White Heart Black Bones [PG-14]
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July 22nd, 2012 (2:23 PM). Edited July 22nd, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
The Will of One
“Cress?” Cilan ducked his head through the curtain.
Cress was settled at their only remaining tea table, right where he’d last been. It was the only table the leaders had managed to salvage from Team Plasma’s invasion so long ago, and even then it was in poor condition, rickety, filthy. The man in question took a short sip from his tea before responding, “What is it, brother?” The former water type gym leader was put in a foul mood because of Touko and N’s unexpected visit, and it was clearly heard in his voice. The things they were saying… to rebel against Team Plasma… there’s no way that could still be possible… And during the length of their outlandish ploy of ideas the freshly brewed tea had become cold.
Cilan took a wide glance around the enclosure, “I can’t find Chili anywhere!”
Cress nearly choked on his drink.
Cilan passed through the curtain door and rested his chin on his hand, clearly in thought. “I know he was here just a moment ago,” he began to shift his weight from one foot to the other, “and I worry if he’s maybe… well, um… if he’s taken what Touko and N had said to heart.”
“Are you sure that he is gone? Is he not somewhere in the building? Then again…” Cress turned to his brother with a steely gaze, setting his cracked tea cup back on the table. “This is Chili we’re talking about. Acting with haste certainly is one of his traits…”
“Hey! I heard that!”
Both brothers’ heads whipped around suddenly to find Chili ducking through the gap in the curtains, carrying an old suitcase in his arms.
Cress squinted confusedly at the suitcase for a moment before recollection the hit. He sprung from his chair and pointed, baffled, “…That!!” Cress knew exactly what was in that case, though he’d wished never to remember.
Cilan took a closer look at the suitcase, it was hard to identify in the dimly light, but it didn’t take him long to recognize what it was as well. He stumbled back from his red-headed brother, shock in his eyes.
“What on earth are you doing with that thing!?” Cress snapped viciously, “I thought that we had thrown those things away years ago!”
Chili stared bitterly at the ground, “…I was just… Well I couldn’t.” He frowned, “I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away.”
“I can’t believe this! Don’t tell me you’ve been holding onto them all this time!” Cress threw up his arms. “Do you realize how much trouble we could get in if we’re caught those things!?” he jutted his finger towards the case which Chili clenched protectively.
“I don’t care about that!” Chili barked, but quickly reined his anger with a calming breath. Even he knew that bickering would get them nowhere. “Do things really have to stay this way? Is it really alright to just give up?…What if what Touko and N were saying… is actually…?”
“I guess…” Cilan interrupted his brother’s thoughts, slowly recovering from his initial astonishment. “I suppose it can’t hurt to take a quick look. Just to see how they’ve been doing all this time.” The smallest of smiles found its way onto his face.
Chili immediately shook from his hesitance and raced over to the table and placed the suitcase down as gently as he could.
“We’ll just take a quick look,” Cilan said to Cress, who had his arms folded over his chest in refusal.
“Yeah, Cress! Don’t be a sourpuss!” Chili shouted over, “You act like you don’t wanna see them, but it’s clear as day that you really do!”
“What do you say?” Cilan asked with a soft smile.
Cress glanced to where both of his brothers stood. Chili had his fingers hovering anxiously over the latches and looked expectantly to his elder brother. Cress gave a sigh of defeat. Even though he hated to admit it, they were right.
“A-Alright then, but just a peek. And be quick about it, we can’t afford to get caught.”
The former Striaton gym leaders huddled around the suitcase. Chili unbuckled the latches with an almost inaudible click and opened up the case to reveal a triad of Pokéballs resting inside.
inject infection into the beast
The smokestacks of the Dream Factory rose higher into the sky as we approached. The grinding of machinery that echoed from the building grew louder and rumbled beneath my feet. The Dream Smoke that spewed from the chimney tops filled the sky and blotted out the sun. The clouds melded together into an undefined wall, and the deadly smoke dyed the world a faint hue of pink. N and I lay hidden in the underbrush. For some lucky reason, the forests around the Dream Factory weren’t blocked or fenced off. It must have been one of those unfenced areas that Fennel had told us about prior; there were no Pokémon here, and I understood why. The trees we slunk past were either all dying or already dead. Branches were bare, blackened, curled in upon themselves like fingers clenched. The immediate conclusion that I reached was that the altered Dream Mist must have been killing them. The forests hugged close to the imposing building, subjected to the mist twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. After a battering like that, the forest didn’t have the will to go on any longer. Pine trees shed their spiny thorns, bright leaves wilted and turned brittle, their remains crunched against our feet; any greenery left in the forest was browning and slowly on its way to death. The people in Striaton who breathed this mist every day… were their bodies reacting in the same way somewhere deep down? The reaction in humans must have been different. The people I saw in the streets had no outward deformities or wounds from this mist… but somewhere deep down decay was marching.
Because of the lack of cover, N had drawn Laika out to hide us with her illusory powers, to blend us into the surrounding branches and keep our approach concealed. Hopefully, no one would be able to see through it. Usually I wouldn’t question Laika’s abilities, but I’d already seen the impossible and wasn’t bound to rule anything out yet.
The chugging that vibrated through the air only grew louder as we walked. The sound, which was akin to the gnashing of giant metal teeth, was painful in my ears. It caused them to throb and ring, and I was sure they were on the borderline of bleeding. The sound drove me mad. As a feeble resistance, and without any earplugs, I resorted to shoving my fingers in my ears and screaming
until my throat ran sore. But even that did not work. Over the sound of my humming, the ringing persisted, and the rumbling of the machinery shook through my bones. My ears were screeching, and I then felt
animalistically inclined to rip my own ears off. They were frightening thoughts; I was startled by the notion. Why would I begin to think such macabre things? But as I thought it over, I warmed to the idea. If I clawed my ears off, then at least I wouldn’t have to deal with this wretched ringing over and over. Right?
I didn’t get that far. Somehow, I found it in me to box those primal urges, and in lieu of something more harmful, I pinched at my ear lobes and hummed melodies to keep myself steady.
While walking, I forced down a sigh and scrunched up my nose. In addition to that ringing, the scent of the Dream Mist was thick in the air. It was grainy and heavy, like a pollen or smoke, and you can imagine that my nose would have none of it. With a pause, I stifled my fourth sneeze of the minute, and rubbed the excess off on my sleeve. Despite all the snorting I did, the coin-like smell of the smoke did not leave my nose. It clung to the hairs, crawled up the sinuses and pinched at my brain. My eyes couldn’t help but water, and they ran so much it made me look like I was crying. This must be what people with extreme allergies have to contend with.
I coughed, hacked, sneezed, cried, pulled at my ears, tugged at my hair, but nothing seemed to make it any better, and it only got worse the closer we came. Fear began to build within me. I had to stop. What exactly was this Dream Mist doing to me?
“Touko.” I looked up to see N stopped a few feet in front of me, hand against a tree to keep himself steady. “Are you alright?” he asked, pausing to cough in his sleeve. His eyes were just as red and watering as mine, and his skin had become a pasty color.
I smiled at him weakly. I croaked, “We should head back. I feel just as bad as the tress look around here.”
N smirked and turned forward. “We must keep going. We are almost at the perimeter of the Dream Factory.”
I frowned, “And… if we pass out before we get there?”
“We’ll just have to make it there before that happens,” he looked up at Laika and gave her a pat on the shoulder. “Shall we continue?”
His question was clearly meant for the Zoroark. Laika looked better than the both of us did, but that wasn’t saying much. Her eyes were clearer, unclouded, but she was trembling and on edge.
We walked on, and true to N’s assurance, we wound up right below the Dream Factory in less than a minute. The three of us halted in collective shock. Laika’s eyes were skyward; she watched the smokestacks with both intrigue and fear. Her gaze, along with N’s and my own, were magnetized to the structure, and I noticed that Laika was looking at it not like a building, but more like a predator. All of us seemed to feel it in an odd, abstract way. It was like we were standing before a slumbering giant; a beast who would, if awakened, would not hesitate to crush us with a yawn.
There was silence for a time, only broken by the thunderous gurgling of that machine. I blinked away the tears in my eyes. “Well. We’re here.” I turned to N, “…What do we do now?”
The boy carried a strange look of unease in his eyes. N usually wasn’t one to get freaked out, or even show that he was getting freaked out, but there was no use hiding it here. We all felt on edge in this place. “I’m not sure,” he admitted.
“Well…” I looked down, “it’s not like we can just stroll on in and demand a surrender.”
He nodded, “There’s no way it would be that easy.” N looked at me, thumbing the tears on the corner of his eyes. “I suppose all we can hope to do is scan the perimeter and see how this factory is guarded, and if there’s a way in which we can use to enter. Then we’ll be able to construct a battle plan from that.”
His expression dropped somewhat as Laika gave a soft grunt and nudged him with her arm. N turned to his Pokémon curiously and peered through the thick brush she gestured towards. A moment later he said, “Though it won’t be easy… getting passed that wall…”
I arched my eyebrow curiously before I followed his gaze into the undergrowth. I couldn’t see it at first, but after a moment of squinting I noticed a steel wall standing in front of the factory, obstructing the real building from view. This wall was much different from the ones we’d seen back on Route One. This iron border was built with watch towers on each of its four corners, search lights which had powered on in the dusk, and curls of barbed wire that danced along the top of the wall. This was a clear deterrent to simply waltzing in and demanding a surrender.
“Great…” I grumbled. “More walls to deal with.”
“Let’s circle around and see if we can find an entrance,” N said, keeping his eyes fixed on the structure. He gave Laika a quick pat on the shoulder, as if trying to soothe her. Only now at close range I could see how tense her muscles had become, how her fur was prickled and on edge, the fear in her eyes.
I agreed with N’s proposition and the three of us began to circle the factory cautiously.
We got as close to the walls as we dared. Even with Laika’s illusion for cover, we weren’t confident enough to leave our meager shelter of trees and approach the walls head on. Even if the trees around us were thin and dead, the forest was thick enough to keep us obscured on the off chance that Laika’s illusion would fall. We circled the building slowly, trying to find a kink in the armor of the iron womb. Maybe there was a spot along the walls where security was lessened? It was worth checking out.
We weren’t so lucky. All four walls were completely unfaltering through the whole perimeter. There were no dents, nicks or cracks that could be used to break through. The walls stretched high and hid the bulk of the factory from sight, so even if we could find a way to break down the barrier, we had no idea what could be waiting for us inside. The security was so strong on the outside that I didn’t even want to think about what was going on in there. There wasn’t a spot we passed by that wasn’t covered with some form of security. I figured the front perimeter would be much the same, maybe even more so. Who’s to say that the front yard wasn’t a mine field, or watched by snipers day in and day out? I dismissed the idea of using Rhoden to fly in. No attack on this fortress would go unawares. Rhoden was tough and quick, but even he wouldn’t be able to fly though a shower of bullets.
I looked down as we walked. My footsteps crunched against grassless earth and swished the bodies of dead leaves around my feet. I wondered, was it possible to dig our way in? The option was certainly open, but judging from all of the armament and security that surrounded this place… cautionary measures had likely been taken for that as well. Who’s to say that the wall didn’t defend under the earth as well, and I was still alert to the mine idea. There could be all sorts of snares and booby traps around this place that we didn’t even know of or couldn’t even see. Precaution was something that we couldn’t abandon in this scenario, holding hands with haste would get us killed.
This building was nothing but impenetrable, but I suppose the Dream Factory was built with that in mind. This was a wall that could not be knocked down.
After a fair bit of walking, the three of us reached what I suppose would be considered the front gates, and they were a sight to behold. We lay crouched in the bushes as we observed the entryway. The entry gates were a set of large, imposing doors, which stretched even higher than the accompanying wall did. Watch towers bordered the doors, and at their tops I could make out the figures of soldiers walking to and fro. There were even small groups of guards at the base of the door, all armed.
N tugged on my shoulder, “Something’s coming”.
I didn’t have a moment to ask him what, when a large armored truck pulled up to the front gates. It was one of the unmarked trucks that I’d seen rolling around Striaton City.
“What do you think that’s here for?” I asked under my breath as the vehicle came to a rumbling stop.
N paused, keeping his eyes locked on the guard’s security check of the vessel. Possibly pondering if we could use the trucks as a mean to sneak in, “The Dream Factory could be the place where the vessels are stored.”
“Could be. I wonder what the deal is with those.” I began, but the truck was given the green-light before I could be answered. The front gates rumbled open.
It was then that N and I got our first good look at the facility called the Dream Factory. Seeing it up close brought forth a different feeling than the last time I saw it. Viewing it at a distance, I felt afraid but still in control, like looking at a deadly creature held captive inside a cage. It’s behind bars; it can’t hurt you, and one is able to marvel at its contained destructive nature. Here it was different. The cage was gone. The beast was free, looking me dead in the eye. I wasn’t safe here. This iron creature could easily leap forward and crush my skull in its jaws.
That’s what it was. The structure looked more like a monster than a machine. It lay crouched on the barren earth that was once the peaceful Dreamyard. It watched us with thousands of gleaming eyes, windows that lined the two storey building, one above the other, clenched together like teeth. It was stout and wide with a flattened roof to accommodate the smokestacks on its back, those of which looked like horns. It was made of nothing but black iron or steel, and maybe it was because of its colour, but I couldn’t spot a single door on the structure, but there must have been one somewhere. We didn’t get a chance to look very long. The truck didn’t waste time and quickly slipped through the gates, before they were slammed shut again.
“It’s not going to be easy… getting inside of that thing,” N said after a pause. A slight shaking had caused his voice to falter, but I couldn’t tell if he trembled because he was scared, like I was, or if he was just cold. Maybe it was a bit of both, but more prominently the latter.
“I don’t think we can do it alone,” I said to him, turning to look him straight in the eye. “I think we should ask Fennel for help.”
N looked at me in surprise, but quickly recovered. He looked uncertainly at the wall and said, “Not here.” We then slunk back into the woods and headed back towards the town. There wasn’t much else we could do here. I followed him in question as we distanced ourselves from the factory. During our stroll back, N returned Laika to her Pokéball. It was probably best for her, because since she’d been let out, Laika had become very flighty and anxious, very uncommon behavior for the trickster. Her feelings were more than justified though. Even the strongest of creatures would crumple in the face of that building. I hoped that Laika would end up feeling better now that she was safe and sound inside of her Pokéball… or could the Dream Smoke get inside there as well?
We eventually came to a stop on the outskirts of town, hidden in the cover of the woods but still able to see the backs of neighbouring apartments whose windows had long ago been boarded.
N turned to face me. “Do you think that Miss Fennel will be willing to aid us?”
I frowned, “Why wouldn’t she? I mean, by the sounds of it, she doesn’t want that thing around anymore than we do.”
N folded his arms and viewed the ground, clearly in thought, “I’m not so sure…”
“What do you mean?”
“Miss Fennel is a resident of this town as well. She’s just as susceptible to the Dream Mist as anyone else here…”
“You think she’s working for Team Plasma?!” I squawked.
N put up his hands, looking nervously about, “Please keep your voice down. I’m simply saying that it’s a possibility. I don’t want to run the risk of her alerting the authorities to our plans…”
“Fennel wouldn’t do that! Maybe you forgot, but she’s the one who’s been hiding us from Team Plasma this whole time! She’d want to help us, not send us to our graves,” I didn’t want to think what N was saying was right. Fennel might be our only hope to get inside that place, and I couldn’t tolerate N discarding her assistance so quickly.
“I don’t trust her…” He said softly, looking away.
Something about this seemed wrong. It wasn’t just Fennel. N seemed reluctant to put his trust in anyone else besides myself or his Pokémon. I knew a bit about it, thanks to what Anthea and Concordia had told me. N spent his childhood with only Pokémon for company. He was conditioned to think that humans did nothing but abuse and harm them, and after seeing what this world had become, the lies he had been fed turned into reality.
I wanted to know the reason why…
“Why won’t you let yourself trust them?”
His face was shock, as he wasn’t expecting such a direct question. He quickly averted his gaze from me, looked down, sadness creeping into his eyes. He opened his mouth to answer.
N was interrupted before he could say a single word. The bushes to my immediate right began to rustle and put the both of us on guard. But before we could panic and attack, Amanita stumbled forth from the foliage. I relaxed with a relieved sigh.
“Amanita,” I breathed. “What are you doing here?”
The girl in question took a moment to pull a few leaves from her dress, pad herself down and look around nervously before responding, “I’ve been looking for the two of you.”
I knew that N’s suspicions were rising, but I figured it better to hear what she wanted before jumping to any conclusions.
“I heard…” She looked down sheepishly and a flush grew on her face. Her shyness definitely wasn’t my doing. I didn’t even have to look at N to see how distrusting he must have looked. I tried to contrast his cynicism with a warm smile of my own, with the hopes of calming her down and getting her to talk. She spoke up again, “I heard what the two of you were talking about… about breaking into the D-dream Factory…”
I tried to keep myself composed, but deep down I felt worried, “We are.”
“I see,” Amanita began to fidget with the skirt of her dress, bunching the fabric together with nervous hands. She turned her eyes towards the sky to where the towers loomed far over the treetops. She took a breath, became resolute and faced us. She then said something I don’t think either of us were expecting, “I want to help you.”
“You…you do?” I asked in astonishment.
She bowed her head suddenly, “Please! You’re the only ones who can! Please save all of the Pokémon, save the people, please save Miss Fennel too! Just…” Sorrow began to warp her voice, “Turn everything back to the way it’s supposed to be…!”
Amanita continued to bow, stifling her tears as I looked on in shock. I was surprised that Amanita wanted to help us so strongly, after visiting the Striaton Gym, I thought N and I would be alone in our task to save this city. But what she had said… what exactly did she mean by that ‘save Fennel’ comment? Was something wrong with the professor? Had I misheard her?
“What good are you to us?” N asked bluntly.
I turned to him in surprise, baffled by his rudeness.
He saw my look and replied, “I need to know if she’s going to weigh us down or not. Having an extra member join us would usually be a good thing, but this operation could all fall to pieces if she turns out to be a liability. Breaking into the Dream Factory…”
“It’s a delicate art, I know.” Amanita smiled at the both of us. “I’ve seen the security around that place. I know full well what the soldiers are capable of.” She closed her eyes, “I know it won’t be easy. And I wouldn’t have come to the both of you if I didn’t think I’d be of use.” Amanita crouched and slid a small backpack off her shoulders. She unzipped the pack and began to pull out what looked like various maps and schematics. As she lay them upon the ground, even though they were unlabeled, I could recognize one to be a map of Striaton City.
“I’m sure the two of you have seen the wall that surrounds the Dream Factory?” she said, rustling out another schematic, this one appearing to be of the Dream Factory itself.
N arched his eyebrows is surprise, “These maps are very precise. Where on earth did you get them from?” he viewed her with a hovering suspicion.
“I um…” She tried to avoid both of our gazes, “I got it from a source of mine… it’s… well, it’s not important right now. Anyway, I suppose you know that there’s no way to break down the wall,” she traced her finger along the blueprints, along a line which I assumed represented the Dream Factory’s fence, “you can’t fly over it, dig under it, or knock it down.” Amanita looked up at us with a toothy grin, “But don’t you guys worry! I know a secret way to get into the Dream Factory, one that Team Plasma won’t be suspecting!”
I leant forward anxiously, “Which is…?”
With the aid of a crowbar, we managed to pry off the cover of a manhole. It looked much lighter than it actually was; the thing weighed a ton and it took all three of us to lift it off. We set it down as carefully as possible, but even then it was impossible to stifle a dull, metallic clang. Luckily, the alleyway we’d entered was completely vacant, so we’d gone unnoticed, for now.
Amanita peered down into the black hole, and then looked me dead in the eye. Her gaze was frightfully serious from behind the pink rims of her glasses. “Are you ready? Once we go in there’s no going back.”
I made a face. This wasn’t what I had in mind when she mentioned a ‘secret entrance.’ I could already smell the fetid odor of sewage wafting up from the hole and the sloshing sound it made as it travelled down the canals.
Before I could answer, N approached the hole and crawled fearlessly inside. Before he vanished and was shadowed out of view, he looked up to me and asked casually, “Aren’t you coming?” then continued to traverse the ladder down.
My frown descended. I took a quick glance around our cover of buildings and saw no one. I sucked back both fear and disgust and climbed cautiously down the hole and into darkness. The gloom around me was absolute; I could not even see my hands as I traveled down the icy metal ladder, foot by foot, hand by hand. Amanita followed me, and once she was in, I heard her slide the manhole cover back over its top. It became darker.
We continued down blindly for a while, slinking deep into the underground. After a time, the subterranean world below us started to flicker into view. Gaping stone tunnels and streams of sewage were illuminated dully by the yellow lamps that hugged the ceiling. We touched down. By what I could tell in the dim light, there was no one around besides us. No soldiers, no workers, no Pokémon even. There was nothing, just the lapping sound of putrid water in my ears.
I scrunched my nose, squinting around at the bowels of the city, “It stinks…”
Amanita jumped off the ladder and landed behind us, the clomping of her boots echoed down the spacious tunnels. She pulled out the schematics again, the ones belonging to the sewer system this time. She glanced up and down from the map a couple times, looking up to judge our path as N and I tried to peek over her shoulder. “We have to go this way,” she finally declared, pointing towards the left.
“You sure it leads to the Dream Factory?” I asked as the three of us started to travel down the walkways which bordered the filthy river.
“Yes but…” Amanita continued to look up and down from the plans, “It’s not going to be as easy as you think.”
I didn’t know what Amanita meant by that at first, but I soon came to realize when the walkways ran out and only left tunnels of stagnant water beyond.
“The path’s gone,” I put my hands on my hips and let out a sigh, “how are we supposed to…” my eyes nearly bulged out of my head when Amanita stepped off the pathway and hopped into the murky waters beyond.
She gave me a short glance from where I stood watching in shock, “We have to go on foot from here.” She turned around and began to walk through the knee-high sewage.
I stood at the pathway’s edge for a moment, almost as if I was expecting her to turn around and say that she was joking.
N, seemingly unfazed, jumped into the water casually with a short splash, “Let’s go, Touko.”
“In there?” I pointed towards the path. “You’re not serious…”
“It’s the only way!” Amanita called back.
I heaved out a sigh, and with one swift movement I dove into the malodorous stream. My boots were just high enough to breach the waterline, but the thickness of the water kept a permanent scowl on my face as I tried not to look down at what I was walking through.
The three of us passed by junction after junction as we made our way through the underground to the Dream Factory which we planned to kill. Sometimes the water level depleted, other times it rose. The walkways resumed at some points, to my delight, but were absent on other paths. Time began to drag as we took all manner of twists and turns through the bowels of this city. To my disdain, I noticed that Team Plasma had painted their coat of arms on the sewer’s walls; we saw a insignia on at least every tunnel we walked through, and the sight almost sickened me as much as the stench. Was Team Plasma really so proud of their power that they had to boast it in the sewers of all places? I tried to ignore those thoughts as we trudged on into darkness, guided only by flashlight.
When Amanita announced that we were almost there my spirits leapt, only to be dashed when we came face-to-face with an iron grate that obstructed our path.
“Oops,” Amanita chimed, taking a wide glance at her map, which had gotten a little soggy on the edges. “This wasn’t supposed to be here,” she withdrew a hand to ram her glasses up her nose with not so hidden anxiety.
“We can break it down.” N stated. “We do have our Pokémon with us.”
Amanita quickly folded up her map and slid it in her backpack. “It’s okay,” she then drew a Pokéball of all things from her pack. “I’ll take care of this grate. Herdier! I need your help!” Amanita’s terrier Pokémon appeared in a flash, just managing to keep its head above water, though it didn’t seem too bothered by the stuff it was treading through.
I gawped at the canine, “A Pokémon?! How did you…” I tried to look into Amanita’s eyes but she kept her back turned, as if she didn’t want to discuss the subject. But I didn’t want her to get out of this without explaining anything. “Why do you have a Pokémon with you Amanita? And for that matter where did you get all those maps from?”
“Herdier. Use Take Down on that grate.” Her voice was unmistakably monotone.
“What does it matter?!” she suddenly snapped. Her uncharacteristic lash of anger had taken me back, “As long as we get there… everything is fine… right?” she turned away again and balled up her fists. I couldn’t speak.
Amanita’s Pokémon, after taking an uncertain look at her trainer, took a smash at the grate and we were soon walking forward again.
Why didn’t Amanita want to tell us what was going on? Contrary to what N’s face was saying, I didn’t think she was tricking us. Not after going this far out of her way. Amanita just didn’t seem like a deceiving person, and I hoped I was right. I thought back to N’s words.
She is a citizen of this town too. She’s just as susceptible to the Dream Mist as anyone else.
No. He must be wrong. These people wouldn’t betray us… they wouldn’t.
“I can’t see a thing down here,” I grumbled quietly. “Are you sure this is the right way, Amanita?”
“Up there…” she said.
I tried to squint through the darkness, “…Up where?”
A sudden beam of light illuminated a lengthy ladder which descended down from the ceiling. Amanita turned the flashlight to us, nearly blinding N and I in the process.
“Hey, watch it!” I said, throwing my hands over my eyes.
“Oops!” she gasped, turning the light back up. “Sorry! I’m sorry!”
N recovered quickly, “Where does that ladder lead?”
All three of us craned our necks to where it stretched up into the darkness.
“According to my maps… it should lead us right into the Dream Factory,” she answered.
I whistled. “Nifty.” I looked back down to Amanita, “Don’t they know that this thing is here?”
Amanita reached back to scratch her head. “Well, you see, this used to be an entrance to the building that was here before the Dreamyard got turned into the Dreamyard, and much before the Dream Factory was ever built. It was a pathway that had no necessary use to Team Plasma, so it hasn’t been torn down or blocked off, and I don’t think they’ll expect anyone to enter from this way either. So we might as well try.”
“Whereabouts will we be deposited?” N inquired with a glance.
“Uhh, I don’t really know. I have the basic floor plan of the Dream Factory in my pack, but it doesn’t list off what the rooms are or what they’re used for. We’re uhh, kind of walking in blind,” she showed a sheepish smile. “But it’s the only way in.”
N looked towards the ladder for a minute, staring it down in contemplation. Perhaps he was wondering if this was a trap or not, or maybe he was pondering what would be waiting for us at the top of that climb. I was much the same. The facility looked so imposing on the outside, with so many guards and armaments. What was it like on the inside? Was it just as heavily guarded? Would we reach the top of that ladder only to have guns pointed in our face?
The only certain thing was that we wouldn’t find anything out by just standing here. N walked up to the ladder and began his climb: a metallic clang sounded from where his feet hit metal. Amanita was second, and I took up the rear, relieved to finally be out of that disgusting water. The blasted stuff was starting to seep through my boots, and that smell wasn’t gonna come out easy.
The climb through darkness only lasted a few moments before N announced that he’d reached the top.
“There’s a door here…” By the sounds he was making, I could tell that he was trying to pry it open. But it wasn’t making it easy for him. Before N could announce a complaint, or say that this entrance was impassible, a sudden clicking sounded.
I looked up into the gloom on the off chance that I could make out what it was, “Did you get it open?”
The sound of screeching hinges met my ears, and answered the question for me. The door clanged once it had opened. I’d assumed it had hit a wall. There was a pause and before my fear had a chance to take root, I heard N say, “It’s all clear,” and clamber through the entrance. Amanita and I followed him and cautiously crawled into the Dream Factory.
We had entered some kind of garage loaded with rows upon rows of the armored trucks we’d seen in the city. It seems N had been right about this factory being a storage for the vehicles. This room was large and wide to accommodate the mass of bulky trucks. The lights were out, and the only illumination we were getting was from rows of blue lights that hugged close to the floor and lit things from the bottom up. Our secret entrance was but a loose tile on the metallic floor. Once in, we closed it up without a sound; there wasn’t even a handle or mark on the door to show that it was there. It further solidified that Team Plasma either didn’t know or didn’t care about the sewer entrance. Either way, I was made more confident.
We’d entered at the back of the garage near the last row of trucks. The vehicles made good cover thanks to their bulk. They were easy to hide behind and crawl under, but we found not the need for stealth when we quickly realized that the room was unpatrolled.
I leant my back against one of the vehicles mighty tires and breathed a sigh of relief. “Where do we go from here?” I whispered while trying to keep my heart steady and my body from shaking. It was hard to see Amanita and N in this room. We stuck close together, and I could hear them move, so I always knew where they were, but the room was dark and made it tough to see them clearly. They were illuminated by the floor lights in eerie ways. Splashes of neon blue lit the grooves in their clothes and faces.
“Over there,” N said in a hushed voice as he pointed towards a barely legible door on the nearest wall.
I stared at it seriously, “Where’s it go?”
Amanita shook her head, not having the light or the time to check her maps. “It doesn’t matter where it goes. All we know is that it leads away from here… and that we’re probably going to have to fight if we want to keep moving.”
“Alright.” I swallowed hard, head pounding, “Let’s not waste any time then.”
The three of us padded silently across the floor; we blended into the shadows and slunk through the last rows of trucks. We reached our destination in a few short strides. Once there, we hugged the walls on either side of the door, since we found it unwise to stand directly before it. Amanita analyzed the opening mechanism of the door, since this one didn’t have a handle and slid open instead.
“It isn’t locked.” She turned to N and I, looking dead serious. “The two of you need to get to the control center of the facility. If you reach it, and hack into the mother computer, you should be able to shut down power to the factory. I promise that I’ll protect you if anything happens. All that matters is that the two of you make it there, you’re the only ones strong enough to shut it down. I’m irrelevant in the matter.”
I didn’t like the thought of abandoning Amanita, but I didn’t have the time to reason or protest. Amanita pulled back the door and light flooded our view. Without pause, all three of us dove into the bright hallway beyond.
The hallways we sped through were the definition of sterile. There wasn’t a blotch or unwanted mark to speak of, and although this was a building of metal and wire, an unnatural creation, the perfection within unnerved me. I tried to ignore my fear as we ran on, only accompanied by the buzzing of florescent lights above. We passed by legions of doors as we ran. Each one was a white and clean as the rest of the place; they would have been impossible to tell apart if not for a string of block numbers above each one. Still, we saw not a single soul.
I dared to think that we might have the luck to make it to the control center without running into any hindrance. Not only a second after that thought had reared its head, a small group of Plasma soldiers turned a corner to meet us.
I stumbled back in surprise. Amanita pushed back her fear and called out her Herdier to match them, “You two get out of here!”
“Wha… What about you?” I asked as N grabbed hold of my wrist and began to run, taking me with him in the process.
I was only able to hear Amanita shout, “I’ll hold them off here! Don’t worry about me!” before we turned a corner out of sight.
I tried to keep up with N’s pace as I half ran and was half dragged through the facility.
After a time, I had to get him to stop, “N…!” I breathed, slowly tugging him to a halt. “Slow down… for a minute… will you?”
“We have… to keep going…” He said between breaths, still clenching my wrist but not bothering to turn around and look me in the eye. “We can’t stop now… though Amanita may try to hold off the soldiers… her attempts may be…”
“I know!” I clenched my jaw, “But we’re walking blind! We don’t even know where we’re…”
N turned around in shock as the sound of approaching soldiers echoed down the corridors. The both of us, knowing time was short, looked around frantically for a doorway or another hall to dive into. We seemed to be unlucky, because this hall out of many seemed to be one of the few that wasn’t lined with doors. But the both of us seemed to notice it at once. There was a door that stood black upon a vast white wall: standing alone like some sort of monolith. It stood apart from the other doors we’d seen, not only in colour, but this door wasn’t marked by a string of numbers like before. It was only identified by the words
Dream Room 06
in crimson lettering
As the approaching clamor of soldiers drew near, N and I knew it was our only chance at a quick escape.
We took it.
The both of us were submerged in darkness again as the door slid shut behind. N and I pressed our bodies close to the wall and listened as the soldiers hustled by. For some reason which struck me as odd, none of them came inside to check this room. I didn’t have much time to ponder the reason why, for N set my heart alight with fear when he gave a terrified gasp. He’d grabbed my attention immediately. I’d never heard him sound so frightened. I knew whatever had caused him to react that way couldn’t be good. I spun around and came to see a world out of a nightmare.
This place… this Dream Room, was lined with containment tanks, eight on either side of the room spaced evenly apart by a few feet. They were filled to the brim with some weird neon fluid, and I couldn’t tell what it was or what was giving it its color. The tanks glowed and lit the darkness with eerie florescence. The cylinders were placed about the room, side by side, with the intention of leading up to a much larger container at the back of the room. Suspended in each one of these tanks, hooked in place by wiring, was a Pokémon known as Munna, and in the very last tank of the room a Musharna was held. Each Pokémon’s face was tight in pain. Many wires that stemmed from the connecting base and head of the cylinders lay buried in the Pokémon’s skin, hooked into organs and veins under pink flesh. It took me a moment to realize, but it dawned on me that the wires were probably there to pull Dream Smoke from the Pokémon’s bodies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even after Fennel had told us that the Dream Factories extracted mist from the Munna and Musharna… I never expected it to be like this…
What finally caused me to tear my eyes off the Munna’s frozen agony was N. He walked towards the tanks hesitantly, fearfully, as if he didn’t believe, or couldn’t comprehend, what his own eyes were showing him. His face was filled with horror, eyes wide, jaw ajar. He stopped before one of the cylinders on our right, brought up a trembling hand and placed it flat upon the clear glass. The Pokémon within writhed weakly, oblivious to his unfelt touch, as it tried to wriggle free from the wires sewn into its flesh.
“Tou…” N’s hand clenched into a trembling fist. “
…” His voice had me on edge. I had never heard N sound so tormented, so outraged. He must have been trying with all his might to contain his aggression and keep a clear head. He knew as well as I that losing himself to fury was the last thing we needed. Because of his tone, I almost feared giving him an answer. I didn’t want to see what N would become if he let rage get the better of him. He didn’t give me time to respond.
N looked at me with eyes wrought with both agony and fury, as if he was the one confined in the tanks instead. “W-we have to get t-them out of here…” His words trembled with emotion, with desperation.
I wanted to answer but I was tongue-tied. I tried again after my first stumble, “O-okay. Okay! Let’s do it! This is what we’re here for!” I tried to sound brave, but I was still buzzing with the shock of what I’d seen. I threw my hands to my belt, making to grab a Pokémon but N interrupted me.
“Hold on,” I looked up to see him pointing towards the back of the room, to behind the prominent tank that the Musharna lay suspended in. “It looks like there’s a control panel over there behind the final tank,” his voice had assumed a horribly hard edge. He’d gained control of his feelings for now, but at what price?
I squinted for a moment, trying to see past the gruesome sight, until I finally did notice it, “Can you hack into it and set the Pokémon free?”
“It can’t hurt to try,” he made a move towards the back of the room but froze mid-step.
“What’s the…?” My words fell as I noticed a shadowy figure step out from behind the right row of tanks.
A scientist, with glasses agleam with green light, regarded the both of us with a wicked sneer. With slick black hair, a well ironed jacket and a blemish-free, but scrunched looking face, this man seemed to be trying his hardest to replicate the perfection this building was constructed upon. Ultimately, he failed. To me, he looked gruesome in the light of the anguished Munna. “I see. So the reports of intruders held validity after all,” he glanced down the line of tanks, holding a prideful smile. “How do you like our work? A wonder, don’t you think?”
He sounded so pleased with the suffering of these Pokémon that I felt sickened… I couldn’t even respond.
But I didn’t need to. “You monster! How can you do this!?” N roared, balling his fists in rage. “How can you simply stand here and marvel at this atrocity! How can you get pleasure from the suffering of these innocent Pokémon!? They’ve done nothing to deserve this… you…
The scientist arched his thick eyebrows in surprise. “Could it be? You’re the imposter our lord N is looking for… to think you’d be here of all places…” he leant forward with an observative leer.
N flinched. That comment had clearly struck a nerve. Being reminded that someone else had his face, and was ruling the nation in his name, just added to the weight that N had to carry. It was wearing him down and it was painfully obvious.
I couldn’t keep my eyes on him so I turned to the scientist. “Can it! We’re setting these Pokémon free whether you like it or not!” Somehow I managed to drive the wavering tone from my voice, “Step aside!”
The scientist watched us for a moment from behind his shining lenses. “That… I cannot do,” he withdrew a Pokémon from under his lab coat.
I responded in turn by reaching for my belt, “If it’s a fight you want…” N put a firm hand on my arm. I turned to him with a curiously, but his eyes were fixed on the scientist.
“Let me have this one,” Was all he said.
The resolution was clear in his voice, but I had to be certain, “Are you sure?”
He nodded. “Please get to the back of the room and destroy that control panel,” he plucked a Pokéball from his belt. “If you can’t find a switch to release the Pokémon… then just destroy the panel.”
I was going to ask one more time if he was certain, but N gave me a guiding push as his only answer and I was off, slinking through the rows of cylinders towards the back of the room.
I could hear the noise of the battle over my breaths. I couldn’t pay mind to it; I had to keep on target. N would be fine; I couldn’t waste time worrying about him now; I had faith that he’d be able to take care of himself. I just hoped he wouldn’t let his emotions get the better of him.
I ducked down behind a tank as a shockwave ran through the room. After it had passed, I peeked out to see N was deep in battle with the scientist. Laika was fighting against a Klinklang. My heart sank when I saw this because I knew dark type moves were not usually effective against steel types.
“Laika! Use Foul Play!” Laika’s body began to glow with ominous red light. She then sent the wave of light flying at her opponent which sent the rotating gears off course and knocked them into a nearby tank, which didn’t break despite the force. The Munna went wild inside of their cylinders. They began to wriggle and squirm around in the neon fluid, eager for their freedom, but the wires held them stationary. The sight of their desperation reminded me of what I needed to do.
I raced towards the back of the room where the control panel looked over the room. Another shockwave shook the enclosure and I grabbed hold of the board to prevent myself from flying back. Once it had subsided I tried to keep my eyes off the violent battle, and tried to figure out how to work this complex board of blinking lights and switches. After but a moment of looking I came to realize that I had no idea how this machine worked, and I certainly didn’t want to start mashing buttons and hope on the off chance that I’d set the Pokémon free.
I began to panic, “N! How do I work this thing?”
The scientist N was fighting took an angry glance over his shoulder, frustrated at his preoccupation. N was turning out to be more of a challenge than he’d seemed to have first thought.
“Just blow it up!” N shouted from across the room, from across the battle where Laika was just barely managing to hold off a Gear Grind.
“Are you sure?” Was blowing it up really a good solution to this? What if it reacted badly and ended up hurting the Munna instead of helping them?
“If you cut power from that panel, then the Munna should be able to break out on their own! Laika dodge it!” His words were just audible through another crash.
I took a hesitant look to the control board on the off chance that I could make something out. But I had no such luck so I reached to my belt with the intentions of drawing Hyle out. A nicely placed Brick Break was sure to cut the power to those cylinders.
The second my hand closed around the ball capsule I heard the click of a gun.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I couldn’t even trust my vision as I turned slowly to see professor Fennel standing a few feet away with a pistol in her hand, whose barrel was pointed right at me.
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