AN: Happy new years everyone! Starting the new year with a chapter! I am really proud of this one, I worked so long on this, and even then I didn't get all I wanted into it so I decided to make it a two parter. Already started on the next chapter so I'm hoping I can get it out within a week.
The sky was getting dark but the bright city seemed to make the area stuck in a sort of limbo. It was getting late but it was still bright out. It was messing with Shaun's head. He had never gone too deep into the city part of Apala and even if he had it wasn't as bright as this place. It was as if hundreds of pokemon were using Flash.
People were still out and about doing their thing. There were plenty of pokemon flying or walking around just as happily which was a different scene from what Shaun was used to. If someone in his town had a pokemon you turn the other way.
He frowned a bit, thinking of his piece of shit home area. He wanted to be back there, lying on some crappy couch under the bridge with the rest of the dead beats getting drunk or high. Then later into the night they would hit the P-11 store for junk food and some ****ing in the bathroom. Sometimes for kicks they'd go to this one guy's house that had one mean Houndour.
They would always throw rocks at the poor mutt until lash out at them until the strong chain it was attached to grew taught and it would fire weak little fireballs. Heh, they were the worst.
"Food," Shaun mumbled to himself, going into a little convenient store. A bell tingled as he walked in and the dark skinned man behind the counter looked up. Shaun grabbed a few bags of dried fruit, beef jerky, a package of donuts and cherry flavored soda. He dropped them at the register and asked for headache medicine. He was given Headache Relieve, a nasty chewable pill. He asked for something else. He got a simple container of Tylenol.
"Cash or credit?" the man asked.
"Cash," Shaun answered lowly, handing the bills over. His change was handed back easily, along with his bag of junk food. He knew he really should try and find real food but right now he just wanted something in his stomach and to not think about anything.
Like his failure at the gym.
Yea, like that would happen.
"You have a bathroom?" Shaun asked once he was handed his groceries. A gesture towards the back. "Thanks," was the dry reply.
The bathroom door shut behind him with a slam that would make a jail cell door be jealous. The teen stared at the bathroom. It was painted a piss yellow color and the floor was tile. It was a complete opposite of what his gray colored, graffiti filled, shit floor covered bathrooms were like at the convenient stores.
It made him sick.
So he pissed on the floor and swallowed two pills with tap water. He didn't feel any better. He just stared into his reflection, hating that there was no cracks or missing pieces of glass. The worst thing about it was that there was dust and he wiped that off with a sneer. The urge to ruin this tiny room was strong. He wanted to cover the walls in dripping spray pain, throw trash on the ground and leave it to rot for weeks, draw the inner turmoil of his mind with permanent marker and stain the floors with blood like some sort of artsy kid creating a mural of his decomposing mind.
He broke the mirror with his fist instead.
When Shaun had stared at his reflection he saw drooping oily hair, a sweaty face, and eyes with very little eye liner that had smeared, sunken cheeks and patches of facial fuzz on his face. All in all he looked like shit.
He still looked like shit. Shaun hadn't done a single thing to tidy up as he left the bathroom, fist clenched and dripping a bit of blood. It wouldn't even be enough to stain the floor. He had instead wandered, munching on dried fruit and passing people and pokemon alike, until he had found the supposedly famous meteor.
It was in the middle of a rather large park, which was just weird since the whole place was nothing but steel and cement, and to suddenly see grass and a few trees was just strange. He stared at the large disfigured rock for all of five seconds before collapsing on the ground a bit away from the crowd gathering stone.
The teen just sat there, staring up at the sky. It was too bright to see a whole lot of stars, unlike his spot under the bridge. The only light he had were the multiple trash cans lit on fire or the cars driving by from above. The air would be filled with the smell of smoke, fuel, bodies and drugs. Here it smelled like food.
With it getting late diners were opening their doors and letting the steam and smell of fresh food out, street vendors were doing last minute rounds and people and pokemon walked around with sweets in their mouths. It was all just too different. Like every other kid in his town, Shaun had thought about taking off but only because he wanted to and to see what he wanted. Being forced out and seeing things he didn't want to see was exhausting.
He fumbled for his poke balls and stared at them warily. Once he noticed the smudges and dirt on one particular one he forced it open, knowing that the battered ball was his starter. With a burst of bright light the black and blue furred pokemon appeared. Riolu was sitting on its haunches, body still burnt and battered. He was breathing heavily and had drooping eyes.
Shaun had actually forgotten how badly his pokemon had been hurt. He had spent the rest of the day in a sulk and stormed around the city, trying to find a place to crash. He had been unsuccessful and ended up here instead.
"Here," Shaun muttered, handing the fighting type a bag of dried fruit.
It was out of his hands in a flash. Riolu ate like a machine, barely bothering to chew as he swallowed quickly. Without asking, the whelp actually took Shaun's soda from right out of his hands and took a long gulp. And then promptly spat it back out and coughed, not used to the carbonated drink. It promptly took another drink and set it down. Geeze, he'd have to buy more food soon if his pokemon ate like that.
"I don't have anything to heal you with," Shaun told his pokemon, leaning back against a small shrub of a tree. "Sorry, but you'll have to deal." He opened the bag of donuts and handed one over.
"Luu," Riolu mumbled tiredly, reaching a shaky paw for the donut. He bit into it, muzzle now having an outline of white powder. When Riolu finished he looked away, red eyes narrowed in thought. He sniffed a bit and fumbled with the silver bracelet attached to its wrist. The bandana and brown gem was long gone, probably lost in the battle or the bandana had been burned away. He still had this though. "Rio," Riolu mumbled, crawling over to trainer to show that he still had it.
Shaun sighed, eyes opening. During the silence he had closed his eyes, mind shutting down. "Keep it," he mumbled. "I don't care."
Riolu considered the silver studded bracelet before taking in his trainer. So many things had happened in the past few days and, as strange as it might sound, it had all happened so fast the Riolu hadn't taken the time to even study his own trainer. Red eyes studied the dark teen for a moment before a blue paw reached out and stroked an arm.
Shaun watched his pokemon poke and prod at him, too tired to push the little pocket monster away. He only wanted to it out to keep away any trouble, even with its hurt body, but it seemed the fighting type had other plans.
"Those are tattoos," Shaun stated in a bored tone as the fingers stroked the black stars on his finger. Riolu quirked his head in askance. "Needle goes into skin with ink. Ink leaves picture." Shaun made some motions with his hand to symbolize a sharp object piercing his skin.
Riolu look horrified.
"It's not so bad," Shaun said with a yawn. "You took a freakin' blast of fire to the face, didn't you?" A disdainful sniff was his answer before the fingers began poking the different inked pictures.
"Lu rui," Riolu barked, poking a picture questionably. He whined as Shaun stayed quiet, not knowing what the pokemon wanted.
"What, you want one?"
Horrified, the pokemon shook his head. "Lu." He jabbed at the picture, tilting his head.
Oh. "It's a stinking skull," Shaun mumbled. "It ain't got no meaning." Another prod at a different picture. "Dagger." Prod. "Artsy swirls or some shit. I don't know." The poking continued all over his arms and neck until Shaun had said nearly all his tattoos. "Dragon head, skate brand, fakes scars, more fucking stars, lyrics, another cubone skull, a broken cassette, dragonite wings." Shaun didn't know if Riolu knew what any of those things were but it seemed to interest the pokemon. Finally, one his right forearm, Shaun faltered. The ink there was faded and an ugly green color. It had been her favorite color and her name.
He pulled away from the curious pokemon and rolled over on his side. Damn it he missed her. He missed her fiery passion, her beautiful body, her anger and her reason. He didn't love her – hell, he never bothered to remember her name – but there was still something real about her. It was as if everything that symbolized the muktiness of his town and fellows was inside that single girl and being able to screw her was absolutely mind-blowing. And then she started sleeping around with other people.
It was as if that single thing that only he could seefeeltouch belonged to everyone and that pissed him off. The wild nights, the parties, drinks and drugs and the action was all wrapped up in one thing. It was gone, he was gone.
"Rio?" Riolu asked carefully, black appendages quivering as he gazed at his trainer.
Shaun shut his eyes.
"Woah, brotha. You look like Giratina ate and spat you up!"
Somehow Shaun had managed to fall asleep despite the noisy city. It had been strangely peaceful too. Maybe because he was too tired to dream. Either way the teen had not been expecting someone to come up to him, and certainly not with the most pronounced accent he had ever heard.
Tired eyes opened to take in a tall, dark skinned boy. He was really skinny, looking as if he hadn't eaten properly in weeks, and wore battered brown pants with plenty of holes and a white shirt that seemed to be turning gray and brown from lack of washing. He also wore a trainer's vest and a necklace that held two poke balls with a magnet. Below that was another necklace with a silver mew. On his shoulder, ruffling its pitch black feathers with its yellow beak, was a murkrow.
He looked to be about Shaun's age and was at the point of losing his teenish face and morphing into something more mature. He brushed a dark hand through dirty blond dreadlocks and stared at Shaun. "Ya look like death warmed over." He kneeled over Shaun and looked as Riolu and hissed in concern. "Same to you, my furry blue friend."
"Come on, I can get ya some help. The name is Jerrick by the way."
Shaun swatted the hand away, immediately distrustful. "Yea, and get my stuff stolen? Fuck off."
The boy, Jerrick, didn't seem at all offended. "If ya can't trust me then maybe you can trust them." He pointed with his thumb to a number of marching people and pokemon, all looking to be in their teens. Their faces were angry and they shouted loudly, pokemon growling just as eagerly alongside of them. Many held signs and nearly all had face paint. They looked ready for war.
"Somehow I doubt a mob would help me," Shaun muttered, a little in awe. Riolu struggled to stand and wrapped his arms around Shaun's leg to stay up. He watched the crowd suspiciously.
Jerrick gave a bark of laughter. "Maybe ya should look a bit closer." With a wide grin he lifted his pant leg, showing off the ankle tracker. He was a Rehab Reject. "And all those guys over there? Same as us. So, whaddya say?" He reached up to pet the dark feathered bird on his shoulder, waiting patiently.
"The-they're all Rehab Rejects?" Shaun asked, bewildered, staring at the marching teens and trying to wrap his mind around it. And he could see it. Some of them wore shorts or sometimes their pants shifted so he could see their trackers.
"Protesters," Jerrick supplied, turning to stare at them, a contemplative expression on his face. "They're against Rehab."
"Uh." What? This stupid government act was just called Rehab? He didn't even know it had a name. "Those are all Rehab Rejects?" Shaun repeated, brows furrowing. "I thought this thing was… new."
Now Jerrick's brows furrowed. "No," he said slowly, "it's been around for a while. If you're talking about the new law about only having a year to get all eight badges then yea, it's pretty new." Well… damn. "Come on, brotha, they can at least heal your pokemon."
Shaun stared for a long moment, considering. He had no where to go, his pokemon were too weak to take down the gym and he was low on money – he had nothing to lose. "Alright," he said slowly before he looked down at his pokemon. "You can walk?" He didn't want to go anywhere without pokemon protection, even if it looked as his only trustworthy pokemon was about ready to keel over.
"Are you sure that's a good idea? It looks like those burns are serious."
The look on Riolu's face made it seem like it wanted to agree with Jerrick. He sighed and looked resolute. "Ri," he said, nodding and taking a step forward. And then promptly fell over. The murkrow on the other boys shoulder cawed mockingly.
"Son of… Return." With a dark scowl, Shaun returned his down pokemon and set a glare. Jerrick gave him a look that clearly said 'Well, what did you expect?' "Let's just go." If things got weird he could send Rhyhorn out. It would at last take some others down in an effort to stomp his face into the ground.
They followed the marchers from behind. It gave Shaun a chance to really take a look at them. Most were skinny and worn, looking as if they hadn't been surviving properly. Others looked decent and were probably doing alright. The rest looked new to the whole trainer thing. Clean clothes and anger still true and furious as they marched, snarling at the pedestrians that paused to watch.
The pedestrians themselves were interesting to watch. It was as if some didn't know how to feel about the rowdy crowd. They seemed used to this sort of thing, meaning that there were marchers and protests rather often. Their faces held an array of emotions ranging from grief and pity to straight out fury and disgust.
"Where are we going?" Shaun asked, sneering as one of the female protestors tried to latch onto his arm and shout crude remarks to the watchers. He shrugged her off.
Jerrick shrugged, idly petting the sitting bird. "Sorry, man," he said, pronouncing it like mauhn, "but I was just dragged along as well. Anybody who's against the rehab movement is ok with me. I've heard about them, though. Sometimes take in Rejects and take 'em into hiding if their time is almost up."
"So you were just walking around and they just happened to know you were one of them?" Shaun asked snidely.
The other boy wasn't even affected by his tone. "You could say that," was the hesitant reply. Jerrick sighed and pulled his blond dreadlocks behind his ears. "Geeze, you really are new."
"What, you mean becoming a reject? Yea, so what?"
Jerrick shook his head, slightly exasperated. "You don't know what it's been doing to the world, do ya? You from a small town or something?" Shaun didn't answer. "Whatever." He just gave another sigh. "It bothers people – ya know, the non criminals or whatever – that people like us are being allowed to roam free with powerful beasts. It's bad enough that higher up trainers in different league's are constantly seen eliminating pokemon because they've gone on a killing rampage. You remember that thing that happened in Kanto about a pack of rage induced primeape were slaughtered by elite trainers?"
The Lenore region was north of Kanto and a twelve hour plane ride. Suffice to say it was far, but his region still got broadcasts from the more popular regions, though it was still a matter of preference for his people. A lot of people from Lenore didn't really like to watch Hoenn broadcasts – they were a bunch of nature loving pussies that couldn't handle a life or death battle.
"Yea… The elite were then attacked by trainer who were against pokemon killing, right?" That had been a big story. The elite – trainers that challenged the league of a region and won – were the higher ups in the training world. The only people above them where the Elite 4 and the Champion of the region. They were sent to take care of dangerous incidents that involved trainers and pokemon.
"Yea, that's right," Jerrick muttered. "Anyway, with people being so uptight now a days, some places just don't want us near them. Stupid signs that say 'No Rehab Rejects!' or some bullshit on shops or restaurants."
"Guessing you got kicked out of one of those places then," Shaun said, a wry grin on his lips.
"Nearly busted my face in," Jerrick sneered. "Stupid civilians with no pokemon to back them up." The murkrow crooned haughtily. Shaun could guess the other teen handled the situation just fine. "Anyway, some protestors happened to see what happened and dragged me along for the ride. We happened to pass by the park and I saw you sleeping in the park like the rest of the homeless and saw your tracker and now here we are."
"Right. So what do these… protestors do, exactly?" Shaun didn't care much for people that just shouted and waved silly signs. He was a man of action, so unless these people were actually doing things like get rid of this stupid one year rule or actually got rid of the whole Rehab Rejects thing he didn't care for their loud display.
Jerrick shrugged. "Like I said, I was just pulled along for the ride. I've heard that this movement has people that fight the league in both physical and political combat." Pokemon battles and political arguments? That was two things that didn't mix right.
The two didn't say anything else for the rest of the walk. They just followed the dozens of marchers until they came across a rather impressive building. It was created like a dome with a glass top and was easily twice the size, if not more, than the pokemon gym.
Wary, Shaun paused as the angry marchers walked in. He suddenly wasn't sure if he wanted to go in and listen to what they had to say. He knew next to nothing about the whole rejects thing. All he knew was that he had a time limit and that was running out.
"It's worth it, dude," a boy said from behind Shaun. He looked a little older, perhaps twenty three with pale blond hair and incredibly tanned skin. He had a wiry sort of frame, as if he had been outside for a long time and had walked around the world. He had a young face but the expression was of one that had seen too much.
"This is Ian," Jerrick supplied. "This is the guy that picked me up."
Ian gave a nod and smile before he paused, staring intently. "Woah, dude!" He began to laugh hysterically. Shaun backed away, wondering if he should punch the guy or run away. "You're that guy that threw up at the gym!"
Shaun's face darkened. "How the hell do you know about that?" he hissed.
Ian shook his head, stifling his laughter. "I-I'm sorry," he said between giggles before getting a hold of himself. "No, seriously, I'm sorry," he added at Shaun's dark expression. "I know it's nothing to laugh at but the expression on that gym leader's face had been priceless." Ian sobered. "Your battle video was posted all over the internet. The Rejects – " he made a face as if he didn't like to say that word – "are completely pissed. That's what we're trying to stop. He completely over leveled you with his pokemon and the fact that the police questioned you with a brutal psychic pokemon that actually made you sick has sent people into an uproar.
"It's all about civil rights, you know. Ordinarily psychic pokemon aren't allowed to read minds like they do with us, but, well, since it's us, people are a bit more lax on it. Still, it's something that we're trying to stop."
"That battle was posted on the internet?" Shaun asked, completely peeved.
Ian, completely amused, turned to Jerrick. "Did he hear a thing I just said?"
Just as amused and ignoring Shaun hissing at them like a frazzled meowth he replied, "Don't think so, brotha," and laughed along with the other boy.
"You better fucking wat—"
"Woah, easy," Ian interrupted quickly, hands up in a sign of peace. "We were just kidding. Come in, and you'll get to hear some of our leaders talk." He gave Shaun a considering look, thinking for a moment. "Stay with me while we're inside, I want to introduce you to someone."
"What if I don't want to meet anyone?"
"Well, considering I want to introduce you to the man that let's people stay in this place for free, I'd say it would be worth it."
Even Jerrick gave Ian a suspicious look. Why would someone in a higher power want to meet someone like Shaun?
"Alright," Shaun allowed after a moment. "Fine."
"Great! You'll like him, and even though he has an elite title he's not stuck up about it or anything. Crazy strong though. His whole team is a bunch of dragons."
Even that gave Shaun pause. He knew that while some dragon type pokemon had a healthy population number because of so much breeding like the trapinch in his home town or Swablu because they were a favorite amongst coordinators; they were incredibly hard to find and train, let alone have a full team or even become fully evolved.
"He has six dragon pokemon?" Jerrick asked, sounding impressed.
"He has more than six different dragon pokemon," Ian said, a secretive smile playing on his lips as they walked in. "He has enough for more than seven teams."
They walked in a stunned silence through the main hallway and into what appeared to be a large room used for business conferences. At the very front of the stage, speaking to what appeared to be over a hundred people that were not just protestors but curious civilians, was a rather short man with incredibly spiky red hair. He was talking with a certain elegance, gesturing to the crowd and riling them up at all the right moments. He stood straight and strong and despite being short the man somehow made himself seem bigger than he actually was.
Those who were obviously Rehab Rejects were standing tall and cheering. They stomped the ground and roared with the energy the man was giving them. Even the civilians seemed intrigued and some were just as supportive as the rejects. The chairs that had been situated were forgotten and unneeded. The people were jumping and those that were paying attention to a few journalists or television crew members gave mocking jeers or flashed their posters.
"Our voice is our weapon!" the man yelled amidst the cheers. "It is not our fists or our pokemon that shall put an end to this oppression. They can crush the idealist but not the idea. The voices that have fought in the past are still as present as ever, and it is time that our words become more than just that!"
Shaun had to admit the man really knew how to sway the crowd. It sounded like something a hippie from Hoenn would say, but even Shaun had to admit it had some appeal.
The spiky red head continued to, arms out and face earnest. He looked as if he were taking in everyone at once. Even Shaun was given the impression that the man were paying specific attention to just himself. It was intimidating.
"What do you think?" Ian asked, leaning close to Shaun so he could hear.
Shaun studied the crowd, feeling weary and tired. "He definitely knows how to woo a crowd," he offered with a shrug.
Ian let out a bark of laughter. "I guess that's one way of putting it." He was still studying Shaun and it was beginning to become unnerving.
"Do you mind?" Shaun all but growled, glaring at the other boy.
Ian just offered a smile. "Sorry," he said, not sounding the least bit apologetic, "but I really think Lance is gonna like you."
"Lance? That guy up there? What the hell makes you say that?"
The other reject continued to grin as he stared up at the man. "He just likes people like you."
People like him? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Before Shaun could question the other boy further the crowd had gotten to the point of becoming deafening. The riled teens and young adults were out of control.
"So what do you think of all this?"
Shaun had been looking down, leaning against the white wall and waiting for that kid Ian to return when the question startled him out of his thoughts. He let out a breath, feeling too drained to really care.
"I don't know," he said after a moment. He chewed on his lip, thinking. "Seems like no matter what the government does there's always gonna be some sort of protest."
"Yea…" There was a moment of silence in which Jerrick was pacing back and forth. "But I mean about, ya know, this group hiding kids away if they don't make it by their deadline?"
"It would be nice," Shaun allowed, scratching his head. "But I don't think that's anything but a rumor." Jerrick gave him a confused look. "Well, think about it. If they were truly know for hiding kids from jail time, don't you think the government or even the League would do something about that? This group would have been taken down long ago."
"That is unless we get caught," a new voice interrupted smoothly, causing the two teens to jump. The spokesman from before strode out of a set of dark heavy wooden doors. He had a pair of purple eyes that just seemed to shine with knowledge and power and his smile was instantly disarming. He was short, at least an inch or two smaller than Shaun, but instead of that making him seem like an easy target it seemed to give him an edge over people. Small things come in small packages.
"These are the two, Jerrick and Shaun," Ian, who was standing behind the red haired man, spoke up. He gave the two teens a wide grin. "Guys, this is Lance. He's done a lot for people like us – people like the Rejects."
"Such a negative word," the man mused, offering Shaun a smile and a firm handshake. "But unfortunately, for people like us, that is how people perceive us. However, that does not mean we should perceive ourselves as thus."
Smooth laughter echoed throughout the hall and that smile that wooed the crowd grew. "The perception society has a whole can leave a negative stain on those that think differently," he continued, "but it is only the strong that keep their independence." Amethyst eyes looked from Shaun to Jerrick and back to Shaun again as he spoke, a hint of judgment in his eyes as he seemed to size them up. "Are you two strong enough?"
"Peace, trainer," Lance soothed. "Why don't we step into my office and get a little more comfortable?" He held his arm out in a gesture for them to come in. The inside held numerous computer screens on both the dark wooden desk and behind it. Large, intricate paintings of large, beastly pokemon adjourned the wall and expensive looking trinkets were littered about as if to show that no matter where you looked you knew that this man was wealthy.
"You have… interesting tastes," Jerrick murmured as he gazed at one of the paintings. The background was littered in dark clouds and blue lightning lit up the dark atmosphere and seemed to make the black, snarling dragon that took up most of the portrait glow. The red eyes that glared down at whoever looked at them seemed to be filled with hate.
Lance settled behind his desk, two men in suits settling on either side of him looking grim and Ian sitting down on a leather brown couch. "Like most, I have an interest in the mythical creatures that we humans have dubbed Legendary. Mostly those that have not been seen for some time and even those that have not been seen and written in our history books. Tell me, young man, how do you view these creatures?"
The dark teen was gripping the silver mew necklace, eyes still gazing up at the dark dragon. "I was raised in the belief that Mew is our true original," he said after a moment. "Everyone is our brotha and sista, and that those listed in legendary categories are our protectors."
The man nodded thoughtfully. "And what of those that believe of Arceus?" He gestured to another large painting, this one of a white, horse creature with gold hooves. Surrounding it were floating stones that were painted different colors. "Even our history books state that it created our universe with the help of the twelve elemental stone tablets it carries."
Shaun sat on one of the chairs in front of the desk, body in a slump. These names were going right over his head.
There was a small scowl on Jerrick's face. "I believe that there is an arceus," he said slowly, "but just like there are groudon and raikou. Beasts that were once thought to be the only of their kind but that is obviously false."
"Unless humans had a hand in their growing numbers." Jerrick looked up sharply. "In this world pokemon are put into separate categories to keep order and be aware of what these creatures are capable of. Each one carefully numbered, located and researched. That is, except the strong beasts known as Legendary." He paused for a moment and looked at Shaun, contrite. "I apologize, but it seems that I've lost you."
"Whatever," he shrugged. "I don't know much about pokemon, especially these legendary things."
"Not many know about the true one's origin," Lance allowed. "The government has been quite successful in keeping information on these powerful beasts a secret."
"I don't mean to interrupt," Shaun drawled, tone indicating he actually didn't care, "but I was told that if I met you, you would be here to help me, not give me a history lesson."
The two men shifted, irate by the disrespect and even Ian gave him a disbelieving look.
That smile didn't even falter. "I apologize," he said once more. "You are correct in the belief that when I meet with trainers stuck in the rehab law I do all that I can to help. However, by now, you should know that in our world nothing comes for free. Tell me what it is that you would like and perhaps we can help each other in a way that we both get what we want."
No free ride. It figures.
"Ian mentioned… that you could hide people," Jerrick said, almost questioningly, eyeing the man with a hint of distrust.
There was an awkward pause. "Where?" Jerrick finally asked. "All regions are under the Rehab Reject law. They would all have our information."
"Information is data stored within a single component of technology with various chains for those who can obtain access," Lance said carelessly. "I can assure you I can access anything I want." There was no bragging or exaggeration in his tone, and suddenly Shaun wondered what he had gotten himself into.
"What about Orre?" Shaun asked, breaking the tension.
"Orre?" Lance parroted, sounding amused. He gave the dark teen a considering look. "A very ravaged region where law is survival of the fittest. Tell me, why would you want to go to such a region when you have just as much to lose in this one? Lenore may not be as ragged, but even with your situation you have a chance for freedom."
"You just said it," Shaun said, a dark grin forming. "Here I only have a chance for it. I've been given a single year to get eight pieces of metal to get the one off my foot. I'm used to chaos and the desperate. At least in Orre, even if I was fighting for my life every second of my life, at least I would have my freedom."
"You do not believe you can obtain all eight badges?" The question was asked carefully, and Shaun could tell he was being evaluated once more.
"I don't need people talking carefully around me as if I'm stupid," Shaun said darkly, face set in his usual glare. "One year to travel a region? Everyone knows that's bullshit. Training these monsters so they can fight against people who actually want to do this sort of thing? That's even worse."
"It is true that people who are forced into a situation will not do well against those that are trained because that is what they enjoy," the man allowed, steeling his fingers together. "That does not mean that your situation is completely hopeless. Are there trainers that spend years training just to get a few badges? Yes. Are there trainers that can train up a powerful team and obtain all badges from a region in under a year? Absolutely. For people like you who have been forced into training your mindset is easily understood. A question I would like to ask you – and I wish for a truthful answer – do you really want the people that forced you into this mess to win?"
Shaun shifted, not understanding. "What does it matter to a bunch of paper pushers if I fail and end up in jail? So what if I couldn't get eight badges, I just end up in jail and they don't worry about me after I serve my time."
This time it was Lance that shifted, clearly perplexed. He studied both teens and gave a heaving sigh. "This is another point my people are trying to fight against." He sounded tired. "The government has been on their high horses for so long I don't think they even bother to glance down and see how ignorant people are becoming." Shaun glared at the insult. "Shaun, do you know why Rehab Rejects was created?"
Shaun opened his mouth, ready to give a sarcastic response, but then closed it as he realized he truly didn't know why. "No," he said, grumpy.
"It is because we – that is the government – was in need of an army." There was a stunned sort of silence. "What we were talking about earlier about numbers and control is what made the government act as it did. The world is not filled with instant friendship and dreams becoming fulfilled like the simpler regions like Kanto or Hoenn believe. To be fair, the older regions have had peace and a solid construct of control for a long time. It was only in the past decade have things taken a rather dark turn for regions that are so used to peace.
"When things come down to it, pokemon are animals that have more power than any human could truly comprehend. The only reason the main regions have not had to deal with the true instincts of the beasts is because of generations upon generations of breeding, control and trainers. The number of trainers has taken a dramatic hit in numbers over the years, and that is why the Rehab Rejects laws were put in place. When it comes down to it, our army, our soldiers, are trainers, you. You are our protectors against the power of wild pokemon. Population control wasn't a problem until a strange phenomenon began to happen. Based on what you have seen on the news, if you pay attention, can you guess what it is?"
Shaun, for all his bravado, suddenly felt worried. Jerrick looked anxious as well and shifted a bit in his seat before speaking. "Pokemon have been attacking humans a lot more," he said slowly, brow furrowing. "There have always been some attacks, but now lately it seems almost common." He turned away with a frown. "And legendaries are attacking people too." He was gripping the silver mew necklace hard, almost as if he couldn't believe such a thing despite the fact that it was he himself that said it aloud.
Lance gazed at the two, looking thoughtful. "This takes us back to our original conversation," he said after a moment, coming to a stand and walking over to one of his monstrous paintings.
The one he stood in front of was a mew. It gazed at them with sky blue eyes that seemed far too real for a painting with such detailed pink fur that Shaun could see almost every single strand from where he was. The man lifted a finger, looking as if he would stroke the painting, before he seemed to thing better of it and dropped his hand to his side.
"What do they want with us?" Shaun asked, voice quick. "Why do they need an army just to deal with a bunch of dangerous pokemon? Isn't that what the elite or league is for?"
"Or even rangers?" Jerrick asked, looking a bit ill. He was shifting in his seat, holding his necklace tightly and staring at the giant painting of the mew as if it would really come to life and give him all the answers.
"What are soldiers for?" Lance asked, turning slowly to face the two boys, face solemn. He didn't bother to wait for their answers; the question seeming to be the gateway to his next speech. "War," he said for them. "I have another question. Do you two know how long your region has had a league of its own?"
Shaun's brow furrowed. "There's been a gym in my hometown before I was born," he said slowly. "Aren't, ya know, leagues, really old?"
The red haired man allowed a small smile to appear for but a brief moment as if the boys' uneducated responses were the most humorous things he had heard in a long time. "In some regions, yes. Organized competitions have been around for what we believe to be thousands of years, even if the ability to ensnare pokemon into monster balls was not yet discovered, but leagues in organized regions have only been around for a few hundred years. These organized regions are very few on this side of the world and even less so on the other side of our glorious world which is where, incidentally, our most powerful and ferocious pokemon are sought from. Lenore is a far region from the organized league regions and is considered the newest official league on record."
The man paused, a pained expression appearing on his face and his hand went down to caress a single, purple poke ball that Shaun hadn't noticed his gold rope belt.
"Lenore has a set region that, while having people living in the vast environment, had only created a league fifty seven years ago thanks to Elite trainers of that era. If you are not aware by now, or have not even had inkling that Elite trainers are more or less used by the government and Elite Four, then I am here to tell you that they are, truthfully, just lackey's to be used in warfare and missions that are in need of powerful measures. Since the beginning of time territories have constantly battled for more and more land. That is still true today. You two are obviously too young, and there was no big war to settle a league in this region, but the people who did fight against elite members are either dead or no longer speak out. Progression has moved too fast for people to truly care now a days and the northern regions have always been far more competitive than most, but there are regions far away from here that continue to fight with every bit of their being against the sort of sort of society Kanto wishes to create.
"Do you ever wonder why foreigners look down on this region when they come to visit? Because to them the brutality that has yet to be stamped out reminds them that not everything is right in the world, not everyone is nice as they would wish them to be. In a way Lenore is barbaric. Pokemon everywhere have no problem with killing, nor do the gym leaders care too much if a pokemon battle ends in death. In fact, some even demand a death match or have their pokemon with deadly intent. The regions south of here like Kanto and Hoenn and even Unova are, to be blunt, a bunch of horrified pile of dragon **** that can't handle the thought of people not being able to move pass what they believe to be the barbaric ages. Now, if they can still barely tolerate Lenore, what do you think the territories even farther north of here are like to the likes of Kanto?"
"Are you saying," Shaun said slowly, tone disbelieving, "that Kanto created this act so that they could send people like me to unknown territories to help take over?"
"I thought the war was just against unruly pokemon," Jerrick said in horror. "I knew that some didn't care more much for the other side of the world, but to really try and take over so forcefully? And Kanto really thinks we're the barbaric ones?"
"Being under a certain rule for so long can cause people to believe that even a tyrannical rule is commonplace. People become used to a certain way of life after a certain amount of time, and even if people believe otherwise, humans are nothing if not adaptive." Lance said all this with a tone that was almost casual. "Most are truly unaware of this. We are not in the middle of an all out war with human forces invading the regions. What we do have, however, are a lot of pokemon attacks, and that is what people believe we need to focus on."
The man paused and turned in his seat, looking up at the many screens attached to the wall from behind his desk. With a simple tap at his computer keyboard the screens burst into life, instantly showing a news broadcasting depicting a rather large city being attacked from what appeared to be the ocean. Or at least, what was left of it. The sky appeared to be burning bright and the ocean level had decreased, even showing many grounded water pokemon that lay limply by what appeared to be the largest creature Shaun had already seen.
"Mossdeep City, well renowned for their space centre…"
"…came out of nowhere. We believe the death count is now two hundred with at least another hundred still missing."
"…this isn't the first time the fabled Groudon has attacked the seas of Hoenn…"
"…if it isn't stopped soon not only will the island be destroyed but so will the sea and the thousands of pokemon living…"
"The elite trainers, Elite Four and even champion of Hoenn are doing all they can to stop this beast. Currently it is unknown if more powerful trainers or even elite trainers of other regions are being sent in. This is not the first time a being of legendary status pokemon has attacked the beautiful region of Hoenn, nor is it the only region. What on earth has the League been doing to cause this outbreak?"
"…it appears that even some of the wild pokemon are fighting against the trainers!"
"…legendary Bryan Alpha, champion of Hoenn, was just seen shot down by a deadly Solar Beam…"
"We have yet to confirm if Alpha has been retrieved and is safe…"
"…more trainers are being shot down by the wild pokemon they are trying to help! What in the world is happening?"
Shaun stared, wide eyed at the ferocious red scaled and white spiked pokemon that was apparently called Groudon. His eyes darted to one of the paintings, one depicting the giant beast, but it wasn't alone. Inside the magnificent painting was another just as large beast, only this one was blue and was enveloped by the sea and the pounding rain while Groudon had nothing but dried land and the sun. Battlers of the elements, it seems.
"Why isn't there the blue one?" Shaun asked, startled to find his voice barely above a whisper. "You…" He swallowed loudly as everyone turned to look at him. Dear Mew, did people really expect someone like him to fight against this god like beast? "Your painting has two pokemon," he finished lamely.
Lance, who was the only one to not turn around, answered as he continued to gaze up at the screens. "Because that is not Groudon," he answered. "Or should I say, it is not the original. It was believed that the beasts known as legendary were the only ones of their kind, and their true purpose was kept to only themselves, but something strange happened over the course of time. We discovered more, only they did not have quite the same power as the beasts we had seen or recorded into our history. There are even legendary look a likes that have the shine, and some have even been captured by trainers and gym leaders. With research we have concluded that they are not the gods people have worshipped overtime, but merely a copy, or perhaps even children, which is startling because legendary beasts were thought to be incapable to reproducing."
"It is confirmed! The champion is dead! I repeat the champion is dead! Reinforcements have already been sent in to contain the beast. We are not sure if they aim to capture or kill…"
Lance gave a loud snort which seemed to startle Ian and the two bodyguards.
"Either way that poor beast will end up in some lab." He stared up at the screens before tapping another key and shutting them all down. With an almost exaggerated flourish he turned back to face Shaun and Jerrick, staring down at them with piercing jewel eyes. "And that, gentlemen, is the type of force you will be forced to fight against should fail in this ridiculous little journey the government has set up for you."
Their disbelief kept them silent.
Lance let out a humorless laugh. "But then again, that is why activist groups such as mine are created."
This got Shaun and Jerrick out of their stupor.
"You mean there are others?" Jerrick asked eagerly.
"Oh yes." Lance nodded thoughtfully. "A great deal more in the main regions that are designed to help the Rehabs with their journey or even get them out of this situation. And then, of course, there are the groups that take advantage of the situation." The man had a grim air about him. "Because of this act crimes have skyrocketed. Kidnapping, thievery, murder, trafficking – you name it. It is a lot easier for some group all in the name of science or their god to kidnap some little Rehab Reject and use them for their own purposes. Kids like you… well, you know that most won't be missed.
"Even here, where the training age is much higher than the main regions it is still so easy for some poor kid to be brought in by the temptation of a quick get away or a quick fix. The government is not doing enough to stop this from happening – they are far too focused with expansion into a land that does not belong to them or will fight to the death to deny their way of life. Like it or not, the region above us has been leaving Lenore alone so that they could focus attacks on the main region in charge of it all, Kanto, but that does not mean that they will not decide to start taking over as well, and your land is the closest."
Again all they could do was stare blankly.
Shaun stood suddenly, no longer able to take the intense atmosphere, and sent his chair crashing to the ground. His breathing was heavy and his eyes were unfocused and when Jerrick placed a calming hand on his shoulder he gave a loud yell of shock and looked ready to punch the other boy.
"Brotha, calm down!" Jerrick barked, grabbing of Shaun's fists and holding him still. The two bodyguards were already by their side, looking ready to pin Shaun down. "Breath, breath," Jerrick muttered.
"Did you fucking hear that?" Shaun demanded, gripping the other boy. "They're gonna send us against freaking legendaries! Send us to war with the north as well? Are they fucking insane?"
"I can assure you the sanity of the people who run the leagues have been questioned more than once," Lance said dryly, watching the scene as if it were nothing. "Calm, Shaun. I know this is hard to take in, but if you accept my help I will do what I can to help you succeed in gathering all the badges before the year is up."
Shaun gave a long breath, heart still beating frantically. Dear lord, how on earth could he lose his cool like this?
"I suppose I should have expected this reaction," Lance mused. "You had been mentally attacked by a psychic and have suffered a devastating loss at the gym, not to mention suddenly being thrust into this journey. I apologize. Perhaps we should discuss this tomorrow? I offer housing for Rehabs, though I do have limited space. I offer you both a room for tonight. I had the entire top floor made up of rooms for people such as yourself to stay. The floor below it is for my scientists who are unable to return home and is off limits. The same goes for every floor save the first, though I do not want anyone wandering about the hallways or first floor. We can reconcile tomorrow morning. Is that satisfactory?"
Warily, the two nodded.
"Good. Ian, why don't you take these two with you? I'm sure they still have a few questions that they need to get off their chest."
"Of course, sir," Ian said already rising and gesturing for the two teens to follow. With a backwards glance at all the magnificent paintings and the red haired man sitting behind his desk; Shaun followed the other two out of the office.
AN: I can assure you that the leader of this group is called Lance for a reason other than to just throw in an old name. Hope you all enjoyed this chapter! Only two or three more chapters and Shaun will definitely be out of this city with or without a badge, that I can guarantee you!