*aromatisse noise*

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Posted 3 Weeks Ago
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13.1 Years
Chapter 17 – The Future

Syr awoke to nearly featureless, uniformly gray surroundings. The walls had a faintly metallic property to them, and the floor beneath his face was fairly soft and slightly rubbery.

His mind, upon catching up with his last waking moments, provided a picture of dozens of humanoid, oppressively psychic beings dotting walls like these, and he startled awake with a yelp.

Instinctively coiling, Syr looked around. The room was much smaller than the one he’d remembered; it couldn’t have held even a quarter of the creatures he’d seen before being knocked out. At the moment, it appeared to hold no one at all other than himself.

No longer being surrounded by psychics was a relief, however distant. But he couldn’t trust that none of them were watching him remotely. Overhead, there was something small and round that emitted light. For all he knew, they could see him through it, or sense him in some stranger way.

More troubling still, none of his allies were present. These creatures had managed to pry him away from the others despite Karo’s force field surrounding them—they’d slipped right under it, he recalled. Slipped right under and taken its maker. He hadn’t been able to stop them. Neither had the kwazai.

Maybe the others were being held alone, same as he was. Or maybe their captors had decided that the other pokémon, at least, were too dangerous to leave alive.

The tightness left his coils as a feeling of defeat spread throughout him like cold water. He could scream. He could thrash. He could fight… but what was that going to accomplish against an enemy that outnumbered him many times over?

There was a noise at his side, faint but undeniable. Motion and light followed. All his tension returned at once, and he swung about in an instant, hood flared and fangs forward, to face—

Jen?” The initial shock at the sight of the cryonide in the arched doorway faded quickly, replaced by dawning horror: They got him, too. “Oh, God… how?” Tears brimmed in his eyes as he moved toward his son. “How did they find you?”

“It was the tube,” Jen said. “The one downstairs. It brought me and Babs up here.”

Syr’s brow furrowed as he absorbed that. It sounded as though that tube was, in fact, some sort of transporter. Something meant to bring Ren here. He’d escaped somehow… only for the psychics to find him anyway.

“Are you feeling okay?” Jen asked him. “They said they helped you recover, but…” He shook his head. “When I saw you out there, I was really scared that… that that was it. That I wouldn’t even get to say goodbye…”

Nothing hurt at the moment. Syr didn’t feel sick in the least. The deranics’ darts were no longer stuck in his skin. “I’m fine,” he said, wishing he sounded the part, for Jen’s sake. “But… what do you mean, ‘out there’? Where was I? Where were you?”

“You were outside this ship.” Jen waved a hand, indicating some unseen point beyond the far wall. “Out in space. You were on the other ship, and when these guys destroyed it, you guys came flying from the wreckage.”

For a moment, Syr just gawked at him. “That… is a lot to take in,” he admitted. “Ships? We’re on a ship?” he asked, at which Jen nodded. “And this isn’t the one we were on…” He looked up, scanning the ceiling, his gaze encompassing the unseen masters of the vessel he apparently occupied. “These people rescued us?”

“Yeah,” Jen said. “I think Ren might know more about the whole situation,” he added. “He can actually understand the deoxys.”

Syr blinked in surprise. “…Huh,” he said. Someone whom humans could understand, but pokémon couldn’t. He’d never met anyone like that before—except he had, he recalled. The creatures who’d surrounded him before he’d awoken here. Ren had spoken as though he understood them, when all Syr had heard from the beings was noise.

Unintelligible beings, aboard a ship whose interior was similar to this one’s. Both deoxys ships, he supposed. A new thread of worry uncurled within him: had he, along with his friends and family, gotten caught up in the middle of some sort of deoxys war?

He shuddered. “Yeah, I think I need to go talk to Ren about all this. I’m still not entirely convinced we’re safe here.”

“I wasn’t either, at first,” Jen said. “But these are the good guys.”

I hope you’re right, Syr thought, partly for his own sake but mostly for Jen’s. God knew he’d never wanted him to get wrapped up in all this. Jen was supposed to be waiting back at home, waiting for his father to return…

…Or not. Maybe now, at least, Jen would no longer have to wonder if Syr would make it back alive.

Maybe. Hopefully.

“Come on,” Jen said, backing up further into the hallway outside the room. “His room’s this way.”

Out of the room, into a corridor that appeared to be made of the exact same material. Jen moved with apparent confidence through the ship, which made Syr wonder just how long the cryonide had been here. When had he and Babs gotten that tube working?

For that matter, “How long was I unconscious?”

“I don’t know,” Jen said. “Not exactly, anyway. But not too long. Maybe a couple of hours. The deoxys work pretty fast, huh?”

One of said creatures breezed by as they hung a right. Syr felt a chill run down his back. “…I guess so,” he said.

Jen stopped at a blank, gray wall, no different from any of the others Syr had seen. The cryonide prodded it a couple of times in succession, and an entrance to a large room opened to them, the doorway’s edges rippling in a disconcertingly organic manner.

There was Ren, reclining on a long platform that was nothing more than a raised section of the floor extending from the far wall. His pokémon flanked the makeshift bed: the twins to one side, Karo and Babs to another.

“Hey, look who finally decided to come join us!” Karo said.

“Yeah,” Syr said automatically as he and Jen entered the room. He took in his new surroundings more thoroughly, seeing a group of people who all looked at least a little tired but apparently unharmed. The latter certainly hadn’t been the case when he’d last seen most of them. Both kwazai stood tall again, with not a single dart on their persons. No blood. No sweat. No filth.

Almost no filth. Ren had shed his shirt and hoodie, as well as his shoes and socks, but he was still wearing the same pants he’d worn all this time, and they most definitely needed a wash.

Deciding it was neither polite nor a priority to bring that up, “I’m glad everyone’s okay,” Syr said instead.

Ren averted his gaze. Demi growled faintly to herself.

“What? Who’s…” Syr began. But then he realized who was missing. “Those deranics,” he said. “Are they… here? On the ship?”

Ren shook his head. “No,” he answered. “Well… technically they are,” he amended, “but…” He sighed. “The Red Hand wouldn’t let them live.”

There had been a time when Syr would’ve never imagined himself mourning any deranic. But there he was, feeling something sink inside him at the news. Looking back, those two really had been on his side. They’d done nothing but help his party and their mission, and now…

He closed his eyes and shook his head. “They deserved better than this,” he said softly. Meeting Ren’s gaze once more, “The Red Hand… You mean the other ship?” he asked “The other deoxys?”

“Right,” Ren said. “They couldn’t abide by the deranics. By any intelligent species that wasn’t affiliated with any element—even if some part of its population was.” His jaw tightened. A deep frown line formed between his naked brows. “That’s why they murdered my people.”

“The killers will come to this world soon...”

“Our psychic enemies have come at last.”

Syr had figured the enemy deranics and their servants must have been lying, or at the very least misled about who had actually destroyed humanity. But in the end, the deoxys, the psychic enemies they’d spoken of, had arrived just as they’d predicted. And here was Ren, who’d certainly been as skeptical of the deranics’ claims as he’d been—if not moreso—attesting to their innocence in the matter.

But not innocent altogether. Regardless of their motivation, the deranic leadership had still tried to destroy the world, and in fact, they had nearly succeeded. If it hadn’t been for the nullshade…

His heart froze in his chest. Oh God, the nullshade. The last he’d seen of them was a nightmare, a scene of indiscriminate destruction, koffing and weezing fighting the specter in vain…

“Ren?” Syr spoke up, even more quietly than before. “What happened to the koffing and the weezing back at the base? Do you know?”

Another guilty aversion of those dark brown eyes. Syr felt a cold hand lay itself very gingerly upon his back.

“Ren had the deoxys scan the area in case the nullshade was still kicking around there,” Babs said. “The first scan… didn’t find anything. No signs of life whatsoever.”

Syr had guessed that answer before she could speak it. It dropped on him like a stone all the same. He slumped over and felt the tears start up again.

“However,” Babs continued, “the second scan picked up several koffing and a single weezing poking around the site about an hour later.”

“The ones from the forest,” Acheron said, “coming back home only to find a smoking crater.”

Almost cautiously, Syr lifted his head. “So… there were some survivors after all?”

“Not many,” Ren said. “Not enough. I know how important this was to you, and I know why.” His gaze dropped to his hands, which were folded in his lap. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come down to using that thing. I’d seriously considered leaving that ball back home. It’s a good thing I didn’t; I’m not saying otherwise. But, all the same… I’m sorry, Syr. I really am.”

The tears fell. Syr tried to respond, but his breath hitched hard in his chest. “I know,” he managed at last. “And… you’re right. We had to destroy that weapon.” A nasty little possibility crossed his mind. “…It was destroyed, right?”

“Thoroughly,” Acheron assured him.

“That’s… that’s good, yeah.” Syr sniffed loudly, doubling upon himself for a moment to wipe at his eyes with the end of his tail. “But wait… what about the Red Hand?” The misguided deranics were no longer a threat, but if there was still another force out there bent on wiping entire species off the face of reality…

“Gone,” Ren said. “The deoxys here made certain of it. They probed the surviving cores, confirmed that the Red Hand didn’t have any other ships anywhere. They were a single, small band of extremists, and now, well… now they’re nothing.”

“Small band or not, they ended a lot of lives,” Demi said. Both pairs of arms were folded, the ends of her tail curled inward. “How many worlds did you say they hit?” she asked Ren.

“Hundreds,” Ren said. “I don’t remember the exact number. Ours was the last.”

“Yeah, but give him the good news,” Karo said, sounding eager.

Good news? “I could definitely use some more of that,” Syr said.

Ren took a deep breath and released it. “It’s… tentative. But the deoxys said that they might be able to create a new human population using my genetic material. Might,” he stressed. “They’re hoping to do the same for the deranics, using Kiat and Zaltaphi’s.”

Syr’s eyes went wide. “They can do that?”

“They can try,” Ren responded. “The deoxys are profoundly gifted geneticists, but even so, they have so little to work with that there are no guarantees. Even if they’re successful, it’s going to take them a long time to produce the next generation.”

“Hopefully, by that time, the world’ll be ready for humans again,” Jen said.

“Hopefully,” Ren agreed. “If nothing else, well. They’ll have the deoxys on their side, at least. And if this world ultimately proves to be too hostile, the deoxys will try to find them another. But hopefully it won’t come to that.”

Syr nodded in understanding. Being driven out of one’s home wasn’t a fate he wished on anyone.

“Anyway… even if the new batch of humans could be finished tonight, the deoxys still need to get the planet scrubbed of the Red Hand’s virus,” Ren went on. “They’ll be making a vaccine, as well, but they’d rather be safe than sorry.”

That made sense, Syr thought. Losing a species to extinction once was bad enough. It would be all the more tragic for them to slip away again after being given another chance.

But wait… “You’re immune to the plague, right? Couldn’t they just give the new humans whatever you’ve got that made you that way?”

Ren frowned. “I’d prefer if they didn’t,” he said. He looked down again as he spoke, tracing a somewhat large, irregular scar over his upper abdomen. The scar, Syr noted, looked fairly fresh. “The deoxys agree with me, given the circumstances. And I think the new humans would, too.”

A troubled look came over Syr’s face. “What was making you immune, then?” he asked, almost afraid of the answer.

Ren was silent for a moment. “There was a deoxys in me,” he finally answered. The hand hovering over the scar trembled. “They’d been there for a long time, even before the Extinction. A traveling scientist of sorts, according to the core probe. They abducted me when I was young and performed some kind of experiment that went wrong. Most of their physical form was destroyed. The rest… merged with me, somehow.”

“Apparently that thing took him over from time to time,” Babs said, and she didn’t sound pleased about it. “Always while he was alone. I guess, on some level, they knew better than to show themself around us.” She smacked a fist into her open palm for emphasis. “That’s how they built that tube. They worked on it while they were in charge, and when they weren’t? He was none the wiser, and the same goes for the rest of us.”

“The tube was sending a beacon for other deoxys to come and collect us,” Ren explained. “It was also working with what little of their physical self was left. It was turning me into a deoxys,” he said, with a wild, fearful look in his eyes. “It would’ve taken… who knows how long on its own, but other deoxys could speed up the process. And they did, on the Red Hand ship.”

“The scar…” Syr said aloud without meaning to.

“Their core,” Ren said. “It emerged on its own.” He shuddered hard. “After the deoxys brought us in here, they took it out before it could inflict any more changes. But some of the changes… they’ll be here forever. I can still understand pokémon—including the deoxys. I could understand the deranics’ language there at the end, too—maybe I could also understand human languages that I couldn’t before; who knows? And I’m still a psychic-type.”

“But you’re also still human,” Acheron said. “And always will be.”

Ren gave a very faint smile. “Yeah. That’s true.” He sighed again. “Anyway… here’s the thing: I might still be immune to the plague. Maybe. But the deoxys really don’t want to chance it. I don’t want to chance it, either. So I’m staying here, at least until the vaccine’s ready.”

“And we’re staying with him,” Demi said. The rest of Ren’s pokémon nodded or made noises of assent.

Syr felt a twinge of disappointment at her words, which surprised him just a little. It wasn’t as though they would definitely never see one another again, after all. He supposed that on some level, he’d been taking for granted that if they lived through all this, they’d all be coming home together.

That train of thought, in turn, led him to wonder if he could go home whenever he was ready. Which, truthfully, was right then and there. Maybe the deoxys here were on the level. Maybe this place really was safe… but he felt uncomfortable here all the same.

Too many psychics, he supposed. Just too many. Maybe under other circumstances, he could get used to it more easily, just as Jen had apparently done. But after all he’d been through, it just seemed like too much to ask of himself.

What was more, he missed Convergence. He needed to see those familiar sights again, to feel the grass underneath him. Only then, he imagined, could he really begin to feel like this whole ordeal was truly over.

Still… if the others needed his support at the moment, he couldn’t exactly bail on them in good conscience. He considered how to word the question; then, “Should I stay, too?” he asked.

“Only if you want to,” Ren said. “I can’t imagine this is a particularly comfortable environment for you.”

“It’s not,” Syr admitted. “But I’m willing to stay if you need me.”

“Nah, we’ll be fine,” Karo assured him. “You go on ahead. Someone’s gotta see to it that nobody else scribbles any more crap on the walls,” he added with a crackle of electricity around his nose.

“Wait, though,” Jen spoke up. “They transported you guys in from outside. When they transported us, they had to wait and recharge before they could send anyone back.” He put a claw to his chin. “Then again, they brought us over from a much longer distance. Maybe they’re already recharged.”

“I can find out for you whenever you’re ready,” Ren said. “Just say the word.”

Syr took a deep breath. “Okay. I think I’m ready to go home now.” He turned toward Jen. “How about you?”

“Yeah,” Jen said.

“All right, then.” Ren swung his legs over the side of the platform and carefully stood up. “Come on. Let’s go flag someone down.”

“We’ll come with,” Demi said. She was on the other side of the bed in a single stride, whereupon she laid a hand on Ren’s shoulder. The two of them left the room, and Syr and Jen went after them. The rest of Ren’s pokémon brought up the rear.

It didn’t take long to find a deoxys to question; one of them was just a few yards away from the door. From the looks of things, they were just milling about, as if waiting for them to emerge, or maybe debating whether or not to come in themself.

The deoxys approached them with seeming eagerness. They spoke very quietly, wringing the tips of their tentacles.

“They want to know if we’re leaving,” Ren said. “Specifically you,” he said, with a point and glance over his shoulder at Jen, “and Babs.”

“Huh,” Babs said. “Well, I’m not, but the kid is.”

The deoxys looked down for a moment, their upper tentacles lowering to their sides. Their head lifted once more, and they spoke again.

“They hope you’ll come back again someday,” Ren said. “They enjoyed getting to know you two.”

“…Okay, admittedly, I still kind of suck at telling these guys apart. But I think… we know you, don’t we? You’re the one we met at the start,” Babs guessed.

The deoxys actually gave a nod before elaborating in their own language.

“And the one you spoke to after your meeting with the curator,” Ren translated.

“I guess you think this makes us friends, huh,” Babs said. “Well, you know what? Maybe it does. But don’t go thinking this means the rules have changed, all right?”

The deoxys steepled their tentacles and responded.

“They understand,” Ren said. He looked to the deoxys. “All right, then. Two of us need to go back down. Is that possible, or do they need to wait a while?”

Another nod. The deoxys must have realized what an ambiguous response that was; they provided vocal clarification a beat later.

“You’re good to go,” Ren confirmed.

Syr felt a wave of relief wash over him. It was finally happening. He was going home, alive and well… and, in a sense, successful.

“Oh, uh, one more thing,” Jen said. “Could you just put us back in the room? I don’t think either of us would fit in the tube.”

The deoxys nodded again. They moved ahead a short distance, then made a beckoning motion. Everyone else followed through the winding, rising, falling halls, until finally the deoxys compelled another wall to open.

The room they revealed wasn’t terribly large, just an ovoid space with a single light source overhead. There didn’t seem to be anything special about it. “Here? Really?” Syr wondered aloud.

“Yeah,” Jen said. “This is where me and Babs appeared after the tube activated.”

Syr leaned forward, flicking his tongue out to investigate the space further. It didn’t smell any more noteworthy than it looked. “So this is it, huh.” He turned to face the others. “I guess I should say goodbye, then. Goodbye… and thanks.”

He looked to each of them in turn. “Thanks for looking out for me. For saving my life—several times over.” He shook his head in astonishment. God, I came way too close…

“Hey, don’t mention it,” Karo said. “I wasn’t about to let you kick the bucket when home was right there within sight. Granted, it was like hundreds of miles below us, but still.”

“We all wanted you to be all right,” Demi said. “We wanted that for all of us. And I guess we succeeded… more or less.”

Syr could feel his eyes watering again. “I don’t think any of us could’ve done this alone,” he said. “I know I couldn’t have.”

“And we might’ve never gone on this mission without you,” Ren said. “And if we never had, my people and the deranics’ might’ve never gotten a second chance at life—even if it is just a small chance. So… thank you, Syr.” The human’s eyes had gone misty, as well. “Thank you.”

At that, Syr well and truly began crying, moved beyond words. Next thing he knew, he was caught up in a group hug. Though the tears kept flowing, he smiled earnestly.

Eventually, the embrace ended. Everyone moved mindfully out of the way, allowing Syr and Jen to enter the ovoid room together.

Syr turned one last time to take in the sight of the rest of his friends, seeing smiling faces, some streaked with tears. He smiled again. “I hope we’ll see each other again someday,” he said. “Until then… goodbye, friends,” he said.

“And good luck with the new people,” Jen added.

The others gave their own farewells in return. Then the wall reformed between those who would leave and those who would stay, and the room filled with seafoam light.

* * *

Evening was falling over the cemetery. Syr crossed the field of stones and placards on his own; Jen had stayed behind, watching over the house that was, for the time being, theirs alone.

When Syr reached the grave that Faurur, Esaax, and Drasigon shared, he noticed a few small stones lying in the grass before the bronze plate. Those hadn’t been there before; the plot had been pristine the last time he’d visited. He wondered if he ought to nudge them aside, but ultimately decided against it. Taking anything away from those three didn’t seem right somehow, even if the stones had just wound up there randomly.

It took a moment for Syr to find his voice. “Hi, Faurur,” he said once he had. “Hi, Esaax. Hi, Drasigon.

“Well… I’m back.” He shifted uneasily. “I… we… did what I said we were gonna do. Or… we tried.” He closed his eyes in shame, bowing his head. “Most of them… didn’t make it.” Tears carved warm paths down his snout. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. This isn’t the way I wanted things to turn out…”

Syr realized he was on the verge of sobbing. He inhaled deeply, trying to steady himself. It took a few tries before he managed. He had to hold himself together the best that he could. There was, after all, more to the message he’d come to deliver than just the bad news. And it was clear that Faurur and the others weren’t the only ones who needed to hear it again.

“Anyway…” he resumed, “the ones who did make it… well… they’re free now. They’re free. The deranics are gone.”

He felt a slight pang of guilt as soon as the words were out of his mouth. They might not be gone for good. But, as he reminded himself, any deranics who might be brought to life aboard that deoxys ship would not be the same ones who had enslaved her people. They’d have a chance to do good, just as Kiat and Zaltaphi had done.

“The bad ones are, anyway,” Syr amended. “The ones who enslaved your people are all gone. So are the people who destroyed humanity,” he added. “And maybe… maybe someday, humans will live in this world again. They won’t be the same humans, but still… it’s something, right?

“And, you know… in a way, it’s all thanks to you, Faurur,” he said. “I probably would’ve never known about the deranics if it wasn’t for you. I probably would never have gone back there again,” he admitted. “So thanks,” he said, and for the first time since entering the cemetery, he smiled.

A yawn escaped him, catching him off guard and embarrassing him slightly. All the time since he’d last slept, and the sheer amount and magnitude of what he’d done since, seemed to have caught up to his body at last.

“Guess I’d better be on my way,” Syr said. “You guys take care of each other, all right? Goodbye, for now.”

With that, he turned around and headed back toward the bus stop to await his ride home. Now, at last, it truly felt as though the mission was over. Though he hadn’t quite lived up to the letter of his promise, it was getting a little easier, at least, to believe that he’d fulfilled the spirit of it.



And there we have it. With that, not only this story but this series as a whole has reached its conclusion.

It's been a long road, and it hasn't always been easy, but there have been some great memories along the way that I'm glad to have made. Thanks to all of you who have dropped in and given this (or any of the preceding stories) a read, to all of you who have replied, and to everyone else who has been here for me in any other way during the process of putting this series together.