“Breath Apollo, don’t let the altitude get to you. Just focus on staying level headed and let me know if you begin to feel dizzy,” Glacia shouted out over the sound of rushing air. The Charizard they were now riding on the back of was flying at incredible speeds with equally remarkable elevation. They were amongst the clouds, hardly noticeable by any on the ground who might have happened to look up. The Gabite was having a hard time adjusting to flight, this being his first time. He gasped for air sporadically and had made claims of fatigue and nausea.
“I’m trying my best!” He shouted back at her, his voice sounding weak and throaty. “Where are we going anyway? Can’t we tell him to slow down?” Glacia simply shook her head no, the Charizard let out a rumbling belly laugh at the Gabite’s complaints.
“Thiz iz your firzt time flying, izn’t it?” The Charizard asked as if to confirm his suspicions. “It’z not zo bad onze you get the hang of it.” He continued, his heavily accented voice straining to be heard over the wind tunnel effect. His voice was primarily one of the reasons he wasn’t a really big talker, it took Glacia many weeks before she even knew he could speak, several more after that just to learn his name. Vlad was a most excellent attendant however and Glacia made sure to use him as a primary means of transportation whenever necessary. Always dependable and good in a bind. Not much for mental stimulation however.
“We’re headed back to base,” Glacia finally answered Apollo. “I’m not one for wasting time and neither is Vlad here.” She pointed with her tail down at the hulk of a Charizard they were riding like a magic carpet. “Not to worry, we should be arriving shortly. In fact, if you keep your eyes due east, we should be coming up on it any second.
Apollo shifted his position precariously as Vlad pitched his angle slightly. A few more mighty flaps of his wings and Apollo could see that Glacia had not lied about arriving shortly. A bustling, yet well hidden compound of Pokemon laid bare in front of his eyes. At their current speed, they would be arriving in less than a minute. “I see it!” He shouted out with more excitement than he probably intended, his eyes cast downwards quickly at his momentary burst of childlike enthusiasm.
Like a bird of prey going in for the kill, Vlad swooped towards the ground. His passengers gripped tightly so as not to be betrayed by the laws of physics. Vlad’s wings kicked up tremendous amounts of dust and particulate as he hovered in place like a helicopter and slowly placed his feet on the ground like landing gear. The landing was a lot more graceful now that he had passengers on board. The camp scattered at Vlad’s arrival, making sure to escape his wingspan. Wasting no time, Glacia quickly departed with a word of thanks and made her way to a central tent, Apollo rushing to catch up.
The pokemon of the camp stared appraisingly at the new arrival. Apollo was new and definitely stuck out. His eyes, wide with wonder, gave him away in an instant. He had never seen a gathering of such pokemon before and now he was going to be helping them.
“You have time to look around later,” Glacia beckoned him onward, her pace easily besting his. “I want to get you started on something right away and its best not to dilly or dally.” She turned into the tent, its flap closing behind her quickly and betraying none of its inner contents. Apollo pressed his arm against it and slowly pushed his way inside. All he could see were subdivided little tents, each one separated from the rest. The contents of each little subsection proved unknown to him. His steps slowed as he approached the one Glacia had ducked inside, she kept proving ever harder to keep up with. There was another dividing screen in between them and whatever lay in the middle of this particular subsection.
“I’m going to have to ask you to remain calm at what I’m about to show you,” Glacia stared him down, her voice deadly serious with no sense of amusement. Apollo nodded cautiously, he didn’t quite know if he liked the sound of that or where this was headed. “Whatever you do, you mustn't startle the others in the nearby sections.” She tacked on before making her way past the final barrier.
“Others?” Apollo whispered under his breath, but Glacia had already disappeared. He swallowed hard as he followed her once more, this time a bright light hit him as he reemerged. It wasn’t sunlight; more artificial, like something the humans use. A large fixture hung in the center, its horrific rays beaming down onto the figure beneath it. Apollo could hardly compute what he was seeing. A teenage human, no older than nineteen if he had to guess, was restrained to a chair his arms fastened by makeshift rope. His eyes were averted from his new visitors, pointed down at the ground, almost lost and forlorn. Glacia approached the human and slapped him firmly, but not harmfully, with her tail.
“How is our most senior visitor today?” She asked him, her head rested on his lap as if in a taunt. “Ready to release those pokemon you have so immorally captured?”
“Go to hell!” The boy shouted at her, his voice was raspy and withered. He clenched his hands into fists as he glared at her and tried to break loose from his binds.
“Ah, you are a feisty one.” Glacia curled her tail around a glass of water resting on a nearby table and brought it to the boys chapped lips. He guzzled it without shame and swallowed hard. “Now, we’ve been over this boy. I’d be more than happy to let you go, but first, you must release any pokemon you have in your possession. This entire little getup here, it designed to make you see what your pokemon go through inside those insidious little pokeballs.” She moved back from the boy and coiled up tightly as she stared him down. “Like you, your pokemon can’t move, they are completely in the hands of another, they have no control over their situation and they lack even basic civil liberties. Now tell me, does that sound fair?”
“I won’t listen to you! My pokemon love me!” The boy began to cry profusely.
“Do they? Have they told you that? Oh that’s right, they can’t talk now!” She practically spat at the boy, her disgust bubbling to the surface. “I’ll be back to check on you in a few days. I would be very disappointed if we didn’t see eye to eye on this when I do.” Leaving the boy where he was, she pushed her way past the dazed and flabbergasted Gabite and made her way back outside and into the real light. Apollo came running after and almost ran into her in his rush.
W-what was that?!” He cried out, his shock wholly evident.
“That is our youth retraining program. You see, we could have easily killed the boy and freed his pokemon. However, this is a way to make them see the pain they have caused all of us. Make them see what it’s like to be slaves and unable to do what you want when under someone else’s thumb. In time, they see the error of their ways and release their pokemon under their own will. We let them go and their pokemon typically join our ranks as free individuals.” She cleared her throat and looked up at Apollo with a satisfied look in her eyes. “A win-win, if you will.”
“This is madness! We can’t just go around abducting humans!”
“Why can’t we?!” She snapped at him, fire raging in her eyes. “Isn’t that what they do to us?! Don’t they take us away from our families? At least at the end of it all, we let them go! We aren’t going to make them battle to the point of unconsciousness and then heal them only to rinse and repeat! I dare say we have more humanity than even humans themselves!”
Apollo couldn’t believe it, but he was being persuaded by her that abduction was just and right. What was even harder to believe, was that the more he thought about it, the more right she seemed. At least they let humans go when they’re done. Humans typically never release their pokemon. “I, I understand,” he couldn’t believe himself finally saying.
“Good, then I have an assignment for you. We need more humans for the program and we have plenty running around here picking up people. I want you to go with Vlad and head to North America. We have the beginnings of a reaping going on there and need more help. I’ll wait here for your return.” Glacia turned to depart from him, she was never one to linger or mince words.
“W-wait!” He shouted after her, arms in the air as if flagging down a ride. “One more question... Do the humans always give up their pokemon after spending time in this program?”
Glacia turned to look at him once again, her eyes steely and focused. “Always.”