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Old March 23rd, 2011 (10:43 AM).
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The Meteor Stratagem

The orange sun cast its setting light down upon the ravine. High cliffs and mountains flanked the deep U-shaped valley from both sides. The gleaming orb had not yet passed behind the mountains at the end of the pass, so the entire area was still swathed in orange.

The travelling group headed westward, towards the mountainous terrain and away from the desert behind them. Even the two Onixes, Atlas and Prometheus, felt small in comparison to the tall cliffs and the even taller mountains all around.

Prometheus slithered ahead, slightly in front of Atlas. They both carried passengers on their backs.

“Yo, Pro, can’t you go any faster? I want to get to Lavaridge before nightfall... or at least before I turn sixty!” Kevin called up from his place in front of Rachel on Prometheus’s back.

Prometheus let out a low growl. “<It’s ‘Prometheus’... Don’t push your luck, little creature,>” he warned. “<And I thought we weren’t going to make a habit of riding on our backs.>”

“Hey, if you want to stick around, you’re going to have to pull your weight,” Kevin said with a grin.

“<It seems more like we’re pulling your weight!>” Prometheus retorted.

“...Are you calling me fat? Or... ohh, I get it. If me and Rache are too heavy for the great big, tough Onix, it’s okay; I understand. We can get off if you can’t handle it,” Kevin goaded.

“<I never said that,>” Prometheus snapped. “<You’re about as light as a pebble. And as insignificant as one, too!>” The large reptile then craned his head around while slithering. “<And if you two start making out while you’re back there, I will start bucking. I promise you that, old son.>”

“Oh, I get it; you want Rachel all to yourself,” Kevin remarked.

As Prometheus bristled, Rachel tapped Kevin in the shoulder. “What did he say?” she asked, still unable to understand pokemon.

“He’s jealous that you want to make out with me,” the blonde teen answered her, still grinning.

Rachel was taken aback and disgusted. “I’d make out with a Pinsir before I would you.”

“If that Pinsir was the hottest, studliest Pinsir in the world then I could understand,” Kevin said, casting her a wink.

Rachel shook her head and sighed just as Prometheus slowed down slightly, allowing Atlas to catch up. The scar-donned Onix slithered up beside his friend, though he hadn’t taken his eyes off of the ground the whole time ever since they left the desert.

Treecko sat on top of Atlas’s head, leaning against the back of his large horn. Below was Jeff, Corphish, Piplup and Blane respectively. Jeff shifted uncomfortably and looked up at Atlas every so often before averting his gaze.

Corphish glanced over at Prometheus and the group that rode on his back. “<Hey, can I switch rock snakes?>” he asked. “<It’s so tense over here that I feel like somebody’s going to explode! You guys are at least talking.>”

“<Unfortunately,>” murmured Prometheus. The Onix glanced over at his friend. “<Hey, Atlas, are we going the right way?>”

Atlas blinked his grey eyes and finally looked up from the ground, slightly confused. “<Uhh... what?>” he asked, glancing over.

“<...Are we going the right way?>”

“<Oh... Err... I was following you.>”

Blane looked over at Rachel and signalled her. “Rache! Are we going the right way?”

Rachel, who was looking at her handbook of Hoenn, nodded. “Yeah, we should be.”

“<Good,>” Prometheus muttered, glancing over at Atlas with a curious expression. He then looked back forwards. “<Because if we- Holy Groudon’s scales!>” he exclaimed suddenly, his blue eyes widening as he looked forwards.

“What’s up?” Kevin asked, balancing himself as Prometheus stopped suddenly.

“<That mountain... It’s enormous!>” Prometheus said in utter awe. “<Look at it, Atlas!>”

Atlas raised his head and looked up. His eyes, too, widened. Behind the cliffs and peaks stood a titan of a mountain that reached high into the sky. It was nowhere near tall enough to touch the clouds, but the rocky monument still dwarfed everything around it. The cliffs around it were like a stairway leading up to the dark, colossal peak. The mountain seemed to flatten out on top, making a wide plateau. Waves of heat rose from the top.

“<It’s incredible!>” Prometheus gushed. “<It’s as if Lord Groudon himself could live under it!>”

“That’s Mount Chimney,” Rachel pointed out, looking down at her book. “Apparently it’s a dormant volcano. It says when standing on top, you should be able to see most of Hoenn.”

“<D-Dormant volcano?>” Corphish stammered, his eyes widening.

“Dormant means inactive, Corphish,” Jeff reassured him.

“<Jeff...> Corphish said with the utmost urgency and seriousness in his voice. “<Don’t you watch movies? There is no... such... thing... as a dormant volcano. All it takes is a loose stone... or scientists prodding at it... or the wrath of Arceus... or an evil mastermind...>” he explained, his grip tightening around Jeff’s waist considerably.

“Corphish... too tight...” Jeff gasped.

“Yeah, it’s breathtaking,” Blane said, looking at the mountain. “But we’re faced with something more important... There’s a dead end ahead of us...” He pointed forwards from atop Atlas’s back, gesturing to where the grassy valley suddenly stopped and met with more cliffs that led towards the tall peak. “How are we supposed to get to Lavaridge?”

“There’s a cable car,” Kevin answered. “You take it to the top of Mount Chimney and then go south down Jagged Pass.”

“<And then KABLOOEY!>” Corphish shouted, finishing his pop-culture fuelled theory and subsequently startling everyone on Atlas’ back (excluding Treecko).

Prometheus looked over at Kevin. “<What’s... a cable car?>”

“It’s a metal thing that you can ride inside to take you up to high places,” Blane told him.

“Yeah...” Jeff said sheepishly as the group stopped at the dead end, now surrounded by cliffs on three sides. “Slight problem with that... Atlas can’t go inside his pokeball and there’s no way he’s fitting inside a cable car...”

“Oh yeah...” Kevin mused. “Because somebody broke his pokeball!” His eyes rested on Jeff.

“It was an accident...” Jeff muttered in a pouting fashion.

“<We don’t need to be carried around in some small ball!>” Prometheus explained proudly. “<We’re Onix. Atlas and I can climb to the top of that mountain no problem!>” He looked over to his friend, awaiting confirmation from the other rock snake.

Atlas nodded. “<We’ll be fine,>” he agreed while managing to avoid making eye contact with Jeff.

“Are you sure? I don’t want it to seem like we’re abandoning you,” he said using choice words while casting a glance to Atlas. The Onix grimaced and slithered back a little so that he was partially hidden behind Prometheus.

“<We can take care of ourselves just fine,>” Prometheus insisted. “<We’ve been doing so since long before we joined up with you.>”

“Okay then,” Kevin said, hopping off of Prometheus’ back as the large rock pokemon came to a halt at the end of the pass. “You and Atlas climb to the top of the mountain and the rest of us will take the cable car!”

“<Sounds good to me,>” said Prometheus, watching as Rachel slid off of his back after Kevin. Blane, Jeff, Corphish and Treecko also dismounted from Atlas.

Kevin noticed this and grinned. “Pro, I know you have a thing for Rache, but try not to check her out all the time, okay?”

The Onix sneered and glared at Kevin. “<I wasn’t! And I don’t! Rrrrrgh. We’re leaving, Atlas!>” he declared, leaping onto the cliff in front of them and slithering up it.

“<Uhh...>” Atlas gave a quick glance to Jeff behind him and sighed. “<...Right.>” Atlas followed his friend and disappeared over the crest of the crag.

The group braced themselves as several small pebbles showered down upon them from the Onixes’ movements. When it finally stopped, Blane looked to the group’s right. “I guess that’s the way to the cable car station, huh?” he asked.

Everyone turned to the twenty foot cliff to their right and saw a set of stairs carved into the rock, leading up to a rocky plateau. They could see the wires of the cable car leading down over the crest of the plateau, so it was safe to assume the station was up there too.

“Yeah, looks like it,” Rachel replied.

“Well, what are we waiting for?!” Kevin asked, running towards the stairs. “I love the cable car!”

“He’s like an annoying little kid,” Rachel said with a sigh.

Jeff grinned and followed him at a controlled pace. “You don’t know the half of it.”

Meanwhile, Corphish scuttled over to Treecko and tapped his shoulder with his pincers. Treecko glanced at him out of the corner of his eye before continuing forward. “<Treeck! You sure you’re okay with this? Aren’t you claustrophobic? You know, with the pokeball thing and all?>”

Treecko narrowed his eyes. “<For the last time, I’m not claustrophobic...>”

“<Then why don’t you like going in your pokeball?>” Corphish asked. Treecko ignored him and jumped up the steps, leaving Corphish to awkwardly pull himself up. “<Wait! My legs aren’t as long as yours!>”

The group made it to the top of the plateau (some quicker than others) and looked around the area. The cable car wires led into an open, single story building. From inside, the humming of an engine could be heard.

“Where’s Kevin?” Blane asked, looking around the rocky plateau, made up from a black, pyroclastic type of stone, caused from the nearby volcano.

“Inside already, it looks like,” Jeff replied, walking towards the station. The group followed, though Corphish was finding it hard to traverse over the rough terrain. Jeff opened the door and saw Kevin standing inside a single room. He immediately surveyed the area and saw two benches flanking them from both sides of the room. In front of them, past Kevin, was a ticket gate spanning across the whole room, separating the waiting area from the cable car. The sound of the engine drew his attention, causing him to look over and see the cable car sitting idly in the dock. It was connected to an overhanging wire which was attached to a bullwheel in the terminal.

“There’s nobody here,” Rachel mused. “Is it closed?”

“If it was, why would they leave the door unlocked?” Blane replied. He then looked around and saw one of the benches overturned. “What happened in here?”

“Magma,” Kevin growled shortly, his excited demeanour completely gone.

“What?” Jeff asked, looking at the blonde haired teen, who still showed his back to them.

Kevin slowly turned around and presented a red hood with two odd horn-like features. It looked as if it had been torn off from the rest of the sweater. “Team Magma was here...” he said venomously.

Jeff’s eyes widened. “No way... Them?”

Rachel and Blane cast each other confused looks. “Team Magma...?” Rachel asked. “Who are they?”

Kevin crushed the piece of fabric in his palm and looked at Rachel with cold blue eyes. “You want to know who Team Magma is?” he asked angrily. “A bunch of nutjobs!”

Blane couldn’t help but feel concerned by Kevin’s uncharacteristic anger. “Uhh... We’re not really from Hoenn, so do you think you could explain?”

“They’re--” Jeff began but he was quickly interrupted.

“Pretty much a cult of terrorists,” Kevin said fervently, finishing Jeff’s sentence.

“Are they anything like Team Rocket from Kanto and Johto?” Rachel asked. “Before they dissolved for good, that is.”

Kevin shook his head. “No... Team Rocket was just a bunch of petty criminals who robbed, extorted and performed a few corporate takeovers. Team Magma... these guys have a ‘grand plan’,” he said mockingly. “Team Magma actually wants to expand the world’s landmass by draining all the oceans! They think that that’s the best idea in the world! If that isn’t the most ridiculous thing you ever heard...”

The blonde-haired teen threw the Team Magma hat to the side. “And these psychos don’t care what they have to do to achieve their goals! They actually think they’re doing the world a favour and that their ends justify the means!” Kevin grimaced and looked down at Ace’s pokeball. “They don’t even care what happens to the water pokemon...”

Kevin grinned and looked back at Rachel and Blane. “And if you didn’t think Team Magma were frigging psychos, have a look at Team Aqua.”

“You mean those two guys with the Gyarados who almost attacked us when we were travelling to Slateport?” Rachel asked.

Kevin nodded. “They’re Team Magma’s rivals and their goals are the exact opposite. While Magma wants to expand the world’s landmass, Team Aqua wants to expand the world’s oceans. They want to flood the world!” Kevin explained, almost laughing and unnerving most of the others. “Now they must be crazy if they actually believe in that cause! If they were water pokemon, sure, but they’re humans!”

The teen’s smile quickly disappeared. “Team Aqua may be crazier, but I’ll take them over Magma any day...”

Several members of the group wanted to ask why, but they all thought better of it. Jeff looked over at the hat on the floor. “But what’s with the hat?”

“Same reason that nobody’s here, I think,” Kevin replied. “Team Magma drove the cable car operators out. I guess they don’t want anybody going to the top of Mount Chimney.”

“So what do we do?” Rachel asked.

“Go to the top of Mount Chimney,” Kevin replied, his usual grin returning before he decided to jump over the ticket gate.

“What?” Blane asked. “There’s nobody to operate the cable car!”

Kevin grinned and took out a pokeball, aiming it behind the group. “Don’t you worry about that. Come on out, Blitz!” The large Scyther materialized behind the group and nodded at Kevin. Jeff couldn’t help but tense up and swing around. “Help me get these guys into the cable car!” he said, opening the cabin’s door and stepping inside the car.

Blitz nodded and started ushering the three humans towards the ticket gate. Jeff lunged over it just to avoid Blitz’s scythes. Treecko and Corphish watched as the humans were herded into the car and they decided to follow them in.

Kevin stood inside the metal car, waiting beside a pedestal where the control panel was. At the front and back of the car was a row of cushioned seats. Rachel, Blane and his Piplup sat at the front of the car while Jeff and his pokemon sat at the back. Blitz waited outside the car.

“What are you thinking of doing, Kevin?” Jeff asked nervously.

Kevin grinned. “The cable car is operated from within in the car itself by an operator who works the controls. I used to go on the cable car with my mom a lot as a kid, so I’m pretty sure I know how it works,” he explained, looking at the panel which had four buttons on it, two in the shape of arrows.

Rachel and Blane’s eyes widened. “No way! You’re not serious!” Rachel protested frantically.

Jeff stood up and stepped towards Kevin, hoping to stop him before things got out of hand. “Kevin, don’t you even think about i--”

“Blitz, you follow us from beside. Allons-y!”

Kevin slammed his index finger onto one of the arrows and the car started moving... The cabin jerked backwards into the terminal, colliding with the bullwheel. Kevin held onto the panel for support and Rachel and Blane were sent sprawling to the floor. Jeff let out a cry as he fell back on Corphish, pinning the poor crustacean against the seat.

“<Maybe I’ll be reincarnated as a pokemon who can have an actually dignified death,>” Corphish wheezed as Jeff’s body pressed against him.

“...Wrong button,” Kevin sheepishly explained after hitting the stop button. Blitz slapped the side of his scythe to his forehead and shook his head in exasperation at the bungle. Everyone on board shot Kevin a dirty glare as they composed themselves, getting back into their proper seats.

Corphish brushed himself and backed over to the corner where Treecko sat. “<We’re going to die, aren’t we?>”

“That’s very likely,” Jeff responded as Kevin slowly pressed the opposite arrow, causing the car to gently leave the station. Upon the cable car fully leaving the vacant terminal, Blitz flew out and followed beside them.

Jeff gazed out at their Scyther escort nervously. He knew that Kevin was friends with him, but he just couldn’t bring himself to trust him. The teen subconsciously ran his fingers across the scar on his bicep. It was moments later that Jeff felt a tugging on his shirt. He looked down and saw Corphish looking up at him.

“<Hey, Jeff? Can you release Dae and Drez?>” he asked. “<Treeck isn’t exactly a great conversationalist.>”

Jeff paused and looked at the others. “I dunno... Would that be too much weight?” he asked warily.

“<Jeez, Jeff. If you don’t want to let them out you can just say so; you don’t have to call them fat,>” Corphish said, attempting to fold his pincers.

Kevin and Blane tittered and Rachel realized she must have missed another one of Corphish’s jokes. Jeff sighed and took out two pokeballs from his pocket. “Fine, but if the cord snaps, I’m using you for a cushion, Corphish.”

“<Go right ahead,>” Corphish responded, brandishing the three orange spikes on his head.

“Everybody – Kevin, especially – shield your eyes. I don’t want anybody pressing the wrong button,” Jeff said before releasing his two companions near the center of the car.

From amidst the light materialized a Taillow and Beedrill, who were observing their surroundings in utter confusion.

“<Excuse me... Where are we?>” Drezdk asked, prompted to press his fore stinger against the cabin’s glass in order to balance himself. “<And why do I feel so unbalanced?>”

“We’re in a cable car,” Blane replied. “It’s a human-made thing that carries things to high up places. In this case, Mount Chimney.”

Daedalus scoffed. “<If your kind needs a machine to scale mountains then you shouldn’t be scaling mountains. I don’t see why humans always have the need to overcompensate for their shortcomings by expanding their influences everywhere. Why can’t they just be happy with what they have like the rest of us are?>”

Corphish frowned and stared at him. “<...Mister Grumpyfeathers.>”

“<He does have a bit of a point,>” Drezdk said, looking out the window. “<I don’t mean any offense by that, but this doesn’t seem natural. I’m not sure a Beedrill has ever been so high off the ground before...>”

“Hey, it gets us to the top of the mountain, doesn’t it?” Kevin asked rhetorically. “While we’re up there we can check out whether that Team Magma hat has anything to do with Mount Chimney or not.”

“<Yeah, I’m sure the hat was the mastermind behind the whole thing,>” Corphish replied sarcastically.

“You know what I mean,” Kevin answered, for once not breaking a grin at one of Corphish’s jokes.

The water type raised his claws in a partial shrug and looked around. He took to climbing onto Jeff’s lap and gazing out the window. Upon seeing Blitz flying beside the car at a relaxed pace, he waved. The Scyther gave a slight, uncomfortable nod, looked forward and hastened his wing beats.

“<Hmm... He seems awfully suspicious out there...>” Corphish mused, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

“Who? Blitz?” Kevin asked, casting a look his way.

Corphish nodded. “<Our lives are basically in his scythes... his razor sharp scythes.>”

“Corphish...” Jeff warned, shifting away from the window nervously.

“<Like a Scytherian Grim Reaper...>” Corphish whispered. “<All he has to do is cut that cable and we all go splat! Maybe he has unfinished business... in Jeff!>” The water type turned and pointed his pincer dramatically at his trainer.

By this point, Jeff was more nervous than a Steelix in the middle of the ocean with a child’s life preserver. He recoiled in terror, partially to avoid getting cuffed in the face by Corphish’s large claw. “What?!”

Corphish lunged up onto Jeff’s chest, clutching his shirt with his pincers and glaring into his eyes. “<You! He couldn’t kill you last time, so now he wants to finish the job! With him out there and us in here, now’s his chance! All he has to do is->” Corphish snapped one of his claws shut in front of Jeff’s face, imitating the cutting of a wire, causing the human to jump. “<And then KABLOOEY!>”

“...Why would the cable car explode, Corphish?” Blane asked, raising an eyebrow.

Corphish gave him a dry stare. “<...Uhh, we’re right next to a volcano? I thought you trainers were supposed to be smart.>”

“There’s ‘Corphish smart’ and then there’s ‘everybody else smart’,” Jeff deadpanned, trying to cover up the fact that his legs were trembling.

“<Why, thank you, Jeff!>” Corphish replied happily, hopping down beside Daedalus and Drezdk.

“<That was mean, you know,>” Daedalus whispered, gesturing to the inwardly terrified Jeff.

Corphish giggled. “<I have to entertain myself somehow. Did I have you guys going?>”

Drezdk looked at him and mused. “<Oh boy. Another pokemon with Talvoc’s sense of humour. What have I gotten myself into?>” he pondered. However, as Drezdk thought about his fallen friend, his face began to soften and he felt the need to retreat. The Beedrill backed away from Daedalus and Corphish, hopped up onto the soft bench and sat clumsily next to Jeff.

Jeff, who was beginning to compose himself, looked down at Drezdk and offered a smile. “Err, hey. ...Sorry I didn’t let you out earlier. How are you feeling?”

“<Think nothing of it,>” Drezdk politely replied. “<And I’m feeling much better...>”

“<Physically,>” he mentally added.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Jeff said, seeming to have forgotten about Blitz for the time being.

As they began talking, Daedalus hopped up onto the windowsill, which was small enough to make him struggle to get a comfortable footing. From that vantage point, he looked out and observed the steep cliffy terrain below. He turned his head to the right and saw a patch of forest between the bottom of the lowest plateau and the desert to the east.

He pressed his forehead against the glass and stared out at it. It wasn’t until he turned his head did he notice that Treecko was examining the same stretch of forest. Treecko momentarily glanced over at him before looking back out the rear window.

“<...What?>” Daedalus asked him accusingly.

“<Nothing,>” Treecko responded coolly, not taking his eyes off the emerald leaves far below them.

The Taillow’s brow furrowed for a moment, but then he relaxed and gazed at the same place. “<Yeah, you caught me... I’m a little homesick,>” he murmured.

“<Jeff said you could leave whenever you want,>” Treecko reminded him.

“<I know...>” Daedalus spoke, closing his eyes. “<But I’m not going to. I don’t want to go back.>”

“<You don’t? But you’re so happy to be with us...>” Treecko replied snarkily.

Daedalus sighed. “<I know I’m not thrilled about Jeff’s whole badge quest, but... I have my reasons for not wanting to go back.>”

“<You? The great leader?>” Treecko asked. “<I thought you’d jump at the chance to go back and lead your Taillows.>”

The Taillow grimaced and placed his head against the window. “<Well...>” He turned and looked back at Treecko, hoping to change the subject. “<I can tell I’m not the only one who’s homesick.>”

Treecko momentarily narrowed his eyes, but soon went back to appearing calm and collected. “<Think what you want...>”

Daedalus did a 180 jump on the windowsill and faced Treecko, who glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “<You can’t fool me, Treecko... I was there when Daggerback caught you. I saw the look on your face when you were tending to that tree. You really care about it, don’t you?>” Daedalus asked, knowing that he was right.

Treecko balled up his fist and glared at Daedalus, refusing to show any sort of weakness to him. The Taillow stared right back at him before breaking a mild grin. “<It’s okay to care about it, you know...>”

Treecko looked away, gazing back out the window while chewing on his twig. “<We’re here,>” he spoke just seconds before a large shadow overtook the car.

Blane, Rachel and Kevin all turned around as the cable car pulled into a nearly identical terminal at the top of Mount Chimney. Jeff turned around and lunged out of his seat upon seeing that Blitz was on the other side of the window. The Scyther was directly behind him, following the car into the terminal.

“Annnd stop!” Kevin decreed. He punched the button with his finger, bringing the car to a rocky stop in the terminal.

Drezdk held onto Jeff for support, unaccustomed to the sudden shift in weight. Upon collecting himself he looked out the rear window, down the face of the dormant volcano. “<Strange... We came all that way without even beating a wing.>”

“Yeah! Great, huh?” Kevin said, placing his hands on his hips and traipsing towards the door.

Upon opening it, Kevin found Blitz standing in front of him. “<Kevin,>” the mantis pokemon said, speaking with a hint of urgency in his voice. “<I heard humans up here...>”

Kevin’s face immediately grew serious and he turned to the others. “Be on your guard, everyone...”

“Team Magma?” Jeff questioned, following the others off the cable car and into the empty terminal.

“That’s my guess,” agreed Rachel, drawing Strix and Avis’ pokeballs just in case.

“<Who?>” Drezdk asked Jeff with worry. “<I...I won’t have to kill anybody, right Jeff?>”

Jeff looked down at the Beedrill reassuringly. “Of course not. I’d never ask you to do something like that. And I only want you to battle if you want to, okay?” he explained, placing his hand on Drezdk’s back.

Drezdk nodded slowly. “<...Thank you.>”

Blitz and Kevin hopped over the ticket gate and slinked over to the wall on each side of the door. The Scyther poked his head out and looked around. Outside the terminal was rock, rock and more rock. The ground was craggy and either red or black, depending on the part of the summit. Directly across from them, they could see the tips of trees which gradually grew shorter the further away they were. On the distance they could see far off forests due to the sheer height of Mount Chimney. The intense smell of sulphur entered the Scyther’s nostrils and caused him to cringe.

“See anything, Blitz?” Kevin asked.

“<No... I see no humans,>” he replied, still scanning the area. The Scyther’s hazel eyes lit up upon finding something else. “<Kevin, are those our Onix?>” He pointed with his scythe to two grey stalagmites that stood out against the other rocks, sticking up from behind the crest of the southern peak of the mountain.

“Team Magma must be behind the terminal, closer to the center of the volcano,” Rachel said. “If Blitz was right about hearing human voices, that is.”

“Don’t get him angry,” Jeff whispered, keeping a safe distance away from the insect pokemon.

“<Closer to the center of the volcano?>” Corphish asked nervously. “<Arceus help us all...>” The water type’s eyes widened and he cupped his pincers over his mouth. “<I take it back! I didn’t say that! People who say that are always the first to die in disaster movies!>”

Blane folded his arms and thought. “But if Team Magma is out there, how do we let Atlas and Prometheus know that we’re here without those guys seeing or hearing us? We don’t know if they’re a hundred feet away or ten.”

“Maybe we could throw something at them,” Jeff suggested. He reached into his bag and pulled out a fruit. “How about this?” He brandished the lemon in front of him.

Kevin’s eyes widened and he swung around to defiantly face his friend. “Jeff! You can’t throw that lemon! It’s an excellent source of vitamins!” He turned to the Scyther next to him. “Blitz, help him put it away.”

“Okay! No lemon!” Jeff hastily said, throwing the fruit back in his backpack before the Scyther could get close to him. “So what’s your bright idea? We can’t just walk out there. We could be outnumbered for all we know and, like you said, these guys have extremist attitudes.”

“I know...” Kevin said icily. “They might have guns, too.”

“Guns?” Jeff asked aloud, perplexed. “What are you talking about, Kevin? The Hoenn National Gun Ban was ten years ago. All of the guns have been confiscated and their metals melted down and remade for other things. They don’t even make bullets anymore.”

“Yeah?” Kevin responded sharply. “Then how come Blitz was shot by a farmer a month ago?”

“He what?” Jeff asked, surprised.

“<I was forced to steal some of his crops for sustenance,>” Blitz answered.

Kevin’s eye twitched. “...Not the point I was trying to make, genius,” he said. “There are still old models in circulation. Sure they might not make guns anymore, but they’re not completely gone either.”

Jeff still wasn’t convinced. “Just because some guy on some rural route that they overlooked has one--”

“Look, I’m sure, okay?” Kevin interrupted with certainty in his voice. “...It’s possible.”

“That’s all great,” Blane said while placing his Piplup on his shoulder. “But we still have the problem of contacting Atlas and Prometheus.”

Jeff spoke up. “How about the--”

“Don’t say ‘lemon’!” Kevin growled.

“<I’ll do it,>” a calm yet determined voice said from behind them. The group turned and saw Treecko stepping towards the door.

“Treecko?” Jeff asked, a little surprised. “How?”

“<I’ll use Bullet Seed,>” he responded, narrowing his eyes.

Jeff and several others looked sceptical. The teen rubbed the back of his neck. “Uhh, are you sure, Treeck?”

Treecko internally bristled at Jeff’s lack of confidence in him. “<Yeah,>” he responded firmly.

The wood gecko pokemon stepped into the doorway and took aim at one of the two stone horns. He raised his tail and gripped the ground with his feet for balance. Treecko then opened his mouth and inhaled. The energy was building inside his chest. He could feel it.

When he was satisfied with his stance, he relaxed his hands. Treecko then let loose the attack, feeling the energy rush through from his chest. “Treeeeee ck--”

Nothing happened.

The humans and pokemon surrounding Treecko remained completely silent and shifted uncomfortably. The wood gecko pokemon grimaced for a split second but attempted to show himself as composed and aloof. He closed his eyes and relaxed his body, despite how frustrated he really was.

Treecko centered his focus to the energy inside him once again. He was not about to give up. Oxygen seeped into his lungs from the breath he took and Treecko waited until he felt the energy within him make its way to his throat.

“<I just have to focus on spitting them now. Just like I practiced,>” he thought.

“Treeeeeeee,” he spoke, building up the energy and rearing his head back. “...Cko cko cko cko cko cko!”

A salvo of eight glowing energy seeds burst from his throat and ripped through the air over the stretch of rocky terrain. Three of the eight hit their target: the horn on the right that was poking up from behind the peak. A deep rumbling voice began to roar, but it was suddenly muffled. The horn on the left rose up and the tip of an Onix’s head emerged, followed by a pair of grey eyes.

Jeff could immediately recognize him as Atlas from the large scar running across his face. Prometheus angrily raised his head too, though his mouth was covered by the end of Atlas’ tail. Jeff and Kevin both hailed them by waving their hands. Atlas’s face lit up upon seeing them. The two Onixes both looked at each other and nodded. They both emerged over the small cliff and crawled towards the terminal as slowly and quietly as they could.

Treecko, who seemed relatively content that he pulled off that second Bullet Seed, walked past the others and leaned against the ticket gate. He was still troubled, though, about the idea that he still didn't have complete control over it. He knew he had to try harder.

The group watched as the two began to slither stealthily in their direction. As they did, Rachel turned to Blane. “What’s this about a gun ban?” she asked.

“Oh yeah,” Blane replied. “Johto’s gun ban was put into effect before you were born, so you probably take it for a given. Johto, Unova, Hoenn and Sinnoh all passed legislation involving a gun ban. Many people were using guns for hunting pokemon, and that caused many wild pokemon to react violently to humans, so as a show of good will towards pokemon, mostly everybody agreed to the ban. Not only did pokemon deaths decrease, but so did human deaths, so it worked out well for everybody except the gun corporations. And since humans and pokemon join the military together now, guns are pretty much obsolete anyways since we have pokemon on our side. Of course the pokemon have to give their permission to enlist with their trainer or else the trainer can’t use them. It sorta makes sense since if that wasn’t a rule, pokemon would just be tools and that wouldn’t be right. It’s not like there’s been a war for many centuries anyways though, so all the guns being produced were just wasted money. Heck, most people and pokemon assigned to the military these days are assigned to police work and the occasional disaster zone.”

“I see,” Rachel replied, taking in the information. “What about Kanto?”

“Johto applied some pressure to them, so they’re coming around, actually. I read in the news they’re having a meeting about it later this week. If you ask me, they’ll be gun free by the end of the month,” Blane responded.

Drezdk looked to Daedalus and Corphish. “<What is a gun?>”

“<Something bad,>” the Taillow answered.

“<Something awesome,>” Corphish retaliated, huffily. He looked between Drezdk and Daedalus. “<Have you not seen Die Hard, the best action movie in the history of the world? It stars Bruce, a Machoke? Subtitled? Ringing any bells?>”

Drezdk and Daedalus both reacted to Corphish’s enthusiasm with blank stares. Corphish huffed and turned around. “<It looks like we’ll have to have a movie night sometime!>”

Drezdk leaned over to the Taillow and whispered by cupping his mouth with his forestinger. “<Is he... okay?>” he asked, gesturing to Corphish with a nod of his head.

Daedalus raised his wing and cupped his wing to his mouth as well. “<Quite the opposite...>”

Atlas and Prometheus finally made it over to the terminal without being noticed and coiled themselves so that they would remain relatively hidden behind the small building.

“<It took you all long enough,>” Prometheus said in a hushed voice.

“Nice to see you too, Pro,” Kevin responded.

“<We’re, uhh, glad you all came,>” Atlas said, casting a glance to Jeff before awkwardly looking away.

“Yeah, what’s going on?” Jeff asked.

“<There’s a bunch of humans in red over near the center of the volcano,>” Prometheus responded. “<Atlas wasn’t sure if we should show ourselves to them, so we stayed hidden.>”

Atlas rolled his eyes. “<That was you, Prometheus.>”

“<Ridiculous,>” the blue-eyed Onix insisted.

Kevin turned to the others, actually passing up an opportunity to rib Prometheus. “Team Magma. I knew it,” he said fierily.

“How many were there?” Blane asked.

“<Nine,>” Prometheus replied. “<Eight of them looked alike but one of them had a different looking head and was much cleaner. Could he be the evolved form of the others?>”

“<I told you this already, Prometheus,>” Atlas said. “<Humans don’t evolve. They’re like the Sableyes and Mawiles in Granite Cave before Cronus threw them out,>” he added bitterly.

“<Right...>” Prometheus muttered. He turned to the others who were still standing inside the terminal. “<One other thing... When we first came up here, I heard one of them mention Lord Groudon’s name. Why would he do that?>”

“Groudon?” Jeff asked. “I dunno... More importantly, why are they even up here at all?”

“Yeah,” Rachel concurred. “Near the mouth of a volcano seems like a strange place for a team meeting.”

The group thought about it for a few moments. It was then that Kevin’s eyes widened in horror. “I think I know what they’re doing...” he whispered, anger and fear in his voice.

“<What is it, Kevin?>” Blitz asked, concerned by Kevin’s emotions.

“What’s Team Magma’s goal?” he asked coldly.

“To expand the world’s landmass,” Jeff responded. After a moment, he inhaled sharply. Several others also cued in at more or less the same time. “You don’t mean...?”

Kevin nodded grimly. “They want Mount Chimney to erupt...”

“<I knew it! I knew it! It’s going to erupt! I told you all! We’re going to die!>” Corphish exploded in a nearly hysterical panic. “<Whoever makes it out of here alive, tell Peeko I like her!>”

“S-Settle down, Corphish,” Jeff said, nervousness in his voice as well. “We don’t know this for sure yet.”

“Are you willing to take that chance?” Kevin retorted.

“No... but what are we supposed to do? We can’t just attack them!>” Jeff said.

“And why not? They’re Team Magma,” the blonde teen coldly said.

“They outnumber us nine to four,” was Jeff’s response.

“What about our pokemon?” Kevin rationalized.

“What about theirs?” the dark haired teen retorted. “And I’m not about to send my pokemon to fight beside the mouth of a volcano, dormant or not.”

Daedalus looked at Jeff with surprise. A flicker of respect could be seen behind the Taillow’s dark eyes, but he grimaced and averted his gaze.

“<Let’s do this...>” he suggested, speaking up and drawing everybody’s attention. “<We’ll confront them peacefully and use fighting as a last resort. We’ll find out their true intentions and stop them if need be. Here’s the plan... Jeff and Kevin will go over there on Atlas and Prometheus’ backs. Even if they do have guns and they do use them, they’ll do next to nothing to the hide of an Onix. Treecko and Blitz will go with them to compensate for Atlas and Prometheus’ slow manoeuvrability. Everybody else will stay back here and watch. You four, try to avoid a fight if you can, but if you do get in trouble, we’ll be able to sweep around and attack them when they’re not expecting it.>”

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Blane spoke.

“Is that okay with everybody?” Jeff asked, looking at the others. The response was nods all around.

With that, Jeff nervously climbed on Atlas’s back, followed by Treecko. Prometheus gave Atlas a slight nod before looking forward. He felt Kevin crawl onto him. Blitz flew up and landed on Prometheus in a kneeling position.

“<Let’s... go, I suppose,>” Prometheus said, uncoiling himself and beginning to slither out into the open.

Atlas grimaced and looked back at his human companion with guilt. “<Jeff... I just wanted to say...>” he began.

“We’ll talk later, Atlas, okay?” he replied, offering a small smile afterwards.

Atlas sighed and nodded, following Prometheus. He moved out from behind the terminal. Jeff could finally see the rest of Mount Chimney’s peak. The summit was more or less completely flat with the exception of several crags and outcroppings jutting out of the rocky terrain.

“<I’ve never seen rocks quite like this,>” Prometheus whispered to Atlas as they slithered across them.

They looked forward and saw a massive sinkhole in the center of the plateau. It was there that the waves of heat rose from. Kevin tightened his grip on Prometheus’ back as they saw several humans facing towards the fissure. The eight nearly identical humans were garbed in the same uniform: black pants and red hooded sweaters that cut off at the biceps in a jagged pattern. The uniforms donned a large black ‘M’ printed on the front in the style of mountains: Team Magma’s logo.

The ninth man there stood apart from the others. The first thing that one would notice about him was his neatly-styled, swept-back, red hair that parted in different directions at the nape of his neck. He wore a pristine pair of black pants and a primarily red topcoat with black lining. The coat was strange in that the top right corner of the coat was black and on the breast of it was a red Team Magma emblem. Even at a distance, the group could tell that he held himself with an air of confidence.

“You think he’s the boss?” Jeff asked Kevin.

“I think. He’s dressed the least ridiculously,” the blonde teen responded.

One of the Team Magma members scratched the back of his neck and momentarily turned his head to the side. Something in the corner of his eye caught his attention and he decided to turn towards it. A pair of Onix were slithering towards him and he recoiled in wide-eyed horror.

“AH! Where the hell did those Onix come from?!” he shouted, backing up into another member. The other seven grunts turned around and the suspected leader of the group looked towards them with an arched eyebrow.

“The heck?!” another Team Magma member exclaimed. “Are they wild? I didn’t think they lived around these parts!”

“<I think they finally noticed us,>” Prometheus muttered warily.

“They’re not wild; there’s humans and pokemon riding on them!” a Team Magma member replied.

“Should we take ‘em down, Sir?” another one called out.

“No,” the leader spoke calmly, raising his hand to relax his subordinates. “At least... not yet.”

He ran his fingers through his red hair and walked away from the volcano’s mouth, passing by the other members of Team Magma. He stepped out in front of them as Atlas and Prometheus grew near, folding his arms confidently.

Treecko climbed up onto Atlas’ head, preparing to jump off should the need arise. Blitz was also ready to act at a moment’s notice. Kevin hopped off and walked forward, stepping in front of Atlas and Prometheus, causing them both to stop.

“Team Magma!” Kevin shouted over to them.

The leader smirked and nodded. “Very astute. You’re well versed in current affairs, I see.”

“You’re not hard to recognize when you all wear such ridiculous uniforms,” Kevin replied in a mixture of taunting and anger.

“You brat!” one of the members shouted. “My mom made me this hat!”

The red-haired man raised a hand to silence him. He observed Kevin carefully. “...Why do you seem familiar?”

Blitz walked up beside Kevin protectively. “Beats me. You’re Maxie, right?” the teen asked.

Jeff walked over to Kevin and Blitz as well. “Don’t antagonize them, Kevin. We just want to find out what’s going on,” he whispered.

“Correct,” Maxie responded. “As I’m sure you know, I’m the leader of Team Magma. Who might you be and what are you doing here?”

“I’m Jeff and this is Kevin,” Jeff explained, attempting to be more diplomatic. “We’re trainers and--”

“’Kevin’...” the leader of Team Magma mused with a certain familiarity to his voice. “What’s your last name?”

“More importantly, what are you guys doing here?” Kevin demanded, dismissing the question.

Maxie chuckled while reaching into his topcoat pocket and clutching something. “What we’re doing is of the utmost importance,” he replied confidently. “Along with our pokemon, we, Team Magma, are ushering Hoenn into a reformation.”

“You nutjobs are trying to drain the oceans!” Kevin shot back.

Maxie nodded. “That’s right, Kevin. With more land to live on, Hoenn would prosper. The blooming flora, the diverse pokemon... We would be able to build cities anew without impeding on pokemons’ territory.”

“Yeah, that’s great,” Kevin muttered dismissively. “I don’t care about your grand scheme right now. What are you doing here?”

“You’re the impatient one,” the Team Magma leader spoke, drawing something from his coat. Clutched is his palm was a nearly-purple stone that he brandished in front of him. The rock had an unnatural sparkle to it.

“What’s that?” Jeff asked.

Maxie grinned with a smug expression on his face. “This... this is the key to Hoenn’s golden age. This will unlock the glorious future.”

“It’s a rock...” Kevin deadpanned.

“Even something as small as a rock has the potential to do something monumental,” Maxie responded. “This rock in particular is from outer space. Just by looking at it you can tell that it possesses an otherworldly quality.”

“What’s that for?” Jeff questioned.

Maxie chuckled to himself. “With this meteorite, everything will change...” He looked at the trainers and their pokemon. “This has the ability to drain Mount Chimney and call upon the power within its core.”

His sly smile widened. “Team Magma will awaken Groudon: god of the earth and the messenger of Team Magma’s ideals...”


Author's Notes: I'm quoting my friend when I say "Kevin + Lemon = OTP" =P

Read, review and hope you enjoyed it.
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