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Old January 28th, 2007, 10:36 PM
Saffire Persian's Avatar
Saffire Persian
Feline of Light and Shadow
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Utah
Age: 26
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
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A/N: Second to last installment here. As always, comments, critique, etc. is appreciated. Spelling mistakes will be killed.


Ashes to Ashes

You wake to the sounds of a clock, its gentle ticks slowly bringing you out of your idyllic dream world into reality. It took you a surprisingly long time to recognize where you were, the light beams playing across the floor nearly blinding you.

You were home. You were safe.

You also wake to a deep, searing headache. You feel horrid - worse than road kill on a scorching day. You have very little memory of what transpired the night before, but you soon found out.

Upon hearing what happened from Chance (who apparently has a memory far superior to yours) you barely believed it. It sounded as far-fetched as Chance actually flying. Still, you have no choice but to believe it. After all, the pounding headache you have certainly isn’t natural, and the memories you managed to retain add up to Chance's story. Some of his commentary even managed to trigger a few of the repressed memories – well, embarrassing ones that you would do better to forget.

This left you to conclude two things:

1: You were a complete, total idiot. You deserve a medal for it. Chance deserves about five.

2: You are never going to so much as drink any bottled substance ever again.

You know you deserve punishment for your irresponsibility. You acted out in a way that's the absolute antithesis of what you stand for, and that alone embarrasses you. You don’t tell anyone else this - who is there to tell? But you got what you wished for once Riley made her appearance, dressed in her police uniform.

Morana had, apparently, told her every single painstaking detail. She left nothing out. You think deep down Riley found a lot of it funny. She didn't appear angry in the least, when she told you Morana’s tale, shaking her head in a bemused fashion – especially at the part when you apparently ran face-first into a stop sign and knocked yourself out. According to the words of Morana, you did yourself a favor.

However, Riley then did something she had never done before: she departed for work. Without you.

That hurt more than any stop sign ever could.

It made sense; Riley didn't want a Pokémon with a “hangover” coming to work with her. You’d probably end up endangering the mission. Your wits obviously aren't all about you yet, even if they’re returning more and more each passing hour. Still, it hurts. More than anything.

You're not alone in your misery: the Rat and Chance are here, too, all suffering similar maladies of the head. (The Rat in particular was really out of it. Anytime he wears his pajamas past 8:00 A.M is cause for deep-rooted worry). Despite this, you choose to weather out the headache and slight depression alone.

You end up sleeping most of the day, coming in and out of consciousness, only to go back to sleep again when you notice the clock. Deep is your regret.

Hours pass, six p.m. hits, then soon enough, it's eight.

You can't sleep any longer. It now evades you like the plague. Your headache’s diminished to only a dull throb. It'll be gone soon. Riley will be home in an hour if everything goes right.

Nine comes on swift wings. Nine-thirty all the faster.

Riley still has yet to come home.

You wander wearily into the living room. The TV screen's blaring. Chance is on the Rat's lap, paws draping over the human's stripped pajama knees, both human and Pokémon look abnormally pale.

You can tell something's wrong. You look to the television for answers. It's what the other two are staring at with such deep-set interest and hollow eyes.

Your heart stops.

On the TV screen, the Silph Co. building is in full view. There are people everywhere, some in uniform, some not. Panic is obvious. Yelling, screaming, fear. The Newswoman is doing her best to talk above the obscene noise.

There's been an attack. No one knows what’s really going on or what they’re after. All the police teams available are fighting inside. Rumors of fire; rumors of gunshots. A Team Rocket attack? No: it lacks all the usual signs. It has to be some lesser-known organization.

“Cal!” Chance half-shouts, half-whispers, as he notices you. Worry is prominent in his sky blue eyes. He's looking to you for direction. “Alex says Riley's there. What should we do, Cal?”

You don't answer him. You're already out of the room, and soon, out of the house.

*****

Worry. Panic. Fear. Fear, panic, worry, guilt.

Riley can take care of herself.

(But is she all right?)

She can fight.

(But can she fight alone?)

How is she feeling?

(Like you?)

Abandoned?

(Everyone else has a partner, she doesn’t.)

She can take care of herself. She can fight. She’s smart. She’s a born and bred fighter, a tried and true survivor.

(And you’re coming.)

Paws scrape against the sidewalk, wind becoming servant to your newfound speed. You know the way. You can’t let her do this alone. The police have a saying – a saying that you should always have someone to fall back on, just in case things go wrong. You’ve followed that creed for years. Now, you’re fulfilling it.

“Cal! Wait! Slow down! Please…”

You turn to face him, the small kitten trying to keep pace with you, running just behind your tail. Already, you’ve told him to go home. You don’t need him; he’ll only get in the way. You can’t be his baby-sitter. No, not this time.

Go home. Go home and dream your silly dreams, you say, snarling with a biting steel edge, because this is real. This isn’t a game you can just get up from if you mess up.

You mess up, you die.

(Simple. Plain. Truth. Learn it. Keep it. Live it.)

It’s not a game; you can’t rely on transparent wings to fly. You must have them, you must have the skill.

He does not.

But Riley’s my friend, too, he argues, his spirit flaring – the spirit of an elegant Persian who refuses to be swayed. I want to help.

It’s then you know you can’t stop him from going.

Even birds have to learn how to fly. They don’t even know how until they try, until they leap. Then they either soar or fall.

“I’m not slowing down,” you tell him. “You speed up.”

He does.

*****

Humans are everywhere. Most are completely oblivious to what’s really going on. Some are there for the view – for the action. After all, it’s not everyday something happens on a scale such as this. In fact, it hasn’t happened in many years. The reporters are savoring it like a fine food connoisseur does his favorite dish.

They know publicity when they see it. They know a good tale that’ll keep their audiences at the edges of their seats. They know how to earn their bread; they’ve been at it for years, perfecting their recipes.

Yet they have no idea how incredibly annoying they are. They fail to realize that one simple fact.

And to think you have to get through them to get to the doors.

You’re small, though. Few people pay attention to you.

Even fewer notice the Meowth as it slinks by like an opaque ghost.

Some silly kid’s Growlithe, they probably think. Some alley cat.

Most get out of the way. If they don’t, a growl or well-placed kick does the trick. If it doesn’t, you can always Flamethrower them a bit. That always gets them moving.

Luckily, you don’t have to. You make it to the doors some rookie police officers are guarding. They recognize you of course, their Growlithes barking at you in recognition. Their faces do a complete 180 when they see Chance, though.

Still, he’s with you.

You’re Riley’s dog. Chance is Riley’s cat.

They let you through.

The first floor looks as pristine as the day it first was open to business. The fountain is flowing, and floors are clean. No sign of battle – of breaking and entering – are evident. The receptionist’s desk is empty, the chair bearing no person to greet you. The flowers in pots and vases around the first floor are untouched.

There’s nothing, nothing at all. That puts you even more ill at ease than a full-blown battle scene would have. People have recently been here, though. You can smell them.

“Where is everybody?” Chance asks. “Where’s Riley?”

Your nose catches a familiar scent, of battle hardy cinnamon and gunpowder. “She’s here,” you say, breathing in the scent again for good measure. “I know she is.”

*****

The many flights of stairs you are forced to go up are long and hard; they seem to stretch to forever. Each floor yields a new level, untouched and unblemished. You can no longer ignore your growing unease and agitation. The fact that running up stairs is tiring doesn’t help your predicament at all, and oftentimes you find daydreaming. Heh. Perhaps a bit of alcohol is still in you blood, you don’t know.

(Stupid. Stupid. Never get drunk again.)

Chance is having a hard time, too. His breathing is fast becoming ragged and torn, like a proud flag in a cutting wind. He doesn’t talk much anymore, and even when he does, he doesn’t complain, and he always says the same thing: “She here?”

It disappoints you just as much as him to say no.

It doesn’t take too long for you to reach the ninth floor, following Riley’s scent in a loyal procession, but it isn’t until you reach the thirteenth floor that you come upon signs of battle. You arrive on the thirteenth landing, hearing furious screeches and yowls that reverberate along the corridor.

Startled (who wouldn’t be?) you peek your head around the corner, ears flat against your head. Your sharp eyes can make out two ebony forms deep within the throes of battle. One of them is a bird, a Murkrow who’s trying to avoid the long claws of its foe. A foe you recognize.

Morana.

The Sneasel is obviously infuriated, slashing at the crow Pokémon with Zangoose-like quickness, and Salamence-like ferocity. It’s obviously a one-sided battle, ending rather quickly as a single, focused slash strikes the Murkrow across the chest, its blood spattering like paint across the white walls. It falls to the floor, a blow to the neck quickly finishing off the unfortunate bird.

It doesn’t get back up.

Morana snarls. “Serves you right, you freakin’ pincushion.”

You run forward, Chance just behind you. A bark lets her know you’re here. “What’s happening?” you ask, looking at an object clenched in her left paw.

You can tell she’s still angry her fists quivering, while her left, blood-red eye is completely constricted. Morana turns around, obviously in a very sour mood. “Oh, you mean this?” She lifts up her right claw, of which holds a pair of sunglasses – make that one shattered pair of sunglasses. “A human stepped on them and broke ‘em.” She jerks a claw to the pile of lifeless plumage. “He thought it was funny.”

“That’s not what I mea –”

“Your eye!” Chance yowls, going slightly pale. “It’s gone!”

“And you only have half a brain, so what?” the Sneasel growls. “Doesn’t freakin’ matter. I can still fight perfectly well with one eye.”

It may have surprised Chance, but it doesn’t surprise you. It’s common knowledge that Morana is a one-eyed Sneasel who lost her eye in a battle with a human. “It’s not new, Chance,” you decide to tell him. He visibly relaxes. “She lost it to a human awhile ago.“

“Now listen here, Watchdog,” Morana snarls, unamused, “I may have lost an eye, but that human lost his freakin’ head. I lose to no one, got it?”

You shrug. That seems to pacify the dark-type, who folds her arms, clutching her ruined lenses protectively. “What’s really going on?” you say again. “ In the building, I mean.”

“Oh…that…” Morana shrugs. “Nothin’ much. We’re mainly dealing with a few traitorous rats.”

“Rats?!” Chance exclaims.

“Humans.”

“Oh.”

“We think that the culprits are some employees here,” Morana explains, sounding bored. “Tryin’ to destroy everything really. The elevators are out, and some of the rooms are on fire in the higher levels. We think there are a few humans behind it… hard to tell who is and who ain’t though. They’re all wearing normal clothes like regular workers, see? So I can’t rightly go an’ kill all of them.

“We think we know who a few of ‘em are though. Their freakin’ leader has a Houndoom wandering about some place, too.” She grimaces. “He got away from us, but he’s here, watching, I know he is. We’ve been trackin’ him for a while now, and he likes to attack outta nowhere and disappear again, so I dunno when he’ll turn up next. We may not’ve got him, but I think we’ve managed to capture the ringleader of this whole thing. ‘aven’t seen him myself, but that’s what I’ve heard. Heard he’s a bit of a wimp, too. Strange for a leader-type. All brains and no brawn. ”

You nod. With a sudden leaden feeling, you realize you’re wasting time talking here. Riley’s not here. You shouldn’t be having a chat with anyone. Your eyes dart towards the next staircase.

“You lookin’ for Riley, right?”

“Yeah!” Chance grins broadly. “Do you know where she is? We’re looking for her.”

“She’s was on the twentieth floor when I last saw her. Fightin’ some idiots with a couple buddies of hers. It was quite a big fight, too. Pokémon and humans everywhere.”

That’s all the information you need. You bolt towards the staircase, running up it without hesitation, Chance not far behind.

Morana’s voice echoes up the stairwell as you leave. “Hey, Watchdog, keep a look out for the human body on the nineteenth floor. It can’t bite you or anything, as I’m pretty sure ‘e’s dead. I just wouldn’t want you to trip over him or nothin’.”

You laugh.

*****

The twentieth floor is huge, (you jumped over the body in the stairwell). The air’s full of chemicals that sting your eyes and burn your nose, but that does not stop you from locating Riley’s scent. This one is different from the others; it’s alive and fresh. From your left, you can hear sounds of battle originating from a room down the left hall. You and Chance waste no time running down it.

There’s an open doorway at the end of the hall, light streaming through the wooden flame. The sounds are coming from here.

“Stay back,” you tell Chance in a whisper, slowly creeping through the open doorway, and surveying the situation inside. You recognize most of the faces here, recognizing them as part of the esteemed Firebolt division. Bodies of fainted Pokémon and humans lie scattered about the room like puzzle pieces. Thankfully, Growlithes are in the minority.

You spot Riley off to one-side, wrestling with a stick of a man with a pale complexion, pockmarked skin, and dark hair. She’s trying to pin him to the floor. She’ll definitely succeed, that man is a wimp.

You bark gleefully as gravity finally takes hold of the man, bringing him down shoulder first to the white floor below, white lab coat askew. Riley sighs with relief. You and Chance run towards her, you can see the surprise on her face.

Your smile doesn’t fade for those long five seconds – those five seconds that will be forever imprinted in your mind as long as you exist to remember.

The next five seconds are akin to a far away dream. Agonizing and slow, they stretch longer than they should, and that one moment in those seconds that should have stretched on forever, didn’t.

The man had a gun.

You couldn’t stop him as he pulled it from his pocket. You couldn’t stop him as he aimed the gun at the only human you ever truly came to care about. The shock and surprise in her eyes at that single moment was enough to send chills down your spine and into your bones until they felt hollow. She jerked to the side; a vain attempt to dodge.

(She was never one to give up. She had looked death in the face many, many times and survived. But…never this close.)

And to think…

His finger began to put pressure on the trigger, the panic in his eyes fueling that pressure, hands shaking. Then, out of the death-device of man, came a roar as barrel gave life to bullet. Once, twice.

…there was nothing you could do.

*****

She didn’t cry out in pain like most humans would have, when bullet meets flesh. No, that was not her way. She was tough about it – the tough-as-nails way that you always remember her doing things. Nothing that could plausibly happen to her could ever faze or waver that odd, dignified will. Hawk-like, if you would.

Hurt someone she loved, though, then it was different. Hurt someone she cared about and you could be sure she’d never stop hunting you. She would follow you everywhere; there was no escaping it. Death would not stop her, she’d track you down with a vengeance, and when she’d finally find you months, years, days later, the talons would dig deep, never to release their hold.

But this was not about anyone else, this was about her.

When she was hit, once in the chest and once in the side, her eyes didn’t promise eternal revenge like others would have. She did live everyday knowing that, perhaps, she would meet the final darkness that would take her away. You guess she accepted that. You could understand, you did too.

But you were here; you were watching her fall, blood soaking her uniform in which she prized. Deep blue to crimson red. It did not fit her. You did not like it – it didn’t feel right.

Shock overtook your body as you watched her collapse, dreamlike, onto the pristine white floor. You could do little but watch, eyes widening in horror and dread. You forgot to breathe for a few moments.

Partners weren’t supposed to watch the other die.

No. Partners weren’t supposed to let each other die.
__________________

Battle ye not with a monster, lest ye become one.

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