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Challenge The Scramble Challange - Mark 2

Discussion in 'Orange Islands' started by Its_A_Random, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. King Serperior

    King Serperior

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    3,029

    So, are you going to not continue? I liked your updates. I would likw to hear more about Ninja and SlowMo.

    Anyway, its your choice at what you do, so I'll be around to make a mon if I get here in time.
  2. Hwang

    Hwang

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2012
    Messages:
    83
    I'm definitely going to continue my updates, I just need to sit down and write sometime.

    Also, I am going to do another Scramble regardless of whether I upload it or not. And I decided why the hell not.

    So I will be doing a Fire Red Scramble that I will record and commentate over. I will post the links here.

    I will now be accepting some Pokemon. 2 spots are reserved for Naix and King Serperior.

    Fire Red Scramble Rules
    Hard difficulty, but nothing tedious.
    I would like a starter.
    No killing off any of my Pokemon.
    Nicknames and back stories are appreciated.
    I can't trade.
    A quick summary of the Pokemon's restrictions at the end of the post. In case I forget the restrictions I like quick access to them again without reading a wall of text. ​
  3. Naix

    Naix

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Messages:
    377
    Hwang, take Unsure the Eevee. Because Eevee have multiple possible evolutions, Unsure doesn't know what you plan to evolve it into, and how you're going to evolve it, so it tries to be prepared for every possibility. Regardless of what you evolve it to, it won't be able to use STAB attacks with a BP over 60, because of the fact that its practice was divided between all of the possibilities. Also, it must solo 2 of Zapdos, Blaine, and Lorelei, with the one you don't have to solo depending on what Unsure evolves to. For example, if you make Unsure a Vaporeon, it won't have to solo Lorelei.
    Depending on what you evolve Unsure to, it'll have certain restrictions, so the skills it trained up for different eeveelutions won't go to waste. If it doesn't become a Vaporeon, it has to know Rest, because of Vaporeon's good special bulk. If it doesn't become a Jolteon, it must know Quick Attack, because of its blinding Speed. If it doesn't become a Flareon, it must know 2 physical attacks, because of Flareon's massive Attack. Note: the Jolteon and Flareon restrictions do not stack.

    challange summary (open)
    Take Eevee, nickname Unsure.
    Can't use STAB attacks that have more than 60 BP.
    Must know Rest (exception is made if Unsure becomes Vaporeon)
    Must know Quick Attack (same as above, just change Vaporeon to Jolteon)
    Must know 2 Physical moves (rinse and repeat, just change species to Flareon. Does not stack with above restriction)
    Must solo 2 of Zapdos, Blaine, and Lorelei. Unsure doesn't have to solo them if it's the same type. Example: If Unsure is Flareon, it doesn't gave so solo Blaine.

    Have fun!
  4. TheMagicalCake

    TheMagicalCake

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    145
    Hwang take Arrogant the Pikachu. Arrogant was a friend of Red's Pikachu before he caught. After hearing the success of that Pikachu he wanted to prove he was the very best. He can never hold a Light Ball because he thinks he is already powerful enough without. He also cannot evolve for the same reason. He must have the moveset Charm Quick Attack Thunderbolt and Thunder just like Red's original Pikachu. He must solo Lt.Surge and switch in on every electric type and cannot switch out. He also can't switch into or stay in on Water types or Flying types because he thinks they are too weak for him (He can come in if he is your last pokemon but he can use any electric moves.) Have fun!
  5. RaptorRuler

    RaptorRuler

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    12
    It has been forever since I have been involved with a scramble challange and I am raring to do one, however I will have some conditions.

    1. This will be played on Pokemon Black 2 on an Emulator (so no trading).
    2. I would like the requirements to have no limitations on learning moves that my pokemon can learn through level up. Anything else is fair game.
    3. I would like the challange to be somewhat difficult, but not insane.
    4. To make this more fun for me each of the Pokemon chosen will represent a member of The Ginyu Force from Dragon Ball Z, the sixth pokemon will be represented by Mr Popo. A small description of the character will be given below to give an idea of what type of Pokemon should be the best representation of the DBZ characters.
    5. Nicknames will just be the names of the characters.

    Captain Ginyu (Purple) -
    Recoome (White) -
    Jeice (Red) - Tepig, Conditions Here
    Burter (Blue) -
    Guldo (Green, Kind of Stumpy) - Foongus,
    Mr. Popo (Black) -

    @Hwang

    You recieve Babs the Venonat for your challange (an old challange that was rejected).

    Babs has always been confused as to who he was. As a Venonat he thinks of himself as some sort of genius and he thinks as though he can confuse people with his mind. Therefore he must always use Confusion (once he learns it) when he enters battle and must continue to use it until he has either defeated the opposing trainer or has confused the opposing pokemon. To evolve he must solo 3 gym trainers in Koga's gym with only Confusion. When he evolves into Venomoth he loses the perception of the genius, however he know refuses to acknowledge the existence of technology. Meaning he can only learn level up moves. But, he loses this ignorance if he is able to defeat 2 of Giovanni's pokemon without the help of any other pokemon (solo).

    Challange Summary (open)

    Babs the Venonat
    - Can only use Confusion, once learned, as an attack until either the Pokemon has fainted or been confused.
    - Can evolve only after soloing 3 of Koga's Gym Trainers with Confusion
    - As a Venomoth can only learn level up moves unless he is able to solo 2 of Giovanni's Pokemon in the last gym battle.
  6. King Serperior

    King Serperior

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    3,029
    Take Goomba the rattata. Goomba's are brown and Rattata aren't. As such, you must evolve Goomba ASAP. After evolution, Goomba must represet the collective power of the Goomba race. Teach it Strength, Quick Attack, Dig, and a move of your choice. You must then capture the princess. Defeat her Toad guards and then capture her. Later, you will face Mario. Defeat him and rule the earth!!

    Summary (open)

    1). Evolve Rattata ASAP.
    2). Teach Goomba Strength, Quick Attack, and Dig
    3). Solo the Grass gym (Trainers and Leader included)
    4). Solo your rival before Victory Road and after the 8th gym is defeated.


    Take Guldo the foongus. I'll edit this later.
  7. Pika25

    Pika25

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2007
    Messages:
    959
    RR, take Jeice the Tepig.

    Hwang, take Blaze the Charmander.

    These Pokémon must solo the first Gym Leader to evolve to their respective second stage, as well as at least 2 E4/Champion owned Pokes in their respective games, and cannot use any fire attacks unless they are in Blaze Ability range.

    Summary (open)
    • Must solo first Gym Leader to evolve
    • Must solo at least two Pokes in the League
    • Cannot use a fire attack unless in Blaze Ability range
  8. Phadunk

    Phadunk

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Messages:
    3,226
    You cruel cruel being.
  9. RODAN

    RODAN INFERNO COP
    is a Forum Moderatoris a Smogon Media Contributor
    Moderator

    Joined:
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    5,397
    RAPTOR

    take capitan ginyu

    he is a basculin (the blue one)

    he must defeat all of the 8th gym by himself

    also no physical moves
  10. RaptorRuler

    RaptorRuler

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    12
    I will have to deny this challange, mainly because Basculin is not Purple, and there is a limitation on the level up moveset.
  11. EndQuote

    EndQuote

    Joined:
    May 5, 2011
    Messages:
    2,358
    Hwang, take a Nidoran and name him Max. He must have Poison Point.
    This Nidoran manages to get his paws on your Pokedex, and decides to follow it blindly.

    As a Nidoran, he tries to listen hard and focus on any possible danger.
    In Trainer Battles, he must use Focus Energy on the first turn he is sent out.

    In addition, after level 17, if he is struck with a contact attack, he can only use Poison Sting until the foe is poisoned.


    He must solo Nugget Bridge

    He can evolve at level 25, once the above solo is completed.


    As a Nidorino, he is quick to anger, and never gives up in battle, even if any chance of victory is long gone.
    He can never switch out or run away, and can only use Horn Attack or Fury Attack if his health is below 50%.

    He must solo Koga. He can evolve after this solo.


    As a Nidoking, Max thinks he is indestructible.
    He still can never switch out or run away, but now cannot be healed by healing items.
    His final moveset must be:
    -Horn Attack
    -Megahorn
    -Poison Sting
    -Move of your choice


    He must solo three Pokemon in the elite four. Good luck!
  12. Hwang

    Hwang

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2012
    Messages:
    83
    Thank you all for the challanges!

    This team sure is an interesting lot.

    My team:

    Unsure the Eevee (Naix) (open)

    Hwang, take Unsure the Eevee. Because Eevee have multiple possible evolutions, Unsure doesn't know what you plan to evolve it into, and how you're going to evolve it, so it tries to be prepared for every possibility. Regardless of what you evolve it to, it won't be able to use STAB attacks with a BP over 60, because of the fact that its practice was divided between all of the possibilities. Also, it must solo 2 of Zapdos, Blaine, and Lorelei, with the one you don't have to solo depending on what Unsure evolves to. For example, if you make Unsure a Vaporeon, it won't have to solo Lorelei.
    Depending on what you evolve Unsure to, it'll have certain restrictions, so the skills it trained up for different eeveelutions won't go to waste. depending on what you don't evolve it into. If it doesn't become a Vaporeon, it has to know Rest, because of Vaporeon's good special bulk. If it doesn't become a Jolteon, it must know Quick Attack, because of its blinding Speed. If it doesn't become a Flareon, it must know 2 physical attacks, because of Flareon's massive Attack. Note: the Jolteon and Flareon restrictions do not stack.

    challange summary:
    Take Eevee, nickname Unsure.
    Can't use STAB attacks that have more than 60 BP.
    Must know Rest (exception is made if Unsure becomes Vaporeon)
    Must know Quick Attack (same as above, just change Vaporeon to Jolteon)
    Must know 2 Physical moves (rinse and repeat, just change species to Flareon. Does not stack with above restriction)
    Must solo 2 of Zapdos, Blaine, and Lorelei. Unsure doesn't have to solo them if it's the same type. Example: If Unsure is Flareon, it doesn't gave so solo Blaine.


    Arrogant the Pikachu (TheMagicalCake) (open)

    Hwang take Arrogant the Pikachu. Arrogant was a friend of Red's Pikachu before he caught. After hearing the success of that Pikachu he wanted to prove he was the very best. He can never hold a Light Ball because he thinks he is already powerful enough without. He also cannot evolve for the same reason. He must have the moveset Charm Quick Attack Thunderbolt and Thunder just like Red's original Pikachu. He must solo Lt.Surge and switch in on every electric type and cannot switch out. He also can't switch into or stay in on Water types or Flying types because he thinks they are too weak for him (He can come in if he is your last pokemon but he can use any electric moves.) Have fun!

    Summary:
    No Light Ball.
    No evolving.
    Moveset must be: Growl, Quick Attack, Thunderbolt, Thunder.
    Solo Lt. Surge.
    Switch in against Electric-types, and cannot switch out of Electric-types.
    Can't switch in or stay in against Water-types/Flying-types (Unless he is my final Pokemon, in which case he can come in but cannot use Electric attacks).



    Babs the Venonat (RaptorRuler) (open)

    @Hwang

    You recieve Babs the Venonat for your challange (an old challange that was rejected).

    Babs has always been confused as to who he was. As a Venonat he thinks of himself as some sort of genius and he thinks as though he can confuse people with his mind. Therefore he must always use Confusion (once he learns it) when he enters battle and must continue to use it until he has either defeated the opposing trainer or has confused the opposing pokemon. To evolve he must solo 3 gym trainers in Koga's gym with only Confusion. When he evolves into Venomoth he loses the perception of the genius, however he know refuses to acknowledge the existence of technology. Meaning he can only learn level up moves. But, he loses this ignorance if he is able to defeat 2 of Giovanni's pokemon without the help of any other pokemon (solo).

    Challange Summary:

    Babs the Venonat
    - Can only use Confusion, once learned, as an attack until either the Pokemon has fainted or been confused.
    - Can evolve only after soloing 3 of Koga's Gym Trainers with Confusion
    - As a Venomoth can only learn level up moves unless he is able to solo 2 of Giovanni's Pokemon in the last gym battle.


    Goomba the Rattata (King Serperior) (open)

    Take Goomba the rattata. Goomba's are brown and Rattata aren't. As such, you must evolve Goomba ASAP. After evolution, Goomba must represet the collective power of the Goomba race. Teach it Strength, Quick Attack, Dig, and a move of your choice. You must then capture the princess. Defeat her Toad guards and then capture her. Later, you will face Mario. Defeat him and rule the earth!!

    Summary:

    1). Evolve Rattata ASAP.
    2). Teach Goomba Strength, Quick Attack, and Dig
    3). Solo the Grass gym (Trainers and Leader included)
    4). Solo your rival before Victory Road and after the 8th gym is defeated.


    Blaze the Charmander (Pika25) (open)

    Hwang, take Blaze the Charmander.

    These Pokémon must solo the first Gym Leader to evolve to their respective second stage, as well as at least 2 E4/Champion owned Pokes in their respective games, and cannot use any fire attacks unless they are in Blaze Ability range.

    Summary:
    Must solo first Gym Leader to evolve
    Must solo at least two Pokes in the League
    Cannot use a fire attack unless in Blaze Ability range


    Max the Nidoran (EndQuote) (open)

    Hwang, take a Nidoran and name him Max. He must have Poison Point.
    This Nidoran manages to get his paws on your Pokedex, and decides to follow it blindly.

    Its large ears are flapped like wings when it is listening to distant sounds. It extends toxic barbs when angered.
    As a Nidoran, he tries to listen hard and focus on any possible danger.
    In Trainer Battles, he must use Focus Energy on the first turn he is sent out.

    In addition, after level 17, if he is struck with a contact attack, he can only use Poison Sting until the foe is poisoned.

    He must solo Nugget Bridge
    He can evolve at level 25, once the above solo is completed.

    It is easily angered. By swinging its well-developed horn wildly, it can even punch through diamond.
    As a Nidorino, he is quick to anger, and never gives up in battle, even if any chance of victory is long gone.
    He can never switch out or run away, and can only use Horn Attack or Fury Attack if his health is below 50%.

    He must solo Koga. He can evolve after this solo.

    It is recognized by its rock-hard hide and its extended horn. Be careful with the horn as it contains venom.
    As a Nidoking, Max thinks he is indestructible.
    He still can never switch out or run away, but now cannot be healed by healing items.
    His final moveset must be:
    -Horn Attack
    -Megahorn
    -Poison Sting
    -Move of your choice

    He must solo three Pokemon in the elite four. Good luck!

    Summary:
    As a Nidoran he must use Focus Energy on the first turn sent out.
    As a Nidoran if he is hit with a contact attack he must only use Poison Sting until the foe is poisoned.
    Must solo Nugget Bridge and be lvl 25 to evolve.
    As a Nidorino he can only use Fury Attack/Horn Attack when below 50% HP.
    As a Nidorino he can't switch out or run away.
    Must solo Koga to evolve.
    As a Nidoking he can't switch out or run away.
    As a Nidoking he can't be healed by healing items.
    As a Nidoking his final moveset must be: Horn Attack, Megahorn, Poison Sting, Move of my choice.
    As a Nidoking he must solo 3 Pokemon in the Elite 4.



    I will begin posting videos when I get the channel up and running.
  13. Pika25

    Pika25

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2007
    Messages:
    959
    Will Growl work? Pikachu cannot learn Charm by level-up in Fire Red.
  14. EndQuote

    EndQuote

    Joined:
    May 5, 2011
    Messages:
    2,358
    Yes, Hwang, each new evolution brings with it new restrictions and cancels the old.
  15. shinyskarmory

    shinyskarmory

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,547
    Ruby Scramblocke-second post

    I have to take this second post for Ruby, because the first post back on page 142 has gotten so big that it takes forever for my computer to edit it. This post will be the home for all future Ruby updates, and I will link it to my signature as well.

    Chapters 1-15 are here.

    Chapter Fifteen of Ruby is up!!

    This is the cameo episode. Much of the content at the beginning of the chapter (including Tetrinity's character's appearance, which was used with permission btw), was intended to be in chapter fourteen, but I had to cut it out to make the update, you know, actually finish.

    Updates should come more frequently after this, because these two updates were plagued with minor events that are uninteresting and boring to write but also have to be included...it's rough to write.

    All cameos except that of Tetrinity's White Scramblocke character were used without permission, and are not meant to be offensive.

    Chapter Sixteen: Post-Mortem (open)

    "So..."-the officer looked at her clipboard-"Skarm, it is?"

    "Yes, that's right."

    "Well, it looks like you're in a lot of trouble. Now, can you tell me exactly what you were doing at Mt. Chimney? That eruption could have hurt people, and it caused over 5 billion poke in damage. So...tell me from the beginning what happened."

    The handcuffs were clipped to the table, and my wrists chafed against them as I shifted in the metal chair. "You've already decided I'm guilty, what's the point?"

    "I might decide you're innocent, and let your father bail you out."

    "Fair enough."

    Norman

    "I'm sorry, WHAT?"

    "Your son has been arrested by the Lavaridge police force. If you'd like to see him, you should head over there."

    "That's impossible, he was trying to stop the real problem!"

    "The real problem? There was nobody there but him."

    "Well, I'll be right over."

    Skarm

    I walked into the Fallarbor ski lift, which the attendant activated with a flip of a switch.

    "You know, it's far to dangerous to go up there. There are all these armed thugs, and the volcano is erupting."

    "I know. Someone has to."

    "Why is that someone you?"

    "Because if I don't, who will?"

    "Nobody, because it's suicidal."

    "I didn't ask for your opinion. Just hit the button!"

    The lift began its rise up the mountain, and only about halfway up did I finally start feeling afraid. Magma thugs with guns, an erupting volcano, and of course the mysterious men dressed in blue with their own guns. If I was an action hero, I would have a plan.

    ...

    Which is why I don't have a plan.

    "So you went on to an active volcano to stop a group of gun-wielding thugs from forcing it to erupt?" She shook her head. "If you wanted to be believable, you're doing it the wrong way."

    "I'm telling you the truth. Take it or leave it.


    The lift arrived a few hundred feet below the summit, although there was a path leading straight up to the crater. Unfortunately, this area did not give me the ability to talk to my pokemon like the east face did for whatever reason.

    A few hundred feet later, I was crouched behind a bump, taking stock of the situation. The mysterious blue men were each fighting with pokemon, not guns, probably because their ammo was exhausted, and so were the Magma grunts. Across the bubbling crater, which was filled with lava, Maxie and a few more professionally dressed grunts were having a discussion. Just as I stepped over the rim, two of them went off to join the fray while Maxie and the last one started towards a machine set up on an overhang above the volcano.

    I had a plan now.

    "Ashe, come out." I pressed the button on the pokeball, and she appeared next to me. "How good at you at sneaking around?"

    "This isn't helping."

    "So you'd rather me lie?"


    I skirted the fight by slipping past Magma grunts who were occupied with...watching their Poochyenas take on the identical Poochyenas used by the blue men. It was almost surreal.

    The leader shouted out to me,"Who the FUCK are you?"

    "Me?" I smiled. "I came to see the baking soda experiment." The man screamed in rage, but not before I kept going up the side of the slope to Maxie's machine.

    "MAXIE!!!"

    He turned towards me, casually drawing a machine pistol from the inside of his jacket. "Oh, hello, it's you. Don't you remember our discussion last time? You know what...I don't either. So let's take a listen." With his left hand, he reached into his pocket and pressed a button on his cell phone.

    "Whoa, whoa, whoa. So this "Maxie" person killed Winona's father too? Hahaha, this is the best alibi I've ever heard!"

    "..."


    "Oh yes, that brings back some good memories. Like how I was able to scare the living daylights out of you with just a gunshot. You've grown some balls since last time, I see." He raised the gun to the level of my head. "Now, let's finish you off now that nobody important is watching."

    Ashe
    5 minutes ago

    "How good are you at sneaking around?"

    I nodded, signaling him to go on. My kind have been stalking prey in the jungles and forests of Hoenn for millions of years. I wasn't sure how well those talents would apply on the side of a mountain with the only trees being a few hundred feet down.

    "I want you to sneak around and ambush Maxie when I give the signal. He'll be armed, so I want you to knock the gun out of his hands so we can fight with Pokemon instead of firearms."

    I had only one question, which I voiced with a quick growl. Why?

    "Because you're the only one on this team I trust to get it done. If you don't, I'm dead, and maybe we're all dead. And I know you can do it." I nuzzled him around the waist with my arm, and he rubbed my head, as we'd done back when we were just getting started. "Now, start sneaking around. Make sure you're not seen. And be in position on time! The word is Kanto."

    Present
    I crouched as low as I could behind Maxie's machine, making sure that all of my leaves were hidden behind it. From what I could tell, it was using a meteorite to do something...though I couldn't tell what. Maxie and Skarm were talking.

    "Now, let's finish you off now that nobody's watching."

    "Wait, Maxie!" Skarm shifted around on his feet, seeming anxious, but actually trying to see if I was in position. I raised an arm in answer, and he calmed down. "You know what you're doing is insane!"

    "No, it's not. How can it be insane if it is necessary?"

    "You want to make people happy...you want people to have more room. Setting off a volcano isn't going to make a difference! You're just going to make the land that IS there unlivable, forcing people to crowd together on the land that's left!" Skarm extended his arms in a posture that I suppose humans found persuasive. "You can't cause change with brute force. Look at how that worked out in Unova. The people there are miserable! Or in Orre, where they haven't stopped fighting for decades? Or in KANTO, where all the gym leaders and the Elites are puppets of the government? It doesn't work, Maxie."

    I crept out from behind the statue, making sure my footsteps stayed silent.

    "There are two ways to change the system: from within or without. I tried from within, during the Splitting, but that failed when the pathetic governments made piece. Now, I'm trying without the system. And I will not allow YOU to ruin this one!"

    Then, I reached him. He started turning towards me, and I leaped as fast as I could for his right arm, which was holding the gun. A quick slash of one of my claws knocked the gun from his fingers and splashed his blood on my face. He quickly recovered and grabbed my arm as I tried to get by him. The gun bounced down the crater into the roiling lava.

    Before I knew it, I was facedown on the hot, rough ash covering the footpath, with Maxie's boot on my back.

    Skarm
    "Ok, this sounds more like the truth now. You're a violent young man who sets his pokemon on people he doesn't like."

    "WILL YOU SHUT UP AND LET ME FINISH?"


    "Silly you...if your lady friend told you anything about me, it's that I used to be in the military. I guess I'm a little rusty on my hand-to-hand stuff, though."

    He had caught Ashe by the arm after she knocked away the gun, and all he needed was a quick elbow to the face and a kick in the ribs to subdue her.

    "Now, I guess you've gotten what you wanted. A little blood spilled, a perfectly good gun wasted. And now you want to take me on in a pokemon battle to stop the machine, right?" He grinned and pulled a knife from the boot that he was holding Ashe on the ground with. "Well, little miss Grovyle, the first thing you need to learn is that nobody fights fair, especially for a "noble cause". So why don't we teach you that lesson with a knife? Maybe carve it in right there next to your tail? Or maybe somewhere more visible...on your leg?"

    "Or you could practice carving with a turkey." I withdrew Ashe, and Maxie stumbled without her body to stand on.

    "You and your little trainer's tricks...Very well, I will fight you. But before I do, I'll give you one chance to back off and leave us alone. And I should warn you...I train my pokemon to go for the kill from the start."

    "So what's it this time...six on three?" I said, releasing my pokemon in front of me. Ashe was still a little woozy, so I recalled her and just left everyone else to fight.

    "You make that sound so much in my favor." Camerupt, Mightyena, and Golbat all appeared in front of Maxie. "It's not too late to get out of my way. I can assure you that if I win, neither you nor your pokemon will survive."

    "Will you stop going on and on about how great a murderer you are and just fight me?"

    "Quickly, jump on that Elektrike!"

    "Flapper, go after the Golbat! Everyone else, protect Voltaire!"

    I was mostly paying attention to Flapper fighting the Golbat in the skies, so I didn't notice the problems on the ground until it was too late. Soda, Aron, and King were bullied out of the way by Camerupt, and Mightyena was pouncing on Voltaire.

    "Voltaire! Watch out!" He quickly danced backwards, ducking under Mightyena's bloody claws, and then knocked him out with a bolt of lightning. "YES! YES! Get the Golbat!"

    Voltaire
    "Pathetic. Can't even touch me when I'm right in front of you."

    The others battling for Skarm were scattered, their coordination ruined by the rampaging Camerupt in the midst of them. Just as well. I knew there was nobody else in this "team" that I could rely upon. Only me.

    "Oy, CAMERUPT! Ready to take on a real opponent?" I dashed in for a quick strike, ignoring Skarm's orders to take out the Golbat that was dueling with Flapper. The shot wasn't clear anyways. The brute turned towards me and knocked the other three away from him with a burst of flame from his humps.

    "You? I've fought better. Why should I waste my time with you?"

    "Let me SHOW YOU!" I reached deep inside me, to where the power was brimming, begging for release. And I put it all into a single bolt that struck him square in the face.

    "Are you finished yet, pathetic little Electrike? Even these three had more fire then you." He didn't even feel it.

    "I have more. I AM MORE!" I leaped at his head, and scratched at his eyes, which quickly closed. He snorted, and shook me off his head. I landed right on the rim of the crater.

    "Say goodbye, little one. And in your next life, watch where you put your feet." He raised his front legs, and smashed the ground. Everyone felt the vibration, but me most of all.

    The ashy sand that was the top of the crater gave way, with me on it.

    And I fell, the crumbling stone that was my support seconds before becoming my end.

    Skarm

    "VOLTAIRE! VOLTAIRE!!!!!!!!!"

    "Oh, get over it, you wimp. He was only your tool. Now, Camerupt, finish them." Camerupt turned to the scattered forms of Taillow, Tentacool, and Aron, and drew in a deep breath.

    "SODA! KING! ARON! WAKE UP!" Soda weakly limped out of the way, leaving King and Aron in the middle of Camerupt's fire breath.

    "No....not more...not Aron and King too."

    "What did I tell you? You can't beat me. Not even when you have me outnumbered." King rolled out from the fire stream, probably knocked out by Aron. "Camerupt, melt the Aron and the Zubat. Then we can have a little fun with the Tentacool and the Taillow. I hear they taste good deep fried."

    Aron
    I will not let it end this way. I did not watch my family DIE at the hands of poachers so that this family could end the same way. But Aron, at least this time you won't have to watch. You'll be the first to go. I brushed off my more cynical side. This will not be my end. I knock King out of the way, which naturally makes me take the full brunt of the fire stream.

    Pain.

    Burning pain.

    And then the end of it, when Camerupt runs out of air.

    "I WILL NOT watch this happen again!" I throw my whole weight into Camerupt's knee, and I almost wince when I feel the tendons and bones popping under his skin. He roars in pain, and I scramble out of the way of the other foot that tries to crush me.

    "You impudent little scamp! Try some more FIRE!" He stumbles all over himself, and can't seem to hit me, so I pile into his body and knock him over onto his side. "Oh no, little metal kid is mad that his family all got killed. Hahahaha-"

    I threw myself at him. Then a second time.

    And then a third. Again, and again, and again, until I was too exhausted to keep going.

    Skarm
    "No...no way. What I would give to understand what they were saying."

    I had withdrawn everyone except Flapper and Soda, who were teaming up against Golbat in the sky.

    "Let them fight." Maxie said. I turned my head down from the skies to see him approaching, knife in hand. "In the meantime, I think me and you have some unfinished business to settle."

    Flapper
    I don't even...is there anything inside this thing's head anyways?

    Next.

    Soda
    I barrel rolled to dodge another one of the Golbat's attempts to lock its jaws around my neck. I was still recovering from almost being burnt to death by Camerupt, but now I was fighting Golbat with Zubat. Down below, Skarm was getting chased around by Maxie with a knife, and I knew I had to finish fast. If Skarm died, who would ever give me more soda?

    "Flapper! Get below him and come up! He won't have anywhere to go!" Flapper flew up above him. "do you even have a brain?" I sighed as I came up from below. We both collided with Golbat, knocking the wind out of it and plowing it into the rim of the crater.

    This was a special fight, and we knew it. We knew it even better when our bodies began to glow as we flew down from the ashy skies, and our wings and bodies grew. We were tired, and glided down.

    Skarm
    "Good job! Now come back and help me with this asshole!"

    "The thing about pokemon battles....is that even when you win...you LOSE!" Maxie, stumbling across the ridge and coughing, threw his knife at my chest.

    Maybe this is the end.

    It'd be a pity to come all this way, only to fail right when we've won.

    Flapper, now a Golbat, flew out of the skies and took the knife blade first in the chest. Then it was pushed out as the Cheri berry he clutched in one of his claws was consumed. I picked it up and turned to Maxie.

    "Well, it looks like I've won."

    "NO! That's not possible! How did the Golbat just take it and heal back up like it was nothing!"

    I ignored his raging and withdrew my pokemon. Then I ran to the machine, which sat on a metal gangway over the brewing volcano.

    ERUPTION IN 500.65 SECONDS it read, ticking away slowly. I reached for the meteorite, knowing that it was the power.

    WARNING: REMOVING THE METEORITE AT THIS POINT WILL NOT CEASE THE ERUPTION.

    "WHAT?!"

    "That's right Skarm...what did I tell you? You can't win..." And he laughed, a long, callous laugh. "What's more, now that we're leaving, you'll get the blame for it. So...enjoy your last few minutes of life." He stepped onto a helicopter that seemingly came from nowhere, and it carried him off into the dark skies. The Magma grunts had all closed up shop and left down the Lavaridge face of the mountain, which I took to mean that the eruption was directed towards the closest sea, straight across Route 119.

    I ripped the meteorite from its housing anyways, and started sprinting down the mountain.

    And I almost made it.

    "BOOM!"

    "So that's the end, huh. You're trying to tell me that you took on a crime lord from another country at the top of a volcano...and won. But you still couldn't stop the eruption. You expect me to believe that?"

    "It's the truth, like it or not."

    "It is." I turned to see Flannery and my dad at the door. "Didn't you capture any of the guys in red? Can't you worry about them instead?"

    "Well, yes, but..."

    "Do it. We'll go through the paperwork and bail Skarm out, and make sure he's here for his trial."

    "Alright. Skarm, you are free to go, provided that you are present at the Lavaridge Courthouse on Saturday for your trial."

    Outside
    "So you almost made it."

    "Yes, but the design of the machine wouldn't let me---"

    "Skarm, it doesn't matter. You still failed, and Maxie got away again...I don't know if my father will ever get justice now."

    "Winona, we'll find a way."

    Chapter Seventeen: The Trial (read this shit) (open)

    "Wow guys, I didn't even notice you evolved. Guess I was caught up with being sad about Voltaire and worrying about Maxie's knife. Oh yeah, thanks for the assist there, Flapper. Now, everyone pay attention."

    I was sitting in my room in the Pokemon Center, with everyone who was still alive surrounding me. The eruption had died down, making the air breathable without masks. "So, first of all, I'd like everyone to welcome Swablu, who joined us back in Fallarbor, and Spoink, who I ran into coming down the mountain a few days ago. Hopefully they'll be with us the rest of the way."

    "Secondly, you guys probably know that Electrike is no longer with us." There were a few groans from the group, and they kinda reflected the way I felt as well. I miss him, of course, but he was also kind of a dick, so...yeah. "Yeah, I miss him too. Right now, though, we need to address the reason why we died." I paused. This was something I had to say, and something they had to hear. "We weren't ready for that fight. And I don't think we're ready for this one either."

    Silence.

    "We were too small, too slow, and not together as a team. By all rights, we should have lost more then just Voltaire."

    Heads down. A few tears from Ashe and King, who knew Voltaire best.

    "That's why we're going to train. We're going to get faster and stronger before we take on Flannery. I used to know her, and I can guarantee she'll be just as tough on us as Maxie was. So...with that in mind, get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow we start working."

    ...

    "So, Spoink...Do you really have to keep bouncing all the time? It's really annoying!"

    Yes, I do, Master. The others always said that if we stopped, our hearts would stop too!

    "Wait, you can talk?"

    No, I can just...make people understand. I don't know exactly what it's called, but it's second nature to me.

    "Have you ever done anything with it...more then that?"

    Well.....yes, Master. I can sometimes make other Pokemon do things.

    "That's great! Does it work on humans too?"

    No, Master. Humans think differently then pokemon, and I haven't quite gotten used to them.

    "Okay...Here, try this." Ashe appeared a few feet away from Spoink. "Can you make Ashe jump up and down?"

    Is Ashe male or female?

    "She's female, but does it really matter?"

    Yes, it does, Master. Males and females think and act differently, and what will persuade one- Ashe began jumping up and down -may not persuade the other. The species of the pokemon matters too, but I can generally tell what I'm dealing with.

    ...

    "King, give it a try. Don't just spray water everywhere." He gave a feeble squirt. "You have to direct it to do anything. Otherwise, Flannery will just ignore it." Another weak spray, and then thrashing tentacles.

    "It's alright. You just have to focus and practice." Spoink's poke ball began vibrating in my belt. "Give me a second, I'll be right back."

    I can point King in the right direction, Master.


    "You can?"

    He just needs a little tighter lips, that's all.

    "Okay, you can if you want. Let me talk to him first though, he has to think he's doing it himself." I walked back over to King. "Okay, try again. Knock down those cans." A powerful jet of water knocked over the entire pyramid.

    "Much better!"

    ...

    "Soda, Flapper...you guys fought great up high against Golbat, but we're not always going to be outdoors, especially when we fight Flannery. She knows our team, and you can bet she will try to keep us cramped. So...today we train in this conference room. And there's incentive." I set a Pepsi on the table. "Whoever wins gets this."

    They both took one glance at it. Then they leaped on each other.

    ...

    "Swablu, what can you do?" He twittered and shook his cottony wings out, something he seemed to do a lot. "Well, if there's anything interesting...or special...or nice you can do, I'd like to know." He began to hum a tune...one that I recognized. And he broke into song.

    "You would not believe your eyes, if ten million Illumise, lit up the world as I fell asleep. For they fill the open air, and leave hatchlings everywhere, you'd think I'm rude but I would just stand and....stare."

    "You've got a great voice, but I'm not sure if that will help."

    "I'd like to make myself believe...that planet Earth...turns...slowly." I began to fall asleep.

    "Do you usually...make people...slzzzzzzzzzzZ"

    "It's hard to say that I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep."

    ...

    "That was a good week, and I think we got a lot done. But whether we're ready for Flannery yet...I don't know. I'll decide when I see the film. In the meantime, that's it for tonight....I'll see you tomorrow. Get some sleep, and then we'll be good to go tomorrow."

    Later that night, after the other pokemon went to bed, I tapped Ashe on the shoulder. She sprang off the ground and had the blades on her arms at my throat before she noticed it was me.

    "Ashe...nothing's up. I just want to talk to you for a second. Come outside with me." We took the stairs to the lobby, and then I stepped into the locker room. Ashe gave me an inquisitive look. "Just go around and wait for me. I'll be right there." I came out the other side after I changed and hopped into the hot water in the grotto behind the Pokemon Center. "Come on in here, it's nice and warm."

    "So...tomorrow, we have the gym battle. And that's the same day my trial is." Ashe sighed as she slid into the warm, bubbly water. "I probably won't be able to stay for the entire battle, the way the gym hours are."

    A growl.

    "I want you to take control of the battle and run the team after I leave. Since it's 3 on 3, we won't have any problems. You can use anyone on the team you want. Except yourself, because you won't make a difference against her tough fire types."

    Ashe nodded in agreement, and then began climbing out. I put a hand on her shoulder and she sat back down in the warm water. "Stay here with me, Ashe. I fell like you've kind of gotten lost in the shuffle now that there's so many of us. Besides, the water and the view are nice, and we've got a lot ahead of us over the next few days. Just sit here with me and enjoy the moment."

    And we enjoyed the moment.

    ...

    "Alright guys, this battle is going to be tough. I'm not going to lie. But with all the work we've put in this week, we should be able to win. Now, from the videos, she's been using a pair of Slugma and a Torkoal, and the format is best out of three. Spoink, stop bouncing around me and pay attention!"

    Sorry Master, but this room is really hot, and the floor hurts my spring.

    "Alright...Well, here's the plan. She usually saves Torkoal for last, so I'd like King to take the Slugma. That should be an easy win. After that, I want to focus all our attention on Torkoal. He usually starts with some massive blast of fire that will usually roast something, but after that he can't do much. So I'd like Golbat to die...again...so that nobody else has to. Are we good with that?"

    Everyone muttered a brief growl or note of assent.

    "Good. Get warmed up and ready to go. We're up in about twenty minutes."

    My phone buzzed in my pocket. Annoyed, I pulled it out of my pocket.

    "Skarm here. I'm about to fight a gym battle, does it really have to be now?"

    "Hey, this is your favorite gym leader here."

    "Winona, I--"

    "Is there a TV around?" I glanced around the room and found one on the wall that was showing the current battle.

    "Yeah, why?"

    "Turn it on, channel 277."

    "Okay...Hey, this is the Indigo League channel, isn't it?"

    "That's the point, silly!"

    I stopped arguing and turned it on.

    "Welcome to Inside the League-Hoenn edition. I'm Drayden Marks, former Gym leader, and I'm with Gary Oak here on location in Lavaridge Town. We're here because in a few minutes, Norman's son and upstart challanger Skarm will take on his FOURTH gym since he began training six weeks ago. It's a truly amazing feat that's baffled many training experts. How do you think Skarm has been able to clear the gyms circuit at record SHATTERING speeds?"

    "Well, it's no mystery to me, Dray. He doesn't seem to have any particular talent at training-quite the opposite in fact, he doesn't even give orders most of the time! He has the highest pokemon death rate of any trainer outside the top 100 ranked trainers. I think that the only legitimate explanation for how he could have pulled this off is his father. Now, in the case of a Gym Leader, I wouldn't normally say this, but it seems to be the only way to explain Skarm's rise. Norman must have given Skarm some kind of information that normal challangers didn't have access to."

    "THAT'S BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!!"

    "Well, Gary, after studying his victories"-a montage of clips from my gym battles began playing-"I agree with you that he's not a very strong trainer, and that he doesn't do a great job of coming out unharmed from his battles. But I disagree that he's recieved any extra assistance. What I see is that he has, somehow, with no prior training experience, put together a team of EXTREMELY talented pokemon that aren't all alike. They have variety, none of them really think or fight the same, and I think THAT has been the largest factor in his victory. In all of the fights we have film of, he has never used the same strategy twice."

    "That's true, but it doesn't make a difference to me. The gym leaders are meant to test a trainer's ingenuity, and they aren't meant to be beaten on a trainer's first try! Yet Skarm has defeated 4 gyms, and he's undefeated in League matches, AND he's lost 4 pokemon along the way. I'm sorry, but I'm failing to see how he is any more then a mediocre trainer who got some illegal advice."

    "We're about to see here. Flannery is one of the newer Gym leaders, but she is renowned for her 92% win rate, the highest of all the Hoenn gym leaders, and her seemingly unstoppable Torkoal that has literally charmed the pokemon of hundreds of challangers. The battle is coming up, right after we take a break." The show cut to commercials, but it had already made me angry enough that I couldn't see straight.

    "Hey everyone, BRING IT UP!" The pokemon quickly formed a circle around me.
    "I was just watching TV, and you know what they think of us?" I paused for dramatic effect. "They think I'm a cheater. They think I have no talent and that I've gotten lucky this time. But I don't care if they insult me. I'm the one who's not doing any work here. I'm angry because they insulted YOU. Because they don't think that you're worth anything. You've done the work, you've earned EVERY SINGLE WIN that we've racked up. They're a bunch of has beens, and we'll show them right here, right now."

    We took the elevator up to the arena, which had surprisingly packed stands. In the highest part of the left side, I could see Drayden and Gary returning to their seats in the booth. The arena itself was about the size of my high school gym, and filled with grated holes where plumes of fire would occasionally blast out, in a seemingly random pattern.

    I took my place on the platform, set at the bottom of one of the stands. Flannery walked out of a tunnel in the corner to cheers from the crowd. She waved back to the crowd, then fell short. And the crowd fell silent, as if they weren't even there.

    "Skarm?"

    "It's me, Flannery. Been a long time."

    "Too long, Skarm. I've missed you for so long."

    "You haven't missed me at all. You would have called. Texted. Left a note."

    "Skarm, I don't know why you're so hostile. I don't know what's changed in you. We used to be such great friends."

    "We could still be friends right now. But you just up and left Littleroot one day, out of the blue. If we were friends...you would have told me."

    "If I told anyone, my parents would have had some way to track me down. This was what I wanted for myself, so I went out and got it. That's what pokemon training is all about."

    "And let me guess, you dropped your phone in the water, so you couldn't tell anyone or talk to anyone after you left. You don't even regret it."

    "Yes, I do, Skarm. It's just that I have other responsibilities now, and they take up a lot of time. I don't have as much time for a social life as before."

    "TAUROS SHIT! You could have sent ONE TEXT, just so everyone would know what was going on. You could have told ONE PERSON. We all thought you ran away, or you committed suicide! But no, you reappear 3 years later as a gym leader. I'm not even sure, did you ever even fight any gyms yourself? Or did you just show up here and get taken on as the gym leader because of your grandpa!"

    "I've earned everything in my life, Skarm. I left home, made a name for myself. I worked my ass off to earn the right to be Leader. Do you know how incredibly disrespectful it is for you to say that my late grandpa made sure that I was leader?"

    "I DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT RESPECT ANY MORE! Why is everything in my life always a fucking double standard! Why is it that when I beat 3 gyms in 4 weeks, I'm a cheater, but when someone else gets to become a gym leader because of their famous grandpa, it's just the way things are?"

    "IF YOU WANT A FIGHT, I'LL GIVE YOU ONE! I thought you'd be happy for me, that we could be friends. But you've chosen your place." She turned to the booth. "Let the battle begin! Read the damn rules!"

    I released my three choices for the match on the platform: Flapper, King, and Spoink. "Alright guys, here's the deal. It's best out of three. King is leading off the match, then Flapper will start against Torkoal, and then after that Spoink will clean up. And remember, nobody here respects us. They don't believe we're worth anything. It's time to show them the first three badges weren't luck. Let's go!"

    We both sent out our first pokemon-King for me, a Slugma for Flannery. King balanced on one of his tentacles, a move which he'd been working on for a while.

    "Slugma, use Flamethrower, make us some Calamari."

    "Look out!" King dropped off of his tentacles, falling below the flames. "Give that thing a little water, cool it down!" When it hit, the water instantly flashed to steam on contact with Slugma's skin, but it also left rocky blisters where it had hit.

    "Keep spraying him until he can't fight you anymore!" Every time the water hit his skin, Slugma became more and more covered in solid rock, until his exterior finally solidified.

    "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SKARM? ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL MY POKEMON?"

    "The difference between me and you is...I don't leave my friends...and I don't think Tentacool taste good."

    "You missed one. I don't have gym battles on the same day as a trial. And it's time for you to go. Better luck next time." Two police officers descended from the stands towards my seat.

    "Actually, I found a loophole." I pulled the league rulebook from my pocket. "The rules state that so long as I put someone else in control of my pokemon, I may continue a gym battle in the event that I must suddenly leave."

    "Who are you going to put in control, your dad? You can't beat me yourself?"

    "No, Dad left for Petalburg, he has his own gym to take care of. No, what I want to do..." I dropped the rulebook and pulled out Ashe's pokeball "...is give the power to the POKEMON."

    58th District Court, Courtroom 7
    Ten Minutes Later


    "Skarm, I know you're innocent, but this is a problem. This is going to come with some serious jail time."

    "Dad, we know I didn't do anything. Why don't we just plead not guilty, tell the truth, and be back hitting the league circuit next week?"

    "It's not that simple." The lawyer Dad hired finally spoke up. "I assume the reason we're even having this conversation is because of your League challange. The charges against you are extremely complex, so if you plead not guilty, the trial will drag on for months, maybe years. That leaves pleading no contest or guilty, which I assume you don't want to do."

    "Skarm, let me do for you what I'd do for any other client in this situation. I will try to get a few charges dropped, try to get a plea bargain. But I advise you to plead guilty. If you plead no contest, then you'll just end up in jail for the longest time they can legally put you in for. Maybe if you plead guilty, you'll get out in time to challange the league. It's a long shot, but we'll see what we can do."

    "All rise!"

    The judge entered the room from a door on the right in the intricately carved courtroom. "This court is now in session, the honorable Judge Simmons presiding."

    "Be seated. What case do we have up now?"

    "The people versus Skarm Schultz, your honor."

    "Very well. Skarm, you have been charged with 1 count of reckless endangerment, 6 counts of Pokemon abuse in the first degree, 257 counts of vandalism, and 380 counts of..."

    "Your Honor, wait." The prosecuter, seated across the aisle spoke up. "We've decided to drop some of the charges based on a lack of evidence."

    Lavaridge Gym
    Present Time
    Ashe


    "The battle will now resume. Return to your platforms."

    "Hahahahaha...Skarm left a GRASS type to take control of his team? Oh, this keeps getting better. You know what'll happen to you if I miss a SINGLE ATTACK? Torkoal, finish them off quick so we can get on with a real challanger."

    "Hurry up and finish her off so we can get on with a real gym leader." We all laughed at that one.

    "Alright guys, you know the plan. Flapper's leading off, and then King is cleaning up. Let's go!"

    "Torkoal, ROAST that Golbat!" Just like I saw in the moving pictures Skarm showed me, a massive blast of heat knocked me down, followed by flames licking over my skin and leaves.

    Shakily, I climbed back to my feet. "Is that all you've got?"

    "Golbat has been defeated. Challanger, please send out your next pokemon."

    "King, you're back up. Use your water, try to hit it below the shell like we discussed."

    "YOU THINK WE'RE DONE? YOU THINK WE'RE SCARED OF YOUR DAMN JELLYFISH? Torkoal, hit them again!"

    "Yes, mistress!" Torkoal inhaled deeply and released another blast similar to the first. I caught fire for a few seconds before Swablu put me out, smothering the flames with his gossamer wings. In the instant before Aron showed up to help me up, I saw something forming in Swablu's eye. A tear?

    Not enough time to worry about it. Torkoal was preparing another blast.

    "King, you have to hit him back! He's not getting tired, you're going to have to actually fight him! Hurry!"

    "I'm trying!"

    Another blast from Torkoal-this time, I ducked behind Aron, and he blocked the worst of it.

    "King, get back here. If you won't fight him, let Soda do it."

    "I CAN HANDLE HIM!"
    Torkoal fired one last time, but it was nowhere near as strong as the previous ones-this one didn't even make it to me.

    "Use your tentacles to flip him before he recovers!" Finally, King rolled under a rather ordinary stream of fire, propped himself back up on his tentacle, and wrapped his other tentacle around Torkoal's right foreleg.

    "What are you waiting for? Flip him! FLIP HIM!"

    "I know how to do it, Ashe. But you have to let me inside his mind. I won't do it without your permission." Spoink spoke up inside my mind.

    "It's cheating, Spoink."

    "I'm reading his mind. He's got one more of those blasts left in him. And believe me, he's saving the best for last."

    "Okay, do it. DO IT!"
    King sprang off his tentacles and fired a jet of water at the ground, throwing him into the air and dragging Torkoal's forelegs behind him. Torkoal landed flat on his back while King was in the air.

    "This is our only chance! Hit him where it hurts!"

    King fired another water jet straight at Torkoal's unprotected armor belly. He went out without a word.

    "Torkoal has been defeated. The challanger is victorious."

    Courtroom 7

    "Based on witness testimony, we have determined that the eruption was natural and thus not Skarm's fault. With that in mind, however, he was clearly warned not to go on the volcano, and still did. We now charge him with 1 count of reckless endangerment and 6 counts of Pokemon abuse in the third degree."

    "Very well, Mr. Jacobs. Now, Skarm...the prosecution has agreed to limit your sentence to a 5,000,000 poke fine payable within 3 months and 300 hours of community service, so long as you plead guilty to all charges. How do you plead, defendant?"

    I was stunned by the offer. I had never even dreamed of being able to keep doing the league, except for the one battle that my pokemon were fighting right now. And at that moment, I realised.

    I remembered rubbing salves on Ashe's burnt leg, calming her.

    I remembered carrying her out of the woods, praying that her heart would keep beating.

    I remembered watching Bounty's neck break, crying over her limp body.

    I remembered cheering on Emo, only to watch her vanish in a blast of fire.

    I remembered Aron throwing himself at Camerupt for me until he physically could not continue.

    I remembered Voltaire falling to a fiery death.

    And I knew what I had to do.

    "Guilty, Your Honor."

    Chapter Eighteen: Let go (open)

    “Swablu. Are you awake?”

    “Yes, Grovyle, I am. What do you need?”

    “I want to know one thing: when I got hit with the last one of those blasts, why were you crying?”

    “I was afraid for you. You have to understand, when one of us got hurt...we didn’t have any way to help them get better. They either recovered or they didn’t, and we had no way to help. So...I was afraid you might die.”

    “One of the perks of being with a trainer is that you get medical treatment. I thought you knew.”

    “I do know, it’s just that...well...I really quite like you. And I guess...I was afraid of losing you.”

    “...”

    One week later
    Littleroot Town
    **BEEP BEEP BEEP**

    “Ashe, can you hit the snooze button?”

    “Sorry, Master. She says no.” I don’t even know how Spoink slept while bouncing up and down. Maybe she doesn’t sleep at all.

    **BEEP BEEP BEEP**

    “Fine, fine, I’ll get it.”

    My mom opened the door a few seconds after I woozily pressed the snooze button. “Skarm, if you want to be up in time to ride with your dad to Petalburg, you need to get out of bed right now.”

    “Ughhh...do I have to?”

    “You could walk or ride your bike instead.”

    “Alright, alright, I’m going...” I withdrew all my pokemon and hopped out of bed.

    Dad yelled up the stairs, “Hurry up, Skarm!”

    “So, wait, Dad...why are we fighting again? I checked the numbers, and I’m already qualified to fight in the League Qualifiers in the fall. I don’t need to fight you or any more gyms, for that matter.”

    “Skarm, not fighting more gyms could work out for you, but I don’t recommend it. That’s the route your mother took, and she paid for it.”

    “What happened to her?” Dad swung the wheel and pulled onto the freeway, probably hitting the gas harder then he should have. “Dad?”

    “You probably know that there are two ways to compete in the League championships as a newcomer. There’s Gym Circuit entry, which you’re doing, and-”

    “There’s At-Large spots, I know.”

    “Right. Every trainer in the top 10 spots of the League trainer rankings can compete in the qualifying tournament to try to earn a spot in the official tournament. Your mother was the top ranked Trainer in Kanto back when she was your age, and she was an amazing battler and tactician. But she decided to stop fighting gyms, thinking that when she got to the qualifiers her experience would give her an advantage over the top 10 ranked trainers.”

    “Let me guess: it didn’t work.”

    “If you’re not fighting gyms, your strategies are different. Your mother had a team built to defeat gyms-a lot of different pokemon, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, very much like you do. But when you’re fighting a lot of small battles instead of a few big ones, it’s more important to just have a few extremely powerful pokemon then a well balanced team.”

    “They caught her by surprise in the tournament. She was unprepared, especially since she didn’t have the advantage of film like you get in the main tournament. And she ran up against a trainer named Red.”

    “RED? She fought against Red back in his glory days?”

    “Yes. He and his Pikachu destroyed her. Most of her pokemon were killed in the battle.:

    “It’s not exactly fair to blame that on her...it was only RED, the greatest trainer of all time, Dad!”

    “Yes, but still, that’s why the Gym Circuit is so important. Because if you don’t do the gym circuit, and you decide to do the ranked battles instead, you’re rolling the dice when you get to the qualifiers. Who knows, you could be up against the next Red. Better to just beat all 8 gyms and get a guaranteed spot in the tournament.”

    11:00 AM
    Petalburg Gym

    “We’re here at the Petalburg Gym, waiting for Skarm to enter the Arena. This will be an unprecedented FIFTH gym battle since he started his training career only a few weeks ago, an incredible feat for a new trainer, and one that’s never happened before in League history. Norman, what do you think of your son’s accomplishments?” Drayden

    “Well, he’s an exceptional trainer, no doubt about that. I guess I’m not--”

    “There is some doubt, about that, actually. Some league officials believe that you have been illegally assisting Skarm by giving him inside information.” Gary Oak said smugly.

    “Gary, I know you say that every time Skarm comes up, but that’s simply not true. And I think it’s unfair and flat out disrespectful for you to keep repeating allegations that by now have been proven false.”

    “They haven’t been proven false, though.” It seemed like Gary got even smugger while Dad talked. “Sure, there might not be any proof yet other then circumstantial evidence, but you’re the only person who’s gone on the record saying that Skarm isn’t cheating. And you’re his dad, so for all we know---”

    “Enough. If you think Skarm’s a cheater, I think you’re going to have a surprise coming for you today. Because he taught himself everything he knows. And I know a lot more then him.”

    “Alright, Norman, calm down. We’ll be back after a commercial break with Skarm’s battle against Norman.”

    The elevator doors up to the arena opened, and I withdrew my pokemon and stepped in. On the way up, I heard soft, rolling music by ZZ Hitmontop, which made me grin for only a second before I focused back in. Then the doors opened to a roaring crowd that filled the entire stadium.

    Dad was always a fan of old fashioned battling, and I knew his arena was the same way. Just a plain dirt floor, with no fancy platforms to protect the trainers. Oh, and the roaring crowds who probably aren’t my biggest fans.

    The square on the ground, painted on in white, is all I have to protect me. Not that my dad is really all that known for flashy fireballs or lightning bolts. He’s always been a very conservative battler-he doesn’t do anything fancy, he won’t trick you or catch you with something you never expected. He wants to win in the simplest way possible; with an almost clinical combination of precision and brute force. And with luck, I’ll be able to use that to my advantage.

    “Skarm. Are you ready?”

    “I was born ready.”

    “Very well. You remember the rules, right son?”

    “I get to choose two of yours for you to use, you get to choose two of mine for me to use, and we each get to choose one of our own.”

    “Correct. Do you need a list?”

    “No. I’d like you to use both Slakings.”

    “Okay...You’re going to use your Swellow and your Spoink.”

    Those were interesting choices. Of all the pokemon he could have chosen, why one that could fly out of his Slaking’s reach, or one that could control its mind? It made no sense for him to choose them when he could have chosen Ashe or the slow glider Swablu.

    “The competitors have 5 minutes to plan strategy before the battle commences.”

    Soda and Spoink appeared in twin flashes of red light, along with Aron. “So, Dad chose you two to fight, and Aron, you were my choice. He’s going to have two Slakings, and this Vigoroth he’s been using every battle. Now, the Slakings are slow and lazy, and you guys know what we do to slow, right?”

    Bounce circles around them, right, Master?

    “You got it, Spoink. Now, Soda, you’re going first. I know once you get on a roll you’ll destroy them.”

    “The battle will now commence. Challenger, send out your first pokemon.”

    Soda and Dad’s Slaking stared each other down from across the room. It didn’t last long before Soda took flight around room, searching for an opening. Slaking sat still, because Slakings are lazy assholes who only really do anything when they mate. Soon enough, Soda was a whirlwind of activity, racing around the room at blinding speed and leaving deep, bloody cuts in Slaking’s coat.

    Slaking suddenly punched its hand into the ground. It ripped a large chunk of the hard packed ground out, and threw it at a seemingly random spot in the air.

    Of course, it didn’t seem so random when I heard a thunk, and then saw Soda’s limp body hit the ground at high speed.
    “Holy shit...Wake up, Soda!”

    “He’s not lazy. He’s just waiting for the right time to strike.”

    “REF! IS SWELLOW DOWN?”

    “Swellow is still able to battle. Continue, challanger.”

    “WHAT?”

    Present Time
    Petalburg Gym Arena
    Soda

    I couldn’t believe it. How did he hit me like that, when I was moving that fast? The rock was like whatever Skarm called a fastball, and he hit me right in the wing joint.

    I couldn’t even process it. I still can’t, now that I’m on the ground, my right wing bent at an awkward angle.

    I know that I need to move and get up before Slaking gets over here. But it’s alright. I can take my time.

    Can’t I?

    Skarm

    “THAT’S BULLSHIT! LOOK AT HIM, HE CAN’T EVEN MOVE! JUST LET ME TAKE HIM TO THE CENTER!”

    “Return to your platform, challenger.”

    “DO YOU EVEN HAVE A HEART IN YOUR ARCEUSDAMN BODY?”

    “Return to your platform, or you will be disqualified.”

    “Calm down, Skarm. Injuries are part of battle.”

    “Soda! You have to move! Come back to the platform so I can take a look at you!” As soon as the words left my mouth, Slaking climbed off his lazy ass onto all fours and loped towards Soda. Suddenly, time slowed down, and I heard Spoink’s voice echoing through my head.

    He can’t move quickly enough. His wing’s dislocated.

    “Spoink, what do we do then?”

    Recall him with the pokeball, and send me out in his place.

    “Spoink, if I do that, he’ll get a free attack on you. Are you sure you can take it?”

    I can see a little bit ahead. I think I can dodge it.

    “Okay then...” I yanked Soda’s poke ball from my belt. “Soda, return!”

    I returned Soda and sent out Spoink. Slaking lifted up its arms to smash the spot where Spoink was just standing, and barely missed when Spoink bounced out of the way. And then the fatass just laid down again.

    “I think your pokemon have some motivation problems.” As I said this, I saw the rock that Slaking threw at Soda lift into the air by its own accord, and then embed itself in Slaking’s eye. Blood poured out onto the ground, puddling around Slaking’s spasming body, until it stopped moving.

    “Slaking is unable to battle. Both sides have two minutes to plan before the next pokemon are sent out.”

    Are we planning, Master?

    “No, but come over here anyways. I need your help for a second.” Spoink bounced over to me, looking eager like she always did. “Help me fix Soda’s wing.”

    Master, I don’t know how...but I think Swellow does.

    “Why didn’t Soda do it himself then?”

    He knows HOW to fix it. But someone with hands has to do it for him.

    “Ok...can you tell me what he’s thinking?”

    Alright...here we go.

    Skarm....where’s my Sprite?

    “I’ve got one right here for you, you did great. Just give me a second. Tell me what I need to do to fix your wing. Spoink will talk for you.”

    Ok...this is going to hurt like a bitch I don’t want to maybe they could put me out for it i--

    Swellow. Focus.

    Right, right. Reach over the top of my right wing and grab as close to the joint as you can.

    “Right here?”

    Yes. Now put your other hand on the other side of my body directly across from the joint and push towards each other.

    “Okay, here we go. One...two...three!” Soda grunted as I began squeezing.

    “Thirty seconds left, trainers!”

    Aim a little higher...too high, a little down...You found the joint, you’ve got to twist it in asdof[jfnavonvn[qnwnfqnwncvnvjkladnsfpqnjvlsjnvaahahhhahhhhhhhhhhh hhhh.

    -click-

    It’s in. I’ve got to go fight now, so cheer me on!

    “Alright Spoink, time to go. Soda, stay here for a bit, stretch out that wing. I might have to put you back in the fight.”

    Spoink bounced merrily back onto the battlefield, where Dad’s second Slaking awaited her.

    Slaking began to move towards her, and then it froze mid stride. Spoink was obviously doing some work inside its head.

    The voice was just a whisper, but it grew louder and louder.

    noslakingSTAYdon’tmovejustknockyourselfoutnononono noSTAYSTAYOBEYME

    Slaking snapped Spoink’s mental link, and closed the gap. It grabbed Spoink in a massive fist easily, even as she tried to bounce away.

    STOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOP

    Slaking held Spoink’s body in one hand and her spring in the other.

    Then he pulled them apart, and dropped Spoink’s body on the ground. The crowd roared with satisfaction, or anger, or I don’t know what.

    The world slowed down. I could see what was left of her spring attached to the bottom of her body, snapping in and out, struggling to bounce. Her breathing became short and labored.

    “Spoink is unable to battle. Both sides have two minutes to plan until the next pokemon is sent out.”

    “Spoink!” I rushed over to her limp body, rules be damned.

    You can’t help. It’s over for me.

    “NO! I won’t let it!” I picked her up and started slamming her body into my chest, trying to simulate a bouncing motion.

    A noble effort. But one that is wasted.

    “If we can just keep you alive...until you evolve...you’ll be fine.” The process was exhausting me already, and I wondered how much longer I could keep her alive by myself.

    No, I won’t. I won’t evolve without being able to battle. So this is the end of the road for us, Master.

    “But...you can’t give up! I can save you, everything will be alright1”

    Only if you let go and finish the battle.

    “I won’t.”

    SKARM. PUT...ME...DOWN.

    I felt it in my head, an irresistable urge. I had to...set her down....

    Chapter Nineteen: All Atwitter (open)

    Pokemon League-Twitter Room
    Viewing: Open
    Posting privileges for:
    Former/Current Champions (all regions, all time) ++
    Gym Leaders/Elite Four (all regions)**
    Trainers ranked in top 100 in random battles (all regions)
    Trainers with 5 or more gym badges (all regions)
    Former Unova Gym Leaders/Elite Four

    Posts grouped by age:

    3 days ago:


    Norman (@notsonormal) has admitted Skarm Schultz (@SkarmSchultz) to the group. (reason: qualifications)

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    Beat Dad but still lost. Spoink will always be in my heart, and I wish I had her with me now.

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    @SkarmSchultz-how sad! can’t wait to see you again tho <3

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    @PrideofFortree-Me too. I’ll be coming over in a few days to keep going with the gym circuit.

    Maxwell Terra @MagmaBoss
    @PrideofFortree-can’t wait to see you too pretty

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    @MagmaBoss-ok what the FUCK. why the FUCK is this MURDERING ASSHOLE in this group?

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    @MagmaBoss-Go build a sandcastle or something. Just be careful-wouldn’t want it too close to the waves.

    **Wake @crasherwake
    LOL

    **Flannery @thefiretradition
    @MagmaBoss-looks like you’re gonna need some #BURNHEAL hahahahahahaha

    Maxwell Terra @MagmaBoss
    @crasherwake-fuck off nobody likes water or gym leaders who can’t even wear a shirt. @PrideofFortree-see you tomorrow Winny.

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    will somebody give me mods so I can ban this fucking bastard

    ++Red Ketchum @theGOAT


    Red Ketchum has banned handle: @MagmaBoss from the room permanently.

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    @theGOAT-Thanks. uhh...while you’re here, can you tell me how to be as great a trainer as you?

    ++Red Ketchum @theGOAT


    Skyla Robbins @FreeMistralton
    @PrideofFortree-Pay up. #...

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    lol

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    @FreeMistralton I’ll pay you tomorrow okay?

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    I’ll see you guys later, got some stuff to get done before my big day tomorrow.

    ++Steven Stone @matterovermind
    Have to wonder how @SkarmSchultz is getting into east Hoenn. #bordercontrol

    **Norman @notsonormal
    I don’t know, he hasn’t even told me himself.

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    I hope it works! Miss him :/

    2 Days Ago

    ++Eagun @thegoodolddays
    Howdoyouwriteaspaceonthisgoldarnedthing

    **Tate @thing2
    See the bar in the middle of the keyboard?

    **Lisa @thing1
    Press it.

    24 Hours ago

    Chili @habanero
    Wish I’d heard something from Skarm by now. Starting to get #worried.

    Cress @carvanha
    Well, if he got caught, you know the Grande Isles govt would be bragging to the world.

    Cilan @lemonjuice
    He’ll be fine. Won’t he?

    Wally Atwood @onemanoneralts
    I’ve been in contact with him, and he’s doing fine. He’s across the border btw.

    **Pryce @mahoganygym
    That’s nICE. Now will you please go home! Your parents are so worried!

    **Wattson @superconducting
    @onemanoneralts-For the love of Arceus Wally...you told me they said okay!

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    @onemanoneralts-Just wanted to confirm what he said. Getting here was a bitch #sandstorms

    **Aaron @feedtheswarm
    That’s great news, especially for those of us who want to see Hoenn trainers in #worldchamps238

    **Glacia @dryice
    Can’t believe I blew all that cash on a house in Johto too...

    **Lorelei @coldneurology
    @dryice-Oh, stop whining. It’s not as if you could beat me anyways.

    **Glacia @dryice
    @coldneurology-Touche, bitch. #cold

    Archibald @AquaBoss
    Hey, I don’t know if any of you great trainers could help us out? Magma’s going after the Weather Institute. #hoenn119

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    @AquaBoss-You’re just as bad as Maxie. How do we know you won’t turn on us after we help you?

    Skarm Schultz @SkarmSchultz
    @PrideofFortree-Cut the crap. Even if we have to work with someone who is...distasteful...at best, this might be our last shot at Maxie.

    **Winona @PrideofFortree
    @SkarmSchultz-see you there then.

    ++Red Ketchum @theGOAT


    Red Ketchum has banned handle: @AquaBoss from the group permanently.

    Present Time (whatever time that is)
    Hoenn Weather Research Center-Route 119
    Skarm


    I’d seen the Weather Institute before in pictures. It was a shining, multilevel building on the shore of the Mau River, below a waterfall. But how they took that famous image, immortalized forever on the Celestipedia, is beyond me. The picture was taken at sunset, the golden light bouncing off the titanium facades of the building, making it glow.

    “How could they take that picture when it rains literally 24/7?” I thought, laying on my belly in the mud at the top of the waterfall next to Winona and Archie. The rain poured down onto us, swelling the Mercet River like it had been for days.

    “Damn, Archie, I bet you’re enjoying this.”

    “You betcha. Nothing like a nice afternoon shower.” I thought he was rather insane, since he had killed two people in front of my eyes a few weeks ago, and he looked like he was enjoying himself to no end. To my left, Winona was wearing the same jumpsuit she’d been wearing for god knows how long, looking down on the parking lot.

    “So...Winona, what’s the plan here?

    “Well, I was thinking that we should use my pokemon to land on the roof and go in through the hatch right there. Archie will head down to the front and hook up with the Aqua guys, and you guys will try to force Maxie out.”

    “And what are you two lovebirds doing while I risk my men’s lives busting down the front door? It better not be making out in whatever back room that roof hatch comes out in.”

    “Actually, we’re going to plant this,” Winona waved a tiny electronic bug-”on Maxie. We’ll also break out the hostages, hopefully without getting caught. You just need to get their attention on the front door and in the entrance so we can get our part of the plan done.”

    “What’s our exfil plan?”

    “‘Exfil?” I asked.

    “You know, how the hell we’re getting out of here. This sounds like a suicide mission right now.”

    “If your busting down the front door goes well and we actually manage to fight our way to Maxie, we’ll arrest him instead of just planting a bug, and we’ll walk out the front door. You guys get amnesty, we get to put Maxie in a cell and throw away the key.”

    “And if something goes wrong? This isn’t your little gym battles, dumbass. Something goes wrong here, Mt. Pyre gets a lot of fresh graves to dig.”

    “If Winona and I get caught, we’ll go out a window or back out through the roof with our pokemon. And, well, you’re supposed to get caught. Just don’t lose the gunfight.”

    “Well...” Archie grinned and pulled a pistol from his belt-”let’s do it.”

    “Altaria, take me and Skarm to the roof. Pelipper, carry this guy to the parking lot and then meet me back on the roof. Go!” Her pokemon sprang to the task, wings flapping as they all raced to accomplish their tasks first.

    We landed on the roof, still soaked to the skin in the never ending rain. Winona withdrew her pokemon and we ran to the roof hatch. She bent over it for a second, thunder booming in the background.

    “Skarm! It’s locked! Give me the pocketknife!” Winona reached into my pocket and grabbed my Armaldo knife. After a few seconds of wiggling it around, the lock popped, and we scrambled into the hatch and down the ladder before we got any more soaked. The ladder came out in a darkened room aside the massive central ventilation shaft, blocked by a railing.

    I walked to the door, but Winona stopped me. “We’re dripping wet! If we go out there we’ll leave a trail of water behind us and give ourselves away!”

    “Well, what are we going to do about it? We can’t just sit here and wait for them to find us!”

    “Use that fan over there, wring out your clothes. I’ll go first, you watch the door.” Winona unzipped her jacket and draped it over the massive fan’s grille. I wedged the door shut as she stripped down to her undergarments.

    “It’s rude to stare, Skarm.” she said, snapping her fingers, and I guiltily averted my eyes.

    “I guess I thought you’d be used to it by now.” I said as Winona wrung out her clothes and hung them up on the wall for a few seconds. “I mean, you lived at my house for a year, you went on that vacation in Dewford with me, and now you’re a gym leader! That’s definitely the wrong career for someone who doesn’t like attention.”

    “Trust me-you never get used to it. And you’re kind of a pervert for staring, just saying.” She began to redress herself in her newly dried clothes, and I waited for her to finish before I walked over to her.

    “In a good way, right?”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Whatever you want it to.” I sighed and started stripping off my clothes, but I stopped as Winona’s crystal clear blue eyes pierced my bare chest.

    “I think we’re all entitled to a little stare every once in a while.” Winona whispered, wrapping her arms gently around my neck. She kissed me straight on the lips, and I jumped back, surprised.

    In a good way? Probably.

    “I’m...I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have.” she said, eyes bowed.

    “No, no, no, that was great. Do it again.” Our lips met, and we hugged each other tight, silently moving from foot to foot. It was the most incredible feeling I’d had in a long time.

    Our arms loosened and we stepped back. “Third time’s the charm?” Winona asked. I didn’t bother answering. Pulling her into me and stroking her back while we kissed again was a much better answer then I could possibly put into words. We sighed together, completely in harmony.

    “Hey, star-crossed lovers, can this wait? Her breasts will still be there tomorrow if you don’t get us all killed.”

    “ARCHIE!” Winona yelled. “I thought the mikes were off!”

    “They were, until I wondered why you hadn’t given me the go yet.”

    “We were using the fan to dry our clothes so we didn’t drip water all over the place.”

    “So you were getting naked together. Well, I have to say going all commando on these Magma assholes may be just what we need right-”

    “Shut it, Archie. You wanted a go, you’ll get one. Go exactly 5 minutes from now so we can figure out where Maxie is.”

    “Over’n out.”

    Winona giggled for a second, and for that second I could believe we were meant to be together, that she wasn’t some untouchable, aloof Gym Leader. “Well,” she said,”It was fun while it lasted.”

    “We could always pick it up later.” I offered, putting on my shirt. “Maybe not at the Pokemon Center, but at your place?”

    “My ‘place’ is a hut out in the woods with no electricity, running water, or heating. But I’m gonna use my salary to get an apartment in town as soon as I get enough for a down payment.” Winona grinned at me, and forced open the door. “Now, what do you say we plant this bug, get out of here, and pick up where we left off?”

    Chapter Twenty: In the Beginning (open)

    The Murasaki-Wigglytuff Edition (carbon age: 1,000,000y)
    Genesis 1:1


    In the beginning Arceus created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And Arceus said,”Let there be light!” and there was light. And Arceus saw the light, that it was good; and Arceus divided the light from the darkness. And Arceus called the light Day, and the darkness Night, and it was evening and it was morning, the first day.

    And Arceus said,”Let land rise up, and separate the empty from the waters.” It was so, and he called the space above the land and the sea Heaven. And it was evening, and it was morning;the second day.

    And Arceus said,”Let the waters under the heaven be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear.” He named the waters Kyogre, and the earth Groudon, and Arceus saw that it was good.

    And Arceus said,”Let Groudon bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its own kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its own kind, whose seed was in itself, upon the earth. And Arceus saw that it was good.

    But the good could not last. For Arceus knew that with all the vastness of His creation, he could not ensure the harmony of all of its elements. So it came to pass that the seas, Kyogre, developed first jealousy for the life of the land, Groudon, then enmity, then hatred. And it was evening, and it was morning; the third day.

    For all of the third day, Kyogre and Groudon battled. The waters scoured the surface of the land, as the heat of the land did away with the water. Finally, on the evening of the third day, Arceus took away the powers of Groudon and Kyogre, for they had proven their misplaced intentions. These produced two orbs, the red containing those of the blue, and the blue containing those of the red. And these He cast away to the space where earth and heaven met. This airy space he named Rayquaza.

    And Arceus said,”Let Rayquaza quell the conflict of Groudon and Kyogre, and let Rayquaza guard their powers safely away from them until they have learned humility.” And Rayquaza quelled the conflict of Groudon and Kyogre, and has guarded their powers from them for all of time...

    Present
    Hoenn Weather Institute, 5th Floor, East Wing

    Skarm


    “Wait...it’s not clear yet.” A Magma soldier walked by, cradling an assault rifle. He turned the corner, and Winona silently opened the door, gesturing for me to follow. We crouched against the corner, the man just on the other side, standing facing away from us. She signaled for me to wait, then jabbed the guard in the leg with a needle. He spun around, raising his gun, and then collapsed to the ground, fast asleep.

    “Damn, that stuff was good! You mind giving me a little bit?”

    “I only had 3 vials. That was one of them. Hurry up, throw that guy in the janitor’s closet so his buddies don’t find him.”

    I slammed the closet shut and stuffed the key in my pocket. “Here, we can use this to listen in on their coms.”

    “Good thinking.” Out of nowhere, the radio crackled, and I quickly held it up.

    “Volcarona, this is Moltres. We’ve spotted a group of tangos approaching sector Mike Delta, how should we proceed?”.

    Maxie’s voice filled the radio. “Smoke out Mike Delta and go thermal. If any of the tangoes enter, drop Voltorbs on them from the upper levels. Sniffers need 10 more minutes to complete the scan, so you need to keep them away from the circuit breakers in Mike Victor and central command in Charlie Romeo. Volcarona out.”

    “Over and out.” The radio fell silent, but I turned mine on. “Archie, they’re going to smoke out the main entrance and drop bombs. You should probably go in a different way.” Static was my only answer. “He’s not answering.”

    “Well, let’s hope he got the message. We have to move.”

    “Winona, we need to make sure he’s not walking into a trap!”

    “Skarm. Listen to me.” Winona grabbed my shoulders and looked deeply into my eyes. “You told me yourself he’s a murderer, that he killed two people right in front of your eyes. These Aqua guys are just as bad. If we let them kill each other off, then we’ll have an easier time later.”

    “I still don’t like it. I thought we were on the same team.”

    “WE are. But he isn’t our responsibility. He can take care of himself.”

    “Fine. I hope it weighs on your conscience if he gets killed.”

    “It probably won’t. But it’s good of you to worry.”

    I glanced at the map on the wall. “So you’re really just going to leave him?”

    “Yeah. Are you gonna go on about this all day? Or are we going to plant the bug and get out of here?”

    “I just don’t think we should hang him out to dry, but I guess it’s your call. Anyways, I was trying to get a fix on where their headquarters is. If they’re using military alphabet, Charlie Romeo would be short for CR...Ahh, there it is! Climate Research! That’s on the third floor, east wing of the building.” I started down the stairs, Winona close behind me. Both sides of the hallway were clear, and I turned the corner, racing towards the east wing. The signs marked our path, where thankfully we didn’t run into any Magma grunts.

    Until we found the voices around the corner.

    “When are you going to let us go? We have research to conduct, tests to complete! This is madness!”

    Another voice rang out, and I stopped short. “When Maxie has the data we need, we will leave. Our downloads are almost complete.”

    “But what data are you searching for? What in the world are you trying to find looking for heat in the middle of the ocean?” Winona slammed into me from behind, throwing me into a panic. The voices were growing closer; they had almost reached us.

    “I don’t expect you to understand, Mr. Finch. But rest assured that this is a goal we have been pursuing ever since the Splitting, and we intend to pursue it to its conclusion.” I quickly grabbed one of the syringes from Winona’s shoulder belt, just as the Magma soldier turned the corner.

    “What the HELL?!” he yelled, backing away from me and reaching for the bulge in his jacket. I tackled him, slamming us both to the ground. I jabbed his calf with the needle and he went limp, but not before two rounds whizzed over my head and embedded themselves in the marble walls. The sharp reports echoed down the halls-they were sure to bring attention soon.

    “Who are you?”

    “Doesn’t matter. What does is where Maxie’s keeping the rest of the hostages, and what he’s looking for.”

    “He’s looking for something involving our global warming data. Specifically, he’s pulled several satellites out of orbit to scan an anomaly he found in his initial scans. An entire 10 square kilometers of the ocean with an ambient temperature 10 degrees hotter than the surrounding waters.”

    “What the hell does that mean?”

    “We told him it was normal, just the hotspot that created the White Volcano. But that only made him more excited. He pulled the satellites, and they’re giving him a much more detailed scan then we had before.”

    I decided to drop the subject. “And all the other hostages?”

    “They’re in the command center running the scans.”

    “Thanks. Now get out of here and find somewhere to hide. We have about 5 minutes until this guy wakes up and raises the alarm.”

    The man ran off down the hall. “Winona, what do you think they’re looking for?”

    “There are a few things. They could be looking for some rare Pokemon species that likes the heat. That’s the least ridiculous thing I can think of.”

    “Why would they go to all this effort for that?”

    “They could be looking for another volcano to trigger.”

    “No. First one was too much risk for practically no gain at all.”

    “Or...they could be trying to find Groudon.”

    I laughed. “Trying to lighten the mood, huh?”

    “No, I’m serious.” My chuckles petered out. “Ever read the Murasaki?”

    “Oh, come on, that’s just Mew tales from Johto. They’re not real.”

    “The scientific evidence is pretty good to indicate that Groudon and Kyogre are real, even if the world was spawned in a Big Bang and not just created by Arceus.”

    “But since we’ve never actually FOUND them, they’re not real. And believe me, people have tried.”

    “Maxie is trying too. If he wants to expand the landmass, awaking Groudon would be perfect. Especially since thanks to the marvels of modern science, he could theoretically lock Groudon away in a pokeball.”

    “No pokeball could hold Groudon. He’d be much too powerful.” The man on the floor started stirring, and I gave him a quick kick in the head. He slumped again. “Let’s just stop them so we don’t have to worry about the logistics of the whole thing.”

    We turned the corner, where the map showed that we were one hallway away from the door. Another quick sprint later and we were there, standing on opposite sides of the open door.

    “What’s the plan?” I whispered.

    “I don’t know. One syringe isn’t going to be enough for the whole lot of them.”

    “Well, we can’t just stand here! Eventually they’re going to find us, or the guy in the hallway is going to wake up and get on his radio. We need to either go in in the next thirty seconds, or we need to back out.”

    “I didn’t come all this way to back out. We could have our pokemon create a diversion...”

    “Won’t work. Magma will just shoot them and we’ll be back at square one.” Suddenly, an idea popped into my head. “Winona, do you have something you can cover your ears with?”

    “Yeah, I can use my earmuffs.”

    “You carry EARMUFFS around with you?!”

    “Get to the point, get to the point! They’re for flying up high, and it gets chilly.”

    “You send out your Altaria, I send out Swablu. We have them both sing, and if your Altaria’s voice does the same thing that Swablu’s does...”

    “Then it’ll put them all out...I’m in. Make it fast.” We both sent out our pokemon. “Can you two sing all of the people in that room to sleep?”

    The two of them broke out in song and I immediately stuffed my fingers in my ears. Soon enough, we heard snores from inside the room, and we silenced the two birds and tiptoed in. Winona silently pulled the bug from her pocket and slid it under Maxie’s jacket collar. But it turned out we had a problem.

    “Winona, where are the scientists?” I whispered.

    “They’re not in here?”

    “Nowhere to be found. But, while we’re here...” I slid a Magma grunt’s gun out of its holster. “Why are we even bothering with the bug? Why don’t we just shoot the bastard right now and be done with it?” I held the gun out to her, handle first, but she hesitated.

    “If we shoot him in cold blood, we’re no better then he is. Plus, if we shoot him...it’ll wake up the rest of the Magma grunts. We’ll have to shoot them all too. Do you want the blood of those 10 on our hands as well?” Winona took the gun from me.

    “He’s trying to set off a volcano, or unleash some massive mythical creature. Do you know how many lives we could save if we shot him now? It would be much greater then the 10 or so we’d be taking in here.”

    “Skarm, there’s nothing I want to do more then to shoot him right now.” Winona tossed the gun on the floor, far away from us. “I’m just so confused, Skarm. He killed my father, killed countless other people, set off a volcano. I SHOULD shoot him, I’d be RIGHT to shoot him. But I can’t do it...not even knowing that this is the only chance I’ll get...I can’t murder someone, not even to save hundreds of innocent lives. I still believe in the police and the courts, as useless and corrupt as they seem.”

    “Then give me the gun, I’ll do it. He’s too dangerous, Winona. A month from now, there’ll be another disaster, hundreds or thousands dead, and it’ll be our fault. Because we had the chance to end it, right here, right now, and we didn’t take it. So, with that in mind, you’re just going to walk away? Don’t take the chance. Do you think he’d hesitate for a second to shoot you or me if it was reversed?”

    “I know I wouldn’t. Now you’re about to find out.” Maxie spun around in his chair, a machine pistol held in his lap. He used his free hand to yank out a pair of earplugs and pocket them. “I always bring them whenever I think they’ll be gunfire. And there’s going to be quite a bit in a second.” Winona started towards the door, but halted when a spray of bullets sent sparks flying from a computer console. “Before I shoot you, there’s a few things I need to know. So stay where you are, answer my questions, and I’ll make your trips to meet Giratina short and painless.”

    “Fuck off.” we both said. The Magma grunts around us were starting to awake around us. Then, Archie came in from the other door, Aqua grunts following him.

    “Archie, you’re just in time!”

    “Yes, yes, he is. Did you really think you two and him were allies? Going to work together to take me down?” Maxie paused. “We made our own deal. We take the atmospheric data, give both of us the scans we want, then eliminate the witnesses and go our seperate ways.”

    “From the looks of it, our two little lovebirds are the last people who know what’s going on.”

    “Excellent.” Maxie turned to the collected Magma and Aqua grunts. “Ready your weapons. As soon as we figure out how much the League and the police know, we shoot them and leave. I want them unrecognizable.”

    “Yes, sir!” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Winona reaching for a device on her belt, and briefly wondered what it was. She pressed a few buttons and glanced at me.

    I nodded back. What else was I going to do? As much hope as she had, I really didn’t think there was a way out of this one.

    The computer beeped, and Maxie glanced over. “SCANS JAMMED? What?”

    “You want to know how much the police know? They just jammed your satellites. They’ve got the building surrounded. You can try to shoot your way out if you want, but then you’ll graduate from some random war vet with a bunch of followers to a serious threat. Especially now that they’ve heard this entire conversation.”

    “Aqua grunts, go check the entrances. We’re calling her bluff. Magma grunts, keep your weapons trained on them.” Archie ordered. Soon we were alone in the room with 10 Magma grunts, Archie, and Maxie.

    “You know, Winona, you’ve really got a lot of spunk. There’s no quit in you, unlike a few of my grunts. If you weren’t such a white knight of righteousness, you could’ve joined me.” Winona didn’t respond, clearly defeated.

    “You know, Maxie, you’re really setting a new standard for being a complete douchebag. Maybe you should rob banks instead and set up a yearly prize. It’s much better then being hung up on the sandcastles you built as a kid that got flooded when the tide came in.” Cracking jokes was my only defense. What did I have to lose? We were 30 seconds away from getting shot anyways.

    “You should be a standup comedian, Skarm. Pity your jokes won’t ever be heard by anyone except me and these guys.”

    I had one last idea. Obviously Swablu and Altaria knew to hide themselves when the grunts went through, or we would have heard shots. But would they understand what I wanted them to do? “I don’t know about that. I’ve made plenty of people laugh. That’s not my real talent, though.”

    “Hopefully it’s not surviving gunshots, or this is going to be a really painful 5 minutes for you.”

    “No, I’ve really got some great musical talent. In fact, if there’s anything I want to do before you kill me, it’s to SING, just ONE MORE TIME. Even if my audience is you and your retard patrol.” I heard Swablu’s voice coming from somewhere behind me, and my hands started reaching for my ears. But I was confused when two more voices chimed in. Weren’t there only two? Or maybe I’m just tired...

    Tired? I snapped my hands to my ears, and I snapped back awake. Everyone else in the room had fallen back asleep, even Maxie. Guess the earplugs weren’t working for him this time.

    “Where did the third voice come from?” I asked as I sprinted out with Winona, withdrawing Swablu as I ran.

    “It was me.” I almost stopped dead in the hallway. “Don’t look so surprised, I’ve been practicing that for a while. Remember when I did a few chirps in Granite Cave that other time?”

    “Well, that was just a few chirps. But after a few months, I could do entire bird songs. It’s just another way for me to build a better bond with my pokemon” We ran past an intersection, and then gunshots echoed as bullets splintered the wall behind us.

    “Run! Get to the window!” Altaria smashed through the floor to ceiling window. We jumped out behind it before I had time to realize that I was three stories up. Altaria swooped back around, we grabbed its talons, almost yanking my shoulders out of their sockets, and flew off into the raging storm.

    Chapter Twenty-One: Desperate Times (open)

    The Murasaki-Wigglytuff Edition (carbon age-1,000,000y)

    So it came to pass that the roof of the world was painted with stars, just as the earth was coated with the plants and animals of the land, the oceans were filled with the vibrant life of the sea, and the sky was completed by the creatures of the air. And Arceus saw that it was good. Yet the world still felt uncomplete and unfinished. The Pokemon of the world, however, were shiftless and lazy, and budged only at Arceus’ command.

    So Arceus said,”Let there be a dawn of spirit in this pure new world. Let free will, thought, and emotion come to the creatures of the earth, the seas, and the sky!” Three beings came forth to represent Arceus’ hope, and he named them Azelf, Uxie, and Mespirit. The pokemon came alive as never before, and Arceus saw that it was good.

    After a time, Arceus grew weary of enforcing the rules he wanted his world to have himself. So Arceus said, “Let there be three laws that shall ensure that my will will come to pass for all time in this world that I have created.” And it was so.

    The first law drove all living things on forward, never allowing them to halt their progress, but allowing them to look back at their lives. Arceus named this one Dialga.

    The second law kept living things apart, but brought them together at the same time, so that they could better praise Arceus. Arceus named this one Palkia.

    The third law set an end for each and every mortal being, such that they would be removed from the earth, the sea, and the skies in their time and join Arceus in the land of the gods. Arceus named this one Giratina.

    Then Arceus spoke. “Let the three laws live and breathe as every other being for all of time, such that my influence will remain in this world long after I retire.” And it was so. The three gained draconic bodies inset with diamonds, pearls, and opals.

    But soon Dialga grew tired of watching over all time. He asked Arceus,”The others only have to watch what is going on now. I must stand over all of time in the earth, the seas, and the skies, and ensure its progress. Would it be so unreasonable to grant me a partner that could assist me in keeping the world ticking?”

    Arceus agreed. So he said,”May another being be created to aid Dialga in his task.” Arceus named this being Celebi, and she aided him in the care of time. Arceus saw that it was good. Yet he remembered the battles of Groudon and Kyogre, and thus warned Dialga,”If she shall encourage you in any action not becoming of your heavenly role, I shall hold you both responsible.”

    Years later, the pokemon of the world had grown to large numbers, and were playing with, mating with, and hunting each other, as pokemon will. And Giratina came to Arceus, and he said,”I cannot distinguish the sleeping and the departed from each other. Would you grant me an assistant, such that I may deliver to you only those who have finished their time in the earth, the seas, and the skies?”

    Arceus agreed. So he said,”May another being be created to sort the sleeping from the dead.”
    He named the being Darkrai, and he aided Giratina in the separation of the living and the dead. But, remembering the battles of the earth and the sea, he warned Giratina,”If he shall encourage you in any action not becoming of your heavenly role, I shall hold you both responsible.”

    Years later, when those who craved power had gained it, shoving aside the weak, Palkia came to Arceus. He said,”Each day I look down upon the space you have put under my control, as you bade me do. But today I looked away, for I could not watch the suffering of the innocents and yet have no power to intervene. It sickens me, Lord.”

    “One cannot be both a law and an arbiter of the law. To allow you to rule space and at the same time interfere with the doings of the living beings of the world would be an abomination.”

    And Palkia said,”You have given the others assistants to aide them in your holy work. However, space is simple, and I need no help to keep all beings together and apart as you have decreed. May I then have a being to remind the weak and the mourning in the earth, the seas, and the sky below that there is still hope, such that they may continue with their worldly lives, and enter your care in their time with peace and contentment and without fear?”

    Arceus said,”That is too big a task for even myself. I cannot cure unhappyness.”

    And Palkia responded,”For a single being, you are correct, my lord. So create a hundred! Or a thousand! And let them go out and spread the joy and happiness that you can bring, in hopes that they may inspire hope and belief in you!” Before Arceus could respond, these beings appeared on a mountain, the sacred meeting place of the earth and the sky. Astonished, Arceus named the beings Shaymin, and adorned them with heavenly flowers that granted them wings.

    Arceus said,”Palkia, your hope and your faith has made your dreams real. May it happen to many others as my world grows.” Then he turned to the Shaymin collected before him. “Go forth, and spread my joy to the desperate, the mourners, and the weak! Give hope to the meek, the sickly, and the weak of heart!” Most of the Shaymin took flight on their wings and spread around the earth, the seas, and the sky, but a few remained. These Arceus tasked to maintain a safe home for their tired brethren to return to.

    And Arceus saw that it was good.

    Present (June 21st, 235 CRE)
    3:35 PM
    Hoenn Route 119
    Skarm

    Altaria struggled to bear both of our weight through the driving winds and torrential rains. Its wings thrashed against the air, desperately trying to make it to safer ground

    “Altaria, we need to get across the river before they start shooting! You can do it!” Winona urged her bird on, but it wasn’t enough.

    “We aren’t going to make it!” Just below us, the river loomed large. Swollen tides began to rise up onto the banks, and the falls downriver would put an end to us if we didn’t drown. Altaria’s breathing was growing ragged, and she let out a shrill cry as her wings gave out.

    We crashed down in the river, and the current yanked at my clothes, trying to drag me away. The shore was close, so I swam for it and dragged myself up the bank, Winona gasping for air behind me.

    “Let’s go! They’re not far behind!” I grabbed Winona’s wrist and turned for the woods, but she wouldn’t move. “Come ON! We have to go!”

    “No! Altaria can’t swim! I’m not going to let her drown!”

    “Just withdraw her!”

    “I can’t! When we crashed, her pokeball got smashed on a rock! It’s broken!”

    “If we don’t get out of here, we’re----” Altaria’s cry filled the air, and Winona’s hand left mine. “Wait! WAIT!” Winona splashed back into the water behind me. On the opposite bank, I could just make out Magma men dashing out of the Weather Institute, their assault rifles cocked. “DAMN IT!”

    Winona

    I dove headfirst into the raging river, towards where I last saw Altaria’s head break the surface. Across the river, I could hear the Magma men mobilizing-wouldn’t be long until they crossed the river at the bridge upstream to hunt us.

    Altaria cried out, and I saw her break the surface again startlingly far downstream. Turning downstream with the current sped me up a bit, but I didn’t know if it would be enough. My arms flailed against the floodtides, and Altaria popped up again, just out of my reach. With a final spurt of energy, I wrapped my arms around her blue neck and dragged her head above the surface, where she gasped for air.

    I started kicking for shore, but I wasn’t making much progress. Altaria was around 50 pounds on land, but she was much heavier in the water with her cottony wings saturated. And her wings dragged against the current, pulling us closer to the waterfall with every moment. Altaria’s skin glowed red, maybe from stress, maybe from the fire that pulsed in her heart, maybe something else, I didn’t know.

    The shore was so close now. My feet brushed against the sand and I kicked forward with new strength. “Come on, Altaria, come on, we’re almost out.” I dragged her out onto the muddy river bank and then collapsed on my back alongside her, exhausted.

    Skarm

    On the river shoreline, I tried to keep up with Winona and Altaria. The current seemed to pick up pace the further it flowed, and I was tiring. Behind me, red glowing flares soared up above the river where we had landed, revealing nothing.

    Finally, I saw Winona dragging Altaria out of the water in a somewhat clear stretch of the shore.

    “Winona! I ran over to her and yanked her to her feet. “We have to go! Now!” The Magma soldiers fired more flares over the river, and one of them settled and began drifting downwards in the rain over our heads, bathing everything in an eerie red glow.

    “Okay...okay...Skarm, grab Altaria’s other wing, right at the joint. Let’s get her into the woods.”

    “We don’t have time for this!” I helped her carry Altaria anyways, expecting a bullet in the back any second. Gunshots rang out from the other side of the river, and the bullets buried themselves in the mud around us. “Go! GO!”

    Together, we bore Altaria’s deadweight on our shoulders and sprinted for the treeline. A few steps away, Winona stumbled, and Altaria went down with her. “Skarm! I’m hit!”

    “We’re almost there!” I tossed Altaria the last few steps and dove into the forest. A few seconds later, Winona crawled in behind me.

    “Where? Where are you hit?” Under the trees with the clouds overhead, it was pitch black. Winona and Altaria were silouettes in the darkness, but each lighting strike let me see them better for a split second.

    “Twice.” she groaned. “Left arm, right calf.” I saw a rip in her sleeve, and peeled it back to try to see the wound. A volley of lightning strikes gave me enough time to see a red line cut into Winona’s arm that was slowly spreading to her jacket. But from the angle they were shooting from, there was no way they could have penetrated through the outside of her arm.

    “Your arm’s fine, just grazed you. We should still try to bandage it though. Let’s see the leg.” I rolled up her sleeve as the thunder answered the lightning. The radio buzzed. “Can’t believe this thing is still working.”

    “Magma, listen up. Our two loose ends are in the woods on the opposite side of the river from Whiskey Irene. Sweep the forest and eliminate them. Also, it might be good for some of you to know that your jobs are on the line here. And if you’re not one of us, but you’ve seen what we’ve done...you become a loose end. Get it done. Reshiram out.”

    “Well, that’s nice and cheery.” Winona quipped while I waited for a lighting strike. One finally came, and it wasn’t pretty. The bullet hole was slowly oozing blood, and I could see cracked bone when I looked into the hole.

    “Your leg is hurt pretty bad. Looks like the bullet embedded itself in the bone.”

    “Well, we’re pretty fucked then, aren’t we? We’re 10 miles from Fortree, in the middle of a FUCKING THUNDERSTORM, the Magma men are after us, and I can’t walk. What the fuck are we gonna do?”

    “First, I’m gonna bandage you up-mind if I take a bit of your jacket? Then, we’re gonna get the hell out of here. We’ll walk to a road and flag someone down.”

    “I don’t think I can walk, but I’ll try...AGHHHHH!”

    “Okay...okay...I got you...I got you...” I slid my arm under Winona’s, taking the weight off her right leg. “We gotta get out of here.”

    “If we wait until the storm ends, Altaria and my Skarmory can fly us out. But it’s not safe for them to carry anything as big as us while it’s pouring like this.” We hobbled off into the woods together, followed by Altaria hopping a few steps at a time. Minutes passed as we struggled to make progress in the pitch black forest.

    A few minutes later

    The radio chirped again. “Reshiram, we’ve reached the site where we last saw the loose ends. Echo Team found blood stains on some leaves.”

    “Excellent progress. All teams, form a perimeter around the nearest roads. Echo team, proceed with disposal of the loose ends. Reshiram out.”

    “Well, that’s not good.” I tried to pick up the pace, but I ended up dragging Winona more then helping her walk. “Let’s take a quick break before we keep going.” We sat down in the mud behind a fallen tree, where a little light filtered down through the tree tops and the rainclouds.

    “How’s your leg doing?” I pulled out my miraculously intact water bottle and offered Winona a sip, which she gratefully accepted.

    “Could be better. You have any idea when this storm is gonna end?”

    “From the radar last night, it looked like it was gonna rain like this all day.”

    “Great. Just great.”

    “Well, cheer up. At least we have each other, and we’re not dead yet.” I leaned in towards her, and we kissed. It probably would have been better if one of us wasn’t slowly bleeding out into the mud.

    “Reshiram, this is Entei. We’ve spotted two teenagers kissing, blood trail seems to lead right to them. Permission to engage?”

    I pushed away from Winona’s lips. “Damn!” I whispered.

    “Permission granted. Echo team, load up and approach with caution.”

    “You know, Skarm, just once before they kill us both, I want to kiss you without getting interrupted.”

    “Doesn’t look like we’re gonna get much of a chance to do that.” Altaria had started to get agitated, and it appeared to be looking behind us. “Get down!” I threw myself on top of Winona just before bullets slapped into the fallen tree.

    “They’re on to us!”

    “Roger that, Entei. They’re unarmed except for their pokemon. Just make sure they go down. Reshiram out.”

    “Skarm, get off me, get on the ground!”

    “We need to get moving!”

    “Just do it now! Altaria, Flamethrower them!” I dropped to the ground, and searing air battered my back as Altaria delivered a stream of blue fire to the Magma grunts. I heard screams from the distance, and I knew she had found her mark.

    “I think you overdid it a little!” I yelled as Altaria closed its mouth. The blue flames vanished, replaced by red and orange ones where she had aimed. “You started a damn wildfire!” I sprinted into the burning area, and bent down towards one of the soldiers.

    “Skarm, what are you doing!”

    “Getting some intel.” I picked up the phone, flicked the slider, and it sprung open. Then I returned to Winona, coughing thanks to the smoke.

    “We’re out of here, let’s go. And couldn’t you have not started a fire?”

    “I thought the wood was soaked enough that it wouldn’t burn!”

    “Well, now all the other guys have a nice beacon telling them where we are!”

    “Echo team, report! Come in, Entei! Alright, all teams, converge on the fire in the woods. Shoot anyone who’s not in a Magma uniform.”

    “Run!” Winona shouted. I helped her to her feet and started off away from the fire.

    “Wait, wait...what did you pick up?”

    “A phone.”

    “Why don’t you use it? We could get some help!”

    “I don’t know who could help us. We’re miles out of town, and the police don’t give a shit anyways. I could try the fire department, thanks to your Altaria.”

    “Okay. Dial 222 for the fire dispatchers.”

    “Fortree Fire Department, what is your emergency?”

    “I’m calling from the woods near the Weather Institute. There’s a wildfire.”

    “Fires in that area are natural this time of year. They help to clear out old growth and make way for new trees.”

    “You should come at least drop some water. There are people in the area, and the fire is uncontrolled. It could spread.”

    “The rain should handle it better then we can.” The woman hung up.

    “DAMN IT!”

    “Nothing?”

    “Zilch. I can already hear Magma closing in.”

    “Anyone else? I mean ANYONE, no matter how ridiculous the idea is.”

    “There is one.” It was probably was the last person on earth I’d want to call while hanging out with Winona, but if we had to get out of here...

    I dialed. The phone rang twice.

    “Hi, this is May. Who’s calling?”

    Chapter Twenty-Two: Highway to Hell (open)

    The Murasaki-Fiore Edition (carbon date: 5,000y)
    Book of Distortion (modern translation)

    Generations flew by, beyond the lifetime of any pokemon. For the lord Arceus, it was a blink of an eye. So it was a long time coming when the earth, the seas, and the sky were shaken to their core by one they had trusted most deeply.

    One day, the specter Darkrai approached his mentor Giratina, and asked,”My lord, why must we obey our lord Arceus? He has not acted in years; his body is weary and his mind is feeble and slow. We could take our rightful place as leaders of this world, and of the dead.”

    “Darkrai, you have served me faithfully for many years, but I have served our lord Arceus since the beginning. When you have watched over the dead as long as I have...you will have no desire to create any more.”

    “We have the resources. We have your powers, my powers, and an army of the dead at our backs.”

    “My student, this manner of yours is distasteful. It discredits your great character. I ask that you abandon this idea of yours. It serves no one.”

    “As you wish, my lord.” Darkrai left his master, but returned when his strength was greatest, on the night of the new moon. He cast his mentor into a deep sleep, and called forth floods of the dead to join him. Some refused to join-they called those who served him nightmares.

    The other laws quickly learned of Giratina’s fall. But Dialga had little enough time to prepare before he was set upon at his tower by Darkrai. He was quickly overwhelmed and brought before Darkrai, who turned him into a nightmare, a twisted servant of Darkrai’s will. His servant, Celebi, fled into the Tunnel of Time, pursued by Darkrai.

    Palkia had his own chance to stop Darkrai’s rampage. He bent space into a great knot, slowing Darkrai’s travel and allowing him to reach and awake Giratina.

    Darkrai’s undead servants slowly vanished from his control, but enough remained to follow Celebi everywhere she ran through space and time. With Dialga under Darkrai’s thrall, they could easily keep up as Celebi desperately jumped through time.

    Finally, Celebi returned to the Tunnel of Time. She traveled back to the time she started in to find Palkia, along with an army of Shaymin. They barely had time to shelter her before the first of Darkrai’s soldiers emerged from the tunnel.

    A bloody battle was fought there, at the entrance of the tunnel. Both sides inflicted horrendous injuries upon the other, and most of the Shaymin were killed in the battle. The last of Darkrai’s forces forced the Shaymin away from the defense of the door; they fled to their mountain home, bringing Celebi with them.

    The laws had played their last card, and it was found to be wanting.

    Hoenn Route 119
    June 21st, 235 CRE
    3:58 PM

    “May, thanks for picking up. I really need your help.”

    “Is this some kind of joke?”

    I sighed. “May, I wouldn’t prank call you. You know that.”

    “Actually, I don’t know that. But what do you want?”

    “Look, I don’t have much time. Me and a friend were checking out Route 119, and then we got jumped by some Magma guys. They’ve got us surrounded, they’re all armed, and there’s no way we’re getting out of here unless someone picks us up. That’s why we need you.”

    “Are you retarded? I don’t have a car!”

    “Talk to your dad, then. Just tell him I found some new pokemon species that I wanted to show him, but I can’t come to him.”

    “No, Skarm.” I held in a gasp. “You should have known not to mess with them. If I come, we’ll all end up dead. I won’t put my father at risk so you can escape certain death for the umpteenth time.” Through the receiver, I heard Professor Birch asking May who she was talking with, seemingly from a distance.

    “May, please. MAY!” The phone beeped rapidly. “She hung up. We’re on our own.”

    “What are we going to do?”

    “It depends. Would you rather go down fighting, or just kiss each other until they blow our heads off?”

    “If it were up to me,” Winona said, pulling herself up with a tree branch,”I’d prefer to live.”

    “Where are you going to go? We’re surrounded. Our best chance is to pretend to surrender and then jump them like it’s a movie scene.”

    “Or, we could go through the hole left by those goons Altaria lit on fire.

    “But that’s....that’s back where we started. We’ll never make it.”

    “We’ll have to. Come on Skarm, I’m the one with the bad leg here, why am I leading the way?” I threw Winona’s arm over my shoulder again. “Altaria, lead the way. Tell us if we’re going to run into someone.”

    Around a half hour later, we returned uneventfully to where we started. The stolen radio buzzed. “Reshiram to Charlie squad. Have you found anyone?”

    “Sir, we’ve reached the location of Echo Squad. 5 friendly KIAs, no sign of the targets.”

    “Are there any new tracks?”

    “Negative, no new tracks.”

    “They must have backtracked. All squads, converge on the river. Double time!”

    “Well, that’s not good.” Winona lobbed the radio into the river. “Altaria, fly home. If we survive, I’ll meet you there eventually. If not...” Winona leaned in and whispered in Altaria’s ear. “Now go. Thank you.” Altaria’s wings beat, and it vanished into the clouds. “Skarm, come with me, we’re going in the river.”

    “ARE YOU CRAZY? We won’t survive the waterfall, ASSUMING we make it that far!”

    “If there was another way out, I’d take it. This is our only chance. You can stay here and try your luck with Magma if you want. Or you can hit the river.” Winona hobbled down the beach and threw herself over the river’s overflowing banks into the water.

    “What a fucking idiot.” I followed, reluctantly. The rapids sucked me away as soon as I splashed in. It was a battle to keep my head above water. Every now and then, I would bounce off a rock jutting out of the whitewater.

    Gonna have pretty big bruises in the morning. If there is a morning.

    I steered my way around the pillar of a bridge, only to be pulled back by the arm. I grabbed on to the pillar next to Winona.

    “Glad you got with the program. Waterfall was another hundred meters downstream.”

    “You knew this was here.” She shrugged her shoulders, a classic nondenial denial.

    “Climb up to the road. We’ll hitch a ride.” I grabbed the pavement and hauled myself up, soaking wet. Then I helped her over the edge, and we sat down on the edge of the bridge.

    “Another rabbit out of the hat?”

    “Hey, we’re still here, Winona. I won’t start celebrating until I’m sitting in a Pokemon Center with a Mountain Dew in my hand.”

    “You still drink that crap? Knew I shouldn’t have left you back when the Splitting ended.”

    “Hey, it’s better then that Feather Tea you drink!”

    “Think you got it mixed up. At least Feather Tea doesn’t have enough caffeine to make a Spoink’s heart beat of its own accord.”

    “Winona....”

    “I’m sorry, Skarm. I know you miss her.”

    “It’s...it’s alright.”

    We sat in silence for a few minutes, feeling the rain on our shoulders and watching the rapids churn.

    “Winona, listen, do you hear that?”

    “It’s a car.” We both sat up and turned our heads in the direction. “It’s a car!” We climbed off the bridge. I took the weight off Winona’s bad leg as a pair of headlights drove up to us and pulled to a stop. The passenger door opened, and a silouette stepped out.

    “Skarm, is that you?”

    “May! You came.”

    “If you don’t get in the car, I might change my mind. Who’s that girl you’re with?”

    “I’m Winona, Fortree’s gym leader. We were checking out reports of Team Magma activity in the area, but the shit kinda hit the fan.” I helped her hobble over and climb into the backseat of the Jeep. May hopped into the front, and we sped off down the road.

    “Skarm, I knew I’d see you again, but I didn’t expect it to be like this.”

    “Hey, I don’t always get to choose the stuff I get mixed up in.” I said indignantly.

    “Skarm, you DID choose this one!” May yelled back. “Sure, back in Slateport-yeah, I heard about that-you were just trying to keep up with your girlfriend, or whoever she is. At Mount Chimney, nobody else would have made it in time. But this time, you just ran straight in, assuming everything would turn out fine, and look what happened! You guys get shot up, and we have to drive up here in the middle of a fucking typhoon and bail you out!” May unbuckled her seatbelt, spun around in her seat, and leaned towards me. “Well, I’m telling you right now-stick to the gyms from now on. This isn’t one of your videogames-there are no 1ups in real life. And you owe us one, so tell us where we’re going and then shut the hell up.”

    “May, I....I didn’t think it would get this serious.”

    “You never think. Where the hell are we going?”

    “Actually, I don’t know...Winona, any ideas?”

    “Can you get on the highway? There’s a place in Fortree we can go.”

    “Alright.” Birch spun the wheel, but it was too late-the Jeep skidded past the onramp and spun around on the pavement. “Dammit!” The car screeched to a halt, and a Magma soldier stepped out of the woods.

    “Fuck! GO!” I screamed, but it was too late. We screeched off into the distance, but not before the Magma grunt pulled out his walkie talkie and started speaking into it. “We have to get on the highway and get out of here, he made us!”

    “Alright, alright!” We spun out again as Birch did another U-turn and pulled onto the expressway. “So, what’s the actual address? I can put it into the GPS thingy May bought me.”

    “There are no cars allowed inside the Fortree city limits. We’ll just park in one of the lots on the edge of town and go to the gym.”

    “Why are we going to the Gym?” May demanded. “That’s the most public location in town! It’ll be the first place Magma searches!”

    “The Gym is closed during heavy storms like this. Only person there today is my secretary, Skyla. She can help us.”

    Weather Institute
    Maxwell Terra-alias Reshiram

    The radio buzzed, and Maxie spun around in the swivel chair he sat in. “All troops, be advised-A Gamma squad member has spotted the loose ends. They are with two others in a vehicle, license plate reads “spring”, moving northbound on Highway 33. All troops converge?”

    Maxie’s lieutenant, Tabitha, reached for his radio. “Confirm, all troops mount up and pursue.”

    “Negative.” Maxie said into his own radio. Tabitha jumped.

    “Sir, they’re going to escape.”

    “The worst thing we could do now is start a car chase. As soon as an innocent civilian gets hurt, the police will have to ignore our bribes and join in. That’s the last thing we want.” Maxie turned his radio on. “Get me my helicopter, on the roof of OPHQ, ASAP. I’ll handle this personally. All other troops mount up and return to Lily Base.” He stood and headed for the door.

    “What are you doing?”

    “Just come with me. This might work if you don’t blow it.”

    Birch’s Jeep
    Skarm

    “Wait a second-THE Skyla?”

    “The one who used to be a gym leader in Unova? Yeah, she’s there-family friend. Since I’m only seventeen, child labor laws prevent me from having more then 4 hours of scheduled battles a day. So Skyla manages my schedule, watches film, and creates a list of the trainers that are most likely to be able to defeat me. Then, when challangers register online, stronger trainers get priority over weaker trainers.” Winona winced as we went over a bump, jarring her leg. “She’s also supposed to handle PR stuff if I’m too busy, so she has a list of doctors, lawyers, and the like who she can trust to keep quiet if I get in trouble.”

    “Doesn’t the League remove leaders who are suspected of criminal activity?” May asked.

    Winona laughed, but her face was turning more ashen by the minute. “How many times did the Kanto Government have a case against Giovanni back when he was leader in Viridian, only to have their witnesses disappear or refuse to testify? He still stayed leader for 20 plus years before he went into politics and got elected president.”

    I heard helicopter rotors approaching. “Okay, the Gym it is. What exit is it?”

    “We want Exit 23. Downtown Fortree. That exit goes through a tunnel to this underground parking structure near City Hall, and the gym’s only two blocks from there.” I heard a helicopter approaching behind us.

    “This is the Grande Isles Park Rangers! License number Spring, pull over immediately!” The voice came from a bullhorn.

    “Finally! Someone official showed up!” Birch said. He began to change lanes to the right to pull over.

    “Wait a second...” Winona said. “Skarm...who did you try calling?”

    “Just May...”

    “You made two calls. Which one was the one before May?”

    “Pull over now!” A spotlight began to shine through the sunroof.

    “It was the Fire Department. They said they couldn’t deploy any trucks during a storm like this.”

    “You called the FIRE DEPARTMENT too? What did you do before you called me?”

    “Doesn’t matter right now, I’ll fill you in later. Professor, DON’T PULL OVER! They’re not really the Park Service!”

    “I just can’t catch a break today...” Birch swerved off the shoulder back into the right lane and slammed the gas. The helicopter dropped its false pretenses; a pair of laser dots started dancing on the side of the car.

    “Go faster! We HAVE to lose that helicopter!”

    “Come on, Professor, you can do it. 5 miles until the turn off.” I heard the whine of a barrel spinning up. “They’re gonna start shooting.”

    “Okay, guess you’ve figured us out. There’s no cover on this highway, nowhere to hide. If you pull over now and give us the two in your backseat, we’ll let you go. This is your final warning.”

    “Don’t listen to them. They’ll kill you anyways. Our only hope is to make it to the tunnel.”

    “Dad, pull over! Give them what they want.”

    “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

    “Skarm, you’re out of extra lives. You’ve BEEN out. Eventually...eventually the game has to end.”

    “You’re right.” I said. Then I had an idea. I saw a semi pulling two long trailers. “Just not right now.” I leaned into the front seat and swung the wheel hard to the left. We swerved onto the other side of the semi just as the helicopter opened fire.

    “Gun it! NOW!” Bullets shredded the truck on our right, and the helicopter started swinging to the left to get a clear shot. We flew out in front of the truck and swerved back into the right lane.

    “Oh, thank Arceus, there’s a curve.” The curve prevented the helicopter from getting a clear shot, and by the time the helicopter made the turn, it stopped firing. “They stopped shooting? Why did they stop shooting?” A man leaned out of the side of the copter and gestured towards us. Then a pair of smoke trails spiraled from the belly of the helicopter.

    “Oh, SHIT! They’re shooting missles! HOW THE FUCK DID THEY GET MISSILES?”

    “Well, we’re fucked.” May said.

    “Professor, just drive! I have an idea.” Winona pulled out a whistle that she’d been carrying around her neck. She leaned out of the window, took a deep breath, and blew as hard as she could into it.

    Nothing happened.

    “Well, that’s just perfect. Just. Fucking. Perfect. I knew this was a shitty idea.” May put her face in her hands.

    “Will you stop being such a little bitch and give it a second?” Winona snapped.

    “ME? You’re funny. Guess getting shot didn’t stop you from being all “a-hunting Magma we will go!”

    “You’re just jealous. You always wanted Skarm for yourself.”

    “REALLY, guys? We’re getting SMART BOMBS shot at us and you two are fighting over ME?”

    “Wow I thought since you were a gym leader you’d have a little bit of maturity. I’m almost glad we’re all going to get killed now. Don’t let her play you, Skarm-she could have any guy she wanted. If there was another trainer her age that was your skill level, she’d dump you in an instant!”

    “Kyuuuuuuuuuuu!” An avian figure plunged out of the sky, breathing a stream of fire at the missles. The explosions revealed the bird’s sky-blue skin and white wings. Winona pulled a pokeball from her belt, and released the pokemon within. A Skarmory flew out of the broken sunroof and dove straight into the cockpit of the helicopter. The body of the pilot fell to the ground, and the copter began spinning out of control.

    “See! It worked! Altaria came. Now can you shut the FUCK UP and let me bleed out in peace?” Altaria landed on the roof of the Jeep, but Skarmory was nowhere to be found. Just before the helicopter struck the ground and exploded in a mighty fireball, a figure flew from the helicopter and alighted next to Altaria. It was Skarmory.

    “You guys are the best. I’ll give you both a hug when we’re not going at a hundred kilometers an hour, okay? Meet me at the gym.” The birds flew off. “Anything to say, June? Or was it July? I can’t remember all these months.”

    Before May could snap back at her, I intervened. “That was pretty awesome. How much time did you spend practicing that?”

    “Oh, I made it up on the spot. The exit’s right here, make the turn!” Birch hit the onramp and we turned into a tunnel lit on the sides by orange lights.

    I sighed. “We made it.”

    “This is one hell of a vacation.” Birch quipped. We double parked in the first spot we could find in the garage, and I picked Winona up onto my shoulder once more.

    “Who are you?” I heard from behind me. I turned around and saw a red haired woman with her car door open. “Oh my god, Winona! Are you alright? What happened? You need to see a doctor...”

    “Actually, Skyla...that’s why we came here. Looks like we almost missed you.”

    Skyla came over to me and took Winona. “I’ll take her to my house. You guys just hole up in the Pokemon Center until we get this whole thing straightened out.”

    “Are you sure the pokemon center is safe?”

    Skyla grinned coyly. “This town is even more redneck then Mistralton back in Unova. You can bet that if anyone starts shooting up a pokemon center, people will come out of the trees with their shotguns.” She lifted Winona into the passenger seat of her sedan. “Let’s go, honey. Tell me everything.”

    “Where does that leave us?” May asked.

    “Let’s head outside.” We started up the stairs, and took the hallway marked “Fortree Pokemon Center. I threw open a pair of double doors, and stepped outside.

    “Holy shit...”

    Somewhere near Highway 33
    Maxwell Terra

    Maxie crawled out of the burning wreckage of the helicopter. He felt surprisingly good considering his left side was covered in first degree burns and he had just fallen from a hundred feet up.

    “Tabitha, are you there?”

    “I’m here.” someone groaned. Maxie lifted the rotors to reveal a badly burnt Tabitha.

    “My lieutenant, are you expecting to die?”

    “Please...help...”

    “If you’d ever read the old stories, you’d know that death is not an end. It is a beginning. Do you fear your new beginning, Tabitha?”

    “You...snake...”Tabitha reached for his pistol, but Maxie shot him dead before his broken body could draw. Then he pulled out his radio, which had miraculously survived.

    “Reshiram to Alpha squad. Pick me up at exit 21 on Highway 33. We’re returning to base.”

    “As you wish, sir.”


    Chapter Twenty-Three: A Matter of Perspective (open)

    One Week after the Weather Institute raid
    Fortree City Pokemon Center

    I knocked on the door to Birch’s room. A few seconds later, the door opened.

    “Hey Skarm, how you doing?”

    “I’m fine, thanks. Actually, I was meaning to ask you about something.”

    “What’s that?” he said, guiding me into a chair as he sat down on the edge of his bed.

    “Do you think Groudon is real?”

    “Just because I’m a scientist doesn’t mean I can’t be religious, Skarm.”

    “Actually, I was serious. Do you think Groudon is a living creature that actually exists, buried somewhere under the earth?”

    “I don’t think so. I think the writers of the Murasaki were just using Groudon and Kyogre as metaphors.”

    “But what if he was?”

    “Well, if Groudon was real, and his powers were removed from him just as in the story, then the orb would also exist somewhere. You’d just have to find that and you’d prove Groudon’s existence.”

    “I think Magma thinks that Groudon is real.”

    “Oh Arceus...that would explain so much. The climate scans you told me they were running, the lengths they went to to kill us all...it all makes sense.”

    “I think they think he’s real, and not only that, they think he’s a Pokemon. If he was a pokemon, do you think he could be captured?”

    “No. Absolutely not. No pokemon would stand a chance against him in battle except Kyogre. No poke ball could contain him.”

    “Well, that’s comforting. At least Maxie won’t be able to capture him if they awake him.”

    “But Groudon awaking would be devastating. The legends about him state that he was the size of 3 warriors stacked atop each other, with the weight of 50-and that’s just his earthly form, he’s a god! He could cause earthquakes, force volcanos to erupt, move continents...If Maxie wanted to expand the landmass, and he somehow knew that Groudon was still alive and how to find the Red Orb...the consequences would be disasterous.”

    Magma Headquarters, undisclosed location

    Maxie leaned back in his chair, still nursing his wounds from the crash. He lazily tossed darts at a board in his room. His radio buzzed.

    “The grunt you asked for is here, sir.”

    “Yes, send her in.” The door opened and a slight, red-headed girl entered the room, eyes downcast.

    Maxie rubbed his eyes. “So you’re the one everyone’s been talking about.”

    “I guess so...” The girl never looked up.

    “How old are you, sixteen?”

    “Sixteen and a half, sir.”

    Maxie could believe it. The flat-chested girl was only a hair taller then 5 feet and her Magma hoodie was a size too big. “Courtney, I’ll be straight with you, because we don’t have much time. That last strike at the Weather Institute was too big for me to coordinate alone. You were there-nobody knew how they got in, and then we put a bullet in one of them and they still managed to escape.”

    “Why do you need me, sir?”

    “Tabitha died in the helicopter crash. I need a new lieutenant. One with a quick mind, one who can adapt.“ Maxie tossed Courtney a vest similar to the one he was wearing. “Put that on, you’re it.”

    “Sir...there must be others, more qualified others, this is a mistake. I’m a high school dropout, I can’t possibly-”

    “There’s no mistake.” Maxie counted on his fingers. “One-your performance under fire in the Mt. Chimney hunt was excellent. Two-You persuaded your commander to pull your squad over to the road, which led to us reacquiring the loose ends. Three-You’re a lot more interested in this sort of thing then you pretend.”

    “What do you mean, sir?”

    Maxie pulled two books from under his desk, Warfare in the Pokemon Era by Dirk Surge and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. “I found these in your room. Don’t pretend you’re not interested.”

    “Sir, I...I...”

    “Remember what the colonel said about being so good that others would be forced to respect you? This is where that gets you. In command. With responsibility.”

    Courtney began to warm up. “That’s why I dropped out of school. Everything was moving too slowly. I wanted to do something real.”

    “Time for you to do something real. I have two assignments for you. One of them is ongoing, and the other one...we’ll get to that. First, take a look at these two.” Maxie swiveled his monitor screen around. On it was a picture of Skarm and Winona running down the halls of the Weather Institute.

    “These two have been there to interfere with every one of our missions. Memorize their faces. I want them out of the way.”

    “Do I have to kill them?”

    “I don’t particularly care what you do with them. Trick them into going to the wrong place. Put them both in the hospital. Get Skarm deported. Or you can kill them. Whatever method you want is fine with me-I just want them out of the way.”

    “And the other assignment?”

    “We have two missions that we’re going to launch simultaneously tomorrow. Half of us are going to Slateport to commandeer Stern’s submarine. The other half is going on a hunt for the Red Orb. You’re going to command one of them, and I’m going to command the other. Which one do you want?”

    “I’ll take the Orb hunt. I’m too inexperienced to steal a sub.” Courtney leaned in towards the screen. “You don’t have a location listed for this.”

    “That’s because nobody knows where the Orb is.” Courtney looked up, surprised. “I’ve read through every copy of the Murasaki I could find, searching for the location. But there’s nothing, other then that the orb is in Hoenn for sure.”

    “So where do you want me to go?”

    “Use your subconscious.” Maxie stood up from his chair, the final dart in his hands. He handed it to Courtney.

    “What do you want me to do with-EEK!” Maxie covered Courtney’s eyes and turned her towards the wall of the office, which had a map of Hoenn with every past mission’s location marked by a pin.

    “Throw the dart.” The point buried itself just southwest of Lilycove. Maxie glanced at the location. “Open your eyes.”

    “Mount Pyre?”

    “Sometimes, it’s best to listen to your instincts.” Maxie left her in the office, staring at the dart buried in the wall. “This mission is your show. Don’t disappoint me.”

    Magma Ops Briefing Room
    A few minutes later


    “Alright everyone, listen up.” The murmurs of the men in the room ceased. “Maxie put me in command of this mission and I’m not planning on fucking it up. You hear me?”

    “So here’s the target.” Courtney slid a contour map of Mt. Pyre under the camera, and it instantly showed the same image on the screen. “”Our objective is twofold: Search for the Red Orb and making sure---”

    “Oh, for the love of...Do you really think anybody’s gonna take orders from you?”

    “Once you hear my bloody plan, you’ll want to follow it!” Courtney circled two spots on the map. “This one is the visitor center, and the other one over here is the main ascent. Mount Pyre and the surrounding area is in the middle of a no-fly zone enforced by the Grande Isles government, so we’ll be going in by boat and landing at the Visitor Center.”

    “Get off that stage, grunt. Get us the one who’s really running the operation!”

    “WILL YOU SHUT UP?” Courtney’s voice silenced the room for a second. “Do you want to know why Maxie put me on this mission? Because you guys fucked up the last one. ‘It’s airtight, nobody’s getting in’ you said. Then they get in anyways, they slip through your fingers three times, and you wonder why none of you are running this operation.” Courtney paused. “You want me to get to the point? It’s this. Yes, we’re searching for the mythical Red Orb. But at the same time, we know the two loose ends from last mission aren’t going to let up. Even if the police won’t believe them, they’ll still come and stop us.”

    Courtney smiled. “And that’s when we strike. Since Mt. Pyre has an interior and exterior ascent, they’ll have to split up or lose the Orb. We’ll ambush them. They work well together, but alone they won’t be able to stop us. We kill them and stash their bodies on the boats. Then we dump them at sea on the way back. Nobody will ever know what happened. And we’ll have the Red Orb.”

    Mt. Pyre
    Stage One, 0500 hours


    “Everyone in position?” Courtney whispered into her mike.

    “Team one, standing by to breach the main doors.”

    “Team two, standing by at the roof access hatch.”

    “Team three, ready to support.”

    “Is the phone line cut?”

    “Roger that, phone line is cut and jammers activated. No coms going in or out.”

    “Excellent. Remember, breaching teams, no casualties. Tie up the park rangers, take their uniforms, and get ready for stage two. Breach on my mark.” Courtney steadied the binoculars to get a better view. “Three...two...one...breach!”

    The doors were swung open, and Magma personnel charged in, forcing the rangers to surrender within seconds. “Visitor Center secured, Blaziken.”

    “Roger that. I’m coming by to inspect your work.” Courtney stepped off the boat onto the dock and began to walk towards the building. As she did, she slid a mask over her face-none of her opponents would ever know they were outsmarted by a pimply, awkward red-haired girl.

    She walked through the open doors of the visitor’s center. “Men, have you swept the entire building?”

    “Yes, we have.”

    “Find me the one in charge of burials. Move!” The man was brought to her in a second. “Where are the graves of Skarm Schult’s pokemon?”

    “I won’t tell you! You can’t disturb graves!”
    “Hmm....you’re right, I can’t disturb graves.” Courtney drew a gun from inside of her jacket, not sure if she would have the courage to use it. “I will, however, put you in one if you don’t tell me where his pokemon’s graves are located. They should be all together-a family plot.”

    “I won’t tell you, you-you-you desecrator!” Three shots fired, shattering the tiles around the man’s head.

    “I’m not going to ask you again. Either you tell me where the graves are, or I shoot you for real this time. In the foot, of course-wouldn’t want to kill you straight off without your information. Then, if I still don’t have the information I want, I’ll shoot you in the kneecap-big bullet will destroy the bone and you’ll never walk right again. If we still don’t have it after that...well, I hope you’ve already had kids because you won’t be able to have any without balls. So give me what I want, or I’ll torture you until I get what I want.”

    “Alright, alright. Those graves are fairly recent, so they’ll be higher up on the inside. Fourth floor, I believe.” Courtney jerked her gun down and shot the man in the foot. “AHHHHHHHHHH!”

    “Tell me the truth this time.” The man jerked spasmodically on the floor, reaching for his foot with his bound hands. “Oh well. I have plenty of bullets left. Shall we try again?”

    “It’s....it’s on the fifth floor. Right next to the stairwell. Dug the grave myself.”

    “See? That wasn’t so hard.” Courtney squeezed the man’s bleeding foot, causing him to yelp. “Team two, go check the fifth floor interior for a grave labeled ‘Bounty’. Should have a picture of a Zigzagoon. If there’s no grave, radio back immediately.”

    “Roger that.” A few minutes of painful screaming later, the radio buzzed again. “Right next to the stairwell. How should we proceed?”

    “You’re off the hook, mortician. Bind his wound and toss him in the room with the rest of the rangers.” Courtney raised the radio back to her lips. “Team Two, somebody piss on the grave and the ones next to it.”

    “But, Salamence, that’s-”

    “Do it now! After that, sweep the interior of the mountain for the Red Orb.”

    “Roger that.”

    “Team Three, take the park rangers’ uniforms and put them on. We’re setting a trap. Team One, with me, we’re sweeping the outside. Go!”

    Fortree Pokemon Center
    0530 hours


    “Skarm...help us....”

    I was in a daze. Everything was spinning around me, and there was no floor beneath my bare feet. All I could see was a Zigzagoon in front of me.

    “They’re abusing us. They won’t even leave us alone when we’re dead. Help...”

    No. This couldn’t be Bounty’s voice. Pokemon couldn’t speak in any way humans could understand without machines.

    “Please...help...”

    “Where are you? Is this a dream?”

    “For you, this is a dream...for us, it’s real....help us.....we’re at Mt. Pyre....”


    My eyes snapped open. I shook for a moment, dislodging the covers. Then I groggily reached for my phone. I hit the fourth speed dial button. The phone rang several times.

    “Who...the hell...is calling...at 5 in the morning?”

    “Winona, it’s Skarm. We need to go to Mount Pyre. Now!”

    Chapter Twenty-Four: Ghosts of the Past (open)

    One Week after the Weather Institute raid
    Chapter Twenty-Four: Ghosts of the Past (open)

    Mt. Pyre

    "What's the logo on that boat?" Winona asked as we cruised up to a dock on a borrowed skiff.

    "Looks like Magma to me..." Now I was worried. This seemed like such a good idea 3 hours ago.

    "Never mind." Winona swung the boat around.

    "I just want to leave some flowers on Bounty's gra--"

    "We're not messing with them again."

    "10 minutes and you can leave without me." Winona sighed and pulled the boat up to the dock.

    “I’ll hold you to that, Skarm.” Winona turned the boat around so it was facing towards the open sea. “Ten minutes-not a second more!”

    I said nothing as I approached the visitor center. It was a rather drab, grey building near the entrances to the indoor cemetary and the slopes of the mountain. At least the damn place was open now.

    I swung open the door and stepped inside the building. There were a few rangers milling about-all but the one behind the counter left as soon as I entered the room. “Good morning, sir.”

    “What is the purpose of your visit, young trainer?” The man looked up at me quizzically, and I thought I caught a glimpse of panic in his eyes.

    “I’m here to pay my respects.”

    “I applaud your maturity. Unfortunately, we won’t open until 9, so you’ll just have to wait.”

    That was a little suspicious. The sign outside said the mountain opened at 8. “Well, I’m in a rush today, I’m afraid. I need to be off by 9. Perhaps you could simply tell me the location of my pokemon’s grave, and I could simply pop off, leave some flowers, and be out of your way.”

    “That’s not possible, sir. It’s against protocol to let anyone in after or before hours-grave robbing doesn’t happen all that often, and you don’t look like a bandit, but rules are rules for a reason. I’m sorry.”

    “But it’s not too early in the morning.” Maybe Winona was right about the whole “trap” thing. “Your sign says that you open at 8, and it’s 8:15 right now.”

    “Really? I must have misread it.”

    “Why would you be reading it? You WORK here.” I was about ready to storm out. Something wasn’t right. “Maybe we should go out there and check it out together! What do you think?”

    “That sounds alright to me.” The man stood up from the desk and started to ponderously circle around. I walked towards the door.

    Skarm, get down!

    I threw myself to the right as three sharp cracks rang out behind me, followed by the sound of the glass doors shattering. I sprinted blindly forward, barely making it around the corner to the men’s bathroom. Behind me, I heard the man cursing-his gun must have jammed. I swung open the bathroom door, only to realise too late that it was a dead end. “Well, FUCK!”

    Winona

    I jumped up from my seat in the skiff when a flurry of gunshots rang out from inside the visitor center. “NO! SKARM!” Gunshots continued to ring out, and finally stopped. Then my phone buzzed.

    im k 4 now. was a trap. gtfo of here

    I didn’t take his advice right away. I cared about him too much to just let him get a severe case of lead poisoning.

    Instead, I reached for my pocket, and drew a poke ball from within. I checked to make sure I had the right pokemon-the familiar sharpie drawing from when I was young was still there. A quick little sketch of a Skarmory’s head on the red half of the ball greeted my eyes.

    Skarmory wasn’t my first pokemon, but we shared a lot of great memories. I remember always seeing him around when I was playing in the woods as a child. I would be poking a Nincada with a stick, or splashing about in some creek out in the wilderness near Fortree, and whenever I looked close enough I could see Skarmory watching me. He was good at hiding; you could never really see him unless you knew he was there. I always assumed he was just a wild pokemon, and sometimes when I saw him I would run away and hide. But soon enough I learned he was a benevolent prescence-he never moved to hurt me, never hunted any wild pokemon. Just followed me, sometimes in the trees, sometimes blending into the clouds, sometimes lying flat in a bush.

    With all the time I spent in the woods, it was unavoidable that someday some pokemon would show up looking for a quick meal. A Donphan charged me once, shaking its tusks and roaring. I screamed and ran as fast as I could for home, crying my eyes out. It only dawned on me when I clambered up the tall steps of our home’s exterior and barricaded the front door that I realised that I wasn’t being followed any more. My mother asked me what was wrong. I told her that I had been attacked.

    She opened a window and whistled. A few minutes later, Skarmory returned, a little dented but none the worse for wear. Then I knew-he was always silently watching over me, the most devoted of guardians. We played a lot together after my mother told me that he was her pokemon, and he was always going to be there to make sure I was safe. But he never really seemed to enjoy our games-he was always watching for threats he was determined that I would never see.

    He was gone when we buried Mother. Before her time, of course-she was never a fan of checkups, and when she finally felt sick enough to see a doctor the cancer was too far along to be stopped. But when I tearfully returned to my room after the funeral and cried myself to sleep at 3 in the afternoon (it was always her favorite time-a clear afternoon had endless possibilities), I was greeted by a trio of poke balls resting atop my bedside table. Apparently she had added a clause to her will stating that her three pokemon were to be left to me. The other two left, but Skarmory stayed. I don’t know whether because we had become friends or because he felt that his duty to protect me bound him to stay.

    But I knew what his duty was now.

    “Skarmory, go! Protect Skarm!” The steel hawk took to the air after giving me a pointed glance. I looked up and saw a group of men in Magma outfits approaching the dock. There was no time to unmoor the skiff-I would just have to fly away.

    Just...fly away.

    "Altaria, we need to get out of here!" I released the cotton winged dragon, and climbed onto her back just above the wing joint, making sure I didn't tug on the cotton strands. She hated it when I did that. The dragon's wings beat quickly, lifting us off the ground, and then slowed to her normal comfortable slow up and down pace. "Altaria, you've gotta go faster. They're right behind us!"

    A single shot rang out from the peninsula ahead, soaking me in blood and grey matter. I plunged out of the sky, gripping Altaria’s sky blue neck, more then a little in shock. We splashed into the water together, a few hundred feet off shore. “Altaria...” I moaned, swimming around to hold her head above water. “No...you can’t die...I need you...” I pressed my hand against her muscled neck, feeling for a pulse. Nothing. My ear came up against her mouth, listening for the faintest hint of a breath.

    Nothing. She was gone. The hole through her right eye and out the back of her head was beginning to fill with water lapping in from the waves. I let her go, and the sea waters quickly dragged Altaria’s body down. Gone.

    A skiff powered through the waves towards me. I didn’t resist as the Magma men hauled me in and jabbed a needle into my forearm. A towel wrapped around me as the world turned to black. It was my fault.

    The last thing I saw before I passed out was a masked face peering into my eyes.

    Skarm

    The ranger barged into the bathroom, where I was crouched atop a toilet inside a stall. “COME ON OUT!” he roared. “We already shot down your birdbrained friend! There’s no way out for you!”

    I flinched as the man stomped through the room, seeing only one stall with a closed door. Winona dead? It couldn’t be.

    “YOU THINK A LOCK’S GONNA STOP ME?” The ranger fired, blasting the lock into chunks. I threw myself at the door, slamming it into the man and knocking him into the wall of sinks. The gun skittered away, and the ranger began to hobble towards it until I put him down with a punch to the face.

    “That’s....that’s one down...” I grabbed the radio from the man’s belt and the gun across the room and tucked them into my waistband. They could come in handy later. “Now...how to get out of here before more of them show up.

    There’s a window at the other end of the room. You can climb out.

    “Who are you?” I asked aloud.

    It’s me, Spoink.

    “No...Spoink is dead....you’re not Spoink. WHO ARE YOU?!”

    I am Spoink, Skarm. Bounty’s here with me. Voltaire’s not buried here-his essence is elsewhere.

    “How do you....how do you....”

    How do I know? I stripped the information from your mind, back while I was alive. I don’t think there’s a thing from your memories that I didn’t see. By the way, the thing with Winona work out?

    “No...she’s dead, if this guy was telling the truth. They shot her.”

    Skarm, she’s alive. They knocked her out, they’ve got her on a boat.

    “I have to help her.” I ran to the window and tried to pry it open. Frustrated, I drew a pokeball. “Ashe, smash that window!” My first pokemon popped out and sprayed the window with a barrage of seeds, shattering it.

    You can’t save her now. There’s too many of them. But you can trade for her.

    “What?” I grunted as I climbed through the window, Ashe close behind me.

    The Magma men are looking for the Red Orb. And it’s here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.

    “We have to beat them to it, then. Where do they keep it?”

    The location the orbs are rumored to have been created was the top of Mt. Pyre on the outside, but they were relocated to the top floor of the inside section. Magma doesn’t know that-if you hurry you can reach the orb.

    Alright.

    I circled back to the front of the building to see a boat pulling up next to the dock. Before I made a break for the mountain, a metallic shriek rang out behind me. I spun around to see Skarmory perched on a second story window.

    "What are you waiting for? Come on, then!" I dashed for the safety of the inside of the mountain. The floors and walls were the same subdued grey, adorned with flowers in wall mounted boxes every few feet.

    Welcome to Mt. Pyre.

    “Where are your graves? That’s the real reason I came.” I winced as Skarmory hopped onto my shoulder, his metal claws digging into my skin.

    Fifth floor. The mountain is laid out a little strange, the stairwells aren’t all right next to each other. There’s a continuous one to the third floor, and then you have to change stairwells on floors 3 and 4 to reach number 5.

    I ran up the stairs until I reached the third floor, then froze on the stairwell. A woman was standing at a grave across the room, facing away from me. She looked strangely contemplative, and appeared to have green skin. I raised the gun I had stolen from the ranger and shouted,”Who are you? What are you doing here?!”

    The woman didn’t answer, didn’t even turn. I squeezed the trigger for a warning shot, and nothing happened.

    “What the---” I said, but no sound came out. I squeezed the trigger again. Nothing happened. In fact, I couldn’t move anything at all. On my shoulder, Skarmory let out a shrill cry, apparently seized in the same way. A few seconds later, his claws released and he crashed down onto the stairs behind me.

    Then it entered my mind. I can't describe the feeling with words-it was like being engulfed in a sea of rage and fear. My memories started flashing through my mind as the thing examined them one by one, then tossed them aside.

    A voice rang out from a nearby hallway. "I'm back, Gardevoir. Are you almost ready to---oh!" I was almost as shocked to see Wally as he was to see me. “Gardevoir, let him go!” The woman turned her head silently towards Wally, and they stared at each other for a bit. Finally, the prescence sifting through my memories vanished, and I stumbled as I regained control of my body. Wally caught me. “Take it easy, take it easy, sit down and rest a bit...”

    “What...was that?” I asked.

    “That was Gardevoir. She’s come a long way from the Ralts that hatched for me back in Petalburg Town.”

    “I...I was there.”

    “Yeah, you were. Gardevoir doesn’t like guns, though. She doesn’t really like using words either-she just impresses feelings. The purest form of communication, she told me. So, why are you here?”

    “About to ask you the same thing.” I stood up and headed down the stairs to help Skarmory up, but he met me at the top and landed on my shoulder again. “I’m here because Magma is. And because some asshole was messing with Bounty’s grave.” A feeling of sadness penetrated my mind. Gardevoir was clearly talkative, if you could even call what she was doing talking. “What about you?”

    “Well, I was here because Gardevoir wanted to come. She didn’t tell me why.” Wally followed me as I headed for the second set of stairs.

    “This is what I know. Team Magma is here looking for the Red Orb.” Gardevoir glanced up and a hint of surprise entered my mind. “And they’ve kidnapped Winona.”

    “Wait, the Fortree Gym Leader? Why were you two here toget---oh.”

    A giggle sounded in the corner of my mind as I blushed. “It’s not what you think.”

    “Whatever you say. I just wanted some backup.”

    “Well, if you wanted to find the Red Orb, why didn’t you just call me?”

    “Because...I thought it was a myth.” Suddenly, Wally vanished, leaving me and Gardevoir standing in an entirely different room. A pure red sphere smaller then a basketball but larger then a baseball sat on a pedestal in the center of the room.

    Ask and ye shall recieve.

    “I thought you didn’t talk much.” I said as I reached for the orb, only to be held up midway by Gardevoir. A sense of foreboding filled my mind, along with scenes of screaming men. Then:

    Sometimes I have to use human words to make you understand.

    “Not that time. So, how are we going to keep this thing out of Magma’s hands?” Suddenly, the ball lifted off of the pedestal, and floated towards my backpack. The backpack unzipped itself, and the orb dropped in. It was surprisingly light.

    Then we were back in the room, in front of Wally’s gaping eyes. “Gardevoir, the orb was here the whole time?” Gardevoir nodded. “That’s settled. Let’s go see your pokemon.”

    “Alright. Fifth floor.” We hurtled up the first flight of stairs to the fourth floor. Then we stepped onto the floor, searching for the other stairs. Several Magma men patrolled the floor; Gardevoir disabled them one at a time before signaling us to continue.

    The stairs leading to the fifth floor were steeper then the previous ones. But when we arrived, it didn't take long to find the tombstones.

    I stood over the tombstones, eyes closed. "I'm sorry."

    Don't be. You did the best you could, just like us.

    "How can I hear you?"

    This is a sacred place. The home of the stripped powers of the earth and the seas. Psychic Pokemon and ghosts have special power here. Since I was buried here and I was psychic in life, I had enough power to contact you in Fortree.

    "What about Bounty?"

    I regret nothing. I lived a good life.

    Don't let us own you, Skarm. Reach for your dreams. Take on the League. Stop Magma. We'll be watching all the way.

    Obituary (open)

    [​IMG]
    Bounty (F) (Broken neck/Double Kick during mandatory solo)
    Careful/Pickup
    Level 4-17

    >Headbutt
    >Cut
    >Tail Whip
    >Tackle

    Quite honestly, Bounty got screwed over. It had pretty much no restrictions outside of the solos, but the solos were the hard part. But the one that was the worst was soloing my rival's starter, which was May's Combusken. In game, me using Set probably screwed over Bounty, because me switching her in allowed Combusken to get a free Focus Energy. After that, it missed the first Double Kick, allowing Bounty to land a Headbutt. When it did land a Double Kick, it was a 2 hit DOUBLE CRIT (wtf.....) which killed Bounty from 100% to 0 (although, to be fair, the first crit took him down to red as it was).

    [​IMG]
    Emo (F) (vaporized by a Voltorb/Selfdestruct)
    Timid/Chlorophyll
    Level 2-20

    >Bide
    >Harden
    >Nature Power
    >Fake Out

    Yeah, Emo was a victim of my fail prediction, to be honest. She died in pretty much exactly the way I depicted her death in the prose; Voltorb just wasn't using Selfdestruct no matter how much I baited it, so eventually I just switched in Emo to fight with Fake Out and Nature Power, which I knew was Rock Throw inside the gym for some reason (wtf). I could have switched in Flapper, but I was afraid that the Voltorb would Thunder Wave, burning one of its precious few extra lives, and then Selfdestruct on the switch in. I planned to Fake Out with Emo to bait the Selfdestruct and then switch back to Aron to tank it. Unfortunately, as soon as I switched in, Voltorb used Selfdestruct, so it was kind of a bait and switch fail on my part. :(

    [​IMG]
    Voltaire (M) (fell into a pool of lava/Magma grunt)
    Naive (irony much?)/Static
    Level 13-22

    >Quick Attack
    >Thunder Wave
    >Spark
    >Howl

    I wish I had made Voltaire's character a little bit more endearing, so that people would care about him when he died. But in the end, I decided to make him more of a presumptuous, philosophical smartass because it fit better with his nickname.

    And his death was entirely my fault. There I was, at the top of Mt. Chimney, fighting Magma grunts...and I need to switch out King. Oh shit. And, of course, the pokemon out has to be a Slugma, and I know for a fact nothing else can take a flamethrower except King.

    Hopefully it'll miss Electrike. But it hit him, and he survived until he got burned with 5 HP and died.

    [​IMG]
    Linear (F) (spring ripped off/Pokemon Ranger)
    Docile/Thick Fat
    Level 28

    >Magic Coat
    >Psywave
    >Confuse Ray
    >Psybeam

    So yeah, Spoink's death was heavily retconned. I wouldn't use a fairly weak special attacker with decent special tankyness against an all physical gym.

    But I might use her against a Gloom when I don't have any antidotes and I'm miles away from the nearest pokemon center.

    One of the biggest reasons I had trouble writing this episode was deciding whether the written death or her actual death would have been more dramatic. Truth be told, I played around with both of them a bit, but I eventually decided how to make it work. Ashe's near poison death back in Chapter 4 was about as dramatic as a poison scene could be, and I knew that I couldn't really improve on it.

    Also, fuck Pokemon Rangers and their damn full restores.
  16. Metal Bagon

    Metal Bagon

    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Messages:
    1,677
    Why did you even say do not read, it'll make me want to read.

    In other news. Pokewood is annoying and I can't find out how to get past the flippin' thing because it's in japanese...

    I'll try my hardest to get a chapter in the weekend but schools just come back so it may hard if I get piled up with homework.
  17. 13laze13oy

    13laze13oy

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Messages:
    265
    Hey guys just finished my first scramble and really enjoyed it so starting another one soon.
    Game: Emerald
    Difficulty: Pretty difficult without requiring too much grinding.
    Rules:
    Edit:1.Must be lesser used pokes
    2.No trading
    3.Be imaginative

    Thanks to anyone who posts.
  18. user 18

    user 18

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    Messages:
    169
    Reserving a Tentacool for 13laze 13oy
  19. CrystalDragon

    CrystalDragon

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    I'm going to regret doing this. A monotype scramble challenge.
    - Game: Platinum
    - First person picks the type
    - Starter
    - Nicknames
  20. TM13IceBeam

    TM13IceBeam

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,615
    Fire-type
    Chimchar (named Mankey)

    - Thinks it is a Mankey on fire
    - Can only use Overheat for Fire move
    - Fight every Water and Ground type in the game
    - Ditch it every 5 levels until all your other Pokemon have been statused at least twice
  21. Naix

    Naix

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Messages:
    377
    Reserving a Spoink for 13laze13oy. Will edit in eventually.
  22. iamnotiangibson

    iamnotiangibson

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2008
    Messages:
    138
    CrystalDragon, take Vince the Ponyta.
    -He is very aggressive and must only use physical attacks.
    -Must learn Stomp and use it every other move.
    -No hold items.
    -Must solo Maylene.

    As for me...I have a question: What do I do when none of my Emerald scramblemons can learn Surf?
  23. Naix

    Naix

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Messages:
    377
    @iamnotiangibson
    Use an HM slave. There's nothing against using HM slaves so long as you don't use them in battles.
  24. Pika25

    Pika25

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2007
    Messages:
    959
    Zigzagoon is compatible with surf.
  25. CrystalDragon

    CrystalDragon

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    Messages:
    10

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