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Old April 13th, 2013 (7:08 AM). Edited June 18th, 2013 by Knightfall.
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Knightfall Knightfall is offline
Unforeseen Consequences
    Join Date: Apr 2013
    Location: Sawgrass Town
    Gender: Male
    Nature: Modest
    Posts: 31
    Hello, I’m a relatively new face in the fan fiction world, and this is my first attempt at a story.
    I’ve been working on it for a while now, and there will be many rookie mistakes on my part, but those can and will be ironed out as I get more practice.

    Rated PG-13 for violence in later chapters.

    Disclaimer: I own nothing concerning Pokemon, or Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.
    That honor resides with Nintendo and others.

    I do however own this story, the plotline and the characters in it. Characters and other things from this story are not to be used anywhere without my expressed permission.
    Thanks for reading all that.

    I would appreciate reviews, constructive criticism, and advice to improve the quality of this fic.

    Let’s get started.

    Chapter list:
    Chapter 0.5: System Failure
    Chapter 1: Where the Story Begins
    Chapter 2: A Slight Discrepancy
    Chapter 3: Calibration
    Chapter 4: Injustice

    Now, without further delay I present to you
    Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Overthrown
    Warning: PG-13

    Chapter 0.5: System Failure: Re-Initialization

    "A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma."
    Marlene Dietrich


    “We’re losing him! Circulate coagulation serum. The damage is deeper than we thought!”

    “No! No! Don’t take me! What are you doing!”

    “His life isn’t important. He is no one, not anymore. Just the artifact. Besides, he won’t live once the life support is taken offline. “

    “Very true, but, it’s not our place to decide that. We’ll do what we can.”

    They could never go back. The fragile balance of power that had held up for a millennia had been burned to cinders with the fiery torches of revolution. It had been the final straw on the camel’s back that snapped it clean in two. Now, everything was gone.

    From their mounted position on the laboratory wall, lit computer screens made from recycled plastic components flickered as the news feed struggled to break through the martial moratorium on communication from the beleaguered capital. The aftermath of the coup shown even though the undoubtedly heavily-edited footage: a line of Hailfire tanks moved along Terra Avenue to the Magnet Train depot, Mainland Defense Force soldiers patrolled the tops of the government skyscrapers, firefights between the revolutionary army and the dwindling loyalists raged on the top floors of the Silph industrial area, air assault ships hovered above the chaotic city, and a massive plume of tar-black smoke billowed from the burning capitol complex fueled by the rage of the mob-rule that had taken control of the outer grounds.

    The camera feed faded and was replaced by a man and woman sitting behind a desk, their appearances and features looking calm, but their eyes emanating fear. The well-dressed man in a suit clicked on a small screen to his left and the screen behind them suddenly restored the live feed from the capital.

    “And we’re back. As before, we are not sure of any details, but sources tell us that the fighting has ceased in the outer sectors of the city and the capitol appears to have been thoroughly subjugated of terrorist activities. No word yet on the whereabouts of the Senators and President Radic, but reports are saying--” The screen suddenly blinked and was replaced with a dark picture, the sound cutting off as well.

    A young man of about twenty-five sighed as he clicked the newscast out of his own personal existence. Regardless of what the reporters said, the situation had not calmed down at all since the first shots were fired in that morning. At least, for him it had not. He ran a hand through his unkempt black hair in a weak attempt to release some of the nervousness that had been building up inside of him all this time.

    He turned his attention back to the computer flatscreen in front of him. Images of electrical blueprints and circuitry danced before the man’s exhausted eyes as he motioned with his hand over one of the blueprints. The sensor read the movement and opened the model. The man rotated his hand slightly, and the model followed suit. The Displacement Coils inside the machine were as they should be, that wasn’t the issue. He tapped on the glowing, blue, outlines of what appeared to be a metal ring. The man’s brown eyes narrowed as he traced a wire from the back of the ring.

    “There. That’s the issue!” He motioned with his hand towards a switch on the opposite side of the room as he looked up from his seat out the wide observation window --made entirely from reinforced, recycled plastics. There was an audible click as the comm system between the upper and lower chambers of the testing room came live.

    “ Henry! The third wire, that’s what’s causing the fault! Reroute it directly to the source and it should solve the problem! Quickly!” the man eagerly shouted as he keyed in the simulation on the model after said wire was rerouted. The diagram of the machine became animated as simulated electricity ran into it.

    Simulation Successful: I.G Is Operational. Parameters Exceeded: Do Not Attempt A Short Charge Experiment.

    “Doug, for the last time: I am not an electrician; I am hurrying as fast as I can. I know you want your inane plot to work, but it will take some time,” Another scientist, this one considerably older and with considerably less hair than Doug replied from the lower floor as he leaned behind a real-life representation of the model.

    The balding man wiped his sweating hands on his dirtied lab coat as he switched the connections within one of the panels on the backside of the ring. The silver-colored machine itself was an impressive display of the final strongholds of industrial capability the Realm could still offer.

    Suddenly, what amounted to an earthquake ripped through the facility. Both scientists gripped whatever was nearest to them --a recycled metal desk and the outer plating of the machine respectively. The reinforced concrete walls around them sprouted thin spiderwebs of cracks as dust rained down in small clouds from the ceiling. The flatlights plastered on the ceiling flickered as the power system was temporarily compromised.

    As soon as the floor stabilized, Henry calmly finished making the final adjustment to the connection. The monitors behind Doug began flashing bright red in warning of impending doom.

    “Doug, you and I both know the reactor won’t remain stable for long. The containment is going to fail in a few minutes,” Henry reported as he tapped a screen in the wall and the auxiliary lights in the chamber shut down. “We have just enough time to get out of here. Please, Doug, listen to me!” he suddenly shouted as another small quake rattled the floor ominously.

    Doug simply shook his head as he got up from his seat and walked across the observation deck. The young scientist waved his hand at the scanner and a door smoothly slid open leading down to a elevator which connected the two chambers. With another dismissive wave, the metal doors slid shut and the freight elevator slid downwards the ten feet to the lower room.

    “W- where ... Where am I? What is this place?”

    Another seismic blast resonated through the massive science facility’s foundations, threatening to sever their fragile connections. The elevator ceased moving as the tremor continued --a standard safety procedure. A monitor in the corner of the small chamber flickered to life with a snap of Doug’s fingers.

    A shot of the burning capitol again, this time it was a section of footage from several hours ago. Gunships screamed over the smoking top of the capital, their electric engines whining as their pilots maneuvered them through sniper fire. Doug attentively watched the scene --the mission that had caused this mess in the first place. The airships circled the besieged capitol complex, their outer guns flashing as bursts of heated plasma rained down upon the revolting military units.

    Two of the ships landed on the burning rooftop of the senate hall. Gunfire enveloped the scene as a mob of figures dashed across the open space between the roof access hatch and the awaiting doors of the gunships. An eruption of static overtook the camera and when the picture was restored, the gunships were swiftly departing the burning capitol, smoke trailing from their wounds on their sides.

    It almost succeeded. We were so close. And now ... Now we’re paying the price, Doug thought as the elevator began to descend once more now that the rumbling had stopped. The doors opened and Doug calmly walked out into the chamber --foregoing usual procedures dictating he be sanitized beforehand.

    “What was it you always said about politics?” Doug asked as he briskly walked over the piles of wiring and forsaken computer monitors that littered the lab floor, his worn shoes scuffing themselves on the rough metal grates.

    “That getting mixed up in them is a death wish,” Henry said without a second’s pause as he pushed his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose once more. “Now, about leaving this deathtrap,” he began before Doug placed a hand on his shoulder, silencing him.

    “Henry. You may have heard what Eliza and the others said, but you can’t leave. We were assigned to watch over him, and I’m not going to evacuate until he is safely out of their reach,” the black-haired researcher declared as both of their gazes shifted to a steel gurney set up in the exact center of the room. Upon the object lay a seemingly-lifeless boy, the graces of late-teenage youth still present in his features and short-cut brown hair. In the teen’s stark clothes several blackened scorch marks burned through the fabric and left ugly welts and scars on the visible skin.

    Next to the table, a series of apparati were stacked on top of each other like a miniature building. Wires and tubes from their fronts connected to various places on the teen’s body, such as a breathing mask and other monitoring devices. If it were not for them, Doug was certain that there would be little more than a corpse on the counter.

    “Henry. He was one of two people they brought back. He didn’t deserve any of this. And you’re content to just ... Just leave him here?” Doug shouted. The other scientist looked over at the teen, a thick shadow of guilt weighed down his aged face. Suddenly he pulled away and curled his hands into fists.

    “Listen to me, Doug: I have a life up there. I have a wife. A family, Doug. Friends. I have something worth going back to. Something you seemingly don’t have or care enough about to go return to. I already lost my grandson, Doug. I’m not going to let the rest of my family feel that pain again from losing me,” the senior scientist viciously spat as he brushed away Doug’s hand off his shoulder. “If you excuse me, I will take my leave now. Good-bye, Douglas, you stubborn son of a bitch,” he huffed as he stormed towards the elevator. Doug took a deep breath. He knew it would come to this. The guilt card with the teen had been Plan A, but now there was no other option.

    “They won’t take prisoners, Henry.” The older man froze mid-step, his hand millimeters from pressing the button to call down the lift. Slowly, as another quake shook the floor and caused another hail of ceiling panels, Henry turned around.

    “What -- What are you talking about?” he asked, his voice stuttering for a split second. Doug continued to stare at the man.

    “They overthrew an entire government for one thing, Henry. They sabotaged the reactor for it. Do you honestly think that they won’t hesitate to shoot you the moment you get in their sights? Be reasonable. There’s no way out of this for us.” He slammed his palm on the gurney, inches away from the teen’s face to emphasise his point. He dug around his coat pocket, and after a second more of searching, he pulled out a small, folded piece of paper. On it, were the images of an older looking woman and a younger woman sitting side-by-side. He gently showed it to the older man.

    “See? I have family out there too, so don’t think I don’t care, Henry. Because I do. It’s probability, Henry. We’re probably trapped.” The ceiling shuddered as a large chunk of rock suddenly fell in between the two scientists, missing them by inches as the wind generated by it stung their eyes.

    “There is a way out for him, though. That’s why I need your help,” Doug implored as an alarm klaxon rung from somewhere on the burning world above. Henry closed his eyes and pressed his hands into the front of his face before huffing loudly.

    “No! I refuse to lay down my life for a child who’s already dead! I have too much to live for, Doug! I’m not willing to give up the rest of my years for you or him!” Henry turned away once again, his torn and singed labcoat making a sharp swishing noise as he quickly waved his hand in front of the sensor to activate the elevator. The older man faced him one final time as the elevator doors sealed shut with a resounding clang of metal locks.

    Doug felt like someone had punched him in the gut with an iron glove, he couldn’t breathe, and his vision seemed to go in and out of focus. After the year he had spent working with the veteran scientist, Doug was certain the two shared a sort of friendship, and it was that bond that Doug had gambled on. Now, as the doors shut, Doug knew that not even the illusion of brotherhood could keep a man from thoughts of self-preservation.

    “I guess it’s just you and me now, huh?” he asked the lifeless body, his own voice becoming weak suddenly and nearly catching in his throat. A deep rumble shook the facility again. In the corners of the chamber, chunks of ceiling displaced themselves and smashed on the ground. Doug shook himself out of the semi-trace Henry’s swift departure left him in as the announcement system buzzed to life once again.

    “Warning: fusion reactor core containment fractured. All Rogue Industries personnel are ordered to- to-to-to-t-t-t-t-t-- Warning: core containment fracu-fr-fr-f-r-f-f-- Power grid demands now exceeding supp-p- ... ly,” the digital male computerized voice stuttered as the mainframe was bombarded with radiation and heat from the fires that raged around the facility.

    The flatlights and life support monitors flickered for a split second before returning online. Doug’s breathing ceased for the entire second the machines were dark. His eyes noticed that the heartbeat rate for the teen was increasing ever so slightly. He was waking up. No, he can’t see this.

    Quick as a flash, Doug grabbed a small syringe labeled “Thiopental” off the surgical table. The medical tool abandoned by the team of doctors who attempted to save his life. Doug fumbled around with the needle for a moment before adjusting it according to the specifications on the data screen so the injector measured the correct dosage.

    The scientist aimed the needle at an exposed vein in the teen’s left arm and plunged the syringe into it. He clicked on the release valve and allowed the numbing agent to work its magic. The results were swift, as the heartbeat indicator on the screen instantly cut down to half and kept dropping until he was firmly unconscious once more.

    “Who ... wait! What are you doing? Don’t leave me here!”

    “Forgive me, but you can’t know. You can never know,” he whispered as another cataclysmic blast hit the facility, disintegrating the holdings for the high-voltage electrical cables that hung near the top of the chamber.

    He didn’t even have time to scream as several of the cables dislodged from their positions and swung down towards him, lethal sparks trailing from their ports. The thick metal wires slammed into the scientist, knocking him clear across the room.

    Doug felt like he had collided with the grill of a magne-train. His breath was cleared from his lungs and replaced with the sensation similar to drowning. His spine nearly fracturing as the dense concrete surface rushes to meet it. His entire world went dark for several seconds though his other senses remained fully functional: the bitter smell of singed clothing assaulted his nose, while the groaning of metal support beams played an orchestra of pain against his ear drums.

    However, despite every other sensation he observed, there was something that was very much lacking from coming into contact with the business ends of high-voltage cables: the utter agony that was associated with being electrified to death. Slowly gaining the courage to open his eyes, he saw that his numbness to the electricity was no mystery, for the dangling cables were completely lifeless.

    “This is number seven, I believe?” Henry’s tired voice buzzed over the intercom. The old man himself visible in the observation deck, his hands tapping the holographic keyboards as he commanded the technology to his will.

    Doug leaned back against the wall, his black hair gathering a coating of chalky powder from the shifting foundations. Taking a labored breath to refill his lungs, the man chuckled.

    “Six, the time with the turbines hardly counts as I saved you from falling immediately afterwards... I knew you wouldn’t leave,” Doug mumbled as he shoved himself off the wall and stood to his feet. Shaking his head, he returned to the operation station in the center of the chamber.

    “There was a fire blocking the hallway leading to the elevators, that’s why I couldn’t leave. I still think your plan is horrible, but, it seems I have no choice but to go along with it. What do you need?” Henry explained matter-of-factly as he tapped more sections of the glowing keys.

    “I need this room and his life support taken off the main supply and patched into the emergency grid. The core is going to melt through the turbines in a few minutes, so we can’t rely on it forever,” Doug said, doing a quick calculation in his head as he switched the apparatuses around the teen back online. As soon as the monitors beeped with the faint pulse of the boy, Doug let out a sigh as he backed away from the table.

    “Doug, I still have every intention of getting out of here alive. So, get yourself up here and start the procedure. Or else I’ll regret shutting down the power to those cords.” As Henry said this, the elevator doors slid open on a signal from the balding man above. Taking a final up close look at the teen, Doug reached into his coat and pulled out a small object wrapped in a layer of cloth from his inside pocket.

    Pulling away a portion of the cloth, he saw the thin gleam of blue shine forth from the item. Nodding to himself in satisfaction, Doug rewrapped the cloth and gingerly placed it in the teen’s open hand. The scientist gently curled the unconscious fingers around the cloth as he whispered a silent prayer for success.

    Turning around, Doug jogged across the chamber and entered the elevator once again. The flatscreen was silent this time around as the lift cranked upwards without issue. Just as the steel doors slid away to allow his egress, the melting core deemed it fit to throw another tantrum to signify its rapid death spiral. One of the most prestigious buildings in the entire Realm, taken down by a few jarheads with guns and a successful coup d'etat ... his thoughts reflected bitterly as Doug attempted to retain his balance on the walls aside the elevator.

    Henry held a stance of stone as he weathered the rocking like a well-accustomed sailor to a mega-storm in the Puel Sea, off the coast of the remnants of Alima. The veteran researcher continued tapping the halo-keyboards, shifting both chambers to the private-yet-smaller energy grid even as unstable plasma energy from the fusion core disintegrated several of the many turbines Rogue Industries had installed in this facility.

    “We have roughly seven minutes, Doug, until the plasma eats through the secondary containment and kills us. We stand a strong chance of not going to make it out of the blast radius,” Henry reported, pushing his crooked glasses up on his face once more. “Now, let’s get started.”

    Doug nodded as he wiped a thin layer of sweat off his forehead as he approached the consols. He pressed his hands together and bent his fingers until they popped slightly. He didn’t need to loosen them up, but the feeling helped him deal with the immense stress building in the air. The monitors flashed incessantly as they impatiently awaited to execute the commands.

    ”Let me out of here! Let me go! Let me go! Please!”

    Chats and graphics danced across the flatscreens, the status of the machine below wavered on the edge of stability as the rocking facility subsided for a brief reprieve. The statistics presented by the graph did not work out in their favor, and the odds decreased with every passing moment. Doug knew Henry could see the odds just as well as he could. The machine had never worked perfectly, even in its prime operating capacity it suffered faults --the most serious of these disintegrating the test subjects even before they were able to step through the gate. The only glimmer of hope was the fact that the past models were even worse with their survival ratio.

    No. It won’t happen this time. It’ll be a clean get-away this time. Doug stated in his mind as his fingers began to move in the air over the holographic keyboard. The computer reacted to his actions by pulling up a login screen displaying the Rogue Industries company seal: a lone iron gear from the archaic days of the first Industrial Revolution crossed with two artifacts associated with that era-- a majestic, forged-steel longsword and a humble, rusted hammer.

    “Henry, you were here when they shut it down last year. What was the source code they used? I can’t get past the firewall without it,” Doug inquired without even looking up from his monitor. Henry grumbled in discontent as he turned from his own monitor and consulted a small device he produced from the front pocket of his pants. The grizzled man stroked his short cut beard in thought, his other hand accessing the memory files in his miniature computer.

    “Here, I found it. Take a look and see for yourself, as company policy prevents me from speaking that code aloud under threat of death,” Henry replied, turning the rectangular device so Doug could read off the seven-character code on the screen. “Got it! We’re off the main grid. Emergency power won’t last long, but it’ll be enough to get us through,” Henry reported, a small twinge of excitement slipping into his voice. Just then, the machines around the room flickered for an instant as their energy instantaneously switched to the private turbine located within the maintenance tunnels behind the walls.

    Doug grinned as he continued to stare ahead at the glowing screen, his fingers moving as if possessed. “Thanks ... Now, just to add that in ... Accessing mainframe ... Reorienting server ... And we’re in!” Designs and charts popped up on the screen as Doug swiftly sliced through the cyber barricades put in place by his superiors.

    “Oh, no...” Henry suddenly muttered as he enlarged a video feed on his own screen. “Doug, the military is evacuating. They know the reactor is going to detonate...” his voice trailed off as despair seemed to take over the scientist. Before Doug could even attempt to try and console his co-worker, his screen flashed in tandem with the blaring intercom system.

    “W-W-Warning: R-R-Radiation levels exceeding safe exposure amounts. All Rogue Industries p-p-personnel are ordered to take shelter in the Omega, Beta, or Sigma anti-radiation chambers located on Decks: E, E-Two, F, F-Two, G, G-Three, H, H-BZZZZZzzzzTTT!” the computerized male droned before cutting off in a harsh static cry. Both scientists cringed as they instinctively covered their ears with their hands. The sharp electronic pitch issuing from the unseen speakers continued to blast for well over thirty seconds, during which time, Doug was almost certain he’d never be able to hear out his left ear again.

    “The military has taken control. All employees of the Rogue Industries Celestial Range Research Facility are vacate the premises and turn themselves in at any MDF checkpoint immediately,” the ever-friendly voice had turned dull and emotionless, indicating someone had managed to tamper with its normal programming. If Doug had any doubts about Henry’s statement, they were put to rest with the announcement system’s garbled suggestion.

    “It hurts! It hurts! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Please!”

    The ground gave a slight jolt beneath their worn shoes. Doug shot a knowing look over at the older man, who nodded in reply. Silently, the two Rogue Industries employees typed in the alpha commands. The circular, steel gate of wires and conductors sparked in the chamber below as energy flowed into its long-unused components. Readings popped up on the screens and were quickly adjusted to fit their parameters as they drew closer to initialization.

    “It’s the last thing. Henry, disengage the failsafe retrieval protocol,” Doug breathed as the final prompt opened on the screen, asking for a eight-digit passcode. He tapped his fingers impatiently against the cold, steel desk.

    “I know I’m going to regret this, but very well,” Henry sighed as he tapped his fingers across the shimmering number keypad. The system let out a soft ding and proceeded to adjust the parameters of the experiment as the electric currents in the chamber below cackled with voltage.

    Doug pressed a few more buttons in ordered sequence as the inner sides of the gate began to spark with arcs of energy along the terminals. Vibrations began to ripple across the faux-stone as the machine began to pulsate with raw energy. Doug gripped the sides of the desk tightly as he watched the initialization of the most unpredictable, dangerous, and all around most lethal machine in the Celestic Range facility.

    “Doug. You know the statistics as well as I do. Scores of people have been taken by the gate, by one model or another. What makes this any different? What is with this ... kid that you feel so compelled to put your own life on the line for him, even though he’s as good as dead?” Henry inquired as he fiddled with the power levels. The teen below remained completely oblivious to the lightning that was starting to rain about him.

    Doug looked out over the chamber through the glass. He didn’t know why he was doing this. He just knew that there was something that was altered this time. An acute variation in the scheme. A slight discrepancy in the story. A mutation in the sequence. A difference in the variables this time. A discontinuity removed.

    It was an unobservable observation --rather paradoxical it seemed in hindsight-- but one that made all the difference in the world. Doug just knew that he had to do it. He had to save this teen at all costs. There was no scientific reasoning behind it, rather, most things in science would scream at him to disregard the notions.

    “Henry, I honestly have no idea,” Doug mumbled as a flash of brilliant white light commanded their attention in the chamber below. The gate, the result of the greatest minds of theoretical physics, dimensional science, and engineering coming together across the shattered Realm to forge what amounted to an exit door to their prison. Steel and other impossibly strong metal compounds were combined into a large standing ring in the chamber floor, just waiting for another sacrificial victim.

    The ground shuddered again as the liquefying Fate-class tri-fusion reactors competed with the Gate for the most ground disturbance. Metal beams and mounted monitors crashed and shattered on the floor as both power sources threatened to shake the room to pieces.

    The equipment around the two scientists flashed the traditional deep red that most-often alluded to a high chance of ultimate danger. The announcement system blared another fevered command to abandon the complex before it was incinerated in a nuclear fireball, but both scientists paid it no need. The finest machinery in the entire world shuddered as a webs of energy congregated and spread to cover the open center of the Gate.

    “Stabilize the heat exhaust! We can’t let it overheat! Not now!” Doug ordered as he dashed to the monitor residing on the opposite side of the observation deck. Heat rippled in tormented waves as the machines down below were pushed to their upper limits of operation. Sweat beaded profusely on Doug’s brow as he switched open the vent system. Its effect wasn’t noticeable to the naked eye, but made all the difference in the world to keep the instruments from undergoing spontaneous combustion.

    “Let me leave ... I want to leave ...”

    “Raising energy of the Coils to one-hundred and five percent of current levels. Dimensional radiation should reach ignition point in about twenty seconds. Doug? Are you absolutely certain? This is an event horizon; there’s no going back. Not for him, not for us, not for anyone,” Henry asked, his stern voice quivering with worry as his hand hovered over the action keys.

    Doug was about to open his mouth as the announcement system gave a loud, static popping noise as the pre-recorded intelligence started to speak once again.

    “Attent-Attention-Atteentiionn -BZT! The experiment initialization you are currently requesting has a ninety-seven percent chance of being against Rogue Industries: Celestial Range Facility Mandates on Acceptable Experiment Protocols While Undergoing Crises of a Catastrophic Nature, otherwise known as the R.I:C.R.F: M.A.E.P.W.U.C.C.N clauses. Security teams will be notified unless shutdown procedures are enacted immediately in accordance with the R.I:C.R.F: M.A.E.P.W.U.C.C.N clauses. This has been your final warning, [insert employe names here],” the orderly voice boomed, oblivious to the background apocalypse that raged just a few floors above and beneath them. Doug silently nodded his head. He had no idea what or even where he was sentencing the boy, but it hardly mattered. Even the burning depths of hell would seem a reprieve when compared to the atrocities being committed against them only a few hundred feet above their heads.

    “Oh, just shut it already!” Henry snapped at the system as he then grew serious, his features becoming pale as blood was flushed from them. The old man swallowed hard as he closed his eyes and tapped his finger against the glowing circle that triggered the activation.

    The thicket of wiring above and around them hummed with raw voltage as they threatened to suck the backup generator dry. The Displacement Coils inside the the Gate pulsed with a rhythmic energy, causing the cracks in the foundation to widen and split. Chunks of falling stone pelted both levels of the chamber, the scientists holding their arms above their skulls in a meager means of defense against the collapsing masonry.

    “Security forces are currently occupied. Please step away from the machine voluntarily and assume the surrender position until Rogue Industries officers arrive to detain you for your disobedience,” the computer voice chirped over the PA even as a section of the observation deck floor crumbled; leaving only a crater of twisted metal supports and pieces of concrete.

    “Doug, are you certain? There’s still time to reverse the charge...” Henry trailed off as Doug tapped the projected screen in a sequenced order that only raised the energy charge rate.

    The black-haired man keyed in the final code set, the final piece the the algorithmic puzzle that had perplexed the minds of passing eras. “If I wanted to back down, I would have left long ago. Deep down, you feel the same way. I know it.”

    Henry swore sharply at the younger scientist before giving Doug an exasperated sigh. He put up his hands in mock surrender. “You know? Being right doesn’t mean a thing if you’re dead, Doug.”

    With that somewhat philosophical remark, the threshold was reached. The air in the lower chamber pulsed as if it was waves on a stormy sea. The event horizon was crossed and both men knew there was no way back as the monitors cheerfully chirped that the Displacement Coils were ready to radiate the dimensional radiation necessary to power the Gate.

    “No ... Please, no ... No more tests ... No more surgeries ... Just let me die ... Please...”

    Both scientists’ gazes were glued to the thick observation window as a radiant blue light erupted from within the tunnel-like machine. Beams of pure energy bathed the lower room as another section of the ceiling landed on the medical machines connected to the boy. Doug let out a cry as he nearly jumped forward into the glass.

    Without those machines running, the teen probably had less than a minute left in his lifespan before death claimed him with his scythe. The floor beneath his feet suddenly subsided three feet, throwing the desks around him off balance and their contents clattering to the floor. Doug’s legs were torn out from beneath him as his face kissed the crumbling stone floor.

    He felt the skin on his nose and right cheek scrape against the rough ground and tear. He tried to brush off the harsh stinging associated with the rough abrasion. Alarm klaxons blared throughout the entire facility as the automated voice calmly explained the protocol for a proper in a nuclear fusion supernova. Above them, bolted metal passages screeched as they slammed into the stone walls on their way to the ground. Gas and electricity supply pipes split in two from the tremendous pressure of half a ton of rock and wiring crashing down on them.

    Suddenly, the lights died. The entire world was sealed underneath a coffin of eternal darkness punctuated only by the ethereal, pale white glow of the Coils beneath the thin metal sheeting that covered the gate. Doug hardly dared to breathe as a cloud of dust from the fragmenting ceiling entered the final stage of collapse. Flashes of bright red swiftly illuminated the room, bathing the wreckage in the color of fresh blood.

    Doug felt hands grasp the lapel of tattered lab coat and ungraciously hauled the near-witless researcher to his feet. He shot a quick glance over at Henry. From in between the quick flashes of red light, he saw the man now sported a small gash on the bridge of his forehead and a bloody sleeve of his coat from his attempts to stay the bleeding. His glasses sat awkwardly on his nose, their lenses cracked beyond all hope of repair.

    Neither man had time to speak as a wall of eternally while light engulfed them from the chamber below. The Coils had reached singularity with the Seal at last. As the dimensional wavelengths equalized, the less-than-miniature earthquakes intensified inversely to the length of the span of the disparity.

    Doug just stood there; his entire mind enraptured with the stark white apocalypse streaming through the reinforced glass as it purged the heinous evils from the realm of their desperation-fueled actions. Phosphenes appeared before his eyes as the pure light seared into his brain. Henry screamed something that was lost in the screeches of the dying facility. Doug didn’t even feel it as the other man slammed into him, his thin frame somehow managing to knock Doug off his feet and sent them both crashing to the floor.

    “Finally ... An exit ... The outside ... I’m fre-- ”

    There was little he could do to soften the impact between his torso and the crumbling ground except pray that his lab coat was thicker than he gave it credit for. His front collided with the concrete and sent a harsh burning sensation through the uncovered patches of skin on his hands and arms. He vehement curses to the obsolete gods of the Senex Tempora were muffled as the air was flooded with the ear-shattering blasts of energy disassociating from the Coils to the Gate.

    Energy pulses ripped through the thick window, the glass becoming like burnt paper against the raw, uncontained power that beat against it with furious rage. Not even splinters remained as every fragment of glass was vaporized before it could even reach the floor. Both scientists felt the star-like heat of the violent reaction occurring mere feet above their backs. Their lab coats were drenched with sweat that evaporated instantly and their skin on the verge of boiling.

    Their vision was completely white, their eyes unable to process even the smallest wavelength of the searing light flooding the room. Doug felt Henry push down on his side, trying to get both of them closer to the ground. He could only imagine the agony the older man felt being just a few inches closer to the incinerating radiation of the energy, if Henry hadn’t irradiated to the point of certain death already.

    Doug was vaguely aware of the ground heaving underneath him, only noticing the wounds fatal of the foundation opening in the concrete skin when it was far too late to run. Metal crunched, rock splintered, wiring snapped, and electronics died as the entire floor achieved the structural integrity of a stick of melting butter.

    What happened in the next ten seconds would become a complete blur to both scientists forevermore. All Doug knew was that when he woke up exactly ten and a half seconds later, he was laying haphazardly across a shattered flatscreen monitor in the subsidiary control room for the water, gas, and power lines that sat directly underneath the observation deck like a weary adventurer under a tree.

    The evacuation and cessation alarms never stopped even as they were melted by heat found usually in the deep geothermal vents of the Mare Fervens trench near the ancient caldera in the western islands. Dust and sparks choked the air like smoke, forcing Doug to cover his mouth with his dirtied sleeve as he struggled to free himself of the tendril-like electrical cords. His feet and legs were constantly attacked by the debris of fallen concrete chunks and broken metal that penetrated his clothing and scratched at his skin.

    When he finally managed to break through the cloud of raining dust and heat, he could hardly believe his eyes. Henry had, despite his age, managed to already free himself from the wreckage without too many visible lacerations and cross the auxiliary computer-lined room.

    “Screen shows radon gas contamination in the access passage. There’s masks and RNS’s in this storage closet, though, so we should be able to make it through to the transfer sector easily,” Henry noted as he commanded a severely cracked flatscreen to power down with a wave of his hand.

    Doug stumbled over the last of the piles of wreckage listlessly, unable to force himself to be concerned with his own safety. He slowly glanced at the hole in the ceiling that they’d fallen through. Somewhere through that, was the stellar fireball that was the Infinity Gate --it had been the best of the dimensional transversing technology they had available that revolutionized the use of the Dimensional Coils as a conduit for the energy flow -- now, millions of government credits and even more precious resources were burning through the floor and containment unit.

    Doug couldn’t break free of the overwhelming wave of guilt that threatened to crush him. He tried to tell himself there was no way they could have prepared for this. That machine needed days to charge up, not a few minutes, and they didn’t have that time. There was no possible way they could have known about the coup, the infiltration, and the brutal operation.

    He let out a hard laugh as he pressed his hand against the steel-plated walls of the lab. There was no justification for this. No amount of his persuasive argumentation would stay the consequences of his actions. It had been him who put in the order. It was him who deactivated the safety procedure. And it had been him who refused to give up until his inane plot was set in motion. Heat pulsed like a vile organ above them, beating down on him as he stared up at the ruins of the increasingly decaying experiment chamber.

    “I killed him, Henry. He’s gone. H-he didn’t even have any say in it! I just killed him! And he watched me do it!” Doug’s voice grew from a hushed whisper and then broke into a yell. Red-hot fragments of metal dripped down from the hole in the ceiling, sizzling on the cooler concrete and electronics on the floor. Henry apparently ignored the younger man’s outburst as he slipped the clear, plastic mask over his nose and mouth and opened the microfilter shortly before snapping a watch-like machine on his right wrist. He then grabbed another mask and walked over to the grieving scientist.

    “Doug ... Weren’t you the one to tell me that ‘he was better off dead’ rather than returning to the surface? So what if he’s dead, then? We have no visible proof that he is dead as neither of us saw the results. So, even if he is gone or the Gate, by some miracle, actually worked, then either way, he is in a better place. Now, unless we want to die ourselves, you’d better get your sorry rear over here and take a mask,” Henry stated, giving Doug’s shoulder a strong shake. The wizened man held a mask and watch-like machine out, indicating for Doug to take them.

    “He watched me murder him. He saw me sedate him and then pull the damn switch. Oh, God, what have I done?” Doug’s voice dropped again to barely above a whisper as a huge glob of molten metal dripped down from the ceiling. A small fragment flung into the air and zipped through his coat, burning a clean hole through it, and passed onto the floor. Henry sighed and firmly grasped Doug’s shoulder with an unoccupied hand once again.

    “Doug. Listen to me right now. You did the right thing. Just imagine what the soldiers would have done to him. If anything, you gave him the most humane way out possible. Now, we have to go right now! Take a mask and RNS and let’s move it!” Henry reassured as he clapped Doug hard on his shoulder blade. Doug took one final look at the hell seeping through the ceiling above and swiped both apparati from Henry’s outstretched hand.

    Doug looked at the plastic piece of technology, anything to keep the guilt away. The mask was nothing impressive. Covering just the nose and mouth, their eyes would be suspect to anything the dying facility outside the bulkhead could throw at them. At least the filter is up to code, Doug noted as he strapped the mask over the lower part of his face and switched on the filter. The next device, however, was on the bleeding edge of safety equipment.

    The Radiation Nullification Shield was exactly what it said it was. A weak field of stable electrons that projected over the area of a human body like a jumpsuit, held in place by the minor gravitational pull the human possessed. Alpha, beta, and gamma radiation was immediately absorbed and neutralized by the massive amount of free valence electrons within the field. Doug strapped the RNS to his wrist and tapped the glowing screen. Instantly, a flash of translucent, electric-blue enveloped him and spread entirely around his body --completely covering his shoes and the mess of black hair on his head.

    Once he had both safety features activated, he gave Henry an affirmative nod that he was ready. The other man nodded himself as he keyed in the access code on the holographic pad on the side of the heavy, metal door. The bulkhead shuddered as the minimal power still present in the system sluggishly deactivated the electric locks and anti-surge field. As the door groaned along the tracks in the floor towards the wall, both men rushed out of the small command room, the smell of burning electronics swiftly filling the air.

    The hallway was carved out of the mountain stone and lined with steel pipes, wiring, and monitors. Glancing down the darkened corridor, Doug hoped that there wasn’t anyone laying in ambush within the pitch black areas of the dimmed passage. Although invisible and virtually undetectable to them, their RNS’s flickered blue around their bodies as the overwhelming presence of radioactive radon came into contact.

    Unhindered by the debilitating gas, the two jogged down the hall, passing scores of abandoned metal supply crates and various forlorn gadgets strewn along the path. The ground shook violently again, sending both men into the smooth rock walls. As soon as the core had subsided enough, Henry shook himself off and took the lead. Doug tried to keep his mind in check and focused as they shoved aside wayward boxes and kicked away wreckage. The guilt from earlier hadn’t been completely removed by Henry’s encouragement, it only festered inside him and began to snap at his insides like a ravenous beast.

    The corridor ended abruptly at a locked door. The access panel flashing red in alarm that signaled immediate and present danger was just on the other side of the six inches of metal. Unfortunately for them, their only means of escape was also in that direction. Not daring to even breathe, Doug aligned the floating numbers, and watched as the barrier slid into the wall, trailing sparks as it ran along the tracks.

    The room ahead was a perfect picture of the pits of hell. The gates leading to the many elevators were smashed open, the transports themselves spouting small tongues of demonically burning fire, sparks leaped through the air from ruined computer modules and severed electrical cables, and radiation alarms blared and flashed green on the ceiling. Though neither men paid much attention to any of those details as they looked at the floor.

    Bodies, both of men and women. At least a dozen were slumped against the wall, ugly black burn marks from the soldiers’ plasma weaponry scarring each of them. The overwhelming smell of smoldering flesh struck Doug even through the filters. He felt his head start to spin as he nearly vomited inside his mask.

    This wasn’t a sudden onslaught, Doug realized clutching his dazed head, They were executed while we were hiding in the chamber. He saw another body laying on the opposite of the room. Based on the complete set of armor and visored helmet that adorned it, Doug could tell it was one of the soldiers that had been sent to slaughter them all. A pool of blood sluggishly widened underneath the helmet, the front of which was smashed inward, cracks appearing in the strong plastic visor. A bloodied pipe wrench was cast aside on the floor nearby.

    At least they put up a fight, he grimly thought as he shut his eyes to the sight and smell.

    “Doug! Come quick! Hurry!” Henry shouted. Opening his eyes, Doug pushed through the horrifying smell and saw the greying head of his friend crouched near the line of bodies. He waved his wrinkled hand and yelled for him to come quickly.

    As Doug approached, he saw exactly what Henry was bent over. It was the body of a man that Doug estimated to be even older than Henry by the looks of his completely greyed hair. The only problem was that this body was still moving and talking.

    “Oh, God ... Thank God someone found me at last...” the man whispered before a violent cough ripped through his weakened form. Doug knelt down on the man’s left side opposite Henry. Despite the flickering light, Doug suddenly realized that he knew this man. Through the blood spattered clothes and bruised skin, he remembered his enthusiastic director of the Dimensional Studies Department, Matthew Gideon. The man who had given him his job the very day he graduated from the University of Phenac, and who had assigned him to his post as Assistant Researcher under his colleague Henry Hall.

    “Mr. Gideon, sir. Are you alright? What happened?” Doug knew the first question was an obvious ‘no’, but he had to ask.

    “N-no, Douglas. I am not quite at one-hundred percent as you can possibly see. I would be better off if you could remove that weight from my chest, though,” Matthew wheezed as Henry obediently reached down, hefted the “weight” off the downed scientist, and carefully laid the male body on the floor away from the director.

    “Much better ...” Matthew groaned as he leaned up against the wall to examine the damage to himself. Doug’s head was getting woozy again from the thick odor of burnt skin, but it immediately cleared up once he laid eyes on the injured man’s torso. A wide circle of charred skin was located about the spot where his stomach was supposed to be.

    “Damn. That’s going to need more than a first aid kit to sew up,” Matthew cynically observed as yet another cough shuddered through him, breaking open some of the hardened, burnt flesh in his wound, allowing fresh blood to flow once again. “Those soldiers weren’t taking any chances with any of us.”

    “Save your energy, Matt, please. Let’s try to move. The wound isn’t that bad,” Henry urged as he tried to get his arm behind Matthew’s back. The old man was met with a swift slap to his arm by the even older director. Doug watched with slight bemusement at seeing someone put his stuffy co-worker in his place.

    “Leave me be. My eyes still work just fine, thank you. I can see that I’m not going to get out of this one.” Henry was about to interject when Matthew held up his hand. “No. You both will listen to me now. I have one question that I demand an answer to first and foremost: Did you get rid of it?” Henry’s gaze shot over to Doug for a moment as he cleared his throat.

    “Sir, Doug did it. But, please, let us help you u-” Henry admitted. Matthew slowly turned his fatigued head over to Doug.

    “Shut up, Henry. Doug. You used the Gate, didn’t you? Good, good. Now that’s cleared up, I want both of you to know something,” Matthew whispered, raising his arm to catch his cough. Specks of blood peppered his sleeve once he pulled it away. Both Doug and Henry leaned slightly closer.

    “The exits are all patrolled, Eliza and the others already took the last tram out, and the hanger has been sealed off. You both will have to go through the administrative areas and get to the delivery bay at Gate A. Those are locked down, so you’ll need my access card to get in,” he explained all in one breath as he brandished a sleek, plastic card from the tattered pocket of his coat.

    Henry reached forward to take the card, but the older man suddenly jerked it away, the sudden action causing him to grimace in pain.

    “Not yet. I need something in return. Doug, would you be so kind as to grab that pistol and bring it here?” Matthew requested calmly, as he clutched the outside of his gaping wound. Doug immediately knew what the director was planning on doing, but nevertheless, slowly got to his feet and shuffled the three yards across the floor to the fallen Mainland Defense Soldier. The plasma pistol was still firmly in the dead man’s grasp. Doug took a deep, reassuring breath of filtered air as he crouched down and pried the stiff, gloved, fingers off the weapon.

    “Gideon! What do you think you’re doing? We can still get you out of here!” Henry shouted as Doug solemnly returned with the gun. “Doug, don’t give it to him!” Henry’s panicked protests were immediately silenced as he was met with bitter stares from both men.

    “Henry, you told me the same thing back there about the boy. It’s your turn to let go,” Doug angrily snapped as he gave the handle of the pistol to the dying man, who in return handed over his card.

    “It’s my time, Henry. Not much will be able to change that. Just get out of here. Go back to your family and tell Charline I said hello, would you? The other facilities should have gotten the distress signal by now, so hopefully someone will be around to rescue you two once you get out,” Matthew sighed as he grasped the weapon and eyed it curiously. The ceiling above them groaned under the pressure as cracks laced through it.

    There was little more Henry could do to sway either of them of their convictions. Doug pulled Henry to his feet by his arm and motioned towards the door that lead to the access stairs across the room.

    “Goodbye, Mr. Gideon. Thank you for giving us a chance to escape,” Doug tersely said as he pulled Henry away from his old friend. The aged man pushed against Doug’s grip, but calmed as Matthew spoke for the last time.

    “Henry, thank you for everything. It’s been a one hell of a run between the two of us. Now, you’ll have to finish without me,” Matthew wheezed as he switched the safety feature off on the weapon.

    The walk to the stairs was completely silent as Doug ushered Henry inside the stairwell. Doug looked back once more at the fallen man before sliding the thin, metal door shut. They waited one moment before a bright light flashed through the small, ash-coated window of the door and the muffled sound of a single discharge echoed through the crumbling facility.

    As if sharing its lament over the loss of its employee, the massive building groaned as the concrete ceiling caved in on the transport chamber, giving Matthew at the very least an impromptu burial underneath several tons of the facility he had loved.

    Doug looked back at Henry; the older man was leaning over the metal bar of the stairs whispering a prayer into his gas mask for his friend. Whether the omnipotent being in the sunless sky above would hear his prayer was up to debate, but Doug respectively waited until he was finished to suggest they move upwards.

    The next few moments passed relatively quickly. Without words, both men sprinted up the creaking, welded steel, staircase. With every floor that they passed, the danger only increased.

    “Warning: Electromagnetic containment fields discharging. Seventy-two and one half percent change remaining. Seventy-two and one third charge remaining. BZT!” the voice chimed before cutting out again. The announcement only spurred the men even more. Despite Henry’s age and brief exposure to the radiation, he was keeping pace with Doug’s sprinting up the countless flights of stairs. Adrenaline and the threat of instant death kept fatigue away as both men flew through the twenty underground stories to the surface floors.

    They dashed past more execution sites with eyes closed, not letting anything else distract them from their task. The hallways of the office were completely deserted except for the occasional battered body of a burnt scientist or bludgeoned soldier killed during the invasion.

    Matthew’s card had proved useful as they swiftly barreled through the double glass doors of the administration area, narrowly avoiding the automated plasma bolts of the turrets placed in the lobbies. The bolts sizzled in the blast-resistant glass as both men caught their breath for one moment before moving once again.

    Together they vaulted over desks and office computers, Henry losing little ground to Doug even with his age. Hallways and offices blurred together as the two kept following the directional signs. Rogue Industries prided itself on efficiency, a virtue Doug was glad it had as the paths were straightforward even as the facility entered its death throes.

    Quicker than they imagined, they were pressing the access panel to open the miraculously unguarded Gate A. Red alarms continued to flash and flood the air with a loud klaxon as the metal door screeched away into the walls. The delivery bay was completely empty except for the smoldering remains of three magnet trams and the looted bins of cargo they possessed. Henry and Doug climbed over the large metal containers as they drew ever-closer to the wide exit of the Gate.

    Nodding to each other from atop a crate, both men suddenly leaped. Doug managed to tuck in his shoulder and roll over it upon impact with the ground while Henry jarred his legs painfully when he hit the pavement. Once he completed his maneuver, Doug ran back to assist his companion who was struggling to get to his feet.

    Henry winced in pain as Doug put his hand around his back and made the limping man lean on his shoulder. The older man attempted to counter by saying he didn’t need help, but Doug refused to let go as they slowly but surely inched away from the Celestic Range Facility.

    The ground suddenly quaked violently as the muffled voice blared that the containment field had only ten percent charge left and was draining fast. The unchecked reaction in the nuclear fusion core would blast through the facility in no time at all once the electromagnetic field failed. Panic began to set in as both battered scientists immediately picked up the pace of their limp, despite the immense pain it brought Henry.

    Cragged, majestic mountains surrounded them and offered the promise of a safehaven if only they could reach it in time, their lofty peaks pointing towards the orange tinted skies of the darkening horizon away from the heinous crimes against the heavens occurring below. Both men heard the humming of the electric motors long before they ever saw the gunships they belonged to as the graceful, steel birds flew around the base of the mountains in a tight formation.

    Hoping against hope that their tiny forms wouldn’t be picked up by the military radars within the craft as they stumbled haphazardly across the gritty pavement that lead out of the delivery bay. Though, their concerns hardly mattered, for at that moment, the world seemingly leap six feet into the air and a roar akin to a host of demons breaking free of the chains of hell exploded through the mountains.

    Doug and Henry were violently thrown ten feet forwards, the blast and quake slamming into their backs like a Magna-Tram and kicking their feet out from under them, leaving the men little protection from the insane whims of the explosive force. Doug flew in a graceless arc through the air, his limbs loose and flailing as he tried to stop the world from spinning.

    His wish was granted soon enough when the rough pavement rubbed the skin on his legs and arms raw with the impact. The angered giant of sound shook the earth as it marched from the epicenter of the reactor deep underground. Doug barely had time to focus on his own immense pain as he heard a soft thud beside him as Henry was thrown into the base of a lofty pine tree.

    It was then that the fallout hit. A hellish mixture of debris and radiation rained down upon them from the tumultuous clouds. Sections of concrete walls slammed into the ground like drops of water, flash-burned masses of half-melted metal flew further from the erupting facility and stuck to the sides of nearby mountains, and the giant blades of the turbines impaled the rock as if it was a knife through bread.

    Their RNS’s began beeping erratically as the volatile atoms broke free of their unstable forms within the core and sped through the countless layers of lead and rock up to the surface. The watch-like machine flashed red as the field was pelted with an assault of thousands of radioactive particles, yet the shield did its job and maintained the barrier between the lethal dosages of radiation and the two battered and broken humans depending on them. Heated metal shattered once it connected with the cooler rock, sending razor-esque shrapnel slashing through the air.

    Doug weakly lifted his head as the roar gradually died down, the beast responsible content with its show of force and ready to slumber in its den once more. Considering he had not been flash fried by the intense heat of the uncontrolled reaction, he could only assume that the containment had held it long enough to mitigate the apex of the blast so that it would be cancelled out by the sheer volume of concrete, steel, mountain rock, and lead.

    He gave a low sigh, again, Rogue Industries had seemingly prepared for nearly every possible scenario and a way to either counter or alleviate the effects of said scenario. Doug raised his head up, weakly pushing with his arms. The downpour of lethal hail seemed to have subsided except the gentle snow of papers somehow not scorched in the fireball. He turned to the side, gazing a few feet away where his companion was groaning.

    Henry had, in a show of sheer will, pushed himself up and was now leaning against the base of the spindly evergreen. The old man was breathing heavily and clutching his right knee while ignoring the plethora of angry, red abrasions along his arms, legs, and under his tattered labcoat. Other than those issues, however, he seemed to be alive and that was what mattered now.

    Doug gingerly flipped himself over so he was lying on his back. He felt a shooting pain travel through his chest. There was something a mess in his ribs, he knew that fact well enough based off the immense agony associated with moving. Doug was so preoccupied with his injuries that he did not notice the increasing volume of a static hum and rotating blades from the sky.

    The metal birds had not been scared off by the beast’s roar, and had quickly reformed and were diving in fast towards the ruined facility. The flock sliced through the dust cloud that settled in the mountainous valley, their bright searchlights scanning systematically over the rocky plateau until they came into focus over the two scientists on the outskirts of the military occupation zone.

    They might as well have been loaves of bread to the hungry flock of metal raptors as one of the gunships swiftly descended into the radiation cloud from the dusk-colored sky. Thoughts of immediate self-preservation ran through his head and became a painkiller of sorts as the fatigued young researcher leaped to his feet. The metal vehicle settled on a patch of ground not punctured with fragments of offices and laboratories and only kicked up the dust further as its engines died down with a whine.
    The gangway doors flew open with a mighty swing that blasted the dust away. Like parasitic fleas, soldiers in the very same uniforms both men had encountered inside leap from the interior of the diseased bird. Their tinted visors glinted in the dying light of the day as the five men swung their weapons about the clearing leading from the wrecked delivery bay.

    Doug could only watch in silence as the men swiftly surrounded both him and Henry. Not even the threat of death could get him in a state to outrun the speed of plasma bolts. Doug gave a low groan as one of the armored men walked up to him.

    “Your identification beacon says you are Doctor Douglas Strickland. Is that you?” he inquired, his voice sounded like it was being forced through a radio. It wasn’t a question that could be avoided, not with two other men holding him within their aim the entire time. Doug shot a quick glance towards Henry, who was receiving the same treatment from two other MDF soldiers.

    “Y-Yes. I am,” he squeaked, his fear-laced voice barely escaping his bone-dry throat. The soldier simply gave a quick nod to his two squadmates and turned away. Before Doug had a chance to react, he felt the heavy butt of the plasma rifle smash into his back and again into his skull. Stars exploded in front of his vision as the combined forces of exhaustion and the blows made his body fall like a rag doll.

    Only one thought persisted in his mind as his body failed and the soldiers jeered: You made it out. I know you did. Good luck. Doug’s body then went limp and his head fell against the rocky ground.

    “This one ... This one ... This one ... ... ... Just might work ..."

    In a world far away from the chaos. Separated from the radiation, the violence, and the torture by a great web of dimensional energy. Within this world, a sudden blast of blue lightning enveloped a dying wheat field outside of a small village.

    The ground shuddered as blue-colored electricity flashed through the dried stalks of swaying wheat. For an instant, dimensional singularity was reached and a harsh sonic boom echoed throughout the lands. A thud was heard as something soft impacted with the dried and cracked earth.

    A pained groan in the darkness was heard as the soft thing weakly raised its head. He attempted to push up on his right arm slightly, but as soon as he contracted the muscles in said arm to move it, a sharp pain sparked from his chest to every single nerve ending in his body. Spots danced before his already blurry eyes as pure pain lanced across his entire being.

    Unconsciousness threatened to overwhelm him. His vision tilted and twisted as memories and thoughts evacuated his traumatized mind. His childhood, his family, his friends, his home, all vanished in an instant, replaced by a desperate yearning to remember.

    Flashes of light, someone calling out to him, fire, a ruined city, a destroyed world, a key to the barrier, and a phrase whispered from somewhere far away and long ago as his vision died and head slumped to the ground:

    “He is no one, not anymore.”
    End Chapter 0.5v2

    Author’s Notes: Well, finally, this is done. It took some time to finish, but now that it is, I love how it turned out. This is truly how I intended for the prologue to turn out, but, with my limited writing skills, I couldn’t convey that with my older version.

    I put quite a lot more detail into everything, as you can probably tell. The world, the facility, the crisis, I also focused a lot more on Doug and Henry, trying to develop them as much as I could in the space of this chapter. I also tried to keep some of the things people enjoyed from the first version in this rewrite, such as the somewhat humorous lines from the facility announcer and Doug and Henry’s dialogue with each other.

    Just for future reference, this and Chapter One are the only chapters that I plan on reworking for now. Chapter One needs more ... stuff added to it like better description, and small things need to be tweaked, such as the now non-canon ending scene with Doug’s observations.

    So, I hope you enjoyed this newer version. Feedback on it would be greatly appreciated. And, if you are a new reader seeing this, then I welcome you to my story!

    I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time now: Retcon valid.

    Knightfall signing off...
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    Old April 18th, 2013 (11:43 AM).
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    Knightfall Knightfall is offline
    Unforeseen Consequences
      Join Date: Apr 2013
      Location: Sawgrass Town
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      Chapter One: In Which the Story Begins
      “In the aftermath of the heinous actions against us, it has become clear that the Republic is not our ally. I pray that we -as a company- can unite and remove these tyrants that wish to destroy everything Rogue Industries has strived to do for science, for mankind, and for our Sealed world. We will do what is necessary to survive, no matter the cost. That is all.” Memo from Rogue Industries CEO Matthew Radic concerning the sabotage and destruction of the Mainland Research and Testing Facility.

      The bright glare of the sun shone over the golden field making the tall stalks of grain to shimmer in the light.
      It also shone directly into the stirring eyes of the collapsed form on the ground.

      The irritating light caused his eyes to finally flicker to life and then he let out a strained groan.
      As his eyes slowly opened he instantly wished he hadn’t; his head was spinning like a raging tornado.

      Sounds mixed together in a distorted jumble, everything was out of sorts.
      The smell of damp earth and dry wheat eventually registered in his head that he was outside somewhere.

      Despite the throbbing pain in his head the overall pain in his body had lessened enough for him to attempt sitting up.
      He willed his arms to push into the dirt in order to elevate himself somewhat.
      It was then that he noticed that something was wrong. Very wrong.

      He couldn’t pinpoint it exactly-his eyes where still blurry from adjusting to the sun’s glare, but his entire body felt …weird. There was no other word for it.

      He finally pushed himself into a sitting position, his eyes had almost recovered to the point of sight.

      He sat there eagerly waiting as his blurry white vision slowly began to colorize and take shape.
      He lowered his gaze to what he thought to be his right arm.
      Even with his distorted vision he knew that his arm was not supposed to be colored red.
      His left arm wasn’t supposed to be either for that matter.

      In alarm, he suddenly shot up, trying not to lose balance on his two wobbly legs.

      He needed a mirror, a puddle, anything reflective would do really.
      He scanned the surrounding area quickly, noting that he seemed to be in some sort clearing in a field.

      Then he saw it: a glass pane that was attached to a thin metal frame.
      He drew a blank about what it was supposed to be, or why it was dumped in the middle a field in the first place.

      He carefully approached it, his legs starting to respond to his commands to move forward.

      As he got closer he saw that the cracked glass surface was actually a screen of some sort.
      A screen that displayed in flashing white letters:

      [36453] R.I. D.T.D. Test: Successful/yrl352524773] Error
      System Offline: Shutting Down.

      The box suddenly emitted a loud spark and the words fizzled into a blank black screen.
      Stepping closer to the smoking device he realized that the glass of the screen was reflective.
      He moved so that he could see what exactly happened to him.

      What he saw gave him no answers; only many, many more questions.
      The very first of these questions being: why is there a red lizard standing where I’m supposed to be?

      Instead of the lean, brown haired, human reflection which he was rather accustomed to seeing now stood a three foot tall crimson lizard.

      “What?” That was all he could to say out of shock.
      This … this can’t be real, He thought, this is just a dream or nightmare. A nightmare that was becoming more and more cruelly realistic by the second.

      He raised his right arm, the creature in the glass mirrored it.
      He did the same with his other arm and both of his legs. Same results, every time.

      He bent in closer to see the lizard’s face, two sharp blue eyes and a small horn like thing on the back of its head greeted him. All of it was covered in the same crimson scales as before.

      He backed up, dreading to look down out of fear of what he would see that might make this nightmare even worse.
      When he worked up enough courage to look, he had to resist the urge to scream.

      His arms were covered in tiny crimson scales in place of skin.
      His hands had transformed completely- in place of fingers, three sharp, white claws.
      His legs had shrunk immensely, ending in a pair stumpy, reptilian feet topped with more white claws.

      He twisted himself to see his back in the glass.
      He had half expected his back to be covered in the same crimson scales as nearly everywhere else had been, but he wasn’t expecting a tail topped with a live flame.

      A live flame? He started to panic. “I’m on fire!”

      He let out a startled yell as he immediately grabbed the appendage and then stomped on it as hard as he could to put it out.

      It took only a fraction of a second for the pain to nearly push him into unconsciousness again.
      His agonized screams echoed throughout the deserted field for miles.

      He fell to his knees, the still flaming tail slipping out from beneath his feet as he tried to hold back tears.

      “What did I do to deserve this?” He hoarsely whispered, mostly to himself.

      As soon as the debilitating reaction from his new tail-he shuddered at the fact that it was now “his”-- he held one hand…um…claw to his head.

      “What happened to me?” He asked the empty air around him.

      He strained to remember anything that might help him, but came up painfully short.

      He started pacing. “Let’s see, what do I remember? That’s a good place to start.”

      His mind felt like a hurricane had hit it, he couldn’t even tell if the fragmented memories he had were real or an illusion fabricated from whatever trauma had happened a few hours before.

      Yes, his mind was able to recover some information, but the scraps of memories grew increasingly useless.
      Even as his mind was fully able to recall the entire metabolic processes of a eukaryotic cell, the most basic information about himself was nowhere to be found.

      In short he had nothing. Nothing useful that is.

      He kept pacing, careful not to step on his tail again. He tried again to jumpstart his cognitive abilities.
      “Basics first, what is my name?”

      He couldn’t think of it. Refusing to let such a simple memory elude him, he concentrated harder.

      “My name is…” He willed the dark mental fog which had settled on his memories to surrender this one fact.

      Finally, as if feeling pity for the teen, the memory surfaced.

      “My name is … Leo,” he sighed in relief. He now had something to work with.

      “Leo,” he said again, the name- along with everything else- was foreign to him, but it seemed right. It fit nicely.

      Tapping his clawed foot on the ground he recited all the facts he had at the moment.

      “My name is Leo, I have no memories of my past life, and I am a human.”
      He stopped as he saw his new reflection in the glass screen again, “or at least I think I used to be.”
      Leo grumbled, he was almost certain he was human, but he couldn’t exactly trust his mind at the moment either.

      He shook his head, he had never let anything get him down; or at least he didn’t think he did.
      Either way, he had to find a way out of this mess and to do that, he reasoned, he had to find a way out of this field and to some sort of civilization.

      As if sensing his sudden resolve, his stomach growled loudly. Leo suddenly became aware that he must not have eaten in recent memory.

      His stomach growled once more, telling its owner to find something to eat.
      He scanned the ground around the strange glass screen in search of anything else helpful before he left. That was when he saw the key.

      He plucked the artifact off of the ground, dusting away some of the dirt that had accumulated on the surface.

      It was, in short, beautiful. A small light blue crystal key with two downward facing prongs and a circular back end with a small opening.
      A thin golden thread wound its way through the hole before rejoining with itself.
      Intricate engraved lines decorated the item in such a way that it almost seemed like it was not made by any tools at all.

      Leo was fascinated with the relic, he couldn’t recall that he had ever seen it before as a human, but he decided to take it with him.
      Slipping the golden string around his neck, he nodded at his reflection once before setting off with the sun to his back, in hopes of finding food and, preferably, civilization.

      He didn’t go far before he discovered that the dirt path he took turned into a trail in the forest of wheat stalks.
      His shortened legs forced him to move twice as much to cover the same distance as he did as a human, it also tired him out considerably faster.

      He wasn’t one-hundred percent sure, but he didn’t think anyone- even whatever he now was- should attempt to travel after suffering a major head injury.
      He tried to remember the various symptoms of concussion and heat stroke, but the fog wouldn’t let any of those precious details go.

      Normally when one finds themselves in a strange place, in a strange body, hungry, lost, and with no idea of how they got to be that way, they do one of two things.

      One: they panic. This is most likely the worst out of all the things one could do in this situation.
      It has the slim possibility of attracting some random passerby who is willing to help, but, realistically more of a possibility of hailing down an unsavory character, or other rejects of society who are considerably less helpful.

      Two: they remain calm and simply wait until help arrives, using the time to reflect on why they are in this situation in the first place, and perhaps come up with a few clues.

      Leo had no intention of doing any of the two at the moment; he had bigger things to worry about.
      He resolved that he’d go down a rarely used third path: those who simply deal with it later.

      He was careful to keep his flaming tail a good distance away from the stalks, the last thing he needed was to accidently start a brush fire.

      The paths lead him down several random turns and forced him to backtrack when each trail suddenly ended.
      His fears of igniting an inferno kept him from pushing through the sea of wheat in hopes of finding another route.
      His hunger kept him going even when he felt like his legs would collapse from exhaustion. He continued to look for anything else that would signal the existence of sentient life, but more and more it seemed that he was truly alone in this field.

      Nothing moved aside from the gently swaying plants, even the position of the sun and clouds hadn’t changed since he started out hours ago.
      No birds chirped, no insects buzzed ... this lush field was utterly abandoned.

      He stopped getting his hopes up when he occasionally stumbled across a small clearing; there was usually nothing on the ground-with the exception of odd circular rocks and sticks- and the clearing always branched off into even more similar paths.

      He once tried to find his way back to the clearing where he first woke up, but it was forever lost amid the endless golden labyrinth.
      His hopes of finding any exit at all shrunk, but not to the point of straying from the path.

      He stopped several times just to rest, never going to sleep, though.
      He was exhausted, but he still didn’t know who or what was out there with him, so sleep was not an option.

      He had a procedure he started following: find an open clearing, look for food, find a comfortable patch of dirt and rest, start walking again, repeat.

      He would have attributed the longevity of the hike due to his going in circles, but he never found anything familiar to tell him that he was, so he stuck with the explanation that this field was just unnaturally massive.

      His fifth second wind was just about used up when he saw it. In one of his occasional peaks through the wall of plants that bordered the path, he glimpsed another clearing on the opposite side.
      This was not what made it so different from the seven others he had seen before, on the ground of this clearing, half hidden by the stalks was a glistening red apple.

      To any other person they would have disregarded it as just a possibly rotten fruit, but to Leo, it was more precious than any element listed on the Periodic Table.

      His stomach that had given up growling a few hours ago suddenly voiced its opinion once more.
      His fears of accidentally starting a fire with his flaming tail were shoved to the back of his mind, the promise of food overriding his instincts to stay on the path.

      He smacked his lips and lunged through the seemingly thin wall of wheat.

      Instead of feeling the dry stalks brush up against his scaly skin, he felt what compared to a brick wall.
      He slowly slid to the ground where he laid in a daze for a few moments, or at least what he thought was a few moments, the still sky had screwed up any sense of time in this place.

      Those were plants aren't they, plants aren’t supposed to be hard, he thought as he dizzily looked at the golden barrier.
      It could have been the concussion talking, but he thought he heard the wall taunting him, its voice thin and raspy like a wintery wind.

      He staggered to his feet,
      “Challenge accepted…” he dizzily muttered as he ran full speed into the wheat once more.

      This time he actually felt the stalks scratch at his skin before crashing into the barrier and falling to the ground.
      His vision was focusing in and out like a zooming camera. He shook his head clear again.
      He knew he didn’t have much time before his waning stamina gave out and his body forced him to rest whether he liked it or not.

      He peeked through the spaces in the stalks to see if the apple was still there, it was.
      He sighed in relief as he girded himself for another run at the partition that separated him from his meal.

      Three failed attempts later, he finally accepted the fact that he was in no state to keep doing this.
      He simply walked up to the wall, gave a weak laugh, balled up his fist, and punched the wheat as hard as he could.

      He expected a punch like that to at the very least break his wrist, but instead- much to his surprise- it sank deep into the dry golden weeds, almost to his elbow.
      He grinned, suppressing his feelings of utter confusion and rage at the change of events, and plunged his other fist into the barrier. It too sank into the plant stalks.

      He tried to push outwards with his claws to make a path, and it worked slightly.
      The stalks stuck to each other like magnets, and he knew he was going to need a lot more force to make the plants move enough so he could get through.

      He pushed forward with his feet so that the rest of his body inched into the wall. Once completely inside- a tiring effort on Leo’s part- the stalks started to push against him, trying to shove him back out to the path.

      “No, I am not going back! I will get through this field, or die trying!” he proclaimed to the field as the small negative part of his mind told him that the later was most likely to happen.
      The field apparently accepted his challenge.

      He felt like there was a super magnet pulling him back towards the path; each step he took made the pull on his body even stronger.
      He slowly clawed his way through the reeds, glad that his new appendages were being useful, even his tail wasn’t starting any fires despite the fact that it was brushing up against the dry plants constantly.

      The laws of physics didn’t seem to apply here, Leo deduced, there had been more than enough examples today to prove that.

      Leo could feel the strength draining from his arms and legs with every step forward.
      It was agonizing, he could see the other clearing just a few feet away, but he knew he was still miles from getting through.
      At least the red fruit was still there.

      That fact alone kept him going; he knew he was past the point of turning back. The field continued its pull with a similar renewed resolve.
      The strange force that ruled this place had no intentions of letting him break the rules and get away with it.

      It was when he finally made it half way through the cursed barrier everything changed. It was as if a shudder rippled across the field and the fierce pull suddenly reversed itself.

      Instead of trying to pull him back to the path, the odd force was now trying to push him towards the clearing with all the might it had exerted seconds ago.

      The following result might have been funny to a passerby, but it was an even worse turn of events for Leo.
      He found himself being abruptly pushed towards the clearing with a sickening speed.

      The next few seconds were a fast golden blur as he lost his footing and was literally hurled from the barrier.
      He shot past the last brittle stalks separating him from the clearing like a bullet.

      The next thing he knew he was laying sprawled on his stomach out in the middle of the dirt, the apple remained were it was just out of his reach.
      He lifted his head slightly to glimpse the stalks of wheat closing back in on each other, erasing the little path his endeavor had created.

      He was on the verge of collapse, everything felt either numb or close to it. He gazed longingly at the fruit only a few feet away.
      He feebly dug his claws into the dirt and tried to drag himself forward slightly.

      At this rate, he thought, I won’t reach it before I pass out. He suddenly pushed the negative thoughts away.
      No, I’ll rest after I get it. He motivated himself, as he strained to move.

      His body was begging him to stop and rest, but he knew that he couldn’t pause.
      He didn’t know how much longer that apple would stay put, or when he would find another in this forsaken place.

      The fruit was finally in his claw when his body shut went numb. Aside from his eyes he couldn’t move.
      After a few mentally exhausting minutes spent trying to break free of his self induced paralysis, he finally contemplated stopping for a while.

      Suddenly, his frozen stare detected two figures walk in from another path. Their appearances made him question how badly his mind was damaged.

      The first one looked like a dog, a blue and black furred dog that could walk on its hind legs. If that was strange, he found the second being even stranger.
      It was a yellow furred fox with a spiky white collar of sorts. Even in his limited memories of his past life, he was absolutely certain that he had never seen such creatures.

      He couldn’t shout, he couldn’t wave, or do anything to attract their attention, or to run away if it was necessary.
      He was stuck.
      He only hoped that they would notice him sooner or later. But now it didn’t matter, his vision was fading from color to a blurry grey to black.

      It may have been simply a delusion of his strained mind, but he swore that before he passed out that he had heard the strangely colored animals talking with actual voices.
      Yep, must be the concussion, he thought to himself before his mind shut down completely from exhaustion as the darkness swallowed him for the second time.

      The sky was painted in the colors of sunset, with night fast approaching.


      He lifted his head slowly off the ground.
      Smoke filled the dark air, pouring from the shattered building behind him.

      Flaming debris rained down from the night sky above in slow motion, if he hadn’t been thoroughly bruised and battered by the blast he would been almost happy to watch as the fiery wreckage pelted the broken landscape like falling stars.

      He tilted his head to the left to see another person unconscious on the cracked asphalt, they both probably had a few broken ribs among other injuries, but that was a small price to pay for not being completely incinerated.

      His thoughts drifted to Leo, the boy they had defied every odd and procedure to save. Where was he now? Was he even alive? The brief experiment results only told so much about the subject.

      The small dark voice in his mind kept telling him that he had failed, that he had exiled Leo against his will. Trapping in him possibly forever in a world he couldn’t possibly know. These doubts ate at him until his thoughts reminded him of the cruel reality they currently lived- if it could be called that- in.

      The doubts disappeared, the malicious thoughts calmed.

      In the middle of the aftermath of what would be known as the largest declaration of war in Realm history, Doug smiled to himself.

      No, Leo hadn’t been exiled.
      He escaped.

      End Chapter: One

      For those of you reading, I thank you again.

      I had a good time writing this chapter, writing the behavioral patterns of a typical insane mystery dungeon is very fun to do.

      I always found it weird that it was basically impossible to go through a wall of trees or grass in a mystery dungeon, so I decided to show exactly how much effort it is to break dungeon physics.

      I tried to make Leo’s response to his situation a rational one: don’t panic, and stay calm.
      He noticed he had an even bigger problem on his hands other being in a new body: potentially starving in a strange place.
      That’s why I thought his “Survive first, panic later” response was reasonable.

      For those of you who wanted to know the fate of our two scientists, I thought some closure was necessary, and I really liked his final thought at the end. Seems fitting, from a certain point of view that is.

      Thank you for reading, reviews and responses are always appreciated.

      Chapter Two will be arriving soon.

      ‘Til the next chapter,

      Knightfall signing off…
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      Old April 19th, 2013 (3:20 PM).
      Astinus's Avatar
      Astinus Astinus is offline
        Join Date: May 2006
        Age: 32
        Gender: Male
        Posts: 10,107
        Ah-ha! I knew I recognized your name! You're also on Serebii. Nice to see you make your way over to PC.

        Welcome to PC, by the way.

        As for your fanfic, I only read the first post so far. One thing that I noticed right away (by the very first sentence) was that you're cramming a lot of information into one sentence.

        A young man in a white lab coat stood over a desk typing seemingly random numbers into the sleek computer that sat on it, inputting the necessary codes needed to cheat death.
        Right here, you're telling the readers about not only Doug but also what he's working on, where he's doing it, and why he's doing it. This sentence could be split into two or three sentences to break it up and not overwhelm the reader.

        I'm kind of wondering how to continue reviewing your work. I can see that you made improvements between this chapter and the last few chapters of the same fic, so I don't want to give advice that you already know.

        At any rate, thanks for sharing your story here! Once I have time, I'll read the first chapter and any more that you post between now and then. Looking forward to seeing you continuing your fic!
        "Now the trumpet summons us again--
        not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--
        not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--
        but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out."
        Reply With Quote
        Old April 19th, 2013 (4:24 PM).
        Knightfall's Avatar
        Knightfall Knightfall is offline
        Unforeseen Consequences
          Join Date: Apr 2013
          Location: Sawgrass Town
          Gender: Male
          Nature: Modest
          Posts: 31
          Originally Posted by Astinus View Post
          Ah-ha! I knew I recognized your name! You're also on Serebii. Nice to see you make your way over to PC.

          Welcome to PC, by the way.
          Yes, indeed. I hail here from Serebii. Hoping to stake a claim here and make my fortune, or something along those lines. Thanks for the welcome. I'm liking it over here so far.

          Originally Posted by Astinus View Post
          As for your fanfic, I only read the first post so far. One thing that I noticed right away (by the very first sentence) was that you're cramming a lot of information into one sentence.

          Right here, you're telling the readers about not only Doug but also what he's working on, where he's doing it, and why he's doing it. This sentence could be split into two or three sentences to break it up and not overwhelm the reader.
          Well, I guess I should explain myself a bit. My writing skills have improved tremendously from when this was initially written (sometime around early 2012). I have not yet gone back to edit it because I told myself that I would only do major revisions at the very end of my story.

          So yeah, I know the prologue is somewhat cringe worthy, but it all improves from there, I assure you.

          Originally Posted by Astinus View Post

          I'm kind of wondering how to continue reviewing your work. I can see that you made improvements between this chapter and the last few chapters of the same fic, so I don't want to give advice that you already know.

          At any rate, thanks for sharing your story here! Once I have time, I'll read the first chapter and any more that you post between now and then. Looking forward to seeing you continuing your fic!
          And don't worry, any advice will never fall in deaf ears here. I listen to every bit of advice that's thrown my way, consider it carefully, and decide how best to carry it out.

          Thank you very much for posting. I really do appreciate it.

          Knightfall signing off...
          Reply With Quote
          Old April 23rd, 2013 (5:35 PM).
          Knightfall's Avatar
          Knightfall Knightfall is offline
          Unforeseen Consequences
            Join Date: Apr 2013
            Location: Sawgrass Town
            Gender: Male
            Nature: Modest
            Posts: 31
            Chapter Two: A Slight Discrepancy
            “…For their greed, they were stripped of their wealth.
            For their misuse of knowledge, they were sentenced to live lives of ignorance.
            For their most heinous of crimes they committed under the light of the sun, they were condemned to a world of darkness.
            Never to see the true light of the sun again.
            For the war they fought, for the blood they shed, for the lives they destroyed, for the land they soiled, for the balance they usurped, for the peace they shattered, for the world they tore apart, they were banished.
            Banished by the gods from this world, forever imprisoned behind a Seal created by the gods.
            Exiled, for eternity.”

            Excerpt from the manuscript, Legend of the Great War.
            Courtesy the Trinity Isle Research and Archives facility. (T.I.R.A)

            Leo had realized that this was a playback of his forgotten life, a dream of sorts; mostly because he never remembered waking up from when he passed out.
            A flash-back; somehow dredged up from the bottomless abyss that held his past life.

            He stood-- well, it was more like observing from above, like a phantom. He watched from a short distance as a group of figures ran down a narrow metal catwalk inside some sort of darkened concrete building.
            He could see himself, as a human. He couldn't remember his face, but he knew it was him. The other adults were unrecognizable though.

            He was running-- clarification-- his human self was running. From what his other self was running from, he’s not entirely sure.

            He heard the sounds of their shoes click on the metal catwalk as his human self followed the adult figures in front of him. Leo saw that his human self wanted to catch his breath, but he knew he couldn't; he has to keep up with the others.

            As to reaffirm his other self’s unknown reason for not stopping, Leo heard an explosion. The blast was muffled by the concrete walls of this building, but it didn’t stop the acrid smell of smoke and burning furniture from reaching Leo’s phantom nose.

            His human self ran even faster, propelled by fear.
            Suddenly one of the figures in the front of the group opened a metal door, light poured in from the outside. Leo felt himself blink as the bright light made the dark hallway visible.

            From his outsider viewpoint Leo was amazed at what some of the figures looked like.
            A couple of the adults, comprised of both men and women were dressed in formal black business suits that where soaked in sweat and had more wrinkles and tears than a tailor could ever hope to fix.
            Aside from these “official” people, the few others were clothed in some sort of strange armor and helmets. Each of these armored people was gripping some sort of black handheld machine, their faces set with an unreadable look that betrayed no emotions or fear.

            He looked at his human self with an air of detachment; he couldn’t believe that he originally was one of them; it seemed so sort of unreal.
            His human self also looked at of place with the adults; wearing only a simple T-shirt and jeans.

            As if opening the door triggered some sort of signal the men in the armor sprung into action. Clutching the black devices with both hands they rushed out of the door, followed quickly by his dream self and the others.
            Leo couldn’t move as his other self ran out into the bright light of whatever was outside.

            Suddenly there was a sharp cracking of thunder, lots of it, coming from directly outside the open door in short rapid bursts. He heard yelling, the roar of the thunder blasts grew louder and more rapid.
            Than everything was enveloped in the bright light; the light had all but blinded him, but his hearing remained intact.

            He doubled over as the sounds amplified themselves louder; he covered his ears with his claws in a vain attempt to block out the ear shattering noise.
            Just as he thought his head was going to burst from the noise, he awoke with a start.

            Gasping for air, he looked around at the room he was in. He was laying on a pitiful excuse for a bed-a small circle of damp straw- in the middle of a stone walled chamber. There was only a single heavy wooden door and it didn’t have a handle. The only source of light aside from his torch of a tail was a small glowing crystal fixture on the ceiling.

            Leo’s pulse quickened, where am I?
            He quickly got to his feet, and than almost instantly was broadsided with a dizzy spell. His body stumbled and he found himself holding onto the cool stone wall for support.

            The gnawing pain of hunger he felt from before had decided to rear its ugly head once more.
            His stomach decided it was the right time to remind him of its existence and the fact that it hadn’t been filled in recent memory.
            He was about to slide down the wall to the floor in defeat when his eyes caught a flash of metal.

            He slowly turned his head to face the source of the glint as not to provoke another dizzy spell. It was a small metal plate; however it wasn’t this that had Leo’s attention.
            It was the two small red apples that rested on the platter.

            He willed the little energy his body had left into the form of a clumsy dive. The rough slide across the stone floor didn’t seem to hurt as much thanks to his new scaly skin.

            His sharp teeth made short work the soft apple flesh; he tore through both of the fruits with lightning speed. He tried to savor the juicy flavor. As he finished the fruit, he attempted to jog his memory as to when he had last enjoyed them.
            He couldn’t, and he again cursed his amnesia.

            Licking his lips, Leo finally felt almost happy, despite his shortfall recollecting his memory. He tossed the two apple cores back onto the plate.
            He wasn’t completely full, he was still in some sort of prison, and he was suddenly feeling very drowsy.
            His breathing slowed, his eye lids suddenly became heavy, and soon he found himself laying on a slightly damp pile of straw on the floor.

            Why am I sleepy? I just woke up, didn’t I? Leo tried to reason, but his mind also was getting sluggish, I should be trying to find- he let loose an involuntary yawn-a way out...of…here….

            And with that last thought, he drifted off to a sleep. Thankfully this time there were no dreams he was forced to watch.

            Leo woke to the screeching of the door to his cell opening.
            As he groggily sat up, two things happened at once.

            The first being that what looked like two metal spheres with magnets attached to their sides floated into the room.
            The second being that the metal sphere things talked.

            “BZZZT! Looks like he’s awake. Finally. BZZZT!”

            Leo could only stare as one of the spheres zoomed close to his face. This caused Leo to franticly claw his way backwards, only to have a wall crash into the back of his head.

            Leo winched in pain and tenderly rubbed the back of his scalp- still noting the fact that he now had a horn.
            However this made the two magnetic abominations burst into fits of what Leo could only assume was laughter. All he could hear was the sound of harsh static and metallic screeches coming from the two guards.

            Wanting to preserve some of his dignity, Leo quickly got to his feet and angrily swiped his claw at one of the spheres. He was rewarded with a hit, even if it only made the sphere bob slightly in the air.

            That said sphere returned the favor with a small burst of electricity from his magnet appendages aimed at Leo.
            The voltage wasn’t enough to permanently harm him; the Magnemite wasn’t stupid and he needed this job.

            Leo felt like his body was on fire, yet he stood up and faced the twin guards with a look of pure repressed anger.

            “BZZZT! Don’t look at us like that! BZZZT!” the first sphere shouted, his higher tones sounding like an out of tune microphone.

            “BZZZT! Yeah, you kind of deserved it for making us work overtime. If it wasn’t for you, we’d probably be back at the Hub recharging by now. BZZZT!” the second sphere continued the first’s rant.

            Leo didn’t respond, he only focused more of his anger into his glare, maybe if I concentrate hard enough they’ll both explode. Who knows what I can do in this body?

            They didn’t explode, much to his dismay. They did however shackle both of his wrists together with some sort of magnet chain, and tried to lead him out of the room to somewhere else in the underground building.

            The word “tried” meaning they attempted to walk him out of his cell, but after being thrown in prison, drugged, bruised, laughed at, and shocked, Leo wasn’t in the mood for compliance.

            “ZT! Stop resisting! Our chief wants to talk with you. ZZT!” one of the guards groaned.

            Leo simply dragged his feet on the packed dirt floor, a procedure which worked well now that he had claws. Not impressed with his little show of defiance, the guards continued prodding him with small electric zaps while muttering about his species stubbornness.

            At last they had arrived at their destination, a small room cut from the stone. Inside as only a wooden table and a small chair made of the same substance.

            The guards entered with Leo and instructed him to sit down. He carefully made sure his tail wasn’t in the way before completing the action while the guards waited.

            A short time later another creature much like the guards floated through the doorway.
            It was a much bigger identical form of the guards and had an air of authority as it started talking to the guards.
            The guards reported on the recent events to the, what Leo would assume was their chief officer.
            They were being very secretive about it, talking in hushed tones; it wasn’t like Leo could glean any information from their conversation even if he wanted to. They were talking in a series of beeps and tones, a language that most sentient beings not acquainted with radio signals wouldn’t understand.

            As soon as they were finished giving their version of the report, the officer turned to look at Leo.
            Leo gave a weak wave to the one eyed creature, careful to let him see the small blackened areas on his scales from when they had zapped him.

            The ovular magnetic creature suddenly shouted at the guards in a language that sounded like the unholy combination of metallic screeches, high pitched static, Morse code, and other unpleasant mechanical noises that threatened to make Leo’s ears bleed.

            This sudden outburst made the both of the guards zoom out of the room in sheer terror. The larger creature than aimed one of his magnet hands at the metal door and pulled it shut with a magnetic pulse.

            While Leo stared in mixed awe of the creature, it floated over to the opposite side of the table and started to talk.

            “Let me be the first to apologize for their behavior, I had absolutely no idea of their actions. BZZZT! They were acting completely out of the orders I gave them. BZZZT! I specifically told them to escort you to this chamber, and not to damage you in the process!” He buzzed angrily as his apology came to an end.

            “It’s alright; I’ll be fine in no time.” Leo responded with forced cheerfulness, but he couldn’t hide his look of utter confusion and hatred of the guards from the creature.

            “Ah. You’re wondering why you’re here, aren’t you? BZZZT!” he asked knowingly, as Leo nodded, affirming his answer.

            “You were brought here two days ago suffering from severe malnutrition and sleep deprivation as a side affect of your time in Tranquility Fields. That’s why we had to coat your meal with sleep seed extract, by the way. BZZT!”

            Wait, two days? How long was I out? Where exactly was I? Surprisingly, the only part of what he said that made any sense to Leo was why he was drugged.

            “BZZZZT! I know you’re wondering why you’re here, being interrogated by me to be more specific, aren’t you? BZZZT!” Leo had no idea that the officer was able to read minds. He gave him a silent look that said, “No, I want to know why the sky is blue”.

            Apparently not seeing Leo’s glare, the officer continued,
            “BZZZT! I haven’t seen you around here before so I’ll introduce myself. My name is Auxiliary Gear Magnezone; you may call me Officer Gear; I’m in charge of Loyalty Square’s prison. BZZZT! I’ve been in charge of this prison for te-”

            “Why am I in prison in the first place?” Leo suddenly interrupted; irritated with the lack of real answers and abuse he was receiving in this place.

            The creature, Officer Gear, was silent for a moment; the only sound in the chamber came from the faint sounds of the surface world above and the quiet whirring noise that accompanied the Magnezone’s constantly turning magnets.

            “BZT! You want to know why you are here? You are here because the rescue team that found you passed out in front of the Fields was required to bring you here by law. BzzzzT! No one is allowed near the Fields without permission. No one. You’re guilty of trespassing. BzZt! That’s why you’re here! Don’t act like you don’t know; everyone without a death wish knows to stay away from the Fields! bZZttT!” Gear shouted, the mechanism that controlled his voice failing to remove the static tones in his speech.

            Leo wasn’t expecting that, he’d been through a lot the past couple days, but he wasn’t expecting to be yelled at; much less charged with a crime.

            He stood up, nearly knocking the chair over in the process. He leaned over the table and got close to Gear’s single red eye.

            “Listen, I woke up in the middle of that field with no idea of who I was, or how I got there, much less that I was committing a crime. I was concerned with finding a way out of that place, and eventually I did. I don’t really care for your rules about trespassing. I just want to leave, now.” he said the last word with such iciness it surprised him.
            It wasn’t the only thing to surprise him; Leo swore he saw actual steam exiting his nostrils as he ended his rant

            It felt good to let that built up rage out, he hadn’t had much of a chance to let it out earlier. He knew that he’d have to face some sort of punishment for talking back to the officer, but it felt great to finally get it off his chest and stand up for himself.

            After what seemed an eternity, or maybe it was just a couple of seconds, Gear spoke.

            “BZZZT! You got guts, Charmeleon, and a temper to match. Tell you what, you deserve to know what’s going on, and I’ll tell you. BZZZT! As long as you tell me what I need to know, alright? Seem fair? ZT!”

            Leo wasn’t to keen to take his offer, but took a mental note on what exactly he had turned into, a Charmeleon is it? Strange name for whatever I am .
            He slowly nodded, hoping that he could answer the officer’s questions. Otherwise, he could be here for a while.

            “ZZZT! Good. Now, you claim you have no idea who you are or how you got inside the dungeon known as Tranquility Fields. Could you please explain what happened? BZT!”

            Leo shifted in the chair, “I don’t know exactly what happened myself, I’m not sure how I could possibly explain it to you. I have no ide-” Leo began to say, before Gear interrupted.

            “ZZT! Just tell me to the best of your ability, alright? ZT!” Gear told Leo, getting slightly irritated with him.

            So began Leo’s most uncomfortable experience in this new world yet.
            He went over every detail in his escapade from when he first woke up to when he last blacked out, even including his loss of memory and how he escaped through the barrier leaving nothing out of the narrative.
            Except for his memories of being a human that is; he decided it was best to leave that little detail out of his story until he knew a lot more about what was going on.

            When he finally finished his tale, Gear said nothing for a few minutes; his mind processing and going over every aspect of what was just told to him.

            “BZZZT! You’ve got to be the strangest Pokemon I’ve ever had to interrogate, and I’ve run this prison for ten years. You’ve just made my job slightly easier, if anything. They’ll never believe this down at the Federation. BZZZT!” Gear laughed loudly.

            Not knowing what Gear meant by the comment, Leo decided to speak.

            “Remember your part of the deal; now please tell me what I want to know. Officer.” he asked, quickly adding the last word to the end.

            Gear glared at him, his single red eye glowing with slight irritation. At long last he said, “So I did. And now I know why what you want to ask, and the answer, simply, is the Fields are dangerous.”

            Not stopping even for Leo’s confusion, he continued,
            “The dungeon you came out of is off limits to everyone. BZZZT!
            Even after the Restoration of Time, the dungeon never recovered from the effects of the Crisis. It turned into a black hole of sorts, anyone who went in was never heard from again. ZzzT!”
            Gear stopped his explanation suddenly, and grew quiet for a moment. To Leo it was if he was reminded of those he had known who didn’t return from those fields.
            He also gave a thought to the terms Gear had mentioned, Federation? Crisis? Restoration of Time? Obviously they are important, but I have no idea what they are. He made a quick note to eventually find out what these events were.

            Gear’s words also brought up an eerie thought; back in the Fields, what if I couldn’t break through the barrier?
            Leo shuddered at the grim possibilities of what might have happened.

            As Leo was processing his own thoughts, Gear found his voice again.

            “The Federation called off the rescue efforts and erased Tranquility Fields from its maps. They gave us orders to guard the entrances and to punish those who got too close. That’s why you’re here, because technically you crossed the boundary, and the law states you must face the consequences.”

            Leo tensed, he wasn’t sure what made up the punishment in this world, but he didn’t want to find out anytime soon.

            “Fortunately for you, the odd circumstances of your escape will be enough to simply write this off as an unusual incident. Mostly because- to the extent of your knowledge- you never went into the Fields, you only came out of them. BZZZT!” Gear explained, much to Leo’s relief.

            His claws slowly released from the wooden seat of the chair, as he processed the officer’s about-face in punishing him.
            I’m getting out of this place, finally, out…

            The Magnezone continued speaking,
            “Sorry about imprisoning you and all that.
            But procedure must be followed; otherwise there’d be no order, so to ensure order we had to at least question you on your little “adventure’ in Tranquility Fields. BZZZT!
            Please understand why we had to do what we did.” and with that statement Gear used a radio tone to signal one of the Magnemite guards to enter the room.

            The guard was not one of the guards from earlier, much to Leo’s satisfaction. If he ever got his hands on either one of them again, they would be the ones on the ground in pain, not him.

            Returning to this guard, he was carrying a metal crate with his twin magnets. He gently set the crate down on the wooden interrogation table and with Gear’s nod of dismissal; he floated out of the room.

            Gear hovered slightly higher off the ground and reached inside the crate. He pulled out a folded wad of paper pinched in his magnet-like appendage.
            He placed the folded paper on the table and gave it a push.

            It slid across the rough wooden surface, stopping right in front of Leo.

            Leo carefully unfolded it, and laid the flattened document on the table. It had no words or letters at all, only some sort of code printed on the entirety of it; various couplings of dots and dashes made up the print on the paper.
            Either way, Leo had no way of reading it, much less any idea of language what it was.

            Fortunately, Gear chose at that time to provide an answer.
            “BZZZT! That is your ticket out of this place, please don’t lose it.”

            Leo stared up at the oversized floating magnet with a look of suspicion. He didn’t believe that he’d be given permission to leave this easily.

            Gear couldn’t read minds, but he could read Leo’s look of disbelief as clearly as a book.

            “You can leave, if that is what your question is. We no further need for your presence here; you have been cleared of the charges against you. ZTT!” he explained as he motioned toward the door of the chamber, opening it with a magnetic pulse.

            “So were do I go now?” Leo asked uncertainly, he didn’t want to get lost in this maze of a prison by accident.

            Gear pondered his question over for a moment.
            How hard can it be to tell me the way out your own prison? Leo thought as Gear’s lack of answering stretched on.

            When Gear finally spoke up, Leo was about to fall asleep, his head pressed against the table.

            “BZZZT! Well, I’m not sure exactly what you should do next. Until you recover from your amnesia, you can’t exactly go off on your own, can you? BZZZT! I guess I can talk to the Guild and see if you can stay there for a few days…” he trailed off suddenly; an idea just hit him.

            Leo sighed and put his head down again, this wasn’t what he meant by his question, he just wanted directions out of here, but he took mental notes of the places he mentioned.

            It was only a few seconds this time before Gear started speaking again,

            “BZZZT! In fact, I might not need to trouble the Guild with you after all. Please wait a moment.”
            As he finished Gear suddenly emitted a series of beeps and tones. Almost instantly another guard zoomed through the open door and into the room. He hovered over to Gear and handed him a blank piece of paper.

            Gear silently dismissed the guard and laid the paper on the table in front of him. Without warning his right magnet started spinning, generating sparks of electricity as it spun faster.

            Than Gear aimed the electricity, in a single, thin beam of energy, at the paper and quickly moved the beam across the paper much like a pen or pencil.
            Leo vainly tried to associate a face or a name with these items from his past, but as said, it was a vain attempt, his amnesia was still too powerful.

            Pens and pencils. Just another useless shred of memory. He sighed inwardly as he gave up trying to remember.
            Leo decided to pay attention to Gear and his activity once more.
            He watched in curiosity as Gear finished his work; burning the last few lines into the paper. Gear than stopped the energy beam and picked up the smoking paper. From what Leo could see, an entire letter had been composed from the burnt lines in the paper.

            Gear than used his magnets to gently fold the paper into a simple square, he than slid it across the table like the release paper before.

            “Just give those to the guard at the front sentry post on the surface floor, alright? BZZZT! That should take care of your problems, for now at least.” Gear said as Leo placed both folded papers in his claw, and stood up.

            Leo was about to walk out of the room into the hallway Gear suddenly shouted for his attention.
            He turned back around to face the officer, what now? He thought as Gear reached inside the metal crate again.

            “Figured you didn’t want to leave this behind” he said as he pulled out a familiar small crystal key on a golden string, “It seems pretty valuable.”

            Any thoughts of irritation for Gear vanished as Leo meekly made his way over to the floating Pokemon. Gear gently turned over the artifact to Leo, who than slowly slid the golden thread over his neck.

            He sighed as relief flooded him, if he had lost it he didn’t know what he would do. It was the last thing he had of his past life; he needed to keep it safe.

            “Thank you, sir.” Leo whispered, still in shock of the officer’s kindness in returning the key.
            Something told Leo that Gear could have fetched a good deal of money if he were to have kept and sold it someplace.

            “BZZZT! You’re welcome, Charmeleon. Unfortunately not all of us in this business share my principles when it comes to matters like these.” Gear told a still stunned Leo cheerfully.

            “It’s Leo,” Leo quietly told Gear.

            “Ahh, Leo is it? Alright, well good to know your name in case we ever meet again. BZZZT!” Gear said as he floated past Leo and into the hallway.

            “Just go along the other path, and you’ll eventually reach the surface. Remember to give those papers to the guard, or else.” Gear called from down the hallway, and than he was gone. Off to deal with other matters deeper inside the prison.

            Leo snapped out of the semi-stupor he was in and walked out of the chamber. He made sure that he went along the hallway opposite from where he had last seen Gear.

            The hallway smelt strongly of wet hay and damp earth, something that, as a creature with a live fire burning on his tail, he didn’t find too comfortable.
            His clawed feet made a slight clicking noise when they touched the stone floor, as he quickly walked through the winding hallways, always heading upwards.
            He was careful not to accidently turn down one of the many side hallways that lead back down into the unpleasantness of the prison.
            After he walked for about five minutes he noticed the walls of the hallway change from stone to packed dirt, and the dim light slowly get brighter.

            Soon he reached a three-way intersection, two of the paths lead elsewhere in the prison, while the third path he had all ready traveled. In wall in front of him was a pair of rectangular metal doors which lead to the lobby and outside.
            Normally this wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if they had some type of knob, but they didn’t. The doors where completely smooth and appeared impossible to open.

            Leo tried knocking loudly on the smooth metal, but no one seemed on the other side to answer him, or maybe they were just ignoring him.
            Not about to give into defeat to a seemingly impassible barrier, he employed the same tactic that he successfully used in an earlier battle against a certain wall of wheat.

            He awoke shortly afterwards to the sounds of static buzzing, and looked above him to see a Magnemite above him. He winced as he slowly got to his feet, he felt sore all over, and had a splitting head ache.
            He made a painful mental note never to tackle a solid metal anything, especially at a full sprint.

            The guard apparently didn’t want to get involved in Leo’s dilemma and simply used his magnetic pull to easily open the door.
            Shielding his adjusting eyes from the light from beyond the door, he thanked the Magnemite who nodded in reply and flew off elsewhere in the prison.

            Leo cautiously walked through the doorway into the lobby; the term lobby could only be applied if taken very loosely. The room was much brighter than the rest of the prison, considering that it had a few windows covered in sticks in the clay walls.
            Other than the brightness there was little to it, there was only a small wooden booth with a Magnemite that floated behind it located by the open entrance way, and many wooden bulletin boards were mounted on the walls, each covered in posters that showed a colorful drawing of a certain Pokemon.

            Leo now noticed why the guard hadn’t heard his knocking on the door earlier; he was busy talking with two creatures on the other side of his booth.
            It took Leo a few seconds, but he realized that he recognized the two creatures. They were the blue and black dog and yellow and white fox from outside the Field.

            No, he didn’t have the time to deal with them; his full focus was on the opening in the wall that led out of this place. He couldn’t risk his freedom with talking to the guard, for all he knew they would charge him with another crime.
            He’d have to be quiet, and slowly sneak around the two Pokemon while the guard was distracted.

            He flattened himself against the wall, and slowly began edging himself along it. It was incredibly slow going, but he was making progress, slowly but surely.
            About halfway to the opening, Leo took a tentative glance at the guard.

            The Magnemite was still conversing with the dog and fox Pokemon.
            Good, he’s still talking with them, Leo thought as he continued to slide his way across the wall.
            He was almost to the opening, he could turn the corner and be outside, that’s how close he was to freedom, but the booth was directly beside his target destination. He couldn’t go past without getting spotted unless he was extremely lucky.

            Seeing no other alternative Leo grabbed his key and took a deep breath.
            He ran directly behind the two Pokemon and into the opening as quick as his reptilian feet would allow.
            He was almost in the clear, he couldn’t believe his apparent luck that the guard didn’t see him; he applauded himself for finally turning his streak of bad luck around.
            It is at these times reality reminds us, often painfully, that some people or Pokemon aren’t made to succeed at certain things, like escaping unnoticed from a prison for instance.

            Leo was halfway down the stone steps of the prison when suddenly he felt something metallic wrap painfully tight around both his ankles.
            Leo soon found this pain was rather insignificant when compared with the pain of losing his balance and falling down half a flight of stone steps, face first.

            He laid there for a moment, in quiet agony at the bottom of the steps, his entire body fighting to assess and mend the many bruises he had sustained in his misadventure.

            Unfortunately for him, his rest was interrupted by the familiar whirring sound of a Magnemite. He could have sworn that it hid an almost inaudible laugh under its buzzing, as it attached one of its magnets to the metal cords around his ankles.

            Leo soon found out that the only thing more painful than falling down half a flight of stone steps, was being quickly dragged up an entire flight of stone steps after doing the former.
            With each step Leo was dragged up, he had to hold back an even greater amount of tears. At the top step, Leo uttered a small whimper. The guard didn’t even look at his captive as he continued to drag him back inside the prison foyer.
            Leo watched the feet of the two creatures quickly shuffle out of the way, as he was dragged into the middle of the room, both his body and pride greatly bruised.

            Once at the guard’s destination, the Magnemite shot a magnetic pulse at the tight metal cords that secured his feet. They instantly loosened and unwound, freeing his now slightly numb feet.
            The guard quickly took the cord and stashed it behind his desk again. He than returned to the hurt Charmeleon and told Leo to stand, while the other two Pokemon silently stood and watched.

            Leo painfully complied as the upset guard muttered words that Leo was sure were unfit for regular conversation.
            As soon as he was finally standing, the guard started to spin both of its magnets, generating many sparks as he aimed the magnets squarely at Leo’s torso. Leo braced for the inevitable pain, his eyes squeezed tight, and his body as tense at he could make it without feeling pain.

            After a few seconds he dared to open his eyes. The guard was no longer charging for a stunning shot, but instead looking at the crumpled papers clenched tightly in the claws on his right hand.
            He had forgotten about them, they had been in his hand the entire time.
            Silently swearing to himself, he cursed the fact that he had forgotten about the release papers that he was given and his own stupidity. He could have just handed over the paper and have been on his way, but no. Of course that didn’t happen.

            The guard apparently saw what Leo was thinking and snatched the papers from his claw, and quickly scanned them both.
            He took the first of the papers with the strange code on it and put it in the booth, and than gave the second paper to the blue and black dog.

            The dog Pokemon slowly accepted the paper, not knowing what could possibly be on it.
            He lowered the paper slightly so that his fox partner could get a good look at it as well.

            While they read the content of the paper, Leo and the guard simply had engaged in a silent staring contest. The guard wishing he could zap Leo upside the head for his stupidity, and Leo busy closing one eye and imaging he was squishing the guard’s metal ball body between his claws.

            As soon as the blue and black dog Pokemon was finished reading the letter he simply crumbled it into a ball and returned it to the guard, who zapped it into ash with his magnets.

            “BZZZT! Well, than. Now you both know what’s going on, I’m most regrettably required by royal law and Gear’s mandatory “moral obligations” to ask if you have any questions or concerns about your new “addition” to your team. ZTTT!”
            The guard sighed, apathetically addressing the other two Pokemon. Wait, new addition?

            It was the dog who answered the guard, “Is this legal? Can Officer Gear do this? He never asked us, or told us anything!” he yelled at the guard.

            The guard angrily zoomed over to the dog, “Listen, Riolu, and listen well; I don’t care. I honestly don’t. ZZT! Now, shut up. ZT! In fact Gear can do this. Royal decree number five-hundred and seven, section two, sub-section three. ZZT!”

            The Riolu crossed his arms, “But it isn’t fair! We didn’t ask for a new teammate when we rescued him, why can’t he just go to the Guild or something?”

            The guard rounded on him, “BZZZT! Do I need to repeat the decree to you? In the case of a national emergency, and this is one, the Chief Officer has the authority to assign rescue and exploration teams temporary members as to not burden the Guild’s functions during said national emergency. What part of that isn’t clear? BZZZT! Now leave! I don’t want to have to charge you with resisting an officer’s order. Go! ZT!”

            The Riolu wasn’t done arguing yet, and was about to talk when the Jolteon stopped him.

            “Just stop, Jay. We can’t do anything about it now, and arguing won’t help. Let’s just go.” She told the upset Riolu, apparently named Jay.
            He reluctantly complied and muttered something about the guard under his breath.

            The guard looked pleased for once, “BZZZT! Thank you, Jolteon! At least someone here has proved that they can listen to reason, unlike some others. BZT!” he said, directing his last enunciated word at both Leo and Jay.

            Leo silently observed as the three Pokemon argued over his fate, a conversation not comfortable to listen to in the slightest.

            Jay and the Jolteon both turned to exit the prison, the guard quickly told Leo to follow them.

            “BZT! You’re with them now. Have fun with your new teammates! BZZT!” The guard laughed, a horrid static buzzing sound, and shoved Leo out of the lobby, onto the top steps where he left him.
            Confused with the events that made up the past few minutes, Leo continued down the steps, thankfully without tripping.

            He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, taking in his surroundings. He saw the other stone and clay buildings of the town, as well as a multitude of creatures simply milling about, going on with their daily lives.

            Leo twisted around in a circle, taking in the wonderful strangeness of it all, the colorful buildings, as the equally colorful creatures that walked, crawled, floated, and flew around him. Many of them were totally unlike any animal he had ever seen before; wow.

            Before he was done marveling the scenery, Jay and the Jolteon found him.

            “Well, I guess I’m with you guys for now. Right?” Leo said uncomfortably, as tried to get on their good side. He didn’t want to be hated by them, just because Gear took matters into his own hands.

            “Yeah, you’re with us, Charmeleon. Just stay with us.” Jay told him as he and the Jolteon started to make their way down the dirt street.

            “It’s Leo. My name’s Leo.” Leo called to them as he followed the two.

            As they moved past the various shops and buildings of the square, Leo tried to contain his curiosity as he took in the colorful wares of the vendors.

            He saw berries and fruits of nearly every shape and size, from a small red one the size of a marble, to apples about the size of one of the Magnemite guards.
            Along with the many fruits, he saw various metal goods, bags of small red colored seeds, and blue glass orbs stocked on the shelves and counters of the shops.

            As he was looking, he realized that Jay and the Jolteon were both far ahead of him.
            Leo ran forward to catch up with the Jolteon. Since she seemed the nicer of the two, Leo started to chat with her.

            “Hey, it’s been a pretty hectic day so far, hasn’t it?” Leo asked, trying to make small talk with her. He sighed inwardly since at least he didn’t ask her about the weather.

            “Yeah, it’s been pretty confusing so far. We really weren’t expecting Officer Gear to assign you to our team like that.” she said, as they turned off of the main street and onto a smaller dirt path.

            “So that’s why he’s in such a bad mood, because of me?” Leo asked, jerking a claw toward Jay, who was walking a few strides ahead of them, and didn’t notice their conversation.

            “I don’t think it’s you personally, he just doesn’t like it when he doesn’t get a warning of some sort when Gear or someone pulls these sorts of things. Like I said earlier, Gear never told us anything, except to be at the station this morning.” she explained, but Leo still had unanswered questions.

            “So what’s your name? I got Jay’s, but not yours.” Leo inquired, wanting as much information as he could get.

            The Jolteon looked somewhat surprised at this, “My name’s Kelly, and yours is Leo, right?”

            “That’s right.”

            “So what’s your story? I know you must have something to tell, since most Pokemon don’t just burst out of a dungeon wall, and then pass out. And now with your episode at the prison entrance, I really want to hear it.” Kelly asked Leo after a minute or so of relative quiet.

            Leo had been somewhat expecting her question, the fact that they might to hear his story. It was a reasonable request, after all he was getting to stay with them, even if it was forcibly ordered, it was still the least he could do.

            He glanced down at the key, which hung limply around his neck, his only link to whatever happened before he woke up in the middle of the Fields.
            All of the things that had happened to him, from waking up until now, they were all so strange and new to him. He had all ready told Gear his slightly altered story, and now he was going to get the chance to tell it again.

            He looked over to Kelly, “It’s a long, complicated story.” he said with a small chuckle, after all when he looked back on it, it was a little funny at times.

            “Well, you’ll get the chance to tell us once we get to our base. And than afterwards, you’ll get the grand tour of the place. Sound good?” Kelly explained as Leo noticed that they weren’t in the town anymore.
            They were on the edge of a small wooded valley, and the sun was starting to set.
            The scent of the woods and the fact that wasn’t in the prison anymore calmed him.
            It perhaps the calmest Leo had felt yet in this place, and to him passing out and being drugged to sleep didn’t count as being calm.

            “Yeah, that sounds good” he said as they continued down the path, leaving Leo to his thoughts.

            This is going to be interesting. He thought as he made a note to find out exactly what a “rescue team” was, and what was going to happen to him tomorrow.

            They were questions Leo could only hope would be answered.

            Author’s Notes:

            Again, this is an older chapter that contains some of the mistakes of earlier chapters. I will eventually do a major revision of these, but not at the current time. Anyways, reviews and criticism always welcome.

            Knightfall signing off...
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            Old April 30th, 2013 (12:28 PM).
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            Knightfall Knightfall is offline
            Unforeseen Consequences
              Join Date: Apr 2013
              Location: Sawgrass Town
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              Chapter Three: Calibration
              [Bypassing Security Encryption][Begin Transmission Playback] [File Addendum Found]
              Saffron Capital Prison,
              Date: 7/13/--
              Time: 8:45 A.M
              Prisoner: #037
              Name: David M. Radic
              Occupation: [REDACTED]
              Crimes: High Treason
              Current Status: Terminated
              Comments: [REDACTED]
              [Unauthorized Access Detected: Disengaging File][Transmission Ended]

              Transmission recovered from computer hard drives by Rogue Industries Counter-Crisis Unit (CCU) personal approximately twenty-seven hours after the destruction of the Dawson Mainland Research Facility.
              The team, with their new addition in tow, arrived at the base shortly after leaving the square, via a short trail through the forest that led to a large grassy clearing near the foot of the small valley.
              The base wasn’t the only structure in the valley; there were several other dwellings made up of a mishmash of logs and other materials seemingly held together by sheer will and rope.

              Leo had taken a moment to admire the base when he first saw it; a jumble of log planks and stone fitted together made up the exterior of the single story structure, it was definitely unlike anything Leo remembered seeing before.

              Entering the base, Leo saw that it was completely different from the outside. It was much neater than the rough exterior; there was a small center room that linked to several other rooms that Leo barely got a glimpse of; a few had either a hammock hung from the log wall or a simple straw bed on the floor with a few blankets messily piled in the corners along with several wooden chests apparently used for storage.

              In one of the unoccupied rooms Leo spied a small shelf crammed with books. He made a note to look through those when he got the chance.

              It was the only tour he got of the place before he found himself sitting in the center room of the base, with Jay and Kelly prodding him to tell his story.

              Leo gulped, he knew he needed to chose his words wisely or else things might get more complicated for him than they already were.
              He took a breath and began, “The first thing I can definitely remember is waking up on the ground with the sun glaring down on me…”

              The team, with their new addition in tow, arrived at the base shortly after leaving the square, via a short trail through the forest that led to a large grassy clearing near the foot of the small valley.
              The base wasn’t the only structure in the valley; there were several other dwellings made up of a mishmash of logs and other materials seemingly held together by sheer will and rope.

              Leo had taken a moment to admire the base when he first saw it; a jumble of log planks and stone fitted together made up the exterior of the single story structure, it was definitely unlike anything Leo remembered seeing before.

              Entering the base, Leo saw that it was completely different from the outside. It was much neater than the rough exterior; there was a small center room that linked to several other rooms that Leo barely got a glimpse of; a few had either a hammock hung from the log wall or a simple straw bed on the floor with a few blankets messily piled in the corners along with several wooden chests apparently used for storage.

              In one of the unoccupied rooms Leo spied a small shelf crammed with books. He made a note to look through those when he got the chance.

              It was the only tour he got of the place before he found himself sitting in the center room of the base, with Jay and Kelly prodding him to tell his story.

              Leo gulped, he knew he needed to chose his words wisely or else things might get more complicated for him than they already were.
              He took a breath and began, “The first thing I can definitely remember is waking up on the ground with the sun glaring down on me…”

              It was well past sunset by the time Leo had even gone half way with his tale. When the darkness fell, Jay stopped him for a moment; he got up, went over to the wooden wall, and tapped a dull blue crystal shard in a metal container on the wall.
              As soon as his blue paw hit the jagged surface of the shard it burst into a small shinning light. He went all around the circular room lightly touching each of the shards until he thought the amount of light adequate.
              When Leo questioned him about what they were Jay replied,
              “Luminous Orb shards.”
              He said it as if every being with a pulse knew what a Luminous Orb was, unfortunately for Leo, the Riolu didn’t elaborate on the strange fixtures.

              With some convincing, Jay eventually got Leo to continue with his story.
              It was a late hour by the time the Charmeleon was finished. A time when ghosts of the deceased are said to roam the land, leaving behind trails of dew, mist, and fog.

              With his story completed, Leo wondered what his new teammates would think of him.
              They both appeared to be attentive to his narrative, but Leo couldn’t fathom was the thoughts were processing through their heads.

              He wasn’t worried about how they would react to the fact that he used to be a human; he taken too many risks in the past few days, and had decided to leave that little detail out of his account.
              It isn’t the right time or place to tell them. Besides, I have no idea what they’ll think of me if they find out, I need to find out more about this place before that happens. He reasoned while he feigned the account of what had happened when he first woke up in the Fields and his realization that he was no longer human.
              He felt somewhat guilty about inadvertently lying to them, but he told himself it was for the best.

              Jay was the first to break the relatively short silence.
              He commented nonchalantly while waving a blue paw at Leo’s words that hung in the air.
              “The Far Reach frontier explorers’ stories are more believable if only slightly, and most of them are certified insane.”

              “What?” Leo shot back at the Riolu. He doesn’t believe me. He just dismissed by story, just like that!

              Jay didn’t miss a beat, “I’m sorry, but you story sounds just a little unbelievable. Just 'waking up' in an inescapable dungeon and escape it? It just doesn’t happen; not that it couldn’t happen, it doesn’t happen!”

              Leo shot up from the wooden stool he’d been sitting on, and glared at the Riolu. His red eyes hidden behind his “mask” of black fur didn’t even blink.

              “You saw what happened! You saw me crash through the barrier of that place with your own eyes! Kelly too!” Leo shouted at his annoyed leader, who simply turned away from him.

              “You don’t believe me, everything I went through?” Never mind the fact that the story you told them is a lie in itself, his conscience whispered to him.
              He ignored it and returned his full attention back to the canine Pokemon.

              Jay took a deep, calming breath and slowly faced the fuming lizard.

              “Look, I’m sorry for yelling. I’m still a little irritated from the stunt Gear pulled earlier- not that you’re not a good Pokemon and all, but he was stepping beyond his bounds.” He explained, slowing his heavy breathing and continued his apology,
              “But there’s no use crying over it; you’re here now and I can’t easily change that. So for now, we’ll wait until tomorrow to find out what it is you can do now that you’re here,”

              Surprised by Jay’s sudden attitude shift Leo noted to try and remain on his new leader’s good side.
              “So, do you believe what happened to me?” he asked, his own anger with the Pokemon diminishing slowly.

              “I’ll admit that the waking up inside one of the most dangerous dungeons this side of the Kingdom and escaping it, is slightly far-fetched, but we did see you break out of it, so I’ll take it that you’re telling the truth.” Jay said as he walked past the Charmeleon into one of the rooms that branched off from the center chamber.

              “Thank you,” Leo said quietly.
              Suddenly a thought surfaced in his mind. “Jay, you said something about finding out what I can do tomorrow. What are you talking about?”

              “You’ll find out in the morning,” the Riolu shouted from his room without looking back at Leo.

              He pushed his clawed hand to his forehead, how am I supposed to know anything when he’s so confusing all the time?
              “Is he always like this?” Leo asked Kelly, who had remained relatively silent since he started his retelling.

              She got to her feet.
              “I’ll admit he can be a little frustrating at times, but he isn’t usually like this, at least not that I’ve seen since I meet him. I’ll tell you something I’ve found out about Jay: he likes knowing what’s going on at all times, and with what he doesn’t know…well, you saw how he reacted. It’s not you; it’s the system he’s mad at. Gear’s actions were perfectly within his power, but he didn’t give us any warning,” she answered him, finally giving an explanation to the deserving Charmeleon.

              I guess that makes sense, Leo thought, I understand liking knowing what’s going on, too.
              “Wait, what system? Is it Gear and the others?” He asked prying her for any shards of information he could get from her.

              “It’s them, and the fact that the king gave the police teams virtually unlimited power across The Kingdom, because of the state of world lately.” She told him, lowering her head with a sigh that one makes when no matter what they do, it can’t change the world.

              Genuinely concerned now, Leo asked again.
              “What’s going on? What’s going on with the world?”

              She raised her head and gave him an incredulous look.
              “You really don’t know?” she asked in disbelief.

              “I kind of don’t remember anything about…well, anything.” Leo said sheepishly as her look softened as she understood his dilemma.

              “Oh, yeah. Your amnesia.” She said with a tired yawn. “Listen, Leo. I promise I will explain to you everything you need to know, but right now it’s pretty late and we’ve all had a long day.” She started to slowly walk past him into the same hallway Jay had went down.

              She stopped at the entrance to her room opposite of Jay’s, “Pick a room, and try to get some sleep for tomorrow.” She let out another soft yawn, “Goodnight, Leo.”

              And she went into her room; Leo was left standing in the middle room. Shrugging his shoulders he tried to find the room with the bookshelf he saw earlier.

              With minimal mishaps, he located the room he desired. With a better survey Leo found that the wall held two hooks for a hammock, which he found stuffed in a small trunk along the wall. He dragged it out of the chest and hooked the two ends to the wall.
              Impressed with his work hanging bed set up, he made his way over to the book shelf. It wasn’t high up on the wall so Leo could see every book’s title without much effort.

              Their covers were worn and slightly torn, and the once bright lettering on the spines faded. Leo struggled to translate the titles as their letters were written in some sort of script that resembled Standard*, but the letters didn’t exactly match.

              With a little more effort he was able to make out the titles, he scanned across them all trying to find something remotely helpful. He read the titles as he grabbed the books.
              “The Psychic Pokemon’s Guide to Reading Minds and Influencing the Weak-Minded”, no, I don’t need that. He placed the book on the floor.

              “The Complete History of Blast Seeds: High Explosive Edition”, not what I need right now. He put the book on top of the last book on the floor.

              “Royal Genealogy: The Rulers of the Kingdom and the Royal Lineage”, interesting, but no. He put it on the pile with the others.

              “This Lasting Feud: The Enduring Conflict Between The Kingdom and its Renegade Colonies”, I’ll look at that later, but not now. He placed it with the others as he looked at the next book.

              “Magmortar’s Guide to Making Anything and Everything Combustible”, just leave it alone, Leo. He thought before throwing the book on the growing pile of discarded books.

              Finally he found something of reasonable help, “Common Knowledge: A Comprehensive Guide to the World-(compiled by the Trinity Isle Research and Archives facility)”, this might be what I need! he thought excitedly as he slid the worn book out from between its brethren and hopped into the hammock, his fiery tail hanging off the side of it.

              He gently pulled open the cover looked flipped through the pages until he found a chapter that looked interesting.

              “Chapter Eight: Mythological Creatures…..”He said with a yawn.

              Scanning through the pages of the chapter he stopped when he saw the heading: “Humans”.
              All thoughts of sleeping left him as he read the opening paragraph.
              Puzzled at why his original species was listed as a myth he read the entry processing every word like it was gold.

              “Humans are beings that we have little information on other than that they are the focal point of several popular legends. The most commonly known of these ancient stories is “The Legend of the Great War” in which the human nations begin a fierce war between themselves and Pokemon. The legend has been corrupted by generations of retelling so it is not entirely clear on why the war was started in the first place; however most versions have that the human nations were eventually defeated by the Dragon Trinity who banished them as eternal punishment.”

              Leo was fascinated with the partially informative passage. Eager to find out more he continued reading.

              “Though it is not clear if humans existed or are a true myth, these legends are popular among Pokemon as the supposed fate of these beings. To find out if they did, in fact, exist at one point in time; several T.I.R.A sponsored archeological teams are preparing to travel to the islands thought to be closest to the lost civilization to look for evidence.”

              Leo was rather disappointed that the book did not go into detail with the legend, but was content that he found some information within the context.

              He flipped through several other chapters, “Chapter One: The Kingdom. Chapter Two: Rescue Teams. Chapter Seven: Mystery Dungeons”, he murmured to himself before finally falling asleep.

              Leo woke when the smell of burning paper reached his nose.
              He flailed in the hammock until he fell over the side of it onto the packed dirt floor.
              Ignoring the sore pains in his limbs he found the source of the acrid smell: it was a book, “The Complete History of Blast Seeds” to be exact.
              He had placed it along with several other discarded books in a pile beside his hammock, only now it was on fire.
              During his few hours of sleep he got after reading, his tail had apparently brushed up against the pile and set the top book aflame.

              In alarm, Leo snatched the blazing volume and threw in on the floor. He got to his feet and quickly stomped on the book repeatedly until he was satisfied that the fire was out.
              He inspected the other books in the pile to make sure the fire hadn’t spread to any of them, and to his relief it hadn’t.
              The “Complete History” wasn’t as lucky as its companions; the front cover and the first couple chapters were charred beyond hope of repair.

              Not good. Burning a book is definitely not a way to make a good impression. With that thought in mind, he decided that is was best that he disposed of the novel.

              Looping his key around his neck he took a quick look out of the doorway of his room. After make sure it was clear, he quietly took the blackened book in his claws and tiptoed into the hallway, which was no small accomplishment considering he was still getting used to the new shape of his feet.

              The hallway was still lit by the soft bluish glow of the Luminous Orb shards, allowing Leo to not accidently stumble into the walls and wake Jay or Kelly.

              Successfully navigating through the Luminous Orb lit base, Leo pushed open the rough wooden door and snuck outside. It was still dark, but the faint glow on the horizon told him it wouldn’t stay that way for long. With the destroyed book in hand, he quietly walked through the dew stained grass until he came to a small knoll that overlooked most of the valley.

              Winding back his arm, he chucked the book. The novel soared through the air over somewhere deep in the lower half of the gorge.

              After listening for the tell-tale “thud” that resonated from the impact, Leo took advantage of the peace and quiet to sort through the all the events that had befell him in the days before.
              His strange transformation, his complete amnesia, his adventure in the Fields and all the trouble it brought him, being wrongly arrested than interrogated by Gear and his deputies, being dragged back inside the prison by the Magnemite, getting assigned to the team, all of it still painfully fresh in his mind.

              Unable to remember his previous life, not knowing anything about the world, finding out that humans were nothing but myths; it was enough to make anyone frustrated beyond the point of anger.
              Going over the events that had made the last few days less than ideal made his tail flare to coincide with his feelings.
              Cursing his so-called “luck”, he shattered the morning tranquility with an infuriated yell.

              The sound of his shout carried throughout the valley and all its inhabitants, causing a startled flock of Pidgey to flee their tree in alarm and making more than one house’s windows to light up with the flicker of torchlight.
              He screamed until he couldn’t any more, venting every one of the emotions he that had built up over the last few days.
              Gasping for breath, it felt like a heavy burden was taken off his shoulders.

              “I hope you have a good reason for waking me up like that,” a voice asked from behind Leo.
              Startled, Leo swung around to face the unwelcome intruder, his right clawed hand curled into a fist ready to strike.
              Just as he was about to clock the unknown Pokemon, he held his fist back. The growing light revealed the intruder to be none other than Jay.

              “God, don’t do that!” Leo told him with a small sigh of relief that it was Jay and not a ticked off local wanting revenge for their interrupted sleep.

              “Than maybe the next time you decide to let off some steam, you make it that it doesn’t wake everyone in the province,” Jay scolded as he dropped a satchel he was holding to the ground.

              “Sorry. I didn’t mean to do it, but I was just so … frustrated with everything.” Leo apologized, watching as the scattered Pidgy reformed their flock and returned to their tree.

              “You really were telling the truth last night, weren’t you? This amnesia of yours and everything else that you said happened, I guess you weren’t lying after all.” Jay realized, as the Riolu crossed his arms.

              “You actually believe my story now?” Leo asked his uncertainty ebbing away with the night cold.

              “Might as well, because no normal Pokemon just starts screaming at sunrise for the fun of it, except maybe Vigoroth, the guy’s insane. And besides, if I was stuck in that dungeon for a day, I’d probably start screaming like an insane Pokemon too.” Jay answered the Charmeleon, as the sun’s glow started to make its way over the mountains that bordered the eastern end of the valley.

              Leo pondered his teammate’s words while turning the on his neck key over in his claws. Who knows? Maybe that place really did affect me after all.

              The brief silence that followed their conversation was interrupted by the sounding of a loud, single, cheerful trumpet note that carried across the morning air from the direction of the town.
              Jay’s ears twitched upon hearing the noise, “That was the signal that the markets are open. I need to take care of some business there while it’s still early.
              You can come along if you want; it’s up to you.” He said with a shrug.

              Shaking away his previous thoughts, Leo nodded.
              “What about Kelly?” he asked, pointing a single claw at the structure they called a base, and he now called his home, at least for now.

              Jay waved the question away,
              “Don’t worry, she’ll get the supplies together, than she’ll meet us in the Square like usual. And we kind of need to hurry if we want to get there before the crowd shows up.”

              He bent down and picked up the small, worn satchel off the ground. It was colored light brown--or at least that was the color it had faded to-- and it had a faint golden insignia embroidered on the front flap of it-the symbol itself was, unsurprisingly, not recognized by Leo as the royal seal of The Kingdom.

              Jay slid the satchel over his shoulder and with a quick “come on” motion of his paw, took off running down the path leading to the Square. Leo stood blinking at the Riolu’s speedy departure and shook himself back to reality. He ordered his legs to run to catch up with Jay.
              He sprinted down the tree lined path, trying not to trip and fall comically on the roots that stuck up from the ground.

              He saw Jay many yards ahead of him, striding with ease over the roots and fallen leafy boughs, while he barely managed to maintain a running pace with his new feet, much less not stumble into branches along the way.
              Before long the dark canopy of trees gave way to the flicker of flaming torches from the square.

              Leo emerged from the forest path breathing hard, but not nearly as scratched up as he thought he would have been after barreling through several low branches.
              He glanced down at his scaly skin; there might actually be some advantages to this body after all, he thought.
              He saw Jay giving him a smug look from a few feet up the street; he looked like he’d been waiting there for a while.

              “Forgot how to run?” he taunted, making Leo pay for his interrupted sleep.
              Leo growled, while it was true hadn’t run that fast in… well, recent memory, but he hadn’t forgotten that much.
              Pushing the sudden desire to slash at the Riolu away, Leo managed to ask Jay what sort of “business” he had to take care of so early.

              “You’ll find out in a few minutes, but for now just follow me while we pass through the checkpoint,” was all he told him before he started walking toward the town.

              Leo walked behind Jay as they approached the outskirts of the town. There, built across the middle of the street were two torch lit booths made of wooden planks.
              One booth on each side of the street, each blending in perfectly with the dwellings of the Pokemon that lived in the Square; one reason why Leo never noticed them yesterday.

              Inside the security booths were two Pokemon, whose species he’d hold a grudge with for a long time yet, possibly forever.

              The two Magnemite floated lazily at their posts, but suddenly gained an alertness they lacked before when Jay and Leo walked into their sight. The guards zoomed out of their booths and hovered over the two early visitors.

              “Just let me do the talking,” Jay whispered to Leo as he turned to the guard on the right

              “Hello, sirs. My friend and I have to get through. Would you please-“

              “ZZT! Please,” the Magnemite on the left said.

              “for the love of Arceus,” added the one on the right

              “shut up so we can verify both of your citizen IDs. ZZZT! ” they both droned, yawns of static emanated from both of the sentinel units.
              Reluctantly, Jay shut his mouth.

              “Now, please present some form of valid identification; emphasis on the “valid” part”, the guard on the left ordered, holding out his horseshoe magnet appendage.

              “Alright,” Jay answered, pulling open his satchel. After a few seconds of searching, he produced a small, circular, metal badge that sported a pair of wings on each side.
              As soon as he held the badge up it suddenly flew from Jay’s paw and landed with a metallic “clink!” on the guard’s outstretched magnet.

              “Verification in process,” the guard said boredly, even though he didn’t appear to actually do anything with the badge except stare at intensely with his single eye.

              “Now, Charmeleon. Your badge please,” the Magnemite on the right asked while his comrade continued to stare at the badge.

              Leo was at a loss. “Umm, I don’t have a badge.”

              The guard buzzed in annoyance. “Well than, where is your citizen ID?”

              “I don’t actually have one either.” Leo slowly told the guard, unsure of what was to happen next.

              “An unregistered citizen, eh? ZT! Do we have a fugitive from the Colonies, maybe? Well, rebel scum, we have some space for you in the town prison. Rho, come help me with him!”

              “Wait! Wait! Wait! I’m not-” Leo stuttered as the right guard hovered toward him, his magnets sparking with stunning energy.

              Before Leo could turn tail and run, Jay stepped in between him and the guard.
              “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! He’s not from the Colonies! He got clearance from Gear yesterday.”

              The guard paused, his magnet’s energy dissipating.
              “Clearance? From Gear? I’ll need to verify this. Please wait a moment while I contact Chief Officer Gear.”
              The guard fell silent as he used his screw-like antenna to contact the Magnezone.

              As the guard on the right was doing this, the guard on the left, Rho, had ceased his staring contest with the badge and magnetically levitated it back to Jay. "ZT! Premission to enter, Jay, of Team Salient. ZZT!"
              Seconds after Jay got his badge back, the guard on the right started talking again.

              “You may pass; turns out Gear actually did give you clearance. He also told me to apologize for my rash treatment of you and your friend Jay, or else I’ll be reassigned to the Sawgrass Town patrol.” the Magnemite on the right shuddered like the mere uttering of the words “apology” and “Sawgrass Town” caused him physical pain.

              The guard took a deep static filled breath,
              “I, Deputy Officer Ion, am sincerely sor…”he stopped in the middle of his forced apology.
              His frame shook and his magnets spun and sparked erratically,
              “ ...ry and you are an outstanding citizen,” he finished.
              As soon as the final part of the word came from his speaker, a spark shot from his spherical body and he dropped like a stone to the street with a metallic clang, a thin trail of smoke coming from his body.

              His counterpart, Rho gave a static filled sigh as he hovered over the fallen officer and attached one of his magnets to his fried friend. Swinging around to signal that they could pass, he than started dragging Ion elsewhere to recover while muttering
              “…we weren’t made to show emotions”.

              “That was …odd,” Leo stated; slightly confused over what exactly had just occurred.
              Jay shrugged and motioned for him to follow as he started walking away from the checkpoint into the predawn Square.

              Once they were a good distance away from the checkpoint and any eavesdropping police, Jay finally spoke.
              “We didn’t always have them guarding everywhere, you know. It was one event that caused this,” He whispered as the two walked further away from the sentry posts.

              “It was two months ago. A group of refugee Pokemon suddenly showed up in the town one day, nothing wrong with that- we’ve been receiving refugees even since this civil war started. But over the next few days strange things started happening: item rations going missing, Gold and Silver Poké disappearing out of the bank, and important war messages from the Federation never arriving.”

              “What happened with them? Those Pokemon?” Leo asked, intrigued by the story behind the abundance of security forces.

              Jay went on,
              “Well, after a few days of observing the new arrivals and finding them guilty of the rash of crime, Gear and the Guild combined their teams and raided the entire Western Quarter of the square. They arrested a good deal of the outlaw Pokemon, but not without razing half of the Quarter to the ground.” He pointed his paw down a side street.

              It was hard to distinguish in the faint light, but Leo could see the evidence of the disastrous fire. Focusing on the area, he saw that behind the clay and stone buildings of the town lay an expanse of blackened buildings and charred rubble.

              “Turns out that they were Colony spies smuggling information back to them. Naturally, our king was beside himself with anger, he overrode the Federation and decreed that all towns and cities are to be constantly guarded by police, no exceptions.” Jay concluded as they approached the open market area of the square, which was still bathed in a gray light from the retreating night.
              “It’s not like we enough problems to worry about, anyways,” the Riolu sighed as they entered the center square of the Square.
              The waving colorful banners attached to the buildings Leo saw yesterday now hung limply, occasionally fluttering in the weak morning breeze.
              The tarp covered shops were still for the most part quiet, except for a select few.
              There were only five or so other Pokemon that milled around the deserted marketplace- looking for early deals or more often than not, information that only a select few can give at this time of morning.
              One of the few shops that happened to be operating at this early hour was a small lantern lit stand tucked into the side of the street among the other currently closed stands.

              Jay motioned for Leo to follow him as he approached the stand. The small wooden sign on it read simply: “Aleck’s Goods”
              On the wooden table were several small glass containers filled with some sort of viscous liquid and fragments of colored crystals that seemed to change their coloring every time Leo blinked, but they weren’t the oddest items on the stand: on the back area of the surface were several small piles of dirt.
              The stand also appeared to be empty, but that fact didn’t seem to deter Jay. He reached his arm over the cart and all of its odd merchandise until he came to the piles of dirt.

              He lightly touched the nearest pile of earth with the tip of his paw. As soon as the few grains of soil moved, a small rumbling sounded from behind the counter.
              Leo leaned forward to get a closer look at the miniature earthquake, but he immediately jumped back out of shock when a small purple blur shot up from the ground with a fountain of displaced pebbles and soil.

              The little purple goblin creature turned to look at them with its eyes, which, much to Leo’s mixture of fascination and repulsion, were a pair of cut diamonds.
              “You. Have. Disturbed. The. Dirt,” It hissed softly, its words slipping between its razor sharp teeth.

              Jay cracked a smile. “Aleck, we need your help with somethi-” he started to ask before he was abruptly cut off by the feral shop owner.

              “You have disturbed the dirt!” he shouted, slashing his claws erratically in the air.

              “Aleck!” Jay shouted, swinging one of his paws at the shopkeeper’s head. He avoided the sharp claws and landed a direct hit on the side of the Sableye’s head, right underneath the Pokemon’s short, spiky ear.

              The purple creature’s flailing actions halted, and he shook his head slowly. He coughed twice, and looked up again from across the counter at his two customers.

              “Ahhh, my valued customers! Good morning! What can I do for my most privileged of patrons this fine dawn?” the shopkeeper wheezed, his voice completely lacking the violence he had a moment ago.

              Undeterred, Jay attempted to ask the Pokemon again.
              “Aleck, we need your help with something.”

              Aleck sighed. “Thank you, Jay. Not many folks stop by my old shop anymore, not since those darn Kelcon brothers built one of their stores here and with the war rationing going on; I’m amazed I’m still in business! If it weren’t for my few customers, I’d have-”

              Jay tapped once on the rough wooden counter to stop the Sableye’s rant on his financial woes.
              “Aleck, we need your assistance with an item of ours; we’re not buying at the moment unfortunately,” Jay said, watching the old Pokemon give another sigh.

              “Fine, let’s get this done quickly. Let me see the hunk of crystal you’ve brought- me along with every other rescue team in the business has for the last thirty years,” he said, holding out one of his small purple claws.

              Jay shook his head, “It’s no ordinary hunk of crystal; Leo, if you would give him your key for a minute.”

              “What? Why?” Leo asked, clutching his treasure defensively.

              “Think of it as a way of me saying sorry for treating you like garbage yesterday. Just hand it to him.” Jay insisted, as the shopkeeper’s diamond eyes stared at the artifact.

              Reluctantly, Leo placed his key on the counter, and it was almost instantly snatched by the purple Pokemon.
              Aleck held the key up close where he went over it with his small claws.
              “Hmm, interesting. Very interesting,” He mumbled as he continued analyzing the object as Leo watched him like a hawk for any attempt to harm his treasure.

              “Well, what’s it made of?” Jay asked, as the Sableye handed the key back to its original owner. Leo quickly took it and placed it around his neck with a deep sigh of relief.

              Aleck muttered anxiously to himself as Jay inquired again as to what it was made of.

              Aleck finally answered the two. “I’ll be honest with you; I’ve never seen anything like that key before. It’s as hard as diamond, has energy like an Orb crystal, and its craftsmanship is unlike anything else. Also, the necklace itself unfortunately isn’t gold, but it’s a strong metal nonetheless.”
              He explained as he read off the mental list he’d made when he observed the key.

              Leo was amazed at the results of the Pokemon’s analysis, while Jay asked what the thing was worth.

              Aleck rubbed the back of his neck, “I dunno, it’s hard to say really. I’d buy it from you for three thousand Gold Poké right now.”

              Jay’s eyes went wide. “Three. T-thousand?” he asked, struggling to believe the amount the Sableye offered.

              Aleck turned towards Leo who answered his question before he even asked it.
              “Not for sale, sorry.”
              Aleck sighed in disappointment as Jay squeezed his mouth shut to keep from screaming at his teammate.

              “Understandable, quite understandable,” He reluctantly agreed as he turned to Jay, “Any more items of value that need to be appraised?”
              Jay took a deep breath and answered Aleck, “No, but we do need one more thing; he needs a badge, and we can’t get one from the Guild for certain reasons,” Jay told Aleck, jabbing a paw toward Leo.

              Aleck started muttering to himself again, after a few seconds he answered Jay.

              “I might be able to get one by tomorrow, and that’ll be two Silver Poké when I get it.” Aleck informed them.

              Satisfied with the answer, Jay thanked the Sableye, who than burrowed back into the ground, off to do what ever it was he did in his free time.

              “Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Not three thousand. Personally, I’d have sold it, but it is yours. Better keep that thing safe, Leo,” Jay said, walking away from Aleck’s store towards the opposite side of the marketplace. Jay continuing to talk about what they’d be able to do with the small fortune of gold coins.

              “Is that why we’re here? To have my key appraised?” Leo asked, wondering if that was why they he had run all the way into town.

              “I came to get you a badge, to keep another incident at the checkpoints from happening again. And I wanted to do something to make up for yesterday, but we’re not quite done yet. We still need to choose a job request over by the Post Office,” Jay explained as the square suddenly lit with the full brilliance of the morning sun as it came over the mountains.

              “Wait. Job request?” Leo asked as Jay said nothing and dragged him over to an older building made of stones cracked from age and ivy, its rough wooden sign read: “Post Office” and under that: “Established: does the date even matter? It’s old, really old.”
              Adjacent to the ancient looking post office, were several depilated wooden boards all covered with multitudes of posters and looked like even the slightest breeze could reduce them to splinters.

              As they got closer, Leo saw that only a portion of the posters were new while most were yellowed and torn from rain and age.
              Once they were standing directly at the boards Leo saw that one of the boards had posters that contained images of vicious looking Pokemon and boasted descriptions and rewards for their capture. One poster showed a picture of a light purple bulldog Pokemon with a single broken fang.
              Trounce the Granbull: wanted for smuggling illegal items and other thefts against the crown. Location: Solitary Forest, near Area Three. Reward: 580 Copper Poké
              He caught another description of an outlaw; this one seemed much larger than the others and had a painting of a regal looking cream colored fox sporting a look of pure wickedness.
              Raiss the Ninetales: wanted for numerous crimes against the Kingdom in the Far Reach territories near the Oresville settlement. Note: all pursuing Tracker teams must exercise caution as this Pokemon is cunning and is possibly working with an unidentified accomplice.
              Reward for capture: 1,500 Silver Poké.

              Another poster, another picture, another reward promised in exchange for capture. Amid the sea of posters, were several newer looking posters plastered on top of dozens of outdated jobs.
              They advertised phrases like: “Rebellion will not be tolerated! Fight for The Kingdom!”, “The Colonies will not triumph against us!”, and finally “The Kingdom will not be split in two! Take back the Colonies!”
              As Leo gazed over the posters and propaganda wondering what exactly was wrong with this world, Jay handed him a single poster.
              “Take a look.” Jay ordered.

              Taking the paper, Leo saw, much to his relief, that it wasn’t an outlaw job.

              Client: Pidgeotto
              Location: Spore Meadows Dungeon, Area Six

              “Oddly sparse with the info. Usually rescue requests are full of pleas for help, but this one, not much of anything,” Jay commented on the unusually empty poster.

              Leo gulped not really hearing the Riolu’s remark; his tail flickered slightly as he reread over the request.
              “A dungeon? We’re going willingly into a dungeon?”

              “Where else would we go?” he said with a laugh.

              Leo and Jay had rendezvoused with Kelly at the outside of the Square where she handed Leo a satchel similar to Jay’s and on she had around her neck.
              The Spore Meadows Dungeon wasn’t too far from the Square; an hour long hike though the southern side of the valley led them to the entrance. Surrounded by forest, the Meadows stood out significantly against the trees with its towering grass and weeds.

              The wall of field plants seemed eerily similar to the that of Tranquility Fields; however, Kelly repeatedly assured Leo that it was nothing like that hell.

              Without another thought, Jay walked through the wall of green grass and abruptly vanished behind it, not even a rustle could be seen on the outside. Before Leo could react to Jay’s disappearance, Kelly motioned for him to follow as she too disappeared through the weeds.

              For a minute, Leo stood there trying to gain the courage to follow. He took a deep breath to calm his racing heart. You heard Kelly, there’s nothing to worry about.
              Before he could even begin to doubt her words, Leo squeezed his eyes shut and ran full speed through the dungeon barrier.
              It felt like he passed through a wall of freezing water, and as quickly as it started, the sensation ceased.

              When Leo finally opened his eyes he saw that he was standing in a small clearing, surrounded by the walls of grass and weeds. He also saw that he was alone; Jay and Kelly were nowhere in sight.
              “Just great, I’m lost. What do I do now- What the heck was that?!” He yelled as he heard the wall of grass rustle violently.
              Not looking back, he grabbed the strap of his bag, and sprinted through the tall grass into the dungeon.

              Spore Meadows: Area One

              Crashing through weeds taller as he was, Leo ran. As he ran, his claw brushed up against an oblong pod attached to a weed. As soon as he touched it, the pod burst into a cloud of colorful spores.
              Leo gasped for breath as he passed through the cloud, running into another clearing. Stopping for a moment to catch his breath, Leo heard the grass behind him rustle again.

              Leo slowly turned around to face what ever horror popped out of the dungeon.
              Much to his relief, he didn’t see a snarling monster about to maim him, but instead, a small green creature with a flower on its head that drifted lazily along in the air.
              Leo smiled as he approached the creature, “You don’t look so bad.”

              The creature in question turned toward him, only now sensing his presence. It stared at him with its small red eyes, and twirled once in the air landing a few feet away, a plain smile etched on its face.
              Convinced that the strange Pokemon wasn’t going to harm him, Leo went up to it again.
              “Could you help me? I’m trying to find my teammates.”

              Suddenly the creature let out a loud shriek that caused Leo to hold the sides of his head where his ears normally would have been.
              The creature yelled with a voice in an incomprehensible language that sounded like wind blowing through trees during a storm.
              The creature used its ears to direct a small gust of wind at Leo, propelling itself further away from the stunned wayward explorer.
              As soon as the creature stopped its shrill alarm, Leo turned to run for the safety of the grass overgrowth. The creature moved through the air as quickly as a hurricane’s gale, and shot a single glowing seed from its flower at the moving Charmeleon.

              The seed caught Leo in his back; it burst in a spray of syrupy, sweet smelling substance that clung to Leo’s scales.
              While Leo was distracted by the new coating on his body, the small creature decided to pelt the intruder with another barrage of seeds that burst into a cloud of gaseous spores when they hit.

              As Leo struggled to dodge the flying seeds and clouds of spores, he dove into the tall forest of weeds that surrounded the clearing.
              The creature stopped its attack when it saw that its target was missing. As lazily as a summer island breeze, it floated down to the ground and looked around for the missing intruder.
              Thankfully it didn’t appear to be even remotely intelligent, because it seemed to have forgotten where Leo dove into the grass, despite having seen it a few seconds earlier.
              As the creature scanned the clearing for Leo, he was busy trying to find some way to get rid of the thing. Fighting isn’t the greatest option; through I do have claws now. There’s got to be something I can do.

              Watching the Pokemon float around the clearing, being gently pushed along by the breezes, he got an idea. Could it really be that simple? He laughed to himself darkly, this was going to be fun.

              Leo waited until the Pokemon was directly in front of his hiding spot, as soon as it landed Leo pounced from the grass with a battle cry.
              The creature turned around and shrieked in alarm and prepared another attack, but it was too late. Leo reached the creature and swung his foot upwards and kicked the Pokemon’s underside as hard as he could.

              “Skiploooooooom!” the Pokemon screamed as it was propelled high into the air. Leo watched as the winds carried the stunned Pokemon away.

              Leo smiled, this counted as a victory in his book despite the fact that he still smelled like a flower and was bruised from the seed bullets.

              Suddenly, he heard more rustling from the grass as more Pokemon appeared. Small round pink Pokemon with two leafy sprouts attached to their heads and several more Skiploom.

              Now that he knew how to deal with them, Leo grinned, Game on.
              With a battle cry, he charged into the small group of Pokemon.

              Spore Meadows Area Six
              If one had the ability to see past the temporal anomaly that is Spore Meadows, they would have seen an extraordinary sight: scores of angered Hoppip and Skiploom raining down from the sky over every area of the dungeon.
              This event would have easily have been classified as an adverse change in the wind currents, but another reason was the true cause.

              Leo had been busy; as he had advanced further into the mystery dungeon looking for any sign of his teammates he had somehow become the target of every Hoppip and Skiploom in the area.
              Punching and punting away every enemy Pokemon slowly exhausted him, but thankfully the cottonweed Pokemon only came in groups of two or three at a time.
              They were somehow drawn to him like a magnet, and immediately started to bombard him with spore seeds once eye contact was made.

              Crouching in the grass out of sight from the roaming Pokemon, Leo rested, using his satchel as a pillow. Suddenly, he realized that he had forgotten that he even had the bag completely until now.
              He slung his bag Kelly had provided him with to the ground and opened it. Inside were items he wished he’d remembered he had earlier.
              An apple glistened in the noon sun for an instant before Leo chomped into it, hungrily devouring the fruit. Other than the apple was a curious, round, blue berry he’d seen in the market yesterday, and two round stones. He ate the berry in one bite and left the two stones alone as he hefted the bag back onto his shoulder.

              Feeling completely rejuvenated from the apple and little berry, he traveled through the grass- the laws of physics not applying as his flaming tail didn’t torch the entire dungeon.

              With the scores of Hoppip and Skiploom drifting helplessly in the air behind him, Leo carefully peered into the next clearing.
              At first he didn’t see anything, and then he heard voices coming from the far corner of the glade.
              “…Please get me outta here; I’ve been here for three days. Doesn’t that thing work?” A voice said, followed by a round of coughing.

              Another voice spoke, which Leo identified as Jay.
              “Don’t talk, or else you’ll pass out again. We’ll get you out of here, don’t worry.”

              The voice mumbled something before going silent. Slowly coming out of the grass, Leo made his way through the clearing over to where he last heard the voices, watching out for any other enraged dungeon dwellers.

              As he rounded a turn in the glade, he saw Jay, Kelly, and a Pokemon he’d never seen before crouched near the ground in pain. It was a large beige raptor with a head-crest of curved red feathers.
              Jay and Kelly appeared to be attending to the bird, and didn’t notice him approaching from behind.

              “Hey, you two. Is that your missing guy over there?” the Pidgeotto coughed, as Jay and Kelly turned around.

              “Leo! You made it! I was worried when you weren’t with us when we went entered!” Kelly exclaimed.
              “I told you he’d be alright, this dungeon isn’t that difficult,” Jay stated, as the Pidgeotto grunted in obvious disagreement as he gingerly lifted his bloodied left wing that Leo knew wasn’t supposed to bend that far backwards.

              “Wait, didn’t you have to fight through swarms of Pokemon to get here?” Leo asked, looking away from the bird Pokemon’s clearly broken wing.

              “What? No. In fact we hardly saw any Pokemon at all, that’s why we got here so quickly. What happened to you?” Kelly asked, puzzled over Leo’s previous question.

              Leo briefly explained what had befallen on him since he was separated from them at the dungeon entrance.
              “That’s just some straight up bad luck you got right there.” The Pidgeotto commented as he grunted in pain as Jay poured clear liquid from a small glass vial over the Pokemon’s wound.

              “Wait, who exactly are you?” Leo asked the battered Pidgeotto.

              “Name’s Icarus. I’m the one your teammates are supposed to be rescuing. By the way, why’s that taking so long?” Icarus answered, directing the latter question to Jay.

              “The badges aren’t working right, I already told you that; just give us a few minutes to fix them, ok?” Jay growled as he continued pressing a small raised button on the center of his badge.

              “Kelly, what’s going on? What do badges have to do with rescuing this guy?” Leo inquired, wondering what the heck the small metal badges possibly could do.

              “They have the ability to instantly teleport a Pokemon out of a dungeon, or at least they do when they actually work.” She grumbled as she jabbed the center of her own rescue badge again, nothing happened.

              “Those things can teleport? Why isn’t it working? They are supposed to work aren’t they? Aren’t they called rescue badges for that reason?” Leo asked, beginning to worry now that their escape route out of this place was possibly gone.

              Kelly answered, taking a break from the malfunctioning badge.
              “Lately the Federation has been commandeering the Psychic Pokemon that oversee and control the all the teleportation channels that come from all of the badges, and decide when to open them. So, until one of them comes back to work, we’ll have to wait or find our way out ourselves.” she grumbled.
              In frustration, Jay threw his badge to the ground of the dungeon, “The one time we actually succeed in a mission, and we can’t get out of the dungeon!”

              Suddenly Icarus spoke while pointing his good wing at the opposite end of the glade, “Eh, you guys? I’m sorry to interrupt, but what in Moltres’s holy name is that?”

              “What are you …? Mew, mother of Arceus …” Jay swore as he looked across the clearing.

              “That” turned out to be scores upon scores of Hoppip and Skiploom appearing from the grass, all of them wearing looks of hatred one does not normally expect to see on sentient weeds.
              The group of Pokemon was stunned into silence by the sheer amount of the native Pokemon except Icarus who let loose a quiet yet lengthy explicative.

              The Pidgeotto suddenly sniffed, “Wait a sec,” he sniffed again. “I thought I knew that smell; Charmeleon, you’ve been Stained by one of them. You led ‘em straight here.”
              Icarus noted as the advancing wall of Pokemon abruptly stopped moving forward.

              “W-what’s going on?” Leo stuttered as the crowds of pink and green Pokemon parted to reveal a small spherical blue Pokemon with two large tuffs of cotton on its arms and one on its head.

              The blue Pokemon spoke, its booming, bossy voice totally unfitting of its small form.
              “So, you all are the intruders that have got my soldiers running around like the idiots they are? State your names and what business you have inside my dungeon. Now.”

              “We’re Team Salient; we accepted a job to rescue this Pidgeotto,” Kelly said, beating Icarus’s string of curses, and Jay’s own response.

              “A rescue team, are you? Well normally I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with that, but the Pokemon you’re rescuing is my prisoner. I can’t have him going to the king about my little smuggling operation in this dungeon,” The boss Pokemon told them while Icarus grunted in disgust.

              “Prisoner? Ha! If my wing wasn’t broken, I’d kill you right now, Jumpluff!” the injured bird shouted as Jumpluff chuckled, an action Leo would have found slightly adorable if the Pokemon didn’t hold their lives in his evil, cottony hands.

              “Shut up, Pidgeotto. I can’t help but be impressed that you actually managed to send out a distress message, but that now leaves us with the matter of what to do with your rescuers. I obviously can’t have them going off and telling their Guildmaster about my operation here, it’s just not good business,” The dungeon boss explained as he pondered the situation.

              “But we’re not part of a-” Jay started before Jumpluff cut him off.

              “Unfortunately, I don’t know whether I can trust you all to keep your traps shut. I’ve found that the best solution to a problem is usually the easiest, and killing you all seems pretty easy right about now,” Jumpluff said.

              “Wait, we’re not part of any guild-thing! We won’t tell anyone about whatever you have here!” Leo shouted in vain to the boss.

              “Gas them. Make sure they never get the chance to tell anyone all we’ve done,” Jumpluff ordered as he backed away behind his minions, who chattered with glee at the prospect of a something new to murder. Backing up against the dungeon wall, Leo knew they only had a few seconds to act before the hoard of Pokemon unleashed their seed attack. Jay quickly gathered them together.

              “Alright, Kelly, keep trying to get the badge to work and guard Icarus. Hopefully we’ll get lucky with it. Leo, you and I will hold them off until something happens. And Icarus?”

              The bird Pokemon sat up hearing his name, “What?”

              “Just shut up. You’re the reason we’re here in the first place,” Jay quickly listed as the Hoppip and Skiploom mob suddenly screeched in a single, horrid voice.

              Wait, hold them off? With what exactly? “Jay, what are you talking-” was all Leo got to say before the mass of enemy Pokemon launched glowing seed-like projectiles into the air. Leo stared with his mouth hanging open as the simultaneous attacks arced in the sky and fell through the sky like bombs from overhead.

              Leo barely had time to snap out of his trance and raise his arms over his head when the glowing seeds hit like a storm of hail. The seeds exploded with their many small clouds of poison spores merging into one giant cloud of thick purplish gas that instantly diffused throughout the entire dungeon area.

              His eyes watering, Leo struggled to breathe as he stumbled around the gas covered clearing, tripping more than once into a band of charging Hoppip.
              Trying to remain focused as the amount of breathable air diminished; Leo clumsily slashed his claws at the Pokemon, who screeched in pain when he successfully landed a hit.
              The other Hoppip panicked and either shot off small rapid bursts of seeds at their own comrades or simply crashed into each other.
              If there was any advantage Team Salient had in this fight it was that their enemy, though barbarically brutal, were definitely among the more idiotic Pokemon in the land. They were a fairly effective force when calm, but if startled they broke down faster than the countless attempts at peace between the Kingdom and the Colonies.

              Through the chaos of nauseating gas, stray Hoppip and Skiploom, and the occasional rapid burst of seeds cutting through the gas, Leo saw the shape of Jay with one of his fists glowing bright; punch one of the Hoppip in its pink body.
              The creature went crashing into the dirt. The Riolu turned to do the same thing to a Skiploom when it fired several seeds that landed at his feet, detonating with a sudden plume of gas.

              Jay stumbled backwards, until he was face to face with an overwhelmed Leo.
              “Why aren’t you fighting? A Flamethrower would be really useful right about now!” he said, gasping with nearly every other word.

              “I-I have no idea what you’re talking about! What flamethrower?” Leo said before going into a gas induced coughing fit.
              Jay’s adrenaline fueled battle ready expression changed to one of disbelief.
              “What flamethrower?! Your attack moves! What else do you think I’m talking about?!” he yelled as a strong gust of wind brushed past us.
              It seemed Icarus wasn’t content to lay low this battle, and was using his undamaged wing to blow some of the foul gas away temporarily before stopping from the pain it caused him.

              Leo took a few precious seconds to breathe the unpolluted air, “I don’t remember how to do any attacks!” he countered as they moved to dodge a Hoppip’s barrage of high speed seeds. Just as Jay was about to speak, he and Leo were forced to duck to avoid a sudden bolt of lightning that shot inches of their heads.The attack shot directly into a group of Skiploom, causing them to screech in pain, and their leaf green skin to blacken as their smoking unconscious forms crashed to the ground.

              Leo took a quick look behind him to see where exactly a bolt of lightning had come from. He saw Icarus breathing hard from his position on the ground, directing more of his Gust attacks at the surrounding gas cloud, he also saw the dozens of scattered Skiploom and Hoppip, but they weren’t the source of the attack.

              Than he saw Kelly still guarding the collapsed Icarus and trying to activate the badge. She was wobbling with exhaustion and her spiky, yellow and white fur still cackling with electricity from the lightning bolt she had generated and launched.

              She did that? “Wow,” Leo said in awe his teammate’s power.

              His thoughts of admiration were interrupted when Jay punched him in the arm.
              “Leo, what do you mean that you can’t remember any attacks?” he asked as the cloud of poison slowly enveloped them again.

              “I just don’t remember how.” Leo explained as he gulped one last breath of clean air before the haze returned.

              Jay wasn’t convinced. “No matter how bad your amnesia happens to be, you don’t forget instincts! That's why they're called instincts!” he yelled through the fumes as a Skiploom crashed between them.

              The sentient weed spit a volley of seeds at the two arguing Pokemon. The seeds pelted Leo, bursting on impact into even more clouds of the poison to appear and sting his lungs with every breath. The attack knocked Leo off his feet; he landed hard on the ground where he watched as Jay quickly raised his fist, somehow glowing with energy again, and punched the attacking Pokemon away.

              Jay moved to where Leo had fallen and offered the Charmeleon a paw. His mind dizzy from the gas and fatigue, Leo slowly grasped his clawed hand around Jay’s.

              Once he was standing, he turned to tell Jay thanks, but as soon as he did he was assaulted by another wave of gas. He couldn’t take much more; whatever was in this gas obviously wasn’t for his benefit health-wise.
              Suddenly there was a large flash of light to his right; he turned to see that where Icarus had been was now absolutely nothing. Their client had simply vanished into thin air.
              He looked around for Kelly, but she was nowhere to be found among the clearing.

              His vision starting to blacken around the edges; he turned to his side where Jay had been a moment ago, but instead found an enraged Skiploom charging at him full speed through the air. Jay was gone too.
              He tried to move out of the way, but his everything he did seemed to be stuck in slow motion as the green Pokemon barreled into him.
              Leo crashed to the ground clutching his side in pain as the Skiploom screeched in triumph. He tried to breathe, but by then the air had effectively stopped being even remotely breathable.

              In his agony Leo looked up at the crowd of Pokemon that had surrounded him. Jumpluff appeared above him charging some sort of green sphere of energy to finish him off.

              “Don’t take it personally, it’s just good business,” He sneered, as the attack was almost completely charged and definitely lethal.

              He weakly closed his eyes as he waited the inevitable pain that was to come. It’s probably better than dying from this gas his mind told him as some sort of depressing silver lining to this situation.
              In his fading mental state he wondered where had the others gone, if they had been killed by the heartless crime boss or had simply abandoned him while they fled to safety.
              Both thoughts made him boil with anger, the weak flicker of fire on his tail suddenly ignited as if it was doused in gasoline. He felt like some last reserve of energy had been found: his mind cleared, the pain from his wounds numbed, and his lungs ignored the searing pain they felt with every quick, adrenaline-fueled breath he took.

              Not wanting to die just yet, Leo pushed off the ground and quickly rolled to the side as Jumpluff launched his Energy Ball attack into the spot of dungeon floor where he just had been a half-second before.

              Before the boss’s army could converge on the Charmeleon, he leapt up and tackled the stunned crime leader. The wayward rescue team member and the dungeon boss both crashed to the ground as Leo swung his claws at the every inch of the pinned Jumpluff’s face he could reach, leaving large cuts under both of the Pokemon’s small, beady, red eyes.

              More of the gas seed attacks were pelting him from all around, bursting into clouds of purple, yellow, and grey gas that mixed with the already saturated air.
              Leo stopped his slashing frenzy for an instant to deliver a swipe to a Hoppip who’d gotten too close. In this split second, the pinned boss charged up a small Energy Ball attack at Leo.
              “Dasvidaniya, Charmeleon!”
              Leo squeezed his eyes shut as he braced once again for the possible end of his existence.

              Whether or not the lethal point blank attack actually impacted, Leo didn’t know as all he felt was something pulling quickly him through a wall of extremely cold water and suddenly he was standing on a hard stone floor inside of a civilized building.

              Not even trying to understanding what sort of miracle had just occurred, his legs gave out from under him as the small reserve of energy had burnt itself out.
              He tried to laugh realizing he was safe-and partly from exhaustion, but instead coughed out a small cloud of purple gas from his burning lungs.

              As he closed his eyes from sheer fatigue, he heard the jabber of faint, frantic voices that grew louder with every passing second.

              “…I found him! Get someone! Hurry!” Leo heard Jay shout as the trample of footsteps grew closer and as he found himself passing out-once again- for the fourth time since he arrived in this world.
              End Chapter Three

              Author’s Notes:

              Well, again, this is another early chapter of mine, so the formatting is somewhat better, and there are less grammar mistakes than before.

              As always, I appreciate any reviews and comments.

              Knightfall signing off…
              Reply With Quote
              Old April 30th, 2013 (10:03 PM).
              dudebot's Avatar
              dudebot dudebot is offline
              Glowing Yellow
                Join Date: Sep 2012
                Location: Nomnom Town
                Gender: Male
                Nature: Bold
                Posts: 127
                I thoroughly enjoy reading the story.

                I do agree with Astinus about how it seems as if you're cramming a lot of information into your sentences.

                I won't mention grammar, since you seem to get better with it as time goes on.

                Also, I don't know why, but I feel as if your chapters are drawn out. It might just be my laziness not wanting me to read the entire thing though.

                Still, overall, a nice and creative Mystery Dungeon story. Those are actually a bit hard to find.
                Reply With Quote
                Old May 1st, 2013 (12:24 PM).
                Knightfall's Avatar
                Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                Unforeseen Consequences
                  Join Date: Apr 2013
                  Location: Sawgrass Town
                  Gender: Male
                  Nature: Modest
                  Posts: 31
                  Thank you! It means a lot to hear that!

                  Anyways, yes, the early chapters are like that, I'm afraid. Same thing with the grammar. It all improves as I move closer to the more current chapters.
                  Although, I would like to announce that I am doing a redo of the prologue with up to date grammar and revision. So, look forward to that, because it will be worth reading.

                  And yes, the length is a plague that I will never be cured of completely. Chapter 3 was very long, the longest until Chapter 11. So, yeah, just be aware that it's in my style to write long chapters.

                  And thank you once again. PMD is a genre that I enjoy twisting around and fitting to my own insane needs. Just wait until we get into the later chapters. I promise you, it'll be far from the norm.

                  Knightfall signing off...
                  Reply With Quote
                  Old May 5th, 2013 (6:55 AM).
                  Knightfall's Avatar
                  Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                  Unforeseen Consequences
                    Join Date: Apr 2013
                    Location: Sawgrass Town
                    Gender: Male
                    Nature: Modest
                    Posts: 31
                    Chapter Four: Injustice
                    “I’m…not sure what’s going on anymore. Things are changing: guards are everywhere, He is always here, and they’re not telling us anything anymore. They’re hiding something, the administrator, I’m certain he’s in on it …. I’m going to find out what it is … I’m not sure what will happen to me, but I can’t go back. Not now, they know. Somehow, they know that I’m on to them, so it’s no use playing dumb. Not anymore.
                    I’m going to go …. into the restricted areas tomorrow, to see what I can find.
                    If I don’t come back ... whoever is reading this needs to make sure that what they’re doing is exposed … whatever that may be.”
                    Last known entry from the private journal of Ian the Breloom, former member of Team Frontier. Confirmed missing the day after this journal entry and has not been heard from since.

                    Leo knew the dark expanse he stood in was the result of a dream, not simply the effects of unconsciousness. The darkness seemed too vivid, if possible, to be anything but a dream.

                    “Is this kind of thing going to be a regular thing every time I pass ou—What the heck is that?!”

                    Within the darkness of the dream, something stirred. At first, they sounded like distant voices, but like a tidal wave approaching shore, their soft whispers grew until they resembled the tortured screams of the damned.
                    Leo clutched the sides of his head in an attempt to block out their screams, but they broke through this barrier as their amplified voices circled around him.

                    “Reality is the story the mind tells itself. A truth so strange it can only be lied into existence and our minds can lie. Never doubt it.”

                    “What’s this? Real, or just my lying mind again?”

                    “Shut up! Stop it!” Leo screamed, but the voices only grew louder.

                    “You can always ignore your conscious …”

                    “I was promised salvation. I was told that I would be free. He told me that my imprisonment would end. I can’t live like this … Maybe I’m already dead. Does that make this my hell?”

                    “Please stop! I don’t want to hear you!” Leo pleaded, but the voices didn’t heed his order.

                    “Death might be a better alternative then letting him return …”

                    “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Please stop!” Leo cried, tears welling up from the pain. Suddenly the screaming voices ceased, and a single, cold voice started talking.

                    “Unless you wish for your mind’s descent into madness to accelerate, I suggest you wake up, Leo. Wake up … and see past the corruption.”

                    Flailing his arms around in panic, Leo effectively shredded the soft blankets covering him. Panting heavily, his eyes darted around the room he was in for the strange voices from a few seconds earlier.

                    After confirming that the room was empty of everyone but himself, he began to worry.
                    I-I’m hearing voices inside my head. Am I going crazy? I must be, because no normal person hears things like that. He glanced at each of the corners of the room to make sure no one was pulling a prank on him. His psyche wasn’t in the best state to handle someone’s cruel attempt of a joke the moment.

                    He shook the thoughts of potential insanity away and truly observed the room he didn’t remember being in before. It was a small square room with brick walls, and wooden ceiling with several small bunches of dried herbs tied to the rafters, their purifying scents purged the air of foul smells and left a sharp, minty aftertaste in Leo’s mouth every time he took a breath.
                    Aside from the herbs on the ceiling, the only other things in the room appeared to be the hay bed he was sitting on and a small wooden door.

                    Deciding that nothing productive would come of his staying in bed, he swung his legs over the side of the haystack and he hopped down. It was as soon as his legs hit the packed dirt floor that he realized that his body wasn’t as recovered from yesterday’s fiasco as he thought. As his weak legs fell out from beneath him, he clutched the wall nearest to him to keep from collapsing.

                    Just then, he heard the squeaking sound of the wooden door opening behind him, and not even a full second had passed when he heard another voice.

                    “Just what do you think you’re doing, Charmeleon?!” Leo didn’t have time to process who the voice belonged to when a pair of leafy arms picked him up from under his shoulders and dropped him over the bed.

                    Leo looked up at his rescuer, she (at least it sounded feminine to Leo) appeared to be a walking plant blub with a red, oversized, hat-like flower set almost sideways on her leaf green “hair”. Her pale white face was looking down on her renegade patient with a mixture of concern and disapproval.

                    “You’re not cleared to be out of bed yet. I’m not surprised that you nearly fell. Those poisons you inhaled yesterday haven’t dissipated from your body yet,” she scolded as she went over to a small brown bag she brought with her, pulling out a pink, heart-shaped berry.

                    “Here, eat this. It’ll help your body break down the last of the poison’s toxins much faster then it would normally,” she said as she handed Leo the berry.
                    Leo looked at the berry suspiciously, it didn’t seem bad, but, as Leo had learned yesterday, looks can be deceiving.

                    “Go on, eat it. Honestly, you’re acting like you’ve never seen a Pecha Berry before,” the nurse urged as Leo cautiously took a bite of the berry.
                    He wasn’t expecting the explosion of sweetness that the berry contained; he stared in awe of the fruit as he swallowed the bite. It took approximately two and a half seconds for Leo to shove the entirety of the small berry into his mouth, chew it, and swallow it.

                    The plant-bulb Pokemon chuckled at the scene. Leo looked up at her with a small dribble of Pecha juice remaining on his lips, which he cleaned with a swipe of his tongue. He didn’t care if she thought him as ill-mannered, odd, or just plain weird; that berry was perhaps the best experience he’d had so far in this world, and he wasn’t going to let anyone ruin it for him.

                    “Now that you’ve finished with that, the last of the toxins should dissipate shortly,” The nurse informed Leo.
                    Suddenly a thought hit Leo, pushing away all the good feelings he had. What happened to Kelly and Jay? And I guess Icarus, too.
                    “Excuse me, nurse…” he trailed off, not knowing what name to call his caretaker.

                    The nurse sensed his confusion. “I’m a Lilligant; my species aren’t normally seen around here, so I’m not surprised that you don’t know. You may call me Rosaline.”

                    Armed with her name, Leo again asked his question. “Nurse Rosaline, what happened to the others who were brought here with me?”

                    The Lilligant paused. “Who are you talking about, Charmeleon?” she asked, confused.

                    Leo pushed himself up on the bed. “Kelly and Jay. They were with me yesterday, along with Icarus.”

                    “I’m sorry, Charmeleon, but I don’t know any of those names. Forgive me,” Rosaline apologized, as Leo began to panic.

                    “My friends, Kelly and Jay! A Jolteon and a Riolu, where are they?!” Leo shouted at the nurse. In the midst of his alarm, he realized that he had just referred to them as his friends. It was true they were the closest things he had to friends in this world.

                    The nurse spoke, “Calm down, Charmeleon! I-”

                    “My name is Leo! What happened to them?!” Leo yelled, cutting her off abruptly. He hopped down off the bed and strained to stand. This was arguably not his best move as he nearly fell to the floor again, but panic had firmly gripped his mind and was not letting go.
                    Just as the nurse was about to resort to using a Sleep Seed she carried on her for such a situation, the door opened and in walked Jay, Kelly, and to Leo’s surprise, Icarus. All of them looking healthy and happy, except Icarus who seemed displeased with the sling his right wing was set in.

                    “We leave you for an hour to discuss a reward with Icarus, and you get into a shouting match with the nurse? Maybe we should have them examine your head,” Jay said, walking in between Leo and the nurse, who still firmly held the Sleep Seed in her hand, ready to throw it if needed.

                    Leo’s heart flooded with relief. “You’re all right, that’s … great,” he said, his breaths slowing as his fear induced heart rate returned to normal.

                    “I was about to tell you that I saw your friends earlier in the guild’s lobby. I didn’t treat your friends, so that’s why I didn’t recall who you were asking about,” Nurse Rosaline huffed, stowing the seed back into her bag.

                    Sheepishly, Leo turned to the annoyed nurse. “I’m sorry I overreacted. I didn’t mean to.”

                    The Lilligant smiled. “It’s alright, I forgive you. You’re hardly the first Pokemon to yell at me in a panic. And I think it shows how much you care for your friends,” she said, as Leo was suddenly thankful his scales were already colored crimson.

                    “So, would someone tell me what happened yesterday?” Leo asked, abruptly changing the subject.

                    “Well, shortly after Jumpluff attacked us, I managed to get a connection with the badge. I activated it and it worked as expected: Icarus and I instantly arrived at the guild with Jay appearing a few seconds later,” Kelly explained, as Jay continued.

                    “Then our luck ran out, again. You weren’t showing up. As soon as we saw that, Kelly and I ran into the guild and found the Kadabra who ran the badge extraction, and we calmly and rationally explained what happened, and he kindly reopened the passage to get you out of the-” Jay told Leo as Kelly interrupted him.

                    “What he actually means is that he barged into the restricted area of the guild and threatened the overworked Kadabra until he got you out of th-” Kelly revealed as Jay cut her off.

                    “Don’t act all innocent, you were about to fry the poor guy by the time I got the-” Jay shot back, as Rosaline cut both of them off by wrapping her leafy hands over both of their muzzles.

                    “This is a hospital. Not an arena. If you wish to carry on your argument, you will do so outside. Do you understand?” she scolded as she slowly let go of their mouths.
                    “Now, I must inform you all that your stay in our guild is almost over. The Guildmaster requests that your entire team vacate the premises now that all of your wounds have been stabilized and treated. You have fifteen minutes to gather your things and leave,” Rosaline informed the reunited team.

                    After that, Jay, Kelly, and Leo busied themselves with gathering their items from the guild’s storage and helping Leo regain strength in his legs. While on their errands, the group passed a golden, mustached, humanoid Pokemon. Once the Pokemon saw them, he instantly jumped to the side and flattened himself against the wall. Leo thought his behavior odd until he saw both Jay and Kelly shoot him a piercing glare.

                    He must be the Kadabra-thing they threatened earlier, Leo realized as the Pokemon fled down the hallway as soon as they passed. Leo smiled at the thought. Serves him right.

                    After they had recovered their satchels and items—Leo’s key wasn’t taken, to his relief-- they found Nurse Rosaline and said their good-byes.
                    “It was nothing, and I’m sorry we have to ask you to leave, but that’s the rules,” she said, as Jay suddenly remembered something.

                    “Hey, nurse, when you were treating Leo, did you find out anything about his memory loss?”

                    Rosaline stopped her good-bye, “Beg pardon, I wasn’t even aware that Leo was suffering from amnesia. Was this from yesterday’s events?” she inquired, concern spreading throughout her face.

                    “No, I’ve had it for a few days now. At least, that’s as far back as I can remember,” Leo admitted with a sigh.

                    The Lilligant walked over to Leo, she put her hands on the sides of his head and gently inspected it. “You don’t appear to have any noticeable injury to your skull; was it a Psychic type that did this to you? Or was it something else?” she asked after completing her observation of his head.

                    Leo shook her hands off his head, “You’re asking the amnesiac if he remembers anything. That makes perfect sense,” Leo said with a laugh.

                    “Well, excuse me for trying to help,” she huffed, “Anyways, there are a few options I know of that might—might, mind you-- help restore his memory, though they would require much effort on your part,” she told them.

                    “Before Jay says something out of line, I’ll be the one to ask. What can we do to help our teammate, Nurse?” Kelly asked. Jay shrugged his shoulders as he let her comment go.

                    “Well, a Psychic Pokemon who’s very developed in his abilities could delve into Leo’s mind and attempt to remove the amnesia, but if one thing goes wrong, it could land your friend with a much bigger problem then missing memories,” she elaborated.
                    Leo shook his head in disagreement, he didn’t want some Pokemon messing around in his head, he already had enough going on up there.

                    “If you don’t want to use that method, there is a talented aura user I know of; Madam Lucario is her name, I believe. She is well known for her abilities, and has reported success with patients like you, though I’m a bit skeptical. Last I heard she was in one of the frontier towns, that’d be at least a week’s travel if you wanted …” she trailed off, sensing that the offer had fallen short with the team.

                    “Thank you for your help, but we simply can’t go off to find this Madam Lucario. We’ll just have to make do with what we have,” Jay told her, as they exited the hospital section of the guild.

                    The main floor of the guild was huge, to say the least. Leo couldn’t even imagine such a room existing in this world. As Jay would tell him later, the lobby was ten feet in height, and wide enough to allow even the longest Onix to fit comfortably. Along the brick walls of the room were placed several long boards each with dozens of posters on them. They made the Post Office’s board look superfluous by the amount of job requests they could hold.

                    Before Leo could observe the entirety of the guild’s foyer, he found himself being pushed along by Jay. A few minutes later, he, Jay, Kelly, and a disgruntled Icarus were standing near the edge of Loyalty Square’s now-bustling marketplace.

                    “Well, at least we got time to breathe in there,” Leo said snidely to Jay, who was looking very much relieved now that they were out of the guild.

                    “Believe me, it’s better now that we’re out of there,” he replied, giving no indication of what that might have meant.

                    “Icarus, I think it’s time you gave us that reward you insisted on not talking about earlier,” Jay said to the Pidgeotto, changing the subject from the guild.

                    Icarus clawed the stone street with his talons, “Yeeeah, about that …You see, I don’t have a reward for you guys,” he slowly said while keeping an eye on Jay.

                    “What do you mean, Icarus?” Jay said, his voice betraying no trace of the anger Leo was sure was building up inside of him.

                    “W-what I mean, is that I don’t have anything of value to…you know, give you guys. I’m only a messenger, I don’t get paid much,” Icarus answered the Riolu, as he kept his distance.

                    “So, nothing? You have nothing to give us for all of our work yesterday getting you out of that Arceus forsaken meadow?!” Jay asked, his temper breaking through his calm exterior.

                    Icarus backed up as Jay took a step forward. “H-hey! L-let’s not get h-hasty, Jay. W-we can talk something out….Leo, Kelly, would you two please help me out here?!” Icarus squawked, once he backed into a wall of a building.

                    “You know, Kelly, I’m not really in the mood for rescuing right now. How about you?” Leo asked, as Kelly laughed.

                    “No, me neither. Actually, I am in the mood for something to eat. You want to come, Leo?” she answered as panic filled Icarus’s eyes.

                    “G-guys? C-come on, I’m sorry! Please don’t leave me here with him!” Icarus pleaded.

                    “Sure, I’m starving. Do you know some place that has some of those Peachy berries?” Leo asked as he walked off with Kelly into the Square.

                    Kelly laughed, “Pecha berries, and I know a place that’s great. Come on.”

                    Jay smirked as he cracked his knuckles, “Let’s have a little …chat, Icarus.”

                    “Zapdos, save me …” Icarus whimpered.

                    The shop they entered was a small structure that appeared to be built out of an amalgamation of tree trunks and cut rock lashed together with rope. The fact that it was standing was probably breaking several basic laws of physics.
                    Inside were several small circular tables, each occupied with a group of Pokemon either eating or just chatting. As Kelly and Leo walked in through the doorway, Leo looked around, not too optimistic about getting a space for both of them at a table.

                    Just as they were about to give up on finding a seat, a large red and yellow creature with red flames erupting from its shoulders looked up from his conversation and noticed their dilemma. He grinned and waved them over with one of its yellow tubular arms.
                    As Leo and Kelly walked over to the already crowded table, the large Pokemon who invited them pushed a horse-like Pokemon with fire for a mane aside to make space for the two.

                    “Thank you, Magmortar, sir,” Kelly said gratefully, as they took a place at the table.

                    Magmortar laughed, “No need to be formal; name’s Blaize, and this here is my crew,” he said, as he gestured at the other Pokemon surrounding the table.

                    “Thank you for letting us sit here, but why? I don’t think we’ve ever met before,” Kelly asked Blaize, puzzled at his generosity. The Magmortar gave no reply to her, but instead Blaize pulled out a small bag, fished out a few copper coins, and tossed them the air.
                    Leo was surprised when the coins all suddenly vanished in a small blast of light.

                    Not three seconds after the coins had vanished from sight, two glasses of liquid appeared in twin flares of light on the table in front of Leo and Kelly.
                    Leo shot back from the table and covered his head with his claws, bracing himself for whatever explosion was about to happen.
                    After a moment of nothing even remotely like a detonation occurring, he slowly opened his eyes and lifted his head. The table was still intact, though every Pokemon at it was staring at him as if he’d completely lost it, Blaize and Kelly in particular.

                    Leo laughed weakly as he slowly returned to the table. Ignoring the stares of the others, he nonchalantly took a sip of his drink. He was amazed at the taste of whatever this mixture was called; he couldn’t even imagine something that came even remotely close to being this good. The Pecha Berry he had earlier palled in comparison to the fiery flavor of this drink. He barely kept these emotions to himself, as the rest of the table returned to their conversation.

                    “Blaize, sir. You didn’t have to buy us anything, we can afford our own,” Kelly told the Magmortar, as he grinned.

                    “Don’t worry about that, and if the rumors are true, you and your team deserve it after what you all did in the Meadows. I swear, you all are more competent then the legions of Magnemite they got patrolling everywhere. Exposing a major Colonial smuggling ring and surviving to tell the tale; that’s not something that every team does. You deserve the drinks,” Blaize explained as Leo downed the rest of the red liquid in his glass.

                    “How did you know about that? We only got back yesterday,” Kelly asked as Leo discreetly reached for Kelly’s glass and took it while she was distracted.

                    Blaize let out another hearty laugh, “I guess some folks overheard talk in the guild and told the town all about it. Good thing too, since that’s what led us to take the job of arresting Jumpluff and his cronies,” he told them as the other Pokemon at the table nodded in agreement.
                    While they talked, Leo carefully took a sip of Kelly’s drink—some sort of electric yellow liquid—and nearly gagged on it. Overriding the urge to spit it out, he quickly swallowed the drink. Disgusted with the revolting drink, he swiftly passed it back to Kelly’s spot before she noticed it was even gone.

                    “Well, good luck with that. He’s not a pleasant Pokemon, that’s for sure. Be careful, and don’t breathe the air,” she warned as Blaize and the entire group laughed—Leo noticed that they did this a lot.

                    “Don’t go worrying about us, lass. A couple Fire Blasts from us and they’ll be begging at our knees!” as he said this, he suddenly lifted his right arm up in the air and shot a small burst of flame out of it.
                    It seemed as if the entire restaurant turned and stared at their table after Blaize’s display.
                    After the audience slowly went back to their private conversations, Blaize announced to his team that it was time to get going.

                    “Management here don’t like attacks going off on the premises, so we’re going before they get onto us. We can’t get banned from here, it’s the only place left in town that hasn’t locked their doors to us yet. See you both around, and good luck with your future rescuin’,” Blaize told them as he and his group hastily exited the building before said management could get onto them.

                    Leo was just starting to enjoy having the entire table just to him and Kelly when he looked up at the back corner of the restaurant. He saw past the groups of conversing Pokemon to see a strange purple creature. It didn’t have any arms or legs that Leo could see, it just silently floated. It wasn’t the lack of limbs, or even the large witch hat it seemed to wear on its head that captured Leo’s attention. It was its stare. The creature’s golden eyes gleamed from under the brow of its “hat”, and Leo saw a wicked smile form on its face. Just as Leo was about to go and confront the observer, a group of three Pokemon approached their table, blocking the staring contest.

                    “You both mind if we sit here? We’ve been looking around for a place to sit for a while now,” one of the newcomers inquired, a large green gecko with a thin leaf growing from the top of its head that went down to its feet.

                    Coming out of his trance-like staring contest with the creature, Leo shook his head. “I’m sorry, we’re out of room,” Leo sarcastically told the group, motioning for them to take a seat.

                    The green gecko grinned, “Thanks mate, appreciate it,” he said as he called for his two companions to take their places at the table. One was a regal looking creature with white fur and a sharp black crescent attached to the side of his head, and the other was a dragon with large red eyes and a pair of diamond-shaped wings on its back.

                    The Grovyle leaned over the table, “So, anything interesting happen to you all today?” he asked, trying to initiate a conversation.

                    “Well, we just finished recovering from our job at Spore Fields yesterday, and our teammate is getting our reward from our client,” Kelly responded, not even phased at the fact that Jay was probably threatening Icarus with another broken wing.

                    This got the Absol’s attention, “Spore Fields? Where you the team that exposed that smuggling ring I’ve been hearing about?”

                    The Grovyle put his clawed hand on the Absol’s shoulder, “Don’t be so rude, Elliot, we just met them,” the Grovyle scolded, as Elliot started grumbling something unsavory about his leader. Leo craned his neck to see past the Grovyle and saw that the golden-eyed creature has vanished without a trace.

                    “Yeah, I guess that’s us. I didn’t know we’d become this well known just for doing that,” Kelly replied, as Jay walked through the doorway of the café. After looking around a moment, he found the table where Leo and Kelly were, and joined them.
                    To avoid disclosing anything Jay did, or might have done to the other patrons, Leo decided to play it safe and ask a vague question.

                    “Any luck?”

                    Jay shook his head. “He really didn’t have anything to give us, and believe me, I made sure.” He looked at his teammates puzzled faces.
                    “Don’t worry; I didn’t hurt him or anything. I just scared him a bit,” he answered their unspoken question.

                    “Even though I didn’t get any reward from him, I made him a deal that he owes us a big favor whenever we might need one. And he accepted that without a second thought, and then I let him go,” Jay said as he finished his explanation of his “chat” with Icarus.

                    “Is that how you treat all of your clients?” Elliot asked, grinning, “If so, then I’d hate to ever be rescued by you all.”

                    The Grovyle jabbed the Absol with his elbow, “Elliot, shut up! You’re not helping anyone with your jokes,”

                    The Absol shrugged it off, “Oh, lighten up Blade, not everything has to be so serious. I mean, I can sense when disasters are about to strike and I smile more then you do!” Elliot argued. The Grovyle, Blade, shook his head in disapproval.

                    “This is why we don’t get higher level missions, because you and Sonic don’t take things seriously,” Blade shot back, directing the comment to Elliot and the Flygon, Sonic.

                    Jay leaned toward Leo and Kelly, “Did I miss anything?” he asked as Kelly filled him in on what happened while he was with Icarus.

                    “See past the corruption …” Leo jerked his head up, suddenly alert.

                    He quickly looked around the table: Jay and Kelly were talking, as were Blade, Elliot, and Sonic, and no one was behind him. Who said that?, Leo pondered, as his thoughts were suddenly cut short by a loud burst of familiar static.

                    The entire café went silent as a squad of seven Magnemite burst into the dining area. They all spun around, quickly scanning the entire room. Suddenly, one of the units screeched as it pointed towards a blue duck Pokemon that was sitting two tables away from Leo.

                    “ZZT! There he is! Get him! ZT!”

                    Five of the Magnemite instantly surrounded the table, while the other two turned around to address the restaurant patrons, who were beginning to panic and get to their feet.
                    “BZZT! Remain calm, citizens, official Loyalty Square Police business. Stay back,” one of the units said. Leo wasn’t paying attention to him; he, along with everybody else in the room, was looking around the Magnemite to see what was going on.
                    The five Magnemite that had surrounded the table had swarmed the stunned blue duck Pokemon. They tried to electrocute him, but he managed to dodge their charge by jumping to the side.

                    “What are you doing?!” the Pokemon yelled as he stumbled away from the table.

                    “ZT! Cease and desist, citizen!” one of the units yelled, as the five Magnemite surrounded the Golduck in the circle.

                    The Golduck desperately looked at the other Pokemon, “I haven’t done anything wrong! What are you doing?!” he yelled as the Magnemite tightened their circle around him.

                    “ZZT! Surrender now, Jack, and we won’t have to use force. ZT!” another of the units said, as Jack’s webbed hands started glowing.
                    Without warning, Jack lunged forward and punched one of the Magnemite. The attack sent the unit flying into the rock wall where it shattered in an explosion of electricity and metal fragments.
                    Before the other officers could react, Jack punched another unit into the floor where it met the same fate as the one before.
                    Jack turned around, shot a burst of water from his mouth at the other Magnemite, and made a break through the gap in the circle. The other units were no longer stunned, and immediately fired bolts of charged electricity at the Golduck.

                    “ZT! Units Four and Seven down! Units Four and Seven down! Remaining units detain suspect! ZZT!” one of the units shouted as they fired off several more bolts. Jack was nimble enough to dodge the electric bolts; he jumped over the chairs and landed on Leo’s table.
                    The units continued firing their attacks despite the risk of hitting the other patrons. Jack’s hands glowed again and this time he sent a wave of psychic energy at the police units, knocking the remaining five units backwards.

                    Leo ducked from his seat, as a bolt of energy flew inches above his head.
                    Jack released several more of the psychic blasts, deflecting the electric bolts and disorienting the units.

                    “This has to end before someone gets hurt,” Blade whispered as he prepared to strike.

                    Before Jack could attack again, Blade hopped up onto the table directly behind the Golduck and shot a pair of glowing leaves at Jack’s head, instantly knocking the Pokemon down onto the floor before he could react. The remaining units took advantage of the opportunity and fired several bolts directly at the Golduck.
                    Jack cried out in pain as he collapsed to the ground, his body twitching as the electricity continued to course through it.

                    Leo was too stunned to move at this act of police brutality as several yells of “Jack!” came from the Pokemon of the café.
                    Before anyone could make a move to help him, the Magnemite quickly surrounded the unconscious Golduck. Two of them clasped their magnet appendages around Jack’s wrists and started dragging him out of the restaurant, another two units made a barrier around their prisoner, while the last one attached his magnets to the smoking piles of wreckage that were units Four and Seven and dragged them away.

                    “BZZT! Have a nice day, citizens. Thank you for your cooperation and assistance in detaining this felon. ZZT!” the last one said as it left the restaurant, the last comment directed to Blade.

                    After the Magnemite left, the patrons started murmuring and conversing once more. Leo could hear only snippets of their hushed dialogue, “… again, it’s happened again.”, “Jack never did anything …”, “… third raid this week ...”, “… too far this time …”

                    Leo snapped back into focus when Jay tapped him on his back, “I think it’s time we go. We don’t want to stay here too long, otherwise we’ll be the next ones offending one of their asinine laws,” Jay warned and Leo nodded, taking a last look at the overturned table and the many smoking scorch marks in the walls and furniture.

                    “Your friend is right, we should leave now,” Blade said as he motioned for Leo to move.

                    Silent Foothills: Second Area

                    Even though it had been a few hours since the incident in the café, Leo was still trying to make sense of what had happened. Jay explained that this was only one of many similar incidents happening all across the Kingdom: Pokemon being rounded up and arrested at the slightest sign of doing anything considered “treasonous”.

                    Once they had departed the café, they parted ways with Blade and his team, who told them to watch their backs as they left. Apparently, Jay had also been to the job boards while he was dealing with Icarus and had accepted a mission, though he never got the chance to tell them in the restaurant.

                    Though Leo was not too psyched about going into another dungeon so soon after the last one, he reluctantly agreed to go since Jay assured him that this was nothing like the Meadows. In hindsight, he remembered that was exactly what Kelly had told him about the Meadows yesterday.
                    Their mission was simple: find an Oren Berry a Weedle used as a good luck charm. It didn’t pay too much, —only thirteen Copper Poke--- but it was an easy mission, and that was exactly what they needed.
                    Leo turned his badge over in his claws, it was worn down and scratched, but Aleck told them that it was top quality. Leo remembered when the eccentric shopkeeper called them over to his shop right after they left Blade and his team. Jay and the Sableye haggled for a few minutes about a price before agreeing to four Silver Poke.

                    When Leo asked where he got the badge, Aleck cryptically answered, “Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies,” he said with a shady chuckle.
                    As they walked away from the shop, Kelly whispered to him that Aleck never says where he gets his merchandise, though everyone suspects that he had contacts in the black market.

                    The dungeon itself wasn’t anything too remarkable, as the name “Silent Foothills” suggested, it was fairly quiet in terms of both noise and Pokemon. Except for a few wild Zigzagoon and Rattata that fled as soon as they came into view, the dungeon was empty, and that was fine by Leo.
                    The Oren Berry in question was supposed to be on the third area of the dungeon, and at the rate this mission was going, they’d be there in no time.

                    “Hey, Jay, what did you mean by what you said earlier? When you said that the same thing was happening all over?” Leo asked as they walked through the tree-lined path within the dungeon. The Riolu slowed his pace and walked beside Leo, letting Kelly take the lead.

                    “Ever since the Western Quarter incident, the entire police force has been stepping up their efforts to prevent history from repeating itself on a bigger scale. Not to sound paranoid or anything, but they have spies set up in every city to watch for any signs of treason. Gear hates that they have to do it, but it’s not his decision,” Jay explained as they continued to move through the dungeon.

                    “So, Jack was innocent?” Leo asked.

                    “He probably got caught talking bad about the government or something like that. It’s horrible, but it’s better then living in the Colonies, at least that’s what I’ve been told,” Jay sighed.
                    Leo had thought as much. It’s bad, yes, but like he said, it could always be worse, right? Unfortunately, he didn’t have an answer to that question.

                    Suddenly, Jay spoke up. “I know what we need to do, Leo. This place is an excellent spot to try and teach you some attacks,” he suggested.

                    “What do you mean by ‘attacks’?” Leo asked.

                    “What you weren’t able to do yesterday against Jumpluff. Hopefully, we can jog your memory and get a move or two back,” Jay told him, as they all stopped in the middle of a clearing ringed by trees. “This should be a good place.”

                    “Alright, so where do I begin?” Leo eagerly asked, the thought of performing some of the moves he saw yesterday excited him.
                    Jay stopped, “Umm, you got any ideas Kel?”

                    Kelly thought for a moment, “Well, since none of us know how to breathe fire, I guess we could start you off with something involving your claws,” she reasoned, as Leo looked over his claws. They were definitely sharp, but was there more to them then that?

                    “That’ll work,” Jay agreed as he motioned for Leo to stand in front of a particularly large tree.
                    “Now pretend it’s an enemy and attack it!” he ordered, as Kelly groaned in disagreement.

                    “That’s not how it works, Jay! You have to let him figure it out his own way. That’s how I learned,” she told him.

                    Their arguing didn’t change the fact that Leo was still facing a tree with no idea of what to do. Shrugging his shoulders, he decided to wing it. He raised his right arm and concentrated on slashing through the bark like butter with his claws.
                    He swung his claws down onto the tree. He immediately knew it hadn’t worked when he felt the jarring pain spread throughout his limb. He clenched his hand as he hopped around in pain.

                    As soon as the pain subsided to a tolerable level, again he faced the tree. Ignoring Jay’s snickers and Kelly’s advice to take it easy, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
                    He imagined his claws easily slicing into the first few inches of bark, tearing through the layers of xylem and phloem. That’s when he felt it, his claws suddenly became energized in a way. Not knowing if that was a good sign or not, he swung his claws into the tree again.

                    He felt his claws make contact with the hard bark, but then it felt like he was dragging his hand through water. He opened his eyes to see that his claws were indeed glowing and embedded deep within the bark, a long slash mark trailed from where he first made contact with the tree.

                    “That’s great, Leo! You got it!” Kelly cheered. Her sudden yell caused Leo to shift his concentration slightly, and that was all that was needed to stop the energy flow to his claws.
                    His claws instantly stopped glowing and his steady cut through the tree was brought to a halt. Leo felt his claws jar on the bark. He tried to pull them out to try again, but they were stuck fast in the wood.
                    Grunting, he used his free hand to try to yank his claws out. He overheard Jay’s laughter, not even trying to hide it anymore. Even though he couldn't turn around to prove it, he was certain that he heard Kelly’s laugh mixed in with Jay’s.
                    He huffed in annoyance, planted his feet on the base of the tree, and pulled once more to no avail.

                    Forget this, Leo thought as he jumped up and put his feet on either side of his stuck claw so that he was perpendicular with the tree. Leo pushed off with his feet as hard as he could, straining to free his claws.
                    He didn’t stop pushing even when he heard a loud “crack” in the wood, though perhaps he should have since it was only a few seconds after that noise when his claw came free and he shot off of the tree and tumbled onto the ground.

                    “Are you sure you weren’t a comedian before your memory loss?” Jay asked, barely containing a laugh as he offered his paw to the downed Charmeleon.
                    Leo accepted the hand up, and climbed to his feet, pulling his tail off the irritating dirt.

                    “Don’t listen to him Leo, you had it. I think that was a Slash attack, a pretty useful move to have in your arsenal,” Kelly said as Leo examined his right arm for any injury.

                    “Though we probably should get going and finish this mission before it gets too late,” she suggested, looking up at the sun, which was slowly edging its was toward the western horizon.

                    “Agreed,” Leo said, not wanting to spend any more time in this dungeon then he all ready had. It wasn’t because it was challenging, he just didn’t like the feel of being inside of an unstable spatial anomaly.

                    Just as they were about to start moving deeper into the Foothills, he heard the voice again.
                    “Their aggression would never fade with the passing centuries. Their hatred would grow and increase until the resonance could be felt throughout the world.”

                    Leo nearly jumped a mile high when he heard the voice from earlier again in his ear, but before he could tell his teammates about it the ground started rumbling.

                    “What’s going on?! Dungeonquake?!” Jay yelled as the ground continued to heave. They all struggled to maintain their foothold on the ground as the quake worsened.
                    The trees shook and swayed. Leo saw a few birds flee their nests in terror, as their homes threatened to topple.

                    As suddenly as it began, the ground stilled and the quake ceased. “D-did it stop?” Kelly asked.
                    Unfortunately for them, that was only the calm before the storm as the rift appeared.

                    It was as if someone got a knife and sliced the air between two of the large trees at the opposite side of the clearing, leaving behind a glowing blue line in the air. The line slowly grew in width, revealing a space between the now circular portal.

                    Leo was mesmerized at the sight of the strangle enigma.
                    “What is that?” Kelly said as images began to take shape inside the portal.

                    At first it looked like an Impressionist era painting, but then the blurry landscape on the other side of the portal cleaned up to reveal a dense swampy area covered in moss laden trees and fog.
                    There was no way that marsh could have existed anywhere around the steep and dry Foothills. This was a portal to another place in the world.

                    Leo was about to turn and flee the anomaly when his entire body went numb, as if some unseen force was holding him still. He turned his head slightly to see that both Jay and Kelly were experiencing something similar.

                    From the other side of the rift, Leo heard the thudding of footsteps, heavy, mechanical-like footsteps. The thudding grew increasingly louder as whatever creature they belonged to got closer to the opening in the air.
                    Leo was just about to think that the situation couldn’t get any worse when a cold feeling washed over him. It was as if his mind was suddenly stuck in a freezer.
                    Leo would have rather put up with the mental cold then hear the voice.

                    “Warning: Biotics detected in target destination. Threat level: Indefinite. Code: Trace, Identify, Nullify, Dispatch, Depart. Proceed with biotic-sterilization protocol. Procedure: Engaged.”
                    The voice was cold and emotionless, like a machine. Leo was almost certain that this was some sort of fever dream produced by his broken mind. If that’s what this is, then I don’t have to take this seriously, he reasoned as a strange feeling of calmness came over him.

                    “What in the name of Mew was that?!” Kelly yelled as the portal glowed bright white and exploded.
                    In a place unseen by all others, a raspy voice chuckled.
                    “The variables are in place, and the candidate has received the notice of possible employment. All that is needed now is his… confirmation of acceptance. I must report this development to my …employers. They will be happy to know things are …moving in their favor finally, but first I feel compelled to inform my other …client that his …investment is starting to … pay off …in a manner of speaking. My employers do not see that their gambit for freedom will lead to … consequences unforeseen. Their actions will be felt across the entire realm.”
                    End Chapter Four

                    Author’s Notes:
                    I decided to not have much happen action-wise in this chapter due to what happens next chapter. Instead, I tried to show a bit of what’s really going on in the world, bad stuff, indeed. Speculation as to what exactly the voice is to begin in three … two … one …
                    And yes, I meant “Oren Berry” with an “e” in the job description.

                    So, Leo has used his first move, Slash. Even if it was horribly done, it’s still a milestone for him.
                    Some parts of it weren’t too fun to write and delayed me quite a bit, but I worked through them in the end.
                    Anyways, this is the first chapter where I can say with full confidence that things are starting to happen. That’s right, we’re nearly out of the first arc of the story!

                    Moving on, I’d like to thank my beta readers for going through this chapter and helping me fix the errors in it. Without them this would not be nearly as enjoyable for you to read. So again, my thanks to them.

                    And finally, I still like hearing from my readers. So feel free to comment on anything that you find interesting, or anything you want to point out in the story.
                    Chapter Five will be here eventually, as will the resolution to the cliffhanger I left you all with. So, until then,

                    Knightfall signing off …
                    Reply With Quote
                    Old May 14th, 2013 (1:13 PM).
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                    Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                    Unforeseen Consequences
                      Join Date: Apr 2013
                      Location: Sawgrass Town
                      Gender: Male
                      Nature: Modest
                      Posts: 31
                      Author’s Warning: This chapter does contain some content that actually reaches the PG-13 rating I put on this story. It’s only for a few scenes, so I think it’s all right for most people. Just keep that in mind.

                      Chapter Five: Interference
                      “… In short, the Intradimensional rifts appearing between the spatial anomalies known as Mystery Dungeons are a phenomenon of unexplained proportions. Commonly known as Dungeon Links, these tears in the dimensional fabric occasionally appear within dungeons, serving as temporary spans across time and space variants allowing for instant traveling between dungeons that are far in proximity from each other.
                      As far as we can tell, these Links follow a set pattern, appearing in the same dungeons every time. It is unknown how these rifts were created, though several theories are in circulation, which will be discussed at another time.

                      We thank the esteemed explorer, Dusknoir, for sharing his vast wisdom on this matter, and his strange knowledge of next week’s lunch schedule. And as a note to all employees, if anyone knows of this “Grovyle” Pokemon he’s talking about, then please by all means, contact an administrator, it’s getting annoying….”

                      Excerpt from the report of Trinity Isle Research and Archive associate, Alakazam, on the enigmatic Dungeon Link. Published approximately five and a half years ago.


                      Leo found that the paralysis on his body had lifted as he was blown backwards from the shattering portal. As he tried to get his bearings in his dizzied state, he was suddenly greeted with a grating, mechanical voice.

                      “I refuse! They can’t possibly be that much of a threat!” the clearly masculine voice said. Leo cringed as the shrill sound of it was equal to a dozen chalkboards being scratched by razor blades.

                      “Priority code: detain, disinfect, dispose,” the cold feminine voice was completely opposite from the prior voice.
                      Leo’s vision slowly cleared, and as it did so, his jaw dropped at what he saw. An unholy lovechild of tank and crab stood in front of where the portal used to be, its sturdy, blue legs stretching up to give it a view of the area.

                      “Lugia’s storm … w-what is that?” Jay asked, fear penetrating every syllable of his question. Neither Leo nor Kelly had the answer to his question, or had time to give him one, as the creature started to move again.

                      The giant crab tank swiftly turned around to face the stunned team, its blood red eyes looking at them for a moment before shifting to another object.

                      “You didn’t say this would happen! Why didn’t you tell me I’d have to do this?!” It wasn’t a normal question, it was a crazed plea to an unknown entity.

                      In the midst of his confusion at nearly everything that was happening, Leo found an answer as to who “you” was when the cold, feminine voice spoke again.

                      “Infestation detected within proximity. Code: Sanitize, Expunge, Relocate.”
                      The emotionless voice seemed to resonate from within the creature’s discus-shaped head, seemingly acting as a guiding voice to its lost host.

                      “I-I can’t! I can’t kill them! Don’t make me do it! Please!” the creature cried, its red eyes almost in tears.

                      “Malcompliance behaviors within Metagross: Wire unit will not be tolerated. Code: comply, control, counter, cauterize.”

                      Leo cautiously backed away from the steel monster, which seemed to be in the midst of a mental breakdown. He gave a panicked glance to both of his teammates who seemed to have the same idea: get out of here without getting his attention.

                      “Contagions escaping containment area! Infection imminent! Code: cull, cleanse, clot,” the voice shrieked as the Metagross shook his head in deranged disagreement.

                      “No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I won’t do it! Don’t make me!” the giant Pokemon shrieked, pleading with the voice inside his head.

                      “When your mind has trapped you within itself, what else can you do but scream?”

                      The voice sent shivers down Leo’s spine. He looked quickly to his teammates, shaking away the voice and the bad omens it brought whenever it spoke. It was time to leave, and no voice inside his head was going to stop them. With a nod from Jay, they all turned away from the malfunctioning Metagross and began to sprint to the nearest dungeon path out of the room.

                      “Biogen breach! Code: override, containment field initiate!” the controlling voice shouted as Wire gave one last, agonized scream.
                      Not one of the team turned around to look, though they didn’t have a choice as they all ran face-first into a wall of invisible energy. The transparent wall rippled slightly as it bounced the members of Team Salient backwards, sending them sprawling on the ground.

                      Rubbing his sore nose, Leo dizzily turned around to see why they were trapped this time.

                      The Metagross unit shuddered, its four, metal legs stumbling around inside the ring of psychic energy it had created. Leo, you can’t escape the psychopath who’s trying to kill you by running away; that’d be too easy. How silly of me to forget, Leo grimly thought as the Pokemon who trapped them spoke.

                      “Testing, testing, one, two, three. Good, that’s still functioning. Overriding my counter-part isn’t always this successful. Now, what do I do with you three? Killing you is logical and disposing of your bodies has a ninety-two-point-five percent chance of success,” the Metagross said, its voice, however, not sounding anything like the slightly crazed, male tone they’d heard seconds before.
                      Swallowing her fear, Kelly took a step forward to the Pokemon that was now possessed by it’s own mind.

                      “What do you want? Why did you trap us here?” she asked, as the Metagross carefully eyed her.

                      “Your actions are causing complications to arise within our benefactor’s campaign. We have been dispatched to neutralize the threat … well, at least I was. Wire wasn’t so keen on accepting this mission as you can tell,” she said with indifference, as she began to circle around the team.

                      “Please don’t! Please don’t! Nexus, please don’t!” Wire’s distant voice continued to cry as Nexus repressed him further within his own mind.

                      “We haven’t done anything though!” she exclaimed as the Metagross narrowed its eyes, clearly bypassing what she’d just said completely.

                      “You have willingly cooperated with enemies of the Colonies. Now feel free to take a look through the swiftly closing aperture that remains of your lives. Engage!”

                      As soon as the last word passed through her voice processors, Leo, Kelly, and Jay were somehow lifted into the air by the Metagross and thrown violently against the energy barrier she had created.

                      He was sure he heard something inside his chest crack as he slid down to the ground, but he didn’t have time to properly examine himself as Nexus charged at him at a speed Leo thought impossible to achieve.

                      He quickly ducked to the side as a giant steel-spiked foot planted itself in the barrier where his head was seconds before. Unable to grab his exploration bag on the ground without getting flattened, he continued to play chicken with the rushing Nexus.

                      “You are aiding the corruption! Can’t you see?! You’re collaborating with traitorrraaaaaaaaahhhh!” Nexus screamed as her body was roped with chains of electricity. She stopped her efforts to reduce Leo’s skull to a waffle and shifted her attention to Kelly.

                      Kelly let loose another lightning attack from her charged fur as Nexus attempted to crush her with her legs. Leo groaned as a panting Jay quickly helped him to his feet.

                      “What’s going on?!” Leo yelled as Kelly was psychically thrown into the barrier by Nexus, causing her issue a pained yelp followed by a curse to Thundurus. She yelled in pain as she tried to run, lifting her left hind leg above the ground. Out of breath, Jay quickly mumbled something about his badge and escaping to Leo as he dashed to the opposite side of the death-ring.

                      Jay ran and scooped up his bag off the ground while Nexus was occupied with trying to permanently incapacitate Kelly. She was still somehow able to dodge the attacks despite her fractured hind leg, though the pain it caused her was sure to be immense.

                      As Jay turned his bag upside down and fervently looked for his badge, Leo tried to concentrate a Slash attack and simultaneously ignore the shooting pain in his chest.

                      Within seconds both sets of his claws became energized, and he ran directly at Nexus, who was about to flatten an exhausted Kelly.

                      Whatever remained of his sane mind screamed that this was a horrible idea and that he was going to die in his foolish attempt to help her, but he pushed it aside as he leapt past Nexus’s armored legs and onto the center of her head.

                      His claws still glowing with energy, Leo gripped onto the silver, X-shaped mustache on Nexus’s face. He held on as he prayed that Kelly got herself to safety.

                      This action didn’t go unnoticed by the possessed Metagross, who halted her execution of Kelly and proceeded to try and buck Leo off her head, screaming unsavory curses at him all the while. All through this, the faint cries of Wire still emitted from the Metagross as he tried to regain control of his body.

                      Just as Leo felt as if he was going to see the apples he ate earlier again, Nexus raised one of her legs, used the spikes on the ends of it to pinch Leo’s leg, and detached him from her face. His Slash-powered claws faded as his grip failed.

                      She dangled Leo in the air for a split second, as if deciding the most efficient way to break every bone in his body before she raised her leg back and hurtled him at the psychic barrier.

                      Leo heard another audible crack as his ribs lit on fire. Yeah, definitely broken. Hu-rah, he thought morbidly as he painfully picked himself up.
                      He got to his feet and walked, thankful that his body was producing numbing adrenaline as he looked over to his teammates.
                      His rodeo with Nexus had lasted only a few seconds, but to Leo it felt like it had lasted hours.
                      Jay held his badge in his hands as he jabbed the center button repeatedly, but he was interrupted when Nexus’s leg slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground and sent his badge skidding across the dirt.

                      “A predictable move for a Fighting type, taking the cowardly way out instead of facing up to the danger that threatens you and your teammates. I thought it would be the Charmeleon who tried to abandon ship first, but apparently I was wrong,” Nexus sneered as she psychically picked up the Riolu and his badge until he was level with her face.

                      “There is no place in the world for cowards like you,” she stated as she focused her mind to blast Jay backwards into the wall. She dropped his badge to the ground and smashed it with her spiked foot, the remains sparking slightly. Not sure of what he was doing, Leo leaped at Nexus, claws ready.

                      “Nexus, stop! No!” Wire screamed from inside his own mind, as he watched his body produced a psychic field and tossed around the innocent Riolu like a kit’s toy.

                      “You refused to cooperate and accomplish the task at hand, so I took the liberty of doing it for you. My guidance wasn’t enough for you, it seems. You know how draining overriding you is on me, so don’t think I’m doing this for my own reasons. It’s for the best,” Nexus responded to the trapped Metagross personality as she slammed his foot down, almost crushing the limping Kelly.

                      Wire said nothing as the Charmeleon ran forward to protect the Riolu, he watched as his front left leg straighten out and swing at the fire type’s head.

                      Wire growled, “You can’t kill them, Nexus. This is my body, not yours.”
                      Leo had just enough time to help Jay off the ground before he heard another roar from the steel crab. He turned around to face the creature only to catch a brief glimpse of one of its legs swinging toward his head.

                      Before he could react to the imminent threat, the limb connected. To Leo, it felt like a freight train had collided with the side of his head. Leo thought he would see stars, but an entire galaxy of supernovas filled his vision.

                      He couldn’t hear anything beyond the intense ringing in his ears and his own heartbeat. His heartbeat, combined with the flashes of white-hot pain from his skull were the only sensations telling him he wasn’t yet dead.

                      Maybe it was his body’s ability to heal remarkably fast, or just the adrenaline numbing the pain—Leo suspected the later— but after what only seemed a minute, he recovered most of his senses of sight and hearing. His head still hurt felt like it had been used as a wreaking ball on a building filled with primed dynamite, but he staggered to his feet regardless.

                      The first thing he saw was Jay playing a deadly game of chicken with the Metagross’s iron legs, deftly sprinting and changing direction as he ran around the beast. He suddenly stopped and slammed a glowing fist in the center of the “X” formed on its face.

                      The living computer let out a primal screech and let loose a Psychic attack at Jay. Leo watched his teammate get shoved into the dirt at sonic speeds. Nexus raised leg over Jay, and with no warning, she slammed it down.

                      It took all of his remaining strength, but Wire managed to regain control of his front leg, and halt its downward trajectory centimeters from the bracing Riolu’s face.

                      He managed to shove his limb away from the rescue team member as a wave of agony washed over him. He felt his body’s psychic powers activate as an infuriated Nexus hurtled the Riolu across the arena into the barrier. Jay fell to the dirt for a moment, as he tired and failed to get back up, refusing to give up the privilege of consciousness.

                      “This is treason, you know that? Of course you do. You may be the weaker of the two of us, but I know for a fact you’re not defective. An incompetent moron, yes, but not defective. Our benefactors will not be pleased when they find out about your decision to forego their orders,” Nexus scolded her counterpart, as Wire ignored her, and concentrated on forcing his body’s Bullet Punch attack to miss the fatigued Jolteon by a hair.

                      “You can’t keep this up, you know that, right? By the time my override of your body wears off, these pests’ corpses will be picked clean by passing Mandibuzz. There is nothing you can do, Wire. I’m not bragging, it’s an objective fact,” she said, as she tore his leg away from his control and swung it at the Charmeleon. Wire wasn’t able to stop it, but he managed to make the hit land hard on the Charmeleon’s stomach instead of lopping his head clean off as Nexus had intended.

                      “You can’t fight two battles at once, Nexus. I’ll defeat myself if I must,” Wire grunted, as he attempted to make his body fall to the ground.

                      “We’ll see about that, you half byte program,” Nexus growled, as her body shuddered slightly.

                      Leo doubled over, as he stumbled out of range of the Metagross. Collasping to his hands and knees, he couldn’t hold back the burning bile from his stomach, as he heaved most of what he’d eaten that day onto the dirt. Coughing hard, he tried to coax air back into his lungs.
                      He had no time to register the amount of pain he was in, as he saw a circular shadow rise above him. His mind shut down and his body took over, instinctively forcing him to roll to the left on the ground.

                      The ground shook slightly as Nexus rammed one of her front legs into the spot where Leo’s body had been a second before.
                      Just then, a bolt of lightning shot over his head. He heard Kelly let out a war-like cry and tackle the Metagross full force. She collided with the steel exterior of the Pokemon, her charged fur sending waves of electricity through the monster tank.

                      Nexus let out an involuntary yell as the energy coursed through her extremely conductive, steel body. Kelly fell to the ground in a heap, grimacing as she landed on her injured hind leg.

                      “Leo, … run,” she gasped right before she was psychically hoisted into the air and brutally slammed into the barrier. Her limp form slid to the ground; she barely kept conscious as she slowly tried to get back up again.

                      Nexus surveyed her surroundings, apparently pleased at seeing both Jay and Kelly barely conscious, and she turned her attention to Leo. He felt as if his body was paralyzed; he couldn’t move, he couldn’t flee, he couldn’t help his friends, he couldn’t do anything but stare as Nexus slowly approached him like the grim reaper. Her precise movements and cold, locking, stare proved more than capable of causing Leo’s legs to instinctively step backwards until his back was against the barrier.

                      “Charmeleon, you and your comrade’s crimes merit capital punishment. My benefactor was very much displeased with the news of your team’s actions in exposing one of our most successful espionage rings, and rescuing our prisoner of war,” Nexus said, as she slowly closed the gap between them. Leo gulped in fear.

                      “I would have very much liked to converse with the Riolu instead, but I sense something … different about you. It’s an intangible quality that makes you different then nearly every other Pokemon I’ve threatened before.” She got close to him and lifted her body up. Her face soon became only inches away from his, her fiery eyes boring into his skull.

                      “Tell me, what makes you so different? Wait. Why don’t I just take a look inside your mind and find out for myself?” she said as her eyes flashed golden for an instant. Leo shut his eyes and braced for whatever she was about to do to him, but after a few seconds of relatively nothing happening he gained the courage to open his eyes.

                      As soon as his eyes made contact with hers, he knew he fell for her trap. He couldn’t move at all, but he could feel her, casually browsing through his memories and the events of the past few days, unable to do anything to stop her. She ignored his efforts and occasionally mumbled to herself when she came across something interesting.

                      “My, my, you have some serious issues: major amnesia of the cerebrum, potential schizophrenia, and countless other problems. I think I might be doing the world a favor by killing a developing psychopath like you,” she said dully as he felt her leaf through through the pages of his mind

                      “Ah. Here it is,” she said wickedly as she found what she was looking for. Leo fought one last time to force her form his head, but Nexus merely chuckled.

                      “What’s so horrible that you can’t even trust your own teammates with it? Did you murder someone? You did, didn’t you?” she guessed with a metallic laugh.

                      Leo felt his anger rising. The only people allowed in my head are me, and a chorus of haunting voices! No one else!
                      As if something heard his thought, he felt the paralysis of his right arm fade just enough for him to regain control. Not about to waste the opportunity, he quickly produced a sloppily made Slash attack, and brought his energized claws down onto her armored face.

                      The possessed Metagross screamed in pain as she backed away from the Charmeleon slightly. With her concentration broken, Leo was freed from her psychic paralysis. He tried to run, but his legs wouldn’t respond out of sheer exhaustion.

                      Nexus yelled and immediately grabbed Leo with her Psychic and slammed him against the barrier. She raised her left leg and pressed it against his chest.
                      If she could, she would have smiled as she pushed her leg into him, squishing him between the barrier and her foot.

                      “You know what’s funny? I’m possibly the most advanced collection of knowledge on the entire planet that’s ever existed, and I’m stuck doing a filthy bounty hunter’s job catching you idiots. Even though you’re about to die, I feel compelled to impart some of my knowledge onto your pathetic mind before you go,” she said, enunciating each syllable with pure loathing.

                      “Did you know? Pressure,” she said as she pushed Leo against the field.

                      “is the ratio of force,” Nexus pressed harder against the pinned Charmeleon,

                      “to the area over which that force is distributed. Interesting fact, no?” Nexus gloated as Leo’s entire chest began to feel the surface of the sun as Nexus continued to ramble on how he and his worthless friends would soon be destroyed.

                      His ribs sent lightning to his nerves, forcing tears into his eyes as he tried not to pass out.
                      Air swiftly became a luxury he could no longer afford as the Metagross slowly crushed the life out of him. He faintly heard someone --- Kelly, possibly --- yelling his name in the distance, but he knew she was in no state to fight, let alone save his life.

                      His as lungs began to suffocate; he felt his heart speed up, using his remaining oxygen to power his mind for one last time. All this time the fire in his chest kept building up until it felt like someone has ignited a furnace inside his lungs.
                      The heat grew hotter and expanded in his lungs. In his weakening state, he didn’t know what his body was doing, but simply went along with it. An instant later, the fire in his chest ached to be released; it rose from his lungs and burned in his throat.

                      Not caring about the potential consequences, he opened his mouth and exhaled the remaining air from his lungs.
                      The heat suddenly forced its way from throat and out his mouth, combusting into a ball of fire as it touched the air. Leo’s head jerked back from the recoil as the newly formed Ember attack collided with Nexus’s face, exploding in a flash of fire and ash.

                      Nexus screeched, both inside and outside of her mind, as she staggered backwards from Leo, releasing her death grip on him. She swung her head side to side trying to alleviate the burn.
                      Wire would have grinned if he had a physical body to do so, the Charmeleon had performed better then he’d thought. I can still end this on my terms.

                      He’d had enough of this fight. He had to end it before she killed one of them. Wire concentrated his psyche and tackled his distracted counter-part with every bit of his mental strength. Nexus was broadsided by the onslaught from her physical and mental fronts, she couldn’t repress Wire any longer as his psyche rushed at her.
                      Wire wrestled for control of what was rightfully his body. He felt his limbs swing about in all directions as control over them quickly shifted from him to her and back again.
                      He heard Nexus scream and felt her resisting to give up her influence over his body. Just as he almost tipped the balance of the battle against her, she pushed him back in a fit of hellish fury.

                      Wire felt as she ripped control of his legs away from him, and charged forward at the still recovering Charmeleon. There was no warning, no “any last words?”, no threats, no chance of a miraculous escape, as the spiked appendage slashed downwards onto the Charmeleon.

                      Wire let out an enraged, feral roar and lunged at Nexus. She’d made him kill the Charmeleon in cold blood. She’d taken an innocent life, now she’d pay for his blood.

                      Surprisingly, Leo didn’t feel the initial attack, it didn’t seem real. Only a faint twinge of discomfort reminded him that he’d been hit at all. He put one foot forward, his lungs unable to breathe for some odd reason.

                      He planted his left foot next to his right, his legs felt like they were being turned into gelatin. He heard someone shrieking his name, or at least he thought it was his name, he couldn’t really tell as all the sound gradually turned into a annoying ringing noise.

                      He looked around for where the shout had come from. Straight ahead was a Metagross busy having a spasm as electricity laced its form, now why was it here? Was he friendly? Leo couldn’t remember.

                      He turned his head to the left. He saw Jay dizzily getting up from the ground. Wait. Why was he on the ground? Had he been attacked by something?
                      He shrugged his strangely heavy shoulders in confusion; he would ask him about that later when they got back to town.

                      Finally, he looked to the right where Kelly was shouting at him, or at least, he thought she was. Her mouth was moving, but no sound came out. She suddenly started running toward him … in slow motion? Why was she running in slow motion? That didn’t make sense, only Jay was allowed to slow down time since he was the team leader, that was his job. She’d probably get into trouble with the Magnemite for disobeying the team rules.

                      Leo saw that she was trying to say something to him again as she slowly made her way across the area to him, ignoring the pain her back leg brought her. Why was she in such a hurry? Why was her leg broken? What was her problem?

                      That’s it! She just wants to congratulate me on winning the flying contest! Jumpluff never stood a chance against me, Leo thought as his body suddenly felt a lot lighter. He felt like he was a cloud, free of the imposing law of gravity.
                      He waved to Kelly, a grin plastered on his face as he felt his legs disappear. He floated down until his knees touched the ground. Who needs legs when I can fly? Leo thought giddily as he let out a laugh at his own joke.

                      Leo felt something wet and sticky pooling around his knees. Looking down, he saw that it was only a growing puddle blood. He was glad it wasn’t Kelly’s drink he’s sipped at the café, that’d be horrible.

                      Then it struck him. Is that blood? He slowly lowered his gaze downwards to his chest. That’s blood. A long, jagged, gash made it’s way across Leo’s chest like a serpent. That’s … blood. Upon closer inspection it seemed to run from his lower ribcage to his stomach, it was deep, and it was leaking a constant waterfall of crimson. That’s my blood!

                      As soon as it became real to him, the fragile air of calm his brain struggled to project to keep his heartbeat low shattered. Leo’s pulse nearly soared as he clutched the wound with his claws, trying to attach his torn scales and flesh back together.

                      Adrenaline could only numb away so much pain and give so much false energy before it failed like everything else in his body. The true pain of being brutally sliced open and the sudden weakness of major blood loss hit him like one of the Metagross’s legs. Shock firmly gripped his body as Leo fell face first to the ground, unable to move a muscle.

                      Time seemed to catch up with him as Kelly suddenly appeared at his side and gingerly turned his head so that he was looking up. He felt his entire body suddenly become cold; shock was taking its toll on him.

                      Leo faintly saw the color in her yellow-furred face drain into a dull grey, as the world around him fade to black and white. Kelly seemed to be frantically looking around for anything to stop the bleeding, but there was nothing close to them except a battered pink scarf from her satchel.

                      She gently placed the scarf on the wound, and vainly tried to stabilize the gash, bloodying it and her paws up in the process.
                      As his sight began to fade to black, he saw her eyes well up with tears. She screamed something at him, but he couldn’t hear her.
                      His head fell back onto the dirt with a thud. The last thing he saw before his vision turned black was the flame on his tail flicker weakly and go out with a puff of grey smoke.

                      To say Leo felt surprised when he opened his eyes again would be a gross understatement. He gingerly looked around, making sure this wasn’t some sort of fever dream his brain decided to inflict him with as his body died.

                      If it weren’t the fact that everything in the area was still black and white, and that nothing was moving, he would almost say it was real.
                      And the fact that he was looking at his own bleeding body on the ground made him think it was slightly unreal.

                      Looking over the scene, he saw just what a dire predicament they all where in: Jay, barely standing, about to be crushed by the out of control Metagross, and Kelly, her hind leg definitely fractured, looked to be seconds away from passing out from exhaustion as her frozen body leaned over his.

                      “It’s a sad sight to see, isn’t it? Your friends need your help, but here you are, dead and of no practical use to anyone. How disappointing, but it’d be a lie to say I wasn’t anticipating such a poor performance from someone of your species,” the cold voice chided as Leo looked around the frozen arena for the source of the demon who haunted his mind.
                      He didn’t have to look far; directly in front of him a ball of purple mist formed out of the air. As quickly as it appeared, it dissipated, leaving only a floating, purple, witch hat-wearing Pokemon in its wake.

                      The creature turned to face him and flashed a sly smile, “Hello, Leo. It’s rare that I get the pleasure of conversing directly with one of my candidates, but I’m afraid there is no time for pleasantries,” the Pokemon told him as it chanted a few strange words, distorting the frozen world around it until it was a completely different place.

                      From what he could see, he and the ghost were standing in the middle of a frozen city market place, far bigger then anything he’d seen in Loyalty. The scores of Pokemon around them stopped in place as the ghost floated around them.

                      “Do you know why I recommend you to my employers? I’ll spare you the process of guessing the wrong answer. It was simply because you had certain … desirable qualities that others … lacked. It wasn’t because you had any special powers, intelligence, or anything remarkable about you at all, because you are, in all aspects of the word, average. Nothing special. But, it was because you somehow arrived in this world, that you proved you might be of use to my plan, human,” the ghost went on, changing the landscape once again.

                      Next they’d arrived on top of a ice capped mountain. Time may have been frozen, but Leo could still feel the utter cold of the peak.

                      “Your performance so far has been decent; make no mistake, my friend. The … intrusion with that Metagross was unplanned, but your failing wasn’t the outcome I’d foreseen. Believe me, you failed miserably,” he revealed as he forced the world to distort and reform again. Suddenly,they were in the middle of a large grass courtyard, with tall stone buildings all around.

                      “However, your performance is still better then your … competition, whose observations were, for the most part, terminated due to … regulatory issues.” The Mismagius stared at him, his eyes glowing an eerie golden.

                      “It is in that context that I have argued with my employers to … preserve your team members and yourself … for a time,” he vaguely “explained”, though Leo couldn’t understand what the Pokemon was going on about. Candidates? Employers? What the heck is he talking about?

                      Leo shut his eyes as the courtyard around them flashed white. Suddenly, he was back, inside his own body once again. Kelly was still leaning over him, and he still had a bloody gash running across his chest. He couldn’t see his “friend” but he could still hear him.

                      “Don’t expect, Leo, that I’m going to be playing guardian angel for you again, because the next time an incident befalls you, I’m just going to close the observation and terminate your application of potential employment. I’m sure my employers would understand if I said you failed again,” the invisible Pokemon warned as another flash blinded his eyes. It felt as if his chest was plunged into an icy bath as a white aura enshrouded it. The wound slowly closed itself together, leaving only a faint white line running across his scales. He saw the same happening with Jay and Kelly’s injuries.

                      “I must go now as many matters still require my attention. Someone will be along for you shortly. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to be careful, otherwise I will have to … terminate your observation prematurely. I’d rather not have to perform another direct intervention like this again. Before I leave you, there is still one virus that I have to … sanitize,” he said, as he chanted another string of words. Leo fell unconscious as soon as they hit his ears.

                      Wire was in pain, no doubt about it. He and Nexus had been fighting for control for about five straight minutes, a small amount of time normally, but an enormous length to have your mind continually fight another.

                      He sometimes wondered how they’d become merged in the first place. He had memories of being a normal enough Metang, but then something happened. Something he couldn’t, rather, Nexus wouldn’t let him remember. He’d remembered flying through the air as a Metang one moment, and the next moment, a smoking heap in a crater as a Metagross with her talking to him in his head.

                      He’d constantly clashed with her ever since she’d proven herself to a highly narcissistic, sadistic, and psychopathic personality. She’d influence his mind when he disagreed with her demands, repress memories of his family and loved ones, shut off his sense of direction, and threaten to delete his personality completely, however she seemed incapable of taking complete control for a extended period of time.

                      Her powers of influence “guiding” him, was what lead him to blindly working for this Pokemon she referred to only as “our benefactor”. This wasn’t his first mission on behalf of her benefactor, but he’d never had to kill anyone before.

                      As cold and calculating as their species were known to be, he had a sense of morality, and refused to go along with her wishes for once.
                      That string of encompassing thoughts was what brought him to this very moment, with his personality clashing against hers for complete, undisputed control over the body.
                      He’d often dreamt of this moment when he would finally get the chance to overthrow the monster that shared his mind.
                      Wire wondered why he’d had enough time to think about all these things that had happened to him since he in the middle of preparing yet another psychic attack to go against Nexus. Something isn’t right here, he thought as time seemed to slow.

                      “Well done, it only took you two minutes to figure that one out. Perhaps you aren’t as simple minded as your friend over there has you painted out to be,” a bone-chilling voice said, a chorus of slow clapping echoed throughout the Metagross’s headpiece, mocking him.

                      “Who are you and how are you in here?” Wire asked. Suddenly, the clapping ceased.

                      “Very astute of you, Wire, but you and I both know I can’t answer those. However, you may call me your mutual friend, as it were. I’ve come here with a simple offer from my employers, one that has almost no negative consequences on your part. You’ve proven yourself a rational and resourceful Pokemon, so I don’t think you’ll have any trouble in realizing that you will never get this kind of offer again.”

                      “What’s the catch? There’s always a catch. Tell me.” Wire asked, trying to maintain the false appearance of confidence.

                      “Hmmm, you really do have a brain after all. I’ll tell you what, Wire, I will sweeten the deal for you. If you accept the offer, I will do you the favor of … relieving you of the … conflicting ideals that plague you. I cannot guarantee this offer for long, so I suggest you think very carefully about your decision.”

                      “I accept. Just, get rid of her. Please.” Wire sighed inwardly; he just knew this wouldn’t end well.

                      “I will do my best, my friend. Patience is a virtue you must have in this line of work. Before you get your extreme psyche makeover, I need a favor do be done.”

                      “Well, what is it?” he asked, wanting to get this thing’s “favor” out of the way.

                      “You are skilled with teleportation, correct? If so, then I ask you transport your former combatants to a location that I will disclose shortly.”

                      “What?! You want me to teleport them?! They’re almost dead! If I’m going to teleport them somewhere, it better be to the best healer in the world!” he shouted.

                      “Your concern for them is unnecessary. I have taken care of that problem beforehand; you do not need to worry. Now, do as I say, Metagross.”

                      “Y-yes, of course.” Wire stuttered, if this was what it took to be free of Nexus forever, he’d do whatever he needed to do.


                      Needless to say, that many of Loyalty Square’s populace who happened to be in the market mid-afternoon panicked when a sudden white flash overtook the entirety of the square. When the flash dissipated, it became clear that there were three unconscious forms lying on the ground that weren’t there before.

                      Some called Gear and his units, some went for the guild’s healers, some just watched in morbid curiosity from the sidelines as the dramatic scene unfolded in front of them.

                      The Magnemites were the first to the spot, all too eager to drag them away to prison for no sound reason. Fortunately, a team of Pokemon made up of a Grovyle, an Absol, and a Flygon kept the units from carrying out their corrupt deed until Gear himself showed up.

                      After promising punishment to his units, he reluctantly got their help, as with the Grovyle’s team to carry the injured Pokemon into the more comfortable rooms in the jail under Gear’s supervision, where they could recover undisturbed by the citizens and Magnemite alike until they were well enough to answer the many questions he had for them.
                      End Chapter Five

                      Author’s Notes:

                      Anyways, this chapter was a tricky one for me in terms of the content and how I was going to handle it. Especially, how I ended the fight and the emotional scenes.
                      I’ve never written a battle scene that long or complex before this, so if there’s some issues, feel free to point them out.

                      On to the chapter itself. I kind of got the idea for Wire/Nexus was the Pokedex entry for Metagross. It says it was made by a high speed collision of two Metang. I wondered, what if one of the Metang wasn’t right in the head, so to speak, and it snowballed from there.

                      This may be one of the more important chapters yet in terms of plot, there’s just so much that’s happening.
                      I’d like to thank my beta readers once again for fixing and suggesting things to improve. And I’d like to thank my friend, Azurus, who gave me some of the concepts to use in this chapter.

                      So, tell me what you thought of the chapter, if it was great, good, or downright horrible, leave me a comment or review.
                      As always, thank you for reading my story. It means a lot to me as a developing author.

                      Knightfall signing off …
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                      Old May 24th, 2013 (3:37 PM).
                      Knightfall's Avatar
                      Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                      Unforeseen Consequences
                        Join Date: Apr 2013
                        Location: Sawgrass Town
                        Gender: Male
                        Nature: Modest
                        Posts: 31
                        Chapter Six: Severance

                        Begin Report :
                        The sector sweep of Experimental Items Testing chambers in Area Four remains inconclusive. Employee number 286 is continues to evade apprehension by unknown means.
                        A more extensive search will be conducted within the hour and will include ventilation ducts as well as maintenance areas. Porygon drones have been launched to patrol food and water sources to ensure # 286 will be brought out by whatever means possible.

                        Internal interference detected within central unit. Running diagnostic: ………Extracting Program……… Initiating Program………..
                        [Warning: P-Z Disk Operation System_Offline][P-Z NXS System _Online]

                        “I’ve been reduced to little more than nothing. How?! How could He allow this to happen to me?! Someone will pay the price. Ha! He abandoned me … Once I find him … I will kill him. I’ll kill them all.”
                        [Warning: P-Z NXS System Failure]
                        [Location_ Redacted][Time_ Date: Redacted][Report_ Nature_ Undisclosed]


                        They were tired, she knew it, and she was certain Jay and Leo knew it too. Kelly wasn’t sure how they’d arrived in the middle of Liberty Market, or even if Gear was telling the truth to begin with on the means of their arrival.

                        The last thing she remembered before waking up in Gear’s quarters in the jail was standing over Leo trying to heal his wound. As they walked through the Square she shot a glance at her strange teammate.

                        The only indication that she wasn’t dreaming when it happened was the thin, jagged scar that ran over his chest scales.

                        It doesn’t make sense, she thought as they ignored the sideways glances of the townsfolk and their whispered gossip, we were all injured by that Metagross, but now here we are and none worse for the ware. Even my leg is fixed, and I’m certain it was broken. Not even a Chansey can heal bones that quickly.

                        She wasn’t going to complain, whatever had happened, she was glad it did. She thought back to the battle. She had stood in shock as Leo jumped on the beast’s head, giving her a chance to run. Jay almost being crushed as he tried to land punches on the Metagross while she wandered around in a daze. Her heart had stopped when she saw Leo waving to her without a care in the world while blood was pouring profusely from the wound in his chest.

                        Her body shuddered involuntarily, not at the thought of the blood, but at the thought of losing him. She might have only met him a few days ago, but they’d been through a lot in a short period of time.

                        As far as she was concerned, Leo was as close of a teammate and friend as Jay, and she was not about to lose a friend.

                        The group finally broke free of the town and started down the forest trail to their base. As her tired paws dragged along the ground, she wondered why Gear had arrested them in the first place.

                        She knew those mechanical spawns of royal decree had something to do with it, but with all the looks they were getting from the citizens of the Square, she assumed they must have made a big disturbance. Gear had taken them into custody to protect them, not to harm them.

                        His “interrogation” of them was merely asking them if they knew what happened. When they’d answered that they didn’t, he’d taken the liberty to recount to them eye witness reports of the incident.

                        They then told him of the Metagross; Gear assured them that wanted posters were already being put up at all nearby stations. After Gear was finished with his questions, he suggested that they lay low and relax for a couple days, and Kelly agreed completely.

                        They had been attacked and beaten in the last two dungeons they did a job in, so she felt that a break was exactly what they needed. Gear, possibly purely out of pity, decided to give them all badges to replace the ones lost the day before free of charge.

                        She looked at Leo again; unlike Jay who just wore a tired expression, he seemed … almost jumpy. His eyes darted around, looking at each and every tree and shadow as if a ghost were going to pop out from behind one of them at any moment.

                        Had her legs not felt like they were going to fall off at any moment, she would have gone over to him and asked what the matter was. Though he didn’t seem like the type of Pokemon that opened up easily, she would at least ask what was troubling him. She reminded herself to do this first thing tomorrow.

                        She let out a sigh of relief when she saw their base after leaving the forest trail. It may not have originally been theirs, but it seemed thoroughly abandoned by the previous owners so she and Jay quickly took up residence in it.

                        She felt like she was cheating someone every time she entered it, she and Jay would have had to do three month’s worth of jobs to even begin to afford a home like this, but instead they got it free.

                        Most citizens worked and worked, but were only able to live in the wooden shacks scattered around the Square and the valley.

                        Every night she whispered a prayer to Raikou that fate wouldn’t come back to haunt them for taking advantage of this, or if it did, at the very least it haunt Jay.

                        Regardless of her guilty conscious, she dragged herself inside ahead of Leo and Jay. Even though it was not yet late in the afternoon, she groggily mumbled something that sounded like “Good night” to them and went to her room.

                        She staggered to her bed of hay and plopped down on top of it with a sigh. She heard the sound of paper crunching underneath her and fished around with her paw until she found the source of the noise. Holding it up, she looked at it in the glow of the Luminous Orb shards.

                        Kel? Please write back.
                        We can only hope this letter reaches you.

                        I’m- we’re sorry about everything. You have no idea what is like as a father being unable to do nothing but write letters knowing his daughter is alone somewhere in the world. I can’t possibly express how badly we miss you. Your mother cries every night believing it was her fault that you’re not with us.

                        I’m sorry. I know you think we failed you as parents, and I think the same way. We were putting our own interests ahead of our only daughter and for that, I will never forgive myself, nor will your mother for that matter.

                        We wish terribly that you were with us, but we can’t leave the Colonies. The Pokemon here need us, we must do our duty and lead them through this crisis. Though if the general would let us, we’d have you here at Latios speed. We try everyday to secure passage for you, but the war is making it difficult as you know.

                        Kelly, we love you. I will do whatever it takes to make it up to you, even though you probably hate us now. For one and a half years, we’ve been away from you, and for an entire year and a half it’s broken our hearts to be so far away from the joy of our lives.

                        I can only pray to Arceus that you are healthy and are happy with where you are. I am certain that you have grown into the strong Pokemon I’d always hoped you would become.
                        I promise you we will be together again as a family. Even if we have to commit treason to do so, we will see you again. Please, Kelly, forgive us.

                        Your loving parents.

                        She shook her head, that letter was six months old and she still hadn’t written back. Why would I? They left me for the Colonies. They made their choice, she thought bitterly as her fur bristled with electricity.

                        Tears welling in her eyes, she held the letter in her paw as the minute charge flowed up her forearm and into the letter. It began to smoke and blacken as it quickly turned to ash. Without another thought she closed her eyes.

                        As she slept, memories from two years ago resurfaced.

                        Her parent’s large home formed inside her head, too realistic to be a mere dream.
                        Every item was as she remembered it, not a piece of furniture out of place. Even the minute crack in the front window she had caused when she was practcing her newfound attacks.
                        As she wandered through the house, she saw herself. The smaller Eevee kept anxiously looking out of the window as if waiting for some important delivery.

                        Then she remembered, she remembered this day perfectly. Suddenly she was the nieve Eevee at the front window, and the memory took it from there.

                        Her parents had been gone for a week now, but that was usual.
                        Their business in the Colonies often kept them away, but they had always returned before now. She never knew what they did during their trips to the Kingdom’s northern annexes, but whatever it was, it paid well.

                        Kelly was desperately hoping to see her parents figures suddenly appear in the yard via her mother’s Teleport, but the tell-tale flash signaling their return never happened. After waiting by the window until well after midnight, she fell asleep to the sounds of her own sobbing.

                        She repeated this routine for two agonizing weeks, with occasional trips into Solace Town using her parent’s money to buy food.

                        After two weeks of no news, nothing at all, she overheard conversations that spoke of reignited civil war between the Kingdom and the Colonies.
                        It was at that moment that she knew her parents weren’t coming back for a long time.

                        She spent the next few months in a state of disbelief as she continued her routine, still hoping that what everyone said was untrue, that her parents were somehow apart of the Colonies’ treason, that they were … traitors. Her parents, traitors? Impossible.

                        She wasn’t sure when she woke up from her delusion, but when she did, she gathered a bag of supplies, left a letter in case her parents ever returned, and set off away from Solace and everything she had ever known.

                        She didn’t know why she was leaving, but she knew that she couldn’t stay. She traveled for the next few months through the backland highways that wound through the heartland of the Kingdom until she arrived at Loyalty.

                        She never planned to stay, but then she met Jay in the café and they found out that they came from similar situations. How the subject of forming an independent exploration team came up or how they both agreed to it, she couldn’t remember, but she was glad it happened.

                        Their team, Team Salient on the official records, made a small living doing small jobs for Gear and the various shops around town, and later took the job of patrolling the boarder of Tranquility Fields.

                        She was happy, just as her parents hoped she would be, and she didn’t need them.

                        Leo woke the next morning grateful that he didn’t torch another piece of literature, but that was the only positive thing about it. His body may have rested slightly, but his mind never stopped racing. He continually went through all of the experiences he'd had ever since joining this Team Salient, and with each one, he grew more and more uncertain of his well-being.

                        He had been bruised, slashed, beaten, and even killed, though subsequently brought back to life by that … thing. All within the last few days. Any sane person would have pieced together the puzzle by now that staying here provided few health benefits.

                        He was relieved that both Jay and Kelly shared his idea of not doing a job today, though the relief didn’t last long, as his thoughts from the night before continued to plague him. He was so engrossed in his mind that he refused to eat breakfast or lunch.

                        He couldn’t bring himself to talk to his teammates at all, even while he was training with Jay to gain more control over his attacks, he remained distant. When Kelly had come over to him and asked him what was troubling him, he reluctantly brushed her away. Reading the collection of books in his room brought him little respite from the memories.

                        Every time the thoughts came back; he was unable to keep them away. It was as if his mind wasn't acting right; he didn't want to leave. Yet it seemed to go against him and showed him the memories regardless.

                        The more he went through them and analyzed them, the more he came to the conclusion that he couldn’t remain here. He hated the very idea of leaving his teammates, but it was as if his basic instincts for survival had kicked in and were now guiding him.

                        That was why, while they were eating their dinner of Berry soup he spoke for the first time that day.

                        “I’m done.”

                        Kelly’s ears perked up as she heard the phrase. Leo was sitting there, his face downcast, looking at his untouched bowl of soup. She had asked him if something was wrong earlier, but he’d refused to answer. There was no denying it though, something was up with him.

                        “Done? You haven’t eaten anything though,” Jay pointed out before emptying his bowl’s contents into his mouth.

                        Leo slowly raised his head, as Kelly nearly gasped. He looked horrible. His eyes looked more sunken then they were yesterday even though he slept longer than her. If she wasn’t convinced that something was wrong before, she was now.

                        “I’m done,” he repeated emotionlessly as his gaze slowly shifted from Jay to her.

                        “What’s that supposed to mean?” Jay asked, tilting his head in confusion.

                        “I’m leaving,” he said before reaching down and taking something out of his bag. He slapped his replacement badge Gear had given him down on the small wooden table.
                        Then he turned and began to walk away.

                        Jay shot to his feet before she did, ran to the Charmeleon, and tried to grab onto his shoulder. Leo suddenly spun around and grabbed the Riolu’s paw in mid air, his eyes burning with the emotion he lacked earlier.
                        He threw Jay’s arm to the side with an angry huff.

                        “Don’t try to stop me, Jay,” he said coldly, narrowing his eyes at his teammate.

                        Jay wasn’t fazed in the slightest. “Just where do you think you’re going, Leo?” He asked calmly.

                        “I don’t know, but anywhere’s safer than here,” Leo shot back.

                        “What are you talking about, Leo?” Kelly asked, wondering if what was troubling him had finally gotten the better of him.

                        Leo slapped his forehead in frustration. “I’ve been bruised, arrested, beaten, shocked, gassed, slashed, and nearly killed on multiple occasions! I’m done! I’m leaving!” he screamed as he turned tail and stomped out of the base.

                        Jay just closed his eyes. "Damn it …” he muttered.

                        Kelly quickly looked to her teammate. “What are you doing standing there!? Come on! We’ve got to go after him!” she yelled as she tugged on Jay’s arm.

                        Jay pulled his limb out of her grasp. “Why should we? You saw how adamant he was about leaving. He obviously doesn’t want to stay here,” he countered, crossing his arms.

                        “Are you really that shallow, Jay!? Something’s wrong with him! We can’t let him leave, he’ll get himself hurt, or worse!” she exclaimed as the horrible scenes from the battle with Wire flashed through her mind.

                        “Fine. Let’s go find that undeserving piece of –” Jay nearly swore, but was cut off as Kelly dragged him out of the base.

                        Leo ran out of the yard as fast as he could, he had to get as far away from here as he could before something nearly killed him again. He sprinted onto the dirt pathway that lead into the woods, not quite sure were he was going, but he didn’t care.

                        He felt guilty at the way he yelled at them, but there was no turning back now, guilt or no guilt. He ran through the low undergrowth of the forest, trying to keep his tail aloft as to not ignite an inferno.

                        He mentally slapped himself for not having a better plan of leaving, no supplies, no map, no bag, nothing. I really let my emotions get ahead of me back there, didn’t I?

                        He was just about to figure out where to go next when his head suddenly felt like it had been hit with a brick. He went sprawling to the ground, as the headache grew more and more painful with every passing millisecond.

                        “Hello, my friend. Whatever are you doing on the ground? Oh yes, I remember: I put you there.” Leo just groaned as the voice invaded his ears.

                        “I’m afraid that as a candidate you cannot leave. Your absence would be felt deeply since you have shone a very small glimmer of success in this operation. My employers would not be pleased if I let you continue on this path,” the voice told him.

                        Leo gritted his teeth.

                        “Oh yeah? Just try and stop me. You and your employers can go die as far as I’m concerned,” he said as he forced himself to his feet and continued walking despite the increasing sensation of pain in his head.

                        “It would be unwise for you to underestimate my abilities, Leo. My generosity in … reviving your worthless corpse was not free. You still have a debt to pay. I suggest you think carefully before answering.”

                        “Bite me,” Leo growled as he stumbled further along the path.

                        “So be it. Praestigiae!”

                        A hallway lined with clinical white panels, an equally white light shining from the ceiling, and a strange mechanical humming. Leo was puzzled, and rightfully so. He didn’t remember entering this place.

                        Holding his tail close to his body for warmth in the cold facility, he started walking down the hallway.
                        Suddenly, the panels on both sides of the corridor started to shift. They slowly moved closer to each other, sealing off the hallway.

                        Leo gasped and started sprinting down the path, but his steps were halted as the floor opened up beneath him, sending him down to a place forsaken by even Giratina. His screams went unheard by sentient ears.

                        Dazed, Leo looked up as the small chute connecting to the hallway directly above disappeared.
                        He looked around; dark, cracked concrete slabs walled him in on three sides, leaving only a single exit to the strange room. Groaning as he got to his feet, he held his tail out in front of him to light the dark passage.

                        Faint sounds of screeching metal mingled with the occasional echoing drip of some forgotten faucet, but even the subtle background noises couldn’t hold back the oppressive silence that permeated every inch of the decrepit building.

                        It wasn’t the lack of any signs of life in the place, or even the haunting sounds that resonated from beyond the walls that scared him, it was the murals. All along the wall, hundreds of them painted there.

                        Some were abstract, showing faceless figures running from some unseen threat, but it was the vivid paintings that could lay the foundation for nightmares.

                        A man laying in a puddle of his own blood, crushed by a cloud of green. Blurs of colors fused into a gigantic rainbow vortex that consumed an entire wall.

                        Words of unknown origin were scrawled in some sort of insane pattern, each phrase accompanied by screaming figures or ominous red eyes. And the worst one of all was when he saw himself among one of the prophetic murals.

                        He traced a claw across a painted Charmeleon figure was backed up against a wall of darkness with the phrases “Nowhere to run!” , “Too Many Variables!”, and “Can’t Escape!” Leo was perplexed at how it was only the words seemed to float, shift, and flip until he could read them.

                        There were other countless murals on the wall that he couldn’t understand, but had no time to ponder why that was as the hallway violently lurched, throwing him to the ground.

                        Maybe it was his mind playing tricks on him, but Leo realized that he saw a light at the end of the passageway that hadn’t been there before. He hopped to his feet and started running towards the glow, not caring about the danger.

                        Another rumble shook the building, slamming Leo into the hard wall. Stars danced in his vision as his head knocked against the concrete. Aside from his aching skull, he didn’t feel nearly the amount of pain he expected.

                        He got to his feet and noticed that an odd smell was in the air along with a weird hissing sound. He wasn’t sure what the strange smell was, only that it smelled strongly of rotten eggs and it seemed to appear where ever the hissing was.

                        CH4 + 2 O2 → CO2 + 2 H2O, he wasn’t sure what to make of the numbers and letters his brain had decided to show him, but he knew he was in for a bad time regardless.

                        It was then that he noticed that the small glowing light at the end of the tunnel was growing closer and brighter. He couldn’t figure out why this was until an immense wave of heat washed over him. His eyes widened as his mind finally managed to put the puzzle together. The glowing light was fire, and that smell was none other then methane gas.

                        His feet froze as he clutched the wall in fear. He stared at the growing flame as the seconds counted down until it ignited the pocket of gas around him. In the final moments before incineration, muttering voices from the murals all bore down on him, screaming insanity as he squeezed his eyes shut and plugged his ears in a vain effort to block them out.

                        He wasn’t sure why, but suddenly it felt like his body wasn’t under his control anymore. He removed his clawed hands from his ears even though he wanted to press them in farther. His eyes opened and his legs moved until he was standing in the middle of the hallway, the inferno growing ever closer.

                        He had no chance to brace himself, or even utter a quick prayer to anyone who might be listening. There was only a loud hissing noise as the flames caught onto the gaseous fuel and combusted the entire cloud of methane.

                        Leo shut his eyes as he waited for the inevitable heat of the flames to embrace his skin, only to have his body convulse in near shock as a frigid blast of air and powdered snow blew past him. After blinking a few times to ensure he wasn’t dreaming, Leo turned around in a circle.

                        All around him was a vast plain of ice and snow that extended farther then he could see. There was no sign of the mysterious hallway and the fire, and no explanation as to how he got to this wasteland. He stood in awe of the magnificent ice desert, the harsh Arctic sun glinting off the smooth deposits of ice.

                        The small falling flakes of snow fizzling into steam as they encountered Leo’s tail.
                        Taking a tentative first step forward onto a patch of ice, he felt his heartbeat stop when he heard a deep, ominous cracking noise from far below him.

                        In the blink of an eye, the pristine field of ice shattered into a million shards of ice. The ground he was standing on gave way to thin air and he fell into the massive crevasse. The frozen wind sliced through his scream like butter as he raced the ice shards to the black bottom of the abyss.

                        He twisted his body around, clawing wildly at the air as he hoped against hope that a handhold would appear. As soon as he brushed up against something metal embedded in the side of the chasm, his instincts kicked in and he dug his claws into the cold metal wall.

                        Leo saw sparks fly as his body was brought from terminal velocity to a screeching halt within the span of a second. Even though the forces of speed and gravity had temporarily relinquished their hold over his body, inertia had over plans, sending his head smashing into the hard steel at breakneck speeds.

                        Everything went dark as the abyss, the wall, and the ice all faded.

                        “Wake up, scum!” The order cut across Leo’s unconscious mind as he slowly returned to the realm of the living.

                        Leo tried to yelp as a painful electric shock forcefully woke him up. He looked around the darkened room; he was sitting in a chair with his wrists secured to the arms.

                        A strange muzzle wrapped around his snout, making speech impossible. His breaths grew quicker as he looked up across the table in front of his chair.

                        Barely discernable from the darkened walls, two figures stood against the wall watching him intently. A third figure walked out from behind his chair to the other two, twirling a strange, black machine in his fingers.

                        Leo was able to catch a glance of his captors when he briefly stepped into the dim light. He was a human.
                        Leo’s mind went into a tailspin. Humans!? How!? What is this!? his mind shrieked as his body went numb.

                        “I don’t know, ‘ow about we just kill ‘im now? He isn’t important to anyone af’er all,” one of the leaning figures asked. Suddenly a voice came from an unseen speaker on the ceiling.

                        “Fine, just make it quick. We’ve got fifty-three more prisoners to ‘interrogate’, and there’s a shipment of a dozen new freshies captured from the riots down in the Steel Province.”

                        The human smiled as he casually walked up to Leo, his fingers unholstering a different, sinister device from his belt. Unable to talk, Leo shook his head violently as the human male pressed the device to the side of his head. Leo’s eyes grew wide in terror, as the human put a strong foot on the chair, keeping it and Leo secure.

                        “One less freak in the world now,” the prison guard said smugly as he pulled the trigger and in a blast of white light the world cut to black and he knew no more.


                        Leo landed on the dirt floor hard. Groaning, he slowly got to his feet, unsure of what sort of thing he’d have to go through next.

                        Wearily looking around, he saw that he was in a large, circular pit with a high stone sides, a dirt floor, and a strange white light shinning from above the entrance of the pit. After what seemed minutes of absolutely nothing happening except the routine passage of time, the ground started vibrating.

                        After being nearly incinerated, frozen, crushed, and shot, Leo realized he was getting somewhat jaded. He barely flinched as the center of the floor exploded in a shower of dirt and pebbles and a rather familiar, sentient blue tank crawled out of it.

                        “Oh, it’s you,” Nexus said quietly before letting out a primal, static-filled war cry and charging at Leo.

                        Leo sighed, unfazed at the spectacle, he knew it would just pass through him like all the others did and he’d be transported somewhere else. The illusion Nexus came to a screeching halt inches away from the bored Charmeleon.

                        Her phantom circuits nearly shorted with the thought of an unafraid enemy, but she quickly got over herself and grabbed the unsuspecting Leo with her front foot, squeezing him tightly.

                        “You do know that courage is not the absence of fear, right? Wait, that can’t be right. You’re not courageous, you’re just stupid.”

                        Leo felt like his ribs were going to explode; he let out a pained yell, hoping someone would hear him. Nexus chuckled as she threw the Charmeleon into the ground like a bouncy ball, except he didn’t bounce when he hit the floor.

                        He didn’t have time to register the fact that his entire body was screaming in pain as the “illusion” Nexus picked him up once more and slammed him down again onto the packed dirt. She continued to repeat this process, while Leo hoped that he would slip into the painless bliss of unconsciousness. He didn’t.

                        He wasn’t sure how Nexus wasn’t going deaf from his screams, or indeed, how he was still able to scream when his neck should have snapped long ago. Somewhere in the deepest recess of his mind, he was wondering how his mind was still conscious even though his threshold of tolerance was crossed long ago.

                        Leo screamed, not stopping as the possessed Metagross’s blows continued to rain down on his battered form. Somehow, his screams became even louder for an instant as he felt his right arm break, and again when every bone in his legs shatter into tiny fragments as Nexus smashed them with her leg not unlike what a hammer does to nails.

                        Even if he could, he was unable to stop the one-sided beating, as his muscles seemed to be paralyzed by some unknown force — probably shock. Unable to do anything else, he continued to scream while Nexus laughed as she splintered what remained of his left arm with a crushing blow.

                        Leo didn’t remember if he passed out during Nexus’s carnage, but he was glad he couldn’t feel anything anymore. Leo couldn’t see; anything outside of his immediate proximity was complete and utter darkness.

                        “There were others. Others who failed to comply. Their fates weren’t pretty, but you must learn through example it seems. Study their faces well.”

                        The darkness rippled and distorted as colors filled the void. Red and gold hues blended together to build a dying sunset, grey and steel slithered over each other like vines, becoming a oppressing wall, and in the center of the courtyard, a single figure of blue was being dragged onto a pedestal in the middle of the yard.

                        The scene came into focus; the Golduck, escorted by a squad of Magnemite was bound to one of the several stone pillars that jutted from the pedestal floor. He seemed to not to struggle as the floating spheres fastened the metal cords around his body.

                        Leo wasn’t sure how he was watching this scene; he could see the guards but they showed no signs of acknowledging his existence. The Golduck closed its eyes as the final cord was tightened; it looked like any chance of escape was extinguished.

                        The Magnemite chattered amongst themselves for a small moment before lining up in a single, uniform line exactly ten feet away from the base of the pillar. At the direction of a large zebra like Pokemon, the Magnemite units eagerly began spinning their magnet arms, charging up tremendous amounts of very lethal electricity.

                        The Golduck simply lowered his head, his will to prove himself innocent apprently long since broken in the two days he had been in this prison. As if drawn by a morbid part of his brain, Leo couldn’t his turn his gaze away from the impending execution.

                        The Zebstrika let out a quick whinny and stamped the ground three times. The Magnemite calmed their charging and took aim at their prisoner.
                        The commanding Pokemon stamped the ground twice more as sparks flew from her hoof. The Magnemite went silent as the Golduck looked up one last time.

                        The Zebstrika stamped the ground one last time. Just as the executors were about to fire their volley of electricity, time seemed to slow down like it had been replaced with frozen molasses.

                        “Good evening, Jack. I sense that something is troubling you. Whatever could it be?”

                        “Go away. P-please. I-I’m done, finished,” the Golduck’s strained voice croaked.

                        “Oh, believe me, my friend. This will be the last time I burden you with a visit. Since I know you are not a Pokemon to ‘beat around the bush’, as it were; I’ll get straight to the point.”

                        “W-what?” Jack asked as the Mismagius continued to float around the piller.

                        “You have proven to me that you are clearly unqualified for the generous employment opportunity my superiors offered you. They have given you many chances to change this view, and they now agree with me that your time is up.

                        “You’re telling me that you’re done following me? R-really?”

                        “I am done being the Deus Ex Machina for you; saving you from an imminent demise . I regret nothing, Jack. Standards must be upheld in this business, and you have failed to do so.”

                        “F-finally! I’m free! I’m free!” Jack screamed in insane joy as the frozen Magnemites began to move once more. Their bright bolts of electricity arcing through the air as they homed in on the captive water type.

                        “Kyogre, Lugia, Suicune! Thank you! Thank y--!” The electricity hit him square in the chest. It coursed through his body, amplified by the metal cords. His agonized screams were drowned out as the scene blurred and another took its place.

                        “I’m afraid …”

                        A small, blue and white squirrel clung to a thin branch of a tree, an abyss stretched out beneath it. Unable to take the creature’s weight, the limb snapped, sending the Pachirisu downward.

                        “… that your observation …”

                        With those words, the world changed once again. A small, purple and cream colored cat was backed into a dark alley, several larger figures snarled as they surrounded her. Without warning the figures launched separate beams of ice, fire, and green energy at the cowering Pokemon. As they collided with her, the landscape dissolved and reformed again.

                        “… has been …”

                        Two figures, one small and one large, hugged each other as a loud, insane growl shook the ruined tower around them. They instantly became enveloped in a bright, white light as the world ended.


                        A battered Ninetales and equally worn brown fox skidded to a halt as the cliff-side path ended abruptly, leaving only an uninviting abyss beyond. It looked to the path behind it, a large mob of Pokemon blocked off their escape. Magnemites and a score of Pokemon Leo had never seen before all closed in on the fleeing duo. Suddenly, a streak of shadow rushed out and knocked the Ninetales off the side, where it hung on only by the efforts of its smaller companion.

                        Without warning, the Magnemite fire off a volley of lightning, hitting the duo directly. The Ninetales’ companion couldn’t hold on and they both fell into the crevasse. Their screams are cut off by a dim flash of blue from within the gorge as the ground started vibrating.

                        “Effective …”

                        A white-furred Pokemon with a patch of red fur around its claws swiped at a large, black snake. The snake retaliated by swinging its razor-sharp tail at the Zangoose’s neck. It was a direct hit. The Zangoose fell to the ground clutching its neck as its life bled out of the wound.

                        “… immediately.”

                        An electric yellow mouse braced itself as a wall of water crashed down on top of it.

                        A small, brown creature with a mask of bone on its head smashed its bone club onto its attacker, to no avail.

                        A tiny blue, penguin slipped on the wet rock of the cave as its bloodthirsty pursuers caught up with it. Its screams of terror were amplified by the acoustics of the cave system.

                        “Good luck in the afterlife, former candidates.”

                        As before, the blackness was soon pierced by a voice colder then the wasteland he was in earlier.

                        “Shall we continue? There are – or rather, there were--- one-hundred and fifty-eight candidates when I began this operation on behalf of my employers. As you can see, a … considerable amount of your comrades have been … disposed of. I can assure you that continuing on this path of yours will result in immediate termination of potential employment and all future work opportunities. I won’t be vague with you, Leo. You comply with standards, or you will die in every possible meaning of the word. If this isn’t a ‘compelling reason’ for going along with my employer’s plan then I don’t know what is. This is your final warning, Leo.”

                        “Wake up, Leo. Wake up, and face the consequences.”

                        “Wake up, Leo!” Jay’s voice shouted from above his unmoving form.

                        “This doesn’t look good. Leo, can you hear me? Oh no, oh no, oh no …” Kelly’s worried tone sounded after Jay.

                        Leo groaned softly as feeling returned to the vast majority of his body. He slowly struggled to move his legs as pinpricks of pain shot through his nerves.

                        “Thank Arceus, you’re alright!” Kelly exclaimed as he nearly collapsed to the ground again she as hugged him in joy. A pained groan from the Charmeleon caused Kelly to break her embrace.

                        “So, what happened to you? One minute you’re intent on leaving us, the next you’re on the ground screaming like Giratina himself came for your soul. Mind telling us exactly what happened?” Jay asked as he grabbed Leo’s arm and forced him to his feet. Leo winced in pain at being jerked upwards.

                        “Nothing happened. I’m … fine,” Leo huffed as he tried to take a step forward. Instead of moving ahead, he ended up clutching a nearby tree for support as his legs almost gave out.

                        “No. You’re not fine, Leo. You’re going back to the base, and you’re going to tell us everything. Whether you like it or not,” Jay stated as he grabbed Leo by the shoulder and peeled him off the tree.

                        The sudden change in momentum and position proved to be too much for the traumatized Charmeleon as he fell to his hands and knees and threw up whatever remained in his stomach on the forest trail.

                        “Leo! Jay, help me with him!” Kelly yelled as the Riolu reluctantly hoisted Leo to his feet. Using Kelly and Jay as support, Leo gingerly walked back towards his temporary home, uncertain what the next day would hold for him.

                        “I-I’m sorry. For everything.” Leo whispered as he slowly limped along the trail.

                        Two Hours Later

                        In a small booth in the darkest corner of the café in Loyalty, a group of Pokemon conversed. The loud chatter of the late-night patrons all around them providing more then enough noise pollution to keep their affairs from potential eavesdroppers.

                        There where three Pokemon at the booth, to be precise. Two of them sat scrunched up against each other on one side of the booth, while leaving a respectable amount of space for their superior on the other half.

                        “Didn’t your team gain a recruit recently?” the authoritative figure said to his two subordinates.

                        The two he was addressing looked at each other for a second before answering.

                        “We thought best not to include him in this business until after we could trust him.”

                        Their superior chuckled, “Wise choice, now why I’ m here…”

                        “There have been only two instances, though they’ll straighten out on their own. We do have three teams on the threat list though that need to be … you know… dispatched as soon as possible … before the damage worsens that is,” the figure on the right of the booth reported.

                        “That will put a strain on our available resources, but you’re sure they pose a threat to the general’s plans?”

                        “We’re certain, especially team Beta. What’s happened to them is too much of to be a coincidence. They, Alpha, and Gamma need to be disposed of quickly.”

                        “Of course. It that it?” the superior asked.

                        “Sir, the king, he’s tightened security, as I’m certain you’ve noticed. It’s going to be much harder to get anything done with them in the way.”

                        “Never you mind about them. There are contingency plans in place to take care of ‘his royal highness’ when the time is right. Now go, your positions cannot be compromised. Not when we’re so close to the end.”

                        “So, the rumors are true then? About the war. It’s almost over?”

                        “….. Yes. It will all be over soon. Now get back to your positions.”

                        “Yes, sir. For the Colonies.”

                        “For the Colonies …”

                        The figures then left as unnoticed as they entered; not one of the patrons even knew they were there.

                        “Sir, I’m sorry to intrude on your … solitude. However, I believe I have received enough optimal data from my observations. I can firmly say with upmost confidence that I believe Phase One is over. The time to initiate Phase Two is nigh …”
                        End Chapter Six

                        Author’s Notes:

                        Thanks to everyone who reads my work, silent or not. From the bottom of my heart, thanks. I promise you all that I will always strive to make each new chapter better than the last.

                        Knightfall signing off …
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                        Old May 29th, 2013 (12:17 PM).
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                        Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                        Unforeseen Consequences
                          Join Date: Apr 2013
                          Location: Sawgrass Town
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                          Chapter Seven: Interlude
                          “During the chaos following the Falling Star Incident ten years ago, tribute on the Colonists was placed at an all time high. Queen Alexandria Lucario, wife of recently crowned King Nickolas Lucario went on a mercy mission to aid her citizens in their time of need. During her stay in the Colonies, a member of the revolutionary group, ‘The Knights of Arceus’, was able to gain an audience with her and subsequently killed her and himself with several Blast Seeds. This proved to be the breaking point.
                          Stricken with remorse, fury, and a desire for revenge, Nickolas levied a crushing tax on the province and all but destroyed their meager rights under Kingdom law. It was no surprise that following the brief period of disorder after the Restoration of Time two years ago that the Colonies seceded from the Kingdom after a series of violent attacks on the Boarderlands.”

                          Excerpt from the Chronicles of King Nickolas Lucario, as recorded by Scizor of the Rescue Team Federation


                          “I already told you: I’m closed,” Aleck growled as he dumped the day’s meager earnings into a small cloth bag. Why can’t customers come before I decide to close up shop? The shopkeeper thought bitterly.
                          The Pokemon on the other side of the counter was not to be denied however.

                          “Please, I only require a minute of your time,” the Pokemon said, trying to hold the shopkeeper’s attention.

                          “Sorry pal, I’m not about to waste my time haggling over a price with you. I have to make a living after all. The price doesn’t change!” Aleck yelled as he systematically swiped each item off the counter and into a chest on the ground.

                          “Wait, please. I just want—” the Pokemon started before being rudely cut off by the Sableye.

                          “Go away, I don’t want to hear---” he grumbled as the other Pokemon calmly spoke over him.

                          “There is a potential for a great profit on your part,” the Pokemon said, tapping the counter with his scythe in irritation.

                          Aleck nearly dropped his sack of Bronze Poke as he whirled around to face the customer, greed flashing in his crystal eyes.

                          “Great profit, you say? I’m listening,” the Sableye said, licking his lips in anticipation as piles of Gold Poke filled his thoughts.

                          Gotcha. “Indeed, it requires virtually no effort on your part,” he said, casually sharpening his right scythe on his diamond-like carapace armor.

                          “Hmmm,” the Sableye thought for a moment, “you say there’s a great reward, but only a little effort? What’s the catch? There’s always a catch. I’ve seen enough of these deals go sour to know that much,” Aleck responded, eyeing the Scyther closely.

                          “No catch; just deliver something to a certain Pokemon. And to motivate you to complete the job properly …” the Scyther said, as he produced a small cloth bag on the counter. He watched as Aleck’s crystal eyes grew slightly brighter as he heard the audible “clink” of coins.

                          “Are those what I think they are? How in Heatran’s holy mines did you get Royal Poke?” Aleck asked in mystified awe as the stranger chuckled.

                          “I see your senses have not dulled at all when it comes to currency. You are correct in your guess, friend. They most certainly are Royal Poke,” the Scyther stated as he carefully sliced the sewn top of the bag open, allowing the Sableye to see the many gold doubloons contained inside.

                          “W-what do I need to do?! I-I’ll do anything! Anything! Kill someone?! Hide the body?! There’s some caves nearby in the mountains, no one will ever find the--” Aleck stuttered as the amount of money in front on him nearly gave him a heart attack. The Scyther stopped him before his babbling could continue with a gentle tap with the broad side of his scythe.

                          “Nothing so morbid, comrade. Just deliver this parcel to a Pokemon I will disclose to you shortly, after that, you are free to enjoy your reward in any greed-filled way you like,” the Scyther reassured Aleck as he used his scythes to carefully place down a folded set of papers tied with Caterpie silk.

                          “I’ll do it! Just one thing though. What is in this parcel you speak of?” Aleck asked as he reached toward the knot on the papers. The stranger swung a scythe down onto the counter, missing the Sableye’s curious claws by millimeters.

                          “No. You are not to open it. You are to deliver it and then leave. Nothing more, nothing less. Or else no reward. Got it?” the Scyther growled coldly as he slowly removed his embedded scythe from the wooden counter with a loud crack as the table surface splintered.

                          “Y-yes, of course. You shall not be disappointed, my good customer! Weheheheh!”

                          “Shut up. Just listen and I’ll tell you where you’re supposed to go.”

                          “ZT! No. This can’t be! BZT!” Gear exclaimed as his crimson optics scanned over the printed text for the fifth time.
                          He glanced over to his head deputy; the sentient amalgamation of three Magnemites had already read through the context of the report and was awaiting his superior’s orders.

                          “Sir? Do I muster the squads? ZT!” the Magneton asked, idly spinning his magnets as Gear slowly rechecked the parchment for any possible sign of error or misprint.

                          “No. Stay put, Axis. You will do nothing until I give the order. Got it? ZT!” Gear snapped as he started hovering in circles around the room in worry.

                          “B-but, sir? That report. ZT! I-it’s from the Inner Council! BZT! We can’t ignore an order from them! They’ll deactivate us for dereliction of duty! ZBT!” the deputy screeched as his leader stopped his midair pacing.

                          “I don’t care what the report says, Axis! ZTT! They are all wrong this time! I won’t do it! BZT!” Gear screeched, his speech processors straining as they struggled to vocalize the officer’s emotions.

                          “Is that so, Gear?” a voice, a bitter mixture of royal dignity, arrogance, and subtle charm sounded from behind the Magnezone. Gear turned around in a circle to face the unauthorized intruder.

                          A large falcon stood in the doorway, gold glinted off his entire covering of metal feathers. He slowly walked into the room, as if reluctant to step on “common” ground. An honor guard made up of five Magnemites silently orbited around him, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

                          “Richelieu, it’s been a while hasn’t it?” Gear growled, the static buzz foregone in his hatred.
                          The Skarmory chuckled as he strutted across Gear’s office.

                          “It’s ‘Governor’ now, actually. Governor Richelieu, it just rolls off the tongue, or rather, the speech processor, does it not? I was appointed by the king just last week,” he corrected as he eyed Gear disapprovingly.

                          “I don’t care if it’s ‘Lord’, ‘Governor’ or ‘Janitor’. I do, however, want to know why you’re gracing me with your presence,” Gear grunted as the Skarmory smirked.

                          “Now, now, Gear. There is no need for such harsh vocabulary. My business in this backwater village does not require your authorization; I am here on assignment from the Inner Council. If you really must know, it was all because of a small incident you had in the Western Quarter. I believe you know what I am talking about,” the golden bird said as he slowly walked over the Gear’s desk, the bodyguards repelling the chief officer a safe distance away from the governor.

                          “ZT! We were able to contain the incident before it grew out of control, if you remember correctly. BZ!” Gear stated as the bird faced him once again.

                          “That may be, but it does not change the fact that Colonial terrorists were able to enter your city unnoticed by you or your forces. I’m simply here on behalf of the Kingdom to ensure you are up to the task of protecting it,” Richelieu replied, lowering his neck to stare at the Magnezone.

                          Gear let out a sound similar to grating machinery as he answered the Skarmory, “We might be even more capable if your Council stopped sending us lists of potential traitors that we have to arrest. Jack, Rhone, Flare, Clip … they were on your lists for no good reason! ZT! Yet we arrested them without giving them a chance to explain the accusations brought against them! BZZT! And your most recent list; those Pokemon are all innocent! ZT!” Gear buzzed, directing the governor’s attention to the piece of parchment on the desk.
                          Richelieu gently pierced the report on the desk with the tip of his steel wing and held it up to his eyes as to read it.

                          “I do not make the lists Gear, and the ones that are charged with that responsibility put the names you see on it for a good reason. These individuals have obviously been acting against the wishes of the monarchy, so it is your job to capture them for further questioning,” he said, shaking the paper off his wing as if it was a vile substance.

                          “ZT! Well, I refuse to do so! The list is flawed; the Pokemon on it are innocent,” Gear stated as all three of his magnets whirled around erratically.

                          The Skarmory slowly turned to face the chief officer. His eyes glinting with a spark of fury at the officer’s words.

                          “You … Are you saying you’re disobeying a royal order?” Richelieu asked incredulously, his honor guards buzzing to themselves frantically. Axis backed away from Gear and the governor, bracing himself for the worst.

                          “Yes. Yes, I am. ZT!” Gear said, hovering so that his red center optic aligned with the Skarmory’s yellow ones.

                          “Did you forget your place, Gear? You and every single other Magne-class unit were built to serve the Kingdom; that is your only purpose! I’m going to give you five milliseconds to rescind your previous statement or else I will assure your immediate deactivation,” Richelieu said, jabbing the tip of his wing at Gear’s metal front.

                          “ZT! I am a Pokemon sworn to protect the citizens of Loyalty Square, nothing more, nothing less. I am not some ‘machine’ under the control of the Kingdom, and I will not be treated as such, even by you, Governor. ZT! I will do what it takes to ensure that my citizens’ liberties are not compromised by anyone, much less the discolored, sniveling bureaucrat that is currently polluting my town with his presence. ZT!”
                          Richelieu recoiled instantly as if the officer’s words were hot steam.

                          “And I am Governor of the Between lands, and as such I am enacting Executive Order Forty-Seven. Guards, dispose of this defective automaton,” the riled governor squawked as he retreated a safe distance from the inevitable fight.

                          The five guards suddenly halted their protective orbit around the Skarmory and advanced toward Gear, their magnets sparking with electricity.
                          Gear backed away from the guards, analyzing his combatants while also readying an attack of his own. Axis let out a screech in terror and fled to the side of the room nearest the door as the fight commenced.

                          The Magnezone let out the first shot, a concussion of supersonic air that tore a magnet off one of the guards. Before the others had time to retaliate, he sent duel bolts of electricity into their pack, scattering the units as they swerved to dodge the attack.

                          Static accompanied the many curses and swears that bounced off the stone walls of the office chamber as Gear turned in a complete circle, firing off quick bursts of electricity from all three of his magnets, keeping the assailants at bay.

                          “Destroy him! The Kingdom cannot have such abominations within it’s work forc—Ah!” Richelieu screeched as Gear shot a bolt of plasma at him. The bird ducked to the side as the attack burned its way into the stone.

                          That attack cost Gear as one of the Magnemite managed to land a shot on his auxiliary eye causing his vision to fizzle slightly before stabilizing. The Magnemites charged Gear, their magnets attaching to the Magnezone’s body.

                          Before he could repulse, them they let loose bursts of electricity that coursed through the officer’s body. Gear swerved wildly in agony, slamming his body into the walls in an attempt to scrape off the Magnemite.
                          One of the guards let out a garbled scream shortly before he was violently crushed against the wall, his core exploding in a burst of electricity and wiring.

                          After seeing their comrade destroyed inches from their eyes, the other guards instinctively let up on their assault and retreated. Gear hovered low in the air, heavy static “breathing” emanating from his speakers as he tried to recover from the near short circuit.

                          The guards quickly regrouped and charged Gear once again. However, this time the battered officer was anticipating such a move. He aimed his magnets at the four remaining guards, and blasted them into the wall with an opposite magnetic charge.

                          “ZT! You can’t ZT! beat me ZT! Rich. ZT! I will not let you destroy my town! BZZZT!” Gear shouted, as the Magnemite slowly raised themselves up off the ground.

                          Not giving them a chance to recover, Gear fired another round of energy at the units. The electricity quickly arced through the air like lightning and impacted the group of guards. It was all that was needed to put them out of commission. The increased voltage caused their center cores to smoke and explode.

                          “ZZZT! My eye! My ZBZBZBT! eye! SZSZZS!” one guard, the only one still alive from the squad, screeched as he whirled around in the air in agony. Fire and smoke hissing from his destroyed center. Fortunately, his suffering was short-lived as his core detonated
                          with a flash of fire. Small bits of metal shell scattered throughout the office.

                          His enemies eliminated, Gear rested his chassis near to the ground as he tried to recover his lost energy. His central eye almost shuttered as his systems went into power-saving mode. His rest was interrupted by the grating sound of iron scratching on iron. His gaze wearily looked up at Richelieu, who was slowly clapping his wings together.

                          “I’m impressed Gear, you managed to hold your own against my most incompetent set of guards. However, there is still the issue of your deactivation that needs to be dealt with; insubordination will not be tolerated,” he said as he walked a wide circle around the injured officer, kicking aside the shattered remains of his honor guard as he went.

                          “Now listen closely Gear, if you can. I can call my seven other units waiting in the hallway in here, and I think you will know how that will end, Gear. I’m not going to be dance around the issue here, either you accept that I am in control here now, or else I will have you killed. What’s your choice, Gear?” the Skarmory asked, his ultimatum working its way through Gear’s damaged core.

                          “Bzttzt … Errrt … Hzzrt … ZT!” he groaned in response, his voice distorted by his destroyed speakers.

                          “Erm, what was that, Gear?” Richelieu asked, leaning towards the nearly broken unit.

                          Gear struggled to reply. After a series of loud static noises, he finally aligned his speakers.
                          “BZT! What I meant to say was: FZZZT! You!” he shouted as he suddenly rose off the ground and rushed the royal official.

                          Richelieu’s squawk of surprise was cut short as he was tackled by the equivalent of an enraged Aggron. His golden outer wings crumpled as he was crushed against the stone.
                          Gear let loose a quick burst of electricity from his exposed circuits, jolting the governor as he struggled to break free.

                          “SHHZ! Never. Threaten. My. Town. ZT! Again! DZT!” Gear stated, his mechanical breath heavy with static and exhaustion. Just then, the twin wooden doors that separated the office from the main prison burst open as no less then twelve Magnemites rushed into the chamber, knocking Axis aside as they surrounded Gear and the governor. Some where under Richelieu’s employment while others still pledged a grudging loyalty to Gear.

                          “S-see? He’s clearly corrupt! He’s trying to kill me!” the metal falcon screamed, feigning innocence, as Gear tried to pin him harder against the wall.

                          “ZT! He’s tryiNG to KILl inNOcent PoKEMon! BBRZT!” Gear grunted as his processors’ volume controls failed completely.
                          The horde of hovering Magnemite silently watched the exchange as the two struggled to sway them to their cause.

                          “Don’t let him kill me. Please, I-I don’t want to die!” Richelieu squawked pitifully as Gear sent another jolt of electricity through the bird.

                          “I can promote you all! Any position in the force! It’s yours! Pay raise included!” the governor bargained as Gear slowly upped the voltage.

                          That offer did it for the guard corp. Gear’s optic widened with horror as one unit after another let out a yell and tackled the officer, trying to pull him off the Skarmory with their magnets. They all piled on their former chief officer, eventually pealing him off Richelieu.

                          As soon as the governor crawled to safety, the swarm started attacking Gear. Ripping off his metal armor and frying his inner wiring around his core.

                          Gear nearly blacked out, his core overwhelmed by the amount of surging electricity coursing through it. Just as his systems nearly failed him, he found the strength to charge up a magnetic pulse blast.

                          Like before, the guards were forced off Gear’s chassis. However, they recovered and slowly circled around the barely levitating Magnezone. Gear scanned the situation: he’d lost control of his units, Axis, displaying his loyalty as always, was shaking in fear in the corner, and Richelieu wanted him deactivated all because he had refused to obey yet another falsified kill list. Overall, the scenario didn’t look good.

                          Richelieu had been right; there was only one way he was getting out of here: his core ripped out and destroyed. He could not calculate another alternative, if he somehow managed to win this battle, more Magnemites would pour in from the depths of the prison to dispose of him.

                          He knew how it was going to end for him, but he would end it on his terms.
                          With a buzzing sigh of acceptance, he closed his center optic as he concentrated what little energy remained in his power cells into his slowly spinning magnets.

                          Time seemed to grow slow as sparks danced around the three appendages, rapidly building up a charge. The rebellious units only just now seemed to realize what their former commander was doing, and it was too late for them to change course.

                          With a pained screech, Gear’s magnets became orbs of white-hot light, as they lit up with electricity . Richelieu’s yellow eyes widened for a split second as he scrambled along the floor with his crumpled wings, hiding behind the cowering Magneton.

                          “BBBZZTTTGGRRHHZZZTT!!!!” Gear screeched as his optic flared a bright red; streams of code flashed before his eye as the built up electricity made his body the equivalent of an exploding star.

                          “ZT! H-He’s Discharging!!! VT!” one of the units screamed as Gear’s body exploded in an almighty wave of pure electricity. The supersonic energy electrified the swarm of Magnemites surrounding the officer.

                          The arcing voltage ripped apart the mob of Magnemite that were within close proximity to Gear. Their piercing screeches were forever silenced as one by one their cores exploded in a blast of fire and sparks. Shrapnel whizzed through the air and embedded itself in the stone walls with as if they were clay.

                          The smoke had not yet cleared when a metal-plated avian head popped up from behind the shuddering Magneton deputy. His eyes started watering as the acrid smell of smoldering wiring assaulted his nose. Unscathed from Gear’s attack, courtesy of Axis, Richelieu got to his feet and dusted his wings off.

                          He glanced around the destroyed room taking in the full extent of Gear’s attack. Every inch of the stone walls were either filled with black scorches or pocket marks from the plasma volleys. The ceiling rafters were cracked and looked ready to collapse. The handsome, wooden desk was aflame and in ruins.

                          Pity, it was truly an excellent piece of craftsmanship, the Skarmory thought as he walked out from behind a slowly recovering Axis. Richelieu strode into the center of the room, kicking aside the sizzling remains of the guards who saved his life as if they were nothing.

                          He heard the commotion of the legion of other units from down the hallway; they would be here soon enough and he would have to explain exactly what happened here to them all.

                          He approached Gear’s ruined chassis cautiously. After examining Gear’s burnt metal body he let out a snort.
                          “Funny how all fairy tales of rebellions succeeding are just that,” he said with a mirthful chuckle.

                          Suddenly, Gear’s body let out a spark, followed by several wires arcing with electricity as Gear’s cracked center eye slowly lit up once more. Gear’s processor was reeling; against his calculations, he had somehow survived the suicidal attack.

                          “Ahh, decided to join us once again in the realm of the living, I see. You are one tough Pokemon, I will give you that,” Richelieu said as he slowly walked right in front of Gear’s eye. Gear didn’t even have the energy to respond if he wanted to, but he wasn’t going to give the bird the satisfaction of begging for his life.

                          “I’m sorry it has to end like this, Gear. All you had to do was obey your superior’s order, but you refused. This is your reward, I suppose. I pray your forgiveness,” the governor stated as he lifted one of his talons and gripped the sides of Gear’s center optic, cracking it even more.

                          The Skarmory pulled on the eye, ignoring Gear’s weak screeches of protest. To Gear it felt as if his brain was being ripped from his head. The fallen officer let all pretenses of dignity behind as his buzzes of pain swiftly turned into screeches of agony.

                          Richelieu flapped his metal wings as his talon crunched down on the optic and tugged harder on it, exposing bits of internal circuitry. Gear scanned around for anything that could save him, but there was nothing. His power was completely gone, Axis was shaking in a corner, and his units had turned against him. He was utterly defeated.

                          With one final yank, Gear’s center eye, and the core behind it came loose. Richelieu staggered backwards as the cylindrical core came out in a shower of sparks and trailing wires. The governor turned the officer’s core over in his talon, and gave a satisfied huff before tossing it away dismissively. The metal cylinder clattered on the floor, before rolling to a stop before Axis’s hovering form.
                          As soon as the deputy saw his former commander’s core, he came out of the state of horrified shock he was in.

                          “W-what have ZT! you done!” Axis squeaked. His magnets discharging small sparks as he hovered in front of the Skarmory.

                          The golden bird pushed him aside. “Gear proved to be incompetent and failed to perform his basic duties as a unit of the Kingdom. I used my authority as governor to dispose of him as commander and take complete control of Loyalty’s security to ensure stability in my province.”

                          Richelieu narrowed his piercing, yellow eyes at Axis. “Transmit that message to every Magnemite within range. And as soon as you are finished with that, I want you to muster the hunting squads. It is my understanding that we have traitors in our midst that must be dealt with.”

                          The Magneton buzzed in discomfort as he turned his side magnets up in an affirming salute. Pleased with the display of loyalty, Richelieu strutted out of the ruined office and into the assembly areas of the prison leaving Axis alone.

                          “H-have to ZT! f-follow orders. Follow ZT! orders …”


                          If Leo hadn’t collapsed on his shoulder as soon as they started to head back, Jay knew he would have put the Charmeleon under a military tribunal. Frustrated with the fact that he had to carry his wayward team member over two miles through the forest, Jay tried his best to make sure Leo knew his displeasure with a new insult every step he took.

                          Leo, however, never seemed to notice the Riolu’s anger with him as he drifted in and out of consciousness. When he was awake, he only seemed able to mutter a few disjointed phrases before slipping back into whatever fever dream his was stuck inside of.

                          Jay began to grow a little concerned when Leo started mumbling about “… not the first…” and other nonsense. If that wasn’t blatantly foreshadowing a bad future, Jay didn’t know what was. With a grunt Jay shifted his partner higher on his shoulders and continued his trek.

                          The hike through the woods shouldn’t have taken any longer then half an hour, but due to Kelly’s desire to check on Leo every few minutes, it ended up taking much more time to complete. So when they finally entered their base, Jay roughly plopped Leo down against the wall and went to find something to wake him up.

                          “Jay, if you hit him with that, I swear to Raikou I will zap you into next year!” Kelly snapped as Jay slowly lowered the Cleanse Orb clutched in his paw.
                          It wasn’t enough that he and Kelly had basically gotten the base for free, it had been fully stocked with several crates of expensive Orbs of all sorts. Luck had somehow favored them that day, possibly trying to make up for the hardship they both suffered before.

                          “Don’t worry. I wasn’t going to hit ...” Jay said before trailing off as he felt the temperature of the room drop dramatically. His breath turned to mist as he quickly glanced around for the source of the cold, but found nothing out of place in their home.

                          “Did Kyurem drop by for a visit?” he asked with a feeble chuckle. He waited a few seconds for Kelly to respond with a standard groan or something of the sort, but when none came, he turned around to her. She was looking at him with an agitated glare, but she did not move.
                          It was as if time had decided to pause around everything but him.

                          “What…?” Jay asked, cautiously waving a paw in front of her face. Nothing. Not even a blink to indicate she was still aware of anything. As confused as any normal Pokemon would be in this circumstance, he ran through the door of the base and looked at the surrounding area.

                          Oak and pine trees stood frozen mid-sway, a distant flock of Pidove were locked in their migratory “V” formation, and leaves were paused in the air as the now dead wind blew them across the ground. The entire world, it seemed, had stopped. Except for him.
                          Bewildered, he returned inside and looked toward Leo and Kelly.

                          The Charmeleon was still slumped against the wall, stuck in the unconscious state he had been in previously. Taking a timid step closer to his teammate, he saw that not even his shallow heartbeat was still going.
                          What the heck going on here? Jay wondered as he forced himself not to start panicking. It was then he heard a voice he hadn’t expected to hear again in his life.

                          ”Why hello, Jay. It’s been a while. Since our last ‘discussion’, has it not?” the voice said as the entire room was instantly flooded by a dark mist that poured in from the windows.

                          The dim light of the Luminous Orb shards was completely covered up. The only source of light being the gleam of a pair of golden eyes. Jay involuntarily shivered from the increased chill as Kelly and Leo disappeared from his view.

                          “Y-you! Why are you here?!” Jay shouted into the wall of shadow, his voice seemed like it was confined to his mind, like it wasn’t making any audible noise. The voice gave a slight chuckle as the eyes faded, but the voice began to resonate from all around the Riolu.

                          “You are not pleased to see me after so long? I was merely being polite when we first conversed. I thought you might want to speak with the one who saved your life … Well, whether you want to or not, I believe it is time for a little ‘heart to heart’ concerning recent events, ” the voice said, taking a hurt tone as Jay stamped the ground with his foot.

                          “Saved me?! I don’t think so. I was doing fine until you showed up,” Jay retorted as the voice let out a roar of shrill laughter. Jay was forced to cover his ears as he waited for the voice to regain its composure.

                          “I … hehe… I am sorry for that. Truly. It is very unprofessional of someone as high caliber as myself. However, I do recall that imperial soldiers were very close to catching you. If I hadn’t decided to intervene, you would have almost certainly have been incarcerated for your crimes,” the voice pointed out casually, causing Jay to growl in anger.

                          “Hmph! So what? What does that have to do with anything?” Jay asked as the temperature dropped another few degrees.

                          “I believe that the price of your preservation is enough reason to listen. You still owe a debt to me for your own survival for … plucking you from the midst of the chaos in Silver that day,” the voice responded, a hint of frustration breaking through its calm manner.

                          “You’re the one who got me out?” Jay asked in a mixture of confusion and awe.

                          “If you’d simply allow me time to speak, your questions will be answered ... more or less.”

                          “What did you have to do with that day? Based on your answer, I may have no choice but to hurt you,” Jay threatened as the voice chuckled again.

                          “Such a temper, you really should work on that. That day when I saw your … predicament ... well, I could not simply let fate take its course. It wasn’t your fault, I firmly believe that. Nevertheless, history cannot be easily reversed. The status quo ante could never be again,” the voice explained. Jay remained silent after this, which the voice took as a cue to continue.

                          “I saw potential in you, Jay, much like your friend. You and he share tenacity, even when the odds appear to be overwhelming. It was that trait that I foresaw a good use for in these troubled times.”

                          “……Leo? What do you have to do with him?” Jay asked softly as the voice all too gladly responded.

                          “When I found him, he was on the verge of starvation in the Fields, how he got there even I do not know. However, I saw that he could be useful if he was guided in the right direction. Using my abilities, I altered the nature of the dungeon and allowed him to escape … right where you and the Jolteon were patrolling for minimum wage.”

                          “You …You did that?

                          “Indeed. And now I must alter the topic of our discussion ever so slightly. If I may be so bold as to ask you a simple question?

                          “… fine. What do you want?” Jay growled as he grudgingly allowed the enigma to explain itself.

                          “From what I’ve observed over the past few hours, you have been … troubled by your teammate’s actions as of late, yes? His mental state, as it were, correct?” the being inquired, its voice softly echoing off the dark walls of wherever “here” was.

                          “Not so much troubled as annoyed …Wait? What would you know about that? We haven’t told anyone about that. What does Leo have to do with you?” Jay asked suspiciously as the darkness rippled violently. Jay clutched the Cleanse Orb even more tightly, threatening to accidentally activate the sensitive crystal.

                          “Well, you can say that Leo and I have had a … rocky business relationship. He is one of the many focal points of my observation, but regrettably, in his case, direct intervention has been required on multiple occasions to ensure that plans continue as they were. He has been somewhat … resistant of the changes I suggested. So I, in an act of desperation, imposed them without his consent and guided him through the changes more or less successfully,” the darkness responded, the business-like nature it had originally reappearing.

                          “Wait. So you’re the reason why he’s like this? Paranoid, angry, and insane? It’s your fault?!” Jay exclaimed, as the mist let out a low chuckle.

                          “You allot me too much credit in your partner’s mental downfall, Jay. I tried to prevent his imminent demise. An endeavor that was successful,” the being with the golden eyes retorted, staring at Jay once more from within the mist. Jay didn’t talk back, his thoughts were running wild with this revelation about his teammate.
                          This is why Leo is this way. This creepy son of---

                          “Manners, Jay. Civilized Pokemon have no use for language of that caliber,” the creature scolded Jay’s thoughts. Jay scowled at the eyes.

                          “If your father knew you possessed such a colorful vocabulary he would probably have you exiled,” the Pokemon noted as he let out a small laugh at his own personal joke.

                          “Never mind that. Why are you here? I think you’ve said all that you’ve needed to say,” Jay said, changing the course of their conversation.

                          “Ah, yes. My reason for troubling your mortal mind with my higher plane of existence. I am here to make sure that you stay well out of my affairs. That includes your plans for ‘interviewing’ Leo. He is under my influence, and I do not need you interfering more than what is absolutely necessary,” the being ordered, its tone hardening almost immediately.

                          “What are you talking about?!” Jay asked. Without an answer from the voice, the dark mist began retreating and Jay suddenly dropped to his knees as his mind was violently released from the creature’s control.

                          Jay’s world began to tilt and swim. The dark walls of his vision disintegrated into the vague shapes of the center room of the base. Colors blurred as his hallucination collapsed and reality returned with a fresh wave of nausea.
                          Retching on the floor, his vision slowly pieced itself back together.

                          “Remember, the sacrifice of a few is required for the good of everyone.”

                          “Jay?! Talk to me! What’s wrong?!” Kelly asked, standing right above the Riolu with an Oran Berry in her paw. Groaning in pain, Jay snatched the berry out of her paw without even looking at her. Another round of coughing hit him as his head finally cleared enough for him to actually see the room.

                          There was no sign of the temperature drop he experienced earlier, or of everything suddenly freezing. It was as if it had never happened. Cautiously getting to his feet, he glanced around the base. Leo was still on the floor passed out, Kelly was waiting his response, and everything else seemed exactly the same as it had been.

                          “W-we’re not. Not going to –!” Jay began to say before doubling over as a spark of pain arced through his head once more.

                          “Jay!” Kelly yelped as she ran up to her partner, her mind pulling up various treatment options, or Pokemon nearby that could help. When she put a paw on his arm Jay roughly pushed it away with a grunt.

                          “I’m fine! J-just no. No more. We leave him alone,” Jay struggled to say as he weakly pointed a paw at the unconscious Leo.

                          “Wait! We need to find out —” Jay abruptly cut her off, pressing his paws against his temples.
                          “No! Don’t ask him anything! Nothing!”

                          Kelly stood there in disbelief as Jay slowly regained his composure. “What happened to you?”

                          “I-I’m fine… Sorry, just … please. Don’t ask anything right now. Let’s just get some sleep, please.”

                          “This is no accident, no coincidence, no way this can be: someone knows our trade secrets. They are trying to move Phase Two along ahead of schedule. This individual will ruin it all. This cannot happen. This will not happen. I refuse to allow it …”

                          Kelly drifted along the edge of an uneasy sleep, her head trying to make some sort of sense of what had happened to both Leo and Jay. Leo was her primary concern as whatever was troubling him was going to kill him eventually, but Jay’s sudden shift from wanting to tear Leo apart for information to insisting on leaving him alone was far too weird to be a coincidence.

                          As she drifted along her troubled rest, she was unaware of the trace amounts of darkened mist slowly congregating around her. Her nose twitched slightly as the most closed in on her head. A low ramble of strange words in a language she never knew existed was all she heard before the voice made its presence known and the nightmare embraced her fully.

                          “Introductions are never my strong point, so I will skip those formal pleasantries as this is no occasion to stand on ceremony.” The Electric Type’s body twitched in her sleep as the voice continued its soft speech.

                          “I come with two urgent messages that you might find being worth listening to. The first being that you must not worry about your teammates. Though their actions may seem self-destructive, I assure you, they are in good hands.”
                          Kelly wasn’t aware of the voice, but she subconsciously picked up every word it said.

                          “Your memory will not retain this part of the conversation, but I am guiding them both on path that will lead to relative salvation. I understand your desire to protect them since they are the closest thing you have to a family, but interfering in my business operation would cause more harm than good.” The voice went silent for a few minutes as it browsed through her memories and experiences as if they were a card catalogue.

                          “You were selectively chosen to fulfill this role, but if your curiosity gets the better of you, it will kill you much like the figurative cat. I will not allow the mercy of being both alive and dead; I will ensure that you die. So, please, for your own safety, remain out of my dealings with Leo.”
                          The voice paused, as if it was trying to recall if there was anything else on its agenda.

                          “Oh! Yes, of course. I nearly forgot, almost a fatal mistake on my part, I regret. There is a hunter squad of Magnemite on their way here. They will be crashing down the door to this base in about fifty-five seconds.”

                          With that final phrase, the dark mist over her mind evaporated instantly. Her eyes shot open as she gasped for air. She looked quickly around her room for the source of the haunting voice she vaguely remembered hearing in her nightmare.

                          As she struggled to remember what the voice had mentioned she heard a noise that was far worse than what that voice had put her through. Her eyes widened as the faint grating sound of whirring machinery penetrated the air.

                          “So wake up, my dear. Wake up, and flee the corruption.”

                          End Chapter Seven

                          Author’s Notes:

                          This chapter proved to be strange to me as I wanted to incorporate some necessary backstory, some character-building, and also a good transition to the next big arc of the story. I think I was able to pull it off reasonably enough, but I want your opinions on it.
                          As usual, I encourage silent or new readers to make themselves known. Every post helps, honestly.

                          Well, that’s about all I have to say. Hope you enjoyed the chapter, and thanks again to my brilliant beta reader, and my friends on this site.

                          Knightfall signing off…
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                          Old June 9th, 2013 (9:11 AM).
                          Knightfall's Avatar
                          Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                          Unforeseen Consequences
                            Join Date: Apr 2013
                            Location: Sawgrass Town
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                            Chapter Eight: Extradition

                            “You may ask why I make everything so tedious and drawn out when a direct route is far faster? Simplicity is for the simple-minded and those inclined to be moronic. You brought me under your employment, so you will be content with the way I conduct my business…”
                            The Vilified One

                            He saw me, lost in a sea of darkness. He tried to help me, save me, but I pushed him away. Misguided by my own pride.

                            “Jay! Leo! Get up!”

                            Kelly’s panicked voice rang throughout the base, shattering the relative midnight silence. Leo stirred from his sleep only slightly, his recovering mind not comprehending her panicked call.

                            In my pride, I tempted him. I told him to do his worst. He did so, if only to show me the errors of my ways.

                            He vaguely remembered what exactly happened the night before, a sickening swirl of fire, ice, and pain imprinted on his subconscious was all that remained of that lost night.

                            An idiot, that’s what I was. A fool, blinded by the lies my mind fed itself, believing that he was evil. I paid the price and I fell into the frozen abyss of ignorance. But I learned from my fall.

                            Until now, as his senses began to register that not all was well within the base, it was as if his mind had shut down completely. Preserving itself from further degradation from what that … thing had done to it.

                            Fire, ice, electricity…they hurt. Through the pain, I gained humility.

                            He couldn’t remember how he’d gotten to his hammock in his room from wherever he had been before, but he didn’t care. Sleep was a welcome break after his mind was through those horrors now long forgotten.

                            He will protect me. He will guide me. Whether I know it or not, I am his servant.

                            “Leo! Come on!”

                            Jay’s voice caused another involuntary twitch, but nothing more. Sleep had not yet washed away the exhaustion he retained from yesterday evening. He knew that he had to move, to see what was wrong, but his body refused to move.

                            He is good.


                            Without hesitation, his body jolted into action, the back of his mind overriding any feelings of fatigue. The sensation of bitter cold and blistering heat washed over him as the memories of the previous night flashed before his eyes in all their glory.

                            Leo tumbled out of the hammock, and somehow managed to land upright. He shook the horrible images away as the darkened room came into focus. He quickly registered the voices of Kelly and Jay, but there were others. He knew their grating, earache-inducing voices all too well; Magnemite.

                            Using his tail as a torch, he found his satchel lying dejectedly on the floor. He picked it up with one claw and slung it around his shoulder. Cautiously peering out of the doorway into the hall, he found nothing out of the ordinary. Slowly moving down the hallway, he could see the central room in the light of the waning moon, and silhouettes of Jay and Kelly as they furiously whispered on what to do next. In the midst of his stealth, Leo failed to notice that the hushed mechanical tones from outside had suddenly ceased.

                            Suddenly, the ground heaved and Leo was thrown backwards down the hall, racing the flying shards of glass and wood to the floor. Dust, eager to join in on the fun, kicked up into the air, blinding its befuddled inhabitants. The Luminous Orb shards were knocked from their holders and blinked out as soon as they hit the floor, plunging the base into complete darkness.

                            Pushing his arms up, he dizzily got to his feet, coughing on the nearly suffocating dust. Over Jay’s colorful swears and Kelly’s lightning attacks from the central room, he detected the telltale buzzing of the Magnemite squad as they entered the gaping hole that used to be the doorway.

                            The hovering forms of the infernal metal balls distorted the wall of dust as they searched the premises. The beams of light shining from their center eye slicing through the dust and debris. Jay and Kelly seemed to be locked in a stalemated crossfire with the officers. Kelly’s electricity and Jay’s punches keeping the units at bay.

                            Leo nearly froze when one of the beams spotted him through the dust, clearly marking him as a target. He saw sparks flying as the twin magnets charged an attack.


                            The near paralysis faded away as he swiftly obeyed the voice without question. He darted to the opposite side of the hall, and dove into a small room. Through the darkness and dust, he saw twin volleys of electrified plasma wiz past where he stood a moment ago, the bolts burning ugly black streaks into the walls.

                            Leo quickly searched around the small room for an escape as the group of Magnemite hovered closer. Other than a tall wooden shelf against the wall, there was nothing else in the room, and definitely not a miraculous escape route.

                            He skidded to a stop in front of the shelf, the sounds of chaos outside the room growing louder. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but he had to find something, anything that might help him. His claws tore through the contents of the shelf, tossing the miscellaneous items to the ground behind him. As he flung an old blanket out of the way, a glint of bright blue from inside an ancient burlap sack caught his eye. He had just grasped the top of the bag with his claws when he heard the unmistakable sound of buzzing directly behind him.

                            “Don’t move, Charmeleon! ZT!” the lead unit ordered, and a chorus of “Rodger!” affirmed the order. Leo immediately knew that there were definitely more Magnemites than he could handle. Still facing the shelf, Leo froze, his claw still gripped around the opening of the sack.

                            “Claws where I can see ’em! ZT! Move it!” the head Magnemite commanded. Leo’s pulse quickened as he slowly raised his empty arm.

                            “BZT! Now the other one, Charmeleon! Let's go!” the unit shouted confidently, buoyed by his success with his previous orders. Leo didn’t move, he kept his gaze firmly fixed on the bag. He tried to think of any way out of this besides another trip to prison or worse, but nothing revealed itself.

                            “Put the other claw up! ZT! Now!” He didn’t know what possessed him to even think of such a desperate idea. Possibly his addled mind had suddenly shunned all rationality in favor of unrepressed insanity for that instant. Regardless of why, Leo found himself tightening his grip on the cloth sack. He spun around and chucked the entire bag of primed Orbs at the nearest Magnemite.

                            In hindsight, it might not have been the greatest idea to activate the bag of extremely volatile artifacts so close to himself, but he had no other choice that didn’t include an indefinite time behind bars.

                            The sound of shattering glass was the last thing he heard before chaos overthrew normality with an explosion of energy. Time seemed to flash by him in an abstract flurry of rushing colors and sounds as he was swept up in its mighty gale.

                            His mind was a spinning pottery mold, his back ached as if someone had taken a good few kicks at it, and his entire body was covered in fragments of wood and dirt. Leo slowly opened his eyes. The first thing that greeted his blurry vision was the great white ball floating in a sea of absolute black. After realizing that he was on his back, Leo flopped onto his stomach.

                            As soon as he was able to will his arms to begin raising his bruised torso off the ground, his other senses of smell and hearing became relevant once more. The caustic odor of burning wood and memories filled his snout as the pained screeches of the Magnemite assaulted him from all angles.

                            Leo tried to move from his position on all fours, but he could not will himself to get up off the dew-painted grass. Strength slowly drained from him as he contemplated simply dropping back to the earth into an eternal slumber, free of the pressures of reality at last.

                            He was just about to let his wobbling arms collapse when over the sounds of the burning base and police officers when he heard a faint cry. Kelly!

                            Grunting with a mixture of rage and fear, he pushed his body up off the damp ground to his feet with newfound strength. Once he was standing upright, he roughly brushed off the layer of dirt, grass, and wood splinters. As soon as he turned his attention to the base, he finally processed the full extent of his actions.

                            Explosions of blinding light still resonated within the remaining chambers of the base. A miniature rain storm battled with a equally small sun in the air above the structure, causing the weather directly above the building to chaotically shift from sunny to driving rain.

                            The small room that was once his now had a nicely sized opening to the outside from which smoke billowed out. His feet seemed to control themselves as they moved forward towards the burning base. Gritting his teeth, he ignored the drops of rain that landed on his tail with a sizzle as he reached the opening in the wall.

                            The thick splintered wood wall looked as if a cannonball shot through it. It was then that Leo realized that he was that cannonball. Shuddering with the thought of coming within a hair’s length of snapping his spine in two, he maneuvered his way through the smoke and into the base.

                            Once he pushed through the surprisingly thin smoke, he was able to see the remnants of the small room. The walls were seared black from the sheer volume of volatile energy compressed within the Orbs. Charred pieces of the Magnemite squad lay strewn haphazardly on the floor. Leo narrowly avoided slicing his foot open on the jagged edges of the units as he hiked his way across the room.

                            Almost on the opposite side of the room, a sudden agonized screech from the hall nearly shattered his eardrums. A Magnemite whizzed around the corner, followed closely by an array of items ranging from Leo’s own bag to the apples from the kitchen. Regardless of size or inability to move, they raced through the air and collided with the exhausted officer.

                            “Argghh! ZZZT! Get them off!” he screamed as the weight of the items started pulling him down. Leo, not in any mood to help the struggling officer, found his badge and key necklace on the surface of the conglomeration of stuff piled on the Pokemon.

                            He plucked them off easily and kicked the roughly sphere-shaped ball of items. A densely muffled curse from within was all that was heard by Leo. Grinning on the inside, Leo returned to the ruined hallway, slipping the key’s chain over his neck.

                            The roof over the hall was nearing a state of final collapse. The wooden beams that held it up had split and fallen halfway to the floor before stopping, their broken sides braced against the walls. Despite the major obstacle now lodged in his way, Leo dropped to all fours and began worming his body underneath the fallen timbers, thankful that his scales provided at least some protection against the debris.

                            As he inched his way closer to the center room, the sounds of his teammates gradually lessened, replaced by the oppressive static hum of the unexploded members of the police corp. His heart nearly leapt out of his chest, but he forced himself to keep his cool as he clawed at the ground, pulling himself forward.

                            He could see their search beams; the officer’s lights penetrated the dust and darkness of his half-destroyed home. As he contemplated how to get past the officers that separated him from his teammates, his gaze was caught by a dull blue glimmer from underneath a mound of rubble. Reaching into the dirt, his claws closed on the small crystal sphere whose identity was unmistakable: it was an Orb. Somehow, it had survived the initial explosion that had consumed its brethren inside the bag.

                            Holding it closer, he could faintly see the slightly cracked surface of the blue sphere. Deciding to keep it for the time being, he squirmed further along under the fallen roof.
                            He could hear the Magnemite clearly now, and he knew he would have very little time, if any, once he freed himself on the other side of the hall.

                            With a few more grunts, he was a single timber from revealing himself to the searchlights of the officers, but it also meant he was a single log away from potential freedom. Briefly weighing the odds of each scenario, he figured he might as well make an attempt at an escape.

                            Taking one last deep breath to calm his racing heart, he gripped the Orb in his claw, and rammed the damaged log out of the way with a hit from his shoulder. In an instant, several blinding beams of light shot his way.

                            “ZT! Detain the suspect!” one of them screeched as the rest of the floating steel sphere began to cackle with charging electricity. Aside from the fact that Jay and Kelly were nowhere to be found in the center room, his body instinctively tensed for the searing pain of the electric bolts.


                            As if it was a spark, his body jolted into action. Time seemed to slow as he raised his right arm, Orb in claw. He trained his sights on a Magnemite directly across the room from him, took a quick breath, and prayed to whatever deity governed the world that this Orb didn’t destroy the base completely.

                            He swung his arm forward, releasing the Orb from his claws, letting inertia take care of the rest. The sphere sliced through the dust, and collided directly with the center eye of the Magnemite. As soon as the mystical orb shattered, Leo felt himself lurch forward as the room spun itself on its axis.

                            Leo found himself facing his exit on the side of the room opposite the hallway. He turned his head around to see that all of the spotlights were still focused on where he stood, but there only hovered a very confused Magnemite. They had switched places. Leo silently rejoiced at his luck.
                            His celebration was brought to a quick close when one of the units found him, the flaming tail not providing much camouflage in the dark.


                            Leo did not need any encouragement. He burst through the now empty doorway as streaks of lightning shot by his head. Clutching his nearly forgotten badge, he sprinted out of the base into the moonlit night, no idea where he was going as long as it was away from the base.

                            In his flight, his foot caught on an exposed tree root and he went tumbling to the ground, dizzily somersaulting down the grassy slope. As the world once again flew by in flashes of blurred ground, night sky, and his own fiery tail, Leo struggled to halt his roll downwards by digging his claws into the dirt.

                            Earth sprayed everywhere, coating his scales in a fine dust. Just as he hoped, his body slowed and he was finally able to stop at the bottom of the steep embankment. Despite the fact that his world was tilting more erratically than a particularly clumsy Spinda, he could hear the sounds of pursuing units growing louder as they followed him down the slope.

                            Lurching from side to side, Leo staggered his way towards the mass of darkness he hoped were trees. He vaguely saw a bolt of plasma shoot past him and into the side of the slope, burning its way several inches into the packed dirt.

                            Leo shuddered at the thought of what one of those bolts would do to him if they hit. He certainly wasn’t going to give them a chance. Concentrating on the forest before him, he was able to overcome his distorted balance as he staggered into the woods.

                            As if fate had switched off his luck, he heard the standard whoosh of displaced air that accompanied each attack, but just before he dismissed it as another haywire blast, his entire body flew forward as something extremely hot and painful collided with his spine.
                            Electrical currents flashed across his vision as his body reflexively contorted in agony. His feet stumbled over the exposed roots of the ancient oaks along the path. Carried solely by the force of inertia, his body crashed forward through the low-lying braches and brush to the ground.

                            Fallen leaves kicked into the air as Leo went sliding along the forest path, the small circular black mark scorched into his back, his charred scales and flesh smoking faintly as electricity continued to burn through him like rice paper.

                            His heart, temporarily stunned by the bolt, restarted itself, beating just enough to ensure that its owner remained among the living. Leo tried to open his eyes, but his body refused to listen, instead deciding to give his nerves another jolt of pain. A feeling of cold settled over him as his tail flame faded until only an ember’s worth remained alight.

                            He heard the radioed cries of the Magne-units as they combed the woods for him and his team. His key, colder than steel, sandwiched between his chest and the ground that bit uncomfortably against his body. It stung, but at the very least, it was a cruel reminder that he was still alive, for the time being. His badge was still clutched by his immobile claws.

                            While his body was still stunned, his hearing recovered enough to provide the sensory details to his brain. Dead leaves rustled and crunched as someone or something stealthily walked over them. Leo’s weakened heart beat faster as the footsteps came closer, causing his chest to spark with pain from the extra strain upon the muscle.

                            Unable to see little more than a dim patch of blurred forest, he was unable to shift his head to see who the stranger was, but his fears were alleviated as soon as he heard its whispered voice.

                            “Glad you made it. Kel and I were worried you didn’t get out, especially after that huge explosion near your room,” Jay whispered into his ear, as he ducked underneath the foliage of the forest floor to avoid the wandering searchlights of the officers.

                            Jay shuffled around the fallen Charmeleon so his body crouched over his weak tail fire, hiding it from detection temporarily. The Riolu’s mask of black fur, faintly illuminated by the flame, added to the furtive feel that filled the air.

                            “Kelly’s in a glade up ahead. She wanted me to search for you in case you had gotten away, I’d say mission accomplished,” he said with a slight grin that flashed his teeth.

                            Looking down at Leo, his smile faded. “I saw you get hit. How bad?” Jay asked, his hushed tones barely audible to the Charmeleon.

                            Somehow, he managed to make his vocal cords work. “I don’t know … hurts,” he croaked.

                            Jay gingerly brushed off a few leaves that were stuck to the wound by either dried blood or the electrical current. A small blackened circle was the only direct evidence that Leo had even been hit. Jay looked over the wound as best he could in the dark forest. From what he could tell, nothing major had been impacted. The blast had been mostly stopped by his scales and what little power remained had either burned into him or stunned his muscles.

                            “I know it hurts; I’ve been hit by one before too,” he pointed to a small irregular scar on his left arm. “Fortunately, Magnemite aren’t made to kill outright. You’ll be fine once the paralysis wears off,” Jay concluded as he peaked above the brush to see if the Magnemite were searching far enough away not to hear their talking.

                            “Can you move anything? Arms? Legs? We have to get moving,” Jay asked as he received only a twitch of Leo’s outstretched claws to show the extent of his mobility.
                            Jay groaned as loud as he dared, wondering what to do.

                            “We can’t stay here, our ‘friends’ are going to find us…” Jay shut his eyes and concentrated for a brief moment. Appearing to concentrate and think of a solution to their predicament.

                            Suddenly, his head shot up. “I’ve got it!” he whispered hoarsely as he rummaged around his torn and slightly charred satchel. He pulled out something small and held it so Leo could see it in the glow of his tail. It was a small crimson berry; a small curly green stem remained on it.

                            “Please tell me you can still chew,” Jay asked cautiously, hoping the answer was positive. The Riolu breathed an audible sigh of relief when Leo nodded. He dropped the berry into Leo’s mouth and watched as the Charmeleon munched on the small berry.

                            At first, it appeared to have slightly less flavor than the dust he inhaled in the base, but after a few chews his tongue felt like it had been subjected to a once over with a flamethrower. As the spicy juices of the fruit burned its way into his taste buds, Leo felt his muscles and nerves burn with the same heat as they painfully returned to life. The temporary shock inflicted on his body was lifted in a single tongue-scorching bite.

                            Leo hopped to his feet, tail flaring in response to the sudden resurgence of activity. Despite Jay’s hushed warnings to keep silent, Leo spat the partly chewed berry out and ran his claws over his burning tongue trying to wipe the remaining fire off.

                            Jay had enough sense to clamp both paws down on the Charmeleon’s snout, silencing his rather loud actions, but unfortunately, he hadn’t the sense to act a few seconds earlier. As if they were center stage on one of the great halls of Silver City, every single searchlight in the forest was trained on the two Pokemon.


                            All thoughts of pulling Jay’s paws off his mouth were discarded and some force in his body made his claws latch onto Jay’s shoulders and lunge to the side, taking the Riolu along. As the two Pokemon landed in the brush, several spheres of plasma converged into an explosive fireball where they had been standing.


                            Not letting the Riolu even get the chance to brush himself off, Leo hauled him to his feet and was almost dragging him through the forest. His mind had shut out Jay’s protests to let go, even as plasma bolts slammed into the surrounding trees with dull thuds. He didn’t know where he was sprinting to, but something seemed to nudge his legs forward toward the western forest, and he didn’t object.

                            When Jay finally ripped his paw away with a grunt, the Riolu faltered slightly in his sprint at first. However, he was soon nimbly bounding over the thick roots of the dark woods. Leo’s short, reptilian legs struggled to keep up with Jay, the entire scene vaguely reminiscent of a similar scenario a few days before on his way into the Square.

                            Leo was nearly thrown to the ground as he collided into something metal. Skidding along the leaf littered floor, the Charmeleon clambered to his feet as the lone Magnemite hovered only a few feet in front of him.

                            “ZT! Suspect found in Valley Forest, Western Sector. Salient divided! I repeat Salient is divided! BZT! Reinforcements requested!”

                            “That’s quite enough of that.”

                            Suddenly, Leo felt as if his lungs had caught on fire. It wasn’t the agonizing heat that he’d felt during his fight with Nexus; it was another, unnatural heat. He felt the heat rise up his throat, and almost instinctively, he let the fire exhale through his mouth. The fireball flashed into existence once it contacted the open air.

                            The Magnemite only saw the flash of bright orange before the attack consumed his spherical body entirely. The flames did not fade into nothingness as they did before; they seemed to grow in intensity.

                            The unit screeched as its metal components softened under the scorching fire and the steel shell surrounding the wires at its core began to melt. Electricity sparked erratically as the wires fused with the molten metal. The officer, widely veered around in the air, screeching as his brain solidified. Fortunately, for the Pokemon, a nearby tree took mercy on him and kindly allowed him to collide with its bark and explode.

                            Leo didn’t waste any time grieving; he sprinted past the smoking remains like a rocket. The smoldering metal crunched under his tread as the core of wires shattered. He could hear the cries and sirens of the perusing officers close behind him; he clutched his badge tighter in his claws and focused on not tripping on the endless tree roots.

                            He didn’t notice it in the nearly pitch-black night, but he felt it like the wintery breath of Articuno when he passed through it: a dungeon barrier. The sudden drop in temperature was instantly rectified as he passed into the warped forest. Leo shivered as the coldness exited his body, and he looked around him in a circle.

                            There was no sight of the Magnemite, even though their searchlights should have been visible in the murky woods. He turned to look ahead of him once more, and to his surprise, he saw a small trail leading through the thicket of trees that hadn’t existed a second ago. When he squinted, he could even see Jay’s form speeding a ways down the path.

                            No! I am not getting left behind again! Leo thought as he tried his best to keep the Riolu within sight. Unfortunately, the trees had a different plan. As he sprinted down the trail, Leo did not notice that the branches above him began to move on their own accord. He did not notice when the trunks began to widen and compress in ways that defied the laws of nature as they blocked the path behind him. Nor did he notice when vines suddenly started constricting their way around the trees and snaking into the shrinking trail.

                            Only when the roots began to uplift and rearrange themselves did he finally take stock of the changes. The dungeon was trying to engulf him. He pushed past the stitch building up in his side and sprinted as fast as his legs would allow. His breath grew thin and labored as his lungs burned.

                            The dungeon would not be outdone. The branches began to swing downwards onto the path, blocking it much like the roof had obstructed the hall before. Gritting his teeth, Leo kept his speed despite the road blockage. The dungeon had taunted him, and now he was going to accept its challenge.

                            Never wavering in his stride, Leo quickly approached the organic blockade. The distance lessening with every footstep, Leo knew he had to be accurate or else he would fall face first into the awaiting arms of the forest.

                            Taking a final breath, he leaped up in the air, the inertia from his sprint catapulting him forward. The night air seemed to go by his head with a whooshing sound as he tried to keep his body upright, no small feat while airborne.

                            While he may have overcome the first branch, there were others still yet in front of him.
                            The branches and vines seemed to reach up at him, as if they were taunting him to slip up, to make that one fatal error that sent him crashing down to their slithering tendrils.
                            As his momentum finally began to wane, Leo knew he wouldn’t make it over unscathed.

                            His body neared the boughs as an idea popped into his head. It was functional—in theory—and more appealing than being dragged into the depths of the dungeon. As gravity took its toll on his flight, Leo twisted his body so that his feet were behind him.

                            He touched down on the branch at an angle. Using the basic principles of physics, he pushed off with his claws. The little power behind his push was augmented as he swung his legs underneath him so they were now in front of him. The shift in weight carried enough force to break the downward momentum and launch him over the remaining branches.

                            He landed on the ground awkwardly, hopping a few times trying to regain his balance as the dungeon shuddered; the trees seemed to tremble as if they were receiving punishment for their failure to detain him. Leo shook his head and continued his run, as the path closed in around him.

                            He could see a moonlit clearing up ahead, his teammate’s silhouettes moving along the ground. The opening to the clearing was closing rapidly, choked by two huge, contorting oaks. The path had turned into an organic zipper, and Leo was on the verge of being caught up in the dungeon’s rage.

                            The distance between him and the opening grew less as he sprinted along the final stretch. Vines and shifting roots constantly wiped at each other along the ground, fighting for which would get the honor of ensnaring him.

                            Vines slithered from their positions in the trees to the ground. Leo felt them writhe under his feet like worms. He didn’t care, he was only a few strides away from the opening and escape. Escape from the Magnemite, escape from the dungeon.

                            The two oaks beside the entrance suddenly joined at their base and were rapidly combining into a single tree as to seal off the glade. Leo didn’t hesitate. He jumped as high as he could into the air, clearing the conjoined trunk. Before he could complete his nose-dive into the glade, his body was jerked back in midair.

                            A single, green tendril had saw fit to wrap itself around his ankle and was trying to slither its way around his leg while also pulling him back. Leo let out a pained yell, and in a flash, both Jay and Kelly were at his side.

                            Kelly stood on her hind legs and tried to hold onto the Charmeleon’s claws with hers; while Jay took a hold of Leo’s other outstretched arm and dug his heels into the ground.
                            They both pulled on the Charmeleon against the dungeon-spawned vine, stuck on the weaker side of a macabre tug of war game.

                            Leo kicked his legs in a vain attempt to both free himself and keep the vine from twisting around him further. Jay growled, pulling harder on Leo’s arm as Kelly somehow managed to balance herself on two legs while also pulling against the vine.

                            The vine, being only a plant, could not hope to hold out against the combined efforts of three Pokemon. After a final tug on its end, the tendril around Leo’s ankle split from the main plant with an earsplitting snap. The victors of the game went tumbling backwards to the ground.

                            After a minute of awkward untangling of tails and arms, the three members of Team Salient looked at each other with stares of relief, slight irritation, and utter confusion.

                            “So, does anyone want to tell me what just happened?!” Leo asked, crossing his arms, only vaguely noticing that his badge was still clutched numbly in his claw.

                            “We were hit by a raid,” Jay said as he noticed the dull glint of Leo’s badge as the weak light of the moon reflected off it.

                            “Uh-huh. Yeah, I can see that, Jay. I want to know why,” Leo reiterated as he tapped his foot on the ground in annoyance.

                            “Is that your badge?” Jay inquired, avoiding the Charmeleon’s question completely.

                            Slightly taken by surprise at the randomness of the question, Leo reflexively opened his claw to reveal the badge fully.

                            “Great, now hand it over. It has to go,” Jay demanded, holding out his right paw.
                            Leo drew back his badge, holding it close to him.

                            “Why? Why does it have to go?” Leo clutched his badge tighter as Jay let out an exasperated sigh.

                            “Because, they can track you through it!” Jay yelled, pointing vaguely in the direction of the Magnemite, “Believe me, I know what they do. I’ve experienced it first hand,” he said, his voice lowering so his teammates could barely hear him.

                            “Fine, just get it over with ... Wait, you’ve been through this before?” Leo asked, as curiosity rose up inside of him. What else has he been through?

                            “It’s nothing. Just … just give me your badge, please. We don’t have much time. Kelly, yours too, please,” Jay responded, trying to evade the subject.
                            Leo remained unmoved and now Kelly was interested in the subject as well.

                            “Jay? What are you talking about? You’ve never mentioned this before,” Kelly inquired, suspicion worming its way into her mind.

                            “Seriously, can we talk about this later? Maybe, I don’t know, when we’re not being tracked?!” Jay said; fidgeting as he desperately tried to change the conversation.

                            “You were so eager to know about my past, now why don’t you tell us yours?” Leo pressed the Riolu, who refused to look at him directly.
                            “Are you the reason the Magnemite are hunting us? Is it something you did?!” Leo guessed, his voice becoming harsher with each passing second.
                            Jay suddenly looked up, furious.

                            “Something I did?! I seem to recall you being in a prison when you were assigned to us. And you’re one to talk about not telling us anything.” the Riolu was as close to screaming as he could get. He marched toward the Charmeleon, and planted a paw squarely on his chest accusingly. “Tell me Leo, who exactly are you?”

                            He continued. “How do we know this isn’t your fault?! We know nothing about you. For all we know, you’re a convicted arsonist, or a complete psychopath, or both!” Jay narrowed his eyes at Leo.

                            “Hey! Guys! Cool it, or else we’re going to be heard!” Kelly hissed, though was promptly ignored by the two erring Pokemon.

                            “Oh please, I told you all everything I knew that night. I have no secrets. You, though, don’t trust us enough to tell us anything!” Leo was lying through his teeth, but he was caught up in the heat of his argument.

                            “Leo! Jay! Both of you, shut up!” Kelly snapped, once again ignored in favor of their loud argument.

                            “You know? If you actually told us what is going on in your head, maybe we’d be able to solve your problem. When were you going to tell us tha—” as he yelled at Leo, Jay’s words were suddenly lost as a severe shiver went through him, as if the temperature exclusively around him dropped below freezing.

                            “Cease. Now.”

                            When it passed, he seemed to have lost all malice toward his teammate.
                            Jay looked at Leo, a subtle mixture of absolute fear and terror was visible in the Riolu’s eyes. Whatever he had gone through had shocked him pretty badly.

                            “I-I’m sorry, I was wrong to pry into your life,” he stuttered, his words sounding as if he was forced to say them with a knife pressed against his throat.

                            “But, we do need to get rid of our badges. That’s a certainty. Leo, and Kelly, you too, please,” Jay asked meekly, making sure to keep his voice low.

                            Leo was too perplexed by what Jay’s complete turnaround in attitude to pay attention when Kelly gently eased his badge from his claws. She tossed the emblem over to the Riolu while she found hers on the ground and once more kicked it over to him, keeping a reasonable distance away from her teammate.

                            Jay silently nodded as he picked up both of the trinkets as well as a small rock he could hold easily in his other paw. Leo watched curiously as Jay took his own badge and placed it on an ancient stump. Taking the stone, Jay slammed it down onto the back where his paw print was etched into the reflective bronze metal. The metal made a resilient clinking noise with every impact. After several hits with the rock, the metal let out a sudden blue spark, contrasting sharply with the moonlit clearing.

                            Wiping his arm across his forehead, Jay examined the damaged item. Nodding quietly to himself, he tossed the identification piece over his shoulder and into the forest where it was quickly swallowed up by the shifting trees.

                            “One down, two to go,” Leo heard his teammate whisper as he watched Jay grab Kelly’s badge and repeat the same process. Hit. Clink. Another hit. Another metallic clink. Until the badge fizzled and sparked.

                            Leo felt a twinge of pain with every hit Jay landed on his badge, as if a small part of him was dying with every smack. His badge lasted ten hits with the nearly broken wedge of stone before sparking. Having rendered it inoperable, Jay tossed the broken piece of metal behind him.

                            “Alright, that’s done.” Jay took a quick look around the dark clearing. “It’s still a ways until dawn. I suggest we try to get some sleep. We’re safe from the dungeon in this glade,” Jay reasoned.

                            “You know? That sounds pretty good. We’ll figure out what to do in the morning,” Kelly agreed, cutting off Leo’s upcoming argument.


                            The Sableye sat alone behind the counter of his shop. Even though it was shortly past midnight, the small pile of priceless coins still mesmerized the shopkeeper.

                            “First I’ll buy out those stupid Kecleon. Without their competition, I’ll raise my prices threefold. Then, I’ll use my profits to buy my way onto the Inner Council, and then, oh Arceus … the possibilities.” Aleck muttered as his claws carefully analyzed each and every doubloon of his ill-gotten wealth. The required task was completed easily enough, slipping the parcel into Gear’s study. Being part Ghost type has its advantages, after all, hehe, he thought.

                            His plans for the future were interrupted by a single loud knock on the counter. Slowly looking up from his coins, he saw the silhouette of a Bug type he recognized instantly in the waning light of the moon, a single scythe pressed against the wooden countertop.

                            “Why hello, my friend. Are you here to congratulate me on doing an exceptional job?” he said with a chuckle, his crystal eyes glittering slightly.

                            The Scyther did not respond. Other then his breathing, he was silent. He drew his scythe slowly across the counter, shaving off thin layers of wood as he passed the appendage back and forth.

                            “Shocked into silence at my performance, I take it? I am not surprised; I usually do exceed expectations in whatever I do. So, when do I get the rest of my reward?” Aleck asked as he set about stacking the gold coins in small piles, inches away from the other Pokemon’s moving scythe.

                            “You don’t.”

                            Aleck was shaken out of his monetary trance as he heard his employer’s negative response.
                            “E-excuse me?! What did you say? I must have heard incorrectly. It sounded like you said that you were withholding my reward.”

                            The Scyther’s wings twitched as his gaze bore down on the Sableye.
                            “You were promised your reward if everything worked out.” The Scyther suddenly lowered his head until Aleck’s face was only inches away.
                            “It did not work out.”

                            Aleck scrambled backwards from his employer, his claws scratching on the stone ground.
                            “I did my part of the job exactly as you told me to. What could have gone so horribly wrong?” he asked, still trying to secure his reward of Royal Poke.

                            “Several vital targets escaped the raids.”

                            “Well, it’s not my fault that your scheme failed. I mean, these Pokemon don’t really concern me in any way,” Aleck muttered.

                            “I’m afraid they do involve you; if my observations are correct they were some of your last remaining customers, I believe,” he revealed, causing Aleck to think for a moment. The Scyther allowed a small grin to escape his emotionless face when he saw the shopkeeper knew which Pokemon he meant.

                            “No. N-no. Not them! That’s who was on that list?!” Aleck stuttered as feelings of guilt began to eat at him. A rare emotion for him to feel, but the fact that he had helped chase his only customers away triggered it.

                            “Yes, it was them, and a few select others who needed to be taken care of. Your insatiable greed made you the perfect choice to be my errand runner,” the Bug type replied, absently sharpening his right scythe on his carapace.

                            “But they haven’t done anything that I know of! Why would the Council want them arrested?!” Aleck yelled. What have I done? They’re only kids, and I condemned them! his thoughts screamed, instantly regretting his decision to work for the Scyther.

                            The mysterious Scyther looked up from his task with his blade. “Depends on what government you assume I work for.”
                            It took a few seconds for Aleck to fully realize the meaning behind that statement.

                            “Y-you … you’re working the Colonies. You’re a traitor! Gear! Officers—!” The Scyther suddenly lashed forward, his wings propelling him faster than Aleck could see. He slammed the broad side of his scythe against the small Pokemon’s head. There was a sharp crack as Aleck’s right crystal eye split into several small fragments. The Sableye stood upright for a moment, swaying slightly from side to side before collapsing to the ground in a crumbled heap.

                            Quickly looking up from his deed, the Scyther glanced around the street. Not one soul remained out at this late hour, much to the Blade Pokemon’s relief. He turned back to his victim. A low groan issued from the fallen merchant, indicating he was still alive. For now.

                            The Scyther acted quickly. He slid his scythe over the counter, knocking the small piles of coins into an open chest beneath the wooden table. Buzzing his wings, he hovered up and over the counter. Bending down, he carefully slid his right scythe into a small pouch slung over is shoulder and skewered a small golden seed, causing small amounts of yellow dust to trickle out. He held the seed over the unconscious Sableye, forcing the dust onto Aleck’s body. The shopkeeper’s body twitched once and then fell still.

                            Pleased with the Stun Seed’s performance, the Scyther maneuvered his scythe underneath the small Pokemon and heaved him over his spiny shoulder. Glancing around once more, he deftly sprinted into the shadows of a nearby alley just as three patrolling Magnemite floated down the stone street.

                            He watched them, his eyes narrowing in disgust at the retched abominations of the Kingdom’s creation. He remained as motionless as Aleck as the automations hovered by his position. A low groan from Aleck caused the Scyther to hold his breath as the Magnemite quickly lit up their search beams and scanned the area.

                            Backup plans raced around his head, he could easily take those two out, but not before they would alert every unit in a ten mile radius. However, his fears were put to rest when the trio of officers abandoned their inspection and continued on their way.

                            No longer inhibited by any obstacles, the Scyther leaped from his hiding place and into the street. His clawed feet made minimal noise on the stone as he ensured that no stray witnesses remained. He glanced at his hostage’s limp form, a scowl of disdain making its way across his face.

                            “Filthy Kingdom merchants,” he hissed as his wings began to buzz rapidly. He rotated each of his legs once, and, in a blur of green and steel-grey, he was gone into the woods surrounding the town, an untouchable phantom in the moonlit forest.


                            “Sir?” the Magnemite asked as he and his two counterparts reported the results of the three raids their new commander had ordered.

                            Richelieu, despite being exhausted by his efforts to oust Officer Gear from his position of power earlier that evening, slowly rose from his roosting position. His gold-tinted steel feathers clinked against each other as he rustled them.

                            “Ah, you three. You headed the raids, correct?” Richelieu inquired, blinking as he tried to wake himself up fully.

                            “Affirmative. ZT!” they all answered at once, causing the governor’s still groggy head to cringe in pain. He quickly shook it off, and put on his usual air of seriousness.

                            “Good, good. And it goes without saying that you all were successful, correct?” Richelieu assumed, inspecting each of the units.

                            “Yes, sir! Suspects detained! ZT!”

                            “Correct! Traitors captured!”

                            The final unit hovered uncomfortably as he made various noises similar to what a Mareep makes when pitted against a hungry Mightyena.

                            Richelieu narrowed his eyes and craned his neck forward so that his was looking directly down on the terrified unit.

                            “That wouldn’t happen to be an issue of conflict would it, officer?” he said, his voice cold. The Magnemite’s center eye shrank even further than the Skarmory thought possible.

                            “N-no, no, no, no! Not at all, sir! ZT! The raid was a c-complete s-s-success!” the Magnemite stammered, his panic growing. His eye glanced to the sides at his two partners, but they were at the opposite sides of the room, snickering to themselves as they readied themselves for what was going to come next.

                            Richelieu brought his beak closer to the unit’s center eye.
                            “You wouldn’t happen to be lying through your speakers now would you? Because I hate—no, I loathe, liars, especially when they lie to my face.”

                            The Magnemite whirled his magnets around furiously, as his eye tried to look anywhere in the room besides the governor’s eyes.

                            “You know what I do to liars? I order them to rot in the lowest, most Arceus-forsaken pit for the rest of their miserable lives. Now, would you like to perhaps rectify your previous statement?”

                            The Magnemite tried to maintain his silence, but he made the mistake of allowing his eye to lock with Richelieu’s piercing gaze.

                            “Alright! ZT! My team failed! ZZT! Failed to catch Salient! Please don’t deactivate me!” he screeched with the machine equivalent of sobbing.

                            Richelieu pulled his head back, a smug smile traced across his metal beak.
                            “I’m disappointed in you, officer. You and your team have just let several individuals who the Inner Council has listed as dangerous escape. You have disappointed the Kingdom along with every law-abiding citizen within its borders.”

                            The Magnemite let out a small squeak of relief, which was quickly crushed by the Skarmory’s next statement.

                            “We cannot allow units such as you and your team go unpunished, that is why you are being reassigned to the Sawgrass Town patrol.”

                            The Magnet Pokemon lost it. “What? Sawgrass? …… No! Nononononononononono! Not Sawgrass! They’ll eat me alive!” he screeched as small spark “tears” flew from his body.

                            “That is no longer my concern. Axis, go round up the rest of his team and make sure they are escorted to their new assignment immediately.”

                            The deputy, who had been floating silently outside of the doorway for some time now came inside the room. “Right now, Gea-vernor?” he said, catching himself before he said his previous boss’s name.

                            Richelieu would have chastised the Magneton for his mistake had he not been occupied in condemning this unit to a living hell.
                            “Yes, right now. Get to it.”

                            Axis hovered in front of the shaking unit, and with a barely audible “I’m sorry”, attached his magnets to the officer’s, and promptly short-circuited him. As Axis dragged the unfortunate unit’s chassis from Richelieu’s office, the condemned metal ball spoke.

                            “ZT! Gear would never do this!”

                            “Gear is gone now, for good,” the metal bird chuckled.


                            “It has come onto my understanding that my plans, and thus eventual peace are being interfered with. I only ask that you grant me the permission of perhaps … escalating my range of influence.”

                            … … ...

                            “Of course, I fully understand. Those who seek to endanger the world must be removed from it.”

                            End Chapter Eight

                            Author’s Notes:
                            I loved this chapter. It contains many of the rather strange mechanics of the Mystery Dungeon series. For instance, “what happens when a whole bunch of Orbs go off at once”, and “to what lengths will dungeons go to trap you?”

                            This chapter also allowed me to explore just how Leo’s mind was affected by his “friend’s” actions a few chapters back. I think it’s a twist on the completely paranoid, half-schizophrenic, unstable Leo you all were expecting after that ordeal.

                            Please review if you feel so inclined after reading my work. I'd be nice to know that other people are reading this on here.

                            Knightfall signing off...
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                            Old June 18th, 2013 (6:43 AM). Edited November 3rd, 2013 by Knightfall.
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                            Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                            Unforeseen Consequences
                              Join Date: Apr 2013
                              Location: Sawgrass Town
                              Gender: Male
                              Nature: Modest
                              Posts: 31
                              Knightfall's note: To anyone who reads this, the prologue in the very first post of the story has been heavily edited. It is pretty important to reread it if you haven't already.

                              Chapter Nine: Perspective
                              Executive Order 47: “In the event any officer of the law becomes malcompliant with established royal doctrines, it is imperative that they be disposed of with extreme prejudice. They are to be imprisoned without the possibility of fair trial. Lethal force is granted for severe cases of insubordination. Regional governors have the responsibility of filling in the position within forty-eight hours from initial disposal.”

                              Opening paragraph of Royal Decree: 47


                              Sunlight softly streamed through the large glass window of the study, lighting up the room with the new morning light. The room was paneled with a rich, dark wood and lined with several handsomely built bookcases. There was a desk in the center of the room made out of the same dark wood on which were stacked several important-looking documents.

                              A single Pokemon paced slowly behind the desk. Its paws made little noise on the polished marble flooring. He clutched a letter in his paw, careful not to accidently impale it on his paw's boney spike.

                              His red eyes read down the page, shifting as the Pokemon poured over each word several times before moving to the next one. As soon as he was finished reading it, he immediately read it again, hoping that what he read was a mistake.

                              Your Majesty, be it far from me as a loyal subject of the crown to impose foreboding news upon you, but I am afraid I must. Unfortunately, costs of production of many of the items you import from our facilities have risen, and such the cost of exporting these products to your nation must rise to meet these cost demands.

                              I realize how crucial it is for your campaign against the Colonies that supplies reach your army in a timely fashion and how strained your treasury is for gold. Therefore, I will offer you a deal:
                              grant Trinity Isle exclusive trade with your ports and allow us to collect tolls on our competitor’s ships and we will be able to keep prices from rising on our products.

                              I severely hope that you see the benefit from accepting these terms. The Kingdom can only prosper from them and we will be able to meet our financial obligations. Otherwise, I will have no other choice but to terminate our existing trade agreement. I do not wish for that to happen, nor do I wish the Colonies to overpower your nation.

                              Please respond in a timely manner; I have a schedule to keep.

                              Head Administrator, Constantine Sceptile of T.I.R.A.

                              A low growl of frustration came from the Pokemon. His black-furred paw placed the letter down on the desk. He slowly lifted his head, revealing two blue pointed ears and a blue and black furred snout.

                              “Curse the Legends …” the Lucario sighed as he rubbed his paws against the sides of his head. They’ve got us. The treasury can’t take another price increase …

                              As the monarch contemplated his extremely limited options, a soft knocking on the doors of the room interrupted him. Pushing aside the troubling news, he regained his regal composure.


                              The two wooden doors parted to reveal a small red and white bird carrying several pieces of freshly printed parchment. The Delibird bowed politely, his beak almost touching the marble floor.

                              “Your Majesty, Lord Darney wishes to speak with you concerning the Inner Council. He is waiting in the reception hall,” he reported quickly. The king’s face darkened slightly at the mention of the name.

                              “Send him up; I will speak with him,” he said, unable to conceal his disapproving undertone.

                              “Will you be needing anything else, my lord?” the festively decorated bird asked.

                              A drink from Spinda’s would be nice. Something very strong … “No thank you, Wevan. That will be all,” he answered with a dismissing wave of his paw.

                              Wevan simply nodded. “Very well. I will fetch him right away, sir.” With that, he waddled out the door, making sure to close it gently behind him.

                              The Lucario closed his eyes and tried to focus his mind. He would need every ounce of mental strength not to snap and rip the Lord’s spiny head off his shoulders. The relationship between him and the Lord of the Council had been strained ever since they had come at odds with each other with how to best rule the Kingdom.

                              He had just finished taking another deep breath when he felt a strong aura of pure contempt waiting outside the door.

                              “Come in, Darney.” The door slowly opened to reveal a Pokemon slightly shorter than the king. His grass green carapace glinted in the morning sun’s rays as he walked into the study of the palace. The Pokemon, Darney, bowed in respect, his scythe-like appendages extended behind him as he continued the sign of respect.

                              Once he rose again, the Scyther coughed as he prepared to speak. “Nickolas,” he acknowledged, “I know you dislike being visited by me, so I’ll keep this meeting brief.”

                              The sovereign was not moved. “Why are you here?” Nickolas asked curtly, looking down at the oversized mantis.

                              Darney continued, ignoring the king’s question. “As you know, the war effort has gone stagnate. The Colonial lines cannot be broken and our army is just barely holding them back.”

                              “I know this. I do not need to hear it again from—” the king began, but was cut off almost immediately by the Scyther.

                              “Meanwhile, the Kingdom is crumbling around us; a dying patient in a hospital. We cannot hope to save it without greater cooperation within the government,” he said, slowly rubbing his right scythe on his left. Nickolas narrowed his eyes Just where is he going with this? he wondered.

                              “Ever since the creation of the Council after the chaos of the Time Gear business and your tragic … loss, we have had varying degrees of disagreement on how the government should be run. What actions need to be taken to preserve this fine nation,” Darney said, beginning to slowly circle Nickolas like a vulture closing in on a carcass.

                              “Nearly every suggestion we’ve put forth has been more or less rejected by you, getting us nowhere, while our enemies continue to wear us down. If it wasn’t for your family, the war would have been over a year ago! Now, we nearly bankrupt and close to the tipping point into anarchy!” He stopped circling directly in front of Nickolas, his eyes burning with anger.

                              “That is why the Council has decided to temporarily decrease your influence in the government until the current crisis has passed. Effective immediately.”

                              The noble backed away from the king, expecting a response. To the Scyther’s surprise, the Lucario just stood where he was, mouth slightly agape in apparent disbelief.

                              Darney cracked a slight smile. “You need some time alone with your thoughts, I see. Good day … your Highness,” he said with a mock bow. He then swiftly turned and walked out of the room through the doorway.

                              “W-what?” Nickolas stuttered as he tried to process what had just happened. He couldn’t believe that the absolute power built up by his family over the course of three centuries was decimated within ninety seconds.

                              Everything his ancestors, his grandfather, his father, and he had worked for gone in a flash. Governance over his land had vanished just as the light of the sun passed behind a thick cloud. They took it away! My crown! My Kingdom!

                              The disbelief gave way to absolute rage in one violent scream as Nickolas curled his right paw into a fist and slammed it into the nearest bookshelf. The shelf built from wood of the forests of the Far Reach splintered under the heavy blow. Books on the shelf flew to the ground in a flutter as pages of knowledge were torn by the sovereign’s wrath.

                              “No! No!! NO!!” he screamed as he repeatedly slammed his fist into the fractured remains of the wooden furniture. Suddenly, as the sun again broke through the clouds, his anger dissipated.

                              Nickolas fell to his knees and let his head drop down towards the hard, marble floor. His entire body shuddered as he attempted to gulp down as much air as he could. He couldn’t take it; not anymore. His citizens were being crushed by injustice, his armies were being crushed by their enemies, his government was being crushed by his own advisors, and right now, Nickolas was being crushed with repressed emotion.

                              One low sob escaped his throat and it was instantly followed by another, and yet another. Small rivulets of tears made their way down his face from the corners of his closed eyes.
                              Memories of the happier times before the war, before the Crisis of Time, before the Falling Star, all flashed in front of his eyes.

                              His father, still in the prime of his health laughed as he waved to the crowds of adoring Pokemon. Celebrating the thirtieth year of his reign.

                              His mother scolding him as he ran without care through the gold lined halls of the palace. His wife, the love of his life, celebrating their son’s first year of life. The celebration that lasted three days in the streets of Silver.

                              Then, the memories changed for the worse as his sobs increased. His father, coughing violently as the assassin’s poison ate through his veins. His father, lying on the cold marble floor as his advisors raced for help. His father, whispering his final blessing and bestowing his son the crown with his last labored breath.

                              His mother, consumed by sorrow, ended her life with an emulation of the poison that had taken her soul mate only a week prior.

                              Himself, ten years ago when his world collapsed once more. When those ungrateful Colonists took his love away from him forever, stealing away her life.

                              And most recently, himself once again, refusing to look as he signed the order. The order that made him run away from everything he once knew. That made him a fugitive.

                              The memories did not subside until he felt the forceful shake of two small wings and the concerned voice of Wevan that broke him from the horrible slideshow.

                              “Sir? Sir?! Are you okay, sir?! Oh, do please get up, sir! Oh, Articuno, what should I do?!” the Delibird cried as Nickolas attempted to breathe once again. His body slowly recovered with the influx of air and he sat upright.

                              “I-I’m f-fine. Thanks, Wevan,” the Lucario said in between his panting breaths.

                              Wevan carefully removed his wings from his king’s back. “Thank the Legends, you’re alright …” the butler sighed in relief that his lord had not yet kicked the proverbial bucket.

                              “Umm, I’ll go make some Oran tea for you sir. I know you like that. I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” he stated quickly, before hurriedly running out of the study down to the kitchens.

                              “Yes, thank you,” Nickolas mumbled as he closed his eyes again allowing his thoughts to wander for one brief moment. Oh, Alexandria … What do I do now?”

                              I am dead. Dead to the gods. Dead to those who once knew me. Dead to the false knowledge. Dead to the world above.
                              “Dive right! There are patrols on the left up ahead! Keep running!”

                              “No! It’s over! It’s all over! There’s nothing left! They’ve all left me!”
                              I’ve become little more than a shadow of my former self.

                              Yet I live. Deep within the darkest recesses of the truth, away from the lies above. I don’t know exactly how I became how I am. Yet somehow I did.
                              “Get a hold of yourself! You must focus! It’s not over! There! A ladder! Climb!”

                              My mind slips into the insanity that plagues me. Reminding me of my failures.
                              “No! No! No! There’s nothing! I’m nothing! You’re just a figment of my imagination! Leave me alone!” Screaming delusions of my tortured mind.

                              I once obeyed this hypothetical truth. A promise made up by those who wish to repress true knowledge all for the sake of greed and corruption. They controlled me and those who once knew me. And we did not question them.
                              Days and months passed by, yet I did not waver from the viewpoint they forced upon us.
                              “Listen to me! Please! You’re hallucinating again. Just take a deep breath and try to block out the visions! You have to focus.”

                              I beg you, do not judge me. I was lost in the night of ignorance, without a lantern or torch to guide me.
                              “I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy! I’mnotcrazy! I’mnotcrazyI’mnotcrazy!”
                              I’m afraid I am.

                              I do not know when, but I woke up. Woke up from the moral sleep our overseers had subjected us to. Woken up from a dream only to face the living nightmare that had ensnared itself into our lives so deeply that there was no escape from it.
                              “Snap out of it! Whether you like it or not, you are insane, at least until we get out of here.”

                              I dug deeper into the heart of the false truth, while putting on the façade of continued compliance to their immoral orders. Their countless violations of justice; they did not go unnoticed by my furtive eyes. Until I found it. The source of the lies.
                              “It saw me! The crystal eyes! They’re always watching! Stop watching me!
                              In my previous position, I would have been most intrigued about the illusions and acute paranoia of a Pokemon’s mind. Now, I have become my own test subject.

                              Their greatest triumph.
                              A heart and mind made of the pure concentrations of their unceasing disregard for justice, truth, and ideology. Contempt for their own founding creed. They created a mind of science.
                              “You have to focus! Get a hold of yourself! We’re going to be captured if you don’t move!

                              He aided them. He used the overseers to unseat the kings of the past and future. In order to preserve the world. To safeguard it for eternity. What a joke. He was the cartographer of the map to upset the reign of justice.
                              “Y-you’re right. I- we must keep—There! I saw them! Get away! Get away!”
                              It’s truly disgusting seeing how far I’ve fallen.

                              I could not remain where I was. I fled. I evaded the false knowledge. Taking refuge in the last remaining strongholds of truth that remained in this hell.
                              “Don’t believe what you see! Listen to me! None of that is real! Just listen to me!”

                              The variables had not yet been in place. Gone. Unfinished. Destroyed. Hidden from the light of the righteous. Trapped under the lies of our generation.
                              “How can I trust you! You’re one of them! You always were! Get away!”
                              If I can’t trust my own conscious, how can I trust someone else’s?

                              Heaven shone a light down upon me. It cast me into favor. How could something has pure and innocent as ideology exist in this wasteland of hatred and progress?
                              “We’ve been over this before! I am not one of them! You made sure of that.”

                              I dared not question. Not again. Together, we worked. Justice and ideals. To overthrow the false truth and free others from its tyrannical grip.
                              “That’s just what they would say! Get away from me! I hate you! I hate all you! You-- You’re trying to kill me!” Trusting a conscious that’s not even my own.

                              We failed. Together we fled as far as we could, yet the mind of science aided by the spawns of coding barricaded us. Trapped us on the bridge connecting the span of dimensions.
                              “Just listen to yourself right now! You’re confused. What would she think right now?

                              The cold winds of prejudice battered us. Making our wills slip ever so slightly. In our hour of need, a spawn of coding saw through the wool of lies. The wired heart’s eyes were opened to see the evil that surrounded it.
                              “D-don’t you dare mention her! Not again! Not ever again!”
                              What have I become? All in my quest for the truth...

                              The heart of wire was not enough to keep the mind of science and the founder of lies attack with the cold winds of prejudice. We fell. Off the bridge spanning the two worlds: knowledge and freedom.
                              “No! I will mention her! What would she think of you right now?! Accusing me of treachery! What would she say to you?! Tell me!”

                              Our spirits fell. The abyss of ultimate ignorance awaited us. Its jaws open like a predator. An ocean of darkness accepted the fall of our light. Drowning it swiftly.
                              “ No! No! Stop it! I can hear her! I hear her! She’s saying I’m a bad Pokemon! No I’m not! You’re lying! You’re lying! Stop lying to me! Stop it!”
                              In the clear instances when my mind is fully mine, I stop to wonder about my predicament.

                              I swam, rescuing the heart of wire and the wounded soul of ideals from the ocean of darkness.
                              Prejudice had left its mark on the ideals and such a way that there was no recovery.
                              “She’s telling you to snap out of it. None of those visions are real. She’s telling you to listen to me. It’s not real.”

                              I wandered with the heart of wire and the dying ideals through the lost halls underneath the fortress of lies and inequity.
                              “N-no! No! They’re real! R-real! R-r-real? N-not real? Not real ... Y-you’re right. I can hear her …They’re … They’re going away. The visions …”
                              I used to be respected! I used to be free! I used to be sane!

                              It was there, among the halls, where ideals were truly lost. Truth was not enough to save it. The wired heart lead me onwards toward half-hearted salvation.
                              “Good. Just take some deep breaths. In. Out. That’s it. There’s some Luminous Orbs in the supply room ahead. Those will help you. Come on. We have to climb.”

                              I found salvation. Salvation in the forgotten knowledge that still existed unmolested under the crushing bastion of false truths.
                              “I-I’m sorry. For yelling at you. You’re the last friend I have in this hell. I shouldn’t have let those voices get the better of me. I-it’s me. I need the sun, it’s getting to my head.”
                              There’s nothing for me, but a hope that’s been shattered and taped back together more times than I can count.

                              He found me. The One who has strived to find the balance between truth and ideals. He comforted me in my darkest hour. When my mind could not react according to reason.
                              “It’s alright. I forgive you. You can’t help it … That’s why we have to climb. So you can get to the surface again. So we can escape.”

                              He promised that freedom would be at hand. Freedom from the clutches of those who restrain the truth. From those who wish to ensnare the world.
                              “I know we have to escape, but we can’t leave. Not yet. Otherwise there will be no one to guide the heroes when they get here. They won’t survive without us. They must have a guide. And I must find her.”
                              He visits me every so often. He speaks all proper, like it’s a business meeting. He says the same thing every time “patience”. If only to remind me:

                              I ascended into the passages of the false knowledge with the wired heart. To prepare for the coming of the heroes of injustice.
                              “You’re trying to be a hero, just because of what that thing told you. Listen to me! You’re not a hero! Heroes die!”
                              That I will see the sun again. One day. My mind will become clear once again. The heroes will allow me to.
                              “You don’t understand… I have to stay. To guide them. To find her. Otherwise the world will burn.”

                              I will be free.

                              Aleck groaned. His body stirred on the floor of the damp dungeon. As his nose picked up the smell of decaying straw, he slowly opened his crystal eyes.

                              He instantly knew something was wrong as soon as he realized that one side of his vision was completely dark. He carefully raised a claw to the darkened eye and to his horror, felt the deep cracks in it. Then he remembered: the mysterious Scyther, the kill list, the money, everything from the night before.

                              Swallowing his panic, he looked around the room that confined him. It was small, the ceilings barely high enough to keep from smashing his head on it. The walls appeared to be built completely of stone. Though whatever kind it was, he instantly knew it would be too hard for him to dig his way out.

                              He turned his head to the only source of light, a flickering torch in the hallway. He was separated from the warmth of the fire by a gate of iron bars with a firm lock attached to it.
                              He gripped the bars with his claws and shook them as hard as he could, hoping to attract some attention.

                              “Hey! Let me out of here! Someone answer me!” he angrily yelled. Suddenly, heavy footsteps made him cease his calling.

                              A large Pokemon with a thick hide of purple complete with several pointed spikes stopped in front of his cell. He took his fist and slammed it against the bars.
                              Aleck leaped backwards in fright, while the Nidoking let out a gruff laugh.

                              “Better keep quiet, little Kingdom rat, otherwise you’ll lose another eye,” he chuckled as he continued his patrol down the hallway, leaving Aleck alone once more.

                              “Oh, Giratina, what have I done to deserve this?” Aleck croaked, holding his injured eye with his claws.

                              “You allowed your greed to get the better of your judgment. This is not the first time that has happened, from my observations.”

                              “Giratina?! Is that you?!” Aleck gasped, excitedly looking around the dungeon with his functioning eye.

                              “Not quite, regrettably. Though I am an emissary for those in high places. Regardless, knowledge of my identity is not required for my purpose here.”

                              “W-who are you?” Aleck said in a stuttering whisper as the dungeon seemed to grow colder. The slight warmth the torch provided dissipating gradually as the voice’s presence grew closer..

                              “You must not have heard me, merchant, when I said my identity is not necessary for this conversation."

                              “W-what do you want?! Show yourself, phantom!” Aleck demanded, trying to summon his courage as he faced the unseen threat.

                              “I’m afraid I work best from the shadows, Aleck, so I cannot hope to oblige to your demands. I can however, shed some light on the issue at hand. Such as, why you are in a nice, cozy prison cell and not --purely for example-- face down, throat slit in a ravine.

                              Aleck gulped in fright. “Please, don’t hurt me. I’m only ...” he pleaded, his voice breaking off mid-sentence. He huddled in a corner of the dungeon, whimpering slightly

                              “Only what, Aleck? A murderer? A backstabbing thief? A traitor? Neither Derek nor Team Salient got a chance to argue the fate you forced upon them; why should I hear your plea? The temperature in the cell continued to drop until Aleck could see his own terrified breath turn into mist.

                              “I was wrong! I was greedy! I nearly killed them, but it was that Scyther that—!”

                              “Enough! I care not for whom you place the blame for your own mistakes. Tell me, why I should give you the chance that Salient never had?”

                              “I am sorry! I wish I had thrown the money on the ground! I should have walked away from his deal! What more can I say to make you believe that?!” Aleck cried. A deep mist enveloped the prison cell, making the area around Aleck a wall of pure darkness.

                              “I cannot believe anything you say as your lies are hard to distinguish from the truth. I’m certain Derek would be disappointed to see the cesspool of greed and deceit your life has become. Was your ‘friendship’ with him, however brief, nothing? Just a way to advance yourself? A way to temporarily satiate your greed?

                              “D-don’t mention his name. Not even after all this time. Not after what happened to him.” He whimpered as memories from his distant past resurfaced in vivid detail.

                              “Why not? You used him. He was only a tool to pass the blame onto for your mistakes. He took the fall in your place. He got what you and you alone deserved.”

                              “He was my friend! I tried to save him, but I couldn’t!” Aleck roared, stamping his clawed foot on the stone floor.

                              “Yet you never felt even the slightest amount of grief or regret afterwards. You never felt--”

                              “You don’t know what I felt!” Aleck interrupted, “I lost a friend! You have no idea how much the guilt ate at me! You’re the one who doesn’t know anything! You’re nothing! You’re-- Gaaakkk!” he clutched at his throat as an unseen force crushed it. His vision began to darken as his body suffered from the withdrawal of precious oxygen.

                              “Do. Not. Insult. Me. Nod your head once if you understand. Otherwise you can permanently say goodbye to your motor functions.” Despite on the verge of passing out, Aleck managed to nod as per the voice’s instructions.

                              “Excellent.” As suddenly as it appeared, the crushing pressure on his windpipe immediately released. Aleck collapsed to the floor gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

                              The voice ignored the Sableye’s weak curses and continued from where he left off.
                              “So, if given the chance, you would make up for the deed? What would you be willing to do to repay a favor of a lost friend? To repay the debt owed for your life? Hmm?”

                              “Of course I would! I would do anything! He didn’t deserve what I made him go through … ” he said with a hoarse whisper.

                              “Would you help Salient? Would you help them in their hour of need if presented the opportunity?

                              “Yes! Anything!” Tears began to form in his functioning eye.

                              “Anything? Do you actually know what ‘anything’ entails?

                              “Yes! I do! Please, I swear I will do anything to ensure their safety! To make it up to them!” the merchant cried, praying to the Dragon of the Dimensions to save him.

                              “Even at the cost of your life?

                              Aleck’s heart was about to explode from sheer terror. “Yes! Yes! Anything!”

                              “You are a pathetic excuse of a Pokemon, do you know that? You traded not only
                              Salient’s, but also several other’s lives for what? A sack of metal.”

                              That was when he saw them; two golden eyes glaring at him with a mixture pure loathing and twisted bemusement.

                              “Prove to me you deserve a second chance, Aleck. Prove that your life was not squandered on self-gratification and worldly possessions. Can you do that?”

                              The Sableye fell prostrate on the stone floor as he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Yes! I will! I will! Just let me go!”

                              As if a fire was ignited, the dark mist vanished in a blink of an eye. It left no trace that it had invaded the small prison cell besides a very shook up Aleck who was still huddled in a corner.

                              “Well then, we will see just how … repentant you are of your actions, won’t we?”

                              “Alright, so as of now, we’re in the middle of a mystery dungeon. Right about here,” Jay stated, pressing his paw against a clump of green on his torn map that represented the mystery dungeon.

                              After the ordeal of the previous night, they had decided to sleep in shifts until dawn. A plan that would have worked if Leo hadn’t dozed off five minutes into his shift. Fortunately, no interlopers appeared during the night to mess things up even more than they already were.

                              The morning sun was still creeping its way above the eastern horizon, but its rays provided enough light to see. The dungeon forest surrounding the team was calm, as if they only moved during the night hours.

                              “We’re still too close to Loyalty to consider ourselves out of the woods yet,” Jay stated again, Leo groaning at his pun. They had all gotten up only a few minutes before and Leo had yet to rub the sleep out of his eyes.

                              His entire body felt as stiff as a board and sore. This was to be expected from sleeping on a patch of particularly uncomfortable dirt. He had woke up with a layer of dew on his scales and had trouble getting the irritating droplets off his skin. They acted like itching powder on him, causing him to fidget around in discomfort trying to get the stinging water off.

                              “We have few options once we get out of these woods. Depending on how fast word gets out that we’re wanted, we might have very little time. We can’t go east back to Loyalty, so that leaves us with the Ember Mountains to the south, and Silver City to the west,” Jay said, counting off the limited ways they could leave the forest.

                              “I vote we go north; my hometown is near the Borderlands,” Kelly suggested, her voice still sounding exhausted from the previous night’s ordeal. Her scream Leo had heard was due to a delayed Orb going off in the main room. Apparently sandstorms and electric types do not go well together. She had her paw placed near a jagged red line on the northern area of the map.

                              Jay shook his head in obvious disagreement. “That’s also where the war is. We might as well walk into a military base, because that’s what the Borderlands has become,” Jay responded.

                              “Where do you suggest we go then, Jay?” Kelly snapped, placing her paw down on the map over the jagged red line that indicated the Borderlands.

                              “Simple, we go to Silver. We can hopefully lie low for a bit and fade from their wanted list,” Jay said confidently, placing his paw down on the large dot near the coast that represented Silver City.

                              “You say we’re going into a military base with my plan, when you’re suggesting we go the capital! Do you know how many guards are there on a daily basis? Hundreds, at least! No, we’re not going there,” Kelly declared, shooting down Jay’s suggestion.

                              Jay crossed his arms in frustration. “Well, we’re not going to Solaceon Town, or whatever it’s called. That’s for sure.”

                              “It’s called Solace Town. And we’re going there and not Silver,” Kelly growled, the spiked fur on her back bristling with electricity.

                              “How about this town here? It’s far away from the border as well as Silver,” Leo recommended, tapping his claw against a small dot deep within the frontier lands of the Far Reach. Both Kelly and Jay stopped their bickering as they looked at him as if he had grown a third arm.

                              “A-are you joking?! If you’re not, then you’re insane!” Jay shouted, as Leo jerked his claw off the map.

                              “Leo, I’m sorry. Though I have to agree with Jay this time. We can’t go to … that town. No one goes there, not anymore,” Kelly said gravely.

                              “What’s so bad about it?” Leo asked, wondering just what sort of place he had suggested they go.

                              “Amnesia or not, you don’t forget the stories of Sawgrass Town. Nothing can erase those,” Jay said with a tone of finality. He quickly shifted the conversation.
                              “That aside, we still have the question of which way to go. I still vote we go west to the coast...”

                              “And I still say we go north. Leo, would you please back me here?” Kelly pleaded to the Charmeleon.

                              “Leo, you gotta agree with me here. Or at the very least suggest something helpful,” Jay asked, trying to restore some of the camaraderie they’d lost only a few hours ago.

                              Leo took a minute to study the weathered map lain across the ancient tree stump. Its rough depictions of mountains, rivers, cities, and territory boundaries all seemed to swirl into a mess of jagged black lines.

                              After observing the areas where each of his teammates wanted to go, the solution he saw was so simple he wondered how it hadn’t even dawned on Jay or Kelly.

                              “How about we head northwest? We’ll still be close to both areas and far from Loyalty. And when the time comes, we’ll decide which way looks better. We’re still in the middle of a forest that’s trying to kill us, so I’d like to leave it as soon as possible.”

                              Leo wasn’t sure how Jay and Kelly ended up accepting his suggestion of going northwest, but they had, and that was all that mattered. Against Jay’s wishes, they split the last of their food—a single bruised apple—in what tried to pass itself off as a breakfast.

                              Leo was sure that tempting his stomach with that morsel of food only made his hunger worse for the wear. Despite still being deprived of food and a decent night’s sleep, they had set off from the glade just after dawn.

                              Under the dense treetops, the warmth of the sun was prevented from reaching the actual forest floor. The dew of the night before had accumulated on the trail, mixing with the layers of dead leaves and other refuse on the ground until it obtained the consistency of sludge and made a disgusting sloping noise with every footstep.

                              If the mire that was the dungeon trail wasn’t bad enough, the temperature stubbornly refused to warm the forest below the treetops. This wouldn’t have affected Leo as much if it hadn’t chilled the mud, doubling the feeling of gloom that had settled over the group. Kelly had it worst of all, having to walk on all fours through the cold sludge.

                              And so it remained for the next hour or so: walking, shivering, and occasionally complaining about the mud. When they finally saw the end of the trail and the clear field beyond, they simultaneously started to race towards it.

                              Mud sprayed into the air as the team scrambled as fast as they could down the forest corridor. Despite tripping and sliding face first into the mud several times, Leo continued to run, ignoring the stinging sensation in his tail brought on by the mud.

                              Once they had passed through the freezing spatial boundary of the of the dungeon, the team found themselves standing in a giant field of low grass. The sun, despite partially shielded by passing clouds, had never felt so good. Leo rested on his back in the grass, holding his tail off the ground to prevent a fire, and allowed the sun to warm his entire body. Leo could see Jay and Kelly both copying him, as they warmed themselves and brushed the drying mud off their bodies.

                              Taking a deep breath, Leo sat up and surveyed the field. Fortunately, this field appeared to be nothing like the one he had first woke up in. Small birds chirped as they flew over the pasture, the wind blew normally, and, as far as he could tell, there were no Pokemon, either from the Kingdom or wild, trying the kill them.
                              Unfortunately, this calm was shattered as a cheerful voice greeted them from the sky.

                              “Hey! There you all are!” At once, they all looked up in bewilderment. A small moving spec in the sky suddenly started to circle downwards towards them. As it got closer to the ground, they could identify the bird’s brown feathers and red crest. Within a few seconds, the bird had landed in the middle of the team.

                              “Thank Zapdos, I was able to find you all! Lucky you all came out of the forest when you did,” the bird chirped excitedly as Jay took a closer look at the Pidgeotto.

                              “Wait a second … Icarus, is that you?” the Riolu asked, realization hitting him like a punch.

                              “In the flesh,” he responded, unfurling his right wing and directed the group to a scar along it where the bone was giving proof of his identity. “Healed quite nicely after our little mishap in Spore Meadows, don’t ya think?”

                              “What on earth are you doing here, Icarus? I thought you were busy with the military or otherwise engaged,” Kelly asked, trying to elicit some answers from their former client.

                              “You were supposed to pay us back for rescuing you,” Jay added, making Icarus cringe with the memory.

                              “Jay, shut up. Forget about that Icarus. Tell us, why were you looking for us?” Leo asked receiving a sharp glare from his team leader.

                              “R-right. Anyways, after I left you all, I waited a few days for the healers to fix up my wing. Today was my second day back to work, actually. Yesterday I delivered a message to the army camped in the Bronze Valley---” Icarus rambled.

                              “Today, Icarus. We kinda have to keep moving,” Jay snapped at the Bird Pokemon.

                              Icarus flapped his wings once. “Alright, alright. I’m going. Right. Today I had to deliver a message to Gear. Something about potential recruits, I think,” he said, as Kelly immediately pressed him with questions.

                              “Did you talk to him?! Why did he order us arrested?!” Icarus put up his wings, indicating to withhold her interrogation.

                              “Please, wait a minute. I’m getting to that. Well, when I arrived his office to deliver the message, I found a Skarmory instead of him. Apparently this guy is the governor of the province,” Icarus explained.

                              “Wait … we have a governor?” Jay asked, tilting his head in confusion.

                              “ I know; it surprised me too. Anyways, that’s not the worst part. I looked at the walls and I saw scorch marks. A lot of them. And I couldn’t get the governor--- Richellie, Richylou, Ricardo--- whatever his name was, I couldn’t get him to tell me what happened to Gear. It was the deputy, Axis, I think, that told me what happened,” Icarus further elaborated, pausing for breath.

                              “So, what happened?” Leo asked, even though he could already guess what happened to the kind Magnezone.

                              Icarus bowed his head, as if dreading the news he was about to reveal.
                              “He killed him. The governor killed him for not obeying orders. Apparently, there was a list of traitors, your team name was on it along with some others, and he refused to follow it. It was the governor who ordered the arrest, not Gear,” Icarus somberly informed the team.

                              “He’s gone. He’s really gone,” Jay whispered in disbelief. Leo couldn’t believe it either. Gear had been the first Pokemon he met that somewhat supported him. He had helped him when he was lost and confused. Gear…

                              “Well, I got outta there as fast as I could. I knew you lot weren’t evil Pokemon, much less traitors, so I went to find you. Your base was completely destroyed, burned to a crisp. But, I saw a squad of Magnemite still sweeping the area, so I knew you all had escaped,” the Pidgeotto explained.

                              “I spent the last few hours circling above the forest before I saw you all in the field,” he said before continuing.
                              “You know? You guys were really lucky you came out of the forest where you did. They’ve got patrols along the north and west of here.”

                              At this both Jay and Kelly’s faces fell. Richelieu had wasted no time in making up for his squad’s failure the previous night. Wanted posters were already beginning to dot bulletin boards across the Between countryside.

                              “Well, that throws a Blast Seed at our plans,” Jay grumbled, putting his paws behind his head in exasperation.

                              “No kidding …” Kelly sighed in reluctant agreement.

                              “Thanks, Icarus. You kept us from walking straight into two traps,” Leo said gratefully as he gave the bird a pat on the back.

                              “You’re welcome. Anyways, it sounds like you all have no place to go, right?” Icarus asked, quickly hopping away from the Charmeleon.

                              “That’s right,” Leo answered, “or unless they have any other ideas.” He jabbed a claw towards his teammates, who simply shook their heads.

                              “That’s great! Actually, that’s really horrible, but it’s still great!” Icarus exclaimed, flapping his wings several times in excitement.

                              “What the hell are you talking about?!” Jay demanded, as Icarus slowly gathered himself.

                              “What I mean is that there’s a military encampment a few hours in this direction. The general there often turns a blind eye towards recruits if they have a record, so you all can go there,” Icarus explained, extending his wing down the dirt trail that cut across the field.

                              More than slightly suspicious, Jay wasn’t about to believe a Pokemon that had conned them into rescuing him for free.
                              “You’re serious, right? No tricks?”

                              “None at all. I still owe you guys a favor, don’t I?” Icarus stated. His expression screamed of a longing to be absolved of his debt to the team.

                              “Jay, I think we can trust him,” Leo said, turning towards Icarus before Jay could refuse.
                              “We’d be grateful for a place to stay and be safe.” Despite his beak limiting his expressions somewhat, the tell-tale signs of a smile made its way across the Pidgeotto’s feathered face.

                              “Excellent! I’ll fly ahead and let Torrent know you all are coming. Remember, it’s just straight ahead on this path. You should arrive there around sundown if you’re lucky,” Icarus reminded the group before flapping his wide wings several times and made his way into the air.

                              After watching his flying form grow smaller and smaller until it disappeared altogether, the team gathered up their meager belongings and started, once again, down the path through the field.

                              The lush field offered little cover from any direction save for the tall grasses still growing strong from the torrential summer rains that fed them. The almost noxious aroma of the thousands of grass buds and wild flowers clouded Leo’s head. His footsteps along the dry dirt made a hypnotic thudding noise that only made the trek feel longer.

                              The late summer heat took its toll on the team as they trudged through the field. Leo wished that a well of water would appear alongside the path, or anything that could potentially quench his thirst. He thought it was a cruel working of fate that he was stuck in this body. Wanting nothing more to take a plunge into a lake, but also loathing the thought of having water splash onto him.

                              His torpid trance was broken only occasionally when he, in his senseless state, stepped off a raised ledge and fell forward, usually giving the ground a nice impression of his face while doing so. Kelly and Jay seemed to have also been taken captive by the same mind-numbing trance as they continued plodding on, Kelly only weakly looking back at him and urging him to get up.

                              The cycle continued: walk, heat, thirst, smell, trip, repeat. It was if some sick deity had cut out the same mile of field and made them walk the same stretch again and again for his own personal amusement. Leo shivered, even as the sun scorched his back, thinking of all his experiences in this world so far.

                              While the Fields hadn’t actively tried to kill him, they had proved to be both emotionally as well as physically draining. It had truly acted like a dungeon. His luck had continued to go downhill from there when he was arrested and his subsequent first mission with them into Spore Fields.
                              He’d very nearly been blasted into nothing if the badges had not reactivated when they had.

                              It was then, in the infirmary … I first heard him, he realized as his feet momentarily stopped.
                              He told me then to wake up and see past the corruption. The corruption … was he talking about this ‘governor’ person? Killing Gear? What that what he meant? Leo mused as his thoughts evolved, rapidly putting together the limited pieces he had to this complex puzzle.

                              He told me that this would happen! He warned me about the Magnemite arresting that Golduck and the ambush by Nexus. He knew! The revelation hit him like a sack of particularly hard rocks. His feet continued to remain rooted to the spot as Kelly and Jay marched further ahead of him. His mind continued to race toward a conclusion that was nowhere in sight.

                              And in the forest! He... the fire and ice … the voice … his voice. He told me not to leave again. Did he know something else, too? That thing was planning something and Leo knew it.

                              Back at the base. That wasn’t me dodging or running. It was something else. It wasn’t me. It was him.

                              “I was wondering when you would figure that bit out. I’m glad you have more functioning neurons than Nexus claimed you did.” The voice had come out of nowhere, and as Leo looked around the grassy field, it remained as invisible as the wind.

                              Why? No other thought was so prevalent on his mind. The wind seemed to whip the reeds as the voice responded.

                              “The how and why of my actions cannot be disclosed at this time due to … well … I’m really not at liberty to say. I have agreed to abide by certain … restrictions, barring my influence over you and some select others.”

                              Who? Who else is going through this?! Leo’s thoughts screamed as the voice simply sighed in exasperation.

                              “Once again, I am not at liberty to say. Now listen closely, Leo, I am asking --quite politely, I might add-- for one thing. Only one. I am currently … entangled in some rather pressing … matters concerning the ‘legality’ of this operation. All I ask is that you stay the course without needing an … intervention on my part. Can you do this, Leo?”

                              “What’s in it for me if I accept?” he whispered, finally finding his voice again.

                              “It seems that you’re looking to much into the illusion of free choice I have given you. But, if you must, I will limit my intrusions into your addled head if you comply. The longer you follow my directions, the less I will have to …. correct your actions. Do we have a deal?” the voice chuckled.

                              “…Yes,” Leo croaked.

                              “Wise choice, my friend. I will meet you up ahead...” With that haunting remark, the presence left, only the torrid sun and tall waves of grass remaining to remind Leo of what was still real. He looked ahead through the rippling grass at the two blue and yellow specks in the distance. He sighed as he found his feet again and began catching up to his teammates.


                              The sun had finally begun its fiery descent into the western horizon, painting the sky in vivid colors of fading blue, blazing orange, and an amalgamation of similar colors that would need an expert on the color spectrum to accurately name them all.

                              Jay had called for a break from walking sometime around noon, when the sun was at its hottest. Said “break” that included all three of them foraging among the brush for some edible berries and roots, a loud argument over which round blue berry was poisonous or not, and finally eating the berries that were decided to be non-lethal, and fortunately were.

                              They were all tired and still caked with dirt from their escape from the forest. The military camp was nowhere in sight; even on top of a ridge nothing remotely resembling a camp could be seen for miles around. As the sun’s rays no longer provided enough light to see, they used Leo’s tail as a torch to guide them.
                              The waning moon provided only a fraction of the light it did the night before, making determining their path difficult. The wind barely rustled the grass on both sides of them, causing an eerily haunting sound like the rattling cries of some primal beast.

                              At first, Leo dismissed the sounds of the grass as the movement of the unblowing summer wind, but as it continued to follow them as they moved along, he increasingly grew paranoid that something was out there.

                              The dry stalks of wild grass rattled against each other. Leo could have sworn that he detected the faintest hint of a shadow darting behind a clump of the plants. He strained his eyes, holding his tail in front of him as a flashlight of sorts to aid in his search.

                              Jay and Kelly both halted behind him, sensing the same feeling of being watched. The grass seemed to suddenly cease all movement, causing the three fugitives to form a tight circle in the middle of the path. With only the small area that Leo’s tail lit up to effectively see, they remained silent, hoping to either confirm or deny the validity of being stalked.

                              “Who’s out there?! We know you’re there!” Jay shouted at the mass of weeds surrounding them. No voice came forth to answer his demand, only a whisper of wind, and ---what sounded like--- the scurrying of feet over the dew-ridden soil.

                              “I-I know you’re there! Show yourself!” Jay screamed again, his apparent confidence betrayed by a slight stutter.

                              Against the unspoken arguments of his teammates, Jay stepped forward out of the small circle of flickering light that gave the illusion of safety. Leo held his breath as he waited for something horrible to happen, but nothing happened. Jay glanced around, scanning the grass for any hostile life. He turned around to signal that it was all clear. He never got that far.

                              Almost as soon as his back was turned, a green tendril shot out from the thicket and snared the Riolu. It coiled around his legs, tripping him as he tried to walk back to his team. Jay’s cry of pain and confusion was cut off as the vine snapped back and dragged him into the thicket.

                              Just as Leo braced himself to jump into the brush to rescue his leader, something hard and blunt slammed into the side of his head. He stumbled on the spot, his vision going white for a split second.

                              He tried to turn around to face his attacker, but instead of an identity, he was greeted by another blow to the opposite side of his head. Before he could dizzily stagger a single step forward, a small black foot collided with his stomach. Leo doubled over wheezing, but not before the same black foot slammed into his ankles, knocking them out from under him.

                              Leo couldn’t find the energy to tell his lungs to inhale. His entire body hurt from the swift beating it endured. His vision blurred and his lungs burned. He could see a blueish figure standing directly above him. The Pokemon snapped something in it’s paws and pressed it to Leo’s mouth and nose.

                              His body was begging for air, but he knew he couldn’t breathe in whatever toxin his assailant had. Despite feeling weaker and weaker with every second without air, Leo tried to force the Pokemon off of him by swinging his claws vaguely in the attacker’s direction.

                              The Pokemon over him grunted some curse and pressed harder with the toxic seed, but Leo couldn’t comprehend it. His body couldn’t take it anymore. Any notion of free will left him and basic survival instincts took over. Leo’s mouth opened and he gulped in a mouthful of air, dust from the seed intermixed within it.

                              Instead of getting clearer, Leo’s vision grew even blurrier as the toxins dulled his senses and relaxed his muscles. Leo felt his eyelids droop lower and lower as weight was added to them. He couldn’t fight it any longer, the fatigue from the night before and earlier that day caught up with him in a single, finishing blow. Leo closed his eyes and allowed his body to drift off into drug induced slumber.

                              “They are safe, for the time being. There is no need to worry about them at the moment. I’m afraid we have bigger … tribulations to take care of first, my liege. Seeing as you are rather … occupied at the moment. I see it in my duty to take on the role of arbiter in this conflict.”

                              “I will do what I can when I must. For lasting peace.”

                              Author’s Notes:

                              As usual, I’d like to thank everyone who gave me advice on this while I wrote it, and my beta reader. My story would look very different if it wasn’t for you guys.

                              This chapter truly marks the break with the first arc in my opinion. We’ll be seeing a new setting for the next set of chapters.
                              We’ll also be seeing some new characters, as well as a reappearance of a few from chapters past.
                              Now, I know that the section in the middle with the incoherent rambling doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of grammar, but it had to be like that.

                              Knightfall signing off...
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                              Old July 1st, 2013 (7:40 AM). Edited August 20th, 2013 by Knightfall.
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                              Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                              Unforeseen Consequences
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                                Chapter Ten: Memory

                                ” Did you know that the average Grass Type needs approximately seven to nine hours of sunlight per day to maintain healthy cognitive functionality? I found that fact interesting. Tell me, how long have you been trapped here? Weeks? Months? Regardless, your head must be doing torturous things to you. Why not come out of there and you’ll see. None of this is real.”
                                [Time and Date Redacted]

                                Axis slowly floated down the deserted street of Loyalty; the squad of four Magnemite buzzing excitedly behind him at the prospect of yet another arrest. The deputy scanned the rows of dwellings that lined the main road; the newly mandated curfew had to be enforced.

                                Forty-eight hours had not yet passed since Gear’s disposal, and Richelieu had already laid the foundation for a totalitarian state in which he was the dictator. This is only the beginning if the plans I saw on his desk were true, the deputy thought.

                                The units chattered among themselves as the last of the sun’s rays disappeared from the sky, officially marking the beginning of the mandated blackout that lasted until dawn. Axis switched on his built in searchlights. The lower ranked officers switched on their lights following Axis’s example; their beams sweeping the seemingly empty street for violators of the new rule.

                                Despite putting on an act for the governor and the traitors, he was forced to call comrades. He sincerely hoped that they didn’t come across an unfortunate soul who failed to make the deadline of sunset. The beams of light flashed across the stone buildings and dark alleyways, almost as if they could chase the darkness away to reveal a treasure of some sobbing citizen to arrest.

                                The moon was obscured by a large bank of clouds, blocking its natural light and making the Square seem even more like an abandoned city than the bustling marketplace it was. Hovering across the open area of the market square, Axis and his squad turned down the right hand road and off into the major residential district.

                                Axis couldn’t help but think of the possible reasoning behind Richelieu’s plans. Control was the obvious answer, but he knew something else was lurking behind that. Some unseen motive that was almost certainly detrimental to the majority of the populace of the town. Shaking away the thoughts, he refocused himself on the task at hand. His orders from the Skarmory had been little more than to patrol the streets.

                                They didn’t get any kill lists anymore, though the lack of specific targets --whether true felons or falsely accused-- essentially made every citizen within the town a target. The Magneton shined his light behind the countertops of the wooden stalls, occasionally flashing his light quickly, trying to send a warning signal to any citizens not yet indoors.

                                Focused as he was in his thoughts of the future, the deputy immediately snapped to attention when the sound of clattering metal reached his sensors. Twisting around in the air, his beam instantly centered on a small feline figure frozen in fear. Axis scanned the Pokemon within the same instant; his three cores searching the town census database for an identity.

                                The overly curly tail and predominantly grey fur marked it as a Glameow, and the monthly census narrowed down the identity to two individuals, one of whom had recently been gravely injured in a dungeoneering incident.

                                Arianna Glameow: 17 years of age. Citizen since birth. Record: none, Axis determined, his database ninety-nine percent sure of positive identification. The Glameow remained motionless against the stone wall of the house, a small metal plate with various fruits lay forlorn on the ground directly underneath her. Only the telltale signs of her extremely shallow breathing revealed she still had a pulse.

                                Her sharp, blue eyes darted from side to side looking for any possible escape route, but finding none that looked promising. Before he could make a formal declaration of arrest, Axis heard the fine-tuned whirring noise from the squad behind him that signaled only one thing. Axis spun around to face the Magnemite who were charging up for a debilitating stun attack.

                                “ZzT! Wait! Don-!” he screeched in vain as eight separate spheres of lightning shot by him, superheating the air surrounding the protesting deputy for an instant. The thief’s shriek of terror was quickly replaced by pitiful whimpering and the odor he analyzed as charred fur. Unable to turn around and face the grievously burned and paralyzed female, Axis floated in stunned horror.

                                His cores shouted out to him the numerous laws and statutes his officers demolished within ten seconds, but he couldn’t comprehend any of it at the moment. Almost subconsciously he slowly willed his magnets to turn his hovering body to face the injured Pokemon.

                                What he saw caused his cores to short-circuit. Arianna’s grey fur was now peppered with small circular bald spots, each one angry red and sizzling slightly. Tears leaked from her eyes as she bit her lip in an effort to not show weakness to the guards by crying.

                                Axis was roughly suddenly pushed aside by two of the Magnemites. The Magneton’s speakers failed him as he watched the two brutes each clamp one their magnets over her forearms. Her repressed whimpers turned into screams of agony as the two started to drag her over the cobblestones in the road.

                                “I’m so sorry...” he buzzed softly as the thief’s screams faded away as she fell into the abyss of unconsciousness.

                                I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, he repeated in his mind; the words sounding more and more hollow every time he said them.

                                Leo never felt so free, so exhilaratingly alive --and so curious-- as he ran through the concrete corridor. The flatlights plastered on the ceiling and walls giving the hallway a clinical feel to it as it lit the area with a stark, white light.

                                Something in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Immediately cancelling his forward momentum, he slowed to a stop; his well-worn shoes skidding to across the gritty stone floor to stop at a glass window embedded in the wall.

                                Standing on the tips of his feet, he was able to see down through the glass into the vast room below. Labyrinths of wires and piping began from unseen generators, ran dizzily across the walls, and ended in a tangled jungle on the floor. Over the covering of wires, pipes, and machinery worked several men in lab coats no longer white from repeated stains of sweat, electrical burns, and grime from the machinery.

                                In the center of the chamber stood an enormous machine of unknown purpose. It stretched from floor to ceiling with wires connecting to it at every possible point. Beneath the machine, under metal grate, a set of wide, metal fan blades sat motionless. Over it, a set of three electrical arrays pointed down from three dirtied, steel arms on the ceiling; each matched up with a receiver at the base of the machine.

                                Aside from the giant contraption, Leo was fascinated by the dozen men who, despite the chaos, managed to continue working and make progress. He watched wide-eyed from his perch above them as they shouted calculations and directions at each other as they prepared the gargantuan machine in the center of the room for launch. Fortunately for him, there was an air duct grate nearby through which he could hear snatches of the scientist’s commands.

                                “-- the signal is fading, we have to hurry before it’s gone.”

                                “-- up to ninety percent. Be sure not to overload it.”

                                “--must account for the temporal differences.”

                                He didn’t understand any of their jargon, but he knew they were gearing up for something big. He watched as three of the men pressed sequences of buttons on the many keyboards littered around the lab. Giant mechanical arms lifted the final wires into place, connecting the machine with the power source.

                                Scientists gathered around the three computer stations spaced about the room around the colossal apparatus in the center of the chamber. Their fingers flew across the keyboards in order to bring life to the metal structure.

                                “-- start the rotors. Bring the power level to eighty-four point two percent exactly. Easy now, don’t damage anything. We don’t want a repeat of yesterday.”
                                “-- charge each of the arrays oppositely. The ensuing collision will--”

                                The wires hummed excitedly as precious electricity flowed through them into the machine. The metal blades at the base of the experiment began to rotate with an almighty shudder that knocked Leo to the floor. Their joints and connectors screeched loudly in protest of movement as they shifted into position.

                                As Leo picked himself off the floor, he again peered through the window. The steel blades were spinning rapidly, much to the anticipation of the science team. Leo only heard snippets of their orders above the buffered air coming off the spinning blades.

                                “--reroute power from auxiliary generators if you absolutely have to. Be sure to--”

                                “--the system can’t operate on that level for longer than--”

                                “-- override protocol. We have to try this while the signal is still receivable. Otherwise--

                                The gargantuan machine shuddered as electricity danced among its slowly spinning arrays, bright beams of raw positively-charged power aligning with the negatively-charged receivers. This collision of polar opposites forced the beams to reflect off each other, making them seem to race about the open center core of the experiment.

                                “--predictable results so far. Power on the magnetic field; prepare for impact!”

                                The reinforced glass of the observation window vibrated with the shaking of the experiment. Leo watched in awe as the erratic beams were suddenly compressed into a small electrified sphere, even as the facility shook from the tremor resulting from the activation.

                                “--align the signal coordinates. Quickly! Before it’s--”

                                The scientists seemed to be swarming their computer stations like ants, each either typing madly, or making minute adjustments on electrical power levels. The small sphere of confined electricity seemed to ripple and slowly expand as it was held in place by the magnetic pulses. Leo pressed his face against the glass, his breath fogging up the window slightly as he hoped to see whatever was going to happen in the core.

                                The core of compressed energy glowed as it suddenly expanded to fill the entire open space between the top and bottom of the machine. Leo’s eyes widened as colors began to bleed into the white center of the core, turning it into a canvas of superheated plasma. He could see distinct hues of green and blue congregate at the top and bottom of the core, forming fields of emerald grass and limitless skies of some uncursed world.

                                “--trace the signal! This is it! We’ve got it! We’ve--”

                                A violent tremor suddenly rattled the chamber; the machine began to spark as the core misaligned. The picturesque field was torn apart and replaced with the golden sands of a barren desert.

                                “-- lost the signal! It’s beginning to--”

                                The arrays started to spew forth lightning as the world within the core altered once again, this time becoming a molten red volcano. Leo could feel the heat radiating through the window an entire floor above.

                                “--attempting shutdown! It’s not--it’s not shutting down! The system’s--”

                                The room began to quake as the tremors continued to erupt from the malfunctioning experiment.
                                Green fields, stormy oceans, mysterious glowing orbs within a night sky, vast clouded mountains, and blue skies all flashed briefly in the center core before vanishing as quickly as they had come. Leo was entranced by the images; all of them far more vivid than anything he’d heard of before in legends.

                                It only remained for a split second, but a single image was burned into his thoughts forever. A shimmering veil of sky dotted with pure white clouds. In the middle of it, a vast glowing orb, far brighter than anything Leo had ever seen before. Leo shielded his eyes from the intense brightness of the oddity.

                                He blinked once and the picture was gone. In its place a peaceful looking mountain range and valleys, the strange orb still floated in the sky far above the pinnacles of the peaks. Just as he grew accustomed to the strange thing in the atmosphere, he heard the yells of the science team once more.

                                “--shut off the power! We can’t take much more of this!”

                                “--data is irretrievable! We can't!"

                                “Do it!”

                                Leo wanted to see more; he had to. He had only glimpsed the tiniest ray of something spoken in myths. The sphere that floated loftily in the heavens was direct proof that there was more to the legends and rumors. That somewhere there was more than perpetual dull skies. Something greater than a still sea. Something with more life than the dying land. Something that promised freedom to whoever was courageous enough to reach through and grab it.

                                “-- data! We can’t! Not until we get a proper reading!”

                                “-- I say. Shut. It. Down.”

                                Leo pressed his hands against the glass in protest. He couldn’t let these visions of paradise be torn away from him. He slammed his fists into the window, ignoring the stinging pain from the resulting impact. He could only watch in stunned horror as two men in the lab dashed to opposite walls on each side of the room where levers controlling the current were placed. They each grabbed a lever, and even as the machine shuddered once more, they pulled down.

                                Leo’s world then turned pitch black.

                                Kelly would never forgive them. She didn’t care what they said in their letters to her; dried ink failed to compare to actually hearing their apologies in real life. They had abandoned her. Left her completely alone. All to pursue a political faction that meant more to them than she did.

                                She had spent enough tears over them. She had to learn to adapt and survive. To fend for herself against the odds, even if it meant forming a rescue team with a Riolu she met in order to scrape together a pitiful excuse for a living.

                                She could almost see her father sitting in front of her. His black fur contrasting with the dim yellow rings circling his body.

                                “We love you, Kel. We did what we did because--”, his soft voice cracked, before she interrupted. “No! I don’t want to hear you!”

                                “Kelly, please listen. I only want to--” he started to say before being cut off by his daughter.
                                “No. Not anymore.”

                                The Umbreon simply closed his eyes and sighed. He looked back up at his daughter, tears forming in the inner corners of his eyes. Kelly wasn’t moved in the slightest. She returned his pleading gaze with a stare colder than ice. Out of the mists came another figure on all fours. Kelly tried to keep her face stern as she saw a pink-furred Pokemon sit down next to her father.

                                “Mom,” Kelly said, barely containing a sniffle as she acknowledged the older Espeon’s entrance.

                                ”We did what we did. Nothing other than Dialga can change that fact. We only wanted--”
                                she explained, her voice oddly soothing to Kelly. It had been a long time since she’d heard either of them, but comfort wasn’t enough.

                                “It’s what you wanted?! You wanted to leave me?! For the Colonies?! You wanted this?!”
                                Kelly screamed at her parent’s illusions, her voice strained.
                                Her mother ignored her outburst and walked forward to her daughter. She placed her paw on Kelly’s shoulder, causing the wayward daughter to wince slightly. She saw her mother’s paw on her fur, yet couldn’t feel it. She saw her mother’s head lean into her, rubbing affectionately against neck, yet the touch was not felt by Kelly.
                                ”We left in hopes that we would return within a week. You can see that didn’t work out.” she said, pressing her head against her daughter’s. ”You have no idea how lost we felt without without you with us. We missed you so much. We missed you, Kelly.”

                                Kelly couldn’t take it anymore, she took a deep break before letting out a soft sob. Her sobs grew closer together as she cried into her mother’s intangible embrace. Her entire body shaking as she gasped for breath amid her breakdown. Eventually, she gathered herself once again. She raised her head to look around, only to find that her parents had vanished from her sight.

                                “M-mom? Dad? Where are you?! Where did you go?!” Kelly asked the empty space around her, beginning to panic as she shifted her gaze to every possible direction. The misty void around her began to shudder and shake, forcing Kelly to dig her claws into the ground to avoid being tossed around like a child’s toy.

                                ”Why do you hate us, Kelly? Do you realize how much it hurts us to hear you say those nasty things?” her father’s disembodied voice rang out through the void. Each resounding echo growing in intensity rather than fading. Kelly only squeezed her eyes tighter and she clung to the ground even harder as the tremors worsened.

                                ”Kelly, I will only ask one more time: why do you hate us?” her father asked, his voice icy and emotionless, contrasting sharply from what Kelly previously heard. Kelly bit her lip to keep from letting the words affect her.

                                ”Tell me! Why do you hate us?!” the void screamed at her in her father’s voice, the sound-waves rattling the foundations of the ground. Kelly let out a weak scream as the ground violently lurched forward, tearing her claws from the floor.

                                “I-I don’t know...” she whimpered as the demented voices of her parents tormented her further.
                                She pressed her front paws to her ears even as her body was slammed repeatedly against the quaking earth. She ignored the pain, but failed to block out the voices.

                                ”You ungrateful, useless, excuse of a daughter. We cared, sheltered, and nurtured you your entire life, and when we are held up against our will, you turn on us? We should have left you a long time ago!” This time is was her mother’s voice, shrill and distorted, that berated her. Every hateful word Kelly heard broke her resolve down. She couldn’t believe that her parents could share the hate she reserved for them.

                                Tears began to well up in her eyes as her parent’s voices tortured her mind. She failed to see that the ground started to crumble and fall into darkness. Blinded by tears, she tried to run across the falling void; she stumbled more than once on the heaving ground, skidding over the sharp fragments of floor.

                                She yelped as she felt her bruised hind legs fall through the floor into nothingness. She clung with all her strength onto the bit of stable ground in front of her, trying to avoid the abyss that awaited her like a hungry predator.

                                ”You said you hated us! You wanted us gone! You turned on us, your parents! the voice, now an unholy amalgamation of both her mother and her father, screeched at Kelly as her grip began to fail her.

                                The abyss growled in irritation, it’s deep tone rattling the ground and weakening her grip on the frail patch of stone she clung to in fear. She grunted as she tried to pull herself up, her back legs flailing around in the open air beneath the cliff as she tried to gain leverage.

                                The chasm of her nightmare, fed up with waiting, roared with another tremor that shook the entire void. Dust and mist clouded Kelly’s vision, making her eyes sting and throat burn as she had no choice to breath the dirtied air in. Her arms were burning with fatigue as she tried to resist the abyss’s attempts to swallow her whole.

                                The bottomless chasm roared again, demanding her immediate surrender. Despite the pain and exhaustion, she refused to give into the void’s desires. She never submitted before, and she wouldn’t now. Nothing would make her, not the void, not the quake, nothing.

                                ”You are not our daughter. Not anymore. Get out,” the voice coldly ordered. The mist seemed to channel its tone as its icy embrace wrapped around the Jolteon. Kelly shivered as the chill pressed from all sides. Her claws slipped a few precious inches closer to the edge, making a shrill screech along the floor. The broken stone slicing into the pads of her paws, making small smears of blood appear along the rock.

                                ”Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out! the invisible voice screamed. That was the final straw for Kelly. Her bloodied claws reached the edge of the cliff with nowhere else to go besides down. She pulled her head up one last time before her grip failed, her tears staining the yellow fur on her face.

                                “I’m sorry,” she whispered weakly before her claws broke through the thin layer of rock. The abyss screeched in triumph and hungrily opened its maw wide to receive her.

                                Jay panted in exhaustion as he set down the final sack of seed. The sun was starting its nightly journey into the western horizon, signaling the end of the day. Jay checked his surroundings before leaving. The wooden structure his family used to store grain seemed secure enough, and the gates into the fields were all shut tight.

                                He tried to whistle a tune he had heard earlier that week in Silver’s trading market as he walked back to his family’s small dwelling. The talent was not his forte and the original jaunty tune of the song was butchered by the Riolu’s sad attempt to recreate it.

                                Jay stopped along the dirt road when a silhouette of two Pokemon appeared on the darkening horizon. They were coming from the capital. Jay knew exactly who they were. Their loud talking and clanking armor plates made them out to be guards of the city. Taking a deep breath, he jogged a little faster along the road, hoping to keep ahead of them. He suddenly wished that his family’s home was a lot closer to Silver.

                                The guards’ conversation seemed to get louder as they somehow seemed to get closer to him, despite his efforts to outrun them. As quick as lightning, a beige feline Pokemon sprinted past him and quickly turned around, blocking his path. Jay dug his paws into the dirt as he attempted to stop. The marauder was a large cat that he’d run into before and known by name.

                                “Felix,” the Riolu huffed, glaring at the guard. The Pokemon cracked a shrewd smile, showing off his sharp teeth at the same time. He moved his head to look down on Jay, the ruby red gem embedded on his forehead glinted in the fading sunlight.

                                “Farm filth, it’s been a time since we last talked, hasn’t it?” the Persian sneered. The guard slowly circled Jay, the metal plate armor on his long back clinking with every careful movement of his legs.

                                “Hmph, I don’t need to talk to you lot. You’ve already got this month’s taxes from us,” Jay said, stubbornly crossing his arms. The Persian stopped his circling and stared directly at the Riolu, his red eyes boring virtual holes into Jay.

                                “You’re joking. You’ve gotta be kidding me right now!” Felix exclaimed, the faint beginnings of a laugh easing their way into his words. “Come here, you lot! You guys won’t believe this,” he called behind Jay. Jay whirled around to find that the group of guards now significantly closer.

                                “Felix? What’sss thisss ssstreet rat prattling on about thisss time?” a long snake-like Pokemon asked, its black and gold form slithering around behind Jay and hissing in the Riolu’s ear. Jay gulped as he heard the Seviper’s poison-laced blade swish through the air and come to a rest, far too close to his throat for comfort.

                                “Apparently,” Felix said, placing a paw on Jay’s head while the Seviper guard held him in place with the threat his blade. “Our ‘friend’ here doesn’t know the news yet! Can you believe that?!”

                                The Seviper lowered his head to Jay’s level. “Really? Doesss our friend really not know the newssss?” he asked incredulously, flicking his forked tongue out quickly. Jay struggled against the snake Pokemon, trying to squirm free without slicing his neck on the precariously positioned blade.
                                “What are you two idiots talking about? What news?” Jay growled, letting every ounce of hatred for the two Pokemon seep into his words.

                                Felix raised his paw and boxed the side of Jay’s head. “Watch your mouth, dog.” he spat. He backed off and took a deep breath as he calmed himself down. “Well, it appears that your dear father owes the Kingdom quite a bit of money. His taxes have been short these last few collections,”

                                “No! You’re lying! I saw him pay them myself! They were paid in full!” Jay countered, only earning yet another threatening glare from the Seviper. Felix and the Seviper looked silently at each other for a second before both bursting into laughter.

                                “Y-you really-- haha --- think he paid in full? Oh Arceus alive, you’ve got to be kidding me right now! We wouldn’t be on our way to arrest him if that were the case, now would we?” Felix asked with a sinister chuckle.

                                “What?! No!” Jay screamed as he ducked underneath the Seviper’s blade and coils. He bent his legs and jumped up towards the Persian, arms outstretched. He hit the guard around his neck and tackled him into the dirt. Jay only saw red, slightly different shades of red, and more red. The Kingdom had taken nearly everything we’ve earned, and now they had the gall to accuse us of not paying enough? he thought angrily as he raised his arm.

                                Felix had barely time to register what had happened before Jay’s fist collided with the side of the Persian’s head. Not thinking of the consequences, he raised his arm again for another blow, yet he never completed the swing. The Seviper’s tail reached around, wrapped around the Riolu tightly, and pulled him away from his comrade on the ground.

                                Felix coughed as he dizzily pushed himself up, Jay could see that unless he broke free immediately, life about to get much worse for him. He struggled against the snake Pokemon, trying to free his arms from the merciless coils, but to no avail.

                                “Let’s go, we’ve got a job to do. Deal with the runt and let’s get on with it,” Felix growled, trying to keep his claws from violently disemboweling the Riolu.

                                “No! No! No! You can’t!” Jay screamed, kicking vainly against the Seviper’s tightening coil.

                                “Give him a small dose of poison. That’ll shut him up for a few hours while we finish up this job. We can come back for him later,” the Persian ordered as Jay tried even harder to push against his captor’s bonds. The Seviper nodded to the other guard and raised the blade on his tail. Acidic drops of sickly purple fluid dripped from the point of the blade.

                                Before Jay could react, the Seviper brought the tip of the blade to Jay’s left arm and dug it into the flesh. Jay screamed in agony as the blade swiftly exited the wound, leaving several drops of potent poison in his opened bloodstream. Jay’s screams suddenly quieted down as all feeling in his arm vanished, replaced by a slight tingling feeling.

                                He tried to look up at the two guards, but their faces seemed stretched and distorted beyond recognition. He heard them talking, but their indistinct words seemed to be spoken through a film of water. His arms and legs relaxed and suddenly; he wasn’t concerned about that fact that the guards were on their way to ruin everything. He couldn’t have cared even if he tried. His senses drained from his head as the poison shut every inch of his body down.

                                Hours Later

                                Kingdom Army Camp: New Rain: Northern Division

                                “That’s enough, Leaf. I know it wasn’t your idea. You are excused from this meeting,” said a large light blue reptile as he motioned for the small creature with a large pink flower bulb on its back to leave the tent. The Ivysaur nodded and quickly left, brushing aside the flaps of the tent. The large blue Pokemon then turned towards them, setting his enormous jaw to as close to a frown as he could possibly manage.

                                Leo looked around the tent. It wasn’t the largest of the cloth structures he’d seen today, but it was spacious enough to fit the Pokemon Jay called a Feraligatr with reasonable comfort. Aside from a small, roughly cut wooden desk and a few wide segments of logs that served as seats, there was nothing of seemingly any real value inside the tent.

                                He looked to his left. Jay and Kelly both sat on a stump and on the ground, respectively. Both were trying and failing miserably to hide their fatigue evident by their dull expressions and occasional yawn. To his right, though, was a stranger. His skin was about the same light blue as the Feraligatr’s, but that was where the similarities ended. In contrast to the large stature the general of the camp possessed, he was about as tall as Leo. The fin on the back of his head, his webbed feet, and rounded black tail indicated that he was a Water Type, yet another reason why Leo felt uncomfortable sitting so close to him.

                                The stranger glanced at him for a split second before looking away; going back to his task of feeling the sharp edge of his two schlops he carried with him. The Dewott -- or at least, that’s the name Leo heard the Feraligatr yell when he summoned him-- didn’t seem the least bit concerned that the general was glaring straight at him with enough intensity to ignite fires.

                                While the Feraligatr seemed to be putting his thoughts together, Leo took the time to put his own thoughts together. The last thing he clearly remembered before waking up on a piece of cloth that smelled like rotten fruit next to Jay and Kelly was that they were ambushed somewhere in the fields by a group of Pokemon.

                                After awakening from their drugged slumber, they were immediately marched through the camp to this tent. Along the way, Leo saw quite a few Pokemon either moving wooden crates into piles or practicing their attacks in a sparring ring, a simply drawn circle in the dirt. Pokemon with natural spines and scales seemed to be a staple of the camp, nearly everyone Leo saw has some type of armor or appendage that could be used for fighting purposes.

                                With a loud cough from the Feraligatr, Leo’s wandering thoughts were brought back to the present as the general finally seemed ready to speak to them.

                                “Riolu, you and your team are the least of my concerns at the moment. I will deal with you all after Noah here,” the general announced, causing Jay to exhale a sigh of relief.
                                The Feraligatr turned towards the Dewott, who acknowledged the general with nod of his head before returning to his shells.

                                “Tell me, Noah. What exactly were you thinking last night? I want to know what went through your head that made you lead an attack on this team,” the general asked, his gruff voice striking fear into Leo despite not being spoken to at the moment. The blue otter looked up at the irritated Pokemon and raised an furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

                                “I was simply carrying out the orders you gave me at the beginning of my watch. It was from those orders that I gained the idea of detaining these civilians who very nearly walked onto Kingdom property without authorization. That’s what I was thinking, General Torrent, sir,” Noah said calmly as he continued to sharpen his shells. Torrent groaned as he rubbed the sides of his head in annoyance. Leo had a feeling that this conversation wasn’t going to go anywhere.

                                “Noah, my orders said to patrol the camp and alert me if there were trespassers, not attack and knock out the first civilians you saw!” Torrent exclaimed, his impressive jaw mere feet from the Dewott’s face. Noah slowly took his black paw and wiped several small droplets of Torrent’s saliva off his face before answering.

                                “Frankly sir, you never clarified what to do with intruders, so I interpreted it in my own fashion and acted accordingly. I was only thinking of the security of this camp, sir. Who knows what these Pokemon might have done if I hadn’t detained them?” Noah replied, the natural air of tranquility around him not punctured by Torrent’s irritation in the slightest. The Dewott looked over at the confused team. “No offense, you guys,” he quickly added.

                                “What do you mean I never clarified my orders? I explicitly told you what and what not to do while on watch! I never told you to use Sleep Seeds of all things! Don’t you know how potent they are raw? I swear, I’ve met rocks more apt to follow orders then you!” Torrent yelled.

                                “I would very much like to meet those rocks, sir. Perhaps they can teach me a lesson in humility, sir,” Noah responded in as serious of a tone Leo thought impossible to reach. Torrent stood and stared at the Dewott for a moment, not knowing what exactly to make of the statement.

                                “Just shut up for now, Noah. I can’t talk to you anymore. The camp healer says it’s bad for my health to hold a direct conversation with you for more than two minutes at a time. So, just stay there and stay quiet while I deal with our guests,” he said, choosing to ignore the recruit until later. He turned to the other side of the room where Jay and Kelly were seated. Leo watched as his colossal stature towered over him.

                                “So, despite what Noah here says about you lot, I’m convinced that you’re not the crazed trespassers he’s made you out to be. Tell me, why you all were heading toward a Kingdom camp?” Torrent asked, directing the question to Jay.

                                “W-well, sir. We, uh, we were just walking through the fields, yeah. We didn’t know there was a camp here, sir. We were just passing through on our way to Silver City, and then we were ambushed by that lunatic!” Jay stuttered before pointing an accusing paw at the Dewott who simply nodded in return. Torrent narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

                                “That, my friend, is the worst cover story I’ve heard in a long time and I’ve had to deal with Noah for the past few months. Tell me the real story, before I call someone to take you lot back to where you came from,” Torrent demanded, seeing straight through Jay’s poorly built lie.

                                Jay squirmed in his seat and stammered a non-response. To Leo, it looked as if his mind failed to think of the right words. Torrent gave up on the team leader, leaving him to quietly sit on the wooden chair. He shifted his glare to Kelly.

                                “So my dear, would you kindly tell me what you were doing in the field near our camp?”

                                Kelly was either frozen into silence, or Jay’s failure to get cognitive words spoken had spread to her, only worse. She refused to answer Torrent’s question. Sighing in exasperation, he turned to Leo, who grabbed his tail in fear of the strong Water type.

                                “So, Charmeleon, are you going to shut up like a Clampearl the same way your teammates did? Or, are you going to shed some light on the situation?”

                                Leo said nothing, partly out of sheer fear of the roughly seven foot tall general and partly because Jay was discreetly shaking his head telling him to keep his mouth shut. The general lowered his head until he was far closer to Leo’s face then Leo would have ever liked him to be.

                                “Charmeleon, you do realize that I have the authority to detain you and your friends for up to forty-eight hours simply for being here? I suggest you tell me what you know before that has to happen,” Torrent ordered, his interrogation going nothing like how Gear’s did. Leo gulped and mouthed a silent apology to Jay and Kelly. Alright, he thought, here goes nothing.

                                “We were escaping from a town to the west of here, Loyalty Square, actually. We were forced out of the town when a squad of Magnemites raided our base. We managed to--” Leo said before Torrent silenced him with by clapping his blue clawed hand onto Leo’s shoulder, the action nearly snapping the Charmeleon’s shoulder blade.

                                “Say no more, son. That’s all I needed to hear--” Torrent started before he, himself was interrupted when a feathered Pokemon flew through the entrance flaps of the tent and had to swerve to avoid slamming into the general. Leo almost allowed a smile to form when he saw that the avian intruder was none other than their first and only client.

                                “S-sorry, sir! I-I was completing an errand … when I heard you were talking to … this team. I wanted to explain ... them to you, sir,” Icarus said breathlessly, panting in between phrases.
                                Rather than expel the bird from the tent for being out of conduct, Torrent shrugged his shoulders.

                                “Well, let’s have it. Why are they here, Icarus?”

                                “W-well, sir. I was flying above the Valley Forest dungeon on my way back from Loyalty and I saw them marching through the fields. I had found out that they were being hunted from the governor’s deputy, sir. These three are good Pokemon, sir. They freed me from the smuggling ring in Spore Meadows even when I couldn’t repay them, sir. Evil Pokemon wouldn’t do that, sir. I mean, it’s not in an evil Pokemon’s nature to just randomly help out some prisoner when they’re... captured.... ring...” Icarus explained, his rambling trailing off into indistinct mumbling as he realized he’d talked too much.

                                Leo was expecting Torrent to at the least disregard Icarus’s tirade or throw him out of the tent. He sure wasn’t expecting Torrent to smile, teeth sticking out from where his top and bottom jaws met. Icarus seemed surprised at the general’s action as well, flapping his wings once.

                                “Thank you, Icarus. You’ve just made my job easier, if anything. I’ve known about the corrupt Magnemites for a long time. Ol’ Gear and I had a system where he’d try to get wrongly arrested civies outta town and to me whenever I set up came here. He musta not gotten a message out to me yet about you three,” Torrent explained, seemingly trying to remember the complexities of their plan.

                                “S-sir, there’s a slight problem with that,” Icarus quietly said, trying to keep as silent as he could in an attempt not to embarrass himself by rambling again. This snapped Torrent out of his reminisce of days past.

                                “What are you talking about, messanger?”

                                “Well, sir. Gear … he … um … he’s … been put out of commision, sir,” Icarus reluctantly said, trying to find the right words to say.

                                Torrent cut straight into the heart of the matter. “So, he was finally taken down, huh? Who did it? Because I’ll rip them apart once I find them. Icarus, tell me everything you know this instant,”

                                “He was killed two nights ago, sir. The Magneton deputy, Axle, or Axeil or something. Anyways, the guy told me everything. This Skarmory came in claiming to be from the government. He said he was a governor or some fancy title like that, could have been a duke or noble for all I know. The guy was stuck up, had a real attitude, I tell you, I’ve never seen someone any more short tempered--” Icarus elaborated, slipping into meaningless dialogue before being cut off by Torrent.

                                “You’re going to in a minute, unless you get to the damn point already!” Torrent growled as he cursed at the blubbering Pidgeotto.

                                “S-sorry, sir! A-anyways, Gear refused to act on a kill list and apparently this Skarmory walks in with a guard of Magnemite and saw his disobedience. In short, Gear told him to fall off a cliff and the governor sent his units to attack him, and turned Gear’s own units against him, I think. The deputy wasn’t entirely sure what happened at that point, or the next few minutes. The next thing he saw was Gear’s burning body lying in the midst of a sea of Magnemite fragments. And then that governor guy ripped out Gear’s eye, I think, I’m not entirely sure I heard that right, the guy seemed pretty nervous when he told me the story. Anyways, Gear was killed and that Skarmory ordered the kill list to be enacted, which lead to the raid on Team Salient’s base, sir!” Icarus finished, gasping for breath at the end of his lengthy exposition, pleased that he hadn’t rambled too much during it.

                                Every soul inside the tent, from Torrent, to Kelly, even the strange Noah went quiet, as if they all had agreed to an impromptu moment of silence to honor the fallen officer. It was Torrent who broke the silence first.

                                “He didn’t deserve what happened to him. Anyone but him would have caved to corruption a long time ago. Gear was the best unit I ever served with. He saved my life in the second Bandit War in the Battle Sand Caverns. I’ll never forget that. And when he became sheriff and I a commander in the army, we knew what we had to do to protect the citizens from the Kingdom’s corruption,” he said solemnly, not looking directly at anyone. Leo couldn’t see for certain, but he thought he heard a series of low sobs coming from the mighty Feraligatr.

                                “S-sir?” Kelly asked tentatively, speaking for the first time since she entered the general’s tent.
                                Torrent immediately looked up and wiped his face with his scaly arm. Leo could see that his eyes were somewhat red, confirming his theory.

                                “Errm, yes. Umm, you lot, Salient, we’ll figure this out later. Noah, make yourself useful and show them around the camp and get them situated. Oh, and they’re also sleeping in your tent as punishment for your actions. Icarus, you stay. I have a message that needs to go out. Dismissed,” he ordered. Icarus worriedly glanced over to the team and tilted his head as if telling them to leave now. Noah stood up from his seat and motioned for the team to move as he corralled them through the flaps of the tent.

                                The group of four stood for a moment in front of the dull brown exterior of the tent, seemingly soaking in all that had happened in the past few minutes. They had been woken up, interrogated, accused of trespassing, apparently saved from a fate of prison by Icarus, and now forced to bunk with a Pokemon who knocked them out and knocked them out them the night before. Leo simply knew this was going to work out perfectly.

                                “So, um … I’m sorry for ambushing you guys and all that. Are we … good?” Noah asked, extending a nervous hand outwards to Jay. The calm and collected air he had around him inside with Torrent seemed to vanish as soon as they were outside. Jay reluctantly grasped the Dewott’s paw and shook it as he muttered something about it being a regular thing lately.

                                “If you guys couldn’t tell from back there, my name’s Noah,” he said introducing himself, “I don’t think Torrent mentioned your names, if you have any. I know some Pokemon from the North prefer to use the traditional species name, and all that.”

                                “Yes, we have names. I’m Jay, and this is Kelly, and Leo,” Jay said, motioning to each of his teammates in turn as he said their name.

                                “Wonderful! Now I’ll give you the grand tour of the place!” Noah said with a big smile as he walked out in front of them.

                                “This is Camp New Rain, the northern division. To the northeast you will see the supply tents,” he said as he motioned to a cluster of tents and stacks of wooden crates scattered haphazardly around the area.

                                “To the southeast and southwest you’ll find where most of us will be sleeping tonight,” he pointed to yet another bigger cluster of tents that made up two-thirds of the camp.

                                “To the northwest you’ll find the training areas and the mess tent where dinner will be held soon, hopefully,” he informed, directing their attention to yet another cluster of tents, but this time they were spaced out among smoking sand pits and blackened boulders, evidence of the moves being practiced there.

                                “And that’s your tour. Welcome to Camp New Rain! You’ll quickly learn why most fugitive Pokemon would rather go to jail than here,” he said with a grin, even as the team’s spirits fell yet again.

                                “Move! They’ve found us!

                                He could barely breathe, his lungs were on fire. The faster he tried to run, the harder it became to get a single mouthful of precious air. His feet slapped along the stone corridor as he ran from the ever pursuing sentinels.
                                “It doesn’t help that you’re so… uggh … heavy! Why am I carrying you?!” he screamed as he sprinted down the hallway, his arms aching with the added weight of his companion.

                                “Because I can’t move as fast as you can. Now shut up and pay attention! There should be a branching pathway coming up. Don’t miss it or we’ll be doomed.”

                                He grunted in irritation, but knew that the answer was true. Pushing the pain as far back into his mind as he could, he tightened his hold as he continued to run. His gaze darted from left to right, trying to distinguish the path his friend told him about from all the other identical patches of stone wall and crystal wiring.

                                “Approximately twenty-two point seven meters to go until the passage... Wait! I’m detecting something! Tri-Attack beams coming up fast on your left! Dodge them!”

                                “Got it,” he said as he lurched his sprinting body to the right, nearly slamming into the rock walls of the passageway. He watched in smug satisfaction as he saw several beams of red, yellow, and blue light go whizzing by him and fizzled into nothingness against the stone floor.

                                “Be careful! There’s an intersection ahead with sentinels on the left and right!

                                “Whatever you say...” he whispered as a plan began to formulate in his sun-deprived mind. He’d be ready for whatever was there.

                                “I’d tell you we’re doomed, but that only makes you get creative.”

                                He smiled as he reached the intersection. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw several sentinels on either side. He knew he literally only had one shot for this to work, if it didn’t … well, he didn’t want to be reminded again of the possible fates that awaited him if he failed here.

                                “This will be the death of both of us...”

                                “Here goes nothing!" he screamed as he leaped into the air, the momentum of his sprint carrying him forward. He vaguely saw the hailstorm of plasma energy passing underneath him, nearly burning tips of his feet as the sentinels fired at him.

                                The forces of gravity and friction eventually brought his flight to an end. He stumbled slightly as he tried to regain his balance and run at the same time. He nearly grinned as he escaped yet another death trap.

                                “Don’t think we’re out of this yet! There’s the path to your right! Take it now!”

                                He didn’t think twice, he immediately changed direction, his feet scraping against the stone. He tossed his heavy friend into the opening and then dived into the almost invisible hallway. He watched breathlessly as several bolts of plasma shot past it, fizzling as they harmlessly hit the stone walls.

                                “Don’t stop! Keep running! Keep running! Pick me up and run! Run!” He dashed over to his friend and hefted him into his arms. Looking down the dark hallway, he knew whatever was done there was infinitely more desirable than the plasma of the guards.

                                “I’ll never stop running. Not until I see the sun again.”

                                “The Kingdom … is weak. It’s a sandcastle built up over time by passing children, just waiting to be decimated by the advancing tide of time.”

                                “When will the tide come in and end our suffering? We have suffered too long underneath the tread of the Kingdom. When will the tide come in, master?”

                                “... It will come when the moon aligns and the arbiter has made his decision in our favor. When the king of the sand crumbles like his palace, that is when the tide will come in.”

                                “But what of the envoy to the false arbiter?”

                                “What about the envoy?”

                                “If his message is delivered, then the tide will freeze and retreat and we will never be free.”

                                “... Don’t worry. I have spoken to our benefactor concerning this. They have arranged everything. The envoy’s message will be lost in the tide.”

                                End of Chapter Ten

                                Author’s Notes:
                                I was able to introduce the final main character as well as a few minor ones which I had fun writing.
                                I really tried to put more “stuff” in this chapter, other than dialogue. And to that point, I think I succeeded a little bit. I’m pretty sure there isn’t as much of the dialogue as last chapter, and I made sure to put in “stuff” scenes.

                                And, regarding the last chapter, I was also able to expand on quite a few of the back stories of my characters, which should be a relief for some of you. I’m a little worried this chapter might seem “fillerish”, but I honestly tried to make it not so.

                                Well, other than that, I have an exciting bit of news! PMD: Overthrown has gotten its first piece of fan art! My eternal thanks to the extremely talented ~mystic-blat on DeviantArt for creating Leo and company.

                                Knightfall signing off...
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                                Old July 22nd, 2013 (10:25 PM).
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                                Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                                Unforeseen Consequences
                                  Join Date: Apr 2013
                                  Location: Sawgrass Town
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                                  Chapter Eleven: Intercession

                                  "As the violence spread, the villages and settlements scattered along the Borderlands were the first to fall to the Colonists' rage. The backwater towns of Treasure Town, Coldledge Village, Fern City, and Pokemon Square were among the final refuges to be overwhelmed. Survivors claim that the invaders targeted local leaders and significant individuals first before moving onto shops and guilds. Local law enforcement and guilds attempted to halt the invasion, but they only succeeded in slowing them down....

                                  Segment of report as seen in the Silver City newspaper, The Silver Trumpet.

                                  A bipedal Pokemon walked slowly through the grimy stone streets of Silver City, his large brown robe obscuring most of his features. His hidden face grimaced as he stepped in a pile of rotting substance that at one time might have been apples. Swiftly sidestepping another puddle of sludge directly beyond the previous decaying fruit, the Pokemon nearly tripped over a pile of purple ooze.

                                  “Watch it! Don’t ya go stepping in my food!” the pile of purple goo said, splattering filth from his body all over the figure’s robe as the Muk rose up from the surface of the roadway.

                                  The figure shouted an impressive string of expletives and rushed away from the mass of sentient ooze, leaving the Muk to his meal of week old fruit. Rounding a corner and stopping in front of a shop that seemed to be barely held upright by an amalgamation of decaying wood and metal wire, the figure leaned against the wall in an attempt to regain his composure. Yet another foul odor seemed to waft from the shop’s cracked, smoke-stained windows, causing the robed Pokemon’s sensitive canine nose to crinkle in disgust. Making sure the Muk hadn’t tagged along, the figure finally seemed to calm down.

                                  Shaking his head in an effort to ignore the smells and other unpleasantries, the figure pressed forward into the crowds of Pokemon, each struggling to survive on the underbelly of the glorified capital. The figure carefully looked around through the sea of less-than-savory, unwashed peasants, trying not to call attention to itself in an effort to get its bearings. It observed the many torn down propaganda posters supporting the war effort lying in the gutters along the street and the colorful footprint rune graffiti scrawled on every available inch of wall along the alley. Sections of the city’s resident newspaper were rapidly becoming its own level of pavement over the cobblestone as they were carelessly discarded.

                                  The figure pressed the thoughts into the deepest recess of his mind and left them there; it had come all the way down here for a purpose. The Pokemon weaved its way through the mob of citizens as it eyed its destination. Despite being roughly shoved by several of the inhabitants of these slums, the figure clutched its robe even tighter as it pushed aside an Octillery screaming about how the “demon on the throne” would trigger Judgment Day on them all. The crazed citizen waved its many tentacles around, erratically grasping at the edges of the figure’s robe in a futile attempt to stop the hooded Pokemon’s progress.

                                  After fording one more alleyway of odorous individuals selling wares that broke several royal laws simply by existing, the figure, somehow avoiding being sick from the indescribable artifacts on display, looked at the front of the small wooden building. Its single circular window above the double doors was still intact but seemed too covered in dirt and soot to be of any practical use.

                                  The figure extended a paw towards the door as if to open it, but stopped as soon as it reached the rough wooden surface. Foreboding thoughts raced through the Pokemon’s head as he tried to muster the courage to enter the building. Eventually, he shook his head and took a deep, calming breath and slowly pushed one of the ancient wooden doors open. The smell of faintly burning incense mixed with dust rushed through the open space, causing the disguised figure to cough as the particles raced for freedom outside the building. The Pokemon quickly walked inside and closed the doors.

                                  The interior of the building almost looked as if it was in another dimension and the simple wooden door was the portal. Neat rows of carved benches were arranged in a semicircle around a raised stage against the opposite wall. Delicate paintings and portraits of relics and ancient clashes between the three Dragons hung on the wood paneled walls at precise, ordered distances apart from each other.

                                  Incense was burning a small tray that hung low from the ceiling over the stage; its pungent aroma hung lazily in the air. That was not what captured his attention though. In front of the incense tray stood a large, floating, metallic bell. Its bluish coloring barely visible from the distance and the low amount of lighting the Luminous Orb shards embedded in the ceiling provided. Without turning around, the Pokemon spoke, his voice the deep ringing of a large bell.

                                  “It has been a long time since you have been here, has it not?” The cloaked figure slowly approached the Bronzong, walking in an aisle between the pews to the raised area in the front. Within a few strides, the figure was standing directly behind the psychic type. Raising a paw to its head, the figure drew back the hood of its robe, exposing its identity.

                                  “It has, Father. I’m-- I’m so sorry,” Nickolas said, hanging his head. The Bronzong spun in place to face the Lucario monarch, his bright red eyes glowing with surprise.

                                  “By Dialga’s roar, Nickolas. I cannot believe it! I thought I sensed incorrectly, but it is you!” he exclaimed joyously as he wrapped his flexible metal arms around the robed king. Nickolas failed to return the embrace and this was noticed by the Bronzong. The Pokemon coughed nervously and let go.

                                  “Eh-hem, yes, anyways. Nickolas, what brings you back to my humble temple? I feared that you had grown forever deaf to Dialga’s beckoning ever since … Alexandria...” the priest stopped, noticing the Lucario wincing at the mention of his lost queen.

                                  “My son, I know you. You are stronger than what you have shown recently. You must rise above the tribulations that have troubled you,” he said, trying to comfort the monarch.

                                  “Father Ruak, I-I’m not sure how I can do this. Everything … has fallen apart. Everything...” Nickolas whispered, his pride not making admitting defeat an easy task. Ruak let out a short, incredulous, rumble from within his hollow body.

                                  “Well, first off, cast off that filthy robe! There is no need for you to hide your face here! Here you are, a king, slithering around like a common field snake! How can you hope to rise if you embrace the floor?” Ruak shouted, its body emitting a deep ringing sound as he used his arms to rip the garment off Nickolas and immediately tear it into shreds.

                                  Using his psychic abilities to dump the remnants of the cloak into a nearby fireplace, the Bronzong faced the king once more. Nickolas continued to look down, but even in this state of sadness he retained some of his dignity. The thin band of gold that circled his head below his pointed ears and the black sash embroidered with a silver tidal wave that wrapped around his middle hailed him as a monarch instead of some commoner.

                                  “Now, my son, tell me. Why are you here?”

                                  “I … I’ve ... I feel so lost now, Father. Everything has been lost to me. First, the Falling Star and the disasters that hit the Kingdom, then, Ale--” Nickolas stammered, his voice breaking off at his wife’s name. Ruak placed his arm on the king’s shoulder.

                                  “Go on, say it. It is alright, son.”

                                  “Then, Alexandria’s … m-murder. S-she was only trying to help. T-they, they didn’t care! They murdered her! They killed her, Father! They killed her!” Nickolas screamed, balling his paws into fists and slamming one down on the wooden altar, said fist glowing with a mystic power. There was the muffled cracking of dried tree flesh and Nickolas slowly lifted his shaking paw from the newly created crater in the otherwise smooth surface. The Lucario took several calming breaths before realizing the damage he had involuntarily caused.

                                  “F-father Ruak. I--” Nickolas began as he formed some type of apology. The priest hushed him with a wave of his arm.

                                  “Do not worry, I can cover that up. Now, then, my son. Tell me, what else is troubling you?”

                                  “It’s not like you haven’t heard. Just stick your head outside and you’ll have heard everything. The Colonies, the war, money running out; everything is falling down...”

                                  The Bronzong suddenly floated up so that his red eyes were directly staring into the Lucario’s. “No, son. I want to hear from you. What is troubling you? Not the Kingdom. Once you conquer your own demons, then you can expel the demons that dwell in others,” Ruak demanded, forcing the king’s head to look him in the eye with a psychonic field. Unable to look away, Nickolas struggled to piece together the words.

                                  “My family is gone, Father. They’re gone. From life and from me. Father, I-I just don’t know what to do now.” Nickolas sat down on the steps leading up to the altar, allowing the Bronzong to float next to him.

                                  “Listen to me, Nickolas. I know it is hard for you, but you must think about your larger family. Every citizen under your rule are your sons and daughters. You must care for them as such. Do not selfishly lose your focus on two Pokemon that Dialga has chosen to reside with him in the Hidden Land.”

                                  “F-father, I--”

                                  “No. No more excuses. Nickolas, the strength of Dialga will carry you through this, but only if you call upon Him. Let go of the past and let Him handle the future.”

                                  “Father?” the Lucario asked as the Bronzong suddenly turned away and floated to the double doors of the church. As he opened a door to leave, he turned back to the distraught king.

                                  “I can not help you if you refuse to let go of the past. I will leave you to your thoughts now. Be it far from me to divine the future, but remember this, Nickolas: you must delegate, or else you will abdicate.” With the last word, Ruak exited the temple and closed the door behind him.

                                  Nickolas was left alone, and for the first time in his life, he felt truly abandoned. Looking up at the small silver statue of the Time Dragon on the left corner of the altar, Nickolas felt its ruby eyes peer inside of him as if searching his soul for every sin he’d ever committed.

                                  Turning himself around on the steps, Nickolas got on his knees and bowed forward, pressing his nose to the floor. It was an alien position for him, as he was accustomed to being the one on the receiving end of such actions. Taking a deep breath, the Lucario attempted to push every thought out of his head regarding his family. His wife, his father, his son, all forced from his head as he did something he hadn’t done in decade: he prayed.

                                  In an instant, his mind cleared. He knew no more of the woes of his family. He could not remember his wife’s name, or even if he had a son at all. Nickolas’s memories were purged for every shred of recognition of his loved ones until nothing remained, and he was perfectly fine with it.

                                  Camp New Rain: Evening

                                  “Is that all you’ve got?” Noah shouted as he deftly jumped to the side to avoid the nearly invisible punch Jay threw at him. Noah immediately swung to the side, letting the Riolu stumble for a few steps before kicking out Jay’s legs from beneath him. Leo winched as he saw his team leader fall face first into the loosely-packed sand of the sparring pit.

                                  Why Noah insisted on facing every one of them in a match was beyond the Charmeleon, but the Dewott was adamant about “initiating” them into the camp. Maybe this is why no one has stayed here, Leo wondered as the sounds of Jay heaving up a mouthful of sand reached his ears.

                                  “You done coughing your lungs up, yet?” the Dewott exclaimed excitedly as he jumped around the fallen Riolu, ready in case of the slim possibility of another round.

                                  “I--I give.” Jay said bitterly between coughs. Leo wasn’t surprised in the slightest; Noah had outmaneuvered Jay at every twist and turn. The blue otter seemed to have dodging punches and kicks down to a twisted science that he enjoyed a little too much; the grin on his face only reinforced that belief.

                                  As soon as Noah heard Jay’s surrender, he immediately relaxed his battle stance. Slapping his shell to his side as if it was a holster, he offered the Riolu a paw. His pride greatly bruised, Jay simply gave up any remnant of his dignity and accepted Noah’s assistance. Once Jay was on his feet again, Noah patted the Riolu on the back, and motioned for him to the sidelines of the mock arena.

                                  Leo watched attentively as Jay went and sat down against a wooden crate that made up the boundary of the sparring field. Noah went to one of the crates beside Jay and cautiously pried open the lid. After making sure no one that reported to Torrent was watching, he reached his paw inside, and after a minute of searching, he pulled out something that resembled an elongated, blue raisin. He then handed the dried fruit to Jay.

                                  The Riolu seemed to examine the food item for a minute, sniffing it inquisitively before deeming it safe enough to eat. He slipped the berry into his mouth and began munching on it. His body seemed to relax as the berry’s juices worked on repairing the bruises he sustained during the faux-battle.

                                  “Alright, so who’s next?” Noah asked, darting from Jay’s side to uncomfortably between him and Kelly, hooking his arms around her neck and over Leo’s shoulders. Kelly slipped out from Noah’s arm and backed up a few paces, leaving Leo solely to the Dewott.

                                  “Good on you, mate. Let’s get started!” Noah said as he suddenly pushed Leo headlong into the arena. Looking about the relatively small plot of sand, there wasn’t much too it now that he was in the center of it looking out. Other than the partial ring of crates that also served as seating, there were no boundaries at all to keep awry moves from soaring over and detonating somewhere within the encampment. Noah brought him back to the present as he began to lay down the “rules” he had explained to Jay earlier.

                                  “Alright, first, no use of items. Second, no cheating. Third, no hitting while the opponent is down.” Noah continued, rambling onwards through several more rules Leo wasn’t paying attention to. His thoughts were scrambling and trying to piece together what little knowledge of attacks he had and, more importantly, how to activate them.

                                  “...and finally, these rules are what you’d call ‘guidelines’. Begin!” Noah yelled as he sprinted forward toward the unsuspecting Leo. The Charmeleon barely caught a glimpse of the blue otter before Noah tackled him to the ground, sand spraying into the air and suffocating his tail flame.

                                  Leo’s eyes widened as his tail cried out for oxygen and in pain. He tried to dislodge the Dewott from on top of him, but Noah kept him pinned down effectively, restraining Leo’s arms and upper body. His tail, he felt, had begun to smolder, the flames reduced to an ember as the merciless grains of sand smothered them. Leo could hear its muffled screams as it writhed in airless agony.

                                  Leo’s vision rapidly approached pitch black, Noah’s grinning face in the center of his sight becoming the only thing he saw. His tail flame would have none of this. If it couldn’t burn outside, it decided to move its base of operations inside. Leo felt the vaguely familiar heat building up in his chest and felt the strength return to his limbs, even if only temporarily. He looked the Dewott directly in his black eyes and let the beginnings of a smile form on the edges of snout.

                                  Letting the adrenaline fueled strength take action, Leo kicked up his stumpy legs, pulled them under Noah’s body, and forced every ounce of strength into propelling his legs into the Dewott’s stomach. The otter involuntarily released his grip on Leo and sailed a several feet backwards.

                                  It was now Noah’s turn to wheeze as he quickly crawled backwards on the ground. Jumping up off the sand, Leo felt a wave of dizziness overtake him as he swung his tail around so he could see it. The sight was a strange one. Without a fire, all he could see were several hundred glowing pores clustered near the tip.

                                  The pores suddenly seemed to register the presence of oxygen, and swiftly burst back into existence. Their sudden resurgence thankfully not burning Leo’s claw and bringing him a sense of relief to know it was still functional. Looking back at Noah, he saw that he had just begun to rise from the sand. He still clutched his midsection as he let out a pained laugh.

                                  “Nice one, Leo. I’m glad you’re not the pushover you were last time!” he taunted as he straightened up to his full height. Pulling his twin scallops off his sides, he cautiously circled around the arena, Leo mimicking his movements. The Pokemon and the former human exchanged murderous glances at each other, sharp blue staring down deep black.

                                  Leo ended the stalemate. Surprising even himself at his own boldness, he leaped forward, his claws at the ready. Noah seemed to expect this as he sidestepped the Charmeleon at the very last moment.

                                  Leo wasn’t about to pull the same mistake his team leader did. Remembering what he had observed in the previous battle, Leo immediately twisted his body around, and kicked his right leg forward. His foot caught the Dewott’s leg just before it swept his own legs out from beneath him, the sudden halt of forward momentum rattling Noah and stabilizing Leo’s balance.

                                  That seemed to shatter Noah’s confidence, if only for an instant. Not sure as to what to do, Leo simply shoved his opponent away from him as he tried to buy himself some time to figure out his attacks. The almost mystical power that had aided his claws during the encounter with Nexus failed to show itself during this hour of need.

                                  Silently willing his claws to do anything, Leo began to panic as Noah came closer, his shells both glowing with the strange energy he lacked. Backing up until he felt the rough texture of a crate blocking his egress, Leo gulped as Noah closed the distance between them.

                                  Leo tried to focus the energy into his claws, but his mind wouldn’t cooperate. He knew there was only one way out of this mess that didn’t involve receiving a painful blast of water all over him. It was a long-shot, and had only worked for him once, but he knew he had to try it. Leo took a deep breath, trying to coax the heat within his chest to expand and rise once again.

                                  He couldn’t breathe any deeper, his lungs were beginning to burn, but he wasn’t sure if it was from the fire or lack of air. Rearing his head back, Leo shut his eyes and tried to force his attack to form.

                                  Noah darted towards him, his paws glowing with a soft pale light. Small droplets of water molecules appeared out of thin air and congregated into a sphere between the Water type’s forearms. Leo knew it was now or never: either his attack was going to pay off, or it wasn’t. The Charmeleon let loose his breath as the Dewott wound his right arm back and threw the energy-infused ball of water.

                                  Tiny embers scorched his throat as he belched forth a small volley of fireballs. As soon as they left his mouth, the pinpricks of fire adsorbed oxygen as they flared and grew to the size of Oran Berries. The spheres of burning air collided with the spheres of water. The entire arena was instantly blinded as explosions of steam sent shockwaves through the air, knocking both combatants to the sand.

                                  Clouds of gaseous water washed over Leo, causing an involuntary shiver to run down his spine as the vapor struck against his tail. He dug his claws into the soft sand until he felt the surface of compacted soil to push off on. Leaping to his feet, he twisted around in every direction. The steam had expanded and engulfed the small arena entirely.

                                  He was blind. The white and grey coloration of the mist prevented all vestiges of vision to lose meaning. Leo reached around and grabbed his tail, holding it in front of his as to wave away some of the clouded curtain of white mist with its heat. In hindsight, he would figure this probably wasn’t the smartest idea when facing a Water type.

                                  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a figure dart through the steam behind him. He instantly turned around and was met by a rough tackle from the Dewott. The remaining air in his lungs was forced out in a puff of black smoke as Noah forced him to the sand once more.

                                  Leo barred his teeth and let out a low growl that surprised even himself. He jerked his arm out of Noah’s grasp and mimicked the action on the Dewott, gripping his blue-skinned arm tightly under his claws. Noah’s smirk vanished like rain clouds over a desert as Leo shoved upwards and managed to flip the Dewott, reversing their roles.

                                  Leo let his instincts run his actions since they seemed to know what they were doing. He reared back his arm and brought down his elbow on Noah’s stomach. The instincts controlling his mind gave a small grunt of satisfaction as a muffled crack emitted from his struggling opponent’s ribcage.

                                  Tears began to form in the corners of Noah’s eyes. Leo relished every moment of the Dewott’s pain as he tried to tighten his hold on his opponent. Noah managed to squeeze his arm out from Leo’s claw for an instant. In that split second, he delivered a swift punch to the patch of scale-covered skin underneath his left eye. The attack was more than enough to shake the primal instincts’ control over Leo’s head.

                                  His claws slackened as Noah saw his opportunity to fight back. Leo wasn’t sure how the Dewott got his foot free, but he certainly felt it smash into his torso. Noah crawled to freedom as Leo tried to regain the sensation of breathing. Despite being minorly injured, Noah sure wasn’t acting anything like it. The Dewott leaped into the air and landed directly on Leo’s back.

                                  Before his mind could relay the signal to act, Noah had pulled one of his razor shells off his side and held it against Leo’s neck. Small droplets of something wet that Leo figured to be blood began to appear as Noah pressed the sharpened blade harder into the Charmeleon’s skin.

                                  “Give up. Now.” he hissed, fatigue making his voice waver with every syllable. Leo thought for a fraction of a second to get himself out of this before those errant thoughts were quickly stamped out by a slight jab from the Dewott. In the middle of the steam ridden arena, Leo lowered his claws and got to his knees, Noah’s blade pressed to his neck the entire time.

                                  “There. I win. Now, was that so hard?” he coughed as he pulled the blade away and offered Leo a paw up.

                                  Within the chambers containing the chronicles lost memories, long forgotten times, and deeds history had the audacity to censor from record, a certain ghost wandered amongst the volumes. The Pokemon muttered seemingly nonsensical strings of phrases and words together in an eerie chant of unknown language, occasionally switching his speech into the dull, modern way of vocalizing.

                                  Small motes of dust filled the stagnant air as they gently floated to the cracked stone tiles below; their particles stuck together and spun in the air as the troubled specter paced in midair. The chamber was his own private retreat, known exclusively to himself as a result of no small amount of curiosity-fueled exploration of the inhabited halls above. The origin of the ancient archive was unknown to even him, though he had heard rumors of The Creator itself installing a similar depository of wisdom somewhere within the world.

                                  “It doesn’t make sense. Nothing is adding up. It’s as if I am missing a variable in my equation … Something I am blind to...” the Pokemon pondered, comfortable that no one who could harm his plans was in attendance. The compact library was securely sealed from all directions, and he had added a few precautionary protections of his own design to set his paranoia to rest.

                                  His purple form floated over a bookshelf built of smooth, pitch-black obsidian; the archaic structure laid cracked upon the marble floor. Amongst the shattered obsidian shards were dozens of handsomely-bound books, their pages --stained light brown with the passage of eons-- lying open illustrating a Buizel’s memory of its first dive into a crystal clear pond. Another’s faded ink showcased an unfortunate Lapras calf’s last memory as it was caught in the malevolent undertow in the icy waters of the Snowbound Ocean. The violet ghost passed over the novels, flipping several of the pages in his haste as he worriedly paced over them.

                                  “Or... perhaps there is a variable that does not need to be ... Possibly. I require further proof before I can ascertain the truth ... Look at me. Heh!” the creature let out a forced laugh as to amuse the single-celled organisms residing in the chamber.

                                  “Here I am, the iudex, the judge, being overruled by the simple restrictions of a moral code that is not even my own! Did they complain when I was forced to … observe several candidates in my search to find the one least likely to annihilate all sentient life on the planet? Not when possibility of extinction hung within the balance,” the Mismagius ranted on to the microorganisms, who remained blissfully oblivious to his presence.

                                  He hovered over a chronicle that was stuck on the topmost shelf of the ornate chamber. Willing it out of its age-old position, the book flipped pages in midair as the Mismagius glanced over every second of a Wurmple’s life until it was viciously ripped apart by the beak of a hungry Swellow on its second day out from its egg.

                                  “He turned a blind eye when the fate of the world rested on my actions. Allowed me unlimited use of power. I have rewritten history more times than the sun has risen on this speck of life-encrusted rock in this void of space. I saved this world, I restored the Tower, I alone quelled the Years of Rage, I repaired the balance. Now, he does this to me?” He dropped the meaningless volume of memories to the ground of the archive.

                                  “I have worked for millennia ensuring the world remains. Does he not see? How couldn’t he? It goes against all logic. Why he restricts me is beyond my own fathomless reasoning. He did not limit me when the entirety of their civilization was … redacted from this world to ensure the survival of all Pokemon. So, why now, when so much more assuredly hangs in the balance?” The germs refused to offer up a viable answer. The Mismagius scanned the spines of the remaining books on the shelf, studying each one closely.

                                  “Reft, Grev, Yveren, Akra, Lessly, your memories are all entombed here within these pages. While deathly mundane, the stories are inspiring. Rather paradoxical. You all may have helped me find the missing variable. So ordinary, so obvious, it is odd how I failed to see this earlier.” He brushed past the novels, forcing several hundred year’s worth of dust into the air and float down to the floor. He looked down at the invisible germs once more, staring with contempt for his primal brethren who were blessed with functioning organelles.

                                  Suddenly a muffled scream penetrated the stale air of the library, forcing a rain of dust to fall from the ceiling and shelves.

                                  “Hmm... Well, this is unusual. I must investigate this further.”

                                  “I thought I said: no more questions. Get out or I will have your worthless carcasses swinging from the city gate by sundown.” the irritated Scyther said coolly, casually running his right scythe along his polished carapace. The crowd of inquiring Pokemon sent from the capital’s newspaper saw the council leader’s weapons at the ready and immediately sprinted from the premises of the mansion in fear for their lives.

                                  Darney sighed in content as the ornate gate that provided entry to his home clanged shut as the last overly curious journalist fled his less than humane interpretation of freedom of the press. After making sure that he was finally free from the bother of the lower class, the Scyther eased the mahogany doors shut with the flat edge of his blade.

                                  The interior of his apartment near the center of Silver was as lavishly decorated as the depleted Treasury would allow. The handsomely carved paneled walls lined every inch of space, covering the drab stone underneath it. Moreover, in front of the walls were either ornate marble statuettes or furniture imported from the craft shops of the Ember Archipelago.

                                  He stepped into the soft carpet that hugged the entirety of the floor, careful not to track any of the filth from outside onto it. A quick glance around the center living room primarily told him that nothing was amiss, but something made him do a double-take. The small, rounded, transparent crystal embedded into a small carved wooden pillar was not glowing the soft hue of blue it usually was, but rather an urgent shade of orange.

                                  Casually walking up to the gem, he tapped it with his blade. Immediately, a glowing orange sphere rose up from the smoothed crystal and slammed the chancellor in his face. Darney didn’t flinch at the sudden display of power from the gem as the blinding light subsided.

                                  “Darney.” a deep, tired voice resounded in the Scyther’s ears. Darney tensed, his face struggling to contain a grimace at the sound of the voice.

                                  “Master...I-I..” Darney struggled to speak. His throat snatched his words away from his mouth, leaving it only empty air.

                                  “You have not acted. Why haven’t you acted?” the voice inquired, an unheard anger slithered its way in between the words and into the Scyther’s heart. Taking a deep breath to chase the unsettling feelings away, Darney gathered what he hoped were the right words to appease his superior.

                                  “S-sir. In all due respect, I have acted. Just, I’m not done yet. These things take time to plan and put into motion. If it’s any consolation, I just put in the final pieces in place. All I must do is gain their trust and we can begin,” the Scyther said smoothly as the orange glow about his head rippled in displeasure. Darney gulped in fear as he heard his master’s rage-filled breathing through the psychic connection across the wide gulf of distance separating the two individuals.

                                  “I give you certain parameters that had to be met. You’ve proved yourself resourceful and competent in all your other doings, so I fully expect that you’ll find a way to ensure things keep moving on schedule. I cannot keep time at bay for much longer. Now go.” the voice within the sphere said, the chilling undertone clearly told Darney that their conversation was finished. The sphere then dissipated, leaving nothing behind but a somewhat distraught Scyther who now had a great many more things to accomplish in a greatly shortened time span.

                                  “As you wish, sir.”

                                  “Okay. We should--should being a relative term-- be safe--safe also being a relative term-- for the current time. I strongly advise that you sleep for at least five and one-third hours in order to restore your strength and mental functionality.” the wire heart said after performing a quick scan of the small maintenance room. Nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be near them, but their situation was far from normal.

                                  ”Heh, don’t kid yourself. Any vestige of this so-called ‘mental functionality’ was left behind with my reputation and my badge ...” the lost wanderer sighed as he gripped a leather pouch of water and took a deep swig, ”Though you do have a point, I do need sleep. Where would I be without you?”

                                  “Dead.” The wanderer let out a small chuckle, a rare occurrence in this labyrinth.

                                  “Besides the obvious, is what I meant.” he said as he opened a small sealed ceramic jar of slightly stale beans. His mouth watered for the small morsel they’d manage to pilfer from the massive subterranean greenhouses on the levels above. The beans might have been old, but he knew his body would be able to extract some sort of nutritional value from them.

                                  “I was just being realistic. I suggest you consume your food items fifty-percent faster. The sentinels are still on patrol, though they are not within range of us yet.”

                                  The larger Pokemon leaned against the uncut stone wall in exhaustion while shoving a mouthful of beans into his mouth. His prediction was correct, they were very nearly expired, but it was better than going yet another day without a meal. The beans felt like rubber as he chewed them, trying to detect any smidgen of the flavor they once possessed. He watched as his companion turned exactly one-hundred and seventy-nine degrees every eleven seconds as he scanned the surrounding hallways.

                                  “Ahh, there you are.”

                                  The relaxing Pokemon shot up, swallowing his mouthful of legumes with a painful gulp. He swiftly glanced down the two adjoining hallways that lead out of the room. Nervous sweat broke out on his brow. He had heard it. The soft voice. They were coming. She had found them.

                                  He jolted into action, haphazardly stuffing his meager meal into his worn satchel. Snatching his few possessions off the floor, he swung the bag’s strap over his shoulder. His companion had no time to react before he scooped him up in his arms and sprinted out of the room as fast as he could.

                                  “What are you doing? What is it?” the wire heart shouted as he squirmed in his grip. The wanderer didn’t slow, instead he continued to run. His panicked gaze shooting down darkened paths and alleys that lead deeper into the maze. Yet even over the shouts of his conscious, his ragged breathing, and the rhythmic clicking of his feet on the stone, he heard them. The sentinels.

                                  ”The horrid tones compose a ghastly melody of betrayed hopes and shed tears, as their ominous orchestra breathes fitfully the music fueled by fear,” he whispered to himself as he clutched his friend tighter. His mind had put a cruel twist on a poem he had read on the topside in his long forgotten youth, the words becoming somehow relevant to his situation.

                                  “Stop! There’s nothing chasing us! Put me down and stop!” his friend ordered, wriggling even harder in his arms.

                                  “You don’t understand. I heard her ... “ he said, his voice barely audible. He stole a quick glance behind. The hallway was deserted, but he knew better than to trust his sight. He looked back down the path ahead of him. If his vague knowledge of this path was correct and not another painful trick of his brain, then he knew he’d be faced with an obstacle soon enough.

                                  “What are you doing? The path! It’s broken! You’ll kill us both!” The wanderer shook his head in sharp disagreement.

                                  “No! We can’t go back! They’ll find us for sure!” he yelled as his eyes saw it. Ahead in the pitch-black hallway, a darker shade of shadows lurked, indicating that the rock had fallen.

                                  “For the last time: there is no one after us! You’re having an episode again! Ian, stop now, before it’s too late! Ian, are you listening?” the wired heart’s words fell on deaf ears as the Pokemon who carried him continued to run without hesitation towards death.

                                  He’s wrong this time. He has to be wrong. I can make it. I can make it. I will make it! I have to, his thoughts calmly reassured him, even while his partner screamed for him to halt. He had to trust his mind, just this once he knew it wasn’t lying. Just have to time this right.

                                  “You really are crazy then …” No, I’m right this time. I heard her. She’s found us.

                                  He didn’t slow. He gathered his strength and tensed himself. He felt the floor vanish from underneath his stride as he leaped into the empty void. His partner screams echoed throughout the hall as they both sailed through the dark air.

                                  The void was not as it seemed. Cruel, unforgiving deception lay just below the invisible surface. When the truth falls from its lofty perch, it must meet the deception that waits below. Deception, the very thought of the word sent doubts spiraling into his heart.

                                  The stone of the broken passage greeted them as a normal stone should greet any falling piece of organic matter: with a hard landing. The wanderer felt piercing fire shoot up his right leg as he collapsed to the floor. A clatter on the path ahead told him that his friend had made the landing as well.

                                  “You idiot. Now look what you’ve done! Your leg!” the smaller Pokemon screeched. Shaking itself off, it floated to the injured Pokemon and scanned his leg, seeing what possible treatment options were available with their limited resources. According to the scan results, the fracture was worse than he initially thought, but it didn’t break the skin, so setting it would be slightly easier.

                                  “N-no. I did it for a reason. I know what I’m doing. I had to leave that place at any costs. She--” the Pokemon grasped his leg with his claws as his friend examined them, the pain forcing him to shut his mouth to muffle his screams. Gritting his teeth, he dug his claws into the stone floor as his companion pressed down hard on the abnormal bump on his limb.

                                  It felt like his teeth would shatter from the amount of pressure he put on them as the lump of raised skin sunk lower at an agonizingly slow pace. Tears welled up in his eyes as his body spasmed involuntarily in pain. After what seemed like an eternity, the malformed bump finally fell into place with a swift snapping noise from the bone.

                                  “We need a splint to keep it in place, though we don’t have the materials with us at the moment. Once we get back to the storage room back there--” the smaller Pokemon observed as he was suddenly interrupted.

                                  “No! We can’t go back there! She found us!” The smaller Pokemon huffed, the emotion program within him uploading critical amounts of generated anger into his mind.

                                  “Ian, do you not recall that you are constantly hallucinating visions and sounds alike? It’s complete--”

                                  “Employee number: Two. Eight. Six, you have been acknowledged. Your recent actions were observed to fall under non-standard mal-compliance ordinances. Assume the surrender position. Lie on your stomach with your arms by your side and please wait for the escort units to retrieve you for interrogation.” The voice, as emotionless and cold as frozen steel, reverberated throughout the abandoned hallways as well as within the two Pokemon on the floor.

                                  “Over my dead body.” he growled. He clutching at his injured leg and set his teeth as he quickly rose to his feet, the pain shooting fiery rods into his nerves. He awkwardly shuffled along the wall, gingerly lifted the leather strap of his satchel over his neck, and hefted his friend up from the ground.

                                  “Your leg! Ian, how do you expect to run--” Without warning, the darkened walls lit up. Blue energy coursing through the wires of transparent crystal embedded within the stone. His eyes temporarily blinded by the flash of light, Ian limped toward the vague darkened outline of yet another hallway.

                                  Inches from relative safety in the dark passage, a stone slab slammed down from above, conjured from elsewhere in the labyrinth and placed there by the psychic energy. Ian crashed into the blockade, promptly throwing him backwards. Ian hit the wall with a sickening thud and slid to the ground as he felt the bone inside in his leg shift again with a muffled crack as it pierced the surface of his skin. He didn’t dare look at his leg; he had already felt the warm liquid well up from the wound and flow across his leg.

                                  “H-how bad?” he asked over the groans of grating stone and metal as the hallway sealed itself in forced lockdown. His friend failed to give a response, instead staring unblinking at the now-rising slab of rock. Above the thunderous screeches that moved the wall, Ian could clearly hear the unmistakable, unceasing beeping of the sentinels. From his position slumped against the wall, he could see the bright blue glow of their eyes as the slab between them separated.

                                  “Vertex … how many?” Ian whispered, his voice cracking from the strain he’d placed on it a few moments ago. His companion swiveled one-hundred and eighty degrees, quickly performing a rudimentary scan.

                                  “Nothing we haven’t evaded before. Even with your new … hindrance, we can still get through them.” Ian watched in pain as Vertex spun his two oval-shaped legs, charging electricity with every complete revolution. Energy cracked around his smooth body as he focused the power into his beak. Vertex took aim, measuring the exact trajectory he would need to destroy his immediate enemies. He just needed a little more time to charge and he would be ready to do his worst.

                                  As if his thoughts screamed to the fates that their luck was still working, the slow-moving segment of wall suddenly swung upwards, breaking through the centuries’ worth of dirt and resistance. Vertex backed up in shock as sentinels swarmed into the sealed off hallway. His charge was still a few seconds away from complete, and a premature firing would most likely corrupt his operating system, essentially freezing his mind forever within the last few seconds of life.

                                  The sentinels swiftly surrounded both him and Ian, as the two suspects in question looked desperately for an escape route. The Pokemon were barely aware, all relying on the orders of their superior to function. Something-- most likely his fear processor-- made Vertex shiver deep inside, thinking that he used to be one of them not that long ago. Regardless of sentience or not, they were all closing in on them and had orders to arrest them both.

                                  One of the sentinels started glowing as it turned its triangular legs around in circles against its polyhedral body. Electricity joyously leaped between the sentinels, ecstatic to finally be free of their hosts’ compact bodies. In its moment of immense elation, the energy failed to notice that it was being forced onto the blocky, triangular beaks of the drone guards.

                                  Milliseconds before the drones received the signal to unleash their offensive maneuver, a flash of dull green flew past Vertex’s head from behind him. The strange orb spiraled in the air as it flew towards the advancing line of sentinels. Its spherical shape impacted on a guard and deflected upwards towards the ceiling. It detonated and the room exploded.

                                  Vertex tried to stabilize himself as the hallway shook, rocks cascaded down from the ceiling in a horrifying chorus as they slammed onto the floor below. Stones the size of the fabled jewels of Waterfall Cave rained down around Vertex, smashing more than one unsuspecting guard unit with an explosion of binary code.

                                  Microscopic stone fragments blew through the small passageway like a storm as the cries of the Porygon echoed through the dust-choked air. Vertex slowly turned his body around, scanning the aftermath of the blast with every observation he made. His scanners easily detected his friend’s outline pressed against the wall, even through the layer of powderized boulder. Ian was chuckling softly as he lifted his new grey-colored face, some dust sliding off in clumps.

                                  “Well … that was fun, wasn’t it? Heh...” Ian said as he slumped against the wall once again as fatigue overtook him. His tired frame let loose a ragged sigh as tried put on a happy facade.

                                  “You should not have done that. Yes, you saved my life, but in your condition … it could kill you.” Vertex said as he hovered over to his downed friend. Ian gave a weak laugh as he pressed his claws against his wounded leg, eliciting a renewed flow of crimson blood from the opening around the shattered bone.

                                  “Well, if I hadn’t used my Energy Ball, then it wouldn't have mattered. They would have captured us and I would have died of light deprivation. In speaking of that, let’s get out of here. I just have to do something first,” Ian said as he suddenly grabbed the small protrusion of bone, barred his teeth, and forced it downwards back into his body. Blood mixed with the grime coating Ian’s skin as Vertex let out a trill of alarm. The crimson liquid poured from the wound as blood vessels and capillaries were shattered by the uncommon bone movement.

                                  Ian’s claws released their grip on his leg as his body contorted in spasms of agony and he started screaming at the top of his lungs. Vertex tried to ease his suffering, but lacking usable digits on his limbs, he was resorted to only one option. Using some of the energy that hadn’t already dissipated from his charged up attack, he closed his eyes, and administered a small shock to his friend’s body. He told himself that it was for his friend’s benefit, but the thought continually lost ground in the battle. The electricity stunned the spasming muscles in their throws. Ian’s body froze and suddenly fell limp as a rag doll.

                                  Vertex slowly opened his eyes, afraid of what he would see. His processor nearly shorted out as he took in the horrifying sight in front of him. His friend’s body was covered in grey dust and smeared with dried, clotted blood on every inch of skin below his neck. The spore cap that fused into his head was bent in the back and nearly wilting from dehydration. His entire body seemed to have faded as the months without direct sunlight took its toll on his appearance, health, and mind.

                                  As long as he had known the Breloom, Vertex has remained by his side even throughout the breakdowns. His condition continually grew worse as the breakdowns came more frequently. The photosynthetic cells in his skin gradually died off more and more until the vibrant shades of green and red pigment faded away until only a fraction of it remained.

                                  Vertex sighed as he used his beak to nudge open the fallen satchel and carefully took out a dirtied piece of cloth that might at one time have been a scarf. Balancing the cloth on his stubby appendages, he thanked his creators that his body was coded to be flexible. He slowly looped the scarf around the wound, stemming the blood flow slightly.

                                  “I-Ic--” Ian stuttered, excess saliva gargling his words.

                                  “Shut up! You can’t exert any more energy, or else.... Just be quiet, Ian!” Vertex snapped as he used his beak and oval-shaped wings to clumsily tie the knot of the makeshift bandage.

                                  “N-n-no. I-Ic—Ice! Regice!” That was the last thing Vertex heard before a low rumbling filled the room and the temperature dropped down to zero. A monumental golem floated into the room from the hallway. Its smooth, clear, faceted surface showed the pitiful reflections of the two smaller Pokemon.


                                  Camp New Rain: Dusk

                                  Night had nearly secured its place in the sky after overthrowing the sun’s régime. The waning moon-- no more than a crescent-- floated like a yellow gem in the orange and black skies over the military encampment. Luminous Orbs on tall wooden poles were set up by duo of a Machoke and Rhydon around the camp, casting their mystical blue light down on the denizens of the land below.

                                  Leo watched it in a tranquil trance as its golden face highlighted the shadows produced by the setting sun. His red, stumpy legs swung from the wooden bench he sat on as he watched Noah talk his way to the front of the meal line for the fourth time tonight as he got them their food.

                                  Noah was an oddity. From what Leo could see, the Dewott could shift from being an easy-going, sarcastic slacker, to an enthusiastic, serious fighting partner in a matter of seconds. Leo would have almost thought it impossible for someone to change so rapidly, but he still recalled the memories of what the Mismagius had done. The impossible never really was.

                                  He thought back over the last hour as he waited with Jay and Kelly for Noah. After the skilled Dewott had bested the two males of the team, he quickly ate an Oran raisin, and challenged Kelly to a duel. Leo felt a small smile creep up the sides of his mouth. Kelly had Noah paralyzed on the ground within ten seconds of the start of the match. The loss broke him for a few moments; he couldn’t talk or move, but that might have been the paralysis.

                                  What was that old phrase? Twice the pride, double the fall? Leo shrugged, whatever it was, it fit the situation perfectly. He also remembered how Kelly didn’t seem too excited with her win over Noah. He made it a note to ask her about it if he got the chance. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he failed to notice the group of Pokemon approaching them.

                                  “I don’t believe it. Could it be? The legendary saviors of Spore Meadows?” asked a familiar voice, dripping with sarcasm.

                                  Leo twisted around in his seat to see who the newcomers were, even the fatigued Jay and sullen Kelly turned around in their seats. A large green reptile walked up to them, flanked by a white-furred beast with a crescent blade sticking out of its head and a dusted-green dragon.

                                  “Blade? Elliot? Sonic? Is that you?” Leo asked, thankful that his memory had dredged up those names from the black abyss of his mind. The Grovyle smiled and clapped a claw down on the Charmeleon’s shoulder.

                                  “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I honestly didn’t expect to see you lot here of all places. How’d you get here?” he asked as he and his teammates took a seat on the opposite side of the wooden table. At that moment, however, Noah came back balancing four wooden bowls in his arms, his stride wobbling as he tried to keep them from spilling all over the ground.

                                  “Can I get some help here?” Noah asked as one bowl slipped out of his hands. He quickly bent down and caught it before it hit the ground and spilled. The Flygon quickly flew over to the struggling Dewott and relieved him of two of the wooden bowls.

                                  Once he reached the table, he quickly slid a bowl down to Kelly as Sonic passed his two to Leo and Jay. The bowl wobbled on its bottom rim as it settled in front of Leo. Its amorphous contents sloshed around with each movement of its container.

                                  Leo stared at the almost sickly green fluid in front of him. Leaning in close to it, he could swear that it hissed at him. His stomach tied itself in a knot at the thought of eating the revolting meal. What is this? he thought as he poked a claw at the substance, eliciting another angry gurgle from the goop.

                                  “Noah?” he questioned. Noah took the bowl down from his mouth, and finished swallowing the last of the green mass of “food”. The Dewott turned to face him.

                                  “What exactly is this stuff?” he inquired as he saw Blade down his own bowl of the substance, same with the Absol. Sonic seemed just as curious as he was concerning the substance. He, Kelly, and Jay also awaited the Dewott’s response.

                                  “Yeah, I know it looks nasty –that’s just how Ramses, our Yamask cook, makes it—but I tell you it’s really good. Ramses says it’s a old recipe from his homeland. It’s basically a whole bunch of Lum, Pecha, Oran, and Cheri berries mashed up and boiled together. I’m not sure why it’s green like this, but it tastes amazing,” Noah elaborated while pointing at their uneaten bowls, “Go on, try it!”

                                  Leo looked around. Neither Kelly, Jay, nor Sonic were making any moves toward their bowls. He sighed, he knew it would come down to this. He took a deep breath as he clasped the bowl with both sets of claws. He still wasn’t sure of what deities ruled this world, but he silently prayed to each and every one of them that he didn’t regret this later.

                                  Under the watchful eyes of his teammates, Leo lifted the bowl to his mouth. He could hear the vibrant green goo taunt him, as if it said “eat me, I dare you.” Shaking his head, he gulped as he tipped the bowl’s contents into his mouth.

                                  His pupils became like dinner plates. Instead of the revolting sludge he expected, waves of wonderful flavor dive-bombed each individual taste bud. Flashes of spicy Cheri, sweet Pecha, and something cool he suspected to be Lum took their turn in playing their symphony of taste on his tongue.

                                  Before he knew it, he had gulped down the last of the meal. He slammed the bowl on the table and took a deep, satisfied breath. His teammates shrugged as they tentatively raised their bowls and ate. Sonic had already finished his meal ration with a loud belch. Leo watched as Jay and Kelly’s faces as they experienced the same blast of flavor as he did.

                                  “You weren’t kidding, Noah. That tasted amazing!” Jay exclaimed. Leo silently agreed while wishing that his bowl would magically refill, but to no avail. Noah laughed and collected everyone’s bowls and went off to the larger tent that housed Ramses’ cooking operation.

                                  “Can we get back to my question, please? What are you guys doing here?” Blade inquired once again, leaning across the table towards them. Leo looked at the three Pokemon. Elliot’s white figure sat still to the right of his leader, his stoic gaze seemed to pierce into Leo’s heart. The Flygon seemed just the opposite. His red eyes carefully darted about, seeming to take in every detail of his surroundings. If Leo didn’t know any better, he would have said Sonic looked just as lost as he felt.

                                  Shrugging his shoulders, Jay began to tell of their odyssey from the two nights previous. Blade and company listened attentively as they heard about Gear’s murder and Richelieu’s takeover. How the Magnemite had forced them away from their base, how Icarus had found them, and how Noah had ambushed them in the field.

                                  Elliot asked questions in an attempt to clear up the muddied details of that night, but no one, it seemed, knew enough to answer them confidently. The Absol huffed in contempt as he muttered something to Blade. The Grovyle quickly shot a glace over to Leo before returning to Elliot. Blade nodded and said something to the Absol that made him quickly get up and leave the table. When asked about what the exchange was about, Blade mearly laughed.

                                  “Elliot had asked if it was more than a coincidence that in the days after we left town Gear turns up dead. I told him it was suspicious and to go ask General Torrent about it. That’s all, nothing to worry about,” he had said when he recounted the conversation to them minutes later.

                                  After that, the teams parted ways, each going to their own tents as the nightly curfew was fast approaching. The group walked along the pathways between the stacks of crates and tents, passing Pokemon along the way. Icarus bid them goodnight as he flew overhead on his way to his shift as camp sentry. A small blue and white squirrel energetically asked Noah who his new “friends” were before zipping off on all fours past them, not even giving Noah a chance to respond.

                                  Despite the encounters, they arrived at Noah’s tent shortly before the Orbs were shut off for the night. The interior of the tent was just as Leo expected it to look, though he had to admit that it was more spacious on the inside then the exterior had lead him to believe. Four small hammocks were set up side by side, three of them barring evidence of their recent construction and placement. A small Luminous Orb sliver hung from a string from the ceiling of the tent. Noah tapped it lightly with his paw and instantly the entire room was flooded with a bright blue glow that slowly dimmed down to a soft radiance.

                                  After all four Pokemon had finished rubbing the spots out of their eyes, they each climbed into one of the hanging beds. Leo was comforted when he found that it felt just like the ones they had abruptly left back at their base. Kelly gingerly placed her forepaws into the hammock and tried to hold it steady as she jumped into it. Her bed swung wildly like an enraged Tauros as it threatened to dump Kelly back onto the ground. Wobbling on her four legs, she was slowly able to balance the hanging cot and ease herself into a comfortable sitting position.
                                  “So tell me,” Noah began as he leaned forward on his hammock, “what’s your guys’ story? I’m not talking about how you got here. What did you all do before things went wrong?”

                                  Jay shot a quick look towards Leo and Kelly as he tried to find some approval to tell the Dewott their story. The Jolteon nodded as Leo simply shrugged his shoulders. Jay took this as a go-ahead signal and started to talk.

                                  “Well, it all began when I first arrived at Loyalty Square....”

                                  It had been a few hours since Jay’s retelling of their adventures to that point. Leo was zonked out on his hammock; Jay’s story, combined with the fatigue from his battle with Noah earlier left him completely exhausted. The Riolu had went into excruciating detail with the menial chores he and Kelly did in the short weeks before they took the job to patrol around the Field. It was a dull prattle on the small-paying jobs they did each day: cleaning windows in the cafe, finding an Oran Berry that fell down a well, repainting the wall of the guild after anti-Kingdom graffiti had been painted on it. These jobs made both Noah and Leo’s eyes droop just at their descriptions.

                                  Leo wasn’t sure if Noah stayed awake to hear Jay’s explanation on how they found Leo and how everything snowballed from there, but he wasn’t too concerned. He said a small prayer for one night of uninterrupted, dreamless sleep, but he had little hope that it would be answered.

                                  After what seemed like an eternity, Leo opened his eyes. He stood in a massive stone amphitheater. The long-abandoned spectator seats still seemed to echo the roars of the crowd as the frozen wind swung its biting sword over the structure. Leo’s tail wavered in the wind as chills ran down his body.

                                  He gazed around the stage he was upon, much like the seats, the stone was cracked and worn from centuries of use. Looking up at the sky, it took the Charmeleon a moment for him to realize that there was no sky. The void where the sky was supposed to be was an open abyss, black as night and, like space, void of stars to decorate this tapestry.

                                  Leo shook his head, he couldn’t afford to be distracted by the scenery. This was just another test; he was sure of it. That damned Mismagius was watching him from somewhere in the shadows of the ruins, waiting to see what he would do next. He clutched his claws into a fist. He was tired of being a lab rat to this mad scientist. Despite the all-too-vivid memories of the unnatural powers he’d seen the ghost use on him, he allowed his rage to gain control.

                                  “Where are you? Tell me! I know you’re here! There’s no use hiding, you cowardly excuse of a Pokemon!” he screamed as the amphitheater resounded a haunting echo of his words, as if passively mocking him in his fruitless endeavor. The wind suddenly howled in response, swinging its sword directly into the Charmeleon, knocking him off his feet and forcing him to tumble backwards several feet on the stage. The wind swirled its misty cloak around in triumph, the folds of the garment forming a small sphere in the air above the stage.

                                  From within the ball of wispy clouds, two all-too-familiar golden eyes flashed once before the sphere dissipated, leaving the floating figure of the bane of Leo’s entire existence. Looking up at the Pokemon from the ground, he showed his fangs and produced a growl from deep within his throat.

                                  “Now, now, that’s no way to treat a guest, is it? You are being a horrible host, you know. It was most rude of you to call me all the way out here only to make these primal noises at me,” he said with a smirk as he hovered far above the Charmeleon. Despite the distance between them, he could hear his foe with complete clarity. Leo narrowed his eyes; he didn’t believe it for a moment. The Mismagius noticed this almost instantly.

                                  “Do not give me that look. I did not do this to you. I am remaining true to my word as long as you hold up your end of the bargain. Your mind did this to you. Why? I do not know. Your mind is perhaps finally … what is the common expression? ‘Losing it’, I believe,” the ghost reasoned, simply shrugging his shoulders. Leo slowly got up from the ground, convinced that the sadistic Pokemon wouldn’t murder him just yet.

                                  “You’re telling me that you’re only here because I asked where you were? You expect me to believe you?” Leo asked, crossing his arms in disbelief.

                                  “I expect that you will do as I say. But, yes, you must believe that this is your own doing and not my own creation. There is no test at the moment. Not for you... Now, if that’s all, I really must be going...” He didn’t know what compelled his mouth to say it, nor would he ever fully understand it, but it happened regardless. He knew it was now or never.

                                  “Wait!” Leo shouted, holding out a claw towards the Mismagius. The fiend turned back towards him.

                                  “Yes? What is it you want, mortal? It is expedient that I return to my dealings immediately.”

                                  “Why are you doing this to me?” Leo asked. He watched as the Mismagius slowly drifted lower to the ground until he was only an arm’s length away from the Charmeleon. Leo could almost reach out and touch his thin purple frame, but, seeing how he liked use of his hand, he refrained from doing so.

                                  “Oh, Leo, those facts are strictly confidential. I wish I could tell you, as it would make my job infinitely easier, but alas, I cannot. Any other questions? You might as well ask since I’m already here.”

                                  “Who are you?” he inquired as he watched the creature’s eyes flash with amusement.

                                  “Hmm, a good inquiry. Only one other of my projects has ever asked he that before. I am the watcher and the interceder. I work for those who can afford my services, since so-called ‘divine intervention’ is now forbidden. My name has been lost to the centuries, and I see no reason to bring it up now,” the Mismagius answered, staring Leo straight in his eyes. He gulped slightly, and the other Pokemon smirked as he saw the involuntary show of fear.

                                  “W-what role do I play in all this?” Leo asked as the Mismagius began to slowly fade from view. “Please, tell me!” he was begging on his knees now, the stone digging painfully into his scales. He didn’t care, he wanted an answer. He needed it.

                                  “There is a remarkable work of literary prose from a civilization long, long ago in another time: ‘Theirs not to make reply. Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die...’ And so it shall be for you, Leo. I really must be going, so wake up, Leo. Wake up and leave me alone.”

                                  With those final words, the void exploded in a flash of blinding white light that engulfed all. Leo’s eyes were forced open as his vision was met with the dull green cloth that made up the tent ceiling. Spots danced in his vision as his mind tried to process whatever the Mismagius had told him. I’m not crazy, I can’t be.

                                  After staring at the ceiling and apparently unable to coax sleep to return to him, he leaned forward in his hammock, and pulled his tail up from over the side. Using it once again as a torch, he saw that it was shortly before dawn outside due to the pale grey light that shone through the tent flaps.

                                  Looking around, he also saw that even though Jay and Noah were still sleeping soundly-- the Riolu snoring slightly as he slept sprawled across his hammock-- Kelly’s hammock was seemingly empty. He let out a quick yawn as his body finally began to function normally once more. He tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes with the smooth sides of his claws as he rolled off the hammock. He remembered too late that the bed was a few feet in the air, and his front greeted the ground with a thud.

                                  Only slightly dazed by the incident, Leo laboriously used his arms to push himself up off the ground. Once he got his legs under him once again, he listened for any signs that Jay or Noah had stirred from their sleep. The Riolu continued to snore softly as he curled into a circle in the center of his hanging bed. Leo turned to his left and observed any change in Noah. The Dewott seemed unaffected by Jay’s nocturnal noise and continued to sleep.

                                  Slowly walking on the tips of his feet, he made his way across the small tent and ducked under the flaps; he held his tail once again to light his way and to keep the flame from brushing up against the flammable cloth. He emerged in one of the narrow rows between their tent and several dozen others. He was so close to the other tents that, as he walked through the narrow “alleyway” he could hear various forms of snoring. Do they all know that they snore? He wondered as another thought came to him, Do I snore? Is that why Kelly woke up?

                                  He pondered it as he tried to keep his tail from being the cause of a camp-wide inferno. He had never put much thought into it, there was always something else demanding the attention of his mind. He never had any time to observe his new body for any quirks or interesting details after his initial inspection back in the Fields. That day felt so long ago to Leo, yet he knew that it had barely been a week since that fateful and immensely confusing day.

                                  Absorbed in his thoughts, Leo vaguely noticed that he was passing the center courtyard of the camp and one of the poles with an activated Luminous Orb propped on top of it. Leo looked around; the entire camp was bathed in a dull grey light once more, but this time, the light was growing brighter, little by little aided by the rising sun on the eastern side of the camp.

                                  He continued to walk past the center yard and into a maze of more tents and wooden crates piled high upon each other to look like temples to heathen gods. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he simply let his feet move forward toward the sun that was almost ready to poke its golden head above the far off horizon.

                                  Just as he reached the wall of tall grass that marked the camp’s border, he saw her. Kelly sat on her haunches on a small embankment of dirt that rose slightly above the grass; the small wooden platform built on top of it apparently marked it as an unoccupied lookout post. Leo carefully walked up the mound, trying not to make noise even as his claws sent dirt clods rolling down in a miniature avalanche. Once he finally made it to the top, he went forward and suddenly sat down next to her on the edge of the platform. Kelly must have been wrapped up in her thoughts as she nearly jumped a foot in the air when Leo plopped down beside her.

                                  “Wha-? Leo? What are you doing up?” she said in a hoarse whisper as she kept herself from raising her voice in surprise. Leo didn’t answer her immediately, instead he let his vision take in the view of the first dim rays of the sun starting to shine out of the darkness of the night.
                                  Leo shrugged his shoulders, he didn’t know what to say to her. Oh, the demon that haunts my very thoughts decided to visit me again tonight. Business as usual. You?

                                  “I had a bad dream. How about you?” he said with a sigh. Well, it’s not a complete lie. That dream was horrible. That thought was the catalyst for what became a chain reaction of thoughts, I’ve been lying this whole time. Kelly shifted her front paws in discomfort, as if she was unsure of what to say.

                                  “I had a bad dream too … it was of my parents... “ she admitted softly seemingly worried someone else would eavesdrop on their conversation. Leo was surprised, in the short time he had known her, he hadn’t even come close to hearing anything concerning his teammates’ past lives.

                                  “What happened? I’ve had my share of nightmares, so I can try to relate,” Leo said, trying to be as sincere as he could be. He was genuinely intrigued, this was a chance he wasn’t going to miss out on. She seemed to grimace slightly at his question, but she took a deep breath.

                                  “I--I don’t know if you would understand,” she faced away from him, “it’s something that honestly scared me, Leo.” He placed a claw on her shoulder in an effort to provide some sort of comfort.

                                  “It was just a nightmare, Kelly. I’m sure that--” he began as she quickly cut him off.

                                  “No, you don’t understand. It scared me, Leo. I don’t get scared. I’m always the calm and collected one, but back there … I couldn’t do anything,” Kelly confessed, her voice wavering on the verge of tears. Leo had no idea how to react to this; he didn’t recall his past self being an expert on this in any means.

                                  “Well, I can say that I’ve had nightmares like that. It feels as if your entire being is not yours to control. Like someone or something is using you,” Leo said as he tried to relate with his teammate. The Jolteon faced him once more, tears running down the sides of her face.

                                  “You don’t know what it’s like to have your parents tell you you’re worthless! Having them scream that they wish they’d never had you in the first place! To hear them laugh when you’re in pain! You don’t know, Leo!” she screamed as she suddenly bent her head down and let out a hard sob. Her entire body seemed to shake as she tried to breathe, but she wasn’t able to get enough to calm herself down. Leo looked around, panicking. He hadn’t meant to make her start sobbing, all he wanted was some way to make her feel better. Now, yet again, he had somehow made things worse. He searched his mind for something to do or say, but he didn’t know. He couldn’t remember.

                                  “Hey …” he said, putting his claw on her back, “at least you have parents to have nightmares about.” That got her attention. Though her face was still a small river of tears, she looked up at him. Leo wasn’t an expert on reading facial expressions of Pokemon, but he had a feeling she wanted him to continue.

                                  “I don’t even remember my parents. They could be alive or dead, and I would never know. In fact, they could be searching for me right now, or they could be celebrating that I’m gone. I don’t remember, Kelly. I can’t remember,” Leo said, emotion beginning to spill forth from his mind’s floodgates. The Jolteon stood stock-still, her expression showed that in the last few days, she had forgotten that he had amnesia.

                                  “Leo. I … I... “she tried to say, unable to find the right words as Leo continued.

                                  “I just want to be able to see them again, Kelly, even if it’s just a memory. But I can’t. I couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to have gone through what you did, but I can try.”

                                  “Leo, I’m so sorry...” she said with a sniffle as she regained her composure, “You’re right, I’m acting like this all over a stupid nightmare. It’s selfish of me, especially considering what we’ve been through,” she conceded. She took a few deep breaths as they both watched the sun’s rays suddenly shoot through their prison of night and shine over the dew-covered field.

                                  “Hey, Leo. I just had an idea,” Kelly told the Charmeleon seated next to her. Leo gave her a quizzical look, unsure of what she could mean by this. “I’ve heard of some Charizard clans in the northern mountains of the Borderlands. I’m sure your parents are searching for you as we speak. So, if we find a way to see if any of them filed a report for a missing Charmeleon, we could have a lead to your past!” She exclaimed, the cheerful personality Leo had known her to have finally returning.

                                  While he was glad she felt better, he still didn’t know how to respond. He didn’t have the faintest idea of what these “Charizard” Pokemon even looked like, and he knew for certain that none of them were related to him in any way, shape, or form.

                                  “Of course we’d have to wait until our current situation improves, but I promise you that I’ll do everything I can to help you, Leo. You’ve been a great friend.” Leo felt like his vocal cords had frozen over; he couldn’t piece together the words he wanted to say. His thoughts screamed at him, She’s offering to help you! She just told you one of her secrets! How is she going to help you if she doesn’t even know what you are? Sometimes he wished he could tell his mind to shut up. Though it brought up a good point, he still hadn’t told them anything about that aspect of his past.

                                  “Kelly?” Leo inquired tentatively. It got her attention once more, her dark eyes staring at him.

                                  “Yes? What is it, Leo?” This is it! Tell her now! He hesitated, trying to figure out what was the best way to say it.

                                  “Kelly … I found something out about me. About my past...” he paused for a second. She seemed completely attentive, but he thought he heard a noise from elsewhere in the camp. He dismissed it. “Kelly … As unbelievable as it sounds …I am--” he stopped. He knew he heard it this time. The sound of a set of heavy footsteps. He swiftly turned around to face the intruder to their conversation.

                                  “What do you think you’re doing?” he said as he finished twisting his body around. What he saw made the crimson drain from his scales. He expected it to be Jay, Noah, Blade, or maybe even Elliot, but not the massive, blue-scaled, reptile commander that he had a healthy fear of. Torrent didn’t seem angry, or even upset, but he gave the two smaller Pokemon a stern look nonetheless.

                                  “T-Torrent, sir!” they both yelped as they shot to their feet.

                                  “Well, this was not the way I expected to start off my morning. Tell me, were you two watching the sunrise as well?” the general asked as he strode between them to the center of the platform.
                                  Perplexed at why the Feraligatr apparently brushed off his rude comment, Leo simply shrugged his shoulders and decided to answer.

                                  “Yes, sir, we were. As well as discussing our thoughts,” Leo told the general, who nodded in reply.

                                  “Good, good. I’m glad you both share my appreciation of this phenomenon of nature. I used to take it for granted, but after spending a week underground in a bandit’s cave you tend to find even the everyday occurrences a miracle. There was once a Grovyle I met a couple of years ago who told me that the sunrise was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen...” he recounted to them, seeming to grow silent as the upper edge of the sun broke free of the horizon’s shackles. Torrent shook his head as he found his thoughts again.

                                  “Sorry about that. I went off on a tangent there. What I’ve been meaning to say was that I’m glad you two newcomers are up, because now you’ll see just how we get things started in the morning. Quark, get over here!” Torrent called as a bright flash of white light went off behind the general. A brown and gold-colored figure appeared floating slightly above the dirt slope. As soon as he got a glimpse of the Pokemon in the light, Leo’s eyes were immediately drawn to the creature’s large head and mustache.

                                  “You called, general?” the strange Pokemon said, brandishing two silver spoons. Torrent nodded, affirming his order.

                                  “Yes, I did. You two, this is Quark the Alakazam. He’s the best healer I’ve ever met, and I’ll be cursed by Kyogre if I ever find a better one. If there’s anything wrong with you, he’s the one to see,” Torrent explained as the Alakazam bowed in mid-air.

                                  “Thank you for your comments, sir. Now, what shall it be today, sir? A shrieking Braviary’s cry as usual, or something different?” Quark asked as Torrent thought for a moment.

                                  “How about Groudon’s roar? That one always gets the best results.” Quark acknowledged this and closed his eyes as purple waves of energy appeared around his set of utensils. Seeing Leo and Kelly’s confused looks, Torrent went on.

                                  “In addition to being the healer, Quark is also very experienced in the art of psychic amplification in dreams. Meaning that in a few seconds...” Just as he said that, a great series of thuds, curses, and screams were heard from the opposite edge of the camp. Leo could see droves of Pokemon exiting their tents en masse. He was almost appalled and yet fascinated at how Quark woke up the camp. If he can affect dreams like that, then maybe he could figure out what’s going on in my dreams... Leo wondered as he watched the crowd of Pokemon walk, fly, and teleport their way to the mess tent to get their morning meal.

                                  “Thank you, Quark. Go get the obstacle course ready,” Torrent ordered as the Alakazam nodded and instantly vanished in another flash of light. Alone once more, Torrent looked down at Leo and Kelly.

                                  “Now, you two. Several crates of supplies came in during the night. They are at the north entrance of the camp. Move them to the storage area here,” he said, pointing out the places he spoke of.

                                  “Sir?” Kelly asked. She wasn’t able to say more as the Feraligatr immediately cut her off.

                                  “No one talks to me like that and goes unpunished! Now hop to it, you two, else breakfast will be long gone by the time you get done!” he yelled. Cursing his past choice of words, Leo and Kelly sprinted down the embankment. Half way down the short hill, he tripped on thin air, and once again acquainted his face with the gravel.

                                  Leo knew the stinging in his face wouldn’t go away just as he knew Torrent would never let him live what he just witnessed down. Regardless of what the general now thought of him, he accepted Kelly’s paw, and hoisted himself up.

                                  “You’re part of the king’s army now. If you want to stay here, then you better start pulling your weight!” Torrent yelled from the platform above them. Leo groaned, he knew this was going to rank among the worst days of his life.

                                  End Chapter Eleven

                                  Author’s Notes:

                                  Now, the chapter itself. Well … it wasn’t too exciting for me to write either. I knew I was going to need this chapter to be more on the side of character development than plot in order to set up for future events. In fact, this entire arc will be focusing more on character development than action for the most part, I’m sorry to say. But, I promise that once I’m done with this arc, things will pick up rapidly from there.

                                  I’d like to thank everyone who helped mentor me while I was starting this story and everyone who continues to support me with reviews and advice. I’d like to thank you all, my readers, for sticking with this story. Thank you.

                                  Until the next one,

                                  Knightfall signing off...
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                                  Old July 30th, 2013 (3:16 PM).
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                                  Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                                  Unforeseen Consequences
                                    Join Date: Apr 2013
                                    Location: Sawgrass Town
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                                    Warning: Some parts of this chapter reach the PG-14/5 rating and might be a little disturbing for some readers. It is only for a scene, but still, be warned.

                                    Chapter Twelve: Ethics

                                    “She will be the greatest scientific development the world has ever seen. Efficient, incorruptible, impartial, curious … She will be the cornerstone of this company. Her mind may be a tad … disjointed at first. We must keep observe her closely during the early trials. Whatever happens, she must not remember, or else the entire project is a failure. If this works, she will be greater than all of us. We will have done what only the legends of old could do: we will have created sentient life.”
                                    --Project Report, Martor Serperior, Senior Researcher of the Department of [Redacted for Security Purposes]

                                    “We hired you because you had a set of abilities that were … unique, even for your species. Your hesitation is making me regret this decision immensely.” The yellow, bipedal Pokemon cringed as he heard his employer’s chastising voice yet again. He just couldn’t bring himself to carry out such a heinous act. If he did, Darkrai would surely snatch his soul on its way to the afterlife in Elysian.

                                    The Pokemon looked at the prisoner chained to the iron table in front of him. The Breloom looked horrid: his skin was almost as white as chalk, the spore cap had wilted and on the verge of deathhe, and his right leg twisted at an unnatural angle. This was on top of the numerous angry-red gashes and dark blue bruises that covered the prisoner’s skin like a macabre tattoo.

                                    “You can’t seriously expect me to do this, right?” he asked, the small metal pendulum shaking in the air in time with his unsteady hand.

                                    “I do. You were expected to remain ethically ambiguous, and so far, you are not living up to your promise. If you weren’t the only one within a hundred miles who could do this operation, I would personally escort you back to Mount Travail penitentiary where you can rot until Arceus’s trumpets sound and his Hall opens,” the voice--cold and emotionless-- sneered. The yellow-furred Pokemon gulped nervously as he approached the barely conscious Breloom, holding out his pendulum out in front of him as far as he could.

                                    Hypno concentrated his energy into the round, metal object he had fashioned himself upon evolving. A thin aura of white energy traveled up the length of his arm and snaked its way down to the metal artifact. His focus nearly broke when the captive Pokemon groaned and his bloodshot eyes flickered open.

                                    “Pay him no heed, Hypno. His body is under the effects of a Stun Seed serum combined with repeated Petrify Orb radiation exposure. He can not move, much less speak. Now, commence the operation. No delays or else. I will be watching from another room,” the voice ordered as its owner walked through an unseen metal door that slammed behind it ominously.

                                    The white energy had metamorphosed into a shimmering purple as it congregated on the pendulum. Hypno took a deep breath as he held it up to the Breloom’s forehead, his paw trembling as he prepared to begin. I’ve done a lot of wrong in my life, especially to that kid and his brother. But this … this is beyond wrong! He thought as he muttered a small prayer to the Dragons for the unfortunate prisoner before him.

                                    “No delays, Hypno. We must know what he has seen. Once you have access, please project the feed to myself and my colleagues. Now.” Hypno closed his eyes as he forced the mass of purple energy to shoot at the Breloom point-blank and begin burning through his head into his mind.

                                    Leo could not breathe. This was not by his own doing, as far as he could tell, but rather, due to the hand clasped firmly around his neck. He had simply leaned against a crate after finishing the arduous task Torrent ordered them to do and had dozed off. His body needed only a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep, but, as the hand choking him squeezed even harder proved, he was denied that pleasure.

                                    He had found himself face to face with a tall figure whose visagewas lost in the black hood of the tattered robe he wore. Leo had said nothing as he tried to find any features of the figure’s face, yet nothing but the yawning abyss of darkness was behind the hood.

                                    It said nothing as it stretched out its arm towards him, the robe falling away to reveal a distinctively human arm and hand. The limb was withered and wrinkled as if it was as ancient as time itself. Leo was frozen to the spot as the hand slowly grasped his shoulder, each finger coming down after the other. Leo cringed as he felt the dirty, yellowed nails scrape his scales as the fingers curled on his body.

                                    “My child … Why do you flee from me?” the voice sounded as cold and hollow as wind blowing through the leaves of forgotten forests. It was not a question that Leo was supposed to answer, as his throat remained as frozen as the rest of his body.

                                    “Can you not see that the Fates will not allow you safe passage? Yours is a cursed existence, from the moment you arrived in this world. The Furies in hell have not yet let your mind sleep from the dying world you tried to forsake in both mind and body,” it continued, the words floating through the dark air and around Leo’s head where they swirled in cryptic messages.

                                    It bent down to face him directly; the void where the face should have been staring at Leo. Its raspy breathing exhaled vile air into Leo’s face that smelled of a rotting body. The Charmeleon’s heart started beating wildly as panic began to set in.

                                    “You. Why do you flee? You have a debt to pay, yet you refuse to give the amount owed. Why do you flee?” The hand on Leo’s shoulder continued to tighten its grip. He wanted nothing more than to tear away from the figure, yet his feet refused to obey his mind’s commands. The dark air instantly froze, sapping the warmth away from Leo’s body as well as his will to move.

                                    “The Deities have cursed your existence, the Fates and Furies will drag you over hot coals, and Erebus calls out for your name. You have cheated me before, the divine intervention of the Prophet notwithstanding. Your soul is demanded. Surrender it peacefully, else I will tear it from you.” A shudder ran through the robed demon’s body after the revelation.

                                    Leo finally felt the invisible bonds that sealed his mouth loosen and melt away. His voice was weak, almost inaudible, but it echoed through the void nonetheless.

                                    “What are you?” In response, a burst of wind tore through the world, knocking Leo off his feet. The cloaked tormentor loomed above, somehow retaining its iron grip on his shoulder. Suddenly, the hand let go and moved up to Leo’s neck. The boney fingers closed around it with inhuman strength, leaving little room for air to travel.

                                    “Elysium rejected you. Erebus demands you. Surrender unto me, Charmeleon.” Leo could only watch in strangled horror as the flesh of the arm and the hand around his neck started to bubble and boil. Folds of fat oozed from the limb and ran in thick rivulets across Leo’s scales above his chest. Boiled blood escaped from the fizzling flesh as a series of toxic vapors. The sickening smell of iron diffused through the air quickly, leaving Leo gasping for a breath he no longer had access to. The skin melted and hung by the ribbons of decaying muscle tissue until they dropped away leaving only the bleached exterior of the bones behind. The finger bones of the hand clicked together as they tightened even more around Leo’s throat.

                                    “Why do you continue to cheat me, Leo? The future does not hold promises of relief, only me with a promise to escort you to Erebus. Why must you prolong your own suffering?” The decayed arm suddenly lifted Leo high into the air. Leo’s neck started to burn and blister as the bones heated up as they gripped tighter.

                                    Leo gasped and sputtered incoherent words as his mind felt the effects of the prolonged withdrawal of air, but blissful unconsciousness refused to come to him. He tried to claw and raise his legs to kick at the arm, but as soon as he touched the bones, his nerves screamed in agony as demonic heat scorched them, forcing Leo to halt his attempt at escape.

                                    “I will ask this only once more: Why do you flee? The world has rejected you; where else can you turn but Erebus?” it said as it held Leo over the void. Despite his best efforts to squirm and kick himself free, the bones singed his scales with every touch.

                                    “You cannot outrun Fate, as the Prophet has decreed it so. Go back to whence you came and consider these words, elseways the worst will befall.” With those words the cursed hand released Leo’s neck and the Charmeleon suddenly jarred awake, gasping for breath as he slammed the back of his head into the hard wood of the crates.

                                    His chest rose and fell quickly as he tried to coax air back into his starved lungs. That-- That dream-- no--nightmare. That-- It felt so real! Leo slowly brought his claws up to his neck, and, to his amazement, there was a ring of small blisters where the hand had grabbed.

                                    “N-no... It couldn’t have been real... I couldn’t have been... ” he tried to tell himself as he cautiously got to his feet. He looked around. Thankfully, he only seemed to have been asleep for a minute or so, and thus avoided the attention of Torrent or one of his teammates.

                                    The many Pokemon of the camp continued moving around as usual. Leo could see Jay and Noah undergoing another sparring match, but this time supervised by Torrent himself, while Kelly talked to the Flygon, Sonic, while they ate their rations of berry soup.

                                    Rubbing the sides of his head, he wondered just how bad the visions and nightmares were going to get, and when would that fiend finally leave him alone.

                                    Who would possibly know about these sorts of things? he thought for a moment as he watched Jay deliver a quick right hook to the side of Noah’s head, causing the dazed Dewott to stumble about comically.

                                    Wait a minute! That Pokemon from this morning… That … Alakadabra? Quark, the healer. He might know something, Leo realized with an involuntary attempt to snap his claws against each other. He quickly jogged through the camp, dodging walking Pokemon as he looked for the gold-colored medic among the aisles of tents and crates.

                                    Sharply rounding a corner, he collided into a familiar green reptile. The rebound from the impact pushed the Charmeleon backwards and made him fall flat on his back. Groaning, Leo looked up and saw the frowning face of Blade outlined in the high noon sun.

                                    “You alright there, Leon?” the Grovyle asked, kneeling down next to the downed Charmeleon. “I didn’t see you until you were inches away. Does anything hurt?” Blade quickly examined Leo, making sure there were no obvious signs of injury.

                                    “It’s Leo,” Leo coughed as he slowly sat up and shook his head clear. “My name is Leo, not Leon,” he told the Grovyle, who gave a small chuckle.

                                    “Well, cut me some slack, it has been a while since we last properly talked. And, I guess you’re fine, then. However, might I ask what are you doing here? This is the barracks area. I’m only here to fetch some documents for Torrent; what’s your excuse?” Blade asked as he offered Leo his claw, which the Charmeleon accepted and pulled himself up off the ground.

                                    “I’m looking for Quark. You know where he is? I need to talk with him,” Leo answered him, dusting the dirt off his scales. Blade scratched his head in thought.

                                    “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s in his tent meditating as he usually does. If not, he’s probably mending some poor sucker’s broken arm in the training area. His tent is the next row over with a white circle on the side. You can’t miss it,” Blade directed, pointing his claw down the row of tents. Leo thanked the Grovyle with as much sincerity as he could muster before he continued his trek through the rows of tents. Following Blade’s directions, he easily found the tent in question. The large white circle contrasted greatly with the dull green of the rest of the dwellings.

                                    Cautiously, Leo poked his head through the front flaps, trying to be mindful to the Pokemon’s privacy if he was even there. The interior of the tent –much like Noah’s—was bigger on the inside than the exterior let on; Quark had room for two cots alongside his own hammock and an entire corner for his tools and possessions.

                                    The Pokemon himself was floating crossed-legged several off the ground in the center of the tent, his eyes closed in concentration. Upon entering the room, the Alakazam’s body twitched slightly in reaction to the Charmeleon.

                                    “Well, I knew I was going to be interrupted today,” he stated as he gave a long, soft sigh.

                                    “Umm, I’m sorry, sir. I could come back later if—“ Leo began apologizing as Quark shifted his legs out from underneath him and dropped to the ground.

                                    “Nonsense, I was expecting you if anything. You were taking a while so I decided to meditate to pass the time. Now, tell me, what troubles you so much to want to come to me?” the healer asked as he recalled his two silver spoons from the opposite side of the room with his powers.

                                    Leo was puzzled, his thoughts were busy trying to make sense of the abrupt announcement. He expected me? Does he already know about my dreams?
                                    He was about to ask his question when the mustached Pokemon suddenly hushed him and summoned a small turquoise sphere from among the pile of bags and items in the corner. He held the glass item in his hands before raising it up and hurtling it down onto the ground where it shattered and produced a small shockwave that pulsed through the air. The wave passed right over Leo with no side effects, despite him bracing himself for the worst as he remembered his last experience with the mystical latent power of the Orbs.

                                    “I do not wish our conversation to be overheard, nor do you, correct?” the healer asked as he brushed aside the tiny fragments of glass with his foot. Leo simply nodded, as the many sounds outside the tent suddenly dimmed and fell silent. “So, now you may begin. Please tell me what is the matter.”

                                    Leo had absolutely no idea on where to start, much less how to possibly explain everything that had been forced upon him since the second he woke up in this strange world. I can’t tell him everything. Though where should I start? I’ll sound like a lunatic if I say “I’ve been haunted by something that messes with my head every so often just for its own damn pleasure” That’ll go over nicely, right… he thought glumly. Quark seemed to notice the Charmeleon’s inner turmoil.

                                    “Do not fret about sounding insane. I have heard from Pokemon who have been subjected to far stranger circumstances. Go ahead and state your woes,” the healer calmly reassured. “But, if you feel like you cannot explain your malady well enough to me, I can peer into your mind and find out if you wish. I personally find it easier to ascertain the gravity of my patients’ situation when I see it from their own eyes.”

                                    Leo immediately shook his head. Having yet another being inside his head would surely cause it to burst under the pressure, and Leo wouldn’t have any of that if he could help it.

                                    “I understand, though I promise not to delve into anything you do not want me to see, only the memories of the incidents. I am a professional in this business. I have standards to keep my patient’s privacy above all else. So, unless you can explain it verbally, I do not know how else to help you,” Quark explained, placing his hand on Leo’s shoulder exactly where the dark figure had earlier, causing the Charmeleon to flinch in the recent memory of the scene.

                                    Leo looked up at the Alakazam. Unlike all of the other Pokemon he had seen --with the exception of his teammates-- Quark did not show any malice in his expression, deliberate or not. He seemed … trusting. Reassuring. Comforting. To Leo, it felt like a generous respite from the lies and conspiracies he had somehow survived so far.

                                    “Alright … I give you permission. Just … Please, help me.” Quark nodded as he drew back from Leo, holding his dual spoons out in front of him. Leo watched with a mix of dread and curiosity as the utensils started to glow with a light purple energy.

                                    “Take a deep breath, and relax. This should not take too long and be virtually painless on your part.” Leo took his advice and filled his lungs with as much air as he possibly could and exhaled completely as he watched the healer guide the mauve energy to his forehead.

                                    A white-hot dagger burrowed its way through his skull. Twisting away protective bone and scorching every nerve ending it could as it pierced its way into his frontal lobe. The energy paid no heed to the being’s agony as it maliciously tossed aside memory after meaningless memory on its way to the truth of the matter.

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    His mouth, body, and eyes were frozen in place by the infernal seed and residual radiation. He could only look straight ahead, unblinking, as the Hypno psychically drilled into his skull. His vocal cords nearly tore themselves apart as they resounded his silent shriek to the numb ears of his captors.

                                    The energy did not relent as it playfully invaded his already-weakened mind. It burned through his synapses as its master guided it to the nightmarish memories that had brought about the end of his old life. Once it found them, it was not content to simply take them back to its master like a fetching dog. No. It had to show them to him once more in every way possible. And he could not look away. His eyes refusing to shut.

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    They came without mercy. The memories which he had suppressed permanently come back to haunt him.

                                    He saw himself, slightly younger, healthier, and sane. His partners, his closest friends in the world, all happily walking down from the summit of the mountain in the sky. It had been the apex of beauty; the entire sky lighting up as the evening sun and shooting stars painted the atmosphere with mystic hues of fiery orange and royal indigo. The entire world beneath his feet, just waiting for him to snatch it up and claim it as his own. The mountains, the sea, the deserts, the forests, the cities, all pinpricks on the shining horizon.

                                    He had his friends, he had met legendaries, he had fought alongside the heroes of time, and he was happy. Chuck, Sophie, and himself. The team made up of only a Machoke, a Mawile, and a Breloom-- Team Frontier— fought against the untamed wilderness of the Borderlands, the furthest Reaches of the Kingdom, and the unknown provinces of the Colonies and won. They were unstoppable.

                                    The memories violently shifted forward. Within six months he had lost everything.

                                    Ian could not look away as he saw things that should have been kept secret. He heard things not meant for his ears. He had suspicions. He had distrust. He knew that they were hiding something. He told his friends. He got them involved. He had virtually signed their deaths.

                                    Together they dove into the mystery, past the secrets, through the lies, until they heard the pained roar. Until they felt the heartbeat that stirred the seconds to move onwards. Until they saw. Until they all saw too much.

                                    ”Get them! Kill them! Rip them apart! They cannot leave!” the cruel voice had screamed as the gods turned their backs on the team. The golems had no emotion. No plea would be heard, nor accepted.

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    They had run. They never stopped. Even as the Machoke screamed as the icicles drove through him without regard. Even as Chuck’s blood froze solid even before it hit the ground. Even as the walls and doors slammed shut. As crystal lights flashed red as sentinels were summoned by the hundreds and thousands; swarming over each other as they sought to fulfill the kill order.

                                    Ian pushed and pulled against his paralysis, if only so he could strangle himself to end the suffering and the memories. However, the radiation refused to let loose the bonds it placed upon his limbs.

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    They came again, time marching ever onwards.

                                    “Come on! Move, Sophie! Move!” he had screamed as the bolts of lightning seared through the air and struck her back. Ian raced back through the hell for her. Snatched up her injured body and ran as the plasma melted the floor where they once stood.

                                    Through the cracks in the walls he dashed. Into the veins and circuits of the beast to find sanctuary. Refusing to look back at the horror.

                                    Again, they came. Three days. It had been three days since their lives were destroyed by his inane pursuit for knowledge. It was all his fault. All of it. Sophie forgave him as they wandered through the forgotten paths of the dead. Light was their enemy as the Porygon sentinels searched every crevice and alley for the two dissenters.

                                    He had wanted to die. To turn back time so that he never existed. She kept him from throwing himself into the abyss, if only barely. From throwing away his life. With promises of possible survival around every unexplored corner. He listened. Together, they survived. Just as before against the wilderness, now against their fellow Pokemon. They were the remnants of Team Frontier and nothing could stop them. She promised they would find a way out.

                                    Time passed with every beat of the captive heart. Months they spent together in the walls, plotting, going over maintenance charts for holes in the walls, stealing food. His body felt weak, but his mind was still clear. He went above and beyond for her. He fought against the sentries, he sabotaged the food storage, he did it all for her. Even in the darkest of dungeons, he had found a light in her, and that was all he needed to live. She his angel in this abyssal hell.

                                    His muscles tightened slightly as his damaged body worked to filter out the radiation and the seed extract that kept him frozen, but it could not work fast enough.

                                    Together, they planned. Together they attempted to escape. Together they failed. And together they survived to do it all again as part of the cycle that now ruled their lives. Their time in between surviving spent talking of the days of the past. On their time at the apex of the sky.

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    Time moved again. It was their final shot. All other paths had been sealed save this one. Across the chasm, through the door, to the sea and the light. The outside was just beyond. Freedom called to them both, an intoxicating drug. They ran over the bridge. Then the world fell out from under them. Sentinels swarmed both ends. Regice awaited the final kill order from its master.

                                    “I won’t allow for any mistakes this time. Now you both may join your leader and explore the depths of hell together! A team once more!” the wicked sovereign yelled as the frozen golem growled and raised its arm at them. Sentinels rushed the bridge, trapping him and his partner.

                                    The stone beneath their feet shattered as spears of ice rammed into the foundation. He grabbed her as they fell through the air, the rock, and unfortunate sentinels also claimed by gravity. For an eternity they felt the rushing air threaten to rip their grip on each other apart as the churning water rose up from the darkest places in the earth to meet them.

                                    He could not look away from the projected memory. He needed to see her again, even if only for a second more. To prove that she had been real. That she had been there for him. That she wasn’t some illusion his shattered mind produced.

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    The dark water was colder than the frost that sliced through his skin. His hand was ripped from hers as the current sucked him down into the frozen hell. Salt water stung his eyes as he kicked and flailed against the current. He could see her, sinking to the bottom as if a fallen angel banished from heavens. Ian clawed across the rocky surface, his lungs burning from lack of air.

                                    Please, please still be alive!

                                    He wrapped his arms over her, scooping the Mawile from off the sea-floor. His head was spinning, the outer edges of his vision going dark as his body circulated the last of the oxygen to his head. Faint light shimmering down from the surface far above marked his target.

                                    Please, Dialga, don’t let me be too late!

                                    He broke through the surface, his body shaking with cold and lack of air. Even as he gasped for lung-fulls of life-giving sustenance, he hefted Sophie so that her head was above the freezing liquid as well. His legs were barely able to keep him and his partner afloat and were losing energy rapidly. He grasped around madly for something to grab onto in the middle of the massive underground lake fed by the sea.

                                    “Sir? Is that enough?” A pause.

                                    “No. Go deeper.”

                                    The energy from the Hypno’s intrusion into Ian’s head was like a spear slamming through his skull, yet the Stun Seed in his body kept him from passing into unconsciousness or even death itself. His nerves flared as the purple energy dug into his memories with a renewed fervor.

                                    Ian’s past self suddenly felt something floating in the water. Its blocky, polygon-build shape marking it as a sentinel. It give a low, electric moan as its eyes flickered on and off. Enemy or not, Ian did not care. He grabbed a hold of the Porygon that bobbed on the surface and shoved Mawile on top of it as he kept a grip on the bottom, propelling them all forward toward an unknown shore.

                                    Please! Please! Let her live!

                                    And through it all, Ian could not scream.

                                    The memories shifted. No longer did they form visions, but only segments of voices, screams, and blurs of pain.

                                    ”Breathe! Breathe! Please, breathe!”

                                    The halls of forgotten stone paid them no heed, no consolation, so mercy. The sentinel traveled with him, grateful that his life was spared.

                                    “Please! Please! Don’t leave me!”

                                    The path wound on endlessly. His legs were weak; he could not carry her further. He slumped against the stone, defeated at long last.

                                    “No! No! No! Breathe! Please! Please!”

                                    The specters arrived, the prophet at their head. Their sheltered colony untouched by even the far reaches of the evil above. Not even their powers could save her. She was lost. Yet another casualty wrought his desire for the truth.

                                    “Sophie! Sophie, please don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me…”

                                    Her form was taken. The wicked lords above rejoiced, while the specters lamented that her soul could not pass to Elysian. She would remain chained to the earth. They restored the sentinel, upgraded, an enemy no longer. They cured him of physical wounds, but the mental scars remained and infected his mind forevermore.

                                    “Please… Don’t leave me alone. I need you…”

                                    The prophet came to him, aware of his loss. He promised that he would get out. That saviors would be brought to him. That he would find her. That he would only have to wait and made sure their path was clear when the time came.

                                    “I love you…”

                                    They flashed before him. The climb back up. The despair. How Vertex came to his side. His voice of reason. The deterioration. Rotting behind the walls. Months passing. Then the fateful day. The sentinels. The golem of ice. His leg. The torture.

                                    “Enough. I have seen enough. You may stop,” The voice of evil, the one that started it all. The one who killed his leader. The one that sent them into hiding. The one who ordered their deaths atop the chasm. The one who forced another to torture him.

                                    Immediately the energy dissipated, leaving his head and closing up the wounds as it retreated back into the Hypno’s pendulum.

                                    “We no longer need him. Tell them to put him back in his cell. He can rot forever there.”

                                    And so they did. In the blink of an eye, his frozen body was cast down onto the grimy floor of the dungeon next to Vertex. Hours later, the radiation finally let loose his body, and the residue of the Stun Seed sweated out through his pores.

                                    Ian screamed.

                                    No sooner than the Alakazam entered his mind, Leo was blasted backwards. His body tumbled along the ground of the tent in pain as psychic forces suddenly seized him and lifted him to face the gasping healer.

                                    “Y-you.. You! Demon! Possessed! Abomination!” Quark screamed as he held his crossed spoons out toward Leo. With a furious yell, he concentrated another psychic blast aimed at the Charmeleon. It felt as is a wrecking ball slammed into his front as he was again blasted into the ground. Groaning, Leo attempted to raise his arms, but was prevented when Quark pressed his clawed foot down on his back.

                                    “Devil! You play host to the prince of demons! You, monster!” Quark gasped as he pressed down harder on Leo’s back, pinning him against the ground. “It is good you came to me, fiends such as you cannot be allowed to roam about the world.” Leo heard a loud humming from above his head and he knew that the medic was planning on going through with his words.

                                    “Wait! Wait! I haven’t done anything!” Leo cried, tears beginning to form in his eyes and run down his face. Despite all of what he had been through, he never felt so close to actual death before. Even when Nexus sliced open his stomach, it felt more distant than the raw psychic energy pulsing inches above his head.

                                    “It is not you, Charmeleon, but the monstrosity that haunts you that must be eliminated. And unfortunately, both of you are intertwined, inseparably so. I swore an oath to Cresselia long ago to destroy creatures that demons such as him bond themselves to,” Quark hurriedly explained, as if impatient to rid himself of the infernal Pokemon beneath him. Through the immense panic that coursed through his body, Leo tried to think something—anything— to forestall his imminent execution.

                                    “Please! Don’t! I’ll do anything! Please!” Leo pleaded as he heard the humming get even louder. He felt the heat of the energy already burning into his skull.

                                    “Gah!” Quark suddenly grunted as Leo felt his body jerk upwards into the air. It felt as if he was being held up by the skin of his neck like some insolent pup being disciplined by its mother. He saw the room twist around him until he was face to face with the fuming healer.

                                    “Listen to me well, boy. I will not kill you this time, but mark my words. If you come within twenty feet of me again, I will rip you apart atom by atom,” he hissed. Within an instant, Leo was blinded and felt the ground underneath his wobbling feet once again. Once his vision returned enough for him to see, he was surprised when he found himself standing in the back row of the small audience watching the sparring match between Jay and Noah.

                                    “Leo? When did you get here?”

                                    Leo looked to his left. There sat Kelly and a space beyond her, Sonic. The Jolteon looked up at him quizzically as she awaited an answer. He was still dazed out of his mind from the quick succession of his nightmare and the encounter with Quark, but he managed to put on a smile. Despite the fact that his vision seemed to blur on the edges, he pushed through and endured it.

                                    “Recently,” he told her with a small grin. There was a cheer from the small crowd. All three of them looked up to see a gasping Jay land a vicious uppercut under Noah’s chin. The Dewott stumbled backwards in the sand as Jay pounced forward. The Riolu curled his right paw into a glowing fist and slammed it against Noah’s head.

                                    Leo watched as the once over-confident Dewott dropped like a stone into the sand. There was no count for him to get up; the match was over. Jay straightened up as he lowered his arms. Leo could see the signs of the battle on the Riolu: he was breathing hard, his fur was soaked with a mixture of sweat and water, and he seemed to sport a few small cuts on his arms and legs that were glistening with fresh blood.

                                    Jay gave a mock bow as the crowd cheered one final time before slowly diffusing into the camp before Torrent chastised them for disregarding their duties to watch the fight. Jay strode over to them; the wide grin on his face seemed to dissuade the fact that he was barely standing from the fight.

                                    “It’s about time someone did that. Excellent work, Riolu.” The Feraligatr was beaming as he hopped down from the makeshift chair of crates he used to spectate the match. He walked over the sand and hefted Noah’s unconscious form into the air with one arm. He walked the rest of the way over to them and handed the Dewott over to the sand dragon. “Before you take him to Quark to wake ‘im up, I just want to thank you, Riolu,” Torrent said as he clapped a webbed hand on Jay’s shoulder.

                                    “Y-You’re welcome, sir. And, my name’s Jay, sir,” Jay told the general as loud as he could. “And, sir? Could you please move your hand? Noah hit it with a Water Gun earlier…” Jay grimaced as reported his condition to Torrent. The general immediately released his grip on Jay’s shoulder.

                                    “Well, go get yourself checked out by Quark and do whatever he says in order to be one-hundred percent again. I think we can expect big things from you, Jay. With a bit of training, we can eventually have you rival any Pokemon in the camp. And then, there’s always evolution to think about, so just keep that in mind. Now go,” he ordered as he walked off to inspect the sentry posts.

                                    It did not take them long to find the healer’s tent, though Leo froze a good distance away from the entrance while Sonic carried Noah inside while Jay followed close behind. Kelly opted to remain next to Leo, who still would not bring himself a single step closer into the Alakazam’s range. The Charmeleon shifted uncomfortably as Quark shot a piercing gaze as he accepted his injured teammates into his dwelling. The Alakazam’s eyes glowed magenta and instantly a faint line traced itself in the dirt in front of the claws on Leo’s feet.

                                    “So,” Kelly began in an effort to shatter the glassy covering of silence that had came over them. “What were you going to tell me this morning before we were interrupted? I’m curious to know,” she inquired as she sat on her hind legs next to him.

                                    A slight urge to tell her everything suddenly shot into his head, but was quickly snuffed out by what Leo assumed was the remainder of his logic. You are not telling anyone anything.

                                    “It wasn’t anything important,” he sighed as he gave into his thought’s will and kept the truth away from her once again.

                                    Shining rays of the afternoon sun gently passed through the tall, elegant glass windows crafted by the best Magmar glassworkers under King Alexander Lucario. The royal court represented a fading era in the Kingdom. A time of utmost opulence and luxury. When riches seemed to rain down from the skies from the rapid discoveries of exploration teams into the Far Reach and the Outer Colonial Provinces. Guilds sprung up all over the Near and Far Reach territories as King Alexander signed the Open Dungeon Declaration that gave rescue, exploration, tracker, and Federation teams unlimited access and finder’s rights to any and all resources found within the mazes.

                                    Towns and trading posts shot up around trade routes and dungeon entrances and the economy boomed and grew exponentially. Merchants and entrepreneurs sought ways to find more ways to trade and grew their own wealth as they set up shops in the Colonies and established routes and sea lanes to the profitable island trade.

                                    Silver City became the largest port in the known world and Alexander employed the best shipbuilders to create an fledgling navy to project the huge merchant fleet. The city flourished along with the entire Kingdom.

                                    And then, the assassination. The poison dart that ended Alexander, left Nickolas with the crown, and began the slow collective decay of the Kingdom.

                                    The royal court was a large rectangular room. Light wood covered every possible section of wall and smooth marble slabs fitted to make up the floor. The silver wave symbol of the Kingdom was made of actual silver poured into the floor in the center of the room.

                                    It was in this last bastion of an era long-gone by that two Pokemon conversed behind shut doors and partly blinded windows. They slowly walked along the corridor of gilded windows.

                                    “Nickolas, I worry for you. Going against the Senate and Darney like that. It’s … it’s asking for trouble. You can’t do that, not anymore. It doesn’t matter what you believe, your absolute power is gone,” a large orange tortoise with a blackened shell commented to the Lucario as they passed under the marble arch of a hallway.

                                    The king simply laughed. “Let them do what they may, my friend. They will continue to debate and argue until the stone beneath them crumbles into dust. And besides, I was merely offering military advice, nothing more,” he replied as he opened a small ornately-decorated door and directed the Torkoal to enter. The two Pokemon emerged in a small promenade inside an indoor garden.

                                    “Listen to me, Nickolas. I don’t know what happened to you these past few days, but you cannot brush aside the Council or Darney. They are threats, your majesty,” the old fire-tortoise warned as they slowly walked past a marble pillar that was choked with a thick, coiling trunk of a massive vine. Its tendrils were snakes as they slithered across the glass ceiling, draping the botanical room in a cool shade.

                                    “I know what I’m doing, Cicero. Darney and the Senate can do what they want. I am still in control here,” the Lucario said as he carefully inspected a fresh bud on the side of the vine.

                                    “It is that kind of thinking that resulted in my town being sacked and captured. That violence will spread through the Kingdom if you do not to take heed...” Cicero replied as the bud suddenly snapped off the branch and fell to the floor, withered and dead.

                                    “Thank you for your concern, old friend. I appreciate it. But, I am perfectly fine. Now, please, I need the report of the northern front near the Great Canyon and how the second siege on Treasure Town is going. Also, I need to see the roster of draftee teams we gathered for military service,” the Lucario sternly ordered, dropping any pretense of unprofessionalism from his tone.

                                    The Torkoal grimly nodded before reaching with his head around to pull out a sheaf of rolled parchment tied by strands of Caterpie silk from one of the empty spaces in his giant back shell. Without a word-- due to carrying the papers in his mouth--, he delivered the documents to the monarch, who sliced through the silk with the spike on his paw before reading through them one by one, his eyes quickly scanning each line of print.

                                    “Well,” he said holding up the first document, “The siege is going well. We should regain control of the main square of the city by tomorrow and the port the day after, and the outskirts should fall to us swiftly after they are cut off from the sea. We’ll have your town back before you know it,” Cicero hummed in acknowledgement as Nickolas flipped over to the second document.

                                    “Well, General Firland seems to be having difficulty dislodging the Colonists from their position on the Hill of the Ancients. Please remind me to contact him afterwards so we can go over a new strategy. The last thing we need is repeat of the Dark Brigade’s disastrous charge in the Bronze Valley,” the king noted as the Torkoal nodded silently. He flipped over to the final piece of parchment. When he reached it, he flipped it over and examined it quickly before turning it on its front once more.

                                    “Cicero? Why is there only one side of a paper filled with team names? There are over nine provinces in the Kingdom. So why is there less than one full sheet of names?” he asked incredulously as he frantically looked about the floor in case one page had fallen somewhere along the line.

                                    “I would assume, my king, that the citizens are beginning to find the war ... tiring. Especially after two full years of fighting and an unbroken stalemate, on Kingdom soil, no less! It’s no surprise that they don’t sign up to fight anymore,” the Torkoal elder chastised.

                                    “Some veteran teams such as Pathfinder, Vector, Gallop, ACT, and Terra finally got around to registering. Though the newer teams don’t look as promising. Darkshadowawesome? Best Friends Forever? Aurashine? Twilightmoon?” he paused halfway down the list of gradually worsening names. “Cicero, tell me, what kind of name is ‘Team JUMP’? Every letter is capitalized. Is it me, or have team names gotten stranger and stranger over the years?” Nickolas asked, slightly bewildered at the list of names. The Torkoal simply shrugged his shell.

                                    “Well,” he wheezed. “I remember my own team name being along the lines of ‘Oran Dancers’, I believe. We subsequently tied our leader to a tree for two days as punishment for such a ridiculous name,” Cicero chuckled as he reveled in the memories of his youth as Nickolas went back to reviewing the document.

                                    “This is just perfect. My army will die of embarrassment at having to fight alongside these teams before they even set foot in a battlefield.”

                                    Noah was dreaming. He had been knocked out cold by Jay in their match, but there was no possible way he was awake yet. What he was seeing was not true. It was too vivid, it was too real, it was still intact. The grass, the sky, the clouds, the breeze, it felt too authentic. It had to be a dream. But, no matter how he tried to tell himself that, he couldn’t stop his mind from making his mouth move.

                                    ”I’m … home.”

                                    The simple, homely, wooden structures, the limitless skies unimpeded by the surrounding hills, the gently swaying, ancient oak trees from the nearby forest, the Pokemon walking about. Everything was as he remembered and more.

                                    ”T-there’s no way. I can’t be back here...” he said, the words barely audible as they slid from his mouth. He cautiously lifted one black foot and took a tentative step forward along the worn dirt path. The small dirt clods on the road broke into dust beneath his feet, just as they did when he used to walk here.

                                    He took another step forward that yielded the same result. He passed under an overhead aqueduct that delivered into town from the nearby river and past the crude signpost that directed the newcomers into town. Noah was about to dash down the road through the town gates to see if it was as he remembered when a cold voice sounded from behind him. His white whiskers twitched slightly.

                                    “Hello, Noah. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

                                    In a single motion, the Dewott grabbed both his scallops, flipped them over in his hands, and twisted around, ready to slice through whoever was behind him. He was an instant away from willing his arms to slice across the intruder when he immediately recognized the creature’s pale, golden eyes and purple skin. His arms froze and he swiftly lowered his razored weapons.

                                    “Oh, it’s only you.” He slapped the twin shells onto his sides and raised a paw towards the ghost. “Long time, no see! How’ve you been?” he exclaimed joyously as the Mismagius simply shook his head and motioned for the Dewott to follow him into a nearby grove of trees. Slightly perplexed, Noah retracted his arm and cautiously looked about the crossroads for any signs of witnesses before following the Mismagius.

                                    The small pocket of trees that provided a small respite for travelers from the sun seemed much greener than Noah remembered. He recalled the small, crystal-clear spring that glistened in the thin rays of the morning sun that penetrated the tops of the trees and the small, faded signpost next to it saying who originally dug out the well.

                                    Sunlight seemed to darken as the two passed into the thicker areas of the glade. Noah was a little unnerved at how silent his companion was being, but continued to tag along until they reached a small clearing in the shallow depths of the woods. It was then that the ghost turned around and faced Noah.

                                    “I take it you’ve been well since we last spoke? I do hope you’ve been living alright,” he asked, a rare tone of concern leaking into his words.

                                    Noah shrugged as he leaned against a nearby tree. “Well, I’ve been doing pretty good lately. Can’t complain too much.” he said as he reached up and snapped a low twig off the large trunk. He then focused on balancing the end of the stick on the edge of his paw while the ghost floating opposite him responded.

                                    “I’m very glad to hear that, Noah. It’s the first good news I’ve heard in a long while, actually.” The entire glade seemed to drop several degrees in temperature as the sun ominously retreated behind a bank of clouds. Noah’s eyes never left the wobbling stick on the tips of his paws on his right hand.

                                    “So, I’m guessing things haven’t been so great for you lately, huh? What’s up?” he asked as he felt a small breeze whip through the boughs and knock down the twig just as he got it to stand upright on his paw. As he raised his paw to the trunk again and felt around for a replacement stick, he saw the Mismagius bow his head slightly.

                                    “I wish I could tell you, my friend. Though I’m afraid that it’s highly classified. Regardless, I do need to ask you a quick question. That’s why I am here.” Noah found another small branch: thin, but sturdy. It would do just fine. He bent the poor offshoot until it snapped off the trunk in his paw.

                                    “Go ‘head. Ask away,” he dismissively said as he became engrossed in finding the perfect point of balance again. The Mismagius looked at him for a moment incredulously.

                                    “You really haven’t changed, have you?” The Dewott just grinned as he carefully moved his arm underneath the tottering stick. “Ah-hem. Anyways. You didn’t have anything to do with ... recent events. Did you?” Noah instantly stopped his antics, the stick falling to the ground with an organic clatter as it hit the tree on its way down.

                                    ”Well, assuming I have no idea what you’re talking about, I’m going to say that I did not. It’s purely coincidental. Come on, you really think that I’d do something like that?” he replied to the ghost, who just sighed in exasperation.

                                    “I believe you, Noah. But I have to make sure. There’s so few I can trust in times like these,” the ghost explained with a nod.

                                    ”So, is that all you’re here for?” The Mismagius did not answer immediately as his eyes glowed a sharp gold and within an instant, the two Pokemon were in the middle of the town square. The center was exactly as Noah recalled: colorful shops lined the plaza, each eagerly displaying their wares in anticipation of the newest traveler. The entire scene seemed to be bathed by a shimmering veil of sunlight that seemed to accent the dream to the point of being a perfect copy of the real thing.

                                    “I wanted to ask you something a bit more personal as well. I couldn’t help but notice the landscape. How long has it been? Noah took a deep breath as he quickly spun in a circle to see the entirety of the town center. Despite his lungs expanding and contracting to take in more air, Noah couldn’t breathe. It was all too real. Everything was too much. His vision began to swim as his mind reeled from lack of oxygen. “Please breathe, Noah. It’s only a dream, but you can still suffocate here.”

                                    With those words his body seemed to finally listen to reason and Noah sucked in generous amounts of air as he leaned against a wooden support beam for the textile shop run by Machamp.

                                    “I’m,” he gasped for the air that seemed to be slow coming. “I’m sorry. I was ... caught up.” The ghost looked about at the stores and simple structures.

                                    “Understandable. Anyone would miss their home after being so rudely chased away over a simple technicality.” he noted as he floated above the flagstone-paved road.

                                    “It’s been three years --two years for me, technically-- since I’ve been here,” Noah said to no one in particular as a small brown and cream furred racoon darted right through his left leg as it playfully ran throughout the plaza.

                                    “So it has. You do not resent me for my actions then, do you? I can sense how much you miss it, even in this dream.”

                                    “No, I don’t. I know why you did what you did and I’m grateful. But, what happened in that passage, I will never forget.” The fabric shop was correct even down to the last detail: minute dust mites swirled around in the sunlight above the neat piles of cloth.

                                    “I did not expect you would. Although, you would be surprised. The saying ‘time heals all things’ does have a truth to it. It’s only if you want to accept it. That’s the limiting factor.”

                                    Noah sighed as he shifted his gaze to the gently sloping hills that surrounded the town. A sharp wind suddenly blew through the town: a startled flock of pigeons flew as a cluster from one tree to another, the projected memories of the residents shivered, the resident Kecleon changed colors in his stall in response to the sudden change in temperature.

                                    “I still think about it. All the time. I can’t leave it behind completely, especially without knowing what happened.” His dream self slowly phased through the front counter and when into the shelves behind the wooden table. The ghost followed suit, although simply appeared through the wall of the shop.

                                    “I know how ... difficult transitioning can be at times. And I understand why you feel the need to come back here in your dreams. There’s little that I can help with there that’s not overly cruel.” The Mismagius floated a respectful distance behind the Dewott, curiously looking over his shoulder as he examined the folded cloth piles.

                                    The cloth did not simply fade into transparency around his paw like he suspected. It rippled and moved as he shifted his own paw. He remembered this fabric. He had slept on blankets made of the same material three years ago. They both had. His lungs began to constrict again, as if his body couldn’t handle the resurgence of sensory memories.

                                    “Perhaps it is best if we went back outside, Noah. It hurts me to see you like this. Please, follow me out of here into the square.” Noah simply numbly ran his right paw through the smooth folds of cloth. He could feel the tangible merchandise imported from Silver in the west that had cost thirty gold Poké three years ago. He felt a slight tug around his torso as the Mismagius psychically pulled him out of the store.

                                    “W-what? What now? Noah asked as he regained his senses in the middle of the square. The ghost released its hold on the Dewott.

                                    “Apparently three years is not enough time for time to heal, despite the cheerful facade you’ve built in front of others. You really must be careful, Noah. I have enough mentally unstable clients already. Noah fell silent as a gentle zephyr blew through the area.

                                    “I must confess something to you, Noah. It seems I am guilty of the sin of omission.”

                                    The entire town seemed to change: the warm, soft breeze that caressed Noah’s skin suddenly grew bitterly cold, the water swiftly flowing down the canals froze over in a thick sheet of ice that cracked the banks, windows all over town were coated in a lattice of thin ice crystals, the leaves on the trees seemed to cease to move and were stiffened and killed by the immediate cold.

                                    “Ever since your unfair exile, I have been doing some ... research, on your behalf. I finally made a slight breakthrough that might be of great interest to you.”

                                    The scene seemed to glow pale white as the frozen ground seemed to reflect the sunlight back into the sky. Even the sun seemed to resonate a bitter cold light as the world below was engulfed by the freezing aura. Noah’s pulse quickened even as his vision started to swim and tilt like a ship in a storm-tossed sea.

                                    “She is alive. I do not know where, but she is alive.”

                                    A strangled cry died in his throat as he fell against a frozen-solid fence. The brittle planks could not support the Dewott and it splintered into thousands of glinting fragments as he fell to the ground on top of them. He could barely tell that the jagged pieces were stabbing through his skin; he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t see. The dream was falling apart around him; buildings sizzling into nothingness as if ice cubes on a stove.

                                    “It looks like your mind does not want to go through this right now, but please remember, she is alive. I promise you that. I’m going to wake you up before the dream causes any damage.” Noah felt his body get lighter as the Mismagius slowly reawakened his conscious self.

                                    “I will ... see you later then, Noah? Hopefully in better circumstances. Goodbye, my dear friend. Do be careful in the real world.” Noah felt the world around him shift and rearrange itself under his back. Within an instant he was no longer laying on the shattered fence, but on a pile of soft hay that formed a cushion underneath him.

                                    “Alive ... She’s alive. She’s alive...”

                                    End Chapter Twelve

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                                    Old July 30th, 2013 (11:44 PM).
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                                    Meaii Meaii is offline
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                                      Join Date: Jul 2013
                                      Location: England
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                                      I think of I've seen you on Serebii before, ...

                                      Well, with your sentences, in my opinion they are slightly long, and that there is quite a lot of information crammed into many of your sentences and there is hardly space to breathe.

                                      But, it's good! :)

                                      23 days until~
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                                      Old July 31st, 2013 (2:14 AM).
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                                      Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                                      Unforeseen Consequences
                                        Join Date: Apr 2013
                                        Location: Sawgrass Town
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                                        Nature: Modest
                                        Posts: 31
                                        Originally Posted by Meaii View Post
                                        I think of I've seen you on Serebii before, ...

                                        Well, with your sentences, in my opinion they are slightly long, and that there is quite a lot of information crammed into many of your sentences and there is hardly space to breathe.

                                        But, it's good! :)
                                        You probably have, because that's where I'm most active.

                                        Well, I do tend to be pretty descriptive, I do admit. Sometimes it does get in the way of telling the story, so I do see what you're getting at. Unfortunately, at the current time, it's not too high on my priority list to go back and edit, so I'm just concentrating efforts to limit that "breathlessness" in my newer chapters.

                                        Thank you for your reply! It means a lot to me. Especially on here.

                                        I hope to have the next chapter up soon.

                                        Knightfall signing off...
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                                        Old August 10th, 2013 (6:44 AM).
                                        Knightfall's Avatar
                                        Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                                        Unforeseen Consequences
                                          Join Date: Apr 2013
                                          Location: Sawgrass Town
                                          Gender: Male
                                          Nature: Modest
                                          Posts: 31
                                          Chapter Thirteen: Interception

                                          “We wished to create a weapon to end the conflict before it started, a weapon more powerful than anything we could have dreamed of ... And by Arceus’s jewel, did we succeed. The results were more horrifying than I could ever imagine. Despite their best efforts, the containment teams have failed to quarantine the incident ,and the death toll is still rising... I am stepping down from my position. I cannot live with this guilt."

                                          --- Martor Serperior: Project Supervisor for[REDACTED], two hours before taking his own life

                                          She was a monster. The epitome of evil and at the very heart of corruption, greed, and malice. Some called her criminally insane, others spread rumors of her insatiable lust for killing, and even more plead to their Legendary of choice to remove her from the realm of the living with divine fire and lightning.

                                          She heard every one of their calls. What other choice did she have but to remove them? They called her an anathema of the world, so she lived up to their rumors by psychically imploding their children.

                                          Was it too much? She knew the answer, but the lust drove her to do it again and again. She delighted when the peasants screamed curses at her name, when they had called her a scourge upon the earth. The held the province under her sway for months, yet there was nothing the Kingdom or their Federation could do to remove her.

                                          Where had it all gone wrong? In her spare time, she had pondered this question. She knew that she was a moral abomination, but she was never one to ‘color inside the lines’ with morals, anyways. Sure, they were good in idea, but she found that doing the complete opposite was far more rewarding. And she craved the reward, even if it was soaked through with crimson blood.

                                          She suspected it was when she had evolved, though even her advanced mind could not figure out the exact root of the problem. The Legends saw fit to make her misaligned, so what could she to do except fulfill her purpose in this world? And if that purpose dictated that she systematically slaughter every creature on four legs in her territory, then so be it.

                                          She was the most advanced being in the entire world, and she knew it. They had called her a monster. And she loved the title.

                                          It had been a fluke that the incident happened. Her brilliant plan to obtain unlimited power backfired to give her the bane of her existence. She was able to control him like a puppet and she took full advantage of him. She abandoned her usual killing fields and, like any patriot, her immense hatred of the enemy drove her to devote herself to the Colonies and their directives.
                                          It didn’t take long for everything to fall apart on that fated mission. The amount of things that went wrong was much too high to be a mere coincidence. She was nothing now--a shred of consciousness held together by raw hatred that drifted on the very fringes of the corporeal world. She knew exactly who had done this to her, and she spent every available joule of energy she came by thinking of exactly how she would dismember him piece by wonderfully bloody piece.

                                          “I know who you are, Charmeleon. You and I are quite the same, deep down. We don’t trust anyone, do we? We don’t belong here. I saw what it was you kept secret. Right before everything went wrong, I got a glimpse of it. I will find you one day, human. And make no mistake, the pressure will crush you this time.”

                                          “It’s for the best, honestly,” she sneered as she swatted aside Wire’s battered conscience with a mere flick of her will. He groaned as he tried to get up again, but it was no use. His psyche sunk to the floor of his mind in defeat.

                                          “Traitors have a special place down there. Have fun in hell,” she screeched as the entire room went dark and fire shot up from the floor, illuminating Nexus’s twisted form in a demonic haze.

                                          Wire’s entire body jolted awake as he opened his eyes. Artificially produced gasps wracked his system, trying to regain order in his mind. It was a nightmare. Nothing more, he tried to reassure himself, but even now, his body couldn’t cope with the fact that he was free.

                                          His ocular lenses dilated and focused themselves as they adjusted to the dim morning light. Shifting his great pylons of legs slightly, he pushed himself up into the air where he quickly took stock of his surroundings: the granite stone walls, the smells of damp straw and sweat, the small acropolis of predominantly wood buildings that rose above the rest of the camp like an island in the sea, the sounds of the two hundred and six inmates that resided uncomfortably within the thick stone enclosure. He initiated the audio recording equivalent of a deep breath --completely arbitrary as his body did not require air in the slightest, but the noise was comforting in an odd way.

                                          He was still at the prison. Still honoring the agreement that she signed while in control. Still under the rule of the Colonial government. Free from her, but at times he wondered if it was entirely worth it.

                                          Stop that! Of course it was worth it! You are free of her! his rational thoughts yelled at him from across the remaining void that had isolated him for years on end.

                                          Her piercing metallic laugh lingered in his ears even though it had been several days since his blessed forced severance. Wire shook his head in an attempt to get the thought out of his head, though nothing seemed to work. Not matter what he did, they always came back, the crimes he committed under her control.

                                          Wire rotated his body and moved his legs to warm up the stiff joints. He had only returned to the Colonies three days prior, and his superiors were not pleased with his report of the loss of Nexus and the failure to kill his target. Outwardly, he expressed his own disapproval of the situation and continued to promise his services to the Colonist’s cause, but on the inside, the only thing that kept him from leaving was the threat of being reunited with Nexus. The Mismagius drove a hard bargain, but he knew it was well worth it.

                                          “Hey! You! Metagross!” Wire’s attention was turned from his thoughts as he heard a voice call to him. He halted his patrol of the wall and looked over the inner side to the ground below. A small purple creature hailed from the bottom of the wall. Probably yet another prisoner looking to try and bribe me to set them free, Wire thought to himself as he began to continue his walk away from the prisoner.

                                          “W-Wait! I saw you! You fought Salient, didn’t you? You brought them back to the Square! Didn’t you?” the desperate Pokémon shouted from the ground below. Wire froze mid-step as the smaller Pokémon doubled over in a coughing fit.

                                          His body moved instinctively, tightening like coiled springs, releasing, and flinging his heavy body off the wall. His four steel legs slammed into the dirt inches away from the inmate, sending earth and other particulates spraying into the air. Wire lowered his head so he could see the inquiring Pokémon up close.

                                          “What do you know of them? Tell me,” he commanded, barely avoiding having his voice channel glitch and cause a stammer. The wheezing inmate in question looked in no state to be answering any questions: his frame seemed to be much thinner than a normal Sableye’s --according to Wire’s database. He was matted with dried blood, and the creature had a single dirty rag wrapped around his head covering his left eye.

                                          “A-allow me to introduce myself, please. My name is Aleck, I was a merchant in Loyalty Square before being rudely carted off to this interment sconce. I knew the members of Salient, and I heard what you did to them. News travels fast, especially in this prison,” Aleck said as a smaller coughing spell overtook him. Wire was intrigued, to say the least and decided to indulge the Sableye with an answer.

                                          “I was under the influence of … a nightmare. I was forced to hurt them among other things, but I tried to save them afterwards. You said you knew them; what happened to them?” the Metagross implored from the sickly Sableye. He quickly glanced around, Too many other Pokémon around to remain unnoticed, he judged. “Why don’t we take this somewhere more secluded? I need to know what happened,” he told Aleck.

                                          Before waiting for an agreement from the former merchant, he summoned forth the psychic energy that composed his being. His red eyes glowed bright yellow and in a flash of brilliant white, both he and the startled Sableye were in the middle of a stone room deep within the bowels of the center of the camp. Wire focused another psychic pulse and aimed it at the Luminous Orb that hung in an iron fixture from the ceiling. The glassy sphere immediately burst into light and illuminated the place.

                                          Wire cringed a bit at the room once it was revealed: several demented-looking, iron instruments were arranged carefully on shelves, a metal chair complete with numerous rusted, metal chains and clamps sprouted from it like a flower bloom from Erebus, and the formerly grey stone of the floor was stained a dull red from a substance Wire could only assume was blood. He looked at the Sableye. Both of his small claws were held close to his face and his small body trembled in terror. Wire immediately cursed his choice of secluded places in the camp.

                                          “Please, relax. I am not here to harm you. I just want information. Please, tell me what happened to the Charmeleon, the Jolteon, and the Riolu,” Wire ordered while trying to appear as non-threatening as he could, though, as he was a steel tank in a room full of torture devices, that attempt failed miserably. Aleck shot backwards and tried to pry open the thick metal door that sealed the room shut.

                                          “The door is locked on both sides. Also, this room is completely sealed, so the oxygen levels will swiftly deplete unless you cooperate with me, please.” Wire informed him as he slowly tapped the stone floor with one of his massive metal legs. Gasping from his attempt to claw the door open, Aleck slowly turned around to face the giant blue automaton. Wire noticed that the eye that was showing glinted with something that he registered as anger. The Sableye walked up to the Metagross and tapped a single claw on his face plate.

                                          “Listen here, I don’t know who you think you are, but I’ve been beaten and taken against my will too many times. I’m drawing the line here! I was hoping to simply talk to you, but now I’m not feeling so inclined to do so,” Aleck retorted. Wire merely brushed his claw off his face, nearly gouging out Aleck’s remaining eye with his spiked foot.

                                          “Please, I just want to know what happened to them. Are they alright? Did the Charmeleon survive?” Aleck simply scowled.

                                          “Well, I guess I don’t have a say in the matter, do I? Let me start. Leo, the Charmeleon, and his two friends were suddenly teleported into the middle of the town square a few days ago. By you, I suppose? Anyways, they were taken into custody by … our officer. They were cleared to leave the next day, apparently completely healed,” Aleck answered at last, his breath becoming slightly more drawn out than usual.

                                          Wire tried to process all of what the Sableye was saying. If this statement is true, then it means that … my liberator held up his side of deal. Th-- Thank, Arceus that they are alive.

                                          The crushing weight of guilt that had consumed him over the past few days was lifted slightly. He swiftly teleported himself and Aleck back to the courtyard. He had to prepare. He would find them, and he would help them out in any way he could.

                                          “You know, if I had just used a Water Pulse before you kicked my legs out, I would have had you!” Noah yelled boisterously at Jay as they dined on the rough tables outside the mess tent at dinner the next day. The Riolu looked up from his bowl of steaming broth that seemed to swim with unidentifiable ingredients --Ramses refused to divulge the contents when they had asked.

                                          “Sure, sure. You just can’t admit that I finally beat you in a fair battle, can you?” Jay asked, a wide grin forming on his face as Noah slammed both of his fists down on the table.

                                          “That was not a fair battle! I had already been through two battles before I faced you. I’d hardly call that fair!” Noah snapped. Leo watched with a slight bemusement over his own bowl of the potentially hazardous meal as the two Pokémon kept up their argument over the legitimacy of Jay’s victory.

                                          Noah had woken up early that morning and, much to their dismay, was excited as ever to begin the day and seemed not to suffer any fatigue from his knockout during the match yesterday. Leo had been reluctant to leave his hammock. He wasn’t stuck in a pleasant dream; in fact, he hadn’t had a single dream at all, and he wanted to enjoy every minute of the uninterrupted sleep.

                                          Neither the Dewott nor Torrent were going to let him relish the pleasure of beneficial rest. By the time the sun was cresting the horizon, he --along with Jay, Noah, and Kelly-- were given training work moving filled crates across the camp. Leo was certain that he’d be sweating if he had the ability to do so.

                                          The muscles in his arms and legs burned with a dull, aching pain in protest of the strain they had been subjected to. Leo knew that it was good for him to put some training on his new body, but it didn't help the horrible feelings that came with it.

                                          Jay seemed to share his feelings, but did not voice them as he continued his banter with Noah. Leo summoned courage and gulped down the watery substance in his bowl as he tried to ignore the chilling feeling that accompanied it. Leo looked to the opposite side of the table where the three members of Team Emerald were conversing among themselves. The team had been sticking near them ever since they arrived at Camp New Rain, training with or near them, eating at their table at meal times. It was as if they were determined to become their friends by association alone.

                                          Leo couldn’t help but feel slightly unnerved by their constant presence. Sonic was nice enough; he was always the least talkative of the trio. But when he did, he seemed to connect the most with them. Leo had only talked to the guy a few times, but he could almost count him as a friend after those conversations.

                                          However, Blade and Elliot were a different story. The Grovyle and Absol seemed to have some sort of psychic connection between them, always nodding silently to each other, whispering conversations behind crates or tents and always hushing their voices as soon as he approached them. They tried their hardest to put on a friendly facade, as when Blade ran into him yesterday, but Leo couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling about those two.

                                          You have absolutely no basis for your distrust of them, his thoughts scolded, but yet the feelings remained and only seemed to intensify with every passing hour. If he hadn’t been preoccupied with his ailing sanity, he might have taken the initiative to investigate his gut feeling of unease.

                                          Jay and Noah continued to argue; they now seemed to be shouting at each other from across the table. Leo had tuned them out several minutes ago. The last few days had been torture. There was no other way he could phrase it. It all started when I saw that ... thing, in the cafe. It had all gone downhill from there. Nearly killed, hallucinations, run out of town, burned, exploded, ambushed, beaten. How the hell am I still alive? An interesting question, but not one he had an answer for. Just how had he survived?

                                          He put his claw to his chin and closed his eyes. What has happened to me? He opened his eyes once again and looked down at the dull white claws. He moved them one after the other. Nothing in the past few days alarmed him as much as this. He vaguely noticed it during some of the quiet times back in their base at Loyalty but had never paid it too much heed until now. He was certain that he would always remember, but the memories had grown foggy.

                                          He couldn’t remember what human hands felt like. Hands were not the only thing that had undergone this memory dump. Leo was almost clueless as to what hair felt like anymore, but the horn and scales he was currently fitted with almost seemed --dare he even think it-- natural. The sense of being tall at some point, the feel of human skin, wearing clothes. With every passing day these memories seemed more like distant figments of his imagination.

                                          Oh God, what if ... What if I imagined it all? The thought was chillingly horrifying. And what was worse was that he had plenty of evidence to back it up. His mind obviously wasn’t in a position to argue for the memories’ validity, and even if it was, Leo doubted he would believe it. And, besides that, the only other thing that had specifically told him he was human was the Mismagius.

                                          What if ... What if it was all-- His thoughts were rudely interrupted as Noah’s voice cut across them like a sharp knife.

                                          “Earth to Leo! Come on, man! We gotta go!” The thoughts of uncertainty faded away to be sorted out at a later time as Noah waved a black paw in front of his face. “Let’s go! Get up!”

                                          “Wait a moment!” Leo shouted as he slowly hopped off the log stump at the table, wincing slightly as the tip of his tail thumped against the wood. “What’s happening? Where is everyone else?” he asked as he noted that every soul other than Noah seemed to have disappeared from the mess area. Even Kelly and Jay were gone.

                                          The Dewott shrugged. “There’s been some news. Apparently, someone’s here at the camp. Looks like a government guy --real stuck up Pokémon. Torrent called an assembly a few minutes ago. I’m not sure how you didn’t hear it,” he reported as suddenly he grabbed Leo’s wrist. Without waiting for a further reply or comment from the Charmeleon, Noah ran through the narrow alleyways between the tents dragging Leo behind him.

                                          The front gate of the camp was a madhouse in the loosest sense of the word. The crowd surrounding the entrance was so thick that Leo couldn’t see past the first row of Pokémon. It was the first time he had seen the entirety of the camp assembled in one place.

                                          Noah was not deterred by the seemingly impregnable mob and, still dragging Leo by the wrist, he wormed his way through the mass. Leo could only apologize tersely as he was forced to step on the feet of several Pokémon as well as the unexpected branding more than few of them received from his tail. Noah continued to push past the Pokémon, somehow managing to shove an Aggron out of his way without being crushed.

                                          Soon enough, they were in the front row of the scene and Noah finally released his iron grip on Leo’s wrist. Kelly and Jay both watched the scene directly to his right, while Noah winged his left. Torrent stood scowling in the front of the crowd, Quark at his side with an equally sour expression. Now that he was at the front himself, he could see exactly why.

                                          There was a Magnemite floating just inside the camp. From his tone and the amount of buzzing that interrupted his dialogue, Leo could tell that the machine was immensely irritated.

                                          “ZBT! General! Why are you being so uncooperative? ZT! Need I say again that I have a warrant from Governor Richelieu? ZT!” he exclaimed as he waved a sealed letter held in his right magnet.

                                          “You’ve already told us that quite a few times, Officer Rho,” Torrent hissed. The Magnemite muttered something darkly to itself.

                                          “General, I have to search the camp. ZZT! We have suspicions that a few of your recruits might be fugitives. SZT!” he said with a harsh burst of static. He tried to move forward into the camp, but Leo felt the crowd thicken and form a wall against the officer.

                                          “I see no reason why to doubt the sincerity of any of my recruits,” the Feraligatr said tersely, his patience seemingly at an end.

                                          “ZBT! But, the warrant! I have a legal right to search this establishment! ZZT!” the officer, Rho, whined.

                                          “Tough luck. Now leave, before I have my boys here escort you,” the general growled as two monsters seemingly made entirely out of red and dark blue stone on either side of Torrent took a menacing step forward.

                                          Rho apparently took the hint and, much to Leo’s satisfaction, turned around and started floating back towards the exit. As he passed, Rho’s central eye locked onto Leo.

                                          The Charmeleon wasn’t entirely sure what happened in the next few instances, but he found himself laying on his back and his scales emitting an oddly delicious cooked smell as thin, black smoke slowly wafted from his body. He cautiously lifted his neck up, a sudden numbness in his muscles making it difficult to move at all. He closed his eyes and memories from seemingly long ago in Loyalty prison came back to him in earnest --he had been electrified, again. Luckily, his body seemed to be developing a slight resistance to it, but not nearly as much as he’d like.

                                          “Leo! Are you alright?” Kelly yelled from above him over the vast chorus of other loud voices. Leo reopened his eyes and saw her standing over him along with several other recruits he hadn’t met, a look of genuine concern spread across her face. He managed a clumsy nod and tried once more to elevate his neck to see what was happening in the crowd before him.

                                          The Magnemite seemed to be buried under the muscular arms of Torrent, who kept picking up the small, steel Pokémon and threw him into the rocky ground. Quark hovered just outside the range of Torrent’s rage as he produced a weak, purple, psychic field that kept the throng of soldiers from joining in on the beat down.

                                          “Treason! Traitors! BZZT! I’ll send you all to Sawgrass Town for this! ZT!” Rho screeched as Torrent threw another punch on his central eye, the general ignoring the sparks the officer was shooting off.

                                          “I’d like to see you try, you piece of scrap metal,” the Feraligatr growled as he dented the front of the screaming officer. Dull, metalic, gonging noises resonated from the fight with each blow Torrent landed.

                                          “I’ll watch them BZT! eat you alive! ZZT! You are all damned!” Rho cursed as Torrent decided to take a new approach to the brawl. He lifted the weakly-sparking Magnemite in his hand and raised the damaged Pokémon close to his face.

                                          “If you ever come here again, I will rip you in half. And, if you even look at any of my recruits the wrong way, I will make sure you never see again. Understand?” Torrent asked, his voice dropped to a chilling whisper. The entire mob around Leo seemed to have the sound sucked out of it as they awaited the Magnemite’s response. Rho said nothing as he meekly hovered off of Torrent’s hand towards the gate of the base.

                                          Based on his previous experiences with the species, Leo was hardly surprised when halfway to the camp entrance, Officer Rho decided to turn around and fire a pulse of electricity from his twisted magnets. Torrent spun around as soon as he heard the tell-tale cackle of energy. He raised his arm and caught the full brunt of the blast with his limb.

                                          The yellow beam of energy forced Torrent back about three feet before dissipating. Torrent, to the apparent horror of the quaking guard, simply shook off the attack and faced him. He let out an almost primal roar as he pounced on the Pokémon. The entire crowd started cheering as Leo was suddenly hoisted on top of the mob, one of the Pokémon below must have sat him on their shoulders.

                                          “BZZzT! They’ll slaughter you BZT! and your families! BZZT!” Rho cried as Torrent’s claws tore into his casing. Bolts of electricity jumped between the two fighters, though the Feraligatr did not seem phased by it in the slightest.

                                          “No. They. Won’t!” Torrent yelled. With each grunt, he tore another piece off of the screaming officer. Leo couldn’t look away at the savage display. Even though a small part of his mind wanted to go in and stop the fighting, the majority of his head cheered along with the crowd. Leo forgot about the damage he had received and tried to lean forward on the Pokèmon’s shoulders he sat on to get a better look at the Magnemite’s brutal dismantlement.

                                          The corrupt officer gave one final, ear-splitting screech as Torrent rended him in two. Sparks and wires flew across the clearing as the general flung the broken pieces of Rho’s core to the ground. The whirling mechanisms inside the core spun and sputtered smoke and sparks as they tried in vain to preserve themselves. Leo saw thin, blue streams of data stream out of the broken processor and fade into the air. Thick black smoke poured from the split core as the erratic movement gradually subsided.

                                          “Now ... Everyone. Pack up camp. Not a drill this time ... Orders came in from Silver. We’re moving out. Tonight,” the blue reptile breathed heavily as faint lines of electricity continued to trace across his heaving body. With a groan, he slowly limped back into the camp. The crowd stood completely still for a moment before dispersing like frightened bugs exposed in a light.

                                          Leo found himself plopped on the ground inches away from Rho’s still-sparking brain. Only the three Pokémon he knew in this world remained behind with him. Jay went up to the shattered hemisphere and kicked it with his foot.

                                          “You know? I’m starting to like it here. How about you, two?” the Riolu asked casually as he examined a bit of sparking wire. “I mean, it’s been only three days and Torrent’s already killed a Magnemite that was hunting us.”

                                          “I don’t understand how you think that’s a good thing. It’s still murder, even if they were hunting us,” Kelly whispered, her voice almost emotionless. She nudged the broken fragments of Rho away from Jay’s feet and further desecration.

                                          Leo didn’t answer him immediately. Sure, he was completely ecstatic that a Magnemite was dead, but something with that didn’t entirely sit right with him. It might have been the final shred of his morality crying out to him that murder was wrong, but Leo pushed the feeling back into the back of his mind. I am happy about this, right? I should be happy. But, why do I not feel that way?

                                          “I ... I don’t know what to think. Torrent ... he honestly scares me ... I’ll keep my distance from him,” Leo said slowly as he circumvented the debris of the Magnemite. “Is he usually like this, Noah?” The Dewott worked alongside Kelly to shift away the Magnemite fragments into a single pile near the dirt wall of the encampment.

                                          “No.” The Dewott crossed his arms. “He has a bit of a temper, but never this bad. It’s because of what happened with Gear, I’m sure of it,” Noah explained, his normally cheery personality wavering for a few split seconds. Sounds of moving crates and collapsing cloth tents filled the air.

                                          “It’s not a good sign,” he told them shortly before turning away towards the center of the camp. “Now let’s go. We have to pack up. Nightfall will be here sooner then you’d believe.”

                                          Again, Leo wondered how time could possibly move so fast. The half of the day that had gone by seemed like an endless cycle of moving crates onto a series of wooden sleighs and packing every shred of personal belongings into backpacks.

                                          By the time the sun had begun its descent into the western horizon, Camp New Rain as he had known it was no more. The orderly rows of faded tents were dismantled and carefully folded into tight rolls. He had assisted with the movement of every essential crate onto a fleet of wide wooden sleds. The mess tent was no more and the crude tables made from stumps shoved into the grassy thicket, as was anything else not considered vital to sustain a battalion of Pokémon until they reached their undisclosed destination.

                                          Back at the site of Noah’s tent, they all swept the area, making sure there was nothing left behind. Jay used a spare bag Noah had swiped from somewhere to stow the odds and ends that had survived the flight from Loyalty. An orb, a small length of rope, a couple badly bruised apples and nearly smashed berries, and the worn map Jay kept with him at all times. Both he and Kelly had nothing except her Pecha Scarf -still covered with faint blood stains from Leo’s wound-and his key.

                                          While Kelly and Jay sorted through the meager item pool, Leo took a moment to examine the artifact again. It had been some time since he had last paid a good deal of attention to it. The blue crystal appeared unchanged --although it was a bit dirty-- a small comfort to the Charmeleon. The smooth-cut key still hung as it always did from the gold band it was attached to. He slipped the key around his neck again, its reassuring weight on his chest bringing him an even greater degree of comfort.

                                          “You’re always wearing that thing. What exactly is it?” Noah asked as he used his sharp shells to slice through a length of twine that held up the tent.

                                          “It’s … a personal item. It was the first thing I found after waking up without my memories,” Leo replied as he slung his satchel over his shoulder and grabbed hold of the tent material. Together the two Pokémon tugged as the cloth came sliding off the frame.

                                          “Hmm …Interesting. I don’t have any mementos like that, but if I had something as nice as that thing, I’d keep it under lock and key. Try to ignore the bad pun,” Noah said with a chuckle. “Never noticed that scar on you. What’s that from? Looks like it hurt like hell.”

                                          “Actually, I didn’t feel it all too much,” he said with a small smile. Technically, it was not a lie. “You remember that Metagross Jay told you about? That’s where I got it.” Leo gave one final tug on the cloth as it lifted off the framework completely. Noah immediately went to work folding it into a series of increasingly smaller rectangles.

                                          “Oh yeah, I remember. That entire story does seem a little far-fetched. But I believe it after seeing that scar. It’s surprising how much they can tell about a person. I’ve got one right here,” he said while pointing to a discolored line in the blue skin in the middle of his chest. “Would you believe me if I told you that I got this sucker fighting in a gladiatorial pit against members of the Cult of the Second Mew?”

                                          “Umm … No?” Leo answered, unsure of what the Dewott was expecting from him.

                                          “Good.” That was all Noah said with a wink as he suddenly picked up the rolled up tent canvas and walked off. Leo simply stood there as he tried to process the cryptic, nonsensical answer. It’s probably a matter best left alone. He’s so far off the deep end he might as well be in an oceanic trench, his thoughts told him comfortingly.

                                          To say Leo was tired would be a massive understatement. Leo was dead tired. His feet ached from walking over the worn trail through the grassland, his muscles hurt from loading the crates earlier, and his shoulders were killing him due to the heavy backpack he was carrying. The hell did Noah pack in this thing? Rocks?

                                          Despite Torrent’s order to leave at night, they had departed from the settlement several hours ahead of schedule, mostly due to the general’s urging them along throughout the day. Noah told them it was probably because of the Magnemite.

                                          “Trust me, no one wants to be around when a body is found,” he had said as they began their trek. It definitely makes sense. The law enforcement is corrupt, and I’d hate to see how bad it is in the judicial system.

                                          The general had the battalion’s bird Pokémon fly ahead to survey the path, Icarus somehow at their lead. While Leo had always found his lengthy ramblings annoying, he couldn’t help but view him as a friend. The Pidgeotto, despite his duties around the camp, had always taken the time to drop down and say hello. When Kelly tried to tell him how grateful they all were to him for guiding them towards the camp, Leo could almost see his blush through his feathers.

                                          “Aww. It was nothin’, love. After what you all did for me, it’s the least I could do to pay you lot back,” he had said while rubbing a wing awkwardly on the back of his head. “N-now, I really must be going. Errands and messages and all that, you know?” The bird had darted off after that, but it became clear that he truly felt the need to repay his debt for saving him from Jumpluff.

                                          Now, Icarus was a dot in the northern horizon along with five other birds and Leo was still stuck on the ground. He would have given anything to have a pair of wings right then, if only so that he could get out of carrying the heavy pack.

                                          Dry grass, nearly bleached by the summer sun, cracked under his clawed feet as he walked among the other Pokémon from the encampment. He tried his best not to stumble on the multiple sets of furrows in the ground left by the sleds’ runners. Despite having to avoid tripping, Leo was slightly amazed at the sheer strength of some of the Pokémon present.

                                          Each of the five wooden sleds were piled with several hundred pounds of cargo, yet it only took one or two of the stronger soldiers to pull them along. The Aggron from the crowd earlier was single-handedly tugging a sled and hardly seemed to be breaking a sweat. Forget wings. Some good ol’ strength would be wonderful.

                                          Torrent and Quark walked near the center of the group. Despite the wishes of Noah and Kelly, Leo had practically begged them to stay to the fringe of the exodus. He took Quark at his word and refused to come within the twenty-foot boundary. He had taken a great risk in getting near the Alakazam —Kelly having briefed him on the proper name of the species last night— during the confrontation between Torrent and the officer.

                                          Leo took a quick look behind him. Noah was walking in between Kelly and Jay, happily chatting away even though both the Jolteon and the Riolu appeared to be doing their best to ignore the Dewott. Even being knocked out cold by Jay yesterday had no effect on Noah’s personality. To Leo, it looked as if the Dewott was stuck in his own world half the time, and he didn’t seem to care which ‘world’ he was stuck in at any particular moment.

                                          That last observation got Leo thinking as he marched on the trampled grass stalks. The matter of his apparent humanity was still unresolved. He tried to line up the small amount of evidence he had going for him. There was the dream from a few nights ago, small bits and pieces of human terminology, and the Mismagius’s word. So, again, absolutely nothing that proves that it’s not some fever dream.

                                          On the other hand, there was an argument stacked against him. No one trustworthy had confirmed his humanity --the Mismagius had already proved his ability with hallucinations—and there was the undeniable factor of his own declining sanity. Leo could feel his mind slipping from time to time, each episode would send him into a quiet state of absolute paranoia and panic. Yesterday during the day-nightmare had been the worst of his ‘attacks’ so far. Whatever the Mismagius had done to him, the effects were synergistic with each other and the lapses in sanity becoming increasingly worse.

                                          He began to think it just might be easier on his psyche to simply accept the fact that he might not be a human after all. He didn’t like the idea of possibly throwing out the single conviction he had been certain of since he woke up in Tranquility Fields, but he felt like his back was up against a proverbial spike wall and there was only the choice of finding the least painful route to take.

                                          Maybe … I’m not human at all. Maybe, I was always a Charmeleon... Again, it almost made a bit of sense to Leo. He couldn’t trust his mind to come up with valid answers for the moment. Getting rid of a conflict would only clear up space for more important things to worry about. Like the nightmarish message he had received.

                                          That thing said I wasn’t supposed to be here. In this world. Was it right? So far, the answer seemed to be pointing towards ‘yes’. His experiences here had been less than optimal, that was true. Nearly killing himself getting out of the Field, being arrested by Gear, getting poisoned by Jumpluff, the terrifying hallucinations from the Mismagius, nearly murdered by Nexus, run out of town, and now that nightmare.

                                          Seriously, how am I still alive? That figure in the nightmare had been wrong. There had to be something working in his favor keeping him alive through all that. No, there’s no sense in giving up ye— His train of thought was broken as his foot suddenly dropped several inches into one of the sled ruts. He tried flailing his arms in a vain attempt to regain his balance, but the combined forces of the heavy pack he was saddled with and gravity easily overpowered him. He fell face first into the mixture of crushed grass and powderized dirt.

                                          Maybe this is a sign. Stupid universe, he thought grimly as he tried to force his arms to obey and lift himself off the ground. His arms, still sore from the physical labor earlier, took a long time to comply. Too long.

                                          “Come on, Leo. No time for napping!” Noah’s voice called from above him as he felt the Dewott’s paws grip his left arm and viciously yank him to his feet.

                                          Shaking his head to reorient himself, Leo grumbled a thanks to the Dewott and continued his march along the trail.

                                          “Torrent! Ahead! About two minutes!” Leo –and everyone else in the battalion—looked up in surprise as Icarus shouted down to the Feraligatr. “Distortion ahead!”

                                          That was all the general needed. “Alright! Everyone into groups of four! Protect the sleds and get to the rendezvous at the end of the dungeon. We’ve all done this before. Just make it through to the exit!” Torrent yelled, his voice somehow amplified so everyone could hear it.

                                          Every Pokémon sprung into action as they started gathering in clusters of no more than four. Leo was suddenly pulled backwards, the backpack choking him for a moment as his forward movement ceased. He quickly turned around, wheezing slightly, as Jay let go of him.
                                          Noah was busy trying to tell them advice about what to do when the distortion hit. “Listen up. Whatever you do: Do not move. I’ve been through this before, trust me. Just stay still,” he said quickly as what looked like a giant dust cloud appeared on the horizon. The giant mass of billowing dirt and debris sped towards them, whipping up wind as it approached.

                                          It became largely apparent that Icarus could not judge time or distance at all. Scarcely thirty seconds had passed when the cloud was upon the battalion, a far cry from the two minutes the bird had promised. Luckily, the rest of the camp seemed to know this and had moved like lightning.

                                          The mass of swirling dust smashed into the traveling Pokémon; the mob of minute meteors managing to sting Leo’s eyes as they rushed past. Leo kept his eyes tightly shut as the storm continued to pelt him with small bits of dirt clods and a spray of dust that greatly irritated his tail flame. He reached around his back and took hold of the appendage, trying to protect it from the assault with his claws.

                                          And suddenly, it stopped. The storm ceased even quicker than it had come. By the time Leo had regained the courage to open his eyes, he had to blink again to make sure what he was seeing was real.

                                          The sprawling, thick grasslands that had surrounded him a brief moment ago were completely gone. Instead, they had been replaced with the skeletal remains of fallen trees, their gnarled roots clawing into the hills of jagged brown rock. Lush grass was substituted with dried shrubs and thorny vines that made up an impassible thicket. The sudden transformation of the field into a desolate badland was not the most surprising change. Leo looked up at the sky. It had gone from the warm orange and blue of the nearing sunset to an otherworldly black color with dark purple clouds. The sun had been shifted as well, going from its usual form to emitting a cold sky blue light that did little to illuminate the dark aura of the land.

                                          Mesmerized by the dramatic change of scenery, Leo took an unconscious step forward. He was snapped out of his stupor when he registered that his foot had not made contact with any form of solid ground. He felt his body begin its long fall into a bottomless abyss cushioned only by toxic looking clouds bursting with lightning.

                                          For the second time that day, he felt something grab hold of the backpack and quickly pull him backwards from the sudden ledge. As soon as he had two feet back on solid ground, Leo fell to the ground and scrambled back from the edge as quickly as he could.

                                          “And that’s why I said not to move!” Noah shouted as he took a hold of Leo’s shoulders and hauled the Charmeleon to his feet. “This dungeon has a nasty habit of putting teams near the edge. I’ve seen more than one Pokémon take a plunge and I don’t want you to be next.”

                                          The blue sun cast cold shadows across the team that made them all shiver in the pale light. Hidden crevasses and hollows in the hills seemed to scream with the voice of the shrill, haunted wind that tore through the brambles and sere plants. While the three members of Team Salient observed the almost-demented looking landscape, Noah took a deep breath.

                                          “Just like my first home! Except for the blue sun,” the Dewott said as he gestured to the expanse of wasteland. “Anyways,” he said as he turned back to them, “we have to get going. There’s not a lot of daylight left and we really don’t want to be out here at night.” He then took one of his shells and sliced through a thick bramble vine, revealing a pathway of sorts through one of the canyons.

                                          “Wait a minute, Noah. Just where are we? What just happened?” Jay demanded, crossing his arms as Kelly and Leo stopped beside him. Noah saw their lack of enthusiasm to follow and sighed.

                                          “Alright, alright. I’ll tell you what you want to know, just promise me you’ll keep moving. Come on,” he urged as he ducked under the remains of the vine and into the narrow gorge. Shooting a look over at Leo and Kelly, Jay shrugged and followed the Dewott. Leo had some misgivings about the entrance, but there was quite literally no other place to go on the outcropping besides down to a gruesome death.

                                          Somewhat reluctantly, Leo tightened the straps on the pack and followed Kelly into the canyon.
                                          He felt a cold chill run down his spine as his thoughts seemed to freeze with the knowledge of where he was. He was in one: a Mystery Dungeon. As the distortion of reality passed over his head, he remembered how his last two excursions into the weird realms had left him poisoned and technically dead.

                                          The dungeon was nothing like Leo had seen before. Numerous other thorn-choked canyons opened up in the clearing ahead. The rock formations around them glowed with the color of ice and the very air seemed to be filled with a thin, purple miasma.

                                          “Noah. Answers. Now. We’re moving, so now keep your end of the deal,” Jay demanded yet again as he hiked through the rocky soil, muttering a curse towards Celebi whenever the clinging vines caught in his fur.

                                          “Alright, alright. As you may have noticed from the glowing rocks, blue sun, and purple air, we are in a Mystery Dungeon. According to Torrent, it’s a shortcut through the entire Mid-Reach, and considering we only travel seven or so miles over a space of land that’s over two hundred miles long, I’d agree with him. You guys know what Links are, right?” Noah asked as he slammed his shells into a wall of a small wall of ice-blue stone in the middle of the path. He used the shells to hold his place as he climbed to the top of the barrier.

                                          He bent down to give Jay a paw up. Once the Riolu had scampered up the fractured surface they both helped Kelly get over the obstacle. After her, Leo managed to dig his claws into the numerous pockmarks in the surface and climb up the rock face.

                                          “Yes, we know what the Links are. You do remember the story of the Metagross, don’t you?” Jay asked as he gazed out over the wasteland. The vast mesa of pale blue light punctuated only by the occasional clump of bramble created an eerily ethereal scene that, to Leo, could have been pulled directly from a backdrop of a scene from the works of a demented playwright.

                                          “Ah, yes. I remember. Up until that point of the story, I was about to fall asleep. I think,” Noah replied with a wide grin on his face. The Dewott scanned over the otherworldly landscape. “There! That path is the one that leads towards it!” His paw pointed towards a thin, winding trail that lead through the crystalline rocks.

                                          “Noah. What does that have to do with the Links that appear in dungeons?” It was Kelly who inquired this of the Dewott this time, as the Pokémon in question began to dismount the rock barrier on the opposite side of path.

                                          “Well,” Noah grunted as he leaped to the ground and jarred his legs on the rocky soil. “In the far west corner, there’s a perpetual Link that serves as Torrent’s rendezvous point whenever we pass through here. It’s also the only way out of here, so it’s kinda important that we reach it,” the Dewott explained as Jay, Kelly, and Leo leaped down one-by-one from the rock edifice. “Before the sun goes down because--”

                                          He didn’t get a chance to finish as a ear-shattering screech pierced the air. Leo felt his blood turn to ice as the voice continued to scream as if it was being brutally murdered. The rocks around them began to shift in colors from a cool blue to a deep, blood-like crimson.

                                          Leo watched as Noah’s entire body went a paler shade of blue as he suddenly took off down one of the thorn-filled canyons. “Run! Dammit, run! She’s found us!” he shouted at them, not even looking back. Heeding his advice, the members of Team Salient began to sprint like the forces of hell were right behind them. And indeed they were.

                                          Kelly managed to catch up to the Dewott and stay by at his side as her paws flew across the dirt, Jay only a few strides behind her. Leo, however, was struggling to keep the three other Pokémon in his sight as the heavy pack on his back weighed him down. The screeches continued as the air around Leo chilled rapidly. The voice seemed to envelope his entire body as his vision began to grow hazy.

                                          “Invio Nex, quod sit ubi sitis,”

                                          In a last ditch effort to get away, Leo tore off the pack, slicing through the shoulder straps and letting it --and thus, most of their shelter-- drop to the dungeon floor. His rapid breaths converted into blasts of visible mist as soon as they made contact with the frigid air. He felt the presence on his back, his tail flame sputtering to remain lit against the embodiment of absolute zero.

                                          Out of instinct, when Leo saw the path ahead covered in jutting rocks, he pushed his claws into the surface of the first one and swiftly vaulted over it. His key swung wildly on its metallic strand as it bounced off his chest with every panicked movement he made in an attempt to preserve his life.

                                          The haze was all around him now; the others were out of his sight. He was running blind. Claws ripped through the rocky soil as he leaped over the rocks. The menace behind him screeched again.

                                          ”Quare venisti?” Leo felt like his ears were going to explode. He lunged forward, only to feel his knees smash into a low rock. Blood and scales smeared against the glowing red surface as he tumbled over the top of it. When he gained the courage to open his eyes, a demon floated before him.

                                          A pair of sunken, golden eyes embedded in a bed of purple, decaying flesh greeted him. Leo screamed. Terrified, he scrambled backwards only to have his spine smash against the jagged rock face. Leo tried to think of anything, force his body to use one of its magical skills, but like the air around him, his mind seemed to have been frozen in place as well. His ongoing scream was snatched from his mouth by a blast of bitterly cold air.

                                          “Quare venisti.... W-why... Why have you come?” Leo could only stare dumbfounded at the figure made from ice shards and paper-white skin stretched taut over a human-like body of frozen, violet flesh. A tattered, blood-red sash hung from her waist and jewels of solid ice jutted from her head.

                                          Ignis, quid hic agis? Fire -- Ignis, why have you come?” The ice demon’s gentle question passed over him, a far cry from the horrid shrieking from before. “Indica tribulation vestris ... Tell your tribulations, Ignis.” Her voice contained no malice, no hatred. Only a soft, genuine sincerity.

                                          “I- I don’t know why I’m here,” he said as the temperature around him dropped even more. Despite his flaming tail, he was unconsciously shivering in the below-freezing air. Small particles of snow formed from his exhaled breath as the siren gently caressed his cheek with one of her long, hair-like arms.

                                          ”Indica mihi iustum et oblivíscere. Just tell me and forget, mi cara, Ignis,” she whispered. The words wrapped around Leo like a silk blanket. He felt his mind loosening, his surroundings start to fade underneath a coating of oddly warm ice. Leo saw her hand rise to his chest and press against where his heart would be.

                                          “Cor tuum, cara Ignis. Where is your heart?” she inquired as a thin coating of ice spread across his body from her touch. He desperately tried to move, but forces beyond his control kept his muscles paralyzed. Even his eyes were forcibly fixated on the Froslass’s unnaturally yellow ones.

                                          She leaned in close to him and whispered something in his ear, yet he did not comprehend it in the slightest. Instantly, it felt as if a spear of ice stabbed his heart, foregoing piercing skin and bone and impacting the organ directly. At once, everything seemed to stop. His lungs couldn’t expand or contract, his veins were frozen solid as the blood within them chilled to below zero, his heart was gripped by a glaciated hand and only constricted tighter with every passing second.

                                          His tail dimmed to a fraction of an ember as the ice demon continued to claw its way through him. Darkness clouded his sight as ice wormed its way into his body. The wall of ice that encased him suddenly shuddered and warped. A voice shouted from beyond the clear barrier as a vague figure leaped into his fixed frame of decreasing vision.

                                          At once, the shadowy Pokémon extended its foot and slammed into the Froslass. In an instant, the icy hold over Leo melted, leaving him stunned and shivering in a puddle of cursed water as his body struggled to fight off the urge to go into hypothermic shock.

                                          “Hey! Kyurem’s bastard daughter! Over here!” Jay’s voice blasted into his sensitive eardrums as his senses of hearing, sight, and feeling slowly returned.

                                          Not thinking, Leo scrambled to his feet, though immediately failing in this endeavor as his legs collapsed beneath his body. He blindly reached forward with his claws and tried to drag himself out of the line of fire between the ice demoness and Jay.

                                          “Nulla, Ignis! Non discedis! Vos mei, Ignis! Cupio vivere!” the Froslass shouted from somewhere above him as a blast of frigid air slashed over him. Jay swore as he dashed through the wind at the ice maiden. The Riolu’s fist swung and crunched into the ice-coated flesh, cracking the smooth, curved surface of her face with a jagged fissure along her forehead.

                                          Leo felt her presence hover over his crawling form as he desperately whispered prayers that she wouldn’t notice him pressed against the ground. Unfortunately, there was no such luck planned for him. She hissed angrily, her form writhing with rage as she looked down on him.

                                          “Incendium meum, quo vadis? Quo vadis?!” she spat, the words sharp and laced with a cool sting as she darted to the side, dodging the most recent of Jay’s attacks. In one fluid movement, she twirled around in the air, a flurry of snow dancing about her body, shot several biting gusts of wind at the attacking Riolu, and immediately swooped down onto Leo.

                                          Her right arm wrapped around Leo’s neck as she held the sharpened ice portion against his neck. Leo begged and pleaded, yet his body refused to cooperate. He had the abilities to free himself, but not a single nerve of his Pokémon form would obey his commands.

                                          “Cease. Or else, Ignis is ... extinguished,” she breathed, her anger causing her to speak in the common tongue, as Jay suddenly halted in the middle of winding up another glowing punch. The Riolu slowly took a step backwards as the two Pokemon continued to stare each other down in the middle of the red-tinted space between the small mesas of glowing rock.

                                          “Leo, just stay calm. We’ll get you out of this!” he shouted, yet his words had little impact besides using up a bit more air than normal breathing. I’m not an idiot, Jay. I’m not going to get myself killed if I can help it, Leo thought, not wanting to talk and risk losing his head in the process.

                                          It remained that way for several seconds: Jay and the Froslass exchanging death glares as Leo helplessly floundered in the near-choking hold of the demoness. Leo’s breathing gradually turned into a series of guttural gasps as he tried to sink his claws into the hardened ice of the creature’s forearm.

                                          The lack of air finally started numbing his body just before a surge of electricity coursed through him and his captor from behind. The energy simply passed over his unfeeling nerves as a slight wave of nausea rushed towards his head. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Pokémon that kept him hostage let out a screech that seemed to rock the entire wasteland.

                                          The Froslass immediately dropped him on the rocky ground as she darted towards the opposite side of the clearing. Leo felt the skin on his arms and legs break as blood dripped from his lacerations onto the dry soil.

                                          “Leo! Talk to me! Are you alright?” Leo was fairly certain it was Kelly yelling down at him, but neither his vision, nor his hearing had returned to optimal levels, leaving his surroundings a mess of red and black and his hearing muffled.

                                          “Move it!” another voice --possibly Noah-- barked as he shoved Kelly away. The Dewott becoming slightly more focused in Leo’s line of sight as his mind readjusted to having proper amounts of oxygen. Noah placed his paws on Leo’s shoulders and hefted him up to his feet.

                                          “Leo, answer this question as fast as you can: how many half-miles are in the Royal Highway?” the Dewott inquired, as he swiftly delivered a sharp slap to the side of Leo’s face. The sudden impact accelerated the reconnection of his senses. With a muttered curse he held the stinging area with his claws.

                                          “Answer!” Noah screamed as his black paw swiftly smacked the opposite side of Leo’s face. The fact that his skin was coated in scales did nothing to shield him from the hit.

                                          “I don’t know, Noah! I don’t know! Touch me again and I’ll make you wish you hadn’t,” Leo snapped, shaking his head as he finally saw the scene around him. The Froslass seemed to be curled on the ground, hidden behind a wall of ice while Jay continued to try and chip it away with each punch and kick.

                                          “Good! You’re not possessed. Any demon knows it’s exactly two-hundred and eight half-miles long. Now, we leave. As quickly as possible would be nice,” Noah replied as he let go of his iron grip. Leo stumbled as he summoned the strength to stand under his own power. “Also, Leo, you owe me ten silver Poké for that backpack,” the Dewott quickly added before darting across the canyon floor towards Jay.

                                          I hate him so much, Leo thought as Kelly returned to his side, giving him support as his blood warmed up and restarted circulation in his legs. His initial steps hurt as if someone had drilled holes in the bottoms of his feet, but after a few paces and many nearly shed tears, the pain began to subside slightly.

                                          Noah was grappling the Riolu in an attempt to pull him away from the seemingly dormant ice Pokémon, but Jay was not about to display any signs of walking away from the fight. Noah let loose a colorful array of curses and pulled out one of his scallops; holding the razor-sharp blade threateningly towards the battle-ready Riolu.

                                          "I'm not going to tell you again, Jay. Get your tail away from her! It never ends well with her!" Noah yelled as the ground began quaking, the epicenter directly under the thick ice dome that protected the ice demon.

                                          Jay broke free of the Dewott and lunged forward, his fist glowing white with energy. Despite Noah's protests, the attack hit the ice shield. Instead of behaving like normal frozen water, this solid glowed a sinister orange as Jay's fist rebounded. The Riolu screamed as a blast of energy knocked him off his feet and sent him flying through the air.

                                          Jay flew in a thin arc across the blue sunlit sky and slammed into the dirt, skidding several meters through the gravel until he came to a stop in front of Leo and Kelly. He remained as he was for several seconds, groaning weakly as he tried to force himself up. Despite his own injuries, Leo --with Kelly’s assistance-- attempted to offer his aching arm and claw to the fallen Riolu.

                                          Attempted, as in, tried to, but failed as the air was shattered like glass as an ear-piercing wail shot through the wastelands and made the four Pokemon freeze as they simultaneously cringed. The defense barrier about the Froslass exploded in a shimmering flash of lethal ice shards and ghostly wisps of demonic energy. Leo raised his arms to his face as the icy shrapnel sliced through the air and the topmost layer of his skin, penetrating his layer of thin scales.

                                          Ignoring the potentially hundreds of ice-splinters embedded in his arms, Leo looked to his teammates scattered around the clearing. Through the blue glare of the oversized setting sun, he saw that both Noah and Kelly had joined Jay pressed flat against the ground as the ice settled over them like a fine blue snow. The strange weather phenomenon filled the air as the Froslass continued to taunt him.

                                          “Ignis. You. If I can’t have you, then. Then. Then... “ her voice dropped to a sinister whisper. Despite being huddled in a ball on the ground on the opposite side of the clearing, Leo heard her voice as if she was talking into his ear. “Fáciem musica. Dicere vale ut tonitrui tui! ”

                                          Leo took three steps forward, putting Kelly and Jay behind him as the Froslass shot up from the ground. With speeds befitting a blizzard, she instantly appeared in front of him. He could feel her chilling exhales on his face. Snow fell from the blue sun, breaking the remaining laws of nature in this twisted wasteland. The powder coated the canyon and hissed angrily on his tail flame as it drifted down from the falsely-colored sky.

                                          Noah carefully raised his head off the ground and frantically began excitedly mouthing something that Leo couldn’t decipher. Kelly struggled with Jay’s wounds on the ground, the Jolteon attempting to ease Jay’s suffering. He curled his claws into a tight fist.

                                          “No. Shut up. We’re done with you. I’ve had enough near-death experiences in the last few days, thank you.” Leo replied, his voice quivering slightly with a growing rage as he heard Jay’s pained moan. From ahead of him, Noah was panickingly shaking his head and swiftly drawing his hand across his throat.

                                          “Leo, please, don’t,” Kelly’s strained voice fluttered through the air, alighting in his ears as he slowly shook his head. This was his time to prove them all wrong, to make a stand against the supposedly superior forces bent on dictating his every thought.

                                          The hellish Froslass opened her mouth a fraction as Leo felt something switch inside of him. With a single, fluid movement uncommon for most of his actions, Leo pulled back his arm and slammed his fist into the side of the Pokémon’s head.

                                          Her frozen skin cracked as a spiderweb of fractures spread across the left side of her face. A dark smoke hissed from her wound as the ice melted. For an instant, she looked at him, her gaze betraying no emotions as the decaying, purple flesh underneath the white ice became visible. Her icy skin then refroze as if nothing had happened.

                                          Just as fast, she swung back towards him, her icy appendages arcing low to the ground. Leo felt his legs take the impact of what seemed to be a heavy log. His world instantly flipped upside down as he landed on his back, staring up at the icy monster that was wildly smiling down at him.

                                          “Cover your ears! Now!” Noah screamed at the top of his lungs, his voice cracking sharply at the last word. Leo barely had enough sense and motor control to press his palms over the sides of his head, immediately muffling any noise that might have occurred around him. It was at that point, that the Froslass began singing the most twisted, vile string of notes and tones Leo had ever heard, and he couldn’t even hear them.

                                          The hellish chorus spewed from the jagged edges of her mouth, each note a sentient monster bent on destruction as they climbed out into the world and bombarded his claws like a battering ram. They made the rocks on the ground vibrate violently as they slammed into his body. The beats and tone shifts attempting to tear through the scales on his chest with their sharp claws and fangs in search of his heart.

                                          He could feel them prying at his claws, desperately trying to enter his head. Leo shook them away with an unheard yell as he squirmed and kicked under the unending swarm of music notes. Leo resisted the overwhelming temptation to use his claws to swat away the maniac, miniature, musical monsters that were intent on sinking their small fangs into every available inch of exposed skin.

                                          Just as Leo was going to give up and let the music have its way with him, it stopped. Everything ceased at once. The song, the pain, the evil, all evaporated like storm clouds in the sun. The canyon walls flickered and lost their hellish, red glow. Soft blue melted away from the snow and crept back into the dungeon infrastructure, restoring the gentle glow that had lit their path before the Froslass arrived .

                                          Rolling over onto his stomach, Leo pushed himself up with his arms, and got his legs to obey him once again. Pain still nipped at his skin from the many, tiny bites and scratches of the music notes, but now they felt like little more than irritated mosquito bites than fire searing into his scales.

                                          Jay grumbled something about “stupid dungeon Pokémon” as Leo clasped his outstretched paw and helped his leader to his feet. The Riolu seemed no worse for the wear. A few cuts were visible through his blue fur, the once bright azure color dulled with ground-in dust and blood, but he looked like he was functioning properly.

                                          “What the hell was that?” Jay said with a cough. Leo didn’t know how to answer him. He didn’t rightly know how to explain the string of events that had transpired in the last few moments. “Is everyone okay?” Jay inquired, brushing himself off as the Riolu blinked in the blue sunlight.

                                          “I think so,” Leo replied. Looking around, he saw Noah getting up from the crater he had hunkered down in during the assault of the music, Jay was still getting oriented with his feet and limbs, and the monster was nowhere in sight. She had vanished. Though, there was something missing from this scene of aftermath.

                                          “Kelly?” Leo blurted out when he did not see the yellow and white furred Jolteon at all. Jay ceased his complaints as he found he could not find his friend as well. “Kelly? Kelly!” Leo yelled with increasing volume as he took a few steps in each direction looking for his teammate.

                                          There was no sign of the Jolteon, despite her being literally a foot away from him before the Froslass’s song. Both he and Jay fell dead silent as they tried to listen for any sound from her, though only the canyon walls screeched as wind tore through them, making his tail flame flicker. His blood turned to ice once again as the demented dungeon seemed to mock him, tempting him to venture deeper in search of his friend.

                                          “Kelly!” Leo screamed to the passage, his voice straining as sheer panic took over. It was then that Noah jogged up beside both Pokémon. The Dewott put a paw on both of their shoulders.

                                          “She’s gone.” Leo felt something inside him collapse. Whether it was his soul or a lung from the Froslass’s attack, he couldn’t tell.

                                          “Gone? What do you mean ... gone?” The Charmeleon’s voice barely broke a hushed whisper as the cold wind blasted from the passage. The instinctively tightened muscles in his legs kept him from collapsing to the ground while his mind managed to keep a rein on his emotions to suppress his urge to sob.

                                          “Noah, wh-where is Kelly right now?” Jay asked, the Riolu trying in vain to mask his own emotions with a near monotone voice. The wind ceased, allowing the oppressive silence to once again rule this domain of altered sun and stone.

                                          Noah only shook his head in apparent defeat. “She’s with Her now, probably about to be frozen alive. If I remember right, we have about ten minutes before she is added to Her ... collection.” The Dewott looked up at the two remaining members of Salient, his face betraying no inner feelings or thoughts. “There’s nothing we can do now. If we’re lucky, we can still get out of here while she’s busy with Kelly.”

                                          “N-nothing? What do you mean, ‘there’s nothing we can do’, Noah?” Leo demanded, his voice rising in volume. He knew perfectly well what it might mean. The Froslass had wanted me and I refused. And so she took the next best thing... His thoughts plainly told him, and for once, he knew he could trust them. It’s all... He felt his heart drop again. It’s all my fault she was taken.

                                          The Dewott crossed his arms as he leaned against a pillar of glowing blue rock. “It’s exactly what it means. We can’t do anything. She doesn’t usually bother us when we travel through here, but on occasion, she will take one Pokémon to her lair and freeze them solid,” Noah answered nonchalantly as he tightened the strap on his shoulder.

                                          “How do you know this? Huh? How?” Jay spoke up, his paws curling into fists as energy began to flow into them. Noah moved his paw down Jay’s arm and pushed it down.

                                          “I’ve seen it happen. Seven times. Watched them all freeze while Torrent ordered us to run for the exit. Trust me, seeing a Arcanine frozen alive oversteps the boundary of mentally scarring ten times over,” he explained as Leo saw an involuntary shudder run down the Dewott’s spine.

                                          Leo wasn’t sure if it was the combined effects of everything that had happened to him over the last week, or his mind finally slipping past his damaged rational, but he felt a burning force of anger rise from his chest where his heart fell.

                                          He had gone through too much: waking up, arrest, near death, hallucinations, exile, he could handle, but the notion of losing what was perhaps the only other being on this planet that could sympathise with him, it was impossible. He wouldn’t let it happen.

                                          “No.” Both Noah and Jay looked up from their argument at him. “I’ve gone too far with her, Jay, and even you, Noah, to lose any of you. My head may not be clear right now, but that is the one thing I am damn sure of. Noah, where is She, because I am going to tear Her to shreds,” Leo snarled, a low, primal growl accompanying the statement.

                                          “Leo, you don’t understand: She will kill all of us if we don’t leave. Kelly’s probably already dead anyways, so let’s just--” Noah replied shortly before being cut off as Leo lunged at him. His reptillian body tackled the otter to the ground, shoving his head into the small, sharp rocks. Leo held the sharp edges of his claws against the Dewott’s neck and pressed forward enough so that Noah would feel the pain. Jay crouched down next to the two, though didn’t make any attempt to stop Leo’s assault.

                                          Leo’s chest was heaving, anger leaving a red mist in his eyes. He huffed a hot jet of steam from his nostrils as he leaned close to the pinned Dewott’s face. His red scales glinting almost evilly in the stark, blue sunlight.

                                          “Shut up! Kelly will survive! She’s strong enough! I know she will! Now, you are going to lead us to her, and then, you, Jay, and I are going to march right in there, burn Her goddamned liar to oblivion, and then rescue Kelly. Do you understand?” Leo yelled, every thought of his bent suddenly on the destruction of the Froslass.

                                          “You know? For once, I actually agree with one of your horrible ideas, Leo. Let’s do this, “ Jay added as Noah gave a sigh of defeat.

                                          “You two are the most stupid, stubborn Pokémon I’ve ever met, and that’s coming from me. I’ll go, but I hope you know we’re all going to die. Her ‘pet’ will make sure of that... “ Both Leo and Jay shot him confused looks as they wondered what he meant by his last sentence. Their questions were answered as a deep, feral-sounding roar shook the blue-stoned dungeon. Leo released his grip on the Dewott and climbed off of him, letting him get back to his feet with an annoyed huff.

                                          Kelly, don’t worry. We’re on our way, he thought to her as the glowing blue ground thumped in rhythm to the steady footsteps of the monster’s personal monster.

                                          End Chapter Thirteen

                                          Knightfall signing off...
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                                          Old November 3rd, 2013 (6:09 AM).
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                                          Knightfall Knightfall is offline
                                          Unforeseen Consequences
                                            Join Date: Apr 2013
                                            Location: Sawgrass Town
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                                            [Warning: This chapter does reach the PG-15 area for more than one scene. Please be advised.]
                                            Chapter Fourteen: Exposure

                                            "There are three ways that the Civil War can end: Restoration, Independence, or Revolution. None of which result in the continuation of the monarchy. "
                                            --Historian Frederick Floatzel on the state of the Kingdom approximately three days before he was found murdered in his Silver City apartment.

                                            Ian felt wonderful. Sunlight caressed his long withdrawn skin, green pigment slowly returning to his body. He walked underneath the cool shade of the drooping branches of the willow trees, not a single care pressing his mind. This place was their favorite place to relax, the river near Mt. Thunder where they had first met so long ago. His feet pressed into the soft soil, savoring the earthy texture as he walked along the riverbank.

                                            He held his hand in hers, thankful to Arceus for granting him the ability to stretch his arms so she didn’t have to reach. Sunlight glinted off the rapidly flowing river, adding a surreal sense of beauty to the already picturesque mountain scene. Sophie always said how she missed this place. How they --the members of Team Frontier-- used to relax and simply waste their days away along the shore. They wished their Machoke leader could be there with them, enjoying their old haunt, yet they were somehow strangely content at his absence. Yet they knew they should be grieving. Regardless, Ian knew that bringing her back here was the only way he could ever possibly make it up to her for the hell he had forced her to live through.

                                            A sudden blinding pain shot through his chest. For a moment, it felt like he was on fire; it seared his nerves that badly. However, the sensation went away without a trace not a second later.

                                            He returned his focus to the love of his life. The Mawile was breathing in deeply the fresh mountain air as she walked alongside him. He thought back to their adventures in the darkness. Their escape plan had worked to perfection: the back entrance was completely unguarded and the boat unattended. There was little that stood between them and freedom.

                                            They didn’t know what compelled them to come here of all places, and Ian couldn’t rightly remember how they got there. But they were there, they were free, and they had each other. As far as Ian thought, everything was right in the world in his book. Birds chirped merrily on the new budding branches as the air was perfumed with the generous scents of springtime. Ian loved everything about this place, and he could easily see Sophie did as well by the way she was gently humming and how she twirled herself underneath his arm.

                                            Ian smiled as he decided to play along. He moved his body away from her and arched his arm. Sophie giggled softly as she continued to dance, this time with an actual partner. The two Pokémon began to circle each other in the middle of the mountain path, both pairs of eyes never leaving the other.

                                            In a silent rhythm that existed only between the two of them, they stepped forward, and touched their hands. Ian gave the Mawile a sudden twirl, narrowly missing her elongated ear as it swung behind her. Sophie’s yellow frills fluttered as she did a small leap into the air before lightly touching down and stepping close to the Breloom.

                                            Out of the blue, it seemed as if the Black Dragon had summoned a lightning bolt down upon him. Ian’s world went out of focus for what seemed several seconds, yet the pain did not resonate within him. When he returned to normal, he saw Sophie looking somewhat dazed and guessed that she must have felt it too.

                                            Ian laughed and gave a small shrug. Taking her hand again, he bent down a gave it a quick kiss before straightening up and continuing with their intricate waltz. Their steps were perfectly in synch, it was as if they had trained all their lives for this one instance. When he moved forward, she leaped back with the grace of a Kirlia on the lavish stage of the Silver City Theater House. His black eyes were lost in her deep red ones as the world spun around them, fading in a whirlwind of flying, pink spring flower buds and verdant green leaves.

                                            He grabbed ahold of both her hands with his and pulled her close to him, while he knelt down to her height level. They didn’t need to say anything as everything that could, should, and would have been said had seemingly been answered in their minds. Despite being with her this entire time since their escape from that wretched relic, he felt like he hadn’t seen her in what felt like a lifetime.

                                            She pressed her head against his neck, wrapped her arms around his chest, and leaned into his body. After a moment of this silent embrace, Ian felt a sudden dampness against his neck. He tilted his head to look down at her and gently nudged her head up with his claw. Sophie’s eyes, shining beautiful crimson jewels, were soaked through with a thin veil of tears.

                                            “I thought I lost you...” she managed to choke out in between her light sobs. Ian rubbed his claws gently along her back under her ear-like jaw in comfort. He would never forgive those heartless fiends that had ensnared her in that horrendous maze. That had forced her to witness the brutal death of Chuck and his own descent into near insanity. The unguarded exit had been a blessing from Celebi in its purest form and they had not wasted their chance. Ian gently brushed aside her thin, black ears as she tucked her head against his neck once again.

                                            “Don’t worry, Sophie. I’m here now. Nothing will change that. I promise you,” Ian whispered as the world grew still around them. The perfect scene seemed to hang forever in the air for Ian, the river, the mountains, the sun, the trees, the smell, Sophie. He never wanted it to end. And, no one, not even Arceus Himself would keep him from being with her.

                                            And then, it felt as if a spear was run through his stomach. He felt the invisible blow immediately upon impact. He was torn away from Sophie as his body was thrust backwards and shoved into the ground. In a daze, he looked up at the Mawile. She was currently struggling against some other unseen attacker in the form of a whirlwind. The very leaves and symbols of spring held her away from him. Just far enough so she could only watch helplessly.

                                            Something like a bolt of lightning surged through his body, frying his nerves, and causing him to convulse erratically on the ground. Through his glazed eyes, he saw the valley around them swim and begin to seemingly implode upon itself. The vibrant slopes of lush, green trees shifted to an unmoving wall of rusted iron. The fresh, clear river engulfed him in a ocean of revolting sludge. As he struggled to breathe under the weight of the filth, he could still see Sophie clear as day, yelling for him at the top her lungs.

                                            He struggled to reach through the crushing wave of the sewage to her, but the pressure held his arms down against the newly created stone floor that slammed into his back. The vague shapes of mountains wobbled in reality before flickering out of existence like a candle in the wind. Ugly ceilings and walls of stone and iron slowly engulfed the pristine blue skies. Fluffy white clouds were swiftly poisoned by the foul, damp air.

                                            “Ian! You’re alive! Oh, thank the Maker, you’re alive!” a jarring, static-filled voice screamed from somewhere far above him. Ian paid it no heed as he threw several erratic punches into the sludge, breaking its hold on his body.

                                            “Sophie? Sophie!” he screamed while simultaneously gasping for precious lungfuls of air. Sludge dripped from the brow of his wilting seed cap. He looked around the tunnel, unable to see any of the vivid landscape that had presented itself to the both of them earlier. Then, he saw her. Sophie was standing on a small island of perfectly green grass in the middle of the toxic lake. Her red eyes were staring at him, pleading that he come back to her.

                                            “Ian! D-don’t go! Not again!” she cried, tears freely dripping down her face.

                                            He lunged forward through the liquid only to collapse with an agonized shriek as the already fractured bone in his right leg snapped in half. He fell into the shallow sludge, clutching his critically injured leg as bacterium-riddled slop seeped into the wound. Ian clawed at the smooth stone shore as he desperately tried to extract himself from the pool of waste chemicals.

                                            “Here, grab my wing! That’s it, come on!” the static voice barked suddenly. Ian blindly grasped at the blue, rounded, appendage and pulled. Ian felt himself exit the water and land on the hard surface. Gasping for breath, he used his other claw to drag himself further away from the vile lake and the vestiges of Sophie.

                                            “There you go, Ian. Come on. Breathe, that’s it,” the voice Ian recognized as Vertex encouraged. Ian didn’t reply immediately. He tilted his head to the side and began hacking up the remainder of the waste-water in his lungs. As he wretched up the envenomed liquid, his thoughts returned to the haunting vision.

                                            “Vertex ... I saw her,” the Breloom wheezed in between choking coughs. Greenish fluid from Ian’s lungs splattered the artificial intelligence's front, yet Vertex didn’t even blink as he leaned in closer to his beaten friend.

                                            “Ian, it wasn’t real. You know that. It’s just like all the others,” the upgraded Porygon reprimanded as he left the Breloom’s side for one moment to pick up a squashed Oran Berry. Holding the organic mass in his beak, he floated back over to Ian.

                                            “Here, eat this. It should combat the infection and dull the pain temporarily,” he ordered, as Ian weakly opened his mouth. Vertex shook his head disapprovingly and let the berry go, dropping it down to Ian. The Breloom swallowed it whole with a loud gulp, shutting his eyes as he let the healing properties flow through him.

                                            “No. It wasn’t --It wasn’t a vision. It was more than that ... I-I swear it was!” Ian yelled, leaning against the stone wall of the waste tunnel from the maze above. The condensation on the walls felt soothing against his bruised back and neck. He let his body absorb the clean water through his skin, slaking his thirst for the meantime.

                                            “Just like all the other times you said that, hmm? Ian, stop kidding yourself. She’s gone. I was there when she died. All her vital signs were zero, nothing, finished. Let her go,” Vertex urged once again, scanning the above halls for signs of their oppressors. Aside from scores of Pokémon leisurely walking from one place to the next -- completely uninformed and unaware of their plight.

                                            “N-No! Vertex, you -you don’t get it! She talked to me, Vertex! She talked back! It wasn’t just a vision! She was there this time!” Ian suddenly screamed, tears streaming down his face as his arm stretched and clutched the Porygon 2’s narrow throat. “You have to believe me! Believe me! Believe me!” Vertex screeched in alarm and struggled to free himself from his friend’s delusional grip.

                                            “Ian! Ian! Ian! I believe you! Listen to me: I believe you, Ian!” Vertex shouted, his voice processor straining to get through to the crying Breloom. As Vertex hoped, Ian quickly released his claws with a loud sob and collapsed on the construct. Vertex let out an electronically-tuned groan as he struggled to remain floating with the accession of his friend’s weight on his body. Vertex had no idea how long the Breloom would keep up his action, but he was prepared to do anything to keep his mind as stable as he possibly could.

                                            “Don’t worry, Ian. We’ll find her. We will, I promise,” Vertex said gently, magnetically lifting his wing and patting Ian’s back. The former sentry knew it was a hollow promise --the dead would remain dead-- but he’d help his friend find closure. Even if the truth would probably kill them both.

                                            Leo hadn’t let up in the slightest. He swung his claws into the stubborn brush and thorns into a path had formed for the three Pokémon. Despite Noah’s increasingly pessimistic protests about marching to their doom, Jay’s wavering will, and Leo’s equally venomous arguments to keep on going forward for Kelly, they pressed onwards.

                                            Blue light glinted off his dusted scales, the cold sun bathing him in its ethereal light. Leo had managed to keep up the facade of tireless determination, but his strength was waning. He hadn’t stopped moving since he had woken up hours ago back in the camp. The muscles in his legs burned with every step over the rough terrain.

                                            “Leo--” Noah called from the back of their line as they trampled the dry vegetation in the narrow canyon pass.

                                            “Shut up, Noah. I’m -- We’re not leaving her. We can’t. Not like this,” Leo snapped as he sliced through the final piece of bramble and stumbled into the newest clearing.

                                            “I don’t know, Leo. Maybe Noah’s righ--” Jay began before Leo quickly rounded on him.

                                            “No, Jay! You’ve known her the longest, and now you’re going to give up? I thought you were the leader here!” Leo screamed, his tail flame flaring and steam issuing him his nose as his emotions fumed. He glared at the Riolu, his blue eyes staring daggers at Jay’s red irises. The tension in the air rose until it had pressurized into pure, solidified hatred.

                                            Leo didn’t let up until his leader reluctantly looked away. The Riolu hung his head in apparent shame. Leo angrily huffed as he returned his attention to the open space in the canyon where the valleys converged. Noah strode forward, roughly shoving Leo into the rock face as he forced his way in front.

                                            “No. I’m not going to risk my skin for her. I may not be one to follow the rules or safety the majority of the time, but we’re leaving right now. Jay, back me up here,” the Dewott said firmly, stamping his foot on the ground to affirm his stance.

                                            “What do you think you’re doing? We already went through this: we’re going after her. You’re not changing your mind now,” Leo growled, peeling his front off the layered rock face and advancing towards the scowling otter. Jay didn’t say anything as he silently padded around the conflicting Pokémon, avoiding giving any answer.

                                            “Well. I’m not getting killed and I don’t think you have any authority on what I do, pal,” Noah shot back, placing his paw on the Charmeleon’s chest and lightly pushing him back as a warning. Leo wasn’t deterred in the slightest.

                                            “You don’t have a choice! We’re going! Don’t make me--” Leo retorted as Noah stepped forward, and before Leo could react, delivered a swift undercut to his stomach. Leo immediately stumbled back and doubled over along the side of the canyon. He managed to hiss a few mangled swears over his pained coughs as his insides recoiled from the surprise hit.

                                            “I do have a choice, Leo. So does Jay. And so do you. And I don’t care what you do with yours, but I’m not going to let you make ours for us. I want to live. If you don’t, then you can keep on marching because that thing won’t hesitate to rip you apart!” The Dewott stood over Leo for a moment before shaking his head. Leo refused to look up at him.

                                            “Come on Jay. There’s an exit over in the western path. Let’s go. We’ll mourn the dead once we’re sure we made it out alive,” Noah said as he pointed his paw in the direction of the sinking, blue sun. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jay standing next to the traitor, somberly nodding in agreement.

                                            “Jay! So you’re -- You’re just giving up on her?” Leo shouted as he strained to get to his feet, steam emanating from his nose and mouth once again. The Riolu shifted, shifting the strap of his bag on his shoulder in discomfort.

                                            “I -- I don’t want to die. I saw what happened back there. Leo ... I think Noah’s right.” Leo sucked in a sharp breath in protest at Jay’s words. His claws curled into a fist. He couldn’t believe this was happening. While it was true that he still knew virtually nothing of Jay and Kelly’s history as a team, he had thought that bond would keep Jay on his side.

                                            With that thought, he lunged forward. Leo swung his fist, channeling every bit of his frustration and disbelief into the attack. If he hadn’t been so focused on pounding sense into his leader’s head, Leo might have noticed that his clawed fist was glowing with a bright, white aura. The fact that he just activated a latent power of his new body lost on his enraged mind.

                                            Jay recoiled, clutching his head as he cried out in pain. The Riolu stumbled backwards, violently cursing Leo’s existence. The Dewott, oddly, despite his earlier actions, did not interfere.

                                            “Some leader you are,” Leo replied acidically as he brutishly drove his elbow into Jay’s stomach, forcing him to his knees. He would have continued. He wouldn’t have let up on his assault if the ground in the clearing hadn’t rended open in a blast of frozen brimstone and clay.

                                            Leo had seen things during his time in this world. Things that plowed through the barrier of what was right and what was unspeakably wrong with the force of a tidal wave. He had seen psychopaths, hallucinations, and the image of death itself, yet he had persevered. What appeared from under the cloud of ice dust instantly secured a spot in his mind for the absolute worst thing Leo had ever seen.

                                            The three bickering Pokémon froze where they stood, as a dark, looming figure rose from the mist-bound hole in the ground. From what he could see among the choked air, the creature looked like a multi-colored dragon, but as its large form ominously stomped out into plain sight, Leo saw why Noah possessed such an adamant fear.

                                            The patches of different colors he had originally saw were actually slabs of dried flesh held together by a thick coating of ice skin. Different pallets of dull furs, tarnished scales, and decaying skin made up the repulsive hide of the monster, stitched together by sinew that served as thread for the squares of flesh. Somewhere in the back corners of his mind, Leo was vaguely wondering just how many different species unwillingly contributed to the generation of the abomination.

                                            In the short moments that followed, Leo saw that it possessed a vaguely dragon-like body with disproportionate limbs that seemed to have been chosen at random. A thick, muscular leg and large, clawed foot stamped the ground next to a thin, metallic, bird leg and steel talon big enough to crush him in one step.

                                            A pair of horribly mismatched wings sprouted from the creature’s icy back. On one side, majestic, orange and white plumage plucked off a bird, while the other side sported fragile, transparent, oval wings torn from an ungodly large insect. The seemingly useless appendages fluttered and buzzed erratically as the beast lumbered forwards out of the pit from which it was born.

                                            Leo wanted to move. To hide. To run away as fast as he possibly could. But something held him, Jay, and Noah in place. He didn’t understand it; there was no paralysis, no archaic binding spells, nothing of that sort. It was fear. The pure, radiating terror that emanated from the gaping maw and stinking flesh.

                                            He had never felt so disgusted and horrified at the same time. Not when he was being poisoned in Spore Meadows, not when Nexus had killed him or the subsequent vision trip, not even during the sadistic mental bombardment by the Mismagius compared to the overwhelming tsunami of trepidation that surged towards him.

                                            The earth vibrated beneath Leo’s feet as the monster tramped through the clearing. Without warning, the dragon raised its mottled head and roared. Its primal voice as deep and gurgled as if it was choking on something. Its breath instantly froze the mist in the air, transforming the benign weather to a miniature, freezing blizzard.

                                            The exhaled wind painfully struck them, its wizened hands roughly slapping every inch of exposed flesh that it could possibly reach, driving its stinging, pointed fingers into them. Leo raised his arms to shield his face from the flurry and planted his feet firmly against the rocky ground.

                                            Teeth. Hundreds of them lined every inch inside of its gaping maw, all harvested from countless species of Pokémon. The layer of clear ice over its flesh allowed Leo to see the decaying interior of the creature. The Charmeleon felt whatever remained of his previous meal lurch up in his throat and splash over his fangs onto the ground as the creature’s horrifying, cold, breath washed over him like a wave of raw sewage.

                                            He had closed his eyes for an instant to avoid the frozen air. When he opened them again, the creature, which had been several meters away, was now huffing clouds of rotten air from directly above him. Leo’s heart was beating faster than a hummingbird’s wings, nearly stopping as the abomination lowered its disfigured head and looked him dead on with it’s yellow, glowing eyes.

                                            For a second, his will wavered. His thoughts concerning Kelly were replaced by the impending doom panting like a heinous dog over him. His eyes darted to either side of him, both Jay and Noah seemed to be in similar states; numb from the cold and fear.

                                            There was no warning as the monster suddenly picked up its metallic talon and slammed it into Jay’s torso. Swinging its massively oversized arms and claws, it bulldozed into Leo’s side, sending both him and Noah skidding along the rocks. His world turned into a blur, he couldn’t see what was up and what was down until gravity kindly reminded him by grinding his back with gravel. A feeling akin to a bolt of lightning shot up his tail as the sensitive tip connected with the suffocating soil.

                                            Leo arched his back and rolled over, breathing hard as his lungs worked to return air to his body. Clawing at the earth, he managed to twist his body over again, prop himself up on arms, and blink dust out of his tearing eyes. Clarity returned to his sight just in time to behold the creature poising above Jay, as if readying to kill downed prey.

                                            Jay was pinned with his back against the ground, held down by the cold talon. The Riolu was biting his lip as the sharp hooks embedded into the tips dug into his left shoulder. Leo couldn’t see the creature’s face, but it let out a gurgling snort in what seemed to be glee as it pressed its foot down even harder. Jay let out a scream as the hook was pushed deeper, and the pressure grew on his chest.

                                            This seemed to please the monster, but it seemingly got quickly bored of the slow torture as it lifted its talon up; the hook-like claw twisting as it exited Jay’s shoulder. The Riolu instinctively grabbed the bloodied wound with his paw now that the weight was lifted. His blue fur was stained scarlet as he tried to stem the flow from the stab wound.

                                            Leo tried to move, but his body went only in slow motion, his arms wobbling as his muscles strained against exhaustion. This meant he could only watch as the talon slammed down again. Leo didn’t hear a crack, but by Jay’s agonized cry, he guess that something inside his chest snapped under the sudden pressure.

                                            To Leo’s horror, the creature didn’t stop with the first blow. It raised its talon and slammed it down again. Jay’s screams only intensified as the hooks and weight tore into his chest and arms. The beast roared, pausing in its assault for a second. It lifted up its grotesque head and aimed its mouth at the Riolu. A stream of blue energy dripped off its teeth and coagulated into a dense sphere just outside its cracked, torn jaw.

                                            In a single blink of his eyes, Leo saw the sphere jump through the space from the monster’s mouth to the lower half of Jay’s right leg. The sphere exploded, tendrils of ice swarmed from Jay’s knee, down to his foot, and slunk into the ground where they solidified into a frozen mass locking him in place. Jay could only hiss in pain as his leg was placed in a numb prison.

                                            The aura of fear that had held his heart and limbs in an iron pen seemed to dissipate. Leo managed to scramble to his feet just as the dragon-thing was preparing to continue crushing Jay with his talon. He vaguely heard Noah’s warcry behind him as he dashed over the canyon clearing, trying to ignore the pain that seared his nerves, the exhaustion that played with his mind, and the monstrosities that wanted him dead.

                                            He prepared his claws to strike. He knew it wouldn’t do much against the icy hide, but as long as it kept Jay from being pummeled into the earth, he would give it a shot. His mind seemed to finally have found the switch that inhibited him all this time. The cruel memories suppressed, the visions stopped, and his rational, screaming for him to turn tail and run, bound, gagged, and stuffed into a broom closet. Leo screamed, a slightly deranged sound, but terrifying nonetheless.

                                            He wasn’t sure if it was his scream or the blade of pressurized water that shot into the creature’s ice-coated, mismatched arm was what took its attention off the barely conscious Riolu. Leo snuck a quick look over his shoulder to see that the Dewott was condensing another set of water blades on his shells. Holding the scallops in front of him, Noah swiftly turned in a circle, and give a sharp cry as the water blades launched off of the shells towards the monster.

                                            The blades dug into the ice and created cracks along the dragon’s side, but they were nothing more than a mosquito bite. Leo couldn’t possibly sprint fast enough to intervene, even if his legs didn’t feel like someone was heating them with a blowtorch. They were too late in acting. With what happened next, Leo wasn’t sure if it would have been better if he had never moved in the first place.

                                            Instead of delivering a crushing stomp, the duel act of screaming Charmeleon and slicing Dewott managed to distract the hellish spawn so that it kicked Jay to the side as it turned towards them. Jay moved violently to the side first. And then followed his imprisoned leg.

                                            If Leo nearly got sick earlier from the smell of the beast, his stomach again twisted into a knot as the loud, organic crack echoed through the clearing. Jay’s tortured scream drowned out even the primal grunts of the dragon as his right leg bent and bone splintered. Fortunately, the ice shattered as well, leaving the shattered limb connected to the Riolu. Blood slowly seeped from the open wound, dripping past the fragments of bone that poked through the blue fur.

                                            Despite his leader’s behavior earlier, Leo wanted nothing more than to help him as the excruciating yells penetrated his head. The only problem being the act against God that stalked towards them at a surprisingly swift pace given its massive unbalanced stature of talon and foot. Leo gulped as it came closer.

                                            No. I can’t freeze up again. I won’t! his thoughts screamed. There was no other option. He had to stand up now. Not only for Kelly, but for Jay, Noah, and all the others waiting for them on the other side of the dungeon: Icarus, Blade, Elliot, Sonic, and Torrent.

                                            He swung his arm, glowing claws slicing into the ice on the gargantuan, dragon leg. White cracks spread from the point of impact, but otherwise did nothing. The creature looked down at Leo, blank eyes seeing him as something to be terminated.

                                            Before he knew what was happening, Leo felt his body turn to ice as claws wrapped around his torso. Air became a luxury as the beast squeezed what limited quantities remained out of his lungs and he was lifted to the creature’s face. All he could see was the wide, nightmarish abyss of a jaw stretching open towards him. Teeth gleamed in a bleached white as the mouth seemed to grow larger in an effort to swallow him whole.

                                            He heard Noah’s forceful cries from down below, not relenting even in the face of the impenetrable flesh. On the verge of his hearing, just below the blasts of chilled exhaust and Noah’s fight, Jay’s whimpering slowly tapered out into silence. Leo couldn’t see much of anything aside from the terrifying mask of ice the creature wore over the amalgamation of Pokémon that served as its face and the crushing claws trying to snap every bone in his torso.

                                            Thoughts raced wildly around Leo’s panicking mind as it swiftly began starving for oxygen. Thoughts of failure. Thoughts of inequity. Fairness. He laughed on the inside. There was nothing fair about what happened to him. He had drawn the shortest straw in the Fates’ demented game. Doomed to failure, just as the reaper had foretold. He wasn’t a hero, because heroes didn’t die in the clutches of a monster.

                                            A blade of water shattered through the ice on the leg, exposing the dying flesh beneath to the Dewott’s wrath, but it did nothing. Leo swore he could hear his bones straining under the pressure, fragile ribs laced with hairline fractures and organs bruised. Every struggling movement was a labor of intense proportions, as if he was burdened of the Ropes of the Titan and tasked with pulling the continents alongside each twitch of his muscles.

                                            A slight wave of comfort passed over him when he felt the heat build up in his lungs. He knew it would be a matter of seconds before the jet of fire would blast the dragon directly in its hideous face and hopefully buy him a ticket out of the crushing grip. The compressed flame continued to grow inside of him, scorching his throat as it did so.

                                            The beast must have been smarter than its primal grunts and howls let on, because it shifted its grip on Leo’s body. Most of the pressure on his chest was released, but replaced by a tight hold around his neck, only allowing for the tiniest gasps of air to keep him from suffocating. His freed arms clawed at his captor, but without the ability to concentrate energy, he couldn’t possibly charge an attack powerful enough to scratch its skin.

                                            The heat made his lungs boil. Without a release, the temperature inside only grew hotter and hotter. His reptilian skin prevented him from sweating, the claw around his throat kept the fire in his chest, and he couldn’t get the strength needed to draw even a single breath. His mind went in and out of focus. Thoughts of escape from the death grip blurred and withered as his brain diverted all efforts into maintaining the limited flow of air he managed to suck in among the putrid exhaust exuding from the creature’s foul breath.

                                            His ribcage felt as if it was an instant away from popping open like a heated kernel of corn, and he did not think the ensuing result would be nearly as delicious. Leo clawed at the limb clamped around his throat, his claws scraping against the frozen appendages. He lifted his legs up and kicked at the iron hold, each action becoming more and more desperate as fire twisted on the convection current inside his chest.

                                            As his body began to fail, the Fates decided to end their apparent game with their lab rat. From the corner of his distorted vision came a sphere of blue. It launched up from the ground and rocketed through the air, slamming into the temple of the dragon’s malformed skull. It exploded in a shower of pressurized water and splattered painfully against his limp body and drooping, dimming tail. Concentration broken, the creature lifted its huge arm, and tossed Leo into the air like a rag doll, freeing another claw to fight against Noah.

                                            The world twisted and spun around him as he flew into the air, blue sun at his airborne feet and the imminent threat of gravity and ground at his head. His eyes locked with the beast’s soulless, yellow ones yet again as the dragon howled at him. Its mouth was stretched open wide, waiting for him to fall down into the dark bowls. Fire rushed from Leo’s lungs into his now-unobstructed throat. The attack threatened to sear off his tongue and taste buds as fire blasted through his jaws into the open air.

                                            The jet of combusting matter broke through the waves of molecules separating Leo from the upturned head of the beast. Flames shot into the gaping set of jaws, the wide spray of fire not even touching the rotting sides or frozen teeth that lined the inside. Like water down a drain, the attack slipped down the roaring throat seamlessly. Leo couldn’t help but be a little weirded out at the fact that his fire simply left his throat for another.

                                            The fire vanished as it blasted down the creature’s dry, cracked throat, and to no effect on its health either. Leo didn’t have any time to lament the waste of the attack as gravity took a hold of his form and began its ever-quickening descent as it exerted its force against the vacuum of space. He landed face-first onto the creature’s icy back, directly between the mismatched wings.

                                            Before his head had stopped spinning, the monster beneath him bucked and roared in an attempt to kick the intruder off. Leo dug his claws into the stiff, fleshy bases of the two sets of wings. The wings in question flapped and buzzed erratically, slapping Leo’s face with every fevered movement and bruising is snout with the repeated hits.

                                            Leo struggled to keep his grip, the alternative being thrown to the ground and crushed by the combination of talon and claw. He could feel water spraying around him from the continued assault of the Dewott down below. In between the flaps of the wings, he could see Noah sprinting away from the swiping claws and Ice Beams while keeping attention away from Jay, still unconscious in the crater.

                                            He could feel his claws slipping, the wings were moving too much for him to even attempt to regain his loosening grip. Leo grunted as he embedded the pointed tips into the pulsing mass of muscle fiber under the thin layer of flexible ice, but only succeeded in tearing off a dried chunk when he tried to pull himself up.

                                            With that development, combined with the beast’s renewed vigor to get him off, Leo tumbled over the frail dragonfly wings to the ground. He took some sort of satisfaction knowing that he tore through the flimsy material with his flailing claws. The rocky dungeon floor embraced him fully, its jagged arms wrapping around his back to complete his discomfort on all parts of his body.

                                            Again, his mind was deprived of the chance to filter out which section of his body hurt the most as the last thing he saw was a reptilian foot aiming at his torso. The next few seconds mixed together in time like salt dissolving in water. His chest felt as if it had been torn open by a series of rusted gardening tools.

                                            Leo felt himself go limp as he flew in a low arc above the rough ground. He had resigned himself to land on the rocks, ready to accept their sharp and pointed jabs at his self-image. Their calloused laughs would brush up against his scales like sandpaper and Leo was willing to let it happen. Yet, the scathing insults from the planet’s exterior never came. Something far softer than stone intercepted Leo’s trajectory.

                                            Leo refused to open his eyes until he was certain that the world around him stopped mimicking a whirlpool. He was only vaguely aware that he was laying on top of the unknown soft object, and did not hear its vehement swears to the legendaries. Only when it began jabbing his eyes with paws did Leo willingly open himself to outside sensory details.

                                            “I understand you’re a screw loose, but now really isn’t the time for hugs, Leo!” Noah yelled, his voice amplified by the close proximity. Leo’s head throbbed with the loud volume of Noah’s complaints as the blue Pokémon unceremoniously shoved him off. He sat there in a haze for several seconds, ignoring Noah’s frantic shouts and the vibrations of the footsteps caused by the demon closing in on them.

                                            Looking down at his chest revealed three light lacerations that crossed over the previous scar from the last psychotic monster he had fought and lost against. He hadn’t had the time to research the gods of this world, but he was almost certain at least one of them didn’t want him dead. The cuts barely grazed the cream scales on his chest, though the bruising the kick left behind hurt like something else.

                                            “Get up! Leo, get up!” Noah screamed, his voice beginning to quiver as Leo felt him tuck his paws underneath his shoulders and pull. His mind remained lost in the fog, aware of the dire situation creeping up on him but unable to react. Leo continued to sit, arms lazily slumped in between his legs, his back leaning against Noah’s front. He heard the roar, he saw the shadow, he felt the temperature drop, yet numbness ruled with an iron fist.

                                            The attack shot from the creature’s outstretched jaws, an awesome wave of below-freezing mist at point-blank range. There was pain, that much he knew. Tiny droplets of dew covered his scales from the rapid heat exposure from his body and only continued to grow colder and colder. Not looking up at the harbinger of his torment, he tried to articulate his claws only to find that they had grown stiff with the freezing. He had somewhat expected that this would be the case once he was finally beaten down, but he didn’t anticipate the smoke.

                                            The cold no longer blew over the two beleaguered Pokemon like an angel of death, but was replaced with a silent mist of foul-smelling waste fire spewing forth from over the massive jaws. His eyes tearing from encountering the stinging carcinogen-laced breath as he raised his gaze to the blue-tinted sky above.

                                            The dragon seemed just as surprised as the Pokémon it was supposed to be ripping apart piece by frozen piece. It paused and took a step back, coughing up more of the black gas. Both Leo and Noah watched in disgusted horror as it began clawing at its own chest in an attempt to find out the source of the unnatural element. It screeched in pain as it sheared off the protective ice and dug into flesh that was not its own.

                                            It seemed not to care about the pain it was inflicting upon itself, only to ascertain the truth of the mysterious force that negated its powers. Just before it finished slicing through the rounded flesh in its torso, Leo smiled. He didn’t know for what, but whatever it was, he knew it was his handicraft. He felt his mouth curl up into a mad grin as the monster broke through the mock ribs into its chest cavity. A massive tongue of flame erupted from the mass of dried organs that fueled the dim embers of Leo’s misguided attack.

                                            With access to a new source of air, the fire spread rapidly. It coiled and slithered around the melting ice and exposed decaying flesh like a snake. The beast having hastened its own demise, writhed in agony as the dead tendons in its legs combusted. Its knees were torches, their orange glow contrasting the blue sunlight. The monster mimicked a mighty tree and crashed to the ground, leaving its legs as smoking stumps. The flickering fire and twisting torso of the dragon went on to cast demented shadows over him and Noah.

                                            His mind was in complete euphoria. Watching the beast that had caused him and his team so much pain rolling around on the dungeon floor on fire made him feel somewhat giddy. Fire licked through the flesh underneath the ice, creating an orange luminary of the inside of its chest cavity. The primal growls and grotesque howls turned into gurgling whimpers as the aftermath of his attack ate away at what remained of the creature’s spinal cord.

                                            The pitiful yowls only grew more and more distorted as its vocal cords melted and fused with another. Something in his mind told him this was right. That this unholy creation had no right to live. That it was good it was destroyed --morally right in the eyes of the Fates. It’s bones turned to ash as the gluttonous blaze feasted on the rapidly thawing body parts, swiftly working its way to its skull.

                                            He looked it straight in its glowing eyes. No remorse present in his stare, only a desire to see the dragon burn for its crime of bearing the gift of life. Teeth, once proudly displayed in a show of fear, blackened and fell out of their sockets as flames charred the creature’s gums. Leo heard the sound of bones cracking for the second time in the last few minutes as the beast’s spinal cord broke down and ribs fracturing, allowing its chest to cave in on itself from the weight of burning scales.

                                            Leo wasn’t sure if it was a minute or ten when the fire finally enveloped the last of the malformed skull. The flames crackled demonically as if they had been tainted by the evil they were purging. One, last, tortured growl emitted from the blazing jaw before all semblance of organic tissue was destroyed and the glowing eyes faded. At once, a strong breeze whipped across the desolate plain. It seemed to not blow around Leo, but rather went straight through him and the Dewott.

                                            Leo wasn’t sure how, but he felt his very soul plunge into an icy abyss. However, as wind is want to do, it quickly blew past the two shivering Pokémon. It wrapped its frozen, whispery hands around the charred skeleton of the beast and proceeded to crush it into a fine powder. Within the span of half a second, the creature that had nearly killed them in a primal haze of programmed hatred was literally dust blowing in the breeze.

                                            The Charmeleon was still unsure how to react as his emotions and most higher motor functions seemed to be on pause. This fact in place, he was even more surprised when Noah suddenly wrapped his arms around the upper part of his chest and squeezed while simultaneously jumping up and down. Leo was brought to his feet far more quickly than his body wanted to be, but Noah wasn’t letting him slump back down to the ground anytime soon.

                                            “We did it! We did it! Damn it, we did it! Ha-ha! Leo, we did it!” Noah screamed joyously, not letting his iron grip slip in the slightest. The Dewott bounced from one black foot to the other, jerking Leo along for the entire movement. He couldn’t speak, or breathe too well for that matter. Thinking with his instincts, Leo rotated his arm slightly under the Dewott’s embrace and extended his wrist out as far as he could.

                                            The protruding claws jabbed Noah in his side and swiftly began the positive-feedback loop of him stopping the worst of his celebratory actions. Noah looked at Leo for a moment before seeing the discomfort he was inflicting upon the Fire-type and letting go. Leo wobbled in place as his legs got used to standing under their own power once again. Noah kept his arms on Leo’s shoulders as the Charmeleon stabilized his balance.

                                            “Yeah. We did ... Didn’t we?” Leo wheezed with a small smile while also expelling the last of the monster’s foul breath from his lungs while speaking. Noah took the opportunity to clap his paw on Leo’s right shoulder, causing yet another pained grimace to dart over his features.

                                            “Be excited! We just killed a being that has killed score of the king’s men. We’re like gods! Or warriors! Or god warriors! Yes! We’re god warriors! Leo and Noah: Dragon slayers!” Noah boasted to the wasteland of ice and canyons. His echo seemed to carry on for miles in the desolate, silent dungeon.

                                            Leo wanted to celebrate, to be jovial with the Pokémon who not twenty minutes before had sank his fist into his stomach. He truly wanted to be happy in his apparent victory over the force of evil, but his mind told him otherwise of things that still needed his immediate attention. The very foremost of those things was laying strewn lifeless on the canyon floor among the rocks.

                                            “Jay!” he yelled, snapping out of the stunned hazed that had paralysed his body for the past few minutes. Leo grunted as he roughly twisted Noah around to see the injured Riolu on the ground. The Dewott’s mood dissipated rapidly after seeing that bloodied reminder of reality.

                                            In the few minutes that their teammates had been unattended on the ground, Jay’s condition seemed to have lapsed from freshly injured to gravely wounded. Leo and Noah crouched on opposite sides of the lifeless Riolu. The Charmeleon’s breaths grew slower and more tense as he took in the fullness of Jay’s condition.

                                            The bone, or rather as Leo saw, bones, were broken: snapped roughly in half, leaving splintered edges hanging among the marrow. There was little blood. Considering the severity of the wound, that fact should have not been a fact. The little blood that did stream from the fracture pooled on the ground below the mangled limb.

                                            Leo had no idea what to do. Never before had his claws seemed so useless. He knew that the bleeding had to be stopped and that the bone needed to be set, but that was it. Whatever he had been before his complete amnesia, Pokémon or human, he was fairly certain that he did not receive any sort of medical training. At least, not that he could remember.

                                            Noah immediately tore open his worn bag, which had somehow remained on his shoulder the entire time. His black paws pulled out several things, including a ragged, red bandana, a curious set of metal spikes, and a pile of mush that might have been an Oran Berry. He set each item down next to Jay, and pulled his bag back behind his shoulder.

                                            “Do you know what you’re doing?“ Leo asked as he placed a shaking claw under Jay’s chin, trying to feel for a pulse. He hoped it was just because of his trembling grip and adrenaline pumping through his veins, but he could not feel a single beat.

                                            “I wasn’t the healer on my old team, but I learned a thing or two from her. However, setting bones wasn’t one of them. Based on your obviously clueless expression, you don’t know either. Right?” the Dewott answered back, not looking up at Leo as he said it. Leo did not even try to argue the point. He just grunted in affirmation which seemed to be good enough for Noah.

                                            “First off, we have to set it. Leo, hold him still. We can’t have him waking up and moving. I’ll go on the count of three. Ready?” Noah inquired as he carefully took hold of Jay’s foot and slowly twisted the leg back to its normal position. Now, it was a matter of setting it.

                                            “Ready,” Leo gulped as he took a tight hold of Jay’s bloodied shoulders, unable to avoid the deep gash in the Riolu’s left shoulder blade. Dark crimson liquid was pushed out of the tender gash and over Leo’s dirtied claws, turning the brownish-white into a muddy red. Regardless of the sanitation breach, Leo did as he was told and squeezed his claws into his teammate’s shoulders.

                                            “One. Two. Three!” Noah yelled as he jerked the limb back into place, touching both shattered edges of the bones with a squelched cracking noise. Jay’s body unconsciously twitched as the pain undoubtedly seared through his nerves.

                                            The end result was far from any medical standards of neat, or even clean, but it was something. Noah immediately went to work, trying to fit the two metal thorns around the fractured leg and wrap it in the dirt-encrusted bandana to make a crude splint. Leo was sure Quark, the near-vigilante demon purger and part-time healer would be appalled at the numerous health crimes being committed.

                                            “Well, it hardly complies with the Audinonic Oath, but it’s the best we can do. Any movement on your end?” Noah asked while taking a quick look at his bloodied handiwork. Leo could only shake his head. To him, there had been almost no improvement in Jay’s situation.

                                            “None. Noah, come here. I don’t think he’s looking too good. Do we have anything else that we can use on him? A magic berry? One of those orb things?” Leo queried, his suggestions getting desperate as his mind tried to think of the items that he had seen work in the past. Noah was by his side at the Riolu’s front in a matter of seconds. He bent down and pushed his paw underneath Jay’s tilted head.

                                            “Well. That throws a wrench in our plans. We kinda need him to have a pulse so he can heal...” Noah mused as he revealed the ruinous news about his teammate’s condition.

                                            “Wait! He’s--!” Leo exclaimed as Noah stood up and clapped a paw over his snout.

                                            “Yes. Now, you need to go,” the Dewott deadpanned as he pulled Leo over and pushed him towards the gaping maw of the frozen abyss in the middle of the canyon floor. Leo dug his claws into the rocks, stopping Noah’s progress in pushing him towards his death.

                                            “Wait! I’m not leaving! Jay needs--!” His shout was cut short as Noah gave him a sharp punch on his shoulder.

                                            “Jay can’t be helped right now with what we have. There’s someone who needs you more right now, Leo,” Noah asserted while giving him a stern stare. Immediately afterwards, he gave him another generous shove towards the edge of the mist-bound pit.

                                            “Don’t make me say anything else. Go. Find her. I’ll watch him. Just go end this,” Noah urged. Leo turned around, only to find that Noah had effectively left beyond the ridge.

                                            He was alone. And only the abyss was there to keep him company.

                                            Noah crouched down beside Jay once again. He lightly ran his paw under the Riolu’s cheek. He brushed through the flecks of dried blood in order to find a pulse.

                                            “You’ve really screwed up, haven’t you, Jay? I don’t know much about internal injuries, buddy, but it’s not looking too good right now. Why’d you go and have to get yourself crunched?” He mumbled as he took his hand away and shook his head solemnly.

                                            “There’s nothing. Hopefully you won’t fade before Leo gets back. And, I hope you don’t mind a royal-style burial stance.” He lifted Jay’s right arm and laid it across his unmoving chest. He reached over the body to grab the other arm in order to cross it over his right when the atmosphere darkened and tension flooded the air.

                                            ”Well, that outlook assumes that no one in the present company knows anything about treating said injuries. Noah, you always jump to conclusions too quickly,” the deep, malevolent voice interjected from behind. Noah let out an immense sigh.

                                            “Thank God, you’re here! We really need your help right now! Jay’s hurt real bad and he ca--” Noah blurted out, the words melding into one incomprehensible sentence. The seemingly omniscient Mismagius raised its tassels and silenced the Dewott. The noise of his voice falling dead on his lips mid-word.

                                            ”Yes, it is good to see you as well, Noah. Don’t worry about him, he will not die while I am here. Now please, refresh me on what has transpired since you entered this dungeon. Do not spare details, for they are vitally pertinent,” he coldly demanded, releasing his otherworldly hold on Noah’s voice. The Dewott spent the next few moments in time trying to reiterate every painstakingly precise piece of information he had observed over the past hour.

                                            ”It is worse than I feared. I must go. Leo will not be able to confront this. He will not be able to comprehend the truth.” His form began to dissipate into the air almost as suddenly as he had arrived. Noah shook himself free of the panicked stupor he had been sealed in.

                                            “Wait! Please help, Jay!” His words fell on deaf, all-hearing ears. The Mismagius only barely flickered back into existence. His golden, petrifying gaze aimed directly at Noah’s mind. He felt the being’s --his friend’s-- presence inside his skull. Memories flipped aside and experience brushed away.

                                            ”You may be my friend and can call upon me for anything, but give me one reason why I should help the Riolu. He doesn’t matter to me. His life is not vital, like yours. He is a poor leader. He keeps secrets from his team. He is willing to betray them to save his own life. Why do you request I interfere in what the Fates decided?” the specter requested as he floated above the comatose Pokémon. Noah noticed the ghost’s eerily red smile was stretched in a mocking grin.

                                            Noah opened his mouth. And then closed it again. For once, he had been rendered completely silent. He had no witty or charmingly smart retort. He had nothing to say in defense.

                                            ”So, you, the one who found the good in almost every situation, even at the point of death, cannot find a saving quality in this creature?”

                                            “No ... I can’t ...” Noah’s whisper skirted the edge of audibility, but the Mismagius heard it loud and clear.

                                            ”Then, I might as well be off. I will meet you--” Noah defiantly shook his head.

                                            “Save him. It won’t look good on my record if I lose another rookie while crossing here. Torrent will kill me for sure,” Noah pleaded, getting on his knees, and fitting his paws together. A soft breeze whispered through the canyon in an ethereal sigh.

                                            ”Very well. But, as with any practicing physician, there is always a cost involved with surgery...”

                                            She felt it. Somewhere in the very edge of her consciousness. Beyond the often-corrupted data, the inhibiting coding, endless system orders, delaying prompts, and the ominous, whispering cloud of darkness. Something stirred within.

                                            What is this? she asked, expecting the ever present spirit of the system to respond promptly as it usually did.

                                            [Invalid Command Received]

                                            N-no. It was a valid command. Umm... Search System for Abnormalities. Does that work?

                                            [Command Prompt Not Recognized]

                                            What do you mean ‘not recognized’? It was a proper command! System, run debug programs.

                                            [Warning: System Lockdown Initiated. Wait 10 Minutes Before Inputting New Command] In an instant, the world turned into a void of darkness around her. The glowing access portals dimmed and flickered as they shut down temporarily. She was completely alone again. There was no gentle hum of information flowing, no rapid conversations of the Porygon, nothing.

                                            She knew it was no use yelling: she had provoked the system before. The Overseers didn’t like it when she asked too many questions. They controlled the portals, and they could shut her out if they wished. She didn’t want to make them mad, but her natural curiosity often got the better of her.

                                            If they don’t want me asking questions, then why don’t they just take out my curiosity? This was just one of the many thoughts that processed through the nexus of her mind. She was infinitely glad that she had managed to manipulate the firewalls a few weeks back to shield her private thoughts from the Overseers. But even the acquisition of privacy didn’t explain what she was feeling.

                                            It pulsed through her. Despite being a unable to sense, she smelled ... something. She couldn’t quite place a name to the strange scent. It was as if someone had cleaned the space around her and turned it into a smell.

                                            What was the word .... Fresh? Yeah, that’s it. Fresh, it smells ... like... fresh. That was the least strange of what she was feeling. The smell was one thing, but the sounds and sights were another thing entirely. She was certain that such sounds weren’t even programmed into the system.

                                            They weren’t slices of security feed from the crystals, the picture was far too grainy to be from one of them. High places, the pinnacles of kings long ago, so prideful that as the clouds passed them by, they screamed for them to bow like the land below, to no avail. The ground was alive, unlike anything she had seen before. Not even the botanical centers contained such overp