. Cipher would invent new artificial moves and severely limit the negative side effects of the confused rage a pokemon suffered. They would successfully keep themselves secret for five years. But that's a story for another time...

Ein left for new regions and new projects to work on, far from Cipher and their project. He took Oak's words to heart and began many projects for finding ways to make pokemon and people equal. His most recent project is said to allow people to have the moves and abilities of pokemon... but that's a story for another time...

Venus changed her name again after she fled from the Under. She left the Orre region for new territories to explore and conquer, with her ever-trusty Typhlosion by her side.

After Dakim got out of the intensive care unit, he also chose to leave for new regions, looking for more powerful pokemon to capture. And if he just so happens to run across a punk with albino hair, he would be sure to beat his head in twofold.

Miror B got carried down the underground river to the ocean and ended up in a cavern system beyond Gateon. He eventually found his Sudowoodo acting like a petrified piece of driftwood. Freeing himself from the confines of the Cipher Syndicate, he would eventually start getting a Team together with the goal of having the world's largest pokemon dance group. He would call it "Team Miror", but that story is for another time...

Gonzap returned to the Snagem Hideout and started attempting to rebuild the place. However, Cipher, in their vanishing from Orre, ceased their communications with Team Snagem, and never fulfilled their order of 20 arm-mounted Snag Machines. Snagem would fall on hard times and grow adversarial of Cipher and their shady business dealings.

Willie would continue to contemplate the strange desert man named Randall for many years, envying him and wanting to be like him, but never doing anything to improve himself. He eventually admitted to himself that Randall only highlighted to himself that he was gay, and that he liked the cool mysterious types. He would refuse to admit it out loud to anyone, however.

Niver would continue being a dick to everyone. He never got over this. The End.

What happened to Rui, you ask? Her story is *also* for another time...